SRAM – Early Report

I’ve now done a few rides on my new SRAM groupset so I’d thought I’d share some early thoughts.

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First the positive.  It looks good. Very good actually.  Also the brakes are really outstanding – outperforming both all of the Shimano and Campag kit I’ve used in the past.

Also the hoods are comfortable and the ‘brake de-detensioner’ works in the same way as Shimano kit which is so much better than the Campag solution.

Finally, and helpfully, the chain/cassette is compatible with Shimano which is a big bonus as it enables wheels to be swapped between bikes easily.

Now the negative.  There’s always a negative :-) .  The double-tap system.  I suspect you either hate it or don’t really like it but, having spent your hard-earned cash can’t admit to others and probably not event yourself, convince yourself it’s sort of OK. 

For the uninitiated the double-tap system utilises a single lever for both up and down shifts.  For the rear mech this involves a single short click to change up and a longer throw (through the ‘up click’) to change down one or more gears.  The upshift is great.  Nice short throw (going back to Shimano feels like steering a barge afterwards) and a very crisp, sweet action.  But the downshift is a disaster.  Changing down a single gear requires the control and judgement of a ninja.  Sometimes I plain forget and end up changing up rather than down.  Other times I don’t forget but don’t push past the up-shift sufficiently so end up changing up at the most inconvenient times.  But mostly I overcompensate and change down 2 or 3 gears by mistake, then have to tap back up to the required gear.  When not under any pressure it’s a bit easier to use.   But when racing, or needing fast accurate shifts when climbing, it’s not good at all.

I’ve said this is an early report.  I’m probably not helped by switching back to my Dura Ace kit on my other bike frequently.  But first impressions are not that great.

If I could click my fingers as swap back to Shimano, would I?  Simply put – yes I would.

Evans King of the Downs 2010

I gave this ride a bit of a slagging last year – a bit unfairly as they were victims of unfortunate timing as the event was ruined by truly appalling weather. 

Not so this year.  It was a beautiful day.  As it turned out whatever we did was going to be overshadowed by Bigfooters elsewhere (bloody Andy Colvin and his showing off!), but 5 of us (PaulC, DaveM, KevG, PaulS and I) set off on a 113 mile figure-of-eight route centered around Crawley taking in some of the toughest climbs on offer in the environs; first in Surrey and then in Kent. 

I did a bit of early pace-setting to set the mood for the ride, but with this being my fourth tough ride in the space of 7 days I wasn’t expecting too much.  We hooked up with a really strong mountain biker using the event for fitness training.  Slowly the number of riders able to keep up began to decline; first PaulC and KevG, then PaulS, then DaveM.  Then me :-) .

I had an unpleasant re-introduction to the world of cramp and spent the last 40 miles nursing my legs through the pain.  I enjoyed neither Yorks or White Lane.

My power output sagged as the ride went on but I still managed my target time of 6 hours; in fact 5hr55.  Not amazing I suspect but respectable enough.

DaveM rolled in 10 or 15 minutes later and PaulS another 5 or so after that.

The event was well organised, feed stations good, they had proper timing chips (though I was not officially entered so I was without) and the nutritional options at the end of the ride were better than last year.  All in all a good effort by Evans.

Ride Time 5hr55

Ave Power (NP) 280W

TSS 456

Majorca 2010

Another year, another great trip to Majorca.

Much like last year it has the perfect combination of weather, terrain, quiet and smooth roads and beautiful scenery.

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I didn’t take one of my own bikes this year; instead I hired a bike from Pro Cycle Hire.  This turned out to be the right decision I think.  I was able to book the bike online, got practically instant responses to my nagging emails, the bike was excellent and the service and shop opening hours all impeccable.  The only issue was that the bike was maybe too good!  I didn’t want to give it back.

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Finally I tried again to capture the marvel of the Sa Calobra climb, this time taking several pictures and stitching them together in Photoshop.  It’s impossible to get the full glory (it’s 10km at 7%) but you get a bit of a taste here.

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SERRL Lamberhurst/Frant 09 May 2010

Another weekend, another race.  After a solid performance last weekend it was back to earth with a bump with another humiliating outing at Crystal Palace on Tuesday.  I’ve been feeling jaded all week; probably a combination of strict diet, life pressures and a modicum of overtraining.  If every time I stand up I see stars and feel faint and I’m struggling to navigate the stairs in my house maybe it’s time to re-assess my strategy…

On the plus side I’d spent a full two days off the bike and, as the weather looked just about OK, I decided to run the Parlee with new Zipp wheels.  Alas the Blackberry camera doesn’t do it justice.

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At least the weekend races always start on a high; picking up ReubenE with guaranteed county-level banter.  We arrived absurdly early and, to avoid the risk that anyone would think we were bummers, we thought we’d do a recce of the course.  After two attempts we gave up being no wiser and merely made us worried about how hilly the course would be.

I also met KevX, a Bigfoot rider and triathlete that I’ve not previously met.  The village hall was only 3* this week compared to last 5* emporium, but more than adequate nonetheless.  The course is 5 laps of of just over 20km with about 1600m of climbing in total; nothing really severe but challenging rolling terrain.

I can’t remember much about the early part of the race.  I felt comfortable enough with the pace; sufficiently so that I managed to be enticed into an early break attempt and did some nice long pulls off the front.  My usual strategy is to a) wear myself out giving me a slim chance of a decent overall result and, much more importantly b) giving me the perfect excuse for not getting a decent overall result.  Today was no exception.

ReubenE confirmed that he had not recovered from his mid-week illness and KevX had a puncture so both were out within 2 laps.

I spent the rest of the race yo-yo’ing backwards and forwards in the group.  With 25km to go I was feeling weary and had mentally consigned myself to a mediocre result as I couldn’t imagine having much left at the end for the bunch sprint and certainly didn’t feel like I had the energy to attempt a break.  The hills were starting to hurt and I was wishing that I was a bit closer to my ‘Marmotte weight’.

On the hill that led up to the start/finish line KevG from Avanti launched another big attack off the front with one lap to go.  It was all I could do to hang on to the chasing group.  Monster effort.  I just don’t have anything like that sort of explosivity and it’s impressive and depressing to watch in equal measure.

One  lap to go and the chase was on.  With about 10km to go the chasing group, including me, caught KevG and the chap that had managed to go with him on a hill.  I can’t remember exactly what happened as I was exhausted but I ended up in a two-man break with about 10km to go.  No big attack but I just kept pushing on the hill. 

In a straight fight between 2 riders and the group; the 2 should lose.  The other guy in the break was strong and we worked really well together in the end.  Being in a break is tough; every fibre in your being is telling you to stop but you kid yourself into thinking that you might defy the odds and make it. 

My heart rate averaged 176bpm for the last 20 minutes which is over 95% of my max.

We finally made it to the foot of the last climb.  The other chap in the break had the edge over me and opened up a 20 metre gap, maybe more.   I was only praying that I could hold off the bunch; a few furtive checks behind me gave me some confidence it was going to be OK.

I crossed the line delighted.  Second place in my second road race and a ballsy performance I’d like to think.

I have earned enough points in two road races to qualify for my 3rd Cat license.  Which is just as well as my thoughts now turn to training for the Marmotte.

Match stats 103km, 1600m climbing, 2hrs52 race time, NP 306W, peak 20 minutes NP 357W.

SERRL Benenden/Cranbrook 2nd May 10

After a fairly non-descript start to the season it was with a strong sense of anticipation I approached my first ever road race.  Theoretically I felt that this type of event should suit my strengths (such as they are) better than criteriums but after a string of indifferent performances confidence was not that great.

Like all the best outings on a bike, it starts with me picking up ReubenE who’s very good company but by no means has he been a harbinger of success so far.  Though perhaps one day I’ll be able to look on him the way that some view their lucky pants.

Rolvenden Village Hall is a much better facility that one might have expected and we met up with the other guys (PaulC, KevinG, PaulS and AndyC) and mulled our prospects are the conditions worsened.

The race commenced with a neutralised section which was a mixture of exciting (I’ve never had motorbike outriders and service cars before!), miserable (as it was chucking it down) and a bit scary (as the bunch felt a bit jittery).

Even after 9 laps I didn’t really get to grips with the course.  But it was mostly rolling with a hill or two, nothing too steep or challenging. 

AndyC launched a big attack early which I belated decided to follow putting in a big effort to catch the lead group.  However, the group was not that strong and we eventually got absorbed back into the bunch.

Despite the absymal conditions having 5 other riders from the same team meant that we could share a bit of gallows humour.  By the middle of the race my fingers were so cold that I could not get my energy bar out of my back pocket and I changing gear was getting tricky.  Following the wheel in front closely meant taking in huge gulps of water.

AndyC ended up in another much more successful break with two other guys which was good for two reasons; we were absolved from chasing down duty on the front and we had the prospect of another great result for Bigfoot (not necessarily in that order).

However, it didn’t end this way.  With 3 laps to go we past a forlorn AndyC holding his wheel that had punctured.

Soon after KevinG launched a phenomenal effort and seemed to gain 400 meters on the bunch in no time at all.  I followed the chase which whittled down until there was no-one left apart from me.  I looked round to see where the bunch were.  Some distance behind.  Unsure what to do I pressed on.  I spotted another rider up ahead so I worked until I caught him and we worked well together to put more distance between us and the peloton.

We eventually caught KevinG with a lap or so to go.  I was so desperate for a half-decent finish and really didn’t want to get caught by the bunch so I was happy to put in big efforts to try and make sure  this didn’t happen.

I was pretty dead by the final climb to the finish line but was happy that we’d stayed clear.  KevinG was strong to the finish and took third and I rolled in a relieved fifth.  Absolutely bursting for a piss!

Excellent strong rides also by PaulC, PaulS and ReubenE and terrible luck for AndyC.

Total Ride Time 2hrs40

Average Normalized Power 302W

Hopefully some comedy pictures to follow.

Hog Hill 24th April 2010

With a very mixed start to the season the ambitions for today were pretty modest – to finish the race.

I decided to get the Parlee out of storage for it’s first use in anger.  I couldn’t bear to put the ‘wheelchair wheels’ that Geoffrey Butler built for me on it so I rode with my PowerTap-less Dura Ace wheels.  So no power.  Or heart rate.  Or speed. 

The pace of the race was reasonable and I was very comfortable in the bunch. 

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Repeating the mantra ‘do not ride on the front, do not ride on the front’ I ended up on quite a few occasions riding on the front.  I can’t help it.  I like to be at the sharp end of the race and somehow it just happens. 

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Barry from Bespoke went off the front early and I was sorely tempted to try and join him but with a DNF already at this track this year after a daft push off the front I decide to play it cautiously instead.

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The race was 1 hour plus 5 laps.  With just under an hour gone I got horrendous cramp on the hill simultaneously in both calf muscles.

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I had to totally back off and I thought my race was over.  From the front end of the bunch to the back and off.  I must have been at least 150m off the back.  I practically resigned myself to my fate of another DNF.  However, my legs slowly started to come back so I thought I’d do another lap and see what happened.  After a mighty effort for 2 laps I managed to claw my way back on.  After another lap or so getting my breath back I made my way back to the front of the group.

With only about 3 laps to go I was pretty bushed but managed to hold on for the last lap and finish comfortably in the bunch. 

The modest outcome dovetailing nicely with the modest ambition.

Other Bigfooters?  ReubenE, like a lot of other riders, did not stick the pace for the whole race though ReubenE’s downfall may have been down to an ill-advised early dig at the start of the race.  PaulS put in another very solid, strong performance and finished 5th I think.  Brilliant.

(all pictures courtesy of DaveC)

Ride with GPS

Have struggled manfully with Bikely for preparing routes for my Garmin I think I’m about to finally jump ship to another system.  Bikely suffers from being on unreliable servers and from a total lack of development.  Fair enough; it’s free after all.

I have looked at a few others over the years but they have either been rather scruffy or cluttered with ads.

However Ride with GPS seems excellent.  It does everything I need including exporting directly into the all-important TCX format.

Goodwood 11th April 2010

Not too bad-wood anyway.

Much better outing today.  I decided early on that a dull “tactical” ride was not for me so rode in a manner much more natural for me.  Fortunately a couple of other riders were of a similar frame of mind and so it ended up being a nice spirited race.

Despite the pace being the same as the last race (average 39kmph) it felt windy practically for the whole lap which meant that a) it was hard work and b) there was little chance of a break getting away.

I spent most of the race in the first 3 or 4 places doing good long turns on the front.  Tactically unsound of course but a much more enjoyable way to spend time.  In contrast to the last race where the entire 75-strong bunch stayed together today’s effort was more fragmented; and the better for it.

I had another pathetic dig off the front which came to nothing.  With 3 laps to go no-one else seemed keen to pull the remainder of the peloton around so I did.  With less than half a lap to the end I expected riders to come flying by me as I was pretty knackered.  They did but I should have had a little more faith as I was able to start re-taking the lost places on the hill.

I finished up outside the top 10 but reasonably strongly considering the efforts that I’ve made during the race.

Average power (normalized) for the ride was 323W for 1hr17 minutes; the best  20 minutes was 336W.  The figures sound pretty good but my race-craft is still sadly lacking.

Not too sure what happened to ReubenE but he was still showing pretty strongly at the end so he can’t have been doing too badly.  More importantly he was great company which made for another enjoyable outing.

Rouleur Magazine

Receiving Rouleur Magazine is always a bit of a treat.  Each one is a thing of beauty and there are usually an article or two of interest.  However, this quarter’s is fantastic.  The contents are as follows

  • Jan Hirt by Herbie Sykes and Ben Ingham
  • Never Give an Inch by Johnny Green
  • Shimano: Part Two by Guy Andrews and Taz Darling
  • Gino by Herbie Sykes
  • England by Rouleur Photographers
  • Columbus by Guy Andrews and Ben Ingham
  • Le Metier by Michael Barry and Camille J McMillan
  • The Knowledge by William Fotheringham

The Jan Hirt thing looks particularly fascinating as it follows a 18 year old as he tries to cut it becoming a pro.  This will be an ongoing feature in coming magazines.

And, of course, it’s chock full of beautiful photography, including some from the UK.

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Surrey League Goodwood Motor Circuit

Nice early start.  Doubly so.  I couldn’t be 100% certain that my Blackberry would adjust for Daylight Saving Hours so I set it an hour early just in case.

I picked up the estimable ReubenE at 06:45 and we headed down to the circuit.

We arrived in plenty of time so we had a bit more time for banter that was probably more to my taste than poor Reuben.  It was pretty chilly too.

About 40 or 50 riders lined up at the start.  The race started at a dire pace.  Not for Reuben as he instantly went on the attack however he was quickly re-absorbed back into the bunch.  In fact Reuben made 6 attacks in total with a spirit that was most admirable.

I was trying to ride sensibly and conservatively which I did and for 30 minutes averaged on 215W which is comfortably less than “all-day pace”.  This should have left me plenty of spare horse-power which was probably the case.  But I didn’t feel amazing and I just lacked the will, or motivation, or knowledge, or inspiration to know what to do.  I slowly edged toward the front of the bunch (which contained a couple of dreadful riders) and for a reason I can’t remember put in a bit of a dig to no particular effect which went nowhere for a couple of laps.   Merely pulling the bunch along.  After a couple of laps of this nonsense I backed off to conserve a bit of energy.

With two laps to go I put in a proper dig into the wind.  It looked for a while like I might be able to get away but I was pulled back into the bunch.  I had one last roll of the dice on the final ‘climb’ and I gave it full beans but could not get away and instead I dragged the bunch up the hill.

With a couple of corners to go I backed off.  It was a bit of a sausage party and I didn’t fancy getting caught up in any mess in the chicane.

Some middling stats for a middling ride

Ave Power 288W

Distance 50km

Ave Speed 39.2kph

TSS 117.4

Congratulations to ReubenE who rode with enterprise and spirit.