May 29, 2010

Neuvation M28 SLX Wheel Review

I have seen the Neuvation wheels on various sites for quite a while and looked at them a few times. In this case I just needed a cheap rear wheel for my trainer that did not have threads that could wear the dropouts. My brand spanking new Cervelo P3 has carbon dropouts and I was worried they would wear in the trainer. Those threads on many cheap wheel axles can act like a file and wear the dropouts, especially carbon dropouts. In other words, I needed something with cassette bearings instead of the cheap Shimano-type wheels, but since it was only for the trainer I didn't need anything light (expensive).

These wheels are as cheap as anything you see out there for sale. Prices change on their website, depending on stock I suppose. At the time this was pretty cheap, although today they have some really cheap wheels. I doubt if you ever have to pay full price from the looks of things. I think there is a perpetual sale of some kind on.

This is really a pretty nice looking wheel with semi-aero rims. Every aspect is nicely finished - rims and hubs. Even the quick release is classy looking, not cheesy like cheap Shimano stuff. And for a really nice touch, they supplied extra spokes in both drive side and non-drive side lengths as part of the package. The wheel uses conventional spokes, but it is nice to have a few spares that match exactly the black color and gauge of the originals. The wheel also has rim tape already installed. These are the kinds of extras you certainly don't expect in wheels in this price range.

Delivery was timely and the wheel was well packed. Ordering was painless. The wheel rolls nicely with little friction. It also has a silent freewheel, which is kind of cool. It was nice and true right out of the box as well. I have about 20 hours on this wheel on the trainer and it is still perfectly true and spoke tension is even. Not a true test, but that's all I have to report personally.

Here's another tip. You can easily peel off the stickers so no one will know these are Neuvations. Since they look more expensive than they are, you look classier than you are. Always a good thing. If you need cheap wheels, give these a look.

May 25, 2010

I Am Pretty Lame Lately

So my blog productivity has really fallen off in direct proportion to my training and racing program. It is finally warm enough up here in Canada to race - even outside. So here is a Reader's Digest condensed version of everything:
  • Although the druggies have been doing well lately in various races, they still suck.
  • Go Cadel go - make Basso feel the pain. You look good (pretty?) in pink.
  • Floyd Landis really, really sucks. He is leading in the Tour de France of sucking all-time best sucking list. Remember, he also tried to blackmail Greg Lemond, who also somewhat sucks I am afraid to say. Man that guy hates Lance - impairs his judgment.
  • My 2XU elite tights are spectacular. I just did 3 consecutive days of +100 km in the mountains, and according to my TSS (training stress score), the last day was the hardest of them all. Sure training counts too, but I'm convinced these babies make my legs feel better the next day if I wear them to bed. My new secret weapon.
  • Even with a poorly adjusted front derailleur, my AceCo K-Edge chain catcher stops chain drop. Perfect for the lazy mechanic. I am fearless shifting to the small ring. I bought the cross version for my Ridley - awaiting delivery.
  • I wish it would warm up. My legs have only seen the sun three times this year. All that work leg shaving has no payback so far.
  • My Cervelo P3 (and consequently my flat back TT position) is awesome. How does 150-160 watts and 35+ km/hr on an out and back sound? No that isn't my threshold power - just a ride to tune the equipment the day after those 3 days in the mountains. Have a race this week.
  • Actually, the Cervelo Soloist Carbon (S2) also rocks these days. Felt pretty fine in the mountains.
  • I think the Training With Power generic program is working well for me. I also think this is going to be a stellar year. The next couple of months will tell the tale as I approach my target race, but my power profile is none too shabby compared to last year.
Well that's it for now. I have to go to bed and recover. After reading a cycle mag while using my recovery tools.

May 13, 2010

Slippery TT Bike Saddle? Some Fixes

I bought a new Fizik Ares bike saddle and was having trouble with sliding forward in the time trial position. Basically, when I tilted the saddle so it felt comfortable, I kept sliding forward. When I tilted it so I wouldn't slide forward, it was a pain in the ass, literally. Well not really the ass, but I don't know exactly what that part of the anatomy is called. The taint?

Anyways, it appears the pros have this same problem. I posted this photo before of Contadors time trial saddle. Now I'm guessing this is hard on the shorts. Contador doesn't have to pay for them, but I do. And he probably has a much tougher butt than I do. I don't think this is an option that works for me. I can't afford the shorts or the chamois butter bills that would result. When I first saw this, I thought slipping and sliding is an obvious problem with a carbon fiber saddle. It wouldn't be that much of a problem for a regular saddle.
But I was wrong. I bought the Fizik Ares saddle for my spanking new time trial bike. And I had a problem with sliding as noted above. The surface of the saddle has a pretty slick surface to it. I'm not the only one with this issue with the Ares saddle apparently. Marco Pinotti seems to have the same problem with his Ares at the 2010 Giro. Of course he chose essentially the same pro solution that Contador did. The same old crotch grabbing, taint abrasive, sticky tape.
But I think I have a better idea for the working man/woman who can't afford to wear out a pair of shorts on every 40 km TT. I took a very fine abrasive sandpaper (extremely fine) and lightly sanded my saddle. Just enough to take off that slick surface. Sure it probably isn't as waterproof as it was before. Or should I say sweat proof. But it works for me. And I didn't sand all the sheen off. Check out the photo. Anyways, last night I did a 10 mile TT and it worked just fine. I have no recollection of any slippage at all in my pain interval. Basically, it never crossed my mind once in the race or the warm-up (of course I had other considerations at the time). But that is the real test, isn't it?

Oh yeah. I posted my fastest average speed of the millenium. With my Easton road wheels to boot (it was a club TT). And a nice solid 2nd place. And the short saddle is great for taking pressure off that oh so sensitive taint because you can get some relief from butt contact without sliding too far back (yeah I like the saddle). But you have to get the right tilt - I fussed the tilt quite a bit.

And one more thing. I gave my road bike saddle a slight sanding too. I slide around too much on hard climbs. I think I'm on to something.

July 27, 2010 Update - I have been using the sanded Fizik saddle for some time now and it works pretty well. Had to re-sand it a couple of times as it gradually gets more slippery over time. No big deal. But I guess Fizik has also realized their saddles are pretty slippery for TTs.  They are now selling adhesive strips for the saddles for a reasonable price. I guess every problem really is an opportunity.

I'm thinking of giving my saddle just a little shot of spray adhesive. But only thinking about it so far.

May 09, 2010

AceCo K-Edge Chain Catcher Review

Nothing is more heart-breaking than scarring that new frame because you dropped your chain when shifting from the outside chainring to the inside chain ring. Well, maybe not heart-breaking, but definitely annoying. It only has to happen once every thousand shifts and your frame has that chain grinding away on your nice paint job or even better, digging into that lovely carbon frame. The best ones catch your chain on a chainring bolt and grind it up through that tiny space between your chainrings and your chainstays. And then you try to get it back out by pedaling in both directions, further scarring your beautiful new ride.

Sorry, just having a flashback there.

What causes this annoying problem? Dumping the chain is correlated with wide differences between the big and small chainring (53x39 is wide), bumpy roads, shifting to the small ring when in the big cogs at the back, and yes, ill-adjusted derailleurs. But despite the best advice of your local armchair bike mechanic, no matter how well you adjust your front derailleur, it can happen and will at some point. You can be sure the pros have their derailleurs adjusted properly, yet they routinely use chain catchers. Of course, they have more at stake than you - it isn't just a scratched frame that they got for free anyway, it is a paycheque on the line. You aren't going to win many time trials when you get off your bike to put the chain back on the chainring. Another good one is when you crash, especially in cyclocross, then you jump back on your bike and start pedalling to find out your chain is off. Then you jump back off your bike to put the chain back on. Then repeat the jump back on your bike again to find out you are now behind 30 more guys than you were a minute ago and now you have no chance of seeing any upgrade points in that race and you have to kill yourself to pass people you can easily beat normally.

Sorry, another flashback.

Yes, you can make your own version  of a chain catcher thingy by bending some wire. Looks a bit hokey and although I have not made one, it looks like it would be too flexible and prone to being bent back by the chain. But maybe it works fine. Anyway, if you want one of these really badly, you can wing it or you can buy this book, because it surely must require an entire book to explain the intricate details of bending some heavy gauge wire. Somebody must be making 10's of dollars on this great entrepreneurial scheme.

Or you can do what I did and buy something that looks good on your bike. The K-Edge chain catcher is a machined and anodized piece of aluminum that is very stiff. So it won't flex or bend. It comes in various colors and configurations so it can fit most any bike. The braze-on version came with hardware that worked well with my SRAM Red derailleur, but optionally, you can buy additional hardware for difficult to fit derailleurs for a nominal fee. It works with both braze-on and clamp type derailleurs. And it's made by AceCo. What a great retro name for a company. Reminds me of the ACME products on Roadrunner. And delivery was fast like the Roadrunner too.

I bought it, I like it. It hasn't given me any grief and it was fairly simple to install. No dropped chains yet either. Inconspicuous, yet pro. And it works as advertised. But it does take away one of the great excuses of all time - "I was having the best ride of the year and probably would have won, but I dropped my chain."

Sept 25, 2011 Update - Still using the road version - works great. But now that it's cross season - how does the cross version work? Not so great. I used the cross double chain catcher - this discussion may not apply to the single chain catcher. I used it last year for a while and then gave up on it. I think that when your chain bounces partly off due to crashing, etc., in a race situation, you jump on the bike and put too much pressure to the pedals. Often, this forces the chain past the chain catcher, no matter how close and tight you fasten it. Then you are screwed. It is very hard (slow) to get the chain back on the right side of the chain catcher. Meanwhile, all the people formerly behind you are now ahead of you. The difference with the road version is that you ease up a bit when you shift on the road. So the catcher works - it isn't overpowered.

I decided I was better off without it for cross racing. At least I can get the chain back on fast, often without even dismounting if the terrain is cooperative - like flat or downhill. It's probably more usable for non-racing situations, but how often is chain drop a problem there?

May 06, 2010

Cycling Nutrition - Training Your Body to Burn Fat Among Other Things

Conventional wisdom says that you need lots of carbs to do those long, hard bike rides. But training yourself to be a better cyclist is not just about legs, heart and lungs. You can train your physiology as well. We have been told that even the leanest cyclist has enough fat to power a 3000 km ride or something ludicrous like that. Cycling is a sport where nutrition is very important because most of us can hit a higher heart rate for a longer period of time when cycling than anything else we do. And even a moderately serious cyclist can bike for 3 or 4 hours at somewhere around 80% of their lactate threshold heart rate. And then do it again the next day. A moderately serious runner or swimmer can't do that.

We have all heard about how fats are burned on slow rides and carbs are burned when you start working harder. Carbohydrate-loading is a good example of the principle of increasing carbohydrate storage to make sure you can go harder in a race. Nobody does fat-loading, at least not on purpose. It doesn't help you go faster, that's for sure.

But, nutrition for performance is not so clear anymore folks. If you really want to give'er, you have something else you can train - your physiological systems. You still need carbs for high intensity. But you can train your body to use more fat at higher intensity workout pace. Why bother? Because you now have another advantage besides your finely tuned musculature. If you can burn more fat, you can ride further and faster without refueling. And you have more carbs available at the end of a long race to fuel that last push for the line. With minimal face stuffing during the race.

From my own experience, I know some level of this training happens. For the last 3 years I have really boosted my hours and intensity on the bike. Over that time, I find I need less and less food (and water) on long rides. For a 4 hour ride, I only need a gel bottle and a couple of big bottles of electrolyte/carb drink. I usually don't finish either of them unless it is hot (it is seldom hot here). That level of fuel would have bonked me 3 years ago. Actually, it is really only this year that I have made the big gains in this regard - without really trying.

So what do I do? Eat good food - fruits, vegetables and lean meat and fish/poultry of course. Although I eat complex carbs (no white bread or pasta for me), I don't really carbo load. I don't avoid them either and I do like to snack on GoLean Crunch which has more protein than regular cereal. I eat a whey protein shake almost every day. I also take 3 big fat Omega 3 capsules before bed each night that are made of horrible, nauseating fish oil. Cervelo and Sky are big on the protein and fish oil, so now I am too. It seems to be working as my weight is dropping slowly and my power is going up. Look out world. And of course there is no way to hurt yourself (other than fish breath) on this diet.

Important Tip: Do not take fish oil capsules in the morning, ride to work with no water, then burp halfway there. Actually, don't take them in the morning at all.

May 01, 2010

2XU Elite Compression Tights - Squeeze Me Baby

Really, the difference between mediocre and good is the ability to recover. Contador says it is his biggest strength. I doubt that but obviously it is pretty important. If you can recover fast, you can train harder. And of course, recovery is an awesome asset in a stage race. 2XU claims their product can help you with recovery. I want to recover faster too, so I bought the men's elite compression tights.

When I got the tights, men's medium, they looked like they were made for someone about 10 years old. So yeah, they are definitely tight tights. I was between sizes, so as recommended I got the smaller of the two sizes because I wanted them for recovery, not workouts. Although there is no reason why I couldn't train in them, but not on the bike - no chamois. And I don't think they will fit over my biking shorts. No problem running in them, if that is your thing. They are well made, constructed of a few different kinds of material. The back of the legs have a stronger stretch fabric than the front. Seams are all nice and flat.

Do they work? Actually, they seem to. After doing two consecutive days of intervals, I wore these to bed. Not the most comfortable PJs, but not terrible. A bit tight in the package area, especially with morning wood if you know what I mean. Anyways, the next day on the bike, the legs felt fresher than expected. Another time after doing 20 sprints one day and wearing them to bed, went for a long tempo ride the second day. Same thing. Legs felt fine on the tempo ride for a couple of hours, before the ride itself started to kick in. No residual burning lactic acid sensation when I cranked a hill. So maybe there is something to these. I also tried wearing them for a few hours after a hard ride. They do make the legs feel good while they are on, but that didn't seem to make as big a difference as wearing them overnight. But since it feels good, I do it. And of course, there is always the placebo effect. You feel like they work, so they work. Gotta love that placebo effect - you always get your money's worth, even when you don't.

There was one irritation. The tag on the left hip was scratchy until I cut it off. Just before I threw it away, I gave it a read. Some interesting cleaning instructions:
  • Machine wash cold with like colors. Hmm. I'm pretty sure these aren't going to turn pink. I think I can ignore that one.
  • Dry in the shade - that's odd.
  • Do not tumble dry - seen that before.
  • Cool iron - what the? That's like ironing a condom. Trust me, there are no wrinkles when you put these on. Don't be an obsessive compulsive - give the iron a break.
  • Do not iron prints - should just say Do Not Iron.
  • Do not allow to lay on itself when wet. Wow, haven't seen that one before. Pretty sensitive stuff. Probably sticks to itself like wet latex gloves.
Glad I read this. I never iron my workout wear, so that wasn't a risk. But I do wash and dry them from time to time. When you wash these, I guess you have to hang them up in the shade somewhere. Everything else wrecks them, even laying them on a drying rack. Since they cost $130 Canadian, beware. I hung mine stretched over a hanger in the closet. Doesn't get much shadier than that.

July 3, 2010 Update: Just laying on the motel bed in my tights recovering from the Nationals road race today. Got a flat tire on the last big hill. So the race didn't go as well as it could have. Not that I was going to win, but a respectable finish would have been nice. Certainly a decent workout though. Man, some of those guys are FAST.

Anyways, the tights do make the legs feel better. Just one complaint. While massaging my quads with the TV remote in the hotel room (forgot my stick), I have decided that the excessive rubber (silicone) logos on my tights are worse than useless. The rubber snags on the remote. No rubber would give me the remote glide that I seek. The logos are peeling off, but they are pretty tenacious. Would be a better product if it lost the rubber.