Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Meet the Thudbuster

The design of 'ahhhhh.'
Most paddlers just enjoy the tranquility of self-propelled travel, as well as the exercise, so if they can’t get on the water, they will often grab a bike for some two-wheeled journeying.  Therefore,  I don’t feel bad about posting a bike item here.  
About a decade ago, my wife made me a great gift of a Specialized Expedition XL mountain bike.  It is a well-built and reliable bike, but I had a problem with it.  Actually, the problem was more with the rider (me) than with the bike.  I don’t recall rider weight, the number two criteria in bike selection (immediately behind the type of riding the bike is intended for), being a big topic of discussion at the time, and I’ve eaten a few boxes of chocolate-chip cookies since then.  I was now looking to my bike to provide enough exercise to help reverse the scales, but to stay on it long enough, it definitely needed to be more comfortable.
The average bike is designed for a rider of not more than 220 pounds, my research has shown.  Bikes are made for heavier riders, but are often not among the normal off-the-floor models.  At 6-ft, 2-in and 285 pounds, I was overloading my poor bike, and the horribly rough roads around us were punishing the bike even more.  First, I was breaking one rear wheel spoke after another, so I had to have all the rear spokes replaced with stainless steel.  That was a $60 upgrade.  Then the seat post had a straight shock-absorber design, and my weight usually bottomed-out the post and produced more shock than absorber.  The shock-absorber finally blew apart, so I had to replace it with a fixed seat post.  That transferred the shock next to the saddle with its plastic frame, so when it broke in two, I had to replace it.  I was slowly rebuilding the bike one piece at a time.  
The biggest problem, however, continued to be the pounding ride.  The expansion joints in area roads have collapsed from age, heavy traffic, and heat so that the bike wheels drop into 1 to 3-inch deep grooves roughly the same radius as the wheel, and they occur about every 25-feet or so, making the pounding continuous.  At times I felt like my spine was about to be driven through the top of my skull.  Every ride of more than an hour was making me more and more frustrated, so I turned to Specialized for a solution.  They couldn’t offer one, but referred me to Cane Creek Cycling Components of Fletcher, North Carolina.  Cane Creek offered the Thudbuster seat post. 
The Thudbuster ST (short travel) used a single elastomer to cushion wheel impacts of 1.3 inches.  The Thudbuster LT (long travel) uses two elastomers, is a bit heavier, but absorbs impacts of 3-inches, making it much more attractive for touring bikes where a few extra ounces are no issue when comfort is the goal.  Both are sold for maximum rider weight of 250-pounds.  I called Cane Creek to see if I could squeeze 35 more pounds out of the post.  It was then I learned that the elastomers are available in different densities, so the standard #5 elastomers can be easily switched out in a few minutes to accommodate a heavier rider.  The elastomer cylinders ride on a rod, so it is simply a matter of removing a nylon aviation nut from one end of the rod, remove the two cylinders and a coupling washer that are on the rod, lubricate the rod, slide on the two new elastomers with the coupling washer between them, replace the nut, and hit the road.   
The shock from the rear wheel is driven into the rider in an up and forward direction.  Even if of a size able to handle the rider’s weight, seat springs and shock absorber seat posts flex vertically, meaning they don’t meet all the force exerted from the saddle.  The Thudbuster flexes in a down and back direction, as a flexing parallelogram, directly opposing and depleting the force of the road’s impacts from the rear wheel.  I was desperate, so I purchased the post with its two #5 standard elastomers, but also purchased two #7 elastomers.  There is also a #9 elastomer.  It wasn’t cheap at $169, and with two firmer elastomers at $7.50 each and shipping, the total was bumped to $205.48.  However, once I hopped back on the bike, I detected a clearly audible ‘ahhhh’.  Why this option wasn’t made known to me a decade ago, I don’t know, but it would have made a world of difference, and that’s why I’m passing this nugget of information to you.  If you want a smoother ride, regardless of your weight, or need something beyond your bike’s standard equipment, I’d strongly recommend the Thudbuster.

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