These Shoes Cook! Bont ctt-three Review

Guest poster Don Blount’s search for the perfect bike shoe took him to the Antipodes – in a manner of speaking.  He likes what he found.

I had never heard of Bont. Ever.

Now the company is like my new best friend.

I began searching for new cycling shoes for a simple reason – my feet began to hurt after rides. The Cannondale RS3100 cycling shoes I had worn for two years were great for getting me into biking but I was riding harder, longer and farther. The results I was getting were not the same. I figured the shoes, which were actually free with the discount I received from Performance Bike when I bought my bike in 2008, had just run their useful life.

So I began looking for replacement kicks.

From a fit issue I needed a shoe with a wide toe box and a narrower heel. And I wanted something better fitting and stiffer than my outgoing shoes.

I looked off and on for a few months. I was off the road for two months because of injuries from a fall, so I was not in a hurry. I also took time to get over the sticker shock of upgraded shoes.

Then on a late Saturday night someone in my bike club’s e-mail group excitedly mentioned Bont and how the shoe was being made available in the United States. I had never heard of this 36-year-old Australian company that outfits Thor Hushovd and the Cervelo Test Team among others.

The Bont ctt-three

I settled on the ctt-three. The deal with a Bont shoe is that it has a “fully heat moldable carbon monocoque fiberglass chassis.” Seriously, pop these babies in the oven at low temperature for a bit, put them on, stand in them for a few minutes and they will mold to your feet. In other words, it becomes a custom fit shoe. They were perfect for someone with my shoe-fitting issues.

Chef Don.

I have ridden about 950 miles in the Bonts, I think they are great. They are much stiffer than my old shoes, yet lighter at 295 grams. They flex little and transfer power well. And I really like the look too.

The downside? They took some breaking because the entire shoe – sole and upper were much stiffer than my old shoes.

I purchased my pair online in October for $207, a price comparable to other shoes that interested me. Since then I have found them online for as low as $150, including shipping. This is considered the company’s entry-level model. The top of the line shoe in this category, the ctt-one is a fully carbon shoe that costs about twice as much. I did not have to spend nearly that much and am quite pleased with the Bont ctt-three.

How Do Bike Trainers Generate Resistance?

Bike Noob took a look at trainers at about this time last year, and is revisiting the topic with a guest post from Ron Fritzke.  Ron describes himself as a “cycling product reviewer with a passion for ‘all things cycling’.”  A former 2:17 marathoner, he now directs his competitive efforts toward racing his bike…and looking for good cycling products.

It doesn’t take too much time wading through the bike trainer world to get a good feel for the various features and benefits that a perspective buyer should keep their eye open for.  I’ve spent hours and hours writing indoor bike trainer reviews and have come to conclude that several factors are on most cyclist’s minds when they’re looking for a bike trainer.

Is It Quiet Enough?

Although the level of sound coming from the trainer doesn’t directly effect the workout, it sure effects the riders enthusiasm for getting onto it to begin with.  And that’s saying nothing about the lack of enthusiasm, or even open hostility the rider will face from members of the family who are subjected to a howling wind trainer.  It can get so loud that even residents living in the same apartment complex stop saying ‘Hello’ in the hallway, replacing the greeting with a scowl.

In general terms, the fluid trainers are the quietest, the magnetic (mag) trainers come in second place, and the wind trainers can create a sound similar to a living room hurricane.

Where’s The Resistance Coming From?

It’s not too hard to figure out where the resistance comes from in each of the three main trainer types.  The wind trainer creates resistance by spinning an impeller through the air, the fluid trainer does something similar by spinning an impeller through fluid (typically silicone), and the mag trainer creates resistance by spinning repelling magnets past each other as the flywheel spins.

Moving Air

Starting with the simplistic wind trainers, there isn’t too much mystery as to what’s going on with this type.  After all, everything’s exposed.  In case the word impeller isn’t in your knowledge base, it’s nothing more than a propeller with the blades safely inside the flywheel rather than pointing outward.  A true propeller might be interesting except for the possibility of the manufacturer’s legal department  having to  field a lot of ‘missing fingers and toes’ complaints.

An interesting version of wind trainer design is CycleOps’ vortex shaped impeller.  The claim is that it increases resistance while reducing noise.  That sounds like the best of both worlds in the wind trainer world.

Magnets That Hate Each Other

Heralding back to the days of primitive elementary school science experiments, mag trainers use the repelling force of similar poles of magnets to create resistance.  These trainers work by spinning the magnets on one part of the trainer past the magnets on another part of the mag trainer.  The repulsion as they get close to each other creates the resistance.

The big issue with mag trainers centers around how they increase or decrease the resistance levels.  On the least sophisticated models, the rider dismounts (getting a welcome relief from the tyranny of the workout) and changes the setting directly on the trainer.  The next level of complexity requires the rider  to merely change the setting using a lever that’s been attached to the handlebars.

A recent development in mag trainers is the system on the CycleOps Magneto.  It’s called progressive resistance and uses the power of centrifugal force to spin the magnets further and further away from center as the rider increases their intensity.  The engineering in this model is such that there’s more resistance the further the magnets move outward.

Fluid Trainers And Leakage

Fluid trainers have long been at the top of the heap when it comes to resistance.  On these trainers the harder you pedal, the more the trainer resists.  While that may seem obvious, what I mean is that the resistance increases exponentially.  If you were to look at the level of resistance as it relates to the speed of the turning wheel you wouldn’t see a straight line.  Instead you’d see an intimidating upward swooping line that almost approaches vertical at the upper end.  This type of resistance is particularly valuable for strength type workouts and may not be as necessary for trainer riding at a steady state.

In the past, it was almost certain that fluid trainers would begin leaking due to the friction and extreme heat generated during a workout.  The whole leakage problem was confronted head-on when the Kurt Kinetic company developed a design that is today featured in all of their fluid trainers, with the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine being the foundation of the line.

Kinetic trainers have a sealed chamber housing the impeller and the silicone.  Outside of the chamber is a flywheel with six strong magnets imbedded into it.  These are matched to six magnets in the impeller.  In this case, rather than repelling each other, these magnets are configured to form a magnetic bond to each other.  The result is a magnetic coupling with the impeller and the flywheel spinning in tandem without the sanctity of the fluid chamber being breached.

Not to be left behind by this design, the Cycleops Fluid 2 Trainer is the result of efforts on the part of CycleOps to beef up their fluid trainer products.  It’s not clear how they accomplished the improvement, but it’s very evident that something’s been done since customer dissatisfaction is markedly reduced among the ever present complainers on the internet.

Summing It Up

It’s been my intention to expose the reader to the implications of how each of the trainers generates resistance.  Each of the styles has its strengths and weakness…no one type suits every rider.  Casual riders may do well with the relative simplicity of a wind trainer, while more intense riders would be best suited to a fluid bike trainer.  There’s plenty of information on the internet, and my intention is that this short article will get you asking the right questions in your quest for a good bicycle trainer.

Do You Light Up After (or during) a Ride?

Even cycling great Mario Cipollini used to light up on the bike. This shot is easily found online, but I don't know what race he was in at the time.

I used to smoke.  Cycling had nothing to do with me stopping – I quit cold turkey years ago.  One of the nice things about cycling is that the people you ride with don’t smoke, either.  At a post-ride gabfest at the coffee shop, no one lights up.

Which makes it something of a shock to see a cyclist with a cigarette.  Back at the MS150 last year, I was taking it easy in the team tent at the finish, when one of the members of my team produced a cigarette and started to smoke.  A woman, also on the team, bummed one from him.  So now we had two cyclists dragging away – in team kit.  And our team was sponsored by a hospital(!).

Of course, smoking and cycling used to be common, back before the health link was proven.  I’ve used this old pic from the Tour de France before, with some of the leaders puffing away while riding through the countryside.  The French seem to be inseparable from their cigarettes, anyway.  Way back when, it was perfectly normal for the Michelin Man to smoke while riding. 

A guy I occasionally ride with always grabs a quick drag when he’s packing up his gear at the finish.  His Facebook picture pokes fun at his inability to completely kick the habit.

So how about you?  Are you a reformed smoker?  Or do you still indulge?  Do you avoid cyclists who smoke, and separate yourself from smoking riders?

Where To Stash The Package?

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel asks something that is germane to only a portion of the Bike Noob readership.  The distaff lot might want to read a different blog.  Just this once.

Okay, I know I’m walking a fine line here, but lately I’ve been revisiting just where I stash my, uh, package when I ride. C’mon admit it, you’ve probably had the same questions at one time or another. Bike shorts are tight, and there’s not really a whole lot of wiggle room to maneuver. Adjust things just right and you’re a happy camper. Adjust them wrong and you’re squirming in the saddle during your ride, and wondering why you look the size of a pre-pubescent teen when you jump in the shower afterwards.

I’ll be honest, as much as I’m obsessing on it at the moment, I hadn’t given it a whole lot of thought as of late. I’ve fiddled with my position on the bike, settled on an acceptable saddle, and kind of found my groove…so to speak. That’s when I was assaulted by the vision of Liquigas-Cannondale pro Ted King in a lime green pair of shorts.

To be fair, Ted seems like a pretty cool guy. I’m even a little bit of a fan, following his website, as well as his Twitter updates. He’s funny (even if he is a little obsessed with culinary skills). But in the aforementioned picture, I couldn’t help noticing, no one could help noticing, that Ted is well…uh…let’s just say he’s an up front kind of guy. (C’mon, I’m writing in a little bit of code here, but let’s face facts…it’s a little bit weird to be writing about another guy’s junk.) And in that one moment, I suddenly began to question the way I’ve been doing things all these years.

So I Googled it. (Let’s see me try to explain that one when all those Google records come back to haunt me someday.) Thus came what I’ll call Assault To The Eyes #2 — this pic of what appears to be a Polish cycling team in red shorts. Apparently, this whole team is rather happy.

Obviously, I’m not a fan of this position. It just feels a little precarious to me. As Kramer told Jerry, “my boys need a house,” and I’m not sure I want any member of the clan peeking out the front door. Sure, it’s probably somewhat comfortable, but I’d feel a little too vulnerable exposed like that should I encounter any mishaps along the way. I’d also feel a little bit like I just stepped into the middle of some cheesy cycling porn film. I tried it the other day wearing my lone white pair of shorts (to be fair they were the only ones not in the laundry and I was planning all along on wearing them UNDER a pair of black tights) and I swear some of that “bow-chick-a-bow-wow” music suddenly started playing in the background.

Of course, hiding everyone in the cellar isn’t the best strategy, either. It’s cramped down there, and bike seats aren’t the most forgiving cushion should you hit a bump. Personally I try to just stuff everything front and center, but that doesn’t always work the best, either.

So I’m throwing it out there. Is there a correct method? The only thing I’m sure of at the moment is to always, always, always wear black…

What’s the Longest You’ve Gone Without a Flat?

Not Darryl.

My friend Darryl over at Lovingthebike just had a flat tire the other day.  The remarkable thing about that is, he says it was his first flat in two years!  He thinks the last flat he had was prior to November, 2008.

I don’t have flats at the rate I used to, but I still have several each year.  My most recent one was in late December, which prompted me to buy a new set of tires (no flats on those yet – knock wood).  So I’m a lousy candidate for the long-run-between-flats club.

But maybe you’ve had a different experience.  Can you beat Darryl’s 27-month record of no flats?  Tell us about it.

And more importantly, tell us why you think you managed to go so long.  Was it dumb luck?  Are you really good at steering your bike away from grungy gorp on the road? Do you use better equipment than the rest of us?  Maybe we can all get some pointers that will help us make 2011 the Year of No Flats.

I’m Just a Fair Weather Rider

Finally, the weather moderated yesterday and I got out to ride, for the first time in eight days.  It felt good, although I could tell I had spent too much time off the bike.  The ride seemed to require more effort from me.

This isn't me.

There was no way I was going to miss another day, though.  Last week was a total washout for me, with cold temperatures during the day, and several days of non-stop rain.  Some of my friends reported via Facebook and Twitter that they had gotten out on the roads and put in some (or many) miles.  But I couldn’t motivate myself to do so until the sun came out and the roads dried off.

Okay, I guess I’ve known all along that I’m just not enthusiastic about riding in lousy conditions.  I’ve also decided that’s not a problem.  We have decent enough weather most of the year that I can ride much more than many of my biking acquaintances farther north, so all I really have to do is sit tight for a few days (or in last week’s case, eight) and I’ll be able to get out there again.

So I’ve taken stock of my biking likes and dislikes.  I’ll ride in temperatures as low as 40ºF (4ºC), although I don’t like it.  I make it a point to avoid riding when it’s raining, or threatening rain, or if the roads are still wet from rain.  I have faced the truth:  I’m just a fair weather rider.

It looks like my mileage in January will be my lowest in months.  On the bright side, this may also be nature’s way of telling me that I’ve been too wrapped up in biking, and it’s time to back off a bit.  We’ll see.


Musings on a Rainy Day

The email and message boards lit up Saturday evening with ride cancellations.  We’ve had several wet days in Central Texas, with a fine mist falling all day Friday, and heavier, steady rain Saturday.  Rain again Sunday.  We certainly need it, but it sure throws a monkey wrench into things.  As the organizer of our club’s Sunday ride put it, “I have no problem riding in the wet myself, but it might send the wrong message if we as a club go ahead with our ride in these conditions.”  A local bike shop announced that its Sunday shop ride was cancelled for the first time in their history.  So not only will I not ride, but some long-delayed yard work is going to be delayed even further.

My attention isn’t focused on riding right now anyway.  Thursday afternoon, while driving home from the car dealer’s where I paid a lot more than I expected for some service on my car, I was rear-ended.  A woman pulling out of a parking lot assumed I was moving forward (I was stopped at a light), and looked left for oncoming traffic.  There was none, so she turned out of the lot – right into my rear bumper.  I had just celebrated making the final payment on the car a week ago, and I was already in a foul mood about the cost of the service.  Now this.  But when I looked at the damage to her car, the great German word – schadenfreude – came to mind (taking joy in the suffering of others).  Her crumpled fender, hood, and headlight were in far worse shape than mine.

Auto insurance has gotten easier to deal with in recent years.  State Farm called me Friday, asked what body shop I had in mind, gave me the shop’s phone number as well as the extension of the person who handles State Farm claims, and said a rental car would be ready at the shop whenever I took my car in.  I guess the fact that the woman was also insured by State Farm helped.

The trip to the body shop Monday will have to fit in around a trip to the dentist.  I’m getting a new crown put in to replace a bad tooth, and the temporary one they put in last week is causing me a lot of discomfort.  They’ll fix it, but it makes finding time to ride a little more challenging.

The good thing is that the forecast for Monday calls for improvement.  The rain will be gone, the temperatures will be milder, and it’s a holiday for some of us – myself included.  Somehow, I’m going to find time to ride.