Science of Valence Road+ Chapter 1: Specificity – pt. 1

As part of a 5-chapter adventure, we’ll take you through how the Valence Road+ was designed, as a way to help you understand why Rider-Focused Design is so helpful for developing smart and thoughtful products.  

In a study by Swedish scientists, time to exhaustion was reduced by 22% (Samuelson et al., 1989).

“Ok Shawn, what makes you the expert?”

I’ve been racing in NorCal since the day I started using a razor to scrub the fuzz off my smile.  Along the way, I pushed my equipment to the limits and saw technology take off changing bikes from what was once simple mechanics into a science of it’s own.  Along the way I was taught the ways of intelligent, specific training from my coach, Judd Van Sickle, at UC Davis en route to many successful individual and team championships.

As I speak, I’m finishing up a MSc. in Exercise Physiology, what you as a cyclist need. My knowledge and research focusing on you, the rider, and choosing equipment based on what makes for the best experience for you.  If your goal is to win flat criteriums, will aero wheels and an aero bike during your race make a difference?  Hell yes!  If the goal is to win hilly races, would riding a lightweight frame during your race make a difference?  Again, hell yes!  If you want to get the most out of the time you’re not racing, should you also have a bike designed to make your experience the best possible?

 

Science of road vibration: gains and pains

When rough roads are helpful

So, if you want to win NorCal’s Paris Roubaix (Alex Chiu Photography), you might want to jostle your bones and chatter your teeth as prep.  However, gains from getting shaken up during your training rides will still follow exercise science’s biggest rule: “specificity”.

While there are studies looking at specific gains such as growing more blood vessels with riding rough roads (Suhr, et al., 2007), those gains are likely due to the fact that it’s a new stimulus.  That is, shaking you around is not normal.  If you’re a cyclist and you go rock climbing, your arms are going to scream and within one session, you’ll have markers for all kinds of changes.  Continued sessions will likely show no further gain.  So, if you regularly ride SF-Bay city streets on high pressure skinny tires, you’ll be a little more prepared for races with rough terrain.  However, if you show up to a parking-lot crit or a 40km TT, you’re probably going to be better off burning calories pedaling rather than absorbing shock.

Does research exist to specifically give you the answer?  Not yet.  Should you be educated on what’s likely the best?  I’d sure like to think so.  So, let’s move on to what science says advocating for a smooth ride.

Ride further and harder with a smooth ride

Science says rough roads make for a shorter ride.  How much shorter?  In a study by Swedish scientists, time to exhaustion was reduced by 22% (Samuelson et al., 1989).  Let’s think about what you could do with that 22% if it was applied to riding.  How much further would you ride with a smooth ride?  If riding the same duration, how much fresher would you be at the end of your ride?  What does this mean when it’s race day?  Who’s more prepared?

Do you want to roll through incredible terrain?  You’re going to be riding through the bumps and holes that are so characteristic of Northern California.  Let’s cherish that rut in the road, that bump from the tree root.  If we wanted to avoid challenging terrain, we’d all be inside riding our trainers.  We have evolved to go further than the hamster wheel.  Let’s embrace.


  • Suhr, F., Brixius, K., Marees, M., Bolck, B., Kleinoder, H., Achtzehn, S., Mester, J. (2007). Effects of short-term vibration and hypoxia during high-intensity cycling exercise on circulating levels of angiogenic regulators in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology, 474-483.
  • Samuelson, B., Jorfeldt, L., & Ahlborg, B. (1989). Influence of Vibration on Work Performance during Ergometer Cycling. Upsula Journal Med Sci Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences, 73-79.
Shawn