The Chris Kostman Ultra STOUT Bicycle Project:
An American Bike for an American Sport

By Chris Kostman

Originally published as "The Long Distance Bicycle" as the cover story in the final issue of Bike Tech, December 1988. Click here to see a Pdf of the first two pages.

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For decades, there were but two types of road bicycles, touring bikes and racing bikes. Eventually, the sport/ touring bike evolved as a combination of these two distinct breeds. About this same time, the bicycle industry began experiencing the resurgence of interest and sales which continues to this date. At this point the manufacturers realized that new decals and very slight modifications to an existing model in their line, if properly renamed, could generate a new batch of sales. Hence, the introduction of so-called "criterium" and "triathlon" bikes. Based on the incredible number of sales of all these types of bikes in the past five or so years, it seems that the U.S. cycling public has yet to realize that these bikes, regardless of title, are all essentially the exact same bike. Sure, there may be a one degree difference in the head angle or maybe a few less spokes in the front wheel, but these bikes are basically all the same. For probably over ninety percent of the cyclists, any one of these types of bikes could be used just as easily in any of the events, ranging from criteriums to triathlons to double centuries. Obviously the time has come to build a bike which really suits its intended usage and works harmoniously with the rider, not against or in spite of him.

Chris Kostman in the beautiful Midwest during the 1988 Race Across AMerica
(Note the Ultra Stout bicycle, featured in this article.)

As an eager and avid cyclist, I have experience in most every type of cycling: criteriums, road races, time trials, triathlons, centuries, touring, mountain biking, track riding, and ultra-distance events. Although I continualy compete or participate in all styles of cycling, for the past five years my focus has been the ultra-distance events. By this I mean events ranging in length from 100 miles to the 3,100 mile Race Across AMerica (RAAM). Typically, this means double, triple, and quad centuries, 24 hour events, and sanctioned ultra-distance records. Centuries aren't really considered ultra-distance, but I ride dozens per year as training or to test new equipment, clothing, or nutritional systems.

Over the years I have used all types of bicycles in these events, built of all types of tubing, and equipped with all types of components. However, based on my preceding conclusions, I rode essentially the same bike year in and year out. Last year, while competing in the 1987 Race Across AMerica, I decided I would develop a bike which would be perfect for ultra-distance racing: a no-holds-barred bike with every single possible innovation and new concept or product used in its design and manufacture. A bike tough enough to survive 3,100 miles of American roads, light enough to climb the Rockies, stable enough to descend from mountain passes at over 50 miles per hour, aerodynamic enough to cut through the head winds of the Great Plains, and comfortable enough to not annihilate its rider after days of brutal racing across the United States. In short, a bike that really was different and really made a difference.

I spent much of the 1987 RAAM analyzing this concept and began mentally sketching out and designing this unique bike. As I came to any conclusions, I would relay this to my support team via my FM transmitter and have them jot it down in a notebook. By the end of the race we had quite a few pages filled up with ideas for this ultra-distance bicycle. After completing the race (I placed ninth, covering the 3,127 miles in 10 days, 23 hours, and 58 minutes, and, at age twenty, went down in the books as the youngest ever finisher of the annual event.) I visited custom frame builder Ron Stout in Salt Lake City to discuss my idea. He had been my bike sponsor in 1985 and eagerly signed back on to support my new project and 1988 season. We spent many hours discussing the possible design, manufacture, handling, and ride characteristics and also used a special adjustable bike to size me out so that the finished bike would conform exactly and perfectly to my anatomy. I followed this up by consulting with several recognizable figures within the cycling industry about various aspects of the concept and it was with their input that Ron Stout and I were able to come up with the frame design on which to work. At this time I must thank Ric Hjertberg of Wheelsmith, Boone Lennon of Scott USA, and Steven Hed of Hed Design for their valuable input and advice.

Ultra-distance cycling is unequivocably an American sport. The French Paris-Brest-Paris is practically the only European ultra-distance event, but it is held only every four years and is not really held in a race fashion. The U.S. is the home of the Ultra-Marathon Cycling Association which sanctions several hundred ultra-distance events and also officiates dozens of ultra-distance records and races nationwide, with the RAAM being the ultimate test of them all. With all this in mind, it seemed only reasonable that the Chris Kostman Ultra STOUT bicycle feature the many precision American made components which are currently available. After all, in recent years it has been the U.S., not Japan, not Italy, and not France which has been at the forefront of cycling technology.

The Frame

Ron Stout is as much an artist as he is a frame builder. His work is so painstaking and meticulous that he has only the time to build fifty or sixty frames each year. If Ron builds it, the rider can be confident that it will be filed, sanded, and painted flawlessly, be perfectly aligned, and fit precisely. Ron is also very much an innovator, providing internal cables long before they became mainstream, and also including one of the very first wishbone seatstay designs into his lineup many years before Raleigh and other companies took it into the production bike world.

Aerodynamics, ergonomics, weight, stability, handling, center of gravity, ease of maintenance, comfort, durability, stiffness, biomechanics, and overall efficiency were all considered in the design of this bike and the final result was the following: Although American tubesets are available, Ron does not believe that they can match the weight, strength, and ride characteristics of the finest imports, so the frame was built of the very light, heat-treated Tange Prestige tubeset with investment cast lugs. It was silver brazed at the lugs and brass brazed at the dropouts and was built entirely with a jig to aid in proper alignment. To stiffen the frame, decrease the frontal area of the bike, and lower the center of gravity, a 24 inch front wheel was used. To make the bike fit like a standard bike, though, both the seat and head tubes were extended past the top tube, then strengthened with reinforcing collars. This, combined with the "R-1" wishbone seatstay, produces a very stiff frame because effectively both the seat and head tubes have been shortened to the size of a 48 cm frame. Coupled with the inherently shorter and hence stiffer fork blades and a somewhat lower bottom bracket, we have greatly stiffened and lightened the frame and lowered the center of gravity. The angles and dimensions of the frame were chosen by Ron to induce a properly handling bike, offset the loss of wheel inertia caused by the smaller front wheel, be comfortable, stable, predictable, and most importantly, fit perfectly.

Head tube angle: 73

Seat tube angle: 73

Wheelbase: 101 cm (39 3/4 in)

Bottom bracket height: 27 cm (10 5/8 in)

Rake: 10 cm (4 1/8in)

Chainstays: 41 cm (16 1/8 in) {0.6 straight}

Seatstays: 47 cm (18 1/2 in) {0.6 straight}

Top tube: 56.5 cm (22 1/4 in) {0.7/0.4/0.7 butted}

Seat tube: 48cm or 58 cm (18 7/8 in or 22 13/16 in) {1.0/0.8/0.6 butted}

Head tube: 16.5 cm or 21 cm (6 5/16 in or 8 1/4 in) {1.0 straight}

Down tube: 57.5 cm (22 5/8 in) {0.7/0.4/0.7 butted}

"My goal in designing this frame for Chris was to build a bike which would fit him perfectly, be as light as possible, and ride as predictably and smoothly as possible in spite of the smaller front wheel." commented Ron, quite succinctly summing up the frame design. We think we have succeeded in designing a frame with this in mind. The frame is finished off with a two color fade Imron paint job and a host of braze-ons which includes two bottle mounts, shifters, front derailleur, chain hanger, internal brake, derailleur, and computer wires, headlamp mount, and additional bottle mounts on the forks for long unsupported training rides or for the lighting system's battery pack. The specific application of this bike was constantly kept in mind throughout its design and manufacture.

Of course, no frame is any better than the components which are hung on it, and the eclectic mix of components on the Ultra STOUT quite admirably meet up to the quality of the frame in performance and applicational usage. As I described earlier, most of these are American made and are of the highest quality. As a spinoff from this bicycle project, we'd like to see these fine U.S. made components appear on more bikes throughout the industry, possibly even on standard top-of-the-line production bikes.

The Cockpit and Control Center

The Scott USA DH (downhill) handlebars are a major feature of this project which fit very smoothly into the overall design, especially when considering aerodynamics, ergonomics, comfort, and efficiency. These bars and their concept of 'hands forward, elbows together' aerodynamics was developed by Boone Lennon, former US National Ski Coach and elite level veteran class USCF racer. Besides providing six different "standard" positions, these bars allow the rider to bring his arms together in front of him, effectively closing off the large air pocket induced by standard drop bars or time trial bars. The aim is not to "get low", but "get narrow". In my own use, I have found that my speed increases by an average of one to one and a half miles per hour by using the forward aero position. Contrary to popular belief, this particular concept was not developed by either Pete Penseyres or Jim Elliott of RAAM fame, but was developed by Boone back in 1983 to apply the position used by downhill ski racers to cycling. Comments Boone, " All of my work has to do with aerodynamics and racing bikes. Aerodynamically, the rider is the greatest deficit, not the bike. Making the two of them together more aerodynamic and faster is my goal, even to the detriment of comfort if need be. The fact that my bars are more comfortable, induce a lower heart rate, and support the body better is just a bonus." The success of these bars in triathlons, time trials, ultra-distance events, and road races, as well as the large number of copy cat imitations is just proof of their advantage. Because of all this, and also because the DH bars are so very much an American product, they are a perfect compliment to the Ultra STOUT.

Connecting the DH bars to the frame is a custom made Salsa Promoto stem, made by Ross Shafer of mountain bike fame in Marin County, California. This stem, which features special drilling for the computer wires, couples with the extended head tube to place the DH bars in precisely the correct position. Correct position and therefore fit was determined by riding the bike with an adjustable rise and reach Cunningham fit finder stem to determine the exact extension and angle of the stem.

Connecting the frame and forks together is the American made Chris King headset, developed and manufactured by King Manufacturing in Santa Barbara, California. Weighing only 98 grams, this unit has enjoyed great popularity among the mountain biking crowd because of its amazing durability and lack of maintenance induced by its fully and truly sealed bearings. These headsets have been known to last over five years in an ATB without ever being disassembled!

Another American innovation are SRAM Corporation's Grip Shifters which are designed to mount as bar-end shifters, but feature a rotating knob to click between the precisely spaced index detents. In our application, they are custom mounted to the ends of the DH bars to allow shifting without changing from the aerodynamic position and therefore disturb airflow. I find these to be a tremendous bonus because shifting is much easier and therefore more frequent and efficient, thus translating into a higher average speed. This is especially true in rolling terrain which requires near constant shifting to maintain a constant cadence. Instead of being lazy and spinning down the small downhills, I can effortlessly shift to a taller gear and take advantage of the terrain. Also, at high speeds or while sprinting, I can shift without taking my hands from the bars, another plus.

Also controlled from the bars are, of course, the brakes. In this case, we were able to incorporate another innovative American product, the Scott Superbrakes designed by Edward Scott of Scott/Mathauser. They are amazingly light and stiff, have enormous pad surface area, are more easily modulated, and simply work fantastic. In fact, "Bicycling" recently ranked them the highest in a test of practically every brakeset on the market. They are so smooth that they can be used with only one or two fingers on the lever, yet give excellent feedback as to what they are doing and how quickly. Of course, the rear brake cable runs through a sealed special tube in the top tube of the frame to increase the aerodynamics of the bike.

The saddle is another American innovation, the Avocet R20 Gelflex which has the wonderfully comfortable Spenco gel imbedded inside it. This is quite definitely the most comfortable saddle available, yet maintains the narrow profile and light weight of a good racing saddle. It is mated to the frame with the ultra lite and U.S. made American Classic seat post. Weighing in at approximately 165 grams, this post is the epitome of the American Classic philosophy "light but strong by design". Comments Alan Kingsberry, who markets the line of American Classic components, "The primary function of the engineering is structural security first and lightness as a secondary feature. And we build all of our components basically from scratch right here in the United States."

The Driveline

The crankset currently installed on the Ultra STOUT is the Shimano Dura Ace model with round 42/53 chainrings and 170mm length. It is simply filling a space which will be soon be filled by one of two very innovative American component manufacturers. The "standard" American crankset with which the bike will be equipped is currently being developed by Cook Brothers Racing, makers of cranks, bottom brackets, bars, and stems for both BMX and mountain bikes. Because this crank is still in the prototype stages, it can't be photographed at this point in time. Cook CEO Jack Whitmer promises something "incredibly innovative, unique, and applicable to road bikes by the late fall". Having seen the design myself, I can attest to this wholeheartedly.

An option on the Ultra STOUT will be a custom electronic shifting system produced by Browning Transmissions of Utah. This will be a two speed system designed similar to the three speed system currently on the bikes of a very few and very lucky mountain bikers. Completely waterproof and basically maintenance free, the Browning allows smooth, quiet, and effortless shifting of the chain between chainrings at the push of the button. It works incredibly well under any load and is once again an example of American ingenuity and innovation. Of course, this system will preclude the use of the Dura Ace front derailleur and left Grip Shift.

Connecting either crankset to the frame will be the job of the American Classic bottom bracket which is also "light but strong by design". It weighs in at a mere 217 grams and is completely sealed and maintenance free. Basically, it can be installed and forgotten. It utilizes a cartridge bearing and a precisely radiused spindle which fit together absolutely perfectly and with little effort in installation.

Rear shifting is accomplished by the Japanese made Shimano Dura Ace seven speed indexed derailleur. Coupled with the Dura Ace freewheel and Sedisport chain, this is without a doubt the finest indexed derailleur system available. Too bad it wasn't invented in America! My cog sets of choice are 12-13-15-17-19-21-23 or 12-13-14-15-17-19-21 which I swap back and forth depending on application. Indexing seems to have found its way into most every niche in the industry and appears here to stay. Its usage in ultra-distance racing is a real plus because it makes shifting nearly effortless and mindless.

My pedal system of choice is the American made Aerolite system which is functionally flawless, incredibly light, comfortable, and easy to use. Weighing in at only 60 grams for stainless and 33 grams for titanium, the Aerolite pedals require just a snap to enter and a twist to exit, but absolutely will not release unless the rider intends it. The Aerolite is not only far and away the lightest pedal on the market, but also the simplest to use by virtue of its innate simplicity and lack of a specific "top" side on which to step. Eliminating toe clips also increases foot comfort and rids the rider of one more thing with which to concern himself. Another very important consideration is that the rider is literally lifting a full pound less weight each time he turns the cranks, which quite obviously helps decrease rider fatigue. All of these time-saving, effort-saving, and energy-saving bonuses are magnified over the long miles of an ultra-distance event.


The wheels are the most important component of the bike to consider in terms of aerodynamics, acceleration, comfort, and ride. Spokes have a greater combined frontal area than any other component, even more than the frame itself, thus decreasing their number will quickly increase the aerodynamics of the bicycle. Basic math will show that the 24 inch front wheel of the Ultra STOUT is 10% smaller and therefore 10% more aerodynamic than a 700c wheel. Also, basic geometry will prove that a smaller wheel will be equally strong structurally with fewer spokes as a standard sized wheel with a given number of spokes. I personally have ridden more than 7,000 miles on a 20 spoke Wheelsmith front clincher wheel without ever truing it or replacing a spoke, using it in events ranging from criteriums to RAAM. Using this as one of our guidelines, we determined that a 24 inch wheel would be equally strong with 18 spokes. I have had equal success with rear 24 spoke wheels, so this is standard on the Ultra STOUT. Fewer spokes, coupled with shorter front spokes, as well as an aerodynamic bladed shape to the spoke produces a very, very fast and aerodynamic wheel. "I have a feeling that about half of the improvement in aerodynamics from a standard road bike to a full-blown aero funny bike like yours is coming out of the front wheel." comments Ric Hjertberg.

The wheels are laced up on American Classic hubs which, once again, typify their philosophy of "light but strong by design". Weighing 200 grams up front and 250 grams in the rear with skewers, these hubs also feature the same maintenance free, completely sealed bearing system as the American Classic bottom bracket. The hubs come pre-slotted for the bladed spokes and are also powder-coated white.

The American made Sun Metal Mistral M19A tubular rims are laced radially in front with 230mm blades, radially on the left rear with 280mm blades, and cross two on the cluster side with 290mm blades. Mistral rims are manufactured in Warsaw, Indiana, where they are heat treated and hard anodized. The front weighs 257 grams and the rear weighs 314 grams. Rubber-wise, I've shod the wheels with a Cyclepro TK 190 in the rear and a Clement Criterium up front. Weighing only 190 grams, the TK 190 accelerates quickly on its treadless surface and is kevlar belted which provides nearly impenetrable protection against punctures. The Criterium is also an excellent tyre, but I do hope to see a 24 inch TK 190 to replace it in the near future.

The complete wheelset on the Ultra STOUT is very substantially lighter and more aerodynamically efficient than standard road wheels. Our choice of spoke number, pattern, length, and shape, coupled with the very light and strong hubs and rims and excellent tyres, produces a set of wheels which accelerate very quickly, ride smoothly and comfortably, and quite simply save time. Once again, all of these energy-conserving and time-saving bonuses are magnified enormously over the long miles of an ultra-distance event.

Another wheel option is use of disc wheels on the front and/ or rear. An additional reason for including the smaller front wheel in our design was our conclusion that a smaller front disc would be more easily controlled than a full size front disc when encountering side winds. My experience has proven this to be the case. The disc wheels used on the Ultra STOUT are built by Steven Hed and Anne McDonnel of Hed Design in Minnesota. Compared to all the other imported and domestic discs, these American made discs are significantly lighter, run truer from the outset, and are structurally stronger and more aerodynamic. "Ours are lenticular, not flat, and wind tunnel testing has shown that a lenticular wheel is faster than a flat one. Other studies have also shown that over 100 miles our rear disc will save 60 to 90 seconds. Also, ours are more durable because they have a separate alloy rim which is joined to the disc with a special, shock-absorbing adhesive" explained Anne McDonnel. Furthermore, the weight of these wheels, at 850 grams for the ultra-lite $800 wheel and 1,100 grams for the standard $400 carbon fiber wheel shows that they do not suffer from the additional weight disadvantage of most discs. In fact, the 850 gram disc compares quite favorably with our own 24 spoke wheel, which weighs approximately 765 grams. (*Both wheel weights are without tyre or freewheel, but with skewers.) So, unless steady side winds exist, disc wheels can be used quite regularly, without penalty, to save additional time and conserve energy. Either set-up is still light years ahead of standard 36 spoke wheels, yet without any penalty in comfort, durability, or safety.


My computer of choice is the German made Ciclomaster which is 100% water-proof. It has all of the standard functions, plus average speed and cadence. Its design is compact, light and simple to use. Also, both wires run through the Salsa stem and the cadence wire continues on through the down tube to the left chain stay. Soon we will be able to use the Ciclomaster II which even has a built-in altimeter! The American Classic bottle cages actively secure the bottle, are the lightest available, and are constructed of one single rod, so there is little chance of failure. CycleOps' Paul Draper, who manufactures a very popular and effective helmet mounted rechargeable lighting system, developed a special lighting system for the Ultra STOUT which mounts to the special fork braze-ons. It includes a Union Halogen headlamp and a rechargeable battery pack which can be recharged from a wall outlet or by utilizing a special charging pack which runs off the cigarette lighter of a ultra-distance rider's support vehicle, charging up to three battery packs simultaneously. Unlike most lights sold on the market, this CycleOps system throws a wide and bright beam which actually allows the rider to see where he's headed. Also, Roger D'Errico of Santa Monica, California has developed a special light to illuminate the computer and/ or heart rate monitor which will run on its own single AA power source or can run off of the CycleOps battery. My taillight of choice is the small, tube-shaped strobe from Bicycle Parts Pacific which can be strapped to the rider or the bike or slide between the seat post and rails of the saddle. It runs on a single AA battery and is waterproof and durable.

In Summary

So what we have developed is a bicycle specifically and scientifically designed for a specific application, ultra-distance cycling. From spoke selection to frame geometry to component selection we have tried to assemble the best possible bicycle for this application. We are very proud to have included nearly all American components into this project and are happy to conclude that they work as well as or better than their imported competitors. This Chris Kostman Ultra STOUT bicycle, plain and simply, will do something for its rider, namely get it from point A to point B as quickly, efficiently, and comfortably as possible. This bicycle is all show and all go: It looks and goes great!

O.K., for those of you who can not wait to experience this type of bicycle, do not despair. Unlike many custom, special application bicycles developed over the years at great expense and for no apparent reason, this bike is available to you to ride and race now. The Ultra STOUT frameset sells for approximately $1,395 and the complete bike as equipped with Cook Brothers crank, spoked wheels, and the other components detailed in this article will sell for approximately $2,995. Now, to put that into perspective, compare that to the latest fad bike, the Kestrel. Its frame sells for the same as ours, but equipped with Campy C-Record the complete bike can snag well over $3,500. With our bike you get show and go, with theirs you get just show. I think the decision is obvious. Of course, we'll customize and equip your Ultra STOUT as you wish since you will be riding it, not us. We also have designed a less expensive version which will still offer the innovative, faster, time-saving, and energy-conserving frame design without the expensive extra braze-ons and internal cables and wiring. As for the future of this concept, we will continually evolve it and incorporate any applicable new technology and componentry. By next spring we hope to see a totally American bicycle with a titanium frameset and possibly with rear electronic shifting!

As we were developing this bicycle we came to the realization that this bicycle, although designed for ultra-distance cycling, would also significantly benefit a rider engaged in semi-similar events, time trials and triathlons. The same features which allow an ultra-distance rider to go far comfortably and efficiently can also allow a triathlete or time trialist to to go fast comfortably and efficiently. In fact, we believe that the type of technology utilized in this bicycle project will very quickly force the standard time trial bicycle into obsolescence. It simply can not be argued that a standard time trial bicycle is anywhere near as fast as this bicycle. The facts and hard numbers are all on our side. I can only hope that the governing federations in this country would quickly come around to a realization of this and use this type of technology to put our riders out in front of the rest, once and for all. It's time that the U.S. be able to truly compete internationally and American innovation can be a large part of making this happen. Let's do it! 

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Here's the first part of this article, as it was actually published (after editing; see Pdf):

A Unique Design Is Forged from Marathon Experience
By Chris Kostman

For decades there were two types of road bicycles: tourers and racers. The sport/tourer later evolved as a hybrid. Partially as a result, the bicycle industry began experiencing a resurgence that continues today. Manufacturers realized that a new name and decals, plus slight design modifications, could stimulate sales. Hence, the subsequent introduction of criterium and triathlon bicycles.

Based on the incredible sales of these models in the past five years, the cycling public has yet to realize that these bikes, regardless of cosmetics, are essentially the same. Sure, there may be a one-degree difference in the head angle or fewer spokes in the wheels. But for more than 90% of all cyclists, any of these bikes could be used in events ranging from critériums to triathlons to double centuries. Obviously the time has come to build a bicycle that uniquely suits its intended purpose and works harmoniously with the rider.

Last year, while competing in the Race Across America (RAAM), I decided to develop the optimal marathon bicycle—a bike that would be tough enough to survive 3,100 miles of American roads, light enough to climb the Rockies, stable enough to descend from mountain passes at more than 50 mph, aerodynamic enough to cut through the headwinds of the Great Plains, and comfortable
enough not to annihilate its rider after days of brutal cross-country time trialing.

While racing, I mentally sketched this unique bike. As I got an idea, I'd radio it to my support team to jot down. By the end of RAAM we had much of the design work accomplished. Later, I visited custom framebuilder Ron Stout in Salt Lake City to bring the idea to fruition. We spent many hours discussing the design, manufacture, handling, and ride characteristics. We also used a special adjust- able bike for fitting. Several cycling industry figures were then consulted and provided valu- able input, including Eric Hjertberg of Wheelsmith, Boone Lennon of Scott USA,
and Steven Hed of Hed Design.

Aerodynamics, ergonomics, weight, stability, handling, center of gravity, ease of maintenance, comfort, durability, stiffness, biomechanics, and overall efficiency were considered in the design of this bike. In addition, because ultra-marathon cycling is a peculiarly American sport, we wanted to use exclusively American-made componentry where possible to further this identification, stimulate the domestic cycling component industry, and en-
courage competition that ultimately would benefit cycling worldwide.

The Ultra Stout is now available on a custom-fit basis for about $2,995, or $1,395 for the frameset only. What follows is some of the thinking that went into the design and im-
plementation of this bike in the hope of stimulating interest in the unique demands of long-distance cycling.

Building the Frame
The frame of my Ultra Stout was constructed of heat-treated Tange Prestige tubing with investment cast lugs. It was silver brazed at the lugs, brass brazed at the dropouts, and
built entirely with a jig for proper alignment.

To stiffen the frame, decrease the bike's frontal area, and lower the center of gravity, a 24-inch front wheel was used. To make the bike fit like a standard road bike, the seat and head tubes were extended past the top tube and strengthened with reinforcing collars. This also permitted a shorter than normal main triangle for its frame sizes. Combined with Stout's R-l wishbone seatstay, this stiffened the frame. These measures were coupled with shorter, hence stiffer, fork blades and a lower bottom bracket. Stout chose angles and dimensions to offset the loss of wheel inertia that occurs with a small front wheel.

The frame was finished in two-color-fade DuPont Imron. Braze-ons were included for shifters, front dérailleur, chain hanger, head- lamp, and water bottle mounts. Fork bottle mounts were added for long unsupported training rides or for the lighting system battery pack. There were internal cable guides for brake, dérailleur, and computer wires.

Cockpit and Control Center
The Scott U.S.A. DH handlebar was used because of its aerodynamics, ergonomics, and efficiency. This bar and its hands-forward, elbows-together position was developed by Boone Lennon, former U.S. national ski coach and elite-level, veteran-class USCF racer. Besides providing six standard positions, the bar brings the rider's arms together in front, effectively closing off the large air pocket formed by a standard drop or time trial bar. The aim is not to "get low," but "get narrow."

This concept, developed by Lennon in '83, is based on the position used by downhill ski racers. My speed increases by an average of 1 to 1.5 mph by using this position. "Aerodynamically, the rider is the greatest deficit, not the bike," says Lennon. The DH bar connects to the frame with a custom Salsa Promoto stem, drilled for the computer wires.

Another innovation was SRAM Corporation's Grip Shifters. Designed to mount as bar-end shifters, they feature a rotating knob, not unlike a motorcycle throttle, to click between the precisely spaced index detents. On the DH bar they allow shifting without changing from the optimal aerodynamic riding position.

With this system, shifting is easier, hence more frequent and efficient. This contributes to a higher average speed, especially in rolling terrain where near constant shifting is necessary to maintain a steady cadence. Instead of coasting downhill, you can effortlessly shift to a higher gear to take advantage of the terrain. Also, at high speed or while sprinting, you can shift without taking your hands off the bar.

Other components included a pair of easily modulated Scott Superbrakes and an Avocet GelFlex saddle mounted atop an American Classic seatpost.

The Drivetrain
Currently the crankset on the Ultra Stout is a Shimano Dura-Ace with round 42/53 chainrings and 170-mm crankarms. This will be replaced with a new hollow chrome-moly crank from Cook Brothers Racing once it's available.

A drivetrain option will be a Browning custom electronic front shifting system. This is a 2-speed version of the 3-speed model available for mountain bikes. Waterproof and maintenance free, the Browning allows facile push-button shifting under load. Once available, this system will replace the Dura-Ace front dérailleur and left Grip Shifter shown in the photo.

The rear dérailleur is the 7-speed indexed Shimano Dura-Ace. Indexing is a plus for energy-draining marathons, making shifting virtually effortless and mindless. The system is coupled with the Sedisport chain and one of two Dura-Ace freewheels: a 12-23T model for hilly terrain, and a 12-21T version for the flats. The Ultra Stout has Aerolite pedals. Weighing just 60 grams apiece with steel spindles and 33 with titanium, Aerolites require a mere snap of the foot to enter and a twist to exit, yet won't accidentally release. The Aerolite is not only the lightest (hence most fatigue-reducing) pedal available, but also the simplest to use. And, eliminating toe clips increases foot comfort.

Wheels are vitally important in terms of aerodynamics, acceleration, comfort, and handling. Additionally, the spokes have a greater combined frontal area than any other compo-
nent, including the frame. Decreasing their number quickly increases the bicycle's aerody-

The Ultra Stout has a 24-inch front wheel, which is as strong as a standard 27-inch model and uses shorter (hence stronger) spokes. This in turn allows the use of fewer spokes, with 18 being optimal. Additionally, according to Hjertberg, about half of the aerodynamic improvement in the bike comes from the front wheel. It's 10% smaller, hence more aerodynamic than a 700C wheel. The standard-size rear wheel is laced with 24 spokes. The bladed type is used throughout to further increase...

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