Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bald Spot

Thanks to the genes in the family, going bald is probably a long shot for me. If I were to head down that path, you'd quickly see me going to the local Long's and buying a heavy duty Wahl to keep thing high and tight

It's been about a year since I decided to go all Grizzly Adams and let the old beard grow. The current growth is just a sign of laziness on my part since shaving while I've had this cold is not something I really feel like doing. However, I did notice something unusual this morning in the mirror when I looked at my mug.

Apparently my bicycle helmet snap had created a bald spot under my chin. I don't have any issue with being "Manley" and growing a beard, but these spots look weird. Yeah, spots...plural. Just checked again and there are two distinct areas. Apparently the bike helmet industry hasn't caught on to this adjacent benefit from their gear. Too bad it can't work for my entire face. Shaving is just a hassle.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why 4mm matters - Specialized, read this and let me know your thoughts

This evening I received a box from my FedEx friends with some new bits for the road bike. Over the past year I've dabbled a bit with some lightweight parts. These have been fun given the light weight, but after riding some of our rougher venues I want to make sure I've got some solid components under me that will not fail.

Gone are the old stem (3T) and seatpost (KCNC). The 3T stem isn't a weight-weenie part in the truest sense, but you'll see my logic soon. The seatpost is definitely uber-light, but the clamping mechanism destroyed my rails on the old Toupe saddle (see last blog post for details). I went with a new Thomson stem and seatpost. Why both? Because I think it just looks better when you've got matching components. I'm just a bit OCD about this at times.

Why does 4mm matter? It matters when your underside is concerned! With my old Toupe there's a ~15mm gap between the rails and the edge of the saddle. The new Toupe I got last week (team edition in blue/white) only has ~11mm gap. This matters because the Thomson clamping mechanism has a part that protrudes up a bit. When the saddle bottoms out and flexes it now hits the top of this clamp.

I'm hoping it won't hurt me, but Specialized, why did you change the specs? Sure, one model is the gel version and the other is the team version, but wouldn't the distance between the rails and saddle be the same? If I've got a defective saddle, let me know and I'll personally drive down to Morgan Hill to get it replaced.

But then again, I do have three kids and we're not planning for any more. Maybe this is just a cheaper solution than taking a visit to the doctor for the snip-snip.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Saddle Showdown - Fizik vs. Specialized

You've probably heard it from everybody, more so than you know. Those wise words of advice around saddles where some wise experienced rider waxes about how it took them years to find the right saddle. And now that they have the right saddle, they continue to preach the mantra that "...everybody's different...".

I'll agree w/ the "different" argument. My first saddle was a Fizik Arione. It looked fast, cool and aggressive. Yeah, it was aggressive. Aggressive in how fast it caused me to go numb! Not to walk completely away from the Fizik's, I tried the Aliante next. Boy was that a comfortable saddle. But I could never get that dialed in; I still went numb.

I finally found bliss with the Specialized Toupe. Initial scorn of the big box "S" from Morgan Hill was soon turned to passionate zeal for their butt-friendly product. Once I got it dialed in, I knew I had found "my" saddle. Over the years I've tried a few different variations on the Toupe. The gel version was ok, but not as good as the original. Plus it weighs a bit more and that's a no-no. I've got enough padding on my rear end (but reasonable when you look at some of those larger behinds at our local know who you are).

The past two years I've been using the same black Toupe. It was with me pre-back injury and was a friend during my recovery and subsequent category upgrades. But I got a seven year itch this past week and wanted to try something different. I took the saddle off and realized that the rails were pretty beat up. The picture below might not do justice to just how bad they had bent. So much that the saddle could no longer rest flat on its' rails. Some of our local roads and races left a permanent mark on the ole' Toupe.

The silver paint on the plastic front had worn off. If you look close enough you can see just a bit of daylight underneath the bent rails. I hated to have this thought go through my mind, but this old horse needed to be put down. So what was I going to try instead? Another Toupe? Nah, let's see what new saddles might work...

A quick call to Bicycle Outfitters and I found out they had just received the latest Fizik saddle. The Antares hit the market a few months ago after being introduced at Interbike. The bright orange saddle stuck out like a sore thumb. Hopefully it would feel better than sitting on your own thumb.

The nose of the saddle is a tiny bit wider than the Toupe, but not too noticeable. I did notice, however, that when I would climb out of the saddle and then sit back down, the width of the saddle was a tad startling at first. Apparently my taint wasn't prepared to meet so much saddle when sitting down, but I soon got over this and it didn't bother me. And speaking of climbing, this saddle was very nice on the climbs. Very firm, with no noticeable flex. The flare of the saddle toward the rear makes it very comfortable to sit and spin up our longer climbs. No issues with going up.

However, things just didn't feel right when on the flats and in the drops. Maybe it was me being so used to the cutout of the Toupe that having a normal saddle just felt wrong. I could never really get comfortable, and knowing how much I like to just bite the bit and hammer in the drops, this was a non-negotiable for me. No way did I want a squased underside to hinder the hammering.

I ended up riding about 150 miles on the Antares. I probably could have ridden the saddle more and seen more positive changes to both my adaptation and that of the saddle from breaking in a bit more. But my old love the Toupe was calling. Not the busted friend that had been with me all these years, but a new Toupe to match the colors of the bike. Might I right the Antares? Sure, but it's in second place. My "boys" are sticking with the product made by the boys down at the big "S" shop.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Death by Salad

At my place of employment, cafeteria services have been outsourced for a long time. So much so that people have been receiving on hell of a deal for their meals at the various cafeterias on our campus. One staple of my infrequent visits to the cafeteria has been the salad bar.

I work from home the majority of the week, so when I have the option to build out a fantastic salad, I jump at the opportunity. My two "go to" ingredients are the blue cheese crumbles and the fresh-off-the-grill bacon bits. Last week the bacon bits were still warm and glistening! Not technically veggies, they do serve their purpose in the whole scheme of my salad.

What you see in this picture is a large salad bowl. Not completely heaped up with veggies to the max, but a nice full bowl. This normally would have cost around $5.

Last week the prices changed and the salad bar would be charged at $0.40/ounce. I don't know much about ounces; besides all my bike components are weighed in grams. But I did receive one cautionary note from a peer earlier in the week. He gave me fair warning that the salad bar was THE most impacted cafeteria item from the price increases. Sure, it might be a bit more, but probably something reasonable.

What you see in this picture, besides a nice salad, is a meal that just cost me $9.93! Yes, almost ten dollars for a salad. I was blown away. In fact I was so enraged (but not so overly enraged that I didn't pay for it and walk away...) that I raised my voice at the checkout counter to let others know how much of a ripoff this meal had just become.

The cafeteria vendor has just taken a probably high margin item where they make a ton of money on anyways, and just jacked it up astronomically. What's even more sad is that this is the most healthy thing left in the cafeteria. They took away the fresh fruit, yogurt and cottage they are charging an arm and a leg for the most healthy items remaining on the menu.

If people continue to eat there and realize that they have to change their eating habits due to the cost of food, you'll see the general population become unhealthy because the $4.25 cheeseburger and fries are the only reasonably priced option left on the menu.

This could be the last salad I eat at my employer for a very, very long time. Sad.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Snap, Crackle...Implode!

A talking head on the local TV news broadcast mentioned how great the weather was going to be today. Nothing better than knowing that Mother Nature was going to cooperate and provide me with a great morning of riding. Unfortunately things didn't transpire as I had hoped.

Not often can I say that I've hit the wall when riding. Sure, there have been times when I have bonked, but that was over three years ago. I've got a pretty good handle on my nutritional needs when I get on the bike for long training rides. Today was different, it was all about the legs...or lack thereof.

Let's go back to yesterday. It was a long day of work and one heck of a workout on the training plan to do. Eight minute sets of thirty seconds at anaerobic pace (450+ watts) followed by thirty seconds of tempo (~250 watts); like washing your hair and rinsing'n'repeating, you continue this on/off sequence over the course of the eight minutes.

I did this three times on the slopes of Sierra Road. Don't ask me why I felt so inclined to do these on a hard climb, but it had been a few months since I last climbed that beast. The only saving grace was the ten minutes of rest between the sets. To make it just a little harder I decided that every other 450+ watt effort would be done out of the saddle.

On the slate early this morning (7am) was a long ride up OLH and West Alpine. Halfway up OLH I knew that the legs were pretty dead, but soldiered on with an OK effort. But the HR wouldn't get up and I knew things just weren't right. At the base of West Alpine things just felt wrong. I can usually fight through this when training, but today was different. The legs had imploded and there was nothing I could do. Just put the chain in the 25t and spin up the hill. Anything over 300 watts was out of the question.

I'd rather have this happen to me during a training ride than a race. Wishful thinking...