Thursday, January 31, 2013

Equipment - Bell Muni And Gage Helmets

Taking a break from bike stuff, I want to mention a couple helmets I'll be using in 2013.

I got them a while ago, I forget when, but I bought them through the shop that sponsors Expo Wheelmen, Manchester Cycle. With a new Volt and a semi-new Specialized helmet I didn't feel the need to break these out this year. The Gage arrived late in the season (or early in the off season). The Muni arrived earlier.

The Bell Muni is the first of two new helmets. The Gage is the one at the bottom.

I bought the Muni as a cold weather helmet. The idea was to get a less ventilated version of a well fitting helmet, one that had smaller vent holes that would be easier to cover. As a bonus I wanted to try a "commuter friendly" helmet that had built in blinkies, a mount for a regular blinky, and any other neat features such a helmet would have.

Built in rear blinkies indicate the commuter intent of the Muni design.

The little red arrows pointing up are actually printed on clear plastic pull tabs. They isolate the batteries from the blinkie so the lights don't go on inadvertently and drain the batteries before someone buys the helmet. I haven't pulled them out yet because I haven't ridden with the helmet in low light conditions.

The rear clip allows regular full size blinkies to attach.

The riveted strap across the middle of the helmet acts as a "belt" for those "clip on" lights. Usually they clip onto a seatpost mount but having an extra blinkie up high can't hurt.

I found one problem when gathering up gear for a cold weather ride. When I tried on the Muni it fit a bit smaller than my Volt, the current Bell helmet I have, and the Gage, the new Bell helmet I have described below.

The limited retention strap adjustment on the Muni. Right side pictured.

The ball joint tipped bit extends to the back, where the blinkies sit. The helmet itself has three receptors for the ball joint bit. The helmet came with the ball joint thing clipped into the middle of the three receptors. I moved it back to the one closest to the back, i.e. to make the helmet as big as possible. It wasn't enough for my noggin unless I have nothing on underneath the helmet.

Extended all the way out it's still much more snug than a snugged up Volt or Gage. I'll have to explore more to see if this helmet is sized differently and simply unusable for my purposes. The issue here is that I wanted to wear this in colder weather races as well as low light rides, and cold weather implies some kind of head cover. There's no way I could wear even a thin skull cap under this helmet without blowing a blood vessel or two.

Based on this the Muni may be just a low light helmet in the spring and fall, not a low-light-or-cold-weather one. I'll have to report back on this.

The other helmet I got was the new Gage helmet, the new top line helmet from Bell. It didn't seem all that different from the Volt although it had more rounded vents. I got it primarily because I know that my helmets get dinged up a bit and I'd rather be racing on a helmet I know and trust will work for me if I take a tumble.

The Gage has moderately large vents.

The Gage seems much more like the Volt, just lighter, so I have no complaints about this helmet. The only thing is that I'll have to wait for a while to use it. I learned the cold way that using a high end well ventilated helmet at a cold Bethel Spring Series race just leads to massive chills. I will be saving the well ventilated helmets for the warmer weather races and rides.

The Gage has very thin straps and a minimalist retention system.

The higher dollar Gage has a higher dollar ratcheting retention adjustment system - the round thing at the center of the light gray plastic thing cranks down the helmet. This works well and allows me to put the helmet on while the helmet is loose, to clear my Halo headband or whatever other thing I'm wearing on my head, and then cinch up the helmet quickly and easily. It works even with full finger gloves, which is nice because I always wear full finger gloves when I ride.

No built in blinkies or riveted blinkie mounts. This helmet is all business.

The flat profile of the Gage seems to lend itself to mounting a Contour helmet cam.

Although not part of my decision making process, once I have a helmet in hand I check out how a helmet cam would fit on the top. In this case it looks pretty good. I mount the cam as far back as possible so it points up a bit. This works well with my head down riding style.

My only regret right now is that I have no aero mass start helmets. I'm convinced that an aero road helmet will help a bit with top end speed, especially with my head forward, head low sprinting style. It may not work for some racers but for me a huge amount of my frontal area when I'm sprinting comes from my head. Therefore an aero road helmet may make a difference. I suppose that'll be my next test/purchase, an aero road helmet. Bell helmets fit my head best so I'll be waiting for them to come out with one.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Equipment - Thomson Ti Seatpost Bolts

In the off season I think about both small and large improvements I can make to the bike. Usually these things are much less significant than any improvement I can make to the nut that holds the seat down (aka me) but it's fun thinking about the technical stuff.

For me large things means things that usually impact aerodynamics, like wheels or a frame or maybe an aero road helmet.

I consider any weight savings over half a pound significant also, so being able to get a BB30 Cannondale SI SRM crankset, with a complete weight of about 675 grams, was a nice move from my then-current Campy Record cranks that came in at just under 1000 grams for a combination of the square taper BB and the cranks themselves.

For those keeping track every 45 grams is a tenth of a pound. 90 grams is two tenths. 225 grams is about half a pound. That's rough but it's close - it's 454 grams per pound so you can do the conversions on any weight savings you do on your bike.

A bonus on weight savings is if the weight savings transfers from one bike to another. Saving weight on a saddle that I might use for 5 or 8 years is better to me than saving weight on a chain that will wear out in a season or two.

Back in the day I used to really hone the stuff on my bikes, really push them to the limits. I experimented with drilling out chainrings (remember that Mike?) and found, to my dismay, that my drilled out chainrings were so flexible they were virtually unusable.

On the other hand I found that using lighter titanium bolts throughout the bike would save me about 100-200 grams. If I could replace some big steel bolts, at that time in parts like the bottom bracket bolts, pedal axles, or brake center bolts, then the savings would hit 200 grams. If I only did the surface bolts, like water bottle screws, cable anchoring bolts, stem bolts, stuff like that, then I'd be closer to the 100g number.

My current favorite post, one that I've been using since about 1997, is the Thomson Elite seat post. It's well designed, it's been through a few saddle failures, at least two crashes, and it's worked super well. It's reasonably light (just over a tenth heavier than the lighter Masterpiece), and I played with the idea of trying to lighten it up.

On the black Tsunami, with the integrated seat post set up, my Thomson lost a lot of weight when I cut it down to about four inches. For the now-red Tsunami I have something like 18 cm of post showing - cutting it down won't help much.

I looked at a set of Ti bolts for the Thomson. I don't remember what it saved, something paltry like 14 grams, but I put it in my favorites just so I'd remember it existed.

At some "incremental improvement" level it appealed to me. It worked with a number of my seat posts (I have at least three Thomsons in use right now). It transfers from bike to bike. It saves some rotating weight (because it's up high I notice significant weight changes in the saddle when sprinting).

All those things made it cool.

Then, at some point, I decided to clear out my favorites of all the nonsensical whimsical stuff I saved, like a pair of bolts that would save me 14 grams. I mean, seriously, I'll pee more than that before a race.

So imagine my surprise when a package showed up.

Ti bolts for a Thomson seatpost

Apparently I didn't delete it from my favorites but added it to my cart instead. In my standard "click-click-click" I didn't notice it in my cart and now walla, it's here at the house.

I'll install it. I mean, what the heck. Lots of anti-seize, lots of care, and some weighing before and after to see if it really saved me 14 grams.

And now I gotta check my order history because I had also put a wicked cool wireless Cannondale SI SRM PC7 equipped crankset in my favorites. $15 bolts I can excuse. $3500 cranksets not so much.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Equipment - Red Tsunami Thoughts

As I said before I seem to go through a cycle every year. At the beginning of the build up for the new season, typically Dec or Jan, I'll refresh everything. I'll check tires, wheels, tape, chain, cassette, whatever. Every year or three I'm building up a frame so everything gets refreshed automatically. Part of this refreshing is to check whatever computer I have on the bike. Since 2008 that's been an SRM, and in the ensuing years I've had to install (solder) batteries in the spiders and one in a headunit (the SRM PCV).

As the season progresses results come more from what I do in a race rather than training, fitness, and other stuff that happens outside of the race. In other words it's more about tactics (for me), especially in the last few laps. Whatever numbers I put down is kind of irrelevant. This means that stuff like SRMs take on less importance.

Therefore, as the season goes on, as I get that accumulated fatigue, as I start to have equipment run down, I tend to lose something relating to the SRM. It might be a battery in the HR strap, losing the strap after a race, maybe a magnet dropping off a wheel, a wire failing on the harness, or even a battery failing in the spider or the computer head. Depending on my fatigue level I'll just let it slide.

This results in, at the end of the year, absolutely no data. I think for a couple months in 2010? I ran with just speed. I had no cadence, no power, no HR.

Still, though, I like looking at what I did in a race. In 2012 I didn't ride as much so I never experienced the big equipment wear drop - in fact all the equipment had remained the same since the beginning of 2011 which was my last refresh period.

I hope that at some point I'll have seasons where I'm racing and riding enough where I start accumulating that fatigue again.

Even without that equipment fatigue I have one big project in place for 2013: put together my now-red Tsunami.

I have the black bike and it's basically all together. I mean I can go and ride it right now if I wanted to, and I ride it on the trainer. Okay, it has crunchy BB30 bearings and a less than nicely aligned headset (it steers very stiffly) so I want to get those surfaces redone. I'll refresh the chain, cassette, and tape. I may do the cables but I did them last winter and barely rode this whole year.

Generally speaking the black Tsunami is usable.

But the other bike... now we're talking. The frame is a lot lighter at 1200 grams, over 450 grams lighter than the black frame and 200 grams lighter than it was before, and the new ENVE 2.0 fork is about 100 grams lighter than the original fork. This should cut about a pound off my race bike weight compared to the black bike and about two thirds of a pound off the weight of the then-orange Tsunami.

Since I'll be building it up with virtually the same parts the rest of it should be the same. I have a few bits and pieces to cut some weight but the majority of the parts will be the same as before.

Of course this means I have to build the thing.

The only things I have installed on the bike are the bottom bracket bearings, bottom bracket spindle, and the headset. The rest of it is still sitting in boxes and such, waiting to come together. I made a last minute decision to put new Nokons on so I ordered them the other day. When they arrive I'll start assembling the bike.

Although it won't come in at any world shattering weight, it should hit about 16 pounds with race wheels on it, about a pound lighter than before.

If it comes in lower than that I'll be totally psyched but I don't see that happening. I'll see how it goes.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Equipment - Making FSA Compact Bars Work

'Tis the (off-) season, as they say.

I've been a bit negligent in putting up posts this year, primarily because of a lack of time. My time crunch has led to less "things" to blog about, whether they be group rides, equipment stuff, or even life experiences. I've tried to keep Junior out of the posts for the main reason that he doesn't directly have much to do with bike racing.

I found it difficult over the summer to get in a training ride a week, often relying on just racing on Sunday and Tuesday (when the Missus and I would share Junior duties). At home, when the Missus suggested I go for a training ride, I usually spent the time sleeping instead.

Looking after Junior, apparently, is more tiring than training.

Nonetheless I've started thinking about the 2013 season. I have modest goals for it, nothing really major. Basically I just want to be competitive again. I'd like to drop to something close to my 2010 weight, knowing that the lower weight will automatically bump up my performance (regardless of training). I raced at about 158-160 lbs in 2010. In 2012 I was racing at 170-175 lbs. Although "just" 10 pounds it made quite a difference in acceleration and in climbing. In a race where I finished strongly in 2010 I got shelled almost immediately in 2012.

Not good.

I also need to straighten out my equipment situation.

I threw around the idea of getting another frame built, to accommodate the FSA Compact bars I like so much. Unfortunately the lack of drop (short by 2 cm) and reach (short by 3 cm) meant that I'd either need a custom-custom frame (59.5 top tube and a 7.5 cm head tube) or a bizarre custom stem (65 degree 15 cm stem).

On further thought I realized that even if I got the longer frame I'd be compromising my weight distribution. I'd be putting my front wheel forward an additional three centimeters forward, reducing weight on the front tire and therefore reducing traction up front. I already slide forward on the saddle in turns, trying to push the front wheel into the ground, and starting three centimeters further back from the front wheel doesn't make sense to me.

Therefore I decided that I'd work with the frame I have now, the now-red Tsunami, and try and fit it so I can use the FSA Compact bars. I came up with the following plan.

First I'd use a 14 cm stem. Going from the 12 cm I'd get an additional 2 cm of reach, gaining back all but 1 cm of reach I lose when going with the FSA Compact bars.

Although a little known fact, because I never told anyone, I went to a 1 cm longer stem between 2010 and 2011. I'd be returning to my 2010 position in terms of reach.

To deal with the 2 cm shorter drop I'd do a couple things. I can't drop the stem because it's already dropped down to the headset, the headset is a super low stack height one (it's really short), and the head tube is as short as possible. Therefore I can do two things - increase saddle height or use a lower stem. Doing both would probably get my 2 cm back.

I managed to source a 14 cm track stem that points down a bit. I think I'll get about 5mm of drop, maybe 1 cm if I'm lucky.

The track stem

It's 14 cm long. Only 70 deg, not a 65 like a true track stem.

I'm also going to be running 170 mm cranks. I have two SRM spiders and two sets of crank arms, 170s and 175s. I'll leave the 175s on the black bike and put the 170s on the red bike. Being 5 mm shorter I'll have to raise the saddle 5 mm. This gains back 5 mm of drop.

With these two changes to the bike I should get back at least 1 cm of drop, maybe 1.5 cm of drop. I figure I should be okay with that.

If things work out then I may have to find a couple more 14 cm track stems and an extra FSA Compact bar or two.

Then I'll be able to use the sweet bars that I tried early in 2012 but rejected because they were too close and too high.

There's more to do than just bars so I'll go over that in the near future.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Helmet Cam - How I Produce Clips

Recently I uploaded my first new clip since March of this year. Last year I only managed to release a few. As part of my explanation on why I've been so sparse on clip uploads I wanted to share how I produce a clip. They obviously represent a lot of work, a lot of time, and I'm proud of the clips I produce. Okay, I'm proud of the HD clips. I watch the earlier non-HD ones and it's a bit embarrassing sometimes but I learned from them. In an ideal world with unlimited time I'd redo them while revealing some unsaid tactical motivations/goals.

So, for those of you interested, my "clip editing process" goes something like this:

1. Copy raw footage off of ContourHD. This is when I know if I got the data or if I forgot to charge the battery or clear the memory. Although the Contour beeps loudly when it runs out of juice or memory I sometimes don't hear it in the heat of the action.

I missed at least three really good races because I forgot to clear the memory before the race. One was the Mystic Velo Crit in 2010. The camera's memory lasted 15 minutes. I got second in the race. Another was one of the first Bethels in 2010. In a terrible rainy day I managed third in the sprint, and I raced with virtually unusable brakes. The last was the 2010 New London Crit. A new course, lots of turns, and a good finish after the guy in front of me fell over in the last turn.

I now have a spare ContourHD so I hope to eliminate problems like "I forgot to charge it" or "I forgot to clear its memory" or "I forgot the camera at home" kind of things.

2. If the clip is good enough to work with I import it into iMovie. This is a few hour process so I start it and let it run, usually overnight. My first computer was virtually useless while running this in the background. Now, with 16GB of RAM and a quad core processor, I can do basic browsing really slowly or work on writing.

This step put a huge dent in my video clip production. At some point in 2012 I realized that the raw footage I wanted import weren't showing up in iMovie. After a lot of research, after trying all sorts of stuff (using different cars, renaming files, etc), I finally resorted to using the old MacBook, the one that is sort of obsolete.

I could upload the clips right away. This started a spasm of video production - I've finished two, almost finished a third, and I have a few more to work on.

3. My priorities in picking which clip to do breaks down to three things. The first is whether or not it's fun. For me fun is when I can substantially influence, in a good way, the outcome of a race. That means I do a good sprint, I help a teammate, stuff like that. In 2012 I was very unfit so I almost never had the legs to help a teammate so I tended to choose the races where I had a decent finish. To give an example of the opposite of fun - there's a race where I attacked at the gun. No one went with me, I pushed on when I should have sat up, and I soloed for about 3 laps. I got caught and dropped in about 30 seconds. Would this make an exciting clip? No. Maybe to laugh at me but there's nothing productive I can find in that race.

The next thing is if there's a new course. Although I like Bethel I don't want to have 80 clips of Bethel and 15 of other courses, split evenly between TuesdayTheRent and New Britain. Seriously though I don't get to do new courses too often so if I can get to a virgin helmet cam course then all the better.

The last factor is a lesson one. In some races the racers are so good at tactics and bike handling that I feel like a novice in them. In other races... well it's sort of the opposite. Watching errors on tape makes it much more real and allows analysis so that the racer can work on fixing their errors. This is what happens in football but in amateur cycling it's quite rare.

4. Skim whole clip in iMovie, a stock application that comes with Macs. I like iMovie because you can see thumbnails of the whole clip in very small increments, and if you drag the cursor around the video plays at that speed. Sliding the cursor forward means you get a good fast forward. It makes it easier to find things on the clip.

I try to remember significant tactical moves and include them in the clip. Sometimes I'm at the back when a break goes (okay, I'm almost always at the back) and so the clip can't illustrate the break going away. If the move isn't visible I usually skip it but I may allude to it in the clip's text.

5. I also see if I can find any memorable but independent incidents that I remember. These include crashes, weird moves, elemental errors, and close (but safe) situations. They may not affect the tactics but they're interesting. They include things like a bottle pass between two teammates while a third rider, not on the same team, drops his own bottle. Another race, the last non-HD one, featured a newspaper stuck in a rider's derailleur that I ended up removing.

Many of these interesting sections are 30-45 seconds, and some of them are as short at 8-12 seconds. I don't go shorter than 8 seconds since it's hard to comprehend what's happening in 4 or 5 seconds. Most of my text boxes are 4 seconds long so to have an "intro text" and a "conclusion text" takes, at best, 8 or 9 seconds.

6. I get the last lap in its entirety. Since I usually contest the sprints that's the most interesting part of the race. If applicable I get the prior lap and even a lap before the final lap, but since laps take up minutes at a time, it's "expensive" time.

In the past I was limited to 10 minutes. I had to cut a second here and a second there just to make the 10 minute limit. Then YouTube "upgraded" me to 15 minutes. Before I could get a couple clips out they upgraded me to "unlimited". Remember my clip selection process - fun, course, and memorable moments. Most of a race doesn't have fun stuff, the course is the same, and there are few memorable moments. Therefore I don't upload a whole race.

With my new unlimited time I find myself cutting less. My clips seem to end up at about 10-18 minutes long before I cut them.

7. When it's close to a usable length then start adding music. The music drives the mood so that's important. Sometimes I have a song in mind so I put that in wherever I wanted to put it then I work around that.

The music tends to have a cadence-type beat, something faster than 70 or 80 beats per minute. Something closer to 100 bpm is better, otherwise the clip seems to drag. The exception is if I'm trying to relay a sense of fatigue or something like that. Then I'll select more mellow songs.

One important thing is that I listen to the songs when I'm not working on clips - the Missus will verify that, yes, we listen to those songs over and over when we're in the car. I listen to them when I'm on the trainer. It gives me an idea of the song's "phrasing". I don't know what it's called but some songs are sort of beginning songs that kick things off with a flourish, some are middle songs that build tension or have an offbeat first note (so it sounds like it's a continuation of a thought, not the start of one), some are quiet, and some are great ending songs. I use songs that my brothers played in their bands and I try to use songs that certain people wrote and/or sang because I've been in touch with them.

One singer, Derek, of Linus, URT, and Zen Men, is a local and I see him pretty much once a year at my brother's house. He refers to me as the one man fan club.

Luckily the music my brothers played was mainly fast beat stuff.

There are some songs that just aren't appropriate for a bike race. They tend to be more emotional or very slow. My brothers' bands played a lot of music, more than the 20 or so songs I've used, but unfortunately the music isn't right for a bike racing clip.

Since I'm publishing to YouTube I don't use other artists' music. I don't want to run into copyright violations and such. I've asked some local racer/musicians for original music but the cadence, the bpm, has been too low in everything I've checked out. Nothing personal, it's just the music is too slow.

8. After roughing out the music I start adding text. This emphasizes the mood, gives me a chance to educate riders, and I spend a lot of time here. I'll adjust text after adding music because the two don't quite match and I can't rewrite the music or change its timing. I like some of the disjointed phrases in my brother's music, like being "so far away, at least one hundred miles" when I'm not on a wheel or "spread out like satin" when the field fans out for a turn.

 - If applicable I fill in the non-music sections with music.

 - Once I have the thing roughed out I add the credits. This takes a while since I try to list everyone I mention in order of appearance (after teammates or significant players), I have to get all the songs, and I try to remember all the people I need to thank at the end.

9. With a rough clip in hand I start the hard work - the polishing and honing. I probably refine a dozen times or more. This includes the time intensive step of reviewing the whole clip, at normal speed. It's here that I often catch the real errors. Nonetheless virtually every clip went out with an error, either mismatched text (I edited out a few blocks but a prior or following block relied on the old text so that one block seems out of place), mismatched font (when iMovie buffers heavily it drops font selection), or outright errors (bad spelling or whatever).

Since most of my clips are 10 or so minutes long, reviewing them takes a few hours. At first I find so many errors that I can't get through a single viewing without editing stuff. I find it helps to restart the MacBook since iMovie buffers a lot of memory, slowing things down to a crawl. Now I find that things work most reliably if I restart the machine after every session of iMovie. Even during a "session I'll restart if iMovie takes up more than 2 GB of RAM I restart the machine. When I go to sleep, if I've been working on iMovie, I just restart the machine. This way I know there will be plenty of memory for iMovie the next time I use it.

The slowness isn't the only issue - when iMovie buffers it won't save things, even things that I spent a lot of time doing. The problem is that I end up with random errors - in my standard two line text one line may have the default text in it, or the original font, or no outline, or something weird. Because I don't know what caused the error I have to assume that it could have happened anywhere in the clip. This means a long and thorough review of the clip.

10. Once I think it's done I export into a movie format. Then I watch the whole clip 2-6 times. I usually catch even more errors here and have to re-edit the "master", re-export, and then review.

The export takes about 2-3 hours on my machine so I usually leave this to cook while I go run errands or go to sleep. Once I export then I have a much smaller, much more manageable file, something in the 1 GB size range. I can watch this using Quicktime and I do, reviewing it at least two times, sometimes as many as 10 or 15 times.

All too often I catch errors. Many early errors, that ended up in the published clip, were due to iMovie buffering heavily. When iMovie is heavily buffered it fails to save edits and such. At least three times I've published a clip and found, to my horror, that the credits text had reverted to the default text. This happened in the yet-to-be-published 2012 M40+ New England Crit Championships and it's happened in earlier clips. At first I thought I just forgot to put the stuff in but later I realized that I had painstakingly put everything in and yet it was all gone.

The problem is that if the credits failed to save then I have no idea what other stuff didn't save. This means really checking things over, at least a few times. Since I'm watching a .mov file I can't edit things right there and then. I don't want to open iMovie and start editing because I get confused between the two and inevitably make a mistake after an hour or two. Therefore I make handwritten notes while watching the now-rejected .mov file, then open iMovie to make the changes.

11. I note errors in the exported file and fix them. I often export a clip into movie format at least three times, representing 6-9 hours of computing time just for the export. This doesn't include the approximately 1-3 hours of editing and checking for each export, so 3-9 hours of time where I'm working on the clip. Some clips take more exports and very few take less.

Since creating a new .mov file means editing in iMovie and exporting again, it means, at the very least, an hour to three hours of editing (edit errors, check whole iMovie draft to make sure no other random errors popped up), 3-6 hours of export to .mov, then maybe an hour of checking the new clip.

Finally, when I think the clip is good, I let it simmer. This means I don't look at it for a while, maybe a day. Then I check it again, with a fresh mind. Yes, I usually find some glaring error so I have to redo it.

12. I upload the file to YouTube. After final reviews of my simmered product I'll upload. With a wireless network I found it that the upload would get interrupted or get really slow, especially if the MacBook was far away from the router/modem. I'd move the MacBook close to the router and find that connecting it via a network cable works best.

The uploads usually take about 300-500 minutes. The problem is that I can't edit the YouTube information while it's uploading, at least not so I can tell. Therefore I want to be around when the upload finishes so I can put in the right title, the right description, stuff like that. I find that even when I am totally aware of when the upload finishes, by the time I've updated the title and description I see that there's already been a few views.

The main problem is that our internet throughput goes down the tubes when I'm uploading a clip. It's a huge task just checking email. Therefore I try to upload at night, timing the end of the upload so that it finishes when we wake up. Or, in the last upload, I uploaded during the day while watching Junior.

So that's what it takes to do a clip.

I can accelerate it a bit with a faster machine - with the new MacBook, before iMovie stopped importing my ContourHD files, I rarely had a editing/memory error, rarely had weird fonts, rarely had those memory related errors. The 64 bit operating system allowed me to install (and use) 16 GB of RAM. iMovie will quickly grow to 4-8 GB on that machine. The old MacBook, with a 32 bit operating system, is limited to under 4 GB of RAM, and when iMovie hits about 2.5 GB things start going south. For now, with the iMovie problems on the new MacBook, at least I know what I need to do to get a clip up.

Coming up at some point will be the 2012 White Plains Cat 3-4 crit and the 2012 New England Crit Champs M40+.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Equipment - Sidi Shoe Overhaul

Each winter I go through a bit of rebuilding, replacing, and purchasing cycling equipment. What I do depends on what I want, what I think I need, and what seems to be the most practical option at the time. Sometimes budget comes into play - it's very unusual that I buy a complete bike, for example, as I've only done that twice in 30 years, once when I got my Basso and once when I got the SystemSix. I usually replace a few parts on an existing bike, sometimes the frame.

More often I refit equipment, replacing wear items like cassettes, chains, tires, and bar tape. I'll regularly check to see if a new this-or-that improves my bike. I almost always get more cycling clothing, known as "the kit", at least when not referring to doping kits. And, in the past few years, I've been experimenting with helmet cams and related equipment.

This winter I focused on a few equipment related things. First I really want to build up my used-to-be-orange-and-now-red Tsunami, using some updated and improved parts. Next I wanted to get some taller race wheels, hopefully to get some more top end speed. Finally I wanted to refit some worn equipment to decrease the chances of an equipment failure.

"Refitting" is a regular thing in business or government. In World War 2 battalions and divisions and even armies regularly lost most of their armored equipment in battles. Once a particular battle ended (usually at the end of a given day) and the losing side withdraws from a particular area, the victorious side goes out and retrieves their broken equipment. In particularly ferocious battles they don't wait for the battle to end - crews will go retrieve or even repair tanks under fire in order to be able to use that tank right away.

Although initially I thought that a force that started with, say, 100 tanks might go out and retrieve a dozen or so damaged tanks, I learned that oftentimes a force can lose something like 80% or 90% of their forces during even short battles. Not only that but many battles concentrated a country's forces in a very small area, so a large battle in a small area may in fact use most of a country's armored forces.

In situations like these it's imperative to salvage everything possible. This makes retrieving, and refitting, damaged equipment incredibly important. Once refitted these "casualties" can return to the fight, effectively canceling out the casualties.

Pictures of tank refitting areas, close to the front lines, show crews replacing major things like turrets, engines, cannon, transmissions, things like that. These are not minor repairs. It is major work to virtually rebuild a tank using its hull as a start point.

With this in mind I looked at my Sidis in a different light. Instead of trying to figure out what new shoe to buy, something I'd been doing since the fall of 2011, I started looking at replacement parts for my current shoes.

They've been serving well since the Missus got them for me for my birthday a while back, but now time has started to affect the shoes. I don't want the shoes to have a failure during a race so I decided that I needed to overhaul the shoes in preparation for the 2013 season.

The metal buckle handle flaps around.

The silver metal buckle should lay flat but the springs holding them flat failed on both sides years ago. Tilting the shoe slightly causes it to swing away from the rest of the buckle. When I pedal the silver buckles flap like little wings, clicking merrily away.

The instep strap has SIDI in big letters on it. The end of it sticks out and catches on things.

It slides into the black piece on the side of the shoe and a little tail sticks out the end of that black mount. The problem is that the tail has has caught on stuff, bending it outward. Now it sticks out and catches regularly on my cranks. It's kind of like catching your fingernail on something - it sort of returns to position but the next time it catches on something it practically folds backward on itself. Not a good thing when it consistently catches on the crank arms.

My shoes, as they were before the refitting. One Tecno 2 buckle, the round things, has already failed, on the left shoe. I have a grey one in place.

The original buckles. They show the scars of two falls.

The stack of replacement parts.
From top left - replacement buckles, instep straps, two sets of Tecno 2 buckles.
Not shown: a pair of white buckle straps ("clicker" strap) and a pair of heel pads.

I got red and white just because I wanted to do something different. I'd have gotten new shoes but these has a perfectly suitable base, the replacement parts cost less than half of an inexpensive pair of Sidis, and 

The instep straps consist of two parts - the instep and the clicker strap.
New buckles shown too. The old instep assembly sits at the back.

I replaced all of the Tecno 2 buckles as well. I don't want to be sidelined by a failed wire thing.

To replace the Tecno 2 buckles (and yes, it's spelled "Tecno", not "Techno"), you need to first press out a pin holding things together. A screw on the other side holds down the clear wire. In the above picture I've removed the screw and pushed the pin out.

Removing the Tecno buckles was a pain.

Once you press the pin out you need to pull out the gear thing underneath - the ratcheting wheel thing. It does come out, believe it or not, but it requires a good deal of firm force. There's a tab that keeps the ratchet assembly from rotating, and the catch for that tab is made with a soft plastic or hard rubber. When I removed the ratchet mechanism I damaged all but one of those catches.

Basically the bit that's left on the shoe is a hard rubber item, it's not hard plastic.
Because it flexes a bit you can take the guts out without breaking it.

The catch is at the top of the black base that's still in the shoe - it's just above the stitching that is normally covered by the buckle. The tab that catches it is on the pice with the silver lever, opposite the lever.

Pulling the new string to seat the new guts.
The other side is straightforward, just the screw and a cover thing.
Note the paperclip in the background, used to push the pin through.

The shoes refitted, from the top.

On the bottom I have new heel pads. Mine were so worn I couldn't believe it.

I'll be doing the cleats as well, maybe in a few weeks. The cleat area has a lot of screws and the shoe feels noticeably heavy up front - I'm considering replacing the numerous screws - there are five screws, not just the three cleat screws - with some lighter ones.

So how did the shoes turn out? Well I've done two rides on the trainer so far. I overtightened the front buckles, as usual, even keeping them "too loose" since I know they are way too tight when "too loose". After some adjustments my feet got some blood flow back to the toes.

Surprisingly the insteps made a huge difference. The old ones curled over itself at the top, sort of over the top of the Sidi logo, and therefore they didn't support the top of my foot as well as the new ones. The new insteps have made the shoes feel much more supportive.

The heel pads make refilling my bottles much safer - trotting into the bathroom on slick plastic soles is sketchy at best. With the heel pad it's much better.

I have a second set of Sidis, I think Genius 5s, with two velcro type straps instead of the Tecno 2 buckles. Those need new heel pads, new velcro, but the ratcheting buckle and straps seem okay. I may revive those shoes as well as a backup. Currently they serve, with SPD-R cleats, as my track bike shoes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Promoting - 2013 Bethel Spring Series - Permits Filed

As I'm running out of time to file permits (the filing schedule is more strict than before, with penalties starting earlier) I finally decided on what to do with the Bethel Spring Series race categories and schedules. This meant I could finalize the flyers, convert them to PDFs, and upload them to USAC. This in turn allowed me to finish filling out the permit and therefore allowed me to file them. It took a bit longer than I remembered but it's done.

So, for the 2013 Bethel Spring Series, the permit numbers will be, pending USAC approval, 2013-518 through 2013-524. Seven races, seven Sundays, over an eight Sunday period. We skip March 31, 2013 - Easter Sunday.

The fun thing I had to do was to think of a new name for the seventh race. I did what I did before - plugged in "Tour of Bethel" in the Altavista Babelfish translation thing and looked at a couple different languages. I chose Polish because it looked interesting to me. The seventh and final week of racing will take place during the Tour of Bethel in Polish:

Zwiedzanie Bethel

In addition to the new name I decided to keep the other names the same as they had been before. I had thought about changing one week's name - Tour de Kirche - to honor Markus Bohler. In the end I decided that the German translation output was appropriate to honor Markus, who was originally from Germany. I'm still thinking about it for 2014 but for 2013 I didn't get to a point where I felt like, "Okay, this is the right decision" so I postponed any changes that I might make.

Consider that a tabled thought.

I had two items on my "think about it" list for race categories and scheduling.

First I wasn't sure if I would keep the Masters 45+ race a Masters 45+ race. In the past I had a M40+ race and that went really well. Too well, in fact - the field was very full and the racing seemed to be near supersonic. When I moved the Masters back to 45+ race the field shrank a bit and the racing speeds dropped a touch. Just a touch but such that it became a bit more palatable for the more senior of the field.

The choices - keep it the same at M45+ or drop the age to M40+.

As crunch time came I decided that for 2013 I'd keep it M45+. I want to give the M55s and M60s (yes they're in there) a chance at holding their own. The strong M40s are really, really strong both in strength and numbers. There's be an inordinate amount of power/speed dropped into the race if I dropped the age to M40+. Therefore it'll stay M45+.

The second item had to do with scheduling. As the saying goes, "Time is money", and the Bethel Spring Series has a considerable break in the schedule between the M45+ race and the Cat 3-4 race. I think it's in the 30 minute range, but whatever it is, it's very unusual to have such a break in the middle of a race day.

It has to do with the speed of the M45s - they race pretty darn fast as it is and finish their race way ahead of schedule. Although we may add a lap or three on a week-by-week basis, the schedule break is useful because it gives the staff a chance to catch their breath.

I considered moving other races up in distance to fill that time. The advantages would be better racing for the other fields. The problem is the hard working staff would be pressed even harder.

The choices - increase earlier race distances or start later races earlier.

On this I decided to keep things the same. It's always safe to keep a conservative schedule conservative. If I pushed the schedule really hard we'd inevitably fall behind. More exhausted staff is worse than less exhausted staff. Races that start at a published/known time are good. Races where you don't know when they'll start (and the Bethel Spring Series used to be like this) are not good.

With these two main decisions out of the way I could finish the flyers for the seven weeks, upload them, and finish the permitting process. USAC has to approve the permits and then the races will be official.

While I was at it I created the seven race pages on BikeReg. They've been a huge, huge help in making the Series what it is, through their registration system, the streamlined registration process, the various services they offer the promoter.

Although USAC offers race registration services I feel that BikeReg does it right and they did it first. Therefore, like the last couple years, BikeReg will remain the sole online registration site for the Bethel Spring Series. Racers can register manually if they want, by mailing a check, but otherwise it's BikeReg or Day of Race.

Entry fees remain the same as 2012 except the Series registration - for 2013 it goes up proportionately to reflect the extra week of racing.

However, on the prize side, although the flyer lists a particular number, unless we have miniscule fields on a given day, the prize list is more aggressive than before. In spring races a few fit racers tend to dominate the finishes. Therefore I decided to award money deeper into the finishing order. It's only a couple places but it should help alleviate the "I got seventh, how deep do you pay? Oh, six places?" Now you have to be a bit deeper before you walk away empty handed. I hope that it helps some of the racers just below the super consistent strong ones to get some gas money.

In addition the minimum payout will be the Day of Race fee, $25 for most of the events, up from $20 of last year. In 2012 I figured the lowest payout should be the pre-reg dollar amount, $20. I think though that many racers decide consciously to register Day of Race. I know I do when I race at other events - I know that registering Day of Race means the promoter gets more money because I pay the Day of Race fee. So in case there are those that do this at Bethel I decided to up the payout to reflect the Day of Race entry, not the pre-reg entry. This means that if you place in the money then you raced for free, even if you registered that day.

There are other things in store but these are the main things I've been thinking about in the immediate past, the things under my direct control. As things progress I'll have more to report and such.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Helmet Cam - July 24, 2012 @TuesdayTheRent

July 24, 2012 I did one of many Tuesday Night races at The Rent. It seems both forever ago and like yesterday at the same time. I haven't been able to edit clips due to some iMovie problems. Well, I finally got my iMovie issues solved by using the old MacBook - apparently the newer OS, the newest updates, the prevent me from editing stuff in iMovie. Specifically the updated iMovie won't import any of my helmet cam clips. This is a problem because then I have nothing to edit. The outdated iMovie works fine.

Anyway, with a season of clips in the "import movie" queue I got crackin' on a couple clips. Here's the first one, from that July just half a year ago.


Sunday, January 06, 2013

Training - 2012 Strava Numbers, Sort Of

I started using Strava consistently once May 2012 rolled around. My main reason is to show people that it's possible to race without being ruled by training. A solid tactical racer can get by with a lot less training than many people realize.

I found that 5-8 hours of training a week gets the most out of my body without sacrificing much from the rest of my life. When I do 10 or 15 hours a week I race better but I sacrifice parts of my personal life. At 20-30 hours a week I can barely function off the bike but I get that final bit of form.

I also find it important to race - I haven't been able to do intervals in a long time, probably over a decade. Mentally I find it virtually impossible to push hard on my own for any length of time. I need a goal or some external stimulus, like a race. My training is steady with a few jumps for fun; I hone my fitness by racing, hopefully two to three times a week.

In this vein I'll post my somewhat incomplete 2012 Strava calendar. January-April are not really accurate, but I never really did any long rides. We were working hard to prepare the house (and ourselves) for Junior's arrival. I did no SoCal training camp, which I did from 2004 to 2011, no Las Vegas trip, no real extended time on the trainer.

I have a bunch of training data (aka SRM files) on a PC that isn't up right now. I haven't gotten around to pulling the files off of it so I can't backfill the 2012 numbers from the winter. I'm pretty sure that the numbers aren't too different from the rest of the season. I think my biggest week during the off season was a 5 or 8 hour week, and most of them were 2 to 4 hours.

For those that don't use Strava the big numbers for each month represents the number of hours of training. Again, keep in mind the first four months are incomplete. For example I think some of the Bethels are missing, and I rode more than an hour in January. However May to December is accurate. There are a few extra workouts in there - I actually tried running a bit, and once, when I walked around a shopping center with Junior, I used Strava to track where I walked.

Two thirds of my 2012 schedule - the top row is incomplete

Another thing to keep in mind - although I managed to finish some races I certainly wasn't in condition to contest much during the season. I had my hands full just trying to finish Cat 3 races. So although I want to illustrate that you don't need a lot of training to go through a season, I also want to point out that 12 to 14 hours a month is probably a bit low for training.

Finally, please note that I usually raced Tuesday night and usually Sunday as well. If I raced I hopefully got in an hour of racing. Some of my races lasted much less than that, like 8 or 10 minutes, but there were other days where I did two races, spending a good two hours out on the bike. What this means is that a very high percentage of the riding hours each month from March to August was spent racing the bike. In other words I was averaging 25 mph and working very hard for most of my summer riding.

My training rides tend to be very consistent since I leave the big efforts for the races. I typically do 14-15 mph on the trainer (fluid resistance so it's comparable to a road ride) and 16 or 17 mph out on the road (it's faster because I can coast on downhills and I tend to chase trucks and such). I think that on every single solo training ride this year I rode the same loop, a 15 mile loop nearby. After doing the loop a bunch of times I thought it'd be fun to do just the one loop the whole year. It sort of happened too.

You can see the huge uptick in hours in December 2012. Both the Missus and I were disappointed in my lack of form during the 2012 season. It's not really fun to drive out to a race, watch me get shelled in 10 minutes, then go home.  The Missus was the one that started commenting that maybe I should train more. It was a kind and supportive suggestion, not a harsh one - how many racing spouses actually ask the racer to train more? For both of us it's much more fun if I can get involved in the race. I know for her it's very exciting if I'm contesting a finish, much more so than if I roll across the line 30 seconds after the field.

It's only January 6th now but I've already done over 10 hours in 4 rides this year (all on the trainer). Although I don't expect to be doing any 30+ hour weeks like I try to do in SoCal I hope to get some 5 or 10 hour weeks done in the next two months.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Helmet Cam - iMovie Import Issues

Not the New Year post I thought I'd be posting but I'm asking for help here.

I cannot import any cam video into iMovie, haven't been able to import since about September 2012. This makes editing them and making them into race clips impossible.

The files get put onto disk - I've used 500GB of drive space trying to import the White Plains cam clips - but there are no files in Finder, no nothing. Until about November I could see the file in Finder under iMove Events, but now no files show up.

I tried another race (a Rent) and that didn't import either.

I tried renaming the file (copy and rename) I want to import. I tried putting it on a different drive (internal, external-1, external-2).

There is enough space. I started with about 800-900 GB free - so much that I forgot the exact number Now I'm down to ~350GB free on my 1500 GB drive. As an FYI each 3.94 GB cam clip becomes 32 GB raw data in iMovie, before any editing. Finished clips, typically 8-10 minutes long, max 15 minutes, take up 50-100 GB each, and I think one is 200 GB (that's actually a shorter clip but I split the audio off the video).

Any Mac guru suggestions welcome. I am Mac illiterate for all intents and purposes.

I have a 2 GHz Intel Core i7 MacBook, OSX 10.7.5, 16 GB RAM, 500GB internal, two 1.5 TB externals, two 2.0 TB external backups (one for each 1.5 TB). I can no longer use external-1, a 1.5 TB drive, as it's has only 700 MB free, I think due to multiple import attempts. External-2 is down to 380 GB and the last 5 or so import attempts have used drive space but has produced no visible files.

My next steps: I will add another external drive (2 TB) and see if using a clean drive helps. I'll dismount the four other external drives as well. I'll try and split the file into two so that it's about 1.9 GB per file.

I've really wanted to work on clips but the import process takes a few hours and I haven't been able to babysit it and see if it errors out.

As soon as I fix this problem I'll be producing YouTube clips again.