Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tight.

The last couple days I've been riding the Storck. I installed my Quarq RIKEN instead of the S975 (which didn't fit), touched a few minor things, and took the sucker for a ride.
 
Despite being a complete disaster initially, the bike is a lot of fun to ride. I've never ridden an aluminum frame that is this responsive, mostly because the majority of aluminum frames I've ridden have been on the lower end of the spectrum. The nicer ones I've ridden were designed less for performance and more for comfort. The one bike that I've ridden that was along these lines was a Cannondale CAAD 9, but it was hampered by less-than stellar components, so a real A/B comparison isn't possible without building up a bare frame.
 
What I can say is that this bike feels "tight". Not in an over-torqued headset way, but rather it feels like everything is machined and aligned perfectly. I feel directly connected to the bike.
 
The downside of this is I feel directly connected to the bike. I took a three hour ride today, and the road vibrations that are usually attenuated by all of the carbon I sit on were transmitted through the aluminum frame to the aluminum seatpost, stem, and handlebars to my dainty little contact points. I could have added a bunch of carbon parts and mitigated this effect, but I didn't. It's not abusive, but I do feel a little more tired after a couple hours in the saddle.

This bike would be a great crit bike. It will probably serve well as a beat-around bike, even though the anodized frame coating scratches in a stiff breeze. It climbs and descends well. It's just plain fun to ride, which is why I buy so many bikes- to find the fun ones.
 
The Cannondale System 6 was sitting there built up with nobody to ride it, so I passed it on to Pete so he could ride it during the Tour of Anchorage. Unlike me, Pete keeps his bike-related purchases sane, and is riding the same bike as he was when I met him back in 2008. Granted, only the frame, seatpost, and Wolverine action figure zip-tied to the top of the seat stays remain original. Impressive fiscal restraint that I could never muster. I think that's called maturity, which is something I've thankfully never been afflicted with.
 
The Tour of Anchorage is just a couple days away, and hopefully I can rest enough to ride well. My past history with target events indicates I won't, but there's always a small chance I will narrowly avoid getting in the way of my own success.
 
I guess we'll see...

Monday, August 3, 2015

Bad Designs and Good People.

Last night I was working on the Storck during the 15 minutes the wife allows me each week for bike maintenance. My bikes are starting to fall apart, although probably not as quickly as they would if I actually turned a wrench on them.
 
When I got to installing the crankset, I decided to use my Quarq S975 power meter. Over the years I've abused it horribly. It's seen countless soaking wet rides, and was even submerged when I rode through a flooded bike path tunnel. Seeing the Garmin mounted to the handlebar stem under a couple inches of water while you chug along slowly is quite the experience. Through all of that, that S975 never had a significant problem that a new battery didn't fix. Since the Storck will not likely live a life of relative comfort, the S975 seemed like the obvious choice.
 
I tightened down the crank arm bolt to the specified torque setting of "real tight plus one grunt", then prepared to install the chain. The only problem was that the crank wouldn't turn, which kinda defeats the whole purpose of that particular component. The S975 spider was bound tightly to the bottom bracket shell, which meant that this particular option wasn't going to work.
 
Just when I think I've got it beat, the Storck kicks me in the lady parts again.
 
Off came the S975, and I installed a basic SRAM Force crankset, which fit perfectly. Now the options are to try my Quarq RIKEN power meter, which may fit, or my Stages power meter, which is guaranteed to fit.
 
The problem with the Stages? It died the first time it saw rain. Drying the interior out, a hardware reset, and a new battery fixed the problem, but the experience did little to instill confidence. This is ironic, because I originally purchased it for cyclocross, a discipline that celebrates rain and mud.
 
Since I occasionally peruse the interwebs for bike-related stuff, I vaguely was aware of a replacement battery cap that was supposed to fix the issue. A call to Stages confirmed that this was actually the case, and that they would be sending not one, but two caps to me free of charge. They also asked that I send them pictures of the unit so they could make sure there were no other issues causing the problem, and pictures of me in a Borat mankini for their customer database. OK, I made the last part up, but I forwarded that picture anyway just to be safe. I'm sure the very nice customer service representative I talked to will be thankful I went the extra mile.
 
I hope the caps will fix the issue. I do appreciate that Stages recognized the deficiency and worked to fix it for their existing customers- at no charge. They're constantly tweaking their firmware to improve reliability and accuracy, and I respect them for it. They stand behind their product, but not so much that they can't recognize what needs to be addressed.
 
My A-B comparisons of the Stages (with current firmware installed) against my Quarqs have shown that for most of my applications, the Stages will do the job. It's not a perfect match, especially on shorter, more intense efforts, but certainly within the ballpark. That would save my more expensive Quarqs from the abuse I've heaped on them in the past- hopefully prolonging their lives. Power meters aren't cheap.
 
If I'm lucky, my wife will double my wrenching allotment this week so I can finish the Storck, and I can actually ride the hunk of aluminum that has caused me all of this mental anguish.
 
That would be neat.
 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

All the Pros Do It

Professional athletes will build towards targeted events and taper off the volume and intensity just before so they have the right balance of stress and recovery to ensure peak performance.
 
If it works for them, then obviously every overweight/untalented Masters athlete should do the same thing. At least, that's my plan.
 
Of course, professionals usually don't stuff their faces with immoral amounts of processed fat bombs that they could never hope to burn off. I'm starting to pay for yesterday's excesses, but I'm fairly sure the bill won't be settled for quite some time. No matter. It was fun while it lasted.
 
Yesterday I rolled out from work into sunshine and warmth. This was quite unexpected, as my workplace has no windows and I had pre-conditioned my body for chilly and a bit damp. My enthusiasm for effort just wasn't there, and I rode at an easy pace. Halfway through, a rider blew past me and my initial instinct was to chase to shut down the breakaway. My next thought was a more reasonable, "Why?"
 
I continued meandering along, selecting routes that didn't include headwinds or hills. Avoiding effort was the name of the game. It was all too easy to be lazy. Maybe not as easy as not riding at all, but still a little too easy for my liking. Usually I have to hold myself back to get in an easy ride. My head wants to go, my legs want to go, and the only thing holding me back is the mental image of Janice shaking her head in disgust. Actually, I imagine Janice's normal state when reviewing my training records is revulsion, because I mutilate her carefully-crafted plans with laser precision. If there's one thing I'm good at, it's getting in the way of my own success. I've got mad skills.
 
I am a little afraid that I'll get accustomed to riding easy, and won't be able to kick up the intensity when required. It's happened before. I hit a peak of intensity and volume, then draw back for a little recovery, and can't find my stride again. I went as far as I was able, and didn't realize it until it was too late. Maybe that will happen this time, maybe it won't. I'm just not in tune with the signals my body sends me, other than those coming from my stomach.
 
I do know that after a couple days of riding easy I'm mentally ready for something a little more sporty. It may not be a good idea and it may not be in my legs, but sometimes not knowing is worse than being a little under-recovered. We'll see...
 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Self-Loathing

Today I hate myself.
 
Occasionally I'll give myself permission to ingest whatever highly-processed, chemical-laden, nutritionally-questionable, and calorically-dense substance is within 100 yards of my mouth.
 
Today is that day, and I'm trying to kill myself in the most efficient manner possible with my undeniably bad choices.
 
This afternoon when I get on the bike, my hate for every last ounce of my being will reach its apex, because I won't have the energy to turn over the pedals. Other people might get extreme intestinal distress from trying to exercise on such a poor diet, but years of conditioning have sculpted me into an efficient garbage disposal. I'll burn anything. It might not be the most effective fuel, but it will burn. It will probably leave a foul odor and my sweat will be tinged with the essence of processed meat-esque substances, but it will burn.
 
Tomorrow I'll try not to hate myself so much. I'll remember today's transgressions and make better choices. I might even have a salad or three. But that's tomorrow.
 
Today, I hate.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What a Difference a Day Makes

I knew I was beat down when I raced Saturday. I knew there was next to nothing left in the tank, and the fact that I was able to hang with the pack in the road race that followed the time trial was a small victory. When Sunday's rains gave me a semi-plausible excuse for not riding, I grabbed it with both hands. I usually like riding in the rain. Maybe "like" is the wrong word. I often ride in the rain. This time, I knew it wouldn't do me any good and would probably do a lot of harm. I needed a break, so I took one.
 
Monday after work I went out for an hour ride. I planned to ride easy and just keep the legs spinning, but when I got to the time trial course I opened it up a little. Actually, I hit numbers I couldn't pull off on Saturday on my TT bike with all of my considerable aerodynamic snake oil. I had more in reserve, and I had to force myself to back off.
 
Guess I needed to rest. Duh.
 
The next week and a half is all about rebuilding whatever stores of energy my fat rolls can hold, without making my body get lazy and killing my top end. We'll see how that pans out. I'll still get killed in every stage by stronger and lighter racers, but maybe the margins won't be so pitiful.
 
I like me some naps, so this should be fun.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Storck Hacking

My Storck Visioner has been hanging from the garage ceiling since April, when the flaws in its design/construction eventually overcame my enthusiasm for the project. The half-finished project was a testament to my short attention span.. It wasn't a pretty sight, and one I avoided unless I happened to bang my head against the fork as I walked under it. Right before I left for the East Coast, I decided to do something about the eyesore.
 
The issue that caused me to fling 4mm allen wrenches about the garage was the internal cable grommets. The rubber ones had to be installed before you ran the rubber cable, and I destroyed one before I realized that greasing the cable housing before feeding it through prevented the grommet from ripping. Even lubing the cable wasn't enough to keep them alive while I was sorting out the cable issues around the bottom bracket.
 
The plastic ones are slightly more durable, but one fell on the floor and promptly cracked when I stepped on it. Even in the best of circumstances, they're not easy to clip in place, and have to be removed/installed every time the cable is changed. For my rain/commuter bikes, this task is done annually, and the plastic would have died long before the rest of the frame.
 
Of course, these grommets aren't something you can just run down to the local hardware store and pick up. In fact, Competitive Cyclist was going to have to order them for me from Storck, since I could not buy them directly. Unacceptable.
 
My '08 Trek Madone has internal cable routing that actually works for me. The grommets are aluminum and easily removed. Looking at them got me thinking, which is always a dangerous thing. Since I had already had hacked the frame to route the rear derailleur cable, I had little to lose with further modification. I went to my local Trek dealer and ordered a couple different vintages of their frame small parts kits and decided to see if I could make something work.
 
Turns out, with a little bit of drilling/grinding/tapping, I could.
 
It actually turned out fairly clean, and it seals the frame better than the original grommets ever could. More importantly, it won't explode when subjected to direct sunlight.
 
I should finish up the build by the end of the week. Then I should have plenty of time for:
  • Tearing down the TT bike and installing a completely new groupset. I haven't replaced as much as a brake cable on it since I bought it back in '08. Since it only gets used a handful of times a year, I guess that's somewhat understandable, but I think it's due.
  • Tearing down the Cannondale System Six and rebuilding it for sale. If the Storck takes over rain/commuter duties, I can't exactly justify having a backup bike to the backup bike. Plus, I'm tripping over bikes as it is.
  • Building up my Ridley Orion for sale. As dependable as it's been over the years, I just haven't ridden it since I was freed from the trainer this spring. There was a time I drooled all over the bike. Now it's time for someone else to show it the love it deserves, since I'm obviously a faithless bike hussy.
  • Doing something with the Madone frame I picked up in flurry of ill-advised consumerism. I'm not sure what I was thinking there, since I already have two.
  • Maybe finish gluing up some tubulars.
That should take me up to 2027, give or take a decade. Once that's done, I may be able to see the garage floor again if I don't pick up any more projects.
 
Not likely.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Knowing Where the Bottom Is.

Despite what my wife says, I haven't raced very much this year. In fact, I'd be willing to bet I haven't raced this little since about 2008. Business trips, family vacations, other obligations, cancelled races... one thing after another seemed to get in the way.
 
That's sad, because I really like to race. That's how I define myself as a cyclist. I really like the interaction with other racers, especially in mass-start events, and how it can affect your performance. While I generally don't like hill climbs because I'm a fatty, and my love of time trials has cooled over time, I'll generally enter those too because they're "good for me" or some such nonsense.
 
My "training" is targeted to performing well in races, and if I don't race it makes it very hard to maintain focus. Racing gives me a subjective and objective reference for how my fitness is progressing. Right now I don't have a very good idea of where I stand.
 
At the last minute, my wife gave me permission to race this past weekend. This, after weeks of wearing myself down. I can barely walk, much less ride. Of course I signed up. Two races in one day. It wasn't pretty. Two "well, at least he showed up" results.
 
I may not know where the upper level of my current fitness lies, but I have a pretty decent idea of where the bottom is. I can hang in there. Sometimes that's enough.
 
Now I need a nap.