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Spring Training

28 Apr

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April is winding down and so is 30 Days of Biking. Yesterday was the biggest test yet for my allegiance to the cause.

It rained all day and evening, heavy cold rain. Cats and dogs kind of rain. I put it off as long as I could then donned my rain jacket and pants for a really quick spin on the bike. Just enough to call it a ride. Barely.

We had two nice days of riding over the weekend. Amazing how easy it feels on Rocket the road bike after the daily slogs on my nameless mountain bike or Condor the commuter. I decided to do all of my Monday – Friday rides on the heavier bikes and save my zippy road bike for my longer weekend rides. My thinking was and is to use the slower, heavier bike rides to build my fitness and the longer rides would be easier as a result.

It’s working. I felt the benefits of this strategy on both rides over the weekend. Both rides were noticeably easier than they were in March. Granted I’m riding more, every day now, and that’s part of it, but I think a bigger part of the improvements are from the daily training on the beefier bikes.

Some of it is mental – some part of everything is mental – and I’ll take it but there’s no question, in my mind at least, that it is easier to go fast and long on a road bike.

Don’t get me wrong, I love riding all three of my bikes, but for different reasons and purposes.

Anyone see it differently or employ a similar strategy for early season rides?

Bike Fit

29 Mar

I mentioned in my post Bliss on a Bike that I recently had a fit done on Rocket, my refurbed Scott CR1 Pro. Part of the refurbishing happened during the fit which I’ll discuss later. 

Why a new fit?

Good question, because on the surface I didn’t seem to need one. While not a perfect measure of whether or not a fit is needed, I consider two overall factors: when I’m riding do I feel like the bike is just an extension of me – i.e., just one machine going down the road, and two, how do I feel during and after a ride.

The problem with me and maybe all of us – is we can adjust to most anything – regardless of how uncomfortable or painful it may be when we’re riding. We figure part of cycling is suffering and although that’s true at times you shouldn’t suffer from just being on the bike. Good suffering comes in with hard effort and long hours in the saddle, if you’re in pain or uncomfortable on a short and easy ride, something is most likely wrong with your position.

My position has been comfortable overall for a 3-4 hour ride – not like – “gee, maybe I should keep my bike in the living room to sit on because it’s just so damn comfortable!” – but comfortable in the sense that nothing hurt during or was sore after a ride. Given some of my physical  “quirks” that in and of itself is quite a feat, but things can always be improved, right? Plus, Mark had a fit done on his new bike and after seeing the attention to detail and fine tuning done to his position I wanted one too. Fit isn’t just about comfort, but also power, and it seemed Mark’s power  had definitely improved.

Here’s how the fit went:

I had my fit done at Schlegel Bicycles. Schlegel’s offers three levels of fits: Bronze ($100), Silver ($170) and Gold ($280).

A fit is only as good as the person doing it and that’s where Schlegel’s excels – Aaron Smathers. Before I ever walked into Schlegel’s, with Mark for his fit or for my own, I was sold on the process just from watching this video. This isn’t your basic fit, it’s a custom fit based on your needs, biomechanics – including any little (or not so little) quirks or anomalies you might have.

Check out a typical Bronze fit.

Aaron tweaked every aspect of my position: seat height and fore/aft position, switched me to a longer stem and we changed to a more ergonomic handlebar with a shallower drop. Both the bar and stem are carbon fiber and are from 3T Cycling. I love the new bar/stem combination. The shock dampening is significant as is the ease and comfort of riding in the drops. In fact the drops are now more comfortable than the brake hoods. For the coolness factor, the bar/stem match my frame perfectly and look way better than the stock Ritchey Pro I had.

From watching me pedal (including using a laser beam to track rotation in my knee) Aaron changed the position of cleats in both shoes. Turns out I had them in the opposite position I should have. I pedaled, he tweaked, I pedaled some more, changing from the hoods to the drops and back, more tweaks.

At some point your position gets dialed in to the extent it can be and then you have to take it on the road and ride. On an actual ride you move around on the bike, you scoot up on the saddle, you scoot back. Your position while riding is dynamic, on a trainer, not so much.

Aaron spent about 2 hours on my fit. As I said earlier, he’s knowledgeable about the science of bike fitting and he’s raced and ridden for years so he has a practical knowledge as well. He’s careful and thoughtful in his assessments and adjustments which is just what you want when you’re getting a fit. Schlegel’s has a nice set up for fits and a good selection of bikes, gear and clothing.

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The price of my Silver level fit (and all the custom fits) includes future tweaks and adjustments necessary to get my position dialed in. Overall I’m quite happy with the results so far. Riding in the drops is so much more comfortable, that alone is worth the cost of the fit and the bar/stem. I do have some pain in my neck and shoulders that may or may not be related. Mostly what I notice as far as things that possibly need adjusting is when on the hoods my shoulders feel scrunched. My new bar is a 42 but the bar is narrower on top then flares at the drops giving an effective width at the top somewhere around 40cm I would guess. I don’t feel it at all in the drops, just when I’m on the brake hoods and resting my hands on the bar. It may be something I will adjust to or it could even be something else causing it. Too soon to tell I think.

Since the fit I’ve ridden a little over 100 miles, but I want to maybe do another 100 to give my new position a chance to gel. Using my rule of thumb about position, I definitely feel "one with the bike", even more so than before. I feel that I have more power but much of that has to do with the improved performance not of me, but of my upgraded drivetrain. What a difference Chorus makes! Chorus is one step up from what I had (Centaur), but also compact replacing a triple. Also 2005 Centaur, 2011 Chorus, so big improvements in that one step jump. Bottom line is I love, love, LOVE my Chorus groupset.

I highly recommend Aaron Smathers and Schlegel’s for a fit if you’re in need and you’re in this area. You’ll need to get it scheduled fairly soon because Aaron is leaving this summer to start medical school in the fall.  

A Chorus Girl

9 Mar

First ride on my “new” bike. New is in quotations because the bike (frame/fork, wheels, seat post, handlebar) are the same. Everything else is different.

Most of all the ride experience.

Astoundingly so, yep, I’m astounded. I really can’t get over the difference. As we were nearing home, I actually had the thought that the bike rides nothing like my old bike – except of course it is my old bike except for the gruppo.

My next thought was what took me so long to do this.

As I posted last week, I’ve upgraded the gruppo on my 2005 Scott CR1 Pro. Since getting the bike in 2006 I’ve ridden the stock components: Campy Centaur 10 speed triple groupset. I’ve wanted to do it and after realizing the cassette, chain and middle chainring needed to be replaced due to wear, I thought (actually Mark thought) get a compact and an upgrade to Chorus.

380754_216403931815356_1189502473_nI upgraded to 2011 Campagnolo Chorus (just call me a Chorus girl 🙂 11 speed compact groupset including the brakes. The compact is a 50×34 and cassette is a 12×27 (12,13,14,15,16,17,19,21,23,25,27). The bike shop talked me in to getting the 12×27 over the 11×25 to have a lower gear – which I’ll probably appreciate more than I will miss the top end gear (11), but today I’m not sure. We didn’t take a long ride due to weather, but the riding was so effortless I found myself looking forward to hills to test if I needed the easiest gear but I never did. Granted nothing was steep or long so I won’t really know until I can go east and ride the hills. I did, however miss the top end gear. I’ll just have to see if the tradeoff of that 27 is worth it. Otherwise, I’ll switch to an 11×25.

I’m still stunned by how different the ride is. Of course I knew it would be better but there was no way to know how much better it would be with all the changes combined – most of them significant as a solo change – in a package, simply outstanding.

The changes:

1.      Newer components – from 2005 to 2011. Improvements happen every year, so big difference.

2.      Centaur to Chorus, significant upgrade.

3.      Triple to compact,

4.      The brakes.  

The brakes are incredible. I had read glowing reviews of the brakes but oh, my stopping power! Better than my disc brakes on the Jamis. No kidding. I love the brakes.

As far as the shifting, it was solid and smooth. After I switched to Campagnolo after 15 years of riding only Shimano, I attempted to describe the difference between Campagnolo and Shimano shifting. I likened it to the difference between driving a car with stick shift and an automatic. There’s feedback when you shift with a stick – and Campy. Maybe it’s not better, just different in a better way – at least for me.

I’m glad I didn’t shop for a new bike, I would have spent quite a bit more to get what I now have with these upgrades. Better to improve than replace if the frame/fork is good and fits you. I actually never considered getting a new road bike, I really love the Scott, only more now.

I can’t wait to take our usual ride so I can really compare. Today was an exhilarating first test ride!

Bike Shop Friday

3 Mar

The first day of March brought visits to two local bike shops, known in the bike loving world as a LBS. Mark had a bike fitting on his new Scott so I tagged along.  While he was getting the fit done I talked wheels with one of the other employees. He took me around the shop and showed me a number of options then we looked online and checked weights and specs on several wheelsets. It was heaven.

Talking shop with the guys – and they all were guys – is fun. I can’t speak for other women, but over the past 20+ years I’ve been riding, generally speaking LBS employees have seemed surprised at my level of bike-speak. Not that many women rode bikes back then – much less were obsessed with them to the point that they could speak of cycling and bikes ad nauseam – just like them.

Now that I’m in the advanced area of middle age, it’s even more true. I certainly get that. For them it’s like talking shop with their mother and at some point in the not too distant future – their grandmother – that should really be funny!

What isn’t funny is when I’m not taken serious as a cyclist and I’ve had several of those experiences. It’s frustrating to say the least. Case in point, a number of years ago Mark and I were fit at different times by the same LBS employee (another shop). Mark had just purchased his first road bike since he was a teenager and was fit in a fairly aerodynamic position (which he changed a short time later because it wasn’t comfortable) especially considering his riding experience and the guy spent considerable time tweaking his fit. I was there and observed the sharp contrast to my fit which had happened a couple of months earlier.

My fit was not only quicker, but my position was not as aggressive – especially considering my riding experience. I was careful to communicate the number of years I had been riding (15) and mileage (2-3,000 a year on average) in hopes that he would see past my gender and age and just treat me like a cyclist. It didn’t happen, when I pushed back about my position he said I should start there and we could always change it later. Same person doing both fits, but completely different experiences. In reality he fit me like he should have fit Mark and vice versa.

Friday’s experience was the antithesis to that experience and it was so nice. Talking about bikes and riding is as natural and enjoyable to me as a young mother talking about her kids. Like that mother, I’ve been known to pull out pictures too, although on this day I just gave them my Love of Bikes business card.

I was impressed with the quality of fit Mark received, so I’m scheduling one soon and will post about it. New gruppo for Rocket and an improved fit should keep me highly motivated to ride this spring.

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For the Love of Bikes Blog by Susan Lash (2009 - 2014) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.loveofbikes.com.