Monday, June 12, 2017

Gran Fondo Ellensburg 2017: Ride Report

Riding the Raleigh Super Course:
On the way to the big hill.
From Vicious Cycle.
GF Ellensbug 2017 was a lot of fun. No lost bottles or pumps, dropped chains, flats, burps, or falls on this Vicious Cycling outing!

Its good to be alive and riding in such a beautiful landscape, with evidently lots of snow still in the alpine.  (On the way home, Edelweiss bowl at Alpental and the bowl beneath Silver peak seemed to be filled with heaps and heaps of snow.)

My wheels and my Compass Bon Jon Pass 35 mm tires in tubeless mode worked beautifully. At about 43 psi, they felt very good - fast on the road, fast and efficient on gravel when going straight, and not bad in on the gravel corners. My sense is that a little less psi would have made them even better on the gravel corners. After the ride, I checked the tire pressure on both tires. No change!  So, I'm very glad that I persisted with these tires and learned to make them work on my DT Swiss R460 rims. They work great on my 50 year old Raleigh Super Course.

I left from Bothell at 5:00 AM, after my usual big day breakfast: Oatmeal, yogurt, walnuts, banana, two eggs, and two pieces of honey toast. The drive was good. I arrived at about 7:15 after a brief stop at Indian John Hill - what a beautiful view of the valley.

We took off under clear skies. I was wearing my long sleeved jersey and knee warmers. That seemed like a little overkill especially since almost everyone else seemed to be dressed for a hot day. The expected high was 75. I was glad for the extra little warmth, especially during the first hour of riding and on the descents. The long sleeves didn't seem to make me too hot on the climbs and it was easy enough to open the zipper.

The ride followed the rhythm of 2015 and 2016. There was the relatively relaxed 30 mile section from the start until the big hill. As the group of 50-75 riders (107 riders finished) went into the wind there was the usual changes of pace with some slowing and speeding up and so on. One needed to pay attention. Staying toward the back, I tried to be as efficient as possible.

At one point, as we crossed a busy road at a stop sign, the group divided. I was way back. So, I had to expend a fair bit of effort to get back to the front. Fortunately, the front group seemed to keep a fairly steady pace so getting back on was not too difficult.

By the time we got to Cle Elum, I had eaten a cliff bar and a rice cake and I had finished a bottle of Gatorade. So, all good on the eating and drinking front.

Then, the big hill. It demanded a very, very hard effort. Just after the first steep climb on the road, I began my effort. In finding my own hard but sustainable pace, I moved to the front of the group. No jumping or hard efforts this year. Once on the gravel,  some riders passed me. I continued at a good pace, mostly in a 34x32. I tried to peddle well. I figured I was among the first ten riders or so and I followed wheels where I could.

About 1/2 way up the hill as I found it harder to stay stable on my seat I said to myself "Hmmm.  I guess I should have done a more core work - planks, bridges, hip flexors, and sit-ups!!" Still, I tried to relax and tried to focus on smooth peddling. Soon enough I passed one rider and I was pretty much on my own.

After filling 1.5 bottles at the rest stop, I continued, and the ride along the ridge was great. I ate another rice cake and drank some water. I tried to keep the bike going, seeking out opportunities to develop or maintain momentum. I rode the descents conservatively and tried to be as efficient as possible. Without problems or even scary moments, I safely got by the big potholes under the trees as we veer left - I think at Butte Creek at mile 39. As regular readers know (ha!), these potholes almost ate me and my bicycle in 2015 and 2016.  Not this year! I started the climb up to the high point.

Up ahead I saw Thomas Baron, and I tried to move up to him. I went by Thomas. Then, 5 minutes later he went by me!  I thought that was a good sign since perhaps we could work together. I noticed that Thomas seemed to inexplicably speed up from time to time. Later, I realized that perhaps he was using his GPS mapping device to anticipate the top of the climbs. That was cool!

By the bottom of the long descent at the second gate, Thomas and I were even. I passed by the gate on the right; he got through on the left.  I like this section, from here to the yummy aid station.  Its rolling and mostly downhill. I tried to work hard on the uphills and recover on the downhills, aiming to be as smooth and efficient as possible.

At about mile 55, Brig Seidel went flying by me!  "On your left, David," he shouts.  I saw him for all of 20 seconds and he was gone, just like that. It must be said: There's no following Mr. Seidel on the downhills!

Meanwhile, Thomas was close by - from time to time I could hear the distinctive sounds of his brakes. I did the best I could on the extensive washboard and many corners, staying right, since I did not want to encounter an unexpected - and definitely unwelcomed - car or motorcycle. I braked quite conservatively, changed gears frequently, stood on the peddles from time to time, while all the time trying to be smooth through it all.

Thomas and I got to the aid station at about the same time. I filled my bottles and took off. I didn't see Brig - I figured he was long gone!  On the way down to this point my eating and drinking were good.

The second climb was really good. I found focus and a good rhythm and I was able to ride well.  Thomas went by me on one of the steep parts near the bottom.  I kept at my pace. Toward the top, where it gets less steep, I found that I was able to peddle quite well.  I was generally in my 34x32 or 34x26. I think a 34x28 would have been the perfect gear. Anyway, I slowly got back to Thomas.

And, we started the downhill together. I don't much care for this descent because the surface is so inconsistent and it is very steep in places.  Mostly, the surface is fine, but then all of a sudden it gets rough and dodgy with potholes or bumps or loose gravel on hardpack. I stayed with Thomas for about 5 minutes, I'm guessing. It was great following his wheel and watching his lines and when he bunny-hopped potholes. He was faster than I and he moved ahead. I didn't want to push and make a mistake. I'm quite uncertain about my ability to appreciate my limits and act appropriately. So, I didn't try to stay with Thomas - instead, I tried to be controlled and fluid.

On the way down, I experienced the first of two scary moments on this ride. All of a sudden, just ahead of me, I saw a drop-off.  As best I can remember, it was a massive hole of some kind and it awkwardly appeared in the middle of the road out of no where.  What!  I really didn't know what to do!  I was going too fast to dare try to stop and I didn't see a way to go left or right.  So, I just went over it and got bounced around. I was able to maintain my balance and all was good in the end. As I was in the air, however, I had that crappy feeling of "Oh no - this isn't going to end well." I didn't like that. Nevertheless, I did get over it drop-off and I continued, determined as ever to be controlled and focussed and within my limits.  

I got to the bottom! Back on the road, safely. I wasn't sure where Thomas was - he was faster than I on the downhill but I wasn't sure how much faster.  Could I ride up to him? I was hoping that he wasn't too far up ahead, so I was prepared to work very hard for the next few miles on the road.

I finished and got a badge!
So, I got on that terrible, short, steep road climb, just after the aid station and I tried to put as much sustained effort into it as I could, expecting that the next 4 of 5 miles might the hardest of the day. Toward the top, I looked behind and I saw Thomas. He was a welcomed sight!  So, I slowed a little, ate some stuff and drank some water.  (I assume that Thomas stopped at the aid station at the bottom of the hill.)

Then, Thomas and I rode together all the way to the finish. I came in with a time of 5 fours 48 minutes, good for 5th place. Thomas was 5 seconds ahead me. We were about 5% behind the winner, Evan Plews, an extraordinarily accomplished rider.  Here are the results.

So, all in all, it was a terrific day out in the sunshine and beautiful countryside. For making these rides super awesome, thanks to Jake and the all the people at Vicious Cycles.

Compass Bon Jon Pass 35 mm tires work great,
on a 50-year old Raleigh Super Course.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Gran Fondo Ellensburg: Getting Ready

The training since Gran Fondo Leavenworth has been good.  I'm looking forward to Gran Fondo Ellensburg, and riding with focus and élan.

I anticipate the ride to follow the same pattern as previous years. (Ride reports for 2015 and 2016.)

My new back wheel is working great. After a little gravel riding, hard uphill climbing, jumping up and down, easy commuting, and fairly hard breaking and skidding the wheel seems solid.  So, I'm hopeful that it will work well.

(On my initial 5 min. ride, the back wheel pinged twice when a put a lot of force on the peddles while going up a hill. Therefore, there was some spoke windup. Bummer.  The wheel got a very little out of true. To fix it, I had to turn two spokes about 1/4 turn each. So, I'll take that, but still more to learn ...)

For tires, I'll use the Compass Bon Jon 35 mm in tubeless mode. Getting the tires inflated and running in tubeless mode was challenging. (One bicycle store, suggested that I return the tire because it was too loose on the rim.  I thought this was bad advice but didn't wanted to challenge an expert in bikes. Another bicycle store charges $11.00 to blast air and inflate tubeless tires, which I suppose is perfectly reasonable; still, I would like to have the tools and skills to do this stuff on my own.)  So, I decided to get my own damn compressor and learn how to do this.

I followed this technique and the tires inflated and snapped into my DT Swiss 460R rims beautifully.   As best I can remember, I followed these steps:
  1. Get a compressor (and ear protection);
  2. Make sure the tape job is beautifully done (on my rims I used 21 mm Stans Tubeless Rim Tape); 
  3. Fill a spray bottle with soapy water;
  4. Take the valve core out;
  5. Spray the tire bead and rim with soapy water; 
  6. Put the tire on the rim; 
  7. While wearing ear protection, start the compressor, and wait there is sufficient pressure; 
  8. Blast the tire with air - behold: the tire inflates, and snaps to the rim! 
  9. Let the air out and take off 4 inches of tire;
  10. Dump 2.5 oz. of sealant (Orange Seal) into the tire;
  11. Put the tire back on the rim, being careful to not spill any sealant; 
  12. Blast the valve with air - behold: it inflates! 
  13. Put the valve core back on the valve; 
  14. Take out your hand pump and pump the tire up to 55 psi (the recommended max is 60 psi; with tubes, the recommended max is 90 psi); 
  15. Bounce the tire around and spin the tire around; 
  16. Lay the tire down so that it rests horizontally (alternate sides); 
  17. Wait 10 min.;
  18. if count > 5 goto 20; 
  19. Goto 15; 
  20. Put away the compressor, trying not to hurt your back; 
  21. Be very happy :). 
If you need a damn compressor to inflate your tubeless tires just let me know. Perhaps, this Air Blaster or Airshot are better solutions. I like their elegance - perhaps something to investigate in the future.

I'll be riding the tires at a little under 45 psi. 

Meanwhile, I've been enjoying my riding and thinking about the monster climb (6 miles at more than 8%), the beautiful ride along the ridge, and so on.  Also, I'll be on the lookout for those massive potholes that might one day eat an entire bicycle and rider, about mile 38 where a seasonal stream crosses the road, under some trees, and we go to the left, climbing to the highest point of the ride.

Gran Fondo Ellensburg profile - see course at Vicious Cycle.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Gran Fondo Leavenworth 2017: Ride Report

GFL 2017 was terrific.  A great day to be out riding. Sunny and warm all the way! (GFL 2016: report.)

The beginning was a "neutral start" (its not a race, of course). We rode out to Eagle Creek road (112), with Jake driving a moto. This was followed by a steady ride up to the start of gravel at Van Creek (NS 7520).  At that point all was well. I was warmed up and feeling relaxed and enjoying the day.  Segment #1 finished (12 miles).

On the gravel, I found a good gear and just relaxed. As the climb steepened, the group spread out. I kept at it - the sensations were good. Frequently, I found solid sand at the side of the road that was smooth and seemed to roll better than the middle of the road on the car tracks. Once at the top, I slowed a little to eat two rice cakes and drink a bottle. There were a couple of patches of snow, one of which I had to run through. All continued to be well. Segment #2 finished (18 miles done; about 3,000 ft climbed, from about 1,044 ft. to 4,100 ft.).

The downhill was fast and quite smooth. Two riders went went by me, one at tremendous speed. Wow! I went by the first aid station. No stopping. I had lost my empty bottle on the way down (bummer) and my other bottle was 1/2 full.  Segment #3 finished (25 miles done).

I kept riding. Shortly after eating another rice cake and finishing my second bottle, Brig Seidel and, I think, David Visser came up to me.  The three of us worked together, taking 30 sec. turns. We turned right at Ardinvoir and went down the valley on 19 toward Entait.  We were making good progress and were getting closer and closer to a group head of us.  Just as we made contact with that group, a group of four or five riders came up to us.  So, as a group of 12 or so we arrived at Entait. Segment #4 finished (39 miles done).

Brig Seidel gives a lively and fun account of this ride from Ardinvoir to Entail - and, indeed, for the whole tremendous ride!

I drank a bottle of water. Filled my bottle with water and put a small bottle of Gatorade into my pocket. And, I took off along 97.  Shortly thereafter the group of 12 or so re-formed on 97. At this point, I was extremely happy since I wouldn't be fighting the wind alone and I was in a group of riders which, of course, is awesome!

But, alas, stuff happens. As we were riding on 97, I noticed a good number of rocks. Some were fairly big. All were ugly. We were, being polite riders, pointing them out to each other. Last year I recalled seeing them too.

While I was acutely alert to the danger, I somehow managed to run over a rock on my back wheel.  I didn't see the rock. But, I did feel and hear it. Where did that come from?  There was a tremendous bang and the tire was flat almost immediately. Bad luck or what!

My guess was that I had slashed the tire and that my day was over at about mile 43. I stopped peddling and kept my hands off the breaks. The riders went by me and off into the distance.  Fortunately, I was able to control the bike and not cause anyone near me too much trouble.

I stopped, got out a tube, blew up the tire. That worked. I noticed that the wheel was still true.  That was good.  Just as I was finishing up, a group of three riders went by me.  I jumped back on the bike and started riding hard. After about five minutes or so I got up to the group. This fairly short effort was by far the hardest all day. And, all was well again because I was able to comfortably ride with this group, taking turns along 97.

We got to Swakane Rd. and I started big climb #2 - the infamous Swakane Canyon; my first time up.  I tried to get into a solid pace. The terrain was highly varied, from hard rocky rocks, to sandy bits and pieces, to loose rocky rocks, with flat sections and ups and downs. I found it quite hard to get into a rhythm. And, I found myself grinding on some of the steep pitches and lallygagging on the flatter parts. I felt good but where was my rhythm?  I have a lot more to learn about riding that kind of road.

I made good progress. I got to the aid station and filled my bottle, and I kept going.  I had passed perhaps five people on the way up and I was passed by one rider.  Then, towards to the top I went by Brig. I checked in and he said that he was "good."  From the aid station onward, I found it extremely difficult to keep the momentum going - each up and down seemed to sap energy and there were a couple of short climbs that seemed very, very steep.  Anyway, I made it to mile 64 or so (big climb #2, segment #6, about 3,000 ft done, from about 730 ft to 4,000 ft.).

I started riding downhill. Not knowing what was ahead, I rode conservatively. Yet, I went around a corner and my front wheel came out from under me! I was on the ground on my right side before I knew what had happened. Bummer.

I think I landed on my shoulder first, then my head took some energy (thank you helmet). I think my hands were still on the bars when I landed, since both brake handles were messed up. I got up and checked things out.  My arm and shoulder seemed to be scrapped and the bone below my ribcage was throbbing.  Generally, the muscles on my side sore but my legs, back, head, hands (thank you gloves), and left side were okay.  My jersey was not ripped and generally, all and all, I felt pretty good.  So, I banged the brake handles back into place and continued.

And, wouldn't you know, I almost ate it on the next corner.  What was going on?  It took a few more minutes, but I figured it out - my front tire was soft! I couldn't turn because it didn't have much air in it. Bummer.  I pumped up my tire (alas, I lost my other cylinder of compressed air somehow).

I continued. At about this point Brig passed me, saying "I'm on your left.  Hmm. Actually, I'm on your right. Everything okay?"  I said "yup - just great!"

I continued. I think I realized that this was not going work. Yet, I also wanted to save the day and ride as best as possible.  However, I found it extremely hard to control the bike and I started to use my back brake - which wasn't working so well since I sensed a big bump on the rim! More on that later.

It was disappointing to see riders zoom past me. And, I felt envious. Still, I wasn't banged up too bad and I was coasting. That would have to be good enough.

So, anyways, I stopped several times to pump up the tire. I got out of the twisty downhill part and onto some better quality smooth gravel when, alas, I got a flat on my back tire. So, I stopped and replaced the back tube with my second (and final) tube and I pumped up my font tire again.

Jake stopped with his moto and asked if I needed anything.  I said "nah - everything is great!" Which, to be honest, was more or less true! At this point, I decided: Let's call it a ride and get back to the finish safely.

So, from about mile 66 to finish at mile 80 I road, basically, on a flat front tire. I thought about stopping to patch my second tube. I brought a patch kit but decided that perhaps limping back slowly and stopping from time to time to pump up the tire would work okay. Alas, it would have been better to stop and patch the tube and then continue. I think I would have given myself more style points for stopping and patching. Patching the tube would probably, actually, have been quite enjoyable in the nice weather. A woulda, shoulda, coulda situation. (Over the last 14 miles or so, Brig was about 40 minutes faster than me!  Here are the results.)

All in all that was great day!  Glad to be alive. And, glad to have worked the circumstances as best I could. My fitness was good and I felt good on the bike and it was wonderful being out in the countryside near Leavenworth with all the other riders. I enjoyed the snow, the little streams here and there, the sounds and smells of Swakane Canyon. I particularly enjoyed riding with Brig and David down to Entait. I'm lucky to be able to participate with such skilled and fit riders.

So what did that rock do to my back wheel? Have a look.

Gran Fondo Leavenworth rim damage. I hit a rock at about mile 43.
From the outside it deformed the rim inwardly (see left side of the figure).  With the tire off, notice how the rock crushed the rim downwards such that there is no longer a shelf for the bead of the tire to fit to the rim (see right side of figure). No wonder the tire lost air quickly - the integrity of the interface between the tire bead and the rim was completely destroyed by the rock. No bending that back into place.

Interestingly, too, that the damage is right beside the valve hole, a coincidence, I assume.  The Compass Bon Jon Pass tire does not seem to have been damaged!

With Gran Fondo Ellensburg coming up, I need a new wheel.  I had a rim. So, following Roger Musson's superb book, I build a new wheel. I kept everything the same except for the new rim. The spokes should be fine. They had been worn into the hub so, according to Roger, no need to mess with them.

To do this I taped the new rim to the old rim. I then went around, moving the spokes from the old rim the new one, carefully oiling the spoke holes and the ends of the spokes.

New wheel for Gran Fondo Ellensburg. Good-bye old friend; hello new friend. Note: Those circles on the green tape tell me where the valve hole is which is always a good thing to know.  
To the left in the figure, you can see that I have one more spoke to move over to the new rim. Thank you Roger Musson for this excellent technique. The spokes won't even know they are connected to a new rim, which can only be a good thing!

Once the new rim was laced I got out my nipple driver and got to work.  I focussed really hard on radial trueness by being as precise as possible with the nipple driver and my spoke wrench.  Based on prior experience with these spokes and rim, once the nipple driver disengaged I loosened the spoke one full turn. That enabled me to lace all the spokes while also keeping them relatively loose which makes dishing the wheel and everything else easier.

The wheel turned out great. I've pre-compressed the spokes and tried really hard to avoid spoke wind-up. But, we will see. When I ride the wheel there shouldn't be any pings. But, we will see.

I need to get some new tape. And, I'll get a new valve stem. Then, I'll be ready to give the wheel a whirl. First I'll ride a short distance slowly.  Then, I'll jump up and down on the bike for while. I'll ride a few miles and work my way up to some very hard braking on gravel. Hopefully, the wheel will react like the old one - solid.  More to come ...

Good to be building wheels. Good to be learning how to ride. Good to be alive. And, looking forward to Gran Fondo Ellensburg.

Thank you Vicious Cycle for a great ride at GFL and, generally, for all the bicycle awesomeness!!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Training Update

Two weeks until Gran Fondo Leavenworth! Time to taper. So, next week (#19), I get to do about 8 hours and then 4 hours to be ready for GFL.

The training over the last 18 weeks has been good. I've tried for a good deal of structure. Basically, two hard weeks followed by a recovery week. The complication was that on the 1st week of February I got the flu and I didn't do anything for 10 days. So, to try to "catch up," I did three weeks working up to 16 hr. Week #10 was hard - I got kind a grumpy there for a while with the cold, dark, rainy riding.

I have found that the recovery weeks to be really good for feeling fresh and focussed.

Generally, for weeks 1-14, I did one V02 Max interval workout on rollers, one long (3-6 hr) weekend ride, morning recovery rides (Zone 1) on my commute, and evening commutes of 45 min - 2 hr.  Basically, I tried to keep my heart rate out of Zone 3 and Zone 4 - I've been trying to ride easy (recovery in Zone 1) or ride solid (endurance in Zone 2) or ride hard (intervals in Zone 5).

For the V02 Max workout I began with 3-5 x (6 hard + 4 easy). Starting week #12, I've been doing 5-6 x (8 min + 4 min easy). If I get 40 min. in Zone 5, I call it a super great workout.

I have found that my warm-up to doing these workouts is extremely important.  I can't be lazy. During one session, for example, I warmed up for 15 min. in Zone 1 with two or three 30 sec. hard efforts. This was inadequate. I know this because when I tried to do the first interval I couldn't get to Zone 5; instead, my heart rate hovered just below zone 5.  At first, I thought "bummer - I must be particularly tired or about to become ill."  But, I persisted and the next interval followed the usual pattern: With a lot of effort, it took about 2 min. to get to Zone 5 and then I was able to stay there for 6 min.  By the time I got to my 7th interval (I called the first one a "warm-up"), I got to Zone 5 in about 1 min. 15 sec. and I was able to stay there for the next 6 min. and 45 sec.

My performance on the V02 Max workout seems to be highly sensitive to level of fatigue, amount of sleep, amount of stress, etc.  For example, on the week before I got sick with the flu, I had a terrible time doing the intervals and I had to bail after 3 of 6 planned efforts. If I do two long days in a row (total of 6 hours) and then do the V02 Max workout, I can't get to Zone 5. If, however, I take an easy day before the intervals, things go much better.

But, fascinatingly, I never really know how I'm going to do until I try.  Some days, I start out feeling not so good and I get better; other days, I seem to feel good at the start but the efforts are pretty uncomfortable. All very interesting. Most recently, I have found that intervals 3-5 are easier than intervals 1-2.  I wonder if that has something to do with being warmed up.

There is so much to say about V02 Max intervals - each workout is filled with sensations, challenges, and accomplishments, part physical and part mental.  The pain and success.  There is a weirdness about looking at the heart rate numbers, the cadence, and the count-down clock: "four more minutes to go ... oh crap ... I better try to relax... Oh, still 3 1/2 minutes to go... oh crap I better try to relax, etc. ..."

For weeks 15-18 I have increased the riding intensity while keeping the volume about the same with more work in Zone 3 and Zone 4. I've done, for example, a couple of hill interval workouts in Zone 3 and lower Zone 4; a couple of 60 min. efforts in high Zone 4 on flat terrain; and three sessions with  45 - 60 min. Zone 3 efforts on my long rides (in the best case I got 3 hours in Zone 2; 2 hours in Zone 3; and 1.5 hours in Zone 1).

So, hopefully, these four hard weeks will consolidate the training, and allow me to ride well in GFL.  I'm looking forward to the challenge.  What's missing?  Specificity - that is, long sustained climbs, long descents, and then again. The longest I climb for is about 10 minutes and 450 feet.  Still, when I do climb I feel comfortable on the bike and I think I've done much more climbing this year than last year. And, most of my climbing has been very controlled - in high zone 2 and low zone 3.

During my training, I've lost about 15 pounds (after gaining about 10 pounds November and December 2016).  It's hard to know how much to eat. For me, I'm guessing that it's probably not good to be less than 145.

The Compass Bon Jon 35 mm. tires are awesome.  They work beautifully in tubeless mode. I've been riding them with about 43 psi in the back and 40 psi in the front.  Hopefully - fingers crossed - they will do well in GFL.

Its good to be alive; its good to ride.  I'm very lucky to have the opportunity to train for and ride in the Gran Fondos.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Bon Jon Pass Tubeless Set-up

Given my weight plus the bicycle
weight and riding conditions,
what is the optimal
tire pressure?

I've been using Compass Bon Jon Pass 35 mm tires on DT Swiss R460 rims (18 mm inner and 23 mm outer width) for about 4 weeks now. With tubes and at 40 psi, front and back, the wheels have felt exceptional on the road and pretty good on nice gravel (Tolt Pipeline Trail and Snoqualmie Valley Trail).

I have a bicycle tire pressure gage but evidently any gage's reading can vary by 15% (see discussion, August 22, 2016, at Compass Bicycles). So 40 psi could be 40 psi +/- 6 psi, which could be a very meaningful difference but, hopefully, any error in accuracy is consistent. I suppose I should seek to calibrate the gage.

Also of great interest:  Given the supple casings of the Bon Jon Pass tire, 40 psi was probably too low of a tire pressure - a little higher, perhaps 45-50 psi, is probably better (see discussion, March 9, 2016, at Compass Bicycles). That is quite high given my experience with Specialized Trigger tires in the Gran Fondos. But, that said, the Bon Jon Pass tires are likely more supple and so perhaps require more air pressure.

The simple approach would be to pump some tubes up to 50 psi, ride conservatively on fast downhills, and be done with it.  However, I've made it tricky because I want to get good performance (speed, reliability, and safety) out of the combination of rim, tire, and riding conditions. The big challenge is the riding conditions, which I assume to be 100 miles of 1/2 gravel and 1/2 road, with very, very fast descents, which expose you to pinch flats, and quite varied kinds of gravel (nice bits and deadly chunks).

In the five Gran Fondos that I've done, I've had three flats - one flat on the road for unknown reasons (back tire), one pitch flat at high speed when I went over an unexpected creek bed too quickly (back tire), and a "burp" when I hit an evidently ordinary rock at very high speed (front tire). In 1/3 rides with tubeless setups I've not had problems; in 2/2 rides with tubes I've had problems.
Compass Bon Jon Pass tires. Note
 those black lines after about 50 hr of
riding. Have I damaged the tire by
riding low tire pressure?

See those black streaks on the tire (right). I think, perhaps, the threads that hold the casing together have been damaged. It is noteworthy that the black streaks do not appear on the front tire, suggesting there's an issue with the tire pressure. If the threads have been damaged, the tire is not likely to reliably hold air in tubeless mode - bummer. Anyway, as usual with these things, there is a lot to learn.   Update: I was wrong.  Those black lines are not related to casing.  I wrote Compass -- they were extremely helpful -- and they pointed out that the back streaks look like "aluminum oxide from the brake surface of the rim."  True enough - a little water and elbow grease and they come right off. 

So, I'll pump them up to 45 psi and hopefully that will prevent further damage and, moreover, hopefully the tires won't stretch such that it rubs against the frame; alas, the tolerances are fine back there. Last year the Specialized Trigger  38 mm tires worked great until the back one stretched and began to touch the frame, although I think they are quite slow on the roads.

The Compass Bon Jon Pass tires seem to fit the rims superbly. As I inflate the tubes, the tires make a sharp popping sound as they seat with the rim groove, and the tire shape with the rim looks, to me, really good. So, I'm hopeful I'll get them to work tubeless.  But, alas, I do worry, since experts have reported frustrations and challenges - and I'm not, dah, an expert.

Attempt #1 - Failure.  I check my rim tape on my front tire and it looks pretty good to me.  This tape worked in the autumn with Specialized Triggers 38 mm. Just in case, I put another piece of tape over the valve hole, seeking to get a good seal with the valve. I used Stans Sealant and, since I don't have a compressor, I used a handy compressed air cylinder that I carry on my rides. This method for putting a lot of air into the tire fast did not work - just a lot of sealant on the garage floor and a mess to clean up.  The tire did not even get close to seating with the rim. I have found this method to work with the Specialized Trigger tires but no luck here.  So, onward .

Attempt #2 - Success! I ordered some Orange Seal Tubeless Tire Sealant, and headed off to one of my favorite bicycle shops, Counterbalance Bicycles, which has an outside air compressor. The Orange Seal sealant is evidently better for these tires (see review and discussion, August 22, 2016 at Compass Bicycles). No need for soapy water.  Instead I took the tube out while carefully keeping one of the tire beads on the rim. Once the tube was out, I put in the valve.  Then, keeping the wheel  horizontal, I put some sealant into the tire and brushed it around the bead and slobbered it around on the inside rim edge. Then, I put the tire back on the rim.  I blasted it with air while jiggling the sealant around near the valve, and sure enough the tire filled with air and the bead made a sharp snapping sound as it popped into place on the rim. Magical. That worked on both wheels, quite easily, in pretty much the same manner. I inflated the tires to 50 psi and rode home. Three hours later the tires seem to be holding air just fine. Tomorrow, I'll lower the pressure and give them a whirl on my weekly long ride.

Update,  April 15, 2017 - I filled the front and back tires to about 43 psi and I rode hard today on nice gravel. The Compass Bon Jon Pass tires are beautiful. They felt really good, both on gravel and then on road and vice versa. I noted that sensations on the transitions - seemingly, fast on the road, fast on gravel.

The only problem, and its a big one, is that after 4 hours I needed to stop and blast the back tire with air.  It went from about 43 psi to less than I suppose 15 psi (I couldn't quite see my gauge which I carried along with me). The front tire was great - I don't think it lost air or at least it was minimal.

Hmmmm. From magical, to disappointed.  I'm not sure where the tire is leaking - no obvious signs. I can press the tire inward and cause sealant leaks but that doesn't seem to be what is going on.  I guess the next step is to watch it carefully and determine if it leaks when not being ridden. And, then, perhaps add more sealant and see if that makes a difference.  Or, perhaps I should swap the tires and see if that makes a difference -- perhaps its the tape or valve?

As it stands, because of the loss of air, the tires are probably not viable for GFL, which is a real bummer given how nice they are to ride. However, because they ride so well, perhaps I should simply stop every two hours and pump them with air. Ha!   Or, perhaps I should ride with tubes at a fairly high tire pressure and ride very conservatively on the downhills to avoid high speed pinch flats.  Neither of these solutions is very appealing.

Update, April 16, 2017 - Anyway, the next day, after about 18 hours, the tire is dead flat. So, with my stand-up pump, I easily bump it up to 50 psi. And then I checked the pressure every hour.  Here's the sequence of readings, in psi, hour-by-hour for six hours: 50 - 42 - 33 - 28 - 22 - 15 - 10. So, during yesterday's ride, I started at 45 psi.  Therefore, after about 4 hours, one would expect the tire would be down to less that 20 psi. This prediction seems to be about right, although I would imagine that air would leave the tire more quickly when riding than when stationary.

I retrospect, I should have also recorded the pressure on the front time, which seems okay. I can say, however, that the front tire has gone from about 45 psi to 20 psi in 30 hours. So there is a lot of leakage but it is slower leakage.

So, I think the next question is: Where is the air escaping?  I see no obvious places. Is there a way of correcting the problem or have I somehow irreparably damaged the tire? (Note: The tire held air the first night.) If I have irreparably damaged the tire, how exactly did I do that? What should I learn for the next time? Could I have done anything differently?  Was it an issue of tire pressure?  I don't think so and I don't think my riding was out of the ordinary.

I think the next step is to dump a bunch more sealant into the tire, pump it up, and see what happens.  But, that will have to wait, alas, a couple of days ...

Main conclusions: Tubeless tires are great; Tubeless tires are a pain in the ass; I want to make the Bon Jon Pass tires tubeless because they feel fast both on gravel and on the road.

Attempt #3, April 23 - Success!!!  I contacted Compass and asked for some help diagnosing my troubles. We exchanged some e-mail and they generously considered my observations to be a "warrantee issue," and sent me a new tire. I though that was extremely nice, since I really didn't have clear evidence that it was a problem with the tire casing.

Anyway, I re-taped the back wheel and dumped 2 solid ounces of sealant into the old tire. It inflated beautifully. I pumped it up to about 50 psi and the tire held air all night.  Then, the next morning I lowered the pressure to about 43 psi and did a long ride and the tire held air just fine - perhaps losing 1-2 pounds over 24 hours.  What was my mistake?  Perhaps, I didn't use enough sealant or perhaps there was some problem with the tape job.

Anyway, the tires feel very, very good. They feel fast and quite solid - if a little squirely at high speeds - on both gravel and road surfaces.  So, with 4 weeks until Gran Fondo Leavenworth I believe I have an good tire set-up.  Here's to hoping that I don't cut, stretch, or otherwise wear out these beautifully designed and manufactured tires in the next 4 weeks. Ha! Fingers crossed!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Training Update

About 1.5 hr. into a 6.0 hr. ride. From Log Boom Park in Kenmore (map), I had ridden up and down along the Tolt Pipeline Trail and found my way to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. From here, I road Southeast to Rattlesnake Lake and turned around and came back. I put the heart rate monitor in my pocket and road for the pure joy of feeling the wet and wind, and being in touch with the sensations of my peddling. I listened to the springtime robins and red-winged black birds, focusing too on the gravel and human efficiency. (Just a note:  The ride back up from the Snoqualmie Valley Rd. to the Tolt Pipeline trail is horrendous, averaging 14% for 0.5 miles and maxing out at 25%.)

The riding and training have been good. I'm lucky to be alive and able to peddle. I've been following a fairly structured program -  two hard weeks and then a recovery week. I've learned to love recovery weeks! One snag was that I got the flu in January. That put me back a bit. Here are the hours, for the first 12 weeks of 2017, beginning the first week in January: 

10 - 12 - 7.5 - 11 - 0 - 2 - 8 - 11 - 13 - 16 - 7 - 15 ...

The core strength workouts have been going well. The knee and back are good. I feel solid as I peddle. My weight is good. I've been doing one V02 Max workout / week, lots of Z2 riding, recovery rides, and weekly peddling exercises, including some big gear low cadence work.

With 8 weeks until Grand Fondo Leavenworth, I'm on track. Here's the plan: Next week: Big volume, mostly in Z2 (17 hr); recovery week (8 hr); 2 cycles of hard 2-week blocks, with a good deal of upper Z3/lower Z4 work and lots of recovery (about 14-16 hr/week), and then two weeks tapering.  I'll keep doing the weekly V02 Max workout. The plan in hours over the next 8 weeks:

... 17 - 8 - 14 - 14 - 10 - 14  - 8 - GFL 

Update on the Raleigh Super Course. I installed a new chain and 7-speed cassette, which makes the drive-train feel great! And I've been trying out a set of Compass Bon Jon Pass tires (35 mm). (Review of extra light version here: review and review.) The tires seem to fit very well on my DT Swiss R460 rims. The clearance on the back is good with perhaps 1.5 - 2.0 mm between either side of the tire and the frame.  

I've been riding them at 40 psi, with tubes; they feel exceptional on the road. On Snoqualmie Valley Trail gravel and at high speed on the Tolt Pipeline Trail they feel good. How will they do on rough, crappy gravel, where the danger of cutting the sidewall is ever-present?  Not sure.

I'm looking forward to setting them up tubeless mode and seeing how they do at 27 - 30 psi or so. Not sure how they will do on fast gravel corners - that will be a bit of test.  But, I think they will be fine and I suspect they will be a better choice than the Specialised Trigger 38 mm tires. We'll see. The current plan is to use the Bon Jon Pass tires for GFL.

I've been wondering if my rims have become worn. Looking carefully, I found the dimple (see left). It's there. That's good news,  since I believe I'll get another season out of these rims. 

With the new cassette and chain - the chainrings seem okay still (touch wood) - the drive train should be good for GFL.  Still to do:  New cables, new break pads, and re-greasing the hubs. And, of course, take the fenders off :). 

The main focus, however, will be on the tubeless Bon Jon Pass tire setup - will need to get some new rim tape and sealant. Looking forward to some quality time with the wheels, and figuring out, first, if these tires will do the job at GFL and, second, the optimal tire pressure for the GFL gravel and roads.  (Very interesting discussion, January 30, 2017 at Compass Bicycles on gravel tires.)

Riding and Being, January, 2017, Carnation, WA.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Ten Riding Goals for 2017

  1. Ride safely, be well, be in the flow. I'm lucky to be alive. To be able to peddle is a gift. I'm lucky. So, I'll be appreciative; I'll be mindful and focussed in all the riding. Every time I set out for a ride I know I'm at risk. I'll manage the risks as best I can. 
  2. Gran Fondos. Ride all five 2017 Vicious Cycle Gran Fondos with focus and élan. Try to get within 10% of the top riders. Try to peak for Gran Fondo Leavenworth and Gran Fondo Ellensburg - and seek out that effortless feeling. 
  3. Snoqualmie forest roads and nearby surroundings. Learn about the gravel roads in the Snoqualmie Forest. Get out with a group and have fun. 
  4. Weight to 146 pounds. Keep weigh under 150 pounds in October - January. Aim to be at 146 pounds in March. Hard but give it a go.
  5. Core strength and flexibility. Work hard at core strength and flexibility. Get a core check-up in the autumn and establish some specific goals for improving core strength and flexibility. Learn some new exercises and add variety.   Done - thanks to Kari Studley, who is just amazing! Contact her at Corpore Sano
  6. Position and bio-mechanics and peddling. Would new road shoes and cleats be helpful? Is my position on the Super Course and on my road bike okay?  Any changes needed?  Good to go for this year - thanks to Kari Studley.
  7. Peddling.  How does one peddle well? A major difference between superb riders and ordinary riders is evidently neuromuscular efficiency. Can I improve my efficiency with better peddling technique and better position on the bike? Is 80-90 rpm on long climbs possible? That seems like a ridiculous hard. Do I have the physiology for that?  Can such peddling help save energy for the second big climb?  Learn some exercises for improving my peddling: 
    1. Peddle from the hips. 
    2. Do one-leg peddling practice at the beginning of the morning commutes when I'll be relatively fresh.  
    3. Follow in the British Cycling warmup routine with discipline prior to interval work on the rollers and when riding in-doors. 
    4. Work at leg speed during long base miles. Incorporate some slow and fast peddling repeats on long hills, aiming to be in Zone 2 or low Zone 3.  
    5. Explore how a trainer can complement the rollers for indoor interval work and peddling practice.
  8. Structured training and specificity
    1. Aim for about of 12 hr/week (about 550-600 hr/year). 
    2. Do the morning fasted commutes, which I had good experience with last year. There is evidence that they seem to work - see British Cycling and this fascinating report.
    3. Follow a more structured training plan whereby I improve (1) My endurance (e.g., 6 hr rides in Zone 2); and  (2) My threshold power (e.g., intervals: 8 min. in Zone 5 with 4 min. recovery).
    4. Figure out how to train with more specificity for multiple long gravel climbs and descents. Pretty simple, I think: Include more climbing in Zone 2 during the base miles; Do some intervals on the hills. 
    5. Do the following polarization: Week #1: Hard (2 interval sessions+1 long ride+1 rest day); Week #2: Volume (1 interval session+1 long ride+1 rest day); and Week #3: Recovery (1 interval session + 1 long ride + 2 rest days); and then repeat. Last year I felt like crap when trying to consistently do two interval works per week. Perhaps, this kind of pattern, inspired by this truly fascinating report and and my experience with weekly intervals last year, will be more manageable and lead to good physiological adaptations. 
    6. Prior to tappering for GF Leavenworth, do some hard, long efforts (e.g., try for 3 hr in Zone 4 - is that possible?). While I think last year's training was generally good, I don't think I was ready for the long, hard efforts - that was too different in comparison to my training routines. 
  9. Bike handling and high speed downhills. Get a better sense for my limits when going fast on the way down. Improve bike handling and efficiency in varied terrain. 
  10. The Super Course. Attend to the details related to tubeless setup, wheels, hubs, brakes, drive train.  Is it time for a new seat?  Tires and tire pressures - figure it out. 
  11. Investigate frame options. See what options exist for a light steel frame, which takes 40 mm tires, 11-speed, etc.  Is it time to consider disc brakes?  What challenges arise when building wheels with disc brakes? Such a bike might be a nice thing for 2018.  

Monday, September 26, 2016

Gran Fondo Winthrop 2016: Ride Report

Vicious Cycle Gran Fond Winthrop 2016 was superb.  Beautiful photographs here, on Vicious Cycle Facebook.

When I woke up in Winthrop, the thermometer read less than 40 degrees, under clear skies.  At about 6:30 AM, I had coffee, oatmeal with Greek yogurt, and walnuts, and a banana. I went back outside. I pumped up the tires - about 37 psi in the front and about 43 psi in the back. Under my seat I put a toolkit, which consisted of a tube, a patch kit, a piece of plastic and tape in case of a cut tire, and two C02 cylinders. I also secured a small pump under my seat. I put two bottles on the bike, one Gatorade and one water.  I went back inside and filled the pockets of my cycling jersey with two rice cakes, two cliff bars, a caffeinated shot block, two energy jells, an extra tube and a C02 inflator.  (When I finished Gran Fondo Winthrop I still had one of the cliff bars and the two energy jells.)

I wore knee warmers, a cycling hat, ordinary bicycle gloves (in case of a fall and to help absorb road shock), and a long sleeved jersey on top of a a very thin layer. I also wore a watch. Not wanting to be distracted by heart rate information, I didn't wear a heart rate monitor. (I don't ride with a digital map/device. I don't want the distraction.)

I said good-bye to Kara and I rode about one mile to the start - in tights and an extra jacket - and I got my number.

At 7:45 AM I had a 20 oz. Gatorade, took off my tights and extra jacket. I waited at the start line and started to shiver. I always shiver at start lines.

We took off under a beautiful blue sky at 8:00 AM and the sun was flowing through the trees and lighting up some of the hills while the rest of the hills were in shadows. The initial pace was brisk but not too fast and I started to warm up, and after about 8 miles, I suppose, all was well and I hadn't taken any wind.

From Vicious Cycle Facebook.
As the climb started to steepen, I found myself alone, trying to find a good pace. And, I did find a good pace but I think it probably was just a little too hard. I stayed with it and, alas, rode alone. I passed a group of riders; then, a little further up a couple of riders went by me. At aid station #1, I picked up a bottle of water and continued. And, I was feeling quite good.

The last pitch to the top of climb #1 was steep but the bike worked well. In my 34x32T I got over the pass (without walking this year) and headed down, fast, but controlled, and I think fairly safely. But, who can tell? I just don't have a good feel for my limits.  A couple of times, I found that I was going faster than I could react to the changing and very rocky, rutty, and bumpy conditions. And, so I slowed down.  To my mind, the roads were extremely rough.

I road the up and downs (segment #3/6) quite well, passing three or four people and being passed by a couple of people. I tried to be gentle and to save my energy but it was challenging. On the last tough uphill, I lost my balance on some loose gravel. I had to put my foot down and walked for 20 meters.  Bummer.  But, okay. On the sharp downhills I rode conservatively. It was on the third downhill, I think, that Jake went by me on his moto and a rider followed Jake's line (very close the left slide of the road), at very high speed. I was amazed at how fast he was prepared to go. I wonder what advantages his wheels, tires, frame, and brakes might have given him (compared to my set-up).  There was no way I could do what he did.

Once down and then up and over the creek bed (where I flatted last year), I rode the long downhill at a steady and fast pace, trying to get a feel for the conditions.  Again, when I found that I was going so fast that I couldn't react to the changing conditions, I slowed down.  At no time did I feel that my front tire was about to wash out. So, that was good. But, who can tell until it washes out and its too late. Still I worried I would hit some big ruts and rocks and loose balance or control. Fortunately, that did not happen. I felt rocks crash hard into my rims three or four times; but, not burping.

For most of the downhill I was on my brakes constantly. On and off.  On and off.  And, my hands started to ache.  My arms were sore and I recognized that I needed to be cautious. I might not be able to react, simply (or obviously) because I was too tired.

Once on the pavement, the riding was fast and solid. I was able to see and avoid the bad patches; although, I had a hard time eating and drinking.

I got to aid station #2 in Conconully and took a banana and filled one bottle.  Sadly, by this point, I had only drunk three bottles - 20 oz. of Gatorade at the start and 40 oz. of water. I was in the hole by at least one bottle.  (I had eaten my two rice cakes and one bar, so that was good.)  On the uphill efforts, it was basically too hard to drink; on the downhills I was concentrating and I didn't feel safe. Unlike training, where I drink a lot, I probably wasn't sufficiently hydrated by aid station #2.

After the aid station, I peeked at my watch.  It was 11:56.  I was a little less than four hours into the ride.  I had ridden 48 miles and climbed about 6,000 ft. I was tired. The legs were kinda done. Indeed, I would never, ever, ever do a training ride at this level of intensity over four hours (I can't imagine what the heart rate monitor would have to say about the day's effort at this point).

Now, I had about 17 miles and about 4,000 ft. of climbing ahead of me to the top of the pass (segment #5/6 for the day) and then another 24 miles back down the valley.  I ate 1/2 of the shot block (caffeine included) and I drank a bottle of water, and I tried to find a good rhythm. As I went up the paved part of the climb, one guy flew by me at a fantastic pace. Beautiful peddling. Very impressive.  I went by another guy from 20/20 and we encouraged each other. Up a head I saw the colors of Brig Seidl's jersey and two other guys further up the road.

I kept the rhythm and closed on Brig's wheel.  I seemed to be doing fine.  And, for a moment I thought I would congratulate Brig on his excellent writing - I've enjoyed his posts on the Vicious Cycle Blog very much.  However, I thought the better of it; the circumstances just didn't seem appropriate.

Anyway, Brig's peddling rhythm was much better than mine. As I slowly started to slip off his wheel, I would put just a bit more effort into it. I tried to resist.  That worked for a while. But, Brig just kept peddling. And, soon enough, I recognized that this wasn't going to work. I needed to find my own pace, since I figured I had at least 12 miles until the pass.  So, I stopped trying to resist.  I slowed just a little I suppose and Brig went away, up the hill. That, I think, is an example of a little difference of aerobic efficiency.

(Update: Brig's writing about this episode caused my wife to laugh and laugh. Thanks for that Brig - makes all the training worthwhile even more so than it already was. For me, Brig's account very well captures the spirit of this project. Brig writes: 

"... But about 20 minutes later while we were still on the asphalt I perceived the presence of another gadfly approaching my rear wheel. And is that the clunky sound of vintage down tube shifters I hear? Has that relentless fiend from a different era, David Hendry, caught me on his 50 year old Raleigh? I dared not look back at this specter whoever it was. When you are mentally and physically vulnerable in the early stages of the last big climb it does not help your state of mind to see a bike that looks like it has been plucked from a case at the Smithsonian cruise past you with some grinning hellcat aboard. So I continued." 

See Brig's superb writing about Gran Fondo Winthrop 2016 here:

Anyway, I climbed and climbed, trying to be as efficient as I could. I attended carefully to the road as the gradient ebbed and flowed and as the gravel changed a little bit here and there. For most the climb I was in 34x25T; on the steep parts I was in a 34x32T.

Toward the top, one guy from 20/20 (I think Aaron Ambuske) flew by me with beautiful peddling.  Just below the top of the pass, I ate the other half of the shot block and finished my last bottle.  So, including the 20 oz. at the start I had finished five bottles and I was about to hit six hours of riding.

I got over the top of the pass. On the short flat bit, I peeked at my watch for the second time that day -- unbelievably, it read 13:56.  It was precisely 2 hours since I had last looked at my watch. Therefore, it had taken me about two hours to do big climb #2 (segment #5/6).

However, the finish line was still 24 miles away, about 4,600 ft down in the valley (segment #6/6). So, I said to myself: "under 7 hours is perhaps possible, but follow the plan. Don't do anything stupid. Danger lurks at every corner and on every section of washboard (numerous)."

I tried to brake safely and efficiently. My hands and arms were dead.  I had trouble modulating the breaks.  I thought: Hey, perhaps I could just take a break and not brake for while and give my arms a rest.  What a stupid thought!! My back was sore and  I found that I was not sitting on the bike very well. I wasn't relaxed. That's got to be risky, more likely leading to a mistake. I tried to relax but my back and arms just weren't up to the task (just like last year!)

The washboard was a killer but the bike was cornering well and I've learned that going fast on washboard can be better than going slow. After 4 miles I went by aid station #3.  No stopping.  After all, I was trying for a sub 7 hour ride, and, all things considered, it seemed to be going well. From time to time, when the washboard got really bad I slowed way down and then let the bike go again until I started to bounce too much and I couldn't take it any more and I slowed down again. As I descended, it didn't get any easier.  After the aid station on the very bad washboard Warren Cornwall absolutely flew by me.  Unbelievable skill!  (I later learned that he was running 24 psi in the front tire and 25 psi in the back. Is that the secret?)l

Finally, I went over the bridge and the pavement began. About 14 miles to go. Things got easier.  Still, potholes and crappy pavement lurked all over the place. No longer were my arms dead, but I kept focussing. The peddling was good and I rode the little uphills and downhills fairly well, I think, trying to keep the momentum going.

I got to the finish!  I saw Karen and Eric, which was great!! I checked my watch for the third time and it read 7 hours and 2 minutes. Bummer - over 7 hours. Still, that was a good day!!!  No flats.  No crashes. Only one scary moment when I lost concentration for a bit and I got too close to the edge of some pavement on the last downhill.

I said to the time keeper: "Bummer, right, I didn't break 7 hours, right?"  And, she said "nah - you got 6:58." So, sillily, I felt that the day was extra awesome! Officially, I got 6:57:59, good for twelfth place - a very good day indeed, almost 60 minutes faster than last year.  I guess my watch was a little bit ahead on the day. (After I lost Brig's wheel, he kept going and he came in with a time of 6:48:03, good for 7th place.  Great climb, Brig!)  Results here.

The winner, Evan Plews, evidently rode a single speed. Really? How's that possible? How fascinating!!!  That's insane. His time: 6:08 (about 14% ahead of me). He must know how to peddle really, really, really well. What kind of penalty - and I assume there was a BIG one - did he take on his very cool single speed?  What was the gear ratio?  That is simply beyond my comprehension. What don't I understand?

(Update: I read on the Facebook that it was a 42x16T. That's insane. If we assume, 35mm tires and 700c rims and a cadence of 120 rpm, that gear will have you going about 25 mph and 130 rpm gives you about 27 mph).  So, that explains why I didn't pass Mr. Plews on the first part. Ha! No kidding! On the uphills?  If Plews were riding 70 rpm, he would be going a little more than 14.5 mph, 50 rpm would give him about 10.5 mph, and 40 rpm would give him about 8.5 mph. See So interesting - what a performance!  I'm so lucky to be able to be out on those roads with such amazing athletes. Okay, Mr. Plews:  What were your tire pressures? And, how much did that bike weigh? And, did you find the roads a little rough? So many questions ...)

So, back to reality so to speak, I learned a lot at Gran Fondo Winthrop 2016:
  1. Fun.  These rides are fun. 
  2. The wheels. My hand built wheels came out of the ride just as they went into it.  The tire set-up, which was causing me problems (previous post), worked. That was great.  And, I had no flats. No burped tires. No lost bottles. No lost pumps. (See last year.)
  3. Eating and drinking. I need to find places on these Gran Fondos where I slow down for the purpose of eating and drinking. (That's what I do in training; hence, why wouldn't I do that in these rides.) That would be a better thing to do than not eating and drinking.  It was a pretty stupid to eat and drink differently than I do in training. While I successfully ate and drank after climb #1 after the first little descent on the flat section, I would have been better off to slow (perhaps stop) somewhere at the top of downhill #1 to drink and eat. 
  4. Downhills. I need to learn more about how to ride safely on the downhills.  I'm not interested in going any faster. Part of the skill of riding downhill must be tire pressure.  If I were riding on 10 lbs less air pressure (27 psi on the front and 34 psi on the back) what would the downhill experience be like?  Would the riding be more secure? Would the washboard be better? How much benefit might one obtain by practicing the downhills 3-4 times prior to the ride and then scouting the downhills the day before the ride, so that you know quite well what is coming? My guess is that both of these factors - air pressure and specific knowledge for the downhills - would make a huge difference, giving a better margin of safety. 
  5. Uphill efficiency and tire pressure.  I think I was unnecessarily bouncing off rocks when climbing.  My guess, on reflection, is that a lower tire pressure would make many of those rocks disappear and I be more efficient and loose less energy. The bouncing is just not helpful. I have a lot more to learn about tire pressure.  
  6. Pace and patience. My goal was to get to climb #2 feeling good.  I didn't meet that goal. I expended a bit too much energy early on. So, I could only survive climb #2 and not push it. So, while I was in the ballpark, I didn't have sufficient fitness to handle (or recover) from the effort at the beginning. 
  7. Core fitness. I've learned that everything begins with planks, crunches, and bridges.  More of that kind of thing is needed for next year. 
  8. Training.  I think the basic approach has been working. This is what I need to do: A little more volume and a little more intensity. That said, more importantly, I think I need more variation and rest within and, especially, across weeks. That will be a key goal for 2017: More variation; easier easy rides and harder hard rides.  
  9. The bike. While steel is real, my 1969 frame is heavy. (I have yet to weigh it but I should. I've been worried if I knew how heavy it was I would be psychologically freaked out.  Ha!) At this point in my fitness, I think a lighter bike and perhaps loosing 4 lbs (from 151 to 147) and staying there would be very helpful. In other words, I could easily get rid of a total of 8-12 lbs. Given my level of fitness, I think that would make a difference. 
So, big thanks to Vicious Cycles.  Superb organization.  Superb terrain.  Super riders. Loved the pizza. It's good to be alive - that was a lot of fun. Each of the rides I've done this year - Leavenworth, Ellensburg, and Winthrop - has been remarkable - great landscapes and tremendous challenge.  Good fun. And, so much more to learn. Thanks Jake & co. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Gran Fondo Winthrop 2016: Getting Ready: Part II

Gran Fondo Winthrop Course Profile

Gran Fondo Winthrop is the last of my riding goals for 2016. Looking forward to a great day in a beautiful landscape. As I think about the ride, and based on last year's experience, I've divided it into the following segments.  Perhaps, under 7 hours is possible, though everything will have to go well, that is, very, very well. Assuming reasonable weather, here's the plan: 

Eat breakfast at 6:30 AM. Drink a Gatorade at 7:45 AM. Go at 8:00!! Ride Hard. Ride Polite. Be Alive. 

#1: Warmup (8.6 miles, + 613 ft. of climbing) – Stay toward the front and don’t take any wind. If people start fast and gaps open up, be patient, stay the course, and let someone else close them. Last year the initial pace put me above threshold a couple of times, which, with the jumping and slowing, was counter productive. If possible, I would like to avoid that. Eat a rice cake, before climb #1.

Part of the "Warmup" Segment: A Little Too Fast for Me in 2015, But Nice Views. From Vicious Cycle Facebook.

#2: Climb #1 (14.0 miles, + 4,143 ft.) – Ride gently and stay below threshold; try to form a group and work together (not likely feasible). Or, if feeling particularly good, hang on to a strong group, and get closer to threshold. In any case, try to avoid time trialing on my own. I'm probably dreaming because last year the group separated quite quickly into individuals working alone, at least that was my experience. At the aid station, stop for one bottle. 

#3: Up and down (10 miles, about +1,200 ft.) – Try to ride the two "small" climbs hard, at threshold; Recover with care on the short downhills; Eat lunch (rice cake and bar and Gatorade) after the first downhill, on the first flat bit. 

#4: Downhill #1 (16.0 miles, -4,462 ft.) – Ride conservatively; Avoid scary moments; Be especially careful on the pavement, where potholes lurk and speeds will be fast - I'm guessing 35-40 mph or a little faster. The speed will be fine but be ready for cars, deer, rocks, crappy asphalt, and so on and so forth. Just prior to the aid station, eat a bar, stop, and get a banana and fill two bottles. 

#5: Climb #2 (17.2 miles, +4,069 ft.) – If feeling good, get to a little below threshold and try to push limits as the climb unfolds; Stay optimistic, be focussed, and enjoy the views. Before the hard part starts, consume some caffeine; at the top, consume some more caffeine. 

#6: Downhill #2 (24.2 miles, -4,602 ft.) – Ride conservatively, especially in the middle section. But, try to find a speed that makes the washboard go away. Be very careful as the gravel turns to pavement and on the rough pavement that follows. Focus on a hard steady finish. Don't worry about the little hills which will make things painful, as they will come and go quickly; the finishline will come. 

I think I'm ready. The training over the last three weeks has gone well. After my summer break in August, my plan was to do two hard weeks, then do a recovery week, and make the last week very easy. In other words, a big break, two weeks of hard training, and two weeks of taper. 

Over the last three weeks, I got in 45 hours: 16.0 + 20.0 + 9.0 hours. The longer riders were:  6:15 and 6:45 hours, mostly in Zone 2.  After these long rides I did 3 hour recovery rides in Zone 1, thinking that the back-to-back long riders would be helpful. On my recovery week (week #3), I did a 2:45 hour ride at varied efforts and took two days off. 

I did the following interval workouts: (1) 2 x 20 min. threshold, (2) 2:00 hour fartleck, (3) 4 x (8 min. Zone 5 + 4 min. Zone 1), (4) fast spinning session, and (5) 5 x (8 min. in Zone 5 + 4 min. Zone 1). 

The rest of the time was spend mostly in Zone 1/2. 

My weight is good (151 lb.) and my resting hear rate has dropped during the recovery week.  So, I should be good to go! 

Tires, tires, tires. Unfortunately, my tubeless tire situation has been a pain in the ass. I've had trouble getting a reliable set-up. The 38c Specialized Trigger on the front wasn't holding air well. So, I replaced the tape and tried again. That worked and now its holding air well.  Ya!! 

The 33c Specialized Trigger on the back was leaking. So, I replaced the tape but when I pumped it up a bunch of sealant poured out of a fairly small hole on the center of the tread and the tire would not hold air - it would deflate to about 20 psi and then stay there.  So, I tried another tire. That held air great but when out on a ride I must have hit a rock and the sidewall got cut and sealant spewed out. Again, the tire held air but only about 30 psi and I could push on the cut and cause the sealant to come away and create a nice big leak. Meanwhile, my tire valve seemed a bit wonky - that is, when I initially opened the value air would came out.  Perhaps air was leaking at the valve. So, I installed a new 33c Specialized Trigger tire and new valve on the back. All seems good now, at least after 2 hour and 45  on hilly and varied gravel. Fingers crossed. 

Conclusion:  I believe the  38c Specialized Trigger to be a much better tire than the 33c for my purposes. Actually, I have learned that they are completely different tires. Second, I'm hopeful that my back tire will hang in there for Gran Fondo Winthrop.  But, I'm not using the 33c tires again! I need to find a new tire that works for my wheels and frame. This might be it for next year: Clement X'Plor MSO Tubeless (36 mm). 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Gran Fondo Winthrop 2016: Getting Ready: Part I

Raleigh Super Course Summer Set-up - Fenders, 5-speed, and 27" wheels

Since Gran Fondo Ellensburg, the riding has been good. I had a couple of memorable rides, including a very enjoyable 300K, organized by the Seattle Randonneurs. I think it might be fun to try some of the longer Randonneuring rides next year. 

For the last 4 weeks, I've not done much riding. Instead, I've been backpacking and generally taking it easy with family. Not riding was an odd feeling at first, but the backpacking and traveling was good too.

With 4 weeks to Gran Fondo Winthrop 2016 by Vicious Cycle, I'm back riding. It's great to see that almost 150 people are registered. 

The plan is to do three solid weeks, aiming for a total of 45 hours. I'll do 3 long rides, 4-6 hard interval sessions, and easy recovery rides. For the week before GFW I'll take it easy and try to be as rested as possible. 

I had an unfortunate flat tire at Gran Fondo Ellensburg 2016, which I think was due to my Specialized Trigger 33c tire "burping" when I hit a good sized rock at high speed. That was a first after more than 500 miles on riding on gravel on the tubeless set-up. 

Not sure what to do about minimizing the chance of it happening again - I've talked to a couple of different mechanics and they shrugged their shoulders and say "that happens." It's a little disconcerting. I've bought a CO2 air pump so if it happens again, I try blasting the tire with some air rather than putting a tube into the tire straight away. 

For GFW 2016, the plan is to ride a tubeless Specialized Trigger 38c tire on the front and a Trigger 33c on the back, with perhaps 37 and 45 psi in the front and back. Hopefully no flat tires this year! The Trigger 33c on the back will give me lots of room between the frame and the tire and hopefully the bigger tire on the front will give some float and stability on the corners. 

Last year at GFW 2015 I broke 8 hours and got within 26% of the winner (one flat tire and one lost pump). I'm not sure what's possible this year. I'll try to ride hard and with élan.