Saturday, November 28, 2009

Racing - Expo Wheelmen Kit, 2010

The Expo Wheelmen kit for 2010. First off, I have to say something. I've never, ever gotten my kit this early. So kudos to everyone who pulled it off. I didn't do anything - just pay for the kit, go and pick it up. Someone else did all the pain in the butt work.

Anyway, I picked it up maybe a week ago. I haven't ridden it outside but it's been done by others. I have ridden on the trainer and only have feedback on the shorts, for rides of under two hours: No problems.

I'll have to get out there at some point to test the other pieces. But for now here's a quick overview.

The front of the kit. I didn't have good light so I'll have to redo this picture.

The rear.

A mess of kit stuff.

From the left, kinda sorta:
SS jersey.
Bib shorts.
Bib shorts.
SS jersey.
LS jersey.
SS jersey.
Bib shorts.

Not pictured: arm warmers and leg warmers, both VOMax labeled black bits. I never use leg warmers and almost never use arm warmers, but I'll see if I need them one day.

Tiger checking the design.

Whenever I lay out my gear, the cats come and sit on it. Picture taking is a combination of shooing away the kitties and then quickly taking a picture. Repeat a bunch of times and you get the idea.

Mike wants the bibs. Note the sponsor name just below him (it's the side of a jersey).

I need to take some pretend action shots. Here's one:

Racin'. Yeah.

That came from my (self) fit session the other day, where I inadvertently previewed the kit. I suppose technically I should have been in CT Coast Cycle stuff, but I decided to wear the 2010 stuff instead.

You know, get folks used to it.

At some point I'll actually ride outside, and, if you can believe this, I don't forsee that happening before December 24th or so. In other words, you're gonna have to wait for a proper review.

Life could be worse, you know?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Equipment - Frame Fit Session

As planned I made it to the local shop just down the street. Of course, as usual, I was running really late, and instead of getting there at 10 AM, I got there at about 1 PM.

I set up the fit bike thing myself, puzzling over the different settings and such. I brought my pedals, bars, shoes, saddle, and a kit.

For the record, my current bike is a SystemSix Liquigas Replica, 52 cm, with its standard geometry. To save you from flipping back and forth to the geometry page, the important numbers are as follows:

Seat tube: 52 cm, 50 cm to the top of the top tube
Top tube: 53.5 cm
Seat tube angle: 74 degrees
Head tube angle: 73 degrees
Head tube length: 11.5 cm

I look something like this on the bike:

On the green/black Cannondale. My arms hang straight down.

Okay, once you get past my doughy build (perceived 175 lbs on my optimistic scale, which was actually 185 lbs), you may notice that the bike seems really, really short in length. My goal is to get my bike a bit longer.

That other night I took to my bike with a tape measure.

First, I want my saddle to be in the middle of its rail adjustment, not shoved all the way forward. I held my tape measure to the center of the rails, and the line went 2 centimeters further forward than the present seat tube. This meant I needed a substantially steeper seat tube angle.

How much steeper I didn't know, but that's what a builder is supposed to figure out.

The steeper seat tube would move the whole top tube forward by 2 cm. However, based on my current set up, I figured I need at least another 5 centimeters in length - I could put my hands a full Ergo lever in front of the actual Ergo lever.

Based on that number, I figured a 58 cm top tube would work well. It would move me forward a total of 6.5 cm (2 cm from the steeper seat tube angle and 4.5 cm from the 53.5 current length to the new 58 length). This would let me play with a shorter stem, an 11 or a 12 cm stem, not always having to search for the longest possible stems out there.

I also want a short head tube, shorter than the current 11.5 cm, so that I can go buy an 80 degree stem. This would free me from just 73 (-17) degree stems. There are lots of 80 degree stems out there, not a lot of 73s.

And, finally, while I was at it, I wanted to get a short seat tube, something like the 44 cm seat tube (as I remember) on my size S Giant TCR aluminum frame.

Armed with this information, I emailed Joseph at Tsunami Bikes. His initial response seemed a bit hesitant - my ideal frame, after all, would resemble an oversized BMX bike.

We started talking and I described how I arrived at all the numbers. Again, he seemed a bit hesitant. He asked for some pictures of me on the bike, and ones of just the bike itself.

I sent pictures and called to follow up.

Now he seemed a bit more receptive to the whole "tiny frame" concept (as named by Hans). I told him that I'd want to do a sanity check, one where I actually have a regular bar to hold onto, not resting my hands on a plastic tote bin.

I strolled into the shop and got down to business. This new fangled gizmo was a new experience for me, so Hans would occasionally tell me "do this" or "do that".

Fit starts at the bottom bracket, goes up to the saddle, and then forward to the bars. Therefore I started with the seat tube at 75.5 degrees. I raised the saddle (that I brought into the store) to my right height, centered the saddle on the rails.

Then I got the top tube to a more reasonable 56.5 cm. I borrowed a 14 cm stem, a -5 degree stem and mounted a spare set of 3ttt crit bars (Gimondi bend, bars I got thanks to RTC's detective work).

Finally I put my Keos on, trotted off to the bathroom to change, and trotted back in my new kit. I even brought the long sleeve jersey because I didn't want to get cold in the shop.

I jumped on the bike and, BAM, it felt awesome.

I fiddled a bit with the stem height, played around, and realized that, hey, it's pretty much perfect.

On the tops. Left foot forward.

My arms are bent a bit, but outwards. I wanted to keep my arms out of the way of something, not sure what I was thinking. I'm sitting square on the saddle, and the saddle is square on the post. w00t!
On the "hoods". Foot at bottom.

My legs look bulky.

Reminds me of something. I made a comment at the track last summer - I was watching the As and watched as powerful looking racer rocketed off the front. He looked freakin' powerful - big legs, big arms, aero carbon frame, aero carbon wheels, and, man, he was flying.

"Holy smokes, look at that guy's legs."

The guy next to me looked at me and said something unusual.

"Don't underestimate yourself."


Drops, and right foot sort of forward.

Imagine, my arms point forward. And my back is kinda sorta level. The position in the drops feels really secure, really good.

I thought I forgot my camera so Hans took a few pics and sent them to me.

I sent the pictures to Joseph and left him a message. An hour later he called back. He said the pictures really helped, and things looked good. He kind of laughed - I'm still not really forward, relatively speaking, and I'm sitting on a 75.5 seat tube angle.

We went over a few details, things like ride quality and such. I have no knowledge about tubing materials so I'm leaving it up to him. I just want a ride that's as rigid as the Cannondale - I'm good for 6 or 7 plus hours on the frame, and I don't want to have something more flexy.

Paint will be later, but I think some kind of a red. I haven't had a red bike since forever ago, and my first race bike, a Basso, was red. It would match the kit and it would look kinda cool.

The other choice would be a blue to match the blue car, but I don't have anything blue in my kit so that's out.

After our talk Joseph emailed one more question - one about seat tube length. I went and checked my two Giants, since I like the aluminum one a lot, and since the carbon one is "fine" (the Cannondale is a bit high for me).

Seems that I remembered wrong. The aluminum Giant has, get this, a 40 cm seat tube to the top of the top tube (44 to the top of the seat tube). The carbon Giant is 4 cm longer.

Whew. I sent my preferences (40 c-to-t, but 44 c-to-t is fine), along with payment.

And now it's up to them.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Equipment - Dream World (Custom Frames)

For the longest time I've wanted a custom frame. At first it was because I wanted to get a frame that was especially designed for me, for my needs. I had no idea what that meant, but I wanted a frame that was, well, unique.

As I learned more and more about bikes, I started dreaming of some of the extreme bikes I saw in bike magazines. The one that really caught my eye was a specialty crit bike. This thing was insane, with super steep angles, high bottom bracket, and, get this, such a short chainstay that the tire wouldn't clear a normal seat tube.

In fact, it wouldn't even clear a grooved or indented seat tube.

Therefore, in order to make the thing work, the builder put two chainstays in place of the seat tube and stuck the rear wheel through the opening between them.

(To my ultimate badness, I cannot remember the name of the framebuilder of this dream bike. He was featured in Bicycling and one or two other magazines in the early 80s... Anyone?)

Back then that was the absolute schnizzle, the top of the heap when it came to US style bikes. No laid back positions here, no mid-foot cleats (or so they appeared), no traditional lower saddle heights. This was an era of change, inspired by wind tunnels and such.

At that time Lemond rode on his tippy-toes on his bike (and won the '83 Worlds like that), his teammate Marc Madiot rode 180s to a stage win (and he rode a 55 cm frame), and "aero" became the new catch-phrase.

So in this age of change, of innovation, and in my time of "exploration", I dreamed about land speed records and crit bikes in alternate fashion.

Of course, like slot cars and Lamborghini Countachs, things which I dreamed about literally for decades, the dreams remained dreams.

Then some surprising things happened. Over the course of 15 years, two friends invited me to sit in Countachs in their possession. I even got a ride in one. I have to tell you that no one could wipe the grin off my face after those magical moments. The drive, holy smokes, that was crazy insane.

Then reality sunk in.

Although it's all exotic and all that, I've realized that the Countach has the aerodynamics of a brick and a cobbled together engine. Seriously. They used layered cylinder head gaskets to increase displacement, and they regularly provided significantly up-powered cars to journalists so the cars would be fast "in print".

As it is, my blue car is faster than a Countach. Less powerful, yes, but faster. And it has almost-as-wide tires (the Countach had the widest production tires for a long time). But, still, as dreams go, if you offered me a chance to drive a Countach... Look, just count me in, okay? I'll work out my schedule and fit in a Countach drive.

Then, a couple years ago, the missus (and her mom) got me a beautiful slot car set, with F1 cars even.

And now I'm starting to think about the possibility of seeing through that custom frame dream.

To be frank, my frame dreams have evolved over the years. At first it had to do with short wheelbases and insanely short chainstays. Later, as I realized what I'd been missing on my smaller-sized frames, I started dreaming about more normal things, like a 73 degree head tube angle.

On a short frame like mine, my shoes (and toe clips) would hit the front tire when I turned the bars. In order to avoid such contact, manufacturers would use slack angles and lots of rake. This reduced foot overlap but resulted in lazy, pain-killer haze handling. Once I realized this I wanted to experience a more responsive front end. Steeper angles and a normal rake, in other words.

Those head tube angle dreams then morphed into top tube dreams. My ape-like stance, with short legs and long torso, made it necessary to use a short seat tube, but my torso forced me to go with long stems. On the 50 cm frames I rode forever, I typically used a 14 cm stem, then a 14.5, and just before quill stems withdrew from the spotlight, I briefly contemplated using a 15 cm stem.

For me, a 51 or 52 centimeter top tube seemed short. I could sit comfortably on friends' 54-56 cm bikes, with long stems and everything, and the reach felt reasonable, even comfortable. But my feet dangling a couple inches above the pedals, I couldn't fix that part of fitting myself to their bikes.

I thought maybe a 55.5 cm top tube would be the best I could do. I bought a size M Giant TCR, with its 55.5 cm top tube. As a bonus it had a 73 degree head tube angle, or something close to it.

The bike felt great, my arms finally doing something other than dangling downwards, with a reach about 3 or 4 cm longer than before. I could steer while hammering out of the saddle, thanks to the steeper head tube angle.

But the dream rapidly crumbed. The head tube was too long, the bars too high.

I experimented with bar positioning, now emphasizing height as well as length. After some convoluted calculations, along with a bunch of Sharpie marks on my bright yellow frame, I decided I could ride a size S Giant just as well.

I moved to the size S, happy with the lower bars. They made a huge difference in my sprint, but they felt too close.

In a fit of "fulfilling a bunch of other stuff", I bought my current steed, a Cannondale SystemSix. Now, if I was someone like a Bennati, I could just get a custom version of my frame. Talk about a dream bike for me - a 52 seat tube with a 58 (!!) top tube!

But I'm a lowly Cat 3, and even with some begging and pleading, I couldn't score the most blemished, unrideable Bennati frame.

I priced out and contemplated a lugged carbon tube kit, a Dedaccai-made "kit", but the bottom bracket-seat tube angle on my long, low frame wouldn't work with their stock sizes. Fortunately, as it turned out, because the lugs in these kits failed regularly. When I heard this I went to my now-unused "carbon frames" bookmark list and found that virtually all the bikes I'd bookmarked had disappeared.

No one wanted to admit to making such a frame.

Dedaccai ended their kit production, now making only full frames, or at least front triangles.

So, for the last year or so, I meandered aimlessly in the frame geometry jungle, looking for that perfect situation, that perfect scenario.

Let's see, exactly what would it be like?

First, the frame would be made by someone I could communicate with, a racer maybe, one that does crits, track, and doesn't climb that much. But he'd climb more than I did so he could tell me, "Oh, you really don't want to do that, it would climb horribly".

Second, the frame would be unlimited as far as geometry goes. 44 cm seat tube? Fine. 58 cm top tube? Fine. I'd forgive the lack of availability of weird things, like a split seat tube that allows a 35 cm chainstay, but for all round tube design possibilities, they ought to be available.

My fantasy numbers include the following (assuming a reasonable 73 degree head tube angle):

1. 44-46 cm seat tube, as short as possible and still fit in a tall bottle on the seat tube, with room for a pump or a Down Low Glow just above it. This would let me clamp my seat post in a workstand (a normal one). It also feels better in general, the shorter seat tube.

2. A seat tube angle that allows me to move the seat-tube-slash-top-tube junction point forward by 2 cm on my 52 cm frame. This would let me center the saddle on the post, not slam it all the way into the stops.

3. A 58 cm top tube, maybe a 56 based on the fact that the top tube will be 2 cm forward based on #2 above.

4. At most a 12 cm head tube, maybe an 11 cm one.

5. BB30, so I can keep my mega-expensive SRM cranks, and so I'd have a lighter, stiffer bike.

6. 1.5" lower headset race, so I can use a Cannondale fork (I think they rock the house).

7. A non-noodle frameset.

8. Shorty chainstays so my rear tire stays planted with the long front end.

Finally, price. I can't afford a $4000 frameset, and I seriously doubt I'd ever buy one anyway. It's my "low buck, high performance" mindset, the functional way of approaching things. I appreciate handmade things, like a 1955 Aston Martin. Things of beauty, incidentally, with gorgeous aluminum bodywork.

But compared to a modern sports car? Or even a modern "sporty" car?


Give me parallel A-arm front suspensions, a sophisticated multi-link rear, independent on all corners, big honkin' brakes, and a smooth, efficient engine mated with a smooth shifting transmission. My car illustrates that point, at least the blue one does. It's a low-buck way of having fun driving a car. And it doesn't have very much of that "old fashioned craftsmanship" in it, just good design and proper procedures. The body may look sleek, but it was pounded out by robots, not artisans.

Heck, my car doesn't even have a throttle cable! It's got an electronic wire attached to a computer.

Anyway, my point is that I don't need the exquisite workmanship of the frame building "masters". Give me a frame with the right geometry and durable construction and I'll be happy.

And of course all that could never, ever happen. I felt safe in my little dreamworld.

Then, to my utter dismay, RTC let it slip that there's a framebuilder that offered something like that stuff above - Tsunami Bikes, out in the west somewhere. They make aluminum frames, from $600 to $1500+.

And they do custom geometry.

Okay, I can handle $600 framesets to start. I can handle the $50 upcharge for BB30. I'm good with aluminum tubing, because as I've written before, fit > material. Look, if it was good enough for Tom Boonen, it should certainly be good enough for me.

So I'm good with the basics. What's the custom geometry upcharge? I was figuring at least $300 or so, based on conversations with frame importers and such.

So I emailed the folks, half seriously. I don't want to waste their time, and if the frame ended up at even a paltry $1000, it'd be hard to justify in a cash-strapped environment.

I got a response. Things looked good, too good even. I called the guy up. We talked on the phone.

$600 is the frameset price, built to whatever geometry agreed upon by the builder and buyer, painted some normal range of colors.

NO upcharge for custom geometry.

Since I want to keep my BB30 SRM, and I like BB30 anyway, I'd want BB30. $50 upcharge.

Now we're looking at $650.

For a full custom, BB30, custom painted frame.

Well now.

Not only that, I could take delivery just before my California training camp. Now wouldn't that be the end all? 30 or 40 hours on a brand new frame, just enough time to really get used to it.

I spoke with the missus. She gave approval.

So next I'll be visiting the local shop, one that has a fit bike thing on the floor. I'll experiment with sizing and report back to the builder.

And we'll see what happens from there.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Training - 261 Watts, Kind Of

As promised earlier, I went and did a 20 minute test on the newly (re-) installed 175s. A quick seat adjustment (down 5 mm to keep my ultimate leg extension similar, and resulting in a greater range of motion for my knee and hip) and I was on my way.

I spun a bit to see if anything ached or creaked, but my body seemed fine with the longer cranks. Knees perfect, hips perfect, ankles perfect. All good. I could tell that the power had gone up a bit (+20 watts) for the same effort (120 bpm), and I felt anxious to see how it worked out in a full-blown 20 minute effort.

Like normal I kept stutter starting the effort. Check the DVD clock, tell myself I'll start when it gets to 21:00, then it's 21:14, so I'll just wait till 25:00. Then it's 26:32 next time I glance up, so maybe 30:00 would be good.

I keep re-cuing the music on the laptop (my glorified MP3 player), and try and prepare myself mentally, one more time.

Finally, at 39:00 on the DVD clock, I started up.

I rolled along, easily at first, always a bit high. I wanted to equal or break my all time record of 263 watts (don't laugh) and I felt it entirely possible. My pacing, regardless of how many times I re-read a great bit on pacing, starts off high, drops a bit, then, hopefully, revives just a bit at the end. Although I want to improve my pacing, avoiding the drop in the middle, it's difficult to maintain such a torrid pace for 20 minutes.

I held a decent pace for about 7 minutes, between 285 and 300 watts, and when I check for the first time in a while, I saw I was holding 290 pretty consistently.

I eased.

My legs start twinging, my quads threatening to seize. Unusual this, because normally my calves complain long before I get a hint of cramp in my quads. I chalk this up to the diet, to a lack of electrolytes, and try to turn my focus on more hamstrings, on more spinning, on pulling up.

The twinges subside.

It's now 49:30 on the DVD player, and I'm feeling reasonably good. There's a stutter in the power as I coast just a touch, ready to give up, but I keep going.

At some point the DVD I'm watching, Lemond at the 89 Worlds, ends. He wins the sprint, wins the race. I rewind the DVD a bit - I don't want to watch interviews while I'm killing myself on the trainer, music notwithstanding.

When I look to see my remaining time, I see 46:47.

But I was just at 49:30. How?

Right, I rewound myself. But when did I rewind? How long would I have to ride? It would be a pity to lose this whole effort, but at the same time I didn't want to meter out my energy for 23 or 25 minutes and do a sub-par effort. Worse, I didn't want to stop at 19:00 and then not have a good number.

I started figuring which part of what song was playing when I rewound, started calculating the time after my last check (51:30), and how much time I'd have to ride to make it equivalent to reach 59:00.

I decided that I needed to ride about 7:30 to hit the full 20. At first I thought I'd need to ride just a short time more, to 48:00. Then I realized that I somehow got 48 by adding 8 to 46 (minus the 30 seconds I already did in addition to the 46 min mark). I blame oxygen deprivation for the error but recalculate a few times. Yes, I had to think about it to add 46+8. I decided I really needed to ride to 54:00.

I mentally gritted my teeth and kept going. I hit 50 minutes, and then, at 51:30, I started upping my effort for my last hurrah. My legs responded, meaning I had gone too easy somewhere in the middle. I was 40-45 watts above my goal number, 305+ watts, and held it for a good 30-40 seconds.

Scotty! We need more power!

I kept increasing the power.

I felt determined to finish off the full minute, not ease up at 2 or 3 seconds to go. I was holding 325 watts, watched the DVD clock turn to 54:00, and eased hard.

A good effort.

I cooled down a bit then went upstairs. Connected and downloaded data from the SRM.

Checked out the prior day's ride first. Nothing special.

Checked out the ride I just did.

My goal had been to hit my max 20 min record, 263 watts as I remembered it. I quickly looked down the max averages for the different time periods.

20 minutes.

261 watts.


I selected my effort, noting with some disapproval the huge valley where I rewound the DVD and then did some mental arithmetic. My effort lasted...


262 watts for 19:56. 261 watts for 20:00.


But then I thought about it for a second.

I just hit a number I never saw before June or July of this summer. My first super-hard 20 minute effort netted me a 235 watt number. It's not quite Thanksgiving. I'm lighter by almost my bike's weight. And I spent about a minute fiddling with the DVD player and then figuring things out in my head.

For the record, my w/kg went up to 3.44. Yes, I am a touch heavier now than a couple days ago, at 75+ kg, but to see my w/kg go up by 0.25 is pretty substantial (for the record it was 3.17 at 83 kg).

So my goal now is to push it to that elusive 270 watts and beyond, ultimately going for 300 watts. I figure I can do it, based on my acceleration at the end, and my below-TT heartrate in the middle of the effort (150s for a bit, not a consistent 168-170).

And on the bottom side of the equation, I'm still going for 70 kg, with 68 kg an outside "bonus" weight. At 270/70, I'd be at 3.85 w/kg. This feels realistic.

If I could get to 300, it would be over 4 w/kg. At my old weight, that would have required 330+ watts. This seems somewhat unreasonable.

If I could get to 68 kg, it would be an insane (for me) 4.4 w/kg. This would be a pipe dream.

So what now?

Well, first I have to keep on the diet. The weight needs to come off.

And second, I need to increase power. I need to do some sub 20 minute efforts at higher wattages, to try and bring up my sustainable power. Intervals and such, maybe the hated 3-5 minute versions. And then I'll repeat my test, maybe in a couple weeks. I'll focus on maintaining power for the first 4-5 minutes, then focus on maintaining heartrate for the rest of it. If it drops I go faster (it almost always tends to drop). I'll peek at power every now and then, but the heartrate is key - keep that high and the power follows.

And I'll be sure to have a nice, long DVD in the player.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Story - Trainers

Over the years I've used many trainers. I've also become, since 1983, a pretty dedicated trainer user.

I first got a trainer back in 1983, eager to do some workouts like Davis Phinney. See, he won the 1983 US Pro Championships in Baltimore, and I happened to be watching TV when they showed the four man break, led by Phinny and Bauer, win the race. The other two guys - a Belgian and a Peugeot rider - escape me for now.

Or not. The Belgian's name was Ferdi Van Den Haute. And the other is one Allan Peiper, but I gave him no chance, because that's what the commentators were saying. And yes, he was a Peugeot rider. Ferdi seemed like he was just sitting in, and I thought maybe he was just really smart.

In the end, it became apparent that the US heat, hotter and more humid than European temps, wreaked havoc on the Euro dogs. Phinney launched way, way out there, per normal for him, with Bauer on his wheel, and they drag raced to the line.

Phinney won the sprint.

Phinney also promoted a new fangled indoor training device called the Racer Mate. I got the original Racer Mate a bit late, like many years later, but I got the Racer Mate 2 when it was still pretty new.

And, when I got it in my first year of racing, it came with a training schedule.


Since this was new information, I devoured it. Then, when I finished reading it over, I read it again. And again.

This is what it said:
1. For endurance work, ride as hard as possible for 20 minutes, trying to maintain a 60 rpm cadence. Do only once.
2. For speed work, ride as hard as possible for 1 minute, trying to maintain a 120 rpm cadence. Repeat as necessary up to 10 or so times.
3. Make the above efforts a maximum of two times a week, in whatever combination (i.e. just two hard days). Don't do these efforts on consecutive days.

Upon re-reading it, oh, say, 50 or 60 times, while I was supposed to be paying attention in class, I found that, indeed, there were no other training tips.

Oh, there was one motivating picture: one of Phinney, on the trainer, with TWO resistance fans in place. See, he's so strong he needed twice the resistance.

(I calculated that if I was going 30 mph with one fan, then he'd be going 30x2 or 60 mph... obviously I had some work to do to turn pro...)

So, like a good boy, I tried to go as hard as possible for 20 minutes. I suffered a thousand deaths, trying to reach that "tunnel vision" state in vain. I'd ride for at least 19 minutes and 57 seconds and look up and see that I hadn't even covered a full minute.

I quickly gave up trying to do 20 hard minutes.

It seemed like the sprints ought to be easier. But they weren't, of course. 40 seconds into each effort I was struggling to turn the pedals over, trying to maintain a 2-per-second cadence. Embarrassingly I had to shift into the small ring to complete even one 60 second effort. 42x15, not a very big gear.

One night, panicked and desperate, I decided I'd do everything possible to complete a 20 minute effort. See, I had a race coming up, and I really needed to prove to myself that I could ride "hard".

I started in my biggest gear (a 53x15) and started rolling, careful not to exceed about 65 rpm. My legs quickly started burning, sweat started running down my face, and in the cool, dark basement, I started building up such a heat that, at times, steam literally rose from my body.

Once I got past the 10 minute hump, the 20 minutes seemed almost attainable. At 15 minutes of effort I knew I could do it, and I sprinted like mad at the end to finish off the 20 minutes.


My confidence secure, I had to get showered and get to sleep.

See, my upcoming race, the one causing me worry and nervousness and agitation, was the next morning at 9 AM, and it was a 2 hour drive away.

Now, when I think back at such folly, it seems absolutely ludicrous that I felt the need to do a maximal 20 minute effort literally 10 hours before a race. But at 15 years old, nervous and unsure of myself, it was the best thing I could have done.

The next morning, at a deserted airfield in Rhode Island, I finished my first race.

Every time I felt like I'd give up, I realized that it felt just like minute 1 of the 20 minute effort. When things were impossible, they felt more like minute 2. But then when things eased, it was like I'd never even started riding hard.

And heck, if I could do 19 more minutes after dying a thousand deaths, staying on the wheel in front of me for another lap seemed like a cakewalk.

Anyway, this started my long-time trainer habit. I admit that for many years, until rear wheel mount trainers came in vogue, I skipped the trainer. The smell of the basement still evokes memories of cold, dank sweat, of feeling unheated winter air on sweat-soaked skin. I couldn't handle it for a long time, preferring instead to go out and ride properly dressed in the elements.

But, as I became a bit more comfortable with things, suffering outside seemed less useful. The trainer got relegated to simply "being saved" because, as a good boy, I didn't throw out things as soon as I thought they'd be useless. I'd save them forever until they were truly useless, then throw it away.

I justify enjoying the trainer use by telling myself that it takes less time to dress for a trainer ride, or that if I have a mechanical I have my whole workbench 8 feet away from me, or if I have to go to the bathroom I just have to unclip and go upstairs.

The reality, though, is that I enjoy the predictability of a trainer ride.



71 or 72 degrees.

Stability, usually.

And the bike stays clean.

I don't like change too much, and a trainer ride doesn't change much, year after year. It's just the soreness the day after that changes from ride to ride.

Anyway, when rear wheel mount trainers (originally the Blackburn) came out, it saved the bike from the "destroy your headset in 30 days or less, guaranteed" fork mount trainers. My Racer Mate 2 got shoved aside, and I started using the new fangled, folding, lightweight, adjustable resistance, and, ultimately, much quieter trainers.

But the one problem with all those trainers back then was that you'd wobble back and forth on the trainer. Since no one could predict exactly what kind of skewer the end user would have on their bike, the skewer-holding-ends didn't fit any skewer well.

I weeble-wobbled my way through many training sessions until one day I saw the CycleOps trainer, with this insanely beefy looking frame.

This thing was concrete to mud, steel to iron, carbon fiber to Saran Wrap, Cannondale to (name any Columbus SL frame). The latter, of course, applying strictly to the new oversize aluminum bikes that everyone said was "too stiff".

The CycleOps was solid.

The main reason was the insanely oversized (at the time) U-shaped main frame that held the bike in place. I don't know how the physics works but the tubes were twice the diameter of its competitors, and, man, it just did not give, not one iota.

The second reason was an ingenious one. If there are six billion skewer designs out there, why bother trying to make one axle holder fit them all? Instead, pick out a really beefy skewer, design the trainer to hold just that skewer, and include the skewer along with the trainer.

Man, why didn't I think of that one?

The first time we clamped a bike to a CycleOps, I was sold.

Shortly thereafter I had one in my living room.

Now, as solid as it is, it doesn't mean it's tip proof. In fact, it's so solid that it allows the whole trainer-bike-rider unit to tip as a whole.

One night, watching Bugno, in Polti colors, descending down some Giro mountain (1:30 on the clip, but you can't see it), I noticed that a rider on the screen cornering like he was on a motorcycle. He hung his whole body off the side of the bike, almost dragging his knee like a GP Moto guy.

Curious, and totally confident in the rock-solid grip of the CycleOps trainer, I leaned over the right side of the bike, trying to get my right shin a couple inches above and parallel to the floor.

Well, it got parallel all right, as I slammed it into the rug, the whole bike and trainer unit tipping over with me.

The thud shook the house, and a worried future-missus poked her head around the corner.

I couldn't unclip so had to have her help me free myself from the ever-loving bike and trainer.

So, although it holds rock solid, you can still tip it over.

I bought two CycleOps, a Fluid one and a now-obsolete e-Trainer.

The latter had power, had a computer-generated ghost rider on a screen, and you could do all sorts of various tests on it.

It also cost $800 I think.

A couple years after I bought it, maybe 5 or 7 years ago now, I was doing some maximal effort, trying to annihilate the ghost rider, when I started smelling smoke.

I looked down and saw smoke pouring out of the vents of the resistance unit. I unplugged everything to save the computer from any damage, and realized, after a brief check of the system, that it was dead.

The beefy frame was still good, so, like a good boy, I saved the whole unit. Because one day, you know, I'd get another resistance unit, and I'd be able to salvage the nice U frame.

Fast forward a lot of years.

The other day the missus asked me about a trainer for her. I had called CycleOps way back when the e-trainer died, and they told me they'd sent a "replacement cost" Fluid resistance unit to a local shop of my choice. I'd pay about half the price of a full unit, and I figured the shop would get a cut and everyone would be happy. I'd get a usable trainer, I'd recycle (heh) a nice U-shaped CycleOps stand, and the shop could get an add-on sale.

Unfortunately that was about when we were selling the house, I was working umpteen hours a week, and, frankly, the trainer unit never made it back to CycleOps.

Last week I called CycleOps and basically asked the same thing again. I sheepishly admitted that I'd raised an RMA forever ago without ever fulfilling it. The early hour Wisconsin (or is it Minnesota?) call center rep gently chastised me for making them do RMA work for nothing, but then got down to business.

Basically, if I could fit my Fluid unit into the e-Trainer's frame (verifying that, indeed, a new unit would fit the e-Trainer stand), then they could send me a Fluid resistance unit.

And this time they'd do it for free.

Well now.

A few days later the e-Trainer resistance unit was on the way.

Today the missus went to help paint a kitchen (what are daughters for, right?). I came home and did all the things the missus normally handles on Saturdays. I checked the mail (Netflix, The Saint, yay!), rolled up to the garage door, anticipating being able to park inside, in the missus's spot (mine is jammed full of bike stuff).

And then I saw the trapezoidal box leaned up against the house. Not a smaller, more squarish one.

Trapezoidal. You know what's scary? I Googled "trapezoidal" to make sure I was being accurate. I wasn't sure if it was the right term. That's scary.

Lo and behold. An entire Fluid trainer unit. Not just the resistance unit, everything. A U shaped stand, instructions, even a DVD.

Bella checking out the Race Day DVD. Bonus!

CycleOps rocks.

Wait, let me say that again.

CycleOps rocks.

Now I just need to get an Ant +Sport power crank so I can get the new Joule computer from them, and then I can get their Joule equipped indoor spin/power bike, and...

Oh, lookit the time. I gotta go.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Training - Back To The Future: 175 Cranks, Again

I've been jonesing to swap my cranks back to the 175s, the crank length I've come to prefer at the Bethel Spring Series. I did a 20 minute test the other night, but I felt a bit flat. With longer cranks I can usually get through that "flat" feeling, rolling a lower cadence instead of trying to stay on top of a smaller gear.

So, after my ride two nights ago, I decided that I would swap the cranks. I figure that I could give my 20 min test another try with the longer cranks and see what happens.


Unlike last time, I remembered how to remove the Cannondale SI cranks. The remover works ingeniously, a headless bolt that screws into the bottom bracket spindle. You then screw in an "outer blocking screw", essentially trapping the headless bolt.

Then you unscrew the headless bolt. With nowhere to go, it pushes the crankarm right off the spindle.

Because of the design of the axle spindle, you need much less force to remove the crankarm than, say, a standard square taper spindle crankset.

Now, after less than 10 minutes of work (which included removing and reinstalling my pedals, as well as swapping out the SRM spider), my bike has the 175s on it once again.

Although I've extolled the virtues of longer cranks, and then shorter cranks, and then longer cranks again, I've realized that crankarm length is like bike fit: sometimes you need some change. For 2010 I'll be using the 175s until mid-late April.

Which means I'll be on the 175s for the next half year. I'll do my trip to Florida, then my trip to CA, and maybe a third training camp trip on them. The cranks should stay on for Bethel. As soon as the Series finishes, I'll be putting the 170s back on, in preparation for the track races in New Hampshire.

Last night, fatigued as I was, I did a ride. I had to cut it short at 1:30, my motivation to ride dwindling as my sleepiness grew.

But I noticed that I could maintain 200 watts at just 120-130 bpm. I need to analyze the numbers a bit closer, but usually 200 watts means a lot of effort for me. After a day or two of rest, I'll get back on the bike and do a 20 minute test.

I'm curious as to what I'll find.

In the meantime, I'm still dieting. My weight loss tapered dramatically, but I'm still down about 17 pounds from when I started five and a half weeks ago. It seems that I'm down about two pounds a week, which, if things go well, will put me down twelve more pounds at the end of the year.

That would put me at about 152 pounds, under my most optimistic ultimate goal of 155 pounds, and well below my "expected" (hoped for) weight of 162 pounds.

With my semi-joking 70 kg (154 lbs) weight in mind, and the "wait, there's more!" weight of 68 kg (148 lbs), if I can hit the lower 150s by the end of the year, it's only a few more pounds to get to that magical 68 kg weight.

Combine that weight with whatever I can dish out in my next 20 minute test on 175s...


But, before I get too excited, I have to actually lose weight to get below the mid 160s. And ride the bike. And all that stuff.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Life - Modding A Childhood Experience

I have to admit something: I never got to finish out my childhood pedal car experiences.

See, my first wheeled experience, at least that I remember, was trying to use a green pedal car (I won't say "mine" because everything was both my brother's and mine) to pull my brother on his tricycle, all on our gravel driveway.

Front wheel steering trikes aren't good for getting pulled, and ultimately I had to give up the coolness factor of the green pedal car. See, swapping vehicles made things work. The trike could pull the car, but the trike had a different problem:

Front wheel drive.

And the emphasis is on "Front" and "Wheel", meaning singular.

On that gravel driveway, my front wheel drive trike spun its wheel while 6 wheels of cargo (2 from the trike, 4 from the pedal car) steadfastly refused to move.

Of course, it could have been those massive quads putting out massive watts in a desperate sprint, but trust me, at that age I was better at eating than I was at pedaling.

Ultimately I think I got it to work (downhill?) but at the end of the day all I had were bruised shins.

Shortly thereafter the green car went away, given to friends when the family up and moved to Holland. I must have cried or thrown a tantrum because I wasn't ready to let it go, not like the orange bike in Holland, or the blue one, or the Tonka Toys, so on and so forth.

But that "tow a trike" day taught me some basic things that I've yet to stray from. I realized, even at the tender age of "almost 5 years old" that I'd rather the following:

1. I liked cars better than trikes.
2. I liked low (car) better than tall (trike).
3. I liked rear wheel drive better than front wheel drive.
4. I really wanted a paved driveway.

You can see where I started to realize that mountain biking, although fun, wasn't necessarily for me. Tall bikes, unpaved roads, not good. I like cars better than trucks, to an extend. I follow F1 closer than I do, say, the Baja 1000. (I admit I watch the occasional rally video, but that's because they drive on unpaved roads as if they were paved.)

It took me a while but I managed, about 6 years ago, to finally acquire all the above. I had a low car with rear wheel drive that parked on a paved driveway.

I do admit that I long for a pedal car though.


And then, in the mail, I saw the new Hammacher Schlemmer catalog.

And on the cover...

Seven speed, digital dash, innovative shifter, two point harness, and 12" wheels.

Wait, 12 inches? Wide, right? Not tall?

Nope, they're 12 inches tall. About the same size as the original Mini Cooper, and smaller than even the super-small, super-light Prius wheels.

And what about power?

Well, it's in the mid-200 range, at least for me. You're mileage may vary.


It's a pedal car!

It's a sorry excuse of the picture from the real site, so here's the link.

Just to clarify, for me it'd be a mid-200 WATT power machine. Your wattage will vary.

Anyway, push-button digital dashboard, aero fairings, Ferrari emblems, and, get this...

A SRAM 7-speed twist shift transmission system.

That's cool.

(It's not cool that you can't link to particular pages in the SRAM site, but so be it. They have an uncool website.)

My more cynical side thinks, "Oh, 7 speed is outdated, that's why they used it on the pedal car, otherwise they'd have gotten the 9-speed version." Inevitably these gadgety creatures get built using left-over, less-than-cutting-edge stock.

Wait, you say. 9 speed?

Yeah, you heard right. Your grandma's 3 speed bike can now be a 9 speed internally geared bike.

The best parts of the pedal car?

One is the weight limit: 300 pounds.

The other?

"For ages 5 and up."

That means that I'd qualify, right?

Because, you know, our house has a paved driveway.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Life - Healing - Officially Healed!

The other morning I went to the doc's office for a follow up on the pelvis and shoulder. In case you've missed the rest of the blog, I managed to break (fracture) my pelvis in two spots in August, and although I didn't necessarily break my shoulder, I really messed it up. I also got a bit of road rash, although that was the least of my problems.

The pelvis and shoulder gave me problems beyond the stinging of the road rash. These injuries caused me to have to do all sorts of things, one thing which was to visit a doctor somewhat regularly.

It's funny, his "time to heal" kept changing. First it was 6 weeks. Then, when I was still limping around with a cane after six weeks, he said 6 weeks was when the bones would stitch, but that it could be 8 weeks.

At 8 weeks the really painful stuff was gone, but anytime I loaded my right leg (like when I washed my left foot in the shower), it hurt.

This meant, among other things, that I had to wash my left foot with just one hand. I used the other to hold onto various support structures in the shower.

Anyway, at 8 weeks, he told me that things would take a bit longer.

Today, at 12 weeks, he said that the newly formed bone would mature slowly over the next few weeks. That the pain I felt whenever I exerted myself was the pain from my protesting "not yet mature" bone structures.

But he said that, at 12 weeks, basically I was fine. In other words, the doc gave me the all clear to do whatever I normally do.

Not that, well, I was doing what I normally do, at least for the last couple days or so.

For example, the Sunday before, I went for the ride. After the appointment I finally downloaded the ride info from last Sunday.

Although I claimed to be reasonably weak, I actually did a big effort to clear some road construction. Jersey barriers had narrowed the road to one lane, no shoulder, and a stack of cars started to pass me. Instead of plodding along at 15 mph and acting as a mobile chicane, I accelerated to about 30, pacing the car in front of me, sprinting a bit up a hill, and eased up for the light (and the return of two lanes).

Unbeknowst to me, I did over 1000 watts for 15-20 seconds.

So although I may not feel very good on the bike, the numbers claim otherwise. And, yes, I even set the SRM before the ride, per instructions.

My pelvis, therefore, feels reasonably healed. I'll wait for some more efforts before I pass final judgment, but things seem promising.

My shoulder also progressed well. A lot of physical therapy helped, as did a lot of rest when I wasn't doing exercises. I had problems a few weeks ago lifting 10 pounds over my head, but now it's not too bad. The missus did notice a distinct lack of musculature recently so I'm probably weak. However, except for somewhat consistent crackles and pops, things seem fine there.

Finally, I'm still continuing my diet, counting calories (staying at or under 1800 per day), fat (typically staying under 50 grams of fat a day, usually below 40), and riding when I feel like it, resting when I don't. My weight loss seems to have slowed, but I figure that's normal. I'll continue to the end of the year and see where I am at that point.

Some pictures:

Ankle as of Sept 4, 2009. It was bleeding or weeping daily.

Birthday picture Sept 23, 2009, at the hotel in Vegas. It bled a bit each day but it didn't bleed continuously. Swollen still, uncomfortable, and stiff. And yes I know I have dry skin.

Nov 13, 2009. It hasn't bled for a while, but I hadn't made any notes on when I noticed it stopping. At least a month. Darker scar tissue, from some internal bruising or something.

Note how the scar is above the ankle bone. This means I was sliding "upwards" when my ankle hit the ground, pulling the skin down. What a big hole, right?

Tire mark on the thigh, which doesn't seem to be going away. It's a cool enough scar though - it's my only impact scar.

Elbow on Sept 4, 2009. I'm pretty sure I had stopped with the Tegaderm by then. Tender but reaonsably okay.

Elbow on November 13, 2009. Someone asked me if I had any scars from my "bike racing", and I glanced at my elbow. Before I could say anything, the person said, "Oh, you do!"

I would have taken pictures of my pelvis, but then I'd have to make my blog an 18-and-over one and you'd have to sign off on your age to see anything.

Actually, there are no scars there, so any pictures would be relatively innocuous.

So, with that, it's time to look forward to 2010.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Promoting - YouTube Clip

Still waiting on the town for 2010, so no updates for now on the Bethel Spring Series 2010. For a bit of filler, nothing beats some sarcastic, computer generated dialogue.

Warning: swear words and sarcastic frustration present and vocal in the below clip. Do not play at work, other sensitive environments, or around kids under 18.

Road Race Organiser vs Marshall (sic, at least for us, but in the UK, who knows):

It's not all like this, especially with the Bethel Spring Series. I have to say that, overall, the experience at Bethel is much better than "normal", with few of the ordinary race promoting headaches.

It wasn't always like that though, and the race always went off because of the most conscientious and hardworking folks.

When you go to a race, any race, keep that in mind. Do what Dave Wiens did at the Leadville 100 - thank the promoter, the folks marshaling, and ride your heart out.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Training - Dieting and w/kg

I woke up a bit hyper today, and in one of those early morning semi-conscious chats, told the missus that I'm glad I'm not a pro. The conversation that I had in my head went something like this, in a meeting with the team director (I was a pro in this little diddy).

Jonathan Vaughters motions for me to sit down.

"Congratulations on the contract. I hope that you're happy here, and I'm glad that you re-signed with us. So, SDC, let's go over your plans for next year."

"Okay, JV." (We're talking in initials here because it's cool. Or kewl. Or k00l.)

"This season you rode pretty well, but you lacked some durability in the Classics. When the pace got hot, especially in the slight rises, you looked to be in difficulty. Would you agree?"


"So I've talked to AL (Allen Lim) and them and we've figured out how to rectify this weakness."


"Yeah, we figure that at 82 kg, you're a bit heavy, and at 243 watts for 20 minutes, you're a bit lacking in the aerobic area. To get a more optimal power to weight ratio, Allen said you need to do two things. First, he thinks you can bump up that 243 to at least 270, since you tested at 263 earlier this year. 290 or even 300 would be great."


"Allen also said you need to lose, oh, like 30 kg. At 52 kg, you'd have a decent 5.2 w/kg ratio at 270 watts, and 5.76 w/kg at 300 watts. What do you think?"

JV smiles, sits back, and clasps his hands, peering at me through his glasses.

I frantically do some math in my head.

"Um, 52 kg is 114 pounds. I'm 180 right now. I haven't weighed 114 since I was in college."

"Well, yeah, there is the matter of losing those 66 pounds. But, hey, what's 66 pounds? It's only a month of catfood for 7 cats. It's 10 gallons of gasoline. Four bikes. But, look, ultimately it's just weight. Anyway, that's what you need to do. You can talk to AL about diet and such. I'll see you in a month."

Big grin from JV.

With that I got up to feed the cats. It's a bit more complicated than just tossing food into a bowl. See, Lilly has to eat special food, but she gets upset if she eats alone, so one of us has to watch them eat, then put away all the food when they're done. Cats, in case you didn't know, are like humans - they eat ravenously for a bit, walk away, let things settle, then come back for seconds.

Anyway, as much as I wanted to talk about JV and stuff, I had to get up and let the kitties eat. The whole process takes about half an hour, so I sat and pondered things while the kitties munched away. Then I could weigh in and eat.

I admit that I used to hope and wish and dream that I'd be a pro. Grinding out the pace on the cobbles, in the rain, mud, cold, hanging on as opportunists took their chances. Team gear, all matching, no worries on what to wear - all your gear would look the same.

Then the reality of earning, say, $21k as a former Amateur World Champion (like Greg Lemond) started to sink in. At a much later Fitchburg, I learned that some of the guys on a national class team, including a former Lemond teammate, made as little as $7000 a year.

Heck, I made more than that at the bike shop!

Anyway, I dropped that pro dream a long time ago.

And now, with my current diet, I realized how lucky I am that I have no genetic gift for aerobic sports.

Last night, on the trainer, I started doing some calculations.

At 82 kg, and about 243 watts (last current 20 min max), I made about 3.05 w/kg. If you subtract 10% for actual threshold (versus max sustainable work level), I'm at 2.7 ish w/kg.

This, in case you didn't know, is pretty terrible. Check it out - it would fall under the 20 minute mark, by the way.

Yep, you have to scroll down to about the bottom of the Cat 4s to find my massive 3.05 w/kg. You have to go to "Untrained" to find my approximate FTP of 2.7 w/kg.

Then, because I was listening to music on a laptop while on the trainer, I opened up the calculator and started figuring out what my weight loss could do to my w/kg ratios.

I plugged in my current weight - 76.6 kg - my 243 watt effort nets me 3.17 w/kg.

At my goal weight - 70 kg or 154 lbs - the same 243 watts gets me 3.47 w/kg, or just into the bottom of the Cat 3s.

If I can do 270 watts (7 over my record), and go to 68 kg (just a touch under 150 lbs), I'd be just below the 4 w/kg line, sitting at 3.97 w/kg.

That, my friends, would creep me into Cat 2 territory.

As a bonus, although my jump may not change that much, I should be able to improve my paper numbers from about 17 w/kg to about 20-22 w/kg. Likewise, I hope to get my sprint proper (10 seconds) from 12-13 w/kg to 14-15 w/kg, whether by increasing power, decreasing weight, or both.

I'll see how it goes. First the weight, then the power.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Promoting - Bethel Spring Series 2010

So the poll for the 2010 Bethel Spring Series has closed. The question - which days, other than Sundays in March, should we run the Series?

The most popular answers are Feb 28 and March 18. April 11 and 25 received about equal votes. I'd do some statistical analysis if I could, but I passed Statistics in school by guessing on 19 of 20 multiple choice questions (one final exam), so I don't know very much about statistics. Therefore I can't conclude that anything is statistically significant or all those fancy terms.

The poll also let me think about what dates I can and can't hold the races. (FYI - I didn't vote in the poll.)

Feb 28th is the last day of the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show. I have a special place in my heart for such shows, and therefore I don't want to overlap it. I can think of some individuals (like the one that said "Uh-oh" on one of the helmet cam clips) who make a living in the NAHBS market, and they've also lent long and consistent support to the Series.

I also don't want to drag the Series out to April 25th. It's hard running the races. I end up a zombie after each Bethel until about Wednesday, which means that by the time I recover from the Sunday prior, it's about Thursday or Friday. Two months of that is a half month too much for me.

Then I have to start prepping for the next race.

So anyway, if I leave out February 28th and April 4th (Easter), that leaves April 11 and 18.

After a lot of thought, and lots of teammates telling me NOT to hold the race on the 11th, I've decided that there will be a race on the 11th as well as the 18th.

Yes, on the 11th.

Okay, I have to get my fire-proof suit on so I can fend off all the flame comments.

Seriously though, I figure that we'll lose one weekend in March due to snow/ice, and we usually have one bad weather week (a Nor'easter, with driving wind and sideways rain) where each race has like 20 riders. With just five weeks of scheduled racing, there's little margin for an eliminated day, especially combined with a poor weather day.

Now, to boost morale of participants, I'll have at least one or two announcements to make regarding the races.

That'll wait though because, naturally, first I have to get permission from the town. The fax went out, and now I'm just waiting for the next Board of Selectman meeting. Technically they have the power to shut down the race, but pending their approval, the whole thing gets rolling.

So, I wait with fingers crossed.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Training - First Ride Outside At Home

I have to put a lot of qualifications on the title because I've been riding, even if it may not seem like it.

First off, I started riding just before Interbike 2009, getting in about an hour or so on the trainer. Mind you, I was in some decent amount of pain (injury pain, not "I'm not fit" pain). I could feel all sorts of knots and lumps and stuff inside my right hip that I've never felt before.

The pain from the broken bone actually helped me a bit, forcing me to tilt my pelvis forward a touch to unweight the fracture. This got me lower and longer on the bike, something I've been missing and, frankly, unwilling to figure out exactly what I need to do to get back to that form. It's the position I had in the early-mid 90s, when I was at my best, so it was a nice side-effect to the pain.

Then, technically, I rode outside at Interbike, going for an hour-plus cruise with Kevin. I didn't realize it then, and Kevin was too nice to say otherwise, but we were crawling. I figure we were going 14-15 mph when I was going "hard", and maybe 8-12 over some of of the bridge overpasses. I did get going on one tailwind, slight downhill section, but I probably hit 28 or so tops.

Kevin, in case you didn't realize, is incredibly patient. He made it seem like I was flying the whole time.

After Interbike my pelvis made progress in noticeable weekly leaps. I started doing some trainer rides, suffering from "I'm not fit". I struggled to maintain 120-140 watts for an hour, and my heartrate seemed to soar whenever I approached 200 watts.

I contemplated riding outside, but I knew that to get out of our little development, I had to do a steady 400-600 watts to get up this pain-in-the-butt hill. I realized that, under duress, I struggled to hit 300 watts on the trainer. If I couldn't comfortably maintain 400 watts up that hill, I'd fall over.

Therefore I stayed indoors.

A couple weeks ago I finally could sustain brief, minute or so efforts at 250-270 watts. Riding outside became more of a reality. But it was cold and my pelvis still protested whenever I weighted just my right leg.

Last week I finally felt up to doing a 20 minute test. I worked admirably hard (I thought so anyway) and did a nice effort of 243 watts.

This, incidentally, beat my first true, red-in-the-face, 20 minute max effort of 235-238 watts, one on a very hard ride with SOC, the other a 20 minute test I did a few days later.

Therefore, I can conclude at least one thing:

I'm getting better at taking 20 minute FTP tests.

Because, frankly, I'm not that strong. I can't jump around at 1000-1100 watts, and I can't even start to think about reaching for the elusive 1500 watt line.

So my 20 minute FTP test simply tells me I'm getting better at taking the test. It's like SATs - I didn't get smarter or anything when I practiced taking the test, I just got better at the testing itself.

Anyway, regardless of my FTP rant, today I finally ventured outside.

I have to explain that for all my flahute-talk, for all those hardcore "sideways rain in hurricane like winds" rides, I'm a wimpy rider at heart. I can do all those rides but I prefer to watch a DVD and sit on the trainer. It takes me about a minute to get ready from sedentary to "ready to ride", and another minute to reverse the process.

When I'm soaked to the bone, jacket, tights, booties, gloves, jersey, hat, all dripping wet, all verboten from our cream colored rug, it takes me a few uncomfortable minutes undressing in our unheated garage, then padding over to the shower as quickly as possible.

Today I wanted to get some more mulch for our yard. And when I started loading it in the van, I realized that I had to strip down to a t-shirt to feel reasonably comfortable.

And I was still pouring sweat.

It was freakin' warm outside.

I got home and mentioned to the missus that I wanted to ride. And, being the missus, she told me that she thought riding would be better than doing the mulch (it was already unloaded at the various "needs-mulch" places).

So I started looking for my gear. It took a while because I haven't packed these things, in detail, since mid August. I finally found my gear back, neatly tucked away in a closet in the basement. I loaded up like a soldier prepping for battle, donning my Connecticut Coast Cycle gear for probably the last time. I made sure I grabbed everything - bib knickers, short sleeve jersey, long sleeve jersey, wind vest, and, the coup d'etat, the bright blue shoe covers.

I should point out that for the first time since August 11, I managed to stand on my right leg, and just my right leg, without holding on to anything for support. Yay!

Anyway, appropriately outfitted, I rolled on outside.

Things seemed foreign. The brakes felt odd. The front end wiggly, with no wheel stand holding it steady. I did some mini slalom moves to get a feel for the front end, and realized the rear tire, slick from the trainer, was actually squeaking against the pavement.

By the time I climbed the pain-in-the-butt hill to get to the roads, the squeaking was gone, my heartrate was up around 158, and things were normal.

I did my standard Quarry Road loop, never really made any big efforts, rolled on one hill, did a little jump on another (road construction eliminated the shoulder so I just kept pace with the car in front of me).

Being on the road, without pain to distract me, let me think of a lot of things.

I remembered how to do a track stand, both standing and sitting. That was comforting.

I realized I miss diving into turns. I miss sitting on wheels.

Specifically, I miss jumping out from behind wheels.

I miss blasting down a descent (the Quarry loop has no real descents). I miss accelerating out of the saddle, in the drops, jumping up to cruising speed.

I miss a lot of things about racing, for sure. But training...

My back was a bit tight, even with my slightly different posture on the saddle. My neck felt fragile - when I did a little jump, I got that crick in the neck thing. I felt pretty weak, no real torque in my jump, no smashing the pedals.

But it felt good to be out there. I wasn't the only one - I must have ridden past 20 riders in an hour, most of them dressed lighter than me.

My legs never betrayed me, not a hint of cramp or a twinge of pain. My shoulder, too, felt okay, even when I had to sit up and struggle with my vest, or when I stuffed some gear in my jersey pockets.

It felt good to get out on the bike. Refreshing.



I'm looking forward to my two, hopefully three "training camps" this winter. And, of course, to the 2010 season.

Now I have to go. I have a lot of mulch calling my name.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Racing - Trivia

Finally, CyclingRevealed has their trivia series going for the winter.

It's an interesting distraction. First off, I realize how little I know. Second, I realize how things I've thought significant are maybe, well, not so. And finally, it helps to see where we were as racers.

The site itself is an interesting archive and commentary on various stages of racing. I have to admit that I'm a Merckx-era onwards racing fan. I know little about Coppi or Bartali or "those guys" that raced in a black and white world (because, you know, before color, the world was black and white). Sometimes it's good to have the Cliff Notes version of history, just to get an overview.

No Googling and such for the questions. I take about 5-10 seconds to read the question, the possible answers, maybe eliminate a couple, and then click a circle.

Anyway, the first quiz is up!

(Okay, the folks there seem to be focusing on easier questions - I actually knew them all!)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Interbike 2009 - Ritchey Stems and ZTail Trade-in

One of my long time favorite stems is the one made by Ritchey. In some ways I'm a throw back kind of rider, eschewing the oversize bar thing, the oversize seatpost thing, and a non-subscriber to some of the uses of carbon out there.

Carbon use in oversize bars and stems, come to think of it.

It's not like I don't like carbon - I have a carbon fork, a half carbon frame (as well as a mostly-carbon frame - sans dropouts and BB shell), carbon rims, even some carbon derailleur pieces (which I avoided for a while and finally bought as part of a package deal).

But there are limits to my carbon consumption, no matter how light or airy a part feels. Just the other day I was at an LBS, and they had a nice little build kit in a shipping box. On top lay some pretty Ritchey WCS pieces, including a carbon bar. I picked it up.


The thing felt like it was made out of styrofoam. I waved it around, my normal test for any "light" part. A light part changes direction quickly, a heavier one doesn't, and this one was definitely on the former side. It felt featherweight, airy, and it seemed to have more air resistance than inertial mass.

I put it down before I hit a wayward customer, employee, or slat wall hook.

You know, if I didn't race, I'd probably get a bar like that. A stem too, maybe even a post. I could see myself riding on some pretty light stuff, worried only about it not failing in normal use (like bombing down a descent). I could save my light bike for the nicer days, avoiding rain, excessive travel (like on a plane), and even night rides (where I tend to hit more potholes and such).

But since I race, and since I expect to bash my bike around, I don't want to take the risk. All the things I just listed in the above paragraph, that's all stuff my primary bike sees in an average year. It flies, night rides, races, gets bumped around in a car, maybe the back of a fully laden van (bouncing on top of folded tables, wheeled leaf blowers, propane heaters, and other "non-smooth" things).

So I tend to stay away from carbon for the more fragile pieces, like bars or stems.

Like I said before, it's not that the bar may fail while I ride - I mean, heck, I've seen aluminum bars fail on rides, and the guy somehow rode home on a one-sided bar - but in races there's a much higher chance of a fall.

And carbon doesn't like impacts.

I've seen guys tumble to the ground, essentially unhurt, but after glancing briefly at half their bar dangling from various cables, unable to continue. I don't want to deal with that.

Luckily Ritchey still makes really nice aluminum bits.

For the longest time I've ridden Ritchey stems, after an independent lab found them to be the best stem for the money. They were reasonably rigid, didn't let the bar slip, and didn't break very easily. Since I've met the person behind the independent lab, and since I trust his methods and morals, I went with the lab's findings.

I bought a Ritchey stem.

By chance it came in an angle and length I needed - 73 degrees (or minus 17 degrees if you will), 13 cm long. I really wanted a 14 cm stem, but those didn't exist back then in threadless + 73 degree.

When different companies came out with their oversize bars and stems, I stayed with my skinny, primitive 26.0 Ritcheys clamping some 26.0 crit bend bar.

Slowly I found my 73 + 13 + 26.0 stem choices limited. I managed to build up a small inventory of Ritchey stems, even descending down from their WCS line to find stems that were available and within budget.

Since I like crit bend bars, and no one sells one, I never got a Ritchey bar. And since I don't want setback, and Ritchey always had setback, I always stayed with Thomson posts. I like the two pieces - both aluminum, both reliable, both pieces you install and forget.

Of course, it's always interesting to try new parts on a bike. And at Interbike 2009, I saw Ritchey's zero setback post. It didn't have my one bolt adjustment and it was made with carbon, but if I wasn't a racer, well, you know.

Beautiness to the right.

The cool thing is that you can try them without necessarily risking losing all your money. In fact, you can check out the whole Ritchey line. See, they have a new trade-in program through

The way it works is that you get to return parts for a guaranteed percentage of the purchase price, based on elapsed time. For three months you get 80% back. Up to six months, 60%. Nine months, 50%. A year, 40%. A year and a half, 25%.

Okay, I may not be the ideal guy for this program, hanging onto kinda-sort out-of-style equipment for a decade or two, but for those that buy new cars (I've only ever bought one), or bikes (I've only ever bought two), this may be a cool program.

Think of it.

You set up your rig with some pretty Ritchey stuff. You race for the year, and just when the new stuff starts showing up, you send it all back.

Then you get half your money back!


This could be addicting. I mean, okay, my road bike may be all set up, but how about my back-up primary bike, or, say, the tandem, or my mountain bike...

Let me look at the Ritchey stuff again...