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Get Race Ready: Make the Most of Your Indoor Bike Training with These 3 Tips

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Get Race Ready: Make the Most of Your Indoor Bike Training with These 3 Tips

I like to consider myself a cycling purist. What do I mean by that? Well, I use it in the sense that I would much prefer to ride outdoors than indoors. This is in contrast to Trevor, who prefers to ride outside under very special circumstances, like, well, races.

While this sounds great, in practice, the majority of my bike training is done indoors - even in the summer.

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The Traveling Triathlete: Scicon Aerocomfort Triathlon Bike Travel Bag Review

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The Traveling Triathlete: Scicon Aerocomfort Triathlon Bike Travel Bag Review

Traveling with a bike can be incredibly stressful. I mean, it is no secret that I love my bike. It is my baby, likely to be my only ever. Imagining it being tossed around by careless airport luggage handlers actually sends shivers down my spine. In part one of my travelling triathlete gear review, I looked at a great bag to ensure your gear arrives safely and soundly to wherever you may be heading - the Ogio 9.0 Duffel.

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My Argon 18 E117 TRI - Introducing Intrepid

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My Argon 18 E117 TRI - Introducing Intrepid

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It’s a boy!! And we shall call him ............. INTREPID

I’ve been waiting for over 3 weeks to FINALLY write this post!  In a previous post, I outlined some things I was looking for in a new bike. Take a look there to see how I came to this decision.

Well …… the time has finally come to introduce to you my 2016 Argon 18 E117 TRI and he is one sexy sexy beast!.

https://youtu.be/rNeMKGmn0Hg

The obvious first question is going to be why the name Intrepid. I have for the most part in this blog been able to hide the fact that I am by all definitions a nerd. That stops here.

I have named my bike Intrepid after the Canadian/British solider and spymaster Sir William Samuel Stephenson. For those of you who don’t know “Little Bill”, he was a British intelligence agent during the Second World War and his code name was Interpid.  Now I’m not going to get into how much of a badass “Little Bill” was, but as an example of his stature, Stephenson was reportedly one of the few persons in the entire western hemisphere authorized to view raw transcripts of German Enigma ciphers, deciphered at Britain’s Bletchley Park facility. A man that Ian Fleming once wrote, “James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy. The real thing is … William Stephenson.

Needless to say, I’m hoping Intrepid and I can carry some of that masterspy stealth into a few races this year.

The Argon 18 E117 TRI

I’ve had the opportunity to ride the Argon 18 E117 outdoors twice and my initial impressions are great: Intrepid is going to FLY! The bike handles great, at all speeds. I found it very responsive, and it so far doesn't feel too twitchy or unstable – even in a significant head wind.

I was also very pleased with how the bike took on a very strong head wind. Tucking down into aero made a very noticeable difference versus riding upright. When compared to my traditional road bike, even when in the drop bars, I felt faster and way more comfortable.

While only my initial thoughts, I will provide some further insight as I get more KMs put on it, I’m very pleased with the purchase and feel I made the right call.

So why did I choose this bike:

  • Fit - The moment I sat on this bike, it felt good. Really good. My body position immediately felt comfortable, like I could hunker down on the thing for hours and just pedal away in complete peace.
  • Adjustability - The bike has a lot of adjustability options. From the position of the seat, to the aero bars, this bike has a ton of options to get you in the right position to maximize your power output, efficiency, and set you up for the following run.
  • Integration – in the right places - I huge reason I chose this over the FELT IA was the lack of complicated hardware and ease at which I can remove the cockpit and wheels for travel. I’m going to be travelling a lot for my events and this turned out to be a big deal for me in the end. I’ve already take apart and put the bike together in a mock travel exercise with the slightest of ease. No special bag require. No complicated instructions.
  • It was the right price with the right components: comparatively I felt the bike was a great price point. It was more cost-advantaged than other bikes that I felt were comparable, which left me more room in the budget to put towards wheels, a helmet and power meter. It also had the groupset I was looking for so, really it hit on all levels and at the right price.
  • And not to be ignored – it looks fantastic and it is Canadian. I wouldn’t label myself a patriot but something feels good about riding on good old Canadian ingenuity.

What's a post without some up close baby pictures:

The tech card for the bike can be found here.  I'll touch on the high level items.

First off, the groupset.  When Argon says this groupset is ultegra, they aren't kidding. Both the crank and the cassette proudly wear the Ultegra name.  It looks sharp and shifts incredibly smoothly. This particular set is 52/36 11 speed chainset.

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The breaks however are TRP, Argon's proprietary integrated braking system. As you can see, they flow nicely with the rest of the frame and the front brake is nicely tucked behind the fork creating a seamless front-end. The brakes are easy to adjust with 2mm allen screws controlling the tension on each side. The integration provides no hiccups or difficulty at all in accessibility.

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The stem is Argon's Press Fit 3D System. It provides a lot of positioning flexibility by offering 3 Headtube heights, giving many options for handlebar height, including front end rigidity increase of +5% at 15MM and +11% at 25MM versus standard spacers. The handle bars are Team Vision and the Aero Bars are T3+ Profile Design. All and all giving the front end of this bike a nice look and extreme comfort.

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Other interesting notes include:

  • The bike is UCI Approved.
  • It came with Shimano R5 tires. Which will be replaced, but are as good a training wheel as any.
  • Travel friendly - easy to remove cockpit and wheels.
  • Carbon frame and seat-post
  • Aerodynamic testing making it as aero as the E118 NEXT in true wind conditions

All and all it stacks up as a great looking bike and in my opinion excellent value for your money.  Only a matter of time to see if it performs as well as advertised.

What is next?

The bike as pictured is the factory set up. I’ve put on my Ultegra pedals and ISM seat, but everything else came as is.

I’m currently exploring the following items to equip the bike for race day and when purchases have been made will make the corresponding updates:

  • Wheels
    • Leading contender – FLO 60 Carbon Clincher (Front), FLO 90 Carbon Clincher (Rear)
  • Power meter
    • Favero bePRO Power Meter
  • Hydration/Storage solutions.
    • Profile - Design FC Hydration System
    • Profile - Design RM1 or Aqua Rack

Final Thoughts

I've been struggling a little with including these final thoughts or not. Buying a new bike is an exciting time for a cyclist. It is an important decision and one that we take very seriously. It should be a good experience and should leave one feeling excited and happy.

Now, I've decided not to name names or single out where I bought my bike, other than by saying I bought it from a reputable, tri-specific bike shop in Calgary. There aren't many and people can ask me personally if they want to know. What I will say is the service and experience I received took a little enjoyment out of the entire process.

Here is a summary of the customer services that left me wanting:

  • Was told the bike would arrive in 3-5 days.  It took 15 business days.
  • Never once received a phone call updating me on the status of my bike. The only way I got information was by calling the shop and even then it was like pulling teeth.
  • Even once the bike had arrived, I still only found out through my persistent calling
  • When I picked up my bike, I was basically given the bike and shown the door.
  • I received no offer to have it fit - if I wanted that I had to pay extra for basically an eye-ball fit, but a fit nonetheless.

Now, I'm not expecting the princess treatment here, but in every other shop I've purchased a bike from (much less expensive bikes) I was at least given a cursory bike fit by a somewhat knowledgeable professional. At the minimum I was given customer service on par with a shop that wanted repeat customers or cared about their reputation and that of the bikes they sold. Based on my experience, I don't think it is an unreasonable expectation to have your bike fit for you when spending thousands of dollars.

I'm likely to put another $3000-$4000 into this bike. Wheels, hydration and storage, power meter, etc.  Not a single penny of that will go to this shop. Not because of the products they offer, but because of the service I received being sub-par at best.

I'm happy with my purchase and with my new bike. The experience of getting here leaves much to be desired.

Some words of advice, when making your purchase from a bike shop don't take their word for granted. Ask questions, be more inquisitive then myself on some of the issues I mentioned above and hopefully you can have a more positive experience.

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The Search for Mrs. Right: Triathlon Bike Buying Considerations

Remember being a kid and your parents would take you into a candy store and say you could pick out one thing, or spend $5.00? Your eyes got huge. Mouth started to drool. Heart started to pound out of control. Ya you do! Well that's how I feel right now as I search for a new bike! I currently ride a 2013 FELT Z5. Make no mistake, I absolutely love this bike. It was my second road bike ever and the bike I rode in my first triathlon, the IRONMAN 70.3 in Victoria. Buuuuuttttttttt…….as any bike lover will know, you’re always looking for that next bike. This is exactly where I find myself.

This isn’t a post on whether you need a triathlon-specific bike or the pros and cons of a road bike vs a triathlon bike. Nope. Those exist elsewhere. It is about my decision process to purchase a new bike to help me meet my specific training and event goals. For me the decision has been made.  I will keep my FELT Z5 for rides that are more hilly or curvy. Grand Fondo’s, Charity rides, etc.

My next bike is going to triathlon specific, and this is why:

  • Frame Geometry: the frame geometry on a tri bike is designed to maximize rider energy. While the ride is the longest event by distance, it is still only one of three events. The frame geometry helps conserve those legs for you know, that long-ass run that is coming up.  How does it do this? One significant way is with a steeper seat tube angle (meaning the seat tube is closer to vertical than a road bike).  This puts you in a more forward position, with open hips over the crankset, creating a different distribution of work to muscle groups (more hamstring & glute, less quad) and setting you up better to transition to the run.
  • Fingertip Shifting: I’m comfortable in aero. I actually prefer riding long distances in this position. Being able to shift in the aero position with shifters at the end of the aerobars allows you to stay in the aero position longer, meaning less movement and increased aerodynamics over longer periods.
  • Aero Maximization: I like to go fast! Triathlon specific bikes are designed to maximizing aerodynamics and go fast (see above)! Enough said. Or so I hope!! There is a litany of research out there, but it is safe to say, in most cases an aero triathlon specific bike is going to get the rider in comfortable and aerodynamic position, increasing efficiency, aerodynamic benefits and speed. Especially compared to my current bike.
  • They Look Sexy as %$&#!

With what I’m trying to accomplish, I’ll see benefits of switching to any triathlon bike. That might not be the case for everyone. Given your goals - maybe a tri it triathlon, or your first IRONMAN 70.3 - a road bike with some clip on aerobars might be the best bang for your buck. Take a minute and assess your goals, then find a bike to best help you achieve them. It is an important decision, don’t take it lightly.

That was the easy part. There is so much to consider when purchasing a bike - brand, fit, gear set, wheels, shoes, helmet, saddle, the litany of accessories hydration, storage, power meters.  The list goes on and on. Below are my take on a few of the bike and bike considerations I’m thinking about when making my new purchase (this list is not exhaustive, just a few of the more important elements):

Fit, Fit, Fit

It goes without saying that bike fit is my number one criteria. If the bike doesn’t fit you, all the benefits and expensive components aren’t really going to matter. It sounds funny, but in much the way some brands of “straight cut” jeans get hung up on my calves and some don’t; not all bikes will provide the comfortable fit you're looking for. Feel is important. Take the time to find the bike that "feels" right for you.

It goes without saying that any bike you buy should include a professional bike fit. Some places will measure you before you buy your bike and match brands to you based on a number of factors some will do it after the fact. MAKE SURE YOU DO THIS. The extra money, if you have to spend it, is worth it and your body will love you for it.

Mechanical vs. Electronic Shifting

So much has been written about mechanical vs. electronic shifting. I see the benefits of electronic shifting for sure. Number one being the ability to have shifters on your drop bars - a definite advantage for climbing or coming out of corners. There are arguments to be made for shifting efficiency and quality, reliability and upgradability all being better with electronic shifting. For me, I’m sticking with mechanical for three main reasons:

  • Maintenance: from everything I’ve read, mechanical problems are easier to diagnose and fix. No need for a trained technician or bike shop to troubleshoot electronic issues. Less likely to have issues finding parts and the like. Plus, I like getting my hands dirty and learning about my bike. Be one with your bike.
  • Cost: While costs have come down substantially, a $1000-$1500 price difference is not inconsequential. I’m going to take that money and invest in a good set of wheels. I think my benefits will be far greater.
  • Battery: One less thing to remember to charge. Enough said. I realize this is more in my head and quantitatively not supported, but I am who I am.

Groupsets (Crankset, Cassette, Shift Levers, Chain and Brake Calipers)

Groupsets also come in many shapes and sizes. I currently ride Shimano 105 on my FELT. Good groupset, but i’m definitely looking to upgrade. For me personally, I’m a Shimano fan.  They’ve been around a long time and make good products that have served me well in the past. While there are other good group sets out there - SRAM, Campagnolo - I'll be sticking to Shimano.

The decision for me comes down to Ultegra or Dura-Ace.  I’m going to keep it short here: the winner is Ultegra. The performance difference between the two seems to be fairly negligible (I'm sure there are dissenters out there). I’ve rode bikes with both sets and honestly I couldn’t tell the difference. Where you will see the difference is in price $$$ and weight. And the less than one lbs weight savings is not worth the extra $$$ to upgrade to Dura-Ace, in my humble opinion.

Travel: The Downside of Integration

The move in super bikes has been to complete integration. While this makes the bikes look super sexy and improves aerodynamics, it can make travelling a headache and/or lead to more $$$ out of your pocket investing in very specific travel bags. Why? The majority of travel bags require you to deconstruct your handlebar assembly. Looking at bikes like the FELT IA, this isn’t very easy and can be time consuming.  The easy solution is to purchase a travel bag that doesn’t require to be disassembled. They exist. But there expensive. I don’t own a travel bag. Renting one that doesn’t require the bike to be disassembled is not an option and I’d prefer to invest the money elsewhere in my ride at this time. It’s a personal choice. Not a deal breaker per se, but not insignificant either.

Wheels

Wheels will undoubtedly save you some seconds. What they won’t do is save you $$$$$$. I will definitely be looking at including a set of wheels in my bike purchase. But I think that deserves a separate post. The issue is wheel sets are not cheap. So many decisions. So many options. So few dollars .......

Helmet

In terms of aerodynamic gains, a good helmet is pound for pound the best investment you can make. Those “beautiful” tear drop helmets you see the pros wear significantly improve aerodynamics and cut drag. Road helmets are built for cooling (and protection obviously). I plan on embracing the silliness of the aero helmet and shed a few seconds here and there. As an example, this little test found a savings of 3:52 when riding in the lower position with an aero helmet over a road helmet over the course of an Ironman Leg. Start adding up those minutes and it makes a difference.

Power Meter

This year was my introduction to training using power-based training. It has changed my life completely. I will be looking at equipping my bike with some sort of power meter. Given the movement in this segment of the bike industry, it will likely deserve a dedicated post. But rest assured, it is an upcoming purchase.

So, after months and months of reading and research, you’ve got a very quick summary as to my thought process for my new bike.

Here is the fun part: I’ve recently bought a new bike!!!!!!! Given that I have to wait a few more days until I get it, I’m also going to make you wait a few more days before I do a reveal post.

I will give you a hint. It came down to the FELT IA14 and the Argon 18 E117 Tri ………….

Check back soon!

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What We Ride

The most talked about piece of equipment for any cyclist or triathlete alike ... the Bike. "What kind of kind of bike do you ride?" is by far the most common question I get from people. So, here you go. Our rides:

Brandon's Bike

My current bike is the 2013 FELT Z5. The bike is super light and speedy, weighing in at 18.26lbs (8.30kg). Outfitted with a UHC Performance MMC Carbon Fiber frame w/ 3KP weave it rides smooth and handles nicely. The drivetrain is Shimano Tiagra STI, braze-on front derailleur, rear derailleur, FSA Omega BB30 50/34T crankset, 10-speed chain,12-32T cassette. I ride the the Mavic CXP 22 / Felt Road wheels that came with it.

At the time a great entry level carbon frame bike for the price, a purchase I will never regret. I have made a few alterations to my Felt Z5; the result of a bike fit I had done in 2015.  I added a longer stem and wider handlebars.  This greatly increased the comfort of the bike, especially on longer rides.

I’m currently looking to add a tri bike to my arsenal (I love my FELT, I will not get rid of it), but that requires a dedicated post coming coon.

Trevor's Bike

I ride a 2013 Masi Premiare PC3 XL with Shimano 105 groupo.  It’s an endurance road bike, and it’s massive because, well, I’m massive (apparently).  It’s so big that at the Ironman Victoria a lady actually said to me (herself standing beside her $5000 Time Trial machine) “whoa, way to cyclecross it out”.  i.e. “That has no business being here but good on ya, sport.”

I bought it from a local shop for a steal because they literally said “this bike has been sitting here because we haven’t had anyone that can fit it”.  Well I fit it, and I love it.  It gives me that “tingle behind my penis” feeling every time I see it.  I’ve supped her up with some Profile Design clip-on aero bars to make me cool, and because for some reason I am most comfortable in aero, which is weird in triathlon world.  

That said, it’s no time trial weapon.  So once my FTP increases to something around the average 10 year old child’s - yes, I am that poor a cyclist - and I don’t need the 32 tooth granny gear to get up the smallest incline, I’ll be looking at adding another.  I won’t be “replacing” the Masi, I will keep and continue to love this bike.  I’ll just get her a younger, fitter, faster sister.  I mean that’s what all men really want, right?

Check out our other components here with our pedals and shoes and our saddles.

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