March 31, 2010

Hell of the North - Old School, But The Cobbles Haven't Changed

It's just about that time again. Time for Paris-Roubaix that is. This is a really interesting race because the race directors and their radios have little influence on the outcome - i.e., not boring and predictable.

"It's the race that everyone wants to win but nobody wants to ride" Great quote from Allessandro Ballan. A ride like that would kill most people and these guys race it. Or at least the bigger, stronger riders do. Not a race for the 130 lb climbers. Something like 6 hours and a zillion crashes.

Anyways, I found these excerpts from A Sunday In Hell. Old school 1976 version of the race, but things haven't changed much in terms of how hard it is and what you have to do to win. Sit back and admire. I don't know which is better, mud or dust. I think I have to buy this video.

How to clean your bike before Paris-Roubaix

The Beginning

Some Background

Some Action

See. It's still hard - Boonen in 2009, note the blood and spit it takes to win - even on a dry day. The guy behind him is totally stunned and amazed.

March 26, 2010

Quarq Power Meter Review - Excellent Warranty Repair Experience

So just as I decided to follow the program from Training and Racing with a Power Meter, my Quarq gave up the ghost. I reviewed the Quarq in a previous post and it had been working just fine the day before on a 4 hour ride. No problem I thought, battery must have died as it had been about a year with the original battery. I was due. Bought a new battery and put it in. No dice. No power, no cadence. Although my Garmin could detect the power meter. So, since I had a two year warranty and only one year had passed, I emailed Quarq from their website contact info with my problem. Got a response the next day telling me to send it in for a firmware update. Apparently, there was a glitch in my vintage of firmware that caused the unit to shut down when the battery got low.

Being a thrifty person, I sent it fairly cheaply - five working day delivery. I sent it in on a Tuesday night. Got it back a week and a half later on Friday (today). So that was a very timely turn around. No return postage due, delivered by Fedex. Now this is pretty decent service since I am in Canada and they are in the US. Not only that, they cleaned everything up nicely. Haven't seen those chainrings this clean since I bought them. Spotless.

Wait, there's more! Quarq included a free water bottle (can always use another one of those, eh?). They also included new epoxy, two new magnets and a metal ring that I guess can be used on certain types of frames to hold the magnet. My magnet is still hanging in there so I haven't bothered with it.

All in all, absolutely top-notch service from a top-notch company. Very impressive and makes me glad I purchased it. And I gave her an hour on the trainer tonight - working just fine thank you. Full marks Quarq.

June 30, 2011 Update: Another year, another dead battery. Unscrew cap, buy battery from local watch repair shop, replace, rescrew cap. Everything works perfectly. This is a very, very good product.

May 23, 2012 Update: Another year, battery not dead yet. Everything working perfectly.

March 24, 2010

How Much Are Those TT Handlebars In The Window?

So now that I have the TT bike (well I don't actually have it yet, but I did pull the trigger on a deposit on the frame) it is time to equip it. I joked at the end of the last TT post about the handlebar decision. Talk about foreshadowing.

Two major issues. Number one: Are those handlebars UCI-legal? Time trial handlebars have been hit even harder than frames by the UCI. Handlebars that were in use for quite a long time became illegal. Now new handlebars are coming out that claim to be UCI legal, but some of them look pretty iffy if you think about the 3:1 rule. Basically, the handlebar has to be at least 1/3 as thick as it is wide. You can see that unless the 3T ventus is monstrously thick in the vertical plane, it isn't legal. It isn't monstrously thick or legal (and does not claim to be legal, but makes a good illustration for this point). Nice looking piece of shwag, but don't show up to a UCI event with it and assume you are good to go. So, uncertainty about handlebars with currently only a few officially claiming to be UCI legal.

Issue Number Two: Holy crap are those things expensive! At least for something reasonably light, and often for something unreasonably heavy. Spending several hundred dollars for handlebars was causing me grief.

Being a thrifty person at times, I thought back to the whole discussion about time trial frames and how much time they save over 40 km (about 60 secs compared to a non-aero frame). Then I thought about how much smaller handlebars are compared to frames and how your arms are sticking out there creating turbulance ahead of the handlebars. Then I thought, this is really poor value as the difference between the most radical UCI-illegal handlebars and aluminum bullhorns with clip-ons is probably what? 5 to 10 seconds for a 40 km TT at most? Probably more like <5 seconds? And that made me feel much less grief.

What did I do? For the time being, I just bought a cheap bullhorn for $24 and am using my clip-ons from last year which cost $105 this year. Note that the extensions are also on top of the base bar which is considered a desireable feature if you want to emulate your heroes. My bullhorn is slightly aero, but definitely UCI-legal. Brake cable routing is partially internal and I think I can rig something to make them aerodynamically minimalist the rest of the way using an amazing invention called electric tape. Shifter cable routing is entirely internal.

If you believe the weights, this setup weighs 265 g plus 180 g equals 445 g for $129. A pretty light cockpit in terms of both weight and my pocketbook. And a far better gram:dollar ratio than the bars I was looking at. You can get yours today at Jensen. And this system has a high level of adjustability, something the costlier carbon versions sometimes lack and something important to me with my screwed up hockey shoulders.

I am thinking the money I saved could go a long way to providing most of the payment on a disk wheel which will gain me more than 5 secs in a 40 km TT (depending which carbon one-piece aerobar I pretend to have purchased). We shall see how this system works this year and perhaps re-evaluate the whole handlebar issue when the UCI dust settles. I expect that although it is not nearly as bling, this setup is just as fast. Time will tell. TTs start next month.

March 22, 2010

Crank Brothers Eggbeater Pedals Review

Yesterday I was doing some maintenance on a few bikes, and I noticed my Crank Brothers Eggbeater Pedal on my commuter bike was creaking. Basically, the guts of the pedals were really dry. This was not too surprising as I had been riding these pedals on my commutes, summer and winter for a couple of years. With 0 maintenance until now.

I had never taken these pedals apart before and had no idea how hard it would be. Not one to look for instructions, I started at the logical location - get a slotted screwdriver out and unthread the plastic end cap. Turns out that is pretty easy. Looking inside, I could see what looked like either a nut or some complicated POS I would never be able to get apart without proprietary tools. There was still some grease in there and it was obscuring the mechanicals. I went for the simple solution and grabbed my socket set, trying a few sockets until voila! An 8 mm socket was grabbing something. Unscrew that baby and off the pedal body popped. Really, how easy was that?

And it looked just like this. Except dirtier. And there was no grease at all on the inboard half of the pedal shaft. There seems to be a nylon bushing at that point rather than a bearing. Clean it, grease it, put it back together. Wow, why can't all pedals be that simple?

And how are the pedals? Great. But don't buy the cheap versions. I bought a pair of cheaper ones and broke them pretty fast. And I was only using them for commuting, so they had no rough treatment - no rocks were hurt in the testing of those pedals. I have a few pairs of the SL version and they work great for commuting, mountain biking and cross. And I have hurt a few rocks with them. They are light minimalist pedals that never clog up. I have yet to try the Ti versions. The cost:weight ratio seems excessive for what is already a very light pedal. Seems like a poor trade-off compared to the SLs. 

I also tried out the Candy pedals for Cross. Thought the platform would be an assett. Verdict? Not great as they don't clip in as easily, at least with my Sidi Dominator shoes. And the platform does not seem to add any value to my dismount style. They are destined for commuting where a second or two of fumbling from time to time when clipping in is no big deal.

Great pedals. For good value, get the SLs.

March 20, 2010

Training and Racing with a Power Meter - Book Review

Another training classic for cycling, Training and Racing with a Power Meter is a high tech way to get the most from your power meter. It goes into a great amount of detail on what your power meter does, how to use it, and provides one heck of an impressive workout schedule. The book uses training levels for workouts similar to Joe Friel's book, and he wrote the forward. Although this book is all about wattage, you can do the workouts using heart rate as they give you a table (3.1) that also gives you the heart rate targets relative to your lactate threshold.

I would say the book is worth it for the workouts alone. There are workouts for "Joe Athlete" and "Bob Rider". Lots of creative ways to torment yourself with interval training. Joe is a stronger rider than Bob, but you can tailor the workouts to anyone by adjusting the wattages for their functional threshold power. For Bob you get a 16 week program that I am sure would turn anyone who completed it into a hard man. I only cherry pick workouts from it so far.

If you are a numbers geek, this book will give you the background to analyze your data to your heart's content. And even understand what it is telling you. The book does go into too much detail on other software. These guys developed Training Peaks software and that really is the standard. My advice to them would be don't bother trying to be fair. Just describe Training Peaks and drop the rest.

The book is a little out of date on some minor aspects. The discussion of power meters is dated even though the book is published in 2006. Unavoidable I guess as this field is evolving rapidly. Probably another section that could be dropped as there is no way you can keep it current for more than a year or two. Plus the hard work selling the power meter concept has now been done and we don't need all the reasons to buy one. We need more info on how to use the darn things to get the most out of their massive price tags. For that, this book was state of the art when it was written and it is the best available still. But it is time for an update as power meters have significantly progressed in capabilities.

The book could use an editor, but who cares? This book isn't shooting for the Pullitzer, it is trying to inform and educate. On those fronts it does a very good job. If you have a power meter you need this book to make it more useful than a heart rate monitor. If you don't have a power meter, there are a lot of dandy workouts in here that you can do, assuming you do have a heart rate monitor.

Bottom line: Highly recommended.

March 18, 2010

Old School Time Trial - Pretty Impressive Effort

While we are thinking about time trials - from the days when men were men and bikes were bikes. 37 km in 46:46 for an average speed of 47.47 km/hr (odd math combo). A pretty impressive ride considering:
  1. No aero wheels.
  2. No aero bars.
  3. No skinsuit (although they do tuck their wool jerseys into their wool shorts).
  4. No aero helmet.
  5. No shoe covers.
  6. No hidden cables.
  7. No aero water bottle.
  8. No nose cone.
  9. No aero bike.
  10. Nice aero body position though. 
  11. And Ole has no gloves. (Neither does his mechanic)
Geez, maybe it's not the bike?

Not totally sure about the TT advice - "always the highest gear that can be maintained effortlessly". I don't think that's quite how I do it. Doesn't look like Ole did it that way either.

March 16, 2010

Self-Massage (For Cyclists) - A Review of Some Tools

If you're like me, you get tight quads from cycling. This leads to a tight iliotibial band which leads to poor tracking of the kneecap which leads to knee pain. At least that is how it was explained to me. Or it simply leads to that tired feeling and poor recovery from that killer ride. Of course we all know the pros get daily massages. What is good enough for the pros is good enough for me. Of course, I don't have a soigneur, masseur (or masseuse) at my disposal. So, as usual, I have to do myself - massage I mean.

Over the years, I have tried various tools. It started in the kitchen with the rolling pin. I even made a custom shortie roller by cutting one in half. Then airport security got all paranoid a while back and they wouldn't let me take my rolling pin on the plane in my carry-on. They thought I was a terrorist and would take over the plane with it I guess. Or make a pie or something. So I began to look for alternatives that were more likely to make it past security on my business trips.

The first fully manual device I purchased was aptly named "the stick". It ain't much to look at. Actually, it ain't much period. Just some large plastic beads on a cheap plastic handle for too much money. But although they always want to take a look at it in my carry-on, they always let me pass. Looks and feels like a cheap kids toy. But I'm happy to report it actually works and after several years, it still is holding together. I was a little disappointed when I first received it in the mail and thought it would have broken by now, but not yet. I find this tool is good for days when the legs are sore, but a bit tender after a hard workout or a race. Days when they can't take the rough stuff. Unfortunately, when you really want to work on a knot, the stick doesn't have enough jam. A bit too flexible and smooth. You can't really dig in with it as it bends and I am afraid it might break. But way better than nothing and good for days the legs are sensitive.

My next purchase was the muscletrac. The muscletrac is short and stocky and rough. The Bulgarian wrestler of massage tools. It is much more substantial than the stick - much stiffer. And it has big ridges on each of the revolving rings. This thing can really dig in and work a tight spot and it doesn't flex. You can apply way more pressure, but it can pinch a bit if you are a baby. I like it for days when my legs are a bit recovered and I can really go to town on them. Really does dig in nicely. Overpriced as well, but works as advertised and I can't see this thing ever wearing out. It has substance but it is still acceptable to airport security.

And finally, the vibrator. I spent the really big bucks for a mini-thumper a while back when I was desperate to find something to take the ache out of my tired legs. Actually, I bought this before the plastic utensils above. This one is nice to use before bed. You just turn it on and let it hammer away at your quads, wherever it aches. It is very relaxing to work the legs with one hand while reading a bike mag, laying in bed. When I start to drift off, time for beddie byes. Then nice thing is you don't have to do the work - very nice. Of course it costs a fortune. Works well on your back too. The one weakness is that when it is warm out (summer nights), it doesn't like to operate for more than about 20 minutes and then it starts to make a weird buzzing noise and eventually turns itself off. It also can't work the thigh knots like the muscletrac. One more thing, it is on if it is plugged in, even if you turn it off. Not very environmentally-friendly. I have mine hooked up to the bedroom light switch. When the light is off, the unit is off.

Between all of these tools I manage to keep the legs loose. Actually, I use one or more of them every night. Feels good, and semi-pro. Probably is beneficial too. Do it.

March 14, 2010

TT Chronicles Pt. 5/5: What Difference Does a Time Trial Frame Make Anyway?

The 2010 Velonews Buyers Guide says that there is a 17 second difference between a "standard tubing TT bike" and an "aero tubing TT bike" in a 40 km TT for a rider that can average 50 km/hr. Since it is unlikely that anyone reading this blog even knows anyone who can average 50 km/hr for a 40 km TT, the difference will be a little more for us (not so paradoxically, the more time you spend on the course, and the more aero everthing else is, the more time an aero frame saves you, of course you won't win because of this). The Velonews article doesn't promote any particular manufacturer which makes it worth checking into. It notes that the real benefit of a TT bike is that it gives us a good aero body position. The frame does not give us much speed.

SAY WHAT!!!??? Son of a Greg Lemond! If this is true then a lot of other truths logically follow:
  • Cancellara can win regardless of what TT bike he rides, because when he is on, he is more than 17 secs faster than anyone else. Well that is certainly believable.
  • The difference between the fastest aero bike and an average aero bike is somewhere between sweet tweet and 0. So Cancellara only has to be SFA faster than everyone else and he will win. We already knew Cancellara would win. But you mean you can't believe the hype from the manufacturers? OK, maybe that's believable.
  • You should buy the TT bike that fits you the best (makes you pedal efficiently in the most aero body position possible) and is stiff enough for efficient power transfer. Good idea.
  • You DO NOT need to buy the TT bike that is the latest and greatest. It won't save you any significant time in a time trial. Just buy the one you like. Mon dieu, this is sacrilege!
    Now I had to do more research to verify this unholy claim. What do other posters (and posers) have to say?
    • About 60 secs for an aero frame versus a standard frame. Interesting site seems credible. Still less benefit than I had thought. Seems to be a poor clone of a previous Cervelo site - see below.
    • Aero drag for a road bike is reduced 1.5% by an aero frame (versus 80% of drag coming from the rider). From Gerard Vroomen of Cervelo. Besides having a great name for a bike designer, he is a credible expert with a proven record for making fast bikes. I don't know what 1.5% of drag amounts to in a 40 km TT, but it doesn't sound like much.
    • About 50 secs for an aero road bike frame (ridden by a decently fast mortal) from an old Cervelo page that I had the foresight to save to my hard drive. Similar to the first site above, actually somebody is plagiarizing somebody and I don't think it is Cervelo. The Cervelo page is probably the more credible - definitely the better written. It's no longer on line. Here is the table from that page.
    Table 4: Predicted 40k time, flat course, calm conditions, 3 body positions, aero wheels, aero frame. Also, time saved in a 40k by using an aero frame compared to a standard frame.

    40k Time
    Position Drag @ 30mph Cat 1 Cat 2 Cat 3 Recreational
    Typical 7.3 55:25 58:29 64:43 74:48
    Good 6.3 52:52 55:48 61:46 71:25
    Excellent 5.3 50:02 52:49 58:29 67:40
    Time Saved by Aero Frame
    Position Drag @ 30mph Cat 1 Cat 2 Cat 3 Recreational
    Typical 7.3 0:43 0:46 0:50 0:58
    Good 6.3 0:47 0:50 0:55 1:03
    Excellent 5.3 0:53 0:55 1:01 1:10
    • An aero frame can save you 10-30 seconds per 40km. A less credible looking site, but a reasonable range compared to the others. 
    • A speed increase of about 50 seconds by using an aero frame. Well, 50 secs isn't actually a speed and the author is a bit suspect technically. But the supposed source and number sound reasonable.
    Remember, all of these comparisons are for an aero frame versus a non-aero frame. The difference between one aero frame and another would be much smaller, I'm guessing about 0 seconds over 40 km.

    The choice is becoming clearer - in terms of bike frames, I am obsessing over almost nothing. Taking a non-scientific, gut-feel guess, I estimate I could only save a maximum of 10 secs over 40 km between the most aero TT frame I can't buy and can't afford and a decently aero TT frame that is readily available and much more affordable. No wonder Fabian always wins.

    So if we go back to my podium choices between the Felt B2 and the Cervelo P3, it doesn't really matter, assuming they both give me a good aero position. But the Felt definitely lets me use a lenticular/toroidal back wheel. Wheels do make a difference - especially to the bank account when you already have one and don't want to buy a new one. I have a pair of HED Stinger 6's. So yesterday I went to the LBS with my Stinger 6's in hand and guess what? THEY FIT THE P3!

    To avoid the cruelty of unnecessary suspense, I looked at the Felts and the P3. The Felt bikes really look kind of clunky compared to the P3 - in the seatstays, chainstays, and headtube. The only advantage I can see is the way the cables feed in behind the stem. Note: don't forget, since it doesn't really matter which aero frame you pick, pick the one you like or feel is the coolest. Isn't that freedom awesome? The P3 fit - rode it for a while and I felt nice and relaxed (even though it was the ultra ugly ultegra version and therefore severely impacted my coolness). I didn't even bother with trying out the Felts. I put my deposit down on a P3 frame - the white one which looks pretty hot, not the spectacularly ugly black/red/silver one - not hot.

    Now what handlebars do I get? Find out here.

    March 12, 2010

    Schwalbe CX Pro Tires Review

    These clincher cross tires fill a special niche. They seem a tad narrow for cross racing, but they are still quite popular in this neck of the woods. They have tall knobbies and there is no doubt they provide decent grip. In one race we were descending a wet grassy hill and the guy in front of me (who was more of a power lifter than a Schleck body type) must have hit the brakes. The impressive thing was seeing the back tire sending up a rooster-tail of mud and grass behind him. Those tires were ripping up the course big time. Another guy on our team swears by them. Anyhow, that got me thinking I should give them a try.

    More interesting for me was the fact that these tires are quite narrow for cross tires. There is an advantage to this narrowness. They fit with lots of frame clearance in my cheapskate cross bike, which isn't a cross bike at all. But with these tires and only a little bit of imagination, it is a cross bike. I rode this bike to work last week with 40 psi in the tires and it performed just fine on the icy patches. It also gave a nice ride with that tire pressure and even with panniers they did not seem pinch flat prone.  Like I say, they are popular around here for our dry grassy courses and even some big guys ride them and like them. Narrow tires are an advantage for cutting through the thick grass which is common on our early season courses. I haven't used them for racing personally though.

    Decent tires for a decent price and worth every penny if you want to get on a cross bike for cheap. And like I say, the locals like them for racing too.

    March 10, 2010

    Pantani vs. Armstrong on Mt. Ventoux in 2000

    One of the climbing battles of the decade. A classic climber - Pantani - against the best all round GC rider of his time. A lot of pride on the line. Did Lance let him win or not? Possibly I suppose, but not by much. Most of the time Pantani was not dragging Lance up the mountain, Lance was dragging Pantani. Actually, Lance was trying his damnedest to drop him. No doubt Lance went harder with Pantani on his back wheel, so in a perverse way that helped. But, if you have to tell someone you let them win, did you really? Or was Lance playing head games as we all know he likes to do? I'm guessing his letting Pantani win was more of a:

    F&*k it, I'm whipped and I'm tired of killing myself, thank God this is the end. Oh s%$t, what was that? He snuck by me! Johan will be pissed. Now what do I tell everyone? Wait, I know .....

    thought process versus a

    Pantani has been a great guy to work with me on this stage and I will gift him the win to show what a great Patron of the Peloten I am and how much he truly deserves my respect.

    thought process. See what you think - the other video link gives you a better idea if you are interested. I don't think they were best friends on the climb.

    Some things to note:
    • Pantani likes to hold onto the drops instead of the hoods when standing. Apparently, he set his bike fit to help him with this preference.
    • The high cadence for both riders when standing.
    • Lance gave Pantani "The Look" at one point in the climb, not shown in this video, but it didn't work as well on Pantani as it did on Ullrich. To view it, look at about 4:20 in this video. There was a lot of climbing edited out of the video in this post. Watch the long version and you will see how hard Lance was trying to drop Pantani.
    • Pantani was a tragic cycling hero and his death was a terrible waste.

    March 08, 2010

    TT Chronicles Pt. 4/5: Podium Finishers

    So it has been a wild ride in the world of time trial bike designs so far this year. I have been tracking developments as part of my never ending quest to buy a TT bike. You can check out more info in part 1, part 2, and part 3.

    It appears 2010 is the year of cosmetic surgery for some of the hottest bikes from last year. The Specialized Shiv and the Giant Trinity Advanced have both had hefty and I'm sure very expensive nosejobs. Compare and contrast the Paris-Nice photos with what we saw last year.

    First the Shiv - really it has had a full Michael Jackson-style nose job. And it ain't pretty. Take a look at the photos. What is that thing where the nose used to be? Is this the result of some prison brutality? Going to be hard to sell that to the lycra crowd. And Contador didn't even win. Of course, you couldn't buy the old version and now you can't buy this one too. Out of the running for the TT podium.

    Now for the Giant. Clearly the Giant's surgery was more careful, tasteful, and not a rush job in a back alley somewhere. You can actually buy the Giant Transition, even a cheap version that someone (not me) can afford. Key point though - the Transition you buy isn't the ICU legal one. Oops. That would suck on the start line if someone decided to enforce the regs, wouldn't it? Another one out of the running for the TT Podium.

    So that was fun! A bit of a gift from those two manufacturers. Now for more mundane rejections:

    Cannondale Slice - Really just a Cervelo P2 clone, but more expensive. No podium for you!

    P4 - those brakes and chainstays are really, really tight. Just too much to go wrong with brake rub. And not many wheels fit. The waterbottle design is a lame attempt to push the rules. And the bottle is pretty dang ugly. I wonder how fast this frame really is, without the UCI-illegal bottle/fairing. Nope.

    P3 - Finally, a contender frame. The $2900 price is pretty decent for a frame with these proven street creds. This bike has won everything. And it is still UCI legal! The chainstays are narrow but not ridiculous like the P4. UPDATE 13 Mar 10: Went to the LBS today with my Stinger 6's in hand and guess what? THEY FIT THE P3! Unfortunately, the ultegra version is so ugly there is no way I could ever consider buying it. Does ultegra mean ultra ugly in italian? That's what happens when you let engineers pick colors. Too bad, it's a good deal. The Dura Ace version looks good. OK - Podium Finisher.

    Felt B2 and DA - Well the Felt DA is pretty expensive. The frame is $3700 so a bit steeper than the P3. The nice thing is it has wide chainstays and can take pretty well any wheel. I notice that Zabriskie always has an aero water bottle attached for time trials. I'm guessing that scores better in the wind tunnel which makes you wonder about it's aero credibility. Also, the DA he rides isn't the same as the one I can buy. The B2 is pretty cheap and exactly the same frame shape as the DA (I can buy), if a little bit heavy. But I expect the wheels are tanks so maybe it isn't as heavy as it's specs. Another podium finisher.

    Trek Speed Concept - Looks decent, but can't buy it. Half of Team Shack can't even get one yet. Next!

    Ridley Dean - The frame is $3600, so not bad. But looks like it was designed by graphic artists vs engineers. Chainstays purported to be too tight for newer wheels but I have never seen one personally. I'm getting kind of desparate for podium contenders, so OK, I guess, if I have to. A distant third.

    So the rest. I'm too lazy to go through the reasons why I don't like the Orbea Ordu, Scott Plasma 2 and 3
    and of course the mighty Pedal Force and many others. None of them make the grade for one reason or another (or two).

    A key question of course is what wins races? Well it seems strong riders do well on most any decent bike. Check out the list (not all-inclusive of course):
    • Fabian Cancellera - P3 and Shiv
    • Chrissie Wellington - P2 and Slice
    • Dave Zabriskie - Felt and P3
    • Kristin Armstrong - P3 and P4
    • Levi Leipheimer - Colnago and Trek
    • Lance Armstrong - Trek
    • Alberto Contador - Trek and Specialized
    • Ironman - shows us everything goes fast with the right rider
    I find myself flip-flopping between the P3 and the B2. P3 is a proven winner. B2, not so much, but it is cheap and it fits the new wider toroidal wheels. Fortunately, my LBS sells both so I can compare them nicely. The Ridley doesn't really make the grade. Sorry.

    Check out the next edition of the TT Chronicles here.

    March 07, 2010

    March 06, 2010

    Dogs and Bikes - From the 1880s (and now)

    Mark Twain recounts learning to ride a high-wheeler. Some things don't change.
    I have seen it stated that no expert is quick enough to run over a dog; that a dog is always able to skip out of his way. I think that that may be true: but I think that the reason he couldn’t run over the dog was because he was trying to. I did not try to run over any dog. But I ran over every dog that came along. I think it makes a great deal of difference. If you try to run over the dog he knows how to calculate, but if you are trying to miss him he does not know how to calculate, and is liable to jump the wrong way every time. It was always so in my experience. Even when I could not hit a wagon I could hit a dog that came to see me practice. They all liked to see me practice, and they all came, for there was very little going on in our neighborhood to entertain a dog. It took time to learn to miss a dog, but I achieved even that.
    Mark Twain - Taming the Bicycle

    Dog says: It's OK, I'm OK.

    March 04, 2010

    SRAM Red Cassette (OG-1090) Review

    Lots of good things have been written about this cassette, but here is a weakness you may not have heard of before. We've all heard the good - thinking outside the box, all steel, lighter weight, etc. But take a look at the image. Note how there the cassette can engage with the splines on your cassette body in only a very narrow portion of the cassette. Actually, the photo is a bit misleading, the two smallest cogs also have splines and aren't shown. But the net effect is that only three cogs of ten have splines.

    Now look at the Shimano Dura Ace cassette. Note how it has splines all the way down the cassette. Since some of the cogs are on carriers, so there are broad surfaces on the cassette that engage with the cassette body on your wheel. Importantly, these also happen to be the smallest cogs where you have the most torque. And cassettes that have all the cogs pinned together would be the best of all. No cog is free to individually apply pressure to the cassette body on your wheel. Going down a notch, SRAM 1070 cassettes have splines across all the cogs, but they are not pinned.

    What is the problem with the SRAM approach you say? Well, most of the light wheels out there have aluminum cassette bodies. They aren't all that durable. Soon the splines on the cassette start to eat into the splines on the cassette body. With the SRAM Red, this happens much faster. On one of my wheels, the cassette gets frozen on. This is a 2 year old wheel that I don't use for training. So not that many miles on it. I now have to give the cassette a whack before I can pull it off. Even though this wear process takes a while, it happens faster than a wheel wears out.

    I guess you can always buy a new cassette body for your more expensive wheels. Sometimes. Or use SRAM Red on cheap wheels with steel cassette bodies. A little out of place though. I don't think I will buy any more SRAM Red (or 1070 for that matter) cassettes unless they fix this issue, sorry.

    March 02, 2010

    Park Chain Tool Review

    So you've decided to replace your chain. Are you using a cheapo chain breaker like your multitool? If you are, you are probably fussing with getting those dang pins out without bending the side plates. The SRAM chains are nice for you if you have a crappy chain tool. You only have to drive a pin out to make your chain the right length. Then you use the SRAM powerlink to put the chain back together. It is far easier to drive a pin out than it is to drive one in, especially for 10 speed chains and especially for hollow pins. Actually it is sometimes a pain to drive out the hollow pins too. You really cannot drive them back in at all. And they trap more dirt so don't use them for muck.

    If you are a Shimano fan, then you are glad they have updated. You used to have to drive the chain pin in when you put your chain back together. Then you could really benefit from a quality tool. You not only had to drive the pin in, you had to free up the link at the end of the process. Difficult with a multitool isn't it? Bend anything? Of course, if you wanted to take your Shimano chain apart later for some reason, then the quality tool really earns its keep. SRAM is much easier. SRAM chains are simply broken at the powerlink using a decent set of needlenose pliers and a little finesse. Now that Shimano (and others) have copied SRAM and have cloned the powerlink life is good. I found a good deal on DuraAce chains so I am going to give them a try. Note: If you have a SRAM chain or use powerlinks for other chains, check this link for a recall.

    Anyway, back to the Park CT3 chain tool. Nice, smooth operating tool. Every 2 or 3 years I manage to bend the pin (probably on a Shimano chain), but you can buy a new pin for $1.49. Good as new. Recommended if you mess around with a few different bikes and replace your chains regularly.