Monday, November 29, 2010

Ode to Colorado Cyclist

Tons of stuff to report on, like two short but excellent rides this week, but for me the really great news was from Colorado Cyclist. I just got off the phone with Andrea, who reported that Mavic agreed with me that the rim was faulty, and they are rebuilding the wheel with new rim and spokes! Man, I just LOVE great customer service.

I did a short, fast ride last night and had a guy on a fixie ask me to stay off his back wheel - not that 3-8 ft back it was any help behind his very slippery TT bike with deep dish wheels. (Dude, if you want to cripple your ride by tossing your gears, fine, but then no whining!) He claimed to be concerned that he couldn't stop as fast as me, so don't follow so close. Figure that one out.

Just to make a point I dropped back and followed him for 5.5 miles from Sunrise to WBP. Can you tell where he pissed me off from the HR trace?  HR was +10 LT for 16 minutes - Garmin alarming for HR the whole way. A nice 21 mph average. It's all good, and great motivation. Always respect someone's wishes regarding tail-gunning. In this case it was the way it was done that raised my ire.

Off to the periodontist to get the last 2 stitches removed, but wanted to mention this wacky little ride my bike club is putting on. One after my own heart. There is this crazy steep hill about 15 miles from here called Beatty Drive, and on New Year's Day we are going to do hill-repeats for 2 hours to establish the pecking order and get some bragging rights.

I'm guessing I'll get 10 laps in before the 120 minute cut-off at the bottom start line brings the competition to a halt. I will be doing hills again seriously for the first time in a year to get ready. Cold, thick air is the BEST for climbing. Ten laps will work out to ~ 3,800 ft of climbing in 8 miles - or 16 if you include the rocket ride down hill. (on averaged, this is a completely flat course ;)

Oh, my PI Convertible Barrier Jacket arrived this morning too. Fresh from Competitive Cyclist. The cycling hub of Arkansas. Uh, yeah, right. OK, maybe not so much, but got a great price on the SIDI shoes and then a 20% discount coupon for apparel, so liking my shopping experience there.

PS: Back from the mouth butcher. All is well. Big sigh....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Motivation - Kobe Style

Looking at the RSVPs for a 30+ rider group ride last week, I felt a tinge of sadness that so many of those I used to ride with just a couple of years ago no longer show up on these rides. For those my age who were riding for health and sanity, I feel concern.

I hope they are out there riding alone, with other groups, or a special partner, but I know in many cases this isn't true. What is true is they have given up riding. Dead soldiers. At a certain age, no matter how many times you fall off the wagon, or get injured, the goal has to be to just show up and give a good accounting of yourself.

I've read this Adrian Wojnarowski interview with Kobe Bryant a half-dozen times now. It's a great piece on motivation. Everybody has to find their own style in life, but for us lone wolves, this is how it's done. Beyond style, there is a progression of goals that can help keep us motivated as we age.
  1. In your 20s & 30s ride to win
  2. In your 40s ride for the enjoyment of competition, health & sanity, and to mentor family & friends
  3. In your 50s start riding for the long-haul, and to strengthen ties with family & friends
  4. In you 60s take pride in your health, vigor and tenacity, and ride for pleasure
 I admire those who fit easily into groups and can seem to lose themselves in them without losing themselves in the larger sense. That has never been me. Maybe if so many of my trusts hadn't turned out to be invested in hubris I'd find following along easier. As it is, that's not my strong suit - Kobe's either. We lone wolves do have a way of keeping on the straight and narrow, and that's the message I take away from this excellent Kobe interview. Find a rabbit you'll chase, and stick it in front of your face. Just keep coming.

MINNEAPOLIS – Out of nowhere one afternoon, Michael Jackson made a call to the irrepressible and isolated Kobe Bryant(notes), and so much changed for him. From a distance, the King of Pop could sense so much of his own obsessive genius within the prodigy. Bryant was the 18-year-old wonder for the Los Angeles Lakers, and no one knew what to make of a restlessness borne of a desperate desire for greatness.

“He noticed I was getting a lot of [expletive] for being different,” Bryant said.

They would talk for hours and hours, visiting at Neverland Ranch, and Bryant has long been fortified by the lessons Jackson instilled about the burden of honoring true talent, about the ways to open your mind to be smarter, sharper and insatiable in the chase.

Kobe Bryant, in his 15th NBA season, says his on-court mentality comes from advice offered by the King of Pop. “It sounds weird, I guess, but it’s true: I was really mentored by the preparation of Michael Jackson,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports.

Bryant isn’t much for nostalgia and sentimentality, but it hung in the air as he cut into his steak over dinner recently in the fourth-floor restaurant at the Graves Hotel. Jackson is gone, but Bryant is going on 15 years with the Lakers.

“We would always talk about how he prepared to make his music, how he prepared for concerts,” Bryant said. “He would teach me what he did: How to make a ‘Thriller’ album, a ‘Bad’ album, all the details that went into it. It was all the validation that I needed – to know that I had to focus on my craft and never waver. Because what he did – and how he did it – was psychotic. He helped me get to a level where I was able to win three titles playing with Shaq because of my preparation, my study. And it’s only all grown.

“That’s the mentality that I have – it’s not an athletic one. It’s not from [Michael] Jordan. It’s not from other athletes.

“It’s from Michael Jackson.”

Bryant wore his Lakers varsity jacket, purple gold. It had several championship trophies across the back. For all the cynicism the years have brought him, a lot of that teenager still lives within. Kobe Bryant is 32 years old now, and he keeps coming and coming like nothing witnessed since Jordan himself.

He’s chasing his sixth championship, a second three-peat, and still, Kobe Bryant doesn’t want to talk about Twitter followers. He doesn’t want to talk about all the Hollywood acting roles he has turned down, the parties and nightlife that he has mostly forsaken in his career. He’s chasing a ticking clock, chasing the ghosts before him – Jordan and Magic and Russell.

The world has changed around Bryant in this modern NBA, but his core basketball values have remained largely untouched and unimpeachable: His will stays greater than yours; his talent evolves but hardly diminishes. His single-mindedness remains maniacal.

“Guys have voices now, want to build brands,” Bryant said. “I don’t identify with it, but I understand where it’s going, why it’s going there. That’s not for me. I focus on one thing and one thing only – that’s trying to win as many championships as I can.”

Yes, he’s got five, and the Lakers stand as a favorite to get him his sixth this season. The false god of celebrity still isn’t intoxicating to him like the grit, the grind of greatness. He still loves the work, craves the pain that comes with pushing himself – pushing everyone. The craft, he calls it: Honor the craft. On the night before every game, he still downloads video into his iPhone from Mike Procopio in Chicago about how opponents may attack him, the way the defenders will rotate to him, the spots where he can feed his teammates the ball – small things beyond the Lakers’ own scouting reports, another edge. Sometimes, they’ll email thoughts back and forth past midnight, which isn’t such a big deal because Bryant seldom sleeps more than three hours a night.

For him, so much of the genius remains in the details.

So when you start a question, “I know you don’t see the end coming … ,” Bryant corrects you quickly. “But it’s a lot closer; I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

And you won’t be the one to stay too long, to make them rip the jersey off your back?

“Just thinking about some of the guys that I take advantage of now, taking advantage of me later – that doesn’t sit too well with me,” Bryant said.

In a lot of ways, Bryant believes he has never been better. Every time he sees Boston Celtics great Bill Russell, they talk about the ways that you grow, about the ways you take your team and mold and push and prod it. The biggest revelations, the epiphanies, have come out of Bryant’s own trial and error, his own successes and failures.

For the modern athlete, his recovery from the scandal of the Eagle, Colorado, assault case has been one of sport’s most remarkable.

“You don’t have a choice,” Bryant said. “You come out of it and you come out of it better than you were. You can crawl up into a little ball like a coward – or you can fight it.”
The late Michael Jackson used to invite Kobe Bryant to his Neverland Ranch to talk about their careers.

Well beyond his most trying personal test, Bryant sees the growth within his professional self in the oddest moments and times. Just a week ago, on a cold night in Milwaukee, he had gone to the scorers table to substitute for Shannon Brown(notes). Only, Brown was hot. He hit a 3-pointer, and another, and another, and soon Bryant – waiting to check into the game with Lamar Odom(notes) – told Odom that he should take out Luke Walton(notes), and Bryant would get Matt Barnes(notes).

Said Bryant: “Because now I understand: ‘Let him go; let him ride that.’ Back in my younger days, I never would’ve thought about that.”

Ask him what he embraces in his early 30s that he never understood in his 20s, and there’s no hesitation: It’s what everyone insisted he had been a failure with, a perception that he has transformed with two post-Shaquille O’Neal(notes) championships.

“How to truly make players better, what that really means,” he said. “It’s not just passing to your guys and getting them shots. It’s not getting this or that many players into double figures. That’s bull[expletive]. That’s not how you win championships. You’ve got to change the culture of your team – that’s how you truly make guys better. In a way, you have to help them to get the same DNA that you have, the same focus you have, maybe even close to the same drive. That’s how you make guys better.

“I’ve never understood this stuff, where a star player sits out and a team goes into the tank. Well, they need him because he makes them better. Well, if he’s making them better, they should be able to survive without him. That’s how you lead your guys. You’ve got to be able to make guys suffice on their own, without you. If you’re there all the time and they take you away, they shouldn’t need a respirator.

“Once I understood all that, I looked at things completely different. I took my hands off. I didn’t try to control them. I let them make decisions, make their own [expletive]-ups and I was there to try and help them through it.”

As much as anyone, Russell led Bryant to those epiphanies. At an NBA All-Star weekend years ago, Bryant introduced himself to the legendary Celtics center and they’ve never missed a chance to sit and share thoughts and memories since. Things Russell told him years ago made more sense as Bryant grew up, grew older and saw leadership and winning through more advanced prisms. When the rest of the league’s best players were invited to play at the White House this summer, Bryant ended up sitting on the side with Russell because of his knee surgery.

“Bill is always a Celtic, but I think he’s appreciated my thirst for knowledge,” Bryant said.

He’ll never reach Russell’s 11 championships, but he has a chance to pass Magic Johnson’s five championships, pass Michael Jordan’s six and get closest. For as much sense as Russell made to Bryant over the summer in Washington, something else there completely confounded him. As he walked the District’s streets in August, people peppered him with three words: Beat the Heat.

Beat the Heat?

“That’s what I get a lot now,” Bryant said. ‘Beat the Heat.’ ”
Kobe Bryant heard the edict from fans this summer: Beat the Heat.
(Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Truth be told, it hadn’t occurred to him that would be the mantra for the two-time defending champion Lakers.

“Um, they’re in the East,” Bryant would say.

Which was his polite way of saying: For starters, how about they beat Boston and Orlando? And now, at 8-6, let’s face it: The least of LeBron and the Miami Heat’s worries ought to be Kobe and Los Angeles Lakers.

Bryant won’t call it insulting, only saying: “It’s funny. I get a good chuckle out of it.”

History matters to him, and that’s why you see his eyes grow as wide as half-dollars when the rivalry with the Boston Celtics gets raised. As Bryant attempts to chase down Jordan’s six titles, the Lakers will try to chase down the Celtics’ 17 titles this spring. The NBA scripted the Lakers vs. Heat on Christmas Day, but Bryant is convinced that these things can be so easily manufactured, made to matter because of television marketers.

“It’s another game,” he said. “I don’t think the masses understand that. It’s just another game. It’s the Heat. I mean, Christmas morning, I’m going to open presents with my kids. I’m going to take pictures of them opening the presents. Then I’m going to come to the Staples Center and get ready to work.

 “But I’m not doing anything different. I don’t have to.”

The Celtics?

Yes, the Celtics are different.

“Now that’s a war,” Bryant said. “Boston is a great city to go to, all the history. If you’re an opponent, they hate your [expletive] guts – like New York, like Chicago, all those Eastern cities. That’s the one that gets me excited.

“If you’re a basketball purist, that’s the [expletive] you want to see.”

The Celtics have framed Bryant for history. He sees them as championship peers. He lost in six games to Boston in the 2008 Finals and beat them in seven in 2010. For Bryant, who considers himself a direct descendent of the basketball ’80s, there’s a passage to greatness. To be the best player in the sport, well, Bryant promises there’s a rite of passage which comes with the biggest performances in the biggest games, a rite that comes with titles.

History dictates the rules, the criteria, and people don’t get to be called the best player in the sport without earning it the way predecessors did. He wouldn’t sit here over dinner and declare himself the best player in the sport, but he’s never conceded it to LeBron James(notes) or Kevin Durant(notes).

Validation comes with victory. This rule doesn’t belong to him; it belongs to history.

“In an individual sport, yes, you have to win titles,” Bryant said. “Baseball’s different. But basketball, hockey? One person can control the tempo of a game, can completely alter the momentum of a series. There’s a lot of great individual talent. Oscar Robertson was a great individual talent. So was Elgin Baylor. Part of my frustration was that I didn’t want to go down that path for the second half of my career. I didn’t want to be a Dominique Wilkins. I didn’t want to be an Elgin Baylor and not win. …

“Part of the pride within me was that I won by being the sidekick. I’m going to be the only player in league history that’s won being a sidekick – and I had a lot of responsibility – going to be the only player to do that, and being the main guy. I’m going to show you that I can do that.

“How do I get to the next level? How do I get everyone around me to the next level? Yeah, you’ve got to win; that’s what I had to do. I was a great individual talent but I wasn’t comfortable with that. I wanted to do more.”

Kobe Bryant wasn’t naming names, but hey, if the Nikes fit …

“Michael wasn’t Michael until he won championships,” Bryant said. “It’s as simple as that.”

In so many ways, this has become an NBA of cliques, buddies hanging out with buddies. James wanted to play with Wade and Bosh. Amar’e Stoudemire(notes), Chris Paul(notes) and Carmelo Anthony(notes) have toasted to the possibility of playing together in New York. The draft class of 2003 – James and Wade, Anthony and Bosh – has always run as a pack, always been associates more than adversaries.

Kobe Bryant arrived in the NBA as a lone wolf, has played his whole career that way, and that’s how he’ll leave the league. One of the things which Michael Jackson helped him understand was that, ultimately, you’re competing far more with your own standards, your own limits, than someone else’s. Bryant’s never run around in packs of players, never let his career be judged or driven in the context of his contemporaries.

“That’s how I am,” Bryant said. “That’s what made me tough. I didn’t need other guys to push me. This is me. I’m like this with you, and I’m like this without you. Michael [Jackson] was the same way. That was our connection.”

Once the NBA’s twentysomething stars were done with the stage-smoke shows this summer, the preening, the predicting of five and six championships, they were playing ball at the White House with the president. On a tour of the West Wing, Bryant tried to be hospitable in those most-familiar surroundings.

“You’ve got to go to the bathroom? Oh, go that way, take a left and then turn right,” Bryant said, his head bobbing back in laughter now. “Oh, you want the chef? I know where he is, too. We’ve been a few times.”

Yes, Kobe Bryant kind of liked that one. All he knows is this: Between now and the London Olympics in 2012, one of his U.S. teammates ought to do himself a favor and win a championship. Otherwise, it’ll be a long, hot summer of Bryant riding them all. Around Team USA, they’ll tell you that Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade(notes) were the two Americans who had the dispositions to dominate in the gold-medal game’s fourth quarter. “Our alpha dogs,” one official said.

Privately, there are plenty of national-team elders and coaches who are curious about how that chemistry will work in 2012. Mostly, they wonder whether James will see it as his time, his team, with Bryant 34 years old. From the return of the Miami clique to the arrival of Kevin Durant, it’ll be a different dynamic, a different vibe.

For a moment, Bryant tried to answer it diplomatically.

“Um, I don’t know,” he said.

Only, Kobe Bryant did know – and finally said so.

“Actually, I really don’t give a [expletive]. I’m not curious about it. Give me my [expletive] gold medal and then let me try to win another NBA championship. Let’s practice, have a good time, and if you need me in the last two minutes of the game, I’ll be coming in to pull the [expletive] out.”

And there you go. Whatever everyone thought would happen this summer, here we are in November and something hasn’t changed in the NBA: They’re still chasing Bryant. Every year, something else is going to stop him. This time, it was the knee. It was LeBron and Wade on South Beach. Something. It’s always something.

“They don’t learn,” Bryant said. “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. No matter what the injury – unless it’s completely debilitating – I’m going to be the same player I’ve always been. I’ll figure it out. I’ll make some tweaks, some changes, but I’m still coming.”

Bryant is 32, chasing Jordan and Russell the way the rest of the twentysomethings chase him. And now he sits up straight and says it one more time, because he wants to make sure everyone understands the truth of the matter.

“I’m still coming.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Getting In A Ride Is Like Pulling Teeth

It's been 30 hours since I let my mouth butcher have her way with my mouth, and have to say, it went very well. I was able to make due with Advil, Aleve, and half doses of pain meds, in a cocktail that included some Amoxicillin. Mashed potatoes and ice cream are starting to get old, but I am very happy to have this procedure done.

If the Amoxicillin will kindly not rip my gut up too bad I should be good to go as soon as the rainy weather passes. Nice that its doing its raining while I am on bike restriction (or any vigorous exercise). Thank you mother nature!

We are gong to get about an inch and a half this weekend, and 4 ft of snow in the mountains, so lots of my fellow bikers are up at the ski resorts as I write this. Hope they are having a ball. The cycling cardio is a HUGE help when having fun in the very thin air at 8-10,000 ft, and one of the biggest reasons I started cycling again 3 yrs ago this coming March.

I've done a slow ride up to Beals, a fast ride up to Old Folsom, and a very solid ride up to Beals on Thursday, so not quite getting in my 100 miles a week, especially with the rain intruding, but staying healthy and fit. In fact, the ride Thursday evening was kind of against the periodontist's recommendation, but I have yet to find a doctor, of any stripe, that gets endurance sports.

HammerinWheels has done some really great rides - some even epic - the last 2 months, and I have been sitting them out. In part this was due to my dental health spilling over into my general health, but in part due to insecurities about doing these long, and hard rides.Given my steady progress this year, even though focused on shorter rides and TTs, I need to challenge myself with a 100k length ride and get this monkey off my back.

Most of the riders doing these rides are new to the club, while many of the riders who were staples on these rides when I joined are no longer riding, or not on these hard rides. As a result, I have become an unknown in my own club, and would like to reestablish myself as one of the better, stronger riders again. There's only one way to do that - ride some tough rides and finish well.

When I got my new Sidi shoes last week I also got a coupon from Competitive Cyclist for 20% off of any apparel item, so I finally pulled the trigger on a PI convertible jacket/vest. I really like the design, as the sleeves are attached by a yoke that zips and Velcros to the vest - like a cape - so you can unzip the sleeves and still wear them.

A nice feature of this design is that you won't end up losing a sleeve, since they are attached to the yoke. This 'cape' folds (or rolls) up into a very small package that stores in the Napoleon Pocket in front - or anywhere else you'd like to put it. I'm hoping it will give me needed rain protection without making me sweat to death. Having tried it on at REI, I think it will work very well.

So as part of my plan to get this distance/duration monkey off my back, I am going to take my new RED Elite Barrier Convertible jacket for a ride to Rescue. Yup, I've just publicly committed to this ride, so come Tues or Wed, depending on the status of my implant (titanium! whoot!), I'm off for a nice 60 miler, and if I feel well, I may stretch that to 75. Time to get'er done!

PS: For mountain biking, I am really liking the new Brown color option.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Techie Tuesday - The Glycemic Index

I started to write about the Glycemic Index. What is the Glycemic Index? For endurance athletes, it's the most important nutritional tool since fertile soil. The more I thought about it though, the more obvious it became that it needed to be put in a broader context, and that meant a more expansive post.

Bottom line is, I ran out of time, so you'll have to wait until next Tuesday for me to finish this post. I hope you'll find it worth the wait, as it will cover a great deal of what I've learned about nutrition, hydration and electrolyte management in the last 3 years.

In the meantime, here's an image of my all-time favorite pre-ride fuel, and as soon as I can find a good way to carry it with me, my favorite ride fuel as well. At $2 a pound, it's not cheap, but still vastly cheaper than maltodextrin-based ride fuels, and at least as effective at launching you through your rides.

Like all sushi rice, cut in 3 tablespoons of sugar to taste when fluffing. Gives the rice a beautiful glossy sheen, and makes it even higher on the GI. Grown right here in the Sacramento Valley.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sick Sucks

My recently dead fridge reached out from beyond its grave and poisoned me this week, as chicken I thought had remained frozen has given me the worst case of food poisoning I've ever had. After 'the' fever broke Tuesday night I felt almost human again yesterday, so signed up for what would have been an awesome ride.

I set the alarm, picked out my clothes, cleaned my waterbottles, aired up my tires, and hit the shower. An hour later I started to feel poorly, and headed for bed after changing my RSVP from maybe YES, to maybe NO. I had trouble getting to sleep. Not surprising since I had done nothing but sleep for almost 2 days, but still frustrating.

I bolted upright, the sound of the alarm in my ears, clutching for reason and comprehension as beads of sweat rolled down my face, stinging my eyes. My night clothes were soaking wet, as was 2 layers of flannel sheets and my pillow. My hair was matted and skin wet as I tried to wipe the sweat out of my eyes.

Changing my shirt to keep the chills at bay, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror - white as a sheet. It's a beautiful day out there today, and as welcome as the sunshine is when sick, I would have liked to have spent the day on a 100 km ride climbing 5,500 ft in my favorite mountains. Instead I rescheduled my periodontal appointment for next week and am searching my mind for something safe to eat.

My cousin commented on FaceBook that the Golden Rule is "when in doubt, throw it out". Lesson learned.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Techie Tuesday - The Superiority of Custom-Built Wheels

After Jobst Brandt wrote his definitive book on wheels and wheelbuilding in 1981, wheel mfgs quickly focused on the relevant factors for building light, strong, durable wheels, and soon thereafter found themselves selling commodity wheels for commodity prices.

In particular, Mavic and DT Swiss both developed the ultimate box-section rims in what have become the OpenPro and 415/465. With 3-cross lacing and quality Campy or Shimano low-flange hubs, standard 32 or 36 spoke wheels in the 1500-1600 gram range soon became ubiquitous, and lasted 10-25,000 miles. These wheels made the wheel mfgs NO money. With everyone selling the same wheel, it was a race to the bottom on price.

Wheel mfgs responded by making wheels with all kinds of goofy designs, and promoted them with huge marketing budgets, and flashy decals. In most cases, the result is a wheel designed to fail in 3-5 years, impossible to service, and that falls out of 'fashion' after the mfg's marketing campaign moves on to promote some new tinsel wonder.

Some fads, promoted as having some rider benefit, are really cost-cutting measures. The most prevalent of these is radial spoking, and cartridge bearings. Anybody can build a radially-spoked wheel. Even factory workers in Cambodia, paid 22 cents an hour, can build a radial wheel using cartridge bearings. They don't even need to know how to count - bearing balls, holes, or spokes!

A radially-spoked wheel, as Brandt goes to great lengths to show, is inferior in every dimension to 3-crossed lacing, but the myth of radial wheels persists, reinforced by intense marketing campaigns, in an industry addicted to unskilled labor. In particular, radial spoking creates so much force pulling away from the flange that most mfgs specifically exclude them from their hub warranty.

It is not radial spoking that creates stiff wheels, it is larger flanges, and more spokes - overwhelmingly. First by allowing for shorter spokes, 2nd because the flange flexes very little with lateral loads, and 3rd, because the spoke angles are necessarily steeper/stronger. Fewer spokes can be used with deep section rims as they are much more resistant to bending, but this does nothing to prevent low-spoke count wheels breaking spokes, hubs, and pulling through rims. For mtb front wheels with disk brakes, all the caveats of rear road wheels apply.

Being 5-10% shorter for current flange sizes, and therefore less elastic, radial spokes are more likely to break, rip through the rim, and have a harsher ride. The larger the flange, the greater the difference in spoke length. A typical medium-flange hub with 32 spokes is in the 6% range. My best guess for the increased elasticity of DT's 14/17ga Revolution spokes over straight 14ga is 30%, based on values reported for 16ga spokes. Taken together, this makes my new 32 spoke 2-cross front wheel with Revolution spokes about 35% 'softer' than the original 20-spoke wheel made with straight 14ga spokes.

Other myths surround rotational weight, the inferiority of J-hook spokes, the supposed superiority of straight-pull spokes, and hub-side spoke adjustments. It seems lost on people that the real reason mfgs like these technologies is because it's easier to make a machine to tighten a few spokes at a central location, than many spread out along the rim. It should also be noted that the cost of building a wheel is roughly proportional to the number of spokes, as that's where the labor cost of wheel building is.

As for the classic J-hook spokes, especially with double-butted spokes having heavy 14 gauge ends, the alleged excessive stretching at the bend is infinitesimal, and far less than the change in length due to temperature changes. In fact, the difference caused by heating of black, vs sliver spokes on a hot summer day is probably greater than J-hook spoke stretch. The weight of those 'evil' spoke nipples? 8 grams for 32 spokes! That's less than 3 tenths of an ounce! The dirt on your tire weighs more than than.

The Mavic Ksyrium SL has been the standard-bearer for non-aero, factory-built wheels for almost 10 years now, and it suffers from almost all of the above nonsense. First, those goofy hub attachment points for the lauded straight-pull spokes take up so much space side-to-side, that they can only be used on the non-drive side on the rear wheel. This means that to get the drive-side spokes all in the same plane, they must be radially spoked. On the drive side! IsoPulse lacing is such rubbish I know of no other wheel in the world that uses it.

Physics 101 says the drive-side spokes (also true of the rotor-side spokes on a disk brake wheel) should never, ever be radially spoked, because they'll have no ability to resist the wind-up attendant with the application of torque to the hub, positive, or negative. The other reason is radial spoking weaker for any given spoke tension, and since the drive side is deeply dished, it's already at it's max tension on a properly designed wheel - typically at 175% of the non-drive side.

Using radial spoking on the drive side means all of the torque must be transferred across the hub body to the non-drive side spokes. On a conventional 3-X spoking, only 12% of the torque is transferred through the hub body, as it's elasticity is much greater than the flange and steel spokes on the drive side. Hub bodies are VERY bad at transferring torque, as their torsional rigidity is surprisingly poor.

Larger flanges resist wind-up better, keeping torque on the drive side, while larger diameter hub bodies transfer torque to the non-drive side better. For low spoke count rear wheels with small diameter hub bodies, hub fatigue may become a durability issue. For mtb rear wheels with disk brakes, both flanges should be large and use 3-X spoking.

A serious implementation flaw with Ksyrium wheels is the use of aluminum spokes. Unlike steel, aluminum has NO fatigue limit, so it will eventually fatigue to zero strength. Two of our club members had their Ksyrium wheels fail within a few weeks - one one the Death Ride, with its high speed descents.

Finally, Ksyrium wheels are said to be extra strong because they start with a very thick rim body and machine away the aluminum between the spoke beds. Yes, but that leaves a surface that acts like a pump, and creates a lot of aerodynamic drag. The bladed spokes used to compensate make for wheels that are very hard to control in heavy cross-winds - especially on high-speed descents - and bladed spokes cannot pass through conventional round flange holes, so a lot of tricks must be used to bed spokes on the hub side.

You always know you have a good engineering solution when one change makes everything else easier, better, lighter, etc. In short, with good engineering solutions, everything gets better. Instead of trade-offs, you get virtuous cycles of synergy. It should be clear by now that the Ksyrium fails this fundamental test of engineering, as many trade-offs had to be made, all of them with side-effects that are only partially mitigated by other induced engineering requirements.

Still not convinced? You're thinking that factory-built wheels are lighter, and more aerodynamic? Ksyrium wheels weigh 1485 grams, and are one of the lightest non-carbon wheels on the market. Keep this in mind as you view the weights of custom-built wheels below. Also note, many factory built wheels are only sold in pairs, so expect to end up knee deep in extra front wheels you'll never wear out - chronically buying pairs when you only need a new rear wheel.

Custom built wheels can be rebuilt many times, as usually the braking surface on the rim is the limiting factor on their life. They also typically have loose ball bearings, which are superior at any price point to cartridge bearings. If you do buy hubs with cartridge bearings, make sure you can still get those bearings 20 or 30 years from now. If not, the hubs will be worthless. On the other hand, if loose ball hub cups get pitted, the hub is worthless, whereas a cartridge bearing comprises both cup and cone, so replacing the cartridge replaces all bearing components.

Chris King, and DT Swiss use cartridge bearings. Shimano and Campy use loose balls, which can be easily purchased, and upgraded to ceramic balls if desired. If you like a hub with cartridge bearings, and they aren't a common industrial bearing, buy a half-dozen extra, and store them in Moble 1 Oil (with seal conditioner). By the time you use the last one you'll appreciate having paid 20% of its 2025 price.

If you break a Ksyrium spoke on an event ride, good luck finding anyone who can help you replace it. You're done for the day. Custom built wheels using standard J-hook spokes are usually on hand at event rides. No problem finishing the ride.

There are some other interesting options available on most custom builds. One I am interested in is radially spoking the non-drive side spokes. These spokes have very low tensions, as normal tensions would pull a dished wheel out of dish. Radial spokes are shorter, so less elastic, which may create a wheel that responds more uniformly under load when used on the non-drive side.

Another approach is to use 14/15 double-butted spokes on the drive side, and DT Revolution 14/17 spokes on the non-drive side. In both cases you're trying to get the spokes, at dramatically different tensions, to respond as equally as possible to side loads. For me, at 190 lbs, and capable of torquing out 1,000+ watts, this seems like the better option. Also, the less elastic drive-side spokes minimize wind-up, so less torque will be transferred through the aluminum hub body, reducing fatiguing stresses. The two strategies can be combined for maximum effect.

A single unbutted 14ga spoke will not fail under 700+ lbs of load, is generally about 10% stronger than a 14/15 butted spoke, will fail at the J-hook bend, and has at least 20% less elasticity than 14/15 butted spokes. By contrast, DT's 14/15 butted spokes will stretch over 6mm without breaking (testing was stopped at 6mm of strain), mostly in the thin, center section. I don't have data for DT's Revolution spokes, but expect this general trend would continue. There is much anecdotal evidence that this elasticity makes for very tough, resilient wheels. It also makes for a more supple ride.

These builds were done at Excel Sports, and WheelBuilder.  I encourage you to play, dream, and then take the plunge. In the case of Excel, you can send the hub back and have another wheel built on it as many times as you like. Bike shops will typically NOT reuse old spokes, but provided you keep the spokes in the same hub holes - so you don't bend them in new ways - reusing spokes is completely safe within reason. Rear, drive-side spokes will fatigue first, so worth checking the nipples to see if any have been taken up excessively.

As most of you know by now, I bought my wheels from Colorado Cyclist. They are an excellent shop, but don't have item-specific weights on their web site. I had my wheels built with DT Revolution spokes, and except for some rear wheel flex in left-hand turns under power, swear by them. They weigh about half as much as straight 14ga spokes. Chose silver nipples, as the colors all fade to silver in 2-3 years and look crappy in the meantime.


Build #1: Classic Campy Record hubs with OpenPro wheel weighing 1,500 grams for less than $550. This will support Campy's 9,10 and 11-speed gearing and for any rider under 200 lbs, should last 25,000 miles. Since the life of a wheel is limited by braking surface wear, go with the OpenPro Ceramic rims for ~ 100,000 mile life. 12 yrs at 8K/yr, or 20 yrs at 5k/yr. Repack and replace the bearing balls every fall, and repack each spring.

Build #2: Chris King R45 hub and OpenPro rim with radially spoked non-drive side rear wheel. Weighs 45 grams less than the Ksyrium SL and is $690. Buy extra bearings when you buy the wheels. Go with Open Pro Ceramic for longer life. 1440 grams

Build #3: Ultra-light 65mm aero wheel build. 1450 grams. Blows away SRAM's S60 60mm aero wheel at 1850 grams.

Build #4:  Lightweight metal climber's wheel using DT Swiss's RR415 single-eyelet rims for riders under 165 lbs. For riders under 135 lbs, save 25 grams by using 24 spokes front and back. 1390 grams

Build #5:  Semi-aero metal wheel for riders under 175 lbs featuring Mavic's CXP-33 double-eyelet rim. With 32 spokes, a real Clydesdale special, up to 225 lbs, and with Shimano DuraAce with 36 spokes in back to 250+ pounds. 1504 grams

Build #6: Iowa Hill Special. Ultra-light climber's sew-up wheel featuring Enve Composites 1.25 tubular rims. Using Zipp hubs will shave 41 grams and get you under 1 kg. 1020 grams

Build #7: Metal aero wheel featuring DT Swiss RR 585 rim in front and CXP-33 in back. 1650 grams

Spare me the .....

After taking nearly 2 weeks off to rest, I had a rather weak ride last Wednesday. There was only one short stretch where I felt my legs were under me. I would have been really disappointed, except I have noticed that while my 1st ride back is typically weak, my 2nd is typically epic.

Friday's ride was no exception. In fact, except for the ride I did hopped up on Claritin in April, the average power in watts set a new PB at 257 for the entire 1:45 minute ride. Sans the warm-up leg to Sunrise via Bannister Pk, average HR was 145 - so ~ 1:30 minutes at LT.

I was a bit late thinking to lean into it on the Beals Pt climb, but still got within 15 seconds of my PB. In short, it was an epic ride from start to finish and my legs felt like thunder and answered every call. AWESOME!!!

I met a guy up at Beals, Jean Claude, who is from the Virgin Islands. That, of course, got us to talking about Tim Duncan, power forward for the San Antonio Spurs, the most dominant forward in the NBA for most of the last 10 years. He's also from the Virgin Islands, and only started playing basketball because a hurricane destroyed the swimming pool he used to train in.

It turns out, Jean Claude used to swim in that same pool, and is now very interested in getting into cycling to get his cardio mo-jo back. A really refreshing conversation, and he was all smiles that someone knew where he was from, and something about his homeland. I am hoping he shows up at as I promised him I'd lend him my freshly rebuilt steel steed if he wants to go riding together. Before I shoved off I fixed the brakes on his daughter's bike. Simple, for an old mechanic like me, but greatly appreciated nevertheless.

It's such a great feeling to make someone feel - welcome!


I got a killer deal on some new Sidi shoes from Competitive Cyclist (great size selection too)  As a bonus, I got a 20% off coupon for any clothing item, which I am going to apply to a water-resistant rain shell. Nice!

I'm not riding with them yet, because I forgot they don't come with cleats - pedals come with cleats. Duh! It does, once again, bring up the importance of having spares for the many, many things required to ride your usual ride.

I found the Shimano cleats I needed at Amazon, which not only had the best price, but free shipping. I also ordered a spare Garmin mount for my Edge 305, as those have a bad reputation - one well-deserved in my experience - for having the retaining clip break off at the tab, making it impossible to remove the unit from its mount without an ice-pick or small screwdriver.

I also picked up a spare Vredestein Fortezza rear tire for my spare rear wheel, on sale at Performance Bike Shop for  $29 (front wheels almost never fail, and if you ride very long you'll find yourself slowly collecting extra front wheels as you tend to buy wheels in sets, and the front one always outlasts the rear one - more on this tomorrow), and a half-dozen spare tubes as I was down to my last spare. You should always have 3 tubes on hand - 2 in your bag when riding in winter, and one at home.

I say in winter for two reasons. First, because while you can stop and wait for help, doing so for very long invites hypothermia - a serious threat in winter (always carry a SpaceBlanket in winter). Second, because when roads get wet in winter, tires get wet, and that attaches very sharp sand pebbles to tires which burrow their way through the tire and pop it. On wet days the race mechanics at the TDF replace the team's tires after a single day. Better bring a pump instead of a CO2 cartridge too, as I have found glueless patches VERY unreliable.

TMMV, depending on where you are, how much you ride alone, the length of your rides, and how tolerant of mechanicals your club members are, but certainly, at least at home, a spare set of brake pads, cables, 10ft of cable housing, 2 extra boxes of handlebar tape, a half dozen spokes of the correct length, at least 1 spare tire, 1 spare roll of Velox rim tape, a dozen or so spoke nipples, elastic HR monitor strap, oh, and shoes.

In general do an inventory of what you put on and depend on when rolling out the door, and buy spares for those. More spares if you call around and your LBS doesn't carry them - the the Garmin mounts. Oh, that reminds me, when I get the rain gear from Competitive Cyclist, I need to get a spare ratchet and strap for the shoes. Those are NEVER in stock at your LBS. Buying spares ahead of time, on sale, can save you a lot of grief and money.