What’s New at the Shop

From The Racing Post, April 2016


So it may have been the worst kept secret in years, but SRAM eTap has finally made it to the Bike Mart, sort of. Let’s lead with this. SRAM is doing the eTap release in very limited waves. Each of the larger distributors around the country were allocated a select quantity of groupos, then each distributor allocated a select quantity of groupos to the LBS. So while we have seen a few groupos alreasy come and go, we patiently await our next fulfilment. But we do happen to have 3 fully built Pinarello’s with eTap on them and that is what I took out for a spin last weekend.

Look ma, no wires. Rear Derailleur, the small black piece is the battery.

Look ma, no wires. Rear Derailleur, the small black piece is the battery.

So how does the eTap work? Well, it is really quite simple. eTap works on its own wireless network. Once the front and rear derailleurs have been paired with a set of shifters, the network is closed. There is no need for concern with cross talk between another eTap groupo. Nor is there any need for concern from other networks jamming up the signals. SRAM was very concerned about that very issue and did plenty of testing during the Tour of California as teams road through the Silicon Valley, one of the busiest areas of the world in regard to “dirty air” and the eTap equipped bikes performed flawlessly.

The functionality of the groupos is also very simple. The shift lever is still in place, but no longer does it swing inwards, instead a large ”mouse” type button is on the lever. The right hand shifter takes you down to a smaller cog on the cassette. Left hand shifter takes you back up to a larger cog on the cassette. Holding both buttons at the same time will make the front derailleur shift up to the big ring or back down to the small ring. 

Front Derailleur. Notice the battery is the same, they can be swapped if one runs out of juice.

Front Derailleur. Notice the battery is the same, they can be swapped if one runs out of juice.

One of the largest concerns with a new technology is always how long the batteries will last. Here is what SRAM had to tell us during the launch. The said that this is the 27th iteration of eTap and battery life and costs were given plenty of attention. There are CR2032 batteries in both of the shift levers, the same battery as your standard heart rate monitor strap. The battery life on these is quoted at approximately 2 years. The front and rear derailleurs will work with a proprietary rechargeable battery. This is a very small, lightweight, and inexpensive battery. Battery life is to be at approximately 1000k or little over 600 miles.

So if you do forget to charge up the batteries a few things can be done to help finish a ride. The first is to carry a spare in your jersey or seat bag. If only one battery is losing its charge pick the position you want on either the cassette or the chain ring, swap the batteries and ride on in. Of course if none of these options work, hope you are in a gear you like and now you have some single speed practice.

A few of the other features to the eTap groupo are the blip box and blip buttons. There are a few different applications here. One of them is going to be a time trial set up with the blip buttons wrapped under the bar tape on the ends of the aerobars. The blip buttons are then plugged into the blip box that will in turn be mounted under a Garmin mount or something along those lines. The blip buttons and blip box could also be used to set up “sprinter” style switches or perhaps even help someone with a disability access an easier experience in riding.
As far as performance goes, it was exactly what I expected as I set off on my ride. Smooth and seamless SRAM Red shifting. If you want to work your way up or down the cassette, all you have to do is hold down the buttons and keep pedaling. On and off the big ring is also a breeze, even under load. I still found myself backing off just a bit as I used the front derailleur, but it felt to me as if it would make the shift in either direction no matter the load on the drivetrain. 

All in all I was very impressed with the entire groupo and the aesthetics are bang on as well. Very beautiful and pleasing to the eye. A slight variation to the logo and placement on the cranks from the previous generation of Red 22. If I were to find anything that was not met with full satisfaction it would be the ergonomics of the hoods, after spending months on my CX1 hydro groupo these hoods just don’t seem beefy enough for me. Other than that, it’s awesome. Come on by the shop and see one of the bikes we have built up – if they aren’t sold by the time you make it in. See you on the road!


Bontrager Aeolus Wheels

What’s New at the Shop

Originally published in The Racing Post January 2013

Update October 2015

Today I'm revisiting a review I wrote in 2013 for The Racing Post — I'm Products Editor at TRP and each month I choose a product we carry at Richardson Bike Mart to try out and review. Much has changed since then, but Bontrager Wheels still run on the same principle. I have been a fan of Bontrager wheels and still are to this day. Shortly after writing this review, I slammed into a seam on the road at close to 30 MPH when I mis-timed a bunny hop. When I hit, I was certain that I had destroyed the rim and was waiting for it to collapse underneath me. What actually happened was a massive sidewall blow out and a slow 20-mile limp home, yet barely a scuff where the rim impacted the ground.

Bontrager has since updated the Aeolus line by going to a Tubeless Ready or TLR system. There are demo sets and Richardson Bike Mart is set up with the new Bontrager R2 700x24 and 700x26 tubeless tires. I have yet to ride this set-up just yet, but I am sure it will be incredible. I say this because I am running the Aeolus 5 Disc with tubeless CX3 and CX0 cross tires this season and have been thoroughly impressed.

I can't ever give enough praise to the Bontrager wheels when people ask about what I run and what I like. Bombproof, light, stiff and fast — everything I want in a wheel. Thanks again to Bontrager for making this my most exciting cross season yet!

Image Courtesy of Bontrager

Image Courtesy of Bontrager

What's New at the Shop

With January here it is time to start dialing in the bike for the 2013 season. For some people, a great wheelset is the one item that is missing from the line-up. A nice wheelset can make a huge difference to a rider, no matter the discipline: criteriums, road racing, triathlons, and even the rallies. 

Consider the Bontrager Aeolus D3 wheel line when researching this addition. The offerings in the Aeolus line up are numerous to fit any type of riding style, weather, or terrain. Bontrager offers both tubular and a carbon clincher for the full series. This runs from the low profile super light Aeolus 3 for the mountain goats (if we had any mountains to climb in Texas we could test these out), to the deep sectioned Aeolus 9 for a time trial. For those looking for something in between, for all around riding, the D5 and D7 are available as well. As Bontrager states in their research the, “Aeolus 5 D3 is the ultimate all-around wheel for maximum versatility.” (Roessingh, p.15, 2011).

So what is the D3 anyway and how did Bontrager get there? D3 is the term by the Bontrager engineers for Dual Directional Design.  This theory is to look at both the leading edge of the wheel tire combo as well as the inside edge of the rim as the wheel rotates. While the most important aspect for aerodynamics is the leading edge of the tire and wheel combo, the inside edge is very important for stability and how the wheel will handle in a crosswind. In designing the Aeolus line up, Bontrager began the research with over 2,000 computational fluid dynamic (CFD) computer simulated tests before even building prototypes to test in the wind tunnel. From there, three prototypes were built and tested, further refined, more testing by the Leopard Trek and Radio Shack pro teams, and finally down to the wheels available for us to purchase today.

So enough with all of the scientific stuff, how do these wheels look and how do they perform?  I have been fortunate enough to have been given a demo set to ride for the last month or so, and I am thoroughly impressed. I have been riding the Aeolus 5 carbon clincher. This particular wheel measures at 27mm wide x 50mm deep. I think this a great wheel for the various types of riding in North Texas. The Aeolus 5 is stiff enough under heavy load, but not so stiff it beats you up on the lovely chip seal.  This wheelset also performed well in the nasty winds we have been experiencing lately. I kept them on the bike on a particular windy day that I normally would have put a shallower wheel on to see how the Aeolus 5 would handle in the crosswinds.  I did not find any issues with the handling, no sketchiness and they held the line well. The Aeolus 5 is also a fairly light weight deep section wheel set, checking in at 1550g. Not a pure climbing wheel, but for crits, road races, and even a short time trial the Aeolus 5 could be your “go-to” wheel.

The Aeolus 5 has a look that grew on me as well. At first look, the white decals, spokes, and hubs were a bit much for me. After I installed the wheels on the bike I quickly changed my mind. The white decals from my frame worked nicely with the white from the wheels. Another thing that took a few rides to get used to was the very narrow 700 x 22c Bontrager R4 Aero clincher tires the demo set came with.  It is a bit strange to look at the front wheel while riding and see that the tire is narrower than the wheel itself.  Bontrager has tested this tire and wheel combo for optimum aerodynamic performance. In closing, if you are looking to add an all-around wheelset to your quiver, the Bontrager Aeolus 5 D3 would be one giving serious thought to.  Please be sure to visit any of your local Richardson Bike Marts for pricing and availability and we will see you out on the road.

The First Hit: Becoming a Track Head

Published on April 28, 2015

The first hit – they always say that in becoming an addict, all it takes is once. Just one hit. Well, track is the new crack, it would seem.

Up to this point, I’ve managed to avoid that first hit for well over ten years. I took that first hit on Monday night and I am afraid I may be hooked; I may become a “track head.”

I always knew the Superdrome was there in Frisco, heck, I have even raced crits in their parking lot. I have seen plenty of videos on Facebook, even looked up the details on what it takes to be track certified, but I had never bothered to follow up. As I said, that all changed on Monday night.

I have seen and received the invitations to come join for the Superdrome 101 Class aka “Certification Class.” Bikes are provided and the class is free. Seems like a bit of a no brainer to me, so I decided it was time to give it a shot. As I drove up north I was a mix of nervous and excited and couldn’t wait to get started.


…the second you walk in and get a look at those banks, you think twice… 44 degrees is pretty damn steep.

I met Ryan Crissey and Kato Bentley in the parking lot with a small group of track hopefuls for the class. We picked out our bikes and headed in: trust me, the second you walk in and get a look at those banks, you think twice… 44 degrees is pretty damn steep. Of course, I could not help but walk right up to the steepest point and take a picture, gulp.

Ryan began walking us through what the evening would consist of and also introduced us to multi-time national champion Adam Wilk. Ryan made it very clear that we were going to take it one step at a time and have fun while doing it. He also took the time to explain the lines marked on the track as well as some basic track etiquette. We set up our bikes and off we went.

Step one was just doing some easy pedaling in the warm-up oval, just to get a feel for riding the fixed gear and without brakes. The next step was to ride around the apron of the track next to somebody and do some bumping, even a little bit of moving somebody around. (This is actually something that will help in all types of pack cycling — track, road or otherwise.)

Now it is time to get up on the track! A simple game of follow the leader and we were on the track. It started with a trip just a few feet on the track in the straightaways, on and then off, on and then off, not going into the turns but going higher and higher up the track each time.

We come down off the track and regroup on the apron. Time to ride those 44-degree banks. Just keep pedaling and maintain speed was what they told us, so that played on a loop in my head. Somehow physics takes over and we are all in a long line cruising around the track, first at the black line, then the red line, and then all the way up above the blue line and higher. It’s a blast.

Now for the last little bit, it is time to learn how to do some pace lines. As Ryan splits us up into three groups, Adam takes his position down in the turn. I’m in a small group with Kato and off we go. As we head into the turn, Adam gives the man on the front the single to pull up high and make the move to the back. I have seen this so many times in the Olympics and now I was gonna give it a shot.

Boom, a hard pull off to the right and a dive back down to the left.

(Well, maybe it wasn’t a quick dive, but I got back on that wheel nonetheless.)

So as we are cruising around the track passing each other’s pacelines and getting on-the-track, real-time instruction from Ryan, Kato and Adam, I realize that I am getting in one heck of a work out. Just a few moments later it is just Adam and I taking half-lap pulls like we are in a breakaway and he is coaching me all along the way. With some words of encouragement when I do something well and great constructive criticism on aspects to work on from the guys, this couldn’t have been a better way to learn the basics of track racing.

I decided before the session ended, I want to put in one really hard lap. I work my way up near the top of the rail and then dive down towards the black line. I give it as much as I have left for one full lap and realize that I have a huge grin on my face, so yes, I am hooked. As they say, the first hit is free, and that is how they hook you. Now I gotta find some time and money to go get some more “track.”


The Superdrome at Frisco

Riding in circles. Located on the Collin County Preston Ridge Campus in Frisco about 40 minutes north of Dallas, the Superdrome is a 100,000-square-foot, four-million-dollar, specially designed 250-meter outdoor wood track. Technically called a velodrome, it is an oval track used for bicycle racing made of marine-grade plywood with a laminated finish. All the turns (the corners) are banked at 44 degrees and the straightaways are banked at 13 degrees. The centrifugal force generated by the riders’ speed usually keeps them firmly glued to the track’s surface. There is only one other Texas velodrome — theAlkek Velodrome in Houston, a 333-meter, concrete track with banking ranges from 33 degrees in the turns to 9 degrees in the straights.

Velodrome opens in North Texas. EDS opened the Superdrome to much fanfare in the late 90s, full of gleaming wood and lots of spit and polish with plans to host premier track events in the coming years. It was designed to host training and competition under the guidance of USA Cycling, including state, national, world cup and world championship events. And it did — Olympic time trials and national championships have been held here, but direct funding from EDS went away after the first year and the city took over ownership. But in those early days of track racing here, when it was perhaps a bit more of a ‘thing’ to do within the cycling community, track racing was popular. According to plenty of (perhaps) embellished memories, the ‘track era’ was legendary in terms of some crazy antics that took place, including some naked laps around the track. Alrighty.

Making it happen: With heavy sponsorships from Richardson Bike Mart and Bicycles Plus, there’s definitely support from the local shops to help this genre of bike racing continue and grow in North Texas. Each shop sponsors race nights and series, as well as various events throughout the year. Behind the scenes, Timothy Goodwin serves as the track manager and a whole host of dedicated officials and volunteers, the track “staff” is barebones but works hard to maintain the surface and keeps track racing alive. Goodwin’s fought for years to keep the track afloat, the maintenance needs alone are staggering. The sun and weather beats up the wood throughout the seasons and it shows on the track. Rumor has it that the wood will be replaced in the next year or so.

Faces at the track: Perennial national champion Chris Carlson holds track titles and is usually out at the Velodrome coaching other racers as well as racing himself. Other track racers of note that show up to train and race include Catherine Moore, Andrew Armstrong, Mat Stephens and so on. Adam Wilk will drop in from time to time to serve as one of the instructors for the beginner class. As Richardson Bike Mart and Bicycles Plus have thrown their support to the track, their shop faithful consistently show up to race and there’s an impressive contingent of women out there as well. Juniors too. What’s pretty neat about the atmosphere is that whether you’re completely new to the track or hold a title, everyone’s very welcoming, approachable and willing to show anyone the ropes. There are many friendly faces at the track and it’s definitely worth at least a try.

Getting started: An instruction class is a must for beginners before you can actually race on the track. With the steep banked turns, the myriad track-specific terms and tactics, plus the fixed gearing on the track bikes, a solid introduction to track racing is both helpful and needed. The cost for this class is free and rental bikes are available. The next intro class is scheduled for Monday, May 4.

Equipment: You pretty much just need a track-specific bike — you already have all the rest of the gear. And the track bikes aren’t all that expensive. They’re fixed gear so there’s no coasting and you can’t backpedal. (Adam Spears, an experienced road racer and the writer from the story here, had never ridden fixed gear bike and had no issues riding one on the track for the first time.)

Have a Danish. There are some unusual terms used in track racing, used mostly for the different types of races, how many laps are ridden and so on. The Scratch race, the Snowball and the many things the ringing bells mean … it’s a veritable thesaurus of track racing. Without going into all the varying words and what they mean, it’s good advice to familiarize your self with the terms a bit and what they mean. Just know that but the time you leave the track, you’ll crave some gooey goodness of a cheese Danish.

Calendar: These days, racing at the track is quickly becoming the thing to do on Tuesday nights, when it’s open racing with A, B and C races. Races are also held on Friday nights during the fall — and the track is otherwise open to the public during specified hours. The track’s online calendar is helpful for information and race schedules. Minimal costs are associated with each race.