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Chris S

Chris S

Finger Lakes region, NY

Chris S's Passions

Biking
Running

Chris S's Bio

I was cool once.

Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on July 29, 2017

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

With round rings, we tend to compensate for the dead spot by ankling or doing that scraping motion with our foot. This produces that beautiful "circular" pedal stroke that we all want, where even in the dead spot there is power being produced.

What q rings seem to do is mechanically render the ankling and scraping unnecessary, thus simplifying the pedal stroke. The legs seem to move more like pistons on these rings. They don't feel as weird as they look, at least to me. Instead, the pedal stroke feels beautifully smooth. I run a round small chainring, and when I drop into it the pedal stroke turns and feels ugly and I have to actually think about how I'm pedaling. But with q rings, you don't have to do that.

I'm not sure I buy the marketing, which implies that you'll be stronger across the board. It seems more plausible that the benefits you get from these will depend on how bad your ability to pedal smoothly and in circles is. In a bike race there are many situations where the pedal stroke can get compromised and you lose efficiency: standing efforts, sprinting, being tired, hard efforts. Or if, like me, you just have a naturally inefficient pedaling style. If they do make me stronger otherwise, so much the better, but if my explanation of these rings is accurate then I should be at a competitive advantage over equally strong but tired racers pounding away inefficiently on round rings.

There is a downside over the round rings, which is the shifting from small to big ring. That may be a function of having a round small ring, but I think it's worth the tradeoff until I get the inner q ring. Whether it's aero or not, I really can't tell. But the qarbon finish really looks cool.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on July 25, 2017

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

No complaints at all about these shifters. Running gear and brake cables is easy. I even had a cable snap inside and was able to get it out. There's a screw on top to adjust the reach. They look good and are comfortable on the hands.

As part of the shifting system, they also work very well. With the 105 shifters, the action felt mushy but the Ultegra shifters are crisp and confident. I don't have to manhandle the levers to go from small to big. The indexing is spot-on. Whatever problems I have usually is because I need to replace cables or housing or I put the wrong tension on one of the barrel adjusters. In short, these simply work and are reliable.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on July 25, 2017

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Stopping: Compared to what I had before, these brakes do inspire confidence in their stopping power. The brake track of your wheels do have considerable importance here, as do the pads, but the calipers themselves are trustworthy. Works with at least up to 25mm tires.

Install: I like the fact that they are very adjustable and easy to install. The barrel adjuster is ergonomic and makes setting the width easy. If anything is off-center, there's a screw to deal with that as well. The pads are also easily adjusted.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on July 25, 2017

4 5

One thing that I desperately need with a front derailleur is the ability to go from small to big ring in a hurry after smashing up a hill. I had Campy Centaur and Shimano Sora before and often had to manhandle the shifter or just stop pedaling to get the chain over. Not with Ultegra. It's a crisp, reliable shift with not much effort. It's also easy to install. As one of the other reviews notes, you really should be sure to have a barrel adjuster on your cable to dial in the tension.

My one gripe is that the long arm design does have a drawback. When you drop the chain to the small ring, the cable end will brush against your leg as you pedal unless you cut it really close to the bolt.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on July 25, 2017

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I use this crank on my racing bike, so I've thrown a lot at it. I'm not so much concerned about the weight--which is light enough--more important is the shifting performance. As part of the Ultegra system, the shifting is really good and I don't have problems with dropped chains. Having Ultegra won't make you 10 watts faster, but it matters having shifting you can trust in a high pressure situation. I take care to maintain my chain (with Molten Speed wax) and so the teeth on the rings have survived two racing seasons and still look great.

I also like the Hollowtech system, which makes removal and maintenance very easy--you just need an allen wrench. I once had Campy Centaur and unless you had specialized tools you had to take it into the shop to remove.

Ultegra is not bling-y or fearsome looking, instead it's rather subdued or stealthy, as the picture suggests.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on July 25, 2017

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I have an Italian threaded BB and there aren't many options for me, since most threaded options are for English thread. But the Ultegra BB is not only cheap but Friction Facts rated the drag resistance as even better than the Dura Ace BB. Not that it's much difference but the point is that this bottom bracket does what it's supposed to do. It's also easy to install. Once it's ruined, throw away and replace. No fuss. Sometimes I'm tempted to splurge on a higher end model like Ceramic Speed, who do make Italian threaded BBs, but there just isn't enough benefit to justify the cost so I always go back to Ultegra.

I deducted one star for the plastic tool, which as noted in a review below gets stripped very easily. But it's not a deal-breaker for me.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on May 11, 2017

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I used to have the Northwave Extreme Tech shoe, but in a crash I damaged the ratchet and strap. I looked around to see where I could get a replacement for those small parts...and could only find a online shop in Europe. Similar situation with my shoes before that, except the boa mechanism wore out and the part was obsolete and hard to find a replacement for. To heck with that!

I saw these SLXs on deep discount, read up on them, and swooped in before Competitive Cyclist could come to its senses. These really are fine shoes. If there was one gripe I had with the Northwaves was that on very long rides my feet would tire. These Empires come with arch supporting insoles. That, combined with the comfortable upper, made a huge difference.

Because of the laces, you can't tighten them while riding. But warm up for a few minutes, retighten, and it should be good. The laces themselves can be tucked under an elastic band to keep them from going where they shouldn't. Unlike expensive closure systems, with these shoes you need only replace laces. So something lost, something gained. But the benefits to me outweigh the drawbacks.

Something else interesting. The shoes are really smooth and narrow. A triathlete did wind tunnel testing with them and found the Empires to be 4 watts faster (12 watts at yaw) than another shoe with straps and ratchets. This also means that you can put on Velotoes shoe covers and not worry about straps poking through the rubber.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on May 11, 2017

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I raced with the carbon/alloy Zipp 60s (the older generation 404) and was well pleased with them. But the 60s were narrow rims intended for 21mm tires. Nobody sells tires in that size anymore, and running tires too wide not only negated the aero benefits but hurt cornering as well. So I bit the bullet and figured I'd go with the best Zipp had to offer.

I only have the front wheel so far, but it's pretty amazing. It's nice and light. A 23mm tire, which is what the rim is designed for (for max aero benefit), fits flush with the brake track. I run the front tire at 90psi and oh wow it's so buttery smooth. On a long ride I have no fatigue from vibration through the front wheel--that alone is worth the price for me. The brakes work very nicely and I've ridden them in rain and not noticed any difference in stopping. The marginal aero gain over the Zipp 60 is not within the realm of detection, at least for me, but they do seem to handle quite well in crosswinds and if I can save 7 watts in a race over the Zipp 60s that's still huge. The wheel also looks the business. I also love the fact that I can get tires on and off without needing tire levers.

If there's one annoyance I have so far with the wheel is when descending fast sometimes I can feel the wheel get slightly pushed by wind. While I've never felt like I was ever going to lose control of the bike (and the effect was momentary), it was sudden and still disconcerting. But maybe I'm getting used to it--I'm getting a bit braver on the downhills, so this may just be me.

Better than the Firecrest 404? I can't say--what drew me to these over the Firecrests were (1) the wider rims and (2) the braking. They're definitely better than the Zipp 60s, though.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on April 19, 2017

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Fit: True to size

I bought this helmet for racing in flat conditions or in cooler weather. If I remember right, Velonews conducted aero testing and found that the Infinity (with the vent closed) was substantially more slippery through air than the Evade or Giro Air Attack. In a race where even a couple watts can be the difference, this advantage is worth the cost to me. It's hard to justify the cost if you commute or more casual, but that isn't the target demographic.

Apart from the aero performance, the helmet padding is nice and plush. There is nothing that looks or feels cheap here. The vent slides easily, but has enough resistance that it'll stay secure wherever you put it. The Infinity is comfortable and highly adjustable. It does get hot with the vent fully closed, but that's understood and accepted when you need the aero benefits.

I've worn this helmet a ton and won races wearing it--no regrets buying this!

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on January 10, 2016

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Pros:
-Removable valve core! If you have deep wheels, this is essential. Michelin latex tubes don't have the removable core.
-Rides like butter. Seriously, butyl feels rougher.
-Lowers the rolling resistance of your wheels by 3-6 watts, saving you at least four weeks of hard interval training to get the same speed.
-Corners better, or at least more confidently, than butyl.
-More resilient to small pokes that get through the tire's puncture protection. Even if there is a puncture, it's usually very slow and won't produce a catastrophic deflation (you know, the "pop-hisssss" or, worse, "BANG!") unless the tire itself somehow gets wrecked. Situations where my tire's been compromised have been pretty much the only way I've gotten flats on the road with these tubes.
-Easier to tell if the tire's been compromised because the pink is really visible, unlike the black of your standard butyl tube.

Cons:
-Latex is delicate and it's easy to get a bit caught between the tire and rim when installing, which will cause a tear when you inflate. You have to check to make sure the tube is safe with each installation.
-If the tire gets a deep nick, the tube will gradually poke out and the road will tear it up. Usually some electrical tape inside the tire will do the job unless it's a really bad nick, but it's something you need to keep an eye out for. It's easy though because eyeballing the tire if you see any nicks where you can also see the pink of the tube you need to take some remedial action.
-Latex will also stick to the tire when you're trying to dismount the tire unless you added talc beforehand. This, again, can make it easy to damage the latex. Adding talc makes mounting easier anyway so it's worth doing for that alone.
-I've had zero luck with glueless patches. The best way to repair is with glued patches. On the plus side, you can tear up old tubes and use them as patches rather than having to buy more.
-You do have to inflate every ride. But I do this anyway and it's...what...20 seconds to do. Big freaking inconvenience.
-You shouldn't use CO2 to reinflate.

Note that all of the cons are general to latex tubes and not these Vittorias specifically. I use these all the time and love them.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on November 4, 2015

3 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
Fit: True to size
Size Purchased: Medium

I managed to snag these for free when CC was offering its strava discount, so it's hard to complain on that score. They were a great value. :D

I wore these at road races and in time trials for just about a whole season and got good use out of them. I have an 8.5 shoe and a medium fit perfectly. I did have a problem with the zipper coming undone in a race and a time trial, but that may just be me being careless in setting the zipper.

As the other review mentioned, these covers are very delicate. The front material is a thin lycra that's intended to smooth out the air flow over the shoe. Any friction, like grazing a moving wheel with the toe, damaged the lycra. Not badly, but enough for there to be a hole the size of a pencil's eraser. I didn't have any problem getting these onto my shoe--just being gentle was enough. You can wear these in warm weather and not be in discomfort (for one chilly road race, I put toe covers on underneath and was fine). The dimpled material in back and underneath is delicate as well. There is an opening for the cleat but not the heel, so the back part of my sole wore a hole on the bottom. On the other hand, the fabric contained the hole and it did not allow it to expand. These clearly are for race use only. If you use them when training or commuting, you may as well take your money and set it on fire.

Why I downrated these is because I can't assess whether they accomplished their sole purpose in appreciably reducing drag in light of the cost. Clearly a lot of thought went into these shoe covers, and they look impressive, but I simply don't know if a plain lycra cover (which can be had at half the cost) is much worse. If they're discounted to something close to a plain shoe cover, I think I would get these again. But not at full retail.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on June 8, 2015

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

This helmet is expensive, but it's optimized for racing and is really for those who don't simply want "good enough" but insist on quality in every aspect of their helmet: looks, safety, functionality, weight, and comfort. The Protone has this in spades. My other helmet is a Louis Garneau Course, a primo road helmet that I liked and was the best I had owned up to this point, but it just seems crude in comparison to the Protone in just about every aspect.

This helmet is designed to combine ventilation with aerodynamics. I've done 20-minute hill repeats in 80 degree weather and the helmet does not add to the suffering in terms of weight or me burning up. The ventilation simply works. All that reminded me that the Protone was there was a single trickle of sweat down the glasses. The front sweat pad is the best I've yet seen and a feature that I did not guess existed but has now spoiled me. With the LG Course, I often got a steady stream of sweat and sometimes have to stop to squeegee the front pad. Plus, the pads would leave indentations on my forehead that wouldn't go away for a few hours. These are minor annoyances and typical of the other helmets I've owned (and so, not a slam against the Course), but Kask took these problems seriously and made the effort to fix them.

This is just one illustration of how the attention to detail is a cut above. The other padding is superior to that of any helmet I've had, dense and plush. The fit is ridiculously adjustable, at least compared to what I'm used to. There's a synth leather chinstrap, which won't get crusty and chafe as you sweat all over it. Racing is hard enough and I have to wear a helmet anyway--these details help me stay focused rather than distracted by petty discomforts.

The aerodynamic qualities can't be quantified by me, but they're plausible from looking at the helmet design. The leading edge, where there's usually a high air pressure point, is a vent. Within the helmet are air channels to direct the air over the head and toward the back vents. The front structural parts of the helmet shell are concave in shape, something you can't really see in the picture--rather than the air hitting them and then hitting the side of the vent (and increasing drag), the shape when you're at speed deflects the air over the vent or channels it over the back of the helmet. How cool is that? The back part is plainly aero, a smooth shell with a snub back and even a slight tail. If you turn your head or are getting whacked with a cross-wind, you won't pay as high a price in drag. The helmet actually feels more slippery than the Course.

I can't speak of the safety features until I crash and smack my head on the pavement, but this helmet is certified as meeting the same standards as any other road helmet in the US and looks very sound. If you view a helmet as simply a safety device and nothing more, the cost of the Protone will be hard to justify. And that's okay. Those of us who race often value the performance aspects, comfort, and are vain enough to want our gear to look awesome. If some of the attention to detail that Kask has put into this helmet matters to you then I'm not sure you can find a better lid.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on March 27, 2015

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I bought these as racing tires. The Open Corsa is arguably the best tire you can buy for rolling resistance, which is what happens when your energy gets soaked into deforming the tire as it contacts the road rather than pushing you forward. For example, to go the same speed with Gatorskins vs the Open Corsas you have to constantly work about 20 watts harder. That's a lot of power wasted. Buying a racing tire is the cheapest way to get faster with no additional effort. Because the tire is soft, the cornering has (so far) been superb. In fact, I've never ridden a tire that could inspire as much confidence as these in a turn. But the very virtues that make them great for racing means that they're going to wear out fast and probably flat more often than a training tire. To minimize the chances of a flat, I run latex tubes. This not only helps even more with rolling resistance and comfort, but latex is better able to tolerate little pokes from whatever slivers I pick up.

When training, I leave a Vittoria on the front--front tires hardly wear at all--and a Continental 4000S II on the back. This lets me have fun cornering while still providing decent rolling resistance and puncture protection where it's usually needed most (in the rear). Even so, the Open Corsa picked up little slivers of rocks while the Conti so far has no marks or cuts. So, again, this is a soft and delicate tire that will reward those seeking speed and handling, like racers--this is NOT for people who value durability.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on December 21, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Saddles are a personal choice, so this saddle may or may not be for you. I bought this to replace a cheap Prologo Kappa Evo saddle. As saddles go, the Prologo was fine in many respects and I've ridden centuries on it. But in road race breakaways, where I would often be in the drops and needing every watt of energy, my lower regions would actually start to go numb from the perineum region being compressed. On the longer rides, even when not in the drops, my nethers would feel fairly abused. This indicated that I could benefit from a saddle with a cutout or at least a relief channel.

There are many saddles with the required features. The Arione has a superb reputation and many of my racing friends use the regular version of the saddle. If you don't need the relief channel, the regular version is a little bit lighter. On this one, my sit bones are perfectly comfortable and, because of the minimal padding and clean design, chafing hasn't yet been an issue. If I'm in the drops, I can still go numb; however, that's usually because I'm off-center on the saddle. I simply shift my perineum area properly into the channel and the problem goes away. Otherwise, I don't even notice the saddle--which is exactly how it should be.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on December 17, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

This is what I use on my race bike and I probably should put it on my beater bike as well. Bar tape comes in all kinds of thickness. This one is thin and really helps with having a secure grip on the bars. It installs easily and stretches out for a nice, clean, tight fit.

Vibration and numb hands aren't a problem at all, though much of the reason for that is probably a function of having a professional bike fit (i.e., hand problems usually occur because too much weight is on the hands rather than the other contact points). Thick tape can't offset a bad fit. But if you've been properly fitted and appreciate a clean look and the feel of control, get this bar tape with no worries.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on December 14, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

Zipp's updated its Tangente line so this one's going out of production. But for $40 it's an unbelievable value. Buy them.

Whether these tires are much more aero than the competition I cannot say--the dimples purportedly save one watt. That won't win you any races, but every watt helps I guess. The 290 tpi brings the tire fairly close to the best racing tires in terms of suppleness. What little information I could find reported that the rolling resistance of the Tangentes was pretty low. So these aren't in the same class as the, say, Vittoria Open Corsa Evo tires; however I have no complaints especially when these are paired with latex tubes. Comfy and fast. The rear tire will probably wear out somewhat faster than a Conti GP4000s will, but I like these better for racing. The front tire seems to show barely any wear after some thousand or so miles.

I have to confess that I'm going to miss these tires. My rims are fairly narrow and this iteration of the Tangente offered a 21mm width that worked perfectly with my Zipp 60s and Boyd Rouleur wheels. The newer Zipp tires are too wide for what I need and would disrupt the airflow of the wheel. Wider may be better, but if aero advantage is what you're seeking then you need to consider the wheel and get a tire that won't mushroom out.

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Chris S

Chris Swrote a review of on December 14, 2014

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

These bars will impress--they just look fearsome. But more than that, there's an performance advantage to the airfoil shape of the tops. First, the tops are actually more ergonomic if you use them for climbing. Second, Cervelo, finding that the handlebars contribute a just a bit less than 20% of the drag of a bike's frame, is now equipping its S5 with its own aero road bars. Every watt you save means extra work for your competition. If you often use the "praying mantis" position you may want to tape everything as you would with regular bars, but I prefer to leave the tops free in order to save every watt I can.

I don't notice any problems with road vibration or much flex when sprinting hard. The drops are well designed and easy to reach. The internal cable routing seems well designed and easy to use.

As noted in one of the comments below, the bar is not designed for clip-on aerobars or is it well suited for a barfly computer mount (unless you have a narrow stem, I suppose). So long as you have a round stem you can mount a computer there, but if you do as I did and pair the bars with a Zipp Sprint stem it makes mounting really awkward. Fair warning.

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