Friday, February 26, 2010


My commuter bike, The Mule, is set up as a 1 x 9. Front ring is a 42 tooth and the rear cassette has a gearing range of 12/27. When I had this bike set up as a singlespeed, my front chainring was still the same 42, but the rear had a 16 tooth. That worked pretty well. It hurt a bit at the tail end of my commute back home when I have to climb up a few mean streets, but not too bad. Riding singlespeed consecutive days though starts to build lower back pain. The pain would go away again if I laid off of the bike for a day or two.

Anyway, recently I switched the bike to 1x9 and I have quite enjoyed it. With the 42 tooth on the front end(instead of the stock 39 tooth) I can usually get going pretty good when I am in the smallest rear cog, the 12 tooth. At a 90 cadence that equates to about 26 miles per hour. The 27 tooth honestly doesn't get used that much. I try not to. It is a silly pride issue that I stay out of the granny.

Last night riding home at about 8pm I starting feeling pretty good after the first couple of pretty flat miles. I was riding in my 42/12 combo, my fastest gear combo, and wondered how long I could stay in that gear before I had to shift into an easier combo.

About halfway home, I looked down at my average speed reading and I was averaging 16.4 mph without pushing it too much at all. Knowing that the last 1/4 of my ride is all up hill I decided to see if I could keep my average about 15mph. So now two goals, push the 42/12 as far as possible and stay above a 15mph average.

Also, to paint the picture a bit better I am riding with a big backpack on full of clothes and other things. It is not like I am riding on a full race bike either. The Mule is over 23 pounds heavy, compared to my road and cross bikes which are around 16 pounds.

Anyway, this was my ride home last night with the point where the legs and back went dead.

Not too bad really. There was one point coming up a section of Hall Blvd where I was really cooking and my legs were alternatively pushing and pulling the pedals trying to maintain momentum. My chest felt ready to burst near the top. In that sort of gear getting up hills is all about the big Mo. I struggled to make it home maintaining an average speed over 15mph. I did it, but just barely at 15.1 mph.

These sorts of stupid games I play with myself keep my ride home interesting. Otherwise it is just the same old thing time after time.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Recent Rides

I haven't been maintaining my sidebar training log. That is because for the most part I have had everything logged on Garmin Connect, which is a nice little site that tracks everything that you do with one of their lovely Garmin GPS devices. I have the Garmin Edge 500 and I have quite enjoyed it.

Here is some snips of a couple of graphs from my last two rides. Yesterday's ride was a little over 34 miles. More than 4000 feet of total elevation gain. I rode from the house up to Skyline Drive and then went up and down some of the roads that connect to it. Skyline is a nice road to use for this. It is right at an elevation of 1000 feet or so. It meanders up and down a fair bit through its journey. Roads that head off to the east tend to go down to near sea level and are fairly steep at times. Roads on the west drop down to around 200+ feet to around 500 feet. They are still good climbs, but the hurt is not as bad. Germantown on the east side of Skyline has grades up near 17% at times. Those sections start to hurt after a bit, their cumulative effect becomes punishing about 2/3 the way up.

Today's ride:

When I plugged the TCX file from today's into a cool site at, that site said that Brianero and I climbed about 1335 feet of total elevation gained versus the raw data of about 1420. The distance was the same.

The elevation gain is really the only feature that I have some reservation about so far with the Edge 500. It relies on barometric readings as I understand it. However, I understand that through the use of elevation points I can strengthen the reliability of the data. I set an elevation point at the house tonight. I get variations on data here at the house when I first start up. Usually, when I leave the house it says that we are about 100 or so feet lower than we actually are. When I return I am usually reading pretty close to what it should be. I am not sure why but I read on the Garmin forum that this is often the case that initial readings are not as reliable as readings about 15 to 20 minutes later. Anyway, at least when I start at the house the readings should be pretty good from here on.

The rides over the past couple of days have been pretty good. Yesterday's ride was solo. It was nice to be out, just riding listening to some good music. Today's ride was with Brianero. He led us at a fairly brisk pace, with one really strong short climb. I was staying up with him as we went up it. I was surprised that this was the case. I should have known that he was saving himself for the end of the climb where it went from about a 10 to 12 percent grade to around 20% for a bit. Ouch.

Anyway, lunch time rides are great. Much better than my commuting rides which tend to be filled with more stops because of traffic and at a slower pace generally than when I am doing a ride like yesterday or a ride with others like today.

I hope to continue these midday rides as work allows. We will see...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Coolest Little Support Vehicle

Yesterday, Bridget and I bought ourselves a used Honda Odyssey in fantastic shape. We got a great deal on it too. We are super happy to not have to pack in our little Civic. We still have the Civic, but it now becomes my errand runner.

Neither of these are the cool support vehicle the title of this post refers to.

Neil of Cernitzbikes just picked up a Ford Transit. Check it:

You could basically stand up inside the vehicle. Or at least shorter guys could. Well, Neil probably could. But, still...this is the coolest, most sensible cycling vehicle I have ever seen. And it is cheap. The deluxe version with a second row of seats retails for about $24K. Neal paid quite a bit less. The stripped down version retails for about $21K or so.

Neil said that it drives very well and gets great gas mileage. It is reminds me of a Honda Element, but with more room and about the same price.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How to Talk to Non-Cyclists

I found this today while looking for something else on xtranormal

I Need a Mulligan

Today started off by me being awake. At midnight I was still wide awake despite having to get up at 6am to ride to work. At 1am I am still awake and stressing about not being able to sleep. At 3 am Colin, the 17 month old woke up and I patted him back to sleep. I stayed in his room and slept on the small couch that we have in there. At 4:30 I woke up to see if it was time to get ready to ride. At 5:10 I woke up again. At 5:30, again. And at 5:50 I called it a night and got up. I had a little alarm set so why I kept waking up is beyond me.

I was feeling nauseated from the lack of sleep, or at least any deep sleep. I got ready, grumpily and then headed off in the dark. At least it wasn't raining. I listened to music as I pedalled at a much slower than usual pace. I just wasn't feeling it. At noon I headed off to the post office to ship off something that I sold on Ebay. I really didn't feel like riding, but it was a short enough ride that I couldn't be too bugged.

On the way back I was debating where to eat. Should I do Subway or something better at the Sushi/Teriaki restaurant nearby. As I was thinking this I also started to think about death. Seriously. How would the family fair if I just suddenly kicked the bucket. The cause of this thinking was a truck that passed by a little too close for comfort. At first I was ticked off, and then the other thoughts come in. Anyway, while I am in this black revelry, I came near a set of train tracks with a bad reputation.

These particular tracks do not cross the road in a perpendicular fashion. Nope that come at about a 45 degree angle. They have a horrible transition that is very bumpy. The bike I am riding has the usual narrow road tires. Have I mentioned that the roads are wet today? Well, they were. This time of year it seems they are wet for about 4 months straight. I don't mind this, except for today.

This is what I think happened: I have slowed down somewhat--I was probably going about 12 to 15 mph. The front tire hits the deformed asphalt that parallels the track. At the speed I am going the tire pops up a bit and then lands on the rail. I believe it did not hit square and so because I am coming in at an angle because of the weird road to rail angle the front tire slides to the left. I immediately go down. In straight down. More like I am doing a cyclist bad imitation of Mr. Hustle, Pete Rose. My right side hits first. The bike slides a bit into traffic. Luckily no cars were beside me. I hop up to first check my pearl Izumi jacket. Yeah, it is a little screwed up and very dirty. Bike looks OK and I pick it up. It is fine. However, the right side of my legs is a little shredded. My right hip really hurts, as does my right arm. I get on the bike and ride back. No significant blood loss.

I sit for a bit after changing. I get up. Oh oh. Although I landed on my right side, my left side is messed up. I had, and still do, a hard time moving my left leg forward to walk. I am physically able to do it, but I have a sharp pain that shoots from my spine all the way through to the front side near my hip bone. Yeah, that's not going to do.

I called the wife. She is nice and clears her schedule a bit so that she can come and get me. I certainly feel like I need a do over today. I wonder if I had just gotten a little more sleep I would have probably have paid a bit more attention to the approaching railroad tracks. I would have approached them in a little more perpendicular fashion. And I would not be so flipping grumpy right now. Time for a nap.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday Lunch Time Ride #2

Today's riders were Brianero, his brother Ward, Marcello (aka Speedy, as Jimbo calls him) and myself bringing up the rear.

Brian and his brother are both great riders. Brianero is a Master A cyclocross racer, and his brother is at least on the road his equal. Marcelo is the #1 ranked sprint distance triathlete in the Northwest. He is tall and lanky. He just seems to glide up hills. He seemed to be able to pick it up and put some distance on us at will. It was kind of amazing actually. I would be struggling to keep touch with the rest and it looked Marcelo looked effortless. sigh...

I brought along my Garmin 500. Near the end of the ride, Brian would ask what our elevation gain was. I would tell him, he would doubt the accurracy of both the elevation gain and the distance ridden. And then he would guide us to the nearest hill that he could torture us with to up the elevation total some more. Thankfully, it is a lunchtime ride and there is only about an hour that we can ride.

Here are some snips of the data from the Garmin:

These rides ought to make a difference come fall I think. They hurt.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Equipment Malfunctions

I wrote a couple of days ago about my FSA K Force crank failure. This failure has cause a host of other problems that nearly spiraled out of control.

Here is the string of events that the FSA failure has led to:

1. Upon braking my crank could not ride home. Missed 12.5 miles of riding.

2. On monday I didn't ride to work because I had to drive other pieces to make it possible for me to use The Mule, my commuter bike, while FSA figures out what to do with the broken crank. Missed miles, 25.

3. Tuesday, I rode my new Lapierre into work without any fenders because I figured that I could get The Mule ready to ride home that night. I had understood that rain was on the way. All I needed to do was install my old square taper Campy Record crankset and then the Forte shifters and derailleurs. I had been riding The Mule as a singlespeed. I have had this Forte 10 speed groupo since before Christmas. As an employee of Performance bike I get a swell deal on anything that says "Forte" on it. There were some initial positive review for this new product and I decided to give it a try. I took a long lunch and installed everything. It was not going on too smoothly though. In fact, I could not get the rear derailleur to shift well at all. I never even got to the left shifter. I rode home on the Lapierre after a 12 hour day at the shop, pissed. The Lapierre still had no fenders and it was raining.

4. While riding home, slowly I might add so that the water spray didn't shoot directly up into my face or that I might not become so soaked that my phone also got wet, I noticed that the shifting was not shifting to the smaller cogs on my cassette very well. I stopped a couple of times, in the rain still, to perform minor adjustments, thinking that cables must of stretched or that something else cable related had happenend. I didn't put too much thought into it. Then about 2/3 the way home the rear derailleur just stopped shifting at all. I checked a couple of things and discovered the the housing section at the rear of the bike had somehow gotten all boogered up and was not allowing the cable to pass through freely--or at all. I pedaled home even more pissed off. I was mad enough that I told Bridget not to talk to me until I had gotten some food in me. It was around 9:45 when I arrived home and I had not eaten any food since 1pm. When you include walking all over the place in the shop and then the ride home, that is just too long.

5. Today I get to work and with Neil help discover and affirm that it is true, the Forte shifters are total crap. In the rear, it shifts fine going up to larger cogs, but about halfway back down, it starts to lag in shifting. Sometimes it won't shift at all. We try different cassettes, but no dice. Plus the levers combined with the Avid BB7 road disc brakes feel ultra mushy. A very very poor feel at the lever, even though power was good. Basically that crap had to come off. More work to do.

6. Realizing last night that the Forte drivetrain might be crap, I rummaged though my old parts boxes. I had my fingers cross that I could find one particular piece of treasure...Finally, a bit of luck! For the first 2 or 3 years of cross racing I used a 9 speed dura ace barend shifter mounted to a Kelly TakeOff. If you don't know what this is, do a google search. Here is a pic from the Kelly website

I put the Kelly with the 9 speed shifter then a 9 speed ultegra cassette and then it immediately started to shift better....but not perfect. I let it sit for a bit and came back to it later to dial it in. Umm, no. wouldn't dial at all beyond an unsatisfactory point. Time to ditch the Forte derailleur and toss them along side the Forte Shifters. I put on a Shimano Ultegra and immediately--Perfect shifting.

7. I didn't get to ride into work or home today because I had to bring the original boxes and packaging of the Forte drivetrain as well as different cassettes, shifters. I wouldn't not have had room to bring them all. Plus I really didn't want to ride a Lapierre back to work with no fenders and no shifting capability. Nor did I want to ride a clean Specialized S-Works. Miles missed today, 25.

BUT...The Mule now works stellar. It is set up with a 42 tooth single chainring up front with a 12-27 cassette in the back. Wheels were swapped out from the White Bros. Eno and Velocity wheelset I had to a simple generic, but probably very durable, Shimano XT with Mavic rims. It looks good. It shifts good. It brakes good. It is still the perfect commuter. But man what a journey the past few days have been with it after breaking the crankset. None of the drivetrain swaps would have happened at this point were it not for the breakage. I was going to wait until the weather dried out. Oh least I know now not to recommend the Forte stuff to others.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A little riding here, a little riding there...and I broke another crankset

I talked briefly to Fish today. Fish and Dave (formerly DTP) are training for an Ironman in St. George, Utah. I am so glad that I am not forced to train right now. Basically, right now I ride if I want to, and if I don't...I don't. This is the first time in about 3 years that I have not had to train for something. I don't have much of anything on the horizon, and that suits me just fine.

And the bonus part is that I am not even gaining much weight. I was sitting at 192 this morning, a little over 4 pounds off my cyclocross season low. Meh. That feels good enough right now. I have more things to stress over than training for something or losing weight.

This is not to say that I haven't been riding. I didn't ride much the beginning of January, because of illness or schedule, but wound up doing about 140 miles the last half of January. I have been doing commuting and I went on a couple of rides with friends/teammates.

Last week I was invited by Brianero to go on a lunch time ride. I took my new Lapierre out with road tires instead of cyclocross rubber to just get the cables stretched. Riiight. Really what the deal was is that I really like riding it. The position on the bike feels great. I haven't spent much time off road on it yet, so no final review is close yet. Nevertheless, on the road it feels exceptional with regard to fit.

His teammate Craig was also on the ride. We rode around Lake Oswego and managed to find most of the steepest roads to climb. Why? They said something about wanting to know about the elevation gain on some of the roads. So away we went. For a ride that lasted about one hour and 15 minutes it was full of suffering. Within about 5 or 6 miles during the 15 mile ride we climbed about 1600 vertical feet. Much of that in stretches that had a grades between 13% to 20%. Ouch.

I thought we were finally done at one point as we were descending and near the bottom the jerks pulled a U-turn on me and headed right back up again. I was toasted by the time we got back up to the top.

On the way back there is one decent that is pretty much a straight shot down. I wanted to see how fast I could go. I hit 53.7 mph and that felt pretty good.

I hope that these rides can find a way to occur on a regular basis. They hurt, but that must mean that they are good for me. It is also good to note that I didn't get dropped too far back. All is well really at this point of the year.

FSA K Force crankset bites the dust

I broke my 4th crankset within the past 4 years. All of them have been carbon. 2 of them FSA. One was an older Ritchey WCS carbon with an ISIS bottom bracket interface. One was an Easton EC90 that had a manufacturing defect. On both of the FSA's, I broke the aluminum spline near where the pedal threads. On this break, I also cracked the carbon as well.

Frankly, not many things make me feel as manly or tough as breaking a crank. It makes me feel like I am Arnold Schwarzenegger or something. I just have too much POWER....or perhaps I am just too much of a fat ass. Regardless, it is cool to break crankarms.

FSA seems like it will be nice enough to warranty it. The new replacement for the K Force that they no longer make is a SLK Light crankset. I hope the third time if the charm. I may not even keep it though. FSA only has a 2 year warranty, while I believe that Easton has a limited lifetime warranty. Since I seem to only be able to make a carbon crankset last about 2 years it seems like going with a crankset with a better warranty might be a good idea. The Easton warranty is limited to the original purchaser--a good reason not to use Ebay in this instance.

Anyway, The Mule will be getting my trusty Campy Record carbon-armed square taper crankset regardless of FSA warrantying the broken one. The Campy arms seem to be bomb-proof after a year and a half of hard use. I know, I know, it hasn't hit the 2 year mark yet, but I think it will be fine. I am also going to put the Forte groupo on the Mule in short order. It will be interesting to see how the Forte group works. I am not expecting perfection, I just expect it to work. Either that or group is all going back to Circle P in short order.