Skilling up on MTB: The Avalahalli Experience with Manik Taneja

Our efforts towards holding more skilling workshop comes from our belief that you get better at what you intentionally spend time on. We’ve seen this happen with how we’ve honed our craft within the store. We’ve seen this story being repeated time and again by MTB riders, road rider, TT champs, triathletes, riders of all stripes. So, we figured we ought to get more platforms opened for folks to practice their riding skills. Training on trails on an MTB is a great way to pick up and strengthen skills that will serve you well on the tarmac.

With that in mind, we decided to team up with someone who’d lead this effort. We wanted someone who is not only skilled, but is also someone who enjoys teaching the skill to others. We found that person in Manik Taneja. Manik is someone we’ve seen explore MTB riding over the last few years, get progressively better at both riding and figuring out cycles, componentry and gear that works best for him.

Our second MTB skilling session took place at Avalahalli on 12th Dec. We had close to a dozen folk turn up on the day. The youngest of them was about 8, accompanied by his equally enthusiastic dad.

The one girl who came by is consistently making waves, while getting stronger with riding trails.

The many teenagers who dropped by for their second session were thrilled to be getting a chance to do this again with us.

Watch this space as we work towards getting you more opportunities to practice in the safety of trails and get stronger riding skills.

Bike Upgrade: Aditya Reddy. November 2020

2020 has been awful to all of us in different ways. For Aditya, who bought the best BMC ever, the SLR01, tragedy struck when the frame got gouged and cracked while on a ride. Luckily, there was warranty replacement for frame damage, so all was not entirely bleak. When he got the replacement frame, we had the fun job of unboxing and putting the bike together. This, therefore, is not a tale of a custom build, but just one of a top of the tops upgrade.

Componentry: This came from his old bike – and everything on there was top of the line. Without saying much more, we will leave you with images of this beauty of a bike.

Upgrading a bike: Prachi Sharma’s story

We often receive bike upgrade requests. The reasons could vary – the client’s very fond of the frame and wants to upgrade to newer components; their needs have changed but not enough to warrant a whole new bike and so on.

This particular upgrade was special because Prachi Sharma is a friend of the store. She’s a swimmer & runner, with a couple of “mini triathlons” as she calls them, under her belt. A more enthusiastic ocean swimmer, we are yet to see. Thanks to the pandemic, all her hopes for triathlons and trips to the ocean were dashed for the year. Worse still, pools were closed too.

Prachi owns a Specialized Dolce. It was a recent birthday gift that tied in to a resolve to pick up a new skill this year. No swimming + new bike = opportunity to strengthen her bicycle game. Prachi knew that she would return to triathlons stronger. To top it off, her partner Anand had hurt his thumb and was off serious riding for a short while. This meant he could tail her in a car or ride with her at her pace, as he recovered. She felt confident and safe to put some serious mileage in, and with encouragement from Anand never too far away, she was able to move her game up quite a few levels.

Enter the curveball: She got double teamed by the two biggest hustlers in the componentry upgrade game – Anand and Nikhil. They convinced her that she needed DI2 in her life. Anand was a recent convert and Nikhil had come across a new upgrade kit that had become available.

This project was exciting for us because we were maxing out what is an early rider level bike into an electronic shifting bike. Frames that support DI2 come with wire routing specific to electronic shifting. In this bike, the routes needed to be created for the wires. Having worked on many DI2 compatible frames, we knew what boundaries we could push. This determined where on the frame we could drill to find optimal pathways for the wires.

Falling back on experiences with frames and with DI2, Nikhil felt this would be a feasible project. With the promise of precise, lightning fast shifts, Prachi was ready to, ha, shift to DI2. In addition, we also upgraded her wheels (you know how it is. You change one thing, you feel compelled to change the other big pieces to bring optimisation) to hand-built Powertap wheels.

Here’s what the bike looks like when it was ready to roll.

Prachi’s reactions when she saw her new ride tell the rest of the story

Here’s her brave and shaky test ride.

In a largely shitty year, when we are all struggling with our own demons, and somehow managing to keep our heads largely above water, stories like Prachi’s are heartening. It takes courage to grab the opportunities that look scary, and go after them. That is exactly what Prachi has done. It’s been a real joy to have contributed to this part of her journey.

Photos courtesy: Prachi, Ajay Aren & Rahul Bisht

MTB Experience day at Big Rock DirtPark

When we set out to plan a day for MTB riders at Big Rock DirtPark in Kolar, we did not imagine that on the day, over 25 people would turn up… at 7.30am (which, a famous Bangalore MTB person tells us, was “brutal”) We know that Bangalore has gluttons for punishment who travel insane distances at insane hours to get their cardio fix. Despite that, we did not expect folks turn up at Kolar just to watch the fun.

The diversity of riders: The first thing that we noticed was how there were all kinds of riders… experienced enduro junkies, out of practice XC hacks, newbies with their shiny, relatively untried rigs, one lone girl, out of breath but experienced 40-odd year olds, and guys who needed parental consent forms.

Once out on the trail, all these differences melted away, and we were all riders. The sense of camaraderie was great to see.

Let’s hope more girls start riding MTB. It’s good for the sport. The good news is, when one person starts, it usually inspires others to find courage and go out there and give it a shot.

The guys at Big Rock really pulled out all the stops, and gave us a day to remember. We would certainly be remiss if we did not call out the amazing Bheema on site, all the coordination from Arjun. Goes without saying, without Preetam’s idea about doing this, and support from him and Uday, the idea that germinated this event would have remained an idea. They opened their fabulous dirt park to us, and this group of 20-odd people rode and splashed around on their motocross ( XC) track, forest single track, and enduro sections.

It was great to see that motorcycles and bicycles could share the same real estate, with some coordination and goodwill. A KTM group landed up while we were there, and it was interesting to see the two lots of riders surreptitiously check out one another’s rigs. 

We clearly heard one motorcyclist say, while Manik was demonstrating how to pop manuals, “f#@%, that guy’s got some skills.”

For us at Crankmeister, this served as a much needed reminder about why we love bicycles and the sport. We realised, if we needed a reminder, that we need to see the sport away from the sometimes restricting confines of the store, deadlines, and customers, and see cycling in it’s purest, most enjoyable form. 

We’re looking forward to doing this again. On on!

All photos, courtesy Ajay Aren, Baba Fakruddin, Chinta Sidharthan, Mihir Sule, Rahul Bisht and Hugo De Souza

Bike build. Arjun Lall. Sept-Oct 2020

Arjun’s new steed, all ready to hit the road

This is the story of the bike build for one of our circuit regulars, Arjun Lall. A lifelong athlete and strong cyclist, he has many cycles in his stable. A recent acquisition, a Tarmac, ended up being the wrong size. He divested himself of it, and decided to get himself a good racing bike. He researched a fair bit and zeroed in on a high-end aluminium road bike: The Specialized Allez Sprint DSW Peter Sagan edition.

The bike frame arrived mid – pandemic, resulting in a build interrupted by lockdown woes and a chronic unavailability of parts. It was worth it though, because the bike was truly beautiful when it came together.

Componentry: Top of the line Ultegra Di2 shifters, Dura Ace cranks, Token tubeless 50mm  wheels. Favero Asioma Duo pedals, Pro Stealth saddle. The rainbow bling of the logo was beautifully set off by the coordinated ‘Oil Slick’ Supacaz bottle cages and bar tape.

Probably the most rewarding thing about building a bike is speccing out  a set of components, assessing them on both functional and aesthetic grounds, and having them all click together for a solid but beautiful ride. Sometimes, knowing what is in the market, and recommending specific components to add to the jazz factor (like in the case of the bottle cages and handlebar tape) is the cherry on top! The reaction of people walking in and chancing upon the cycle, usually resulting in a long double take, was plenty of validation.

What comes after a great bike build? A Bike fit, of course. That’s documented here.

Bike fit. Arjun Lall. October 2020

This bike fit was a special one, because we also built the bike for Arjun.

For someone like him, who has a lot of experience riding road bikes, and has come to us for previous bike fits, it makes sense to schedule the bike fit as soon as the bike is ready to roll. He has the knowledge needed to make decisions on what feels better while microadjustments on the saddle or pedal are being made.

The problem that we wanted to resolve for Arjun is that he said the arches of his feet pain when he rides. While he was warming up, Pavan, who did the bike fit, noticed that one of his knees was falling in. Through some trial and error (getting the rider to do some squats, checking for where it hurts when they ride – or even when they walk or run), Pavan determined that this was owing to the arches collapsing. The solution in this situation was simple – put in an insole in the riding shoe. This helps give a hard surface at the pedalstroke end and that is useful tactical feedback for the rider. For riders that have been athletic for a long period of time and engage in efforts like Yoga, like Arjun does, this feedback will over time help him raise awareness of the fallen arches and work to raise them. This was the aha moment for him, and he was able to pick up an immediate change in experience.

We also need to keep in mind specific needs of the riders. In Arjun’s case, owing a a wrist he had broken in the past, he needs the hoods to have a slight upward tilt so that he can brace that wrist.

With these, the adjustment to saddle height, position etc., the bike was fit and and looking very fine indeed.

Bike Fit. Preetam Daniel. October 2020

The bike: A Cannondale Synapse 2018. This one is a beauty with a custom paint job. It features the sublime British Racing Green laced with gold.

Groupset: Ultegra

Reason for a bike fit: Preetam complained of pain at the base of the neck and between shoulder blades. More, he felt that he was not generating sufficient power. (Note, for a rider to be able to make this assessment, they would have ridden sufficient miles on that bike. And so, they know their ability, their output and the bike’s ability) 

In Preetam’s case, Pavan noticed that a knee was falling inward. In the outside of the same foot, Preetam was experiencing mild pain. He was seated too far back on the saddle with too much of a reach to the bars. This also explained why he felt a stretch in the neck and shoulder area.

The solution was to insert a foot wedge to correct the knee falling in, which addressed the foot pain.

Step 1: Do an assessment of strength and core and sitbone width for the first 15 minutes. A series of questions are asked to understand 

  • What does the rider want out of their bike?
  • What are their cycling goals?
  • What do they perceive their cycling fitness levels to be?

The bike fitter assesses the rider broadly on –

  • Form on the bike, including pedal stroke efficiency,
  • Position on the saddle,
  • The reach & drop of handlebar,
  • Heel drop,
  • Cleat position,
  • Knee tracking and a few more parameters.

To bring the rider to a position of maximum efficiency that is compatible with comfort and is in line with their cycling goals, the fitter will work on saddle height, saddle set back, saddle angle, choice of saddle and reach & stack (primarily determined by choice of stem, stem angle, handlebar width)


Bike Fit. Ashwin Vig. October 2020

Bike fits typically have that one moment, where the rider experiences a big change in the experience of engaging with that bicycle. Pavan says, in his experience, it is often the saddle height and saddle position.

In Ashwin’s case, this turned out to be true. He tended to sit closer to the nose of the saddle. The saddle was also pushed too far back and was too low.

Ashwin also used one of our offerings – trialing a saddle before buying it. We offer some of our existing saddles for customers to test. They take a saddle they are decided on for a few rides, evaluate if it does for them what they had hoped, and then make an informed purchase.

As you can see in the images above, the saddle was changed, and the position and height were adjusted to suit Ashwin. That brought about a significant change in his riding experience, which showed up in his rides by way of increased speed and consistently bettering his ride times on his usual ride routes.

In addition to fitting the ride to suit the rider, we also find that recommending specific sets of exercises to the rider helps further contribute to injury-free and stronger rides.

To that end, we watch out for discomfort or pain reported when riding marginally outside comfort zone (long rides, for example, or fast ones). We look for the rider’s form on the bike and this leads to further checks on stability, core strength, strength of specific muscle groups. As the image show, recommending some glutes and hams strengthening exercises will help in engaging the glutes into the pedalstroke.

We also spoke about gradually reducing the weight on the hands, and engaging the core more mindfully while on the bike. The rider upped their speed output by an easy 4-5kmph and did his fastest 80k ride after the bike fit.