Some Great Little Known Cycling Products

Note: This article originally appeared in Triathlete Magazine.

Dear Tech Support,

Are there any products or services that most athletes could benefit from, but that many people don’t use simply because they are not familiar with them?

Fran, via email

Dear Fran,

This is a great question.  Big and small, here are some things that are well worth knowing about.  You can find (or order) these products and services through a good dealer.

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

Stan’s NoTubes kits and valves for Tubeless Road: Convert most any standard clincher road wheel to tubeless tire technology. www.nottubes.com

Cushy’s Replacement Aerobar Arm Pads: CeeGees makes high density replacement arm pads for just about every aerobar known.  Compared to most stock arm pads, the CeeGee’s “Cushy’s” pads last longer and support better.  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.  www.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 worth checking out too.   www.parleecycles.com

Wide Ratio 10 and 11 speed Cassettes: A couple of years ago, SRAM started offering very 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.  www.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 (or better) than a Campagnolo cassette make a conversion cassette even more attractive.  www.wheelsmfg.com

SMP and ISM Adamo Saddles: While there is not a saddle that works for everyone, these relief zone based saddles have helped a number of riders resolve soft tissue related saddle issues.  www.ismseat.com and www.albabici.com

Ceramic (Hybrid) Bearings: If they didn’t work better, 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 over a high quality steel bearing.  Get a Grade 3 bearing or better.

Hydrotail Carbon Rear Bottle Carrier: While most other bicycle components were using advanced designs and materials years ago, the rear mounted bottle carrier seemed to be in neutral – maintaining the same designs available in the 1990’s.  Then, Beaker Concepts came out with the carbon Hydrotail.  The Hydrotail was significantly lighter than previous options and led not only to the development of other carbon carriers, but also the redevelopment of better designed aluminum carriers as well.  Today, both Hydrotail and X-Lab make carbon and alloy rear carriers that work better over a wider array of applications (including bike brand specific carriers), while being lighter and more functional than ever.  www.beakerconcepts.com and www.xlab-usa.com

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.  www.tufonorthamerica.com/accessories.php

SwissStop Brake Pads: Does which 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.   www.swissstop.ch

Trigger Point Technologies Massage Kits: Almost every athlete has fought tight muscle adhesions or an injury and knows how much it can limit your 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 like Active Release Treatment.  www.tptherapy.com

SRAM Rival, Force and Red Components: Ergonomic, mechanically simple, lightweight, well-priced, offering gearing ranges many riders have been asking for, and proven – SRAM went from nothing in the road world to major market player in under two years.  Campagnolo and Shimano have been forced to take a close look at the designs of their fine components because of SRAM and the performance of bicycle componentry as a whole has benefited because of it.  www.sram.com

Cycling Footbeds: Foot stability and support is key to maximizing power transfer and minimizing fatigue, yet the majority of riders still ride their cycling shoes without adequate support for their needs.  A custom cycling footbed is the most comprehensive solution, while over-the-counter options like what SuperFeet, Specialized and Aline offer improvements over factory insoles for some riders.

“Fit First” Bike Buying: The vast majority of bikes bought 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 in front of the needs of the rider.  There is a better way.  “Fit First” bike selection puts the rider (you) first and foremost.  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.  Search out and find a dealer/fitter that works this way.  Don’t hesitate to travel to work with them as your biggest equipment purchase is too important to be left up to chance.  www.masterbikefitters.com

Motion Capture Fitting Technology: Dartfish, Retül and other companies make technology that can provide more data with greater accuracy than ever before to bicycle fitting.  However, realize that great technology doesn’t make a great bicycle fit.  A hospital with all the best equipment is not much good without having 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 are a limited number of qualified providers offering true 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 bike and 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

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