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 IamTedKing.com 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.

That New, Better Bike

Ramon H.

 

Once we noobs have been riding a while, it’s only natural to think about upgrading to a better bike.  For one Bike Noob reader, Ramon H. of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, everything happened to line up at the same time: the bike shop had what he wanted, his wife is really nice, and he got a heckuva deal.  I asked Ramon to write a guest post about acquiring his bike, a titanium Serotta.

It all got started because I had taken my entry level Trek road bike into the LBS (Wally’s Bicycles) because there was a severe shifting issue in the back.  Basically, the bike kept shifting back and forth all on its own.  I had ridden the bike for several thousand miles, so I would not have been surprised if they would have told me to get a new cassette.  While I was there, I decided to ask how much it would set me back to buy Shimano 105 components.  The rationale was that I was probably going to buy a new cassette anyway, so might as well do this upgrade if the numbers looked right.

Wally had always had a Serotta floor model that several of us would drool at everytime we came into the shop.  He commented that the main shortcoming of the bike was that it was a titanium frame and that most of the folks that were serious about spending that kind of money would inevitably veer towards carbon framesets.  I had always thought about getting a Serotta with a titanium frameset, but the cost was very prohibitive.  Wally informed me that the issue with my entry level bike was that one of the cables needed replacing.  He started running the numbers on the gruppos I had asked him about and they were not coming back too nicely.  I already had known that when one buys a bike, the gruppo is a big part of the cost, so no surprise on my part there.

The interesting part is what happened next.  I think the cycling gods were smiling upon me that day because you could almost see the lightbulb go off on Wally’s head.  He took out his measuring tape and did a couple of quick measurements on my entry level bike and the Serotta floor model.  I was extremely hesitant because I knew what the cost of that bike was.  I remember Wally saying something like, “Hmm … this is very odd, almost freaky odd.”  He started telling me the measurements and they were coming back uncannily similar to my own bike.  He already knew that I always wanted a Serotta because I had mentioned it a couple of times before.  He said, “Those measurements are coming real close to your existing bike.  You are welcome to ride it during the shop’s ride in a couple of days so you can test it out.  The bike has been sitting on my floor since the day I opened the store over a year ago.  I want that bike to go to a person who is going to do plenty of riding.  Let’s make a deal …”

And quite a deal he gave me.  It was one of those deals that I could not refuse.  Unfortunately, it was one of those deals that I had not budgeted for.  I went home and consulted with the missus.  She came back to the shop the next day to take a look at the bike and asked all of the preliminary questions a spouse tends to ask.  Ultimately she said, “Ride the bike during the shop’s ride tomorrow and see how it feels.  If you like it, you would be a fool not to buy it.”

The Serotta Fierte, all Ultegra. (Click to enlarge.)

Of course, the next question you will have is: How does it ride?  It is almost magical.  For starters, I get a lot more for the effort I put in.  This bike is fast!  I can keep an 18-21 mph pace quite easily.  On the entry level bike, this same amount of effort would only get me to a 16-19mph pace.

The acceleration is phenomenal.  When leading a group, it is not uncommon for me to easily drop the entire group as we are coming out of a traffic light or a turn.  There is a lot of yelling when I do this because folks think I am being a jerk.  Honestly, I don’t do it on purpose.  The bike just takes off by itself, so I have learned to tone it down when I take off and not even get off the saddle because otherwise I end up dropping the group.

The ride is also very smooth.  I can ride over chipseal and while most folks are hurting, I am just enjoying the ride.  Now here is the best part of owning a titanium frame: never having to worry about rust on the frame or about the paint job.  Titanium rusts very very very very slowly, and not the same as other metals.  That means I don’t have to worry if I get sweat all over it.  Additionally, there is no paint job and I don’t have to worry about scratches or about having to apply polish/wax to it.  As as friend put it, “If your frame gets scratched, you just take some steel wool and rub it right out.”

Good for you, Ramon.  If we wind up on the same ride in Central Texas someday, you’ll have to let me ride it — before you use it to leave me in the dust.

I Need To Ride

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel has been away from biking for a bit, and that’s had him frustrated.

At some point, if you ride long enough or just become hopelessly addicted to cycling, getting out for a ride changes from a “want” to a “need.” I know, because I need to ride right now. Badly.

This has been a pretty good year for me cycling-wise. I’ve averaged about 500 miles per month, and even nudged that total up to about 700 during the fall. My fitness is probably close to an all-time high in terms of endurance, and I’m feeling strong. Or at least, I was feeling strong. After months and months of high mileage, December proved to be one cruel month. Yes, I know I’m a wimp, but we set the record for coldest December in recorded history here in my area. That was already making the month a challenge, but then I got a stomach flu that was raging through my family over the Christmas holidays, just as I was trying to make up for lost time. One minute I was out riding marveling at my hearty immune system, the next I was headed for the…well, I’ll spare you those details. Before I knew it, I was looking at the month’s end feeling weak, dehydrated, and with the fewest miles logged in over a year.

With a new year comes new hope. I got out for my first ride in a week with a friend, and knocked off 45 miles without really feeling the effects of my illness. In fact, I felt really good. Unfortunately the very next day I went in for some rather extensive dental surgery, the unexpected result of an injury I had suffered a year earlier. (Good news – I still have all my teeth!) That stomach that was just beginning to recover has now been assaulted by antibiotics and painkillers, and thanks to a mouthful of stitches that will stay for two weeks, my diet has been limited to mostly liquids and mush. To add insult to injury, the doctor told me I’d need to take about a week off any serious aerobic activity, and even then ease back into it. I’m feeling sore, weak, and depressed…and unable to do the one thing I know will make me feel better.

At the conclusion of his book Tour de Lance, author Bill Strickland quotes Lance Armstrong as saying “I think people are better, smarter, more present, and more patient when they’ve done some type of exercise—that goes for an eight-year-old and a sixty-eight-year-old—and I need more, perhaps than most people, to get the results I want.” Strickland goes on to note there’s some scientific evidence to back up Armstrong’s theory, specifically when it comes to cycling. Basically, cycling mixes sustained aerobic exercise with complex brain functions — balance, timing, and spatial awareness. For that reason, it may literally be able to “soothe” the brain. Studies at universities including Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins, and Georgetown back up this theory. I know I feel much happier after I’ve returned from a good ride. Sometimes, if I feel I’ve ridden particularly well or hung with certain people on a group ride, I’m almost giddy.

Right now, however, I’m going crazy. Somewhere along the line, between accomplishing that first 30-mile ride and riding my first century, between trying to fit in rides around life to fitting life around rides, riding a bicycle has gone from something I want to do to something I need in my life. That’s why today, with my doctor’s blessing, I’m getting out on the road, sore mouth and stitches and bad conditioning and all.

Because, as a lot of you will understand perfectly well, I really have no other choice…

Tires Make a Difference: The Vredestein Fortezza SE

After more than a year’s worth of riding on my Continental Gatorskins, I decided to retire them.  One tire had over 3400 miles on it, the other a little under 3,000.  They’ve been pretty good, although they’re not as puncture resistant as I would hope.

So the question was, what to replace them with?  Some years ago, a friend recommended the Vredestein Fortezza SE, a tire sold through Performance Bike.  He said the puncture resistance was good, and if the price was a determining factor, I should give them a try.  Then, my friend Torsten reviewed another Vredestein model, the Fortezza TriComp, and spoke very highly of them.  I figured I’d try the SEs out.

I was pleased to find them in an end-aisle display at the local Performance shop, with a sale price of $29.99.  Performance says the regular price on these is $49.99, but honestly, I’ve never seen them go for anything higher than $30.

The Fortezza SEs differ in two big ways from my old Gatorskins.  They come only in 23 mm width, and I had been running 25s for almost three years.  And, they inflate to a much higher suggested pressure – between 115-160 psi.  I used to inflate the Gatorskins to 100, so I was interested to see what the SEs would feel like.

I’m pretty impressed.  I inflated them to 120 psi, and they’re noticeably harder than the Gators were.  However, after 10 days worth of riding on them, I find it’s not that big a deal, unless you’re on chipseal pavement.  Then the jarring is unpleasant.  The hard ride also has a benefit in less rolling resistance.  These things make you feel like you’re gliding along the roads.  My average speed for my last six rides is a full mph higher than it had been on the Gatorskins, and two of those rides were with my wife, so I wasn’t exactly pushing it.  The grip in tight turns is good, although I have not yet ridden them in wet conditions.

I’ll be experimenting with pressures over the next few weeks, gradually increasing over 120 psi to see what I’m most comfortable with.  Now, I know some folks who know say you should really ride at slightly lower pressures.  Fred Matheny of Road Bike Rider says riding at 90 lbs won’t make you any slower, and will increase the comfort of the ride.  Jan Heine of Bicycle Quarterly is even more adamant about lower tire pressures, and maintains that for optimum performance, tires should “drop” about 15 percent when a rider is on the bike.  That drop requires lower pressures.

But for now, I’m enjoying the perception of low rolling resistance.  I’ve ridden the tires across one of the rattiest routes in the area, and they came away without any problems – not even any cuts.  Maybe that’s just because they’re new.  I’ll post an update on these tires later this year, once they’ve gotten some real miles on them.  In the meantime, I gotta admit that the blue stripe on the Fortezza SEs makes a nice match with my blue and black bike.