Friday, December 20, 2013

Training - The New Stem

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

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

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

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

Stem - weight is secondary to function

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

The steerer tube side of things

The bar side of things

Detail on the rear bits

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bike as I rode it today

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


Oh, the stem?

Oh, yeah, that too.

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

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

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

Rover Three engaging!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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