Tom has been at it again, innovating 2-wheeled human powered machinery from the ground up rather than just trying to fit the existing mold. I don't expect this to be replacing the TF-20 in triathlons/TTs or the Transition in cross-country ultras any time soon, but it has sure been fun to play with.
It’s not a TitanFlex, but it is a new creation by the inventor of TitanFlex, Tom Piszkin. It is a pretty unusual looking vehicle, so I couldn’t help but ask Tom a few questions about it to share with everyone.
It’s a human powered vehicle designed to improve on the 100+ year old “double-diamond” design. Contemplating how other designs have failed to unseat the “safety bike” as the dominant species has been a fun exercise. Its not dissimilar to how I conceived of the original TitanFlex; I love working outside the box and innovating engineering solutions rather than fitting the mold but making incremental improvements. I can’t help but question the status quo: Is there no combination of new technology that could improve the state of the “human-powered” art? This LEAN-R is just another of my answers to that question.
In the early 1990’s when the TitanFlex was being used in the Race Across America I started thinking about a design that would provide the ultimate comfort and efficiency for this event.
To pursue a what-if scenario: What if you had a bike that was more comfortable and more aerodynamic than a double-diamond, but not as heavy or cumbersome as a recumbent...a design that allowed you to use your body weight in climbing, offered a cruise position that distributed your body weight over more contact area, and enabled you to produce more power?
The availability of a rear hub assembly that doubles as an input shaft. This feature is critical in keeping the wheelbase close to a double-diamond’s--so you can stand over the pedals. Something of this nature just became available. Although it is a single speed 3:1 gear ratio, it is sufficient for proof-of-concept. To be practical, the rear hub assembly needs to be multi-speed.
This creative process followed the same template as the TitanFlex: What if I could have one bike that was as light as my carbon racing bike (Kestrel KM40), durable as my steel trainer (Schwinn Circuit), could be easily set up for either pack riding or time trialing, and isolated my freshly-repaired back from the abuses rough roads? Image the lack of clutter in my garage!
To use this prototype to experiment with the positioning and control parameters while keeping tabs on the development of a multi-speed hub, which would be incorporated in the second generation.
What do you think about the LEAN-R? If you have any other questions for Tom, post them in the comments section. I think we'll have it out at the 6-12-24hr TT World Championships, so maybe Tom will let you take it for a spin if you're out there!
You don’t see as many TitanFlex Bikes on the road these days as 10 or 15 years ago. However, we feel like there are probably a lot of athletes out there for whom the bikes would be perfect if they only knew about them. So, we’re making some changes. The website is updated and will continue to have new content (about our bikes and other things), we’re on social media, and perhaps most importantly Tom has updated the flagship AL-Ti model and released it as the TitanFlex-20.
We firmly believe that you don’t need to spend $10K+ on a new superbike to do well at triathlon. And you certainly don’t need to be uncomfortable on your bike for it to be fast. Rather, you should be fast because you’re comfortable in a better position for the whole race--not to mention in training.
By being smart about design and material choices, letting function rule over form, the TitanFlex is not like other bikes (which you can confirm at a single glance): it is laterally stiff to ensure efficient power delivery to the road, light and aerodynamic by minimizing unnecessarily turbulent vertical seat tubes, and incredibly comfortable on your rear (along with everything connected to your rear). In addition to these “standard TitanFlex features,” the new TitanFlex-20 has a number of improvements and refinements based on Tom's 20+ years of experience making bikes and coaching triathletes. Some highlights include: • Integrated headset • Improved stiffness at the bottom bracket • Aerodynamic brake tucked under the chainstay • Provision for easy internal cable routing in Di2 builds • Deep penetration welds for smoother esthetics
You might wonder why the bike is not made of carbon. All of the tactile elements that make TitanFlex special are somewhat at odds with each other, like stiffness and flexibility at the same time in different regions. So it make sense to use the material best suited for each specific task. Carbon’s suitability for sexy styling has to be balanced against its aversion to high-impact events. We think titanium is a more bullet-proof way to dampen road vibrations in a cantilevered design. A carbon TitanFlex would be heavier than it’s aluminum rendition at the level of stiffness desired in the task of power transmission. Of course, we’re not saying carbon is bad; carbon is excellent for forks and wheels, and all sorts of other parts, and we use it there.
So, stay tuned to the new website and our social outlets, and please interact with the new content by adding your comments. It won’t just be about our bikes, or just about cycling. We love all this stuff just like you. We’ll also have guests (friends and sponsored riders) joining the conversation and sharing information.
Lastly, if you want more information or want to try out a TitanFlex for yourself, just let us know.
I'm a little late sharing this fun story, but now that the new website and blog are up and running, its about time.
Tom and I headed out to Borrego last winter to hang out and watch the 6-12-24 Hour World Championships. We had some fun setting up with the race organisers and shooting the breeze with riders. The 24-hour race is a UMCA World Cup event and a RAAM Qualifier, so brought out some serious competition by top ultra riders. One rider in particular, we'll never forget. A canadian dude came up to us in the afternoon before the race (6PM start time). He chatted for a bit with Tom, and then they called me over to join the conversation. Well, this dude, Donn MacDougall, was in a pickle. His airline had lost his bike somewhere between Canada and southern Cal. It turns out, Donn is approximately the same dimensions as I. So, we agreed he'd race on my triathlon bike. He tweaked some position settings, and got himself ready to race in a couple hours. Oh ya, and it was a good thing I had my cycling shoes in my car, they fit him too (and I'm pretty sure I'd rinsed them out since the last time I'd peed during a triathlon bike leg).
Check us out at 2:40, but the whole coverage is pretty cool. Still, my favorite part is where Sarah Pilla calls us "Special Men."
The whole race was fun, but meeting Donn and getting to help him out was a highlight I won't soon forget. Of course, theres the problem that my bike has done a 24hr TT, yet I have not. This shameful situation should probably be rectified soon.