Saturday, October 22, 2022

Two Things For Today

I suppose I could have called this one a "Randomonium" post, but really this is just about two things that popped up Thursday in my social media observations. One is about the new Specialized Diverge STR and the other is an article about the so-called "Spirit of Gravel". Okay, so let's go.....

A close look at the workings. (Image courtesy of "Cyclist UK")
Thing 1- The Specialized Diverge STR:

Specialized calls this technology their "Suspend The Rider" technology. Aptly named because it doesn't do what most everyone thinks of when you say "dual suspension". Yet almost every single outlet reporting on this bike used that term. 

That's the state of reporting circa 2022. Give people the wrong idea, because it is just easier to do that instead of tell them what they are really looking at. 

Essentially this is a "motor mount" idea. Damping the vibrations of the road from the "motor" (the rider in this case) and the motions of the motor/rider from the chassis. The wheels will still do what they do on a rigid bike, so this is not "a dual suspension" bike, despite what you might be reading out there. 

It's not a bad idea, this Diverge bike, but it does come at a price. Nearly 8K for the cheapest one, it is 200 grams heavier than the outgoing version, (not that big of a deal), and it is far more complex with a lot of places for things to go wrong in the future. You could just get a Redshift Sports ShockStop Seat post, save a bunch of money, add about the same amount of weight, and put it on any gravel bike. 

Once again- you can solve a problem elegantly and simply, or you can do it with an overly complex, expensive solution that is wholly proprietary. Your choice. The idea, at its core, is a sound one. How this Specialized solution was implemented is a bit goofy, in my opinion. 

Image by Jason Boucher from Trans Iowa v9
Thing 2 - The Spirit of Gravel:

I was tagged on a post on Twitter by Andrew Vontz who authored this article on a site called "Why This Is Interesting" on Thursday. It is a post that looks at the culture of gravel and how the corporate monetization, competitive elements, and social media narratives surrounding the gravel scene today are at odds with the origins of the scene and why it has grown at all in the first place. 

You've been around here enough, most likely, that you already know what I think about all of that. If you take the time to read Mr. Vontz's article, I think you'll see that he does a fair job of laying out today's gravel landscape and why it is that things are in upheaval on social media concerning gravel events and what not. He brought up some interesting questions as well. 

First of all, let me say that I was not contacted about this piece and I was not aware of it until it had been published. Had I been made aware of some of the statements Mr. Vontz had made in the opening paragraph concerning Trans Iowa, I could have easily corrected those minor mistakes in his story there. (Or he could have looked at this written historical record. It's as if I try to hide this stuff, ya know?.) 

Anyway.... I guess I should just shut up and feel blessed that I got noticed at all. 

Now, on to his questions....

"Is it in The Spirit of Gravel to use aerobars: handlebar extensions usually reserved for races where drafting is forbidden, and riders can’t be in packs? "

Answer: If the event director allows them, and you disagree, maybe that event is not for you. Additionally, if the event director does not allow their use, and you disagree, maybe that event is not for you. This is a dumb question and waaaay too easy to figure out. Why is this even a debate? 

 "Is it in The Spirit of Gravel for pro athletes to bring teammates and work in a coordinated fashion to shelter a leader and provide them a better shot at winning, as is common practice in road racing? Or should it be every person for themselves as it was in the early days of the sport?"

Answer: Basically, the same as above. If it is allowed, live with it. Otherwise, don't show up to partake in what you think is "unfair". Riders always want things to be different. Their airing of issues on social media makes it seem that some sort of grievance is valid and has to be addressed or riders are being.....I don't know.... Oppressed? Whatever! The problem is that event directors have no backbone because they fear loss of revenue, poor opinions of their events, and of being "cancelled" or otherwise castigated on social media as having a strong opinion. I'd weight the "loss of revenue" thing much more heavily here. 

 "What happens if a rider in the pro women’s race drafts teammates in the race who are men?" (Or a friend, or a husband, or a guy that is get the idea.)

Answer: Drafting? Who cares? If you can- do it. The real issue here is "winning sponsorships, endorsements, or prize money". Basically, a monetary/support benefit of some sort is at stake. What? You don't think people (racers) would take any advantage to gain a monetary or supportive benefit via winning a "prestigious" or "prize-rich" event? Do actions that are within event rules that allow creative means to gain advantages mean that there is a problem? Yes- The problem is that the people (racers) who didn't figure it out are now feeling "oppressed". Solution: Don't ever go back to that event, or lobby the event director to tighten up the rules. Just don't muddy up the waters with open-airing of complaints if there was no actual rule-breaking involved. 

Additionally, if event directors are not taking this "creative interpretation of rules by riders" thing seriously, then they are failing their position as event directors. One of an event directors number one missions is to figure out how they could cheat at their own event and when they find a way, change the rules, or make a change where needed before the event takes place. Finally, rules decisions must be implemented (DQ's, time penalties, etc.) while the event is happening. Otherwise, you were doing a bad job. Enforce your rules or don't have them.  

There was another question, basically asking the same thing, regarding the "gravel beef" thing concerning hydration packs versus water bottles and not stopping at an aid station...... You get the idea. 

Look, I appreciate the article, but it has nothing at all to do with some nefarious spirit of crushed rock. It has everything to do with the monetization of gravel culture, rider-driven narratives, and weak event directors who are allowing those riders to control the narratives and events. What did ol' Joel Dyke, co-originator of the event now called "Unbound" tell me? "When the money comes in, that will ruin it....", or something to that effect. What a prophet he was! 

Y'all know if you were there in the beginnings that the gravel scene was competitive, racy, and had an edginess to it, but the early event directors and the early participants weren't going to put up with nonsense from riders who thought the events should be run differently. But - ya know - when it means the difference between getting sponsored or not, or in getting that nice boost of prize money or not, or that bump in social media numbers or not, those ol' event directors better let this "Spirit of Gravel" thing go, 'cause this is serious racing now!  



Phillip Cowan said...

The designer of STR must be German. The German design philosophy being"why make it simple when it can be complicated". It's the old 911 Turbo vs Z28 Camaro thing.

Guitar Ted said...

@Phillip Cowan - Perhaps that is the case! Another thing I did not touch upon are the aesthetics of that bike. It is not very appealing to me. Maybe someone out there thinks that is cool, but my response is that the bike looks like it has had a modification done to it after the bike was completed by some backyard mechanic.

But maybe I'm the odd one there in that thought.

scottg said...

Flexible seat tubes, Trek Isospeed in any one of several versions.

Canyon makes a flexi seatpost, that moves fore and aft also.

Any design have 5 parts can be built by a German with 7 parts
and requiring a special tool.

Marcellus said...

@scottg - Prejudices are never a good way to organize ones mind. In this case the STR was developed in the US, while the Canyon VCLS was developed in Germany. Both are made in Asia. This doesn't says anything about the engineering and production skills of the people living in those places.

Scott N said...

"By 2013, gravel was still a fringe cycling genre but popular enough to merit a feature in the New York Times about the race today known as the Unbound Gravel 200. That year I entered and competed in the race known today as the Unbound 100, actually a 104-mile race, which was more than enough challenge for me."
I have zero respect for people who can"t or refuse to use the actual name of the race they entered or are talking about prior to 2021. Andy Vontz, you entered the Dirty Kanza 100 and the New York Times feature called it Dirty Kanza.
Guitar Ted thanks for posting.