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Gear Guide: Trade Secrets

  • By Triathlete.com
  • Published Apr 7, 2009
  • Updated May 30, 2009 at 5:49 PM UTC

Written by: Ian Buchanan

There are definitely some products and services out there that many athletes have yet to discover. Big and small, here are some items that are well worth knowing about. You can find (or order) these products and services through a good dealer.

Hutchinson Tubeless Road Tires: Hutchinson’s tubeless road tires are the smoothest-riding,lowest-rolling resistance and most pinch flat-resistant tires you can get. Specialized and Campagnolo, among others, have joined Shimano in producing tubeless-specific wheels that are compatible with these tires. An ultra-light tubeless tire is available from Hutchinson too.See Tech Support in the Nov. ’08 issue for a more complete review. Hutchinsontires.com

Stan’s No Tubes kits and valves for Tubeless Road Tires: These convert most any standard clincher road wheel to tubeless tire technology. Notubes.com

Cee Gees Cushy’s Replacement Aerobar Arm Pads: Cee Gees makes high-density replacement arm pads for just about every aerobar out there. Compared to most stock arm pads, Cee Gee’s “Cushy’s” pads last longer and provide better support. They also are one of the least expensive products you can get that will increase the vibration damping and comfort of your TT or tri bike. Cee-gees.com

Parlee Carbon Front Derailleur Clamp: Okay, this doesn’t improve your performance much, but it is super light, looks cool and mounts flush so you can put a bottle cage over the clamp without having to use spacers. Parlee makes nice bikes, including a well-priced full carbon stock TT/tri frame, that are also worth checking out. Parleecycles.com

Wide Ratio 10- and 11-speed Cassettes: A couple of years ago, SRAM started offering functional and broad gearing combinations for the road that no one else was making. These cassettes apparently sold quite well, as Shimano’s new 7900 Dura-Ace and Campagnolo’s new 11-speed cassettes offer broader gearing options than ever before. While they are not as smooth as Shimano on Shimano, SRAM cassettes work with Shimano shift levers too. IRD also makes wide-range 10-speed Campagnolo- and Shimano/SRAM-compatible cassettes (like 12-32) for those looking to climb really big hills. Interlocracing.com

Wheels Manufacturing Conversion Cassettes: Want to use a Shimano cassette body-equipped wheel with your 10-speed Campagnolo shift levers? This is the solution. A wide range of effective gearing options and shifting that is as good as (or better than) a Campagnolo cassette make a conversion cassette even more attractive. Wheelsmfg.com

SMP and ISM Adamo Saddles: While there is no one saddle that works for everyone, these relief zone-based saddles have helped a number of riders resolve soft tissue-related saddle issues. Ismseat.com and Albabici.com

Ceramic (Hybrid) Bearings: If they didn’t work better than regular metal bearings, Formula 1 cars wouldn’t use them. Hubs, bottom brackets and derailleur pulleys can all benefit from an upgrade that minimizes rolling resistance while maximizing durability. While you don’t need the most expensive ceramic bearings to see a nice improvement, be aware that cheap ceramic bearings aren’t going to offer you much of an advantage over a high-quality steel bearing. Get a Grade 3 bearing or better.

TUFO Tubular Tape: Fear tubulars no more. Two-sided rim tape takes the mess out of tubular installation and cuts installation from a sometimes-messy project that can span days to one that can be done in a matter of minutes. Tufonorthamerica.com/accessories.php

SwissStop Brake Pads: Does the brake pad you use matter? You better believe it. Especially if you use carbon rims (or mix carbon and alloy rims on the same bike), the SwissStop Yellow King pads offer dependable performance with wheels from a variety of manufacturers and under a wide range of conditions. Swissstop.ch

Trigger Point Technologies Massage Kits: Almost every athlete has fought tight muscle adhesions or injuries and knows how much they can limit performance and comfort. Developed by an athlete for athletes, the TPT massage tools and videos are great to use on their own, on the road, or as supplements to physical therapy or deep tissue massage work such as Active Release Treatment. Tptherapy.com

Cycling Footbeds: Foot stability and support are key to maximizing power transfer and minimizing fatigue, yet the majority of riders still wear their cycling shoes without adequate support. A custom cycling footbed is the most effective solution, but over-the-counter options including those from SuperFeet, Specialized and Aline are improvements over factory insoles for some riders.

“Fit First” Bike Buying: The vast majority of bikes purchased today are “fit” after the bike has already been selected. “Bike First” selection is like designing the house after you have already built it-it puts the needs of the bike before the needs of the rider. There is a better way. “Fit First” bike selection puts the rider first. By far the best way to find a new bike that will work optimally for you is to determine your optimal riding position first and then use this information to find the frame/bikes that are the best geometric matches for your needs. Seek out a dealer/fitter that works this way. Don’t hesitate to travel to work with him or her, as your biggest equipment purchase is too important to be left to chance.

Motion Capture Fitting Technology: Dartfish, Retül and other companies make technology that provides bicycle fitting with more data and greater accuracy than ever before. However, realize that great technology doesn’t automatically make a great bicycle fit. A hospital with all the best equipment is not much good without the right doctors, and the same is true with motion capture fitting systems. While bicycle fits and motion capture technology are advertised and offered just about everywhere now, there is a limited number of qualified providers that offer truly top-level fittings. A well-educated and experienced fitter in combination with modern technology can help you understand how to get the most out of your bike and your body in a matter of hours. Whether you are brand new to riding or have been riding for decades, a motion capture fit session with a top fitter will pay off for the rest of your riding career.

Ride hard and smart.

Ian Buchanan is co-owner of Fit Werx. Fit Werx has locations in Waitsfield, Vt., and Peabody, Mass., offering cycling and triathlon products, specialty bicycle fitting, analysis services, consultation and technology research. Fit Werx can be reached in Vermont at (802) 496-7570, in Massachusetts at (978) 532-7348 or through the Web at Fitwerx.com.

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