Thursday, March 29, 2012

Drop bars not bombs

Having always been a rider of the racer/weight-weener variety, it never occurred to me that there might be alternatives in the handlebar department that weren't made out of carbon fibre. The first signs of my awakening started when early adopter, Cleetus built up his non-suspension ready Singular Gryphon with a Salsa Woodchipper drop handlebar. He also he put a Soma Moustache bar on Sam's old Colnago. I had never seen one of these before either. It comes from having a sheltered child hood I think.

Cleetus always has to be different. It's in his nature. He uses Linux, he's a Vegan, he reverses his mouse buttons, he has his brakes on the wrong side. He's the first to train with a Power tap, the first to have an Android phone. But he's not a gear freak, each purchase is researched intensively. He will tell you there are good reasons for all of these things, and he's probably right. Under his rebellious influence I went to the other side and put a Salsa Woodchipper drop bar on my Karate Monkey and have really enjoyed it. I cant say precisely why, maybe a change is good?



Then Bill turned up at my work. Bill is the antithesis of the race weener (except when he is in a Yacht and its anything goes). Bill's only training for the 1100km Kiwii Brevet was a bit of surfing at Lyall Bay, some commuting out to the Hutt and one long ride (over 3 hours). Like Cleetus, Bill is a seismologist at the very pointy end of things. Suffice to say that in the aftermath of the Christchurch Quake there wasn't much time for bike tweekage or training for either of them pre-Kiwi Brevet. And grinding away for 1100kms probably felt like being in heaven, compared to fronting up to the pressures of work.

Bill has a fleet of very hip handmade bikes with names that I cant pronounce, with an array of interesting handlebars, like the Clarence Bar, the Mary Bar and the Albatross Bar. I wondered how many more alternative kinds of handlebars there were out there, so I started to collect them in a Tumblr page. I am dedicating it to Bandolero Bill. Check them out.

http://altbar.tumblr.com

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Karapoti 2012 - tyred out


We were so lucky with the 2012 Karapoti take-2. For a starter, despite not being under any obligation to do so, race organiser Michael Jacques held the 2nd event after the 1st was rained out with a massive weather bomb. It felt like a very old-school race with the reduced numbers and the vibe was great. I guess it shows how many people come from outside of Wellington to do the "Poti" each year, when they cant make it back for the re-run. The weather was awesome all week and it didn't rain until the following Monday. With my knack of picking the crap years to race, it had been a really long time since I can recall blasting down the Big Ring Boulevarde in bright sunshine. My recently acquired BPPV had pretty much cleared up, unlike poor old KC so I didn't really have any excuses for a performance that was a bit under what I was hoping for.

I was really hoping that my Kiwi Brevet endurance would come to the fore a bit, but as I have always said, the Karapoti has to be raced like a sprint race, with the same sort of intensity that you let loose on a round of the nationals. Unfortunately I didn't do any of that stuff this season so I was missing a lot of top-end. I guess I should be happy with sneaking under 3 hours again; theres only a handful of us 50 plus riders who have, but Ian Paintin is so far ahead he is in another league. I was in touch with 2nd place getter Ant Bradshaw for the 1st hour until my body realised I was faking it. From there on I rode a bit with Steve Pedley from Crankit Cycles, struggling a bit on the slippery smooth rocky climbs as my 40psi tires struggled for traction.

I stopped at the top of the grueling Devils Staircase bike-push for a precautionary chain-lube and watched as at least 4 people passed on by, never to be seen again. The only one I saw again was Brett Irving who punctured trying to find a line around a slower rider down the Big Ring Boulevard. I felt for Brett who was denied his first sub-3 for sure. The rocks were flying out from under my wheels like rifle shots and one must have tweaked my rear derailler as it started jumping in my two lowest gears. At the top of the last climb up Dopers  I checked my splits (a pretty lame 24 minute climb) and figured that if I nailed it I could just break 3 hours. I did, but I wasn't the last person to do so, with Barryn Westfield rolling in and then Kim Hammer-Hurst coming in at 2:59.59 !

The most obvious stand-out performance to me was by 12 year old Eden Cruise. With a time of 2:46 he has thoroughbred written all over him. He's probably taller now at 12 than Anton Cooper is as well ! Lets hope it stays fun for him for many more years to come.

As always, Karapoti was a race of attrition.  I saw many people around me come to grief with punctures. There are many combinations of tire set-ups you can go for, so here is some anecdotal evidence of what worked and what didn't, lets just put them in the fail and win boxes.

These are the potential tire choices:
tubed/tubeless/ghetto-tubeless (ghetto tubeless is normal tires run without tubes, but using Stans sealant to supposedly stop punctures).
low/medium/heavy tire weights
low/medium/high air pressure
narrow/medium/large tire width

Fails
1 - got impatient balked behind slow ride down BRB and took a bad line. Puncture. Insert tube.
2&3 - tubeless ghetto-set-up, tire slowly loses air through pores in rubber and has to be re-pumped or tube added.
4 - Tubeless ghetto-set-up, slashes thin sidewall and has to replace with tube as stans juice wont seal.


Wins
1. Tubeless, Nobby nics, Snakeskin, 2.25 both ends. 600 grams, 30-35 psi, 26er fully,
2. Tubeless, Maxxis EXO Ikons front and rear, 30-35 psi. 29er rigid.
3. Tubeless, Maxxis EXO Ignitor front, Ikon on back, 590 grams for Ikons, 27 psi, (light rider) 29er rigid
4. Tubeless, Maxxis EXO Ignitor front, Ikon on back, 590 grams for Ikons, 29/27 psi, 29er rigid
5. Tubeless, Maxxis EXO Ikon 2.2, Conti Race King 2.2 racesport, 530 grams,  26er rigid
6. Tubless (ghetto) Maxxis Larsen/Crossmark 2.0 combo, 30 psi, 26er fully
7. Tubed Schwable Racing Ralphs 2.25 with removable valve cores, 25psi, and Stans sealant inside 26er fully.
8. Tubeless ghetto, Maxxis Larson TT front, harddrive rear, 40psi, 26er fully.

These are all typical of the choices many people made, with a lot of people still using tubed set-ups.

This year Maxxis Igniters and Ikons seemed to be popular combo. The trend is for people to run much fatter higher volume tires at karapoti than you would in a normal XC race. 2.1 to 2.2's instead of 2.0's. The Maxxis Larsen TT front and Crossmark rear have always been a popular combo in the past at Karapoti and are still quite popular.

I guess the bottom line is, if you want to get a trouble free run, don't skimp on your sidewalls, run a UST or equivalent tire, or run a ghetto set-up with a tire with stronger than normal casings. There are many things that can slash a tire in the Karapoti. Beefier tires also means you can run lower pressures for better traction and a softer ride if you are on a hard tail. Take a c02 and a pump!

See you next year.




Thursday, March 15, 2012

Enthusiasm

Here is a nice image from my workmate Grant Kellett's partner, Jude. They are both part of the Place Recruitment Cycling team that has been really getting into it big-time since their enthusiastic sponsor Mike Stewart got the bug.

Grant has been TTing for less than a year and he has broken the magical 60 mins barrier 3 times now, in fact, each time he has attempted it; his latest time a 57:47. That's impressive. Like me, Grant was a mountainbiker who drfited to the dark side.

Grant says the enthusiasm of his Team Leader Mike, is what drives him at the moment. Enthusiam is most definitely contagious. During a water-cooler conversation yesterday I found that another of my workmates had experienced one of the RPM classes that Grant runs at Les Mills and he swears he is going to the gym now at least 3, maybe 5 times a week for the rest of the year.

I had a pretty good time trial on Sunday at the WVCC's open event. The "National Veterans TT Champs". Its an historical event that I don't think has any true national status, but in the past has pulled in some very good riders. It was my first 40km since 2007, and I managed to slash my old PB set in 2003 by 19 seconds down to 57:30. We were very lucky with the weather. In my many years of time trialling I have probably only had three "optimal" weather days, and they all resulted in records, two of which still stand. Its a bit like doing the Karapoti. If there is a fast year and you are not there, then its your bad luck.The old saying of to finish first, first you must finish should also say, but even before that you have to turn up!

Lee, Grant, Jude and Mike warming up. Two sub 58's in there.
There has been plenty written on why you don't necessarily have to go slower as you get older. I tend to think that most people get slower because over time their motivation wanes and they tend not to hammer as much. In other words, they don't do the intensity any more, and settle for long slow distance rides.

There is one obvious way to counter this. Enthusiasm for new types of riding.

Can you imagine discovering Cyclo-cross and not getting some intensity in your week? Can you imagine discovering Bike-packing or Randonnuering and not getting a massive base?

Garry Humpherson uber-vet - Image from PNP site
There are so many different kinds of things you can do on a bike these days, and they needn't all be competitive.

Many people fail to see the symbiotic relationship between riding buddies and how it can really lift both their games. Maybe you are not enthusiastic one day, but chances are your buddy will be.

Inspiration is another motivator. When I see 75 year old Gary Humpherson smashing the world pursuit record, and 65 + rider Alan Luff breaking 60 mins for 40kms its hard not to be impressed.

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TT geekage below - do not go past here if you are not a tester/tt-geek
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There are probably more rules to time trialling than there are to pursuiting, which only has the 5 rules.

1. Dont start to fast.
2. Dont start to fast.
3. Dont start to fast.
4. Dont start to fast.
5. and dont start to fast.

Having said that, it's the main rule I always tell people to adhere to in TTing, especially when they are new to it.  I also say "knowledge is power" and have a raft of electrical devices giving me more feedback than I know what to do with. Sometimes its a good distraction from the pain of TTing, and can give you a good idea of where you are in relation to your goals.

Funny then that I mostly ignored it on sunday and rode by feel.

Funny also that when you look down at the Power Tap CPU you are always doing "god-like watts". I was so worried by this phenomena that at the top turnaround I checked my average watts, (a very un-aero three-button press) and while it was way higher than I would have normally done, it was nothing like I was imagining from my casual glances. Note to self - You are not a god.

To cut a long story short, the watts declined over the course of the race, (not ideal) but to dress it up a bit, if I divided the race into 4 quarters, my second quarter's watts were the same as my last, which is what I try to maintain if ever doing intervals.

I was using my Power tap (with disc covers) and another speedo, so at a glance I had:
Power
Speed
Distance
Time
Average speed

I had an aim of averaging 42kmh, I don't know why. It was just a target. I had no reason to think I was going to do a PB, considering the usual conditions we get to race in, and the lumpy unfriendly nature of the Kahutara course which I always struggle with. In the past I have ridden the outward leg a bit conservatively (evenly) and found that I couldn't make up the speed elsewhere on the course. This time I was not going to do that again. It had nothing to do with Peter James placing a bet with my minute man Pat Evers that I would catch him inside 3kms.

On the final return leg, after dealing with the hammer blow of the initial head wind I was able to knuckle down and use up every last piece of energy still lurking in my cells. When I noticed 5kms come up on one of my computers , I thought cripes. 5kms, that's not even one lap of Liverton road, I can do that with my eyes closed, and I  probably did.

There was 1 watt difference between my average and normalised power on that last leg so I had it pretty much pegged. In leg 3 you can see the difficulty I had maintaining power with the only slightly downhill part of the course. This is always a challenge for me, and a good place for a power meter. Its relatively easy to make "big watts" going up hill, but try doing it downhill. Its hard.

For more inane anorak wearing wattage stuff, see below:
4 splits 8.7km the first two, 11.3km the next two. Two turns.
Watts    av/np       rpm  kmh
              315/317     87   41.7
              289/293     90   41.7
              275/278     87   43.9
              281/282     90   40.2

Overall  289/292     89 41.9
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Results here: http://www.sportsground.co.nz/files/Site/867/5/Pdf/120311214359GPGTOGXC.pdf

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Karapoti check-list 2012

See below my simple Karapoti check-list.

I have done around 11 Karapoti's over the years. In at least one of them the weather was actually really good. In many its been a bit challenging; while  it's true that "it is the same for everyone", we all know, its not about beating your buddies, its about beating your best time! In order to beat your best time, you need to finish. Some of the tips below may be useful in helping you finish with fewer problems.

Keeping it clean
Crudcatchers, one on the fork, one on front tube above your water bottle. You can make them out of old plastic milk bottles or 2 litres icecream container lids. Look at the difference one makes here. (From the Crazyman).

Some people carry a water bottle full of clean water to rinse out their eyes/glasses as well as to drink from, you can't rinse your eyes with carbo drink. Put your carbo drink in your camelback pack.

A peak on your helmet is also a very good way of shielding your face from mud off the rider in front's rear wheel. Be warned though that a peak can trap condensation from your breath and cause steaming up of your glasses, if you wear them. This only happens in really cold conditions. I don't wear glasses myself. Contact lenses and crudcatchers for me. Sports glasses and normal glasses both can get condensation on them.Trying to clean them with muddy gloves is very tricky : )

Gloves
I prefer fingerless myself so I can do any repairs without taking them off.

Protection
Some of the crusties (masters) wear shin and or elbow guards to protect their old fragile skin !!!  ; )

Drive chain
Take oil and a rag for cleaning your chain so you don't get chain suck. The top of the Devils staircase, or the bottom of the Dopers climb are popular places to add some lube. Make sure that you go over your drive-train a few nights before the race, and with an old toothbrush pick out any "toe-jam" wedged between your chain-plates and on your chain rings. If you don't, you are opening yourself up to more dirt sticking and then the dreaded chain-suck. Chain suck... SUCKS!
Cleaning your bike with a toothbrush is a great way of finding stuff you may not have noticed otherwise : )

Spares
Brake pads, take spares; you should know how to change them. You might need a certain allen key? Start with new pads, sintered metal, not organic.

Tubes, I always take two. Patches and glue, not self-sticking ones. Take at least one spare tube if you are running tubeless anyway.

Inflation devices, two small c02s or one large, plus a working pump (dont store it on your bike, keep it in camelback pack to keep it clean). I heard three different stories of pump/tire interface failure (Ptif) in last weekend's pre-rides. You'd be surprised what can go wrong!

A tire boot is a really good idea, many people slash tires in the Rock-Garden and the tubless gizz wont repair them. Make one from an old piece of road tire or anything that works.

Brakes
Don't drag your brakes excessively as this will wear them out quickly if conditions are bad. Even when running or walking the bike it can be an issue.

Tools
Take a multi-tool with a chain breaker and/or power link.
Tire levers for if your tires are a tough fit, or you need to pry open disc calipers to replace worn pads. A spare drop-out if your bike has a soft (sacrifical) one.

Tires
Look on the vorb forum to see what the current trend is with what tires are in vogue. If you are using new tires, make sure you can mount them yourself. Take some tire levers, small plastic ones weigh nothing, sometimes the exertion of racing leaves you with less energy for changing tires by hand (without levers).

If you are using a new tubeless tire set-up with goo in them give yourself a week for them to settle down as sometimes it can take a while for them to seal fully. Do some commuting on them to bed them in and spread the goo about.

Write splits on handle bar or stem with twink pen
Cables
There is no doubt, fully enclosed cabling is the way to go. These days its common for bikes to come with no cable stops so full lengths of cable outer from shifter to deraileur keep the dirt out and mean you should finish the Karapoti with as many gears as you started with. In the old days you could end up with a three-speed or a singlespeed! The Goretex and Nokon systems both work brilliantly but they are quite expensive compared to just using normal full-length housings.

Splits
Write your splits on your handlebar with a twink pen. It wont wash off in the wet unlike paper ones cellotaped onto your bar or stem. See the Karapoti site for some useful split-points.

Pumps and C02's
I like the lezyne style pumps, like the pumps we had in the "olden-days" where you had an external hose. They stop you putting too much pressure on your tire's valve stem, and ripping it out, as I have done with the other "clamp" styles ones, which you have to use by holding the wheel and pump head in the one hand.

There is one important downside to the lezyne style. It screws onto your valve stem. If you are using tubeless wheels you will have "replaceable valve-cores", and its possible, that if that core isn't tweaked in tight enough, you might unscrew it, while unscrewing the end of your pump after adding air to your tube/tire!

1. Always tighten your valve cores to an appropriate level.
2. Always carry a valve core tightener. (A small piece of plastic) in your kit.
If you do 1. you will be sweet. UNLESS you use a "screw-on" C02 device to air up your tire!

C02s
Anything other than a press-fit or clamp styled C02 dispenser is a recipe for disaster in my view. When compressed c02 comes out of a cannister it freezes everything around it. If the end of your device is screwed onto a replaceable valve core, no matter how tight it is in there, you will probably wind it out while trying to detach your threaded c02 tool, and lose all your air. Use a press-fit or clamp one and safe yourself the grief.

This is my favourite and it has never let me down. The top is threaded where the head screws onto the actual cannister, but the end is press-fit, and its 100% reliable. Before I had this one I only had about a 33% success rate with C02 tools. Very light, one moving part, can accept different sized cannisters. Air chuck elite.

Mousses/tire-in-a-can
Zefal make one. Vittoria used to as well. Not that common in NZ, but more so in Europe. They all have different names so it can be difficult googling them. I brought an MTB one at Rotorua MTB worlds that I still havent used.


After the event
Take one big rubbish bag to throw all your smelly disgusting muddy crap in.
Also take a brush for washing your bike in the river, and a small plastic bag with a clean face cloth in so you can scrub up good on the podium! Also have a clean top from your sponsor if you are likely to be on the podium : )

Take a really good beanie to keep in the warmth after the event, a poly-pro top and jersey and a full length raincoat in case it is windy/cold/wet; something warm on your legs; a deck chair to sit on so you don't get a wet bottom.

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More handy hints from the field

Marco says:
Run through or around the bogs, don't try to ride through them.

Tigers tyre tips:
Tubeless - Tick (Make sure you do not run these too low as it is easy to burp your tyre in the Rock Garden)
Stans sealant goop - Tick (Have saved me from many punctures, SERIOUSLY)
Fast rolling - Tick
Exception Series - NOOO!!!!! not in this race anyway!!!!
Good hook up - Not essential, but helpful

Jeff says:
If you suffer from the cold, having an ear-warmer type of strip ready to pull down over your ears is good, in case you have to stop for repairs. Sweat goes cold very quickly and you lose a lot of heat through your head. Even a nylon shell in your camelbak could be handy on a really crap day.

Francis says:
Take a spare brake pad split pin. They will work in most brakes. A bobby pin or even a twig can work in an emergency if the original ever falls out.

Callum says:
Spray underside of frame parts with Silicone to encourage mud not to stick.