No System No Sale
Written by: Dan Empfield
Added: Fri Feb 19 2016
The other is the unsexily-named Complete Bike Solver workstation. What we do is math out for you a list of bikes that would work for your existing rider position (or one we'll hastily generate for you aboard a fit bike).
We can do this quickly 30 minute appointments because we already have systems (F.I.S.T. and its offspring) that can prescribe bikes that match your riding position in granular detail: the size and model of a bike and every aspect of its handlebar and front end. The engines for this are a calculator that solves the x and y dimensions from the handlebar clamp back to the head tube top of a bike we're looking for, and then our Stack and Reach tables.
Well, not every superbike maker, and this is a problem. I have spoken to a number of brand managers who have no solution to matching a prospective customer's bike position to their superbikes. This is a head scratcher because making a superbike solver is a 1-day task. How is it done?
First you need one root bike. Any bike. Any size. Let's take a Felt DA, size 56cm, with Felt's handlebars an one of Felt's 1-piece stems (any of its stems). Stick this bike on a trainer, level it, measure x and y from the BB to the armrest. Accurately.
That bike will have Felt's 90mm flat stem, 20mm of pedestals under the armrests in what I've termed its default fore/aft configuration. How do I know this? Because the Felt DA was the first bike I used when devising this process I'm describing here. I built this solver several years ago, based on Carl Matson's excellent brainstorm for the Speed Concept. Above is a screenshot of a detail of that spreadsheet I made.
I tell superbike makers to set up a spreadsheet, starting with a y-axis measure of 500mm and an x-axis of 400mm, each cell up and out from this starting point increasing in 5mm increments.
By doing what I recommend above, you have the first cell solved in this superbike solver. You know the configuration of the bike set up to give you a pad y and x of 610mm and 515mm. How many other cells can you fill in?
I ask superbike makers how their bikes adjust in the front. Felt has a number of stems. I asked Felt, Can you tell me the height and length (the y and x) of your stems? According to my archives the various stems they made were termed:
(The x and y of these stems didn't always exactly measure according to their names.)
If my root Felt DA measured 610mm and 515mm with a 90/0 stem and 20mm of pedestals, if I put an 100/30 stem on it with no pedestals underneath, the pads must now sit in the 620mm y-axis cell. Yippee! Another spreadsheet cell populated in my solver!
Felt's aerobar pedestals have no length component to them; they impact only the height. For all of Felt's stems if I place 5mm, and 10mm, pedestals under the pads, I can populate the next 2 cells above the unpedestaled solution.
It's kind of fun. it's addictive. The goal is to populate all the cells you can, finding a configuration that populates empty cells. Eventually all the cells are filled. Your superbike solver is built.
The Felt DA's handlebars handled fore/aft adjustment by pads that mounted on aerobar extensions, these extensions moving fore and aft in the clamp; and the pads could be affixed in rear, center, or forward holes. I created a nomenclature for this, and this is the Felt I would ride:
Size = 56
Stem = 100/30
Pedestals = 15mm
Aerobar fore/aft = Ctr/-5mm
What does Ctr/-5mm mean? The pad would be in the Ctr (center) hole and the aerobar extensions would be pulled back from the default location.
For the Speed Concept and many other bikes you might have overlapping solutions: a size M frame with a taller and longer front end might work for a particular pad y and x spreadsheet cell, while a L frame with a shorter and lower stem might also work for that cell. Fine. Then you have two fit solutions and you now have to solve a handling problem (Do I want a longer or shorter wheelbase? Do I want the pursuit bars farther in front of the bottom bracket or nearer the BB?)
What I tell superbike makers is, at a minimum, choose the solution you think best for your own superbike you're making. At least start with this. At least give your customers and retailers a chance at prescribing your bike. Give them a tool. Give them a hand.
I suspect a bike maker would want to build up a couple of more bikes in different sizes and measure them, just as a check, to see that the solver built off of one root bike works throughout the entire size run. Still, this is not hard, it is not time consuming, and any superbike maker who has no pad x/y solver is at a disadvantage in the marketplace.
When we prescribe bikes for Slowtwitch Road Show attendees this Spring we'll be using these charts when prescribing superbikes. If there is no chart, there will be no prescription. If there is no prescription, the likelihood of the sale diminishes greatly. Giant's new Trinity has a kind of solver. A good start. It's part of its geometry chart above (I'm producing here a detail of its chart). What it calls Armrest Stack and Reach are pad y and x (to the back of the pad). It's a range. It would not be hard to get more granular and express how you get to each place in the range. I expect that Giant or its most fit-oriented dealer, JT Lyons of Moment Cycle Sport, will generate this.
Were I a prospective buyer I'd ask myself why a superbike has no such solver, if none existed. Is the above exercise difficult? Laborious? Expensive? Time consuming? What would be the reason why no solver exists? Some brand managers tell me that a spreadsheet is too low tech; it doesn't represent their brand appropriately. They're holding out for a slick, databasing solution. Okay. But Felt has a spreadsheet for its IA, Trek a spreadsheet for it's SC, Cervelo a pdf of a spreadsheet for its P5, and while these might not be high tech solutions their bikes are flying out the door because a solver exists.
If you knew what I know, you could find the bikes, all bikes, road or tri, that fit you, in 20 or 30 minutes tops. So let's make sure you know what I know. 3.03.15
We're going to determine what my best P5 Six would be via a simple 5-minute process you can use to discover which P5 size and front-end config is ideal for you. 3.04.15