PRESENTED AS GENERAL INFORMATION FROM OVER 80 YEARS OF COMBINED CYCLING EXPERIENCE

 

CHOOSING CYCLING SHOES

Of the three points of contact with a bicycle, the Saddle is often discussed as being the most important. However, just as Saddles and poorly positioned Handlebars (height, width, length) can cause issues such as numbness, Shoes have some unique aspects to consider, enabling the delivery of maximum comfort and power, resulting in the most effective performance.

Size

Depending on place of manufacture and key market for a particular manufacturer, sizes can be expressed in Euro (42, 43 etc.), US (9, 9 ½ ) or a combination. Even so, a 42 from one manufacturer can differ from another of the same denoted size. Generally European focused manufacturers supply narrow sizes, whereas those looking more to Asian or American markets typically are wider fitting. Australian requirements are generally closer to Asian or American fittings. Some Euro fitting shoes are now available in wider sizes for this reason.

Riders who suffer from numbness or pain on the outside of their feet can find they are using shoes that are too narrow, whilst shoes that are too short will can cause bruising, numbness or discomfort, particularly at the toe.

Cleat Position-Fore and Aft

A long-held view is to position cleats with the ball of the foot centrally located over the pedal axle. For mid-sized shoes this can be fairly satisfactory. For those with larger feet, it is often desirable to move the cleats back 3-4mm, if any pain is in the shin area of the legs. Conversely, some riders with smaller feet can find it more comfortable to move the cleats back a millimetre or so.

It is common for riders looking for maximum sprinting advantage to move cleats slightly forward and for improved climbing to move cleats back a little.

Cleat Position-To Float or Not

There are two schools of thought. One is that riders should fix their feet to be parallel to the crank movement (i.e. at 90 Degrees to the BB Axle). Another view is that the foot should be free to float and find its preferred position. Personal choice seems to be the best option, as both theories are commonly followed. Even so, as a rough guide, the cleats can be set up and adjusted close to the inside of the shoes. By locating one foot at a time to the rear, in a horizontal position, the heel should sit approximately 15-20mm from the nearest point of contact with the rear chainstays.

On most Frames, this gives a good starting point to ensure the shoes are parallel to the crank movement. Whether using Floating Cleats (such as Shimano SPD-SL Yellow with 6 Deg. Float or the newer Blue with 3 Deg. Float) or SPD-SL Red with no float, this provides a good starting point for fine-tuning cleat position.

Heel Cup

A Heel Cup that provide stability both sideways as well as retaining the heel in the Heel Cup, without unduly restricting the foot is a wise choice. A Heel Cup that is too low will mean keeping the Shoes tightly fitted to stop the Heel from lifting, especially when climbing or sprinting. Tight-fitting can again lead to numbness and general discomfort.

Ventilation

All shoes need good ventilation, to avoid overheating of the feet, especially in summer, and to allow water-drainage in wet weather. Venting is required in both the top and sole of the shoes.

Shoe Materials

Virtually all high-performance shoes are now made with Carbon Fibre Soles. This provided a light, stiff and thus stable platform, so that more power is transferred to the cranks. When Clipless Pedals first arrived on the scene more than two decades ago, shoes often weighed in at well over a kilogram, when thicker soles and metal reinforcing brackets were often added for rigidity. These days 600-700 gms per pair is common. Be aware of advertising that claims weights of 300-400 gms, as this typically is per shoe.

Cleaning

Most shoes can be cleaned with soapy water and, if venting is through metal mesh, a tooth-brush helps. Another simple answer is to use Wet Wipes, or similar, available from any super market. In wet weather, Lycra Shoes Covers can keep shoes looking good for longer.

Price

Shoe prices generally increase where the Brand is well-known, more expensive materials are used or a combination of both. Cheap Shoes will typically be heavier and less stiff, with a resultant loss of power.

For quality Shoes, expect to pay upwards of $150, with some hand-fitted brands costing close to $2000. And remember that the brands you see the Pros riding are not always an indicator of the brand of the shoes they actually wear.

 

HISTORY OF WHEELS

Whilst the shape of wheels has not changed since they were invented around 8000 BC, the technologies in materials, spoke patterns, aerodynamics, rigidity and weight have continued to evolve. As cycling started to emerge as a serious form of transport in the early part of the 20th Century, and major events such as the Tour De France took shape, wheel manufacturers were faced with using a limited range of available materials, to build wheels that were increasingly required to giving competitors some actual or perceived advantage.

Wooden rims, hubs that offered only limited low-friction performance and spokes that broke frequently, were tolerated from necessity. But as the cycling industry strived to innovate, often one new idea caused a ripple effect, causing further developments in a range of both frames and components.

Single sprocket drives, where the rim was centrally supported in relation to the hub, worked well compared to today’s drive-trains of up to 11 sprockets, where rim-offsets are simply too great for older designs. From radially spoked wheels of the 60’s and 70’s, where lightweight was a major focus, emerged the current rear-wheels spoke patterns, where drive-side spoke counts are crossed as opposed to radial spoking of the non-drive side or often double the number on the non-drive side. 

Improved Clincher tire designs also called for much higher quality rims to match modern tyre performance and specially adapted designs for the most recent tubeless clincher tyre designs. Carbon-fibre, with its almost unlimited design characteristics and ability to delivery extremely strong, yet lightweight wheels, has also added to recent wheel design innovations, including the wide range of high profile rims now frequently used. 

The array of options available can make wheel choice a confusing task, especially with wheel prices falling rapidly in recent years through low-cost Asian manufacturing, where once expensive wheels are now more within reach of many cycling enthusiasts. But as with all product innovations, problems can occur, meaning wheels for one use may be unsuitable, or even dangerous, if used for an incorrect application.

To assist in deciding on your next appropriate wheel choice, we have put together, with the assistance of a number of experienced users and manufacturers, some elements to consider. 

Rim Materials

There are really only two choices of Rim Materials currently or a combination of both. A range of Aluminium alloys, Carbon Fibre in various weaves or a combination of both are the materials.

Alloy Rims

Modern good quality Alloy Rims provide a good value, strong solution, especially where high profiles are not a requirement. Typical rim depths are in the 20-40mm range with many modern wheel sets weighing well under 2kg. Spoke holes can be reinforced with eyelets or heavier wall sections and spoke counts can vary from as few as 12 to 28. On better quality rims, braking surfaces are CNC machined and the hardened alloys used in these quality rims provide longer braking surface life.

Carbon Fibre Rims

Carbon fibre has gained enormously in popularity in recent years, in both Frame and Wheel manufacture. The properties of various carbon weaves vary enormously, in both performance and longevity, along with a huge cost disparity. Where high profile rims of greater than 50mm height are required, Carbon Fibre is the only real choice. The high profile benefits are seen as greater aero-dynamic performance and greater wheel rigidity, although windy conditions can make these wheels more difficult to ride.

Many cyclists purchase such wheels, believing that the high usage by Pro Team Riders is evidence of their desirability. In reality, they simply provide greater advertising space on Team Bikes plus act as a heat sink, drawing heat, caused by braking, away from the rims, where excess heat can lead to tubular adhesive failure or in the case od clinchers, tires exploding off the rim. 

A number of Manufacturers have offered Full-Carbon Clincher Wheels, although several major wheel manufactures have since departed from this market. Tubular Carbon Wheels have proved more successful, providing specially developed Brake Pads are used, Clincher Wheel design is nowhere near as conducive to Full Carbon Wheel design. Tyres running beyond recommend pressures, rims that heat up quickly during long steep descent and incorrect Brake Pad use have resulted in major failures.

Put simply, the rim heats up and becomes soft, the tyre gets hot and the tyre pressure forces the rim walls apart, where the tyre can blow off the rim. Single Rims can suffer a similar, though far less common fate, when tyre glue softens from the heat build-up and allows the tyre to become detached from the rim.

Carbon/Alloy Rims

A common solution for Clincher Wheels is to manufacture Wheels Rims that consist of a Carbon Fibre ‘fairing‘ and Aluminium Alloy insert, where the Clincher tyre pressure is retained by the Aluminium Alloy Hoop. Carbon Fibre provides the aero-dynamic benefit and greater rigidity through a deeper profile and can be designed at a weight often closer to a full Carbon Rim. We follow the views of the late Steve Hed, a leading world-respected wheel guru, who refused to build full-carbon clincher so that he couls, in his words, sleep at night.

 

CHOOSING KNICKS

It seems more comments are heard about getting comfortable on the saddle than any other area of cycling. So here are some well-proven thoughts on what to look for, when chasing the most comfortable riding position you can.

Bib Knicks make up more than 75% of total Knick sales for several reasons;

  • There is no restrictive elastic around the abdomen area

  • They act against leg grippers to keep the Knicks in the best position, even in wet weather

  • There is little chance of Jerseys riding up above the Bib Knicks, leaving bare skin exposed to sun or cold, especially in the vulnerable lower-back area.

Chamois

From several decades ago, when natural chamois were used, often with woollen Knicks, it was usually the chamois that failed first. Left unoiled, they dried out and broke down, whilst the Knicks were often still very serviceable. Now, with huge improvements in synthetic chamois, the reverse is mostly the case.

Quality, predominantly Italian chamois, have a very long life, are made to suit different riding requirements and include anti-bacterial properties. With graduated thickness and density, these pads can provide remarkable comfort over long distances. Gel, Carbon Fibre and other materials are used to offer different benefits.

There are also many good looking Chinese-made chamois about, although many fail to perform at the level required.

Lycra

Most Bib Knicks are made from Lycra or similar polyester/Elastane fabric that offers a lightweight, body hugging fit, a great base for multi-colour printing and quick drying properties. Well-fitted Knicks are more comfortable to wear and also look great too.

Leg Grippers

In recent times, silicone leg-grippers have been popular to stop the legs of Knicks riding too high. Recent changes have seen the emergence of wide printable elastic grippers, requiring less pressure to do the job. Personal choice is the usual decider here, whilst some riders have a reaction to the silicone style grippers.

Anti-chaffing

Even with comfortable Knicks and a quality chamois, discomfort through chaffing effects some riders. The solution is to use a good quality Chamois Cream or chamois butter. Look for one that has antibacterial properties, does not affect sensitive skin and is relatively thick in consistency, so it stays in place. Application is easiest direct to the skin, but can also be applied directly to the chamois. Also ensure it is not petroleum jelly-based if you want it to wash out easily, without leaving greasy residue. Our VeloEx Chamois Cream is Australian-made from all natural ingredients and is very popular

Hygiene

Regular washing and effective rinsing of detergent from the Knicks is important. Better to rotate several pairs of Knicks, to allow frequent washing. In wet conditions especially, Knicks easily accumulate road spray which can work its way deep into the chamois, if left for an extended period. A bout of irritation in the groin area for either gender can lead to a significant period of recovery, leading one Tour de France leader several years ago with no choice but to abandon the race, whilst one year, Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s Stijn Vandenbergh didn’t even make the start.

Jens Voigt's cries of Shut Up Legs are well-known, but there are other parts of a cyclist that can be far more painful.

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