Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Techie Tuesday: Dressing For Zen

It was getting darker as the clouds were slowing crowding out the sun, conspiring to rain in ever deepening blues and grays, and yet the ride beckoned. Finally, the urge was just overwhelming, so I aired up the tires, pulled on some PI tights, a PI fleece jersey, and took a risk with this Performance Bike Shop Century vest under a PI convertible jacket. (the vest replaced an identical orange one whose zipper failed and left me seriously hypothermic 2 winters ago, so not a reliable outer layer as the zipper is still cheap junk)

The zipper on this is horrible, and not to be trusted, but as a 2nd layer it's terrific.
By the time I went out the door there wasn't a ray of sun to be found, and the air had a definite bite to it, but the fleece in the vest's collar and the 2mm TurtleFur balaclava overlapped to create a perfect neck seal, and long-sleeve gloves kept my fingers nice and warm. In short, I hit it dead, solid, perfect.

My ride was slow, because of detours on the ARPT due to the bottom of the draw at the bottom of the 'big' hill between Sunrise and Hazel being flooded, and because I had another flat (I'm looking at Conti Ultra Gatorskins again to get more flat protection in winter). Somehow it didn't matter a bit. I was just THRILLED be out riding again after days of rain. (and still more days of rain to come)


I've had good luck wearing a vest under a windbreaker before. The vest, especially one with a full mesh back like this one (black because it's intended for mtb riding, not road riding), acts as a diffuser, and allows you to open the jacket's collar without freezing your neck and shoulders, while armpits and core temps are kept under control.

The front zippers on the jacket, vest, and jersey offer tons of venting options to keep you warm, without soaking you in a sweat bath. Weirdly, it often works best to unzip the vest most of the way, and then use the jacket zipper to control overall air flow. This lets some air to the front of your chest without getting your shoulders cold.

The convertible jacket gives me lots of ways to stay cool - and dry if the skies decide to open up. It has tons of pockets, in addition to the 4 on my jersey, so the single folding phone pocket sewn into the side seam on the vest isn't an issue. For long rides it would make a nice place to store keys.

My jersey was pretty much wet when I got home, but no more so than riding with it alone on a humid, mid-70s temp day. With an orange LS jersey, and all the reflective tape on the vest, in a pinch I could do without the jacket - if she was REALLY gorgeous and needing to borrow some protection! ;D

I like the vest's tight elastic on the arm holes. It keeps the yoke well protected, keeping my neck and shoulders warm when I zip the jacket down for more ventilation. While I did get misted on, today wasn't a great test of the jacket's ability to handle rain, although, the yoke's design has a loosely Velcro-ed flap over a shoulder-to-shoulder patch of mesh, so it should shed water and still breathe well.

Pending an outing in real rain, I am very happy with this combo. Even the rather subdued red color of the jacket brightens up a lot under overcast skies, although, if I didn't already have a screaming yellow colored vest, I would have gotten that color in the jacket. For serious hill climbing I'd take the sleeves off and ride with just one vest.

I'm happy to have dialed in a great combo comprising the new jacket, as it has been a challenge with all the crazy weather we've had the last month.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wednesday: MIA

I went for a nice sunny ride up to Beals on Tuesday, except when I got up on Wednesday and went to RSVP yes for the Beatty Dr climbing practice ride on Thursday, I found out it was already Thursday and I had already missed the ride. What happened to Wednesday?  Can I have it back? It was a nice sunny day, even if the wind was pretty cold, and now it's rain, rain, rain again for 4-5 days.

Not wanting to risk dehydration, I left the windbreaker at home and went with a PI vest and heavy, long-sleeve jersey. I think that would have worked if I'd worn leg warmers, but as it was, though nice and sunny, it was a COLD ride, especially up at Beals where the cold wind coming off the lake cut like a knife.

I have a secret spot at Beals though. Right as you come in, on the left side, over behind the concessions area, there's a spot where the flower bed meets the building, and the afternoon sun beats on the cinder-block wall while the building completely blocks the wind. The roof hangs over the block wall, trapping the sun's warmth, while shielding it from the wind. The flower bed is mulched, which makes a nice insulator for the backside while sitting in it. It's a little slice of heaven on a cold day - as long as the sun is shining.

I broke out a PowerBar, took off my helmet to let the sun hit my black balaclava, pressed my back against the warm cinder-block, and watched a few runners dash into the bathrooms half frozen. I can't think the toilets were very comfortable at those temps either.

After 10 minutes or so, I'd gnawed through half the bar, swallowed some water, and decided to push off and make some heat before the sun got too low. As I clipped in I pointed a half-frozen couple running up to the drinking fountain to my secret spot and saw them break out in smiles as they huddled together and waved me off. I guess the secret is out now!

As it turned out leaving early was a good choice, as I ran over some glass somewhere around Negro Bar, and had to stop at the Aquatic Center to replace my tube. I finished up in 7-8 minutes, with the bike upside-down on a picnic table in the last rays of sunshine.

I was pretty chilled when I got home, and ran the heat at 80 degrees for an hour before I warmed up again. I could tell from the Garmin trace my cold legs weren't making as much power either, but it was still very nice to be out riding on a nice, sunny day.

Shimano rear hubs are a 2 piece assembly. Note the radial spoking on the non-drive side.

With rain coming down steadily yesterday, I decided to repack my mtb rear hub. I picked up a nice pair of Park Tools 15 & 17 mm cone wrenches from Performance Bike Shop, (who didn't know they had them when I spoke with them on the phone) as my neighbor wasn't home, and I wanted to get the bike out of the dining room.

The drive-side bearing cup is also a bearing cone!
Almost on a fluke I ended up looking at Park Tool's instructional site on repacking hubs, and found a most unexpected procedure - which works great. You mount the wheel OUTSIDE of the rear dropout, using the non-drive-side dropout and quick-release to hold the wheel and compress the axle. If I hadn't experienced it myself I would never believe how much a steel axle compresses! The bearings go from loose to snug (well, perfect by the time you're done) just by closing the QR.

All done, and happy to have it done. After 15 yrs the grease was separating into oil that was gone, and wax that remained, but the hub, cups, cones and seals were in perfect condition. Shimano has great quality,  and excellent seals. The freehub body is a sealed unit, so left that alone. Unlike my Alex hub that came stock on my road bike, the bearing cup is actually part of the freehub body on Shimano. An interesting design. Alex and Bontrager are the same system - probably both made by Alex in Taiwan.

I used FinishLine grease, but when squeezing it out of the tube, oil that had separated was coming out along-side of the rest of the grease. This is not good, especially since I just bought the grease. I finished up with Mobile 1 synthetic grease, which is also tackier, so holds the balls better. FinishLine makes a pure PTFE Teflon grease which I may try, but I will not use this grease again.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lazy Rainy Days

Whoever said it never rains in California has never spent the month of December in the San Joaquin Valley. Whole days go by with not a ray of sunshine to be found. This kind of weather brings out the big LAZY in me.

Having said that, I was looking for the proper name of a gym exercise the other night in Arnold Schwarzenegger's excellent Encyclopedia Of Modern Bodybuilding and spent an hour looking at my notes in the margin, and bookmarks left inside. I bought the book about 20 yrs ago, and would like to get it autographed, but looking through it I was amazed at how huge Arnold was. It really got me missing my gym workouts, and the mentally quiet, Zen workouts I used to do. I'm hungry for that again, so time to find a good gym and bash some iron!

This was me at 21, before spending 20 yrs in the gym. Wish I looked like this now. No issues with climbing mountains at 145 lbs. I'd be very happy to just drop 15 lbs and get some of this muscle definition showing at this point. Trying to schedule rides around the weather is tedious, so a great time to gym it up!

Good news on the Mavic wheel. I took the wheel to a LBS - one recommended by a bunch of friends - to see if it was even safe to ride. They took one look at the wheel and offered to call Mavic and try to get them to pay to have the wheel rebuilt - AGAIN. (They will be offering a wheel-building class in Jan I want to take)

I just got off the phone with Eddy an hour ago, and based on some pics he sent to Mavic, and some micrometer measurements they asked for, they agreed to have the wheel rebuilt. I don't want to say too much and jinx it, but I am cautiously euphoric. :D  Eddy also agreed to rebuild the wheel using 14/15 butted spokes on the drive side, and 14/17 on the other side, so with a little luck, in a week I will have my dream wheel - finally, at long last! >B

Friday, December 10, 2010

Easton Seatpost Fix - 2 Months After

It's been over 2 months now since I tried using 1500 Wet & Dry sandpaper to keep my Easton seatpost from sliding down, so when cleaning the bike last night, I took a careful look to see how the fix was holding up.

I am happy to report there is no detectable slippage at all in 2+ months, and the paper seems none the worse for wear. I like the way the paper works as a compressible shim, so the clamping pressure is spread over a larger area while avoiding any sharp pinching that might otherwise occur right under the top of the clamp.

Maybe this is a good idea for all carbon seatposts - at least on carbon frames with definite clamping pressure limits.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Thrill Is Gone

All that sweating under my PI jacket has stirred the beast, so I am now 36 hrs into recovering from a mild bout of diverticulitis, but this cup of coffee gave me a little energy, so I took a close look at my new wheel.

I have to say, I am appalled at what Mavic considers quality control. My recommendation, pending getting a chance to inspect DT's wheel products, is to buy Mavic rims somewhere you can carefully inspect them before buying, or sticking with DT if you know their products are held to expected QC standards. 

In particular, I am disgusted that at least half of the rim wall thickness was machined away on the inside of the rim, adjacent to a 1mm+ machining away of the inner box section. As you can see, the drive-side of the rim looks a bit ratty, but at least all of the material is intact - on the inside anyway.

Looking on the outside of the rim, under the decal sticker that hides the SUP weld, there is a deep gouge machined away on the entire drive-side half of the rim. Obviously the SUP weld area is but a small fraction of the strength of the rest of the rim.

I'm outraged that Mavic has fallen this low. Apparently they could care less that their standard-bearer rim is now a cynical joke, and prefer to lavish all of their time and attention on exotic, high ticket wheels that are designed to fail in 3-5 years. This is the very worst planned obsolescence from Detroit. I will do everything I can to take my business elsewhere. My stock $45 Alex wheels, cheap stuff from Taiwan, are made better than this.



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

At Odds with Ends

So it's December, and winter weather is upon us, so it's time to hang up the cycling shoes for the year and hit the gym, right? Run everything through the laundry, hang it in the closet, stay home, and grow a spare tire? Uh, yeah, but not so much around here. Still nice to have the gym as a backup, but so far the wx has been pretty good.

It was in the mid-60s yesterday, so I had to do a little head-scratching about what to wear before heading out the door for Beals Pt. It was a gorgeous day, and kind of weird that, being a Monday, the trail was almost abandoned. After 6 days off it was a slow and sluggish ride for the most part, but that's just fine. Some Base Level I riding is a good idea this time of year anyway.

Last week I did a nice 38 mile ride up into the El Dorado Hills to get in some practice for our New Year's Day hill challenge, but got there about 20 minutes too late, so reluctantly headed for home over the Johnny Cash Bridge and took in the always spectacular view of the lake while hitting 30mph going down a 6% grade.

Once over the bridge, I got on the ARPT, crossed under it, and stopped to take in the view while donning my PI convertible jacket's sleeves, thus turning the vest into a jacket. In last week's cooler, drier weather this was perfect.  Last night, in spite of wearing a short sleeved summer jersey yesterday, wearing the sleeves coming down from Beals left me soaked in sweat. I'm talking about wet T-shirt contest, pasted to my skin soaked.

Although the fall foliage on the ARPT was breathtaking, the crushed, wet leaves, mingled with twigs and small branches, required a slow pace, especially on the descent from Beals. There was also a fair amount of mud and sand on the trail, so my jacket was spattered and bike filthy when I got home. I need a dedicates bag. Winter clothes are a challenge to clean and dry in the shower due to their sheer bulk and size.

For the bike, I'm going to try the vacuum cleaner with hand brush for the big chunks, and then a clean towel and TurtleWax car shampoo to get it nice and shiny again. It's Tiger Woods in a Vegas whorehouse filthy!

When I got home from my 38 miler last Tuesday, I discovered my tail light had fallen off. I was a little alarmed that I had crossed Fair Oaks blvd without it, as it's 4 lanes of heavy traffic and a dedicated turn lane. I always cross into the turn lane at the crest of a hill where traffic from both directions can see me, but doing so without a tail light is still dangerous.

Wanting to ride the next day, I headed off to REI the same evening and picked up a Planet Bike Blaze/Superflash head and tail-light combo for $48 with a 20% discount. I found a 1/2 watt and a 1 watt combo and went with the 1W, duh. If you already have a tail light you like, I'd go with the 2W Blaze, which uses a CREE XR-E Q5 lamp to produce 100 lumens. Such a pleasant relief to get to Beals last night and NOT have to be checking the time to make sure I'd get home before dark. Headlights rule!

The mounting system wasn't big enough to get around my handlebars, but I tossed the plastic strap and used a bit of the grippy rubber strip from the tail light under a zip-tie, and that worked very well. If I remount it I'll just cover the zip-tie with vinyl tubing like I do with all my zip-ties. It's cleaner and the edges don't curl up. I mounted it upside down next to the stem - slung under the main bar - which is out of the way and provides good vertical separation from the aerobars.

The light has a front bulb section, and a rear battery section that houses 2 AA batteries. The front attaches with a twist lock that only needs about 2mm of twist to disengage it. No way is that going to be reliable, so I immediately cut a strip of Velcro lengthwise and stuck one half to each half of the light. I then wrapped that loop-side Velcro with a Velcro strap's opposite, hook side. It's totally locked in place now, and if I were to drop the light it would be protected from breakage in the bargain.

I did some testing with my 1W light, rated for 7/14 hrs on hi/lo setting, and my wonderful Duracell 2650 AA cells kept the light going for 15 hours on hi!(these excellent batteries were reformulated and are now complete crap. Try the Sanyo Eneloop instead). Somewhere between 10-12 hrs though, the light transitions from a 'See' to a 'Be Seen' light imho. For the 2W, which produces 100 lumens instead of 70, burn time would be 7-9 hrs.

Finally, my new, replacement wheel arrived from Colorado Cyclist, and as expected, is just completely new through and through. I had repacked the hub a week before finding the SUP weld problem, so checked the hub on this one. It's a new hub.

PS: After looking into the MagicShine bike light, I think I'll use this one as a backup or forward flasher. At 900 lumens, the MagicShine far outclasses either of these Planet Bike lights. Here's the technical specs on the Seoul Semiconductor LED that powers the MagicShine light.