Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crashing in the Rain

Right at the end of my ride on Sunday, after riding for a full hour in the rain, my luck ran thin, and I crashed in the rain about a mile from home. I was approaching a 4-Way intersection, observing traffic for sequencing, when at the last second my Fenix helmet light picked up a color difference in the road surface 4-5 ft ahead. It was a 4x6 ft utility cover of some kind, and the steel edges formed a groove that sucked my front wheel right in as I drifted from the shoulder into the middle of the lane for better visibility.

They go through the brake better when round  :-(
As best I can figure out, I broke the wheel out of the rut, but it started skidding sideways over the slick steel. I managed to recover my balance and thought I was going to be able to ride through it for a moment, UNTIL, the wheel hit the corner turned sideways, and folded up like a cheap suit.

Rim jammed hard into front brake, and heavily gouged inside of fork
When the wheel hit the corner of the utility cover it potato-chipped, and pretty much exploded as it slammed into the fork and brake. I went down hard, but the milliseconds I was skidding sideways gave me enough time to "plan" my fall, so I stuck my fisted arm out ahead of me and landed on my right side SuperMan style. No wheel could have withstood those stresses, but I'm very grateful for those milliseconds mine hung tough. That probably saved me from a face-plant, and/or a broken collarbone.

The Garmin HR strap's plastic connector is very unkind on your ribs when you fall on it, and while I had a thigh bruise the side of a DOT-bot, and a big bruise on my left knee where it fell against the frame, it's been the ribs that have been painful enough to keep me from sleeping well. Mostly though, I am very happy I didn't break my collarbone and was able to get a ride home from a nice couple in a SUV who happened by a few minutes later.
Clean break at the Mavic SUP weld
The wheel is a total loss, except for the hub, so I have ordered a new DT RR465 double-eyelet rim, and DT revolution spokes for a 3X laced build - I've had enough problems with Mavic rims I'm going to try DT this time.
20-spoke semi-aero wonder. It understeers a bit in turns.
Since it will take me awhile to build the new wheel, and I have no spare front wheel currently, I also ordered a Mavic Cosmic Elite 30mm semi-aero front wheel. At 20 spokes it isn't going to make a great training wheel, but for fast club rides and TTs on the South Folsom Canal, it should be great.

I guess I could be bummed out about this, but mostly I am anxious to see if I can crank  out 200+mile weeks as a matter of course. I want to try to get toughened into the fatigue and see if I can get to a whole new level of fitness, and maybe, ditch my BP meds!

Riding Outside the Box

After an especially disastrous Friday night, Saturday morning, back-to-back ride a couple of years ago, I concluded that at my age, recovery times didn't permit riding without rest days. Last weekend I was talking to my doctor about my BP meds, and he liked my strategy of max exercise and minimum medication, and thought I might be able to ween myself off my meds if I lose some weight and keep exercising.

I said "I'd ride every day if I could get off these damned pills", because they damage the kidneys over time, but wondered on the drive home if that was an empty boast. I avoid back-to-back days as a rule, so unless something changed, I was lying to myself saying that. I decided it was time to challenge myself, to see if I could manage the fatigue and get it done.

6 of 7 days for 214 miles and 13,000 ft climbing

 The hardest day, by far, was the day I rode my single speed bike for "only" 20 miles. I was tired,  yes, but worse, my quads were so sore and tight I thought for sure they'd lock up on me coming home up a 10%+ grade.

As it turned out, the 52/19  gearing was excellent for spinning and my legs felt better and better as I went along. This recovery ride was a real confidence builder, offering hope that a generous warm-up period, or light day, could heal better than sitting at home.

I'm really excited now, like there's a new frontier out there to be explored, and I can't wait to explore it!


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lots of Riding, and Thoughts on Gear

I've been doing a lot of riding, and have racked up 725 miles for Dec and Jan, in part because I'm trying to get 100 miles in reliably, every week. The weather has been dry,  but I've also been relentlessly working wheel, tire, handlebar, saddle, and lighting issues, and because I can ride dark safely after dark with the 5 Point lighting system. 

I'm working on a post about riding in the dark and cold of winter, but had to relegate it to a draft after finding my thoughts a bit muddled last week, so that will be coming sometime in the next few weeks, but not just yet.

Also available in BLUE and PURPLE
I picked up a tiny AAA Fenix E05 R2 flashlight to light the Garmin and thermometer at night, and I'm amazed by this little light. The size of my little finger, it drains an AAA cell in 3:30, but cranks out 27 ANSI-certified lumens with a lens that makes a perfect pool of light from 1-80 ft. I can read my wristwatch at arms length 50 ft away. Stunning.

The best place to mount it for lighting the cockpit turned out to be the front of my helmet - so it's Velcro-ed there, and is doing a credible job as my forward, white helmet light. It's a "be seen", not a "see" light in that mode (except for the many steel posts where roads cross the ARPT where it makes their reflective tape really come to life) but weighs .39oz, lights my hands for signaling, and generally brightens up night riding a lot by keeping my hands and cockpit lit.

No matter where I look, it's just magically lit. Drinking fountains, bathroom doors, front gate lock, front door lock, gearing, AND, hands-free lighting for fixing a flat tire in the dark.

After 1:30 the light was turning a little yellow Friday night, so I decided to try swapping a AAA eneloop NiMh (it's optimized for NiMh, but will work fine with Alkaline too) cell from my old PB SuperBlinky taillight before it got too drained. It worked fine, and I discovered that the Ultegra 6700 shifters work great for prying open the taillight's body to get to the batteries. (no coin required)

While I intended to use the E05 solely as a utility keychain light, because of it's incredible performance, it's rubbing up against a lot of other uses, while having a little less battery life than I'd like. First and foremost, is being a real "see" helmet headlight.  The perfect light for all of the above roles is probably the Fenix LD10. It isn't enough headlight alone (except as a fail-over light), but great for filling in the dark spots going through turns.

Note the discrepancy between claimed max output between Fenix's website and Amazon's ad. The technology is advancing very quickly, but not enough to change my evaluation, or RX uses for this light.
My PB 1W Blazer headlight, with an excellent lens, is 70 lumens, but the Fenix L10 is smaller, 1/4th the weight, more aerodynamic, and should easily outperform it on for a couple of hours on high.

Settings are low (9 lumens), which runs for up to 34 hours on a single AA battery; medium (50 lumens, 6 hours); high (105 lumens, 2.2 hours); and turbo (132 lumens, 1.5 hours). Plenty of lighting options, and I like the SOS setting. On low or med it would make a great cockpit light for even the longest winter rides, and an excellent go-to light on double centuries.

For an excellent Double Century light, check out the Fenix (pronounced Phoenix) TK15, which runs on 1 rechargeable 18650 LION cell, OR, 2 CR123 cells available at Bertha-N-Bubba's Bait shoppe anywhere in the northern hemisphere.

Power options include CR123 AND 4,000 mAh LION cells. State of the art

I wore my new Voler Artico FS bib tights Friday night, and they are excellent above the waist, and OK below the knee. The chamois is excellent too, but the fabric on the upper legs, especially over the top of the quads and thighs, is pathetic.Not even a little bit wind resistant. The new Voler tights have remedied this problem, but at $185, not an option. After using a discount code, I paid $108 for these, including postage.

I have a standard test for a fabric's ability to stop wind - I hold it to my mouth and try to blow through it. Unlike, for example, the PI Barrier Fleece around the face on my PI balaclava, which I cannot blow through at all (like Saran Wrap), the Voler fabric I can blow right through. This, once again, turned out to be a perfect predictor - unfortunately.

Above the waist the bib fleece extends up to my naval in front, and all the way up to my neck in back. It's close to an additional base layer above the waist, and prevents "frozen belly". I really appreciate the extra protection in front.  All-in-all though, a major disappointment, and a head-scratcher too. Why make a bib whose upper is too warm to ride above the 50's, and whose leg protection is inadequate below 60?  Hard to understand.

Once home, with shoes and clothes still on, I tried slipping my PI leg warmers over the top of the tights. That worked very well, even over shoes, and the reflective piping on the 10" zippers will be welcome too. Fortunately, the PI leg warmers have sticky grippers on both the inside and outside up top, so they can be pulled all the way up to the crotch and stay there.

This would make the bib tights very versatile for cold morning starts, especially with a SS jersey and arm warmers up top, but that's not why I bought them. I don't want bib tights that are only warm down to 55F in calm conditions, and 60 in windy conditions. I wanted protection down to the 38-40F range.  Will keep looking until I find something that meets this requirement.

I wore the new PI Barrier XL vest alone tonight. It doesn't seal very well at the armpits, which I hated early, but appreciated once I got warmed up and wanted to vent some heat. It does flap ( a HUGE source of aerodynamic drag) a bit in the wind, but I bought it XL to fit over my black Columbia Titanium jacket with pit-zips - not exactly Hi-Viz by itself -  so am happy with the size. I know I have broad shoulders, but would it kill PI to make the arms an inch longer over the shoulders?

I wish someone would just make a 1" zipper strip that zips into your existing zipper and adds another 1" of girth. Perfect way to adjust the size of a vest or jacket for different layering schemes. DUH!

In part because of the cold, and in part because my glutes and quads are still kind of sore, my hams were taking a beating tonight, and my left one, under the knee, was threatening to cramp. I wish I'd had the leg warmers along to see if temp was the problem.

I turned on all my lights at WBP - everything up brighter than everything else - and had cars nearly running into each other head-on to give me my lane. Nice! That's how it's supposed to work. I am going to replace the PB SuperBlinky with the new Turbo version though, as the lens body on the Turbo is more translucent than clear, and when on in constant mode, the entire body of the light glows red. Not so with the older version, which offers almost no side visibility. $25.