Over 50 years of serious cycling I have seen and enjoyed some meaningful, (and in some cases frivolous), developments that make cycling more enjoyable. Some examples of major tech developments:
- Clip in pedals that replaced toe clips and leather straps.
- Wide range gearing that lets you spin up the hills and mountains. (Anyone remember the days when all race and touring bikes were 10 speed and featured 42x52 chainrings and 13x21 freewheels?).
- Integrated brake-shifters that keep your hands on the handlebars. (In the old days shifting was done from the downtube).
- Technical Clothing that’s aerodynamic, comfortable, and warm or cool by design!
- Helmets that protect your noggin and make you more comfortable (It took studies by TREK to prove that well ventilated helmets actually provide better thermal protection in the heat than an uncovered head).
- Mountain and Hybrid Bicycles that opened the trails and fire roads for wo wheeled travel. And added suspension to get over just about any trail obstacle.
- Liberal use of technical materials like Carbon, Titanium, Aluminum while still preserving some use of Steel.
- Wider rims and wider tires for road bikes that make road riding more comfortable and faster.
- Aerodynamic everything from clothing to bicycle design to aero everything.
Perhaps a less dramatic but certainly valuable development, road bikes that accommodate wider all terrain tires, the ”Gravel Bike”
But speed has always been a focus in road cycling. Some riders sacrifice comfort in the name of speed.
Ride in a lower position like a Tour Rider and you reduce aerodynamic drag to go faster. But that carries a comfort penalty. Take mixed terrain riding as an example. Arguably the fastest growth segment in road cycling since 2019 has been mixed terrain riding, or as the marketing folks coined it, Gravel Riding.
I love mixed terrain, or gravel riding. It’s an extension of road riding. The road is often rough pavement, or a dirt fire road or even a single-track trail. By going to wider tires on what’s basically a road bike, you can go from smooth tarmac to rough pavement to a fire road and a dirt road or trails – and back again in
a single ride.
All from a single starting point. Sure you could do that same with your fat tire mountain bike but……………its slow on the pavement! You are upright, suffer a couple miles per hour penalty from the suspension bounce and aerodynamics and the road portion of your ride just feels slow.
Enter the gravel bike where you ride wider tires that allow for near road bike speeds on the tarmac, and can tackle the off road trails – all in one ride. But like everything cycling, there is a compromise on the dirt too. While you may have fat tires, you do not have the active suspension that makes a mountain bike so comfortable.
And one part of the body that suffers in particular is your hands.
For me, few rides are as epic as all day mixed terrain rides. Mix in some tarmac, long fire roads and connecting trails and I enjoy an epic day. Post pandemic lockdown I’ve have ridden the Belgian Waffle Ride and multiple Grasshopper Adventure Series Events. These rides are tough. My hands suffer in particular – my wrist and hands take a beating. Especially on the descents. I road an all-day event on California’s Lost Coast which featured several 1000’ plus gnarly descents. I was on the disc brakes for nearly every meter to keep my speed down and reduce the pounding my hands were taking. I feared that I’d lose my ability to control the bike if I left the brakes.
After losing close to an hour to my competitors on the descents, I started my search for a solution. That solution turned out to be the Redshift Shockstop Stem. https://www.iloveroadcycling.com/collections/redshift/products/shockstop-suspension-stem-by-redshift-sports
The company claims it reduces bar shock by 70%. I can’t verify the number but, after a year of use, I can verify that this stem works. I added one to my 3T Exploro and have stayed with it for over a year now.
This stem takes out the shocks and vibration out of the bars on the rough trails. I enjoy the ride more, descend faster and can still hold a mug of coffee after my rides, or the occasional beer. I went with a setup that on the road, rides like a normal stem. Weight of the stem is a reasonable 256g, (80mm model), and it includes a collection of elastomers to tailor the shock absorption properties to your liking.
Setup is easy and tunable.
This is a solid product for anyone looking to give your hands some relief from road and trail shock. And it’s also available from iloveroadcycling.com. Give it a try!