RECORD­BREAK­ING SPEED It is one thing to have a bike that tests really well in a wind tun­nel, but it’s an­other to have it per­form well when you’re on it.


Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY KEVIN MACKINNON KM

WHEN SE­BAS­TIAN KIENLE ripped up the bike leg at the Ironman Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship in 2014, rid­ing 10 min­utes faster than any­one had ever gone on the course, his per­for­mance sent a clear mes­sage to the rest of his com­pe­ti­tion: he would be the man to beat in Kona later that year. Turns out he was, once again, fly­ing through the bike course and fol­low­ing that up with a strong marathon to take the world ti­tle. As much as those wins were at­trib­ut­able to Kienle’s im­mense tal­ent, it was hard not to no­tice his bike, the Scott Plasma 5, which looks fast on the rack in tran­si­tion and looks even faster be­ing rid­den at 45 km/hour by the speedy Ger­man.

For over a decade, Scott has been pro­duc­ing some of the fastest and light­est car­bon-fi­bre bikes on the mar­ket, and the Swiss com­pany’s lat­est high-end tri frame, the Plasma 5, is the fastest of the lot. The Plasma 5 uses HMX car­bon fi­bre that is stiffer and more re­spon­sive than that used in pre­vi­ous ver­sions of the Plasma line. Thanks to in­put from ath­letes like Kienle, the idea was to de­velop a bike that han­dled as much like a road bike as pos­si­ble, while also offering the ul­ti­mate in aero­dy­nam­ics.

Speak­ing of aero­dy­nam­ics, there’s a rea­son that so many new frames this year look re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to the Plasma 5. The Plasma 5 is in­cred­i­bly good at cheating the wind thanks to the para­met­ric air­foils which are said to pro­vide the same aero num­bers whether a rider is on or off the bike. That’s a huge plus – it is one thing to have a bike that tests really well in a wind tun­nel, but it’s an­other to have it per­form well when you’re on it. The Scott en­gi­neers didn’t stop with the frame, though. The er­gonomics of the Plasma 5 are im­pres­sive. Aero­dy­nam­ics in tri bikes all be­gin with the aero bars, which in this case were built for Scott by the folks at Pro­file De­sign. In keep­ing with the lat­est aero trends, the arm rests and ex­ten­sions are raised up off the base bar, and ev­ery as­pect of the bar set-up (in­clud­ing the ski-bend ex­ten­sions) can be ad­justed to dial in the per­fect fit.

But it doesn’t stop there. One of the big­gest aero fea­tures on the Plasma 5 is the in­te­grated han­dle­bar wa­ter bot­tle, which al­lows the rider to ac­cess flu­ids with­out hav­ing to move off the bars (and lose valu­able sec­onds), all the while re­duc­ing drag ap­pre­cia­bly. Along the top tube is a stor­age box that not only car­ries lots of nu­tri­tion, but also al­lows wind to pass be­hind the stem to im­prove aero­dy­nam­ics. (If you hap­pen to be head­ing to a UCI time trial event you’ll have to re­move the wa­ter bot­tle and stor­age box and also change the stem.) The brakes are hid­den, too, thanks to the TRP front brake and the Dura Ace direct-mount rear brake that’s sits un­der the bot­tom bracket and even has a spe­cial plate that im­proves the aero­dy­nam­ics. Suf­fice it to say the bike is a rocket. We tried to get one in for re­view, only to learn that the last avail­able frame in the coun­try was on its way to Oakville, Ont., for Joe Wi­ley, who had qual­i­fied for Kona at Ironman Lake Placid. Luck­ily enough Wi­ley agreed to let us pho­to­graph his bike, and gave us lots of feed­back for our re­view.

Wi­ley started with the Plasma 5 frame and then specced it to cre­ate the ul­ti­mate speed ma­chine. Dura Ace Di2 pro­vides sharp, smooth shift­ing and all the wiring can be hid­den within the frame. The wheelset he chose was Zipp’s 808s for both the front and rear (discs aren’t al­lowed in Kona).

Wi­ley agrees that the bike is a rocket, climbs ex­tremely well and also han­dles ad­mirably, es­pe­cially for a tri bike. His fit was di­alled in al­most right away, pro­vid­ing a com­fort­able, aero ride that al­lowed him to spend lots of time on the aero bars – ex­actly the dy­nam­ics re­quired for a great ride in Kona. That’s not to say he didn’t have some is­sues. The big­gest chal­lenge was around the rear brake, which was hard to set up. A for­mer foot­ball and rugby player, even at his most slimmed down, Wi­ley weighs about 180 pounds, which means he gen­er­ates some pretty de­cent torque when he’s stand­ing up and pound­ing on the ped­als or climb­ing. Even the su­per-stiff 808s moved around a bit in those sit­u­a­tions and the tight spac­ing for the rear brake led to some brake rub. A few weeks of tin­ker­ing fi­nally got things in or­der and Wi­ley ar­rived in Kona ready to take on the fa­mous Queen K high­way with its high winds. Be­fore the race he made one fi­nal tweak to the setup, chang­ing the front wheel to a shal­lower 404, which made the bike con­sid­er­ably eas­ier to han­dle in the strong winds along the Ko­hala coast.

He might not have rid­den his Scott Plasma as fast as Kienle did on race day, but Wi­ley was able to enjoy all the aero ben­e­fits and per­for­mance built into this im­pres­sive frame, prov­ing that Scott has built a win­ning bike that works for ath­letes of any level.–

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