October 2016

October 2016 Specialized Ambassador Paul Odlin blog – the latest from competitive road cyclist and professional cycle coach is….


Over my years road cycling I’ve tested a variety of bike brands and apparel suppliers.  In this blog I have three separate cycling paraphernalia to compare, two within the Specialized line and one Specialized product up against the industry giant Shimano.

First up – saddles and a real point of contention for most as of your three points of contact with your bike, this is where the most weight lies.  In the past I never had a preference nor issue with any type of saddle or brand.  I switched to a Romin Evo Specialised saddle once I became an ambassador at the start of 2013.  


Above: my current setup on road bike with the Power saddle, and the test Romin Evo 155mm.

I noticed in the first few years of using this saddle numbness in my right leg at random times.  I trialled different Specialized test saddles to mitigate this, but resorted back to the Romin Evo.  Ironically the Sitero saddle on my time trial bike gives me no issues (even with a smaller margin for error as it is a more radical (aggressive) saddle).  

In addition, on my third bicycle – a single speed commuter I use a Romin Evo and I’ve actually now come to appreciate the pure comfort (well not so much comfort but more ‘at oneness with’) that my sit bones have with it.
However this year I made two significant changes to my training and set up –  I switched to a Power saddle on my road bike (Tarmac) based on the idea it gives even greater ability to adopt an aggressive position than the Romin Evo (I’m a rouleur, a breakaway rider so this appeals to me). In addition, I started a lot more indoor training at constant load (aerobic endurance – constant wattage and cadence).

Unfortunately I now get serious discomfort in my nether regions while doing this training.  I’ve persevered with the Power for now as I made a few fit and training adjustments but I think it’s time to go back to the Evo.  

What this has taught me is Specialized saddles (and maybe my age too), has made me more particular about what’s under my sit bones.  What I like about the Body Geometry Fit system in particular, is that anyone can experiment with a number of test saddles to find what works best for them.

To the next product comparison, and (equally) important point of contact with your bike – shoes. For over a decade I used Shimano R series for their wider fit.  In 2013 I started using the S Works road shoe to a lot of famed reputation for being for shizzle.  While I immediately found them comfortable I thought they lacked support in the heel cup and wear more quickly than others.


Above: the older style S Works shoes I have found comfortable for my ageing knee; and the Roval CLX 40 I have ridden in the past.

Because my last pair of Shimanos (R317) were still in good nick I kept them exclusively for indoor training days in the privacy of my garage.  This year with the increase in time on my trainer I started using these shoes again.  However, I can not anymore without knee pain – they’re just too rigid (I do have a pre existing knee condition).

I’ve come to a number of conclusions for the reason I cannot use my once trusted shoe:

  • With age (I’m now 38 years) I now need a ‘softer’ more forgiving cycling shoe or
  • My foot has become adjusted to S Works shoes over the last three and half years or
  • I may have always been better off in a softer version of cycling shoe, such as the S Works.

Finally, I have got my hands on the latest and greatest Rovals (CLX 64s – the wider rim version).  Again since 2013 when I jumped to Specialized, I’ve been longing for the opportunity to ride on wider rim hoops, such as the benchmark set by Zipp.  And Specialized have delivered with their two new Roval road wheel sets (64s and 32s).  What were before mechanically great wheels are now aerodynamically awesome too.

I’ve had 3 sets of Rovals prior, the first being an alloy brake track/carbon wheel (looked cool, rode well and robust but not super fast); CLX 60s (rode fast, robust but not wide); and finally CLX 40s (not as fast but lighter and weren’t as robust for me, my least favourite pick).

Specialized have gone for a depth between the Zipp 808 and 404 which makes good sense to me in terms of user practicability.  As a time trialist I see the Rovals as having about as much use as the faster (in theory – on a dead pan flat course) 808s.  Chuck a few hills and strong cross winds then those with a too-deep front wheel will come up against forces (yaw angles) that will negate the speed of the deep section.

The CLX 64s are by no mean a climbing wheel but are fabulous for anything less than a mountainous course as they’re not super heavy neither (1545g total weight; front/rear of 695g/850g; 16/21 spokes).  

I watched a GCN vlog test on the effects of three different changes you can make to improve speed.  Interestingly, deep section aerodynamic wheels came out as the most expensive and least effective.  I think what they missed though was the effect these wheels have over 40 kph (their tests didn’t go above this speed).  In addition, when I’ve raced over a rolling course with 40mm section rims and my competitors are on 808s, my mind is already in the box when I see the ease of speed these wheels provide!

Road cycling is a hard enough sport, you’ve always got to look at (legitimate!) ways to make the hurt more palatable.

Thanks for reading.