Tuesday, August 17, 2010

19 Cycling Shorts : August 17, 2010

1. Prince McQuaid keeps room open for donations : According to reports, the immaculate cycling chief McQuaid has said that in the future, the UCI "may deal differently" with a donation like Armstrong's. But he insisted that it depends heavily on donations from all riders and teams to support its annual $6.4 million anti-doping budget. Wow! This must happen only in cycling. Please audit this organization as soon as possible. The sooner the better.

2. The subject of Armstrong surely divides opinions. The latest Facebook groups that have come up to gather support for each of their causes are "Petition To Drop The Federal Investigation of Lance Armstrong" and  "Petition To Investigate Lance Armstrong For Fraud". The bottom-line logic of the pages are something like this.  One has it that investigating Lance Armstrong is a complete and utter waste of taxpayer money and that he should be let "free" because of the things he has done for the cancer initiative. The other writes that using taxpayer money to investigate fraud on such a massive scale is a non-issue, and interestingly, is also in support of the research on cancer so that definitive links can be established between drug abuse and cancer. Both sound equally reasonable.

3. Jeff Novitzky fanpage : Meanwhile, what appears to be a psuedo Jeff Novitzky is fast becoming a celebrity on Facebook as well. He must be the modern day manifestation of all our childhood fantasies about steadfast, no-tables-unturned, mission oriented crime busting. 

4. Is the Cobra trying his venom already? This is the second time Riccardo Ricco has fooled us. Here, it was Quickstep. A few days later, it is now a Dutch team. I don't trust him. I think he's still lying and will surely ride for the Reptile Rescue Committee of Italy instead. Hey, that's just me.

5. Are modern bikes faster? This was the interesting question posed by an article published in the summer edition of the Bicycle Quarterly where an analysis of the impact of lightweight bicycles was done. According to those who read it, the authors of the article looked at bicycle improvements on racing speeds over the last 100 years. They then compared the trend-line of speed increases in the TdF to medium distance running and arrived at the conclusion that bicycle improvements such as lightweight tubing and derailleurs really didn't have that much of an impact. They also make a few comments on the impact of doping on the two sports. I haven't read it but it must be some food for thought. Besides, the editors of the magazine seem to be avid cyclists with PhD's. If someone is nice enough to share this article with me, we can discuss it.

6. Side Mounted Pedals : Recently, I was shown the side mounted pedals by inventor Steve Lubanski. While his pedals have been around for quite some time, it is only recently that I noticed it. It seems to me that you can get your seatpost lower with the pedals, thus lowering your center of gravity. It also appears to me that your crank length will closely match your true crank length since there is no vector addition due to the stack height offset. But will 2-3 cm of pedal stack height reduction really make that much of a big difference? Physiologically, validation could be best done with a bio-mechanical as well as power output and oxygen cost study. I might write more about this later. The subject has interested me.

What do you think? Got anything to share? Write in!


  1. Anonymous10:33 AM

    The editors of Bicycle Quarterly must all be on something nasty...! The correlations posted in the article are hogwash and to say that modern bikes didn't do anything to improve performance for the last century is pushing it way beyond anything rational. I can ride my stiff carbon bike a good 2 mph faster than a vintage steel bike. Its physics not rocket science!

  2. Thank goodness the "Doper" didn't get into Quickstep !

    Too many "Dopers/Sport Fraudsters" are being given 2nd chances !

    You rob a bank , you get a prison sentence and you are marked for life, but "Dopers" are given a two year holiday and come back fresh as a daisy and so shove the "Clean living Athletes" off the podium. Cycling Fans are not very vocal about this but there are many like the "worm" who protest too much knowing that their fans are guilable and don't want to accept they were misled, some even wrote books to get their defence funds.

    Vacansoleil Team complained they missed out on some Grand Tours this year, what are they doing now other than giving a two finger salute to the organisers who chose not to issue invitations. Will the "Sponsors" be happy with their team management's explanation/justification of this serious mistake ?

    "Dopers/Sport Fraudsters" should be allowed a second chance after a four year suspension reduced if they make written a public apology naming sources of supply and encouragement BUT they then should only be rehired at two steps lower than where they left the sport. Lost income and four years outside the sport( no employment in any form connected with sporting activity) will serve as a major disincentive to those considering short cuts !

    When teams fold or fail to find "Sponsors" there are honest hardworking team workers put out of work , they may take the job of another in a different team but there are still losers through the ill conceived actions of a selfish "Smart arse low life" !

    Pro tour teams should be chosen on the basis of how they build the Cycling Industry and any team being considered should be tipped off the list of candidates if they are employing more than one recent returnee from "Holiday" !
    When Armstrong made his "Donation" years ago the media reported the money was to be used to "Fight" doping, one wonders who else has made donations of this sort over the years. My blog contains a letter recently sent to Obama asking that he INCREASE the penalties for "Sporting Fraud and institute a moritorium until 31 dec 2010 for those who have a guilty conscience(closet full of them) and thus by the time the 2012 Olympic/Paralympic starts we will have either a "level playing field" or a new variety of inmates filling Guantanamo( about the best place for them if they choose to ignore the OP.) Prison in the Gulf !

  3. In fairness to the BQ article, there could be a host of reasons why cycling speeds increased over the years and that may have very little to do with the bikes. The performances may fall more into line with weather conditions, length of races, team tactics, training and preparation, even...performance enhancing drugs. Oops, someone had to say it...

  4. Speedplay pedals already result in bottom bracket height limited by shoes scraping the asphalt during cornering. Thus lowering the shoes further would be canceled by a need to increase the bottom bracket to provide for adequate pedal clearance. There's really nothing enabling about "side-mounted pedals": they simply effectively lower the bottom bracket, something which could have been done in the frame had it been desirable.

    On bike speed improvements: I suspect the analysis of Bike Quarterly was more sophisticated than that leading to the 2 mph velocity difference claimed by "anonymous". I would ask anonymous the physical source of the 2 mph speed advantage: rolling resistance, drivetrain efficiency, potential energy, wind resistance, ergonomics, or placebo?

  5. Those pedals remind me of Shimano's old Dynadrive pedals. Same idea.

  6. 3cross5:33 PM

    The speed increase might have to do with better road surfaces also.

    Those pedals look like they would be hard to get out of quickly

  7. Re #2: I think the investigation opponent's logic is ridiculous. If you do enough good things, those cancel out the bad things you do so you are somehow exempt from criminal investigations?

  8. Hey Ron,

    On your referral, I got out there and bought myself a back issue of the Quarterly. I was interested to see the article for myself.

  9. @DJ : According to Steve, he thinks the pedal helps because "it almost eliminates rocking torque". According to people like Pruitt, that can be a big waster of energy it seems. I'm not sure what rocking torque is but personally, I have no biomechanical issues with my pedal. There are others with lots of issues where some small improvements like this could make a big difference in their pedaling output.

  10. "You rob a bank , you get a prison sentence and you are marked for life, but "Dopers" are given a two year holiday and come back fresh as a daisy and so shove the "Clean living Athletes" off the podium. Cycling Fans are not very vocal about this but there are many like the "worm" who protest too much knowing that their fans are guilable and don't want to accept they were misled, some even wrote books to get their defense funds."

    Parabuddy : Punishment is punishment and I wouldn't exactly call a 2 year suspension a "holiday". 2 years out of work is lost income. You may be still racing but for what, peanuts? This can impact riders with families to support.

    I agree with the other things mentioned in your post. Athletes should make public apologies to fans and sponsors alike about their irresponsibility and stark disregard for ethics. They should also have the moral courage to make it publicly known who it was that aided them in doping or pressured them to take drugs. This is the most disgusting aspect of the sport currently - the financial backers, the doctors and the other "engineers" of the doping operation are never in the limelight. Those are your true crooks and fraudsters.

  11. I haven't read the BQ article, but if it really does reach the conclusion you describe, then it is a little surprising.

    Surely all those athletes and manufacturers who have spent millions of Euro to get that little bit faster to win the tour/worlds/whatever would have noticed if changes to bicycles we're actually making any difference...

    Or is it all a big conspiracy from the manufacturers to make us buy new bikes?*

    *If your sarcasm detector is faulty and you think I mean this, please feel free to write me lengthy emails about the evil corporations that are stealing our money. Send all correspondence to info@dev.null

  12. Anonymous11:32 PM

    Honestly, Mcquaid is the worst kind of frontman you could get for a sporting organization. The more he reels out his stupidity in public, the more the UCI loses their credibility. Isn't there a reason why presidents and CEO's retire when their companies get into deep shit? Its actually good to save your face and get out of the way when you can no longer do your job properly. I call for McQuaid's retirement and hope that the future of cycling does not see his stupidity or have to contend with his face. Take a vacation sir! And don't COME back!

  13. spitfire11:44 PM

    Bicycle Quarterly must be formed by the same retro-grounches of Jobst Brandt's era. So I'm not surprised that they would come up with conclusions like that (if true, that is).

  14. I have been a reader of BQ for a few years and there is no doubt it is a bit retro-grouch, but also serves to splash cold water on a lot of hype. There are two articles in the most recent issue. One suggests that increases in average speed of the Tour de France is not traceable to improvements in cycling technology but rather to general improvement in athletic performance, comparable to that seen in other sports that are not as equipment-intensive, such as running. The authors look at the dates when new technology--clipless pedals, ultralight frames, aero wheels--came onto the market and looked at Tour times and there seems to be no correlation. The second article is a critique of a test where some French pros switched from their carbon bikes to a 1980s steel Pinarello and were noticeably slower. BQ pointed out that if the old bike would have actually fit properly, the riders would not have had so much to complain about. Numbers I have seen suggest that there is no essential difference in riding a heavier steel bike on the flats compared to a modern carbon one but in climbing the lighter weight works to some benefit. I switch between a pair of 1980s classic steel racing bikes, a 1998 o/s steel touring bike, an aluminum time trial bike and a lightweight carbon/aluminium bike set up for climbing. I happen to like the carbon bike best of all, but would put one of the 80s bike right behind it. And I am no retro-grouch, but I really like friction shifting, which is immediate, silent, smooth, simple and light, as well as cheap to replace. Sometimes progress is not quite what the marketers make it out to be, and I think this is the direction BQ comes from.

  15. Sprocket : I fully agree with you. Guess what. In two days, I'll put together an elaborate summary of that article. Its hot material! Great for discussion! Let's clear the doubts about what was said and what wasn't said.

  16. Pat McQuaid is a twit.

  17. And the TT speed records with no UCI regs are all about rider fitness and nothing to do with drive-train and aerodynamics either right? I suppose those aero body designs are just for sex appeal ;)

    One thing those cycling speed/distance records show is that bike technology and ergonomics limited by UCI regs plateaued sometime in the mid 90ies with the introduction and subsequent banning of the two Obree positions and a variety of bike designs.

    Un-restricted bike speeds show much better trial to trial year gains even now.

    There is probably very little performance difference between decent performing bikes with similar aerodynamics on the flats at a constant speed if you're a machine. I find modern bikes far more comfortable and that translates to less fatigue over the longer haul. I don't have any figures to back it up, or any detailed studies personally but I much prefer riding my newer bikes, which for me is all that matters.

    As a few have mentioned, there is a lot that goes into making a tour race pace: The roads in the older tours being a big one, weather, specific circuit, etc.

    I think it goes without saying than any sort of correlation like the one done by BQ is going to be technically flawed from the start - there are far better ways to measure gains in a specific experiment.

  18. Jerry Redman10:07 PM

    Your website is simply the most informative cycling blog I have ever come across. So much valuable information that has had be hooked. I'm so surprised you don't have ads running all about the place? Do you get paid for this magnificent service to us all?

  19. Semilog3:51 AM

    @Jason: there is so much variation in design at any given time in cycling history that any blanket comparison of "new" to "old" designs is going to be utterly vacuous.


Thank you. I read every single comment.