Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Hill Ride

After a walk to downtown and back (which sometimes seems more taxing than a bike ride), I went out for an hour's worth of exercise on the (now dry) slopes of Seattle. Luckily I'm situated on Capitol Hill, one of Seattle's finest peaks - in fact only 20 or so blocks away from the steepest street in the city, E. Roy St at 26th Ave. (source)

Here's the Ciocc, now with Open Pro rims instead of the Ksyrium SLs. The Ksyriums were decent, but having to worry about breaking some proprietary spoke (that requires a wacky spoke wrench to fix) was never a good feeling.

The Powertap Pro+:

On the way down to Lake Washington (I headed to Leschi for a warmup), I saw none other than SIR's very own Jan Heine (I think), doing what looked like a pretty fast interval on a bike with fat tires & fenders, about to dive down that section of Lake Wa Blvd through the Arboretum. I'm sure he's gearing up for that next 7 hour 200k.

What you're looking at is E. Roy Street facing west - I like how it ramps up by about 5-7% each block. The first section is maybe 8%, then it goes to 13% or so. And then, 20%+.

And after two blocks you're here, at the (supposedly) steepest section of paved road in Seattle city limits. WKO+ was saying some sections of this were 23.5%, and I can believe it. Doing this seated, on a 39x25 gear was kind tough. But it was a great way to pump out about 400+ watts for 30 seconds:

After doing Roy once (all the way up to the cobbles), I turned around at the top and went down for a second dose. Going down a 20%+ grade is almost just as interesting as going up.. luckily these are low-traffic streets, but you always wonder when your brakes will give out.. just don't brake too hard, and dont' lean too far forward!

After two repeats of Roy street, I took a right on 23rd Ave and shot down the hill, passing cars at 30 mph - could have sworn I used to hit 35+ on that downhill.. oh well.

Power Stats

For the climb up 10th Ave from Roanoak up to Cap Hill - you can zoom in on certain parts of the ride, and get detailed info on it. For instance, I always thought that hill was steeper than 5%!

Duration: 3:46
Work: 64 kJ
TSS: 7.3 (intensity factor 1.081)
Norm Power: n/a
VI: n/a
Pw:HR: n/a
Pa:HR: n/a
Distance: 0.746 mi
Elevation Gain: 203 ft
Elevation Loss: 8 ft
Grade: 5.0 % (196 ft)
Min Max Avg
Power: 153 605 282 watts
Cadence: 40 83 65 rpm
Speed: 2.4 17.9 11.9 mph
Pace 3:21 24:46 5:04 min/mi
Altitude: 138 333 249 ft
Crank Torque: 174 763 368 lb-in

Entire workout (196 watts):
Duration: 52:57
Work: 656 kJ
TSS: 81.8 (intensity factor 0.963)
Norm Power: 261
VI: 1.26
Pw:HR: n/a
Pa:HR: n/a
Distance: 11.251 mi
Elevation Gain: 1508 ft
Elevation Loss: 1516 ft
Grade: -0.0 % (-8 ft)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 802 206 watts
Cadence: 15 110 64 rpm
Speed: 0 56.4 13.9 mph
Pace 1:04 0:00 4:18 min/mi
Altitude: 16 405 156 ft
Crank Torque: 0 1744 289 lb-in

Tomorrow, I'll head out for some interavals.. should be interesting.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Training (And Playing) With Power

Well I finally broke down and bought another fancy cycling gizmo. This one doesn't generate electricity like the dynohub - in fact it measures energy output. In other words, I bought a PowerTap.

There are many choices in the PT realm, and I went with what seemed most reasonable: the PRO+ model. It ain't cheap, but I'll be sure to get lots of use at it, and shouldn't have a problem bringing the $/mi ratio to a 1:1 level (e.g., ride it more than 1,000 miles) within a few months.

Why a PowerTap?

Well it started out with my at the computer, with a debit-card burning a hole in my pocket. Should I spring for some aero wheels for the Ciocc? Those would make me faster, right?

Then I thought that perhaps I could actually improve myself, e.g. the engine. And for that, you don't need fancy wheels (well you don't really need a PT, but it makes it easier I think).

How I used to "train"

Also, a little background on my previous "training" - if you could call it that. I used to just go out for 50-70 mile rides, and just hammer away, trying to keep the intensity up. No structure really, just out pounding the pavement.

But after reading The Cyclist's Training Bible, I've come to learn what structured training looks like: intervals, hill repeats, and rest days (there's a lot more to it, but these are the basics). I'd never done any of those things before, especially "rest days," or even recovery rides. The idea of going out and not trying to go hard is alien to me, but I'm slowly getting used to it.

Is it for racing?

Not really. I've done one TT, but that's pretty much the only real race I've done. Nonetheless I'd like to do a few crits this year (like the Volunteer Park & Boat Street ones in Seattle).

But if I do decide to jump into racing, having this PT data will definitely be useful.

Is it for brevets?

I'm not counting on it, as the battery life of the Garmin 705 unit is "only" 15 hours.. Sure the PT head-unit probably would have a few more hours in it, but for something like a 600k (40 hours or less) I'm not sure the combination could last.

More importantly, the wattage data wouldn't really help you unless you were doing the brevet as a Time Trial, which is a bad idea unless you're pro. In the end, it would probably just distract you from the scenery you got out to enjoy!

The real fun (in terms of power training) starts when you analyze the ride afterwards. Then you can see where your peak zones were, when you lagged, and what you could improve next time.

Although just in case I feel the need to bring it on a brevet, I did get it laced to an Open Pro rim (sorry, Narayan!). So using it on a 200k or 300k brevet certainly isn't out of the question.. And since it's not laced to a carbon Zipp, I don't have to worry about "training" on it and having it blow up at great cost.

(It would be interesting to see the PT on the Pacer, with Honjo fenders, and a dynohub! I bet you don't see many PT's set up like that..)

That's great but... let's see some results!

Oh are there ever results. More graphs & charts than you can shake a stick at. Let's start with what some call the "e-wang" chart (e.g. a Power Profile):

Moving left to right we have:

  • 5-sec power (11.79 w/kg*) - relatively weak, in the "Untrained/non-racer" category. This would be sprinting-ability, more or less.
  • 1-min power (5.68 w/kg) - even weaker - ouch! (Although I haven't really done any 1-min intervals/tests yet, so maybe I'm better than that..)
  • 5-min power (4.03 w/kg) - a bit better than the others, surely hinting at my long-distance background. The chart shows me at a Cat 4 level! Surely something's not right there.. =]
  • Functional Threshold power (3.2 w/kg) - this one has me pegged at almost in the Cat 4 range, again hinting at my LD-background. (Although I still think I wouldn't be able to keep up with the intesity of a crit, but I hope to find out this year)
* You will notice the "w/kg" notation - this is watts/kilograms. While one may want to just brag about their high wattage numbers, your weight factors into the equation. Thus, losing a few pounds actually has the effect of bringing these numbers up!

Here's the home-screen on WKO+. It shows your wattage breakdown for the last 28 days, and just about any other datapoint you can come up with.

(edit: power zones are off)

By the way, I'm getting all these fancy graphs and data from an app called WKO+. There's a free two-week trial of it, but the cost is worth it! I love me some graphs.. and does it ever deliver - I think it puts Garmin's Training Center to shame: (here you can see it highlighting my 20min peak wattage)

A few more stats

  • After doing a "Functional Threshold" (FT) test, I set my FT at about 240 watts (90% of a 20-minute test). FT is the theorhetical amount of power you could put out for one hour, at the max exertion level.
  • My max 1-sec wattage is a whopping 918 watts! (Although from what I can tell, this isn't even as high as some cat 4/5ers).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Big Ride I Wanna Do: The Olympic Peninsula Loop

Here's the route I came up with, starting and ending in Bremerton, WA (just a ferry ride away): (zoom out to see the whole thing)

View Larger Map

Notice the detour out to the north west tip of the North West: Neah Bay. It looks like there's a road to get out there, which is enough for me. I wanted the route to hug the water as much as possible, to ensure the best scenery.

I did this loop in a car about five years ago, and remember thinking at the time that I'd love to do it on a bike, but that it would be super scary: the tiny shoulder combined with huge trucks and RVs. But that was before I'd ridden with SIR, and tackled I-90, Highway 2, and other crazy paved beasts of roads.

And around Lake Crescent there was a big climb, and that seemed like the scariest part, since RVs seemed to drift into the bike/emergency lane often - but this route skips that section of Highway 101, heading towards Neah Bay. (at least I think)

The route also skips Highway 101 around Aberdeen, which I remember to be quite the bustling sprawl going on (e.g. not where you want to ride).

Maybe there's a permanent set up for this route - and if not, perhaps I'll try to submit it as one? I think SIR might have done something like this already as a 600k.

Distance: 386 mi (622 km)
Route: Bremerton, Port Angeles, Neah Bay, Forks, Elma, Bremerton (these could be some of the controls, of course!)
Max time: 40 hours

The best part about creating such a route would be actually attempting it! While quite a few have done this route over the period of a few days, I'd like to do it as quickly as possible. I'll just bring a sleeping bag & bivy in case I want to sleep. Can't wait!

This is all for summer-time by the way, I'm not that crazy!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mini Ride Report: Camano Island

On Saturday Robert was nice enough to haul us up to Stanwood for the second installation of this season's "Winter Training Series."

It was a super-foggy day, and one thermometer on the side of I-5 said it was 27F on the way up.. so it was a chilly & foggy start, but all indications were that it was going to at least be dry!

The pack of 30 or so riders rolled out at 9AM, and headed towards the island. The first section is on Highway 532, a busy little stretch, but before we knew it, we were on classic PNW backroads.

All went well, and Robert, Chris, Gus and I held together the whole time (and even tugged some newbs around the island too!). And even if we did turn into the wrong park, and descend the wrong gigantic hill, and the climb back up that same (wrong) hill, it was still a blast!

I neglected to bring a camera, but Robert did (so I stole a few pics from him, you can find the rest of his pics here).

Here's Chris heading into the fog. Sometimes cars would come shooting out of the fog, which was a little unsettling, but everyone stayed in their lanes.

And here I am (on the left), with Chris next to me.

Huge thanks to Robert for driving us up there! Camano Island will never get boring.

Small Ride, Big Mechanical

After Saturday's nice spin in early-morning fog around Camano Island, I couldn't resist getting back on the bike yesterday and trying to get a little sun. (It's been a while around here!) I was pushing it a bit, wearing only a short-sleeve SIR jersey, but once I got warmed up I felt fine.

The ride started out great, with me being able to climb in the big (53-tooth) ring, and generally feel good on the bike. Once on the shaded twists of Mercer Island, I was just trying to keep the speed above 20 mph, and I was succeeding. ("All systems pro," as Dennis says)

And then, after passing quite a few riders, my cranks started to feel really tight. Hmm.. Just a few days ago I had tinkered with the rear derailleur pulleys; did I tighten them too much? It was like the chain had seized or something..

After a few minutes of loosening/tightening things to no avail, I looked down at the BB and saw this: (note the exposed threads between the frame & chainrings)

Shit. There I was, at the southern tip of Mercer Island, with a barely rideable bike!

Just about all of the cyclists that I'd previously passed were now nicely offering me assistance, but I said I was "OK" - doubting they had a campy BB tool on hand.. and also embarrassed to be wearing the jersey of "self-sufficient cyclists", e.g. my SIR jersey.

Anyway so I hobbled along, as I was able to turn the pedals enough to go 5-8 mph. I still had about 10 miles to get home, so once I finally got back up to the north end of the island, I headed straight for the bus stop.

The timing couldn't have been better, and I made it on a 550 headed to Seattle. One small problem though: I didn't bring any money! So I had to essentially sweet-talk my way onto the bus. Thanks, driver!

And once back in Seattle, my slow journey wasn't over. Now I was at Rainier Ave & I-90, with only a few miles to go to home, but also still lugging around an almost-unrideable bike. I couldn't even spin up hills, due to the resistance of the pedals, so I ended up walking most of the way.

I suppose it happened at a good time, e.g. not on a brevet!

But now this has me questioning why I'm riding on an Italian-threaded BB at all, given that this is known to happen (it's reverse-threaded from English style, and they can come loose, as seen above). The LBS always said it wasn't an issue, with proper torque, but I guess I let it go too long without a checkup..

It was a good reminder to be prepared! Even if that just means bringing $0.50 for a phone call, or having your bike in good working condition.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It All Adds Up

If there were ever two things that should not mix, it is probably randonneuring & gram counting (aka being a "weight weenie").

But, on a recent e-shopping spree I bought a Park digital scale. And once I got it, I started weighing everything! Better or worse, I wanted to know where my bikes/components stand against the 15 lbs carbon wonders of today, or the 40+ lb beasts of yesteryear.

Some component weights:

  • Surly Pacer: 11.95 kg (26 lbs) - this is with full Honjo fenders, dynohub, front rack (e.g. everything except for water & the Ostrich handlebar bag)

  • Fully loaded Pacer: 15.6 kg (34.4 lbs! Now I'm hoping the scale is wrong.. this was with full H2O bottles, fully loaded bar bag, etc. Jesus, that's heavy! The worst part about it is that I have to carry it up/down four flights of stairs like that!)

  • Ciocc COM 12.5: 9.55 kg (21 lbs) - with Mavic Ksyrium wheels, Easton EA70 stem/bars, no fenders, and Brooks Swift saddle

  • Two full water bottles: 1.67 kg (3.68 lbs)

  • Plastic grocery bag full of bike clothes: 1.37 kg (3.02 lbs) (simulating what I might carry on say a 600k)

  • Bag o' tools: 370 g (.82 lbs) (includes chain tool, allen wrenches, etc)

  • Zefal HPX frame pump: 250 g (.55 lbs)
  • Ostrich handlebar bag: 920 g (2.03 lbs)

  • Carradice Cape Roll: 190 g (.42 lbs)

  • Carradice Junior: 480 g (1.06 lbs)

  • Honjo fenders: 220g (.49 lbs, no mounting hardware, 35mm alu model)

  • Me: I suppose it's only fair to add myself to the list, as a crucial part of the bike setup. The last time I weighed myself I was around 155 lbs (70 kg). Could I lose 5 lbs off the gut? You betcha, and this is actually one of my goals for 2009.

I certainly don't plan on spending any kind of big $$$ on losing any of the above weight, but it is something I'll be paying attention to! (Although buying a custom lightweight steel frame for "only" $1,000 is kind of tempting right now.. I could have the best of both worlds, in theory: a bike that didn't feel like a noodle, that also fit fenders!

Weight: Theory & Practice

Bicycle Quarterly (Vol 5. No 1) has proven long ago that weight should be prioritized behind aero-efficiency, in terms of saving energy/time.

According to the article, you'll save maybe 4 seconds (up a 2km climb 5% grade at 250 watts) switching from a 15kg bike (33 lbs) to a 14kg (30 lbs). Or by switching to a 10kg bike (~22 lbs), they would only save 18 seconds.

(Although as many randonneurs know, sometimes every second counts on a brevet. And climbs can last 20 miles (32 km) or more. Extrapolating a bit here, said rider could save 3.2 minutes up a big pass on the 10kg bike, unless my math is off.)

My Theory About Weight & Performance

I can't argue with the numbers above, but I can say that my Ciocc rides way better than the Pacer, especially when climbing. And that has more to do with frame stiffness, which seems to have some correlation to frame weight.

Of course, nobody wants to ride on a completely-stiff 2x4, so frame builders have to strike a balance. And so do cyclists - we all want to land somewhere between a weight weenie and a tank driver I suppose.

My plan is to carry everything I need, but nothing more. The hard part is figuring out exactly what you need or don't need - and even what "need' means sometimes.

So How Much Does My "Grouppo" Weigh?

Here is a list of component weights for Campy, Shimano, and SRAM components.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Downtown Seattle To Kayak Park Century - Riding For Nothing But Fun

So today (Saturday) I was supposed to be riding a 200km permanent with Jack, Robert, and a bunch of other people I've been dying to ride with.. but I missed the damn ferry!! When I got up this morning my stomach felt weird, and that did nothing but slow me down and make me re-consider doing a 200k..

But with maybe 15 minutes to spare I headed out anyway, hoping my little stomach would clear up.. which it did, at least! But by the time I got to the ferry, it was too late. Missed the damn thing, not by more than a few minutes! So there I was downtown, at 6 AM, all dressed up (in Ibex wool), with nowhere to go. I figured I might as well get some miles in after all, even if it won't "count" towards a future award/medal.

Where to go? I had to keep all the recent flooding in mind, and how I heard that Highway 203/202 around Fall City was closed (blocking the route I know to North Bend, my first idea). I also heard that Carnation was an "island." Hmm, what do do?

Head north, I decided.

A little while ago I'd planned a rough route out to Kayak Park (west of Marysville), roughly 100 miles out n' back. And I had a rough idea of how to piece the route together, so I pointed by Pacer north and started pedaling. Here's the route I took: (zoom out a bit)

(And now I realize that I essentially shadowed the route I was supposed to be doing, but on the east side of The Sound)

View Larger Map


The Pacer in front of the Seattle Art Museum, at about 6:15 AM:
The Ostrich bag in motion - riding with it no-handed (and loaded) was actually pretty easy, I just had to look out for bumps.

Breakfast in Shoreline (this is that convenience store across from The Crest on 165th or so):

Now on Aurora Avenue (yes, that one, Highway 99). As I've said many times, it's actually not that bad - you get a turning lane to yourself for about 10 miles:

Now in Everett, on Grand Ave. Some nice views, even if everything was gray and there was light drizzle coming down:
Now at that little park looking towards Marysville & Marine Drive (across the water, where I'm headed):

Although the quickest way to cross that water is on Highway 529, and it's a real doozy - a few bridges you get to cross, and then you make the choice of using the super-narrow sidewalk, or the road itself. I chose the road:

But traffic was actually pretty light and nobody seemed to mind - and I didn't have to slow down to stay upright either:
Now heading west on Marine Drive in Marysville, I saw a cool old house (quite the contrast, starting in downtown Seattle):

Tulalip Tribes Police Station:

View of the woods along Marine Drive:
Marine Drive has a decent shoulder too:

But it also has a lot of ups and downs:

Now at Kayak County Park, overlooking The Sound (technically this is the Port Susan bay I think):

Looking northwest:

A very PNW shot:

After enjoying Kayak Park, you get to climb a short but steep section. I think this route would make for an interesting permanent and/or brevet:

An interesting sign from the Tulalip Tribes about buckling up.

A quick lunch of Sprite & a mystery-meat burrito - it really hit the spot!

Harvy's Bike Shop on Aurora in Lynnwood or so. Interesting place, but seemed geared towards BMX riding (although they did have a good Brooks selection, and a really packed interior):

So after heading out at about 6 AM, I returned to The Hill at about 3 PM.

Funny to think that one of my first big rides was a 12-hour affair (one way) up to Stanwood, using mostly this same route. Of course, that was on a hybrid bike w/ flat bars, and I hadn't ridden much at that point.

But it's nice to know that I can do almost the same route (out n' back) in the same time it took us to get up there! Progress.

You can find the photos in full size on flickr.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Super Randonneur Medal!

I was excited to get a small envelope today. I knew what was inside, and roughly what the small medal looked like, but unwrapping it was like receiving a gift.

But unlike a usual gift, this one requires a good deal of work to get. "Work" such as a 200k (grinding the hills of Tahuya), a 300k (big wet loop down south), a 400k (the mountains!), and a grueling 600k (I hate headwinds). It was well worth it!! And big thanks to Nick B. for handling the paperwork and getting these out.

The congrats letter said that there were about 1,100 111 other Super Randonneurs for 2008 (in the USA) - congrats to all! I definitely want to earn another one next year, maybe two. (And go for the R-5,000 as well, maybe)