Products that "Fit"
The ultimate goal of any tri-specific fit is to keep you down in the aero bars for the entirety of your event (within reason, of course). With all the aero benefits provided by the latest frames, bars, wheels, and your awesome bike fit (!), however, any time you've saved can be thrown right out the window by continually coming out of the aero position while reaching for water bottles. Because of this problem, and how much athletes have to gain by integrating bikes and hydration, I believe many companies will focus on this area in the next few years. Lucky for you, there's no reason to wait, as there are a few companies tackling the problem already, and solving it quite well. Speedfil is probably the fastest growing and most innovative of them all; it's a product we've continually encouraged our clients to use, and use they have, to great success.
There's a tendency to think of companies who manufacture products for cycling and multisport as large and impersonal. For the most part, nothing could be further from the truth, as with just a few exceptions, most of these companies are quite small, and the products they produce are very personal to them. Innovation is typically born from the need of an inventive athlete, and initial designs are drawn on napkins at Starbucks. Speedfil is such a story, a product created by two guys, and a company still run by the same two guys. That's attractive to us because we, too, are a small operation trying to make a big difference for our athletes.
Simply put (because I don't feel like typing tonight) Speedfil is an aero waterbottle you attach to your bike where a typical water bottle cage would go. It has a nice long hose/straw that travels from the bottle up to you, and you can drink hands-free from it without leaving your aero position. The bottle has a large hole for quick re-fills at aid stations, but it won't allow the fluid to backflow, or splash, out - dump your chosen fluid into it as you roll by and off you go! No grabbing for bottle behind you seat, or fiddling back there trying to get your bottles back in their cage(s). It's easy to reach, the hose sits nicely in front of you, and it holds 40 oz of liquid. Having hydration so readily available to you also encourages you to drink, and helps to keep you from getting behind on your hydration needs during your events. Nice.
The aero advantage of the Speedfil doesn't stop at keeping you in the aero position. The design of the bottle, itself, is quite aerodynamic and, because it fills much of the lower triangle of your bike, it serves to make even the best tri bikes even more aerodynamic. It retails for about $100, which seems steep for a "water bottle" at first; however, when you consider that it helps keep you hydrated, makes your bike more aerodynamic, and keeps you in the aero position longer, you WILL be faster if you use it. When I think of how many products cost a great deal more for a mere fraction of the benefits, a hundred bucks begins to seem like a deal.
Cobb Cycling Saddles
Incredible Comfort at Last!
We've recently begun testing and demo'ing John Cobb's very popular saddle line, and the results have led to more customer satisfaction than any previous saddle. There are four saddles from the man best known for his work in bicycle aerodynamics and for fitting Lance Armstrong. They include: the V-Flow, V-Flow Plus, V-Flow Max, and the all-new HC-170. All are said to be performance oriented and offer different set-up options at reasonable prices, at least considering what many saddles are going for these days. We'll take a short look at each saddle, with longer reviews to come.
A couple of things to keep in mind that we found to be true of all three. First, they really allow your legs to pedal freely without hinderence. Meaning, your thighs don't rub the sides of this saddle like many others, yet they're still not so narrow that they don't support you. On the contrary, we've found these saddles very supportive. Second, they're kind of ugly (the HC-170 is good - nice and "racey" looking). Get over it, it's about performance, not looks. You're sitting on it, and no one sees it while you're riding.
The Original V-Flow
Mr. Cobb originally designed this saddle, or at least one very similar to it, for ISM - it is primarily a high performance road saddle, and it's pretty much geared for men. While designing his new saddles, John used a pressure sensor to detect exactly where the contact points between the saddle and rider where, especially while riding for performance. He discovered that more serious riders and racers place a different amount of pressure on their saddles, and in different areas, as well. The V-Flow is designed to work best for this type of rider - it's job is to provide not only comfort, but support.
Our initial impression of the V-Flow is very good. Proper pelvic rotation places more pressure towards the front of the perenial area, and the V-Flow works well to support the rider while also relieveing such pressure. It's also shaped to provide airflow from underneath - the goal being to keep the chamois of your shorts dry for less chafing.
Edit Nov. '09: In the six weeks or so that we've had the VFlow and loaned it out to customers, we can honestly say we've never had a saddle so universally praised. Yes, people would like it to look sexier, but then they ride it for 2, 3, 5 hours or more and have zero complaints!
Price is a very reasonable $129.00.
There are a couple of ways to describe the V-Flow Plus. This is a saddle suitable for both men and women, and it truly is a "plus" version of the V-Flow, with additional padding up front. The padding isn't simply for comfort, it's for assisting it's rider with proper positioning. The V-Flow Plus can be used for road or multi-sport.
This is a good saddle for the big guy simply because it provides more relief and support in the perenial area for the, uhem, "weighty" among us. That description shouldn't have women shying away from the Plus, because using it certainly doesn't imply your're overweight - it's just an added support structure for your more sensetive areas. Really, we mean that.
This saddle can be set-up in different ways, but one, in paticular, has really got our attention. John Cobb says that setting the V-Flow Plus with the nose slightly up actually relieves hand pressure on the bars without creating additional pressure in the "no-no zone." We were pretty skeptical at first, but it actually works! Slight changes in this saddle's set-up can make for big differences. We like it.
Not to over-simplify things, but as much as the V-Flow Plus is a V-Flow with additional padding, the V-Flow Max adds even more padding into the mix, and provides for a wider nose. This saddle is directled squarely at the time trial and multi-sport crowd, though road use is possible as well. Like the Plus, you can set this saddle slightly nose up on a road bike and, sure enough, it relieves pressure off your hands without creating more perenial pressure. On a TT or Tri bike, you set it up just a bit nose down, and the support of the saddle takes over from there to provide a comfortable position while in the aero bars.
For many, this saddle may feel too wide, though we believe getting over the initial impression of the width is necessary to fully understand how well this saddle works. The open-minded will gain from this saddle, while those who eschew it for it's width may simply miss out.
We have all three ready to demo. Give us a call and we'll set you up.
The newest saddle in the Cobb Cycling line, the HC-170 (HC- "Hard Core" & 170 - 170 grams) breaks away from the VFlow design quite a bit, but continues to get very positive reviews for comfort, which is odd considering it's small and narrow size. We'll chalk that up to Mr. Cobb's ever-growing knowledge of saddle design, and once we put some more mileson this bad-boy, we'll post a longer review. If we like it, we'll keep a demo around for everyone.