Friday, July 30, 2010

Flawed Test Numero Dos

I have another loop I often do. The New Reverse Training Loop.
Today was the fastest lap of that route with a time of 1:35:56. My setup was the same as yesterday, except I swapped the Ardent for a trusty old Ignitor. I felt like Goldilocks; Aspen's not enough, Ardent's too much, Ignitor is just right. Good old Ignitors...
Last Saturday with the Aspen / Aspen rigid combo I did it in 1:41:37.
On the previous Monday I did it on the Karate Monkey HT with the Aspen / Aspen combo in 1:39:10.
Again although the loop was the same, Garmin has the mileage from 13.62 miles to 14.27 miles.
Now for some testing flaws.
Today I felt great, and the weather was AMAZING. I only had to stop twice; once for a nature break, and the other to fumble with my bottles as I tried to negotiate some rocky singletrack. I had a pretty full day; delivered 16 vanity tops. To put that in perspective, the average vanity top weighs 75 pounds. That's like lifting my 9 year old son holding a 30 pack 32 times, putting him in my truck, taking him out of it and carrying him around a jobsite. I also cast 4 tops ( 4 batches of cultured marble= 2x 70 lbs, 1x 80lbs, 1x 100 lbs, plus 40 lb bucket, then you scoop all that matrix out and put it in a mold) and finished another 3.

Last Saturday was humid as all hell. I was beater than beat too. Steve from VT was in town and I was up way past my bedtime. I haven't indulged in adult beverages in quite sometime, but from what I remember of them, it felt like I was hungover. I fumbled around work doing 1.5 hours of work in 4 hours before riding. My heart-rate average and high was the highest of all 3 days. I made a few stops for adjustments, but at this point I can't really remember why (we're talking 7 days ago!).

I plain don't remember what the previous Monday was like (see above).

So what does this tell us?
I'm faster when the weather is perfect and I feel good. I was pleased that I was faster rigid then on a HT, but again, look at my method.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Flawed Test

Last week I was riding Mary Jane with a suspension fork. This week I've been back on BluSteel. I have a number of different loops that I ride at the Res. The loop I call the Sidewinder I rode last Thursday on Mary Jane, and the past two days on BluSteel. Yesterday I had Maxxis Aspens front and rear, today I had a Maxxis Ardent 2.4 up front and the Aspen in the back. Last week I also had the Aspens front and rear.
The fastest of all three rides was today with the Ardent / Aspen tire combo on a rigid bike.
Yesterday "felt" the fastest.
Here are the times:
Today: 1:29:08
Yesterday: 1:32:18
Last Thurs: 1:30:18
Average HR and Max HR was similar, with the highest average on the fastest day. Highest max was on the day with the suspension fork.

Subjectively I enjoyed my set up yesterday the most, but do to a certain condition I've been whining about lately, if I run the front tire soft enough to be comfortable, I bang my rim too often.
I'm not crazy about how the Ardent feels, sort of like pushing my bike through molasses, but I was able to shave over 3 minutes off my time with Aspens front and back.

Now for the flaws in the ointment:
Regardless of what Garmin says, last Thursday's loop was actually shorter than yesterday or today. There were a couple guys heading up the fence line on Old Mountain Rd, I didn't want to get stuck behind them, so I went straight up the powerlines. Probably cut less than a 1/4 mile off the route.
On all three rides I stopped to make some sort of adjustment.
Last Thursday I stopped to adjust the pressure in my shock, which allowed the couple I was avoiding to catch and pass me, only to be passed shortly there after.
Yesterday, I got caught behind a guy with earbuds in walking with his mentally challenged son. I announced myself twice, but he couldn't hear me so I had to wait a bit to pass. I stopped 2 times to adjust tire pressure (first to take some out, then to put it back in).
Today, I had to stop 3 times to adjust tire pressure. Once to let some out of the front, then to put some back in then to add more to the rear. I had to slow once to pass a couple of very attractive women; I probably didn't need to slow down so much...
Weather-wise all three days were comparable, but today was about as perfect a day can get for riding a bike. Low 80's with dropping humidity. Yesterday and last Thursday weren't too shabby either, but today was how the weather is when you're dream ...unless it's a bad dream, or you dream in high humidity, or something.

So what does all this tell us? I was fastest today for what ever reason. But fastest compared to what? Fast enough? I think I'm ready to find out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


The plan was to go long. In the end I took the shortest possible route home.
Yesterday riding in I was pretty beat, which was understandable after a pretty good weekend, but a fellow commuter spurred me on to a decent ride in.
After not riding home Monday, I thought I'd be raring to go tonight. My workday was a little longer than planned, but everything had gone as planned; no added stress.

Things started well; initially I was maintaining a pretty good clip without too much effort.
Then I turned.
Guess I was enjoying a tailwind.
Then I hit the grated pavement. I pushed hard to keep momentum over the broken pavement. On the first little rise, I felt like someone was pulling me backwards.
Maybe I'd ride to Talcott Notch, and see how I was feeling? If I perked up, I'd keep heading North, if not, I could turn for home.
Didn't even get close before I abandoned that plan.
I slunk my way home.

Over the weekend my Dad, who is a pretty smart guy, told me of these things called "anti-inflammatory drugs". Oddly enough my friend Steve had brought up these mysterious marvels of modern science as well. James had heard of them too, and also recommended trying them.
Food for thought...

Monday, July 26, 2010


On Saturday I got a decent ride in on my Singular. It was great to be riding w/o a suspension fork, and with enough pedal clearance after a week without.
But Sunday I had an equally great road ride.
I think I can start racing again, but that would probably cancel out doing any longer road rides until September.
As I was riding yesterday I was thinking instead of driving for 4 hours to race 2, I was riding for 4 hours.
In New England, we are somewhat spoiled with the proximity of races, and I should appreciate that in other areas people have to drive much farther to race, but after 8 weeks off the circuit the driving time is seeming daunting.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Twice before I swore off Crank Brothers Egg Beaters and went back to Time ATACs. First time the pedal body came off the spindle...on both sides! Then the retention bars got all wonky and would release at the most inopportune times. CB was going to charge me to repair them. I don't mind routine maintenance, but having to send them back and be charged for something I don't feel should wear out was a bit much for me.

But when they work the work well, best pedals in the snow, and they are so darn light. This year they redesigned them adding a needle bearing to replace the spindle bushing and improving the retention bars, and they are so pretty, and I hope I won't regret this...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

MDC Meeting

Last night was the public hearing about the access issue at the MDC West Hartford Reservoir. I guess it wasn't really a hearing but a meeting where the public could give there feelings on the possible closing of MDC land to the public over liability issues.

Great turnout, the auditorium was overflowing, and the MDC commissioners seemed receptive. Local politicians also spoke and showed there support and willingness to change legislation to help protect the MDC from frivolous lawsuits.

One point that probably struck the MDC commissioners was that it will probably be more expensive to try and police a closure than any additional insurance cost of leaving it open to the public. But either way, since the MDC is a nonprofit any additional costs will be passed on to the consumers who have no choice but to buy water from the MDC.

I didn't speak, because I felt all my comments for the MDC had been covered (not a fan of redundancy). My favorite comment was from an older woman who felt Blonski, the "mountain biker" who hit the gate and won 2.9 million in the suit against the MDC, owes the MDC a written apology, and should pay for any damage she did to the gate.

If I did speak it would be more directed to my elected West Hartford officials. We moved here for the schools, services, and the reservoir. We have 3 kids, all who have been in the West Hartford school system. That costs way more tax dollars than we pay. Without the reservoir, I don't have much incentive to stick around for the town to re-coop their money, as the services have also dwindled since we first moved here. Although I'm walking distance to Blue Back and the center, being able to ride to the trails is the real allure of my location.

I took more pictures much to Kim's and the young man sitting next to me chagrin, but they didn't come out very well due to the darkness of the auditorium, and the suckiness of my camera.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Were you expecting a race report or something?
On Friday night I thought I'd be posting one. Heck at 6:00 AM on Saturday I thought I'd be posting one.
So what happened?

A couple of things actually.

No I wasn't worried about being beat by a one legged guy; that would have been an honor.

First off, when I started driving North, everyone one on the road was totally pissing me off. You shouldn't be yelling at people and flipping them off on Saturday morning, 6:00 AM.

On Friday night I had a brainstorm about mountain biking. If I used that Rockshox Reba collecting dust in the basement I might spare my hand a bit and be able to ride more comfortably. Unfortunately the steerer is too short for my Singular, so I began building up my Karate Monkey again with it. I also had a spiffy gold headset I had bought for Mary Jane that I finally took the time to install.

Then I weighed the hours driving, registering, hanging around, and not being at home; I figured all in all it would be about 8 hours for a 1/2 hour race.

Factoring the rage, the desire to finish a project, and the time / race ratio I pulled the plug at the first exit on 91N.


Got home, finished the build, watched some TdF, and hit the trail.

Right off the bat, the steering was fooked on the Karate Monkey. There was no adjustment between the headset being too tight and too loose. I stopped a couple of times to try and fix it but to no avail. I soldiered on for about an hour, but was really looking forward to getting home and digging into it to see what was wrong.

I figured the headset was a POS, and I should just put a Cane Creek on it and be done with it. But when I was taking the bottom cup out there wasn't a bearing in it? The bearing was still on the headset press from when I put the cups in the frame! Doh!

After I fixed that, I took it for a little spin. Much better, but still felt sort of twitchy.
There was a little play in the front wheel's bearings, so I popped in a couple new ones.
Still "twitchy".

I figured I'd just ride it in the morning and see how it goes.

On the ride over to the res, it still seemed to be wobbling around a bit, but the longer I rode the less I noticed it. Then it dawned on me, the KM isn't twitchy, the Singular is super stable.
By the end of the ride I was riding no handed and not thinking about it at all.

Did it solve all of my problems?
But it was an improvement while riding, and a great improvement afterwords. As I type this there is no fatigue in my hand whatsoever.
But riding with a suspension fork is going to take a lot to get used to. I don't know if I should use a bigger or smaller gear. A bigger gear would help keep momentum up, but a smaller gear would spin smoother, so there would be less bob. I already have 50% more air in the fork than is recommended for a fellow my size.

Another thing I changed this weekend was I rode with a hydration pack. I wanted to have some specific tools with me, and it wouldn't be practical to put them in my jersey pockets, so I went with the pack. The big revelation with this is I could drink at will. I haven't been able to use a water bottle with my dominant hand, yet out of habit I always grab it with it, and am unable to squeeze it. A problem I've had with hydration packs in the past is after about an hour they begin to hurt my back. I had no issues with it over the weekend.

So I'm a loser for blowing off a race, but I'm psyched to be back on the mtb!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Castle Craig

I wasn't entirely sure on my gear selection for Saturday, so I headed over to Castle Craig to do some hill repeats to see what's up.
My day had not been going too well up to that point.
I was having one of those I hate my job kind of days. Sticky polymers spilling. Spray system clogging. Paying taxes. Good stuff.
Because I had a little hill climby gear on my bike I drove over to the side of Hubbard Park. I left my helmet, gloves and glasses at the shop.
Interestingly, I ran into two other cyclists. A racer from Central Wheel and a guy kitted out in Livestrong apparel. The racer was friendly as can be and did a half-o-hill repeat with me (he had already done 2, and had had enough). The Livestrong guy looked at me as if I had two heads; two heads not wearing helmets.
The climbing was going pretty well; the hill is about 9% over 1.27 miles and the gear felt pretty easy. I easily stayed in the saddle with it. But I could pop out of it and spin up a little speed if needed. Hopefully that will translate well for the 12% of Ascutney.
After my second descent I stopped and adjusted my front brake as it was feeling pretty soft. After my third it was smoking and the lever was going to the bar.
I was hoping to do 5 or 6 climbs, but after the day I was having, and the lack of a helmet, I decided to end it at 4.
We'll see how it works out Saturday.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Momma didn't raise no quitters

My Mom is full of inspirational quotes. One of which was "Can't isn't in the dictionary". When us smartalec kids would point it out in the dictionary to her she would reply "It's not in MY dictionary!"
So with that and a cornucopia of other corny saying hounding me I set off to exhaust all possibilities of racing my Singular at MT Ascutney.
I still had my spare tube in the saddle bag of my fixed gear. No light weight, but by choice I wanted to race a 20+ pound single speed mountain bike up a paved mountain road instead of a 16 pound 18 speed road bike; I'm not going to fret over 20-30 grams.

So down to the basement I descended.
Unseat the bead
pulled the tube
liberally talc the spare tube
carefully rolled it back into the tire
and then worked that mother onto the rim

I managed to got it on without puncturing it, and it didn't mysteriously fail either.

Here's the part where I complain about my thumb; please skip italicized text to avoid:

The effort left my thumb and hand stiff and throbbing Hopefully this will improve when the inflammation goes down. Racing Mt. Snow is definitely in doubt at this point, as well as the races in the beginning of August; I can't risk any ill effects to my ability to do my job.

Now here's my thinking with racing a singlespeed mountain bike:
In mountain bike races I climb faster on the singlespeed than most climb on their geared bikes. It just fits my style. Last year at Bikes for Bovines (results linky), I finished 6 minutes behind Kevin Hines (he was third in the Pro race). Big deal, you're saying some guy BEAT you by 6 minutes. Bikes for Bovines(course gps linky) is a 24 mile course that climbs for half that distance and then descends on some singletrack but mostly fireroads with a couple of long flat sections thrown in for good measure. If a bike handler like Hines couldn't take 3 minutes a lap out of me on the descents and flats, he was riding a flat or his brakes were rubbing. Having two guys in front of him, I doubt he was soft pedaling. I was also the fastest Cat1 on the day. I'm also the suckiest suck to ever suck descending whether I'm riding rigid or not.
So my thinking is if I get the right gear, and climb like I do in a mountain bike race (i.e. standing), maybe I can improve on past years times.
Plus it might be a really cool photo op; you don't have to wear a helmet on the climb so you can look all Euro-kool.
Not to mention half the fun of racing a hill climb is coming back down the mountain, where compared to most hill-climbers I'm a golden god on the descents. Now with disc brake this should be really fun.

Hill repeat trials are tonight!

Yeah, I'm gonna whine about my thumb some more.

Sunday I put in a decent ride on the mtb. Things were feeling pretty good. As long as I held the bar tightly my thumb was fine. The minute I loosened my grip to, oh let say brake on a rocky descent, the vibrations would work my thumb over. Rode for about 2.75 hours and really didn't feel too worse for wear...until later that day when I was doing a little work on my fixed gear. The small motor operation of removing crank bolts was antagonisingly uncomfortable.

Monday was a big delivery day for me at work so, everything seemed pretty status quo.

Tuesday was one of the larger production days I've had in a while, and I feel I set myself back a step or two on Sunday. Mobility seems slightly reduced, and if I "over reach" there is a sharp pain.

Last night I started getting my Singular ready for The MT Ascutney Hillclimb. I figured if I can't race it offroad, why not up a hill? I borrowed some narrow road clinchers and tubes from Charlie B. Installed the rear no problem, but moving on to the front I just couldn't get the bead over the edge of the rim. Finally I resorted to levers...and promptly punctured the tube with said levers.
I work the bead back off the rim, find a suspect tube of my own, put it in, and...puncture that one too.

My Mom is always going on about "meant to be's", maybe racing my Singular on Saturday is just not meant to be?

I sleep on it and when I woke this morning, I figured I give it one last shot. I patch Charlie's tube (boy did I do a number on it!; 2 spots!), generously coat it in baby powder, and persevere in getting that bead on without levers. I succeed!

I add a link to my chain, so I can run a larger cog, adjust my chain tension...and what's that sound? Air escaping from my front tire?!
The valve failed!!
It doesn't even have a replaceable core, so I need to take the bead off again, find a tube to patch or heaven forbid actually buy one (which I have to do anyways since I ruined Charlie's), and work the tire back on.
It's not even 6:00 AM, and my thumb is ready for a nap.

I guess Marble Design Racing will be heading to VT instead of Singular...unless I convince people that Singular is coming out with a large tubed aluminum bike?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I've noticed there has been less traffic these past couple of days. You know, during the HEATWAVE! I don't need to see any more pictures of thermometers, thank you.
But the people out on the road are either in some sort of daze or cranky as hell.

I was heading down the road about to make a left on a street an old man was pulling out of. He jerked forward, stopped, and then did it again. When I made the turn he yelled something unintelligible. Out of instinct, I quickly U'ed around and shot back "What'd you say old man?"
"Uck You!" he proclaimed! I laughed and spun around back to my ride home. Old man swearing at me without his teeth in was just too funny.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Baby Steps

Sunday would have to count as my first successful mountain bike ride since the injury. Made it about 1:25 before I had to call it quits and head back down the ridge.
I'll reserve any expectations at this point, and won't be signing up for any events ahead of time, but maybe I'll be racing again by August?
Just in time for the Root 66 series to head down from the hills to the flatlands.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Smart man.

Smart car.
Not smart mid ride snack!

I planned a special TdF tribute ride, with a decent amount of climbing and New England's version of cobbles, dirt roads. But Mr. tough guy "geared bikes are boring" wasn't going to be riding it fixed, because his fixed gear was creaking, and he was too lazy to fix it Friday night.

Problem was within 20 minutes of starting the ride I was already feeling hunger pangs, so I quickly downed my first Cliff Bar.

When I reached Milo Coe Rd., I began feeling dejected as the tarmac was looking awfully fresh. Did they pave this rustic gem? I ate my second and Last Cliff Bar and continued on disappointed that they had "improved" the road.

Fortunately the good people of Massachusetts felt things were fine how they were, and left well enough alone.

To celebrate, and ensure I made it home I stopped at the Granville Country Store. Of all the food to choose from, I chose a cheese danish.
Now after the ride, with a cup of coffee, it would have been perfect, but I still had 30 miles to ride, and all that fat and sugar wasn't quite happy with it's new home.

Lesson learned.