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A couple weeks back when we were in Berlin for the bike show, ultra endurance cyclist and 3-time RAAM winner Christoph Strasser happened to be there as well to attempt to break the world record for most distance covered on the road by a cyclist in a 24-hour period. We had a chance to chat with Strasser’s support team during his ride and after he finished to take a detailed look at the bike that he used for the ride. In the end he was successful and managed to ride an amazing 896.173km/556.856mi aboard his Specialized S-Works Shiv, besting the prior record by 6%.
Come past the break to have a detailed look at what a spec for that long of a ride looks like, and some insights from Specialized’s tire specialist Wolfgang Arenz…

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Strasser’s race from day to night and back again went mostly according to plan, as he mostly used a bike and equipment that he has raced with for quite some time. Reaffirming the notion that it is never a good idea to try anything new though, he decided to use a new-to-him S-Works TT helmet and ran into a small hiccup. The shape and fit of the helmet which gave him a measurable aero advantage did not have enough room to allow the use of the wireless radio that he had used before in similar efforts. As a result he was able to ride with some music to keep him entertained, but suffered from isolation especially during the hours before sunrise since he could only communicate with his chase car when they would drive up beside him to hand off water bottles and yell to him.

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His start was actually delayed a bit, as even with a big support team, Strasser had personally been wrenching on his own bikes to prep and his team and Specialized mechanics had to do a bit of run-around to tighten a proprietary, loosening crank bolt before he could head off. Amusingly enough (in hindsight) this had TV crews there to cover the start thinking that the attempt would not happen. Once on the bike though Strasser did what he does best, pedaling non-stop; averaging 37.3kph/23.2mph with a normalized power output of about 250W consistently over the full day of riding. He rode through cool and calm sunny skies to start, freezing foggy and windy weather overnight, and finished the ride in a cold rain that tested everything from the battery life of two cycling computers to tire pressures and traction, and a whole array of clothing in an attempt to maintain a cool body temp and stay aero.

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The equipment he used was mostly standard fare and is generally all readily available to consumers, with a mixture of small custom finishing touches thrown in mostly for non-technical reasons. The bike he rode to the 24-hour road record is an off-the-shelf S-Works Shiv with a Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, including DA direct mount brakes. His cranks have a power2max special edition power meter custom finished to celebrate his RAAM record from 2013 (which he actually bested himself again by 6 fewer hours in 2014.) The most custom tech on his record ride was probably Specialized’s VW Sharan chase car that was fitted with some blinding LED panels to light up the road for Strasser through the night, with flashing lights and horns on the roof to warn people off the course during the busy Friday afterwork hours, and speakers on the roof from which they blasted music and motivation from his support team in the early morning hours against the approval of authorities (who had officially only permitted the speakers to chase pedestrians and cyclists out of the way.)

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One of the most unique pieces of kit on the bike, and the only thing that you might not be able to pick up at your local bike shop right away would be the rolling stock. Introduced a couple of years back the S-Works level Turbo Cotton clincher tires made waves as having less rolling resistance than tubular tires due to less deflection of the sidewalls, and were ridden by Tony Martin in the Tour de France time trials last summer in their latest iteration. We spoke with Wolfgang Arenz, Specialized’s tire engineer who said that they have continued to refine the tire, and this newest version has the lowest rolling resistance of any tire he has ever tested. After testing on the course leading up to the attempt, the team decided to use the standard 24mm tire up front, but a 26mm version that is not yet on the market in the back to add comfort over the long ride where aerodynamics would be less affected. In fact Strasser said that testing these new and wider clinchers just before his ride allowed him to push 2kph faster than in training with the same power output, which gave him a big mental boost before he began his attempt.

While Strasser was riding in circles in the early morning hours we chatted with Arenz, and he brought up several tire complications for the event. One of issue with the Tempelhof airfield loop that Strasser would ride was that its surface was varied, including a lot of rough concrete sections with expansion joints and transitions back to tarmac (and was not cleared ahead of time). This favored the wider tire, but also the flexibility of clinchers that meant they wouldn’t need a large number of backup tubular wheel setups. In the end Strasser had one flat about 22 hours into his ride when he ran over a small piece of metal and quickly swapped wheels. Another concern was that the loop included 2 wide sweeping 180 degree turns, on which the Specialized Gripton tires excel with tread wrapping far around the sidewall, even in the mix of conditions that Strasser would have to face (the temperature varied from just below freezing up to around 12°C/54°F.) Lastly, while a clincher has the lowest rolling resistance and best puncture resistance with a latex tube, the duration of the ride made them untenable. Since latex tubes would lose more than 10-15% of their air over the course of the 24 hours, Strasser rode with light butyl tubes so he could maintain ideal tire pressure to minimize rolling resistance and the chance of pinch flatting.

Wheel choice was a little more straight forward, using the deepest 6o mm full carbon clincher that Specialized offers. Since they do not make a disc wheel Strasser chose a debadged HED Jet rear wheel that is essentially a traditional spoke wheel wrapped with a thin carbon skin (and had a Zipp setup as backup.) This results in a wheel that is slightly heavier, but also has a much more forgiving ride quality making it more appropriate for this duration of event. The less structural nature of the disc skin also allows it to be shaped in a more aerodynamically beneficial toroidal shape without affecting ride quality.

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Strasser’s cockpit included a Syntace carbon aero bar bolted to an aluminum stem. The C6’s first race was Strasser’s 2013 RAAM win, and he has stuck to what works for him. The bar is the first to incorporate independent airflow paths on the top and the bottom with a stiff bathtub-like construction and neatly incorporates a cycling computer like the Garmin here.

Strasser took advantage of the Shiv’s Fuelselage integrated water bottle (and feeding tube) which helped him keep that aero tuck for the vast majority of the 24 hours and was able to be refilled on the go.

Strasser’s normal motto for ultra endurance events is “Ride. Eat. Sleep.” but his support team made a small modification to his toptube decal so he wouldn’t forget that this event was special.

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Some of the last bits that stood out were a decently padded Avatar Comp Gel saddle with hollow steel rails, and a spare bottle cage attached to the saddle rails with Specialized’s Reserve Rack mount. Strasser later commented that he was a bit surprised to have comfort issues on the saddle for that long. Usually in his long races like RAAM where he is riding for days at a time with short breaks, he can reapply saddle cream mid ride, but by wearing a speed/skinsuit and not being able to take any real break, he wasn’t able to do so and was suffering the next day.

Also, note that on the bottle cage Strasser has some tiny LED lights made by a small German company that add 360° visibility at only a 23 grams penalty. While he had a chase car for the entire event with officials to verify the effort, to be an elite ultra endurance cyclist he spends a lot of time alone on the road, both night and day training, and visibility and safety are always important. Lastly, with cool temperatures the reduced ventilation and snap on shield of the new TT helmet were appreciated as Strasser finished his world record ride covered first in rain and then champagne, even if it meant a few lonely hours before dawn separated from his support team by just the wind whipping by.

Detailed Specs:

Frameset: Specialized S-Works Shiv road
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 shifters, derailleurs, and direct mount brakes
Crankset: Power2Max Type S power meter with Specialized S-Works FACT carbon arms and S-Works SL semi-compact 52/36T chainrings, with an OSBB bottom bracket
Saddle: Specialized Avatar Comp Gel, Body Geometry design with PU foam w/ gel inserts for longer rides,  carbon-reinforced shell, and hollow Cr-Mo rails
Front Wheel: Specialized Roval Rapide CLX 60 full-carbon clincher: 60mm deep, 17.3mm internal rim width, 24.4mm external rim width
Rear Wheel: HED Jet disc carbon clincher, hybrid disc with toroidal shaping: 23mm external rim width
Tires: Specialized S-Works Turbo Cotton clinchers, 24mm front/26mm rear, with lightweight butyl tubes
Handlebar: Syntace C6, one piece seamless carbon monocoque aerobar with optimized air flow on both the top and bottom, plus integrated Garmin mount
Stem: Syntace Force 109, forged aluminum with ti bolts
Bottle Cage: Specialized Reserve Rack behind the saddle and Rib Cage Carbon
Lights: RaceLED.de
Helmet: Specialized S-Works TT with snap on Shield

11 COMMENTS

  1. Damn, great article, I’ve been really curious about this guy’s setup details. To me this, RAAM and other long road events blow me away. I cant even imagine the saddle pain on an effort like that!

  2. Great performance, more power to him. Regarding numbers: I ran some calculations, and the rolling resistance of the improved tires would have to be less than zero to achieve the claimed 2 km/h gain. Well, I guess he got some sponsorship from Spesh.

  3. @Rixter I did the 4km Strava time trial around the airport at the same time and averaged about the same for 7 mins! I’d love to be able to do it for just 1 hour.
    @Rico The continuous reapplication of chamois cream during RAAM was an amusing/frightening eyeopener to me. Oh, and thanks.
    @Francisco I think Strasser’s anecdotal comment about increased speed was mostly a mental thing for him, and certainly not a scientifically quantified finding. I get the sense that he added in the new aero helmet, the new tires, optimal cool weather, and a bit of prerace excitement to come to his 2kph number.

  4. Chances are, the clothes he had to wear due to the temperature, air density and the winds slowed him down a lot at that speed. I bet if it were in the mid-60s or a bit higher, he could have gone more than 1mph faster with a standard skinsuit and not needing that jacket when it got colder. Awesome effort to destroy the record, and even more so with the conditions. Funny thing is…when he does RAAM, he normally goes for close to 50hours of riding before he takes his first break!!!

  5. This attempt is still WAAAAY short of the overall 24-hour HUMAN POWERED distance record of a whopping 1219.02 km (757.5 miles) for a streamlined trike (and a commercially available Milan SL (I have one and commute in it at times)) set by the late Christian van Ascheberg, at the Dekra Test Oval in July 2010. So it’s technology only within the restricted limits of UCI niceties. Tex

  6. Veganpotter – I thought the same thing, that it seemed a cold temp to try that. I was wondering if they had tested to see what is the ideal condition, but they must go for it with all that prep and setup I guess. And even rain, ugh. Not something you want to have to do over again!

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