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Indoors is the new outdoors, and that fact hasn’t gone unnoticed by cycling brands worldwide.
In the rush to market for indoor-specific products, though, there’s been an entire market segment that’s been overlooked. With Belgian flooring brand Quick-Step’s release of the first indoor-training-specific flooring, that’s finally set to change.
Quick-Step has been synonymous with cycling since the early 2000s thanks to the brand’s longstanding sponsorship of the team now known as Deceuninck-Quick-Step, which over the years has been the home to big names like Boonen, Museeuw, Bettini and Kittel. More recently, the squad has seldom strayed far from the headlines thanks to the famous exploits of riders like Julian Alaphilippe, Remco Evenepoel and Iljo Keisse.
For most of this century the team’s partnership with Quick-Step has been a traditional sponsorship model, but that began to shift to a true collaboration during the 2018 season. “We saw that Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s riders were spending more time indoor [on the trainer], and that seemed like our time to shine,” explained Quick-Step’s head of marketing, Jeroen van Vloeren. “We can’t floor a road, but we can floor a floor.”
Laying a way to success
Over the last two seasons, the cycling team has provided feedback on a range of different laminates and vinyls from the flooring firm, along with control testing against tiling, concrete and low-pile carpets. Together, they found that there were tangible gains to be had from a shift in flooring surface – both on the indoor trainer, and off.
Chief among these findings was a realisation that there was scope for further optimisation of the surface beneath the trainer – an area that cyclists have previously paid little attention to. Indeed, until now the usual tool for the task was cheap trainer mats that quickly get smelly, produce stability issues with certain brands of trainers, and detract from the look of a home.
For Quick-Step that would’ve been reason enough to proceed with development of a new product, but Van Vloeren says that there was a wealth of untapped performance benefits lying in wait, too.
“It was obvious to us that there was the opportunity to reduce micro-vibration – and hence both noise, and fatigue – through the flooring,” he said. “Pretty much across the board, we found a 3% reduction in trainer volume compared to tiles, and 5% compared to hardwood floors.”
That’s a seriously stealthy floor, but it’s the reduction in vibration – and presumed improvements in physical performance – that are perhaps most beguiling for the elite market of the new laminate.
“Our riders are finding that they’re able to finish their workouts fresher, with less perceived joint and muscle fatigue,” explained Deceuninck-Quick-Step team boss Patrick Lefevere.
He’s cautiously optimistic that this will prove a decisive difference against other big-budget teams for the remainder of the 2020 season. “Ineos has had a lot of press for bringing mattresses and things like that to the Tour [de France] – but are they considering the surface the mattresses are on? I don’t think so. We have a whole-room solution,” Lefevere said. ¹
To the test
While it’s easy to see the benefit for elite riders like those on Deceuninck-Quick-Step’s roster, can indoor-training specific laminate provide a tangible improvement for the home user? Quick-Step Australia sent over some pre-release review samples for CyclingTips to put to the test.
The new laminate compound is available in a number of different colourways and model hierarchies. Our test sample was the modest mid-range Eligna in a Spotted Gum finish – think ‘Shimano Ultegra’ – although those with flashier tastes may find the Light Desert Oak Majestic model more to their liking.
Each pack contains eight laminate sheets (1,380 mm x 156 mm) for a total of 1.722 m², with an appealingly wispy 8 mm width. Weight weenies will be pleased to see that overall heft is kept low, although we admittedly found ourselves wishing that the two-gram saving when weighed in fluid form on the kitchen scales translated to the sheet’s solid state.
Installation was a breeze thanks to Quick-Step’s clever UniClic design. History has shown this to be a true game-changer in the laminate game, nestling the boards tightly together in a water- and sweat-impermeable bond.
Included in the box is a helpful and language-neutral fitting guide, complete with some cheeky nods to the sport they’re designed for:
At risk of hyperbole, I can tell you that this flooring puts the fun in functional. Within an easy and enjoyable few minutes, I was able to single-handedly fit out an open-plan kitchen/living area, with the only minor hold-up being in the measurement and cutting of Quick-Step’s recommended LV+ (Lo-Vibe) underlay. Then, it was time to jump on the trainer for a couple of hard-earned, joyful intervals.
From the second I clicked in, I found that the laminate provided a sure footing for my modest control trainer (a 2014 BKool Classic) giving a class-leading grip coefficient compared to laundry tiles, and similar slip-free performance to the concrete garage floor I’m more intimately familiar with.
More impressive still was the lack of vibration transmitted through the floor, and in turn up into my wrists and lower back.
I’m the first to admit that my core strength is really more of a core weakness, and have been plagued by lower-back problems for about as long as I’ve been riding a bike, worsened in the static position that indoor training demands. However, the Quick-Step laminate consistently extended my time to fatigue by somewhere between 8-10%, while simultaneously reducing noise and vibration throughout the living area of my modest suburban home. There was also a discernible springiness to the ride, emulating real-world riding conditions ever so slightly. Well played, Quick-Step.
I was also impressed by the scratch resistance of the laminate, which handled the indignities of the front wheel riser block without complaint. Quick-Step uses a proprietary aluminium oxide coating to improve durability in this respect, which suggests that the brand’s 25-year warranty (non-commercial use only, naturally) is far more than just lip service.
Sweat resistance was also impressive, although it’s worth noting that the brand’s own conservative guidelines suggest that moisture shouldn’t linger much past the duration of your virtual Everesting.
A spirited workout during my testing period produced enough brine to make the ground around the trainer a genuine slip hazard, but a quick wipe-down restored it to its lustrous beauty without any ill-effect to the flooring.
Floor to the fore
It’s human nature to write off some of the recent innovations in the indoor training space as an unnecessary reinvention of the wheel. We’ve seen that with initial backlash to smart trainers, dedicated fans, front-wheel risers, and indoor-specific clothing. All of those things have since become widely accepted products as a growing cohort of riders discover that although outside is free, inside brings glee.
Quick-Step’s indoor-training-specific flooring range seems set to be one of those paradigm-shifting products, providing tangible performance benefit and few downsides. It’s a stunning first foray into the cycling industry from a company that has had such an enduring association with the sport.
What you need to know
Price: Varies depending on laminate and region – check with local distributors.
Colourways: A generous variety for most houses, from cold Scandi-tones like beech all the way through to heartier thick-grained merbau.
Availability: Quick-Step’s new indoor-training specific flooring is available globally from today, April 1.
¹ Deceuninck-Quick-Step also has a long-standing pillow and mattress sponsor, Latexco – an association which has produced some stirringly erotic photoshoots over the years.