Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Racing - "Flesh Heals, Campy Doesn't"

A long, long time ago... (I was going to link to Star Wars there, but been there, done that)

Someone told me the saying, "Flesh heals, Campy doesn't."

(A corollary - if the racer, within 60 seconds of crashing, doesn't ask about his bike, it means he got really banged up. Get ready for an ambulance call.)

This is a mantra one is to repeat over and over again if one ever crashes a Campy bike. Sorry, as one crashes a Campy bike.

The logic?

Well, if your precious Campy bike gets wrecked in a crash, it'll cost you a lot of money to fix or replace it, especially if your bike has Campy parts hanging on it. On the other hand, from a "poor bike racer's" perspective, if you have a lot of road rash, it costs mainly physical pain to fix things. The idea is that if the rider takes the brunt of the fall, it'll save money in the long run.

Nowadays, though, the mantra has its flaws.

For example, although I have yet to get the bills for any of my "Mother Of A Crash"-related medical expenses, I'm guessing that I'll be responsible for a little more than $3,000 in medical costs. This due to a high deductible ($3,000) to cover a long ambulance ride, 3 sets of x-rays so far, 1 MRI, 1 ultra-sound (more to come), a bunch of doctor's visits, some drugs, and then physical therapy (yet to start).

Although that may not seem like much to someone that owns a $10k bike, that would pay for about 70% of my sub-$5000 bike. That's a lot of Campy parts.

I know I detailed, somewhat graphically, what happened to me in the crash. I did that mainly to illustrate the extreme effectiveness of using Tegaderm (or similar products) because I want to convince everyone out there that the stuff works. Although Tegaderm is expensive (and incidentally not covered by my health insurance), it really, really helps heal quicker.


However, if you've never bought First Aid stuff before, the sticker shock is shocking, to say the least. For a typical bike crash you'll need to get the big pieces of Tegaderm, and that normally goes for $120 for a box of 30. It's easy, even if you skimp, to hit $100 at the 24 hour drugstore on the way home from the hospital or the race or the ride or wherever you crashed.

Yowsers, right?

The small stuff, barely enough for a tiny bit of road rash, runs $10 for 8 pieces, or something like that.

(I just noticed they sell Tegaderm in a 6 inch wide roll, 33 feet long. That would be the schnizzle for a bike racing first aid kit, but I bet it'll cost as much as a Zipp wheel or something. Okay, I just looked it up - $320 online. That should be in the promoter's kit for Bethel for 2010.)

I didn't consciously try and protect my bike during that fall since it happened quicker than I could think. I probably did have some long-ago Judo training kick in since I didn't hit the front or sides of my helmet, just the back.

And who knows, maybe that "Flesh heals, Campy doesn't" thing did kick in, because you know what happened to me. Now take a look at the bike:

The left hood, which took a pretty good whack. The shift lever seems to move and click like normal.

The right side, which I think hit the ground first. It's hard to tell that there's any damage.

Incidentally both brifters were pointed inwards after the crash. This was intentional. Let me explain.

I try and tighten the brifters enough so that they don't move under my hands, but in the event of a crash they move instead of shattering (the same goes for the seatpost). Although you'll sometimes see me "realigning" a brifter before a race (i.e. hitting it with my hand) because they were a touch loose and moved a bit, they were definitely loose enough to turn on the bar when they hit the ground.

Think of the brifter clamp pressure as a fuse. If you tighten it too much, the brifter won't move even under extreme impacts, causing the brifter itself to break. This is like putting a high capacity fuse in a low capacity circuit. Put a 40 amp fuse in a 1 amp circuit and it'll allow 40 amps of juice to hit the 1 amp wiring. You'll melt wiring. Bad.

On the other hand, if you don't tighten the brifters enough, they will move when you don't want them to move, like while you're climbing on the hoods. This is like putting a 1 amp fuse on a 40 amp motor - since the fuse only lets 1 amp go by, the motor won't be very happy.

The correct brifter tightness is like having the right fuse. 20 amp for a 15 amp device, allows for the amperage burst on start up (kind of like when you need to accelerate hard on the hoods), and it also allows for normal operation. But when something weird happens (lightning strikes the circuit or you crash your bike), the fuses go.

I tend to be on the conservative side, so the brifters may move a bit under non-crashing duress. For example, every month or so I need to shove both brifters in a touch. I guess I pull them out when I climb on the hoods, out of the saddle. I don't have to do this when I'm doing a lot of trainer work, and I have to adjust the brifters a bit more when I ride outside a lot.

Note: the same idea on tightness applies to the seatpost. With carbon steerers, you have to be careful tightening the stem, and you should be careful with the bars as well.

A little seat scuff. It looks like the seat edge was angled like that for a reason. I'm amazed there isn't more damage to the saddle. The metal rails seems fine.

Which brings me to another equipment selection point.

You may have noticed that I have aluminum bars, stem, and seatpost on my main bike, the Cannondale. This is not a coincidence. In fact, the bike came with carbon versions of all of them . I switched them out to the sturdy aluminum counterparts in the pictures.

Part of it is my conservative, risk averse personality. "Risk averse? And you do crits?" you may wonder. Yes, I consider myself risk averse. I back out of a situation if I feel uncomfortable, whether it's on the bike or in real life.

Anyway, I use what I know works well. I want reliable, dependable producs on my bike. I don't want to wonder if my wheels will hold up until the end of the race. I've been there, done that (and usually the wheels held up, but sometimes - like at Fitchburg, or Tour of Michigan - they didn't).

I have Thomson posts (standard ones, not the Masterpiece) on my road bikes and my track bike. I use the Ritchey stems on my threadless headset road bikes (I just noticed now that they have a 13 cm 73 degree stem... I may have to check it out). And I have the Mavic crit-bend bars on my two main road bikes (I took the bars for the Cannondale from my third bike, which currently hangs forlorn, barless).

I switched out from carbon because of carbon fiber's properties. As essentially fiber reinforced plastic (or "FRP" as my dad would say), with rigid and basically inflexible fibers (carbon), carbon fiber doesn't bend, it shatters. I'd much rather bend a post or a bar than shatter one, especially if it means I can continue on the ride or race. Imagine dumping the bike on a training ride and breaking your bars? You'd have no choice but to call for a ride. But a slightly bent aluminum bar, although not optimal, will let you trudge back home.

Anyway, suffice it to say that I believe whole-heartedly in aluminum's practicality for the hard pieces of a bike (I call non-moving things like the stem, bars, post "hard pieces").

If you look closely, you can see some scrapes. Again, I'm amazed at the minimal amount of damage.

The arc-shaped smudge above the "o" is actually a minor gouge in the paint. The strap things are computer wire organizing hook-and-loop straps. I use them for the SRM wires.

The carbon is clearly exposed on the downtube. This is the bit that worries me most because if the frame is damaged... well, you can't get SystemSix frames anymore. I'll keep a careful eye on it. And at some point I'll remember to put some clear nail polish on the scar, to keep it from the elements.

To be fair, I haven't ridden the bike yet. The cranks may be bent. A pedal axle too, perhaps, and maybe one of the wheels is tweaked (one is minorly off, but it was already tweaked, so I'll be retruing it). I'm pretty confident that things are okay though because the bendy stuff is made with carbon fiber (rims, downtube). Since, as I just exhaustively pointed out, that stuff usually breaks if it gets hit too hard, if it ain't broke, it ain't bad.

Since I won't be riding it for a while, and when I finally do it'll be on the trainer for some time, I feel comfortable with the bike as it is now. If I hear some odd creaking when I start pedaling the thing, then I'll know that I need to look more closely.

What's all this tell you?

- I did, in fact, take the brunt of the punishment.
- I didn't do it intentionally.
- Given the choice, I'd have sacrificed the bike to avoid a couple months of inactivity, loss of pay, and stuff like that.

Therefore, I propose that the saying "Flesh heals, Campy doesn't" be updated to something a little more accurate. Like "In this day and age of health care costs and long term consequences of even relatively minor injuries, do whatever it takes to minimize damage to the rider. Campy costs just money. Your body costs more."

Okay, that's a little drawn out and hard to repeat even once before you hit the deck. Let's shorten it a bit.

Body > Money


Next up: the rider's gear.


Drew said...

If you're concerned about that potential crack, get a hold of my teammate : http://wannasandbag.blogspot.com/

He used to work at Parlee and recently fixed another teammate's cracked Giant. Plus, you probably met him at NE Velodrome.

Aki said...

Drew - Thanks for the tip. Once I can actually wrench and stuff, I'll look at it more carefully and see if there seems to be anything cosmetic about it. I checked out the blog and yes, I remember him from NEV.
Question, although I don't know who would know the answer. I'm looking for the photographer that does the Picasa pictures of NEV that goes by "croth". It seems the person is Cambridge Bikes related, either team or shop or both. I'd like to use some of the pictures in a helmet cam clip of the track, but I want to both get permission as well as give proper credit. Do you know who croth is, or can you send croth my way? Specifically I'm looking for use of pictures from 2009.06.17. Thanks.

Brian said...

hmmm....$3000 for an ambulance ride? Wow, I can't believe anyone in their right mind would think that to be normal. Here in Japan I pay....wait for it.....$0. Nah, America doesn't need to reform its healthcare system, does it? ;-)

Brian said...

Oops, I see you meant *all* associated medical costs....my mistake! Still seems a bit expensive though....but then again I have no deductible and pay 30% of all costs out-of-pocket.

Aki said...

Brian - I have an old fashioned kind of policy, so a large deductible and then full coverage. Last year I had an MRI done - that was something like $1500 out of pocket. So if I consider this year's MRI, an ambulance ride (in the early 90s I had to pay $850 for a 5 minute ride), and two sets of x-rays (so far)... I figure we're well into $3000. Plus the normal doctor's visits and such.

Due to the small companies we work for, the missus and I couldn't afford an HMO kind of program. We would pay half my monthly take-home just for health insurance (!). So we opted for a traditional plan, something with a large deductible but full coverage after that deductible.

Finally, although we have to check, I don't think Tegaderm and such are covered by our insurance. And we won't get to that % where we can deduct our medical expenses. So we have to pay all of those costs out of pocket using post-tax dollars.

I grew up in Holland where medicine is socialized, covered by the government. We were residents and covered fully (my lil bro and sis were born there). When I worked for larger companies, I paid a minimal amount of money for an HMO type plan. Now it's a bit more expensive because we both work for small businesses. A customer at my work told me to get a part time job at UPS - apparently a lot of contractors and other self-employed folks work there solely to get health and retirement benefits. I haven't gotten to that stage yet.

No One Line said...

aki, croth is (probably) Craig Roth, a boston local who either is in or came from the messenger scene (was part of a group called Strangers Racing).

not sure how to get in touch with him but i bet that somebody on http://www.bostonfixed.us/forum/ might have an email address or phone number.

Drew said...

Aki- Email at lowlustre@gmail.com and I'll reply with Craig's addy.

Aki said...

drew - thanks for the info, I hope it's the right guy.