Sunday, April 27, 2014

Reducing my Carbon Footprint - Involuntarily

"There's a spy in the sky.  There's a noise on the wire.  There's a tap on the line.  And for every paranoid's desire...  
There's always Someone looking at you.
S-s-s-s-someone looking at you...
They're always looking at you.
(Bob Geldoff - Boomtown Rats)

Regular readers may recall that on my recent trip to Phoenix that my boxed bike attracted an inordinate amount of interest from the TSA each way and my lucky 25g CO2 cartridge went missing.  I doubted then that they were conducting random market research on the favored brands of bike, frame materials or component groups of cyclists who travel with their bikes.  Instead they were on the hunt for contraband CO2 shipped by the bike cartels.

My suspicions were confirmed this week by a breezy letter from the FAA regarding the requirements set forth in Title 49 of the code of Federal Regulations (I must have missed that during my review of all applicable regulations while packing for my trip) and the dangers of hazardous materials.

You will note in the above helpful guide regarding hazardous materials that there is no specific mention of CO2 since it is neither flammable, explosive, corrosive or toxic so in my opinion they are stretching a bit by grabbing my favorite cartridge.  It is compressed gas so I guess it falls under that section.

I will say that there is ONE place that good ole CO2 that we create with every breath is a hazardous material - Washington DC - which makes Congress so dangerous since its members seem to create an extraordinary amount of the stuff and important laws like Title 49.

So there you have it - mystery solved.  If you ship your bike by plane, pack it well, but expect that it will be opened and inspected thereby keeping the skies safer one non-explosive, non-toxic cartridge at a time.

Two Wheel Transit - Cycling for Life

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Changing My Tune

The winter and spring weather have exposed more of the rocks on the HD Bluff trails.

I have been using the Goldilocks approach to tire pressure with the 28c tubeless road tires on the CX this spring and learning a few things in the process.  Too low and the tires compress fully on bumps and rocks while overall comfort and dirt traction improve.  Too high and traction and comfort suffer on and off pavement.

For pavement I have settled on between 65 and 70 but with off-pavement I am still undecided.  I was running somewhere in the 45 to 50 range for gravel roads, but the occasional bottom-out condition was both uncomfortable and unsafe in that I could probably burp the tires off in some circumstances.

Yesterday, my ride began on road so tires were inflated to 70 psi.  At Hatch I called an audible to climb the secret dirt trails and then ride the mid trail of the bluff.  I decided to leave the tire pressure alone once on the dirt since I did not have a reliable way of reducing pressure to a known level.

I did not realize how much the tires still give at that pressure off-pavement and was glad I had that much air in the tires when I encountered rocks that couldn't be dodged.  On the rocks, I could still feel the tires grab and give without the disconcerting thunk of an impact to the rim.

With this new information I will try-out 70 psi on a gravel ride or two and see how the ride quality and traction compare since I know they will not compress fully at that pressure.  If either or both are compromised I will drop some more but not as much as before to try and avoid damage to the rims and my body.

Two Wheel Transit - Cycling for Life

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Post Tax Return Shop Ride

Shake off those Federal Filing Deadline Blues and go for a Shop Ride with Two Wheel Transit Bicycles.  Leaves Every Wednesday at 5:30pm from 817 S Perry St.

Monday, April 14, 2014

An Interesting Data Point

Since switching to only one bike for the majority of my riding last October I am continually asked whether I feel that riding a CX bike for everything involves some trade-offs or compromises.  Things like responsiveness, stiffness and comfort are usually thrown-in too. 

First-where there are absolutely no compromises:  Cyclocross racing and unpaved road riding.  The bike is made for the former and sublime in the latter.

Second - I do not feel any lack of responsiveness, feel or playfulness of the bike on the road.  It is uber comfortable, and very quick in the corners and line changes without feeling twitchy. 

Finally - the bike with disc brakes is simply not as light as my carbon bike.  This does not mean it is heavy but it probably would make a difference if I was racing criteriums and had to accelerate out of every corner, or a road race with a lot of climbing - neither of which are on the docket for me this year.

That means the bike is being used for commuting, off-pavement rides, pavement training rides and spirited group rides.   So the question becomes is the bike as fast on the pavement?

The Col de la Madone climb which is 12km long with an average grade of 7% is not part of the Tour de France, but is used by many pros to gauge their fitness leading up to the tour.

My gauge each year is the 38.3  mile Valley Chapel loop ridden solo, counter clockwise through Mt. Hope, Rockford, Freeman and Valley Ford.  Those readers who have ridden the loop know it has some of everything including hills, grades, wind, rollers, flats, descents, more grades and wind and it can really test your mettle and fitness. 

Each year, somewhere between March and May I will start riding the course to see where I am fitness-wise and lower my elapsed time until June or July where I peak.  My all time best elapsed time was 2.01 hours on a carbon bike which I only achieved once and not until June that year.  Most times would be around 2.03 to 2.15 hours depending on the day.

Today, I wanted to ride the loop and get an idea of where the MOOTS CX with its chubby 28C tires at 70 psi and I were in terms of speed. Throughout the route I have checkpoints know whether I am ahead or behind schedule for time - today I was ahead at checkpoint after checkpoint. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I did end-up riding with two other riders for 9 of the last 11 miles but chose to lead the pace line or slow for them a time or two with minimal drafting (less than 800 meters total) so I do not believe this skewed the results one way or another.

My ride time ended-up at 2.03 hours which is exactly one minute off of my PR for the route.  The bottom line is that yes, for this test, the bike is about as fast and fun as a carbon bike.  Speed is one data point and I also consider things like heart rate, perceived exertion and muscle fatigue. 

These other indicators of fitness tell me that for this effort I spent over 33% of the ride in Zone 5 where I burned a lot of calories, but was doing it in an anaerobic fashion and did not have anything in the tank after the final climb.  So, I have a ways to go in terms of fitness, but do I feel I am compromising anything with the MOOTS CX on the road?

I don't think so.

Two Wheel Transit - Cycling for Life

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring Road Ride

The forecast called for sunny, warm and clear - it was accurate right up until the point it began raining with hail.

It seems that the roads need more washing and sweeping

The sun came out and dried-up all the rain

It would appear that there are still some deicing chemicals on the road

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mid-week Gravel Fix

Some gravel and dirt to hold you over until the weekend.

Route: Valley Chapel - Spangle Creek - Yale - Watt - Cahill-S Dunn and back
Mileage: 35 Dirt/Gravel 5.8 Pavement
Bike: MOOTS Psychlo X
Tires: Hutchinson Sector 28 with 45/50 PSI F/R

Watt road

Beyers and Watt looking east on Watt

Cahill looking south with Steptoe Butte in the distance

Cahill Road looking south just before it turns into a wicked-rough summer road

Spangle-Waverly Rd looking south to Dunn

Former breakaway solo cyclist

Old homestead root cellar

View to north from old homestead/turn-around spot on Dunn

Cool farm and barn on Cahill

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pavement, Dirt, Pavement, Repeat

Any time I hear the words dual-purpose, dual-sport or hybrid I become skeptical since in most cases they represent compromise.  In my mind a piece of equipment that is a compromise means it probably does not do anything well.  A good mountain bike turned into a road bike is now a heavy road bike and a poor mountain bike.  It is probably not a lot of fun to ride on either surface.  Of course, there will be limitations between combinations, but they do not have to be a compromise in my opinion. 

My project to use one bike for over 90% of the  of my riding this year means that I am looking for that no compromise ride.  It is with that goal in mind that I built-up the MOOTS CX bike this fall and have tried various tire experiments.  To summarize, the bike and components work very well on spirited road and group rides, commuting, riding in snow and ice, and dirt/gravel roads with the right tire choices. 

This is all fine and good if you do not mind swapping tires all the time, but I am lazy so I have been searching for that no compromise tire which works very well for road, commuting and dirt/gravel. The criteria for this tire are fairly rigorous in that it must be tubeless, supple, durable, comfortable on all surfaces (with varied pressure) good handling and under 300g in weight.  My research has led me to try the relatively new Hutchinson Sector 28  tubeless tires and determine whether they are suitable as a true dual-purpose tire and without compromise.

I have over 700 miles on the Hutchinsons and they have proven themselves as an excellent road tire - period.  I have settled on 65 psi for purely road riding and have begun experimenting (with the highly scientific Goldilocks method) with various pressures off-road and exploring the limits of what feels best for my riding preferences and 200 pound build with the following thoughts:

Elder Road with moisture keeps the dust down while improving traction
 80/80 PSI F/R: Too hard! Good on the pavement with excellent flat protection and grip, but not as comfy as I had hoped.

70/70 PSI F/R: Pretty much the same as 80 PSI, but slightly more comfy.

Summer roads typically do not have gravel and get very soft and rutted during winter and spring

40/40 PSI F/R: Too soft! Decent on the pavement but slightly mushy with excellent flat protection, comfy with good traction off-pavement but prone to bottoming-out on rocks or washboards.

Tires hooked-up well even in the soft stuff but would not work if it was much wetter

65/65 PSI F/R: Just-right!  Perfect for pavement being supple, comfortable, low perceived rolling resistance without being mushy out of the saddle or folding-over in turns. Not as comfy off-pavement, bouncy on rocks and washboards, while not inspiring confidence in turns.

The sticky stuff only attaches to the diamond tread on the sides
 45/50 PSI F/R: Just-right!  Good on pavement being supple, comfortable, low perceived rolling resistance without being too mushy. Very comfy off-road, supple on rocks and washboards, and inspiring confidence in turns without bottoming-out (much).

Note the absence of tread in the soft stuff.  This means keep the butt in the saddle on steep climbs unless you have momentum
For me, the 45/50 combination was the best all-round performance if I know I am going to ride on/off pavement in the same ride or if I am strictly off/pavement.  If I am on pavement only, then 65/65 is preferred.

I checked the tires for nicks, cuts or abrasion but have not observed any damage after about 40 miles of off-pavement riding.

Am I ready to declare the Hutchinson Sector 28 Tubeless tires THE no compromise tire for on/off pavement?  Stay-tuned.

Two Wheel Transit - Cycling for Life

Monday, April 7, 2014

In the Desert - Days 5 and 6

Day 5
Recovering the prior day with a pretty leisurely 51 miles made a difference in riding 60 miles today.  It began to sink in that I would be traveling back home in two more days to wet and cool spring days in the northwest.  I knew I would miss seeing the White Tank Mountains at sunrise each ride and that it would be a few weeks before I was riding in shorts and a jersey absent several layers again.

Today, I did not feel like hammering along in the saddle for 3 hours so I warmed-up until I found a 2 mile section of a slight uphill grade and did max effort sprints until I was out of gas.  Hill repeats are different here because they are less steep than the northwest so I do not cool-down as badly on the recovery.  The other cool thing about the Sun Valley Parkway is that there is a U-turn lane about every mile or so which makes it easy to do multiple laps once you find a suitable section.

In this case each lap was 4 miles so 5 laps was enough and then time to head back to the ranch.

Day 6
My last day of riding in sunny AZ in conditions I most likely wont see at home until June or July so I made the most of it with a 60 mile ride at max sustainable effort.  I learned a few years ago that I can ride for hours in the bottom to middle of Zone 4 as long as I keep the fluids and calories going during the ride - effectively my max sustainable effort.

The other thing I learned was that just because I am burning 900 calories per hour at this level of work, I do not need to replace (nor should I) more than 250 to 300 of those calories per hour on the bike.  In other words, I was eating too much on the bike and would overload my system and cause it to shut down on long rides resulting in dehydration, bloating, cramping and bonking.  Optimally, I should drink one large bottle and take two gel packs each hour. 

My ultimate test of this system was the 2012 Ride Around the Pioneers in One Day (RATPOD) where I completed the 130 mile ride with 6,000 feet of climbing, heat and horrendous headwinds.  The only solid food I had all day was a couple slices of bread, half a bagel, 4 fig Newtons and half a cookie.  Using the 1 bottle of water and 2 gel packs an hour rule had me feeling as good as could be expected at the end of a grueling ride, but I digress.

I felt well enough to crank-out the 60.1 miles in 3 hours for a glorious end to 6 days of spring riding camp.

Days: 6
Total Miles: 350

Does riding a week in warmer, drier and flatter conditions make for a better cycling season?  I do not know, but it certainly felt nice to ride in the sun and be warm again after winter.

What I do know is even though the MOOTS is a CX bike, I had a great time riding it on the road and was incredibly comfortable the entire time.  I also know that the Hutchinson Sector 28 tires performed very well with no flats and a supple ride at 65 psi the entire time.  After 425 miles I am really starting to be impressed with these tires - they are THAT good.

The real test will be getting them out on some gravel roads at varying pressures to see how they handle and whether they are durable enough to handle the sharp Spokane County basalt. 

Obligatory Selfie at 23 MPH

As noted above, I do not know whether this trip will make much difference in my fitness level this season, but mentally it made all the difference in the world.  My work schedule for the past 18 months has been probably the most intense of my professional career without much break.

Being able to hang with my folks, ride in the sunshine for hours on uninterrupted asphalt and let my mind go where it wanted is a good start to getting some perspective.  Perhaps this should be an annual trek each winter though with my family in the future.  I knew it was time to head for home when I began to tire of the same stark landscape and the same stretch of road and miss my wife and kids.

Next up is getting back to some gravel riding in the northwest and reporting on the 2,000 mile mark on the MOOTS.  Thanks for reading.

Two Wheel Transit - Cycling for Life

Saturday, April 5, 2014

In the Desert - Day 3 & 4

Having learned the route and survived the menacing golf carts I felt pretty confident on Day 3 of spring training camp in Phoenix, AZ. Training camp was about to turn into boot camp - I just did not know it yet.

I got an earlier start, with temps in the 50s making me feel more at home and ready for anything.  Warm-up out to the White Tank Mountains felt good and then rolling out past Buckeye was one of my best mornings. 

I felt strong and fast at the 20 mile mark which is where I should have turned-around. I had a slight tailwind and a big headwind brewing.  Today, I wanted to see where the road intersected I-10 to the south (don't ask me why).

After my usual turn spot the road got rougher and less scenic but onward I rode.  I hit I-10 almost right at 35 miles - so flip a U-turn and spin back to the folk's place in Surprise - sounds easy.  No such doing.  The heat was rising quickly, and the wind began to howl.  Next 30 miles were brutal of slow, just grind-it-out pedaling.

I stopped at the convenience store to replenish my depleted water supply a few miles from home and asked the clerk about the wind.  "is the wind always like this?" I asked, the old fellow thought for a bit and replied "oh no, it is not - most times its worse" and had a hearty chuckle at my expense.

I rolled-out and endured the last 15 miles  of heat and headwind home totaling a 4 hour ride and 70 miles.

Day 4 - Avoid mistakes and do a little recovery - 51 miles out and back at tempo pace.  No snakes, witty store clerks or gale force winds.  Just tempo pace for the whole ride.

Total miles: 241

The next installment will cover my final 2 days of spring training camp and some thoughts about equipment and riding in the southwest.

Two Wheel Transit - Cycling for Life