Specialized Bike Handover and Bike Fitting

By Cycling Dad:

Remember the prize?

You can’t rush nature. I was reminded of this fact again as I missed the 2013 Team Alpecin kickoff event while staying with the family in the final days of Alex’ pregnancy. When Johanna finally arrived, she was six days past her expected date. This came as a big surprise to us, as Alex was already having labour pains around Christmas and last year our first child Konstantin was born five weeks earlier than expected. In the end, everything that counts is that Johanna was born in perfect health and that Alex is recovering well from the Cesarian that could not be avoided… this is first and foremost – all that matters. Johanna and her big brother Konstantin bring joy to our lives every day.

< end of disclaimer, back to the cycling folly :D >

I was sitting, waiting, wishing. Bittersweet agony, looking forward to the birth of our baby girl while being anxious of missing the team kickoff. In my fantasy, I saw myself being expelled from the team for not being there when the big show starts. All of this took place in my head only. The team sponsors were absolutely supportive in finding an alternative to get me on board. It turned out that I could pick up the equipment and get the bike fitting directly at Specialized’s German headquarters at Holzkirchen, which would additionally give me a chance to blog about it. Here’s a big thank you to Daniel at Roadbike Magazine and Sebastian at Specialized for setting up the workaround schedule!

So, after signing up Johanna for Team Cycling Parents and dropping off the family at home, back from the hospital, I took a detour from parking the car…

Specialized Germany Headquarters

Holzkirchen is a charming, tiny village in the South of Germany. Imagine timbered houses among farmhouses and cuckoo clock workshops. Here, Specialized’s German Headquarters and EMEA marketing-hub is located in an old farmhouse, which was converted into a state of the art facility with showrooms, offices, classrooms and a few mounting stations for fixing demo and pro bikes. Let me take you on a quick tour:

Below is the outside view of the location. Notice the big stack of firewood nicely piled behind the building? Love it!

Once you enter the building, you are taken back to the modern world. There are two workstations located near the entrance, which double as visitor reception. Check out the mountain panorama in the background. I wish I had that wallpaper also next to my workstation!

Take a left turn and you walk right into a modern showroom that can also be used as a meeting room. Here, retailers visiting Specialized in Holzkirchen for training can also check out the latest product releases and discuss upcoming marketing activities. There’s also a spacious bar area that seems as if it could serve more than just coffee ;) .

The wall behind the bar gives an impression of what this place looked like before being converted into the Specialized office.

And here’s how it looks today: the cowshed has been transformed into the office section. There are workstations to the right and to the left of the central aisle, which effectively still is part of the showroom. The whole place feels really cozy.

Take another turn to enter a social room that leads to the training classrooms. There’s a tabletop soccer station and spacious changing rooms and showers packed with cycling gear which I think is another perk of this location.

I briefly peeked into one of the classrooms with a training session in progress.

There’s also an extensive warehouse upstairs, where demo bikes and pro team equipment is stored and prepared for action. I only quickly walked through there, as the main reason for my visit was soon to begin…

Specialized Body Geometry Bike Fitting

Meet Sebastian Maag, Technical Marketing Manager at Specialized. Sebastian usually takes care of introducing newly released products to Specialized retail partners and training store personnel in sales and customer services. Today, Seb will give me a professional Specialized “Body Geometry Fit” bike fitting. Seb promises that this will help me climb faster, descend more confidently and ride with less fatigue on my new Specialized S-Works Venge.

Sounds good! Bring it on.

Ah, let’s have a coffee first.

Here’s what my bike setup looked like up to now. The green letters gives my specifications in cm, black are Alex’. We got this note during a fitting session at a Cervelo dealer in Germany in 2012. I must admit that the sheet we used to scribble down our specs looks rather basic. So far, these specs worked quite well.

Specialized’s fitting philosophy goes much further than saddle to crank and saddle to handlebar geometry. They also take a rider’s unique physiological features and acquired pain points (e.g. through attrition) into consideration. Individually matched shoes, sole inlays, gloves, handlebar tapes, saddles and shorts create the playing field for achieving the perfect conditions for every rider. I am really curious if this will help me in my preparations for the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon.

Here’s a short video about the “Bike Geometry Fit” service from the Specialized website:


Below is a photo from the bike fitting room. This is where Specialized retailers get their training for offering the “Bike Geometry Fit” service to end customers. As you can see, the bike is fixated on a static trainer. There are two cameras connected to a computer workstation. One is taking the front view, the other the right-hand side view. Also, there is a measurement chart on the left hand side of the wall that is used for measuring flexibility and a number of physiological features that are relevant to your position on the bike, for example static and dynamic knee positioning. You can also see a selection of shoe inlays in the middle of the picture that can be used to correct said foot and knee positioning.

And this is the moment when I first put my hands on my dream machine for the 2013 cycling season. As full carbon wheels and static trainers don’t get along well, the back wheel was changed to the standard Roval wheelset that comes with the S-Works Venge. I will write a detailed review about the bike soon. Today’s post is about the bike fitting.

After taking some measures from my body and asking me about my general riding experience on the bike, Seb first took care of my main pain point – the saddle. On my Cervelo S1, am currently riding a Selle Italia C2 Gel Flow, which has a width of 136mm. It worked great for me on shorter rides up to three hours, but gave me sores on longer rides beyond three hours. I already tried chamois cream to help ease the pain, but this only helped marginally.

Seb first measured the distance between my sit bones, using a gel-padded scale for me to sit on. The bones leave two indentations in the gel pads, marking the areas where the pressure on the saddle is highest. Here’s an anatomical mockup of the pelvis. You can clearly see the sit bones on the bottom.

Seb’s recommendation for me was the Specialized Romin Evo Pro Team with a width of 155mm. The picture below gives you an idea of how the sit bones ideally should rest on the saddle, to ensure an even distribution of pressure. If the saddle is too narrow, it will put pressure on the sensitive perineal area, causing discomfort and sores. Upon trying the new saddle, I must confirm that it feels really comfortable without compromising on weight or design. I am curious to see if this new saddle remains comfortable on longer rides. During the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon, I will most likely spend around ten hours in the saddle. It will be the ultimate test.

Now that we solved the first problem, Seb swiftly moved on in the fitting. Next up was alignment of the knee. For this, I was asked to step on the Arch-O-Meter. As the arch of the foot flexes under pressure, it can cause the knee to rotate in movement. This costs precious energy and can lead to fatigue during cycling. As you can see from the color of the footprint (probably triggered by the distribution of pressure), I have a medium to high arch. Today I learned something about my feet – there’s a lot of flexing going on…

Seb told me not to worry and quickly came up with a pair of supportive insoles (pictured below on top). You can feel the difference once you step from the original flat insoles (pictured below on the bottom) onto the supportive insoles. They snuggle under your arch, giving your foot support when it needs it most – on long mountain climbs.

What followed next was a series of video sessions, where Seb asked me to get on the bike and pedal with a little bit of intensity. Seb first adjusted my cleat positioning, then he adjusted my seat height by a stunning 50 mm upwards, aiming to achieve the ideal 145 degree knee angle (pictured below). Before, I was cycling with a 134 degree knee angle as recommended by the Cervelo dealer in the last (basic) bike fitting. And I have to approve – the new position indeed feels better. The picture below is not the final positioning, but rather a quick snapshot that I took during one of the video playbacks. Seb pointed out that I should bend my arms slightly in order to attain a more comfortable and dynamic position on the bike. I did this instinctively when I was a younger rider, but sitting in an office chair every day clearly has taken its toll..

At this point Seb was almost happy with the results, but he still noticed my right knee slightly rotating inwards during the pedaling movement. He put me on a bench and did some more physio-therapeutic testing, diagnosing the need for a valgus-adjustment in my forefoot. This can be achieved by introducing shims under the insoles, (pictured below), which help move the foot into the ideal position.

The result of the 90 minutes Bike Geometry Fit session is simply stunning. The bike feels super comfortable under my hands, feet and bum. I could hardly wait to get out on the road and give it a test, which by the time of writing this article had been done: 2 x 100k rides on the Easter holidays – feeling perfect, with no unusual signs of sores or fatigue whatsoever. If the professional bike fitting holds up to its promise, this will make a huge difference during the upcoming cycle marathons. If you are curious about getting a Bike Geometry Fit session for yourself, head to your nearest Specialized retailer. It is amazing what these folks can do for you!

But for now, time had come to thank Sebastian for his help, load up all the 2013 Team Alpecin equipment into the car and head home to Vienna. What an amazing experience this was!

As you can see, the car was absolutely packed with all the goodies to take home…

4 hours later I unpacked everything and spread my new possessions out in the hallway. This is madness – the cream of the crop in cycling equipment and everything you could ever wish for as a cyclist! For the complete list, head back to my post introducing the call for applications to the 2013 Team Alpecin.

We already ‘unleashed’ the CyclingParents.com testing team and together, we’ll review each piece of equipment in the team kit over the next weeks and post the reviews here. The Specialized S-Works Venge will soon receive a very special place, but details will follow in another post. By the way in the background you can see Alex holding her hands in her lap, staring at my new bike in awe ;) .

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Product Review – Pedal Systems: Shimano Dura Ace PD-9000 vs. Time Iclic Carbon

By Cycling Dad:

Verdict (if you are short on time and simply indecisive as I was)

Both systems are rock-solid and have huge fan-bases. Like all Dura Ace components, Shimano’s PD-9000 pedal system is the paradigm of quality, with ultra-smooth bearings and a superb finish. Unless they get obliterated in a really nasty crash, the PD-9000 will likely last a lifetime. The Time Iclic Carbon pedal system does not quite leave the same impression, but also delivers performance right where you need it. At 286 grams including cleats, the Dura Ace pedal system is 12 grams lighter than the Time Iclic Carbon (298 grams), but you have to be ready to pay roughly twice as much for Shimano as for Time. It is a tough decision, but one thing is certain: in combination with the Lightweight Meilensteins, Time will look decidedly more devilish on Cycling Dad’s new S-Works Venge. Spinning Mum can have the Shimanos ;)

We gave the pedal systems to our highly trained testing department here at CyclingParents.com secret world headquarters. Below is the full review.


Time vs. Shimano

Is it a sensible thing to compare Shimano’s 2013 top-end pedal system with the not quite so fresh 2011 upper mid-range model from Time? Tough call, but we did not really have much time to think about this question upfront. At the end of February, I received a call from one of the editors at Roadbike Magazine, telling me that I had been selected for a position in the 2013 Team Alpecin which, among other benefits, provides the opportunity to ride a EUR 10k+ Specialized S-Works Venge for an entire season. The only thing not to be provided in the team kit would be the pedals, as most riders gravitate heavily towards one certain system of their choice. I can deal with that :) .

I have been riding Time since the 90s and loved them ever since. LeMond, Indurain, Pantani, Ullrich, Boonen – they all rode Time… so these pedals can’t be too shabby. And as I am planning to use my Cervelo with the entry-level Iclic Racer pedals on rainy days, it was an easy choice remain faithful to my existing system. There are more upscale models in the Time product range, for example the Xpresso 12 at just 217 grams per pair (weight including cleats), but clearly these come at a price. Also, I got a good value for the slightly dated Iclic Carbons.

The Dura Ace PD-9000 entered the scene when Alex finally decided to give a proper road pedal system a try. She’s been riding the touring-style SPD PD-A520 system until now, but with her new BMC racemachine RM01, clearly a matching pedal system was required.

The incumbent: The Time Iclic Carbon pedal system

The Time Iclic Carbon system comes in an aggressive-looking cardboard box. Included in the set is a pair of cleats and the usual manuals.

The pedal itself looks rather spaceship-like and comes with a matt carbon finish, slightly rough to the touch. It is stunningly lightweight and provides a rather large surface area for the shoe to make contact. This is important especially on long rides and cycle marathons as unequally distributed pressure on the pedal can lead to “hotspots” on the soles of your feet. Remember that any detail that may nag you after three hours may turn into a source of excruciating pain after six hours. As I am aiming for a finishing time around ten hours on the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon, every detail counts. I know that the Time system works for me, so no experiments here.

Time claims that it’s Iclic pedals are the fastest pedal system in the world. This is because the closing mechanism works like a ski binding and automatically builds tension in a carbon spring when stepping out of the pedal. This tension is released when you lower the shoe onto the pedal, securely locking the cleat into position without any additional effort required from the rider. The pedal system allows you to alter the Q-Factor (the distance between the foot and the crank) by circa 2.5mm per shoe, simply by swapping the sides of the (offset) cleats. You also get to enjoy a lateral float of 2.5mm on the pedal and +/- 5 percent angular float, which is an asset if you feel discomfort and/or pain in your knees from long bike rides.

Does the Time pedal system live up to the marketing claims? I’d say it does. When I was a teenager, my knees hurt a lot after riding the (then still fix-positioned) Look pedal system. Part of the discomfort in the knees must have been attributable to growth, but once I changed to Time with its (then unique) float, the discomfort vanished. I still hold a grudge against Look and obviously cherish Time until this day, even though most (all?) pedal manufacturers offer float in their current systems.

However, I must point out one weak spot from my experience with the Iclic system. With the cheaper Iclic Racers, every now and then the cleat does not seem to engage the pedal quite as smoothly as it should, requiring me to step out of and into the pedal one more time. Not a big deal as I am not racing criteriums that tend to be fast directly off the starting line. I am curious to see if the Iclic Carbons will behave differently from the Iclic Racers in this aspect.

Time claims a weight of 225 grams per pair, which I wanted to put to the test. Our scale must be off by 9 grams…

To be honest I was a bit surprised one cleat alone comes at 32 grams. 64 for a set is more than one-fourth of the weight of the pedals. I also forgot to weigh the screws and screw fixtures which surely may add another race-deciding five grams per shoe.

Dear Time Sports, is there no way these cleats can be made less bulky and/or more durable? Remember the good old Time Magnesium Equipe pedal system? I know from today’s perspective they look dull, but hell – spaceships looked like that in the 80s!
What I loved about them is that they came with metal cleats that worked perfectly and would last forever. From an economical perspective, I understand that the latter meant that the system needed to be replaced… but… can’t it just come back with a fresh design?

 

The Challenger: Shimano Dura Ace PD-9000

Shimano sends its top-line pedal system to the starting line packed in a slick, highly glossy cardboard box. They put an attractive middle-aged man holding an iPhone camera on the front of the packaging. It’s modern, it’s flashy. Kind of makes you want to get on your bike and ride. Oddly enough, his head seems to melt into the area right next to the Dura Ace product family brand logo.

Once I opened the box, I had a flashback to my first business trip to Japan. Packaging is important and perfection is the goal. I had interviews with managers of foreign companies in Japan who told me about deliveries of industrial chemicals being rejected by the Japanese customers because a single barrel in an entire delivery was dented or scratched. The appreciation for your customer’s business and your dedication to serving his requirements shows in the packaging. It does not matter if you’re selling candy, cosmetics, industrial equipment or bicycle components. There is much we can learn from Japan. So I was gazing at the individually packaged pedals, the right-hand pedal in a blue sachet labeled R, the left-hand pedal in a red sachet labeled L. Poka Yoke at work.

The Dura Ace PD-9000 pedals feel good to the touch, and they look fast! The release tension can be manually adjusted from soft to strong to match your individual preferences. One thing I cannot show you on the photo is how incredibly smooth those bearings are turning. They also appear to be sealed pretty well from water and particles to enter. Perfection.

Look at this contact surface. It’s huge! Pressure hotspots? Not with Dura Ace!

 

At 248 grams, the Dura Ace pedals certainly are not the lightest in the world. Quality comes at a cost. However, things are put back into perspective when adding the weight of the shoe cleats….

At 19 grams, Shimano managed to shave the weight of its cleats by 13 grams compared to Time’s Iclic… That’s 13 grams – per shoe! 26 grams on the entire system. I also forgot to include the weight of the screws and fixtures here, but even after adding a few grams on both Shimano and Time the difference remains the same. In the end, Shimano’s Dura Ace pedal system is 12 grams lighter than the Time Iclic Carbon (286 grams compared to 298 grams, both excluding screws and fixtures).

I am curious to see how fast Shimano’s cleats will wear in comparison to Time’s. We live on the outskirts of the city, so most riding takes place on rural roads without the need to step out of the pedals a lot, e.g. at traffic lights.

We will give both Time’s Iclic Carbon and the Shimano Dura Ace PD-9000 a thorough test over the coming months and post our summaries below at the end of the season.

Ride safely and stay tuned.

Cycling during pregnancy or “Are childbearing cyclists more prone to accidents?”

By Spinning Mum:

Okay, I have to admit it… The pregnancy fairy magically transformed me into a gym bunny and while I have not been seen on the roads around Lower Austria within the last six weeks or so, I have not entirely given up on cycling, yet. As I am writing this article, I am 24 weeks (6 months) along and though the spinning classes I am usually joining three times a week don’t actually make up for the smooth asphalt, steep hills and scenic views, I am currently feeling much safer on the stationary bike.

However, indoor training is not a good cure for getting green with envy when I see other riders fighting their way through the hilly woods. Not mentioning what happens every time Kai leaves the house with his beloved Cérvelo or when I am flipping through Tour magazine…

That is why I started wondering whether it is really necessary to let Julie collect dust in the garage for the weeks to come and started some research about cycling during pregnancy.

As mentioned in my previous post about exercising during gestation opinions about outdoor cycling differ tremendously and though most medical practitioners and trainers agree that cycling in general is a great way to keep fit whilst easing strain on ankles and knee joints, the biggest concern they share is the risk of falling.

Aha, this is right what I was worrying about when I decided to change my routine in week 17 though nobody actually ever told me to stay off the road. So, let’s dig a bit further here…

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) biking is a great low-impact sport and usually safe during a low-risk pregnancy – even for novices. Yet the ACOG suggests that beginners should rather stick to stationary cycling in order to minimise the risk of potential injuries to mother and baby.

They also recommend that even experienced riders should rather change their training to a static bike from their 2nd trimester onwards as their growing bellies might influence their balance. Furthermore, they point out that the bony structure around the pelvis does not protect the baby after the 12th week of pregnancy, so that little belly dwellers could be seriously harmed in a crash.

Okay. That makes me feel a lot better about not investing in warm bike wear this winter, but…

On the other hand I tend to believe that going on foot or by car can also bear its hazards when it comes to traffic related casualties and unless childbearing cyclists are more prone to accidents than their non-bumpy co-riders, the benefits I mentioned in my previous post might still outweigh the risks unless you are a Kamikaze rider.

For sure it is common sense that you should avoid bumpy off-road tracks or busy streets and refrain from racing or training in a pack but a moderate defensive training session on dry roads with only little traffic should still be fine, shouldn’t it?

Well now what to do?

It’s not an easy choice, but personally I think, I will stick to the spinning bike and static trainer for the last stretch of my pregnancy. Despite the fact that I came across articles claiming that most falls won’t affect the unborn and (knock on wood) I have not been kissing the asphalt so far, I do not want to push my luck.

Moreover I am simply not cycling as much as some of the pro riders who literally rode their racers to the labour ward and who probably have much more experience when it comes to handling dicey situations.

Thus, my dear Julie, I will see you in March and hope you will not give me sad looks whenever I enter the garage.