Sunday, July 31, 2016

Equipment - Bar End Shifters

So the other day I got mentioned in a blog post by Steve Tilford. It was sort of a round about way of being mentioned, almost a rebuttal. He'd merged the ideas of indexed bar end shifting (his thoughts) with regular bar end shifting (my contribution), resulting in him pointing out his brother invented indexed bar end shifting.

In a comment to a prior blog post I paid tribute to Leonard Nitz as an inspiration for bar end shifters. The reality is that there were a number of riders in the New England area (Nitz was from NY so he'd have seen these riders) using a right side bar end shifter. Some used both right and left, but for us "crit guys" the right side was all we needed. For the left side we just used the simple and straightforward downtube shifter.

However, for me, locally, the real inspiration came from my teammate Mike Hartley. He's the guy that taught me a ton of what I know now. He taught me about leadouts. He demonstrated to me commitment in training, commitment to a race plan. For years he sacrificed his own chances in races so he could help me instead. I distinctly remember two races where he blew up trying to keep me at the front, apologizing profusely as he drifted back inside the last lap of the race (Meriden and Danbury). In other races his efforts helped me place well. I remember Cheshire Crit in CT particularly, and Montague in MA, the first race where we worked together as a team.

To be more complete I have to say that Mike and Lou Kozar were the two guys who inspired the bar end shifter. I wanted to be like Lou - he'd gotten second in the state RR the year before I met him, he was a Junior, he built my first race bike, and he got me set up equipment-wise so I could go racing. Lou, though, got more involved in the shop and eased up a bit on the racing. Also he was a stronger version of me. He was a lot stronger than me and his jump absolutely demolished mine. I'd only have a chance if he wasn't training - I had to do longer sprints to beat him. At any rate when he raced with me I knew my place and it certainly wasn't the lead sprinter spot.

Mike, though, he was irrepressible as a racer-tinkerer. He'd experiment with all sorts of stuff. And he came out and raced all the time.

For the bar end shifter he had a number of set up tips.

Remove Shift Lever Cover

First, remove the plastic shifter cover. The Suntour bar ends came with a hard plastic shift lever cover (the same goes for the Shimano levers). It numbed the feel of the shifts, giving you less direct contact with the bike. In the days of Benotto tape (it's only a bit better than a layer of electrical tape on the bars) and super thin leather gloves, "feel" was everything. You had to rely on yourself to make good shifts, to notice that there's a tick in some bearing, and having the bike connected to your raw nerve endings was a great way of knowing your bike. It wasn't like it is now, where you're sort of riding an SUV that happens to handle pretty well.

Bard end shifter with rubber cover still on.
This is a 1985 frame that I think broke by 1986.
Drop outs were not replaceable back then.
Note tubular tire strapped under the saddle.

When I first started racing I was afraid of changing actual parts. Changing out a part, fine. Altering an actual component, no way. It took me a while to simply slip off the shift lever cover.

You can see the texture on the shift lever here, sort of a ridge to catch your pinkie or ring finger.
The plastic cover hid it, making it less "grippy"
From my post here.

Drill The Lever

Second, if you really wanted to, you could drill out the aluminum shift lever. Holes in aluminum levers fulfill two purposes, one more than another. You might think that holes in, say, a brake lever would help reduce weight, however minutely. You'd be right, if you were talking about homemade holes. But production holes, like the ones in Campy's Super Record brake levers? They were there for grip in the rain. Drilled out Super Record brake levers were actually heavier than their non-drilled out Nuovo Record counterparts.

However, if your levers were slick with water, the holes helped give you traction. It's like the diamond plate metal things on the trucks and such. The raised diamonds give you some semblance of traction.

Modolo Pro brakes, factory drilled.
Typically the aluminum was thicker on drilled out levers, increasing weight or keeping it the same.
Note the WOODEN cable stop on the downtube - I carved it myself.
Finally, the ultra thin Benotto tape. Nowadays you'd probably be sued for offering such a tape.

For those ultimate weight weenies you'd see the Nuovo Record levers (and a Nuovo Record small chainring, for the same reason - the "lightened" Super Record small ring was actually a touch heavier). With a shift lever, in the heat of a sprint, you wouldn't want it to slip in your sweaty fingers. So drilling the thing a bit would help with that.

At home we didn't have a good drill, I was scared of ours, and I really didn't use the drill press at the shop, so my bar end lever remained undrilled. Therefore no pictures as I don't have a picture of Mike's shifter.

Cut Bars

Third, Mike cut down his bar so that the shift lever would sit in the palm of his hand. One major disadvantage of a normal bar with a bar end is that the bar end is about 3" away from your hand. It's fine if you were on a touring bike, which is really what bar ends were meant for, but in a crit, with 200m to go, you didn't want to be sliding your hand back 3" to shift while you were sprinting your brains out.

Before I cut down my bars.

Mike's logical solution was to move the shifter up, and to do so meant to cut down the bars. He cut down his bars so much the bar end was basically pointing a bit down, not back. I imitated him, cutting a bit more at a time, until I reached the same conclusion he did - it was best to have the shift lever basically end the curve part of the drops. If the bar end sat flat it was too far back.

My cut down crit bend bars with Suntour shifter.
From here.

Because I was cutting the bar for shifter placement I cut less off the left side of the bar (no bar end shifter there). I cut at least one bar evenly, meaning the left side was way too short. I don't remember what I did but I think I raced with a "dummy" left bar end mount so my hand wouldn't slip off. Or I cut the bars more and turned them upside down to make a "time trial" set up.

Knowing me I probably did the latter.

When I went to Ergo levers I didn't change bars right away. Therefore I had to race with an empty bar end mount on the right side. When I got new bars I cut them down for no bar ends so I was okay.

Note the empty bar end mount on the right side, even though I have Ergo levers.

I still cut my bars down to this point nowadays, without removing the extra inch of bar for the bar end mount. The flat stuff on the drops I never use because it's useless and frankly a bit dangerous in a field. You can't do anything well from the ends of the drops - can't brake, can't shift, and you don't have as tenacious a hold on the bars as further up the drop.

What I cut off my bar currently; it's conservative as you can always cut more.
This is an FSA Wing Compact bar.

Retrofit Index Shifter

Fourth, Mike actually did retro-fit a downtube Shimano index shifter (SIS) onto a non-indexed bar end mount. It didn't have great ergonomics because a downtube shifter was much longer than a bar end shifter. His shifter ended up sticking way down. I don't remember if he cut it down or not. When I first saw it I was impressed with his work but not with the appearance.

It involved using a downtube frame adapter specific for the SIS shifter, mounting it to I think a Suntour bar end mount. I remember a bolt going through the bar end mount, one that wasn't the right one, probably a retrofitted Cannondale downtube mounting thing. Most frames had their downtube mounts brazed on so they were useless for retrofitting onto a bar end mount. Unless you brazed one on, I suppose.

How an SIS shifter (#7/#13) mounted to a downtube boss (#8)
Lifted off a forum.

However, Cannondale's aluminum tubing meant that the downtube bosses were bolted on, with a long bolt connecting the left and right downtube mounts. Unscrew them (from a trade in frame program that existed back then) and you'd end up with two mounts for downtube shifters that were actually threaded in the back. Perfect for mounting to some obscure place.

You can see the upper left piece is a downtube boss, like #8 above.
Mount the black piece onto a friction bar end mount and an index shifter would fit on it.
The long bolt reaches between the sides of the downtube.
This was lifted off a forum and the poster said they got it from

(On an aside we half joked about moving shifters around on a Cannondale. It'd be an easy process, just drill holes and bolt on the downtube mounts. You could have theoretically mounted the shifter further up the downtube, along the top tube, where ever. I'm sure it would have been possible (still is possible?) to mount the downtube bosses to a set of aero bars so you could have your shifters on them. Likewise, because the threaded bottle bosses were rivnuts, you could mount extra bottle mounts where ever you wanted, or, conversely, use the threaded inserts for other purposes, like anchoring a fender permanently to a touring frame. I remember doing this for a customer who took his bike all over the world, we went a bit nuts drilling out his frame and installing "permanent mounts" for various accessories.)

Flip Left and Right Mounts

Finally, when Shimano's index bar end shifter came out, the shift lever mount mounted the shifter below the center of the bar. This meant that the shifter was below where it would be compared to a Suntour shifter. With the whole "shifter in the palm of your hand" philosophy this was less than ideal, and in fact it was horrible. Although I was suitably impressed with Shimano's index shifting, the fact that the shifter sat so low (and also that it would have cost some money) kept me on Suntour. As someone that hasn't used Shimano drivetrains who knows what would have happened if I'd gone Shimano at that point?

Shimano SIS bar end shifters.
Note how the center bolt of the right shifter (top) is below the center of the bar.

Mike's solution was perfect. He flipped the left mount and installed it on the right side of the bars. He had to do some drilling and such but after a little bit of experimenting it worked out. Now the shift lever sat higher than the centerline of the bar, sticking up maybe a quarter inch. His bar end shift lever was literally in the palm of his hand.

For me it was too much. Honestly the budget was the big part because to get into Shimano's index shifting system (key word: system) you had to have, primarily, their freehub rear hub. I had no such hubs in my own inventory, nor any cassettes. Therefore to get into SIS I'd have had to spend money for shifters, the rear derailleur, rear hubs (for the cassette hub - I had all freewheel hubs), cassettes, cables, housing, chain... I just stuck with my Suntour stuff. It was free because I already had the whole set up and it worked fine.

And then 1988-89 rolled around and Shimano's STI levers became widely available. I saw an immediate effect at races, or, more specifically, in sprints on training rides. I used to be able to take advantage of my "shifting while out of the saddle sprinting" but now that advantage eroded pretty quickly. Not only that but STI worked when climbing out of the saddle on the hoods. Now I was the one being left behind as riders shifted gears in the middle of a slope.

The real kicker were the SUNY Purchase Tuesday Night Sprints. I used to be able to clean up there, out jumping the stronger sprinters and out sprinting the stronger jumpers. If you could jump better than me I'd out sprint you after shifting into a higher gear. If you could out sprint me I'd out jump you by jumping in a lower gear. When STI showed up suddenly it wasn't quite so simple. One rider started regularly beating me when he didn't have to jump in the same gear he sprinted in - Eric Min. He'd go on to found Zwift.

Sprinting at SUNY Purchase, or, more precisely, sitting up just after winning a sprint.

I had to wait until 1992 when Campy came out with their Ergo levers before I got back on a semi-level playing field as far as shifting while on the hoods went. Since then I've only ridden Campy. The lever + thumb button works well for me.

Anyway, that's my experience with bar end shifters. I was lucky to start racing in an era where one could pretty easily tinker with their equipment. It was a bit more modular, a bit more "parts put together". I used to do all sorts of stuff with my shoes, mainly drilling out new cleat mounts and adding straps to lace shoes (which makes me wonder what the attraction is to laced shoes again). I fiddled with hubs and brakes and rear derailleurs. I used the shop facing tool to steepen my head tube angle a bit, "facing" the bottom part of the head tube and removing a solid few mm of material off the bottom of it.

Currently it's not like that, with more integrated stuff, carbon stuff, etc. Even switching derailleur pulleys is sort of a big deal - back then everyone did it. And I highly doubt you'll see people altering Ergo lever mounts and such, it's just not worth it. There's very little optimization going on.

Or, perhaps more accurately, now that I think of it, perhaps it's more that I no longer have the time or inclination for such tinkering.

In a way that's sort of sad.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Racing - CCAP Tuesday Night Crit, July 26, 2016 - Bs, led out sprint after a hot-for-me race

The last two times I raced I got shelled here, and in fact last week I got shelled so badly that I didn't even finish the post about the race. It was hot, I felt "blocked" (which is really another term for "not as in shape as I wanted to be"), and it was an exhausting outing to make it to the race.

This week seemed to be about as hot, expected temps at race time in the 93-94 degree range. I seemed to melt in the heat before so I was careful to pack some insulated bottles with lots of ice and a bit of water.

I also let myself eat some more carbs in the prior two days. With my A1C (historic blood sugar as measured on red blood cells) a bit high I've been focusing on not eating a lot of carbs. I realized that after almost 8 months of this that I lack some energy in races, the top end I need to push when it's tough. My guidelines were from my sister - 15g of carbs for breakfast, 45g for lunch, 45g for dinner, and 15g for a few snacks during the day.

To put things in perspective I was probably consuming a full day's worth of carbs in just one meal, and probably a day's worth just in the hour before a race. A can of soda is about 45g of carbs; one slice of bread would kill my breakfast budget.

So in the 24 hours prior to the race I went a bit hog wild. I didn't count every gram but realistically I had 400-500g of carbs. Ravioli. Bread (in the form of maybe six sandwiches). Sugary stuff also, like some Nutella, a serving of danish my dad had refused for two days, some left over ketchup from one of Junior's hot dogs. I hoped that this short term sugar sacrifice would pay dividends at the race.

Our tight schedule got derailled a bit by my dad with some untimely stuff out of our control but we got on the road only a little later than planned. We got to the course in decent time, not too much standing traffic, and it left me with a solid 5 minutes to get ready.

Now, back at home, I'd already done stuff like put on my bibs, pin my number, and collected everything possible for the bike. I also pumped up the tires. I know the tubes lose air hourly but if I pumped up the tires at home it'd be maybe 90 minutes before race time. That's not bad.

Oh and the pin job. Heh.

28 pins.
I tried not to make the number hard to read so the pins go on the perimeter or on the number.

I was feeding my dad and had a lot of time on my hands. I'd pinned the number already and decided to get Junior's "bin of pins". An unexpected side-effect of promoting races for a couple decades is that you end up with safety pins everywhere. Junior loves to put things where they belong so when Junior finds a safety pin he puts it in a little container that I designated the right place for safety pins (if only I was so organized). I checked the pins because they eventually rust or they bend, tossed any that seemed even slightly off, and net result?

Lotsa pins.

I left a few pins in the bin to sort of plant the seed for newly found pins, meaning he'll look at the bin and think, "Oh, this is the right bin for safety pins."

For some reason the pin job reminds me of one of those people with lots and lots of piercings.

We headed out to the race. Although it's a short drive, about 35 minutes without traffic, with the time being about 5 PM aka rush hour when we head out it's usually a bit longer than that. We got there with maybe 10 minutes to spare.

After getting my dad situated with the Missus and Junior I signed in and put myself together for the race. I rolled out to the starting group, realized it was a Junior group doing a final "after the race review" thing, started to roll away, and then the official called us to the line. So I warmed up for about a hundred yards.

Island Rider at the start

I don't think I ever posted this but one of my five outside training rides in 2015 was with Island. He lives a town over from where I used to live, he cut his teeth racing at Bethel, he consciously went out and supported the sponsors of the Series, his teammate helped me a ton with the website, he's sort of involved in cycling discussions online, yada yada yada. He normally doesn't meander up this way for a weekday race so it was nice to see him. I don't think I've talked to him in person since our training ride a year or so ago.

I did notice that he had some nice HED wheels. The front looked awfully tall. I touched the wheel with my finger.

Me: "Is that a 9?" (Stinger 9, 90mm tall)
Island: "No, it's a 7." (Stinger 7, 75mm tall)
Me: "Oh! That's what I run!"
Island: "Where do you think I got the idea?"


I looked at his wheels again. Yes, they did look like mine, except his were newer. And it looked like he rode them more often than I did mine.

Left side wind exiting Turn 3.
Means sit to the right exiting the turn.

Taking advantage of the fact that I know Island, I'll use him as the "drafting example". The wind was moderately strong and it required decent Wind Management to save energy. The trickiest part of the course was exiting Turn 3 through to the start/finish line. The wind hit you from the left as you exited the turn, forcing you to sit to the right. In the picture above I'm behind and slightly to the right of Island. This was about where you wanted to be to get maximum shelter.

Front wind halfway to start/finish area.
Means sit directly behind the next rider.

Problem was that as you traveled along the curved bit the wind direction changed. In the picture above the wind is hitting us head on. I've adjusted my position behind Island based on the wind direction.

Right side wind at start/finish area.
Means sit to the left a bit.

On the start/finish straight the wind hit us from the right side. I've had to adjust my position relative to Island once again.

This happened every single lap. It's a bit tricky, shifting over like that. It requires vigilance on your part as well as understanding from the other riders. If everyone is reading the wind properly then everyone understands how critical it is to stay sheltered, and you naturally adjust and shuffle around to let people get into and stay in shelter.

It's when riders aren't aware of the wind that it becomes tricky. To someone like that I probably looked like a pretty ragged rider, slowly drifting from one side of the rider in front to the other.

The heat didn't help much. Every week I'd been pretty good about waving to Junior. This week I probably waved twice, maybe three times. I was absolutely smashed by the heat. I kept dumping ice cold water on myself out of my Podium Ice bottles, taking a sip, but it didn't really make a huge dent on the heat. I guess I really haven't ridden in anything like this regularly. Not only that, I've been indoors most of the time, so my ambient temperature for the last two months has probably been mostly 75-80 degrees. This mid-90 stuff was killing me.

I continued on, stamping on the pedals (more on that on a different post), my awareness constantly narrowing to just the wheel ahead of me. I checked my SRM a couple times, mainly to make sure that I wasn't in real physical difficulty, else I'd just sit up and withdraw from the race. The SRM duly reported that I was "well within parameters", at least for heart rate.

I didn't feel like it.

Over the winter I paid to do a fitting, the first fitting I ever paid for. The fitter, CP, lives in my home town. I'd hoped to see him at the races at some point, but after a few weeks of not seeing him, I sort of gave up. Fitting is a retail business and Tuesday evenings are a retail kind of time.

At some point in the haze of the heat I realized that the kit next to me was one of the Stage One kits. CP rides for Stage One - their core team members basically joined for life. CP is a big, powerful rider, reminding me in his style of Johan Capiot, and here he was, Capiot himself, next to me.

He rolled to the front, I duly took his wheel. His is a strong, steady wheel, very easy to trust. I know because I spent some significant time on that wheel in the early years of the Bethel Spring Series, on his wheel, watching his TriSpokes whirling around. He was always super strong in a sort of Cancellara kind of way. He could put down solid power for minutes at a time. I actually dreaded seeing him at the Series. I remember thinking to myself during those days, "Oh, man, CP is moving up again."

Then I'd be groveling on wheels for the next couple laps as he did this or that at the front.

CP to my left, of Body Over Bike

So it came as no surprise when he started to put some pace into the race. A move had gone off the front, no one was helping him, and he felt the need to do a pull. Of course no one was helping him, I was the one right behind him and I wasn't in a position to close much more than about a couple foot gap. He did what was natural for him. I could see his body language change just a bit as he hunkered down for the effort.

Then, hands still up on the hoods, butt still planted firmly on the saddle, he accelerated.

I watched him ride away.

Others rode after him, maneuvering around the mobile chicane in the road, aka me.

The moves came back, a three or so rider move went clear, and the race came down to its final laps.

With Island being a here a real treat I decided I'd try to help him out at this probably unfamiliar venue. I gave him some advice on the wind, I tried to point out some of the strongest riders willing to make moves, and, at two laps to go, I rolled up to him and told him to follow me.

Another rider I think misunderstood me and got on my wheel, Island letting him in. I started going a bit faster at the bell but someone attacked at the same time so I really only neutralized the attack. Then on the backstretch I started to open it up. I wasn't out of the saddle, I didn't want to jump (I think I really couldn't do a proper jump at that moment), I only wanted to "go faster".

Going through Turn 3 I must have done something off since the gap opened up there. I kept going, hoping the rider behind would get back on my wheel, but the reality is that in such a situation the leadout man has to ease up, wait, and try to coordinate with the sprinter getting back on the gas again.

I didn't do that so I gapped myself off the front. I sat up after pedaling a bit and watched the riders roll by me.

The field did a little sprint, behind the break. I realized after the fact that my approach to the race has been "if there's no break lead out the sprint, if there's a break then I'll sprint". I forgot that mantra in my heat-induced haze and I didn't sprint even though I probably could have done so without feeling too guilty.

At any rate I was okay with watching the rest of the group sprint for the line.

I picked up a fresh bottle of ice water from the Missus, told Junior I'd be right back, and got out to roll around for a minute or four. I needed to cool off a bit and I needed that constant slight breeze from being in motion on the bike.

As a bonus Island was rolling around as well. We rehashed bits of the race, I clarified some tactical stuff, we talked briefly about life, and then we called it a day.

I rolled back to our base camp, Junior waiting for me.

Junior after the race.
Xander, behind him, had just given him a high 5, hence the big grin

One of the Juniors, Xander, was walking by and gave him a high five. This absolutely made his day. Another rider played with Junior for a bit, doing stuff with Legos. I know it made Junior's day because the first thing he told me was that, "Kevin played Legos with me!" He was so happy.

(On an aside calling Junior Junior gets confusing with Junior racers around.)

Junior, the Missus, and Pops

We had to get going as I didn't want Pops to be in the heat too much. I even patted his face, neck, and arms down with some ice-water dampened towels. But before I could do that Junior wanted to play with the pedals and cranks on my bike.

Junior with my bike

He was super disappointed that "Mr Esteban" wasn't around. My teammate had made a Craigslist purchase for me, some Thomas the Engine blue train track, and Junior went absolutely nuts over all the extra track and the drawbridge and the stations and stuff we got. I had told him Mr Esteban was giving us some Thomas track. It's simpler than saying he got it for me, plus it dilutes the "Daddy buys me everything" deal - I want to pass around the credit. So his new best friend is Mr Esteban, who, unfortunately for us, couldn't make it this week.

Once he understood that Mr Esteban wasn't around he wiped away his disappointment and went back to telling me about the race and such. We walked back to the car together with him helping me steer my bike.

At times he looks so big, like when we're messing around on the couch or on the bed. His legs go from here to there, if I hold him across my arms he sticks out everywhere, feet out that side, head out the other, arms dangling to the sides. At other times, like when he plays with my bike, he looks so, so tiny.

At the car he started to melt down a bit. Doing even the earlier B race pushes his sleep schedule pretty hard, making the trip home tough on him sometimes.

No race next week as the venue isn't available. Two more after that and then I think it's done for the year.

And that'll be my 2016 racing season. I know I'll be able to race a bit more in the future, I just don't know when. It'll happen when it happens and that's good enough for me.

Ah, life. It's a cycle.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Training - Why Should You Get A Better Fan?

In 2015 and this year I trained basically 100% indoors, going outdoors only for races or a few event rides (the latter in 2015 only). My last regular outdoor training ride was around Christmas 2014 when we had unseasonably warm temperatures here in northeastern US.

Indoor Training Advantages

I've always trained indoors throughout the year, in the winter to avoid the cold/chill, but even in the summer, usually to escape the heat/humidity outside. This has been the case for about 25-30 years. Training indoors is great for a number of reasons, like road safety, no scheduling problems if you encounter a mechanical, immediate parts/tools availability for said mechanical, immediate water/food availability, etc. For about 10 years I trained inside the bike shop so I really had any and every part available if something happened. I've done outside rides only to puncture at a critical time, like on a ride where I gave myself virtually no time cushion to pick up Junior from daycare. Although I rode harder than I thought possible it was an irresponsible way to motivate myself.

Indoor Training Challenges

Training indoors is tough for a number of reasons. The absolutely most significant thing with indoor training is that it's simply harder than riding outside. No one can really pinpoint exactly why but this post offers some possible suggestions. Basically it suggests that not being able to coast, not being able to rock the bike, and less external stimuli as factors that make indoor training harder than training outside.

However the main one most people cite when talking about training indoors is boredom. Nowadays, with all the tech available, there's quite a bit of distraction available to combat this problem. I find that watching bike DVDs, using Zwift, and listening to music make time fly on the trainer.

A dominant Race Across America rider, Lon Haldeman, defined the anti-thesis of a bored indoor rider. He would ride rollers in the dark to condition himself to riding through a dark night in the middle of nowhere. Although I don't turn out the lights and I generally don't ride rollers, I still find myself regularly reverting to riding with my eyes closed, particularly when pushing hard. I count pedal revolutions, focus on maintaining a consistent pedal stroke, and open my eyes to do a time/effort check.

Another indoor challenge is learning and conditioning to ride out of the saddle. Due to the nature of trainers and rollers it's hard to rock the bike out of the saddle (Kinetic Rock N Roll notwithstanding). For me this is significant since I simply cannot sprint effectively without being out of the saddle. I admit that I'm in the final stages of doing a very low buck DIY Rock N Roll using a converted CycleOps Fluid trainer frame (yikes, I started that three years ago?). If that works out I'll post about it, otherwise it was all just an exercise in experimentation for me.

Direct drive trainers tackle the problem of tire slippage. It's significant when making huge efforts. I'm not quite strong enough to regularly slip tires on my trainer/s but there are riders significantly stronger than me that probably have major tire slippage. Such a trainer replaces your whole rear wheel - ultimately you end up putting your bike's chain on the trainer's cassette. By eliminating the tire-roller interface a direct drive trainer makes the system virtually slip-free.

Direct Drive trainer (approximately $660), picture from the CycleOps site.

A "smart" trainer is the ultimate for indoor training. "Smart" trainers use software inputs to adjust resistance, so, for example, if you're using a program like Zwift and you're on an uphill, a smart trainer will increase resistance. In order to make it up the hill you'll have to shift into lower gears. With a regular trainer you have to shift into higher gears in order to increase resistance. Smart trainers should engage you a bit more, due to the fact that you'll need to shift gears to react to virtual terrain changes.

Smart direct drive trainer, not available yet, est. MSRP $1200.
Picture from CycleOps site.

A long time ago I got to use a smart trainer, something called a VeloDyne. It was really engaging, really motivating. It was a bit hard as it didn't coast well, making the downhills the hardest part of any route. There was also not much in terms of "courses". I think the 1984 Olympic RR was one of the courses, I think also Morgul-Bismark of Coors Classic fame, but one could not import a course, nor could one make their own. I might have a picture of it from my shop days but I don't know at this point. I did have an adventure delivering one though.

For all the indoor training I do I haven't been able to justify purchasing a smart trainer or a rocking one. Zwift started to change my mind on direct drive and active trainers, but at the moment buying such a trainer is simply out of the question.

Indoor Training Cooling

Finally indoor training is hard because it's hard to cool off.

When you work hard you generate excess heat energy. Your body tries to get rid of that heat energy, mainly by expanding blood vessels near the skin surface (so you get flushed, your veins pop, etc) and by sweating. Sweat gets rid of heat through evaporation. When sweat evaporates it must absorb heat energy - if the sweat doesn't evaporate then it won't do much good in removing heat.

For sweat to evaporate it needs two things - air and some dryness. If your sweat has no air volume around it then it can't evaporate. For example if you wrapped yourself in Saran Wrap you'd be mighty hot after a short time. On the other hand if you were in an indoor stadium or concert hall, you'd have a lot of air volume. When I had the shop with 20 foot ceilings and a 70'x25' floor foot print, I had a gazillion feet of air volume (okay, it was 20x70x25 so 35,000 cubic feet of air). With smaller areas you need to move air around so that you're introducing new air to your trainer area. A powerful fan works well for this, allowing you to move air around quickly.

Sweat can't evaporate if it's too humid. If you're in 99% humidity air then the air is basically saturated. Your sweat won't really evaporate and therefore it won't really cool you down. You'll feel like you're taking a hot shower. Air conditioning helps, since it dries the air. A dehumidifier is good also, although it heats the air while it dries it, making it a bit touch and go if the house is already warm. In the shop example above I had 35,000 of air conditioned goodness so even in the middle of a heat wave it was downright pleasant to ride indoors for an hour or two at a time. We even had "group indoor rides" with maybe 6 or 8 riders, without any problems with too much humidity.

Remember, air volume and humidity.

Indoor Training Set Ups

When I see someone else's trainer set up I always look at a number of things usually obvious by the picture.

1. Fan, like its size/velocity.
2. Air Volume, like how much air volume appears to be there.
3. Air temperature, like does it look like the rider is on a trainer in their garage with the door open during a snow storm?

Those three factors - air velocity, air volume, and air temperature - really affect how you'll feel on the trainer.

There's a fourth factor but it's hard to guess at, although it's often related to air volume. The mystery factor is air humidity. I'll put it in the list below.

4. Humidity

If I see central AC vents or a window AC unit or a cold/wintry background then I'm guessing the humidity is under control. If I see a dehumidifier, if I see five towels draped over the bike and nearby furniture and a puddle of water under the bike then I'm guessing the humidity is a bit out of control.

The other day (okay, the other month) I saw a picture of the local hero pro on his trainer It looks like a home decor ad, if you ask me, because it looks so neat and tidy:

Note the fan on the floor.
Photo courtesy Benjamin Wolfe (Jelly Belly Cycling Team p/b Maxxis)

(Let me put in this disclaimer right away. In my world 200 watts is a hard effort. 450 watts is basically a max 60 second effort. For someone like Ben he does 450w average for a long time, like an hour at the beginning of a long day of racing. This is based on the fact that he posted that it took 450w avg for an hour just to make the second laughing group at some stage in the Tour of CA this year. What I mean is that my recommendations may not hold water if you're a super human and don't generate much heat cranking out 400 watts. Maybe you don't even break a sweat at 400w.)


When I saw Ben's picture above I subconsciously went down my list. I'll skip #1 for now and start with #2, Air Volume. It looks fine - there's so much ceiling above him that someone could take this very stylish picture.

#3 Air temperature I'm guessing is okay since it's June and the windows are closed. This could be an indicator of air conditioning.

#4 Humidity... related to air conditioning, air conditioning would make humidity a non-issue.

The only thing left is #1, air velocity. He's using what appears to be the ubiquitous Lasko 20" box fan. Set on the floor it blows cooler air up at his head/upper torso, ideal for cooling off a working rider. It's a decent fan for moving air around - I should know, I think we have four in the house. We use one dinky little window type AC unit to cool our 1500 sf house. The box fans help move the air around so we don't have one icy cold room with the rest of the house sweltering in heat; instead we have one chilly room and an otherwise comfortably dry and cool house. Other than the low thrumming of fans in the background and the somewhat MacGyver looking fans set up around the house the system works well.

The ubiquitous Lasko box fan is rated at "up to" 2500 CFM, or 2500 cubic feet per minute. That's on high. I thought I read somewhere that low is 800-1000 CFM (I think when I worked at a place that sold such fans) but I can't verify that.

When I see these fans in front of trainers or treadmills I wonder how the person can possibly stay cool. Okay, in the winter, in an unheated basement, it's sort of reasonable since you may not need much air velocity at all. But when it's even sort of warm you really need a lot of air flow to evaporate your sweat to cool you down. If there's no evaporation happening then there's really no cooling off happening either. That's why a super humid 95 degrees can be so much tougher than a very dry 105 degrees.

My set up isn't quite as neat at the one above, as evidenced by the picture below. However there is one key element in my set up: a very strong fan.

You might be able to find the fan on the floor amongst all the clutter.
It's a 20" Hamilton high velocity fan.

Air volume is sort of low because the bike room is in our basement. Worse, in order to keep the cats out of all sorts of human-inaccessible nooks and crannies, we have to keep the door shut to the bike room half of the basement. For the trainer room and the bike "shop" room I have two small rooms for air volume. Two wall mounted vent grilles allow air to travel between the bike half of the basement and the regular half. I have two fans permanently pushing air around the bike room and out of one of the vent grills so I'm guessing that the air probably gets cycled once daily at most.

Not only that, because of all sorts of reasons I can't leave the door at the top of the stairs to the basement itself open except for late at night so there's very little air flow into for most of the day - it's whatever seeps around the door along with about a 5"x5" cat door (we removed the flap so it's always open). Therefore the basement air itself doesn't get "refreshed" very frequently. At night in warmer weather I use one of our Lasko box fans to push air into the basement, allowing the hotter air down there to travel up the ceiling into the first floor.

Very low air volume cat door in our door to the basement stairs.
This doesn't bode well for air exchange between the main house and the basement.

In the winter the furnace naturally creates circulation, heated air rising to the first floor, cooler air sinking into the basement. It ends up the basement is pretty warm in the winter so it works out.

For air temperature the bike room is fine in the winter, typically 45-65 degrees F. In warmer weather it gets a bit hot, like 75-80 degrees F.

Humidity is all over the board. In the winter it's about 35-45%, ideal for indoor training. Sweat evaporates quickly and the room doesn't feel like a sauna. In the summer about 70-80%; that's not that great, I get sweat running down my face, I have to use a towel to keep my eyes clear, and, probably most significantly, I'm simply aware of sweating. I run a dehumidifier in a different part of the basement so the temperature may go up as much as 10-15 degrees F, but with judicious basement-door-opening I can keep the basement at about the 70 deg F mark.

Air temperature, air humidity, that's sort of based on your trainer room environment, your house. You need to take into account what you have, what you don't have, and figure out how to fill in the gaps.

Air Velocity

For me, for air velocity, I'm all set. The 20" Hamilton, model SFC1-500B, is rated at 3900 CFM on low, so at its lowest setting it moves about 150% the volume of the ubiquitous Lasko box fan on high. The Hamilton pushes 4700 CFM at medium and a hurricane-like 6100 CFM on high.

To give you an idea of how powerful the fan is, during a particularly bad storm I had water come into the basement (this was in our old house, leak was due to a crack in an add-on foundation area which we eventually found and fixed). Initially it looked like some water had just seeped into the basement, simply wetting the floor. It looked like I'd spilled a bucket of water down there. I set up the fan on high to "dry" the floor, pointing the fan at the wet floor to maximize air movement and therefore evaporation in that area. I also ran a dehumidifier on a counter top down there to dry the air. This set up my trifecta of air velocity, air volume, and air humidity. I hoped to check in a couple hours later to a nice and dry basement.

Unfortunately when I came back to check up on my "drying project" I found that the water level had risen unexpectedly. We had a few inches of water in the basement, with the shallow bit about 1" just near the fan - apparently our basement floor wasn't very level. I was worried that the fan would get shorted out, sitting in a puddle of water. But to my great surprise I found, in front of the fan, a miniature wave an inch or so high about 3 feet away from the fan. The fan was blowing so hard the water couldn't approach any closer. The floor in front was bone dry and it's where I staged the wet/dry vac to start cleaning things up.

So I have a very powerful fan for my trainer.

As a side note I've had the fan for maybe 12 or 14 years now, if not longer. I use it regularly. In some situations I'll move the fan to move air around in other parts of the house, like the wet basement (when we lived there) or, when we get hit with debilitating heat waves, I'll set it up to blow air around in the main part of the house. It's a solid, durable, reliable fan.

Air Humidity

Drier air will help comfort on the trainer. You cool off by having sweat evaporate off your body, but if the air is too humid the sweat simply cannot evaporate quickly enough or at all. When I was a kid we didn't have air conditioning so if I got sick and it was hot and sticky out it'd be hard to cool me down. If I was running a high fever my parents would carefully dole out aspirin to reduce my fever. I knew if they were really worried, or if it was really sticky out, when they patted me down with a towel dipped in a water and rubbing alcohol solution. The slight bit of rubbing alcohol was there to evaporate quickly - it evaporates quicker than water. My dad, the chemist, knew that the rubbing alcohol mixed with water would cool me better than just plain cold water. Just to be clear you should NOT be dousing yourself with rubbing alcohol on the trainer. There are problems with rubbing alcohol that far outweigh the benefits of its cooling properties when on a trainer.

Nowadays, in our house, we have air conditioning in the main part of the house but not in the basement, so the ambient (trainer) humidity is typically 70% or higher in the summer. On the first floor it ranges from about 50% to maybe 60% if the AC is falling behind. Temperatures in the basement range up to about 80 to almost 90 deg F; upstairs it seems that we aim at keeping it at 76-78 deg F, and at 80-81 deg F we want the AC on.

During recent trainer rides, with trainer room ambient temps into the mid 70s deg F and humidity about the same, I've had to use medium speed on the powerful fan, and I've started rides with it on low. Normally I use just low speed and I don't turn the fan on until about 10-30 minutes into a ride.

When it's super humid in the basement (I don't have a % number to reference but I'm guessing at 85% or higher) the problem is that so little sweat evaporates that I have to move a lot of air past me. Even on high I find that the sweat drips off me before it can evaporate effectively. These are the worst rides, I have to focus on making sure I have ice cold water in my Podium Ice bottles. The thing is that if you can't cool off from sweating then you need something else. Ice cold water helps a bit, at least a bit more than luke warm water. It also helps to douse a towel in ice cold water and then rub it on my neck, sort of the rubbing alcohol hack without the rubbing alcohol.

The Open Secret To Training Indoors

So that's my secret to training indoors so much, the high velocity fan. It's not that much money, about $45-60. I know the box fans are much less, but for you, someone interested in riding a trainer or rollers, it's a small price to pay for the difference in comfort going those trainer sessions. Even frugal me bought one of them a long time ago, I simply couldn't do trainer rides with a regular box fan.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Story - My Sharona (Or "A Single Lunch In My Road Trip Of A Lifetime")

This story is part of the four week road trip of a lifetime I took back in the days of Desert Shield (making it Dec 1990 to Jan 1991).

My Sharona, The Knack, from YouTube

One of my favorite songs back in the day was My Sharona, by The Knack. I suppose that's not unusual since it was a huge hit back then.

The song came up at some point during my four week "life exploration" thing. I allude to the road trip here in a post from 2010. I left Connecticut on Christmas Day morning 1990 and returned at the end of January 1991. I brought both my mountain bike and my road bike along with a ton of spares and tools and such. I planned on doing some long rides when I could, in whatever places struck my fancy. I chose a few destinations for various reasons:

 - Dayton, OH - customer and fellow rider from the shop days moved back to his home there after completing some internship near my shop; his family offered me dinner and a bed when I came through.
 - Winter Park, CO - customer and fellow rider was traveling and would be there; we hoped to ride or ski or just hang out.
 - Boulder, CO - customer visiting parents near shop lived in Boulder and offered me a bed.
 - Grand Junction, CO - where the famous "Tour of the Moon" stage took place in the Coors Classic
 - Santa Cruz, CA - we were there a few days before the big earthquake, virtually at the epicenter, and I wanted to re-ride the route we did just before the earthquake
 - Santa Monica, CA - wanted to check it out; it had a pier like the one we used to go to in Schevenigen, in Holland. Well it seemed similar anyway.
 - San Diego, CA - seemed like a good spot to go, as far as I could go from Connecticut within the 48 states, plus I might be able to see Mexico which I hadn't seen before.

I used a micro-cassette recorder to make audio notes to myself. I wanted a way to chronicle things without writing by hand. I considered tying a notepad to my thigh as one of my book protagonists did when said protagonist made notes about his car set up and such (book was something about hot rods in New Jersey, no idea of the book name... although some Googling makes me think it was Hot Rod by Henry Gregor Felsen, I'll have to read it to see if it's the one). Whatever the idea of trying to write on my thigh while driving didn't make sense to me. The micro-cassette recorder made more sense. I even have the tapes somewhere, and I think the actual player as well.

The car in Salt Lake City, mountain bike is inside.
The high for the day was 10 degrees F I think, I have to check my notes.
It was the morning of Dec 28, 1990, the start of the fourth day of my trip.

It was quite an adventure, to be honest, with crazy good luck and incredible risks on my part. I suppose I'll do some posts about it later. I wrote a short trip diary about it and it ended up about 10 pages long so it would be in bits and pieces.

For now I'm writing because someone posted a My Sharona clip on Facebook and it reminded me of this part of the trip.

At this point of my trip I'd been driving maybe two weeks, I don't remember exactly how long but I was starting to head back. I'd stopped in Dayton, Ohio; Winter Park, CO; Salt Lake City, UT; Santa Cruz, CA; Santa Monica, CA; San Diego, CA; and now I had just returned to Santa Monica.

I was staying at American Youth Hostels for most of the trip for a couple reasons. One was that it was cheap. The other is that I could meet people in the areas where I hadn't lined up a place to stay. In less populated areas, like in the middle of Kansas, I stayed in motels for their convenience.

In San Diego I'd stayed at the hostel near the beach.  At the time the hostel was closed from 9 AM to 5 PM. That meant that anyone staying there had to find something to do for those hours. The first day I was there I went for the mother of all bike rides. I held the chain link fence separating Mexico from the US (and an INS chopper started hovering near me, prompting my ride guide say that we had to leave). I saw where the Exxon Valdez had been refitted and renamed. I rode around Fiesta Island. Stuff like that.

Then I met Diana.

She was traveling alone as was I, we seemed to get along okay, and so after we shared a table at some dinner we ended up hanging out together.

Since I had a car we drove around a bit during that 9-5 "outside" time. This particular hostel is really geared for people on foot, like a backpacker kind of traveler, so the car was an unusual luxury. We drove out to Joshua Tree National Park, we drove out to Ocean Beach, stuff like that. Our relationship was platonic, which I think made it even more enjoyable. There was no worrying about "that" stuff, it was just hanging out and having fun. I'd liken it to hanging out in high school or even college, where it was more about exploring the area with a new friend more than anything else.

I remember one night where we stayed out talking in whatever parking lot I'd found for the car. It was light out, maybe the moon was out, but it was night, it was nice and warm, and we just sat around talking about whatever. This kind of thing really doesn't happen anymore for me. Even when the Missus and I were alone last year (the night before the White Plains Crit) we were working on the crit.

When it was time for her to leave we talked about me coming up to Santa Monica with her. I'd just been in Santa Monica for a week so I sort of knew the area. She was already planning on staying there, I had two more nights allowed there (I think they limited a traveler to nine nights a year or something at the time). Plus if I drove it would take a couple hours. If she took the train it was an all day thing, with transfers and such. We decided to make it a road trip and continue our adventures up there.

The woman checking in guests in Santa Monica thought we were a couple, even married, so that was pretty funny. Apparently we looked like we got along to others. After getting our own separate rooms we explored again. Santa Monica wasn't as foot-friendly and we didn't have the money or inclination to go travel to the typical tourist locations like Disney or Universal Studios or whatnot. I think we went out once in the car but mainly we walked around for the two days and change we had together.

We were walking near the hostel, I think on a block converted into a walking street, when we decided to stop in a place for lunch. We were at some salad bar or something, I forget exactly what the set up was, buffet style or Chipotle style or just a salad bar, but whatever it was a bunch of people in the restaurant had to get in some line for food, including us.

At that moment we happened to be talking about the music we liked when we discovered rock and roll. For me the first two songs were ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down" and, of course, The Knack with their hit song "My Sharona", linked at the beginning of the post.

While we were talking about the songs (I think I had to sing a bit of My Sharona as Diana didn't know it) I noticed an older white guy giving me the evil eye. Now, back then, I was subject to quite a bit of racism, being Asian. Whenever something weird happens to me I always take my race into account, to see if maybe that was part of it. Being in an unfamiliar environment I wasn't sure what, if any, things I should or shouldn't do. Diana was white. With my first girlfriend, also white, I got flak from various strangers, randomly, and sometimes in quite ugly and public ways.

(I'll note that this is mainly no longer the case, just to make things clear.)

Therefore, unfortunately, this guy giving me the eye set off some internal alarms.

Diana and I sat down, away from that one guy; I actually directed her toward a different part of the restaurant. The place was pretty crowded, we were pretty far from the guy, so I felt pretty safe. I wasn't really being too provocative, we weren't making out or anything, just two people having lunch. We continued our conversation, moving on from our favorite music as teens to other topics.

At some point I looked up. I was shocked to see the older guy was standing right next to me, at our table. He glared at me.

"Were you talking about the song 'My Sharona' when you were in line back there?", he demanded.

The whole restaurant sort of went on mute. The man's posture, his demand, it seemed a prelude to something not really good. I know I went into high adrenaline alert; I'm sure others were feeling the same way.

I looked up at him.

"Yes, I was."

The man's face broke into a huge smile.

"That's great! You know, Sharona was my daughter! She was dating that guy and he wrote the song about her! They ended up breaking up and he married someone else but that song is about my daughter Sharona!"

He turned and yelled across the restaurant, across a sea of curious and mildly concerned faces.

"Honey, I was right! They were talking about Sharona!"

The whole restaurant collectively sighed, everyones' faces turned back to their meals, and the restaurant went back to normal.

Except for our table, of course. The guy was obviously really psyched about his discovery. He told us how he used to hear the song, and people talking about the song, all the time. As time went on, though, the song sort of slipped away from the public eye. Hearing us talk about the song really made him happy. When we left he waved to us, lightly elbowing a woman who must have been his wife and pointing at us. I'm pretty sure he was telling people that, yeah, "that guy over there knows the song about my daughter".

Of course I have no idea who he is, or who she is (or was). In fact, until that moment, I didn't even know what the title of the song meant. I thought it was "Mysharona", like some weird name of a place or animal or flower or something - I never really paid attention to most song's lyrics, still don't. I just liked the bass beat, the octave up and down thing. And the muh-muh thing.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Equipment - Helmets That Saved Me - Specialized Sub 6, Scotch Plains, NJ

When the USCF passed the rule requiring helmets in races must pass Snell or ANSI tests, manufacturers scrambled to get helmets out there that didn't resemble motorcycle helmets. The first year of "the helmet rule" the peloton was wearing a mish mash of various helmets. One was the Monarch, one of the lighter approved helmets (who actually altered their design after testing and therefore production models didn't pass the test). Many of the other helmets out there were pretty heavy, and Giro was, I think, a year away.

I had a Monarch (and very few pictures of me using it). I never crashed it and when I learned it didn't pass the tests I only used it long enough to get another helmet. Then I tossed it. So no Monarch memorabilia here.

My (illegal) Monarch and me, Limerock, same direction as the cars.

We're on the little hill which is currently a downhill for the Limerock races. No chicane yet (that's where the backside wheelpit sits now). At the bell I was in a three man break with about 10 or 15 seconds on the field. I finished the race on the deck on the hill just as we got caught by the Richard Sachs team led field. I shifted hard into the small ring and managed to shift the chain right into the bottom bracket. I fell over but the ground was pretty low compared to the track - I couldn't reach the ground with my shoe and ended up rolling over onto my back.

Although initially mad at myself and covered in sand and dead grass I finally picked myself up and got back on the bike. I rolled down the course, mentally kicking myself for falling over. As I cleared the top of the hill and could see under the bridge I realized there were a lot of riders all over the place. I rolled forward and took in a breath taking sight - about 50, maybe 70 riders were scattered on the track and on the grass.

Apparently on the downhill (currently the "uphill") one of the first riders rode into the grass on the right trying to move up, tried to get back in, and fell over into the field. The field was going about 50 mph (the point man happened to be someone I rode with regularly) as the front riders sprinted down the hill to lead out the sprint. When the grass rider toppled over into the field at about 5th or 7th wheel, he took down a bunch of riders right there with the rest scattering mostly left to avoid the crash. I rolled across the line covered in dirt so everyone thought I crashed there also but I'd actually fallen over at zero miles an hour. I remember a Cat 1 put an ad in Velonews for the next year or so, selling all his bike stuff. Rumor had it he fell in that crash and was disgusted with how no one knew how to ride and he was selling all his stuff.


When Giro helmets came onto the scene it was huge. Suddenly there was this lightweight helmet that was reasonably ventilated, as much as anyone might expect, and it passed the tests. The trick was to use a harder foam (I think) as well as a mesh cover to hold all the bits together when the helmet hit the deck. This "foam with a cover" helmet design spawned a number of competing helmets. I had one of the cheap ones, an Avenir helmet. It was similar in construction, foam with a mesh cover. My helmet I'm pretty sure only passed the easier ANSI standard; I'm almost positive it failed the more stringent Snell test. However, at the time, I had just the Monarch. I negotiated with my mom - if she bought me the Avenir ($34.99?) I'd wear it every time I rode.

She bought it.

That helmet perished protecting me as well. I'm pretty sure it ended up chunks of styrofoam held together with a mesh bag (the cover). That, too, went into the trash can. Therefore no Avenir helmet memorabilia.

Avenir helmet in action, 1988, in Middletown, CT.
Rider in orange has a Giro helmet. I think they cost twice as much as the Avenir.

Another competing helmet was the Sub-6 helmet from Specialized. The goal was to have a sub-six ounce helmet that had good ventilation. This came out a bit after the Giro, Avenir, and such. I bought into it as we were a Specialized dealer and I was looking for an alternative to the ubiquitous Giro (mainly due to cost but also I just didn't want a Giro).

The Sub-6 helmet was pretty straightforward. One big innovation is that it had a plastic "frame", sort of a roll cage inside the foam. It helped hold the foam together in case of a crash. The super duper version had no shell on it; I can't remember if it eventually had to have a shell on it, I think it did, but I think initially it had no shell on it. I skipped that version but bought the one with the shell. Red, of course, to match the kit. Now that I think of it maybe it had no shell later? I don't know, 
Sub 6 in action, A race, Bethel Training Series.
I'm behind one of the Whalen brothers; John B is in the blue. I think the purple is a guy named Tom.

One of the problems with the Sub 6 is that they lightened up the helmet by making it really, really shallow. Less material meant less weight. It sat really high on your head, exposing a lot of the head up and around the ears.

However, if Motorola used it (with Phil Anderson, Steve Bauer, Andy Bishop, and a slew of other inspirational English speaking racers) then it was good enough for me.

My bike with my mechanic, if you will, Victor.
He had just gone over the bike for me and was very proud of his work.
Normally I did all my own work but he'd just resurrected one of my wheels so I let him check everything else over.

Specialized Sub-6, Scotch Plains, NJ

Scotch Plains Crit, P123

This was a P123 race that I didn't mean to enter. I'd intended to race the Cat 3 race but due to some logistical problem, probably traffic, I didn't make it to the race on time. Since I made the long drive going through NYC and committed to paying all the various tolls to and from the race, I decided to get some motorpacing in by doing the P123 race. I decided this with absolutely zero expectations of even finishing the race, forget about trying to do well.

Scotch Plains was an 8 corner, 1 mile course. The pavement melted a bit in the hot sun and the tar the Public Works Department dribbled into all the cracks softened up nicely. Sometimes you'd dive into a turn and your front or rear wheel would slide out a few inches. The melting tar felt like riding over thick oil, which, when I think of it, is exactly what was happening. It really unnerved me and I figured out the lines through the sunny corners where I'd miss the tar stripes. I think everyone did that because after the first few laps, where everyone explored different lines, we were single-double file for much of the race.

I assumed that I'd be shelled partway through the race, but as the race went on I realized that although I was hovering on the edge of explosion I wasn't getting pushed over the cusp. I told myself to do just another lap, another lap, another 5 laps, get to the prime, so on and so forth.

Racers crashed regularly. I counted at least 3 or 4 crashes in one turn alone, a left hander, three turns from the finish. It came up after one of the longer straights, transitioned from a wider road to a narrower one, and somehow guys would hit the deck there. It was such that the ambulance at the course moved to the corner and their crew stood there, waiting for the next batch of riders to come tumbling toward them.

It was about 10 laps to go, about 30 or 40 miles into the race, when I realized that, hey, I may have a chance at doing something here.

I started moving up every chance I could, usually just before or just after turns. With 8 turns a lap I had a lot of time to push a bit deeper into a turn, taking maybe 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 spots in a turn. On two straights in particular I could pedal a bit more and I'd pass another few riders.

At the bell I darted around the comet head of the field and planted myself squarely in about 8th or 10th spot as we dove into the right hand Turn One. I knew I had a couple minutes of racing left, just one mile, and I'd spend a huge portion of it coasting through turns. That meant that I could do a big surge, recover, surge again, recover, and so on. This kind of course favored my abilities, punchy efforts with quick recovery.

With the finish just a half dozen pedal strokes from the last turn, the battle would be to that last turn. This meant that going into the second last turn would be critical as the straight between them was very short. This meant going into the third last turn would be critical. The straight between the third last turn and the second last turn wasn't super short but it'd be hard to make up a lot of places. I guessed that at speed I could make up maybe 3 or 4 spots max; behind a fast guy I'd be doing well if I just stayed on the wheel. I figured the sprint would open up 100% after the third last turn.

To compound things the first five turns of the course came in rapid succession so we were lined out single or double file. It was next to impossible to move up significantly flying along at speed. We flew through that first turn, a right, then the next three turns, all lefts. Then a right at Turn Five, the opposite side of the intersection from Turn One. Then a bit of a straight to Turn Six.

Turn Six was the third last turn. The critical one in my eyes.

I approached the Turn Six sitting about 4th wheel. That in itself was a huge accomplishment. In front of me was J-ME Carney (or maybe it was his brother Jonas?). I don't remember, it was one of the two Carney brothers. More importantly, it was a pro, he was a phenomenal crit racer, and he'd be (or was already) national champion in various disciplines including the criterium.

I was on a pro's wheel, a good pro's wheel, in a P123 race, and we were approaching 3 turns to go.

I figured he'd go after the third last turn, I'd be on him like glue, and I'd get a top three.

In a P123 race!

We dove into that third last turn, hustling, with the two riders in front of the Carney brother going pretty hard. I was leaned over to the max when I realized that someone was approaching me from my left, sort of from above since I was leaned over really hard.

Some nut had sprinted up the inside to get into optimum position going into the sprint. The only problem is he couldn't make the turn. He made it up to me and promptly laid his bike down.

He slid right through my wheels.

I don't remember exactly how I flipped and stuff but I remember seeing pavement very close to my right eye for a brief moment and then a fantastic "CRACK!" as my helmet slammed into the pavement.

After that it was tumbling and such.

I ended up curled up, my hands on my head, rolling around. I looked up and saw this shadow of an enormous guy (he was one of those EMTs from that ambulance at the corner).

"Stay still!", he commanded.

I rolled around a bit more. "I'm okay, I'm okay!" I replied.

"You're not okay, you're holding your head."

I stopped and thought about that. Damn. I think he's right. I wouldn't be holding my head like this if it didn't hurt like a mofo, and it hurt pretty bad. I stopped moving around.

He took my shoes off, my socks, my gloves. He made me wince by doing something to my feet and hands. He asked me questions while he did all this. I remember having to help him with my shoes as I had all sorts of nutty stuff on it - toe straps, velcro straps.

I said that I'm okay because I'm not paralyzed so I went to get up.

"We're putting you in an ambulance."
"But I'm okay!"
"You're not okay. You took a big hit on your head. You need to get checked out."
"But I have to tell my friend who drove me here."
"Don't worry about him, he'll figure it out."

The guy, and I'm sure a helper or something, got me onto a stretcher. This was my first ambulance ride. I remember how I thought, boy, I'm glad I'm not really hurt because I feel like I'm being bounced around on the stretcher as they moved me to the ambulance. I remember that they didn't fold the legs, I think they lifted me into the ambulance because once inside I was well above the floor. My head faced the front of the ambulance, my feet the back. I couldn't move my head much (was it strapped down?) so I had to roll my eyeballs to look around.

Then we started off, siren in the background. I tried to look up to look forward. I couldn't see out the front of the ambulance so I just looked up at the ceiling.

We slowed for an intersection. Remember, my head was pointing forward toward the front of the ambulance. The blood rushed to my head.

The absolutely most excruciating pain pierced my head. I couldn't believe how painful it was, just horrible, nauseating. I felt like someone put a gigantic hardened steel spike into my head and then smashed it with a sledge hammer.

We accelerated. My head was okay.

We slowed. Arrrrhhhhhhhhhh!

Repeat about five or six times.

I got smart.
"Can we raise my head? It's killing me when we slow down."
"We're almost there."
"But... Arrrrrrrhhhhhhhhh!"

And then we were there.

Specializd Sub-6, Scotch Plains, NJ

I don't remember very much at the hospital except I was absolutely exhausted and it was air conditioned.

Specialized Sub-6, Scotch Plains, NJ
My thumb is over a sunken part of the foam.

At some point the curtain drew back and it was Mike D, the guy that I carpooled with to the race. It was one of the few times I got a ride to the race - Mike drove in his uber-cool Sirocco (MK2 for those VW nuts) - so I didn't have to weather the drive back.

I did subject Mike to a scare though - after the race he went looking for me as I seemed to have disappeared. He went to the start/finish area and saw my bike, shoes, gloves, and helmet on the announcer's platform.

He pointed at my stuff.
"Where. Is. The. Owner. Of. That. Bike?!" he hollered out.

The next day I ran my hand through my hair, as I do when I'm stressed and stuff, and someone nearby screeched in surprise. Apparently the whole side of my head, under my hair, was purple, one massive bruise. I'd whacked my head pretty hard.

I had a little bit of nausea so I definitely had a minor concussion. I don't remember much about the recovery. Back then there was no Facebook, no blog, and I haven't dug through my training diaries where I probably made notes like "leg hurts" or "didn't feel sick today". Maybe one day I will. For now though the Sub-6 sits in a stack of helmets that saved me.