Saturday, May 30, 2009

Taylorsville - Cave Springs 57 Mile Ride

(Me posing with the new LOOK 585 before the ride)
(Gary's new truck in the background)

View Interactive Map on

Garmin Connect Ride Data

Group Pictures by Gary Quellet

When Diane asked a few weeks ago if anyone would like a change of scenery and drive out to do the Taylorsville-Cavesprings route I was one of those who wanted to be included. The drive out is not much more than going to the brewery. Maybe an additional 15 minutes, but what an excellent route with low traffic, challenging rolling hills and some fast sections. The best part was having a promising forecast of sunny weather, which it was and it was a very pleasant day indeed.

Let's see if I can remember all those who were in the group today. Mike, Peter, Don "Chick", Jason, Edgar, Gary, Alan, Keith, Bill, Tim, Dick, Rod, Jesse (me), Princess Jamie and Princess Diane.

Another highlight for me besides this excellent group of cycling friends and great route was testing my new bike. It is always funny when someone gets a new bike in the group. People gather around to check it out. We just love new bikes even when someone else gets one. I had Rod and Edgar give it a test run before the ride start and then soon it was my turn to see what this machine would feel like over the 57 mile course. Would it feel faster? I gave it a good test about mile 23 and opened up my turbocharger. Not only did the SRAM Red compact crank and 11 gear feel so nice, my move incited a bunch of guys to join in on the test run. Next thing I know there was a bump in testosterone with several chasing and passing me. These guys were not about to let the guy with the new bike get away with an early breakaway so I was content to take my place once again in the back and gladly so since I am still in a rebuilding phase.

I forgot to ask Gary how the new ceramic bearings were feeling on his Tarmac SL, but from the looks of him being near the front often I am guessing he was liking them. But I can't forget to mention that we had two princesses with us today keeping the men in line or at least on the proper side of the double yellow line and making sure the racing and chasing outburst of the guys did not get too out of hand. I heard Edgar get reprimanded for some sort of violation, but I am not sure what it was. :-)

The guys did throttle up the engines once again in the last nine miles going back to the cars. I was up in the lead after making a turn when Tim, Edgar and the rest of the guys come by. Not long after trying to sprint to catch up to them I experienced a cramp on the inner right thigh, but I am getting used to this by now as my fitness level is starting to improve again. It won't be long before I will be back in those impromptu races that break out. Until then I will continue to ride the majority of miles with more restraint.

Thanks Diane for planning and scheduling the Taylorsville-Cavesprings ride on this very fine sunny day. We had very low traffic and when there was a car they seemed to be very polite and patient with us. Very good route that I hope we can throw in the mix more than just once a year and great friendship among this group.

At the end I was very excited about the new bike and SRAM Red group. I watched as the bike was built with great amount of care and detail and I could feel the difference on today's ride. There was a point where it threw the chain off the outside of the big ring, but that may have been my fault. Other than that I quickly got used to the double tap shifting style and was impressed how crisp and easy shifting up and down the gears felt. I also believe we have the bike setup pretty good because I was comfortable during the 57 mile ride and the bike handled incredible on climbing, flat, descending and just about everything. There is no doubt that what ever pressure you apply to the pedals that bike is going to surge forward.

It responds with efficiency and it is amazing how light this bike feels when picked up or climbing a hill, but overall the LOOK 585 feels as good with rubber on the pavement as I had hoped.

..........and happy anniversary to Gary and Arlene Quellet!!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

LOOK, It's Finished

Yesterday evening I was able to meet with a friend, a long time bike builder and mechanic, who I hired to teach me how to build a bike. We spent from 6:30 to 10:30 as he carefully and intricately went through the entire process. I tried my best to absorb it all as he worked through the process of the build and pre-stretching the cables and then readjusting. At 10:30 we got the bike out on the pavement where we both tested it out. One of his comments was how scarey precise the build was with the SRAM Red components. The shifting seemed to be dead-on crisp and with only a slight chain noise in one of the extreme gears.

The finished weight is 14.9 pounds minus the tool bag and fluids, but that also includes all other functional parts like computer mounts and the heavier Powertap rear hub.

Why the LOOK frame?
The project started as a means to learn how to wrench on bikes and grew from there into something much more elaborate, but I still had a great need to keep the cost down. Even though my budget went way over what I intended my thought process evolved over the year of thinking about the project as I was researching frames. Based purely on owner reviews it came down to two frames, the Tarmac SL or the LOOK 585 for overall reputation on general satisfaction and stability on fast descents. I love my Cannondale six13, but the bike scares me on fast descents and I already had a 40 mph crash with that particular bike. Perhaps it is more me than the bike. Looking around at the two frame alternatives both at my LBS and internet, I found a closeout 2008 LOOK 585 Ultra frame deeply discounted and I jumped on it.

Why SRAM Red?
Once again I had to consider my overall budget and my current experience using the Shimano Ultegra compact drivetrain. I had my frustrations with the Shimano compact drivetrain since purchasing the six13 back in 2007. Even with the best mechanic skills the drivetrain had too much chain noise in more than 2 to 3 gears in the extremeties. (However, this last tune up by Josh Boggs of Probikewrench and Outspokin, the bike is really running pretty good with some chain noise on the most extreme gear, but overall much better than in the past.) Since the Shimano compact drivetrain has been so hard to tune out the excessive noise I thought I would try something different and I found the SRAM Red groupset on ebay for a very low price. I will know better tomorrow on a 57 mile ride how well the Red group works, but based on the test ride it was very good and quiet. I just have to get used to the double tap shifting.

The review?
Since I do not have a lot of experience with a variety of bike, group sets and components it is hard for me to give a detailed review so I will keep it simple.

The bike overall feel and performance is an improvement over my now older bikes a 2004 Felt F45 and a 2007 Cannondale six13. Here is my simple comparison.

Overall ride: smooth feeling SRAM Red drive train that shifts nicely even under torque of climbing and the feel of being able to fully use the 11-28 cassette with a compact crank was nice. I did a test run at mile 23 with the gang today and opened up my engine. The bike just felt so sweet in the 11/50 gear that I just didn't want to let up. Climbing the bike had a light feel to it and descending did feel more stable, which was what I was hoping.

Overall Ride - A+
Descending - A+
Climbing - A+
Shifting - A
Bling (appeal) Factor from the Group - A+

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Ride

(click to enlarge image)

(click to enlarge image)

(click to enlarge image)

Garmin Connect Ride Data

Coming off a relaxing week of vacation at Panama City Beach it was back to riding with the gang at the brewery for a relatively fast 51 miles. My legs felt pretty good and I was able to hang on the group for the most part, but what I ate at the store stop did not set well with me and I started feeling stomach distress about 10 miles from the end and slowed my pace way down. By this time the group was picking up the intensity anyway and there was no way I would be able to hang on. I was just happy to get out for a ride today and only had 5 to 10 minutes of a light rain toward the end.

I guess I need to start rebuilding again and hopefully this time around I can do it the right way and not put myself in a hole like the last time around.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Coming Out Of The Slump?

(click image to enlarge)

(click image to enlarge)

(click image to enlarge)

Garmin Connect Ride Data
Maybe I am not quite out of the hole yet, but today my legs felt a bit better and were willing to participate in the quick pace of the brew crew. The data may not reflect how well I felt compared to weeks past because the data is governed by group riding, but I feel more encouraged that I may be starting to come out of this slump that I have been in for a number of weeks.

Still the brewcrew continues to get faster each week so I must rest up a little more and then start rebuilding again. This time I hope to be a little smarter with my training and allow for more recovery days.

The weather was again another rainy day, but a lighter rain than weeks past. I guess that is just the way spring 2009 is going to be.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Up The Creek Century - 2009

(click image to enlarge)

(click image to enlarge)

(click image to enlarge)
Garmin Connect Ride Data

I made it!!!
In reference to my last goal and now I get some much needed rest, but my performance on my favorite event was not what I had hoped at all. Although I was fully expecting to struggle since I have been spiraling downward for weeks with fatigue, there was always hope to start and finish well otherwise why do it?

First let me give my appreciation to all those who worked the event. From the police and troopers at certain intersections to those working the food stations and those who organized this awesome annual event. They painted rough spots in the roads, had the intersections well marked and had put up signs as well that could be seen from a distance warning of a turn or high traffic area. I wish all event organizers would go to this level. Probably the only other event that I have participated in that equals this level is 3 State 3 Mountain and they are hard to beat for organizing.

Ride Report:
Our brewery group met in force today.
There are just too many people to list on my blog, but we had a lot riders representing NARC and the brew crew. Our goal was to get a slight head start so that we could avoid the mass start. I hope that did not annoy the organizers too much, but it can be dangerous to mix in with a lot of people wanting to act as if they are on the pro tour. Still our group set off on a fast pace and I knew that many were wanting to best their time from last year.
I was about 6 back in a group of 40 to 50 riders with a pace in the mid 20 and increasing it seemed. At mile 20 the elevation began climbing and the fun for my legs was over. That is when I started feeling the effects of the fatigue that I have been battling for a number of weeks and even worse I couldn't sleep last night because I had to go constantly through the night. Waking up at 4 am with little sleep to get ready for the drive and being dehydrated plus the ongoing fatigue maybe I should have bailed at the metric turn off, but I was determined to go the distance even if it was not a pretty finish. Each time I made it to a sag stop the group that I knew was ready to take off and I can't blame them. No reason sitting around getting stiff waiting on me. I could not keep up anyway. So I did the majority of the ride solo like last year facing rain and headwinds alone. The bad part of riding alone I just had to deal with my mind messing with me while being frustrated with the fatigue and how this season has panned out for training.

At one sag stop Gary and Mike tried their best to wait for me, but not long after I joined them I had a really bad cramp on my left inner thigh on a small climb. I was back to riding solo until a group of the brew crew catch up with me. Once I moved into the draft I started feeling a little better and was able to hang with them, but I started cramping again so I dropped off again. A short time later I see Jeff and Margaret stopped and she is having bad cramps.

Jeff patiently towed us to the next sag stop. My bottles were empty as much as my stomach felt empty. Jeff again pulled us the remaining 15 miles back to the mall parking lot.
Thanks Jeff for your patience helping Margaret and me make it back.

Up The Creek Without a Pedal is still my favorite event and I hope to do better next year.
My next goal is to get some much needed rest and then start rebuilding again.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

3 State 3 Mountain Challenge - 2009

Just not much I can say for this year. Like last year the weather report was not good, but Mike Quick and Gary Quellet came by a little after 5 this morning to pick me up and head north to Chattanooga. We checked in early, got our gear ready as a number of our group collected. Today we had Neal, Glenn, Nancy, Jack, Mike, Gary, Peter, Kit and Derek met up with us as we rolled out. As we lined up with hundreds of other hopeful cyclists the rain started lightly. Within a few minutes most of us were soaked, but the air temperature wasn't too bad so I was content to keep my light weight Sugoi jacket rolled up in the back pocket. Not a bad choice as we climbed Suck Creek, which is a mild 5 mile climb. I kept my watts low and tried to reserve not knowing if the group would want to ride the century in the rain or cut it short. On the descent I heard from almost everyone about experiencing sore hands from riding the brakes all the way down. Normally this would be a very fast and twisty downhill, but surface water was sheet flowing and rain stinging my eyes. I am glad I put my jacket on before descending because the rain was pelting us pretty good.

When we came to the 40 mile sag stop our group pulled off and there most everyone with the exception of Neal and Glenn were ready to call it a day, but of course we still had 22 miles to go in the rain. I was quite happy this time around to call it a day with a metric. It wasn't until we got near Chattanooga in the last miles that the rain stopped.

I can't say or elaborate on much else because I had so much water in my eyes for most of the ride that I was doing good just to see the road and riders in front of me. After changing into some dry clothes we collected at the stadium for a several pieces of pizza and then headed off for home. A hot shower and some time to reflect on this I am still glad we bailed out of the 100 and just did the 62 miles.

Performance & Training
I had been experiencing a good amount of fatigue trying to rush training this year. We had a lot of rain this winter training season and though we still trained in the rain a number of times we kept our rides in the 50 mile range. I also did a lot less climbing training leading up to this event and in a panic ramped up too quickly in the last month with both the group training and indoor training. I believe this left me very fatigued, but I rested this past week and I tried my best to stretch out my overly tight leg and hip muscles.

The climb today felt effortless and on the flats my legs felt good, but around mile 50 something I could feel my legs begin to get tight. I feel a little better, but I still do not feel like I am in the condition I was in last year. I will just keep plugging away and I hope to perform better in the 100 mile Up the Creek Without a Pedal event next weekend. Because the ride was a "wash out" I not only kept my pace down for safety, but I also reserved for next weekend and why my power output numbers below are lower than normal.