Category Archives: Equipment

Open Letter to Austinbikes

Dear Sol, Eric and the rest of the Austinbikes team,

I admit that I foolishly scoffed at the idea of custom insoles when you first threw the pitch. I thought they were too expensive for a guy like me and wouldn’t offer much in terms of a competitive advantage. I thought they were just another luxury item marketed to the disposable incomes that seem to hang around our sport.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. I will gladly cop to my folly. After getting Cyclesoles made by Sol in January, I was able to string together the necessary results to earn my Cat 2 upgrade by early May. I then continued on to win the Texas State Cat 2 Criterium and Time Trial championships during the summer. I’m not trying to imply that Cyclesoles magically made me a contender; that would be a translucent claim that any bike racer could see through and would not do anybody any good.

Cyclesoles simply fixed a biomechanical problem that has nagged me from the day I decided to first throw a leg over the top-tube. I don’t have to think about my knees anymore. I haven’t had to take time off the bike to stay ahead of knee problems while they flare up. I haven’t had to coddle myself during training to ensure that my knees stay happy. In this regard, it has freed me to train more consistently: I have been able to flog myself day-in and day-out over the last 9 months to make the best use of training time I have available. A year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. Cyclesoles got me back on the bike and kept me on the bike; they saved my season. These are the single best bike-related investment I have ever made.

Once again, thanks.

-Matti von Kessing
Texas State Cat 2 Crit, ITT and TTT Champion
Now, a little bit of background information:

Cyclesoles are a fully custom footbed made out of heat-moldable foam that are shaped to the foot while in the riding position on the bike. The bottoms of the insoles are then ground down to match the sole of the cycling shoes. In this way, they offer a completely rigid platform for the foot that does not deform under power and will not collapse over years of use, which is one complaint of other heat-moldable insoles.  Finally, the insoles are covered with an anti-microbial fabric woven from unicorn hairs or bamboo or something. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it looks so dope…like having Wall Street executives in my shoes when I ride. The whole process takes around 2 or 3 hours.

Custom footbeds...lots of arch.

Going from off-the-shelf insoles to the Cyclesoles was a HUGE change for me; they took some getting used to. I had some discomfort during long rides until my feet grew accustomed to having something other than empty space under my heel and arch. The little button between my toes was like a burr on a tooth that I couldn’t stop feeling, just because it was there. Not bad, just there. But, after a week or two of riding, the Cyclesoles became invisible. Now, I don’t even know they are there.

Sidi, Specialized and Cyclesoles footbeds.

If you have ever had knee problems on the bike and find yourself in Austin, make a trip to West Lynn and drop in on Austinbikes to say “hi” to the guys there. Tell Sol about your problems. You’ll be glad you did.

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Filed under Crushing Souls, Equipment, Racing, Science!, Sponsor Links

An Ounce of Prevention

We are all familiar with the well-known saying spoken by Benjamin Franklin.  Over and over again, it gets harped on topics such as maintenance and health, and we hear it so often that we roll our eyes when somebody tries to tell it to us again.  The gist, take care of little problems before they become big problems.  Easy, right?  Not necessarily.

As amateur bike racers, we need to squeeze training and racing into a life packed with work and school, while also trying to not alienate our friends, family and significant others on the process.  We dedicate our mornings and evenings to training every week, and entire weekends of leisure time to travel and race our bikes.  In schedules that are already brimming, it is insanely easy to put off doing something as simple as washing the bike or lubing the chain and cables after a ride.

I fall into this trap all the time, and 99% of the time, it pays off with a few extra hours to nap on a Saturday afternoon.  Not last weekend.  All those extra hours that I saved by not taking care of my machine suddenly came back to visit me in the form of a snapped derailleur hanger.  Bad luck, right?  Things happen, no?  It’s part of racing?  I wish I could say that was the case this time.  My broken derailleur hanger was the direct result of negligence on my part.

My mentors from back in Corpus, Donnie Orchard and Michael Lidwell used to harp all the time about keeping bikes clean.  They’d say “You spend enough money on your shit, you might as well take care of it.”  Their words obviously didn’t sink in.  Brendan Sharpe, an experienced mechanic for the Brazilian National Cycling Team and head mechanic at Nelo’s Cycles in Austin, TX told me a couple of weeks ago that lubing the cable housing will make shifting easier, extend the life of shifters and reduce stress on my derailleur hanger.  I took note, but immediately lost it.  I’m a busy man.  I can’t bother to take 5 minutes to get the bottle of Tri-flow out.

Well, he called it.  This past weekend, I downshifted and ripped the derailleur clean off.  Stranded 30 minutes outside of town, tail between legs, I called a teammate and got the sag.  Then we went to brunch and got drunk, but that has nothing to do with my ineptitude at routine bicycle maintenance.  A couple days later, a good friend Chris Trickey called to check in and we got into a discussion about maintenance:

Chris: “When you go out for a ride, do you make sure your ass is clean?”
Me: “Huh?”
Chris: “Your ass.  Do you clean it?”
Me: “Yeah.  All the time.”
Chris: “Then why wouldn’t you do the same for your bike?  You’ve got to take care of your shit.”

And I finally saw where he was going with it.  And then I was embarrassed.  I was embarrassed because I’m a grown man, an experienced bike racer, needing to be told by other grown men that I need to do a better job of taking care of my equipment.  It is embarrassing because it’s true, and I shouldn’t have to be told.  These are the lessons that stick.  You can bet I won’t screw this one up again.

So where am I going with this?  It’s October.  Last month was September.  Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Prostate Cancer Awareness Month respectively.  A lot of people know about the former, not many are familiar with the later.   This month, we’ll see some pink ribbons and maybe even some pink bar tape, and when I see them, I can’t help but think of my broken derailleur hanger.  Of all the shortcuts I take in my life, not all of them are as inconsequential to my day-to-day life as embarrassing myself in front of friends and needing a ride home.

Moral of the story: Take care of things and get your shit checked.

Another big thanks to Jim Hicks for the awesome photography he provides on a weekly basis.

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Filed under Equipment, Lessons Learned, Off-season, Science!

A huge thanks to HED. Wheels

I’m thoroughly impressed. The product is outstanding, but where HED. stands out from the rest of the wheel companies I have dealt with is their customer focus. Trite? Hear me out.

3 State Championships on HED.  Thanks to Dave McLaughlin for the photography skillz.

Exhibit A – the product: Take a look at the Texas State Time Trial Championships: The four fastest 40k’s in the state this year came on HED. wheels: Stinger front with a Stinger disk in the rear. Brant Speed was on HED. Logan Hutchings was on HED. David Wenger was on HED. I was on HED.  You get the point? I know it has a lot to do with the engine, but this is compelling. If I was in the market for race wheels next year, I’d pay attention to this list.  Guys who are very serious about going fast are riding HED.

The chain-link fence makes this look so industrial.

HED. takes a different approach to a disk wheel than other manufacturers.  Instead of a foam core disk, HED. bonds carbon fiber fairings to their spoked Stinger 9 rim.  The result is a disk that is always 100% straight and true out of the box, can be re-trued, and is dynamically stiffer than a normal disk.  Ever try climbing on a TT bike with a foam-core disk?  Yikes.  Not a problem here.

Exhibit B – the service: A friend and teammate of mine was having problems with breaking spoke nipples on a wheel by a major French wheel brand. They shrugged off his complaint and tried to say it was his fault for sweating while riding indoors, despite the fact that he doesn’t train inside and doesn’t even own a trainer.  They eventually conceded and told him they would replace the one broken nipple under warranty, but would need to replace the rest of them because they were showing sign of similar failure. He would be charged for the rest. Needless to say, the run-around they gave him was not a positive experience.

Around the same time, I was busy training like mad on my Ardennes. After breaking a 3rd spoke on the rear wheel, I called Vince, our team’s contact at HED. He said they suspected a bad batch of spokes and would have it re-laced under warranty. Just send the wheel in. A week later, I had a freshly built wheel with all new spokes. Oh, and they serviced the hub for me while it was in the shop. Killer.

Exhibit C – the commitment: Recently, when replacing a tubular on my rear Stinger, I pulled up a patch of carbon (I guess my glue job was good). The mechanic at the bike shop said “no problem, just glue a new tire on it.” Vince said “no problem, we’ll warranty it.” I sent the Stinger 6 into HED. and in a week, I had a new Stinger 7 sitting in my living room. Stiffer and more aero? Yes, please.  To me, this demonstrates that they want me on the fastest equipment possible, and they want that equipment to be perfect.  They wouldn’t ride it like that, and they don’t expect me to either.  Now, some shots of the Stinger 7:

Stinger 6 front with a Stinger 7 rear.  Killer combo.

Stinger 7 rear with Stinger 6 front.  Quite a difference.  We’ll see about the stiffness and stability this upcoming weekend at Ft. Hood.

Rear Sonic Hub.

The hub off my old rear wheel.  It’s a pretty solid hub design.  Even as a fledgling mechanic, I have no problem taking it apart and putting it back together.

SCT = Stability Control Technology.  The real deal.

The new rim shape for the Stinger 7…this thing is huge.  I guess this is just my way of saying “thanks” to Vince and HED. for everything they have done for me over this season.  You guys are outstanding.

❤ Matti von Kessing

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