Interview with TJ Tollakson
article & images by Nick Salazar
Jun 6, 2012
In 2010, you threw together some shin guards and jock cups to support your radical high-hands front end. Now you've fabricated a one-piece solution that looks quite a bit sleeker. Seems like you've got this thing dialed.
Tollakson: Yeah, the first thing I would say is that I highly caution people against adopting this kind of position. With your hands so high and all the weight on your elbows, you're basically steering with nothing but your core muscles. The ride becomes pretty twitchy, and it takes a long time to get used to. And actually, this isn't the fastest position we found in the tunnel for me. I can run a lower, Zabriskie-like position with my chin basically right on my wrists, and it tests faster. The problem is that it just isn't comfortable for four-plus hours.
TR: Regarding the twitchy ride, have you experimented with perhaps smaller frame sizes and a longer stem, to slow down the steering with an effectively larger steering arc?
Tollakson: Well, I do that anyway. Right now, I'm running a 130mm stem to hit my position. And that's the fit philosophy that a lot of the Pro Tour guys use - run a smaller frame with a longer stem to slow down the steering, which is helpful for the kind of position I ride. When I was fit by the Specialized guys, they wanted to put me on a size Large Transition. At the time, Macca was on a Large and Terenzo was on a Medium. I opted to size down to the Medium and run a longer stem, for the better handling.
TR: Regarding your bike setup, what has changed in the last year? What will change throughout this year?
Tollakson: Well, as mentioned, the arm cups are now a one-piece fabrication. I got rid of the shin guards and jock cup, although I'm still using the padding from the shin guards, along with some gel padding from Fizik. I doubled up on the p-clamps from Profile Design, using two per side instead of one for a more solid setup. What's funny about the way I ride is that I like to wrap my hands all the way around the entire shifter (Editor's note: that's what I've previously recommended to readers), but when people who aren't used to that come up and check out my front end, they always tell me the extensions are way too short. I like it that way because I want my hands on the highest point of the bike, so that I have the most amount of leverage, and can shift gears without moving my hands at all.
TR: One last question - I've been staring at the bottle setup you used in Galveston, what exactly is that?
Tollakson: That's a pretty simple solution, actually. With any front hydration setup, you want to be able to refill the thing without splashing. Because my arms are so high, the traditional solutions don't really work. So I took a bottle with a spring-loaded thermos top, and just stuck a straw in it. I also dremeled out the inside of the bottle to make it easier to refill on the go. It works out really well for the high-hands setup, but wouldn't be ideal for traditional positions.
TR: TJ, thanks so much for your time today. I'm really looking forward to see how the Dimond bikes shape up, and best of luck for the rest of the season!
Tollakson: Thanks, Nick. It's been a pleasure.