I decided to dust off the ol' fixie the other day. Once upon a time, I was pretty quick on the fixie, but since then, I've lost some of my insane sprinting power and have become a more mellow climber/TT type. The fixie lends itself to hard and fast work, with its agressive geometry and light weight.

The fixie, #9 in my bicycle numbering scheme, is a Fuji Track Pro.

There is not much to do on a fixie, but it seems like I had to do all of it. I trued the front and rear wheels; the rear wheel had a hop, and the front wheel was out of dish. (Machine built wheels suck.) I adjusted the chain tension, straightened the handlebars, and re-adjusted the brake. (Yes, it has a brake.)

I took the fixie out today, and got an unpleasant reminder of just how difficult it is to turn a 49-15 (a big gear) on 170mm (shorter than usual) cranks. This used to be no problem. Now, I just feel weak. The cardio is fantastic, but the power isn't there!

Just watch out, soon, I'll be a sprinting machine again, as well as a time trialist. Cat++.


Race Report: Prospect Park

By the numbers:
Temperature 29F, winds north 15 MPH
Place: about 60/80. Back of the pack.
Distance: 35.54. Time: 1h37m13s.
Speed: 21.93 avg, 35.63 max
HR: 155 avg, 182 max
Cadence: 84 avg
Power: 237 avg, 1103 max
Calories: 1380

Overall: Keeping pace with the pack is easy. No punch for the field sprint.

I entered this race not really knowing what the outcome would be. I train at Prospect Park regularly, and know the course exceptionally well. I've even memorized the location of all the potholes. Dave Miller stayed over, and we left for the park at 6am.

Most of the race was disappointingly routine. The pack held a pretty easy pace. Lots of people were blocking, and everyone knew it and went around the blockers. Every break got caught, including the one I attempted in Lap 8. (Where were you, Dave? Oh, right - OTB.) I had no trouble staying the pack, as the pace is substantially easier than my training rides.

It came down to a field sprint. I had an okay position, but just didn't have the punch to keep up with the pack as it accelerated hard with 1000m to go. I finished behind the pack, not last, but not proudly.

I want to be out of this Cat 4 purgatory. I'm strong enough to hold on to a Cat 1/2/3 pack. I'm not strong enough to time trial off the front of the Cat 4 pack and hold them off, and as it stands, I've become a climber and lost my sprinting power. Five years ago, I would have averaged 175 BPM for this entire race, not 155. I need practice, experience, mentoring, and motivation, all of which are in short supply.

Next race in three weeks. More of the same. Yippee.


Donor Letters, Part I

I spent most of today putting together letters to old donors. Quite a number of people donated to my Bike & Build cause in 2006, and I'm hoping that they will do the same this year.

The letters will all be in the mail by the end of the week. In lieu of spending an absurd amount of time going to and waiting at a Post Office, I decided to simply mail order some stamps. I hope they arrive soon.

I feel awkward asking the same exact people for money again, and fully respect those who don't decide to donate a second time. Many of the people I'm asking for money don't know me that well, or haven't seen me in years. However, I think that this is a good cause.

If worse comes to worse, I can cut myself a check. I hope it doesn't come to that.


Coach Soltren

When I renewed my USCF license this year, I decided to pay the extra $30 for the coaching exam and booklet. I'm working my way through the book, and hope to complete the criminal background check and the exam within the next couple of weeks.

I find it vaguely amusing that the only thing between being a racer and a coach is a 250 page book. I think having the coaching certification will be useful in making me a better racer and a better Bike & Build leader. I may even take clients one day, though I need to start doing better myself and establish a good record before I do that.

After I take this test, I'll be a Level 3 coach. Going on to Level 2 and Level 1 involves more years, and training camps. I'd also like to eventually be an official and a mechanic. It's not hard.


The Express

After many, many revisions to the plan, I'm about lined up to finally buy a time trial and triathlon bike! This will be my first new bicycle since December of 2006, when I replaced #3 with #9, a Fuji Track Pro.

After several attempts, it looks like I'm just not going to be able to get a Specialized Transition this year. That's a crying shame, since it's a damn fine looking bike that has every single feature I want.

The good news is that I've finally made up my mind! I'll likely be going with the Fuji Aloha CF2. It doesn't feature some of the spiffy features of the Transition, such as super-short chain stays, a frame that hugs the rear wheel, internalized cable routing, or horizontal dropouts. However, it offers way more value for the price, and still offers a carbon frame, solid ride quality, and plenty of adjustability of position. Besides, I like the black and blue paint scheme. I'm sure the Fuji is a wonderful bicycle that I'll be proud to own. http://fujibikes.com/2008/bikes.asp?id=415.

I'll immediately upgrade the bicycle with Flash Point FP60 aero wheels. These wheels offer many of the advantages of, say, the Zipp 404s, at a fraction of the cost. I decided against tubulars and all-carbon rims because the very slight performance gain is not worth the signifcant hassle of getting a flat tire, or worse yet, cracking a rim on awful city streets. http://www.flash-pointracing.com/fp60. I'll also trick out the bicycle with a set of 42-55 chainrings I purchased off of a gentleman I found through Craigslist. Only $30! What a bargain!

The Aloha CF2 will receive the venerable #7 designation, which I've been saving for a really fast bicycle. I'm pretty excited about this little project. I just hope that it doesn't fall through, and that I have enough time and warm weather to really put this thing through its paces!

(By the way: I'm now up to date with blog posts. Please make sure to check the backlog, as there are many useful and interesting articles there! What good is an article if nobody reads it! I value your comments, really, I do, they make my day.)


Flying on Instruments: How To

In this article, I'll discuss my method for using a Garmin Edge 705 fitness GPS to guide me on route. The procedure is identical for an Edge 605. A very similar procedure will also work with the Edge 205 and the Edge 305, albeit without the cool mapping feature. This is neat because, apart from updating the firmware, you do NOT need Internet access for any of these steps (after the first couple of times).

  • A PC running Microsoft Windows XP (sorry!).
  • Garmin Edge 705. https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=160&pID=10885
  • Additional maps. I suggest City Navigator NT. You can also use MetroGuide: http://www8.garmin.com/cartography/mapSource/MetroGuideNT.jsp. Unlock the maps with MetroGold: http://www.geodude.nl/community/content/view/20/28/.
  • DeLorme Topo USA 7.0. http://shop.delorme.com/OA_HTML/DELibeCCtdItemDetail.jsp?item=27525&section=10050&minisite=10020
  • GPSBabel. http://www.gpsbabel.org/download.html
  • gpx2crs. http://www.niniu.com/Garmin/Gpx2Crs.zip.
  1. Using the Garmin MapSource application, transfer maps and routing data to your GPS device.
  2. Create your route in Topo USA. Go over it a few times to make sure it makes sense. When you're done, right click the route, and select Manage Route > Save as GPS Log File... . Save the GPL file somewhere convenient.
  3. Launch GPSBabel. Click the "Tracks" button to convert tracks. Then, click Filter, and under Routes, enable Simplify and limit the route to 499 points. Convert the GPL file you just created to a GPX file using the program.
  4. Launch gpx2crs. Convert the GPX file you just generated to a CRS file. If you'd like, enable the option for automatically adding turns when the path curves more than 60 degrees. This may or may not be helpful.
  5. Launch Training Center, select File > Import > Courses, and select the CRS file.
  6. Make sure your Edge 705 is connected to your PC. This is a good time to update the firmware on the device, just in case!
  7. In Training Center, click the "send to GPS" button to send the CRS file to your device.
  8. Your route is now on the device! To navigate it, turn on the device, then press the Menu key, go down two to Training, press Enter (press the little stick), scroll down to Courses, press Enter, select your course, and select Do Course.
If you've done everything properly, your course will appear over a street map, and you'll never be lost!



Preparedness Training

This article is primarily targeted at this year's Bike & Build participants. If you're not riding, have you considered donating? I need to raise $4,000 before the end of May. http://www.bikeandbuild.org/

It is now officially warm enough to be riding outside! Isn't it awesome! Of course, this means that it's high time for another year of Bike & Build riders to start learning how to use their bicycles.

Do you have clipless pedals? If not, get them now, using our excellent sponsorship deals. If so, it's high time to start using them. Having your feet locked into your bicycle gives you the very real advantage of being able to apply more power to the pedals, and the marked disadvantage of needing to know how to escape. (Twist your ankles *away* from the frame.)

If you've never owned a road bike before, this will likely be a very new experience. A road bike has very different handling than any other bike. It's lighter, faster, more responsive, and somewhat twitchy. Make sure to get plenty of time out there so that you know how everything works.

Here's your goal: ride every single day. It can be for as little as 10 minutes a day, just stick to that plan. Every little bit helps, and if you're new to this, you'll be amazed at how quickly your skills sharpen.


Welcome Aboard

"Welcome to the Intercity system.

"This is Intercity One, Run Seven, en route to Boston, Massachussetts. Scheduled travel time to Boston is approximately eighteen hours.

"We will be stopping at New Rochelle, New Haven, Middletown, Willimantic, Wilbur, Wellesley, and Boston.

"Our route will follow First Avenue and Beacon Street, as well as routes US-1, 17, 66, US-6, 198, 197, 12, and 16. Please contact trip staff for more detailed directions.

"Please remember to use lighting between dusk and dawn. In consideration of your fellow riders, please set your lights to steady until 30 minutes after sunrise.

"It is now 4:15am. Welcome aboard, and have a safe and pleasant journey."

You will hear this message in person at the right time on Memorial Day Weekend if you are on the trip. The prerequisites are a 140 mile ride sometime between April 15, 2008 and May 15, 2008, as well as clearance from me. You know who you are.


Day Off

Today is my day off. That means I get to eat a reasonable amount of calories, and lay about doing nothing but watching movies.

Recovery is an important part of any training regimen, and a great asset to any elite level athlete. Too many athletes push themselves to the point of chronic exhaustion and dehydration.

Your resting heart rate in the morning is a great indicator of when you need recovery. Record it every morning. If it's abnormally high, it may be best to stay in bed.

If you leap 2 meters out of bed every morning and zip out of the house on your bicycle, you don't need recovery. If workouts are becoming non-fun drudgery, it may be time to take a day off.

One of the things we tried to do in planning the Boston to Santa Barbara route was to provide more intelligently spaced recovery days. Usually, you need about a day off per week, and a couple of weeks off once a year.

There is a difference, of course, between recovery and laziness. Heh heh.



My first car was a bicycle. So was my second, third, and so on. I only got a driver's license to drive the Bike & Build van back in 2006. As a result, I've had relatively little experience driving, and even less experience driving a manual transmission.

I got to drive Dave's 1984 Porsche 944 on the driveway for about 4 hours on our 12 hour trek from Asheville, NC to Brooklyn, NY today. It's a fun little car. Compared to things like 12 and 15 passenger vans with trailers, and U-Haul trucks, the little thing handles like a go-kart. It's quick. It would be even faster if I knew how to properly operate the manual transmission.

I drove a stick once before, when I was about 16. Charlie, my former "Big Brother" (a story for a later time) let me take out the Toyota and play with the manual transmission. I had the classic difficulty of getting the thing to start on an incline.

Driving the Porsche was classic trial by fire. I stalled out leaving the gas station, but managed to get on the highway safely. I got us into the gas station a few hours later, and stalled out 4 feet short of the pump. Hooray for me.

How is this like a bicycle? There is a good analogy here for shifting. When you change chainrings, your legs are the clutch. It's best to ease up on the power while changing rings, just for a split second, so that you don't throw your chain off the cranks. The analogy works better the more that I think about it.


Gear, Revisited

After a couple of rider questions, I'm wondering how thoroughly people on my Bike & Build trip are worrying about gear. Though we can sit here and debate the best things to get for years on end, the fact of the matter is, you can't ride unless you have a few very important items, besides your bike. Here's a Top 10 list.

  1. Three pairs of comfortable cycling shorts.
  2. Bicycling shoes and socks.
  3. Bicycling gloves.
  4. A 70-75 liter (4500 cu in) bag to hold all of your crap.
  5. Protection: helmet, sunscreen, glasses, gloves.
  6. Cold and weather riding gear: arm warmers, gloves, cycling cap, long base layer, rain jacket.
  7. Toiletries, since clean is happy.
  8. Water bottles, hydration pack.
  9. Tools to fix your bike on the road: patches, tire levers, hex keys, portable pump.
  10. Things to sleep on: sleeping bag, sleeping pad (provided).

It looks like a lot, but it's not that bad! The minimalist in me says that this is about enough to get you on the road. Just go for the best price, whether you ask a local shop for a discount, or go with an official sponsor deal.


Power to Mass, that Grand Equalizer

One of my favorite aspects of bicycling is that it is relatively agnostic to a rider's absolute size. For many of the major skills, such as sprinting or climbing, what matters most is not necessarily a cyclist's peak power, but the cyclist's efficiency.

My favorite quantifiable unit here is power (in watts) to mass (in kilograms). When discussing climbing performance, this is the most important number, and one that you can measure directly with your favorite power meter. There are two obvious ways to increase performance here: gaining strength and losing weight.

What other sport can have both a 5'0", 100lb and a 6'8", 250lb individual competing for the same prize in the same event? It's amazing, if you ask me.

The equation is somewhat different on a flat time trial course. Here, since you only need to accelerate once (or twice if there is a turnaround), what matters most is your power to drag ratio. The "densest" cyclist, the most powerful cyclist with the least frontal and total area, will have the advantage here.

Today's ride was a nice example of this principle in practice. Since I lost 45 lbs, I've become a semi-decent climber. I really enjoy being able to climb so much faster than before.


We Apologize for the Unavoidable Delay, and Rollers

I've received comments on the lack of continuity in my posts. Due to extremely limited time and computer and Internet access over the past week, it will be a couple of days before I've uploaded all of my past posts. Please note that the posted date and time reflects the date to which a blog post applies, and not when it was uploaded.

Wednesday was a day of rain in North Carolina, which forced me to do an all to familiar workout on the bicycle rollers. Sophie brought her Minoura rollers down to North Carolina, so I got to ride those for the day.

If you're not familiar: rollers are an alternative form of bicycle trainer, one that is almost as old as the bicycle itself. Think of it as a treadmill for a bicycle. You ride your bike in place on a set of connected metal cylinders, which help turn your wheels as you turn the pedals. It's pretty freaky to see, and there are some YouTube videos on the subject. Riding on rollers is an amazing way to vastly improve pedaling efficiency, and the coolest way of doing indoor bike workouts.

I was amazed at the difference in the quality of construction between her Minoura and my Kreitler rollers. Minoura makes their rollers using aluminium tube stock. They find a tube of the appropriate diameter, wall thickness, and length, cut it, attach polycarbonate end caps, embed bearings in said caps, and mount the rollers to a relatively flimsy frame. Though the rollers are just fine for general use, I can see that they would probably wear quickly, and be prone to bent rollers. (Rollers spin at about 2400 RPM in active use, enough for any imperfections in the rollers to cause a nasty buzz.)

The Kreitler rollers, in contrast, are of heirloom quality. The high end ones use extremely high quality individual rollers, machined on a precision lathe down from aluminium bar stock. The bearings, belt, and frame are sealed, heavy rubber, and steel respectively, all of a very high build quality. With proper care and feeding, I'm sure those Kreitler rollers will last indefinitely.


Flying on Instruments

DISCLAIMER: The material presented in the blog entry is for informational purposes, only, and may or may not be true. The reader is discouraged from attempting or following the steps outlined in this posting. The availability of this information should not be taken as an endorsement. Please use discretion and ride safely and within your limits at all times.

Yesterday, Anna, Dave, and myself attempted to climb Mount Mitchell. At about 6700 feet of elevation, Mt. Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi river in the United States. It is taller than Mount Washington and, unfortunately, has the same sort of unpredictable, evil weather. Unlike Mt. Washington, the access road to Mt. Mitchell is “open” to bicyclists brave (foolhardy?) enough to attempt the climb.

From a starting elevation of 2000 feet here in town, the ride to Mt. Mitchell poses over 7000 feet of climbing in just 35 miles of riding. In true mountain fashion, every mile is colder, foggier, and more miserable than the last.

After two days of hard climbing, I was ready to give the climb a shot. Anna, Dave, and myself ventured out on our bicycles, dressed for the usual 40-45F conditions we've been seeing for the past few days. The climb was tough, and the cold was wearing us away. By the time we got to Craggy Gardens, we decided that conditions were no longer safe, and headed home. (Rather, they decided this. I quipped that I would have kept going, and have no sense of what's safe or unsafe.) It didn't help that we were worn out from the previous days of climbing. I don't think I can be in much better shape, given that it's only March!

Why were these conditions unsafe? The climb has its own weather pattern. As we got higher, it got colder. We were climbing into a cloud of mist. By the time we were within about 1000 vertical feet of Craggy Gardens (5500 ft), the fog was so thick that mist was collecting on our bicycles, clothing, and glasses, and our visibility was roughly ten feet. It was pretty awesome.

This is about where the title of the story comes into play. We had spent a few hours climbing, so naturally, we had to spend some time descending. The good news was that the foggiest sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway were closed to automotive traffic, meaning that we didn't need to worry about any vehicles. The Blue Ridge Parkway is perfectly graded for 35-45MPH automotive traffic, so the turns are all very smooth, continuous, banked, and predictable. The bad news was that visibility was still about ten feet, and, due to the humid conditions, my braking distance was really long.

This is where I started “flying by instruments.” I had just enough visibility to see the double yellow line on the road. My Edge 705 GPS told me where the turns were, so there were no surprises. I was comfortably descending at 35-40 MPH, pedaling all the way down to keep warm, and barely touching the brakes.

I'm a huge fan of technical riding, where skill matters just as much as power. I returned home weary but happy.


Edge 705 GPS: Highs and Lows

I've been using the Garmin Edge 705 GPS down here in North Carolina for the past few days on some rides. As I'm here to do basically nothing but ride, I've had loads of time to play with the device, trying to get it to do what I want it to do.

Here's how things would work in an ideal world. First, I would design a route for the day in DeLorme Topo USA 7.0. The route would be completely defined on known roads, and give me an idea of where the tricky climbs and turns would be. Then, I would take the route that I carefully drafted in Topo, and send it to the Edge 705. The Edge 705 would, in turn, let me know where the major climbs are, and where the tricky turns are, using its internal routing.

I've managed to shoehorn my desired functionality, almost. My original idea was to export the route as a DeLorme .GPL file, use GPSbabel to convert it to a GPX file, and send that to the device. I even used the filtering feature of GPSbabel in an attempt to limit the complexity and size of the GPX files I generated. However, for routes with over 100 or so track points, the Edge 705 would, after a while, choke with a cryptic error message: “Route Waypoint Memory Full.” It then crashed. It's running firmware 2.10, and I hope this gets better soon!

I've had better luck using GPX2CRS on the generated GPX file, turning it into a Garmin course file (.CRS), and sending it to my device using the Garmin Training Center application. This will give me a bright purple trail on the map screen that I can follow, and will let me know where the climbs are. However, I'm leery to use this method for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the Garmin USB Storage API still does weird things with course files. Where do they live, and how many of them can I have on the device? I'd like to have on the order of 100 different routes, all on the device, easily backed up, without having to worry about some arbitrary storage limitation. Garmin's Edge GPS devices seem to be hybrid devices: part traditional GPS, part strange undocumented API. Garmin, are you listening? I'd like to know how and why course files and their management are different!

My real goal is to use this thing on Intercity. That's 220 miles of riding. I haven't been able to get the entire Intercity route onto the Edge 705 without it choking somehow. Thumbs down.


Climbing! Glorious Climbing!

Today was Day One of riding along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I'm very happy to say that, unlike New York City, riding in North Carolina adds an entirely new dimension, a third dimension, if you will: the Z axis.

Asheville is indeed nestled in a small valley (of sorts) in the Blue Ridge mountains. On a clear day, you can see mountains from the tops of other mountains.

For the city boy, climbing is an entirely different style of riding than hauling along on a straightaway. The pedaling technique is somewhat different. On flats, the relation of power to cadence at a given gear is pretty even, so it's easier to turn the pedals over and keep the speed. On climbs, it seems that your power can vary greatly, so it's tougher to turn the pedals over and requires more force on the down stroke. (This is all assuming constant power output, say, 300W.)

Having lost a bunch of weight, I'm finding climbing easier than I ever have before. The trick now is to get the ol' musculature up to snuff, so that my cardiovascular system, again, becomes my limiting factor.

The high point of the day was the descent down NC-151 from the Parkway back down to the local roads. 151 is a true back road, a very technical descent with lots of tight, banked turns and debris on the road to keep things interesting. If I were a cycling coach, I would have my riders go up and down that road a few times a month, just to keep them on their toes. I love descending.


Road Trip...

There is, of course, a major tradeoff to a road trip. A road trip is cheap if your time is free. Fortunately, since I'm on vacation this week, my time suddenly became much less expensive.
I'm amazed by how cheap some parts of the country still are. In Carlisle, PA, we were able to get brunch for four people for less than $25, including a generous tip. Living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan, my ideas of prices are really inflated. There are still parts of the country where $20 will last you a while!

The road trip was my first time behind the wheel of a motorcar for quite some time. I learned to drive primarily to operate the famous Bike and Build van, with its trailer. I've spent so much time driving vans and trucks, that driving a car always seems strange.

Dave and I joked that, if I had a Specialized Transition on top of the car, our gas efficiency would have improved by 500% percent, and that if it had a Zipp disc, we could have just used the crosswind to push us to North Carolina.


Road Trip!

I'll be heading down to North Carolina in just a few hours. I'll be staying in Asheville, NC, and riding up and down the Blue Ridge Trail and neighboring mountains.

I'm still amazed by how cheap all of this is going to be. I'll be sharing a car with another person (Dave Miller), so we'll split the price of gas. Dave has a little Porsche, titled the Clown Car, that holds two bikes overhead in a Thule rack. It takes premium gas. For the 700 mile haul from Brooklyn to Asheville, with a gas efficiency of about 20 MPG and a fuel price of $3.25 per gallon, split between the two of us, we're looking at a fuel cost of about $115 per person. This is pretty good for a round trip, certainly cheaper than any commercial flight or bus service.
With a $100 food budget, a donation to the people who are being incredibly generous by lending us their house, and the inevitable small bike parts, I'm looking at spending $250 for the entire week.

The last time I took a road trip was when I helped drive the Bike and Build van back from Seattle, WA to New York City, via Colorado.



I've started, or rather am continuing, the long process of contacting hosts for our journey this summer. It's a long, but very rewarding, process, and for me, a much appreciated opportunity to talk to new people who live in a different place.

When a Bike and Build trip visits a town, we ask for a lot of things. I feel guilty sometimes, asking for as much as we do, but it seems like churches, YMCAs, and towns all over the country are more than willing to open their towns, halls, and hearts for our trip.

In short, we're looking for:
* a place to park the van and trailer
* showers
* dinner
* a willing audience for a presentation
* media coverage
* bicycle shops
* a place to sleep!
* breakfast
* a warm send-off

In exchange, I'd like to remind everyone out there that the Bike and Build crew is a GUEST in almost any town in the country, and as such, we should act accordingly. Never forget the hard work and philanthropy that goes into making these rides possible!


Bicycle Heaven

I've been giving a great deal of thought to places where I might want to settle down in the next few years. New York has dutifully earned its title as "Bicycle Hell". I'd like to settle down somewhere that I can call "Bicycle Heaven".

So far, the only place that seems to fit the bill is Santa Barbara, CA. It features flats and climbs, ocean and mountains, as well as year-round sunshine. Who could ask for anything more? The only trick is to find a job that pays enough for me to afford the fancy time trial bikes I'd like to be riding out there.

I'll be heading down to North Carolina this weekend for the week, riding the famouns Blue Ridge Parkway. Sebastian at work was explaining to me today that cycling is the new golf. Instead of a golf resort or a ski resort (think Jackson Hole, WY), George Hincapie himself is working on creating a "cycling resort" for wealthy folks along the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC. I haven't verified this, but it's a really neat idea.

All I really want to do is ride my bicycle. In shorts and a jersey. In warm sunshine. Every day of the year. Is this too much to ask?



In talking with various people about this coming Bike and Build trip, and looking over my notes from P2S '06, it seems like there are two clear trends with the riders on these sorts of trips.

One, most of the people on these trips are really new to cycling, and know very little about it.

Two, the level of enthusiasm and drive toward training, building, and fundraising follows a pretty clear well curve.

As a trip leader, what am I to do? I want to break the Gaussian distribution. I want everyone to be all the way on the right. I want an awesome trip, with people who do what needs to be done without being told. Wouldn't that be fun. :-)

Right now, I'm struggling to figure out how best to convey to people that there are some very serious deadlines approaching. The gear orders are coming up soon, and I've received no responses. The April 11 fundraising milestone is coming up, and I have people who have raised a grand total of $0. It's getting warmer out, so I need to figure out how to motivate people to start riding their bicycles.

Guys, help me out here! I can only do so much. I've been in touch with many of my riders, and this is an ongoing process. I can't help you if you can't help yourself.


Please donate to Bike and Build!

If you work for a company that will match donations, please let me know! Of course, any amount is greatly appreciated.If you read this blog and derive value from its posts, please consider making a donation to Bike and Build. I'd like to suggest a donation of $20 if you're a student, or $75 if you're in the working world.

I'm a trip leader on this summer's Bike and Build trip from Boston, MA to Santa Barbara, CA. Your donation will go toward building someone in this country a house.

To learn more, or to donate, please visit www.bikeandbuild.org.

If you have a cause that you're trying to promote, I'd be willing to swap donations. Just let me know.


Race Report: Philly Phlyer

By the numbers (tentative):
Finished with the field, roughly 23/60.
26.04 mi (4 laps) in 1h 12m 01s
Speed: 21.6 (avg) / X (max)
Cadence: 75 RPM (avg) / X (max)
HR: 162 (avg) / X (max)
Power: 255 W (avg) / 1102 W (max)
Energy: 1111 kilojoules

In short: Blocking works all to well when people aren't willing to work. Breaking doesn't work without teammates to help.

Once again, I braved the usual nemesis, cold, to participate in today's race.

Last week, Lenny Klipper, a rider on B2SB this summer, invited me down to Philadelphia to race in the Philly Phlyer. I decided to accept, since I enjoy seeing new places, meeting new people, and keeping myself entertained. Getting to the race was very easy: I took a Chinatown bus to Philadelphia, then, with my trusty Edge 705 leading the way, cycled 2.5 miles to the race course.

The Phlyer is a major collegiate race event. I saw a number of people I haven't seen in a while: some Bike and Builders, some MIT cyclists, and Clay, the president of Penn State cycling who will help our group find a place to stay in State College, PA this summer.

I arrived at the race course at about 11am, with many hours to go before my 2:15pm race. Due to the travel, I didn't have a chance to eat as much good food as I would have liked, nor did I hydrate properly. Lesson learned.

TODO: Course description. It was a beautiful course.

A break formed about halfway through the first lap, on a climb. I knew it would form, but I wasn't in a good enough spot to catch it. The pack slowed down dramatically as teammates of the guys in the break sandbagged like, well, blocks of sand. Everybody was complaining about it, but nobody was doing anything about it. Horrible. I tried to bridge twice, on the long straightaway on the course. When I failed, I re-joined the pack and waited for the inevitable pack finish.

I can't let this keep happening. These "races" just become pricey group rides when people stop working.


Solar Time

This post is about a classic Jose-ism: Solar Time and the argument for waking up with the sun.

This weekend, New York goes from Eastern Standard Time to Eastern Daylight Time. I really don't like this idea. Not only do I lose a precious hour of sleep for what seems like no good reason, but extending daylight one hour into the evening comes at a direct cost: robbing one hour of perfectly good riding time from the morning!

Due to Prospect Park's car schedule, I am basically forced to ride from 6am to 7am, unless I want to share a not-wide-enough path with slow runner, rollerblader, and bicycle commuter traffic. I tend to hold 22-25 MPH on my park rides, so dodging things takes serious effort. Let's consider how daylight savings time is not helpful here by looking at local sunrise times in New York:

March 6: 6:22
March 7: 6:20
March 8: 6:19
March 9: 7:17
March 10: 7:15

Yes, sunrise gets earlier every day, but the next time sunrise will be at 6:30am or earlier is April 6th. That's a month away. (Remember that the days grow longer from December to June, and shorter again from June to December. This varies roughly as a sinusoid, so the days are getting longer or shorter at their greatest rate - 2 minutes a day! - around the equinoxes.)

Here's where things get complicated. Local sunrise time is a function of latitude, longitude, and day of year. In the northern hemisphere, as you move south or west, the day will grow longer. The simplest example of this is that of the New York to San Francisco flight. Going west, the 6-hour flight only takes "three hours", but going east, it takes "nine hours" due to time zone differences.

On a cross country bicycle trip, sunrise time is further complicated by weird time zone definitions, in addition to the fact that you are traveling east to west (or vice versa). When the sun dictates when you wake up and ride (i.e. early morning), but local time dictates when your hosts will give you breakfast (i.e. 6:30am), this quickly leads to a conflict of interests.

Let's look at local sunrise times on a portion of this summer's Boston to Santa Barbara Bike and Build trip, This is affected by the fact that we're traveling westward (days get shorter), after the Equinox (days get shorter), while still crossing time zones (days shift earlier sometimes).

06/28: Columbus, OH: 6:06am
06/29: Columbus, OH: 6:06am
06/30: Yellow Springs, OH: 6:11am
07/1: Rushville, IN: 6:18am
07/2: Bloomington, IN: 6:24am
07/3: Bloomington, IN: 6:25am EDT
07/4: Lawrenceville, IL: 5:31am CDT
07/5: Salem, IL: 5:37am
07/6: St Louis, MO: 5:43am

Look at this chart. Does it make sense to set a static wake-up time of, say, 6am? Absolutely not! At 6am, we'll be waking up with the sun in Columbus, 30 minutes before sunrise in Bloomington, and 30 minutes after in Lawrenceville. Let's remember that it only takes an hour for that summer sun to make the weather quite unpleasant. That first hour of riding is a huge asset!

I'm an advocate of waking up with a statis offset to sunrise time. For example, I wake up 20 minutes before sunrise every day, when possible. I leave the window shades somewhat open and face east. The sun is my alarm clock, and I feel well rested.

Here's the real kicker: circadian rhythms, the biological clock in humans, is set by the sun, and we don't like change very much! Huge or chronic variations in wake-up time with respect to sunrise time cause us to be thrown off balance, leading (in part) to fatigue and irritability. (Fly to Japan if you don't believe me. Do it now.)

Ponder this if your Saturday night party gets cut short an hour.


Soapbox: Higher Pay for Teachers

I'm going to get off of the saddle for today, and stand on my soap box. Prerequisite reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/07/nyregion/07charter.html.

Teaching is hard work. I don't think enough people realize quite how difficult it is to teach in a school, a "production environment". Consider: the teacher's class day runs from 8am to 4pm. In that time, the teacher gets one 30-minute lunch break, and spends a total of about 4 hours standing and 5 hours talking. Every day must be planned, in advance. There is no room for running late, and little tolerance for error.

I commend some of my own hardworking teachers: Emily Moore, Alphonse Scotti, Holly Ojalvo, Nelda Latham, David Greenfield, Linda Holmes, and Daniel Jaye are just a few of the hardworking professionals who have served as my teachers through the years. (I would consider outstanding professors, such as Steve Leeb and Brendan Foley, in a parallel but separate category: already motivated individuals pursuing their own work who value sharing their work.)

I think the level of difficulty of a teaching job is on the level with that of a job in system administration. The deadlines, demands, and required energy levels are about the same. Both stem from a desire, however unrational it may be, to help another individual succeed.

There are too many examples of bad teaching in this world. In 7th grade, I had a science teacher who knew substantially less about the alkali metals than I did. In 11th grade, I had a history teacher who literally sat in her chair reading a book for every class session.

Jane and I have certainly considered going into teaching. If the conditions were right - good pay, warm weather, summers off - I think I could be convinced to become a math or computer science teacher, and moonlight as a cycling coach.


Power and the Edge 705

I have a PowerTap SL 2.4. It's a wonderful little toy, and it gives me most of the data I might want from a bike computer: speed, cadence, heart rate, and power. Today was a particularly good workout, which I'll brag about. (Take a good look at those numbers: 300W for 1 hour, average HR 160. If I can learn to keep my heart rate up, I'll be unstoppable!)

Unfortunately, there are some important features that the otherwise awesome PowerTap head unit doesn't have. It won't tell me my elevation, or how steep a grade I'm climbing. It won't give me the temperature, either. So, you can imagine how happy I was to hear about the Edge 705. It's a 305 with maps that can talk to a power unit!

Sadly, the 705 definitively does NOT work with my PowerTap SL 2.4 hub at the moment. That's right ladies and gentlemen, I have an Edge 705 right here on my desk. Surprisingly, my credit card was able to convince REI to ship me one, and my girlfriend hasn't yet convinced me to ship it back.

Compared to the Edge 305, it is bigger, heavier, way more expensive, and more intimidating. It has a much larger, color screen. It also comes in black, and is 100% compatible with the 305's heart rate strap, speed/cadence sensor, and handlebar mount. I'll post a full review at some point. Patience.
I'm looking forward to reviewing this, and to comparing it to the Garmin eTrex Vista HCx: half the price and twice the features, but not designed for cycling. The Vista HCx unit, scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, is LOST in the UPS ether. I can't express how frustrating it is when UPS loses a package.


So Many Incompatible File Formats

There is a very simple reason that people haven't started doing all sorts of interesting things with GPS systems on their bicycles: they're expensive, and they're complicated. You shouldn't need a degree in computer science to figure this stuff out.

I'm racing in the Philly Phlyer this weekend. I've never been on this course before, so I did my homework and found - voila! - a representation of the course as a Google Map, through a service using the Google Maps API. Better yet, this service (using a script that broke Opera but worked in IE) allowed me to save the route as a Google Earth .kml file.

What did the .kml do for me? I could see the route in Google Earth, but that's about it. I wanted to be able to see a profile in DeLorme Topo USA, or export the route for tracking to my Edge 305 GPS, or save it in what ought to be the industry-standard .gpx format. What's a man to do?

After some massaging, I was able to use GPS Babel to convert the .kml file to a DeLorme .gpl data log, which appeared as a bunch of dots in Topo USA. I was then able to trace the route, get my profile, and realize that the course has a nasty downhill going into a sharp right turn. Sigh.

The next step was to get the file onto my Edge 305 GPS. The Edge 305 is such a convoluted device, that one has to use a special file format with special padding using their special software to get something that almost works. Thank you, Garmin. Thank you. I was able to use gpx2crs to convert the racecourse to a Garmin Training Center .crs file. I had to disable automatic turn generation, and add a point every 30 meters. I eventually got something that the Edge 305 would display on its screen.

As a computer scientist friend of mine noted, everyone is indeed using one standard file format: XML. Great. That's almost like saying all computers execute binary instructions of some sort. Having the data is half the battle, using it is the other half.

Why is this so hard? This is absurd. I have a real interest in having incredibly precise maps, as they offer a competitive edge. Lots of smart people are working on this. Guys, make it easier! I'll do my part.


Warm Weather

I took advantage of today's relatively warm weather to do some outdoor riding. It was 52F and clear this morning, not ideal riding conditions, but still quite good cycling weather. As a cyclists, I think ideal conditions are just about 68 F - warm enough to go out riding in shorts and a jersey, but cool enough to keep me from overheating.

Outdoor riding is a constant reminder of how different cycling in New York City is from riding the rollers. Even while doing high speed laps in a car-free Prospect Park (before 7am), I still have to be on my guard for runners and, well, slower cyclists.

I continue to look forward to the warmer weather. It seems like it's right around the corner. I can't wait to start doing longer rides.



Man, I love these blog posts where I just take wat Joe Friel said and spit it out like it's my own knowledge. It's brilliant.

Tonight's post is about protein, everyone's favorite amino acid chains. Protein is crucial for the growing cyclist, yet too many of us don't get enough of it. After a tough workout, a microscopic view of your major muscle groups would show that they look like a war zone, torn and needing to be rebuilt. Do you want to build your muscles out of potato chips and cake frosting, or fruits, vegetables, and meat*?

A cyclist should get at least 25% of his or her daily calories from protein, if not more. At 2500+ calories per day, this translates to at least 150 grams of protein. I bet you don't get nearly enough.

Here are some tips that I find helpful for getting enough protein:
* instead of soda or some other unhealthy beverage, have skim milk, with 8g of protein per glass.
* Clif Builder Bars pack 20g of protein each, and are a wonderful post-ride food.
* eggs, beans, skim milk, soy milk, and lean meat* are all excellent sources of protein.

Foods high in protein tend to sound "healthy". That's because they are. To be the best, you must fuel with the best. Go ahead, have steak* and eggs for breakfast.


Race Report: Central Park, USCF Cat 3/4

By the numbers:
Place: 12 (approx) -> no upgrade points.
Field size: 60 (approx)
Weather: 28 F, winds NW 15 MPH
Power: average 254W, max 1024W
Speed: average 23.62 mph, max 33.30 mph
Heart rate: average 160 bpm, max 184 bpm
Cadence: average 80
Energy: 956 kJ
Distance: 24.65mi
Time: about 1h 2min 44sec

The race did not feel any harder than my hardest training rides. It felt substantially easier.

I went to sleep at 2030 last night. I followed Friel's advice to begin turning off lights about 30-45 minutes before you want to go to sleep, as this gets your body ready to retire. I drank about four water bottles in the hour before I went to sleep. Right before conking out, I had about 450 mL of warm skim milk with a couple of tablespoons of honey. Yum.

As I predicted, I woke up at 2330, partially due to a need to use the restroom, partially due to my sheets being soaked from sweat, and partially due to the neighbors playing loud music on Saturday night, as they always do. I woke up again at 0230, to use the restroom.

My alarm went off, as planned, at 0430. I got up, turned all of the lights on, and started the morning rituals of eating, hydrating, and getting dressed. I had a larger bowl of granola than usual (400 kcal) with skim milk (90 kcal). I also had the last bit of a Red Bull-like sports drink that I had in the fridge. I left the apartment at 0500 on the dot. It was so cold.

Due to the usual weekend subway construction, I rode 1km downhill to the next nearest subway station on the 4th Avenue line. Naturally, I missed a train by about 3 seconds, so I got to wait 15 minutes in the cold station. Once the train arrived, I had a Builder Bar (270 kcal, 20g complete protein) and another bottle of water.

I got to the start line, where the usual chaos ensued. I'm glad I pre-registered. After signing the relevant forms, I made one last use of the facilities before joining the start of the race.

The race was four laps of Central Park. For some reason, the organizers decided to group the Cat 3/4 and the Cat 5 race together, with the Cat 5 race dropping back and finishing after 2 laps. As a result, the field was an impressive 100 riders strong for the first lap and a half.

Let me tell you something about these Central Park races. They're all exactly the same. Every race, there are a bunch of attempts to form breakaways, but they never stick. The ideal strategy is to stay toward the front, stay upright, not crash, stay out of the wind, push hard up the hills to get the heart rate up a few times, and empty the tank on a well timed, all out sprint. That's basically what I did.

The riders were a whiny bunch. At the start line, they were all complaining about how it was early in the morning, how it was cold, how they had been out drinking last night, and how they didn't get enough sleep. Either don't show up, or don't complain. It is what it is.

The riders were a scary bunch. I don't know if they just haven't been riding, or don't know how to ride, but there were a total of four crashes, to which I was witness to two. I am very grateful for three things. One, between 100+ hours of riding on the rollers, and riding PowerCranks, my pedal stroke is silky smooth and I can hold a damn-straight line. Secondly, years of city riding have taught me to be very loose on the bike. On two occasions, guys bumped into my arms pretty hard while sprinting out of the saddle. I was completely unfazed by the contact. Thirdly, I trust my frame and my wheels. The Roubaix does a great job of dissipating energy from huge bumps. I wasn't as worried about the poor road quality as I should have been.

The riders were a lazy bunch. I was hitting my rear brake way more than I would have liked to, often harder than I would ever want to in a race. Nobody wanted to work. I was in the front of the pack halfway into Lap 2 with a couple of other guys. They didn't want to work with me, so I just sat up and waited for the pack so I could save my energy.

I stayed on through the third lap, working my way toward the front and staying there. By the time the second half of the fourth lap was around, I believe all of the breaks had been caught. I was in a good position for the sprint, and had even experimented with a good gear for the uphill rush to the finish: 50-14. I timed my sprint right, I started really moving... and then some guy pulled right in front of me. I did what I could to regain momentum, and passed a few guys, but couldn't make Top 10.

I should trust myself more. I did many things well. I was properly fed and hydrated. I was properly rested. My equipment was all in excellent repair. My choice of clothing kept me warm, which is crucial in these cold races. My training, though short on high-intensity work, has made me a good rider. My bike equipment is in excellent shape, and after the February bike fit session, I feel more comfortable and powerful on the bike. I had no trouble comfortably riding in the drops. With more patience, experience, and self analysis, I can do well for myself. I just want the warm weather to be here!

I spoke with a gentleman with an Ergomo after the race. The Ergomo is a bottom bracket mounted power meter. I think the PowerTap does a better job of measuring power, but the Ergomo comes with a really nice head that, in addition to all of the PowerTap SL 2.4's features, also records temperature and elevation. I really miss those features.

After the race, I rode to work, where I am now. The job is close to the park and has showers. I had a bowl of cereal and two cups of hot cocoa with lots of skim milk within 30 minutes of the end of the race. I brought a change of clothes in a backpack, which I 'm wearing now. I then treated myself to steak and eggs, the breakfast of, well, champions. I'm looking forward to being insanely productive today, since the office is absolutely dead on Sundays.


Race Checklist

Tomorrow is my first race of the season, my first bicycle race in 2 years and my first USCF race in 4 years.

[X] Bicycle, in good repair, with tires inflated and all systems checked.
[X] Un-needed or un-allowed items removed from bicycle.
[X] Purchase clothing for cold-weather racing.
[X] Clothes set aside next to bicycle.
[X] Change of clothes in backpack next to bicycle.
[X] Alarm clock set to 0430 for 0500 departure to Central Park.
[X] Feeding and hydrating.

Honestly, I just want to finish and not crash. I haven't raced in a while. I'm a Cat 4, and I used to be able to finish with the pack, and even place sometimes, but I've never won a road race.

I'm not nearly as excited as I should be. I'm not full of energy. I'm somewhere between nervous that I'll crash out, and loathing how cold it's going to be outside at 5am.

At 178 lbs, I'm rather heavier than I'd like to be. I'm not sure that my training has been ample - only 100 or so hours since November 1st.

I just hope I can fall asleep really early.