Ask Nick: Spending aero money, fitting a second bike, wheels for Ireland and seating tubulars

Tech editor Nick Legan answers reader questions on perfect tubular mounts, TT bike purchases, fitting a second bike and buying wheels for gritty climates

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Editor’s Note: VeloNews tech editor Nick Legan is a former ProTour mechanic who most recently wrenched for Team RadioShack at the 2010 Tour de France and elsewhere. His column has appeared here every Thursday since October 20, 2010. This is Ask Nick #90 and Legan’s final column before he departs We hope you’ve enjoyed his weekly Q&A as much as we have. If so, drop a comment below.

I just had a bike fit done for my second bike.

During the fitting, the bike fitter also adjusted the fore-aft position of my shoes and cleats. All of my bikes have the same crank length (170mm). We also looked at the lateral adjustment of the cleat to adjust for the Q-factor of the crank and BB. Then, it occurred to me that my bikes would have different Q-factors since they have different cranksets (Cannondale Hollowgram vs. SRAM Red) and different bottom brackets (BB30 and GXP).

What do you do when you have different bikes and multiple shoes? Do you set specific shoe/cleat combinations for specific bikes or not? Or, is the adjustment not really necessary or too insignificant? (Loaded question.)

I wonder what the pro teams do? Or, do they use different spindle lengths for different bikes so they do not need to adjust the lateral distance (Q-factor) of the potential multiple bike and shoe-cleat combination? — Mark

Make all of your bike fits identical, at least as much as possible. That would be my suggestion. But then I have a finicky body. Other riders won’t notice even large changes. They are blessed with bodies that adapt quickly to change. Mine doesn’t. If you have knee twinges after missing your day’s ride and climbing a flight of stairs, you probably need to play close attention to your bike fit.

Using the same saddle, pedal, shoes and handlebar on all your road bikes is a good tactic. This is made easy for pros because they have sponsor obligations. Using the same crank length is a good start, but seat heights can still be affected by differences in shoe sole thicknesses, pedal stack heights and even different big short padding or saddle wear (compression as a saddle wears decreases the distance between the top of the saddle).

One question I have is whether you went to the same fitter for both of your fits. Is your fitter aware of your multiple bikes? If not, it’s probably a good idea to book some time to work with your fitter to get all your bikes fitting the same.

I try to have one pair of road and one pair of mountain bike shoes that I use for all my bikes. Eliminating variables is key to simplifying your bike riding. Once I have a pair of shoes dialed in, I order a replacement and hide them away. I’m the same way with saddles. I keep spares of my preferred saddle around and ride it on all my bikes.

I’m in the market for a time trial bike under $3,000. I have looked at the Cervélo P2 and was wondering if you had any experience with that specific bike. Also how do you feel about the Trek Speed Concept? — Kevin

I don’t think you can go wrong with either of those bikes. You should base your purchase on which one fits you better. In a wind tunnel I would suspect that the Trek is faster, but if the Cervélo fits you better, then you’ll be faster. When it comes to ease of repair and maintenance, I would give the nod to the P2. It’s a really well thought out design that keeps things simple and accessible. The Trek works well when in the hands of an experienced mechanic.

Another option to consider is spending considerably less on a bike and buying some time in a wind tunnel. Get an inexpensive aluminum time trial frame with Shimano 105 or SRAM Rival parts and spend your money on achieving a good position, with a super slippery helmet and skinsuit (bought after trying different models at the tunnel). Then spend time on the bike. To be a good time trialist, you need to put in the work out on the road. That will make a much bigger difference than your decision between the P2 or the Speed Concept. Hope that helps!

I work as a mechanic and have been gluing tubular tires on road/track/cross/tri bike for years. I still have trouble getting tires to sit perfectly straight as well as avoiding a light hop in the tire right around the valve. Despite having mounted hundreds of tires, it is a fairly time consuming process for me to get tubulars mounted perfectly.

It looks like at the WorldTour level, mechanics are gluing up tires at a very rapid rate. While I’m sure they are mounted perfectly secure, it seems like it would be near impossible for all of those tires to have been mounted perfectly straight and round.

My question is this: is it not of ultimate concern to spend the time to get tubulars mounted absolutely perfectly or are WorldTour mechanics just that good that it takes no time at all for them to do a perfect job? — Derek

It is more important for a tire to be securely mounted than it is that it’s absolutely straight and round. The fact is that few tires are perfectly manufactured. The tires that I’ve mounted to a standard that I would consider “perfect” are few and far between. But every one of them that I’ve stretched on was optimized as much as possible. Some tires are better than others, though. I’ve always had good luck with high-end tires from Vittoria, Continental, Hutchinson, Veloflex, and Schwalbe. In my experience, many boutique, handmade tires rarely have treads mounted straight on the casings. Inexpensive tubulars seem to have larger hops at the valve.

The process that WorldTour mechanics employ also makes it easier to get them on straight. A stretched tire is easier to work with. Making the valve stem hole a little bigger can help minimize the dreaded hop. Usually when there are a lot of tires to mount, a couple mechanics will team up and do it assembly line-style, with one applying glue and the other mounting the tire. You get in a groove.

It also helps that team mechanics put on so many tires during the season. Their arms and hands get strong from the constant work. That strength means that they struggle less and can more easily manipulate the tire into place.

I have a 2008 Cervélo R3 SL and I have always had less then stellar shifting. I run Campagnolo Record 10-speed. I have noticed that the top pulley of the rear derailleur does not sit directly under the cogset. It sort of swings back behind it a bit. I brought it to a shop recently and they told me that there have been compatibility issues with some frame manufacturers and Campagnolo. When we held the derailleur directly underneath the cogset, everything shifted great. We looked at some aftermarket derailleur hangers to see if any would bring the derailleur into proper position. No luck. Since Campy does not provide a “B” screw like Shimano, is there anything I can do? — Keith Goldstein

I’m not entirely sure if you mean that the derailleur doesn’t give you enough chain wrap, when viewed in profile, or if when viewed from behind, the top pulley doesn’t align with a given cog. In either case, there is a solution.

First up, Campagnolo rear derailleurs DO have a “B” screw. It just isn’t located in the same place as on Shimano derailleurs. Look at the lower knuckle near where it mounts to the derailleur pulley cage. There is a Phillips head screw there. Use it to give the required chain wrap while still allowing the top pulley to clear your biggest cog.

Second, if the second situation is vexing you, align the rear derailleur hanger. Then set up your rear derailleur again, starting with the stops, then the cable tension.

There is no reason you shouldn’t enjoy perfect shifting on your Cervélo. If your shop is having problems with your and others’ bikes, perhaps it is the culprit, not the parts involved in the matter. And while it’s easy for me to say that, this can be an opportunity for them, and you, to learn more. Problems help us improve. Best of luck.

My job is going to relocate me from NYC to the west of Ireland for a while and, before I leave, I want to pick up a spare pair of wheels for my road bike. I am 6-foot-3-inches and 225 pounds. I ride an Orbea Orca on Mavic Ksyrium SL wheels, which have given me four trouble-free years of service. I’d love to get a set of 30 or 40mm carbon wheels, but, considering it rains a lot in the west of Ireland and the roads are not the best, and the fact that I only ride for pleasure and not competition, I’m not sure they’re such a good idea. I reckon something proven in the spring classics would be suitable but what would that be? Paris-Roubaix aside, what are the wheels of choice for the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Ghent-Wevelgem, etc.? — Rich

I agree that carbon wheels won’t serve you best. The braking performance still can’t match that of a quality aluminum rim. While you’d save a bit of weight, aluminum wheels will perform better in Ireland.

As for what to buy? Well there are plenty of great pre-built options. I love Shimano’s Ultegra tubeless wheels. (They can be used with normal tubes and tires as well, but why wouldn’t you go tubeless?) Mavic’s Ksyrium wheels are still around after all these years for a reason: they are high quality, long lasting hoops. I recently rode a set of American Classic Hurricanes (designed for Clydesdale riders) and liked them quite a lot.

Your other option is to have some wheels built. If you fancy a particular brand of hubs, or want to color coordinate, you can easily. Pink Chris King hubs? Go for it. Understated black DT Swiss 240S hubs? Whatever floats your boat. In the hands of the right wheel builder, you’ll have a set of wheels that, with maintenance, can outlast your assignment to Ireland.

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