New season, new bike…
With Merida set to make its WorldTour debut in a little over a week, we got chatting to Matt Lloyd about his Lampre team-issue bike for 2013. Swapping from Campagnolo to Shimano was one of the biggest changes but the 2008 Australian champion – who will race his new bike for the first time in the national title road race on Sunday 13 January – but there were other things that caught the attention of the 61kg climber.
Matt Lloyd’s Merida
10 January 2013
– By Rob Arnold
[Note: Quality photography is something we pride ourselves on at RIDE. In this instance, the photos were kindly supplied by Matt Lloyd. He has said he’ll try to update them in the coming days…]
Four days into the new year, the Australian road race champion from 2008 was presented with something new: a Merida road bike. A bit of black paint on carbon-fibre. Some pink, as per the colour of his Lampre team. And a few licks of green to ensure that the Taiwanese bike manufacturer’s corporate colours have a presence. This is the first foray by the company into sponsorship of road cycling to this extent. After only five days with the bike, Matt Lloyd had plenty to say about it. He had nine days to get accustomed to the change in equipment – from a Wilier with Campagnolo components in 2012 to a Merida with Shimano Di2 for 2013.
There are common assumptions about the nature of product sponsorship and supply and how that relates to the end user. Teams are used for publicity, sure. But there’s also the notion of using rider feedback to develop the product and many other elements that are relevant to this matter. Obviously, it’s difficult for a professional rider to be entirely honest about the equipment they use as often it’s all part of a contractual arrangement; any dissent from talking up the company’s values would be frowned upon by management, and any compliments could yield financial rewards for the spruiker. That said, often the best observations about equipment come early and this seemed to be the case when RIDE caught up with Lloyd to find out how he’s been spending the off-season.
He has achieved a lot as a professional cyclist but Lloyd has had a few lost years: a premature end to his contractual term with Omega Pharma-Lotto in 2011, followed by an injury plagued first season with Lampre-ISD in 2012. But he can still trade well off the results he’s achieved in the past. Beyond the national title from five years ago, the biggest result was from the 2010 Giro d’Italia when he won a stage and became the first Australian to win a climbing classification at a Grand Tour.
At 170cm tall and weighing only 61kg, Lloyd is a lightweight. He doesn’t share traits with the Everyday Rider but once he got talking about the new bike, it became apparent that – like most guys who spend so much of their life riding – he does pay attention to the minor details.
Just before the team presentation of the Tour de France in 2012, Lloyd was issued with a new Wilier. In Liège, he was asked what he thought of it. “It’s a bike. It’s got wheels. It’s good.”
Some times he likes to talk, some times he’s obtuse and brief. On the topic of his new Merida he was rather engaged… so we put his comments on the record to give readers some insight into what goes through the mind of a pro when he’s considering his equipment. Here’s the transcript of that exchange – it’s largely akin to a ‘Bikes from the Bunch’ interview that has been part of every issue of RIDE since 2002… but in this instance it’s with a professional who has just received a new bike.
This is Matt Lloyd of the Lampre team offering his first impressions of his new Merida Scultura SL.
“I got my new bike in the first week of January so I was almost guaranteed that everything was brand new because it’s so fresh.
“In my own way, I was finding it comfortable on the Wilier for some reason – and this happened to a few of our guys last year. That’s not to discredit those bikes because are quite nice but, on the other hand, when you’re flying down the backside of a mountain at 70 or 80km/h and having to turn and whatnot, I suppose the first comparison I could draw between the two is that the Merida is very, very smooth. And that’s coming from someone who is not particularly that phased by the different types of bikes going around.
“We’ve also changed from Campagnolo to Shimano electronic which I think is the best cycling product development that I’ve ever witnessed. It just works. And apart from having to charge [the battery] once a month it hasn’t got any flaws to it. That’s what everyone who I’ve spoken to about it says too. My early experience with Di2 has been great but it’s also good to know that those who have used it before feel the same way.
“Another thing that is like the best change in the world is that we are now back on Continental tyres so it reduces the risk of sliding off the road by, I’m guessing, about 85 to 90 per cent. I’ve now got my confidence back to go around corners and ride in the wet… which is a huge factor.”
RIDE: When you were riding Campagnolo, did you use the EPS [electronic] shifting system?
Lloyd: “I tried it a couple of times but I didn’t really find it to be as smooth and clear cut as the Shimano is. I suppose that’s through a lack of time with it. I never really got to check it out.
“I’ve spent the entirety of my ‘long and illustrious’ career on Campag and having changed recently to Shimano, I can’t say it was a bad thing.”
RIDE: When it came to using the EPS, did you get a choice to use it? How did it work in the team hierarchy – did you have to wait for the leaders to get theirs first and then you could request it?
Lloyd: “If I’d really wanted to, I could have had it as an option last year but by the time the option was available – just after halfway through the year – I opted to forgo it. The training bike I’d been using had been a ‘manual’ setup and I was quite happy with it; that Campag is great. My thinking was that changing over to the electronic stuff at that point was potentially too late in the season. I’d heard a rumour that we were going to be changing over to Shimano anyway so that was the second reason for not going for the change to EPS.”
RIDE: When you do make a change like you have – from Campag to Shimano – does it feel like a massive difference or is it something you know you’ll get used to within a couple of rides?
Lloyd: “For me it was marginal but the thing that you have to change is your habits. The actual change is relatively small. I think one of the aiding factors to it all is that Shimano is so easy to use; it’s such a clear-cut system and a touch of a button can change a gear. That kind of simplicity definitely makes it a lot easier to slip into.”
RIDE: After a few days of using it, does it feel to you as though you’ll be shifting more with Di2 than you might have otherwise? This is rudimentary questioning – ‘Cycling for Dummies’ – but it’s fun to consider it nonetheless…
Lloyd: “Maybe the initial shifting factor is potentially a little higher because I’m getting used to it and because it is a bit of a novelty. Over the last five days or so it’s become pretty regular and the number of changes – not that I’ve been taking any particular notice – are probably the same as usual. I wouldn’t consider my shifting habits to be over-the-top due to the change in equipment.”
RIDE: Tell us about the swap of bikes. A lot of people would just assume that, because it’s Merida, you’d get a stock-standard frame. Did you need any tweaks or personalisation for your bike?
Lloyd: “I’m not really sure of what’s on offer having not really looked at the entire range of stuff but for me it’s been an interesting experiment to start out with. It allows me to feel what kind of different sensations the bike has in comparison to the ones I’ve had in the past. I don’t think that for someone of my size and riding characteristics, that Merida would have to make any ‘tweaks’ – it’s not like a car when you can lower it or put a different exhaust on it… riders of my size are not particularly damaging. I’m not the breed of rider who has to go over cobblestones or things like that.
“So for the other guys who are more demanding on equipment, I’ve been told that they can expect a few amendments. I’m sure that’ll be looked into the more the partnership with the team and Merida develops.
“I’ve been really happy with my bike so far. It’s refreshing to see a company that’s as big as Merida is – one with a massive market share around the world – come in at the top level of the sport. I’m sure it’ll be a successful partnership because they obviously have an experience in production at a lot of levels and shown that they make bikes very well. It’s now up to the riders to get amongst it and show what the bikes can do.”
RIDE: You singled out the tyres earlier. We might just go through a list of personal preference items – things that you get to chose… for example: what crank length do you ride?
Lloyd: “At the moment, I’m using 172.5mm. I’ve tried shorter before but because I tend to grind a bigger gear, particularly when I’m climbing, having a bit more leverage can serve me quite well.
“There was a point a few years ago when I was riding 175mm but I nearly blew a few kneecaps off so I decided to chill that out a bit and find some middle ground.”
RIDE: What’s your weight at the start of the season and what do you race at?
Lloyd: “At the moment I’m about 61kg. I’m trying to get bigger though. I normally get up to about 63 or 64 in the off-season but I’ve not put on much this year. I usually race at around 61 but my aim is to gain a bit of weight. A lot of guys are trying to strip weight off and I always tend to be the one trying to put some on. That’s beneficial for me because, like everyone else, I enjoy eating but I get to do it a bit more liberally. One of the objectives of the year is to not lose too much weight.”
RIDE: Getting back to the bike – what wheels do you chose and why?
Lloyd: “I think that for most of my racing I’ll use the Fulcrum… ah, what are they called? They’re the ones that are not really deep [rims], they’re not like the 80mm but they’re more like 50. They’re middle ground. A slight bit of aerodynamicness and if I have anything deeper, I reckon I’d just get blown off the road. Most of the guys around me don’t get into that…
“I’m not as concerned with weight as reliability mainly because I’m usually on a smaller frame and I’m one of the smaller guys so I can somewhat afford to have a bit more stability in the bike and that can mean having a bit more weight on it. If you compromise too much, normally you’ll find that the bike will be underweight anyway [according to the UCI rules].”
RIDE: Stem length – what do you go for. I know guys like Alessandro Petacchi pride themselves on having a 140mm stem. What’s the vibe in the peloton: who is choosing what and why?
Lloyd: “For mine, it’s a 110. I think that most of the guys shoot for around that mark. Obviously it’ll be different for a few of the bigger guys and the sprinters – they often go for a longer option. But I suppose that, because I’m trying to emphasise the climbing benefits of the bike a bit more, a shorter stem helps put a lot more of the weight towards the centre or back of the bike. A lot of guys enjoy that more when they’re out of the saddle.
“I’ve tried a few different things over the years but I keep coming back to the 100 or 110 mark. And I’ve decided to stick to that.”
RIDE: Saddle – do you have a shape that you take with you everywhere?
Lloyd: “Mine is based on the Concor saddle. I got used to that over the years and I generally try and stick with that kind of model. I suppose I go through different phases of trying different models and whatnot. That’s one of the benefits of being on the lighter side of riders; the amount of weight that I’m putting on that area is not as substantial as it is for some other riders so the comfort level may, in turn, be a bit more manageable. It could be that a lighter body is moving a bit more liberally as opposed to a bigger bloke.”
RIDE: Then we get to pedals. Do you have to change because of the swap from Campag to Shimano ensembles?
Lloyd: “Yeah but I’ve always been pretty fond of the Shimano setup. We’re on to them now but having started out with something similar to what that system is like nowadays, it’s not unfamiliar.
“I’ve come off the Look system and that’s a very similar action to Shimano. I was able to change without any dramas at all. It was one of the easier things to get used to really quickly.”
RIDE: What coloured Shimano cleat have you got [red, blue or yellow]?
Lloyd: “I use red [‘fixed’]. No [lateral] movement at all. I normally go for the lack of movement option. The main thing is that, when you do change over, it’s worth investing some time to make sure everything is in the same position that you’ve been using.
“Having used these before and knowing how [the Shimano system] works, I was able to change and go for the stable cleat option.
“Originally, when the new bike first arrived and I was moving my cleats around, I tried out the yellow [six degrees ‘floating’], then I tried out the blue [two degrees ‘floating’, front and centre pivot] a couple of days later and they’re actually quite good – there’s a bit of leeway which is always something your ligaments will thank you for, particularly when you’re climbing a lot.
“As I was comfortable with the setup I’ve got I opted for red and they’re working for me well.”
RIDE: Do you want to talk about anything else about the bike?
Lloyd: “Uh, the proof will be in the pudding for our team. We’ll just see how it performs. From the outset I think the Merida people can be very pleased with the initial output. I’m sure it’ll be a good exercise – they should get more recognition for their work and not just on a day-to-day level for their work on bikes that are used all around the world, but now they are also being ridden in the top tier of the sport. It should be good.”
[RIDE Cycling Review photographed at least one bike from every WorldTour team at last year’s Tour Down Under. Visit the ‘Album’ links of our Facebook page to find more galleries.]
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