Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Life - Year Summary 2013

So my year end summary, in one picture:

You can see that I started the year with some ambition. The Missus had given me a number of "5 hour ride" coupons so I could do some massive training even if I couldn't get out to my SoCal training camp like I had in 2004-2011.

Towards the end of January Junior got sick, I got sick, and then I threw out my back. I didn't ride for the latter half of February. You can see just how little riding I did in March. April's numbers jump up a bit only because I went for a long ride to pick up the van from Bethel. Take that 5 hour ride out of the month and you're left with just 10 hours total.

May, June, July, and August followed a similar pattern. I'd try to do the Tuesday Night race, I'd try to do a race race on Sunday, and otherwise I got in an hour here or an hour there.

The tail end of August hints as a bump in training. This continued into September, where I thought I could get some fitness for the Hartford Crit (no way). A trip to Maine gave me time to do a few really good rides. Ironically I did most of my elevation there, something like 20,000 feet of climbing.

October and November followed with a lot of solid rides, mostly on the trainer, some outside, and I actually started feeling pretty good. I would bet that at some level I was probably stronger at that point then I was in, say, May or even June.

December got sporadic, with holiday family stuff. A week plus in Florida meant a number of training days outside, although I was deathly ill for the first two days, and the last day was so hectic that even though our flight didn't leave until 10 PM or so I didn't get a ride in.

I had two main equipment things happen this year. First I got a Stinger 7 front wheel (75 mm tall) and a Stinger 9 rear (90 mm tall), my now-primary wheels. The Stinger 6s I had previously (60 mm tall) have been relegated to back up duty.

Second I got a custom stem in December, allowing me to use a normal FSA Compact bar. This has absolutely altered the sprinting characteristics of the bike. I need to get a second one for the other bike and then I'll be set.

A final thought is that of crank length. I'm fully committed, for now, to 175 mm cranks again. The 170s  leave me a bit flat - I lack some of that oomph that I need to accelerate out of corners or to sprint well. The 175s let me do that. I think in my old age I need leverage and I no longer have the power to spin up the shorter cranks.

So that was 2013. In Strava you can get "kudos" from other riders. If you click on the rider's name you get a side-by-side comparison of the last 4 weeks of your training as well as all time stats. It's interesting to see pro's name somewhere in Strava, click on it, and then get your mind blown by the insane hours the pros do.

For me it wasn't even a pro that blew my mind last. One rider commented that I was training a lot more so I naturally clicked on his name. His average week was in the 22 hour range - if you look at my 2013 chart above you'll see that I only did more than that in a month three times this whole year.

Personally I know that a 22 hour week would destroy me, if not in a week then definitely in two or three weeks. I've done longer weeks in SoCal - I think my biggest was 33 hours - but 20 hours is a ton of hours to do week in, week out. Since I do about a half hour a day average it means that if I can do 7 hours a week it's great for me - an hour a day average. If I do more than that then I'm really, really training.

I realized over the last few years that I've fallen below the minimum fitness level required to be competitive in the 3s. I mean, okay, I can sort of hang in when at certain courses, but the reality is that I need to be more fit.

With that in mind we'll see how 2014 goes.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Training - Anclote Road Sprints

One of my big goals for Florida was to get out and do some actual sprints. This was the main reason for getting the Steelman Bikes custom stem and I wanted to test it before I sprinted in a race.

Since my rocking trainer experiment is on hold (more on that later) I don't have a proper indoor way of doing a real out of the saddle sprint to test the position offered by the custom stem. Florida would be the last time I'd get outside, realistically, before I start racing in March.

Therefore I needed to get out and do some sprints.

I tried a few half hearted jumps here and there but they weren't impressive at all, and in fact I was so weak (based on both feel as well as SRM numbers) I started getting worried about my lack of power. I sort of forgot about being deathly ill on the way down here as well as the first day where I could barely do anything, but at the time even if I were sick I felt I should have been better.

Almost a week later, in warm-even-for-Florida temperatures, I felt much better. On Christmas Eve day the Missus booted me out of the house to go ride. I obliged.

When I headed down my now-normal route I realized that I'd have a friendly cross-tailwind the southward bits of road. I'd have one on the eastward stuff also but there wasn't a lot of eastward stuff where I could sprint.

There was a southward section though. It was just before the road loops back into a busy road, one that I wouldn't want to ride, so it worked out perfectly.

I zipped down to the bit of road in 20 or 25 minutes, about 7 miles or so, a decent clip for me if I were at home. I rolled through the sprint zone slowly the first time, trying to get some landmarks down, trying to figure out where to jump and where to sit up. For me sprints are much more productive with a real, solid finish line, but without one my sprints end up really kind of blah. I need to throw the bike at the finish to really finish the effort.

Unfortunately I never figured out a good finish line nor did I figure out where to jump. I just jumped when I thought it was getting a bit late to jump and I sat up when I knew I was about to blow. A finish line might have bought me another 20-30 meters of focused speed, but, well, if I get down there again then that's what I'll do, set out a finish line and try and do a better sprint.

Later, when I got back, I created a Strava segment (Anclote Road Sprint) for that bit of road so that I could easily see what I did for each sprint. (Unfortunately I created the segment without viewing the helmet cam footage so I really missed in the finish line point, making the segment way too long.)

That first roll through took me 50 seconds to cover the bit that ended up becoming the segment. The next one took me 27 seconds. I rue the fact that I was alone because with a proper leadout I think my speed would not have dropped under 35 mph. Even alone I managed to roll from 27 mph up to just over 40 mph, hold it for a bit, then drop down until I blew and sat up.

The important thing was the feel of the bike in the sprint. The whole reason for the custom stem was to get the drops down to where they were with the 3ttt Gimondi and Mavic bars. With the FSA Energy bars I was close but the bar shape was such that I was actually a couple cm higher. With the FSA Wing bar, whose shape I love, I was a good 3 cm too high.

This led me to get a stem that would drop the bars 3 cm. It would also make sure my reach was closer to what it was - the compact bars reduce reach by 3 cm and this stem would take back a little over 2 cm of that, maybe 2.5 cm.

I hoped that this would let me get forward enough and low enough to weight the front wheel properly. In my 2013 sprints the bars have simply been too high. The bike felt skittish and I never had a good jump, not ever. There were  few sprints in training where the bike was so skittish I unclipped while at 100% effort due to the front wheel not doing what I needed it to do. It wasn't just once, it was a few times, and this really made me hold back when sprinting (the few times I did sprint).

So how did the custom stem work?

It worked great!

That first sprint wasn't totally foreign to me. I'd done a few jumps here and there and I knew that there was potential. I just hadn't done an all out sprint at sprint speeds.

View of the section of Anclote Road in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Wesley Avenue is to the left.

Still, though, that first sprint was like coming home. I rolled through the right turn into the straight, waited a bit, and then jumped as a car approached me.

My first jump point.

For an instant I thought, "Oh, man, I'm gonna hit a 35 mph wall of wind just as I jump," but the thought quickly dissipated as I focused on doing a super hard jump.

Thumb to shift.

Jump again.

Thumb to shift.

Jump again.

A bit longer, then thumb to shift again.

Jump again.

I started bogging down - I probably should have tried to get more rpms out of the lower gear instead of getting into the high one.

When I sat up. That bush up ahead to the right would be a good finish line.
In Strava I put the finish is a good distance away, maybe 100m or more.

I looked down. I was in the 11T.

Well now.

I don't think I've done a decent sprint in the 11T in, what, in forever actually. I don't remember the last time I sprinted in the 11T. 12T, okay, 13T, whenever, but 11T… it's been a while. I mean, yes, I've shifted into the 11T but I haven't been able to get it turning.

I turned around and headed back to do the bit again.

I did three more sprints, two of them ending in the 11T, one of them in the 12T. I actually thought that I wasn't shifting into the 11T for the second or third sprint but when I sat up and looked down the chain sat on the 11T, not the 12T.

The last sprint I blew up before I really got up to speed - my base conditioning isn't really good for more than a few sprints - and I knew I was in the 12T and I knew I wasn't going fast.

Around where I jumped there was a dip in the pavement. A few inches, nothing major, but definitely something you notice when sprinting. For me it meant the front wheel was airborne for a moment, waiting to land, and since I seemed to be in the middle of a power stroke each time I hit it, the wheel was landing a bit sideways.

With the FSA Energy bars or the regular stem FSA Wing bars that would have been disaster. The front wheel would have not been planted, it would have done a wobble or something, and my bike wouldn't be 100% under control.

In the sprints where I unclipped I was trying to muscle the bike back into line, putting some lateral force into the pedals, and that caused me to unclip really hard. Unfortunately I can't increase the pedal tension any more so that meant I had to ease off on my body English.

This sprint resulted in no such shenanigans. I could sprint, the bike went straight, and nothing weird happened.

When I blew up on that fourth sprint I was already feeling queasy. I knew from experience that if I had some fitness I'd be able to push through that queasiness, substantially even, but I didn't feel today was the day to make the effort.

I rolled back to home base slowly, satisfied that my bike was finally working the way I wanted it to work. Hopefully it makes my racing just a bit more solid, a bit more rooted in its foundations. I felt like my speed was always in danger of evaporating last year, where I could never really dig hard. It became such that I remember feeling really good the few times I felt the rear tire dig in as I jumped out of a corner. That should be a normal occurrence but last season it was unusual.

Hopefully this year I feel a lot more of that.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Training - Outlook For Today is Sunny, Fast, and a Drum Brake

I was itching to try the new stem (and the rest of the bike) a bit more, but things kept me off the bike for a day. Therefore it was Sunday before I could get on the bike. With the high the prior day at 86 degrees and similar temperatures on tap for today I knew the ride would be hot.

I just didn't realize which hot.

I usually approach group rides with a bit of trepidation. I'm not strong overall and I rely on being able to draft effectively in order to stay with the majority of riders. I prefer larger groups that have a reasonably low proportion of very fit riders.

My guide today, like it was back in 2009, was a fellow BikeForums rider named Dennis. He selected a ride based on my temporary base camp, his home, and the ride start location. He chose a ride that would be "about 46 miles" that would take about 2 hours.

46 miles? In two hours? That's really fast, at least for me.

On the other hand this was Florida so it'd be flatter. Unfortunately for me (or maybe fortunately) I didn't realize the implications of the whole "there are no hills" thing.

It meant everything revolved around wind.

It also meant there were no downhills; other than a few seconds here and there we had no "easy" spots. In other words it was a full out FTP type of ride, exactly the wrong type for me.

All this was in the future of course. First my ride host drove me to the meeting lot. As we arrived first I got to meet everyone as they rolled in.

I got my bike ready, easy enough with just putting the front wheel on and checking the tire pressure. I had my various stuff all set, a saddle bag with my tools and two tubes, and a valve extender taped to the downtube. I had a third tube, phone (Strava), wallet, and a few bars in my jersey pockets. It was over 70 degrees at the start, and when I got my arm warmers and vest out, my host Dennis grinned and told me it'd heat up quickly and to leave them behind.

The tandem couple told me we'd be seeing a WW2 era tank and an animal shelter/farm kind of place that had a zebra, ostrich, buffalo, and some other unusual animals. My eyes lit up with the mention of the tank - I love military history stuff, especially to do with WW2, and I enjoy being able to see tanks above all. I asked if he knew what kind of tank it was - maybe it was the ubiquitous Sherman but it might be a more unusual Chaffee or a Stuart (we have one in Connecticut that I've seen) or an exotic Grant. He admitted he didn't know but that I could tell him what it was. Deal.

With introductions all around we set off, the tandem couple leading us, six singles (aka regular bikes) following. One single rider told us in advance he'd be peeling off quite early, netting us five single bikes for the majority of the ride.

As a novice tandem rider I have to admit I was in awe of the tandem couple's skills. I guess riding a tandem for 27 seasons will do it, covering something like 1000 miles a month. A month!

They stood and sat without any signals or words, and the stoker (the rider in back) would stand alone sometimes to give the bike some oomph.

Both riders standing fluently on the tandem - impressive!

We headed out and my stiff back and new stem combined to make things a bit uncomfortable. I did a short pull after the tandem couple dragged us through the first section of turns and such. When I pulled off they said, "Nice pull!" Very supportive, and something that happened regularly through the ride, this unexpected support from people who were strangers to me.

One of the guys, probably the strongest on the ride, asked me where I lived. I told him Connecticut, where it was 16 degrees when we left. His mouth dropped - he couldn't even think about temperatures like that.

It got a bit more business like once everyone warmed up and we were rolling along in single file in short order.

The group flying through a park that fascinated me the last time I was here.

I hung on while we drilled it through a park. I started focusing on keeping the gap closed, on staying on the wheel.

Things got fast on the MUP section heading north, with everyone raving about the tailwind and how fast we could go. Well unfortunately for me a tailwind means less shelter and the enthusiastic pace made it hurt even more.

I realized I was spinning pretty quickly (for me), spinning a bit quicker than some of the others on the ride. I'd stayed in the small ring (a 44T in this case) and it seemed to work fine. I looked around, though, to see what the others were doing, and they were all in the big ring.

I shifted into the big ring.

My cadence dropped a bit, I could stand effectively, and I could keep up without overspinning when the pace surged.

I started digging deeper, going into the red.

We headed off the trail and then north again. At some point the guys were really pushing, going hard, and then they spread out a bit, fanning out behind the first rider. I sensed a sprint coming up but without any references, without any info on the sprint, I didn't know when or where to go.

Plus, to be honest, I was so tweaked I couldn't think about going.

When the guys started going I just kept my pace constant, watching them ride away from me.

The group starts to go for some invisible line; unusually I merely sat up.
I somehow got 4th fastest on Strava for this "First Monty" segment.

Sure enough this was the bit just before we stopped for food and water. Someone bought a gallon of water and we all partook. The heat - I think it was 85 degrees - affected me a bit more than I thought and I drank a bunch of water.

We set off and I started getting a bit dizzy. I ate a protein bar for breakfast and that's it, and I didn't feel that great anyway, and now I was hungry. I chowed down a bar, feeling pro, and started feeling a bit better.

At some point we passed a tank. My Contour battery died (I'd plugged it into the wall not knowing it was controlled by a light switch so when others turned off the light for the night my Contour didn't charge) so I don't have an image or even location of it, but another rider asked me about the tank.

"Vietnam era, M60 tank."

I realize now it may be an M48 tank (to me that's most likely) or an M47 or M46 tank, all Patton tanks. Whatever, at that moment I was proud simply that I could lift my head enough to see the tank, forget about trying to ID it.

At some point we went by the animal shelter/farm place but I had no clue what was happening at that point. I was deep in the red, my legs twinging, my eyes were probably starting to roll around in my head.

I kept pushing, driving, trying to stay on wheels. The relentless pace on the flat roads was totally different from the peaky type style I prefer. Florida emphasizes FTP. Connecticut emphasizes short term power. I have no FTP. I have short term power.

After another five minutes, another five minutes, another corner, another skipped pull, my mental walls started crumbling. I realized that I'd have to sit up shortly, to ease up. I didn't have it in me for another five minutes, another intersection. The gaps would start opening soon and not closing.

My pair of deuces wasn't enough for this card game.

I prepared myself to holler to my host that I had to fold. I quickly chowed down on a second energy bar, washed down with some still-cool water. I looked down at the SRM, I'm not sure why. The top line, which alternates every five seconds between time and miles, read 44.6 miles.

Waitaminute. The ride was "about" 46 miles. With this relentless just-over-my-comfort-level FTP type pace, I couldn't go another 30 or 40 minutes but I could definitely make it another mile.

I even responded to the last semi-surge before we got to the parking lot.

I made it.

The tandem couple had a cooler in their minivan with lemonade and ice tea. Although I passed on the ice tea (actually I didn't know about it and already returned my cup) I took in the cool, soothing lemonade.

(The lemonade is a great idea for summer rides and races, btw.)

I learned that one of the guys used to do Bethel (he's from New York). The others were mainly in Florida, but incredibly none of them raced, not for 6 or 8 or 10 years minimum (the New York guy), and the others not really at all.

I clipped in and out of another rider's Keo Blade pedal. It didn't seem as tight as my original Keo Carbons. I want to try the new Keos that have a much higher retention pressure (the Blades were 16 nm, the new ones are 24 nm).

We headed out as if on signal and Dennis dropped me off at my home base. I felt a bit better by then, not quite as shell shocked as when I first climbed off the bike.

I had some more thoughts on my ride and experience as well.

First, this was one of the first proper group rides I've been on since I think 2011. I've ridden with someone, meaning I've caught or been caught on a training ride, but I don't remember actually starting and finishing a ride with a group since I used to ride with a local shop's Monday and Wednesday rides.

I was surprisingly unnerved when we first rolled out so I intentionally sought out the tandem. I knew it would be less jumpy, sort of like an 18 wheeler versus a sports car. After about half a mile I got over my nervousness and within 10 or 15 minutes I was comfortably sitting a few inches away from the next wheel.

Second, I had some back issues at the beginning of the ride. Due to Junior being awake for a large part of the night I was up as well. What little sleep (1.5-2 hours) I got was on a strange-to-me bed so it wasn't an ideal night of rest. Therefore I arrived at the ride with really stiff back and I worried a bit about my somewhat radical looking stem. It basically keeps my drops at my earlier level but drops the tops and hoods by 3 cm.

At first the stem was a bit much with my back protesting for probably the first hour of the ride. As things warmed up, both temperatures and efforts, my back loosened up considerably. I found myself on the drops more and more, getting to the hoods only to stand up to relieve pressure (and focusing on not pushing my bike back when I stood up). Except once, when I inadvertently swerved when checking my six, I think I succeeded in being a smooth enough rider.

Third, when I'm maxed out FTP-wise I'm not inclined to sprint.

Fourth, I appreciate a friendly and open group. The riders accepted me without any problems, rode smoothly, and allowed me to take short pulls (the latter was critical for me!). My host thought I took short pulls because I didn't know where to go but they were all more than accommodating in terms of hollering out directions and such. I feel confident that I'd have had no problems leading the ride, at least from a directional standpoint. From a strength one? No way.

Unfortunately the trip wouldn't allow me to schedule another ride so it meant I'd be doing solo efforts until we headed home. Although slightly disappointed I kept in mind that the main reason we headed down was to visit family, not for me to do a training camp. I was fine with doing solo rides when I could and even not riding if necessary.

I just hoped that I'd be able to do some efforts on the bike, mainly so I could see how the stem (and the resulting bar position) affected the bike. I hoped for, and planned for, an improvement, but obviously I wouldn't be able to confirm that until I went out and ripped out a sprint or two.

That's the plan anyway. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Training - The New Stem

I finally got to ride the bike outside. It wasn't in the bitterly cold snow at home - I managed to get away and down into some warmer temps down in Florida. Although deathly ill for the first couple days here I bounced back quickly and got out on the bike Friday.

On Monday this week the stem arrived from Steelman Bikes. It's a custom bit, -32 degrees, 14.5 cm, and designed to put my drops back to where they belong.

The stem made an interesting journey, getting delivered to the wrong house with the same number as our house but on a different street. Ironically the resident there happened to be a cyclist that knew me so she decided that she'd just drop it off at our house the next day.

Me, on the other hand, I was feeling a bit worried that the custom stem had gone missing. I called FedEx, they figured out where the stem went, and went to the house and picked it back up. Then, later that night, a slightly embarrassed driver hand delivered the stem to our door. I gratefully accepted it and let the worried Steelman folks that I had the stem in my hands.

Stem - weight is secondary to function

I forgot to weigh the stem that came off the bike but I think it's about half the weight. I don't expect the weight to make a difference.

The steerer tube side of things

The bar side of things

Detail on the rear bits

I ordered the stem unfinished, mainly to save a bit of money. I happen to have some chassis paint left from my Ford Expedition "chassis reconditioning" project and I figured such a paint would be perfect for a stem. Satin black, not too shiny, not too dull, chip resistant, durable.

For now, with no time to play with, I'm riding the stem in its natural raw state. On late Monday (technically just after midnight so it was Tuesday) I managed one trainer ride with the stem, and after a very short "test fitting" I went full hog and moved the levers and cables over to the FSA Compact bars I like so much.

(As a note I checked the "42 cm" Wing bars and they measure about 41 cm. They are only one cm wider than the 40 cm Wing bars I bought. I decided to go with the 41 cm "42s" because my favorite bars have been 41 cm bars.)

After a short ride on the new stem and newly refitted bars I packed the bike up for a trip to the South. In the meantime I'd caught a bad cold, remnants I think of Junior's explosive vomiting and the Missus's not-quite-so-dramatic-but-still-unpleasant illness. To give you an idea of how bad it was hers was bad enough that she took her first sick day this year.

After a much longer packing process than normal I hoped that the bike would get to its destination okay. I left installing the new rim strips (I've had a couple flats due to migrating rim strips) and the bar tape for later.

I spent most of two days flat on my back but by day three I felt a bit better. The 80 degree weather helped a lot and motivated me to get my bike assembled (I had to wrap the bars too). After yet more delays (I got hungry, I misplaced my one bottle I brought), I finally headed out. I took the time to stop and take a pan shot of the bike.

The bike as I rode it today

Yeah, it looks really radical. The twin tail lights and the Chiquita-Minion stickers on the top tube. Radical, right? An ordinary water bottle. Pump along the top tube.


Oh, the stem?

Oh, yeah, that too.

The picture makes it look more radical than it really is, but, yes, the tops of the bars are lower. So much lower that I can't fit the pump between it and the quick release skewer. Hence the pump on the top tube.

So the stem… The lower bar position, meaning the drops, is basically in the same position as when I first got the bike. It's just that the shorter bar drop and reach made it necessary to move the bar clamp spot forward and down, 2 cm and 3 cm respectively.

In total I lost about 1 cm in reach but I think that's okay. Drop didn't change in the drops, but the hoods and tops are 3 cm lower than before. The drops feel totally normal. The hoods and tops feel lower.

Rover Three engaging!

On the way out I had a close call with a dog. He came scrambling out (from under the boat on review). The dog didn't attack me per se but it definitely had the same feel as the ride in Maine when two rovers put holes in my ankle.

I meant to do some out of the saddle jumps during the ride but the wind was so steady and strong and unfriendly that I didn't feel any motivation to do those jumps. With a steady wind off the water, and my route following the shore, I basically had a strong crosswind the whole time. The Jet wheels felt really heavy and slow, further demoralizing me. I thought I worked pretty hard during the ride but I felt just slow.

In fact it was the first time that Strava underestimated my power, at least so that I noticed. Strava said I did 129 watts for the ride; the SRM, which I carefully calibrated before I left (and it seemed right), said I did 145 watts average.

I didn't break 700 watts, even when I made some half hearted jumps. I could hold 234 watts for two minutes (I was doing a two mile loop so I did about 2 minute efforts, not quite a mile at a time). The numbers weren't impressive.

On the good side the bike worked fine. The stem was good. I felt good in the drops, even around some of the faster 90 degree corners. The bars felt great.

And it was good to be out in the warm weather.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Life - Wah Wah For Me

Over the last couple weeks I've started a bunch of posts with good intent but found myself derailed before I could finish them enough to post them. Even the last couple I've posted have been pretty sparse. I know it's all first world problems - I mean, seriously, whining about not being able to blog is a first world problem.

Junior was sick, yes, and then he got better just in time for Thanksgiving at a friend's house. After a week of bliss he started acting a bit quiet again. He's been waking up frequently at night, maybe every hour to two hours sometimes. Since I'm the first responder on most nights I've been up with him but that means little sleep at night. I make up for the missed sleep during the day, which is nice, but then  I can't sleep at night.

Then yesterday he got sick all over himself again.

Wah, wah, right?

This time it's worse because the Missus is sick also. So far I've had just a bad stomach ache, like I did last time.

To try and put that in perspective I've gotten a bad stomach ache after meals where other people at the table have gotten full blown "food poisoning". I'll get these stomach aches after eating some maybe-sketchy food so I tell people I have a cast iron stomach. In other words if I have a bad stomach ache then something is up.

With some cold weather maintenance necessary around the house (window pellet stove is not usable right now, some shoveling etc), some indoors maintenance (moving trainer to the basement, starting to get Bethel stuff ready), some bike maintenance (working on the second try of the rocking indoor trainer), and life in general (kitty litter - it sounds minor but to have 12 bins to clean it's a big deal, especially with my semi-bum back), I've found it hard to set aside time for the blog.

I've been able to ride here and there. One thing that interested me was if I actually heated a room while I rode. I know I get all hot and stuff but I figured it had to be more than just me working. I got an inexpensive "weather gauge" to read both temperature and humidity.

10:30 PM, give or take. 68 deg F, about 51% humidity.
This is before I started on the trainer (unheated basement that has a furnace in it).

12:40 AM, give or take. 72 deg F, about 57% humidity.
Note baby monitor (white thing with a screen) - Junior did wake up once.

Although I can't vouch for the accuracy of the numbers at least the relative change is significant. I can conclude that I do heat up the room a bit, in this case two connected rooms. There are wall vents to circulate air to the other parts of the basement but honestly they don't circulate that much. I'll call it just two small rooms in the basement. I guess if we have about 10 riders on trainers we could get the house up about five degrees and about 5 % humidity.

Of course that doesn't take into account the trainer noises, the sweat, etc.

It's not just the rider though. The fluid resistance unit gets really hot, like you can burn yourself on it hot. Not only will the trainer try to break your ankle as you walk by (if you hit the trainer with your ankle by accident), it'll also try to sear you medium rare when you're done with your workout.

At any rate I've found little time to do less-critical stuff. When Junior is barfing all over himself then suddenly blogging becomes less critical (as does keeping myself clean, doing dishes, etc.). When we need to move cars into the garage in preparation for snow, training takes a back seat as I organize the garage to make room for the cars. And when it's all I can do to stay awake while looking after Junior, it's less important to do anything once the Missus can take over - it becomes nap time for me.

All first world problems, I know, but I do have a number of drafts I want to finish for the blog. At first I  liked having a few unfinished posts in reserve - I could just grab one, polish it up, and post it. Now, with about 180+ unfinished posts, it's hard even to look through them. Many of them have lost their immediate significance; others require some pictures to finish (and I'm not getting many pictures on the bike with the snow on the ground). Some lost their way, meandering to nowhere, and some haven't even gotten out of the blocks.

When I finally do get some of these done I'll post them.

For now though it's chores, taking care of a sick Junior and Missus, and prioritizing from there.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Life - Junior Sick

In my previous life I'd take time off from riding if I got sick or if I had a ton of chores to do. In this life, after Junior arrived, he takes precedent over pretty much everything else. In the last week or so our main focus has been on taking care of Junior while he battles a stomach bug. He's getting sick each day (i.e. projectiling, enough so that we were doing a load of laundry each time) and has had such a marginal appetite that I can't believe he has anything left to give. He's tired and much more needy than normal, probably because his stomach isn't feeling good.

I've spent a lot of time simply holding him, his arms tucked in against his chest (he does that as he gets comfortable), his head resting sideways on my shoulder. I don't have a picture of that since I wasn't thinking of taking a picture when I was holding him (but I admit I did afterward).

Holding his giraffe, courtesy a former teammate Tom who lives up in Maine.

When he was on my shoulder that was basically him except he was on my shoulder and his elbows were at his side.

He doesn't look sick.
The bar hints at a future post.

At any rate his schedule of waking up in the middle of the night to get sick, followed by an early wake up call, then a slew of short naps during the day… it's got me all discombobulated. I tried to ride but was too tired when I had the time. I also had some pretty bad stomach cramps so I might have had a minor version of what he had. On the other hand I managed to get the garage cleared out before the temperatures dropped too much, but, honestly I really haven't gotten much else done in the prior week.


I know, it's basically clear (I did a big push on a warm day in October), but usually the right bay is full of Bethel stuff which is now becoming more "Carpe Diem Racing Event Services" stuff. Instead of putting it all away for the season I've been working a few more races, doing registration mainly, and I just pack that stuff up and head out. After Silk City Cross I finally put everything away.

My big job in the above picture was to move the shelf out of the middle of the garage. I wanted to clear that out, toss or organize the stuff on it, and give us more room. More "forgiving" room, to be completely clear - hitting a sharp edged metal shelf with a fender isn't very good. Hitting a plastic thing that will move is much better.

I also needed a day where the Missus could look after Junior. I needed to move some big stuff to our storage bay, including the tent (the tall blue thing in the middle). It would fit in our Jetta Sportswagen but that would mean removing Junior's seat. Since I have to drive to the storage bay that means that Junior wouldn't have a good place to sit so that precluded doing the work when I had responsibility for him. The Missus took over Junior's supervision for a long afternoon and allowed me to move stuff back to the storage bay.

After. The cars are waiting to pull in.
The plywood tilted against the left wall is to act as a door shock absorber. Works well, btw.

It does look a bit better. I swept the floor after I cleared stuff out. The tent, the middle shelf, my bike, some soil, and a few knick knacks all found homes. Of course I have thoughts on what I want to do next spring but we'll see how life treats me. The biggie would be doing a true epoxy floor covering. Another biggie, much less realistic, is insulating the garage. Smaller and more realistic things include shelving, more storage hooks, and organizing the stuff behind our garbage/recycling bins better. I also want to surround the air compressor with rigid foam insulation to try and quiet it down. But that's for another time.

You can see the modular work benches in the back of the left bay - they work together, the two tall ones and the one shorter one, so that I can use the miter saw (on the shorter table) and the surface of the miter saw lines up with the other two benches. This means I can support a 2x4 along the two taller benches while cutting it in the middle. I used them to cut wood for a couple projects already and it's nice not having to worry about cutting a 2x4 and then having a long piece dangling over the bench edge. The "waist height" miter saw is great too, no kneeling on the floor, and it's easy to put away. I highly recommend such a system.

The idea was to have the benches latch together to form a unit but I haven't done the latches. They roll on locking casters so if I remember to lock the wheels then the bench won't go rolling down our steep driveway.

Forgiving stuff we can hit.

You can see that the stuff between the poles is much more forgiving to a car fender. It's mainly ice melt stuff, sand, and a couple empty litter bins. The litter bins are great for water tight storage for things like sand, ice melt, and even safety equipment (I store eye and ear protection in one).

You'll notice the two "no spill" yellow (yellow=diesel) cans of fuel. We buy diesel for our two diesel cars using food points. Since the points really add up we try and buy a lot of diesel when we buy it. This means a trip with both cars plus the auxiliary fuel cans, and we park in such a way that we can fill up everything without moving any cars.

Out of view is the yellow can on the ground.
Picture is from January 2013 but you get the idea.

This saves us more money, allows us to make one trip (Junior sits in one of the cars), and helps control that "I need to get fuel" anxiety. With 10 gallons of diesel on hand it's basically a normal fill up for a 14 gallon tank. The last time we got fuel, over last weekend, we paid $2.49 per gallon for diesel. We got over 30 gallons but stayed under the 35 gallon limit, and based on the points we saved in the 40+ dollar range on that fuel trip.

Today, Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Junior has made huge progress. It started yesterday, when he finally had a "BM" (bowel movement aka poop). It's hard trying to guess what he's feeling because he can't communicate what he's feeling - we have to interpret a whimper or a sad wail or an intense shriek (the latter when he's really in trouble). However, based on our experience in the last week, a BM (or, in his case, three of them in a day) is a really good sign that whatever stomach bug he had was working its way out.

Now he's still a bit tired, fatigued-like, but alert and curious and wanting to do stuff. He's eating a lot more than before - one day he basically had one strawberry, some saltines, and some milk and water. He's not quite at the "grilled cheese and a half" record meal from a month or two ago but that's okay, we'll take the progress. We have to change his diaper during the day instead of changing it "just in case" so he's a lot more hydrated.

After what amounted to a week pause in my life I can now get going again. I have a couple things planned for the bike, some unexpected stuff to handle, and some long shot stuff to work on.

Hopefully Junior's schedule returns to normal. It's tough watching him suffer, but in this case we could only console and comfort him.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Training - A Warm November Day

Today I went out for a training ride, a rarity for me. The last time I trained outside was on the 17th of October, just about a month ago. I did the same loop, the one I call the Quarry Road loop.

I didn't try to ride that hard but I found myself complete out of breath by the time I got to the top of the hill leading out of the complex where I live. After that I tried to ride steady.

My two rides are as follows:
October 17th

Some major milestones of that ride - it took me 58:30 to do the ride. It took me about 3:03 to climb the "hill" to get home.

November 16th

Some major milestones of today's ride - it took me 1:01:08 to do that ride, so about 2:40 longer to do the exact same loop. I did a little jump in town but didn't do a proper jump at the last right turn. This led me to be much fresher for the hill to the house and I did it in 2:32, 30 seconds quicker than in October.

I made one major change on the bike for this ride - I switched wheels to the Jet 6/9 front/rear combo. I haven't ridden the Jet 6 front since I think 2010 and the Jet 9 since sometime last year. The heavy wheels really affected me, and whether the effect was actual or purely psychological the result told the story - I basically got shelled every time I rode with this setup on my bike.

I preferred the much lighter Bastognes, wheels that brought me a silver in the Nutmeg State Games, a win of sorts in a rain abbreviated TuesdayTheRent, and much less shelling overall.

However, with the off season being the off season I decided to give the wheels a shot. Plus they look cool.

Off season staring.

I have to admit that I still stare at racing ads and pictures. Not many of them - a very few of them. The one above is one of my favorite pictures. I love the big aero wheels, the compact bars, the casual fitness of the rider (he happens to be Viviani, a bonus since I didn't know who he was when I first saw the picture).

Except for the fact that he's a contender in field sprints in huge ProTour races he could be a very fit rider you see at the weekend crit or, more likely, at some big group ride.

Part of it is the "scene" - it's a group ride, literally, not a "beyond my abilities" field sprint or TT or climb. The group ride thing makes the rider more real.

So having been staring at that picture regularly for a month or so I decided that I'd put those heavy wheels on my bike.

Because they just scream the undefinable essence of bike racing life.

I put the Jets on the bike the day before to check them out. A short ride on the trainer, running through the gears, and the bike seemed okay. It shifted fine, as it should since the Jets and Bastognes share hub models, and I didn't experience any gear skips. I decided to give the bike a passing grade.

Bike as I rode it; the Jets have the same model tires as the Bastognes.
Not as sexy as the group ride picture.

I double checked the brakes (okay), tightened up the blinky tail light, and slipped in a 60mm valve tube and an 80mm valve tube. Also, although it's virtually impossible to see, there's a valve extender tucked in under that velcro strap wrapped around the down tube. The valves barely stick out of the rims, just enough to tighten them down, so I need the extender if I need to use the pump.

My now-standard frame pump mounting point.

Speaking of which I almost forgot my pump, literally walking back into the house to get it. I mount it to the left side of the bike, a good spot that has worked out well so far.

Big aero wheels look great when dreaming about bike racing but the reality is that they weigh more, especially my clincher variety. I mentally tortured myself before I even got going - wheeling the bike out of the office was hard work, the extra weight in the wheels noticeable when swinging the bike around.

My start wasn't too auspicious either - by the time I got to the top of the hill leading out of the complex I was so out of breath I actually put a foot down. I fiddled with the helmet cam but the reality was that I could have done it while rolling along slowly. I made the choice to stop because, frankly, I needed to stop.

I rolled along at a moderate pace. The big wheels rolled a bit more consistently, resisting changes in speed. That included accelerations but it also included the slight slowing when I did a more aggressive pedal stroke.

I found that if I didn't emphasize the downstroke as much that the bike seemed to roll better - this worked well on the slight upgrades or if I was just standing to power the pedals a bit.

I spent most of the ride in a praying mantis position, both hands holding the center of the bar, covering the stem and the SRM. On the hills I'd move to the hoods, and every now and then I'd go to the drops to remind myself they were still there.

As noted before I really don't like the shape of the drops on these bars. Since I expect to have a better drop position in a bit I decided not to torture myself and ride in the weird angle/shape drops more than I have to.

Plus, as I pointed out before, this is the off season.

I did one push about 3/4 of the way around the loop, nothing major if it was the summer, but today it really wrecked me. I had to ease and actually had to encourage myself to keep going just to finish one loop.

Five minutes later I still felt mentally defeated. With a schedule to hold I decided against pushing my luck and trying to do a second loop faster than the first. I headed home instead.

I practiced my "rolling stand thing" where I try and pedal a bit more evenly while standing, versus the stamping motion I tend to do. Since I hadn't gone very hard during the loop I could push on pretty well up the last hill on my ride.

Compared to my pretty fast ride last month I climbed the hill 30 seconds faster. Not bad for having much heavier wheels. I actually felt pleased that I did the hill a bit faster. The anti-Strava folks will shake their heads and wait for me to blow a red light or something but I find the Strava segments a nice way of checking my own status. I wouldn't even call it "progress", it's just a check to see where I sit within my realm of possibility.

Of course I think I was going much faster toward the end of 2010, when one day the Missus passed me going up the hill. I got home a minute or two after she did and she actually commented on my speed up the hill, her eyes wide with surprise.

"You were going really fast up that hill!"

Normally she doesn't say much about my riding when she sees me, other than saying stuff like, "I saw you on 10/202", so to have her comment on my speed on the hill, that meant something.

Unfortunately that hasn't happened since then.

My goal is to try and elicit that spontaneous response again.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Equipment - Modded CycleOps Fluid Trainer, Step 1

Along the theme of "stuff I want to get done this winter" is this idea of modding a CycleOps Fluid Trainer.

One of the biggest shortcomings of a normal trainer is that it doesn't rock side to side. Way back when there was a mild attempt to make such a trainer, manufactured and sold by Technogym. A friend had one and I tried it briefly. To use it you took the front wheel off and clamped the fork into a spring-mounted "fork mount". Two springs, about the size of a coil spring you might find inside an old suspension fork, allowed the "fork mount" tilt from side to side.

I don't remember much of the device except that the springs forced the bike back to vertical with too much power - I felt like I was on a coil spring playground ride rather than on a bike on a pretend road.

Kurt Kinetics has a better design. Theirs rocks from side to side at a natural height, about halfway between the hub and bottom of the tire. Ideally I think a bike would rock around about the bottom bracket - if you watch a rider coming directly at you while rocking the bike you'll see the bottom bracket follows essentially a straight line, the tires carving small arcs under it, the rest of the bike waggling above the bottom bracket.

Having said that I decided that modding my CycleOps to resemble a Kurt would make sense. I'm sure they tried putting the pivot a bit higher and found whatever they found and therefore decided to put the pivot a touch lower.

Having tried one as well as watching numerous other try one, I think they got it right.

In addition the CycleOps and Kurt basically share the same "frame", meaning the trainer frame. There's a connection between the two companies that, although I don't know the details, results in the fact that both companies use what I consider to be the best (aka most rigid) trainer frames around.

A final vote in favor of using the CycleOps frame - I have an extra one. Yes, an extra frame. I had a Fluid trainer and a Power trainer, both by CycleOps. The power trainer, which used a proprietary head unit matched with some electric motor/generator resistance unit, literally started smoking one night, the smell of burning electrical stuff filling the room. CycleOps, to their credit, sent out a Fluid unit as a replacement. Although I asked for just the resistance unit they sent a whole trainer, including the frame. This left me with an extra frame with no resistance unit.

In the meantime I'd switched resistance units to the former-power frame (and for the life of me I don't remember why I thought this was a good thing). This left me with a gray Fluid frame for modding purposes.

A scrap piece of metal gave me the raw materials needed to mod the frame. The thick metal plate would have felt at home as a side skirt on a WW2 tank. It weighed a good 60 or 70 pounds and it was only about 15"x15". Let's put it this way - I had a hard time carrying it on my own.

I recruited the same guy that painted my red frame. He can do some very basic welding and in fact I'd been thinking about having him fix some of the white van's rusty areas. He, in turn, recruited a local metal artisan to cut the metal into smaller pieces with a plasma cutter. That artisan, incidentally, covered his whole house in metal, and who made a local bike sculpture. With the raw plates in hand (the rest of the plate was essentially payment to the artisan) the painter guy could start his work.

First, though, I had to tell him what I wanted from the project. The painter is not a bike guy, and in fact he lights up a cigarette if he doesn't have one already in his mouth. He understands mechanical stuff but really doesn't understand the bike riding part of bike riding.

I tried to get some angles and fit type things in place. I planned on using a 2x6 as a wide base for the trainer, with wooden extensions reaching forward. The regular folding legs won't work because they'd lock the trainer and prevent it from rocking. I know that if I had a 2x4 under the front wheel it's about the right height off the floor, so I figured that if I "fitted" everything with the bike flat on the floor then I could raise/lower it in "2x4" increments.

Thoughts on height, plate angle.
Regular folding legs are the lower tubes, with the black caps on them. They'll go away.

You'll see that the bike's rear tire is sitting on the floor. I don't have the rest of the bike in the frame, just the rear wheel. I wanted to get an idea of where the trainer would sit, what angle the arms would hit, what sort of angle I needed on my "rocking plates".

Gusset shape, if needed.

I had no idea how strong the welds would be so I figured we'd need a gusset plate. I knew that I had given the painter an extremely heavy piece of steel, significantly thicker than the plates used in the Kurt. Plus if the thing broke I'd just topple over, it's not like I'd be going 60 mph in a tuck.

Probable placement of plate.

After a lot of debate I decided that putting the plate under the U-tube would work best. It gave a lot of surface area to the weld area, it would clear the controls of the resistance unit (the spring loaded lever thing), and it gave me enough height off the ground to give me room for the additional plates necessary to create the non-rocking part of the frame.

The guy welding didn't do the gussets immediately and I told him, after checking things out, that they didn't seem necessary. The welder guy did paint everything so it looks semi-pro. He also shaved the original leg mounts, for the folding legs. Although I wasn't keen on that it does clean things up. It also commits me to trying this out.

Bolting things together, the various plates in the right order.
Wood works really well although it looks pretty ghetto.

I didn't get a 2x6 piece of wood but I had 2x4s left over from my garage organizing binge; I decided to use them instead of going out and buying another piece of wood. This seems to be totally fine, very rigid and secure. I used galvanized carriage bolts, galvanized washers, and stainless steel nuts, all in interest of their anticorrosion properties.

(2x4s are 1-1/2" thick so I bought 3-1/2" carriage bolts to give me 1/2" for threads and washers.)

The carriage bolts come up from underneath - I use a gym mat type thing under the trainer so the rounded head underneath won't hurt anything, and on a rug it won't hurt either. This allows me to periodically check the nuts on top without having to tilt the whole trainer on its side.

Now one error the welder made, not realizing how things were going to work, is that he welded the wide plate to the trainer stand. I meant to have the wide plates sandwiching the narrow plate, so there's more room for the rocking motion. He also assembled them in the wrong order, which to me illustrated that he had not fully realized the idea of the whole thing. This is my bad.

My first trial ride ended unsuccessfully inside of two minutes. I used OEM spec rubber spring tower bushings from the now-gone 1993 Honda Civic. It's a light car, 2000 lbs or so, and the bushings are pretty soft. I bought polyurethane bushings for the car but I actually installed them in the car. I thought I had extra bushings and went looking for them. See, back then I bought the shock install kit as well as a "full suspension" kit, but apparently the full suspension kit didn't include shock bushings.

Note the downward tilt (the rest of the trainer is to the left).
Rubber bushings, not polyurethane.

At any rate the rubber bushings allowed too much tilt to the front. This exacerbated something that already happens to the Rock N Roll. The tilt allows the angle to change between the trainer support arm and the bike, forcing something to flex a bit. It appears the skewer moves within the locking arm but the skewer could easily rotate on the frame. The latter would prematurely wear out the dropouts on the frame, not a good thing.

The solution, at least temporarily, is to insert a nylon washer to act as a (bearing) bushing. A better solution would be to use a thrust bearing, typically used in a clutch assembly to allow the clutch to slide back and forth while allowing the shaft to spin. Thrust bearings allow the shaft to rotate (or something to rotate around the shaft) while supporting mainly a side load. Modding the skewer holder to accept two thrust bearings is a bit much right now but at least I have something to think about.

My plans for step two include a couple different things.

First, I need to get much stiffer bushings, probably polyurethane, hopefully a bit taller. A friend who is revamping his car's suspension my have some used poly bushings for me but if they don't work out then I'll just go and buy some poly bushings. I may get larger ones if I buy them, like bushings that fit between a chassis and body (typically in trucks).

Second, I'd like to tackle that pivoting issue with the skewer and skewer holder. There's a great site McMaster Carr and they sell all sorts of hardware. I've bought things like sway bar clamps, stainless steel license plate screws, and even suspension nuts (metric fine thread), and they have an assortment of thrust bearings. I think just having a thrust bearing between the skewer and the skewer holder will work out fine.

For for now that's where I stand. Everything has worked out well so far except for the too-soft bushings. After I fix that I'll see how the trainer actually works when I do out of saddle efforts.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Equipment - Custom Stem Thoughts

I've written about my whole bar dilemma. Basically it comes down to this - I spec'ed out my Tsunami Bikes frame set based on a slew of bars I've accumulated over the years, old style crit-bend bars. They're not readily available now so I started looking for another bar, something more current than, say, 20 years old. This is sort of like my saddle search, looking for a saddle that was made beyond the year 2000.

At any rate a sprinter-type friend recommended I try the FSA Compact bars. Another racer, who happens to own a shop, also recommended them for a rider like myself. I decided to get a set to check them out. This involved more than just buying the bars - since they were the 31.8 oversize bar diameter I had to get a stem as well.

Everything about them felt great except for one thing - the actual position of the drops. Not "the way the drops felt", which were fantastic, it was the location of the drops that caused problems.

See, the compact bars were 3 cm shorter in reach and 3 cm shorter in drop.

I had bought a longer stem, 2 cm longer, and that was okay, but the drop… I couldn't get the drop. I actually considered commissioning  Joseph at Tsunami to build a new frame for me, but then I realize that it would effectively move the front wheel forward relative to me.

See, if the front wheel is in a good spot relative to me using the old style bars, then I need to keep the front wheel in the same spot. It's good for center of gravity, for cornering, etc. If I had a frame where the front wheel went forward 3 cm then I'd be a bit less over the front wheel.

Also, and this was a deal breaker, Joseph can't do a shorter head tube. I actually asked for "the shortest head tube possible" with the idea of buying 80 and 90 degree stems, stems much more available in various lengths than the 73 degree stem that I was using at that time.

With no reason to commission a frame I had to look closer at the bar/stem problem. I decided to tackle it by getting deeper drop bars. I bought some FSA Energy bars, which advertise a much deeper drop, 3 cm more in fact. Technically that might be true but the shape and position of the drops meant that they effectively dropped less.

The FSA Compact bar in front is where I want the bars.
The FSA Energy bar in back.
Effective drop is maybe 2 cm less than I want.

You can see how the curve of the drops differs significantly. The Compact has a flatter drop that comes up much later. The Energy bar curves up almost immediately, effectively raising the drops by a couple centimeters.

You can also see how tilting the Energys down (twisting them so the brake lever drops a bit) won't help - if anything they'll bring the drops further up. I could tilt the Energys up, so the brake levers go up, making the drops a bit more vertical, but then that would screw up the tops. Therefore the bars won't work for me.

Tops of the bars.
Gives you an idea of how much lower I want to be.

I'm holding the tape measure a bit skewed due to trying to hold the camera but it's 3 cm.

Based on what I found with the different drops I decided that a 3 cm drop would work out pretty well. If it ends up a bit aggressive I could always put a 5 mm spacer under the stem. Realistically it should be very close though.

I understand that the tops would be 3 cm lower as well. That made me think a bit but I decided that would be okay. I'd be in a much lower position on the tops, basically a bit closer to a drops position. The hoods, too, would be 3 cm lower. That I was okay with, I didn't think about that too much. My main concern was the position of the drops.

Once I have a stem that allows me to use a compact type bar it means that I can by any bar I want! This is huge - it really opens up the world to me. Anything with about an 8 cm reach and 12 cm drop becomes possible. Trying to use a stock stem limited me to an 8 cm reach and 15 cm drop, a rarity in the handlebar world.

Since I don't remember my plane geometry I did my calculations the old fashioned way - using a real scale drawing with rulers and a protractor.

My current stem is a 70 degree stem, or a -20 if you will, so the top of the stem wasn't exactly flat, it was already tilted down 3 degrees (both bikes have 73 degree head tube angles).

I didn't want to lose reach so I drew a line straight down from the current clamp point, making that the center of the bars in the new position. I'd lose reach if I just "pivoted" around the stem's clamp point, meaning where it clamps to the fork.

I then measured the distance from the clamp point (center line of the steerer tube) to the bar's new position.

14.5 cm.

So a right triangle with a 14 cm whatever side (second longest side) won't get much longer than 14.5 cm, at least not when it's dealing with stem angles.

I measured the angle with a protractor. 12 degrees down from the current stem (aka "-12 degrees" in stem talk), 15 degrees down from horizontal (aka "-15 degrees" in stem talk). Add the -17 degrees (in stem talk) that gets you to horizontal and you get, ahem, -32 degrees.

I'd need a 14.5 cm stem, -32 degrees.

My scale drawing study.
My head tube started at 67 degrees, not 73, hence the three off angle lines near the "stem clamp" area.

I went looking for some custom stem folks. I could justify spending $200-300 on a stem but not $500. Therefore no titanium. For some reason no one makes custom aluminum stems. I'd be getting a steel stem. That's okay - my best sprinting I ever did was on a steel stem. I went to aluminum begrudgingly and only because it was lighter, but the steel stems I had, those were the schnizzle.

I'd been eyeing the Steelman site back when I was considering making my own carbon frame. They had some great examples on their site, like this one, and I decided back then that it was a good company. I never did build the carbon frame - my super long set up would have required a weird angle at the BB shell and it fell outside of the range of angles offered by Dedaccai (at the time Bringheli was selling the tube sets). My custom frame thoughts went into hibernation at that point.

When I started asking about custom stems someone recommended Steelman. I checked out their short and sweet stem section.

$250 for an unfinished stem, $300 for a finished one.

I'd already spent at least $500 on various bars and stems so two more stems (one for each bike) wouldn't be out of the question. $250 for each, in an unfinished state, and I'd use some paint I have in the garage to paint them black. I even have a satin black so it won't be too shiny.

(This means that yes, I have two FSA Energy bars for sale including one that has never been opened, as well as a slew of 12, 13, and 14 cm stems that have various aggressive angles from -25 to -20 to -17 degrees. I'm saving one for the tandem, the rest need to go.)

I emailed Steelman and got a response from the man himself, Brent. He didn't question my sanity or my math when I sent him the picture of my full scale drawing. He did ask for the dimensions of the headset stuff under the stem, noting that the radical angle may require a thin spacer so that the stem would clear the headset. His lead time?

Two weeks.


With that I gave the go ahead to start the stem. I'd put it on the red bike first, the one that's my main bike now, and if it works out then I'll order a second for the black bike.