Michael Hanslip Coaching

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

3D printed saddle - part 3 (off road)

Back in October 2022, I wrote about saddles and wanting to try a 3D printed saddle.
And then in November I wrote how I'd found one on sale and purchased it for my commuter bike.
In April 2023 I reported in after 30 hours of use that it wasn't doing it for me.
 
Then I put the Arione back on the commuter and the 3D saddle on my Ibis Ripley (because the Fabric saddle I thought I liked on that one was hurting my butt).
 
Now, more than a year later I can report on the 3D printed saddle on the Ibis.
In short, it is fine.
The complaints I had about it as a road bike saddle where it had only a few millimetres of fore-aft adjustment for a supported pelvis do not apply on the dirt. I'm always standing and sitting and shifting my weight and hitting bumps. With all that going on, the cushion it provides and the support it offers both seem adequate. I have little doubt if I went and ground out 4+ hours on smoother trails that it would fail. But that's not how I ride the Ripley. It is 1-3 hour blasts around in a forest and for those, it is fine.
 
I still want to try another 3D printed saddle on the road. Fizik Antares is not the best model for me in the conventional construction style, so there is no reason to think it would be the best model for me in the 3D printed style. Fizik recently announced the Aliante in an Adaptive (Fizik's word for 3D printed construction) model. That leaves my Arione as the only road saddle from the trio of long-term models not to be produced in Adaptive. Also, I realise that the model I have is "Versus" which means it has a big groove down the middle. There is an Antares Adaptive that is not Versus - lacking the big channel. That might well be better too. I've always found a hole or a groove squashes too much under my weight. What is fine for a 70 kg average cyclist is not necessarily fine for a tall/heavy guy like me. Finally, there is the newer short nose style Argo in Adaptive build to try.
Plus all the Specialized 3D printed saddles.
Not to mention the less well known brands and the fact that Selle Italia now 3D prints saddles too.
 
Hopefully there will be a part 4 at some point.

28 accessory mounts

The second generation Trek Checkpoint SL is ready for many things. And bike packing is definitely one of those things. I'm not personally interested in the bike packing experience - if I were going camping from my bike I think I'd get a BOB trailer and put everything in it. But there is no harm done in the frame having numerous options.
Three mounts down each side of the fork, plus one at the crown and one at each dropout, two on the top tube for a bag, three under the top tube for a larger bag (or a tool mount - though the Bontrager tool fits in the bracket under the door that resides behind the main water bottle mount), water bottle mounts on the down tube (3 on top, 1 underneath) and the seat tube (only the 1) and then various rack and mudguard mount points - 28 in total.
When the bike is delivered each of these is filled with a black plastic plug. The plugs keep the threads clean and the hole closed, but with time they start to pop out of the holes in places. And the black plastic disc on each one is not the best look to my eyes.
So I succumbed to temptation and purchased a bunch of oil slick anodised titanium water bottle bolts. I discovered that a few of the threads were dirty - they had glue or other detritus from production in the threads so they had to be cleaned up before the bolt when in. Other than that the only other anomaly was that the fork bolts don't go in to flush, they stick out proud. I thought it might just be me, but I read that this happens to other owners so I guess it is just how they are. The suggestion is to run a presta valve nut underneath so it tightens down completely and doesn't leave a gap under the bolt head. I might try this.
I didn't replace all the locations with Ti bolts - where the water bottle cage was already mounted I left it (one of the bolts is quite long due to the shape of the storage compartment door). Where the fenders and rack were mounted, I also left the stainless bolts in place. I don't think these small Ti bolts are up to much more than a water bottle. Wow the bolts look much nicer in the frame than did the black plugs. The oil slick ano looks green at extreme angles of light, and more purple at more direct angles. The change is the nicest part - you never know what colours you'll get. I also left the two water bottle mount plugs under the down tube as they aren't really visible under there and just get covered in crud while riding.
 
I found a motorcycle shop here in Australia that does oil slick ano Ti bolts for motorbike fairings and the like - correct thread pitch and length for a water bottle cage. But at $12 each, 28 of them carries a big price tag (yes, I didn't actually require 28 since I didn't use a couple of them). I ended up with some specifically for water bottle cage mounting bolts from the US. They only ship within the US so you can go to Amazon if you want them here in Australia, for example. But the shipping is pricey. And the exchange mechanism built into Amazon seems aggressively pricey too. I ended up having the maker ship them to my sister and she reshipped them to Australia. Total cost was below $150 for 3 dozen bolts. I have enough left over to mount water bottles with bling bolts for years.

Wahoo pedals 1-year Review

I wrote on these pages about purchasing the new Wahoo Speedplay pedal when I was putting my revised commuting bike together. Now I've had 10 months on them I thought I'd reflect on how they were going.
Where the Zero and other Speedplay pedals of old required regular lubrication of the spring for movement within the cleat and for the spring against the pedal, the new Speedplay suggests you may wish to lubricate (with a dry lube) but it isn't required. I ran them dry. Because the top of the pedal is now encircled in a steel ring, there has been zero wear to date. I think the old cleat was a soft plastic and the spring would eat into it if it was run totally dry. The new cleat is steel so there can be no wear - steel on steel is already pretty low friction. And the movement is rotation through a small number of degrees.
So that's a big improvement in my book.
I installed a new set of cleats on my newest shoes. They clip in just the same. They clip out about the same (I haven't done back-to-back testing to compare). Riding feel is identical. The new cleats work perfectly fine with new and old pedals alike, just as the old cleats work fine with both pedals too.
In February my right pedal developed a little bit of side-to-side play in the bearings. Unlike old Zero pedals, the new ones are not user serviceable, nor user lubricated. So there is nothing to come loose or adjust. This was a problem. Pushys to their credit replaced them promptly.
It turns out there is a laser-etched serial number on each pedal. It is SO tiny I had to photograph it in good light and zoom in on the photo to read the digits. I provided a video showing the play in the bad pedal and the serial number and they sent me a whole new set of pedals. I hope if anything goes awry with these that it is the left pedal this time so I can mate the old left with the new right and continue with a fully working pair.
I don't know if this is anomalous, or if they are fragile. Wahoo was supposed to increase the bearing size for durability, so I hope it is the former.
I would have to go back to an old pair if I couldn't continue using the new Wahoo variant. None of the other pedal options work for me. I have tried the Time, the Look and the Shimano and not only do I dislike the plastic cleat (but could live with that) but they generally sit way too far forward on the shoe for me. Wahoo no longer sells the plate, but I have 3 sets of the old Speedplay rearward cleat adaptors. They allow around 15mm more rearward placement (and 8mm more forward placement) of a Speedplay cleat on a 3-bolt shoe. I push the cleat back around 10mm further than the Northwave shoes permit on their own. (I could go custom shoes with custom hole placement for any pedal system but I would dislike going down that road.)
 
Check back in another year to see if my trial with the Wahoo pedals continues to be OK.

Red versus Record

After three years of doing all my riding on Record (both commuting and racing/training), I have now had a year on Red for commuting while still having Record on the race bike. The other day I had to pick up my car and the race bike is far easier to stick in the back of the car without mudguards than the game of Tetris required to get the commuter in there. I was noticing the stark differences between the two bikes during my ride and thought I’d comment on those here.

The Checkpoint SL is a “cheap” carbon frame made out of more, lower-grade carbon whereas the Madone SLR is an “expensive” carbon frame built out of top-of-the-line high-grade carbon. That they weigh roughly the same amount is due to the different intentions of the two bikes. The gravel bike has a massive fork to endure the rough roads while providing clearance for nearly MTB sized tyres. The racing bike has a massive fork to make it as aero as possible. So the two frames ride quite differently. And that isn’t what I want to write about.
When you touch the shift button on the SRAM AXS system, the derailleur instantly slams a gear change in the indicated direction. It is silent and barely requires the flick of a finger to achieve. Shifting mechanical Record requires a deliberate and forceful movement of the appropriate finger (unlike electronic shifting, there has to be unique movements for up and down shifts). The gear changes with a loud and satisfying thunk. While some people have complained about the delay in the wireless shifting to transmit and engage the command, there is to my perceptions a larger delay in the cable moving the mechanism and getting the change. With AXS the shift happens as I touch the button. With Record it happens slightly after.
There is never any question of achieving the shift in Record. It is proving very robust to adjustments and the audible indication that the shift has occurred leaves zero doubt. AXS can shift so imperceptibly that I sometimes look at the gear position indicator on my Garmin to see if it actually shifted (it always has).
I read in several places that the Campag hydraulic discs were the best of the big three on the road. When I first went to Red I thought they were “just as good”. After a year and riding the Record again the other day (I admit to not having ridden the Madone as much as I would like in the past few months - it is either commuting duty or MTB time) I noticed there is a subtlety to the Record that the Red lacks. They are perhaps only 1/2 a point out of 10 better, but they are that bit easier to modulate. The rotor/pad combo is a little quieter too. SRAM brakes all seem to make a certain noise that the Campag (and really I should call them Magura because they are really just the Magura MTB brakes for the road - right down to using the same pads) do not make.
I found the Record levers a nice change from the Rival/Force levers they replaced. The Red electronic levers are enough different to the mechanical SRAM levers I used before that they are an all-new thing. They are at least as nice to use as the Record ones. The hood area where you park your hands riding along is great on both, perhaps a bit flatter and big hand friendly on the Red. The lever itself perhaps a tiny bit better shaped on the Record side.
Gearing is actually pretty close. The Record more traditional with 39/53 rings and 11-29 12-spd cassette. The Red uses the SRAM 13 tooth gap with a 37/50 ring pairing and a 10-28 12-spd cassette. Low gear on the Madone is not quite 2% taller than on the Checkpoint. High gear on the Checkpoint is not quite 4% taller than on the Madone - but that 10T sprocket is inefficient. Since Red was released in 12-spd form around 3 years ago, the pro teams have requested even larger rings than I have (the largest at release) not because they felt they needed larger gears overall, but to avoid using the 10T. A massive pair like 43/56 means not having to use the 11 or the 10 most of the time, and the 11 is there when needed.
I ride almost everywhere on the Checkpoint in the big ring. AXS will permit all 12 gear choices in the big ring (it forbids the small:small combo in the small ring) and a 50:28 is plenty low enough for most of my riding. Then I have the 37 to fall back on if I need lower.
Actually, because the Madone is the race bike, if I’m “on” it, I will do most of my ride in the big ring as well. I’ve done numerous Uriarra loops (if you ride in Canberra you must have done the loop before) in the big ring. I will often drop to the inner ring for the climb up from Uriarra Crossing if I’m going anti-clockwise because it is so steep - it is faster for sure - but I can easily push up that climb in the big ring.

Time on both groups solidifies how good they both are. But the digital goodness of Red can’t overwhelm the mechanical goodness of Record.

[Note: I put this under riding and not gear because even though the conversation is about the gear, it is really about rider perceptions and use.]

Supacaz Bling Tape

This brand based in California makes cycling accessories, (limited) clothing and shoes. Mostly they make shiny objects that look nice.
When I was putting my Checkpoint together I thought some special bar tape would finish the bike well. I chose Oil Slick from Supacaz. This stuff is pretty expensive for bar tape. And while aluminium plugs with matching oil slick anodising are particularly nice, plastic plugs are very effective, lighter and cheaper.
The texture is not bad but tends towards feeling a little slick sometimes. Notably, rain and sweat don't seem to impact the slipperiness - it just hovers around the "perfectly acceptable" level most of the time, sometimes feeling a little too slippery.
The colour is amazing. It really catches sunlight and refracts it into truly oil slick looking colours. The default colour blends well with the Dark Aquatic paint on my Trek, and the refractive colours go really well with the oil slick anodised bolts I put in the accessory mounts on the frame (to plug up the sometimes-fall-out plastic plugs Trek supplies in the 28 holes around the frame).
Grip and texture are pretty good, but not exceptional then. Appearance is stellar. "Cushion" is seemingly quite low. I feel like my fancy carbon bars meant to flex downwards under bumps but not upwards under pulls from the rider's hands are the only thing providing comfort in this set-up. I had the bars on the old Checkpoint with some soft red bar tape (and the soft foam stick-on layers under the bar tape that the bars came with - but they didn't survive the bar tape removal and so aren't on the bike now) and it was more cushioned feeling.
It is proving quite durable. For a bike that gets ridden every day to work and stored in a bike cage where neighbouring bikes often bump into mine on their way in or out (the paint has a few marks from these events) there are zero blemishes on the tape after 11 months.
 
The tape is perfectly named. It is bling. Perhaps even excessive bling. I like it. But I did run Deda chrome-look bar tape for several years on my road race bike (lots of negative comments about that tape). They were a tiny bit stingy on the amount of bar tape provided - another 10 cm would have made wrapping so much easier. And as one of the more expensive bar tapes I can name, I'd have thought they'd be slightly generous with length.
 
I'm not sure I can get past the RRP, but I found it on sale and at that price (25% discount) I can definitely endorse Bling Tape.