Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why the big ring is smoother

The big ring. Big and smooth. Uhm... yeah.
One of the guys I sometimes ride with mentioned the other day that he preferred riding in the big chainring as often as he could. Yes, part of it was vanity. But part of it was that he felt that the drivetrain felt smoother on the big ring than the small, even when the gearing was equivalent. He couldn't figure out why.

I'm not an engineer or a scientist, nor am I an artist (as you're about to see in the following diagrams), but I do have an explanation about why you feel smoother on the big ring. And no, it's not because you think you have impressive quads.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Countdown. Two weeks until the Telegraphe - Galibier - Alpe d'Huez

Two weeks left. Am I nervous? Yes. Am I excited? HELL YEAH!

My legs are tired but feeling pretty decent. A bit of a taper over the next two weeks and I think I'll be ready to tackle this whole Etape thing.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

To shave or not to shave?

Not a single hair here....
There is a debate raging amongst my friends about whether or not I should shave my legs for the Etape. A recent string of emails even included one of the girls who rode with us in Montauk. Needless to say, it's a little discomfiting to have other people discuss whether I should shave my legs or not.

I'm still torn about the whole idea though. Oddly enough, it's not that the idea of shaving is foreign to me... I used to do it when I swam competitively. But that was back in high school. There's a lot you can get away with when you're 16 and on a team with other id-driven swimmers.

Since this is apparently an issue that my friends want me to address, I've given it a little thought:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ride to Montauk 2011 - Ride Report

Start of the ride
The first time I ever rode a century was in the Ride to Montauk. At the time, riding 100 miles seemed incredibly daunting and I remember how nervous I was before that ride. 100 miles? Really? How hard is it going to be? And am I going to be able to walk afterwards? As it turned out, the Ride to Montauk is actually one of the best ways to experience a century ride for the first time.

I enjoy participating in this ride because it's a relatively easy century that lends itself more to a social atmosphere than a "grit your teeth and finish" ride. And because, for the price of $82, the ride organizers promise rest areas and an all-you-can-eat buffet with free beer at the end of the ride. This year, my adventure actually began the day before the ride when I went downtown to pick up my registration materials. While standing in line, a massive thunderstorm rolled through the city. True to form, I was caught standing in the line without an umbrella as sheets of torrential rain fell on me. That was awesome. But it was still worth it since I hate standing in lines on the mornings of rides.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Stuck at work

I'm currently stuck at work here. For a research "retreat"... it's actually quite nice. I'm surrounded by people smarter than me talking about things I don't understand. But I've gotten quite good at nodding my head in a way that doesn't completely shout out that I'm clueless.

Quick notes:
- Did the Ride to Montauk this past weekend (100 miles of the flattest terrain I've ever ridden). Ride report to come shortly.
- Because I have to be here for work, my riding time is limited. 25 miles today (Tuesday)... only mileage this week since Saturday's century ride.

I'll write more once I get back to the city tomorrow.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Humility... best served with a smile

River Road, just outside of NYC
A few days ago, I managed to get out of work early and decided to go for a threshold workout up 9W. (Around NYC, 9W is a great road to do an extended workout on because it is slightly uphill from the city and has essentially no traffic stops for 15 miles or so.) I was excited to get a good workout in... the weather was nice and I was feeling good. I figured my legs would be up for a good thrashing and I obliged. After 30 minutes at threshold, I was happy with my effort and turned around to come back home.

On the way back down 9W, an older cyclist (white hair, probably around 60 or so) pulls onto the road from a driveway riding a beautiful steel bike. I was already at speed at this point so I pass him and just keep going. I wasn't going that fast... maybe around 19mph or so. Soon after the pass, I hear his rear cog freewheeling behind me so I know he's caught my back wheel.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Ride for the Etape

Several readers have asked what I'll be riding for the Etape. Many, though not all, cyclists are gearheads and love talking about their bikes (or the bikes they lust after). I'm definitely a gearhead. I love reading about frames, components, and wheels and I appreciate bikes ranging from the old steel Bianchis with the classic Campagnolo components to the newest Specialized Venge equipped with Shimano Di2. It took a little thought to put together a bike that I thought would suit my riding style and the challenge that the Etape will present... but here it is. It's a great little machine and it won't be the bike's fault if I have problems getting up the Galibier next month.

Parlee Z5 frame (custom paint)
Shimano DuraAce 7900 group (compact crank, 12-27 cassette)
HED Ardennes wheels with Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX tires
Fizik Antares saddle
Look Keo 2 Max pedals
Thomson Masterpiece seatpost
FSA OS-99 stem (90mm)
FSA K-Force Compact handlebars (42cm)
Arundel Mandible bottle cages

And some additional pictures:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

One month left

Profile for the 2011 Etape Acte 1. Stage 19 of the 2011 Tour de France.
It is coming down to crunch time. In exactly one month, I will be tackling the Etape du Tour. July 11. It's almost surreal that after months of anticipation and planning, this trip is finally about to happen. I have to say, despite the anxiety I feel about whether I'll be able to complete the route, I'm definitely excited about the chance to go ride in the Alps. Having lived primarily in the NYC area for most of my life, I've never really been treated to climbing in the true mountains... so that's going to be exciting.

Here are some of the things I've taken care of in the past couple of weeks/months for this trip:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

It is HOT (Updated)

We are supposed to reach near-record temperatures today in Gotham. I am supposed to do a threshold workout today and was initially planning to go out to New Jersey to do the workout on 9W (mainly because Central Park is too crowded nowadays and today is going to be insane because the Black Eyed Peas and Taylor Swift are giving a free concert in the park). But now I'm hesitating about doing a threshold workout in this kind of heat wave. I already placed one of my water bottles in the freezer so that I'll be able to carry two bottles (one frozen) when I go for my workout. But maybe discretion is the better part of valor... and maybe I'd like to avoid heat stroke. I'll decide later in the day.

As a side note, I can't believe that there was a team (Meridiana-Kamen) out there willing to sign Riccardo Riccò. Luckily, the Italian cycling federation hasn't granted him clearance to race yet. But in my opinion, this guy shouldn't be allowed to race ever again. One thing that strikes me about Riccò and his attempts to explain his "situation" is that he is not a very bright boy. In fact, he seems to be one of those people who are so unintelligent that they have no concept of how much smarter the world is than they are. If I were a team manager, I would not risk my team's integrity to sign him.

One other thing for today... this blog now has a "mobile" version so if you're reading it on something like the iPhone, you should (automatically) be seeing a version that is formatted to make for easier reading in a small screen format.

Not only is it hot, apparently there is the mother of all thunderstorms approaching the NYC/NJ area (you know, the type that brings lightning, thunder, and hail), especially near where I was to do my workout (indicated in red). The radar images scare me... so I'm going to be lazy and watch today's stage of the Dauphine. I'll try to make up the workout tomorrow instead.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reaching that point...

One of the graphs in the Cyclist's Training Bible suggests that riders will begin to feel significant amounts of fatigue by the time they hit the second build phase of their training regimen. I think I'm starting to get to that point. It's not necessarily that I'm crawling around in a perpetual state of fatigue... more along the lines of walking up a flight of stairs and realizing that my legs do feel like they've been working more than they're used to.

The odd thing about this "fatigue" is that once I get on the bike and start riding a little bit, it won't really bother me much. In fact, doing my intervals this week, I'm continuing to improve (in terms of distance, pace, and heart rate) so that is encouraging. Hopefully the progression continues for the next month and I'll be able to lug my sad ass over those climbs next month.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Chain lubricants - A comparison review

I've yet to read the book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" but just from the title, I get the sense that I will appreciate the message the author tried to convey. When I settle down to work on my bike for a little bit each week, I find that time to be almost meditative. My mind can go blank and I can just work on my bike. (Then again, considering my last entry, maybe my mind going blank is just a frequent occurrence and has nothing to do with meditation at all.)

Having a clean and smooth-running drivetrain on a bike is a sign of someone who cares about his machine. It's no different from a musician taking care of his instrument or a chef taking care of his knives. It is an acknowledgement that "these are the tools of my trade and I take care of them". And one of the essential elements of bike maintenance is chain lubrication. Now the ideal chain lubricant would be easy to apply and would stay on for hundreds of miles in all types of weather. It would keep your drivetrain quiet, reduce the the wear on your chain while not picking up any dust or dirt. And it would be cheap.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mind on the Ride

During a recent conversation with my younger brother, he asked me what I thought about when I was on the bike... when I went on 3-4 hour training rides by myself. I hesitated. At which point he said "Really? It's that empty up there?"

What do I think about? I made a conscious effort during a recent ride to remember some of the thoughts that flashed through my head during the ride. Here's a sampling: