Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wobblenaught Fit with Mike Sherry

Yesterday evening I went to the Upper West Side in pouring rain to get a professional fit on my road bike with Mike sherry at Performance Labs HC. The studio was small with bike stuff scattered about all over the place. Cervelo soloist carbon city. Basically a racer bike geeks paradise. We started by chatting about what I was trying to accomplish, and then proceeded to do a ton of skeletal measurements from my feet to my head.

After all of the measurements he started checking the bike with a laser and adjusting as needed. I guess my serious obsession with fit had actually been pretty accurate since for the most part not much was changed. The saddle was raised some and the fore-aft was changed slightly. The nose of the saddle was also pointed slightly down. He warned me the saddle would not be comfortable for how he wanted to set my bike up for riding. Ugh! The SLR was nearly brand new! He showed some of the saddles he had on various bikes in the studio and they all had flares in the rear with a curve in the middle and a slightly raised nose. San Marco concor lights, wtb rocket V, etc.

Next came the cleat adjustment. My cleats were already set all the way to the rear on the shoes and he said they needed to go way back still. So out come my aluminum plates made by Speedplay recently received from Excel Sports. These allow an additional 14mm of rearward adjustment along with 5mm of forward. He set the cleats back more than 1cm from where they were before. He also had me take out the Varus wedge from the left shoe that I had placed in last Friday on advice from a local bike shop when purchasing the Specialized bg insoles.

After the cleats were finished I hopped on the bike. He immediately changed my riding position by having me rotate my hips more forward allowing my legs to pedal in a much more natural motion. I felt significantly more comfortable in the rear but more weight was now up front. This will take some getting used to! I'm not sure I'm sold on the extra weight up front, but will give it a try for a while. Aerobars would probably significantly help and are something I'm looking in to.

The saddle, as he predicted, put a lot of pressure in the perinneal area and was very uncomfortable. A shame...

The worst news I got from the fitting was something I've long suspected. No mass produced frames will ever fit me perfectly due to my long legs. My current frame is about as best as I'll ever get from a stock frame, and it's realy not that bad according to Mr Sherry. I just need a taller top tube, ideally, with the rest of the specs exactly the same.

So it's a custom frame or slightly uncomfortable stock frame?!?:(

Ah, the constant quest for silly bike parts...I hope one day I will not have to give this a thought and just ride!!!!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Berkshire 200km brevet

Yesterday I completed my second 200km brevet, this time in a different series located in Westfield, MA. I had listed a saddle on Craig's List earlier in the week and had a frantic offer from a guy saying his saddle had disappeared in storage along with his pedals. We chatted some, and got on the topic of long distance riding and he mentioned he was going to this brevet and invited me. Sure, why not?

The alarm went off at a tantalizing and terrific time of 2am Saturday morning. I felt surprisingly well rested after four and a half hours of sleep. The aforementioned saddle picker-upper, Zack, swooped by a little while later in the mighty Ford Explorer after sitting in a lovely FDR traffic jam at 3am. We had plans to zip all over the place to get things ready for the ride which started at 7am. We had approximately three and a half hours to drive to Milford, CT to get his bike, pick up a friend off another exit on I95 (friend bailed!) and then straight north to Westfield, MA. I must admit I was pretty shocked when we rolled in before the 7am start. Just how fast were you driving Zack?!?

This brevet had a lot more participants than the previous one in Saratoga at around 60 people. I attribute this mostly to the fine weather predicted which was 65F for the high and sunny. Ages ranged from me at the bottom (31) to upwards of 70. Mostly men but roughly ten women participated as well. Bikes ranged from uber light fancy roadie material to old, lugged, heavy steel touring frames complete with leather saddle bags, brooks leather tape on the bars along with a brooks saddle. I love those bikes and some day I hope I have one!

We ended up starting the ride about 35 minutes late since Zack had to install pedals and cleats and basically put his bike together which had been in storage. One other straggler named Joel accompanied us for the start. We rode together for 45 miles to the first check point through progressively more rural communities north towards Vermont. At the check point I had a itchy trigger foot and wanted to go fast so I took off on my own with a goal of catching the lead group about an hour up on us. I hammered for a little over a hour passing quite a few people and made it to the checkpoint at mile 83.5 feeling really strong. Those back to back centuries last week really upgraded my legs! I met a few there getting ready to head out and invited myself in to their group and rode with them for the remainder of the ride. One guy was on a fixed gear so I chatted and reminisced with him for much of the ride. He was a very strong rider and to my surprise even kept up with us on the downhills spinning at crazy 190rpm cadences and remaining totally stable. Impressive!

The terrain was beautiful and followed the Connecticut River. Blooming trees were scattered throughout the ride. Pines offered lovely fragrances on occasion. We dabbled in Vermont some but mostly cruised the hills of Massachusetts. There wasn't a whole lot of climbing, at least compared to what I'm used to, but enough to keep me happy!:)

300km, here i come!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Bike


Cave In & rides

I finally bit the bullet and decided a professional bike fit is a necessity for my long distance riding. On Monday, after work, I plan on seeing Mike Sherry with Performance Labs (hc) on the Upper West Side. I decided to go with him over Paul Levine at Signature or xxx at Cadence Cycle for a few reasons. Mr Levine is nearly $400 and Mr Sherry is $250. Why cheap out on your body?? I read an interview with Mr Sherry's partner, Craig Upton, and came away very impressed with their philosophy, and think they will be excellent for setting me up exactly how I need to be. I also spoke with him on the phone, and he was very knowledgeable and even sounded excited about helping me out. Cadence was not impressive over the phone and are about the same price as Signature Cycles. Their coaches are highly recommended though so perhaps I just got a slouch on the phone.

This weekend I'm doing another 200km brevet on Saturday. This time in Westfield, MA. There's a 300km brevet in Saratoga Springs this weekend on Sunday, but I can't get a ride and don't really want to bug my parents again especially since the brevet starts at 4am. The Westfield series is quite a bit closer to NYC so I hope to continue on there instead to act like I'm qualifying for the Paris-Brest brevet.

I consider the brevets good butt training for the RAAM, but not so great in the aerobic department since the pace is quite a bit slower than I normally ride by myself. Of course I'm speaking from my one and only experience in Saratoga last month. Perhaps this one will be different! I'm guessing many more people will be present at the very least.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

To Fit or not to Fit

Every since I got my new long distance ride I've been hemming and hawing over whether I should have a professional bike fitting. I even went so far as to book an appointment with the uber elite Signature Cycles and Mr Levine in Midtown Manhattan. Unfortunately I was on jury duty and I had to cancel! $375 seems like a lot of money to have someone 'fit' me. Will it be accurate? Many say yes. Others say it was disastrous - although not with Mr Levine. On the other hand, $375 is not much money considering how many miles I'm putting on the bike. The little 'the rides' thing on my blog says nearly 900 miles over the past month and that is missing some rides since I didn't start recording them online until just yesterday and had to use what was logged in my polar cs200 cyclocomputer.

Yesterday I found online another fancy shop in NYC (surprise?) called Cadence cycles down in Tribeca. They offer fit services for a tad bit less ($315) than Signature Cycles and seem to have a roughly equivalent reputation although Mr Levine seems nearly mythical in stature. Cadence also does V02 max and lactate threshold testing with high tech gear. The V02 max isn't really necessary for my type of riding although I must admit I am curious as to what it is...but not a few hundred dollars curious. The lactate threshold is, however, very important for my training and I'm considering having it done as well. I've read how to do it myself, and could even do it on the fluid trainer at home but will it be as accurate? does it even matter?!??

Anyone want to donate roughly $600 to my training fund??????

Takin' it easy

Yesterday I took it easy because my legs were feeling a tad sore after the back to back centuries over the weekend. So I just commuted to work which is 20.8 miles round trip and mostly flat. My commute involves riding down the west side path Greenway pretty much the entire way until the very end where I cross a few avenues on 16TH st to get to my office at 15th bet. 8th and 9th avenue. All this means I have almost no exposure to cars unless they decide to launch over the guardrail flying down the Henry Hudson Highway. It's a great way to start the day!

Sadly I see almost no one else commuting, but perhaps if I just sat around on the Greenway I'd change my mind and think there are more. I just assume hardly any people ride their bikes to work since I'm generally going quite a bit faster than everyone else and should be passing more riders! Maybe some day...

After work I decided to raise my brifters a bit higher since I was not quite happy with how much of a dip I had from the bar to the hood. And just yesterday I said I thought I had the bike dialed in.

After this morning's commute I'm very pleased with the brifter position. Now the bike is dialed in!:)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Weekend recap of back to back centuries

This weekend was my parents 38th anniversary, and they invited my wife and I up for dinner Saturday night near their home in northwest Connecticut. I decided to ride there from my apartment in Manhattan. The first 44.5 miles of the route I was quite familiar with being the route to Bear Mountain, but after that I had no idea what to expect other than I would probably be climbing A LOT. I tossed together a route using Google Maps trying to find the least busy roads with a reasonably direct route to my destination. It turns out I got pretty lucky with the road choices and had a beautiful ride once I escaped the 9w route that leads to Bear Mountain. After crossing the Bear Mtn Bridge over the Hudson River I was greeted with pleasant, forested, hilly roads all the way to my parents home.

Hilly is the most notable comment for the route. This was by far the most consistently hilly road ride I've ever gone on. The total one way route was 101.8 miles long with an estimated 15,000 ft of climbing. Brutal! I kept thinking there HAS to be a downhill at some point. these little mountains just aren't that high! Well, turns out I was wrong for the most part. I don't think I broke 40mph more than one or two times on the Northbound route.

All in all, 2 hours of easy riding to bear mountain then 4 hours of pushing to the limits really testing my legs! I look forward to attempting this route as an out and back in one day in about a month.

I was a zombie for the dinner. All I could mutter was food, hungry, tired. sleep. I managed to spill some water at the dinner table!

I awoke the next morning feeling tip top after a glorious 10 hour sleep. Ready to ride home! I took the same route home so I would not have to view a cue sheet and also to test some of those hills the other direction! The ride home was significantly easier. It took me over one hour less to complete it, and I had numerous extended descents of 40+ mph with a few pushing 50mph!

I consumed half the food and two less water bottles!!

Next weekend is 125+ miles both days! I cant wait:)

other notes: I changed the stem to a Deda Elementi Newton OS 80mm 8deg rise from a Raceface Deus 100mm 5 deg rise and am very pleased with the fit. I shed a few grams, too, thanks to the bling(ee) titanium screws and shorter length. I also changed out the handle bar from a Ritchey WCS aluminum 44cm to a Kestrel Pro carbon OS 42cm. I gained some more fancy carbon but did not shed any grams! I think I finally have the bike dialed in fit-wise.

Now I just need to find a more comfortable saddle and all will be good. The Terry Ti Fly is great for less than 70 or so miles but after that it really makes my sit bones ache. I can tolerate it, but I know I could have better comfort with a different saddle. I ordered a Selle Italia SLR 135gm last night and will hopefully have it by Wednesday. It's quite different from the Terry saddle being significantly lighter with far less padding and no cutout down the center. I used one a while back and found it to be quite comfortable, but expensive and not really long lasting. Well, I've decided comfort takes priority and the nice flexing shell is far more effective than extra padding that you bounce up and down on over the miles causing the achy butt!

Friday, April 4, 2008

NYC to Bear Mtn training ride

This ride will be the staple ride for my training out of NYC. I've talked to many longtime cyclists/NYC residents who claim the route over the GWB through the Palisades Park and on up route 9w is the only reason they are able to remain in this dirty, car-driven concrete jungle/wasteland called NYC.

It's roughly 85 miles round trip and pretty hilly the entire route. Probably in the neighborhood of 8,000ft of climbing. Maybe more. One site offers a century version of this ride and claims to have 10k of climbing, but I've not gone that route yet. I'm sure I'll have the opportunity this year!

For the most part, the ride is pretty isolated from heavy traffic which is incredible considering the close proximity to such a high density population. Ironically, my only run in with a car yesterday was a police officer in Stony Point, NY who was driving like the typical PO - unpredictable, angry, aggressive, or easier: like a jerk. He tried to run a red light and was clearly very disappointed when this measly cyclist came through the intersection and he had to slam on his brakes. I was pretty sure he was just going to blow through so I locked up my brakes. Well, he managed to stop and then offered a lackluster, fake smile and a small wave. Carry on.

On top of Bear Mtn., the pinnacle of my ride, I had the pleasure of conversing with another two wheeled rider. A tattoo covered rice rocket racer claiming bored out something or other giving an extra 100cc's of power for a whopping grand total of 737cc or 165mph top speed. yes, he's obtained that speed quite often citing it's 'really quick to that speed.' I thought it was pretty cool the muffler was made of carbon fiber, or at least on the outside. He noted my skinny wheels, I noted his fat wheels. We both noted they were nice and tacky for high speed descents. His suspension system was far superior. My overall ride was far lighter. He said he should stop smoking and start peddling. Hopefully another convert!

Saratoga Springs 200km brevet

This past Sunday I did my first brevet.  200km or ~126mi.  How did I, a long distance cyclist for a few years now, miss the entire chapter about randonneurs?

Saratoga Springs, NY is a few hours straight north of NYC (read: a few hours COLDER this time of the year)  On the drive up, I reminisced about the 50F and lack of snow in NYC as the temp dropped a degree every few miles and snow kept building and building along the sides of the thruway.  

On Sunday, me and about 15 other cyclists rolled out of the ride director's house around 7am, and were greeted with a shy sun trying to decide if it's rays were allowed to touch upon this decidedly frigid region.  A balmy 15F with light wind and clear skies!  Rarely do I ride in this temperature, and certainly not for an anticipated 6 to 8 hours.  

I and many others on the ride learned that water bottles freeze REALLY fast in these uncomfortably low temperatures.  Thanks, Tom, for telling me about the inverted bottle trick.  Too bad it was after the race was over...  So, for a few hours I was sucking on that nipple like none other trying to squeeze out a drop of water.  Some resorted to the microwave at convenient stores.  

Four hours after the start the temperature was pushing the freezing mark.  In some areas a foot of snow was on the ground and all the lakes were very frozen which probably helped knock the temperature down a few more degrees!

Thankfully, the area around Saratoga Springs is beautiful for road riding.  I kept thinking, I bet this would be beautiful in the summer!  Or, about 40F warmer.  I shall return!

Overall, the ride was a great experience and I met some nice people I will hopefully stay in touch with in the future.