The Summer Olympics & Marginal Gains

The Summer Olympics & Marginal Gains

The 2021 Olympics are behind us, and Marginal Gains thinking was evident in practically every sport. Josh, Hottie, and Fatty take a look at some of the key events and moments during the games — kinesiology tape, anyone? — and how technology has impacted (and will continue to impact) record-breaking achievements by the greatest athletes in the world.

Got a question you’d like to ask? Text or leave a voicemail at the Marginal Gains Hotline: +1-317-343-4506 or just leave a comment in this post!

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2 comments


  • David Lilja

    Josh, I recall in the Podcast which included the new 9200 Dura-Ace release discussions you asked about one-step cassette blocks?

    My first serious roadbike I assembled at aged 17 had 1st gen Dura-Ace derailleurs, shifters, brake levers, hubs and 600 brakes. The Teledyne Titan dream bike in the local store had Campy SR cranks with 60/47T rings and everything else one could dream of but retailed for $AU2400. My CrMo DB frame cost me $130 new. For my bike I used a Stronglight/TA combo with 60/46T rings and I assembled a custom 5 speed gold DA freewheel of 13/15/18/22/28t. Albeit with a slightly different set-up nearly 20 years later, this bike was stolen at the first Melbourne F1 GP. :(

    Forward to one particular Amy’s Gran Fondo 110km race in Lorne, I was now riding a Cervelo RS with all the MGs I could afford. I had a segment of Nokon CF cable housing split and fail for my rear derailleur cable on the way to the start line. On my DA 10spd 12-21t cassette I managed to recover using only from the 15 or 16t sprocket for the start with 54/39T rings. Although I had to quickly adapt my riding and shifting style, I learned that the fact I could spin to 120rpm or more almost meant I merely got to recover a little more on the downhill sections pedaling was often pointless.

    I’d been playing with ratios forever and this taught me something new. Since then my Cervelo has had 55/42T Q-Rings on 180mm DA arms, combined with an odd Edco 14-25t monoblock cassette with 17-19 the one non-single tooth jump. Cars used to use close ratio gearboxes to great effect, the DA 12-21t cassette had taught me that even just 20 to 21 could be useful when uphill terrain changed only marginally.

    I recently found a well discounted new Edco 14-25t cassette on ebay but with the non-single jump now being 23 to 25t. Perfect for my diamond slush polished and waxed Silca XTR 12spd chain to run on for these special annual GF races to celebrate closed road Great Ocean Road racing and the life of Amy Gillett and the improvements in road safety her foundation has helped so much with. Throughout Australia thanks to Amy’s Foundation it is now mandated that cars must leave 1m clearance when passing cyclists below 60kph and 1.5m clearance above 60kph. Thank you Simon and Amy.

    I’ve learned from DA 9spd groupsets that if you use the next newest groupset’s chain, so 10 on 9, 11 on 10 and now 12 on 11 speed the chain runs quieter and smoother and shifting has always been improved. If only Shimano saw a reason to still have mechanical shifting in the new 9200 groupset. I guess I’ll just need to gather a few more 11spd items to see out my last 30 years of cycling and continue to use more Silca items for my MGs. What is one more cog or less between friends when just 5 or less was once upon a time enough to win the Tour?

    I recently won the Shimano 100 Works coffee table book also for those of you inclined to jealousy. ;) It doesn’t include 12 speed road group photos after all, but I did already own my Silca XTR 12 speed chain before the book arrived!

    Thinking outside the square can lead you to hexagons or even more. It’s so hard to find something new or any MG if first you don’t become open to exploration of the unknown or the uncertain.


  • David Lilja

    I ran annual 10km ‘fun runs’ through the late 80’s without doing enough training and always had sore feet amongst my other very sore parts by the end of each. Fun runs are such a blast, I’d run 34:15 at 22yo after sharing 2 bottles of red with a well trained co-runner and cigarettes with his partner (an ‘ex’ of mine) with no sleep before the race, such is the past! I’d been running since aged 5 and had always needed to avoid heel strike due to pain, so I always ran on only my toes.

    Whilst visiting Adelaide for the F1 GP with work mates in ‘90 or ’91 I needed some new runners for the upcoming annual 10km race back in Melbourne, The Olympic Dream they called it as the ’profits’ went to our Olympic athletes here. I stumbled upon Reebok’s Hexalite (in both the forefoot and the heel) in a store but with a $AU190 odd price! However I came to decide to buy them, I did. Everything was lightweight and super shock absorbing. Walking around the GP was so comfortable and with pink/blue shoes I felt like a star.

    The 2 10kms races I ran before I’d worn these shoes out I had NO foot issues at the end of either race. These shoes were magic and I’d often looked again for this dual Hexalite in a shoe as only these allowed me to heel strike and roll my foot when running.

    Bees use a hexagon in their combs and I suspect that the hexagon shaped pieces in the Japanese Olympic track could work the same way. Only Hexagons, squares and equilateral triangles can fit together in a 2D shape side by side to side as Josh was talking about. I support that in 3D these may also be the only 3 shapes that can work like this regarding rebound hysteresis but that in the 118 degree (by memory) corners of the hexagon there is a different compliance available than in 90 or 60 degrees of these other 2 shapes.

    Regarding road surfaces, one year as I arrived in Adelaide for the GP (a sister lived there so free accommodation helped each year) I was driving around trying to find where this street circuit was. Suddenly my tires went quiet and the suspension was doing little. I stopped at a set of lights and placed my hand on the road surface. It was so smooth, just like melted marbles of bitumen. So few gaps between each piece as Josh has described in his 900metre long road reconstruction testing. I’ve ridden on the Albert Park F1 circuit in Melbourne often in the past but that surface was no where near so perfect as in Adelaide. I wish I’d ridden around the Adelaide F1 circuit.


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