December 19, 2010

Lubing the Bike on the Trainer

I am always in a bit of a dilemma when I need to lube the chain on my bike while it's on the trainer. Even though it isn't getting dirty, it seems the lube is gradually lost over time and the chain feels rough, not smooth. So time to lube.

Problem is I hate the smell of the petroleum products on my chain. In the enclosed space of the basement bedroom, it really bugs me. Sure I could take it to the garage, lube it and let it sit overnight to gas off the really volatile stinky organic carbon molecules. But that would take planning, work, and I'm really just too lazy and don't plan ahead like that. I only remember to lube my chain just before I ride. And I don't feel like removing the bike from the trainer.

So what can I use for in situ lubrication that doesn't stink? Tough problem. Today I came up with a solution! I lubed my chain with canola oil from the kitchen. I figure that if I can eat it, it shouldn't off-gas molecules that are too harmful. I'm sure it lacks the aromatic hydrocarbons essential for properly bonding with metal surfaces, but who cares. I'm not riding on the road and there is no dirt in the basement.

Seems to work. I had my ride in olfactory peace for 1 3/4 hours today. I thought I could faintly smell popcorn for a while, but I'm sure that was my imagination.

Jan 21, 2011 update: OK, so that wasn't the perfect solution. On the plus side, it doesn't stink. On the minus, does drip a bit. Drivetrain is not as smooth as with real lube. Overall, I can see why I shouldn't use canola oil except in this very specialized application.

Jun 5, 2011 Update: Its official, canola oil sucks as chain lube. On the road this stuff turned to sticky, dirt attracting crap that was hard to clean off with enviro-friendly bike chain cleaner. Took several cleanings to get rid of it and I still think there is a bit on there. Live and learn.

December 12, 2010

Velox Rim Strips versus Plastic Rim Strips

So it is the season. The season to ride my Schwalbe Ice Spikers, that is. But I'm having bad luck with them this year. Both the front and back tires went flat on me - on two separate days thankfully. Now these tires are built like tanks and it is virtually impossible to get a puncture. The problem in both cases was the rim strips.

In the first wheel, I was using some generic rim tape that isn't actually designed for bike rims. It is some black cloth tape that is very tough and the bike stores seem to like to use it around here. Cheaper. How did it fail? Well it gradually worked its way to the side of the rim, exposing the rim spoke holes. Now to be honest, I haven't touched these wheels for years. Haven't had to until now. And the tape was a touch too narrow for these rims. After the front wheel failed, I wasn't too concerned and attributed it to the cheap tape. I just patched the tube, put in a plastic rim strip, put everything back together and kept a ridin.

Note: if you have to patch the inner circumference of your tube, the problem is likely your rim strip. Check it. Punctures tend to occur on the outer circumference.

About 2 weeks later, the second flat was a pain because I didn't have a pump with me. So I had to push my bike about 7 km home. In this case, it wasn't some generic product that failed, it was velox tape. That stuff is made for bike rims. Same problem, it had crawled off to the side of the rim and actually had exposed multiple spoke holes. In this case the rim tape was wide enough to cover the entire rim from side to side. It had folded over itself in places and crawled up the sidewalls of the rim as well. When I peeled it off, the tape still had some stickiness to it, but the glue had degraded somewhat.

I expect the problem was the length of time the tape rim strips were in place without getting a flat - probably several years. But I have other wheels that have seen a similar lack of flats, have a lot more hours on them, and never had a problem. I believe the advantage of the plastic rim strips relates to how tight they fit. Really, they rely on their tight fit rather than stickiness to stay in place. They should not have a tendancy to crawl up the sides of the rim or fold over. At least I have never experienced that problem. FSA, Vittoria, Ritchey, etc. make the plastic rim strips.

No more rim tape for me.

December 06, 2010

Kurt Kinetic Trainer Review

So my Tacx didn't work out as planned and I didn't feel like sinking a bunch of cash into fixing it. Instead I sank my cash into a Kurt Kinetic trainer near the end of last years trainer season. It was cheaper and I was pissed.

Well, this year's trainer season is well underway now where I live. And I have been spending some quality time with my Kurt trainer. Here's my take.

First, I didn't bother with the fancy Kurts. I just need a workout, I don't need the big flywheel or one that swings side to side. I'm more interested in getting to my target heart rate, being able to stand and pedal to give my butt a break from time to time with decent resistance, and a unit that holds together.

Well, I'm happy to say that the Kurt is working well on all fronts. It is a pretty heavy duty unit. Heavy steel construction. The basic flywheel is pretty large compared to your run of the mill trainer. And the fluid unit is nice and quiet. It does get warm, but not ridiculous (you are unlikely to burn yourself) and I have no fear it can take it.

As for feel, the unit is very smooth and feels more like riding on the road than previous trainers I have used. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but the feel is different - in a good way. I find it fosters a high cadence versus the mag trainers which tend to make me slow down my spin and mash. I like spinning over 100 rpm on this trainer and tend to go there naturally, which is my natural road cadence. I don't have to concentrate on spinning and can focus on the workout intensity. Which is great for my limited attention span.

In terms of resistance, I can stand at about 60 rpm in the 53x12 and that requires about 215 watts and I'm going about 20 mph which seems just about right according to the chart. Great for taking breaks from the seated grind from time to time. Lots of resistance room for intervals too as resistance increases quickly as speed increases. Something like on the road, wattage versus speed is not a linear relationship. Overall, I would say that the resistance is similar to flat road feel on a windless day on a mountain bike? Kurt has designed the trainer to respond with a resistance curve like the real road and it seems to work although I haven't plotted the graph out myself. I do know that it doesn't take me over 400 watts to go 25 mph on the road, but that's OK. High resistance potential is a good thing in a trainer. Theoretically, you can hit much more than 1000 watts, although I cannot verify this personally - unfortunately.

Don't forget to check out their warranty. Lifetime warranty plus a crash replacement warranty? 25$ as long as you don't destroy it so badly it can't be rebuilt. How do you crash a stationary trainer you might well ask? Well, you might crash on a crazy ass interval I suppose - trying to beat the graph and hit 2000 watts for example. I believe your bike will give out before the trainer will. It is much more solidly built than any bike weighing less than a tank. Or maybe the warranty covers car crashes when you're driving to a bring-your-own-trainer spin class? Regardless, a very decent warranty.

Now you can buy a fancy, shmancy computerized trainer like that Tacx POS. Or for about the same price you can simply watch movies, and ride the Kurt with a powermeter.  The advantage of the Kurt is far fewer things to fail, far better warranty, and the powermeter is useful year round. The thrill of racing comic book characters wore off fast for me anyway.

Pretty happy with my Kurt. As good as they get. Maybe I'll go watch an episode of Prison Break on it right now.

January 15, 2014 Update: The Kurt works as well now as it did on day one. Absolutely flawless. 

November 25, 2010

Pearl Izumi Barrier MTB Shoe Covers

So when the going gets really tough, what you gonna wear? Those lightweight rain booties ain't gonna cut it. Here is what I wear when its cold, wet and nasty, and not just for mountain biking either. They aren't lightweights, but they aren't any heavier than any other neoprene shoe covers I have tried. Instead of a zipper on the back, they have a wide strip of velcro that seems to work just fine, thank you. No zipper to fail when it gets really gunky muddy.

I especially like the bullet proof front of the shoe. I think it keeps those cold-susceptible toes nice and toasty. Toastier than my generic brand full neoprene shoe cover. It looks just like carbon fiber!! And that's exactly what I tell everyone they're made of. Win, Win.

Another nice feature is the healthy, large cutout on the sole. Pretty well all the lugs on a mountain bike shoe are not covered by the bottom of the bootie. The cutouts are surrounded by some kind of heavy duty rubberized fabric not unlike the tubes on a zodiac boat. Wearing out the bottoms is a key weakness of traditional neoprene booties that usually ends their lives. These take on that issue with what looks like a much more durable and better-designed solution. I still take them off if I'm walking around much though. Stretch that cycling dollar!

Basically, the warmest shoe covers I have tried. A tad expensive, but they should last a long time. Recommended.

November 22, 2010

Pearl Izumi Barrier Lite Shoe Covers Review

So in an earlier post, I rated the Castelli Pioggia 2's as 'definitely not recommended'. So what then, you may ask, is a recommended shoe cover for rainy days? Well it just so happens that I have an answer to that important question. Originally, I bought these for time trialling. Wanted to get that aero advantage and truth be told, all my best TTs of the year were done with these babies on my feet. Although I like to think training played at least some part in my successful rides against the clock (and probably lack of it played a role in the not so successful rides). Team Garmin seems to like them and pretty well everyone wears something very similar to these slick babies.

But they also excel as a light wind and rain barrier just like the name says. They are made of some unknown waterproof stretchy fabric that seems to be very tough. I bought the large size for my size 44 feet and they take a bit of stretching to get onto my shoes. Hey, you don't want them flippy flapping in a time trial do you? They also are quite thin so they can very easitly be rolled up and stowed in a pocket when you don't want to wear them. I liked them so much, I bought a pair of XLs for my mountain bike shoes. That was about right - go up a size from the recommended size for mountain bike shoes.

Basically, they cost 25$ and are worth the cash. Highly recommended for TTs, cool rides and wet summer days. I bought mine at Excel Sports. Couldn't find a pair locally and I had races to race.

November 19, 2010

Tufo Sealant in Tufo Tubular Tires

I have been riding a few different versions of Tufo tires, both for road and cross. Not too long ago I was on a training ride and I got kind of lost in the woods. Not lost, I didn't know where I was lost. Just lost so that I had to ride my cross bike on some crappy mountain bike trails that had lots of roots and rocks to get back to where I wanted to go (because I hate backtracking). My tubular tires were bottoming out lots. About 15 minutes later, I noticed my back tire was pretty low.

Fortunately, I had my Tufo Sealant along with me for just such an occasion. Use the handy attached valve removal tool, squirt in half a bottle, put the valve back together, pump and ride. Now I have tried some of these sealant approaches in the past and they haven't been so successful. The best seal I could come up with was a slow leak. For example, Slime didn't cut it.

But the Tufo Sealant in the Tufo tire was different - no leak. In fact, it worked just as well as the front tire in terms of holding air for the last month and a half. The tire was out of service for part of that time so I could race on another tire. The Tufo tubular tires have no tube, so in a sense, they are like mountain bike tubeless tires, without all that burping. So it makes sense the sealant would work well. Although the Tufo's are by nature tough tires, this really ups the value of the Tufo's as a training tubular (and a racing tubular). No minor puncture will prevent you from getting your due mileage out of them.

When I tried to let out the air to remount it, I couldn't get any air out. Was that a problem? Not really. I just pulled the valve and rubbed the rubber substance off of it. It appears the sealant had turned to rubber and was no longer in liquid form. I also shoved a needle down the valve stem and cleared the rubber out of there as well.  Worked fine for emptying and filling the tire.

There is also a super duper Tufo Extreme sealant, but I haven't tried it yet. I also haven't tried either sealant in a non-Tufo tire - but I will.

Bottom line, I can ride tubulars and just bring this bottle around for a spare. This product is the first one that I have found that really works. As long as I don't totally slice the tire open. Then I need a phone.

November 16, 2010

How to Make Filling Your Disk Wheel Tire a One-Person Job

So after a very short amount of use, my Silca pump head for filling my disk wheel tire (commonly called a crack pipe) kept popping off the valve above about 100psi. So that meant filling my tire was a two-person job. Since I usually arrive late for races, this was a risky situation for me and a pain in the a$$. There just had to be a better way.

With considerable thought and many prototypes, I developed a very sophisticated method of keeping that crack pipe on the valve at high pressure. Fortunately, the handyman's helper - duct tape - saved the day. By wrapping up some duct tape using proprietary designs and equipment into a rough cylinder large enough to jam into the disk wheel, the crack pipe has nowhere to pop off too. So it just keeps doing its job.

The result? A sure fire way to inflate that disk wheel tire without fuss or muss. If you do happen to need this valuable piece of equipment, highly-skilled craftsmen using the proprietary designs and production equipment referred to in the previous paragraph, are  standing by to take your orders. For a suitable reimbursement of course.

Note the additional use of duct tape for covering the hole in the disk in the background of the photo? Of course that duct tape was purchased in black to go with the black disk theme. These are also produced by highly-skilled craftsmen using proprietary designs and production equipment. They are also for sale and can be custom fit to any disk wheel.

November 13, 2010

Making My Bike Weight UCI-Legal - One Technique

Since I bought my fantastically light new Reynolds wheels, I shed 400-500 g and my bike no longer meets the UCI weight limit. That's a good thing overall. But it does mean I have to do something to make my bike heavier for hill climbs as they weigh your bike just before you go to the start line in these parts. So I needed something that was easy to add to my bike, preferably without tools, that was equally simple to remove for the other 95% of races where they don't weigh bikes. I know, sounds a little like cheating doesn't it?

But those drugs must have been in that meat I ate.

Sorry, wrong excuse. I'm pretty sure that one won't work for this issue.

Even though everyone is doing it (I mean using bikes that are below the UCI weight limit of 6.8 kg, not the drugs), I guess that's no reason to cheat. But what can I say? I'm racing guys with way lighter bikes than I have (can you say Storck?). I'm using a Soloist for crying out loud, which is not known for being a lightweight. Not sure what their trick is for hill climbs, but here is mine.

I wasn't sure what my bike officially weighed, but I had a good idea it was a bit underweight. I simply took a couple of bolts with multiple nuts threaded onto them to the race. The bolts and nuts are sized to fit into my handlebars. I only started with one, and had to wrap electrical tape around it so it wouldn't rattle in the handlebar. Went to the pre-race weigh-in and I was just a bit under. Swapped out the nice titanium quick release for the mag trainer quick release and I was something like 9 g over the limit and fully legal. The key thing is I have lots of flexibility with this method to add or subtract nuts as required and avoid going too high over the limit. No sense penalizing yourself, you just want to make the weight limit. No tools necessary. Just pull out the handlebar plug, insert bolt/nut assembly and put the plug back in.

There you have it. A proven quick and easy method of taking the bike up to UCI weight. Low cost and very durable. Remember, it's only cheating if you take the bolt/nuts out of your handlebar for the next race, which I did (and replaced the quick release with the Ti version). Don't tell the UCI.

November 11, 2010

Cycling News - Hates Contador?

Just did the Cycling News poll to try and win a bike that doesn't fit me. But that's not the issue. In the list of best male riders of 2010, Contador isn't listed as a choice. Astounding and impossible that this is a simple mistake. Now I know he is under investigation for doping, but shouldn't we readers have a choice? Censorship sucks and at least they should wait for the outcome of the investigation before convicting him. He did win a couple of races in 2010 if I remember correctly. Greipel? Give me a break.

Get with it Cycling News. I thought you were a decent site. I'm going to have to rethink my links to your site (note: in protest there is no link to your poll). Not that you give a crap.

November 18, 2011 Update - Another year and cycling news still hasn't heard of Alberto Contador. Strange but true. Did the poll again, try to win the bike.

November 10, 2010

Hard-Man, Old-Style Cyclocross Video - Adventure Racing Style

This one is great - I think this could be a new sport - adventure cross racing. Although it clearly wouldn't be new, just resurrected. Have to be a reasonably nice day or you could die. Unfortunately, lawyers would probably screw the whole concept up.

Note the use of fixies (including the winner), singlespeeds, and bikes with derailleurs. Even a mountain bike singlespeed? Hmm. Everything new is well-forgotten old.

November 07, 2010

Crank Brothers Eggbeater SL, 3, and Candy C Reviews

I like Crankbrothers pedals. No fuss, no muss, they just work regardless of the crud you have on your shoe. And they are plenty light too. But there are differences between the various designs. First, the eggbeaters. The Eggbeater 3 is essentially a newer version of the eggbeater SL. Approximately the same grade of pedal. The body is different and instead of a nylon bushing on the outboard side, it has a bearing. Should make it better, but you can't actually tell in any kind of real world situation. The other thing to notice is that the pedal clips are closer to the crank arm on the 3 compared to the SL. You can see that in the photo. So your foot will be a bit closer to the crank arm as well. I never actually noticed this either until I lined the pedals up for the photo. Couldn't feel it on the bike, but if you have trouble with ankle clearance, this could be the straw that broke the camel's back for you. You would prefer the older pedal style (SL).

I have noticed one difference though when riding the two pedals. The 3 is slightly trickier to clip in than the SL. This is something that you would never notice mountain biking, but when cross racing I noticed I seemed to be worse than usual at clipping in this year (which was the first year for riding these pedals). I decided to switch back to the older SLs for the last two races of the year and I definitely clipped in quicker on my remounts. The SLs seem to roll better if you need to adjust your foot on the pedal. They have slightly more rounded clips than the 3 pedals. Other than that, I have no theories. I just know what I know. I will use the SLs for racing for now. Unfortunately, they are no longer made - but I have 3 pairs.

The eggbeaters have been very durable for me. I use them for commuting, mountain biking and cross. I have only broken one ever and that was when I bought the cheapest version of the SL-type pedals. I guess the equivalent would be the eggbeater 1 now. And I have hit them on the ground and on rocks on a number of occasions. Although I am sure they can be broken - can't everything?

Now for the Candy C pedals. The new equivalent would be the Candy 3, I suppose. Good pedals as well, but again, they don't clip in as fast. I originally bought them because I thought the small platform would be a good idea for cross. In the end I couldn't tell the difference and I now use them for commuting. They are a little heavier due to the extra hardware.

I have never tried the titanium pedals. Can't imagine they would be worth the extra cost and can't imagine they would be as durable. The 3 and SL pedals are so light I don't see the point.

20 October 2011 Update: This year I gave the 3s another go for cross. I figured 2 bearings have to be faster than 1 bearing and a bushing, eh? After an initial get to know them period, I now find I clip in just as well with the 3s as I do with the SLs. I did have a bad period that was due to installing new cleats on new shoes. The cleats loosened up slightly and this strongly affected clip in. When I re-tightened the cleats, bang - it all came together and worked just fine. The difference in "clip-ability" was surprising to me, given that the cleats required less than one turn to re-tighten. So there you go. The 3s look more bling, bling as well. Win, win.

October 10, 2010

Tufo Elite LPS and Tufo Flexus Primus Tubular Tire Review for Cross - Update

So last year I thought putting the Elite LPS on the front and the Flexus Primus on the back sounded like a good idea and a fast combo. Uhh, not exactly. I had been running Flexus Primus front and back and they were working just fine. Then, trying to squeeze out a little more speed, I swapped out the front tire for the Elite LPS. What a disaster. Crashed about 5 times (after a while it is hard to keep count) in the first two laps of the race, got pretty sore, went off course, packed it in. Stiff for about 5 days after that little episode. I do clearly remember having only the back brake on, and the front wheel breaking loose on my last unfortunate incident as I crashed to the ground and saying to myself - Dang! That's not how it's supposed to work. Or something like that.

Worst thing is, I lost my mojo. Not the good luck charm mojo, the self-confidence in corners mojo. Next race, I just tried to finish without crashing. Lost time on every corner despite running the Flexus Primus front and back and not slipping even a tiny bit on any corner. Between my very poor bike handling (but very excellent braking for every corner) and my bruised body, it wasn't a best finish. At least I know what I have to work on - besides fitness.

Anyhow. Use the Flexus Primus or any Primus. Don't use the Elite LPS except for a Sunday ride on the bike path. BikeTiresDirect still has great prices.

Now where did I put that mojo?

November 16, 2011 Update to the Update: Well I can no longer recommend the Tufo tires for racing. Any of them. The Challenge tires have them beat in most ways (traction, rolling resistance), except perhaps for durability. If you race somewhere where flats are a big problem, then the Tufo's are for you. They wear like iron and they work extremely well with sealant because they have no inner tube - they are tubeless tubulars. And just like tubeless tires, sealant works well. Better than for tires with tubes. And for that very reason, the Tufo's are good training/trail tires. But don't buy the Primus version. Get the plain old Primus (non-Flexus) version and save a bunch of cash.

October 09, 2010

TRP CX9 and Tektro 926 Mini V Brakes for Cross

So when I reviewed the TRP EuroX Cantilever brakes that I own, I was less than thrilled. Lots of chatter, very little actual braking. Really, they suck. So I have been trying mini-V brakes as an alternative. Now I have to admit that I have never used or actually even seen the TRP CX9 brakes in person (OK, that's officially a lie now. See update below). I just used that in the title to reach people who think they are the only V-brake alternative for their cross bike. Just trying to help you save a few bucks. You can read all about the TRP CX9s here and here. And as you can see from the photo, they are very bling. They are also not all that light at 160 g per wheel and cost something like $130 US. There is a better (cheaper) way.

I have been riding a mini-v brake that works very well and is cheap, cheap, cheap. The Tektro 926 Mini V Brakes are $11.56 for one brake or $17 for one brake with the noodle, lever (useless for cross), cable and housing at Jenson. They weigh 170 g per wheel. Holy crap, that's a deal. I've been riding with one of these on the front for about a month and done 4 races now with it. Note: it wouldn't fit on the back as the brake pad holder was hitting on my seatstay on my Ridley X-Fire.

How do they work? Wow. Nice to have a brake that actually stops. The Tektro uses regular V-brake pads that are adjustable for toe-in. I have used it with both Rival and Red SRAM levers and it works well with both. I thought I would have to get a noodle with a barrel adjuster, but it worked fine with a regular noodle. Just set the cable length so that you can just barely undo the brake. Still have far more braking power than cantilevers even though the levers nearly hit the handlebar. That also gives you the maximum rim clearance. A barrel-adjuster noodle would make things a little less finicky, but it really isn't all that hard to adjust the cable length.

Admittedly, rim clearance is much less than a cantilever brake. I suppose if you ride in mud all the time, mini-v's won't work for you. Don't know as that isn't an issue around these parts. But really, cantilevers aren't great either. They give you lots of rim clearance, but they won't actually slow you down very well. Now that disk brakes are legal, they will eventually take over for the real crud I suppose. But for now, you really can't go wrong with the Tektro Mini-V. And say good-bye to brake chatter.

June 26, 2011 Update - Well after a solid season of cross last fall, no problems. This spring I bought a Nashbar 99$ cross frame for a commuter and put these brakes on it too. Working great in the many rainstorms we have been blessed with this year. I also figured out how to get them on my Ridley seatstays for racing. Basically, I scavenged parts from conventional brake pads so now they clear the seatstays. If you look at the photo, I replaced the fat washer near the brake pad with a thin one.

Only one problem. I had to buy 5 sets of brakes to get 4 and a half good brakesets. One brake caliper was screwed up - the return spring wasn't the right shape and didn't work. Even though the price has gone up to an outrageous $11.95, I didn't bother returning it. I just ordered another set. The brake pads are still good, so that cuts my losses.

The other thing I did was buy the adjustable noodles. At $6, they cost almost as much as the brakes which seems a little unfair, but they do make life easier. And I'm all about an easy life.

Tektros on Nashbar 99$ frame, no clearance issue
Update Sept 3, 2011 - I broke down and bought a pair of TRP CX9s for my Ridley Cross bike. Yeah I got the Tektros to fit the back wheel, but I could only remove/insert a wheel if I deflated the tire because the seatstays blocked the brakes from opening all the way. A very cumbersome and irritating situation for a racing bike. Basically the Tektros don't fit the Ridley carbon seatstays partly due to their assymetrical design and partly due to the Ridley brake stud base being almost flush with the seatstay. As you can see in the photo to right, the base of the brake stud has to be 5 mm or more from the seatstay (or fork) for the brakes to clear them. The TRPs have the brake pad centred in the brake arm so they work with 0 mm clearance. On the Ridley fork, there is 5 mm clearance and the Tektros worked fine. The Nashbar frame in the photo at right has more than 10 mm clearance.

So how are the TRPs? Well they fit the Ridley perfectly and they do look very bling bling. And they are slightly lighter in the hand, although I did not weigh them. Because the Ridley is a star, I don't begrudge the expense too much. But the TRPs are indistinguishable from the Tektros in performance. If I was blindfolded and riding my bike, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. (Although I cannot actually confirm that). Which means they both work great. Kind of cheap of TRP to not include adjustable noodles at that price though.

Bottom line: I would never buy the TRPs over the Tektros unless you have lots of extra cash, and/or an overdeveloped aesthetic sensibility, or a lack of clearance between the base of the brake stud and the seatstay/fork. I would have stuck with the Tektros, even on the Ridley, if they had fit. They look awesome on the Nashbar.

Update 24 October 2011 with thoughts on the TRP CX8.4 brakes - So I was working on the commuter bike today doing a few adjustments, truing the back wheel, etc. and I thought to myself..... The Tektro brakes seem to have more clearance and have less lever travel than the TRP CX9s? So I pulled out my trusty tape measure and the Tektros are 1 cm shorter from the pivot to the cable anchor (8 cm vs 9 cm). Therefore, if the old TRPs are CX9s, and the new TRPs are designated CX8.4 because they are 0.6 cm shorter than the CX9s, the Tektros are essentially Tektro 926 - CX8s! What does this mean? It means that you get more brake movement with less lever pull for the Tektros, even compared to the TRP CX8.4. Which translates to slightly improved brake modulation and slightly reduced (but still extremely strong) braking. It also means that you get 1 cm (or 0.4 cm) less brake cable to tire clearance. If mud creates a brake cable clearance problem for you, holy cow.  I'm guessing your bike is totally clogged with mud and your screwed anyway. Start running.

With the advent of the CX8.4s, there is no value in the CX9 brakes. The 8.4s will work better for all levers, including Shimano. More cable pull just lets you set the brakes farther from the rim for the same amount of lever pull - always a good thing if your wheel takes a hit and goes a bit out of true. And the 8.4s should be a bit less touchy to modulate. But if you really want the latest and greatest linear pull technology - go Tektro, and save $$.  Even more brake pad clearance and even better modulation. I'm finding them very easy to modulate on my commuter bike, even in winter ice and snow. But then I'm not screaming down hills with an off-camber slippery turn at the bottom seeing spots because my heart rate is 95% of max. So not the same as a cross race where the brain starts to go and mistakes are made.

If you are interested in the Avid Shorty Ultimate (good but not quite the ultimate) brakes click this.

September 29, 2010

The Job You Save Could Be Your Own

We've been having some nicer weather lately. Not that it makes any difference. I commute rain, shine, snow, sleet, etc. etc. Still, nicer to commute on a sunny day.

As I get close to work, there are a series of stop signs and lights. Nice opportunity to work the sprint. The last two lights can only be made if you sprint near full blast from the first to the second. The timing never varies and it is a nice way to end the ride.

On this nice sunny day, someone else was doing the sprint just like me! Awesome. Someone to race. So I take on a few more gears and really wind it up. I pass my opponent and he takes on the challenge. Sweet. As we power through the second set of lights, some guy in a Porsche turns right into our path. Now we had the green light, he had a red light. And there were two of us side by side going pretty fast.

I slammed on the brakes, but had to veer around Mr. Porsche as I couldn't stop in time. The F-bomb was dropped, but Mr. Porsche couldn't hear it as his windows were up and I didn't yell it or anything. In the process of taking evasive action and coming even with Mr. Porsche, I also looked in his window and gave him the evil eye. Fortunately, that's all I did. No swearing, no finger. Because that's when I found out that Mr. Porsche was my boss's, boss's, boss and an executive VP of our company.

So Mr. Porsche and I both pulled into the underground parking. He gave me a bit of room and I proceeded to the lockup. Mr. Porsche happens to park just outside the lockup, a new learning for me. Anyways, I could hear him outside the door and I just proceeded as usual on my way to work. Mr. Porsche held the door for me, I said thanks, and we went on our respective ways.

I think we both learned something that day. He will look more closely for bikes and I had the lesson of courteousness to drivers reinforced. After all, it's not like I never screwed up while driving. Kinda perfect wouldn't you say?

September 18, 2010

Park Chain Pliers Review

The SRAM master link is a great idea for putting your chain together. It is also a great piece of technology to take with you on the road/trail in case you break your chain. But it is a pain to break the master link if you don't have the right tool. Kinda like a chain with no master link, when you think about it. I spent a few years making do with a large pair of needlenose pliers. Slipping, pinching and cursing.

Then I saw these for about 14$ and decided to give them a try. Wow. An idiot-proof way to split my chain at the master link. Works great. No cursing. A tool that would be greatly appreciated by any bike handyman.

September 15, 2010

Reynolds MV32T UL Wheelset Review

I wanted a lightweight carbon wheelset for road racing. It took quite a while for me to pick one though and finally pull the trigger. Something like a year all told. I will spare you the thought processes and reversals of opinion that I went through. Suffice to say, a lot of mental anguish went into the decision at the end of the day.

Why did I choose these wheels? When you think about it, when do you suffer the most in a road race? For me, it is the attacks on the hills. And of course, that is where almost all the successful attacks actually happen. That is where I typically redline my heart rate. So I wanted a wheelset to help me in those difficult times. That meant light. These babies are very light at 1040 g a pair. I weighed them before gluing them up (or actually Tufo Extreme taping them up), but can't remember what they weighed other than they were very close to the advertised weight. Basically, they made my Cervelo Soloist Carbon clearly UCI-illegal, dropping a solid pound from my old wheels. That's not a particularly light frame. Nice. Very nice. Since the bike only seems to get weighed for hill climbs (and I have to add weight).

What else do I like? Well, these wheels use conventional j-spokes. They are aero spokes on the front wheel and on the non-drive side of the rear wheel. Round spokes on the rear drive side. Nice touch as I know I can easily get these repaired anywhere, including in my basement. No proprietary spoking, yet a very light wheel. How can that be? I don't know, but it is.

Next thing - I really gave these wheels a working over this year. We have a crit on a course that has been patched and repatched since the dawn of asphalt. It really makes your bike hop on the corners and the sprints. I was worried about using these wheels but I thought might as well see. After the race (where I didn't hear the last lap bell and finished miserably despite sitting third going into the last lap), the wheels were just as true as before the race. Amazing. I weigh about 153 lbs. One thing I have noticed is that when I sprint, the back wheel comes off the ground more easily than my old wheels if I don't smooth out my style. I think that is due to the light weight of the wheels. Think circles.

Of course, if the wheels go out of true, you have to remove the tire to true them. Reynolds provides a spoke wrench for that purpose. After a group death ride, several road races, hill climbs, and crits, the wheels are just as true as the day I bought them. 

Although I didn't buy these for their aeroness, they are supposed to be pretty aero for climbing wheels. Now I can't vouch for these numbers personally, but I have heard from other sources the Reynolds wheels came out on top in the Velonews article (which I missed) quoted here. Here are the numbers:

21 Jul 2008 edition... So not the 2009 "UL" wheel:

Yaw angle = 5 degrees (favorable for deep rims).

CdA values (m²):
32-spoke 2-cross "traditional": 0.115
Zipp 202: 0.128
Easton EC90: 0.130
Shimano WH-7850: 0.130
Bontrager XXX-lite: 0.118
Campy Hyperon: 0.113
Reynolds MV32-T: 0.104
Zipp 808: 0.099

(808 labeled as "Industry Leading deep section aerodynamic rim, 81mm depth")

This translates into around 34 watts @ 30 mph advantage for the Reynolds over the Zipp 202. Or, 2.4 watts when climbing @ 1400 m/hr @ a 7% grade, similar to a mass difference of 630 grams.

I certainly have no complaints on how they handle in a TT situation. And they handle just fine in a cross-wind.

In terms of braking, I do notice a bit of mild pulsing upon hard braking. It has never been an issue for me in any race to date. Or when descending in the mountains. The brake track does not seem to get overly warm either, even when descending a series of switchbacks in the Rockies. I checked.

You might think that stiffness would be a problem for these wheels. But I haven't noticed any problems when sprinting. Supposedly these wheels carry virtually no rider weight limit, whatever that means. I think it means that these wheels cannot be limp noodles and have some built in strength. I do notice that the wheels take out a lot of buzz from the pavement, but I believe that is the tubulars at work more than the wheels. Chipseal pavement is a lot smoother and the wheels are quite a bit more comfortable than my high quality clinchers. Don't forget that Reynolds has a crash replacement policy if you cough up another $200. So they must have some confidence in these wheels. I know I don't fret about them anymore.

Apparently, Reynolds has just upgraded their design for these wheels making them a bit more aero and improving the brake track. Icing on the cake I say. You may be lucky and find these 2010 wheels nicely discounted. That would be an opportunity worth pursuing. These are really great wheels and yes I am going a bit better because of them (don't tell anyone). I no longer have mental anguish.

Fraying of Rim

18 October 2011 Update: Well, bad things sometimes happen to good people and their Reynolds wheels. While innocently moving up alongside the pack on a straight away during a crit, I was taken out by a rider who failed to check over his shoulder before changing his line. He did it perfectly and my front wheel actually got caught between his crank and his frame. I scratched his crank a bit, but it was aluminum so no worries for him. He somehow managed to avoid crashing while I went over the handlebars. This was a pretty severe stress on the wheel (and me) and the wheel was only slightly out of true with some fraying of the rim. One spoke was bent in a weird wavy pattern. I rode the wheel back to the car, feeling sorry for myself and lamenting the fact that I was having a good race with 25 of the 30 laps done.

Needless to say, that was the end of my racing for the day and actually, for a bit over a month as I had some healing to do.

Only Bent Spoke
Now for the warranty experience. I paid for the "Reynolds Assurance Program", their crash replacement policy. And this was certainly a crash situation so it was time to cash in. Since I bought my wheels online from the States, there was quite a bit of back and forth about who was responsible for the warranty - the warranty provider for the country I live in (Canada) or the warranty provider for the country I bought them from (United States). After a number of emails, Reynolds settled the debate - Canada was responsible. That took about a month, but I must say that once that was resolved, everyone was very quick to act. And always very courteous all through this process I must say.

It took a couple of weeks once the warranty situation was resolved to send in my wheels and get them back. If the wheels had been available at my local bike store at the time I wanted them, I would have bought them there. Ironically, they are now. In that case I would have had the wheel fixed in about 2 weeks total. Support your local bike store, eh? 

Interestingly, I got the new version of the rim. The one with the "swirl lip generator". No extra cost. That's gotta be another watt or two savings, so well worth the crash.

Bottom line: The Reynolds Assurance Program did the job. The wheels are killer and never go out of true, except for this particular incident. Very strong wheels despite their very low weight. Another satisfied customer.

May 13, 2012 Update - Well the other day I finally decided to put that tubular that I had been stretching diligently for months now, on the wheel. Racing season is finally here after all. And so I took a look at the wheel in the truing stand as once the tire is on, you cannot true it without removing same tire. Well, the wheel was rather amateurishly trued. Some of the aero spokes were at an angle to the direction of travel. Kind of the opposite of aero. And the wheel had too much side to side and up and down misalignment for my liking. Nothing like the truing job on the originals. The wheel was rebuilt in Penticton, BC and although triathletes are a dime a dozen there, I'm guessing wheel truing experience is somewhat rarer. Oh, well. I put my amateurish skills to work and got it half way decent. Just a word of warning if you get your wheel rebuilt in Penticton. Better check it when you get it back - before you mount that tire.

January 15, 2014 Update - Still riding these wheels and for a special treat, I used them for a couple of cross races this past fall. No issues and the most I have had to true them is a half turn or so on one or two spokes once or twice a year. Decent.

September 12, 2010

TRP EuroX Cantilever Brake Set Review

Last year I bought these brakes for my cross bike. If you read the ads, they sound like the real deal, the standard. Bought 'em and put 'em on. I have to say that cantilever brakes with road levers really kind of suck. They really don't have very much power at all. I have tried them with varying lengths of the straddle cable. Didn't seem to make much difference. My old 90's mountain bike cantilevers worked way better (and still do), but of course that bike didn't use road levers.

Pros: Virtually impossible to lock up the wheels - although I can lock up the back wheel if I try hard enough. No danger of going over the handlebars.

Cons: The grip of death required to brake for a sharp corner when I let the bike run on a downhill can affect my bike handling significantly. But who wants to start scrubbing free speed too soon? You gotta let the bike go in that situation.

I also found that these brakes resulted in excessive brake chatter, the bane of cyclocross bikes. If the rim was sandy or dirty, they worked OK. But get a bit of water on the rim (or clean your bike) and the brakes really started to chatter. It might help if I could adjust toe-in, but you can't with these brakes - unless you want to bend them which probably voids any warranty.

Bottom line: I really don't think this style of cantilever brake is all that great - I don't like them. I'm told it clears mud the best of all cross brake designs, but it doesn't work that well in the braking department. If you have a very big problem with mud, then I guess they may be a good option. But mud isn't a big deal here and I'm currently experimenting with another brake style that I think makes these obsolete. I will post a review when I get a chance to race on them.

Update Aug 21, 2012 - Lots of better options - try this and this for non-disk brakes.

September 05, 2010

The Rider by Tim Krabbé - A Book Review

Instead of a book by a cyclist who writes, this is a book by a writer who cycles. Believe me when I tell you there is a big difference in craftsmanship.

The Rider by Tim Krabbé presents the thoughts of a cyclist during a fairly competitive race, but not quite pro. In terms I understand, something like a Cat 1/2 race I would say. The narration flips back and forth through time and discusses several of the cycling legends in history and during the 1970's. It ruthlessly dissects his opponents. 

The book presents Tim's perspective, which like all of ours, isn't always correct and is subject to change. His writing has lots of humour (some of it is subtle). Lots - there are some real gems in there that I won't spoil for you by repeating here. The book is short, but I found that upon finishing I immediately had to reread it. And I also found that I picked up  many more tidbits on the second read which I just finished today.

The book is set in the 1970s and, although the technology has changed, it is amazing how similar bike racing psychology today is compared to a distant country several decades ago. And the book has plenty of racing psychology with all of its shortcomings. This book is entirely relevant today and more importantly, entertaining. If you have no knowledge of bike racing, you probably won't get all of it, but hopefully you will still find it an interesting read.

This is the best written book I have read on cycling to date. Something to savor - twice at least.

August 29, 2010

Perfect Cycling Cap To Use With A Helmet

It is pretty cool up here in the north country to wear a cycling cap under your helmet. Actually, a cap does have true functionality. It keeps the sun out of your eyes when the sun angle is low. Great for morning and evening rides. And of course it is warmer, which is soon to be a factor up here in Canada. Also nice during a rain storm as it keeps the rain out of your eyes. Actually, I got into this trend last fall during after work cross races. The sun was often directly in my eyes, but a little bit of a brim and voila! I can see clearly now. Sure I could get a mountain biker helmet with a visor, but that just looks dumb on a road or cross bike. Just a no go.

But the problem I have is I can't see worth crap when I'm in the drops with the usual bike cap versions. Yeah they have smaller brims than a baseball cap. But not small enough when you are wearing a helmet too. They are modelled after the caps everyone used prior to the invention of the bike helmet. In those days, the cap worked fine as you could adjust the brim angle on your head. Brim down into the sun, brim up in the drops, etc. But now the helmet limits how far back you can wear the cap and brim up isn't an option with the helmet. The traditional caps just don't work very well for me if the helmet is at a reasonable angle. Of course, the retro/traditional caps still work fine as fashion accessories for a night on the town or as a spectator accessory at any bike race you can name.

I have finally discovered the perfect bike cap for wearing under a helmet. Now I am going to share it with you. This design is extremely rare and this is the only cap I can personally guarantee works for me. The perfect bike cap is made by Pace in one color, one size and one style only - as in the photo to the right. The brim on this baby is just big enough to do the job and it never gets in my way when I'm on the drops. You can buy it at Jenson right here for a very reasonable price. I did. If you have a huge head, it won't fit. But if you only have a large or medium head, it will fit.

August 28, 2010

SRAM Rival Shifter Review (With Free Comments on Red and Force)

Well that was certainly disappointing. My first real cross ride of the year the other day and my Rival rear shifter died. Shades of Shimano! It had that same frustrating "shift all you want, but I'm not going to do anything" feeling. I had to get a stick, take in a wrap of cable (external cable routing has some benefits when you have to McGyver it), and get the derailleur on the 25 tooth in the back. Left me with a 2-speed for the ride home (it was uphill).

So when I got home I had a look at it. Rolled back the hood and took off the side cover to see if anything looks broken or jammed. Everything looks normal and I can make it shift normally by pushing in on the metal thingy as annotated in the photo. It's like the spring doesn't have enough power. The return spring is very tiny and weak but seems to be connected OK and not broken. You can see the shifter isn't that dirty inside either as I haven't really used this shifter all that much. Just for cross season last year and we don't have mud here - at least we didn't last year.

So I thought - let's take the cover off my SRAM Red shifter and see if there is any difference that might indicate a problem. Cause that Red stuff just works and works and works. Well there is definitely a difference. Although the action is similar, the Red shifter has a somewhat different looking set of parts. The parts that click into the cogs all look a bit beefier. There seems to be more plastic in the Rival shifter. The plastic do-hickey to metal thingy size ratio is different as well. Note how the return spring for the equivalent part is thicker and presumeably stronger in Red. The Red shifter is a lot dirtier inside as I have been using it for basically 3 road seasons now. But it still works perfectly with 0 maintenance.

The mechanism is relatively simple and I couldn't find anything amiss. So what now? Tried the WD-40 trick to see if something was simply sticking a bit. After a day or so of periodic fiddling - no dice. F@ckin f@ckers f@cked as Cavendish would say.

Had a look around on the web. It appears that the new Rival is the same as the 2006 Force internally. But this supposed photo of Force is like the Red internally. Actually looks like Red graphics on the levers too. These are the only two photos I could find of the supposed internals of the SRAM Force shifters. Seems no one much wants to take out those tiny screws, see what's under the hood and take a picture. But I like taking things apart - always have. Was I sure Force is built like Red and not like Rival? No I wasn't. So I went to a mega bike store where the service sucks and the staff have better things to do than serve customers, found a Force bike, rolled up the hood and discretely took a look. I could see what I needed to without removing the screws. Actually, it wasn't that hard, I was the only person on the whole floor where the road bikes were located (close to closing time). Bad news, the Force looks like Rival. Red is different internally.

After much fiddling and cleaning and twisting and turning, it is clear that the Rival is shifting poorly because it has too much play. When I hold the lever just right, I can make it shift properly. But if I don't, it won't shift at all and will dump all the gears at once leaving me in the small cog on the freewheel. It is also clear that the Rival shifter does not feel as authoritative and firm as the Red shifter by a long shot. Red really does a nice solid KER-THUNK between shifts. Force feels like Rival - a bit mushy compared to Red. Kinda makes you wonder why you would buy Force, eh?

I have read of a few problems, but there doesn't seem to be any chronic problems with Rival. I guess I just got a lemon. But I did learn a bit about the construction of these shifters - they ain't all the same inside despite what we have been told. Same patent perhaps, but not the same bits inside. Kind of lame when you think about it. Is it really all that hard (expensive) to make them all like Red for those little metal bits? Still, warranty should cover my issue. But it won't after 2 years - so if you keep your stuff longer than that, I think Red may be worth it.

February 2, 2012 Update  - Well this is just too bizarre. I answered a comment for this post yesterday and today on my way to work, I broke another Rival shifter in exactly the same way. Now this shifter would be about a year and a half old. It was the replacement for the last broken one. I'm pretty sure it broke from using it in cold weather when everything is stiff. It was having a hard time shifting and made a clunking/cracking sound. Basically, I didn't shift it for that entire cold week (this was colder than average Canada winter cold, -30C or so, but it occurs every winter for a while) after the first tough shift. That was a few weeks ago and I thought I had escaped disaster. Apparently not. But still, it shouldn't break. My mountain bike stuff is impervious to cold weather and never breaks down. Not ever in 4 years of winter commuting. So I'm running two for two on Rival shifters and I do think SRAM had/has a chronic problem with Rival rear shifters. Have they fixed it as Anonymous says below? I guess you can pay your money to find out and take your chances. Or not. Will your version be the new version or an old version that sat in some warehouse somewhere for a year. Is there even a new version? Why isn't there a recall? Do you feel lucky? I don't.

January 20, 2014 Update - Both left and right Red shifters (10 speed hub) continue to be flawless. Left Rival levers continue to be flawless as well. Thank heavens for Red right shift levers on Ebay.

August 23, 2010

Off-Road Crit (Cross) Season Begins Today!

At least is does for me. After a successful weekend of road racing and my first and only win, I took the Quarq off the road bike, switched to 46/38 chainrings and put it on the cross bike. Kinda the start of the off-road crit season when you think about it. At least when I look at my heart rate download for the race, they look a lot alike. But with cross you don't have to worry about guys drafting you only to outsprint you and then win off your hard work. You get the satisfaction of knowing the guys behind you are in just as much pain as you are.

August 20, 2010

Maddux Bike Wheels - Would You Like Hot Sauce With That?

There is no doubt that the orient rules the world of bikes. Damn near everything is manufactured there. And this add is obviously part of that overwhelming trend. It's been running in Velonews for at least a few months with this inscrutable catch phrase:

Maddux Wheels, Your Another Choice!!
Choice Means of Very High Quality
Try It.

Of course when I read this, I have to wonder - is this a good thing or a bad thing?  I don't know and have no way of knowing. Is this like a honky getting an oriental tattoo he/she cannot read and hoping it says something profound instead of just "chicken with broccoli"? If I buy these wheels am I getting something good, or is this a tricky way of saying "chicken with broccoli" to the unsuspecting western buyer? If you substitute "chicken with broccoli" for "Maddux Wheels" it does seem to match some of the oriental menus I have seen. It works for a menu item - I'd try it. Not so much for a bicycle wheel though.

But shame on Velonews for not telling Maddux this ad makes no damn sense. After all, it has run in multiple issues. Or is this chicken with broccoli in reverse? Is Velonews telling Maddux this is an excellent catch phrase sure to capture the hearts and minds of the western bicycle wheel buyer? Does the sales manager at Velonews have a tattoo that says "chicken with broccoli" and this is revenge? Hmmm.

August 17, 2010

Cyclocross: Training and Technique Book Review

That time of the year is almost here. In fact I went out for a ride to work on my mounts and dismounts on Saturday - first one of the year. Even though road racing is now at its furious peak this month with Provincial Championships in the crit, road race and time trial all happening. But definitely not the last technique ride - still have that little skip step on the mount. Dang.

But enough of that. If you have the cyclocross bug or just want to read about it, this is the book to get. I won't bore you with the details. It explains the sport, and tells you how to participate and get better at it. Buy it, read it. Or go to the store and browse it, then buy it, then read it. Your choice. Worth every penny.

August 14, 2010

SRAM Red Shifters and Derailleurs Review

I have been riding SRAM Red for two full seasons and part of this season now. Originally I bought it because I wanted to dump Shimano and support the little guy. I guess they aren't really all that little any more. I also liked the fact that it was nice and light - the lightest group. And I got a decent price on it. And my last experience with Shimano left me feeling empty and wanting more.

As for the doubletap versus the other systems out there, I don't think it matters too much. You adapt to whatever system you have pretty fast. It became second nature to me after one or two rides and there was no painful transition period of any kind. I'm sure going the reverse way from SRAM to Shimano would be equally painless. Not that I plan to try it any time soon.

One slight issue. The relatively large paddle on the shifter can trap your finger if you don't keep them out of the space between the levers and the handlebars and give you a boo boo if you squeeze too hard. I noticed it a few times when I first got them, but I haven't noticed it for some time. I guess the pain thing is an effective training tool. Another cool thing is that you can grip the handlebars and the rear derailleur shifter at the same time. Then with just a slight twitch, you can shift to the next higher gear. You can sprint full out and shift while hanging on hard to the handlebars. Theoretically that should help your sprint if you get spun out. I do it in practice, but I always forget during a race. But I'm not a hard core sprinter and it hasn't affected my results any. Still cool though.

I don't know exactly how many km I have on it now as I ride several bikes, not just one. But it certainly would be over 10,000 km. I have crashed it once, so one of the shift levers is a bit scratched up, but no casualties.

The front derailleur shows no sign of wear on the derailleur cage. Just wipe it down every so often to get the chain dirt off of it. The rear derailleur seems to be pretty durable. In my one crash, it did go into the spokes and the derailleur hanger was bent. I bent it back (by the derailleur body) and went on my way. Shifting was not bad. Replaced the derailleur hanger and shifting was as good as ever. Nice. Can I tell the pulleys use ceramic bearings? No. But I'm sure it gives me an edge of some kind, doesn't it?

How has it worked? Basically, it works just as well today as it did on day 1 - pretty flawless. When it does start shifting poorly, it is only because my cables or cable housings need replacement. As soon as I replace the offending frayed cable, or delaminating cable housing, Voila! It starts shifting perfectly again. The big difference I notice between SRAM and Shimano (Ultegra admittedly) is that the Shimano shifter starts to get loose on the downshift. It gets dirty or something and starts to shift like crap after several thousand km. The SRAM has never shown this tendancy. It started out sharper and crisper than Shimano and it is still just as sharp and crisp after lots of wear and tear. Maintenance? None. No lube of any kind in the shifters. The derailleurs get a shot of WD40 on the pivot points and a wipe down after severe wet rides but I have only done this 2 or 3 times to date. I'm not an obsessive cleaner type. You can believe that.

The whole index shifting, derailleur thing used to be a pretty finicky affair with a couple of shimano drive trains I used in the past. Lots of adjusting and poor shifting at times for no reason I could determine. And of course, nothing is more frustrating than a shifter that won't shift, no matter how many times you click it (and you cannot repair it either). So the SRAM is a pretty spectacular upgrade to all that in my books. It just works. It's easy to adjust the shifting. It stays aligned longer. And I don't expect to have to replace it any time soon. It's working that perfectly.

Bottom line? Kind of obvious isn't it?

August 10, 2010

Stupid Bike Tricks

Bike competitions are about far more than going from Point A to Point B, as fast as possible. Some people, typically Europeans, find extremely stupid competitive things to do with bikes. But since they make me laugh (for a few seconds anyway), the money, time and trouble they invest is well worth it.

What can you say about Bike Ballet that hasn't already been said? I know I get razzed enough about lycra and leg shaving. Imagine what these guys must endure. I admit, I couldn't watch the whole thing. But I did notice that the crowd seems extremely excited when they quit.

August 07, 2010

Zero Gravity Ti Ciamillo Brake Review

I have had these brakes for a couple of years now. Here is my take:

  • Nice and light
  • Swissstop yellow pads
  • Work well, strong braking action with conventional rim width and good pads. 
  • No mechanical issues, seem bulletproof
  • Nice and expensive, but they're titanium!
  • The swissstop pads are the Campy version, so they cost more than the Shimano version to replace. But you can switch to different pad holders.
  • The brakes cannot accomodate the newer wide carbon rims from Zipp and Hed. The calipers only work for pretty conventional rim widths.
  • The quick release lever doesn't do much of anything. Wide tires are a pain to get past the calipers.
  • They are pretty clunky and square looking. Definitely not aero. The nooks and crannies trap dirt and are a pain to clean out.
  • The front brake nut was too short for my Cervelo. They promised to send me a new longer one, but they never did. Had to buy my own. Service issues?
Bottom line? If light weight is more important than just about anything else, then you will like these. Otherwise, give them a pass.

August 04, 2010

How to Dress for Cycling - or Maybe The Local Java Joint Patio

Well, I was planning on a ride and I thought I would get expert advice on what to wear. What better place than Velonews, right? They have a very sophisticated system by Castelli that should be guaranteed to keep me not too cold, not too hot, but just right - like Goldilocks!

So I dialed in my weather characteristics and like magic, I was told exactly what to wear. Of course it is all Castelli stuff, but you can substitute if you have to. Imagine my surprise when I put in 60-70F, <10F increase, and dry conditions only to find out that I need a lot more clothing than I have been wearing. I normally would wear bib shorts and a jersey, socks, shoes, helmet, gloves. That's it. Apparently I also need arm warmers, a vest, a hat, a baselayer, and strangely shoe covers (actually "Belgian booties") to keep spray off my feet. Since I said dry, I'm guessing it must have just rained and the road is still wet, I just don't know it. Either that or it's a dry spray of some sort.

Not a particularly useful tool for choosing clothes for riding. But for sitting at the patio, on a day with a bit of a breeze and perhaps in the shade, the recommendation should be perfect. And you will look very sporty in your new Castelli gear - all clean and shiny. With warm dry feet in case someone spills an ice latte on them or better yet cold beer, as they are Belgian booties, after all. So yes, it is a very useful clothing guide.

July 23, 2010

Castelli Pioggia 2 Cycling Shoe Cover Review

Doesn't a pair of light, but waterproof shoe covers sound great for rainy days in summer? And they were OK for a while. They weren't all that waterproof though. I couldn't really get a very good seal on the top of the shoe cover, so rain would run down my leg and into my shoes. They were windproof though and a reasonable alternative when riding in cool weather in spring and fall.

Now the bad news. After a single ride on a wet dirty road day for about 100 km, the zippers work like crap. The nylon teeth just got jammed up and I now have a heck of a time doing them up or undoing them. They have one of those zippers with the tiny coil nylon teeth. After that particular ride, it took me about 20 minutes just to get the zipper down without breaking it. I then cleaned the zippers and lubed them and I can get them up and down without killing myself. But the teeth are chewed up a bit and they will never work properly again. A pain to use now. I'm going to try the Pearl Izumi barrier lite covers that have no zipper. Nothing to go wrong I figure. We shall see. They are way cheaper too.

These babies were expensive. Definitely not recommended. Those tiny coil zippers suck for shoe covers. I have a generic pair of neoprene shoe covers with the big fat toothed zippers that have worked perfectly for years though. But they are made for cold weather and not a warm rainy ride or even a cool ride.

July 17, 2010

Dan's Diary on

I just stumbled across this site a few days ago. What a gem. Dan's Diary is hilarious, but it doesn't let you link or embed the videos too well. Oh well, check it out for yourself at Ozcycling. I've only watched a few of them, but I found them pretty entertaining. I like the Aussie humour though.

Actually, take a look at the rest of the site too. Nice change from the more mainstream media. Go Cadel Go.

July 16, 2010

Would Tom Boonen Do It That Way?

Pretty funny stuff- two skinny cyclists fighting. Barreda (from Quickstep)trying to club the Rui Costa senseless with a wheel. What do they think this is? Hockey? Better start taking lessons if you're going to fight. These guys just crack me up. Although I would be pissed if I was Rui Costa - didn't quite get a chance to wail on Barreda after he took the wheel away from him.

Renshaw Gets the Boot - One More Thing

Robbie McEwan makes a really good point in this video. In the days before the leadout train, you could punish a sprinter by taking away their points, relegating them to last, etc. In the modern era of sprinting only a handful of sprinters are actually going for the win, the rest are simply cannon fodder to get the team sprint leaders a good lead out. There is no possible penalty you could give them that they care about, except kicking them out of the race. So, if you are the Tour de France Race Jury and you need to make a point with one of the lead out specialists, you have no choice but to kick them out. Otherwise your penalties are really just a pathetic joke. Are we going to see sprinters being kicked out of races more in the future? Probably, as the lead out train is the way the sport is evolving. Not a bad thing, just the way it has to be if you want to enforce the rules for the lead out men.

Some good comments in this vid.

July 15, 2010

Renshaw Kicked Out of LeTour For Playing Chicken

Wow. I thought Cavendish was aggressive when he ran into Haussler and that whole spitting thing. Renshaw makes him look pretty well-mannered by comparison. First he repeatedly head butts Julian Dean to stop him from passing. Certainly disrupts the Garmin lead out. Then he looks over his shoulder, sees Tylar Farrar coming and squeezes him into the barriers to slow Farrar as he squeezes by. Cavendish should buy him a case of beer for helping him win, since he won't be racing in LeTour any more this year and can get as drunk as a skunk now.

Pretty dangerous racing - basically a game of chicken. Overly aggressive bullying tactics against riders who have a little more respect for the sport. Glad he's out if that's the way Columbia wants to play the game. And the interesting race for the green jersey continues. Another interesting fact. Zabel, who is the Columbia sprint coach, was also penalized for head butting in 1997. He went from first place to last place. Hmm. I wonder where the Columbia guys get their aggressive inspiration?

Good view of head butt and then Renshaw running Farrar into the barriers.

July 03, 2010

Bradley Wiggins - Worst Race Strategist Ever?

So you get the privilege and honour of starting 4th from last in Le Tour. But you think... Hmm.. Maybe it will rain for the favourites. I know some guys who are great at predicting the weather (50/50?). They sail boats. They tell me I can ride early and WIN. Now that's a plan!!!!

Now when you think about it there are a few choices for Sky's spectacular grand-master type strategist. You can race with the fast guys. Mano a mano. If conditions suck, they suck for all the big guns. And you don't lose any time (based on the weather at least) to them. Of course, you have to be able to post a respectable time on a level playing field.

Now for the Sky chosen strategy. Let's predict the weather. Everyone knows how predictable the weather is. We have decades of weathermen who have to withstand the regular failure of their predictions to prove it's not a reliable science. And they know what they are doing - they aren't a bunch of rich hobbyist sailors that Sky uses for their expert advice. If you are right, you gain some time on the favourites. If you are wrong, you lose time on the favourites. I guess Sky felt lucky - maybe they felt their name gave them special leverage with the weather.

Wrong. You lose. And judging from the results, it's questionable if Wiggo could have kept up with the favorites anyway. So maybe that was the point? A built in excuse to save face?  We shall see, but I'm not expecting too much from Wiggins this Tour. If you really thought you were a contender, you would race with them instead of taking a desperate gamble on the first day. Some other contenders on the team though.