Monday, December 9, 2013

Time Trial Bike Soiree

Back in 2012 a very popular bicycle video called Road Bike Party was making the rounds on the Internet. It follows mountain bike trials rider Martyn Ashton on his new road bike route: “It’s certainly not conventional, but it should be a lot of fun.” It’s definitely worth a look because it features something that you don’t see very often—a top-of-the-line carbon road bike with flat pedals.

In the road cycling world, it seems that pretty much everybody has caught on to the clipless pedal trend that began back in 1971 with Cino Cinelli’s M71 Death Pedals and then with the slightly less dangerous sounding Look PP65 in 1984.

Up until then, riders used flat-soled leather shoes and a pedal with a toe-clip to keep their foot secured in place.

Despite developments in science and technology over the last century, some old habits never die.

Mountain biking is similar, to a degree. Certainly in cross-country racing it’s very rare to find anybody still using flat, or non-clipless pedals. The nomenclature here, with its double-negative, is a bit confusing because a non-clipless pedal doesn’t necessarily imply that the pedal includes a toe-clip, but rather that it does not include a mechanism for taking the place of a toe-clip. So even though a flat pedal doesn’t include a toe-clip it is not considered clipless – probably, if we were to stick to convention, a flat pedal should technically be called a non-un-clipless pedal. Hopefully that helps clear up some of the confusion.

In some other mountain biking disciplines like downhill, four-cross and freeride, it’s still very common to find riders using non-un-clipless pedals and in the slightly obscure discipline of Mountain Bike Observed Trials they are still the best choice. Toe-clips are rarely used competitively these days, although the strap part is still used (in conjunction with a clipless pedal) in the sprint disciplines of track racing because they provide an incredibly secure attachment of the foot to the pedal.

Anyway, the point is that Martyn Ashton, who is an accomplished Trials Rider decided that in order to boost his exposure in the world of cycling videos he needed to penetrate the road cycling demographic by making one of his trademark trials videos aboard a carbon road bike – with a few small modifications including non-un-clipless pedals, a stem angle that violates many of the principles of correct Stack Height and a weird handlebar position. Martyn is also not afraid to rock the ankle socks, something that you don’t see too often these days in the road bike world and which self-proclaimed sock pimp Dion Shaw would certainly not approve of.

If you’ve not seen Road Bike Party before then I urge you to find 5 minutes to witness the incredible stunts Martyn Ashton is able to pull off on his road bike:

The skills demonstrated in this video are quite phenomenal, with Martyn performing front-wheel endos around corners, hopping up and down steps, riding along fencetops, down dam walls, on top of an old aeroplane and launching backflips out of golf bunkers. There’s also a scene where he rides the “Wall of Death” at a local amusement park, which is basically a steeply banked mini-velodrome.

At the end, there’s a light hearted scene where two female models with a can of WD-40 clean his road bike. This is an unfortunate ending that sends the wrong message to aspiring young riders—don’t spray WD-40 anywhere near your bottom bracket as it will blow the grease out and allow water and dirt to contaminate your bearings.

But while the world waited in eager anticipation of Martyn’s next video (Road Bike Party 2), the British rider has been resting on his laurels – or maybe just resting on his back in hospital after he broke it (for the second time) in September this year.

As a tribute to Martyn Ashton’s pioneering role in the painfully obscure sport of Road Bike Trials Riding, I felt it necessary, and timely, to take this opportunity (while he recovers from injury) to build on his legacy.

But what could possibly be more challenging than riding mountain bike stunts on a road bike? Why, on a Time Trial bike, of course.

Some characteristics of Time Trial bikes were discussed in last week’s article titled Performance Enhancement On A Budget. TT bikes are designed to be as aerodynamic as possible so they include elements like aerofoil shaped tubing, disc wheels and aero bars. The aero bars, while allowing the rider to assume a very low and aerodynamic position, make handling the bike (and even just cornering) a lot more precarious than on a standard road bike.

In this follow-up video to Martyn Ashton’s Road Bike Party, aptly titled Time Trial Bike Soiree, an incredible display of skill and precision riding is matched by some impressive aerodynamic performance. In fact, I’d love to put the challenge out there to Martyn if he recovers from his broken back to go head-to-head in the wind tunnel and see who can achieve the best results. It would be like a more boring version of the head-to-head challenge put out by Chris McCormack to Lance Armstrong recently—but shorter and with lesser known protagonists.

So, without further ado (there’s already been far too much ado in this post), here’s the follow-up video to Martyn Ashton’s Road Bike PartyTime Trial Bike Soiree.

Thanks to Dr Kelly Linden for the excellent camera work.

As you will notice, it’s not quite a frame-by-frame recreation, like this Lego stopmotion version of the classic shopping mall scene from the Blues Brothers:

But most of the main basic elements are there:

So, let’s all wish Martyn Ashton a speedy recovery (and hope he doesn’t pursue legal action for using elements of his incredible video).

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