Guest Post: Ragen Has a Road Bike!

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.

Ragen’s bike before it was mangled..
Ragen’s new franken-bike!

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!

This drawing accurately depicts the author’s reaction.

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.

Drop position

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.

34 thoughts on “Guest Post: Ragen Has a Road Bike!

  1. ill be ahead of her, but if she mannages to finish the swim, shes going to fuck someones day up if she goes with clipless pedals

  2. She can’t fit on a road bike in anything resembling a normal configuration. Obviously, the configuration of her bike is less than ideal, to put it mildly. But would there be a better way to accommodate her at her current size?

    I suspect she’ll spend most of her time on top of the hoods, which really does look like a serious braking issue (and probably shifting issue too).

    Considering she fell down in a parking lot without clipless pedals, I think Jack has a reasonable point above.

    • It’s no problem. I’ve seen alcholics riding round on old apollo 10 speed with the handlebars turned way up like this and gripping the hoods all the while holding a 6 pack of beer in one hand.

    • “But would there be a better way to accommodate her at her current size?”

      Yes, put her on a bike that is designed to accommodate her size, desired position and projected speed. You likely wouldn’t approve of it, as it wouldn’t be anything like what you think of a race bike, but a “race” bike is clearly not what is right for her.

      I’d start with a Worksman frame and wheels. 2.0 Kojak tires. Laugh all you want, but she’ll be faster on that than on the Jamis, and a lot more comfortable.

  3. She praises the third “big girl friendly” bike shop to the high heavens, but they are going to get her, or someone else (or both) hurt. The first two shops weren’t being mean to her, they were refusing to put an unsafe bike on the road.

    Regan wiped out the first time she got on the modified bike. Why? Because that ludicrous drop bar rearrangement puts her center of gravity so far back, there’s no way she can stay upright with the slightest turn or change in elevation.

    There’s no way around it- Regan Chastain is too fat to ride a bike. That’s okay, I’m not making a value judgment here. I’m too small to bench press 200lbs. She’s too fat to ride a bike. These are neutral statements. Well, until she insists on getting on that butchered bike, wipes out and takes out some poor hapless passerby when she does.

    • Or more specifically, she’s too fat to ride a road bike. She’s basically taken a road bike and butchered it into a form that negates all of its benefits and makes it significantly more dangerous and difficult to ride than just using a hybrid or similar. Ragen likes having “equipment” to add to her thin veneer of credibility. This is exactly the same bullshit she pulled with that idiotic men’s 3XL scuba suit that is not needed for the 70.3 and also completely inappropriate for swimming. But she has a road bike and wet suit and that’s all that matters!

  4. Isn’t there someone in the Iron Man competition that can make the call as to whether a bike (or a bike re-configuration) is unsafe-either for the rider or for those around the rider?

    • Her unsafe bike configuration means she risks being disqualified by the marshals when it’s inspected. It’s also worth noting the medical staff have full authority to remove her from the course or prevent her from competing if they deem her a risk to herself or others.

      I am pretty convinced Ragen is either planning to drop out at the last moment in October or go out of her way to be disqualified so she can spin it as fat shaming for press coverage. The only other option is she is so completely delusional she believes she can go from not being able to run, never biking on a road, and never swimming in open water to completing a 70.3 at 300+ lbs in 4 1/2 months.

      Section 5.01 – General.

      (e) No cyclist shall endanger herself/himself or another athlete. Any cyclist who intentionally or recklessly presents a danger to any athlete or who, in the judgment of the Head Referee, appears to present a danger to any athlete will be disqualified;
      Section 5.02 – equipment

      (c) Illegal Equipment – (v) Bike or parts of the bike not complying with the bike specifications (as set forth in Section 5.03) are prohibited; (Stop and Go Time Penalty or DSQ depending on severity).

      Section 5.03 BIKE SPECIFICATIONS

      (a) All bicycles and bicycle equipment must conform to the specifications set forth in this Section. Any athlete (other than an athletes competing in the HC Division or the PC Open Division) using a nonconforming bicycle or otherwise violating this Section will be disqualified:

      (d) Handlebars and stem must be fashioned to prevent any danger. All handlebar ends must be solidly plugged to lessen the possibility of injury; (Stop‐and‐Go Time Penalty, DSQ if not remedied promptly)

      (g) All aspects of the bicycle must be safe to the rider and to other athletes in the Race. Minimum safety standards include, but are not limited to, properly glued and sealed tires, tight headset and handlebars, and true wheels; and

      (h) Non‐traditional or unusual bikes or equipment are illegal unless, prior to the start of the Race, approval has been granted from the Event‐specific Head Referee. (DSQ)

      • (h) Non‐traditional or unusual bikes or equipment are illegal unless, prior to the start of the Race, approval has been granted from the Event‐specific Head Referee. (DSQ)

        ill just leave the real important part here

  5. OK, I have been wondering about Ragen’s end game. From her non-updates, I can only assume she’s not doing the work to train and prepare. There’s no way she can do the race successfully. Even a superior athlete could not go couch to half-iron with no prep in such a short time frame. I wonder if her plan all along has been to spin this as fat discrimination and maybe try to sue/reap some benefit?

  6. Hi – I’m just letting you know that when I come here, none of the images ever work. This makes me sad. I’m not sure why this is. All I ever see are broken image links. Thanks!

    Exception: I can see the newspaper clipping image. This is the only image I’ve ever seen on this site.

    • Thanks for letting us know. The problem seems to be limited to mobile browsers and has something to do with the way images are uploaded, so they should be visible in a regular browser. We’ll try to get it sorted out ASAP.

  7. Serious questions for the guest poster: I know 0% or less about being a triathlete but I have heard there are ‘larger’ people who do it. How large can you be, practically, and still complete a triathlon? What kind of bike does work for a larger person? Is it mandatory that you have a fancy triathalon-style bike or could a person for whom this just doesn’t work ride a ‘regular’ bike? I’m just curious, I had never known before reading this post that triathletes use this kind of bike.

    • I’ve seen people do 1/2’s while riding mountain bikes and swimming in board shorts. Not ideal, but it can be done.

      When I did triathlons there was a larger person in the region who was a regular at shorter races (Oly and under). I recall her riding in an aero position, more or less, but she probably wasn’t as large as Ragen. Almost every racer knew her name and would cheer her along the course. But I suspect Ragen will report nothing but hate and ridicule.

    • Guest poster here: There’s no hard or fast upper limit, it’s very much about what capacity the body has and what amount of mass is muscle compared to fat. A larger muscular body can do an IM pretty well as long as the muscle mass and CV function helps propulsion. By being active mass it’s contributing to going forwards in some way and not impinging on breathing, blood flow and so on. The muscle mass is much firmer so easier to control -muscle doesn’t billow in the water like Ragen’s fat will etc – but any excess mass comes at the trade off of having to be moved which requires energy. An analogy would be an American muscle car which is big and bulky and compared to an expensive Italian sports car, but both can hit over 150 mph. As the muscle car is less aerodynamic and has a higher mass to move, it’ll require more petrol and get less mpg. Same applies to humans doing IM’s. If you can’t fuel the muscles to move the mass and keep the pace, you’re not going to reach the end or get under the time limits. As muscles store glycogen – a fuel source which is readily available while competing in the event – an extra 10 lbs of muscle will be better than 10 lbs of fat – the muscle stores energy and works for you during the event; fat stores energy but it’s harder to metabolise and is dead weight you have to shift.

      Ragen is buggered because her excess mass is dead weight. Fat (Ragen is greater than 50% body fat) has no beneficial margin to propulsion, so it does nothing to aid her. It acts a difficult to access fuel store but to use it, you will have had to exhausted all your readily available energy stores and b them be feeling fatigued and pretty crappy. It stops efficient CV function, gets in the way while swimming, cycling and running, requires blood flow that should be going to muscles to keep them going, restricts breathing………..

      The reason why there is no “upper limit” as such because it depends on what the mass is, how deep are the persons reserves and energy loadings to keep moving, and if they can maintain the pace. A 250lb person who’s an ex-footballer would be a very different to a 250lb’er who’s over 50% body fat.

  8. “Of course, I bit it in the first 30 seconds of my first ride in the parking lot, but at least I have a bike I can ride!”
    Um. What?

  9. A friend of mine attempted a 70.3 at 400lbs. He made the swim cutoff. He rode on a mountain bike. I think the bike was steel. He made it a half a loop before collapsing. It was a hot and hilly course.

    I did SOMA 70.3 last year. (The race that Ragen is doing this year). Even if she makes the swim cutoff, I’m not sure how the volunteers are going to PULL her out of the water. If you’ve raced in Tempe, it’s a deep water start and finish. Volunteers pull you out of the water. My first attempt, I fell back in. She’ll pull the volunteers down with her. That bike course is filled with extremely technical/tight turns. Let’s not forget that it was 98 degrees when started the run.

    All I can say about her bike set up is that all the other athletes really need to pay attention to her, especially on those turns. There are turns that only one rider can make at a time. I couldn’t imagine being next to someone who is unsure on the bike or could appropriately dismount. (OH…..and cobblestones on turns? This is going to be bad, really bad. I hope she doesn’t hurt anyone.

  10. Hey all- found this after going down the “Ragen Rabbithole”, but thanks for all the cycle talk…it’s actually helping me fit my own bike even better…and know what great position looks like.

  11. Ironfactchecker wrote: There’s no way around it- Regan Chastain is too fat to ride a bike.

    Nah. Totally not true. Biking is a great sport for people who weight 250-300+ pounds. It’s no impact and also, at on the flats, there is remarkably little disadvantage to being fat. On the hills, you’re pretty much behind the eight ball, but if you want to get in shape and enjoy the sport, you can stick to flats or gentle climbs until you’re ready for more

    That said, Ragen’s choice of a drop-bar road bike is definitely not going to make for the easiest start. I have mentored a few friends just getting started biking, and even for the normal weight folks, a hybrid or comfort bike is very often going to be the most fun and easy way to get started.

    I have a friend who is at least 250 pounds (maybe a lot more, I forget his exact weight…) and I put him on an old Trek hybrid I don’t ride anymore….he loves it, and his knees are not hitting his belly because of the upright posture. It was really fun to see him take off with a giant smile on his face. No falling in parking lots, and brakes he can reach easily.

    Here’s a blog with advice on getting a bike for fat people who want to start the sport:

  12. @Ironfactchecker

    I missed earlier that you’ve qualified it by saying she’s too fat to ride a road bike.

    Not having any experience trying to put any friends of Ragen’s size on a road bike, I can’t confirm that but it seems logical. If a person has a lot of belly fat, in a bent over position on a road bike the knee is probably going to jam into the belly.

    But that said, it’s not just about being fat. I’m something of a bike evangelist, so I have helped quite a few people get started over the years. Whether they’re normal weight or overweight, every single time the hybrid gets an instant “wow, this is FUN” reaction. The road bike is too much, too soon for most everyone…there are a few exceptions, but mostly, I think a newbie is much more likely to keep with biking if the starter bike is a more ‘comfort’ oriented one.

    • I totally agree with your previous post. Biking is a great activity for overweight people because of the low impact. Ragen actually had a hybrid bike already, but she had the same problem with not being able to pedal it without pounding her gut, so she never rode it. For some reason her solution was to buy an even more inappropriate bike.

      For the “too much too soon” part, the problem is that Ragen can’t pedal a road bike with her body shape, and she’s so dedicated to not losing weight that she will never be able to do it. Because of the modifications she needs to make to raise her gut above her knee strokes, she can’t safely stop and straddle the main bar or dismount. It’s never going to be a safe bike unless she loses a significant amount of weight, and she has no business riding it in a crowd of athletes who all spent thousands of dollars to be there.

  13. @ironfactchecker

    I happened to think about this thread while on my bike today. I tried to imagine what would happen if I gained 100 pounds (I weigh 195).

    For my body, my knee would not hit my belly at all. This would be physically impossible. If anything, my knee would hit my breasts if I got way bigger. On the other hand, I think my thighs would hit my belly…..they already gently bump it even at my current weight when I’m in the drops.

    So I’m a bit mystified. Everyone’s body geometry is different, and every bike is a bit different. But still, knee to gut seems improbable. Could she have meant her thighs are hitting her belly?

    I also am not clear on how your knee can hit your gut on a hybrid. And my friend who is maybe only 40-50 pounds less than Ragen is happily riding the one I lent him.

    • One of the biggest issues with performing surgery on morbidly obese patients is that we carry excess fat in unpredictable locations. In Ragen’s case, she has a lot of abdominal fat, so she has a very large gut. Ragen is pretty loose with the definitions of words, so it’s possible she didn’t actually hit her gut with her kneecap, but it’s entirely possible she was giving it a good pounding with her upper leg on every stroke.

      Have a look at this random photo of someone on a bike I pulled from Google Image Search and you can probably see how this is physically possible.

  14. Yeah, okay. That person’s proportions (not just the excess weight but the way the body is built) are totally different from mine. I have a way short torso compared with this person….and also, the bottom belly is way smaller than the top belly, which is the opposite of me. So in this case the knee can hit the top belly and might do so before the bottom belly restricted the upward motion of the leg.

    I wonder if a recumbent would work better.

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