Monday, October 6, 2014

Time for a Change - Project Wrap-up

Exactly 1 year ago I started a project to see what configuring and riding one bike for 99.9% of my outdoor riding would produce and whether it was even practical in Time for a Change.  I also did some self-examination with respect to why and how I ride this year.

Some of what I decided was that this year would be about exploring, bringing people together and having fun on a bike rather than a specific mileage goal.  I was undecided about whether this would be be a good thing for me, but was willing to see where it led in order to rekindle the joy of riding.

I did not initially intend to go here when I chose the Moots CX to be THE bike for the year - rather it evolved over the first 1,000 miles of riding as I experienced the versatility and fun factor of a cyclocross bike.  I believed if I set another mileage goal then I would be tempted to go ride a certain number of miles each day rather than explore and seek variety of road, trails and dirt/gravel roads. 
Some questions and answers I had for this approach were:
  • Would I gain weight by no longer forcing myself to ride certain distances to stay on goal pace? - Perhaps, but I can't really attribute it to the manner of riding since it was only about 4 pounds.
  • Would I get dropped on some group rides because I am no longer riding a 16 pound carbon bike and maintaining a high aerobic threshold? - No, I remained a mid-pack rider where I am usually at the back of the fastest of the group with whom I am riding. 
  • Would I (should I) force myself to get on the trainer when I can't ride outside if I am not trying to stay on goal pace? Yes, but no more or less than I normally do.
  • Would I maintain the same fitness level as in years past and is it important? - No, it is not important and my subjective assessment of fitness is that it was on par with most years, but not beyond that.
  • Would I start touring? - not likely for now - Remains "No"
I did realize some of the less tangible aspects of riding this year since I found myself bringing the bike with me more on trips since I was confident that I could find suitable riding surfaces more consistently.  We traveled to Seattle, Phoenix, and the San Juan Islands. I have explored just over 5,000 miles of gravel county roads, single track, abandoned railway, chip seal and asphalt. 

 So what have I learned about the bike set-up:

1. Gearing - I have the drive train set-up in slightly modified road configuration with a 50/34 up front and an 11-28 10 speed in the rear.   This set-up is a little wide for my preferences on the road while not quite giving me the low-end I need to spin on really steep unpaved stuff.  I end-up really mashing in these conditions since I cannot stand-up with the Sector 28 tires on slow, steep dirt.

If doing this again, I would have two rear wheels and an XTR rear derailleur so I could run close ratio for the road and wide for the unpaved stuff - I am just not strong enough to spin the steep dirt climbs.

2. Tire clearance - I think to be a true All-Road bike the tire clearance should be available for something up to 38-40c to provide more options for dirt, gravel an snow.  I was able to run 35 studded snow tires this winter but it was a tight fit in the rear.  Also, tires in the upper range give that much more volume and traction making it possible to ride some rougher terrain and single-track if desired.

Speaking of tires I have to rave about the Hutchinson Sector 28 tubeless road tires.  I currently have over 4,000 miles on a front and 3,000 on  rear - these things roll well and I have not had a single flat that was not my fault.

3. Through Axles - I have not had any issues with the standard quick release system front and rear, but it is clear that through axles are here to stay and offer more strength, stiffness and security so why not?  The other feature that a through axle design provides is that the disc rotor is perfectly aligned when the axle lever is tightened rather than moving ever-so-slightly on a regular skewer set up.

In the grand scheme of things I think these are pretty trivial sniveling but considerations if you are going to try and just have one bike for everything beyond technical single-track.

So can you live with just one bike, yes with the exceptions of very technical single track and deep snow.  I am sure there are people who can ride a CX bike on technical single track but I am not one of them.

I found the Moots to have a refined feel and playfulness on everything we rode together while being a very fast and comfortable bike for a grand fondo or century.

It is hard to believe that it has been a year since I started this project and it has been incredibly rewarding the throughout.  I am pretty sure that there will always be a CX bike in my stable even if it means not having a dedicated road bike - they are that fun and versatile.  

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