1. From the Top: New $50 and $25 Sponsor Discounts for Premium Members
2. News & Reviews: Ride More, Ride Better!
3. Question of the Week: Do You Think the UCI Was Complicit in the Recent Doping Era?
4. Ask Coach Fred: How Can I Tame a Monster Climb?
5. Sponsors: Cycling Products from our Sponsors
6. Jim's Tech Talk: Tubular (Sew-Up) Tires, Part 2
7. No Problem: Saddle Height Formulas, Part 2
8. Quick Tips: Number Crunching
9. Cadence: Westly Windsor’s Chain Jamming Follow-Up
10. RBR eBookstore: The Best Cycling Bookstore on the Internet!
Editor’s Note: In response to my column last week that mentioned a recent weekend group ride in the low-30s (around 0 Celsius), Premium Member Randy Brich wrote to ask what I was wearing on that ride, as he was facing similar conditions on an upcoming trip. I had been planning to review the Skins C400 thermal long-sleeve jersey & thermal bib tights, so I moved up the review, which runs today in News & Reviews.
Also in News & Reviews, we’re launching a new cost-saving Endurance Training and Riding3-articlebundle by Coach John Hughes that is perfect for learning how to “ride long” – whether you’re currently training for a brevet or simply want to derive the most benefit from the specific physiological advantages of more easy miles vs. hard training.
I’m really pleased to announce new discounts available to our Premium Members from our newest Sponsor, Sampson Sports. Sampson offers of an array of custom carbon bikes and components including shifters, pedals, cranks, derailleurs, bars, stems, posts and more.
Sampon’s very generous discounts on 2 different sets of pedals are a first for RBR – the $25 discount on Alloy (Showtime) pedals EQUALS the cost of a Premium Membership, and the $50 discount on Carbon (Stratics) pedals is DOUBLE the cost of a Premium Membership!
In other words, you can help support the weekly RBR Newsletter and RoadBikeRider.com AND reap these (and other) product discounts from our Sponsors, along with numerous other benefits of Premium Membership – while more than offsetting the cost of membership.
If you’ve been on the fence about becoming a Premium Member, or renewing your annual Membership, I hope you’ll take a look at the RBR Sponsors page and our Premium Membership page to see what’s available to you.
The vast majority of our Premium Members view their membership as the subscription cost for receiving this newsletter 48 times a year. (And Premium Memberships are, in fact, the main source of financial support for RBR Newsletter and RoadBikeRider.com.)
But I remain committed to looking for ways to add value to your Premium Membership beyond the Newsletter, the 15% discounts on all of our eBooks, eArticles and RBR gear, and access to our vast array of great content on the Premium Site.
Product discounts from cycling companies and advocacy organizations like Sampson Sports, BicycleGifts.com, the League of American Bicyclists, Chain-L, Kontact and many others are among the ways we’re adding value. (These and other Sponsors also provide the products we give away monthly and quarterly to Premium Members as part of the Premium Member Giveaway Program. One lucky Premium Member, John Hazen of Port Melbourne, Australia, just won the quarterly prize, a Kontact Saddle valued at $120. Congratulations, John! A set of Sampson pedals will be the next Quarterly prize.)
I’m thankful to Eric Sampson, president of Sampson Sports, for proactively coming to us with his offer. Eric recognized a chance to help support a fellow small cycling business, just as RBR works to help support other small cycling companies. We’re all in it, to be sure, for the love of cycling, but we’ve made it our business as well. We appreciate the support of fellow road cyclists like you, and of each other. We’d love to hear from other readers whose companies may want to consider becoming Sponsors as well, so that we can deliver even more value to our Premium Members.
Thank you to all our Premium Members – and to all of our readers – for your support!
Enjoy Your Ride!
Editor & Publisher
Here's a rundown of the numerous other benefits of being a Premium Member. Please join today!
Want to improve your cycling? Ride more easy miles.
Coach John Hughes emphasizes that low intensity endurance riding brings about specific physiological changes that don’t result from harder training. These include improving your:
Coach Hughes has written three articles about endurance training and riding -- Beyond the Century, Nutrition for 100K and Beyond, and Mastering the Long Ride -- which we are pleased to offer as a cost-saving bundle for only $13.50, a 10% savings over purchasing each article individually. (Of course, Premium Members save an additional 15%, so their cost is only $11.48 for the Endurance Training and Riding3-article bundle!)
Beyond the Century describes training principles and different training intensities and how to integrate these into a season-long program of long rides. Hughes lays out an 8-week plan to build up to a century and then a 200-km ride (about 125 miles). He then describes a training plan to ride a 200 km every month.
Randonneurs USA offers a special R-12 award for riders who complete a 200 km every month for 12 successive months, and also a P-12 award for completing a 100 – 199 km (62.5 to 124 miles) ride for 12 successive months. The article concludes with training plans for rides of 200, 300, 400, 600 and 1,000 km and longer (125, 187, 250, 375 and 625 miles). Each plan includes both endurance riding and intensity training.
Nutrition for 100K and Beyond provides you with the information you need to fuel your engine before, during and after endurance rides. The article describes how to estimate your personal caloric burn rate while riding, and the importance of both carbohydrates and fat in fueling endurance riding. The eArticle also discusses how to meet your hydration and electrolyte requirements during rides of several hours and longer. It includes examples of different products and evaluates which are better at meeting your nutrition needs.
Mastering the Long Ride gives you the skills you need to finish your endurance rides. Effective training provides your base, and proper nutrition gives you the fuel. The key to success is to use your smarts to complement your legs. The article describes how to prepare for a long ride, including planning your ride, preparing your equipment and nutrition and getting ready mentally for the challenge.
It then discusses how to pace yourself, ride in groups, solve problems that may occur and what to do when you feel discouraged with tired legs during a ride. The article includes sample equipment lists for rides of 100 to 200 km (62.5 to 125 miles) and 400 km (250 miles) and longer.
Coach Hughes has been cycling for over 30 years, including completing seven 1,200 km brevets and the Race Across America (RAAM) and winning three qualifiers for RAAM. In the Endurance Training and Riding3-articlebundle, he shares his accumulated wisdom from his personal riding experience and years of coaching as well.
By John Marsh
Price: $300 MSRP – tights; $250 MSRP - jersey
Available: company website, Internet
How obtained: samples from company
RBR Sponsor: no
Colors: black/graphite only
Tested: 25+ hours
On most cold winter rides, I typically spend more time deciding what to wear than any other aspect of my preparation. I mull over the weather data like a meteorologist preparing an important forecast: What will the starting temperature be? How much is it expected to warm up during the ride? Any chance of precipitation? What about the wind?
And then I start considering my possible clothing combinations, and whether the weather variations will warrant removing layers during the ride.
Sometimes, it almost – but not quite – makes me think of just skipping the ride and hitting the trainer instead. (Just kidding!)
So this winter, when it started dipping into the 40s and 30s during rides, I was eager to try out some new gear that promised to make my riding life a little bit easier in terms of the “preparation anxiety.” Way back in August – when it was still in the 90s every day here – Skins sent me a C400 thermal long-sleeve jersey and a pair of thermal bib tights. They provided me the only reason to look forward to winter.
Skins offers full lines of compression-based gear for numerous sports. (Though it does not appear that the same thermal products are available in the women’s line, Skins does offer women’s cycling products.) The cycling line certainly fits like the brand name implies – the jersey and, especially, the bib tights fit like a second skin. When my riding buddies first saw me in the Skins gear, they alternated between immediate comments about how nice-looking the kit is, and how much like Peter Pan I looked in the tights! (That might give you more insight into my buddies than the gear!)
Putting it on the first time, I could immediately feel the softness of the brushed interior against my skin – something the company says “helps release the heat back to your body to give you a thermal advantage in cooler temperatures….” Made of 75% nylon and 25% spandex, the fabric is claimed to have a thermal rating 200% higher than Skins’ non-thermal jersey, and 190% higher than their non-thermal tights.
It also has advanced wicking properties to draw moisture away from your skin, UV protection of 50+, and the tights feature “gradient” compression, “uniquely wrapping and supporting your key muscle groups to reduce movement and focus direction for less vibration in your muscles, less soft tissue damage and less soreness after exercise.”
I’m not sure how, objectively, I can verify the efficacy of the compression, but the thermal properties of this gear are readily apparent. Moreover, I was pleasantly surprised on my first ride with how wind-resistant the gear also felt.
I have worn the full-zip jersey and bib tights on rides with temperatures as low as the low 30s (about 0 Celsius), which is typically the lower limit of Atlanta weather during daylight hours. The most remarkable feature of the gear, to me, is that from the 30s to about 45 degrees F (7 C), I was quite comfortable wearing only the jersey, with a wind vest over it. I didn’t even need a base layer, which makes dressing for rides across the temperature range from the low 30s to the mid-50s (12 C) so much easier than before. (Adding a base layer would probably get you into the low 20s, along with a wind vest.)
The warmth is locked in at the lower temperatures, and the breathability allows for comfort up to 20+ degrees warmer. (I wouldn’t want to wear either piece beyond 55 or so.)
The only quibbles I have with the Skins thermal jersey and bib tights are in the lack of color choices in both and the fit of the bibs. While they have well-positioned reflective material, the fact that both are available only in black/graphite will not sit well with some riders who prefer at least basic (if not bright) color choices – especially in winter gear.
The bib tights fit like a glove, as mentioned above, but because they have no zipper or elastic at the cuffs, working them over your heel when putting them on is not easy. I invariably spent more time than planned just to put on the tights, and I worry that the stitching there may eventually rip (as I can hear the strain when getting dressed). A zipper that comes up 6 inches or so would be a welcome addition.
The final minor drawback is that the torso-covering material at the top of the bib (which does help keep you warm) comes up so high (about the top of the rib cage on me) that pulling them down the way you can with most bibs to urinate is very difficult to impossible – which could complicate things on a really cold ride with only outdoor bio-break options.
Premium Member Tom Dorigatti has written a cool book that combines cycling history and knowledge with puzzles of various types.
I was honored to be asked to write a review of the book. The review is the best way I can think of to tell you a little bit more about it:
There’s nothing puzzling about the “The Puzzled Cyclist.” It delivers on its promise by offering cycling enthusiasts a unique, entertaining way to learn more about cycling than they ever thought possible – by doing puzzles. From cycling history to the basics about bikes to cycling terminology to the pro ranks, Tom Dorigatti covers it all in this thoroughly entertaining book. It would be a great addition to any cyclist’s library and provide countless hours of brain-teasing enjoyment.
The book is now on sale at select bike shops and on Amazon.com.
As cyclists, we know that some aches and pains are a fairly regular result of riding. Leaden legs, sore necks and shoulders, triceps, etc., happen all too often. The Yoga Cure provides a quick, yoga-based approach toward addressing some of the common “problems” we face from riding.For more yoga moves that will help you become a better rider, see our complete line of yoga e-books and DVD from registered yoga teachers and cyclists Joe and Maria Kita, authors of this column.
The Problem: Tight hamstrings
The Pose: Standing Forward Bend
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slowly bend forward, bringing your chest toward your thighs and letting your head and arms dangle. Don’t bend your knees or try to touch your toes, just hang and breathe like a rag-doll, feeling a soothing stretch in your low back and hamstrings as you hinge from the hips. Take 5 to 8 deep breaths. When it’s time to come up, do so slowly, envisioning one vertebra stacking on top of another as you gradually rise to standing.
The actions of cycling’s governing body, the UCI, are continuing to play out more like a soap opera than that of a responsible governing organization for cycling.
Many believe the UCI was complicit in allowing the doping culture to flourish during the Armstrong era, and a few have claimed that the UCI helped cover up a positive doping test for Armstrong on at least one occasion, and that he effectively paid the organization, in the form of a significant donation, to do so – among other alleged improprieties.
The most recent chapter in “As the UCI Turns” happened Monday, when its president, Pat McQuaid, announced in a press release that the UCI was scrapping the Independent Commission it had set up to look into its own actions regarding the sport’s doping culture as documented in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) “Reasoned Decision” on the Armstrong Affair. Instead, the UCI now champions a truth and reconciliation commission, and blamed the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and USADA, in part, for putting the kibosh on the Independent Commission.
The move was almost immediately eviscerated by the WADA, the USADA, and by the UCI’s Independent Commission itself.
"WADA is dismayed by the press release issued by UCI yesterday, both in terms of its content and its deceit," WADA President John Fahey said in a statement Tuesday. "The Independent Commission established by UCI was intended to review the allegations of complicity of UCI in the Lance Armstrong doping conspiracy as raised by USADA in its thorough decision. Instead UCI has again chosen to ignore its responsibility to the sport of cycling in completing such an inquiry and has determined to apparently deflect responsibility for the doping problem in its sport to others.
"It has decided to terminate its own Commission on the grounds that others refuse to participate, and not for any reason that the Commission was precluded from operating transparently and without fear….
"WADA has not and will not consider partaking in any venture with UCI while this unilateral and arrogant attitude continues," said Fahey. "There has been no suggestion made by WADA that it will pay for or contribute to any collaborative effort with UCI into investigating UCI’s long-standing problems with doping in its sport and its alleged complicity.”
Travis Tygart, Fahey’s USADA counterpart, said: “As we previously said, the UCI blindfolded and handcuffed its Independent Commission and now hopes the world will look the other way while the UCI attempts to insert itself into the investigation into the role it played in allowing the doping culture to flourish.
“We have always fully supported a well-structured truth and reconciliation process in order to clean up the sport and protect the rights of athletes but it is clear that the UCI cannot be allowed to script its own self-interested outcome in this effort.”
Finally, the UCI’s Independent Commission itself released a statement: “When this Commission was announced, Pat McQuaid stated that the UCI ‘will co-operate fully with the Commission and provide them with whatever they need to conduct their inquiry' and urged 'all other interested stakeholders to do the same’. Neither the UCI nor interested stakeholders have provided sufficient co-operation to enable the Commission to do its job. This failure to cooperate makes our task impossible.”
It will be interesting to see what happens next, as the UCI’s move only serves to heighten the perception that it does not want its past actions viewed in the light of day. Unless, of course, the organization plans to be first in line to testify before the truth and reconciliation commission.
We need down time, to be sure: a physical and mental break from more time spent on the bike and other exercise. However, as we age we are more prone to injury. If we take part of the year off because of unpleasant conditions, we won’t perform as well as last year. As a result, we may push hard to regain last year’s fitness, increasing the risk of injury when we start exercising again. Further, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), “there is considerable evidence that regular physical activity is associated with significant improvements in overall psychological health and well-being.” Seasonal Affective Disorder, seasonal depression resulting from less exposure to sunlight, is common. The holidays, although joyful, may also be stressful. Keep moving!
Whether your goal is long-lasting physical health, the joy of physical activity or continuing athletic performance, this 26-page eArticle will teach you what to do in the off-season. It includes a 12-week off-season training program with a range of options. This is the follow-up to Coach Hughes' best-selling article Healthy Cycling Past 50, and the 2nd title in his 4-article "Past 50" series.
Losing weight through exercise alone, without changing your diet, is difficult and time-consuming, he points out in the prologue. Losing weight by changing your diet, without increasing your exercise, is equally difficult. But when you combine a reduced-calorie diet with increased energy expenditure, weight loss becomes manageable and noticeable. And cycling is the ideal calorie-burning activity, he says.
Coach Ertl has laid out the 34-page eBook in a simple and practical order: Chapter 1, What To Eat: Basics of Nutrition for Healthy Weight Loss and Cycling; Chapter 2, When and How Much To Eat: How to use Hunger to your Advantage; Chapter 3, Eating for Weight Loss and Cycling Performance; Chapter 4, Example Training and Eating Plans to Maximize Weight Loss and Performance.
My ride home ends with a half-mile climb of 18 percent. You often emphasize taking easy days, so how should I handle this monster when I want to keep my effort low and heart rate down? -- Steve P.
I've heard of killer hills, but that thing should come with a casket and rosary beads.
When your rides end with a steep climb, the solution is to install a small gear so you can "walk" the bike up the hill. You don't actually get off and push, of course, but standing and pedaling slowly should feel like walking up stairs.
That's how Race Across America legend Pete Penseyres handles it. He lives atop a steep 800-vertical-foot climb in Southern California. He rides it hard when he wants training, but stands and pedals very slowly when he wants recovery.
When a hill really is an unavoidable daily monster, here are three mechanical solutions:
My easy-day bike is a Rivendell Atlantis complete with drop bar, fenders, 26x1.4-inch tires and mountain bike gearing. I can go real easy on this bike -- or real hard on epic rides in the hills.
When you have the right gearing for the terrain, a climb is only as tough as you want it to be – to a degree, of course.
Coach Fred Matheny has decades of experience as a competitive racer and cycling coach. He is the author of 13 RBR eBooks and eArticles.
In the RBR Marketplace
JerseyBin Waterproof Storage Pouches - New! Trim Bin (left photo, with phone) and, by popular demand, Mid Bin (right photo, with phone) clear vinyl storage pouches that keep your mobile phone and other valuables dry and safe on rides year-round. The new Mid Bin fits iPhones in larger cases and many other larger phones. (However, JerseyBin urges users to take their phone out of the case before placing in the Bin.)
Lightweight RBR cycling cap - RBR’s high-quality Walz Caps 3-panel logoed cycling cap in moisture-wicking 100% circular knit polyester. Lightweight, breathable and stylish.
New! Wool RBR cycling cap -- RBR’s high-quality Walz Caps 3-panel logoed cycling cap in 100% wool, with a moisture-wicking band. Soft, comfortable insulation for winter riding – or year-round.
RBR-logoed Jerseys - ONLY 3 LEFT - CLOSEOUT PRICING! Made from high-tech fabric for superior comfort and wicking. Three rear pockets. Raglan-style with separate side panels. In club cut (loose American fit), with a full-length zipper.
CueClip - Map / Cue Sheet Holder - world’s best!
Durable & Small with style. Club Discounts (printing available).
See our CycleWallets too. http://www.cueclip.com
We’re getting tubular again this week, with more tips on these tires that have been around seemingly forever. They are popular with professional, amateur and masters racers because they’re the highest performance tire and wheel type. And they remain favored by some regular roadies, too, because of their lighter weight, lively ride quality and compliant, vibration-damping comfort.
In Part 1, we went over the basic design of tubulars, which are also known as sew-up tires. This time around, I’ll go over installing tubulars. There’s almost an entire science around these tires, so I can’t cover everything you’ll want to know if you become a tubular devote. But, I’ll try to tell you enough so that if you want to give them a go you’ll do so informed.
(First though, in the unfinished-business department, be sure to read Westly Windsor’s follow-up on his chain-jam issue that so many of you commented on. It’s in the Cadence column this week, below.)
In part 1 and again here, I talk about how light tubular setups are. It’s partly because of the simpler rim shape and because the tire materials can be made lighter since they don’t have to “work” so hard keeping the tire on the rim as clincher tires do.
But there’s a bigger tubular weight-shaver today that I didn’t get around to mentioning last week. It’s carbon rims. This new composite technology is what makes it possible to significantly lighten your road machine just by switching from aluminum clinchers to carbon tubulars, and it’s enough of a performance boost that you may feel like someone put a motor on your bicycle.
Tip: Another advantage of carbon rims is that they resist heat. With aluminum tubular rims it’s possible on long downhills with lots of braking to heat the rims a lot, soften the glue and have the tires roll off the rims.
Personal side note: I train on clincher tires and race on carbon tubular wheels. To explain: In my late 20’s (a few decades ago) I returned to clinchers because I didn’t feel tubulars offered enough of an advantage to make the hassle of gluing on tires and fixing flat tubulars worth it. Also, clincher rims and tires had improved considerably at that time. But keep in mind that I was at my strongest then and I had energy to burn. I could make every mistake and not get dropped.
I’m now almost 60 and still fit, but not nearly as strong. Like the other guys in our races, it’s all about being smart, saving energy, and getting the most out of what strength we have, because none of us can afford to waste anything. That’s why so many of us use tubulars and for me, getting on superlight tubular wheels (Bontrager Aeolus 9 D3) has made a significant impact in my competitiveness.
The biggest hurdle to clear with tubular tires is installation. Here’s how to do it, step-by-step with a new rim and a new tire. But please note: Improperly glued tires can roll right off, causing a crash and injury. If you’re not confident in your ability to do a proper gluing job, have a shop do it for you.
Work in a clean area so no dust or dirt contaminates your glued rim and tire as you perform these steps. The glue is easier to work with when it’s warmer and it will dry more quickly, too.
Tip: Quality tubular tires fit tightly on the rims and it makes them harder to install. So stretch them before installation by putting the tire(s) on the rim and fully inflating it and letting it sit for at least 12 hours. I do it on spare tubular rims. You used to be able to find old beat-up rims at any bike shop for cheap, but with tubulars being rarer today, you may have to find them at a swap meet or on eBay.com if your favorite bike shop doesn’t have any.
1. Even new rims may have dust, oil or other contaminants on them. Clean the rim with solvent, then lightly sand the rim to very slightly roughen the surface and clean once more with solvent. Inspect the basetape on the belly of the tubular tire for any stickers or loose threads, etc., and remove them.
2. With your wheel held in the frame or fork so you can turn it, put a dime-sized dollop of glue between each pair of spoke holes around the rim. Using your toothbrush, carefully spread the glue until the rim is evenly and fully covered from edge to edge with about a 1mm thick coat of glue.
3. With your tire standing up against a wall, carefully run a bead of glue about 4mm in diameter along the center of the basetape, starting at the valve and continuing about 1/4 of the way around the tire. Use your toothbrush to fully cover the basetape (only the basetape!) with the same 1mm thick coat you put on the rim. Once that section is done, repeat in sections until the entire basetape is coated with glue.
4. Wait at least an hour for the glue to dry. Tubular glue is a contact adhesive so it bonds wet and dry.
5. Apply a second coat of glue to the rim and tire. The thickness of this coat depends on how the first coat set up. Sometimes the glue is absorbed and you’ll need a second coat like the first. If that’s the case it will look like there are bare spots on the rim or basetape. If you see a nice coat on both the tire and basetape, the second glue coats can be thinner than the first.
6. Wait only 30 minutes this time. Then you can install the tire. Do this by resting the wheel against your legs with the valve hole at 12 o’clock. Hold the tire with your hands at 10 and 2 o’clock and the valve in the middle. Place the valve in the hole and then push down against the floor forcefully with both hands (this stretches the tire and can create slack to ease mounting) and at the same time work the tire onto the rim. Be careful not to get glue on the sides of the tire or rim. When your hands reach the bottom, lift the wheel off the floor and pop the tire on fully.
7. Quickly now, inflate the tire to about half pressure. Then spin the wheel, watching the tire for wobbles. Find any imperfections and push the tire into place until it runs smoothly. A technique that can help is rolling the wheel along the floor as you push down on it to get the tire to seat where it’s made to seat on the rim. The tire will stick fast once the glue dries, so get it right. Then inflate it to about 100psi/7 bar.
8. Clean up any glue on the sides of the rims with mineral spirits (turpentine), being sure not to let any get anywhere near your glue bond. If any glue got on the tire sidewalls, it’s best to ignore it because trying to remove it with solvents may eat the side of the tire.
9. Let the wheel and tire sit for 24 hours and you’ll be ready to ride it. While you’re waiting, you might want to prepare your spare tire by putting a thin coat of glue on its basetape. That way it will be dry and ready when your wheel’s ready.
Tip: One of the trickiest parts of tubular tire installation is not ending up with the awfully sticky glue all over your rim and tire sidewalls. It will make the tire look ugly, which is usually no big deal. But if it’s on the rim, it can affect braking and you don’t want that. A trick to spare the rim is to mask the braking surfaces with blue painter’s tape and just peel it off when you’re done.
As a last step to get your tubulars ready for the road, it’s a good idea to insert some sealant for flat protection. Tubulars won’t suffer pinch flats but they are just as likely to flat from glass or debris, and sealant can fix these so you don’t have to tear off a nicely glued tire and install a spare. Also, fixing a flat tubular tire is an art in itself, but that’s another whole article!
As a tubular rider, you will want to check your tires for wear and tear as you would with clincher tires. But there’s a new test to do: go around the wheels, gripping the tire and trying to rock it side to side to test the glue bond. Over time and under certain riding/weather conditions, it can change, so this is an important safety check.
Jim Langley has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for 38 years. At RBR he's the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop and moderator of the technical forums on the Premium Site. Check his "cycling aficionado" website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim's streak of consecutive cycling days has reached 6,953.
We pick up today where we left off last week: continuing the rundown of the seven saddle-height formula calculations I ran my crotch-to-floor measurement through to gauge the differing recommendations for saddle height.
You’ll see that some arrive differently at the same, or nearly the same, recommendation. But there’s no guarantee that number will be perfect for you. Read on.
Pruitt Method 1. Andy Pruitt checks leg extension by using a large protractor-like instrument called a goniometer. It measures the angle of the knee when the pedal is at dead bottom center. He says saddle height is right when the bend is between 25 and 30 degrees. My saddle height when my knee at DBC is bent 28 degrees: 77.0 cm
Pruitt Method 2. Pruitt also does a dynamic bike fit. He pastes reflective dots on anatomical markers such as the hip, kneecap and ankle bone of each leg, then video records the pedal stroke from 3 angles while you ride your bike on a trainer. The result is converted to figures on a computer. Among the collection of biomechanical data this produces is a measurement of how much your knees bend during actual pedaling. This process gives me a saddle height of 77.0 cm.
Serotta SizeCycle. Ron Kiefel of Wheat Ridge Cyclery near Denver fit me on the sizing device available to Serotta dealers. The SizeCycle recommends a saddle height of 77.0 cm.
Notice that while Pruitt’s 2 methods agree with the Serotta SizeCycle, those 3 recommendations differ from the older methods. One reason is that newer pedal systems and shoes put you closer to the pedal axle, some more so than others.
For example, in the early 1980s I used Campy cage pedals and Duegi shoes with a thick wooden sole (yes, you read that right). As a result, the sole of my foot was at least 1 cm higher on the pedal than it is with my current Shimano PD-7750 pedals and Specialized Pro Body Geometry shoes. I need to lower my saddle a centimeter to get the same knee bend I did in, say, 1982.
So where have I put my saddle, given the varying recommendations? It’s at 76.0 cm measured from the middle of the crank axle along the seat tube to the top of the saddle. Why is it lower than almost all the recommendations?
What should you make of this odyssey? Simply this—use saddle height recommendations not as an end in themselves but as a basis for your experiments. You have at least a 1-cm window to work in. Use it and you’ll arrive at your most efficient, comfortable and powerful position.
Adapted from Coach Fred's Solutions to 150 Road Cycling Challenges, a helpful eBook especially for cycling newcomers. Coach Fred Matheny has decades of experience as a competitive racer and cycling coach. He is the author of 13 RBR eBooks and eArticles.
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You’ve probably heard about the concept of sabermetrics, discussed in "Moneyball," the ground-breaking book about baseball's Oakland A's. It was further used in a book I read a couple years ago called "Soccernomics," which applies economic analysis to soccer.
In "Soccernomics" the authors' number-crunching debunked much traditional wisdom in the sport, explaining, for instance, why English scouts tend to favor blond players. (They stand out on the field, appealing to scouts' "sight-based prejudices.")
I’ll use a version of sabermetrics today to talk about the importance of numbers in cycling.
Sure, you need a high watts-per-kilogram (strength-to-weight) ratio in order to kick butt. But what are the hidden metrics that contribute to success? I've tortured the data and uncovered the critical predictors. Call it Cyclenomics:
Cost of bicycle. Between $2,000 and $5,000: Your lightweight bike makes you a better rider. Over $5,000: You are a poseur who doesn't ride much. Under $250: Real cyclists don't shop Walmart.
Number of cycling websites bookmarked. More than 6: You spend too much time online and not enough in the saddle. Fewer than 3: You're out of the loop on cycling equipment, gossip and drug suspensions. Because you are boring, no one will train with you and you won't improve.
Number of traffic lights on your commute. More than 7: Your route is too busy and dangerous to achieve optimal fitness. Not only can't you get a good workout in stop-and-go traffic, but there's a 3-in-5 probability that someone will door you.
Number of cycling T-shirts in dresser. More than 20: A veteran of numerous races and/or organized rides, you have the experience -- and the future bike-cleaning rags -- necessary to win.
Ratio of household chores completed to hours ridden. Ideal ratio: 2 to 1. Any higher and you're not riding enough. Any lower and you can't focus on training because you are getting divorced.
If you enjoy reading Scott Martin, the eBook Spin Again contains 181 of his witty, sometimes wacky, and occasionally heart-felt observations on road cycling.
Editor’s Note: A couple of weeks ago, in Issue No. 559’s Tech Talk column, Jim Langley asked for reader input to help solve Australian reader and contributor Westly Windsor’s chain-jamming issue. After receiving and trying quite a few great suggestions from fellow readers on the Comments page, Westly wrote me back:
Thanks to you, Jim, RBR and all of you who took time to think about the problem and write in some possible solutions.
In my original letter, Jim, I may have missed a few points so will fill in the blanks. The first time the chain came off the 12-tooth cog and jammed was coming down the Stelvio and nearly to the finish of the decent. The 2009 Trek bike was only months old.
To come down this and other similar mountains I first had to climb them, so I used a 50/34 with an IRD 12/32 cassette. Overkill for some, but at 65, I reckoned it was the only way save a triple.
On this occasion I would have to rule out a worn chain or frame misalignment. The wheels were Easton Orion, again less than 12 months old, unlikely to have a dragging free hub.
The chain length has always been critical as it had to cope with the 32 cog so was carefully checked for length. I have now used the online guide posted by John, and it is exactly to the calculation -- 54 links.
The ‘B’ screw has to be at its limit to clear the jockey wheel on the 32. Having been unhappy with the long cage derailleur I changed to an Ultegra GS, which is not quite as long, in the hope there would be a little more tension on the chain (?) with no changing problems but still the occasional disconnect and jamming when coasting downhill.
I have now moved the 12/32 to a new Shimano carbon 3280 Dura-Ace wheel and again had the same problem. It was this last time that prompted me to seek advice.
Jim, I have tried doing as you suggested -- spinning up the cranks and wheel and giving the derailleur a pull forward, but all OK. I did check the Easton wheel for the free hub drag and, yes, there is some attention needed there but jockey wheels always taken out and cleaned at chain cleaning so no issue with those /no chain slump as suggested by a contributor.
In an attempt to check out all the issues raised I went to my LBS and got them to check the chain wear and sure enough this time I did have a worn chain, long by a whole link length. New chain now fitted. [That would not have been the case in the first instance back in 2009.]
Also I checked the wraparound of the chain on the 12 cog, the tension is at its max due to the position of the b screw so the chain is now not optimally wrapped in this gear and I can see that, given I mostly reverse pedal to align the cranks for a corner, there is a possibility for the chain to disengage with a bump or vibration from the road.
Have we solved the problem? I was hoping to give a report after an annual event this weekend, the Audax Alpine Classic in the Victorian Alps, but due to large bush/forest fires, my event has been cancelled.