Monday, September 29, 2008

It was raining in Brooklyn; a glance a the weather report (okay, frequent glances) gave some reason to hope but not a whole lot of reason to expect that the weather would improve. So we pulled on kits, mounted water bottles, and filled our jersey pockets with cliff bars before heading out into the rain. It was a steady, misty drizzle that had been falling for several hours, so the roads were pretty soaked. Well, somewhere between damp and soaked. We made our way to the west side bike path and spun our way up to the GWB and New Jersey.

A field was assembling underneath the overpass in Fort Lee. I gave Crihs my twelve bucks and made the rounds, saying some hellos to riders who I haven't seen in a while, and scoping out the field. Lots of road bikes. Lots of people I don't know. A bundle of track bikes. I had no sense how this race would unfold. I did have a plan - and a teammate - but by the time the race was starting my plan had changed to "ride until you're warm again, then reassess." Fortyfive minutes standing around in very damp, thin clothing had left me shivering. As we pulled away on the rolling start, William reached over from his trackbike to give me a goodluck handshake, but I shook my head, saying, "I'm keeping both my hands on the bars until my body stops twitching."

In a few minutes, we turned on to 9W and the race was on in earnest. Attacks were quickly launched by kids on track bikes - did they think they could just ride the legs off of everyone else? I moved toward the front of the field, squinting my eyes to avoid the grit and splatter from the roostertails coming off of rear wheels, and keeping an eye on the attacks. The pace would surge and calm, but no attacks stuck. My secret teammate Alex took a nice flier at 32mph near the Greenbrook turnoff and I jumped to grab him, but the pack wouldn't let it get anywhere - it was our turn to see whether or not we could ride away from everyone else. It was like a Cat 5 race, everybody nervously keeping an eye on everybody, nobody really letting anybody get anywhere.

No worries - the terrain would take care of the pack and I resolved to sit six to eight wheels back, sucking wheel, taking it easy, and waiting for the rolling hills. That is, until I saw the support car pulled over and Crihs hanging out the window with the camera. Then I launched an attack. It went nowhere but I went to the front and pulled at 27 for a bit before drifting backwards into Prentiss's big and tall slipstream.

Finally we got into some quick terrain. Izumi, on his track bike, stepped it up leading into the downhill approach to the State Line. I grabbed his wheel. At the line there would be a sprint for a prime; I know the terrain well, but didn't remember where exactly the line was. I tried to keep my head up and grab wheels - it looked like there were a few subtle leadouts happening and I grabbed the fast wheels as the pace picked up to - oh. My computer conked out in the rain and the wet. Again. I looked up and looked around for the line - ah! There it is, at the crest of that rise, and put my head back down to Alex's wheel and - oh. Neil and Eric, two powerful guys with strong road racing history, had already jumped. So much for that prime. I rolled through the line third and got into a tuck for the descent. The road is wide and the turns gentle so I coaxed the bike into the mid40s with the wind strong in my ears; then the couple on the tandem went flying by, the stoker with her head pressed into the small of the captain's back. Dave Trimble came riding up, reaching deep into the drops, yelling "Go go go go!" As Phil Leggitt would say, the elastic had snapped - most of the field had been left behind. The pace stayed high and we fell into a paceline - seven of us, plus the couple on the tandem, driving hard toward Piermont.

I expected to go through Tallman State Park - Prentiss and Al turned in but Dave, Dan, and the others kept going straight. Knowing that one of my goals in the race was to mark the two of them, I stayed with them. Would Tallman's narrow roads and steep descent be slower than this other way around? I didn't know. We descended into Piermont, Dave almost getting right-hooked by a car that didn't realize that a race was coming up behind it. We turned toward the pier and saw Prentiss and Al with a good minute on us. That answers the Tallman question.

We hit the flagpole, collected the info we needed (the last word on the plaque, and the year) and turned, fast. I went to the front and took a long pull up the bumpy road. Toward the end of the pier we started to see racers on their way out - we had a good lead. With five of us working together we'd catch Prentiss and Al, and it would be anyone's race.

Or would it? The climb through Tallman and the fairly brief respite before the climb up to State Line changed that. Dan and Neil left the three of us in Tallman; by the time we got to State Line, they had good time up to the top of the hill as Prentiss, Al, Eric and myself fell into a paceline to see if we could catch them. But we couldn't even see them.

Prentiss would move to the front and pound away in a huge gear; we sheltered Eric for a while as he gamely clung on. Al would spring to the front for strong pulls and I'd move up, too, carefully counting my strokes before moving over. It was starting to dry out. I felt warmed up. We were really cooking it; glances at my speedometer were only occasionally helpful, as it went in and out as it dried out and got wet again. We were steadily at and above 25 mph, and spending good time up around 28. Where were Dan and Neil?

The race finished at a bar in Lower Manhattan, which meant crossing the GWB and entering a traffic free-for-all for another nine miles. Alex and I looked at each other - when you enter traffic and enter alleycat mode, you don't have teammates anymore. It just doesn't work like that. We took the smart route south and east; Prentiss turned off to go through Central Park - bad idea. Eric clung gamely on as we tore down 5th Avenue. It started to rain again, torrentially. I smiled through Alex's wheelgrit in my face and thought, what a good way to end a good race! We traded pulls and split around taxis; I sought buses or minivans to grab quick accelerating skitches to no avail. 5th Ave got a lot less clean once we were clear of the park, and Eric dropped back several blocks as Alex and I were engaged in no holds barred traffic attacks - who can take the light fastest? If you can get through a light a second faster you can get to the next one two seconds faster and have a chance to increase your lead. But by 14th St we were still together, and Eric had caught back on. Okay, he wasn't just some roadie we could catch in traffic. A red light at 2nd Avenue gave us pause but we plowed through a good sized gap while Eric turned south. A good idea?

There was Dan, cruising casually ahead of us. Did he think he'd just slide on in for the win? I put my finger to my lips, cautioning Alex to be quiet until we flew by him - that was when we saw he had a flat.

Alex and I turned on to Avenue B wishing each other luck in the sprint, hollering at jaywalkers, and tearing down... only to find Eric turning the corner of 10th Street ahead of us, taking Second Place as he got to Neil - First Place - waiting on the sidewalk. I hopped off my bike and tagged Neil a few seconds before Alex.

Dan rolled in a few minutes later - he'd ridden the flat since he was in the 100s. Dave rolled in, not feeling so fine, followed by Prentiss and William, who took first track bike and 7th overall.

Evan rolled in in the mid-teens, and I was pleased as punch to see him finish his first race. He must have been on his own for most of the race - once the field shattered there were few opportunities for people to work together.

When's the next one?

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Today is Nyack and Back, an alleycat-style road race organized by Crihs (yes, it's spelled that way). There will be a sprint for undetermined points at the State Line, and climber's points on the big hill on the way back.

If it dries out, I'll contest the sprint; but if it's wet and people are being cautious, I might go a little bit earlier for it. If it's wet and people are racing like it's dry, I'll sit back and let people blow if they'll blow.

I'll stay hydrated and remember to eat these miniCliff bars that I'm stuffing in my jersey. I'll save energy and mark some Studs and try to stick with them. I'll also not expect to be in the top three - placing really high expectations on myself and getting pissed off when I didn't do as well as I wanted was one of the reasons that I stopped racing alleycats. When you're an uptight nut who's pissed over sixth place instead of third and it's not fun anymore, it's time to stop.

First road race on the new bike...

Labels: , ,

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Things remaining on my fun new road bike:
  • Put on a more comfortable saddle
  • Trim down unnecessary steerertube
  • Fiddle with front derailleur
  • Get a nonsetback seatpost
  • Get fun-looking wheels
  • First race on it (Sunday!)
Things already done
  • Built by myself! except for headset installation
  • Fast rides with quick people
  • Oozing excitement all over everything
  • "New bike day" photos posted to Preferred Bicycle Messageboard.
  • Made list of I-can't-wait-to-race races.


Friday, September 19, 2008

I swung by Time's Up to remove a stuck bottom bracket, but even with four people - one person stabilizing the tool and the stand, two people stabilizing the bike, and the fourth person using a three foot cheater bar on the tool - the damn thing wouldn't come out. I want it sooner rather than later, and no shop that anybody I was talking to knew of stocked midlevel Campagnolo bottom brackets, so I had to do some internet clicking to order one. Damn. Wish I just had it in my QBP order. You know, the order where I also ordered the wrong size seatpost, and failed to order the Campagnolo housing/cable replacement set that wound up costing me $[REDACTED] when I realized I needed it at Bike Works.

So I've already spent a bit more on this newish bike than I had planned. Picking up a new frame and swapping parts is never that straightforward, is it? Even when you've got an awesome coop to rely on.

It's slightly frustrating, but it's not like it's breaking the bank. It's just that I'm spending more than I anticipated. I think it will be worth it, though.

Other things I have to look forward to: selling two wheelsets. Two wheelsets? Really? I think so. I think I plan to buy a low-end Campagnolo wheelset for the newbike, sell the old crosslaced one - if not soon, then, well, later when I figure out my employment situation. I'm also selling one of my fixed gear wheelsets and replacing it with the jumble of whatever-else-is-around, in my ongoing quest to simplify my number of wheels that I've got sitting around.

My new road bike is turning into something that's considerably less lock-up-able than my old one, but I don't think that will bug me all that much. It might be a slight annoyance here and there, but I'm also happier with my "commuter" than I have been in a while, and I also live much closer to most of the things I do.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Up until fall 2007, I had been relying on my fixed gear commuter and my Pogliaghi for around-town transportation, but was interested in getting a road bike. The advantages are obvious - brakes, gears, the ability to go down hills going really fast. It was part of my gradual transition from, you know, being somebody who rides in cut-off jeans to being somebody who rides in lycra.

Last fall, a trip up to Rhode Island coincided with somebody in Westchester County selling an older, brifter-equipped steel-and-carbon roadbike, and so on our way I picked up the Bianchi Veloce, set up with Campy 9 speed. It took a little while to get it to fit - I had to get a comfortable saddle (I started with an Selle Italia SLR, used a Flite for a while, and I've settled on an Arione), more appropriately "ergo" bars with a shallower drop (I hate the square-shaped ergo drops), a threadless adapter so I could use an open-face stem with these bendy bars... I also picked up a double crankset (didn't need the granny!), a prettier and more adjustable seatpost, road pedals, and a short-cage rear dérailleur (a story of its own...). The bike was meant to be a more recreation-oriented road bike, but I was going to try to squeeze a bit more performance out of it. The differences lie in gearing, easily changeable setup, and vanity, so it's not hard to do.

The shifting was pretty finicky at first - it took me a while to get used to getting the shifting on point, but replacing the cable and housing took care of that. Still, though, the rear shifter has what I assume is a worn-out spring in the mechanism, which makes it possible to overshift by half a cog without the mechanism returning to the center of the click. This gives a unique ability to trim the rear dérailleur, which is particularly necessary after shifting up or down two or three cogs at a time - the pull from the shifter causes the dérailleur to over shift a fraction. I've gotten quite deft at it - flicking the mouse-ear and then tapping the paddle to center the dérailleur on the cog of choice - but wouldn't mind a rebuild that would get the shifting to lock in a bit more precisely.

The wheels are 32-spoked, 3-cross wheels, which I don't mind. Since I do use this bike regularly, it sees some lock-up time and I like avoiding some bling factor. However, I wouldn't mind some sportier wheels for next season's racing. I'm keeping my eyes open on ebay and craigslist for something with fewer spokes and a deeper rim.

It's not the fanciest rig on the streets, but it gets me riding places I wouldn't be riding otherwise, and - like all my bikes - is a tough little workhorse with that fierce underdog pride.

Here it is from last week's 40-miler up toward River Road/Hudson Drive with Ev. It's a bit shrouded in shadow.

Labels: , ,

Inspired by Sprinter della Casa's post about his Riggio track bike, I thought I might give an overview of the gear I'm using. I gave an overview/review of my Felt TK2 earlier in the season, but, as a disorganized and halfhearted blogster, don't title or tag my entries and so they're hard to look through to link again and find.

This weekend, I put back together my pretty track bike, above. It's a Pogliaghi, dating from 1973 by my guess. I got it for a steal almost two years ago from a rider in Albequerque, who trusted me enough to send the frameset to me on his dime, prior to payment, so that I could give it a chance before committing. I took my time building it up, relying on modern cranks and the wheels from my commuter at first.

But then I took some other opportunities - buying a Zeus rear hub laced to a Mavic Open Pro, picking up a set of Campagnolo pista cranks, and before I really knew it I was slowly building the bike to a general sense of period-appropriateness. The last bit, I picked up this winter - a Zeus front hub laced to a Mavic Open Pro, for a matching wheelset. (Zeus! Avoiding the all-Campy build with these replicas from Spain - and how smooth they are, too...)

With Cinelli criterium bars and 165 cranks (my first foray into <170mm cranks), I was really pleased at how the bike fits. I had only ever ridden my commuter extensively before, and so was pleased at some of the other ways that a bike can fit a smaller rider.

I started the track season racing it, but I'm pretty attached to the bike; the more seriously I took the season, the less I wanted to race a bike I was attached to. So I started looking around for a modern aluminum track bike that would tolerate being underneath a working racer.

The Pogliaghi sat sadly in my bike pile for several months - no rear wheel, no pedals, bars hanging in the closet - until earlier this week. I put it back together, and was reminded about how lovely it is to ride - the swiftness of the handling, the smoothness of the drivetrain and wheels, and the charmingly odd combination of supple steel and jarring, steep angles. So I've been riding it to work, with a big smile on my face.

It's probably the least useful bike in my stable, but we all deserve a little bit of vanity now and then.

Edit: that picture uploaded like that? Crap. well, here's a link.

Labels: ,

Monday, September 08, 2008

I put back together my "commuter bike," which I've rarely used since I stopped delivering in May. I finally took off a saddle that I had hoped would come around to being comfortable, and put on a reliable classic Flite. What a difference - the bike is ridable and I had a blast riding all over the past few days. Feeling a solid strength in my legs again - I've missed riding fixed.

So I also put back together my pretty steel track bike, and intend to put many long park miles on it in the next few months.

Of course, once I put all the parts on to my new road frame, it might take precedence.

Labels: , ,

Friday, September 05, 2008

This morning, I pumped up my road bike's rear tire. It's got a slow leak - never enough to make it flat enough to ride, but enough to make it soft.

I've been feeling slow lately. For the past few weeks, it's felt as though everything on the bike takes a lot of energy - when I'm going, I'm crawling, spinning slowly, struggling up the bridge, never cruising at those fast paces that I love so much. I thought it was me having gotten knocked out of shape by my somewhat dismal August.

Um. Do you see where this is going?

This morning, I pumped up my road bike's rear tire. When I stuck the pumphead on, the pressure guage read 50psi. Seriously? I've been riding 50psi, thinking "it feels a little bit soft," for a month. Where has my head been?

Oh dear.

So I put it at 120 psi, had a bone-jarring ride to work ("oh right, this is what it feels like to ride over these streets at this pressure") that was also much, much swifter than it has been.

Oh dear.

So my head might be stuck thinking I'm way off my top form (which I might be), and though my body had been agreeing, it seems like some sensible changes to my bike might reverse the whole course and get me back on track for some fun-level competitions this fall: Nyack and Back, being put on by Crihs late this month, and the Wednesday night Prospect Park track bike races that Al is doing.

Of course, knowing that Jersey Dan will be competing - after having taken first cat 4 in the Green Mountain Stage Race - well, it's not like I'm gonna win.

But I'll have fun, and I won't be whining about how I can't make my bike move.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Just in time for the racing season to end, I bought on a lot of 10 jerseys from ebay. Okay, it's a little scummy to wear used jerseys, but hey, 10 for $50 beats any price I can think of, and besides, a quick inspection upon arrival shows that they've been laundered.

They fucking rock. A handful are modern-style obscure amateur team jerseys, a handful are somewhat boring (totally useful) two-color whatever jerseys, and three of them are delightfully retro-ugly. Think late 1980s, lots of bright colors and diagonals. Not quite at the level of Mapei's famous kits, but still pretty eye-catching. One even has scorpions on it for some reason!