Michael Hanslip Coaching

If you want to go faster, you have to pedal harder

Flexy seat posts

My first experience with a seat post specifically designed to make the ride more comfortable was the Specialized Roubaix carbon post back circa 2004. That one made a remarkable transformation of my oversized aluminium Cannondale CX frame from its original aluminium post. Even before that I had used posts like the Syncros one, which was primarily aimed at being light in weight, but as a consequence of being made so thin-walled it also flexed quite a bit. Unlike modern flexy posts, it flexed evenly in all directions.
Fast forward to my first Trek Checkpoint. Like most Trek road bikes it used a seat mast rather than a seat post. These very large diameter units slide over the frame and must be close to inflexible for it. But the Checkpoint had Isospeed decoupling where the seat tube is not rigidly joined to the top tube/seat stay junction (instead an axle at that joint permits the seat tube to flex like a leaf spring). I found this bike to be perfectly comfortable. There is a lump in the pavement in my neighbourhood that is a good indicator of how a frame transmits harshness through the seat. On that Cannondale, even with the Specialized post, it was sharp enough that I tried never to hit it. On the Checkpoint, it was a dull noise and not much of a feeling at all.
And now everyone wants a dropper post on their gravel bike for the same reason everyone needs a dropped post on their MTB - it just works better. So my new Checkpoint uses a seat post again - and has routing room for a dropper post actuation cable. The post I put in it is the Bontrager RSL - a very high-end post designed to be flexy fore and aft but rigid side to side. I haven't ridden the Checkpoint without this post, but it does float over my harsh neighbourhood lump approximately as well as the old Checkpoint did.
I've been contemplating this as I ride it for the past week. There is no indication that this post flexes at all. However much it absorbs, it does so in conjunction with the Isospeed and it is not materially different than the older frame.

As a corollary of this, my Madone race bike has its own version of Isospeed - the seat post floats inside the seat tube in a carbon leaf spring mechanism that permits adjustment of the spring rate in that spring. You can have more or less movement for a given force to reflect your body weight or preferences. It came in the middle of the adjustment range and I haven't adjusted it once - it was fine on day one and remains fine. Interestingly to me, it feels a lot like the first Checkpoint (and therefore the second Checkpoint) despite the deep aero sections of the frame. It suggest that Trek know what they are doing with the Isospeed thing. I wonder what the new Checkpoint would be like without the flexy post? I don't have any other 27.2 posts, nor do I want to fuss around with the swapping of posts, so I won't find out any time soon.

The most extreme looking flexy post is the one that Canyon puts in their gravel bikes. It is a two part leaf spring that is held together on one end by being in the frame and at the top by how it bolts to the post head. An idea whose time is here. If you haven't tried a designed-flex carbon frame you should. They're brilliant in their ability to absorb bumps and still feel firm underfoot when you pedal.

OneUp Thick Grips

I purchased a set of OneUp Thick grips roughly the week they were released in Australia. I put them on the Ripley and they felt a bit odd. I decided that I must have gotten Left and Right mixed up, so I swapped them around. Then I found in a photo online that they are marked for handedness! I totally missed that in real life. On checking, they were the wrong way around on my bike. So I swapped them back. Third time's a charm, and with a bit of rotational tweaking, they felt right this time.

I've now ridden them four months properly oriented so it is time to comment on them here.

Size is great. Grippiness is also great. The various shapes seem appropriate to holding on too. There is a pad of thicker rubber under the palm, and this is where it falls down for me. It is just too firm and it hurts my hands. I just can't come to terms with them regardless of how I rotate them or which gloves I wear.
Previously I had Deity Supracush grips on there for a couple of years. They might have been slightly too soft for ultimate control, but they sure were comfortable. What I'm looking for now is something with the comfort of the Deity and the control of the OneUp.

I managed to tag a tree with the end of one grip a few weeks ago - I sometimes forget that I have 82 cm bars on the Ripley and this can be sub-optimal in tight forests. It shows that they are quite tough as there is a mark, but it could have destroyed the grip. I did a small involuntary separation of bike and rider, but remained on my feet. Mostly it made me laugh.

So I'd highly recommend the OneUp grip for big-handed riders looking for a grippy grip, but not if you are after higher than average comfort from your grip.

AXS Transmission

When SRAM introduced the universal derailleur hanger, I don't know if they knew where it was going, but it seemed a great idea. If you've ever broken a derailleur hanger you will know that there were about 1000 different models and it has to be the exact one. The whole idea of the UDH was that one derailleur hanger fitting on a standardised attachment on the frame meant any new bikes built to this standard could use any new UDH. A good start.
The bonus now is that those frames can remove their UDH and replace it with a Transmission rear derailleur. I've seen three or four videos of reviewers standing on the derailleur to demonstrate who solidly it is attached to the frame. The derailleur is anchored into the through-axle system so it is robust and secure.
Because there is no hanger, there is no B-tension screw. The derailleur has been redesigned to be set in a particular position during setup and then it remains there statically. There is a red sprocket on the cassette that reminds the mechanic which gear to set up the derailleur in. The derailleur is so tough that a collision with typical rocks or trees might not damage it at all, but if it does it won't be ripping the derailleur from the frame. And some sub-components of the derailleur are sold individually for rebuilding after a collision.
Also because of the way the derailleur is setup and because there is only one cassette it works with, there are no inner or outer limit screws either. Suntour invented the slant-parallelogram rear derailleur about 50 years ago. This is perhaps not as revolutionary as that, or perhaps it is. A big step forwards.
The new Transmission cassette and flat-top chain will only shift in the shifting windows. Hyperglide introduced us to the idea of shifting windows back in about 1990. The Transmission uses taller than normal teeth for all but the shifting teeth, so there can be no shifting except where designed. That can be perceived as a delay in the shift - waiting for it to come around. Several users I know don't complain about it and it seems fine to me.
Eagle was the name applied to everything new when SRAM went 12-speed. "Eagle Technology" SRAM called it. Given there is no real cross-over compatibility with Eagle and Transmission, they really ought to have called it another bird name (Condor for better soaring? Falcon for higher speed?). Naming oddities aside, Transmission seems a good step forward for AXS MTB drivetrains.

Transmission shifting pod

The biggest visible change with the move to "Transmission" drivetrains from SRAM is the shifting mechanism. It used to be a butterfly shaped rocker switch. One way for one direction of shift and the other way for the other direction (probably - the AXS app allows one to reassign all button functions). The shifter for transmission can only be called a pod - it is a small rounded-off unit with two buttons. It no longer connects to the bars via the excellent MatchMaker system (via the brake lever clamp) but now has its own figure-8 shaped clamp (one around the bars, the other around the round projection on the rear of the pod). It tightens via a single bolt in the middle of the "8".
I would say it is fair to call the pod controversial. People who were perfectly happy with the old AXS shifter have had to adjust to the new pod. The buttons have been known to fall off on rough terrain. It is highly adjustable, but not really in the direction I wanted to adjust it. The bolt in the middle is labelled "max 3Nm" but I tried that with a torque wrench and it was far from tight. In an era where everything bike is going lower profile (think the new SRAM brakes and their master cylinders sitting almost on the bars), these pods are very high profile.
Function-wise they seem fine. The buttons are easy to press. If you get it in the correct position, it takes only a light tap to effect a change.
Aesthetically, they don't pair well with the Reverb button on the other side - why isn't it a new pod too, off the same figure-8 clamp?

All things considered, I wouldn't rate the pod higher than a 7/10. And honestly, I don't think it really deserves that much.

Clipless pedals revisited

When I bought my first DH bike almost 15 years ago, I put clipless pedals on it. I couldn't imagine riding a DH bike as it is meant to be ridden (as much as that is possible without the talent and skills of a World Cup rider) on flats. Back then, I couldn't really imagine riding any bike on flats!
Fast forward through years of riding flats for everything from XC (but not racing) to trail and Enduro racing and never having had clips on my current DH bike - my recent day visit to Thredbo involved throwing the Crank Brothers Mallet DH Race pedals on the Sender and pulling the old Shimano DH cleated shoes out of the closet. It was an interesting day out. I had zero issues with clipping in (I'd hope not after all those years of being clipped) and having my feet locked to the pedal was fine (I didn't find it more reassuring in rough terrain as I assumed I would - perhaps never blowing a foot off my aggressive flats has something to do with that?). The Shimano shoes permit the cleat to go back quite far. But probably not quite far enough to mimic the location my foot sits on my flats. Obviously I didn't have to change my approach to jumps and drops, but I found that I was doing it differently until really late in the day when I'd made some adjustments.
The Mallet pedals are great. I can understand why so many DH racers use them. Easy in. Easy out. Good retention.
The Shimano shoes are very comfortable and provide decent foot protection too. So no problems there.
But I won't be keeping the clippy pedals on my Sender for the next visit. I want my flats back. Feet loose on pedals is the only way I can judge the amount of downward pressure I've applied through my feet: enough pressure means my feet stay locked on the pedals (and not-quite-enough pressure means my feet get skatey on the pedals).
Across numerous Enduro races and 1 DH race, I've never felt like flats were making me slower. Perhaps If I put in many days on the clippy pedals I could get a feeling of confidence and control superior to flats, but I do doubt it.

I'm sticking with my flats for the big bikes (Enduro and DH). I'll keep the clips on the hardtail, and swap them in and out on the trail bike as the ride demands.