(Fracas evolving into a melee)
First things first, you already know I'm going to be at Rivendell on Saturday, June 18th because I've told you like a million times. What you may not know, however, is that so many retrogrouches have RSVP-ed with a curmudgeonly "harrumph" (which is how they say "yes") that the event is now moving to the Marriott hotel nearby:
Marriot Hotel Walnut Creek
2355 North Main Street * Walnut Creek 94596 934-2000
The event is officially titled (the Marriot knows it by this)
BIKE SNOB BOOK TALK.
It is in the Contra Costa Junior Ballroom. There may be a sign.
I cannot wait to see whether or not there's actually a sign.
And if it's already not obvious to you that this event is the most exciting thing to hit Walnut Creek since [insert mildly exciting event here], consider that after my talk a ride is also going to happen organically:
After the 4:00 event that will actually start at 4:00, Eben will sign books, and then there’ll be a 60-90 minute totally optional NO HOST bike ride. Bring your own bike, make sure it’s suitable for dirt trails, a few bumps, a few hills. Let’s keep it all low-key. Track stands at stop lights are discouraged. Those no-hands track stands with one foot on the front tire will be punished with a push. No need to next-day-air a new jersey for the event. The first one back wins nothing. You don’t have to be as low key as ME, but I’m trying to make a point.
I am SO going to do a no-hands track stand with one foot on the front tire:
Between this and the Northern California Pirate Festival in Vallejo this is truly shaping up to be a "Holy Shit!" weekend of nonstop excitement:
And let's say you're not lucky enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area but you still have the relative good fortune of living in the Pacific Northwest. Well, on Thursday, June 16th I'll be at River City Bicycles:
And on Friday, June 17th I'll be at University Bookstore in Seattle:
There may or may not be some other events after that, and if there are I'll let you know, but rest assured it ain't over until I return to Cleveland:
("No... sleep... 'til Cleveland...")
Moving on, yesterday we delved a bit into the weird world of bike weenie-ism, and today I'm amused to share with you this article about what exactly "ride quality" is:
The notion of bicycle engineering is no longer ridiculous and the science behind bicycle design has grown considerably in the last two decades, providing the industry and consumers alike with much more data on the way that a bike performs. Some manufacturers have even resorted to publishing white papers based on the findings of their research so that consumers can better understand the benefits of their products.
Despite our growing sophistication, there is at least one aspect of the bike has yet to be defined with such clarity: ride quality. It’s an evocative term that can used to refer to the mystique of any given bike, yet it’s not critical for its performance, and in practice, is largely open to interpretation.
So what do we know about the nature of ride quality?
We know a lot, actually. "Ride quality" of course is how comfortable your bike is. Furthermore, it's a pretty straighforward affair: get a bike that fits, put on a saddle and bars that feel good to you, use the right tires at the right pressure, and you're done.
However, we're talking about bikes here, so "ride quality" is something that gives bike reviewers an excuse to say stuff like this:
--"Laterally stiff yet vertically compliant"
--"Leaps out of corners like a ninja monkey on Adderall"
--"Springs to attention like Cipollini's member at a cocktail party"
And so forth.
Anyway, despite the almost boneheaded simplicity of "ride quality," this article takes a deep dive into the concept and manages to over-complicate it even further than the marketing departments and the bike reviewers who work for them already have:
THE DEFINITION OF RIDE QUALITY
In keeping with its elusive, even esoteric, nature, there is no clear definition for ride quality. The spectrum of opinion ranges from vague, artistic notions to precise engineering terms.
Ben Serotta is a well-known framebuilder with a long history in the bike industry that has worked with every frame material. Despite his experience, he believes there is an element to ride quality that continues to defy our understanding:
“I’ve thought about this phenomenon during my rides. You might give the same sheet of music to two musicians. One plays it perfectly, but when the other plays you get goose bumps. How? It’s impossible to define. With the bike, it’s part technology, but I’m pretty sure it’s also part magic that infiltrates the bicycle.”
It's all pretty simple, really. Bikes are bikes, but some riders just suck ass.
Therefore, I far prefer this explanation:
By contrast, Damon Rinard, an engineer who has worked for Trek and Cervélo, and is now manager of road bike engineering for the Cycling Sports Group (which owns Cannondale, Schwinn and GT) is far more pragmatic:
“To me, many bicycle characteristics that some might include in ride quality are better characterised on their own. There’s a list: handling, stiffness, weight, aerodynamics, etc. are a big part of what we experience when riding (thus they affect the quality of the ride, thus may be considered part of ride quality), but to me, these other characteristics are well understood technically, which leaves ride quality as mostly bump and vibration isolation.”
Makes complete sense. Yet here's some guy in Canada who's been studying "ride quality" for over ten (10) years:
Professor Jean-Marc Drouet is an engineer and head of VÉLUS, a research group at the University of Sherbrooke in Canada that has been studying ride quality for over a decade. He’s ready to admit that he’s still not clear on what ride quality is, but he draws an important distinction between it and the comfort offered by the fit of the bike.
“The fit of the bike, or its static comfort, depends upon the position of the handlebars and the saddle, and how well each suits the rider. That is quite different from ride quality, or dynamic comfort as I’ve come to refer to it, which seems to depend upon energy transmission to the rider.”
Are you freaking kidding me? How do you get a job "studying ride quality for over a decade?" I'm a bike blogger for chrissakes and even I can't believe it. What this guy's doing is the equivalent of getting paid to compare different strains of marijuana, or to experiment with different masturbatory handholds.
Next, the article explores what determines ride quality, and--SURPRISE!--it's mostly tire pressure and which bar tape you use:
WHAT DETERMINES RIDE QUALITY?
Any rider that has ever compared different bikes or noticed what kind of effect a change in wheels, tyres, or even tyre pressure can have on the comfort and/or feel of the bike will understand that every part of the bike can influence ride quality. Even minor components like the handlebar tape have a role to play.
LET’S START WITH THE TYRES
As the sole interface for the bike with the terrain, it’s not surprising that tyres have a profound effect on the ride quality of a bike. Most riders will already have an intuitive understanding of this notion, and have probably experimented with it by testing different air pressures and/or brands of tyres.
I couldn't agree more. When adjusting your air pressure, it's always a good idea to start with the tires. And getting it exactly right is really important, which is why you need a $450 pump. Yet people still can't let go of this whole frame material thing:
According to Silca, “a 10% change in tyre pressure at 100psi can have a greater effect on ride quality than changing frame materials.” That’s because the change in vertical compliance is equivalent to the difference in vertical compliance for carbon and steel frames. Of course, there is more to ride quality than just vertical compliance, but it serves to illustrate the magnitude of influence that tyre pressure can have on the feel of the bike.
Oh come on. A 10% change in tire pressure is pretty noticeable, whereas the "difference in vertical compliance for carbon and steel frames" is an illusion, a phantom sensation in the scranus of only the most terminal Freds.
So let's get back to that French-Canadian masturbator, who's now experimenting with vibrators:
The majority of academic research on ride quality has focussed on the vibrations that arrive at the cockpit and saddle when the bike is in use. Such vibrations can be measured with sensitive strain gauges and accelerometers, but to do so in a reproducible manner is quite challenging.
Do you really need to conduct research in order to confirm that selecting the right saddle and bar tape for you is what's going to make your bike feel good?
The raw data resemble a seismogram, where the various peaks and troughs reflect the magnitude of vibration over a range of frequencies. Any reduction is presumed an improvement in the comfort of the bike, where low frequencies (less than 50Hz) are especially significant since they are generally the most unpleasant. Higher frequencies (up to 100Hz) can be generated, but it’s not clear what kind of effect they have on the rider. VÉLUS has not published an exhaustive comparison of materials but the results from one study demonstrate that it is futile trying to generalise on the effect of different materials. For example, while 3T’s alloy Ergonova Pro handlebar transmitted more vibration than the carbon version, FSA’s carbon K-Wing behaved more like the alloy Ergonova than the carbon version.
Get a handlebar with a shape you like. Wrap it in some shit that feels good to you. Now ride your bike and shut the hell up.
During the course of this study, the team experimented with various ways of expressing their results, and found that the amount of power absorbed at the saddle and cockpit was the most robust. Thus, a small bump transmitted 1.5-4W to the rider’s hands and buttocks, and some components differed by as much as 0.5W.
No shit. Furthermore, it turns out much of the energy transmitted to the rider's buttocks can be attributed to the Fred-fucking being administered by the bicycle's marketing department, which I think is an interesting footnote.
Oh, and they also did a #whatpressureyourunning study for good measure:
The VÉLUS group has been studying how this threshold applies to cyclists with a small survey on how well a group of seven riders could detect a drop in front tyre pressure. Each rider spent about an hour on the same bike fitted to a treadmill where a dowel rod (9.5mm diameter) served as a bump. Matching front wheels with different tyre pressures were swapped throughout the test to determine what kind of pressure difference each rider could reproducibly identify.
So what happened?
The data collected from this study showed that the amount of energy absorbed at the brake hoods was directly proportional to tyre pressure. Therefore, not all riders will notice a change in the ride quality of a bike in terms of the energy absorbed, and those materials and/or components that have little effect on energy transmission are likely to go unnoticed (see this brief study by Cervélo for a little more data on this phenomenon).
In other words, blindfold a typical Fred, swap his Cervélo for a Nashbar mail-order special, and he's not going to know the difference.
And if all of this wasn't obvious enough, consider the blinding revelation that (and you're not going to believe this) RIDER POSITION IS IMPORTANT:
One other interesting observation to come out of this work is that the position of the rider can have a profound impact on the transmission of vibration. Any rider that has tackled rough roads will immediately understand this point: riding in the drops and/or with a sharp wrist angle generally exaggerates road chatter, and this is exactly what the group observed. Furthermore, variations in stem weighting and wrist angle could reverse impressions of the relative comfort for two different wheelsets because of their influence on vibrations travelling to the stem and seatpost.
Thanks to STI and all the rest of it, Freds almost never take their hands off the brake hoods anymore. Consequently, people have now forgotten what drop bars are for, so it takes a 10-year study from VÉLUS to explain to them why these bars allow for multiple hand positions in the first place.
And because the false notion that "ride quality" is mysterious and elusive is so vital to bicycle marketing, the article would have you believe that after a 10-year study we still don't understand it:
Regardless, our understanding of ride quality is far from complete. One important concept that bears upon our understanding of the phenomenon is that individuals vary in their sensitivity to vibration according to a sensory threshold. Some riders will notice a small change in energy transmitted to the handlebars while others will be unaware of it until it is much larger. This goes a long way to reconciling variation in opinion on the ride quality of any given bike or component, and likely extends to other traits.
Can't wait for that study in how individuals vary in their sensitivity to vibration according to a sensory threshold.
Meanwhile, speaking of weenie-dom, Wired explores whether or not expensive bike wheels are worth it:
I skipped right over the physics part:
Because obviously the answer to the question posed by the headline is a resounding "No."
Lastly, here's that Horner video from yesterday in regular speed, and I was amused to note he uses the "F" word:
Guess he wasn't happy with his ride quality.