Interview – Bicycles Network Australia The Top Australian Cycling Portal Fri, 25 May 2018 06:40:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Talking cycling with NSW MP Bruce Notley-Smith Tue, 25 Aug 2015 22:57:23 +0000 Bike registration. Rider licensing. Removing cycleways. Increasing fines for cyclists. Slaps on the wrist for dangerous drivers. If you trip over any of these concepts on a daily basis, then you probably live and cycle in New South Wales, home to the city of Sydney, the “world’s worst place for cyclists”. No, this article isn’t […]]]>

Bike registration. Rider licensing. Removing cycleways. Increasing fines for cyclists. Slaps on the wrist for dangerous drivers. If you trip over any of these concepts on a daily basis, then you probably live and cycle in New South Wales, home to the city of Sydney, the “world’s worst place for cyclists”. No, this article isn’t going to be another rant about driver behaviour, rather we (and by we, I mean BNA publisher Christopher Jones and myself) are documenting our first concrete steps into some bike advocacy. How are we doing this? We’re going to work “The System”.

Remember back in primary school when we were all taught about the way our democracy worked? In between colouring Malcolm Fraser’s hair green and drawing vampire fangs on Gough Whitlam, I’m sure the teacher said something about people electing politicians to represent them to make decisions and manage the country. That’s The System, and I cast my vote every few years like everyone else, but have no other direct contact with The System. Given the way cycling is heading in NSW, that had to change.

Bruce Notley-Smith was waiting on a call from NSW Premier Mike Baird, so he kept an eye on his phone, but despite this was very attentive to our questions and seemed free with his opinions for the hour he spoke with us. Bruce is a well presented, fit looking man in his early 50s; a former contract cleaner who became the Mayor of Randwick before moving into state politics and getting elected the member for the eastern suburbs seat of Coogee in 2011.

We approached Bruce for a chat because he made a speech in parliament about cyclists that made a lot of sense and, let’s face it, not much that has been said by politicians, both in and out of parliament, about cyclists has made a lot of sense lately. You can read the complete speech from the Hansard transcripts, but you can see what page he is on from this excerpt.

Legislative Assembly, 12 May 2015, Bruce Notley-Smith:
“However, we should be providing for those who want to get on their bikes and commute into the CBD. I always scratch my head when I hear people complain about cyclists in front of them. If they stopped for a moment and visualised those five, six or 10 cyclists ahead of them as being cars instead of people on bikes, they would probably think again.”


From the horse’s mouth

I wanted to know the context of the remarks he made, especially given that they seemed to say the opposite of what his party colleagues are actually doing, and I also wanted to get some advice on how cyclists could get their voices heard. If we were going to work The System, an insider’s advice would be invaluable.

New South Wales NSW Government Cycling

“Well, that wasn’t the first time I had spoken or written about cycling. Probably the first time in Parliament I’ve spoken about it…which is a terrible oversight really, because I’ve been a vocal advocate for cycling and cycleways in many other fora”, Bruce said when we interviewed him. “I was a cyclist when I was in my teens, in fact I spent more time on my bike than not and it was a fantastic form of transport, of freedom, and it also allowed me to explore my interests in historic places around the eastern suburbs.

“I got very excited once when they said they were putting in cycleways, it must have been in about 1981, along Anzac Parade and was very disappointed when it turned out to be just a bitumen path and not much more than that.

“I actually deliberately, a few years ago, went to Europe just to experience the cycling culture in some of the major centres there and frankly, why I spoke out a couple of weeks ago, was just this ridiculous conversation which is going on, it’s not even a conversation, in the media at the moment. More people with polarised positions shouting at one another, and I just want to make people aware that those that are in support of cycling, and those that are serious about it as a sport or as a means of commuting or as a recreational activity, a lot of them vote for me. And so I’ve got to stand up and represent them and let those in the parliament know that it’s not fringe dwellers in support of cycling; it’s mainstream and it will become more so in years to come.”


Alternative transport – who needs it?

At this point in the discussion, I felt that it was worthwhile pointing out to Bruce that I was one of the pasty-faced vegan socialists he mentioned in his speech; stereotypes may not always hold, though often there is grain of truth in them. Bruce seemed to be breaking the current political stereotype, at least when it comes to cyclists.

The discussion then turned towards transport infrastructure, which was one of the main topics on our agenda. Research on transport sustainability has repeatedly told us that improved infrastructure leads to more people cycling. Infrastructure, and changing driver’s attitudes, are where we think the government needs to begin making a serious effort.

Christopher and I both travelled on public transport to speak with Bruce. His office is a short walk from Bondi Junction train station and one of the things we both noticed on our stroll to the office was the number of bikes parked in the local CBD. The main plaza even has a dedicated bike lane through the middle of it. It reminded me of Premier Mike Baird’s electorate of Manly, which has a daily bike parking problem with racks overflowing near the station. We asked Bruce about his take on this.

“Each station should be a hub for cyclists; it makes sense. Putting in the infrastructure to ensure that people can get to those transport nodes to change modes is essential to getting there safely. You would get so many more people on their bikes if it didn’t require them to mingle with the traffic.”

So why, we asked, is there a disconnect between the government’s move to big car based infrastructure and the facilitating of multi-mode transport options?

“I don’t subscribe to the either/or idea with cars or public transport. I ran a business for 16 years which relied on cars. We were a contract cleaning business, and it meant that we had to get across the city in all directions as quickly as possible in order for it to be economically viable to stay in business. The motorways allowed us to do that, and it was actually still cheaper to use the tollways.

“We’ve got some major missing links in the motorway network in Sydney. In the peak hours they will reach capacity, and you’ll never build enough capacity for the peaks, nor should you try, but the fact is that the other 18 hours of the day they can accommodate the traffic demands.

“For industry to prosper, you do need a motorway network which allows business to be competitive. Businesses thrive, they pay taxes, and governments get more money to invest in public transport and more services that are required.”

Complete Streets Concept
Complete Street in Vancouver, Canada – photo © Gary Howe


Long term sustainability versus politics

But what about “Complete streets”? This is the approach to designing roads which support all modes of transport and which has been adopted in many parts of Europe and and some US and Canadian cities. In Sydney there is a huge contrast between the M7, for example, which has excellent and well used cycling facilities, and the M2, or M4, which are actively removing the cycling “facilities” that they once provided, and which were required in the original motorway plans. What is the government doing to make our roads multi-mode?

“Well, I can’t speak for the government, though my side of politics forms the government. I don’t speak for the minister, but this is something that I am certainly advocating for, and have been, with Duncan Gay [NSW Minister for Roads], and previously Gladys Berejiklian who was transport minister and now with Andrew Constance [Minister for Transport and Infrastructure], to make sure that cycling is not an afterthought in how we plan and build our future infrastructure.“

But how much power does a backbencher have to make a difference?

“Well, we have a party room, a joint party room [for the Nationals and Liberals, the state government is a coalition], and that’s where the backbench has their opportunity to get up and voice its opinion on any legislation that’s been proposed by the executive, but also to express their feelings on where the government might be going down the wrong path. The party room is a very powerful aspect of our system in NSW and so getting backbenchers on board is very important because, if a sudden epiphany strikes Duncan Gay and he turns up in the lycra and the clips and starts pushing the cycling agenda, it’s backbenchers whose electorates are going to be affected, and they’re going to want convincing.”

Bruce Notley Smith Cycling


Hear me ROAR!

So how do we go about talking to the politicians and getting our points of view heard?

“It’s fairly easy. You can make contact with any parliamentarian, whether in the lower house or the upper house and request a meeting to spell out what your agenda is and what concerns you have with the government. With regards to getting a meeting with a minister, you can request that, spelling out what exactly you want to discuss.”

Wait a minute. That’s the way it’s meant to work, but does it really work that way?

“Seriously, that’s how it does work! That is, getting in to see members of parliament and, then at some stage during the week, you plonk yourself down with a minster and start chatting away.

“The most appropriate thing is to go to the local members, put your case to them, and they can then take that further up the line.”

One of the problems, as we see it, is that politicians aren’t going to lose a seat over cycling (well, maybe if they support it). Cyclists aren’t concentrated enough in any particular area to make up the numbers; we’re not a fixed demographic. Do we still have any power?

“I suppose one of the difficulties that people like yourself have is that you’re not a cohesive group and there are different peak bodies, and those peak bodies only appeal to a certain number of people or certain cyclists. There are cyclists who never come in contact with Bicycle NSW or Randwick-Botany Cycling Club and others have a whole different experience, so it’s difficult for you to be representative of the entire group.

“There’s so many issues that get taken to parliament which don’t win or lose seats, but are treated as equally as important. It’s really about educating your local politicians about what you actually want and laying out a reasoned argument as to why they should support you. There’s a lot of competing interests and a lot competition for politician’s time and headspace, so you’ve got to be in there and make it a powerful, but short, presentation and be very clear about what you’d like to see, and also what you realise is realistic and what’s not. So asking for things which are never going to, or not likely to, succeed only frustrates your case. Go for what you can conceivably and reasonably ask for.”

Sydney Roads Cycling


The lucky country, the obnoxious country

We asked Bruce what he sees as the biggest hurdles we need to overcome and how we might do that.

“I mentioned in my speech in parliament a couple of weeks ago that in NSW, mainly in Sydney but perhaps all over Australia, we do have a lack of mutual respect for anybody else that is on the road, whether it be another driver (we see them as just someone who is holding me up, or taking my car space) or that pedestrian who just almost got themselves killed for one reason or another. We’ve got to become a lot more respectful and cyclists are an easy target because, first of all, there’ a lot of them that don’t do the cause a great deal of good; like the couriers in the city that are just as big a curse to the pedestrians as they are to the motorists.

“So my feeling is that we’ve got to start emphasising that all of us have got to be a bit more respectful of one another in all the public spaces that we use, whether we’re pedestrians, whether we’re cyclists, whether we’re car/truck/bus drivers. We’ve all got to say that everybody else has a right too.

“When I was in Europe I saw two people in lycra out of the thousands of cyclists. The cyclists were dressed like I am, because they were all commuting to work. In Munich it just all seemed to mesh together so easily. I almost got myself killed a few times, because I didn’t realise I was walking on the bike path, but that’s where I noticed it the most; people had this courtesy and respect and awareness of what was going on around them with cyclists, with pedestrians, and the drivers, and it all just worked together so beautifully.

“We’ve really got to shift the culture in this city because it’s becoming less and less tolerable all of the time. One of the ways for the government to do this is through public campaigns, such as ‘The road is there to share’.  There’s been some spectacularly successful public education campaigns which have really changed behaviour in Australia. ‘Do the right thing’, is the one I remember best from the late 70s, and into the 80s. It really turned people’s attitudes to littering on its head and it became totally socially unacceptable to be a litterer. We’ve got to have some campaigns where we educate all of our community that some sort of behaviours are completely unacceptable; abusing, driving in a reckless manner that could endanger cyclists, cyclists not to run red lights, and cyclists not to one minute be a cyclist and then swerve onto a pedestrian crossing and expect to be treated as a pedestrian.

“So we’ve all got to work on it. At the moment, with all of the talk in the media and politics where it’s just becoming more polarised, none of us are going to benefit from all of it. The reality is that cycling is going to increase and increase and increase, and you’re not going to reverse that tide. The floodgates are open, so people better start getting use to it.”


Pushing transport along

Christopher, a frequent visitor to Germany where he used to live, bought the discussion back to facilitating the mixed mode transport system. He compared public transport and cycling in Europe and related how he would have to catch a train, then a bus home after the interview, followed by a 4km uphill walk from the bus stop to his house because there is no other way to get there without car or a bike (and a fit rider).

“I’ve got my project – the light rail, the Eastern Suburbs Light Rail, that I’ve been advocating for years. It’s becoming a reality. It’s gong to remove a lot of on-street parking, and I’ve been smacked about for that. But the fact is that in congested areas on-street parking in many major cities is just not available. You don’t drive into central London expecting to get a parking spot.

“Every government, of every shade, even those that don’t form governments such as the Greens, they talk about increasing density because it’s more ecologically sustainable. When you’ve got people who don’t need to make long commutes, you get more bang for your buck with public transport. Whereas it’s just you [Christopher] walking home alone tonight, in more densely populated areas there’d be 50 people and that would justify putting a bus service on.

“For those that grew up on the quarter acre block, the whole idea of a congested, densely populated area seems frightening, and yet the fact is that people gravitate to them and enjoy the ambiance of having lots of people around doing all sorts of different things. The opportunities it provides you of just being able to say, “I’m not cooking tonight, let’s go down 12 floors below us and pick up a pizza”, or something like that. That’s where the city is going and we’ve got an extra 1.6 or 1.9 million people coming to the city in the next 15 years. We are going to have to accommodate them somewhere, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of our green spaces, and the way that these people are going to be getting around will be on bikes, because that’s going to be the most sensible way to move around the inner city area.

“You have the longer trips by public transport, which we are improving. The light rail is going to revolutionise central Sydney, though the Telegraph at the moment is going hammer and tongs, but that doesn’t surprise me because my local paper has been going hammer and tongs against it for the last 3 years, so it’s the end of the world as we know it. But people are frightened of change. Australians love innovation, but they hate change. I want you to be innovative, and I love the new way of doing things, but I don’t want to change to it… it’s very conservative.”

BIA CPF Politics Government
Euro Cycles and Gazelle along with cycling industry representatives promoting cycling in Canberra


Throwing down the gauntlet

Our time was almost up with Bruce, so we left him with an invitation; if Bruce, or any of the state politicians really want to understand the plight of cyclists, the best way to do it is to become a cyclist, at least for a day. We invited Bruce and his colleagues to ride to or from Parliament House from anywhere in Sydney. We would accompany them on the bike, form up a group of experienced cyclists, and show them cycling in Sydney – the good and the bad.

Bruce thanked us, but hasn’t taken us up on the offer yet. But it is a marvellous idea and both Gazelle and Euro Cycles (with Gepida and Peugeot) have embraced this notion and will loan a regular bike or an e-bike to our state politicians to experience Sydney by bike. We are preparing this program so stay tuned!

Christopher and I would like to thank Bruce for taking his valuable time to talk to us seriously about cycling in New South Wales.


Disclosure: Christopher Jones is a member of the Australian Cyclists Party and David Halfpenny is a member of the Socialist Equality Party

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Factory Tour – Rotwild in Germany define Bike Innovation Wed, 05 Aug 2015 03:59:01 +0000 “We are just a small bike brand,” says Ole Wittrock of Rotwild. With 25 employees producing 5000 bikes a year, they are small, but significant, and they have a connection with Australia; in 1996, the company’s first year, they scored their first competitive success when Stefan Herrmann won the Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup in Cairns. While […]]]>

“We are just a small bike brand,” says Ole Wittrock of Rotwild. With 25 employees producing 5000 bikes a year, they are small, but significant, and they have a connection with Australia; in 1996, the company’s first year, they scored their first competitive success when Stefan Herrmann won the Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup in Cairns. While they’re relatively unknown in Australia, there’s a lot to this German brand that’s worth taking the time to get to know. 

On my recent trip to Germany, I received an enthusiastic reception on my factory tour when I visited Rotwild. Located 40km south of Frankfurt in Germany, the company is housed in two large buildings in the industrial area of the small town of Dieburg. The buildings appear modern, but the warehouse and assembly building is older than it looks and was carefully restored by Rotwild to retain some of the original character, such as the wooden structural beams.

Rotwild production dieburg Germany

Rotwild Warehouse Germany
The original wooden beams were retained during warehouse modernisation


Ground breaking innovation

Rotwild was born out of innovation, the company founders, Peter Schlitt and Peter Böhm, began making carbon fiber brake boosters for mountain bike suspension in 1994 under the name ADP.

Peter Schlitt Rotwild MTB
ADP Engineering (and Rotwild) co-founder Peter Schlitt


In 1996 they were asked to build a complete bike to show at the popular Riva del Garda bike festival in northern Italy. The prototype they presented was ground breaking, it included electronic shifting, a belt drive with an internally geared rear hub, and a disc brake on the front. The bike turned a lot of heads as it was years ahead of its time, and it became the catalyst for Rotwild to launch as a bike brand.

Innovative Mountain Bike Design
The original Rotwild concept bike from 1996

Mountain Bike Brake Booster Belt Drive
ADP brake boosters with electronic shifting (carbon fiber box) and belt drive


Rotwild are a well known brand across Europe for mountain biking and, following the European MTB categorisation scheme, they cover Race, Cross Country, All Mountain, and Enduro/Gravity. The MTB range takes you from hardtails and low (120mm) travel MTB bikes right through to tough as nuts full suspension downhill bikes with 200mm travel. Even with carbon fiber frames, aluminium frames, and various wheelsets from from 26”, 27.5”, and 29ers in their lineup, the range is still quite compact with a focus on creating fewer, but better, models tailored to each style of mountain biking.

Rotwild P2 Downhill MTB
The RHD P2 downhill bike from 2006 went against the grain with a carbon fiber rear triangle


German Cycling Device

The tagline “German Cycling Device” is used by Rotwild to represent the brand. While it sounds awkward to an English speaker, it is quite apt in defining the “Made in Germany” bikes, while “device” suggests technology and performance.

The carbon fiber and aluminium frames are manufactured in Taiwan and the complete assembly takes place in Germany. I was escorted through the assembly area with 12 workstations where the turnaround can be ramped up or down to match customer demand. Their “Made in Germany” quality means that the bikes are ready to go ‘out of the box’ and don’t require the complete setup and check necessary for many brands shipped directly from Taiwan.

Rotwild MTB Assembly
Assembly stations for the Rotwild MTB’s 


The WOW! effect

While “Made in Germany” is well regarded, the real ‘wow’ effect for this brand is their bigger picture. Rotwild are part of ADP Engineering, and this team also make the exclusive bicycles for car brands including Mercedes Benz, AMG, Audi and Porsche. You have probably seen these ‘car brand’ bikes in a car dealership; each bike is unique, designed specifically for the automotive brand. The Porsche bikes are a good example; they feature a top tube/seat tube curve which matches the roof of the Porsche 911, and of course carrying the name Porsche, these bikes are very exclusive.

This engineering and design skill has car companies knocking at their door. Rotwild is very much ‘mountain biking’, but the design and engineering team are proficient in road and urban bike design.

Exclusive Porsche ebike
The Porsche bike top tube design matches the roof profile of the Porsche 911


Bikes with purpose

As Ole leads me through the engineering department, I get the feeling that bike design is driven by ‘purpose’. The shelves are decked with prototypes and sections from bikes. Both a mountain bike and a road bike in the office are covered in strain gauges. The strain gauges measure frame flex and movement and this data is collected and compiled to understand the frame movement.

Strain Guage bike testing
An early frame-flex test bike next to a cabinet of prototype and sample parts

Straign Guage Bicycle
‘Old School’ strain guages delivered valuable data on frame flex


A Porsche bike headset is handed to me and I am asked to inspect the carbon fiber weave. A cross hatch (woven) carbon fiber weave is used around the headset while a uni-directional carbon fiber weave is used along the tube. Ole explains that some bikes brands use the cross hatch weave on the entire frame but this is just for the ‘carbon fiber look’ as opposed to selecting the best suited carbon fiber for each part of the frame.

In plain text, Ole is demonstrating that marketing is not the deciding factor in their bike design, rather the engineers draw from the results of testing and genuine performance benefits. This can result in more complex requirements for bicycle frame production, for example welding internal splines on a MTB to increase strength. This affects the cost of production and in turn, the retail price. But just like Mercedes Benz, Audi, and Porsche, the emphasis is on quality and not ‘lowest price’.

Porsche bicycle design
Rotwild and Porsche headset sections, behind are hydroformed tubes


And now for something completely different

Having lived in Germany for over a decade, Rotwild was already a familiar bike brand to me, but my motivation to reach out and visit was their innovation in eMTBs. Purists will rant at the thought of motorising a bike, and skeptics will argue about the logic. When the first eMTBs were presented at Eurobike years ago, I found it tough to imagine a real market for eMTBs, but in Europe electric Mountain Bikes are booming. During this visit to Germany I was surprised by the number of encounters with lycra clad eMTB riders scooting through the parks and forests.

Rotwild eMTB
Rotwild tackle the exploding eMTB segment with a bang


Ole Wittrock explained that with the 250 watt capacity motor, they are still classified as a bicycle and legally allowed on the trails. Technically they are labeled a pedelec which means that there is only motor assistance while you pedal. You can only get assistance up to 25 kmh, after which any motor assistance cuts out.

Considering the size and the weight of the motor and battery, ‘electrifying’ a bike requires a lot of compromises. In contrast to leisure or commuting cycling, an electric motor on a mountain bike becomes even more challenging because, as a sports bicycle, the rider position and performance is more significantly impacted by the changing frame geometry and weight. For good weight distribution, a bottom bracket motor is preferred (as opposed to a front or rear hub drive), however the available electric motors required changes in the frame geometry – it was a compromise.

E-MTB Motor Integration
The shell of the Brose e-bike motor which Rotwild use for their mountain bikes


Rotwild are no stranger to innovation and teamed up with a brand new entrant into the electric bike motor market. Brose have a long history manufacturing motors such as electric car windows or electric car seats for all the big German car brands including Mercedes Benz, BMW and Audi. In 2010 Brose started development of their e-bike motor and in 2014 began production. The appeal of this e-bike motor is that it allows Rotwild to integrate it into the mountain bike frame while retaining the frame geometry (including suspension pivot points), something which was not possible with the current generation Bosch or Shimano Steps e-bike motors. Working closely with Brose is BMZ who supply batteries and who created a custom battery for Rotwild.

E-MTB Battery integration
Seamless motor and battery integration into the frame


The battery integration by Rotwild is impressive; hardly recognisable as an e-bike, the battery is integrated into the downtube. The idea of integrating the e-bike battery in the downtube is hardly new, on the Rotwild MTB the battery becomes structural, the battery is the downtube.

You can expect more details on the Brose motor and BMZ in future articles as I have also visited the Brose e-bike motor production facility in Berlin.

MTB Geometry Pivot Point
The Brose motor allows the optimal frame geometry and pivot points to be retained

Rotwild Research & Development
Inside Research and Development, a Rotwild without the battery downtube


How does it ride… is an eMTB right for me?

I took a short on-road test in Berlin, though I didn’t get to do a trail test. The motor assist has three settings: Cruise, Tour and Sport. The Cruise setting is subtle, hardly noticeable, though provides a comforting extra push. In Tour the assistance remains smooth, but the additional power is more noticeable, while in Sport mode the motor assistance becomes a little twitchy and the boost of the motor is powerful.

Brose MTB display
Sport mode provides powerful motor assistance


On the flats it was easy to exceed 25kmh, so it is obvious that the motor assistance makes sense on longer cross country tours and uphills. For technical trails however, such as Australian single trails, the additional bike weight (motor and battery) and necessary bike handling skills would mean that the motor assist would probably be out of place. The real advantages would be for long MTB tours with smoother, predictable terrain.

For eMTB’s in general, there are three audiences who I foresee as getting the most benefit from the pedal assistance. The first are the extremely active mountain bikers who view the motor assistance as ‘range extenders’, a way to ride further than before. The next group are Downhill lovers who want the power to get back to the summit. This group will have the heaviest demands on the battery and will likely have to wait a few generations for batteries which can last all day.

The final and largest group are the riders who need the power to ‘keep up’ and enjoy. This includes senior riders or riders who don’t have the same condition as their riding partners and for whom the eMTB is a way to limit overexertion and increase their joy; they become empowered to be more active.


Where to get your Rotwild

Rotwild’s reputation in Europe is partly because of their focus on Europe. While there has always been interest in Rotwild from further abroad, Ole suggests that the advantage of ‘staying local’ is that administration, service, and marketing remains more concentrated.

Rotwild Prototype Concept Bike


For Australians’, getting Rotwild is a little harder as they are not appointing importers or dealers in this part of the world however Ole assures me that some of their German Rotwild dealers will ship to Australia, so check out their dealer locator. Discerning riders can also get a slice of cycling innovation and exclusivity from premium car dealers; Mercedes Benz, AMG, Porsche and Audi occasionally feature the brand’s bicycles in their show rooms.

UPDATE: The Electric Bike Centre in Kawana, Queensland is importing Rotwild eMTB’s and the 2016 models will be available from December 2015. They are already anticipating demand so it is recommended to get in early.

For more information on Rotwild, visit and for ADP Engineering visit (German only)

Interview – Shimano Steps is Ripe for Australian E-Bikes Sat, 11 Jul 2015 17:03:37 +0000 Following my first-hand look at the new Shimano Australia warehouse and office facility in Sydney’s south, I took the opportunity to quiz Shimano on their e-bike system called Steps. The first generation of Steps was launched in 2010, and the second announced in 2013 for trial release in European in 2014. The Steps platform now supports Di2 […]]]>

Following my first-hand look at the new Shimano Australia warehouse and office facility in Sydney’s south, I took the opportunity to quiz Shimano on their e-bike system called Steps. The first generation of Steps was launched in 2010, and the second announced in 2013 for trial release in European in 2014. The Steps platform now supports Di2 electronic shifting capability, and the integration of Shimano Nexus and Alfine internally geared hubs. Shimano Australia is now gearing up their support for the Steps e-bike system in Australia and I spoke with Shimano Brand Manager Tony Shingleton to find out more.


Christopher Jones: Shimano components are found on the majority of the World’s bikes and though Shimano is now in its second generation of e-bike systems with Steps, Bosch seem to have the upper-hand in the market.

Toby Shingleton: The first thing that I would say is that competition is always healthy and in this field there is a really strong competitive feel with these two products really standing out. Probably Derby Cycles, who are developing their own system, will come to the table as well. They’ve launched their system just recently and, with the number of brands that they have as part of their portfolio, they will have a strong product and it will be in the Australian market shortly.

In terms of our position within this market, Shimano is always quite conservative about the amount of testing and the amount of development that they will do on a product before they bring it to market. With the Steps system we’ve done a slower roll-out compared to Bosch. The test market was Europe and we have had some really great feedback from our test activity and that has allowed us to make some changes to the first generation system which has improved what we will now see rolled out into other test markets. One of those test markets will be Australia, and we will see the first models coming to the Australian market in the second half of this year.

In terms of where that positions us for the future, it puts us in good stead because what we have been able to do is ensure that we support the product in the correct way when it does come to market. This is something that is really important for our customers, the dealers and the bike brands.

It’s very difficult to stop people buying a bike in Europe and bringing it to Australia and that is something that Bosch has found in Australia. There have been a lot of people importing bikes and there has been very little way for them to support those bikes when they arrive because they weren’t ready or they didn’t have a system in place. Similarly with us, there are some STEPS bikes arriving, or in the process of arriving, and we have designated the second half of the year as the time when we are going to launch the product here. We are certainly confident that we are in a position where we can grow it quickly in Australia and, because of the centralised support system we have, I think it is going to work pretty well.

What is the actual role of Shimano Australia when bike brands and importers start bringing in Steps e-bikes? Is it providing dealers with information and providing warranty support?

Well I think it is not just warranty support, what is actually more important is technical support. Obviously e-bikes are more complicated than a Di2 [electronic shifting] system. The good thing is that our network and our training resources are already setup for Di2. We’ve gone through a number of generations of Di2 and have been able to educate our dealers and we have very few calls during the week with people having technical problems, so we have a lot of experience in this area.

In terms of the issues that we will see where we will act as a point of contact, probably initially there will be people contacting us in terms of setting the bike up. There are a number of modes, if you look at just the screens [displays], there are a number of ways to set up the screens, they are customisable. Certainly the warranty will be there as well, but if you look at the products that we have brought to market, they are very well developed and we spend a lot of time before we release products to ensure that they are operating in the way that they are meant to. I have confidence with the Steps products that they will be the same as we have seen with Di2; there won’t be a lot of warranty requirements.

Shimano Australia Steps E-Bike
Toby Shingleton talks Shimano Steps


How will Shimano introduce this and make e-bike attractives for the traditional retailer without experience in this segment? What activities will you undertake?

Certainly our demo-bikes will play a big role in that. We have four demo-bikes going around the country as part of our dealer tour which has just commenced. We have also taken on a person who is dedicated to technical support. He has come out of our sales area, so he already has a good relationship with many of the dealers with whom he will be working with. The other big side is that we are now on top of the rules and regulations.

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in terms of transportation of batteries and regulations about recycling of batteries. So we began the process of exploration and employed an external consultant to make some recommendations to us in terms of what we need to do to set up on that side. We have employed the services of a contractor to make sure that we are complying with all of the regulations.

Again, we did have some experience as we have been doing this with the Di2 batteries for some years. Shipping batteries are [classified as] a hazardous material so you can’t treat the shipment as you would a derailleur or a crankset, it has to be labeled differently. If you are airfreighting you have to fill out different manifests as batteries have the dangers associated with them. There is some benefit as we have done some of those thing already, but not on the scale we expect with this [the e-bikes] so there is a process of changing some of the internal policies and ensuring we are meeting all of the regulations.

Did you need to speak with any of the brands importing with regard to regulations and compliance?

It’s good because we do have a close working relationship with many brands, with all of the big brands. Where is gets complicated with the e-bike market in particular is that you get a lot of smaller non-mainstream brands that are already big [in sales] so the complicated process is finding out who is intending to bring these in. Some of them have made contact with us. The good thing is that we are represented at all of the major trade shows, so whether it is Taipei, Taichung or Eurobike or wherever, we’ve got people on the ground and they are usually the ones who get approached by these brands so they can filter that information back to us and let us know that these guys are intending to bring this system in on their bikes. We are able to ensure they are part of the information flow. We include them in on training and the sorts of things that we are doing.


Shimano have some information on their e-bike system online ( Australian bike shops and importers can contact Shimano Australia for more information, as well as for support and training requests.

“Made In Australia” Wheelset Brand 36T Launches Wed, 25 Feb 2015 22:08:53 +0000 36T is a startup based in Torquay, Victoria who have just announced that they plan to manufacture and sell carbon fiber road racing wheels in Australia. This is exciting news as Australian bicycle and bike equipment manufacture has all but disappeared. The manufacture of bikes and cycling equipment has long been centered around Taiwan and […]]]>

36T is a startup based in Torquay, Victoria who have just announced that they plan to manufacture and sell carbon fiber road racing wheels in Australia. This is exciting news as Australian bicycle and bike equipment manufacture has all but disappeared.

The manufacture of bikes and cycling equipment has long been centered around Taiwan and China, including for iconic and innovative Australian brands such as Malvern Star, Bont and Knog. There are, of course, the custom framemakers who produce locally including Darren Baum, Ewen Gellie, Darrell Llewellyn McCulloch, Paul Hillbrick and Peter Bundy, all with great reputations and with a focus on ‘custom’ rather than scaled production.

Joining this group of Aussie manufacturers with their carbon fiber wheels, 36T was founded by Jon Partington, a mechanical engineer with experience in automotive and motorsport engineering, and by Simon Pilkington who is a computer-aided engineer with aerospace experience, as well as the obligatory automotive experience. In collaboration with the Deakin University’s School of Engineering, 36T will utilise the ‘cutting edge’ capabilities at Carbon Nexus which is the university’s multi-million dollar carbon fiber research facility for R&D as well as production. Their mission: “to design and manufacture the world’s best cycle wheels.

To pursue this bold aim, this young company has been awarded a $25,000 grant ‘Smart Design Voucher’ from the Victorian State Government, which fosters innovation to build new export opportunities.


Competing against Asian Manufacturers

I asked the company how they can compete against the skill and cost-savings of Taiwanese manufacture. The Taiwanese not only produce the bulk of the worlds’ carbon fiber frames and bike equipment, they are also regarded as the best in this field.

“36T is based close to Geelong, in Victoria (Australia). Geelong has a strong manufacturing history, and today has a focus on high tech manufacturing. Deakin University is producing some excellent talent through its engineering science and sports technology courses. Carbon Nexus is available to allow us to develop new materials, and companies such as Carbon Revolution (manufacturers of carbon fiber car wheels) are paving the way for high tech manufacture right here in Geelong.

Further, whilst there is skill associated with the effective production of composite components, the sensitivities and practices in manufacture are well documented. In contrast to our Asian counterparts, 36T is responsible for both the design and manufacture of our products, and is aware of these sensitivities at a fundamental level. Such awareness enables 36T to develop designs sympathetic to manufacture in the very early phases of concept and detailed design development.”


What is the 36T Wheelset Advantage?

“We design highly-engineered wheels,” says 36T co-founder, Simon Pilkington, “that aim to offer the rider the very best combination of performance in terms of weight, inertia and stiffness. We want to offer a product with a vastly superior quality of manufacture and finish, and sell it at a competitive price.”

36T Front Wheel Australian Road Racing
36T front wheel conceptional render

36T Australian Carbon Fiber Rearwheel
36T rear wheel conceptional render


At this stage, very little technical information has been released, however hints have been dropped that weight and stiffness are the key performance factors. In wheelset design there are considered to be three performance factors: aerodynamics, stiffness, and weight. Achieving two of these attributes is often at cost of the third, i.e. a lightweight and stiff wheel places a lower priority on aerodynamic capabilities. I asked 36T about their performance priorities and whether aerodynamics would take a back seat to weight and stiffness.

“As the first entrant in a new quiver of wheels, 36T wanted to satisfy the most general use conditions faced by the competitive athlete, with particular attention to mass start events such as road racing and criteriums. In criteriums and road-race events, rarely is low yaw-angle drag the most significant influencing attribute. Attention must be focused moreover on wheel stability, low turning moment (induced by cross-winds), low inertia, and high lateral/torsional stiffness. 36T believes a 35mm x 25mm semi-toroidal rim profile is best suited to this application.

“But does this mean 36T totally disregarded aerodynamics? Absolutely not! Our Aero development is currently constrained to the virtual world using CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) FEA (Finite Element Analysis), which is another reason for first developing a less Aero-focused first product, but design efforts and decisions have always included aero-attributes. Our asymmetric rear-wheel spoke design reduces the NET ‘wetted’ spoke area (area of the spoke in contact with the wind) by preserving a spoke count of 16pcs, but increasing the section of the drive-side spokes, and selectively changing the reinforcement fibre used. Our drive-side spoke nest has >170% the ultimate load capacity of the non-drive side nest, and is nearly 2x as stiff, but has only a 30% increase in surface area, minimising the aerodynamic impact of the higher structural requirements of the rear-wheel spokes.

36T Rearhub Lacing
This looks new, the spokes appear to ‘wrap’ around the hubs

“The sum of 36T’s efforts has resulted in an extremely competent wheel-set for conditions ranging from alpine ascents/descents, criterium events and sprints, to technical courses and adverse weather conditions. Our CFD data shows highly competitive drag coefficients and turning moments through a broad range of yaw angles, whilst boasting significantly reduced mass.”


On the road with 36T

The young Australian company want to deliver a competitive ‘all-rounder’ carbon fiber wheelset for competitive road cyclists. They are on-track to send out their ‘evaluation wheels’ shortly to their brand ambassadors and testers for feedback and quality assurance.

36T Australian Designed Wheelset
Prototype of the 36T


I enquired about availability and pricing, “The first production wheels will be available by mid-year, although in limited quantities. 36T pricing will be competitive with other brands of carbon intensive wheels, and include our additional patent-pending technology advantages.”

As an Australian brand who are taking the bold step to manufacture locally, I look forward to supporting 36T and wish the team success and growth. To find out more, visit

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Zipp Wheels Technical Director Josh Poertner talks to BNA Sun, 02 Dec 2012 22:31:21 +0000 “There’s fine and then there’s Zipp,” according to one of Josh Poertner’s sale agents. Josh is the Technical Director of legendary wheel company Zipp and he thinks this a good summary of how Zipp position themselves, and also how they are regarded in the market place. Zipp is synonymous with quality, but it comes at […]]]>

“There’s fine and then there’s Zipp,” according to one of Josh Poertner’s sale agents. Josh is the Technical Director of legendary wheel company Zipp and he thinks this a good summary of how Zipp position themselves, and also how they are regarded in the market place. Zipp is synonymous with quality, but it comes at a price; you get what you pay for.

Josh works with 27 engineers in America’s auto racing heartland, Indianapolis. It is a revelation speaking with someone who knows carbon fibre wheels so well, someone who can cut through the myths and the marketing to lay the facts on the table. If you are prepared to let down your defences and indulge in a very technical insight, it is well worth tapping Josh Poertner’s fountain of knowledge and learning a lot more about carbon fibre wheel technology.


A Single Strand of Carbon Fibre

Our journey with Josh Poertner begins with carbon fibre fabrication. I started by asking about the selection of carbon fibre for Zipp wheels.

JP: People are often surprised at how hands-on carbon fibre production is. People like to use the term hand-made and pretty much all of the carbon is hand-made.

The actual carbon production is the graphitisation of the polyacrylonitrile fibre, it’s turned into carbon strands. It’s bundled into a K count, how many thousands per bundle, typically 3K or 6K or 12K and sometimes 24K.

Most of what we use is unidirectional carbon and that is a bunch of parallel running 12K’s or 24K’s that has been pre-impregnated with an epoxy resin and then it’s frozen. The other one that you see a lot in the brake track and the tyre weld of the carbon clinchers is a woven fabric. Typically they have different stiffness properties. When you weave an over-under, the fibre bends. The more bends you have, the poorer it’s going to perform in those directions. If you fracture it, the fracture will run one weave length and terminate at the cross points. Unidirectional carbon aren’t nearly as damage tolerant – it can run the entire length of the strand.

We tend to put woven [carbon fibre] where we drill holes. If you think of drilling in uni-directional [carbon] you can get a run [fracture]  like in nylon. We use woven where we need toughness and also use woven where we have impacts. Woven has higher elongation failure rates, because of the crimping. It can take compression before it actually begins to interlaminar shear.

Zipp range of Road Racing Wheels
The range of Zipp Wheels at Ausbike in 2012


Three Dimensional Kevlar Stitching

I am standing with Josh in front of the complete series of ZIPP wheelsets, from the 202 tubular and firecrest carbon clincher through to the 303’s, 404’s, 808’s and disc wheels. Picking up and looking at the construction in more detail Josh continues.

JP: The core of the rim is uni-directional and here, where the powder holes are drilled and the impact zones are, you see woven. Even the tubulars have woven under the ceramic brake surface, just for impact toughness. One of the things that is new on the firecrest wheels is that we have replaced the woven material on the inner diameter with the three dimension stitching technology.

Tens years ago all of the rims were woven; we were really the first to go to an all uni-directional, but we still had woven on the inner and outer diameter. You will notice every single rim on the market today has a [carbon fibre] layup that looks just like my rim. We really set the standard on that. That was a lot of [us] saying “let’s take the woven away from the areas you don’t need it”, which is in the sidewalls.

In the inner diameter we have replaced woven with sewing. The fibre is continuous, tip to tail, so there is no actual seam in the entire rim. Where you have the holes you have what is known as open hole compression, and open hole compression is a hard thing for carbon to resist. You can either drill the hole where the fibers end, and that’s not so strong, or you can push a pin through and mould the hole, and the fibers bend around the hole and they are still not so strong. Nobody has really come up with a great open hole compression solution. If you look at the Boeing 787 they are doing the window surrounds with a three dimensional weave, almost like a grading. It is three dimensionally woven and from that we actually had the idea; what if we three dimensionally stitch or sew?

Conventional wisdom was that you can’t sew prepreg, it’s not going to work. It took about two years to develop the sewing technique, the machines, the coding, and the process.

The stitch on the outside is called the the cover stitch. There are three needles, three puncturing threads and two covering threads. The covering threads give you essentially the same keel resistance as the woven fibre would give you and the added benefit is if the carbon fails, the first thing that fails is the glue. The carbon fibre is ten times stronger than the resin. The failure, whether it is impact, or whether it’s open hole, it is always going to start with an interlaminar shear. You have two carbon parts that are really strong, they are only held together by glue. When there is an impact, or a spike in the load, they shear. What we have done is sown a re-enforcement. Carbon is on the XY [plane] and on the Z is typically glue. We sew through in the Z axis with kevlar, so now to have interlaminar shear you have to physically break those [kevlar] fibers.

Zipp Carbon Fibre Kevlar 3D stitching
3D Kevlar Stitching on the Zipp Firecrest wheelset

It is the nature of wheels, [where] you have to have holes for the nipples, you have to strengthen them. We have found that this [technique] is stronger than any preexisting technology.

The three dimensional stitching is patented, as is the kevlar stitching that runs along the top of the tubular rims for reinforcement, called Carbon Bridge Technology.

The Carbon Bridge Technology allowed this to be the first carbon wheel to finish the Paris-Roubaix and, ultimately, win the Paris-Roubaix. We spent two years developing the technology and trying to convince the riders to try it and the first year we tried it [in 2008] Martijn Maaskant finished 4th, and the next year we won. Tom Boonen later said “I don’t think the race can be won on an aluminium wheel ever again”. We worked with Boonen and Specialized this year where took them into the Arenberg forest, the Carrefour de l’Arbre and to some of the flat paved sections at the end. You could see in the power meter 24 – 26 watts lower at the same speed on the carbon wheel and over the 265km distance, that’s 700 plus calories of energy not burned by riding the carbon wheel.


The Comfort of Carbon Fibre

Just like steel, alumnium and titanium, carbon fibre has material character traits, though it is not necessarily what it seems to be.

JP: People tend to want to always believe that carbon is comfortable and that is not necessarily true. We laughed at the early days when they had carbon seat posts and riders would say it has so much damping. We also make speaker cones out of carbon fibre because it has so little damping. If you want damping, you have to design it in. Take an old school Zipp 440 wheel that we created in 1991, that has a V-shape. It is essentially a triangle and there is nothing more rigid than a triangle. You can add all of the damping you want, if you don’t have the spring rate it really doesn’t matter.

The History of Zip 404 Wheels
The History of Zip 404 Wheels beginning with the original ‘straight edge’ 404

If you look at our wheels [now] there are no straight surfaces anywhere in the rim. It is all curved and the rim bulges out. You actually have a bit of compliance within the rim section. Now that I have a spring rate, I can then actually add damping. It is really about systems design. Something doesn’t damp because it is carbon.


American Verses Chinese Carbon Production

The majority of the bicycle frames and parts are made in Asia, though ZIPP is one of the few exceptions to the rule with design and production in the United States. Josh Poertner share his position on keeping it local.

JP: The western world has done a really good job of giving its knowledge to Asia in the search for higher profits. We have stayed away from that; everything we sell, we make. Everything we do we consider to be our secret and I consider that to be our advantage. My engineers sit 50 feet away from the guys who actually make the product and that gives us a really different outlook on things. We can move quickly, we can take big design risks in advance development of products.

Testing  Zipp WheelsThe original Zipp 303 was a 28mm wide tubular rim with sidewalls that intentionally give about 1.5mm radial compression within the rim section and we started sewing the outer diameter. We started in 2006 saying “we’re going to win Roubaix on this wheel”, while the conventional wisdom was “we’re not even going to ride carbon wheels at Roubaix”. That is the kind of process that I don’t think anybody is willing to undertake in China. You spend the time and money travelling there and back, and now you have a mould – if you don’t use it, they’re going to sell it to some other guys. You need to get to market and make money.

For us, everyone in my company comes from an auto racing background. We are in the home of auto racing in America – Indianapolis. We have 30 composite shops in the greater Indianapolis area, guys making racing car chassis, wings, custom driver seats. For years we made driver seats, steering wheels and wings. We have done engineering work for multiple Indy 500 race winning cars. That’s the background of our crew and our team, so we really try to leverage that to change the cycling experience.


Computers verses Wind Tunnels verses Marketing

Advanced modelling and prototyping on computers aides the design process, though this hasn’t replaced wind tunnel testing. If anything, it makes it more complex, particularly with market pressure to constantly be innovative, lighter, stiffer and faster. So what do you get when you put a marketing in the same room as engineering?

JP: You can’t delude yourself. Everything we do in Computation Fluid Dynamics (CFD) that you have to make a decision on, you also have to take to the wind tunnel, because there is always that risk. It’s not easier on the computer, but you can pick out a lot of data that you can’t get in the wind tunnel. The wind tunnel essentially gives you three data points and a consumer could say “but you didn’t have a bike”. Then you put a bike in there and they say “you didn’t have a rider”.

Zipp Circumferential variation in Drag Force and Side Force
Zipp Circumferential variation in Drag Force and Side Force

Zipp Computational Fluid Dynamics 808 rotating with rake
Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) with the Zipp 808 rotating with rake

Zipp 808 CFD Oilslick Plasma simulation
CFD Oilslick Plasma simulation with the Zipp 808

The problem with any sort of measurement device is that you have an uncertainty that is a percentage of your number. If I put a wheel in there, my uncertainty is maybe 8 grams. If I put a bike in there, it is maybe 20 grams. If I put a bike in there with a rider, it could be 100 grams. The problem is that if you are trying to find a change in your wheel, that may only be 15 grams, but there is too much noise. In the wind tunnel, you can see a lot of numbers that the marketing guy calls “better”, but the engineer has to call the same. “That’s 15 grams better, but our uncertainty is 20”. As a responsible engineer, I can’t call that better.

Ninety nine out of one hundred companies in this industry are marketing companies and are buying stuff that someone else is making. Of course, they can go in and say “this is the best”, “this is better”, and we can’t do this.

What we can do in the computer is steering torque. None of the wind tunnels worldwide is measuring this and that is something that we can model. We can measure the steering torque and the centre of pressure and iterate that design in the computer and watch that move.

We sent a team to work in the wind tunnel to develop Yaw moment measurement.  Because we have made changes and helped the wind tunnel make changes, other companies are benefiting from that. We’re willing to accept that. We were there first and basically created the science behind wheel stability, and our whole industry is going to benefit from that. Not a single wheel company here isn’t talking about stability, whether they have any idea what that is or not.

Zipp Wind Tunnel Testing with Yaw
Zipp Wind Tunnel Testing measuring Yaw moment


When Carbon Fails

With the current trends, your next road bike is most likely to be carbon fibre, but not necessarily your next wheelset. Carbon wheelsets are often still reserved for performance rather than everyday riding.

JP: The problem with the wheel is that it sees a lot of heat because there is a braking surface, and of course the area you damage is also the brake surface. We spent three years developing resins that can handle the high temperatures for carbon clinchers; you will see over 400°F (200°C). Our rims can handle transience on the surface of 600°F (315°C). That is another thing with the wheels out of China that people don’t think about. They can soften up, warp and come apart. Tour (magazine) Germany did a nine wheel carbon clincher shootout and Zipp and Xenti were the only two that didn’t melt on the descent and fail through heat. It’s a very hard problem to solve.

We were late to the carbon clincher business because we were busy trying to solve that problem. I was beat about the head and neck by distributors and sales people saying “everybody’s doing it, it works, it works”… but guys, it doesn’t pass our testing! By the time we launched, it was a really well known problem “Oh, it’s hilly were I live – we can’t sell carbon clinchers, they melt”. Melt is not technically right, though is the word that people understand.

Carbon Fibre Wheels Braking Temperature
There is a thing called the Glass Transition Temperature, that engineers call TG, which is essentially how hot it can be heat-soaked before it starts to move, the epoxy will soften and it will be able to deform. Most of the product out of Asia is between 260 and 280°F (125 – 140°C), some of the good ones are 300°F (150°C). Some of the good US and European made wheels are in the 320 to 350°F (160 – 180°C) range. We are 450°F (232°C) and upwards. The Zipp 202 is a little bit above that still because it is a lighter weight product, so there is a risk that it gets hotter. With the 202 we have launched a new brake pad geometry that is 1.5mm taller radially and that is a 15% increase in surface area. Because it is radial, you are putting in more “swept” area on the rim, so the temperatures tend to run lower.


The Devil in the Detail

Josh is realistic about the performance gains that are possible when it comes to tuning your bike and wheels. It makes sense to split the elite performance athlete from the sports enthusiast. When it comes down to nitty gritty details of tuning a racing bicycle and wheels, when you are paying for your own equipment, there are limits, but also affordable options.

JP: The Mission Statement of my department is “Ultimate Customer Experience” and that goes for every aspect. People get so hung-up on one thing “We build the lightest”, but is that really the ultimate experience. [One of the problems of] an 800gram wheelset, is that part of what you are feeling in instability is that there is not much inertia. There are so many factors that influence it. For bearings, we are the only company left in the world spec’ing DIN P5 bearings from Switzerland. We use a steel bearing that is more precise than almost any ceramic bearing on the market and that’s a real part of the value proposition. Ceramic bearings tend to have low friction if they have ultra-high quality, but a lot of times to get the price point right, you will put a ceramic ball in a Chinese [ball] race. You can say you have ceramic, but essentially you are an ABEC 1, a very low grade race with a high grade ball. That’s not doing anything.

This industry can be really guilty of going for the marketing angle, but guys, if the ceramic bearings upgrade is less that $1000 for the wheelset, it’s not worth it. You get what you pay for. To give you a benchmark, our Zipp hub continually achieves top one, top two in independent mags. Tour magazine did a test a few years ago and we were number two in rolling efficiency behind the DT190 hub, with full ceramic bearings with ABEC 7 races. I look at that and go ‘we’ve got 30% larger flange diameter, we’re a couple of grams lighter, we’ve got a 2mm larger axle and we’re a good bit less expensive’. I think that’s pretty good.

Nine out of ten ceramic bearing upgrades will make my [Zipp] hub less efficient. Ceramic doesn’t necessarily mean efficient. There are a million Chinese made ceramic bearings that are being used for furnace carts and anywhere where you have something that is hot. That is suited to the application and ceramic doesn’t mean high quality and high grade. It is heat resistance against thermal growth, it needs to get hot and not change size like a steel ball. There are a lot of people out there trying to leverage that, but any one of those upgrades in my hub is going to make it roll way less efficiently, so you, as the consumer, may as well put the money in a bin and set it alight.

The best case scenario of ceramic bearings in a wheelset is 1 watt at 30 miles and hour. We sell ceramic bearings and they’re $1000, but we’re honest: “guys, it’s 1000 bucks for a watt”. Tony Martin, at the worlds, rides thousand dollar ceramic bearings. For the consumer, you can buy a better tyre and you’ll save twice that. You put latex tubes in there you’ll save 6 times that amount. A new chain on your bike can be as much as 6 watts compared to a worn chain. Just cleaning your drive chain is a couple of watts. 1 watt of ceramic bearings is about 3 seconds per 40 kilometres. I can find you a minute for the 40k for very little money.

With Chris Langdon, our distributor [echelon], we spent a year working with Kristin Armstrong on every little detail with multiple wind-tunnel tests, looking at different tyres and tyre pressures and clincher verses tubular. Really sweating the details, and she won, and in the end said she felt she really had THE advantage. That’s when she won by 18 seconds and had ceramic bearings and latex tubes, had every little thing dialled and you go “that’s what that’s for”. For consumers who say “I put ceramic bearings in my wheel and now none of my friends can catch me on the hill”, that’s not ceramic bearings. If you loose the national time trials by three seconds, ceramic will buy you three.


There’s fine and then there’s ZIPP

Zipp wheelsets and products are not within the reach of all riders, though Josh knows this: “We try and be at the pinnacle, but are not all things to all people.” For cyclists and teams who are in the line of sight of ZIPP, they can rely on an enviable reputation of quality and reliability that the company has achieved.

Josh feels a personal responsibility to his customers, and while marketing is part of any successful business, the innovation is not dictated by marketeers. “We try to make decisions based on research and based on science and the hardest part is at the end when we try to be honest.”

Zipp wheelsets and accessories are available in Australia through Echelon Sports with select dealers Australia-wide. You can also learn more about the technology on the Zipp website:

Photos: 1-3 © Bicycles Network Australia, 4 – 10 © Zipp

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The making of a KNOG: visiting KNOG in Melbourne Sat, 27 Oct 2012 11:31:56 +0000 Whenever I met the KNOG team at trade shows they always invited me to visit their office in Melbourne. On my trip from Sydney to Melbourne for Ausbike, I finally checked in at KNOG HQ. The team is really easy-going and they were happy to have me over and reveal the inner workings of their […]]]>

Whenever I met the KNOG team at trade shows they always invited me to visit their office in Melbourne. On my trip from Sydney to Melbourne for Ausbike, I finally checked in at KNOG HQ. The team is really easy-going and they were happy to have me over and reveal the inner workings of their successful bike accessory company.

When you walk in to KNOG you know instantly that they are a design company. The modern building features open plan spaces with a showroom, work areas and meeting areas. It is far from clinical – evidence of creativity is everywhere: sketches, CAD renderings, prototypes and even mockups of point-of-sale displays.

KNOG started about eight years ago as a spin-off brand of a successful industrial design company (catalyst) and has grown so that the company is now 100% KNOG. They began by reinventing the bicycle light and produced the successful silicon “KNOG frog”, but straight away they were faced with a challenge: “Are we one-hit-wonders or are we really good at what we do? Can we reinvent something that we reinvented the first time?”

CMO Michael Lelliott is a cycling fanatic, the type of guy you would imagine to have an enviable collection of urban bikes in his apartment and who loves to cruise through the city on his bike at night. When he talks about the products the company creates it is not just passion, there is also a sense of relaxed methodology. KNOG has created an identity and they know where they are going and how to get there; it involves a good dose of fun.

KNOG Design Offices
KNOG lights and locks are born in a relaxed and creative workspace

When I sat down at the KNOG HQ, two of Michael’s marketing colleagues joined us: Englishman Sean and Spaniard Tania. Michael took the lead, but only after getting a supply of locks and lights so that he could hold the products in his hands as he talked about them. I wanted to know about the design progress; how do they get the ideas and what does it take to make a finished product?

According to the KNOG team, from start to finish it takes about a year and begins with the team of designers getting together and brainstorming. The constant process of reviewing existing products and improving the technology leads to new ideas. Michael explained “One side of the brand is having fun and being Aussie in our humour and approach, but from the product design point of view it is about what can we do that is different. What can we do that it is different from a design point of view? What can we do that is different from a technical point of view? What materials can we use to make something that hasn’t been seen before?”

For the current series of blinder lights, for example, KNOG took on customer feedback, such as the light switched on inside people’s bags, and derived a solution: to turn the lights on you need to press the button down for two seconds and toggle modes by pressing once. The initial problem was resolved though at the cost of a small, but easy to overcome learning curve understanding how the new switch works.

USB charging was an improvement from an environmental perspective (i.e. no batteries to dispose of) and it also meant that the lights could become a sealed unit and become (fishtank) waterproof. New smaller lithium polymer batteries allowed a freedom in design without compromising performance.

A team of 20 designers, including industrial designers, design engineers and electronic engineers, sees the team moving from sketches to Computer Aided Design (CAD) before creating prototypes (via rapid prototyping). The electronic engineers further develop the product so that working prototypes can be created and tested. It is a continual process of optimisation and refinement before the factory is involved to look into tooling, electronics and production before they deliver the first off-tool samples which go into testing. It takes about a year from original conception until the factories are ready to deliver the final product into shops.

KNOG Workshop
The KNOG workshop for hands-on creation and testing

KNOG Rapid Prototyping
Rapid Prototyping is followed by painting to create a mockup of a proposed new light

If imitation is the ultimate flattery, then KNOG have been well and truly flattered; there are a lot of imitation silicon bike lights on the market. At this year’s Eurobike, the team was shocked to see that top German brand ABUS had released a lock remarkably similar to their Strongman lock, a modern heavy duty U-Lock with Silicon over moulding.

“When we arrived at Eurobike this year, ABUS had made a lock that was incredibly similar to ours and that was a bit of a surprise, not really a happy one. Our BNA [laughs], DNA is originality and innovation, so we pride ourselves on that. It is one of our driving factors”

This goes to show that KNOG have grown significantly from their roots in the fixie scene to being a full-blown mainstream cycling brand – you will spot KNOG lights in the bunches cruising up and down Beach Road as well as on commuter bikes and mountain bikes.

Lights make up 80% of KNOG’s global sales and this is where their future lies as well. Tania showed me prototypes of the next generation lights which are not just lights to be seen, they are lights to see with at 220 and 350 lumens. They are well suited to road cyclists who are always demanding more lumens, but minimise weight and do away with external battery packs. Without revealing too many secrets, I can say that they will feature USB recharging and should be released in February 2013.

KNOG Tania Marketing
Tania Sanchez from Madrid is one of the fresh faces of the international brand

Even though they’re an Aussie brand, KNOG doesn’t market itself as identifiably Australian. “Heritage doesn’t play a part in our brand DNA at all” comments Michael “it all comes back to originality of the product, the fun that we’re having with it and more and more the technical prowess”.

Though KNOG have set their sights on becoming the number one bicycle lighting brand globally, they won’t loose the cheeky advertising and fun-ness of KNOG any time soon.

KNOG online :

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Interview with Chris Boardman in Melbourne Sun, 01 Apr 2012 23:41:45 +0000 One of the most prominent visitors of the UCI World Track Championships in Melbourne is Chris Boardman. The English cyclist has won Olympic gold, has had track (pursuit) and time trial world championship victories and has set world records (Aussie Jack Bobridge beat the 15 year old record for the 4 km pursuit in 2011). […]]]>

One of the most prominent visitors of the UCI World Track Championships in Melbourne is Chris Boardman. The English cyclist has won Olympic gold, has had track (pursuit) and time trial world championship victories and has set world records (Aussie Jack Bobridge beat the 15 year old record for the 4 km pursuit in 2011).

Since retiring, Chris Boardman has taken on elite coaching duties for British Cycling and been involved in equipment design and development. He also engaged by media, including the BBC as a cycling commentator and analyst and without skipping a beat, founded and launched Chris Boardman Bikes which have taken off in the UK and are now available worldwide.

On the Eve of the Track Championships at the Hisense Arena in Melbourne, Chris Boardman took time  for Bicycles Network Australia (BNA) and share his views on the event in the lead up to the London Olympics as well as UCI regulations and an insight into Boardman Bikes.


BNA: There are a lot of reasons you could be in Melbourne for the 2012 World Track Championships, your success on the track, your coaching skills, your experience and involvement as a cycling analyst and commentator or plain old patriotism, is it all of the above or do you have a more defined role during this event?

Chris Boardman: When travelling half way around the world, most people try to make the most of it and I’m no different. Whilst the catalyst for the trip is to commentate at the World Track Championships for the BBC, Pete Jacobs and I saw it as an excellent opportunity to catch up and talk about upcoming tri bike development. As Pete is not just a sponsored athlete but also part of our test team, we consult him before we make anything, feeding his thoughts into the new designs and he gets to trial the first prototypes out of the mould too. Face to face is always the best way to do this so it’s great to have the opportunity.

As I also have another hat, leading the team who supplies the equipment to the GB squad, it’s a great opportunity to see what the other nations are developing for the Olympics too

BNA: In the World Track Championships, are you anticipating a battle of the giants or can we also expect some upsets with younger and lesser-known athletes reaching for victory as they aim for the Olympics?

Chris Boardman: I expect the World Champs to be a mini Olympics with all the main contenders there. This is the last big competition pre Games so it will be ferocious. I also expect it to be very closely fought.

Chris Boardman: Reviewing the results of the World Cup Classics, it is hard to say that the English team will dominate the World Champs and the London Olympics – or do you see this differently?

Chris Boardman: I don’t think any team will dominate in 2012, France and Germany are incredibly powerful in the sprint events now and Russia has surged forward in the team pursuit, so it is going to make for some very close racing. I expect GB to medal competitively in virtually every event at The Games but I don’t think they will dominate any. It’s a great time to be a spectator.

BNA: What is your role in British cycling leading into the 2012 London Olympics?

Chris Boardman: I have much less of a role with the British team post Beijing due to other commitments in my life such as Boardman Bikes which is now so successful, it requires much more than just product design. With BC I oversee the design and development of all the equipment they will use at the Olympics which is still a sizeable task

BNA: As a pioneer of bicycle technology, UCI rules have had a significant role. Safety considerations aside, do you feel that the regulations hinder progress and advancement in bicycle design or creates a more fairer playing field?

Chris Boardman:  The UCI are trying very hard now to remove ambiguity from the rules and enforce them fairly. We may not always agree on where they draw the lines but I respect what they are striving to achieve. Oddly, a lot of the technical stuff I was credited with introducing I didn’t agree with but I knew it helped my performance and that the rules allowed it, so I was going to do it.

Despite using it to good effect, I was actually happy when Graeme O’Bree’s superman position was banned as I felt we were moving away from cycling towards human powered vehicle racing but it was legal and an advantage so I was going to use it.

O’Bree is an amazing character and I have often been wrongly credited with innovations that he should take full credit for. I think he also shares my philosophy on rules; you tell me what they are and I will butt up against them. Graeme did it far better than me no question, he is an amazing guy.

BNA: In top level competition where a rider and bike perfectly fit – can the bike still make the difference or is there a point at which the bike can’t get better and it is down to rider strength, skill and tactics.

Chris Boardman: Where innovation and performance improvement is concerned, I learned a valuable lesson from an associate at McLaren Fi. We were looking at a line of cars produced over the last 10yrs and I asked him “how much more do you think there is to come?” He pointed at a car they had produced 6 years previously and said “see that, I remember when it rolled off the production line and thinking that’s it, I can’t see where else we can go. The next year, the car was 4% better, the year after a 5% improvement. After that, I learned to have faith.” Now, even when I can’t see where the next innovation in bike design will come from, I have faith there will always be a way to do it better.

BNA: Whilst you are heavily involved in cycling, are you still cycling yourself?

Chris Boardman: I ride bikes more now than I ever have since I stopped as a pro. I get out on average 4 days a week, often more. It is the best way to assess my own product and riding bikes is where we (the Boardman Team) do most of our brain storming; it’s the perfect environment to have design ideas spring up and to kick them around. Fitness wise, I’m in pretty good shape and am thinking of riding the Trans Rockies MTB stage race next year!

BNA: Let’s move onto Boardman Bikes, considering your previous experience continually improving the bicycle – how much have your learnt and evolved since beginning boardman bicycles.

Chris Boardman: Through my work with British Cycling I got to know a lot about carbon fibre, exotic materials, production techniques and of course, aerodynamics. Although all of that work is strictly classified, from that experience I have learned what tools to use, what people to work with and where to look for the biggest paybacks. We are now applying all of this and there is tons more to come for 2013…..I can’t say any more or I’d have to kill you.

Chris Boardman Boardman Bikes
BNA: Despite your knowledge and success on the track, in the Boardman range there is only one track bike, is this because the track cycling market is too small?

Chris Boardman: Pretty much. There are so many projects to work on, so many possibilities that with this role (Boardman rather than BC) it’s a business and resource is allocated on what the majority of customers want. We will be doing more sophisticated track bikes in the not too distant future but as I hate doing anything ‘a bit’ we will only do it when we know we can do it properly. That moment is not far away now.

BNA: We recently reviewed the Boardman SLR 9.0 and found that for a such a young brand it was remarkably well rounded without flaws or teething troubles that newer brands may face. Where does the journey go – gradual frame modifications or new series.

Chris Boardman: We have a gimmick (it’s a personal philosophy really) we don’t do gimmicks, just performance. I know that sounds cheesy but it’s what we live by.

Our design process starts with breaking down and making a list of what a bike needs to be or have for it’s chosen application. We then prioritise those points and every design decision is measured against the question ‘Which of these points does that idea address?” it keeps us on target and honest. We don’t do anything that doesn’t have a performance reason so you wont see curvy tubes on a frame if it’s not needed; the lightest, stiffest, strongest way between two points is usually straight line…so that’s what we do.

Even internally there is thinking: you have to change cables on a bike from time to time and how much of a pain is it to have to fish around inside for the end of a cable. So we do things like put a carbon tube in there, meaning changing cables is a breeze and with carbon tubes, there is a negligible weight penalty. Likewise for handling, I know what geometry works for stable and confident descending, or negotiating rough terrain, so why would I want to play around with it? I don’t, we use the same geometry as I used as a pro bike rider and everyone is surprised when the bikes handle well! I like bikes to be practical and user friendly as well as cutting edge aero or feather light.

BNA: Can you discuss the reception of your brand in the UK and overseas, do you feel that you have a solid international foundation or is more work needed to build the brand presence and build the fan base?

Chris Boardman: We launched the brand and our first range in Summer 2007, very quickly we were officially the fastest growing British bike brand ever which was quite cool. I really delight in winning most of the bike reviews we take part in, in fact I’m struggling to think of a bike in the range that hasn’t won some kind of accolade…..which is also cool! Independent reviews are the acid test and whenever anyone asks me for an opinion, I point them at those.

Last year, after a lot of people asked us, we decided it was time to start taking the range international which we are now well into the process of doing (our website will tell people how to get hold of bikes in their part of the world but I believe we are already available in 86 countries).

Building awareness of the range internationally is going very well, it takes time and we are happy with that, we would rather have some quality relationships with the likes of Pete Jacobs and the Brownlee brothers Al and Jonny than start with a Pro Tour team. The costs of doing the latter is huge, costs that would have to be passed on to the customer, so right now we can deliver genuine performance product at incredible prices. We would love to be involved in races like the Tour de France but only when the time is right for us.

In 2012 we have some genuine Gold Medal contenders for London on our team (Annie Last in MTB and the Brownlee brothers who are currently ranked No1 and No2 in Olympic tri distance) Pete Jacobs is also hoping to improve on last years 2nd place in this years Hawaii Iron Man competition. Next year we will have more stories to tell!

Pete Jacobs boardman
Australian Triathlete Pete Jacobs is sponsored by Boardman Bikes

1 April 2012 Strategy Session with Pete Jacobs in Melbourne, Australia.
1 April 2012 Strategy Session with Pete Jacobs in Melbourne, Australia.

BNA: This is not a trick question, there are 24 hours in a day, how many hours are actually needed to get everything done?

Chris Boardman: About 27

BNA: And finally for our readers who plug away on their bunch rides or daily commute, what words of wisdom can you share for a cyclist who may not be eyeing a gold medal.

Chris Boardman: That would be me these days! It’s hard to give out a generic piece of advice that suits everyone as the beauty of bike riding is you can do it for so many different reasons; from fitness and commuting to exploring and leisure or family time. Its one of the very few activities that you can do from age 8 to 80 too. For me, as this amazing device is, at it’s heart, just a wonderful form of transport, I’d like to see all of use it more for the simple act of getting around instead of the car.

Thank you kindly for your time, we wish you ongoing success with your bike brand and cycling endeavours.

Boardman bikes can be viewed on the website: and in Australia are available through their international distributer Wiggle.


Photos (1, 4) ©, Photos 2, 3 © Boardman Bikes

Interview: Aussie Importer Euride Challenges OS Retailers Fri, 30 Mar 2012 03:05:48 +0000 Unless you have been sleeping under a log, you will have noticed the trend in shopping online from local and overseas businesses. You will have also noticed that traditional retailers haven’t been very happy about it. In the cycling industry, many of the retailers and importers see this as the most significant business challenge and […]]]>

Unless you have been sleeping under a log, you will have noticed the trend in shopping online from local and overseas businesses. You will have also noticed that traditional retailers haven’t been very happy about it. In the cycling industry, many of the retailers and importers see this as the most significant business challenge and Bicycle Industries Australia which represents the cycling industry has been a vocal member of the Fair Import Alliance which is lobbying against the $1000 tax free threshold on imports.

Despite the success of the Australian economy, exchange rates that make it expensive to import, lower order volume price disadvantages, taxes, duties, transport and storage costs, Cycle Retailers are first in line when consumers criticise the local prices. If a bike shop points out that they pay the same or more than the overseas retail price, the fingers then point to the importers. But is it really as simple as that?

This week, Nick di Lorenzo, the Operations Manager of Euride who import well known brands such as De Rosa, Bottecchia, ITM, Catlike, Diamant DMT and Cinelli provided a price comparison for the dealers showing how competitive their retail prices actually are when shop customers ‘threaten’ to buy on the internet.

Overseas Retail Prices and Local Prices
*Prices applicable on 28.03.2012 and subject to change

Nick di Lorenzo tells his dealers “We are trying very hard to make it a level playing field for our retailers”. This approach recognises the changing market and concentrates on price rather than pushing the ‘better service and support and local warranty’ line. If price is a primary motivator for customer, the customer can’t assume that it is cheaper overseas, and if the retailers can then also provide better service and satisfy their customers, the Local Bike Shop purchase is the more attractive option.

I asked Nick di Lorenzo of Euride a few questions about their approach for Bicycles Network Australia (BNA).


BNA: You have just provided a price comparison to your Cinelli dealers that compares the Wiggle overseas price and your in store Recommended Retail Price (RRP). What has motivated this?

Nick di Lorenzo: The need to educate our staff, dealers and in time the community, that we offer very competitive pricing with essentially overseas web-only operators. There is a myth out there that they are cheaper. This is not the case. All sales staff, need to embrace all forms of distribution but also need to be able to point out the benefits of advice, not just price. Sales staff, needs to understand the significant benefits of getting the correct frame for the Customer body, the right helmet, the right ongoing service for their needs. They need to have the confidence, to make a sale to a Customer who’s in store, “here and now” and wants a reason not to buy from a faceless web page, somewhere in another country.

BNA: What factors do you feel have been influencing the pricing so that overseas retailers are able to undercut Local Bike Shop prices.

Nick di Lorenzo: As can be seen from our recent prices, they can’t actually undercut us most of the time, it’s a fallacy and a myth that needs to be broken. Many times they are selling out of date stock, low volume products that suppliers can’t shift, and they are taking out the most important part of any sale, the advice component that is provided by caring shop owners. Many suppliers see it as quick fix to sell products, particularly during the current economic malaise, and GFC. This will change, and the long term new model, will be an effective combination of retail advice, experience with on line shopping as an integral part.

BNA: What strategies are you undertaking to challenge or counter a changing market place?

Nick di Lorenzo: Deal with facts. The web is here to stay, and as stated above, it will be a critical part of the distribution mix, and people will get sick of sitting there and just clicking on a computer. Getting the right advice, the right bike for you, the tyres that suit your use, the seat that fits your bone structure, and importantly, ongoing service with passion and leadership, will always stand the test of time. Shops need to “value add” service, provide peace of mind, and train staff so they can provide advice that added value to the Customer. From a structural perspective, shops need to address their distribution models, and ensure they are dealing with a distributor, that can support their shopping and Customer model.

BNA: Euride is a member of Bicycle Industries Australia who in turn are a member of the ‘Fair Imports Alliance’ which seems to be tackling the sole agenda of reducing the GST threshold on imported goods. What is your take on this?  If GST is applicable on lower value items, will this change consumer spending habits?

Nick di Lorenzo: GST and other taxes are a complex issue, and not one that we can change any time soon.  Our view is simple, there needs to be a level playing field but this will clearly take time to resolve. Our focus is to deliver the experience customers want, and if we do that, the GST issue becomes a non-issue.

BNA: One of the topics often overlooked when comparing pricing for a brand/model is that the brand themself have sold goods to a retailer overseas who is directly able to compete on price, not only in Australia but worldwide. Is this a topic which you feel your brands are aware of and are supporting you?

Nick di Lorenzo: Yes, very much so, and we have and will continue to have constructive discussions with our suppliers so we can have a level playing field without putting all consumers (including us) at a disadvantage. We are working with our suppliers to develop an international price model, one that respects all business models, and provides a consistent level playing field across the world.

BNA: Do the current changes in the retail landscape also mean you have new or different opportunities – for example retailing online from within Australia – or working with local online retailers?

Nick di Lorenzo: Yes, we have already recognised the new opportunities, and working towards taking advantage of them. Certainly too early to be discussing this, but I look forward to the exciting launch of a new model which addresses many of the issues we’ve been discussing. Meantime our negotiations with our Suppliers are well advanced. Our new website and shopping cart will be launched soon, and negotiations with Retailers are scheduled to take place to sell our message, new distribution model and philosophy

BNA: Moving on to your brands – what are the most exciting announcements that you can share on your brands – what is going to excite your dealers and your customers this year?

Nick di Lorenzo: A significant Joint Venture with a current major Supplier, a market leading model that has exclusive products from quality Suppliers, expanding the range of Euride distributed products, the continuation and expansion of Euride racing, our race brand which was one of the best performed teams in 2011 in South Australia. We will look to expand this nationally in the years ahead.

Importantly, we want to support our Retailers through this difficult time, provide them with the knowledge and Training necessary to be competitive in changing shopping environment. We will continue on our journey to become one of the best suppliers of quality European cycling products, not necessarily the biggest.


Thank you kindly for your views and sharing the strategy that Euride is taking.
Euride is online at and in the dealer locator you can find your closest shop for De Rosa, Bottecchia, ITM, Catlike, Diamant DMT and Cinelli.

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Interview: Matt de Neef, The Climbing Cyclist Tue, 26 Oct 2010 06:43:46 +0000 The Climbing Cyclist, also known as Matt de Neef, is conquering Victoria’s mountains; he has climbed Mt Hotham, he’s beaten Mt Baw Baw and he admits that Terry’s Avenue, Belgrave, almost had him heading to the bottom before he had even reached the top.

The Climbing Cyclist started as a university assignment, Matt was required to create a website on any topic, he took his love for cycling to the next level and created an online guide for cyclists looking for a new mountain to climb in Victoria, and he’s climbed almost all of them.

Matt is now hanging out to climb the back of Falls Creek after mechanical problems marred his efforts at the 3 Peaks Challenge earlier this year. Matt said the 30km climb at the back of Falls Creek would be a fantastic challenge and as a cyclist who likes to climb mountains I couldn’t agree more; I will however be waiting for his account of the climb before I attempt it.

Matt took time out to speak with Rowena Scott of Bicycles Network Australia (BNA) about pushing the barriers, making it to the top and that feeling that makes us want to keep on climbing.

BNA: When did you first start cycling, how did you get into it and why did you end up climbing?

de Neef: I got my first bike when I was 4 or 5 and I’ve never really stopped cycling since. The high school I went to (Box Hill High School) ran a bike camp every year which saw us riding around Wangaratta, Beechworth, Myrtleford and the surrounding areas. I went on bike camp every year that I was at Box Hill and it was one of the most memorable of my school experiences.

Part of that camp was the ~3km climb from Woolshed Falls to Beechworth where the King of the Mountain title was up for grabs. I won it once and every year it was something that I looked forward to. It seems like a short climb now but it’s still pretty steep!

BNA: How did the website ‘The Climbing Cyclist’ come about?

de Neef: The site began as a university assignment where we had to start up a website on a topic of our choice. I decided to write about cycling in Victoria and more specifically, the great climbs available to Victorian cyclists. While there are a number of sites that give a bit of information about these climbs, I wanted my site to be more comprehensive and become a valuable resource for Victorian climbers.

Since finishing that subject I’ve continued working on the site and this time last year I bought some web space and starting trying to make it look a little more professional. I hope!

BNA: Tell me about ‘The Climbing Cyclist’.

de Neef: The Climbing Cyclist is a site dedicated to providing detailed information about the many great cycling climbs Victoria has to offer. For each of the 20 or so climbs on the site so far, I’ve got photos of where the climbs start and finish, a map of the route, a profile of the climb and a detailed write-up of what’s involved if you are going to try the climb.

The site also features a number of short articles about cycle climbing and a blog where I share my thoughts about training up for the 3 Peaks Challenge. We’ve also got a presence on Facebook and Twitter and these communities have been growing steadily in recent months.

BNA: Was there a climb where you almost reached breaking point, where you’d had enough and were about to throw it all in?

de Neef: There’s a hill in the Grampians called Mt. William and the first 9km is fairly easy at around 5-6% but after that it climbs at around 13% for 2km. At the start of those final 2km is a 400metre stretch that sits at around 20%. I have to admit that I stepped off the bike at one point during that section. I was going so slowly that I would have fallen off anyway! That said, I did manage to finish the climb after a short break.

The Terry’s Avenue climb out of Belgrave is probably the hardest sustained climb I’ve done – harder than Mt. Baw Baw I’d say. Climbing that beast was the closest I’ve gotten to throwing in the towel and heading back down the hill.

The Climbing Cyclist - Terrys Avenue
Terrys Avenue finish

BNA: How do you push through that pain barrier?

de Neef: I’m not quite sure to be honest! Stupidity? The desire to get fitter and stronger? A desire to feel a sense of accomplishment at the top? Could be any of those I suppose.

BNA: Do you have a climb that you consider to be enjoyable, something that you would happily do repeats on?

de Neef: Most of the climbs that I’ve done are enjoyable, to a point. I’m not nearly strong or fit enough to enjoy an afternoon spent riding up and down the 1 in 20, for example, but if I had to pick one climb, I’d say the Tawonga Gap. At least if you do repeats of that, you get to do two different climbs in the process. Plus, the descent from the Tawonga Gap down toward Bright is one of the best going around.

The Climbing Cyclist - Tawonga Mt Beauty
Tawonga Mt Beauty finish

BNA: Do you do any training for the climbs that you do, or is it just a matter of reading the profile and then going out there and giving it a go?

A bit of both I reckon. I try to get to a reasonable level of fitness before I go out and do any serious climbing but I certainly wouldn’t spend months training just so I could get up and over Mt. Hotham, for example. I’d rather just go and do it and see how I go.

That said trying a climb like Mt. Baw Baw without a good fitness level probably wouldn’t be the smartest thing you could do as a cyclist.

The Climbing Cyclist - Mt Hotham
Mt Hotham

BNA: What is your advice to someone who is a novice at climbing hills?

de Neef: Just go and do it. Be prepared for it to be hard work to start off with but, as with anything difficult, the more you do it the easier it becomes. At the end of the day, getting to the top of a huge mountain on your own steam is more than enough reward for the pain you’ve gone through to get there.

BNA: What’s going through your mind when you head up a mountain, are you thinking about the things you have to do tomorrow, or is it purely about making it to the top?

de Neef: Without sounding too corny, I tend to get lost in the moment a little bit. Especially if it’s a climb as beautiful as, say, Mt. Buller, I can’t help but just lose myself in the experience.

BNA: On any given day, what would you consider the best place to ride in Victoria?

de Neef: You’d be pretty hard-pressed to go past the Victorian Alps and the area around Bright. With so many great climbs in the area – Mt. Buffalo, Mt. Hotham, Tawonga Gap and Falls Creek – it’s sacred ground for Victorian cyclists. In fact, if you are a Victorian cyclist who hasn’t been to Bright for a cycling trip, you might want to find some time. You won’t be disappointed.

All that aside, there are certainly worse places to ride than the Grampians, the Great Ocean Road and the Yarra Valley, just to name a few areas.

The Climbing Cyclist - 1 in 20 finish
1:20 Finish

BNA: Are there any climbs in Victoria that you haven’t done and are looking forward to attempting?

de Neef: For some stupid reason, I’m really looking forward to tackling the ‘Back o’ Falls’ climb, from Omeo up to Falls Creek. I would have done it last year in the 3 Peaks Challenge but a broken gear cable thwarted those plans.

Just the idea of 30km uphill, with the first 3km at 10% sounds like a fantastic challenge. Or maybe just stupid, I’m not sure.

BNA: I understand there are some wicked hills in Tasmania and New South Wales; do you have any plans to travel through the rest of Australia and see what the other states have to offer?

de Neef: Absolutely. I’d love to take The Climbing Cyclist to a national audience and as soon as the resources and the opportunities present themselves, I’ll be there.

BNA: What sort of gear ratios are you riding to complete these rides?

de Neef: All of my climbing at the moment is done on my trusty Trek 1.2. It’s seen me through almost 8000km and while it’s a little basic for some, it gets the job done. I’m riding a 34-50 at the front with a 12-26 at the back. The 26 gets me up most hills without too many dramas, Mt. William excepted.

The Climbing Cyclist - Matt de Neef Mt Buller
The Climbing Cyclist, Matt de Neef, on Mt Buller

Bicycles Network Australia wishes Matt De Neef, The Climbing Cyclist, a puncture free ride at the back of Falls Creek and clear skies at the 2011 3 Peaks Challenge. You can find out what Matt’s been up to by logging onto Twitter, Facebook and his website:

Photos ? Matt de Neef

You think you’re tough? Fri, 27 Aug 2010 05:55:42 +0000 Sharman Parr, 56 years old and has qualified for Kona Hawaii Ironman no less than five times and I haven’t even grazed the surface of her achievements and ability. Parr is leading the SheSpoke Cycle Wear team through the hottest, and hardest mountain bike race in the world; the Crocodile Trophy.

Although Parr is convinced that she has no athletic ability at all, she considers her abilities a mixture of tenacity and persistence. Parr tells me that the Crocodile Trophy is the equivalent of ten Ironman races back to back, there is no doubt that this woman is without fear and she is out to prove it.

It hasn’t all been fun. During the Kona Hawaii Ironman, Parr was blown from her bike in 60km/h winds. During the Ironman Japan, she mistakenly drank her own urine in the bike leg, and she has vomited noodles out her nose at a race commonly knows as Satan’s Velodrome (Simpson Desert 5 Mountain Bike Race) where she was also the first women to start and finish.

Rowena Scott of Bicycles Network Australia (BNA) caught up with Sharman to find out exactly how tough this 56 year old power house really is.

BNA: You qualified for Kona Hawaii Ironman 5 times, it’s an amazing achievement, but it doesn’t even begin to cover all your achievements, what drives you to compete?

Parr: Many reasons really but mostly to prove you can be a fearless femme. I just love any chance to push myself and stretch my personal limits in endurance race events. It’s an addictive self fulfilling thing and it comes down to this amazing ultimate challenge of you against your self. I just thrive on how I have learnt over the past 25 years, or more to ignore the warning signs of exhaustion pain and doubt. I just seem to push myself on into another zone. I just love to be able to test my mind and body. I don’t have any athletic ability but just the tenacity and persistence. The tougher it gets the tougher I get. So I just never give up even if I cry, vomit noodles out my nose, drink my own urine or crash. I try to let people think I am enjoying the journey and always try to smile. Wear perfume, pink lipstick and motivate other woman.

BNA: You rode the Simpson Desert 5 Mountain Bike Race and you where the first ever women to finish, how does it make you feel?

Parr: Pleased to achieve a first for woman in sport. It also convinced me that my mind is the most powerful organ of them all. It was a very tough race nicknamed Satan’s Velodrome as it was so hot 47 degrees with 396 sand dunes on day 2. I always believe girls can do anything if they want to.

BNA: You where with the Jungle Patrol Wilderness Medicine Team at the Crocodile Trophy in 2009 where you had to provide potentially lifesaving first aid to a Dutch rider, who sustained head injuries, are you hoping for a less adventurous race this year?

Parr: I will not be surprised if we give first aid on the course especially as one of my fearless team mates is a Paramedic (one of only two women in Cairns who go in the Rescue Helicopter). I have over the years, a history of finding fellow wounded riders. One of our team mates in the Croc last year Andrew Graham also crashed and he needed 8 sutures. Amazingly, he rode the last 50kms of a stage with only vision in one eye.

BNA: You have done 13 Ironman races, sounds to me like you were born with the ability to suffer, and how brutal is this race?

Parr: Please do not tell my team mates, it’s brutal!!!! If you do not have a couple of male domestiques to tow you? you will be singing; it’s a fine line between pleasure and pain. It’s not called the worlds hardest, longest, hottest and most adventurous mountain bike race in the world for nothing. For me it was like doing 10 Hawaii ironman and was tougher than any of the 10 day XPD adventure races I have done. It’s a race where you are pushing your self to the limit every day trying to go as fast as you can against the elements. Then at the end of each day you are in the middle of no where for the night camping.

BNA: What are the biggest obstacles that you and the team will face on the trails?

Parr: We are in the same race as the world class professional riders with lots of young male riders. As mere amateurs we are racing against the clock to not be last in.

The extreme heat, dust, rocks and dry creek beds! Trying not to succumb to heat stress.

Chaffing is savage due to the rough tracks so good cycle gear and chamois cream will be truly tested.

Mechanical worries for us girls in the middle of know where and no phone coverage.

Not crashing on the technical stages, you just pray you survive some of the descents.

Riding kilometres in the sand and heat, one stage has 80km and sand with hills in the distance looking like a centipede

BNA: What expectations do you have for yourself this year?

Parr: At 56 years old, none for me. I want to be one of 7 female starters to finish, and I’m old enough to be a mother to some of the pros. It’s about our great SheSpoke Cycle Wear team. Ret is a little dynamo on the hills and Maree is a time trial Queen. As we all work and do not have the luxury of full time training it will be about the journey to the finish line and of course beating a few men. This year is about making history for woman, with the first ever team to finish in the 15 year race history, so, go girl power!

I must also mention though that my husband of 25 years is also racing again in an Aussie men’s team. So it’s always so great to have him as usual waiting for me at the finish

BNA: What was the best moment of last year’s race?

Parr: The finish having a decent shower, receiving my finishers trophy and still able to wear high heels

BNA: Do you have any advice for women who are about to give up?

Parr: Read the book by sport psychologist Terry Orlick called, In Pursuit of Excellence, before they start. Tell them to be a fearless femme and not let the men have all the glory, hop on my wheel and I will get them to the finish line. Otherwise I will give them my two wrists bands- pink for breast cancer and black which says H.T.F.U.

Bicycles Network Australia wishes Sharman Parr and the SheSpoke Cycle Wear Team lots of luck and determination for the savage race that is the 2010 Crocodile Trophy (starts October 19, 2010 in Cairns).

Further information about the Crocodile Trophy can be found at, information about SheSpoke cycle wear and the team can also be found at