Wednesday, October 30, 2013

California Bound

I am heading out to California this weekend. My family is throwing a baby shower for my wife and I so we get to spend the weekend in Milpitas, just north of San Jose.  This is the area that I grew up in and I have so many memories.  It will be good to spend some downtime with my beautiful wife, see some family and friends, and hopefully get a couple rides in.

I have recently given up on shipping my bike out when I go so I have started using my brother in-law's bike. It is a size smaller but I can manage for a couple of rides.  the ride I am most looking forward to is Mt Hamilton.  The summit is 25 miles away from my house and roughly a 3,500 ft elevation gain. I also rather enjoy (hate, because it is terribly hard) the Sierra rd climb and Calaveras rd out to Sunol.  These are both so close that I almost have to ride around to get warmed up enough to start the climbs. The last time I was out, I drove up to livermore and went up Mt Diablo. Diablo is ten miles long and summits around 3,600 ft.

I have never finished Mt Hamilton. I ride mostly rolling terrain and have zero access to any sustained climbing in Wisconsin. That being said, my first attempt was at the end of the season and in the rain. I submitted and ended up catching a ride down the mountain. I had never done any descending and I did not want to start in the rain, I am not trying to win any races and Strava records are not worth my life.  The second attempt was at early in the season and I made it all the way to the base of the actual Hamilton climb, a mere 7 miles from the summit, and the man with the hammer visited me.  I bonked hard, I could barely stop my bike and stand up, my legs were cramping so bad.  I had to turn around.  I knew I had about 8 miles of climbing to get back out to the final descent of my return trip.

Hopefully, I will be able to tweet a selfie on the summit of Hamilton this time.  A bit better than the gloomy view I got last time.

My other goal on one of trips out there is to get up north of the Golden Gate and do some riding as well as spending some time on the bike in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


We got our first snow today (pic is just the beginning)...and I am not impressed.

It was cold this morning as we headed out for what we planned to be a century ride, a bit over 32 degrees. The temperature rose slightly throughout the day, getting near 40 but after we stopped for some lunch it began to drop back down. We knew that the forecast was telling us that around three the rain might start and it began just before that and we were still about an hour out. With the rain beginning and the temp back at 34 degrees we started pushing harder to keep warm and make it back to our cars. We made it, we were wet, cold and as I always am after a big ride, hungry.

Shortly after I started towards home in my car the rain began to turn to snow and that trend continued for the rest of the night. We now have a thin layer outside.

This snow will not stick as the ground has yet to freeze but it means three things to me...

First, It is going to get a whole lot harder to ride my bike. It will take me five times longer to get dressed for a ride and I will have to thoroughly clean my bike after nearly every ride. The worst part is there will be fewer days that are safe to ride.

Second, ski season is nearly upon us. I am a pair of XC ski boots away to having a full set. My wife found a set of skis that were my size and were in reasonable shape at a local Goodwill and the other day we acquired some poles. This means I am getting close. While the Midwest is well known for being flat there are a few hills here in Wisconsin and in the U.P. that are reasonable to slide down on skis. Most of them even have chair lifts and ski patrols. As I do not have the funds to fly/drive to Colorado, this will due for now.

Third, it is cold. Everything you do in your daily life requires more planning. Driving to work means you need to let your car run for five minutes before you can leave. If it snowed the night before, well...everything needs to be shoveled or cleaned off. Any roads other than the main highways are left slightly covered and this makes traveling them both more fun and more time consuming.

Thanks for bearing with my slight rant about winter but the first snow is always a bit jarring. It means that winter is really around the corner and there is nothing you or I can do about it. The only way to defeat winter is by finding someway to enjoy it.

I will say, had we ended our ride in the snow rather than the freezing rain, I would have felt about two times as sweet.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fender Season

The days of beautiful, sunny, dry, and warm are behind us, at least for us in the northern parts of the country. I know there are many places that have to deal with rainy weather on a year round basis and still have strong cycling communities (Seattle and London), but here in the woods our summers are mostly dry and then fall through spring we see quite a bit more precipitation. Last fall I purchased fenders in the attempt to keep cleaning time down.

I used to avoid wet rides but as I fell deeper into cycling, I cared less about the weather.  A lot of this transition was finding the proper clothing, see my post on winter gear.  I owe the inspiration to ride no matter the weather to retired pro Robbie Ventura.  I made a comment about the challenge of riding in Chicago while I was working for Vision Quest Coaching and he said something along the lines of, year round riding is all about having the correct clothing. I got to a point where I was personally comfortable in about any temperature, I am sure there are some pieces that I can add to my gear but I am content with what I have.

Now my bike is another story.  I was getting fed up with cleaning my bike for an hour after an hour long ride.  If you ride in the rain or snow getting your bike dirty is inevitable, but there are ways to keep that to a minimum.  There are always special articles on how the pro mechanics prep the bikes but the reality is they have the ability to wash the bikes after any race in sub ideal weather.

My solution was a set of CRUD Roadracer MK2 fenders. The piece that appealed the most to me was that they were super light and provided full coverage.  As I only have my one bike I wanted sleek close fitting fender and The Roadracers met my expectations.  They do feel a bit flimsy out of the box and take a bit of getting set up but once they are on you barely notice them.  I felt a lot better riding in the rain and snow knowing that I was not spraying my drive train with grimy water.  I also spared myself and anyone I was riding with from a black shower.

This is a hard time of year for me.  Most of the activities I enjoy require good weather but I enjoy riding too much to let the weather be in complete control.  I feel like I now have the option to set up my rollers for an easy spin or get out and enjoy some fresh air.

As always, get out on your bike and spend a little more time in the big ring.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Garmin Edge 510 Setup and First Impressions

It is good day, I finally received my Garmin Edge 510 in the mail. Out of the box It took me a couple minutes to organize all of the connectors, adaptors, and components that showed up. I got the package with the out front mount, heart rate monitor and cadence and speed sensor.

Along with the main parts shown above I had a second adaptor pad for the cadence sensor, a variety of plug adaptors for the power converter, stem mounts and the magnets that I need to get everything set up.  I also had an Allen wrench that allowed me to place the out front mount.  The only thing that I needed that was not in the box was a small Phillips screwdriver to adjust the speed sensor arm.  

The mount went on my bars easy and was simple to line up.  I just used the provided Allen wrench to undo and re-tighten the single bolt on the mount.  I did not have to add an adaptor or mess with the set up of the mount.  There is a way to turn the mount in order to use it with aero bars.

The speed/cadence sensor took a little bit more work and more zip ties than came with the kit.  Due to the curve of my bike's chainstay I had a some difficulty getting both sensors to register.  The first time I set it up everything was perfect except the spoke magnet hit the sensor every time it went by.  When I moved it far enough forward to clear the cadence sensor no longer registered.

I had to set the cadence sensor and magnet up first and then work on the spoke magnet.  You might notice form the picture that I had to mount the magnet on a drive side spoke to get the clearance that I needed.  Alright all set up and ready for a ride.

Wait... Time to set up the Edge unit itself.

If you want to set it up and start riding the Edge will provide you with plenty of data as they have a basic training screen set up already. This step took me to the manual (I know guys are not supposed to read these things). You can customize your workout data in almost unlimited ways. After consulting my Garmin expert I realized how to customize the data that I can see. As you set this up you can select multiple training pages to scroll through, this might be especially helpful if you have a power meter or are doing laps or specific workout. As for me I just want one maybe two pages that provide me with all of my data. Each page can provide up to ten streams of data. There are a couple stock pages and a page where you can race against yourself.

I am sure I will adjust my visible data as I play around with this but I like the fact that I can set up as little or as much data as I want.  The amount of data available to the rider is limitless. 

I have done it...I have joined the Garmin crowd and even better I have provided yet another drop in the sea that is Garmin reviews.

Monday, October 14, 2013

One of those weeks

We have all had a week where life just gets crazy and schedules take over the time for exercise.  In my case, that week has becomes two weeks.  I have been on my bike once in two weeks.  The one ride I had was with a good friend and ended up being a sweet ride but still, one ride.  I feel the urgency of the oncoming winter, the forecast is looking gloomy. Plummeting temps and rain/SNOW in and out of the forecast. I just want to spend the last few good days on my bike before riding outside becomes more of a challenge.

So lets back up a bit.  Life has been busy for me here in the woods.  Two weeks ago one of our yellow labs had a litter of puppies.  If you follow me on instagram or twitter you may have already seen pictures.  This started very early on a Monday morning.  The first pup was born somewhere between 12 and 2 am while the last of the six was born around 11 pm that night.

A few months ago my wife and I found out we were having a baby!!! The Friday before the pups were born we found out we are having a girl.  Not that finding out the sex of our baby has made life more hectic it just allowed us to start registering for items for showers.

I have also had the blessing of sub jobs, which keep me busy and make it hard to fit in bike rides as the days are much shorter.  They also make it harder to take time off my primary job.

Life has been crazy good.  I am looking forward to being a dad for the first time and I am making connections in the schools in the area.  The puppies have been amazing to watch grow and my wife and I have been celebrating our sixth wonderful year of marriage.  It is great to be married to my best friend. I love you.

This is where I urge all those who love to ride to realize that there are things that are more important that the bike. I have tried to make sure that I am keeping my priorities straight.

Well... as of this post it looks like I will be receiving my new bike toy (Garmin edge 510) and rain on the same day... Wahwah.

More to come, in the mean time, keep pushing forward.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Personal Cycling Kit

I have mentioned before that cycling is a sport of gear.  It is also a sport of fashion. There are hundreds of clothing companies and many of them have large custom businesses to appeal to the small teams, clubs, rides, and organizations. If you are like me you want a kit that represents you. There are some sweet matching bib and jersey combinations available.  It gets even better when you are part of a team and you get a team kit. There is something about a team kit that makes you pedal harder and there is nothing cooler than a team working a paceline during a training ride (This is where I would cut to a title sponsor's commercial during the Tour of California where they are trying to justify the massive amounts they spent on a bike racing team). A team kit provides a sense of belonging or reputation. Obviously the best kit is a pro kit as a part of the team. I think a custom kit would be the ultimate. I love the idea of having something unique that completely represents me or the group I like to ride with. I could design every aspect, it would fit my style, and my goals. This may seem like vanity, to an extent it is...ok it totally is. It is cool though.

I know the the kit has no bearing on ability. Different pieces might make you more comfortable on the bike or help you adapt to different weather but ultimately it is the motor in that kit that pushes. I have seen some of the best riders in some of the worst outfits and I have seen some of the nicest kits on the least capable cyclists. A kit is setting a first impression. I have found that with a good group, the only impression that matters in the end is how hard you ride and if you added to the safety and enjoyment of the group.

If I were to take the region that I ride in and the interests that I have off my bike, I am sure my personalized kit would be very, very, unique. I imagine that it would look a lot like Sugoi's Lumberjack jersey with bib-shorts that look an awful lot like Carhartts. I have spent a lot of time working maintenance at camps and resorts in the woods of Wisconsin and this means I get to play with my chainsaw. I have done a lot of manual labor and not much beats Carhartts in toughness.  I found this particular while Ted King was posting pics of a ride on instagram.

Sugoi Lumberjack Jersey

The next feature would be something similar to Axel's Axes, one of the logos found on the Bontrager Cycling Team. It really is unfortunate that this is already a trademarked logo because it is great. I even like the star because it is an unofficial logo of Northern California, the place I was raised.

Axel's Axes
I have played around with some very simple designs and I think the style kit that fits me best is a simple two or three color kit. I picture black, white, and red with very understated logos. I generally like to keep it simple. I would put a name on the back with one or two sponsors on the side pockets with NWC on the left front chest.  The bibs would be black with NWC at the bottom on the sides. Unfortunately, my bike doesn't have understated logos to match. It has roughly a million Fuji name tags.

So this custom kit is a dream, and really always will be. I would love to be in a position where I could design, build, and sell my ideas but that would require me to be super sweet or have an awesome design. Until then, I will pedal in whatever I can get my hands on and I will keep on pushing.

Monday, October 7, 2013

On Being a Self Sponsored Cyclist

I like to think of myself as a self sponsored cyclist.  I do not make any money riding my bike, nor do I acquire any gear from vendors.  My only semi sponsorship is through Hammer Nutrition, which I have been using for a few years now and I am extremely happy with.  Like most cyclist, I pay for my own gear.  There was a brief time where Performance Bike paid me in tires, clothing and gear to work on their shop floor and sell bikes.  I occasionally ended up with a little money from that deal.  However, as I have posted before I try not to get caught up in the most recent trends and equipment to hit the market.  I try to remind myself that the pros are riding the next big thing because their bike, clothing and component sponsors have tons of money tied up in them for development and marketing.  These athletes are performing superhuman feats in front of millions and providing feedback to the companies.  I am seen by a dozen motorists and maybe a dozen cyclists if I am in a group ride, which is probably a good thing as I am performing very normal feats and I am not often asked for my thoughts on my nine-speed Shimano 105. 

I often wait months before I make a big purchase, either to save up the money or determine if it is something I really want.  I put way more miles on my equipment than I should, my drive train is about a thousand miles past needing replacement, and I have just mounted one old tire to replace the new one that I wore through this summer.  I am now riding a sweet bike with two different colored tires.  That being said, when I make a new purchase that does not consist of nutrition or a bike bottle, I have thought about it.  I need to make sure that I am safe on the bike and I will be able to make it home.

Early in the summer I had a crash a block away from my house, who does that, as I was headed out for a ride, it ripped a small hole in my tire and finished off my tube.  I recovered all of the gear that I spilled on the tarmac and set to replacing the tube.  As I began pumping my tube with my frame pump, the stem snapped off.  This is when I decided to walk the block home a call it quits.  Immediately after returning home I went online, very few bike shops in the woods, and ordered a CO2 pump and what will most likely be fifty years worth of cartridges.  This was one of the few impulse purchases I have made.  I had been thinking about it but it took an experience where the gear I had was insufficient for my needs to do it.  Even then, I did my research and read as many reviews as I could.  I would not be stranded with two bad tubes because my pump broke the stem off again.

Even though I am not a pro or specifically training for a race, I want to get the most out of my rides.  I have been a lifelong athlete and I am most consistent with my exercise when I am able to see improvement and find some manner competition.  I started to look at power meters, GPS computers, and iPhone apps.  I had to, unfortunately, rule out a power meter almost as soon as I started to think about it.  It would be awesome to see what kind of data I could play around with and I could tune my rides to give me the greatest improvement.  The drawback is I don't have PowerTap or SRM sending me devices to mount on my bike.  I am, after all, broke and self sponsored.  This might become an option in the future if I come into a large sum of money, become a gear reviewer, or race seriously.  The next step down was a GPS computer.  I looked at what I was able to afford and the honest truth was my phone was able to do all of those things and an iPhone mount was a quarter of the price.

This begins my summer of riding with my iPhone in a LifeProof case, mounted on my handlebars.  The case was great and easy to use.  i even had a few rides where it was pouring rain and I had no issues.  I could get past the bulk because it was the least expensive option and it did its job well.  I even went all out and paid two bucks for MapMyRide+.  For a few months I rode with both Strava and MapMyRide running in the background as I rode.  I loved the way MapMyRide was set up and the information it provided me was great.  MMR even has current speed, which was +- ten MPH at any given time.  Ultimately, I settled on Strava.  Yes, the same Strava that has both ruined and improved cycling.  The only reason Strava won was it has the best forum for competition.  As summer wore on I noticed my phone was nearly dead after a two hour ride and I was constantly having to turn my screen back on to see any information.  I was missing my thirty dollar computer that was always on and had a battery life of roughly a year.  There was also the obnoxious need to pause and restart my ride to keep my ride data from being usable.  I would forget to pause it or restart it and I would ride a hard section and want to see what happened only to find that it had not recorded.  By the end of the summer I began to reconsider a GPS computer.  I love the way both apps worked I just needed something more rider friendly than my phone.  I decided to pull the trigger and buy a Garmin Edge 510.  This was decision that took a year and many reviews to make.  I will put a few rides in it and let my reader know what I think.  In the mean time, ride hard and have fun.