Transcript – Episode 1 ‘Why Marginal Gains?’

Transcript – Episode 1 ‘Why Marginal Gains?’

Josh:                            00:00:04

In a way the carbon wheel was a marginal gain, right? The bladed spoke because a marginal gain, it’s really the aggregation of marginal gains that makes this work one percent overall time is not that big of a deal, but one percent annually compounded or one percent, you know, quarterly compounded.. that that becomes real.

Fatty:                           00:00:25

That’s what I’m talking about. Okay. Now from the beginning,

Hottie:                         00:00:49

this is the marginal gains podcast presented by Silca, the show that makes a big deal about the little things and how those little things can be a big deal. Hello everyone. I’m Michael Hotten aka Hottie.

Fatty:                           00:01:02

and I’m Fatty of The idea for this episode and really every episode in this new show springs from a couple of stories you might have heard before but maybe haven’t thought that much about, and that’s what makes people like Hotty and me and probably most of you, a little different from Josh Poertner, the CEO of Silca. While most of us might find marginal gains interesting. For Josh, it’s a little bit more of an obsession. Yeah. Josh, before we dig into the idea and stories behind this show, I think it’s worth spending a few minutes meeting the brains behind this podcast. Josh, I know a little bit about your history at Zipp and how you were the head Honcho of Silca, but take us back further than that. How did you get here?

Josh:                            00:01:47

So I fell in love with the sport when I was 14 and I saw Greg Lemond on the cover of bicycling magazine with that beautiful Bottechia Kronostrada bicycle that he used to win the 1989 tour. And as much as I’d love to say it’s the beauty of the sport that I fell into. It was really that bicycle with the disc wheel and that sloping top tube and all those crazy neon colors.  I was hooked… I was just hooked.

Hottie:                         00:02:19

I’m looking for a Bottechia right now, in fact. So if you find one and about a 56, 57, let me know. I’d love to have one. I too think they are beautiful, beautiful bikes. So that sounds like at least an episode or two. Let’s talk about how you arrived here you’ve done some racing as well, haven’t you?

Josh:                            00:02:36

I did. So I was very fortunate. I fell into the sport. I was okay at it. Pretty good. Uh, made it sort of into the national level and summers at the Olympic Training Center, you know, that sort of thing. And, yeah. Made it to Europe for a around 95, 96, raced at the division two level. So lots of great.. lots of great euro racing stories, drug stories. We could probably do a whole episode on that. Actually, we should, just the insanity that was the mid-nineties in cycling, um, especially when you’re a young, naive American kid going from the top echelons of, of us racing to not even being able to finish a race in Europe was very eye-opening and, at the time. Terrible, terrible experience. But looking back a phenomenal experience or must be countless stories like that though. I mean, folks, would try to make the jump from here to Europe and racing usually a run into quite a wall over there.

Fatty:                           00:03:44

Uh, Josh, a lots of stories about you and then your connection with Zipp Tell us about Zipp and how you got connected with them.


So I, coming back from my European experience, really left the bicycle. I think, I realized that cycling, maybe wasn’t my thing, or at least not in that way that it had been. And went to college, studied engineering, had always been interested in aircraft, car racing, ended up coming to Indy to take a job in auto racing with a company working in a making, building Le Mans prototype race cars.  To me Le Mans is sort of the pinnacle of car racing. It’s almost the tech of F-1, but the cars have to run for 24 hours. Just a beautiful part of the sport… and I was coming up here (Indy) on the weekends as I finished college, doing some work with a constructor and quite literally ran into, Andy O. Who had just purchased Zipp in 98, early 99, uh, ran into him in the parking lot.

Josh:                            00:04:51

So the company I was working at had no parking. And the building he had just bought to put Zipp had parking and I was parked in his lot… and we chatted, and I think within an hour I was thinking this guy is amazing and I went to work for this company. And so that really kind of kicked off our journey together.


I love the way that these little accidental meetings can just change everything. Now, tell me a little bit more about what did you do at Zipp? What are your, your signature accomplishments there?


I was really fortunate. Zipp was founded in 1989 by Lee Sergeant a ex Williams F1 guy, he’d been at Mclaren.. was one of the first guys to do carbon fiber chassis in F1. He’d been brought to the states by Roger Penske to do carbon fiber chassis in IndyCar. And in doing that had fallen into this bicycle thing because a lot of the drivers, and still true to this day, a lot of the drivers ride and they love the equipment as well,  many mechanics ride and they love the equipment, the tech of it all.

Josh:                            00:05:55

And so Zipp, you know, was the first three spoke, the first beam bike, the first full carbon disc. We all have an amazing, amazing history. First Carbon Crank first carbon mountain bike wheels. And then in 1997, the bike industry collapsed. And it was just one of those crazy things where the mountain bike boomed, and then it became another fad and just died. So Zipp went right to the edge of bankruptcy.  I think as it happened, you know, you have the guy who owns it, Lee, who was not a cyclist, right? So He’d had success in the industry because he was a smart guy who got composites, but he was ready to wash his hands up of it.   Andy O. on the other hand who was working there and was just a brilliant visionary. He saw the opportunity and bought what was left. And I was, I think employee six or something to join him.

Josh:                            00:06:45

He bought the company, the rights to the name, a little bit of the equipment and it was moving it into the building next door to where I was when I met him. And so it was him, one or two front office people and one or two manufacturing carbon layup people and it just felt like it was going to be this big thing, you know, it was a sort of the attitude in the worldview of car racing… just applied to bicycles and that, that just felt like something super exciting


    And it did become a big thing. I mean, for those of us on the user side, Zipp suddenly became this eye catching thing you knew was fast. You could just tell when those wheels went by. So what do they have you focusing on at Zipp?


The thing, the project that I think allowed Andy to really buy the company or make it make sense economically was, well, most people don’t know this, but we had gotten the contract and to develop and manufacture carbon fiber cranks for Campagnolo

Josh:                            00:07:47

And so that for me was the thing when I met Andy. So yeah, we, we just signed this contract, uh, to, to develop and make these cranks for them. And that felt like, wow, this, this is a legitimate, awesome big thing.  We all knew campy, we all loved it. And so I started there. There was a guy, a one engineer, he was working predominantly on the campy project. I was put in charge of learning, and as a young engineer out of college, uh, learning the wheels and the rims and then looking at what we could do with them, to improve the development cycle, make them lighter. And probably six months in, we had done a lot of awesome stuff with the rims, and we got a great opportunity. I think early 2000 we got a call from a Jan Ullrich’s manager looking for custom wheels for the Olympics.

Josh:                            00:08:38

And we ended up making a set for him and so, he won his 2000 gold medal at the Olympics on some custom rims that I made him with my own hands after about a, probably a dozen, 14, 15 hour days trying different layups. Then that layup that that we developed for him really became the basis of the future Zipp rims.  You know, the sub 300 gram rims and ultralight wheels, … that, that was also the beginning of a ceramic bearings in this industry. You know, they, they had sent us hubs from Tune who at the time was a small manufacturer in Germany and we just hated the way they felt, rolled and spun. And it was actually a college, a friend of mine from engineering school who was at a company that made bearings for a fuel pump assembly on the space shuttle. He had been telling me a story, you know, months or maybe years earlier about these bearings and how they’re light and they can do 300,000 rpm and they’re so perfectly round and smooth. And so I found myself calling him saying, Hey, can I get those and this size? And we couldn’t. But he put us in touch with a factory in Switzerland that could make it, and so yeah, that Jan Ullrich 2000 Olympics wheelset was an ultra light Zipp rim that we laced onto tune hubs with one of the, we think one of the first uses of ceramic bearings in all of cycling.. something that we then later that year made a production option.

Hottie:                         00:10:15

So the carbon wheel of course is largely thanks to Zipp, has gone from being this specialty, this race day product to a more everyday widely used wheel even in the toughest of conditions. Which leads me into my next question. How in the world were you ever accused by cycling news of being the guy that killed the Ambrosio nemesis at Paris Roubaix the last race where aluminum rims were used, thus killing that aluminum wheel industry.

Josh:                            00:10:45

So for the record, I will tell you the same thing I told them when they, they interviewed me, I did not kill the Nemesis or the aluminum rim. I just may or may not have driven the getaway car!!.. but in all seriousness now that that was a dream from pretty early days. At Zipp, you know, we had this, this amazing development culture. Almost everybody who worked there was from car racing, you know, used to this incredible pace of development, and we, we knew we could win road races. We knew we could take, the, in the late nineties, you know, carbon wheels were considered a triathlon thing, right? That’s a triathlete wheel. And I knew we could make that a road racing wheel and I knew we could win major races with it in the tour and time trials. But I really, really wanted to win Paris Roubaix.

Josh:                            00:11:44

And I remember telling Andy from early on, you know, you want to win a tour (on the wheels), that’s great. Uh, you know, you, you win a one day like Milan San Remo and people appreciate that.. but you win Roubaix and you are forever a hero, that is the flag on the moon as far as I was concerned. And so we, we spent three years in that development project trying to get a rim that could survive the Arenberg forest and the Carefour de L’arbre.  One of the later, a cobbled sections of the course… with Fabian Cancellara together as a three year project to develop a rim shape, a layup material, technology of epoxies, the whole thing… and in a way, when I look back at my history, that was the beginning of my understanding and appreciation and obsession with tire pressure because at the end of that program, the sort of deep, dark secret to how we solve the Roubaix challenge was largely in the rim, but really mostly secretly in the tire size and the tire pressure

Hottie:                         00:12:56

let some air out of the tires. We are definitely going to have to talk more about that. But you obviously had a great thing going at Zipp and you’re not there anymore. You’re at Silca. Tell us a little bit about the why. I mean, why did you leave Zipp? Why did you, why did you buy Silca?

Josh:                            00:13:17

I think, Gosh, I, I had been at Zipp for 15 years. Loved it. I loved every minute of it. Um, you know, our experience or our early Zipp experience, you know, I have often described as it was like we built our own rocket ship and we just, we launched that thing into outer space and it was, it was an amazing journey. The whole thing and the, the crew, the team, the people, it really, everything we did was just, and you know, we, we screwed up a lot, we failed a lot and we, and we were a culture that really celebrated failure and celebrated trying new things and being different. Um, and it was just so exciting and you know, when we, when we sort of ducked our spaceship with the ceramic space station, uh, when, when the company was sold, that was a phenomenal experience, right?

Josh:                            00:14:11

It was, you know, they were this kind of big professional expert program. They were all the stuff that, we weren’t. And that was fun and exciting and you know, doing that for a couple years was really a, just an amazing learning experience for me. But after awhile I really found myself missing those early days of the, the sort of wild and crazy. And the, the almost race team experience that had been Zipp, you know, I liked, I really liked having my hands in everything, you know, like if we could, we could come up with an idea in the morning, talk about it over coffee, sketch it on a Napkin, CAD it over lunch, be machining, on it and building it, you know, by the end of the day. And you’d have days where a third of the company is there til eight or 9:00 at night because they want to see this thing come out of a press or whatever. You know, you just had this, this sort of soup to nuts capability where you could see things happen at this incredibly fast rate. It, that’s just not possible in a, in a big organization. Right. Right. And, and, uh, and, and so I loved the whole experience was phenomenal at SRAM and I learned so much, but I definitely had days where I just wanted to know. I’d have an idea and I think I, I just want to go do this.

Hottie:                         00:15:37

Yeah. Uh, you’re obviously an entrepreneur. I mean, that’s in your blood. And who you want to be, but you could have started a company, but instead you bought a company. What’s the thinking behind doing that and why specifically this one?

Josh:                            00:16:01

So, so in all transparency I had for months, really months spent sketching out ideas for a product to companies, something to do. Uh, you know, at one point I thought, oh, maybe I’ll, maybe we should bring the been bike back, you know, that, that would be really cool. And then actually right in the middle of that, one of my, uh, my engineer’s Dave Morse, uh, let me know that he was leaving to join a teacher TJ Tollakson  to do a project that became the Dimond bike. And so, and so quite in a sort of a comical ways like, oh, well I can’t, I can’t go compete with, with my friend, you know, one of these guys that I brought up through the ranks and uh, obviously it had the same idea that I had and just did it sooner. So. Okay, I’m not, that’s off the table. And so I was really thinking of something and, and I got an email from Claudio Sacchi at Silca who I’d known for, Gosh, 15 years and he said, you know, I, the company is on the edge of bankruptcy and he had pancreatic cancer or was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and so he had three, four months to live, uh, the company was going to go into government receivership in Italy and he had been talking to companies throughout the industry and there was just no interest and, he was sending emails to people to see if anybody knew anybody or had any ideas and so I, it was the early days of Skype, right, right.

Josh:                            00:17:22

Get on skype with him and you know, it’s just a heartbreaking conversation, right? I mean, he’s sick, he’s dying. He’s just seeing his company fail. I mean, it just, it just was brutal. And I remember getting off of that and thinking, you know, the, the human part of me was so wanted to help. And the rational part of me was thinking, who on earth is crazy enough to buy a 100 year old pump company in Italy, right? When. Yeah, when the, you know, every pump in the world comes from the same two guys in China. Right? And you know, there’s no competition in this market. There’s no, it just seemed insane. Um, but that, that was the seed that was planted. So I think that was, um, you know, every, probably every night for two weeks I would wake up at some point in the night with some stupid idea, you know, like, why can’t we just make a disc wheel adapter that you know, works? Right?

Josh:                            00:18:27

Or what about valve extenders? You know, if a company just made a valve extender that would like work … every time.

Hottie:                         00:18:36

All right. It’s a really interesting storyline in that Josh went from doing things that had monumental effects on bicycle riding and racing in particular. You’re talking about developing carbon wheels, which has affected nearly every roadie who rides today, taking that wheel and putting it through some of those brutal conditions imaginable at Paris Roubaix and winning and being successful on that, and then he buys a company that doesn’t really have that type of impact, so to speak, not, not on its surface at least. It’s smaller things like wheel weights or like tire pressure that Josh, you seem to be more focused on now, which is probably why this is called the marginal gains podcast because it’s those little things. Marginal gains aren’t really so much a buzzword here, but they really are the, the lens you look through it for sure, for sure.

Josh:                            00:19:33

For sure, but you know, in a way that carbon wheel was a marginal gain, right? The bladed spoke is a marginal gain. Uh, it’s all, it’s really the aggregation of marginal gains that makes this work, right? One percent, uh, you know, overall time is not that big of a deal, but one percent annually compounded, right, or one percent, you know, quarterly component that that becomes real. Um, and I’ve seen that in, in a million places and I will say, you know, when I, when we sold, I remember when we sold the two SRAM, you know, going through the process of the company history and all that and looking at the customer service side of things, you know, every company has their customer service list and they’re known issues list and how to deal with problems. And when I looked at that list, I remember thinking in 2008, okay, now are our three biggest issues in the early days.. were

Josh:                            00:20:30

They were, you know, how do I, how do I put a cassette on, how do I glue a tire? Right. I mean, they were big problems and in time that had all been solved in, 08 when we sold the company that issues list was a disc valve adapters. What we lovingly call the crack pipe, valve adapters for deep wheels, uh, issues. And shearing the heads off of titanium, a stem seat, pulse, seat post bolts and you know, five years later, 2013, looking at that same list and thinking, you know, wow, we’ve, we’ve made this product so much better and faster and cooler and better looking. And when I look at my customer service list, you know, five years later my problems were cracked pipes valve extenders, bolts. And so I think, you know, in a way that was the, you know, at Zipp.

Josh:                            00:21:32

We had such a, a huge high level performance focus. You know, what I, as the me at Zipp would I ever have taken an engineer off of a new wheel project or a new bar project or an aero project and said, you’re going to spend a year designing a better valve extender. Of course not. It doesn’t make financial sense. But in that I saw the opportunity, right of wow, if, if we’re having this problem at the scale we are in, we’re one of 100 companies making carbon wheels. Everybody has these problems. And, and, uh, and, and one of my stories, I always tell the guys that, you know, when we go to Europe to work with the pro teams and it, if something happens on the bicycle and, you know, a rider crashes and something breaks, um, you know, there’s, they’re generally fairly understanding of that. Like, oh, yeah, I crashed this thing broke.

Josh:                            00:22:27

I, you know, maybe it broke after I crashed. I don’t know if it broke first…  the, the riders are generally cool about it. BUT If you have something on that bike that rattles, they will kill you with six hours of listening to a valve stem rattle. And, uh, you know, the, the rider would almost rather have a broken arm at that point. And so and so that, you know, kind of became like, oh, we need to take the marginal gains mentality into these highly underserved categories, right? These, these things that nobody is willing to spend time and money on. Let’s go.  And so, in a way that became the impetus to kind of push me over the hump to say, you know what? I’m going to, I’m going to quit this life and start this totally new thing

Fatty:                           00:23:13

that really is a through line for your career to not necessarily spend all of your time inventing whole cloth, brand new things, but taking existing things and making them work better or as intended or as imagined. That said, I haven’t necessarily ever connected you to the term marginal gains. I’m probably not the only one who connects to that idea, and especially that term to Team SKY.

Josh:                            00:23:41

Yeah, I think that’s, that’s probably what most people, uh, connected know. So the sort of marginal gains backstory, I think for me was one that we were, I was doing it before we even understood that’s what we were doing, right? It was, um, we were pursuing BETTER and you know, constantly evolving and innovating. I think it’s a very race car, a mentality, right? Every week we have to get better. And if you can get better every week for 52 weeks, at the end of the year, you’ll, you’ll be a large amount better write a notable amount better. Um, and so the, the team SKY piece of that, I really love because of the history there and you think of, you know, really the first team to take on true power measurement, power monitoring, using power and training, uh, to truly focus on aerodynamics, uh, to focus on having every rider on the team on aero wheels, aero frames, aero helmets a every day, right?

Josh:                            00:24:53

Every stage of the tour, every race, you know, focusing on making the domestiques more aero and they run bottles from the car up to the Peloton because that’s a short Time Trial, right? Um, all of the thinking and improving in a lowering the, uh, the calories burned by the riders, lowering the wattage required… all of that is really associated today with SKY. But that started back in, 2003-04 with team CSC. And I was incredibly fortunate to be there for that. And you look at the group that we assembled for that project, you know, it was, it was, uh, you know, me and Andy had Zipp. It was Phil in Gerard at Cervelo. Uh, it was Richard Bryne at Speedplay.  And within, I think two years later we ended up connecting with Steve Smith at Castelli and you start to connect those lines, you know, I Zipp taught, serve Elo, how to do modular, printed a wind tunnel prototypes, which wasn’t something we invented.

Josh:                            00:26:03

I stole that straight from the car racing guys. Right. But, but we were using it at Zipp, which was really increasing development speed. Then the Cervelo guys saw it and fell in love with it and they started doing it. And then, you know, w w through Richard who’s just amazing. Well, we should have them on the show at some point though. I mean a guy who was just influenced so much of the sport, uh, beyond what people, you know, the first aero Bar, I mean Boone Lennon gets the credit, but Richard did it first. I’m in a ton of other things, but you know, aero pedals and you find, wow, that that’s a big difference in, you know, we Castelli came on board and we took them to the wind tunnel and you know, some of the first aero clothing we really brought them in because we were learning like, yeah, that these wrinkles are problems and you know, the old clothing supplier didn’t care.

Josh:                            00:26:50

We need a new one! So in many ways, it was just this continual evolution of making everybody faster at the margins, but it all the margins. Right. And uh, and I think the results, uh, the results really spoke for themselves and then, but the, for me, the beauty of that lineage is that CSC developed the, the mind set, sort of the, the attitude of chasing these marginal gains with the suppliers and the connection point now is that the technical equipment director at CSC was a guy named Carsten. Jeppesen. And the technical equipment director at sky is a guy named Carten Jeppesen. And, and so the marginal gains phrase was popularized by Dave Brailsford at sky. Um, but for reasons that I think we end the back end, have a different understanding of


Brailsford he really brought the idea of marginal gains to all areas of team sky equipment, pulling a new sponsors during testing, computer bottling, uh, bringing in training and methods, psychology, Diet.

Josh: 00:28:01

I mean, just everywhere, right? Josh, he just, he spread this throughout teams guide this idea of marginal gains. Oh, absolutely. Yeah. He, the CSC era was equipment marginal gains and Brailsford came in and absolutely took it everywhere, right? Yeah, yeah. Sleep, psychology, everywhere and then washing. Yeah, exactly. All of it.


And I think bringing in their own mattresses, I mean, every single little corner of, uh, of the racers life.


Yeah. And I think that for me highlights the, I think one of the advantages we had Zipp we think we have it Silca today is, you know, when you surround yourself with people and ideas from outside of your, your niche, right, your corner of the world. And uh, you know, for us it’s car racing and aerospace.

Josh:                            00:28:54

You bring in and absorb those ideas. There’s so much power to that. And, you know, Brailsford comes from business, you know, he has an MBA, he’s experienced in the aggregation of marginal gains, you know, theories from Kaizen, the Toyota methodology, um, and it kind of all of those things from his schooling and background and sort of bring that in. I think he, , he ended up seeing things that those of us in cycling never would have seen him. Like, oh, the mattress thing was sleep of course! (laughs) Right. But, but until you think of it, nobody thinks of it. And that’s that in a way, that’s the beauty of the marginal gains thinking is that there’s, there’s a million avenues and there’s always avenues that nobody’s thinking of because you just haven’t met or brought in that person with that experience.. yet. But it’s possible

Hottie:                         00:29:53

now with CSC, the way you describe it, it was a real success and to hear at least the public facing version of what Sky was talking about, what their marginal gains. That was a success too. But Brailsford didn’t really necessarily see it that way right afterward. That he did not necessarily see that as that approach as a big success.

Josh:                            00:30:15

Yeah, absolutely. In the early, the early days of Sky, they, they saw it as a failure and I think, there’s some interesting interviews and things you can find out there on that um particularly, you know, there’s a Harvard Business Review article where they talk with him about, about this and you know, for the first couple of years I think they got so in the weeds on the marginal gains that they were missing, really some of the core competencies and you know, maybe thinking that without maybe the, the top talent or the top training or you know, some of the really the bigger picture stuff, we could still, with the marginal gains theory, they could still be winning the big races and it just proved to not be true for them. They did. However, find, and I think to this day, if you talk to Dave, um, that when you have the right athletes, it at the right level and everything else is perfect..

Josh:                            00:31:16

your percentages go way, way up. Right. And I think that’s for most people, I think that’s the challenge of this theory mentally is it’s not. There’s no direct correlations, you know, there’s no direct do this and you when do that and you win, right? This is hundreds of smaller scale optimizations. Every one of them is just improving your odds that little bit downstream. Right? And, and I think that that’s what makes it in, in one way such a great opportunity that you can do all these little things that maybe aren’t visible or clear or obvious to other people. And eventually though, wow, looking back, and we certainly saw this at CSC, all of these things seem very unimportant. And then as those aggregate and you have the sort of aggregation of time and you look back, you think you see in the data, wow that this team is winning more than they won last year, that they’re doing better. They’re average rider placing as much higher. Their UCI points are higher, right? I mean it’s all of those things adding up a in time. And then when you get the perfect rider in there for the perfect situation, the opportunity to win, you know, is significantly, uh, improved


because it’s pretty easy to, to cast off. Look, folks, we’re stuck with the title of the show. It’s marginal gains, we’re sticking with it. But when you get it, like it’s easy

Hottie:                         00:32:40

to cast aside, this theory is trivial, right? Josh? Hey, they don’t make enough of a difference to make a meaningful difference. I mean, that’s an easy attitude to take, right, Josh?

Josh:                            00:32:52

Yeah, for sure. And I, I think the, that, the competitive beauty of it, and I think where, uh, you know, I’ve had a lot of experience and success and why to this day, we work with a lot of these top teams including SKY and Bora and EF, and a lot of the teams that have embraced this is that it really is sort of the hidden advantage, right? That the teams that aren’t embracing it have a mindset that doesn’t embrace this has no desire to embrace. And, and so I think there’s sort of this hidden gap that over time the gap continues to grow. Um, the, the opportunity to win, you know, I, I think becomes even greater. I think of, uh, you know, back to CSC. I think people thought initially, you know, he was crazy with this team of, of Europeans that were English only, uh, within the team. Right. And that, you know, they would do these military camps, uh, led by this just amazing guy named BS Christiansen who is, um, a Danish special forces, a guy who’d come in and do these crazy military camps with the team and, you know, I remember thinking this is nuts.

Josh:                            00:34:10

And then a year later being with the telecom team and they were emulating what they thought CSC was doing. You know, they took the team to have some sort of like a, you know, ropes course where people were climbing ropes and trust falling and, kind of doing one of these feel good exercises with the team. And then you look at CSC. And to me, looking back, one of the most powerful elements of CSC was the, during those military camps, it wasn’t just the riders write, it was the secretary and the bus driver and the mechanic and you’d have a soigneur, a mechanic, two cyclists. And the bus driver dropped from a helicopter onto a raft in the middle of the, you know, a quarter mile off shore and they had to paddle in, in the middle of the night in a really fascinating way.

Josh:                            00:35:00

What that ended up doing was creating this, this real family, atmosphere, this trust, right? The English only doctrine of the team was amazing in that it’s the only really to this day, the only team I’ve ever worked with, and Sky is largely this way. But there are also largely English speaking riders, but it, it was the only team, certainly of the era where all the different nationalities sat randomly with each other. Right. I mean, every team, it’s the Spanish guys sit with the Spanish, the French with the French. The Germans are with the Germans. And at CSC it was just a mishmash and every, every meal was like a different order of riders, people sitting in. And so because of that, trust flowed, information flowed. It’s one of the reasons that, you know, riders in that team really never left or are.

Josh:                            00:35:52

They didn’t, if they left it, it wasn’t on the, of their choice. They didn’t want to leave the team. Um, but you think of all those things, it’s, um, you know, the, the, they would teach them. We would do these educational things with Uli and the guys at SRM, uh, you know, these big educational experiences with the team of what power is, what it means, how to use it, how it connected to aerodynamics, how it connected to chain friction. Uh, you know, we would do the ceramic bearing thing, you know, the w, what’s a ceramic bearing? Well, it’s, it’s, you know, a one watt efficiency gain. Here’s what that means and the power. And we would show them the data and teach them how to read the graphs that the engineers were using. And I think again, it, it just, it breeds this comfort in this trust that when the engineers could find something better and pitch it to the riders that the riders could trust that that was a real thing.

Josh:                            00:36:49

and you know, that that’s a beautiful, a beautiful coming together, right, of technology and psychology. This is better and you can believe it’s better. And if you both believe it and it’s true, double double win.


So how did that translate into actual, I guess, wins on the bike?


So if you look at the overall statistics, particularly for that team, I mean, they, they were one of the lowest budget teams of that era with one of the highest wind percentages. Um, they were always in the top two or three a for team UCI points. Uh, you know, once the program was rolling despite having the low budget and you really had a, well, I think the closest thing we can connect it to what would be sort of a money ball situation. Um, you know, if you guys are familiar with w with the book or the movie, um, I think it was Michael Lewis wrote it, but the sort of idea of, you know, you don’t have to have all the most famous superstars on your team.

Josh:                            00:37:58

You just need to be very deliberate in who’s on the team and then work to optimize the situations and the percentages to give, those athletes the best opportunities to win. And you know, it. Again, it’s one of those things that I think for the human brain, you know, we don’t tend to think in statistics and percentages over time, right? We think you either won or you didn’t. Uh, and I think even quite honestly, a lot of the riders struggled to buy into this. A lot of the riders today struggle to buy into this, well, yeah, you gave me this more aero helmet and wheel and I didn’t win… but that’s not how that works. Right? We, you know, we did this thing to optimize at the margins. You had a better opportunity to win, you know, you were in a better position than the other folks, but you know, these problems are so multifactorial, right, that there’s no, there’s no one thing that’s going to win it.

Josh:                            00:38:57

And I think you could even argue that for a given, you know, one day race, the strongest, the strongest person in the race probably generally doesn’t win, right? Because tactics are such a big thing, but, but the best tactician in the race also probably doesn’t win because there’s people who are stronger, right? It, it’s, it’s, all of it has to come together. And I think that’s, that was the thing we were after at CSC, right, was really making the, most of the opportunities that presented. I think money ball to me just feels like such a great connection point because that’s the, that’s what the, you know, the story of the Oakland A’s, what they did not, they didn’t have all the best players. They just utilized it in such a way that over time the numbers bend in your favor. Right? That that’s really the, the sort of long arc of marginal gainsJosh:                            00:37:58

Hottie:                         00:39:55

Hey Josh, I’m really glad you brought up baseball because next to bicycles, baseball is my thing and I do love this, this parallel baseball with marginal gains. Your of course talking about Billy Bean and the Oakland athletics are when you talk about marginal gains baseball, they were the first team to really employ saber metrics and really dig down deep into players and find those nuggets, find those guys who were performing well, but kind of performing under the radar and realizing that if they brought them on board they were going to do well. They look at stuff like on base percentage, how well the guy just got on base. That was really big with them. However, Billy bean and the Oakland athletics, who are the inventors of Marginal Gains Baseball, Aka Saber metrics. They do do things in a big way to. For instance, they employ right now, Chris Davis who is the leading home run hitter in baseball.

Hottie:                         00:40:46

He hit 48 home runs last year. He also struck out 175 times. That was sixth in the league. He costs them, 10, and a half million dollars a year, so they do do things that would run counter to that marginal gain theory that we’re talking about here. My giants, the team I root for, they looked at marginal gains for years and thumbed their nose at it and won three world championships and the process, but now marginal gains is starting to catch up with them and their habit to go backwards. In fact, they’ve hired somebody, a true money ball guy. In fact, the moneyball guy, they hired, used to work for the Oakland Athletics and now he’s trying to to make the San Francisco giants more of a marginal gains type team. What I’m getting to here is josh teams, athletes, they adjust, don’t they? They adjust. And could it be that the marginal gainers like CSC and team sky are just catching the old schoolers like maybe some of the French teams flatfooted

Josh:                            00:41:45

Oh yeah. Completely right. That, that’s the, a lot of ways that, that’s the huge advantage. Uh, you know, that’s the first, the first guy to embrace aero, right? Greg Lemond, I’m in a big way, right? Nobody, every, everybody at the tour in 89 had an opportunity to ride those aerobar. A friend of mine, Pancrazio Centola, of 3T who actually bent those bars for Scott and they spent that that year pitching those bars to all of the teams in Europe and it took the crazy American guy, uh, being willing to use them to completely completely changed the game. And so yeah, I think it’s a great example of, of the power of the effect, you know, and we’ll get into over these episodes, you know, not, not all marginal gains have marginal output effects, right? Because there’s different types of situations, uh, you know, I think it will be super exciting to get into all the different ones, but there’s a, there’s asymmetric effects, there’s nonlinear effects.

Josh:                            00:42:55

Um, and so I am not a huge baseball follower, uh, to, to follow that. But yeah, the, the, the advantage of this, I think the Oakland A’s doing it first, right? That was the thing, this relatively low cost thing that allowed them to use lower cost players to compete at a higher level, you know, sort of punch above their weight that was groundbreaking and a bit revolutionary. Now the problem is when everybody’s doing that, it’s not such an advantage. Um, and when you’re, when you’re the small guy with that advantage, it’s great when you’re the small guy and everybody now has the advantage it, it’s a different story.

Hottie:                         00:43:39

Yeah. Yeah. Because going back to the Oakland athletics and that parallel, I mean, while they were the first to use it, if they have not won a world championship with it, other people have beat them at their own game. Teams like the Houston Astros went out and take, took Sabermetrics, took marginal gains baseball, use it to their advantage and they went on to win the World Series. Um, I was thinking fatty recently about this whole idea of marginal gains and what it means to me and, and what it means to a lot of people on how it can be used in a kind of, at a positive sense for all of us riders. You’re starting out when we ride the gains come easy to come in. Big Chunks, right? That’s exciting. It gets you motivated to ride every time you go out, you’re growing a little faster. Things are happening better, you’re sticking with the group longer.

Hottie:                         00:44:26

Um, but as you get better your improvement curve kind of flattens. Yeah. And I think it, you know, it’s fine to reach a peak and just right at the same level or even go down a little bit and just ride along for the rest of your life. But if everyone took that approach then well there’d be no Strava. I mean the term KOM would mean nothing, right? Because we’re all kind of looking for that, right? That next KOM that next trip up a hill faster. So if that curve has begun to flatten, well then maybe it’s time to start hunting for marginal gains because I know for me, fatty, I love trying out things and seeing if they will give me an extra mile or two or watt or 10 and maybe it’s not even something measure why. Maybe it’s by giving a crap about some of those little things you just noticed that makes sure your ride more enjoyable and that’s, that’s gotta be worth something.

Hottie:                         00:45:19

And for most of us, I think that is it. That is what are you having more fun? And I have to be honest here and say for me, I’ve always wanted the idea of marginal gains since I had heard that term to be true because otherwise is a mediocre age grouper racer type, what’s even the point of me going out and buying Dura-Ace instead of Ultegra if it doesn’t make me a little bit faster, right. If I don’t buy into the idea of marginal gains being personally impactful than I’ve, you know, I’ve got one less reason to go shopping.

Josh:                            00:45:55

Absolutely. Even Brad Wiggins, right? Possibly one of the largest beneficiaries of marginal gains. A theory was quoted in the Telegraph a few years back of saying something on the order of ‘marginal gains is a load of rubbish’.


Oh No, podcast is dead.


Yes. And you know, and, and to some extent he, he had a great point, right? You know, he is the point he’s trying to make a and I think, and I have it here, he says, I think you, you’ve got to get the fundamentals right. “You’ve got to ride your bike and put the work in. You’re either good or you’re not good. You know, sometimes in sport you’re either good at something or you’re not.” And you know, I, I think absolutely there is an element of that here. You know, you are not going to take an average person off the street and put them on a bicycle and marginal gains them into the Tour de France or into professional baseball.

Josh:                            00:46:54

We really.. the mindset that the focus here is, you know, when you have people who are the best at something and really anything, I mean, any sport, any, any field of endeavor, when you have people at the very top, the very pointy end of the spear, and all the obvious advantages are taken, right? What, what’s next? So when you start to aggregate those one percents, history has shown over and over again, you know, really almost anything you do, any sport, any a competitive endeavor you can think of that has gone through periods where people have embraced this or similar thinking, uh, and those people have benefited from it, right? Because in a lot of ways it’s not, it isn’t the, this will make you win it. It’s, this improves your odds, right? This changes the percentages. Um, and then the question becomes, you know, do you have enough opportunities for those percentages to matter, right?

Josh:                            00:48:01

So, you know, I think, if you’re Brad Wiggins and you look at the, the Team Sky marginal gains and you think, well, you know, I’m an amazing cyclist on the top of the world and I’m likely to win the tour. So having my own mattress every night didn’t make me win the tour and having the entire team doing surgical level hand washing for the year, well that didn’t make me win the tour. Right. You think of all of the details. None of those directly contributed to winning the tour for, for Wiggins, right? Or, or for breaking the hour record, um, but when you think about them at another level and think, well, you know, they’ve estimated that the hand washing procedures reduce the, uh, the sickness of the athletes and the team somewhere on the order of two percent. And so if you’ve got 50 people working for a team and you reduce the sickness by a couple percent, well the likelihood of you in any rider, including wiggins, getting sick, spreading that sickness to another rider, to a staff member and missing training.

Josh:                            00:49:04

Well, okay. That is now reduced, right? I think we’ve all seen and heard the stories of, you know, riders making it to the Dauphine and then they get an illness or riders that we’ve wanted to see do well, you know, get, get sick in the first couple days of the tour or the week or the couple of weeks before it.. illness happens. And so that, that’s uh, you know, we’ve turned a, that’s a binary marginal effect, right? Where you, if you’re not practicing the ultimate handwashing and you don’t get sick then you don’t know any, any different, right? Right. But nobody who gets sick ever stops and says, oh man,  if I had just practiced better handwashing maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Right? And so there’s a million riders out there and a million athletes in every sport, right? Who get knocked out by some random virus or whatever in the middle of their season.

Josh:                            00:50:01

And none of them ever, you know, have gone to the Telegraph in London and said, stop. It’s not rubbish. It, it’s, you know, that this could have been a big difference for me. And so I think that’s one of those things are our brains aren’t tuned to work in that way, right? I think riders get sick and they think, oh, ‘woe is me’. Why did this happen to me? I’m, I’m sad I missed this opportunity. Um, they don’t correlate it back to that.  Similarly, riders who aren’t getting sick and teams with riders that aren’t getting sick and staff that that’s healthy. They’re not saying, wow, I’m, I’m really benefiting from this lack of illness. Right? Because when you’re not sick, you’re not thinking about being sick. The sleep is the same the same way, right? When you’re sleeping. Well, you don’t think about sleep, right? When, when do you think about sleep?

Josh:                            00:50:51

It’s when you can’t sleep when you can’t sleep. So I think that that’s another great example of, you know, there’s phenomenal, uh, studies that have been done out there. They did, uh, did some with swimmers. There’s another one with basketball players wear, you know, losing a, going from eight to five hours of sleep, cost swimmers something on the order of like a 10th of a second per lap, uh, you know, in an Olympic sized pool and the numbers for free throws were somewhere on the order of a nine or 10 percent, a reduction in a free through accuracy, in college athletes who had been deprived of three hours of sleep. And again, it doesn’t mean you’re going to miss this free throw, right? Or the next free throw, but over time or over the course of a game at 10, 10 percent could be a meaningful number.

Josh:                            00:51:45

Right. And so I think that’s, that’s the power here, right? And in the power from a competitive advantages that because our brains aren’t wired to think like this, only the only those who are thinking like this or are reaping the advantages.


Yeah. Yeah. Hard to draw the cause effect line when it is, when it requires that you look backwards like that. No question about it, you know? Yeah.


So, so the, the most basic marginal gain, uh, effect, the one I always, when I talk about these, the one I always start with because our brains do compute it well, this one resonates with people, is what we call the Office Space Effect.


Oh, I love that movie. I’m actually worrying 17 pieces of flare right now.


I love it. I love it. Well, so do you guys remember the scam that they’re planning to pull off in the movie?

Josh:                            00:52:39

So that the is that they work for this business that does thousands of financial transactions per day and due to the billing being in, you know, multiples of time and foreign transaction, whatever. You have these fractions of a penny in every transaction. And so the scam, and I think this has been done in a bunch of movies, but this scam is that they decided to write some code that will round all of those fractions of a penny up one to the, to the next penny and deposit the rounded up penny into a new account. Okay? And so this office space, a marginal gain is sort of the simplest form of marginal gains, right? That you know, if, if every transaction gets rounded up by some fraction of a penny, call it point for pennies or point four cents per transaction. And you’re doing 100,000 transactions a day, that’s 40,000 pennies, right?

Josh:                            00:53:39

It’s 400 bucks a day. If you do twice the number of transactions, that’s $800 a day, right? It, it scales fraction of a penny times transactions equals a number, right? That’s your most of our most basic sort of marginal gains effect and our brains really grasp this because it’s just simple linear multiplication.


I mostly just remembered this Swingline stapler, but otherwise otherwise, absolutely.


I want my stapler back!  Yes, but, but so this, this we get right. But when you think of most of what we’re into in, in our sports, and I think certainly we’re, I’ve spent most of my career and I think most of my interest from car racing to cycling, uh, to aircraft is focused on efficiency and efficiency is a totally different type of, of marginal gain because it, it’s not, um, it’s not multiplicative in the way that the simple that the Office Space gain is.

Josh:                            00:54:50

It’s not x times y equals z. um, this is, and I think we all love the, uh, this word we all love to laugh at from sixth grade. Um, but this is what I call an asymptotic, marginal gain.


I think I might have hung out with different kids in sixth grade. I don’t remember laughing about that word with anyone, but I, I will say that I seriously don’t know what that word means. So eminent need you to explain it.


Okay. So, so efficiencies work asymptotically, uh, not multiplicatively and an, an asymptote a is basically it’s a boundary which something can approach but never touch. So, my brain tends to work really well in the graphs and curves and shapes. If you can imagine an asymptote would be a curved line that comes, it’s approaching a this boundary and it gets ever closer.

Josh:                            00:55:53

The farther out you go, it just gets closer and closer, but it’s never, it’s never touching it. And this is if, if you were to graph almost any of the things that we’re interested in here are, you know, aerodynamics and, and frictions and a power limitations, you end up with these curves that, that sort of approached these limits without being able to touch them. Um, and so that, that is an Asymptote, and as a line, approaches that we say it, it’s working asymptotically, in, in the sixth grade, seventh grade, I just found that word to be incredibly funny! 


We understand that if you work in these margins, the overall effect can be tremendous. But how,


So these asymptotic effects or can be incredibly powerful when you aggregate them because we don’t, we don’t naturally look for them and we don’t feel them and we don’t think about them.

Josh:                            00:56:54

Uh, you know, uh, if I give you a light bike, you pick it up and you say, wow, that that’s light. That feels amazing, right? Your brain instantly feels that weight. But the reality with weight as it, it’s a fairly, it’s a fairly linear and honestly, in a way, kind of a fairly trivial thing if you’re writing on flat land, the weight of a, of a bike really doesn’t matter when you’re climbing. It’s not a huge deal. A 10 percent weight, uh, you know, almost never equals 10 percent more power, right for it. And so you have this effect where this thing we perceive to be, to be big is actually a linear effect, right? It’s in there, there’s a ton of those. Um, you know, we’re 10 percent more, requires 10 percent more power, but then you think of something like aerodynamics, right? This is an incredibly nonlinear system.

Josh:                            00:57:48

And so the way drag interacts with the power is, whereas with weight, 10 percent more weight, maybe 10 percent more power, and of course it’s all depending on slope and these other things, and chain friction would be the same way a percent as a percent just all lost from the power. But when you get into something like aero drag, you have these highly, a nonlinear effects, right? So if you a double the speed of something you make four times the drag and then where it really gets you, and this is the feeling that we all feel it because it’s now a cube. The power to overcome that is eight times increased. And so you think of that, that’s the difference. You know, you, you can go from, you know, say 18 to 20 miles an hour, not a big deal, 20 to 22 slightly bigger deal as those speeds get higher, right?

Josh:                            00:58:51

These effects, that’s where the nonlinearities are kicking in. Uh, you know, the, the drag suddenly has doubled. The power is tripled. That’s why things, you know, have these, you know, if you dropped something off a tall building, right? It has a terminal velocity. It doesn’t just keep accelerating, it hits a speed that it just can’t overcome because the drag is so high. And that’s why, you know, in a sport like cycling, um, you know, 80 percent of our power is lost to aero drag and, you know, in baseball, if there’s, there’s sort of become this upper limit of, of the speed that you can throw a ball, and that’s because the power required to throw it faster. Just if know each mile per hour, I’m just requires an evermore insane amount of additional power to be put into the system. So for me that’s where the super exciting stuff happens because our brains don’t process these nonlinearities well at all right? We, we all get one penny times 100,000 transactions, right? But most of us don’t get the changes that changes at the square that changes at the cube that, that it just not tangible in our brains.

Hottie:                         01:00:07

Yeah, I honestly, I had never even considered that so what are some of the effects of that in, I mean, you gave us a little bit about how that makes sense in the bike world. How about in the real world?

Josh:                            01:00:22

So in the real world, I think, you know, the coming from cars and aircraft, you know, some of my favorite examples that I think the classic, the classic marginal gains, um, effect from an efficiency, quality perspective comes from the automotive industry. You know, I look at a Toyota production method, you know, you think in post World War II, U.S. Engineers go to Japan, we help get the Japanese auto industry back on its feet. And then really they, they have a very cultural, kind of marginal gains approach to almost everything and they begin tweaking and refining what they learned from the Americans. They’re tweaking and refining at the margins right there. They’re taking what we taught them and they’re just doing it better. One percent here, one percent there. And so they start obsessing over everything and, personally I’m a little bit obsessed with the Toyota production methodology and they’ve spent tons of time studying this, but they’re obsessing over things.

Josh:                            01:01:28

Even as simple as, you know, as an employee left-handed or right-handed, you know, if you’re right handed employee, your workflow needs to move left to right because you can, you can pick and move with your left. But the detail work will be done with the right and then passed. Uh, and similarly, left-handed people tend to work better and u-shape cells that go the other direction. Um, you know, how much is that is moving clockwise with right handed people really worth it. It’s worth a couple percent in terms of efficiency. And in time they realize that’s worth maybe another couple percent in terms of, uh, quality, uh, you know, they start looking at, eye dominance in people.. if you’re right, eye dominant, right, if it changes where the work and the workflow is. And so even with very manual processes, they’re improving.

Josh:                            01:02:20

They quickly eclipsed the speed and the quality, um, of what they had learned and they were doing something kind of at it at a next level, and, I think that by the seventies, they were making things faster with better accuracy, uh, than we had imagined they could do it. And, and we had taught them the, the standard methods and how do those efficiencies payoff for them as, and, and why, why didn’t we pick up a lot of whys are automotive industry or why were they stuck in the fifties because we weren’t thinking like that or I, I think the Japanese culture had a very, and still has a very marginal gains understanding and, and mentality. Uh, I think they, you know, they really focus on efficiency. They focus on precision, you know, these are all things that we all use these words, but these are really marginal effects.

Josh:                            01:03:19

So, you know, to make something more precise requires ever more precise tools in evermore precisely controlled conditions and every detail, it’s a very, uh, that’s actually a very nonlinear effect. And it’s why high precision things have very nonlinear costs, right? And so I think, uh, I think our own an auto industry at the time had really allowed itself to kind of land at a ‘good enough’ place. This is good enough, people will buy it, they’re gonna buy a new one a couple of years from now and uh, you know, this is fine. And I think part of it’s cultural, I think part of it is probably the economic position they were, the Japanese were in at the time, but they, they just focused on making everything that little bit better in every way. And then when the efficiency improved and the quality improved, the cost went down and at the same time the customers were happier and they had fewer problems.

Josh:                            01:04:20

Uh, and so, you know, each of these slight changes becomes a lot of change as you scale, right? And so, you know, one of my favorite statistics on this is that, in the eighties vehicles us, uh, made vehicles in particular average more than 300 defects per per 100 vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership, right? So that’s on average, every car had three things, three major defects, notable defects, and that was measured across 70 categories, right? So 70 different categories of measurement, the average car had three. You look at that in, in time today, right? The current number is 70 defects per 100 cars and we’re measuring 233 categories of defect because cars are so much more complicated than they were, right? We’ve got, we have all these new electronics and seat motor, all these things that didn’t even exist before. And so when you, you work the math backwards on that, you see that the, the complexity of the system has increased by a factor of three..

Josh:                            01:05:39

And yet the defects are a third, right? So we have a third, the defects in a system that’s three times as complex as it was, and at the same time when you, go to an auto manufacturing facilities, we have half a dozen of them here, uh, here in Indy and you see even the average time to make a vehicle. It’s, it’s unbelievable, right? It’s hours. It’s something like 20 man hours total, um, to, to produce a vehicle these days. So, I mean they’re making them faster, cheaper, better, uh, with better, happier customers. You know, it. I think when was the, when was the last time anybody bought a car that, you know, that had a major defect that they had to go back to the dealer and the first couple months of ownership.

Hottie:                         01:06:32

Yeah. Yeah. I mean you just don’t through almost unheard of now.

Josh:                            01:06:35

Yeah. Yeah. And so, but, but it took time. Right? And that’s, that is the power of that one percent across everything, right? I mean, you know, if there’s 10,000 components in a, in a motor vehicle, it’s every single thing being improved at one percent, give or take. Um, over years, every, every year it gets better, right? Every year it gets better and the difference from this year to next year, nobody really notices.

Hottie:                         01:07:06

So I want it finished this episode with bringing it back to bikes and I know that you are a huge fan of the hour record and that seems like a perfect place for marginal gains to really sort of shine.

Josh:                            01:07:20

Yeah. I am kind of obsessed with the hour record. I have to say. Yeah, I, I think I, I’d love to do a whole episode on the, the, hour record. It is the place, uh, in cycling where you have controlled enough of the variables that you can directly in almost real time see marginal gains effects right in front of your eyes. So yeah, uh, I’ll, open with um, you guys know how far Merckx’s went in 1972?

Hottie:                         01:07:57

49.431 kilometers. That’s very good. Oh yeah, I, I have wikipedia open. It’s almost as if you had asked me this question before the podcast started.

Josh:                            01:08:11

Oh, perfect. All right, so 49.431 now. Now who knows and give this to you, Hottie. Um, would you happen to have wikipedia open to know how far Boardman went in 1997?


I don’t need no stinking wikipedia. Go ahead, ask me


on the Lotus with all the tech and the superman position.


Boardman 96 Research says 56.735 kilometers.


Alright, now who can do the math on that? That is a huge difference.


I would, I would be able to do that with my calculator, but I don’t have to because I did it ahead of time. That is almost seven kilometers in an hour. Fifteen percent faster than Merckx’s?


Yeah. Fifteen percent. Seven kilometers per hour. But the record didn’t stand up but it didn’t, right? Because the superman position was banned. Uh, because the UCI did not like what was going on in the nineties and they decided to take the marginal gains away.

Josh:                            01:09:20

Right? So we think of Boardman’s Lotus, right? With the mono blade fork in the, the crazy carbon wheels and the superman position in the skin suit and the helmet and the shoe covers all the tech. Right. And so they took it away and they created what they now call the athletes hour record, where he had to ride a bike. Similar to Merckx.


Yeah, they took him back to the seventies. And I would ask you guys to guess, but since you have the data in front of you, how much did he beat him by?


Ten kilometers, kilometers.


Not Kilometers, but Ten meters. Ten meters.


So I was only off by a factor of a thousand!!

Josh:                            01:10:12

So I mean, I think for, you know, for all of us, that’s the perfect eyeopener that Merck’s and 72 boardman in 2000, 28 years apart. When you, when you put the two guys, each of them the best time trial list of the era. I’m on a similar bike and in Boardman and, and for a future episode on this, we, the stuff with like the altitude and the air pressure and the temperature that are just so fascinating to me, hopefully to others. Um, but then we can talk about, but when you put the will it, when you put them on the same equipment 28 years apart, Boardman beats him by 10 meters, right? I mean, that’s, that, that is not even the length of the straightaway of the track. It’s unbelievable. And so is we look at, and this is where, you know, my obsession is, the hour record is the place where we can take a, almost literally every component, every piece of clothing, everything that the rider does and with the physics and the math, we can assign a distance improvement to it.

Josh:                            01:11:33

I’m super excited for that episode because we’re, we’ll just geek out on, on what the changes are because every one of them individually is something that you would never notice. And as you build the program and you aggregate them, the rider just goes further and further and further. Uh, and, you know, I’ve been really fortunate to take part in a number of the latest, uh, you know, our record attempts from Jens Voigt to Brad Wiggins and we’ve done a lot of the tire pressures and a lot of the work with them, uh, to be up close and personal with it. But it, it is so cool to be able to do something in, in real time. Uh, do the math, see the rider ride and they go faster. So. Cool. Yep. So that’s the big picture.

Hottie:                         01:12:21

What are marginal gains and why they matter and of course, what it’s like to live in Josh’s head. It’s pretty cool actually. What we’re just getting started, right josh? Oh yeah.

Josh:                            01:12:32

There’s so much to dig into here. So yeah, I think next time we’re back, we’re talking asymmetric marginal gains, a what they are, how to recognize and exploit them and how they, and, how they’ve changed cycling and maybe some other sports.

Hottie:                         01:12:49

And one more thing before we go, we want to know our listeners’ questions, simple or complicated, bike related or not, Josh and the rest of the marginal gains podcast crew are ready to answer them. We’re on Twitter with the handle @MarginalGainsPC Leave a comment on this or any episode at or email us at And I believe that is going to be it for this first episode of the marginal gains podcast. We want to remind everyone that this podcast can be found on Apple Podcasts, Google music, and of course on the home website that is, subscribe, rate us, review us. Make sure you do that on Apple Podcasts because that helps intellectually curious cyclists. Find us right. Final thoughts,

Josh:                            01:13:45

I think all I can say is give me back my red Swingline stapler.

Um, I’m gonna need you to go ahead and come in tomorrow. So if you could be here around nine, that would be great. Mmm okay.