Thursday, August 07, 2014

Summer Random Post

I've done 2 "rides" this year.  By "ride," I mean pedaling a bike, not just to get from point A to B, but to have fun and ride with other people.  One of those rides was the OWL ride.  It was a good time and a welcome break from the monotony of the 2-3 mile daily commutes.  Same roads.  2-3 times a day.

So since I haven't been "riding," I can't really comment on that.  But what I can comment on is an interesting trend in bikes I've noticed and fully support, along with another trend I see as a severe detriment to bikes in general.

I've been building bikes at the local Trek Midtown store, which has taken place of pretty much any social life.  The biggest benefit of this is I'm paying my car off early with the extra cash(which also seems wrong in some way).  The secondary benefit is I like wrenching on bikes - it's like meditation to me.  Usual builds include lower end comfort bikes, lower end mountain bikes, and kids bikes.  Pretty banal stuff.  I'll build up a fancy mountain bike sometimes, but since the inner workings of suspension and hydraulic brakes are a mystery to me, I just make sure the normal stuff works - shifting, no brake rubbing, etc.

Sometimes, however, a nicer road bike will come through.  I used to LOVE working on those.  It was like the cinnamon sugar sprinkled on my bread and butter.  I would build the bike exactly how I would personally like it setup - tight brakes, crisp shifting, and aesthetically - the handlebars angled to have a nice flat bar top and shifter profile.

I tried to run my road bike that same way last fall, when I made sort of a comeback to riding and joined Strava, thanks to Fred.  This led to a pretty bad wrist issue.  I put the road bike up for the winter, then dismantled it for random parts this summer.  I decided to put it back together again recently, but wanted to try something different to avoid wrist pain.  I angled my shifters way up.  I first noticed this bullhorn shifter setup from CX and road cycling Pro Tim Johnson in the following video at about the 20 second mark:

Notice the stark difference in angle of shifters.  I thought this was just a random CX thing that only Tim Johnson had come up with, but then, after watching some of the Tour de Frank this year, noticed that about half the peleton is doing it now.  The look of this setup is kinda weird, but it's SOOOO comfortable.  I would highly recommend it.  

So that's the trend I'm liking in newer road bike setups.

The trend that really has me worried is the newest high end groupsets.  Mostly, I'm referring to Shimano's 4 bolt proprietary crankset, and both Sram/Shimano's new front derailleurs.  

Setting up a front derailleur, although sometimes difficult to tweak and make perfect, was a pretty straight forward affair.  With Shimano's new front derailleur, you have to go through all sorts of steps to make it function relatively well.  I guess I could try to explain it, but I'll just link another video:

I haven't even touched the new SRAM Yaw front derailleur, but after a quick view of some videos, it's also fairly wonky in it's setup.   

But by far, the biggest issue I have is Shimano's new cranksets.  Both on the road and mountain side, they are becoming increasingly proprietary.  The standard road 5 bolt 130 mm bolt circle diameter (BCD) has been around for more than, I think, half a century.  Now Shimano puts out a weird 4 bolt X-men inspired crankset on which only their VERY expensive chainrings can be replaced. This may change in the future if all other manufacturers hop on board, but obsolete-ifying decades of standardization seems like a bad idea to me.  

So that's what's been on my mind recently.  Oh, and I just found out the bike I've been commuting on weighs in at 34 pounds.  Ooofdah.  No wonder my quads are staying fairly strong even though I'm barely riding.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Spring Extra

Seeing as the Normal  Weekly  Posting guys sometimes do mid week or same-day extras and I usually post (but sometimes not) once a season, I figured I'd give it a try also.

Although my last post was not technically Spring, today wasn't technically Spring-like weather with a "Winter Storm Event" as the local news meteorologists liked to call a simple snow shower.  It snowed.  Whoopty fricken doo.  Stop trying to make weather extreme.  Unless, somehow, there's a crazy tornado filled with sharks, weather is never going to be extreme.  It is what it is.

With all the hoopla over bike race sanctioning on the mountain biking side of things, and my need to clean out my Google drive, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and look at my old training regiments and race results.  That was nearly 10 years ago, so my memory is pretty vague.  This, I'm sure, wasn't helped by the hundreds of times I rode around that damned Branched Oak Lake boiling my brain cells going as hard as I possibly could.  Seriously.  I remember one race where we had to share water bottles just to make it to the finish line since it was 90-some degrees with 1000% heat index or something.  I was on the Lincoln Industries Team and Spence was (and still is) on team Kaos and we were mortal enemies.  But I handed him a bottle on the last lap just so our finish line sprint could be fair.  However, it was more of a finish line squirm as we were all at some stage of cramping.

But anywho...Looking at some of the race results had me shaking my head.  In '05 and '06, there were multi-stage races(as in, more than 2 stages) where the cat 1/2 race had 40-50 people and the cat 3s had just about the same.  A few large teams of riders would come from all over the midwest to race our Nebraska events.  Now we're lucky to get more than 5 out-of-town people within a combined cat 1/2/3 race of 20-30 riders.

I'm guessing the big economic collapse of '08 is the cause of this downturn, but I remember it getting pretty bad even '07.  That was my last serious year of racing, and I think I was a cat 2?  Since those were my most recent memories, those are the ones I recall the best.  I remember being dropped from a cat 1/2/3 field of 20 since there was no place to hide and team cohesion wasn't really a thing. Aside from Kaos having a team consisting of a third of the pack and the 4 fastest riders in the state at the time, of course.  So races usually went: Kaos rider(s) in the lead break with 1 random person; another break with Kaos rider(s) catching up to the leaders; the rest of us in a VERY small pack with riders attacking to break up the field and weed out the stragglers (me).  Not a very fond memory.  But it was what it was.

Would I go back to that?  I dunno.  I switched over to dirt for a while after I got done with traveling and racing road, but I ran into the same issue - I was tired of the same routes I rode over and over and over for training.  Mountain biking was new, but then got old quick when all the local courses were 4 miles long and required many repeats for any length of a ride.  Again, the repetitiveness of it got to me.

So now I'm doing repetitiveness in the working thing, trying to really hit the debt hard.  Each day I've worked anywhere from 4 - 12 hours for the past 3 weeks at one or more of my 3 jobs - UNMC, bike building, and chip timing.  At UNMC, I work a fairly normal 6am-3pm shift, so that's nice albeit early.  It's hard forcing myself to go to bed at 10pm.  The work is not bad.  But now being supervisor, I make decisions that affect our group, not just me. So that's kinda stressful

A few days during the week and one or both weekend days I'll build bikes for the Trek Store.  That's only a few hours at a time, but it can be very draining after already working 8 hours at a previous job.  My weakly upper body and over-worked hands can do only so much bike wrenching before I get tired and start to make mistakes.

The chip timing thing is kind of a doozy.  It starts with preparing and stressing out a few days before the weekend, Friday night configuring the races and riders into the software, being at the races a few hours before the first race (this is where my new sleep schedule has actually helped), doing something related to the races for most of the day, getting home then dinking with results and spreadsheets and emails to get all the info out ASAP and finally either taking a nap or turning that nap into sleep since it's bedtime already.  And sometimes that whole process happens both weekend days.

Like the infamous Forrest Gump once said, "I'm pretty tired."

I remember over-training on the bike and how that felt.  You generally felt sore all over, had a grumpy disposition, and didn't want to move, let alone hop on the bike and do intervals.  But this over-working thing is something entirely new.  It's like...I'm tired in my soul.

I imagine taking a vacation would probably be a wise thing to do - at least from my UNMC job.  I'm getting close to maxing out my 240 hours of vacation time. (BAM!  Working for the State - mediocre pay with great benefits.)  I'd probably still build bikes for a few hours most days.  Gotta kill the debt.

Must eat all the debt...





Friday, March 14, 2014

A wee update

So usually nothing's new in my world.  I've been doing the normal riding to work with the occasional weekend ride.

I did one of those infamous coffee rides last weekend and it was a blast.  Scott Redd knows many different routes that, when I used to spend hours on the bike, would pass many times but never try. As a roadie, you didn't dare take your pristine machine over anything but the most direct paved routes.  Many a time on our weekly jaunts out to nowhere'sville, we'd pass some gravelly offshoot that rose and curved into the trees.  I'd glance their way and think, "where does that go?"  It wasn't until Jon Randell and I were done with training and racing that we'd actually try those random offshoots.  One of the first ones was in the middle of what is/was a commonly used road race course.  Randell said, "Let's see where this goes."

Now you may recognize this race course.  It's basically a vertical rectangle(ish) shape involving Church Road on the south, 310th St on West, Hwy 66 on the N to NE corner, then 334th finishing it up.  If you were to zoom in to it's vertically bisecting road starting in the South with 322nd St, you'd see that it barely qualifies as a road - definitely not to road bike standards.

So when Randell and I headed North on this "road" it got real interesting, real quick.  It's basically a jeep/truck access road with tire ruts, overgrowth, and some washed out places sprinkled in.  Then to add insult to injury, at the end there was a spot where water usually collects.  This particular ride, it looked like it was dry, but my road bike soon found out otherwise, pretty quick.  I almost endoed, but saved it at the last second. My front wheel was covered in semi-dry mud of the stickiest caliber.  Being in prissy roadie mode, I didn't want to get my cycling gloved dirty, and Randell was up the road (as he was always faster than me) so I just did a couple bunny hops to shake off the crud, then rode like hell to use centripetal force to get the rest off.

Well, that might not have been the brightest idea, as the mud on the side of my tires decided to eat away a little at my Carbon Fiber Fork.  It wasn't bad, but still, it was the beginning of my need to use a better bike for exploring these exciting new random roads that I had always passed by.  I have yet to find my perfect bike, but my Trek Ion is purdy darn close.  If it was slightly more utilitarian (bike speak for having braze-ons) and just a little more tire clearance, and maybe, just maybe, disc brakes, I'd be in heaven.  I could go all bike touristy and get a Surly LHT or Ogre, which I've seriously pondered, but I know I'd be pretty unhappy with the weight.  Granted, if I lost weight off my body and rode more, it'd be less of an impact.  But still, that extra 5-10 pounds of frame and disc brake weight can wear on you after hours in the saddle.

Here would be my perfect ride: aluminum frame, disc brakes (rear disc chainstay mounted, not seatstay), braze-ons for anything/everything, frame/fork clearance for 50c tires, and somehow, no toe overlap.  The no toe overlap thing is a function of frame design that I'm not sure would work out.  I don't understand all the geometry specifics, but anything road or CX has the front wheel tucked pretty far in for less mechanical trail, resulting in more stability for flying down the road in a straight line.  MTB bikes have pretty high trail, and geometry to allow quick maneuvering at lower speeds, so toe overlap isn't a problem with the front wheel sticking out there.  Salsa Vaya, or even the Fargo were close(although their newer versions are going more toward frame bag design, rather than many braze-ons for racks), but I know those bikes wouldn't be very fast.  I guess that's the conundrum - speed versus utility/comfort.

All this is a moo point since my current goal is to pay down debt, not buy new bikes.  Helping with that effort are a few happenings.  I'm building bikes again at the Trek Store Midtown.  I'll be doing Chip timing for races.  Also, my manager retired, so I took on a new supervisor position with more responsibility and a good bump in salary.  Our car will be paid off by the end of this year. My wife should finish up her schooling for Medical billing/coding in a year and get an internship as part of Metro's curriculum.  So all of that combined should make this one of the last summers that I'm living paycheck to paycheck.  That'll be a very welcome change.

Hopefully between all this extra work I can squeeze in some coffee rides, some off-the pavment beaten path rides, and some TGJ (Team Good Job) road rides.  I miss the days where most of my free time was spent either riding or planning my next ride.

Some day.