Showing posts with label April 1. Show all posts
Showing posts with label April 1. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

@Twitter announces Pro Cycling Sponsorship

While "tech" has caused ballistic increases in housing prices in San Francisco, pushing condo prices over $1000/square foot, there are advantages to the presence of these companies close to home. And that's connections. A friend sent me the following story, scheduled for publication on

Fresh off its remarkable $18.36 billion IPO, @Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) has announced it will be sponsoring professional cycling in 2016, coincident with the first phase in the new UCI restructuring of the top tier of professional racing.

"Every sponsor comes into cycling wanting to win the Tour de France," announced CEO Dick Costolo (@dickc), an avid cyclist himself. "Yet for any team to win is always a long shot. That's why we are taking a new approach, a guaranteed approach."

That approach, it turns out, is to become title sponsor of each and every of the 16 class 1-A UCI professional teams. With the media exposure of professional cycling teams estimated at $88.4 million per year, it only makes sense to multiply that profit 16-fold, according to Costolo. That's a $1.4B annual return on a roughly $250M investment.

"In 2016, the pro peloton will become a sea of blue," Costolo continued. When asked how the teams will now be distinguished from each other, he noted each team would have a unique hashtag printed on their blue-and-white kits.

The Twitter monopoly on class IA teams won't give them a corresponding monopoly of the top races, as teams from the lower classes may be invited. However, it would be unprecedented for a minor team to win one of the valued grand tours. So Twitter does indeed now have a virtual lock on these 3-week stage races. One day races, like Paris-Roubaix and Milan-San Remo, provide more opportunity for upset. But it's safe to say @Twitter jerseys will be dominating podiums year-round.

Twitter has already gotten enormous benefit from professional racing, as it's become ubiquitous that top riders tweet before and after each race. For example, Taylor Phinney was an early forerunner in this practice. Yet Twitter is looking at greater opportunities.

"We expect riders of every Team @Twitter to be tweeting not just before and after races, but during them. Indeed we've been working with a major component manufacturer for handlebar-mounted keyboards to facilitate this," he said. "It will be a pleasure having Taylor on Team @Twitter, firing off tweets to his captivated followers as he rides elbow-to-elbow over the cobblestones of Belgium and France."

Equipment sponsors remain to be determined, although it has been rumored that the teams will be all using OEM frames and wheels from Hong-Fu Bikes of Taiwan, with shifting and derailleurs from MicroShift.

Dramatic stuff. But we live in interesting times.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Scott releases 2014 Addict Ultra Limited: World's lightest production frame

After replacing it's long-time weight-weenie favorite, The Addict, with the aero-optimized Foil, Scott has finally returned the cutting-edge Addict frame to its lineup.

This was first revealed at yesterday's Tour of Flanders, the bike ridden with some success by the IAM team who placed sixth with Henrich Haussler.

pro version

However, that was just a prototype. It wasn't until today the production model was leaked. The following is the press-release, which was sent to me by one of my extensive list of industry contacts.

Scott Addict Ultra
click photo for larger resolution

Here's the text of the press release:

Scott USA, 01Apr2013: Scott Sports, the cycling world's engineering leader, today announced the launch of the 2014 Addict Ultra Limited frameset. Building on the legendary Addict, the Addict Ultra Limited makes the lightest even lighter (with a world record effective mass[*] of 599.9 grams for 54cm) while maintaining optimal stiffness, comfort, responsiveness, acceleration, and appearance. The Addict Ultra Limited also introduces OptimizedLayup™ tube design with AllDayComfort™ geometry, drawing on design lessons learned with the category-leading Addict R-series, as well as future-proof internal cable routing. The Addict Ultra Limited frameset is available now for RRP $9,999.
[*] paint, hardware, and head-tube omitted.

At Scott, we recognize that most of our customers aren't racing for the top spot on the World Tour podium. Far more important is feeling as comfortable at the end of a challenging ride as you were at the beginning without cumbersome spacer-stacks or inverted stems. That's where our cutting-edge AllDayComfort™ design comes in. With head-tubes carefully optimized to the rest of the bike's fine-tuned geometry, the Scott Addict Ultra Limited will allow you to attain and exceed your cycling goals with style.

I'm super-excited about this bike. Hopefully they'll send me my test bike soon, so I can return a first-hand ride report. Expect that soon.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Garmin-Cervelo's special weapon for Flanders

Normally I don't repost articles here, but I ran across this cutting news on one of my favorite race news sites, (sometimes it's down, so be sure to check back later).

Brugge, Belgium: Jonathan Vaughters announced today that his Slipstream-Cervelo team was going against its sponsorship and will race Sunday's Tour of Flanders on vintage Alex Singer "constructeur" bicycles.

"I came across a copy of Bicycle Quarterly and almost immediately realized this is what would give us that critical advantage on the bergs of Flanders", Vaughters said during a brief press conference. "All these years riders have struggled to overcome the cruelties of these steep, cobbled climbs, and until now it never occurred to us that maybe, just maybe the cobbles didn't need to be so cruel. It turns out for all the research and development done by us and our sponsors, the answer was worked out more than a half-century ago. If only we'd looked behind instead of forward, we'd have seen it."

Thor's 2004 Singer
Thor Hoshovd's vintage Singer

Unfortunately due to the long lead times for Singer bicycles, Vaughters and company had to look at existing stock to get them to the starting line of this year's spring classics. "Luckily there's a close to seven decade history of Singers, so by scouring Craigslist we were able to supply the team." Each of the team's eight starters will be on one of the classic rigs, with no spares. "These bikes were built to last, to provide decades of service under any condition. One bike per rider is plenty."

"Flanders, and to an ever greater extent, Roubaix, is an exercise in chaos. Team cars fight for position to service riders. Riders take insane risks to be in position for the feed zone. With these bikes, none of this is necessary. With front racks and custom Garmin-Cervelo bags we're having hand-sewn by Chrome, riders can carry everything they need for the day from the start line. And with 42mm 650B tires, flats are extremely unlikely. As a result the team cars can take the Autostrada directly to Aankornst (the finish). On the road we'll need only a motor scooter for communications."

But what about the sprint? Surely the woefully inadequate (by 2011 standards) bottom brackets on the narrow-gauge steel Singer frames would collapse under Thor and Tyler's enormous power.

"The Singers plane well", Vaughters replied.

Vaughters then revealed the new jersey the team was going to premier at the race: a wool Garman-logo'ed jersey with plain black, wool shorts.

"Obviously, riding these bikes with synthetic fabrics would be, well, just wrong. Plus, we wanted to take advantage of wool's superior thermoregulation."

obligatory data
simulation data

Liquigas riders suffering on the Koppenberg due to stiff carbon frames with skinny tires (CyclingNews)

Wow -- I'm changing my pick for Sunday's race right now. Cancellara? Boonen? Sagan? Fuggetaboutit. All of the road vibration dissipated in their muscles through their stiff frames and skinny tires will render them useless to the Garmin Cervelo attack at the end of 270 km of the worst roads Belgium can deliver.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Powertap rewired!

My off-season (well, not so off-season at this point) focus on trail running this year has really killed my legs. As a result, I've been generally suffering on Old La Honda during the Wednesday Noon Ride. Guys I am accustomed to staying with have been simply riding away from me, chatting in a relaxed voice, while I suffer, gasping, in their wake.

But now that's going to change.

It occurred to me during my recent Pirates Cove Trail Run that my Powertap, which as I've documented hasn't been reporting accurate power anyway, can be put to a far better use. The key is the piezoelectric effect. The Piezoelectric effect, as applied to measuring power, results in the following relationship:

voltage = (torque ‒ τ0) × K,

for some τ0 and K. However, trivial algebraic manipulation yields:

torque ‒ τ0 = voltage / K,

where torque ‒ τ0 is "useful torque" sufficient to overcome the built-in tension in the powertap hub.

What this says is if instead of forcing a certain torque and measuring the resulting voltage, if I force the voltage I will instead generate a torque. This idea is hardly new, as it's the basis for piezoelectric motors.

Despite my overeducation in electrical engineering, I'm not very good with electronic hackery. But this mod was just too simple. A simple swap of connectors, and I was, you might say, ready to roll:

powertap mod
Simple Powertap mod

I weighed the hub before and after on a vibration-controlled microbalance in the class-100 clean room at the Stanford integrated circuit processing facility (don't tell!), and with my somewhat sloppy soldering technique, this added 47.6 mgrams, which adds around 0.4 msec to my Old La Honda time. But the payback is worth it.

Next there's the battery issue. Sure, the Powertap comes with a battery, but an actuator obviously demands more capacity than a sensor. The "obvious" approach would be to wire a connection to a frame-mounted battery. But a wire from the rear hub to the frame isn't the best approach, and in any case USA Cycling rule 1M(c) forbid the use of any "stored energy" for propulsion.

Fortunately it pays to have friends. In this case a grad student I know at Stanford is doing his PhD in "energy harvesting". This basically involves using sensors to harvest vibrational energy and converting it to useful electronic power. I lent him my wheel for a week, and when it came back, he'd cleverly installed silicon-based microsensors inside my moderate deep Reynolds rims (in return, I act as a test subject for his thesis, and help him with data analysis). The spokes act as perfectly useful wires with a bit of epoxy in the spoke holes as insulation on the "power" spokes (radial non-drive side). The non-drive-side, still touching the rim and hub, act as ground. This worked so well only because the Reynolds rim has the nipples internal to the rim, rather than extending from the rim, making the installation relatively straightforward. The weight penalty was a bit more here: 17.5 grams on my Scout, sensors + epoxy. But oh-so-worth it.

Okay, so in theory if you ride on perfectly smooth roads you don't get anything out of this. But the roads are never perfectly smooth, and on my favorite climb, Old La Honda, even with the relatively recent road work, I'll be than adequately powered for the task. The real beauty of this is if I stop, the vibrations cease, and the power shuts down. To get it going again I simply need to start the bike moving. No energy "stored and released": direct generation from road vibrations to voltage to torque to climb-slaying power.

So there it was. Did it work? Of course: the physics is just too simple. And the result? Let's just say based on preliminary tests in the Marin Headlands yesterday I'll be posting a new PR report on Old La Honda soon. Watch out, Diablo Hill Climb Time Trial in June!