Sunday, October 31, 2010

Equipment - Bike Timeline, Part 7 - Tsunami Bikes

Okay, it's been a while, and I apologize.

So, without any further delay, after all that stuff about all the different bikes I've had (series starts here), all the bikes I've raced, there's only one bike left: The Tsunami.

It's too bad there isn't a set of names for the Tsunami, like one for the road bike, one for a track bike, etc., but when you think about it, it makes sense. After all, they're all custom made. They're all just "Tsunami". My frame, in case you didn't know, is a road version.

For basics it runs a (2007) Record 10 speed kit (from my SystemSix), Cannondale SI BB30 SRM crankset (also from the SystemSix), a Ritchey 26.0 clamp stem, Mavic 315 crit bars (long discontinued - I bought the close outs in 1997), and a Thomson zero setback regular post.

For wheels I run HEDs - the Bastongnes, Jets, and Stingers.

My "load out" varies on the bike, depending on the ride, and, to some extent, how much time I have to prepare for the ride. I'll do a quick synopsis for each theme, along with notes on minor variations within each one.

Bike with all the HED wheels.

The front aero wheels are the Jets (training). The one in the middle and the other one off to the right are the Stinger6s (racing). The bike wears the Bastognes.

Racing Load Out

Sitting in Navone Studios early this year.
Note no Cane Creek bars at this point, but the new Stinger6s are on the bike.

With the race wheels, no saddle bag, no extraneous gear, the Tsunami tips the scales at about 17 lbs. It's about a pound and a half heavier than the SystemSix with similar gear (in fact the SystemSix donated most of its build kit to the Tsunami).

A huge difference is the 450-500 gram fork on the Tsunami, one that I borrowed off of another bike in the stable. With a "proper" fork in place, the bike could lose close to a half pound.

After that, though, I think the weight will be about what it is. I don't want to spend oodles of money to cut a pound off the bike, and I also don't want to give up reliability or ease of use/set-up to drop weight either.

A Rent race on Tuesday night. I must have been less serious - Bastognes, lights (and they're on).

General Training Load Out

Vail CO loadout.

I used to carry a minipump with me, but I prefer a full size pump when I actually need it. I carry a Park pump now, and it sits between the skewer and the Cane Creek Speed bars. You can see the line that seems out of place on the left side of the bike, up front. That's the pump.

I also carry a saddle bag, minimum size for what I carry - one or two tubes, two mini tools, a few tire levers, some money, and some cardboard for booting cut tire. The mini tools include an 8mm allen (pedals and cranks), a chain tool (used on a 10s Campy chain successfully), and the normal allen wrenches and stuff.

The Bastogne wheels work nicely. Light enough, durable (I haven't turned a spoke nipple on them). They don't clean that easily since the finish attracts dirt like flat paint attracts smudges. Reflective decals are a nice touch.

What I did earlier this year.

Still the same wheels and tires, but the mini pump hanging off the back. The Down Low Glow lights are on - this must have been an early season night ride.

Aero/Heavy Training Load Out

For "heavy" training, meaning on a heavy bike, not referring to "a lot of" training, the Tsunami rolls on a Jet 6 front wheel and a Jet 9 rear. I sometimes swap the Jet 6 for a Bastogne, especially if I don't feel like fiddling with valve extenders.

Fit with the heavier clinchers, the Tsunami weighs well over 19 pounds, and that's without bottles, bag, or lights. The Jets are pretty heavy, but once they get rolling, they roll nicely.

Aero wheels, all equipment on the bike.

Only thing missing is a big head light.


My goal in fitting a custom frame were to do a couple things:
1. Get necessary length in bike to "stretch out" properly.
2. Have all adjustment points "centered" in range.

The first is pretty obvious. I want a bike that fits my ape-like proportions - long torso, short legs.

The second is less so. I may have gotten a good saddle-pedal relationship on my bikes, but I got it by slamming the saddle all the way forward on a zero setback post. Since I'd already maxed out the adjustment, I couldn't even try moving the saddle more forward - I had no range of adjustment left.

It would be much nicer to be able to adjust from that point, rather than max out adjustment just to get to a perceived optimal point.

Initial Specs

When I first set out to get the frame, I gathered all my notes and thoughts on my own fit from the last, oh, ten years. I knew a long time ago, in maybe 1994 or so, when I sat on a 55 cm Merlin, that I liked a longer top tube. But since my feet dangled a couple inches above the pedals on that 55, I couldn't really ride the bike. Bar drop (i.e. height delta between bars and saddle) and stuff like handling was also untested.

But on the trainer, over a couple/several winters, I thought about exactly what I'd like. I knew that if I put pair of stacked plastic storage totes next to the bike, I could kind of lean on it and pretend they were the bars. As a bonus, since the totes were about three feet long, I could easily "adjust" my position fore and aft because I could just slide my arm back and forth on the tote.

With that "center of range of adjustment" goal in mind, I also used a straight ruler and a protractor to figure out that drawing a straight line from the BB to the center of the saddle rails took about a 76 degree angle. This made the top tube about 2 cm shorter than before (because the seat tube bisected it much more forward). If I got such a steep seat tube angle with the same top tube, I'd already be 2 cm further forward - a 53.5 cm top tube at that point would feel like a 55.5 cm top tube.

I started drilling down on specifics for the length. It seemed I could use another 5 to 6 cm of reach overall. I'd want to go to a 12 cm stem since, to me, that's the optimal "center of adjustment" range. 11 cm is a bit short, and 13 is fine. Based on a 53.5 cm top tube with a 13 cm stem (66.5 cm total length), I decided a 57 with a 12 cm would be reasonable (69 cm, plus the 2 cm gained from the steep seat tube angle, giving me 4.5 cm more length).

I went to the local shop and used their fit bike. 76 degree seat tube. Shorted possible head tube. 175 mm cranks. 14 cm stem (they had one on it already so I used that). It seemed long but okay. I took pictures and sent them to Joseph, the guy behind Tsunami.

He recommended taking the edge off of my numbers. 75.5 degree seat tube, 56.5 cm top tube. Otherwise things were a go, and I told him to start cutting.


Other than the long top tube, the rest of the frame is pretty standard. 40.5 cm chainstay, although it seems longer than that. 73 degree head tube angle, just like the Cannondale because, frankly, the Cannondale was the best handling bike I'd ever ridden. Normal BB drop. Yada yada yada.

I didn't want a weird handling frame, just one that fit me.

The part that I can't emphasize enough is the custom geometry bit. The frame is built for you. No one else. Joseph even sends pictures of the frame in progress.

Frame Quality

When I got the frame it was beautifully wrapped, shipped next day (USPS so I got it on a Saturday). I did some paint clearing around by the head tube and BB (cutting it off with a sharp knife), just so that I wouldn't take more paint off than necessary when I installed the press fit pieces.

The welds are unfinished. You can see exactly what you're getting, not the ground down finish of some other manufacturers (like Cannondale). I'm a functional bike person so I don't care, but this was one area where I got pretty consistent criticism on the frame. Apparently people like their welds ground down.

Paint was a candy orange, so a layer of light base (silver?) followed by a layer of a metallic clear orange. After a year of use I have some paint coming off where I clamped stuff (front derailleur and seat post clamp). I had one chip from packing the bike in the car.

I've flown with the bike three times, in a soft case, with no adverse effects. I thumped the top tube pretty hard with my shoe, denting it, but the paint is holding fine there.


When I first saw the frame I thought for sure the seat stays were too thick. I gave Joseph carte blanche in the tubing selection, simply specifying that I wanted a stiff frame similar to my SystemSix. I also wanted a frame comfortable enough for a 6 hour ride.

I had doubts but they were unfounded - the bike has been great. He hit the mark in all respects.

My first few rides on the Tsunami were out in California. I went on a long ride, a few hours long, without thinking about it too much.

I was amazed at how comfortable the bike felt on the drops, how low I could get, and how the bike kind of sailed over bumps. Like other bikes in my stable, I still felt some jarring if I was sitting on the saddle and hit something unexpectedly, and the back end did respond to bumps and such, but overall it was much more comfortable. I think it's a combination of the longer wheelbase and the tubing.

When I went to the HED wheels, with the wider rims, the bike got very soft. Too soft. I now run the wide rims with "normal" pressures, about 105-110 psi. Based on some feedback I may experiment with different tires - apparently some tires don't like the wide rim base, others do.


The bike has been great so far. I felt the utmost of confidence bombing down Palomar Mountain, literally going as fast as I could go in the middle of a 5.5-ish hour ride. I ran FiR clinchers with full pressure Michelin Krylions at the time. It felt a hair less sure on the low pressure clinchers later, but once I started running normal pressure, it was fine.

In some earlier races on tubulars, I ran low pressures on the mistaken assumption that the wider tubular rims required this. When I thought about it though I realized that the wide rim was an aero thing, not something for tire pressure and such. I went back to running full pressure. I still think I have some cornering things to iron out but they're my issues, not the bike's.

I did make some hard moves to avoid crashed riders and stuff, and I have to say that the bike handled well under duress.

I didn't realize that the steep seat tube angle pushed me forward a bit more than I thought. I could feel the rear unweighting in fast turns, especially if I was really pushing hard. The longer front end meant that my weight shifted forward a bit, and although the rear wheel sat in basically the same place relative to my body, the wheel has a bit less weight on it.

Other Notes

I had some teething pains, mainly related to the BB30 (I kind of redid it myself when I got the frame and it's not well done). The cranks sort of indexed as they rotated, and I measured 7-9 watts of resistance on the SRM if I had no resistance on the cranks, 15 watts if I spun fast. They were tight!

The bearings eventually broke in (they're not indexed but they only spin 1/2 revolution before they stop) but my California trip was full of creaks and crunching emanating from the bottom bracket. Again, my issue, not the frame's.

For this frame I'd like to get a BB30 facing tool and redo the thing properly. I could use the extra few watts for 2011. Free power? Sign me up.


Overall the frame's been good to me.

How good?

I'm putting in an order for another Tsunami right now. It'll have some updates relative to this one, although I expect the weight to be essentially the same. The one I'm comfortable sharing is the chainstay length - I'm going to go a bit shorter on the stays, to get the rear wheel tucked in a bit.

Other than that?

I got plans and ideas. Stay tuned.

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