Archive for category bike

So Much For That Experiment

Note: Sorry about the dearth of posts.  I’ve got a lengthier one in the works.

So yesterday was an island of great cycling weather in between two crappy days.  I left work early in order to get in a good 2 hour-plus ride in lovely Vischer Ferry.  I get home and notice I have a flat on my rear tire.  Ugh.  I’m no wrench but I can repair a flat.

Now, I’ve seen competitions (on You Tube anyway) of people changing out a tube in under a minute.  You will notice I don’t appear in these videos.  I take my time to remove the old tube and try to locate the failure.  After wrestling with it for what felt like 20 minutes I find that the failure was a puncture through the sidewall.  Of my Continental Gatorskins.

Aren’t these supposed to be the tires with awesome sidewall protection?  I haven’t had a puncture flat in 5 years.  Add this to the lame road feel of these tires and I will never buy them again.  In fact, the tire that replaced it on my bike is an old GP4000 front tire that was destined for the trainer as a rear wheel beater.  Well, it’s getting pressed into service about a month early.

If you’re interested, the GP4000s have a much livelier road feel and I run them at about 10psi lower than the Gatorskins.  I guess there’s a reason that the GP4000s are a go-to model for so many riders.  They WILL be on my bike come next spring.

P.S. – the latex gloves I keep in the garage for this type of bike work – especially anything that involves fiddling with the chain – are a great idea.  That black grime that can get on your skin does not wash away easily.

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It’s Been A While

So, I haven’t posted in a few weeks and that’s OK.  We’ve had some odd weather here lately and it affected the rides I was able to take.

We had a stretch of well-above average temps toward the end of March, so I got off of the trainer and got back outside to try and get some endurance back.  I scheduled a Spring tune up at the LBS and it all looked good.

I get our bikes back and the temps drop and the rains arrive.  Fantastic.  I get new tires mounted and I have to ride the trainer again.  Ugh.  Fortunately I only did 3 rides on the trainer before the weather turned and now I’m back on the road for the season.  In fact, I just completed a three day stretch of good rides.

Some observations:

My new tires for this year are Continental Gatorskins.  The initial verdict is a B+.  They give a comfortable ride, but they could be livelier.  Definitely a training tire.  I have them at 110 psi, but I think I actually want a harsher ride out of them so the next rides will have them up to 115.  People rave about the puncture resistance and the sidewall reinforcement is immediately obvious.  It’s too early to tell if that’s true, but I have been able to avoid flats on any tire I’ve used for the last 4 years or so.  I’m sure by May I will know how much I miss the old 4000s.

The spring tune up also included a drive train cleaning.  That thing looks brand freaking new.  I couldn’t believe how good it looked.  wow.  I actually wondered if they replaced the cassette and chain.

Mrs. Stallion’s bike also got a tune up.  Now, it’s an old Huffy but all bikes Great and Small deserve to be in good riding shape.  To her great credit she has been riding the trainer more and more in addition to other exercises.  In fact, she went for a ride around a route we checked out over the winter.  It’s about a 7-8 mile route she can loop around.

When she got back from the ride we were discussing how it went.  She told me that the gears shifted much better since the tune up.  In fact, she noticed early on in the ride that the LBS returned the bike shifted on to the small front chainring.  To which she replied, “I ride in the big ring, bitches!”.

It’s going to be a good year.

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Topics to Ponder

Last year at this time I was musing the year that was.  However, this time around I just didn’t have the motivation to look back.  Overall it was a sub-par year for me.  There was a metric assload of rain in July and August and my total miles were down around 25%.  Now it’s January and I am wrestling with the traditional winter issues of weight gain and trainer rides.  I need to look forward, not back.  It’s time to do a status check.

Here’s what’s going on right now:  Starting 4-ride weeks on the trainer.  I have just enough cycling clothes to do this.  They will take the form of two interval workouts and two tempo rides.  I need to increase the volume and I don’t want to burn myself out on constant lung-burners.  No January Champions here.

I’m going to do one tempo ride on the weekend and fit the other three in mid-week.  This should be a fun exercise in reovery.

I want to train for a century this year, but not like I have done in the past.  No, this will be what I’m calling a “Circuit Century”.  This past summer I added a loop route to my stable of rides.  It measures about 10 miles per lap.  Yep, I want to take a shot at 10 laps.

If it’s anything like riding a more conventional century, there will be at least two brief stops.  I’m going to need them to to refuel and keep my sanity.  I’m liking the idea.  I just hope it’s not stupid.  (FYI, 4 laps was my max last year on that route)

Speaking of riding longer distances, I need to give my most precious contact point greater support.  More specifically, the Canari Velo II shorts I have had since 2006 are nearing the end of their run.  I bought a pair of Performance Elite bibs with a gel chamois, and mostly like them.  The gel chamois is a little rough at times, but nothing a little chamois cream shouldn’t help.  I’d like to get a couple more of these, but experience tells me to go for the foam padding.  Ride and learn.

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I’m Here To Pump You Up

hans-franzI was reading the latest post over at teh n00b, and it got me thinking about my tires.  More specifically, what do I do when it comes to flats?

As with most riding hazards, the best problem is the one you avoid.  There are measures you can take before you ride to minimize your risk: don’t ride on cheap tires, maintain proper pressure and inspect the tires before you leave. 

When you’re on the road it’s always good to be mindful of your surroundings, and the pavement is no exception – you should always have an eye on the road 10-15 feet (3-4 meters) ahead of you.  I can’t count how many times I have narrowly avoided pieces of glass and other sharp debris that snuck up on me.

These preventive measures have kept me flat-free for a long time.  I have had two flats in the last five years, and one of those was a slow leak that I noticed when the bike was still in my garage.  I was also able to help other cyclists I encountered with their flats on the road.

Apparently, there is a bit of debate when it comes to inflating tires while out on the road.  Should you use a CO2 cartridge or a frame pump?  It breaks down like this – the weight weenies love the out-of-sight light weight of the cartridges, but they sacrifice it for a one-shot deal.  If the inflation doesn’t work, you’re walking.

Frame pumps, on the other hand are always there.  Yes, they do add a small amount of weight, but unless you’re paid to race your bike, it’s negligible.  Chances are if you’re not paid to race your bike, the biggest weight penalty is the rider.  I have a full frame pump fastened under my top tube, and I would be surprised if it weighed two pounds.

Is there really a question here, people?  I guess there are always going to be race-facing pricks out there who can’t stand how a frame pump looks.  I just can’t justify the risk of being stranded when there is a perfectly good solution out there.

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Back On The Trainer

Riding TrainerMuch like the classics going from San Remo to Belgium and northern France, the weather here has gone from a smattering of 60+ °F sunny days to a solid week and a half of 40-45 °F and overcast and rainy.

The result of this is getting back on the trainer.  Man, it is hard to get motivated for this!  After riding around outside on worn, mismatched tires a few times, it’s tough to go in place for an hour.  It’s that time when I scan the forecast to look for a break when I can take my bike to the LBS for its annual tune-up.  Just before the weather gets consistently warm enough to say goodbye to the trainer for another season.

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The Trouble With Training

We’re now in the meaty part of the trainer season.  It’s butt-clenching cold and the snow continues to fall (despite my explicit orders to the contrary).  With this, there is much time for contemplation and reflection while the hours on the trainer tick by.

As much as anything else, cycling is a gradual process.  You need years to reach a high level of fitness and skill – not to mention building up those biker quads.  Along the way, you learn from your experiences.  How long it takes to get the engine fully warmed up.  How much Gatorade you can drink before you puke.

If there’s one thing that embodies trainer rides, it’s the desire to get as much as you can from as little as possible.  That can manifest itself in many ways, and one of them is a decided neglect of the very machines relied upon for the undertaking.  When I’m riding outdoors I will check tire pressure about every other ride, which works out to about once a week.  I can honestly say that since I started riding on the trainer this season (around Halloween) I have topped off the back tire twice.

Tire pressure while on the trainer makes a big difference.  The first ride I did after pumping up the tire on Sunday was a one hour tempo ride: a 90rpm cadence while turning a 53×14.  Normally this is an easy gear (on my trainer, anyway).  However, I felt a noticeable increase in resistance.  It turned out to be a great tempo ride and as such a signal to myself to pay better attention to the tire pressure.  I’m sure I will forget about it again in a week.

I have yet to lube the chain this season.

The other half of the equation, the trainer itself is also a point of contention.  You know you have a weak trainer when you never shift off of the big ring – ever.  When Coach Troy orders you to spin in the small (39) ring, 15-tooth cog and instead shift to the ridiculously easy 53×15/16 – you know you need more resistance.  In the three seasons I’ve had this trainer, I have adapted to different gear selections to have some sort of analog to what my workout leader is asking for.  It’s come down to the four top gears I have available – and if that’s not enough, it’s a 7 gear cog set I’m dealing with, so there’s basically no fine-tuning if the workout gets sketchy.  You either spit your lungs out or feel guilty going too easy.  ugh.

I have seen some trainers advertise a power range of 20 – 750 watts.  I don’t think I’m in danger of exceeding 750 watts, but I’ve gained too much fitness for my current one.  I saw the Cycleops Fluid 2 advertised for around 290 bucks.  I ain’t that desperate.

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Baby It’s Cold Outside

It happens every year.

Today marks the last outdoor ride of the season.  It was a nice 41 mile excursion to the north lasting about 2 hours and 15 minutes.  The temp at the start was 56 and I think 51 when I got back home.  Cold enough to get that “this might be a bad idea” feeling during the warm up and painfully numb toes at the end.

I was still able to enjoy it; the cool air is better to breathe somehow.  I smelled more wood burning as people are turning the heat back on.  As I rode past Lakeside Farms, I was able to enjoy one last whiff of fall goodies – cider donuts mostly.  Yum!

I did my best to savor these sensations as this is probably the last day over 55 degrees (my lower limit) until spring.  Now I turn my attention to staying fit on the trainer, a process eased a bit this year by adding a few new Spinervals videos to the mix.  I add these to my collection of 5 or so DVDs and 7 “Do the Tour” CDs.  I was able to score the 2006 Do the Tour series, so at least I get to hear Bob Roll.

I also am being promoted from the basement to the penthouse suite.  Mrs. Stallion decided to make a workout room out of a spare bedroom, so now I won’t be freezing at the start of those mid-winter trainer sessions.

I used to hate leaving the road for the trainer, but that feeling has mellowed considerably.  It will be nice to keep the sensation in my toes and get in a good workout in 90 minutes or less.  I am also better able to control when I ride.  My schedule is the big obstacle here, not mother nature.  It seems since Labor Day I haven’t had any great weeks on the road.  I think only about 4 or 5 rides over 2½ hours and several rides separated by more than 4 days.  Once I’m on the trainer it’s pretty consistent 3 or 4 rides per week.

The road will be a memory turning into a dream over the next 20 or so weeks.  I’ll do my intervals, watch my videos, listen to Bob Roll’s stories again, watch the leaves go away and the snow pile up and curse BTL for living in Florida.

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