Saturday, May 31, 2008

Padded vs Unpadded Gloves

When I first started mountain biking quite a few years ago, I remember going to a shop and asking for the thickest padded gloves they had. The mechanic asked me why I wanted pads, and instead suggested it was better to have no padding at all so you have more control of the bike. Made sense. So I got gloves with no padding, and besides a pair of Specialized BG gloves which had a pad on the palm, I never used padded gloves throughout my years of mountain biking. And the majority of the time I was riding a single speed with a rigid fork. I never had any issues with comfort even during 24 hour continuous rides.

Road riding is so much different than mountain biking in so many ways and I wonder if it's better to use padded gloves on the road? Almost all gloves available on the market today offer some sort of padding from minimal in one spot to gel or silicone all over the place from the fingers to the palm. So I decided to test it myself to see which worked better for me. Currently, I have three pairs of gloves. Pearl Izumi pittard leather gloves, which have foam padding all over the palm. The other two pairs are made by Castelli. One pair is the Rosso Corsa and the other is their logo glove. The rosso corsa is the top of the line, 50 dollars!, glove with silicone padding strategically placed (all over) with mesh between the pads and mostly mesh on top. The logo glove is a synthetic microfiber palm with no padding on the palm and a lycra top. Both are slip-on and have loops to aid in removing the glove. Something all gloves should have, but don't.

The last three long rides I've done I've used each pair on one ride and noted a few times, mentally, throughout the ride what I liked and disliked about them. It should be noted I'm using Specialized S-wrap tape - a cork tape with an elastomer integrated throughout to supposedly dampen vibrations. It's slightly thicker than Cinelli or Deda tape and feels great.

Pearl Izumi: Crunchy when cold. As the glove ages - it lasts a long time, longer than most - the leather gets stiff. It loosens up after I start riding each time, but if it's really cold it takes a lot longer to do so. The padding feels cumbersome and is overdone, in my opinion. It feels bulky. I never have discomfort issues with them on. I do not like the velcro closure. I'd rather have a slip-on model. The velcro closure creates the cyclist dot syndrome - white hands with a dark spot near the thumb. When it's warm the leather gets damp and never dries until you take them off. By the end of the day they appear notably darker and even soggy. I do not like this. The microfiber wipe does not work as well as a terry cloth wipe. Both Castelli's are far better gloves, in my opinion.

Castelli Rosso Corsa - The padding feels great and it seems like it aids with protection of the hands. For short riding or racing this glove is probably not ideal because you lose some handling due to the thick silicone pads which move around a bit if you are really cranking hard or sprinting. The grip, however, is very inspiring and tacky. Just not precise. The mesh breathes very well on the palm. No wet palms like the PI pittards. The mesh tops also are very comfortable. The terry cloth wipe absorbs well and is excellent for it's purpose. I think these are great gloves and the best I've used to date.

Castelli logo glove - The lack of padding seems to not cause any issues, but I think with a non-padded tape on the bar it might be an issue, for me at least. These gloves are very adequate for long distance rides on the s-works tape. They are not as comfortable feeling as the Rosso Corsa, but I'm not talking about the lack of padding here. The microfiber palm is warmer feeling, and the lycra top does not breathe as well as the mesh top on the Rosso Corsa. The logo glove also has the terry wipe so all is good in this area. The grip feels more in control than the Rosso Corsa. If these were 'cooler' feeling I would probably make them the go to glove for long rides, but, alas, they are not so the Rosso Corsa is first place for me. I will use them for commuting.

I'm surprised the non-padded glove was just as comfortable, but I attribute this to the S-works tape. Perhaps it is redundant to use padded gloves with such highly cushioned tape. I shall keep my eyes open for other non-padded gloves that offer a more breathable top, and hopefully, eventually, switch to the combo of a nicely padded bar with a non-padded glove. Overall handling is improved with no loss in comfort, and, even better, they are generally cheaper!

Test Rides

Yesterday I went for a short 40mi, redline the heart rate the entire time ride, and at the turnaround point decided to take a detour and visit Piermont bike shop in Piermont, NY. I knew they sold Cervelos among other brands like Cannondale. The Cervelo RS was recommended to me as my 'ideal' fitting bike by Mike Sherry, the guy who did my bike fit about a month ago. I never really looked in to it because I knew the frameset alone retailed for $2200 and there were probably no deals to be had through the internet.

Naturally, Piermont had the Cervelo RS built up already in the size I needed. A measely $4k for the entire bike, Dura-Ace, et al. They kindly offered to let me take it for a test ride so on go my Speedplay pedals and out the door I went. The first few pedal strokes I thought the bike was trying to jump forward. It's like it was accelerating with more than what I was inputting through the pedals. Impressive. It also has a snazzy paint job. The ride was slightly better than my current bike, but no reason to upgrade just for that. The fit, however, felt much better, and this was with a too long stem. Mr Sherry was clearly spot on with his recommendation. I need to set up a paypal donation on my blog. C'mon people let the $'s pour forth!

I also test rode a Cannondale Synapse. It was very black in color. It had a much cheaper build hanging on it, Shimano 105, and the price tag was $1900. It also fit me better than my current ride, and felt smoother, too. It did not have the snappy acceleration of the Cervelo, but I'm unsure whether that impression is due to the less stiff crankset or the frame itself. If it's not raining later I will go test ride a Synapse with a Dura-Ace build to see if it feels more like the Cervelo. This bike I could realistically swing financially without your kind Paypal donations:)

And back to reality...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thoughts on 23c vs 25c and the PR3 and GP4000

Wow, does anything in that title make sense to non-bike nerds? Yesterday I lamented over the loss of a close friend, the 23c Michelin ProRace 3 rear tire, due to a mishap with a shard of glass from a Corona beer bottle. Today, I rode again, after a short break, on the old Continental GP4000 25c tires. I've decided they have some life left in them, yet. The difference in the ride quality impressed me enough I felt I should report here and share it with the world.

Upon installation of the skinny looking Michelin's, I noted they went on easier than the gp4000 tires. The PR3 also look very skinny compared to the former 25c GP4000. Noticeably less volume, in other words, not as tall off the rim. The reduction in volume requires a higher PSI to avoid pinch flats, and, thus, results in a stiffer ride. The PR3 is also faster, but probably not because of the higher PSI. That's just because of the tire itself. It's smaller, lighter, and has faster rubber (assumption).

When I started my ride this morning I noted I liked the solid black color of the gp4000 over the grey stripe down the middle the PR3 have. The stripe on the PR3 was not perfectly straight either so at one point it would wobble some. This, I find, to be very disconcerting because I always think my wheel is out of true. It's not though.

I can't say the bike felt slower or heavier with the gp4000.

The commute this morning was beautiful with sunny skies and no wind. I was flying down the path at an average speed of around 26 to 28mph most the way. At some points the path is pretty choppy, and I noted the gp4000 felt much more solid and in contact with the pavement. Basically, they were confidence inspiring. I did not notice the degradation so much in handling when I went to the PR3 last week, but it's pretty noticeable switching back.

I'm curious how the 23c gp4000 ride quality will be which should arrive next week some time. I think they have a tiny bit more volume than the PR3, and are also slightly more durable. We shall see...

For now, though, I think I like the ride quality of 25c vs the 23c.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Short but Sweet

Today, while commuting to work this morning in a very nice, warm temperature, but rain, I was riding through the remnants of a wild party in the park and ran through a big patch of broken Corona bottles and slashed my nearly new rear Michelin Pro3 Race tire. The glass completely punctured the middle of the tire and hit the tube too. Psssss. Yay, I get to change a tire covered in grey NYC goo, and even better, in the rain. A closer inspection after removing the tube showed the glass really did a number on the tire. It's trashed. My hope was I could limp the rest of the way to work without getting another flat. I was happy the tire was fairly easy to mount and the rain was slow and it was warm. Off I go to finish my commute to work just waiting for the next HISSS. None though. I made it to work OK. During lunch I went and bought another tube, and considered getting a tire, but just can't stomach the $60 per tire retail they charge when I know I can get it from pro bike kit for $33. I'm pretty disappointed some pricks that littered, probably thinking it was amusing in their simple minds to smash glass beer bottles on the sidewalk, ruined the tire I just mounted last week!!! Luckily I made it home with no problems after work. Back go the the 25c gp4000 continental tires. Out goes more $ from the bank account for another tire and some tubes. I hate people who litter! It's so sad to ride through the park Monday mornings and see the wake of trash and destruction a certain group of people wreak on the park on a nearly weekly basis. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Today, when getting the tube, I also decided to get some new bar tape. I like the Fi'zik microtex a lot but was less than pleased with the gel beneath it, feeling it basically did nothing. So, I bought some S-works Specialized tape which is nice and soft and has some sort of elastomer in it to dampen vibrations. It feels great on the bars and I think it'll be a big improvement over my old setup. It's also black so my bike is becoming more stealth!

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Weekly Long Ride

This week's long ride goal was 215 miles. I ended up riding 213 miles total, which is close enough, in my opinion! The original plan was to get things ready after work on Friday then try to get a few hours sleep before heading out around 2:30am. I was pretty anxious to hit the road so after lying in bed for about an hour I convinced myself it didn't matter if I left at 9:30pm or 2:30am. I would just arrive at my parents house earlier which would make them super happy.

So out of bed I get, don the cycling clothes, and head out the door and in to the noisy Friday night of Manhattan. I quickly left Manhattan and entered the Bronx. New territory almost immediately. I knew I had a quick turn to make on to Riverdale Ave for my ticket out of the city, but I didn't really know exactly where it was. I just took the first random street and luckily it turned in to Riverdale Ave. Northward!

This was the first night I would really get to test my Dinotte 200L with the 4 cell battery. Specs say 200 lumens and 8 hours with the 4 cell battery on high. I put it on the helmet this time due to the Shimano cables sticking out and blocking the light when mounted on the bar. I could hardly feel the weight atop my head. I've used a few different lights over the years and I have to say the Dinotte comes with the best accessories and smartest mounting features I've seen. They are very simple and just work. No slippage, very light, and durable. Light years ahead of the Niterider MiNewt in all regards which the Dinotte replaced, and while not as bright as the Light and Motion HID, significantly lighter and sufficient output with slightly better mounting and much longer battery life. And most importantly, I think the Dinotte is bright enough for most night riding conditions on the road. It fills an entire street lane and throws out the beam quite far. The battery lasted as long as I needed it to, which was around 6 hours.

The first few hours of the ride were uneventful. I pedaled my way out of the metro area, and entered much more pleasant forested, country roads. I saw racoons all over the place, a few deer, and some other furry monsters, possibly beavers or woodchucks. I love the random noises emanating through the woods at night when the winds are calm and that wet, humid sticky spring air blankets everything. The sky was lit up by a nearly full moon. Night riding. Go do it if you haven't yet. It rivals the sun-filled days.

4.30am. Thump! PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. Doh. I hit a pretty large hole in the road and pinch flatted the rear tube. A car passed me shortly after and slowed down to a crawl eyeing me suspiciously. I had stopped right outside a driveway in a rather wealthy area and I guess I was suspect. The man rolled by and turned in to the next driveway just past where I was working on the tire. A few minutes later he walks out in the street and looks a bit drunk and asks in a very heavy accent whether I can patch my tire or not. I said yes and he stumbles back in to the darkness. Okay, then. Next. In goes the Forte Lunar Light (52 grams) tube. I pump it up with a quickness with my C02, bracing for the inevitable BANG, but, again, to my surprise, nothing so terrible. I guess these ultra light tubes are A OK. Off I go.

Shortly after the flat tire event, the sky started to brighten. That means the temperature starts to drop. Let the shivering begin. I froze for the next hour or two. The bike was wobbling all over the place on the faster descents. I'm not a big fan of dawn in the Spring:) C'mon 8am!

I was still able to enjoy the scenery. I was fortunate enough to be crossing a dam on a pedestrian only bridge just before the sun crept over the hills. Beautiful! I took a pic with my very below standard 1.3mp camera on the Blackberry Pearl.

The rest of the ride was rather uneventful. It got warmer. That made me happy.

I finished around 10am at my parents, and staggered in, to their surprise, and was craving some milk so the b-line was made straight to the Frig.

A summary of the ride would be extremely hilly. I'd love to share it with you but it would take forever to input the roads in to map my ride. It's definitely one of the hilliest rides I've done to date. It included 60 miles of major climbing about 50 miles in to the ride that was nearly continuous. I knew about this piece as it's the main route I take to get to my parents. I don't have an altimeter but gauging from past races I estimate a total elevation gain of 20 to 25,000 feet overall over the 213 miles. Brutal!

The lack of sleep coupled with riding all night made my stomach not so happy. Nothing terrible, I just had no appetite - maybe it was the intake of too much fiber from the bars (i ate two that I normally don't eat when riding and they have lots of fiber and quite a bit of fat from nuts.) I ate a big bowl of granola - definitely not ideal but all I could think to eat - then went and passed out for a few hours. I woke up around noon feeling pretty groggy, but forced myself up to go eat some more food. I still didn't feel so hungry. I lounged around all day feeling tired and basically did nothing. I did start drinking very strong beers in the late afternoon though:) Dinner came, and I ate a bunch of food, finally getting a slight appetite, but still not what I usually have after such a long ride. O well, I give up. To bed I go!

The next day I woke up and after 4 trips to the bathroom I finally had a raging appetite - more than most of you wanted to know I'm sure. So, perhaps the fiber suspicion was correct! Two hours later I was hungry again. and so on for the rest of the day...

I went for a 24 mile recovery ride, if that is possible in the CT hills, on Sunday. The weather was just too nice to not go out on the bike. Not a cloud to be seen and temperatures in the high 70s. Calm. I felt great and enjoyed the views and for the most part did not ride very hard. The legs felt solid still with no soreness.

Then I heard a metallic clinking sound in the right pedal/cleat area. I discovered a lot of play on my pedal but could not tell exactly where it was. Great, just as I thought everything was perfect on the bike. Love the new Pro 3 race tires, by the way! A touch nicer than the GP4000 I had before. I inspected the pedal when I got home and it wobbled quite a bit on the crank arm. I thought at first it was not tightened all the way. So I grabbed the wrench and, nope, it's tight. Look closer and see that the actual interface the pedal screws in to is wobbling wildly within the carbon crank arm. FSA K-Force is the crankset I have. High end, really expensive, neat looking, all around uber fancy cranks. They are only a few months old. I ran to the internet and a quick search turns up this happening to A LOT of people. And, worse, the crank is trashed. So, tomorrow I have to deal with that. I decide even if they replace the crankset I do not want these anymore due to this poor manufacturing, or design (whichever) so I ordered a Dura-Ace Crankset from Pro Bike Kit in the UK. A whopping two hundred dollars less than most US online sites. Crazy. The FSA cranks are very disappointing.

So that's all for todays ramblings...

Friday, May 23, 2008

New Tires and Chain

Last night after my commute home, I finally worked up the courage to mount the new tires I received a few weeks ago. I usually dread putting road tires on the dt swiss rims because they can be extremely difficult. Last time, I had sore hands for 2 to 3 days afterwards. I procrastinated as long as possible before putting these on in anticipation of a frustrating one to two hour battle. The old rear tire was very near the end of it's life (I just put the darn thing on last month!) and I did not want to risk getting flats on the long ride tomorrow. So, out go the Continental GP4000 25c tires, which served me well and kept me from getting any flats throughout their entire life of service on my bike. Out go the generic tubes as well. Why dump perfectly fine tubes?? O, you shall find out soon enough!

The new tires I bought are 23c. They are also a different brand. I could not resist the hype around the Michelin ProRacer3(PR3). They are slightly lighter than my previous Continentals, and obviously a touch more narrow. At least, the specs say they are more narrow and lighter. The PR3 are supposed to be one of the fastest rolling clincher tires on the market, lightest with puncture protection, and reasonable lifespan. I'm sold. They were only a few dollars more than the Conti's.

Also, I decided to weightweenie my bike even more by switching to ultralight tubes. I've had the tubes for a few weeks now, sitting in their box, in my bicycle tool cage between the two bikes mounted on the wall. I glanced at them on numerous occasions and slight tremors of fear and trepidation would pass through my mind thinking about the likelihood of FLATS. I was scared they would blow up when first inflating, or at best, flat within minutes of the first ride. 55 grams they weigh. Vittoria EVO presta tubes. Thats less than half what my generic tubes weigh! They feel incredibly light in my hand. I also dumped the generic tube in my bag on the bike and replaced it with a 52 gram Lunar Light tube from Performance bike. The tube is nearly half the size of the generic so now I have a much more reasonable fit in the bag. No more stuffing things in and having them pop out when I unzip the bag to grab the chapstick! I dropped a half pound off my bike by just changing out the tubes! Add the tires in and we are talking 3/4 a pound!

Back to the mounting. I took a deep breath and started mounting the first bead. To my surprise, the first bead was very easy to get on. It's not loose, or anything, but I didn't have to work nearly as hard as I did with the previous GP4000. Is this a sign of things to come?? I put the tube in, and started putting the other bead on. Shockingly, I didn't have to fight at all! It went on in less than a minute and I didn't have to use a tire lever on the last bit. YES! Finally, a tire I don't have to be scared about if I get a flat out in the middle of nowhere.

Now, time to inflate the tube. Will it explode, or perhaps I pinch flatted it while mounting the tire? A few easy pumps. No gunshot yet. A few more. The tire is staying on. Ok, go for it. I pump the front tire up to 100psi, bracing for the inevitable ear-shattering BANG, but none to report. Maybe I'm in the clear! Still have to make it through the night...

So, I tackle the rear tire and it goes on just as easy as the front. Same with inflation.

I wipe the sweat that never came, and put the new Dura-Ace chain on. I just put the old one on last month! I need a chain and tire sponsor!!!!!!!!!

This morning the tires were not in shreds on the floor, and I didn't wake up to any loud explosion. I guess I'm safe, but still have to ride the bike for the final test.

I start to ride this morning to work, and, as usual with new tires, stuff was sticking to them like crazy. Nothing better than having NYC grime splattering on your frame and legs. I thought, at least the tires didn't explode yet. I made it all the way to work with no flat! I guess I'm in the clear. I'm still convinced I'll get some flats on my long ride tomorrow. Probably during the night when I'm in the middle of the Bronx.

The new tires feel noticeably faster than the GP4000. They are also significantly smaller. I could definitely feel the difference in the ride when I hit bumps. The front is slightly more jarring, but nothing terrible. But, the ride on the smooth pavement feels smoother and better. I guess the reviews I read are pretty accurate! Lighter, faster, smoother rolling, and about as close as you can get to a tubular tire. Not bad at all.

Fri, May 23, 2008 - 10.40 mi [Cycling]

Fri, May 23, 2008 - 10.40 mi [Cycling]
10.40 mi in 00:31:27 hours at 19.84 mi/h on Titus Modena. [Cycling]
Posted from My Cycling Log
The morning commute. Finally, a beautiful sunny day. It was pretty windy still with a semi-cross/tail wind enabling me to rip along at high speeds on occasion. For two stretches I was cruising comfortably around 28mph. But some of the times the winds switched directions nearly blowing me off the path! I'm itching to make it through this day, and to hit the road for my 215 mile ride starting around 2.30 to 3am Saturday morning! I'm already drooling over the BBQ that will be awaiting my arrival at my parents house in Connecticut.

Fri, May 23, 2008 - 20.80 mi [Cycling]

Fri, May 23, 2008 - 20.80 mi [Cycling]
20.80 mi in 01:10:00 hours at 17.83 mi/h on Titus Modena. [Cycling]
Posted from My Cycling Log

The daily commute from yesterday. Rained the entire way in the morning so work loved me when I showed up covered in a murky, grey matter courtesy of the beautiful NYC bike path + streets. The yellow rain coat/shower curtain kept me dry and I've discovered it also washes off beautifully in the sink. The ride home was slightly better with no rain, but a superior head wind with even stronger gusts occurring quite often. At least I was dry and not cold! I think I avg'd 16mph going home!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Training for Long Races & Rides

How do I go about training for the long races and rides I do?

One of the recent things I did was determine my Anaerobic threshold. This has proven to be highly effective for monitoring how hard I should ride in a given circumstance. I recommend anyone training to determine their AT and use it!

I learned a lot about training, and improving for longer rides from UMCA's website. I have the site linked in the links section. I've also learned through practice, what works for me and what doesn't, and also from talking to others that have participated in such events. Brevets are a great place to start if you are interested in riding long distances. It's not a race, and the people are usually very nice. I use brevets as a motivation for the distance, but don't really ride it how a lot of people participating in brevets do. I ride at a race pace the entire time and don't stop besides getting my card stamped. I don't have egg sandwiches for breakfast breaks! I stick with my Super green bars and hammer gel. If I ever get some influx of cash I'll use hammer perpetuem but until then it's gel and bars!:)

My training consists of a few different types of riding. The week usually consists of three to four days of training rides with one of those rides being a weekly long ride. Almost every day I commute to work via bike, but I usually take it easy on a few of them and treat them as active recovery rides the day after a training day. I try to train on Tuesday and Thursday or Monday and Wednesday. I always have a day of rest before and after the long weekly ride. One of the days involves hill climbing repeats which basically means I ride at slightly above race pace to where the hill is (roughly 40 minutes away) then I hammer up and down a climb that is about 1 mile long and pretty steep. I do this ten to fifteen times. The other type of riding is usually in a flatter environment like Central Park. Central park has a 6 mile loop which is nice and smooth with a few small hills. I ride there, which takes about 15 minutes, then ride at a hard pace, harder than I'd ever ride during a race or long ride, and do this for about an hour and a half. This type of riding will get longer as the season progresses all the way up to doing an entire century at this pace. Maybe some day a double century at this pace...but that is far off still! Another type of riding I'll do in Central Park is intervals. Various lengths riding as hard as i possibly can with equal or greater recovery time in between depending on the time I spend going all out.

How do I do the long weekly rides?

These are the most important for me. I used a recommendation from UMCA to figure out the miles I should ride and when. Estimate how many miles you want to ride in your race (mine is 450 miles in the 24 hour UMCA championship this July) and note on the calendar two weeks before this event. This is the last long weekly training ride before the event. Take 10% off of 450 miles and that's how long that last training ride should be. 405 miles! Now, go back another 7 days and take 10% off 405 miles. Do this every 7 days until you are to the present week. This weekend goal for me is a little over 200 miles. I did 190 this past Saturday. Luckily the Brevet series I'm in conveniently fell right in line with the training miles I needed to stay on track.

So, that, in a nutshell is what I'm currently doing to get faster and ride longer!

An Unbiased Guide to Buying and Building Up a Road Bike

I've had a few emails from people asking for advice on which bike they should get for certain applications so I decided to post my opinions and incites in to buying or building a bike. I've no affiliation with anyone. I've simply done A LOT of research when building my own bike. I was primarily looking for durability and functionality while also paying close attention to weight and cost. The advice I'm giving is NOT for a cheap bike. It's for a bike you will be buying as an investment. That does not mean it will cost what a Specialized Tarmac S-Works costs, or a Serotta with Campognolo record. It will be something that will work exceedingly well for it's intended purposes, bring pleasure, and hopefully, for the most part, cure that itchy upgradeitis for a few years to come. I hope it helps and more importantly saves you a lot of time researching the multitude of parts out there on the market.

This guide is intended for people who are trying to save money and get a top notch bike, or can not afford to buy a high end name brand like a Trek, Giant, or Specialized in one hefty shot. This guide is also for those who do not have a good bike shop in the area (like me) that is trustworthy and truly knowledgeable and helpful. Unfortunately, unless you are capable of building your own bike you will need to seek help in that area. The bike you put together using the parts below will be BETTER most likely than anything the big guns offer and cheaper - most notably the build kit. You will end up with a much higher end build kit than most offerings in the same price range.

So with that out of the way here you go!


First off, before you even start looking at buying a bike you need to know what size you require. There are two options to fit your needs. One, find a local shop that offers a professional bike fit. Prices vary widely. I paid $250. I've seen $375 here in Manhattan. $150 in smaller towns. Make sure it is done by someone that has done MANY fits beforehand, and is not going to just be eyeballing you and using calculations like .883 x your inseam for the seat height. If I used the .883 calculation I would be INCHES too low. It works as an average, but not everyone is average and it will be incredibly off in many situations.

The other option, and it's free of cost, is to use one of the numerous fit calculators available on the Internet. I used Competitive Cyclists online fit calculator. They give three recommended fit solutions after you enter all the information. I chose the Meryx fit which seemed to be in between the other two. A few months later I had the professional bike fitting done and it turns out the measurements were very accurate. I had nothing that needed to be changed besides some micro adjustments with the saddle, seat height, and cleat positioning.


So you now know pretty closely what size frame you need. Which one do you get out of the hundreds of thousands out there? Carbon? Steel? Titanium? A mix of one or two materials? New? Used?

I bought my current frameset off eBay, and it was pretty much brand new. I saved about $900 off of the retail price. eBay is great, but you will usually have no warranty, and sometimes don't get exactly what you expected.

Before you pick which frame you need to know what you want the frameset to be capable of doing. Is it a century or less road racing machine? A long distance racer? A long distance randonneur? A little bit of everything? Maybe some dirt roads?

If comfort is what you are looking for look for frames with taller head tubes and longer wheel bases. Specialized Roubaix is a good example so check out it's geometry. Serotta Fierte is another.

Some frames can do everything. But usually those frames that can do everything will not be ideal for any one particular application. A great example is the Surly Cross Check. It is a utilitarian do it all bike. It's pretty cheap, heavy steel, that takes fenders, racks, fat tires for mountain biking, and cantilever or v-brakes. Lightweight higher end road framesets generally can't do any of those besides go fast on the road.

Carbon frames are all the hype right now on the market. It's even hard these days to find a completely titanium or steel higher end road frame. I really enjoy the ride of my carbon frame. It's great for smoothing out the regular pavement you ride on. It does not, however, dampen big cracks or potholes. Well built titanium or steel frames do a slightly better job than carbon in this area. Don't expect any miracles though. They can only flex so much. Over many hours it may be worth it to have that extra cushion. That is for you to decide. Steel is usually the heaviest. Do not worry about rust. Use Framesaver and go ride. It takes MANY YEARS for a steel frame to rust away. Perhaps if you were riding on salted streets every day this would accelerate the rusting, but I really don't think it's something most people need to worry about. Titanium is lightweight, and in my opinion, the best frame you can get assuming it's well built and sized for you, but it's also almost always very expensive. Aluminum is another option, but it's slowly fading away. Cannondale makes some great AL frames, and a few companies will mix aluminum with carbon. Aluminum gets a bad rep as being stiff and brutal. I doubt I could tell a difference from a high quality steel frame vs a top of the line cannondale. Certainly the cheap aluminum might be very stiff. Many of the cheap steel frames will be the same. But you shouldn't buy those!

What should I buy?

Budget is crucial. Also, when do you need the frame? If you have no rush consider a custom frame. Not all custom means $$$. Curtlo builds great steel frames for less than $1000. He is just one of many steel builders. Do a search for custom builders and check out their sites. Titanium frames will be over $2000 usually. The most common Ti frames I see are Seven, Independent Fabrications, Merlin, and Serotta. All are top notch. Smaller builders I've been very impressed with are Strong and Black Sheep. Again, there are LOTS of ti builders out there. Just because everyone in your 'hood rides a Seven does not mean you should.

Habanero Cycles sells titanium road frames for an amazing price of less than $1000.

For a carbon frame or even carbon + titanium at GREAT prices check out Pedal Force. I discovered them during a group buy on Bike Forum. People got a screaming deal on one of their frames. I wish I had known when they were setting it up! For $600 to $950, as of May 20 2008, they offer various carbon or carbon + ti frames. For less than $2k you will have yourself a top of the line road racing machine.

For utilitarian, cheaper, NEW steel frames it's hard to beat Surly. Their frames and forks ride great. No, they are not light, but they are comfortable and versatile and will last a long time. I love the Cross Check. The Pacer would perhaps be a better choice for road riding. They cost anywhere from 350 to 400 (frame + fork) depending on where you look. Soma Fabrications also makes great steel frames for a slightly higher cost than Surly. Another step up from Soma would be Gunnar. They make amazing frames and are very affordable.

Frame/sets worth checking out if going the build your own/customize route: Salsa Cycles, Surly Bikes, Soma Fabrications, Kona, Gunnar, Ionic Cycles, Pedal Force, Voodoo,

You'll notice I'm not mentioning major company framesets. I just didn't do a lot of research on them when buying my own frameset. I did check eBay for some, but never came across any in my size for a good price. The common name brands simply get bid higher since more people are familiar with them. Specialized I know sells framesets from their s-works line but they cost A LOT. The Roubaix looks great and goes for $1750. I'd definitely ride that bike if someone gave it to me:) All the mainstream carbon builders are simply out of my price range. And I don't think you are getting that much more bike compared to a Pedal Force or Curtlo or even a Surly.

The engine is what drives the bike, not the bike itself!


Groupset: Shimano 105 is a great deal. It functions well and is significantly cheaper than something like Dura-Ace with very similar functionality, a bit more plastic, and heavier overall weight. Some people will tell you it's not as 'crisp' or long lasting as Ultegra Or Dura-Ace. Ultegra is also affordable for many and not much more $ than 105. I recommend Ultegra for everyone that's going to be riding a lot. Personally, I do not think it's worth spending the extra money for Dura-Ace, but if you have the dollars, go for it. SRAM also makes some comparable groupsets to Shimano. Rival is their low end and Force is similar to Dura-Ace. They also have a Red group but it's much more expensive. I've not used SRAM before, but many seem to like it. It's a bit lighter than Shimano's equivalents, and the Force group uses lots of carbon so it looks fancy. Campognolo also has many groupsets but due to the dollar conversion they cost more for the same thing usually. Pro Bike Kit offers Campy though and maybe you can get a screaming deal. Just make sure your hubs are built for Campy! Campy has a cult-like following and you will hear many say it's the 'only' group out there worthy, but I've used both and don't think it's any better than a well setup Shimano.

Where do I get these gruppos? GVH Bikes, Colorado Cyclist, and Pro Bike Kit (in UK) are usually the cheapest places to find group sets. Many places will price match. Pro Bike Kit is almost always the lowest for groups. They are in the UK, but they ship to the US and shipping is usually free. The only problem with them is often they do not have every groupset piece you need. But, it's usually the cheap part like a front derailleur so you could just order that locally. Another great thing about Pro bike kit is you can pick and choose from different groupsets and pay the same low price. This lets you splurge on a few higher end parts you normally would not be able to afford. Please email me if you know places for better prices!!!

Forks: Hopefully your frame came with a fork, but if not here are a few recommendations. I think my Reynolds Ouzo Comp is excellent and I've seen it online for $99. It's carbon with an alloy steerer. For more money Reynolds has the Ouzo Pro which supposedly rides EXACTLY the same as the Comp, but it's lighter. Easton ec90 comes recommended, but I've never ridden it. I also like Torelli carbon forks. There are also custom steel forks out there by companies like Vicious Cycles.

Pedals: Speedplay are my personal favorite. They are very simple, have lots of float, or adjustable depending on which model you get. They are very light. They require no maintenance. They are difficult to walk in. The cleats are expensive. Shimano's new Ultegra and Dura-Ace are also great and are cheap from Pro Bike Kit. I would take speedplay any day over them though. Look keo carbon seemed nice when I used them, but I like the double sided entry the Speedplay have.

Shoes: Very personal. Insoles though, I highly recommend considering getting a new sole for your shoe. Specialized makes some great ones(i use these). Superfeet and your sole also have some. Highly recommended.

Headset: Before it was Chris King or bust. Now there are a few other notable headset makers out there that work just fine and are either cheaper, slightly fancier and more expensive, or just lighter. The King headset comes in lots of pretty colors and will serve you just fine. Cane Creek makes a number of headsets. They even have a new high end one which some think out performs the King headset. Crank Brothers has some pretty snazzy looking headsets and they are very light but I don't know much about them. Race Face also has a great headset with the Deus, and perhaps other models. With any of these you will most likely have zero problems.

Wheels: Custom. You can get a high end custom built wheelset that will weigh less than most 'name brand' wheels, cost a lot less quite often, and be just as strong. The best bang for your buck wheelbuilder I know of is Mike Garcia at odds and endos. He builds amazing wheels for very affordable prices. Highly recommended. He has many options so call him up, and tell him what you need. Again, email me if you know other builders that are as good as Mike and offer similar prices. If you don't want to go the custom route there are a few online wheel sites worth checking out that offer great bang for the buck. Neuvation Cycling & Williams Cycling. They both have reasonably priced wheelsets which are both light and durable.

Stems: Ritchey Pro or WCS is a great choice if they have the length you need. They are very light, affordable, and nice and stiff. Email me if you need other suggestions due to requiring a higher rise or different length. Note the diameter because now bars are 26.0 or 31.8 OS. 31.8 is the norm these days.

Handlebars: Again, Ritchey WCS alloy bar is tough to beat. It's really light and quite affordable. Carbon is becoming more popular these days for bars. Some argue it rides better. Personally, I can't tell a difference. I use a Kestrel EMS Pro bar I got off ebay for $99. They are probably still around on eBay so check them out if you want a great carbon bar. I think it's a bit stiffer in the drops than the Ritchey WCS I had before.

Handlebar Tape: Right now I use Fi'zik microtex with gel inserts beneath. I can't say the gel makes much difference vs Cork tape with integrated gel. I do, however, like the Fi'zik tape. Without the gel, though, the Fi'zik would be too thin for my needs. The Fi'zik appears like it will last much longer than cork tape and feels better, especially when wet. Cinelli and Deda make great tape as well. I think some sort of cushion makes for a much better ride. Some tapes are very thin and I find them uncomfortable for long rides. There are many brands out there, so basically pick one and see if you like it. It's finally a part for the bike that is pretty cheap and easily replaceable! *New* I recently replaced my Fi'zik with Specialized S-Works tape. It's a synthetic cork tape, black, and has lots of cushion. I like it more than the Fi'zik and have found I can use non-padded gloves comfortably.

Seatpost: Carbon vs Aluminum. Many think carbon rides smoother than an aluminum post. I'm not totally convinced. It's certainly not a huge difference. Perhaps with a carbon saddle and no cushion it's more noticeable. But that is not what I use! I use a Specialized Pave SL carbon seatpost that has a Zertz insert for supposed vibration dampening. Well, the seatpost works fine and it's easy to adjust. Thomson is the best post on the market, hands down. It'll last forever and is lightweight. Infinite microadjustments. Setback or straight depending on what you need. Black or silver. If you shell out a few extra dollars you can get their masterpiece which is lighter weight but otherwise the same. Of course there are also a few titanium posts out there. Moots is a common one. They are very nice but cost a lot.

Seat Collar: Salsa liplock works well and comes in numerous colors. Slightly lighter, the Hope collar comes in colors as well and works fine.

Saddle: Saddle is a personal choice. I've gone through A LOT of saddles before finding my one. Brooks Team Professional Titanium is my choice. It's the most comfortable saddle I've ever used. All others always created some sort of discomfort. My only advice: Know this, you should NOT have to tolerate any discomfort. There is a saddle out there for you. Selle An-atomica is an interesting saddle. I have one and like it. Competitive Cyclist lets you demo a huge range of saddles for $75. That is an excellent way to find which one may work for you. Saddles take adjustments. If it seems uncomfortable at first move it around some. Don't give up immediately.

Tires & Tubes: Continental GP4000 are great tires. I prefer 25c for training and typical riding, and use the 23c for racing. The 25c are more stable feeling on downhills, have better flat resistance (less chance of pinch flat) and are more comfortable. The 25c hardly ever flat if you keep them at the proper pressure. Yes, they cost a lot. Yes, they are absolutely worth it. Tubes: Generic tubes have always worked fine for me. I've recently started using Lunar Light tubes by Performance Bike. They are roughly half the weight of conventional generic tubes. I've quite a few miles on them and am happy to report they have not cause any issues whatsoever. I'm sold. They cost less when on sale than most local bike shop generic tubes, are half the weight, and work perfectly fine. A lot of that is the tire though. The GP4000 is simply excellent and seems very flat resistant. If you want to try something besides the GP4000, I also like the Michelin ProRace 3. Vittoria EVO tires also come highly recommended. Schwalbe Ultremo. Those three, besides the conti', should keep you busy for a few years. Besides the Ultremo, they are not as flat resistant but are very fast, smooth rolling, light clinchers.

Skewers: I like Salsa Skewers because they come in nice colors, are quite functional with much better hand grips than most skewers, and are also very light. I got lucky and got some Titanium ones through a friend's bike shop, but they cost a lot. The stainless are quite fine and affordable. Hope also makes excellent skewers and in different colors. If you end up getting wheels from Mike Garcia he has some skewers that are great, cheap, and really light as well.

Well that about rounds it up. I hope this will help many and feel free to email me with suggestions, improvements, or recommendations!!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Performance Bike's cycling rain coat

This weekend a wet start was predicted. Normally I would not be concerned about getting a bit wet, but the ride started at 3am and the predicted temperature was also rather low at around 40F. I thought about wearing my Arc'Teryx Gore-tex XCR Theta shell, but didn't want to deal with carrying it after the rain abated a few hours in to the ride.

So, I checked performance bike because I had heard they have lots of rain gear with their own brand for reasonable prices. I opted for their cheapest, minimalist jacket for $14.99. It's bright yellow (they also have clear) with venting from the wrist (underside of arm) all the way to the armpit and down to the side of the waist. The venting is a few inches wide and a mesh material. The rest of the jacket is made of something very similar to a PVC shower curtain. It goes down far in the back to protect your butt. There is a reflective strip across the entire back for visibility at night. Elastic cuffs on the sleeves. Velcro holds it closed all along the front. Definitely no bells and whistles.

Does it keep you dry? YEP! It worked perfectly, and after it wasn't needed it packed away nicely into the rear pocket of my jersey. Not bad for Fifteen dollars.

Highly recommended. Save your hard earned $ and get this instead of the fancy gore-tex shell!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bashbish 300km Brevet

Yesterday, May 17th, I completed the second in a series of brevets in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. It was 300km(190mi) long and there was a 20 hour time limit. The ride was described as "hilly" on the website and it started at a lovely 3am Saturday morning. Each rider is given a cue sheet and a card before the start. There are a few checkpoints along the way that note your time on a card which you turn in upon completion of the brevet.

The forecast for Saturday morning called for light rain at the start with temps hovering a bit over 40F and then sunny early on and throughout the day with temps in the high 60s.

3am. cold. very dark. moderate, steady rain. Flooded streets. 3am. cold. wet.

I had to dig really deep to work up the motivation to start this brevet. My friend, Zack, was feeling exactly how I felt. We definitely did not want to leave the warm confines of the car or bike shop only to be stuck in the pouring, cold rain in the dark for roughly three hours. I was tempted to wait a few hours since I knew I would finish way before the 20 hour time limit was up. But, everyone else started so I went too. Zack and I started about 35 minutes late, and we were the last two persons to roll out of the parking lot by the bike shop. Roughly 20 people participated in this brevet. Most I recognized from the 200km a few weeks prior. 7 or 8 no shows which I can only assume was because of the awful weather at the start.

So off we go, lights leading the way, in to the flooded streets of Westfield, MA. I was quickly soaked in all places not covered by waterproof material, which means everywhere besides my torso and hands. The feet remained dry for a few minutes thanks to some waterproof winter booties, but the massive amounts of water being sprayed on to my legs quickly rendered them useless. The booties actually worked rather well, only not exactly how they were designed. I discovered they also kept water in so the water inside eventually warmed to body temperature and my feet were reasonably happy although very wet. On my hands I had regular cycling gloves covered by surgical or nitrile gloves which are very waterproof but let you feel everything. In other words, my hands were really cold and would remain so for about three hours.

After about an hour and a half the rain decided to go away for good, and left me in the dark but otherwise decent weather. The first climb began, 8 miles long, and I was thankful for it so I could attempt to warm up. The road seemed isolated and there was absolutely no traffic. It sounded like it was pretty on either side. Perhaps some creek or river. It was too dark to tell. I decided to start riding hard, sort of a mock race, and would do so for the remainder of the approximately 170 miles.

Eventually the sun came up.

About an hour after the sun kissed the roads, I made it to the first checkpoint and met two participants just leaving as I rolled in. The stomach was rumbling so I decided to chat with Don (the brevet organizer - and a great guy!) and munch on a peanut butter and jelly bagel sandwich that was provided at the stop. I told him I had not passed anyone, and he thought that was odd since Zack and I had left last and there were four others that had not checked in yet. HMM. Well, it turns out they got a bit lost but eventually found their way. Off I go.

Thirty minutes later I passed the first of the two guys I saw leaving the checkpoint earlier. The roads were really isolated with rolling, small hills surrounded by farms. Simply beautiful. Ideal for road riding! Perhaps 15 minutes later I passed the second guy. I waved and said hi and kept on pedaling. Next came route 7 which headed straight south to Kent, CT. I was quite familiar with this road as my parents live in the vicinity, and knew I could hammer it hard the entire way to Kent. It was still early, probably around 7am, so there was very little traffic on this usually busy weekend road. Stunning scenery in every direction. Heavily forested, and for the majority of the ride to Kent the road follows the Housantonic river. Road riding at it's finest! I caught up to and passed everyone else on the brevet besides the guy in front - I never did see him - before reaching Kent. At Kent, I had a quick snack and took off on the road. I knew the next portion of the route quite well, and the roads were some of my favorite. The route took me back north in to New York through very rural farm country. A llama farm! Those critters really make me laugh. They are so silly looking grinding away at the grass all day with their shaggy coats hanging in disarray.

For the remainder of the ride I did not see anyone else participating. I zoned out and pedalled my way to the finish.

The roads were beautiful for about 150 of the 180 miles. Ten of the miles were on relatively busy roads and the last twenty were on a pretty road, it was just very poorly maintained forcing me to hit numerous spine-rattling bumps after 170 miles of hard riding. Not such a nice thing!

The great news is, I felt solid throughout the entire ride. I maintained a very steady heart rate near my anaerobic threshold, and not once did I feel any hint of a cramp or tired legs. I concede the science stuff seems to truly work.

The even greater news is the Brooks Team Professional saddle is a KEEPER! Not once did I feel any discomfort on the sitbones nor anywhere else. A happy butt sure makes a major difference on a ride like this. When the body is working happily together, pain free, it functions far more efficiently and goes longer and harder much easier.

Things to note: I think the Dinotte 200l headlight is not sufficient for high speed riding in total darkness by itself. A y-cable allows two of the lights to be used in unison, but I will give it one more ride in the dark to confirm the insufficiency. It was raining most the time I had to use it so perhaps it was affected by the drops. Also, the crappy shimano cable design for the brifters blocked some of the light. Next time I shall put it on the helmet.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Brooks Team Professional

This, hopefully, is my last post regarding saddles. I've ridden two times now on the Brooks Team Professional. Once while commuting, and the other being a 3 hour hammer fest this morning. Tonight I'll commute and go for a long night ride to make sure I have it set up precisely before the 300km brevet this Saturday.

I'm very happy with how the Brooks feels. Conflicting reports say it is either super comfortable from the first assuming you set it up properly, or it's a rough start but after a few hundred miles it becomes your favorite couch. I'm still trying to convince myself to feel uncomfortable while perched atop it. It just doesn't make sense for a saddle that feels so hard with absolutely zero cushion to not cause any discomfort. O well, I guess I'll have to accept the fact it just works. I really enjoy the super slick feeling of the seemingly high quality honey colored leather. The hammered copper rivets and rails are also super sexy.

On my first ride initially it was a bit disconcerting, and I thought perhaps I had it set up improperly because I felt like I was sliding all over the place. Upon inspection when I got home, I did, in fact, have the seatpost up a touch too high, and I think I needed to tilt the saddle up to very slightly nose up. In other words, barely perciptible to the naked eye.

This morning I started to really appreciate the shape of the Team Professional. It seems like it was shaped specifically for my butt. It holds it o so nicely while spreading the weight very evenly. No sitbone pain predicted here!

Conclusion: Ignore the 500gm's of hand crafted leather saddle and just ride! I highly recommend this one, and personally think it's nicer than the Selle An-atomica. The Selle is no slouch in comfort either, but I think I prefer the very firm and slick feel the Brooks offers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Battle with the Saddles is FINISHED, or maybe not.

YES! Finally, the saddle I should've bought quite awhile ago, but didn't because of it's hefty weight, is the winner by a long shot. The winner is the Selle An-atomica. The idea for the saddle originally started out as a modified Brooks saddle, but now it is it's own entity. The leather is a bit softer than a Brooks, it's waterproof (maintenance free) and the rails are much longer. This thing rides like a dream. It felt a bit awkward at first, and I needed to adjust the tension a few times at the start, but I soon forgot about the saddle underneath me. I probably still need to adjust it a bit more but I'm going to ease in to it so I can really feel the difference as it tightens. I hammered for five hours this morning and not once did I even think about my poor ol' sit bones. AMAZING. I've simply never had this before with a saddle. The thing moves with your butt and even when hitting bumps it absorbs much of the shock. It's like a hammock for the butt! For all your long distance riders I strongly recommend giving this saddle a try.

UPDATE!!!: This morning (5/14) I was attempting to modify the An-atomica to reduce or eliminate the chafing I was experiencing on the hind side of the thighs by shaving the sides down some, and it appears I may have shaved them a tad too much. Tragically, I've ruined the saddle. I had no idea the side skirts were that involved with the support of the bum, but it appears that is definitely the case and I had some odd sensations due to the narrowed skirt when commuting this morning.

So the battle with the saddles rages on. Since I knew there was no chance of receiving another An-atomica before my 300km brevet this weekend in the Berkshires, today I went and purchased a Brooks Team Professional at a local bike shop. The proof hide has been applied, and we shall see how it feels on the commute home and later tonight on a longer night ride to test the lighting system I recently upgraded to. The Brooks is way better made than the Selle An-atomica with sexy, huge, hammered copper rivets mated to a very firm honey colored leather. The shape is more appealing to my bum being slightly narrower in width as well as tapering in much sooner towards the nose. Shockingly, it is even slightly heavier than the An-atomica.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Great bibs at an even greater price

I recently made the change from shorts to bibs and have to say I regret not doing so A REALLY LONG TIME AGO. They are superior to shorts in every way. The only negative I can find is the majority of the bibs out there cost A LOT. An example: I just placed an order for some Assos Fi UNO for my 'special long distance weekend bib' and they cost $155 dollars. And that's their lower end model. Most cost over $200. Of course, these prices are Assos, which many consider to be the best bib available, and not for other brands. A quick search through other high end brands will yield similar prices, though. And that brings me to the title of this post... While perusing the web a few weeks ago I ran across a post on Bike Forum about bibs and many people recommended Voler bibs for the best bang for your buck. And as I read on I learned that Hammer Nutrition uses Voler bibs with their own logo and they offer the same Voler bib with an upgraded chamois (Volers top of the line) for LESS than the cheaper Voler bibs. So, as long as you can stomach some advertising you can get yourself some great training/general riding bibs for $50. I've used them on all day jaunts and short training rides. No complaints. They simply work. Excellent compression, nice feeling fabric, and I like that they have no silicone on the leg grippers - but they still grip perfectly fine. They feel better than my Pearl Izumi Microsensor shorts which cost nearly three times as much as the Hammer bibs.

I've now a small collection of Hammer bibs, but also bought some Performance Ultra bibs which were about ten dollars more than the Hammer bibs, on sale. I think the Ultra's are great shorts as well, but they seem like they will not be as durable. The fit is excellent as is the Escher fabric used through the lower part of the bibs. After two rides totaling about 450 miles, though, the insides are already showing signs of wear on the seams on either side where they graze the saddle on occasion. The Hammer bibs do not have this issue nor do they have the seams in, in my opinion, somewhat odd locations on the chamois like the Ultra's. I don't notice them when riding, but they just don't seem like the best place for stitching to be. I'm not a bib designer though:)

You can get a discount of 15% off the Hammer bibs, or any other product by using me as a referral with the code 75865 - or click the picture in the top left corner of the blog. If you haven't used their nutrition products I also highly recommend those. Perpetuem is great for endurance events along with their various flavors of gel - I like tropical, but others like banana are OK, too. Heed is nice in the water bottle. It's barely sweet but adds some flavor along with some electrolytes.

Western Connecticut country ride & more saddle battles

On Sunday, I went for a beautiful ~85 mile ride through the hills of Western Connecticut, primarily in Litchfield county, with a bit of dabbling in New York state as well. I had originally planned on a completely different ride, but once again the battle with the saddle curbed my plans. Instead of heading north in to MA, I opted for just taking random roads in CT assuming I would probably not get lost as long as I kept my bearings straight! It was sunny all day and around 65F with hardly any wind. Spring is just rolling in to the area so it was nicely green with numerous flowering trees about. Nearly the entire 85 miles were through tiny two lane country roads surrounded by farms and fields and forests. This area is surely some of the nicest for road riding in this country! You have to like HILLS though. This 85 mile route had plenty of those guys. I felt like I had ridden about 150 miles by the finish.

View Interactive Map on

The battle with the saddles continues on. The Selle San Marco Rolls failed the test after two days of riding. Saturday I took it easy and rode 44 miles, well, distance wise I took it easy. I hammered the majority of the time and climbed quite a few hills. The hills are a trend in CT that are unavoidable but rewarding. Great training grounds. On Sunday, I bought a Specialized Alias 143mm bg saddle. This saddle felt far more comfortable on the short test ride I took with it Sunday evening. My butt was feeling mighty sore after the 85 mile ride and the Specialized induced absolutely no pain. It weighs slightly less than the Rolls, by about 25 grams, but feels significantly less intrusive on the butt. I had to feel around to make sure I was actually sitting on the thing. Hopefully it disappears like this all the time. The bg philosophy seems to focus on removing most pressures while focusing the majority of your weight on the sit bones placed on some memory foam. The saddle is cut out all over the place and is nice and smooth virtually eliminating any possibility of friction. This is omething the Rolls certain could not claim. With it, I had friction from the nose and felt various pressure points all over the saddle. No matter how I adjusted it I would find a new spot of discomfort!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

On Footbeds

With the increase in mileage new pains or discomforts are bound to occur. I use Northwave Aerator 3 shoes pictured above - mine are the blue and white - and they come with a pretty pathetic flat leather insole over a nicer cork sole. My foot would slide back and forth unless I really strapped myself in which would usually create numbness after a short period of time. So I opted for slippery feet. After a few weeks of this I remembered I had a pair of green colored Superfeet which are designed primarily for hiking type shoes. They are significantly thicker than the stock leather insoles but also about 50 times more supportive. I stuck them in thinking I would not be able to fit my foot in, but to my surprise it was quite easy and only required a slightly adjusting of the straps. I couldn't wear thick winter socks but the normal cycling socks were no problem! So now I have super supportive cycling shoes. Immediately I noticed a significant increase in support, pedaling efficiency, and power. It also seemed to line my legs up better probably because my arch was no longer collapsing under heavy load.
All seemed lovely in footland, but a few weeks ago I did a back to back century over the weekend through very hilly terrain and had some pretty uncomfortable hot spots under the balls of both feet. Back to the drawing board. I thought perhaps it was simply because I was not used to pushing for so long and hard, but figured I should check to see what else is out there.
Shortly after, I ran across Specialized bg insoles. These things sounded ideal. They have the support of the Superfeet but also have a metatarsal button to keep the ball of the foot better cushioned. I went to a local bike shop to see what arch size I needed, and ended up with the ++ or blue colored version. The next day was the 200km brevet so I figured what better way to test them. I'm very happy to report they work perfectly!
I've gone back and forth between the Superfeet and the Specialized over the past few weeks to really make sure which one I like and after riding with the Superfeet each time I always crave the Specialized. They absolutely eliminate hot spots, and the metatarsal button really makes the overall comfort of the foot increase substantially. Settled! Highly recommended for all of you who still use the stock insoles in your cycling shoes.

The AT test trial 1

What does AT stand for? AT = anaerobic threshold. Loosely defined it means the point at which lactic acid accumulates in the bloodstream faster than can be removed reaching a lactic acid threshold. What does this have to do with anything? If you go beyond your AT during an endurance race it will sap your muscles, make you tired, cramps, etc. So the idea is to train with the AT in mind to increase your tolerance for lactic acid and make you more efficient at dealing with the lactic acid which basically means you can go faster and harder at a higher level of effort without hitting your AT. That is super simplified, FYI, so read more on the web if you want a true definition!

Yesterday I decided I should try and add a bit of science in to my training program. I've had the computer which is easily capable of participating in this game for a few months now and have definitely not even touched on it's fancy abilities. Now I just need the strategy and focus. The good ol' Internet is a great place to peruse the plethora of *free* information in regards to training plans, testing, and recommended types of training.

So this morning I pedaled my way to Central Park basically warming up along the way and gradually picking up my pace. When I hit CP, I dropped the hammer and pedaled my butt off for 30 minutes at about the highest pace I could maintain without failing for 30 to 60 minutes. By monitoring the heart rate, one can estimate the AT at the end of the time trial. Central Park is not ideal, but it's the best I can get for now without dropping $175 at Cadence Cycle. I suppose I could use the indoor trainer, and I probably will have to do that at some point to see if the results are similar, but for now I'm satisfied.

My results showed an average heart rate of 88% of the maximum heart rate setting in the computer which is probably not my true heart rate but pretty close. Using fancy math I was able to determine an AT of 166bpm. Using even more fancy math I created zones to train in depending on what I want to accomplish on any given ride. Zone 1 would be a very easy recovery ride and on up to zone 5 which is more than 100% of the AT which works on the VO2 max (a whole other topic.) Zone 3 (75-85% of the AT) is the happy zone which I will spend many, many, many hours in over the next few months.

Boring you yet? I'm almost done.

So in goes the data to the Polar cs200 WITH cadence! Now I get to be beeped at telling me to pick up the pace or slow down. Tomorrow morning will be the first trial run with the fancy new beeps and %'s telling me what to do and when. I'm pretty sure it will be irritating but hopefully beneficial!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Battle with the Saddles

This weekend was probably the most uncomfortable I've ever been on a bicycle. And I didn't even ride that far. The Selle San Marco Concor Light is the most evil, twisted torture device I've ever found to put under my butt. On Saturday, I headed out for my 157 mile weekend long distance ride early in the morning under a very grey sky which promised (lies) to be decent later in the afternoon. It started raining shortly after I got over the GWB and didn't let up until I gave up and turned around after about 25 miles of northward pedaling. The rain isn't exactly what made me turn around. It was the fence post I was straddling. My butt HURT and I was only an hour in to the ride. I think it's too narrow for me. It also has very little padding. My 163lb body simply needs more cush, I guess.

On Sunday, I went for another ride assuming it would provide discomfort but feeling the need to put in the miles. I managed to crank out 90 miles and for the most part was in constant mild pain. I had to stand often and when I did my butt would feel like it was burning!

Today, I remembered I had an old, heavy Specialized saddle in the parts bin so I put it on basically just as a temporary remedy until the "rolls" by San marco arrives in a few days. Ah, what a relief!! The specialized was very comfortable but it should be. It has quite a bit of cushion. I don't really like the material it's made of as on longer rides I think it would get pretty hot and nasty, but for commuting it's perfect.

The Rolls better be the last saddle I ever need to get. It is the opposite of everything I've tried recently being a tank, wider, longer, and pretty cushy. I suppose it's similar to the specialized but of much higher quality with a nice leather and titanium rails.