This article originally appeared on BikeRadar
Kristin Armstrong has won Olympic gold, twice. This summer, as a 42-year-old, the triathlete-turned-time trialist hopes to compete for a third Olympic medal in Rio. Here is a look at the Felt DA1 her husband and mechanic has meticulously assembled.
Armstrong and her husband, Joe Savola, have a unique relationship with the bike in the middle. While some racers can say their husbands help with the bike here and there, how many can say their husband machined parts for their first Olympic gold-winning bike and then turned said parts into a company?
The now ubiquitous K-Edge chain catchers seen on WorldTour bikes began as Savola’s obsessive project for the 2008 Beijing time trial course that feature a sharp transition from descent into a climb. Savola wanted to make darn sure that Armstrong’s chain did not drop as she shifted from the big to the small ring.
A few months ago, Savola sold the company he helped found, and is now focused again on perfecting Armstrong’s bike.
“Kristin and her coach take care of her body,” Savola says. “I take care of the bike. It’s my project. I get a lot of help from [USA Cycling’s] Jim Miller and others in the bike industry.”
Ceramic and wax in pursuit of marginal gains
Armstrong has spent the first half of the year doing stage races that feature time trials. Besides the training and the chance to show her form to USA Cycling officials who will pick the Olympic team, Armstrong said these events are also a good mental exercise.
“Every race I have targeted, being in the start house and overcoming those nerves, that’s a good thing,” Armstrong says. “Whether it’s San Dimas, Redlands, Gila or California, overcoming those nerves gives you confidence and relaxes you. It’s all for a third gold medal.”
Wax, two tubular widths and oval chain rings
At the US national time trial championships in May, Armstrong had her Felt DA1 bike — well, two, actually — with a specially prepared chain coat in Moulton Speed Wax.
It’s a tedious process to put on race wax — think half a dozen cleaning steps including supersonic cleaning and alcohol cleaning of the chain, then melting wax onto the chain, then breaking up the solidified wax.
"It’s far easier to glue a tubular,” Savola points out. “But based on the testing that [FrictionFacts] Jason Smith has done, to hundredths of a watt, it’s the fastest system out there."
This looks dirty, but it's actually painstakingly prepared
Savola draws a parallel of waxed race chains to expensive waxes for cross-country ski racers: it won’t last long, but if done right it will make you faster.
It also looks surprisingly messy for a pro bike, with a dull grey sheen on the chain and everything it touches.
Armstrong was an early tester of SRAM eTap, and her Felt has remote shifters on the extensions and the cowhorns. “SRAM eTap stuff makes it a dream to build,” Savola says.
Armstrong has a Quarq power meter tucked inside Rotor Q rings on the SRAM Red crank, with CeramicSpeed pulleys replacing the standard Red options.
A Zipp disc and Zipp 808 front wheel roll on Vittoria Chrono CS tubulars, 22mm in the front and 24 in the rear.
Vittoria Chrono CS tubulars, 22mm in the front and 24mm in the rear
Armstrong likes the feel of these tubulars, and Savola says his research has found them to be the fastest in terms of aerodynamics and rolling resistance.
“With time trials, it’s more about aerodynamics than rolling resistance,” he adds. “At 25mph, aero trumps resistance every time. That’s why you don’t see 25mm on most top riders’ bikes.”
Armstrong placed third at the US national time trial championships.
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