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.