Thursday, August 6, 2009

Vacation yadda yadda

I have been remiss. Vacation (it's all I ever wanted) and a hard re-entry into reality have kept me away. There will be much to catch up on in the coming days, including:
  • Century Report (Long Island Harbors Tour)
  • Titanium road tests
  • Carbon road test
  • Pelotonia
  • Training
But away for now...more soon!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ride in the Rain -- Caught in a Storm

I'm on the road at 0530.

Rain = check!
Wind = Check!

This was one of those rides when you know that you will be soaked to the bone. You motivate yourself however you can. You turn over the pedals knowing that you will not see another two-wheeled soul all ride long.

It rained. It rained a lot. It rained so hard it hurt through my jacket at only 20 mph.

But it was warm, not hot, and not unpleasant.

Throughout the ride my glasses kept fogging--a new experience. All winter and spring I rode in the rain, and I never had a problem. This morning was different.

The fogged lenses occluded the lightning. I thought I saw some flash, but I kept attributing it to car and truck headlights. Then I heard the thunder.

How long was it between the lightning and the thunder? Flash...rumble....still distant. Roll on, and hope that it is heading away. Flash...RUMBLE... Another strike, this time closer, and the thunder more insistently following the flash. Decision time...where do I go? There's a service station, with a small alcove...just enough for me to fit. Pull in and wait it out.

Staring out at the rain I watched more lightning, heard more thunder. Since it was not a cold morning, I did not get chilled...just a bit tight. Fifteen-minute wait, then the thunder seemed to pass, and off I went.

Back on the road, the rain fell harder. It was a Miami rain--like a bathroom shower turned on to its fullest intensity. Blinded, riding into the wind, and fighting the resistance of the water, I realized that a simple ride in the rain had turned into an epic. All I wanted to do was to get home safely.

Fortunately, despite the hour and the conditions, most drivers were generous of spirit, and considerate of the road. People waited for me to pass through intersections. They slowed down, enabling me to cross traffic. They were wonderful. With a wave and a thumbs-up I thanked them.

The weather made for crap conditions, but it tempered drivers and driving. On this morning, it was a fair trade.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Group Ride Gone Good

Sometimes you perform better than you expect.

On Tuesday's group ride I was shagged-out as usual by the workday. I also was carbo-tired, having indulged in some brownies and pretzels during the afternoon. Seriously, one day I will learn...

We had a group of 11 riders in the "fast group". As usual, I tried to stay near the front. I am not thrilled to be in the rear of the group. The accordion effect drives me to distraction, and I never feel that I am in rhythm.

I led up the Old Columbia Road hill. At the false flat I slowed, only to be passed by a duo who dusted me. i know better than that. Like Harriot Tubman, the hill is not over until it is over. I failed to practice the way I play, and I was embarrassed by it.

At the Hall Shop sprint I went with Little Mike. I don't know if he let up, or if I truly overtook him, but I passed him at 37 mph and still had legs. That felt good, considering that he is easily the strongest rider on the flats.

On the climb up Harriet Tubman, I was passed by one rider who (I love to note) weighs around 150 lbs. He did what I did on Old Columbia--slowed near the top. I flew past him until I got to my designated marker at the school entrance.

Then, once we crossed onto Stevens Forest, Darrell and I led out and were a solid 1/4 mile ahead until the headwind hit us. I enjoyed being one of the old guys in the lead--even though we were overtaken.

Finally, on the run into the shop along Oakland Mills, we had another stop light start, and I was able to go with the sprinters. Near the end I had a solid sprint, and then got passed after 150-200 yards. Again, the legs and the heart were stronger than I expected.

In the final analysis, I think I am well-positioned to do some racing this year. I will probably get dropped from timidity and unfamiliarity the first race, but I think I could hang with the Cat 5 pack.

Not bad for a 40-year-old novice.

Cervelo S1 Review

I had been wanting to ride the vaunted Cervelo S1 for some time. Taking advantage of the Cervelo two-day test ride program, I was able to get quality saddle-time. I developed a good sense of the S1.

In short: the bike is everything they say it is.

Setting the Stage

I am in the market for a new frame/fork set. I am looking for something to race and to ride the bike leg of the occasional triathlon. In terms of racing, it will mostly be crits, unless I can find some road races in my area.

Because of the racing, I am not considering a carbon frame. I know that I will crash while racing. I cannot afford to replace a carbon frame. Alumimum makes good sense, but how will it ride? Will the unforgiving nature of the material be worth it?

I hoped the S1 would provide stiffness and crisp handling, without beating me up. The last time I rode an aluminum frame was in 1991. I expected that a lot had changed since then, but I did not expect that long-ago experience to influence my findings in any way.

I am currently riding a 1997 Bianchi Veloce, a steel frame in a near-classic geometry that weighs ~19 pounds. It is a compliant companion, very friendly on long journeys. I expected that moving from steel to aluminum would have a high impact on my experience. Differing materials and geometries would certainly highlight characteristics of both rides, creating fecund environment for compare/contrast commentary.

I picked up the bike from the shop on Friday, returned it on Sunday, and in-between rode 100+ miles on the frame. I rode (roughly) 15 miles on familiar roads and hills on Friday, making sure the fit was adequate and familiarizing myself with the componentry. On Saturday I rode 87 hilly miles on a mix of familiar and unfamiliar roads.


The ~16.5 pound S1 gave me a ride experience that was both thrilling and satisfying. It met my expectations for stiffness, and it exceeded my expectations for handling. As to comfort, I was surprise by how well I felt after my extended ride.

Stiffness and Efficiency

My ride had well over 5,000 feet of climbing that was mostly rolling hills, with the occasional steep-and-long climb. There were a few areas of straight-and-flat to try some sprints.

In both climbing and sprinting I had the satisfying sensation that my rear wheel was trying to sneak under me. As I applied pressure to the pedals, the rear of the bike leaped forward. It was similar to unexpectedly hitting the throttle on a motorcycle—when you feel the machine jump forward under you.

That's a nice feeling with a bicycle.

Power, when standing on the pedals, was transfered. Rather than slogging up a hill, standing was an opportunity to increase cadence and maintain it. The bike wanted to go. The only limit was me. How hard could I push myself? How long could I endure? The equipment was not going to let me down.

The S1 gives you confidence to challenge yourself. You get responsiveness for your efforts, and the feedback is unambiguous.


The S1 is responsive, but not twitchy. It responds to your commands, but it does not exceed them. While the bike's efficiency personified would say: "Come on, I can do more, allonz-y!" The bike's handling would say: "This is what you want; this is what you get."

The bike turns on a rail, not shying from line you choose, but it does not try to jump the rail to a more aggressive line. I would have liked to have taken some time in a parking lot doing turn after turn, learning its limits. I suspect that it is like a sports car in that the limits of my skill and fear would be reached before I reached the S1's limitations.

The biggest surprise was with descending. I did not expect the S1 to be as smooth as it was. It rivaled my Bianchi in this respect. It was never twitchy, nor was it sluggish. It was balanced and predictable—something you want at 40+ miles per hour.


The S1 is aluminum. I expected to suffer. I didn't—for the most part.

During the rides I did not shy away from road chatter, minor holes, bumps, and general debris. I wanted to know what this bike would feel like in the long-term. When I hit a bump, would I feel my spine compress? Would I be launched from the seat? Risking a flat was the least of my worries.

After 87 miles the only issue I had was with my pinkies, which got numb from the road shocks. I consider the reachy-ness of my position to be a contributing factor. I know that the 3T aluminum bars likely contributed as well. The bars were well-padded, but I still experienced the tingle.
The rest of me, however, did not have that "been through the wash cycle" soreness I have heard about (and experienced). I did not get numb-tush, nor did I experience any shocks. In fact, the rear of the bike seemed to dampen the worst of the shocks.

During the last ten miles of my ride I thought about how remarkable it is that Cervelo struck a balance between material stiffness and compliance. I was tired from the effort, but I was not abused by the ride. That is a testament to the engineering prowess of the Cervelo team.


The bottom line is that I will buy an S1 frame. I was thoroughly impressed by the ride, and it fits my requirements for a lightweight, efficient, race-ready frame.

I will transfer my Campagnolo Chorus groupset over to the frame and give her Campagnolo Shamal wheels for competition (Zondas for training). She will be a flier.

My only quibble is with the paint. In my heart I want a white-and-black frame (like the Cervelo R3). Unfortunately, the front of the S1 is awash with red. So, the S1 is not my image of my dream bike.

That will need to wait for another day, when the kids are out of college!
UPDATE: I ultimately did not purchase a Cervelo S1. I decided on a BMC Racemaster (SLX-01). It is the better bike for me. That review is forthcoming!

A Note About Fit

My measurements indicated that I would be between a 54cm and a 56cm frame size, and that Cervelo recommended that I ride the larger size frame. the shop set me up on a 56cm frame, but it was uncomfortably "reachy."

The shop traded out the stem from a 110mm stem to a 100mm stem. While this improved the reach, I would have been better with an even smaller stem. I am most comfortable riding on my brake hoods. The 100mm stem made me comfortable on the bar tops, but still a bit reachy on the hoods.

It was a relatively quick fit, however, and I was content to ride with the setup I had.

I should also note that I brought my own pedals and seat. At least two of my main contacts with the bike would be familiar.

A Note About Components

My focus for the test ride was on the frame/fork, not the bike as a whole. That written, I need to comment on the components and my experience with them.

I currently ride on Campagnolo Chorus 10-speed with a compact crankset. This bike was outfitted with Shimano Ultegra SL components. I am not a fan of the Shimano.

True, the tuning was a little off—the high limit on the front derailleur was not set properly, resulting in several over-shifts and loss of chain, but that was within expectations of a new bike assembled for a test ride. It was not a fault of the components.

I fully realize that near-religious wars exist on newsgroups and forums about the Campy/Shimano divide. I will only offer a two observations.

There was nothing I particularly liked about the groupo. More to the point, I hated the shifters and the "thin" sound and feel.

For brevity's sake, I was never comfortable with maneuvering the brake lever for some shifting operations. As to the sound and feel, throughout my rides I had the sense that the bike was only tentatively trimmed—that at any time the gears would slip. Again, I realize that this is perception and personal preference. Based on this experience, however, I can safely say that my tent is pitched squarely within the Campagnolo camp.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Feeling Weak, Performing Strong

Went for a post-work ride last evening. I had a two-hour window, and I wanted to take advantage of it.

Throughout the ride, I felt weak. No pop. No zing. Sprints were efforts; climbs felt like I was dragging an anchor.

Here's the rub: heart rate was normal. in fact, it never approached maximum. And my overall average speed was well above 18mph (18.3). Usually, for the particular route, 18 is a goal.

So what is that all about? I felt weak, but I performed well.

I hate riding in the afternoon. Between the traffic, the unsteady weather, and the stress of the day, I never get balanced or rhythmic. Maybe that's why I felt weak.

Or, maybe I am stronger than I think I am.

I hope that is the case!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cervelo S1 Test Ride (Anticipation!)

Like the old ketchup ad, anticipation is upon me.
I am looking for a bike to race. Cecilia (my fat-bottomed Italian) has treated me well, but she is a bit too soft for crits, and I am not likely to set her up as a time-trial bike for triathlons.

Enter the Cervelo S1.

I have been reading about these bikes for some time, with keening interest.

What I like:

  • New geometry (relative to my Bianchi)
  • Racing pedigree
  • Can be either a road racer or a tri bike
  • Relatively inexpensive (frame, fork, post, headset for ~$1,200)

What concerns me:
  • Ride quality
    What will it be like going from 15-year-old steel to modern aluminum?
  • Setup
    How will my Chorus groupset and Shamal wheels interact with the frame? This is nothing I can test ride
  • Total cost
    I have the groupo and wheels, but I will need to get a stem and bars.

I need to get 85 miles this Saturday as part of my century training. I plan to ride it on the Cervelo. Doing so will let me evaluate it completely--climbs, descents, sprints, cruising, and spinning.

I can't wait. The anticipation is slow-good!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

When a bRIDEsmaid...

I got stood up this morrow. The parties shall remain nameless. We will simply refer to them as "slackers".

After a 25-minute ride up to the rendezvous, I spent quality time with my various personalities and several crickets. Then I checked my email (love that cell phone!), learned that I was on my own, and I began to follow plan "B".

The problem was, I had no plan "B".

So, I backtracked to my water depot at Maple Lawn, considering my options. It was a beautiful morning. Cool temperatures, slightly overcast, and enough recent rain to keep people in their houses (out of their cars and off the streets). It was also 0730 on a Saturday, so little traffic was to be seen.

Rather than picking one of my usual routes, I mixed it up. I decided to start the usual Tridelphia Mill Road loop, and tack on the Sharp Road route out to Larriland Farm. I did not know what the mileage was going to be, but I figured that I would have enough miles upon my return to only need an additional loop to get my target mileage.

The ride was pleasant, but I had no "pop". My legs would turn over, but I never had anything like explosive bursts for hills or sprints. I don't know if it was my lower-GI issues in the early morning, or something I ate in the morning, but I had no there there. It was not a slog, but I was not dancing on the pedals either.

In the end I got my 70 miles in about 4 hours. I might have had another five miles in my legs. After that, I would have bonked.

It looks like I need to up the mileage during the week. The plan is Tuesday morning spin class and afternoon group ride, and Thursday morning Tridelphia loops. Then hit it hard on Saturday morning.

So, the bridesmaid went solo, and made it through the day. As the song goes: "anger is an energy!"

71.59 Miles
17.4 mph average

2 Gu
2 Accelerade (one scoop per 24 oz)
4 bottles total

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Belgian Points

I'm on the phone with my LBS, inquiring about the evening's group ride.

It was an on-again, off-again rainy day. Being new to the group, I did not know what conditions they would ride in (or avoid).

The LBS guy--older, gruffer, no-nonsense, wise-ass--said that they would hold off on a decision until 5:00 (for the 5:30 ride). "But we don't want to go out in the nasty stuff. After all, we're not collecting Belgian Points here."

"Belgian Points"

It is the perfect way to describe the weather I love to ride in most. Rainy. Cold. No one else on the road. you can ride all day and see no other riders, even on frequently-trafficked routes.

Add a little road grime and mud, the wet scent of manure, and the sound of the water cascading off your wheels, and it is a little slice of heaven!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Novara Ponderosa 29er (2009) Review


I am a roadie, but I had been searching for a bike that I could ride on trails, through mud and over rocks on those days when I need to get my ya-ya's out (as my beautiful bride would say). You know, those days when for whatever reason you can't (or won't) get out on the road, but you need to ride...and ride hard.

I had been using my beautiful bride's bike, but one particularly nasty, rainy, cold, and muddy day I realized that I was one step away from destroying her ride. I was making too many demands of the drivetrain and the frame as I clunked down various horse trails. My marriage is too important to me.

So, with my 40th birthday present still to be received (months later...long story...), I started looking around at used bikes on Craigslist, eBay, and my LBSs. I quickly realized that I was looking in the $700 to $800 range for a bike to fit my modest desires:
  • Proper size
  • Hardtail
  • Decent components
  • Built to last
I had been hearing about and reading about 29ers, and the concept made sense to me:
  • Bigger wheels make for easier management of obstacles
  • When up to speed, they maintain speed
  • Easily converted into commuter bike (that behaves like a road bike)
So, I was browsing through my local REI and looking at bikes and prices during the spring member sale. Translation: 20% off ticket price of bikes. Suddenly, those $1,000-range bikes became in my range, and I started really looking.

And I bought one.



ForkRockShox Dart 3 29'' w/ lockout
CranksetTruvativ Firex 3.1 44/32/22
Bottom bracketTruvativ Giga Pipe
ShiftersSRAM X-7
Front derailleurSRAM X-7
Rear derailleurSRAM X-7
Rear cogsSRAM PG-950 11/34, 9-speed
BrakesAvid BB7 Disc
Brake leversAvid FR 5
RimsWTB SpeedDisc All Mountain
Front hubShimano M475 Disc
Rear hubShimano M475 Disc
TiresWTB Prowler MX 29x2.1"
HandlebarTruvativ Stylo SL 31.8mm
StemTruvativ XR 3D
Seat postTruvativ XR
SaddleWTB Pure V Race
PedalsAlloy platform
HeadsetIntegrated semi-cartridge
ChainSRAM PC 951