Top bikes at Tour of Alberta
Cycling: World-class event to go through MD of Foothills, Okotoks
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013 06:00 am
The differences between the bicycles sold at an Okotoks shop and the ones being ridden by the top cyclists in the world when they go through town next month are surprisingly subtle.
However, those subtle differences and the powerful legs on the cyclists will mean high speeds when the Tour of Alberta goes through Black Diamond and Okotoks on Sept. 7 and 8, respectively.
“The neat thing about cycling is we do have incredible feats in engineering that makes it as fast as possible,” said Ron Uhlenberg, owner of Ridley’s Cycle in Okotoks. “But the reality is it is still just a bike. It is the person on the bike that makes the difference.
“You put a pro on a $2,000 bike he will still do very well. The difference between a $12,000 bike and a $2,000 bike isn’t much. But at that level, it could make the difference.”
The bikes on the tour will weigh in at around 6.8 kg — or about 15 pounds. They will be made from a carbon frame.
A typical road bike will weigh in between 15 and 20 pounds.
“Carbon is a material which allows the bike to do exactly what the rider wants it to do,” Uhlenberg said. “It provides lateral stiffness for power transfer. It also has some compliance to it so it can provide a combination of power and comfort. It is also incredibly light.”
That 21-speed road bike you have will actually provide one more gear than what the best cyclists in the world will have in the Foothills in three weeks.
“The bikes will be 10 speeds on the back (wheel) and two on the front, so it’s a 20 speed,” Uhlenberg said.
The gears are in the two hand brakes. A small shift of a lever on the handle either to the left or the right moves the gears.
“The gears are integrated into the brake lever,” Uhlenberg said. “That’s typical now in a $1,000 road bike. What you are seeing is manufacturing from the pro level filtering down to bikes you and I can ride.”
Some of the bikes will also have electronic gear changers. A quick touch of the button can increase or lower the gears.
Although it would seem the best in the world would just have the bike in high gear and go for it, that’s not the case.
“They will be changing gears all the time,” Uhlenberg said. “Basically you are using your gears like you would a standard car.
“Your legs are the pistons, you want them going maybe 80 or 90 revolutions per minute. You are using your gears to maintain that pace.”
Wheels are also made to be as light as possible. The actual wheel will be made of either carbon or light aluminum. As for the tires, they will be either the traditional tube tire; or a tube, which is stitched into the tire, or even tubeless tires.
Regardless of the tires, they will share two things in common. They will be light and able to stop on a dime.
The tires will be about 20mm in width — just slightly larger than the diameter of a dime. The tires will be pumped up to about 120 pounds per square inch.
“A mountain bike would be 40 or 50, your car is 35, but any road bike would be in that 120 range,” he said. “You want to have as little rolling resistance as possible, while still giving you pressure.”
The high pressure is also used to protect the tire. If there is a flat, don’t expect Ryder Hesjedal to pull out a metal box, scrape down the tube, put on some glue and then a small rubber patch before heading down the road.
“Part of the race will be mechanical preparation,” Uhlenberg explained. “They will change tires quite regularly. On the road, the mechanic will jump out of the support vehicle, and replace the whole tire.”
The helmets will come in at around $300. They are more for ventilation than a helmet, but provide the best in safety for cyclists.
The pedals will all be the clip-in style, which will allow the biker to have the balls of the feet centred over the axle of the pedal, so there is no wasted energy.
Even the best in the world are prone to sore butts when riding 160km in a day. The seats are made aerodynamically and are able to handle the shifting of the cyclists’ weight. Cushioning is provided by the cyclists’ shorts.
So the bikes aren’t much different from what a cycling nut in Okotoks might ride – well, except for the price.
Uhlenberg said the high-performance bikes the pros use, such as a Trek Madone, would cost around $11,000. A Pinarella Dogma top-end carbon bike is $6,000 for just the frame and fork.
The most expensive bike at Ridley’s in Okotoks rings in at about $5,000.
Volunteers are needed when Okotoks hosts the final leg of the Tour of Alberta, which is expected to draw between 10,000 and 15,000 people to the community.
Volunteers will receive a t-shirt for their efforts from Tour of Alberta. To volunteer in Okotoks go to www.okotoks.ca/TourofAB.aspx
To volunteer for the Black Diamond stop for the Tour of Alberta go to www.town.blackdiamond.ab.ca and click on visitors.