Monday, January 30, 2012

Training - Outside (Bars, Sportsiiiis, Cold)

I'll do a short recap of my first training ride outside since Thanksgiving. Let's just say it was an all morning affair just to get on the bike. It took for freakin' ever to get ready, if I do say so myself. Here's what I did:

1. Cut the new bars, wrap them. I already sliced my knee/quad open on the bars while on the trainer - I usually cut about 1.5" of the end of the bars off, and these new ones were still pristine (albeit with a bit of blood on the right side). Therefore I cut about 1.5" off of each end, after I found my good hacksaw and replaced the blade in it with a nice, new, sharp blade. Filed the sawed ends smooth after the cuts. Then I taped them, a hurried job with a brand of tape I haven't used before. They'll probably look horrible in a week.

2. Spend time gathering rarely used cold weather gear - I pointed out to the Missus that other than Thanksgiving this is really the first time since the 2011 Bethel that I've looked at this stuff. Usually I do this prior to the trip to SoCal so to do this at home, with the pressure of an impending ride, was a new thing for me (at least since 2004). I have to admit I couldn't find one of my favorite winter gloves (I found one side, not the other) so I grabbed the warmest looking gloves I could find. I did find tights, a base layer, and booties. One of the new sets of booties I bought (because I wouldn't be going to SoCal I figured I should have 3 or 4 sets of booties) doesn't work with my shoes so I had to revert to my trusty SideTraks. I remembered to put the Sportsiiiis Ant+ heart rate strap under all that. I'd wear my new Expo jacket on top of everything.

3. Get all the various electronic devices set up. For me this includes a helmet cam, Sportsiiiis (now anyway), SRM, and phone. I forgot to start Strava on the phone but I carry it for calls and such (in SoCal I also carry it for its maps/GPS).

4. Pump up tires. I harp on tire pressure all the time, to the point where I lent out my one known-location floor pump to my sister-in-law. Therefore I used a frame pump to pump up the tires (luckily I know where both my primary and backup frame pump are located).

5. Test garage door opener. As part of the house fix up stuff, I'd recently replaced the broken outside garage door keypad. I also got a third clicker for the cars, knowing I wanted one but not remembering why. I remembered why today - it's much easier to have a clicker on the bike than to tap on the keypad or turn a key in a door. Not so much right now but during mosquito season it's critical. I tested the clicker, which worked just a few days ago. No dice. What the heck? Got keys instead, double checked I had them before pulling the door closed behind me. Then remembered the outside keypad is working, so I could get in that way if I had to. Plus, at 30 degrees, there ain't no mosquitoes out there.

6. Get out on the road. What a production!

I realized a few things right away. First, the bar wrap made the FSA Wing Compact bars look huge. I realize now that guys like Cavendish may not have two layers of tape on their bars, just one fat layer on one fat bar. This isn't a bad thing - I alternate between preferring a thin bar (think almost-not-there Benotto tape) and a thick one (thick cork tape or thick padded fake cork tape).

Second, riding the cold requires proper attire. At 30 degrees F (give or take), and wind gusts of up to 30 mph, a pair of NON-windproof fleece gloves don't do a lot for my hands. I really need to find my windproof thin winter gloves. The Missus (later, after the ride) generously offered up her Lobster gloves, and I'll probably take her up on that.

In addition a neck warmer is critical in cold weather. My exposed neck felt cold and stiff right away. The Verge Warsaw jacket, with just one long sleeve base layer, was okay. I'd have preferred another layer as well when the wind blew, but otherwise I felt fine.

Third, starting with a short, shallow descent really took the heat away from my body. I was pretty numb with cold within minutes of the start of my ride. I warmed up a bit later but I was never comfortable. In a race I'd have been warm, but on a 15-16 mph ride, not so much.

This would mark the first outdoors ride with the Sportsiiiis. I had previously set the talking voice (the pleasant robotic Austrialian ? accented female, who I have not named yet) to speak a little less frequently. I upped her volume to 7 (max) - in the basement I could barely hear her at 5, over the powerful fan and the TV blaring Het Volk or something.

I also changed the heart rate zones to "training" mode, which illustrated to me why you can save different profiles - I'd definitely differentiate (and save appropriately different settings for) between training, racing, time trialing, "tests", and other modes. I'd initially set the zones to a typical race type thing, but when I got on the trainer I was going way too easy to trigger anything but the lowest two LEDs. A much less optimistic zonage let me experience the different LEDs lighting up without risking cardiac arrest.

Cardiac arrest, I should point out, is well below the 40 bpm minimum I set to start the LEDs blinking, and that would deprive me of seeing an LED blink. Not acceptable.

Speaking of which... Sunday I'd found the bright LEDs a bit distracting at level 200 (on their scale, but my setting) so I set them to 50 or so for the outside ride. In a dimly lit basement 50 works fine. In bright sunshine, at noon, 50 was way too dim. I think outside riding needs about a 200 or so. Night riding would be more like 25. As I try the Sportsiiiis out more I'll let you guys know.

I also reduced LED blinkage from every half second to every 5 or something. That's not enough for me, I want feedback. After the ride I changed it back to every half second or so.

My outside ride was also the first with the FSA Compact bars (Wing version) with a -17 degree 130 mm 3T Team stem. The first impression I got was, wow, this cockpit is light! I knew objectively that it actually weighs within 20 grams of the bar/stem I removed, so it's not any lighter. The front end of the bike, with my regular HED Bastogne clincher wheels, did feel really light though. Then I realized, oh, right, I haven't lifted the front of the bike since, oh, October, when I did Pedal 4 Paws.

So, yeah, when you first pick up a bike in months, it feels light, especially when it's not connected to a massive trainer.

Next impression - the bars felt pretty rigid. I don't have another bike set up with a Ritchey/crit-bar set up for side-by-side comparison, but, yeah, the bars felt rigid. At the bottom of the opening descent there's a good left, and the bike tracked nicely through it, the bars really conveying "feel" if you will.

Later, when I did a "blast into a corner and sprint out of it" move (on my favorite right bend on my Quarry Road loop), the bars really felt more efficient. Very rigid under pressure, allowing me to rock the bike more precisely than I remember.

Unfortunately, the bars also felt too high. Not in the tops, they felt fine there, but in the drops. Interestingly enough I realized that in the tops the bars were further out, since they centered on the 130 mm stem's bar clamp. Since I just made the move from a 120 mm stem, the tops were 10 cm further out. They felt great.

The hoods felt okay too, being about the same reach as on my original set up on the orange Tsunami. A little higher, yes, but about the same reach.

The drops, though, felt much higher than before. I felt like I was sprinting on the hoods, not the drops. Being bent over a bit more really helps in an out-of-saddle sprint. Consider when you pick something up by a handle - it's easier to pick it up if your arms aren't bent. In other words you're not picking up a heavy suitcase with your arm bent, you pick it up with the arm relatively straight. This uses your torso to anchor your body.

Next, when you need to lift the suitcase higher than "arm dangling" height, you basically do a curl, bending your arm up about 90 degrees.

When I sprint out of the saddle, I'm doing sort of that, arm almost fully extended when the bar is low, arm curled when the bar is high.

I'm willing to try something new though. I noted in the 2011 Tour (I watched the 7 DVDs in the 12 hour pack already) that Cavendish sprints with his arms bent/curled the whole time. He doesn't extend his arms much. I'm not sure if I can do that too, but I'll try it. If it gets more more power, so be it. If it gets me more speed (it seems like it should be more aero), so be it.

I need to test this concept on some rides, comparing it to past numbers. I have to admit that my first instinct is to "fix" this higher drop position by getting a lower stem. This may mean a -25 degree stem (right now the level-to-the-ground -17 degree stem is too high) in a 140 mm length (since the angle will shorten the effective reach). I don't know if such an animal exists.

During the ride I remembered Strava, so at a stop light, when I stopped (no turn on red), I turned it on. My ride, therefore, seems a bit odd, a one way ride.

Of course as soon as I turned it on and started going west, the wind hit me hard. 30 mph gusts, and they were coming from the west. I realized a while back in Vegas that I really like hammering in crosswinds, at least on my own. Today my south/north legs had me traversing some major crosswind action so it was fun. I felt like I was in Belgium for the classics or something.

What Strava doesn't show is just how exhausted I felt when I got back. I had to leave for a doctor's appointment within 13 minutes of getting home so I had very little time to rest and recover. A quick (hot) shower, a change of clothes, and I rushed off, telling myself that I could put away the clothing strewn on the floor and the bike by the front door when I got back. I could feel my eyes getting heavy even as I drove, and the chill just would not leave my body.

In the doctor's office, in the exam room, I actually dozed off. Someone had to tap my shoulder to wake me.

When I got back home, I got into bed, no memory of taking my shoes off or going up the stairs, and definitely no action on putting away clothing and bike.

The Missus woke me up when she got home (the garage door opening woke me up, to be precise). Hal was sleeping under the comforter to my left, Bella lay between my knees, and both jumped out to go see who was coming into the house.

The Missus came upstairs and grinned when she saw just how wiped out I looked. She went back downstairs and prepped some food. Once I managed to get myself out of bed, we went out to eat (prepped food would be done later). When we got home I told the Missus that there was no way I'd be able to paint trim in the third bedroom.

Instead, I went to bed, the Missus joining me. Bella curled up between my legs as she usually does, and Hal curled up under the comforter next to me. Tiger, Mike, and Lilly joined us (Riley is too shy, and Tiger is too curious about Estelle so she hangs out downstairs).

At some point in the evening I looked at the Missus.

"Riding outside really wiped me out."

The Missus just grinned back at me. I couldn't have stated something more obvious, not with my windburnt cheeks, droopy eyes, cold fingers, and glazed 1000 yard stare.

I continued.

"Maybe I should ride outside more. I have the mounts for the Down Low Glows, I have a good head light, the blinkie tail light, and I could ride the mountain bike. I feel safe with the Down Low Glows and it's not that much colder at night than it was today. This way I could fall asleep earlier at night."

"Hey, that would be nice!" replied the Missus.

Hm hm hm. It's supposed to be in the 30s Wednesday night.

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