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!
Thought I'd share a couple drool-worthy photos from a recent build. Nice bike, John.
While both Tom and I coincidentally have Michigan-related histories, Tom and TitanFlex are truly San Diegans (and I’m getting there, after 12 years here). Thanks to year ‘round riding, thriving open water swim scene, and tons of running opportunities, it’s no surprise that San Diego (and southern California) is home to many great triathlon and cycling innovations, indeed the innovation of triathlon itself. Although we’ve got TitanFlex owners riding all over the world (a black TitanFlex once passed me while running in Paris), we’re happy to be in the thick of the San Diego scene. And so, I’d like to introduce you to a San Diego cycling friend of ours, Hermes Sport.Maybe some of you know of Hermes, they’ve been making bespoke wheels for a while, but they’ve got some new wheels and we think they’d look great on a TitanFlex. I’ll let Alex Webster introduce more about Hermes and the wheels below. Going forward, it will be an easy option to add a new set of Hermes wheels with new TitanFlex purchases, just ask us about it. With that as plenty of introduction, I’ll pass it over to Alex:
We're very excited to be working with the Titanflex gang, to provide them with the best possible wheelsets for use aboard their unique, innovative bikes.
We make the new VK line of wheelsets, hand built right here in San Diego. This is our first system-designed wheel, and a big change of course for us. Since 2009, Hermes Sport had been a custom wheelbuilder, gaining extensive experience in building precision racing wheels. This project began in 2012, and since them we've worked to perfect our system, and deliver untouchable performance. No effort was spared in making the VK wheelsets the most optimized around in terms of strength-to-weight, and introduce new technologies never seen before in a bike wheel. They're now beginning to ship, and we feel we've delivered a set of wheels that deliver the goods in terms of speed and handling, but at the same time are built to be easy to maintain and last for years.
We've built wheels for triathletes for a long time, however in spite of their potential we haven't yet established our new VK wheels in this sphere. In the process of rectifying this, we are doubly gratified to be working with another awesome local San Diego company to help us get a foothold in the triathlon world. The Titanflex design is a bonafide race-proven concept, and working with them will help us better establish ourselves as much as our wheels will enhance the performance of their bikes.
Thanks, and happy trails! Please feel free to read more about what we do at www.hermes-sport.com
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.
I’m pretty sure it’s not breaking the rule of don’t ever race with something new, if you call it a “training race.” And so it was, I tried out the Orange Mud HydraQuiver on a trail marathon. Regardless, conventional wisdom is frequently wrong, like my preconception that theonly way for bottles to not be annoying or asymmetrically impact my gait is for them to be strapped to my lower back squeezing my gut as tightly as I could handle. It turns out, and I wouldn’t have guessed this without trying it, that the best place for a bottle is right between my shoulder blades.
HydraQuiver is how I know this.
There are lots of options in hydration systems. I think this setup is the ideal one for a well-supported long-ish run (race or training), such as Catalina Marathon where I first used it. A full bladder is unnecessary, and too time consuming to refill; but you need something to get through some long segments. I’d also use this as my first choice on 13-20 mile training runs with no options for refilling.
As we learned from Napoleon Dynamite, girls like guys with skills…show off those quickdraw HydraQuiver skills during other bottle-based activities post-race.
Disclaimer: I received the HydraQuiver at no charge, thanks to my devilishly dirty friend, Victor Runco. I wasn’t obligated to say I like it, but I like it and I’m keeping it.
BobC describes the first TitanFlex Ultegra Di2 installation on his blog. Thanks to this project, the new TF-20 model is made specifically for internal routing of the electronic group.
It's official. TitanFlex is the vehicle of choice among those addicted to bicycling...
For those cycling connoisseurs looking for a more "fleshed-out" boom bike we are considering importing this model from New Orleans.
Pre-delivery reservations are now being accepted.
Carbon fiber is the hottest material in today's performance bike market. Sitting on top of the progression from wood to steel to aluminum to titanium, carbon fiber offers comfort, stiffness, light weigh and curvaceous looks. Asian sourcing has overcome the labor intensity of the fabrication process, helping to keep the costs within reach of cycling addicts. About their re-sourcing decision (from the USA to China), Cannondale reported that the typical carbon frame required 45 hours of hand labor to create. That gets expensive at US labor rates, but at $1/hour, production in China made good sense, and dollars!
There's just one little dark secret that stands in the way of everyone living happily ever after: more than any other material carbon fiber is vunerable to impact damage. It doesn't take much to disturb the epoxy matrix and create a stress riser that can result in an unannounced failure. Dropping your bike on a curb, closing it in your trunk with a wheel or other gear in the way--or, God forbid, a competitor taking a ball peen hammer to it in the transition area--can put a ding in the frame. Unlike metal frames where such a collision leaves a mark that suggests the extent of the forces involved, carbon fiber is mute in all but delaminating events.
So the caution is, be extra careful. Treat your carbon fiber bike like the fine piece of China it truly is. Unlearn any habit of tossing it around like it was made of metal.
The Vice president and general counsel of TREK, Robert Burns, recently chimed in on this topic. His letter is published in the October 1, 2012 issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News:
"I am compelled to comment on your Aug.15, 2012, carbon fiber repair article ("Crack problem? Carbon repairers have you covered"). Contrary to the impression given by your article, Trek Bicycle does not endorse or recommend repairing damaged carbon fiber frames or parts, nor do we endorse or recommend any business that offers such repairs.
Carbon fiber is a superior material that is lighter, stronger and has greater fatigue life than either aluminum or steel. [Notice the omission of titanium.] However, when it is overloaded and becomes damaged, we recommend that it be replaced--not repaired. In fact, while we realize that we cannot stop bicycle owners from seeking carbon fiber repair services, such repairs void Trek's lifetime warranty and we require repair shops such as Calfee's to provide us with the serial number of the carbon Trek bicycles they do repair in the event of a future warranty claim or injury.
Trek offers a generous Loyalty Replacement program under which we replace damaged Trek carbon fiber frames and parts at greatly reduced cost. If you, as a dealer, have any doubt regarding the integrity of a carbon fiber frame or part, you should recommend that a customer replace it with a newly manufactured frame or part."