Friday, January 29, 2010

California - Palomar!

Palomar, snow, and the bike. 39x23, which I used for, oh, about 3 minutes. 39x25 otherwise.

Now that I've given the plot away, I'll start at the beginning.

You may recall me mentioning that my pretty worn cassette didn't like the new chain, at least in all the middle gears. So, last night we embarked on a mission to buy a cassette. After a desperate drive to a local superstore, where they had an 11-25 Chorus, we arrived, literally a bit out of breath (I ran in from the parking lot). The guy triumphantly plopped the cassette on the counter.

11 speed.


We trudged out of there a lot slower than when we rushed in. Then, on the way back, my friend looked at me.

"You know, I have a 10 speed cassette. But it's gonna cost you."

Big grin. We jet back to the house, unpack all these stored bikes, and lo and behold there's a 12-25 cassette. 10 speed. Chorus (all steel, but it has the carriers).

Works for me if it works for you.

We rummaged around his various bike parts, reminiscing about things like Scott Rakes (we both have ours here, i.e. I brought mine "just in case"). We talked about the other "mass start aero bar", the Spinacis. He admitted he liked the 3ttt ones better.

"You know, um, I forget what they're called..."
Grin. "Yeah! And I have mine here."

Then he pulled out a very familiar looking pair of brake pads, still carded.

"I bought these Campy brake pads (actually Kool Stop but who cares) but they're the wrong ones. You want them?"

I thought, well, heck yeah, two replacement pads? When I need to swap out the yellow SwissStops and put in a quad of sorry looking OEM pads? I started thinking about where to put the two new pads - up front or on the rear. Probably front. Well, maybe the rear. Whatever, either way it'd work.


He pulled out three more packages. Tossed them over.

Not just two pads. Not even four. EIGHT brake pads! Score!

I started installing the various pieces while he fiddled with an absolutely terrible project, a single speed cowhorn bar bike. I suggested he make it really ridiculous so that BSNYC would harp on it. He admitted the futility of the usefulness, but ever since I met him he's been fascinated with cowhorn bars. I figured it's okay, we all have our weaknesses.

He was missing one piece.

"The only thing I need is a 1 1/8" stem."

I thought about the 12 cm stem on my bike. It replaced the 13 cm that was still sitting in the bike bag.

"I have a 13 cm stem here. Want it?"

"You're not serious..."

"Well, I had the 13 on, but it's a bit long, so I built it with the 12 that I stuck in my carry-on."

"13's the perfect size!"

I gave him the 13 cm stem.

Funny how these things work, right?

I have to admit that I need to buy another cassette for him because, frankly, I came out way ahead. And some brake pads too.

Anyway, when I had my bike not skipping and with nice meaty brake pads on all four corners, I realized something.

My bike was all set.

I turned to my friend.

"I think I'm gonna do Palomar tomorrow."

His look said it all. You just got here. Your bike is barely broken in. You barely rode. You're still dieting and have no fuel. You're out of your mind.

So as to set the stage I ate a lot of extra food that night. In calorie counter, though, the truth is a bit less impressive - I ate about 500 calories over my 1800 calorie allotment. Preparing for a 6+ hour ride, that's not a lot of calories.

I tried to make amends by eating two breakfasts, but I could only eat about 800-odd calories. I'll have to work on this for my other long days.

Anyway, once I ate and got dressed, I checked my bike over, got on it, and left.

Kitted up in shorts, SS jersey, LS jersey, a SS base layer, a vest, short finger gloves, and a Halo and skull cap, I felt pretty comfortable. Atomic Balm on the legs, arm and knee warmers as well as cold weather gloves in my pocket, I felt ready for the mid 50 degree weather forecast for the route.

I rolled through Escondido without too much problem, then headed up the Lake Wohlford climb. I noticed the front derailleur rubbed in the 39x25. I do this on every build, and I only notice it when I set out on a hard climb. Since at home I rarely hit such climbs (especially when I'm on the trainer), it takes a Wohlford or the like to reveal my build errors.

For the climb I just made a mental note to fix it when I stopped to fuel up and kept going.

I descended down towards the store at the beginning of the climb. Only four minutes of coasting, but again, I learned a lot of things.

First, with the front end of the bike way out there, I felt uncomfortable doing my normal head-over-the-handlebars tuck. In fact, I felt kind of uncomfortable doing the hands-by-the-stem thing. So I just held the drops and went relatively slow, probably almost 10 mph slower than normal.

Second, and I knew this but forgot it, with the low top tube, my legs have nothing to grab. My calves actually clamp the top tube, but since I quickly decided not to do my tuck, I didn't need to grab frame either.

And finally, the front end of the bike felt rock solid. I felt in total control of the bike's direction.

I stopped at my standard convenience store at the base of the climb. This time I only got some food (Pop Tarts and Valley Green granola bars), adjusted the front derailleur, and headed up the climb.

At first I was a bit disappointed. I thought that losing all this weight would make things hugely different, but

Once I got into the depths of the climb, I noticed a few more things. I guess 30 minutes of climbing just brushes the surface. Add another 20 or 30 minutes and more things become apparent.

For example, I noticed to my dismay that my saddle seemed high. In my "can't think while riding" state I couldn't figure out what I did wrong, but I think I set up my saddle height for 170s, not the 175s I'm running at the moment.

I noted too that when I slid forward on the saddle it seemed high. The saddle I'm using has a pronounced dip in the middle, something not there when it's new. I figure it's perhaps the result of a lot of miles, but the result is the same - I need to tilt the saddle down a touch.

Mental note - lower the saddle. And tilt the nose down a touch.

Over and over I felt a bit disappointed that I wasn't effortlessly flying up the climb. I thought of ProCycling Manager, where you basically play Team Director and tell guys when to go and how hard. Problem is that once your guys work through their available reserves, they change modes into "Death March". This involves riding at about 140 bpm, ignoring the pleading of the Team Director.

Tell your rider to sprint, he plods along at 140 bpm.
Tell him to attack, he plods along.

And, today, I was that rider. I would shift up to accelerate, and after a few seconds, shift back, returning to plodding along at 140 bpm. Well, 143 bpm, but who's counting.

I did notice that I never had to resort to the Weave, where I weave back and forth up the road. I never Stalled, where my cadence temporarily drops to Zero as I precariously balance, trying to get the pedal to go down while not falling over. And I never had to stop to rest. To take off some excess gear, yes, but not to rest.

I still have to download the data from the SRM, but I felt like I plodded my way methodically to the top. Once there, with daylight escaping rapidly, I made sure the post office was open, bought a post card, and wrote a love letter to the missus. The shaky handwriting wasn't from the emotion though - it was because I was shivering.

Shorts don't add up well with snow. I pulled on everything I had - the skull cap, arm warmers, knee warmers, long gloves, and the vest that I'd taken off partway up the climb.

I cranked down the descent. I'm pleased to report that the Tsunami handles like it's on rails. My nervousness regarding the aero tuck was the only thing holding me back, but the turns were a blast.

The ride home was almost uneventful. I had two weird lower inner thigh cramp episodes, where the muscles felt like they wouldn't extend. One happened on a steep climb with no shoulder and a small ditch to the right, and I geared down and prayed I didn't cramp. A few nerve wracking minutes later the muscles just felt warm and I tentatively started making efforts again.

The second time happened when I rolled up a short rise to a light. Of course it turned green, and I didn't want to unclip for fear of suffering a severe leg seizure. I did the same low rpm crawl across the intersection, then hung onto an electrical pole until my legs started getting that "just warm" feeling again.

Coming down Lake Wohlford Road, the same one that the Tour of California came down, a couple pickups passed me kind of aggressively. But the next one hung back a bit, giving me room to maneuver.

Suddenly I wasn't afraid of the tuck, nor of the hands-near-stem thing. And in a very quick mile or so, I'd caught back up with the two pickups.


After that little episode I rolled home, enough in my legs to do a little effort or two.

It felt satisfying to coast up the short driveway. Two full days into the trip and I had already conquered Palomar. Now, with the bike fully sorted out, I can start focusing on getting some other things done. Some shorter, more severe efforts, a faster Palomar attempt, and rides where my heartrate gets over 150 bpm.

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