Is more always better? Not always. With current technology, it would not be a difficult task designing frames or components to be stiffer, and even lighter than the ones available now. But, what happens if too much rigidity in the components compromises the overall working of a bicycle? We explain why everything has a limit when choosing the right amount of stiffness in each component and why stiffness is important if we want to get the most out of our bicycle.
If you spoke to any frame or component manufacturer they would warn you that too much stiffness can be on occasions negative. They would also say that they could produce a component so stiff, that flex in the material would be almost non-existent. They would also tell you that could even make them lighter. Luckily for us, the engineers that design the frames and components that we use, know that when we apply a certain force or pressure on these parts, there should exist a certain amount of “give” so that the energy can be transferred in and adequate way. There is energy that is transmitted, energy that is returned and energy that is lost and they all have an important role to play.
CARBON FIBRE AND ITS CAPABILITIES
Although not all manufacturers use carbon fibre to produce components, it is without doubt the material that can be manipulated the most to determine the rigidity of a component. The quality of the fibres, the number of layers, the angle of layers in relation to each other, the type of resin used to cure it and the different manufacturing techniques are so varied that it allows the manufacturer to find the perfect combination of all the factors that they are looking for when designing a component. A handlebar for example, needs to be stiff enough so when we hold on during a sprint it will not flex too much, but it also needs to absorb small vibrations and impacts and give a comfortable ride when passing uneven or rough terrain. This is something of vital importance in the rear triangle of a frame for example. The end goal is for the stays to transmit the most amount of energy from the pedals to the rear wheel, but at the same time they also need to flex enough to absorb small vibrations and impacts, giving the frame a more comfortable ride.
One thing that is very important in all of this is the definition of rigidity. We could say that rigidity is the resistance to elastic deformation, and that elasticity is the capability of the material to deform under loads or sudden forces and return to its original form. We also need to take into account that when using aluminium to produce a frame, no matter which type, the only way to make it stiffer is to use bigger or thicker tubing. But with carbon fibre, you can dramatically change the stiffness by using different types of fibres, laying them at different angles and the resin that we use or even the way that they are set and cured.
At Rotor we have been using aluminium for many years in our cranksets, by using the TDS system (Trinity Drilling System) we are able to produce extremely light cranks, and to not compromise on stiffness, we use our own ‘Twin Leg’ technology, which allows us to achieve a crankset that has a perfect balance of stiffness between the two cranks. There is no point making a super stiff right hand side crank, if the left hand side is too flexy.
ELASTICITY IS THE KEY TO RIGIDITY
The stiffness of certain components is important. It is fundamental that parts like handlebars, stems, seat posts and cranks are stiff enough to transmit all the energy we input to the rear wheel, and from there to the ground. In every pedal stroke we lose energy, and if all these components were too flexy, then very little energy would transferred to where it is needed, losing valuable watts. This is the reason why SPD pedals were introduced, to efficiently transmit all the power to the cranks, along with the extra rigid soles of road shoes. This same principle is true to the crankset as well, they need to transmit all that power to the bottom bracket and in turn to the chainring, chain, rear sprocket and ultimately to the rear wheel. With other components like the handlebar and stem, a balance is needed between stiffness and elasticity to offer certain comfort, and also to absorb small impact from the terrain. Professional racers for example will look for higher stiffness in detriment to confront and elasticity, they would prefer a set of cranks or a bar and stem that are extremely rigid, and will overlook the lack of comfort as a trade off.
On the other hand, you have cyclists who will look for components with a focus on bump absorption and optimum stiffness. This is the reason behind why high end components are oriented towards efficiency and not comfort, to be able to transmit as much of the energy the rider puts into the bike as possible to the ground.
There are evidently many factors to take into account that can influence the stiffness of a component, It is not just about the materials, like aluminium, carbon or the type of carbon used, but sizes and lengths are fundamental to obtain a stiffness to the degree desired. The rigidity of a set of 165mm cranks will not be the same as that of a set of 180mm cranks, or a 420mm wide bar compared to a 460mm wide one, or a seat post that is too far out of a frame, or a 130mm long stem or a small compact frame compared to a very large one… The key is to find a balance between stiffness, elasticity and weight in function to the needs of each cyclist.
At some point, we have all thought of training for a “Gran Fondo”. The idea of racing with your friends and thousands more in breathtaking scenery sounds like a brilliant plan. But without the necessary training, the Gran Fondo can turn into a nightmare without the adequate preparation. We will list the 10 best tips to get yourself into the best shape possible for your big day.
In today’s world, the term “Gran Fondo” is usually allocated to races between 60-200km in length. There are many alternatives, but we will be giving you tips to prepare for a Gran Fondo race of between 100-120km. We cannot stress enough that any training plan for a Gran fondo needs to be prepared by a professional. Without the help of a qualified personal trainer, it will be very difficult to reach perfect form in time for the big day. Below we will explain which steps to take.
1.START WILL A GOOD AEROBIC BASE
If you do not have any form of training behind you, then to start, the first rides should be low to medium intensity, where distance should be the main goal, and not intensity. This way we can work the aerobic base and good muscular foundations to be able to work at higher and shorter intensity levels. This should be a goal for the first 6-8 weeks of training, at a minimum of 3 days per week. It is important to work on this base to condition the body and fine tune your riding position on your bike, including finding more ergonomic and comfortable parts like handlebars, saddles and bar tape, to make you feel as comfortable as possible during long distance rides.
2.ESTABLISH A MINIMUM WEEKLY TRAINING ROUTINE
Training twice a week will not be sufficient. The minimum number of days per week should be 3, alternating especially during the start of the training program. The ideal amount would be 5-6 days, These can be used for gym work, where we can work on a good aerobic base, focusing on flexibility, muscle coordination, strengthening joints, increasing power and strengthening the abdominal wall, back and shoulders, fundamental for a correct riding position.
3.LEARN TO CLIMB LIKE A PROFESSIONAL.
If you are not an accomplished climber, then it is very likely that during the ascent of a mountain pass you will be left behind, losing the group you are cycling with and ending up alone or in smaller slower groups. During the training for ascending or climbing, look for a hill with enough pendant that will force you to ride at your almost maximum rate, and maintain it for 15-20 minutes. Doing this will help develop your lactic threshold and you will increase your maximum intensity output, which will help you maintain power on the pedals for longer periods of time. If you are planning to repeat the climbs in series every 10 minutes, remember to have a 5 minute cool down between them to allow you to perform at your maximum level at every interval.
4.TRAINING WITH INTERVALS
Just as training climbing is a positive input to your overall routine, training with intervals can benefit you in the same way. It is important to train at your maximum sprint level in 2 minutes blocks with 2 minutes light pedalling periods between them. These can be done in blocks of 10 cycles, which will improve your maximum V02 threshold, as well as maximum power output. Remember that before performing these training intervals, it is a must to correctly warm up beforehand, a minimum of 45 minutes of light pedalling and small 10-15 second sprints will properly warm up your muscles and allow you to get the maximum benefits out of this training method.
5.REMEMBER TO REST
Rest is fundamental. Rest days count as part of your training regime. If you do not rest enough, your body and muscles will not heal after an intense workout, nor will it be ready to take on another one. To add to this, overtraining your muscles can have an adverse effect on their growth, meaning a longer and less efficient training period. Depending on the intensity of the workout there will be days of total rest and other that we call active rest days, where you can perform light training, for example yoga, Pilates or just stretching, muscle relaxation and massages. Take full advantage of your rest days to disconnect completely from cycling, rest your mind as well as your muscles.
6.KEEPING UP WITH A GROUP DURING A RACE
During a race, it is very important to find a group that is riding at an average speed that is comfortable for you. Being in a group during a race if fundamental to not waste energy riding solo. This is also true during Gran Fondo races. Taking into account that there will be varying levels, the most important factor is to join a group that you feel comfortable riding with, is does not need to be a large group, just one that will not overwork you. Never leave a group while climbing or during long flat periods. If you do, it will be incredibly hard to rejoin and can ultimately make you lose too much energy doing so.
7.GRAN FONDO RACES ARE LONG; BE PATIENT.
Specially at the start. Gran Fondo races are famous because from kilometre zero, racers start at a pace much higher than what will eventually be their average. Do not stress. Start at a good rhythm so you do not find yourself alone, but never at a pace that is above your correct average speed. You will only achieve tiring yourself out early, which will inevitably affect you later on in the race. Remember that this will be a long race, and you will have moments that you will ride at a quicker pace, if you feel you have extra energy to spare. It is better to save energy at the beginning, and use it at the end.
8.NUTRITION DURING TRAINING AND RACING
Never forget to eat during training and racing. During training it will help you identify which food sources you digest the best. And during a race it will give you the energy needed to finish. If there is a type of energy bar, fruit or nutritional complement that works for you during training, use these during a race too. Whilst competing, the food they give out may make you feel bad, have stomach problems and force you to stop. You will also lose less time if you take food with you, as you will not have to stop as frequently as if you had none, making calculating the amount of stops easier, leading to a better final time.
9.TRAVEL WITH TIME TO SPARE
If you have time and can take an extra day off, it is important to be able to travel with a couple of days extra before the Gran Fondo race. You will be able to rest from the long trip there, check out the surrounding terrain, and see first hand which parts will need which clothing. If you are travelling to another country or continent, and will accumulate jet lag, it is important to travel with at least two days to spare, to acclimatise your body to the new time zone. If you can do it with 3-4 days to spare, even better. Another advantage to travelling with time to spare, is to be able to adjust your bike correctly, and check all the rest of your equipment.
10.CHECK YOUR KIT
Your bike needs to be working 100% correctly on the day of the race. It is vital to check over and adjust your bike the week before a race, take it to your local mechanic to get it checked over completely. Remember to check the basics before a Gran Fondo race. All bolts need to be correctly torqued, tyre pressure checked, quick release levers and pedals tightened and your drivetrain correctly adjusted. Also check that your cleats and brake pads are positioned and tightened correctly. It is important to carry basic spare parts with you at all times, one or two inner tubes, C02 canisters and a multi tool would be the minimum. It is up to you if you wish to take more. You will also have to check which clothing you take, the weather conditions may change suddenly, rain, wind or a big drop in temperature can occur. Try not to carry too much kit, as it will be lot of time on your bike, a windbreaker and arm warmers are a must in colder weather or if the temperature drops during a mountain ascent.
“A clean bike is a fast bike.” It’s something that many of us repeat to ourselves as we summon the motivation to clean our bikes, especially before big rides and races. And it’s true: a clean bike’s drivetrain and brakes simply work better, so you will feel faster. Plus, when you clean your bike, you have the chance to closely inspect it, which means you are more likely to catch small problems before they become ride- or race-ending problems.
Step 1: Pick your venue
First, find a suitable place outside to clean your bike. Depending where you live, you may be able to set up a semi-permanent spot, complete with a bike stand, hose and cleaning supplies, for easy, frequent bike cleanings. But maybe that’s not an option for you, or you’re traveling? Consider using a bay at a local car wash, or borrow a friend’s driveway or lawn and hose.
Step 2: Assemble supplies
No matter where you clean your bike, it’s helpful to create your own portable bike cleaning kit. Key elements should include soap, degreaser, a chain cleaning kit, brushes of various sizes, a sponge, polish, old towels and rags. Store it all in a bucket that you can travel with and use during cleaning.
Step 3: Take care of your drivetrain
Because drivetrains are typically covered in lube, they attract dirt, mud, sand and other grit. Use a chain cleaning kit with degreaser to thoroughly clean your chain. Taking some time to scrape the accumulated gunk out of pulley wheels, off chainrings and from in between gears will make your drivetrain turn more smoothly, which means less effort to pedal. Use degreaser and a brush to get that gunk off; water alone won’t do much.
Step 4: Use soap and scrub
Although it’s tempting after a long hard, dirty ride to simply hose off your bike, which is still better than doing nothing, it will get much cleaner if you use soap and scrub. Despite all the marketing hype, no special soap is needed; dish detergent works great. Simply add some soap to your bucket and fill with water. If it’s a cold day, use hot water – it’ll be easier on the hands.
After initially spraying down your bike with water, use a sponge to soap up your frame, fork, wheels and other parts. Use a scrub brush for extra effectiveness wherever grime is caked on. Remove your wheels to get to hard-to-reach places. Last but not least, don’t forget to soap up your drivetrain so you get all that degreaser off.
Step 5: Rinse
Rinse your bike with water thoroughly after using degreaser and soap. Be careful where and how you spray water; avoid using a strong spray, such as from a power washer, directly into moving parts like bearings and bottom brackets, unless you also plan to re-lube or re-grease them all afterward. One of the great things about ROTOR UNO groupsets is that you don’t have to worry about the water potentially corroding your bike’s steel cables because both the brakes and shifters are actuated hydraulically; there are no metal shift or brake cables.
Step 6: Polish
Getting all the dirt off your bike will make your bike look much better, but if you want to do a super pro job, also dry your bike with an air compressor or old towels and then polish your frame and any shiny components. Be sure to check in advance that your chosen polish is ok to use on your frame. It’s hard to hurt metal, but not all substances are good for all frame materials and paints.
Step 7: Re-assemble and lube
Put the wheels – and any other parts you might have removed during cleaning – back onto your bike. Finally, lube your drivetrain, pedals and any other essential moving parts so they don’t rust or seize up.
When you want to get the most out of your bike, the gears must be working perfectly. If you also use ROTOR Q RINGS, to help squeeze every ounce of efficiency out of your drivetrain, the front derailleur needs to be adjusted just right. We will show you the best tricks to help you adjust it perfectly.
The front derailleur is still one of the most important parts of your drivetrain. Although in MTB, single front chainrings are spreading like wildfire across all price points, on road bikes, double front chainrings is still the most common setup. And if you use ROTOR Q RINGS, the front derailleur alignment is key to getting the most out of them, keeping the shift between the two rings as smooth as possible.
If you are using the standard Q rings, QXL Rings or the Q rings Qarbon, then the front derailleur adjustment is slightly different to a conventional setup allowing the shift between chainrings to be as smooth as possible. Below we will guide you through all the process.
Once the chainrings are fitted to the cranks, we can see that as the Q Rings are oval, the distance between the front derailleur and the rings is variable when pedalling. With standard chainrings this distance is fixed, and is usually between 1.5 and 3mm. The first thing to do is to loosen the gear cable to remove any tension to the derailleur, after this we can loosen the bolt on the direct mount or the seat tube collar that attaches the derailleur to the frame. Once loosened, adjust the lower exterior part of the derailleur arm 1.5 to 2mm from the large chainring at the most oval part. This is important as if done incorrectly the chainrings will foul on the derailleur, which could damage both parts. Once we are sure that the distance has been adjusted correctly, we can then tighten the seat tube collar, or the direct mount, fixing the derailleur into place, making sure that it is parallel to the chainrings. The next step is to reattach the gear cable. Fine tuning of the gears can be done using the inline adjusters near the shifters. Once fitted, make sure that the derailleur arm moves freely without touching the chainrings.
To make sure that the front derailleur is working correctly, shift from the small to the large chainring a couple of times whilst working through all the sprockets in the rear cassette, making sure the chain shifts smoothly. The H / L screws are used to limit the movement of the derailleur both in the lower and higher gears (small and large chainrings) this is needed with conventional rings also, it is adjusted so that the chain is not thrown off the chainrings.
3.The QXL rings spacer
If you are using the QXL rings, remember that if you have a direct mount derailleur you will need to install the spacer to the front derailleur to be able to shift correctly. With a QXL ring the oval shape is much more pronounced than the standard Q RINGS, too much for a standard direct mount derailleur, as it cannot be raised high enough to clear the chainrings. When you purchase any QXL Rings two spacers are included to fix this problem. The spacer is to be fitted between the mounting point on the frame and the derailleur. Due to the shape of the spacer, the derailleur is displaced slightly to the rear, allowing more room for the larger chainring. To install the spacer we first need to remove the gear cable, we then remove the bolt holding the derailleur in place completely. Once free we can install the spacer with the bolt provided and re-attach it to the frame using the original bolt, remember to install a chain guide if needed; this is to stop the chain falling off the small chainring. We then adjust the distance between the chainring and derailleur to 1.5-2mm, making sure it is parallel to the rings, fit the gear cable in place. Once fitted, make sure that the derailleur arm can move freely between the chainrings without touching the teeth. As said above, we can use the H/L screws to limit the movement of the derailleur, fine tuning it using the chain guide.
4.OCP Chainrings (Optimum Chainring Position)
If you are using chainrings with OCP technology, being able to adjust the rings to find the best position for maximum efficiency. You will not have clearance problems using the OCP system, once the derailleur is adjusted correctly. This is due to the fact that the overall maximum diameter is not changed by adjusting the position of the chainring, If you swap it out for a larger chainring, then you will need to re-adjust everything using the steps listed above.
Once upon a time, bikes and components were made primarily out of steel. Then aluminum came along and became the material of choice for cycling industry designers. More recently, the buzz has been all about carbon. Yet despite the hype, carbon isn’t the best choice for every application, and aluminum continues to play an important role in cycling.
Steel has always had its advantages. At approximately 2.5 to three times the density of aluminum, it’s is a stronger material, and even considering the fluctuations in the prices of raw materials over time, it’s generally cheaper to make something out of steel than out of aluminum.
Nonetheless, aluminum started making its way into cycling in the 1970s and became more ubiquitous in the 1980s as engineers honed design and manufacturing processes. So why did aluminum become so popular?
Aluminum appealed to cyclists largely because it’s lighter than steel. That weight adds up when you consider not only a bike’s frame, but also its components. And who doesn’t enjoy riding and especially climbing on a lighter bike?
Aluminum is also inherently more malleable than steel. That means it can be made into more complicated shapes – think intricate frame designs. It’s also more resistant to corrosion without any extra special treatment: it doesn’t rust. That means you don’t have to coat it or paint it or worry if you scratch it, which is great for bikes that are often ridden outdoors in wet or humid conditions or offroad.
With the increasing popularity of carbon for frame and component materials since the early 2000s, it may seem like aluminum is going the way of steel – to a much lesser prevalence in the cycling industry. However, while carbon is extremely light and rides well, it is both more expensive and more fragile than aluminum.
So even as we see high end road and mountain bikes increasingly going with more and more carbon, aluminum is still a solid choice for entry level and mid-level bikes. Many brands currently offer both carbon and aluminum versions of popular frames to meet a range of different price points.
Assuming that the price of raw materials and manufacturing process for carbon and aluminum don’t change substantially relative to each other, aluminum should continue to be an important part of the cycling industry moving forward.
When it comes to components, the same thing is true: many top brands are making carbon and aluminum versions for the exact same reasons: durability and cost. Yet some are still betting largely on the successful future of aluminum.
Working with Aluminum
As aluminium product manufacturing and finishing techniques become increasingly more automated over time, manufacturers have been realizing goals of less waste, faster production times and higher quality – all of which translates into lower costs. Its manufacturing can easily be done in-house with the appropriate equipment; unlike carbon, it does not have to get outsourced to a specialized manufacturing facility in an often far away place like Asia.
Furthermore, aluminum frame design is becoming more sophisticated. Long gone are the early days of thin aluminum straight gauge tubes mechanically glued or screwed together and the subsequent days of framesets with big, fat aluminum tubes. They, respectively, produced frames that rode too flexy and too harsh. Modern designs create aluminum bike frames that give a much more comfortable ride.
Today, there are a few common ways of making parts out of aluminum. One is hydroforming, or using hydraulic fluid to press aluminum into shape. Shimano is famous for using forging methods whereas ROTOR has invested heavily in CNC machines. Both brands have been loyal to making parts out of aluminum for decades. ROTOR, in particular, comes from a strong background in aeronautical engineering, an industry with extensive aluminum manufacturing expertise.
An advantage to CNC machining is that its equipment can be easily reprogrammed so as to be able to make a variety of different parts. That’s especially useful to a component manufacturer like ROTOR that needs to make everything from chainrings to power meters to brakes.
Take a tour of ROTOR’s factory
There are many parts of your bike that you can easily be looked over when servicing. One of the major groups that cannot be missed is the drivetrain. Chainrings, cassettes, chains and derailleurs should always be clean and lubricated. Once worn out, they should be changed immediately. We explain all the tips and tricks of maintaining your drivetrain in perfect condition.
The drivetrain is one of the principal parts of our bikes. Whether you have a mountain bike, road bike or both, performing routine checks and regular services on your bikes are one of the most important things to be done on a bike. It can save you from headaches when out on a ride, and money in the long run.
The most obvious tip is keeping your bike clean and lubricated. A good wash and re-lube of your bike after every ride, especially if it includes water, mud, dust and dirt, will keep it working perfectly for longer, it will also help keep wear to your drivetrain to a minimum. Mountain bikes are especially sceptical to premature wear due to how often they get ridden in adverse conditions, mud and dirt that gets caught up in the derailleurs can cause havoc if left unattended. In these cases a more powerful degreaser is needed when cleaning. If you ride a road bike, or your mountain bike has only collected a thin layer of dust, then a cloth impregnated with degreaser can be used to wipe down the chainrings, cassette and derailleurs to remove the surface dirt then applying a new coat of lube will suffice. Performing these basic maintenance tips will prolong the life of your drivetrain and keep it working perfectly.
An interesting tip taken straight from the professionals is to use a plastic bottle cut in half and filled with degreaser, using a paintbrush, you effectively “paint” the degreaser onto the parts that needs cleaning, it is then left for 5 minutes and rinsed with warm water. This will thoroughly clean even the most stubborn dirt of even the most hard to reach places. Once done, a clean cloth can then be used to dry the area. There are other options like specific cleaning agents for chains that can be used with a cleaner designed especially for chains. It works by encasing the chain in a plastic box. The chain is then passed through a degreasing agent and through some stiff brushes that brush away any excess dirt. Never use products that are not designed especially for bikes, as these can be too corrosive and can damage metals and paint.
CHECK YOUR CHAIN LENGTH
The part that suffers most wear is the chain. But wear can be affected by many factors, dirt, water, mud even the chain tension itself… It is recommended to have a chain wear tool (chain stretch is measured in mm). This a quick and easy method of ensuring your chain, and transmission is in tip top condition. Although logic would suggest that chains be changed every 1000km, they can be used for up to 2000-2500kms. In adverse conditions then it is best to replace it every 1000-1500kms. A worn chain will not only affect how the gears work, and sound, but will also create premature wear on the cassette and chainrings. On 1x systems, the chain tension is higher, which can cause quicker wear throughout the drivetrain, but the plus side is that they are easier to clean and maintain, as well as being less complex. It is incredibly important to keep the chainring clean, as due to the shape of the teeth being used to keep the chain from falling off, any excess dirt or wear can affect how they work.
Chainrings and cassettes tend to last longer than the chain. The normal wear ratio is one cassette and chainring change for every 3 chains if you keep them in good condition. Unfortunately this is not an exact science, and many factors can affect how your drivetrain wears. It is recommended to check all parts of the transmission regularly. A good tip is to check the shape of the teeth of both the cassette and chainrings, once they take the form of a shark fin then this is an indicator of excess wear, and will need to be changed. You will also find that the gears will stop working efficiently, this is probably the most obvious sign that something is amiss in your drivetrain. Another part that is commonly overlooked are the derailleur sprockets, these are used to guide the chain up and down the cassette, so any excess wear here can also cause problems when changing gear. Removing, cleaning and regreasing them, is a simple job that should only take 10-15 minutes to do. They are mostly made of plastic (except for some high end models or aftermarket upgrades) and do not tend to last long, but they are a vital part of the drivetrain.
Lastly, it is important to know which components have been changed and which ones have not. If you have changed the chain three times, then it is time to also change the cassette and chainrings. This way, the wear is even and you will always have a perfectly working machine. When leaving your bike for extended periods of time without use, leave the chain in the smallest sprocket and chainring, this reduces tension that can affect the rear derailleur and chain.