Friday, November 28, 2008

Burn that Turkey

By the numbers:
Distance: 53.6 miles
Average speed: 19.1 mph
Duration: less than 3 hours

This was a fun, but painful ride.  We had a really strong group for the 50 mile ride: several Masters racers, and a couple cat 2 riders, among a generally very strong bunch.  The weather was beautiful, high 50s with a sub-10 mph headwind and a little cloud cover.  This time of year, it doesn't get much better than that.

We rolled out a little late, taking is easy as everyone got warmed up and got stratified according to their speed and distance.  About 4 miles in, after we had gotten rid of most of the slow folks and the shorter distance riders, one of the Masters racers puts the hammer down for a few miles.  Being the idiot I am, I was right on his wheel chasing him up a hill, thinking he was going to let up at the top. 

As it turns out that was his way of getting the pace elevated: for the 3 miles he went hard, we spent the next 10 or so absolutely flying along at 23+ most of the time, in a double paceline.  After a little break for a few miles the pace climbed again, and I got my first pace of a rotating double paceline - there are several subtleties that no one mentions on the internet, and it was hard to keep going in a group that had not trained or ridden together before - gaps would develop, and people didn't rotate back onto the pulling line.  

Anyway, I managed to hang on to mile 30, when I realized the pace wasn't going to slow down again.  At about this point I ran out of gas, figuratively speaking.  I had food with me, but I couldn't get it down fast enough and ride at 25 mph at the same time.... something to practice I guess.  Me and two other guys who had also gotten dropped stuck together and made it in, at a much slower pace than the main group.  

By mile 35 I was in bad shape: my butt was really not thrilled with several high-mileage successive days on the bike, and was letting me know in no uncertain terms.  My 200+ mile week was also catching up with me - my legs felt dead, making it up hills was difficult.  Somehow though, we made it back.  

So I'm taking the next 2 days completely off.  This week (the past 7 days), I've done 210 miles, which is the most I have every done in a week.  Since I essentially went from 20 mile weeks to a 200 mile week, there is a pretty high risk of overtraining.  So... no bike for a few days, to give my butt (and the rest of me) a chance to recover.  Over-extending yourself is a valid training technique, but you need time to recover and repair afterwards.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Distance: 50.6 miles
Average speed: 18.5 mph
duration: 3 hours

Today was a beautiful day, with a high near 60 degrees, so I got out on a new route that goes kinda south of Hagan Stone park.  I had found the cue sheet online, and mapped out the route according to that on, to make sure all the turns were correct (there's nothing I hate worse than getting lost).  I found a couple of errors when I did this, so made my own cue sheet.  

Anyway, I predictably missed my first turn on NC-22 / Appomattox, so added a few miles going back to it.  Other than that it was a pretty uneventful and very pleasant ride, other than the slight, but very consistent headwind that got a bit wearing after a while.  Traffic was very light, even coming back on a different section of NC-22 around where the Tour de Lions ride usually starts (Grey's Chapel).

This is the longest I've spent on a bike continuously in quite a while, and by the time I was done my rear end was very sore.  Again, I didn't eat enough, or really well, especially torwards the end of the ride when I *thought* I knew where I was.

This is also the first ride in a while where I definitely felt like I pushed myself past my comfort level - I was very ready to get off the bike at the end of the ride, where on 40 milers I'm still pretty comfortable at the end of the ride.  It makes me think I should push this hard more often: I'll get better faster, right?

Tomorrow I've got the "Burn the Turkey" post-Thanksgiving ride planned, and am aiming to do the 52 mile route.  I'll see how I feel in the morning though - I might scale it back a little.  

What am I thankful for?  

Today, I'm thankful that rides have both a beginning and an end.
Family to visit.
Bikes of all types
The Internet
Good roads

Those are the top ones that come to mind currently.

Enjoy the Turkey

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I'm back in Greensboro for Thanksgiving, and got in 26.8 miles this morning riding into town to Cycles de Oro and back to get a piece for my speedometer.  Averaged 17.5 mph.  My mileage for this past week is 120 miles.

This ride also saw my odometer turn over 5000 miles!  That brings my mileage for this year to just over 2300.  With luck, I can probably see 2700 miles before the year is over: my goal is 100 miles a week.  I can do more when I have the time, but I know there will be a couple weeks in there I won't be able to ride much because of exams.

Monday, November 24, 2008


One advantage of being young is that I do one ride, give a day to recover, and then I'm pretty much back up to speed :-)

Just a hair over 40 miles today, averaged 17.8, which is a lot better than Saturday (16.4 over the same route).  It was warmer today, blowing a little less hard and more predictably, and I was dressed more appropriately for the temperature.  All of these contributed to bringing the average speed up.

Riding in zone two gives me time to monitor myself for bad habits.  My pedal stroke isn't perfect, but I'm not pedalling in squares either.  It's better than it was a month ago, which is encouraging.

Raising the saddle felt a lot better!  It's kinda sad it took me this long to do it.  Overall comfort was increased and my pedal stroke felt more natural.  I could probably come up a couple more millimeters, but given that this is the one adjustment I am extremely sensitive to, I'm going to leave it as it is for a while.  The other thing I toyed with doing was moving the saddle forward a bit, as I have a tendency to sit a little too far forward.  To be honest, I could use a slightly shorter stem, but that costs money.

Alright, off to class.

Not enough miles

I didn't ride nearly enough the past week because of school: tests, lab reports, and some other stuff.  I got in 42 miles Saturday and came back disappointingly tired.  I suppose it's good enough that after a week off the bike I can go out and do that kind of mileage, but it felt pretty discouraging.

Coupled with the emails I see flying around the NCSU cycling listserv about people doing 80 miles in a day, who I know were drastically weaker than me no more than 3 weeks ago.  That's the really discouraging part.  

But, hopefully that will change in the next week: I've got no classes today, so after I snag a little part for my bike computer I've got about 50 miles planned.  Then a test Tuesday night, then off for Thanksgiving, where I'm looking for some serious mileage to carry me through the last few weeks of school.  

I need to work on my eating strategies when going on these longer rides: doing the same thing I do for 25 miles doesn't cut it.  In the past I haven't  been a fan of cycling-specific foods like power bars, gels, and the like, but I've been reading a little bit of sports physiology and the gels are probably the best thing to have on a moderately long ride, because they're quickly converted into sugars.  My granola bars are a pretty complex food that takes a while to break down, and doesn't last really long.

If I was really smart I would email our coach and ask for guidelines for building up the mileage over the next few weeks: progressing from 45 miles up to 80 or so, but I probably won't see any benefits from training this scientifically right now, because my week-to-week mileage is all over the place.  I know what I need to be doing from a training perspective: ride lots of slow miles.  It's just a matter of squeezing those miles in.... in miserable weather.

In other news, I moved the saddle on my road bike up 8 mm, which is the first change to that bike's setup in a loooong time.  I'll see how it works on today's ride.  After riding the fixie for a week I got on the road bike and went, "Oh hey!  The saddle's too low."  Which is what my dad's been telling me for ages.  I asked for a professional bike set-up for Christmas, but it might become a birthday present.  But I'm riding enough now to justify a moderately scientific bike setup session, I think.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Zoom Zoom

Today I finally got my new fixed gear completely put together and rideable!  

Early this afternoon I swung by 1304 bikes and found a seatpost that fit my frame.  They had closed Hillsborough for a run or something, and I had never driven over there before, so I predictably managed to get myself pretty lost on my way.  My sense of navigation completely goes down the toilet as soon as I get in a car.  Dunno why.

So, the only downside to this seatpost is it uses an older style of clamping the saddle rails, but has a notched interface - combining the worst of both seatpost styles.  Idiots.  This means a) it's nigh on impossible to get the bolts tight enough to completely prevent the saddle from changing its angle when bumped hard, and b) it's impossible to get the damn saddle perfectly level.  And I'm pretty anal-retentive about level saddles.  So I'm still finagling with the saddle to get it tolerable.  Right now it's slightly nose down and I feel like I'm falling off the thing.  

Tonight, after I got my second-to-last lab report done, I took it for a little spin around downtown Raleigh.  Overall it was about an 8 mile spin as darkness fell.  I took a pretty conservative route for the first bit, getting a feel for the handling and making sure nothing was going to fall off.  I won't bore you with the details.  

I am very impressed with the handling of this bike!  Stiff, snappy, corners like it's glued to the freaking road, and an almost telepathic response to every little motion I make.  The 52-14 gear does not feel overly large on this bike, it actually feels nearly perfect.  If it wouldn't cost anything I might go to a 15 cog, but no larger.  I simply love the feeling of jumping on the power and accelerating to 30 mph in one smooth motion: no gear changes, just go go go!  I'm struggling with how to describe how this thing feels accelerating... This is by far the fastest bike to 30 mph I've ever ridden.  I'll catch myself looking down at the drivetrain, wondering where someone's hidden the freaking motor!  Hills just disappear under the wheels, it feels like every milli-watt you generate makes it straight to the road.  This is going to be an incredibly addicting ride!

Alright, enough suspense.  Here's an okay picture of the bike I shot in my room.  Hopefully I'll get some more "picturesque" pictures in the coming days.

Totally rockin' the black/silver scheme... looks a lot shinier in real life.

And yes, the frame is a solid two and a half inches too big for me.  But hell, it was $15.  If anybody's got a 54-58 cm frame of similar style and they want to trade, let me know :-)

Frame: mid-1990s Cannondale aluminium, 24" seat tube, vertical dropouts
Wheels: Alexrims x2100 (nuthin' special)
Cranks: Sugino 171 mm straight cranks
Pedals: LOOK original style clipless
Bottom Bracket: Unkown manufacturer, fully adjustable cartridge bearing (soooo smooth!)
Fork: cro-moly chrome-plated, 1" x 8" steerer tube, threaded
Headset: Dura-Ace cartridge threaded headset
Brake: Shimano RX100 with Ultegra cartridge shoes
Those are all the notable components.

So yeah, I'm a happy camper.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Power Testing and Fixed Gears

Today the NCSU cycling club set up a power testing session in conjunction with our coach.  

Short story:  3 miles, ~8 minutes on a stationary trainer.
Average power: 255 watts
Max. power: ~530 watts for the last ten seconds or so.

It's amazing how that can take it out of you.  I'm completely beat tonight.

For comparison, a horsepower is 746 watts.

In other news, today I got some of the last few parts needed for my fixed gear: lower headset race, half-link for the chain, a fork that fits, and some catridge brake shoes.  All that's needed now is a seatpost that fits, and I'll get that tomorrow from 1304 bikes.

So once I got both wheels on the bike I realized holy cow, this is a big frame...  Negative standover height. :-(  So I guess I'll continue hunting for another fixed gear frame.  The good thing about this hobby/addiction is you can flip parts you don't need pretty easily, so you're not really taking a loss on most parts, the exception being brand-new really high end components.

I took the bike for a short, slow spin around the parking lot with no saddle, just to get a feel.  Initial impression is very positive: good handling, quite snappy, and even with my slightly excessive chain slack, smooth pedalling.  Makes me happy.  Really looking forward to getting this bike set up as a "daily driver" instead of my god-awful heavy commuter.  Initial weight estimate is 16 lbs or so.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I've been riding irregularly the past few weeks, doing about 60-80 miles a week.  Compared to my mileage this time last year, it's up 20 or 30 percent, but it's still not where I want it to be: I really am shooting for about 100 miles a week.  Unfortunately the weather and schoolwork are conspiring against me.  And it doesn't help that it gets dark at 6:00 now (freaking time change...).

Anyway, last weekend I got down to Charlotte for the annual Bike Stampede bike swap.  This was my first time going to one of these events, and it was an eye-opening experience.  I spent the first half hour wandering around with a goofy smile on my face at the sheer profusion of clothing, accessories, parts, and full bikes being offered at ridiculously low prices.  I filled in the gap in my winter clothing wardrobe quite quickly, snagged another jersey and some stuff for my dad, and discovered I had quite a bit of my budgeted cash left over.  Sooo......

I proceeded to buy parts for another fixed gear.  Frame for $15 (I think it's a late 1990s Cannondale R600), fork and stem for $40, headset for $15, cranks for $20... the list goes on.  Of course, the headset was missing the fork race, and the fork steerer tube was too short, so I'm currently hunting around for another fork and a headset race.  But from what of the bike I've got together so far, it looks really good.  I think it's going to weigh about 14 or 15 lbs, which is ridiculously light.  Definitely looking forward to riding it!

Back to training... The next couple of weeks don't look too encouraging, since we're into the home stretch and finals are in sight.  I just need to get enough riding in to not go stir crazy.  Over Thanksgiving I will be able to get in a 60 miler, the "Burn the Turkey" ride around Greensboro.  Very much looking forward to that, too.  Group rides beat the snot out of riding alone, especially in the winter.

Over Christmas I will probably be working some, but hopefully I will be able to step up the amount of training I'm doing.  The one concern is our 4 day trip up to Maryland and how to fit my bike in the car to get up there...  I'll have to think about that.  

I think that's about it, hopefully I will have some pictures of my new fixed up once I get it all cobbled together.