A Bike for Ramsey

Iwan Rheon is a Welsh actor, singer and musician, and his character may be the most hated man on TV. He plays Ramsay Bolton in the HBO series Game of Thrones. Does he do triathlons? I have no idea. I don’t know if he rides a bike. Why then am I bringing him up?

Fifteen years ago I wrote a very popular series of article prescribing bikes for certain types of riders. I named these riders Spark Plug Doug, Long Body Roddy, Long Leg Craig. We had Babe N. The Woods, Beer Can Dan, Rick Plastic (he liked carbon bikes before they were popular). Laidback Jack, we have a few of you still here reading Slowtwitch. We’ll get to you. Provincial Pete didn’t buy anything mail order, bless his heart, only from his LBS, which limited his prescriptions.

I thought I’d change it up and replace fictional people with real people, or, fake real people. For this article series each of my prescriptive articles will be for a Game of Thrones character. I’m starting with Ramsay because he’s 5’8” (in real life), he’s fit and trim, and he is quite athletic (have you seen him with a sword? very dangerous). And, he’s low down. Murdered his own father in cold blood, he did.

A person who is between 5’7” and 5’10”, riding pretty steep (saddle forward), riding fairly but not super-aggressively low, is likely to have a Pad Y and X (rise and run from the bottom bracket) of about 600mm x 485mm. Alternatively, he might be average in his saddle fore/after position but he gets that extra length by being long in the torso.

In the chart above we have a sampling of 26 Slowtwitchers, and each blue diamond represents the Pad Y and X of their current bikes. Leaving off whether this should be their positions, about a third of them are in the “consensus” range, which in my parlance means they’re positioned about how a very good fit and trim high-level athlete would be. Another third are positioned tall relative to the length of the pads, and another third are “long and low,” that is, their armrests are not as high above the bottom bracket versus the distance the pads are in front of the BB.

We recently polled Slowtwitchers, and asked them how they fit aboard their bikes and half said about right. About 26 percent said that their bikes are either too tall or not long enough and I suspect those two complaints are often the same complaint. If a bike is not long enough, that may well mean that the next size up is too tall, forcing the rider to ride a lower bike (which means it's not long enough). Only half that number answered in the reverse, that is, "my bike is too low" or "too long."

This makes the fit problem for Ramsey more acute. Let me explain. Three Slowtwitchers in the graph highest above (in the circle) are clustered around 600mm of Pad Y and 485mm of Pad X. Their range is Pad Y of 600mm to 605mm and Pad X of 480mm to 487mm. Ramsay is roughly the mean of these.

Ramsay fits in the slightly long and low end of average, but not long and low enough to be in the long and low category, if that makes sense. The way tri bikes are made today, long and low geometries are pretty much gone. I explained this last week (See: Your Ideal Tri Bike, link below). Furthermore, most bike makers today are putting pretty high profile aerobars on these bikes, so middlin’-geometry bikes are rendered a bit tall by the spec choice of tall aerobars.

If Ramsey, then, is slightly low and long, and bikes today are slightly narrow and tall when you add their geometries plus their aerobars, you can see that Ramsey is okay, but there are fewer bikes for him than their used to be. The old Cervelo P2 and P3, the QR CD01, these are more on the long and low side and would fit him nicely, but these aren’t made anymore.

In the chart just above you’ll see some boxes and please pardon if this is a bit crowded and confusing at first blush. In the blue rectangle is my estimate of the size range for the bikes in the sizes inside that rectangle. What I’m saying is, for this size 54 (52 for QR), using a pretty expansive idea of range the pad heights available with the OE bars are 605mm to 675mm (this includes different stem pitches). The Pad X range is 445mm to 490mm.

Note that these bikes in the blue rectangle barely catch 1 of the 3 bikes in this cluster. These bikes are narrow/taller than what Ramsey rides. But the P3 (sand colored rectangle) works a little better. Why? Because the P3, though sharing the same frame as the P2, has a 3T aerobar with pads that sit slightly lower and about 15mm further out.

The Shiv (red rectangle) is going to fit a lot of people, but not Ramsey. I show this bike to illustrate that the range of the Shiv in size S is important, just not optimized for Ramsey.

A Speed Concept in M will fit, the Orbea, BMC, Argon 18 will all work though it’ll be a struggle to get them low enough. All these bikes will work better with either an Enve or a TriRig bar, because these bars are lower and longer. I made a geen colored rectangle in the graphic above to illustrate how these bikes would fit with a TriRig bar on in place of their OE bars. In the case of the TriRig rectangle, the most rearward 20mm or 30mm in this range is going to be found with the cheaper Alpha C, because you can put a shorter stem on that bar than the integrated stem that goes on the Alpha X. However, the Alpha X is a nice fit choice for all these bikes.

One obvious winner, though, is the bike of which I'm critical in terms of the bar spec’d. The best deal, if you’re just looking at bang for buck, in the tri world today is Cannondale’s Slice. But Cannondale put an older bar, not very good for fit purposes, on that bike. It’s an old Visiontech and it’s a shame because the newer Visiontech bar, like what you see on Orbea’s Ordu, is a terrific bar.

However, remember, Ramsey is pretty low-down. He needs that lower position that this Visiontech bar offers. That bar has a pad height of 35mm above the centerline of the pursuit bar, versus the 60mm on most other bars including Profile Design. This extra 25mm of aerobar pad drop suits Ramsey well.

Here’s how the math works. Let’s say Ramsey’s Pad Y and X are 600mm and 485mm respectively. This Slice’s Visiontech pads sit right over the pursuit bar, so Pad X = HX. The pad height of those bars is 35mm, so HY = 565 (Pad Y of 600mm minus a pad height of 35mm = 565mm of HY).

Now, port 565mm and 485mm into our HX/HY Calculator, and start messing around with stem pitches and lengths along with various headset top caps and spacers. Eventually you hit on a combo that yields an underlying frame with a stack and reach of 527mm and 407mm respectively, and that’s a 54cm Slice. The front-end combo is a very elegant 90mm-long stem, –17° pitch (level with the ground), 20mm of spacers + top cap. That Slice in Size 54 has a stack/reach of 527/405, so, close enough.

To find out the Trek and Felt solutions for this Pad X/Y you can refer to Trek’s Speed Concept Excel-based spreadsheet and Felt’s for the IA and IAx. For the IAx it’s the 54cm size absolutely slammed, and you push the pads out 15mm from neutral. See? The bike will work, but it’s on the nub of being too low. If you bought this bike and you eventually wanted to go lower than a pad height of 600mm, you’d have no place else to go without changing the bars. Same with the other bikes in this geometry. You could go to the 51cm size and push the aerobar pads forward another 11mm, which is not a bad solution, it will work fine, just the bike becomes a little tight in the wheelbase.

Note that the IAx fits about 25mm or 30mm longer than the IA, but the IA is a tiny bit lower (because of how its integrated aerobar system works). This means you can almost ride a 56cm IA and get it done, but not quite, the bike isn’t quite low enough.

Speed Concept, it’s a Size M, low/far stem, 35mm pedestal push the pads forward about 15mm from neutral. Nice fit. The Speed Concept front end is very rangy.

This is an inexhaustive list of bikes. In fact, I just checked as an afterthought, Ramsey is right smack dab in the center of the range for a Giant Trinity Advanced Pro in size S. That bike’s very narrow range for Pad Y is 580mm to 610mm, and Pad X to pad-rear is 415mm to 475mm (this is how Giant measures its Pad Y and X). Take our 485mm to pad-center, lop off 40mm and you get a pad-rear of 445mm which, by cracky, hits the bullseye center of that range.

This is not intended to give you the solution for every bike, rather to show how the process works. Mosey on over to our Reader Forum and ask about other bikes that might work for Ramsey.

More coming.