Saturday, October 31, 2009

Equipment - Thomson Seat Posts

When I build up a new bike, I spec out a bunch of the non-group parts in a specific way:

I want to install it and forget it.

What I don't want is a part that will loosen up spontaneously, or be difficult to adjust, or crack after 6 months of summer abuse.

At the same time, when people ask me about setting up their own bike, I tell them to get good non-group parts. Wheels, of course, but that's worth twenty posts itself. The other parts include the saddle, pedals, bars, stem, and seat post.

Each of these bits play a critical part on your bike - if one breaks, or loosens, or gets compromised in any way, your race is over.

Other parts may not be critical, even if at first glance they seem "critical". My good friend and long-time co-promoter Gene broke his rear derailleur cable in a critical race (he was working for me in the race). His bike suddenly became a two speed bike - 39x12 and 53x12. Nonetheless he contributed a lot to what ended up being a close win for me. He even launched a last lap attack to string out the field, per my request before the race.

In a more high caliber race, Tom Prehn (former winner of the Philly race, a long time domestic pro, and now the boss at Cateye) started off a race with a broken front derailleur cable or clamp. Whatever it was, he was out of luck, with no spare bike, at the start of a 100 mile road race in New England. He quickly realized that he wouldn't make it to the big climb halfway into the race if he has just his small ring, so he quickly maxed out his limit screw to keep the chain on the big ring.

Halfway into the race, on the big climb, he went to the front, rode in the big ring (of course), and pushed the pace. Everyone else, content to let him set the pace, simply followed him. At the end of the day he won the race.

The point is that if you can still ride or pedal your bike, you can still race.

But if your bars break, or your stem doesn't stay tight anymore, your seat rails disintegrate, or your seatpost drops into the seat tube, you're SOL.

You know, for "So Outta Luck".

A part is working well when you no longer think about it. Because of that I've been using Thomson seat posts since, well, about 9 or so years ago.

Seatposts, according to my "lose weight in the hidden, boring components" rule, end up a prime place for bicycle weight loss. You'd be surprised at how much some posts weigh. Light posts let the bike wiggle a bit better when you're sprinting out of the saddle. They can remove a good half pound off of some bikes, more on lower end ones.

I let myself get seduced by superlight posts back in the day. You could tell that my (younger) glazed eyes ignored various warning signs. I ended up losing my saddle a few times when bolts or clamps failed, one post start moving around when the post got crushed when I hit a bump (I was all of 140 lbs or so), and the wide assortment of parts I've saved from various different seatposts.

At some point, when I got sick of my posts moving, sliding, twisting, crushing, cracking, and snapping, I went looking for the lightest super reliable post possible. I ended up with two final choices, but one company's product has been reliably available through various shops:

When I put my Cannondale together, one of the most important things I did was to install a Thomson post. Likewise, when I realized I would be racing the Riggio track bike more often, I put one on that too. Even the Giants I had before had Thomson posts.

So, yeah, I like the posts.

They're reasonably light. They adjust easily, but don't move once you tighten down the adjusting bolts. I can forget about it once I'm done with it.

In other words, they work.

That's all you can ask from a post.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Training - Want And Will

So, in August, I ended yet another season of riding and racing. A bit prematurely, perhaps, but it was what it was. And, just like every year, I started thinking about how the season went, how I rode, and what I'd want to change for next season.

Actually, to be more precise, I thought about what I would be willing to do to change things for next season.

See, there's usually a huge disconnect (sorry, that's from my semi-corporate days... maybe I should say "chasm") between what I wanted to do and what I'd actually do.

For example, I always lament about my (over) weight. I kept trying to lose weight by burning more calories (training), but I never succeeded.


Because I never knew how many calories I consumed, even for a single meal.

So, now that I've kind of separated the two concepts for next year ("want and will"), I can redefine what I want (and can do) to do for next year.

Yesterday I talked about the HED wheels, a slew of wheels I think will really make an impact on "regular" Cat 3-5 racing. I also mentioned that I want a set of their wheels. Three sets, really, and more like five or so if I could have it my way. I figure that these wheels will help me, however slightly, in attaining my wants for next year.

However, I can't buy them, not now.

I know what I want to do next year. It's basically what I did this year, but better. Crits for sure, with focus on the sprints, the ability to bridge sub-20 second gaps quickly, and getting some better finishes. I have two goals there, one is Bethel (of course) and the other is the Nutmeg State Games (of course).

Track racing too, "peaking" for 2 events (one series and one weekend, both at the end of the year) but with an aim to race consistently in all track events. The efforts on the track are different from crits, with very little held back. My pedal stroke becomes much more important, and it seemed totally flawed this year.

Fitness-wise I'm probably 25 pounds overweight, can't climb anything longer than a couple hundred yards, and I have a cliff shaped power profile (in other words it drops off really fast).

That stuff is kinda same old, same old. Nothing new there, nothing unexpected.

I do have something new for 2010. I want to brush up on my emergency handling skills, like touching wheels and such. I feel comfortable in the pack, but I haven't explored sketchy condition limits for a long, long time (rain, oil-covered roads, panic braking on descents, etc).

Those above are my goals.

What can I do (and what will I be willing to do) to get there?

In the past I've worked on my fitness, with some success. I know what I need to do. I'm okay with that. For me, gaining minimal fitness is minimal work. It's when I ask more of myself that I falter.

For example, I've always wanted to lose weight, but I've never made it work. A long time ago a friend, a younger-than-me ex-pro, offered me some training advice. As I was overweight then (surprise), he recommended that I lose the weight first, then work on fitness.

I pshawed his advice. I mean, come on, he's just a kid, and he can train all day, every day. Who's he to tell me to lose weight first? Seriously...

Well, I never lost that weight. And no matter how hard I trained, I only dropped a bit.

And I remained overweight for years and years and years and years.

As I mentioned at the beginning, my season ended in August, a bit prematurely. Usually I raced through then, and would keep riding into the fall. But since I couldn't ride, I had to take time off.

That gave me time to think, to mentally let go of the 2009 season, and to look forward to whatever 2010 could bring me.

I decided that I'd try and do everything, at least "more", for my goals above.

Key to everything, I realized, was weight. If I lose a bunch of weight, it would make things much easier for me to hit the other goals. Keep the weight on and it would be the same story as this year - sorta kinda there but not quite.

And that means... yep, I went on a diet.

Me, on a scientific anything, is cause for worry.

Given that I usually have two breakfasts (early and "second breakfast", as the hobbits would say), with the second one being a caloric ton.

Usually that second would be a bacon, egg, cheese sandwich on a bagel, or BECS as we called it at the shop, with the sausage, egg, and cheese called SECS of course.

I had to have my coffee with it, with the prerequisite half inch of sugar and a good quarter cup of half and half.

Other meals were no better. Foot long grinders, dripping with cheese, half of a chicken or a rack of ribs or some other crazy amount of food. I'd regularly polish off a pound of pasta by myself for dinner, so, well, this whole calorie counting thing seemed a bit unrealistic.

Of course I never really seriously tried doing it before, but now, with 2 months of forced rest and relaxation, I figured I would give it a shot.

The biggest obstacle for me was keeping track of all the numbers. Too many numbers, too many ways of recording it.

Notebooks just wouldn't cut it.

However, in this day and age of the internet, I learned I could count calories anywhere I had an internet connection, or, if I didn't, I could look up a food and put it into an online food journal.

I started counting calories on, meticulously (just ask the missus) entering everything I ate in my "chart". The site has a bunch of "pre-loaded" foods (probably sponsors), but it allows you to add your own foods. So, for example, when I got some hummus that didn't show up in the my-calorie-counter database, I could add the data quickly and easily.

(Tip: it helps to have the product label in front of you when you do this.)

Anyway, for my 5'7" height, and my starting weight of 181 pounds (82 kg), I got some recommendation to limit my caloric intake to about 1800 per day.


My second breakfast typically hits 600 on its own. My favorite stand-by midday snack was a 960 calorie bag of peanuts.

1800 for a whole day? That was a rude awakening.

However, using some of the missus's advice, along with some careful reading of food labels got me off to a good start. This quest for lower calories has dug into my blogging and my bike forums time, since I now count calories instead of typing words.

Counting calories has also changed my view of Stop & Shop, the local supermarket. I always liked the store, seeing as it's owned by a Dutch company, the one that is Albert Heijn in Holland. When we lived there (I was a kid), we went to Albert Heijn. AH was kind of like a security blanket for me, a reassuring sign in a mainly foreign country whenever I saw one.

Anyway, when I walked around with my calorie eyes open, so to speak, the friendly supermarket turned into an Evil Empire. Everywhere I looked, calories upon calories. Food seemed unnecessarily laden with calories and fat.

I managed to find some gems along the shelves. For example, I found Kim's Bagels, a lower calorie, lower fat bagel. Combined with Egg Beaters, Jennie-O turkey bacon, and no cheese (I can live without cheese I think), my second breakfast dropped from 539 calories to 180. I'd have to get some less sweet coffee, a little less fat free half and half, and I'd be nudging 200 for a nice, satisfying snack.

With findings like that here and there, I managed to trim down my probable pre-diet 3000-4000+ calorie days by about 1000-2000 calories. This means I've been averaging about 1700 calories a day.

Of course not every day went well. Two poorly planned days resulted in a 2242 day as well as a 2046 day. Both of these days resulted from me not having a second breakfast planned and prepared, followed by me succumbing to the temptation of a full on BECS, 100% of the real stuff.

Overall, though, things are going well. I'm normally at 1000 calories when I leave work, leaving a reasonably large 800 calories for the evening (dinner and perhaps a late stomach capper). On the trainer I've avoided sugared drinks, sticking with zero calorie Powerade and the like.

If I end up unreasonably low, like yesterday's 1280 or so after dinner, I try and pig out (relatively speaking), focusing on foods with little fat. If I'm riding on one of those days I'll drink some sugary Gatorade (I have a couple jars of the mix that I bought in my pre-calorie-aware days).

Today I've wrapped up my daily eating, and I'm sitting satisfied at 1710 calories, 30 grams of fat, and my body is just starting to shut down, i.e. get tired and cold.

Not bad, right?

So far, in two weeks, I'm down 7 pounds to about 174. Not that much, true, but it's a start. I figure I'll go for another 9 weeks, hopefully ditching a couple pounds a week, until the end of the year. If I can do that I'll be at 156, give or take a pound.

That, my friends, is a weight I last saw in 1999.

I hope it's possible. I just have to run a 7000 calorie deficit each week, and compared to the approximately 49,000 deficit from just the last couple weeks, 7000 ought to be manageable. I know my metabolism will adjust itself - my body is geared to survive, not to burn itself into oblivion. But by riding and exercising consistently, I hope to keep my metabolism closer to active than hibernation, with the ultimate goal, always in mind, of losing a lot of dead weight.

At the end of 2009 I'll see see where I end up.

Then it'll be time to start training.

Because all this effort has a short term goal:

Racing domination at Bethel in 2010.

Be forewarned.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Interbike 2009 - HED Wheels 2010

In some ways I've been an early adapter in the world of bike racing.

I'm convinced that my "good jump" back in the day was partly due to the fact that I rode 138 or 76 gram pedals (for steel and Ti axled Aerolites respectively, the minimal weight including cleats and hardware), that I obsessed about light rim weight, and that I rode aero wheels long before they became "de rigueur" of the pro peloton.

To be fair I never went as extreme as the true pioneers, but when I saw Coors Light clean up while on Specialized TriSpokes (with updates now known as the HED3), I realized my Zipp 340/440 setup wasn't quite as radical as I thought. I went to using TriSpokes for a long, long time, stopping only when I rode another company's wheels because I wanted to support my friend's employment there.

Aero wheels have always been a fascination for me, and for next year, I was looking for some way of bumping up my speed.

In 2010 I'm convinced that there's a new wheel in town, or rather, a new wheel company in town: HED.

They've been around for a while, and they've had an online store for at least a few years (because I always go over there and drool and such). But they're trying to set up a dealer network, something they started a little while ago.

Anyway, they've revamped their line-up for 2010, and man, it looks good.

It looks good enough that I want to sell all my wheels and replace them with HED's line-up, almost from bottom to top. I have rarely felt need with cycling - I liken it to my desire to get a power meter, or my desire to break into aero wheels back in the late 80s and early 90s.

What made me feel this way?

Let's look at what I saw at IB 2009.

First, a little while ago, I did a post on Faired versus Structural Aero Wheels. I happened to use HED wheels as an example, but only because they sold the same kind of wheels in both versions. To clarify things, HED sells structural rims for tubulars ("Stingers", with exposed spoke nipples) and faired ones for clinchers ("Jets", with hidden spoke nipples). The aluminum box-section rimmed wheels are named after some of the Northern Classic terms, like Ardennes or Bastogne or Kermesse.

Significantly for 2010, HED spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel developing their new line of wheels. And they found that wider rims make for more aero rims. Wider not just at the bead (the 23 mm rims introduced last year, like their base model Kermesses), but in the fairing itself.

Basically the rim needs to get wider below the brake track before it gets narrower.

From the 2010 brochure, it seems that making a rim really wide makes it more aero in certain wind directions, but it sacrifices aero in others. HED set out to optimize the maximum rim width to work with the wind angles most riders see.

And, apparently, they've made some huge gains.

For 2010, they proudly claim that their Stinger 4, a 46 mm tall and 26 mm wide rim, is more aero than their 2008 Stinger 8 (80 mm tall rim), and more aero than any sub 80 mm tall rim.

The Stinger 6, at 60 mm tall and 28 mm wide, is all that much faster, faster than any sub 90 mm rimmed wheel.

The Stinger 9, their tall wheel at 90 mm tall (and holding at 28 mm wide), is their fastest spoked wheel.

Curiously, HED makes no claims on the HED3 wheels, the TriSpokes made so popular by Lance's consistent use of the front wheel. Their rim widths (for all the wheels - clinchers and tubulars, 55 or 90 mm tall versions) remain at 19 mm, one that could be construed to be relatively inefficient. I figure they'll either come out with some wider HED3 (for the Tour?) or relegate the wheel to the scrap heap.

Anyway, based on the data and claims of HED, I figure the ultimate wheel setup, for 2010, would look like this:

1. Race wheels, the primary focus, would be tubulars. Ideally you'd want to stay under 1300 grams for a pair of wheels, this way you won't need specific climbing wheels. You may need to get a shorter height front wheel for windy races.

Choice: Stinger 6s, front and rear. For windy days or long, fast, gusty descents, a Stinger 4 front.

2. Training wheels, because you need to train with tall wheels if you're to understand how the wheels handle in all circumstances. The brake tracks are wider on all the 2010 HEDs so you'd want to get matching wheels.

Choice: Jet 6s, the clincher version of the Stinger 6.

3. Box section wheels, because for the really crappy weather, you probably want non-aero wheels. Plus the missus will need some wheels for her bike, and she liked the box section wheels more than the aero wheels she rode for a while. Since these would be the "beater" wheels, you could get lower end wheels.

Choice: Kermesses.

The one thing I don't understand or agree with is the Flamme Rouge ("FR" in HED's catalog) option. The Flamme Rouge is the "Red Flag" marking 1 km to go in a race, and implies something race related. For HED it means the hubs (in this case) and the rim/fairings get some special treatment. This includes a carbon hub body, Ti ratchet ring, Ti skewers, and some hi-mod carbon in whatever rim/fairing.

The Ti pieces and carbon body do little to lose weight. Hi-mod carbon is typically stronger but more brittle than "regular" carbon. Functionally I can't see the significance of the FR upgrade. It'll save you about 50 grams for the clinchers, about 10-15 grams for the tubulars.

For $200 I can't see laying out the money for the FR option. It'd be more practical to buy extra tubulars, a lighter cassette, or maybe some aftermarket skewers.

The FR option reminds me of the pricey and limited Mugen option offered by Honda on their Civic Si. The upgrades seem limited, and, embarrassingly, the Mugen was actually slower than the stock Si due to the bigger and heavier wheel/tire package. For $9,000, you could do a lot better by buying aftermarket items, and, like tactics in bike racing, investing in some driving schools to learn how to drive better.

Anyway, other than the FR option not seeming too special, the HED line up prompted me to think about moving off my current standard width stable of wheels.

It's a lot to invest though. 7 total wheels, 3 pairs plus a lone front, all so that I can swap wheels without adjusting derailleurs or brake calipers. If I wanted a spare rear race wheel, maybe one more.

Now, I could move the fronts over to the track bike, for sure, but that doesn't recoup any money for any new wheels.

And for me it's an all or nothing gambit. I want all the wheels or none of them.


Um. Anyone need 1.5 pairs of carbon tubulars, a pair of carbon clinchers, and 2 sets of aluminum box section clinchers? Campy freehub bodies.

Anyone? Hello? Bueller?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Review - "Race Across The Sky"

Last night, with a bit of encouragement from SOC, the missus and I (and SOC and Mrs SOC) went and took in the flick "Race Across The Sky".

Now, since I'm not a hyper Lance fan, nor an avid mountain biker, and definitely not a partaker of any kind of a long race involving climbs, it would seem on the surface that this movie, one about Lance, a mountain bike race, and one that involves fourteen thousand feet of climbing, would not be my cup of tea.

And, in a sense, the race really isn't my cup of tea.

I mean, who am I kidding? 10,000 feet elevation at the start? A 3,000+ foot climb up to the halfway point? A long paved descent on knobby tires?

All these things scream "Not for SDC! Not for SDC!"

It's just like the Ironman, when I first saw the coverage of the Hawaiian classic. I couldn't swim 50 laps at the local pool fast enough to qualify for lifeguard training, I run maybe twice a year, and I hate time trialing. The Ironman, therefore, is not for me.

Yet I had a fascination with that race for a long time. It had less to do with the event, though, and hence the fascination. Honestly, if you look at it objectively, it's a pretty boring race if you look at the terrain. Okay, it's hot there, especially when the lava fields are flowing, but it's basically dead flat. No climbing to speak of, just roller type hills.

(I say this with respect to everyone that's done it because, frankly, I can't even ride that fast on a TT bike, forget about having to swim a couple miles before and then, after the bike, climbing off and looking forward to a marathon run.)

The participants made up the story.

And so it was with the move "Race Across The Sky."

It was all about the people, the town, the situation around the birth of the event, the situations surrounding some of the racers themselves.

Leadville was a mining town until they shut down the mines, putting 3200 people out of work in a town of 5000 (numbers from the race promoter).

Obviously this put a damper on some of the town's happenings. Ken, the promoter, started the event to put Leadville on the map.

As Lance pointed out after the flick, Ken has succeeded. With this movie out now, I imagine that the Leadville field will either swell or the chances of getting selected in the lottery will dwindle down to Powerball ratios.

I have to imagine that racers who succeed in getting into the Leadville 100 mountain bike race (1400 spots as opposed to the running !! race, limited to 500 runners) will be making treks up to the area to recon the course, especially since it's a one time deal.

See, if you don't make the feed station within 4 hours, you're pulled.

And if you don't make the finish by 12 hours, you're a DNF.

So it behooves those that gain entry to make that entry count.

Therefore there must be a reasonable number of people making the trek up to this town, maybe in pairs or fives, swelling the population by 0.1% (for a party of five) for a few days. They have to eat and sleep somewhere, and they'll need to buy supplies and such.

That's good for Leadville, the town.

The course makes Leadville interesting because, frankly, with mountain biking, whatever is out there, well, it's been done. Leadville is about as tough a course as you can get without necessarily risking people's lives. You know, like by having 20 foot drop offs and such. Nothing like that in the Leadville 100, just long steady climbs, long steady flat sections, and, um, more long steady climbs.

However, the people participating make the race what it is. It'd be boring to watch a race where, out of 1400 starters, about 20 are left in the first hour or so. What fun would it be to watch riders cross the line for five and a half hours?

Mountain biking offers less drafting help, due to its higher rolling resistances and lower speeds. Drafting helps, sure, but nothing like on a road bike.

Therefore, as Lance points out, Leadville becomes a very, very long time trial.

For diversions, you need to look at the folks that make up the race.

And let me tell you, the emotions, the elation, and the sorrow are real. I won't reveal too much, except that some of the support staff showed heart wrenching devastation when they realized that they rider, typically their spouse, wasn't going to make it.

On a lighter and somewhat ironic note, I found the pre-movie "talk show host" interesting.

(Btw, was it Richard Fries interviewing them? I thought it was but I may be wrong.)

You could see the riders off the bike, in a less familiar environment. The small-town, down-home Ken, the media-polished Lance, a somewhat stone-faced Dave, a grinning "aw shucks" Travis, and the young Matt Shriver who seemed to get less nervous in the post-flick talk versus the seemingly nerve wracking pre-flick talk.

They all had the telltale hunched backs of cyclists, all aching to get into that low, efficient position, even sitting on tall bar stools in the middle of the stage.

I thought the most interesting exchange came from the non-flick chat, the unscripted, unrehearsed, somewhat spontaneous talk between some of the main characters in the race.

In particular, Ken pointed out that "only Tour de France winners get automatic selection". Not only that, it seems that if a TdF winner enters the race, they automatically get second the first time.

See, Floyd Landis, in 2007, got second. So did Lance, in 2008.

Each time they got beaten by the last year's Leadville winner, in this case the same guy, Dave Wiens.

Then Lance cracked a comment, as the current winner of Leadville.

"You should invite Contador to Leadville in 2010!"

Or something like that.

I think he meant that if Contador showed up, then Lance would beat him, because Lance won in 2009. Meaning, I think the implication is that Lance would win and beat Contador if they both did Leadville in 2010.

I guess a side thing that Lance didn't really address is that this implies that Lance thinks Contador will win the 2010 Tour (since Leadville 2010 occurs after the 2010 Tour).

I thought that was kind of interesting, the implied assumption.

Because, from how the discussion went, if Lance won the Tour, he wouldn't win Leadville. Contador, on the other hand, wouldn't win Leadville because... he'd win the Tour?


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Promoting - Bethel Spring Series 2010

I'm going to ask folks to take a poll on Bethel 2010's "non-March" dates.

As you may have seen in a prior post, I'm trying to figure out what to do to fill in the normal 6 weeks of racing we plan for the Bethel Spring Series. With Battenkill taking up two weekends (one USAC, one UCI), a March with just four weekends, and an early April Easter Sunday, the calender suddenly seemed awfully short.

Therefore the question: when to hold 1 or 2 non-March Bethel Spring Series races?

Poll is at the Carpe Diem Racing site on the sidebar, open until October 30, 2009.

Poll is anonymous as far as I can tell - it's the first poll I've ever put up on a blog thing.

Comments are disabled on the CDR site so please comment here if necessary.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Leadville Trail 100: Race Across The Sky

Next Thursday, October 22, 2009, the missus and I will be heading over to the Buckland Hills place (theater? movies? screens? I don't know what to call them) in Manchester, CT, to watch Leadville Trail 100: Race Across The Sky.

(Note: I tried to find a less annoying link for tickets but movie sites seem to be obsessed with senseless Flash stuff.)

It's a race about the 2009 Leadville 100 (warning - the link talks - another site that likes movement).

We'll be meeting up with fellow blogger and friend SOC and Mrs SOC for the show and some eats. A poor substitution for the weekly Tuesday Night race series during the summer but at least we don't have to change clothes in our respective cars prior to attending either dinner or the event.

To be honest marathon mountain bike races don't necessarily float my boat. It's kind of obvious right? Else the blog would have been titled something like "Dirt Rider of the House" or, in more proper Intraweb terms, "Der Dert Schnizzle". Or something like that.

But, in 2009 the race seemed a bit more road like, with some non-mountain bike stuff present. Some ringers in the field. A (transparent) combine between teams. Long flat stretches that encourage drafting. An intense pace set by a deniable rabbit (he got third) on a different team, kinda sorta, that shares the same sponsors as the combine's leader.

Ultimately it ends up being a really, really long time trial. Not a proper Tour TT of 87 kilometers (in 1987 no less), but much, much longer. A time trial, regardless of the circumstances.

Other than that I have no idea what's in the movie, but that's the way I prefer to watch my movies.

Anyway it'll be a nice break from the regular routine.

Maybe we'll see you there.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Promoting - Bethel Spring Series 2010 - Quandary

So the other day (well, okay, it was a while ago) I read about Battenkill getting moving up in the world, into the UCI world.

Awesome for them.

And a quandary for me.

See, with their move to go two weekends, they started eating into the early weeks of April. And those are kind of the Bethel Spring Series weeks.

The upcoming year, 2010, ends up being a perfect storm. Bethel usually lasts six weeks, with an expectation that one of them will get snowed or iced out. In the past Bethel has lasted seven weeks, but new earlier-Spring races started moving into the latter weeks of April.

Ultimately six weeks seems to work well for the Bethel Spring Series.

In 2010 it's a bit tricky.

March has only four Sundays. Easter is the first week of April, and April only has four Sundays, just like March. Instead of nine Sundays in the two months, there are only eight.

With the various early races encroaching into the March/April, the Bethel Spring Series need to start the first week of March. Usually that gives the Series five Sundays in March. With only four Sundays in March 2010, the Series starts off a bit short.

The next Sunday is April 4th, Easter Sunday. The Bethel Spring Series has always skipped Easter, so that's a scratch.

The last weekend in April usually kicks off the "real" races, the ones that precede the big races leading up to Memorial Day weekend, so that's out too.

That leaves April 11 and 18.

Usually they'd be ripe for the picking, but that's where Battenkill comes in - they decided that they'd spread the race over two weekends (I can totally understand their reasoning), and they went a bit earlier than later, probably to fill a proper hole in the calender (again, I can understand that move too).

Of course, that gets in the way of other much smaller races. Ones like Bethel. April 11 is the Battenkill's day for the USAC folks, you and me. April 18th is the pro day, the UCI day.

So I find myself in, as I stated before, a quandary.

I don't want to have the Series go up against any "real" race. But after Easter, April has only three Sundays left, the last one too far out there to contemplate, and the two middle ones taken by Battenkill.

Well, one of them anyway.

The first weekend has amateur races, the largest one day race in the country. It's one of those things where a race is so big that it dominates the landscape. That's fine - it's like the first weekend in Pennsylvania was always the Philly race, or Memorial Day is always Somerville.

But it means the Bethel Spring Series shouldn't run on April 11th.

April 18th is a bit different. I can't pretend that the Bethel Spring Series will ever compete against a UCI race. I mean, seriously.

I don't want to end Bethel after only four weeks. I'd want at least five, especially expecting a cancelation of one of the early ones. Five means scheduling a race up against Battenkill.

So my quandary is such:

Bethel on April 18th?

Or not?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Interbike 2009 - Action Wipes

Over the summer I did a bunch of track races at the New England Velodrome. Now, although I really liked racing there, I had to pay a price for admission - the drive up and back. I spent a good 5-7 hours each race day driving back and forth to the race.

(I know, I know, excessive, but until I can build a track around here...)

The way up wasn't bad - reasonably light traffic, all moving along at a decent clip, all while feeling the anticipation of being able to race the track. Loud music, being psyched, it was all good.

The way back, that drive was a bit different. It definitely got long as the summer dragged on.

I was good for a while each evening, energized for the first hour or so by the adrenaline from the races. It helped that I switched highways somewhat frequently and the highway itself would change (like 2 lanes were closed, or there were some cool curves, stuff like that).

But then I'd start looking for familiar landmarks, looking for the next section of the drive, mentally checking things off. By the third interstate, I'd start to come off my racing high and have to deliberately press on. Each night I'd pull over at the same rest stop, looking to break up the drive.

To top it off, I had to do it while kind of grungy.


Yeah, I could change after the races. Yeah, I could wipe down a bit with rubbing alcohol. But that only goes so far. And you run the risk of ruining your car's paint job too (don't ask how we figured that out, right Tom?).

Remember, rubbing alcohol and car paint DO NOT MIX.

Anyway, since I drove my fun car to the track, I avoided doing the rubbing alcohol thing. It's not like I didn't try though. I even tried baby wipes, big ones. Initially I wondered how big a baby gets, but then I realized it's more a question of how far does their diaper contents go, and I've seen some pretty messy babies.

Problem with baby wipes? They pill, leaving little rolled up balls of baby wipe where ever you have coarser than baby-skin smooth skin.

Driving 3 or 4 hours like that, well, it wasn't really pleasant.

Then I remembered I had gotten some Action Wipes.

They're a much stronger version of a standard wipe, with nice stuff in it like tea tree oil and eucalyptus. They suds a bit, but it dries right away. I didn't know the sudsing was intentional when I first used them, after some very hot ride in California (one of my ride companions had them). I learned that this year and, more importantly, that it all dries up soon after on its own.

(I was trying to rinse myself off with water in that ignorant time.)

After I'm done I feel a bit of skin tightness, like I just used one of the missus' cleansing lotions, but I'm sensitive like that. I figure it's cleaned my skin better than my normal "guy things" like soap and water. Or rubbing alcohol and water.

I like it though because, like I said, I'm sensitive like that, and yet I never broke out or anything. So my "sensitivity" worked both ways.

Another cool thing about Action Wipes is that you can machine wash them, although I haven't tried that yet. I've been diligently saving all the used ones though, with a compartment in the blue car reserved for Action Wipes - one half new ones, a separate section for used ones.

Anyway, the wipes worked great.


And at Interbike 2009, I finally got to meet the face of Action Wipes, Martha Van. Martha Van something, actually, but everyone seems to call her Martha Van.

While I was there two women strode up, talking all sorts of good things about Action Wipes. Apparently they did the USA Crits the night before, ended up the winning team overall (VanderKittens), and they had to wait two and a half hours for the podium presentations.

They were told to be ready for the presentations at any moment, just in case, so they had to hang out in their raced-in kits in that hot, dry night.

Luckily for them they had some Action Wipes. They said the Wipes worked wonders, all sorts of good stuff, and they weren't even being paid to say it! In fact they were telling Martha Van, someone that doesn't need any convincing.

Anyway, I got a shot of them in their enthusiasm.

"Action Wipes rule! We had to wait around from 8:30 to 11 at The Race and we couldn't leave. Action Wipes saved The Day. We used the Action Wipes and they were Awesome! ActionWipes perform Excellently. They wipe up Streaked Mascara! We call them 'AW' for short. We are proud to use Action Wipes. They are the New Secret Weapon, just a bit better than our Top Secret Black Wrist Bands. We want more Action Wipes. Where do we pay? Nanu Nanu and May The Force Be With You."

Well they said something like that. I think.

Anyway, they come in these cool one-time packets:

One time packets, sealed for freshness.

You can also get a little mesh thing to store them until you wash them in your washing machine:

Mesh storage bag thing.

That thing looks like it'd be good for washing gloves with hook and loop type enclosures, the ones that attack your shorts and jerseys in the washing machine (always in the most visible spot too).

I'm running low on the Wipes and I want to clear out that pocket of dirty AWs from the car, so I'll be getting some of both soon.

Then, when I head out for some hotter weather training during the winter, and do that very messy salt sand sweep out at Bethel, I'll have something to clean myself.

And, of course, I'll have the Wipes for my drive back from the track on Wednesday nights.

Nanu Nanu and May The Force Be With You.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Interbike 2009 - Aero Road Bikes

One of my annual goals (for two years anyway) have been to see more and more aero road frames. You know, for mass start races.

It all started with the Cervelo bikes. It helped that CSC did some pretty cool things in races, like explode them by team time trialing at the front just as the field turned a corner into a hard crosswind. Then Ridley came out with the Noah, Look had their kinda aero bike, and I started getting that "aero-bike-need" kinda feeling.

And I looked for more alternatives, more extreme bikes.

I've basically been shot down for two years running. Yeah, I found some, but not really. This year I found one that, frankly, makes me wonder why I'm not riding one: the Blue AC1 and its featherweight sibling, the AC1SL.

This is the first time I saw it:


I didn't get to see the bike - it was the end of the day so the guys in the booths were knackered.

The AC1, locked up.

Note the aero downtube, the semi-faired rear wheel area, and, apparently, at some point, a BB30 bottom bracket.

AC1 again.

Check out all the details. The primary visual one is the downtube following the fork and the front wheel. The second most obvious one is the duo of cables diving into the top tube just behind the stem. Disappointingly the rear brake cable follows a normal path.

The Blue site has no info on the bikes. No, that's not quite correct. At this time it's unclear how much these frames will cost. But they have one of the two big fittings I like to see on a road bike - BB30. The other, the 1.5" lower headset bearing, seems to be missing.

I saw another bike, one being distributed by Sinclair Imports, the company best known at Interbike for holding the extremely exclusive Sinclair Imports party (relatively tame link). The company name is Stevens, and the bike is the SLR.

Nice bike.

Skinny profile, rear brake notwithstanding.

I love the sight of an aero seat mast over an aero seat tube with a deep profile rim hiding just behind. It looks like... Victory.

(Apologies to Apacolypse Now)

I like the waisted headtube.

The Stevens doesn't present as aggressive a profile as the Blues - no downtube arcs following the front wheel. It has a slight top tube bulge, but nothing too close or cutting edge.

Another take on the SLR, but this one in "real". In Holland too, so even better.

It seems a bit lame, two bikes in all the ones that I saw in Vegas. It's a pity because I think that aero has a place in mass start races. When wind resistance is everything, working on details could make sense. Yes, the rider supplies the most drag, but getting the bike slimmed out will make a difference.

Keep in mind I didn't come close to riding either of these bikes - I have no idea how they ride, if the cables bind in their internal routes, how much of a pain it would be to fiddle with the bikes (like a broken cable, or trying to ride with a broken spoke).

I'm assuming the bikes ride fine because, frankly, all bikes have to ride fine in in these days. Making a better bike nowadays means either getting it lighter, more efficient, or more aero. Or some combination of the above.

So, disappointingly, I'll wait until next year for the killer, over the top, hopefully UCI legal aero mass start road bike.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Life - MacBook

The other day I took a leap of faith and invested in a MacBook. An aluminum one, for those that know these things, not a fast one (2.0 Ghz), stock RAM and such, as-is.

Other than the slightly nerve-wracking process of spending the money that day, I've very little experience with anything Apple. I don't do iTunes (it's on my PCs for some reason though), I don't have any iAnythings, and I always "whatevered" all my friends that had a Mac. They were for graphic designers and "students", not for me.

I didn't do graphic design and I already know everything.


Okay, back on topic.

A few years ago, I learned that the cool Linux interface I'd seen was a version of the Mac. I learned how efficiently the OS worked. Learned technical things about Apple's history and development. Since it was my brother telling me this stuff, and he's an absolute top level programmer in one of the more efficient languages, I paid careful attention.

The resistance lessened just a touch.

Then a good friend got one. A long-time Campy user, in the bike world he might as well bought a whole Shimano group for his bike. Not that he wouldn't do that now, but that's beside the point. One free evening we visited a local Fry's and poked around the Macs. Nice, yeah, but holy smokes they were expensive. Nonetheless I felt like my world had opened just a bit. It didn't hurt that my friend swore by his Mac.

The resistance lessened just a little bit more.

A bit after that initial fiscal shock, I pedaled away in ignorant bliss for a bit. I shot some clips on my digicam, but when I went to edit them in Windows Movie Maker, I learned that I couldn't edit .mov files in the PC. Well, if I can it's not that easy. The .mov files was a "Mac" thing. Doing some digging, I learned that Macs are good not only for graphic design stuff, but graphic design that moves - video editing. Of course.

Push that resistance down another notch.

A friendly coworker, a MacBook person himself, took me the next step. I mean, of course he's MacBook friendly - he teaches graphic design at a high school, so he fits "graphic design" and "student" (or in his case, "teacher"). He happened to have his MacBook with him when I pestered him with various Mac questions. He ran out to his car, grabbed it, and showed me his MacBook.

Since he's pretty fluent with basic IT, I paid some attention.

Another notch down.

Price always got me on these things though, literally 3x or 4x the price of a PC. I couldn't fathom spending $1500 or so on a laptop.

The co-worker told me all the different ways his students get their Macs for less than retail. EBay... I'd do bike wheels or car rims, but not a computer. Used locally... people want more than a new machine for their beat up old ones. Or, if I really wanted to get a machine from Apple directly (yes), with a warranty (yes), I could go...

To the Apple Refurb Store.

Well now.

I'm a big fan of refurb PCs, having bought 3 of the last 4 of my own PCs that way, and pointing a few other PC buyers the same direction. I usually use the savings to slap in a bunch of RAM, a nice video card, and presto! Decent game machine!

I'm not afraid of refurb. I've heard great things about Apple's customer service. So I took the leap of faith and ordered one.

Oh, I forgot, I also had to work this whole thing out with the missus. She contemplated it for a while and gave it an okay. I mean, heck, I'm still riding my bike and planning on racing, and I'm not 100% recovered from my crash yet. She's never said a peep about that; it's not like she doesn't understand me.

Anyway, that's when I ordered one.

When I got done going through the ordering process (this just a few days ago), the screen said I should expect it in 5 or 6 business days. Good. I had a bit of time to goof off doing other projects, do whatever, you know. We had other things to do, my sis-in-law will be coming up at the end of the week, my bro, the nephews, and my dad the following day, and all sorts of stuff like that. I could use the week or so break before I got involved with this new... thing.

The day after I placed the order, the UPS guy came into work. Let me repeat that. The day after I placed the order, the UPS guy came into work.

To be precise, it was about 23 hours after I placed the order.

"Hey, this is for you," he said, holding out a suspiciously familiar shaped box, slightly smaller than the ones I've seen before.

I stared at it, a bit incomprehensibly.

"What, you didn't order this?" he asked.

I cracked a bit smile when I realized what it was. I started looking around the box for an identifying label or icon.

"What is it?"

"It's my new laptop." I looked up at him. "It's a MAC!"

He looked at the box, looked at me. Obviously he didn't care if it was a Mac or not.

"What are you waiting for? Open it!"

Since I happened to be unpacking a (tractor trailer) truck's worth of bins and such, I had everything necessary to open this quaint little box. Zip-zip, tape cut, popped open the lid.

A silver colored (no, aluminum colored) laptop sat there, hidden by a box. We both peered inside.


It's like we'd never seen a computer before.

I closed the box. We looked up at each other.

"Have a good day!"

And the UPS guy left.

Grinning, I put the box by the counter. A couple hours later the missus dropped by and picked up the box. She wanted to check it out at work. She powered it on but once the registration stuff started, she shut down. She figured that I'd want to do all that.

So... I will. While I do some laundry and other stuff, I'll be setting up the new MacBook.


Friday, October 02, 2009

Interbike 2009 - Power - Speedplay/MetriGear

Before Interbike 2009 I specifically thought about checking out these mysterious powermeter pedals based on the Speedplay pedals.

Well, with the help of the Speedplay folks (a grin and "Yeah, they're over there"), I found them, way over in the smaller booths.

The first thing I learned is that they're not "the Speedplay powermeter pedals", the pedals are actually called the Vector, and the company developing them is MetriGear.

One of the important MetriGear guys shows an Interbike attendee the pedals.

They had a pair of pedals mounted to a stationary crank thing. You could step on them and watch the lines wiggle. It reminded me of the earthquake display at the Museum of Natural History in New York I saw when visiting there a while back. After jumping up and down on it with a friend, we convinced some amused (foreign) spectators to help us get the needle really going.

The four of us jumped and laughed. It worked, and we all walked away knowing we got the lines waaaay up there.

Anyway, after the NYC thing, getting on the MetriGear pedal thing seemed, well, unnecessary. I believe it worked so I didn't need to step on them.

The backside of the crank, with the battery pack.

The whole system (both sides) weighs less than 50 grams, without the pedals. Using the accelerometers the system measures cadence as well, without using any sensor to transmit said data.

Pedal, force sensor, wireless system, antenna and battery pack

One side talks to another, and that other side then talks to any Ant+ Sport head unit. That means you can use it with the new Joules, SRM, Garmin, Qollector, and so on and so forth. Right now there are no head units that display separate power for the two sides, but that would be a possibility for the future.

A pretty picture of the pedal

The system is accurate within a claimed +/- 1.5%. That's a lower number than the other power units. I can't verify the accuracy of that number, but I'm sure that someone will eventually test them all, if they aren't already doing it now.

How it started

They want to get the pedals out the first quarter of 2010, with a retail price of $1000 for a pair, including the pedals.

This is great if you already use Speedplays.

If you don't?

I asked if the system could be used in other hollow axle pedals, and although the answer wasn't necessarily "No", it wasn't "Yes" either. I figure they want to get the Speedplay system off the ground before they go some other pedals.

As a non-Speedplay person, I won't be using them any time soon, but I think that having pedal based, independent side power meters will be very interesting. You can work on separate sides, you end up with more power readings than a crank or wheel based powermeter, and you can move them from bike to bike pretty easily.

In fact, you could take your whole powermeter set up (power measuring device, head unit) your carry-on or even in your coat pocket.

It may not be what you want (my "ride" in Las Vegas seemed pretty pitiful when I reviewed a short clip I took from the bike), but it'll keep you honest.