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Technical Q&A with Lennard Zinn: Lance on L’Alpe; bar tape; more on Magnus; that busted fork; and feedback

By Lennard Zinn

Another closeup

Another closeup

Photo: Lennard Zinn

Dear Lennard,
There was much discussion before the Tour about Lance’s mountain TT bike. In “The Lance Chronicles” he was trying several different models and he used the aero’ bars on Mont Ventoux. What happened to them? Was it something at Ventoux that made him change?

Dear Anthony,
I’ll let Trek’s team liaison, Scott Daubert, field that one:

There are two answers here. Steve Hed used one of the formulas we developed through F-One and learned that the clip-on’s weight would cost Lance six or seven seconds during his assault up L’Alpe d’Huez. Their aerodynamic advantage is impossible to calculate because you don’t know how much time you would spend on them so comparing their weight to the aero’ advantage became moot. The bigger and more decisive issue was the crowds. You could see how dangerous the spectators were on Ad’H, and holding the aero bars might have been devastating. In the end, safety ruled and the bars were left behind.
Scott Daubert
Trek Teams Liaison

How’bout that nifty white handlebar tape?
Dear Lennard,I noticed that Liberty Seguros and ONCE have used this special type of super-tacky white handlebar tape that looks extremely thin. Who makes these gems? Thank you.

Dear Yash,
I believe that is Sylva tape on the bikes of Liberty Seguros (which used to be ONCE). It is indeed thin, plastic tape and has a cross-hatched surface texture to it. I don’t know about tacky, if you mean in the sense of being sticky. I think the texture makes it less slick than the old Benotto plastic tape, but I don’t think it has any adhesive properties to the top surface.

More on Magnus, please
Dear Lennard,
Thanks for posting the specs on Magnus Backstedt’s bike. But what is his stem length and crank length?

Dear Frank,
His stem length is 140mm and his crankarm length is 177.5mm.

Any thoughts on that busted fork?
Dear Lennard,
I wanted to know if you care to comment on the broken fork (or was it the steering tube?) on Jean-Patrick Nazon’s bike.

Dear Jonathan,
It happened on the 205.5km 13th stage, won by Lance Armstrong from Ivan Basso at the summit finish of Plateau de Beille after going over seven categorized climbs through the Pyrénées from Lannemezan. Ag2R’s Jean-Patrick Nazon (winner of the Tour’s third stage over the cobbled sections between Waterloo and Wasquehal) snapped his fork’s steering tube right off at the lower headset race, apparently after hitting a low wall. According to VeloNews’ Rupert Guinness, one kilometer after the summit of the second climb, the Col de Portet d’Aspet at 64km, Nazon “crashed heavily after badly negotiating on a corner. He sustained cuts to the knee and stomach.”

A closeup

A closeup

Photo: Lennard Zinn

Here are three photos of his bike afterward. I have been told that it was a Time fork on his Decathlon bike. Time is not listed on the side of Ag2R’s truck as a sponsor. On the other hand, Decathlon, which is a big-box athletic-store chain in France, puts its own house brand on some components on its bikes, and one of its house brands is Penta. The wheels on the Ag2R bikes, for instance, are Penta, a Decathlon house brand. The fork is painted to match the frame. On Decathlon’s Web site, the fork for its very similar, top-of-the-line bike is listed as: Fourche Décathlon Penta by Time. Decathlon’s next model down also lists a Time fork. According to Time USA’s Doug Knox, the broken fork happened after, as Guinness put it, “badly negotiating on a corner.” Knox related the difficulty of communicating with anyone in France right now due to the countrywide August vacation but said that he had managed to reach an Ag2R team mechanic who said that Nazon’s fork broke after hitting a low wall on the road edge.

Feedback on previous Tour postings
On July 6, as part of my report on aero’ helmets in the Tour, I ran this quote from Giro’s Toshi Corbet: “I am sure that Uvex helmet of Ullrich’s would not pass (the safety tests). Its foam is 7mm thinner than ours. But it is cool. I don’t think I agree with enclosing the underside of the tail, though. I can’t wait to test it in the tunnel when we start design work for our 2005 time-trial helmet with a full 12 months to do it.” I also included a paraphrased version of the same quote in the August 16 issue of the print edition of VeloNews. My publication of these comments from Giro provoked the following response from the U.S. importer of Uvex.

I read with great interest your article on time-trial helmets in the latest issue of VeloNews. I found it disappointing that you didn’t bother to check the facts on our Uvex time-trial helmet. Rather, you relied on Toshi Corbet’s clearly misinformed opinion. To set the record straight, the Uvex time-trial helmet was developed by our Uvex technical team in Germany and has been extensively tested in the Audi Germany wind-tunnel facilities. It represents the state of the art in time-trial helmets with such features as exhaust ducting at the rear and a sealed body. While I’m sure Toshi is envious of the technology, we will defer from sending him a sample for his wind-tunnel tests. I further note that the helmet has been fully tested by the German testing agency, TÜV, is certified in compliance with EN 1078 and will be shown at Interbike along with a video explaining the technological advantages of this incredible product. You’re invited to stop by and get the accurate story on this product.
Carl Helmetag
President, UVEX Sports Inc.

* * *

Regarding my July 19 posting on U.S. Postal’s planning, I got this response:

Dear Lennard,
I think what most people haven’t seen is how U.S. Postal team’s bikes are better prepared than the others.

Teams want their bikes to be between 6.8 and 6.9kg. This is a good idea, but I don’t feel that all the 6.8kg bikes really weigh the same … and in my opinion Armstrong’s bike is the lighter 6.8kg bike.

For me the idea is that for flat stages you want a 6.8kg to 7.2kg bike with good aerodynamics; for the mountain, you want the same total weight with less rotational weight.

In my opinion frame manufacturers have to think about where they want the mass to be on the bike. Why for the Alpe would you want a 850-gram frame with a 300g fork if then you have to ask the components sponsors to give pedals with heavier axle (I heard about teams asking Speedplays for heavier pedals), to use heavier wheels, cranks, etc.?

Armstrong’s bike for L’Alpe d’Huez was 6.8kg but with rims around 200gr and special pedals made especially for him by Shimano. So the deduction is that his frame was definitely not the lightest, and same thing for the components (Deda bar and stem, Shimano seat post, Concor light saddle, etc.). Ivan Basso had a very light frame and some very light components, but then he had to use 350g rims to add weight. Maybe some people would say that the Z4s are more aerodynamic than Z2s or the Bontragers Armstrong used, but this is still 100g more on each rim compared with the Z2, and about 150g per rim over Armstrong’s Bontragers. And I don’t want to start talking about Saeco, which has a 6.8kg bike with Ksyriums (450g minimum for a rim).

My opinion is that if the UCI weight limit doesn’t change, sponsors will now have to work together to offer the best balance. They will really have to cooperate to offer the best combination to the team. Again, U.S. Postal was one step better that the others this year. If I were a team manager, I guess I would like to have for the racers a 1.1-1.4kg frame, with precise handling (fork about 400g), and then use good, light components in the right places. Maybe this weight limit is an opportunity to stop thinking only about the weight. Maybe it’s an opportunity to see again some very nice 1.3kg titanium frames, etc.
Pierre-Yves Facomprez
wheelbuilder in France

* * *

And finally, we have this note on the pros’ brake-hood positioning:

Dear Lennard,
I am a Serotta-certified fit technician and have been asked about the pros’ hoods many times. I read the answer that John Harrington made regarding the position of the rider’s hoods and I had some skepticism about it.

He stated that riders raise their hoods to get a higher position because of shortened head tube associated with compact frames. This does not make sense. First, the manufacturers don’t have to use shorter head tubes, and some of them do not. Second, not all Tour riders who use that position have compact frames. Lance’s bike is a perfect example of that. Third, all of these riders could simply flip their stems up if they wanted to get up higher.

The only reason that I could see for having a higher hood position is that they want to keep themselves up higher for riding in the peloton, when aerodynamics are not an issue, but are still looking to keep a severe drop. Easton’s new handlebar allows for a smooth transition into the high hoods and slightly reduces the reach to the lever from the drop. Also, using a higher hood position allows for a slightly more natural bend of the wrist and a stronger grip on the hoods.

Technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder (www.zinncycles.com), a former U.S. national team rider and author of several books on bikes and bike maintenance including the pair of successful maintenance guides “ Zinn & the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” and “Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance.”Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Zinn. Zinn’s column appears here each Tuesday.

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