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Thread: Biopace

  1. #1
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    Biopace

    Anybody have any experience or thoughts on touring with a biopace crankset?

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    I rode biopace for years...it worked fine for me.

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    Senior Member Speedo's Avatar
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    I found biopace chainrings to be annoying. I was pleased when the new and improved "roundtech" chainrings came back.

    The level of annoyance with biopace is not big enough to make any kind of big effort to swap them out if that is what is currently on your bike.

    If you don't currently have biopace chainrings and are thinking of adding them, my advice would be not to do it. Biopace chainrings are not shaped extremely enough to have the claimed mechanical advantage, and, you might find them annoying.

    Speedo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedo
    If you don't currently have biopace chainrings and are thinking of adding them, my advice would be not to do it. Biopace chainrings are not shaped extremely enough to have the claimed mechanical advantage, and, you might find them annoying.

    Speedo
    Yep, I was just toying with the idea of adding them. Some people love them, some people hate them. Thought it would be worth trying out, that a loaded touring bike going uphill might be the ideal rig for biopace, but wanted feedback first.

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    Nah, I wouldn't buy them. I wouldn't mind running them if they were already on the bike, but I wouldn't install them.

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    Senior Member Lolly Pop's Avatar
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    I have a set from my bike. They were original equipment, and I didn't realise they were different til I took a closer look. I switched them last year to get lower gearing. You want 'em?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lolly Pop
    I have a set from my bike. They were original equipment, and I didn't realise they were different til I took a closer look. I switched them last year to get lower gearing. You want 'em?
    I'll think about it. Now that you've used both, what was your impression?

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    Senior Member Lolly Pop's Avatar
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    I can't tell the difference.

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    Senior Member pmseattle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order
    Anybody have any experience or thoughts on touring with a biopace crankset?
    I have used both biopace and round and canīt tell the difference.

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    jcm
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    You folks gotta be on medication. How can you not notice the difference when pulling a load with BioPace/OvalTech? To me, there is no comparison in the reduced muscle fatique over many miles, not to mention the instantly obvious ease of stepping into the power stroke on hills. It's like pushing down on an object that is progressively getting lighter/easier to move. This system is central to why I can't decide which bike I like best for very long rides - my roadified, OvalTech equipped MTB, or, my Trek 520. In fact, I wish I had a BioPace road triple for the 520.

    Okay, I'll grant that the big ring probably doesn't need to be BioPace, but there is a real advantage in having it on the mid and low range rings, where the effect is most pronounced.

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    Senior Member Speedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcm
    You folks gotta be on medication. How can you not notice the difference when pulling a load with BioPace/OvalTech? To me, there is no comparison in the reduced muscle fatique over many miles, not to mention the instantly obvious ease of stepping into the power stroke on hills.
    Is that because you are pulling our collective chain? Biopace came and went as a brief fad in the early eighties. It came because the idea of shaped chainrings seemed like a good idea. It went because the aspect ratio of the biopace chainrings was not sufficient to actually achieve the mechanical advantages claimed by biopace. Bicycle Science by Whitt and Wilson had a section on shaped chainrings. It turns out that to give shaped chainrings a useful mechanical advantage, you'd need an aspect ratio of something like 2 to 1. At that aspect ratio they would be really annoying to ride, and present some challenges to the front derailleur. So, most people either noticed no difference, or found the slight pulsing annoying.

    I have, in my spares box, some unused chainrings that I bought at the time I replaced the biopace chainrings. This was at the end of the biopace era. The packages are marked "Roundtech" to indicate that these are the new and improved round chainrings!

    Speedo
    Last edited by Speedo; 03-23-07 at 09:03 AM.

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    You could also check out these guys

    http://www.rotorcranksusa.com/

    That have a product called q-rings and a much more expensive product rotor-cranks,

    Brian

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcm
    You folks gotta be on medication. How can you not notice the difference when pulling a load with BioPace/OvalTech? To me, there is no comparison in the reduced muscle fatique over many miles, not to mention the instantly obvious ease of stepping into the power stroke on hills. It's like pushing down on an object that is progressively getting lighter/easier to move. This system is central to why I can't decide which bike I like best for very long rides - my roadified, OvalTech equipped MTB, or, my Trek 520. In fact, I wish I had a BioPace road triple for the 520.

    Okay, I'll grant that the big ring probably doesn't need to be BioPace, but there is a real advantage in having it on the mid and low range rings, where the effect is most pronounced.
    Same here! I love the 48/38/28 BioPace chain rings on my touring bike. I've rode with standard and BioPace and I can tell a big difference after riding 60+ miles hauling myself, an additional 30+ pounds of self-supporting gear.
    [IMG][/IMG]

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    jcm
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedo
    Is that because you are pulling our collective chain? Biopace came and went as a brief fad in the early eighties. It came because the idea of shaped chainrings seemed like a good idea. It went because the aspect ratio of the biopace chainrings was not sufficient to actually achieve the mechanical advantages claimed by biopace. Bicycle Science by Whitt and Wilson had a section on shaped chainrings. It turns out that to give shaped chainrings a useful mechanical advantage, you'd need an aspect ratio of something like 2 to 1. At that aspect ratio they would be really annoying to ride, and present some challenges to the front derailleur. So, most people either noticed no difference, or found the slight pulsing annoying.

    I have, in my spares box, some unused chainrings that I bought at the time I replaced the biopace chainrings. This was at the end of the biopace era. The packages are marked "Roundtech" to indicate that these are the new and improved round chainrings!

    Speedo
    Guilty as charged, I'm afraid No one on this forum would be so reckless as to ride while chemically impaired. Why, the very idea of operating a 25lb vehicle in and amongst speeding, steel behemoths would be counter-intuitive, to say the least

    Seriously, I don't know anything about the engineering. I just know that the concept, as expressed on my bike and in my experience, actually relieves stress on my knees and makes hills flatter. This is anecdotal and hard to actually measure, but, among riders of my relative abilities, I basically rule the inclines. Climbing steadily and overtaking almost all others, and recovering quicker. This, on a Trek 930 with North Road bars. When pedaling on the occasional loose or grassy ground at incline, the OvalTech is superb at keeping the rear tire from spinning out.

    On my Trek 520, which weighs about 4lbs less (naked bikes compared), the extra effort on hills is much more pronounced, and I'll tend to stay with the group more.

    I understand that alot of people find the pulsing to be a little weird, but I've never been bothered by it, since I expect it at lower ranges but don't really notice too much in the higher gears.
    OKay, I'll let go of the chain so you can all throw rocks. I just duck down here...

  15. #15
    Senior Member Speedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcm
    OKay, I'll let go of the chain so you can all throw rocks. I just duck down here...
    No, no rocks. It just goes to show how diverse an audience Bike Forums is. It's possible to find the two sides of just about any issue! With you and n4zou that's two people who are happy with their biopace.

    I wasn't surprised by the people who had a take it or leave it attitude. I am surprised to hear that there are people who legitimately like it. There are reasons it disappeared from the market.

    Speedo

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    jcm
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedo
    No, no rocks. It just goes to show how diverse an audience Bike Forums is. It's possible to find the two sides of just about any issue! With you and n4zou that's two people who are happy with their biopace.

    I wasn't surprised by the people who had a take it or leave it attitude. I am surprised to hear that there are people who legitimately like it. There are reasons it disappeared from the market.

    Speedo
    Dirt clods, then?

    I really think alot of the reason it phased out was because it didn't fit the accepted paradigms. Roadracers didn't favor it and off-roaders were really still just beginning to carve their niche in the periodicals of the day. Marketing Rules, and what goes fastest gets the press. As time moved on, roadies and MTB'rs have widened the equipment gap between them, becoming more specialized. Thus, I believe that things like BioPace got lost in the growing chasm. Writers don't write where there is no news. They move to the latest story. Just a theory...

    That, plus I have to believe that it must have been more expensive to manufacture - maybe cutting down the profit margin a little, in an experimental marketing environment??

    Computer models aside, I notice very distinct advantages with BioPace/OvalTech. Solidly in the Favorable Review camp. Lord Sheldon of Brown has a brief write-up on his website somewhere that may be of interest.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Speedo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcm
    Dirt clods, then?

    I really think alot of the reason it phased out was because it didn't fit the accepted paradigms. Roadracers didn't favor it and off-roaders were really still just beginning to carve their niche in the periodicals of the day. Marketing Rules, and what goes fastest gets the press. As time moved on, roadies and MTB'rs have widened the equipment gap between them, becoming more specialized. Thus, I believe that things like BioPace got lost in the growing chasm. Writers don't write where there is no news. They move to the latest story. Just a theory...

    That, plus I have to believe that it must have been more expensive to manufacture - maybe cutting down the profit margin a little, in an experimental marketing environment??

    Computer models aside, I notice very distinct advantages with BioPace/OvalTech. Solidly in the Favorable Review camp. Lord Sheldon of Brown has a brief write-up on his website somewhere that may be of interest.
    Wierd. Or not. Your opinion is exactly oposite mine. My opinion is that Shimano, in an attempt to create a new market, added biopace to the line. It was near in time to another "inovation" the U-brake which replaced cantilever brakes. Niether inovation survived in the market. I never had a bike with the U-brakes of that era, their reputation was so bad that I searched out one of the only mountain bikes that didn't have it, a Bridgestone. I did have a bike with biopace chainrings. I didn't find them helpful, I found them annoying. Most people I talked to at the time found them either useless, annoying or both.

    I just read the Sheldon Brown article. Not that I want to disagree with the master, but I disagree. He says that the failure in the market was a failure of marketing. It's just not so. I was talking bikes with lots of people back then, the biopace product just wasn't working for most people. Products that are truly useful don't rely on marketing buzz to keep them going, people just recognize that they work.

    I, ahem, don't want to tell you that you're dreaming when you find these things better. Maybe for some reason they do work for you. But if you search out the first edition of Bicycle Science, it does have an analysis of non-round chainrings. They can give a mechanical advantage, need to have a fairly large aspect ratio.

    Oh well, happy riding!

    Speedo
    Last edited by Speedo; 03-23-07 at 08:40 PM.

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    Senior Member Speedo's Avatar
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    P.S. my wife just looked over my shoulder. She wants to know if the biopace chainrings in our basement are worth their weight in gold.

    Can you even get them anymore?

    Speedo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedo
    My opinion is that Shimano, in an attempt to create a new market, added biopace to the line.
    Of course! Shimano is constantly introducing new products, because they want to stay in business and grow their company. This strategy has put them on the top of the heap, and they would be fools to change it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Speedo
    It was near in time to another "inovation" the U-brake which replaced cantilever brakes.
    Actually, the U-brake replaced rollercam brakes, and a Good Thing that was! The U brake is still alive and well in the BMX/Freestyle world, where the protrousion of cantilevers would be a problem.

    I agree that rollercams/U brakes were a Bad Idea for mountain bikes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Speedo
    Niether inovation survived in the market. I never had a bike with the U-brakes of that era, their reputation was so bad that I searched out one of the only mountain bikes that didn't have it, a Bridgestone. I did have a bike with biopace chainrings. I didn't find them helpful, I found them annoying. Most people I talked to at the time found them either useless, annoying or both.

    I just read the Sheldon Brown article. Not that I want to disagree with the master, but I disagree.
    Huh? That sentence doesn't seem to make any sense. ;-)

    I like Biopace because I find it gentler on my knees.

    Read all about it at http://sheldonbrown.com/biopace

    Sheldon "Point-Symmetrical Egg Curve" Brown
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    |                       --Frank Berto: "The Dancing Chain"   |
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedo
    P.S. my wife just looked over my shoulder. She wants to know if the biopace chainrings in our basement are worth their weight in gold.

    Can you even get them anymore?

    Speedo
    Typical auctions for BioPace 48/38/28 chain rings with 170 or 175 crank arms and matching BB go for $200 or more on Ebay. Not exactly gold but command a high price for an old and used crank setup. Long distance and loaded touring bikers love them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcm
    Dirt clods, then?
    That, plus I have to believe that it must have been more expensive to manufacture - maybe cutting down the profit margin a little, in an experimental marketing environment??
    No more expensive to manufacture than any other stamped out sprocket. Once you have a tool and die machinist make the die you can stamp out hundreds of them a day on a press. I bet Shimano still has the complete BioPace die set sitting in a box somewhere and could crank out new sets with just a few days lead-time. Making a few hundred sets on a CNC mill would be easy as well but if Shimano has retained the patents on them I am sure they would make your wallet turn red if they got wind of that!

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    Scott n4zou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sheldon Brown

    I like Biopace because I find it gentler on my knees.

    Read all about it at http://sheldonbrown.com/biopace

    [/CODE]
    Me too, especially after 60 or more miles on a heavy loaded touring bike.

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    Isn't the basic issue whether you mash or spin. I think I spin until I fall into the deep end of a steep hill. Then when I have to reach down deep I find capacity in my lungs I rarely use, and I also usually find some extra spin. Turns out I wasn't getting all the power around the 360 degrees. So isn't biopace for those who are not spinning as well as a more scientific cyclist might. For instance someone who doesn't even use clips or clipless, we have a few of those around here.

    "...says that the failure in the market was a failure of marketing. It's just not so. I was talking bikes with lots of people back then, the biopace product just wasn't working for most people. Products that are truly useful don't rely on marketing buzz to keep them going, people just recognize that they work."

    There is a third category of products, those that are better, but don't get adopted because the "installed base" won't switch soon enough to sustain the market. The classic example is the keyboard that is "better" (particularly when typing required some serious muscle) than the "qwerty" board we all use, but people who could already type did not want to learn the letter positions all over again so it never took off.

    The problem with a lot of sports gear is you get people who are serious, and they will do what is required. If that involves strapping their feet to pedals and wearing special shoes, and spinning, that's OK by them. The stupider it seems to the average person the more they like it.

    Then you get the others. Mention anything about superior performance and they have a negative reaction. They know to be wary of the first group's behaviour. Sure they don't want to pedal junk, but they probably won't get all fired up about some new weird thing unless their neighbours already have it and the benefit is overwhelming, from within their comfort zone.

    The biopace is a techie thing for people who care, that helps people who "don't cycle right". Bit of a mismatch, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work. It also doesn't mean that eggheads who love complexity enough to write books, will necessarily ask the right questions about it.

    I thought the whole thing had gone away, but apparently there is a group wedded enough to the idea to develop a ring calculator and build the rings by hand:

    http://www.mozbike.com/giles.html

    http://www.fleettrikes.com/tthindex.htm

  24. #24
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    jcm
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    Quote Originally Posted by n4zou
    No more expensive to manufacture than any other stamped out sprocket. Once you have a tool and die machinist make the die you can stamp out hundreds of them a day on a press. I bet Shimano still has the complete BioPace die set sitting in a box somewhere and could crank out new sets with just a few days lead-time. Making a few hundred sets on a CNC mill would be easy as well but if Shimano has retained the patents on them I am sure they would make your wallet turn red if they got wind of that!
    Of course. I should have known that. I've spent alot of years in a machine shop. Many companies keep their old tooling around forever.

    I agree with peterpan1. My daughter has her masters in marketing, and I've often discussed variuous aspects of that nebulous 'trade' with her. She says, in short, that marketing is a fickle thing at best.

    n4zou:
    The anodized BioPace road rings that came on some of the vintage Centurion's are highly $ought after by those who like them. As I said before, I'd love to have a set on my 520.

    seedo:
    I ran across a set of those. The guy doesn't like 'em either, but he won't sell them to me. The anodizing kinda looks like gold plate!

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