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!

Longest Ride Ever

Ride Route 5/19/11

This was my longest ride ever! I know, 30 miles isn’t that far. When I was riding back in Wisconsin I couldn’t ever seem to manage to ride longer then 27 miles. That’s just how it always ended up. Today I tried to go 40, but at 15 miles in my legs started to go. They still had strength, but I must have tweaked something in my right leg as it never quite felt right.

I took the Scott Pierson Trail along Highway 16. Not a pleasant ride. You are literally next to the Highway, it’s noisy, and there’s a fair amount of debris (glass, pebbles etc) on the path. It’s also super-underused so you have the whole trail to yourself. It can be a bit of a navigation to stay on it too. The signposts aren’t very clean. After I got over the bridge I joined the Cushman Trail (again after a bit of searching around.) I was just commenting to a couple of gents at the recent Build a Better Bike Tacoma Meet-up that I missed riding in the country. It was so easy in Madison. Ten minutes of riding and I’m in the fields. I haven’t really been able to experience that here. Cushman trail was the closest that I have found. Similar to the Scott Pierson Trail it follows HWY 16, but there is some distance between the roads. It had some really great climbing hills and the surface was really smooth.

Oh, and I almost forgot, this was one of my fastest rides too. I averaged 16.17 MPH over the 30 miles. I’ll be moving things over to kph soon, so I’ll just say that it was just over 26 kph.

Bike to a Better Tacoma Meet-up

Conversation around the map.

I found myself sat around the map. A natural gathering place I’m drawn to. Sitting in the Harmon Hub, to my right and opposite me are David and Ken, both local bike activists working with the city to create a bike-friendlier Tacoma. As we pour over the map we’re exchanging ideas, pointing to new routes, discussing issue areas. I learn a lot. I now know enough to brave venturing not just over the Narrows bridge but also beyond. They assure me that the roads over that way are going to be a lot more like the ones I miss from Madison.

The mention a few development points. A bike boulevard running north-south next to Yakima Ave, an extension to the Scott Pierson Trail that will connect to downtown (hopefully) & better bike access along Schuster Parkway (unlikely, but necessary). It’s fascinating seeing Tacoma from different eyes: new commute routes, shortcuts, and leisure rides. Apparently it’s “a lot better then it used to be,” but I find that that’s typically true of all of Tacoma.

Bike Valet Parking
Bike Valet Parking

I get a contact for a local morning group-ride. No luck with the Saturday AM Tacoma Bike ride, but one day I’ll just have to figure out my schedule and tag a long. A bit later we have a raffle and once again I’ll have to wait till next time to find my first win. Outside I pick up my bike from the Bike Valet Parking, provided for by REI and watched by the 2nd Cycle guys. Quite fancy.

Pereira Cycles
Spotted this custom-built Pereira touring frame on the way out. Very nice.

It wasn’t the public forum I was expecting, but the Meet-up was valuable all the same.