brickhouseracing

February 22, 2013

Supersix EVO Update

Filed under: Around the shop,Bike Racing,Product Reviews — Andrea @ 9:34 pm

If you don’t know the story, scroll back a couple of days and read it first, lest you be totally lost.

First off, when I was told that the “surefire” bottom bracket cup kit to make my frame work was being overnighted to me, that wasn’t true. It was sent 2-day. When I opened the package, I find that I’ve been shipped a single aluminum bottom bracket cup. Unlike the “wrong” kit that was sent days earlier, which included two bearings, two cups, and an instruction manual, this is just one, bare cup (Joel talked to a C’Dale tech who said that it should have been two). I take a closer look and see that the only difference between this and what I’d received previously was that this was a normal cup that had been honed out a little (it was very obvious by the lack of anodization and scoring on the inside surface)

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I’m not even going to try to build any sort of suspense here. When I installed it into the drive side of the frame with the bearing, the bearing didn’t turn smoothly. It didn’t bind up nearly as much as before, but it made an obvious “click” as it rotated. There’s no way a bearing would remain viable for any length of time in that situation.

At this point, it was after business hours. I called Joel and let him know that on Monday, please inform Cannondale that the only viable options for me are to either A) get a perfect, new frame, NOW, with a perfectly functioning, ceramic bottom bracket installed without any shop-made band-aid fixes, or B) Send the frame back and get a refund. I’m not playing this “lets hone something out and hope it works” crap any more. This bike retails for $7700. I haven’t been able to ride it since OCTOBER.

I’m going to a road race in Arkansas tomorrow morning. I’ll be riding my cyclocross bike.

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Tubular Gluing How-to

Filed under: Around the shop,Bike Racing — Andrea @ 8:26 am

If you’re a mountain-only type of person, this post will do one of two things for you- bore you to death and make you never come back, or be oddly fascinating as to why someone would take this sort of time to prepare wheels and tires just for road racing (in all fairness, tubular CX wheels/tires are used almost exclusively by serious CX racers, and tubular mountain bike wheels/tires do exist, they just aren’t that common).

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, all bike tires were tubular. I’ll spare you the explanation of what that means since Google is your friend, and just say that now, they’re generally only used in road, tri, and Cyclocross (and occasional MTB) racing. Gluing a tubular tire to a rim is a process that seems to mystify a lot of people. Do it right, and you have a very safe, reliable, lightweight, and incredibly buttery-feeling ride. Do it wrong, and your tire could come off of the rim, and you could wind up seriously injured.

So, let’s first go over what you can do that’s “wrong.”
-Not use enough glue
-Not apply the glue evenly/leave dry spots on the rim and/or basetape
-Not make sure that the basetape is pressed all the way into the center “well” of the rim when you install the tire
-Not prep the basetape/rim surfaces before applying glue
- Make a mess/install the tire backwards (won’t kill you, but doesn’t look pro, either)

Here’s how I avoid those things. Disclaimer- if you are currently searching the internet for “how to glue tubulars,” you’re likely to find different methods that will yield the same result- a well-glued tire. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those as long as the end product is the same. Heck- Poolboy Matt does it differently, and I’m about to race a set tomorrow that he glued for me last season. The important thing is, whatever method you choose, you avoid the things I mentioned above.

Supplies- acid brushes (available in the plumbing section of the hardware store), Acetone, Goof-Off, latex or nitrile gloves, truing stand, glue (I like Vittoria Mastik One), a skinny broomstick, and a helper for step 6.

1. Prep the tire. The night before you’re going to glue, put the tire on the rim dry and inflate it to 120psi. That will stretch it out a little and make it easier to install once it’s glued.
2. Prep the gluing surfaces. Wipe the rim and basetape of the tire down with some acetone. If there’s old glue on the rim, that’s ok as long as it’s not clumpy and messy. I usually soak those spots in a little acetone, which softens the glue and makes it “melt” a little into the fresh glue you apply to the rim.
3. Put electrical tape on the brake track of the rim. Trust me- It makes everything soooooo much cleaner.
4. First coat of glue. Inflate your tire enough that it starts to roll inside-out. Add air until you can lay it on a clean counter and the basetape faces up. It’ll look like this:
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(instagram it for added “hipness”)
Wear your gloves, and brush the glue on a little at a time, being sure to get it all the way to the edges of the basetape without going over. You want every millimeter of it to have glue on/in it. When you’re done, put it someplace out of the way so it can dry.
Put your wheel in the truing stand. Put a similar coat of glue on it Be sure that the glue is smooth and even from wall-to-wall on the rim. Leave it in the stand to dry. Keep cats away from it.
5. I give everything at least three hours to dry, but it won’t hurt to go longer (some people say overnight). At that point, evaluate as to whether or not you need another coat of glue on both surfaces…
-Basetape: some basetape is very “thirsty,” like the Conti in these pictures. I ALWAYS go with 2 coats on a very absorbent basetape. Tires like a Zipp tubular have a much less absorbent basetape, and, you’ll find that the glue you applied is already giving you a nice, solid sheen. This is where your judgement comes into play. If in doubt, apply another coat of glue and allow it to dry, just like you did before. It should end up looking like this:
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-Rim: Here’s another judgement call on your part. If you’re gluing a wheel/tire for road & crit racing, put another coat of glue onto the rim. In those situations, you’ve generally got more brake heat and turning force applied to the rim/tire. Also, someone who flats a tire in either of those situations is going to remove their wheel and get a spare from the pit/wheel truck. In most triathlons, not only will the the wheel/tire not be subjected to the same severe turning/brake heating forces as, say, a road-racing criterium, but also, if the rider flats, he/she will generally need to be able to remove the tire on the side of the road and install their spare. If you put another coat of glue on the rim, it’s going to be close to impossible to take the tire off without a lot of time and herculean effort. If in doubt, apply another coat and let it dry. It should look nice & smooth, wall-to-wall, like this:
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6. At this point, you have 2 dry surfaces with “enough” glue on them. The last coat of glue is a very thin one, only applied to the rim. Once you’ve done that, let the air out of your tire and call in your helper. Set the rim on a clean surface on the ground (I use a piece of cardboard on the floor). Stick the valve through (you remembered your valve extender, right?), and pull outward/down on the tire (making sure to keep the basetape centered on the rim) to wrap it around the rim and give yourself as much “slack” as possible for the last bit of tire. (If this doesn’t make sense, search youtube… I’m sure you can find a few videos there.) When you get to the last section of tire, you want to try your best to grab it and pull it over the edge of the rim rather than rolling the tire surface and sidewall through the glue- this is where an extra set of hands is very helpful.
7. Once your tire is installed, add just enough air to give it shape. Put it in the truing stand and start working your way around the to make sure that the tire is centered on the rim. Some people use the feelers on the truing stand to look for any wobbles. Whatever works for you.
8. Once it’s centered all the way around, uninflate the tire.  Lay your broomstick on the floor and roll the tire over it to insure good contact between the basetape and the rim. This is ESPECIALLY important if your rim has a very deep “well” in the middle. I usually make several passes, using my bodyweight to press down and really make the basetape and rim stick.
9. Inflate the tire to 120psi. Remove the electrical tape and use acetone & goof-off to clean up any excess glue.
10. Bask in the glow of a gorgeous job. Install wheels on bike and go kick everyone’s butt.

February 21, 2013

The Cannondale EVO Saga

Filed under: Around the shop — Andrea @ 3:24 pm

A BUNCH of people have asked me why I haven’t been on my fancy roadbike that I talked so much about last Fall. Well, it’s not often that I post anything on my blog that’s not 99% complementary of a company or their equipment, but, as I’m sitting here, waiting for a bike part that will hopefully allow me to ride my road bike after NOT being able to ride it for more than 3 months, I feel compelled to tell this story. Hopefully it will keep me from having to re-tell it because someone asks, “What ever happened to that Supersix??”

As you might recall, I received my Cannondale SuperSix EVO (women’s edition) back in October. If you’ve forgotten/missed it,  here’s a link: http://www.brickhouseracing.com/?p=4861

There was something I didn’t mention in that post.- When I first assembled it, the bottom bracket bearings (ceramic bearing, Pressfit 30) seemed to have some drag to them. I shrugged it off as new bearing drag and went about my business. However, in the back of my head, I couldn’t help but feel like I was working harder than I should have been.

The super fancy Cannondale PF30 bottom bracket:
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Fast forward a couple of weeks. I was giving my bike a little once-over and, as I spun the cranks, felt the same (maybe worse) drag on the bearings. I remove the crank and confirm with my finger that yes, the bearings are NOT spinning well at all. In fact, one of them is SO bound up that instead of it spinning with the crank, the crank spun inside of it, scoring the spindle…

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I take the bottom bracket out… suddenly, the bearings spin like a champ. Press the bottom bracket back in… bearings bind up. Obviously, the frame is out of tolerance, right?

I call Cannondale and leave a message w/tech. Eventually, someone calls back. He says it’s a bottom bracket problem, and says they’ll send out a new one as well as a new spindle to replace the damaged one. A few days later, the warranty parts arrive, only, it’s not a bottom bracket and spindle in the box, it’s an under-the-bottom-bracket cable guide and a spindle. I call back and get the bottom bracket headed my way.

Two days later, it arrives. It’s a plastic-cup/steel bearing SRAM PF30 bottom bracket. Not really what came in my bike, but, whatever, I’ll try it. It just so happens that Steve, our Cannondale rep, was at the shop when I finally had the time to install it. I press it in, and, whaddayaknow… bearings bind up. Not only do they bind up, but the drive side cup/bearing gets stuck in the frame. Like, REAL stuck- Steve, who could easily pass for a lumberjack from shoulder to fingertip, took some scary hard swings at it with the hammer, and it wouldn’t budge. He contacts the mothership and confirms that, yes, this is a problem with my frame, and not the bottom bracket.

What I heard next made me sad. Being the new, hot thing, I wouldn’t be able to get a replacement frame until the end of December. I decide I’ll make lemonade out of those lemons and go into full-on cyclocross training, riding a CX bike instead of a road bike for every minute of my pre-worlds training (outside of MTB rides, of course).

Fast forward again. My frame is supposed to be delivered while I’m at Worlds. It isn’t. My frame arrives February 8th. No idea why, but that’s when it got here. I’m stoked, so I take it home and start putting it all together. I press the bottom bracket in, and, the bearings bind up. Again. Just like the first frame. I call Joel, the bike shop manager/buyer from Outdoors and let him know that I’m boxing BOTH frames up to get shipped back to Cannondale. He talks to Cannondale, and they finally fess up…

Those frames are out of tolerance. It’s all of them. To fix this, they’ve manufactured new cups to fit into the out-of-tolerance frames. The cups are machined to accept a BB30 bearing without causing it to bind up, and they’ll ship a set to me. At this point, I’m getting mad. I’d been waiting since October for a new frame, and, in the meantime, they had a part that could have possibly made my old frame useable (if we could somehow remove the stuck PF30 cup from the driveside).

A few days later, I get the part. It’s a new set of cups (like the black ones that hold the bearings pictured above, but supposedly sized to not cause binding) and steel BB30 bearings. In my frustrated state, I call Joel back and tell him to contact Cannondale and kindly ask them to send a set of ceramic bearings, like the ones that originally came with my frame. He was happy to do so, and called me back a few minutes later with another report from Cannondale. In the 3 days since they’d last talked, they made a DIFFERENT set of cups for the EVO frame that supposedly work even better, and they’ll come with ceramic bearings, so DON’T use the kit I just got, wait for them to send a different one out!

So, that’s where I am now. They said that Wednesday, they’d get overnighted to the shop. It’s 3:20, and it hasn’t shown up yet. My bike lays in wait…

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Several people have asked, “Why don’t you throw a fit and get a frame that doesn’t need a proprietary part?” Well, the redeeming thing right now is that Cannondale offers a lifetime warranty on their frames. They stand behind it. We warrantied an early ’90s Raven MTB when I was at the shop. Of course, they didn’t have one of those as a replacement, but they sold the guy a Carbon Scalpel 29er at essentially an Employee Purchase cost. So, in the future, if the custom-cup thing doesn’t work out, I have faith that they’ll take care of me. Hopefully, though, this is the last you’ll ever hear about it.

February 20, 2013

Thing that needs to exist #327

Filed under: Around the shop — Andrea @ 7:51 am

Monday night on Just Riding Along, Kenny and I (Matt was out of town) discussed a need for a update/improvement to a bike part that only exists on the entry level/hybrid end of the market. It started with a discussion about gearing. I’m a big fan of 2×10 drivetrains. I’ve used SRAM XX and X0 as well as Shimano XTR. Kenny is a total 1xdrivetrain fanboy. His favorite setup now is either full 1×11 or, for the more budget-oriented build, using a 1×11 crank/chain (designed to work together to keep the chain on the chainring) and any clutch-type 10-speed rear derailleur.
Functionally, he’s had great success with both, but these are my holdups with them:
-On 1×11, the gaps in between gears would bug the hell out of me (10-12-14-16-18-21-24-28-32-36-42). I’m already swearing off 11-36 10 speed cassettes for the same reason (once my current one wears out, I plan on going 11-32).
-SRAM is slated to release different size 11 speed cassettes in the future, but then the problem of range comes in. If I’m gonna have gears, I want a similar range to the 2×10 I use now (39/26 up front, 11-36, soon to be 32, in the rear). I use the 39×11. It’s not often, but, in training on the road or during races that include some road sections, it is a gear that I find on a regular basis. This is why, on a 1×10 setup, the range just doesn’t do it for me. Like I said, if I’m gonna cart around some gears, I want my 39×11, and I want a granny gear of some sort (I’ve found that a 26×28 is really useful on most climbs, sometimes as low as 32, but I rarely find the 36)

SO, to get the range I’d like, the current 1×11 offering would work with a 34 or 36t chainring, but the gaps, as I mentioned, would set off my nit-picky/diva pet peeves. Enter, solution:

megarange

Make a baller 11-speed version of the Shimano Megarange that comes on cheapie bikes all over the world. My dream gearing would be essentially a 10-32 “10 speed” cassette (gears something like 10,11,13,15,17,19,23,25,28,32) with a 42 tooth low gear. Problem, solved. Gear divas all over the world rejoice, and I become a 1×11 fangirl forever. (P.S. There is this: General Lee Wide Range Cassette Adapter, which is interesting, but not really the same thing.) As for the haters who say, “that jump from 32 to 42 will NEVER work,” well, if a cheapass Acera on a Hybrid can make the jump, I see no reason why a baller-ass XX1 derailleur couldn’t hack it.

Of course, this is a lot of nit-picking over gears for someone who indulges in Singlespeeding on a very regular basis, but, until women’s singlespeed is a more popular race category, I’ll always be looking for the best (even if it’s just in my head) setup. SRAM, make my dreams come true…

February 18, 2013

No-Race Weekend

Filed under: Training — Andrea @ 7:42 am

If you’ve been around for a while, you may (or may not) notice that I skipped the 4th Annual Southern Cross Race. I’ve had a lot of fun doing it the last 3 years, but with CX Worlds extending my CX training so far into the winter, I wasn’t feeling the race weekend. Looks like it was cold and damp as usual, and the women’s podium ended up with the same ladies on it as last year.

Could I have podium-ed? With my current level of fitness, probably so, but speculation is pretty useless in bike racing.

Am I sad I missed it? Nope. I spent the weekend training. Saturday, the guys from 901 Racing invited me out for their (chilly) team ride. It was a mostly steady ride, which was good since my legs were pretty trashed feeling from the previous days of training. On the hard efforts, I could tell that the power was in there, I just had to work past the “quads fresh out of the meat grinder” feeling to get to it. Saturday afternoon, Matt and I visited No Regrets. This time, however, I wasn’t the one getting the ink:

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Sunday, Ryan completed his shortest homebrew session ever when he started a 3-gallon batch of cider. Hopefully, it turns out to be a viable option for gluten-free homebrewing (his last attempts resulted in a mead that tastes like olive brine and a sorghum beer that’s super bitter with an aftertaste of more bitter). Luckily, this seems like the simplest of the three, and, if the finished recipe is any indication, it’s going to be incredibly tasty.

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After that, Ryan, Matt, and I rode most of the Wolf River Trails. We attempted to go to Grey’s Creek (a less-used, slightly more adventurous trail), but one of the creek crossings a couple of miles in was way washed out, and continuing on would have meant either searching upstream for a better crossing or getting our legs wet/cleats clogged w/mud in the washed out one (neither of which was a desirable option for the guys). So, we turned around and dodged runners on the more traveled trails.

Because of the incoming rain, I’m skipping yoga this morning and going out for my ride instead. Ryan and Matt are both traveling for their jobs this week. I’m excited to have the house to myself so I can go to late yoga class then lay around in my underwear with a bottle of wine and a cheesy movie that includes explosions and sweaty men with no shirts. Bachelorette mode: engage.

February 15, 2013

Niner Carbon Handlebar vs. Niner RDO Carbon Handlebar

Filed under: Product Reviews — Andrea @ 10:51 am

As promised yesterday, I thought it might be helpful to make a quick post comparing these two bars.

First, the obvious differences- weight and cost. There’s a 20 gram and $40 difference between the two. The way I see it, this isn’t really something you should be worrying about at this stage in your decision-making process. If you’re at the point of shopping for a carbon bar, you’ve already spent a bunch of money on a very nice bike. What difference is $40 going to make? If you want the RDO bar, just spring for it, and go out to eat ONE LESS TIME this month. I mean, come on- that’s not even the cost of sushi dinner for 2 people.

Now for the more important part- what about performance/flex/etc?
Of course, all of that is pretty subjective. The bars I’ve ridden in the past before the Niner Flat Top Carbon bars were released were mainly aluminum and carbon Easton Monkey light bars. I’ve also test ridden a customer’s bike with a Crank Brothers carbon bar. I eventually stopped riding the Easton carbon bar soon after I started riding singlespeed. I could feel the Easton bar flex a lot on hard, almost-stallout efforts, and I was a little weirded out by that, so I made the switch to the first alloy version of the Niner Flat Top 9 bar.
Fast forward a bit. I was racing the Shenandoah 100 in 2011 and wrecked going pretty fast on one of the descents. One end of my bar dug into the ground (yeah- bar end and all), and the bar ended up bent (somehow, I escaped with only minor cuts and bruises). When I replaced it, I ended up (under the “you’re not putting another alloy bar back on that nice carbon bike” advice of Mike, the Niner Rep) getting the fancy new carbon bar (the RDO version of anything was not yet released).

I was very pleased with it. It didn’t have scary flex like the Easton bar, but it was much more shock-absorbing & comfy than any alloy bar I’d used. I put it on all of my bikes.
Fast forward again- I ordered my new moondust frame a few weeks ago. Along with it, I decided I’d give the RDO Carbon bar a try. Now that I’ve had a chance to ride the hell out of it in the two most bar-stressful situations (singlespeed on steep/techy stuff and a SS Strength Workout on Wednesday), I have to say, it’s does have more flex, but it’s still not discomforting like the other lightweight carbon I’ve ridden. Do I want to put it on everything? Time will tell. I really love the “non-harsh alloy” feel of the original bar, so I’m highly likely to move the RDO bar to my Air9 RDO and put the stiffer bar back on the singlespeed. The RDO bar is a very nice ride, though. They’ve found a very good balance of stiffness and shock absorption that, unlike my previous experiences, isn’t scary as shit.

So, which one should you buy? Personal preference. The weight and cost are close enough to each other that you should just go with the ride quality you like. The original bar is incredibly stiff-  I’ve never noticed it flex on hard pulls, but it’s still a much nicer ride over rough terrain than an alloy bar. The RDO bar is even moreso a nice ride over rough terrain, and, at the same time, the amount of flex I can feel under load doesn’t make me think that I’m about to rip the end of the bar off and punch myself in the face.

I don’t think you can really go wrong with either one, but hopefully, this info on my experience is helpful for those of you who are still trying to decide.

February 14, 2013

A little bit about bike fit & setup

Filed under: Around the shop — Andrea @ 9:19 am

What started as a review of two handlebars had me thinking that, in the process of talking about the two bars, I should answer a couple of questions about bike fit. So, I’ll split the post, and you’ll get the bar talk tomorrow…

1. Picking the right size bike and making little tweaks:
What you see here are two Niner carbon hardtails- a Small Air9 Carbon and a Medium Air9 RDO:

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Why did I choose a medium bike when I bought an Air9 RDO? A) I was being a little impatient, and the small was not immediately available when they were released, and B) Two water bottle cages on the medium. How did I know that the medium frame would fit? I used the commonly-overlooked geometry measurements of Stack and Reach. These two measurements have the largest impact on how high/far away your handlebars will be in relation to your butt.
When I see someone ask, “what size bike should I get?” they can simply compare these two measurements with their current ride and get a very good idea. They can also help you figure out what length/rise/orientation stem they’ll need to make the new bike feel just like the old bike. In my case, I used these two measurements to figure out that with a shorter, negative rise stem (80mm, -17deg), I can get my handlebars in the same place in relation to my saddle when compared to the small frame (which, btw, is very cozy using a 100mm, -6deg stem). Here are the actual S/R measurements for the two frames:

size

I’ve got to throw in a pet peeve of mine here: Standover height is a bunk measurement. Depending on your proportions and a bike’s geometry, you may/may not be able to “stand over” a bike that fits you (or doesn’t fit you). Totally the absolute LAST thing you should even think about considering when it comes to bike fit. Still, people are so blasted stubborn about standover that bike manufacturers are forced to do things like make their size-small seat tubes so short that you only get a water bottle cage on the downtube. STOP IT, PEOPLE.
I know what some of you are thinking… “You’d think differently if you were male blah blah testicles blah blah” Guess what, guys- A) Stop acting like it tickles if I hit my crotch on my top tube, and B) if you wreck in a way that is going to put your tender boy parts in contact with your top tube, chances are, that’d happen whether or not the standover height was “OK” when you’re standing around in you tennis shoes in the bike shop. So, stop reading the outside of the bike box and listen to your mechanic.

I digress.

2. Flat bar vs. Riser bar:
The other tweak I’ve made between my small and medium frame was to flip the medium handlebar over. Both Niner flat bars are actually built so that you can run them “up” or “down” (the down position drops the bar 5mm). This brings me to another question I see all the time- “why would I want a flat/riser bar?” It depends on where you want your hands in relation to your saddle. Once your proper seat height/setback is determined (which, btw, should be done totally independently of your handlebar height/reach), you can use a flat or riser bar (in conjunction with spacers under the stem, stem dimensions/orientation, etc.) to put your hands at a height that’s comfortable for you. I like my bars essentially even with my saddle. That’s not comfortable for everyone- some people like them higher/lower. There’s nothing wrong with either way unless it’s not comfortable for you.

3. Other random tweaks?
Once you’ve got everything dialed in, you can work on the details. Bar width? That’s up to you, but always experiment with wider before you get to chopping things down. When you do start cutting, just go a little at a time- like 5mm each side at a time. Turns out, you can always take more off, but it’s pretty dang hard to put it back on if you go too far. I’ve found that 666mm is my “sweet spot.”
Also included are other things like setting the inboard/outboard placement and angle of your brakes/shifters/lockout, grip angle (if you’re using non-round grips), and bar-end angle (if you’re using bar-ends). I use Ergon grips on everything. I use bar-ends on the hardtails because I love climbing out of the saddle, and they give me both comfort and leverage to do so. When I got my geared bike set up, I realized that I like to have my lockout inboard of everything. However, this put my left shifter/brake lever out of comfortable reach. So, I made a modification to my left grip, which I eventually carried over to my SS because I liked the lockout position so much:

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That prettymuch covers the front end of your mountain bike. In the next couple of days, I’ll do a writeup on the differences between the standard carbon bar and the RDO bar.

 

 

February 11, 2013

Weekend at Syllamo & Industry 9 Trail 24 initial review

Filed under: Product Reviews,Trail Riding,Trails,Training — Andrea @ 1:29 pm

First- the riding.

It was awesome, as always. I’ve visited a lot of trails in my short-ish time as a mountain biker, but the Syllamo trails are still some of the most beautiful and challenging I’ve encountered. I did my usual Friday afternoon warmup on the green & orange trails- it’s a good start to a weekend there because you can knock out the loops in ~1.5 hours, and they leave from the closest trailhead, which means the drive there is easy. Those particular trails also give you a nice sampling of what Syllamo has to offer- climbs, descents, flowy stuff, overlooks, and, of course, what’re probably the two “best” rock gardens of the entire system.

Somewhere, in the midst of cyclocross training, I improved my ability to negotiate rock gardens. I’m not 100% sure how (improvement in my equipment is a contributing factor for sure, but more on that in a minute), because I was generally glued to a ‘cross bike since Christmas. Friday afternoon, I managed to clean the rock gardens on both the green and orange trails, first time through- something that, until Friday afternoon, I’ve never managed to pull off, even individually. There’s always been at least one dab or do-over every time I’ve ridden them. I went back to the cabin basking in the awesomeness of rock garden domination and enjoyed the sunset with a glass of wine on the back porch.

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Saturday morning, I met up with some people for a quick trailwork party. We cut a corridor through a logged-off section (essentially, that means that if you can stand in the trail with your arms out, you cut anything between your fingertips that’s not a grown-up tree). In the logged areas like this one, it’s lots of lopper and line trimmer work. It’ll pay off big time once spring hits by keeping the angry plants off the trail for an extra month or two before mother nature takes over completely for the summer.

 

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After that, we got on our bikes and went tree hunting. First, to a downed one on the yellow trail. Then, we split up, and Wes and I went to the blue and orange trails. Before splitting, we stopped back at the cars, which were parked at a campsite down a logging road. While we were there, the campers occupying the site drove up. They were two college students who were researching stress hormones in wood frogs. Apparently, that was the Southern end of the frogs’ territory, and they were hoping that the incoming rain (which ended my trip a day early) would bring about successful trapping. We also encountered a group of guys in ATVs who were looking for an ATV-legal path to the yellow trail overlook. They were camping elsewhere for one guy’s bachelor party (too bad all guys can’t be classy enough to go enjoy beer and nature for their bachelor parties).

 

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We removed 3 more trees from the blue and orange trails before finishing up the orange loop and riding back up the forest road to our cars. The trail is nice and clear for now, but the hog damage is getting out of control in some areas. They root along the side of the trail and turn over dirt, rocks, and leaves. The fluffy leaves hide the rocks, making for a dangerous riding condition in some sections where you can’t see what’s hiding under the leaves. Other than a bounty or hunting season, I’m not sure what we can do before they tear everything up.

Enough about the battle with hogs. On to the good stuff…

It’s not often that I’m wrong, but, I have to admit, here and now, that, for the last 3 years, I’ve led many people down the wrong path when it comes to hubs. Before this weekend, if you asked me, “should I get a hub with uber-fast engagement?” I would have answered you with something along the lines of, “you won’t notice a fast-engaging hub as much as you’ll notice if your hub engages slowly.”

Well, I was mistaken.

I didn’t think that a fraction of a second of faster engagement could make a difference in clearing a spot or not clearing it. Actually, it makes a huge difference. Granted, my fitness is great right now, and that helps with the tech-riding success I had this weekend. However, I can’t discount the impact that my new wheels had on my ability to put the fitness to good use. I was amazed over and over again at how much of a blast I had riding them.

Also, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the I9 stiffness vs. the carbon ENVE wheels I rode last season. No, they’re not as stiff. But, if I put everything I’ve owned on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being American Classic Race wheels and 10 being ENVE carbon, I’d give the Trail 24s about an 8.5 (for further reference, a Stan’s Crest/DT Swiss aerolite/hope would be a “5″ in my head).

My totally subjective judgement on stiffness is based on a couple of things- one being how much the wheels make you notice “other” stuff about your bike setup- i.e. you have to pay much more attention to things like suspension and tire pressure adjustments when your wheels are super-stiff. The ENVE wheels beat the hell out of me the first time I rode them in Arkansas because I needed to make major changes in my front fork setup (lighter weight oil in the damper/less air pressure). The I9s made me realize that I needed less air pressure in my tires as well (previously not a problem with the ENVEs since the rim was sooooo narrow; previously not a problem on the AMClassics because they were superflexy). My other (totally subjective, possibly untrue) measure is more of a feeling of flex under load. I’ve noticed that some wheels (both mountain and road) seem to have a weird vibration (almost like a groan) that resonates through the drivetrain when I’m putting down a good bit of power. On a mountain bike, it’s just annoying. On a road bike, it will make me think I have a flat tire.

So, initial reports for the I9 trail 24 wheels- Wow. Just, wow. Sure, it’s just been one weekend, but Syllamo is not a place that suffers lesser equipment lightly. I’m absolutely itching to get some more time on these as the season continues.

February 7, 2013

Rest Week

Filed under: Training — Andrea @ 8:13 am

Saturday morning, Ryan was tired from his Friday race, and I was tired of being cold and muddy (the Power Washers were frozen/broken on Friday, so I spent the duration of his race scraping and chipping mud-ice off/out of his bikes 2x every lap). So, in lieu of sticking around to watch Saturday’s Elite races, Ryan and I packed up and headed back to Memphis.

Another driving factor was Sunday’s festivities- our roommate Matt’s birthday ride,  AKA “Poolboy Matt’s Birthday Death March.” We rode a couple of hours with a big group, drank some beer and whiskey, and a good time was had by all. Unlike 100 mile MTB races, a 40 minute CX race will leave you tired, kinda sore, but not fully destroyed. So, a rest week after a hard race is more of a mental break than a physical one.

Actually, I’m still feeling pretty tapered and awesome right now, so my plan for today is to go out to Herb Parson’s Lake and ride a couple of laps on my new Industry 9 Trail 24 wheels. I’d tell you all about them myself, but it just so happens that someone else just posted a really good rundown on them this morning. So, chances are, you’ve read it already. Unlike his, which are straight up pink, I tortured a wheelbuilder with my color scheme. I decided on a combination of purple, gold, and black spokes with a purple hub. The purple & gold are just bright enough to be flashy, and the black ties everything together to keep it classy. Win-win:

(excuse the sloppy chain tension)

Close-up of front hub

 

I’m very stoked to get wheels this nice. I’m even MORE stoked that, in the 18 hours that they’ve been in my possession, I’ve seen a tremendous response from local people who want to get a set. It makes me feel warm/fuzzy/happy inside when my sponsors get a return on their investment. If you enjoy reading my adventures in bike racing, click those links on the right and tell them you saw it here. I swear it makes a difference… the more you buy their stuff, the more I get to show their stuff off to the “world” via bike racing/blogging. It’s a beautiful feedback cycle.

This weekend, I’ll really get to put the wheels through their paces at Syllamo. The guys are going to their team camp somewhere in Middle Tennessee, so I’m going on a solo mountain bike retreat to the cabin for a few days. While I’m there, I’m going to get a little more focused on what exactly I’d like to do this summer for a race season. Amanda Carey summed up my feelings very well in her recent interview with MTBRacenews. I’ve got a basic framework started with Whiskey Off-road, TSE, some SS National Championship racing, and Breck Epic, but now it’s time to fill in the gaps.

 

February 4, 2013

Master’s Worlds Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 8:21 am

It’s been a hot minute since the race, and anyone who follows me on Twitter or Facebook already knows at least the important part of the story- I finished 3rd place. The combination of rain from a Wednesday morning thunderstorm/deluge, a little extra rain/snow Wednesday night, and the hundreds of people who raced on the course immediately following that, turned it into a total mud bog.

Ryan and I pre-rode on Wednesday at lunch before his heat race. At that point, it was sloppy, but less damaged, so it was nicely difficult- some deep, power-sucking mud, and a lot of slick, tricky mud. I felt great about it. However, between that time and my race, the course conditions deteriorated dramatically. The grass, mud, and water was so churned together that the course turned incredibly slow, and pedaling felt like trying to run and fight off an axe murderer in the throes of a nightmare- the type where you can neither run nor fight because your body feels like it’s moving in slow motion, no matter how much effort you extend.

This year’s field was a little more serious than last year- not that last year’s competition wasn’t tough, but this year, the field size doubled, and included the current National Champion. The stripes made it easy to pick out who to follow when we were given the signal to GO, important since I hadn’t done any e-stalking ahead of time, so I had no idea who was “fast” (other than myself, of course… hehehe)

The start was fast as usual for any very competitive cross race. That was about the only thing that was fast, though. As soon as we were off of the solid start/finish area, everyone dumped to the small ring, and we were racing our asses off… at an average speed of 6.5 miles per hour. Going that slow means that bike handling won’t be a determining factor in the outcome of the race. So, it boiled down to a 3 lap, 40 minute power test with 2x per lap bike exchanges thrown in for good measure. Ryan, who was working the pit for me, had his work cut out for him, repeatedly running the mud/grass-caked bikes to the powerwasher for the big stuff, then finishing the drivetrain cleaning off with most of a can of ProGold Blast Off that Bruce Dickman gave me just before the race. If it weren’t the good pit work, I would have been dead in the mud.

Off the line, I was on the wheel of Kari Studley, the National Champion. I didn’t look back, so I had no idea how the race was unfolding behind me. Kari would periodically pull away then come back, and I decided that, along with her, I’d pass the pits the first time. I stayed behind her like a slinky until finally imploding somewhere after the 2nd time past the pit- during which we both took a clean bike (I exchanged bikes 2x per lap following that). She began to pull away, and I worked on recovering enough to minimize the damage.


(photo courtesy of Debbie Baker)

In the meantime, Brianne Marshall of NoTubes was creeping up behind me. She passed me somewhere during the 2nd lap and seemed to dangle just out of my reach by about 10-15 seconds before pulling away in the 3rd and final lap. She tended to run more of the worst mud sections. I decided not to run- I made the switch from Crank Brothers to SPD pedals a while back, and they were NOT the best pedal in the deep mud because they clogged up every time I got off of the bike. I don’t really consider it to be a deciding factor in my situation, but Crank Brothers pedals would have been one less thing to worry about being affected by mud.
Kari, Brianne and myself finished spaced out about a minute or so of each other, but well ahead of the spots off the podium.

So, this third place was a lot better than last year’s third place, where a stupid mechanical for which I take full responsibility (rear skewer rattled loose) took me out of the 1/2 contention. I think that Thursday’s race through the mud bog could have been contested as a 40 minute power test on trainers with the same outcome. Not as fun as a high-speed, running/jumping/sliding race, but it’s the hand that all of us were dealt, and we made the best of it.

 

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