December 30, 2011

Nokon Cable Set Review

Do you have a really difficult cabling route on your bike? Tight curves? Sharp bends? You might want to try these if nothing else seems to work. In a moment of weakness I bought a set (they are pretty expensive). They were too expensive to fit only one bike in my world. The housing is the key benefit and it fits conventional cables so you can stretch your cabling dollar if you wish.

When you see these things in person, you realize why they are expensive. The cable housings are made of many separate machined aluminum pieces. In the photo, each thin/thick segment is a separate tiny anodized aluminum cylinder. The cylinders are held together by the plastic tube that the cable runs through.

When you install these housings, you will find that they easily negotiate tight turns with no apparent strain. You don't have to fight with them to make the turn, they seem so relaxed. You can basically push the cable housing where you want and it just stays there. I have chosen to use them for my problem areas - that last chunk of housing on a rear derailleur is one area that gets attention. Especially on the time trial bike - don't want a bunch of excess cable causing all that drag, do you? This housing makes the turn much more tightly, can be simply pushed against the frame so it doesn't stick out, and even after all that shifts at least as smoothly as long, messy cable runs of Jagwire, Gore, Yokozuna or other conventional cable systems. The housing also works for brakes, but given the expense, I have focussed on shifting. I find brakes tend to work pretty well and are less finicky, even with conventional cable housing.

Other advantages? Well being aluminum, the light colored options are feasible for greasy-fingered mechanics like me. I bought conventional white cables once and what a disaster in terms of good housekeeping. Plastic housing in light colors sucks, this doesn't. It wipes off nicely. And it looks better than plastic from the get go.

Wear and tear? Well this housing does not self destruct over time. You know how the inner steel layer starts extending past the outer layers of the housing, eventually jamming up your cable stop? Doesn't even take all that long to happen. Bigger problem for shifters because the steel inner layer runs lengthwise in most systems. Gradually makes your bike shift like crap. Can't happen with this stuff as the housing is not composed of separate component layers. There is just one layer - the aluminum cylinders and they do not delaminate or whatever you call that. The inner plastic sleeve can wear out, but that hasn't actually been a problem to date. But I see you can get extension kits that have lots of plastic sleeve in them for a much more reasonable price. Along with some more housing to boot.

And it's reputed to be 30% lighter than conventional cable. Maybe more if you actually use less housing, eh? It is very light which is understandable as there is no steel inner housing. And for a lot more money, the carbon version saves a tiny amount of additional weight.

Disadvantages? I said cost right? And if the aluminum version isn't expensive enough, the carbon version should satisfy your spending urges nicely. I also found that they were pretty skimpy on the length of housing. Definitely not enough for some bikes. Which means you also need the extension kit mentioned previously. And careful you don't drop the loose pieces on the floor or you will be playing "pick up the tiny aluminum cylinders" for quite some time.

Bottom line: I like them and plan to buy some more when I can save enough money.

Update 6 May 2012: I know I said these are expensive, but I had a brilliant money-saving idea. If you buy an assortment of colors, you can dual purpose your purchase. Because the aluminum cylinders are essentially beads, you can outfit both your bike and your significant other. Here is the plan. Focus on the color(s) you prefer and add one or two extension kits in suitably artistic offsetting colors if absolutely necessary. HINT: a single color probably has limited aesthetic value.

Then outfit your bike. When the bike is complete to your satisfaction, take the leftovers and some string or fishing line or something and make a beautiful necklace. Hopefully large enough to fit over his/her head or you will have to figure out a clasp which seems like a pain and not worth the trouble. Maybe used SRAM powerlinks would work but degrease them first. If you are short on beads, then go to a craft shop and get some cheap plastic things to fill up your string. Then gift the result with the proud claim that you made it yourself - this is an important point - you cared enough to take time away from your precious training and bike maintenance to actually make this yourself instead of just taking 5 minutes to buy something at a store (HINT: don't verbalize the 5 minutes part though - inside voice). Almost a guaranteed win. Likely your significant other could care less about your bike and will never notice that your true love had first dibs and sports your preferred design.

There you have it. You can outfit the bike and get something you can claim was very expensive (at least it was for the Nokon beads) AND hand made for that special occasion gift. The gift item savings potentially offsets outfitting both bike and significant other. If you change significant others, you can recycle this idea and outfit your other bikes too. Too bad Xmas isn't in cycling season eh? Hopefully you luck out on a birthday or anniversary. For style ideas simply google "bead necklace" and peruse the many options made by people who actually care about these things and who have better artistic sensibilities than you. This is bound to impress - I believe. Haven't actually tried it myself yet.

December 27, 2011

Dual Eyewear SL2 Sunglasses Review

Do these glasses make me look shifty-eyed?
I bought these online for a Christmas Gift. Seemed like a good idea - sunglasses that still allow you to read important things like menus at restaurant patios and cycle computers when you get old and lose your near vision.

Well what a piece of crap. Clearly, something is lacking in the quality control department. Although it may look like you could see through the bifocal part if you looked waaayyyy to the right. But you can't. It is impossible to see through both of the close focussing lenses at the same time. I tried and almost dislocated my eyes.

Now I'm sure that a properly constructed pair of these things would work. But I'm thinking that if they miss such an obvious mistake concerning what is really is the only selling feature for these glasses, how good are these things? I'm thinking not very. One of the hazards of buying online I guess - you can't actually see the item you are purchasing. I sent them back for a refund.

December 24, 2011

Soy Sauce - Best Cycling Electrolyte Product Ever?

Expired?? I think not.
I have tried a lot of electrolyte products in my quest for a way of preventing late race muscle cramps. This is a problem I often have on hot days during long races. It has screwed up more than a couple of races for me where I felt great until the cramping started. Most commercial products are relatively costly, sometimes ridiculously so considering what they are made of. But a fellow racer related an anecdote that a much better racer than either of us used soy sauce. The kind you get in the little plastic packets at restaurants. Very interesting.....

  1. They are prepackaged in nice little portions, easy to carry on the bike in a jersey pocket or under the leg band of your shorts if you are wearing a skinsuit. No special hokey dispenser required and they don't crumble to pieces when you sweat on them.
  2. 575 mg per tablespoon according to my bottle of China Lily. Similar to a commercial electrolyte tablet.
  3. Easily taken when you are out of breath. Just bite a hole in the package, squeeze and suck. 
  4.  Contain lots of salt, but are also real food with a variety of real food trace constituents, unlike a pure chemical salt preparation.
  5. Best of all, they are free for the taking at a variety of fine oriental-type fast food establishments (but don't be a pig and overdo it in one go).

So I gave it a try this year. In the first hot race of the year, we were about 5 km from the finish and I felt the  first cramp twinge. I had been taking one package per hour to then. Well I dropped back a few spots and immediately downed another packet. I then soft-pedalled and thought good thoughts for a few minutes. Then I moved back up in the pack and executed a very nice sprint with no cramp issues whatsoever. Wow. Really, I could almost feel the electrolyte thingys dispersing through my body, calming my angry muscles. That was the first time I had dealt with cramps effectively as opposed to limping in to the finish. Sold.

Unfortunately, I forgot to stock up for a few key races later in the year and had cramps galore. Partly the dog's fault and partly my fault. Cramping occurred even though I took the usual commercial products I still had in my bag. I now have a medium sized plastic vitamin bottle completely filled  with soy sauce packets for next year. Look out.

Apparently soy sauce has other benefits as well. According to (must be right, Lance wouldn't lie, eh), it supports heart health, has antioxident effects, and stabilizes moods. Hopefully the good ones. Those real food constituents at work I guess.

  1. I get a tremendous craving for sushi immediately after ingestion. 
  2. The plastic packets are somewhat easy to break in your race bag. Makes a real mess.
  3. My dog ate my electrolytes.
  4. Do not drink an entire bottle of soy sauce. Probably too much of a good thing. Proves that they have electolytes though, doesn't it?
Overall, a cost effective, specially pre-packaged for cycling, effective electrolyte. This is all I am going to use in 2012 and we shall see how it goes.

December 09, 2011

Craft Storm Tight Review

These are my go-to extreme winter cycling tights. They are far warmer than your typical fuzzy interior lycra tights. These tights have a couple of layers in front - a windproof layer and inside that an insulating ribbed thermal layer. They have a heavy lycra layer and the ribbed thermal layer underneath everywhere else. The front lower shin area (below the piping in the photo) and back of the leg are not windproof. The inner layer is nice and cozy against the skin. They have reflective piping for those inevitable dark winter rides.

These tights are warm at road bike cruising speed to at least -10C (14F). If you pedal harder they are warm enough to -15C (5F) at least. I really like them for pre-riding cross courses on cold days to quickly get myself nice and warmed up as well as for apres cross. But they would be too warm for a serious training ride at -5C (23F) or above. When it gets really cold, -20 to -30C (-4 to -22F), I put on a pair of windpants and I'm good to go. If you want to see the full gear for really cold cycling, check this out.

They are great for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing too at much colder temperatures - something like -30C (-22F). Because you usually aren't going as fast there is less wind chill for those types of activities.

Couple of downsides though. They are quite a bit heavier than regular brushed interior lycra tights. Of course, if you want to go cycling at cold temperatures, you really cannot wear only lycra tights, even heavy ones. And even the wind protection found in many lycra tights isn't enough. You need insulation too - like the inner layer in these tights. I expect they are not any heavier than wearing heavy lycra tights with wind pants for example. But too many layers tend to bind and reduce pedalling efficiency. These are more comfortable than a layered approach and seem to pedal easier.

The other downside is the lack of suspenders. Since I wear them over a pair of cycling shorts (they have no chamois themselves) I find they can ride down on my butt if I'm doing a lot of sliding around on the saddle. Mountain biking in hills for example. I sewed a pair of hockey suspenders onto mine to reduce this tendancy. Cost about 12$.

For the right conditions - cold - these are a great option. I normally take a medium, but I found I needed a large or they were a bit too tight in the thigh. They aren't as stretchy as lycra so you don't want them tight or pedalling efficiency suffers. The large fit my waist fine and I'm a 31 waist. Also they were a touch shorter than usual in medium. I machine wash with everything and then hang to dry. No issues over a couple of winters of use although I don't wash them every day or anything like that.

Bottom line? These are an important part of my winter sports wardrobe and if I wore them out or lost them, I would definitely buy another pair. I haven't found anything better.

December 06, 2011

Ergon Mountain Bike Handlebar Grips Review

Handlebar grips don't get the respect they deserve. Of the five points of contact between you and your bike, your grips provide two. That's nearly 40%!  They are usually by far the cheapest. But really, is that appropriate? They are the brains of the five - or at least they should be. Feet are the brawn and the butt is the bottom - by definition.

I have in my head a great plan to improve my mountain biking bike handling by practicing and doing some races. In turn this is supposed to greatly improve my cross bike handling and racing success. There is no doubt that I am a crappy technical off road rider. But mountain biking is also lots of fun and I have been ignoring that important discipline for the past several years.

Anyways, my wrists used to get sore relatively soon when I went for mountain bike rides. I have to confess, I was only using road bike handelbar tape for grips and that wasn't cutting it. So I have been mostly ignoring the mountain bike until this fall. I did a bit of on line research looking for reviews for grips that other people like and find comfortable. I found that the Ergon grips tended to get very good reviews from people with wrist issues (and no, the wrist issues are not from "Internet" addiction).

So I decided to spend huge dollars (for grips, but only cheap crap price for pedals or a bike seat) and purchased the Ergon GX1 performance grips because I am a performance-minded person. They are on sale right now at Excel. But I paid full price. It took a little bit of fiddling to get them in the right spot. Best go for a short solo ride or two while you tinker with the angle of the grip so you don't drive other people crazy. But in the end, these grips really do provide a couple of nice points of contact for your hands.

I found the grips provided some relaxing hand positions, but also provided a good shape to grab onto for high intensity efforts like steep climbs. They are not flat on the bottom like they are on the top - they have a rounded bottom shape for grip. The flat top portion provides a nice platform allowing you to shift your hands around during the ride.

Bottom line? Comfort is comfort and any of your contact points can be problematic if they aren't comfortable. These grips allow me to spend more quality time with my bike while remaining comfortable and I think they will be invaluable if I do the endurance rides I hope to next summer. I see they have a few new models coming out that are a bit slimmer yet for racing. But I'm pretty happy with these and have no complaints. They easily doubled my comfortable riding time on the bike. I would have purchased a set with the integrated carbon bar end, but unfortunately those models are not compatible with carbon bars. But I find I am getting pretty used to no bar ends and no longer miss them.

Good product. 40% of my bike contact points give this two thumbs up. And the other 60% lack thumbs, so that's 100% thumbs up.

December 03, 2011

Cyclocross Tubular Mounting - Mastik Glue Plus Tufo Tape Method

Tire bondage - something every crosser strives for. First of all, here is how you mount a tire using Tufo tape with a view to making it stick extra well. This is the method I use although I'm perhaps a bit less meticulous on the gluing and tape pressing down-ing. But I am more fussy about removing the plastic layer. Once I get the tire straight, I try not to disturb it. I just slide the tape out without moving the tire in any way.

For cross, I center the tire using higher than normal riding pressure. So I use about 40 psi (I ride at about 30ish psi) for centering the tire. I found that the cross tires sometimes had a tendancy to rotate slightly when you pumped up a tire that was centered at low pressure. I think this is the same phenomenon you see when you pump up a tubular that is not mounted. It tends to rotate with the inner base tape turning to the outside of the tire. Anyways, the result is an off-center tire that seems to be leaning over one side of the rim. Centering the tire at 40 psi seems to solve this. Of course you have to drop the pressure before you can remove the pink plastic that is covering the sticky tape. If you don't, you will break the pink plastic layer off. Of course, one can forget, can't one? Breaking the tape should remind you. Fortunately, you can then drop the pressure and remove the tape properly using the other end of the pink plastic. If you break both ends off, you will have to dig under a partially glued tire for one of the ends. Have fun.

I also brush one layer of glue on the base tape and one layer of glue on the rim. They only need to dry about 10 minutes or so. Compared to Tufo tape alone, the glue seals the base tape on the tire across its whole width, I believe it provides better adhesion, and it keeps water out of the bond better.

What's the advantage over conventional multi-layer glue methods?
  1. Minimal hand-eye coordination required. You don't have to be a craftsman to end up with a firm bond and a rim that isn't covered in glue. It's a lot less messy.
  2. You can race a tire the next morning after initiating the glue process the night before. Actually, I rode a tire in the afternoon that I mounted start to finish in the morning. Pretty hard training ride with no mishaps.
  3. You can take your time getting that tire mounted straight. Take 10 minutes, take 30. You decide, not the drying time of the glue.
  1. Costs more than glue. Also costs more than the Belgian tape method. But only if you do either of those yourself. Cost less than the bike shop.
  2. Some folks think this method is crazy reckless. Call me a rebel.
Anyways, here is a video with a real session where I remove the tire from the carbon rim at the end of the 2011 season of racing. As you will see, it is really stuck on there. I have never rolled a tire or even had to remount a tire because I was afraid the bond was breaking down using this method. But I do live in a dry climate and mud isn't an issue here. Maybe water is an issue? Doubt it but can't say for sure. I do have to wash the bike a few times a season with no tire bondage issues to date.


November 30, 2011

Installing Studs on Bike Tires - Without the Proper Tool

Foreground left stud is falling out, foreground right isn't good either
Anyone can put studs into a tire with the correct tool for the job, I suppose. Haven't actually tried myself because I really don't install studs on my tires. However, I just purchased a couple of new studded tires and I decided to inspect the studs before use. I found that my excellent and very studly new Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires had a few very poorly installed studs that were definitely going to fall out as soon as I went for a ride. So, being very handy, I took a pair of needlenose pliers, pushed a bit and OOPS, the stud popped out of the tire and fell on the floor.

Jagwire brake cable ferrule - now a stud holder too!
Dang! How the heck do I get that thing back in my tire where it belongs? I haven't even ridden them once yet. The needlenose pliers alone didn't seem to work. Trust me, I tried. If only I had something that could hold the stud, yet leave enough of it sticking out that I could push with the pliers at the same time. Voila, a brake cable "ferrule" seemed to fit perfectly, at least for these carbide studs (yes I learned my lesson about steel studs). Sure enough, with a little bit of trying, I figured out how to replant that stud where it belonged. And best of all, I can fix it right now, no waiting and no obscure tool purchase required. Which was important because this was yesterday and it was supposed to snow a fair bit overnight - and it did. The tires came in handy this morning and I made it into work crash free, unlike some people I know (and work with).

Turns out I had to use it a couple of times as I inspected my tire and tried to push unseated studs back into the tire. Usually they went in OK. Twice I slipped a bit and they popped out and fell on the floor. Anyhow, want to see how I did it? Watch the short educational and interesting video below.


November 24, 2011

Toronto Mayor Thinks Cyclists Are A Pain In The Ass?

You may not get all of this if you aren't a Canadian. But you really have to scroll down to look at the suit jacket. That jacket transcends all nationalities, cultures and styles as a universal symbol of bad taste. Sorta like all his other clothes.

Straight shooter, Councillor (Now Mayor) and cycling expert Rob Ford provides well thought out comments on cycling in a very focused and logical speech on the subject.....Fascinating in a train wreck kind of way (or a high quality compilation of bike crashes).

And in a related story: Don Cherry's Senility Continues To Progress
For some reason the mayor of Toronto thought it would be a good idea to have a pretty ancient hockey commentator give a speech at his swearing in ceremony. Must be a big fan I guess.

They call him Grapes, but probably they need to change that to Drapes. Donny Drapes. Apparently, all his jackets are made of material left over from the big drape material manufacturing bust in the 50's. Good to see him recycling though. Imagine the amount of useful material that has been saved over the years. And nobody would use that material for anything else, not drapes, not chesterfields, nothing.

Well after a brief stumbling segue, Drapes started his speech with:

I'm wearing pinko for all the pinkos out there that ride bicycles and everything, I thought I'd get it in.

Well, that's the first time I have heard the term pinko in decades. I think Archie Bunker last used it in the 70's. In Drapes' mind, cycling (and everything) is a political statement. I guess he missed out timing wise - too young for cycling's golden era of the early 1900's (at least he doesn't remember it anymore), and too old to understand there are other sports besides hockey, another sport I enjoy. Drapes seems to be pissing off everyone lately including the toughest guys in hockey. Getting a little cranky in his golden years.

Well Drapes did admit he was befuddled immediately after the cycling comment, so on behalf of cyclists everywhere, apology accepted. Really, he's just someone's crazy old grandpa that happens to get on TV. You can't get too upset about his comments. He probably forgot what he said 5 minutes later. Just be thankful he's not your great uncle coming to stay at your house for Xmas.

Anyways, if you want to see Drapes latest apparel, inciteful cycling commentary, and a mayor that really, really, really needs to go for a bike ride, or any kind of exercise whatsoever, take a look at this. Don't worry, you only have to watch 35 seconds, the rest is blah, blah, blah.

Poor Toronto - what were you thinking? Imagine the hell for the next 4 years.

My Eyes! My Eyes!

November 21, 2011

Innova Tundra Wolf Studded Snow Tire Review

Back tire on the right, front tire on left, back studs quite worn after only 55 km
C'mon China, you can do better than this. Usually I take a while to make a call on the quality of something new. That's because most stuff works pretty well and it takes some time to reveal the flaws. In this case, the flaw was apparent very quickly. The studs wear out exceedingly fast. I only have 55 km on these tires and the back tire studs are about half worn out.The front tire is still OK. Most of that distance was pavement, but that is wearing way too fast and there is no way these studs will last the winter, at least on the back tire. There is always exposed pavement for portions of my winter rides, no matter how much it snows. And I ride to work every day.

From the direction of the wear, it is all from accelerating, not braking. Now I would like to claim credit for enormous physical prowess over those 55 km, but the truth is cross season is over and I am just cruising this time of year. Enormous physical prowess is over for the year, baby. Which makes that amount of wear even worse.

Carbide studs work as well as new after many km
Thinking of buying a set? Do you ever ride on pavement in winter? Then don't. Steel studs suck. You need carbide studs and according to this site, only Nokian and Schwalbe use them. This site is a very good studded tire resource by the way and perhaps deserves your business. I do have experience with Schwalbe Ice Spiker tires personally (see photo to left) and a friend rides the Marathon Winter model too. I had mine for several years and he rode his every day last winter. Both have carbide studs and both have proven to be essentially impervious to stud wear, including on pavement. I also noticed that Kenda uses carbide studs.

Once again - if studs are what you need and pavement is part of your winter riding, do not buy the Innova tires.

ps. Not sure if they are made in China, but it makes a good lead-in line. Doesn't say where they are made on the tire sidewalls. I guess they feel shame and don't want us to know.

November 19, 2011

How Not to Ride in a Paceline

Another good cycling crash laugh. Those helmet cams are priceless. I can think of five things, any one of which would have prevented the final handlebar vault.
  1. Don't ride the aero bars in a paceline - you need those brakes handy.
  2. So you don't overlap wheels.
  3. Be aware of where people are around you. Don't change your line without knowing if you are about to take someone out.
  4. When your front wheel is falling apart on you, hit the back brake and stop before you crash. Coasting to a gradual stop isn't advisable.
  5. Use a sturdier wheel. That wheel fell apart pretty easily and I would say it was under designed spoke-wise. It definitely ain't a Reynolds.
Most importantly, if you have the camera, make sure you get it all on film. Excellent.

November 18, 2011

New Masters Cycling Record? 63 Years Old and Busted For Doping!!

Now we all know master's racers are competitive. But 63 years old, and even with doping only finishing 5th. Or at least, refusal to pee in the cup. Same diff. I'm guessing its a record - oldest doper ever. Wow, that guy really takes this sport seriously. Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike - what were you thinking? As you can see from the table below from USA cycling, unspectacular results overall, but I expect he was building for next year - who isn't? Well I guess he can dope like crazy now and in 2014, look out! Unless he dies before then of course. But Mike no matter how you cut it, you won't beat Dave Viney (a Canadian by the way).

I think Dave's been working out....

I always get a kick out of these stories, being a more mature racer myself. By the way, those old Floridians (and transplanted Canadians) are fast! Check out the times for 40 km (up to age 64) by clicking on the first link in the table below.

Race Results for Michael Diamond Racing Age 63 from Saint Augustine, FL
PlacePoints  Name  USAC #  Time  Bib  Team

10/08/2011 - 2011 Florida State Time Trial Championships | Time Trial | | |
DQ542.89Michael Diamond17830201:33.4

03/12/2007 - Squiggy Classic | Road Race | Cat 5 | |
19-Michael Diamond178302

Gruppo Strada

02/18/2006 - Race for Humanity | Road Race | Cat 5 | |
7-Michael Diamond178302

02/12/2005 - TEAM FLORIDA RACE WEEKEND | Individual Time Trial | | MR | 55-99
5-Michael Diamond178302

Gruppo Stradda

03/10/2001 - Festival of Speed | Road Race | | MR | 50-99
5-Michael Diamond178302

03/11/2001 - Festival of Speed | Criterium | | MR | 50-99
6-Michael Diamond178302

November 17, 2011

Selle Italia SLR Monolink - A Saddle Soft As A Young Womans Face

I can't be the only one who finds this ad in Velonews somewhat odd. She looks a bit worried and I don't blame her. Who could possibly think this is a good analogy? Her face doesn't even look all that comfortable or friction free. The ad is funny in an offbeat way, but I doubt that was the intent. They must use the same ad agency GM uses. For a serious review of the saddle (it ain't that great, but it is reassuringly expensive), go here.

November 14, 2011

Boyd Cycling 38mm Carbon Tubulars Review

So $800 for a pair of 1200 g aero carbon tubular wheels (but not anymore - see update at end of post). That definitely got my attention. I was thinking some carbons would be nice for cross and I was considering running my Reynolds rims. I was sure they could take the stress, but the front one was out for repair after my unfortunate crit incident and I did feel a bit uneasy about riding them through sand. I was sorta happy with my Williams cross wheels, but they are heavy and I was hoping to lighten things up a bit.

The Boyd wheels are light - lighter than I have seen for these prices. Light enough to save about a pound over my Williams wheels (I have the older 1600+ g version). I figured they would make great training wheels for the road bike too. Looking around on the web, I couldn't find a bad review, although nothing much for in depth reviews either. Anyways I pulled the trigger. Took about 2 weeks to receive them (Boyd told me 10 business days to ship - sounds about right). Listed at 1204 g, mine weighed 1190 g (+10 g) without skewers or decals (I always peel off the decals and these were easy to peel off).

Fairly decent spin-down after a half-season of cross, eh?

So how are they? Both wheels were built with high spoke tension and were nicely trued. Not the unbelievable laser-beam straightness you see with Reynolds wheels, but very true. Check. The back wheel spun very smoothly in the hand. But the front wheel was very tight and had lots of friction. No Check. Basically, the bearing pre-load was enormous. Someone had really tightened down the nut thingys and I had to give a couple of hex wrenches a fair amount of twist to break them loose. When I took off the preload, the front wheel was better but still didn't spin all that freely. However, after I took it for a two hour ride, it loosened up lots and spins nearly as well as the back wheel. I assume the bearings had to seat themselves in better alignment with the wheel. These wheels don't really have seals, so they spin fairly well - no seal drag. In the hand, they are very smooth. Smoother than my Williams cross wheels which feel a bit rough when spun in the hand. The hubs on the Boyds certainly look more expensive than the Williams hubs. The skewers on the Boyds are definitely strong beasts, but they are pretty heavy too. I ditched them. Boyd needs a titanium skewer option.

The rims are 21 mm wide and have a deep channel. This is ideal for cross and seems to be the way to go these days. It is much better for getting a cross tire on straight than the Williams cross wheels which are only 19 mm wide and have a fairly shallow channel. It also provides a larger gluing surface to better prevent the dreaded tire roll. I had no issues with tire adhesion using my glue, tufo tape, glue method. Put em on and forget em. The wheels also have nice bladed Sapim spokes - no aero issue for cross, but those will be nice for training rides and club races where aero is a good thing. The rims have a nice aero shape, more like a zipp before they got all fat and not like the Reynolds which doesn't look very aero at all. A pleasing shape that looks expensive.

I used these wheels in about 10 cross races (and a couple of 2 hour cross training rides because I just couldn't resist taking them out). They have stood up well to the usual cross pounding. There was a little truing required - a couple of spokes needed a quarter turn on a couple of occasions. Easy to do because they use conventional spoke nipples. The truing was minor and just something I am pretty anal about because I was running the TRP CX9 brakes and they don't have much room for an out of true wheel. I figured the straighter the wheel going into a race, the more it could get knocked out of true without rubbing. But in fact, these wheels took all the hard knocks I dished out, including bottoming the tire against the rim at some point in most races. I also ran the rims through a fair bit of sand and could sometimes hear the brake pads grating on the rim the first corner after the sand. I hate that noise. But the rims only had very minor scratching. I did use the Swissstop yellow brake pads that Boyd thoughfully provides as an option with your wheel purchase and cheaper than you can get them anywhere else. And of course a couple of minor sliding crashes thrown in for good measure had no effect on the wheels.

So what's the verdict? For $800 these are amazing wheels. They are not $2000+ wheels, but they are close enough that its hard to tell, except with your bank account. They are $199 cheaper, 180 g lighter and have Sapim bladed spokes when compared to the Williams 38 carbon wheels which I have never seen in person (or spun their hybrid ceramic bearings). They really are "high performance wheels you can afford" at "marriage saving prices". Based on my cross experience, they are very durable wheels as well (rated for 200 lb riders, I weigh 155) and will be excellent for the road next spring. I like em and just wish I had known about them a couple of years ago. Dang, I have a lot of wheels. Better start selling some.

October 20, 2012 Update - Cross season, road season, another cross season and nothing seems to phase these wheels. I used them for my road training wheels all summer (put on a set of Tufos - they have no inner tube, add sealant and voila! Tubeless tires without that embarassing burping) and at the end of summer I only had to give the back wheel a quarter turn on 2 spokes to true it up again. Then the cross tires went back on and no issues to date. Very happy with these wheels given the low cost. Although they are no longer $800 they are still worth every cent.

January 27, 2013 Update - Boyd has completely revamped their wheel offerings. The new wheels are the new wider profile type. And apparently the hubs are improved. That's the good news. The bad news is the increase in prices - quite a big jump. Still cheaper than the big brands, but not the astonishing value they were before. Takes them out of the range of wheels potentially considered for training. Hope it all works out for them, but I would have kept the old line too for cheapskates like me.

If you hurry, you can cash in on the old style wheels for even cheaper than usual.

November 13, 2011

Heckle Georgia Gould - She's Having Fun With It

This is sorta like the whole Jens thing, but with more fan participation. Some of these are really funny. I'll definitely be reviewing this for next cross season so I can share the mirth. Hmm. Some might work for road....

October 31, 2011

Difference Between the British and Chimps - Caught on Helmet Cam

On its own, this is a hilarious video from Britain. Those British accents kill me - I watch too many British comedies I guess. But when you take the audio and put it with the right monkey video - magic. I found this on Dirt.

October 28, 2011

Live the Dream - Safe Cycling

Wanna start something buddy? As cyclists, lets make this our safety mantra when we drive our less classy vehicles. Start a trend.

1.5 to Survive 

In the USA I guess this would be:

4 ft 11 to Survive  
or if you need to rhyme
4 ft 11 so I don't go to heaven 
(before my time that is, not overall)

OK not too snappy, try this:
Give Me 3

October 23, 2011

Clone Hirame Pump Head Review

I found it on Ebay listed as "Hirame Yoko Style Pump adaptor - 300psi, disc wheel", but it seems to originate here. In my haste I didn't notice the term "Style". These things seem to come in a variety of shapes, but all the same style. The version I bought looks very similar to the Hirame. Not my fault I didn't see it was a clone - right?
Here's the real Hirame

So, how well does it work? Seems to work fine. And seems to work in the same manner as the Hirame, which looks like the most finished version. Basically, you put the head on the valve stem, then finger tighten the barrel adjuster (you may have to loosen it first to get it on there), then clamp the lever down.

Works on  smooth valve stems as well as threaded ones. Grabs better on the threaded ones as you might expect. But then you have to loosen the barrel adjuster to get it off too.

This one is called a Tanaka
In terms of usability, it is sometimes hard to get your fingers in the disk wheel cutout to tighten the barrel adjuster enough. The barrel adjuster has to be firmly screwed down to stay on the valve stem. I find myself wondering why there isn't a more aggressive cam action on the lever. That would make it less important to screw down the barrel adjuster. The camming action is very minimal. Perhaps that is the difference from the original Hirame, but I don't think so. The Hirame seems to have the same tighten-the-barrel-adjuster operating instructions. But I have never seen one in person.

And here is the one I bought. Doesn't have its own name.
The other aggravation is that the lever throw is just a bit too wide - approximately 90 degrees as for the Tanaka photo and a bit wider than in its own photo. It just barely fits into the slot on my disk wheel when the lever is fully open. It a fiddly thing getting it in there and I had to make sure I had just the right valve stem extender to take advantage of the widest part of my disk cutout. Not an issue on a non-disk wheel of course.

Can you get the big psi as advertised, without the someone holding it on while you pump, or vice versa? Yes you can. Although there are some fiddly bits as mentioned above, you can overcome those and get it to work. Initially, when I received this thing, I was pretty disappointed and thought it was a POS. But after playing with it a bit and figuring out how it is supposed to work, I can get it to work fine.

Other advantages? Well it seems to be the cheapest version of this design. And it was readily available on Ebay. I couldn't find anybody who would sell me the real Hirame at the time (of course I stupidly thought this was the real Hirame). I'm now comfortable with my purchase. And I do have a spare rubber washer too! Having never seen one, I still kinda wish it was a real Hirame though.

January 20, 2014 Update: Still using the clone and have had no problems at all. The rubber washer is getting a bit worn now so I will have to figure out where the heck I put the spare soon - maybe next winter. In retrospect, I'm pretty happy with it. At a race someone borrowed my pump and couldn't get it to work. So there does seem to be a knack required, or at least a bit of patience.  I have it attached to an 80's vintage Silca so it looks pretty old school and this head fits the retro look very well. Funny how many comments I get. The old battered pump is considered cool again. But bonus! People don't bother me for my pump when I'm prepping for a TT.

October 17, 2011

African Antelope Takes Out A Mountain Biker

This is a pretty cool video - looks like the antelope thingy is intentionally going for the guy. You can see that the guy is watching it before he gets hit. No way you could not put this on the web. Crazy African mountain biking.

Little known fact - I too have had a cycling encounter with wildlife, right here in Canada. No one to video it though. I t-boned a deer that jumped out of the bushes in front of me while I was on the way to work. I was going down a steep hill and doing about 65 km/hr. And this is what my helmet looked like as a result. Yeah, it hurt a lot. And yeah, the deer just ran away. No concussion though. Good message: Wear that helmet.

October 15, 2011

Ridley X-Fire Cyclocross Frame Review

My Hot Unit - Just a Few Hours Post-Race
I thought I better get this posted as I've been racing on this frame for 3 years now. It looks like Ridley will update the X-fire for 2012 but keep this one around as the "Rival" model. Or perhaps not, depending on where on the Web you look. I am definitely seeing some good prices on this frameset now compared to when I bought it. The X-fire is (was) Ridley's second best cross bike and was substantially cheaper than the top of the line X-night. It uses a conventional seatpost versus the integrated seat post of the X-night. Compared to the updated 2012 version of the X-fire, mine has external vs internal cabling and a standard bottom bracket vs the press-fit version of BB30 - the PF30 standard (I'm getting tired of the ongoing creation of new bottom bracket types). I have to admit that the new bike looks nicer, but I already have a white TT bike and it is a hassle to keep clean. Like the look, hate wiping greasy finger prints off it all the time. So I'm OK with black.

The X-fire is an interesting bike these days. Everyone seems to be going to a sloping top tube, but this bike has a straight top tube - parallel to the ground, even for 2012. Consequently, it looks kind of large, even when it's your size - the seatpost doesn't protrude as much as usual. Looks a little old school I guess, but it is designed to be cross-specific. Ridley is a Belgian company so the cross pedigree is there in spades with the win record to prove it. The straight top tube does give you lots of room to shoulder your bike when you want to run with it and it is right there when you want to grab it to go over the barriers. But the frame does fit a bit oddly. I think you can go 2 cm smaller on your usual frame size. Best to fit one in person as they don't fit as you'd expect relative to other bikes.

The frame also has a nice high bottom bracket. Compared to my road bike it is about 2 cm higher. That gives you more clearance for bumps and roots and allows you to pedal at more extreme lean angles on corners and on steeper side slopes. All good.

Lots of tire clearance. The widest tires I have used have been 34 mm but they still had plenty of room.

The frame is extremely beefy. Big headtube, very thick chainstays, huge fork blades. Massive tubes that look to withstand lots of crashes. Good thing as mine has slid out on me many times and even been run over once. There are scratches and chips, but I can't see that any of them have made it down to the real carbon layer. I did put a chainstay protector on it as there is lots of chain slap in cross and if you don't, it will get pretty beaten up. Actually, you should do that for all carbon frames - road, TT or whatever - and even metal frames if you don't like the look of chipped paint. Another advantage of the large top tube is that it makes for a comfortable carry on your shoulder. The flat bottom shape of the top tube helps as well.

2012 X-Fire PF30
Because the frame is carbon, it is reasonably light. My bike weighs 7.71 kg (17 lbs) in full racing dress - with my 1190 g carbon tubular wheels, red crank and shifters, rival derailleurs, and my eggbeater pedals. This seems to be comparable to the new X-Fire which is supposedly 17.75 lbs without pedals, Ultegra components and heavier aluminum clincher wheels.

In terms of ride, I find the bike as comfortable as can be expected and suited to racing cross. I certainly don't notice the ride being unduly uncomfortable when I'm gasping for air. No cross bike is going to ride like a cadillac on a cross course anyways. It has a tall head tube relative to a road bike which gives a slightly more upright riding position. Certainly wind resistance isn't usually a big factor in cross. But gasping for air is always a factor and the more upright position helps with that. It corners better than I do. It seems to be quite efficient and I have used it on the road occasionally and found that it sprints very well. Of course, looking at the tubes it is pretty obvious it must be stiff.

Nice bike. If you don't believe me take a look at what the experts say. Look around and see if you can find a deal on this frame. If you can't or don't want to, take a look at the new X-fire frame. Although it's Ridley's second tier cross frame, this frame has won lots of euro and North American races at the highest levels and I expect the new one will too. It has even been a pro team bike for Paris-Roubaix.  I'm certainly enjoying mine, although not quite as successfully as that.

Of course, you can enjoy cross on any cross bike. The Nashbar frame would let you get out there and have just as much fun.

January 15, 2014 Update: Still riding this frame. It is still a beauty, and I don't see the need to go to hydraulics, despite the intense marketing effort. I am also quite happy to have a threaded bottom bracket too. No creaking!

October 12, 2011

Reality Sucks? Maybe She Does. But You Definitely Suck GM!

You can cover your eyes all you want to man, she's not looking at your face, she's checking out your package. And she likes what she sees - a man who knows how to ride. Apparently her name is Reality. You should get her number.

Pretty hilarious ad when you think about it. Who came up with this vintage concept? Somebody from Mad Men? The hilarious part is this is current. I wonder why GM needed a bailout with ideas like these?

More interesting - those are definitely vintage brake levers on that baby. Probably a 1970s Peugot. I had one of those. Steel is real, even for handlebars, seatposts, cranks and rims.

20 October 2011 Update: Ha Ha - Good one Giant. And now we have confirmation about Reality sucking and all that.

October 09, 2011

Challenge Grifo and Fango Cross Tire Review

This fall I have been racing with Challenge tires. Last year, we were post-race socializing with one of the local racers who was having a very good season. He said that his Challenge tires were giving him at least 5 positions in a race compared to his previous tires. I was using the Tufo Flexus Primus tires and thought they were pretty decent, although I had never tried the Challenge tires. Now, being a curious fellow...perhaps make that a fellow who was curious...I thought I should give them a try. Everyone knows I could use 5 positions in any cross race I have ever raced. At least 5. Eight or nine would be almost optimal.

Well, how do they perform? I have to admit that the Challenge tires are clearly superior to the Tufo tires. I definitely get better grip and seldom slide out. Even if I slide a bit, it seems easy to bring the bike back back under control and continue merrily on my way. In one race known for its steep technical off-camber turns, I was using the Fango in back and was regularly sliding on one 180 corner where the ground was torn up. But the slides were controlled which is unusual for me. I have only slid out once this year, which is unprecedented for me. I have had some very good races on the Challenge tires although my power meter says I earned them. I do find that the tires simply seem to roll faster than the Tufos at the same tire pressure - noticeably faster. They are a bit narrower which helps in the thick grass we have on some courses. I'm sure the Dugasts are a notch better again, but the price/durabilty ratio seems to be unfavourable from all accounts. Price definitely is an issue for the Dugasts.

In terms of Fango vs Grifo, I find the Grifo works well for all the courses to date, except the very technical one mentioned above where I put on the Fango in back. Of course we haven't yet had to race on frozen ground with the top layer thawing out slightly or on snow/slush. When that happens, I will put on the Fangos front and back as I expect the extra rubber on the sides will be very helpful.

Now there is no doubt that the Tufos are durable tires but they don't provide the traction the Challenges do. They slide on grass where the Challenges grab and I can make it up dead grass slopes first try with the Challenges that I could not with multiple tries with the Tufos. The Tufos are definitey not as supple which everyone tells us is the wholly grail for traction. But I think the lugs are also a bit too close together so they don't dig as well in the grass. They are great training tires as they last a long time, but they won't be my race tires again for our courses which are mostly grass - not rocks, etc. By the way, I have bottomed out on the Challenge tires on a number of occasions with no pinch flats. Although our courses are mostly grass, we have lots of roots and various types of concrete, wood and asphalt lips we hit. I normally run them at about 28-32 lbs depending on tree roots etc. and I weigh 155 lbs. I have a couple of hundred km on them, mostly racing and riding to/from races. I haven't had any issues with the tread separating from the casing as some have noted. They are dirtier looking after a bit of use if that is a problem for you. It's not for me.

So I've learned my lesson. I won't pronounce these the best cross tires ever. But they are the best cross tires I have tried and are pretty reasonably priced. They are my "go to" tires now. Do I get 5 positions out of them? Maybe I do.

Rear tire on the left - only a tiny amount of wear
November 12, 2011 Update - another season over.... Definitely my best season and I ain't getting any younger. I think the tires are partly responsible for that. They roll faster and grip better than the Tufos, no doubt about that. Crash rate was almost non-existent this year. And I had no issues with tire construction at all - no tread separation that others have complained about. Three tires got the call up - two grifos and one fango. The fango only got to race once, the grifos did the other 10. The back grifo has only minor cosmetic wear. The front is good as new. There was also about 4-5 hours training on the grifos.

The verdict - my tufo tires are only trainers now. Good tires for bombing around and they wear like iron, but not up to the "Challenges" of racing. The Challenge tires aren't used for much training as they wear faster (until I wear out my Tufos). That's why they grip so well. No training that includes pavement for these babies. They are my racing tires from now on. And they are cheaper than the tufos.

October 07, 2011

Nashbar X Aluminum Cyclocross Frame Review

I needed (more like wanted) a cyclocross bike to ride to work, winter and summer. I had pretty well all the parts I needed and I didn't want to spend much on a bike that is going to get thrashed by road salt in winter. Voila the Nashbar frame. Listed at 99$ when I bought it this summer, but I see now they have inflated to $114.

I have over 1500 km on it now and so I feel I have a good understanding of the quality of the frame. So how is it? Definitely the best value for the money out there that I have seen. Really, it is a pretty nice frame painted in a nice stealth black with only an X on the headtube (so no one knows it is a cheap Nashbar bike but you). I've actually had compliments on it. As if I care because this bike is meant to be expendable. Commuting will end its life prematurely through salt corrosion, grit, etc. It always does as the commuter doesn't get the TLC the expensive bikes get. It's a short but happy life as it gets to go for a ride almost every day, winter and summer.

The bike rides and handles just fine. I did notice that the bottom bracket is more like a road bike - a tad low for a cross bike, but you would have no problem racing this frame if that was your inclination. But you will rub your pedal at less of a lean angle than you would on a cyclocross frame costing 10X to 15X more money. Seems like a good trade-off.

I read the reviews about difficulties with fitting cranks that use 53 tooth rings. Nashbar must have fixed that problem because my SRAM crank fits fine with a 53T. I tried two different models too. As if most of us actually need a 53T for commuting and especially cross except on downhills and hurricane tailwinds.

I bought the Nashbar carbon cyclocross fork for it, so the fork cost more than the frame. But the steel fork weight put me off. Plus steel sucks in winter commuting salt. The carbon fork is not a very nice fork cosmetically. Pretty rough, but it is a pretty cheap carbon fork. It seems to work and ride fine and given its beefiness, I'm guessing it is fairly bullet proof. No brake chatter to date. It does seem to be a bit wider than my road hub axle though. That's only a minor irritation.

With this fork and frame, you can put on disk brakes if you want. But why would I do that when I can get very good Tektro 926 v-brakes, very cheap.

I have seen this frame available as a built up bike on the Nashbar site too. Good deal, but only in 9-speed drivetrain. Doesn't seem to be listed today though.

You really can't touch this frame for quality for the money. Highly recommended for all sorts of cycling where you want the ability to use wider tires. No trouble fitting 700x35 studded winter tires with fenders.And here's a secret.... If you wait and watch the Nashbar site (or get on the mailing list and get an email about every day) you will be able to get it for 20% off!!! Patience pays, not much, but it does pay. Like this weekend for instance! Make sure you read the fine print though - the 20% only includes bikes and frames some of the time.

May 23, 2011 Update - She ain't beautiful, but she's mine. Here she is - kinda homely actually. A purebred commuter version with about 5000 km on her now. Working just as well as new. Strip off the fenders and rack and put some light wheels on there and I think she would be a decent cross bike.

January 15, 2014 Update: Still using this bike for a commuter bike and for a training bike on really crappy days. Have had to replace brakes, hubs, etc. due to corrosion from salt on the roads and bike path, but the frame just keeps ticking and ticking. Rode it today in a major chinook through lots of water and ice. No problemo. Best value cross/commuter bike frame out there.

October 03, 2011

Sidi Dominator Mountain Bike (Cross) Shoe Review

There's nothing like a fine Italian leather shoe. Well not leather exactly. More like lorica. But that's OK because the only dancing these shoes do is on the pedals (and sand, mud, water, snow, etc.).

Lorica is very tough stuff. These are my second set of these shoes, the first having worked fine for a long time. I can't actually remember when I bought them, but it was several? ten? years ago. I had to get a shoemaker to sew a leather patch into the heel cup - the nylon lining was wearing through and I was losing foam. The top velcro straps didn't want to velcro anymore, so I replaced the loop portion - myself using contact cement and sewed in velcro loop material. And the soles were fairly worn (but still entirely serviceable). But, as the Dude would say, the lorica abides. After I don't know how many times getting soaking wet and muddy. Still, I figured it was time to relegate these babies to backup/commuter duty and get me a new pair.

And guess what? My first local bike store was out of stock. But the second HAD THEM ON CLOSEOUT SALE! How lucky was that? But they are dumping Sidis - boo. Newly purchased on Saturday morning, the shoes did TWO cross races this past weekend. And were just as comfortable as the old pair. The top buckle design has changed, as has the layout of the velcro straps. And these shoes seem to be warmer than the old pair which is a good thing for cross in these Canadian parts. They look very similar to my old ones overall. They seem to work just as well for biking as well as running through sand. I smoked a guy on the final lap sand pit run through on Saturday.

Actually, the full lorica upper is a good thing pretty much all the time in the Rockies. And it keeps most of the sand out. But full lorica may be too warm in some climates. There is a mesh version on the Sidi web site, but I've never seen it in person.

Mine weighed 380g each without cleats, size 44.

Now you can buy the Spiders which seem to be pretty much the same shoe but with replaceable soles for not too much extra cash. They come in full lorica or with mesh inserts for hotter climates. In my experience, it would take a lot of walking while you were biking to wear the soles out on the Dominators to the point where you really can't cope and need new ones. I think you will certainly need to replace the shoe lining before that happened as I did and probably other shoe parts too. Nice thing about Sidis, you can buy new buckles, insoles, etc. Although the only time I have had to was when the dog chewed the straps (except for the velcro not velcroing as noted above). By the way, don't be afraid to support your local cobbler. They fix shoes well for ridiculous (cheap) prices.

Or you could buy the Dragons for a lot more cash and get a twisty buckle instead of the top velcro strap. I suppose its lighter, but it doesn't seem to be looking at posted weights. Must be stiffer I guess. I hate that heel cup doodad though - at least it hurts my feet on my road shoes. They are far too shiny for me.

Bottom line: the Dominators are aptly named. Not cheap, but not outrageous like the Dragons. I like 'em big time. I believe they are the best Sidi mountain bike shoe value for the money. Very durable.

Feb. 10, 2014 Update: Well a little disappointment with the Sidis. To be fair, they did get a tremendous amount of use this past summer in my quest to become a mediocre mountain biker. They did get thoroughly soaked through many times fording streams, etc. in the wet year we had. And they get used in winter below freezing temperatures too. Anyways, the sole of the left shoe now has a slight bulge upwards right under the ball of my foot. I can't feel it with my foot in the shoe, but the ball of my foot was getting sore in a way I have never experienced before. I finally realized it was worse after hard rides with these shoes. I can feel the bulge with my hand. Too bad as the uppers and sole still have lots of life left in them. I'm guessing the foot bed material couldn't handle the wet and dry cycles. Really, that was only about 2 years of use. By far the worst record for any Sidi shoe I have ever had. Looking at new shoes, I find the Sidis a bit on the expensive side for what you get. So I'm looking at other options for replacement. Sorry, Mr. Sidi.

September 28, 2011

Joey Rocks!!

So, cross season again. I think saying Joey's OK was a bit premature. Conversely, calling for the medic at the very end seems about right. Very impressive air. Joey is definitely a player. Hope the bike was OK. For more on this exciting story, including slo-mo video, go here.

August 03, 2011

Cervelo P3 Review

My P3. That's not a gut - that's belly breathing!
This bike has been reviewed to death and all have found it to be a great bike. Google it and see what I mean. I also have to jump on the bandwagon as the bike did greatly improve my time trialling. Compared to a Soloist Carbon road bike with clip-ons, even with the handlebars lowered as low as possible it saves me minutes, not seconds, in a 40 km TT. And this is using the same wheels, same helmet and same set of legs. Every time I ride this bike I am impressed how much more speed it gives me for the same effort compared to the road bike.

Now this is definitely an aero frame, but most of these savings come from the body position benefits. I can get into a much more aero position and the bike still handles well. With the Soloist Carbon, if I lowered the handlebars too much, handling got pretty squirrely and I was never able to get my shoulders as low as I was capable of with my level of flexibility. With the P3, I can go as low as the old body can stand. By far, most of the benefits of the TT bike come from the body position you can achieve. You can read my 5 part series documenting my search for a TT bike starting here and see what I mean.

And here are a couple of my TT wattage stats for a bike built up with a cheap aluminum bullhorn and clip-ons, a HED Stinger 6 on the front, and a HED Stinger Disk on the back, TT helmet. I weigh about 155-160 depending on the day and am about 5 ft 11.

40 km TT - hilly out and back course, 58 min 27 secs, 244 watts average
20 km TT - flat out and back, 28 min 22 sec, 240 watts average

Both were in light wind conditions. So you see, you can crack 40 km/hr without massive power levels for the TT with a bike that gets you in the right position.

July 30, 2011

Get Off My Ass, UCI

Apparently, a bicycle saddle now has to be level to meet the anal retentive needs of the UCI. If this was released on April 1, I would consider it very humorous, but it is actually real. Besides the fact that it is a bit hard to define level when many saddles are curved, no one of any racing skill level has an extreme saddle tilt that could in any way provide an unfair advantage. Now I have seen some wacky tilts on the bike pathways, but those folks aren't too concerned about the UCI rules.

Now I have often defended the UCI rules when others wouldn't. I do believe that the bike should not unreasonably define the winner of a race. That is, a superbike costing $25K or $50K should not be significantly better than a more mortal (yet still extremely expensive) $5K bike. The legs have to count for the vast majority of the race results. More importantly, old guys like me who can afford expensive stuff should not be able to beat younger guys who can't and are fitter - so mission accomplished there. Saddle tilt has nothing to do with the superbikes issue though - obviously.

But when you get into controlling the saddle's effect on the tender bits, the UCI needs to butt out. Literally and figuratively. A few degrees of saddle tilt does wonders for comfort and certainly does not provide the lame "lumbar support" unfair advantage the UCI claims. None of my saddles are perfectly level, an admittedly qualitative statement as I don't know how they measure "level". They all have a slight downward tilt to the nose of the saddle which shifts the weight off the more sensitive bits to the sit bones where it belongs. When that becomes illegal, no more UCI races for me. I want to retain full use of those more sensitive bits going into the future.

Hats off to Mr. Johan Bruyneel and Mr. Jonathan Vaughters and anyone else with a lot at stake who is willing to publicly criticize this ridiculous rule.

December 22, 2011 Update: Well the UCI finally listened to me and got partially off my ass. Far enough off my ass that they aren't really making me feel awkward anymore. They instituted some flexibility into the level saddle rule. As reported by Velonews, they give you +3 degrees or 1 cm leeway, depending on what tools they have handy. I think that's enough for the average person and only the oddities will have issues - like the owners of the bikes above. And they have to save face, so they couldn't just admit it was a stupid rule and drop it.

And would anyone like to buy some aero bottles? Cheap. I have a couple of Arundels.

July 29, 2011


Repack Rider kindly provided this link. The name didn't stick, but the sport sure did.