Friday, February 28, 2014

new bike part 8: Winter Allaban photo shoot

After the bike was done being built (well, almost), Eric took it in for a photo shoot.

Here's the gallery for my bike.

Eric named the bike Allaban, a Scottish word for "wandering, wanderings, roaming". It's a spectacular name for a randonneuring bike: surprising it hadn't already been snatched up by some litigious mainstream bike company.

Keith Anderson's paint work was followed by SRAM Force shifters and derailleurs, Soma 26 mm compact handlebars, a Cane Creek headset, White Industries hubs, bottom bracket, and variable-bolt-circle crankset and rings, Paul Racer brakes, a Thomson Elite zero-setback seatpost, and a Crane brass bell expertly threaded into the stem by Eric. The Crane, in particular, has excellent sound.

For the saddle, I decided to stick with an old Mythos saddle I had from my Fuji Team Al bike: I know it works well for me and didn't want to mess around. For the photos, Eric subbed in a Turbo. It fits.

Eric also did something surprising: he blacked out key logos with a black magic marker. It sounds goofy but it works. Logos are distracting.

Here's some shots, shamelessly stolen from the gallery. More photos are in the bike's Flickr set:

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Garmin Vector: LR balance update after 3 rides

Recently I've been experimenting with the Garmin Vector pedals, which measure L-R power balance. I've long been curious about L-R balance. How symmetric am I? How does the symmetry vary with different conditions?

What I've not done yet is to validate the pedals against my Powertap. One reason for this is I'm out of 357 batteries. I ordered a pack of 20 via Amazon for $3. $3??? That's cheaper than a pair at Walgreens. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with twenty 357 batteries.

Anyway, on the Vector, I've had a few issues. One was an anomolous 1-second right-foot-only power spike of 900 watts. I've not looked into whether this was a torque or cadence anomaly. The other was when I was carrying my bike off the train and accidentally slammed the pedal into a metal column. That wasn't a good thing, but it's neither the first or the last time I'll do such a thing. For that ride, the Edge 800 was reporting no left pedal data. But after power cycling the Edge after the ride, left pedal data were back again.

The last time, I observed that my L-R balance tended to be slightly right-foot biased at lower power, then close to 50-50 at higher power. Here's an update on that after 3 significant rides:

L-R balance

In the plot, I binned power into 10-watt partitions. In each partition I averaged the L-R power data from the ride for L-R data falling in the range 1% to 99% inclusive (I don't want to bias the result with one-legged pedaling).

The result? There appear indeed to be systematic shifts in L-R balance from one ride to the next. But then there's differences in the rides themselves. The ride of 16 Feb was a solo ride around the city serving as a recovery ride from a big block of run training. The 22-24 Feb rides both occurred after my 30 km trail race this past Saturday, which left my legs fried to a nice brown crisp. So none were on fresh legs, but racing is harsher than any training runs.

But each ride contains a similar signature with respect to power: primarily right leg at lower powers, shifting to close to 49-51 in favor of the left leg at higher powers.

Is this real? I'm not 100% sure. I really need to compare this to the Powertap wheel. Even if there is an error in the Powertap, the Powertap has no idea if I'm pedaling with my left or right foot, so comparing one-legged pedaling data to powertap data will give an idea of whether the L-R balance is biased.

In any case, the message to me with regard to Stages or Ergomo, which measure only one leg and double it, is that L-R balance is not a fixed quantity for a given rider (given = me), and there's a clear systematic error in that assumption. For example, if I'm 52% right at one power and 49% right at another power, that will result in the first power being reported 4% low and the second power being reported 2% high if the left leg only is measured. The other message is I appear to have no gross assymmetry in my pedalstroke. That's encouraging.

The bin averaging code I wrote also spits out bin counts. It's interesting how those worked out for the ride:

L-R balance

The distribution is clearly non-Gaussian due to the prominent exponential tails. I fit a simple asymmetric form of a hyperbolic secant function to the counts. That worked out surprisingly well. But I'm almost embarrased to show it because my power numbers were so lame. 30 km trail runs will do that, I suppose.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

new bike part 7: color

I knew early on as a nod to my Irish heritage I wanted the bike to be green. Here again was my early "sketch":


There I used Kelly Green, which makes sense given the inspiration:


But these are just cartoons, and it's a mistake to judge colors in a cartoon.

So when it came time to discuss real color, I told Eric to base it based on this: a Lotus racing car:


Charles @ PezCyclingNews has based bike designs on racing cars and motorcycles, for example:


I didn't want anything so complex. The Lotus I showed is elegant in its simplicity. The green fades to black. The racing inspiration is there, but it doesn't dominate.

Painting took awhile. But it was very, very worth it:


Credit goes to Keith Anderson, who did the painting.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New bike part 6: Eric's welds

Once the geometry is down and the components are selected, the fun part begins. Eric starts welding.

Unfortunately he's in Springfield Oregon and I'm in San Francisco. But one great thing about going with Eric is he enjoys the process, and posts photos of his progress. This alone is worth a lot to me, and why I think it's good to go with a builder you want, rather than whomever comes it at the lowest price. With me, while price was a factor, it wasn't the main factor, and most of all I was buying not just a welding job, but additionally judgement in putting together a full package which would meet my goals.

I have to say these photos are gorgeous. First the fork:

fork crown

front dropout

Here's the frame in the jig, showing the 73-degree seat tube angle:

alignment jig

The seat cluster:

alignment jig

Head tube.. simply amazing:

head tube

Bottom bracket... nothing to say:

bottom bracket

Pretty much done! No retro lugs here, just clean weld lines.


It's almost a shame to paint the thing and cover up that amazing braze work.

Monday, February 24, 2014

new bike part 5: wheel for Cara

I got a new wheel for Cara, a virtual copy (except for hub color) of the wheels for the new bike.

Here's a photo:


The spec: H Son Plus 23 mm wide rim, White Industries T-11 hub (purple anodized), 28 black DT butted spokes, silver brass nipples. To be added: Veloplugs with electrical tape to help keep them in place.

I'm done with 19 mm rims, except the ones I already have, except for time trial or climbing wheels. 23 mm matches up better with tires 25 mm and wider. Better rolling resistance, better puncture resistance, easier flat replacement, and likely better aerodynamics. The only minus is weight: 23 mm rims are a bit heavier, perhaps 50 grams.

Total mass: 787.5 grams, no Veloplugs, no skewer. The weight weenie in me cringes, but the wheel's designed to be bomb-proof. 28 spokes and if you break one, you have effectively 14, and can re-true it and still ride. And 2-cross instead of radial means the spokes are pulling against more metal on the hub flange instead of pulling straight outward.

I got it built up by Sports Basement, Bryant Street San Francisco. They do a solid job, and with the $45 build fee the wheel comes in considerably cheaper than typical high-end "pre-built" commercial wheels, which typically use gimmicks for differentiation but it's hard to go wrong with tried-and-true wheel designs.

I picked up the wheel on my bike. I retrieved a discarded inner tube from their recycling bin, tied it around the rim at two points 170 degrees apart with square knots, and voila: instant shoulder strap. I've carried a bike frame home (my Fuji SL/1 in 2008) the same way, putting holes in the cardboard box.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Inside Trail Racing's Lake Chabot 30 km trail run

Lake Chabot is a particularly easy-to-reach trail run from San Francisco: I rode my bike about a mile to the BART station, took BART to Castro Valley, then rode from there 5 km to the Lake Chabot marina, merrily spinning by the line of cars and personal trucks lined up waiting to get into the limited-capacity parking lot.

This was my 2nd trail run this year after a long break from trail running. I knew my fitness was coming around: good day-to-day recovery and my speed was improving. Rationally I knew I should be ready. I just had to pace myself right.

The race started near the Marina.

Since the distance was a stretch, my longest run in over a year, I decided go light on the warm-up. But then I'd ridden my bike 5 km up a gradual hill to get there.

Off we went down the paved path which constituted the beginning of the course. The pace felt glacially slow, trodding through sludge, but then that's always the case in race. The Strava data show we were around a 4:50/km pace, which is indeed slow, but appropriate for this distance. My finishing kilometers were faster.

I tried my best to run the tangents: target the inside of each turn, running straight lines between. In the turns there was generally a dirt fringe to the path. These not only provided a shorter radius and therefore less distance, but additionally the dirt was less impact. I'd brought both my road shoes (New Balance Minimus) and trail shoes (New Balance 970) to the start, then asked a volunteer which was the better choice. "Definitely trail shoes," he said, and I believe this turned out to be true. Since I had the trail shoes on I had may as well run in dirt when convenient to do so.

2.7 km in we hit the "bridge of death", a steep metal staircase led to a narrow suspension bridge, oscillating in response to the line of runners passing over. We'd been warned of the need to be close to the front here, but congestion wasn't a problem for me. The pack had already thinned out considerably by this point.

Finally at near 4 km the paved trail ended and we were on dirt. It was wide trail, not quite fire road, with decaying foliage covering. Here's where I was glad for the trail shoes, as the added grip probably makes them the more energy-efficient choice here, making up for the reduced efficiency on the pavement. They're also heavier.

Once on the dirt, the climbing began, 4.2 km from the start. None of the climbs were particularly long, this one was 74 meters, but they were long enough that runners were attacking them hard on the early going then running out of gas part-way up, reduced to a walk. I went straight to a power walk, swinging my arms. This is more efficient and still reasonably fast, perhaps not race-winning fast, but certainly up to the level of effort I'm able to sustain for 30 km.

Over the top, we began the descents. Descents used to be a huge weakness for me but I'm clearly running faster on them now, as I had no problem keeping pace here, and even passed a few runners.

number, map, pins
Number, map, and pins. 30 km did the pin + orange routes: the full loop. Detailed course information is here.

There were 3 aid stations on the course, roughly every 7.5 km. This worked out perfectly for me, as the bottle with Hammer Heed solution with which I'd started the race was empty by the first station. I looked around for the sugar solution option. "Sports drink?" one of the volunteers shouted, holding a jug of clear liquid. I trotted up, the cap off my bottle, and he quickly filled it. There was some food placed out on a table nearby, and after a quick scan I grabbed a small orange piece, shoved it in my mouth, and was off. It was a clean and quick stop.

The next section would take us from the half-marathon "pink" trail to the orange "loop" which extended the course to the nominal 30 km. The turn-off was at roughly half-way on the half-marathon loop, I figured, or around 10.5 km. But 11 km, then 12 km appeared on my Forerunner 610 and still no turn-off. I'm pathologically fearful of going off course, a fear borne of extensive experience, and this sort of thing gets me worried. But the course was excellently marked and sure enough the orange arrows appeared.

I'd been running with two others, one of whom was in the 30 km, the other the half-marathon. They'd been chatting, but now it was just two of us, so I became the target for conversation. Johannes was his name, and I heard about his experience on road marathons, including a 2:58 CIM in December. We seemed reasonably well matched, so I was happy for the company.

Second aid station and it was again a very fast in-and-out for me. This one, unlike the first, had Clif Blox, of which I took 4. I dropped one on the trail but the 5-second rule applied: I dusted it off and ate it. Clif Blox are easy going down, almost as good as gels, with less packaging mess. And, of course, I refilled my bottle with sports drink.

Johannes was only a few seconds slower at the stop and he quickly recaught me. And so we continued to run together until the steep climbs began at km 16.4. I went into my power-walk, but he went into a plain hiking pace, arguing that he couldn't climb. He'd been running fine to this point, so I was a bit puzzled by this, and told him I was sure I'd see him again.

Over the hill and down the other side I went. Despite my words to Johannes, I figured it would be solo from here onward. I recalled the deviation from the pink trail had been at around km 13, so if their course was 21 km, then we should re-intersect at around km 22 plus whatever distance it took for the pink course to cross the bridge which we had avoided. But I had not yet reached this point when I heard two voices behind me. I hoped it was mountain bikers, of which we had seen several, but the voices lingered behind me too long for a mountain biker's speed on the flattish trail. Eventually I was indeed overtaken by two runners, then a short while later, by Johannes. They passed me definitely but then hovered in front, the gap stabilizing. Either I had sped up in reaction to their passing me or they had benefitted from having me as a rabbit. Maybe a little bit of both.

At one point I saw a 50 km runner heading in the opposite direction. I found this puzzling, as nobody was supposed to be running the orange loop backwards. I decided perhaps she had missed the first turn-off, crossed the bridge, and was now running orange backwards to make up the distance. Soon after I hit the junction with the pink loop, and I was approaching end-game.

Last rest stop, and my bottle was again filled quickly by a volunteer. No food here: 7.5 km to go, I figured. "How far to the finish?" I asked. I heard "3.7 miles"... "turnaround"... 3.7 miles is only 6 km, not 7.5, so was the course short? And what was that about the turn-around.

Maybe she'd meant the 10 km turn-around. The 10 km race headed backwards on the course for 5 km, turning around, and heading back. I figured if I hit the turn-around I knew there were 5 km left. I never did, perhaps because it had been cleaned up by this point. Or maybe I missed it...

This finishing portion wasn't as flat as I'd expected, and I recaught Johannes as he was walking up a relatively steep but short rise. We greeted each other as I passed. I fully expected he would again recatch me on the descents into the finish, but fortunately for me there was enough climbing in the rolling hills remaining that he never did.

Sooner than expected I saw a "1 mile to go" sign. Time to pick up the pace. There was a lot of traffic on the trail here, which was again paved: dog-walkers, joggers, mountain bikers, and half-marathoners whom I was overtaking. This was mildly annoying as it made it harder to cut the course tangents, but I reminded myself that not everyone views racing on the trails as the top priority. With one mile to go, it's time to forget about pacing and just go. But my legs were tiring: the feeling of freshness I'd felt through around 20 km was disappearing. And this "last mile" was dragging on and on.

But then there it was: the Marina. And with as much of a sprint as I could manage, I finished.

3rd in age group
race shirt, finisher's medal, 3rd place in age group

It was an excellent result for me: 11th overall out of 121 finishers, 3rd in my age group for another medal. Curiously, this was the equivalent pair of results I had at Foothills despite clearly superior fitness, but upgraded to a longer distance. I felt really good about my effort and the result: the pacing was relatively uniform and yet I finished feeling as if I'd given pretty much everything without having dug too deeply.

After collecting my shirt and my medal, and eating granola, berries, and grapes, I unlocked my bike and rode back to BART.

Ready for recovery.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The day before Lake Chabot

Lake Chabot

Tomorrow is the Lake Chabot Trail Run by Inside Trail Racing. It will have been 5 weeks since I ran the half-marathon at their race on Montara Mountain, the Pacific Foothills Trail Run on 18 Jan. I hope to make a good effort, so the question is whether my measurable fitness has improved sufficiently since then to make the 42% jump in distance.

So to check, I consider my tracking metrics, ATS and CTS, shamelessly stolen from Coggan and Allen's analysis of cycling power data. Instead of TSS I assign the stress to each day's work equal to the distance run or hiked, not including regular walking. I include today's anticipated 8 km run distance:


So for the past 5 days I've done a mini-taper by stabilizing my CTS at its present peak value of around 6.1 km/day. This has allowed my ATS to recover a bit from its peak of past Sunday without losing and CTS in the deal. Then after the race I'll take a week of recovery before looking forward to 50 km in April.

So going into Foothills my CTS was 3.9 km/day. So compared to that 6.1 km/day is a 56% increase, more than enough to cover that 42% increase in distance. That suggests to me I should be able to race this, not just run it to finish, similar to how I ran Foothills.

But I'm already looking ahead to that 50k. That's a 67% increase over the 30k. So if the CTS of 6.1 km/day works out for me here, that might suggest a CTS of 10.0 km/day would be good for that race. My ATS is already close to that, so I don't need to increase my training volume much from where it's been recently to get there. But I definitely need to stick to it, as my CTS trend line of 0.4 km per day per week in the 7 weeks before that race won't quite hit it.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

new bike, part 4: Eric Estlund revises geometry

The next step after playing with BikeCad was to send the link to the project to Eric Estlund. Why Eric Estlund? For one, because there's an excellent local shop dealing in randonneuring bikes, Box Dog Bicycles, and they have a stock frame they sell called the Pelican. Jan Heine reviewed it a few years ago and liked it. But since then manufacturing of the Pelican has been transferred to Eric, who is Winter Cycles. I looked at his web site and really liked some of the work I saw. There was no doubt his work was superb. So I sent him an email. And he seemed enthusiastic, supporting my ideas while not afraid to disagree on occasion. That's what I wanted. After all, I don't know anything about these bikes, other than what I read or what I get from talking to others. So I wanted someone who'd drive toward a design without ignoring my preferences.

And here's what he ended up with. All in all, I think I did a fairly good job on the initial design, because this came back fairly close:

dimensionWinterBikeCADBIKECAD vs Winter
HTA:73 deg73 degsame
STA:73 deg75 deg2 deg steeper
TTA:-2 deg0 degflat vs 2 deg slope
TTL:55.0 cm54.0 cm1 cm shorter
effective TTL:55.6 cm54.0 cm16 mm shorter
STL:52.5 cm53.5 cm c-c10 mm longer
effective STL:54.4 cm53.5 cm c-c9 mm shorter
Q-factor:149.8 mm150 mmsame
Chainstays:440 mm425 mm15 mm shorter
front-center:598 mm604 mm4 mm longer
HTL(top of headset to bottom of headset):150 mm151 mmsame
bottom bracket drop:75 mm75 mmsame
handlebar drop (top to top):80 mm83 mm3 mm more
top of saddle to center of BB:735 mm735 mmsame
stem:110 mm90 mm20 mm shorter
seatpost diameter:25.4 mm25.4 mmsame
handlebar width:40 cm c-c38 cm c-c20 mm narrower
bar diameter:26.0 mm26.0 mmsame
handlebar reach100 mm (to hoods)120 mm (to hoods)20 mm more
tires:30x622 nominal
32x622 actual
fork rake:65 mm60 mm5 mm less
trail:39 mm @ 30 mm
39.6 mm @ 32 mm
40 mm @ 32 mmsame
Handlebar-x (BB to center)476 mm464 mm12 mm closer
Handlebar-y (BB to center)605 mm618 mm13 mm higher
Hoods-x576 mm584 mm8 mm further
spokes front28324 more
spokes rear28324 more

To be fair, he never sent me this list, at least not initially. This was part of the deal, I felt. What I sent him was that initial design and a series of fairly standard body measurements. He used the body measurements, along with the requirements of bike design, to come up with the revised dimensions.

For example, my chainstays were 425 mm. That wasn't going to work for the sort of clearances I was after: 34 mm tires and a fender. So he increased the chainstays to 440 mm.

I specified 75 degree seat tube. I did so because I like my saddle relatively far forward: around 3 cm of set-back. He decided I could get a good enough position with a classic 73 degree seat tube. Slacker seat tube meant longer top tube to put the head tube in the same position.

Initially I was after a 650B frame, having read enough Jan Heine to think that was the way to go. 650B allows 42 mm tires with a reasonable rolling diameter sufficient to provide clearances for fenders. But he talked me into 700C, or 26-inch if I wanted to go fattie. The reason was availability of replacement parts on the road, since I said I wanted to use it for lightly loaded but self-supported tours. If you break a wheel you want to be able to find a replacement. 700C also affords compatibility with my Powertap wheel, should I decide I want to do power testing on the bike. This was an early decision, before dimensions were determined, so I'd already switched by the time I did that BikeCAD design.

He sloped my top tube. That's mostly an aesthetic thing. He felt the sloped top tube looked less retro, I think. That's fine with me.

Many of the other dimensions came out very close. You can see that in the table.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

histogram of run distances

Here's a histogram of my run distances post-injury (starting in October). There's bias for runs over 14 km here, especially in the recent run data.


The fraction of the runs which are in those past 8 days are alarmingly high. I need to keep up the consistency I've begun, at least once I recover from Saturday's 30 km race at Lake Chabot, to be ready for the Woodside 50 km race in April. I've had way too many weeks 2 runs +/- 1.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

PCM jersey design contest

In January I summarized jersey designs I've done for Pro Cycling Manager, a video game where players manage pro cycling teams made up of real-world riders, who in virtual form are supposed to ride similarly to their flesh-and-blood counterparts. I've never played the game, but I like using the model for visualizing cycling jersey designs.

I was so happy with Jakroo going live with the Low-Key jersey design, a jersey something I've thought about doing the whole history of Low-Key Hillclimbs.

We actually had a leader's jersey in 1996, but it wasn't a full design:

Well, I had jersey design stuck in my mind, and during a few Caltrain commutes I couldn't put it aside as abruptly as I'd have liked.

I stumbled across a this jersey contest on the Pro Cycling Manager forum. For the January contest I figured I'd enter the Low-Key design. After all, I liked it. I thought the color balance was good: black, but with complementary blue and green highlights, with the high-contrast gold cyclist and text. So I did:

I figured it would get a lot of points in the vote. But alas, it got 5. Sure, 5 is better than none, except all 5 were from my first-place vote.

The contest has two parts: one is for designs using one of a pre-selected number of sponsors. Obviously my jersey failed to qualify. The other was for open designs, for any sponsors. That was the contest I'd entered, and obviously it's exposed to stiffer competition, since people can enter designs they were working on for other purposes, such as I did.

So for February I decided to enter a design in the first contest. The theme was transportation companies, and one of the options was Greyhound Canada. So here's what I did:

I supplemented Greyhound Canada with Canada Tourism, a few other Canadian companies, and SRAM.

But this still left a slot available in the general contest. I decided to model what I see every day, San Francisco hipsters:

It's not realistic, though, as it's missing the obligatory butt-crack.

Viewing the jerseys in 3D

To view these jerseys with the PCM "shirt previewer":

  1. Install the Unity 3D player (Mac or Windows)
  2. Go to the PCM shirt viewer
  3. Paste the URL of one of the above images into the window.
  4. Hit "load texture"
  5. Make sure to try the "animate" button

Monday, February 17, 2014

First experiment in L-R balance w/ Garmin Vector

After putting a box of kitty litter on my pedal wrench to precision-torque a pair of Garmin Vectors, then replacing one of the batteries (which was dead), I was ready to roll.

torque wrench

The goal was to ride over to Sports Basement in the Presidio, from where I was going to do the gorgeous run to Sutro Baths and back. It turned out to be a bit more of an adventure than I'd anticipated, including scaling this staircase out of Baker Beach. I don't recommend it, since it ends at private property, presently under construction.

The Sutro Baths were spectacular, however:

Here's the full thing, with an 800 meter distance shortfall due to my GPS crapping out on me and Strava interpolating a straight line through a very nonstraight trajectory. I love the instant upload from the Strava iPhone app, but the Garmin Forerunner 610 is likely more reliable.

This capped off a 103 km running week for me. That's a personal record. That risks being excessive. Less than one week to my 30 km race. So mini-taper into that, do a good run there I hope, then a full week of recovery before building back toward my 50 km goal.

But the ride to and from the run was the focus of this blog post. It was my first measurement of L-R power. The result was interesting:


In the exponential fit I weighted the points by the cube of the power, due to a relative shortage of high power points. There's also a running average where I binned the points into 10-watt bins and took the average of each bin, plotting versus the bin center-point. Also note I did a bit of one-legged pedaling, left and right, which showed up as 0% and 100% points. These points were excluded from the fit and the running average.

At low powers, it indicates right-leg dominance, but then at the higher powers, I converge to essentially 50-50 (51-49 in favor of the left foot). That's interesting. But it makes sense, perhaps. At low powers, when I've got no issues producing enough force, I choose one leg over the other. But at higher powers I need to use more of my available capacity, so I no longer have as much luxury of one leg slacking off.

Of course, I need to do more, including comparison to PowerTap to make sure the Garmin is set up properly, and examining data where my legs aren't trashed from running up and down staircases, of which the run today had many (most in better condition than the one in that photo).

Sunday, February 16, 2014

new bike part 3: playing with BikeCad

BikeCad is cool. It lets you play around with bike designs and geometries. Bike geometries are generally over-constrained: each dimension depends on other dimensions, so specifying a set of random numbers will not result in a build-able bike. BikeCad takes care of the constraints, doing the trigonometric operations necessary to convert between angles and distances and postions in space.

My idea: a randonneuring bike with modern components and a position similar to my Ritchey Breakaway: comfortable but still race-worthy. When I think of randonneuring bikes I think of a bike built to handle anything: rain, rough roads, dirt, pavement, long distances, climbing, descending, carrying supplies, and most importantly speed. Just because I want these other things doesn't mean I don't want a bike which doesn't handle well on descents, doesn't feel responsive on climbs, and won't allow me to pull through on pacelines without eating a wall of wind.

I've described my BikeCad fun before, but it's worth a reprise.

In the past, randonneuring bikes to me conjured images of Grant Peterson or Pineapple Bob riding in floppy clothing, downtube shifters, slow heavy tires, handlebars rising to the top of the saddle, and a monster dose of attitude. Not for me.

But then I started reading Jan Heine, attracted not by the bikes he promotes, but rather by his experimental focus. Bicycle Quarterly is an exceptional magazine. You don't need to agree with his conclusions in all cases. It's his attempt toward objectivity which is refreshing. From reading the magazine, both new issues and back issues, I developed an appreciation for the history of randonneuring, particularly in France, where it espoused a culture of friendly competition, similar to what I promote in my work with the Low-Key Hillclimbs.

But just because randonneuring in France was at its height in the 1940's and 1950's doesn't mean bike design needs to be frozen in time from that era. The concept and philosophy which drove the bike designs from that era remain valid, but the details need not always be the same. The aesthetic baggage that implied it needed to be has held back the popularity of the engineering advantages.

The key issue is bike design has been driven by racing, even for bikes (most of them) which will never race. Road bikes, mountain bikes, cyclocross, track bikes, even "gravel grinders" are designed to be the fastest over a certain terrain with certain rules. But we don't drive cars designed for racing, why should our bikes be? There's realities associated with more typical riding which compels more substantial deviations from the standards of competition.

Some of these include fenders for when it rains, fat tires for rough roads, a bell to warn pedestrians and slower cyclists you're approaching, and the need to carry stuff.

On the rough road front: I don't buy the usual "roads have gotten better since the 1940's" line you see too often: there's plenty of rough roads in the San Francisco Bay area, and if you avoid them because your tires can't handle it, that's your loss. The recent popularity increase of cyclocross and more recently gravel grinder bikes has proven that life's not all pristine asphalt.

On carrying capacity: the paradigm that if you need something you finish your bike ride, get into your car, then drive back to get it is absurd. Yesterday I was on a ride and passed a farmer's market. Yet all I had room for in my pockets was a small bag of dried parsimmons. They were delicious. I would have liked to purchase more. I would have liked to add some of the other dried fruit available. Yet I had no storage capacity on my bike.

When I ride to work, a 72 km trip from San Francisco to Mountain View, I take my backpack, even if it's just for a change of clothes. So much for "optimized for speed": a back-pack is terrible aerodynamics (well, not always). A backpack isn't super-terrible: I did a 100-mile commute with one. But clearly it's generally more desirable to carry weight on bike.

So I played around on BikeCad. Here was the result (image linked to BikeCad page):

The geometry was a bit of a guess. But I could check it against my position on my race bike:

The bars are slightly shifted to allow for a more comfortable cruising position, or for a more comfortable position when climbing dirt trails, but otherwise it's fairly similar.

I'm not a professional bike designer, though, so I wanted someone who knew what they were doing, or at least was free from my personal biases, take a look. In particular, my initial design (from that older blog post) was for 650B tires. Yet I was talked into "700C" wheels because of the more widespread availability of tires and wheels, as well as compatibility with my existing wheel stock. The images I showed here are with that revision.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

new bike, part 2: pedals

On the subject of pedals...

I like Speedplay and have used them for more years than I like to admit. They're light, simple, have a low stack height, easy to clip into, compact, and double-sided (wait, that's implicit with "easy to clip into"), and works fine with standard street shoes (I'm not always wearing cycling shoes).

But they don't handle dirt well and the cleats are not compatible with walking. These are okay issues for many bike races, where you clip and go, but for other types of riding, being able to walk gets a higher priority. That's where mountain bike pedals come in.

Speedplay came out with a mountain bike pedal, the Frog. But it shares only a few of the assets of the road pedal. It's heavy, clunky, has a large stack height, isn't so easy to clip into (it has a phantom clip-in mode so you need to verify engagement once you feel a click), and doesn't work well with street shoes.

So Speedplay announced the Syzr at Interbike in... well, a long time ago. Over 4 years later, still no Syzr.

But there's really not a need for a Speedplay mountain bike pedal. That functional space is sort of occupied by BeBop. And not only does BeBop meet the needs of a mountain bike pedal, but it additionally serves as a quite functional road pedal. It's like the mountain bike pedal Speedplay wished it had made from the start.

Here's a photo:

About the only downside I see is the stack height is smaller than most mountain bike pedals are designed to handle, so you need to surgically remove tread from the sole of the shoe on the inside portion to make room for the pedal spindle. A small price to pay.

Wouldn't it be cool if you could get BeBop for Garmin Vector? Alas, you cannot. For Garmin Vector you have Look-style cleats. Here's one pedal, with its pod:

Double that and you have 352 grams. The Bebops were 192 grams. Neglecting differences in cleat mass, that's a mass increment of 160 grams.

Anyway, Exustar pedal bodies are designed for the road, but they actually don't work so badly for off-road. The cleats don't become clogged with dirt nearly as readily as Speedplay road pedals. And the cleats, with rubber pads underneath, are more walk-friendly than the Speedplay cleats, albeit walking in them will substantially accelerate wear. Speedplay cleats have covers available (I like the Kool-Stop model) but it's inconvenient to carry and use cleat covers every time you want to touch a foot to the ground.

The downside of the Vectors is the need for a torque wrench: 25 ft-lb of torque, or buyer beware. I don't have a torque wrench. Or do I? A torque wrench by definition is a wrench which delivers a predictable amount of torque. Torque is distance time force.



Note I have the 25 lb part down, but the distance is a bit shy of 1 ft. I'd need a cheater bar or a longer pedal wrench.

Friday, February 14, 2014

tracking running fitness in wake of post-race fallout

My second race of the "year", the first a 4 km sprint in early December in San Diego, was the Inside Trail Racing half-marathon course at Montara Mountain. I felt tired for a few days, then tried to ramp up the training a bit, but then got sore and spent the next two weeks taking it fairly easy. I did manage to get a half-marathon training run in on each of the weekends, but no back-to-back efforts of any merit, something I'd been able to do before the race.

Then finally I felt better. But was it too late? Was all my fitness gone?

Combatting this sort of paranoia is a good reason for tracking training stress metrics. As I have described, I applied the methodology which is popular with tracking cycling power to tracking running distance: a 7-day exponentially weighted average for acute stress (fatigue), and a 42-day average for chronic stress (adaptation, or fitness).

The result? The weekend runs help avoid too much loss of chronic stress (CTS), although my acute stress dripped substantially. Indeed for the first time since I've been tracking, ATS dropped below CTS. Then I felt good. After a short run on Monday, I did runs of longer than 10 miles on each day Tuesday through Friday (today). This is the first time I've stacked up 4 consecutive 10-mile runs. And today my legs felt great, which shocked me.

Of course, now the ATS has rocketed back up again, to its highest value so far. Here's the plot:


So no, I clearly did not lose my fitness. What I experienced was high stress, followed by adaptation and recovery. It probably wasn't the best approach. I should have done more recovery after the race: one week without running. Then I would have bounced back quicker, rather than a 2-week lull after trying to come back too soon. I won't make that mistake again... at least for awhile.

Next race: Lake Chabot 30 km. This 4-day cycle has me convinced I'm ready. But I'll see on race day. Then it's time for recovery... and then build up for my big goal which is the Woodside 50 km race in April.

And for that, my focus will be on more consistency. More back-to-back running days. In previous years, I've focused too strongly on long runs. But I think you're better off focusing on weekly miles than long-day miles. Better doing a few back-to-back 20 km runs than a single 30 km runs. With the latter, I hit a wall at my long run distance. More runs per week, though, really builds a deeper fitness. That's what I've gotten from talking with other runners, and that's what I see as having been a weakness in my own history.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Low-Key Hillclimbs jersey goes live

After preliminary designs, previews, rider surveys, design submission, multiple iterations of vendor designs, the new Low-Key Hillclimbs jersey is finally ready to order. I went with Jakroo, who did the WeightWeenies kit I really like. They have high quality stuff, ship directly to individuals, and have no minimums.

Here's the design:

I went with their top-of-the-line garments, including the "Tour" jersey with its "slim fit" option which fits me better than any other jersey I've tried. Indeed the Jakroo fit options are the best I've seen, with men's and women's, a range of sizes, and three fit styles. It's always a small risk trying a new jersey maker but I was super-happy with taking that risk in ordering the Weight Weenies jersey.

I had 20 people respond that they wanted to buy a jersey, 19 of those wanting the full kit. Now that it's time to put down the money it will be interesting to see how many follow through. But additionally others who didn't respond to the survey should become interested. We'll see if we can hit the 25 order quantity I told Jakroo I wanted to hit. If we do on bottoms, those ordering those get a discount. The next discount kicks in if we hit 50 on either tops or bottoms. That's a real stretch. But 25 should be doable.