Monday 24 September 2018

1X triathlon bike for age groupers, amateur triathlete, etc

Does 1x road setup work for a triathlon or 70.3

Does 1X work in the real world for Joe Blogs on the street trying to get through a Triathlon, Ironman or a time trial?
Ready for just one shifter in your next event? You should be - read on to see why I feel so from my experience
First of all, getting a Tri bike fitted is not just like any other bike - you need a fit, and that fit takes into account many things, all of them static in a room, not out there in a field, in an amateur's case with many people who have never raced in a group before, or have too much testosterone ... and that all adds up to having to just worry about one hand focussed on shifting being a good thing, especially if you are mechanical shifting! 

But that is all subjective, what about in a race as the results, well it just so happened I went 1X on my first middle distance event to throw myself in the deep end and find out :)

If you can manage a smile on a 19% hill too many; you know 1X was the right choice!
Well the short answer is yes, it does, and the data I use as proof of that is that using a 1x set-up I not only:

  1.  Managed one of the steepest 70.3 courses on a 48t 11-36 set-up, with 19% and 1400m of ascent, many propose the gearing either has to be too tall or too short which is Weymouth 70.30 bike course, but 
  2. Also managed the same top speed, over 76km/h, as my colleague who did the whole event two hours quicker than my and qualified for the 70.3 World Champs, so again, enough gearing to keep up on the downs.
  3. It was also one of the bumpiest courses I have ever been on, with some sections seeing competitors dropping chains, and hearing the awful sound of steel chain smacking against carbon chainstays all around me, but not my chain or chainstasy, and that is even without a clutch derailleur.
17% gradient 61.9km into the bike leg of an IM 70.3 and 76km/h max show that 1X has the range even for an amateur
So headline facts of why I consider the experiment a success dealt with, let's get on with the more subjective stuff of feel, and confidence going into my first 70.3 distance event with a 1x I had only tested in Richmond park beforehand... as well as the other benefits, especially for a triathlon bike set-up, and two other key factors of why I am never going back to 2X...
Sram XX 11-36t Cassette and a 48T got me up 19% gradients and a 76.8km/h top speed - who says 1x lacks range!
I normally ride a 50t or a 52t with a wider 11-42t cassette range, and yes, the extra top-end flexibility is nice, but if you look at the stats you can easily extract out of a di2 groupset - you will see you only ever use your top gear in anger for very short period of time, and if you cannot get the RPM, I suggest getting a singlespeed and working on your range, there really is nothing easier to maintain in winter either (other than couping yourself up on a turbo / rollers...).
Having only tested in Richmond park did not prepare me for the long, rough IM 70.3 Weymouth Course
One problem I did have was not finding the time to take the bike to anywhere like the hills I would face in Weymouth. It turns out however, no matter how bad you may think some of the surrey roads are / can be, it was nothing compared to the Weymouth IM 70.3 course, where in one part I even heard someone in a Yorkshire accent say "should have brought me gravel bike"... Now for those of you not familiar with UK regional nuances; if a "true grit" Yorkshireman says a road is rough... its probably quite rough :). 

Other reasons I choose 1x for triathlons: no dropped chains

Anecdotes aside, even gravel bike rough roads did not unsettle the chain, which in races costs you time, can seriously damage your frame, usually damages it cosmetically (costing you resale money / potential warranty issues) and can be downright dangerous. For me, aside from the bullets above
the XX 11-36t was a game changer when it came out, and is still a superlight, superbike-worthy piece of kit

Other reasons I chose 1x Tri / TT setup: simplicity, safety and weight

So let's get to the meat. I bought a reduced low-end Shiv and seriously upgraded the wheels and crank; two areas of rotating weight, and for me two key contact areas; one with the road, the other with yourself!

Let's be clear, while fast on the flat, and surprisingly so also a good handler when pointing down, anything other than top-end Shivs come with a very heavy alloy cock-pit and fairly basic shifting. While the Sram Rival rear to me is not a problem, the non indexed front at probably even a lower level in the Sram range was a serious "you have to be joking me" moment the first time I rode it. This is not a Sram or Specialized choice of kit issue, this is a Tri / TT issue that means you have fiddle around changing front gears while not having access (in a UK set-up at least) to your all important rear brake. This is a major safety issue, not just the time and physical hand coordination, but also concentration: only having to think about gears with one hand makes one less thing to worry about.

Then their is the weight, while going 1X I also swapped the alloy bar for a Zipp 40mm drop (more on that another time) and used some deda extensions that are the only comfortable extensions I have ever used and really meant for putting on the front of a road bike, again something I find really unsafe when matched with roadbike geometry, but on the TT geometry I can ride all day. In short, dropping the front der. cables, dreadful basic heavy cassette, and extra front ring, I dropped about half a kilo, take the 1kg plus from bars and we are talking night and day in the way the Shiv now climbs... All I need to do now is the same to my waist line (work in progress).
1X Specialized Shiv making light work of Box Hill with the extra weight shed converting to 1X
Other points to think about are the aero gains which I first got to thinking about when looking at the Strada 3T website. I honestly cannot say I can feel that difference, but then I think anybody who says they can, well, I am sceptical of...

One final added safety point is the issue of chainrings in an accident: I was once unlucky enough to see a bad case of what they call "chainring kiss". Do yourself a favour and do not look it up on google images, as it is rare but when it happens it can be nasty, and only really happens with the sharper profile of chainrings made for shifting, and usually only when in the smaller gear, however I have seen chains come off in accidents on geared bikes... This is not a deciding factor at all but an added bonus that makes me happy of my decision. 
Final thoughts: I was more worried about my choice of wheels if it had rained that riding 1X in my first Im 70.3
Would I ride 1X again in a 70.3: absolutely. My only concern going into the race was really the fact that rain had been forecast and carbon wheels with rim brakes in a race are like torture; not only for you not knowing how your brakes will perform, but also seeing so many inexperienced riders hit the floor and the sound of grit destroying carbon...

What next? I may try Di2, which again would make the right hand gear changes safer / easier still, and no I would not go back to 2X, but would plump for an XT/ XTR rear and get a 42T or bigger on the rear so as to put a 50 or 52t on the front. I may also add a Sram Force 1X to the rear as I have done with the road bike, however the Wolftooth Roadlink is doing better with this 11-36 set-up than it did with the sram red 11-40 set-up I had on my road bike.

From there its going to probably be a disc specific 1x aero bike, but for now, the Shiv is still a formidable aero bike, and with the Omega X front brake has quite a lot of stopping power

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