February 26, 2010

Whey Protein Powder Mixing Secret

Do you use whey protein? I do. I need all the muscle I can get. Supposedly, it is good stuff and not just for body builders. Check it out on the web - endurance athletes need lots of protein. But it has this nasty ability to clump together when I mix it. I am too lazy to pull out the blender for mixing (and clean it after). I use a spoon. And I just discovered a cool and effective way to mix it into my milk. First of all, I use whey protein isolate with no added flavor, color, sugar, or artificial sweetener. Can't stand that artificially sweetened stuff. Way too sweet and way too horrible tasting. I don't take this stuff to get a bunch of chemical additives. Not a requirement for the mixing secret, but that is what I like.

So the secret? Put your protein powder in a glass. Then add Nestles Quik powder (not liquid) to suit your preferred taste. Mmm. Chocolate. Don't add milk yet (skim of course). Mix the two powders until they are nicely blended. Then you can add the milk. Notice how much easier it is to mix the powder into the milk? No globbing of the protein powder. The Quik really helps and it doesn't taste too bad either. And at the bottom you get a nice treat of sweet stuff.

I like it!

19 Jun 2011 Correction: Put in the Nestle`s first, then the protein powder. Can`t believe I was so naive back then.

February 24, 2010

Rollers versus Trainer Workouts

Having fried my Tacx Fortius POS by riding it during a power failure, my rollers are now my primary indoor trainer. I have had these rollers since the 80's. They have aluminum drums and a rubber wheel tensioning device - made by Minoura before magnets were invented, at least for trainers. The rubber wheel does get pretty hot, but the higher resistance also lets me give my butt a break by shifting to a higher gear to stand up and pedal every now and then. I am a little worried that the rubber wheel will disintegrate while I am standing up pedaling. That would be a great crash for Youtube though. Maybe I need to start videoing my workouts.

But I have relearned a few things on the rollers. The main one is that you simply cannot do hard intervals. Rollers are good for endurance, tempo and even threshold training, but that's about it. When you try to do anaerobic intervals, even seated ones, it gets a bit hairy. I find my bike gets into some kind of harmonic wave, moving forward and backward on the rollers like a pendulum. A little spooky and I am sure it will break loose at some point and send me careening into the bedroom wall. And because I am pedaling at high wattage, the crash will be much more spectacular than normal. So after a brief experiment yesterday, I gave up on intervals at 150% or 200% of my functional threshold power. Thinking I was just an uncoordinated wimp, I took a gander on the web and Chris Carmichael agrees, rollers are fine for lower intensity workouts, but are not recommended for high intensity intervals. Must be true then.

Bottom line? I need a trainer so I can go crazy in the bedroom. On my trainer that is. I have a Kurt Kinetic road machine on order. About the same cost as fixing the Tacx and no electricity required. Instead of the Tacx Fortius, buy yourself a quality fluid trainer and a powermeter for your bike. Then watch movies and TV shows instead of the same real life video time after time. Way better value as the powermeter is useful year round, not just in winter. I like my Quarq. And yes, I am still bitter about the fried Fortius.

February 22, 2010

Piece of Crap Video - Dedicated to My Tacx Fortius

Looks Great! I Want It!
Problem is, I bought it.
More info available here.
And yeah, I'm still bitter.
But this video post makes me feel a bit better.

February 20, 2010

Uh Oh. Specialized Shiv Deemed Illegal by the UCI

Can you believe Specialized and Astana management could be caught with their pants pulled this far down? Wow. I predicted the Shiv would be legal. Oops. Even though Specialized looks to have removed the offending nose cone, the UCI banned the Shiv on Thursday. Unfortunately for Contador, the Volta ao Algarve time trial is tomorrow. Velonews says Specialized knew since Jan 28, so they should have been far better prepared. Looking for a last minute break I bet. Heads should roll! Apparently, the headtube area was to blame. So Contador at least is going to use the Specialized Transition as soon as they cut off a couple of fins that make that bike illegal as well. Don't know what Saxobank is going to use yet, but they aren't at the race. Cancellara is busy winning at Oman, but losing the time trial (2nd is first loser right?) - on his road bike.

Not great advertising for either of Specialized's bikes. Apparently Giant is also worried about their bikes. More info here. Trek and Felt bikes are supposed to be legal. No word on other brands yet. Cervelo Test Team is there. With all the changes, I wonder if Specialized is still boasting about the Shiv wind tunnel performance? The 2010 design is starting to look pretty conventional.

I have been following this issue closely because I want to buy a TT bike this year. (My previous bike was a pair of clip-ons on a Cervelo Soloist Carbon). But I need to be able to race in Nationals so I need to be UCI legal. My advice is to hold on before pulling the trigger on a new TT bike if you need to be UCI legal anytime soon. I know I am not buying anything before this is resolved. Plus I need more money.

Is it the bike or the man? - stay tuned. I bet Levi is going for it. He is only 28 seconds down and Alberto has a new bike he hasn't trained on with sawed off parts. Some early season drama coming up tomorrow.

When Should I Replace My Chain? Probably Soon.

Did you know your bicycle chain is not metric? Shocking! Your wheels are, your frame is, what's going on? Somehow that whole Euro-metric thing completely bypassed the bike chain. Or at least, no one remembered to change it. As a result, on a new chain the distance between links is 1/2 inch. An inside plate/outside plate combo is 1 inch. 10 speed, 9 speed, 8 speed? Doesn't matter. Makes old folks and Americans feel right at home. Being a good Canadian, I am bilingual. I speak both metric and American (Imperial) so I'm comfortable with this anomaly.

Of course that chain length tidbit is a hint to you on how to tell if your chain is worn and needs to be replaced or if it is still OK. Lots of rules of thumb out there. Chains are expensive and you don't want to buy more than you need. But cassettes are a little more expensive and a worn chain will wear out your cassette. Then when you buy a new chain, it will skip in a very annoying fashion. You don't want that to happen either. Actually, you can buy a SRAM 1070 or Shimano 105 cassette for about the same price as a decent 10 speed chain. So if you aren't using the 1090 or DuraAce cassettes, ride 'em 'till they skip. That may be the cheapest solution. Then replace them both.

Actually, I don't do that. That won't work for me because I switch wheels quite a bit. And I change cassettes depending on what I'm doing - flat time trial? hilly road race? mountain pass? So the chain has to be in good shape to fit all of the above without skipping on any of them. So what's a conscientious cyclist to do? Well you can measure your chain with a non-metric, American marked-off ruler in inches. 12 inches = 24 links. 12 and 1/8 inch = a worn out chain. I would replace it a bit sooner if you can. I don't like to go to the full 1% wear.

Or you can get a chain measuring device. But you should check said device to make sure it is measuring what you think it is. Since the rollers on each brand of chain are slightly different, your device may not be as accurate as you think for the chain you use. Really, this is easy to check. Check it on a new chain. That should show no wear on your fancy, shmancy indicator. If it doesn't, adjust your interpretation of the results accordingly.

February 18, 2010

There Is More Than One Way To Ride A Bike!

I like bikes. Who doesn't? But apparently, some people really, really like their bikes. Not necessarily biking, just bikes. They like them so much, they become somewhat attached to them, in a physically fulfilling, if somewhat curious manner. I have heard of bike porn, and it usually is associated with a desire for the hot new swag. But this normally is more about the thrill of the purchase. And the fact that the swag will almost certainly transform me into a protour rider. It's typically not related to a motel room rendezvous.

It's not only bikes that get this special treatment. Others like pavement apparently. Maybe these two should get together in some kind of support group.

I still can't quite figure out why this is a crime. Generally it would be a victimless crime, assuming he was enjoying his own bike. Bikes were made to be ridden weren't they? Live and let live, as long as no one has to see it. Although I definitely would feel victimized if someone did this to my bike. Grounds for divorce? I would have to put it on Ebay or something and look for a younger, hotter bike. The pavement crime really stretches my sense of justice though. Although extremely odd no doubt, who cares? I'm sure the pavement could take anything he could dish out. Course, maybe he did it on the road. Or perhaps he took some pavement home with him and was a major cause of potholes?

February 16, 2010

Dugast's Diavolo Spike Cross Tire - Diabolical

The nastiest studded tire I have ever seen. Makes my Schwalbe Ice Spikers look anemic. Banned by the UCI of course. But maybe with good cause in this case. Nieuwhuis (the owner of Dugast) thinks they are fine:

He maintains, however, that design of the tyre allows the sharp pins to move within the tread’s knobs, from 0.1mm to 0.5mm, so they weren’t dangerous, or that’s how he had hoped the UCI would see it.

I wouldn't want one of these babies running over my lycra-clad body laying prostrate in the snow. Youch! I would probably wound myself just messing around with it on the bike stand. And you better carry that bike across the hardwood (and lino) on the way to the basement for servicing or your significant other will cause you even more pain.

Actually, everyone had the same level of traction, or lack thereof at Worlds. So the race was fair as long as no one had these tires. But read the article. This guy is a craftsman with a passion for the sport and all the best to him for pushing the envelope. See the video.

Dugast Diavolo - The Video

As a follow (lead?) up to the next post
I heard him say "Montreal"
I think he is saying "These would be very good for bike hockey"

February 14, 2010

Tacx Fortius Virtual Trainer Revisited (It Was a POS)

Nice cycling kit.
Almost looks like jeans.

So in an earlier post I heartily recommended the Tacx Virtual Reality trainer, if you have the expendable income. I am well into building early year base now and have been perched on that trainer quite a bit. So here is a bit of a different take.

Everything on the trainer works just fine and there are lots of hours on it, believe me. The interesting thing is, I no longer bother with the virtual reality or the real life videos much. Most of the time I just put it in the catalyst mode and put on TV show videos. Last year it was Lost. This year it was Heroes. Now I am into Prison Break. Not quite up to Lost or Heroes standards, but what can you do? I still find this far less boring than watching a screen with some scenery going by. Sometimes I put on a real life video to vary the intensity, but I don't actually watch it. I have no trouble riding at endurance or threshold pace and watching TV. I usually do one 3-hour ride a week and a few 1-2 hour rides.

So did I waste my money? Probably a bit. The trainer is high quality and it does have all the resistance I need to stand or sprint. And I like the ability to program in a specific interval workout - very easy to do actually. But I know cheaper Tacx trainers would do the same thing. Almost every trainer with enough resistance would work fine for base building. But when I get to higher intensity, more painful workouts, I probably won't be able to veg out on the TV shows. I will have to concentrate. The Tacx is useful there, especially as I can race myself from a previous workout. It is easier getting the intensity up in that situation. And the ability to program a workout is useful for sure.

Recommendation? Go for the cheaper I-Magic version if you want a virtual reality trainer. The motor assist on the Fortius really isn't necessary or even beneficial. And don't forget to not buy the steering unit.

Very Important Evening Update: Wrote this post earlier. And then had a power failure this afternoon while I was riding the trainer - two hours in. Power came back on in about 15 mins. But the trainer didn't. When I ran the diagnostic software, it cannot detect the brake. When I picked up the power unit and turned it over, something is rattling around in there. Took off the cover and it smells burnt. I'm guessing it was fried by a power surge. Since it seems to be the only thing in the house that was affected, appears this unit is not very durable. TV's fine. Appliances are fine. Everything else in the house is fine. Not all that impressive electronics and I'm kind of pissed off. If you have one of these, put it on a good surge suppressor.

I had to get back on the rollers for the rest of the workout. They don't plug in and there is something to be said for that. Tacx warranty is over. Am I going to buy a new Fortius? Not bloody likely. Fixing the brake costs about the price of a very nice conventional trainer. Looking around on the web, it seems the brake fails on a regular basis. Some people have way more patience than I do. They cost too much for that kind of poor performance.

Hmm. Kurt Kinetic anyone? Check out their warranty! Or this review!

February 13, 2010

Riccardo Riccò - A Even Bigger Loser Than Anyone Thought

A convicted doper, Riccardo has split with his girlfriend Vania Rossi because she tested positive for the same substance he tested positive for - CERA. Of course when Riccardo took it, he thought it was undectable. But what really gets me is that he has a little boy with this woman, yet he is leaving her because she did the same thing he did. Trying to make himself look better by repenting some more for the media? How lame. I can see why Cavendish wants to punch him out. I kind of feel the same way.

Regardless of whether she is guilty or not, she is definitely better off without this loser. He is all about himself. Hope they have tough child support laws in Italy.

February 12, 2010

Chain Lube - It's Not Always The Same

The chain lube that works the best for dry conditions, doesn't work for wet conditions. And vice versa. There are a zillion types of lube and most of them are good for something. None of them are good for everything. I basically use one main lube. Where I live it is generally dry. And I hate riding in the rain, so even when it does rain, I usually avoid it. The vast majority of the time, I use Progold Prolink lube. It is a thin lube that doesn't attract much dirt. But it washes off easily in wet weather. So - great for drier conditions. Easy to clean the chain too. Not so good in the wet. OK for occasional wet weather though.
In winter, the game changes around here. In winter commuting, Prolink doesn't even last a single commute in slushy conditions. You can apply it every single day and it will still not do the job. This winter has been particularly slushy and the City is using a lot of salt on the bike pathways too. I am also transporting my bike on a bike rack on the car which means even more exposure to salt. The result? A rusty chain. I had some Phil Wood Tenacious Oil that I use whenever I need thick oil. So I gave it a try on the chain. This is very thick, sticky oil. It almost doesn't qualify as oil. The verdict? This is a good choice for very wet or slush conditions. It lasts about a week for me. Chain still goes dry in a week and a half. Depends on how wet and how far you ride of course. But difficult to wash off even on a really bad ride. Gives you a shot at protecting your drivetrain from rust. Note: if you use it in dry summer conditions it is way overkill. It will attract too much dirt and is hard to clean off your chain without going to nasty solvents. Don't use it for your chain except in extreme wet/slushy conditions. Then it is the answer.

February 10, 2010

Adjusting That Dang Front Derailleur

The front derailleur can be a pain to get shifting nicely sometimes. Unlike the rear derailleur, there is no pre-determined alignment of the cage plane of travel to the teeth and no pre-determined cage distance from the teeth. The rear derailleur works pretty well right out of the box if your hanger is straight. The front derailleur? Not so much. Yeah, you can look at the instructions and line it up with the measurements they recommend. Works great on the bike stand. Then you get out on the road and it gets temperamental. It won't go into the big ring all the time. Or it rubs when you get near the edge of the cassette on the back gear. Or it falls off the rings to the inside or the outside. Once I start riding, I don't like to stop and fiddle around. Screws up the workout, doesn't it?

So here is what I do. Put the bike on the mag-trainer/wind trainer/fluid trainer and start shifting gears. The advantage of doing it on the trainer is that you can check to see how it shifts under load. You can't do that on the bike stand. Put it in a moderately hard gear to do the shifting. Try shifting both ways near both ends of the cassette.

Shifting sucks? First set the cage height above the large derailleur teeth. Just follow the manufacturers recommendation. Yeah, I know, you have to read the directions. Bummer. Lost the instructions? Look on a website. Or if that fails and you are shy, go to a bike store and surreptitiously look at front derailleurs on built-up bikes (hoping they are set right - check a few really expensive ones using your brand of derailleur). Measure them against your fingernail width or something. Might as well check the left-right alignment to the big chainring while you are skulking around. Then make your derailleur match theirs when you get home (note: probably not a good idea to work on your bike at the store if this is an indication of your relationship with them).

Now you need to get the cage centred over the rings properly so that it shifts easily between rings, especially to the big ring, regardless of what gear you are in at the back. This is done by rotating the cage inward or outward slightly relative to the seat tube. A little adjustment goes a long way. Start with the outside of the cage parallel to the outer chainring if you don't have a clue. Then adjust one iota at a time - if it isn't shifting properly. Be patient, this is the hardest part of the adjustment. Once you get this right, the rest is easy. Don't fuss with the limit screws until you get this done. Every time you move the cage a bit, the limit screws need to be reset. It ain't worth it at this stage. Keep the limit screws a bit loose.

Once it is shifting nicely under moderate load, hooray. Now try it with high resistance like you would experience pushing hard on the road. Try it shifting big to small and small to big using your second lowest gear in back and your second highest gear in back. If it works in all these combinations, hooray again. It is more important to get the chain to shift to the big ring under load, than the small ring. The big ring is usually the problem shift and you can't win a race without it (except a hill climb). Assuming your bike shifts under a reasonable load to the small ring, you don't need to get it to shift under extreme load. You can always ease up for a second to get it to go down. Tighten the derailleur up properly so it doesn't change - but don't strip the threads. Use a torque wrench if you have one. Be careful if you don't.

Now you can set your limit screws. I like to set my inside limit to rub just slightly when in the lowest gear and under load (small ring/big cog). That way, when I shift from the big ring to the small ring and I'm at or near the big cog in back, my chain likely won't fall off. This situation is fairly common and a killer, because you are usually going uphill and you lose all your momentum. I'd rather rub a little bit. On the outside I set it with no rub - barely.

That's it. Enjoy your smooth shifting. And keep that drivetrain clean. Now go for a ride.

February 08, 2010

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Kickbiking

I'm guessing it is critical that your shoelaces are tied.
And if you hit a big bump and your foot came off - uh oh.
But think of the money you would save on groupos, chains, and lube.
Looks like an awesome core and hamstring workout.

At last! A bike where I can wear my 70's shorts.
But where do I put my 2 tubes and multitool?
Nice speed wobble at the Finnish finish line.

February 06, 2010

Weights - Fountain of Youth Revisited

So I have been hitting the weights for a month now. Don't worry, I follow my own advice. But I started late this year because I smacked my ribs on some ice riding last fall. Took a while before they healed enough that I could lift. As a result, I am well behind last year in building strength. But the cool thing is the last couple of days I have felt the overall body lightness that comes with hitting weights. Yeah, lifting is boring. But I only do 6 exercises times 3 reps each. Only takes about 20 minutes if you alternate exercises and don't stop. The results are amazing if you give it time.

Here is my current 20 min, 3 times a week workout:
  • Squats/Rows combo
  • Pull-ups/Sit-ups combo
  • Toe raises/curl-military press combo or
  • Lunges/curl-military press combo
By doing the weights in combos, you work one set of muscles while resting the other. I don't really rest at all between reps. Time-saver and gives you an aerobic component to the workout. So turn up the tunes and hit the weights. This really is a life skill that will help you no matter what sport you do, or even if you don't do sports. Just make sure you phase it in gradually with light weights. Lance does it, you should too.

February 04, 2010

Contador's TT Bike Seat

Yeah, those carbon saddles are light, but I often wondered how you ride them. Not only are they a bit on the firm side, I always expected they would be slippery. I guess Alberto has a solution for that slippery shorts problem. Between the hardness of the shell and the sandpaper or whatever this is, he must have the hide of a rhino. Especially since this is a TT saddle. He spends most of his time perched on the nose. I guess it takes more than just an engine to be a protour rider. From this Velonews article.

February 02, 2010

TT Chronicles Pt. 3/5: What Are Teams Riding to be UCI-legal for 2010?

It's still hard to find out what TT bikes are really being ridden on the protour in 2010. Tour Down Under forgot to have a time trial which would have been great for clearing up UCI-illegal rumours. If you haven't heard, there is a rumour that previously legal TT bikes are no longer UCI-legal. A UCI time trial at the upside down tour would have set the standards for 2010, presumably.

I found one interesting news item. Garmin-Transitions is riding Felt again (yawn). But take a close look at Dave Zabriskie's bike in the foreground of this image I found on Cycling News. The seatpost is more aero and the whole headset/stem area has been changed compared to the other Felt TT bikes in the picture. The stem appears to lower the handlebars further. And look at those handlebars. About as extreme as they get. Seemingly this bike has been made more illegal according to UCI rules. All the bikes in the photo seem to have those 3T handlebars, with slightly different extensions, etc. I began to doubt the rumour mill.
I went on the hunt for more info. That whole world wide interweb thing is amazing isn't it? I found this triathlon article with photos of Alberto's Specialized Shiv. Hmm. The Shiv was one of the bikes the rumours suggested was outlawed for sure. Sounds like they simply modified a few minor things for the UCI. Still looks like a very radical design and not much different from the original Fabian Cancellara version.
And then I found another one. Lance's Trek Speed Concept. Again, looks pretty radical and just like last year's Astana version. More evidence this UCI-illegal rumour mongering is just a bunch of hot air? Especially curious since we know Felt bikes is an official UCI partner, so you would think their bikes are by definition legal? And I can't imagine Alberto training on a bike he can't use in competition. Or Lance twittering and badging a bike that is illegal. I'm going out on a limb and declaring the rumours are sensationalist crap. With a few minor tweaks, the manufacturers will continue with essentially their current designs in 2010.

The Tour of Qatar in a few days does have a team time trial, but it isn't a UCI event. There are supposed to be some fine time trial riders there including Cancellera, Wiggins, Phinney, Boassen Hagen, etc. But an 8.2 km Team Time Trial? Come on. We can't even see the team TT bikes because they are only allowed to use their road bikes. Lamest TT ever. But I predict that at the Volta ao Algarve we will see that the Shiv and others are allowed.

Check out the next edition of the TT Chronicles here.