December 31, 2009

Road Rage Against Cylists - What Can I Do?

The road rage against cyclists seen in the high profile Dr. Christopher Thomas Thompson case in California is disturbing on many levels. Firstly, the injuries suffered by the cyclists were really serious and I am sure the incident will affect them even when they have healed physically. Second, it seems the surgeon felt it was his right to cause that kind of personal injury to someone who simply annoyed him. That level of response is completely over the top. You expect an educated person who is supposed to be a valued member of society to behave better.

But what can we take away from this? I don't think the successful prosecution/vindication of cyclists rights is what we should take away. Cyclists are not really any safer after this incident. People like Dr. Thompson are not thinking logically, they are thinking with their emotions. They don't carefully weigh the consequences of their actions. Don't count on this prosecution as a deterrent and think you are safer on your bike now.

Going into the new year, each of us needs to think about our behavior on the bike. And I am as guilty as anyone. So I am going to try to change. When I get cut off, honked at, yelled at, or otherwise annoyed on the road, I am going to keep my cool, keep my finger to myself, and go merrily on my way. The only thing flipping the bird does is potentially escalate the situation. It certainly does not protect you as a cyclist in any way. And the guy you insult may be the cyclist-hater that runs me down.

Consider the next cyclist this person will encounter and be courteous. That's all it takes. Try real hard to make the change. When you are in these situations, be the one to think with your brain and not your emotions. Assuming you aren't injured physically, courteously ignore the abuse. Also, when on bike/pedestrian pathways, remember you are the big bad car and act responsibly. Those pedestrians probably drive cars too so we want them to like us. Then pat yourself on the back for making roads safer for cyclists.

Not a bad resolution, eh?

Link to January 8, 2010 Sentencing Update

December 30, 2009

Cyclists Training Bible - A Review

When I go for a ride, I figure out what ride I will do while I am warming up. I wonder if I can get in better shape than last year? Sound familiar? If you want to improve your fitness with as quickly as possible, you need to structure your training. You need a mix of long rides, intense threshold rides, intervals, stretching, rest and recovery, skills and strength training. Really, this mix of training types is required no matter what sport you are talking about. And the optimal balance between these various workout types changes over the course of a season and varies depending on your fitness and age. So the question is: How the heck do I structure all of these possible workouts properly for me?

The Cyclists Training Bible by Joe Friel is here to save you. I bought this book in 2008 and it really has become my training bible. With the help of this book (actually I started with the 3rd edition and the 4th edition is better), and a significant time investment, I developed my own training program for the latter half of 2008 and all of 2009. Importantly, with the help of this book, I have a much better understanding of what I am doing and why I am doing it. Even if I didn't structure a formal program, this would have helped me plan what ride I should be doing on a given day. But of course I did structure a formal program for myself.

Now there is a lot of buzz about training with power and this book provides some info on that. But a real strength of this book is that you can set up a program based entirely on heart rate without having to rush out a buy a power meter. As you probably know, a power meter is expensive. A heart rate monitor is much less so. With this book you can develop a very good program based on heart rate and I believe you can get essentially all the fitness benefits you would if you had a power meter.
The book covers every aspect of training and how to do it. It also provides the rationale behind your training. Once you understand why you are doing something, you can do it better to make sure you achieve the objective. It provides specific workouts to target specific fitness goals. This is a big book with over 300 pages of info. I read every word, some of it several times.

Another strength of the book is that it addresses each age of rider from juniors to 60+. You don't need to be a racer (but you might be), just someone who wants to get fitter and faster. Your goal could simply be your first 50 mile ride. I found the case studies to be very useful. They give you an idea of what is reasonable, and what is achievable for you. You're in there somewhere. There are other books out there, but I think you need to read this book to understand and get the most benefit from the others.

Now it takes quite a bit of time to develop your own program. Alternatively, you can simply purchase a canned program from Joe or even sign up for personal coaching. For 2009 I cheaped out and did it myself. I will probably do the same for 2010. Joe is on the web if you want more guidance.

I highly recommend this book if you have a cycling fitness goal of any kind. Very comprehensive. And you will improve if you follow the advice in it. I did.

December 29, 2009

Cyclocross - Best Anaerobic Workout Ever

Although I always wanted a cross bike, I was never able to rationalize it enough to commit the cash. That all changed in 2009. Basically, I bought a frame, stripped all the good parts off my commuter bike (SRAM Rival shifters and derailleurs) and bought a set of cheap wheels (Williams cross tubular wheels). I also took my Quarq crank off my road bike and put 46/38 chainrings from Cyclocrossworld on it. Bought some other minor odds and ends and I was done. The commuter got parts out of the never-throw-anything-away parts bin. Ready to rumble.

My first cross race was the local weekly race which is somewhat of a club race. You can wear your race numbers if you think you are going to win or something and you think someone will record it (or anyone cares). But basically, there are no posted results, so this is racing in its purest form. No glory. There is pretty impressive turnout and the racing is as hard (or as easy) as you can take. All levels of ability are there. It's great.

So my first race I just started in the back to see how it worked. I had only finished building my bike up about a week or two earlier, so I was tentative on the first lap. Then I realized I was having fun, more fun than I had thought and I started to give 'er. The twisty, turny course with a steep hill we kept revisiting, plus a long steep runup really kept things interesting. You never get to zone out and hammer like a road race. You are constantly shifting, picking lines, figuring out how you will pass that next guy and where, and generally stringing together a series of intervals with essentially no recovery time. Talk about a workout. And you have to be thinking the whole time. When you put your head down and hammer you just screw up.
When you consider that my Max HR is 180, the half-hour cross race results on the left show that I was past my lactate threshold (162-163) for most of the race. Significantly, my HR never gets much below my lactate threshold for the entire race (once it ramps up). Comparing this to one of the toughest road races of the year on the right, you can see that there are lots of times in the road race where it isn't that hard. Which is good because the road race takes considerably longer. I couldn't maintain the cross HR for a couple of hours.
Lets compare my third cross race (forgot to start my monitor for the second) to my most painful race of the year - a hill climb. The hill climb only lasted about 4.5 minutes. But my throat was sore for 24 hours from breathing so hard. But the 30 min cross race had an even higher HR distribution, and I felt fine after, throat wise. I will take a 30 min cross race over a 5 min hill climb any day. And I sucked at the hill climb to boot.
Here are a couple of more cross race HR results. Just to show they all look pretty much the same. The key thing to take away from this is that cross intensity is consistently high. These were the most fun way to get the most intense workouts I was capable of. It felt hard, but not as hard as it apparently was, judging from my HR. I should add that I rode to, and back from, the cross races getting a good warmup and warmdown too. I also commuted to work those days. Cumulatively, that gives me a decent day of training.

What else happened from cross racing and training? Somehow I dropped about 4 lbs even though I wasn't doing anywhere near the hours per week I was doing in summer. Go figure. I also was working every muscle in my body and occasionally even got slightly stiff arms and shoulders from pulling on the handlebars so hard on uphills. Therefore, a more balanced total body workout. No proof of this, but if mountain bikers get stronger bones from the jarring, cross riders will too. So you can likely add bone density improvement to the mix, compared to road riding. Other benefits: better bike handling skills, learning to crash on grass will help when you crash on the road (maybe not for everyone, but I crashed quite a few times), and getting to ride your bike at high intensity at lower speeds so you keep warm when it is cold out. Although the riding is intense, I didn't feel the pressure that I feel at road races. It is a much more relaxed/informal atmosphere with more emphasis on fun.

Perhaps you feel burnt out on the road bike at the end of road season. I was. But cross totally rekindled my enthusiasm for riding. I never touched my road bike again after the last road race. Use cross as a fun way to extend that biking season and keep your fitness further into the fall. Actually, I am going to train on the cross bike all next summer when I want to get in short intervals. It is easy to get the HR up on training rides too. And use my cheapskate cross bike for commuting when the snow melts to practice mounts - still a bit weak there.

Get or make a cross bike and get out there next fall. Or just use your mountain bike. See what the buzz is all about. You might even like it.

December 28, 2009

Lance Armstrong Comeback 2.0: Up Close and Personal - A Review

This is a photo book on Lance's comeback that I got for Xmas. The forward and photo captions are written by Lance. It truly is up close and personal with photos most of us would never post in public, or even let someone take. But they all work to illustrate points Lance is making. Not gratuitous in any way - far from it. Some great photos though.

Now I've been cycling longer than Lance, and I've never considered myself a fan in the past (yeah, I'm old). His comeback from cancer was dramatic of course and we all cheered him on for a few years after that, amazed at his drive and results. After that it all became a somewhat numbing blur for me. Of course, 2009 was anything but numbing, it was the most interesting cycling year for some time. No matter what you think about Lance, you have to thank him for that. And it looks like 2010 is going to be more of the same. Should be good. (Not in the book, just my opinion).

Lance has taken the higher road in the media on the whole post-Tour Alberto-Lance conflict issue. And I definitely give him credit for that, PR or no PR. Conversely, Alberto seems to have lost the graciousness he had in the past and that impressed me so much a year ago. Sure he was unexpectedly put in a tough situation in the Tour. But I think he is now wrestling with the same demons of success that Lance has gradually conquered over the years. Of course the media is baiting Alberto on the controversy just to get a story and make some money. And if you have ever had personal involvement in a media story, you know they typically take the low road. Alberto doesn't have the media experience or coaching Lance has to avoid getting sucked in, needlessly offending a fellow competitor, and losing public credibility. Too bad, I'm sure he is learning a hard lesson. It looks like the road will be bumpy for a while. (Just my opinion, this isn't in the book either).

Lance's cancer work takes his life to a whole different level that very few can match. I can't think of any pro athlete who has taken on a similar challenge to such a degree. Of course, that has nothing to do with the Tour controversy. But he is doing something significant and valuable with his fame, not just getting laid (did I say that?). Quite a difference between Tiger and Lance, isn't there? But then I've never been a golf fan. I'm not that old. (Tiger isn't in the book).

Hmm. Looking back, lots of non-book Lance (and Tiger) review.

Bottom line. I can't help myself, I like the Version 2.0 Lance. I think this Lance is a real person who has obviously gained some wisdom over the years. I suppose it could be the world's best PR campaign, but I don't think so. I liked the book and I recommend it. Great photos, interesting text and, I really believe, a little bit of true insight into his personal life. I won't spoil it by telling you what's in it. But look closely and you get some useful training/recovery tips. My only complaint is I wish it were longer, I was enjoying the ride.

January 11, 2012 - I'm so embarrassed. How gullible was that?

December 27, 2009

Pedro's Vise Whip Review

Are you switching cassettes on your wheels all the time for different races? You know, the corncob 12-21 for the flat time trial, the 11-23 for the road race, maybe the 12-25 for the hill climb or training? Or you want the cassette on that other wheelset? I find a typical chain whip a pain. Yeah, they are pretty cheap. But you have to get a good wrap with the chain (the right direction) to get a good grip on the cassette, then hold it steady while you try to get the cassette remover into the crescent wrench and into the lock ring on the cassette. Then hope the whole thing stays put while you undo the lockring. Kind of makes you wish you had more hands doesn't it?

In comes the vise whip. Clamps on the cassette in the same way that conventional vise grips clamp onto anything you want them to clamp onto. Once the jaws clamp down, you can let go and it stays clamped down. Nice. I can let go and I don't have to start all over again, like with the chain whip. And it doesn't have a wrong way to go on. Excellent!

Of course, I have been using a chain whip forever. In the dark, distant past we had to use two of them to change cogs on a freewheel. It's not as hard as it may sound. But I never liked it. This I like. More expensive, but it looks like a well built tool that should last the home mechanic for the rest of his/her  life.

Now if someone would just weld the cassette lockring remover onto a handle. What's that? They have? Dang, I gotta get one of those.

December 26, 2009

Singlespeed for the Cheapskate, I Mean the Environmentally-Responsible Cyclist

In this season of conspicuous consumption - liquid, food and dollars, I have a suggestion for a cheap, environmentally-friendly, singlespeed bike you can make yourself.

Do you have an old bike sitting around gathering dust? Wish you had a singlespeed bike to goof off with? Why not make yourself a cheapskate singlespeed bike? Last year, I turned my 1983 Olmo, now better known as a cross bike, into a fixie/singlespeed bike for a few months and used it for commuting. Think about it. An old bike with lots of history/palmares can be resurrected as a good and useful member of bike society. Everyone(thing) wants to be wanted.

Despite the fact that you are making a simpler drivetrain, the single-speed conversion is more complicated than the cross conversion. There is a very good site that goes into enormous detail on single-speed conversions. Note, I said single speed, because you can have a fixed or freewheel single speed. Sheldon's site gives you an idea of how complicated it can be.

But don't be discouraged. It can also be relatively simple. Here is my approach. Now I did try the fixie version. I threaded the cog onto an old hub that needed a freewheel and used an old lock-ring from a bottom bracket to keep it on, etc. etc. How did it work? Well, I decided that too many years of freewheel/cassette riding made me a poor candidate for the fixie. Every now and then, generally when something unusual (requiring quick reactions) was happening, I would forget to pedal. Now when you unconsciously forget to pedal a fixie, you get a very rude reminder. The bike kicks back at you, hard. A very unpleasant sensation with crash potential. I gave up on it after forgetting to pedal going down a hill with a cadence of 165. Just dumb luck the chain broke, but didn't end up in the spokes. I don't recommend it, but do it if you want. Sheldon gives you the recipe.

Back to the drawing board - lets try the singlespeed. The singlespeed is basically the same deal, but you can coast just like on every other bike you own. The only difference is you only have one gear. I liked the single speed a lot for commuting. Here is how I did it.
First I bought a conversion kit for a cassette wheel that allows you to put a single cog on your cassette. I buy a lot of these bits and pieces from JensenUSA. They have small parts for every occasion. There are lots of conversion kit options, but this is the one I used. The black hoops are different sizes which lets you adjust your chainline. Cost $20. Of course you also need a single-speed chain. I got the SRAM PC-1 for $10. Isn't that a refreshing price point for a chain?

Then simply strip off all the shifting-related components. My bike had down-tube shifters which were easily removed. If you have combined shifter/brake levers, it doesn't look very cool with those empty holes sticking out the side. You can buy brake-only levers for $20, another very nice price point. Yes you need brakes, you have no other way to stop this rig, except dragging your feet. Actually brakes should be required on fixies too, if they are used on the road (or bike path). Too many "cool" dudes out there who cannot stop. I would have been hit by one (courier of course) coming out of a downtown alley the other day, but I managed to jump out of the way. At least her mouth was working. Don't worry, we were both courteous, she was only yelling look out! look out! But her bike was very cool.
Back to the fixie. We have now spent $50. Install everything and try to get the chain as straight as possible between the chainrings and the cog. Get the chain reasonably tight by using the correct number of links in your chain and moving your wheel axle back and forth (only possible if you have horizontal dropouts). If your bike has more modern (post 1990) vertical or semi-vertical dropouts, you will likely need something like this to get your chain tensioned properly (another $20). Take 'er for a spin and see how you like it.

  • Anything that breaks or wears out is cheaper to fix than on a multispeed bike.
  • Feeling of extreme coolness (if you are into that sort of thing). Although beware this bike may not qualify, depending on the parent material you use. Best to check with a courier on the cool factor before you begin if that is important to you. You might be out of luck with this approach, simply because it is not a true fixie (or singlespeed). Actually, forget I ever mentioned coolness.
  • Very easy to clean drivetrain which is an asset for commuting in crappy weather or anytime. This is especially true for the freewheel fixie.
  • You can work on your spin skills - see how fast you can pedal for a long time, and see how smooth you can pedal at low cadence on uphills. Unlike a fixie, you can coast downhills - yay. 
  • You can control your urge to go too hard on an easy day. Just use a low gear. This was a big one for me last summer. Since you can't change gears, all you can do is spin. No self-control required. Even if some guy with 70s shorts, knee-high socks and sandals passes you, you can't really go fast. Perfect for commuting on easy days.
Disadvantages - only 1 gear which means you get your butt kicked unless you luck out and have the right gear for the wind/slope/road surface conditions.

Note: Don't get your fingers caught between the cog and the chain. There is no derailleur to allow the chain some give (i.e., room for your finger between the chain and either the cog or the chainwheel). A singlespeed is very unforgiving and potentially digit limiting (i.e., it will pinch, perhaps pinch it off). A singlespeed bike is very dangerous on the stand. Don't look at Sheldon's photos if you have a weak stomach.
Did you like your first ride? You can spend a bit more cash to refine everything. You can buy single chainring bolts for about $15 so you can dump that second chainring you no longer need - or not. I simply kept using my quick release rear axle. But I found my back wheel had a tendancy to slip forward on the drivetrain side if I put too much power to the pedals. No matter how hard I tightened things up the tire ended up rubbing on the chainstay. I bought a chainstay tensioner like this which worked perfectly on my bike (which has horizontal dropouts) because it prevents the axle from moving. Another $20.

There are some on the web complaining about hipsters, cool fixies, low riding, skin tight jeans. Join the rebellion (for as few $$ as possible) and show some (butt) cleavage.

Don't forget, you can also race this beast. Lots of races, including time trials, now include a singlespeed category. Maybe you can recoup your $85 conversion costs as these races aren't too competitive at present. But hurry, they seem to be catching on.

December 25, 2009

Manager Lance Armstrong in Dick's Sporting Goods Video Trilogy

Normally, I would spread these out over 3 different posts.
You know - get the post count up.
But what the heck, it's XMAS.
You gotta like a guy (Lance, not me) who can make fun of himself.
Brad kills me. Enjoy

Feed the Warrior

Let Iron Sharpen Iron

The Warrior Board
Be patient, this one was hard to get in an embeddable version.
Some self-important dufus on Youtube wouldn't let people embed his.
C'mon guy, this is the web. You know I will find it.
Lame video site, sorry. But worth the trouble.

December 24, 2009

I Hate Clowns

Clowns... What's to like?
Speaking of Trek (previous post) - Here's Lance.
Excellent example of pack riding. Note how steady everyone is. Uncanny!!

Uncanny -
a Freudian concept of an instance where something can be familiar, yet foreign at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange. Wikipedia

What is One World, Two Wheels Anyway?

One World, Two Wheels is at least partly sponsored by Trek. The idea is that bikes can be a vehicle for positive change. No matter how cynical you are about Trek's motives, you have to admit this is a good initiative. The site has lots of good info for those starting up. And Trek really has no more to gain from this initiative than any other bike company who is not sponsoring the site. Great idea and kudos to Trek.

December 23, 2009

A Recipe For Racing Success

In every race, it doesn't matter if you win or lose (no really) as long as you try hard and learn something.
There are many recipes that can improve your chance of success. Here are a couple I learned at Provincials last August. A very interesting race and my last road race of the year. Now I race in a more mature category alongside some very good, strong riders who have much more experience and much more impressive credentials than I do. So I am lucky - I have many opportunities to try hard and learn something. And now you can learn something too.

Learning Number 1 - Show Proper Respect - Recipe for Strong Rider With Poor Tactics
Just because you are a Cat 2 and are racing in this age group for the first time (i.e., younger than everyone else), show some respect. You cannot simply break away in the first km and then dangle 300 m off the front for the rest of the race. If you could, you wouldn't be racing us lowly age-groupers. Didn't you wonder why you couldn't get any more than 300 m on the pack? Perhaps because we let you hang out there intentionally?

We (the "chase" group) were carefully choreographed by a couple of wiley vets. Nice rotations, nice echelons on crosswind sections. We kept from chasing and had to slow down on several occasions. But that all became clear in the last 10 km. Ouch. That was a spanking when we blew by, wasn't it? Not much left of that Cat 2 jump was there?

Fortunately, I was giving rather than receiving for that portion of the race.

Learning Number 2 - Recipe for Dropping Someone
After the Cat 2 drama and some hard efforts, there were three of us left in the lead group. And then an interesting thing happened on the way to the finish line.
  1. First check over your shoulders a few times to see how far back the chase group is. Do a quick estimation of the distance to the finish.
  2. Then calculate if you can make it to the finish without being caught after you drop the victim (me). ie. no one else can catch you now that you have lost one worker from your group. 
  3. Then set the plan in action.
  4. As plan instigator, it is your duty to position yourself in the rotation so that when the victim finishes their pull, you are at the back of the rotation. You will be more rested and the victim will not.
  5. As the victim finishes pulling, pulls over a bit and eases off his pace, attack from the back just outside the rider that is pulling through. You both are then going several km/hr faster than the victim before he can react. Make sure you attack downwind of victim by using any crosswind. If wind permits, there should be no room for him to get your draft. Rider pulling through accelerates slightly and tucks into your draft.
  6. As you get a gap, give 'er. You are burning a match, but the victim is burning two to catch back on. Victim has to make a larger acceleration and close a gap to get back in the paceline.
  7. If victim makes it back to group, victim probably thinks that first attack was just a group effort to stay away and works back into the rotation. That first attack is a freebie if you do it soon enough after the break.
  8. Repeat points 5 and 6.
  9. As victim struggles back - again, vowing to stop taking pulls, encourage another pull using a vague concept of sharing the work to stay away - a truce of sorts until we get closer to the end of the race. Victim takes another pull.
  10. Repeat points 5 and 6.
  11. Victim makes it back once more, but pretty well hooped. Take note of the heavy breathing and general discomfort.
  12. Finish off victim with another attack. No need to be subtle, the plan is obvious now and you cannot wait for the victim to take another pull. He won't unless he is psychotic. You have to go almost right away so he has no chance to recover. This is where you hope you have more matches left than your victim.
  13. Victim feels sorry for himself watching gap grow. Especially depressing when wheel car passes as you know they no longer consider you a contender.
Actually, I had a heck of a race that day. Victim recovers a bit, goes into TT mode, now 300-400 m back. Victim is encouraged to see he isn't losing any more time and in fact, he is gradually catching up. Remember learning number 1? Victim takes advantage of wheel car as visual cover and keeps low and directly in line with car so leaders can't take a quick look and see where he is. Victim eventually catches duo on the final uphill finish and manages to squeak past one, but not both racers. I set a seasonal best for 1 min power, and top-tens for 20 sec power and 20 minute power. So yeah, I was givin 'er. Remember the "try hard" part in sentence one?

Really a very effective lesson that I appreciate much better now than I did at the time. Thanks guys and thanks for explaining the dissection in detail at the apres-race. (Actually it really was fun, if slightly painful. And makes a good story). And if you think about it, they considered me a threat or they wouldn't have bothered to drop me. I didn't win, but I drove home feeling very satisfied with the day.

December 22, 2009

Big Effort - New Look

Had some time, so I took a shot at a new look. Plus I was a little beat from a few days of hard workouts, needed a break. Hard to resist all the wild effects available, but eventually, I honed in on a simpler format. You should have seen some of the "artistic" versions. Still opportunities for improvement. Boring I know - I'll check that off myself to get you started.

So much fooling around to do, so little time.

December 21, 2009

Are You Talkin' To Me?

Always fun to pick on a mime - they can't talk back.
Unless it's Terry Tate

You respect the arts or the arts won't respect you, baby.

December 20, 2009

Easton EA90 SLX Wheelset Review

I bought these wheels at the beginning of the 2008 road season for racing. They were decently light (under 1500 g, even before I peeled off the stickers) and a good price.

These are clincher road cycling wheels. They are radially spoked on the front (18 spokes) and radial/cross 2 on the back (24 spokes). The wheel also comes in a the SL version which has more spokes for heavier riders. The wheels use round spokes, but they are proprietary straight-pull spokes. Mine have steel bearings, but the 2009 wheels have ceramic bearings. And the 2009's are supposed to be a bit lighter, perhaps due to the bearings. It looks like the new ones are using alloy spoke nipples too. The 2009 hub looks identical except for the graphics. The rims are aluminum and the back rim is slightly deeper than the front rim. I guess you could call them minimally-aero rims. I can't understand why they didn't make the front the same depth as the back rim. It's not like the wind is going to blow you off the road with these. A bit more aero than old-school box-section rims but not really aero by today's standards. One slightly interesting point - they are a bit wider than normal rims. According to HED, wider clincher rims are the answer. These are mid-way between conventional (19 mm) and HED (23 mm) rims. Mine are a hair under 21 mm. You do notice the difference in brake pad spacing when you switch between wheels. Other than that, I can't detect any difference. Good for holding onto those fat cross clinchers, eh?

I have been quite happy with these wheels staying true. Easton chats up their hand-built, high tension wheels and in this case, it appears the hype is justified. I have put thousands of km on these wheels with no issues, no need for truing. I have used them in a number of races includings one crit on a very sketchy, rough course. Last fall, I threw cross tires on them and decided to use them for training wheels for my cross bike. I gave them a pounding with the cross bike. When I threw them on the stand, I was expecting to do some major truing, but they were perfectly straight. The cross riding had absolutely no effect. I weigh 160 lbs.

The fact that these wheels were able to withstand cross riding without flinching raised them from good wheels to great wheels in my books, when you consider the price. Would I buy them again? Definitely, for the right price - $700 max. Easton wheel prices are interesting. They are all over the place with some retailers offering them for significantly less on sale periodically. They seem to get special shipments. Be patient and hunt around - you'll see what I mean. Beware of over-priced sellers as they can be ridiculously expensive, taking these wheels to a price point that makes them a poor buy (e.g., $1000 - check out Williams Cycling/HED/American Classic for an example of what is out there). I have seen these wheels as low as 600$ US, but not the 2009's. Of course I haven't been looking very hard as I already have a pair. I am thinking about springing for one of their carbon wheelsets given how well these have performed. Their carbon wheels can be found for very good prices too if you hunt around. I just haven't pulled the trigger yet as there are other good options out there too.

January 15, 2014 Update: Another fine Easton product. These wheels are now everyday training wheels and they continue to perform. Only needed a bit of truing after being crashed by a big guy. Trued up nicely and continue to work well to this day.

December 19, 2009

Cervelo Soloist Carbon (S2) Frame Review

I bought a Soloist Carbon (basically the same bike as the current S2, but with different cable routing) at the beginning of the 2008 season. First new road bike in more than 10 years and I figured it was time. Liked the idea of a Canadian manufacturer, although unfortunately not Canadian (or US) manufactured. Liked the price too - pretty reasonable for a pro-tour frame that had some credentials. I obsessed for a while about whether to get the aero Soloist Carbon frame or the more conventional R3 frame. By all accounts, aero is the way to go a little faster, so I went aero. Initially, it looked odd to me, but now it looks normal.

Built it up with SRAM Red and went riding. Wow. What a difference from my carbon frame from the early 90's. Very fast. The most noticeable difference was on the hills and sprinting. When you put out some watts, it just takes off. There was a huge difference when standing and it felt like the bike was surging forward with each pedal stroke. That massive bottom bracket area is probably partly responsible, as is the stiff SRAM crankset. Time to race.

Well racing takes lots of training. I was a bit concerned that the ride would be harsh. But it was fine right from the start. Now this is a high performance road racing frame, not a touring bike, so it is not a plush ride. But it is a very reasonable ride that I find perfectly comfortable, even on fairly rough roads for 3 and 4 hours. I like the ride.

I don't have a Time Trial bike and have been using this bike for that purpose (hoping to rectify that at some point). The bike is pretty aero, but I found that the handlebars were too high to get my head and shoulders low enough for a good TT position. When I bought an adjustable stem that allowed me to get my handlebars lower than with a fixed stem, my times improved significantly.

I have also used this bike in crits and it corners very well. I feel very confident diving into corners and generally corners are my strong suit in a crit. I have also ridden it at over 90 km/hr in a road race downhill tuck with no shimmy issues. The bike takes everything I throw at it.

In terms of weight, it is not the lightest bike out there, but it is a light bike. With nice parts, it is reasonable to get this bike under 16 lbs. SRAM Red, light wheels, you are pretty much there. Mine weighs 7.2 kg (15.9 lbs) and I use aluminum handlebars and stem, Fizik saddle, 1300 gram wheels. Nothing extreme. You cannot get it to the super light sub-UCI legal weights of some bikes however. But if you race, you can't use bikes that light anyway.

In spring 2009, Cervelo recalled my fork. They replaced it with a new one for no charge. No problem.

Now that I have a couple of seasons on it and I'm past that initial infatuation, I can identify a few issues. In big crosswinds, the bike does get thrown around a lot more than a conventional non-aero frame. Not a surprise for an aero frame I guess. Maybe it needs to be more toroidal like the newer high profile wheels. It definitely is not bulged like those wheels. In a windy road race, I need to race with conventional wheels, nothing aero. Wind gusts just push it around too much when you are in tight quarters. I have ridden it in some very windy weather though and never felt like I had to get home because of it. And we do get lots of wind around here.

The second issue is a bigger one. My rear dropouts are not quite aligned. Now I didn't really notice this with conventional wheels. But when I stuck in a pair of HED Stinger 6 wheels, the minimal clearance meant that even a millimeter out was quite noticeable. Now I notice it with conventional wheels too. I put a strip of adhesive plastic film in the dropouts to center the wheel. I haven't tried to claim anything on warranty yet.

This brings me to the third issue. Chainstay width. The chainstays are too tight for the new Zipp and HED wheels on the market that are about 28 mm wide. Yes, I can use my HED wheels, but not if I expect to be doing any sprints or hard hill climbs. I only use them for TTs. I did a TT with five 180 degree turns (sounds odd, but it's true) and chainstay rub caused me grief there as well. I had to back off a bit coming out of each turn. The wheel rubs on the frame in hard efforts. I decided to measure chainstay clearance in a common unit of measure - the music CD. I cannot fit 2 CDs between the rim and the chainstay - on either side. I'm guessing it is about 1.5 mm clearance a side. That is pretty tight and it is easy to see that the wheel will rub with even a tiny amount of frame flex. My frame has the scars to prove it. (note: I contacted HED and frame flex causes chainstay rub, wheel flex causes brake rub. Makes sense if you think about it). The wheels do flex more than 1.5 mm at the brake, but that's easy to fix. Just widen the brakes.

Incompatibility with the better wheels on the market is a problem that hasn't been addressed by Cervelo, even in the 2010 S2. What particularly bugs me is that they chose to fix the S3, but they did not fix the S2 (or their TT bikes). I can't imagine adding a few mm of clearance to each chainstay is all that difficult. They changed the cable routing on all their bikes at once, this is a more meaningful frame upgrade. 

I really am a Cervelo fan. I like the way they have taken on a pro team and the concept of more fan access, product development, etc. But I can't help wondering if they have taken their eye off the business. I see other manufacturers responding quickly to the standards that Cervelo set and blatantly copying their ideas. Cervelo is now going to have to respond if they wish to stay ahead of the game. Their product line is mostly looking dated. There is an obvious fix to chainstay width needed for several of their frames which would have been a clear upgrade. But for 2010 they simply picked a new color scheme for most frames (except for the S3). Yikes.

Would I buy it again? Although there are lots of good points, probably not. Good price for this quality of performance. Although it does ride well, I will not buy any new bike with tight chainstays that are incompatible with new Zipp and HED wheels. Maybe that's not an issue for you but it looks like wider profile carbon wheels are here to stay. The slight misalignment of the rear dropouts bugs me too. Going up to the S3 to get better clearance is an option, but at that price point, there is a lot of choice and the S3 is not a clear winner. An S2 with better chainstay clearance like the 2010 S3 would be a tempting ride, but that is only a dream. Maybe Cervelo is listening - give me a couple of more mm clearance a side please. How hard can it be?

Aug 3, 2011 Update: Well there have been a number of changes since this was written. Cervelo has updated their bikes and the new S5 looks pretty interesting. Seems to come in two versions - a cheaper Soloist/S2 version and a more expensive S3 version. Both with the same geometry, just different weights and layups. The R line of bikes has also been upgraded. Glad to see Cervelo progressing. 

By the way, still racing and training on the Soloist. And with my Reynolds wheels it is below the UCI weight limit of 6.8 kgs. It is a bit battered and scarred now from various incidents including one significant crash and poor placement on the bike rack causing another bike to rub on it, but there has been nothing that it couldn't handle. Very durable bike. I wish it was a bit easier to thread the shifter cables through the frame though. Next spring I may take a look at the S5. Or maybe not.

January 15, 2014 Update: Well the frame is still going strong. Has been crashed a handfull of times, occasionally very painfully. But no problems, no creaking, no cracks. I have handed it down now, but it is still in the family and is still a nice bike.

December 17, 2009

Oval Concepts Adustable Handlebar Stem Review

This handlebar stem is a good option for experimenting with your time trial body position. It has a series of gradual steps that let you choose your stem angle to pretty extreme values as in the photo. There are many recreational stems like this that are extremely heavy and questionably built. There are a few that are very nice but very expensive. This stem is reasonably light and it is well built. It is about 50 grams heavier than a nice fixed stem. And it doesn't make your bike look like you bought it at Walmart like the recreational stems. I left mine on my road bike for a number of TTs and road races this year. You get a good level of performance for a decent price.

I used this stem to experiment and get lower than I could with a conventional stem. It definitely improved my time trial times. I know I can comfortably go another inch or so lower (that's as far as the stem goes), but when I put the stem that low, the handling gets pretty sketchy. So I don't. If that's not a good enough rationale for a dedicated TT bike, what is? Nice thing about this stem is that you can easily experiment with different heights. Just takes a minute to change it.

The stem does have a little bit of play in it which is a bit irritating. But it fastens down well and the play is not due to slop in the stem angle. It is due to a bit of side to side space in the attached parts. The stem tightens firmly using an Allen wrench. If you want to play with your stem angle, this is a good choice.

December 16, 2009

Refresh Effervescent Minerals Drink Review

I used a few bottles of this stuff and initially thought it was OK. Doesn't taste all that great, but provides electrolytes when you don't need calories. Also cheap. But I bought one bottle recently that was just horrible tasting. Had some awful chemical flavour with a distinct poisonous bouquet. Yuck. Chucked it out. I had another bottle sitting around that previously was drinkable. But can't drink it now. Chemical flavour percolates through to my tastebuds and ruins it for me. Definitely does not taste like lemon.

Bottom line. Give it a pass. I can't imagine anyone liking this. But some guy named 'Stoneater' in Ontario likes it. He hasn't gotten the chemical tasting batch yet I guess. Maybe tastes good compared to stones?

December 14, 2009

My Excellent Bicycle Commuting Adventure

So today - started out cycling at a cool temperature of -32C.
Bike was in the house last night, so it was rolling fine. After about 5 minutes, I could feel the grease change from grease to frozen grease. Speed dropped a gear. But I was dressed well and wasn't cold in any way.

Spent my time productively daydreaming for a few km. Then approached an underpass to a bridge over the river. That approach has a downhill S-curve with a slight off-camber on the second curve. Always a spot to be careful in winter. Well this morning, there were all kinds of skid marks in the snow. Looked like wipeouts to me. Of course, I wasn't wearing my glasses, cause they just fog up under my goggles and make me essentially blind. I choose a bit blurry over blind. Maybe they were wipeouts, maybe they were just skid marks. I think some of them were definitely wipeouts. But who can really say for sure?
Anyhow, after carefully negotiating the S-curve, perhaps looking down more than necessary, I looked up and saw that the river had completely flooded the bike path. The serious cold over the last while had created an ice jam and backed up the water (I later realized). Now I'm on a snowy, probably icy, downhill with apparent wipeout skids all over the place. Nowhere to go except into a vertical concrete wall or into the river. Yikes.

Now I was close enough that I only had 2 choices - hit the brakes and wipe out for sure on the ice, or try to negotiate it. I chose the latter, what's the worst that could happen, right? I picked a line between jagged patches of ice and tried to coast through. Got about 5 metres in and my front tire broke through the ice. Momentum being the physical phenomenon it is, I went over the handlebars and kept going through the ice. Fortunately, the ice was only a few layers, each a cm or so thick (at least that's how I remember it). And the water was only half a meter deep.
Now I had gore-tex outer layers, top and bottom. But I wasn't really thinking about that. Laying prostrate, mostly in the water, my entire focus was getting out of there, with my bike, ASAP. No shortage of focus in this situation. Looking ahead, I could see where someone had walked. So my bike and I scrambled over there and I quickly began walking upright again, like a regular human being. I meant to do that. No really. Hard to look cool covered in a layer of ice, but I think I was successful. Which is all that really counts.

While walking nonchalantly out of the flood zone, I began taking stock of the damage. Nothing hurt, excellent. Jumped on bike and began peddling. Everything worked, excellent. No strange noises, excellent. Both mitts were full of water, but I had good heat built up from 20+ minutes of cycling so I wasn't cold, even though my mitts were. Excellent. Only 6 blocks to the heated lock-up at work. Excellent. First stop sign, brakes were initially not grabbing, but they caught when the ice was knocked off the rims. Excellent again.
Got to work with no further issues, no frost bite except a little patch on the heel of the wetter hand. Had a hot shower. Excellent. My only regret? No video or even still photos of the excellent adventure. But I did take the blurry photo of myself on the commute home. My head gear is all black. So all the white is frost. But actually, I was so warm I had to undo my coat. Excellent.

More good news. My crafty fender extension escaped almost entirely unscathed. Only one of the zip ties broke. Excellent. And my Vaude pannier kept my work clothes and blackberry dry too. Excellent.

And people can't understand why I commute in winter. I pity them.

December 13, 2009

A Cheap Bike Fender Improvement - Review

Commuting in winter is really, really hard on your bike. It is the combination of road salt and moisture that screws everything up.
Can you say corrosion? I have screwed up two frames so far because the bottom bracket corroded and then welded itself into the frame. I have pretty good tools and a torch, but I could not free them. Fortunately, they were $99 beater frames from Bike Nashbar. A $99 frame is exactly what the doctor ordered for this kind of biking.
I have been using conventional fenders all along and they help cut down on the grime. But they aren't the answer. What is the answer is another old-school, cheap environmentally-friendly solution. Now this one has been around for years. But this is the first year I gave it a go. In the past, I didn't think this would make much difference. But it does, it's huge! My motivation was the need to protect my Powercrank from salt. That thing costs too much to screw up.

Simply take an old, fungus-infected, cracked-lid water bottle and cut it in half from top to bottom. Then attach it to your fender. There are a lot of methods of doing that, but I think I have the uber-method. I used a large water bottle and used zip ties to tie the two halves together. Then I pulled a pathetic little rubber flap off my fender by drilling out the gromets. The grommet holes were used to bolt on the water bottle fender extension. Then, for the uber part, I drilled holes in the sides and attached fender stays. Zoom in for a good look. I came up with the fender stays to keep it from wobbling into my Ice Spikers, which are currently not on the bike. It is just snowy right now, not icy.
Now, see how close that new and improved fender gets to the ground? No road debris from the front tire hits the bottom bracket area or even the chainrings (or my Powercranks). Now look at how clean and rust-free my chain is after a full week of commuting. That is cleaner than it would be on dry roads in summer. Spectacular. I now realize that a conventional fender does essentially nothing to protect the bottom bracket, it only protects the rider. This system should be used in rain too. Makes your bike, lube, chain, bottom bracket, freewheel, and frame last longer. I bet it will keep my feet drier next summer too.

Craft yourself an improved fender solution and then pat yourself on the back for being so resourceful (and repeat, I am not a dork, I am saving the planet). Remember, not riding is not an option.

November 15, 2011 Update - Well the water bottle is history. But no worries. That plastic protein powder container works even better. It's lighter and more flexible when you hit stuff. But not too flexible - it's just right - the way Goldilocks likes it. Cut out a slice to suit yourself and voila! Protein - it's not just for big legs anymore.

December 12, 2009

Cyclocross for the Cheapskate, I Mean the Environmentally-Responsible Cyclist

Do you have an old steel frame sitting around gathering dust? Wish you had a cross bike to goof off with? Why not make yourself a cheapskate cross bike? Most old frames have significantly more tire clearance than the latest and greatest carbon and aluminum frames everyone buys now. As a result, you can fit the narrower cross tires into them. I have a 1983 Olmo. It was probably their cheapest straight-gauge tubing bike at the time, nothing fancy but my first racing bike (I thought it was fantastic in 1983 but it weighs 25 lbs). Other suitable bikes would be that old Bianchi, Fiori, Sekine, Raleigh or CCM sitting in your garage or basement (or a friend's?). Ideally, it has alloy rims for better braking. Probably has 36 spoke wheels too, eh? Perfect.

Now there is nothing special about cross brakes. They just clear mud better. They don't stop any better than newer road brakes. In the old days, road brakes were cross brakes. I bet they sucked if they were anything like the older brakes I have tried (including Campy) and those guys biked tougher terrain than we do. I stuck a modern front brake on the back (Sram Rival), because the new back brakes don't fit the old frames. Plus I had it sitting around. Otherwise I wouldn't have bothered. Left the old brake on the front. But make sure you have some good brake pads. Makes a big difference and still cheap.

The 1983 Olmo did duty as a fixie, then a single speed, and now a cross bike begining early 2009. The evolution came about by putting cross tires on the single speed version of the bike when it snowed. Rode it for a while that way, then I kept going. Bought 2 Schwalbe CXPro clincher tires, stuck on a 13-27 freewheel (yes an 8 speed freewheel, not a cassette) and voila - a cheapskate cross bike. Those Schwalbe tires are not much wider than road tires (700x30 but narrow, even for 30s) so they should fit most old bikes. Reasonable price and they have great traction - lots of guys are using them for racing here. I had 700x34 tires in there for a while, but I had no tire clearance and was constantly truing them so they wouldn't rub. Not recommended. I do have to deflate the back wheel to get it in and out of the frame because of the tight clearance with the seatpost, but that won't be a problem on more relaxed frames. Fun and ready to ride. I use it to commute and practice cross mounts and dismounts on trails on the way home. Has a rack, bell and lights too. Yippee. I was going to chuck this frame at one point. What a waste that would have been. Check out the high res photos.

If you have decent wide gearing, you really only need 2 tires and tubes (and maybe brake pads). Doesn't get any cheaper more environmentally-friendly than that. You can even race the lower class races in my neck of the woods and you should be able to trash the mountain bikes. No reason why you couldn't finish well against the cross bikes. I bet you could easily sneak into the higher level races too. Highly recommended. Plus you are minimizing your carbon footprint by recycling versus buying new - aren't you?

December 11, 2009

Oilsands - My View, Or is That Tar Sands?

So oilsands is the next big thing - to hate. How can you not hate it? Its a pretty big, easy target. What's to like about taking the natural environment apart, digging craters a few km across, building several km2 ponds 50 m tall full of toxic sludge and contaminated water? A poor reclamation record. Done by some of the biggest and richest companies in the world with a less than perfect record on environmental issues. All of that is true of course. But that is a pretty superficial view of the problem.

Really, is oilsands the symptom or the cause? Who builds oilsands mines - all of us or the big oil companies? No one would build an oilsands mine if there wasn't a lot of money in it. Cheap oil can no longer meet our demand for a lifestyle with big cars, big houses, food from all over the world, the latest electronics, one or two week holidays in tropical destinations, and a disposable plastic society. And as more societies jump on the North American lifestyle bandwagon, it only get worse. No, we all build oilsands mines. It's us.

If oilsands were stopped, would oil and gas environmental issues disappear? No. Unless the demand is changed, essentially the same amount of oil will be extracted from the arctic, the deep ocean, wildlife refuges, and wherever else it can be found. All of them are difficult places to extract oil with big environmental issues. Basically, the same amount of CO2 would be produced. Oilsands mining is only one example that shows to what extent our society is willing to go to fuel its petroleum-driven lifestyle. We are oil junkies and we will do anything for our fix. Oilsands is only a symptom. Address that symptom (by stopping oilsands) and another just takes its place.

Environmentalists have an easy target with oilsands. They are attacking that target because it is good for business - their business. They get far more in donations attacking oilsands than they would get attacking your and my lifestyles. So that's what they do. They know better - at least at the more senior levels, but they suffer from the same ethical shortfalls mankind has always been susceptible to. Even the same greed for money, fame and power. They should attack marketers - they create demand for products that didn't exist before and we don't actually need. That's a real evil. That one gets me too - every time I read a bike mag. This video even suggests that changing your lifestyle has little value compared to "Stop The Tar Sands". Great video, great soundtrack, but c'mon.

Regulation of oilsands to make them behave has value. Write a letter to the appropriate agencies or the media. Make them do their job. Reducing oil consumption has value. You can do it. Stopping the oilsands has no value.

So where am I going with this and what does it have to do with cycling? Lots my friends and neighbors.

Ride Your Bike and Save the World!

At least it's a start. Check out One World, Two Wheels and take the Challenge. I did. Commute by bike (or anything else that reduces your carbon footprint). Yes you can ride at -35C, if you have the right clothes. Get a smaller abode. Move closer to work (a bike helps a lot by changing how long it takes to get to work - you don't need to be all that close). Do you really need that thing? Whatever it is. There is a lot you can do. Also, think about your barrel-of-oil-equivalent lifestyle. For both purchases (capital) and petroleum energy use (operating) think about where you put your dollars. Can you cut back on the barrels you use? If you can, then you really are doing something to help the world. You might also find you have more cash too. Cheapskates are the greenest folks around. But if you need to spend a bit of that cash to stop being such a car junkie (i.e., on bike stuff), it's money well spent.

December 10, 2009

Vaude Aquaback Rear Pannier Review

I have been using Vaude panniers for about 1.5 years now on my daily commute to work. Actually, I have only been using one of them. I keep the other in reserve. The panniers have a roll-top closure with a buckle in the middle that I always use, and buckles on both ends that I only use in the rain. It also has a simple adjustable shoulder strap that I also use every day walking around. The red material on the side away from the bike is heavy rubberized canvas - like the material in a zodiac boat. The black sides are heavy weight nylon. The side against the rack is plastic with a stretchy strap holding the hook for your panniers and an adjustable tab to keep the pannier from sliding forward. The pannier latches onto the rack, locking into place. It cannot bounce off - at least it never has, jumping curbs, crashing, etc. When you pull on the handle, the latches open and you pull it off. Very fast mounting/dismounting system. Mine has two internal pockets, one is mesh with a zipper. Odds and ends go there.

This pannier is loaded with clothes and anything else I need for work, every work day, year round. When I need it to, it also holds my laptop and journal. That is a fair bit of weight. It is used in +35C to -35C temperatures. Material gets a bit stiff in the cold, but that's it. It still looks virtually brand new. No cracking, no wearing through anywhere. Everything still works just as well as the day I bought it. Now these panniers are relatively expensive, but they are bulletproof and made to last. They are also pretty light. I was a bit worried about the elastic strap that gets hooked on the rack breaking eventually, but it shows no sign of significant use after a year and a half. The latches also show no sign of wear. You would swear I have only had these panniers on the bike for a week or two. Pretty amazing. I have no idea when this one will wear out and I move on to the next one. I suspect I will leave it in my will.

These are the best panniers I have ever seen. Simple, very tough, well designed. The only downside is they are hard to find. Buy them.

November 14, 2010 Update - after using these panniers almost every day for about 2.5 years, I finally broke off the elastic strap. But guess what? Doesn't matter, don't care. The clips to the rack plus the little hook on the side seem to be extremely strong and hold that bag on just fine. I haven't had any issues with the bag staying on, jumping curbs, hitting bumps, etc. Seems to have been overbuilt, at least for loads I carry which are usually about 10 lbs, only occasionally getting above 15 lbs (in one pannier). If you were on a tour it would be easy to jury rig something for the really big loads. Still the best panniers I know of.

January 15, 2014 Update - Still using the same pannier. The second pannier is untouched. Used it virtually every day for commuting to work, including winter. Still perfectly functional and no signs of impending failure anywhere. The pannier has never fallen off the rack, ever. Even with the loss of the elastic strap. Amazing.

December 09, 2009

Vittoria Rubino Pro and Corsa Evo CX Clincher Tires Review

Over the years, I've gone with one brand of clincher road tires, then another, for a few years at a time. All of them left me wanting. Not that I have tried every brand, but I have tried some of the most popular. A few years ago I started using Vittoria tires.

I can't remember which tire I bought first - the Corsa Evo CX or the Rubino Pro. Anyway, after using one, I bought the other. I use the Rubino Pro for training tires, the Corsa Evo CX as racing tires. The thing I like about these tires is the ride. They really do take the edge off for road shock. A noticeable difference from the Continental tires I was using previously. Also, I have never had a pinch flat on these tires. Continentals were chronic pinch flatters for me. Those two features really sold me. Want another? The Rubino Pros last a long time. Last year I got a few thousand km out of 1 set. Perfect for training. They are not delicate at all. I have ridden 2 back tires into the ground. They got so thin in the center I didn't trust them anymore. Low flat frequency too.

Now the Corsa Evo CX are rather short-lived. They are pretty thin which makes them light, but the lack of rubber means they wear out fast. My first set did start to delaminate in spots on the sidewall after a season and a half. So I chucked them. Since they are race tires, they don't get much use and they get replaced as soon as they look a bit ragged. These lasted about 1000 km and still had lots of tread. I just didn't like the look of the delamination. They are not delicate though. As I said, I have had no pinch flats and only 1 flat tire I can recall in 2 sets of these tires. Some of those race km were on rough roads with lots of small rocks. I have used them in a few crits too, one of which was on extremely poor pavement. They corner great. I met someone who complained about them wearing out too fast, but they were using them for training tires. They are not trainers. Unless you don't ride much or don't mind replacing them frequently.

Bottom line? I'm sticking with these.

December 08, 2009

I'm Thirsty And I Need a Drink

Everybody knows they need to take in water and electrolytes on long hot rides.
Some seem to need quite a bit more than others. Symptoms of poor hydration? Poor performance, muscle cramps, bonking, poor workout recovery and probably other bad stuff. A lot of the products out there are not very satisfying. In fact, they get downright awful tasting after you use them a while. The more marketed products available everywhere seem to be the worst in that regard. You know the ones I mean.
Now I have definitely not tried everything out there, but I do know what I don't like. I don't like the sweeter drinks. I don't like the watery drinks. The drink I like the best right now is EFS from 1st Endurance. Lemon lime is my favourite. But tangerine is awful. Haven't tried any of the new flavours yet. Creamsicle sounds interesting. What I like about it is that it isn't too sweet. It is satisfying, perhaps because it contains amino acids. It also has vitamin C which never hurts. I find that mixing it full strength is a bit too strong. I use 5/6 scoop for a large water bottle. And I always enjoy taking a swig because it tastes good to me. Sometimes I drink too much and have to stop for a leak every hour or so. Have to ration a bit especially for a race.

I think there is a trainable aspect to hydration. The more grizzled veteran riders seem to be able to ride 3 hours on a hot day with 1 water bottle on a hard ride or even a race. They don't even drink it all which astounds me. I seem to need at least 2 large bottles for that effort. They also get by on almost nothing for food. I have found that my requirements have decreased modestly for both food and water on long rides with no ill effects over the last couple of fairly high mileage years. I also have a tendency to muscle cramps. But that seems trainable too. I seem to be over it now by simply following Eddy's advice to "ride lots". I am just using EFS and some gel on 3 hour rides with no issues, including races. Just a thought. Sounds like the pros train to burn more fat and need less fuel. Perhaps this is what is happening.

Got a favourite drink? Tried any of the new EFS flavours? Everybody is different, but I'd like to hear your views.

December 06, 2009

Top 10 Anti-Dork/Geek/Nerd Cycling Tips

There are many different styles of cycling. But there are also universal rules that cross all the cycling disciplines. Here is some critical advice that can save you a lot of discomfort and ridicule, if not worse.

1. Do not wear gaunch under your cycling shorts - panty lines are a no-no. The chamois goes next to the skin. This is very important from a style and comfort perspective. Commando is the only acceptable option. If you learn anything about style from this list, learn this one. You might as well be wearing them on your head.

2. Wear black or possibly navy shorts - at least for the part over the package. If you don't, you must make sure you arrange your package before you pose for photos. Your package is pretty obvious in light colored shorts. Remember teams, if your jersey's match, so should your packages. Random package direction is just plain unprofessional. Choose a team look and stick with it.

3. Don't wear your helmet backwards. Funny with a road helmet, funnier with a TT helmet (but it's been done to death). Tip: pointy end goes to the back. If it doesn't, you definitely have a dork helmet on your hands. I hope you didn't actually pay money for that. If you did, claim it was a gift from your mom, then re-gift it ASAP.

Smile for the camera!
On second thought, hold your line
Educational, but turn off the lame soundtrack

4. Don't coast when riding uphill in a group. Keep pedalling. Hold your line in a pack (actually a good idea anytime - no pack required). Be predictable, don't change lines for no reason. Both can lead to verbal abuse from those behind you.  Even if you don't take them down. Learn how to signal road conditions and your intentions. Violate these and you ride on your own.

5. Wear your sunglasses outside your helmet straps. It's more aero. Other than that, I don't know why, but look at the pros. All on the outside. Maybe part of the endorsement contract. Be a pro. (Update: 2 reasons I thought of. Outside is more comfortable when its cold and you have a tuque on under your helmet - from personal experience. And it is more aero - keeps your helmet strap against your head - can't actually tell the difference though. Disadvantages: Glasses fall off when you take helmet off if you forget to remove glasses first.)

6. Remember, you're not a pro (unless you are). Don't wear current pro kit. Isn't it enough you can buy pro equipment? I'm guessing you don't ride for team Shack, so don't wear the kit. Express yourself or wear your team kit. Retro kit is considered expressing yourself.

7. If you think you are a roadie, shave your legs, at least in season. If you are really a mountain biker and just training on the road, you can keep 'em hairy if you want.

8. Take off your reflectors and spoke protector. What are you - 8? You can always grind off those lawyer tabs too if you want your quick release to actually work in the way Tullio intended. Mirrors? Give me a break.

9. Do not show up with clip-on time trial bars or a seat mount water bottle for a road race. Very poor form for a group ride too if you are new to the group. Everyone will think you are a tri-athlete with no pack riding skills, even before you prove it.

10. You can violate the style rules at any time (except gaunch on your head, don't be a psycho) but only if you are faster than everyone you ride with. They will still make fun of you when you aren't around. Just so you know. Never, ever violate the riding rules (review #4 above).

You're welcome.

Check Out This Old-School Cross Manual

Now if I jam that pedal in the dirt just right,
and I carefully pull myself up using my bike.....

Now that's an obstacle! Apparently, this is the wrong way (left) and the correct way (right) to cross a ditch.
I really can't tell the difference - one of these is right? Not that I have a better idea. Note the fenders and single speed, possibly a fixie. Given the terrain, I don't think I would ever criticize the fenders. Or anything else these guys did. Ever.

Many tips are still relevant:
  • Always have brakes - good brakes. (I guess if brakes were optional, they must have been riding fixies. Yikes)
  • The correct way to cross a thicket.
  • Proper and improper way to climb an embankment.
Check out this site for more great photos and 1921 cross advice from a master.

I feel like a wimp.

December 05, 2009

Klunkerz - Where Mountain Bikes Came From

"Too much speed makes your bike harder to control"
History - with some good crashes

Contador versus Armstrong

Well the Tour is long over and lots has been written. No matter what you think of Lance, it was the most interesting tour in years.
Without Lance, it would have been mundane with Contador being a sure thing. What impresses me is the mental toughness of those two. Everyone knew Lance was mentally strong. We've seen it many times. But Contador, a relative youngster, was able to go toe to toe with Lance. Very impressive.

Next year is going to be another interesting tour. Lance and Andy have strong teams to back them up. Contador has his abilities, but likely will not have the same quality of team. Lance is one year older, but possibly in better shape. Andy is likely going to be stronger as will Contador. And how about Cadel's performance at the Vuelta and winning Worlds? Puts him back on the radar too. So once again, the outcome is in doubt. But that's what makes it interesting, right?

How Not to Ride In A Pack

Smile for the camera! On second thought, hold your line

Educational, but turn off the lame soundtrack
For more valuable tips go here.

December 04, 2009

Schwalbe Ice Spiker Studded Tire Review

From Environment Canada: Winter Storm Warning in Effect. Snow blowing snow and strong winds tonight and into Saturday. This is a warning that dangerous winter weather conditions are imminent or occurring in these regions. Monitor weather conditions...Listen for updated statements.

Awesome. That was the forecast for today. What better day to ride my Schwalbe ice spikers. These tires basically have a carbide stud on all the lugs except the row of lugs on each side of the tire. These are heavy, wire bead (non-folding), wide mountain bike tires with lots of rubber, deep lugs, and of course, those studs.

Commuted to work on my bike as usual today. Commute in was fine, even had a tailwind. But by the time I left, wind was 60 km/hr and it was snowing like crazy. Pathways and roads that had been salted and wet in the morning now had a layer of ice covered by snow.

How was the ride? Slow, bucking that head wind. The semi-packed snow over ice on the road threw the bike around and more than once I could feel the studs save me when they got down through the snow to the ice and grabbed. That was really the trickiest part of the ride. The cars pack the snow in a way that makes it very hard to ride without getting knocked around a bit.

When I got to the bike path, the snow was a lot looser and easier to ride. Still ice under the snow. The City in it's wisdom seems to be using a lot of salt this year and clearing the pathways less. Hello! We aren't cars and we don't need dry pavement to avoid killing people. Just clear the damn paths like you used to. You're wrecking my bike with that stuff. When the storm hit and the temperature dropped, the entire pathway became ice-coated. Big problem for some bikers who were actually walking. But not for me!

Enough for the rant. These tires really make your bike a tank - unstoppable. A woman had her dog running around on a long leash. I thought if it gets in my way, I'll just run over it. I felt indestructible. (the dog got out of the way) Nothing can stop these tires. I have had them for about 5 years now. I have ridden up icy hills that I don't think I could walk up. I have been called crazy to my face by people walking up trails I am riding up. These tires can go where other tires fear to tread. Ha!

Do they have a downside? Yes. They are really heavy and roll slow with all those big lugs. The studs make a lot of noise on pavement if that bugs you. And they are pretty expensive too. They do last a long time if you don't ride them on dry pavement too much. They get a bit rusty after riding on salted roads, but that doesn't seem to affect durability. Note the tungsten-carbide core on each stud which isn't rusting and stays sharp - in the photo. I haven't lost any studs (there are 304 per tire), but I broke them in as recommended. They might be overkill, but if you want a tire that you can safely ride regardless how icy things get, these are the ones. Besides, you get a better workout. 10 km in winter on these tires in the snow is like 15 or 20 km in summer conditions on normal mountain bike tires. More on a tough day. Get out there and ride! Awesome for mountain biking on icy trails.

January 8, 2012 Update - Bought the ice spiker pros as replacements for these tires. See review here.