Friday, December 15, 2017

The end of the year

After Rolling Thunder at the end of October, I didn't even go for a ride the next week and then we had a good few days of snow. That had me thinking that my outdoor riding season was mostly over. But then it didn't snow for like a whole month and I made it back outside a few times.

From nov 7th through the end of the month I put in 537 miles, and I'm up to nearly 200 for December. All that had the nice benefit of getting my distance for the year up to just over 5000mi. Not so bad given the late start and slow summer. So now it's almost Christmas and I'm not even pudgy or out of shape yet. I might even make it to AZ again for a bit in jan-feb which would be helpful. Riding on the trainer is not really appealing. I could probably get out for a few miles on the road still but have been fighting a cold for over a week now. And I suppose I could get a little more into xc sking, or track down a touring setup, or even a fat bike. Unfortunately all those things cost money.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Another 1x11 review

This year I swapped both my mountain and cyclocross bikes from 2x10 to 1x11 drivetrains. Like I mentioned, this is simpler, lighter, easier to use, and tends to keep the chain in place better with the big chainring teeth and clutched derailleur. And like I did with the mtb drivetrain, I figured I should get a little use out of the new cx parts before giving it much of a review.

I collected these parts from various places (some stuff from Missoula Bicycle Works, some stuff from the internet, and the chainring from a friend), and had it installed just in time for week 2 of our Wednesday night series. With Rolling Thunder, it's seen use in 6 races plus some general riding for a total of 600 miles. I think that's enough time and I've been out in a good variety of conditions- racing on a few different courses, riding on pavement, dirt, gravel, up hills, and even some time out on singletrack. Like with the MTB, it's a big improvement over the previous setup with a front derailleur.

The main issue I have with the mtb drivetrain is the shortened gearing range. It's a little tougher on the low end, and runs out up top. However, the 2x gearing on my cx bike was really narrow, so with a wider 11-32 cassette instead of 11-25, I was able to ditch a chainring and front derailleur with no loss in total range at all. That's really the trick to this whole 1x thing- instead of more gears up front, they use more on the back. My old Shimano 105 derailleur was only meant to be used with an 11-28 cassette. With the new Sram Apex derailleur, I can use a 10-42 if I want. Why is this such a big deal? Well, there's the weight and simplicity and better chain retention, but more importantly, a rear derailleur will always shift faster, more smoothly, and better under load. This is because the chain is being moved on the untensioned side of the cassette, and the gaps between the gears are much smaller. A front derailleur, on the other hand, has to deal with a big 10-16t jump plus any tension put on from pedaling, so it's never going to be as smooth, as fast, or as reliable, regardless of electric motors or syncro shift wizardry (and I have a bike with a di2 front derailleur).

I actually didn't really have many problems with the old front derailleur. Having closer spaced cx rings (46 and 36) does improve front shifts. So why am I doing this again? Well, 36x25 was pretty hard on those long hills, and I like to simplify and add lightness. While the difference between my shortest and tallest gears didn't change, it is shifted down to the easier side, with a smaller 42t chainring. On the top end, there's still enough to pedal at 30ish or so, and on the low end those extra gears are really nice for climbing. I would have even considering going lower with a wider cassette and/or a smaller chainring, but cost was also a factor. As I got the chainring used from Cory and the 11-32 cassette was only $35, going with different gearing was going to be another $70 or so. 42x32 is still not mtb gearing, but it gets me up things like snowbowl road and butler creek a little easier, and I even rode it up the ravine trail although another gear or two would have been nice on that. And then it's tall enough to make it through Wednesday Worlds (if I didn't have a road bike).

Alright enough gearing nerdery. How's it work? Well, pretty good. With the sram shifter there's only one lever. The first click and release gets you an upshift down the cassette, and if you push the lever past that to the next click, it downshifts. You can downshift three at a time. A full sweep of the GX mtb lever will get you 5 shifts, which combined with the much bigger gaps in an 11-42 cassette, gets you a really big change of gearing fast. Having a front derailleur does the same thing- You can pedal into a ride-up in the big ring, and then drop to the little ring when you run out of speed. With the 1x I have to sweep the shifter, sometimes more than once, all while trying to pedal up a steep hill and pick my way through rocks, logs, and other racers. It's easier to wind up in the wrong gear and might make it more likely to drop, break, or jam up a chain. When you look at the pros, there are still quite a few racers using a double, probably for this reason. It's also true that shimano doesn't offer a clutched 1x setup for cx, but with di2 you can just use a mountain bike derailleur. Or maybe that is not an approved setup for the sponsored racers.

That's one downside- it takes longer and more effort to dump a lot of gears. I suppose a wider range cassette would improve that slightly and give me easier climbing gears, but then there is the worry about big gaps. 11-32 is a pretty close ratio cassette for 11 speed and I don't really notice on the road but 11-36 would probably have been a better choice.

Whoops, there I am talking about gear ratios again. So anyway, I did have an issue with it but I appear to have fixed the problem. Sometimes the shifting was not quite perfect. This problem would only come up with multiple downshifts. The first shift, fine, sweeping all the way across for 3 gears worked, but getting two shifts was sometimes be an issue. I needed to go just a little bit past the click to get it to actually shift. I fiddled with tension, made sure the cable was sliding smoothly, and even shortened the little bit of teflon liner where it went through the guides.

I even considered the possibility that the cheaper apex group just doesn't work as well as the nicer stuff. Yes, apex, rival, force, red, all have pretty much the same shifting mechanism, just with fancier materials on the more expensive stuff, but I still wonder if there's anything different besides materials.

I also had an incident where I crashed in a sand trap in a race and got the shifter completely packed full of sand. I did clean it out pretty well but a few grains here and there could definitely have an effect on the shifting.

So finally, after the first trainer night of the winter, I was able to pay a little more attention to what was going on in a controlled environment, and decided that my b-limit was just a little too far out. I would up just removing the screw entirely to get close to the recommended 6mm of clearance. I'm not sure if it's because the derailleur is designed to handle a much bigger cassette than I'm using or if it has to do with the frame/dropout, as I had to have the limit really far out on the old drivetrain too. On the plus side that saved some weight and it shifts properly now. B-limit adjustment seems to be a little overlooked but I've found it pretty important for good, smooth shifts, and I seem to always find mine too far out for some reason...
I suppose the conclusion here is that a 1x setup is almost always a good upgrade and I'm really liking it on both the CX and MTB. On those long forest road climbs I appreciate the new gear range and it's easy to change with a different cassette or chainring. It also dropped enough weight to be noticeable when riding, putting my bike at just under 19lbs when it was over 20 new.

Well I guess that covers it. A set of decent wheels for this bike and it will be even lighter and good to go for at least a few more seasons, which is good because a new CX bike is not on my radar at all. "Oh no, it does't have disc brakes," you say. Well, on a race course, and even riding down singletrack the new mini-vees work just fine. or much better than the old cheap cantis anyway. The head tube's not slack, and the bottom bracket isn't low like newer bikes, but for racing that's not really important. Geometry chainged on newer bikes I think to make them more suitable to riding on gravel and stuff. But it's a cyclocross racing bike, not a gravel bike. Wait, there's a difference?  Anyhow, a little money spent on a new drivetrain and brakes has made this bike a lot more enjoyable to ride, so I'm going to keep doing that.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Words about my new road bike

I mentioned a new road bike awhile ago, but didn't really go into detail. I've been riding it all year and figured it was time, since I want to get a little more into talking about equipment and different rides and routes instead of myself all the time. I guess posts about trail work and the zootown derailleurs would be good ideas too.

Yeah, about that new road bike. It's nice




Back in the spring of 2016, I found a crack in the chainstay of my old Cannondale CAAD 9. I had bought it used when I lived in LA, and buying that bike and going on the group rides with my roommate is what turned me into a serious cyclist. It was a great bike for those 5 years and around 20k miles, and while I hadn't been seriously conisidering a replacement I guess the bike decided it was done before I did. My cyclocross bike does also work on the road, and I used it for the rest of that year with no major complaints, even at wednesday worlds. Road riding and racing also seem to be on a bit of a decline, but I still wanted a new road bike.

Since I had a pretty much fully functional road bike (although the mud at the rocky mountain roubaix did a bit of damage to some bearings and other components), my first thought was to just find a replacement frame, swap some stuff from the old bike, and maybe buy a few new parts like some wheels and possibly 11 speed shifters. After doing the math on everything, it turned out that just buying a complete new bike wasn't going to be any more expensive. A new caad, with something like rival or ultegra would have been an option, and then I was looking at the supersix, the carbon cannondale road bike, as their ultegra build would have cost me about 2k. "cheap" for a carbon race bike. But then Alex from Missoula Bicycle works mentioned that he was looking to sell his bike. It's also a Cannondale Supersix Evo, but a slightly nicer version. Alex and I are almost exactly the same height, and he goes through a lot of really nice bikes, so this is pretty convenient for me and a few other guys in town (my mountain bike came from him too). As an added bonus, he let me take it and pay over time.

My last bike was a Cannondale, and so is this one. It's not that I'm picky about brands; it mostly comes down to what Missoula Bicycle Works carries because I ride for them and they are nice to me and I get a discount. But I liked my caad and was already looking at Cannondales so this was pretty convenient. It's a very similar (but nicer) bike. They are both meant for racing and have about the same geometry, so I was able to just hop on it with minimal adjustments.

So onto the bike. Like I said the supersix is a race bike, so it has a pretty aggressive, low fit, a stiff and responsive frame, and no provisions for racks, fenders, or big tires. There are two versions of the supersix- the regular, and the hi-mod. This is the hi-mod. What's the difference? Well, it costs more. The carbon is more carbon-ey. But really hi-mod stands for "high-modulus," which means it uses a different, and stronger type of carbon fiber. Using stronger carbon in the layup means you can use less to make the bike lighter. It might change the feel and performance slightly but I think it's mostly about weight. Yet, with all things bike related, using less somehow makes it more expensive.

In addition to the fancy frame, the parts on this bike are fancy. The groupset is dura-ace di2. Dura-ace, which I believe is pronounced "duracchi," is the nicest stuff Shimano makes, and all the parts are inhabited by the spirits of long-dead samurai. That means it's expensive. Di2 means the shifters are electric, which also means it's expensive. Instead of pushing a lever and pulling a cable and moving the derailleurs, on this bike you push buttons and the derailleurs are moved by electric motors. On the plus side, you don't have to push as hard or as far to shift gears, which, if your hands are frozen and wet actually makes a difference. There are no cables and housings to wear out, stick, stretch, or break, so it shifts exactly the same every time. A motor instead of a cable and spring might also let the derailleur move more quickly and firmly to improve shifting. On the minus side, there's a whole mess of wires and junction boxes going in and out of the frame and a battery that can die and leave you without shifting in the middle of a ride. You have to plug it into a computer to update the software and change settings. It might just be a whole bunch of unnecessary complexity where a simple cable works just fine.

While I might not go out of my way to buy a brand new bike with di2, I do like it and appreciate a lot of the features. There are hidden buttons under the hoods and you can program them to do things like change pages on your garmin (if you have the wireless adapter) or shift gears. Mine are set up to shift the rear derailleur which is kind of nice. You can add extra shift buttons wherever you want, and holding the button down shifts multiple gears on the cassette. Shifts up to the big chainring are incredibly fast and smooth.  You just tap the button and it's on there and you don't even really have to ease up on pedaling. I've only needed to charge that battery once in 2100 miles and when it gets low the front derailleur stops working but leaves you with the rear shifting for a pretty good amount of time.

The frame is good, the group is good, and the wheels seemed to be good too. The Shimano RS-81 is like a Dura-ace wheel but not quite as fancy (the hubs and stickers are different?). It has an aluminum core and brake track  bonded (glued), to a carbon rest of the wheel. The benefit is that you get the braking performance of aluminum but it's lighter and stronger. Supposedly. My rear wheel blew a spoke after about 15 rides and went irreparably out of true. So I'm on a cheap mavic rear until I decide what to do there. A replacement isn't actually too expensive, but I feel like I want to go with something else given this one's track record. And sure, I might have done some riding in the dirt and mud and maybe found a few potholes on the hell ride, but this is a first after all the miles I've done on road, cross, and mountain bikes.

Also that happened on my birthday, and I was in Canada and couldn't ride my new bike for like a whole month. Still kind of mad about it. I think the problem is that they weren't dura-ace- those samurai are good at dodging things like bumps, potholes, and swords.

Well, that's the new fancy bike. All the carbon and dura-ace stuff means it weighs 15.5lbs, with ultegra pedals, cheap bottle cages, an aluminum handlebar and stem, and 25mm gp4k clinchers. With a few changes it would be pretty easy to get under 15. In comparison, my old caad 9 was closer to 18lbs, which I still considered fairly light.

How does it feel? The geometry, fit and tires are essentially the same as my old Cannondale so it rides a lot like it. If you can pedal hard it goes pretty fast, it's stable, and it's comfortable to ride all day. Getting out of the saddle and having the bike just jump forward immediately is one of those things I love about road biking. You just don't get that efficiency and instant response anywhere else. My only issue is that it seems a little sluggish to turn- I'll find myself a little behind and missing apexes unless I really pay attention. Partly I think because it's a big bike, a 60cm frame, and also because I've been spending so much time on my cross bike, which is smaller and has a steeper headtube angle. That steep cx headtube (74 degrees!) is great on a race course with lots of tight turns, but at higher speeds makes the bike seem unstable. I have just never been comfortable going faster than about 25-30 on anything but pavement with it. Conversely, you want a road bike to be stable at high speed so it's fine that it doesn't turn in quite as quickly, but on those fast mountain descents I need to make sure I'm staying balanced and leaning that bike over.

In conclusion, it's a pretty cool bike and nicest thing I've ever ridden. #worthmorethanmycar is actually true. Would I buy it new, at retail price? Uh, no. Probably not even if I could afford it. A high end road bike is really only incrementally better, and not a new mind blowing bicycle experience that can only be achieved by spending nearly ten grand. That nice regular carbon supersix with ultegra I mentioned goes for less than a third of the price. And this is a little bit embarrassing and stressful to own and ride. You get a lot of "woah, dura-ace?" "how much did that cost?" and "what was that noise?" (oh, just my derailleur shifting). I'm not really excited about the maintenance it will need (the spidering chainrings cost $250!), and I'm terrified of crashing it or breaking something or it getting stolen. I literally have nightmares about it. If I didn't have other bikes to buy first (full suspension mtb, gravel touring, fat), I would actually consider a 2nd not as nice road bike for things like crit races, traveling, and bad weather. But enough about my first world white person problems, here are some pictures

Friday, December 1, 2017

Rolling Thunder Cyclocross 2017

Rolling Thunder tends to mark the end of the season, and not just for racing, because winter usually shows up not too long after. This year we got cold weather and a big snowstorm a few days later (although it's been nice since and I've been out riding a bunch).

Like last year, I made sure to get out and help Shaun with the course. Thunder takes quite a bit more work than the standard Wednesday night series. Mostly it just comes down to driving in stakes and running tape but there is some other stuff that needs to happen too. Without any help Shaun would end up doing all himself and I had free time, so really it was about the least I could do. There is also a really nice benefit of helping with the course and that is being able to get very familiar with it before the race.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Wednesday night cyclocross

Cross season is over for me, and there won't be much more outdoor riding this year, so I guess I could write about it. Once again we had a 6-race Wednesday night series plus Rolling Thunder. I went to all of those, but did miss all the out of town Wild West series races again. Partially because I never got around to buying a USAC license, and partly because it's a lot of time and expense to go travel every weekend to race. I was also afraid of getting burnt out by the time thunder came around.

Friday, September 29, 2017

New parts for the CX bike

Cyclocross season just started, and this will be my 4th season on the Orbea. Apparently that is a long time to have a bike now, and I've heard "you should get a new one" quite a few times. I guess that would be nice, but I already bought a bike this year, and the cx bike just needed a bit of maintenance. Until now, about all I've done is put on new tires when they wore out. And replaced the chain once. So, after all that time and a few wet and muddy events, the shifting quality was not like new. It still worked, but sometimes shifts on the rear cassette were slow or I'd have to overshift to get to a bigger cog. Of course fresh cables and housings would have fixed the issue, but where's the fun in that?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Summer in Canada

This summer, I wound up in Canada for awhile. Probably not a surprise, seeing how I'm a Canadian and all. This trip wound up taking a little longer than I'd planned due to a constriction project, and there were some comments as to "I didn't think you were coming back" upon my return. Thankfully I had anticipated being there more than just a week or two and brought some bikes with. Un-thankfully, Lethbridge, Alberta, sucks for riding.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sram GX 1x11 MTB drivetrain 1000 mile review

This spring, I finally caught up with the rest of the world and got rid of the front derailleur on my mountain bike. Now I've got some good miles and a few races on it and thought I'd write some more words. I see way too many reviews of stuff that consists of "hey check out these new parts, looks cool, right?" Well, try it out for an extended period of time and get back to me. So that's what I've done, and the conclusion is that it's pretty good.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Mountain Bike Season

Road racing season came and went pretty quickly, and the summer has had me wondering about my choice to buy a new road bike this year as opposed to spending that money on MTB and CX stuff. A full suspension bike sure would be sweet and the cross bike could use a new drivetrain and some wider, tubeless-ready wheels. But no, not really, because I like road riding and it's an awesome bike.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Rocky Mountain Roubaix

I think the Rocky Mountain Roubaix is Montana's longest running bike race, and it was the first real road race I ever entered. Road racing has been in a bit of a decline around here, with more people opting to race mountain bikes and cyclocross, or just ride for fun instead. The wednesday series' are inexpensive, easy, and fun. Traveling to road races, on the other hand, tends not to be. You have to drive across the state, spend a bunch of money, and often spend the day suffering alone on the road. Then half the racers have left the time the awards start. I'm starting to think that having free beer and a bbq or something is key to good racer turnout.

Anyway, I've done the roubaix 5 times now, but since it's about our only road race I have been stuck in category 4. Next time I buy a license, I do get to upgrade to 3, but haven't had a reason to do that because most of our races, including the roubaix this year, don't require one. Like the Hell Ride, this was done as a "gran fondo." So there was the choice of the A race of 70 miles or B race of 40 miles. Having always been in the "B" race as a 4/5, this was my chance to move up ride with the fast guys.

Last year it was pouring rain and miserable. The dirt sections were slick mud and you couldn't see where you were going. It ruined all the bearings and cables and housings on my caad 9 and that was the last time I ever rode it since the crack in the chainstay had been growing. This year the forecast looked decent- just cloudy with possible showers. So of course in the morning it was raining, but I felt optimistic. Then I got to frenchtown, and it was still raining, and looked like it was raining on the course. So, yeah, it rained again. And was cold.

Friday, May 26, 2017

2017 Montana Hell Ride

I suppose road racing season is over already, after speedwagon, the hell ride, and roubaix. I wanted to set up some sort of prizes for the people who did all three (there are only 7 of us), but so far that hasn't happened.

Last time I mentioned a possible new road bike, and, well, I have this:

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A new bike season

I guess it's been awhile since I posted anything on here so here is what I've been not doing lately. Winter was pretty long this year, and after riding and racing pretty much non-stop from mid-January through the end of November I was not all that motivated to work out and ride the trainer.

I did ride the trainer a few times, and I did walk and hike a few times, cross country skied, downhill skied, but it wasn't a whole lot. 2-3 hours was a big week for me. What I did do was drink plenty of beer and sit around.