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You’re Killing Me with The 1x Drivetrains, Smalls… A Bike with a 1x Drivetrain Cannot, By It’s Very Nature, “Do It All”.
You’re killing me, interwebz… I’m seeing more of the “the S-Works Crux is the one bike that does it all” videos on my YouTube feed. It’s enough to drive a fella a little nuts, I tell ya.
1x drivetrains aren’t all bad, of course. Adjusting a modern mechanical front derailleur so the chain doesn’t rub the cage or the cage rub the crank arm has become an exercise in patience, but it is possible, I’m here to tell you!
What a 1x lacks to a 2x is gear options, and those gear options are massively important when riding with the fast crowd.
Each tooth jump in a cassette cog is worth 5-rpm on the crank. Therefore, when you get a cog tooth jump of something like three teeth when you get to the hard gears, it feels like you’re always in the wrong gear to match your cadence to the speed the group is going.
Better people might be able to get used to that. I changed my chainrings to put the cadence gap in my 11/28 cassette where I wanted it; at 14 to 17-mph rather than at 18 to 21.
For that alone, the S-works Crux can’t be “the one”.
Now, put a 2x on that svelte beauty and that changes the conversation landscape immensely.
Much has been made of tire pressure over the last few years, but mainly centered around road, gravel and mountain single bikes. What about tandems?!
My wife and I ride 30-mm Specialized Turbo Pro tires and we’ve been riding 100-psi for quite a while, but we’re not your sleight, sub 160-pound cyclists. We could be, but American barbecue just tastes too damn good. We rode 28s in the same brand and line for a year before at the same pressure… and even with Michigan roads, we’ve only ever had one pinch flat, and the feel was fantastic. In my opinion, we’re at the right pressure for those tires and our current weight.
The simplest way to explain this, without getting too deep into the nerdy weeds of cycling’s geekdom is that we want the lowest pressure possible without pinch flatting when you hit something reasonable. Now, this is not the easiest thing to find, obviously. It’s not like you’re going to want to take six spares and a floor pump out with you so you can figure your optimal pressure, so here’s what my did, in a nutshell.
We started out at the max pressure for the tires, I think 125 or something. Unless you’re a really big tandem couple, that’s way too much pressure, and I knew that from being way too geeky about this stuff. So, I dropped 20-psi off that right from the beginning. Then, I had to consider we’re two people on two tires (not two on four), so my normal 85-psi on my 26mm tires for my road bike wasn’t going to be enough. We went with 100 and gave it a run. I hit a couple of railroad crossings on that ride and everything was smooth. Next ride out I dropped five psi and everything was fine but the ride felt a touch squishy… bouncy when we really got into a rhythm. I dropped five more the next ride and we pinch flatted. 100 psi it was.
Now, some will have us running to a tire pressure gauge that’ll give us the nearest tenth of a psi and try to dial it in to the nearest psi. In fact, I could be that silly… but my wife wouldn’t put up with that ridiculous shit, so I keep it simple to the nearest five psi.
I roll 90-ish psi on my Trek 5200 with 24mm tires, 85 on my Specialized Venge with 26mm tires and we roll 100 psi on our tandem… with zero pinch flats.
I’m down as low as I want to go without being silly… and without squishing when we sprint. And that, my friends, is the proper balance.
Holy Footbed Shims, Batman! You’re Amazing! Cycling and How to Know You Need to Shim a Cleat, What It Feels Like… Before and After
I’ve been cycling, enthusiastically, since 2011. I’ve gone through professional fittings and become adept enough at the process I can fit myself on a bike with ease, and can even manage to help set my wife up on her new bike (who happens to be a lot harder to fit on a bicycle than I am… but mainly because I can’t feel what she feels). Point is, I know my way around setting a bicycle up. Not enough to be cocky about it, of course. We must make that distinction, because otherwise everything comes off as cocky in writing.
Anyway, every year, around this time in February, I start feeling some pain and tenderness in my left… well, just in front of the sit bone area from my inner leg hitting the saddle on the bottom of the pedal stroke. Only on the left side. Eventually, I contemplate lowering the saddle to keep this from growing into something more persistent and painful. In the past, I’ve gone that far, only to raise it again once I got back on the road after winter because it felt foreign.
Also, almost every saddle sore I’ve gotten in the last decade has been on the left side, in the same exact place.
I knew my left leg was shorter and that this was likely a problem, but I figured the saddle sores were fairly normal (and I would get one on the right now and again), so I left well enough alone and rode through the pain of the sores every now and again.
Then, my wife and I were on the phone Saturday afternoon and she said I should stop by the shop to say hi to Matt and the fellas. First, I know, that is sexy as hell – especially considering there was a massive sale going on… I LOVE MY WIFE! While there, I picked up a few tires I’d need for the season and on a display I saw a size 43/44 footbed and shim set from Specialized marked 40% off. I thought, why not give that a whirl. So I bought the set and headed out to meet my wife.
I get everything ready the next morning before our trainer ride.
I started out adding a 1.5mm shim to my left foot but that didn’t feel much better, so I added another 1mm shim and hopped back on the trainer… and the difference was utterly astonishing. So much so, I was interested to go an extra ten minutes just to see if my left leg would start talking to me like it normally does.
Not a thing.
Just like that, I’m sold. I put two shims in my left mountain bike shoe as well, which I’ll use on the tandem and on my gravel bike. And so easy!
Now, this isn’t all perfect and I’m going out on a little bit of a limb because Specialized’s shims aren’t exactly set and forget. They’re a little thicker on the inside than the outside which is meant to straighten the foot. There’s a very good chance I’ve simply rolled my foot too far out which can cause problems as well. To that end, I switched out an old set of S-Works footbeds for a new set and I cut up the left footbed to match the shims I put in my first pair of shoes and I put the footbed shim in my second pair of road shoes to see if I could tell the difference. That’s the cheap and easy way of fixing a leg imbalance.
Anyway, the important thing is, I’m excited for this season, to see if I can escape without saddle sores. I’m especially interested in seeing what happens on the tandem where the vast majority of one’s time is spent saddle-bound.
And that brings me to one final point about Specialized. While they’re treatment of small shop owners is enough to give me the vapors, when it comes to the equipment they make, they really show a lot of give a shit. Tinkering with my shoes and their footbeds, I was shocked to discover that there was virtually no difference between a footbed in a mid-level mountain bike shoe footbed and a pair of $425 carbon fiber-soled S-Works shoes. It was literally the same footbed with different brand writing… and a few different lines pressed into the mold to give them a different look. Same weight, same density, same size and shape.
You hear about “trickle down technology” with Shimano quite often. I never expected to see what I saw when I pulled my shoes apart over the weekend.
Note: Technically, in the Title, I wrote shimming a “cleat”. I don’t shim cleats because that’ll make the cleat a little more proud and therefore dangerous, especially for a mountain bike shoe. I prefer to shim the footbed for safety.
I haven’t written a word in three days. I had a work thing pop up that’s provided a lot of unnecessary stress that I’ve been processing with the help (or hindrance?) of my new sponsor. I had an awesome meeting Wednesday night with some excellent friends. I’ve been working hard with a couple of sponsees, enough I don’t think I’d pick up another till I get done with my own fourth.
I’ve also been doing my GCN research and I should have a ton to write about… like their latest video about the differences between a modern road bike vs. Si’s 10-year old Specialized Tarmac SL3 – a fantastic video that shows a massive gap between the two… if you’re riding with shallow alloy wheels on the Specialized. I’d love to see the difference were they to put a set of period carbon wheels on the bike (or even something a little more modern). Many in the comments agreed that the gap would close to a margin of error. Still something, but not much of something.
Anyway, while I’ve got a little stress at work, I don’t believe it’s something that can’t be sorted out quickly and be back to better than normal with a little more “give a $#!!+”.
Everything else, my wife and my marriage, our home, our kids, the people we work with in recovery, and our cycling friends are, for the most part, cruising along and awesome. We’re into planning rides and signing up for them at the moment – planning our summers out. It should be a great one and I’m entirely looking forward to what my wife and I can do on our new tandem and her new (old) road bike.
My wife and I wake up together, thanking our HP for another day and for the journey we’ve been on (and what remains ahead).
It’s good times and noodle salad. And thank God for that.
I believe I’ve seen all of the videos GCN has put out on flat/platform pedals vs. clipless. For the uninitiated, “clipless” refers to a lack of toe clips and straps… you still, ironically, clip into clipless pedals.
What they rarely cover in the whole discussion is foot position, though they did for a second or two in the imbedded clip.
First, clipping into clipless pedals, to spoil the clip and add my two cents, is only slightly more efficient than using platform pedals with little screw-in flat spikes and mountain specific shoes without cleats, until you get out of the saddle and sprint. At that point, a person who has used clipless pedals will feel vastly safer to hit the gas harder because their feet are connected and secured to the pedals.
Having ridden a 30-mile loop with the Elite A-Group on Tuesday night on a set of platform pedals (though, admittedly, the pedals I used were the cheap, stock plastic platforms without spikes). At a decent pace and cadence, it’s simply too hard to keep your feet in what I approximated was the proper position.
And that word, “approximated”, was the important part of that sentence, folks. You have to guess… and at 90-rpm, guessing where your feet should be gets old in a hurry. Especially bad is when you’re a little off and you can’t move your foot in little increments while moving at that rate of speed. What I ended up experiencing was a lot of pain from having my feet in the wrong place on the pedals to work the crank efficiently for my ankle, knee and hip joints. For that reason, I’ve never bothered with trying platforms again. Perhaps cycling at a less aggressive pace wouldn’t prove so difficult.
Next is the mountain bike issue (and this applies to potholes on the road as well – especially bunny-hopping an unexpected pothole). When descending, you can experience everything from roots to rocks making the descent tricky. If your feet are clipped in, you don’t have to worry about your feet bouncing off the pedals. The spiked platforms wouldn’t be as bad as straight up plastic, but I’ve always felt better being connected to the bike in clipless pedals.
In the end, the choice to go clipless or platform will come down to choice. This commentary is included to help those new to the choice to make a reasoned choice. It’s always an interesting topic.
UPDATE: Be sure to check out the comments. What a great topic for well-reasoned discussion based on experience. Great stuff.
I watched an interesting video on YouTube yesterday where a very British announcer posed the very question in the Title. The announcer stated there was a
40% 14% tariff* on any bike made outside of the UK – apparently the UK went all Donald Trump on evening up China’s trade imbalance… so if you add 40% on top of a normal bike price I don’t know if that would make them unattainable, but it’d piss me off covering a 40% tariff, though. And, should that have been the case in the US, I’d have thanked God both our old and new tandem are manufactured, made, built, painted, partially assembled, shipped and will arrive at my door step after the final assembly, entirely in the United States (it’s made in Oregon, Eugene, I believe). If you think a single bike expensive, get into the world of top-end tandems! WOW!
Anyway, it’s hard to believe, but now that I think of it, between my wife and I the three main bikes in our stable will all be hand-built in the USA. My Trek 5200, Jess’s Assenmacher, and our tandem.
The question is, though, at what point does a road bike become unattainable? How much is too much?
I don’t think we’re quite there yet. Bikes have gotten a little heavier, so if you want a 16-pound bike, it’ll cost you. They prices haven’t outlandishly for what we get, though. At least, in my personal opinion. I looked at a nice Trek Emonda the other day that was fantastically well appointed for $5,000 with the new Shimano 105 Di2 drivetrain and decent carbon wheels. At 18-pounds, it’s heavier than I’d expect but the price looked quite fair to me… and with the worldwide economic downturn (caused by the way in which Covid was handled by politicians, not just Covid), manufacturers are going to have to start cutting prices to move bikes sooner or later.
One thing is for sure, I’m sure glad I have a full stable. This is a great time for a gravel bike that’ll pull double duty as a road rig with a different set of wheels and tires.
UPDATE: The OMIL pointed out in the comments that he thought the duty on foreign-born bikes was 14%, not 40%. I had to go back to the video and sure enough, the announcer had a bit of a lazy tongue and I misheard 40%… it’s only 14%. Still, that’s an extra $140 per thousand that goes right out the window. That’s a lot better than $400, though!
Six months ago, I’d have answered “not a chance” if you’d asked “can a steel bike frame compete with a carbon fiber frame?” That abruptly ended when we bought my wife a 2004 54 cm steel Assenmacher with a 10-speed Campagnolo record drivetrain and I set the thing up with a new stem and handlebar to suit her.
Her reports of how the thing launches when she puts the power to the pedals, when contrasted against her carbon fiber Specialized Alias, had me perplexed. The smile on her face had me convinced I’d been fed some bad information.
My wife’s 18-pound steel Assenmacher next to my 18-1/2-pound carbon fiber Trek 5200 (my Trek is five years older):
Now, there’s no amount of money (that I’m aware of) you can spend that wouldn’t end up with a carbon fiber a pound or more lighter than the steel option in terms of modern bicycles. In fact, I have no doubt my Trek would be a touch lighter than my wife’s Assenmacher if we had the same wheels and components on the different frames. However, I now believe the notion that the steel bike wouldn’t be as responsive has to be tempered for we weekend warriors… and a steel bike can obviously be made exceedingly light with the right groupset.
There’s no question my wife’s bike is lighter than my carbon fiber Trek 5200.
I’m sitting here at the dining room table, trying to figure out what I want to write about and I’m looking over at my Trek sitting in the trainer. I’ve been daydreaming about taking it outside for days… just not in the amount of winter gear it would take to legitimately ride the thing without getting hypothermia. In my daydream, I’m in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey, bombing down the road with my wife and friends. The sun is shining and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, even if you could catch me.
Yep. A lot like that.
That’s not all, though! In fact, the vast majority of my rare daydream time is spent daydreaming about rocketing down the road with my wife on our new tandem… the silver paint job, the special factory applied decals on the top tube with our names and anniversary date… all light and sassy (the new tandem is going to be sixteen pounds lighter that the one we just sold). I actually dreamt about it last night.
Just two months to go and we’ll be outside again. I’m ready.
I did some research yesterday morning for a friend looking at picking up a new tandem and I thought it would be fun to go over our choice and why we made it. The coolest part, and I mean this down to my baby toes, is that my wife took such a big role in the choice. I expected she’d just sit back and let me roll, but she was right in there with me as we kicked around the choices for different tandems. She made two excellent points that led to us getting the exact bike we wanted.
She also just got upset that I’m typing too loud and fast… so, it’s not all palm trees and paradise. She says it is palm trees and paradise… paradise doesn’t have the staccato notes being drummed out on a keyboard. I’ve softened my tapping. And I’m laughing out loud.
Anyway, I knew we wanted to go with a Co-Motion tandem. Our first tandem was a Co-Motion Periscope and we absolutely loved it. Our experience with our first tandem made the choice of manufacturer easy… all we had to do was figure out which model we wanted. Now, I had lightweight horse blinders on, so when I figured out how to pay for this (cash, no financing), I was stuck on the Macchiato – Co-Motion’s top of the line race tandem. They use the highest grade aluminum tubing you can get, with carbon fiber everything and a Gates belt drive instead of a sync chain. It is, without question, the best of the best (unless you shell out $20,000+ for a Calfee).
When I got all googly-eyed explaining the Macchiato, my wife let me finish and said, “Well, if we’re truly going to ride this bike everywhere, why don’t we get the gravel bike version like Chuck & Libby”. I checked the specs on it… the only difference was alloy bars, seat posts and crank and we could fit 45mm tires on the bike instead of a 28mm max on the Macchiato. Oh, and internally routed cables. I don’t know how much I like that, by the way… that’s a long rear derailleur cable! Anyway, our friends’ Kalapuya (it’s pronounced Calapooia) is quite light, in the upper 20-pound range. My wife’s second fantastic idea is going to knock ours out of the park. She said, “Oh, and I want a second set of road wheels so we don’t have to mess around with changing tires to ride on the dirt.”
We had to pick my jaw up off the floor with a spatula. I love my wife! So I ordered a set of Rolf Prima tandem wheels with the bike, so now we have one tandem that can do anything we want.
Now, cycling is an exceedingly expensive hobby when you want all of the bells and whistles. Co-Motion tandems are that, times two. This is the place where one bike with two sets of wheels for road or dirt makes sense because buying a road and gravel tandem is simply a monetary and logistical nightmare. For us, because our plans involve traveling by car with our camper, we chose the lighter alloy gravel bike. They make a fantastic steel version that can have couplers added to it so the bike breaks down into sections for travel overseas. A friend chose the steel version of that bike for exactly that reason.
So, the choice can be broken down into a few sections.
Who will be using the bike? Is this for a tandem couple or the couple and kids? If you’ve got kids who might want to ride on a tandem, the only option I know of is the Co-Motion Periscope (Scout or Torpedo – flat or drop bar). The stoker (or rear admiral) position can be adjusted to suit a rider any height between 4’2″ & 6’2″. The flat bar version is a mountain bike while the drop bar can handle pavement or, in a limited sense, gravel. You would definitely need a Thudbuster seat post for gravel and the tire width would be limited to 32 mm, but it’s a great family tandem.
For my wife and I, we had a Scout that was turned into a Torpedo for six or seven years and it was awesome. We’d high hopes of involving our kids in cycling and that worked to an extent, but not quite as well as we hoped. Still, we made tremendous use of our tandem but with the kids getting older, it was time for us to look into something that fit us as a tandem couple better. As I wrote above, the Kalapuya was the natural choice for what we needed the bike to handle. The flip side to the alloy Kalapuya, but with a steel frame, is the Steelhead. Same components, just on a steel frame so the couplers can be added.
For those who have eyes on racing, or flat-out speed, the Macchiato or Robusta (alloy) or Supremo or Carrera (steel) are the four racers. Again, for travel you get the steel frame with the available coupler option (it isn’t cheap but beats renting/hiring a bike abroad).
There are a few more models out there, but that generally covers everything… except learning how to ride a tandem with your partner. It takes a lot of want to, but my God is it worth the effort!
Jess and I spoke with the owner of our local shop yesterday and he gave us the report he’d spoken with Co-Motion just the other day and found out our tandem is coming along right on time; it looks like the very end of February or beginning of March at this point – perfect for the start of the 2023 season.
Jess and I were getting excited yesterday, talking about new adventures for next year after having been through our total marriage makeover which is proving to be better than either of us hoped for.
My biggest problem is I haven’t made enough to retire at 53-years old. Had I, it’d be all over but the shouting. Sadly, I’ve got another decade and some change before that’s a possibility, but I can be patient on that front. We still have a lot of excellent adventures on the horizon.
Now, on another note, I have had to change my understanding a little bit on new bikes; they’re not terribly over-priced… at least, not as much as I once thought. The Trek Emonda, at 18 pounds and costing $5,000, comes out the door with Shimano’s Di2 105 groupset and legit 35mm carbon wheels. Folks, for what I have into my bikes and considering what the world has been through, that’s a fair deal.
Even Specialized has a fairly legit equipped Aethos that comes with DT Swiss wheels and SRAM Rival eTap 12-speed for $5,200.
I’d go with the Emonda any day of the week and twice on Sunday for $200 less than the Specialized, by the way.
If Specialized were to quote Ken Miles (or, technically Christian Bale) in Ford vs. Ferrari, “If that was the beauty pageant, we just lost”. Even with the eTap drivetrain.
All of that said, I’m liking Trek a lot more these days. I’ll have more on why at the start of the season. I’m glad I own a Trek that I love to ride.