Ride Report: Farewell to Prospect Park

I went for a ride on Friday.

Speed: 20.6 MPH (I was averaging 21.5 for much of it.)
Distance: 78 miles.
Time: about 3h38m.
Average HR: 140 BPM.

Since I was moving out of my apartment in Brooklyn, I did a self-motivated "Farewell to Prospect Park" ride. The majority of my riding this year has been either time indoors on the rollers, or riding laps around Prospect Park, generally going faster than everyone else.

On Friday, I was aiming to do a Prospect Park Century, which is 29 laps of the 3.38 mile loop. The circuit includes about 200 feet of elevation gain in the form of one 4% grade and a few rollers in the road. It's a good test of character, since the elevation changes and the constantly changing wind direction cancel. It was also a good dress rehearsal of the equipment I'm planning to use most days of the trip.

My century attempt ended early, at mile 78, with me bonking. This is probably the hardest ride of this length that I've ever done, and it was warmer than it's been all year. Even though I was certainly eating and hydrating plenty, I should have had a larger breakfast, started drinking earlier, and replaced the Perpetuem (a heavy energy drink for ultramarathon distances) with Gu2O or Gatorade (a lighter sports drink for high intensity work.)


Principles of Urban Riding, Part 4: Silent Riding

When I'm trying to ride as quickly as possible, I have a theory. Any and all energy that is expended by either myself or the bicycle should be useful in the forward moving effort. Any wasted energy, such as a rubbing brake pad, a spoke magnet hitting something once per revolution, correcting for an out of true wheel, or a noisy chain, is simply throwing away precious energy. If bicycling generates heat or noise, something is very wrong.

I take a broad interpretation of this principle when riding in urban conditions. I try to ride as silently as possible. Sure, this means that my bicycle is in top condition, with drivetrain clean and lubed, and brake pads (if any) clean and clear of the rim. It also means that I try to be as quiet as possible: I try not to say anything while I'm on the bicycle.

As I ride through Manhattan, I see that messengers, racers, and all sorts of cyclists just waste energy yelling and screaming at people, and it never does any good. My rule is this: audible communication on the road, with very few exceptions, is an exercise in futility, for several reasons. First, yelling and screaming wastes energy and deprives what should be an already depleted cardiovascular system. Secondly, if you are in a position where you need to use audible communication to give someone a message, particularly a warning message, it indicates a failure on the part of either the cyclist, or the recipient of the message. It's the cyclist's responsibility to avoid instances of this nature.

In practice, what this means is that I don't yell or scream at people. If a pedestrian is crossing, or a motorist is doing something strange, I can detect this far enough ahead of time with good scanning technique, and simply re-route to maintain speed. If not, I'll slow down. When people get angry at me for being on a bicycle, almost always without real reason, my silence and calmness throws them off. (What, me, calm and quiet? Yes, it does happen, sometimes.)

The biggest counter-argument to my technique is, accelerating back to speed takes more energy than slowing. This is true. However, things that make you slow down are part of the environment when riding somewhere like Manhattan. If you don't like it, find another route. I spend a substantial amount of my rides doing route analysis.

There are two major exceptions to my silence principle:
  • Communicating dangers to other cyclists. I usually ride alone, or with other people who are comfortable fending for themselves, but I'll take the extra effort to help a novice through town. I also let cyclists who are riding against traffic without lighting know that I'm displeased, as this is a real danger.
  • Communicating with people who almost door me. I think anyone who opens a car door into traffic without looking should have that door ripped off by a passing truck, just to let them know how it feels. Dooring is a very serious issue around here that has taken too many lives. I do everything I can to reinforce that carelessly throwing your door open is a bad idea.
So, keep your head down, keep your mouth shut, and ride hard.


Bike & Build 2008 Jersey

More than a few of you expressed interest in seeing what the 2008 Bike & Build jerseys look like. Well, here it is! Many thanks to Jane for standing still and not blinking. Isn't she a cutie?

Semper Conspirus: Part II

I've been riding since about as long as I can remember. This is the earliest photo of me on a bicycle that I can find, which was taken in late 1989. I would have been just about four. This is awfully good cornering form for someone who just learned to ride a two wheeler: note that I'm countersteering, and that my inside leg is cocked into the turn.


Intercity Ride Rescheduled

Service Announcement

Due to Dave not feeling well, wanting to spend time with Jane, and general inconvenience, the famed Intercity ride is now scheduled for Saturday, June 7, 2008. This will serve the legitimate purpose of getting be to Boston for the start of Bike & Build, instead of being just a random trip to Boston.

I'm still planning on doing all 225 miles in one go, and feel confident that I can do it.

Cycling: A Bibliography

This is a blog entry that many of you have been looking for. It's a listing of every book that I own about bicycling. I've put my favorites at the top of the list, and the ones that just fill space on my bookshelf toward the bottom. I've tried to be as complete as possible, supplying an Amazon.com link whenever possible. Here goes...

Friel, Joe. The Cyclist's Training Bible, Third Edition. Boulder>: VeloPress, 2003. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the best work on the topic right now. What a wonderful book. It's chock full of useful advice and sage wisdom. Friel is a hard-up, no nonsense guy who cares about performance even more than I do, if that's possible.

Pruitt, Andrew L. Andy Pruitt's Complete Medical Guide for Cyclists. Boulder, CO: VeloPress, 2006. This is my standard reference for sizing, saddle positioning, and orthopedic issues on the bicycle. It's a highly recommended read for all riders, and is more recommended for more competitive and/or older riders.

Jones, Calvin. Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair. Saint Paul, MN: Park Tool Company, 2005. Park Tool Part # BBB-1. This is an excellent introduction to bicycle repair for beginners, and is now the default book that I recommend. It's full of wonderful, full-color, clear, crisp photos and equally vivid descriptions. This is everything that I could want from a repair book, just watch out for constant recommendations for other Park Tool goods.

USA Cycling Manual: Level 3 Coaching Certification. Colorado Springs: USA Cycling Coaching Association, 2007. This is the book that you read to get the same coaching certification. It's a well assembled book on riding that distills the knowledge of many of the other books in this list.

Daniels, Jack. Daniels' Running Formula. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2005. What is a book on running doing here? I include this excellent, highly technical training book for several reasons. First, it was recommended by none other than Glenn Swan of Swan Cycles. Secondly, I agree with Swan that this book is an excellent piece of general theory of physiology and training, and implements the periodization principle on which all competent modern programs are based. Thirdly, if you are a triathlete, this is a useful book. A good, dense read.

Bompa, Tudor. Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1999. Remember what I said above, and in previous blog postings, about periodication of training? Well, Dr. Bompa thought of the idea in the 1960 as a Romanian coach, and used it to help eastern Europe dominate international athletic events for decades. If you want the full story, go straight to the source. I haven't completed or mastered this one yet, but I think that any competen cycling coach should know this book inside and out.

Prehn, Thomas. Racing Tactics for Cyclists. Boulder: VeloPress, 2004. The embodiment of semper conspirus. These time-tested techniques from an old pro will make sure you get to the finish line faster and more efficiently than the competition, which is what it's all about. The book is a study of how weaker cyclists often win on wits.

Wilson, David Gordon. Bicycling Science, Third Edition. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004. The latest edition of another classic. Dave Wilson is a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, and an avid bicyclist. He decided to combine his passions and his resources some decades ago to put together what has come to be the canonical technical work on cycling, with a lot of good theory and references. This should be a part of any technical cyclist's library, no questions asked.

Schraner, Gerd. The Art of Wheelbuilding. Denver: Buonpane Publications, 1999. Ever built a wheel? This little 100-page book is written by a true master in top form. A brilliant, insightful, and straightforward book that is a must for anyone who uses spoked wheels.

Paterek, Tim.
The Paterek Manual for Bicycle Framebuilders. Redondo Beach, CA: Henry James Bicycles, 1985. Now in 3rd edition. At some point, my friend Dan decided to build his own lugged steel frame, and did, by buying this book and ordering the parts. It's a good guide for do-it-yourself frame making, which I still would like to do one of these days. Until then, it sits on my shelf, full of useful information.

Forester, John. Effective Cycling, Sixth Edition. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001. Oh boy, is John Forester pissed off! This is another standard read about cyclinng in traffic. This book tries, I think a little too hard, to be the be-all and end-all of bicycling books, and to bring people onto its program. It's well, though agressively written. Still, if I had to recommend one and only one book on bicycling My main complaint is that Forester tends to confuse fact with opinion. As long as you realize that the entire book is written like this, it's fine.

Ballantine, Richard. Richard's 21st-Century Bicycle Book. New York: Overlook Press, 2001. This is a good "history of bicycling" type book for someone who wants to learn more. Lots of neat stories, lots of photos, and lots of useful information.

Phinney, Davis and Carpeneter, Connie. Training for Cycling: The Ultimate Guide to Improved Performance. New York: Perigee, 1992. This is a general training book written by two elite cyclists. The tips are all good, but fairly boilerplate, but the book is more than worth it just to see how much these two love cycling and each other.

Borysewicz, Edward.
Bicycle Road Racing: Complete Program for Training and Competition. Brattleboro, VT: Velo-News, 1985. Say what you will about Eddie B and the doping controversy, he still helped solidify American cycling in the international arena. This is another training classic, up there with Friel's book, and an inspiration for much training. Some of his techniques are dated, but most are timeless.

Allen, Hunter and Coggan, Andrew. Training and Racing with a Power Meter. Boulder: VeloPress, 2006. The manual that should have come with your expensive toy. Did you take signal processing in college, and like it? If so, this book is right for you. They talk about the various kinds of power meters, and how to use them. They strongly advocate using the Training Peaks software, too. I haven't found these techniques too useful, but probably will when I take my training to the next level.

Hurst, Robert.
The Art of Urban Cycling: Lessons From The Street. Guilford, CT: Falcon, 2004. I found this one at the MIT bookstore. It's a good, but not great, guide for riding in dense urban traffic. For someone who has never commuted to work in the city, this one is a must. I think it falls short in that it doesn't cover some of the advanced tricks that I use to weave through traffic, but never fear, you'll learn those if you follow this blog!

Fehlau, Gunnar. The Recumbent Bicycle. Williamson, MI: Out Your Backdoor Press, 2003. This is, as it says, a book all about recumbents that I haven't had a chance to read in its entirety. It's a semi-technical read with lots of useful info. I wish I had read it back when we were working on the HPV project. I'd love to experiment with a recumbent at some point, it's a shame they're not mainstream since they're really, really efficient!

Langley, Jim. Bicycling Magazine's Complete Guide to Bicycle Maintenance and Repair, 4th Ed (now in 5th Ed.). Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1999. I think this is a good introductory guide to real bike repair, and a good shop reference, but I like the Park Tool guide better.

Perry, David. Bike Cult: The Ultimate Guide to Human-Powered Vehicles. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1995. A book on bicycles, like the Ballantine book, with a somewhat different tone. It's a very cool book with lots of esoteric facts.The best thing is, Dave Perry himself runs and works at Bike Works in Manhattan's Lower East Side. Good read.

Carmichael, Chris. The Ultimate Ride. New York: G.P. Putnam, 2003. People make a big deal about Chris because he was Lance Armstrong's head coach. I haven't read the book, only skimmed it, but I can tell you that there's a lot in there that is common to the Phinney and Eddie B books since, after all, they all come from the 1980s school of cycling.

Armstrong, Lance and Carmichael, Chris. The Lance Armstrong Performance Program. Rodale Press, 2000. I got this book at a Barnes & Noble because it was there, and haven't really read through it. It's in the same category as the previous Carmichael book: good, solid advice, but nothing revolutionary.

Barnett, John. Barnett's Manual: Analysis and Procedures for Bicycle Mechanics. Boulder: VeloPress, 2003. I had high hopes for this books when I bought it. After all, it's a four-volume book on bike repair with laminated pages! Though the procedures are thorough, it's a little too procedural for me to really like it. I use it as what it is: a reference.

Graham, Brad and McGowan, Kathy.
Atomic Zombie's Bicycle Builder's Bonanza. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004. I purchased this one hoping for a good book on frame building. What I got was a book about bicycle craft construction, for making do-it-yourself tandems, tall bikes, and choppers. Not a bad book per se, just not my thing. This is my standard reference for sizing, saddle positioning, and orthopedic issues on the bicycle. It's a highly recommended read for all riders, and is more recommended for more competitive and/or older riders.

These books are worth mentioning in passing. I haven't found them to be particularly useful, but you might. I bought them when I wanted to bike across the USA, but then I discoverd Adventure Cycling, and eventually, Bike & Build. Routing cross country bike trips is hard, and in the end, it depends on what kind of ride you want to do.

Christian, Lue and Shannon. Cycling Across North America: A Leisurely Route from Coast to Coast. San Francisco: Van der Plas Publications, 2000.

Siegert, Barbara. Bicycle Across America. Nicolin Fields Publishing, 2000.

It took me many hours to put this list together, and many hundreds of dollars and hours to buy and read all of these books!

Semper Conspirus

"Coronthica Cyclery" is the name of the bicycle shop that has lived in my bedroom or apartment since I was sixteen or so, and I started doing my own high-level bicycle work due to a limited budget. The logo is a track sprinter, with two disc wheels, chasing a bird, the "pace vehicle".

The Coronthica Cyclery motto of semper conspirus was contrived by myself and Mike Short in the summer of 2005, on a ride from Seattle, WA to San Francisco, CA. Semper conspirus is pretend-Latin for "always conspiring", and I think this describes bicycling very well.

In a sense, road racing, training, and riding in general requires one to always be conspiring. I know I spend a huge amount of my time riding, thinking about riding, thinking about things I can tweak or buy to go faster, and thinking about my overall training plan. I've set up RSS feeds for interesting potential purchases on eBay and Craigslist, so I can get to things faster. I've read a whole bunch about riding. I keep ride logs. I eat properly. I have a long term plan.

Conspiring is all about working with friends, and with teammates. It's also about working alone, and always keeping a level head about things, before, during, and after races. It's about planning, patience, and being crafty. The next time that you see me on the road, riding, realize that hundreds, if not thousands, of hours have been devoted to tweaking, fiddling, analyzing, thinking, and optimizing to get me where I am, and that the process never stops.

This blog is one of the many things that helps me conspire.


Cherry Hill: Post Ride

Overall: A good, hard, fast ride on top notch equipment.

I'm glad I did the planning I did for this Cherry Hill ride, as I ended up having a very enjoyable ride. Here are the things that went well:

I woke up on time, and caught the train I intended to take. I was hydrated and properly fed at the start.

I was dressed properly. When I left, it was 45 F outside. When I arrived, it was 68 F. I was able to remove my rain jacket, arm warmers, and cycling cap en route to maintain a good thermal balance. I was always just the right temperature.

I was fueled properly. I forced myself to have a Clif bar and about a bottle of Perpetuem per hour. I certainly wasn't low on calories, though I was quite hungry on arrival.

I used the GPS properly. I figured out how to use the GPS's auto-routing feature natively from a Topo route (more later). I stayed on course, didn't get lost once, and even took some nice quiet connecting roads in some sections.

I was aero. Between the FP60s and the aero bars, I was comfortably holding 23 MPH into a head-crosswind.

Of course, there are a couple of improvements that I could have made:

I needed more water. Four bottles of Perpetuem is just not enough fluid. I would have liked another three bottles of clean water while riding.

I got lots of flats. This was due to the filthiness of US 130: I got two glass flats, and one wire flat. Each one carried a roughly 15 minute penalty. They were unavoidable. If I attempt a ride like this again, I'll run some kevlar tire liners and suck up the 51g of additional rotating weight.

It's kind of scary that the ride panned out almost exactly as I thought it would. The roads, empty at 6am, were getting crowded around noon. I got flats in exactly the manner I would have suspected.


Cherry Hill

I'm riding down to Cherry Hill, NJ early tomorrow morning to see Jane row in the EAWRC Eastern Sprints regatta, and to see Jane's parents. The ride is a full dress rehearsal of the configuration I'll be using on Intercity, and likely the first couple of weeks of Bike & Build.

I'm making this public because it's a good indication of the amount of planning I've been putting into some of my rides lately. Proper planning is my biggest procedural upgrade that will hopefully make the Intercity ride possible.

About 95 miles from Exchange Place, NJ to Charry Hill, NJ, via NJ-27 and US-130. It's an ugly, trafficky route through suburbia, but there are no better alternatives. I have to take the PATH train to cross the Hudson River, and hopefully, I'll be on the 0530 train tomorrow morning with time to spare. The ride is flat, and I'm hoping that being out early lets me beat the worst of the traffic.

Mostly sunny, low 49 F, high 74 F. It will be humid for much of the day (so it feels colder), and the roads will be will be wet from today's rain (flats are probable). Winds will be out of the West at 13 to 16 MPH, a somewhat strong cross-tailwind.

Wool hybrid cycling socks, low cut. Bib knickers. Short sleeve jersey. Arm warmers. Cycling cap. Might bring long finger gloves. Might bring a rain jacket, though I don't think it will be necessary.

2005 Specialized Roubaix Elite, upgraded with FSA carbon aero bar, Flash Point FP60 wheels, and Campagnolo Chorus parts, as well as a Profile Design Lightning Stryke aero bar. I'm running the Specialized Avatar saddle, after determining that the Toupe is uncomfortable for longer rides. I'll have full lighting, a Garmin Edge 705 cycling GPS, a small saddle bag, a Bento Box, and four bottle cages. This is the exact configuration I'll use to start Bike & Build. The wheel choice is the most interesting one: my argument is that, if I have these fancy expensive carbon wheels, it makes more sense to use and enjoy them than to be overly paranoid about breaking them.

Four bottles of Perpetuem. I'll make one bottle double-strength, so that if I do stop for water, I can split that bottle. I'll have two Clif shots, and five or six Clif bars. Per the current plan, I'll have about 2700 calories on the bike.

I've shipped a FedEx box, 792057314519,to the hotel where Jane's parents are staying. It was delivered at 09:08 today. It contains my sneakers, and a change of clothes. When I arrive, I'll leave the bicycle in the hotel room, take a shower, and change. I'll stay the evening, and take a train or bus home the following day.

Right now, I just hope that I can wake up at 04:30 tomorrow.

Race Report: Bear Mountain

By the numbers:
56.0 miles in about 2h48min - averaging 20.0 MPH
No useful HR data. No power data.

I went down in a crash, and was unable to make up 40 seconds to catch a fast moving pack. The fact that other people can't ride their bikes shouldn't be my problem.

The only good thing about this race is that Jane was there, and that really helped. I was feeling fine, and with the Flash Point FP60 wheels on the Specialized Roubaix, I was moving effortlessly. I was climbing well, and doing fine, until some moron went down and took me and another guy with him. My options were: go down, or swerve hard left and take more people down. I'm fine, and the bike is fine, but the race was not a good demonstration of my capabilities as a result.

I finished the race, albeit with less food and water than I would have liked, a depressing 8 minutes and 25 seconds behind the race winner. This gave me 37th place, of 89 starters and 59 finishers. The lead group had 19 finishers. I won the minor field sprint between the other 4 people in my finishing group. In the effort to bridge, I passed many of those people who had been dropped by the pack's hard pace up the major climb. They were broken, not willing to work or to even try.

I'd like to think that I'm capable of catching the pack, after being dropped. A power meter would have really helped me to pace myself consistently up the hill. There's a science to knowing how hard to push yourself. As an example, if the pack is going 24 MPH, and you're 30 seconds behind, then going 26 MPH, it would take a while to get back on. 30 seconds at 24 MPH is 0.2 miles, which would take you 27.2 seconds to travel at 26 MPH. Going 26 alone is substantially harder than going 24 in a pack.


Aero or Power: Why Always The Choosing?

So, it looks like my "secret admirer" is nothing more than a sham. For shame.

I had a thought today: I really would have liked power telemetry from my Bear Mountain race this weekend (race report forthcoming). I didn't ride the PowerTap because it's mounted to an unimpressive rim, and this race was all about being aero. So I ask: why not rebuild my PowerTap into a Zipp rim?

This is the current project. I'd like to rebuild the PowerTap SL 2.4 into a Zipp 520 rim, the same rim as is used in the Zipp 808 wheelset. Since a PT is so damn heavy anyway, I don't mind making the wheel just a little heavier to gain more aero benefits. By going with the 80mm section, I'll have a fast wheel suitable for all but the steepest road races, and most any time trial or triathlon I attack. By going clincher, I'm able to keep this a training wheel, run heavy tires like the Continental GatorSkins on the rollers, and take the wheel on long rides where flats are the rule.

We'll see if this project comes to fruition. I may very well sell my FP60 rear wheel, as it would be made defunct by this upgrade.


Secret Admirer: I Declare Shenanigans

My April 4th post comments included a mention of a secret admirer. Well the jig is up. I'm not posting until you tell me who you are!

I have some good blog entries lined up, too:
* how to box, ship, and unpack a bicycle
* my collection of bicycling books
* more on nutrition
* lots more on urban riding
* the usual animated ranting

So, what's it gonna be?


This Saturday marks my two year anniversary with Jane.


Bear Mountain: Pre Race

The Bear Mountain race is coming up on Sunday! It's going to be the biggest race of the season for me, in terms of travel, effort, and anticipated difficulty.

The course, which I've ridden exactly once, is a beautiful, somewhat technical 14 mile loop, with a major climb, a long, rolling back stretch, and a couple of corners that can easily become technical, political, and treacherous. In my mind, this course is the larger, surlier brother of Prospect Park. (I'm sure Bob Moses would be proud.) That long climb is going to thin the field, but I suspect that, without real teamwork, the back stretch will help re-collect the field.

The Cat 4 race starts just before noon, so it's going to be much later in the day than I've raced recently. It's going to be difficult to eat properly, and enough, without just bogging myself down in empty calories before the race. I'd like a low fat, high protein breakfast, and light, healthy, carb rich snack foods with a moderate glycemic load, going into the race. I'll also have some Perpetuem before and during the race.

For equipment, I'm riding my Specialized Roubaix (as if I had a choice!) with my shiny FP60 wheels. I'll be running my compact 34-50 crankset, with a wide range 11-28 cassette in the back. I use the 12-25 for Prospect Park races, since I can stay in the big ring for the whole race, never use the 11, and benefit from the closely spaced gear selection. The compact double will give me plenty of spinning power up the big hill. I seriously considered using my Bontrager Race X Lite wheels, which are about 350g lighter than the FP60s when all is said and done. In the end, I decided that 350g would only be so helpful, and that I'd really appreciate the aero advantage on the other 11 miles of the course. I hope I decided correctly.

The lovely Jane, my girlfriend, will be my "support crew". I may ask her to ceremonially hand me fresh bottles of Perpetuem once a lap, to save a couple of pounds on that climb.

In these days immediately before the race, I'm taking it easy. I didn't ride today, and tomorrow's ride will strictly be a full equipment test, though I may throw in a couple of efforts.

When all is said and done, my goals are to have a fun race, to keep the rubber side down, to get a good workout, and to do my best in finishing as close to the front of the race as possible.

Old Friends, Old Allies

I just had lunch with Ian, caught up with Eloy in the park a couple of days ago, and chatted via e-mail with JP. One thing is for sure: my recent placing in a Prospect Park race made a lot of Kissena riders here in NYC remember me, from the one season I spent with the team in 2003. It's always great to know I have friends out there, as well as more blog readers!

So, where exactly do I stand with competitive bicycling? In 2003, I was a promising junior who was unsure of himself, stressed with school, and soundly trounced by the other promising juniors in an August race. Since then, I went to MIT, joined the crew team, gained 45 lbs, experienced real burnout, quit the crew team, took a year off, did an 1100 mile tour, did some collegiate races, biked across the country, joined the crew team again, quit it again almost a year later, lost those pesky 45 lbs, and started riding faster. I've done a few races this year. Bear Mountain will be my last race of the Spring season. After that, I'll do my 230-mile day ride to Boston, ride across the country again, and resume studies at MIT.

I currently train about 10-15 hours a week. My power and heart rate numbers are consistent with what one might expect for a strong, but by no means elite, 22 year old rider. The question is, do I have what it takes to be elite? Do I have the genetics, as well as the time, the money, the support, and the motivation? I don't know. I'm starting to suspect the answer is yes, since I'm having so much fun with this. Of course, the competition is stiff, and I just don't know what awaits. Where will I be in five years, or ten years?

So, to the folks on Team Kissena: I'd love to keep in touch, maybe even grab lunch, just drop me a line whenever. I'm in town until June 6th, then it's north, then west, then MIT, then hopefully west.


Strength to Weight!

At 81-82 kg, I'm a little heavier than I'd like to be, but still not such a bad weight for bicycle racing. I'd like to be able to hold the "magic seven" of 7 W/kg this weekend at Bear Mountain. We'll see what happens.

As a numbers guy, I've been looking at my power curve lately. According to PowerAgent, this is what I'm capable of developing, in watts, for the corresponding time periods:

1144 W for 5 sec
620 W for 30 sec
526 W for 1 min
375 W for 5 min
358 W for 10 min
335 W for 30 min
316 W for 60 min
277 W for 120 min

This isn't bad, considering the minimal amount of structure to my training, but falls far short of most decent racing cyclists. PowerCranks have helped push this curve up. Notice that major dip around 5 minutes. Hm.


PowerTap on Edge: The Saga Continues

In today's procrastination at work, I managed to find the FCC ID of a PowerTap SL 2.4 hub: T8P-SL2P401. I was then able to search the FCC's public information page, and find all sorts of engineering information about the hub. The site is good for pictures of the "torque tube", so go take a look!

The 2.4 GHz internals of the hub (2457.0 MHz, to be precise to five sig figs) were provided to Saris by DynaStream, the company behind ANT technology who is owned by, surprise surprise, Garmin. The acquisition happened in December of 2006.

At this point, the incompatibility is just due to politics! Honestly, how hard is it to hack the firmware in the Garmin Edge 705? I've gotten the usual cold shoulder from Garmin when I contacted them about this. Absurd.


Disc Wheel!

I just purchased my first disc wheel. It's a HED lenticular disc, tubular, and it's well used. I found it for a grand total of $200 on Craigslist. I probably could have haggled down some 10%, but the poor guy was selling the wheel to pay off his taxes (or so he claimed), so I didn't argue the price.

So, what's the catch in a $200 disc wheel? Well, it has a couple of gouges and plenty of dents and scratches. The (tubular!) tire, though intact, may need to be re-glued. But, hey, it works, and seems raceable. I just took it for a test ride, and it seems happy. You can't beat the price!

The cassette freehub mechanism is designed for Shimano 8- and 9-speed cassettes, so I'll need to file the base of the freehub just a bit (about 0.5 mm) to get my 10 speed cassette on there happily. I knew that spare 11-25 cassette would come in handy!

I didn't want to ride to Astoria to collect the wheel on my day of, since it's a pain to carry and I need my recovery, but I wish I had. There was the usual NYC Transit idiocy in Midtown, so the N train was not running through the tunnel to Queens. This complicated matters, and made what should have been a 90 minute errand into a 4 hour ordeal.

Off to sleep! I need to be well rested to play with my new toy tomorrow morning!


Solution to the PowerTap / Edge 705 Problem

You heard it here first! If somebody makes this and I don't get at least credit for the idea, I'll get lawsuit-happy!

So, here's the problem. I have a PowerTap SL 2.4, a damn fine piece of bicycle telemetry instrumentation. I also have a Garmin Edge 705, which ought to be quite a nice device, except for the fact that it can't read power data - at all - from my PowerTap!

In theory, this should not be a problem. Both of these devices communicate on the 2.4 GHz band and, with some cleverness and payment of royalty fees, I'm sure Garmin and Saris could happily negotiate either a software fix to the Edge 705 head unit, or a hardware change to the PowerTap itself. Rumor has it that this will happen this fall. I'm never one to believe rumor.

So, here's my idea. It's kludgy, and will take some work to implement, but I don't see why it's not possible. I'd like to build a wireless repeater device. Basically, this would function as a PowerTap head does, listening for the data from the PowerTap in real time. It would then masquerade as an ANT+Sport-compliant power device, and relay this information to the Edge 705! The device itself would be the size of a matchbook, run off a CR2032 battery, and probably have a little USB connector for programming the serial number of the PowerTap, or at the very least, a button and a red/green LED. It's a simple repeator-translator, nothing more, nothing less. It's a hack, partially technological, mostly political.

I was turning this idea over and over in my head, and thought to myself: is there any reason why this has to be restricted to the PowerTap SL 2.4 head? Why can't the regular ol' PowerTap SL do the same exact thing? Unlike the 2.4, which communicates directly with the head unit with a range of about three meters, the plain ol' SL communicates wirelessly with a smaller pickup, within a range of three inches, which then communicates via wire. Why not make a device that reads the SL data in real time, and also masquerades as a ANT+Sport power meter, for the benefit of the Edge 705? Not only that, but this device could also speak PowerTap, and basically upgrade a PowerTap SL to a PowerTap SL 2.4! You could even put a little magnetic pickup on the device, for regular old speed, and for kicks, give it the same shark-fin shape.

I tend to rant. I hope my proposal is clear. If not, perhaps ASCII art will work:

PowerTap SL 2.4 --(proprietary)--> PowerTap 2.4 head: this exists.
ANT+Sport device --(ANT+Sport)--> Edge 705: also exists - see the Quarq offering.

PowerTap SL 2.4 --(proprietary)--> Device --(ANT+Sport)--> Edge 705: my idea.
PowerTap SL --(short-range)--> Device --(ANT+Sport)--> Edge 705: also my idea.
PowerTap SL --(short range)--> Device --(proprietary)--> PowerTap 2.4 head: also my idea.

A single device can do all of this.

"Proprietary" - describes the 2.4 GHz protocol a PowerTap SL 2.4 uses to communicate with a head unit.
"short-range" - describes another proprietary protocol, of unknown frequency or characteristics, that a PowerTap SL uses to communicate with a wireless receiver, about three inches from the hub.
"ANT+Sport" - describes Garmin's wireless protocol.

I don't have any time to work on this in May, and I'll be on the road all summer. Perhaps I can work on this when I get back to MIT? The hardware should be trivial, I just need to be able to send/receive a 2.4 GHz signal. Any takers? Garmin or Saris, are you listening?

Race Report: Prospect Park USCF Cat 4

By the numbers:
Final position: 8/57
9 laps @ 3.4 mi/lap = 30.60 miles, averaging 23.9
Average HR: about 150 (low!); Max HR: about 178.

Overall: A good race! I placed! I even won $30!

Cat 3 Upgrade Status: 0 upgrade points, 1 top 10 finish, 3 pack finishes. (Needed: 20 pts OR 25 races.)

I was exceptionally well prepared for this race. I took yesterday easy by working from home, and took a nap during the middle of the day. I got enough sleep, ate properly, and hydrated properly. I even managed to empty the ol' digestive tract before the race. The single bottle of Perpetuem I had for the race proved to be a good idea.

Thumbs up on the equipment, too. I decided to run my Flash Point FP60s. What an efficient, wonderful wheelset. What a good idea.

It's amazing how much I can tell about a racer just by looking at cues. There are the obvious tips - such as a person's body fat percentage and cadence - that tip you off to major things. But, the subtlety in looking at someone's pedal stroke to see how tired they are, or of looking at how out of true their wheels are to know how technically savvy they are, that's just cool.

After reading Prehn's book, I learned that it doesn't take strength to win a road race, just smarts. I made a point of sitting in with the pack and staying out of the wind whenever possible. I knew that each and every break would be caught, and I was right! I was lazy, but stayed toward the front with the rubber side down.

A major part of my win was just spotting someone who knew what they were doing, and staying with them. I noted early on that rider 423, a man named Austin, knew what he was doing and had an easy time of staying toward the front. Instead of thinking about staying forward, I just remembered to not let Austin out of my sight. This meant not dropping too far back, and not passing him. It turned out to be an awesome tactic.

Dave was right there with me for this race. He should have stayed out of the wind a little more.

Always learning. Always improving.


Goals For The Summer

This week, I made a point of calling all of my Bike & Build riders, and just talking to them about how their preparations for the trip were going. I talked about the usual drudgery of fundraising, training, gear ordering, sweat equity, and pre-trip research. I was pretty happy with everyone's status all around, and won't give anyone a hard time about any of this in the future. Everyone is up to par - that's excellent!

Talking with Jane on Monday gave me the idea of asking people what their goals were for the summer. With a trip like this, I think it is a major win to have a set of realistic and reach goals for yourself to achieve. This gives you something to work toward, and gives you the sense of having there be something greater than the day to day life of the trip, if only for yourself. Goals make you proud in the end, and can help you through some of the toughest times on the trip.

I've done a fair amount of thinking, and have compiled this set of personal goals for this summer's trip. This is in no particular order.

1. Stay positive. I have a tendency of always finding criticism, and always making the worst of situations. I've been trained to do this, and I'm quite good at it. I'd like to try to see most situations in a positive light.

2. No alcohol. There. I've said it. You might be able to get me to go to a bar if you really, really try, but I'm just not drinking. Last time, I didn't have a choice, but this time, I do. I'd like to get other people on the no alcohol bandwagon, too, because too much idiocy is tied to alcohol.

3. Stay fed and hydrated at all times. It's impossible to be positive when you're bonking. I'd like to always have enough water and calories running through my system.

4. Push the power curve. I'm strong, I want to be stronger. I want to fly up mountain passes. I want to haul along at high speed into the wind. I want to be an awesome rider again.

5. Lose fat, gain muscle. This tends to happen easily. I'm very much looking forward to just looking really lean.

6. Try to get to know everyone. There are thirty people on this trip who I don't know well. I may not talk to many of them after the trip, and I may not even like all of them, but I think everyone deserves a chance, and I need to stay open and friendly. As a part of this, I'd like to not ride alone, which I tended to do in 2006.

7. EFI. Every f***ing inch. I want to ride as much as I possibly can, short of having to drive every fourth day. I did this in 2006, and I can do this again.

8. Learn something every day, and write it down. I think this is what life is all about.

9. Be a competent, well respected, trustworthy leader. I think I did a good job in 2006, but since then, I think I've improved in leaps and bounds. I'm trying to listen more, and to be more patient with people. I'm trying to set better first impressions, and be more approachable. This is a long term project.

10. Laugh. This is an extension of staying positive.

Coach Soltren - It's Official!

I just checked the USA Cycling Web site, and guess what I found!

Road - Cat 3
Track - Cat 3

That's right ladies and gentlemen, USA Cycling has determined that I'm capable of passing a really easy test and a background check! I'm "technically" a certified "coach". Whether I ever take on any formal clients is another story, but this is a good story to tell on the road. For more information, please visit http://www.usacycling.org/news/user/story.php?id=95. How many other cycling coaches do you know? (If you're reading this blog, well, probably at least three, but that's beside the point.)

I'll eventually work toward becoming a Level 2 and Level 1 coach. At the very least, I'd like to learn much more about the physiology of periodization of training. The question is, when?

If you want further proof, check out the USAC Search Results.

Level up.

Principles of Urban Riding, Part 3: Nonstop Theory

My commute from Park Slope to Midtown Manhattan is an 8.5 mile trip. People are pretty impressed when I tell them that 35 minute travel time is the norm. After all, it's "so far" in their minds, and the F train, on a good day, would take 45 minutes for that same trip. If you're a true cyclist, you would be less impressed. You'd know that a strong rider like me ought to be able to average 22 MPH on such a short run, making this a 24 minute trip, in theory. When I move out to the West Coast, and my "commute" is a 10 mile run on a flat, straight road, I'll break out #7 and get to work averaging a hell of a lot faster than 22 MPH!

So, why does it take 35 minutes to get to work, instead of 24? The answer is simple: stops. Stopping - for traffic lights, pedestrians, cross traffic, construction, or anything of the sort - is a huge delay. It's something I try to avoid whenever possible.

I employ a number of advanced techniques in order to navigate city traffic with as few stops as possible. I'll list a few of them here, and leave the explanation of the individual points to future blog postings:
  • Equally Weighted Grid Traversal. By this, I mean that New York City is a grid, and, so long as you are able to corner quickly and all of the streets are on a true grid, it really doesn't matter which streets you take from Point A to Point B.
  • Heuristic Traffic Preditction. If you ride a route every day, you start to know which streets tend to have more or less traffic on a given day.
  • Early Scanning. I usually know when a driver is stopping, slowing, or turning before they do. Subtle changes in speed and direction offer major clues. This happens for pedestrians as well.
  • Back-Passing. People tend to not think about the space immediately behind them, and rarely move in reverse. I try to pass pedestrians immediately behind them when possible.
  • Route Knowledge. On a route that I ride regularly, I will know where the major potholes are ahead of time. The only events that lead to new potholes are constructions or major storms, and I know to look for new potholes when those conditions occur.
  • Equipment Knowledge. I know the limits of the bicycles I ride, and keep them in top condition.
  • Traffic Light Timing. Here in New York City, traffic lights all follow fixed patterns. The walking signal offers quite a lot of information about the state of a light, and lets me know how long I have until a red. When I combine this with memorizing the cycles of each traffic light, I can optimize how much to slow down, so I never fully stop.
  • Silence. I try not to talk, much less scream, when riding. It saps energy, keeps me from getting air, and is indicative of a poor decision already made. (I do shout for children, since they don't fully understand the implications of a 180 lb bicyclist moving at 25 MPH.)
I'm able to use all of these aspects, and more, in my daily commute to and from work. I make decisions on the fly, with a surprising degree of accuracy. There is not much that surprises me on the road these days.