Stages solves smart bike bar end change

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Sometimes I’m the last to know and that just might be the case today. But I know now!

This thing I “know” now is at least one company’s solution to preventing end-shifting on a smart bike. If you’re already confused, let’s recap. I love smart bikes! And by that, I mean I love smart sneakers, but I really love smart bikes and a smart Bicycle is a smart trainer built into a fully adjustable bike, like the Wahoo KICKR bike, Tacx NEO bike and Stages SB20.

Here’s an irony for you. Triathletes, and Slowtwitchers in particular, have a very high rate of smart trainer usage, but are less interested in smart bikes. Why? Because many triathletes ride stationary in the aero position. We asked you about 2 years ago, “When riding stationary, what is your riding style and position most of the time?” About 45% of you ride a road (or smart) bike in the road position; 30% said Tribike in the aero position and 22% Tribike in the pursuit position. I can’t imagine that much will have changed since that poll. What I do know is that a lot of you think riding in the aero position is where you want to be, if you have a choice, and that number is probably between 25-50% of you .

Smart bikes are not optimized for riding in an aero position. Assuming the bike can be set up to mimic your stance – not sure – it’s a pain to have to go to the road shifters on a smart bike to execute a shift. What I didn’t know was that Stages has a set of remote controllers – and has had them for a while – that solve this problem. I have a set – they are $126; you can see this product here – and nevermind if it’s not a solved problem for my own tri-position riding.

Age and seniority provide an advantage: a cache of removed parts. For the Stages SB20 in my workshop, I removed a few parts, starting with a set of Profile Design clips that I particularly like because of the comfort and ease of adjustability of the J5 mount. For this use I found I had to stick 20mm of pedestals under these bars to raise the bars above the console mount on this bike that my portable device is sitting on (this is another device at the retirement that I haven’t retired, and I’ll get to that in a minute). You can see the whole setup in the image above. This stand impacts the minimum height of the aerobar pads above the bottom bracket, meaning some people won’t find this bike adjustable to their aero position. I will write in the near future about the practical limitations of this bike as an aero positioning tool. You can see the bases below.

Because these shift knobs sit on the extensions, on the round section, rather than plugging into the ends of the extensions, I felt I had to extend them in front of the extensions. I plugged in some old dead and decommissioned Shimano Di2 shifters, just to serve as a mounting location for these Stages remote shifters.

There are a few ports on the Stages SB20, and in the included instructions for those controllers, you see the port the controller wires plug into. This port has a dust cap type plug; you remove the plug; and the jack has “flats” that make it impossible to mess up left and right (only the left shifter goes into the left port; only the right can go into the right port). The image below shows the ports. The wires are fair long enough to go from shifter to port, and I think that’s because these shifters were never envisioned as bar-end shifters. In the image included on the Stages website, you see these shifters on the handlebars, as in, if you want to change gears while sprinting. They are entirely analogous to wired remote controllers made by component manufacturers, such as SRAM’s Multiclics.

But, as with SRAM’s new Wireless Blips, you create your product and the market decides what to do with it. In the case of these two Wireless Blips and with these Stages Remote Shifters some of the Market decided that these were really bar-end shifters.

This decommissioned/recommissioned iPhone you see in these images is my gear screen. The only real knock on this bike is its lack of display. But right in front of that console mount is a pair of powered USB ports and I leave this iPhone (5 or 6 or whatever) almost always plugged in, and its only job is to: 1) serve as a gear display, which is a window of the Stages app loaded on this phone…

…and 2) to change the (virtual) gearing of this bike, which is one of my main loves for smart bikes.

The gearing of all these smart bikes is changed in the app. An unintended positive consequence of the omission (an error) of the gear display in the Stages bike is that this new task of a portable device as this gear display means that the app is always open, right in front of you, and it is convenient to change the gears whenever you want. This shift display is shown above. Below is another screen from the Stages app that lets you configure the buttons on the road sticks and those remote throttles we’re discussing today.

In fact, most of the time I don’t ride my stationary bike in the aero position; I ride it like a road bike. If I was riding this as an aero bike, I would wrap those extensions with handlebar tape (the last few inches, where I hold on with my hands).

The Stages SB20 smart bike has many advantages. The first is the street price, which at $2,500 (currently) is several hundred dollars below MSRP and well below those of its competitive package. Second, you can get it (most of the time). Third, it sort of adjusts like a fit bike, and as a fit bike designer, I like the fit scheme that Stages went with. The crank length scheme matches the one used by Wahoo (and both are better than how Tacx does it). The question is whether my fix for no speed display works for you. I have to say, for triathletes – who want to ride from a standstill in an aero position – the remote shifter moves the needle to Stages, as long as that feature is a benefit to you.

When I write again, it’s about whether this bike will fit easily, practically, and stylishly to the coordinates of your triathlon bike.

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