Monday, April 22, 2013

Promoting - Post 2013 Bethel Spring Series

The 2013 Bethel Spring Series has finished.

As usual the last day was a bittersweet day. It's the last of the year's Series which means that a lot of stuff ends. The core group of people I see each weekend will change - just like you never get the exact same people showing up at two different race venues I never see the same core group of people at other races, not all at once. This is more so because some of the core group don't even race. It makes Bethel unique because it's the only time I see certain people at the races.

Of course we had ourselves some great racing. Unusually no titles had been clinched by the last week and in fact every title was up for grabs. Each year I hope that someone will cinch the Series early - I have some shorts for said rider ready to go. If they don't then I just give the overall winners a pair of shorts.

In 2013 each race came down to the final efforts in the final laps, except perhaps the P123 race. There were a lot of close finishes resulting in some ecstatic riders, along with the inevitable devastated ones. 20 or 30 minutes after the races and everyone was all smiles. For all the "what ifs" and "but thens" the riders that took the overall earned their titles.

Only in the P123s did the top contenders neutralize one another, watching all the points ride up the road. Some ferocious battling in the field almost brought things together but wisdom relented and the race ended with the overall podium spots unchanged.

I ended up stopping almost as soon as I started the 3-4 race. It was a bit unfortunate because my brother headed over with his family and my dad. I was already off the bike and probably changed when they arrived. It would have been nice to be on the bike for the kids. Ah well.

A fascinating occurrence was that this was the first time in 21 years that we had no trophies left over - there were no absentee podium finishers. I was actually stunned. I think the extra week, to avoid a Battenkill conflict, worked out well.

So how did the Series end up? I'll touch on a few spots that came to mind right away.


The weather... it went both ways. We didn't have a snow day and we didn't have rain on any week. 

That's good.

We also never broke 70 degrees, and we spent virtually the whole Series in the 30s and 40s. That's not so good, but, at the same time, it's sort of what a Spring Series should give you.

That's... not great but not bad.


We had a new spot for registration this year. The bakery gets too crowded (did you see the lines??) so we needed to find a different spot. We were fortunate to have use of the very cool spot we got to use. I was treating the folks who lent us permission anonymously but it's Cycling Sports Group, aka "Cannondale". A nice side benefit was that racers could peer through the glass at the Retail Lab, a showroom chock full of bike bling.

We had two new people at registration, Joel and Amanda, and did well, even under the gun at the peak hours of registration.

Overall registration and the associated things (end of day stuff for the officials, posting results, etc) went well. Pretty much all the errors were mine or due to late communication. I'd forget to add someone or someone would ask to change something at 10 PM on Saturday night. In all cases we figured things out okay.

It's one of the most honed aspects of Bethel and it showed.


The first week had some rough spots as the camera did a bunch of things on its own. In "Auto" mode it adjusts shutter speed, focus, and light balance. It took us two finishes to fix it but that meant two finishes where we couldn't pick numbers. Lesson learned.

The rest of the time the camera worked well. Obscured riders, oddly pinned numbers, and the occasional "perfect glare" situation made for some missed numbers, but we captured virtually all the numbers.

As the second year we're using this system it worked well, minus the hiccup on that first week.


One good thing about the final week is that I get to give away a bunch of stuff. It's fun making other people's day. This year, with Cannondale and Outdoor Sports Center's support, we gave away a Cannondale CAAD10 frameset (a CRCA racer won it).

The actual CAAD10 frameset on display.
Winner gets to choose the size.

Other prizes include a CycleOps Fluid Trainer (Bethel Cycle rider), a couple helmets that I remembered to put them in the car (CRCA and I forget who), and some smaller stuff (FGX somehow won three of these prizes). Drawing the tickets were a little girl, a little boy, and three? of my nephews (ages 5, 7, and 9).


Outdoor Sports Center, our main sponsor, provided us the use of the start/finish tent.

I want to give a shout out to Outdoor Sports Center. They are much more than just a sponsor. The guy that runs the place showed up every week of the Series, helps with the grunt work (i.e. moves boxes, helps load/unload van, etc), and loves the whole atmosphere of the race.

In fact he's the main reason why I added one week to the Series. When Battenkill conflicted with the last Series race we saw the turnout plummet. The poor turnout disappointed the normally enthusiastic guy (and me too). I figured an extra week would be okay, it would allow all the Battenkill riders to return, and it would be more fun for everyone involved - me, the sponsor, and especially the racers.


The camera crew on the trailer. All one of him.

This is the last week that our Series crew will be together like this. There's no other race that requires this much consistent help. Working the race is a bonding experience. It's like when you go on a century ride with a small group of people. Merely the process of doing the ride forces everyone to share a challenge and to meet it. It's hard not to build a bond with those around you.

Unlike a random century you go to, at the Bethel Spring Series I have the luxury of selecting the crew. I used to vet the crew from birth, as the joke went - I've known a few of the crew as long as they've been alive. I knew the parents before I knew them. It's hard to explain to other promoters where I find the crew.

"So you have some good people helping you at Bethel. Where do you find them?"
"Well first you find a friendly nice young couple that doesn't have kids. Then when they have kids you vet the whole family process. Keep the good families on a short list. It helps if the parents go to races because then you can see the kids as they grow up. When the kids come of age you hire them. It takes a bit longer than just interviewing random people but it works well."
"Oh. Um. Thanks."

This year I expanded a bit and added people that I haven't known for more than a decade. It worked out well, super well in fact.

I consider the officials part of the crew as well. I ask for them specifically because they help shape the tone of the race, the attitude of the race.

Volunteer Marshals

This year we had more volunteers than in recent memory and for that I'm super grateful. With the new "cut through" around the Bethel Power building we needed a couple more dedicated people. Missing regulars for various dates also reduced available resources.

Therefore the marshals really helped make the race work as well as it did this year. I really, really appreciate the time and effort they put out, especially during those bitterly cold days.


I want to mention the racers themselves to conclude because it's only fitting. When someone says something nice about Bethel to me, I reply in complete truth that without the racers there'd be no race.

Someone last year described the way I think of the racers at Bethel.

"(He) really cares for all "his" racers--that is, everyone that pins on a Bethel number." (DocM)

I never realized that this is how I felt about all the racers at Bethel. I want everyone at Bethel to succeed at racing, to race as well as they can. I may get frustrated with some, never with others, spend more time with this one than that one, but in the end it comes down to this:

I want everyone at the Bethel Spring Series to have fun racing.


Because at Bethel they're one of mine.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Racing - 2013 Zwiedzanie Bethel Report

It's pretty easy. Here are 4 pictures and a few words to describe my 9 minute race.

Start of the race... it strung out right away

Third lap in...

 Later that lap I turned around to say hi to the Missus and Junior.
They and three others (two adults, one baby) were walking a lap.

Other baby under blue blanket in background.

I managed not to get lapped and headed back to do promoter stuff.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Promoting - Pre 2013 Zwiedzanie Bethel

The start of the last week of the 2013 Series

My mornings start with a cup of coffee. Okay, actually, they start when Junior wakes up and babbles and stuff. I try to sneak downstairs to fix him a bottle or a pouch and maybe some cereal before I head back up to change him. He's usually pretty hungry so he's unusually fussy (meaning he actually acts frustrated) so right after I change him I bring him downstairs to "begin his day".

While Junior walks around his domain (the living room, kitchen, hallway) I try to sneak in some breakfast. It usually works. I follow him around so that means eating a sandwich or leftovers while walking around behind him.

Junior doing laps in a cheerful mood.

This week was a bit busier than normal. There's a lot of stuff that happens only on the last week. In "list form" it's two things - the final overall and the raffle - but in reality it's a logistical nightmare. The issue is that most of the podium riders disappear after their race so I have to do the pictures as soon as the races end. This means getting results, calculating the overall, and awarding prizes... all before the next race starts.

On top of that Junior had a few things happening. He had this all-over rash/bumps/whatever... He'd just gotten his measles shot a few weeks ago, he ate some new food last Sunday, but we think he didn't have "bugs" (he slept in his own Pack N Play, he wore his own clothes, etc).

He was also projectile vomiting for about 24 hours, sporadically one day, once at 2 AM that night, then a few times the next day. That second day, on about the 5th expulsion of the second or third episode (and therefore I figured there couldn't be much left), I held a towel in front of his mouth. The "projectile" geyser hit the towel, ricocheted up into the air, and landed on his face and hair... he was not happy.

This meant him staying at home on the one afternoon I thought I could work on stuff.

What happened is that I had started working on "deluxe" things, essentially favors to individual riders who asked for this or that. I do these things before and during the Series. It's not a major big deal, it helps make the race more enjoyable for the racers, and, frankly, it's stressful if I think someone isn't happy about the races.

While working on those deluxe things I realized that, oh, wait, I don't have the spreadsheet done for this week. I have no change for the drawer. I'm short for prizes for Sunday since I pay out for overall. I have to leave early Saturday to pick up the trophies.

On top of that the camera guy wouldn't be there so I stressed a bit about that (he wrote up extensive notes on what to do and another guy covered for him - I covered the M45+ finish).

I had to stop with the favors and do the "bulk work" if you will, the work that allows the race to actually run. These include getting the cash drawer ready (means going to the bank as well), getting the spreadsheet ready, sending out  for printing and picking up the release forms, organizing the numbers and releases, making sure the radios are charged, stuff like that.

I have to get my stuff ready too, my bikes and gear and overnight stuff. Before each Bethel I stay at my dad's place the night before - he lives about 30 minutes from the course, I live about 90 minutes.

During this time I was doing repeated loads of laundry after Junior made his various works of art. Luckily he didn't hit anything used for Bethel, all sitting in various piles in the living room. I did have to clean a large swath of carpet, a bunch of toys, give him a few baths (and take some showers for me), and do multiple changes of clothing for both him and me.

If that wasn't enough one of our cats was freaking out so we had to put him in kitty jail (a bathroom). This entailed emptying out the bathroom of anything removeable, installing a litter box, water station, and food. We took him to the vet to get him checked out, but all this meant moving rugs, cleaning stuff, yada yada yada. He even had an episode in the middle of the night - he peed on the bed through the down comforter - that meant stripping the bed of everything and putting it in the wash at 2 AM and me taking yet another shower. We also moved two rugs out of the way after he peed on those.

So on Friday, instead of being almost done with preparations for a regular Sunday, I was just getting started preparing for a super-sized Sunday.

I was so exhausted Friday evening that I thought of skipping the pre-reg stuff (organizing releases, doing the spreadsheets, etc) and just going to bed. As I stressed I rallied and got it done. I even fleshed out the stuff I wanted to cover in the clinic, a kind of deluxe "send them on their way" bunch of stuff.

That left Saturday morning to load up the car and get down to Crown Trophies in Brookfield before they close. Luckily the Missus is done with tax season so she'll hang out with Junior while I do Bethel stuff.

Eventually I got it all done.

Sunday should be fun.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Racing - 2013 Circuit Francis J Clarke Report

Last week I didn't even bother with a race report. Although the morning started out very calm, as it usually does, the wind really picked up during the day. I decided to go all in and use the Stinger 7 front, Stinger 9 rear, the tallest wheels I have. I figured the "SCT" (Stability Control Technology), meant to help deal with crosswinds, would help overcome the height of the rims.

Well the first bend almost blew me off the road. Now, granted, I had a 75 mm tall rim up front. I think an old 46 mm rim would have done the same, just more sharply. Whatever, the tugging on the bars wasn't good.

I redoubled my grip on the bars and chided myself for gambling too much with wheel selection.

Regardless it didn't make much of a difference. I was in trouble from the very beginning, well over my limit within a few laps. I hung on grimly at six laps in, really pushed hard to make the seventh, but on the eighth I was done. I exploded on the backstretch, the wind sawing me off the back. Shelter smelter, sitting in didn't matter when I couldn't get up the hill or when the wind was so gusty it hit you from all directions.

So last week's race report would have been pretty short... like the four short paragraphs above.

The wind started deceptively light in the morning but even when the Cat 5 clinic started it had started to pick up. I knew that it'd be ferocious by the early afternoon.

Therefore I decided to skip the tall front wheel.

You see aero wheels work differently at the two ends. On the front, the steering end, a tall wheel increases instability. The way a bike stays upright is by steering, not because of gyroscopic wheel effects, not because of the head tube angle, not because of trail. It stays upright because the rider can steer into a "fall" (or into a tilt if you will) and avoid actually falling. By tilting and then steering left and right repeatedly the rider can stay upright. If you want to try an experiment that'll make you feel very clumsy you can lock the bars of a bike in place - use straps or tape or something, or, if you have a totally beat up unfixable junker, just tighten the headset until it won't turn anymore. Try riding it. When I tried it I lost all fluency and almost crashed into a wall, and this after about 12 race seasons under my belt.

Or, for an easier, less harmful experiment, go to a MUP (Multi Use Path, aka Rails to Trails etc) and watch a 4 year old on a bike. You'll see this "steering/tilting" in vivid action as the child wobbles left and right repeatedly.

My very scientific uncle tried to explain this to me when I started riding a bike. "Steer into the fall," he told me. I wasn't sure what that meant but it only took a couple skinned knees for me to start riding around.

So that's the front wheel.

The rear wheel increases stability. It has no bearing on the steering of the bike therefore it doesn't do anything negative. In fact a tall rear wheel notifies me what the wind is doing and allows me to react to wind. When the whole bike feels like it's getting pushed a bit I know the wind is picking up and I should therefore be attentive for veering or wandering riders (including myself).

I used to put the tallest rear wheel on for races with high top speeds. For windy conditions or high top speeds I'd choose my Zipp 440 (predecessor to the 404), the Specialized Trispoke (now the HED3), or a prototype disk wheel. I remember racing a windy Ninigret once with a disk wheel in the back and a TriSpoke up front. I figured the disk would help stabilize the bike a bit and that would let me get away with a TriSpoke up front, a decidedly unstable-in-wind wheel. I ended up in a 10 lap break in the 1-2-3 race, eventually finishing 15th or 20th behind two breaks that actually stayed away.

With these wind lessons in mind I decided to keep the Stinger 9 in the back - it's a 90 mm tall wheel but with SCT so it's very rounded on the inside - and use my training wheel up front. That's a 24 mm Ardennes rimmed wheel. When I bought it HED called it the Bastogne. Now HED calls that class of wheels Ardennes with different letters for the different models. The Bastogne is sort of like the Ardennes LT now.

A couple laps in. Frisky.

A couple laps later. Still frisky.

I realized today that I can always go up the hill a couple times okay. My fitness determines how many times I can go up the thing okay. I remember climbing off my bike at the end of a long day many, many, many years ago, having just done both the 3-4 and 1-2-3 races, and someone excitedly telling me I'd just done 83 laps of the course (he was 10 years old I think and he counted every lap).

In 2010 I felt good 70 laps in, loose, fresh, eager to contest the finish of the 1-2-3 race after having placed in the 3-4 race. The Cat 3-4 are 30 laps long, and have been for a few years.

Last week I was good for 8 laps.

This means that I have to race very carefully, very conservatively. If I was a race car the pit crew would be telling the drive to save gas, save the tires, save the car. Gun it once or twice and the car would blow up, so gun it when it really counted.

A funny incident. SOC is to my left.
Note the gap to the riders in front of me - I couldn't close it, believe it or not.

SOC is one of my teammates, a friend, and a much stronger rider than I am. When we did some practice sprints a couple years ago he actually sprinted away from me. I was on his wheel, I knew when we were going to jump, and he just rode away from me.

At any rate during the race he drifted to the back after some efforts. I was already struggling, unable to keep within a few feet of the riders in front of me. When he appeared ever so slightly ahead of and next to me I figured I'd get on his wheel for shelter. I eased and moved behind him.

SOC eased to let me pull up next to him, wanting to tell me something, something about the race. He didn't understand just how redlined I was at the moment.

SOC hangs back a bit to give me shelter.

When I didn't come around he realized that for whatever reason I was just hanging at the back. He didn't feel it important to close the little gap in front of him because it would take two pedal strokes for him to close it.

For him. Not for me.

He closes the gap easily on the hill, not realizing I was close to the limit.

At some point on the hill, two pedal strokes and SOC was back in the group. It took me an agonizing 15 seconds to get back in and another few laps to recover from my "effort". Pitiful, yes, but it's all I had to offer.

I was determined to keep going as long as I could pedal. Either I'd cramp or I'd explode, but I felt the need to keep pushing. I had a few troubling moments during the race after the humorous SOC one.

When the Stage 1 / Fusion Think rider (in red) moved over and jumped I was gapped.

One of them was when the field was in full cry. With massive wind by Turn Two and on the backstretch I had to manage the gaps well. Just like how SOC closing that minor gap put me in trouble, so did the action in the above picture. The Stage 1 / Fusion Think rider jumped hard to move up - he knew potential trouble when he saw it and the strung out field wasn't looking very cohesive. A gap here, a gap there, and we'd be talking a whole different ballgame.

When he went it left me with about a 10-12 foot gap to close. I pushed very hard to close it, briefly contemplating sitting up.  I had to push hard for a while to close the gap. In the end I closed the gap before I blew up so it worked out okay, but I think it took me a couple laps to recover from that seemingly minor effort.

The field splitting apart under continuous and ferocious attacks.
Joel is in front of me.

The other major crisis happened when the field split in two. In the above picture you can see a front group splitting off, followed by a trail of racers trying to bridge the gap. I couldn't grab a still of the two groups separated because by then my head was down and all I could see on the screen was the rider in front. In fact the above picture is one of the last shots before all but four or five riders disappeared from the camera's view as my head dipped down. I knew the split meant trouble and I was already deep in the red when it happened.

I found the chase/thought process in the back group interesting. First, when the split happened, guys started easing a bit, looking back, seeing if someone else would take a pull. During all this they'd move to one side or another, causing the group to spread out.

At that point we resembled a group ride that just left a parking lot on a group ride. We were scattered all over the road, not really a "peloton" as much as a "group". As the racers realized that this one or that one wasn't about to come through, that they weren't in a position to help, the ones that had the legs gathered themselves together and went to the front. The others knew a good thing when they saw it and they all closed in and hung onto the wheels.

The group immediately coalesced into a proper peloton and went about the business of chasing after the field. Ultimately the battle up front subsided and the two groups came back together.

Disaster, at least for me, had been averted.

Bethel was, and will always be, a battle between the sprinters and the non-sprinters. There is so much shelter at Bethel that sprinters can arrive to the finish with some kind of reserve, even if they were at the limit throughout the race.

Therefore the time trialers try to break the field. It makes for very tough racing for everyone involved. The time trial guys are at the front just killing it. Everyone behind, including the sprinters, grovel on the wheel, hoping for an end to the insanity.

In the Cat 3-4 races a break can work, especially if there are larger teams sitting at or near the front, chasing down any counter moves. When the larger teams are working for a sprinter, though, any aggressive moves get marked by a clump of racers.

For this race it came down to a field sprint.

With our team leader Bryan absent I figured it be best to support another teammate Jeff - he had earned points last week so he was by default the GC leader on the team. I learned the hard way that I can't do anything worth talking about if it takes longer than 30 seconds. If I tried to give Jeff a leadout I'd use myself up just getting into position or within meters of hitting the front. Dumping Jeff into the wind at 500 meters to go wouldn't help him much.

Therefore my goal was to place immediately behind Jeff. This way he could get whatever place and I'd try and be a filler rider just behind him, denying someone else any points available there.

The last time I tried to help by placing behind someone it was when I wanted to place behind Bryan. Unfortunately Bryan exploded in the sprint so I just sat up, finishing a sort of accidental 13th.

To assist I'd have to be up front. That's easier said than done, especially after three hard-for-,e efforts to get back into (aka stay in) the race.

Bell Lap.

At the bell I was pretty well buried in the field. I'd moved up a little bit but not really into the front - I was mainly "out of the back" rather than "in the front".

Turn Two on the last lap.

At turn Two things stayed the same. The first stretch was so hard on me I couldn't afford to use extra energy to move up - it was all I could to to maintain position and mentally prepare for the second half of the lap.

Gap opening up in front of me. I will take it.

The Brauer rider moved to the right a bit, opening a big gap. I zipped up into it, my legs reasonably fresh from going easy the last half lap. Obviously I was leaving it late but I hoped that the ferocious wind had taken the edge off the legs of the riders in front of me.

Through the gap, waiting for an opening so I can go.
Jeff is just ahead of me, Joel is fading on the left.

We're now in the heart of the sprint. On a good year I'd launch from here, even earlier perhaps, but this year isn't one of those years. This week I waited behind two riders, knowing that at some point a gap would open somewhere. Eventually one moved enough to let me by - I went, 100%, as soon as I saw the opening.

Trying to place behind Jeff.
Missus is standing holding Junior who is wrapped in the green blanket on the memorial.

Coming up to the line I had one guy in my sights. My sprint isn't what it used to be so I couldn't think about passing more than just the one guy, but that would be enough - the rider in front of him was a very well placed Jeff. I figured I should be able to pass the one guy and finish the race behind Jeff, exactly as I wanted.

Then I heard movement to my right. Someone was making a late surge for the line. I was taken aback enough that I couldn't really throw my bike - a couple quick downstrokes and a poor lunge for the line and I knew that the other guy had beaten me.

Ironically I saw that on review he was the guy that moved right and gave me the opening I needed to get into position for the final part of the sprint.

A quick (and very poor) throw but I didn't realize he was there until he was passing me.
Stinger 9 in the back, Bastogne up front. Tsunami Bikes frame.

It ended up that Jeff got the last points place so getting a place behind him wasn't critical. Lucky for me since I didn't get that spot behind him. In addition the guy that passed me wasn't in for the overall anyway so my place holding ended up a moot point. Regardless it was a better execution of the same plan I had twice before. Once I wasn't anywhere near my protected rider and the other time the protected rider blew up.

I did a cool down lap, unusual for me, and then found the Missus and Junior. Junior was funny - he wasn't sure who the guy was with the helmet and stuff, but as soon as I nuzzled his cheek he smiled and leaned his head into mine. He knew it was dad and started waving his hands and kicking his feet.

The Missus was happy for me, knowing how I've been struggling at the races. It's not fun to struggle, even less so when it just leads to getting shelled. At least today I got something for my struggles.

I got to think, to plan, and to try and adjust my riding to fit another rider's needs. I struggled like crazy a few times, once literally giving up just as everyone else sat up, and managed to get to the last few laps in the field. It reinforced the idea of not giving up.

I made a good equipment choice - the shallow front wheel - based on my experience from last week, getting blown around on the course. I felt less stress holding a line, I felt more comfortable sidling up to another rider, getting better shelter.

Of course I say all that but lasted all of two laps in the P123 race. For now, though, I want to focus on what I need to do to become at least marginally competitive in the races I'll be doing throughout the summer. Right now it's all about training and getting some hours in because, frankly, I can't use my equipment as any kind of excuse.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Equipment - Search For Titanio Replacement

"Titanio" is a misnomer, really - it basically means "titanium". But San Marco called a particular saddle the Titanio and it's a favorite of mine. I tried the Arione for a bit as it came on my Cannondale. I also tried, briefly, an SLR.

The problem with the Titanio is that I don't remember seeing it produced after about the year 2000. Some places had it in stock for another couple years. I didn't realize San Marco stopped production so I panicked and went looking for spare saddles. When I got my last new one I cleaned out one distributor's stock, all one of them.

A friend of mine remembered I used the saddles so he gave me three that he had. Apparently they no longer worked for him. I'm pretty sure one broke almost immediately; the other two were relegated to spare use and, eventually, to the track bike and the tandem. I could tell the saddles he gave me because he wore the sides out - being as he's more of a cyclist's build than me (aka he's not as heavy) I can only theorize that training a lot wears out the sides of these saddles.

Along with one desperate purchase, a plastic railed (not carbon, it's plastic, like regular plastic) version, I had two titanium saddles and the one plastic one.

Since then I've bought one used and a friend bought one used for me. The latter was sort of funny. Said friend emailed me to let me know that there was a Titanio up for grabs on eBay. I looked, it was reasonable, it was $35, and I thought, well, I should probably get it. A few hours later I decided that, yes, I'll get it. I went to my Watchlist and, yep, it was gone.

I emailed my friend.

"Dude, someone bought the saddle. I'm totally bummed."
"I bought the saddle because I didn't want you to miss out on it."
"Oh. Haha. Okay."
"I'll ship it to you."
"Okay, thanks."

I broke one of my precious saddles, leaving me with a total of three titanium and one plastic railed Titanio. When I built up my red Tsunami 1.1 I had the plastic one on the black bike, a ti railed one on the track bike, a ti rail one on the tandem, and I installed another ti railed one on the red bike.

I had just one spare.

I started to worry. I could steal the saddle off the tandem, fine, that bike is almost like a spare parts holder with its new shifters and ti railed Titanio. Okay, so it has two spares on it.

But after that... I didn't have much in the way of options. My sporadic checks on eBay didn't turn up much. Plus I wanted to find a current saddle that would work. This way I could build up stock, just like I did with the Titanio saddles.

The other thing weighing on my mind was the weight. The Titanios were about 220 grams, which isn't bad but it isn't great. I am conscious of a part's weight but I don't go out and get the lightest stuff on purpose. If it's light and it works I'll get it.

As an example my Cannondale SI SRM cranks are power meter cranks, fine. But they're also just 675 grams for the cranks, rings, and bottom bracket. In comparison the Campy cranks I had before were closer to 1000 grams, about 300 grams or 2/3 of a pound heavier. They didn't measure power, they were more flexible, and they required a proprietary fifth chainring bolt.

My SRM cranks are lighter, stiffer, and they measure power, and, based on everything that it came with (because it came as a bike I got a Cannondale SystemSix frameset, Campy Record build kit, Arione saddle... I sold off the wheels and bars and gave away the stem), they were relatively inexpensive.

When I buy these kinds of non-wear items, like cranks, saddles, pedals, bars, stems, seatposts, etc, I want to optimize the weight factor. I won't buy stupid light stuff, nor will I spend $300 on a post to save 20 grams. I will take a slightly heavier-than-lightest part that is durable and works well.

The new FSA Compact bar I want to adopt falls under those requirements. They cost little, about $50 at the local shop, they weigh within 30-50 grams of the lighter carbon bars (especially since I cut 30 grams worth of excess bar off, bringing them close to 200g actual weight), they're durable, and they work as long as I have a longer stem. I think anyway.

The Titanio saddles are durable, work well, but they're not optimal in terms of weight. If I could find a newer lighter saddle that worked as well I'd be in business.

I remembered the SLR saddle. I couldn't remember what I didn't like about them. I knew that the Ariones were a bit wide in the middle and flat fore and aft. I started looking at saddle profiles. I figured if anyone would have a similar saddle to the Titanio it would be the folks that made the Titanio, San Marco.

Someone somewhere mentioned that we don't sit on our sit bones, we sit on the inside edges of our pelvic cradles. I think the actual bone is the ramus of ischium. That makes sense to me because when I consciously sit on my sit bones I'm totally upright, an unnatural position for me on the bike. When I'm sitting "normal" my pelvis is tilted forward.  Until I read that comment on where we sit I couldn't visualize where it is that we sat, I just knew that the sides of the saddle sort of supported my pelvis.

With the idea of the ramus of ischium in my head I realized that it's not the tail of the saddle that counts - that's where I'd be sitting upright. It's the curve in the middle 2/3 of the saddle, how it flares outward.

The Arione was too wide there, hence it felt wide.

The Titanio is a bit more triangular.

I needed another "more triangular" saddle.

Selle Italia makes the SLR, a minimalist lightweight saddle. I had one before. I either sold it or gave it away but I'm not sure why. I decided that I'd give the SLR a shot again.

And then I checked the prices of the SLRs out there.

They were a bit much. I mean, okay, $100 is about the market price for a somewhat minimum saddle. But $300 for a saddle is a bit much for me.

I checked Slowtwitch and sure enough someone was selling a high end SLR for $125. I snapped it up. A few days later it showed up at the house.

Carbon rails and all that.

Note the flared shape. This is similar to the Titanio. Many new saddles are much narrower in the middle, flaring aggressively at the tail. I was looking for something less aggressively flared, like this thing.

Titanio saddle profile from above.

I didn't want a cut out either - I don't feel the need for one so I'm skipping that for now.

Weight of my (hopefully) new standard saddle.

The one I took off the bike.

You can see the wear starting on the side of the nose.

The weight difference is about 75 grams or a bit more than a tenth of a pound. Every 45 grams is a tenth of a pound (454 grams is a pound).

Of course I'm 7 pounds heavier than I was in late January after I did 33 hours of riding. After February, when I did 8 hours, I was 10 pounds heavier. A tenth of a pound is... an incremental gain at best. It will only count if I'm 15-20 lbs lighter than I am now, when each pound becomes more important, more significant. For now just makes the bike easier to put on the roof rack.

My spare. Odd, it's heavier.

When I checked the production dates on the saddles my original one was made in 1991 (based on the "91" stamped on the underside of the saddle). The newer/heavy one was made in 1999.

The important part is how the SLR worked. I went for a ride on Thursday with the saddle after I installed it. I had to raise the post a full centimeter as the saddle sat much lower.

The shape worked for me. I was in shorts so that meant thin material. I slid around on the saddle a bit more than normal - I don't know if there's some upholstery Son-of-a-Gun type stuff on it but I hope it gets a bit more tacky. I need to move the saddle up and forward a touch - I found myself sitting further back trying to get proper leg extension so the saddle is a bit low right now.

Currently my bikes are at 66 cm BB->Saddle (black bike with 175 mm cranks) and 66.5 cm BB->Saddle (red bike with 170 mm cranks). I think my normal height was 67 cm so I think I'm 0.5 cm too low. This would explain me pushing all the way back on the saddle trying to get enough leg extension.

I took the opportunity to install the ti bolts I accidentally bought for the Thomson post.

Speaking of incremental gains these are really incremental, almost microscopic...

The regular bolts.

The accidental ones, less than 10 grams lighter.

It was kind of a dumb purchase. I bought everything in my cart thinking I'd deleted these and I didn't realize I bought them until the package showed up. If they last then that's great. If they don't... well then I was dumb to buy them.

Let's put it this way - I didn't buy more of them.

I'll see how the SLR works for the next couple months. If you start seeing more SLRs on my bikes you'll know that they're working out.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Equipment - Tsunami 1.1 or "The Now-Red Orange Frame"

For over a year I've been wanting to get this frame back online. It started out as my original Tsunami frame, with the now-standard-for-me geometry - 40 cm seat tube, 56.5 cm effective top tube, 75.5 degree seat tube angle, 73 degree head tube angle, and designed to be used with a 43 mm rake fork.

The original bike, shortly after I built it up in SoCal.

This makes for a long bike to fit my long torso. It's not very tall though, to fit my not-very-tall legs.

The original Tsunami (version 1.0) had industry standard 40.5 cm chainstays and that's where it faltered. Even coasting in fast corners the rear tire would chatter or slide across the pavement. The unusually long front end meant I had too much weight up front, leaving the rear wheel to fend for itself.

This, along with my short-lived upgrade to Cat 2, instigated the second Tsunami, the black one. Geometry-wise I wanted the same bike but with "as short as possible" chainstays. Those ended up measuring 39 cm in length.

The black Tsunami (version 2.0 if you will) also had some aero features. I wanted the narrower tubes with the thought of racing with a CamelBak. This would eliminate the very bulky bottles from the bike, allowing me to take advantage of the aero tubing.

My CamelBak idea faltered because I didn't like the way it worked (can't toss an empty CamelBak, can't empty it all the way, pain to refill, warm in warm weather, harder to breathe, etc). I resorted to using the bottle bosses, literally an afterthought in the build process.

"Might as well put them on although I don't plan on using them."

The black frame worked well although the nut that held the seat down (aka "the rider" aka me) wasn't as good.

I started thinking of combing my favorite elements from both bikes into what would be a Tsunami 3.0 - internal cabling (easier to clean), short chain stay, regular tubing.

On the off chance that Joseph (aka Tsunami Bikes) could alter my orange frame I contacted him. He told me no problem, he could put new chainstays, seatstays, and a brake bridge on for me. I didn't realize it's just trimming one tube; he'd have to rebuild the whole "stays" area.

I decided it was worth sacrificing the internal cabling to save 6/7 of the money a new frame would cost me.

Joseph sent the frame back unpainted (per our agreement) and I had a local car nut paint my frame the same color he was painting his Mini. It happened to come out red so fine, red it was.

I also invested in some frame prep tools, specifically 1 1/8" head tube facer/reamers and a BB30 reamer, ordering them through Expo Wheelmen sponsor Manchester Cycle. These cutting tools, combined with Manchester Cycle's cutting tool handles, would give me a perfectly finished frame. The frames arrived unprepped and the headsets were always a bit tight and the bottom bracket was also. Bob, the owner of the shop, did the work himself, and the red frame (Tsunami 1.1) came back to me ready for assembly. This would save me a few watts turning the cranks - it's bad enough that I can see wattage numbers pop up on the SRM when I'm soft pedaling (i.e. not keeping up with the wheels)

That process dragged on for months while I realized I was missing this piece or that piece. Minor things roadblocked the build, like a front derailleur hanger, or cable housing (I ran out of Nokons), or trying to figure out what stem would work with the FSA Compact bars I wanted to use.

Finally, before the April 7 2013 Criterium de Bethel, my bike was ready to ride. I wrapped the bars at the prior March 24 Bethel CDR Gold Race, rode it on the trainer before April 7, and did my shake down ride during the April 7 Cat 5 clinic.

It seemed to work okay so I put the race wheels on it.

Tsunami 2.0 to the left, 1.1 to the right.

Note the different shaped bars. The Compact FSA bars on the red bike are 3 cm shorter in reach and 2 cm shorter in drop. To accommodate this discrepancy I have a 2 cm longer stem (so 1 cm shorter overall) with about a 0.5 cm drop (so the drops sit about 1.5 cm higher).

For the Cannondale SI cranks I have two sets of arms, 175mm and 170mm. The 170s came with my Cannondale (Team Replica blah blah blah bike). I bought a used SRM setup that had 175s. In the past 10 years I've had much better results with 175mm crank arms, I think due to my lower general power.

170mm and 175mm crankarms on the Cannondale.
Picture taken in SoCal just before I moved the parts to the orange Tsunami.
What's nice is that you can change the crank arm without changing the spider (that holds the chainrings).

However I chose to install the 170 mm crankarms on the red bike. The shorter arms give me an extra 0.5 cm in saddle height. The resulting net height difference is about 1 cm less drop to the drops. More significantly the drops are about 1.5 cm higher relative to the bottom bracket. When I'm sprinting out of the saddle that's the height that matters. We'll see how it goes. If it doesn't work out I'll revert to the old style crit bend bars and I may have to go buy a second set of 175mm crankarms.

A final change, but I'll expand on that more later. I'm using a lower end brake lever, one that doesn't allow multiple shifts into higher gears. It's one click at a time, no more dumping 2-3 gears when I jump. I'll explain this move in a different post.

I accidentally used my last name rather than the Sprinter Della Casa sticker.
I want my name to go on my hubs and helmets. SDC goes on the bike.

Note the smoothed out finish around the seat cluster. It's a combination of gentle filing and an expanding primer. The primer puffs up when applied and then hardens. The guy who painted his Mini showed me the roof - when he started it looked like someone dropped a bucket of golf balls on it from a couple floors up. When he was done with the expanding primer the roof was perfect. I bought into the expanding primer idea.

Deda 14 cm Pista stem.

"Pista" is misleading here. I wanted a 65 degree (-25 degree) 14 cm stem but I couldn't find one. I felt the reach (14 cm) was more important than the height (65 degree) because I was already compromising my reach by going 1 cm shorter. Going 2 cm shorter with a 13 cm stem would be really significant because I tried it already. I figured by using shorter cranks I'd have an extra 0.5 cm in saddle height. Therefore I sacrificed the drop to get the 14 cm stem. The Deda "Pista" stem is only 70 deg so about -20 deg. It barely drops 0.5 cm.

In order to have 100% clamp surface for the stem I left the steerer tube too long and used spacers on top of the stem. This way the whole height of the stem clamps the steerer tube, not all-but-the-top-5-mm.

Close up of tire clearance.

The chainstays are about 39.2 cm. I have to measure them again because I keep forgetting what they measure but they're just a touch longer than the black bike's 39 cm stays. There's plenty of fore/aft clearance. To the sides it's bit tighter.

The head tube area. Note how smooth it is compared to the first picture in this post.

It's a bit smoother than before, primarily due to the expanding primer. I put clear frame protector stickers on by the cable housing. I had to stretch the black Nokon housing by adding extra blue and silver segments. I'd have run out otherwise.

The headset is a super low stack Cook Bros headset. It's a bit of a pain to install but Manchester Cycle did it fine. I installed the orange bike's headset in my basement using unofficial tools. The black frame got its headset installed by a SoCal shop during that year's SoCal training camp. I use the same type of headset on both bikes, just the black one got a steel headset and the red one has a stainless one.

Not exact but you can see the drop/reach.
Wire sticking up is for the SRM, two wires carefully taped up into one.

The bars drop more with the old crit bars and they reach more.
SRM wire is hanging forward and down. I need to rewrap that, it's unraveling.

If you look at the two bars you'll see that even though the FSA Compacts on the red bike are longer on the drops (I wasn't as aggressive when I cut off the excess bar) they obscure more of the front brake. They don't drop down to the tire also.

The black bike, with my standard position, shows how the old crit bend bars drop down more and reach out further. Keep in mind that the black bike as a 12 cm stem, 73 degree (-17 degree). The red bike has a 14 cm stem, 70 degree (-20 degree). Due to the FSA Compact bar geometry I lose both reach and drop even after using a longer and lower stem.

You may have noticed a lot of barrel adjuster showing on the red bike. This is so I don't have to unclamp the brake cable when I switch between the "wide" clinchers and the wide tubulars. The clincher rims are only 23 mm wide but that's the "wide" size. Normal is 19-20 mm.

The tubulars, on the other hand, are close to 28 mm wide. I bottom out the barrel adjuster to clear the tubular rims. It's about 5 turns difference between the two.

I have normal 19 mm wide clincher wheels but they're far too narrow if I want to use the wide tubulars. They've been relegated to the basement.

I have new-to-me wheels but I'll cover those later. Right now they've become my default race wheelset.

I've only ridden the bike a few times now, once in a race, once for a few laps in a Cat 5 clinic, and three times on the road. The biggest thing I noticed is that the bike seems to move more freely. It's due to the reamed/faced bearing surfaces - the bike steers eagerly and the cranks turn easier, even if I'm soft pedaling down a hill. It feels a bit like riding rollers - the bike wants to skate around a bit. It's not a bad thing to have the bike feel more eager to go, that's for sure.

The other thing is that the top tube is a bit lower on this bike. It means I can't put a frame pump under the top tube - the space is too tight for the Park pump I have. It does fit on top of the top tube though and it's where I had it the last time I rode. I may rig up a front-skewer-to-bar thing or a rear-skewer-to-seatpost, depending on how easily I can set one up.

I have a few good scratches on the frame already. The bars turns hard into the downtube when I was building the bike - no tape, no bar plug, a coarse hacksawed bar end. The downtube has a good gouge/nick in it now. And yesterday, when I finished my ride, I sat on the frame pump and it scratched the front of the seat tube above the top tube.

Ah well.

It's now a race bike because I raced on it. And it's a training bike because I trained on it. Such things will happen.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Promoting - 2013 Criterium de Bethel

The fifth race of the Series. As I said before time seems to accelerate as the Series goes on. Each week the routine becomes a bit more regular. Sunday, unpack the car when I get home. Post results, do the overall. Respond to the inevitable questions, review finish line clips, stuff like that.

Monday I usually answer more questions, bring some of the stuff inside from the garage.

Tuesday I usually put together one of the bikes enough to ride it. This means dealing with the gear bag, the SRM computer, helmets, laundry, stuff like that.

Wednesday I take a break, try and think of what to post for the upcoming race, and mentally prepare myself for the weekend.

Thursday I start to prepare for the weekend, download the registration data, send out the releases to be printed, think about bringing more stuff in from the garage. I usually don't because Junior is very curious so he tries to open the boxes, chew on the bins, and generally tries to check everything out.

Friday I go pick up the print job with Junior. In the evening the Missus and I do the pre-reg work. Although I managed to pack the car once on Friday this year normally we're too exhausted so I leave that for Saturday.

Saturday the Missus works pretty much the whole day so I try and stuff in the garage. When she gets home I take out Junior's car seat and pack up the car. Inevitably I need to go to the course but whether I make it or not depends on my fatigue level. I've even missed the customary dinner with the family because I've run so late.

Sunday is the race. And then it starts all over again.

For April 7th I was in a decent rhythm. I left quite late, after 6 PM. Unusually I was really paranoid of forgetting something - some of the last minute things I remembered included my primary helmet, the 15' surge protector plug thing, one of the power cables for the laptops, a bottle... I don't remember remembering more but I'm sure I did.

I had wanted to patch some hard dips in the road (technically not potholes but they were bone jarring dips at the bottom of the hill). I had the PermaPatch in the car, I had already missed the family dinner (5:30 or 6 PM), but with it being so late I decided just to head over to my dad's anyway.

Somehow I found myself taking the Bethel exit, not the Dad exit, and once off the highway I drove to the course. I figured that, what the heck, I'll do the patching.

180 lbs of PermaPatch later, my back thankfully still intact, I left to head over to my dad's. My nephew generously gave me his precious leftovers and I passed out face down in bed, too exhausted to even remove my glasses.

Sunday I woke up worried I'd overslept. In a panic I checked my phone - 4:15 AM. Everything was okay.

I headed over to the course. My late night in-the-dark patching wasn't top notch but on the first laps of the Cat 5 clinic I found that the bone jarring dips had transformed into a bumpy rumble. Better but not great. If I had a lot of PermaPatch and a big roller I'd put more down but without a roller I think I'd just spread the bumpiness. It'll have to do for now.

Bikes in transport mode.

I finally got the now-red Tsunami together. I rode it on the trainer but hadn't really tested it completely built up. The bike felt very good over the bumps - the ENVE 2.0 fork seemed to be an improvement over the outsourced Reynolds fork I used before.

The stuff from the Jetta Sportswagen, plus Joel's bike and bags.

Each week we bring a certain amount of stuff to the registration area. This is all stuff that, in a trailer, would be already set up. It's not too much stuff though so for now it's okay.

On this day I made an interesting discovery. We're borrowing our registration location and we've agreed to allow only staff to walk behind the tables. I've turned away friends, explaining that I really don't want to lose use of this space.

What I discovered is that there's a camera back there somewhere. So when I say that you can't be back there, I really mean you can't be back there. Ultimately it's a self preservation thing - if anything is missing or broken it's all my fault. Therefore, to be safe, no one will be going back there except staff.

Joel moving tables.
Empty PermaPatch bags next to the curb.

Joel is one of the folks helping out. His wife Amanda has been at the day-of-race registration table for all but one week so far. Joel helps set up registration, then the keep-off-the-grass stakes, then gets stuff unloaded for the finish area (generators, gas cans, stuff like that). He'll even do the grate covers if he has time.

Finish line stuff in the background.
Teammate Jeff is second on the road in this picture for 3rd in the race.

Right now we have a small trailer for the finish line camera. It's not mine, it's a friend's, but it works well. There's enough room inside for a table, some chairs, and the ability to look at the finish video.

The officials' tent isn't mine either but I have two similar tents just in case we need them. The wind almost collapsed the tent - this is where the officials would have appreciated an enclosed trailer.

Overall the day, from a promoter's point of view, went pretty well. I only got reprimanded twice for riders in the parking lot. I only got reprimanded once for a race related thing. Normally it's every hour that someone complains about racers circling in the lot or the blocked entrance by the start/finish.

I mentioned to someone that it's the outliers that cause the problems. 95% of the racers are courteous and understanding. The other 5% cause me significant problems. It's frustrating but it's always been like that. The misbehavers come from all across the board, racers that have been around forever to new ones that may not even know of the problems they're causing me.

I suppose at some point the venue will become unusable. Until a couple years ago the Francis J Clarke Park was an industrial zone. Now it's zoned for retail so there will be more retail businesses located on and near the course. This means potentially more friction between the racers and the tenants.

As far as the racing itself? With massive winds the races blew apart. Although the pictures don't do the wind justice I'd consider the day one of the near-epic days of racing - everyone who did well were both fit and smart. Minor errors would cost a racer a lot and a lot of favorites found themselves caught out of position in the brutal wind.

At the end of the day we packed up, cleaned up, and headed out.

Two more weeks to go.