In yesterday's post we took a trip back in time, all the way to the very dawn of the chain-driven symmetrical-wheeled bicycle:
Clearly we've come a long way in the last century and a quarter. I mean sure, they mostly had the whole bicycle thing figured out back then, but just imagine what a miserable experience cycling was without crucial innovations such as wheel counterbalance weights:
You know that lurching, heaving, out-of-control feeling you experience once you get your bike up to speed? Of course you don't. Nevertheless, you should add the unpredictable ride quality of improperly-balanced wheels to your list of imaginary stuff you can't feel, like the "beefiness" of your bottom bracket or the "carbon layup" of your plastic frame. Oh, also, without wheel counterbalances, you could be losing up to one (1) watt of power at 30mph:
Silca claims that upgrading a pair of wheels with the SpeedBalance kit will save just over one watt at 30mph — slightly more savings than upgrading that same wheelset to ceramic bearings, the company claims.
This is ironic, because it's a scientific fact that the sorts of Freds who pay $36 for wheel counterbalance weights are wholly incapable of sustaining speeds anywhere close to 30mph unless they're traveling downhill.*
*[WARNING: Do not attempt to ride your bicycle downhill without using wheel counterbalance weights. Attempting to do so will result in speed wobble and death.]
By the way, can you imagine how insanely fast you'd be on a bike equipped with both a SpeedBalance kit and ceramic bearings?**
**[WARNING: Do not attempt to ride a bicycle equipped with both a SpeedBalance kit and ceramic bearings. Attempting to do so could turn your bicycle into a perpetual motion machine that continues to accelerate infinitely until you disappear into a black hole and emerge in another dimension.]
And if you're not convinced, just watch this video, where he spins a bike's wheel while it's on a stand:
I stopped watching at "tungsten slugs," but as far as I'm concerned the real takeaway here is that carbon wheels are fucking stupid.
If you really think about it though, the SpeedBalance kit is nothing short of genius, because while it's absurdly expensive for what it is (and what it is is nothing), Freds will still think it's a bargain because, you know, it's only $36. That's less than $40!!! How could you not buy it? That's why I'm pleased to announce the launch of my new wheel consultancy service.
Yes, for a mere $150 (that's per wheel) I'll perform a full balancing. Will it make any kind of difference to you out there on the road? Well, no, but when I put your bike on the stand you'll marvel at how the valve stems don't wind up at the bottom, which is exactly the sort of detail that screams "performance" to your fellow Freds when you're prepping your bike in the parking lot before the Fondo. Of course, that fee doesn't include the price of the weights, which of course I sell at a considerable mark-up. I also don't perform wheel truing, or flat repair, or hub overhauls, or really anything at all that requires any sort of expertise or that will make an actual difference to the function and performance of your wheels and bicycle. (For that, you'll have to go to something called a "bike shop," which is like a website with a front door.)
Not only that, but for an additional $50 per wheel I'll custom-curate your tire pressure based on your preferred terrain and body mass index. (Please note this service is subject to a $75 per wheel gravel upcharge. Please supply 500 grams of the gravel you'll be riding for expert analysis.)
I figure I can get away with this for a few years, at which point the wheel companies will get wise to the whole thing and start selling pre-balanced and pre-inflated wheelsets with proprietary valves, so when you need to air them up or change your pressure for a specific event you have to send them back to the factory.
But of course even the most perfectly-balanced and expertly-inflated wheelset won't yield optimum performance if you don't use it with the right equipment--especially on gravel, that magical road surface which has led the industry to a whole new world of marketing opportunity:
Sure, by now you already have the gravel-specific frame, and the gravel-specific wheels, and the even the gravel-specific shorts. (Yep, that's a thing now.) But do you also have a gravel-specific suspension fork?
Watching the fork track over fine grit and gravel reveals just how much work the fork is doing — it feels like you’ve triple-wrapped your bars. The effect of this on longer rides is that hand fatigue is greatly reduced.
Oh, really? It feels like triple-wrapping your bars? Well here's a crazy idea:
Why not just skip the goofy fork and triple-wrap your bars???
There, I just saved you $790, not to mention looking like an idiot. Seriously, with that stupid thing on your bike even recumbent riders would be pointing and laughing.
So now you've got the balanced wheels and the bouncy fork, but don't close your wallet just yet because there's still some untapped performance out there! Indeed, I was amazed to learn recently from a friend that Shimano is now offering a proprietary shoe-and-sock combo:
To round out the footwear package, the S-Phyre RC9 and XC9 shoes are sold with color-matched socks. Shimano studied the shoe-sock interface (yes, it sounds a little crazy to us too!) to create a system that it says helps promote efficient pedaling through optimal ankle angles. An ankle guide is woven into the socks to ensure efficient pedaling rotation through the 360-degree pedal rotation and the socks have an anti-slip heel for better power transfer. We presume the socks are compatible with other types of shoes but not recommended for sandals.
Yeah, that's right Freds, it turns out you've been hemorrhaging watts at the ankles and heels.
Of course, for the ultimate in weight savings and power transfer, you should skip the footwear altogether and surgically attach the cleat right to your foot:
I'm going to start training right now to become the world's finest Fred farrier.