Words: Jason Delgado
Have you asked yourself this question? If not, you should. It’s been commented by many that cycling is becoming the new golf, or that is taking golf’s spot light as a networking sport for the masses.
While this is absolutely true, along with the growing popularity of cycling. Let’s stop and focus on the most important tool used in the sport, the bike. I’ll provide a few examples so we can visualize the same thing.
Let’s say you’re in the coffee shop and a new rider arrives. The first thing he or she will notice is your bike and probably vice-versa.
Seasoned riders will look at your finishing kit first, that is an indicator of how much you respect your bike and probably how much you ride.
Starting with handlebar tape, this is a component of your finishing kit. Dirty bar tape signifies this person rides a lot, which is one of the reasons why seasoned riders prefer black handlebar tape.
Black bar tape equals business.
Handlebars are a major component of the finishing kit. The handlebar drop will show how flexible you are and is an indicator of fitness. This also correlates to stem spacers, the more spacers the higher your handlebar will sit and thus putting the rider in a more comfortable position. The less spacers, the lower your center of gravity but it also gives you a more aggressive position that you need to condition your body for. The cyclist slang for the latter is “slamming your stem.”
Personal opinion stems should be slammed.
The stem should match your bars. Think a Nike T-shirt with Adidas sneakers, doesn’t look right. Stem length can also be an indicator of and riding styles and rider fit and position.
Short stem equals a twitchy front end, a longer stem will generate the opposite effect.
Going to the seat post, one recognizes the “saddle t0 bar drop”, this also dictates fitness and aggressive fit. If you pay attention to detail, you match it to your stem and handlebar.
Now to the frame set, this is the most personalized item of your bike. It is what ties everything together. Frames, like all other components come in all types of shapes, sizes, finishes and material. You could have a comfort or race geometry. There is all types of frame manufactures, this where style comes into play.
Going into the lowest part of you bike, the wheel set. At a novice level, contrary to everyone’s belief wheel sets don’t provide that much of a performance benefit. They do look pretty and they will help depending on the riding conditions like windy road or steep climbs. At an rider’s advanced level, the wheels chosen will matter, depending on their application.
Your wheels will identify your regular route’s terrain. In the mountainous or hilly areas, lightweight shallow depth wheels are the best choice. In flat and windy terrain, deep profile wheels are best for high sustainable speeds or sprinting.
The group set is what makes your machine come to life, with the assistance of the rider. Group sets are simple and straight forward, if your’re serious about the sport you probably have one of the higher level group sets.
What a group set can state, is if you’re a purist or a tech. A purist will most likely be on a mechanical group and a tech might go for an electrical group. At the center of any group is the crank set and this component will say the most about you and how you execute yourself.
First thing to know about crank sets is chain ring size. There’s the compact 50/32, sub-compact 52/36, standard 53/39 and 54/42 for those who wish to push a harder gear. There are more options but these are the most common. Where you do most of your riding will affect the size of chainring you go with greatly. For now, we’ll stick to Miami’s flat profile just to keep it short.
52/36 is for pure leg speed. think fast acceleration.
53/39 is mainly for all rounders. This is the “standard” size of chainrings that’s been used in the sport for years.
54/42 is for those who like to grind, compare it to a diesel engine. Low rpm that can go for a long time.
Between the chain rings is a spider that also makes a statement. There’s the basic spiders that comes with the crank or you can opt to go with a power meter spider. This is the “level-up” option and one of the most poorly used and misunderstood tools. A rider that has a power meter and actually uses it, usually correlates to their investment in the sport and how serious they are about it.
Stay tuned for a later article on power meters and their benefits.