Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Life - Junior Sick

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgiving stuff we can hit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Training - A Warm November Day

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

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

My two rides are as follows:
October 17th

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

November 16th

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

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

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

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

Off season staring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My now-standard frame pump mounting point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You were going really fast up that hill!"

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

Unfortunately that hasn't happened since then.

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

Monday, November 11, 2013

Equipment - Modded CycleOps Fluid Trainer, Step 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gusset shape, if needed.

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

Probable placement of plate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My plans for step two include a couple different things.

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Equipment - Custom Stem Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14.5 cm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two weeks.


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

Monday, November 04, 2013

Equipment - Wide Tires vs Aero

A little while back I read a post on "Experiencing Suspension Losses" and it got my mind working a bit. Basically the authors were trying to figure out how much bumps and such affect rolling resistance. Although they use the work "suspension" us roadies shouldn't be scared off by visions of pivot points and swing arms - their test grew out of their findings that tires at high inflation pressures didn't roll much better than tires at lower pressures.

This, as they point out, contradicts the tests done on steel drums measuring rolling resistance. In such tests the higher pressure tires seem to roll more efficiently than lower pressure tires.

In the real world, though, higher pressure tires don't always work better.

In their tests, conducted on smooth roads with rumble strips cut in them, they would ride the same bit of road, on the smooth bit and the rumble strip. They went from need about 180 watts on the smooth stuff to needing an incredible 470 watts (!!!!) to maintain the same speed on the rumble strip.

That's an astonishing amount of additional power. 180 watts, I can do that for an hour. 470 watts, maybe a minute.

Reduce that 470 watts and you'll be dealing with a massive savings in power, enabling you to go just as fast with less effort, go faster for the same effort, go just as fast for longer, or some combination of the three.

My experiences with tire presssures are a bit less precise. I know that if I go a bit too high then my rear tire chatters in a turn. Bouncing off the road means no rolling resistance but it also means I have no traction. Going too low and the tire slides - try cornering on a flat tire and you know what I mean.

Still, though, having raced with higher pressures and lower pressures, I have to admit that I prefer, for a given tire, a much higher pressure than current convention states. A lot of people claim to run 90-100 psi in their 21-23 mm tubulars. Me? I feel uncomfortable below 110 psi and I prefer 120 psi (+5 psi for the rear).

Considering the findings in the link above, it seems that using wider tires would be a huge benefit on bumpier courses, where you have consistently bumpy roads. To me Paris Roubaix or Tour of Flanders comes to mind, or, more locally, maybe Battenkill (which I've never done). I wonder how my tire pressure thoughts, back in the early 90s, affected my overall performance in the Belgian kermesses. I thought 120 psi in 21mm tires was awesome. It probably was, on the paved bits, but it would also explain (partially anyway) why riders blew by me on the cobbles while I rode the relatively smooth concrete gutter.

I can't think of many crits where the road is so bumpy that I spend a significant amount of time on bumpy surfaces. Therefore it doesn't make sense to me to check out the lower pressure stuff. I will think about wider tires, though, since a wider tire will give me more volume to play with.

Shortly after I read the article I happened to watch, for the first time, the 2011 Paris Roubaix. In it Van Summeran solos to victory. I saw at least one article claiming that the innovative "half-skinsuit, half-not-skinsuit" was responsible for a part of his victory. With marginal gains here and there the 5 or 10 watts saved by the speedsuit was supposed to be enough to give him victory.

The article doesn't note the flapping number hanging off Van Summeran's back, something which probably sucked up a bunch of the wattage saved by the speed suit. In fact, in the manufacturer's site, they specifically talk about the importance of "aero number attachment", pointing out a fairing of sorts to cover the top edge of your race numbers.

Van Summeran near the finish, alone.

I will give the speedsuit this - Van Summeran was in the early break so he did a reasonable amount of work during the smooth paved bits before the cobbles began. It wasn't like he was totally protected for the first 150km of the race, not seeing any wind, and therefore unable to really take advantage of something like a tight fitting kit. Of all the situations that speed suit would work in that would be one.

I'll also point out that the less sleek numbers sat at the back of his body whereas the speed suit dealt with the front. Aerodynamic stuff works best when it's up front, at least on a bike, because by the time the wind gets to the back it's been chopped up by whirling legs and such. This is why some "aero bikes" see much of their claimed gains coming from the tops of a handlebar or the front brake. A flappy number out back won't affect aerodynamics very much, while just a slightly thinned bar could save you a bit of gas.

Whatever... based on the suspension article above, there is probably a much greater loss in efficiency if he'd ridden the wrong tires (too narrow) or used the wrong tire pressure (too high). Saving a couple hundred watts so he could get a gap is much more important than saving 5 or 10 watts while cruising at speed. For a rough course race like Paris-Roubaix choosing an appropriate tire/pressure appears to be much more significant than using a slightly tighter jersey thing.

Keep in mind this is steady state stuff on rougher surfaces. It may not be applicable to most normal US racing conditions, i.e. a smooth pavement crit with lots of accelerations. In fact, in Paris Roubaix, it may be beneficial for team leaders, those not going for the early breaks, to start the race on normal road bikes, switch them out say 50km before the cobbles, then finish the race off on the wide-tired, low pressure tire bike.

On the other hand for us mortals we don't often get to do a cobbled race, and even if we do we probably don't have the luxury of setting up multiple bikes beforehand. So how does the wide tire, low pressure thing apply to us Cat 3-4-5 crit racers?

There's one image that comes to mind when I think of wide, low pressure tires. It's of a bike throw at the finish of a Cat 3-4 or Cat 4 race at Bethel. One rider is on a narrower tire inflated to higher pressure. The other rider is on a wider tire with much lower pressure. The two riders are separated by a few inches, both of them throwing their bikes.

The wider, lower pressure tire is so compressed that, at first glance, I thought the rider had flatted. The high pressure tire doesn't seem very distorted.

The Bethel course has a few bumps here and there but by far it's mostly a smooth, paved surface. The "wattage savings" hitting literally 5 or 6 bumps per lap is probably not very much (I don't have data, heck I don't even know how to collect that type of fine data). On the other hand I've sprinted, out of the saddle, up the hill on low pressure tires (90 psi for me) and it felt like I was sprinting through mud.

The wide tire, low pressure thing is super significant when dealing with a course which offers up rough roads for its main feature. The aero stuff won't factor in as much, although it still comes into play during the non-rough stuff.

The wide tire, low pressure thing, though, can be misleading when it comes to a mostly smooth course. In those situations the low pressure may in fact significantly increase rolling resistance in all out efforts involving less-than-smooth efforts.

As an extreme example you don't see world champion track sprinters with 28mm tires at 60 psi, and trust me, if they could harness their 2000w-2400w peak efforts a bit better they definitely would. You see them on relatively narrow tires at very high pressure. Granted they're on a relatively smooth surface like wood or concrete. I say relatively because although I haven't raced on a wood track I have raced on concrete (T-Town). I was really surprised to find out that even that world class concrete track wasn't super smooth.

My conclusions are as follows:
 - For consistent very rough terrain or rough roads it behoves the racer to use a wider, lower pressure tire set up.
 - For smooth roads where there are a lot of out-of-saddle efforts, where there's a high chance of a sprint finish, a normal width, higher pressure set up is better.
 - Aero always helps so you should always use, if possible, things like a skinsuit (or speedsuit), snug fitting jerseys, etc.
 - Likewise all the equipment in the world doesn't help if you apply a large sail on top of your aero equipment. Billowing numbers, unzipped jerseys, flapping vests, these things will wipe out all the money and energy you've put into your aero profile drop bars or the slightly more aero frame you bought. Take care of the major stuff first and then worry about getting that bar with the wing profile top.