While a bicycle has never ceased to look like a bicycle, the technology behind the bike has changed dramatically since Lennard Zinn became Tech Editor at a small magazine called VeloNews, 40 years ago.
Some changes, such as frame material and tube shape, have changed noticeably while other changes are far more subtle but equally as important, like the ergonomic design of saddles.
What’s important is that many of these changes weren’t about making the bike faster.
Some of the most critical innovations in cycling gear were about:
- opening up new terrain such as riding in snow on fat tire bikes
- making the bike more comfortable
- and making it easier to use, such as with electronic shifting.
We all like to go fast, but manufacturers understand that we care even more about enjoying being able to sit on that sleek contraption.
There is perhaps no one who has been more involved in the evolution of bike technology since the early 1980s than Lennard Zinn. He was there with Gary Fisher helping to build the first mountain bikes. Since then Lennard has been there testing, advising and reporting on every new technology to hit the bike shop.
In this episode, Lennard takes us through the biggest innovations he’s seen in his time. Some may surprise you. Many of the biggest innovations may have seemed minor at the time, but they opened up new ways of doing things that ultimately revolutionized the industry.
Along with Lennard, we hear from physiologist and avid racer Dr. Stephen Cheung, and experienced coach Steve Neal and their thoughts on the big innovations they have seen during their times in the sport.
So, air up your tubeless tires, charge your electronic shifting, click into your clipless pedals, and let’s make you fast!
Rob Pickels 00:04
Hello and welcome to Fast talk your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m your host, Rob Nichols here with Leonard Zinn and Trevor Connor. While a bicycle has never ceased to look like a bicycle, the technology behind the bike has changed dramatically since Leonard’s in became tech editor at a small magazine called VeloNews 40 years ago, some changes such as frame material and tube shape have changed noticeably, while other changes are far more subtle, but equally as important, such as the ergonomic design of saddles. What’s important is that many of these changes weren’t about making the bike faster. Some of the biggest innovations were about opening up new terrains such as riding in snow on fat tire bikes, making the bike more comfortable, and also making it easier to use such as with electronic shifting. We all like to go fast, but manufacturers understand that we care even more about enjoying being able to sit on that sleek contraption. There is perhaps no one who has been more involved in the evolution of bike technology since the early 1980s than Leonard’s in, he was there with Gary Fisher helping to build the first mountain bikes. Since then, Leonard has been there testing, advising and reporting on every new technology to hit the bike shop. Today, Leonard takes us through the biggest innovations he’s seen in his time, and some may surprise you. Many of the biggest innovations have seem minor at the time, but opened up new ways of doing things that ultimately revolutionize the industry. Along with Leonard we hear from physiologist and avid racer, Dr. Steven Chung, and experienced coach Steve Neal, and their thoughts on the biggest innovations they’ve seen during their time in the sport. So, Arup, your tubeless tires, charge your electronic shifting clip in your clipless pedals and let’s make you fast.
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Trevor Connor 03:03
Well, Leonard, welcome back to the show. It’s always a pleasure to have you join us.
Lennard Zinn 03:07
Thank you, Trevor.
Trevor Connor 03:08
This is always particularly interesting for me because we talk technology with you. And as you know, I am the ultimate retro grouch. Today we’re talking about 40 years of innovations. And I think if I brought my bike and we go, Well, none of that applies to you.
Rob Pickels 03:23
Well, no, they would all have innovations is just from 40 years ago. That’s fair. Exactly. But not sure that’s true actually do have.
Trevor Connor 03:31
So this is 40 years I have I’m off by I think a year in 1983 Bianchi nice, but it was a bottom of the line Bianca 1983. So I’m not sure what you would call it today.
Rob Pickels 03:44
Your bike right now I think has cantilever brakes on it if I remember right bike 11 today.
Trevor Connor 03:49
Yeah, I think so. Sure does. Well, I’ve done I haven’t gotten to dyspraxia. Why would I do that? That’s only what 10 years old.
Rob Pickels 03:55
Because you don’t like improving. I will say I was just down
Trevor Connor 03:59
in Florida and that 1983 Bianchi I keep it down there at my grandparents place. And I was out for a ride and I forgot that I don’t keep pedals on that bike. So I took my shoes down, I had no pedals nowhere in the area sold Speedplay pedals. So I went out for a ride on this 1983 Bianchi with flat pedals and ran into a group and tried riding with them. And he could see all of them were looking at like I don’t want to be beside this guy. But that brings us to our theme. And Leonard. I couldn’t think of a better person to talk to about this because we’re going to look at what were the big innovations of the last 40 years in bicycle technology to get us where we’re at and I saying we couldn’t have a better person because you are a big part of this history. I mean, just to name a few things. I mean, you are there with Gary Fisher when he was building the first mountain bike something else I didn’t know about you was that you have been at VeloNews longer than you anybody that I knew, but Velo press was set up, just to publish your book. So you were the first book. Yep, that’s right. And so even shares that story and how you came up with the title of the book. And what happened there?
Lennard Zinn 05:15
Oh, well, that was kind of funny. You know, I’ve been writing for Velen is for quite a while at that point. This was now while I wrote the first edition of Zen and the Art of mountain bike maintenance in 1995. And my wife was a teacher at the time. And this was before Barnes and Noble and before Amazon. And so teachers at our school anyway, tended to buy books at a place called discount books in Boulder, and every semester, so she’d go in to get books for her classroom and, and the guy who owned discount books, was a guy I went to high school with in Los Alamos, New Mexico. And he was also a bike nut, and he read all my articles and VeloNews. And so my wife would come in there, and he would say, your husband needs to write a book, and he needs to call it Zen and the Art of mountain bike maintenance. And she would come home and tell me that and I’d chuckle and then just go on with life. And then six months later, you know, same story, until one time she went in there. And he had made up a dummy cover of Zen and the Art of mountain bike maintenance by Leonard Zinn. And she brought it home to me, and somehow just the light went off, like I could do that. So I wrote this mountain bike maintenance book. And then Felix McGowan, who owned VeloNews, he’s the guy also, I was on the same cycling team with him in Colorado Springs years before and he had wanted to be in publishing his dad had written some books about the Tour de France and stuff and, and he’d wanted to publish books. And so that was just the opportunity. Felix took it to start Velo press to produce Zen and the Art of mountain bike maintenance. And then since then, it’s produced gazillions of other books, all of Joe Freels books and stuff like that. So yeah, it’s been good. And the books you know, Zen and the Art of mountain bike maintenance Zen in the art of road bike maintenance, have been phenomenally successful way more than I could have ever dreamed of, and allowed me to put my daughters through expensive liberal arts college and everything. And without that suggestion from, from that guy might not have happened
Trevor Connor 07:25
in a totally different story. So what year was that? That it was published?
Lennard Zinn 07:28
So the first copyright was 1996? Yeah, it’s now six editions since then, and five editions in the art of road bike maintenance.
Rob Pickels 07:38
I’m trying to think about what edition I have only to look that up real quick. So I think I was an early adopter Leonard of your book,
Lennard Zinn 07:46
if it had a picture of me on the cover. That was been the first one. That’s the only one. All the others had a picture of a bike on the cover.
Trevor Connor 07:54
I wish I had had that bike earlier. So I still remember my friend and I, in elementary school, tried to change our first flat tire. And we found this little instructions on how to do it. And I mean, you didn’t have tire levers back then. Yeah, screwdriver. So it told us to use a screwdriver and being elementary school kids and not having a clue. We thought what we had to do was put the tire on the wheel, and then use the screwdriver to push the two
Lennard Zinn 08:22
Trevor Connor 08:25
So we put about 100 holes in this too by the time we got it actually in there. Really? Why one there go into this? Oh my god.
Lennard Zinn 08:34
That’s good story. Yeah.
Rob Pickels 08:36
So you have come a long way.
Trevor Connor 08:37
Yeah, very slightly. My method is slightly better now. That’s so good. So we have a lot of innovations that we want to discuss with you. So let’s dive into this. And let’s start with what have been some of the big innovations in bike technology itself?
Lennard Zinn 08:56
Yeah, well, you know, when I first started building bikes, I was working for Tom Ritchie building the Ricci mountain bikes when he was in partnership with Gary Fisher. And Gary Fisher is sort of guy who had the mountain bike name. He had a bike shop called mountain bikes in San Anselmo, California. And, you know, I been a bike racer at the time, I was non national cycling team, but I had an injury and I was just trying to get away from it all and moved to California and was doing that with him and just really got into it. And I had never thought about mountain bikes as a thing. And this was a whole revelation being able to ride. I mean, at the time, we were just riding anywhere. We did not have any concerns about trail access, or anything like that we’d ride anywhere we felt like and it was really kind of a wonderful time. But the thing that the mountain bike really opened up, I think was the ability not only to innovate in terms of time her size and handlebar shape and dimensions and things like that, and angles of the bike. But the big thing was that you were no longer constrained to a lug construction. Up until that point, basically, all decent quality bikes had been made with lugs, which are like little fittings like you’d have for copper tubing for plumbing, that, you know, they, they only come in certain angles, and they only come at the time, in one set of diameters, the top tube was one inch diameter, the seat tube and down tube or one and an eighth inch diameter. And that was it. And then you got the the angles were established at the bottom bracket shell established not only the angle between the down tube and seat two, but also the angle between the seat tube and the chainstays. So you couldn’t really vary the bottom bracket height very much due to that. And the seat tube angle had to be pretty much between 72 and 74 degrees. And same with the head angle. And that was it, you just couldn’t use different diameter tubes and different angles. And so the mountain bike, you know, Tom Ritchie, when I was there, we were making Phillip braised mountain bikes, which is where you know, you basically use brass as the adhesive that holds all these tubes together. And because of that, the big thick brass joint allowed you to have plenty of strength of the joint without having a lug to support it. So now it opened up the possibility for all different sizes, all different diameters of tubes and different shapes of tubes, and different angles that the tubes met each other. And this was, of course critical for a mountain bike because already you had some things that were very weird like a really high bottom bracket because, you know, you didn’t want to clip your pedal on stumps and rocks. And at the time that top tubes were level, but the mountain bike over time morphed sort of in the direction of what BMX bikes had looked like. And BMX bikes were always welded. And those were, you know, it’s just a completely different part of cycling. The people that built those didn’t tend to interact with the people that built rode bikes. And this sort of created this kind of flux between all these things and and then that brought in the sloping top tube which BMX bikes had had forever. But it made a big difference for mountain bikes to allow stand over clearance over the bike when you jumped off on bumpy surfaces. And now of course, it’s all rode bikes essentially have sloping top tubes as well. And it’s quite advantageous for those reducing the dimension of the frame and making it lighter and stiffer. And yeah, so the the mountain bike was a big innovation and also, then the next step beyond the Phillip braising of the mountain bikes was then TIG welding, just like, just like the BMX bikes had been doing and then TIG welding. Now when you have TIG welded steel bikes, then that opened the possibility for TIG welded aluminum bikes and TIG welded titanium bikes, and then the whole, the whole revolution in different materials came about as well.
Trevor Connor 13:13
So I never really knew that. I mean, when we talked about innovations in the last 40 years, certainly mountain bikes, its ability to open up terrain and a whole new type of riding is pretty obvious. But you’re saying it also kind of revolutionized how you built bikes. Yeah,
Lennard Zinn 13:28
it allowed designers much more freedom to do different things, it would be impossible to have the bikes we have now the carbon, you know, from the superlight carbon bikes with sloping top tubes and where all the tubes kind of are all one monocoque piece to on the other end, gravity driven mountain bikes downhill bikes that have huge full suspension systems and stuff like that all of that wouldn’t have been possible where we were before with lug construction.
Rob Pickels 14:00
Yeah, I thought that that was interesting. I definitely didn’t see that. And, you know, Leonard, when you had sent over your original sort of outline and thought list and you made that connection, it sort of blew my mind, you know, but I do have to wonder, you know, Trevor, how many of your bikes actually have a sloping talk to you?
Trevor Connor 14:17
Hey, my newest bike is from the last 20 years. I may or may not have a sloping top two cars, I might have been really Surly and found the one new bike that still has a flat tire right?
Rob Pickels 14:30
Trevor Connor 14:31
changes and frame design weren’t the only innovations that mountain bikes brought us Coach Steve Neil talks with us about the biggest innovations he’s seen all of which come out of the mountain bike world.
Steve Neal 14:42
tubeless tires slash tire pressure, dropper post and disc brakes. So like this breaks for sure I you know, I remember wearing brake pads during a mighty race like so you’d start a race with fresh pads, and then you’d finish with here Metal brakes rubbing on your rim. And so we seem to manage to get through back then. But I do sometimes wonder how so I think the disc brakes have made for some great performance a lot less maintenance. Yeah, this brakes a big, big, big change the tire pressure thing. I was using low pressure long time ago, big heavy tubes. So you can run low pressure, but it really even the weight of those tubes really changed our mountain bikes could sort of perform and to see it, you know, all these years later, with pretty much every cycling discipline using some form of tubeless tire and lower pressure changes and stuff that that’s been really, really cool. And droppers, I think are good for everyone, like the disc brakes, good for everyone, whether you’re beginning or super advanced, because that dropper allows, I think a lot of people think of just going down something steeper with more confidence. But I truly believe that dropper is a huge, huge advantage cornering on a mountain bike and I and I’m not an advanced Road Rider racer, but I think you know, cornering is definitely a place where you really notice that dropper because you can angulate the bike more, and it just flows better. And so those would be my three things.
Trevor Connor 16:16
So what are some other in? I mean, that’s a big one. That’s huge. And I never realized that mountain biking had that sort of impact. But obviously, there’s been some other inventions and frame and bike design sense. What are some other big ones that you feel have really revolutionized the cycling industry?
Lennard Zinn 16:33
Well, the fat bike, which is sort of an extension of the mountain bike opened up terrain and times of the year when you could ride and parts of the world where you could ride that also weren’t possible before. And that then required, a whole bunch of other innovations with rim widths, all of a sudden became very fluid, because you had to have these really, really wide rims, and and then people started questioning the the width of the rims that they were using on all their other bikes too. And that opened up a bunch of different tire widths and rim widths and, and rim construction, you go back to now that you know, these fat bike rims with single wall construction, which was something that had been abandoned long ago now is back and people patenting single wall construction and things like that, it’s pretty wild, because that’s how they did it back in the 20s with the other 20s. Yeah, and the fat bike also brought a new understanding of what was required with tubeless tires. Because on a fat bike, you’re running at really, really low pressures, like four psi or lower to PSI in some conditions maybe. But that definitely improves the grip on the snow and leaves a flat track and doesn’t irritate the cross country skiers that are using the same trail and things like that. But it’s very hard not to burp air out of a tire that’s running that low. If you come into a corner hard, with only two psi in it, or four psi in it, it’s pretty easy to dislodge the bead momentarily and then to burp some air out. And that’s already not a wonderful thing on a mountain bike. But when you’re riding in like 20 below and you know, in some parts of the world where in wintertime when you’d be riding on a fat bike, it’s actually dark because it’s so far north and and it’s just not any fun to deal with a tire problems at 20 below in the dark. So that then required some innovation with the tubeless tires as well of ways to ensure that the tire couldn’t burp air. And so it brought in kind of two innovations one that we see widely, which is like a, an insert, that’s like a foam insert that keeps the keeps the bead separated. And then another one is like just a strip of flat latex that goes on to the rim first and then the tire mounts on it. And then when the sealant gets on there to this instance, the sealant has latex in it and the tire is latex in it and the strip of flat rubber that’s hanging over the edge of the rim is latex also at all bonds together and sort of makes a tubular tire so the tire can move around all over the place but no air is going to come out of it. And then the the fat bike also then started opening up the dimensions of the just so that the chain wouldn’t hit the tire you had to have your cranks much further apart. And you had to have the rear end of the bike much wider and the front end of the bike much wider and so that then kind of flowed back toward mountain bikes, some that that then you get what’s called Boost spacing with a mountain bike which is has improved things with a mountain bike where the width of the rear end is wider and the and the width of the cranks are a little bit wider. as well, and then it allows you to use bigger tires and more suspension options and things like that as well. So
Trevor Connor 20:06
certainly notice those changes and how much variance you’re allowed now. So this weekend we just had boulder Bay. Yes. Which for any of our listeners is possibly now the oldest continuous running race in the country at this point. This was 40 years, right? It’s 30 years 30 year anniversary. They’re making a big deal of it at this race. But I remember the first time I did it,
Lennard Zinn 20:28
Durango Silverton is older way older. That’s fair. Yes. Okay.
Trevor Connor 20:33
But the first time I did boulder Ruby, I think was 2011. And then everybody was on road bikes, everybody was on 23. C tires. And he just ran through the dirt.
Rob Pickels 20:44
Yeah, at 100 and got 120 psi, a lot of flat tires.
Trevor Connor 20:48
I noticed racing at this weekend, the variance. I mean, everybody’s still on road bikes, because it’s just too darn fast to race to be on something too dirt aggressive. But it was interesting seeing the different tires that people can now put on their bikes. I mean, some guys were running as big as probably 30 to 34. And able to keep up able to keep the pace. So you can really see the result of everything you’re talking about.
Lennard Zinn 21:13
Yeah, we also didn’t understand back in 2011, that the rolling resistance of a 32 millimeter tire could definitely be as low as that of a 23 millimeter tire, which we something we’ve learned since.
Trevor Connor 21:25
Yeah, sure, back in 2011, we were riding on the dirt and 23 C’s at, like 120 psi, or teeth out?
Rob Pickels 21:36
You know, do we want to stay on sort of these big bike, you know, sort of component innovations? Or do we want to keep going down this entire pipeline here. You know,
Lennard Zinn 21:45
I’d want to mention one other bike, and that’s the ebike, that that’s just a massive innovation that, you know, while those did exist more than 40 years ago, they were pretty rudimentary, back then. And now it’s like, it’s opened up things for so many, so many cyclists, not only not only cyclists, people that wouldn’t have been riding otherwise, but people who would have been writing a lot, but like, for instance, rest days in the Tour de France, those guys tend to ride bikes now on the rest days, they definitely have to be out on the bike a number of hours, or their whole body will sort of seize up in the middle of a three week race. That’s that hard. So they gotta be out on the rest day, but they don’t want to ride too hard. And ebike makes that possible. It’s just a credible thing. So
Rob Pickels 22:35
yeah, I think that an E bike is one of the absolute best innovations and in I personally, I have an E bike, you know, a little a little commuter deal from specialized and have all the bikes I have sometimes that’s the one that brings me the absolute most most joy, right is you can cruise along at 20 miles an hour and a pair of flip flops, just happy as can be enjoying the day for running errands for towing my kids when my kids were younger. You know, it really opens up the world. Yeah.
Lennard Zinn 23:03
And getting to work. Not all sweaty, right? A workplace doesn’t have to have a whole shower infrastructure. And another thing to be able to encourage people to ride their bikes, and they just show up on the bikes. And I hope
Rob Pickels 23:16
that E bikes can continue to have a place, you know, sort of in society. And I know even yesterday, when I was out riding is certain areas, certain trails saying, you know, no, no E bikes allowed. And, you know, I think that that’s kind of unfortunate. I don’t know if there’s all the trail damage that people speculate or, you know, if you’re writing to fasten the bike path, you can do that with or without a motor that has nothing to do with whether or not it’s an E bike and everything to do with the person that’s piloting it. So
Lennard Zinn 23:45
I agree entirely. Some of the closures we have here to E bikes just make no sense to me. Yeah,
Trevor Connor 23:52
I’ll admit to I am still bitter about my first experience with a new bike. You got passed by somebody didn’t you know, it was worse than that? Oh, God. So it was climbing up Magnolia, which for people who don’t know boulder Magnolia is one of the harder climbs around
Rob Pickels 24:05
you look at Magnolia and you say, Nope, yeah. So I’m climbing
Trevor Connor 24:09
up magnolia. And I can see this guy ahead of me and to be diplomatic. He was a very large man on a bike. And I admit I was out there going, I gotta catch him. And this will make me feel better. And I spent the next 20 minutes chasing this guy going, why can’t I catch? Yeah, it got really demoralizing until I got to the top. We’re both stopped there. And I look at his bike and like, oh, you had help? Yes.
Rob Pickels 24:37
Unfortunately for him Magnolia is so long and so steep that his battery was probably empty at the top and he had to coast all the way back down. Probably.
Lennard Zinn 24:46
They don’t regenerate the way electric cars do. You don’t get the power back when you’re coasting down.
Rob Pickels 24:52
Sure, don’t you know, but what I’m wondering actually, with all of these innovations is what’s the potential for innovation in the future and I think that that’s maybe a good Good one to land on here, you know, with E bikes, you know, if we had a magic ball a crystal ball, what’s coming next? Is it just better battery technology? How do we, how do you bikes get better? Yeah,
Lennard Zinn 25:11
I mean, both battery technology and motor technology are moving along at such a rapid rate, largely because of, because of electric cars, I mean, the battery technology also because of cell phones and everything, but the electric cars are driving this incredible innovation in the motors as well. And, and the motors now that seven years ago seemed so incredible. Now you have ones that are kilo or two lighter that produce more power than those did and, and are smaller and less obtrusive. And pretty soon the batteries will get smaller as well. And, and higher capacity. I mean, that is the limiting factor of of E bikes generally is you’re not usually going to find one that’s gonna get you further than 60 miles on a charge. And that’s going to be fairly flat, flat miles at a low assist level. But if you, you know, asking for more power out of it, you’re gonna suck a lot more out of the battery faster, too. So,
Rob Pickels 26:10
real quick, I think that that’s something that’s interesting that you talked about the low assist level, I think one of the biggest knocks that people have against e bikes is they just assume that it’s an electric motorcycle, you know, and I know with my ebike, you can put it on eco 20% mode or all the way to full boost. And I could ride that as hard or as easy as I chose to. And I could put it in a low mode. And it’s like riding your regular bike through quicksand because it’s so heavy, you know, so you can get that big sweaty workout if you want, you know, but I just love that you have the option to kind of choose your own adventure
Lennard Zinn 26:41
doesn’t limit you. It’s I used to have a stable full of my own personal bikes. And now I’ve got one bike titanium, iva.
Trevor Connor 26:50
Yeah. But I think one of the things is really interesting. Maybe this is pointing towards what’s happening in the future. But all these innovations you’re talking about in the the actual bikes themselves over the last 40 years, what I’ve noticed is it has led to a real blurring of the lines 40 years ago, you had a road bike, you had a mountain bike, there was no confusing the two they had very distinct purposes, and they didn’t overlap. Now you can even go and buy a good racing road bike, and you can put some pretty thick knobby tires on it and go take it on the trail if you really want to ask
Rob Pickels 27:25
the opposite for me, I just got a new a new Crux plugged a specialized here real quick. And, you know, Trevor, I was descending Flagstaff, a great twisty, you know, well known descent in the area. And it handled just as well as my tarmac does in all honesty, I was maybe even come more comfortable and faster with a little bit sort of Meteor tire on there. But it’s just as quick it handles just as well. And it has that clearance. And, you know, especially with that Crocs and other bikes, almost just as light as a road bike, at least used to be if you look back a couple of years. So we know that bikes have had a lot of changes in their purpose and the components that they have something that’s really important to me, you know, I’ve done a lot of research over the years on, on how the interface has changed how rider comfort has changed how saddles and shoes and handlebars, and all of that has changed. You know, Leonard, I’m interested in your take, what are some major innovations? How did we get onto a good path with kind of the touch points that we have?
Lennard Zinn 28:24
I mean, saddles are a big deal. The biggest complaint among people that don’t ride their bikes very much is that their butt hurts when they ride a bike and saddles, originally, you know, that just came from horse saddles, and the whole shape of them and everything was just a smaller horse saddle, you know, and they were even sort of suspended on straps and things like that just piece of leather and, and so naturally, they just had a curvature that had more to do with the material they were made out of than had to deal with the shape of the person sitting on them. And then well, we the bike industry had this scare in the 90s with some cyclists having impotency attributed to them sitting on the bike seat and there was a famous urologist who said, males should never ride bicycles for this reason, and, again, specialized kind of was the one that sort of took up the took up the challenge. Now when we look back at those saddles that they produced, then, you know, they were trying and but the understanding of what was needed was in its infancy and they just tend to have a split down the middle but didn’t really address a lot of the other problems. But that has has changed over the years really with very scientific testing of of blood flow and nerve impulses of the rider while they’re sitting on the seat. And now there’s such a broad array of saddles, and an understanding of that the saddle needs to fit the rider and ways of measuring that the anatomy of the rider to determine what saddle to select for them that complaint about the saddle, you know, while it still exists on probably Trevor’s bikes from way back and 40 years ago. Maybe he’s upgraded and settles.
Trevor Connor 30:18
That is the one thing that I keep pretty current. Okay, there you go. To your point of how important the saddle is, yes.
Lennard Zinn 30:28
But yeah, I think that’s, that’s open the sport to a lot of people that wouldn’t be doing it otherwise.
Rob Pickels 30:35
And so what we’ve had here on materials change, right, we went from sort of like the leather, the suspended sort of saddle you’re talking about before. And we’ve had some shape changes obviously have definitely occurred going maybe for more of a domed sort of saddle, the old turbos and everything else. What else Leonard, anything else was sort of the the saddle for innovation, it’s really made a big difference.
Lennard Zinn 30:56
Yeah, just to briefly clarify that, that yeah, saddles always tended to be curved, and each model of saddle that was the shape, and that was the width that that model came in now, saddles, often one model will be available in a number of different widths, and the understanding that the saddle should actually support the sit bones rather than be this curved thing that the sit bones are kind of perched on the sides of it should support the sit bones, and that then there should be some sort of a void in the middle that removes pressure from the perineum. And that how wide that platform needs to be is based on the width of the sit bones, but not so wide, that it restricts the hamstrings swinging down on the downstroke. So that, you know, you couldn’t just have okay, we’ll just make all saddles really flat and wide. Because the people with narrower set bones, it would restrict their pedaling and, and so it really does require this broad range. And then, you know, the other thing that’s happened is that saddles have gotten a lot lighter. I mean, the saddles when I first started racing, they were leather saddles, and they had a big steel undercarriage that had a tension screw on it, that you could, you could adjust how tight the leather was. And now, you know, they’re saddles that I don’t ride, but that some people who do claim they’re very comfortable, that are 100% carbon fiber with no padding whatsoever. But the the shape, apparently is optimized enough for them, I still think you’re not going to find 60 year olds riding on those. But you know, when you’re 20, you can ride on two by four and get away with anything. But the saddle is an area that you could lose a lot of weight off the bike. And now with first titanium rails and hollow chromoly rails, and then carbon rails and carbon shells, you can produce the same strength with a lot less material compared to a nylon injection molded nylon base to have it be a carbon fiber. So it’s a lot of technology in the saddle that you wouldn’t really think about
Rob Pickels 33:03
God, there’s some crazy saddle designs and shapes out there, right that are in some regard really pushing the boundary and really innovative, but at the same time, none of them have really ever caught on right. I mean, I think that we can all picture in our head, you know, kind of what I’m talking about the different things that are out there. And it is interesting to me that 80% 75% of saddle design is very similar to what it was 20 or 40 years ago does look
Lennard Zinn 33:31
like a bike saddle. Yeah, that’s the interesting part about Yeah, yeah, that there was time when people saddles, yeah, the TT saddles, definitely those look totally different sort of like a horse shoe kind of thing. Yep. From viewed from above. But you don’t have what some people predicted a long time ago, which was just like those butter saddles with the two, two buttons that you see it on that you do actually have to have the nose of the saddle. That helps a lot with steering the bike, controlling the bike, I don’t think
Rob Pickels 34:01
people realize how much that interface of controlling your bike comes from your butt and not just from the handlebars.
Trevor Connor 34:12
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Rob Pickels 34:19
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Trevor Connor 34:47
I think I mean, you really touched on the thing that I think has been the biggest innovation and saddles which is originally there was one shape never fit you great, otherwise you’re just going to be uncomfortable. And now you see manufacturers creating multiple shapes. So for example, I’ve been writing specialized for a while Specialized has a whole bunch of different models. And if you ask them, which is the better saddle, their answer is going to be nones on you. It’s just each one is designed for a different shape person. So you need to find the model that is kind of the closest to your shape.
Rob Pickels 35:20
Yeah, I think that we’re seeing that there. We’re seeing that across brands, I think that we’re also seeing more shapes that work for more people in general, right before it might have been really polarizing. Something did or didn’t work. And now we’re having just a really great refinement there. You know, what’s, what’s the future of saddles I’m going to throw out there right now, I think that some of the new 3d printed stuff that’s coming out is really interesting. It allows for an infinitely variable amount of support and cushioning but also maybe opens the door for customization.
Lennard Zinn 35:49
Yeah, yeah, I have one completely custom saddle molded to my butt. Wonderful possibility of making that much more available much more cheaply, because of 3d printing is a whole nother way to go with that.
Trevor Connor 36:04
thought of that. So you basically go to a store, you’d sit on something that would get figured out your shape, and then print the saddle for you.
Lennard Zinn 36:11
Yeah, kinda like is done with footbeds.
Rob Pickels 36:15
It’d be easy enough for me, my shape is basically gigantic.
Trevor Connor 36:19
Rob’s a little upset, because we just did a video of him mountain biking, and we got this good shot of him out of the saddle from behind going down a hill. And he would just stare in it goes my butt fat.
Rob Pickels 36:31
literally blew my mind like, Oh, my God, and our videographer, literally verbatim said, yeah, man, you’re a little thick.
Trevor Connor 36:42
I think my comment was then do you have a jiggle filter.
Rob Pickels 36:48
Let’s move to the other end of the bike. Going from the bum to the hands what’s what’s been going on with handlebars in the past 40 years?
Lennard Zinn 36:55
Well, with drop bars. To the uninitiated, it still looks like a drop bar. And people that don’t like drop bars like oh, it’s same thing as always, but it’s quite a bit different that when drop bars originally, were based on the bending mandrel that was used to bend the tubing that formed the bar and the bends in the bar. Were then consistent in radius throughout. And so we didn’t know any better when we were racing back in the 70s. But the bars that we had, which the time the one that was really popular with us was the mercs band for Eddie mercs that may be greatest cyclist ever, and this consistent band throughout. And so the reach of the bar from the distance forward from where it clamps on to the stem forward to where the brake mounts that was deep, and the depth of the drop from the top of the bar to the bottom part of it was also quite deep. So there was a big transition from when you’re on top of the bar to when you’re in the drops, and the brake lever was way down the curve of the bar. So that there was no when you put your hands on the hoods of the Levers, which most road riders ride, most of the time on the hoods, your hands were sliding down the bar downward, and we’re just stuck there in that position on the levers, and you have this little security blanket of a wire coming out of the top of the lever, the brake cable came out of the top of the lever so that even though you were slid down there on to this lever wouldn’t tend to slide off the front of it if you hit you know, something hard or brake too hard or whatever that because the cable kept you on. And over time, there were different ergonomic and I’m put saying this in quotation marks, ergonomic bends that happened over time, and some of them. Now when I look back at those, you know, you can see the transition happening, but some of those were just miserable. But now what we have is is a bar shape where the bar comes straight across wise out of the stem, and then a very sharp bend forward, narrow radius of curvature. And part of this is that some of the things are possible with bars now because a lot of bars are carbon fiber, and so they no longer are bent on a mandrel. So the year, it opens up a lot of different possibilities with the shape of bar of the bar that didn’t happen before. And also and with aluminum, there’s different ways of forming aluminum that didn’t exist back then as well. So you can get different shapes of the upper part of the bar. I’m not going to focus on the upper part of the bar that much but yes, you can understand that some people are going to prefer a larger platform and there’s aerodynamic advantages to upper part of the bar. But the part that I’m the most interested in is is the the actual shape of the band. Now the band bends forward and the reach the forward reach of the bar. is quite a bit less than it used to be. So the so the transition, when you go from holding the bar next to the stem to grabbing the lever, it’s less forward movement of your hands. Secondly, the top of the bar ends up being basically level and the design of the Levers has changed so that that they just continue that levelness. So now you have this flat platform that allows your hand many more options of positioning than just being slid down and stuck on this into the sort of cradle of the top of the lever. So that is the first thing then second thing is that now the band starts very tight at the top, the band that comes back towards you the hook of the bar, and then it’s very tight radius and then opens out into a wider radius, and the drop of the bar from the flat top section down to the part where you put your hands were near in the drops, that drop has greatly reduced. And that was not possible with the old mercs bend style, you couldn’t have a shallow drop, because the hook end of the bar did not extend project further back than the horizontal part that clamps into the stem, which meant that if the bar had less dropped to it, then when your hand was in the bar, especially if you’re out of the saddle, your wrist would hit the top part of the bar. And now what’s happened is that you have this short reach to the bar and this shallow drop, but the hooks of the bar come back further, quite a bit further back than the straight section of the top so that then you can be in this shallow drop bar. But your your wrists aren’t going to hit the top part of the bar because the short reach and the long hook and then the transition going from being on the levers on the hoods or on the top part of the bar to in the drops is much less of a transition. So people that especially older people who don’t have the flexibility in their neck and all that they can still, the drops is still a usable position instead of being something like Oh god, I never go in there anymore.
Trevor Connor 42:08
But I find interesting about this, as we’ve talked about a lot of changes that are quite dramatic that you can really see the difference. This is one that’s actually has a really big impact on riding the bike but it’s quite subtle. Yes, you can barely notice about me so Rob, you remember in the labs, I think it was the Vela Tron. Yep. Yeah. 10 $12,000 testing bike, you know, super expensive, highly precise. Everything about it’s beautiful, except they put a set of 1970s handlebars on it. Oh, so bad. And every time I would try to ride it to do a test, you just sit there go, how did we ever ride with these things? Yeah, it’s amazing. Couldn’t find a position.
Rob Pickels 42:48
The other thing about that to Trevor was that they came with an electronic shifter that pretended it was a you know, a bar, a brake hood, but they didn’t send you to so you always had a mismatched electronic shifter on one side and an actual brake lever on the other side. Oh, my God, the whole thing, it was brought to you by the same company that brought the compu trainer. And yeah, and went the way of the dodo. But those bars were terrible.
Trevor Connor 43:14
I gotta think another big innovation talking about that part of the cockpit as well, is moving the shifters into the brake lever.
Lennard Zinn 43:21
Yeah, that made the brake levers bigger because you not only first you move the shifters into it. So there’s all this small parts in there to run the shifter. But now you also have the master cylinder for the disc brakes in there, which also takes a bunch of space. And now electronic shifting, you don’t actually have to have a big lever because the just a little electronic button in there, but you do need it for the master cylinder for the disc brakes. So the hydraulic brakes, so the bigger lever, while at first it definitely, it was like when people started wearing tall socks or black socks for cycling and you just your eyes just could not get used to that. But it’s so wonderful. bigger platform and more more hand positions.
Trevor Connor 44:09
It’s so much nicer
Rob Pickels 44:10
when it seems like companies are actually trying to make the levers more comfortable, easier to grip easier to hold. It’s definitely become a design consideration the past few years and also
Lennard Zinn 44:20
the hoods don’t slip on the metal or the hands have like all these, you know the material hoods is made out of his better and it also has little nubs on the inside of it that fit into little holes in the brake lever body. That used to be something that we used to just drive us crazy where the where the hoods would slide around on the on the brake lever,
Rob Pickels 44:42
right? I know that we’re sort of getting into this gray area where we’re now talking about both controls and also shifting and shifting technology. But before we stray too far from controls, I want to bring up something that you haven’t mentioned and I’m wondering if this is on purpose. You have not mentioned the crazy flare Is that we’re seeing now, especially in the gravel space, is that innovation? Is that just a fad? What’s going on?
Trevor Connor 45:09
As soon as you use the word layer?
Lennard Zinn 45:11
Well, I’m not the best one to ask about this, because I definitely have not adopted this flare. And I’ve, you know, we we build bikes. And we sometimes put these on bikes, because people request them and sounds like, diddly, and I test ride the bikes. And quite frankly, I don’t get it. But those handlebars,
Trevor Connor 45:30
as they come down, they also go exactly exactly swings
Lennard Zinn 45:34
out to the side. And you can see how, if you’re in the drops, and you’re trying to control it on, say, a super, super bumpy or washboard he surface at high speed, that you have a bigger thing to grab, and I can I can get that. But you know, the way my hand positions have gotten comfortable over time, does not involve my hand rotating outward when I’m on the hoods that my hand likes to kind of that vertical way of it. And I And if you’re riding on bike trails that have a lot of narrow gates to get through and stuff, the wider bars, also not great. And so, you know, I was one who didn’t really see CamelBak as being a significant innovation at the time. Obviously, I was super wrong on that. And maybe I’m way wrong on the flared bar. But we will see, we’ll see. Yeah,
Rob Pickels 46:31
I think that we’re all on the same page. I like my more traditional flair there. And I think at some point, people should just go straight to a flat bar instead of this weird middle ground.
Trevor Connor 46:40
Yeah. So I want to go back to moving the shifters into the brake lever. And I’m going to throw out a theory here, and I’m interested in your reaction. But I think those changed riding style, how we pedal the bike, because having the ability to shift without really moving your hands probably encouraged us to shift more and seek that optimal cadence, I have noticed that that 819 83 bike I have down in Florida, of course has down to shifting, does it have index shifting? It does have index,
Rob Pickels 47:12
I mean, pretty early, you know that it’s out of tune, so it’s just in friction.
Trevor Connor 47:18
Because I didn’t want to bother adjusting it. Granted, Florida is pretty flat, yes. But I noticed down there, the act of having to take my hands off the handlebars reached down to shift, I shift a lot less, I’m much more willing to just say, Okay, this is a two minute Hill, I’m just going to grind over it and not try to shift where if I’m a more modern road bike, relatively speaking my version of our water bike, or at least I can I can shift from the brake lever. If you hit something shift a couple of years easier. So you’re always going to keep it on that optimal cadence. And I have to believe that was a change in riding style.
Lennard Zinn 47:53
Yeah. And certainly, like in Sprint’s, when you were sprinting, you couldn’t shift, you had to select the gear well in advance and your jump, you know, your initial jump was going to be compromised, because you’re in too big of a gear for the jump. But if you didn’t do that, then you are going to be spun out at the other end of the sprint. So that one was huge. Back when I was on national team, we all had downtube shifters and they were they were frictional. And people also broke shift cables, seemingly a fair amount. And I think that was because the very small barrel that the shifter cable wrapped around and that it was completely exposed. And I remember at the time anybody save it’s Eddie B was the national team coach, and, you know, people would break cables and races sometimes. And oh, yeah, you know, I was doing fine. But then I broke my brake cable. And you know, I couldn’t do whatever. And he’s like, one man is informed and only has one gear, it doesn’t matter which gear it is. There you go. That was the importance of shifting back then. But now you know, with index shifting brought a whole lot of possibility of shifting while you’re climbing while you’re sprinting. But then electronic shifting, just really accelerated that where you can, you know, like, like an example besides. So in sprinting, one, it’s fairly obvious that if you have these little, these little satellite shifters called that they call sprint shifters on your bars that you can just touch with your thumb while you’re while you’re, you know, yanking on the bars out of the saddle, pedaling as hard as you can. And just all you got to do is just bump it with your thumb and the bike shifts. That’s enormous, an enormous advantage. But then, in cyclocross, you know, there are shifts that you can do with electronic shifting that you just simply can’t do with with cable shifting, even though you’ve got the cables coming into the end of the shifters on the on the brake levers, you know, an example is if you’re cresting the top of a hill You know, you’re and you’re, you’re coming down and a lot of times cyclocross, you know, it’ll be completely off trail. So you’ll be coming down a bumpy, clumpy grass surface. And if you want to stay at the front, you got to be pedaling, full bore, you can’t be like coasting for this thing. And messing with your shifting, you got to be pedaling hard in order to maintain your position and not get past because inevitably, at the bottom of the hill, there’ll be like 180 degree turn to go back up the hill again. And so you got to be in in a big gear, pedaling hard to come down that bumpy surface, but we want to be in your lowest gear to make that 180. And with electronic shifter, you can be hanging on like crazy on the bars, pedaling full bore, and you can just hold the button down and just have it right, just before the turn move all the way through all the gears and you give it a couple of spins of your of your legs to get it to to make the move. And then when you make the 180, you’re already in this low gear, and anybody that was behind you with cable shifting is like probably jumping off the bike and running and you’ve got this tremendous advantage over them. And then the other is when you’re out of the saddle, cresting a hill, like on the road bike, sprinting up over the top of the hill. And as the as the hill decreases in in pitch with cable shifting, you’d at least be able to shift instead of having to reach down and sit down and shift on down on the down tube, you can at least shift one at a time with with your right hand to ever bigger gear in the rear. But with the electronic shifting, while you’re pulling on the bars and sprinting out of the saddle, you can just touch the the up shift button to go from the interchange ring to the big chain ring. And others go up onto the big chain ring. It’s like getting a hand sling. And if you try and do that, with cable shifting, you simply can’t do it. Because as soon as you’re trying to push that hard with your little lever with your left hand, you then can no longer be pulling on the bar and sprinting hard. And then you’re just stuck in a big gear when you finally get it onto the big ring, you’re just stuck in a big gear over geared because you’ve lost so much momentum. So, you know, those are some advantages that electronic shifting brings that I don’t think any of us saw coming when it was first introduced. And we’re wondering how useful this new innovation was going to be. But it’s huge.
Trevor Connor 52:25
So that was going to be my next question. So you really do feel that electronic shifting was more than just a convenience, it has really changed what you can do.
Lennard Zinn 52:33
Oh yeah. And it also decreases the amount of mass and the in the levers and it changes the handling of the bike too, because there’s not this as big swing weight on the handlebars. As when you have all of the shifting components inside of the lever to
Rob Pickels 52:47
Yeah, that crux that I just picked up is my first electronic and it’s wireless. It’s wireless RAM shifting. It’s the real deal. I’m completely a convert from here moving forward. And you know, it’s funny, Leonard brings up the sort of cyclocross and the braking and shifting at the same time. I do that constantly. Even right now riding around here, it is so easy to be on the brakes. And then also you know what you’re braking with sort of your index finger, maybe your index and your middle finger. And then with my ring finger, I can just I can tap the shift paddle, and I’m shifting and braking at the same time, up or down depending on what I need to do. The other side of it is this when I got that bike, it was a one by setup. One by might be an innovation. I love it on my mountain bike. I love it when I raced cyclocross on gravel, I’m a two by kind of guy, just because of the jumps in the range. It was so easy to convert the bike to to buy, I mean, literally unbolt the rear derailleur put on the shorter cage rear derailleur put on a front derailleur push three buttons and the whole system is LinkedIn paired I didn’t have to cable anything a job that should have taken at least an hour literally took us 15 minutes tops especially
Lennard Zinn 53:55
now nowadays that all the cables are internal examination is a real pain in the butt to tell me about them through and and yeah with wireless electronic shifting it’s like and travel bikes you know and tandems It’s just
Trevor Connor 54:07
huge. First time I tried to cable in internally routed bike, I started at like seven o’clock at night and I think I went past midnight. That took some work.
Lennard Zinn 54:17
Yeah. And then if it’s if it’s an arrow bike, and it’s got to come all the way from the arrow bars all through the bar and then through the stem and that’s through the bike.
Trevor Connor 54:25
And the original ones, they didn’t figure out all the tricks to make it easier. So there was a little hole down at the bottom by the cranks that you had to somehow get the cable to go through was awful. Let’s hear from Dr. Steven Cheung shares with us the biggest innovations he’s seen over the years with bicycle technology. Interestingly, the innovations he picks were less about performance and more about comfort and ease of use.
Dr. Stephen Cheung 54:50
I got into cycling right around 1984 And so I was just at the tail end of everything from wore shorts to wool cloth We’re going to tow clips down to non index shifting all of that good classic stuff. So I would say the biggest innovations or the biggest things that have increased my enjoyment certainly have been clipless pedals, just for ease of getting in and out for power transfer and not having to have my feet constricted with toe clips. So that’s been huge. And then I would say the other two big things. One is better helmets. And I remember I started with the classic bell biker helmet, which was probably close to two pounds, and now it’s 12 ounces, or 10 ounces or whatever, for good helmet now, so it just makes using a helmet much more easy and kind of a non thought so to speak. So I think there’s been bad improvement. And I think the final one is, I think it’s an obvious one, it’s the it’s the improved shifting, it’s much less having to think through shifting now. First with index shifting, and then with the bar end, shifters. And then with electronic shifting, it just makes shifting so much easier. And so much kind of more intuitive and less you need to think about. So I think those are big advances, not just for kind of advanced elite cyclists. But I think just for getting people into cycling, it just makes cycling less difficult and easier to get into.
Rob Pickels 56:33
So as we work through this, what’s the future of shifting? What’s the next innovation? What do you guys want to see?
Trevor Connor 56:39
No more increases in cassettes, I am tired of having to upgrade my derailleur
Lennard Zinn 56:45
13 speed, we’re at 13 cogs in the rear now,
Rob Pickels 56:49
I actually want to see infinity, I want like a continually variable car. Yeah. So that you’re not going gear to gear that you’re just maybe moving a little bit up a cone, and you have these in between you got everything you could ever want perfect cadence all the time.
Lennard Zinn 57:05
Well, yeah, that’s a pipe dream, I don’t know that, I guess I could see it now with this ceramic speeds, new drive, drive drive train, because that’s actually the first time when a non chain drive is more efficient, in terms of power transfer, then a chain drive would be that the chains are just very efficient ways of of transferring torque from one end bike to the other. But this, this drive system that CeramicSpeed came up with, actually, undergrad students at CU Boulder came up with for CeramicSpeed for a project they did with ceramic speed, where you have a shaft drive and on either end of the shaft or a bunch of super, super high precision ceramic cartridge bearings that roll in teeth and valleys of a disc that’s rotating past them and then in the rear, you have the same thing. And then by shortening or lengthening the length of that shaft drive, you then change where on the rear flat surface that has teeth all over it, where where that ends up. So if you’re obviously if you’re out toward the outside of the of the big flat disc in the back, then it’s a lower gear than when you’re down toward the inside of it. And that I could imagine possibilities where that could then become continuously variable rather than still quantized in terms of of what gear you’re in. But yeah, prior to that innovation, I didn’t see any, any way to get away from the chain. And then as soon as you and as long as you have a chain, then continuously variable would have to mean that you that you’d have a planetary expanding contracting system, either inside the rear hub or inside the crank inside the bottom bracket and either one of those, you’re going to lose a lot of efficiency. But with this shaft drive with these rolling through hammock bearings on at the ends of these like little spider arms, that is a possibility. And that certainly that would be preferable to be able to have any gear that you wanted.
Trevor Connor 59:14
So kind of joked about the number of gears that we have. But there actually is I think an innovation there that surprised me, particularly when we went up to 12 speed and combined with an you’d know the particular wording for this but derailers that can handle a broader range. And over a lot of my cycling career I stuck with an 1125 or maybe an 1126 because I didn’t like having big jumps when I went from one gear to the next. So that meant when I was out training it actually limited where I could train particularly in the winter because if I’m out for an easy ride, and I don’t want to put out 300 Watts there’s a whole bunch of routes I couldn’t do. What I’ve actually enjoyed about the 12 speed is now I can still have my 1011 speeds that it’s small jumps from ring to ring and but then you can have a 32 or 34 on it. And then if you hit that hill that before, you would have had to really grind over and put out a lot of wattage, you can actually just get over it pretty easily. Yeah, and keep it controlled. And that’s changed how I’ve been able to train.
Lennard Zinn 1:00:15
Yeah, and the derailleur is just couldn’t take up much chain slack, so they just couldn’t handle much. And I used to live on the top of Magnolia road. But at the time, this was 1981. So how old was I 23 and my chainrings in the front, or 3953. And in the rear, I had a 1221. So 3921 was my low gear with a much heavier bike than we have now. You know, steel bike, and that was the end of my training ride it every day was to finish off going up Magnolia Road, after I’d come down to town and met up with buddies and done 100 mile ride or whatever you
Trevor Connor 1:00:54
were on the national team. Oh, God strong like bowl after
Lennard Zinn 1:00:57
that. Yeah. But yeah, it’s such a such a difference. Now being able to have one derailleur that will take up slack all the way from 10 tooth to a 51 or something in the back. It’s unbelievable,
Rob Pickels 1:01:11
we have to remember that we’ve come a really long way with this, right? I mean, the first multispeed gear bike, if if I’m correctly informed was essentially a hub that had like a gear on both sides. Right? And you could face it in one way. Exactly. Right. And I think I remember a story about somebody in the Tour de France or something one time that like sprinted ahead of the group, and then was on the side of the road pretending to change his gearing. And so everyone else came around the corner, and they were like, Oh, we must change our gearing to but he actually hadn’t. And then now they were all like incorrectly geared for the next section or something. But you know what we went from that to then maybe like a cassette like thing that if I remember correctly, almost had this like, stick lever sort of deal that you had to control and it directly moved the chain without any cables or anything. So, you know, we’re talking small changes in the past, you know, a couple decades. But you look back further than that. We’ve come a really long way into shifting technologies. Yeah, yeah. You know, one of my absolute favorite things in the entire world, if anybody knows anything about me is I’m a gigantic, but but I’m also a gigantic tire nerd. On the mountain bike side, on the gravel side, on the road side, you go in my garage, I have like 3030 tires hanging on the wall, I have tires new and package, I have tires. Leonard, I know you do this roller testing. You know, I was telling Trevor the other day, I’m gearing up to do White Rim in a day. And I’m a little bit stressed out, I haven’t had a chance to roll their tests this year as new crop of mountain bike tires, what’s been happening in tire technology. In the past few decades,
Lennard Zinn 1:02:44
well, tires have gotten wider, that’s for sure. For every application, there’s more options of them. And then tubeless tires have become ubiquitous and quite reliable as well. And so that has made tires faster that we’ve understood now, because done a lot more testing of rolling resistance of tires that actually wider tires at lower pressures, in some circumstances, very high number of circumstances tend to be roll up as fast or faster as than small, hard tires, which we thought were so fast, because the bike just was so bouncy, it felt like it was really fast. But it was because the energy that it took to bounce the bike was coming out of us. And instead if we can just absorb that vertical motion of whatever little changes in the road surface into the tire itself, then you’ve just moved a lot less mass and consequently have saved a lot of energy and the tire carcasses. I mean, people have been making very supple tire carcasses for a lot longer than 40 years, you know, there’s silk tires way, but way back in the 30s and stuff with very, very fine threads. And people did understand that they didn’t have the ability to do the tread, the rubber compounds that they do now that one of the ways that car companies meet CAFE standards for fuel efficiency, is to get more efficiency out of the tires, lower rolling resistance of the tires and a big a big part of that is the tread compound. And of course, those people that figured all those things out then become available to bike tire companies. So the tread compounds can absorb a lot less energy through hysteresis is is the energy loss of a rubber compound going from compressed uncompressed and back through that cycle. And if you have less energy loss there then the tire rolls faster. And then if you don’t have an inner tube inside that’s chafing against the carcass of the tire. You can also save Some energy there. And then now recently, we’ve discovered the tubular tires, which I certainly always thought were the fastest because they were very supple casings. And if you had a really good tread compound on them as well, we’re going to be the most efficient tire and could be written flat where clincher couldn’t be. But now it turns out that there’s a fair amount of energy loss through the in the glue bond where that’s required to glue it onto the rim so that you lose some there. So it’s basically come down to that tubeless tires. Last year, was the first time a tubeless tire one the pair obey race, which is kind of the hardest in terms of technology, the hardest race, single day race in the world, because of all the cobblestones the guys ride over. But then they also have to ride lots and lots of you know, hundreds of kilometers of paved road as well and have a have a bike that works for both those things. And to have a tire that can be efficient in both those circumstances. Nobody ever saw it coming that a tubular was not going to win that race. But last year, a tubeless tire wanted and now this year, nine out of the top 10 finishers in Paraguay, we’re on tubeless tires. So it’s you know, cyclocross has become the last bastion of the of the tubular tire. But, you know, already a big innovation during the years that, you know, in the 40 years that I’ve had, my companies in cycles, huge innovation was decent clincher tires. I mean, clincher tires have been around for a really, really long time. And we all, you know, even those of us in our 60s, the bikes that we had, as kids had clincher tires on them. But as far as a racing clincher, a clincher tire that you could ride a race on that was lightweight and fast rolling, and also reliable, that just didn’t exist. And the rims were heavier and everything. And the rims were weaker, and then tubular rims, and, and now you have really bridged that gap. But even that was a big innovation and probably really wasn’t, I think, until the mid 80s, maybe even the 90s before clincher tires got good enough that, that you could really use them as race tires. And then now they become tubeless. And it’s even better.
Trevor Connor 1:07:21
So quickly point out because this is a subject we could do a whole episode on. And we did. So episode 95. We talked with you about tire pressure. And you talked about the tubeless versus tubular versus clincher you also talked about why we’re getting wider and that’s actually faster. So if anybody’s interested that is actually really fascinating science and something that we had wrong for a long time, I’d say check out that episode.
Rob Pickels 1:07:45
Yeah, good. For me, the tubeless tire. This is like the Holy Grail of what we’ve talked about in terms of innovation so far, I think it’s just made such a big difference in your ability to go places right to take something off road, I think we’re seeing you know, Trevor, you telling me about your road bike, you’re riding on some light trails with it, you know, it starts to open up these doors for us, but just you know, the the lower pressures that we can run with the improved interfaces, right comfort, grip safety, all of that stuff is up in durability is way up, we don’t have a tube to pinch flat anymore. If you get a small puncture, then the self sealing with the sealant is in there. And then even you know, the innovations recently with some of the plugging technology that we have, I don’t know when the last time I put a tube into one of my tubeless tires. I mean, it has been years and years and years because whenever it’s been something that hasn’t self sealed every time for me and knock on wood, it’s going to happen this weekend. I’m sure every time for me a tire plug has actually just seal that up and I’ve kept on writing, having to even just put in minimal pressure into the tire. So, you know tubeless for me is really the big one so far that we’ve talked about.
Trevor Connor 1:08:53
So we’re getting pretty close to the end of our time here. I need to start wrapping it up. But Leonard, it seems like we forgot one pretty big innovation here.
Lennard Zinn 1:09:02
Yeah, that would be the clipping pedal. Cycling would be a lot different without those especially cyclocross, you know cyclocross when we were racing cyclocross in the 70s We’d had toe clips but the toe clips are always would break when you pedal with the pedal upside down. So you see took two Koto clips, clip the loop off one of them you riveted them together, so he had a double toe clip and then the clip was quite heavy, so it flipped the pedal down was very hard to flip it up. So then we’d take screws and put lots of nuts and everything on them on the front side of the pedal to balance that so that it would want to sit upright and we could slide our foot in there easier because we were also using shoes that had some some knobs on them so they didn’t just slide in like a road shoe. You compare that to a, you know, a Crank Brothers, egg beater pedal and clips in on four sides and doesn’t get any mud in it or grit or ice or sand or whatever, you just stomp on it and go, I mean, that’s just enormous and cross country mountain biking, similar in that regard. And then on the road to its, you couldn’t get off the line as fast with a toe clip and strap and your foot was much less comfortable. Because as you, you know, like, especially if a sprint was coming up, and you had to reach down and cinch up your cinch up your straps. And if you had your straps too tight during the whole ride, I mean, and also the shoes, the shoes, you know, with the super stiff soles that go along with those clip in pedals that’s just really improved the whole cycling experience enormously.
Trevor Connor 1:10:43
And it’s such an innovation that I will say to any of our listeners, if you actually have not gotten clipless yet, and you’re getting to give it a try. We can all say this from experience, make sure you go somewhere safe. Because the first time that you try to come to a stop, you’re going to try to pull your foot backwards. That doesn’t work, the clips and then you fall over. I remember the Washington DC traffic it was
Rob Pickels 1:11:09
mine was at a stoplight with a car definitely behind me and I sheepishly wave to them as I pick myself up off the ground. So we’ve all been there. But clipless pedals were a big innovation has there been any innovation in clipless pedals since they were introduced? Shimano cleat hasn’t really changed across road and mountain by coming look went from a plastic Delta cleat to a plastic Keo cleat. Where are we going? How do we make clipless? Pedals better?
Lennard Zinn 1:11:36
Yeah, there was rapid innovation in the beginnings when they first got introduced, for sure. And and then, and I’d say they plateaued. Definitely that, that you now have pedals that are pretty for the off road purposes that are pretty efficient, in terms of not clogging up and being easy to get in and out of. And then on the road being pretty efficient and not too blocky that that you know, they don’t reduce I mean, they, if anything would greatly improve your cornering clearance. And yeah, I suppose that could be something that’s ripe for innovation. But on the other hand, when not broken, why fix it?
Trevor Connor 1:12:15
And I say, I have been on the same model of speed play since 2006. And I’ve had no desire to see a change. Well, I think it’s time for take home. So Leonard, do you know how this works? We each get one minute to kind of summarize, and this is gonna be an interesting one, what we think the key message of this whole conversation has been so would you like to go first?
Lennard Zinn 1:12:42
Okay, in 40 years, the bike has just changed, it’s still a bike, it still looks like a bike is not fundamentally that much difference. And somebody that doesn’t know about bikes would say, Oh, not much has changed. But these subtle differences are huge in terms of comfort and efficiency, and, and all the way along, we’ve worked to make the bike more efficient, and more comfortable. And there is no vehicle that can hold you know, now we have 16 pound bikes that 320 pound people can can ride on, that’s a one to 20 ratio, there’s no vehicle, other vehicle, besides the bicycle can hold 20 times its own weight. And that is a big difference from 40 years ago, and even bigger than from 80 years ago. It’s it’s come a long way. And it’s still a bicycle. And it’s still fundamentally the same creature.
Rob Pickels 1:13:43
For me, it’s the fact that there are so many innovations out there, right? And I’m sure as people who are listening to this, then then they’re screaming out, why didn’t you mention carbon fiber? Why didn’t you mention all of these other things and, and there’s so much that we could talk about, you know, and everything is going to matter to people in different manners with how they interact with the bike and cycling and everything else. And I just love that about cycling in general that everybody gets to have the experience that they want to have. But, you know, I know for me from this conversation, it was really eye opening to think about the fact that what we had for materials limitations really drove a lot of what we were doing previously, the fact that the mountain biking ultimately changed how we make frames, which changed how geometry works and everything else. That’s crazy. I never thought that handlebar shaped drop, our handle shaped bar shape had something to do with the radius of the mandrel and how you could actually bend tubing like it just it was like, Oh, that makes total sense now. And what I’m so excited about now for innovation and how things are changing is how these very traditional limitations that we had before they’re not really limitations anymore. We’re able to sort of think outside the box and be more creative with all of the different solutions that are out there. And, you know, for me, it’s always that forward facing of what’s next and I I think it’s going to be pretty interesting.
Trevor Connor 1:15:01
So I feel I need to speak out for all the retro grouches on the world. So there’s a great movie called The was the greatest show on Earth, which is about Eddie Mertz, his final grand tour when which was, I think the Giro Ditalion 1976. And they show the time trial in the race, and it was like a 45 Kilometer time trial. And Eddie on a 1976 Non aero bike put down a time, that would probably still be like top 30 in the Tour de France. Now, it was unbelievable. So my answer is all this technology is pointless grows out of St. Mark’s legs and you don’t need it. However, I will be grudgingly admit what actually found really interesting in this conversation is so many of these innovations we talked about weren’t about making you faster. They were actually about making the cycling experience more comfortable, more enjoyable, and opening up more options for what you can do. And I think if it can be more enjoyable on the bike if it encourages more people to ride and gives you the ability to get out and trails and do things you couldn’t do on an old school bikes. I’m all for it. Without question. Great. Okay, thank you.
Rob Pickels 1:16:16
Thank you. That was another episode of fast talk. Subscribe to fast talk. Wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and a review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on fast talk are those of the individual. As always, we love your feedback. Join the conversation at poram stock fast talk labs.com to discuss each and every episode, become a member of fast talk laboratories at fast talk labs.com/join and become a part of our education and coaching community for Leonard Zinn, Dr. Steven Cheung, Steve Neal and Trevor Connor. I’m Rob Pickels. Thanks for listening