Saturday, July 19, 2014

Back to school



So, after a relatively short break (I officially finished the masters degree back in December of 2012) I've decided to finish what I started. I've been accepted to the exercise physiology department's PhD program up at the University of Utah to finish my studies, focusing my research in the field of biomechanics. It may or may not have taken a shade over a decade to get my bachelor and master degrees, but I'm pretty sure this last one will have a lot more motivation behind it to finish it as quickly as possible. I didn't exactly have a family and a mortgage last time I was in school, so there is definitely some serious motivation to get in, get it done, and get out.

Well, that, and I've learned how to be decently fast on a bike with minimal training...so its safe to say the riding shouldn't slow me down too much at school....

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Crusher in the Tushar - Race Report

Five hours, seven minutes, and forty-two seconds after leaving down town Beaver, UT I arrived at Eagle Point ski resort. The end finally came after 69 miles of riding, 10,000 feet of climbing, 975 mg of caffeine, 550 grams of pure sugar, 6 bottles of water, and one endless grin across my face stretching from ear to ear. As challenging as the infamous Crusher in the Tushar may appear on paper, it is easily twice the beast in real life.

Kinda like meeting a pro football player in real life. They look pretty big on TV, but nothing will make your slightly above average biceps look more like they came from the same roll of dental floss as Michael Rasmussen's chicken limbs, than seeing a linebacker up close in person.

The Crusher, from a comfortable distance, looks like this:

Up close and personal, the Crusher feels more like this:
But it's fun. The kind of fun you can't describe. So I won't even try. The only thing I'll say is that one of the best moments I've ever had on a bike came at 3.5 hours into the race. I was halfway up the col d'crush, I'd settled into a perfect rythm, a flask of gels and caffeine had just hit the blood, the right tunes were crankin' on the ipod, I was thinking about how lucky I was to have the most amazing family to go home to after the race, and everything, for that moment was just absolutely perfect.

And that was the general gist of the entire race for me; one big perfect moment. Not easy, not comfortable, and definitely not painless, but very enjoyable. The mixture of hills and flats, the seemingly constantly changing terrain, and the company of other riders and the volunteers made the Crusher one of the best races I've ever done.

I'll fully admit I didn't enjoy the beautiful scenery at all. I was staring at the road immediately in front of my front wheel the entire time. I probably missed out on some spectacular views and sights. But, for what its worth, I don't feel like I missed out on a thing. The feelings and emotions that came from riding at the brink of blowing my legs off for 5 hours straight were more than enough to supply all of the sensory input I could handle. You can accuse me of missing out on the simple, beautiful things of nature. But that's not why I race. I race to push myself. And if it happens that I get to go push myself along roads with beautiful views, then I'll usually just hope somebody else is taking pictures to look at later.  

The race started kinda slow. I took off the line with a quick little sprint, just to say I was ahead of the full pro field, even if only for a moment, but quickly coasted back into the group. Two riders, Bryson Perry and Tom Cook, however, felt the need to get away and continued an attack off the front. Nobody seemed too worried. I heard Levi Leipheimer asking another rider if either of them was anybody to worry about. They responded by saying Bryson might be a threat. I think Bryson ended up with some mechanical issues, and Tom ended up finishing somewhere in the top 10.

The pro group was in no hurry along the opening 10 miles of pavement. I had a few friends racing in the age groups I wanted to beat, so I got a little nervous at our slow pace. Not enough to charge off the front (like Bucky Gibson decided to do) but did take a few pulls up at the front of the group.

That's the funny thing about the difference between the pro fields and the age group mentalities.  The pros are racing each other. They don't care how fast the group goes, or what the final time is, they just want to save as much energy for when it counts, and put their stock in getting the best final result in the pro standings. Age groupers, on the other hand, seem to be more willing to lay it down the whole race. That's my guess why the Lotoja course record was actually held by an age grouper in his 50's and not anyone in the pro field. But that's just my opinion, loosely based on observations. 

Here's the field rolling along the opening miles up the paved canyon.

It was fun to cruise along for the first half hour on the road. I took advantage of riding alongside some of the bigger names in cycling. It was cool to be in a race next to guys I look up to and respect as people and athletes like David Weins and Levi Leipheimer. So I didn't complain at our leisurely pace up the road. I knew it would be the only time I'd even be able to see these guys during the race.

Another pleasant bonus to riding at the front of the group was getting to ride with Racer. I sat in his slip stream most of the time (6'6" slipstreams are really nice), but rode alongside with my buddy for a little bit of the way too. It was fun to ride with him for a stretch.

Once the group hit the steeper climb at the turn, it all blew apart. Levi took off, destined to hunt down the attackers, and the rest of the pro field followed suit. I knew exactly what intensity I would be able to sustain for the 90 minutes of climbing that would follow, and quickly settled into my own pace.

The climb was fun. A little group of us soon formed and started catching some of the guys that took off a little too fast at the base of the climb. I knew my limits, and kept it in check, despite the urge to really rally it up the first climb. I knew it would be good to go over the top with a good group that would be able to work together along the flat pavement of Circleville. I got over the first climb and started the descent with Jon Russell. It was definitely bumpy, and bottles covered the road. We ocassioinaly passed a rider with a flat which caused me to doubt my little Raven tires. They held up, however, and we made it to the long paved stretch. A large group of us quickly gelled together as we hit the flats, allowing us to for an efficient pace line. The 2/3 of us who felt good took turns pulling, while the back 1/3 took advantage of the draft.

I didn't mind having a small following behind the working riders, but apparently one of the guys did. He kept asking the trailing riders if they were ever going to take a pull. I figured they were all so tired they weren't exactly going to be a threat heading back up the hill, and we might as well bring them along and help them out as much as we could. I did make the comment to the unofficial pace line police man that if any of the tag alongs passed us going back up the hill we would be allowed to kick them off the trail. But as I anticipated, it wasn't a problem.

The road quickly (although the pavement seemed to go on forever, making me remember why I quit racing road bikes. It's kinda boring circling around in a pace line. Thank goodness Chris Holley was there to keep the spirits high) turned uphill and sandy. I got excited because it allowed me to once again put my head down and settle into my pace.

We soon reached the climb back up the col d'crush. I was at about 3 hours of ride time and figured it would be another 2 hours of climbing. Mentally, I could handle that. The legs felt good, my spirits were high, and it all seemed to be downhill from there. Figuratively, anyway.

The col was rough, but doable. I don't remember much about the road. Just how I felt. I think I passed a few riders going up, but was really so deep into my own world I never really noticed. What I did notice was how delicious that little red solo cup of cold coke was at the KOM spot. I almost got off the bike and asked for more.

I soon got to the top where it turns to rollers and passed the aid station where the road turns out to head towards the ski resort. My brother was there to snap some photos and yell some encouraging words. I didn't really hear what he yelled, but I figured it was inspiring. Until I saw him after the race and he told me that he'd actually  just yelled out how far behind Levi I was. Yeah, that wasn't exactly very encouraging. But that's what brothers are for. (My brother had actually been a very solid source of motivation for me. He came down to the race to help out, and having him there played a large role in my exceptional day on the bike. Thanks, Brad)


With 10 miles to go, I started having my first doubts. I thought it would be another 10 whole miles of climbing. I knew I could climb for that long again, but I wasn't sure how fast I could do it. The sugar must have been wearing off, because for the first time, I started having trouble keeping my pace. Luckily, it was really only a few more miles of climbing that I managed to gut out until it turned to rollers, then downhill, then the last uphill mile to the finish.

Actual dollar bill I got from Slyfox's cycling handout fund

I'd heard people talk about the last mile being hard. In my prideful ignorance I'd refused to believe that any one mile could really be as hard as people described it to be. So upon hitting the base of the last climb, I stood up, accelerated, and began to drill it home. That lasted about 30 seconds. Less than 0.05 of a mile. Which meant I still had 0.95 miles to go. It was definitely the longest mile I've ever ridden. My computer seemed to refuse to register the distance I was covering as I watched the hundredths seem to take whole minutes to pass by.

Eventually, however, I made it to the finish line. 5 hours, 7 minutes, and 42 seconds after leaving down town Beaver, every single minute of which, was thoroughly enjoyed. It wasn't always comfortable, but it was 100% enjoyable. Couldn't have asked for a better day on the bike. It was a well organized race I already look forward to doing again.

2014 Results Here

Monday, July 14, 2014

Crusher in the Tushar 2014 - Equipment Report

Best day on the bike in a long while. Smiling strong at mile 59.
So here we are. A few months after building up the RLT.

My entire basis for becoming interested in building a disc brake road/gravel bike was in response to finally deciding to race the Crusher in the Tushar bike race down in Beaver, UT. I've had quite a few friends race it over the last 3 years its been going, and every single one of them, regardless of how they do in the race, seem to love it.

The Crusher is very well organized and quite challenging; two key elements to making any race fun. After watching the little promo video this winter, I became mildly obsessed with it. It spurred the building of the RLT (more on eventual frame choice later) along with my first serious and consistent training efforts since 2010. 

It all paid off. I haven't had a race come together as well as the Crusher did in years. Like everybody else, I was nervous about anything and everything (including tires) right up until the morning of the start. However, the moment the gun went off, it was all about just spinning pedals and eating sugar. Two things I've gotten pretty good at over the years. 

The following are some thoughts on the equipment I ended up using for the race. I'll post another writeup here shortly about the race itself. If anybody else finds it useful or entertaining, great. If not, feel free to go read a more useful blog about vaccines, autism, or Hobby Lobby's birth control policies.

(Then maybe I'll write up my thoughts on my own Ordain Hobby Lobby movement and why women should be able to choose to either have the priesthood, or to select what method of birth control they want their employer to provide in the break room vending machines, but not both. This is America, not Candy Land. Let's not get greedy )

I digress. Back to what's important.

After spending months planning out every meticulous detail of the bike I would ride in the Crusher, 3 weeks before the race I made some radical changes. I'd been planning on racing the RLT with a typical 2x10 setup that utlized a bunch of Force components I'd rounded up and an 11-36 XX cassette I'd had sitting in the parts bin since 2010.

However, after switching to a 1x10 setup on the cross country bike using a Sram X-9 Type II rear derailleur and a single Race Face wide/narrow chain ring up front, I was sold on the idea of running a 1x10 setup for the Crusher. I figured I'd lose a few gears off the top and bottom ranges, but after riding a single speed the last few years, I was no stranger to standing up to pedal when it got steep, or kicking the cadence up to 100+ rmp on flats and downhills.

I was hoping to find a 34t wide/narrow chainring in a 110 BCD for my compact cranks so I wouldn't have to lose any gears on the low range, but the smallest I could find was a 38t. When I put this together with my 11-36t cassette in the back, I ended up with very similar low end gearing as what a lot of other crushers with compact cranks and wi-fli rear derailleurs were getting with 34t little rings up front and 32t big cogs in the back. So I figured that was for the best as I'd need something a little taller than a 34x11 for the flats of Circleville. 38x11 worked out perfectly.

For tires I'd been hoping to ride some Panaracer Cross Blasters. They were very light (280g) and had a good, fast rolling profile. They had held up fine at low speeds on the dirt roads and gnarly single track I tested them out on around Utah County when I first got them. However, once I went down hill with any kind of speed and any amount of rock, they seemed to hold up as well as a rice paper windshield. After double flats on a Squaw Peak road attempt (hitchhiked home) and another set of double flats on Pole Line road (took 3 tubes with me this time), I decided to take the advice of a few other experienced Crushers and go with a pair of Stan's Ravens 35mm cx tires; and they worked beautifully. Rolled fast, gripped well, and didn't flat. Everything I could have hoped for in a tire.

As far as frames go, I was very very pleased with the RLT. The geometry was spot on. It felt stable on the flats, low in the corners (I loved how low the bottom bracket was), and could climb like any road bike I'd had. It even convinced me I wanted disc brakes on any future road bikes I build. However, when Niner released the news that they were going to start production on a sub 1000g carbon cx frame, I began getting greedy.

I figured I could lose over a pound and a half by switching to a carbon frame and a 1x10 setup.

I never guessed what would really happen by switching to a full carbon setup: total weight saved came out to be over 2.5 lbs. Not bad.

I ended up with a Felt F1X carbon cyclocross frame. It was a 1000g frame with a 480 g 3T fork. It didn't allow for as wide of tires as the RLT, wasn't as low as the RLT, and didn't have a metal frame like the RLT (I hit so much stuff on the dirt and fling so many rocks into my down tube, I've always been very hesitant to ride a carbon frame off road). But it WAS a butt-load lighter. And it WAS made of road-dampening carbon. And it handled like a dream. And it WAS a butt load lighter. Did I mention it was light?

 
The total build came out to be under 16lbs. My previous build was really close to 18.5lbs. 2.5 lbs may not make a huge difference over the short 69 miles of the Crusher, but the psychological aspect of having a bike that light can be pretty advantageous.

Here's what the final build looks like. Felt F1X disc frame with a Sram 1x10 setup. 
The bike turned out perfect for the Crusher. Everybody says that at some point during the race you'll wish you had a different bike. There wasn't a single mile I wish I'd had a different bike. True, during the descent down the Col d'Crush it was bumpy, and I got nervous about flatting, but it would have sucked on any bike, even my xc rig with a 'spension fork and 2" tires. So I just enjoyed being able to hold on tight to the bars down in the drops while braking with one finger on the levers.

All in all, everything worked out perfectly. I realize that no matter what kind of equipment you run, things like flats and mechanicals can always happen. However, as far as choice of equipment, I'm pretty sure I've got my bike for next year already figured out...



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Niner RLT Build



Ever since Niner revealed their plans to release a 'cross bike ("gravel grinder" sounds like I have to have a beard, some tattoos, and tour with paniers to ride one, so I'm calling it a 'cross bike) I've been intrigued. Needless to say I ordered a frame as soon as I could. I was tempted at first to stick with the more conservative Industry Grey color, but the flash of the "Colgate Green" (as my wife calls it) eventually drew me in. Despite my wife's constant quips ("so you're sponsored by Colgate now?") I actually really like the color and it looks even better in real life.

As I was planning the bike out, I was curious as to several details of the bike such as weight, geometry, accepted rotor sizes, etc. It took a while to find a lot of the information, which would be expected as the bike hadn't even been formally released yet.

The purpose of this post is to compile all the information on the Niner RLT I can into one spot. I'm a pretty big nerd and like to make spreadsheets when I build bikes, outlining every detail of the bike, including the price and weight of each component I'm planning on using. So on the off chance that there are any other bike nerds out there, the following will be a compilation of all the info I gather as I build the bike up. It'll be a work in progress as I complete the build, so feel free to check back for updated information.

First off, I'll start with some weights. (For a complete list see bottom of the post)

The Niner RLT size 53cm frame comes in at 1530 grams. A few more than the advertized 1395. I was a little disappointed. My goal was to get the whole build as close to or under 17lbs as possible, and a quarter pound is a bit to deal with. Either way, I'm sure I'll survive. Pretty sure 135 grams of frame weight isn't going to lose any races for me this year. I can probably just shave my obligatory "gravel grinder" beard to save 135 grams if I need to.


The fork came in at 620 grams. Uncut. I anticipate losing a few grams when I cut it down this afternoon. I'll post the update. The carbon compression plug weighs 46 grams. Not too bad. The included headset (minus the installed crown race, which I forgot to weigh before installing on the fork, but we can assume to be approx 10-15 grams) was only 69 grams. Not bad there either. The tapered head tube gives it a sturdy feel. I'm not sure how the weight will come out after its all said and done, but it does seem like it's going to be a little heavier than Niner's previous carbon rigid mountain bike fork. I know the RLT fork is built to MTB standards, but I was hoping for something a little lighter than a MTB fork on a 'cross bike.

The bike will take 140-160mm rotors on the front and rear. I chose 140's to save a few grams on weight. The Avid BB7 SL road calipers I got mount to the frame and fork's direct post mounts with no need for adapters. Which is a nice advantage of the RLT over a few other frames that still have the brake tabs that require adapters.

A slight disadvantage of the direct mount rear caliper position is how the frame gets in the way of the allen wrench when you're trying to install or adjust the caliper. It would be near impossible to get to the rear caliper bolts with a quick tool on the trail due to the bulk of the tool in case you had to make any adjustments on the trail. I'll admit I haven't had to adjust my brakes very often on the trail, but the occasional rubbing rotor has warranted a quick adjustment a time or two. I haven't had any other frames with the direct mounts to the frame before, so I am not sure how this compares to the positioning of other frames, but it was a definite source of frustration while installing the rear brakes. I'll post pictures shortly.

Either way, this is what it looks like so far. It's got Stan's Iron Cross Pro wheels, Shimano Pro Evo Stealth handlebars, Chris King PF30 BB, Force 10sp cranks, Force shifters, Red front der, Force rear der, Panaracer CX tires, Niner's RDO seatpost, and a Selle Italia SLR saddle. Should be a pretty sweet ride once it's all put together. I'll get a final weight posted shortly.

I am very excited about this bike. The construction is solid, the geometry is great, the paint job is amazing, and it looks pretty freaking awesome. Nice work, Niner on another functionally kick-A piece of art.

Party on Wayne.

Weights

Frame: 1530g
Uncut fork: 620g (Update: cutting the fork dropped it 30 grams. Updated fork weight: 590g)
Headset: 69g (plus another 10-15 for the crown race)
Niner seat clamp: 21g

Seatpost (Niner RDO 27.2x400): 218g
Saddle: 118g
Handlebars (integrated Shimano Pro): 400g
Force Shifters: 320g
King PF30 BB: 102g
Force BB30 Crankset: 608g
Force Rear Der: 174g
Red Yaw Front Der: 74g
Sram Braze-on Adapter for F Der: 19g
Cassette (Red OG 1090): 167g
Wheels (Stan's Iron Cross Pro, with tape and valve stem): 1440
Skewers (Stan's Carbon) 78g
Tires (Panaracer CrossBlasters): 560g
Rotors (KCNC Razors 140mm): 124g
Brakes (Avid BB7 SL w/ti hardware): 368g

Pedals (Wellgo Mg8): 240g
Chain KMC 10sp: 240g
Cables/Housing: TBD

Monday, February 10, 2014

Niner RLT's have shipped



So I don't know if anybody still reads this blog, and its been so long since I've posted that I don't even know my way around blogspot any more. However, in the name of public interest, I've decided to post the details of my new Niner RLT bike build. They've started shipping this week, which means I'll hopefully get it up and running by the weekend (depending on how soon the frame comes from Niner, and my BB comes from Chris King). I've been curious about real measured weights for the new RLT frame and fork, so I thought I'd post everything here as I get it weighed and built.

http://www.ninerbikes.com/RLT9


Monday, July 16, 2012

That time again...

So you know its that time again, when I'm "working" on writing my thesis, that I post a blog. Apparently its been over a year. I guess all that real work of collecting samples and analyzing data took me away from throwing some good time away on here.

Either way, its time to write my conclusions and defense, so of course I'm going to have to waste some time in the old blog world again.

I'll start off with a nice little choose your own adventure story. I hope you can remember those. I don't know if the stories were ever that good, but I liked the challenge of reading every possible combination of decisions so much that one of those books could keep me entertained through a solid week of SSRs (Silent Sustained Reading...duh) back in grade school.
 
 Our story today begins a little something like this:

One day you find yourself just riding along on your single speed off road mountain bicycle.  As you roll up to the mouth of the canyon in Orem you realize you can either ride up Provo canyon, or down to Provo and ride up Rock Canyon.

Where do you want to ride?

-Up Rock Canyon. Go to page A

-Up Provo Canyon. Go to page B

Page A
Are you serious? You are on a single speed! You spin out all the way down University Ave, looking like you belong on the short bus, pedaling 130 rpm the whole way, trying to match pace with every over-weight roadie, despite the insurmountable advantage they all have over you: a large chainring. When you finally do reach Rock Canyon you realize its kinda hard trying to mash a 34x18 up 2 miles and 3,000 ft of elevation.

Just as you summit the climb your knee caps blow off your femoral condyles with such force that they lacerate your jugular veins resulting in a bonk roughly 3 fold worse than the time Chucky rode around White Rim on 2 packs of Gu and a jolly rancher. You eventually pass out and fall to your demise somewhere just off the Squaw Peak dirt road where some zoobies find you, but can't get cell service to call their home teacher who has an off road truck in time to save you.
THE END

Page B
You stroll up Provo canyon, enjoying the delightful scenery.  When you get to Timpanogos Park, you see a gate closing off the dirt road to cars. As you roll around the gate at a very modest speed of 5 mph, your front wheel suddenly catches on a mysterious object and you find yourself being flung over your handlebars in manner that resembles nothing even remotely graceful. You land on your right forearm, which you are 95% certain is fractured.

How do you react?

-Politely apologize to the offending root that threw you off your bicycle, chuckle lightly to yourself, brush the dirt off your shorts, comment under your breath how silly those darn roots can be, and continue on your ride.
Go to page C

- Cry about your arm, write a blog about how you were JRA and crashed, update your facebook status that includes vital information such as the gear ratio you were using and the distance you were going to ride, then call your wife to come pick you up.
Go to page D

-Throw your bike down in outrage (yes, you did have to pick it up again in order to throw it back down). Yell at the heavens in complete bewilderment at how you could have crashed at such a slow speed.  Discover your attacker was a well hidden root, which you then spend the next 10 minutes unearthing with your bare hands while weaving a tapestry of profanity so thick, not even the shadow of which can even be begun to be described on any website hoping to ever claim a rating less vulgar than a Dane Cook comedy bit. When you've finally dug up the wretched monster of a creation, you fling it at the gate a seemingly infinite number of times, calling it names you wouldn't use to describe your (ex)best friend in high school that snuck off with your girlfriend at the senior ball.  In a final fit of rage you throw the worthless chunk of wood on top of the nearby building, curse its existence, and feel more alive than you ever have before.
Go to page HB

Page C
You finish your ride, go home, finish a chapter in Little House in the Big Woods, head over to the local shelter to support your non profit charity "Baking Waffles for Widows", then hand knit some hats for kids with early onset male pattern baldness. The next day you get caught up in the rapture but you forget to bring your bicycles along.
THE END

Page D
Once you get home, you realize just how many people do the same thing you do, so you invent Strava, make millions and retire so you actually lose your excuse for being "not really very fit this season because I have to work so much", go into depression and ease your pain by reading blogs about Lance, flying private jets, drinking spiked carbo rocket before noon, and riding a fixed gear until you fixie skid into the side of the Salt Lake Tracks train during the evening rush hour.
THE END

Page HB
You just pulled a Honey Badger on life. Win. As you finish your ride, you pay no attention to you arm, but make some resolutions to be even more aggressive in all your life pursuits. You pull a honey badger on school, work, marriage and soon, nobody even remembers Chuck Norris jokes. The only one they do remember, is the one about how Chuck Norris has to check his closet for YOU before going to bed at night.  Life is good.
THE END



Sunday, May 15, 2011

Stories to Share

I have a couple of stories I would like to share.

First off, Amazon had the Wayne's World/Wayne's World 2 double feature DVD set on sale for 11 bucks this week. Add a couple bucks for shipping and that's not a bad deal. When they arrive on May 17th, I can say my life will be just one step closer to becoming complete.

Secondly, I had a funny story to share from the bike race yesterday.
About 5 minutes into the first lap, we started catching a few of the expert 40+ers. The first few I managed to pass on the open double track sections of climbing. However, I managed to get stuck behind one for a bit of time on a longer single track climb. Now I am quite aware of proper passing etiquette (thanks to the more than helpful advice from Kendra), and am usually pretty chill about passing people. But these were the opening miles of the race and I was trying to get up the hill as fast as I could.
After a moment or two of riding behind said individual, a conversation ensued that continued something like this:

Me: Mind if I get by when you get a chance?
40+ Expert dude: Are you in my category?
Me: No
40+ Expert dude: No? (apparently he didn't believe me. Which leads to the conclusion that he obviously couldn't hear me breathing so hard my left lung was detaching itself from the parietal pleura of my chest cavity, clearly indicating I was on a single speed going up the eleventeen billion percent grade hill we were climbing)
Me: No. I'm not in your category. But you should let me by even if I was
40+ Expert dude: It's an F***ing race, dude
Me: Exactly, so if you're going to ride slow, you should let the fast people who are racing get by

I half expected him to kick me over when I did finally get by, but nothing more was said. That last comment on my part was definitely not necessary, but what kind of crap was that? I realize that it is a bike race, that strategy plays a part, and that you want to stay ahead of the competition. However, if you're climbing a hill and someone, even if they are in your category, is stuck behind you and has the balls to say something because they feel that they are that much faster than you that they need to get by, then have the sportsmanship to let them by if you can.

Ok, that was more of a rant than a story.

Feel free to come over this week to watch some Wayne's World and eat some steak.