Thursday, June 28, 2012

Racing - June 28, 2012 @TuesdayTheRent

After Sunday's moderate success (I finished but I didn't have a sprint), I figured I should try and ride okay at the Tuesday Night Worlds. Last race here I managed to do 30 minutes before I got shelled, about half distance. This week I hoped to repeat, and if I could do more, great.

The weather played with us hard leading up to the go/no-go call time. At 4 PM the promoters try to announce if the race will be on or not, but with the fickle summer weather, it was hard to call. In fact, here in town, it was pouring on one side (where I was, with Junior) yet sunny and bright just a few miles away.

Looking at the radar pictures I realized there were two lines of clouds headed down from the northeast, like two competing leadout trains. Inbetween lay our town (the northern part anyway). I had been under the southern leadout train, with rain and thunder. The northern leadout train would pass a bit north of our house, and continue on towards East Hartford.

Sort of.

When I looked at the map carefully it appeared that the gap between the two cloud masses would just about miss Rentschler Field.

At 4-something the promoters took the chance. The races were on.

I packed up before the Missus got home, some things left undone on purpose. My bike was last to go up, in case it started to rain here, and we left a bit later than planned.

(Note: when you have a new addition to the family, even the most pessimistic time estimates seem too optimistic.)

We made it to the race venue okay, the dark clouds threatening but only tangentially.

The wind, though, drilled down on us. On the way down the trees waved as we passed, showing off the light color undersides of their leaves. With the actual stadium behind the course we'd be dealing with some very strong swirling winds.

I decided against using the Stingers for a number of reasons. The main one was that last time I didn't use them and I was okay for 30 minutes. Other reasons included the fact that I didn't feel like pumping up the tires on the Stingers. I also didn't feel like swapping the rear wheel.

In fact I was so blah that I didn't even check the tire pressure on the Bastognes (basically Ardennes type non-aero HED wheels) - I figured I normally inflate them higher than recommended (95/105 psi) so if they were low, like in the 70s, that would be fine.

Plus Boonen rode Paris Roubaix with 60 psi. If he could do 60 psi then I could do 60 or 70.

Just to be sure I pushed down on the bars to see how much the tire squished.

A lot.

Ah, whatever. It'll be good. I'll get the sensation of the tire digging in and maybe sliding a bit.

We started off at about Mach 3, maybe Mach 4. The wind only made it feel faster. I was okay for a lap or two but then realized that, okay, this was bad.

The wind made it real tricky. I tried to be on the left on the main straight. After the first turn (a left), I wanted to be on the left again, ditto the backstretch. But going through the third turn I wanted to be on the right so I'd move over before we hit the turn. The sweeping final straight wanted me on the right at the beginning, then the left as it straightened out.

It was tricky to find shelter, and after a couple errors I paid the price.

I went off the back.

I needed the training so I eased immediately, let the field lap me, and jumped back in. It always seems easier when you first jump in, and I almost fell victim to the "I should have just gritted it out" thought process. I'd then berate myself for giving up too easily when I got shelled the first time.

Before I could fully indulge in the self-disciplining thoughts I found myself in trouble again, and shelled again. No self berating necessary here. Apparently I couldn't maintain the minimum power required to stay in the race, or I could but I made errors putting me in the wind.

I jumped in a third time, carefully sitting at the back, careful not to gap others off the back. This time it didn't seem so easy when I jumped back on.

At some point, shifting from the left to the right of the wheel in front of me, a guy made a move up the right side, the tight side. I'd checked to see if it was clear, saw the gap, and moved about a foot over (relative to everyone, who moved a bit right, so I moved maybe two feet right). This took place over a number of seconds.

Problem was that the guy who'd left the gap closed it, and in the process he lightly bumped me.

Thinking about our situation (at the back, lapped, training race) I verbally protested (i.e. I yelled). He protested back that I'd moved over.


Yes I did, but I checked my 5 o'clock, saw the gap, and I only moved over enough to take the spot. I move gently - it's a way to take spots without being aggressive, and it's the most common way of taking a spot.

I left some room there but it was too small to move into, and with a wide sweeping turn ahead it'd make sense, even if it were the end of the race, to wait until after the turn.

I didn't have time to think about that so I just rode away from the guy, up to the front of the group, found a teammate of said guy, and told him that they need to teach the guy how to ride.

Of course, in a race, at 30 mph, no one knew what I was saying, and actually everyone in the area thought I was yelling at them to "learn how to ride".

(Note: this is a great way to destroy support that others show you, by yelling some random nonsense that everyone thinks applies to them.)

With that effort and the one second yelling thing I blew myself up, this time for good. I sat up and dropped out.

I was still fuming when I stopped.

Then the guy walked over. With his sunglasses on I couldn't read his face, and I made the assumption that he was still fuming too. You know what they say about assumptions, right?

Well I laid into him, explaining that I looked, that I moved over just enough to claim the spot, that he could have waited, blah blah blah.

When I stopped for a breath he looked at me helplessly.

"I only came over here to apologize."


Eff me and the horse I rode in on. Here I am laying into the guy and he's remorseful and apologetic and everything that I didn't expect.

I couldn't switch gears that quickly (I can't grin and say, "Just kidding dude, that was fun out there!") so I thanked him for that and apologized.

I can't remember if I said it to him but I remember thinking, "Okay, here's a guy that has way more class than I do."

After he left I went to the Missus and admitted fault in my verbal attack. She'd missed the whole thing due to Junior so it was all news to her. I guess I was a bit affected by the poor cornering I saw at Keith Berger (which I didn't really describe in the post). It would have been comical had I not known more of the story behind the main cornering culprit at the KB Crit.

Well, at the Rent, my thoughts still along the lines of "There are racers that don't know anything!" Therefore I laid into the guy who made a slight error. He showed true class by coming over to apologize.

I, of course, acted like a jerk. I'm not posting any pictures of the guy, nor any clips. I would still make the same move every lap of every race, I think it's that safe/normal. At the same time if someone moved up and realized too late that the door had been closed... well, they should have a chance. If it was a super experienced racer there'd be no excuse, but for everyone else, it's all good.

What this means is that every time I see this guy for pretty much the rest of my life I'll make sure he keeps his spot. I'll fight for it if we're bearing down on the finish of a race, but at the back, when it doesn't matter, it's all him, all the time.

This is my penance for being a jerk to him.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Racing - 2012 Keith Berger Crit, Cat 3s

Now that we all know what happened around the race, what about the race itself?

It kinda really didn't happen.

I mean it did, but it didn't.

I've been training very little, very sporadically. I basically resigned myself from expectations this season. I'm not about to turn pro, I don't have a line on a new contract, nothing significant rides on my racing this year. I just want to enjoy myself and do what I can in the races.

With that in mind the Expo boys showed up at the races with a two part plan. First, we figured a break had a chance of succeeding, and if a break went, we needed to get our guy Bryan up there. Failing that, if the race came down to a sprint, we'd work for SOC.

Waitaminute, you ask. Aren't you the sprinter? I mean your blog title means "Sprinter of the House". So what's the deal?

Well, yes, I can be the sprinter. And a lot of times I am. With my lack of fitness I don't feel confident that I can even reach the finish, let alone contest it, so for now I'm deferring from the sprinter designation. I'll take it at other points, but for the Keith Berger race I wasn't about to be the sprinter.

We warmed up a bit. I saw Bryan warming up when we pulled into the lot so he had some time on his legs. SOC and I seemed to be on a similar schedule, more like 10 or 15 minutes of warmup. I realized that my legs started feeling a bit tired so I actually stopped because I didn't want to warm up so much that I started cramping at the end of a 30 mile race. I've figured out that it takes me about 30 miles of riding before my legs start cramping, so warming up a lot before a 30 mile race didn't make a lot of sense to me.

I went back to our base camp to get a cold bottle, double check everything, and say hi to the Missus and Junior.

Our base camp happened to be set up next to a NYC racer, E. He's seen Junior from the getgo and so took the chance to catch up with our little guy's progress. I happened to pick up his bike - jeepers! It's one of those bikes that feels like a foam representation of a bike, it had no mass to it.

"Pick up D's!" he said, "it's way lighter."

I headed over to the portapotties to do the last pee. D happened to be over there so I picked up his bike. Yes, it was super light, even lighter than his teammate's bike. Wowsers.

Back at the car I started getting all my gadgets ready. E rode over.

"Do you ride Keos?"
"You don't have extra cleats with you, do you?"
"D broke his cleat."
"I have one, I'll bring it over."

I pictured the little OEM bag of cleat and hardware I carry in my mini gear bag. I saved it from the pedals in Las Vegas when I forgot my pedals at home. I had my shoes, they had good cleats, so I just rode the pedals and saved the cleats. I'd traveled with the mini gear bag so I just left the cleats in there.

Then I realized. Remember how I just broke my cleat? I had a choice between cleats from my main gear bag and ones from the mini gear bag. I chose the older of the two sets of cleats, and they happened to be in the mini gear bag.

I had no cleats.

Oh, waitaminute. I remembered that for some reason I put the old cleats in the mini gear bag, both the broken and the "okay" one. I hauled out the "okay" one, looked at it.

Reasonable, I suppose.

I rolled over to D, sitting on the grass, his shoe in his hand.

"I forgot I just used my spares but I have this one, it's one I took off my shoes."

I tossed it to him.

"This is great!" he exclaimed, his facing brightening up with a grin.

It is?

"Can I see the old cleat?" I asked.

He handed me a similar grey cleat. It looked like he'd been dragging the toe of the cleat along the road - the front end was basically gone. My cleat, as "worn" as it was, would work much better than his.

"Hey, my cleat's kind of worn so just watch out."

I headed back to the car, good deed done for the day.

I lent one Podium Ice bottle to SOC, gave some cold water to Bryan, and headed out to the start line. I had one Podium Ice bottle for myself, filled with ice and water. With the forecast in the low 70s I figured that by the end of the 30 mile race I'd still have ice cold water in the bottle. I looked around and saw a lot of riders with regular bottles but very expensive wheels and frames and stuff.

I may be a gadgety kind of rider (someone called me Inspector Gadget) but I don't have a $4000 frame or a $300 bar or even a $200 saddle. I did, however, go out and buy two Podium Ice bottles. They help me more than anything when the temperatures go over 80 degrees.

As usual I lined up in the back, but unlike me, when I noticed a huge opening on the right side, I rolled myself over there. I still had a bike length or two in front of me but I wasn't "at the back" anymore. When the race started I scooted up the right side, rolled past the front of the group, and saw E slightly off the front, chasing a guy that looked pretty committed to a first lap move.

I briefly debating bridging to the solo guy (someone from out of the area) but remembered the race was 30 miles long, I haven't been training, and I didn't want to get shelled in a lap. Plus we had our team plan and it wouldn't help anyone if I was watching the race 5 laps in.

Therefore I eased, joined E, and piddled along until the field rolled by. I wasn't blown up, I had plenty of legs, so I felt like I'd actually done something right.

Although I sat near the front for a while, waiting for that expected break, I eventually drifted back. I found Bryan, the expected break rider, and a few other strong riders back there, all biding their time. If they were back here I'd hang out back here too.

I have to admit that although it was supposed to be 71 degrees at the start, it had to be closer to 78 or so, and the sun beat down relentlessly. One lap in Turn Two I leaned over and felt the uncomfortable sensation of a flat tire - the front tire slid a bit to the outside. I looked down but the tire looked okay.

"Was it the tar?" I wondered.

Next lap the same thing happened.

I noticed there were two lines of tar, the outside and inside. The inside line had a break in it; the outside didn't. If I started the turn and crossed the outside line of tar I got that unpleasant tire-going-sideways feeling. If I started the turn between the two lines I could put my tires in a gap in the inside line of tar. I decided I'd try and stay in the middle of the two tar lines so I could corner through the gap on the inside line of tar.

I went and told Bryan what I found - he concurred and said he had the exact same thoughts. I decided that everyone figured it out so I didn't bother saying anything to anyone else.

Nonetheless it took another 8 or 10 laps before we were consistently hitting Turn Two from between the two tar lines. Some racers didn't mind or didn't notice the melting tar, and they'd take us across the slippery outside line.

The line to the left is unbroken.
The line to the right has a break in it.
I tried to stay between the two tar lines and corner through the break in the right one.
(Break in tar line is by white stop line)

I did see another teammate do a powerslide through part of the turn due to his back wheel hitting the tar line under a decent amount of speed.

At some point the pace hotted up for a prime. The break threats suddenly disappeared from the back of the field - I figured things would get going. Until the break went, though, I didn't feel like moving. I'd move up only if the break got semi-established, maybe a 10-20 second lead, then I'd try and help Bryan cross the gap.

I rolled up the side one lap, quickly going from the back to about 20 from the front. My little move brought me up to the sharp end of the stick - I could get involved in the race. Normally, if I was riding for myself, I wouldn't be here. It's too easy to use precious reserves making efforts just to stay on wheels. It's much more peaceful, normally anyway, at the back.

I saw teammate Joe and asked him if there was a break. There was. I asked if one of the threats had made it up there. He did. I asked if Bryan made it.

He did not.

I decided to wait up there, see when Bryan would work his way up, and help launch him across the gap.

Shortly thereafter I turned and saw SOC motoring up the field, Bryan in tow. Before I could get over to them they'd rolled by me.

SOC pulling Bryan, to the right.

After a brief pause (a couple turns) SOC went hard at the front, stringing out the field. Bryan launched shortly afterward and, after a brief but intense effort, made it to the break.

Covering a move once Bryan was clear.
Guy to the right is responding to the guy on the left.
I'm following along.

The problem was the field wasn't willing to let it go, and there weren't that many of us to discourage the chase. I went with one move and the guys in front sat up after a couple turns. Other moves went too, but they came back as well. Unlike pro racing, where attacks actually slow down the average speed of the field, in Cat 3s attacks increase the average.

The break got a bit closer.

A few guys, solo riders mainly, including the guy who took the first lap flyer, hit the front. A few huge pulls and suddenly the break was within reach. Once the sharks smelled the blood the attacks went fast and furious.

In a few minutes I rolled by a tired Bryan. The break had come back.

Now I wanted to set things up for SOC. Since the sprint required fitness, and since I had none, I declined the protected spot. Instead I went looking for SOC.

I found him with about a lap and a half to go, looking a bit gassed but still game. I hollered at him to follow me, then hollered at our friend DocM as well. If I could get DocM and SOC towards the front I could let DocM take over after I exploded.

Two turns later and I must have threaded a needle I didn't know existed. Both guys had disappeared, with other riders stealing my wheel. I always point out that it's easy to take a wheel. It's much, much harder to hold onto one.

I eased a bit, looking for SOC to repeat the effort, belling ringing for the last lap, when Bryan rolled up.

"Where's SOC?!" I yelled.
"I don't know but I'm bringing you up," he replied.

Bryan rolled up the side. We were pretty far back, further than I realized. I was distracted looking for SOC and didn't realize about 20 guys had rolled past on the main straight.

Bryan rolled up the side until he got up to the CLR leadout train.

My legs were dying.

"Tuck in, tuck in!" I yelled.

Bryan just before moving over. CLR has 4 guys, then Bill Y shadowing.

Bryan eased over, dropping me off at the tail of the CLR train. Bill Y, a savvy and respectable racer, wanted fifth wheel so I let him take it.

One more guy went as we rounded the second turn.

Bill Y is in there. CLR still at the front.

Bryan, cooked, looked back. He was out and moved a bit right, leaving a gap to the next guy.

I hurried to get on that guy's wheel.

I got there okay but I needed a bit of a break. It was too fast, too steady, and the CLR guys were starting to get fatigued. Three wide, they slowed. One or two guys started to come around me. Then the CLR guys got organized again, a final push, and got it lined up.

As riders started moving up for the third turn my legs gave way. I hoped to be able to get going a bit, maybe find a bit of respite going through the last two turns. I needed a few seconds to catch my breath but I couldn't get it. My lack of fitness was making itself known - I had made the right moves, got in the right places, but I had nothing to back it up - my engine was overheated and starting to blow gaskets.

The problem was I was well over my redline. When I sprint well I hit the 200 meter mark feeling like I'd just started the race. I feel great. I have to hold myself back so I don't jump too early, and when I go I'm surprised that I can jump so hard.

Here I didn't have that feeling. My legs were tweaked hard from the effort in the wind half a lap earlier. Bryan's move, although it brought me up, exposed me to wind even more. Now, with just a few hundred meters left in the race, I could barely turn the pedals.

I hit Turn Three about 11th spot. It's hard to pass on the short stretch there and just one guy rolled by me - D, as it turns out, with my cleat on his shoe.

Hey, if I can't do well, at least my equipment can.

About to go into the last turn.
The one not like the rest bobbled but it didn't affect the race.

12th out of the last turn I did a little jump. Shovel would be proud of me, I thought, jumping even though I was cooked. My triumph faded rapidly as my legs fell away. I sat down, softpedaling the last 50 or 75 meters.

Although I crossed the line 15th it felt like 20th and should have been 30th. I had no end game.

After the race I talked a bit with Bryan, with SOC, with DocM, with a bunch of guys. We all had expectations, based on our seasons from 2010 and 2011. I had a great 2010; Bryan a great 2011. But this was 2012, and none of us were at the same level as before. Our expectations were based on past history.

Problem is, as the brokers like to say, past history is no indicator of future performance.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Racing - Everything But The Race

I haven't verified stuff on the helmet cam footage and I never checked how I ended up placing (I'm guessing 20th) so the race report will have to wait for a bit. For now I wanted to show just what a racer may have at the race. For those of you on your umpteenth season of racing it's not a big deal but newer or non-racers may appreciate this info.

 The base camp.

The car always becomes the central camp for me. Note the important cooler. Today it held only three water bottles plus a 2 liter bottle for rinsing because I thought it wouldn't be hot. The cooler had three reusable freeze things in it - for a short drive that's enough, but on longer ones I'll have as many as six.

I miscalculated the sun's effect so I had basically no water left in my bottles after one race. On other days it may hold four to six bottles and the rinse bottle stays out in the car. Inevitably those are the cool days and I end up dumping the bottles onto plants in or around the house.

We had two green folding chairs, two race wheels (in the wheel bags), and the blue "secondary gear bag" mainly used for short trips. Usually I'm running much lighter than normal with this bag - no tights, no knickers, a lot of missing spares and such. The main gear bag weighs about 40 or 50 pounds; the blue one weighs about 10 if I put the shoes in there.

Luckily for a fellow competitor I did have, for some reason, the cleats I removed the other day. He needed a cleat and the one I had left was serviceable, at least for the day. Other things I normally have - a spare dropout (if I break the dropout and I don't have another one I'm basically screwed), a master link for the chain (ditto on being screwed if the chain breaks), and basic tools.

I also have all my gadgets, as someone called them a couple weeks ago. I have the Contour HD helmet cam (on the Bell Volt helmet), the Sportsiiiis LED heads up display, my DroidX for Strava, and my SRM computer and heartrate belt.

The bike, of course, with the missing front wheel under the race wheels. With Junior we end up with the bike on the roof so I remove the front wheel for the rack. In the past I'd take both wheels off and stick the bike in the trunk. I much prefer trunk/inside transportation - no weather worries, no theft worries, no "oops I dropped my SRM computer off the car on the way home" worries. That trunk will work for two bikes, four sets of wheels, and two gear bags.

With Junior here he gets a bunch of space. This means less space for bikes. Since putting Junior on the roof isn't an option, the bike goes there. Speaking of Junior, everything else you see is for Junior, including stuff in the back seat that's out of sight.

 The number as I was pinning it.

I have a lot of pins but in different spots so I went looking for more pins. It's weird, this year the numbers scratch off really easily. I've noticed this with all of the numbers from this company. With the Rainbow Racing numbers we use at Bethel they don't rub off at all. Mind you, I don't intentionally crumple my number - this was just from pinning it. You can see that the lower right corner of the numerals are still black - it's because I haven't gotten there yet.

Of course I had to put in some Expo stuff, like the cap.

 The bike, ready to race.

I actually took the picture after the race, but it's in the same shape. You can't tell from the picture but the tires flex 0.000023 inches less due to the empty bottle, otherwise it looks the same as when it started.

Spare wheels (the training set) stayed with the car because CVC has neutral support here. Very classy.

 The number after the race.

I added more pins and did the lower right corner. I put the jersey on, took it off, and I did drape it over the back of my neck. The number looks like it's twenty years old. Well, belay that thought. I have numbers that are 20 years old and they look better than that, and a lot of them were printed by the same company. I think this year they must have changed something this year because these things are terrible. I wonder if they're even legal.

Junior at the end of a long morning.

We headed out shortly after the Masters race ended, which was the race after mine. With Junior it's a bit tough to hang out all day, and with a chance to get together with some friends we had to take it. Two of them hadn't seen Junior since Bethel so he's added about 100% weight since they last saw him. Maybe closer to 180%.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Racing - June 19, 2012 @TuesdayTheRent

The last time I was here I got shelled in two quick laps. Quick in the sense that, yes, the field was going fast, and quick in the sense that I got shelled quickly.

I knew I hadn't been training but this was pretty bad. The Missus even said that I should train a bit more. She knows me well enough that although I don't berate myself too much when I get shelled I still feel disappointed that I wasn't in the mix. For me racing is about being in the mix, whether it means helping a teammate or going for a place myself.

Since that last race I trained a bit more. I took the approach that this was the beginning of my season. I have no base so I figured I should work on that - when I start cramping 20 miles into a ride I know that I'm lacking something serious.

I also had some mechanical issues that I never fixed. In the past, through 2011, I worked on my bikes a lot while I was in SoCal at my annual 2004-2011 training camps. Although the long days wiped me out  the short days gave me a lot of time to fiddle with the bike - spend an hour or two on the bike and I'm left with 5 or 6 hours before the host family returns home.

This year not only did I not go to SoCal. I didn't train that much. I didn't work on my bike. I had this weird problem where my bike would shift out of the big ring spontaneously - I discovered my big ring had a bunch of bent teeth, teeth that would try to dump the chain into the small ring on every pedal stroke.

With that fixed, the brakes tightened up a bit, and some other miscellaneous maintenance stuff done, my bike felt a lot better.

I also trained a bit more. Instead of riding once a week I could ride twice, even three times a week. I managed to do two races at the Nutmeg State Games, going on the attack in the M45s and hanging tough in the Cat 3s.

I've also gotten a bit better with my schedule at home with Junior. I can get more things done, I'm better at focusing at a task, and a lot of stuff comes to be automatically that didn't before. Amazing how a little tyke can do all that to an adult.

All this meant that Tuesday June 19th would be better. Before we left for the race I had the bike packed, my number pinned, and even an entry form filled printed and filled out. Ironic on the last bit - I had a bunch of forms left from the 2012 Bethel Spring Series but gave them away because "I didn't need them anymore". Now I have to print them to get more.

At any rate after the Missus got home we packed up Junior and headed out. We practically flew along until we got to the entrance to I291, when traffic ground to a standstill. Apparently an accident closed the left lane of I291, backing up traffic for miles.

Instead of arriving with 45 minutes in hand we got there with just a few laps left in the B race. All my prep came in handy as all I had to do was present my release, pay, slip on the jersey (and helmet and gloves and Sportsiiiis and start Strava), pee (in the portapottie) and line up.

With this type of warm up my SOP in Bethel I figured it would be okay. The race went fine for about 30 minutes, although I was hurting the whole time. About halfway in the field splintered chasing a prime.

I was already dangling dangerously near the back of the reasonably sized field (30 or 35 racers I think). I saw friend Laura S struggling, trying to close a gap that really someone else should have closed. I gave her a good push to get her to the next wheel, but then that guy left a gap. She went around again and I knew that that was the move that would blow her up.

I couldn't even stay on her wheel so that was that for me. The last few guys rolled around me and then I was clear to sit up completely.

My heartrate, every time I had looked down, read 158 or 159. I know that I can hold the mid 160s when I'm working really hard, so not breaking 160 seemed a bit low. I figured I was having an off day, where I couldn't rev the engine very hard.

After downloading the SRM I learned that I was looking down when my heartrate dropped a bit (which makes sense). I didn't see the 160-164 stuff, but I was there. So it wasn't as off an off day as I thought, and that's actually worse. It means I can't go much faster than what we did there.

Curiously enough, at the end of my lap off the back, my heartrate had dropped to about 130. I recovered quickly, it seemed.

I don't look too cooked, do I?
Photo by David Wells

I know that at my best I'd make huge efforts, really suffer for a bit, recover, then go again. I was never good at long continuous efforts, like climbing rock steady for 5 minutes. I did better when I had to surge a couple times to stay on wheels then sprinted over the top of said climb.

My heartrate curve seems to show that my recovery is starting to come around. I need this to happen since I use big efforts sporadically and rely on some off periods to try and recover quickly. The choppier the pace the more I can recover.

Tuesday, though, the pace felt relentless. I never had more than a few seconds of soft pedaling per lap and that wasn't enough to allow me to recover. After running an aerobic deficit for most of the race I finally popped.

For now I'll be working on just getting on the bike. Pedaling certainly beats not pedaling, that's for sure. I'll also try and get some exercise in while in the house looking after Junior, stuff I can do without getting on the bike.

Sunday is the Keith Berger Crit. I'll see what happens there.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Equipment - Aero Road - Giro Air Attack

Giro announced that they'll be introducing an aero road helmet for 2013. It's not just a time trial helmet - it's meant for mass start races.

Image stolen from their site because inevitably the site will change.

A while ago I started thinking of aero road helmets. It started a long, long time ago when someone (Cannondale? Specialized?) tested a couple riders and a slew of helmets in some wind tunnel. It was probably in the early/mid 90s since they were testing foam-and-mesh helmets as well as the "new" plastic shelled ones. My take away from that presentation was that a rider's posture/body makes a huge difference in selecting an optimal aero helmet. In the case of the presentation one of the riders (he had a shorter neck) was most aero with a normal, slightly tailed road helmet. Other riders, with longer necks, tested best with proper aero helmets.

Regardless, a rider's helmet (and head I guess) create a tremendous amount of drag and is a place to gain a "secret" edge. These secret spots give you a chance to make subtle but significant changes, sometimes making quite a difference in performance. This is especially true, relative to other racers, when the others get distracted by other aspects of your gear. In car racing such "hide through distraction" works really well - a team will carefully cover its "secret" design wings and such when in fact their performance gains come from elsewhere, like a floor design or something. The other teams, seeing the wings get covered, expend a lot of energy photographing the wings, examining just what makes them different from theirs (made more difficult because they're not that different), and after countless hours of analysis will say, "Daggummit, they led us on a wild goose chase."

For me, too, I tried to use any advantage I could through equipment choice.

It started with the Cannondale frames in the mid-late 80s. As a big gear stomper, especially in sprints or up short power hills, I felt the Cannondale frames gave me a huge advantage. I know I would climb in at least one cog smaller, and I knew I could jump as hard as I could and not make the rear derailleur shift.

See, in the old days frames were really, really flexible. One of the "flex tests" was to jump/accelerate really hard while you were just riding the bike. If the frame flexed enough then the rear derailleur cable would loosen (the cable would literally hang limp) and cause the derailleur to shift into the next cog inadvertently. Magazine reviews would talk about "... and the bike wouldn't shift up no matter how hard I sprinted". The Cannondale was stiff enough that such nonsense was never an issue.

I used other equipment choices to my benefit. For many years, before any shift/brake lever integration, I raced with a right side bar end shifter. This allowed me to shift rapidly during a sprint, giving me an edge over my rivals with a normal set of downtube shifters. I could jump in a low gear and sprint in a high gear, the best of both worlds. Others would debating jumping in a bigger gear (in order to max out top speed) or a lower gear (to get a better jump). Sadly, after STI came out, guys I could regularly beat became untouchable - my equipment choices had given me a huge advantage in this case.

I also used super light Aerolite pedals, 38 grams each (with cleat and hardware), 76 grams for the heavier steel version. Combined with a lightweight and super stiff wood soled shoe (criticized for being "too stiff"), I had a super light shoe/pedal weight. Although I never had a definitive "test" like with the shifter in the previous paragraph, I can tell you that when I finally went to a normal pedal it felt like someone strapped weights to my ankles.

I also adopted aero wheels in the early 90s, racing frequently with a rear disk wheel and front TriSpoke (aka HED3). Given the chance I rode on a pair of TriSpokes. When Zipp came out with their first rims (the 440 and 340, precursors to the 404 and 303), I used them as well. Nowadays everyone uses aero wheels - my 2 or 3 mph advantage at top speed disappeared. Interestingly enough I no longer sprint the fastest. I mean, okay, I'm getting old and stuff, but it used to be ridiculous, me on TriSpokes and everyone else on 32 spoke box section wheels. Okay, if they had "super duper" wheels they'd be on 28 spoke versions of the same.

And, because I felt aerodynamics really helped with the bike, I'd take other approaches to reducing my overall drag. For example I know that the body is the least aerodynamic part of the bike racer unit. Therefore I worked on reducing my own drag as much as possible, through posture and equipment.

I used Scott Rakes whenever I felt fit enough to justify putting them on the bike. They gave me a super aero position with my elbows close together. I tried other aero bars too but found them less helpful - the Spinaccis (kind of short aero bars but illegal for USCF use), the copycat 3ttt product, some bar that connected the drops (think of a towel bar connecting your two brake levers), Scott DropIns (the end of the drops had extra tubing that turned inward). All had their disadvantage for me - the Spinaccis were more TT than sprint, the bar that connected the drops were unwieldy to use, the DropIns put my hands too far back.

Nonetheless I understood the importance of taking advantage of these things. The Rakes were always close to the surface of my "extra parts" box and they went on whenever I thought I'd need to chase (bridge to a break or just chase after getting shelled).

Note the Zipp 340 wheels and the Scott Rakes (the "extra" bars at the center of my normal bars).
Note also that no one else has aero stuff.

Final note: the Zipp 340 wheels weighed the same as my slightly higher spoke count 280g rimmed wheels, so they were light too. Most riders at the time were running 400g rims, 28 spoke up front, 32 spoke in the rear. I ran either the 28 spoke 280g rims or the 24 spoke Zipp 340s (which were about 320 grams). They were quick on acceleration and gave me about 1 mph more top end. By now everyone is using a brake/shift lever so no more advantage there.

In the picture above Keith Berger, for whom the Keith Berger Crit is named, is on my wheel. He was still a Cat 3 at the time and he won the 3-4 race (the picture was taken during the 1-2-3 race). Keith launched when the field was already at its limit, bridged to a break, and won the sprint. It shows that even with equipment it doesn't matter if you're not able to use it. I won the Series either the year before or the year after, mainly through the sprint. In that particular year's Series I removed the Rakes after this first week - I had enough teammates to chase things down so the Rakes became unnecessary.

Along those lines of "subtle changes" I sometimes taped the vents closed on my old Giro Air Attack, reducing both the ventilation (when temperatures plummeted) and decreasing drag. Later I did that to almost all my helmets, usually for the Bethel Spring Series races (like here, for example). I used either clear packing tape or, later, black electrical tape. The black tape was more discrete and easier to remove when the weather got warmer.

Eventually I started thinking of getting a helmet that was more aero. I was thinking more in terms of the Bethel Spring Series, a race series normally held in cold conditions. At that point a racer doesn't need a lot of ventilation; in fact, when I did one week with a brand new, super ventilated helmet, my head hurt from the cold air hitting the now-insufficient skull cap I wore under the helmet.

Since I decided that since I really don't want air flow I should be able to get by with a rounder helmet, one more conducive towards my head tilted down sprint position. This would also work on the track, but that wasn't part of my thinking yet.

I contemplated, but couldn't bring myself to wear, BMX/skateboard helmets. I tried them on a few times at a local shop, probably prompting questions about me ("Is he going into BMX?"). I ended up getting such helmets but mainly for my brother. He does skate and skaters fall a lot more frequently than cyclists.

Recently I thought of the ski helmets, with vents you could open and close while you rode. As a bonus they had goggle strap indents in the back, so when it was really cold I could wear goggles to protect my eyes. For me, riding in bitterly cold weather hurts my eyes, and with prescription glasses I can't wear regular eye protection type glasses. As a bonus if I went skiing I'd have a helmet (and at some point I do want to downhill ski again and I won't do it if I don't have a helmet). The problem with these helmets was that with rapidly changing helmet standards I wasn't sure if the ski helmet would be legal for use in a bike race. I nixed the sliding vent closure Giro helmets at that point.

My favorite helmet thus far was one that I couldn't buy locally and I don't think passes the right safety regulations for use in USAC. It's made by Kask and I saw it at Interbike in 2009.

"City" helmet

Apparently the helmet was made for commuting. What caught my eye was the built in face shield, a huge factor in the aero-ness of a human head.

I'd have gotten it simply for the cool looking liner inside.

As you can see ventilation is a bit low on the list of requirements. At a Bethel Spring Series race it would be fine, but in 90 degree summer crits this helmet would probably see you head to the hospital after having heat stroke.

Now Giro has a helmet due to be released for 2013. I'm sure we'll see it in action in the Tour and at the Olympics - that's why they "released" it now, so people like me would go, "Oh, cool, look, an aero road helmet!" and talk it up.

I'm such a sucker.

Seriously, though, an aero road helmet is huge. I haven't looked at any stats or anything but I bet that such a helmet will save at least as much as an aero road frame. Okay, probably more. Maybe close to an aero front wheel. Whatever, it's going to be a huge savings relative to cost. At the $200 price point it'll be less than a top of the line "regular" helmet, weigh within 50-90 grams of said "regular" helmet, and probably be worth the same as a $1000 front wheel as far as aero is concerned, and way more than a $4000 frame.

For me that's a win-win so I'm signing up.

Now to wait for the next team Giro ordering window. Hopefully before the 2013 Bethel Spring Series.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Interbike 2010 - Follow Up Picture

This is a follow up picture to this post. At the end of the post there's a long discussion about Greg Lemond, his La Vie Claire TT helmet, and a card that my mom got for me. The card didn't have the La Vie Claire logo on the eggshell - I put that there in tribute to Greg Lemond.

I was going through a bunch of papers while sorting things out in our yet-to-be-finalized office area at home and voila!, there it was, the card, post signature.

Picture of the card

I suppose I'll scan it properly when I have the scanner set up. For now, though, this will have to do.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Equipment - Maintenance (Cleats)

This isn't about how to maintain your cleats. There isn't much to that part of stuff... okay, this means that the first part of the post will be about cleat maintenance.

So... when I install cleats, usually a replacement pair on shoes that already have cleats, I do the following:
1. Mark the cleat position.
2. Clear out the fasteners (allen head or screw fitting).
3. Remove old cleat.
4. Put anti-seize on the new screws (or the old ones if I'm reusing them for some reason, very unlikely).
5. Put all the screws on lightly.
6. After checking alignment tighten all screws up to spec.
7. Note, for Look Keo cleats don't go bonkers on the screws - the cleats will crack if you overtighten them. What's overtightening them? It's when you tighten them until they crack.
8. Do a sanity check and put the shoe on and clip in. You don't want to find out that the cleat isn't in the right place 5 minutes before a race.
9. Oh, I forgot to mention - don't do this 5 minutes before a race.
What I really wanted to mention is that you should check your cleats and replace them if you think you're getting even a little close to wearing them thin enough to break. I checked my cleats last week at the Nutmeg State Games and thought, oh, these are fine, I'll replace them in the next month or so.

I figured I'd replace them the next time I was on the trainer in the basement - it happens to be where most of my spare cleats reside (one set in the auxiliary gear bag upstairs, but the other four or so sets are in the basement, including a couple pair in my main gear bag).

The problem was that I didn't know what to look for and therefore I never really checked them. Unfortunately I found out the hard way that my cleats really did need replacing. I looked at them a bit more carefully and found what I didn't know before.

 From left: broken, worn, new. Below, just sitting on the shoe, is another new cleat.

If you look carefully at the two worn ones you can see the white stuff (kind of a slippery plastic, I guess for easier clipping out) has two pins going into the grey bit of plastic. You can see the white dots in the grey area of the worn cleats, just behind (or below in the picture above) the rear screws.

This picture shows that the white dots are recessed when the cleat is not worn.

In this shot it's easier to see that the worn cleat's white dots are even with the surface of the cleat. The red cleat's white dots are recessed. The newer grey cleat, with some extra protection on the bottom, doesn't even have visible white dots.

So now I know. Look for the white dots on your Keo cleats - if you see them replace the cleat. I didn't know until today and I was lucky that nothing happened - a full throttle sprint, a hard shift up, and bing, the cleat went.

I couldn't put much pressure on the pedals - at about 110-120 watts my right foot would just pop free.

Obviously I'll be replacing the cleats before my next ride.

My punishment for letting my equipment go? A half mile climb at about 250 watts using basically just my left leg while seated. A good workout, okay, but for a bad reason.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Racing - 2012 Nutmeg State Games, M45+ & Cat 3s

A couple days before the race I added up my training hours for May and the first part of June. I came up with 16 hours for 5 weeks, or just over 3 hours a week.

This included the races I did, what I did of them. In one race I was off the back in two laps. In the next, later that same day, I was cramping and couldn't contest the sprint. In the third race I was off the back in about 1.5 laps (and I was following wheels the whole time).

My season, as you can see, hasn't started very well.

The Missus, supportive as always, worries a bit when I get shelled in the first lap or two of a race. She knows that although I don't attach a life-or-death importance to racing (waitaminute... did I just say that?) she understands that I feel disappointed when I can't even participate in a race.

With that in mind she came home Friday, took Junior, and told me to go ride my bike.

And I did.

It was just an hour, I rode the trainer, but this was my first hour on the bike that week. I felt good to be on the bike but my legs had that background soreness after an easy ride - 142 watt average, spinning the small ring and a 23 for most of the ride (44x23 - I haven't installed the 39T chainring yet).

Saturday we gathered all the stuff we needed for Junior - he almost has more stuff than I do when we go to a race. We've been using the roof rack on the Jetta Sportswagen these days, with the trunk area full of stroller, folding chairs, and infant supply bags. My bike went up top, my race wheels and front training wheel in the back, and a trifecta of TriSpokes that will be on a lend-program to a fellow cyclist.

Because of my positive experience with my first M45+ race at the Mystic Velo Crit, I decided to do the M45+ race and the 3s at Nutmeg. I'd focus on the M45+ for a result and see what happened in the 3s.


The M45+ wasn't quite the tea party from Mystic. There was an element of taking risks, of pushing limits, a feeling of "well, maybe I don't have to go to work on Monday". It wasn't all terrible but I didn't get that "feel good" aura that I got in Mystic.

Nonetheless my legs felt surprisingly good considering the non-training I've been doing. Maybe not a surprise. After all, as I always tell those over-achievers who train 40 hours a week, you don't get stronger by riding. You get stronger by recovering.

This meant I was 5 days stronger than I was last weekend. And about 25 days stronger than I was at the end of April.

Whatever, I rode a normal race in the field. I moved up at times, much further forward than I would normally ride. In the field of about 60 (I think) I sometimes found myself sitting 10th or 15th. Inevitably I slid back into the field, dropping to the back 10 laps into the relatively short 15 lap race.

With my newfound willingness to ride more forward, and with the nagging thought that "If I move up hard on the last lap I won't have a sprint", I set about moving up before the last lap.

The strung out field rounded the last turn heading into 2 laps to go, some attackers pushing hard to break clear of the front. The move failed, and as the field started to contract near the start/finish (with 2 to go), two guys went.

I suspect that they were the ones attacking just before because the move and followup move scream their names - Bill Y and Mike M. Both riders prefer small breaks to field sprints, both are not afraid of making efforts, and when they go all in they frequently succeed.

I was rolling up the right side, part of the fast flying elastic wrapping around the slowing front. I could either brake to stay in the field or I could go.

I went.

Of course as soon as I took the first two pedal strokes I started thinking, "Dude, just sit up. It's 2 to go, you don't go well for more than a minute at a time, and it's a good 4 minutes to the finish."

Then my Jens piped up.

"Shut up legs!"

I put the smash hammer down.

In fact, thinking back on it, I put it down a bit too hard. I blew by Bill and Mike, so much so that they literally sat up. I think they figured if a sprinter just got on their wheel then the whole field must be just behind.

I rolled around the long bend, willing them to get on my wheel. I didn't have a plan except that I knew that three guys riding along individually made no sense. I was willing to pull and I wanted them to go on my wheel.

Finally, almost reluctantly, I could see Bill put his head down and start riding back up to me. Mike hesitated and followed, but he'd already left a gap so he was riding on his own too.

On the short backstretch we all came together. I was a bit tweaked with my half lap in the wind and pulled off. Bill pulled through to the last turn, then Mike pulled a bit.

Unfortunately the enthusiasm in our legs from the lap before had deserted us, leaving just pain in its place. When I pulled though Mike sat up, and I knew that my fuse was about done. When I pulled off I also sat up. I briefly contemplated trying to go with Bill first, some chasers second, and the field third, but I couldn't move. Nothing worked properly.

With no chance in the sprint I gave up, and on the backstretch I even cut across the grass to try and catch the finish. Even slicing half the course off I couldn't reach the finish area to clearly see who won. Nonetheless I felt good. I made a move, committed, and tried to play it out.

Back at our base camp I couldn't help but grin. It was a lot of fun to give it a go, even if it wasn't the best move or a planned one or whatever. Sometimes you just gotta do what you just gotta do. I understand a bit on why some racers refuse to stick to a plan - sometimes it's more fun to try something outlandish. Maybe not very productive, but still, it was fun.

14.2 miles. I didn't do a warm up other than riding from the car to the start and one slow lap of the course.

Cat 3s

I hadn't registered for the 3s that morning, and, initially, I felt glad about it. After the M45+ race ended the skies opened up a bit. With rain falling I really didn't feel like hanging out and racing. We hung out to watch friends race, and as we watched the skies started to clear. I started getting a bit dizzy with hunger - I'd come here expecting to leave after the M45 race so I wasn't really fueled up for a long stay.

My partner in crime John from my Belgium trip (who registered for both the M45+ and the 3s just before I registered for the M45+) chided me for not committing to the 3s. So did a bunch of other people, and, finally, at 2:21 PM (3:05 PM start time), I relented.

"I'm gonna do the 3s," I told the Missus.

First I had to take care of my bonkiness. Some GU blocks, a GU, and another GU helped with that. Downing that with some water I went and registered, then headed to the car to change, unpack the bike (I'd put the bike on the roof and everything), and rolled back to the start area. I was still in dire straits energy-wise so I bought two Cokes and put them in a bottle (Podium ICE, so it stayed reasonably cool). I barely had time to get my stuff together (pin my number, get Strava going, turn on the Sportsiiiis, turn on the helmet cam) before I had to go line up.

Just before I left our base came area I told the Missus I wouldn't do anything stupid this race. Sit in and sprint. John, standing next to me, grinned. My move in the M45+ race was so unlike me that it'd be eons before I tried anything like that again.

I felt almost giddy in this race, probably because I was experiencing a mad sugar rush after bonking. I drank as much of the Coke as possible, knowing that the sugar would hit my system as soon as I drank it.

Halfway around the first lap I rolled up the left and protected side of the group, cruising past the side of the field. Up the hill the lead riders stayed on the yellow line in the center, leaving a nice lane for me on the left.

I took it.

And I surged.

It wasn't a huge surge per se, about 1000 watts, but I rolled over the top of the hill at about 30 mph. A bit later, on the finishing stretch, I rolled by the Missus who sardonically yelled, "Nice move!"

As in not.

I didn't want to get shelled when I got caught so I tried to catch my breath while I recovered, still off the front. Since it was a suicide move by a sprinter the field didn't chase - this just prolonged my agony. I kept looking at my SRM to check my heart rate but it just wouldn't drop from the 164 range (which is close to detonation for me). My heart felt like it was beating in my throat and I felt vaguely uncomfortable trying to catch my breath.

Finally, after a bit of 15 mph love time on the backstretch, I could feel my breathing change from "panic" to "really hard". My heart rate started to drop just a tad. 162 bpm and the field rolled by me, reluctantly chasing.

I got on right away, still worried about a counter that could kill me. John rolled by.

"What's the last thing you said to your wife, 'Nothing crazy'?" he hollered a reminder.


I spent a lot of time with my mind not really in the race. I followed wheels, I took invitations to fill gaps, but I really didn't think about stuff until my legs started to twinge, my hamstrings threatening rebellion.

Next time around I would check the lap cards, hope we were in the last 5 laps or so, but before I could even get there, I could hear the MC hollering about a halfway prime.


I consciously throttled back even more than I already was. Not too much spinning. Ease gaps closed, don't surge. No high wattage thumps on the pedals. Experiment with standing (not so good after 3-4 pedal strokes - therefore can't sprint).

I thought my race was done.

Then I remembered something Shovel had said about the Mystic race. He'd been totally blown going into the sprint but he relented, just driving as hard as possible to the line. He got a place.

Me, on the other hand, sitting up before the last turn, I got nothing.

I figured that, okay, I'll just ride out this race and see what happens. Unfortunately nothing really did. I felt reasonably okay for twingy legs - my test involves checking how easily I can move up after the top of the hill. If I can surge hard and move up 10 or 15 spots instantly, if I have to brake to avoid hitting the guy in front of me, then I'm feeling good. If I surge hard but don't have to brake to slow, or gain only a half dozen spots, then I'm not so good. If I struggle to stay on wheels then it's bad.

I didn't have to brake every lap but I couldn't move at will - I had to save up for a lap or two before I could make a move. This signaled to me that my legs really were going south and I'd have to be really crafty to get up there for the sprint.

I did what I could, moved up reasonably well, but I couldn't get out and fight for position like I normally do. In the sprint I was pretty far back but I pedaled to the line, seated, just riding hard (versus "sprinting"). At the line I was the first rider behind a wall of guys who were all really close. The winner was well clear of everyone else but for second, let's just say that the finishline picture should be great.

I placed myself about 20th but I didn't really care. I felt I'd ridden as best as I could. Had I been able to jump I figure I would have been in that tussle for second, and I felt like, okay, yeah, I would have been good in that tussle. Next time.

More importantly than my finish was that when I rolled back to base camp after a cool down lap, I had an ear to ear grin on my face.

"That was fun!"

And it was. With no expectations, no goals, and with everything beyond "I'm still in the race after two laps" a bonus, it was great to make a big move in the M45+ race, a similar "flying the colors" move in the Cat 3s, and still take part in the races.

We watched the P123 afterward but as I started getting dizzy with hunger again we started the packing up process to head home. We rolled by the van displaying results so I trotted over to check if I got 20th or 21st.

To my surprise I was 13th. Out of those 8 were from Connecticut, and a fellow town resident named Austin took the Nutmeg jersey. Joy.

We headed home, Junior exhausted after a long day out. A good day. Next up - the 2012 Keith Berger Crit in East Hartford and any @TuesdayTheRent races that don't get cancelled due to rain.

From Kenneth Reilly of Pawling Cycles.
A shot of the Cat 3 race based on my bottles (the white one is full of Coke).
I regretted taking the Cane Creek Speed Bars off, not that it would have helped that much.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Equipment - Road vs Track geometry

Over the past few years the "fixie" trend has permeated the cycling industry. Although it involves all aspects of life, the focus on the fixie is riding a fixed gear bike, usually on the road. Until now fixed gear bikes belonged in the velodrome ("track bikes") or under fearless bike messengers (although, truth be told, many messengers simply used converted bikes, i.e. not a "track bike").

Since road bikes have slightly different needs from track bikes the cycling industry set about to fill this new gap in the product line - the road going fixed gear bike.

True track bikes have a few features that prevent them from being ridden safely on the road. Two stand out over the rest, other than the fact that a track bike has no brakes.

1. On a real track bike the fork blades were round. Since there are no potholes on a track, the frames were not designed to resist impacts very well.
2. On a real track bike the fork is so slickly packaged there isn't even room to drill a hole for a brake. Most track forks are not drilled for a brake.

If you're looking for a real track bike it's tough to find those tidbits when looking at a spec sheet. There isn't a column that says "round or oval fork blades", and in many pictures it's tough to tell if the fork is drilled for a brake (unless there's a brake mounted on the bike already).

There are other ways you can check a potential candidate frame - you can compare geometry specs. Focus on headtube angle, fork rake ("offset"), trail, chainstay length, and BB drop.

I've found two bikes, from the same line, as an example.


For a 52 cm track vs a 52 cm road bike check out the differences:

HT angle: 75 deg vs 72 deg
Rake: 35 mm vs 45 mm
Trail: 61 mm vs 63 mm
Chainstay length: 380 mm vs 410 mm
BB drop: 45 mm vs 69 mm

The steeper head tube angle allows for quicker steering, meaning to actually turn the bike right or left. On a road bike it might be much, even if outfitted with a proper fork. The Spago team in the late 80s used such steep angled head tube Rossins that I thought Scott McKinley (on a long solo break) had crashed his bike and partially collapsed his frame.

In order to make the bike stable with a steeper head tube angle you need LESS rake (to give you about the same amount of trail; however, most track bikes have less trail). In the case of the two geometries above the track bike is only slightly less stable than the road bike, with just 2 mm less trail.

(The idea of less rake for more trail is counterintuitive, but think of a shopping cart - it has a really steep "head tube angle" of 90 degrees. When you push the thing forward the wheel drops back behind the pivot - that is what trail does, sort of auto-aligns the wheel for stability. Well a shopping cart wheel has something like negative 50 mm rake because the "fork" that holds the wheel actually points back, not to the front.)

Shorter chainstays means you have a bike that's more maneuverable, especially out of the saddle. Once you're seated it's not as noticeable. It also allows you to put more weight on the bars without having the rear wheel get loose under you.

A higher BB (meaning less BB drop from the axle height) means more clearance, necessary when riding slower on a steeply banked track. You can see the difference is substantial here - about an inch. This means your whole bike sort of moves up the same amount, since sizing is taken off the BB. Due to the higher BB height, everything else is taller. My 50 cm track frame looks like a 53 cm because both the head tube and seat tube are so much longer than what I'm used to.

Any "track" or "fixed gear" frame that has normal looking numbers is meant for road use.

Track bikes are different creatures.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Tsunami - 1.0, Take Two (1.1?)

A while back I got that first wonderful custom-fit frame from Tsunami Bikes.

It changed my world.

That year I found I could train longer, race harder, and, for the first time ever, managed to get a Cat 2 upgrade.

Even so I found a few details that I could change. The biggest was the chainstay length - with a front end so much longer than before, the geometry unweighted the rear wheel significantly. I found that going through corners under power I could almost always break the tire loose. On particularly fast laps I could break the tire loose even without pedaling.

Okay, fine, I could move my weight back a bit and anchor the rear wheel more, but after seeing a few pictures of me cornering I realized that it would be better to bring the wheel closer in to the bottom bracket. If Mohammad can't go to the mountain, move the mountain to Mohammad.

This led to the second Tsunami frame, the black one. Although its aero styling made it look different, it fit exactly like the orange frame. Out back, though, the stays were shorter. 39 cm for the chainstays to be exact, the shortest the builder could do without massive tire rub.

It's tight. I'm going to file/sand it down a bit.

(I get some pretty horrendous sounding scraping going when I ride over sand and such - the sand sticking to the tires scrapes the frame, jamming into it. I can feel the grit jamming my tire and frame, slowing me down. It's that tight.)

The second frame gave the nod to aerodynamics over weight. I asked for it with the thought of running just a CamelBak, i.e. no bottles, and trying to get more aero by eliminating the big clunky things in the frame. Real world experience led to me installing two cages - my aero bike experiment failed, mainly because I found it so cumbersome to take a sip of water with the CamelBak on.

The experience made me look at my lighter (by over 200g) orange frame with a different eye. I wanted the slightly lighter frame back but with the shorter stays.

This is where Tsunami Bikes made the difference.

Joseph Wells, the welder behind the name, agreed to modify my frame with shorter stays. He'd have to cut off and replace the seatstays to accomplish this, in order to relocate the brake bridge. He would be sending the frame back unpainted (I asked him to strip off the rest of the paint).

Just unpacked after it arrived.

After several weeks I got the frame back. Shorter stays, no paint, and looking admittedly a bit sad. No glowing Candy Orange paint, no decals, no battle scars.

 I weighed it out of curiosity. Without a rear dropout, without the cable adjusters, no bottom bracket cable guide, the frame weighed in at 1210g, a full 230g lighter than in its original form. I'll weigh the small pieces but I don't think they'll break 50g, leaving the frame at about 200g lighter. I'm guessing the shorter tubes will count for about 40-60g (based on the 30g I saved by cutting down my heat treated aluminum bars), so the luscious paint probably weighed about 150g.

After talking with a few people I decided to make some unauthorized changes to the frame. I started by drilling holes in the bottom bracket shell, swiss-cheesing the dropouts, and even the back of the head tube. I also honed the inside of the head tube and bottom bracket, thinning the tube diameters. Finally I acid etched the tubes with muriatic acid to thin them out.


Okay, I didn't do any of that.

I did start filing down some welds, shaping some of the cable stops, and and basically trying to get rid of any superfluous material. I gained a new appreciation for the artisan frame builders; I also realized that I could do this shaping stuff for a long, long time and not be satisfied until it was perfect.

(I realized I was paralleling another rider's experience, albeit in a slightly different way. When Chris Boardman was laid up for a while after breaking a bunch of bones, he whittled away at a Mavic crankset. It looked beautiful when he was done but, based on seeing and feeling others done the same way, it was probably super-flexy. Nonetheless the idea of "honing" a finished product appeals to me in some way, I guess the same way I want to mod a brand new car.)

I've been filing a little at a time, after my trainer rides, maybe once a week. I weighed the frame after a few filing sessions - 1190g, or 20g lighter than before. I wanted to get rid of any excess weight but not reduce strength. I even looked at pictures of the frame bits before they got welded (I looked them up) so that I'd have an idea of what I was working with.

A friend happened to be painting his Mini a bright red color. He is doing part of another project for me, and when I realized he was painting yet another Mini (this is his fifth one), I asked if he could maybe shoot some paint on my frame. Since I had to work around his schedule I had to accelerate mine - I dropped off the frame at about 80% complete.

My friend promised me some miracles, using a really heavy (gulp) primer that puffs up and fills stuff out. He'd then sand it down. I must have looked a bit alarmed because he looked at my face and mentioned that he'd try and keep the weight down.

(On an aside I realize now that I could have spent months filing and sanding the frame, and if I were selling the thing under my own name I'd feel somewhat obligated to do that if the finish was an issue.)

With Junior occupying my time a bit, I kinda sorta forgot about the frame. Then I realized, oh, he's probably done with it. I went to call him and saw that I had a missed call on my phone.

From him.

"Dude, your frame's all set."

I headed over.

With Junior in the car too, of course.

 Frame hanging up.
Mini is in the background, with "Actual Size" already in the window. Right now he's doing the jambs and stuff, the stuff that isn't visible until you open doors.
Painter is off to the right.

My painter friend said he brushed on the primer around the joints so as not to spray too much of the heavy stuff on the frame, then went over it with a bunch of different sandpaper, then shot the whole frame. I haven't weighed the frame yet so no report on the total paint weight.

I had to take this shot. Expo Wheelmen's sponsor Manchester Cycle sells Bell helmets, and because of Expo I now race in a Bell. That Bell sticker is on the Mini.

The frame is now red. It happens to be a Hyundai color (I think).

Originally my friend was going to paint the mini a Viper red. Even though that would have dovetailed nicely into my "what car should I buy" post because I briefly contemplated a Viper, ultimately it was his choice. If he picked yellow my frame would be yellow.

 Note the smoothed out welds.

 I also filed away at the base of the cable stops. I wanted them to be more "formed" than just triangular blocks.

 Another view of the front end, with the formed cable stops on the downtube.

 The bottom bracket got cleaned up a lot.

So did the welds around the rear drop outs.

The Missus said "Wow" when I opened the door holding the frame. I'm psyched to build it up now. I have all the frame's small parts downstairs (dropout, seatpost collar, stuff like that), a lighter fork, and the actual parts kit. I also have a second SRM crankset, including the special 104mm spindle, for this frame.

I hope to incorporate a couple pieces off other frames - I have a Ti seat collar, for example, that I'd like to use.

We'll see how it goes. It's not that I don't have the stuff to put the bike together - it's just finding the time that'll be the trick.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Story - Not Mine

There's a lot of swear words in it but I love this story.

Part of it is about the only name mentioned is Junior's. I mean, okay, he's not talking about Junior, but it's still his (English spelling) name.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Equipment - Rotational Inertia

I'm revisiting the wheel inertia thing, this time with a suggestion. At some point some time someone told me that I shouldn't complain about something unless either I could do something about it or if the person I was talking to could do something about it.

In other words if your boss, say, doesn't give you a bonus, you shouldn't go complain about it to the counter person at McDonalds. You should instead either talk to your boss or talk to someone that your boss may go to for information or advice. (This is assuming your boss or boss's confidant doesn't work as a counter person at McDonald's.)

I put up a post a little while back, a stream of conscious kind (aren't they all?), and I didn't have any suggestions for a way of proving what I think is true. In the article I basically say that I think wheel inertia makes a difference but I can't prove it.

The post I put up garnered a lot of response, mainly theoretical. No one said anything like, "Dude, I am totally with you on the weight, but being a physicist I have to say that the numbers just don't prove it. I went out with two very different weight wheelsets, did some testing with my SRM, and I found that I couldn't find any difference in power requirements between the two wheelsets greater than the margin of error."

Instead there were those that felt inertial wheel weight made a difference (but like me they couldn't prove it) or those that "proved" that inertial wheel weight didn't make a difference (but no one said that using an 800 gram tire in a 8 turn, 1/2 mile course crit didn't hurt them in the least).

I also received some private responses via email. One person, a racer and a mathematician (the best combo in this case) suggested a blind test. He suggested using lead tape (used to weight tennis rackets and golf clubs to improve swing power because apparently inertial weight does matter there) I should have someone weight a wheel (or not). To keep the system weight (i.e. overall bike weight) the same, I'd need to carry the equivalent amount of weights I don't use when I ride the unadulterated wheel.

I decided that it would be more practical to use two identical wheels (which I happen to have). I'll weigh one down with lead tape, not the other, and have two identical bottles, one with the same amount of weight in it as the lead tape, the other with nothing. (I have to work on the bottles - I don't want to have the weight rattling around). This set up assures me that the bike weighs the same. The only difference will be the inertial wheel weight.

With this set up I'll do repeated acceleration tests. I'll have a helper switch out the front wheel and bottle (and you'll see who this helper will be in just a moment).

I'd weigh and swap both wheels if possible but I want to make the helper's job as easy as possible. The rear wheel is slightly more difficult to put in and it also has the cassette, and I may be able to tell the two cassettes apart. I'll just load up the front wheel with a lot of weight - I'm hoping at least one pound, and I hope to be able to get two or three pounds of lead weight under the clincher base tape.

Ironically I don't care about climbing - I know that even very light wheels don't make me climb faster in a group. When I blow up I'm just as slow, and I can't go fast enough to keep up with everyone without blowing up. This is ironic because the math proves that there is a small but substantial gain when using lighter wheels in an extended climb.

(As a rider that loses 30 minutes over a 2 hour climb on a leisurely ride, reducing that loss to just 29:30 over that same climb doesn't interest me. I'm already taking a 33% hit to finish the climb - I need to chop 20 or 30% off my climbing time, not a half percent here and there.)

I'm only concerned with how wheel weight affects me on flatter roads with a group (i.e. a crit) which is where all this debate occurs. I do crits all the time and find that heavy wheels really affect me, even if they're more aero than my lighter wheels.

Zinn theorizes (and I do too) that part of the light rim preference in racers comes from the idea that lighter wheels allow you to get shelter quicker. I think this is a big part of the inertial thing - getting to shelter quicker and more efficiently. Drafting someone will save a lot more wattage than any aero wheel out there.

In fact when I used a much higher inertia bike (a tandem, with another rider on it), I found that I couldn't maintain a close gap to the riders in front of us. I learned the hard way that I tend to stamp the pedals once or twice, soft pedal, and repeat over and over. With 350+ lbs bike/riders unit (the bike alone is about 40 lbs), my normal "pedal stamp" wasn't enough to close a foot gap quickly. Instead of snapping shut the gap to the rider in front, I found that we struggled for 50 or 100 meters to close that gap, and after a few miles of that we were off the back.

Other theories that I have include my somewhat rough pedal stroke (apparently it's common even with top riders), where I basically have two power strokes per pedal revolution. I can even out my pedal stroke when I'm riding easy, but under pressure there's a distinct "on/off" of power, two surges per revolution. Like the pedal stamping in the draft, the surges need to translate to forward movement immediately. This allows me to stay in the draft and coast when I don't need to surge.

"Coasting?" you ask. "What about the flywheel effect? Wouldn't a bit more weight keep you going better?"

That's true in the case of a time trial or some other very steady, very smooth, very solo ride. In a crit, though, I tend to have to brake going into turns, even when I try and tailgun (to avoid braking, i.e. coasting up to the turns). At my most aggressive tailgunning race, I ended up soft pedaling behind the group for a while before the best tailgunning turn. I found that I still had to use my brakes here and there, and if the group accelerated unexpectedly, I had to push hard to make up ground.

If the flywheel effect was useful in a criterium then everyone would weight their wheels. Mavic's first disk wheel, the "Comete +/-" had removable weights around the wheel (the yellow circle decals on the wheel covered the weight openings). You could add weights to increase the flywheel effect. Apparently this wheel wasn't a big hit although it would make a great wheel for the rotational inertia experiment. A friend had one and used it devoid of weights - I think you could bump the wheel weight up to 2500 grams (about 5 lbs) by filling every circle with a weight.

Let me summarize my thoughts so far:
1. Wheel inertia exists. There are wheels with less inertia than others. Generally speaking I think less inertia is better.
2. Inertia matters in acceleration. Less inertia accelerates more quickly.
3. Acceleration happens in different, unexpected places, like drafting another rider, or accelerating to find shelter from the wind.
4. Although wheel inertia and aerodynamics matter, drafting matters more. The more a rider can shelter in the draft of another, the better off that rider will be later in the ride/race. The most aero wheels will not save as much energy as the energy a rider saves by drafting others.
5. If lower wheel inertia allows you to draft quicker and more efficiently, it will save you exponentially more energy than what wheel aerodynamics can ever save you.

My idea to test all this is to have a Keirin type start - a moto goes by at a set speed, the rider starts accelerating at a given time, and the rider tries to get to shelter as soon as possible (i.e. the moto's wheel). I haven't worked out the logistics but if the moto goes by at about 30 mph, it'll take a good 100 meters or so to get into shelter. The "sprint" is over when the rider reaches the moto.

Using a power meter that records the power, speed, cadence, etc, using the same bike, gearing, rider, and just swapping the different front wheels (identical appearance but with one being significantly weighted) and bottle (ditto on appearance and weight), it should be pretty straight forward to see if there's an acceleration curve difference, if there's a time difference with each effort, etc.

By using a weighted wheel and a non-weighted bottle for the "high inertia" set up and a non-weighted wheel and weighted bottle for the "low inertia" rig, the overall weight of the bike should remain constant. The bottle weight is reasonably low on the bike too, so it shouldn't affect the rocking of the bike too much (attaching the weight at the saddle would make the bike feel sluggish when rocking the bike back and forth).

I believe the inertia math. It makes sense. I just think it's incomplete. I think that it doesn't take into account a rider's pedal stroke (typically not smooth, especially under hard efforts), the energy savings while drafting (especially when the rider is already at their limit), and the energy expenditure when fighting to get the draft.

I hope to find a suitable set up for this experiment, with enough in my legs that I can do a good dozen hard accelerations (I figure groups of 3, two with weights, two without). I'd need a partner in crime to drive either a moto (scooter) or a car (I happen to have a hatchback that has a perfect drafting rear hatch window), someone that can swap a front wheel and bottle without any difficulty (and, ideally, add the weight to one of each independently).

I figure I'll need two days of testing. Not two whole days, just two separate sessions. The first dozen sprints (Session One) will teach us flaws in our basic logistics, like if 30 mph is too slow or too fast, what gear to use to start, how to do a standing start (or if the rider should roll at 15 mph until the car draws even), stuff like that.

The second dozen (Session Two) should be better, with the details worked out. I hope to get some decent data. I probably need more data but this will be a start.

I'm really curious to see what I find and to see if it's a valid experiment. If nothing else I'll get a couple dozen hard jumps in (if I'm the rider in the equation). Now I just need takers, at least one (a driver or a sprinter, and if the former then someone that can hide a few pounds of weights on a rim or in a bottle) or two (a holder or someone that has a holder rig idea... actually I have a rig idea so maybe then we need a camera person). Anyone? Anyone? Ferris?