Friday, May 27, 2011

Saddle - Chamois Matching

As most of you know, I recently changed my saddle, twice in fact, but except for the height of the mounting rails, the last two saddles were the same. My previous saddle was solid in the middle, with a gel center that was ever so slightly concave in the perineum area. My new saddle, a Specialized Romin Elite, has a long hollow channel running much of the length of the saddle.

A petite channel keeps the saddle centered well on solid center saddles
My favorite go-to shorts, the Novara Gel shorts pictured above, have a fantastic gel pad in the chamois, but the transition off the gel pad onto the perimeter padding is rather 'sharp' and abrupt, right were my new saddle widens out. The Romin also is rather flat, having almost no side at all, but the side it does have is quite hard. The result is the chamois's sharp edge crosses the saddle's edge right where my femoral artery rubs against the seat. As a result of a lot of irritation, I have been developing a small cyst next to the artery.

The solution was to find either a different saddle or a different pair of shorts, but some combination that works well together. I've taken some photos of the chamois, because chamois was the solution in my case, and because the saddle has solved other problems for me, like better support for riding in the drops and aerobars, and ventilation.

Lacking support to keep the 2 sides apart, this is a chamois only the Marquios De Sade could love
The key difference between these Pearl Izumi chamois is the small center line of padding that occupies the void in saddles with hollow centers. The chamois with white padding on orange is missing this, and either one side or the other is guaranteed to drop into such a hollow. It's also designed to rip out your pubic hairs in the most painful possible way, but that's due to the holes.

A padded center rib that soaks into the void in hollow center saddles keeps these well planted under you
The blue and grey chamois is very similar to the 1-piece orange chamois on my new shorts. The transition on this cheaper, PI Attack short is actually a bit more gradual because the stitching compresses it, but it holds heat and is more vulnerable to tearing. It did make an excellent short to take for a trial run - once I remembered I owned it. Based on it's excellent performance, I bought the more expensive PI Elite In-R-Cool short on the right.

The shorts have other features I like besides the chamois, like longer legs, better venting, and special fibers that wick heat away, but the chamois might actually be a little thinner.

This trend, to have higher end shorts with thinner chamois is rather maddening, and I assume it's due to stronger riders supporting more of their body weight on their feet, and therefore, less on their butts. Whatever the reason, it sure would be nice to have a high end short with a really impenetrable chamois that won't pinch flat, even on a double century.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

2011 Amgen Tour - Stage 7 & Final Results

Teamwork as smooth as cream cheese. Epic!
Chris likes a little stubble to protect his face too
 As expected, the Mt Hamilton stage pretty much determined the pecking order for the rest of the tour. You never know until it's over, crashes and illness can take their toll, and change the outcome in an instant, but in this case, Mt Hamilton ranked the field for Mt Baldy, and the leading teams became even more dominant.

It was good to see Chris so happy, euphoric even. Finally the respect he deserves. I hope he kicks Contador's ass in the TDF this year. I look forward to seeing more of young riders like Matt Busche, from the great state of New Mexico, in future tours. He was amaing at the top of Mt Baldy.

Schleck's performance was a little surprising, but he is on a comeback, and prepping for the TDF, or that's his story, and he's sticking to it. The rider that was unexpectedly impressive for me was Ryder Heshedal. I was also surprised that Garmin did so little of the work at the front in the San Gabriel Mountains, but then RadioShack had the strength and depth to just go hammer it the whole stage, and Garmin just wasn't able to respond.

The oldest guy to finish the race won it. Big props for Chris Horner!!!
 I do hope we will see another Tahoe stage, weather not withstanding, and with the suggested team TT from Carson City, Nevada to Incline Village. Team TTs are getting really rare, and they are one of my favorites. Especially as a first stage, they give the team a great opportunity to work together and gel. It's snowing up in Tahoe as I'm typing this, so an alternate is definitely needed.

While RadioShack pretty much owned the race, I hope the Amgen Tour will continue to give new riders an opening into the sport. Like the US Open, those opportunities are absolutely necessary if the sport is to continue to flourish, and we love watching them grow up right here in the most beautiful country in the world,  the Golden State of California!

Friday, May 20, 2011

2011 Amgen Tour - Stage 6

Congrats to Dave Z on winning the TT, and setting a new course record in the process, although as Leipheimer pointed out, that was almost a certainty when running in May instead of February. I assume he was talking about thinner, warmer air being easier to push aside, but maybe also stripped out of all that extra winter gear.

Really sorry for Levi that he didn't win today, but I have to say, I really hate his form. It seems to work for him, but jeeze it's ugly. I think the high aerobar position is not his favorite, but the only one left to him by the UCI as his preferred one they outlawed. Frankly, the TT is one area I think there are too many rules. Better to let people ride anything they want, any way they want.

I think Chris Horner is saving his legs for the Queen Stage tomorrow - by far the toughest stage in the history of the Amgen Tour, and likely the ruin of many of the smaller teams. As of yesterday's start, only 6 of 144 riders had left the race, although Thor Hushovd abandoned the race yesterday. I don't have a  count, but yesterday's stage, being so long, and with a surprising 12,000+ ft of climbing, probably took it's toll.

By contrast, I expect many, many riders will blow up and abandon the race on the course tomorrow - perhaps as much as a third of the field. I'll be watching George Hincapie closely, as he did very well in the San Gabriel Mtns last year, and but for a lot of guys tail-gunning him over the last 30km, might have finished on the podium. Also a good indicator of how much he's got left for another TDF.

I was a little surprised to see Dave Z's leg come out wide and grab some air going through a turn. That seems a pretty serious form break, but I wasn't on the bike, so maybe a split-second balance thing. In general I've worked very hard to immediately, and reflexively bring my right knee to the bar as soon as I stop pedaling. It makes a big difference in drag on a compact frame, helps control the bike when coming off or transitioning to the aerobars, and protects my knees in tight corners.

I've been wracking my brain to find a good alternative to a Tahoe stage should bad weather become an issue in the future. I think I've hit on one. A 30mi/48km Team TT from Carson City, NV to Alpine Village, Ca. Not only does the 1,500 ft drop in elevation eliminate snow, but the Sierra Mountains protect the eastern desert from rain and winds that can reach close to 100mph over the passes. The mile high altitude will also allow the riders to put their high-altitude training to good use.

Since all of our big winter storms swirl up from the south, the SSE winds will be headwinds for the riders, so the strongest teams, with the best form, will come out on top. It would establish a valid pecking order for the teams and riders for the rest of the tour, and allow riders in difficulty to drop out of the paceline near the end. (teams only need to finish with 5 riders)

Given how close the course is to Tahoe, just over Kingsbury Grade from South Lake Tahoe, this should keep logistics manageable and provide for some sponsor alternatives. I'm going to suggest it to the Amgen people, and hope they'll give it serious consideration.

Looking forward to tomorrow's massive Queen Stage, and expect Radio Shack will let Garmin do a lot of the work early, as Garmin has 3 guys near the top in the GC.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

2011 Amgen Tour - Stage 5

It looks like the early start will have them off under sunny skies, with some big, puffy clouds overhead. The wind is mostly a crosswind that will push them along a bit - very welcome I'm sure for riders with tired legs after yesterday's hard ride.

I don't have personal knowledge of this route, so will be a spectator along with everyone else today. The course looks very flat, except for the final, short climb, so I expect the sprint teams will do well. Thor Hushovd is near the top of the GC, and this stage will suit him well, so I expect he will be near the front a lot.

I'm guessing RadioShack will be happy to have other teams do the work at the front today, until the final KOM climb, and then they'll be in front protecting Horner and Leipheimer's 1, 2 GC positions. The scenery should be spectacular, and ride generally a fast, easy one.

Overall, today will be about recovery before the TT in Solvang, and the massive Queen Stage in the San Gabriel Mountains. I expect the minor teams will want to break away to get in the spotlight, but will get reeled in handily 10-15km before the final KOM, and dropped decisively there to keep the climbing teams' big gains yesterday intact.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

2011 Amgen Tour - Stage 4

They've pushed the start time back from 10:15 to 11:45, and should therefore be starting under sunny skies and on dry-ish roads after a thorough soaking rain last night. Winds are from the W and SW at around 10mph today, and generally crosswinds for the long stretch heading south on Mines Rd and San Antonio Rd.

I covered the main climb on this stage in some detail here, so will not elaborate further, except to say Mt Hamilton is a bitch of a climb with horrible, asphalt washboard road that will have your Garmin reporting grades for 14,16 and up to 24% right at the top. Temps will be mid-50s at the top of Hamilton, and its eastern face will be sunny, protected from the wind, and fairly warm.

Expect to see a lot of clothing being stripped off on the long descent to the base of Hamilton from the junction of San Antonio Rd and Del Puerto Canyon Rd, which took the riders into Patterson last year after their climb up Mines Rd.

This is THE stage to sort out the overall standings in Northern California. Piety Monday's stage wasn't run in reverse, which would have made it an epic uphill battle, but yesterday's stage into a fierce headwind all day turned out to be a worthy test, so fatigue will be a factor today.

Great times for European sports fans, as I watched Dirk Nowitzki play the closest thing to a perfect basketball game I've seen in almost 30 years. Really, and truly a fantastic, perhaps once in a lifetime performance.

I kind of enjoyed the poor-man's live blogging from the comments section below yesterday, so think I'll get me a big cup of coffee and have another go at that in a few minutes.

Post Script: An emotional day for Andy Schleck, as his teammate  Wouter Weylandt  was laid to rest in Belgium today. 2,000 friends, family and fans paid their respects. Schleck was reportedly in tears at the start. A fitting tribute to  life cut tragically short. 

Congratulations to Chris Horner, and Levi Leipheimer, who now hold 1st and 2nd place in the general category. They worked their butts off, as did all of the RadioShack squad, so deserved it. Rumor was Lance Armstrong was in the crowd watching.. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

2011 Amgen Tour - Stage 3

Well, they're off, under cloudy skies in a spitting rain. This would normally be a very fast course, but they are headed right into the teeth of steady 15-18mph winds, gusting to 30mph. They'll be coming within 10 miles of Carmichael in an hour or so, and the winds here are in the 15-18mph range here at 11:00AM. It's not raining here, but the roads are wet from intermittent rain overnight.

This will likely be the first day of real racing, as the riders are anxious to put some time into the Peleton after two frustrating days. There's already a 7-rider breakaway group off the front, and the SRAM neutral support cars just went ahead of the Peleton. With the wind, they'll have to work well together, or get swallowed up again by the Peleton.

The wind is supposed to shift from SSE to SSW until about Sacramento, and then will be due south heading into Modesto. The course is roughly due south, and after Sacramento, in pretty exposed flat country. The E part of the SSE here in California comes from the giant Pacific storm's swirls being pushed east as they rub up against the Sierra mountains coming up from Southern California. The course, being at the feet of those mountains, is going to bear the brunt of those winds.

The scenery should be spectacular, especially around Camanche Reservoir where the route will be familiar with anyone who's ridden the Sacramento Bike Hiker's annual Party Pardee 100k ride. Before this storm system rolled in, we had 246% of our normal annual rainfall here in Northern California, so lush and green doesn't even begin to cover it.

Enjoy the coverage on The Shack Tracker  starting at 1:15.

PS: I'm doing a poor-man's live blog via the comments, as they are time-stamped. Enjoy!

Monday, May 16, 2011

2011 Amgen Tour - Stage 2 Start

Good news from the Amgen Tour. The start is being moved from Tahoe to Nevada City, California, and start time moved back to 12:15. A couple of pics I borrowed from VeloNews shows why. Let's hope there's an alternative stage planned whenever there's a Tahoe stage on the agenda in the future.

Btw, VeloNews reported that 6 motorcycles went down scouting the course. I've crawled over these passes a few times trying to get to a ski resort in the thick of the storm. The stretch pictured above, right behind a snowplow spreading sand, in a truck with meaty mud and snows, and we barely made it to South Lake Tahoe.

I sure wish they'd done this stage yesterday, with a start in Sacramento, turning stage #2 into a slow, safe, epic climbing stage, ending at the top of Donner Pass. Maybe the Amgen Tour should just commit to a Sacramento start each and every year to anchor the event.

In any event, it's sunny here in Sacramento, so if the weather hold, it should be a pretty day of mostly dry weather. Kudos to the Amgen guys for finally getting ahead of things a bit. It might still be pretty windy, but this is an almost completely downhill stage, so I doubt it will matter.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 Amgen Tour - Tahoe Stage

 This just in from the Amgen organizers.
Due to severe and unsafe weather conditions in the Lake Tahoe area, the start of Stage 1 of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California has been delayed.

If the weather improves, a shortened stage will be started at 1:15 p.m. PT. We will continue to monitor the weather conditions and state of the roads and make a final decision at noon PT, with the riders’ safety as our number one priority.

The new route will continue to take the riders from South Lake Tahoe to North Star up the west side of Lake Tahoe. The stage will be approximately 50 miles. There will be no changes to the timing or the finish line at North Star. The Lifestyle Festival at North Star will open at noon PT as scheduled with the Amgen Breakaway Mile also remaining on-schedule for 2:30 p.m. PT
This is really hard to understand. For 2 hrs of riding, where nothing will be decided, the riders have to brave freezing (literally, when considering wind chill) conditions, with possible black icing on the Emerald Bay descent? There's 3-6" of snow on the ground in Tahoe, with temps still dropping. Total lunacy running this stage today, especially after Wouter Weylandt's fatal crash in the Giro.

I thought the obvious solution was to run stage #3 today, and do the Tahoe stage on Thursday when it warms up. In essence, shuffle the order of the stages as follows.

  • Stage 3 today - forecast highs in low 60s with some rain
  • Stage 2 Monday (start in Tahoe basin)
  • Stage 4 Tuesday - forecast highs in low 60s with some rain
  • Stage 5 Wednesday - high 50s with a 20mph cross and  tailwind off the Pacific to rest tired legs
  • Stage 1 in Tahoe Thursday in sunny, 55 degree temps
It's light out until 8:00pm, so just start the stages at noon when rain is forecast to let the air warm up a little and let the riders enjoy the cold on Stage #4 when they will be climbing. Delaying a decision until this morning made any new arrangement of stages impossible. Better yet, since they've had a week to work on a contingency plan, why not hold a TT in San Diego today under sunny skies and 65 degree temps, run stages 6, 7, and 8, and then come back to Northern California?

It's a good thing our generals don't suck this bad at decision-making. A week for contingency planning, and this is what they're going with? Thunderously stupid!!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

2011 Amgen Tour of California - Weather Report

Gulp! Uhhh, looks like the Amgen Tour of California's 10:30 AM kickoff will be in 37F temps with a 15mph wind up in Lake Tahoe this Sunday. So much for a heat concern - at least early in the race. It looks like a major storm front is moving in, so bring your winter gear. Some cold weather clothing RXs here.

In thin air, this is going to make for a very cold start. I think the key to this stage is to stay out of trouble. The roads are generally very good around Tahoe, but the wind off the lake will be brutal in places. The wind and the cold will both favor larger, heavier riders with more power and core.

The team strong men are going to be doing a lot of work on Sunday, and you may see a win by one, as the course isn't very steep. Thor Hushovd would be a good bet. Of course, I'd love to see Hincapie steal the first stage, but that'd be a real long-shot.

For the most part, the wind will either be in your face or at your back, but it is an oval course, so there should be some echelon riding, and opportunities for good tactics when turning from crosswind to headwind.  Good Luck!

PS: As of 5:00AM PDT Saturday, May14th, 2011, the following weather alert was issued for Sunday, May 15th, 2011.
Windy. Snow during the morning will transition to snow showers during the afternoon. High 38F. Winds SW at 20 to 30 mph. Chance of snow 70%. Snow accumulations less than one inch. Winds could occasionally gust to over 40 mph.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Weather Report

We've been having lots and lots of the stuff. Winds so thick with pollen it makes breathing almost impossible for those of us with allergies. I've had a mild headache, with a few glorious days of respite, for over 2 weeks now.

I got 5 miles done on my long ride Sunday, (yeah, really) and my throat swelled so closed I was gagging as I coughed uncontrollably. Weird feeling to be coughing so hard you can't catch your next breath to cough again. Maybe somebody is growing mustard gas.

The weather guessers say the weather for the Amgen Tour of California is going to be cool - NOT hot. One of us is going to be wrong, and that will probably be me. I HATE it when that happens, but thought you all should know. I sure hope so, because right now I can't train at all. I'm a prisoner in my own house, so I'd like another cool summer like last to enjoy some training time.

Time for some gym work. Ciao!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Techie Tuesday: Podium Ice Waterbottles

I decided to get Tuesday out of the way early to make time for the upcoming holiday - St Insanity Day! lol 

I first noticed the CamelBak bottles because of the bite valve, which self-seals when left open. It makes drinking out of a bottle much easier on really steep climbs, because you don't have to open and close the bottle, it's done automatically.

I'd also say, the valve is much softer, so a lot less chance for a fat lip, on a bad bump. At 21oz the Podium bottles are just a little smaller than the 24oz Polar bottles, but easier to squeeze (especially when cold), and once the valve opens, the squirt stream is 3-4X the volume.

I've been waiting for these Podium Ice bottles to show up at the local Performance Bike Shop, as they are listed online, and while looking in vain today for another jersey, I found them in stock. Sitting right next to these ZeroLoft insulated bottles, was another new offering from CamelBak called "The Big Chill" - a full 25oz bottle. Unfortunately, those did not use the new Aerojel insulation. (and why not ???)

I started using the CamelBak Chill bottles prepping for my 2nd, and successful attempt on Mt Hamilton as part of the Canyon Classic ride in 2009. It's also why I'm interested now, as I would like to do the unofficial "Super-Century" version of the CC, where you do the Mt Hamilton route, return to the little village of San Antonio, and then join the regular Century course where the two parted company. That should make for 11-12k of climbing and 155 miles. I only have 7 weeks to train for it though.

I currently have one bottle cage on my downtube, which I lowered one hole (the bottom hole is tied with a vinyl tube clad zip tie), and two via a Profile Designs aero bottle rack (I reviewed it extensively for Amazon). I notice it's now available in white, which I would definitely get, as it helps make you more visible at night with your taillight reflecting off of it. It might help keep the bottles cooler too. (why has no one made an insulated bottle HOLDER yet???)

Having 3 X 25oz bottles gets you into the CamelBak hydration pack range without having that weight on your back and butt all day, so this is interesting. (but, why not the best insulation ???)  The shape is also more aerodynamic, and easier to pull out of the bottlecage than a Polar bottle. Anyone need some well-maintained Polar bottles?

While we're on the subject of stuff you put on your seat post, I just have to give a shout out to the gorgeous ToPeak RX BeamRack carbon fiber rack. It weights less than 13 oz, and even with the small bag mounted, weights just 32oz. It's so beautiful I just want to buy one and hang it in my living room. Tons of bag options for their slip-on mounting system too.

 I'd spend the money for a good seat post though. Something like the Syntace P6 carbon fiber (sold out everywhere!), not the total POS Easton stuff I have. I can't see it in the pic below, but the photographed rack is actually mounted on a Syntace P6!

This system would make Centuries, Double Centuries, hot, thirsty summer, and cold winter ride starts SO much more manageable. Would the Profile Designs waterbottle rack fit around this? I think so on my compact frame. Those side panels unfold into full side panniers on some models. Pretty sweet system!

Oh, just to wrap up this review of seatpost mounted stuff, I'm really liking my Specialized Romin Elite Gel saddle. The extra padding of the gel is something I NEED - along with the 153 width.

100K Litmus Test

I'm off on my favorite ride tomorrow, even if it is alone - the Rescue FireStation in Rescue, Ca. It's nominally 100K, but I am going to stretch it out a bit if I can on the return, with a side trip up to Beals Pt at Folsom Lake, and then down to WBP before coming home. I think that will put it in the 75 mile range.

This should make a good test of where I'm at in terms of some Centuries that are coming up. One, the Sunrise Century, in Lodi, is next weekend, so I really want to get this done. If things go well, I'll start training for the Canyon Classic 'Super Century".

Mt Hamilton again? I must be crazy!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Techie Tuesday - Ultegra 6703 Shifters & Drivetrain

Amazing Shimano 12-28 Gearing
 I'll come back and update this from time to time, or link this in a post if I have a lot to say after using the system for awhile, but I thought it time to give my 2nd impressions after a half-dozen rides.

First, I have always loathed the stupid cables sticking out of the sides of Shimano shifters, so one of my initial attractions to the 6700 was getting rid of shifter cables sticking out into otherwise clean air and making a mess of the bike aerodynamics before there's much chance of do anything about it.

Second, I bought my Roubaix with 9-speed gearing at a substantial discount with the intention of riding that gearing until it wore out, or something close to it. That time had come, and I wanted a 10-speed system, or Campy 11 speed. The Campy's price was just too high going forward as their cassettes are ridiculously priced.  I'd also bought new rear wheels - a primary and a backup - and they were Shimano splines.

Third, the more I rode in the aerobars, the more convinced I became that Shimano's system is more precise when dropping the chain down the cassette. No way I was going to pay DuraAce prices to get that though. I also considered the Shimano 105 shifters, as they too have the new hidden shifter cables. The price difference didn't seem that much though, especially since I got all of this gear for what works out to be about 33% off at Performance Bike Shop.

I've waited about 8 months to pull the trigger on this, but when PBS opened a new store in Roseville, Ca, and offered 15% off, even on special orders, AND cash cards for old inner-tubes, lottery wheel spins, the first 100 people to show up for each of 3 days, and mentioning the bike club, I knew it was my time.

These same 3 days were also double dividend days, so that kicked in 20% on 85%, plus the cash cards. Also, PBS's prices on Shimano were already near the best to be found online, and being a member, I got free 2 day ground shipping to my front door. Pretty compelling.

Threading the cables is a bit tricky on the 6703's. The left and right shifters are threaded completely differently, as the internal mechanisms are completely different. The instructions are horrible, and I put a kink in the right shifter bad enough that I threw it away, a victim of really crap documents.

Once you figure out that you need to keep clicking the small lever that releases the cable the full 9 clicks, it's silly simple. What's described as a "view hole" is actually the hole you thread the cable through, and the extended discussion of the winding spool and cover plate are just a whole lot of mis-direction.The left shifter is pretty easy to thread too, but if you try to thread the right one the same way, you too will destroy your cable with a bad kink.

With what turned out to be $150 of dividends, I splurged on a carbon fiber set of bars with internal routing for the hidden cables - unlike my old bars. The new routing, swapped shifter cables, and swapped brake cables, convinced me to go slow and do a lot of trial fitting before I started cutting cables and cable housing.

The old bars were always a stop-gap, but since I ride in aerobars so much they were kind of irrelevant as long as I rode alone. I'm riding a lot more club rides now, so need to be on the hoods or drops, so based on a strong RX from a club rider with a severe elbow injury, I pulled the trigger.  With discounts, I managed to get PBS's house-brand Forte` bars for ~$100. They felt a bit rubbery when first on the bike, but seem pretty solid when climbing out of the saddle - so far so good.

Nobody at Performance knew if those bars were rated for clamp-on aerobars, and one mechanic laughingly suggested I tighten them until the main bar cracked and then back it off a bit. We had a good laugh about that. The stem clamping area is roughed up a bit to give it some tooth. Not so the clamping area for the aerobars. I was holding my breath, and ended up doing an initial tightening at night, and then a final tightening the next afternoon.

When you go from a 9-speed system to a 10-speed, you have to toss all of your old cassettes and buy new ones. Since Shimano has abandoned the work-horse 12-27 in favor of the 11-28, targeted at compact cranks, I was SOL - or so I thought. I studied the cassette gears thoroughly and found that if I took the spidered gears from the 11-28, and put them on a 12-25 I ended up with a completely stock 11-25, and an absolutely fabulous 12-28.

Now,  when I say absolutely fabulous, I mean the granularity of my 46/38/24 and 12-27 9-speed gearing, and the range of a 52/39/28 and 12-28 WITH NO 15T-17T gap - the one right in the power band. The first time out the gears were so lovely and intuitive I came home and put the gears into my gear chart. OMG, the best gears I have ever found. 12 through 17 in 1-tooth increments, and then fast ramping when you don't have time to drop the chain up front. Every time I do dump the chain up front I land on a gear so kind I wish I had selected it. Really and truly fantastic gearing.

The actual gear cogs are also much better made. They appear to be machined, and are the full thickness where they engage the freewheel hub. The CS-6500 9-speed cassettes were stamped, and therefore, pinched thin. A recipe for tearing out the splines on alloy freehubs. I am lucky to have Shimano 6700 steel freehubs though, as some of the spline engagement dogs have been removed from the middle gear cogs. Something to think about carefully if you have an alloy freehub.

I also bought a new rear derailleur, as Shimano warns that the 28T requires their new one. It's OK, works fine, is crisp, but nothing to spill a lot of electrons over.

Finally, I spent the money for a DuraAce chain, since the 9-speed chain won't cut it with the narrower spacing. It shifts like a dream, and is so gorgeous you just want to drown one in Lucite and make a paperweight out of it. I also really like the single pin connecting system, and it's easy to find on a hollow pin chain. The end of the self-guiding, solid, "bullet" link pin snaps off, so I'm sure it's case-hardened to within an inch of its life, and will therefore outlast the rest of the links.

For the first time ever, after adjusting the drivetrain on my stand, I went for a 20 mile ride and adjusted NOTHING. It was dead-solid perfect. The front derailleur now downshifts like a cannon. It's been a long time since it shifted that well. The rear shifter is almost perfect, and getting better all the time.

One thing worth mentioning. Although it added some work and worry, I crossed the cables under the downtube to get a straighter path for the rear shifter cable. It also makes the downtube slightly more aerodynamic I imagine, but that's not why I did it. It seems to be one of several things that makes for very crisp shifting, except for the transition from the 4th to 5th smallest cogs in back - but as stated, that's getting better as things settle down.

The ergonomics of the shifters are definitely better. I had a pretty bad thumb-web injury from the old shifters, and these have not aggravated that at all after the long layoff due to the collarbone break allowed a full healing.

Between that and the CF handlebars, the ride has noticeably smoothed out. I also took almost a pound of weight off the bike, and it's apparent  when I pick the bike up and move it around. I think it's a bit more aerodynamic too, as the cable routing and aero shape of the bar top are keeping the airflow nice and clean.

All in I spent just under $500, the list price on the shifters alone. It was 3-days work to get everything perfect, but a truly wonderful ride I am going to thoroughly enjoy this May - Bike Month!