Saturday, August 31, 2013

Forty-One Year Old Chris Horner Won Stage 3 Of The 2013 Vuelta a Espana. Spanish “Race Jury” Got Pissed.

41-years-old, won the stage, in Red.  Life WAS good.  Graham Watson photo

In case anyone missed it, RadioShack’s Chris Horner powered uphill to win Stage 3 of this years Vuelta a Espana, taking over the lead in the General Classification, and thus, the coveted Red Jersey.  Seems Jens Voigt is not the only “Old Man” in the peleton capable of sticking it to the young lads.  However, that was where the celebrating stopped.

Though the Vuelta completed it eighth stage today (now Nicolas Roche is in the Red Jersey), it seems an American, on an American Team, at the ripe, old age of forty-one (41) is not supposed to come into the hotbed of Spanish Cycling and humiliate the Europeans.  So, the Spanish “Race Jury” thought, and they thought, and came up with one of the biggest bullshit calls in professional cycling: They called an arbitrary time-split at the finish of Stage 4, putting Horner out of the lead by three (3) seconds, thus putting one of their own Euro “Good ‘ol Boys” back into Red.

Asked how he felt about the blatant stupidity of the ruling, Horner claimed that he was OK with the “Decision,” however, as anyone knows, to have been in the Red Jersey all of this time sure would have been nice, and rightfully deserved.  Instead, the jersey was awarded to Vincenzo Nibali.

Before anyone thinks I am Euro-Bashing, I too have European roots, with ancestry traced to the Basque Region (the good side).  However, I am not a “Basque-American: I am simply an American of European ancestry, and the Home-Boys got this one wrong.

Final thought: Alberto Contador could only hope he is that good at age Forty-One. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Call Of The Upgrade

When I bought my trusty Trek 2.3 daily rider back in 2010, I had no idea what I was doing, other than my primary mission was to just ride the crap out of it.  I knew at the time that my 1996 Trek 4500 mountain bike, complete with road slicks, was just not cutting it anymore on the streets, thus, a true Roadie was needed.  However, after procuring, and riding, the 2.3 for awhile, I began to wonder “What if” in regards to other wheels, tires, components, and yes, even clothing (look for a future article on that subject).  Welcome to the Call of the Upgrade. 

What began as an innocent foray into road cycling soon turned into a world of fascination, engineering, excitement, and yes, even some frustration and heartache – A Double-Edged Sword, indeed: Laughter and Tears, Sweet and Sour, Yin and Yang. 

However, what would happen to Man’s quest for knowledge if we did not experiment with new things?  Yeah, that new saddle may feel great, but then again, it may not.  That is the price of knowledge, and for many that is just part of the fun.  It is our natural human function to tinker.  That is good.  It improves the overall human condition, which, in turn, benefits society as a whole. 

The only downside of this endeavor is when tinkering is done for tinkering’s sake.  Hard to extrapolate qualitative data when the actual hunt is the sole thing one fancies.  Yes, tinkering should indeed be fun, however, we expect results, too.  Function is a cornerstone of cycling, as looks/bling alone will lead to a trip straight down Pain & Injury Road.  Find a combination of function and looks: Count your cycling blessings. 

My Trek 2.3 in October 2010, right after I bought it. The only change was a WTB saddle.

And, in August 2013, with a host of changes/upgrades.

As can be seen between the two photos, a lot has changed on my Daily-Rider/Test-Mule.  The only things still stock today are the carbon fork, the aluminum frame, the Shimano STI shifters, and Shimano front derailleur.  Everything else has been changed either due to better quality, better fit, lighter weight, or a combination of all of the former.    

When I look at Frankenbike now, I still see the beautiful bike I bought back in 2010, however, because of the Call of the Upgrade, she rides better and just gets more beautiful everyday.

And, we are not done yet.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Well, I Guess Me is Me, After All

I just got finished reading an article over at Red Kite Prayer titled, “He is Him.”  While the utilization of capitalized H’s formally denotes reference to The Almighty, I got the picture of what the author was referring to: When riding with others, You are You, and They are Them.  This is similar to a concept a college professor told me many years ago in regards to the human thought process, human nature and particularly relationships: “What is true for You, is true for You.”  So, what exactly does this mean to us cyclists?

Each of us possesses unique gifts, skill-sets, luck, and abilities to procure better equipment, due to more resources (money) compared to other people.  We are not all on the same footing, so to speak.  Humans all begin life equally, but a myriad of variables determine how we get from one end of life to the other.  However, it is not just what we are given, but WHAT we do with what we are given, and this naturally extends into the realm of cycling.  In its purest form, we see Real Life played out on any, and every, ride consisting of two (2) riders or more – “Who is better?” goes the battle cry.  Well, that is indeed truly relative, as the real question should be, “Better at what?” 

In my own experiences with other riders, we all indeed have our strengths and weaknesses.  Others are faster than me, but they are only faster for short periods of time.  Some people climb better than me, but I destroy them all on descents.  Some people ride well in the cool, morning hours, and I ride well when it is smoking hot outside (a carry-over from my Cross-Country running days).  The latter reference to running is also why I am stronger at the end of a Century than at the beginning, well after all of the Tour de France wannabe’s have long since pooped out.  I also have the ability to slug it out in headwinds for extended periods of time, while others I ride with don’t even go out if the wind is 10 MPH or more.  There are many more examples I could share, however, all of you have had similar, relevant experiences, I am certain.

In totality, whether it is He is Him, Me is Me, or What is True For You, is True For You, we all have unique moments of existence on this planet.  So, instead of looking to others for validation of our own unique attributes, just enjoy what Providence and genetics have given to each of us.

Just ride.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Disc Brakes Are Coming To The Road. The New For 2014 Orbea "Avant"

Photos courtesy Road Bike Action/Orbea

I have been telling people for quite awhile that disc brakes for road bikes were the way to go.  With both SRAM and Shimano releasing disc's for the road market, of course it was not too long before the manufacturers jumped on board.

Well, one exciting entrant into the so-called "Endurance" road market is the new for 2014 Orbea "Avant."  It will apparently become available in late Fall 2013, and will come in at least six (6) build options ranging from SRAM 22, to Shimano Ultegra Di2, to 105, in an all-carbon lineup.   

See more about the Avant, click here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Appearance Enhancing Procedures (AEP’s).

Photo courtesy Stradalli

It hit me like a sack of dirty syringe’s the other day whilst reading and watching the continuing drama of the whole Performance Enhancing Drugs in cycling thing.  I mean, what is passing for news in cycling reports and articles, both on-line and in print, invariably is still all Lance Armstrong’s fault, according to the “Anti-Doping” Stasi.  However, the whole affair is really not a tragedy at all. 

On the contrary.  It is one heck of a big laugh-fest observing and reading how portions of the cycling base are still offended – Even though they got just what they wanted:  Lance’s head on a stick.  “Yeah, but he didn’t come clean the way we felt he should!”  “What about his sponsors?”  “What about Trek, Honey Stinger, Chris Carmichael, Allen Lim, Radio Shack, and his fan base?”     

Yeah, so what?  Grow up, people!

Life is full of enhancements, corner-cutting, theatrics, and blatant falsehoods (and yes, even scapegoats).  It is human nature to look for a competitive advantage.  Unfortunately, it is also human nature to look for a competitive advantage at any cost.    

Take a good look around your own life.  Look at any level of Government, the media, movies, television, your co-workers, and even your own family and friends.  Usually you will see nothing but a bunch of false, plastic humans put together with “Enhancements” like plastic surgery, contacts, hair color, make up, hair extensions, cosmetic teeth, false eye lashes, slick talk, stylish clothing, fast cars, and most popular of all – Phony boobs. 

And yet people are angry at Lance Armstrong, and only Lance, for not being “Genuine?”

Ever heard of the term “Fake people?”  You know, those who are not whom they present themselves to be in an attempt to gain an edge, influence, wealth, power, and celebrity status? 

The world cries for fairness and the genuineness of the human spirit.  Yet, most people live a lie everyday, even while looking in the mirror.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Science Of Attraction: Wheel Magnets

Icarus wheel magnet mounted on a SRAM S40 spoke.
It’s that little thingy on one of your spokes.  It tells the computer how fast the wheel is turning, and the computer calibrates that data into Speed and/or Cadence information for our inquisitive brains.  It is another one of those vital things on our bikes which most people take for granted.  Small, yes, but very, very important. 

Most of our encounters with the innocuous wheel magnet are noticing that it is indeed there after the shop puts it on for us with our new computer.  For others, the wheel magnet relationship is a bit more personal.  These riders have multiple wheelsets, and either moves their existing unit, or buys extras to negate the dreaded realization of a lack of computer data, because they forgot to put the magnet back on.  I used to be that guy.  Then, I got smart.

For all intents and purposes, the wheel magnet is just that – A simple magnet.  The best being Rare-Earth, they are either clipped on or have a circular thumb screw to firmly attach to a spoke.  Easy to put on and easy to line up, it is usually forgotten about once it is installed (or change wheelsets).  Well, after one too many times leaving home without it after changing wheels (I have three sets), I sought a better way to insure I had the data I needed.  So, I decided to try Icarus, bonded wheel magnets.

This perspective shows how thin the Icarus magnet is.  Yellow tape marked the "Sweet-Spot" for bonding.

While just about any good quality magnet will do, the Icarus magnets are made out of Nickel alloy specifically for bladed spokes, are extremely light, easy to mount, and once bonded to the spoke, are clean looking, and you will never leave home without a magnet again.  Recommended bonding agents are JB Weld or Tubular tire glues, however, I have discovered that a good quality Cyanoacrylate (Super-Glue) works just as well.

The most important things to do before mounting are to choose a spoke, clean it with alcohol, mark the position in-line with your computer pick-up (I use a Garmin 500 integrated Speed and Cadence sensor, and I used tape to mark the sweet-spot), apply your chosen bonding agent to the magnet and spoke, place, hold, and presto!  Permanent wheel magnet. 

I have been extremely pleased with the bonded magnets, as they are clean, light, reliable, permanent, and are darn near invisible.  However, to be fair, the only downside I see to this type of system is if that one particular spoke breaks, well, there goes your magnet, too.

Big, brand name wheelmaker magnets can sell for $10.00 or more.  Icarus wheel magnets can be found on Fleabay, I mean, eBay for around $5.00, and you get two (2) of them.

The Stats:

  • Material: Nickel Alloy
  • Weight: 0.0029 ounces
  • Color: Silver
  • Pick-Up Range: 0.25-0.75 inches
  • Compatible with all brands of computer sensors, bladed spokes and disc wheels
  • Extremely accurate

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Being Honest With Ourselves

It was once famously said, “The truth will set you free.”  The reality of that statement is that KNOWLEDGE of the truth will set you free.  See, truth is out there, but unless one knows it, what good is it?  And, while that is all fine and dandy, what does this have to do with cycling?  Well, read on and be setteth free, my friends.

After having tested a lot of “Pro Level,” and “Cutting Edge” cycling components, accessories and apparel, I have reached the following conclusion:  We need to be totally honest with ourselves.  No, not in the confessional sense that brings sweat to most people’s brows, but with the healthy act of honest, self-reflection, and assessment.  Putting it another way, does it really matter how we get there from here, just as long as we get there?  See, the problem with being “Cutting Edge” is that said edge is constantly being re-sharpened.  After having tried a lot of the afore-mentioned top-line stuff, I often found myself “Back-Pedaling” to the less flashy, more reliable, and affordable equipment.  Unbelievable?  Not really. 

Bicycle advancements and new technologies are coming at the consumer so fast now, that not only can it become prohibitively expensive to “Keep Up,” but are a lot of these advancements needed, let alone beneficial to the average cycling consumer?  Are we really advancing that fast technologically, or is it just like with consumer electronics: New and improved for new and improved’s sake?  Just short of being wealthy, foolish, or both, the cycling consumer is marketed to with a tsunami of false needs. 

And, examples are a plenty.    

Do we, the average cyclist, really need the best, most expensive, or the hottest and latest?  Will the “Fastest” tires really make the average cyclist faster?  Do we really need Eight-Zillion grams of potassium, sodium and carbohydrates in every “Sports Drink?”  Will that super-expensive, carbon “Aero” frame really make you king of the Saturday Morning Ride?  Will that $350.00 helmet really protect you better than the identical $40.00 version without the big brand name on it?  Is that pair of $20.00 socks really better than the $1.99 pair made out of absolutely identical material sold down at the local Five & Dime?  Do $500.00 shoes really feel and perform like $500.00 shoes?  Will they perform better than $100.00 shoes?  Are those expensive ride-nutrition items really better than what nature provides, i.e. The Banana?  Will that pair of $6000.00 carbon wheels really serve you better than a pair of $300.00 alloys?  Will that expensive fifteen-pound bike really make you happier than an eighteen-pound, more affordable ride?  Will that “Top of the line” gruppo really perform better and be more durable in the long-run?  Get the picture, here?  Well, if you do not get the point by now, you never will.

Cycling is a very healthy, enjoyable, and pure activity.  If one cannot grasp that, then you are in the activity for the wrong reasons, and no amount of “Cycling Bling” is going to change your attitude, much less your abilities (or lack, thereof).  Find what works and what you can reasonably afford, stick to it, and ride. 

See, being completely honest with yourself will take the weight of vanity and “Keeping up with the Joneses” off of your mind.  A free mind is always ready to ride and absorb the purity of our chosen, healthy activity.

It does not get any simpler than that, folks.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Road Test: Schwalbe Durano Tires

The search for that perfect tire is as noble a cause as it is an adventure, albeit, a laborious one.  It is a lot like British mountain climber George Mallory’s famous quote regarding Mount Everest.  When asked why it should be climbed, he famously replied, “Because it’s there.”  The same wisdom applies to finding a tire that works for a rider on all occasions, however, it can be phrased a little differently: Because, it’s out there.

So began my quest for a light, durable, good traction bicycle tire, because I knew it was out there – Somewhere.  Being I was fed up with road tires that could barely handle being ridden on actual roads, I began to seek out things I may have never tried, otherwise.  See, we are told lighter, and faster are better to unleash that racer locked inside of all of us which is just dying to get out.  Wrong.  Race tires do indeed have their place, however, for day-in-day-out riding the bulk of us cyclists do, no, they are not the tool for the job.  So began my quest.

I began where all inquires begin these days – The internet.  After pouring over website after website, article after article, and cycling forum after cycling forum, while no solid “Eureka” moment was uncovered, certain patterns did begin to become clear.  First, racing tires on the street were a recipe for low mileage and guaranteed flats.  Second, high mileage tires were great for plonking along, but they were heavy and provided sketchy traction.  There had to be a middle ground, and I believe I have found a very good solution to my list of requirements, namely light weight, high traction, and high mileage.  And, I have traded in my affections from a French cutie to a German one - The Schwalbe Durano.

While the long-term data is not yet available, the short-term returns are very, very favorable with the Schwalbe Durano’s (technically, the HS399's).  To date, I had been using 23mm tires on SRAM S40 wheels.  However, being I am as curious as the proverbial cat, I decided to explore the notion 25mm tires provided a better ride, and a bit more performance in the puncture resistance and durability departments.  I decided to use my trusty, reliable Mavic Ksyrium SL’s for this experiment, as there is no tire size restriction on them up to 28mm rubber.  They mounted up really easy with no tools necessary, and they look good with their all black sidewalls, large, white “Schwalbe” logo, and minimalist tread siping.

The packaging.

The tire.

The test mule.

The rear tread - Better than anything else I have used.

The front tread - All good here, too.

The details.

I have been very pleased with their performance after 200 miles of mixed-surface testing.  While this may not seem like a lot, here in Southern California, even one ride on our extremely poorly maintained streets can reveal a tires’ weakness. I have ridden these tires over some of the meanest streets of the Greater Los Angeles area, streets which would have scared the rubber off my previous favorite Michelin Pro 3 Race’s, and the Schwalbe’s have not even a nick on them, let alone any tears or marks.  Wow!  And, they ride extremely smooth, and provide excellent traction in the turns, though they have not been put to the rain test, yet.  I have been running them at 100 PSI front, 105 PSI at the rear, and the ride has been excellent and completely smooth, almost, dare I say, almost like plush suspension.

Stay tuned for the long-term report, something not every review bothers to conduct. 

The Stats:

  • Type: Clincher, folding bead
  • Use: Training/Everyday tire
  • Size: 25mm
  • Weight: 255 grams
  • TPI: 67
  • PSI: 85-115 
  • Tread: Dual-Compound, slick center, edge siping
  • Puncture protection: Race Guard protection belt
  • Color: Black
  • Retail: $66.95 USD
  • Rated Mileage: 6500 Miles (manufacturer’s claim)