Fast Talk podcast, ep. 57: Trail, rake, and flop — bike design with Lennard Zinn

Chris Case, VeloNews.com /

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including sport science, training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.


SO, YOU THINK YOU KNOW BICYCLES? Well, think again. Today we’re sitting down with a legend of the cycling industry to talk about a variety of factors in frame design that most cyclists have never heard of. Yet these design elements — things like fork offset, trail, and head tube angle — have a bigger impact on a bike’s performance and ride quality than frame material, or any of the things we focus on when checking out what our friends are riding.

Our guest today is longtime VeloNews contributor Lennard Zinn. Author of the definitive books on bicycle maintenance, “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance” and “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance,” among other titles, Zinn has spent the past 37 years building custom bikes and studying the physics of bicycle design. Incidentally, it all started with his college thesis on building an un-rideable bike.

So, today, we’ll delve into:

  1. The concepts of fork rake, head-tube angle, and trail, among others, and why each is a crucial element of bike design.
  2. How these factors act together to make the bike more or less stable, and why greater stability may not be what you’re looking for.
  3. The effects of wheel flop and how it impacts your ability to corner, including an explanation of counter-steering and when you’d want to use it.
  4. How understanding rake, trail, and flop can have a significant impact on your performance, as well as how you can put it to good use in selecting the right bike for you.
  5. The evolution of bike design and how it has been influenced by both fashion and performance.
  6. And finally, some guidelines on selecting your next bike and how to get the ride experience you want.

So, have you brushed up on your physics? Are you prepared to learn how a bicycle really works? Let’s make you fast!

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