Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Racing - CCAP Tuesday Night Race - June 28, 2016 B Race, Finally Led Out Jon And He Won!

Another Tuesday Night Worlds.

For me, now, these are the only sure thing as far as races go. With my Pops's limited mobility it's not really possible to go much further for a race - it's a 35 minute drive to the Rent for us. Related to that it's also something where it should be a lower risk environment. At the Rent there are fewer riders, nothing at stake, and an entry fee that I have no problem writing off if we have to leave all of a sudden.

It takes a solid half day to get things together for the race, with the goal of showing up virtually ready to race. I usually have to put my cycling shoes on but I was completely kitted up in the car other than that, even down to my pinned number.

Well, okay, I wasn't wearing my helmet, and I put my gloves on only after I turn the camera on, but still, heart rate strap, bibs, jersey. Camera charged, phone charged.

We made it with a few minutes to spare, enough that I think I did one lap warm up before the race. The gray clouds made me decide to use my "rain race front wheel", a 2010 Stinger 4 (bought used) with a brand new Vittoria rain tire, a Vittoria Corsa Evo Tech. It's a 270g tire with a scalloped tread along the sides.

My Stinger 9 rear wheel, my main rear race wheel, has a matching tire. Rear traction isn't as critical in the dry and I haven't noticed much difference between that and the Bontrager XXX and Vittoria Corsa Evo regular tires that I've used on my Stinger 6.

If it started drizzling I wanted to have the rain front tire, and in the dry, on this course, I figured the rain front tire should be okay. In a super technical course with very hard turns I suspect the front rain tire might start feeling wiggly.

At any rate with my Stinger 4 front, Stinger 9 rear, I rolled up to registration, paid my fee, signed the release, and meandered out to the course.

Wave to Junior at the start of the neutral laps (he's waving back from those chairs)
He's with the Missus, Pops is in the light shirt/hat.

The B race generally starts with two neutral laps, paced by some of the Cat 1 and 2s from CCAP. Today MikeM was the pacer and he rolled out at a moderately fast pace.

Ralph, who I led out earlier this year, chatting on the first neutral lap.

Ralph, who won one of the races earlier, rolled out but then eased. We chatted briefly and a big gap opened to MikeM. Other riders closed it but it made for a somewhat tough neutral bit, with some fast riding mixed in there. I decided to stay near the front for a bit just because, and the race was on. Surprisingly the wind seemed pretty calm for the Rent. Wind Management was less critical tonight. Important, yes, but not critical.

Gap that I had to close

I found myself gapped a number of times, not paying attention to what happened in front of me and then discovering a rider just up from me had let a gap go. I closed at least one gap but the work hurt me.

A gap that I actually would have had a hard time closing.

I found myself gapped off again. I was suffering here and couldn't pull very hard. The only way I could get across the gap would be to jump hard but that wouldn't help anyone behind me because a big jump isn't something everyone wants to do when they're already at the limit. The only way to close the gap without really hurting those behind me would be to motor across it at a slightly elevated pace. This was something I couldn't do at that moment.

Therefore I took the liberty of giving a big assist to the rider in front. I had to ride up next to him, to buy me "push back" space. When one rider gives another rider an assist, there's a preservation of momentum - nothing comes for free. In this case the "assisting" rider will go backward with the same force as the assist. I hoped to assist about 10 feet worth which meant I had to have about 10 feet clear behind me. I'd keep pushing the pedals hard so I'd really drift back only 5 or 6 feet, but, still, I had to move up just a bit.

A really big push, after making sure it was clear around us.

Here's a screenshot of the assist. If you're doing an assist put your hand as close to the saddle as possible. It may be that you're on a training ride with someone significantly weaker than you, and you need to give that other rider an assist. You want to give the assist down by the saddle so that you don't assist the rider right off the bike. If you try and push on the rider's back or arm or something you'll have an awkward moment at best. At worst you may shove the rider right off their bike, possibly taking you out in the process.

In my case the rider was standing so I told him to sit. Once he sat I gave the push.

You can't see but the most stable handlebar position in this exercise is holding the bars right next to the stem. This way any inadvertent steering inputs get minimized. If you were holding the drops or worse, the hoods, all your wobbles/movements will affect your front wheel even more, destabilizing you.

Gap closes up nicely.

After my assist I had to make a small effort to get back on his wheel. However we closed half the gap without a wattage-sucking acceleration and we were back in the field.

You'll sometimes see stuff like this in the pro races on descents, where the guys behind will roll up to the next rider and just give them a gentle nudge forward. In flat sections it's less common. The main reason is that when you give someone an assist you get shoved back - it's like someone hitting their brakes in the middle of a pack. Use your judgment and proceed only if you know you're clear behind.

CCAP rider eases after three riders roll away including a CCAP teammate.
This is good teamwork.

I was following wheels near the front as some rain started falling. I was thinking the official might call the race and wanted to be up there for a surprise bell lap. The official had nerves of steel, held out, and we finished in the dry. But that's not why I included the picture above.

The CCAP rider in front had just let a gap go. He had a teammate up the road in the three rider group barely visible in that picture. To help them out he soft pedaled and then flat out coasted up front. This was absolutely perfect teamwork. I even told him that he did good as I rolled by him.

Esteban attacked relentlessly so I could sit and follow.

A teammate that I rarely speak with off the bike is Esteban. He's a very experienced Cat 3 and is strong enough to make moves without shelling himself if he gets caught. Although we never really specifically discussed it we always fall into a dynamic duo sort of roles. He will attack relentlessly and I'll cover moves. He tries really hard to let me shelter, to save my legs for the sprint.

We did more of that tonight. I didn't count but I'd guess that he attacked maybe 10-12 times, most of the time with the express intent of taking pressure off of me.

How did I know that?

As he flew by me he'd tell me.



He didn't have it to solo away, or maybe he just turned down the power once he got free of the field, so as we rolled into the last 5 laps he started looking for me. First he put in a pretty serious attack, getting the biggest gap in the race so far. Then when he returned he recovered for about half a lap and the rolled by me in the IAB (invisible aero bar) position, looking directly at me to make sure I was good.

At 3 to go Esteban went to the front to keep me in good position.

It was a bit early but I think he wanted to push now so he could recover a bit for the finish. I haven't had such a teammate in forever and it felt good to race with someone like that. It's like playing music with other people, when the music plays off each other it's great.

Here I'm telling Jon to sit on my wheel.
We're about to see 2 to go.

Unfortunately for all of Esteban's work, one of my goals for the B race is to not win it. I don't think that it's really sporting of me to try and win because my standard race tactic is to sit in for the whole race and then do a sprint. The B race allows me to sit in a bit easier and my sprint is a bit better, relatively speaking. As I said to the Missus I'd be a great Cat 4 sandbagger. I'm pretty sure that Esteban knows this because I haven't been sprinting for the finish or I've "gone too early" when I'm there at the end.

So despite all of Esteban's work my goal was not to sprint for myself. If it came down to a field sprint I wanted to lead out either the field or a specific rider. I started a lead out the second time I raced this year, my teammate Jeff roaring past to lead me out. Our dual leadout led to Ralph winning the race.

Tonight I watched JonG do some big efforts. I tried to lead him out spur of the moment a while back and totally flubbed things. I wanted to set things right since that night and do a better leadout. That last sprint I told him to get on my wheel well after we got the bell - we were too rushed, the situation too fluid, and we didn't have the time for him to get my wheel. This time I told him just before 2 to go to get on my wheel. He could get on without any problems, mentally commit to following me into the sprint.


I steeled myself for some big efforts.

Jon dutifully followed me for the next lap, from 2 to go to 1 to go. It's actually very tough when following a leadout. It's very easy to think, "Oh, my guy is getting boxed in, I better move over to that wheel." Also, since I'm not very strong, I couldn't just sit at the front or sit in the wind. I had to sit on wheels while doing the leadout. This meant Jon had to follow me through the field or, at best, along the side of it. For him to stick with me is pretty impressive.

As we got the bell riders jumped all over the place. I found myself pretty far back. I kept checked back to make sure Jon was still there - I expected him to lose faith and jump around me any second. Again, to his credit, he stuck with me.

For me I had to balance between three things. I didn't want to go too hard because I'd blow up. This would not only drop Jon out of position, it would make it hard for him to trust me the next time I said "sit on my wheel". I didn't want to accelerate too hard to close gaps because then Jon wouldn't be getting as much benefit sitting on my wheel. It's more effective to draft at steady speeds. Jumps require the following rider to make a matching jump, which cuts into the following rider's reserves. The whole time, though, I wanted to maintain better than normal field position so that Jon could sprint from a good spot.

Ideally I'd have jumped moderately hard at Turn 2 and led Jon to within about 100m of the line. However with the swarm at the bell, a lapped rider on the outside of Turn 1, and then another lapped rider mostly to the outside of Turn 2 (he was about 4-5 feet from the curb, enough so that riders passed him on both sides), and finally, riders hitting the deck around Turn 2, I was nowhere near in ideal position.

In fact, in Turn 2, I had to slow because the lapped rider wasn't very predictable and I didn't want to run into him.

Gap on the back stretch after some shenanigans at Turn 2.

Once I got around the lapped rider I wasn't on a wheel and the wheel I wasn't on wasn't on a wheel either. It was the front guys, the one guy, then me. I didn't want to jump across the gap because then I'd hurt Jon. Therefore I eased across the gap, accelerating steadily and then holding just enough speed to close the gap.

To his credit Jon stuck to my wheel the whole time. This was perfect for him because he was out of the wind, he was following me, and he'd have a stronger sprint when it counted in 15 seconds than he would have had he tried to close the gaps himself.

The front four riders really rolled hard through the last turn, Turn 3.

The front riders went very hard into the last turn. I'd closed up to the rider in front but unfortunately it was more that he slowed rather than I went hard. He wasn't closing to the guys in front, leaving a substantial gap as we entered Turn 3. It wasn't worth it to try and pass the guy so I stayed on his wheel through the turn, losing ground to the front riders every moment I sat there.

This left me a lot of work to do to close the gap up for Jon.

Once we exited the turn I triple checked to make sure Jon was still sitting there. He was. I'm sure he was wondering how this was going to play out because we were really far behind with just about 250m to go in the race.

Although Jon is smaller than me on the bike I still tried to do my "big draft" thing. I went to the tops, flared out my elbows, and lifted my head. It's not efficient for me but it would help Jon. I also stayed seated so that I wouldn't be able to do too much of a peak acceleration. This would make my pace a bit more steady, making it easier for Jon to follow me.

Then I went as hard as I could.

Finally pulled off, Jon just about on the wheels.

Just before I closed up on the leading trio I started to fade and pulled off to the right. I had heard and saw Jon moving up the left. We were going visibly faster than the riders in front and Jon basically got slingshotted into the back of the front three riders.

Jon jumped shortly after and won the sprint to the line.

Virtually immediately he went right and jumped. I couldn't tell from where I was but it seems that he clearly won a tight 4 man sprint.

Junior greeting me after the race.
Missus in purple, Pops sitting in the chair.

I normally don't do a cool down lap but riders had hit the deck at Turn 2. I wanted to let them know I had Tegaderm and stuff for road rash in the car at the race. I rolled around, let them know, and then returned to home base. It takes a bit of time for us to pack up so we started that process. Junior helped me walk the bike back to the car. We returned to the base camp where the Missus had waited with Pops. Then Junior helped the Missus carry stuff to the car while I walked Pops to the car and got him situated in his seat. Next Junior came with me to hand out some of the Tegaderm and such to the two riders that had fallen.  Finally we made a final trip to the portapotties for Junior. To him they're an adventure because they're only at bike races.

(Road rash care tips, this one has pictures.)

Then it was time to go. Junior virtually passed out on the way home - by 7:30 he was pretty exhausted, 8:00 he's done.

I was sitting in the back with him, the first aid box between us. He's in his "narrative stage" according to someone that works with kids, and boy does he narrate. He remembers stuff, he observes, and he narrates it all to us. For example did you know there were two cemeteries between The Rent and the entrance to 291? I didn't realize that until last night when he pointed them out plus reminded me that there's a cemetery near our house. He gleefully pointed out the Hershey Kiss (it's a logo for Stan something, I think it's a bank, by the Stop & Shop), the red flower on the nursery sign, and some other things. He also told me that I have to say sorry if I push someone (I was telling the Missus that I pushed someone to help them close a gap).

A few minutes from the course we got onto the long connector to 291. He went glassy eyed about then as he stared off into space, so tired he stopped talking about all the things he saw outside the window. It reminded me that even the B race was late for us. The A race? Things would have to be very different for me to be able to do the A race.

Speaking of which... I don't think I'll be able to go to Keith Berger this weekend. The 3-4 race is totally out of the question due to time. M40 is very tough time-wise also. P123 may not be prudent for me. Plus my budget for race entries is $220 this year, the cash I had in my wallet in December. I've spent $75 at the Rent so far, for five races. Unless another race pops up at Walnut Hill Park it may be that the Tuesday Night Worlds will be it for me this season.

And, believe it or not, I don't have a problem with that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Life - The Clubhouse, Again

(Originally started 9/21/2015. *Bartali and Kelly are not their real names.)

UCONN Cycling Team, back in the day, Brimfield, MA.
L-R Ed, Marty, me
This was a great team, great friendships, friendships that continue to this day.

Sorry it's been a while. Couldn't help but be inspired tonight though. It started at work, sort of like this. Bartali*, a co-worker at the car place, came up to me.

"Hey, Aki, you're, like, a bike guy, right?"
"Kelly* (mutual friend who is also in the car business, he was our neighbor for a year) said that you can work on bikes."
"Can I borrow a tool from you? For the brakes?"

Ended up Bartali and I both got out of work at 8. He lives next door to Kelly, they both live about a mile away, so I let him know just to head over after he got home.

That evening the temperature dropped into the 50s, I think the first time this season I drove in such temperatures on the way home. I opened the windows and let the chill air into the car.

As usual, like it's happened since I can remember, I got an adrenaline rush.

Now, it might be that I just shiver when 59 degree air hits me hard, but there's no hiding the butterflies in my stomach. It's the same reaction I get when I get psyched for a race, or even for a nice corner on my commute home.

I hit said corner hard on the way home, a nice 70-ish degree turn that is normally a 2nd gear turn, 20-25 mph. At speed it's a 3rd gear turn, mid 50s entry speed, and the tail of the (front wheel drive) car kicks out just a bit as I exit the thing.


(And I'm sure the corner is really a 60 mph thing, it's just that as a car driver I don't take excessive risk on the road and I'm not a very good driver as a recent kart night vividly illustrated to me.)

At any rate when I got home I texted Bartali to let him know I was home and to just head over. I told the Missus that one of my coworkers would be over shortly and we'd work on his bike.

So that's how it happened that at about 9 PM, with the garage door open, the outside lights on, the Missus peered out the house door into the garage and noted in a serious, quiet voice, "There are two guys on bikes in our driveway."

Two guys?

I went to the door and, from the top of the stairs, could only see sneakers and pants. When I got down a few steps I saw Bartali, who I expected. But Kelly was there too. Both sat astride 24" wheeled bikes, one a BMX/cruiser type, the other a 5 speed kid's bike.

With their very non-serious outfits - jeans, sweatshirts, rebellious looking hats (backward skate cap, some kind of painter's cap thing) - both looked exactly like what they were not: two doting dads who wanted to fix up bikes to ride with their kids. I bet anyone that passed them that night probably thought, "Damn kids, ought to be home after dark!"

Bartali, on the cruiser, was on his own bike - he wanted this to ride with his young daughter.

Kelly was astride his son's bike.

Both, for all the world, looked like two guys astride their (we coined the word that night) "Dewey Bikes", a term Bartali coined.

I should spell it the way it was meant to be spelled.

"DUI bikes".

Right, now you have the picture. As Bartali described it, "It's like when you see 'that guy' riding a bike and you think, it's got to be a DUI bike." Meaning the guy lost his license for DUI and is riding a bike to and from work.

Appropriately enough both Bartali and Kelly had a can of something in their respective pockets, and it wasn't a Coke either. For the first half hour or so they took swigs from their cans regularly.

Both had ridden over from their houses, sidewalks all the way. That sounds sort of familiar, right? Riding over to your friend's house on a bike? At night? Not just any night, it would be on a nice, crisp, fall night. Sidewalks, quiet one square mile town?

It's like how things used to be.

How things should be.

I took a look at Kelly's bike first, just because. I actually don't remember what I did, but it didn't take long, I think it wasn't shifting right. I probably checked the brakes because I always do - brakes, bars, stem, cranks, pedals, stuff that if it's loose will almost guarantee a nasty fall.

Then I checked Bartali's bike. He had a newer, better quality bike except for one thing. The rear brake didn't work at all, like at all. The pads barely touched the rim when the brake lever was pressed against the grip. That's usually okay in a super iffy way because most bikes have a front brake and front brakes do all the work anyway.

Except on this bike.

His bike did not have a front brake.

I stood there stunned for a moment while my brain ran through the implications of this bike. My immediate thought was, well, his daughter better learn in a flat area because she won't be able to slow very much on a downhill.

Then I had another thought. How the heck did he get to the house without crashing?

To get from his house to my house he'd have to come down a steep hill, over 10% grade according to Strava. On my road bike, without pedaling, I'll regularly top 32-33 mph just before a sharp 180 that leads to my house. With no brakes he probably hit that turn at a similar speed, in the dark, no lights, no nothing.

Me: "How the heck did you get here?"
Bartali: "Dude, I almost crashed riding here!"

I'm sure the can of refreshing beverage didn't help, although, to be fair, the beverage would have helped deal with pain if he'd dumped his bike in the middle of the 180.

I started working on the brake. I figured in their state, in the dark, it'd be much more expedient to do the work for them instead of them trying to do it on their own. I had my bike tools out (to lend him) so I had access to my 4th hand tool, a ratchet 15mm for his rear wheel (it was crooked in the frame), and a 5mm for the brake pads.

The whole time we were talking about stuff. Cars because we're all car guys, at least professionally (*edit well, me not anymore /edit). Skateboards (those two skate; I don't). Kids, because we all have kids.

And bikes.

We were out there for a solid two hours, talking away. I even got bit by a mosquito and didn't go sprinting into the house.

At some point we collectively decided we needed to go back inside our homes to help with our kids. Bartali rolled down my super steep driveway and actually didn't crash at the bottom. Kelly rolled out behind him.

I closed the garage door and walked back inside.

Many years ago, maybe 20 years ago now, I dreamed that my house would be a go-to point for riders. There'd be a sort of communal work stand, access to tools, some reasonable supply of parts (tubes, cleats, screws, miscellaneous saddle bags, skewers, tires, whatever), and the right people for some good conversation.

As time slowly slid by I gave up on that dream. I realized it would take a solid commitment on my part (where's that communal work stand?), the right environment (if it takes 30 minutes to drive over it loses some spontaneity so everyone needed to be close by), and, of course, the right people.

Where I lived before the whole "meet up at Aki's" never really worked out, primarily because I was never around. Thing is that even if I was around there were other mitigating factors. My riding friends were scattered all over the place, most of them a pain-in-the-butt 30-40 minute drive away (the wonders of suburbia). None of our schedules meshed as far as work and home life was concerned. The friends that were closest had other obligations I didn't understand back then, mainly kids, but also wives.

The shop, while it existed, became the club house, especially in the last few years of its existence. We worked together during "work", then, after a quick check of our own bikes, go out on a group ride.

Behind the shop, 1997, before a ride. You never saw a cleaner set of bikes.
L-R Rich, me, Joe, Kurt, Mike.
Photo by Andre Farkas.

Then we'd stay in the shop after and work on our bikes, talk about racing/riding/life, and, maybe after a dinner at the diner next door, head on home. Then we'd return and do it again the next day. One of the guys, Mike, he reminded me of those days when I visited him at work one day about 10 or 15 years later.

"Dude, remember we used to ride after work all the time? Then we'd overhaul our bikes at the shop? Degrease the drivetrain. I used to polish my hubs every ride. Then we'd do it again the next day... And we used to put new bar tape on every week? We were so crazy back then."


Hanging out with Bartali and Kelly brought back that dream. The idea of a garage that welcomed visitors… that thought will never go away.

This year (*edit I meant 2015 but it'll be the foreseeable future now /edit) I lived the polar opposite of a real life clubhouse. There wasn't a lot of hanging out at "the shop" for sure. The reality is that it is me and Zwift in the basement for training. I've tried to meet up with a couple people on Zwift, if you will, but it's tough. Schedules mesh even less nowadays.

In 2015 I had some social weekend/weeknight races in real life, but I rarely went out before/after races. Heck, after I started working I missed every team meeting because I had to work until 8 PM every Monday; our team meetings are 7-8 PM last Monday of the month. Normally I'm good about getting to them. Bonus is that after the meetings a bunch of us would usually go out to dinner together; when I missed the meetings I also missed the dinners.

When I work on my bike it's usually in a room so deep in the basement (and so messy) that the Missus hasn't been in it for probably years. I clean the drivetrain outside but the rest of it - soldering SRM batteries or switching saddles/pedals/cranks/etc, that's all indoors.

It's been a long time since I dreamed of the "chill club house garage". It's unlikely to happen in the next year or three. But maybe, just maybe, one day it'll become a reality.

(A service-only shop that is like the whole clubhouse thing is Velo Hangar. Unfortunately for me they're on the wrong coast.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Racing - CCAP Tuesday Night Race - June 14, 2016 B Race (Some good work and a sprint)

Ah, Tuesday Night Worlds. This season in particular this will be my only regular racing because of its close proximity. The only other venue this close to home is New Britain, so my racing this year will realistically be confined to those two spots.

This week Tuesday ended up being a beautiful day. Dry, sunny, mid-70s. Someone on the radio said it was a "Top 10" day of the year, it was that nice.

So of course we packed up and headed out.

I pack the car beforehand, doing as much as possible. For example for the Tuesday races I pin my number on at home, in a leisurely, calm, spacious, and non-windy environment. Unfortunately this Tuesday I couldn't find my number. I normally leave it in the car after I unpin it, but with a couple days of driving with the windows wide open ("Daddy can you open my window all the way down?") I suspect that there's a #185 floating around somewhere outside.

Speaking of #185...

As a last resort in looking for my number I asked Junior, after his nap, if he'd seen my race number. I wasn't even sure he knew what one was so I asked him a few questions at once.

"Have you seen Daddy's race number? The number when he races? Do you know what a race number is?"
"Fifty eight one!"
"It's 185... waitaminute. You know the race number?"

He looked at me with those big, round eyes and nodded.

4 year old kids are super observant and remember everything, just to let you know.

Anyway he hadn't seen the number either. Writing the number off as a loss I went on and checked and double checked everything else, and then the Missus did also.

"Did you get your phone? Helmet? Shoes? You want to charge your phone? I see your gloves here."
"Can you check my bike?"
"I already did, strap and everything."
"You have wheels, the chairs? Bottles. Your sandwich is in the cooler."

Etc etc. Time to go.

We got to the Rent in reasonable time. The Missus drove this time so I got to sit in the back and hang out with Junior. He sang along with a couple songs like "Cake By The Ocean" and some other song that I don't know at all. Apparently Junior is in his "narrative phase". This means he talks about everything. He points out stuff outside the window, then relates them to stories like Thomas the train or to friends at school. He'll randomly tell us about stuff, like what happened a year ago, or about a clip that I showed him (like of me tickling him when he was 8 or 9 months old). Sometimes it's hard to understand because there's no context when he switches topics from one word to another, but you can figure these things out after a while.

The Missus set up base camp for Pops, I got my bike ready, got another number (#472), and even got to roll around the course for a lap. Okay, I did it to get to the portapotty and I didn't want to go against the direction of the race to get to it.

My pin job. Outside, in the light wind.
At least Junior held the pins, feeding them to me one at a time.

I lost my SRM cadence/power, meaning the computer head just displayed zeros for them. That means the pick up under the BB is not right or the wire is busted. Since it's a new wire and since I had just checked the battery I'm pretty sure the pick up needs to be aligned better. That's on my to-do list now.

Start of the B race, neutral laps.

I'm doing the B races this year for a couple/few reasons. The primary one is schedule. With Junior's bed time around 7 PM, even the B race ends sort of late. We don't get home until 8-ish so it's a late night for him. Another is Pops - he can't stay out very long without needing some care so I want to minimize his time at races. And usually he eats dinner after the race. His dinner and bed prep might take 3 hours so I don't want to start it at 9 for example. For the record I finally got him to be around 10 PM and missed out on reading Junior a story.

Anyway tonight a lot of riders started the B race. Two laps neutral and we were off.

Moving up to close a gap.
Yes, that's the field way up there.

Early on I tried to help a rider at the back of the field but realized that I was going to be distanced if I hung out there too much longer. I moved up and saw a pretty big gap to close. Fortunately it wasn't all out so I could close it but it took a close-to-30 mph effort and cost me a huge effort.

Wind from left-front just after Turn Three.
I'm sheltering on #457's right side.

Wind from right-front about 200 meters later.
I've switched to sheltering on #457's left side.

Early on I realized that the wind was a left side cross-headwind exiting the third turn. This meant I wanted to be to the right side after we took the turn. As the road curved left though the wind direction changed accordingly, until it was clearly a right side cross-headwind. This meant sitting to the left of the wheel in front.

I had a difficult time making this move from one side to another while wind was hitting my front wheel sort of hard. I definitely bobbled a few times so my apologies to whoever was on my wheel when I got a bit sketchy.


A very rare sighting - Spinergy Rev-Xs in the wild! A pair of them no less.

Getting ridden off the wheel...

As the race progressed there were some sharper and sharper attacks. Or I was getting more and more tired. I did pull here and there but I got ridden off the wheel twice. Here I simply couldn't follow the wheel. Tailwind section so it makes sense - drafting is less effective in a tailwind. My heart rate hit 166 bpm here before I came off.

This move never came back.

Getting ridden off the wheel again...

Here again I'm losing the wheel. I had less of an excuse here - it's a cross headwind and I was sheltered. I simply couldn't follow. Here my heart rate was about 165 bpm before I had to ease.

This move came back, but only after about ten other riders noodled off the front in various combinations, blew each other up, and got rolled up en masse after a few laps of chaos.

A huge pull for me, almost a whole lap.
You can't see the two guys I'm chasing.

After the fragmented field came together I wanted to see if I could cut into the gap of the two riders off the front. I did a pretty big pull. The gap was huge, about 25 seconds, so I couldn't just jump across; I can do that for a 10 second gap, maybe 15 seconds if I'm super fit. 25 seconds? No way. A gap like that meant doing some pretty hard steady stuff.

Two others with me but I was too cooked to work.

When I pulled off I was surprised to see just two riders on my wheel. I struggled to work with them but I think we were all struggling. We got caught after a lap or two.

The two man chase I was chasing? I think I cut about 30-50 meters out of their lead, so maybe a few seconds. Nothing substantial, that's for sure.

Three Expo riders in front of me, although we didn't have a plan per se.

At about 5 to go I looked up and saw three or four Expo riders in front of me. If it was planned it would have been super impressive but since it wasn't, well, maybe someone got a picture of it. It looked good, that's for sure.

Two Expos go. I never saw this as I was focused on the riders around me.

Along those lines two of the Expo guys took off. I never saw this as I was busy doing some closer riding in the group. The riders around me rode well, one guy kept looking so I knew he wasn't super comfortable but generally he was very good. He did back off unnecessarily in the turns; I'll have to say something next time I see him.

Approaching the bell!

Coming up on the bell I knew that at least two were gone, and I thought at least two more had gone also. Therefore we wouldn't be sprinting for the win. For me I decided I'd sprint. I wouldn't have power numbers due to the zero power/cadence readings, but at least I'd be able to do a maximal jump in a real world race situation.

However, because I only train on the trainer, doing a real out of the saddle sprint is a precious opportunity for me. My goal was to see how I sprinted on the 175s, do a real out of the saddle jump, and see how I fared after the initial acceleration.

First turn surge where the first two riders basically went clear of the field.

A couple guys in the field really went hard just after the bell, gapping the field off and riding clear of everyone else out of Turn One. I knew that my sprint would close a decent gap so that was okay. I was also happy to have a real race surge before the sprint - it would make my sprint test a bit more honest because I wasn't comfortable following wheels after the surge.

Backstretch - my left is clear so I jumped hard left.

I was thinking about the sprint for a few laps. I knew I could always just go out of Turn Three, but I didn't want to do the same thing as usual. Plus it was a headwind and it would be a demoralizing sprint for me. I wanted a bit more speed so at least I'd feel fast. This meant going, at latest, on the backstretch, which is really far away from the line.

In the back of my mind I was also thinking that if I went early and blew, the others would beat me. I didn't have a problem with that - my goal was to do a full on sprint, not necessarily to win the sprint.

Therefore I decided to go on the backstretch, in the tailwind section. It'd be 100-150 meters too early. I wasn't planning on making it easy for anyone but I felt that the field had a good chance of swamping me in the headwind finish.

I went to the left curb, got a gap.
Two riders in front, from that surge in Turn One.

My initial jump got me clear of the riders just behind me, allowing me to move to the left side. I shifted up as usual while out of the saddle and going 100%, two hard shifts. My bike felt nice and stable, I felt like I could get the bike going okay, and I didn't feel like I was holding my breath like I did with the 170s.

On the other hand the red bike felt a bit heavier up front. The black bike feels a bit more nimble out of the saddle - I can lift my front wheel easily in a sprint, which I like because I can make minor trajectory adjustments without steering much. I can also keep it planted, if it's wet for example, so the black bike has great balance. On the red bike I can't lift the front, even if I wanted to do so.

I spent about 10-11 seconds on the gas on the backstretch.

Turn Three, I was flying.

I went as hard as I could into Turn Three. I went a bit wide in the turn, rolling over the manhole cover. It looks like I hit the turn at about 33 mph after peaking at 37 mph on the backstretch. I coasted for about 4 seconds here.

Turn Three exit. I almost hit the curb.

I had to slow a bit as I got a bit preoccupied with the curb exiting the turn. I forced myself to look away from the curb and it ended up okay. Exiting the turn I did a minor jump to hit about 34 mph, passing the two riders just in front of me.

Looking back for any threats.

I started to blow up here, a long way away from the line. I managed about 8 seconds of pedaling before I sat up. This meant I sprinted for just under 20 seconds (with 4 more seconds in there where I was coasting), which is about my normal limit. I'd expect to be able to go 19 seconds in a tough sprint.

After I sat up it took me 20 seconds to get to the line. I think the group behind all tried to individually match me instead of letting one or two guys chase and waiting for 15-20 seconds (like after the turn). If I were back there I'd have waited until after Turn Three and launched an all or nothing effort from there.

I rolled around for a lap and headed to our base camp. Junior greeted me with glee. Or my bike anyway.

Junior greeting me. Pops looking on from his chair.

Junior likes turning the cranks and the wheels.

We got packed up and headed out. No messes, no fusses, and I didn't get totally shelled in the race. A good day.

Edited to add a picture of the Golden Cheetah display of the last lap efforts in speed and HR. Dips are 22 mph, HR maxed out at 172 bpm, about my max.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Equipment - Longer Cranks (175 mm, again)

I was thinking that I'd have a race report from the Nutmeg State Games right around now but I ended up not racing. It wasn't for any reason other than I was a bit bonky when I got out of the car, it was about 55 degrees, and it was pouring rain on and off. In fact the rain decided how long I stayed - I got out during a lull, took refuge in the Expo tent during a downpour, then ran back to the car when the rain took a break.

I had a number of other things going on as well. My Pops has a limited time window that he can be away from home (and all the easier/nicer facilities and supplies we have at home). I could do about 90-120 minutes onsite but any more than that would be tough. With the races running sort of late (45 minutes?) I'd have been well outside his "window of availability" if I had raced.

Another thing that tipped the scaled towards "maybe next week" was that I had just put the 175 mm crankarms back on the bike.

I did it sort of by accident, if you could say it that way. I had just installed a new battery in my SRM spider, meaning I just soldered a battery into the spider. The powermeter worked for a day then went haywire. I assumed I'd screwed up the soldering and the thing shorted or something. So I took the cranks off, meaning both crank arms (yes, I removed the left arm for some reason), removed the chainrings (they hold the SRM "cover" in place), and opened up the SRM. Measured voltage at the battery terminals as well as the circuit board, on the other side of the solders.

3.58 volts, for both.

Which is what it was when I soldered the battery in place. So my soldering job was okay.

When I reassembled things I put the 175 mm crank arms on there, because I had them sitting there and on some spontaneous choice fate thing I just grabbed the 175s when I went to put the left arm on the bike.

I put the right 175 mm arm on the spider, bolted on the chainrings, and stuck that on the bike. Adjusted the N-Gear Jump Stop super aggressively (it rubs in the 39x23, 39x25) so I'll never drop a chain off the small ring.

Put the Exustar pedals on.

I lowered the saddle 5 mm to adjust for the new, lower bottom dead center pedal point. I didn't bother moving it forward because the ISM Adamo saddle is so versatile a few mm fore/aft isn't a big deal.

The rest of the bike I left alone.

I did a short spin, a panic ride, like cramming for an exam, Friday. I hoped that my legs would adapt to the bigger circles. My legs felt all out of whack, muscles straining in an unfamiliar way, super quick to fatigue. I didn't go hard and after a very short ride (it wasn't even 11 minutes) I stopped.

After all that, with the crank change, I just wasn't feeling it for Nutmeg.

Sunday, though, I decided I needed to ride. I did a couple hours on Zwift. I immediately felt better, my legs loping around in circles, turning a big gear over pretty easily. Last Wednesday I was absolutely struggling to hold 170w (in Zwift world).

Sunday? 200w was okay, although my heart rate started to climb when I tried to hold a bit higher level.

Because Zwift penalizes me a bit because of the calculation, I was riding about 30-35w harder than what Zwift said.

After getting an aero boost I decided I'd do a sprint. For me sprints are a focused effort, I roll pretty easy until I get to the sprint, then after I do all I can do to keep my avatar from stopping. See, if I soft pedal at 8 or 10 rpm, the avatar just stops. The sprint wasn't a record effort for me but for being on the longer cranks, not training much, having done two races this year, somewhere around midnight, it was a really good effort for me, within 5/1000 of a second of my last 30 days (Zwift tells you that) but more significantly I put down better power numbers.

Because Zwift sprints are time trials, because it's impossible to jump at exactly the same place and at the same power, and because other riders affect your time (drafting etc), there are two parts to a Zwift sprint: Power and Time.

Note my top times from the last 30 days on the left side of the screen.

My time was okay, 23.07. My best time in the last 30 days was 23.02 but I might have passed someone in the sprint or jumped a hair earlier or something.

However, on power... I gained about 100 watts for my 20 second peak. I didn't jump super hard because I knew I had a 25-30 second effort in front of me, but my peak was still 100w higher than what I've been hitting with the 170s.

When I raced the last two weeks I felt like I was holding my breath the whole time. I couldn't get moving, couldn't do the little punchy efforts I can usually do. I know I'm less fit but it seems that I'm not using the 170 cranks properly, or maybe I'm not optimized for it. The 170s will naturally load the aerobic system more, forcing me to spin. The 175s emphasize lower pedal speeds and torque, so it's more muscular stuff. I think I'm always going to be okay on the muscular stuff and always going to be a bit lacking (or a lot lacking) on the aerobic stuff.

I took today off from the bike but it's looking promising for tomorrow's Tuesday Night race. I hope to test my legs on the 175s then.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Equipment - Exustar Pedals

Note: I bought these pedals myself and paid more than the current MSRP for them.

Back in the late 90s I was trying to wean myself off of the Aerolite pedals. They were super light - about 70 grams per PAIR with the cleats - but I was running out of cleats and my drilled out shoes were pretty played out. Aerolites were about the most user-unfriendly pedals ever, so there was that. Finally I was pretty poor and couldn't afford to buy the in-vogue Look or Time pedals.

The Shimano SPD-Rs were very high quality pedals but they had one big drawback - the cleat often moved before the pedal would let go of said cleat. This meant that there were times where I had to ask for help unclipping from my own pedals. I usually hit the outside of my heel with a fist to unclip; just twisting my leg usually moved the cleat rather than unclipping me. I had the tension set to almost minimum, just enough to hold my feet in. Obviously this wasn't ideal.

However, at that time, the SPD-Rs were attractive to me for a different reason - price. They were super inexpensive because of their poor unclipping performance. Wholesalers sold them for less than half price. In addition I had a number of friends who tried and hated them and they gave me their pedals. I quickly built up a collection of 3 sets of Dura Ace axle pedals. Because all the wear items are steel, both on the pedal and the shoe, these pedals will last forever.

SPD-R pedals on my track bike, back before it had a real crank on it.
(This crank is a triple crankset, used temporarily while I tried out track racing)

About 10 years ago I moved from the SPD-Rs to the Look Keo Carbon pedals. The incident that really pushed me was when I had to have two people help me unclip on a group ride. I literally couldn't unclip on my own, and I started worrying if I could unclip when I rode. It was really stressful and not good at all.

When I tried the Look Keo Carbon I was happily surprised. I could release from the Keos easily without risking twisting the cleat on the shoe. I did have to max out the tension on the Keo Carbon to keep my shoes clipped in, but I didn't think that was a big deal.

The Keo Carbons.

A few years later, as my pedals started to show signs of wear, I went and bought two sets of the Look Keo 2 Max pedals. These were supposed to be the new and improved Keo Carbon. The Keo 2 Max had a metal plate on the top so the cleat wouldn't wear the pedal and ease unclipping.

(I think it's called the Keo 2 Max, it's the metal plate topped version of the Keo Carbon but with a regular plastic body. I'll call them the Keo 2 Max going forward.)

Keo 2 Max on the cranks.
I didn't bother getting a better picture of the pedals.

When I went to the Keo 2 Max I experienced a spate of unclipping incidents. I unclipped while seated, while standing, all in higher power situations. I thought it was a worn cleat (at some point my cleats were worn) or inadequate tension (I maxed out the tensions).

I reinstalled the Keo Carbons rather quickly and the unclipping incidents stopped immediately. I put the Keo 2 Max pedals on my mountain bike (which I ride on the road). Using the pedals back to back I realized that the Keo 2 Max was so easy to unclip that I was unclipping inadvertently, even on the mountain bike. The Keo Carbons held my shoes much better.

With the Keo Carbons long discontinued I didn't know what to do. The pedals were pretty worn but I continued using them. If I had to I could always go back to the SPD-Rs, which I had on my track bike. I could also go to the Shimano pedal, which others have recommended. However I wanted to stay with the Keo cleat, only because I had so many cleats. And it'd be easier to experiment if I didn't have to change the cleats, just the pedals.

I asked someone in the know for advice. He suggested trying the Exustar pedals. Look users reported the Exustar pedals a bit harder to unclip, but for me that would be ideal. I bought a couple pairs of the pedals.

And promptly misplaced them.

Fast forward a year or two to a few months ago. I was organizing some innertubes and found the Exustar pedals buried in the dozen or two innertubes. I pretty much immediately put the nicer Exustar pedals onto the bike. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I only needed about half tension to replicate the release tension of the maxed out Keo Carbons.

Exustar pedal.
White shows dirtiness quickly - these pedals are virtually brand new.

This is the Exustar E-PR2 pedal in white. They're inexpensive - MSRP $91 - and are basically a Keo Carbon type pedal. No metal plate on the pedal body, a wider platform than the PR1 (which is like the Keo Classic). Their PR3 pedals have the metal plate. The PR1 and PR3 are available with a titanium axle. For me, after breaking a titanium BB axle, I won't do titanium axles anymore, plus the weight savings are negligible in the scheme of things.

If the pedals look like the Garmin Vector powermeter pedals, you're right. Exustar makes the pedal body for Garmin, and it's basically this body except with the metal plate, the PR3. To be exact Exustar's regular pedal model with the metal plate is the Exustar E-PR3ST.

Pedals hanging.

As most pedals the PR2s hand with the nose up. This way you can slip your foot forward and you'll clip right into the pedals. The key is not to hit bumps or jerk the pedals around, else the pedals will spin.

I didn't change my cleats over so I'm still using the Keo cleats. I have many sets of cleats that I've bought over the years so I have probably 5-8 years of cleat supply on hand.

So far the PR2s have been fine for me. They're just as easy to clip in as my Look Keos but they hold my foot much more securely. I used the pedals both times I raced this year and they've been totally fine.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Equipment - Fitting

(Disclaimer: although I paid a slightly discounted price for the fit, I gave a saddle that put me way over the top of any discounted rate. Out of pocket costs for me were on par with a retail customer. Over it, actually.)

A long time ago one of the guys that raced at the Bethel Spring Series was a guy I'll call CP. He was a local guy, Cannondale technical something or another, and he helped organize the team that eventually morphed into the current Stage One / Fusion think team.

CP is a sort of car guy as well, and for many years he worked a dream job at Lime rock.

One year, after moving to our present house, I was on my normal Quarry Road Loop when lo and behold, an old Stage One kit (with a rider inside it) turned onto the road in front of me. I caught up to the rider. To my pleasant surprise it was CP. He and I lived in the same town now!

We chatted a bit, I turned off (or maybe he did) and that was that.

He is involved with the local cycling groups and helped me try to get a race going in town. Unfortunately the town balked at the liability aspect of things so no crits here for the foreseeable future.

Fast forward a half dozen or so years and CP reached out to me. He'd just opened up a fit studio, Body Over Bike, not far from where I first spotted that Stage One kit. He asked if I wanted to get a fit done.

I hesitated, for many reasons.

I'd worked on my position for many years, slowly honing it, experimenting with variations, and arriving at what I felt was close to my optimal position after literally decades of experimenting. I was thinking I might have just a bit more length possible in my fit but it was otherwise pretty good. So, in my mind, my fit was pretty good.

There was another thing. Ego.

I didn't want to be found wrong.

I can admit that now, although it was hard initially to think this. I'd poured a lot of time and energy into my position, and I sort of needed, for my mental sanity, for my position to be right. Some of my A-B-A experiments (one position, then another, then back to the original) took many months, and during the B phase I had some pretty bad races and rides. I spent two separate seasons testing a different crank length, both years with the same dismal results. Effectively I had gambled and written off two seasons of racing to see if a particular crank length worked for me. I paid for my experiments, both fiscally and mentally. I was afraid to learn that all that was for naught.

Finally, I didn't want to be shoehorned into someone else's idea of what I should be doing. When I first used the Fit Kit, back in the 80s, it basically told me a definitive range of measurements. Once I strayed outside of their parameters it was game over, at least from the Fit Kit's opinion. My weird proportions meant I didn't fit anything, and the Fit Kit told me that I was just wacky on the bike. Of course back then there were no power meters, very little sophistication in measuring accuracy, and a lot of, "Yeah, that looks better." I know because I did that with my customers, my clients, when I fit them.

Eventually I got over my fears, doubts, and insecurities. I called up CP and took him up on his offer to do a fit for me.

My Fit Philosophy

In terms of fit thoughts I have two things that I think work in my favor. The first is that I'm not afraid of thinking outside the box - if I learn that I might be better doing this or that I'll analyze the idea and, if it's even remotely possible that the change is good, I'll give it a shot. The second is that I've had some significant success stories when fitting others. A corollary, and sort of significant, I've had no real failures that I know of.

I definitely think outside the box. Back in the shop days, for a recreational woman rider, I recommended a pretty aggressive position. She had back problems, she felt like the bike wasn't going anywhere, her saddle was uncomfortable, and she didn't feel like the bike was stable. I dramatically lowered her (straight) bars, added bar ends for more positions including a longer one, and moved the saddle up and forward. I wanted to reduce weight on the saddle, increase leverage on the pedals, and increase weight on the front end. These would deal with her saddle issues, speed, and stability, respectively.

I went that direction because I had similar issues, over the years. Her position mirrored mine, believe it or not, just on a hybrid instead of a road bike. I explained my philosophy, my goals, and how such a position would meet those goals. Hesitant but trusting, she tried it.

And she loved it.

She rode faster, easier, and in more comfort.

I fit only three very talented riders in my life - a strong duathlete, a Masters stage racer, and a low level pro. The dualthete admitted to me many years later that, even with sponsorship on nicer, more aero bikes, he would race on the (wrong sponsor) bike I fitted for him because he felt so much better on it. He was ranked in the teens (13th or 15th or so) nationally on the bike, so he was no slouch.

The Masters racer came to me, a bit desperate, after finding it virtually impossible to win a big Masters stage race in South or Central America, the biggest Master's stage race in the world. He was okay in the road race and a circuit race, but in the time trial he would lose a bit too much time. After I fit him to his TT bike (he seemed very dubious about the whole process) he went and won the stage race thanks to his time trial. He randomly reminded me of that a few times over the next 10 or so years - it was very nice to hear him thank me for my fit work yet again when I saw him at a race or something.

Finally, the pro. I may or may not have helped him, but the fact that he came to me asking for help after getting fit by (Euro) pro team staff… that was enough for me.

Body Over Bike

So that brings me to CP and his fit studio. I knew my life would be changing in the near future, severely limiting the time I had to ride and race - I'd be taking care of my elderly dad, basically tethering myself to the house.

Even so, I was thinking of ways I could progress with my riding. I wanted to use the limitations in my life to focus on things I'd let go. Since I'd be homebound for the most part I wouldn't be able to race much or even train outside.

Therefore I thought about "indoor stuff". I plan to focus a bit on my diet, which, after a very high A1C blood reading showing me as diabetic, forced my eating habits into a slightly unexpected direction. I wanted to take some time to perform badly needed maintenance on my bikes. For example those that race with me may have noticed I had no spare bike for a couple years now - it's still being put back together. I never bothered changing my chain this year so I'm a super loose, super worn chain. Even my bar tape dates back two years, and because it's black tape on black bars, you can't tell that half the drop on one side isn't even covered in tape. Since it's not noticeable from, say, 50 feet away, I haven't bothered replacing it. I can catch up on this kind of stuff while I'm at home.

And, significantly, I wanted to explore possible position changes on the bike. Since I expect to be on the trainer virtually every ride for the foreseeable future, I'd have a great laboratory for experimenting on fit. I could do some pretty straightforward "before and after" type comparisons, I could make changes mid-ride, and I could sort of measure power changes from one position to another.

Therefore CP's offer to do a bit more structured fit came at the perfect time.

Due to my then work schedule, and my preference to come in on one of my work late nights (so I could spend my early evenings with Junior and the Missus), we scheduled my fit session for 8:30 PM on a weekday evening. Expecting the fit session to run 2-4 hours, it'd mean a late night for the two of us.

I showed up at the studio with my bike, my riding gear, and a brand new saddle I wanted to try. I kitted up while he set up the fit bike with my pedals, saddle, and appropriate bars, and we got down to business.

Pedaling on the Guru fitamajig.

Note the white rectangles on the wall with cleat cut outs. These are templates for cleat placement on shoes. You can put your current shoe on the template, note on a grid where various landmarks land (I used the heel area), then replicate the position with new cleats or on a second/third pair of shoes. Very useful.

The Guru system has a bunch of Fizik saddles and Zipp bars and stems. We used a Zipp bar that measured the same as my FSA Wing Compacts. My saddle, my pedals.

CP with a corner of his fit studio, Body Over Bike.

We got down to business right away. I had no idea what to expect. I wasn't sure if I'd be told "you fit like this", or if there'd be some adjustments to the "base fit" based on stuff like having a bad back (me) or weird physiological proportions (me again). I went in with absolutely no idea what would happen in the session.

First, he had me stand next to the fit bike thing. Some camera thing scanned me and calculated my physiological dimensions instantly. That was really cool, and, for those with personal space concerns, it meant that no one had to stick a ruler between your legs or whatever.

The next thing was for me to check my shoe size. I was like, okay, whatever you have to do, but seriously, I've worn the same size and make shoes since the early 90s. Thankfully it seemed that I'd been wearing the right size shoes for that time. However, it appeared my feet sat really crooked, my ankles collapsing inward. An insole corrected that. I wasn't sure about the insole thing but I was willing to give it a go.

Next I got to ride my bike on a trainer. I suppose this is so that I refresh my muscle memory on how I fit on the bike I've been riding. CP had the same brand trainer as mine so that was straightforward, no need to even change the rear skewer. I quickly got going.

My first surprise was that my knee, which normally wobbles mid-stroke, wasn't wobbling mid-stroke anymore. I also felt like my feet were much more supported. It wasn't that they were "supported", it was more like they weren't collapsed inward. Before it felt like I was standing with my feet on two slopes, like I was standing inside of a flat-V shaped trough, one foot on each angled side. Now it felt like I was standing on a flat floor.

CP noted that when I was pedaling I reverted to the drops pretty quickly. I pointed out that because my back bothers me I find it most comfortable to be on the drops, and after a 12 hour day at work, I was sort of tired. Apparently many riders end up higher on the bike, meaning they have optimized their bike fit for a different position.

After thoroughly warming up I moved over to the fit bike gizmo. You can see the pictures above, but the main thing is that it allows position changes while you're on the bike, even while pedaling if you want. The only things that can't change automatically are the actual bars and saddle (they have to be removed and installed), the crank length (requires a few bolts to be turned on the cranks), and pedal type (remove/install like normal). Once you have a pedal, saddle, and bars, and you have a crank length selected, it's very straight forward.

CP suggested I give 170 mm cranks a shot. I ride 175 mm cranks, and I have really short legs, and 170 mm would work better on paper. I'd tried them for two seasons, unsuccessfully, but when we changed the arm length to 170 mm the fit bike felt so much better that I decided to give it another shot.

With that we got into the heart of the fit session. We didn't say much for a while - it was all stuff like this:

"You want to go another 5mm on the saddle?"
"I'd like to go forward a bit more on the stem."
"Wait, let's go back, can we compare this position to the one from before?"

Stuff like that.

Oh there was one bit that I think for me was significant. My legs were fatiguing pretty badly. CP asked if I was okay.

"Do you want me to reduce the resistance?"
"It's at 150w. I can bring it down to 80w or so."
"Yes, please."

Haha. No wonder I was fatiguing badly - 150w is close to an average race pace for me. I wonder if I was the lowest "fit power" rider out there.

At one point we were slowly raising the saddle, 5 mm at a time. One move in particular was a bit much so I asked him to bring it down "maybe 2 mm". I felt a bit ridiculous asking for a 2 mm adjustment but, whatever, it felt much better when he made the move.

I should point out that I wasn't being pushed into a particular slot or measurement. It wasn't like, "Your quad is x long so your setback needs to be y cm." It was more if it felt okay for me, with CP making suggestions to explore just outside my comfort zone. Then, based on my requests, he'd raise/lower or move forward/back contact points just a touch.

We ran into something pretty quickly - the fit gizmo ran out of room when I asked for more length. CP punched in the command then looked up at the screen with surprise. There was an error about not being able to move that way.

"Hm. That's the first time I've seen that."

So apparently my torso length is freakishly long because the fit gizmo wasn't able to accommodate me being a bit more stretched out. For me that meant that the length recommendation has to be taken with a grain of salt since I couldn't explore the limits on the fit gizmo.

However, with the bar drop and such, I did notice something. I did want to go lower, just to see what would happen. As CP dropped the bars lower and lower I suddenly felt a twinge between my shoulder blades. I never noticed the sensation before, not in an on/off way. I knew I got fatigued like that but I didn't associate it with a particular bar height. Now there was a definitive bar height value which produced the twinge.

To me this was significant. First, it taught me that such a thing happens. Second, it also taught me to look for that sensation when experimenting with my bar position. I knew I'd be experimenting on my own, and with the length part of the equation sort of "out of bounds", I'd be experimenting on my own.

As we honed in on where I felt good on the fit gizmo, CP would revert my position wholesale to another position. I could feel the difference between two positions immediately, without even having to stop pedaling the bike.

The final step in the fit session was to measure my bike. I had basically forgotten about that until now. CP measured my bike and while keeping the fit bike numbers handy.

The fit bike's saddle height? 518 mm (BB to Saddle rail, not BB to Top of saddle).

My bike's saddle height? 518 mm.

That "2 mm down" that I thought ridiculous? Not very ridiculous.

The results - this is with an SLR saddle.

CP noted that I have some significant drop, over 14 cm (14.2 cm, the lower left blue box in the picture above). I protested, saying that my saddle and bars were sort of level. I pointed out that a taller rider would have much more drop. He called me on that because in his experience my drop was pretty significant. We let Google decide after agreeing that Adam Hansen, ProTour rider, was a "much more drop" kind of rider. Hansen is 6'1", he's not afraid of going against conventional wisdom, and he has a super forward position with long cranks, just like me. We looked up his saddle-bar drop.

14 cm.


At the end of my session CP sent me a pdf of my fit session results. This is nice because I have a record of my fit that I can refer to any time.

With the time well after midnight we cut the (first) fit session short. I returned to do a saddle session, primarily so I could explore other, more readily available saddles. I also had this idea of having a saddle that allowed for some setback. Even with my SLR saddle pushed back a bit I was left with only 4 mm setback, a far cry from the 4 or 5 cm setback commonly found on road bikes. Even the rules require something like 4 or 5 cm of seat back.

I'd brought along a Tares saddle I bought new literally 4 or 5 years ago. I never mounted it, never tried it, but because it has a short length it would make my bike look a bit less freakish. I sat on it, hated it, and immediately rejected it. So much for that. This is the saddle I gave CP.

CP examined my saddles, the SLR and the Titanio, comparing the shape of the saddle. We tried this or that based on the saddle shape. However nothing really seemed to match my saddle shape, and the one that was close wasn't comfortable at all.

Then CP made a suggestion. He put an Adamo saddle on, one of those twin tusk nose saddles. I was really iffy on this one but I knew CP wouldn't have me try something if there wasn't something there for me. Plus, as he pointed out, he doesn't sell them, so there was no conflict of interest on his part.

I got on the Adamo saddle and it felt okay. Not fantastic, just okay. However, it was "just okay" all the time, in any position. On my SLR I was "just okay" in one position and it was "horrible" everywhere else. With the older Titanio saddles that I thought fit me best, they were "great" in one position and not very good in everything else.

A day after the saddle session I got on my (SLR equipped) bike and thought to myself, "How the heck did I ride this thing?!" I got off the bike, looked on eBay, bought a saddle, and waited to ride until it came in. I installed it and BAM! I was good. It's "just okay" but not uncomfortable, and I have a much wider range of positions available to me. Sliding a bit back is still "just okay", sliding forward is "just okay". Everything is "just okay", making every position on the saddle totally usable. I haven't done much more than 2 hours at a time on the trainer, if that, but the saddle has been absolutely fine.

Adamo saddle on the red bike.
I bought it off eBay.
An internet forum member mailed me the black one that's on the black bike.

I've been good with the insoles too. I think that I need a shoe that lifts the inside of my foot a bit more than they do now. I started dreaming of a set of custom soled shoes but that's a wild dream for now. My ultimate dream would be to take a page from Adam Hansen's book and make some custom shoes based on the shape of the insoles.

I did two things that screwed me up for a while. First, the 170 cranks meant I needed to raise my saddle 5 mm. However, my first ride on them felt a bit low so I raised the saddle another 2 mm, then another 2 mm. Within an hour my knees were in pain. I returned the saddle to the "right height" but it took about 3 weeks for the knee pain to go away.

Likewise I decided to experiment with a 2 cm longer set up on my own. This was disastrous. I've returned to my previous reach, the one I already had on the red bike with the custom stem.

For now I'm good with the current fit, which the fit basically verified. I prefer the new saddle. I'm trying out the 170mm cranks. I really like the feel of the insoles. I'll see how they all work through the remainder of the season and make decisions from there.