Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Equipment - Off Season Musings

Each fall, after my season starts to wind down, I think about what I might to do evolve my bike just a bit more. I think about some of the bike bits and pieces I saw out there during the season. Of course, with Interbike happening right now, things change so rapidly I have to put things on hold. After all, Interbike is when many manufacturers reveal their new latest and greatest thing ever to happen to bikes.

I've alluded to this before by my decision process is normally a tortuously drawn out "compare and contrast", cost analysis (meaning what my different options will cost me), benefit analysis (what I'll get out of it - usually in terms of subjective features, like "I want deep profile training wheels", not things like "I want to reduce my bike's aerodynamic drag by 4 or 5%), and finally figuring out if I trust off-market sources (eBay, craigslist, etc) or need to ante up for full price and full service.

In the past I've made a few changes to convert my bike to an off season mode. During the season I focus on emphasizing speed, agility, and getting my psyche to think my bike is really cool. I get the speed by putting on my deep, light wheels, using tubulars, and slapping on the steel/ti 11-23 cassette. I used to go as far as getting bigger chainrings but it seems I'm past that now. Agility comes with narrower bars (I rarely use bars wider than 41cm c-to-c), "brifters" (brake-shift levers) at an angle which makes it easy to shift under full power sprints, and my bars as low as possible (to weight the front wheel - easier to pull interesting maneuvers like that). The "cool" bit is subjective, but whenever my bike wears matching deep carbon rimmed wheels, it can't help but look cool.

When I go to off season mode, my focus does a 180. I look for durabilty (instead of speed), ability to sustain rolling efforts (instead of agility), and, although I still go for a "cool bike" look, a cool winter bike looks totally different from a cool race bike.

The durability comes from substituting more durable but typically heavier parts - an all steel cassette (11-25, not 11-23), heavier clinchers (versus tubulars), wheels with exposed spoke nipples so I can true the wheel without too much extra work, things like that.

The "rolling effort" bit is maybe misnamed but it refers to cruising along in a decent gear, not worrying about responding to an imaginary attack, just doing what someone like, say, a domestique would do for the first 100k of a flat transition stage - motor on the hoods at the front of the group. For this I like a wider bar (42-43 cm c-to-c), higher brifters, ideally a smaller big ring (I used to run a 51T for example), and decent rolling tires.

And finally, making a cool looking winter bike involves loading it up with bottles, a pump, a miniscule seat bag packed to the gills, blinky taillight, a computer or two, and some extra electrical tape (wrapped around a stem or a seatpost). The bag would contain two tubes, a multi tool, a chain tool, tire levers, money, thing cardboard for patching tire cuts, and perhaps a PowerGel. The rider has to match - pockets bulging with long sleeve stuff, a wind vest, and dressed to the nines in booties, knickers (tights if absolutely necessary), jacket, long gloves, neck gear, head gear, and some poorly ventilated helmet.

This year, like the last few, I have pretty much everything on the list. The only thing I'm missing are what I'd consider to be some "rolling effort" gear. What do you see when you see a team slogging away at the front to keep a break in check? Suffering racers. Matching kits. And, inevitably, deep rimmed wheels.

I have deep rimmed wheels, just not clinchers. Well the one clincher I have is a TriSpoke.

So, one of my things to check out are a set of deep rim carbon wheels (50-60mm or so), clinchers, with exposed spoke nipples. Although weight won't be as critical, it'll be nice to get a set that doesn't feel like carbon-wrapped iron. And a final thing is getting a rear wheel that is PowerTap compatible. Although a 32 hole deep rim wheel seems illogical, I would consider it. I'd prefer a 24 hole deep rim but that would take some inventory adjustments, especially since I'm thinking of a 24 hole PT for racing (with a tubular deep carbon rim).

Or, as I've thought every now and then, sell the PowerTap, buy an SRM, and use whatever wheels I like.

First though, I need to eat dinner.


Ethan said...

Interesting point about bars. There is definitely a balance between leverage and maneuverability though. I find it difficult to get enough leverage in the sprint with 40 ctc bars but 42 ctc are just right for me.

Anyway, I wanted to mention that I experimented a little bit more with the 172.5 vs. 175 cranks. For me there is no question the 175s are better (and the inseam *.216 formula puts me on 170s). Granted there is an adjustment period on different cranks, but I estimate my threshold is about 10-15 watts higher with the 175s and my max power is about 125-150 watts better with the 175s. This was really surprising to me as the conventional wisdom is that you sprint faster with shorter cranks, but for me that's not the case.

Also, even if the max sprint power was slightly less, it would still probably be worth it to use 175s since a sprint at the end of the race is a sub-maximal sprint and depends on freshness. Obviously you'll be fresher with the cranks that are more efficient.

Aki said...

you must be at interbike if you're in pacific time?

I found I could sprint faster (i.e. rock the bike) with slightly narrower bars. I followed Lemond as he went to bars that resembled Harley bars - 46 cm at one point. I went up to 45s (46cm 3ttt, measures 45 ctc), but, at best, the 42s were the max. My ideal sprint bar became 42 3ttts, i.e. 41 ctc, but a lot of times I could only get 40 cm Cinellis, i.e. 40 ctc. When I could get Mavics (also measured outside to outside) in 42, I jumped at the chance.

Regarding cranks - that's very interesting and knowing your season history, to me it's a valid argument. I've been contemplating maximizing speed by going to shorter cranks but I'm not sure if that's the way to go. I'll have to experiment and see what happens - I know for sure I'm not comfortable at 110-120 rpms like I was on 170s (I'm more a 95-105 guy now) and I'm wondering if that would count in a high speed track type sprint.