Saturday, November 16, 2013

Training - A Warm November Day

Today I went out for a training ride, a rarity for me. The last time I trained outside was on the 17th of October, just about a month ago. I did the same loop, the one I call the Quarry Road loop.

I didn't try to ride that hard but I found myself complete out of breath by the time I got to the top of the hill leading out of the complex where I live. After that I tried to ride steady.

My two rides are as follows:
October 17th

Some major milestones of that ride - it took me 58:30 to do the ride. It took me about 3:03 to climb the "hill" to get home.

November 16th

Some major milestones of today's ride - it took me 1:01:08 to do that ride, so about 2:40 longer to do the exact same loop. I did a little jump in town but didn't do a proper jump at the last right turn. This led me to be much fresher for the hill to the house and I did it in 2:32, 30 seconds quicker than in October.

I made one major change on the bike for this ride - I switched wheels to the Jet 6/9 front/rear combo. I haven't ridden the Jet 6 front since I think 2010 and the Jet 9 since sometime last year. The heavy wheels really affected me, and whether the effect was actual or purely psychological the result told the story - I basically got shelled every time I rode with this setup on my bike.

I preferred the much lighter Bastognes, wheels that brought me a silver in the Nutmeg State Games, a win of sorts in a rain abbreviated TuesdayTheRent, and much less shelling overall.

However, with the off season being the off season I decided to give the wheels a shot. Plus they look cool.

Off season staring.

I have to admit that I still stare at racing ads and pictures. Not many of them - a very few of them. The one above is one of my favorite pictures. I love the big aero wheels, the compact bars, the casual fitness of the rider (he happens to be Viviani, a bonus since I didn't know who he was when I first saw the picture).

Except for the fact that he's a contender in field sprints in huge ProTour races he could be a very fit rider you see at the weekend crit or, more likely, at some big group ride.

Part of it is the "scene" - it's a group ride, literally, not a "beyond my abilities" field sprint or TT or climb. The group ride thing makes the rider more real.

So having been staring at that picture regularly for a month or so I decided that I'd put those heavy wheels on my bike.

Because they just scream the undefinable essence of bike racing life.

I put the Jets on the bike the day before to check them out. A short ride on the trainer, running through the gears, and the bike seemed okay. It shifted fine, as it should since the Jets and Bastognes share hub models, and I didn't experience any gear skips. I decided to give the bike a passing grade.

Bike as I rode it; the Jets have the same model tires as the Bastognes.
Not as sexy as the group ride picture.

I double checked the brakes (okay), tightened up the blinky tail light, and slipped in a 60mm valve tube and an 80mm valve tube. Also, although it's virtually impossible to see, there's a valve extender tucked in under that velcro strap wrapped around the down tube. The valves barely stick out of the rims, just enough to tighten them down, so I need the extender if I need to use the pump.

My now-standard frame pump mounting point.

Speaking of which I almost forgot my pump, literally walking back into the house to get it. I mount it to the left side of the bike, a good spot that has worked out well so far.

Big aero wheels look great when dreaming about bike racing but the reality is that they weigh more, especially my clincher variety. I mentally tortured myself before I even got going - wheeling the bike out of the office was hard work, the extra weight in the wheels noticeable when swinging the bike around.

My start wasn't too auspicious either - by the time I got to the top of the hill leading out of the complex I was so out of breath I actually put a foot down. I fiddled with the helmet cam but the reality was that I could have done it while rolling along slowly. I made the choice to stop because, frankly, I needed to stop.

I rolled along at a moderate pace. The big wheels rolled a bit more consistently, resisting changes in speed. That included accelerations but it also included the slight slowing when I did a more aggressive pedal stroke.

I found that if I didn't emphasize the downstroke as much that the bike seemed to roll better - this worked well on the slight upgrades or if I was just standing to power the pedals a bit.

I spent most of the ride in a praying mantis position, both hands holding the center of the bar, covering the stem and the SRM. On the hills I'd move to the hoods, and every now and then I'd go to the drops to remind myself they were still there.

As noted before I really don't like the shape of the drops on these bars. Since I expect to have a better drop position in a bit I decided not to torture myself and ride in the weird angle/shape drops more than I have to.

Plus, as I pointed out before, this is the off season.

I did one push about 3/4 of the way around the loop, nothing major if it was the summer, but today it really wrecked me. I had to ease and actually had to encourage myself to keep going just to finish one loop.

Five minutes later I still felt mentally defeated. With a schedule to hold I decided against pushing my luck and trying to do a second loop faster than the first. I headed home instead.

I practiced my "rolling stand thing" where I try and pedal a bit more evenly while standing, versus the stamping motion I tend to do. Since I hadn't gone very hard during the loop I could push on pretty well up the last hill on my ride.

Compared to my pretty fast ride last month I climbed the hill 30 seconds faster. Not bad for having much heavier wheels. I actually felt pleased that I did the hill a bit faster. The anti-Strava folks will shake their heads and wait for me to blow a red light or something but I find the Strava segments a nice way of checking my own status. I wouldn't even call it "progress", it's just a check to see where I sit within my realm of possibility.

Of course I think I was going much faster toward the end of 2010, when one day the Missus passed me going up the hill. I got home a minute or two after she did and she actually commented on my speed up the hill, her eyes wide with surprise.

"You were going really fast up that hill!"

Normally she doesn't say much about my riding when she sees me, other than saying stuff like, "I saw you on 10/202", so to have her comment on my speed on the hill, that meant something.

Unfortunately that hasn't happened since then.

My goal is to try and elicit that spontaneous response again.


Crash said...

You might find this interesting. My bike was prepared similar to your low stack long reach setup, but I've found something much faster. I ride 51.5cm top tube but could never get the reach and front-center where I needed it. I'm building my own frames now because I couldn't find anything off-the-shelf. I have a low position too, but I found a slightly higher bar placement gave me a better aero position because I can keep my forearms flat. Innate flexibility helps too. I studied a lot of race photos before and after the change and it's defiantly less frontal area. It took me a few weeks to get used to the higher bar, but there's no going back, it's just faster. A short front-center loads the front wheel better and improves high-speed cornering, especially on rougher pavement. Normally, when pushing it to the limit, the front wheel will breaks free before the rear because there's less weight on it. You lose foot clearance, but it doesn't effect me. Finally, I'm running a 74 deg headtube with 39mm rake fork. It gives me 58mm of trail and 15mm of flop. You don't normally see this on small frames, maybe because of the foot clearance. This keeps the bike from wanting to straighten itself in corners. Basically it's a track bike front-end on the road.

This pic with me at the front in low position. My forearms aren't flat compared to the guy behind me.

This is my SANDVAGEN road-race carbon frame with 72mm BB drop and tight front-center.

My BANDVAGEN critframe with higher BB @ 66mm drop and tight front-center.

Aki said...

My main concern with the long reach is due to my torso. With a 53.5 TT my arms hung straight down. My finding with the not-so-low drop bar position is that my sprint suffers like mad. I really need to have the bars low so I can push/pull on them. So that's my position thing.

For weight distribution I went the other route - I have a 39 cm chainstay so the rear wheel is tucked in a lot. I tend to slide forward a lot on the saddle in turns, really loading the front wheel.

I do like that track HT angle + rake thing.

On the other hand your links open a slew of questions, thoughts, and possibilities. Did you buy pre-made tubing? Did you do any frame stuff before? Facilities? Did you make your bar/stem set up? etc etc. The light frame intrigues me as my frames are in the 1200-1650g range.

My goal would be to have a frame that doesn't require weird stems but that would mean a 5 cm head tube.

Crash said...

To get your bar height where you want it, have you considered deep drop track bars?

I've been building for many years and have 20+ years in composites engineering. I only build a few frames a year, mostly for local racers and team mates. I used to use make my own tubes, and for awhile I used ENVE, but now Rock West make my tubes. The frames engineered for durability, stiffness and handling and range in weight from ~800 - 1200 grams. All this marketing crap about frame comfort is BS. I do make the bar-stem setup too, in fact I just finished another setup on Saturday, here a pic of that install: I use the Zipp Vuka sprint bar because I like the shape and it's well engineered. I can used just about any carbon stem as long as it's 100% carbon and made with a compatible resin matrix. Shimano PRO and the older Cannondale System 6 stems are the most popular. Going carbon will lighten things up a bit, but in the real world, weight doesn't make much difference unless it's a few pounds. What does make all the difference is your fit\position and handling, and that's guys like us ride custom frames.

I must admit that I used to prescribe your position philosophy until I had the opportunity to test in a wind-tunnel. Everything I thought I knew about position and aerodynamics was totally wrong. In the beginning of the session, I had a CD of .91 and tweaked it down to .83. This was on the exact same bike with nothing more than position changes. The biggest change came from bar width and height. In a nutshell Keeping your forearms flat is key.

Aki said...

Thanks for all the info. Your frames look (to the uninitiated) really well thought out, well done, very clean.

As far as position I'm not as concerned with aerodynamics as I am with the ergonomics of sprinting and riding in the drops. I have two concerns - comfort during rides (1-6 hours long) and races (typically 1-3 hours total, the longer if doing two races) - and being able to sprint from the drops.

I had back problems for much of the summer and I wasn't sure what was causing it. I moved to a deeper drop bar and my back was much better almost immediately, even with riding more etc. I realized that the "half bent over" position stresses my back. A fully bent over position really helps, and I need to have my arms sort of extended else I sit up a bit.

Deep drop bars would work but I haven't found a shape I like. I even have deep drop track bars (aluminum) but I decided that I want to have a wide array of equipment choices. I could get a custom stem and choose from one of a zillion compact bars or I could use my regular stem and carefully choose from a limited selection of bars. I chose the former. (A shorter head tube would allow me to use widely available bars and stems).

The other is sprinting. I found that a 3 cm higher drop didn't work well for me. I felt like I didn't have enough control of the front end and I actually unclipped a few times while at full bore. A lower bar allows me to put more weight on the front end (or so I theorize). Whatever the reason a lower drop position works really well for me. I thought a higher position might work for me - it works for Cav - but I must be set in my ways or something because I couldn't make it work.

I agree that flatter forearms make for more aerodynamic positions. Cyrille Guimard (I think) put out that idea in the mid 80s when they did testing with aero bike and came up with the heavy but aero Gitane TT bike. TT bikes put forearms parallel to the ground, generally speaking. Aerodynamically my understanding is that things ought to be vertical or horizontal, based on the initial criticisms of the early Lotus bike (one aerodynamicist said that the first generation Lotus, before Lotus got it, was basically a "what not to do" exercise in aero).

So basically my fit goals have to do with parts availability, comfort, and leverage more than aero. In fact I never thought about aero in my position thoughts except in the abstract that aero is good.