Monday, December 12, 2016

What Makes a Flatland bicycle?

   There's lots of kinds of biking these days... road, criterium, track, touring, time trial, triathlon, cross country mountain bike, endurance mountain bike, short track, downhill, dual slalom, cyclocross, dirt jumping, slope style, street, park, trails, trials, BMX etc. You get the idea.
   Each of these disciplines brings a different skill set, and usually, a different bicycle. I wanted to look at one of the most interesting, and specialized cycling applications: Flatland.
Flatland rider

   First off -  what the heck is flatland? Is it like trials? BMX? ballet? Well, it's a little of all of these. Flatland is one of those offshoot sports that is popular with a narrow group of people: the very patient and dedicated. The tricks involved aren't something you can learn by just trying hucking yourself over a jump, pushing yourself to the extreme or even using EPO. Flatland is something you learn from hours of practice in a parking lot with your windows down and a smooth playlist on repeat. 

Flatland rider in action

   Like all cyclists, flatland riders are not shy of new equipment. Here are a couple examples of flatland bikes. To the unfamiliar, they look like regular BMX bikes: 

Example 1

Example 2

  They are like a street BMX bike similar to how a road bike is like a cyclocross bike. Here are the differences, and their impact on the bike:
  • 0 degree offset forks 
    • the axle is right under the fork, there is no offset, so whether the bars are facing forward or backward, the bike handles the same
  • 0 degree sweep bars
    • same principle as the fork, the handling is not affected by the direction of the bars
  • short or 0 degree offset stem
    • etc. etc. etc.
  • steep head tube angle
    • flatland happens at a slower speed, so agility trumps stability
  • high clearance Clarence frame
    • the top tube is lower than a standard BMX and the down tube is tucked out of the way
  • 4 axle pegs
    • Most street riders use these for grinding rails. Flatland riders use large, grippy pegs to stand on.
  • front and rear brakes
    • a lot of (stupid) riders are opting for no brakes at all, while many flatland riders often have both brakes for maximum control
  • detangler
    • for sick spins (see below)
Sick spins
  • short 150-160mm cranks
    • increased ground clearance
  • low gear ratio
    • only low speeds are ever achieved
  • short chainstays (not entirely uncommon any more)
    • keeps the front end light
  • tall seat
    • makes it easy to grab
  • short top tube
    • Short wheelbase makes the bike easy to maneuver around on
  • high pressure tires (100 psi)
    • very little rolling resistance
   Some of the newer bikes are really wild looking, like this very specialized bike:

Modern flatland bike

   No flatland post would be complete with out mentioning Trevor Meyer. He's the Matt Hoffman, the Gary Ellis, the Sven Nys, of Flatland. Check a sweet, aptly named video here.

Trevor Meyer

   Next time you're at a fancy dinner party and you hear someone say, "Flatland is just street BMX without leaving the ground..." You can pull your knowledge out like a vague sexual metaphor and lay down some truth. 

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