Understanding Tour de France

June 4, 2019 / no comments

The 2019 Tour de France begins on Saturday July 6th through Sunday July 28th.  The event is the third most viewed sporting event after the Olympics and World Cup watched by 3.5 billion viewers. This overview provides a breakdown of the basics of the tour and fun facts to better understand the race.

How far do they ride and where?  The 2019 Tour will travel 2,150 miles during a 21 day span beginning in Brussels and ending at the historic Champs-Élysées in Paris. There are 21 stages with each day brings various terrains and distances including individual time trials. The route is determined by a committee often made up of former racers looking for new ways to challenge the cyclists each year.

How big are the cyclists? The average man is typically between 5’ 8”- 5” 10” weighing about 140 pounds with 4% body fat. Each cyclist will begin trimming down 3 months in advance to ensure a lean body for the race.  There have been larger successful cyclist like Mario Cipollini who is 6” 2” weighing 170 lbs. While he never won the tour outright, he was known as the strongest sprinter on tour winning 12 individual stages.

What is a Peloton?– The Peloton is the name for the cluster of riders in a tight formation. This grouping allows cyclists to draft off each other conserving energy throughout the race. The riders in front block the wind as well as creating vortices allowing cyclist behind to save as much as 40% of their energy depending on the wind.

There are some disadvantages of being toward the back of the pack. Cyclists are literally inches apart traveling at average speeds of 30 mph making reaction time virtually impossible. Therefore accidents that occur are often because it is very difficult to see or react when drafting in the back.

Peloton shape may change depending on direction of wind so if you see a cluster toward the rear, then there is likely a strong tail wind. If there is an elongated shape to the group then they are fighting a crosswind.

Every aerodynamic advantage including shaved leg and arms helps conserve energy. A fun 3-minute video showing benefits of shaved vs. unshaved body can be found here.

How much do the bikes weigh?  The governing body named Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) mandates the bikes need to weigh a least 6.8 kg or about 15 lbs. With today’s technology like carbon fiber materials, it is easy to eliminate weight off your bike.  When riding 2,150 miles, you’ll want to schlepp as little as possible so most cyclists keep their bike weight close to the minimum, however the lightest bike does not necessarily win. You still need to pedal it efficiently.

How many calories to the riders burn during the race?  The daily calories consumed ranges between 5000 for flatter courses to 7000 for the mountain stages so roughly 6000 calories. To put that in perspective, these cyclists can consume 9 Burger King Whoppers, or 54 Bud Lights, or 242 carrots a day for 21 days straight….and not gain a pound. Yowza.

Why do the different jersey color mean?
The Yellow Jersey– The  prized jersey is the equivalent of the Green Jacket in golf’s Masters Tournement   The yellow jersey is awarded after each stage to the rider who is the overall leader of the race. Each day the total amount of time taken to finish that stage is added to the cumulative time of all previous races, and the overall leader is determined.  There is also a point system based up on stage difficulty that can impact the winner but essentially it is the overall leader that earns the jersey.  The cyclist who is leading after each stage wears the yellow throughout the next stage.

The Green Jersey – Also known as the sprinters jersey is awarded to the cyclist with the highest number of points. Points are awarded to cyclists who finish first, second, third, etc.. at each sprinting stage. Points are awarded depending on the type of stage and position of the cyclist. You don’t have to win each stage to earn the green, but you do need to be near the front for as many sprints as possible to earn the points and jersey.

The Red Polka-Dot Jersey: The King of the Mountains jersey. Points are awarded to the first rider to reach the top of designated hills and mountains. Mountains are given points according to steepness and distance with points corresponding to the grade. The red polka dot jersey  goes to the rider who has won the most points in the mountain stages by reaching the top of various climbs first.

The White Jersey: Only for  the younger riders under the age of  26. This is worn by the cyclist with the lowest overall time.

What does it cost to payroll a cycling team? Every sport has financial disparity and cycling is not any dissimilar.  The team with the largest budget is UK’s Team Sky with a budget of $45 million per year. Not surprisingly they have won 6 Tour de France titles and have their sites on 2019.  The team with the lowest budgets have a payroll of $4 million per year and you guessed it…. have never won.

All teams have 8 riders in the race with each having a role to support the other. Essentially you have one top rider and the rest are blockers and tacklers for this rider. Only one person wins but it does take a team effort.

Enjoy the race!

Tips for Cycling Hips

March 2, 2016 / no comments

Tips for Cycling Hips

Each year over 100 million bicycles are sold to cyclists with a wide range of skill levels and conditioning. The number of riders grows for many reasons, including good health practices, affordability, and just for the pure fun of riding.

The increase in the cycling population also brings a range of injuries. Among the most common are:
Stiffness in hip rotator muscles
Repetitive stress injury (RSI) affecting the Iliotibial Band
Strains of the quadriceps and hamstrings muscles due to over-training

The image below, courtesy of Stephen Lardson (USA Cycling Coach), diagrams the muscles used and when they are activated in the pedal cycle. It’s not surprising that your hips can be sore or injured while cycling given the extensive use of muscle power.

Cycling Pedal Stroke & Muscles Used

Three quick stretching and strengthening exercises I do almost daily help my hips tremendously and are easy to do at work or at home.

Walk backwards- This simple yet effective activity strengthens muscles like tibialis anterior and gastro Achilles, benefiting your knees and hips. It takes a bit of getting used to in terms of coordination and awareness, but it feels great after a few days. Additional benefits for walking backwards may be found at this site.
Stretch your hips- My left hip hurts most often, likely a result of my love of golf. Swinging a club brings tremendous torque on your hips. For right- hand golfers your left hip is prone to soreness; the opposite for lefties.

I stretch my hips by sitting upright in a chair without supporting my back with both feet flat on the ground. I raise and place place one leg crossed over the other so my ankle is resting on my other knee. Gently I bend at my waist, slowly moving forward, stretching the piriformis muscle in my hip. Perform 5 or 6 times and repeat for the other leg.

Step Exercises- A variety of ways to accomplish step aerobics like using a simple plastic step block found at most gyms:
Taking stairs instead of elevators wherever possible Most smart phones have the ability to track your stair activity. Track your stair climbing for a week and see how your legs and backside feel.
Squats are another great method of strengthening muscle groups in and around the hips. Starting with no weights, begin practicing the motion. Once comfortable with the motion and balance, add a small amount of weight increasing each week and you’ll gradually see and feel the benefits.

Developing a Bike Pedal Into a Business

November 30, 2015 / no comments

Developing a Bike Pedal Into a Business

The question, “what if?” is likely the foundation of many new products, software ideas, life-saving pharmaceuticals, as well as the start of ground breaking companies.   Seeing something you value and benefit from, but wonder if it could do more or be applied differently and result in a whole new product. Thousands of ideas and companies are developed through a combination process to help expand the benefits of the original design.

 

Here are some historic combinations of totally unrelated items either intentionally or accidently combined into one producing outstanding products:

 

  1. Copper + Zinc = Brass
  2. A convex glass with a concave glass created Galileo’s telescope
  3. Motors and carriages made Henry Ford wealthy
  4. Wheels added to a suitcase created the rolling suitcase
  5. MP3 players, cameras, and phones created the ubiquitous smart phone
  6. Rubber bracelets and accelerometers produce a fitness tracker
  7. Light adhesive added to small paper squares made post-it-notes

 

This methodology is exactly how our road bike pedal technology was developed. Years ago while roller-blading and cycling around the same time, I found when skating my legs had a different muscular sensation then bike riding. My quads burned when I biked, but not when roller-blading. Oppositely, my calf muscle and adductors burned after roller-blading but not while biking.

 

Great ideas are often simple concepts taken one step further. The obvious is not always visible thus needing a creative push to blossom. Apple is well known for their mantra of product designing at the intersection of technology and humanities, which they clearly have the creative team to develop at that crossroad.

 

Nikola Innovation’s focus is at the intersection of comfort and performance. Specifically looking at the human body touch points on the bike starting with pedals. Over 100 parts make up a bike but only 3 points where your body unites with the bike. This is not to suggest we are an Apple comparative business in our first year of operations, however we are comfortable of following a similar mantra. By keeping our focus clear, amazing products will continue to develop keeping you comfortable and improving your cycling experience.

 

Product development is balance of deliberate thinking with trial and error. Attentive to avoid over-searching for the perfect design or burning cash on a thousand failed prototypes. Fail fast truly is sage advice one should observe if you feel you have a killer idea ripe for market. Learn from the results both good and bad and adjust quickly applying the discoveries. Many a-ha moments happen when you see the wreckage you produced. After the disappointment can come great relief and joy when the light goes on.

 

I had to understand what looks like simple dynamics of a bike pedal integrating the lateral forces of skating. Amazing the amount research and development occurred for this simple idea. The point here is be prepared for a long journey. Maybe your learning curve is shorter or have the ability to fund additional resources to develop. You’ll know it when you get into it. Good news is sometimes there are unintended benefits that occur in your development. In our case we were designing for speed and power and found we produced a product great for knees and hips. Do not dismiss these as “oh-well” moments but view them as new opportunities.

 

There are many benefits and risks you will encounter with people. One of our most accomplished employees was a young intern with great vision and drive to learn. Allowing him to try and discover was a tremendous benefit to our business. Occasionally you’ll encounter a person who truly believes they can figure out a solution to your problem and turns out they are really just great sales people and believe they can but fail to deliver. A term our controller uses when he sees this “All flash and no cash”.

 

Many ways to success and equally many ways to fail. I view our evolution in four phases of evolution. This chart below is one way of bringing your tangible idea to market should be adjusted according to your timeline and resources. I purposely left of date ranges in the timeline since I prolonged the development by only working evenings and weekends moonlighting.

 

 

Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3 Phase 4

Conceptualizing

Customer feedback Branding

Branding

Prototype

Funding Customer feedback/ Focus session

Customer feedback

Research and Development

Legal- patent search, company structure… Funding

Distribution

Product Testing

Legal patent, NDA…

Funding

Research and Development

Marketing

Manufacturing

Staffing/Contractor

Product Testing

Marketing

Trial and error

Staffing/Contractor

Product Testing

Trial and error

Product design refinement

Packaging

Staffing/Contractor

Product design refinement Trial and error

 

It’s safe to assume rarely things go according to plan. Back of a napkin math suggests double the amount of time you think you need and double the amount of funds needed. On the product cost of goods sold we came close to our targets, which were well vetted in phase 2 studying the market we were competing in.

 

Helpful Discoveries:

 

  1. If you need more than a minute to describe your product, it better be really awesome.
  2. Patents can be a strategy in development as much as protection. When to file, where, and what to claim is worth your focus and attention in the long run.
  3. Product must sell itself – Steve Jobs obsessed over the style of screws used in his products both visible to the consumer and concealed inside rarely if ever to be seen.
  4. Do not underestimate your marketing needs. Creating awareness in a worldwide market is a huge undertaking. 22 million hits in a Google search using “bike pedal,” when your goal is to be listed on page 1.
  5. Things happen. When I am asked how things are going, I struggle to respond since there are so many things happening both tremendously awesome and ominously awful and I don’t know where to start. When engaging an entrepreneur, instead of “How’s it going? Ask something like “What is the biggest challenge you are currently focusing on?”
  6. Everyone has an opinion and advice with good intentions. It’s your job to figure out which path to choose and don’t look back once you make the move. This does not mean you won’t change course, just don’t regret a move.
  7. There is value to your gut feeling. Our engineer sometimes states his spider senses are tingling when something feels awry and he is usually right when that happens. When stuck at a crossroad, use what you know and what you sense as the best path to take.
  8. The Law of Whack-A-Mole. You have an issue that you or your team formulates a sound solution only to discover it caused a new issue. Don’t fret as taking what you learned and adding one or two more steps moving forward usually resolve these.
  9. Keep moving. Never a day passes without me working or thinking about the idea. I don’t necessarily like the compulsive focus, however I know time is limited and need to move forward before someone else tries to step in. I try not to track hours spent, as that does not necessarily equate to productivity. I look at daily and weekly achievements as a better way to measure milestones.

 

It is amazing how much I have discovered in this new business and myself in the past few years. Stretching past comfort zones, learning new skills, networking in an entire new market and encouraging others to take the first step toward their passion and ideas. We have plenty of road ahead of us and much to learn moving forward. I hope this provides you with the motivation to try your idea and step beyond your comfort zone.

Nikola Innovation’s First Interbike Experience

September 30, 2014 / no comments

Nikola Innovation’s First Interbike Experience

For those who may not be familiar with the name Interbike, it’s the largest trade show for the biking industry held in Las Vegas. There are over 20,000 attendees with several thousand people working the booths and at the trade show. For a first time exhibitor you go through so many thoughts from excitement, intimidation, and some confusion. Do I have enough flyers? Will anyone walk by our booth? Will we have enough people working the booth, and where is our booth?!

 

I am a visual person so in my office were several large 2’x3’ post-it notes scribbled with to-dos of items we needed to achieve each week counting down to show time. Each item completed was joyously checked off when accomplished providing small victories in our preparedness for the event. I kept these sheets as memento that gave me an opportunity to chuckle at myself in the many things I worried about and often unnecessarily. There is a fun Julia Child’s quote“…pleasures of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed” which I apply myself many times in the pedal business.

 

It’s safe to say of course, it’s good to have a plan and be ready when things don’t go according to plan, like the actual booth and materials arriving 2 days late and 2 hours after the start of Interbike! What you need to be prepared for is how the audience responds to your product or service. This was our first chance to present our product in an open environment. We had a good inkling based upon our local riders’ feedback, however, we were now in front of people we did not know and who would give us their unfiltered comments. Will they like it? What are they going to say? Will they even try riding the pedals?

 

We estimate 200 people did a test ride on a bike set up in our booth. Realizing the best sales material, sales pitch, or information was second fiddle to riding the pedals, we quit talking and let the customers experience for themselves the benefits of our design. Seeing the visceral reaction was truly priceless to all of us working the booth. Doubters and skeptics were transformed in front of us. Unbridled smiles formed on their faces. “Wow, I never would have guessed this to be such a natural feeling” was the common phrase of the show. “This is so cool, how did you guys ever think of this?” You can’t script this any better. Such powerful feedback is what any company aspires for to grow and build great innovative products and brand awareness in their industry.

 

My goal many years ago was just to see if this idea works and could we make a few to install on few bikes. Reflecting on those many years while standing in our first booth was surreal. Attending a conference, promoting an idea literally sketched out in a notebook and achieving our first sales is beyond words. We couldn’t be more pleased with our launch and look forward to seeing more and more people enjoying our products and brand.

 

See you at Interbike 2015 or sooner!