Doing it all the hard way...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Remodel done

I will throw up more before and after photos later, but this is it for today...

What a mess

It seems so long ago

Look! A fancy hotel right in our fifty year old house...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

SRAM RED Yaw Front Derailleur Review

I was able to pick up the new SRAM Yaw front dérailleur (FD) which was supposed to address the previously mediocre SRAM front shifting. The reviews said it was a vast improvement over the earlier ones. There were questions about the compatibility of the new FD with the earlier versions of SRAM products.

First of all, I need to share what my bike set up is. Evo is a big camper and I run 180mm cranks. If I were a Campagnolo rider this would mean I would be confined to their top tier crankset because they only make 180 cranks in Record. I am, however, a SRAM guy, so in order to be kind of French, SRAM only makes the 180 cranksets in Rival and Apex, their bottom of the line gruppos. My bike has SRAM Rival 180mm cranks.

I do have the older style force shifters so assume all old stuff except for the new Yaw FD. Velonews did some compatibility testing and said the new FD with the old cranks, old rings and old shifters would yield an 8/10 in performance.

YAW? The premise of the new Yaw FD is that instead of moving strictly as a parallelogram, the cage tilts to be in a more optimal orientation in the small ring position and in a slightly different orientation in the big ring position. This makes sense, but then again, I drink more of the marketing kool aid than I should.


The instructions to install this are unlike any other FD I have ever set up. I would go as far as saying I haven't seen any instructions for any bike component like these. There is even a YouTube video to help you. After watching the video several times before and during installation, I finally found myself using trial and error just like every other FD installation. Set up just above the teeth when extended and adjusted while shifting on the bike stand. In the end, I think I got it right.

On the road:

Even using my old shifters and crankset/rings, there was a huge improvement. It reminded me of my upgrade from old 105 to new Ultegra back in 2003. I felt like the chain was moved by the hand of God. It Moved quickly and smoothly to the big ring and jumped back to the small ring when I wanted it to do so. The FD comes with a chain keeper and I set up the cage to move pretty far over so the chain really jumps when downshifting. No problem with dropped chains (not that there was before, but good is always good).


I am pretty darn happy with the performance. Despite the backward compatibility warnings, the unit is such an improvement that it is a win-win all around. I have made strong recommendations to my teammates to upgrade to the Yaw FD. These are pretty darn pricy so the unit can't score five of five Evos.

Four of five Evos.

Scratch Labs drink mix review

Everyone seems to have a favorite potion in their water bottles. Some people get downright evangelical about their preferred mixture, others are more open minded. Hottie and El Hefe both only goes as far as having nuun tablets in their bottles and want no sugar. On the other extreme, Spinner John fills his bottles with Hammer Sustained Energy mixed as thick as pancake batter and thinks anything else is poison.

I have noted performance differences from one brand to another, but am open to trying new things. I have had mixed results with drinks that contain protein in addition to carbs and electrolytes. I can understand the logic behind having some protein in there, but a couple years ago during the Davis Double Century I got stomach cramps so bad I was wishing a car would run me over.

I have become a fan of Cytomax because of its lactic acid buffers and the fact that I don't have to worry about mixing simple sugars and complex carbohydrates. That near fatal combo was what lead to my Davis downfall in 2010.

While I am happy with Cytomax, as I said, I consider myself open minded. (Then again don't we all consider ourselves open minded?) I liked what I read about Skratch Labs drink mix and picked up a couple favors. At the time I was logging lots of kilometers, and would be able to go through any drink mix.

Performance is key, but there are lots of little things that can enhance the standing of a drink mix. One factor is the ability to dissolve. Skratch labs SDM (secret drink mix) does this just fine, Cytomax, not so much. Hammer products set the standard in this category.

Another aspect that is important is taste. More often than not, I reach down and grab a bottle out of duty, knowing I need to drink. Less often I reach down because I am thirsty or because the flavor in the bottle is calling me. Skratch labs rates very high here. The stuff tastes good. At the end of a long ride this week I had a little Cytomax in one bottle and I opened the lid and poured that out. In the other bottle I had some Skratch Labs drink and I opened the lid and drank it down. Then I realized what I had done and decided to write this review.

The key metric is performance. On a long hot ride yesterday (report coming) I could feel my legs hinting at upcoming cramps. I had two bottles and reached for the SDM (Skratch Labs) and drank deep. This wasn't hard because it goes down easy. I didn't get any leg cramps despite the early warning signs and so SDM passed my test.

Bottom line is Skratch Labs SDM is now my go to drink for long rides. I am not ready to give up Cytomax, but this gets a permanent place in my arsenal.

Four of five Evos!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Shoreline Costco Gas Station Hours of Operation

I wanted to know when my local Costco gas station opened.  After an internet search proved fruitless, I had to take a chance and I was rewarded.  This is the answer.  I was there at 6:03 and they were going full speed.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Is it too early to talk of Cyclocross ?

Got you !  It's a trick question.  It's NEVER too early to talk Cyclocross!

Just like in late November the neighbor who left his Christmas lights up all year is suddenly back in style; I am no longer a lazy mechanic for not removing my tubulars at the end of last season.  Now I am just super prepared for my 2012 Cyclocross campaign.

While I approach Cyclocross with a historic (for me) amount of base training, I must confess I was absolutely schooled on the team ride today.  Very early on the throw down my legs felt tired and then they felt tight. Like I was wearing a pair of shorts three sizes too small.  I had felt tight before the ride and had been sliding on my stretching, but I was sucking.

I backed off and then noticed some clicking in my drivetrain. I looked down and saw my rear cassette wobbling. "Loose cassette," I said to myself.  It got worse and soon I was forced to confine my riding to the two highest cogs (12t, 11t).  This was great until on the return trip the road started going up and down and I couldn't downshift.  Maybe you heard the "pop" as I went off the back a second time.

When I got home I pulled off my cassette. As if I was superman, I had sheared off the cogs front the spline.  I stopped in at Gregg's cycle and asked them if they could share this with SRAM.  I'll keep you posted.

Flexibility and intervals are in my future.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bikes vs. Cars Extreme Irony

Flashy in a visibility kind of way

This is my commuter bike. On it I tempt fate four times a week when I commute on it Tuesdays and Thursdays. My hope is that motorists keep away from me and that I do the same.

Hottie rides on the roads as well.

Hottie reported an encounter with a motorist that I felt compelled to share. It seems Hottie was riding with her rear light flashing away and wearing a red jersey with pink and white highlights. To say she was visible is an understatement. A car whips past and the side mirror nearly takes off Hottie's arm. A hundred yards up the road that same car sees a grey squirrel the size of a baseball running across the grey pavement and the guy "slams on his brakes so hard he almost goes through the windshield."

I am assuming everyone else sees the lunacy of a driver who either doesn't see or doesn't care about a human bicyclist, but will risk life and limb not to hurt a (non indigenous) squirrel. THIS is the world we ride in.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Assos F1.Mille bibshort review


The Assos Mille shorts have been around in various iterations for years. It is the workhorse of the pricy Assos line. At first glance inside and out the shorts look deceptively simple. No trendy white stitching, no brazen logos or contrasting panels. Even the chamois looks plain in comparison to the space age look of other multi layered chamois. For us old school riders, we love the classic lines and understated look that says these shorts are all business to those in the know.

Despite elaborate packaging and the typical European purchase reinforcement (congratulations on purchasing the finest ______ money can buy...) when you drop them on the floor you think, "A little Lycra and a fancy potholder in the crotch. I paid how much for these? I've been robbed!" These shorts remind me of what goes through my mind when I see a frame stripped down. "Hey, this thing is just a bunch of tubes joined together!" When those tubes get built up into a bicycle a miracle occurs. In the same way, when you put these on and magic happens.

The fabric is stretchy and thin. I loved it on long hot days in the saddle. While it doesn't top the charts in muscle compression; they disappear once on, and don't bind or restrict in any way. There wasn't any creep so the fit and leg grippers do their jobs.

An oddity, is the number of labels these bibs have. On the plus side, they are all small, but a button with the Assos "A" on it sits on my right cheek, another tiny Assos label in the middle of my butt, supplement a size label in the center of the back and another label on one of the bib straps. I like the two small reflective strips that make me visible at night, but the abundance of these small bits and bobbles is tolerable only because they are small.

The fit is perfect and the pad is right where it needs to be, not too far forward or too far aft. They aren't for standing around in, and when you aren't on the bike you will notice the straps bite, but these shorts aren't for standing around, so the fit reminds you to get back on the road.

The chamois is where the rubber meets the road, or to state it bluntly, where your butt meets its destiny. The chamois looks like a powder blue pot holder that has been loosely stitched in place. Compared to my Pactimo summit bib shorts these are worryingly devoid of seams and complex looking foams and fabrics. Although I would seriously question the color choice, the chamois is outstanding. Perhaps I should have used a phrase that didn't contain the word standing. The chamois is excellent. I wore a single pair for six straight days on my France trip when KLM lost my clothing. No problems with my netherregions and they washed and dried every evening (just take care to wring out the sponge-like chamois) after being washed in the shower and hung on a hanger to air dry.

The real test for any short is how we rank them once we own them. Do they end up at the back of the drawer, or do we smile when we get to wear them? Do we wear them in the rain, or save them for the epic days? I can tell you that last year when I did RAMROD I looked around and took note of how many riders chose the Assos Mille as their weapon of choice for the 240k ride that climbs over 3,000 meters. I saw more of those than any other short. I can wear anything for sixty k or less, once you get longer than a hundred k, you had better have made a wise choice. the Assos fit the bill.

These give a deserving five of five Evos.


Bontrager grippy handlebar tape review

This is Fizik dual tape, which is pretty sweet. The review is for Bontrager Grippy tape today...

I am planning on making Wednesday product review day for the blog. I find that reviews from regular folks who have to pay for the stuff can be pretty valuable.

Bontrager grippy handlebar tape is a little different. It comes in a thin and a thick version. It also comes in a version that has a seam down the middle! and while I have used that version as well, my comments today will relate to the smooth version only.

In the box you get the usual stuff, two rolls, two short pieces of tape and bar plugs and plastic tape. Going on the bars the first thing you need to be aware of is the tape has very limited stretch. The tape seems to have two components, the thin sticky surface and the foam backing. Stretching the tape too much means the sticky surface tears. Making a mistake and having to go back and re-wrap means you will likely tear the foam. Once torn, the resulting wrap will have lumps at best. These are infant mortality problems, so once you have taken great care and wrapped your bars, the problems won't be an issue until you are removing the tape (it does not want to come off).

On the bars, the stuff lives up to its name and is super sticky. Grippy in fact. When it gets is still SUPER grippy. Sweat, mud and blood don't hurt the stickiness and it has proven to be a great cyclocross tape that is loved all season long.

Over the long run, and perhaps I am too cheap and don't replace my bar tape unless there is a problem (or I am changing cable housings), the sticky nature of the tape causes a problem. The top layer starts to peel off and sticks to your gloves and just gets worse over time. It is kind of like a thin layer of scotch tape (sticky side up) over cork padding and it moves with your hands and begs to be replaced.

I will do a shoot out review comparing Bontrager grippy tape to Arundel Gekko tape and Lizardskins tape in the semi near future. All are good, but depending on your needs the pros and cons may point you to one over the others.

Bottom Line: everything the say about contact points is true. I am a bit of a bar tape snob and you will see Bontrager Grippy tape on some of my bikes. I am giving it four out of five Evos...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What I learned in France The wrap up report

Earlier I said all you need are shoes.  In fact, all you really need are some good friends.
I was in France, it was the trip of a lifetime.  I never got my clothing. I didn't get my bike until the fourth day. It was still wonderful.

If I were to believe all of the advertisements, then I couldn't have a good time without piles of the most expensive clothing money can buy. In the photo above I'm wearing Kevin's cap, John's shorts and jersey and Sam's undershirt. I was  just fine. My friends gave me sunscreen, chamois cream, extra socks and everything I needed.

No hair jelly, no Dove soap; I didn't have my preferred sunscreen. My magic drink mix didn't make it. Also lost was my nuun and other secret sauces. There was long list of stuff I thought I couldn't live without, yet I managed to get along even though I never saw it. Yes the weather was perfect, but if it wasn't I would have just borrowed (and bought) more stuff and been just fine.

When KLM lost my luggage it forced a hasty education on lost luggage. Some take aways from that would be:
1) Be prepared for your luggage to be lost (take enough to survive in a carry on)
2) Expensive luggage can be a liability. I am not saying my stuff looked top notch or anything, but in speaking to some knowledgable folks, they said when baggage gets stolen it is usually the nice looking bags.  If you have to check a bag, a beater is better than a showpiece.
3) Once it goes missing, behave as if it will never be seen again. If I had known on day two (when I visited the only serious bike shop of the trip) that I would never see my bag, I would have bought more stuff.
4) Don't trust them to call you.  You have to call them....A LOT...
5) Even though they will end every call with an apology; they really don't give a shit.
The roads in France are unreal.
We asked Horst where we should go on our next trip.  Should we got to Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland; what did he think?  He said the Italians don't give cyclists any room and on the roads. He said France is the only country that makes a point of designing their secondary roads so that instead of cars approaching cyclists at fifty mph, the roads in France are twisty so the cars approach cyclists only ten or so mph faster than the bikes. He discussed the scenery and culture and in the end he told us, France is as good as it gets.
I learned that those freakin' Alps are HUGE !!
The reason they measure altitude in meters is because the scale is such that you need to be able to say, "It's only 750m to the Col.  I can do that."  If you had to say, "It's 2,500 feet to the top," you would follow it with, "We are so screwed!"

Based on our experience we all made a pact to only refer to distances in kilometers and elevation in meters henceforth and forever.  We have changed our cycle computers to metric.  In fact, if you ask me how I bought my Airline ticket to France I would say, "Frequent Flyer Kilometers."
We used Cyclemiles as our tour company.  Seven of our group had used them five years ago and stayed in touch and McWoodie spent last fall tossing ideas back and forth with Horst (the man behind Radsportresen and and the conversation went something like this, "If we can sell out a trip (20 riders) can you taylor it to meet our needs?"  Horst is a smart guy and you can guess the answer.

Horst and the husband and wife crew of Stephan and Nicole did an amazing job. They had food where we needed it, were cheerful and fun to be around. The routes and roads Horst selected were amazing. It was like a series of Hank and Dave Einmo Hobbit trails joined together. I can't believe other tours even know about some of the roads we were on.
I fancy myself quite the home mechanic. I am not worthy to wipe the grease off Horst's hex wrenches. Horst is a genius on all aspects of bicycle build, repair and maintenance.

Horst is not a fan of wheel "systems." He is a fan of 32 spoke wheels.

The food in France is everything they say.  This is ironic because when you are riding six hours a day you can eat almost anything and your body will turn it into fuel.  The laws of thermodynamics are in play.
I learned that my training paid off.

Assos bibs are awesome.  Like I said, they have the word "Ass" right in the name (and that is Ass with a capital A).

War is different when it has been fought on your land.  We didn't really understand until 9/11. It wasn't until I was standing in the town square of  Chappelle en Vercors where the invading Germans stood up sixteen men and boys and shot them while the town watched, that I fully appreciated all of the monuments we had seen in every town honoring the fallen.
Maybe the Parisians are rude, but the French people we encountered were friendly and warm.

The setup we had of the Garmin on the handlebars was excellent.  Some tours are operated like regimented group rides; nobody passes the front guy and someone rides sweep, so you are forced to ride at the pace of the slowest rider.  We could stop for a cafe' or blow through to the hotel.  We had one guy who got lost twice.  That was more of a person problem and should not be attributed to his equipment.
Finally, I learned that not only was my Hottie super sweet for letting me train for the trip and not showering my with guilt for going, but when KLM absolutely fucked me, she spent days chasing them until my stuff was found.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

France Stage Seven Report finale

Although we ran out of days, we didn't run out of spectacular scenery
The final day started warm and while we could have opted for a long sufferfest, we were in France and this was our last day; so we chose to savor our last ride without having to hurry.  Hottie confirmed by missing bag had been delivered to our home.  I wondered what (if anything) was missing.  I figured I had spent enough energy on this trip worrying, so I put it out of my mind and went riding.
France baby, FRANCE !!
We climbed and descended. We regrouped and strung out.  It was a fine day.
We climbed up through a forest and enjoyed the cool air as we knew the day would be a hot one.
We were feeling lighthearted and tried to make up words for the French version of the Beverly Herbouillies.  "Come and listen to the story of a man named Pierre, a poor French farmer who enjoyed his cheese nice and fair..."  The climb was steep enough that the singing dropped off pretty quickly.   After hitting to top we paused.
Bill looked good here at the top.  
In Geneva he was coughing and sounded sick so I avoided him as if he was radioactive.
 Way cool
We rode through the Goule Noire (black ghoul)
We were able to ride through this canyon. It was downhill and we just rolled it.
The river to our left smelled so fresh it was invigorating to us as we rode past.
We saw signs for the town of Rappel everywhere.  This wasn't a route to drive with bikes on top of your car.
We stopped at a cafe and I snapped this pic of my bike below the mountains. The trip was coming to an end and though our bodies were tired, our spirits were renewed. The culmination of months of training and preparation.
We returned to our hotel in Chappelle en Vercors. After a shower we dissembled our bikes and packed them for the return trip. We wandered through town and relaxed for a bit before dinner.
This was the potable water in our village de jour.
Once again we had dinner outside and talked of home. I will post a wrap up with some insights and lessons learned in the next few days.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

France Stage Six KLM lost my suitcase of courage

It looks like I'm going to DIE today...
As you might have guessed, the road to hell isn't straight and while we are all going to DIE, the road there can be pretty cool along the way.
After my strong finish yesterday, my legs were sore and I tried something I will repeat in the future (since I can't repeat things in the past).  I filled my metal water bottle with cold water and rubbed it over my sore legs.  The resulting sensation was a combination of "The Stick" and an ice pack.  It helped and I started the day ready to roll.
This may look like someone's driveway, but the road went on for twenty kilometers. We played leapfrog and let our legs share their happiness.
We passed fields of poppys. 
The road turned up and atop a small rise we found the van and filled our bellies, our pockets and our bottles.  The day was getting warmer and we unzipped our jerseys. I hooked up with El Hefe, 2020 John, Brad, McWoodie, Feral Dave and Matthew.  We slowly ramped up the speed and began a double pace line. It was time to fly.  No pics above 40k/hour..
Horst was feeling strong (as always).
We passed through Luzerland, but didn't want to hang out with Luzers, so we kept rolling.
El Hefe and company departing Luzerland.  Now we were going to DIE for sure.
If you're going to DIE, it is good to know they are a welcoming bunch.
Without getting all Melville on you, let me just say sometimes there is more to a name than you expect. Leaving DIE it was warm, no it was HOT. I was unzipped and the water in my bottles was dwindling.  I had chosen a white jersey and for the first time in my life, I wished I had a pair of white bib shorts. The road kept getting steeper and we were headed up a canyon that didn't seem to have any obvious exit.
I climbed past this lovely lavender field and enjoyed the smell. 
I can see some cuts in the mountain, but not sure which of these will be on my route.
The climb is long and my Garmin tells me there a still a lot of climbing. The heat is getting to me. I recall saying before we left that we had trained in everything except altitude and heat. I could hear Paul Sherwin commentating, "Davo looks to be in a spot of bother." I was certainly uncomfortable. I had vowed to myself not to ruin my trip by killing myself on a climb, yet I was feeling cooked.

El Hefe and crew had stopped for a Coke, but I had opted to get out of DIE quickly and complete the climb. Just out of DIE Feral Dave and Tom passed me and Scott had started ahead of me. Marc blew past me early on while I was shooting a photo. Katrina had started well ahead of me and I wasn't catching her anytime soon.

I had almost decided that if the van passed me I would wave and try to get a ride. I hadn't done that on the trip and wasn't sure I would take the chance if it came up, but it was on my mind. The heat was making it hard. This was the low point of the trip on the bike.

El Hefe pulled up as we rounded the first switchback. I told him the heat was killing me. He asked if I was out of water and I said I was. He didn't have any either, so it turned out to be an academic question. Once we made the turn there was a breeze and the temperature of my skin dropped ten degrees (Fahrenheit). I rode with El Hefe for a minute and he said the rest of the crew was coming behind him. As he rode away I saw 2020 John coming up next. Twenty meters behind John I saw Matthew churning away. Big John was sweating but looked strong. The breeze felt good and my legs had been feeling strong the whole day.  John and I exchanged kind words and then when I looked over, I had dropped John. Dropping John has been a dream of mine for years and I decided to keep pushing. At the next switchback I could see I had seventy meters on John. Matthew was even further behind.

I got out of the saddle and started drilling it. I could see the meters ticking up as I flew up the road. I thought about the dark mornings I had ridden to work in the cold rain. I remembered the Medina Marge ride (also known as the gross socks ride).  I had done my weight training every Monday of 2012 as regular as going to Mass is in Ireland. Long rides most every Saturday morning rain or shine (mostly rain). I thought about the deserts I had politely declined to eat. I had paid the price to prepare for this trip. I caught Marc and blew past him. I caught Katrina and when I came up alongside Tom, he started cheering me on, "Allez, Allez, way to go Davo!" His words made my arms tingle and I blasted on and caught Scott going past so fast I didn't have time to say anything. I felt like superman. I didn't let up. I wasn't hurting, I was flying.  Phil would have said I was, "dancing on the pedals."

As I neared the top I could see El Hefe leaning over his bike, spent from his effort. "You didn't expect to see THIS GUY coming up next," I shouted with excitement pointing to myself. We shook hands and I stepped off my bike and pulled off my shoes as the soles of my feet were burning. I tried to catch my breath as Scott, and then others pulled up. This was one of those climbs where you stop pedaling and you only roll another ten feet. I received congratulations on my strong climb. I felt good.  I stood tall.
That was one HOT climb!!
Marc, Tom, Matthew and Katrina all trying to believe they made it..
I was trying to look retro French, note the bandana, empty bottles and quivering legs.  
A keen eye would spot the taillight for the long (770m) tunnel.
The afternoon yielded a stark contrast. I had my worst moments of the trip and my best on the same climb.  The tunnel was cooler and we enjoyed our time inside.  You can see the sweat on Matthew.
I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.  I am sooo cooked. (In the tunnel by the way)
One of the benefits of climbing a pass is the descent that follows. We zipped along and let the miracle of wind chill make our afternoon more better.  Soon we came upon a town and looked the the fountain of potable water that most small hamlets have.
My bike looking at home in a French village.
We found the fountain, filled our bottles and headed for the last few kilometers to the hotel.
After a long day it was time for a snack, a shower and another big meal.
We ate dinner outside as the light faded. Cheese was a specialty of the locale and it was spectacular. With only one stage left we were trying to savor the experience. Someone remarked that he could do this not just for a week, but he could do this for a month and then...."well, let's see what the options are at that point."