Monday, December 27, 2010

Tsunami - 2.0 Ultrasound

As you probably know I've put in my order for my second Tsunami frame from Tsunami Bikes. I've come to refer to the frame as "Tsunami 2.0" so that's what it is. Recently I had some developments on the frame so of course I have to let you all know about them.

First, although I hinted that I was thinking about this frameset long and hard, I wanted to give you an idea of what that means to me.


Rough sketches.

Some really rough sketches. I was fiddling around with cable routing.
This was during the summer of 2010. Note the bottom of the downtube.

More rough sketches, this on the way to Interbike (fall 2010).
The notes include thinner seat stays ("aero" works), lighter top tube, aero downtube, attempt to use only a CamelBak in races, and a possible aero seat tube.

The main issues for me had to do with cable routing. I wanted internal cables to keep things clean and to keep the cables, well, aero.

Brakes, they're pretty straightforward. I knew how to do the top tube so I felt set with the rear brake. The front brake, well, that's kind of set too because either I buy a new brake caliper or I route the cable the same way. Since I won't buy a new caliper just yet, it's just a regular set up.

That leaves the derailleur cables.


I knew that I'd have some exit room at the bottom of the downtube (see sketches above). The opening at BB end of the downtube would be perfect for directing the bare cables into the under-BB cable guides.

The problem was how to get the cables in there.

After fruitless sketches (unaided by the fact that I couldn't just machine a part and mail it to Joseph to weld in), I gave up. I asked Joseph (Wells, the guy behind Tsunami Bikes) how to get bare cables inside the downtube. He replied he had a way.

I decided that "the way" would be "my way".

When I got over that hurdle, I placed the order for my frame.

The other day I checked my email and found one from Joseph. He'd attached a picture of the frame in progress. He did this for me before, and once again I got to see the frame before it was even welded up.

This is a really cool part of buying a Tsunami Bike - you get to see it as it gets built. It's your frame, not just any frame, and you get to see it from start to finish.

With the tubes cut and tacked together, the frame already looks like a frame. All my race bike philosophies become plain to see here, open to anyone and everyone to examine and then copy or reject it. It's not really like Formula One where the aerodynamic intricacies stay hidden from view. In F1 you can pick out the large pieces, the outside ones, but not the way a lot of the internal channels work; a lot of stuff remains a mystery.

In bike racing, at least with aluminum frames, what you see is what you get.

What I am getting, sort of.
Obviously an aero road frame concept.

I'd said in an earlier post that I'm looking to make some changes to the bike. Along with the sketches I made (and that Joseph never saw or even heard of), you can see how this frame took shape.

The most obvious thing, to me anyway, is the aero seat tube. It's got to be aero because it's so long, and I certainly am not going to be sporting a 54.2 mm seat post. The cut out in front of the rear wheel area gives it away. You can see just how much the rear tire will intrude into the seat tube area. Note that the tire will clear the tube by only a little bit, perhaps half a centimeter.

Chainstay length?

390 mm.

Oh yeah!

The frame bears some Sharpie marks where Joseph will put some housing guides. You can see the downtube is "aero", although, to be honest, it doesn't look much more aero than my downtube right now. It's okay, I figure it will psych me up to look down while I'm riding and not see it.


The seat stays look much longer too, another oval profile tube.

Now one thing that I denied planning, and my sketches back this up, is that I'd have an integrated seatpost (ISP), one of those seat tubes that extend upwards and replace much of the seat post. The problem with them is that you can't really adjust much once you've cut, and it's also much more difficult to pack a bike when the seat tube sticks up really far.

Therefore I decide not to get an ISP.

That was the plan.

Joseph asked how the frame looked because I could request changes at this point. I replied that I liked it. He then asked if I wanted him to cut down the seat tube or if I'd want to have it end so I'd have about, oh, perhaps an inch of my seatpost exposed.

Of course, now that I had the option of an ISP, I decided to think about it. I've been debating whether or not I should buy a super aero seat post and adjusting the frame to fit its aero height. That would involve precisely measuring where the round bit turns aero and exactly now much post I'd need. Since in all my travels I have yet to find a zero setback aero top 27.2 mm seat post, I decided against the aero post for now. If I find one then my next frame may have a regular seat tube height designed to have a particular post sitting so that its profile narrows as soon as it juts above the seat tube.

Anyway, with the thoughts of an ISP frame dancing around in my head, I went downstairs to measure my current Tsunami. Trusty tape measure in hand, I measured from the bottom bracket (center of the shell) to the point about an inch below the top of the usable bit of seat post.

580 mm.

(Okay, go ahead, laugh. Continue reading when you're done.)

I also measured my bike bag to see what 58 cm of seat tube would look like sticking up from the BB clamp thing built into the bike bag.

Not bad.

In fact, if you think about it (and I did, then measured to verify), a 700c wheel is a bit taller than 580 mm. The bead diameter is 622 mm, so it's maybe 80 mm taller overall when you include the tire. Figuring in the BB mount's height, the top of the tires should be about even with the top of the seat tube.

I ran upstairs and told Joseph to cut the seat tube at 580 mm.

Okay, I didn't do it that quickly. I thought about how I'd mount a blinkie light back there. I'm still not sure, but it'd involve using the very top of the post, the one inch exposed bit.

I thought about holding a little seat bag for a couple tubes, multi tool, levers, and some money. I decided that I need to "smallify" the bag I have now and do with just a little tighter packaging.

Finally I thought a potential camera mount back there for a potential rearward facing camera. I decided that I didn't have an idea on what to do. That means that for now I still need to think about how to mount a potential rear-facing cam.

I can deal with those problems when they come up.

But for now, it is what it is. I can't wait.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Racing - 2010 Stats, 2011 Outline

For whatever reason I have my SRM set so that a season starts on October 1. It would make sense that the season therefore ends September 30th. I'm not sure why I left it like that other than maybe I got the bike (with the SRM on it) at about that time.

Whatever, the fact that the 2010 season ended "officially" for me means I could check out what I did. It helps that my SRM is working again so it kind of motivated me to look at my past performances. For me that means looking at the big picture stuff. I'm less concerned about exactly what I did on a particular day. I'm more interested in the workload I did during different parts of the year. This is most important when looking at races where I felt particularly good or strong. In order to try and replicate those good days, I need to look at what I did in the prior two or three months, week by week, and see how that differs from other two or three month periods.

Okay, I really need to look at the prior two weeks (a "tactical" period) as well as the prior six or eight months (a "strategic" period). My overall fitness gets decided by my training for the past half year or more, but my freshness on a given day usually gets determined by the amount of rest, the type of diet, and the training I do in the prior week or so.

Remember that training breaks your body down. You don't get stronger by training, you get weaker. If you got stronger by training, you'd feel better the day after a 6 hour ride, and you'd feel great after a dozen consecutive 6 hour rides.

Unless you're a freak of nature, that's not the case.

If you're anything like me then you feel like a waste product the day after a 6 hour ride. If you did a dozen consecutive 6 hour rides, you'd barely be able to get out of bed. I couldn't tell you because I've never done anything like that.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out that training isn't where you make your gains.

Resting is where you gain your strength. Resting rebuilds your body, refuels, refits, revitalizes, renews - all those Re-Re-Re things. It gives your body time to adapt to the stresses it's just seen, the 6 hour rides, the 10 intervals, even the jog from your car to the registration table. Rest is where you build your strength.

Therefore the resting prior to a good day is key ("resting" doesn't necessarily mean resting the day before, it just means the rest you get in general).

The goal for anyone seeking to peak on a given day is to carefully break down the body by training as hard as possible while still giving it enough time to recover in time for the Big Day. You have strategic plans, big picture type schedules, and you have tactical plans, the day by day small picture schedules.

For me it's pretty straightforward. For all Big Days, I need to take it easy the day before, do maybe an hour or so. If I've been riding a lot, 4 or 5 days a week or more, I need to do a similar ride two days prior, with a day off the bike three days prior. The easy ride helps loosen the legs, else I feel like I'm pedaling with Pinocchio legs.

If I don't have a lot of miles on my legs then I don't ride at all two and three days prior. I don't need a couple days to get back into it. The only exception is if I've taken more than a few days off, due to illness or real life things. For example I had to take over a week off just now due to illness. It took three rides before my legs felt anywhere near resilient - the first two days were horrible.

For the big picture it's also pretty straightforward. I have a couple season goals each year, and they don't change very much. In fact they haven't changed for 15 or more years. Those goals then determine my overall schedule.

1. Go hard January. Go hard part of February. End one big ("macro" as coined by Lemond and I think Paul Koechli) cycle. This is my big build phase where I get my base miles in. I try and do some long hours here, even in a short-hour year. I've done over 30 hours in a single week while averaging about 10 hours during most of the other weeks. I hope this year to hit that 30 hour mark one week, and I think that 10 hours in the other weeks is a bit much for me. We'll see how that affects the rest of my season.

2. Finalize promotional prep for Bethel Spring Series. Race March and first half April, focus on recovery and not getting sick. I typically train only 2-3 hours a week during Bethel so I basically build reserves the whole time. End second big cycle. Take second half of April easy.

3. May, June, part of July, go hard. Take a week or so easy before Nutmeg State games (CT Crit Champs). With group rides, Tuesdays at the Rent, I did consistent 2 hour daily rides in 2010, a lot for me. I hope to repeat this at some level in 2011. This ends my third big cycle.

4. July, August, September, go hard until the end of the season. I have no particular goals so I use whatever form I have to do whatever I can do. At the end of that I ease for the year, so it's my last big cycle of training. I'll do Pedal4Paws, a charity ride to benefit Forgotten Felines in Connecticut,

In 2010 I accomplished something along those lines. In some raw numbers I did the following:

- Rode 293 hours
- 4913 miles
- 30 races

The first number is high for me, especially considering that I lost a lot of days towards the end of the season due to logging things incorrectly (SRM wasn't charged, no magnet, couldn't find SRM, etc - all errors on the part of the nut that holds the handlebars, i.e. the rider). In prior "working" years where I had a job, 150 hours for the year seemed like a lot. 450 hours for the year I didn't work was a lot - I actually got tired of riding - and I raced worse than I did on shorter hour years.

The second number is kind of just interesting. Miles don't mean anything, really. I didn't know that when I "tried to be a pro" so I tried to pile on miles, even riding up and down my street to round out a ride's mileage. I managed to do 10,000 miles that year and finished one race. I believe I DNFed 44 races.

30 races - that's 30 entries, with dual entries on a few of the Bethels. I think I had 27 race days overall. Not bad, all considering. I thought I raced tons, and to me tons means 40 or 50 races. My record year was 55 races or so, and I was a racing lunatic. So 30 races is a lot, just not at a lunatic level.

The fact that the Missus was at virtually every race (once her work season ended) is pretty incredible.

I'm a bit worried for 2011. I probably need to train more, especially since I struggle once a race hits the 60 minute point.

Well, okay, the 35 minute point.

Doing a 25 mile crit is fine. Doing a 40 or 50 mile one... I haven't done that much crit racing in a single race ever. For me that's a 2 hour flat road race, not a crit.

When I thought about upgrading many years ago, a Cat 2 told me that I'd have to double my training miles. He'd had to go from doing 200-250 miles a week to 400-500 miles a week, and he told us so.

My then girlfriend laughed and asked if that meant I had to train 90 miles a week instead of 45. The puzzled Cat 2 had a look of concern on his face. She explained that I'd usually train about 45 miles in a week. Since the Cat 2 had just taken me across three lanes of pavement in the last 200 meters of the race to beat me, he must have figured I trained more than his easy day mileage.

(That day he technically beat me but was disqualified for his swerve from one edge of Limerock's main straight to another. I feel that even if he hadn't panicked and made his drastic move he'd still have won the sprint, but the officials didn't like his 30 foot wide swerve.)

Whatever, his reaction to my mileage was worth a chuckle.

(To give that same rider props, he attacked at New Britain in the 1-2-3 race, with me on his wheel. We both almost went off the road in Turn 1, a long, gentle sweeper. We had to ease hard and brake. Then we looked at each other to make sure the other guy had to do the same thing - we started laughing when we realized that we'd each done the same thing. We'd entered the turn at 42 mph after attacking out of the field, pedaling furiously, and couldn't lean hard enough to make the turn. I've never had to brake to stay on the road in that turn, before or since.)

I do have one thing going for me as far as miles go.

What my then-girlfriend didn't mention is that I did some mad hours (or miles) on the bike in the winter, building a base, breaking down my body. I still do this, albeit a bit more focused. I cram a winter of training into about four weeks, maybe five, doing long trainer sessions and my now-regular SoCal training camp.

Then, in the spring and summer, to allow my body to be as strong as possible, I'd do weekly micro-cycles, riding hard just on Monday or Tuesday. Then I'd rest ("double secret training") until Saturday, doing a short 20 or 30 minute spin to loosen the legs. I'd feel great on Sunday, race day.

After four or five weeks of this I'd be way behind in fitness because I'd only ridden 300 miles or so. This would force me into doing a hard week, maybe 250 miles, recover while doing another 150-200 miles the next week, and start my distorted macro-cycle again.

For 2011 this last bit won't work.

I'll need to be constantly building my form to remain even slightly competitive in the Cat 2s, and when I say "slightly competitive", I mean I just want to finish a race. I figure I'll be okay in the races that truly suit me, the ones that force those at the front to work extra hard compared to those sitting in. They include races like Bethel, New Britain, even Ninigret and Keith Berger. It's the races where it's harder to sit in where I'll be in dire straights - Red Trolley in San Diego, New London, maybe Fall River.

If I ride a full season as a 2, it'll be interesting what those stats read at the end of the 2011 season.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Training - Back On The Bike

So... it's the middle of December again, and once again I'm finding myself thinking about next year. It seems like just the other month that I was suffering in the heat at Somerville or Harlem or one of the Renlentless Rents.

Like usual I've been musing equipment because, frankly, I do that whenever I ease back on the riding. As soon as my brain haze clears from race sufferage, I start thinking, "You know, if I had an aero gizmoid, I could probably save a heart beat or two at speed, and that would make it just a bit easier to hang in at the races. Hm."

I've taken the step of ordering my new aero-style frame. I'll be mounting the right size tire to optimize the aerodynamics of the Stinger6 wheels. I'll have some other things I want to try, all in the quest to reduce the power necessary to hang in at the higher speeds of a Cat 2 race.

I'm also in the process of refitting my current equipment, important since I'll hang a lot of those parts on the new frame. I read about "refitting" a lot in my military history books, where a division is sent back away from the frontlines in order to "rest and refit". The books mention stuff like half of the tanks in one of the biggest tank attacks in World War 1 were "casualtied" because they simply broke down.

Even in World War 2 there was a lot of attrition, basically from overworked engines and drivetrains failing from abuse. The infamous Tiger tanks, 60 ton behemoths that were semi-mobile bunkers, were powered by gasoline engines so tuned to the edge that when you got under way the exhaust pipes bellowed out three foot bursts of flame. Think drag racing or rally racers, with foot long flames shooting out of the exhaust. Now imagine that kind of tune in a Mack truck.

(In night movement that would light up a nice 50 meter radius area - making the whole "doesn't smoke like a diesel of the era and is therefore more discrete" reason for using gas engines a bit ludicrous.)

Those giant tanks would churn through engines, drive wheels, and tracks like you wouldn't believe. They required frequent air filter changes (every couple hundred miles), huge amounts of fuel (a hundred miles or so took something like 200 gallons - and you thought your SUV got bad mileage), and constant maintenance on a slew of batteries (I think there were 28 of them but I may be wrong). Engines had to be overhauled, filters and track and other expendables checked and replaced regularly, and guns sighted and cleaned and barrel exchanges kept up.

And that's before you even got shot at by the other guys.

Likewise, racers (and just regular riders) wear down bikes over the course of a season. That pristine bike in the early season, with its crisp shifting, the sticky and undefiled tires, the perfect paint, the beautiful tape...

The chainring teeth get a bit rounded, the chain rollers wear down, the cassette cogs get thin and shark-fin shaped. All this makes the shifting sloppy, gives the drivetrain room for a bit of play whenever you press on the pedals.

The tires develop a flat plane across the top of the back tire. If you rotate the tires then both tires start developing this flat plane in the tread. Any color in the tire loses its pureness, getting gray and black and dirty. Little nicks and cuts appear everywhere.

The paint, oh the paint. The chain slap will take care of even the most carefully armored chainstay paint, and heaven forbid you drop a chain off the cranks - the bottom bracket shell will never forgive you. Minor adjustments of the front derailleur, cable housing rub, even the constant rubbing of a muscular calf or thigh will damage the paint.

And of course, the tape. My tape is in shambles, the gel (but not adhesive) backed "carbon" tape a sad failure in my eyes. The stuff gets slippery when damp, it moves around under pressure (apparently I grip the bars hard when I sprint), and, well, let's say I wasn't impressed with it. Even good tape, like the Cinelli wrap, will compress over time, even if it doesn't move. If it's anything other than black then the tape will also get darker, grayer, the grease and grit and road stuff embedding itself deeper and deeper into the unwashable tape.

For me there's one more thing other than the standard stuff - the SRM cranks and head units. Batteries wear out, grit accumulates on the BB30 bearings, and everything gets dirty. The stuff needs to get worked over nicely, refreshed.

So this is my "refitment" period, my retreat from the front lines to refresh my equipment.

And that's what I did with the SRM crank over the course of a couple "sessions". My initial attempt at SRM battery replacement failed miserably, the power reading failing within a few days. I didn't think things through and got too nervous about stuff. I took the crank off, made sure nothing had melted or short circuited, and rode around with just the regular crank spider on. No power, no cadence, just speed.

When I went and fixed spider the first time I tried to keep the battery facing the same way as before. But it didn't make sense - the (+) and (-) wires crossed each other. This time I snipped off some unnecessary mounts from the battery body, flipped it upside down, and cleaned up the wire routes.

Presto, bingo, things were much smoother, much neater, and they worked.

Much neater than before.
(I looked for a "before" picture but it must have been bad - I didn't take one.)

I covered the positive joint (red wire to battery) with some liquid electrical tape, literally a small dab spread around with a cut off zip tie. I decided to leave the convoluted negative side alone but in the future I'll bend the battery terminal to fit under the screw. No soldering needed for that side if I do that, just the positive side. Well, I do have to heat up the solder to release the old battery, but I should be able to install the new battery's negative side with no heat involved.

I also used a volt meter to check the battery and the circuit board where the wires attached (since they both came unattached at some point). They matched pretty well, the 0.001 number flickering up and down just one digit.

About to seal it up.

The black round thing in front is the lockring tool for the lockring that holds the arm to the spider. Red can in back is liquid electrical tape. Zip tie was used to spread said liquid electrical tape. All this "fine motor skill work" was inspired by my friend SOC's fine motor skill work. Incidentally, speaking of fine motor skills, I picked up a lot of my childhood plastic models and such, including some Tiger tanks, hence my current Tiger tank thought process. Not that I don't read my war books all the time. Anyway...

After letting the liquid electrical tape dry for a few days, I checked the voltage again. The same readings. This was a good sign. I took the right crank off my bike (only a couple minutes work), removed the spider, installed the SRM spider, and put things back on.

It seems to work. And I feel much more confident about the soldering under the white plastic cover.

I didn't do a calibration but did a "gut test" by taking a short spin on the trainer. The numbers were depressingly low. It took a lot of effort to get them over the 200 watt threshold. It stabilized, pedaling kind of hard, at about 270 watts.

In other words it seemed normal.

Tonight, after letting the crank settle for a few minutes, I decided to do a 20 minute test. I had to have some number to think about, to focus on. I haven't prepared for a 20 minute test - no emphasis on carbs, no coffee before the ride, no mental buildup, nothing. I just got on the bike, pedaled for a bit, saw the power seemed right, and decided, look, I gotta do it.

Plus a low starting point is always good. It's hard to improve on the best day of your life. But a poor day... there's tons of potential.

I tried to use music to motivate but found my brain wandering after just 60 seconds. This is about 120 seconds less than normal. So I popped in a DVD I made of helmet cam clips, cranked the volume, and used music, visuals, and emotions to push myself.

20 minutes later, two clips into the DVD, I eased off, exhausted.

I started out thinking I was stronger than 2009, and in February (?) 2009 I did 268 watts (or something like that) for 20 minutes. Since I'm better now than I was then, I decided to try and hold 275 to 280 watts, let myself suffer down to 255 watts or so, then use my natural sprinter surge in the last minute or two to push back up to whatever I could push.

I thought 268 watts might be difficult but attainable.

I got into a rhythm and eased into the effort. My legs started loading up right away, the sign of a less-than-carb-rich diet. I haven't been starving myself but I have been focusing a bit more on protein and fiber. I'm not having pasta and rice regularly, in other words.

I got into the hurt mode, feeling the muscles work, feeling the different muscles fire at different spots in the pedal stroke. The big ring worked well but I eased a bit to try and keep some speed in my pedaling.

I checked after a few minutes.

220 watts.


I did a self-check. My legs were suffering. I was definitely sweating. My lungs weren't hurting but they rarely do. I was breathing awfully consistently, pretty hard. I had no heartrate belt so I didn't have that, but it felt like I was going pretty hard.

I pushed a bit, trying to get the power back into the mid-200s. It seemed so hard, the faster cadence just did not want to come to my legs. I eased the gear to spin up a bit, then geared up to get the wattage back up.

My legs protested.

I tried to think about the emotions and excitement of the races I had on the TV screen, of the immense reservoir of power I felt.

My legs still protested.

I drove hard, pushing, risking overcooking it, risking blowing up before the finish.

250 watts.

Ultimately I had a bit at the end, and, after riding an extra ten seconds (the longest ten seconds ever, every single time), I eased. I hate it when I do a 20 minute test and it's really 19:54 because I eased too early.

I cooled down, collected all the empty bottles, and headed up to the computer. The SRM downloaded fine. I checked the data. First off my extra 10 seconds of effort got me to 20:00. If I hadn't done it, I'd have lost 10 seconds of power.

With that in mind...

20 minute max average power: 218 watts.

That is terrible.

That's 105% of your FTP, give or take, which makes me a 207 watt kind of guy.

That is terrible.

I happen to know that I was at 73.2 kg this morning, not bad, not good, kind of where I've been for a while.

And that makes me a 2.9w/kg racer.

That puts me smack dab in the middle of the Cat 5 racers on the power chart, and at the very bottom of the Cat 4s.

That would be great if I was a Cat 5, but I'm not, unfortunately. This is crazy terrible.

Now, granted, I didn't do anything to prepare for this 20 minute test. I didn't eat properly - snacked on trail mix all day, ate a NOW bar for dinner while I warmed up, then rode the 20 minute thing. I didn't have a lot of consistent riding in - it's been late night riding, not very hard, and sporadic at best.

I've also just gotten over a big cold that flattened me for about five days. Even Sunday I was feeling really off. Today was okay but I felt exhausted at the end of the day.

But I did the 20. I got my number. It's a low one, yes. It's a good starting point. Anything will be an improvement. I'll see gains even in a short period of time.

My morale will go up.

Because... it has to.

I scheduled my SoCal training trip already. I hope to do three Palomar rides, Red Trolley (the crit), and get some quality time on the bike. I want to have some legs when I get there - to fly a few thousand miles to get shelled in a lap, that just wouldn't do.

Although I know I held on fine in the 3s, I can tell you that the fast guys there, the 2s and the Masters, absolutely haul.

This year I have to race with them.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Bethel Spring Series - 2011 Thoughts

We officially got word from the town that the race series is a go for 2011. For those keeping track, the official dates will be:

March 6, 13, 20, 27
April 3, 10

You'll note that there are no breaks in the schedule - it's every Sunday for six weeks. Easter, it seems falls much later than normal in 2011 - April 24th to be exact, two weeks after the last schedule Series race.

Just like any optimization process, the basic formula won't change. But some ideas have crossed my mind. So, for 2011, let me put some ideas out there. I'd like to get feedback (if you want to send it privately then email the address found at the bottom of this page - the link by my name).

Remember, these are ideas. They are not official.

First off, I'm trying to think of a way to do a clinic for the Cat 5s. I'd like to run the first race as a non-points race, with downloadable lessons (on the Carpe Diem Racing site). The riders would focus on certain tactical ideas each week, with perhaps four or five total lessons planned. I'm assuming that one week of racing will be called off due to ice, and I'd like to have one race be a real race. Sort of a final exam if you will.

The clinic would be open to anyone interested but the race itself would be open just to Cat 5s.
Cat 4-5?

This means that the second Cat 5 race would be the actual race. With a field limit of 50 it'll be tight. I was thinking of how to make it a Cat 4-5 race while severely discouraging the Cat 4s from registering - this would allow 75 riders on the course at the same time.
No Overall For Cat 5s?
Last year I watched some very good racers fight it out for the Cat 5s overall. I am convinced that they'd have been better served racing in the 4s or even the 3-4s. It's hard to request an upgrade though when you're in a strong position for an overall prize, i.e. the overall Series.

In order to both discourage Cat 4s from entering the possible 4-5 race as well as encourage the strong Cat 5s to upgrade to Cat 4, I'm seriously considering eliminating the overall aspect of the Cat 5 (or Cat 4-5) race. In other words each race would stand on its own, and there would be no overall Leader's Jersey, no overall trophy. This should give the strongest riders the excuse to upgrade while giving the truly new racers an opportunity to get a few sub-light speed races under their belt.

Longer P-1-2-3 races?

I know that there are a few Cat 2s and higher racers who don't do the Series because the races are, frankly, too short. In March and April the Cat 1s and 2s are looking to do 4 or 5 hours at a time, not dinky hour plus crits. Although we can't offer a 5 hour Bethel race (that would be epic, yes), we could extend the final race of the day. Instead of 31 miles I'm thinking of doing something long, at least for a Bethel - 45 laps or so, about 40 miles.

The problem is that there'd be more lapped racers, and we may have to pull some totally-out-of-contention racers. Lapped groups would sprint early to clear the roads for the lead group. And we'd all have to hang out a bit longer. But combined with a loop in the area, riders could get about 1.5 hours race time plus another couple hours doing a loop in the area. If that's enough to pull back a few riders, we'd do it.

No Juniors

With a pretty low showing of Juniors, it may be time to put the race on the shelf. The trophies, jerseys, and separate numbers end up almost wasted. We run the race with the Masters to save time, but frankly I don't see the value of the race. The Juniors typically end up better off in the categorized races.
Still Thinking About
One big change for 2011 has nothing to do with the race but everything to do with registering for it - USA Cycling will start doing online registration. This competes directly with a local organization that has served us extremely well,

USA Cycling's full integration appeals to me since I spend a lot of draggy time finalizing results so I can send USAC the right format file.

However, I feel the need to support BikeReg. Without them the race would not have become what it is now.

Another Thinking About

I'm trying to decide on the registration fees for 2011. The pre-reg will probably increase a bit and the prize structure may change. The race is existing in a deficit state so something needs to change. In the past it wasn't a big deal because my "real job" could absorb any losses. Now not so much.

I don't want to increase day of race; it's where I think it's comfortable and realistic. The pre-reg is a bit low, with a net of $8 (after the insurance surcharge is taken out) per rider in some cases.

Unfortunately at the same time I want more people to get prize money, which means that the winners would get less but the lower placing racers would then get something. The races tend to favor those that race well in this part of the season (like myself). Those riders have a good chance of winning something every week. I'd like to extend the prizes down a bit so that the riders just below the cusp can also partake.

I may make a change on the way we have sponsors. In the recent past (at least a few years) the race has taken essentially no cash in from any sponsor. For 2011 this may change.

No Changes For...

For other things we don't have any changes lined up. Masters will remain Masters 45+. Cat 5s will only be allowed in the first race of the day, not in Masters (and if we keep the Juniors, not in Juniors). The Women's race will continue on as a separate entity, and it will stay open to all categories, Cat 1-4.

Verge Sport has come up to the line once again to supply us with the Leader's Jerseys. They've been a great support over the years, even coming in person and supporting the race by sweeping, marshaling, and racing, all when I used other companies for jerseys. They're truly a racer's company - they love and support their sport. And they have great quality stuff - when my team couldn't get team knickers, I went and bought some generic black ones through Verge.

And of course we plan on having Navone Studios house our registration as well as serve up hot coffee, some eats, and various drinks and bars. Frank and his crew are all racers, all passionate about cycling. In case you didn't see the post from last year, their studio is a tribute to the cycling world.


My temporary parking spot on blogspot is kind of gone. I have to figure out how to put up some pages for the races, including, I hope, a mobile version for those who are looking for info from their phone. As a new smartphone owner, I realized just how useful the mobile sites are, as compared to the normal ones.

Of course as things progress with the races I'll update everyone. Hopefully on a newly written, newly designed site!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Tsunami - Preliminary 2.0 Thoughts & Ideas

As soon as I got my first Tsunami I threatened to get a second. The frame fit so well that I couldn't possibly go back to a 5 or 6 cm shorter setup. I always want to have a second bike in case something happens to the first. But life intruded and the whole season went by without a second Tsunami in the quiver.

Okay, to be frank, I bought 3 pairs of HED wheels - that's what intruded. My resources were stretched a bit with that.

Now, with things calming down a bit, I freed up some resources so I could go ahead and get that second frame.

When I ordered my first Tsunami, I knew that I'd want to make changes after I'd ridden it for a bit. I couldn't define the changes, nor could I define how much I'd ride the frame. Within a couple months I'd homed in on some tweaks I'd want to try on a second one.

The overall on the first Tsunami:
- Excellent length and saddle-bar drop.
- Excellent and predictable handling up front, as long as I kept the headset adjusted.
- Rear wheel seems unweighted in fast sweeping turns; requires a shorter stay.
- Rider incapable of exceeded 42 mph in a flat sprint; requires faster rider.

Reviewing the list above, it's apparent that I don't need to fix the fit. It's also apparent the front end is fine (head tube angle + fork rake).

It's also apparent that my forward weighted fit resulted in a little too little weight on the rear wheel. I made up for it by sitting further back on the saddle, but that then unweighted the front wheel. My natural tendency is to really dig in with the front wheel when diving into a turn. The rear wheel follows naturally.

The problem with my stretch limo top tube is that if I really bore down on the bars diving into a turn, the rear wheel was out in la-la land, unweighted, uncared-for, and totally unsupervised. It therefore took a life of it's own, skipping and dancing where ever it wanted.

Okay, it wasn't that bad, but I figured that I needed about 10mm less chainstay because I was sliding backwards on the saddle about 10mm from center. 10mm is about the most we could shorten the chainstay because I hadn't seen a stay less than 395mm long in forever (405mm is normal), and the last frame I saw that had a shorter stay was my own Basso. And that thing was short.

And while I was thinking that, I was secretly thinking about a radical solution that would allow me to get 385 or 390mm stays, perhaps by doing a double seat tube like the old radical crit bikes whose name escapes me once again. They had two seat stays going up from a stub seat tube (enough to hold the front derailleur I think) up to another stub seat tube (to hold the seat post). The twin stays allowed the rear wheel to scoot up a lot, resulting in ridiculously short chainstays to the tune of 370mm or 380mm. I sketched a bunch of these frames over the summer but ultimately decided against it, for reasons explained below.

The max speed of the bike... yeah, this really bothered me. I used to think 42 mph was a bad sprint for me, a ho-hum-haven't-warmed-up-yet sprint. But since the turn of the century (heh) I don't remember going faster than 41 mph in a sprint, and that was when I first got 175 cranks for the road bike.

Although kicking and fighting all the way, I've finally decided that my lack of speed is due to an overabundance of age.

Yeah, I got old.

So, to follow the theories I had as a kid ("old guys have real jobs and have nice bikes but ride slow; young guys have no job, no money, crappy bikes, but ride fast"), I decided to throw some money at the problem. Well, money and theory.

A little while ago I got into a somewhat heated discussion over aero road frames, meaning aero frames for mass start races. I vacillate between being a huge fan and a huge skeptic. I think all pros should be riding aero frames because at their level every bit counts.

At the same time I can see how that "bit" may not be enough to matter. Would it matter if McEwen road an aero road bike in the mountain stages of the Tour? Probably not. However, watching him lose over and over to Petacchi at the Giro (2007), should he have used aero wheels instead of box section ones? Probably.

So the one takeaway I had from the aero frame discussion was... okay, there were two. First, a very experienced wind tunnel engineer pointed out that an aero frame, at sprint speeds, is worth maybe 0.5 kph or about 0.3 mph. It could be as high as 1 kph (0.6 mph) but realistically that's about it.

As he put it, it would be more aero to toss your bottles than to worry about the frame.

The second takeaway was that an aero frame is ALWAYS an aero frame. I could train a lot or a little, eat a lot or a little, put on whatever wheel I felt like, whatever whatever whatever, but the aero frame would always be an aero frame.


That double seat stay arrangement with a tire jutting through it suddenly didn't seem like a good idea. Instead of one tube hitting the wind there, there'd be three (tire and two "seat tube stays"), they'd be wider (by the width of the two stays), and to top it off the tire would be pushing air forward.


I questioned Joseph (he of Tsunami Bikes) about aero tubing. You know, do the whole Cervelo aero frame in aluminum thing. He sent me some pictures of aero tubing and after looking at them, I put them aside so I could percolate ideas.

At Interbike 2010 I saw a lot of stuff and, interestingly enough, not a lot of data on aero road frames. No one was out there saying, "You're gonna kick butt because our frame will give you 1 mph in the sprint!" They weren't saying it because they couldn't. Too many variables. You know, the whole "just chuck your bottles, you'd be better off" thing.

And that got me thinking.

Aero road frames, bare, work pretty well. Even with wheels and components (cables) they work pretty well.

Then you have two enormous cylinders in the middle of the air flow.

Yep, water bottles.

What a disgrace. They used to make aero bottles (I have one somewhere, with a matching cage) but those aren't legal. So you have to use those honkin' big bottles.

Or not.

IB2010 showed me, again, the CamelBak gizmo where the water thing is built into the baselayer. I saw them in 2009 but didn't realize their significance in the mass start aero road world.

See, they would eliminate the honkin' big cylinders.

And suddenly aero tubing looked... promising.

Ideas properly percolated, I checked out the aero tubing shots Joseph sent me. I started sketching ideas on how to work on making the frame more aero.

I looked at shots of the bike, head on, sideways, and realized that I'll be in the worst case scenario. My bike is so small that there's barely anything hitting the wind - heck the head tube isn't even 100mm tall!

But you rarely hit wind head on. It's usually a side thing. And side winds, they like surface area. Sails. You can tack into the wind, i.e. sail a sailboat into a wind. That's how much wind likes surface area.

The aero tubing had surface area.

We decided on an aero downtube (of course), aero seat tube (of course - it's now significant if I have no bottles), and he suggested aero seat stays. Booyah!

Then the kicker. The aero seat tube would need to be cut out for the rear wheel. This meant that I could specify the chainstay length because the tubing no longer limited him. I had asked him about a shorter stay, under 400mm if possible.

He countered with an offer for a 390mm stay.

Well now.

He also sent me pictures of said stay, seat tube, etc in action. Probably because he figured I wouldn't believe him, partially to show me the clearance for rims and tires (they should clear the HEDs), and probably because they look so freakin' cool and he's proud of the frames he built.

And let me tell you, the set up will look so freakin' cool it'll blow your socks away. I have no idea how aero it'll be compared to the first Tsunami, but I can tell you that it should corner much better because of the shorter chainstay. It shouldn't lose much in rigidity.

It will weigh a bit more, and although that's not desirable, I figure I can handle that. I'm hoping to get a lighter fork (the original one sports a 456g fork) and possibly one or two other lighter widgets so the overall weight gain is negligible. Or negative even.

There's one more build detail that I have planned but that'll have to wait for a couple months. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Life - Bone Grafts

I'm typing because I can't do much else. My mouth hurts. Aches really, not a sharp pain, just a dull aching one. I can't smile because it pulls on my gum, and my gum... let me explain.

Today I went to the peridontist. A good guy, really, but I seem to be in pain after I leave there. First they deep cleaned my teeth, below the gum line. This involved literally a dozen shots of numbing stuff (not a dozen full shots - more like a dozen "little bit here, a little bit there" kind of pokes), including the dreaded "roof of the mouth" shot.

This work attempted to enable my jawbone to grow a bit back so it could properly support a bunch of my teeth (five of them). Without bone structure, and we're talking something like 8mm of bone missing, my teeth would be vulnerable. Their roots would be mainly exposed and the teeth would fall out.

I like my teeth and I want to keep them.

So yesterday I went back to the House of Pain and got another bunch of shots. Then, working in a mostly numb area (once they poked, I grunted, and the doc muttered something about, "You're really burning through this anesthesia quickly"), they cut open my gum, cleaned out the degraded bone, put some "calcium attracting substances" in, and sewed it shut.

The calcium attracting substances are pieces of bone. Since I didn't donate any bone, they came from someone else (a dead someone else to be exact).

I wonder if they did a DNA swipe there if they're be two DNA things. That'll be an episode for CSI, take note!

"Hm, according to the DNA the body remains are those of an Asian male and a white (do you say Caucasian?) female. Waitaminute... two DNAs?"

Anyway, it's 10 days before the sutures come out. I hope the ache goes away earlier. I'm on some kind of penicillin so I'm bacteria proof for a bit - now's the time to volunteer at a cat shelter I guess, or use up my "step on a rusty nail" luck.

I'm also taking pain killers (over the counter) and have to gargle with antibiotic mouthwash (I can't brush there and it need to "stay clean").

So all in all it's kind of a, shall we say, "period of postponement" as far as the riding goes. I can ride in a couple days, definitely the weekend, but I figure I won't be in the mood if I can't eat very much.

Maybe I'll lose weight. Yeah. That's the ticket.

I do have some other things to keep me occupied. I'll post about one of them tomorrow, I promise, since I realized that, in email conversation with friends, I hadn't mentioned it in font, only in actual conversations face to face.

Of course my face is a bit glum now. But, look, Cavendish went through this. And he won all those stages in the Tour.

Hopefully this procedure is worth, oh, at least a town line sprint. That I can smile about afterward and have a full mouth of teeth.

Ah life.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Training - Working On Form

Apparently I left out a huge part of my whole trainer routine thing, namely how I work on pedal stroke (and resulting form) on the trainer.

I'll state a few "rules of the road", for lack of a better term, and go from there.

1. Rollers offer the best way to improve form.
2. Trainers offer the best way to improve strength.

Strength and form can be mutually exclusive. You can be strong and have horrible form. You can have excellent form and get beat by a 4 year old.

If you watch my helmet cam clips, you'll see a wide variety of "form". The riders that seem "normal" have good form. This is because most of us watch cycling on TV for some period of time, and that's when we can study other riders most intently. At least that's the case for me - if I'm groveling in the hurt pit trying to hang onto a wheel, I don't notice much about another rider's form. But when I'm watching a helmet cam clip or a race DVD while munching on dinner, weird form pops out right away.

Just like us, commentators may comment on poor form, simply because it's unusual at the top level. Phil Liggett mentioned something while watching one Casino rider in a Liege Bastogne Liege (1996?). The guy's name is Massi and he has his saddle so low that Phil commented that it looked like he was "pedaling with his knees".

Sean Kelly is famous for his low saddle height and crunched up top tube. It almost looks like he's riding a bike that's too small, but it worked for him.

Other poor form riders include Pedro Delgado (watch him bob and weave to the end of time trials and mountain top finish lines) and Tyler Hamilton (he moves his upper body a lot too, although his hips are relatively still).

Some will criticize Greg Lemond for using bigger and bigger gears - he climbed best when turning over enormous gears, looking like he'd almost fall over at the bottom of each pedal stroke. His redeeming quality was that he was otherwise smooth and had one of the more optimized positions on the bike. As another pro described it, he said something about "Greg is Greg" and went on to comment that he's a pro, he's aero, and even when not in shape he's incredibly strong.

However, when you watch amateur racers, especially from a helmet cam, and compare them to the pros, you'll see some things in the amateurs that you never see in the pros.

To work on your pedal stroke you need to have good form. And to have good form... you need to know what makes for good form.

What makes for good form?

Well, there are a few things.


First, power should come from the hips, the glutes and quads and associated muscles. I'm not a physiologist so I don't know the terms, but the pelvic area is the center of the rider. This needs to be stationary, anchored, solid. Even Tyler, with his bobbing and weaving head and shoulders, keeps his hips anchored solidly on the saddle. This is the key to efficient riding. I can't think of one pro that bounces in the saddle. My helmet cam clips are not so picky.


Second, cadence should be "reasonable". New or less experienced or slower learning riders tend to spin too much. Others push too big of a gear. As someone that grew up (in a cycling sense) following the big gear likes of Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault, I tend to push gears rather than spin. Others will follow the faster cadence stylized by Lance.

What's too fast or slow?

Someone told me about some study where they found efficiency drops off dramatically over 105 rpm. This study was linked to a relatively famous-for-his-analysis rider and basically laid the foundation for his faster cadence style.

I do find that my perceived effort is much, much lower at a high cadence, especially when climbing. Of course I also tend to explode doing this since I think, "Hey, this feels great" not realizing that I'm holding an unholdable-for-me 450 watts at 100 rpm.

Too slow... that's debatable, but anything under about 75 rpm will get you some sideways glances. It's natural to let your cadence drop when climbing or when you blow up. I seem to go about 81-83 rpm when I blow up or climb, respectively. I don't know how I got to that number but it must be related to my physiology as well as my training.

So basically if you're pedaling at over 105 rpm (let's say 110 rpm) or under 75 rpm, you're probably doing something either wrong (i.e. unintentionally) or different (i.e. intentionally).

Upper Body

The final aspect of form has to do with upper body stability and... I can't think of the term, but it has to do with being able to absorb unexpected inputs without crashing.

In other words your upper body is relatively stable and is both relaxed and anchored enough that you can brush off relatively significant impacts with no need to brace yourself or change your position.

Now that you've decided you're like a tree in quicksand with rock-like rigid limbs about to snap off in the wind, how can you improve things before next year's races start?

Working on Form


The best way to work on keeping your hips stable is to... keep your hips stable. Now I have to confess something. When I first started riding I had the luxury of having more experienced riders tell me, flat out, what I was doing wrong. And believe me, I was doing a lot of stuff wrong.

One of the first things that someone noted was that I steered with my bars. That seems natural, that you steer with your handlebars, but you're on a bike, not in a car. And on a bike you steer more with your hips (by leaning) than you do with your bars (by turning). Sure you turn the bars a bit, but the motion is more a "push the bar" rather than "turn the bar".

So when a more experienced rider matter-of-factly told me that I was doing it wrong, I felt determined to fix it. Since there wasn't a manual on "how to steer with your hips" I made up my own manual. This is what I did.

First, I had rollers. You can do this on the road too, but rollers help isolate the exercise.

Second, I used smaller gears, easier gears, at that time a 42x17 or so (39x16).

Third, I basically clenched my whole upper body, from my pelvis to my neck, holding myself totally rigid. Movement? Forget it!

Then I pedaled, riding in a straight line, at whatever cadence I could hold (90-110 rpm). I'd try and move over a few inches by willing the bike to go that way, keeping my upper body totally rigid. I naturally put a tiny bit of input into the bars, but it was minimal.

Yeah, it was exhausting. My neck would almost seize, my arms got exhausted, heck, even my glutes were tired (from clenching them). But my upper body didn't move at all.

It was rock solid.

Now, mind you, this is NOT the way to ride in a group. I was always alone. If someone so much as tapped me on the shoulder I probably would have ricocheted off into the woods, I was that wound up.

But, after I got the initial rigidity down, I tried to relax my upper body. I let my neck tension go. I let my shoulders go. My arms. And, finally, even my hips.

After a couple exhausting weeks of rollers and outdoor sessions working on steering with my hips, I tried it in a group ride. I was in a paceline and consciously tried to avoid turning the bars. Instead I'd kind of push my saddle one way or another with my hips, at least that's the sensation I felt.

And you know what?

The guy never said another word about steering with my hips to me.


Part of a rider's repertoire is their pedal speed. Just like a flexible engine operates at a wide range of rpm, a good rider should be flexible enough to ride at a wide range of pedal cadence. High cadence isn't always ideal or possible, nor is a low or mid-range cadence. Therefore you need to work on all ranges, not just focusing on, say, spinning.


This is probably one of the best ways to work on pedal stroke. I used to play violin a lot. This involved some fast playing here and there, the fancy blurred-finger stuff that sounds so impressive. What I quickly learned is that you don't learn the piece by going blurred-finger fast over and over and over.


Instead, you start by playing the passage painfully slow, carefully getting the intonation right (because violins don't have frets, you have to be able to place your fingers accurately else it sounds horrible).

As you master the intonation (for us cyclists we'll associate intonation with "pedal stroke form"), you start playing faster ("increase cadence"). You practice small bits at a time; if it's a bunch of fast stuff in a row, you break it up and practice it in sections. For us cyclists that's like doing 1 minute efforts with perfect form for a given cadence.

You slowly pick up the tempo so you're going faster and faster. You may need to make an extreme pace change, a large jump up in tempo.

One of my workouts when I was still in high school was to do 20 minute intervals in a huge gear at low rpm. On my trainer that meant a 53x15 (my biggest gear at the time, due to Junior gear restrictions), about 60 rpm, for 20 minutes.

Believe you and me, this was a difficult workout. I think it still affects me because after doing them devotedly once a week for something like two or three winters, I have a hard time completing more than a few 20 minute intervals in a year.

The big gears force you to pedal hard through the whole pedal stroke, helping you smooth it out. The low cadence doesn't allow you to kind of "jerk" the pedal into place and then coast for a bit, like you'd do if you were lifting weights over your head. Instead, you need to focus on each part of the pedal stroke, pushing and pulling and lifting.

Initially you'll be able to focus on just one leg or one foot. I find it natural to focus on how to exert force on the pedal. I don't think much about what muscles to trigger, just that I want to "lift up" or "push forward" or "push down". It's not like "Okay, now do a hamstring curl... okay now to like a leg extension... and now a leg press."

Later, at least for me, I could focus on both sides at once. I had this idea of pulling up on one side of the cranks with one foot while pushing down on the other with the other.

Then I incorporated that pedal stroke into the other interval described in the detailed workout booklet that came with the RacerMateII - the 60 seconds at 120 rpm interval.

The interval consisted of, wait for it... 60 second intervals where you pedal 120 rpm. Who'd'a thunk? For me that meant a 42x16 or so, else I'd explode after two or three efforts.

Now I had to think about the pedal stroke, be smooth and anchored, but still flexy and willowly, all while cranking away at 120 rpm.

Ultimately it worked. My best sprints on the road are when I have the mental capacity to focus on my pedal stroke while assimilating all of the tactical permutations in the field around me with 300 meters to go. I focus on working both my feet together to get the bike tilted and the cranks turning. Tilted because I stand when I sprint, and it's important to rock the bike when you do that. Turning because that's the pedal stroke focus that I do when the riding gets difficult.

Higher cadence works too, but everyone works on that. Spin here, spin there, spin up the hills, shift down a gear, whatever. Before downloadable data existed I could only go by averages, so when I finally got a cyclocomputer that showed average cadence, I'd go out and try and do 120 rpm average for an hour. Initially I did this on my rest days because I figured it'd be "easy". After the first attempt or two I made the 120 rpm days my hard days.

It's hard.

Since the tendency is for everyone to overspin, I'd focus on working on the low rpm stuff. Then spin on all the easy days. Shift into an easier gear if you're getting a bit bogged down, and do it again. Spin. It's easy.

Upper Body

The folks that ride with me will chuckle on this one because of all the people to talk about stable upper bodies, I'm probably not the one to lecture on it. See, my upper body bobs a reasonable amount when I'm under pressure.

But I can tell you that it's, um, kind of tree-like. Sapling-like to be exact. Push and it gives a bit, without falling. Push hard and yes you'll move it. But it (almost) always springs back in place, ready for the next bump. Like a tree in the wind, my upper body moves around. But my hips are anchored firmly in place, just like the tree's trunk is rooted to the ground.

A rider needs to hold the bar firmly enough that a bump in the road doesn't let the bar escape the rider's grasp. At the same time the rider can't clench the bar with a death grip - that automatically causes the arm to become too rigid, which then makes the ride vulnerable to lateral impacts (i.e. a bump or a push).

This is a prime reason why you should never lock your elbows while riding the bike. A locked elbow cannot flex at all so it transmits all shock from the hand to the shoulder. Not only will potholes and such affect your line, so will lateral bumps. A locked elbow rider can't effectively absorb shock to the shoulder or elbow because there is no give there. If you ride with locked elbows frequently then you may have a fitness problem (typically with your core/torso) or a poorly fit bike.

Obviously the best way to practice this is to do it while riding the bike outside, preferably in a "softer" environment (grass field for example). But in Connecticut, in December, that's probably not possible.

If you feel adventurous, put your rollers next to a wall. Then pretend the wall is trying to push you aside. Push back at the wall; use your elbows a few times, your shoulders next, even your finger tips (extend them out like you're trying to wave "hi!").

Heck, try using your head, a la Robbie McEwen. Just remember that when your head tilts you'll oftentimes tilt the bike too. On rollers that spells "crash".

If it's boring, you're probably okay.

Hm. This turned into a form thing, not just a pedaling thing. But hopefully it'll help someone out there.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How To - Clean Your Chain

I know I've posted a bit on cleaning your bike, including the drivetrain. But on one of my many meanderings at the local shop, I saw and bought the following: The Grunge Brush.

Now, for those that experienced "grunge music", the name has a different connotation, although "dirty" comes to mind.

The bit that got me was the end with the three sided brush. It looked like one of those chain cleaner tools that always got filthy, got dirty cleaning fluid everywhere, and looked trashed about 60 seconds into its first use.

With the open ended design (no case around the brushes), the tool promised to be a bit neater. Also, since there was no up or down or forward or backward, it'd be easier to use.

New secret weapon.

It's rare enough for me to find a favorite new cleaning tool. The original Park brush dates back a while, probably 15 or so years ago, and at the shop we used to wear them down regularly. So for me to find this little gem, that's unusual.

To use it you do like you normally do with the chain - spray down with some mild degreaser (Simple Green is my favorite), let the chain get nice and wet so the degreaser penetrates the greasy black stuff on the chain.

Then slip the three headed side over the chain. In my case I like to push the tool down onto the bottom bit of chain, just before the rear derailleur, or push it up into the chain just in front of the cassette. Both methods get the third brush on the inside of the chain, with the two other brushes doing the sides.

(Finish Line's site has the brush used 90 degrees off of my recommendation, with the two opposing brushes getting the top and bottom of the rollers. That's fine too but I want the side plates clean as well.)

Swipe back and forth maybe 4 or 5 times, applying pressure in different directions on each swipe. So emphasize scrubbing the outer plate, the inner one, and the rollers. Move the chain 6-8 inches and repeat swiping motion.

In about 2 minutes you're done.

The nice thing is that the tool gets the left plates of the chain clean, i.e. the outer plates facing left. For me those are the hardest to get clean.

You can use the three headed side to get the chainrings too, although a standard Park brush helps get at the nooks and crannies. I use the Grunge Brush's pointy end to get the pulleys clean and to poke out any black gunk hiding in crevices and such.

With the Grunge Brush, a hose, and some Simple Green, my bike-cleaning required time has dropped to something ridiculous, 5 or 8 minutes or so. I use a bit of car wash in a bucket for the rest of the bike, and quickly wipe down the damp steed when I'm done. A bit of chain lube and presto!, ready for action.

A clean bike is a happy bike. The process of cleaning the bike forces you to look at it carefully. You'll catch things that you may not otherwise see. You'll get a feel for how much wear the drivetrain has, what kind of life it has left, based on the looseness of the chain and the width of the arcs in the cassette and chainrings.

Of course a clean bike also looks pro. It shows pride in your equipment, pride in your riding.

Make it so.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Training - Trainer Tactics

Indoor trainers offer a lot of advantages to those with limited daylight, limited clothing gear, and limited time.

Limited Daylight

Obviously, since you ride indoors (or at least without moving geographically), you can ride a trainer even in the pitch dark. You remain safe from cars, wild animals, and weather (if indoors). Lon Haldeman, the long time dominating rider in the Race Across America race, would ride rollers in an unlit basement.

I'd recommend against setting up a trainer in the middle of a street, but you should be okay in most other places with a firm, level floor/ground.

Limited Clothing

Trainers help those with limited clothing gear. To ride semi-comfortably out in the cold requires at least a minimal amount of clothing expenditure, and to do it "properly" (with a team kit etc) requires quite a bit of money. I won't call it "tremendous" but at the same time I'll point out that my various team jackets cost about as much as a (magnetic) trainer. Folks out there wear shorts that cost as much as my Cyclops Fluid2.

Since trainers work on virtually all normal bikes, you can buy one trainer and use it for many, many, many years. For the most part they don't wear out - the roller will get a groove in it, paint gets scratched, but functionally they'll remain virtually the same for literally a decade. This beats expensive, limited-use winter clothing which can start to show some wear in five to seven years and, more importantly, which you really shouldn't wear if you join a different team.

(Apparently some fluid resistance trainers will leak but I haven't had issues with that.)

Limited Time

Those with limited time will find plenty to appreciate in trainers. First off, no matter what mechanicals you may suffer, you're still at home. A flat tire won't wreck an "on the limit" schedule, nor will a maladjusted rear derailleur that mates with your rear wheel's spokes. As soon as the pieces stop flying you can climb off your bike, walk into the kitchen, and announce that yes, you had a mechanical, but that you don't need a ride home.

Second, it takes very little to prepare for a trainer ride. You only need to wear shorts, shoes, socks, maybe a heart rate belt, and check the rear tire's pressure. It also takes very little "wash energy" to wash that gear, at least compared to washing a full cold-weather kit load out.

If I was doing an outside ride I'd have to add a LOT to the list. Booties, tights or knickers, base layer/s, long sleeve jersey/s, short sleeve jersey/s, jacket, neck thing, head thing, helmet, cold weather gloves. Putting the stuff on takes a while, even more so when trying to judge what to wear (or what not to wear).

Once I get home from said cold weather ride I have to strip all that stuff off. It takes time and energy to wash all that gear, the hook and loop closures eat away at the other gear in the wash, and I have one less wear left on that gear.

If I'm prepping for a trainer ride it's different. Just the bare essentials. For a really long trainer ride, I'll wear a jersey too, to get my mind into it. I have a few caps near the trainer so I can wear one when the sweat starts to pour. I have a stack of "not wearable outside" shorts, jerseys, and the like in the trainer room. Shorts with rips, ones from teams as long ago as 10-12 years (at the limits of lycra endurance), even the less-than-optimal team shorts from last fall (now replaced in the gear bag with much better quality Hincapie gear). I have maybe 15 or 20 pairs of shorts, from Mapei shorts to New Canaan Cyclery to TriState Velo (Carpe Diem sponsored them for a few years) to Carpe Diem Racing shorts to Verge plain shorts, even a very pricey Castelli pair of "painted on" Body Paint shorts (a gift from a friend, if you must know). Each time I ride the trainer it's one less time I need to wash my current kit shorts.

If I'm totally unprepared, it can take half an hour to get on the trainer. Bike comes in from the car, through garage, through house, down stairs, all the way to the other end of the basement. Gear follows, maybe the floor pump, get bottles filled, find some bars, the list goes on and one. Usually I do this only a couple times a year, when I prep for a long stint of trainer riding. For the record, on Thanksgiving Day this year, I've already been in trainer mode for about a month.

When I'm somewhat prepared, i.e. my gear is already downstairs and the bike is already on the trainer, I can get on the bike in about 5 minutes.

And that includes finding a DVD and staging it in the player.

Trainer Enjoyment

As a long, long time trainer user, I've tried everything to make trainer riding more enjoyable. Or bearable, if you're of the opinion that trainer rides rank in the same genre as cleaning toilets or changing diapers. I used to do very structured training, intervals and the such. I have to admit that after the second year of training in the family house's basement, I actually dreaded walking downstairs, even if it was just to move clothing to the dryer. I hated the trainer, hated being near it, hated the pain and mental anguish it dished out on me.

So what changed?

A lot of things.

First, I decided to severely limit structured training when on the trainer. When I was 16 and 17 years old, I was doing intervals twice a week on the trainer through the winter. I forced myself to finish each rep, each set, and mentally destroyed myself. When I was 18, at the height of my "serious training" phase, I finished ONE race the entire year, out of maybe 45 or so races.

Now I'm less demanding. I race because it's fun, not because it's my job. Therefore it's okay to be slightly less than perfect. I'll put sugar in my coffee; I eat french fries occasionally. And on the trainer, I don't force myself to do intervals. Heck, I barely do 20 minute FTP tests - I get maybe two or three of them done per year. Yes, I do them sometimes, but it's a rare thing. I do them when I want to, not because someone (a book or person) told me I have to do them.

Second, I focus a lot on the pedaling sensation. I'll find myself on the trainer, pedaling furiously, with my eyes closed. I have no objective proof this helps, but I worked a lot, for many hours on many rides, on improving my pedal stroke. I forced myself to pedal smoothly, sometimes by tensing other parts of my body to ridiculous magnitudes, then teaching myself to relax said tense muscles while maintaining my smoother pedal stroke. When I'm working or focusing on my pedal stroke, time flies.

Third, I use audio and visual stimulation to help while away the time. Watching riding videos and listening to music makes the time go by quickly.

Random Tips

I found the following random tips help me on the trainer:

1. If riding rollers, don't watch videos, especially of descents in the mountain stages of any Grand Tour.
1a. If riding a trainer, don't try new cornering techniques observed while watching above type clips.

I've ridden off the edge of the rollers more than once when I've gotten so engrossed in a video that I start moving in relation with it. When the front wheel drops off the rollers I realize that, oh, right, I'm not on that road. I'm on the rollers.

And relating to 1a... the Missus once heard a loud thump in the living room. She ran out to find me laying on the floor, shoes still clipped into the pedals, my bike and trainer on their side. I'd been watching a Giro clip (Bugno was riding for Polti and had Spinergy Rev-X wheels) and one guy just in front of him was cornering like he was on a motorcycle. The guy hung his body out to the side, knee out... and I had to try it too.

2. When riding really hard I don't pay attention to video, although on easier rides it's important to observe how good riders ride. I focus on form and feeling; I don't have the energy to focus on visual stuff. MP3s allow me to do this while still using conditioned response to elicit an adrenaline flow.

Videos of good riders always helps. When I played violin I had teachers with good form that (importantly) demanded good form from their students. My strongest point on the violin is my form. It's something anyone can do but relative few accomplish. Good form lays the foundation to exploit one's abilities to the fullest. I have good violin form and I got only so far on the violin (final four in All States). That defined the outer limits of the violin for me. Watching pro cyclists on video helps everyone visualize and learn good form. Yes, there are those exceptions that pedal weird, like Sean Kelly. But for the most part the pros provide a great example of how to pedal a bike. You can't go wrong watching them ride.

It's critical for me to get the adrenaline going and music does that. Maybe not adrenaline per se, but definitely motivation. Music really affects me. I think it has to do with conditioned response, where a stimulus elicits a reaction. Music that psyches me up, well, it psyches me up. When I hear such music I get psyched up. I put a lot of that music in my helmet cam clips; the ones by professional bands stay on my MP3 player. Interestingly enough I realized that I keep the same playlist in the car, on the trainer, and in my laptop, a playlist that has only 50 or 60 songs. I have others of course, but I seem to focus on those that I really enjoy.

For MP3s that's key. Listen actively, not passively. It's not like the radio where it's just background noise and every now and then I think, "Oh, hey, I like this song!" My playlist is one that I really like - every piece has significance.

3. When doing sub 2 hour trainer rides, watching sub 2 hour Classics DVD/tapes works.

Over the years I've built up a nice collection of race DVDs and tapes. I watch them for objective reasons (like watching good form and to rehash race tactics) but also for subjective reasons - it's fun to watch bike racing. Race videos also have some built in rhythm. They start a bit easier, hold decent tempo for a while, then culminate in a furious push to the line. The build up to the finish helps motivate me when I'm getting tired.

One interesting thing I've observed (and it's a conspiracy theory so I have yet to prove it otherwise) is that the riders who doped seem to ride more stupid than those that either doped more discretely or didn't rely just on doping to do well. I'll watch a race and think, "Oh, what an idiotic place to attack", and then realize that, oh, right, that's the guy that got arrested in the middle of the Tour while in the Polka Dot jersey for being a major drug dealer (and user). No wonder his whole team was flying in that particular Classic!

I keep MP3 volume low so I can hear some of the commentary. It's interesting to catch minor errors throughout the clips - the heat of the moment catches everyone off guard. In particular one Paris Roubaix was, in my opinion, decided because a lone chaser (O'Grady) never got a TV camera. No one knew he was bridging to the break, not the team directors, not the break, not the field. Suddenly he popped up way off the front, in the break. He rode a superb race to win it, but if he'd gotten tailed by a camera bike I think the field would have reacted differently. I read the race report on the race but since they go off the TV too, it wasn't clear when he took off. I always wondered how he made it to the break. Watching the race video, with the conspicuous absence of his chase, explained it.

4. When doing long rides, 2-5+ hours for me, movies I've never seen before usually work best for motivation. I need to see dumb action movies like Transformers and such, or better ones like Lord of the Rings or the Bourne series. I can watch 2 movies, do a bike DVD/tape (that's about an hour, and has an ending, i.e. a Classic not the first of 6 DVDs of a Grand Tour) and call it a long night.

I made the mistake of watching more serious action movies like Syriana (I think - it has George Clooney in it, along with the Bourne guy). It's a great movie, sure. But it totally sucked raw eggs as a trainer movie. A good movie will have small peaks every 8 to 10 minutes, and they get higher and higher until the end of the movie. The Bourne series is best for this. It's amazing - if you look at a power meter output from a Bourne movie ride, it looks like a coach told me, "Okay, do a warm up, then slowly crescendo to about 80%, then repeat every 8 to 10 minutes while adding 1-2% to each peak. You should finish at max effort on the last effort, and it should take you about 2 hours."


When your coach tells you that, just slip in the Bourne movie where they have the taxi cab chase in Moscow. You'll be all set.

5. I eat and drink stuff on the trainer, more so than out on the road. Energy bars, electrolyte stuff, water, whatever. The really long rides require fuel, so that's a given, but even on shorter rides I'll sometimes fuel up or down some electrolyte stuff. Usually I have multiple bottles ready to go. I may go through $10-20 worth of food/drink during a long ride, $5 or so in a 1-2 hour ride - it's enough that I have thought about doing a post just on the cost of a trainer ride.

I even use heat rub (Atomic Balm, medium) on trainer rides. It's another conditioned response thing, gets me psyched up for the ride. I use the Balm only on cooler training rides and in most sub-80 degree races. Since I associate the Balm with the Bethel Spring Series, it really motivates me when I go through the whole slathering on the leg thing, with the smell of the rub, the feel of the somewhat greasy stuff, and the deep heat feeling it generates.

It's critical to move heat energy away from the body when riding a trainer, and the combination of sweat/moisture and big fans makes it possible to sustain heavy efforts without any problems. If I notice I'm not sweating as much then I try and drink more. The fan I use really moves a lot of air so I get dehydrated without realizing it.

6. Speaking of which... A good strong fan really helps keep temps under control. The fan I use is powerful enough to hold about 1/2 to 3/4 inches of water back about 3 feet - it's strong. When I turn it on the lights dim and you hear the fan motor kind of grunt as it starts to turn the metal blade. I rarely use it on more than 1, but there are hard rides where I not only have it on 3 but also move the floor pedestal fan from across the room to right in front of my face. I've even sprayed water from bottles onto my head.

It also conditions me to keep working hard when there's wind in my face. I used to get super demoralized when I felt the wind hitting me square in the face. Then one day, when I was fit, I realized that although it sucked to be in the wind, if I pushed hard then it sucked even more for those around me. My then riding partner commented on my willingness to pull into the wind - I felt motivated by it. I also detoured to find hills to climb but that's a different thing altogether.

Mental conditioning helps, so having a fan blowing into my face helps me think of it as "normal", not "oh, no, not again!". In the past I had the fan blowing from the side or from behind, so it'd be mentally less tiring. As you might guess that didn't really help me.

Keep in mind that your head and neck release the most heat. Therefore you should try and direct air to the top of your body. Although it may feel good to have wind on your legs, you don't exude as much heat there. Your torso will feel cold because you don't do much work there, so don't direct wind there. That's one of the reasons why I wear a jersey on my longer rides - as my energy levels drop, my torso gets cold.

Hopefully these tips will help you prepare for 2011. At this point it would be appropriate for me to say, "Okay, time for me to go ride the trainer."

But I actually have to go work on the car before we head out to visit family and friends. So no trainer ride for me today.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Racing - Details versus Overall Picture

The other day I spent a good part of the morning in a state of delirium. The prior night I'd collapsed in bed, exhausted, at some early time (8 pm?). I did have the presence of mind to wear my Expo hoodie, a nice warm season-saving garment. Nice and warm because it's nice and warm. Season-saving because for the first time in many, many, many, many years, I didn't get sick in the spring. It could have been the lower weight (but wouldn't fat insulate me and allow me to stay warmer?), it could have been some diet change, but I attribute it to the Expo hoodie.

That's because I wore the hoodie everywhere, including (and most importantly) to bed. I stayed warm overnight, no drafts on my neck, no chilly morning air. In January in Southern California (the nights are cold) and in Connecticut I wore the thing religiously and, guess what?

I never got sick. Not truly sick anyway.

Anyway, I put my trusty no-sick Expo hoodie on, went to bed, and fell asleep, at some point pretty early on. 8 PM let's say. Or 9 PM. Something like that.

At 12:05 AM, shortly after midnight, I woke up. I wasn't hungry but I was wide awake. I trotted downstairs and read and played Age of Empires and checked my backups and stayed up until well after 4 AM. I stumbled back to bed, exhausted (once again).

Unfortunately the next wake up call wasn't self-imposed, it was due to needing to get up. I struggled through the REM haze because if we didn't get a move on, our breakfast place would get swamped. Normally I'd beg off and do some quick shut-eye to get my body out of REM mode, but not that morning. The Missus and I hit breakfast out on the road (unusual for us nowadays), ran some errands, and started doing some chores around the house.

Then, finally, I couldn't function. I needed to get some sleep.

I escaped to the bedroom, a few cats joining me for some warm (and therefore welcome) company. I closed my eyes and tried to let my body recover from the interrupted REM sleep.

This REM recovery sleep is not that deep, nor does it last that long. Yes, you lose consciousness. But you also get this horribly disorienting kind of thought process where you're not sure where you are or what's reality.

And that's when I started thinking of something that made me think of bike racing.

See, recently I'd read this incredible book named Replay, written by Ken Grimwald. It's an incredibly deep book that resonated with me in my life as it is now. The main character basically relives his life but with the benefit of knowing what will happen (at least for the most part). Since he gets to relive his life over and over, he kind of experiments with the whole thing. I'll leave it at that for those that haven't read it (I highly recommend it), but suffice it to say that although the character knows about a lot of stuff, he himself doesn't change.

No matter what happens, he doesn't start his "re-life" suddenly built like Arnold or a woman or whatever. He starts off the same. His playing cards, physiologically speaking, are the same.

Yes, he knows some of the big details of things that'll happen. Like, say, the JFK assassination.

Initially he starts off worried about the details. He wants to make money, and he can. He knows the huge trends, like the fact that people will start buying these gizmos called "personal computers" or that they'll be a few gas crunches.

Later, though, he worries more about other things, things in a broader scheme of things.

And that's where my delirious mind brought me on that short little nap.

In the old days, when I first started racing (with stone wheels and sticks for axles...), I worried obsessively about the details. I worried about whether saving a few grams for aluminum toe clips was worth the shorter life span (and higher cost) relative to the steel clips. I thought about 5 grams here, 3 grams there.

Later I obsessed about 280 gram versus 330 gram rims. I hedged by buying both. Tellingly my 330 gram rims still exist in my inventory - the 280s are a bit tweaked, good only for non-rim brake bikes (track bikes). 50 grams, though, was significant.

Nowadays... I worry about hundreds of grams. Thousands of them. Going from an 1150 gram frame to a 1500 gram frame? I was okay with it because, first, it fit better, and second, because I lost about 13,000 grams off a different part of the racing unit. Meaning off of me.

In my delirium I realized that in life I also seemed to focus initially on the details. I watch the store baby (as I call him - he's about seven months old now). He focuses on immediate, small things. Food. Being picked up. Diaper.

Our cats are only slightly more long-termed than he is right now. They can think about moving into a warm sun spot on the rug - the store baby hasn't figured that out yet.

As the baby grows he'll focus on slightly less immediate things. Food is fine, sure, but when there's a toy to be had... Or maybe there's one toy and he wants another. His thoughts will extend a little, just a little past immediate.

I think our cats are about this point. For example, if Hal is watching a squirrel on the front steps and the squirrel goes to Hal's left, out of sight, Hal will quickly run away from the window (i.e. away from the last known point of said squirrel), go to the bathroom to the left of the front door, jump up into the window, and wait for the squirrel to pop up below the window.

Hal, it seems, understands that the squirrel exists, not just in the window, but "outside".

The store baby hasn't figured that out yet. He doesn't have the concept of object permanence yet.

(I think. I have to test him next time he's in.)

When the store baby starts to realize that you can't always get what you want, but, for the most part, you get what you need, he'll start to think even further out. His thought should turn to the point where he's starting to think of things like consequences. If he's hungry he won't just grab food off the shelf and start eating, not if he's in a store. He'll get it, pay for it, then eat it.

Of course as he progresses in maturity (i.e. get older), he'll think even further out. Retirement. Insurance. "Adult" things, not kid or baby things.

What's that got to do with bike racing?

When I woke up from that delirium-ridden nap, a bunch of thoughts came tumbling into my head. I thought about how I haven't worried about a few grams on the bike (at least not so it counted) in a long time. I look for ball park numbers, not specifics. I don't choose one stem over another because it's 4 grams lighter. I choose a stem because it's been measured as being stiffer or tested well in an independent testing organization. Of course it would fit, too, else I wouldn't have considered it.

I don't worry about training as much. Again, maybe some ball park numbers, but not specifics.

I think, "I really ought to ride tonight since I haven't ridden in a few days."

I don't think of specifics: "Tonight I need to do ten intervals of 60 seconds each where I do max rpm in a 42x18." That's a real thought I had back in the day. I cringe at that thought today.

I obsessed, and I mean obsessed over gearing. I plotted out shift patterns based on cogs and chainrings, debated whether I wanted to get less than, say, 5% differences between gears (it would require two chainrings close in size like 53/49) or if 10% would be okay (that's the normal
jump between big gears when shifting a cog at a time).

I spent tons of time manually calculating gears. I can't believe how much time I did that. When I flip through some of my old notes (I've saved some from various times, mainly because I use the unused page for more notes), I inevitably find yet another try at the "ideal gear ratios".

Now, when someone asks me what gear I used for a particular bit of terrain, I don't know. Heck, sometimes I don't know if I hit that hill in the big ring or the little one. I haven't even memorized my cogs so I mentally count to see if I have a 16T in the cassette. Mentally and using my fingers. I have ten cogs, ten fingers, and I start counting while sticking out a digit for each cog...

"11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25... hm, nope I don't have a 16T."

However, based on that, I know that my 12-25 does have a 16T.

More than a few riders won't know that.

A new rider needs to think about specifics. This encourages learning, especially important when part of the sport involves some technical things. We're not F1 drivers, where we need to describe to our engineer/s exactly what happens in the turn when we shift from 7th to 4th gear under braking and the back end wiggles a bit, but mainly on sweeping lefts and not on rights and not when going uphill.

No, we don't need to do that.

Bike racing does involve a bike though. We need to understand at a broad level the gizmo we're pedaling. We do need to know at some level what gears we use, what gears we need. If I get spun out on descents all the time in a 50x13, it would be good to know that:

A - I have a 50x13 top gear
B - What I can do to increase the gear

If I had no clue about gearing (and I see a lot of new riders who don't know their cassette teeth counts, and even a bunch that have no idea of their chainring sizes), then it would be very hard to figure out, on my own, why "I keep getting dropped on long, slight downhills".

Or why I can't move up when the group is going fast.

We also need to understand how things work so that we can analyze and understand any oddities in performance.

For example, knowing how tires react to tire pressure helps the rider understand when something is wrong. I know SOC had a scare earlier this year when he dove into a turn on a newly-and-silently-flatted tire. It wasn't flat 100 meters earlier and it made no noise on the straight - I was a couple wheels back and I never heard a thing. When he dove into the turn his front wheel slid a few feet to the side. The tire, a tubular (and tubulars would react better in these situations than a clincher, and you should know that too) stayed on the rim, gave him some minimal traction, and he recovered beautifully to stay upright, not hit the curb, and to be able to stop to check his bike.

If he didn't know about tire pressure, he may have kept going, thinking the tire just slid on something. If he'd been using clinchers he'd most likely have crashed.

So what's that got to do with me, here, now?

For the most part I realized that I'm over the details. I've stopped thinking about one or two or three grams. I may save a few grams here and there but I know and truly understand that my own weight plays a much more significant role in my bike racing. I've gotten past that first reliving in Replay, where the character just tries to make his own life "more better".

I think about gearing at a broad level. I know I like having a 53x11 at hand for descents and for moving up hard when the pace is extremely high (35+ mph). Heck, it helps when drafting a truck too, but that's not the primary reason I have the 11T. No way.


I understand and accept my limitations. I am not trying to change things. No extreme this or that, not anymore. I had a TT bike a long time ago - disk wheel, aero bars, aero helmet, skinsuit, the works. I was the biggest joke on a TT bike ever. I tried really hard, I was really serious, so much so that when I launched off the line at one state time trial the guy behind me asked the officials if I was a pro. The official that told me the story kind of laughed because he and I both knew how poorly I time trialed. It's not offensive to me to say that; it's funny.

It's like someone mistaking me for a climber. Imagine?

So... If you can relate to how your bike affects your riding, if you know how bearings wear and their effects the bike's feel, if you know about broken spokes and true wheels and loose headsets and limit screws and centered brakes and overtightened seat clamps and why frame tubes might crack... then you're ready to leave the material world behind. You can stop worrying about it.

But until you get to that point, you should learn. Use the off season to figure out your gearing. Examine your frame material and read up on exactly how it would fail, how it holds up compared to other materials. Check your components. Think about how different things would affect the bike. Make sure your brakes are centered, and if they're not, figure out how to make them so.

Check your training program. Is it sensible? Does it allow for a normal life? Will you really be a pro?

I woke up to myself. Hal was on the bed, so too was Riley. The two white ones. Mike, the big tabby, was there too. Riley likes Mike so she sidled over to him; he in turn grabbed her head and neck with his paws and started licking the top of her head (not unwillingly). Hal likes his love too and moved over to get the top of his head licked.

I watched this scene of domestic bliss for a bit until first Hal then Riley decided enough was enough. They moved back to their sun spots, intent on basking in the sun.

That was my signal. I dragged myself out of bed. I wasn't a pro cyclist all of a sudden. It wasn't 1985. Nothing had changed. I was just a guy who needed to help his wife do some chores around the house.

So that's what I did.