Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Racing - Track Thoughts

In the past I've bemoaned the fact that I lost the charger to the camcorder. This meant no helmet cam clips, no transferring tapes to the computer, and not even watching anything recorded onto DV tapes.

Yesterday I was putting the TV stand stuff (cables for the DVD/VCR mainly) when I realized I was holding a distinctive red-striped power supply thing. It was the charger to the camcorder!

As the house was distinctly empty when we left it, we had to have it somewhere in the sea of boxes, bins, and "stuff" strewn about the townhouse. And so it was.

Of course my bike legs are done for the year so it'll be more of a "wedding and honeymoon" thing.

Speaking of which, yes, that's coming up in just over a month. I'll be going tomorrow to the town hall and signing something marriage related.

I'm also having a birthday (that's in 18 days) and since it's a significant one, the future missus is trying to get something together. To date myself, it's not my 30th. And it's not my 50th. And I can already drink legally (that means you can skip thinking it's the 20th). And, as far as I know, I'm not going to be retiring anytime soon. You can figure the rest out.

Another thing I did was to try and think about exactly what I want to do on the bike. Meaning in the next year or two of racing. Yeah, getting in shape is good. But when I think of it realistically, the guys who out climbed me when I was in college at 112 pounds are probably going to out climb me 70 pounds later. Even if I drop some insane amount of weight, I'm not going to return to a svelte sub-120 pound racer.

And before you mention things about strength and sprinting, I was hitting the low 40's (in mph) from a standing start at that 112 pound weight. So it's not like I got that much faster in the past, err, close to (ahem) 20 years. I just got heavier.

My focus, then, will be on doing what I do well - sprinting with a sprinkling of speed work.

I've contemplated the land speed record but, unless I figure something out differently, I think it requires doing a sustained high wattage effort. Not to say I've given up on it, but reading about the guys who broke 80 mph in the streamliners... well, suffice it to say that they're putting out some major wattage for a long time simply to accelerate to terminal velocity.

So accelerating to some insane speed, even if I'm drafting some fancy-shmancy race-car-turned-into-the-ultimate-drafting-machine, will take some substantial effort. To hit the speed record I'd have to accelerate for something like 120-150 mph (if I got towed to something like 40 or 50 mph). Since I haven't even done that in my fast car, I figure doing it by pedaling will be, well, difficult.

So I thought of another thing.

The track.

Hopefully my lack of endurance won't affect me in a 1 or 2 kilometer race - but the high sustained speeds, that could be a problem. Really though there are a couple events which don't require too much other than doing a lot of power type work - the kilo and the 200 meter TT (as a prelude to the sprints). Not sure what else they'll throw at the Masters but the 3 km pursuit is out (for me). And a points race? Since the last time I raced on the track I couldn't get closer than 5 feet to the next racer's wheel (fixed gear fear or something), I don't think that would be appropriate to enter.

Anyway, the track sounds sort of intriguing. It always has, to be honest, since I did a couple days of racing at T-Town way back when. Those outings weren't too successful - dropped in my first two races, got nothing in my third, but placed third in my fourth race. This qualified me for the big Cat 3-4 race at the end of the night, where I got fourth. But that was it. Recently though my inspiration got renewed when I saw this post. How inspiring is that?

Of course I have very little track specific equipment. Well, I do have a bike. But by anyone's standards, it's a bit heavy - 17 pounds with some light wheels on it. The frame and fork weigh 7 pounds, due to its straight gauge heavier-than-heavy-metal tubing. The brown is pretty too (brown? whoever heard of a brown track bike?).

I got the frame, the front wheel, the rear hub, and some other stuff, back in the 80's, for $90. I examined my first ever track frame and came away thinking track frames were pretty cool as the front and rear dropout spacing both measured 100 mm.

"How convenient," I thought, "you can put a hub in either position."

Then I tried to put the rear hub in place.

Yep, Mr. Einstein, it wouldn't fit.

Thankfully, in those days, we still had things like rear dropout alignment tools, and two of us in the shop went to work "cold setting" the frame. It's a very technical process which I'll try to describe in detail, in case you run across something like this in your cycling career.

First, figure out the right spacing, otherwise known as the target.

"Mike, you know what a track frame's rear spacing is supposed to be?"
"120 mm."
"Are you sure? This frame is 100 mm."
"Measure the hub. The rear one."
"Hm... 120mm."
"Looks like we need to cold set it."

Second, carefully position the frame in a solid device so it doesn't move around too much.

"Mike, are you sure clamping the bottom bracket shell in the vise is okay for the frame?"
"Isn't that tight enough?"
"(Final red-faced tug of the vise lever) Okay that's good."

Third, use the frame alignment tool to determine exactly how far you need to move the frame.

"Mike, on this side it's... well, it's off by about a centimeter."
I give the tool to Mike so he can check the other side.
"My side is about a centimeter too so that's right."
"I guess the frame got squished in some box somewhere."

Fourth, carefully cold set the frame. Typically this involves anchoring the pivot point (in this case, the bottom bracket shell) and "setting" the position of the target point (in this case the rear dropouts). In order to do this, we each put a foot on opposite sides of the bottom bracket shell, grasped the dropout, and pulled.

The high vise with my short legs didn't work too well.

"Hang on Mike, my foot keeps dropping off the vise.... Okay, okay, I'm ready."
"Okay, pull gently..."
"It's not moving..."
"Pull harder."
"It's still not.. Oh *#&$%! It moved a lot."
"Lemme measure... Whoa! 140 mm. Push it back."
"120 mm. Great work Aki!"

Can you believe I raced that frame? And better yet, can you believe I could hold a straight line?

Anyway, I figure if I want to race track for real, I need to get a real track bike. Since I have a lot of bike stuff already, what I really need is the frame, fork, stem, bars, and post. I have the wheels, crank, pedals, and cogs... which, of course, are the only parts remaining on the very straight forward track bike.

Of course I want an inspiring frame/fork setup - a cool looking frame that screams "Speed!" and looks as flexible as a proverbial I-beam. And it has to be affordable of course.

Now I just have to figure out what such a frame is and where to get to one.


Anonymous said...

Ok. Ok. Now I know what you want.
I like the Fuji Pro or the Masi Coltello frame.
Should be reasonably priced, too.

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday early, Aki (I suspect we both hit the same milestone birthday this year). Track racing does sound like a lot of fun, but that kilo is a killer race. I helped out at a couple of track races at Hellyer in San Jose years ago, and the looks on the faces of the kilo riders at the end was terrifying.

Aki said...

eyeing a Fuji on the internet...

And thanks for the early happys.

Kilo - I was thinking after I posted this entry that someone said the kilo is easy until you get to the third lap (on a 333.3 meter track). Then it gets, really, really hard.

I'll have to do some experimenting to see how things go, but it may be a bit much for me. What I noticed is that racers either had it or they totally blew. If that's the case, and I can hang on, well, then, there's some potential there.

Sean said...

I'm not sure how i'd fare on the track, but I do love that 'breaking the speed record' articles + clip - - great stuff. many bikes are you up to? would this new fuji make it double-digits?!

ps- happy birthday old man! haha-jk.

Aki said...

I don't think double digits.

Giant carbon
Giant aluminum
Trek mtb
Cannondale tandem (maybe counts as 1/2?)
Riggio track bike
Schwinn Cotton Picker

I gave my cool BMX bike to the electrician for his son. And the other bikes are disassembled.