Doing it all the hard way...

Friday, June 13, 2008

ATMO Going faster, or just thinking you are..

Before you look at the picture and think; poor guy, count the arms. Lucky for me I am not the subject of this picture.
Longer ride early this morning. Part of my ride was along the Sammamish River and Burke-Gilman trails. There are some sections that are really bumpy with tree roots that have effectively made small, but sharp, speed bumps that require attention from riders.

I was riding solo and I caught up to a group of cyclists from behind and was looking for a place to pass. They hit a particularly rough section and they all got out of their saddles and hung on for dear life as their machines bounced across the bumps almost uncontrollably. It intimidated me enough that I gave a little space in case someone went down. I braced myself, but did not experience the same DO-160D vibration test when I crossed the same pave’. When I passed them I noticed they all had carbon fiber bikes from major manufacturers and believe I simultaneously diagnosed the problem.

My Hottie had an aluminum Cannondale that was stiffer than cement and she was a hurtin’ girl on anything longer than fifty miles. I agree that Carbon dampens road vibration and if you have rough road, like chip seal, the ride is markedly better, but for smoothing out bumps, look to steel or Titanium. These poor fellows were suffering from Viagra frame syndrome.

The feeling you get (ATMO) riding across a sharp bump (or pothole) on bikes made of different frame material:

Aluminum: Crack, crack
Carbon fiber: Whump, whump
Steel or Ti: Boing (note single impact, rather than two distinct impacts)

Training for long rides here in the Pacific Northwest means you have to ride in the rain, hence the term rain bike. Because of this I often spend May and June alternating between three bikes for my training rides. The three bikes are now, Ti, steel and aluminum, but used to just be carbon and steel. When I rode my carbon Calfee I always felt like I was riding faster. It had Mavic Ksyrium’s and they are pretty stiff, so some of this was a result of the wheels I chose. I noticed that some of my times (or average speeds) on a given route were just as fast on my steel rain bike (Jamis Eclipse) than on my Carbon Calfee. The thing was; I always felt like I was going faster on the Calfee because I was essentially beat up from the road, I realized I just thought I had been going faster. Now this is only my personal experience and I don’t have control groups and blindfolded test data, but it makes sense to me so ATMO it is gospel. Koobi, who makes the best saddles in the world, has a motto "comfort=speed" and there is some logic to it.

I feel for the guys who give up comfort for that little bit more speed. Since the “Davo data” shows that in fact that they may not actually be getting any more speed, I pity them because their sacrifice may just be the price of admission to bow down at the feet of the god of vanity and current trends.

So out on the roads as I pass riders on their carbon bikes, I smile and enjoy my ride even more.

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