Monday, December 31, 2012

Promoting - Velo Article of the Year 2012

James Jung and Velonews did a piece on Markus Bohler for the December 2012 Velo issue (the printed one). Today I saw that it was voted "Editor's Best" for 2012. Thanks to James and Velonews for putting in the work to create the piece. It does a great job of honoring Markus, showing how the community pulled together. It also illustrates very poignantly the transient nature of life.

It's a somber end to the season but I look forward to 2013 with optimism and hope.

Link to the article here.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review - Park CN-10 Cable Cutters

Cable cutters.

They're one of the least sexy necessary tools around. It's not like a torque wrench, or, better yet, an impact wrench. It resembles a common tool (wire cutters) and functionally seems to do exactly what a wire cutter does. It doesn't work on bike-only things like a bottom bracket tool or a cassette lockring tool. So what's the big deal with cable cutters?

Well, in the world of bike tools, cable cutters are like a super domestique.

You have "star" tools like the Campy tool kit (which would be like rolling up Eddy Merckx, Sir Chris Hoy, and Pete Penseyres into one rider).

Some of the other tools are one shot wonders, like a bottom bracket reaming tool. Super good at what it does but pricey (typically $100+ per cutting edge) and it can't do anything else. Headset presses fit in this category.

You also have some "low end" tools, like the common allen wrench.

At the end of any of my bike builds, after all the star tools have done their work, I still have one thing left - cut and cap the cables.

I read some poorly-researched article a long time ago that stated that one can cut bike cables with a file. You should have seen the cable after my attempt at following the directions in that article. Luckily I tried to "cut" the cable on a piece of scrap wood, else I'd have ruined some furniture too.

For a while I would bring my bike to the shop, usually by riding it, with the extra long cables all coiled up just past the anchor bolt. Then I'd ask one of the guys to cut the cables. I could barely afford $2.95 toe clips so a $12.95 cable cutter (for the "cheap" Suntour cutter) seemed extravagant.

Finally I bought my own set of cutters, a Shimano TL-CT10. It's a lifetime tool unless you cut spokes with it (inevitably we'd ruin cable cutters at the shop when a new guy took the "cut out the hub using cable cutters" shortcut). I've had mine since the early 90s, using it more once the shop closed in late 1997.

Because I remember riding my bike to the shop to get the cables trimmed I got into the bad habit of bringing the cable cutters to friends' houses or to races, to give them a hand cutting and capping their cables.

In the last few months I finally lost track of where I put my beloved cable cutters. After fruitlessly searching for them I caved and decided to order another set.

Unfortunately I couldn't find the Shimano cutters - I usually stick with what I know works, and I know the Shimano cutters work. I chose, purely on a whim, the Park tool - it just looked tough. I knew that if I ordered the tool I'd find the Shimano cutters, but that was fine - one would be the one in the gear bag, the other would stay on the workbench.

Well if a cable cutter is a domestique then the Park CN-10s are the Jens Voight of cable cutters. These things are beefy!

Out of the box - these cutters are big and heavy.

Park CN-10 tool. It says so right there.

Crimping bumps on the inside of the handle.

The business end of things. Cable cutters have very short jaws, for leverage.

So I waited for the cutters to arrive mainly because I figured that I'd find my Shimano cutters at some point of no return. I submitted the order. No Shimano cutters. I got ship notices. No Shimano cutters. The Park arrived. No Shimano cutters. I took pictures of the Park cutter. No Shimano cutters.

I gave up on the Shimano cutters.

I put the Park cutters at the top of the stairs to the basement, where my now-red Tsunami sits, surrounded by a build kit. Part of that build kit is still on the Giant TCR, including a pesky front derailleur cable that I need to pull out (I want the Nokon housing holding it). The problem is I need to cut off the well-crimped end of that cable so I can pull it out of the frame.

Right, you got it. This is why I needed the cutters.

In the meantime I got sick, like really sick. Junior got sick too, yakking regularly, liquid coming out the other end. Exhausted, hungry, he wasn't a happy camper, and his pops (me) had his hands full just taking care of him. We then did a family visit (7 nephews, 1 niece, 4 uncles, 4 aunts, one grandfather) while Junior was running a 102 degree fever (I wasn't too great either) so no bike stuff for a few days.

We got back in the middle of the first of two pretty good sized snow storms. The second one, going on as I type now, has put about a foot of snow on the ground. I went out to detail the driveway - the plow service (we live in a condo type area even though we have our own one-family house) does the major stuff but I like to "reclaim" the edges of the driveway. If I don't then the driveway shrinks by a few inches each storm and ends up a narrow path barely wide enough for the cars.

I finished detailing the driveway, as much as I could while it was still snowing, and headed back in. I stomped my boots to clear the snow, kicking the bottom step to knock snow off the soles of the boots.

On the steps sat the Shimano cutters.

Well now. I grabbed the cutters and brought them inside. Because of my initial take on the Parks (so beefy) I figured I should take the opportunity to take pictures of the cutters side by side.

Holy beefiness Batman!

Another shot to give some idea of the Park tool's heft.

Side by side shot too.

The important question: "Does it cut?" Yes, it cuts.

The Shimano tool feels noticeably lighter than the Park. I know it still works very well - it's set up a few bikes in the last few years. Due to the shorter handle length it's much easier to get the handle open far enough to get the jaws around a cable (and therefore a cable housing). To open the Park handle as far I had to really move my hand near the pivot. The Shimano cutters allow me to hold the cutters normally and still open the jaws wide enough to clear a thick mountain bike cable housing.

Is the Park beefiness necessary? No, it's not. Will it last longer? No, it won't last longer than a lifetime. I haven't cut hundreds or thousands of cables with it so I don't know how it'll go but I figure it should last a normal rider's lifetime. A bike shop? Maybe 5 or 10 years, until a new staff member cuts a spoke or two with it. I didn't track it precisely but it seems that a normally used cable cutter lasted the shop about 7 or 8 years, at least that's what I recall.

What I do know is that the Shimanos are much, much easier to carry. They'll go in my gear bag.

The Park tool seems more of a home workbench tool, and I hung mine on my workbench board.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Racing - The 12 Days of CRITmas

A gem from Kurt R Bickel, a national level cyclist who happens to have wicked poetic skills as well. Originally posted in BikeForums, reposted with permission. Sing to the popular song... well you'll figure it out.

A Holiday song for bike racers everywhere:

Merry CRITmas everyone!

On the first day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

A frame that was broken in half

On the second day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the third day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the forth day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Four torn up jerseys, three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the fifth day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Five stale drink mix primes 
Four torn up jerseys, three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the sixth day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Six declined upgrades, five stale drink mix primes , four torn up jerseys, three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the seventh day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Seven blown out tubes, six declined upgrades, five stale drink mix primes, four torn up jerseys , three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the eighth day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Eight worn out tires, seven blown out tubes, six declined upgrades, five stale drink mix primes, four torn up jerseys, three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the ninth day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Nine misplaced socks, eight worn out tires, seven blown out tubes, six declined upgrades, five stale drink mix primes, four torn up jerseys, three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the tenth day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Ten bucks in winnings, nine misplaced socks, eight worn out tires, seven blown out tubes, six declined upgrades, five stale drink mix primes, four torn up jerseys, three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half.

On the eleventh day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Eleven hundred in entries, ten bucks in winnings, nine misplaced socks, eight worn out tires, seven blown out tubes, six declined upgrades, five stale drink mix primes, four torn up jerseys, three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half.

On the Twelfth day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Twelve years of alimony, eleven hundred in entries, ten bucks in winnings, nine misplaced socks, eight worn out tires, seven blown out tubes, six declined upgrades, five stale drink mix primes, four torn up jerseys, , three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Promoting - 2013 Bethel Spring Series Permits/Numbers

It's now getting to the nitty gritty for the 2013 Bethel Spring Series. When I think of the races I start thinking of all the deadlines, backwards. Meaning I think about by when I have to get things done.

The biggest things are race numbers and permits. Both require a minimum of 6 weeks lead time, with relatively heavy monetary penalties for violating them. I want to have the first race be on March 3 so that means mid January for permits and race numbers.

To get permits and race numbers I need more things. Permits (plural - one permit for each week of racing) implies permission from the town to hold the race. Due to some crossed communications, the town of Bethel won't be making a decision on their side until January 2, 2013. That puts me at only about two weeks before my 6 week deadline for permits.

Now, understand, I can start my permits with USAC without completing them, and I may do that shortly. By starting all the permits at the same time I can usually get consecutive permit numbers, like 2012-538 to 2012-543 for last year's Bethel Spring Series. If you look closely though I screwed up - I permitted the second week first, and ended up adding the first week last.

To start the permits (yes, still working backward) I have to renew the club's membership. Carpe Diem Racing is a club that promotes races. There are old members of CDR scattered around the country and I want them to be able to put down "Carpe Diem Racing" as a club if they want to. In fact, I don't mind if anyone that wants to lend moral support puts down Carpe Diem Racing as their club. Remember, though, if you put down Carpe Diem Racing you should either race in a non-kit or be a Cat 3-5. I think it's against the rules to race wearing one team's kit while writing down you race for another team, and I have no Carpe Diem Racing kits.

Or Sprinter Della Casa kits for that matter.

So, renew the club membership. In order to do that I have to be current with all paperwork and fees for 2012. If not then USAC will not allow a club to renew its membership. Believe it or not I have yet to submit the rider list from the Markus Bohler Memorial Ride. I'll be doing that shortly, then I can proceed with the various steps I laid out above.

That's the permit stuff.

Then there's the race numbers.

I use Rainbow Racing and buy the custom imprint cycling hip numbers. These are by far the best numbers I've ever used, and I've been ordering from them for maybe 15 years. The numbers are large, absolutely water- and smudge-proof, and they allow me to put words at the top and bottom of the number. My default line at the bottom is the year and Bethel Spring Series, so like "2013 Bethel Spring Series".

The top line is trickier. I usually put the sponsor up there or Carpe Diem. For many years it was not a heavy duty thing, meaning I didn't ask much for the top line. A couple years ago though, when the race was floundering fiscally, three potential sponsors popped up.

Now that top line is quite valuable. However this means renewing said sponsorship each year, and that is something I have yet to do.

Of course, if I don't have town permission yet, I can't get a permit, and if I don't have a permit, I don't have a race. This would make sponsor talks a bit premature, kind of like planning out in exquisite detail what you're going to do with lottery winnings before you ever win the lottery.

On the other hand I'm lucky in that we've had an enthusiastic supporter in the last couple years. I hope that they'll sign up for the 2013 Series.

Remember the 6 weeks though. I have to have everything squared away by mid January.

Once they get done then I can focus on other things like portapotties (from Chatfield Rental). We started using them a long time ago when one of the racers at the Series mentioned that he worked at a place that rented out portapotties. As he was (and is) a bike racer I decided to patronize their business. They've been excellent and we've used them for something like 10 or 15 years now.

But for now I have to focus on the two things preoccupying me - permits and numbers, and the things associated with them.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Racing - Boycott?

A few weeks ago I started thinking about permitting the Bethel Spring Series for 2013. This is later than normal - I've been a bit preoccupied with Junior and, honestly, I let time slide by before I put in my official request for permission to hold the race. At that point I'm waiting for the town to sign off on the races and then I'll start the rest of the process. I feel it's too presumptuous to go ahead and start working on stuff before hearing from the town.

Plus, in my eye, it's bad karma to start work on something before I know I'm allowed to do it.

All this stuff made me think of Greg Lemond's open letter to the UCI. He says many things but one thing in particular affects me - boycotting USA Cycling. He asks everyone to boycott USAC and not get a license for 2013.

This isn't like me skipping a year when licenses were good for 13 months, and where I could race for a year without actually paying for a license.

This is like not racing USAC for a year.

I've always believed in the system, forcing change through involvement rather than open rebellion. I don't know why but that's the way I am. I told other promoters that asked me about this that they should permit their races through USAC. If they really felt strongly about how USAC should be run they should run for the board of directors of NEBRA (or whatever local association serves their region) and, eventually, apply for a position in Colorado.

Other promoters have tried to hold races without USAC backing. Curiously enough they use USAC officials, USAC forms, and USAC rules. I attended one race that had always been USAC but, to my surprise, in 2012 the promoter went the non-USAC route.

It seemed a bit wrong - asking for my USAC license (why? what good is that in a non-USAC event?), using the same (USAC) officials as the other weeks, running by the same (USAC) rules...

For a moment I wanted to say that I wanted to do the Cat 3 race and I didn't have a USAC license with me. What would prevent me from racing without showing my license? What would prevent me from entering the Cat 4 race. Or a Pro/1 race for that matter?

I decided not to make waves and raced my race, somewhat unsuccessfully.

Apparently I wasn't as firmly entrenched in my support of USAC as I thought because I did that race. Generally speaking I wouldn't have attended an event that wasn't USAC permitted, but in that case I didn't realize they went non-USAC, it's a long time race (I think I did it in 1983 for the first time), and, although not necessarily the same one from '83, I wanted to support the promoter.

In fact I raced twice that day, paying the day-of fee for the first race. When someone at registration pointed out that I could have saved myself the day-of fee by registering online I pointed out in return that I would give more money to the promoter by registering on the day of the race.

Therefore that's what I generally do.

So anyway, that's sort of my thoughts on USAC vs non-USAC in a nutshell. I prefer USAC races, I generally don't do non-USAC ones, but I want to support the good people behind the races first and foremost.

This brings the topic back on track, to the Lemond's boycott letter. A while back I read the NYVelocity's posting of Lemond's letter, looking for other racers' and promoters' thoughts. Unfortunately I mainly found people sniping at each other. I didn't see many comments of substance.

In my family I was brought up to value the system more than the individual. I suppose it's my culture, infamous for cohesiveness and solidarity (the only looting that anyone could find after the tsunami in Japan was done by foreigners) but also known for its rigidity and inflexibility (failure means shame and shame means life is no longer worth living).

Although not as extreme as the second thought above, I still have this loyalty to USAC. To me USAC is not a faceless organization. It's not an evil board suffocating any hint of bad news. I don't know the board, I don't know what they do, I've never spoken with them.

However I do know some of the staff. I've spoken to at least three different people in Colorado, one regularly, and I speak with our more local Massachusetts-based NEBRA rep regularly but infrequently. In our conversations I've learned more about some of them than I know about some of my teammates.

There's also an infrastructure local here in Connecticut. There are officials that I work with regularly, folks I consider friends. They're about as anti-doping as anyone out there. Boycotting USAC would mean boycotting them.

I consider all those USAC staff and the local officials friends of mine. I don't want to do anything that would hurt them.

Mind you, I'm still trying to keep an eye on the prize here, the anti-doping efforts, the attempt to cleanse our sport. Unfortunately the staff members I know are sort of like the civilians in the doping war, innocent bystanders in the battle for clean sport. They're not in the news defending dopers or deflecting inquiries. They help promoters like me get their races to start on time, insured, with a reasonable infrastructure behind the promoter so that things work.

Casualties in the staffing folks would be, at best, difficult to justify.

Lemond's letter addresses racers, and I'm one of them. Unlike many racers I'm also involved in USAC as a promoter. If I stay with USAC and take out permits, and Lemond manages to convince 50k racers not to take out USAC licenses, I stand a big chance of having racers boycott my race simply because I took out USAC permits.

I, too, would become a "civilian" casualty, as would any promoter that looks to USAC for protection from litigation, for guidance on promoting a race, for a system that, at least for race promotion, seems to work well.

To me that doesn't seem fair.

On the other hand I'm a bit tired of the doping bombshells, the suspicious performances, the unfounded rumor talk.

I guess, in some way, I support USAC but I don't support the UCI. Is that possible? I believe in USADA absolutely (I was a chaperone a couple times) and that tempers any negative thoughts about USAC.

I have to admit that unlike other organizations USADA seems to do its antidoping work pretty well. We don't hear of positives before the rider learns about it. All the announcements have to do with races from months ago, not from two or three days ago.

If USADA keeps doing their thing then USAC will fall into their place. I don't see a problem there.

With that in mind I've decided to do is to go ahead with the USAC permitting, once I get word that the race is a go. I'll renew my USAC license.

In all fairness I'm going to post Lemond's full open letter. I've lifted it from NYVelocity, from here, in full.

Open Letter to Pat McQuaid from Greg LeMond

Thu, 10/25/2012 - 2:31am by Andy Shen
Greg LeMond posted this to his Facebook timeline this evening. Please pass it around. If you have a blog or a site take the copy and post it.
Can anyone help me out? I know this sounds kind of lame but I am not well versed in social marketing. I would like to send a message to everyone that really loves cycling. I do not use twitter and do not have an organized way of getting some of my own "rage" out. I want to tell the world of cycling to please join me in telling Pat McQuaid to f##k off and resign. I have never seen such an abuse of power in cycling's history- resign Pat if you love cycling. Resign even if you hate the sport.
Pat McQuaid, you know damn well what has been going on in cycling, and if you want to deny it, then even more reasons why those who love cycling need to demand that you resign.
I have a file with what I believe is well documented proof that will exonerate Paul.
Pat in my opinion you and Hein are the corrupt part of the sport. I do not want to include everyone at the UCI because I believe that there are many, maybe most that work at the UCI that are dedicated to cycling, they do it out of the love of the sport, but you and your buddy Hein have destroyed the sport.
Pat, I thought you loved cycling? At one time you did and if you did love cycling please dig deep inside and remember that part of your life- allow cycling to grow and flourish- please! It is time to walk away. Walk away if you love cycling.
As a reminder I just want to point out that recently you accused me of being the cause of USADA's investigation against Lance Armstrong. Why would you be inclined to go straight to me as the "cause"? Why shoot the messenger every time?
Every time you do this I get more and more entrenched. I was in your country over the last two weeks and I asked someone that knows you if you were someone that could be rehabilitated. His answer was very quick and it was not good for you. No was the answer, no, no , no!
The problem for sport is not drugs but corruption. You are the epitome of the word corruption.
You can read all about Webster's definition of corruption. If you want I can re-post my attorney's response to your letter where you threaten to sue me for calling the UCI corrupt. FYI I want to officially reiterate to you and Hein that in my opinion the two of your represent the essence of corruption.
I would encourage anyone that loves cycling to donate and support Paul in his fight against the Pat and Hein and the UCI. Skip lunch and donate the amount that you would have spent towards that Sunday buffet towards changing the sport of cycling.
I donated money for Paul's defense, and I am willing to donate a lot more, but I would like to use it to lobby for dramatic change in cycling. The sport does not need Pat McQuaid or Hein Verbruggen- if this sport is going to change it is now. Not next year, not down the road, now! Now or never!
People that really care about cycling have the power to change cycling- change it now by voicing your thought and donating money towards Paul Kimmage's defense, (Paul, I want to encourage you to not spend the money that has been donated to your defense fund on defending yourself in Switzerland. In my case, a USA citizen, I could care less if I lost the UCI's bogus lawsuit. Use the money to lobby for real change).
If people really want to clean the sport of cycling up all you have to do is put your money where your mouth is.
Don't buy a USA Cycling license. Give up racing for a year, just long enough to put the UCI and USA cycling out of business. We can then start from scratch and let the real lovers in cycling direct where and how the sport of cycling will go.
Please make a difference.
Comments appreciated.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Trends - Car/Bike Marketing

I have some posts brewing but no completed thoughts at this point. However I saw this on the Road & Track website, about the new Hyundai Veloster concept car, "inspired by fixies":

Note matching wheel colors.

The subtitle of the article says the car "rolls both ways". Before you start imagining a car that doesn't coast and that has 6 reverse gears (like I did), they're not talking the drivetrain, they're talking the rolling roof top. The roof can roll forward or backward, I guess to act as a sunroof if rolled back and to convert the car to some kind of "sports mini-pickup" if rolled forward.

The one disappointment is that they chose a terrible wheel for the fixie, a heavy, non-functional wheel from back in the day. I admit that it takes paint well but a 5 spoke Mavic wheel would have been the schnizzle.

Ah well. I'm just griping about subtle stuff. The good thing is that cycling, in whatever mode, is turning a bit more mainstream.

That's a good thing.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Equipment - Verge Wind Vest (Primo)

Although I have a thing for winter jackets I have to admit that out of the rest of my kit, except for shorts and jerseys, I use a wind vest the most often. I used to wear a full sleeve wind jacket back in the day but I didn't like them because they always managed to catch air, puffing out so you resembled the Michelin Man.

Vests really struck a chord with me because they stayed sleek and trim on me. The fact that the first few generations of wind vests had just a mesh back really helped too. I felt like I was wearing almost nothing extra yet the front of my torso had protection from the wind. Since then I made it a point to own a wind vest for any cool weather riding.

Note: for those of you who don't have a team issue vest you can cheat a bit - wear your normal jersey as a top layer and stick a grocery store plastic bag underneath. It's an update on the "newspaper under the jersey" trick. The plastic bag doesn't bleed ink, it doesn't turn into mush if you sweat a lot, and after the ride you can put your dirty kit in the bag. Try the last bit with a newspaper!

Anywho... as far as vests go I have two modes for them, zipped and unzipped.


This is the default way of wearing a vest, zipped up. When I actually feel a bit chilly I'll wear the wind vest like this, the way I think most people envision using a vest. "Zipped" keeps the vest snug to me, keeps me warm, and helps "control" things in my jersey pockets (because I wear the vest over whatever jersey I'm wearing) so they don't move around as much.


When it's marginally warm for a vest, meaning possibly too warm, like about 60 degrees or so, I'll wear the vest but leave it unzipped. Although I've never pulled a jersey over my head while riding I can say that I've put on and taken off a vest without stopping. Unzipped vests are easier to remove and are relatively easy to zip up.

So why wear it unzipped?

Because it flaps.

Eh what?

A long time ago one of the regulars in the shop told me a tip on riding safe. He spoke from a position of experience - he rode bicycles (more than I did), he rode motorcycles, and he was a volunteer fireman. The latter gave him experience with things people did to get into accidents.

His most spectacular story was one where they pulled up in a fire truck to a house fire, lights flashing, and proceeded to do whatever firemen do at the scene of a fire. They pulled hoses off, made sure everyone was safe, and all that kind of stuff.

The whole time the fire truck sat in the road, lights flashing.

Then suddenly CRASH!

Someone drove into the back of the fire truck.

At first everyone thought the driver was drinking or something but it quickly became apparent that the driver was 100% sober. When queried about seeing the fire truck the driver admitted that he never saw it.

"To be honest I was thinking about my tennis game. I never saw the truck."

(It might have been golf but it was one of those two.)

He never braked, he never swerved, nothing, just drove into the truck.

So what's that got to do with an unzipped vest?

Well John (that's his name; it might be Jon) told me that no matter how obvious you make yourself there's a chance that some distracted driver (and this was before cell phones were prevalent) will hit you anyway. The only thing you can do is to be aware and to make yourself more obvious.

He found that drivers noticed motion first, then color, then the object. This is similar to what other folks talk about when dealing with motorists seeing, or not seeing, cyclists. John (or Jon) recommended that I have a flapping thing on me or my bike, preferably some obnoxious color. On his motorcycle he has a piece of pink cloth flapping off the back of his seat.

For me, on the bike, it's a flapping vest. Or jersey, if it's really hot and I have a base layer on.

So that's why I'll wear a wind vest unzipped. It's really so that I have it at hand if I need it, but a secondary purpose is to try and help others see me.

Because, you know, that's what I'm all about. Heh.

So after all that I can show you my new vest. I had a regular vest before but when I saw the new sexy one I had to put my name down on the list.

Shiny. I actually like it. That sort of scares me.

The vest is windproof in the front. I'll get to the back in a moment.

Zippers from the bottom or top.

Bottom zipper has no pull tab so it doesn't chafe your shorts or whatever. There are little silicone gripper dots at the bottom. They work well.

The back. Lots of stuff going on here.

The back of the Expo Wheelmen wind vests is actually a jersey type material. It has pockets, it breathes a bit, and it's solid so it holds a print better (as opposed to a mesh that doesn't lend itself to .

Of course the vest has the requisite reflective piping and some logo stuff on it.

Notice the phone peeking out?

Unfortunately the small pocket is too small for my DroidX. I haven't checked to see if an iPhone fits but I think it should, based on all the different things made for a smartphone that the DroidX doesn't fit. Having a slightly larger form factor phone can be a disadvantage.

On the other hand that small pocket works great for my car key.

 Nitty gritty stuff.

Disclaimer: Although Verge sponsors the Bethel Spring Series I pay for my team clothing, same as any other club member. In fact I bought this vest even though I already owned another one because I really liked the features of this one.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Equipment - Verge Primo Jacket

So I guess I have this thing for cycling jackets. It started with the knit-stuff-with-nylon-wind-panel jackets of the 80s - I thought that having one of those meant that I was a real rider. Then a then-Euro-pro friend showed up at a ride with a ridiculously thin jacket on a ridiculously cold day. He showed me this miracle jacket, thin, windproof, insulating, and almost too warm for regular cold days. Compared to him I felt like the Michelin Man and not just because of my weight.

Eventually I got one of those jackets - it might have been a year or two, maybe a hand-me-down from that Euro pro himself. The jackets got even thinner. About 8 years ago I settled on Verge's Warsaw jacket - I had them for the blue/green Carpe Diem Racing team, the white/blue Connecticut Coast Cycle team, and now with Expo Wheelmen. I had a Warsaw jacket from 2012 but I decided to move up a bit and get the new fancy model for 2013, the Primo.

So far, I have to admit, I've only worn the jacket out on the street. The one day I thought I'd need it the weather ended up nice and I wore a vest and a long sleeve jersey instead of the jacket.

Because it's windproof and insulating I wear the Warsaw/Primo jackets when it hits 40 or 45 degrees at the warmest. I'm good, with 2 long sleeve layers, down to about 25 degrees F. After that it's debatable - it's not my torso that gets cold, it's the (ahem) top of the tights.

The right sleeve of the jacket.

The new jacket has zip off sleeves and a tighter form fitting wrist area with a zipper. There's also a strip of non-insulating fabric running up the back of the arm. It's black so it's hard to see but it's just above the zipper in the picture above. This helps with breathing and ventilation.

One sleeve unzipped.

I worried that the shoulder would look odd because the zipper follows the red panel's contour. This would mean a really cut off shoulder. However Verge doubles up on the shoulder so the vest still has a shoulder on it (the black shoulder area on the left side of the picture).

I don't think it's an "unzip while you ride" thing but I'm also not a fan of removing partial zip jerseys over my head while riding either. Maybe you skilled riders can do the sleeves while you ride, but for me it's a "I gotta stop" thing.

White stuff is insulating.

That's the miracle thin windproof and insulating fabric. The Primo jacket has no large vent (non-windproof) areas, just a portion of the sleeve.

Detail of collar.

The zipper ends in a little zipper well so you don't have the thing flicking you in the chin. The collar is nice and warm around the neck.

Bottom zipper - note no pull on it.

The zipper has two zipper things so you can unzip going up or down. This helps if you need to take a nature break or adjust your baselayer or something. There's no pull on the bottom zipper thing because the edge of the pull can abrade your clothing - your tights, knickers, shorts, etc.

Silicone dots around waist.

The waist area has silicone dots that act as a gripper. This prevents the jacket from riding up.

Pockets in the back.

There are two pockets in the back, a large one and a new smaller one. The large one will carry a lot of stuff but because it's just one pocket it gets all jumbled around. I usually carry multiple pockets of stuff, organized by pocket, so this isn't ideal for me. It works okay though and the nice thing is you can fit a lot of stuff in there.

Full phone pocket.

I can fit my DroidX in the small pocket complete, so that's nice. It does have to go sideways, and the phone is sitting on the jacket in its "pocketed" position. The phone holster illustrates the pocket's depth.

The back in full.

True winter jackets don't have a thin back - it's full protection all the way around. With the Primo jacket you get some of the standard reflective trim and piping.

The nitty gritty of the jacket.

Disclaimer: although Verge sponsors the Bethel Spring Series, I pay for my jacket, the same as any other club member - in fact I sold my Warsaw jacket to a teammate so I could afford this one. I also do not decide who to use for clothing for our club. I admit I was happy when the powers that be decided to order from Verge.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Racing - Trivia Mondays Are Back!

Each fall, as the road season draws to a close, Cycling Revealed posts a series of trivia quizzes. I find them refreshing and a welcome distraction. Go as quickly as you can, don't Google the answers (that's like doping to win a race), and see how you fare. I don't do too well but that's okay, it's fun learning what I don't know.

Here's the link.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Racing - Ben Wolfe Interview

No, I don't have a story about Ben other than he lapped us twice the night before he won the pro race in Beverly, MA. Or that he's been winning everything around here. Or that I screamed myself hoarse cheering him on at this year's Nutmeg State Games. Or... yeah, the list goes on.

However I have an affinity for the Jelly Belly Cycling Team and he signed with them!

PezCycling News caught up to him. Here's the interview.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Equipment - Tsunami 1.1

Tsunami Bike 1.1
(Some assembly required)

It's a start I guess but I haven't really gotten very far in the year or so that I've been "working" on this project. In this picture you can see some hints at what will be on the bike at the end. The frame is the main thing, of course, and it has one sticker on it so far, the bottom bracket (BB30) has been reamed, and the head tube reamed, faced, and a headset pressed into it, all done by Manchester Cycle.

The main modification has been to shorten the frame's chainstays as much as possible, this to pull the rear wheel in. Due to the long front center the rear wheel gets really light, losing traction in any hard turn. The short stays really help counter that (as proven on the black bike, aka Tsunami 2.0), and so I had the first Tsunami modified in a similar fashion.

1. ENVE 2.0 fork, with the same Crank Bros headset as before, a very low stack height (22.x mm) stainless steel number.
2. Campy cassette. I actually have four in this picture, one in the box, three in the plastic bag just above the silver bars.
3. Campy brakes, in the Campy boxes that don't have pictures on them. I may just put the Ultegra brakes on (they were on the carbon Giant) but all Campy sounds better. There's a small surprise on the brakes and I'll reveal all when appropriate.
4. Campy new style 10s Ergo levers. I want to give them a try, and my backup shifters are starting to fade hard.
5. Cinelli 13 cm track stem, in case I want to give the FSA Compact bars (the black bars above the plastic bag) a shot. The Compacts have 2 cm less drop, 3 cm less reach, so I'd need a 15 cm stem that drops 2 cm to replicate the same drop position.
6. Fizik Tares saddle. I saw these at the time trial, they looked good, and based on that I bought one as an experiment. Failing that I'll stick with the Titanio saddle that is on the Thomson post.
7. Fizik tape, just because it was there at Manchester Cycle.

The box has a lot of tools in it too, the Park BB30 tool, a Park carbon-specific cutting blade for a hacksaw, grease gun screwed onto a Pedros grease tube, anti-seize (obscured), carbon assembly paste (obscured)

In the parts boxes somewhere are new brake and derailleur cables (other than the cable kit that came with the shifters). I'll use Nokons for housing and am debating if I should buy some fresh segments for the exposed sections. I'll definitely use the played out segments under the bar tape.

I have a BB30 axle for the Cannondale SI SRM cranks (it's a different length from the standard axle, of which I have one too), and a second SRM spider for said cranks. This way I'll have two bikes set up with the SRM. I have a second SRM PCV head, harness, and mount, so I won't need to set the slope (basically a setting for each spider) when I change bikes.

The derailleurs are coming off the carbon Giant.

And that's really it, now that I think of it. I want to buy some black bottle cages because the blue ones from the Orange Period will clash with the red.

Now, reviewing this post, I'm wondering why it took me so long to even think about starting the assembly.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Life - Raikkonen Wins

Earlier this year I wrote about my fan type status with regards to Lotus. Although I've been hoping for a win by Raikkonen in 2012 his car hasn't been the best. In Formula One that's an unfortunate thing - the best driver may not win if he's in an inferior car. Typically such drivers shine when the weather turns sour, like the legendary Aryton Senna in one of his early F1 races. Normally, though, the best cars win. The good cars (and teams) attract solid, proven drivers, the cars work well, they usually survive the race, and, simply put, they're faster.

Raikkonen, on the Lotus team (it's actually Renault, but that's okay by me), is a good driver that came back to F1 after (I think) pricing himself out of the market a couple years back. He's driven well but the car's pace has been just below the top teams' cars.

That said if things worked out just right he could win. It's not the best way to win, perhaps, but it's a deserved win if it's not a complete farce (like when just six cars started at Indianapolis). Raikkonen has taken advantage of weather, the strengths of his car, and such, but other drivers, arguably similar in skill, took the wins.

Today, though, he finally did it. Some of the top competitors had some bad luck, others pushed the rules a bit.

Sebastian Vettel, the probably champion for the season, tried to push qualifying with an illegal fuel load (less than one liter of fuel remaining after the qualifying lap). It's basically cheating, especially since the team knew it and told him to pull over before he got to the pits. That's kind of like being called to dope control after a race and sprinting away on the bike. I'm not sure what Vettel's team hoped to accomplish because the stewards (i.e. officials) checked his car and dutifully found just a few drops of fuel left in the tank. Even though he started at the back (albeit from pit lane, so they could work on his car before the start - a loophole in the rules, sort of), he really does have the best car at the moment, and he's a good solid driver. He dutifully set fastest lap on the way to a spectacular third place.

Fernando Alonso, probably the driver that wrung the best out of the car he had this season, did a great drive to finish second. I remember him more for being involved in cycling (forgive the horrible translation on the page). It seems, though, that he can drive a car very, very well, and he won a number of races in the 2012 season in a car that's acknowledged to be slightly behind the top cars like Vettel's.

But at the top of the podium, complete with the not-champagne-but-instead-rose-water-with-bubbles (the race took place in Abu Dhabi), stood Kimi Raikkonen. He inherited the lead in this race but that doesn't explain the difficulties of qualifying well, saving your tires, dealing with the stress of racing, etc etc etc. Nonetheless if an F1 driver inherits a lead the best he can do is keep it. Raikkonen did just that.

So what's that mean for me and cycling? Not much, actually. It's nice to see that a good driver won in a car that's been pretty controversy-free, that hasn't pushed the rulebook too far, and that earned its win through a season of hard work.

It does bring to mind a racer a while back that raced the Bethel Spring Series. He acknowledges he doesn't have a sprint so he goes for the late solo moves, or, if the race works out right, an earlier solo move.

At that year's Series I had a very strong team supporting me. We'd see the racer go, a friendly rival of ours, and we'd try and bring him back at the end of the race. We caught him at the bottom of the hill, halfway up the hill, and even at the line. Well technically I caught him but only because the team dragged me (and the field) across the gap.

One of my teammates, after I caught the poor racer at the line (I won, he got second), asked me why he kept trying.

"Because if you keep trying moves eventually you'll win. He got caught at the bottom of the hill, halfway up the hill, and at the line. He's getting closer and one week he may win."

The following week guess what happened?


He took off a few laps from the finish, drilled it when it counted, and beat me to the line by about 10 or 20 feet.

I was probably the second happiest racer in the race because he won the race fair and square. He made the move, we all knew he'd have to make the move, and he still made it stick.

That racer upgraded that year so I rarely raced against him for a while. Now I see him all the time at the Tuesday Night Races at Rentschler Field and sometimes we even line up in a Masters race together.

When I see him I always, always, always think about the time that I watched him cross the line just a few lengths clear of me, absolutely astonished with himself that he'd pulled off the move.

So maybe Raikkonen's win does have something to do with cycling in that cycling has something to do with life. You can't help but admire those that earn their way forward. It may not be as far forward as a Tour win (or not), it may not be a multi-million dollar F1 contract, but it's real.

Kudos to Raikkonen.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Doping - The Morality

In all the furor over the USADA Lance Armstrong report someone pointed me at this piece. It answers why we should care about this case: because it's wrong.

The article, by Dr Phil Skiba, a cancer survivor and physician.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Equipment - Aero Benefits

In the past I've extolled the virtues of aero road bikes. I felt convinced that aero road bikes would sweep the peloton. In a few years I expected everyone to be using frames with internal cable routing, somewhat built-in stems, and integrated brakes.

I went as far as to order a frame from Tsunami Bikes that I thought would fulfill some of the things I thought important. I couldn't get integrated brakes on my budget, nor could I get some cool faired stem-fork deal, but I could do a few things.

First I got narrow tubing. I later realized that I have such a small frame that the tubing really wouldn't make that much difference but if I was going to get an aero frame I wanted the tubing to be narrow.

Second I got a rear wheel cutout. It may not make a huge difference with a direct headwind - in fact I highly doubt it - but it should make for a better sail in a crosswind. I figured that in a cross tailwind it'd be even better. As a bonus I could get really short chainstays because I wouldn't be limited to what room the tube left the rear tire.

Thirdly I got internal cable routing. I dealt with such things enough in the bike shop days so routing cables and such isn't such a pain (although I probably wouldn't have agreed with you the first time I installed a front derailleur cable. The shifter cables travel through the downtube and the rear brake through the top tube. I had no "through fork" method for doing the front brake cable (like for BMX bikes) so that cable hangs out in the breeze.

(I have to admit the main reason I got internal cables is that it's much, much, much easier to clean. I read somewhere that a foot of exposed cable housing costs about one watt. With my very small frame I have maybe 2 watts of drag due to cable housing. That's not a lot. If I had a 35 inch inseam I might have approached things a bit differently.)

Fourth I got an integrated seat post (or ISP). I knew and forgot that BH bikes "invented" it. I think it has its place but what I have is more of a style thing. I think that a shaped ISP has its place, able to significantly reduce shock while presenting a minimal profile to the wind. My ISP does neither but it looks cool so I did it.

Finally I had the frame built with only secondary consideration for the water bottles. I knew that my frame thoughts gave me only "fine" benefits. This is significant so I'll explain why.

In the early aero days things were so conservative that a 16 mm tall rim was considered "aero". Seriously! Nowadays a 32 mm rim would be called "really conservative". When disk wheels and then tall profile rims burst onto the scene they gave tremendous benefits over things like a 16 mm tall "aero" wheel. You could save many minutes in a 40 km TT by using a true aero wheel like a Specialized TriSpoke (with HED selling the wheel, with a slightly modified rear hub, as the HED3)

I call that a "coarse benefit". What's the point of quibbling over a second or two when you can save 4 or 5 minutes? Suddenly aero brake cables (some were still being routed up in the air) seemed kind of minor. Aero wheels would make a huge difference.

I realized this a long time ago and used the TriSpokes in races where I expected the pace to be flat out all the time. In tight crits I would use my normal superlight 28 spoke 280/330g tubulars, but by the mid 90s I had a slew of aero wheels at my disposal - the TriSpokes, Zipp 440s (pre-404s), Zipp 340s (pre-340s), Spinergy Rev-Xs, a rear disk wheel (17 mm wide rim prototype and extremely light), Campy Ventos (all aluminum rim aero wheels - they were tanks), and finally my first aero wheelset, the 16 mm tall Araya ADX-4s.

Not everyone seemed so openminded, especially at the pro level. That held true for a long time. Even in the mid-90s most pros didn't use significantly aero wheels. Spinergy made some inroads with the Mapei, Rabobank, and Polti teams, with some very, very good riders on the wheels. Next to those wheels the relatively primitive, full aluminum Campy wheels looked heavy and outdated.

Then Mavic hit the pro ranks with the Cosmic. Aero wheels were still not totally accepted but some of the better Classics racers used the Cosmics to great effect. Well that and doping apparently, but still, if they were all doping then the aero wheels would help make a difference.

Finally Zipp hit the big time with CSC. After a year or two of disasters (wheels breaking on the cobbles usually) Zipp could boast some major tough victories on their wheels.

Now everyone uses aero wheels. Not only that, everyone uses pretty tall aero wheels. A lot of riders use rims initially meant for time trials in road races - the 80 and 90 mm tall rims.

That's great except for one thing - now everyone had to have aero wheels just to be even with the others. This means that any benefit from one wheelset to another, if they're both aero, will be minute. The very coarse benefits of aero wheels, the minutes saved per hour, have now become, between similar aero wheels, mere seconds.

Now the benefits are "fine benefits", minute ones. Got it? Good.

So what's that got to do with aero road frames?

Well, aero road frames, at least ones reasonably well designed, offer a small benefit over non-aero frames. Within the aero frame market though the differences are barely measurable. Velonews found less than 10 g difference in drag, about 10 watts worth, spread across four frames (if my word problem logic skills are correct - 4.3 g spread for the 2nd - 4th frames, 5 g spread from 1st to 2nd frame.) They claim a 20 watt difference from their control bike, a wide tubed Masi with Cosmic wheels.

The benefit seems pretty small when you stick a rider on the bike, a computer on the bars or stem, and, wait for it, waterbottles on the downtube and seat tube. Suddenly you get a whole bunch of things that coarsely affect drag. Yes, a seat tube bottle has been show to be more aero than not having one at all, but if you have a rear wheel cutout and a very aero rear wheel, I think that a bottle won't help much.

Regardless it's beyond dispute that a bottle on the downtube really screws up the aerodynamics. Cervelo, in their top of the line time trial frames, integrated a bottle into the frame shape, essentially proving that sticking a bottle on the seat tube is not the ideal solution for frame aerodynamics.

Therefore, although I detailed all sorts of things I did on my aero frame, they were all "fine" benefits. Minute. Probably not measurable.

Except for the bottles.

I decided that I'd race with no bottles at all. Instead I'd use a CamelBak for that year (2011). I figured that the little hump on my back would help with aerodynamics, filling in the space behind my helmet, and the bare frame would be more efficient slicing through the wind.

I hoped for a somewhat coarse reduction in drag. Not a lot, not the 2 or 3 mph that I see at high speed with aero wheels, but maybe just enough to save me 5 or 10 or 15 watts average in a race.

My "aero" frame. Note no bottles - that was my "coarse" benefit.

The thing I wanted to do was to reduce my average wattage just enough to give me a sprint. All too often I'd waste myself in a race just hanging on for dear life. I'd get to the finish having averaged 190 or 200 watts and have absolutely nothing left.

On the other hand if I finish the race with an average wattage under 180 I've usually done quite well for myself. Under 170 and I probably did really well.

My goal was to bring the 190 watt races into the 180 watt range. This would allow me to contest the sprint and get a place.

Pause for a bit to catch your breath.

(Jeopardy theme song)

Okay, let's keep going.

Today I realized something. All this is "fine" benefit stuff. The bottle idea was a more significant fine benefit but it was still a fine benefit. I realized this because of a couple things.

First, I've noticed a lot, and I mean a lot of racers who look like they're on a 3 speed bike when they're in a race. They're up in the air, they're on the hoods, they look like they're rolling down the boardwalk to pick up the Sunday paper. I almost always hold my tongue when I see this because I was told a long time ago not to offer advice but to wait for someone to ask for it. People who spontaneously gave advice usually didn't get received well since the advisee wasn't necessarily ready to hear said advice. The problem with the 3 speed position is that it's really upright and catches a lot of wind. It's not aero, and it's way worse than having a non-aero frame. You can't buy your way out of an inefficient position, not with wheels or a frame or anything. It's just bad.

Second, the riders I fit have done well. I have never had the opportunity to fit someone using a powermeter but I did fit a few riders using a trainer to make sure I was in the realm of reality. The racers I fit showed immediate improvement. My fits tend to be the same kind of thing. I couldn't describe it technically but I always found I did the same thing for each rider - extend them, drop the bars, usually raise and move the saddle forward. Basically they went from looking like a rider going to pick up the Sunday paper to a rider that looked like a racer.

I knew each rider would be better but I couldn't tell you why.

Now I can, for a couple reasons.

First, I read somewhere that Michele Ferrari told Armstrong to raise his saddle 2 mm, in order to flatten his back a bit. I thought, okay, come on, 2 mm, that's nothing, that won't do a thing for your back.

Then I remembered that when I put the 170 mm cranks on my bike and raise my saddle 5 mm, it feels like a new bike. I'm much lower in front, my back is that much more comfortable, and I can roll along just a touch easier. I never really quantified it so I just dismissed it as a minor benefit to 170s (and it was a reason I tried sticking with the 170s for a year, then for a summer, before finally giving up and going back to the 175s. The position was great but the long crankarms were an even more coarse benefit.)

Second I had a chance to sort of quantify why the 170s felt better. I saw this site today, for the first time. Don't mind the 1995 graphics. What's important is the link to "Real Customers, Real Results + Improvements". Take a look at what the riders look like before and after. Before - they look like what I described above - a rider on a 3 speed.

Okay, maybe not that bad, but look at any random picture of you (meaning you, the reader) in some random ride/race this year. Look at the picture with a discerning eye. Look at your back, look at its angle toward the lower back area. See how your hips are sitting on the bike.

Now look at the "after" pictures on that site. See how low their torsos are? See how their arms extend forward? See how their hips are angled forward on the saddle a bit?

They look pro now. It's not just a look though. Look at the numbers, how much wattage they're saving, how much faster they can go. It's incredible, the changes. Even an experienced racer saw a huge improvement in performance. Body positioning gives you a tremendous benefit - it is the biggest of the coarse benefits.

Finally, I saw some article somewhere (forgive me for not linking, I've followed so many links recently I have no idea where this was) where someone gave the benefits of a time trial frame, helmet, and wheels. The main benefit came from the frame but not because of the frame itself but because of the position.


This is where all this starts to come together. I know that I know how to fit a rider, within reason. I couldn't even describe what I was trying to do, I just did it. Now I know that I fit a rider in order to tilt their hips forward, let them open up their hip angle, get their back more flat, drop their shoulders and arms, and get their head tucked in a bit more. The pictures from that wind tunnel site really illustrate the kind of results I would go for when I fit someone.

Next, the wind tunnel site quantified for me the savings on the position. They even comment somewhere that aero helmets are aero helmets, probably like aero wheels are like aero wheels. Get something in the right family and they're really close to one another.

At the same time the site illustrated to me that aero frames aren't where it's at. Aero frames may help incrementally but without a good rider position the frame won't be significant. In fact it's probably more important to get aero wheels, maybe some other aero stuff - flattened bar tops, even more aero shoes - before the aero frame becomes important.

So it's position. And position, for most of us, is pretty easy to adjust.

For me, not so much. I have limiters - I have short legs so my preference for 175s means I end up with my saddle back just a touch more than I prefer. I end up with my hips tilted up just a touch more than I prefer. And therefore my back isn't quite as flat as I like.

(I should point out I have a bad back and the flat back really feels comfortable. The other week I got on the bike specifically to help my back, it was really hurting for a few days. The ride really helped it feel better, and I was on the drops virtually the whole time. Another thing for people to open their minds to - the idea that a flat back could be more comfortable than one that's elevated a bit.)

I have been thinking of a third Tsunami, primarily to explore the use of compact drop bars. I really like the FSA Compacts but they're 3 cm shorter in reach and 2 cm shorter in drop. To fit me properly I'd need a 15 cm stem (not happening) which drops 2 cm (especially like that). A longer frame by say 2 cm (and a 13 cm stem instead of a 12 cm, to keep weight over the front wheel) would be good.

The drop presents a problem. The headtube is already as short as possible. With the Chris King InSet headset I could drop the stack height just a bit but I'd want to drop it about 2.5 cm, 2 cm for the bars and at least 0.5 cm for the cranks (since I like it when the saddle is 5 mm higher). The only way to get this extra drop is to raise the rest of the bike, i.e. the bottom bracket. That's not ideal but it would definitely work. A track stem would give me about 1 cm drop.

It's definitely just a gleam in my eye but the idea with this third evolution frame would be to hone body position. It's not as important to have an aero frame (especially for a frame with a 9.5 cm headtube) but having my body position adjusted a bit would really help.

Because on my bike now even I look a bit like I'm out for a stroll to pick up the Sunday paper.