Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Disaster strikes again - Shenandoah 100 mtb race

I've learned this year there are so many things that can go wrong during a 100 mile mountain bike race on mostly backwoods trails when you are racing your hardest. To plan for them all is a nearly impossible challenge. This past Sunday I tried, but failed. Physically, I had taken it easy the three weeks leading to the race. One of the weeks I did not ride a bike once. Mentally, I was a bit worried about the physical aspect, but otherwise felt prepared. I had dialed in the bike, had made some changes I learned from the previous mtb races, and was ready to roll.

As posted previously, I switched to a suspension fork. The speed and stability gained with the squishy fork easily makes up for the one pound gain over the previous On One carbon fork. I also mounted my tube, lever, and tire boot with electrical tape on the seatpost instead of using a bag. Why? At the last race, my bag opened and I lost everything. Also, the bumpy conditions have been known to wear through tubes due to friction inside the bag. And finally, it's lighter and easier to access! I also bought a high volume mini pump by Lezyne that cleanly mounts under the downtube bottle cage. C02 is simply not trustworthy, for me, in the middle of nowhere with nothing but serious walking in either direction if something goes wrong. I tested the pump, and it works great and is hardly slower than using a C02 cartridge. The Lezyne pump weighs only a few grams more than the typical c02 package. I also changed to tougher tires - WTB nanoraptors. They are quite a bit smaller in volume, weigh about the same as the racing ralphs, and, imo, offer far better traction and durability while maintaining a similar, if not better, rolling resistance. They sealed tubeless very easily on my ztr355 29er rims. Minimal shaking was required and no leakage or loss of PSI over a few days. Finally, I slapped on a carbon riser bar to reduce the drop from the saddle. Yes, a stem would've done fine, too, but I wanted a stiffer and slightly wider bar. The Edge Composites fit the bill nicely. It's very stiff, a little wider, and raised my hand position 25mm. Couple that with the slightly taller fork and I'm exactly where I wanted to be!

On to the race:

6:30am start time. 100 miles. 14,000 ft of climbing. 36x21 gearing. Sold out race, 550 people on the start line.

An early time to start racing, but necessary due to the length, me and 549 riders assembled by the start line at dawn under a reasonably clear sky and perfect temps. The forecast was excellent for the day with minimal sun, no rain, and comfortable humidity. A record was sure to be broken!

My plan was to start near the front, hammer it out at the start at 100% with hopes of escaping the majority of the riders and having a clear way for the remainder of the race. I did just this. I had pre-ridden the first 10 miles of the course so knew exactly what to expect. A dusty start, a few miles of pavement then we hit the first fire road climb of the day which started gradually and finished steep before heading in to a very rocky, fast single track descent.

I spun out my legs to max on the pavement gradually moving up but unable to keep up with the fastest geared riders. Once we hit the climb that all changed. I kept the power high and quickly passed nearly everyone and was riding right behind the pro men geared riders. I kept this pace all the way to the single track climb. In we go to the rock garden! A little climbing then a very fast, fun descent. And this is where the story changes.

I was flying down the trail and someone slid out in front of me. I dodged to the right and my wheel caught on something, a rock I assume, and I went flying over the handle bars. I landed really hard on my back and the bike toppled down upon me. The wind was knocked out of me and I was bleeding quite a bit on my elbow. I could tell it was a very serious impact, and after assessing the body lying down I slowly stood up. My thigh was on fire from a severe contusion, and so was my back. The back really had me worried. I couldn't catch my breath and it felt very tight. I decided I was capable of riding still so I hopped back on the bike - miraculously not a scratch besides crooked handle bars - and off I went. The crash really took a lot out of me for a little bit. A few geared riders went flying by me and I struggled to catch up. I still couldn't breathe properly and felt like all the power had been taken out of my back. My right thigh felt like it was cramping, but I knew it was just sore.

Eventually everything settled down to a dull pain and I carried on. I was in third place now after the crash. We came to a climb and I caught up to the first two single speeders and rode with them for a bit. Ever so slowly the pain got worse and worse. The right leg I felt first since we were on a long flat section requiring high cadence. Every rotation I felt the huge lump developing on the top of my thigh. It kept trying to convince my mind it was cramping so I'd focus on the left leg instead and realize it felt fine so just kept on pushing. Eventually we dropped one of the 1 geared riders so it was me and Matt Ferrari leading the SS'ers. I rode with him for about 30 miles moaning and groaning up and down the hills until the pain just became ridiculous in my back and I decided to pull the plug. At this point, I could barely breathe, and every time I pulled with my back I felt numerous clicks, pops, and grinds. Did I mention it hurt? As I type this, I've never felt such a degree of pain. I can barely sit down, sleeping is horrible, and generally being alive is a painful experience!

The ER visit yesterday showed three broken ribs. And, thus, ends my race season of 2009. A big fat DNF.

I did win a case of Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA for being in first place after the first 60 minutes. 8 bottles for each rib. Not exactly equal, but better than nothing.

Selma goes Squishy - DT Swiss XMC RLTC 80mm 29er fork

This past weekend marks my foray in to the world of squishy 100 mile rides. Will it last? YES! The DT Swiss fork is amazing. I was skeptical about it since there are very few reviews out there. The $1300 price tag might have something to do with this.

The carbon legs and arch are beautiful, and the overall finish is top notch. Mine weighed in right at 3.5 pounds.

The fork has a bunch of settings, all externally, that allow the fork to be dialed in obsessively, or as some might see it, to make it extremely complicated. The lockout is integrated in to the rebound setting on the upper right leg and spins pretty easily. I was worried about changing the rebound all the time, but then realized it's so easy to move back it's no big deal. Also on the same leg as the rebound and lockout is something that allows you to customize the position of the fork when locked out. I decided to knock it down about 1.5" when locked out to get the front a little lower. When the fork is locked out there is absolutely no movement. On the lower right leg is the compression setting. I just put that at half way and it seems fine. I may mess with it some more when I have the time.

I used the DT Swiss recommended PSI setting and took it for a test ride the day before my race. I was pleasantly surprised. First, the PSI seemed perfect. Second, the fork does not bob at all, not even 1mm, when standing and climbing. This was a shock. I fully expected to use the lockout when climbing. I did not use it once during the race!

Since I've nothing to compare it to, I can't say it's any better than the competition. I do notice most other brand forks bobbing up and down when out of the saddle. The DT Swiss stays nice and stiff then activates when it hits a bump and locks back out again. I must say, yet again, this really surprised me!!! Perhaps some day I will ride some other forks and offer a thorough review.

Pic from the Darkhorse 40

I found this pic on another blog - thanks James, and since it's been requested a few times to become slightly less anonymous, here I am on the far right after winning the single speed category!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Darkhorse 40 Race Report

I've been asked by a few for a blow by blow of the race so they can sucker punch me next year. So without further adieu:

The temperatures anticipated for the DH40 were to start hot and get hotter with a peak of around 95F. There was no wind to speak of, humidity was high as was the sun in the clear sky, and the bugs, lurking amongst the shadows, were in paradise. In the sun, shortly before the 9am start time, it was already uncomfortable. Sweat beads started pouring while standing still. The start line was very crowded and unorganized with 389 racers piling in to a grassy area. I was among the first group to start, and since I have zero experience with these short races I was unsure how to start although I was guessing we would hammer it out to the single track. Obvious, I suppose, but ya never know. I was ready to gun it, and my 36-18 gearing on the 29er was more than capable of hanging with all but the fastest geared riders. At 9am, we dropped the hammer. The start was on a gravel road and the dust was flying. These are the days that help remind me I need to pony up the $'s for some lasik. Fortunately, I just had a few run-in's with some dust, but nothing debilitating. The start was an all out sprint. I began in the middle of the pack, and near the end of the gravel road portion where it all turned to single track, I had managed to move up to near the front, but not as close as I had wanted. I was stuck behind some slower geared riders, but I was the first single speeder although I didn't know this at the time. We held a very high pace for the first 4 or so miles and that's when people started dropping like flies. After the high paced weeding, I was in the clear and settled down in to my comfortable pace. Since I was pushing a pretty tall gear, and I was, after all, riding with only one gear on nearly all single track, this comfortable pace basically meant going as hard as I can for the remainder of the race. And that I did. I was confident I could red-line, or time trial as some people like to say, for the entire 40 miles, since I've been doing just that and more 6 days a week for most this year. The temperature made things a bit tricky, and the tight single track confounded it even more making it incredibly difficult to get the proper hydration. Add to that the abuse suffered on a 2.25" tire with a rigid fork over nearly constant rough terrain, and you have some major issues to deal with to simply finish the race!

I was riding with only one bottle filled with two scoops of Heed. I had decided to forgo the electrolyte pills since I figured I'd only be out for a little over three hours. I had no issues throughout the race, and can't say if the pills would've helped or hurt me. I definitely would've been able to pop a few during the gravel road section at the end of each lap. To supplement the heed I was chomping on Clif blocks when I had the chance. I managed to down a little less than one pack a lap. On each lap my wonderful mother stood alongside the gravel road and handed me a fresh bottle after I tossed the used bottle down near her. Thanks! She did an amazing job and even tolerated me grabbing it at a pretty high speed without dropping the bottle!!!!

On each gravel section I hammered as fast as I could trying to catch that mysterious SS'er I thought was in front of me. In retrospect, I suppose it's good to think you are never in first place and push harder and harder trying to make up time!

After the gravel section, it was a hard left in to a double track dirt path that had some mud scattered about for good measure, and shortly after the double track it was mostly single track for the remainder of the loop. By the 2nd lap I was starting to catch the slower sport riders and 'rider back' became my mantra. Passing them was tricky since the trail was so narrow and generally bordered by trees. I hit a few passing people, got some scrapes from some nasty bushes, and generally had a blast getting bounced all over, screaming out to pass, crashing through shrubs, and then hammering it back on to the trails. By the fourth lap, I started to feel the pain in the upper body from the constant jack hammer abuse my arms and hands were suffering. It felt as if my gloves were welded to my palms. It wasn't so bad as to be distracting. It was just noted. It's weird how that works. My legs kept saying what's wrong with you wimps, keep it up!!! It's very obvious road cycling does not transition smoothly in to rigid single speeding on rough trails. This is something I must address!

Near the end of the fourth lap, and the finish for me, there's a smooth and flat double track before hitting the final section of the gravel road to the finish. I saw a fellow NYC mtb'er I met at the Wilderness 101, we'll call him Seabass, ahead of me on a geared 29er, and I knew he was on the same lap as me so I thought I'd have a little fun. I was already going pretty fast, but now I had decided to max out my RPM's on my 36x18. To those that don't know, that means pretty damn fast on a 29er with 175mm cranks. So, I sprint. I blew past a few slower riders on lap 3, scaring the crap out of one of them I learned later, and then flew past Seabass like he wasn't moving. I heard him say something, and turned around and saw him try to catch up. He told me after we finished he thought we were competing for the fastest overall cat 1 and he had just lost $200. It turns out his fears were unfounded since we were in separate categories, and he still got his booty. Shortly after I passed him, I hit the gravel section and stood up and gave it 110% the last 500m's or so to the finish line. I was flying as I crossed the line, and Seabass rolled in about 10 seconds later looking rather spent. I had a wave of nausea pass through me from the very high effort I had just given, but it quickly dissipated and I was back to feeling like I could do a few more laps!

I rolled over to the finish line and that's when I learned I got first place. What a surprise!

So, what's to learn and what could be done differently? The gearing felt a little steep for the climbs, and I don't think I would've lost much, if any, time with 36x19 or even 36x20. I never felt like I couldn't handle the tall gear, but having to really grind it up the climbs probably slowed me down a bit. Nutrition was spot on. A suspension fork would probably be the best gain. I would've gone a heck of a lot faster on some sections with a squishy front! Fox, rock shox, dt swiss, ya hear me!??!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Darkhorse 40 & my Selma

Earlier today I raced the Darkhorse 40 near Stewart int'l airport in Newburgh, NY on my new Selma. I was one of 389 participants in various categories that was treated to the 98% singletrack course. The course was a blast to ride. It had a little bit of everything, and was mostly very tight and narrow so you had to stay focused 100% of the time. I managed to clip a few trees and have the marks to show it. Many racers DNF due to crashing in to trees and hurting themselves or their bike, breaking chains, slashing tires, you name it, it happened. I saw LOTS of bikes limping back to their cars.

I raced in Single Speed cat 1 which is the most competitive single speed category. The race director said the category was stacked with a few pros mixed in to make things interesting. To make things even more interesting, the fastest overall single speeder, including the lower category as well, won a Niner carbon fork along with their payout for taking first place in their respective category. Ok, I'll cut to the chase. I got first place in my category, and am a now proud owner of the ultimate weight weenie 29er carbon fork. I entered this race jokingly saying I was doing it to win the fork, and lookie now, I got myself a 500 gram carbon fork coming my way! I also finished 3rd place over all so would've placed in the Pro geared category as well. I got $200 cash and the $400 voucher for the Niner carbon fork. Yeah!

The Selma kicks butt. It is everything I hoped it would be. Fast, agile, lightweight, quick handling, and very stable on steep, sketchy descents. The ride quality is quite tolerable, perhaps not as smooth as the Inbred was, but I was riding so fast and getting the crap kicked out of me with my carbon rigid fork so I can't say today's race is the final judgement for the comfort rating.

So, I'm pretty beat so keeping this short. Until next time! O yeah, next up Shenandoah 100 over Labor Day weekend!

Friday, August 14, 2009

New mtb Race bike alert

I've kinda gotten hooked on this 100 mile mtb race thing. I've never really liked the horizontal dropouts on the On-One, and the cannondale was a brutally stiff ride over the long haul. So, what is that perfect long distance single speed 29er race bike? Well, hopefully this one is. It has an interesting rear with flat carbon seat stays and flat scandium chain stays which reviews say is very compliant yet stiff laterally. A few have mentioned it doesn't even feel like a hardtail. The front end is all scandium. The weight is over a pound lighter than my previous frame, has vertical dropouts with a bushnell eccentric bottom bracket for chain tension, and looks pretty nifty to boot!

The frame is made by Salsa and is called "Selma." I built her up a few days ago and will be racing it this Sunday at the darkhorse 40. I'll be sure to report back on how she handles! I'm not anticipating any surprises since the frame is very nearly, we are talking a few mm's here, the same dimensions as the previous Inbred I rode very comfortably in PA a few weeks ago.

Total final weight is a hair under 19 pounds. Three pounds lighter than the On One! Most of the weight was cut from the wheels. I got new rims and spokes last week. Also a new crank is installed, shimano xt, which is probably about 200 grams lighter than the previous Truvativ Stylo.

I can't wait to rip it up on Sunday! I took it out today for a bit and the bike felt great. Fit is exactly like the On One - perfect!

Here are some pics:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Wilderness 101 Race Report 8/1/09

Yesterday I raced the Wilderness 101 in Coburn, PA. I did it on my trusty 29er single speed with a gearing of 33x18. The gear was perfect.

I finished 23rd out of maybe 50 or so single speeders. While I'm glad I finished I'm not so happy with the results. But, the good news is I felt very strong throughout the entirety of the race. I had some major malfunctions, or mechanical failures, that added roughly 1.5 to 2 hours to my finishing time. To be honest, I'm very surprised I even finished with all the problems I had. Were it not for the kindness and generosity from a few fellow racers I definitely would've not finished.

I had three, yes, three, flat tires, all on the front and my chain broke after about 52 miles. After the 2nd flat, I had no tubes. So, I started walking down the single track descent pausing every few seconds to let racers fly by me. After about 20 minutes of this one racer stopped and gave me his tube and pump and told me to give him the pump after the race or if I eventually caught up to him. The tube he gave me had a faulty valve stem so after wasting about 10 or so minutes trying to air up the tire I started walking again. Another 10 or so minutes rolled by and I hit the gravel fire road. I walked for a bit and decided I didn't really care if I trashed my rim and tire so I started riding. I rode for about 5 miles and then hit a climb. At this point I started passing the slower riders with a front flat tire! A few found this very amusing. After a bit, I ran across two guys sitting on the side of the road so I stopped to beg another tube. Fortunately, one of the guys was on a 29er so I got a tube the proper size. I aired it up higher than I would prefer to avoid another flat and off I went. All was good for the next hour or so. At mile ~50 I made it to aid station three in high spirits and was told the hardest climb of the day was to come. I love climbing and this is where I was making up heaps of time so I was excited! They were not lying. It was difficult since it was muddy and slick and rocky and all on narrow single track. I made it to the top of the 2 mile climb and wham, my chain falls off. I'm wondering how the hell this could happen since I'm not shifting any and the chain is pretty snug. I stop, put it back on, tighten the chain tensioner a bit, and off I go. Or, off I almost go. Immediately the chain fell off again. I decide something is wrong so inspect the chain. Two links are totally mangled and the chain is ruined. So, without another chain or the means to fix it I decide to go down the hill and back to the aid station. At the bottom, a volunteer was there telling people where to turn and he saw me coming down and asked what in the world was I doing?? I told him I liked the climb so much I figured I'd do it all over again! He had a look of horror on his face so I told him I was kidding and my chain was broken. He told me a mechanic is in the aid station and to go talk to him. The mechanic told me no problem, and I figured he was just going to fix it. Out he pulls a brand new SRAM chain and hooked me up! Awesome! So I'm back in the race again!

Off I go up the brutal climb. For the rest of the race I hammered it out trying to make up time but I had lost so much I couldn't catch the front runners. I ended up finishing about 1 hour 20 minutes behind the first place finisher.

The course was extremely rocky on the single track. I got the crap kicked out of my upper body. A rigid fork was not such a great thing for this race. I may have to reconsider and go squishy up front for the next race.

Overall, I'm happy with the finish since I felt so strong up to the finish line. I can't wait for the next race in about a month. The course and race were very well organized and the post race dinner was perfect. And, free, good micro brews!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A 2nd review of the bibs I've been using for the past year

I wrote a review quite a while ago about the bibs I own and use. I've another 6 months using the bibs this season, and after A LOT of mileage on some of them I think I can offer far better feedback which hopefully someone out there will find useful.

The bibs I will comment on will be Hammer Nutrition '08 Voler, Assos S5 FI.Uno, Gore Xenon, Giordana Forma '08, Performance Ultra, Santini Gel Twist '08, and Sugoi RS '08.

In order from worst to best.

Hammer bibs: These are great bibs. I think for many people they are a great deal, and should at the very least be tried because if they work for you you'll save a ton of money. They don't work for me, unfortunately, being too loose in the butt area. I get friction, and even for commuting I find them uncomfortable. It's a real shame because the fit and material is excellent everywhere besides the butt. I think the chamois is a bit flimsy compared to my favorites, and the material covering it is not nearly as soft as my favorites. The shoulder straps are a bit too stretchy, but still adequate. I like the mesh uppers. They are cut reasonably low so you don't feel constricted. In summary, I almost never wear these anymore because they create friction which in turn causes saddle sores. I simply can't deal with the sores due to the mileage I'm putting on the bike. Very disappointing!

Performance Ultra: The only reason these are above the Hammer bibs is because they don't cause discomfort. The bib short material itself is nice. I really like the eschler fabric. The leg openings are very tight compared to all my other shorts, but not so tight they create discomfort. I do notice them every time I use them though! The chamois is pretty much a joke, in my opinion. If you like very flimsy, thin chamois' then these are the bibs for you. Or, still, maybe not for you. The chamois cover is soft so it has that going for it, but it offers no padding whatsoever. The shoulder straps may as well not even be there. They are so weak they almost fall off my shoulders. No other bibs I own come close to being as stretchy as these. The fit is also not ideal. They do not conform to my body perfectly, notably in the crotch area. Overall, they don't cause any issues, but they just aren't as refined as the significantly more expensive bibs I've come to enjoy. Perhaps that last sentence is so obvious I should delete it! I use these for commuting when I can't find anything else to where. One last comment, I don't think these are very durable.

Santini Gel Twist: These bibs are really expensive retail. Thankfully, I did not pay the full retail price. The material used throughout is excellent. They do look and feel like very high quality bibs. The gel chamois is not impressive. It's pretty thin, so again, if you are in to the thin chamois, these may be worth considering. It crackles like a diaper some times. It moves a bit like the Hammer bibs, but not so bad it creates discomfort. The gel doesn't seem to do much, but the chamois covering is nice and soft just like my favorites. There's a tiny little pocket in the rear which might be useful for some. I've never used it. Keys or a small mp3 player would fit. Or a credit card, etc. These, like the others above, are for commuting only.

Gore Xenon:
These were my first high end bib purchase, and I thought they were the greatest thing since cinnamon raisin peanut butter, but after gaining significantly more experience, it's obvious these are more like Wonder Bread. The fit is top notch. The compression is equal to my favorites. The shoulder straps are nice and snug. The cut is very low so they really feel great on those smoldering hot days on the ashphalt. The chamois is well thought out, reasonably soft, and offers just the right amount of padding. Almost everything is proper with these shorts. So why are these ranked so low? The durability sucks. They are falling apart, and tomorrow I'm going to call and see if I can get a warranty replacement. If they have the tags I'll sell them on eBay and make some $'s!

Giordana Forma '08:
These bibs, like the Santinis, are ridiculously expensive. They are my most expensive commuting short I use, and have the added distinction of being in the 'desperate training bib' section when all else is dirty. I find everything about these shorts to be about average to above average. Bibs are very personal, and I think these are probably the best for certain individuals. The chamois is pretty thin, and has not much density to it. It's cover is very soft. The leg grippers are the best of the bibs I own. They simply disappear and don't leave a nasty impression after wearing them. The shoulder straps are also very nice. They are snug and wide, and fit perfectly. They are probably the best shoulder strap of any bib I own, but my favorite bib's straps are just as functional. The fit of the shorts is very good. They are very well made, and the fabric and stitching is durable. I think they are slightly more elastic than my favorites, and do not offer as much compression. The size is right, so it's not like they are too big. Overall, if you like a thinner chamois with a medium-low density these may be just your bib. Definitely worth checking out!

Sugoi RS '08:
The what could be the best bib I own bib. But they aren't. Like the Xenon's the durability sucks. They have been used way less than the Xenons and are in even worse shape. I like the chamois a lot thus the only reason they are ranked this high. Everything is perfect about this bib besides the quality. The stitching is unraveling in numerous locations. A real shame, because I would maybe get more of these if it weren't for this very serious problem. The chamois is very dense under the sit bones, and well cut throughout. It's not as soft as my favorites, but thus far this has not been an issue. The fit and compression is excellent. Just that darned durability... I'm going to try and warranty these tomorrow as well!

Assos S5 Fi.UNO: The go to bib. These are the best bibs I own. Luckily, I have three of the exact same. Compression is perfect. The chamois is super soft and has all the right density and cuts in the right place. The cut is low in the front and sides. The rear breathes incredibly well. The silicone dots for the leg grippers work as they should, and are not as obtrusive as the others. Note: they are very similar to the Gore Xenon. A simple cut to the very high quality fabric clearly shows you don't need 14 million panels to make a perfect fitting bib. The shoulder straps are very snug and even make me hunch over a bit, but that all goes out the window when I hop on the bike. These things become one with my body! If you can only own one bib these should be on the short list.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Training 7-19-09 to 7-25-09

Another week rolls by and I'm getting ready for my 101 mile mtb race this coming Saturday! I can't wait!

Sun: Attempted to mtb, but my pedals failed so mtb'd for 60', then went home and went for a casual road ride for 90'
Mon: Commuted to work 80'
Tues: took the day off, major rain!
Wed: 15' warmup, 40' tempo, 5x7' hill intervals at FTP+ with about 3'-4' rest between, 40' tempo, 15' cool down, 80' commute to work
Thurs: 15' warmup, 60' tempo with 20 second max efforts in 53x13 every 5', 30' tempo, 15' cooldown, 80' commute to work
Fri: 15' warmup, 60' endurance pace, 15' cooldown, 40' commute to work
Sat: 15' warmup, 180' endurance pace, 15' cooldown

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Training 7-12-09 to 7-18-09

It's been awhile since I posted here. I've been busy riding, and riding some more, and trying to dedicate the rest of my free time to interacting with other human beings, namely my wife, and also participating in that ol' work thing for seven hours a day M-F.

A new thing I'm going to do here is post my training rides for the past week.

So without further adieu:

Sun: Recovery ride, 90', 40 miles
Mon: Almost rest day, commute to work easy, 22 miles, 80'
Tues: 40' tempo, 5x5' intervals at FTP+ with 3' rest, 40' tempo, 50 miles, commute 22 miles 80'
Wed: 60' tempo with 10 second max sprints every 3 minutes, 60' tempo, commute for 22 miles 80'
Thurs: Tempo Ride 60', 2 x 10' intervals @ FTP+ w/ 10' easy between, tempo for 60', 66 miles, commute for 22 miles 80'
Fri: Active Recovery 120', 37 miles, commute - 22 miles 80'
Sat: 270' tempo ride, 107 miles

20 hours total

Sunday, June 7, 2009

TRP R960 Road Brake Calipers Review

In the never ending quest to make bikes lighter, brakes are one of the easier places to drop a significant amount of grams from the stock brakes like Dura-Ace, Record, etc. Usually, sacrifices are made such as less power, poor modulation, difficulties setting up, and difficulties removing wheels since the calipers don't open very wide. TRP's R960 claims to have banished all these issues, and also have managed to slice a hefty chunk of grams off of the stock competition.

TRP is Tektro's fancy racing brand most likely re-named to separate themselves from the extremely cheap to decent brakes they put on a lot of mountain and road bikes seen across the world. I could care less what brand name the part is, I just want performance and quality. TRP works for me.

These brakes come in two anodized aluminum colors - black or red. I opted for black. They retail for $400. I got them off eBay for significantly less brand new in the box. I think I paid a little over $200.

The first thing I did after removing them from the box was weigh them. They came in exactly as claimed @ 240 grams for the pair. That's over 70 grams lighter than Dura-Ace and about 40 grams less than the Record 11 calipers.

The R960's come stock with some super sweet Swiss Stop brake pads - imo - the best on the market. All the nuts and bolts are titanium to help keep the gram count as low as possible. Aggressive machining is evident throughout the calipers including the brake pad cartridges.

Mounting them is extremely easy. As simple as you could ask for.

The quick release mechanism is something I've never seen before. It involves flipping a red plastic lever underneath the barrel adjuster, and then sliding the entire cable down a bit. It works a charm and even my semi-mechanically minded self could figure it out quickly without consulting a manual or TRP's website. The calipers open wide making wheel removal a simple procedure.

Who cares about all that stuff though? How the heck do they work???

I'm happy to report they stop my 165 pound body with very little effort. I've not once heard a peep from them even when using carbon pads on Reynold's carbon wheels. They are incredibly strong and confidence inspiring. The swiss stop pads are excellent. They feel very snappy when they hit the rim. They are as strong as any brake I've ever used on a road bike. Basically, they hang with the big dogs, and are quite possibly even better.

Highly recommended!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Reynolds SDV66T wheelset impressions

This weekend marked my first foray in to the realm of tubular wheels. I, uh, accidentally picked up some SDV66T wheels off fleaBay last week, and quickly tossed a Red 11-26 cassette on them, mounted them on the IF, and headed to CT for the weekend.

SDV66T stands for Super Deep V Tubular, and that's what they are. They are 66mm deep, and are touted by Reynolds to be the most aerodynamic wheel available on the market and are also UCI legal.

The first thing I noticed upon unpacking the box was that these things are REALLY light. The weight weenie within was tickled pink. Claimed weight is 1350 grams, which, in my opinion, is just ridiculous for a wheelset this deep. Reynolds is usually right on target with their weights, and have even been known to undercut the claims on occasion. Today I weighed the rear wheel without a tire and cassette and it came in at 751 grams. Since I know the front hub is roughly 140 grams lighter than the rear, I can estimate it's weight to be a little under 600 grams.

The wheels came glued with Continental Competition 22mm tires. The glue is Tufo Extreme tape. Exactly what I would've chosen myself.

On Saturday, I headed out in pretty windy conditions with occasional strong gusts. A great way to learn very quickly how to handle the deep rims. The sink or swim method...

Immediately upon leaving my parents driveway there's a pretty fast descent where I quickly get up to nearly 40mph. Right away I could tell I was on a very different riding pair of wheels. Rewind a bit first, just climbing their driveway, I could feel the rotational weight reduction from my other wheelset. They felt snappy and light. Did I say they look really neat? They do. They scream GO FAST.

Back to flying down my first hill, I felt myself having to fight a lot more to keep the bike in a straight line. It was manageable, but it's certainly more of a challenge to descend at high speeds with cross winds on these wheels. The more I rode them throughout the day, the more I got used to the descents, and now, after two days and 200 miles, I'm quite satisfied with how they handle and could see myself using these wheels every day.

On the flats, these wheels really shine. They make a really cool sound when zipping along, and they look cool. I said that already, but they really do. I denuded them of their very loud stickers and they look ultra stealth, and fast. Really fast. It might be placebo, but I felt like they held higher speeds easier. And, for the fifty miles I rode with 3 others, it was obvious these wheels descended way faster than those fancy Ksyriums the others were on.

Day 1, Saturday, was a 102 miles but not much climbing. Only 4k total. On the flats, it was very easy to sustain a 23 to 27 mph average speed on these wheels. I'm really convinced I save a bit of energy.

Day 2, Sunday, I rode back to Manhattan from my parents house, which, for those of you who have read a post or two, know this is the ride I complain about every time I do it. It's brutal! Nearly 100 miles one way, it also has a LOT of climbing. Basically, it feels like you are climbing for the first 65 miles. Which, in reality, turns out to be true. I can't say these wheels feel like they climb any better than my other super heavy 1500 gram 27mm aluminum wheelset. They look cooler, though.

I didn't get a flat, so I didn't have the pleasure of changing a tubular on the road. When I got home today, I decided I better learn how to deal with the tire, so I ripped the rear tire off. I'm glad I did this. The tufo extreme tape is VERY, VERY difficult to remove when it's not heated up - something I hope happens when riding it - and I had to take a hair dryer to it. Once heated, it came off pretty easily. It left a lot of nasty, very sticky residue on the rim, and I spent the next 6 hours cleaning them. There's still some residue left, but I can't take it anymore and will just leave it! Tomorrow I'll mount a fresh tire, and see how the 2nd stage goes. Thus far, I'm a little concerned about tire removal on the road. More research is required. But, I think I may switch to the typical tubular glue since it's supposedly much easier to remove.

Some initial thoughts:

These wheels are bad ass. They ride super smooth, feel fast as hell, and look really neat.

If you are not a confident descender, or are nervous about cars blowing you off the road, these are NOT the wheels for you. Lighter riders also may find them more than a handful.

More on these bad boys later. And a pic I took today while playing with them:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mad $'s vacuumed away

In my constant pursuit for perfection with my gear, I've been battling with my shoes and pedals. I've used Speedplay for quite a while now with intermittent interruptions with other companies' pedals. The list has grown to encompass nearly every pedal manufacturer out there: Look, Shimano, Time, Crank Brothers, Speedplay, Bebop...I'm probably leaving a few off.

I've managed to use less shoes, but this year decided to replace my very nappy looking Northwave's with some fresh new kicks. I got Lake cx330c. They are very well made shoes, extremely light, and I love the lacing system. But, the first pair I ordered seemed to be a tad on the short side so I sold those on fleabay and ordered up another pair a half size larger. The length seemed right on these, but after a few rides something still didn't seem right. My foot seemed to slide around inside the shoe, and only stopped if I really cranked the BOA lacing down, but then the shoes felt too tight. I decided these shoes just didn't fit my foot properly.

So, back to the web for more research. I landed on Shimano's website and noticed they had semi-custom footwear - the 310 model. I decided to go try them on at my local chi chi boutique bike shop, Signature Cycles, who also had the custom fit system, and finally cough up the dough for a proper fitting shoe instead of relying on the Internet guess and check system. Upon initial fitting, I decided the shoe felt like a slipper. Could it get even better with the customization?

Having your foot vacuum sealed for a few minutes is not the most pleasurable experience! After various steps of baking parts of the shoe in a small Shimano oven, a hose was attached to the shoe, a bag was placed half way up my leg, a strap latched the bag to my leg, and the vacuum was turned on. Quickly, the air was sucked out and immense pressure was placed on my foot. The pressure gained. My foot hurt. My foot fell asleep. Ah, happy numbness, this isn't so bad. Repeat the procedure on the other foot. Pain, tingles, numbness, bliss.

After all was said and done, I had a visibly tweaked shoe on both feet. My feet felt like they were in a glove now instead of a slipper. It was interesting to see my right foot was clearly smaller in circumference than the left. I never knew this.

Summary: the shoes kick ass. They look pretty good, have an excellent carbon sole, and have the holes drilled exactly where they should be. But, they cost a ton of money. $400 after taxes!!!! Today I rode them for the first time, and I must admit they are far superior to any shoe I've used. There are so many neat little parts to the shoe they are too numerous to mention. I have to list one though - the inside lining. It's like a lint brush; smooth stroking down and very rough going up. This really helps lock the foot in place and even makes the shoes a bit more difficult to remove! The previous Northwave's I had I would've labeled before the Shimano's as good to great since they fit me fine and basically I forgot about them when cycling. Now I must admit they are simply average. They worked. They are for the average Joe.

Since I got new shoes, I decided to give the Dura-Ace pedals a shot again. The Look pedals I recently got for my mountain bike have almost no float, and provide a very secure, locked in feeling. I really like that feeling. The Dura-Ace offer a similar feeling while having an even larger cleat to work with. I've always shied away from pedals that really lock you in to one position, partially because I drank the Speedplay Kool-Aid and believe that they offer "knee saving rotation", and partially because they are simply easier to set up. Worry about fore and aft, who cares what direction they are pointing, just make sure the cleat is on the proper shoe! Well, since I shelled out the $$$ for the shoes, I decided to drop even more $$$ for some retail Dura-Ace pedals knowing I would be looked after at Signature Cycles. They did not disappoint. They cleats seem to be set up perfectly by them, and I was really enjoying the shoe-pedal interface during today's morning ride. Did I finally find the holy grail of pedals and shoes? So far, I think so. But I need a lot more rides to reach a conclusion. One thing's for certain - the shoes are awesome.
On this one you can see how it's curved around the heal. It was not like this before the fitting.


Last week I changed my saddle on the road bike for a test run of a new one made by Bontrager - the inform RXL. I learned about it the week before, and became interested when I discovered the 90 day comfort guarantee. That's a first in the saddle biz for me. Try it for 3 months, full refund if not satisfied??? Wow. Sure, why not. I ordered one and tried it for the first time this weekend.

The saddle is well made, lightweight at a claimed 200 grams, and has plenty of space for fore/aft movement on the rails.

I immediately noticed I had nearly zero pressure in the ABC region, much less than the Aliante, which I've noticed seems to be slightly greater than some saddles, but, for me, not so bad that it causes any numbness. Even in the drops, I could wail away for an hour at a time with no feeling of cutting off my blood flow.

The second thing I noticed was the firmness of the saddle in the rear. This is definitely not a saddle for cruising around at 10mph on a leisurely Saturday morning ride. I prefer the firm padding, which is one of the reasons I picked this saddle over a lesser model. I've progressively gone to less and less padding to now where I prefer hardly any. The Aliante is a bit too squishy for my tastes I've decided, which is a shame because it's the most comfortable saddle I've ever been on. During long rides the mushiness creates some discomfort in certain areas better left out of this post.

So, if you are in the market for a saddle, I think this is one that is definitely worth checking out, especially with the 90 day trial period.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Finished cannondale 29er

So, here it is. I finished it last night - some minor touches, and am leaving later today for the race this weekend in southern TN called the Cohutta 100.

Last night I changed the stem out to an xc3 SI stem which has an integrated steerer tube so there are no bolts on the stem portion. I needed a shorter stem, and this was supposedly lighter by a lot so figured, what the heck, I'll get it. The claimed weight was quite a bit off, but it's still about 100 grams lighter than the original setup. More importantly, I've the correct reach to the bar!

Installing this stem/steerer combo was not the easiest thing in the world. Removing the original aluminum tube from the HT was quite the challenge. There are two humps on the tube which I can only assume go where the headset bearings are. They like to get stuck in the HT when being removed. I had to hammer it out at first with a wood block over the tube, and then had to stick a pipe inside and hammer it some more. Then, finally, I pulled it out pretty easily with my hand. Installing the new combo stem was simple and straight forward. It just needed a few happy slaps from the hammer to set it in place. The new stem looks nicer, and was well worth the slightly higher price vs the same model stem only shorter. The price difference is about $50.

If you attempt to do the above, take care with the lefty fork. After the tube is removed the fork is free to crash to the floor!

I also changed the tires. After posting a pic of the bike on's forums a few members chimed in on the tire choice, and one had done the same race last year. They said the mountain kings would be squirmy in the gravel and not as quick as some other tire choices on the hard pack single track. So, I ordered up a set of Kenda Small Block 8's on Monday. I upgraded the shipping to overnight since they were heavily discounted online, and got to work Tuesday. The new tires saved an additional 170 grams over the mountain kings. There was a 31 gram difference in weight between the two small blocks. 530 and 561 were the weights. I'm really glad I got the faster shipping. Sealing these tires was not as simple as the Mountain Kings, which sealed up perfectly fine after the first inflation. Just this morning, two days later, have I finally got them totally sealed! It took 4 rounds of stan's dances:
to get these suckers sealed.

The final addition I made were the grips! Thankfully, this is a very nearly mindless task especially with the ODI lock-on type. I chose the Ruffian model since they are pretty thin and aren't squishy. This, imo, ='s better handling!

So, here she is in all her glory. In to the woods and mountains I go!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

First ride to my parents house this year

On Friday, instead of taking the train I decided to ride to my parents house for one last long ride before I head down south this coming Thursday for the Cohutta 100mi mtb race in TN and GA.

The weather was beautiful, in the upper 60s most the ride, and sunny with very little wind. Perfect for riding hard all day!

The route I take to my parents house is 95 miles with ~7250ft of total elevation gain. Nearly all of the climbing is in the final 50 miles. I have to wonder, does this ride ever get easy? I think it probably doesn't. The hills just beat the crap out of the legs.

I was tearing the road up until I hit the hills. My average speed after 43 miles was 22mph. I finished with an average speed of 19.82mph. 95 miles, 7250ft gain, 5 hours. Definitely my best time ever. I've clearly gotten significantly stronger since just last year. I must admit to pooping out near the end. For the last ten miles I was dreaming more about the food I was going to eat, rather than focusing on my 90rpm's or keeping the speed up. I noted at one point I was on a 19% grade near the end.

This route would be great for a stage race with a whopper of an ending. The last mile includes a brutal climb with the grades hitting 18% gaining nearly 1000ft!

The MTB racer is nearly set up

Today, I finally had all the parts together to finish the build for my Cannondale 1fg 29er single speed. The bike was a behemoth straight from the factory, and with quite a few modifications I've whittled away the weight to make most weight weenies weepy eyed. From really heavy, probably 25+ pounds, to now 20 pounds right on the nose this bike should be perfect for the 100 mile races it's targeted for this season.

The only original items from the stock build are the stem, handle bar, and crankset. The cranks will be replaced eventually, but since the current cranks do work perfectly fine and aren't much heavier than the chi chi stuff out on the market, they will stick around for a few more days.

The last bits I was waiting on were the wheels and brakes. I decided to go tubeless with the wheels so Stan's no tubes rims were the best choice. ZTR 355 29er rims, dt swiss super comp spokes 32H 3X laced to a Lefty hub up front and an American Classic disc single speed hub in the rear. The wheelset weighs in at a very light 1600 grams and that includes the 18T cog, spacers for the cog, yellow stan's rim strips, and the valves for each wheel. Minus all that jazz the set probably weighs around 1500 grams, maybe a touch less. That's crazy, in my opinion! They are the same weight as my road bike wheelset!

For the tires, I chose Continental Mountain King 2.2. They weigh 630 grams each and were very easy to set up tubeless. I could've gone a bit lighter here but would've made some sacrifices either in durability, traction, or both. Since you can only go so fast, anyways, on a single speed, I figure it's good to have some traction!

The brakes I ended up going with are the Hope Mini X2 Pro 160mm up front and 140mm in the rear. The build quality of these brakes is absolutely incredible. Drool worthy for any CNC afficiando. These are the lightest brakes out there besides the Formula R1, and from all the info I could glean on the web, the Hopes are a better brake. They feel amazing. Straight out of the box they are bled and feel perfect. I do need to shorten the lines, but will wait until after the 100 mile race this weekend to do so.

So, without further ado, here're some pics:


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Training Ride #2

The observant reader will notice on the calendar to the left I was supposed to be riding the 300km brevet in Westfield, MA today. Well, I bailed on the brevet. I'm not sure I'll even do one brevet this year. Why not? To get the type of training I need requires my weekends to be devoted to a different style of riding. Brevets are very fun, and I'm a bit disappointed I can't integrate them in to my schedule, but unless I quit my job or eliminate at least one day of work they aren't going to happen. Last year I used the brevets to force myself to ride the long distances required to get ready for something like the RAAM qualifier, and I also was hoping to meet some like minded folk to do other longer rides with outside of the brevets. The latter was successful, and when I visit CT I have a few contacts for some long and hard century or greater rides! The problem with brevets, for me, is the riders do not go fast enough - yeah, I can ride solo up front but that is not how a brevet is meant to be ridden - and they require way too many stops.

To be competitive in the 100 mile endurance mtb series I can not be dilly dallying around for 14 hours riding 125 miles. I need to be wreaking havoc on my cardiovascular system, or, a bit simpler, my entire body, on very high intensity endurance rides on the weekends, and more focused training on the weekdays e.g. intervals. The weekend long ride right now is at 4 hours, and I'll be extending that time as the year goes by to coincide with the RAAM qualifier in September.

What do I do on a long weekend ride? I warm up for about 15 minutes, gradually, and once I hit NJ on the other side of the GWB, I start the log on the bike computer and start pedaling as hard as I can physically sustain for the allotted time period. Having a nice base to work with has made this ride a much more predictable and achievable workout. Last year I would've crapped out halfway through, or not gone hard enough most the time. This year, I know what I'm capable of and am going 10% beyond that for the entire ride. I must admit this ride is NOT comfortable, and I also have to confess I don't notice the scenery much - I realized after the ride today I failed to glance even once off the GWB to gaze upon the beautiful NYC skyline on a perfectly clear day. But wait, I don't find the ride to be miserable, and it's even pretty fun, but some times the suffering can be pretty intense. Mostly, I think, my poor wife is exposed to the worst of it. I stumbled in today, barely making it up the 5 flights of stairs to our walk up APT, and, literally, threw off everything I had on as quickly as possible, tossed on some shorts so I was reasonably decent, and proceeded to crash on the couch. My breath was a bit short, and if I took a deep breath it would make me cough. I felt like I was going to puke. My legs were ACHING. A dull ache, a constant burning sensation. If I stood up they would shake, and feel like they were on fire. So I sat back down. Eventually I worked up the courage to forage for some food, so I grabbed the easiest thing possible to eat and drink out of the frig and pantry - a tall glass of milk, o so chilled, and some guacamole and tortilla chips. Probably not the ideal combination, but, who cares? It was pretty difficult to eat the food. The milk went down easy, though. After that I napped for a few minutes and decided I should shower. I felt better then and headed back for some more food - this time a bit more recovery oriented. A milkshake with hammer perpetuem and m&m's:) Usually I use peanut butter but we're currently tapped out. This is a tragedy. So, I'm probably rambling and will cut this off now. Welcome to a small glimpse in to my training ride!

some stats from today's windy ride:

Total Values:

Distance: 80.50 mi
Ride Time: 3:54:47 h
Rest Time: 00:00:49 h - darn small town stop lights!
Elevation Gain: 5510 ft

Average Values:

Speed: 20.57 mph
Heart Rate: 144 bpm
Temperature: 67.3 F

Saturday, March 28, 2009

First Official Training Ride 03/27/09

Friday called for temperatures in the mid 60s and sunny skies so it was time to call in sick to work and go for a nice bike ride! Before heading out, I stopped by Signature Cycles to have them confirm my build, or give the "OK" that everything was properly situated. The saddle was dropped 1cm, and the bars were moved to the precise angle with a nifty digital tool that...measures angles or something like that! After that, I was out the door and on the road heading north to the George Washington bridge.

The route choice today was none other the famous Bear Mountain nearly a century ride. I suppose it's a century for most Manhattan people, but I live right by the bridge so it's usually a 90 mile ride for me. Today, however, I started from 63rd and West End Ave so I got the century plus a few miles in. The weatherman seemed pretty accurate today, and all I had to contend with was a light wind from the Northwest for half my ride.

I'm a bit more focused this year on training at particular levels, and have slightly altered how I do the longer rides. I've a significantly better base to work with going in to this year, and I can certainly feel the difference in my legs. Thus, I can sustain a higher workload for a longer period of time without torching my knees or cramping up. Yesterday, I was able to ride at level which I would call 'reasonably uncomfortable' for the entire 4 hour ride. yeah, I rode a bit longer than that but 15 or so of the miles were in the city and I just warmed up then. I've set alarms on my computer to go off if I drop below a certain heart rate. This is very helpful! It's very easy to drift off over the miles and forget about training and just day dream!

I've a fancy, new cycling computer which allows post ride analysis, and through some devious online sites I was able to get it to work on my iMac. I now have parallels and windows 7 beta ultimate running on the computer specifically for my Sigma Rox 9.0 cyclocomputer! Unfortunately, I didn't bother reading the instruction manual so I did not log, or save the ride data, for about 40 miles of the 90 mile ride I did. Oops.

Here's some of the data I gleaned from the Rox:

Total Values

Distance: 52.27 mi
Ride Time: 02:24:33 h
Rest Time: 00:00:49 h
Ascent: 2962 ft

Average Values
Speed: 21.83mph
Heart Rate: 148 bpm
Temperature: 63.3F

Min/Max Values

Speed: 3.98mph/42.29mph
Heart Rate: 98 bpm/169bpm
Temperature: 57F/72F
Inclination: -11%/13%

Monday, March 23, 2009

Completed Independent Fabrication pics

I finally have a geared bike again. The two month wait for the IF was worth it! The bike handles beautifully, and most importantly, fits me perfectly. I was able to build the bike and set it up simply by going with the measurements from the fitting, and to my surprise, it fit exactly right with no adjustments necessary.

For a steel frame and fork, granted, a very high end steel alloy, the bike is light at ~16lb's complete with pedals and bottle cages. It should be noted it's not a typically seen stock build and has a few weight weenie parts snuck in here and there! The brakes, for example, are about 40 grams lighter per caliper than a Dura-Ace brake, but have the stopping power of the Dura-Ace. The crankset is Campy's Shimano and SRAM friendly Record UT re-badged with the name Fulcrum Racing RS. They are the exact same thing! These weigh over 100 grams less than the SRAM Force crankset. The handlebars are also very light at 189 grams, and they seem to be extremely stiff and fit nicely. By the way, all these weights are actual - I bought a digital weight weenie scale awhile back to play with!

The bike descends confidently, feels very stiff in the bottom bracket area, is like a magic carpet ride, and it looks very well built! The welds are flawless, and I really dig the sterling silver head badge! All in all, a highly recommended custom frameset, if you are in the market.

Build specs:

Cane Creek 110 headset
Custom Wheelset: Niobium 27mm rims, Dt swiss supercomp spokes 20F/24R, alloy nipples besides drive side brass, Dt swiss 240s hubs, velocity velo plugs in place of rim strips.
Continental 4000s 23c tires with Conti. Race light tubes
Fulcrum Racing RS 175mm crankset
Speedplay X1 pedals
Arundel dave-o bottle cages
Thomson Masterpiece 250mm 27.2 seatpost
Fizik Aliante carbon saddle
Ibis 3d Forged stem w/ custom Ti bolts
Sigma Rox 9.0 computer
TRP R960 brakeset
Deda cork tape
Ritchey Evolution SL handle bar 42cm
Sram Force derailleurs and shifters
Sram 1090 chain
Sram 1070 cassette 11-26


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Giordana Silverline Lobster Glove Review

The Giordana Silverline Lobster glove was my first adventure in to the realm of lobster claw style gloves. They cost me $40 at the LBS. They've a nice, soft fleece lining on the inside. The thumb and index finger go solo inside the glove while the rest of the fingers camp out along side one another although they are divided by the fleece liner. The outer portion of the glove on the top has a windproof membrane, a terry cloth, fleece like wipe on the thumb, and a neoprene insulation on the inside with some textured plastic for, I'm going to assume, a better grip.

I've had these for a few months now, and used them pretty regularly on commutes where the temperatures dip below 40F. The lowest temperature was probably around 0F to a bit in to the negatives. I tend to be a weenie in the cold, so take my comfort range for what it's worth. Before I address that, though, I have to say I almost always use a glove liner underneath my winter glove to extend the temperature range, and it also seems to significantly reduce the amount of perspiration inside the glove even when my hands are toasty warm. The glove liner I use is made by Icebreaker and is 98% merino wool and 2% elastane. They have lots of little tacky dots on the inside allowing for excellent dexterity. A very nice thing to have on when you get a flat tire in the freezing temperatures!!!

So, thus far, I've been comfortable with this combo for a few hours slightly below freezing. 25F. Below that, my index finger and thumb start getting very cold while the rest of the fingers are generally pretty comfortable. Above 40F and I start getting too warm.

The windproof membrane works well. I can certainly tell it's eliminating all that nasty cold from the top of my hand. The neoprene also seems to insulate nicely. The nose wipe is wide and useful. The thumb seems to not have the windproof membrane under the wipe. I usually don't notice it, but when it's very cold and windy I can feel the chill penetrating in to my lonely thumb! The grips, if you can call them that, are a joke. The grid pattern is way too hard, and is more like plastic. I really don't know why they didn't use something softer and more rubber-like. By completely removing the grid, the glove would not lose anything. That's how bad it is. I've troubles removing my water bottle.

Besides the two minor issues I have with the gloves, I think they are pretty solid. I do think there may be some better options. Craft makes a similar glove, but differs in that the index lives with the middle finger so only the thumb flies solo. I think that makes more sense. The craft gloves also have a much tackier grip. PI also has the lobster claw, but it looks way too heavy for high intensity cycling in all but the coldest temperatures. Of course, there are others, too...

So, my advice is to steer clear of these gloves. I think the lobster claw is excellent, though, and if I cycled more often in freezing weather I'd probably invest in a better pair. Things to look for if you are in the market: windproof top, snot wipe, make sure all fingers share space with another finger besides the thumb, make sure the grip is tacky, and finally, try liner gloves!!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

More bike porn

Litespeed Bella followed by Cannondale 1fg 29er followed by Redline 925, see pics!

The bella is a, uh, beautiful frame like most other titanium frames are when built by a skilled company. The parts are good, not great, but will suit the wife perfectly fine for her leisurely style of cruising. I itch to strip the thing down and toss SRAM Rival or Force on it, but she has banned me from touching her bike! I did manage to convince her to change the saddle and seatpost to a Fizik Vitesse and Thomson Elite, respectively. I also sneaked a pair of carbon water bottle cages on when she wasn't looking:)

I bought the Cannondale 29er on clearance last week quite impulsively although the idea of buying a 29er had been thoroughly researched beforehand. I was originally going to get a Niner One 9 and build it up over the next few months, but the price was right on the Cannondale, and the lefty fork is very nice, so what the heck, I got a complete bike. I'm going to strip the bike down to the frame and fork, and rebuild it with parts of my choosing, though. Right now it's a tank, and not really ideal for being competitive against other SS'ers and, even worse, geared riders (which is my primary target this year:)) I'll be racing the Wilderness 101 and Shenandoah Mtn 100, and perhaps a few more in the NUE series, and I hope to be highly competitive.

The Redline was cleaned right before the pics. It was filthy beforehand. It's been a dirty beast this entire winter, and Sunday was it's first bath. Unfortunately, it'll get dirty again tomorrow and probably look even worse than before I cleaned it due to the snow and salt covered roads. It's had a day of reprieve from the roads, but it's time to live up to it's name, and haul my butt to work on the morrow. The Redline 925 is a great bike albeit stiff riding compared to higher end frames and forks. I recently upgraded the cranks to Dura-Ace 7800, and must admit I felt a significant increase in stiffness over the previous setup - RPM something or other no name cranks. I also dropped, literally, a pound of weight. Yes, I have a digital scale to obsess over the weights of all my bike parts, and to assess whether or not they are worthy of being mounted on such and such bike.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

The wife's new ride


Yesterday brought the arrival of the very slightly used Litespeed Bella for my wife. It's a woman's specific titanium frame with a full carbon fork, Shimano 105, and fsa rd80 wheels. She had no intentions of ever getting such a nice bike, but the price was right, and I think my nearly constant ramblings about fancy bike parts is starting to rub off on her. The bike looks as if it's never been ridden, and besides the saddle and seat post collar (which suck, imo) everything is honky dory. Before you start making fun of them, the pedals were just to check the size indoors yesterday! Needless to say, she's extremely happy with her new bike, and I hope it brings her out on some of my longer rides in the years to come!

Too bad it's supposed to snow about 47 inches today and tomorrow. That reminds me I need to stop typing and go ride!

O, wait, what's that silver bike behind the bella??? An accident. Oops.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bebop pedals revisited

I've used the Bebop SL pedals for quite a few months now, and have put probably around 3,000 miles on them. Most of these miles are commuting down a flat path to and from work. I've also gone on a few century rides to Bear Mountain.

I think they are good pedals. I don't think they are great pedals. There are some very serious drawbacks to the bebops which I ignored at first, but now have come back to haunt me forcing me to remove them from my Redline.

The low stack height creates a problem I think will eliminate them from all but the most die hard fan who uses mountain bike shoes. I've yet to use them with road shoes, but will have the opportunity when an adapter arrives some time next week. I originally used the bebops with Lake mountain bike shoes and was forced to trim a rather significant chunk of rubber from both shoes where the spindle travels beneath the shoe. Recently, I bought a new pair of commuter shoes which have Vibram tread similar to a light hiking boot. I thought I would be able to get away with no trimming since the shoes did not have the massive lugs like the Lake shoes, but, unfortunately, I was wrong. The spd part of the Shimano shoe is set quite deep so you can actually consider walking around without sounding like a tap dancer. Good for most every pedal besides the bebop. I bought a tool at the hardware store which is for shaving down rubber tires, etc hoping to grind down the tread some. It turns out the Vibram sole is ridiculously tough stuff. I gave up after 15 minutes. I think the only thing that would work on them is a grinder. After the frustration of wasting $10 for the tool and time spent scraping away settled in, I started thinking why the heck should I have to grind my brand new, nice vibram soles down to accommodate a stupid pedal??? They are good pedals, but they aren't that much better than the numerous other models out there in the market. So, off they go in to a plastic bag for storage.

Temporarily, I'm using my old crank brothers egg beaters. They don't require trimming, and are extremely simple to mount and clip in. They are heavier, don't offer free float, and have a far less durable and smaller cleat. They work though and don't ruin my fancy commuter shoes!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I gave up on the Merlin Extralight. Beauty it is. Light it is. Titanium it is. Ideal fit it is not. I probably could tweak it to fit right, but the handling felt off up front with the short stem and stacked too high steer tube.

I've finally convinced myself after going through numerous road frames over the years that I simply can not fit ideally on any of them out there. O, I can make some fit. But the bike is not happy with high rise, short stems and/or long carbon steer tubes jutting out from the headtube. I've never had a stem over 90mm. I've always had to flip it up - a huge no-no in bike aesthetics!

So what does all this mean? Back to the drawing board, for sure. Literally.

Last Friday I coughed up a painful amount of not-so-hard-earned green for a professional fit session for a custom frameset at the chic Signature Cycles studio on the Upper West side of Manhattan. Three hours of being poked and prodded, stretched and stressed, and finally, spinning away on a size cycle, hooked up to a computer, going through infinitely small micro adjustments in every conceivable direction. Reach, saddle height, angles, etc. All were manipulated until the boss was happy with my position - and I guess, so was I.

At the end of the day and a swipe of the credit card, all I had to show for my time was a lousy piece of paper.

This fine sheet shall be laminated and stored and scanned and copied and framed and worshipped for the rest of my life.

It has the dimensions. THE DIMENSIONS. The numbers that make my bike fit with a 110mm stem flipped DOWN and 1.5cm of spacers beneath. a straight seat post with the rails CENTERED! What the hell is going on?

An Independent Fabrications is going on. Two months! or less or more. Who cares??

On order is a IF SSR 953 painted midnight blue, sterling silver headbadge, and I opted for a steel fork instead of the standard carbon since I figured I could swap easier for a carbon but IF steel forks painted to match are a bit tougher to come by!