Saturday, July 29, 2006

Of My Ride Today

To the guy on the mountain bike
1) Don't ride on the sidewalk
2) When you decide to leave sidewalk, it's a good idea--even if there aren't cars on the road, which there were--to look behind you. You might find another person there. Like me, for instance.
3) Thanks to you, I know better just how great Dura Ace brakes are.

To the person in the Huge pickup truck
1) You can't turn faster than probably 15mph with your truck lifted so high; I was going 25mph.
2) Your truck actually extends further back than you.
3) You almost cost me my life because of your selfish stupidity in turning into me and pinning me between your expensive rig--that's right, I said rig--and the curb.
4) Your extremely loud diesel truck makes more noise when you speed up. Therefore, I know that you had to go out of your way to almost kill me.
5) Thanks to you, I know better just how great Dura Ace brakes are.

To the person in the Dodge Neon
1) If your going to turn, please use your turn signal. I don't know what you're thinking.
2) Though I'm required by law to be on the road, I can't ride in the lane, so it is always possible to have a bicycle next to you.
3) Thanks to you, I've learned to not pass cars approaching the intersection on their left.
4) Thanks to you, I know better just how great Dura Ace brakes are.

Where would I be without my Road ID?
If you go to the Road ID website, you can read testimonials of people saved because those who arrived at the scene of an accident were better able to help them. However, I have discovered another property of the Road ID. It protects me.

Let me explain.

Since receiving it on Father's Day this year, I have always worn it. Every ride. However, I didn't wear it today. I hope you see the correlation because it is obvious to me.

Friday, July 28, 2006

My Training Begins, In Earnest

Sometimes fear is a good motivator. I have been in fear of my ability to complete (in the time required) LOTOJA for quite a few months now. I've been riding more than I ever have in my entire life. In fact, I'd say I'm in better shape than ever.

Unfortunately, with just over a month to go, I haven't met many of my training goals I set. For instance, I had planned to do a number of centuries this summer. I did only one in the Spring. I had also planned to do many rides at least 100 miles in length with some surpassing that. So far, only that century has met that goal.

One ride is not enough.

Time to Really Start
To start with, I will no longer do any "normal" rides. All my short rides will be either intervals, hill work, or both. This will help me build up as much muscle as possible in the short time left. Of course, I'll have to taper the last few weeks, but for now this is the plan.

Also, I need to get in more LONG rides. This will be hard as a few of my weekends are already spoken for between now and then. These rides should be at LEAST 6 hour rides. Hopefully 8. (Time permitting, of course. I still have to teach my oldest to ride without training wheels.)

Group rides. As tkp suggested in some comments previously (was it on my blog, or his?), I really need to start riding with the local group. For starters, this will show me where I'm at--strength wise. Also, I need to practice riding in a big group (particularly in a pace-line) so I can hang with one in LOTOJA. I'm NOT riding that one solo.

Other Things to Plan For
I also need to plan out nutrition. I've been doing some of this already, but I need to work with it on those long rides better so I know what to plan for. This includes pre-ride meals and such.

Thanks to, I'm working on a comparative review of bib shorts. Hopefully, I'll know which is most comfortable and use that one for LOTOJA.

Am I forgetting anything?

Don't Store Energy Gel in a Seat Pack

I thought it would be a great place to keep an extra gel. I mean, it would always be there, stoically guarding against the bonk that might sneak up unawares. In that regard, in fact, it might be a good idea.

What I didn't plan for was this: Those little foil packets are NOT indestructible. In fact, even in the somewhat protected environment of a seat pack they can rupture.

It is amazing the damage that can be done in such a small, closed environment. Although it is nice and soft just when you open the packet to eat it, it doesn't stay that way once exposed to the elements. In fact, it turns hard--yet sticky. One might describe it as taffy-like.

Needless to say--though I will say it--I won't be carrying any emergency stashes of energy gel in my seat pack any longer.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Blood Doping and Altitude

Not everyone I'm friends with is into cycling. I'm trying to change that--not by getting new friends, but by educating my current ones. As of late, it is easy to talk about cycling with everyone. That is, with the Tour de France and all, even those who don't own a bike end up reading about it.

Just before the start of the TdF, there was a big doping bust. It was alleged that cyclists were transfusing blood. Mostly, people ask me about Lance Armstrong, but in this case, many people asked me why anyone would do this. I will explain:

Basically, they were getting extra red blood cells. Extra red blood cells means they can carry more oxygen. This is good for endurance events.

Interestingly enough, living at a high altitude accomplishes the same thing. They actually make "Tents" that mimic high altitudes. If you sleep in one, your body will start to produce more red blood cells.

After that long--and somewhat off-topic--introduction...
I live at around 5000'. My brother, James, lives at around 200'. I really didn't think this would make much difference, but I found out otherwise last week.

Back in Oregon (James' altitude), we decided to climb a mountain that was quite daunting when we were young. As it turns out, it is still not easy. It was about 2500' of climbing in about 5 or so miles (the exact numbers escape me at the moment). There we were, grinding up a very steep bit of road, pushing the lowest gear we could. My legs were tired.

Out of nowhere, James asks, "What's your heart rate?" I look down, and to my surprise, it is only around 145. In case this means nothing to you, let me say that here in Utah, it'd be more like 165. I was shocked.

James could only reply, "You high-altitude blood doper!"

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Yet Another One About Climbing

What is it about me and climbing. I mean, it hurts. It almost always hurts. Why, then, do I enjoy it so much?

Here's something I find odd: I ride alone in the mornings so sometimes I don't have the will to get out of bed to ride at all. On the other hand, when I'm climbing a hill, I can't seem to stop. It is easier for me to skip riding than to wimp out on a climb.

If I am alone on a hill, and my legs are burning, will I stop to rest, or turn around? I will not.

There is something in a hill that draws me to the top. I am able to accept defeat in many forms, but I can't live with myself if I didn't make it to the top.

Today's ride started out with me thinking I wanted to just go somewhere flat. Not only did I end up doing a lot of super-steep-but-short hills, I actually remember thinking, "I'm only going to go to the half-way point on this climb. My legs are just too tired." And then, like all the other rides, I just kept going. Almost like I was in a dream--a painful one--until I awoke to find myself cresting the top. (And that wasn't even my final climb for the ride.)

I wish I could be so driven in every aspect of my life.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Hard Return

I'm sorry for being away. I was on vacation and, though I brought my computer with me, I couldn't bring myself to turn it on. I spend most of my life in front of one, yet I really don't miss it at all when it's gone.

I brought my Synapse out to Oregon (my Vacation spot) with me, and left my mountain bike. (I only had room for one.) I really didn't plan on doing a whole lot of off-roading, though that's two-thirds of the riding I ended up doing. Lucky for me, I could borrow my Dad's Cannondale F4000.

Now, normally, I'd be against the idea of riding a hard-tail. However, this isn't any hardtail. Though it is about 8 years old, it is loaded with top stuff--components that even today are high-end. About the only drawback was the fork's travel--70mm just seems so little to me these days. On the flip side, he's running Spinergy Spox wheels. These have massive carbon hubs and some sort of composite (or, at least, non-metal) spokes. They are super light and ride really well. Loaded up with the biggest tires we could fit so I could run low-pressure (each weighing around 1000 grams), this bike still came in under 25lbs. (When I later rode with his light-weight tires, it was under 23, I'm guessing. And that was with a computer mounted!)

Before I go much further, I want to point out that I know there are lots of amazing trails in Utah. I really know that. I know that not all trails in Utah are nasty rocky messes. That's fine.

However, those closest to my home and the ones I end up riding most often are very rocky. This, also, isn't necessarily bad, though I sometimes tire of it.

The North Umpqua Trail
There is a trail in Oregon that follows the North Umpqua river. This trail is aptly named. It is 77 miles of incredible single track. It is probably one of the most beautiful places on earth. I got to ride this trail on Saturday.

I actually didn't want to ride it. I wanted to do another road ride. The temperature, though, was around 106 and very humid, so we decided riding in the shade of the Umpqua forest would make things nicer. The section that was picked was probably the smoothest section of the whole trail. It was windy. It had many bridges over streams, and smaller streams that weren't bridged. There were rocks. There were roots. Neither of these in extremely large quantities. There was a lot of climbing.

In short, it was the perfect ride for a light-weight hardtail. I was in heaven. Although we ended up doing about 4500' of climbing in 12 miles, I stayed in my middle chainring for about 80% of that. Right then and there, I started trying to work out in my mind how I could 1) obtain this bike and 2) move to Oregon--preferably somewhere near this trail so I could ride it all the time.

Mary's Peak
The other trail I rode was up in the mountains outside of Corvallis. The ride was Mary's Peak. Although the area was breath-taking, I was glad to have the huge tires (mentioned above). This trail was extremely technical. Which, by the way, is a lot of fun when on a hard-tail. Or rather, when on a hard-tail for the first time in years. Once again, riding in Oregon was incredible. I wish Oregon were closer.

Future Plans
I am no longer content to let my fully-rigid commuter remain that way. I think I'll put my Manitou Black 100/120 (which is currently just collecting dust) on it. After that, I might see if I can scrounge up a front-deraileur. I had so much fun on that f4000, I want to capture some of that fun for myself.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Mystery:Solved or Open Your Eyes, Man!

I have no excuses as to why I didn't see this before. Though I act like I love bikes, clearly, if I hadn't scoured every inch of the bike with my eyes, I don't. I am ashamed.

This picture is of the back of the stem.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Cannondale SystemSix

This afternoon, the Cannondale rep stopped by and dropped off a SystemSix. This model is the Dura Ace version with a carbon compact crankset. He plans to get a SRAM-equiped System6 in the future, so I'll be able to tell you then more what it is like with the SRAM.

I could tell the rep was really excited about this bike, because he took the liberty to change the parts around just a little bit. For instance, though it comes stock with the Arione, he likes the Aliante better and happened to have one that matched really well. I love the Aliante (and ride one on my personal bike), so I didn't mind the change. Also, he couldn't help puting Michelin tires on because of the red stripe on the sidewall. Normally, it comes stock with Hutchinsons.

Other things of note in the pictures below:
Carbon brakes by Cannondale? Well, perhaps like the stem and crankset, the brakes are manufactured by someone else, but they are carbon, and they do have the Cannondale name printed on them.

Also, the bulky thing on the handlebar is the rep's GPS mount. As I only will have this bike until Thursday (I'm going on vacation then. Don't worry, I'll get an extended test when I get back.), I'm not going to bother taking it off.

The wheelset is the Mavic Ksyrium ES. These are beautiful wheels that deliver a solid ride. I'm hoping to swap them out with my topolinos, so I can get a better frame of reference on the handling of the frame itself.

No, I haven't been on it yet, but I will post something when I can.

I still think this stem looks a bit bulbous.

The massive head tube.

Evidently, this is the largest down tube Cannondale has ever made. That's saying something.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

To Pedal

It has always bothered me that the Eggbeater is considered a mountain pedal. I mean, it is light and--dare I say--svelte. They look small and spindly--kind of like a high-end road bike. I am now in the process of reviewing some Shimano 105-level (No, I don't have the code-name Shimano numbering memorized.) pedals. Paired with these are some nice Shimano shoes. (I know they're nice, because the sole is carbon and they are so very stiff. Also, I don't remember the model number and I'm too lazy to look it up.)

The shoes are very stiff. The pedals are solid. When I clip in, there is no mistaking it.

When I get on my mountain bike, I suddenly feel sorry for my Eggbeaters. I mean, they're fantastic pedals, but the engagement seems so half-hearted in comparison. I almost feel like I pity them. "Don't worry little guys, you do just fine. See, my feet are totally attached (even if I can't tell without pulling on them)."

On the other hand, I don't really think before stepping/clipping into my Eggbeaters. For my Shimanos, though I'm getting better, I generally actually have to be looking at the pedal. Also, I often miss the wonderful float with the Eggbeaters (oft-times exaggerated by a worn cleat).

I won't go further (after all, I have a review to write), but here is what I've learned:

The Eggbeaters make a great mountain pedal.
On a road bike, Road pedals are best.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


I went on a great ride yesterday. It was similar to the hard ride on Saturday. This time, it was longer. Of course, this time, I rode it in the morning, so it wasn't 95 degrees outside. As it turns out, that makes a big difference.

It all started with the Tour of Utah. The last stage of this year's course will, among other climbs, go over the Alpine Loop and then over Suncrest (what I did Saturday). Those two climbs combined equal around 6000' of climbing--that is, if you turn around in draper and head south back over Suncrest. I wondered if I could do it.

This, by the way, demonstrates how bad road rides don't seem to alter my goals or ambitions for more than a few minutes. On Saturday, I barely survived Suncrest alone. Yesterday, I thought it'd be a good idea to add the Alpine Loop to that.

Instead of being cheap with the nutritional/energy supplements I brought along, I decided my primary objective would be to arrive at the end of the ride feeling good. Tired, but good. I brought (and consumed) 1 package of Clif Shot Bloks, 2 GUs, 1 Carb Boom, 1 Balance Bar, 4 bottles of Elete water and 1 Bottle of Cytomax. Actually, I didn't bring that many bottles with me, but I brought Elete with me and used it whenever I stopped to refill my bottles.

Before leaving, I estimated it would take me 5 hours, but I didn't really believe it. I figured I'd bonk really bad like Saturday, and yet still try and complete it.

I was right about the 5 hours. I was wrong about bonking.

Starting out, I made a conscientious goal to not push myself too fast. As I said before, my main goal was to finish, and finish without dying. I started out in the morning, so it was cool. I felt great as I climbed Alpine Loop. I've never seen so many cyclists on that road, but it was a holiday. I made it to the top, slammed a energy gel, and started down without any stopping. I wanted to beat the rush of all the traffic that was inevitable in American Fork Canyon, but because I got a late start, it was already after 8 am when I started down. The cars were nice, though, and made room for me. Top speed was 49mph.

Aside: Tour of Utah and the roads
IF the tour of Utah is going over that road, they'd really better step it up a notch. There were no fewer than three sections of gravel instead of pavement on hairpin corners. C'mon guys! Time to re-pave, wouldn't you say? I leave poor road conditions as my excuse for not taking the downhill any faster.

When I reached Alpine, I had a planned stop in a park to fill up my water bottles (adding Elete, of course. I wasn't about to set myself up for a bonk again). With two newly filled water bottles, I was off on my way up Suncrest.

Here is where I decided to use Clif Shot Bloks while riding. Here are my impressions: Though easier to chew/let dissolve/swallow than Jelly Belly Sport Beans (Blok: 1, Sport Bean: 0), it still took more work than energy gel. On the other hand, I liked that I could string out my energy consumption along the hill up Suncrest. Every few minutes, I would just pop a Blok in and slowly work on it. Also, they didn't leave my mouth as sticky as Sport Beans (Blok: 2, Sport Bean: 0).

When I got to the top of Suncrest, I was tired. At that point, I'd done almost 4500' of climbing. The day had warmed up considerably. On the other hand, I didn't feel dehydrated at all. Nor did I feel my legs were spent. Down I went.

Here is the point where I reached the absolute fastest speed I've ever gone on a bike. Also, I did it without noticing it. Sure, I was tucked a bit, but I figured I was still in the upper 40's when I looked down to discover: 55.6mph. Wow.

Aside: Synapse
I really love my Synapse. It is darn light. It is comfy. Super stiff. I love the feel of the Topolino wheels. They are stiff and light, yet they smooth out the ride noticeably. Also, as I learned on this ride, I like the way my Synapse is stable at speed.

When I turned around and headed up the hard part of Suncrest (the North side), I found that I was tired. I really was. My legs were tired. I was tired.

BUT, I wasn't that tired. I watched the time tick by. I watched the miles crawl by. I passed a few people. (One of which was gone when I looked back. I still wonder if I was hallucinating, though I didn't feel as fatigued as all that.)

The ride back was fairly anti-climatic. I stopped at the same park in Alpine and refilled both bottles again. I took it easy going home, though I did manage to bring my average speed up a little bit. (With that much climbing, though, you really shouldn't expect much of me.) I climbed that last little hill (steep, but short) up to my street. I went inside.

At this point, you might expect me to say I crashed on the floor when I went inside. I'm sorry, but I didn't. In fact, I felt great. Really, really great. My legs were a little tired, but I felt like I could've gone on.

Aside: Gummies
I've decided that I really like the gummy form of energy. I like that when I finished the Clif Shot Bloks, I didn't have a disgusting gooey wrapper to store somewhere. (Don't EVER throw these on the ground.) They are, however, a bit pricey. I like James' suggestion to use fruit snacks instead. They are much, MUCH cheaper, though you miss out on the Sodium and Potassium that the Clif Bloks have. I might have to give them a try, though.

Eventually, the cycling world is going to have to come up with a name to call this form of energy supplement. We've had energy gels and energy drinks. I give you: Energy Gummies! Please, Performance, Nashbar, Colorado Cyclist, etc., make the appropriate changes to your catalogs.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sport Beans

I really like Jelly Bellys. They're delicious. As such, I really was excited to read about the contents of their Sport Beans. They look as good, or better than a typical packet of energy gel. They were on sale at Target. I bought some.

On Saturday, I headed out for what would turn out to be a hard, hot 56-mile ride. (Though quite steep in sections, it only had about 2450' of climbing. Did I do a good job making it sound like that is easy for me?) Along with a couple packets of energy gel, a Balance bar, and a full bottle of Cytomax, I brought Orange Sport Beans. I used them well before I got to the climbing part of the ride.

I use energy gel because it is quick energy AND I don't have to chew. From the moment I put the first Sport Bean into my mouth, this realization hit me--and the feeling continued to grow. When it comes down to it, I'd rather it if all my calories I take in during a ride came in a liquid or semi-liquid (gel) form. I bring energy bars because they provide lots more calories per dollar and become a necessity on extended rides.

Sport Beans aren't as messy as gels, by a long shot. I really don't like the way gels are dispensed. I find it difficult to "eat" them without making a mess on my fingers. Also, I never feel like I'm getting all the contents of the packet--a theory proved by the mess in my jersey pocket when I get home and throw away the "empties." On the other hand, you're more likely to drop a Sport Bean while riding than you were to drop a dollop of gel.

I really wanted to like Sport Beans. Energy-wise, they are great. Plus, I get to eat my favorite jelly beans in the world (aside from regular Jelly Bellys). Unfortunately, I breathe too hard (or work to hard) when riding to enjoy the chewing--or even to be able to just ignore it. If I actually stopped to take a break and eat, I'd prefer Sport Beans to gels.

I have one more package, and I intend to suck on these and let them dissolve as a test to see if they work well that way. Watch out for a cyclist choking on the side of the road tomorrow.


I'm sorry, I hope I didn't lead anyone astray. The previous post was fiction--except for climbing the hill and thinking someone was behind me. My thoughts run wild when I climb, and that story just popped into my head.