30 December, 2007

Garmin GPS, fi'zi:k Saddle

Christmas was very good to me, and I found a Garmin Edge 305 GPS/HRM/cyclocomputer under the tree. Really, it wasn't much of a surprise since it would be impossible for anyone to know what I wanted. Still, it was very nice of my parents to get it for me, and it will be a great training tool and fun gadget. I've yet to set up the cadence/wheel speed stuff, but the HRM is working great. I've done as much as acquire satellites for the GPS and walk around, but the GPS will be a lot of fun for mapping courses and plotting elevation profiles with my heartrate, speed, etc.

Also for Christmas I received a gift certificate for my LBS which I promptly spent on a much needed new saddle. I picked up a fi'zi:k Arione Wing Flex which I've been contemplating for awhile. So far it's very comfortable, and I think it will really be great when broken in.

This blog may seem very equipment oriented lately, and there's more of that to come with the SS conversion planned for the Trek and other things for next season. That is fitting as I'm a bit of a gear head, so you'll all have to put up with it until race season gets going next year and I have some reports. I'll try to post some ride reports and training logs through the winter to mix things up.

20 December, 2007

Some product reviews

The 8000 is wearing some new gear, some of which is new to me and worth reviewing after having given it a proper ride. After reading what I wrote below, this is more of a report than a review, but hopefully it gives an accurate idea of what I think of the products.

The new equipment is as follows:

First, the Conti tires: I got a 2.4 front, 2.2 rear in wire bead, which isn't even mentioned on the site. I went for the cheapest ones at the online shop I ordered from, thinking I was getting the 580/670g (for 2.2/2.4 size) folding bead model. I'm not particularly disappointed though since these are my "winter" tires for a bike which I will not likely be racing on next season anyway.

They measure up considerably undersized, even on my wide (Mavic 321) rims, but I was expecting this having read some reviews online before purchasing. The 2.4 at probably closer to 2.3" is plenty in the front, and considering I was running 2.0 f/r before. With a couple rides in snow, I'd say that as far as I can tell these are great tires. They hooked up consistently and cornered well, though I haven't been able to really ride them hard. The sidewalls feel good and the tires were stable at moderate-low pressures (for me anyway: around 30 psi). They were not holding any snow at all, so I feel they should also shed mud well which will be nice when the snow starts to melt. This is consistent with what I've read in reviews of the tires from folks in climates that have mud and not snow right now. The good news is that they roll considerably faster than I thought, considering how knobby they are. They're quick enough that I may get a pair of the lighter folding bead models for the race bike in the spring, switch to a faster tire for the dryer mid/late summer months, and go back to the Mountain King for the end of season mud in the Fall.

Next, the Ripcord housing and cables: The colour may be obnoxious, but the performance is wonderful. This kevlar reinforced compressionless housing comes as a kit with enough housing and cable for one bike as well as multiple termination choices. Jagwire currently makes this housing in "Black Carbon", "Maxxis Orange" and "Hot Pink", though I've also seen it in "DirtRag Brown" and "Merida Green" around the internet (Jagwire makes other models of housing in a greater variety of colours). The black colour was surprisingly elusive, with the team Maxxis Orange and pink colours being easiest to find. I got a good deal on a package of the Brake and Derailleur kit in orange, so I went with that. The derailleur kit did not go on the Trek because it will soon be converted to a singlespeed, so I'll save those cables and housing for my next geared bike.

The housing comes in a single length with special POP ferrules on each end. I have no idea what that means, but it is supposed to aid with compressionless performance. I ran full housing to both brakes, so I simply cut the housing once, distributing extra length between both runs which explains the excess cable up front. When I decide what bar setup I'll be running I'll cut them to length. Installation was easy - cut the housing, file the end square and smooth, place the lever end ferrule on and I was done. The kit includes materials to run semi-interrupted housing along the top tube if you wish. To do this you use the nosed ferrules and cable cover which are supplied to produce a setup that while not full length is almost completely sealed, keeping out dust that usually enters the two ferrule locations at the top tube. The kit came with enough length for a full run, and I have hydro hose guides so I decided to try running full length. The derailleur kit does not have enough length to run full housing to both locations, so I may purchase another kit when I install that on a geared bike, or I may take advantage of the semi-interrupted system described above with the nosed ferrules and cover over the exposed cable run along the top tube.

With the new cables in place the brakes feel great - I can definitely tell the difference in the full length run vs. interrupted housing as I've used in the past. The feel is much smoother (more like the front always was) and I'm sure it will also benefit from less dirt contamination over time. The benefit of the compressionless housing is supposedly large, but coming from old worn out and dirty housing and cables it's hard to say accurately if this is true or not. The feel and power however is good enough that I'll buy this kit again as I can't imagine a mechanical brake feeling any better. The cost is higher than bulk housing and generic cables, but compared to other expendable parts (chains, cassettes, etc) this will be cheap given how infrequently the housing will need replacing using a mostly sealed system. I'll probably replace the cable itself a few times before I go with the whole kit however. With the use of Avid's speed dial feature, I get lots of variation in the amount of modulation, so much that I might stick with another set of Avid BB brakes on my next bike.

I have little to say about the Speed Dial SL levers: they're Avid levers, so they work great. The same can be said for the Clean Sweep rotors. I've always used the speed dial levers, and I like the adjustment in mechanical advantage it allows, making the otherwise "grabby" mechanical discs quite nice for modulation. The SL models are as far as I know the lightest speed dial levers Avid has made at 76g per lever (152g pair) - even lighter than the SD Ultimate. I got a good deal on them, so I figured I'd replace the SD3 levers that were getting sloppy in the pivot (but were otherwise going strong, after many crashes - taking advantage of Avids bend zone in the lever blades to bend them back). I'll continue to use Avid levers whenever I am using mechanical brakes on a mountain bike, probably as long as I can. The Clean Sweep rotors are much better than the Roundagon rotors that are currently supplied with BB5 and BB7 brakes. They are stock on the Juicy brakes, and are supposed to dissipate heat better which I'm sure they do, but I also feel they modulate better than Roundagon rotors when used with the same brakes. I also think they look better, which wouldn't change my decision of what to use, but is a very nice thing.

Finally, the brake Pads: I purchased these from eBay user bikefridge who appears to be a representative of DiscoBrakes.com Delivery was prompt, and I can't complain about the price as even after shipping these were well under half of what Avid charges for replacement pads, and are a higher-end compound than the stock Avid pads also. I chose the Ceramic Black Compound, which appears basically to be like the Organic compound that Avid charges more for than even their stock pads. These were twice as much as the semi-metallic pads offered by the seller, but still very inexpensive.

Overall, this stuff all gets a positive review and I'd buy it again. The tires which I expected to be a good mud/off season tire are fast enough that I'm considering them for early/late season racing. The Ripcord housing has impressed me enough that I'm now considering another set of Avid mechanicals instead of hydros for my next bike. The Speed Dial levers have been a favourite of mine, and the new SLs are lighter than the lower end models I was using. The rotors and pads bring a fresh feeling to my 3.5 year old brakes, along with the cables and housing, but are nothing new themselves.

02 December, 2007

Training begins... sort of

Tonight I finally did a fairly structured workout on the trainer trying out some of the strategies I've been reading about. I won't say I've started my base hours for the '08 season since I'm not planning on counting until final exams are out of the way and I no longer have to worry about school for a few months. That said, this is a step toward that from the casual mtb rides and unstructured spins on the trainer I've been doing during my off-season transition.

Tonight I was trying to do some Sweet Spot Training (see: link1, link2), but without a formal way of monitoring heart rate it was fairly approximate. The HRM/cadence abilities I'll have come the new year will help a lot with fine tuning this training, but for now this should be effective. I've come up with a 1h workout to fit into study breaks during finals:

  • 5m warm up
  • 15m high cadence, low power spin (L2) - focus on form, breathing
  • 10m long interval, about L3
  • 5m spin for recovery, L1
  • 15m high cadence spin, L2
  • 5m long interval, high L3
  • 5m wind down
  • stretch on and off bike
That may seem hard for this "early" in the base period, but given the short duration and my intention to maintain fitness until I begin a structured base period it is more appropriate. It felt good, which for now is a good indication as some days on the trainer can certainly feel less than productive.

01 December, 2007

2008 Race schedule - early thoughts

Yes, it seems early, but we are forced to start now thinking about what our race calendars for the coming year are going to look like. Popular/limited events like the Lifestyles 24h or Crank the Shield are selling out quickly. For the rest where registration is not the concern, they must be chosen to formulate a training plan and to decide which to try to peak for. Budget is also a concern and for me probably the limiting factor. This year I'm making the enduro events my priority and doing XC races (O-Cup and U-Cup) more for fun than anything.

So far on my list of definite events:

With these as strong possibilities:
  • Dukes Epic 8h (tag team) - 24 May - contingent on a teammate and depending on other events
  • 6 Hours of Power (solo) - 27 July - assuming my legs feel ready for the 1200ft of climbing per lap and I can convince people to join me (or at least come to feed me)
  • Paul's Dirty Enduro (60/100km) - Sept?

If I do any O-Cups (see preliminary schedule here), they will be low priority for training; mostly I just want to ride the racecourses in Ontario, and find I enjoy racing even on those rough days when I feel like finishing is enough of a challenge. That said, if I can budget the time and money, I'd love to do all of them as they're set on some great courses that I enjoy, and others that I haven't had the chance to ride but have wanted to (particularly Buckwallow).

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