On Thursday, we awoke to the momentous announcement that Ragen finally has a road bike for her IRONMAN® 70.3®. She wrote about the saga of acquiring it on IronFat. If you check the metadata for her photos, you can see the first one was taken on March 10. Ragen had her bike for over two months and had to take it to three shops to have it modified enough for her to mount and pedal. As of yesterday, it was 4 months, 21 days until Tempe and she hadn’t ridden a singe mile on the road yet.
A generous new blog contributor who is a biking enthusiast gave us permission to republish his analysis of Ragen’s new bike. The first part deals with technical details while the second is an assessment of its suitability for Ragen to ride. Some readers may want to simply skip to Part Two.
The same author has written extensively about the issues Ragen will face with road etiquette and safety in Tempe. Stay tuned for that in another post soon.
Part One – Technical Details
OK, Ragen has a Jamis Ventura Race Femme. For reference, the spec is here. I’ll overlook the fit mechanics and photo dating discrepancy for now, so let’s break down what she’s bought.
Frame wise, it’s not a bad frame. 7005 is a good material – I’ve ridden many bikes with 7005 and one of my favourite bikes is 7005 – so no issues there. Features wise, the carbon rear is going to give a more comfortable ride, the sloping tube is advantageous for those with shorter legs as it gives a lower standover height whilst giving a larger effective top tube height. The replaceable hanger is almost a given these days but after being in a bad weather sportive last year and seeing how many people had to retire due to smashed rear mechs, a wise move.
The fork is full carbon with alloy dropouts. Good for durability and lightness. I can’t tell what weave it is, but it should be long lasting with care given to torque settings and should absorb road rumble well. An as expected headset so not bad.
Wheels — Alex ALX-190, 24/28H, aero profile rims with CNC sidewalls, machined ball-bearing hubs, DT stainless steel spokes” — I can already hear the screams of pain. For a normal, entry level woman these are not bad wheels. They would be the first candidate for an upgrade, but not bad. To me (at 68.5kg), I can already feel the flex in the rims from here, but I’d use them as training wheels. They’re not the lightest, but on any bike package, to keep costs down wheels are usually a cutting point rather than the groupset. Tyres are good (especially for West coast US riding) for the “normal” weight woman as 23c’s need a higher pressure to roll well. This is usually traded against comfort, but as carbon forks front and back it’s a good compromise. 25c is more common these days but it’s not a bad package.
Now the itty-bitty-gritty bits — the groupset. Shiftlevers/STI/Egosticks are 105 ST-5700 with 105 front and back dérailleurs. I can’t knock these as they are the workhorses of groupsets. They are good, solid, dependable and reliable bits of kit and I use them on various other bikes. Where they have cut costs is the crankset (FAS Vero instead of 105) which is a common trend. Again for a normal rider, not an issue. The cassette (rear cogs) the 11-25 is fairly compact so better for flatter courses; I’d expect a somewhere between 28 and 32 at the bottom end if the bike was going to be used for hills. Matched with a compact crankset (FSA Vero compact, 50/34T, 165mm (44/48), 170mm (51/54)) she has plenty of gear choice. As Ragen is 5’5 and complains about short legs, I’d guess she has the 165mm cranks with 44/48 chainrings. Finishing the groupset with brakes, the Tektro choice is a budget cut brake but a common substitute for the price bracket.
Finishing kit is fairly reputable with Ritchey Comp stuff, no pedals (I’ll come to that later) and a Jamis carbon seat post (nice touch). The saddle should be a Selle San Marco Ischia Glamour Arrowhead with SL cover and carbon steel rails. That’s a good saddle!
All in all, not a bad bike. At 19.5lbs (8.84kg in proper units) that’s a sub 9kg bike for not too much cash. Jamis have a reputation for high value bikes — you get a lot of bike for your cash as they buy in bulk, sell direct/through specific outlets, spec well, don’t have an Italian superbike name and can pass on their savings to the customer. There’s no Tiagra or Sora creeping into the groupset, there’s a full carbon fork (not a carbon fork/alloy steerer), carbon rear stays and carbon seat post. There’s scope for upgrades (those wheels) while still having a very competitive package. This is a good choice of bike; she bought a good bike.
CyclingWeekly gives it a good review from test rides; I can’t critisise the bike as it is sold.
Part Two – Fit (Ragen’s Modifications), Criticism, and Summary
But… Ragen isn’t the target weight or woman for this bike. First, the owner’s manual. From the Jamis website (here is the PDF). Page 42 has the weight limits. For the performance bikes and general purpose bikes, 129kg (285 lbs) total mass is the upper limit while rider limit is 125kg (275 lbs). For probably 90% of the customers who buy this bike, that won’t even cross their mind. For Ragen, make of that as you will. To me, the 22/24 laced wheels no matter how robust the rims are is too lightly laced for 140kg – they are going to need constant attention.
Now the fit.
It’s harder to tell because I haven’t seen an image of Ragen on the bike, but there a lot of details just to be seen from the photo. The major contact points — saddle, pedals and handlebars — being the most obvious.
Pedals — pedals are a personal choice and also subject to different laws. For a bike to be sold with pedals in the UK, the pedals have to have reflectors by law. So often a budget pedal would be added for the rider to then remove at minimal cost or pedals won’t be included. I prefer Look KEO pedals, my friends prefer Shimano SPD-SL’s, I use Shimano SPD’s on my MTB and hybrid, some friends use a Time system while others swear by Speedplay. Different riders prefer different systems so it’s better to sell the bike without pedals. I’d hope that those pedals are just stop gap pedals as clipless pedals are more beneficial. The shoes she’ll try and buy are going to be compatible with pretty much every pedal system, but the mechanics of her knee action may be the deciding factor, along with cleat choice. Looks like Ragen is going to have to do some more crowdfunding.
Saddle — OK, a saddle is a very personal choice and the adjustment makes a massive difference. If you’ve more advanced, then Fizik has a brilliant concept of how your spine governs which saddle you need. The crucial sit bone width method and spine curvature pointing you towards one of three saddle types. But even then, putting the right saddle in the wrong position can make any ride hell. I had tendinitis from using the same saddle on a different bike but adjusted wrong. Only from tweaking and tweaking and tweaking did I resolve the problem. This takes time and is best avoided when in training mode. Saddles also wear in. Brooks saddles are notorious for being hell on day 1 but a lifelong friend once bedded in. The method to working out sit bone width should be straight forward if you’re not obese, but then again…
So she’s swapped it for that… thing. It’s hideous, wrong, she can’t get a lower position, it’s too wide for thighs but can’t go any narrower due to her fat ass… best not say any more.
Handlebars — I don’t know where to start. OK, mechanically, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Carbon steering tubes are cut so that the bars can be raised/dropped by +/- 30mm or so. This ensures the correct steering characteristics, stability and tube strength. There is a torque setting for stems as carbon tubes do break under pressure, so Ragen has ignored this and asked for someone to raise them… Now, the union between the carbon steerer and the extension tube is a massive weak spot and has to resist the sway of 150kg. And even with the work they’ve done, the excess column above the stem is just wrong; cut it down or be impaled!
Next is the stem — the link between the steerer and the handlebars. What I don’t understand is why you’d swap a Ritchey Comp 4-Axis stem for a piece of chewing gum. That is one of the worst stems know to humanity. They use them of centre bikes to fit everyone and they flex, move, waste power… just fucking horrible!!
Then there is the bars themselves and Ragen’s biggest threat to the world around her. Drop bars have a number of hand positions and each have their own place and purpose. One of the biggest bugs I see is bad positioning at different times — never go into a braking zone with your hands still by the stem! The brake levers on drop bars can be pulled from two positions — on top of the hoods and in the drops. In the drops gives you the best braking performance, drops your centre of gravity and puts weight on your front wheel for better stopping power. Ragen cannot reach the drop position with that handle bar position to safely brake hard. I would not want to ride near her for the risk of her not being able to stop and crashing into me and destroying my body, my health, my bike and my race. Her wrists getting to the drop position are going to be destroyed if she ever tries.
Finally, saddle/bar drop. If you look at the original Jamis link, you’ll notice the saddle around 2cm above the bars – this is normal. Adam Hansens’ bike is a good example of a large drop for an aero position. This NSFW image of Victoria Pendleton gives a fantastic naked view of thigh, elbow, hand, stomach and buttock relationships on drop bars; with the exception of Vicky being one of the ultimate women, this is one of the best illustrations of perfect bike fit I can think of. Ragen won’t get this and with her attitude I wouldn’t expect her to get anywhere near it.
I could go into the biomechanics next, but that would be another wall of text.
In summary, Ragen has bought a good bike and butchered it into something atrocious. Some bits may be stop gaps (pedal choice) but her fit has fucked the bike to a Frankenbike.