The journey into a new sport isn’t easy. I’m a keen runner but I know there will likely come a day when I need to move onto something with less impact. My wife had to make that transition from marathon running to road biking a year or so ago.
This brought with it a new set of challenges. Not only the new sport itself, finding a club, learning the related etiquette but also finding yourself as a beginner again. Then there’s the whole drop and non-drop rides thing — whether or not the group will leave you behind if you can’t keep up. All that’s before we get to the actual physical challenge of it all.
For running, no matter how clever your shoes, clothes or hydration system are, they can only make a small difference. It’s been a welcome surprise to discover how much different bike design and technology can make. This isn’t just about going faster, either, it’s about the riding experience on the road, efficiency, and enjoyment of being out on two wheels.
This year she’s taking on the Deloitte Ride Across Britain (RAB), a 980-mile 9-day event from Lands End to John O’Groats. It’s a supported ride so the camping and food are covered. All you have to do is get through the day’s miles in good time. As I’ve written already, to get ready we’ve been trying out a variety of bike tech. This has helped, but it wasn’t until getting on a new bike that things really started coming together.
The 2020 Roubaix Expert is lighter and more aerodynamic than her previous bike. The theory is that with a stiffer chassis you get both a heightened feel of the road and better power transfer and handling. The aim is to improve rider confidence.
As a newcomer to all this, I was a little skeptical of things like electronic gears, hydraulic brakes, and adjustable dampening. But to cut a long story short, these things have combined to make a difference not only to speed but the overall feel of the bike. She came back from her first ride on it beaming. Not because she had gone faster, but because she’d enjoyed her ride more. “It just handles so much better. I feel more in control down hills and cornering. It just rolls differently.”
Through training over the last three months, the bike (and its related technology) has been put through its paces. Some aspects have taken longer to get to grips with than others, and some benefits are only really being seen now training miles are increasing in preparation for the RAB.
Some of the technology is visible and makes an obvious difference as soon as you are on the bike. The Future Shock 2.0 system sits in the front stem and has 9 settings for either comfort or performance. Even on its stiffest setting this absorbs large bumps and keeps the wheels on the road. Being able to control the dampening on hills is designed to offer more efficiency. But on the kind of ride the RAB is, when you will be at the end of yourself, being able to drop into a more comfortable setting could be the difference of completing a stage or not.
Then there are the Shimano Ultegra DI2 electronic gears. This controls your shifting to reduce the stress of getting in the right gear. Being a powered system though, this does mean its another thing to keep charged. On a ride like the RAB you have enough to sort every evening without needing to keep this charged too. But a little research showed that a single charge should be more than enough for the whole event. Like all good tech, the DI2 is something you don’t notice you are using, but to go back to riding without it is almost unthinkable.
Along with the visible tech, there are also less obvious enhancements here. The Roubaix frame aims to be aerodynamic while still keeping the weight down. It has what Specialized call FreeFoil tube shapes that do well in aero tests bit also ensures stiffness at the same time. In reading up on the design of the bike I was interested to see that the frame and dimensions are no longer aimed at a particular gender. “We’ve learned that there’s likely more difference between two male cyclists than between a male and female. This means that gender alone doesn’t provide nearly enough data to specialize. It means that separating bikes by male or female is arbitrary and outdated.”
The tires themselves have also benefitted from some technological advances. Although advice from other bikers suggest a narrow tire at high pressure offers most efficiency, the current thinking is that wider performance road tires run at lower pressures create less rolling resistance — as reflected in the new Roubaix. Although the wider tire is marginally heavier and also marginally less aerodynamic, the benefits are worth it. Also, it contributes to the ride experience in terms of compliance and grip.
This all adds up to a bike that is adding both performance and confidence to my wife as she prepares for her long ride. This kind of comfort may seem like a luxury, but it means that she can take on the sort of multi-day challenge that previously would have been unimaginable.
For those of us who look on as loved ones head off onto busy roads or up ridiculous climbs, it’s a significant comfort to know that the technology they are relying on is not only delivering some great performance but doing this in a way that keeps them confident and in control.
Source >>> Originally published at here