Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sharing the BikeFit Love


The Vector Cycle Works studio had a bit different feel this weekend - it is still all about getting people more comfortable on their bikes, but this time there were 4 fitters in the room.

I am a BikeFit Instructor, and hosted a BikeFit Level 1 class of 3 students at the studio/my home this weekend.  Level 1 is an intense two days of a little lecture with a lot of hands-on training.  The main objective is to help fitters establish a good foundation for a bike fit by focusing on the foot/pedal interface.  


The first day, we go over the details of cleat placement and the various tools that BikeFit provides to improve the rider's connection to the pedal.  The foot/pedal interface is often overlooked as part of the fit, yet so important for mechanical efficiency and comfort.  Poor cleat placement can manifest itself where you might not expect it.  We take the time to understand how to assess, measure, and implement appropriate accommodations for a rider.  Our students become the test subjects on this day, getting an opportunity to gain experience with each other and different pedal systems.  

Sometimes, in a class like this, things will go pretty smoothly and you get some relatively straightforward people.  That's no fun!  We had some interesting things going on, and that was great - the students got experience with different wedge options, use of pedal spacers, use of leg length shims, and got to see some things that might be a bit counter-intuitive.  We also got to work with Speedplay, Look, Shimano, and Crank Bros. pedal solutions over the weekend.  Each has their nuances, so it's good to get that variety.

For day 2, we take it a bit further and look at the total bike fit, focusing on the contact points on the bike.  We had two victims, err, subjects come in to give the students an opportunity to fit someone with very little background information.  We had a young triathlete with a new-to-him triathlon bike, and a mountain biker who had just built up his brand new full suspension 29er.  Essentially a couple of clean slate fits.  The students get the opportunity to figure out what questions to ask, how to ask them, and how to hone in on the main focus points for the rider.  I tend to step back, observe, and interject as needed.



The students were from northern Indiana, northern Ohio, and the Boston area.  I like keeping the class small for maximum interaction and 3 was just right.  It was a great group of guys and we had a lot of fun.  While class goes from 9-5 with an hour for lunch, a couple of the guys stayed until around 8:30 on Saturday night, where we chatted about all sorts of things related to cycling, fitting, the bike industry, human movement, and anything else that came up.  It's great to see the passion in others.

When I teach, I can't help but reflect on my experience as a fitter.  I love what I do, and love sharing the knowledge.  Riding a bike should be a wonderful thing, and helping people experience that without pain is what makes me tick.  It seems like ages since I was on the other side of the classroom, taking in everything I could from some really top-notch people (teachers and fellow students) who have been a positive influence on my life and have helped shape my style.  The students in this class have very different backgrounds and fit experience (from no experience at all to 10 years of fitting), and each had their own learning style.  As they get the chance to practice, they will develop their own fitting style, as well.  BikeFit is one of many bike fitting protocols, but it's a very effective one, and should provide a great foundation for the students.  I look forward to keeping in touch with them and hearing of their fitting successes.

If you are interested in learning about becoming a BikeFit-certified pro bike fitter, you can read more here.  I will be hosting another BikeFit Level 1 class November 4-5.

Hunter does not approve of your fit.
We will work to make it better...





Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Thinking About Buying a New Bike? Get the Right Bike!


One of the services offered at Vector Cycle Works is RightBike.  RightBike is the service you want if you are looking to buy a new (or new to you) bike.  I'm a firm believer in that buying a bike can be better than walking into the local bike shop, having someone look at you and say, "you're probably a 56" and then throwing you on a couple of bikes in stock for a quick test spin.  That's OK, but I want you to feel like you are one with the bike.  This is what RightBike is all about.

RightBike is based on F.I.S.T. (Fit Institute Slowtwitch) principles.  I tend to think of the F.I.S.T. protocol and RightBike as being about "sizing" rather than a "fitting."  I feel those two terms are often mixed up in the industry - "fitting" is often used to describe sizing.  I tend to think of sizing as the geometric approach, which is certainly a major component of fitting, but real fitting gets into more detail at the touch points of the bike - where your body meets the pedals, seat, and bars.  RightBike is about establishing a good foundation for a CoreFit or ForeverFit fit.

So, how does RightBike work?  I thought it would be good to walk through the process and provide a couple of examples.  Here is the RightBike process, in 10 easy steps:
  1. You want a bike.
  2. You schedule your RightBike session here.
  3. I'll send you an e-mail with a document covering how to get here and what to expect (click here to see it), and a form that helps me get a better understanding of your history and goals.
  4. When you arrive at Vector Cycle Works for your RightBike appointment, we'll spend some time talking about what matters most to you and the current bike market.  Things we cover include:
    1. Your riding history.
    2. What kind of bike you're looking for.
    3. Your budget for the bike and any other accessories or changes that need to be made to accommodate your body.
    4. What attributes you like in a bike.
    5. Any bikes you might prefer.
    6. Your goals.
  5. We take a few body measurements that will drive the sizing process.
  6. We'll set up the aerobars or handlebars for you.  At this point, we're making an educated guess as to what bars might come on the size of bike that will work for you.
  7. We'll find a saddle that works.  It might not necessarily be the perfect saddle, but something that at least doesn't interfere with the rest of the fit process.  I often gravitate towards saddles that can often be spec'ed out on current bikes.
  8. We set up the crank length according to what you might typically find on bikes in your general size.
  9. We then perform the F.I.S.T. protocol, setting the bike up based on your morphology and then running through a series of trials to find the position that feels the best and allows you to produce the most power.  You will sweat.
  10. Finally, we use some geometry and trigonometry to generate a report of all the bikes that fit your body and budget.  We use stack and reach to get an apples-to-apples comparison of bike options.  You can read more on stack and reach here.
One thing that I take pride in with Vector Cycle Works is that I maintain independence but have a good relationship with the local bike shops.  Vector Cycle Works is a dealer for 6 brands of bikes - Bombtrack, Ceepo, Chromag, Dimond, Girs, and Ventum (watch for some posts on each brand soon) - but the goal is always to find the bike that fits you well and you want, regardless of where you get it.  

The main deliverable from a RightBike session is the list of bikes.  I have a database of bikes that I continue to develop and build that includes 93 brands of bikes.  I am not aware of anywhere else that can give you a comprehensive list of everything on the market like this.  Each person that comes in for a RightBike session gets a report that can be pretty comprehensive.  I'll often spend a few hours on a customer's report, because it's important to me that we get you a quality list.  So, I like to step back and think about what I'm recommending.

With that said, here are three examples of recent RightBike sessions.

Example 1 - Male Triathlete

For this example, I have a male triathlete who is relatively fit, has been fit by me on his existing bike before, and is ready to buy something new.  He had the following rules:
  1. A budget around $6,000.
  2. He wanted Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting.
  3. He wanted to buy from his local bike shop, who sells BMC, Cervelo, and Quintana Roo.
  4. He currently rides 165mm cranks.
  5. He liked the Cervelo P3.
Based on those rules, his report turns out to be fairly simple - a handful of bikes from those 3 brands. He's also lucky in the sense that he's not a physical anomaly - he's tall, but not too tall, lean, and male.  He has a pretty good budget.  He has a lot of options available to him.

You'll also notice that in his report, I shared my opinion on what bike would be best.  That is because he asked me for my opinion and recommendation.  I will typically try to share some thoughts about the advantages and disadvantages of certain bikes on the list, but try to keep that as neutral as possible.


Example 2 - Female Roadie

For our second example, we have a little bit trickier person - a woman who is less than 5' 4".  Frankly, the bike industry can be pretty frustrating for people under about 5' 4", as there aren't as many good options out there that fit well.  The problem is not overall height, but inseam and torso length combined with the industry's move to 700c wheels for pretty much everything.  That's another story, though.

Our female roadie actually came in with an existing bike, but it was way too big.  She knew this going in, so she was ready for the news that she might be buying a new bike.  After attempting to make her bike work, we switched from fitting mode to sizing mode.  The female roadie had the following rules:
  1. A budget of $2,000-$2,500.
  2. A preference for a few brands of bikes, but mostly pretty open.
  3. Her inseam is 75.5cm - this is important, especially with smaller people, as it is going to limit which bikes they can stand over.  The manufacturers don't always provide the standover information, which is frustrating.

In her case, a lot of bikes came up - if I'm counting correctly, 191 bikes from 13 manufacturers.  Now, some of those are the same bike from different years (the database includes 2015-2017, with varying levels of data entry performed based on time.  I only have about 25 brands entered for 2017 so far), and many of them are the same frame with different components.  Nonetheless, she has a nice list of options.

Her report also demonstrates what I consider "elegant solutions" for bikes.  Based on the person's general size and what I know about how bikes are going to generally be equipped, I pick stem combinations that are practical, elegant, and hopefully what might come on the bike out of the box.  I'm not going to size a 6' 4" male on a bike with a 60mm stem, nor would I put a 5' 1" male on a bike with a 130mm stem.  There are some cases where that might be warranted (long torso/short legs/long arms), but if we end up there, we failed somewhere.

Example 3 - Female Triathlete

Of these three, this one was the toughest person because of their size.  They are a hair over 5', with a 71cm inseam.  That inseam means there are only a handful of bikes that she can stand over, and they are most likely 650c bikes, meaning they have a smaller wheel.  These have become rare, and good 650c wheels are even more rare.

Her rules are:
  1. Budget of $4000.
  2. Wants Ultegra mechanical shifting.
  3. Standover height is an issue with a 71cm inseam.

This was one where I went pretty deep with my discussion, as this report was a bit of bad news for this person.  The primary bad news was that she would most likely end up on a 650 bike.  Now this is where I have to admit I don't know every detail of every bike component on Earth.  I had not paid much attention to the 650 wheel and tire options on the market today.  In subsequent discussions, I did some research and found that while the 650 wheel/tire market isn't as robust as the 700 wheel/tire market, there are options out there.  Both Zipp and Enve make 650 wheels, and one of my favorite tire options, the Continental GP 4000 S II, is available in a 650, too.  So, while not ideal, it's not as bad as I thought it was.

Summary

Those are a couple of examples of the RightBike process.  Every person is different, so the reports can vary quite a bit.  I really enjoy doing this for people.  I guess I get to live vicariously through others as they get to purchase a shiny new bike!  After the report is generated, we're not done, either - ideally, you'll come back for a full fitting, but I will help you however you need help.  In the past I've made trips to shops with customers while they buy the bike, tools in hand, so we can adjust the bike for a test ride.  I've even helped with Craigslist deals on used bikes.  It's whatever you need.

I do feel this is the way to buy a new bike, so if you're in the market, schedule your RightBike session before the busy season really starts to hit.  This is a great time to get a good deal on a bike, as there are some 2016s that need to move out of the way for the 2017s, and the shops tend to be a bit slow right now.  It's time to find the right bike for you!

Friday, December 23, 2016

2017 Vector Cycle Works Services - Introducing CoreFit


As the new year approaches, it is time to revisit the services offered at Vector Cycle Works.  2016 has been a great year in the studio, and I'm always thankful for all the great people I meet.  As my knowledge and processes have evolved, I felt it was time to update my services accordingly.

ForeverFit is the cornerstone of what I do.  It's a very thorough deep-dive into understanding the human body and how it interacts with the bike.  It is also about a 3 1/2 to 4 hour initial session.  That amount of time is not for everybody and it also limits my availability, as I can't do a ForeverFit on weeknights.  I don't feel right making people wait as much as 8 weeks to get in.  I've pointed about 20 people to other fitters in the area this year because they couldn't get in soon enough.

One other important philosophy I hold is that cycling can be for everyone.  One challenge for bike fitters is that we are a cottage industry within a niche industry.  I am an evangelist for cycling and healthy living before I am a fitter.  What percentage of the general population actually own a bike?  How many of them ride it regularly?  How many of them have actually been fit, or see the value in being fit?  How much are they willing to pay for a fit?  As we ask these questions, the size of the market gets smaller.

I want to see more people having fun on bikes.  I don't want the cost of bike fitting to prevent people from getting a fit.  I have always felt it should be affordable.  So, in an effort to be more available to more people, I am introducing a new fit service: CoreFit.  I think CoreFit helps round out the services at Vector Cycle Works - providing comprehensive services for the cyclist looking to get more out of their experience.

With all that said, here is the new menu:

RightBike - $100

RightBike is the Vector Cycle Works sizing service.  This is the "pre-fit" for someone looking to purchase a new bike.  RightBike is based on F.I.S.T. protocols where we find the best bike solution for your body.  As I covered in a couple of previous blog posts (found here and here), the days of walking into a store and having the salesperson guess your size based on your height are over.  With RightBike, we'll put you on a fit bike, work through a series of trials, and then let you decide what feels best.  We do some measuring, a little math, and you get a list of all the bikes that work for you, with any adjustments that need to be made.  We aren't trying to hack together a bike and make it work - you deserve an elegant solution that fits well, is comfortable, handles well, fits your budget and looks good, too.  While I am a dealer for a few brands of bikes, I believe in putting your comfort, efficiency, budget, and tastes first, so the list includes all the bikes available in the central Indiana area from the local bike shops, as well as online sellers.

The cost of RightBike can be applied to a subsequent CoreFit or ForeverFit.  So, in a perfect world, you get sized up, buy the bike that fits you best, and come back to iron out the details with a proper fit.  In my opinion, this is the best way to buy a bike.

CoreFit - $150

CoreFit, as the name implies, gets back to core fit technologies to get you comfortable and efficient.  Based on BikeFit and F.I.S.T. protocols, a typical CoreFit session typically takes about 2 hours for the initial fit.  We will gather some basic measurements of your body and feet, dial in your overall geometry and interaction with the bike, and put the icing on the cake by spending time on your foot-pedal interface.  1 follow-up session is included.  CoreFit is guaranteed - if you're not happy, you get your money back.

ForeverFit - $300

ForeverFit is the ultimate comfort and performance partnership.  Building on CoreFit, ForeverFit incorporates Functional Movement work to dive deep into understanding your deficiencies and asymmetries so we can understand what is holding you back from performing at your highest level.  ForeverFit is guaranteed for as long as you own the bike, and also offers a 100% money back guarantee if you're not happy.

If you choose to do a CoreFit and later decide you want to upgrade to gain the benefits of ForeverFit, you can do so for the cost difference.

Once you have been fit on one bike, a subsequent bike is $100 for CoreFit or ForeverFit customers.

Functional Movement Training - $50 per hour

If you are looking to get more from your cycling experience, you may want to look at how well you move.  To perform well as an athlete, we need to be mobile, stable, and strong.  A Functional Movement Screen and Y-Balance test are part of ForeverFit, but can also be done separately.  With Functional Movement, we screen and measure your deficiencies, and work together to develop a training plan designed specifically to overcome those deficiencies without preventing you from your normal training.

Whether you are dealing with pain, nagging injuries, or just looking to get a few more watts on the bike, Vector Cycle Works can help you find a better you.


Saddle Testing - FREE

A bad saddle can keep you from spending time on the bike.  Don't waste time with the wrong saddle - try one of over 70 saddles available for testing at Vector Cycle Works.  Testing is free.  Bring your riding attire, shoes, and bike in and we'll find a saddle that works better for you, mount it to your bike, and let you take it home to try for a longer trial.  There is no reason to be uncomfortable on your saddle anymore.

Other Stuff

In addition to services, Vector Cycle Works is able to provide expertise on many other aspects of cycling, including:

  • Bike components - Vector Cycle Works has a wide variety of bike components from handlebars to wheels.  All components include free installation.
  • Power meters - Vector Cycle Works is a Power2Max Competence Center and will gladly discuss the power meter market.  A power meter purchase includes free installation and batteries for the life of the power meter.
  • Trainers - Indoor training is one of my favorite subjects.  If you are interested in getting more out of your indoor cycling experience, Vector Cycle Works is an authorized dealer for Wahoo, Tacx, Kinetic, Elite, and CycleOps trainers.  All trainers include free delivery and setup in your home (in the Indianapolis area).
If you are ready to make next season your best season ever, you can schedule time at Vector Cycle Works at https://vectorcycleworks.appointlet.com.  If you're still unsure, call Travis at 317-833-0702 for more info and we'll figure out what is best for you.  Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to seeing you soon!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2017: A Turning Point in Triathlon Bike Innovation?



This is an interesting time of year for a bike fitter.  As the new year approaches, most of the manufacturers have introduced their new bikes.  For me, this means a lot of data entry as I gather all the geometry information on all the bikes available from Vector Cycle Works, the local bike shops, and online.  I track over 90 brands of bikes that are currently in production.  I get to spend at least a little time looking at every bike out there, and sometimes the details of a certain bike grab my attention.  Sometimes, I see trends.

The 2017 triathlon bike introductions have brought some pretty interesting changes, with some radical-looking designs coming out around the time of the Ironman World Championship in Kona.  The most radical of these are the Diamondback Andean and Cervelo P5X.  These look like something Batman would ride.

In the triathlon world, it has become hard to separate the concept of "the best bike" from "the most aerodynamic" bike.  Aerodynamic efficiency rules the triathlon bike courses of the world and engineers strive to find ways to save every possible watt.  Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and wind tunnels are an integral part of bike design today.  This is also a part of why these bikes command some pretty hefty price tags.

In my opinion, the triathlon bike industry has hit a point of diminishing returns.  I call it "peak aero."  The trend with triathlon bike design over the last few years has been all about aerodynamic performance, with manufacturers introducing their new high-end models with increasing price tags and white papers desperately trying to demonstrate why this bike is so much faster than the others.

Problem is, aerodynamics is a cruel science.  There are so many factors involved in what makes something aerodynamic, how it is measured, and how wind tunnel data compares to real world information.  Two bikes tested in the same wind tunnel on different days can have different results due to atmospheric conditions.  The same bike in different wind tunnels can have different results.  Testing with or without a rider, pedaling or not pedaling, introduces even more confusion.  It's hard for anybody to present a good apples-to-apples comparison of how their new bike is faster than anything else out there.  It's not anybody's fault, but it's hard to trust the white papers.

We're at a point of diminishing returns.  I'm certainly no aerodynamics expert, but when you look at the bikes on the market today, for the most part, we're settling in on some very similar concepts across all models.  Cables runs are clean, front ends are tidy, and tube shapes are similar.  Much of what was introduced on the superbikes of 3 years ago has trickled down to even the most affordable models in the lineup.

As bikes leave the factory, they are all very good nowadays.  I feel that there is a lot of bang for the buck in the sub $3,000 triathlon bike market - bikes like the Felt IA16, Cervelo P2, and many others get a ton of trickle-down technology from their more expensive stablemates.  In my mind, it makes it hard to justify the more expensive bikes.  How much does one spend for each watt saved over the more affordable model?

This is good for the consumer, but the manufacturers (and specifically their marketing departments) have a challenge: the bike does not race by itself.  The bike is one part of a system, and as it turns out, is a relatively small part.  Throw a big blob of meat and bones (i.e., a human body) on top of it, and the bike is only about 20% of the system's total frontal area, at most.  Put that human body in a bad aerodynamic position, and it's even worse.  As a bike fitter, I can help you get more aerodynamic and we can even go to the wind tunnel, but in all honesty, comfort is going to trump aerodynamics (although you might be surprised just how aero you can get while being comfortable).  Throw on the nutrition people need for training and racing, and we are a long way away from that that thing of aerodynamic beauty that left the factory.

This is where I see a shift happening.  Bicycle manufacturers need to tout the other features of the bikes.  The shift has started to happen, with an emphasis on a few things:

  • Non-traditional designs
  • Integrated storage
  • Disc Brakes

Non-Traditional Designs

Looking at the P5X, you'll notice something is missing.  A seat tube.  And chain stays.  The classic "double diamond" design is being challenged again - Dimond, TriRig, Ventum, Falco, Reap, and others are challenging the traditional design.  Many of these have had a parallel design from the past - what's old is new again.

The early Dimond prototypes were based on the Zipp 2001 frame from the early 90's.  The TriRig Omni and Ventum One look similar to the Lotus 108, also from the early 90's.  The idea is that if you can remove unnecessary parts, you can reduce drag.  Some folks think they're ugly.  I think they're beautiful in their own way.

Integrated Storage

Integrated on-the-bike storage is a fun one.  If you look at the P5X and Andean, they have been very clever in how they've integrated storage.  Cervelo put out a white paper for the P5X.  I haven't seen it, and I don't believe most of us can.  Dan Empfield did, so his write-up on it will tell you more than I can.  It appears that the P5X will save the average rider maybe a minute over the P5 on an Ironman course.  How much is that worth to you?

The P5X and Andean aren't the only ones who have jumped on the integrated storage bandwagon.  The new Dimond Marquise has 3 storage compartments.  The Ventum One has a 1,4 liter water bottle integrated into the top tube.

Of course, none of this is totally new - Trek has had their integrated rear storage solution on the Speed Concept for a few years now.  Quintana Roo has their similar QBox on their PR series of bikes.  Many bikes are including top-tube bosses to mount a bento box like the Profile Design ATTK behind the stem, helping to improve airflow through that area.  The Scott Plasma Premium has a nicely integrated between-the-arms (BTA) drink system.  Ceepo offers their Viper-R with storage up front, on the top tube, and in the back.  These are just a few examples.

Disc Brakes

There is one other big thing to point out on the Andean and P5X: disc brakes.  While disc brake technology is pretty much the standard in the mountain bike world, it is only now catching on in road cycling.  The aerodynamics of the disc itself have been a challenge for triathlon bike designers, and part of the reason for the relatively slow adoption.  So far, I am only aware of 3 tri bikes with disc brakes - the P5X, Andean, and the Parlee TTiR.  Over the next 2-3 years, I think we'll see a big shift in braking systems.  The wheel manufacturers are all over this and the products are coming.

I think we're starting to see a shift in triathlon bikes that will start to gain some momentum.  Marketing departments will be looking to find ways to quantify things beyond aerodynamics.  We'll start to see more integrated storage, more disc brakes, and maybe more attention to other factors like how the bike rides, handles, and brakes.  If we can start quantifying these things, we'll see a lot of innovation that will benefit us as consumers.

While late 2016 has brought a lot of big bike announcements, what is interesting to me are the big players that haven't said anything lately - Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, and many others have been fairly quiet.  Is this the calm before the storm?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Vector Cycle Works 2.0


Life in the fit studio is as busy as ever, but now there's a bit more room to move.  Over the last month or so, Vector Cycle Works has transitioned to a bigger room in the house.  I thought I would share a few pictures of the new studio - Vector Cycle Works 2.0!

Schedule now at www.vectorcycleworks.com/contact.  This is a great time to get fit and ready for 2017.


The new studio gives me more room to work.  I can step back further when observing a fit.  There is still some room for more stuff on the wall, too...

We now have a bit more room for Functional Movement work and body analysis.

Saddle testing and sizing has some dedicated space now.  Handlebars and saddles are closer to the bike, making it a bit more efficient when setting someone up for a test or a bike sizing.  Saddle testing is still free!



Sunday, September 25, 2016

Trainer Season is Here: Smart Trainer Edition



While there is plenty of opportunity to get some great rides in outside (anybody doing the Hilly Hundred in a few weeks?), many of us will choose to start riding indoors soon.  Indoor training can be a great way to improve your bike fitness during the winter months, and we are seeing some great new products coming out for 2017.

The theme for 2017 seems to revolve around smart trainers - trainers that have the ability to adjust resistance for you, based on software providing commands to increase or decrease the load as the workout or virtual course demands.  The CompuTrainer is the granddaddy of them all, but has a lot of company from the likes of Wahoo Fitness, CycleOps, Tacx, Elite, Kinetic and others.  As a consumer, I love having all these choices!

One note about the "smart" trainer tag:  There are some products that are labeled as "smart", but are not able to control resistance.  An example is the Kinetic Road Machine Smart, which was introduced a couple of years ago.  It has the ability to provide measurements, but not provide variable resistance.  Elite also has a few products labeled as "smart" that are not what we are discussing here.

Also of note, Elite has introduced a few new products at EuroBike, although I have not seen anything from them as far my availability goes.  I can get one of their trainers, so will include that here and add the others if/when they become available.  Elite is an Italian company, and we don't get all of their products here in the U.S.

Here is a quick look at the smart trainer options available from Vector Cycle Works this year (click on any of the images for a bigger view).

CycleOps

CycleOps has one of the more extensive trainer product lines available on the market.  Their product line has been fairly stable for a few years, but have introduced a couple of interesting new additions this year - the Hammer direct-drive trainer and Magnus wheel-drive trainer.  Both the Hammer and Magnus are smart trainers, like the PowerBeam Pro and PowerSync.  They also offer their Silencer direct-drive trainer, but note that it is not a smart trainer - it has 5 levels of magnetic resistance, but is not software-controlled.

CycleOps Hammer


Hammer - $1,199.99

The Hammer appears to be CycleOps' response to the Wahoo KICKR and Tacx Neo direct-drive trainers.  This direct drive trainer will emulate up to a 20% grade or 2000 watts.  It has a 20 pound flywheel, and weighs 47 pounds total.  It incorporates ANT+ and Bluetooth 4.0 for connectivity to all your devices.





CycleOps Magnus



Magnus - $599.99
The new Magnus is a pretty exciting option, and I think at under $600, is going to provide some tough competition for the KICKR SNAP and Tacx Vortex in the affordable smart trainer space.  

Not a lot of info is out on this yet, but we do know that it will provide up to 1500 watts of resistance, is both ANT+ and Bluetooth 4.0-compatible, and will fit a pretty wide variety of bikes (although you'll need a <2" rear tire on your 29er).



CycleOps PowerBeam Pro
PowerBeam Pro - $999.99
The PowerBeam Pro is CycleOps' first smart trainer, and is still a solid choice with +/- 5% accuracy.  It can provide up to 1000 watts of resistance, and will fit 29ers with 2.25" tires.  It is available with either ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart connectivity, and you can get their Joule GPS bundled with the ANT+ version for an additional $200.




CycleOps PowerSync




PowerSync - $899.99
The PowerSync is available in ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart versions for the same price.  The PowerSync is a bit more affordable than the PowerBeam Pro, although the tradeoff is that it won't fit your 29er.

Read more on the CycleOps PowerSync here.






Elite

As mentioned earlier, Elite has introduced a few new products at EuroBike including their Drivo and Rampa interactive trainers.  Elite uses "smart" to describe their trainers that can send data to your devices, and "interactive" for what most manufacturers call smart trainers.  I don't have pricing or availability info on the Drivo and Rampa yet, but will update if I hear anything.  For now, Elite offers their Real Turbo Muin B+.

Real Turbo Muin B+ - $1,149.00
The Real Turbo Muin B+ is a direct-drive smart trainer similar to the Wahoo KICKR, CycleOps Hammer, and Tacx Neo.  It is the most affordable of these-direct drive trainers.  I have not ridden one, so I can't tell you how it behaves compared to the KICKR or others.  It is interesting because it is a hybrid fluid/magnetic resistance unit.  While fluid trainers are nice for their road-like feel, most smart trainers use magnetic resistance in order to control the resistance via software.

Read more about the Real Turbo Muin B+ here.


Kinetic

While Kinetic offered their Smart trainers a year or two ago, these are not the type that can provide resistance via software control like most smart trainers.  For 2016/2017, Kinetic is going all-in with smart trainers and offering their new Smart Control units.  One thing to note is that Kinetic will offer the Smart Control resistance unit by itself, if you want to upgrade your existing Road Machine or Rock 'n Roll.


Road Machine Smart Control - $649.00
Kinetic has taken their tried and true Road Machine frame (which is what I use in the studio) and replaced the resistance unit with the Smart Control unit.  At this point, I don't have a lot of info on the Smart Control as far as max loads, etc.  I like the potential here.  Price-wise, it slots in between the CycleOps Magnus and the KICKR SNAP.

Read more on the Road Machine Smart Control here.





Rock 'n Roll Smart Control - $849.00
This could be a really interesting option.  The Rock 'n Roll challenges you a bit more than most stationary trainers, and now they've added the power resistance unit.  Like the Road Machine Smart Control, I don't have a lot of info on this right now, but it is expected to be available soon.

Read more on the Rock 'n Roll Smart Control here.




Tacx

Tacx offers 7 different smart trainers, if you count the new Magnum bike treadmill (sorry, I can't get these yet).  New this year is the FLUX Smart direct-drive trainer.  The rest of the lineup is unchanged.  At some point soon, I hope to take a look at the Tacx software offerings, which look like a lot of fun.



FLUX Smart - $899.99
It's probably best to just start with DC Rainmaker's hands-on review of the FLUX.  Some interesting notes from there is that it is more accurate than it is rated, can provide 1500 watts of resistance, and it won't be getting here before late October or early November'ish.

Read more on the FLUX Smart here.



Bushido Smart - $799.99
I've been riding the Bushido Smart for over a year now.  This is unique because it doesn't have to be plugged in to provide resistance - it is completely wireless, yet can provide up to 1400 watts of resistance.  I will try to do a long-term review on this in the near future.

Read more on the Bushido Smart here.




Genius Smart - $849.99
For $50 more than the Bushido, what advantages does the Genius Smart offer?  It is no longer wireless and offers a bit more resistance than the Bushido at 1500 watts.  What is interesting is that it will simulate a -5% grade, so it will actually accelerate your rear wheel to simulate descents for a more realistic experience.  This is where Tacx's software is going to be especially fun.

Read more on the Genius Smart here.




i-Genius Multiplayer Smart - $1,199.99
OK, so this looks like a lot of fun.  With the Tacx software, this will simulate 20% uphills, 5% downhills and offers steering input, too.  Join up with some friends for some virtual reality fun, like riding your tri bike on mountain bike trails.  DC Rainmaker has reviewed the Genius system here.

Read more on the i-Genius Multiplayer here.



Ironman Smart - $1,099.99
Honestly, I'm not sure why this unit exists.  Throw the Ironman name on the Genius and bump the price up $200 and you're there.  Oh, it adds a controller and a Kona course DVD.  I guess I'd rather spend an extra $100 for the i-Genius and have more of the virtual reality stuff.

Read more on the Ironman Smart here.





NEO Smart - $1,599.99
The NEO was introduced just last year and is Tacx's first foray into direct-drive trainers.  It's an impressive unit on paper, able to simulate uphill grades to 25% (2200 watts) and downhills to -5%.  It is extremely quiet, and will also simulate different road surfaces for enhanced realism.

Read more about the NEO Smart here.


Vortex Smart - $549.99
Last but not least, the lowest-cost Tacx smart trainer is the Vortex.  I like to think of this as the "not wireless Bushido", as the features are similar.  It doesn't provide quite as much resistance (950 watts), but it's still plenty for most riders.  At $549.99, this is the most affordable smart trainer here.  Pricewise, it competes with the CycleOps Magnus, KICKR SNAP, and Kinetic Road Machine.

Read more about the Vortex Smart here.



Wahoo Fitness

Wahoo currently offers two smart trainers - the KICKR and KICKR SNAP.



KICKR - $1,199.99
The KICKR has been recently refreshed.  The new version has an updated drivetrain, flywheel, and software to make it quieter and more accurate (+/- 2%).  Wahoo also added a handle which, if you've ever picked one of these beasts up, you'll appreciate.  The MSRP is unchanged at $1199.99.

Read more on the KICKR at this link.

KICKR SNAP - $699.99
The KICKR SNAP is unchanged for this season.  I've set up quite a few of these, and they are a good, solid trainer.  They are not quite as accurate as the KICKR, but for the price, that can be forgiven.  The new competition in this price range will certainly put some pressure on Wahoo.  The price remains unchanged at $699.99.

Read more about the KICKR SNAP here.

Summary

We are seeing more competition in the smart trainer market, with more affordable options starting to arrive.  With smart trainers priced as low as $549.99 for the Tacx Vortex Smart, we've come a long way since the days when the CompuTrainer was the only game in town.  There are 4 smart trainers in the sub-$700 range - the Tacx Vortex Smart, the KICKR SNAP, Kinetic Road Machine Smart Control, and the CycleOps Magnus.  If direct-drive is your thing, the KICKR, Tacx NEO, Tacx FLUX, CycleOps Hammer, and Elite Real Turbo Muin B+ will give you options starting at about $900.  As consumers, we should be happy to have choices!

If you are interested in getting a new trainer, these are all available from Vector Cycle Works.  With any trainer purchase, I will deliver it to your house (within a reasonable distance) and help you get it set up, including setup with any training software (TrainerRoad, PerfPRO Studio, The Sufferfest, Zwift, etc.) that you may be using.

Call Travis at 317-833-0702 or e-mail at travis@vectorcycleworks.com if you are interested!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

New Products Coming Out

As we head into the end of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, we also reach that time of year where some exciting new cycling products start coming out.  Manufacturers are starting to reveal their new stuff for 2017 at some of the big trade shows and events - Eurobike just wrapped up, Interbike is coming up soon, and Kona is often a good opportunity to introduce some new triathlon gear.

Here are a few things that are being introduced that we should be excited about:

Argon 18 is bringing the wind tunnel to your next ride.  The optional body positioning sensors are intriguing.

FSA throws their hat in the electronic shifting ring.  The most interesting aspect of this is the app available to fine-tune your gearing and record your habits.

Wheels are evolving, due to some trends in tire widths, tubeless compatibility, and the increasing availability of disc brakes for road applications.  Lots of new stuff for both on or off-road:

We're seeing some big updates in the power meter world, one of my favorite topics.  I'm hoping to write in some more detail on these soon.  For now:

Winter trainer season is almost here, and some really good stuff is coming out to make it a bit more interesting (I'll be writing more about these soon, too):

While not a new product introduction, the UCI is dropping the 3:1 rule for bike design.  There are a lot of tri bikes that do not conform to the UCI rules out already, but this could open up some doors.