Monday, April 20, 2009

Muzzle me NOT

One of my pet peeves is responding to a product review and then finding out that since I offered actual constructive criticism, instead of an unrestrained sunshine butt blow, it gets tossed out by the site management. This just happened to me here. Then I remembered, I now have an independent voice that no one can muzzle. Without further adieu, here are my comments on this glee factory of a review.

Generally a nice review, with a few caveats from a guy who owns a Roubaix.

First, the 50/34 chainrings make ugly gears with collisions at (34-14, 50-22) and (34-16, 50-25) so two of those gears duplicate each other, meaning you only have 18 unique gears. You need the 34 chainring for climbing, so pitch the 50T and replace it with a 48T TA Alize chainring from Harris Cyclery and get lower and more granular gears.

Ugly gears with collisions and badly placed 34/12 gear

Second, this analysis is referencing a 12-27 cassette, not the stock 11-28, because as you correctly pointed out, the 50-11 combo is a waste. You'll do better just getting in a tuck. The 28T in the back results in a minuscule 0.1 mph reduction in the lowest gear's climbing speed, will make shifting more problematic, and require more chain. Swap it out for a standard 12-27 to get more granular gears in a more useful range. For a guy's bike I can see big chainrings. Guys think about gearing with their little head (how big is it?), not their big one, but gals should be able to stick to the facts and make an intelligent decision here. Specialized should give women more credit.

Beautiful, granular 48-34 / 12-27 compact gearing where the 34/12 gear plugs the 48 / 16-18 cassette gap perfectly

Third, the first time you do a long ride into a stiff headwind you will start looking at tossing all of those spacers under the stem so you can get into a lower position. Ditto for leaning down enough to get a forward position you can climb in efficiently - where your weight is on the balls of your feet. Riding in the flats faster than ~ 15mph you'll have the same requirements.
When you lower the stem by removing all those spacers from the stack, the stock stem will be too short.

People who are serious enough about biking to drop $3k on a bike are going to want a reasonable riding position pretty quickly. The stock "plush" setup does them a disservice because getting there will require a new stem and handlebars with a reasonable amount of drop and reach. You will also need to cut the steering tube when you toss 15-30mm of spacers - or ride with a dorky looking and dangerous amount of steering tube sticking out of the top of the stem.

Finally, those tires will start to get very annoying because they have an exaggerated cap on them that will require you to let the air out of the tires to get the wheels past the brakes when taking them off. They aren't horrible tires, but there are many, many better tires that have better shapes, grip and less rolling resistance. Michelin Pro-3 Race are a good choice. All in all, the Ruby is a great bike, but Specialized could equip it a little better.

An added note. You can lower your handlebars by removing spacers or by flipping your stem over so it angles down instead of up, or you can do both to lower it a lot. Stems come in different angles, so you can get pretty low if you wanted to. Generally though, if you are choosing between removing spacers under the stem or flipping the stem, always choose to remove spacers.

The reason for this is spacers move the attachment point of the stem up on the steering tube, and this makes the handlebars pretty rubbery relative to right down on the bearing or with a small vibration absorbing 2-3mm spacer under it. Even small, light riders will notice a difference when climbing out of the saddle. The more upper body strength you have the more this is an issue.

Before cutting the steering tube. Tailor made to break ribs!

U-G-L-Y and dangerous

After cutting the steering tube. Stronger, climbs better, cheats the wind

The handlebar stem bears more torque than any other part of the bike, save the bottom bracket. This is because when climbing out of the saddle and hammering, all of the off-axis torque your feet generate pressing down on pedals - far from the centerline of the downtube - must be offset by torque you generate with your upperbody which is then transferred through the handlebar stem and downtube.

It should also be obvious from this how inefficient it is to climb out of the saddle and waste all of that upper body strength - all of which must be fueled by starving the legs for carbs and precious oxygen. Even the world's best cyclists, when climbing Mt Palomar during the Amgen Tour of California, did NOT stand and climb out of the saddle. If you recall, Lance took the peleton up that very fast to suck the life out of any breakaway attempts - and he did NOT stand. There are times you should stand and hammer, but do so sparingly. Ride smart. Use your energy wisely.


Rachel said...

But, really. Tell me what you really think! ;)

Grey Beard said...

"Mess with the best, die like the rest!" ROTFLMFAO

Nice to see you here Rach. Feed those nice long legs lots of chicken, and good luck @ Wildflower!