Posted: May 25th, 2013 | Author: admin | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »
When did I start thinking about how cool it would be to participate in a Rapha Gentlemen’s Race? Pretty much as soon as I became aware of Rapha and the event. Although Rapha generates some controversy among cyclists, I have always been a fan. I like the celebration of cycling panache and cool. And well made, nice looking kit is great too.
My problem is that I didn’t really start getting back into the kind of shape needed to tackle 130+ hard miles until very recently. Work and life, but mainly the former, had adversely impacted my fitness and I was on time’s downward staircase. Things changed in 2011 as I had the opportunity to ride more consistently than I had for years, and by the end that year. Fitness was starting to creep back and I was looking less like the chubby little monkey I had become.
When the call for entries went out for the 2013 NE Gentlemen’s Race went out I was all over it. I had joined the Foundation team and recruited a good group of guys to ride with – Rob W, Mauricio S., Laurent G. and Bob M. are all hard charging diesels and good to ride with too. My buddy Nate K. also joined the squad. With a great squad in place I completed the essay and prepared the other materials needed to apply. And I hoped, a lot.
And we got in! With a week to the ride, we got the course - a challenging 130+ mile route starting in New Jersey.
We were fortunate to have Nate along because in addition to being a monster rider, he takes pictures for a living. Photos by Nathan Kraxberger are gratefully used with permission in this recap. Certain photos are from Kira E Theesfeld / Abigail Thomas Photography, and are used with permission.
To get to the race, we had to meet early – we nearly hit the plan to roll out at 5:15am! and made it to the start with time to spare.
We drove in two vehicles to the small park where the ride started. In our rush for pre-race prep, we all availed ourselves of the blue boxes rather than the much nicer facilities a few miles further.
The staging area was light, but had everything that was needed, including fresh drip brewed Grimpeur Bros. coffee.
The crew checked bikes and loaded up on Power Bars!
At 9:35 we were off. And the riding was fantastic. Our navigation, however, not so much. We missed the first turn and that would set the tone.
There was lots of gravel, and it was nice. Uphill, downhill and flats.
We wasted time with long official stops – waiting in lines and losing precious minutes.
tic toc tic toc
Unofficial rest stops were much quicker.
We crossed bridges by bike.
And by foot.
And we crossed streams with no bridge in sight.
For those who tried to ride, the correct line was too the right, it got deep on the left.
After this crossing, the road got steep.
Cresting each climb was a delight.
And it should be noted that some of the riders made the climbs look easy.
The last water crossing was confusing, since there was a bridge, but it was impassable. And the water was deep.
A hike through the woods was required to find a section of river that was passable.
We had the realization that we were losing too much time on disorganized rest stops so passed a few in the final 40 miles. Dread descended when we realized that there weren’t any options coming and we were running out of water. Happily a local let us use his hose to refill our bottles.
Although we were motivated by the massive purse on offer (24 beers x 26 teams), we didn’t manage to get the win. We finished 8th on the day out of 26 teams (21 of which finished) at 8:48.
It was an outstanding event and a great day out on the bike. The team worked well together and after we had recharged with pizza and beer, we almost immediately turned to improvements for the event next year.
Posted: April 30th, 2013 | Author: admin | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »
I need to write a little more on this topic as I have been spending a fair amount of time measuring this and that. Couple quick observations, the Serotta X-Y tool is pretty much useless. I would strongly recommend against purchasing it. Its measurements are suspect as I can’t reproduce the numbers using a tape measure – not even close. The measurement process requires as much eyeballing and estimating as does the standard ruler/sprit level/plumb bob approach, the instructions are junk and the build quality is junk. At least it is expensive. Second, if you want a fantastic measuring tool, have a look at the BikeSettings system. Kind of hard to get your hands on one since the website is fairly useless and the guy behind the company is a mechanic for team Blanco, so kind of busy. That said, the tool is awesome. Fabulous build quality. Impressive precision. Easy to use. It doesn’t come with instructions, at least mine didn’t, but it is fairly straight forward. More to come on it.
Posted: February 18th, 2013 | Author: admin | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »
I tend to be promiscuous with the bikes I ride and the equipment I use so accurately measuring my position and being able to reproduce position is important to me. Additionally, after a number of years away from regular riding I have once again ramped up the volume and in doing so have had to face the aches and pains and related position tweaks that come with riding a bike. As a consequence, I spend a lot of time fiddling with position and taking measurements. I want to share some of my observations.
1. Stack and Reach are great metrics. At a high level, it used to be relatively easy to get a bike your size because sizing methodology and geometry basics were very similar. That is not the case any more and as a consequence, the size of a bike, which may be 52, 54, etc. or S, M, etc., doesn’t tell you much. Stack and reach are measurements that tell you how tall the front of the frame sits and the reach measured from the centerline of the bb. A nice primer can be found on SlowTwitch. Looking at Stack and Reach numbers provides a very good and comparable metric for determining whether a given frame should fit. The metrics also show some funny frame design decisions. For example, the reach number for a Specialized SL3 Tarmac is the same when you move up from the 52cm frame to the 54cm frame. In other words, for a given seat height and setback from the bb, the reach will be same, the only difference will be the height of the bars.
2. The Serotta X-Y Tool is just ok. This tool is intended to be a relatively simple solution to reproducing bike fit numbers for ride to ride. Serotta decided to use the center of the saddle rails as the reference point for saddle height, which means that the numbers you get from the tool only apply to a given saddle, since the measurement from the center of the rails to the top of the saddle, you know where you butt connects, will vary from model to model and no doubt within a given model. The build quality of the tool is appalling, especially given the exorbitant price. The levels aren’t properly fixed in the tool and they regularly fall out during use. Really. Additionally, the tool uses two very thin plastic discs, presumably as washers to facilitate movement, but the construction isn’t documented, so who really know. Generally, It isn’t obvious where you actually the X/Y measurements, since the “>” markings on the tool clearly aren’t the correct point. The instructions aren’t helpful either. For example, for measuring saddle height, the instruction is to “[r]ead and record the saddle rail x/y number as marked on the x/y tool” but again, it isn’t clear where to read that measurement. I measured the distance using a tape measure, with the origin being the center of the x/y tool at the bb axle and … no number on the tool matched the observed number. The best number was off by 2-3 mm, which is a lot in a world where 2-3 mm is the typical amount of movement. Don’t try calling Serotta either. The number on the instructions isn’t correct and goes to some guy at another company. I called SICI, the Serotta group that works on these tools and left a few messages. No word back.
3. Use neutral settings as a baseline. As an starting point, hard to go wrong with Goldilocks settings – flat saddle, an inch or two of drop from the top of the saddle to the bars, two to three inches of saddle setback. I don’t get why there are so many professionally fitted bikes with saddle tilt, whether up or down, suggests that the bike in fact does not fit. If it is angled more than two degrees either way, there is probably something else wrong with your fit.
4. Use the Cunningham Fit Like a Glove measurements. Charlie Cunningham uses a simple four point methodology based on your contact points with a bicycle. After spending a lot of time taking different measurements, I end up coming back to these. They are bar drop from saddle, saddle height, saddle set back and “reach” from saddle to bar. I add one more, which is saddle height measured through the center of the effective saddle rails, which is helpful for producing comparable saddle heights in a saddle and seat angle agnostic way. A pdf showing the measurements follows.
Posted: February 8th, 2013 | Author: admin | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »
I am a gear-head and I have been one for years and years and years. Heck, I still have copies of letters I sent to Campagnolo providing free advice as to how to improve their components. The high performance bike world has changed and I have a lot of sympathy for those who look back to the quality and craftsmanship of yesteryear. The precise date of yesteryear is up for some debate, but for me it is the time prior to the dominance of hi-zoot carbon bikes where the technology eclipses craftsmanship.
Before I go any further, I want to be clear that I get it that modern bikes have a lot on offer from the perspective of performance, weight and ergonomics. My beef is that even at the top end, there are engineering and design directions that the industry is taking that just make no sense at all. And I am not even talking about electronic shifting, which I “get” but don’t really love as a concept.
My main beefs with pro-sumer bikes are (1) the ridiculous weight-durability trade-off that is at play, (2) the whole slew of press-fit bottom brackets and (3) propriety bits.
The first is probably my biggest rant because it has come to the point where modern super bikes appear to be too light for the pros. I base this on a trend I’ve noticed with weights of pro bikes. In short, the reported actual weights of the bikes don’t compute. Start with the UCI limit of 6.8 kg or 14.99 lbs. Given modern frame weights, pretty much every rider would be able to hit that number if they wanted to – if weight was the only consideration. I am not talking about bs ad copy weights either, I am talking about all-in weight. My Moots Vamoots CR with an SRM and 25c tubeless clinchers weighs in at 16 lbs, 8 oz. However, my Cervelo R3 SL with pre-Firecrest tubulars and Veloflex tubs weighs in at 14 lbs even. Both were measured with bottle cages and computer. So, what about the pro bikes?
For starters, there is climber Matthew Lloyd’s tiny Merida. This bike is smaller than mine. In fact, though, it weighs 16 lbs 4 ozs. Just a bit under the weight of my Moots. Now, I get it, Dura Ace Di2 is heavier than Super Record, but not much. And my Vamoots has a Ti seatpost, stem … and beefy tubeless tires. If there wasn’t something up with the frame and fork of the Merida, there is no way that there would only be 4 ozs between the bikes. Look again, the Moots is only 8 ozs heavier than Philippe Gilbert’s BMC and about 5 ozs heavier than Matty Goss’s Foil. So, yea, the Moots is heavier than all these pro bikes, but it should be. Based on the frame weight and the heavier ti seatpost and stem, it should be at least a pound and a half heavier if not more, but in fact it is only a quarter pound to a half a pound heavier. And with the Zipp 303s its lighter than all of them.
My speculation is that the Pro bikes are heavy because they have more material – a lot more. I don’t think that it is acceptable for teams or sponsoring manufacturers to play games with the the durability of the frames. It is understood that a bike in one piece is gets a rider to the line faster than one in multiple. It has been suggested that Pros demand the extra material to increase the stiffness of the bikes, but I don’t buy it. First, the bikes are plenty stiff. Heck, one of the changes that Specialized made when it updated its top end S Works Tarmac from S2 to S3 was the make the frame more forgiving. Bottom brackets and head tubes are so stiff now that designers are having to address new issues with front derailleur performance and wheel rigidity. The weak link in the chain is the one you notice. Heck, I don’t believe that stiffness makes a bike faster anyway, and will maintain that belief until someone shows me some wattage or other test numbers that show otherwise. Additionally, tube shape and diameter is the key to stiffness, not incremental material. So, no, I don’t think the bikes show heavy because they have extra material to make ‘em stiff. Instead, I believe it is all about making a bike durable.
Assuming I’m correct, why isn’t there similar focus on making pro-sumer bikes more durable. An interesting exception is the Pinarello Dogma, which has taken some hits for being relatively heavy. I bet that frame is a lot closer to what Pro teams riding Pinarellos have. I’d contrast that to Pros on Cervelo, Cannondale and Specialized. I just can’t believe that their Pro bikes aren’t much beefier. Its what the weights say in any case.
Next rant, and maybe even a bigger one, goes to all the stupid press-fit bottom bracket “standards” that are being floated – PF30, BB30, BBRight, BB386, etc. All bollocks. Two problems that should kill all of these stupid ideas – (1) you have to shim them or use some other kludgy work around to use the best cranksets. I am specifically talking about Shimano and Campagnolo cranksets which are the pinnacle of quality (and their SRM variants). Why should riders have to endure work-arounds on bikes that should be perfect? (2) they all tend towards creakiness. I hear it again from bike shops – a major part of their repair business is dicking around with creaky bbs. They are creaky because the bb shell doesn’t have sufficiently precise tolerances and so under use the bearings or cups work free. On my Cannondale Evo this would happen on demand with efforts at a paltry 400 watts. That, by the way, is just under the average wattage of a top level crit racer. It is nothing for a 5 sec effort. Sure, they might work from time to time, but it if creaky noisy bbs are always the rule, they are certainly way too common.
The solution is simple, go back to BSA. It would be a little heavier to have the threads in the frame, it would be incrementally more expensive from a manufacturing perspective, but c’mon, we know these bikes cost pennies for the dollars they are sold for. If makers want to continue to make outlandish bb stiffness claims, that is fine too, just build up the ugly bulbous mass around a sensible thread shell. Please.
Finally, the proprietary bits. To bike manufacturers, stop it, please. It is maddening to be working on a bike and to realize that you can’t replace a part that should be standardized because of some tweak. Aero seatposts that are brand (and model year!) specific, Specialized’s new idiotic bb shell width, weirdo seat clamps, integrated seatposts, all of these horrible integrated brakes, Look’s frame module with fugly Look cranks and stem. All of it, just stop.
I am a bike made consumerist obsessive. Bike manufacturers, when you are losing me, well, it isn’t a great thing.
Posted: February 3rd, 2013 | Author: admin | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »
I decided to take another try with a carbon fiber bike. I come at them with a fair amount of hesitation. While I recognize the advantages of the material, they seem too prone to breakage and the manufacturing quality of even the top end bikes seems to be lacking. And I hate the bottom brackets.
I first threw a leg over a Cannondale Evo last year and thought it rode ok. That was until the fork cracked in under 100 miles. After a fair amount of going back and forth with the Cannondale rep and my local shop, I ended up with a big shop credit and I bought another titanium bike. Even before the bike cracked, the bottom bracket was a constant source of significant irritation as the PF30 cups would “pop” on every ride, requiring literally daily pressing. And the cable routing is incredibly stupid too. Smooth routing and brake feel was traded for a “cleaner” look. Given that modern road bike brake feel already leaves a lot to be desired, these additional challenges don’t do a bike any favors.
Still, I continue to be curious about these vertically compliant torsionally stiff light weight rockets. So, I figured I’d try another kick at the can. I wasn’t psyched about the BBRight bottom bracket but the design seemed better than PF30 in that the cups are more inboard. After cleaning the shell with alcohol I applied loctite primer and press fit hold 609. So, fingers crossed.
I run my saddle setback about 55mm behind the center of the bottom bracket. I was surprised to find that on this bike I needed a no-offset post to do it. To maintain the reach to the bar required a longer stem. Some nifty German CNC’ed parts by Tune fit the bill.
The bike is finally together and at just under 14 lbs as pictured (with computer and meaty Keo 2 Max pedals) – it weighs in nearly 3 lbs less than my Moots. So there is that. That said, I can’t shake the worry that the frame will crack. Looking forward to a shakedown and will report on the ride etc.
Posted: January 3rd, 2013 | Author: admin | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »
Well, things are looking pretty good right now. It has been 24 hrs and both wheels are holding air pretty well. I have lost 17 or so psi in the front and only 8 in the rear. I had bled the air out of both tires, sloshed the sealant around, and reinflated. So, that was pretty good. I bought a Stan’s sealant injector and will probably add another 15g or so into each. Now I can start talking about other stuff!
Posted: December 30th, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »
Well, not only will these survive a nail puncture, or so they say, they also basically hold air. When I went to check pressure this morning, after around 11 or so hours of inflation, the rear was holding at 77 psi and the front at 85 psi. Both reasonable amounts, if 20 – 30 psi less than they had in ‘em the previous night. So, with some trepidation, I took them for their first test ride today – 30 easy miles in Central Park. I pumped both up to 85-90 psi and went out to brave the 30F temps. I ended up meeting some friends in the Park so enjoyed a mellow ride with them. In the back of my mind I harbored some concern about either a dramatic deflation or a sustained leak – both which would be embarrassing, calling my wrenching skill into question, and causing me to have to dick around with a sealant bath and installing a tube. This time my fears were unjustified and the ride was without event.
Given the mellow pace of the ride, as well as my (somewhat failed) attempt to keep the variability of effort down, I can’t comment on ride quality. I was happy that the air remained in the tires.
As promised, following are some pics.
Posted: December 29th, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »
Day 4 involved noting that the tires were losing psi but at varying rates. My process has been to inflate to 120psi and to shake shake shake to get sealant where it needs to be. Day 5 is around the same. I am planning on popping the bead and pouring a larger quantity of sealant in. I am thinking of restarting with a new taping for each wheel.
I note that the wheels and tires are sold as not needing sealant at all. Given my experience so far, it is unimaginable to me.
I also want to note how ugly the wheel graphics are on the bike. Off the bike I don’t think they are terrible. Pics to come.
Posted: December 27th, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »
The rear wheel had lost all of its air over night. That was the wheel with the factory installed tape. No problems with my front wheel that had a tube installed to “cure” the replacement Stan’s tape. After work I pulled the tube out and reseated the tire. With three days of practice I was starting to get better at it. I removed the cores and carefully poured Stan’s sealant into the front and rear tires. After sealanting, I reinflated and did the Stan’s “shake” – trying to get the sealant distributed throughout the inside of the tire. After an hour or so the front has lost 20 psi, so I let the air out and poured in more sealant and did some more shaking.
Now I wait.
Posted: December 26th, 2012 | Author: admin | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »
Took the wheels with tires mounted to the local bike shop. With some blasts from the compressor the rear seated. Unfortunately the seat wasn’t perfect but after a few rounds of deflating and adjusting, the tire seated and inflated. It is still holding air. The front, however, was another story. It seems like there was a crack or something in the rim tape so air was leaking out of the spoke holes. Although I don’t have American Classic table, I do have some Stan’s, so I stripped the faulty American Classic tape and scrubbed the wheel bed with rubbing alcohol. After it had evaporated, I double wrapped with the Stan’s tape. I remounted the tire, this time with a tube and inflated. The goal is to press the tape down to create a strong bond. Tomorrow I will have another go mounting the tire. Fingers crossed.