Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Cold and Crunchy

For a very brief period, I had that beautiful XTR front derailleur on my bike. Mind you, it was never hooked up to anything (i.e. cables and shifters—that sort of thing), but it was mounted. My main problem with the derailleur on my bike was the bottom bracket. Actually, some of you might be tempted to point out it was my own mechanical ineptitude that was the root of the problem. Perhaps we’ll discuss that on another post.

Moving on…

You see, despite thinking that most bottom brackets were fairly universal, they are not. Especially this is true when relating to E-type derailleurs. In fact, neither of the two types of bottom brackets (and their corresponding cranks) works with this derailleur. That is, the derailleur sits there mounted and looking pretty—as it is supposed to. But, when force is applied to the crank in an attempt to turn it, one finds that the force actually required to move it at all is much higher than typical. Some might even say it is difficult to move them. Evidently, the 2.5mm thickness of the E-type mount is too much for a bottom bracket not made for such a mount.

Needless to say, I am back to running a 1x8 (ish) setup. In anticipation of front shifting, I have added the smallest chainring now to my crank. Which brings me to this morning’s ride. Once again, I found myself on the fully-rigid project bike. Knowing that my knees have been killing me for the last 5 weeks or so, I’ve been trying to take it easy on the advice of my doctor. Today, before getting on my bike I manually—that is, with my hand—shifted my chain to the inner chainring. Today’s ride: the relatively smooth but swoopy race-track (XC) just up the mouth of Provo Canyon (the north side—south exposure--of the canyon).

Overall, I had a blast. There were times when I wished for a taller gear, but mostly was grateful to take it easy on the climbs.

The Best Part
Somewhere I got a coupon for a free Gatorade Endurance (*New*). With that I filled my bottle this morning before heading out. Please note that this Gatorade wasn’t refrigerated. No, today’s energy drink started out at a comparatively balmy room temperature (about 68 degrees in my house at 6am.). Outside, however, it was in the upper 20s, or thereabouts.

The best part of today’s ride was the Gatorade slushy that was produced in my bottle by the time I finished up my ride. It came at a point where all but my toes were toasty and warm from the exertion. Perfect.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Project Hardtail: Update

With my new light which came from Nashbar, came an E-Type XTR front derailleur. This is the one with the carbon fiber plate (unique to this type of derailleur is a plate which connects with the bottom bracket). They don't use carbon anymore. They probably found that a) they could sell just as many with an aluminum bracket as they did with carbon--only much cheaper to produce (except, I bet Shimano didn't lower the price) and b) they don't really sell all that many E-Type derailleurs anyway.

I now have an XTR front and an Alivio rear derailleur--remember, this bike was built up as an inexpensive commuter. I still need to figure out shifting. Oh, and I have a set of unused Nokon cables that will probably find its way onto this ride. Eventually, I'd like all my parts to be nice, but for now, the Alivio might have to stay.

LEDs for Me

I recently bought a Planet Bike SuperFlash tail light. What I really want is this one (here's a better picture of it's power), but owing to my lack of money, I started digging through Nashbar in the hopes of finding a cheapblinky red-LED light. James recommended the SuperFlash, as it actually uses a 1/2 watt red LED. The more power the better, I say, and because it was on sale for almost half-off, I jumped on it.

Though I haven't actually gone on a night ride with it, I did use it as a flash light around my house last night and this morning. (I always look for ways to play with my new toys--even if I can't use them for what they are made for.) This light is bright. In fact, it seems--though I don't have the tools to test it--much brighter than my 1 watt front light. Pictured here is a shot taken with the light on in my bike's bedrooom--yes, my bike gets its own bedroom (though it has to stay in the garage when people come to visit)--which shows how bright it is because my little cheapo camera metered off the SuperFlash.

There are two modes: obnoxious blink and steady. For the blink mode, there are two additional standard (low-powered) red LEDs in addition to the 1/2 watt. They alternate: little blink, BIG BLINK. This is what makes them obnoxious. It fools you into thinking it is a plain-old blinky and then WHOA, that's bright. Planet Bike lists burn time on blink mode as 100 hrs. (The SuperFlash runs on two AAA batteries.) The steady mode only uses the 1/2 watt LED of course--I'm not sure you'd even be able to tell if the two little LEDs were lit.

The other light here is the Knog Toad. This uses Knog's silicone wrap-around-the-bar mounting and has 5 LEDs mounted in a vertical fashion. The main reason why I like this light is the mounting. I have one of those fancy flat-top carbon drop bars on my bike which, though comfortable and sexy, doesn't work with any mounting system out there--well, except Knog's. There are three modes: steady, fast-blink, and slow-blink.

One problem I have with the way the Toad mount works (as opposed to the bullfrog, which I had for a very brief stint) is that the button is under the silicone wrap. There is, in fact, a special "button" built into the wrap part to line up with the real button in the base. Unfortunately, when the wrap is stretched almost to its limit (as it is with my bars), the buttons don't line up so well.

Again, I haven't been on the road with this one yet, so I can't comment on real-world testing. The Toad retails for $32.

These lights came just in time, too. Tomorrow starts the hunting season which means that, for the first time this year, it is safer to be on the roads than in the mountains.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Trial Run

Ever since my vacation to Oregon--wherein I got to ride a really nice hardtail --I've been longing for a lightweight hardtail mountain bike. Of course, I have my commuter which is nearly a complete bike. (I say nearly because it only has one chainring in the front.) The other day I thought, "If people can ride fully rigid single-speeds all over the place, I ought to be able to handle my 8 speeds on my fully rigid commuter. So, I swapped out my heavy alloy handlebar with a nice short-rise carbon handlebar. (I knew I'd need all the cushioning I could get.) With that, I headed out on a short ride up a trail I recently rode on my super-plush Jekyll--full suspension for those unfamiliar with the model.

Though the pictures show knobbies here, I've since swapped those tires out for some semi-slicks. I was using this bike for commuting, after all. Though there are still some low-end parts on it (for example: the rear derailleur is Shimano Alivio), it is quite light.

It felt light, too.

The first 50' of this trail is made up of wood chips--put there, no doubt, to control erosion . I immediately noticed that what always seemed like smooth trail now felt quite uneven and rough. I was a little shocked at first, but soon remembered the days of riding before suspension.

In those days, a lot of effort was spent picking a line. Riding on a trail was a much more dynamic experience, as I had to always be careful of things in the trail (rocks, roots, and such) that might hinder my progress. I was always moving this way and that--trying to find the perfect line between all of the obstacles. I was amazed at how quickly I had to pick up this skill that had atrophied to almost nonexistence . Gone was the lazy mountain biker that ignored anything smaller than a curb. I also enjoyed the ability to stand up and really accelerate. Though, perhaps I need to fiddle with the settings of my rear shock, I don't feel that way on my Jekyll.

As far as the missing gears, I missed them. For the most part, I was able to keep my speed up and hammer up the climbs. There were times however, when I struggled to keep my cadence high enough to keep the pedals turning. I've already ordered a front derailleur, and I have a full-crankset.

Even including the downhill, during which, I descended noticeably slower, I beat the last time on that trail (on my Jekyll) by almost 10 minutes. I really had a blast on that bike.

My plans still include a suspension fork--though I think my Manitou Black (100-120mm) is too much. I'd like to get something short and light--say 80 or 90mm. I do have a front derailleur on the way, but I still need to find shifters. I'll probably end up moving to 9 speed at that point (which will require a new chain and cassette and, maybe, rear-derailleur). I'd stick with 8-speed if I could get it to shift right, but I've never gotten my old SunTour thumb shifter to work right. (In fact, even during this ride, I had to stop and fiddle with it a bit.) I've worked out a trade of sorts with James, and will soon be able to swap out my$10 seat post with this one.

Oh, and I decided, once again, that I'm just not tough enough for a single-speed. Even with my relatively low gear of 32x32, my left knee started to really hurt as I grinded up some of the steeper climbs. Though I think their simplicity is beautiful, and I often wish I could enjoy them, you won't be finding one in my stable of bikes any time soon.

Friday, October 06, 2006

My Racing Career

I don't really race. I mean that not only in the entering races standpoint (with the exception of LOTOJA--but then, one could argue that LOTOJA really isn't a race for most people), but also in the I don't care if I beat you up that hill standpoint.

Actually, that probably isn't true. Now that I think about it, I really want to beat everyone everywhere--I just normally can't.

When riding up a hill, I really want to show my stuff. Hills are what I like and I feel like I can really suffer through them better than most. (Actually, I probably can't, but I don't really know--and that's what keeps me happy.)

On the flats, I also want to win. Of course, to accomplish this, I need to just pull longer than normal when in a group, or volunteer that we should go further. When riding with people, I never want to be the one who picks up the pace just to show how fast he/she is. That's what the hills are for (see above). Another acceptable option is to ride to the starting point, and point out the ride you plan on doing afterwards. I've seen this in action many times.

Descending. Well, I'm never in front in this case (except when they give me a head-start--and then it isn't for long). Off-road or road--it doesn't seem to make a difference. My best bet here is to be off-road on an unfamiliar trail. I love to pull out the "I didn't know what to expect or where I could open it up" card. It happens to be my best excuse. (Though, not as accurate as saying, "I'm really bad at descending.")

This is why I need to apologize to those who I rode with over lunch. One of your number was introduced to me as "a strong rider." That same rider proceeded to tell me how he plans on doing an ironman next year. I felt pretty strong, and I had to find out. I'm sorry for keeping the pace up. I'm sorry for pushing it harder than I ever have up those hills. I just had to do it.

I'm not a racer. I just play one in my mind.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tour of Utah gets UCI status

I normally don't post press releases here, but I'm pretty excited about this one--if only because it is local.


Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah Awarded International Cycling Union (UCI) Status

UCI status earns the Tour of Utah a place on the UCI’s 2007 race calendar

SALT LAKE CITY – October 3, 2006 – Known as “America's Toughest Tour,” the Tour of Utah, presented by Three Peaks Promotions, has been awarded International Cycling Union (UCI) status. Receiving this prestigious honor recognizes the Tour of Utah as a highly regarded, world-renowned cycling event; consequently, the Tour will be given a date on the 2007 UCI calendar.

The decision to make the Tour of Utah an official UCI event comes from recommendations by UCI commissaires who participated behind the scenes at the 2006 inaugural Tour, as well as from positive feedback from race teams. UCI commissaire Marilyn Allen was the team liaison for the August 2006 Tour. “The teams were happy with the event and look forward to returning next year,” she said. “I would like to congratulate Three Peaks for putting on a very successful 2006 Tour.”

The Tour of Utah is a “Tour de France-style” six- day, six-stage, 500-mile bike race across some of Northern Utah’s most beautiful and challenging landscapes. Planning for 2007 is already underway with the Tour dates to be set for late July or early August.

Jason Preston, president of Three Peaks Promotions and race director for the Tour of Utah said he has been overwhelmed by the amount of positive press and personal feedback the Tour has received from cycling enthusiasts and Utah community leaders.

“Hosting the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah was like revisiting our Olympic experience,” said Lewis K. Billings, mayor of Provo. “Once again the excitement and energy of a first-class international sports competition was alive in the streets of Provo and was reflected in the faces and hearts of the people who came to watch.”

Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau CEO and president Scott Beck offered positive feedback saying "On behalf of the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau, our 850 member-businesses and our community, I wish to congratulate the producers, sponsors and supporters of the Tour of Utah for the incredible success the Tour enjoyed in just its first year.”

“As one of the state's primary marketing organizations,” says Beck, “we fully support and endorse the future of the Tour of Utah, appreciating the fact that UCI-sanctioned events produce incredible media exposure for host cities and destinations such as Salt Lake before, during and long after the event to cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts around the globe. Few events are able to encompass the many attributes Salt Lake has to offer as a tourism destination, from the stunning landscape and backdrop to its incredible hospitality infrastructure; the Tour of Utah is definitely one such event. Again, a sincere 'thanks' goes to the Tour of Utah team for bringing professional cycling to Salt Lake and the State of Utah, exposing the world once again to all we have to offer."

Preston said he has already been looking at several routes for 2007 and is confident that the race will live up to its reputation as “America’s Toughest Tour.” “We look forward to getting our team around us right away in order to raise the bar for next year,” said Preston. “It was the volunteers, sponsors and employees that stepped up to the plate this year and pulled off such a fantastic event. Next year after the Tour de France, American cycling fans can see European style racing with epic climbs and scenery without having to learn French or cross the Atlantic.”

The International Cycling Union (UCI) is the association for the International Cycling Federation and regulates and promotes cycling at the international level. In addition, the UCI organizes the World Championships for all disciplines and encourages friendly relations between members of the cycling family.

For the latest 2007 Tour of Utah schedule, please refer to the UCI web site at www.uci.ch.

More information about the 2006 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah can be found on the official race Web site at www.tourofutah.com or contact Chip Smith at 801.523.3730 or csmith@soarcomm.com.

About Three Peaks Promotions
Three Peaks Promotions, LLC, owns and operates the Tour of Utah and is one of the leading cycling sports presenters in the Western United States. Three Peaks Promotions creates and manages a variety of cycling events and special programs for corporate sponsors, non-profit organizations and municipalities including the Thanksgiving Point Cycling Classic, Freedom Peloton, Sundance Hill Climb, Thanksgiving Point Weekly Criterium Series, and the Tour of Utah. For further information, visit www.threepeakspromotions.com or call 800.807.9804.

About the 2006 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah
The 2006 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah was a “Tour de France-style” six-day, six-stage, 500-mile race across some of Northern Utah’s most beautiful and challenging landscapes, which took place August 7- 12, 2006. It is considered “America’s Toughest Tour” and consisted of 16 professional cycling teams totaling 100-plus cyclists who competed for a cash/prize purse of $40,000. Adding to success of the 2005 Tour of Utah, deemed the biggest cycling event in Utah history, the weeklong 2006 Tour was accompanied by a rolling festival celebration at the finish line of each of the six stages. An estimated 100,000 spectators lined the course and attended the festivals in Park City, Salt Lake City, Tooele, Provo, Midway, and Snowbird. The 2006 Tour of Utah was sponsored by the Larry H. Miller Group, owners of the Utah Jazz and presented by Zions Bank, one of Utah’s longstanding and largest banking institutions. For more information visit www.tourofutah.com or call 800.708.9804.