Sunday, August 30, 2009

Can you believe it's almost September already?

In an effort two have at least two posts per month, here's a second for August.

Let's see... since the last time, I've raced once. That was interesting. I was doing pretty well for most of the race, probably in the top five or six heading into the last couple laps (knowing full well that even with that positioning, sprinters would throw me into the mid-teens by the time I crossed the finish line).

Coming out of the fourth turn on the second to last lap, I inexplicably moved ahead of the guy whose wheel I'd been following and captured the lap. That's all very nice if there are seven or eight laps to go, or if you have the legs to try to pull something like that. When you're on the second to last lap, and you don't have those kinds of legs, it's pretty stupid.

After having to work through the last of that lap on my own, I was pretty spent, and everyone started passing me. And I mean everyone. I didn't have enough energy to try to keep up, and the field was too tight to really be able to sneak back in. I think I ended up finishing 33rd or 34th of 35. I wasn't dead last, but I was pretty close.

Kind of a let down for my last race of the season, but a good learning experience, I suppose. Next season I'll be racing with Morningside Velo. I'm really looking forward to riding with a team and learning what all is involved with that. I hope I can pull my weight if the occasion to do so arises.

Now that race season is over, it's time for Cyclocross season to get started. I've never raced 'cross before, so I'm going to start going to the practices at Frick every Tuesday night. The Portland should be perfect as a 'cross bike. I'm looking forward to learning more and riding more.

I was able to get plenty of riding in this weekend. Friday night was the PORC beginner ride at Frick. Sans beginners, which meant we mostly stuck to singletrack stuff for the whole evening. I managed to wreck at least four times, mostly because I'd get to the top of something or another and then lose momentum and just sort of fall over.

Falling over isn't so bad, but when you're four feet up on top of a pile of logs, it's a long way down. No broken bones, and I didn't hit my head. No complaints, really. Pain makes you beautiful. Or something.

On Saturday, I ignored the gray skies and took the Bianchi out for a ride. I was near Phipps Conservatory, about seven miles from home when the clouds opened up. I got soaked pretty quickly. The rain let up as I go to Homestead, but it started pouring again with less than a mile to go.

That's the first time I've really been out in the rain this year, so again, no complaints. It's not such a bad thing every now and then. It also gave me a chance to notice one of the major differences between the Bianchi and the Portland: disc brakes vs. rim brakes. Huge difference when it's wet.

The reliability of the brakes on the Portland is constant through any conditions. Not so much with rim brakes on the Bianchi, I had to start braking sooner, and worry a little bit more that I would actually stop where I needed to. I wouldn't say that there was ever impending doom, but I will say that I'm glad I have the Portland for when I know that the conditions won't be sunny and dry.

I rode the Combi again in Frick this morning. I parked over near the bowling greens, since I had to drop a bunch of recyclables at Construction Junction before riding.

The first order of business was to face my arch-nemesis, the stupid descent on the bowling green trail that goes down to the Homewood trail. I've wrecked on that descent on more than one occasion. My right thumb is still giving me trouble from the last time I tried it, back on July 15th.

Knowing that speed is my friend and braking is only going to kill me, I approached the descent and made it almost the whole way down before I realized I had jigged right when I should have stayed left. I braked, and although this wreck wasn't as bad as the last one, I came down hard on my right thigh.

I was able to keep riding for another hour and a half (with only one or two other minor incidents), but I can tell that my thigh will probably screaming at me tomorrow morning. It's bad enough just getting up from a seated position now.

The weather looks great for this week. I hope my leg doesn't force me to rest for any of it.

Non-bike news? Nothing too crazy. Work's been unbelievably busy for the last month or so. Heather started back at school last week. She is also unbelievably busy, and will probably be until June, when school lets out again for the summer.

The kittens are doing well. Almost four months old. Very cute, and not terribly bad. It's great having them around the house now that Heather is back in school. I'd be really lonely without them.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tuesday Night at the Oval (wherein we average 26mph over the 30 race laps)

First race last night with the Via Nirone 7. I'm pretty sure we had a full field (although it didn't look like hardly anyone was going to be there even half-way through the women's/junior's race).

The big question on everyone's mind, of course, is "Alan! Now that you have an actual road bike, did you win?"

The answer to that question, which should come as no surprise, is "No."

I did finish in 15th, two spots up from the last time I raced. Was it because I was riding on a bike that weighs a few pounds less than the Portland (I haven't taken the time to do an actual comparison to see what the actual weight difference is)? Maybe there were other people who were tired last night, or maybe there were more new people. Who knows.

Regardless, in terms of my own individual performance, I was really happy with the result. I went in not feeling all that great, and I left my water bottle at home while I was getting the car packed and ready to go (and the vending machine at the Oval was broken).

I think I led one lap, and I was pretty close to the front of the group (maybe 5th or 6th) for a decent chunk of the latter part of the race. On the last lap, as usual, everyone started sprinting and I got passed by what seemed to be a ton of people (although apparently it was really only eight or nine, not including the people who were ahead of me already). That's still an area where I need to improve.

No big deal, though.

So yeah, I decided to buy a road bike. I thought I'd be getting an '09 Specialized Allez Elite Compact, but Pro Bikes was all out of my size (or at least, they were out of 52cms, which I thought was my size, based on the Portland being a 52cm) and wouldn't be able to get any more in stock. Same for the Cannondale CAAD9s.

I figured I'd just wait for the 2010 CAAD9s to come in, based on Jake's recommendation. Heather and I stopped in on Sunday because I wanted to make sure that we had the sizing all figured out in the event that I'd have to special order one.

As I said, the Portland is a 52cm, but when I bought it, we decided on the 52 because I was having it converted to a flat bar bike (which was later converted back to drop bars). If I had to order a new road bike, I didn't want it to be too big.

They brought up a Cannondale Six in a 52cm and it was pretty apparent that it was too big. Then they brought out the 50cm Bianchi and told me to go take a ride around the block.

The difference between the Bianchi and the Portland was pretty immediate. It felt so much lighter and quicker. That's not to take anything away from the Portland. It's a fantastic bike and it's never let me down.

The Bianchi felt great, though. Compared to either the Specialzed or the CAAD9 that I was considering, the Bianchi had a better set of components, a better wheelset, and unlike the CAAD9s, it has carbon seatstays.

I think the only thing that the 2010 CAAD9s might have on the Bianchi is the BB30 bottom bracket, but for the maximum amount of power that I'll ever be able to generate, I'm sure that I'll be able to live without it.

Now I have three bikes. I should probably really try to stick with those three for a good long time now. I think I can realistically say I should be able to do that:

  • Bianchi Via Nirone 7 for racing, training, and everyday riding in good weather.
  • Trek Portland for cyclocross, longer rides (centuries and things of that nature), ridiculous hills (dirty dozen), riding in crappy weather (thank you, full fenders), and hauling some things around (thank you, rear rack).
  • Commen├žal Combi S for off-road/mountain biking. Honestly, I've considered using the Combi for the dirty dozen. It would seem like a 22t granny would be great for some of those hills, but on the other hand, I'd probably flip backward actually trying to get up the hills. It's something to consider, I guess.

I think that covers most situations where I'd need a bike. I don't see myself doing time trials or triathlons. Yet.

To be honest, I can't say that I won't take the Bianchi out for longer rides, becuase I haven't had a chance to take it for any ride longer than 15 miles or so, so I don't know how it'll feel to ride it for hours at a time.

I think the reason I'd favor the Portland in those cases is just that it's so much easier to load it up with lots of stuff that I might need if I'm getting farther away from home and/or civilization.

One thing I can definitely see myself doing is replacing the saddle on the Bianchi. I have a Bontrager Inform on my Portland, and I'm really happy with it. The Bianchi came with a Selle San Marco Ponza, and even after a few shorter rides, I feel like I can tell the difference. It might just be best to make the switch now and try to hawk the Ponza on eBay.