Wednesday, August 31, 2011

D2R2 2011: Hot Bikes

D2R2 is like a rolling handmade bike show. I've never been to any cycling event populated by so many folks on incredible handbuilt bikes. Independent Fabrications are run of the mill at D2R2, while we rarely see them up in Ontario and Quebec. There are many randonnee bikes out on the routes, lots of cyclocross bikes, and some allroad bikes too. Not to mention the mountain bikes!
A colourful Geekhouse CX bike at the lunch stop.

Sylvan Cycles' laminate wood bike, constructed from local, sustainably harvested wood.  Back in 2009,   I met John field testing a prototype, and this year I saw three out there, garnering lots of attention.
One of two incredible Ellis creations. These struck me as allroad bikes, not converted cross bikes. Di2 equipped, with TRP v-brakes.
Ellis #2. Looks fun!
Lots of mtbs out there on the 180k route. This Moots YBB had a couple CO2 cartidges mounted in a novel manner.
Pascal pulled me over to see this CX bike. It wowed both of us, definitely our favourite of the day. Paul's Touring cantis in red, not common. The paint was awesome. The model was Supercross, but I cannot recall the builder....

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

D2R2 2011: By the Skin of Our Teeth

Dawn. This field is now foot deep mud.

This year's edition of D2R2 was bookended by tragedy. Rodd, the man who first came across the event on the interwebs back in 2006 was poised to ride D2R2 for the first time, but a fixed gear crash put an end to his plans, and set him on a road to shoulder recovery. Jamie, looking forward to returning for his second crack, had to pull the plug to deal with a house purchase fiasco. Most regrettably, Steve, who missed the 2010 D2R2 due to his grandmother's passing, informed us a week before the event that his father had passed away unexpectedly. Everyone was in a state of shock. We'd ride without our comrades, but we'd wish they were there with us. Fortunately, at least for our group from Ottawa, the ride itself was free of drama, misfortune and suffering. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for Franklin County, which was hit very hard by Irene over the course of Saturday night and Sunday. While we were fortunate to enjoy great weather during the ride, the area took an absolute beating afterwards, carrying significant consequences for locals. We barely made it out Sunday morning before the carnage began.

Rolling out at daybreak.
Rest stop #2, atop a pretty long climb. I noticed these sunflowers in 2009, but didn't in 2010 or  this time around until Pascal mentioned them. Then we posed the bikes. 

With all the regrets this year, our group was small: Pascal, Andy and Nathan Underwood, the lone wolf, riding the 180k , and Chris the 115. Nathan and Andy were first timers, Pascal a second-timer, and myself rounding out my third Dirt Rando. Chris was on his second Dirt Rando. Nathan would be our strongest rider, and on a 38x28 low gear, he'd have to climb at a faster rate much of the time. Pascal and Andy were on low gears, 34x34 for Pascal, and 26x32 for Andy. I'd intended on rolling a 34x32 or 34 so I could climb beside the the other guys, but I didn't make it happen, so I'd have to climb faster some of the time to prevent grinding too much. 

Andy started with three bottle, ended with two. He suffered our only puncture, likely on the rock that knocked his bottle out.
Chris was riding the 115, and unwittingly ended up riding for a longs ways with Richard Sachs, Mike Zanconato, and a bunch of other Velocipede Salon regulars. He even pulled RS back to the group at one point, legend!
Lunch stop, an amazing location. I suspect this river was raging hours later.

Looking out form the lunch spot, a veritable handmade bike show. We'll do a post dedicated to the bikes of D2R2.
Our ride unfolded beautifully. I won't provide a blow by blow, as that'd be boring. I'll try to highlight a couple things that struck me as noteworthy.

A few key changes to my equipment allowed me to enjoy the ride without anxiety. First, navigation. Grant was kind enough to entrust his Garmin 705 to me, which I managed to load up with four separate stages of the route. While the tracks I used contained many extra way-points that causes the unit to beep incessantly, irritating everyone around me, and me, I only erred on a few turns over the whole day. The difference between navigating with the GPS versus cue sheets is not night and day, not staying on track versus getting lost. Rather, I found the difference pertained more to the flow of the ride. Rather than slow for turns I might or might not have to make, I was able to carry momentum most of the time and enjoy the sensation of leaning in and getting the lines right. Or not. In some cases my line choice did not work out, and a foot had to come out to allow for a correction. Pascal got a good laugh on one occasion, when I locked up my back wheel of pavement for a second as I mangled a turn.

Nathan on the left, Matt on the right, one of the many beautiful covered bridges on the 180k route.
This bridge was ancient. I hope it weathered the storm.
Pascal through a beautiful wooded section. Most of the 180k route ins in fact wooded, which means wind and sun are not big factors.
The Little Big House, gallery, and the final rest stop of the route, atop Patten hill, one of the most difficult climbs.  The scale of the house is way off, lending an Alice in Wonderland aesthetic. Looking at it, you cannot tell how high the door is. Lucky for me, a woman entered while I was looking, and I got the scale. The door knob was at her head height, and she was about 5'10", so I put it at about 9" tall. This is without a doubt the most fascinating sight on the route. This stop features restorative watermelon, pickles, pretzels, and more. It is my favourite stop on the ride.

Processing the day's events, it struck me that the experience was rather unlike my first two. The first D2R2 has to be an eye opener for most, an epiphany for many. That was certainly the case for me. The second was about doing it with a degree of familiarity and seeing how it felt in comparison. This third time, there were no question marks penciled in beside climbs: would I make Archambault, Hillman, Patten? Yes, I would, my preparation was all there, I'd be fine. The question was: would I ride the whole route well? 

Indeed, the climbs of the route leave an indelible impression on the mind and body, in part because one spends so much time going up them. Pain is hard to forget. In contrast, the descents are a blur, and if taken in full flow mode (flow state, of complete in-the-moment-ness), one's ability to recollect more than an impression is challenging. This is somewhat of a paradoxical situation. If one hopes to execute their riding skills to the fullest on the epic (yes, I said 'epic,' and I mean it) descents of D2R2, a flow state of un/consciousness is the best way to do that. In such a state, one processes information and reacts in the most direct manner possible. This mode of cognition bypasses the part of the brain that forms memory. This is why people say, after narrowly escaping harrowing situations: "Its all a blur." It is, very little memory is retained from the flow states that manifest when we find ourselves in life or death situations. 

Pascal and Matt descent. Sight lines are long on these old carriage roads, so you can let the bike run if you  like. I like.
Some of the descents of D2R2 are so intense at high speeds that they literally become a blur. However, I don't think I actually entered a flow state for any of them. Do I want to, knowing I won't remember them if I do? Its probably unwise to say 'no,' since flow states tend to allow us to perform better than we could otherwise. They don't allow for indecision, hesitation. Bringing this back to navigation, a GPS that only beeps before an actual turn off the present course would help one maintain the focus required to flow. Ultimately, this is safer than the alternative. 

This brings me to my focus for future D2R2s: riding the descents flawlessly. I will make the climbs; my test will be the descents. Riding them flawlessly will require taking the right lines, entering sections at the right speed, and minimal braking. This will be my personal D2R2 challenge. Proven this year, 35c tubeless tires support such riding; all my equipment was dialled for the descents, including my cantilever brakes. Yes, cantilevers can provide enough braking power to ride at high speeds, at least in the dry. 

Matching team socks, courtesy of Alex's ordering coordination. To my surprise, they stayed rather white.

So, coming out of D2R2 2011, two things, perhaps lessons, are at the forefront of my thinking as I look ahead to the 2012 edition. First, a GPS unit with one continuous track and correct waypoints is a must (for me). Second, I will have to run lower gearing so I can climb beside my buddies. Both will support flowing through the route in more seamless manner, which is the main challenge if elapsed time is of marginal concern. Speaking of time, we rolled in after 9:45 on the road, at exactly 4pm, our projected arrival time. Neat. An hour later, the rain began as we plowed through great food and beer under a the cover of one of the circus tents. With luck, we'll share our celebratory meal with our comrades who missed out this year, plus a few more newbies. The smiles make it all more than worthwhile.

Many thanks to Sandy and all the fine folks who make the 2011 D2R2 not only possible, but an outstanding event. The vegan food options were very much enjoyed and appreciated, and it was truly heartening to be greeted and cheered on by so many volunteers out there making the event happen. Given the devastating impact of Irene, we will be more keen than ever to return in 2012 and spend out Canadian money in Franklin County. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

D2R2 Bike Shakedown Part 2: The Rover

Steelwool Rover Prototype (1 of 2)
All dolled up for D2R2
D2R2 is a special ride. So special in fact that a non-racer-type like myself obsesses over the preparation in a similar fashion, I’m sure, to how some PROs do over Paris-Roubaix. Get the body tuned, get the gear sorted out; these two together seem to help prepare one's state of mind.
Last year I rode D2R2 on my Pinarello Cross bike, equipped with a hodge-podge 9 speed 11-34 cassette, compact-double crankset and Grand Bois Cypres 700X30 tires (they call them 32s now). I made all of the climbs and did not get any flats. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it was the Best Ride Evar. Does that mean that I should just do everything the same this year? Well, no.
This year I shall be riding my lurvely prototype Steelwool Rover. While Matt’s Truffle Pig is a full on cycloross racing machine that can pass as an all road bike, this bike is the opposite despite looking rather similar and sharing a very similar tubeset. With an even lower BB and lower trail steel fork, the Rover is more polite - a gentleman if you will. Not always in a hurry, willing to take care of a tired rider on a long slog on the road or in the gravel, but perfectly capable of throwing it down at the Wednesday Night World’s. Sort of James Bondish: He wears a tux, but is packing heat most of the time. I have never felt beat up on this bike, nor have I wished for more snap when sprinting for the sign at the end of our loop. It always seems to do what you want it to do. Like a dog (possibly named Rover, but who knows) eager to please his master. I’ve even taken it on the double track in the Gatineau park, with big tires of course - thanks to all that clearance. And I know our good buddy Steve, aka The Colonel, has taken his identical bike touring with racks and panniers front and back (or maybe it was just front racks and a trailer?). Whatever, this thing is versatile.
For this weekend’s big event, I have replaced the full Sram Force 11-28 setup with a 10 speed X7 derailleur and 11-34 cassette. The shifting is pretty much as precise as with the Force RD, but now I have a 1-1 gear ratio, just what I need for those double digit grades. I’m running Stan’s Alpha rims but was not in the mindset to sort out a tubeless setup like Matt’s. Instead, I went with good ol’, enormous 700X35 Panaracer Paselas.
Now THAT's a cluster. 10 Glorious gears of climbing bliss
Paselas on the Rover: It's getting a little tight around the chain stay area, but hey, we're talking 35s here.
Matt and I switched front wheels last Sunday for about and hour and while his custom shaved Stan's Raven felt mighty quick and supple, the Paselas felt great, not slow or ponderous. People! Can we stop being scared of big tires and get on with it? They offer so much potential to your boring weekly group ride down the same old paved roads to the same old antique dealer and bakery. I find it ironic that our society has embraced the over-equipped SUV to go to work or the grocery store but insist on running 23mm tires pumped to 120 PSI on our velocipedes.
But I digress.
So I gots me the gears and the tires. That should help me climb and descend with some confidence. This brings me to a Rover highlight: the brakes. My prototype is equipped with Paul’s Racer M centerpulls. Not only do they offer ridiculous stopping power and modulation, they do it while leaving a whole bunch of room for big tires or for fenders… which I removed in June this year, I think. Gahd.
The stop-tacular Paul's Racer Ms leaving a generous amount of clearance for the Paselas. Hmm, cordless phones and touring tires - the strong points of Panasonic...
Certain members of the Tall Tree crew have been talking about this weekend for months. We’ve ridden hundreds of KMs, climbed thousands of, um, Ms, spent hours carefully considering how we should setup our velos. Heck, I even made a batch of homemade granola to start the day with. Andy will be the newbie but the rest are returning this year with a D2R2 already under our belts. (this is Matt’s 3rd) We’re dealing with known knowns this time. But it’s a big day and a lot can happen. Will it top last year’s “Best Ride Evar”? We shall soon see.
Stay tuned.

Monday, August 22, 2011

D2R2 Bike Shakedown: Phat Tires, Low Gears, and Sweet Steel

My D2R2 machine: Steelwool Truffle Pig (58cm) built with Columbus Spirit-for-lugs tubing.
The Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee begins at 6 am on Saturday, just as dawn breaks.  The first climb of the day's 15, 000 feet of vertical gain will commence almost immediately, some two kilometers into the route. Comrades on wheels will look around, glance down to each other's cassettes, and ask the inevitable question: "So, what gear are you running?" Naturally, the question will pertain to the ascending, rather than the descending capacity of each bike. Each rider's gearing choice says something about their perceived fitness and desired pace. Sometimes the answer communicates an utter lack of research. 39x23, for example. That gear could also indicate ill placed bravado. Its always fun to watch and find out!

The second inevitable D2R2 question is in fact more about the descending capacity of the bikes in use: 'So, what tires are you running?' Whereas bikes geared too high either can't be climbed up some of the steeper pitches, or force riders to burn too many matches too early in the 180k route (and I'm sure this applies to the 115k route that gains 10,000ft!), bikes shod with ill suited tires deliver a double whammy punch: 1) they beat the heck out of their riders, wearing them down and compromising their ability to produce the power they need lat in the ride; and 2) they puncture. Its not so much that skinny tires are deadly, as the descents do not tend to feature hairy turns (well...depending on perspective). Rather, the roads are rough, and fast. Even on good tires, like the Grand Bois in 30c, I flatted four times in 2010. In dry years, there are many opportunities to pinch flat. I decided then to come back with bigger tires, tubeless.

This past Sunday, Pascal, Rodd, Todd and I set out for a final shakedown ride. While Rodd and Todd won't make D2R2 this year, regrettably, they were happy to join Pascal and me for a good dose of dirt. We rolled together to Wakefield via Cascades, enjoyed a new loop of dirt road just before the ski hill, then paused at Pipolinka for a snack before splitting up so Pascal and I could put in another 110k of trail, dirt road, and pave. About 165k total by the endPascal and I worked in lots of rough testing for our wheel and gearing setups, and put our legs to work. All systems performed brilliantly. Here's what I'm running, perhaps Pascal will post on his gorgeous Steelwool Rover.

My prototype Steelwool Truffle Pig cyclocross bike has been a trusty steed since I built it last fall. Shod for cyclocross, then general road use, I've raced CX on it, spring classics, 15 and 40k time trials, A-loops, and about 4000 kilometers on the road, paved and otherwise. It has been stellar. For D2R2, I didn't need to change much. The main modification I've made over the course of the season is 'shaving' my Stan's Raven tubeless cyclocross tires. 

Here's how the Raven started out. 35c, with low knobs,  and a fairly square profile. Great on trails, but a bit slow on pavement, and sluggish out of the saddle.
Here's the revised Raven, with side knobs cut off. This rounds the tire out significantly, which makes them feel much more predictable on harder surfaces, and feels much better out of the saddle on pavement. 42lbs front, 45lbs rear pressure.
My garage floor scattered with knobs and sealant. I'm using Stan's sealant within the tires, and they seal well. Difficult to mount on the Stan's Alpha 340 rims, I removed the valve cores and used my compressor's blower nozzle to air them up. This moved air in faster than through the valve.
I must have lost what, 15 grams, per tire!

Snub nosed cutters, for lack of a better name, worked nicely. 

Gearing is the same as I've run on this bike all year: 50/34 and an 11-28 cassette. I  find this range works well for me on all the terrain I ride. I will work hard on some of the climbs at D2R2 in this climbing gear though, no question.  I used the Lizard Skin finishing strip to fashion a matching chainstay guard. It has held up pretty well through 6 months of use.
My SRAM cranks are shod with Shimano SPDs. Road shoes and pedals would be a liability at D2R2,.
Ready to roll. The bike's curved seatstays provide about 10mm of passive suspension, which can really be felt on rough, frozen CX courses and washboard on dirt roads. Once in a while I bounce out of a pothole, exciting! The bike's low BB (75mm drop) provides very stable handling in all situations, even at 80kph on gravel! The bike's roadish geometry (72.5 square for the XL),  which will be 73 degrees square for the XL in production, makes for a very versatile machine.  The Spirit for lugs tubing provides a notably quicker ride quality than my Columbus Zona Steelwool Secteur 18, which has very similar dimensions.

The Secteur 18, my 2010 D2R2 steed, is a great rough road bike, buy won't fit 35c knobbies. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

D2R2: Dust to Dust

The Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee fast approaches. Featuring about 15,000 feet of climbing over 180km, D2R2 travels ancient carriage roads spanning Massachusetts and Vermont. Virtually absent of flat ground, the route has riders either climbing, descending, or turning. In other words, there is always so much going on, the miles just fly by. That is, if one comes prepared.

True to Boy Scout form, we Tall Tree D2R2 riders - Andy, Chris, Pascal, Steve, and yours truly, are preparing. If all goes to plan, preparation will meet opportunity, and we'll enjoy an outsrtanding ride on the 27th. This past Sunday, we rolled out of town bright and early for a bit of physical preparation. I'll do another post soon on bike preparation.

Sunday was a mountain bike day. While D2R2 is generally ridden on road and cross bikes, many of the ride's climbs are have more in common with our offroad trails' climbs than those we can access on roads in the area. Yes, there are some great climbs around, but they are not generally close enough to each other to simulate D2R2. In contrast, the ride from town to Wakefield is pretty similar.

Sunday's route, below, makes for a great endurance ride. Its steady, and generally pretty fast. The climbs vary in terms of technical features, never harder than moderate. However, the steepness of one or two is challenging, same as D2R2's infamous wall. The loop we put together helped lock down this Fall's Double Cross route, which was a nice side benefit. Following a stop at Pipolinka for snacks, we headed south and up one of the steepest road climbs in the area toward the 105, then off roaded past the Brown Lake cabin and back along the 52, ultimately spitting out at Pine Road, and heading back along the 105 from there. All in, we were at about 105k total for the ride, in under 6 hours total, perfect preparation.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

One Dimensional Man's Bike

'Thought bike' (Wired)
I'm guessing most reading this have heard of electronic shifting for bicycles. The technology is not new, but has in fact  been in use since the early 1990s. Mavic's ZAP system introduced the bike world to electrified shifting, and their components were raced in the PRO peloton for years. In fact, Chris Boardman used the system for eight seasons. It was relatively simple, featuring a couple toggle switches, albeit for the rear derailleur alone. However, the second iteration of ZAP was wireless, and fraught with problems. The project died. 

Fast forward to 2009, and Shimano releases Di2, the electronic Dura Ace group.  Having learned from the ZAP project, Shimano came pretty close to nailing Di2. The system is already in wide use in both the PRO peloton and the amateur ranks, and with the release of the electronic Ultegra group, the technology is nearly certain to secure a stable foothold in the market. 

For all the success Shimano has seen with their electronic shifting system, many a consumer will still ask themselves: 'Do I want I need this?' Sure, some will gravitate toward electronic systems for their wow-factor alone. Others will perceive an opportunity to increase performance. While Di2's performance is not night-and-day better than conventional Dura- Ace, riders do report it is very precise, some going as far as to say it is the 'pinnacle of shifting technology.' Tubulars perform better than clinchers too, but its up to the rider to decide whether the performance gains these technologies offer outweight their added cost, complexity, and when things go wrong, inconvenience? 

For my riding, electronic systems are not justified. That is, for a regular road bike or mountain bike application. However, if I were taking time trialling very seriously, I could see myself attracted to using a toggle switch on the aero bars. This would eliminate the bar end shifters on the bars, and actually make shifting easier. I doubt the aerodynamic savings would be significant, nor would the ease of shifting be drastically improved; however, there would be gains. At least there is a rationale for using this technology. 

While bike companies are working on integrating elecronic shifting systems into road bike designs, others are dreaming up novel ideas for how to apply these technologies in yet bolder ways. One recent example had me checking the story's date to see whether it was recycled from April 1. Why? Because the project featured in the story is ludicrous: Toyota Prius Bicycle.

Posted on, the Prius X Parlee (PXP) is indeed the answer to the question NOBODY was asking: 'What if I could make my bike shift by merely thinking it?' Well, nobody except Toyota. Esenially, they worked with Parlee and Deeplocal to develop a super aerodynamic road bike for non-racers that can be shifter via iPhone or brain waves. All you need is you charged iPhone, a backpack of electronic gear, a helmet with neurotransmitters installed, and Di2. This 'mash up' was constructed from off the shelf parts - save the custom, wind tunnel tested Parlee - and does in fact work. But was anybody asking for it? Nope.

The reason nobody was thinking this question is that shifting is already easy, especially with Di2. An experienced rider, you know, the type who actually needs ultra precise shifting, doesn't need to think, 'shift up.' They just do it. Its called neural conditioning, or habituation; its second nature. Toggles can be placed at the hood, in the drop, or on the flat of the bar - wherever hands sit. Is hands free shifting necessary in any way? 

Putting the question of whether there is any rationale for developing a cybernetic shifting system aside, we can consider the 'Prius philosphy' that underpins this project: aerodynamics, innovative design. Ok, neat idea, transfer those ideals. What about low carbon footprint, and energy conservation? Somehow those qualities of the Prius (and yes, those are perceived, as embodied energy and life cycle considerations might paint a different picture) don't come through in the PXP. Instead, we have a bike that requires a lot of electronics to perform a function that was carried out by downtube shifters for generations. In other words, its an environmental abomination. The bike's aerodynamics are moot under a rider who needs cybernetic shifting for lack of bike handling skills and training; one does not benefit much from aero frames below 30kph. So the inevitable question arises: is 'can' synonymous with 'should'? In other words, just because we can build a cybernetic bike, should we? Is cycling, or, more broadly, life, all about making everything easier? If so, to what end? Do we really want to be steered? Is this a paradigm example of technological rationality?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vintage Bike Fair: Sunday in Perth

Tanya just alerted us to Sunday's Vintage Bike Fair in Perth, put on by ECOTAY, an intriguing local education organization. Looks like fun for the whole family. Get the low-down from the Ottawa Citizen, of the ECOTAY site.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sur la Plaque

Sur La Plaque: French for “Put that thing in the big ring, f@$%tard.” (Literally, to move sur la plaque means to move onto the plate, or the BIG RING.) - Velominati

Last season I heard a lot about time trials from Rob, David and Neil. When Alex joined our cabal this spring, another voice chimed in: time trials are cool, you should try. BMX Jim and I were in the same boat in early June, total neophytes, but keen to try. So off we headed to a Thursday night OBC TT, where we joined forces with Alex for a team effort. It was fun enough to draw me back for more. 

So I've continued, taking in four more Thursday night 15ks, in addition to our Hell Climb and a 40k out near Calabogie. Almost every outing has featured a different bike set up. First, I was on my Steelwool Truffle Pig, a cross bike with pretty standard road geometry. Sure, the brakes stick out, but the bike pedals really well. Going Merckx style (no aero gear) on the TP was a tough ride. I went a bit too hard on the way out, which tends to be the faster direction, then suffered on the return. I gave up hope of meeting my goal and defeated myself, only to realize I wasn't doing as bad as I thought. Then I put it 'sur la plaque' and got down to business. Sure, I was already in my 50 (I can hear TT folks snickering), but you get the point. Not so much a lesson as a reminder: don't give up, you can push harder.

After the TP ride it was time to try the ol fixed gear, also Merckx style. I rolled out my Steelwool Limited the day after the Hell Climb, still tasting the previous night's gruelfest. Geared with a 48x15, which was too tall for the Hell Climb, I was faced with a gear I knew would be too 'short' for the flat 15k course. Whatever, rather than obsess, run what you brung. I figured the gear would limit my output going out, but possibly serve me well on the return. What I didn't factor was the challenge I'd face simply controlling the bike in an 'aero' position at 48-50kph. 

With a Merckx set up, i.e., a regular road bike, you've pretty much got two 'aero' options: on top of the hoods, and phantom aerobars. Well, ok, there's also the super aero position, but its risky, and requires a front rack, which I don't personally have on my fixed gear.

For a t-rex like me, holding the hoods position for extended periods of time is hard to pull off, as I am weak in the upper body. While the lack of bulk is an asset most of the time on the bike, the triceps could use a bit more strength to support the upper body while on top of the hoods. Simply doing that more would likely help. Anyhow, it was not possible to stay on the hoods all the time, nor even desirable, as this position is more open to wind than the phantom aerobar position. However, at 47 or so kph in a 48x15, I lack the souplesse to control the bike well. Add sweat to the equation, and you've got a squirrely t-rex on a bike. So the first fixed gear TT revealed some clear areas to improve: gearing and actual aerobars. 

With Alex herding cats heading into the following Saturday's 40k TT put on by the Almonte Bicycle Club, I was motivated to take a crack at this TT thing with a bit of gear. Alex stepped in with a clip on aero bar and a Rocketeer helmet from Giro. After suiting up my Truffle Pig, I had one of the most bizarre looking TT bikes going I'd ever seen. However, its only partly about the bike, and I like to run what I brung, so away I went. Alex helped me out further by lending his deep section carbon back wheel on site at the mention of my structurally compromised rim. The gear served me well, as I was nearly able to reach my goal of coming in under 57 minutes, stopping the clock at 57:23. The aero bars took a bit of getting used to, and were certainly higher than desirable, but the ride was great. I think this distance favours me over the shorter one.

Next up was take two of the fixed gear, this time running aero bars, Rocketeer helmet, and a 52x15. Following a hard Wednesday night loop, I knew my legs would not feel terrific, but again, run what you brung. This TT was certainly sur la plaque. WIth the bigger gear and aerobars, I was able to ride a good rhythm to the turnaround, and was pleasantly surprised to see the speed stay in the mid 40s most of the way back. Heading into the last 3k I started doing the math. I was aiming for a sub 20 minute time, the benchmark for folks with aspirations. As I got into the last 2k I knew I'd have to ride 60kph to pull it off, and that certainly wasn't happening! Nevertheless, I rode au bloc in an effort to get as close to 20:00 as possible, and in so doing, surely took a year off my life. Excruciating. 20:22. Those are 22 loooooong seconds. 22 seconds I have to find a way to cut. Unfortunately, the next outing on the same rig was was 20 seconds slower, and demoralizing emough to convince me to try my geared Steelwool road bike, the Secteur 18, now that its back in fine form.

Last up in a train of TT mayhem was the Gatineau Challenge, kindly put on by the OBC folks we owe so much to. Opting to use my recently reconstituted Specialized Roubaix, I left the aero gear at home and went basic, thinking I'd want to stand a good bit, and I'd be ok in Phantom Menace mode. As Sue Schlatter rolled away on her full TT bike 30 seconds ahead of me I wondered whether I'd made the right decision. After nearly catching her wheel on Pink (and hitting the climb more worked over than ever before), I saw her pull away on the descent, and suspected I'd made the wrong call. Whereas typical loops don't require us to use 53x11s on the way out much, I was in that gear a couple times for certain, confirming my 50t would have been a bad move. As I progressed up Blacks, the sustained climb, I reeled in Sue and passed, only to have her pass me back on the descent, and hold the gap to the line. There simply wasn't anything I could do to make up ground on the descents or flats. Sue is an amazing rider. In the end, I clocked 32:03, second behind Iain Radford in the 30-39 category, a good ways behind Doug, Aaron, and the other hammers in the elite group. Never before have I hit all those climbs so bagged! If its run again, I'll be on aero bars and a speed helmet for certain. Ouch.

Ugh. Photo: Jeffrey Flurry
After an A-loop of the Gatineau Parkway on the Roubaix following the Challenge TT, I'd made up my mind: back to steel. There is nothing like chasing wheels on climbs to get a sense of whether your bike is working with you. After two years of riding steel bikes exclusively, I missed the 'planing' I get out of my steel bikes while aboard the Roubaix. Yes, the Roubaix is a great bike, but when push came to show, I missed my steel bikes while fighting on the climbs. So I pulled the new parts off the Roubaix, and my Secteur 18 is now back in fine trim, poised to take on whatever I can throw at it. This week it will be the A-Loop, followed by our group ride on Wednesday night, then the time trial with clip ons on Thursday. Soon enough it'll be time to give the Provincials time trial a shot in Rockland, then its off to the Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee (D2R2) in Massachusets. Lots of riding left to do!