Bringing back the Cycling Cap one Domestique at a time

Review: Fizik Infinito R1 Knit


A totally unexpected aftereffect of my KT was a decrease in shoe size. Whereas I was previously a size 10 US before, I found out that I was now a size 9.

While this doesn't matter much for real world shoes, it matters a lot for cycling shoes. After all, no one wants unnecessary movement in the drivetrain. Yes, that includes YOU, the motor. All the leg movement you produce must transmit to the pedals, not back and forth nor side to side within your shoe! 

So on to the For Sale pages went my old cycling kicks. Ah, R1B Uomos, I shall remember thee fondly. A unique combination of lightness, comfort and minimalist style, these are great shoes, and they are indeed missed.

Shoe sentimentality aside, now came the delightful dilemma of choosing a new pair. I didn't have to look far as Fizik has recently revamped their stable. I came across something very very interesting.

I came across the Fizik Infinito R1 Knit. Knitted cycling shoes...Fun times.

I definitely had to try these. Fortunately, my ever-reliable LBS had them in stock....in Cebu (sad face emoji here).  EQ issues aside, I had them ship several samples in different sizes to Manila.

After three full days of waiting, I got the much awaited Viber saying the goods were here. Going through several sizes, and quite unsurprisingly, I confirmed that I had size 9 Fizik feet - Fiziks are true to size like that; quite unlike Sidis where you often had to order half a size larger. I was very pleased that they fit as great as my size 10's on my pre KT feet.

Sold!


Pre Ride

In typical Fizik fashion, the shoes came in a tidy black box with gloss black lettering. And typical for cycling products these days, some motivational statements on the inside. I love Marketing.

...for regular people.

Motivated yet?

The first thing you'd notice about the shoes is the construction. A good portion of the shoe is made of knitted fabric. Not all of it but major portions of the front and sides, all the way back. This black knitted fabric forms a top layer over another layer of red fabric underneath, peeking in between the knits. There are sections where the knit feels like knitted cloth in the same manner as an Adidas NMD. However, there are parts where knit does not, namely in the front and tops. Here, they feel firm and solid. We have reached out to Fizik who informed us that these areas are reinforced with polyurethane film which is 'thermowelded' into the knit, giving the solid shape and structure.

Presenting: The Infinito R1 Knit
The harder portions seem to be imbued with a resin which gives it its shape. On top is where you'll find Infinito closure system. Compared to the Fizik R1B Uomo, the Infinito closure is a bit more complicated in shape. Fizik says that this figure 8 lacing was meant to reduce pressure points. Making yet another appearance are two Boa dials (almost defacto in top-line cycling shoes) which are used to micro adjust the shoe via a series of steel wires and guides.



The front and the rear of the Infinito Knit are coated with what seems like rubberized paint which hides the resin-like material. Unfortunately, mine were scratched in an unfortunate run-in with my front wheel. At least we have a sneak peek of what it looks like underneath.

Ouch!
The underside is once again made of UD Carbon fiber which looks like a carryover from the R1B. In fact, I was able to transfer the heel of R1B over to the Infinito Knit as it wouldn't hurt for some red to break the monotony of the predominantly black shoe.



Heart and Sole made out of Carbon Fiber

Like a Ferrari!


Three scooped vents line the front of the sole with one large exhaust vent and two smaller exhaust vents at the middle-rear. The large middle intake vent feeds air directly into the shoe; you can see through it from the inside.

A new feature which makes an appearance in the Infinito series is the Dynamic Arch Support. Basically a sliver of fabric located on top of where the arch is. I don't yet know if I like it or not, but you can definitely feel it hugging your arch.



You may expect a knitted shoe to weigh less than its full faux-leather counterpart but you'll be surprised that the Infinito Knit weighs a bit more than the plain Jane Infinito. At 299.5 grams per shoe for size 9 (measured: L-301g, R-298g), the Knit is 23 grams heavier than the plain Infinito but an estimated 10-15 grams lighter than a similarly sized Sidi Shot.


On The Road

Compared to the R1B, the Knit is oh so slightly more difficult to get into and out of. This owes to the shape of the Infinito system. It's not like the two simple overlapping layers of the R1B Uomo. The  more complex 'lacing' of the Infinito series makes the opening much smaller. That being said, the opening is still quite generous compared to other shoes we've tried, and this might be just nitpicking.


Not Louboutins
The overall Fizik shape remains the same with a generous toe box compared to same sized Sidi models. The good news is that the Infinito system grips tighter or should I say, more accurately than the R1B. Where the R1B just hugs your feet, the Infinito closes in and tightens more in areas which have greater room. And remember the Arch Support, you can feel it once you slip into the shoes but quickly forget about them.


On to the ride!

The carbon sole does its job conducting the watts you generate onto the pedal. They're quite stiff, as can be expected from a modern carbon-soled shoe.

The ventilation is top notch! The central front vent has a lot to do with this as you can clearly feel air tickling your toes at speed. What's most impressive is the lack of heat buildup. This is where the Infinito Knit really stands out as there's porous fabric material over your toes which don't restrict heat and moisture from flowing out.

This is definitely top of mind for summer shoes but I probably cant say the same for wet weather scenarios. Overall, they feel like the previous range topping R1B Uomo. If you didn't know it, I'd bet you'd be hard pressed to tell these were knitted.

Care should be observed apres velo as the sole is very very slippery. There are no soft rubbery surfaces underneath for the shoes to grip with so cleat covers are a must.

Are knitted shoes the next big thing or just the latest Cycling gimmick? Who knows? Giro's came out with the Empire E70, and maybe other manufacturers will follow suit.

Is it for everyone? Probably not. Then again, no shoe is.

Is it for racing? Nah, lot's of weight weenie shoes out there much lighter than this.

But if your'e looking for all day comfort and cooler toes, you'd definitely want to check these out.


Verdict

Top notch all day ventilation at the cost of a bit of weight and a lot of pesos.

-A

Image from fizik.com


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Of Cycling and Kidney Transplants

It's been a while.

Unfortunately for me, cycling has taken a back seat to more pressing matters.

You see, all this time I was living with diabetes and it progressively got worse to a point where it started to affect my kidneys.

Things took a turn for the worse in June of 2017 when tests for an unrelated medical emergency revealed that my creatinine levels were off the charts at 11.6. This is exactly 11.6 times more than normal. So right then and there, I was forced to undergo my first hemodialysis session. To prevent seizures and basically stay alive, I had to go to the hospital three times a week for four to five hours at a time and get this treatment.

As you could probably imagine, this takes away much time from regular daily activities.  For me, that's mainly work and sadly, exercise. The process itself is somewhat painful as two really thick needles are inserted in veins in your arm before the process can even begin. Aside from needle insertions, the dialysis itself takes its toll on your body as it physically leaves it weakened and exhausted.

Getting on a bicycle was the last thing on my mind. Dialysis became my life for the next six months and I eventually got used to the routine. Right about that time was when I had the mental overhead to actually start missing Cycling.

I attempted to ride on weekends in between sessions. And while I enjoyed it, there were just too many things going on that it almost takes away the fun. Things like my fistula aching if I run over bumpy roads... or reminding myself constantly not to hydrate too much... or just the plain tiredness after pedaling short distances. I would say that the greatest toll on me was the overall psychological effect of knowing you can no longer do the things you know you can easily do before.

I stopped cycling altogether.

There had to be another way.

Fast forward to January 2018.  I was in the middle of an understandably bureaucratic and medically laborious process of qualifying for a transplant. I had to face arrays of medical exams, government clearances and psychological evaluations plus several panel interviews to boot. But in the end it was all worth it. I received an approval to have a kidney transplant.

On February 5, 2018 6:00am, I said my prayers and went to anesthetic sleep. The last thing I remember was my anesthesiologist small talking and how pretty my OR nurse was. By the same afternoon, I woke up in my room, all extremities bloated with all manner of tubes sticking out of different parts of my body.

Strangely, I felt.....normal. At least as normal as the Morphine would allow.

It was all good as my newly implanted kidney was working doubletime and I was up and about as far as the cables allowed.

When the morphine wore off reality sank in. I had an eight inch incision lined with staples in my lower abdomen. I can't get up from bed on my own and everything outside of breathing was gonna need to be done with assistance. I got out of the hospital after eight days.

The next few weeks saw me in isolation from the world. Immunosuppressant medicine made me susceptible to the most common of illnesses. I caught the colds from a relative and even when my doctor prescribed the very potent antibiotic Zithromax, it still took two weeks to go away. With books and a PS4 to keep me company, my recovery went faster than usual, thankfully.

I started to get out of bed on my own, slowly. Walking was my only exercise. Walk... to the fridge, then downstairs, then to the garage.  The doctors said I was progressing faster than expected. It was music to my ears! I knew cycling was just a matter of time...

Finally, one sweet day in April, I was cleared to do light exercise.

I'm not sure what my doctor had in mind but I immediately picked up the bike and went for a short ride around some familiar haunts. It was glorious! My new kidney was kicking it and I sweated like I never did before. A welcome side effect was a ten kilogram weight loss. My legs lost much of their power  and mass over the past few months but now they only had 72 kilos to push around. Everything started to feel better, even if it was difficult at first.

I loved that I was back.

After a couple of light steady rides, I realized that I needed to maintain steady exercise. To that end,
I decided to acquire an Elite Drivo interactive trainer and work out for at least an hour daily. This proved to be an excellent decision!

In combination with Zwift, I was handily doing trainer workouts in excess of an hour. Whereas previously, it was a chore to do an hour's work on a trainer, the virtual environs of Zwift took care of distracting my eyes during the workouts and its gamification of indoor rides kept me motivated.

Heck, as of this writing I already rode up a virtual Alpe d' Huez called Alpe du Zwift. Twice.

Virtual training helped me regain my strength. It even came to a point where I almost burnt out from chasing FTPs. But as fun as Zwift is, the road is where it's really at.

There were still a lot of things to mind in road rides. I should never, under any circumstance, be dehydrated. Some of my meds made me more prone to cancer so I had to double up on the sunscreen.

It was all worth it though. My only takeaways of this ordeal are some scars, minding healthy eating and constant exercise.  Everything that happened before seems like a distant memory.

I'm just glad that I'm back!

......and upped my FTP by 60%


Light Exercise


See you on the road!

-A


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Riding on 28mm Tires

Back in February, I came upon an article which told how Alexander Kristoff used the Canyon Aeroad for the 2015 Paris-Roubaix.  For the uninitiated, the Roubaix is a punishing road race run containing several sections of cobblestones (really big rocks used as pavement). Under the circumstances, most riders would select an endurance/comfort frame rather than an aero frame for this particular race with the hopes of mitigating the effects of the harsh cobbled surface. Kristoff 'only' finished 10th, but this is actually decent considering that cobblestone races punish the best of riders, many of whom do not even finish the race. This after taking top honors with the Aeroad in the 2015 Tour of Flanders, another cobbled classic.

One thing the Katusha mechanics changed in the bike setup were the tires.  They used 28mm tires on the Aeroad.

Nearly every road cyclist now is aware of the advantages of using wider tires, of how rolling resistance and ride comfort are improved at the expense of gaining a few grams of weight. Manufacturers now are steadily pushing 25mm's over 23mm tires in their product lineups, even in budget setups.

Indeed, 25's are becoming mainstream. So how does the next step up perform compared to the new standard?  The fact that someone shoehorned a 28mm tire on an Aeroad sent me scrambling to get one and try it out myself.

Is there really an advantage to riding on 28's? 

Going through a roll call of local shops, the best I could find were some Continental 4 Seasons and some steel wired Kendas. Nothing against these, but these aren't the tires I was looking for.

To the internet I went and after a few days I had a pair of 28mm GP4000S2's on my work table. Everyone has their tire preference and this is mine. The GP4000's are a staple at the Roadiemanila stable (!).

Anyone who's worked with the GP4000 will be right at home with the tires. The all too familiar tread pattern, the directionality. All that's changed is the weight and girth of the thing. The 28mm Continentals weigh in 35 grams heavier than their 25mm brethren. Ours weighed in four grams below the manufacturer specs (this is always a good thing).

Weight Weenies wold shed tears at the ~35g weight gain over 25's

Despite the extra width, mounting was uneventful. When inflated to 90psi, the 28mm Contis expand to 29.4mm as mounted on 25mm wide rims (Reynolds Assault SLG). Clearance is something you would definitely want to check before purchasing a tire of this size for your bike. 


29.4mm @ 90 psi

I only mounted the 28 on the rear and transferred the previously installed 25mm to the front. This would place toughness on the rear tire while retaining steering agility up front. I also wanted to avoid the full weight penalty of a full 28mm setup (a potential ~70g).


The Ride

As we don't have scientific equipment to measure rolling resistance, we'll recount how our experience went with the wider tire.

I dropped the pressure to 85 psi and rode. I am quite familiar with how a 25mm tire feels at this pressure simply because this is my default.

Remember the feeling when you first swapped your 23mm tires to 25's? It's that exact same feeling all over again!

The 28's roll a bit better than the 25's at the same pressure. Again, the effect is similar to moving to 25's coming from 23's. More noticeable is the comfort provided by the wider tire. While you can still feel bumps as you roll over them, they are much more muted.

Weight? Although the 35 gram rolling weight penalty might sound like a lot, it only makes its presence felt at the scales. In-ride it was hardly noticeable... it did not matter that much in the hills.

As seen in the image below, mounting 28's on the Aeroad removed the wheel well gap behind the seatpost.  While this looks good aesthetically, downside is when the tires pick up some sticky debris, there's a tendency for this to scratch the inner side of the seat tube. I managed to remove those scratches with some automotive wax. Owners will have to decide if this is a deal breaker in pursuing 28's.


Flush.


Compared to thinner tires:

1. 28's have lower rolling resistance at similar pressures
2. More comfortable ride quality at similar pressures
3. Meatier tires are bit thicker and should last longer if made from similar compounds

The only downsides are:

1. Should be less aerodynamic due to the lightbulb effect - more so if mounted on <20mm  rims
2. Weight

Ultimately, it's up to the individual cyclist to decide whether to go with the upsize or not. In my case, the advantages outweigh the cons. I'm happy with the switch and consider 28's a good upgrade.



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Review: 2015 Canyon Aeroad 8.0 CF SLX

Canyon isn't exactly a household name in the world of cycling. With its origins dating back to the mid eighties, the German brand was formed in 2001 in the city of Koblenz; a relative youngster in an industry where some players boast of being established in the 1800s. While not exactly a mass market name, the Canyon brand is a familiar name for those in the know as it supplies frames to professional powerhouse teams Katusha and Movistar.

Canyon is known for its direct sales business model. Customers order their bikes via Canyon website and expect direct to doorstep deliveries in a few weeks (or a few months). By eliminating the whole distributor-dealer chain and commissions, Canyon able to offer their products at an exceptional value and with equipment levels several rungs up their competitors' offerings.

And a few months is what it took to get my hands on my current road bike and subject of this article, the Canyon Aeroad CF SLX 8.0 Di2.

Author's Canyon Aeroad CF SLX 8.0 Di2 (upgraded to 9.0?)
Unfortunately, the Philippines is not among those countries Canyon serves. Acquiring this bike required a bit of creativity but we managed to pull it off. A few months into ownership, I'd say the whole exercise was well worth it!

The Aeroad 8.0 spec sheet is pretty impressive. Full Ultegra Di2, Reynolds Strike SLG full carbon wheels and a finishing kit worthy of bikes more upscale.


The Frame


The aptly named Aeroad is Canyon's entry to the ever expanding aero-road niche. Unlike other brands which offer different carbon layups of the same frame design in the hopes of upselling, all aeroad frames from the bottom range model to top-of-line feature the same carbon composites and differ solely on bundled equipment.

On its second iteration, the current Aeroad is a thoroughly modern design with the expected aerodynamically optimized tube shapes and profile. If there's one thing which the Aeroad screams, it's the word "Fast". The frame features Canyon's Trident 2.0 tube cross-sections which are a varied mix of different Kamm style shapes; some feature longish truncated foils like the down tube and some are much shallower like that of the seatpost.



As in almost all modern aero-road bikes, the rear seat stay is mated to the seat tube well below the top tube level. The overall look is very sharp, with the top tube itself almost horizontal. The rear wheel is shielded from the wind by the lower seat tube which was reshaped to double as a cowling. The top of the forks blend smoothly with the headtube, again for aerodynamics.

Aero moderne: shielded rear wheel and low mounted seat stays

Smooth Fork-Frame transition
Adding to the overall sharpness is the Aeroad's electronic integration. The Di2 battery is tucked inside the downtube, nowhere to be seen. The junction box is also cleverly hidden, this one under a small compartment underneath the handlebars, resulting in one of  the cleanest full electronic installs in the market. 

Also worth mentioning is the adjustable rake feature of the Aeroad. By repositioning aluminum shims at the end of the fork, users can set the rake (fork offset) to two positions: Agile or Stable. The shims did not feel flush when mounted in Agile mode so back they went to the default Stable.

The body is finished in matte black, accented with gloss black accents and logos. While I'm all for the "murdered out" black look, I felt there was nothing wrong with a little brand recognition, hence the sticker job.

The choice of sticker color was deliberate. We wanted to offset/match the Dura Ace cranks, hence silver.

The Components 

Groupset

The Aeroad 8.0 comes with full Ultegra Di2 components. Unfortunately, I was unable to test this as we immediately replaced this to Dura Ace Di2. I was hesitant to go electronic as I found nothing wrong nor room for improvement with the Dura Ace 9000 mechanical group. But seeing how prices and components were laid out in the Aeroad lineup, going electronic was almost a no brainer. (not to mention I wanted the H11 handlebars and the Reynolds Wheelset).

Di2 is indeed better than mechanical. Consistent shifting, front and rear, every single time. Auto trimming on smaller cogs, programmable long press behavior and shifting speeds.... This is not something a mechanical 9000 user would exactly crave for but once you go Di2, it's very very hard to imagine going back to mechanical. Another bonus: you will see your mechanic less for tuneups. A lot less.

Another first for us are Direct Mount brakes. Arriving at the same time as the bike were a pair of Dura Ace BR-9010 front brakes to replace the Ultegra Direct mounts which came with the bike (the Aeroad does not use the rear-specific design). The only difference we see with the direct mounts versus regular brakes are the two mounting screws versus only one on regular brakes. I can't really comment on how well these work compared to the run of the mill Dura Ace brakes since it has been a while since I was on regular BR-9000s but they compare well to the TRP aero brakes on our Argon 18 Nitrogen. And those have a lot of stopping power and good modulation.   

Contributing to stopping power are the updated Reynolds Cryo Blue POWER brakepads. These are a whopping 44% larger than the regular Reynolds Blue pads. Indeed, carbon braking has come a long way and these parts already perform no different from their alloy counterparts.




Wheelset

As with the group, the Reynolds Strike SLGs which came with the Aeroad were likewise replaced with Reynolds Assault SLGs before ride number 1. While the Assault SLGs are a modern design featuring a 25mm width which mates perfectly to 25mm tires, its 62mm depth is a bit too deep for all around riding. The 42mm Assaults, however, are just right. They also weigh 120 grams less at 1515g. Tires are GP4000 S2's from Continental. These come in staggered configuration with 23mm for the front and 25mm for the rear.


Cockpit

While certainly not the first implementation of an integrated bar and stem, the H11 Aerocockpit CF may be the first to do so for aerodynamic purposes. Frontal area is reduced by flattening the bar and airflow improved by rounding out the shape.

As previously mentioned, the Di2 junction box B is housed in a groove underneath the stem portion of the bar. Canyon claims 5.5 watts of aerodynamic improvement over a conventional rounded bar and stem. We'll have to take their word for that. What we can tell is that this is a beautifully crafted piece of carbon fiber. And while we'd rather have shallower drops, found the 128mm drop on our bike quite workable.

Junction B feels cozy in there


Worth mentioning are the minor design details which show the Germans think of everything. The "stem" cutout is diagonal to more evenly distribute clamping stress and the aero shaped headset spacers have pegs which keep allow them to stack like loose lego bricks.



Optional Bits & Other Pieces

We also got a couple of optional parts specific to our needs. First is the 9mm seat clamp for carbon railed seats. We needed this to mount our SMP Compost CRB. Next is the Garmin Edge mount for the H11 cockpit. Why give up all those aerodynamic gains by using the Garmin rubber band mount? Do we need to mention it looks really snappy?

1Also installed was our incumbent SMP Composit CRB saddle, KMC X11SL DLC black chains and KCNC Skewers.

H11 with the optional Garmin Mount



On The Road

Believe the hype: The Aeroad is a legit race bike.

Ride leisurely and the Aeroad behaves like any other carbon bodied bike. Stable, compliant and dare we say... almost borderline comfortable considering the bike's primary mission. Pile on the wattage and the Aeroad comes to life. Whether it's the frame's stiffness or the aerodynamics, the Canyon will keep up with your best effort; rewarding you with more and more speed the more you put into it. The 23mm front tire turns quicker than when using 25mm tires. A small advantage, but it's there.


Finishing off the build with a Stages Power Meter and Keo Blade 2 Ti Pedals


And it's not just an aero-road bike but a talented all rounder.

The bike weighs in at around 14.9 pounds with Look Keo Blade 2 Ti pedals installed and while not a dedicated climber, it does adequately well in climbs and is perfectly stable in fast descents. More proof of the Aeroad's flexibility: Alexander Kristoff of Katusha opted to use one for the torturous 2015 Paris-Roubaix instead of Canyon's all rounder Ultimate CF SLX. He finished a decent tenth place in a field of 133 finishers and 67 DNFs and OTLs. Oh, and he used an Aeroad to win the 2015 Tour of Flanders, a race with cobbles, climbs and sprints and everything in between.

Alexander Kristoff's Aeroad - Photo c/o Bikeradar
The Aeroad is almost universally acclaimed by the world's press, and personally I find it hard to fault. As of the end of 2015, this may not only be the best bike for the buck...but possibly the best bike out there.




Verdict

We're in love! It's hard to think of any negatives for the Aeroad. Acquiring one, if Canyon does not service your country, is another matter altogether.




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Review: Selle SMP Composit

                     
27 Oct 2015

Saddles take time to figure out. We all have our anatomic differences and personal preferences and finding the right one requires a fair bit of research and a little bit of luck. Once you settle on a certain saddle shape, it would usually take a lot to convince you to shift and move to another shape/brand.

Such was my current experience with the Fizik Antares. The shape such a good fit that I did not consider looking for another saddle.  At least not until a chance conversation with a cycling buddy brought to light a saddle which, according to him, gave his rear end less issue than the Antares on long rides.

Enter Selle SMP.

This Italian saddle maker has been in business since 1947 and their products are based on a unique shape. They have a wide range of products which cater to different pelvis widths and padding preferences.

Browsing through their catalog, I settled on a carbon railed, carbon bodied, leather wrapped contraption called the Composit CRB. My first new saddle in almost half a decade.


                     

The Saddle

First things first. The Composit, and most SMPs in general, are not as photogenic as a Fizik Antares. Where the Antares is looks very sharp and simple, the SMP is curvy and somewhat out of place on an angular, modern race bike. The look takes a bit of getting used to, but as previously mentioned, these design details give the SMPs their identity and their functional advantages.


Let's take them point by point:

1. The Eagle Beak nose - May as well be SMP's defining design detail. Their press materials state that this is supposed to prevent urogenital crushing. Yep, we certainly don't want our urogenitals crushed. Seriously, though, this feature is much appreciated on the drops as there is less pressure on the groin area leaning forward. Another observed plus is it's a lot easier to return to the sitting position coming from off the saddle standing efforts.

2. Curved Top -  The upward curve of the rear keeps you secure when pushing hard on the saddle. Depending on the amount of lean you take, the curve contacts different parts of the sitbones, offering relief where needed. The Composit is a one position saddle.

3. Central Groove - Prevents nerve and blood vessel pinching and provides ventilation. More than anything else, this keeps you riding longer.

The Composit CRB is made with a carbon fiber body wrapped in leather. Padding is nonexsitent. Rails for our model are also in carbon fiber, saving 50 grams from the stainless steel version. The all carbon Composit CRB weighs in at 160 grams.

The leather cover is adorned with brand embroidery. While I prefer plain all-black, this is something we can with.



On The Road

What can we say? Those features combine to make one very comfortable saddle...shape wise that is.  One thing that immediately stands out is the lack of padding.  Of course, that's by choice. Selle SMP offers a whole range of similarly designed saddles in different widths and different levels of padding.  If you're decided on getting the Composit, make sure you have a decent set of bibs with a great set of pads to take the sting out of road bumps.

Getting back on the subject of shape, the Composit's features really allow you to ride longer. It feels as if  only the sitbones make contact with the saddle as thigh rub is kept to a minimum and the sensitive bits have minimal contact thanks to the large groove in the middle.

As mentioned, getting your pelvic measurements is key as it will point you to  the right saddle model within the SMP range. The Composit range is suited for riders of Extra Small to Medium built.


Verdict

This curvy piece of handmade Italian goodness is definitely something to try. Saddles are a personal thing but in our experience, using the Composit CRB was rewarding. Make sure you have a decent set of shorts though.



That Made In Italy thing ain't going off anytime soon.






















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Review: 2015 Argon 18 Nitrogen

   
1 Sep 2015 - Sometime March 2015, after 9,167.3 blissful kilometers with the road aero pioneering Scott Foil, I gave in to upgraditis and decided to get a new frame.

Being an early adopter of road aero, any and all equipment I decide to purchase must be as aero as possible. It goes without saying that my next frame should be as well. To be honest, I am not really sure if it makes any difference in making my cycling any faster, but aero looks fast....and if it looks fast, it looks good. Just like a fighter plane. The aggressive looks of an aero bike is a quality in itself.


Superficial, yes. But if we want to be technical about it, aerodynamic benefits work at any speed, albeit exponentially the faster you go. The bicycle makes up 20% of a cyclist's surface area, with the cyclist himself taking up the rest of the 80 percent. Any aerodynamic efficiency against the bike's 20 percent contribution to drag should enhance performance. Yes. Memorize and repeat....memorize and repeat.

So off I went to that happy place somewhere in Pasay. In one of the shops, as if written on a movie script, I looked up to find an Argon 18 Nitrogen in my size just hanging from one of the shops' ceiling. Luck.

The first full on roadbike I had was an Argon 18 Radon and I'm quite familiar with the Canadian maker's products and quality. Getting another Argon made sense and was like a coming home of sorts.

2015 Argon Nitrogen,  Most likely in Medium/Large - Photo credit: Argon 18

The Frame

Argon 18 has extensive experience in designing aerodynamic frames. In fact, they several time trial bikes currently on offer which, along with the UCI approved Nitrogen, benefit from this experience.

Unassembled, one would be forgiven for mistaking the Nitrogen as a TT frame. It's certainly easy on the eyes. With aero features like a thick seatpost, rear wheel cutouts and aero brakes, the Nitrogen certainly has that 'fast even while on the bike stand' look. That being said, the Nitrogen looks better from sizes Medium and up. Small and Extra Small have this pinched head-tube look and the rear seat stay goes up until nearly the top tube. (We prefer it connecting to the middle of the seat tube-a la modern 2015's bikes, thank you).

The Author's Nitrogen. Right at home in the living room. Note where the seatstays start.

Upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that Argon 18 pursued a different path in designing the Nitrogen. Argon 18 decided to use more traditional shapes in its choice of tube cross sections. Unlike most of its aero road competitors, it does not utilize a truncated airfoil or Kamm-Tail tube design. Bikes such as the road aero pioneer Scott Foil, the Trek Madone and the Canyon Aeroad all utilize the Kamm design to marry the opposing requirements of stiffness and aerodynamics.

The Nitrogen, instead, goes with long and thin teardrop airfoil shapes which can be seen in the slender seat stays and the seatpost. Curiously, the downtube cross section is neither Kamm-Tail nor teardrop but is of oval shape. The seatpost is reversible; you get either 72-76.5 degrees or 78 degrees.

Aero setback seatpost.

That's an Italian Flag there. Just saying.
Other wind-cheating features include the TRP v-brakes which are flat and are hidden from the wind by virtue of being mounted on the aft ends of the fork and chainstays. Keen observers will note that the rear seatstays no longer connected by a bridge as the brakes are mounted directly on the stays.

Front V-Brakes. Hidden from the wind.

Rear TRP V-Brakes. No seatstay bridge.

Also, aerodynamically shaped headset spacer caps are provided in several different heights to help guide air around smoothly in this area. Brake and shifter cables are internally routed; de facto nowadays for any modern top tier bike. The rear wheel arc eats into the lower rear seat tube section, shielding the anterior wheel edge from the wind. We used 25mm Continental GP4000S' tires there without any clearance issues.

Headset spacer cover. Aerodynamic, of course.
Wind tunnel test results from Argon suggest that they have created an aerodynamically sound frame. Second only to the Cervelo S5 in terms of overall performance at multiple yaw angles. Of particular note is the Cervelo's performance at 0 degrees (head on wind), and how both the S5 and Nitrogen both leave the rest of the pack behind at this angle.


A Nitrogen frame in Medium weighs in at 960 grams.  It's not gonna win any weight weenie contest with this figure but it's still far from being considered porky....just don't challenge an Emonda at the scales. Unfortunately, we were not able to put our XS size frame on the scales because of the rush to upgrade.

Rear wheel eats nicely into the lower seat tube. 25C tires shown.
On The Road

The first thing which stood out with the Nitrogen was its comfort. Having been used to the Scott Foil, whose ride may be described as harsh, riding the Nitrogen is a welcome relief.  Enough so that it brings back memories of the Cannondale Supersix HM which was (and still is) my bike of choice for rougher road surfaces.

Handling is right about average for a modern carbon bike which is good. Yes, bikes have progressed to that point where they all mostly track like a diving falcon on steroids. Compared to the Foil though, the Nitrogen gives up half a point on this category. So too with stiffness. Whereas the Foil was designed to cut and thrust, the Nitrogen is more of a cruiser, happier with zipping along at high speed than engaging the next chicane. But this does not at all mean it can't!

What did surprise was the braking power. Yes, it's that good. Even better than the Dura Ace BR-9000 units we had installed in the Foil, the TRP-Argon units grip so strong that you almost feel scared that your carbon wheel brake surface might just light up and flame away.

As usual we do not have any professional equipment to measure aerodynamic efficiency. We'd avoid using that oft-used cliché of feeling like continuous tailwind was behind us and just say that the Nitrogen zips along merrily, comfortable and confidently at speed.


Verdict

The Argon 18 Nitrogen is a serious aero contender for your hard earned money. With the features you get vs. the price it's a steal! Bonus Fact: This exact frame design is used by the Bora-Argon18 Pro-Tour Team. Therefore, this has street cred.

-A

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Review: 2014 Reynolds Assault SLG


January 2013 - Fresh off dipping my toes into carbon clincher waters via the Reynolds 46C, I immediately went to look for something more modern. I wanted a wheelset with a toroidal cross section, light weight and the requisite wide track. These wheels need to be priced far enough from Zipp and Enve to make sense not getting the after-mentioned wheels. 

With Reynolds really making a fresh, good impression I didn't hesitate to pull the trigger (or rather push the Buy Now button) on a pair of 2014 Reynolds Assault SLGs. 

Indeed, the spec sheet was impressive. Toroidal - check. Wide - check. Lightweight - check. Affordable - hmmm okay, check. 

A few emails to my USA shipper and a few days later, the Assaults have arrived.





Tech

There is much to like about the 2014 Reynolds Assaults. 

First, the depth. The Assault SLGs come in at a very very sexy 41mm rim depth. I would like to say that for a Roadie like yours truly, this depth is just PERFECT. It looks deep enough to be aero yet thin enough to suggest rapid acceleration. Who would have imagined that just shaving off 5mm from the 2013 Assault depth would make much of a difference. 




Reynolds 46 C and Assault SLG - 46mm and 41mm

Second, the width. At 25mm wide. The assault SLGs give you width and then some. When paired with our staple 25mm GP4000s', we were presented with a very clean tire-rim profile without the lightbulb shape which would have been present in the case of 25mm tires and 21mm> rims. This would surely please a lot of aero geeks (oops....enthusiasts) out there. Aerodynamics aside, we were surprised at how low we went with our air pressure. More on this later.

Third. Weight. Our sample came in exactly at the manufacturer's claimed 1475g (Front: 649g, Rear: 826g - no tape and skewers). The Assault SLGs do not really stand out from the crowd in terms of overall weight. But - the listed weight is not bad at all, given the 25mm width.  




Straight pull hubs are by Reynolds Racing and spokes are DT Swiss Aerocomps. Twenty radial spokes in front and 24 in the rear mounted in a two cross-drive side pattern.

The Cryogenic Glass Transition (CTg) brake surface which is present in our previous 46C clinchers makes is also incorporated into the Assault SLGs. CTg is a series of different compounds and materials which are designed to better withstand the heat produced by braking. And of course, the system requires the use of Reynolds' Cryo Blue pads which are solely to be used with the CTg surface.

Reynold's Swirl Lip Generator (SLG) is also featured in the Assault SLG :). SLG is a very small protrusion on the inner edge of the rim which disrupts passing air enough to replicate the airflow of a wider rim. The effect of which is smoother, and therefore faster, airflow.

Spoke nipples are external; this should please a lot of cyclists who do their own truing.

Graphics are thankfully subdued, with the logos and names printed in thin white outlines.


Veloplugs

This was our first time to try Veloplugs as well. In an effort to keep the set weight below 1.5kg, we used these marvelous contraptions to keep the weight down. And they worked! At an estimated 5g per wheel, we saved somewhere in the region of 30-40 grams compared to the supplied tapes. 

Weight weenies rejoice!

Oh, and just so everyone knows, we used the Red Veloplugs for the Assault SLGs.


My sincerest apologies for using an Instagram pic of the plugs
.

On the Road


During our first time out with the Assault SLGs, we experienced a very loud squeal coming from the front brakes when applied at medium to high speed. While disconcerting, we easily remedied this by toeing in the pads. Although recommended, this was something we never had to do with the 46Cs. 

Almost Immediately the 25mm width's advantages made itself felt. While we typically run 95/100 PSI front/rear. We purposely pumped in 90/95 during our first ride. It made a bit of a difference. Subtle but noticeable. And after several more rides and a few pounds of rider weight loss, we now run the Assault SLGs with a tire pressure of 75/85. 

The ride at this pressure is simply amazing! 

Acceleration is very good and so is the handling. The stiffness of the 46Cs is still there, but fortunately, much of the bite from road bumps are taken out by the tires. 

One thing that these new aero shapes do well is handle crosswinds. The Assault SLGs are no exception. Although you still feel sudden sideward gusts, they are a lot less noticeably felt and you can easily power through constant sidewinds from 3 o'clock to 9 o'clock.

We really like the Assault SLGs and it seems these will be mounted on roadie for quite a long time. 


Looks perfect on the Foil


Verdict


Equipped with the latest in wheelset tech. Not exactly cheap but the money feels well spent.

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