Meet gravelbikes.cc comfort ranking!

The main reason for building my bikeLAB was to finally have an objective tool for not only measuring the comfort but also, for making credible comparisons between different comfort improving solutions. When I was testing in the wild, the only thing that was doable was comparing different products on the same day, on exactly the same conditions. This meant that I could not compare results from different days, and naturally, from the different weather conditions. So I could not build a proper comfort-oriented ranking. With in-house LAB with every possible variable controlled I can finally start to build a proper ranking – leaderboards for different comfort improving parts. Thanks to this ranking, we will once and for all, know what product is the best in terms of reducing vibrations. Of course, there will be always a subjective component in evaluating the performance of tested products (and I will provide it on gravelbikes.cc site) but bikeLAB will give us all an objective measurement (so we can see the real difference in performance between different solutions). But…

I know that numbers do not tell the whole story. If something is 10% better at reducing vibrations, this is a huge, big, or barely noticeable difference? How can you know? How can I describe this difference to you? I thought long and hard about this challenge and I think that I have come up with the best possible solution. I have created a benchmark unit: easy to achieve by anyone reference that will help everyone to better imagine the gains in the comfort level that you can expect when buying a particular product. What is this unit? Basically, it is the performance of a 40 mm tire on a 700c wheel with 50 PSI air pressure under an 80 KG rider with a quite normal riding position (hands on the hoods). I have set up my bikeLAB to simulate my weight distribution as good as possible (putting weight in all three contact points: handlebar, saddle, and BB area – pedals). The tire of choice is Schwalbe G-One speed 40c set up tubeless. Why Schwalbe you may ask? Because it is a widely available tire that also comes in many different sizes. Why this is important you may ask again? Because I will do those testing also with 30c and 50c G-One speed tires (with 50 PSI air pressure and then calculate the corresponding PSI number for the benchmark 40c tire so if you have tire closer in width to 30c or 50c you will also have the possibility to use my benchmarking approach).

Doing all of this I have managed to set up a benchmark that you can easily replicate on your bike (yes, the best situation for you is to weigh around 80 KG but don’t worry, in near future I plan to add also the data for 65 KG rider). All you need to do is to pump your 40c tire to 50 PSI and ride the bike with a speed of around 15 miles per hour (which is an equivalent of 7,5 miles per hour on my bikeLAB treadmill) to experience the benchmarking starting point. What next? Then, with each test of products like suspension stem or suspension seatpost I will calculate the result to tell you how well it performs by saying how much less PSI you need to have in your tire to get a similar effect. So you will lower the air pressure to feel the difference…

This is the final setup of my bikeLAB simulating me, a 80 KG rider.

This benchmark will work for both front (100 rigid stems) and the rear of the bike (aluminum seatpost with around 20 mm of setback. The handlebar and saddle are not really that important in my LAB methodology so we should not cloud the picture by thinking about them. So there you have it… finally, not only a proper ranking of comfort improving solutions but also a simple, yet very useful way of giving you all the possibility to experience the difference with your own bikes (without the need of buying those products). In the coming weeks, there will be two big comparison tests (one for suspension seatpost and the other one for suspension stems) where I will use this new benchmarking methodology. So stay tuned and if you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to write them in the comments section. Thanks!