The Race of Truth.

Over the last couple years I've come to realize that I suck at time trials. I have invested a large portion of my children's college fund into carbon this and aero that, but the fact remains that the engine is leaky and a couple pistons are rattling, and there's not enough money left in the textbook fund to cover that swap. Every year I place mid-pack in TT stages, watching any advantage I may have had up to that point ride off into the distance. I'm just not built to excel at the discipline, and I don't spend nearly as much time as I do money on it. I try to buy speed, and my ROI has been depressing.

Still, it's that season again. The season when retailers start running bike part sales and I start hoarding. When eBay and Craigslist sellers start off-loading their old junk and I gladly pay to take it off their hands.

This year, I started looking at TT frames. I have no idea why. My TT bike, while not the most technologically advanced wind-splitting instrument known to man, isn't why I'm losing. Right before I hit the "Buy It Now" button and sign over yet another child's future to PayPal, I've reminded myself of that. It would be an understatement to say this has happened several times. I snap my Road ID against my wrist and fight the addiction once more. So far it's working, but I may need to start applying carbon fiber patches to my shoulder to wean me off of the high.

Tonight I pulled the TT bike down off the hooks. I had rebuilt it before the Tour of Anchorage, and the indexed rear shifter wasn't indexing. I added a fiber washer to make it a friction shifter, which worked for the duration of the Tour, but I knew what was wrong. Problem was, the parts had to be ordered, and they didn't come in until the season was over. I never installed them, because I forgot about them.

Tonight I pulled apart the rear shifter, and sure enough, two of the three small springs were broken. It took a couple minutes to pull the old springs out and install the new ones, and soon the rear derailleur was shifting with a confident snap instead of a passive-aggressive mush. The new parts I installed before the Tour and these three little springs made the bike new in my eyes. I deleted the other frames off my watch list, ashamed that I would ever look that way at another TT bike. The problem wasn't with my TT bike. It was all me.

That's not to say I don't see ways I can waste money. The bars have never been my favorite, and I found some sexy Zipp aerobars that might bring some spice back into our relationship. Better yet, maybe some of those low-cut carbon fiber bars can add some sizzle... don't judge me. My coach says this is perfectly normal for a healthy adult cyclist of my age, and the fact I have these urges without artificial supplementation is a good thing.

I did make one large purchase for the bike. I bought a SRM power meter. It was wireless, it was cheap, it was in near-perfect condition, and, as I said, it's the hoarding season. SRMs are the gold standard of power meters. They're reliable, consistent, and accurate. I've always wanted one, and when the chance came to grab one for a great price, I jumped.

I already have three power meters. I have two Quarqs that have been very reliable and consistent for me over the years. I've ridden them in the rain and through conditions that would make most roadies shudder. I've completely submerged one in a flooded tunnel. They still keep chugging along. One sits on my road racing bike and one is on the Storck. The bottom bracket standards on these two bikes have complicated the once-easy task of swapping power meters from bike to bike. Wavy washers. Spacers. Bearings that love to leap out of frames and into the dirt. During stage races and other times when I have a finite amount of time to make the swap and not always the best conditions, it was getting stressful.

Then there was the Stages. I originally bought it for my 'cross bike so I would get power data for the 5 minutes a race I was actually riding instead of hacking up a lung next to the trail, being passed by little kids on kick-bikes. Now that I don't race 'cross in a vain attempt to extend my service life, I installed it on my TT bike. The problem with that? I don't trust it. When I was in Virginia, I installed it on the Quarq so I could compare the two. The logic went that if I knew what the difference between the two, I could do the math and compensate to get an equivalent effort. Problem was, it died the first time it was exposed to water and didn't come out of the coma until a couple weeks later. Confidence-inspiring, that. I considered selling it, but Stages discontinued that model and clearanced out the remaining stock- and the bottom fell out of the used market. More or less stuck with it, I installed it on the TT bike and thankfully had no issues with it during the Tour of Anchorage. Still, the trust wasn't there.

So, now the TT bike is getting a blingy power meter. She might get a set of low-rise aerobars to show off the tramp stamp she got in Fairbanks during a night of cheap liquor and bad choices. While she might not have the sexy lines of newer models, she's a cougar that still has a lot of miles left in her. I've neglected her over the years, only taking her out when I needed to for time trials and stage races, but I never really invested much effort into the relationship. Now I'm trying to show her that I still care.

Why am I rebuilding a TT bike in the last, precious days before snow and ice will blanket Anchorage? I have a plan that will hopefully make me and the bike better partners. More on that later... or not. Some things need to stay just between a man and his bikes.


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