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.

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.