Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Chillin'

Zach and Sasha !

Monday, April 7, 2014

Pactimo Knee Warmer Product Review


Post Soggy-Race Photo 
I’ve been putting various items of Pactimo clothing to the test of late.  I use it and abuse it and as soon as I form a solid opinion I post a review.  I have formed an opinion on their Pactimo–branded knee warmers. Stand back.

If there is any piece of clothing that has frustrated me over the years it has been knee warmers.  I would study reviews and marketing propaganda and then make a purchase full of hope and optimism only to be let down time and time again.

After accumulating more knee warmers than I want to admit to owning, I had resigned myself to accept compromise and tradeoffs.   The Nanoflex knee warmers are really good in the rain, but the fabric is so slippery that the hem of my bibs slips on the fabric and the legs ride up.  I don’t want to be tugging at my clothing during a race, so that limited their usefulness.   I have some Hincapie knee warmers that stay in place just fine, but they bunch up behind the knee so my skin is raw after a long ride.  I had others that didn’t even stay up so they end up tied in a knot in the back of the drawer awaiting a bike clothing drive.  I tried some reassuringly expensive Assos knee warmers that were so bad at staying up I returned them.   Some Pearl Izumi leg warmers suffered the same fate. 

When I opened the Pactimo knee warmers I wondered if Pactimo had any idea they were picking a fight with the knee warmer snob of Washington State. “Good luck Pactimo, you’re going to need it“ I said to myself. 

First impressions were positive.  These were not just bland fabric tubes. Good start. They had multiple panels and flat seams, and based on logo placement, I could identify a specific right and left. Okay so far.  My jaded experience kept my optimism in check.

Unlike other knee warmers, Pactimo puts their logo on the back.  After a moment or two of wondering what they were thinking, I figured it out. When I ride or race I see other cyclists from the side and behind.  Whatever logo is on their front isn’t seen unless we are standing around before or after the ride.  Granted logo placement is self serving for the brand, but it does show me they understand how cyclists work. I allowed myself the faintest glimmer of hope.

It won’t matter how pretty these are if they are stuck in my drawer; and unless they can perform on the bike, that is where they will end up.

Here is what I have settled on for knee warmer criteria:
(You get the benefit of my years of knee warmer frustrations - So don’t mock me!)

They have to stay put.  No sliding down or they are cut from the team. Failing to stay up is a deal breaker.
They can’t feel tight. If you think this contradicts the requirement to stay in place you aren’t greedy enough.  I don’t want them to cut me at the hem (mid calf) or at the knee or the top (somewhere on the thigh).  I want them to keep me warm while letting me forget they are there.  I want it all.
They must work with my clothing.  I don’t want to be pulling my bib legs up or down or pulling the knee warmer up through my bibs.  If I am wearing them under rain pants I don’t want the friction with the rain pant to wear off any aspect of the miracle fabric. 
They must fit in a pocket if it warms up significantly.  I have some knee warmers that have the bulk of a small jersey when they come off so I can only wear them if I am confident I won’t be taking them off.
They must be Comfortable. I don’t want any chafing at the back of my knee. I do want a big temperature range so I can leave them on unless it gets way hot.  I want the fabric to feel cozy going on and have enough loft to provide warmth. I don’t want any seams that chafe me and if the elastic on the hem pulls on my legs hair I won’t be happy.
They need to be durable.  I ride every week of the year and wear my stuff out.  I need to be able to wear it and wash it (gentle cycle, no hot water, hang dry) time and again.  I don’t like seams that fail or fray or fabric that fades or gets stretched out.

No knee warmers I had ever tried managed to hit all of these criteria.   Because I ride and race in various conditions I have amassed an assortment of knee warmers and I use one pair for racing, another pair for rain, another if it is a long ride…….you get the idea.

Blah, blah, blah, what happened when I used them?

The Pactimo knee warmers feel good against your skin.  They stay in place at the top and at the bottom. My bibs don’t wander when I wear these knee warmers.  They wash and wear well.  They seemed to disappear on my legs. The fit is perfect, not tight or loose.  No bunching at the back of the knee. 
If you are invisible, this is exactly what you would look like..
I rode in them again.  I wore them in the rain.   I wore them in the wind.  I wore them on a ride just above freezing.  I wore them on a ride in the fifties.   I haven’t used any other knee warmers since I started using these.

A recent ride turned into the perfect multifaceted acid test for knee warmers.  After getting dressed we rolled out and encountered clouds, sun, wind and some rain.  We climbed hard and soft pedaled later. We rode on pavement and gravel roads.  We got off the bikes during which time I stood, sat and walked around. Another hour of riding and the knee warmers had no slippage, no bunching and no adjusting of anything at any time on or off the bike. I was comfortable and not only did I never think of taking them off, I forgot they were even on. 

After the ride they sprang back into shape and were ready to go again. No stink and no stretching.  They breathe well so they aren’t even damp unless it is raining.

After writing this I wondered if my experiences thus far had been a fluke, or maybe it had all been a dream. I kept the write up as a draft and waited a few more days until I could wear them this week bike commuting.  In the morning I would hit temperatures around forty and it would be in the mid fifties on my ride home. 

They did well.  Then I raced in them in epic Belgian conditions.   Heavy, unrelenting rain and wind and an angry peloton made for a hard, hard day.  My knees were happy start to finish. 

I believe my search for the Holy Grail of knee warmers has ended.  Once again they stayed in place without binding or bunching. Knees were happy. 


You can maintain a quiver of knee warmers and select your weapon depending on the circumstances you expect to encounter, or you can have one pair that does it all.  Look for my other knee warmers on eBay sometime soon.

You can buy them here !

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Vance Creek Road Race 2014 Race Report and Photos

Even before I point you to the photos let me refer you to Rule #9

Now, if you want to see the Race Photos go HERE !

If you want to see the Race Results go here !

If you want to hear about my saga; read on..
Time to build an Ark...
I checked the weather three to ten times a day each day leading up to Saturday's race south of the hamlet of Elma, Washington.  It went from bad to worse and despite a dry departure from home I knew the rains would come with a vengeance. 

Hottie photographed the morning races under light rain. I tried to read the dark clouds and wonder if we might get lucky.  I hooked up with teammate Big John and we warmed up and discussed clothing options. 

The pre race excitement was only tempered by two things. The absolute certainty of limitless suffering on the final climb and the near certainty of biblical rains which would start any minute. 

We rolled out behind the Cat 1-3 Masters and in front of the Cat 1-2 women.  After the neutral roll out we amped it up pretty quick.  The early season races had seen some of the graybearded peloton forced to hold their fire because of teammates in breakaways. These strong men weren't going to let anyone sit in today and the attacks started right away. 

The congenial mood of the start was soon replaced with a silence that reveals that racers are digging deeper than they might like.  These were the cracks that the strong riders were looking for.

Down in the valley we were on farm roads and as Paul put it very succinctly, "This ride tastes like Carnation."  There is an early season TT in Carnation that goes through an agricultural area on pavement that always has a thin film of animal excrement.  The rain had started almost as soon as we rolled out and the spray that was coming off wheels was....pretty....organic. 
This machine is actually shooting shit next to the course.  Chicken shit if it matters. 
The challenge was to get enough oxygen inside you minimizing the mud, cow shit, chicken shit and chemical who-knows-what from getting inside you. 

We were thirty strong and there was an abundance of fast guys.  Despite the weather all the fast guys had come to race.  There are a few Rouleurs like myself who prefer the courses without the big climbs. These brothers skipped the race.  It was a climber day. At the port-a-toilet the urinal portion was designed for men no taller than five and a half feet.  This was an omen.  The course was ill suited to myself and Big John.

Emerging from the narrow farm roads we headed south before we would turn and begin the uphill rollers that culminate with the final climb that makes everyone question themselves.  We were greeted with a headwind that killed any chance of catching your breath. The front of the pack swung from one side of the road to the other as riders were searching for a place to hide from the wind. There was none.
Those aren't flecks of pepper in my teeth.....
We turned right, heading west approaching the hill we would climb on each of our four laps.  Big John was at the point of the peloton and I was hoping he could slow them down and I could keep in contact. 

The climb started and the strong me were again looking for cracks. I quickly shifted down and kept a high cadence.  I was losing places and I could see a separation opening. I pushed hard and caught the back end of the front group.  I started losing ground an inch at a time and as we passed the 200m sign a Bikesale rider passed me on my right and I grabbed his wheel and focused on nothing else. 

I ignored the screaming in my legs and pedaled on.  They screamed louder and I tried to make them hurt more.  I caught back on. I looked at my HR on my Garmin.  188.  My max HR is 182. Okay, I was about to die.

On the descent what I lacked in fitness I made up for with a lack of fear.  By the time we made the sharp turn at the bottom I was sitting third wheel.  We jockeyed a bit and I looked around.  We had lost ten and were a pack of twenty.  I looked back and could see nobody.  


Twenty angry men..
We continued to fly and the attacks kept coming.  I dug down and held on.  More attacks. More digging from Davo. I latched on. I drifted back and then there was a gap.  I gave it all I could.  I was back on.  I was hurting.  My time would come.  Recover now Davo!

We approached the climb the second time.  If they kept it real I could hang on, if they ramped it up I knew I would be dropped.  The rain increased in intensity and I was getting soaked.

After giving it just a little more than everything I had, I was dropped and I looked back hoping to see a two or three riders with whom I could work to either catch back on, or at least share some suffering for the remainder of the day.  There were supposed to be ten guys behind me.  I saw nothing. 

The Cat 1-2 women had started five minutes behind me and I did not want to get caught. I kept riding and looking back.  Where were the other riders from my group?    The two remaining laps would be hell to ride solo.

I flew down the hill and soon was on the farm roads for the third time. I looked straight down and the water on the road reflected and it was like I was riding on a mirror.  My back was hurting but I was still going pretty fast so I kept drilling.  I felt any icy rivulet of water go down the top of my left foot under my shoe cover. 

I had water spraying off the ends of my handlebars like streamers on the end of children's bike handlebars.  There was a perpetual roostertail coming off my front wheel.  My downtube is shaped to be aerodynamic. It sprays water off of the front wheel onto my shoes as I pedal.

I kept driving.  I still felt strong and according to my bike computer I was still going fast which motivated me. I turned and fought the headwind alone.  I got down low and fought my way to the right hand turn. 

As I was climbing toward the finish line and the parking lot I kept seeing cars with bikes on top leaving. We had four laps and the pro men had six and the Cat 3's has five so nobody SHOULD be leaving until I finish my fourth lap. 

I climbed toward the climb.  It was ironic as I was hurrying to a climb that I knew would hurt.  I downshifted and kept going.  After climbing a good ways you hit the 1k to the finish line (and then another 13+ mile lap) sign and then you just keep climbing.  
It was raining, but lucky for us it was a cold rain !
You can see the 200m sign and the finish line is still hidden by the hill.  When you hit the sign you can see the finish line and it is a false flat during which you do a slow motion climb and you are suffering for all to see. 

On the downhill the rain stung my face and I could hear the words from an old song, "and you bleed just to know you're alive." It felt good to feel the hurt on my face. It meant I wasn't frozen. My legs kept driving. 

I was glad to be racing.  I was even glad it was raining.  I was glad I wasn't giving up.

On my final lap I again looked over my shoulder on a big open corner and saw nothing behind me. I was glad the women would not catch me.  I finally caught one rider, then another who were spent and despite my kind words, each waved me on as they chose to suffer their last lap in solitude. 

It was cold and despite having a vest in my center rear pocket from the start, I saw little point in putting it on as I was soaked to the bone. My knees were happy. My hands and torso were happy.  My feet were wet and getting cold.  If there had been five laps I would have had a problem. 
Behold the power of the Lion of Flanders !
On the final climb I started to cramp and dialed it back just a tad. I was still in zone five, but my eyes weren't rolling back in my head. As I approached the finish I spotted Hottie and raised my left had to reveal the yellow Belgian wrist band with the Lion of Flanders which was a revered gift from El Pirate from CX worlds in February 2013. 

John had taken a top ten finish and I took sixteenth.  In the Men's 1-2 race, out of 47 started 30 did not finish the race.  Lots of folks didn't finish their races, I was glad I finished mine.   It hurt.  I uploaded my file and Strava categorized my ride as an Extreme Sufferfest.  I'll go with that.  Fifty three miles of fun. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mason Lake Road Race 2014 #3 Report and Photos and Results

Why is Evo smiling ?  Read on....

Photos of everyone can be found HERE.

Results can be found HERE.

My mildly amusing take on the race follows:

Despite my acute lack of fitness I made my 2014 road racing debut at the familiar loop of Mason Lake.  Big John and El Pirate were also contesting in the fifty plus race and the peer pressure was palpable. I signed up and I was all in.

Hottie wanted to photographthe morning race (mine was later in the day) so we departed in the predawn twilight.  We sailed down I-5 and shared a colorful sunrise. We drove right past registration so she could get positioned on course.  While she shot photos I exchanged a couple texts with my brothers in transit.

After the first races were done and my teammates arrived we warmed up and I confessed that my goal was a pack finish.  Despite the perceived sandbagging, I sought to assure them that indeed rather than expectations I had fears of humiliation.

John was quickly dressed in his costume and disappeared to warm up.  He does get a bit excited about road racing.  Matthew and I rode up and down the road warming up and then we managed one last bathroom stop before lining up.  Remember this is the 50 plus category (brought to you by Flowmax)…

We rolled out with a peloton of thirty some riders dreaming of glory and at least one hoping to avoid embarrassment.  There were a couple breakaway attempts right away and Big John dutifully chased them down.  I feared a race where John did as much work as everyone else combined. 

Suddenly there were two…. no three in a break and Big John was among them.  The rules of the road mean Matthew and I don’t chase but I quietly worked my way to the front and pedaled tempo.  The gap got bigger.  Try as I might I could not close it down.  An Apex rider took over and I slotted in about fifth wheel. 

Turn Two !!  Matthew center, Evo back a bit, John long gone !

After a little while I moved up and once again tried to close it down but I could not.  I was again passed and settled in.  Soon Matthew was on the sharp end of the peloton.  Alas, he too was unable to bring them back.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is road racing and road racing is a team sport.

As we approached the end I the first lap I was in front when I spotted Hottie.  I was “working” and flashed a wry smile. When we completed the first lap the race official told us the breakaway had a minute. I smiled. 

Follow ME !!

Matthew and I and a rotating assortment of Fisher riders chased down any attempts to bridge or break away.  With one lap to go the gap had grown to three minutes.

Big John leading out Tim P who would take a well earned victory
I was expecting the pace to ramp up and it was a mixed bag.  Everyone wanted to pick up the pace to shrink the pack for the finishing sprint, but nobody wanted to do the requisite work.

With no chance of catching the break I was free to contend for Matthew and my own selfish interests.  I took to the front at turn two (about halfway on the lap) and soft-pedaled waiting for a rider to take over.  I sailed along for close to a mile and when I was passed there was quite the attack. 

I tried to pick it up but my fitness was lacking and I went from first to twelfth to twentieth to holy-shit-batman.  My back was sore from the spending more time at the front than I ever do. To my delight the pack slowed on the next climb and I was able to recover.  I just waited and then after five or six minutes I felt better and I started working my way up.

I could see Matthew in the mix and he was doing a bit of work. If he could do a little wheel sucking before the finish he could be in a great spot.

We were four across a narrow half of the road and I was down in the drops afraid to blink.  Every time I saw a gap I filled it.  I passed on the left, on the right, and up the middle.  We hit the 1k to go and the road drops sharply and the roller coaster turns demands your full attention.  I moved up and went past Matthew.

It seemed as if everyone was taking a breath getting ready for the finishing sprint that was just around the corner, and I took the opportunity to move up just a couple more spots.  I wasn’t on the second row of riders but I was on the third and I thought to myself, “being boxed in will probably help me from going too early.”

Around the corner we could see the 200m to go sign up the road. It looked very far and I was setting up but not going just yet.  I heard a voice say, “On your right 2020.” I was just passing a rider on my right and it wasn’t that rider who was speaking.  We hit the 200m sign (which means we get both sides of the road to sprint to the finish line) and it was all on.  I don’t know who was “on my right” but I didn’t expect them to pass me. Not that I planned to block them, I was just ready to sprint.

I don’t get out of the saddle when I sprint and I dug down. I felt a shot like a mini-cramp in my quad but I didn’t let up. I kept driving and looked around. I had two riders to my left and two to my right. I could see the line and kept spinning hard. I took fifth in the field sprint.

This was how we finished.

It turns out the breakaway was too fast for one of the three riders and John survived and took second. We were sprinting for third so I ended up seventh on the day.

There is some hurt going through those legs !

Although the pace had been pretty pedestrian, I did more than my share of the work and was delighted beyond my wildest dreams with my finishing place.  After warming down and getting dressed we checked the results and sure enough, second and seventh.


This was my first race after my season-ending crash last October. It felt good to pin on a number again. I was happy to have shared it with Hottie, John and Matthew. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pactimo Breckenridge Jacket Review

Some background: 
After just one season of wearing crappy team uniforms, we switched to Pactimo for our team clothing a few years ago and we have been very happy with the results.  Wearing team kit became something we looked forward to instead of dreading.  When Pactimo launched their branded apparel a few of us jumped in.  The team version of their summit bibshorts proved to be so outstanding that one of our clan flatly declared he wouldn’t buy any bibshorts in the future that didn’t have the word, “Summit” in the name.  When we aren’t clad in the Maglia Bruno many of us are happy to be sporting Pactimo clothing.

I have been almost evangelical about the Breckenridge vest since I first zipped one up four seasons ago.  It is an awesome garment that can save the day when things turn ugly. Based on that stellar performance I was anxious to try the totally revamped Breckenridge Jacket. In the northwest we are all about keeping the weather at bay most of the year and the next generation Breckinridge jacket sounded like it might be up to the task.

Rides in the upper thirties to upper fifties, with the threat of, or actual rain in varying quantities, are common seven to eight months of the year. These are tough conditions and staying comfortable typically requires adding and removing layers (like my Breckenridge vest) and/or guessing and gambling.

I can gamble it will be dry and forego a vest.  If I get rain of any significant intensity, and I am without rain gear or the vest, my training turns into a race with hypothermia. If I overdress I finish my ride soggy and hot.  As much fun as getting it right can be, missing it turns training into character building.

Facing these conditions from February through June and again from September to November means dressing for the conditions is a problem with which we have great familiarity. Despite the repetitive nature of this problem, sometimes we guess right and sometimes we end up with great stories.

In these highly variable conditions I have been putting the Breckenridge WX-D Jacket through its paces.
The jacket looks sharp which appeals to my seemingly endless vanity. The front and shoulders are made of a water and wind resistant fabric that, while not soft and buttery, it isn’t as stiff as a full on rain jacket.  Once I put the jacket on I didn’t notice the texture of the barrier fabric anymore and any concern I may have had quickly went away.  A nice feature is the front of the arms also uses this barrier fabric with the back of the arms employing the more breathable jersey fabric.  It is a pet peeve of mine is when garments ignore your arms and just include the miracle fabric on the torso and leave your arms to freeze. 

A bit of stealthy style on the zipper flap

What I did notice when I had it on was the great cut of the jacket.  It fits close to your body and does not have flappy arms or a big gut bulge that many jackets have.  Not everyone wants a tight Euro fit but I can assure you nobody likes a jacket that flaps and whips like a flag on descents.

The bulk of the back is breathable jersey fabric which in my experience does a wonderful job of regulating temperature. Sleeve length is spot on and the three pockets in the back add to the versatility of this garment.  The outside of the pockets are made of the same barrier fabric as the front so the contents of your pockets should stay a bit dryer if you get caught out in the rain.  Reflective trim is subtle in daylight yet highly visible when needed. 

The reflective trim executes the fine line of not being obtrusive, 
yet is highly visible to headlights ! 

Although the jacket is essentially all black from the front, the colorful name on the back gives you much needed visibility to drivers in low light conditions. The colorful back in combination with the reflective trim qualifies this as a good jacket for commuting or twilight training.

Performance:
On a recent Saturday morning I zipped up and took off. Temperatures were in the low forties and the grey skies were supposed to stay dry.  The jacket cut the wind and kept the chill off. My arms were especially happy.  The highly breathable back kept me comfortable and I didn’t even unzip to vent on a long gradual climb.  

One feature common across the whole Pactimo line that I really love is the tall collars that add a degree or two to your comfort range.  It sounds silly but when the wind picks up on a late afternoon or evening ride, being able to zip up keeps the chill away.

As it often does; the actual weather ignored the forecast and it started to rain. I smiled as I watched water bead up and run off the sleeves.  The rain was cold on my face, yet my arms and torso remained comfortable. It wasn’t until I was back in my garage that I realized I had ridden for two and a half hours in dry and wet conditions with a temperature change of eight degrees and varying levels of effort; and I hadn’t so much as unzipped to regulate my temperature. 

When I finish a ride without having added or removed layers, I feel a warped sense of pride that I was able to dress perfectly for the conditions. When I finish a decent training ride in which I was comfortable from start to finish and haven’t so much as vented, the credit has to go to the clothing.

Those folks in Colorado know a thing or two about changing weather conditions...

I have also used this jacket skate skiing in sunshine and during wet snowfall and it has proven to be a worthwhile ski companion as well.

Pactimo has a winner here.

If you can't wait you can find one here.  If your team wants them in custom colors you can get that as well.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Giro Pivot Glove Review

Yep. This is what they look like...

The Giro Pivot Gel Gloves have become my “Go to” winter gloves.  Just like bad decisions make for great stories because you encounter more than you were prepared for, the true test of any multi season product is how well it performs across and variety of conditions.  Winter is when you get big temperature swings on longer rides. You can start out dry and finish your suffering in a deluge. With jersey pocket space at a premium you don’t want to be bringing multiple sets of gloves.  It takes longer to form an opinion on winter gloves because you need to see how they perform in a plethora of conditions.

In the rain I smiled as I watched the water bead up and run off as the shell material kept the water out.  On fast training rides where I was sweating a lot the gloves didn’t get cold or clammy.   I found myself comfortable in these from 25 to 35 degrees with a thin liner and without a liner they felt great from about 35 to 55 degrees. 

The palms are super grippy and the little bit of gel padding at the base of the wrist is all you need in a winter glove.  The all black color scheme makes them acceptable for non cycling use as well. The cuff and gauntlet combination seemed odd at first but I never had an issue with drafts or with water going where I didn’t want it.

These have stayed near the front of the drawer because they work well in such a wide range of conditions. If you have ten pairs of gloves you probably don’t need to add these.  If you are looking for a glove that covers a wide spectrum of circumstances, you had better consider these.


Five of five Evos !!