Wednesday, April 9, 2014

low-drop pro bike

Cyclismo-Espresso showed this photo of a United Health Care bike with a Pioneer Power meter mounted. Okay, big deal: I've seen Pioneer power meters on pro bikes before. Apparently they work well enough.

UHC bike

What interested me was the remarkably modest handlebar drop. Okay, riders are sometimes limited by the geometry of commercially available frames, but this one has a -6 degree stem and even a spacer under that. This one would get the big reject from SlamThatStem.

So I measured the drop. I do that by the following sequence:

  1. Load the photo into GIMP.
  2. Level the wheels. I used the top of the wheels for this. I had to rotate the photo by 1.0 degrees, according to a measurement with the GIMP measurement tool.
  3. Measure the height of the front wheel. This gives me a coversion between distance and pixels. I know the rolling circumference of the wheel is around 210 cm, so this height, in pixels, gives me a conversion.
  4. Put horizontal guides at the "saddle point" of the top of the saddle, and at the top of the handlebars. Note the bars are rotated upwards, rasing even further the height of the hoods.
  5. Convert the pixel difference to height.

There's some shortcuts here. For example, I could try to correct for shear distortion. But I think the measurement is close enough.

Here's the result:


6.5 cm. That's quite modest, from a successful professional bike racer. It proves yet again (Chris Horner and Mark Cavendish being other examples) that you necessarily don't need a 10-15 cm handlebar drop to be fast, nor to "be pro".

But what about the rest of the bike? I'm not particularly impressed by white carbon fiber frames. They look plastic to me, and needlessly add mass. But this isn't my bike: it's a pro bike. And the point of pro bikes, like pro race cars, is to advertise the team and the sponsors, not to make a good-looking bike. I wouldn't drive a NASCAR-colored car (I don't drive a car period, but that's another matter), and I wouldn't necessarily ride a UCI-team bike.

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