Purchase: Titanium Skewers

Titanium Skewers

The rear skewer was another victim of the Big crash of 2011. Time to look for an upgrade. I found this light pair on eBay for a very moderate amount of money. Titanium shaft, aluminium alloy levers. 45 grams per set. I weighed my old front skewer and alone it was at least 115 grams. Now if I can finally get that wheelset put together! They’re not the best-looking skewers and the colour doesn’t quite match, but weight-savings like that make it worthwhile!

Titanium Skewers Comparison

Campagnolo Chorus 8-Speed Hubs & new Titanium Skewers

Purchase: Speedplay X/2 clipless pedals

The big crash of 2011 put me back to square one on the Gios. I’ve had the Frame and dropouts straightened (at Defiance Bicycles), the RD rebuilt (at Tacoma Bike), and my good friend Joe, who happens to work at Performance Bikes, is ordering rims/spokes for the wheelset.

Making sure the Gios’s ready to ride I was going over the build in my mind and I had forgotten the pedals. The Ultegra cleats were toast ($20 at least) and one pedal was well scraped. Time to get new ones. I explored a couple of options, first looking at Crank Brothers Eggbeaters and then Speedplays. My old neighbour Tim rode both on different bikes. I decided on the Speedplays after reading about the need for SPD shoes on the Crank Brothers. Did some shopping around and found a guy selling a pair of used X/2 in Seattle. How convenient, family day-trip to Seattle the next day! The X/2 are the mid-level steel spindle pedals and lighter then the Cromoly model.

Speedplay X cleats on Sidi Genius 5
The instructions that came with the (new) cleats were fairly straightforward, with waaayy too much to read. I had to skim to find the important parts and then follow those instructions. I quickly found the right shims and screws for my Sidi Genius 5 shoes and they were installed in a jiffy. There was no confusion on installing the pedals on the test Battaglin; they were well labeled. Once I was sure that the old cranks didn’t strip the threads on the old Dura Ace pedals they were on and I was outside testing them.

Speedplay X/2 installed on Battaglin
Clipping in for the first time on any clipless pedal is always strange. It took one try to feel comfortable.  Clipping in is easier since there is no need to find the front of the pedal, you position and push down. Riding, my right foot felt comfortable, but my left heel was all over the place, shifting side by side as I was riding. They call this float and I was NOT used to it. My previous Ultegra, and before that Look, pedals had very little float and I liked it. I didn’t like this so I jumped on Speedplay’s support pages and looked for adjustment instructions. Oh…

The X Series Pedal System is for you if you are a:

– Rider who prefers a maximum float range

Bugger! But it says it can take up to 2 weeks to get adjusted. I commuted to work in them today and it felt good to get out of the clips and into some real pedals again! The float was there all the way to work, but on the way home I started to adjust and it felt normal. It can be hard to tell when you’ve properly unclipped. There’s no feedback from the pedal or cleat so I’ve found that I’m overcompensating in my heel-twist. It is easy to unclick so it’s not been a concern.

Recommendation? Hard to say yet. The pedal is about 50g lighter than the Dura Ace Clip and 100g lighter then the Ultegra pedal so there is a small weight gain. Easier to clip in then the traditional Look style. Pedalling feels the same apart from the float. Clipping out will take time. The cleats are metal now so I’m a little less sure-footed when walking through the mall. I’m happy with my purchase though and look forward to getting more time riding.

Tacoma Twilight Criterium – My First Race

Tacoma Twilight Criterium

About a month ago an ex-neighbour and good friend challenged me to race in the (then) upcoming Criterium. The Tacoma Twilight is a lap race around 6 city blocks in downtown Tacoma. I thought “why not,” so I started training, figuring it out along the way. This Saturday I raced in the Category 4/5 Mens race and it was my first ever race. I thought I was going to die. I didn’t, but I quickly saw some big areas of weakness in my riding and HUGE holes in my training and preparations.

Me in the Tacoma Twilight Criterium

Fitness wise, I could have finished the race. I wasn’t out of breath and I wasn’t huffing and puffing. My big weakness was just strength. After 10 minutes I didn’t feel like my legs had much left to give. I couldn’t keep up speed and I was continually losing ground. I managed to pair up with another straggler name Markus and we worked together for about a lap, but neither of us had much left and I could no longer see the peloton down the end of each stretch. We were pulled off right after that. I lasted 14 minutes of a 30 minute race.

Me at the Tacoma Twilight Criterium

I had warmed up by riding along the waterfront for about 20 minutes or so. Starting waaaay too early, I was “warmed up” and still had an hour to kill. I should have brought my (noisy) trainer down with me and warmed up all the way to the beginning of the race, but it wasn’t until I was track-side that I noticed others doing the same.

Standing among the other starters I felt very small. Here are all these obviously serious racers on their Carbon rides and team uniforms and I’m there standing over my 20 year old steel bike with a shirt from a mountain-bike race in 1992, my $30 shorts, and my $2 garage-sale helmet. I just tried to ignore all that and just bloody race. Suddenly we were racing and I couldn’t get my damned cleat in the peddle (I’ll need to practice that). Initially I was thinking “I can handle this, this speed isn’t too bad” but other racers kept on pulling away from me. I don’t think I was tracking with the pace and before I knew it I was no longer in the main group and riding in the tail. I would gain in the corners, but lose out on the straights.

I was disappointed to be pulled out. I wouldn’t have minded a last-place finish, I just wanted to finish the blasted race. Training-wise I realised I need push myself much harder and work on leg-strengthening exercises. Afterwards it wasn’t my legs that were sore (they didn’t have time to get sore), it was my neck and back from pushing myself to keep up.

In 3 week’s time there’s a 34 mile race in Eatonville, WA. I’m going to try that and see how I fair. For training, I’m just going to try to get on the bike more often and push myself harder. Today I spent over 2 hours on the bike and it felt great!

Defiance Bicycles – Yes!

Defiance Bicycles. Pic from defiance bicycles

Since moving to Tacoma last year I’ve been visiting around the Local Bike Shops. Started with Spoke & Sprocket in University Place (which has now shut down), then visited my friend Joe at Performance Bikes, but they’re not so much Campagnolo focused. The crew at Tacoma Bike were amazing, always super helpful (between making fun of my vintage bikes) and even tuned up my Gios for free. Recently a bike shop opened up near my house, Defiance Bicycles. Chris (don’t have a last name) moved down from working at shops in Seattle to open his own store and so far things have been going quite well. I almost always see another customer there when I visit and Christ has been super helpful.

With my recent handlebar issues, Chris was willing to let me (borrow) a couple of extra stems to find the one that fits properly. I have the extra one in my bag right now. I didn’t have to make any deposit (of course he has my Battaglin right now).

I highly recommend giving him a visit with your next bike service. He’s a pro. Visit them at defiancebicycles.com

Changes afoot

The Gios

To have spent over $700 on the Gios I sure have spent about the same amount on upgrades and improvements. At first the handlebars were waaaay too narrow and I managed a sweet like-for-like trade over at bikeforums.net. It took about 2 months to finally realise that they were (and have been for a while) bent on one side. Oh well, luckily I have these sweet Modolo Ergo bars that I found on ebay for a project that never materialised. A few days ago I discovered that these were loose and done-for. I’m not sure why they’re designed this way.

Modolo Bars, Cinelli Stem

It’s funny how your tastes and preferences evolve. I though I wanted a pure vintage bike with classic Campagnolo stuff. I didn’t know what era. I then discovered that the early nineties stuff was what I liked – I needed ergo shifters (again Campagnolo was a necessity!) As I’ve been preparing for this Criterium and watching the Tour my tastes have been evolving again and focusing now on modernising and lightening the bike. When considering options for replacing the handlebars I decided to get the lighter more modern option (and broke a personal rule and preference for quill stems) of threadless adapter, threadless stem and handlebars. Chris over at Defiance Bicycles helped me find the Velo Orange adapter, a Zeus 10cm stem and Torelli Bormio Handlebars.

Gios Steerer

I think it looks good. I had an opportunity to take it out for a short ride with the boy and it felt good. The handlebar setup brings the Hoods back a bit, so it will take a little to accustom to the new setup. It feels lighter, but I have little evidence to substantiate that. We’ll see how it feels on a longer ride.

Le Tour Begins

Thor Hushovd - Wearing the yellow jersey

The Tour is here and it’s big. This will be the second Grand Tour I’m following after the Giro last month. I came away from the watching the Giro absolutely loving every second. But the Tour is something else. It’s big, really big. The Giro was Contador’s show. He totally owned it and only Nibali and Scarponi were anywhere near challenging him. It seemed so small compared to the Tour and pales in comparison. Today, there are over a dozen proper GC contenders and it’s impressive to see all these stars battling it out.

I’m excited waking up to watch it at 6:30ish every morning and when I wake up too early I’m disappointed that it’s not yet time! I’m watching it at Tourdefrance.nbcsports.com. It’s in HD, looks fantastic and cost $30. Not bad when it ends up being $10/week!

The Giro – the Conclusion.

Contador, Scarponi & Nibali celebrating.

This year’s Giro was the first Grand Tour I’ve watched from start to finish. Early on this year I decided to give my summer to the Tour: I would do everything I could to watch it. When I was reminded by Eroica Cicli that the Giro d’Italia was coming up I immediately jumped at the chance to get my first proper taste of Grand Tour riding.

The Tour de France carries an impressive weight in the cycling world. It is THE event of the year, and everyone is, in varying degrees, familiar with the TourBut the Giro is something else, a little more mysterious and much less known. When explaining to friends and colleagues that I was watching the Giro I’d explain: “It’s like the Tour de France, but for Italy.”

What was it like watching my first Grand Tour? I was first struck by how little rest these riders get. I was expecting five to six days of riding followed by a rest day. In reality, they rode for nine days straight! And each stage isn’t a two to four hour ride, some were as long as eight hours! At the end of the Giro Contador concluded: “Hombre, it was tough. This was the hardest work and the hugest effort of my career.” And this is from the guy that breezed by other riders on more then a few occasions! It’s a tough race!

It’s easy to be disappointed when your favourite rider (in my case I decided to back Nibali – not the most exciting rider, but he had the amazing skill of just grinding up those hills in spite of breakaways and attacks) can’t quite get away from the chasing group and get on the attack. It took a while for me to realise that pushing yourself for upwards of four hours and then having anything left is a challenge in of itself. To remember that these riders had been doing it for three weeks brings a whole new perspective.

I was also surprised at how much tactics played a part. Well, maybe not surprised about how much tactics were key, but more the different ways riders used tactics. It had never occurred to me that if you pushed yourself hard one day, you might no longer have the strength to properly compete the next day. Or that riders would intentionally hold themselves back in the closing kilometres of a stage in order to try to provoke another rider to attacking early, so that they might draft behind the leader and ultimately pass them closer to the finish line. I wasn’t terribly impressed at the small ways riders try to gain an advantage. This was most clearly noticeable when riders were receiving drink-bottles from the team cars. Staff would hold out the bottle and pull the rider for a second or so as he was grabbing the drink, providing just a moment of repose. I just thought it was a shame.

It was certainly an adventure! I loved getting up early, watching these guys slog it out, experience the excitement of frantic finish morning after morning and then having the whole rest of the day to get on with the rest of life. I hope I get to watch the Tour this summer. Maybe, just maybe, like Contador I’ll get two Grand Tours under my belt this summer!