Michael Hanslip Coaching

If you want to go faster, you have to pedal harder

April 2024

ProBikeGarage maintenance app

Probably ten years ago I purchased a Feedback Sports Pro workstand. In exploring the paperwork that came with it I discovered they have an app for tracking bike maintenance. It links to your Strava account and pulls in distances. I've been using that since to keep track of my maintenance. But my Strava updating hasn't worked properly since day 1. Lots of emails to the coders who built the app and some diagnostic work with them and ... nothing. Still updates every so often but not properly.
Then I heard about ProBikeGarage app online somewhere. I was thinking perhaps I should swap when I got an email from Feedback Sports that they had sold their app to another American bike business (an online bike shop?) and there was a link to download the current version of the newly renamed app. Following that link I got the message that the app is not available in Australia.
For less than $10 I thought I should try out the alternative. And now I have been using it for a couple of weeks. It pulls your bikes out of your Strava account, so if it isn't there is isn't in the maintenance list. But once in the app, you can add components and even make complex components built out of other components (picture a wheel made of hub, spokes and rim). One sub-component, like the hub, can have one maintenance schedule (for its bearings) while another, like the rim, can have a different schedule (for rim tape, spoke tension, etc).
Use can be tracked in time or distance or calendar time. Replace fork seals after 100 hours of riding. Re-lubricate a chain after 300 km of riding. Refresh sealant in a tyre after 3 months (whether ridden or not). All of these intervals are possible in the ProBikeGarage.
It allows special circumstances too. Such as when on the trainer the rear wheel doesn't accumulate use. And parts can be swapped easily. Two sets of wheels? No worries. To get proper stats for some wheels I carried over from older bikes to current bikes I had to go into Strava and unretire the old bike. Then it uploaded into PBG. Then I added the wheels and it calculated distance and hours used. Finally I moved the item at the appropriate date to the current bike and it brought its prior use with it. Very nice. (And I re-retired the bike in Strava after to get it out of the way.)
As a maintenance deadline approaches, the bike goes "orange" to warn you. Once crossing the deadline, the bike goes "red". Every day on the anniversary of the part's installation (each item has an installation time on it so PBG can distinguish if you swapped before or after a particular ride) it sends a warning notification through the phone.
I had been estimating time of use from distance and estimated speed. I was off. My Ibis wasn't just approaching the 100 hours for suspension seals, but was well past at around 145 hours. So I got a warning every day. My Spot wasn't most of the way to 100 hours, but right at it. So I got a warning every day for that one too. Now that I've replaced the fork seals on both bikes (the fluid in the Spot's fork was crystal clear but there wasn't much of it while there was plenty of fluid in the Ibis's fork but it was a bit dirty - so both needed doing) and checked some suspension sag across different bikes, PBG is happy and stopped sending me notifications every day.
I've had extensive correspondence with the developers. They were very curious about my experiences with a competitor's product and seem genuinely interested in customer feedback to guide future development. I need access to multiple Strava accounts to keep track of use on different owner's bikes since I'm the family mechanic. They haven't implemented a good solution - yet. They do plan to have some way to connect with 2 or more accounts. It wasn't clear to me if this was a technical hurdle (how do we do it?) or a time hurdle (when we've done all this other stuff, we'll do that!).
If you need to keep track of your bikes for maintenance, and you use Strava, I recommend this one.

Pirelli Scorpion Trail M first ride

I use my Ibis Ripley like an XC bike, but technically it is a trail bike. What's the difference? I'll suggest the difference can be as simple as "intent" but in this case the Exie is the Ibis XC bike and the Ripley is usually delivered with a 130 mm fork (more often a 140 mm fork in Australia according to the importer) making it a trail bike. My build uses a 120 mm Fox 34 SC, which is more XC than trail. But then I ran 200 mm rotors so I could swap in the chunky tyres from the Enduro bike for occasions such as Stromlo enduro races where the Ripley would be faster, but held back by the tyres.
Well, no more. I had almost 150 hours of good use out of the Scorpion XC tyres I put on the bike from new (the front was original, the rear was much newer and still had some life left). Now replaced with the Trail version of the tyre - complete with bigger size (2.4" rather than 2.2") and bigger knobs - much bigger. After 20 km of riding, this is very much a first impressions report.
I used my usual 18/24 psi F/R settings that work on the DH tyres on the Sender, the Enduro tyres on the Slash and the XC tyres on the Spot - but they felt pretty hard on this bike. I was bouncing off of some stuff during the ride. The pressure might need to decrease a little. Inside the tyres is the same CushCore XC insert I had in the old tyres. CushCore says to run them until they lose their radial tension. And these still fit tightly into the rim well under their own elastic pull. So should be good. I did peel off most of the sealant that had built up on them before reinstallation.
First impression is that they are MUCH grippier than the XC tyre. Not surprisingly with the much bigger knobs. I got them into sliding on the loose dirt on the backside of Stromlo and they recovered nicely; I was never sure with the XC tyres if they'd bring it back so tried to avoid sliding the front tyre at all.
While they are heavier (more knob, more volume - of course they are heavier) they didn't feel it.
First verdict: great fun. I'll happily trade off a little speed (though I don't know if I did) for more fun, especially when I'm not racing.

Flexy seat posts

My first experience with a seat post specifically designed to make the ride more comfortable was the Specialized Roubaix carbon post back circa 2004. That one made a remarkable transformation of my oversized aluminium Cannondale CX frame from its original aluminium post. Even before that I had used posts like the Syncros one, which was primarily aimed at being light in weight, but as a consequence of being made so thin-walled it also flexed quite a bit. Unlike modern flexy posts, it flexed evenly in all directions.
Fast forward to my first Trek Checkpoint. Like most Trek road bikes it used a seat mast rather than a seat post. These very large diameter units slide over the frame and must be close to inflexible for it. But the Checkpoint had Isospeed decoupling where the seat tube is not rigidly joined to the top tube/seat stay junction (instead an axle at that joint permits the seat tube to flex like a leaf spring). I found this bike to be perfectly comfortable. There is a lump in the pavement in my neighbourhood that is a good indicator of how a frame transmits harshness through the seat. On that Cannondale, even with the Specialized post, it was sharp enough that I tried never to hit it. On the Checkpoint, it was a dull noise and not much of a feeling at all.
And now everyone wants a dropper post on their gravel bike for the same reason everyone needs a dropped post on their MTB - it just works better. So my new Checkpoint uses a seat post again - and has routing room for a dropper post actuation cable. The post I put in it is the Bontrager RSL - a very high-end post designed to be flexy fore and aft but rigid side to side. I haven't ridden the Checkpoint without this post, but it does float over my harsh neighbourhood lump approximately as well as the old Checkpoint did.
I've been contemplating this as I ride it for the past week. There is no indication that this post flexes at all. However much it absorbs, it does so in conjunction with the Isospeed and it is not materially different than the older frame.

As a corollary of this, my Madone race bike has its own version of Isospeed - the seat post floats inside the seat tube in a carbon leaf spring mechanism that permits adjustment of the spring rate in that spring. You can have more or less movement for a given force to reflect your body weight or preferences. It came in the middle of the adjustment range and I haven't adjusted it once - it was fine on day one and remains fine. Interestingly to me, it feels a lot like the first Checkpoint (and therefore the second Checkpoint) despite the deep aero sections of the frame. It suggest that Trek know what they are doing with the Isospeed thing. I wonder what the new Checkpoint would be like without the flexy post? I don't have any other 27.2 posts, nor do I want to fuss around with the swapping of posts, so I won't find out any time soon.

The most extreme looking flexy post is the one that Canyon puts in their gravel bikes. It is a two part leaf spring that is held together on one end by being in the frame and at the top by how it bolts to the post head. An idea whose time is here. If you haven't tried a designed-flex carbon frame you should. They're brilliant in their ability to absorb bumps and still feel firm underfoot when you pedal.