Doing it all the hard way...

Friday, August 30, 2013

Coffee and Lies # 35 details

I get pretty obsessive over items like bike set up and the impact of the small things on overall performance.  It could be said that I put too much emphasis on the details, perhaps so much so that I miss the big picture.  If I ever find the right balance I will let you all know.

Details or big picture?

A few weeks ago at cross camp I didn’t have a chain keeper on my cross bike.  I run a single ring up front and I figured it wouldn’t be a big issue.  Having to stop about a dozen times in two days and put my chain back on convinced me otherwise.  It wasn’t the stopping so much as losing my momentum and then having to catch up to the group.  Last week I was able to install a K-edge chain keeper (which, by the way, is amazing) and not a dropper since.  Yes, small things can make a big difference.

Details or big picture?

A few years back I dusted off my cross bike and installed a new stem and showed up for the first preseason race thinking I was ready to go.  This venue featured many interesting challenges including a short, bumpy descent with a sharp right-hand turn at the bottom whereupon the route climbed sharply.  Needless to say, you wanted as much speed as you could handle at the bottom of the turn while still being able to make the turn.  I had pre ridden the course, but not all of it at speed, and when I hit the descent at race speed the jarring was significant.   I squeezed the brakes as I approached the turn and without warning my handlebars rotated forward in the stem taking my weight over my front wheel. Instinctively my hands clamped tighter on the bars (and the brakes) launching me into a somersault at the apex of the turn. The trail turned right and I did not. I landed on my back in a blackberry bush with my bike on top of me. My fellow racers asked if I was okay (an indication of how bad it must have looked) and of course my gender-driven rote response was that I was okay.

 The big picture says you test ride (beyond your driveway) and shake out any new bike modifications.  The big picture also says you take some hot laps before any race for a myriad of reasons.

Details or big picture?

I have an excel spreadsheet with my bike measurements.  In addition to the usual seat height etc., I have X and Y coordinates for BB, the nose of my saddle and the c enter line of my bars in my stem.  Based on this I THINK I can set up any bike by using the BB as a reference and adjusting the saddle (up/down and fore/aft) and the bars by adding or removing spacers (up/down) and changing the stem (fore/aft).  This means I have some long stems and I disdain short head tubes.

Even after the tape measure says it fits, I still swing a leg over and try it out.  And if I am going to race it, I test it a LOT.  I was amazed at how long it took me to get my Ridley dialed in as well as how small the changes were.  Tiny things like bar angle made a big difference.  The story is the same with my cross bike.  When on a ride I realized I wanted to lower the left brake hood a bit and didn’t have a long enough hex key with me, I was uneasy.  It was as if I had to pee or something, I could not get comfortable.  Oddly, when I got home and was able to adjust the brake position, I felt a sense of relief not unfamiliar to male cyclists of a certain age.

I read somewhere (probably in Cyclocross Magazine) that during cross season Marianne Vos rides her cross bike exclusively no matter if she rides in the mud or on the road.  She knows how important it is to feel comfortable on it.  While I have tried to dial in the details I am aware that the details only exist as part of the whole bike.  Getting comfortable on that bike is important and I have logged over 200k on my new cross bike and I would say I reached my final configuration where I can declare it “spot on” just this past Friday.

The big picture tells me I need to get my legs in shape pretty quick if I hope to have any kind of success at all in 2013.

No comments: