Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Building to a break

Ahh, only three more days until I'll be sitting under an umbrella on the gulf of Mexico. I look forward to my vacations as a time to forget about being a triathlete cyclist and be a "normal" fella for a couple of days. I savor these trips nowadays as opposed to stressing over them as I have in years past... I don't worry about losing fitness but frame it as a chance to let my body have a good chance to recover fully. With my CTL climbing into the mid/high 80's the last few weeks leading into this, (something I haven't done since late 2015, and even then only temporarily) and stilling heading north, the last couple of months working with my new coach (we'll talk about that soon) have really pushed me back towards being an actual athlete again. That said, this week is a real leg cracker, and I'm sitting here typing this thinking "man I hope this is over soon."

It's been long enough now that my return date has expired, so my wife is stuck with me it seems. So this trip will be our delayed Honeymoon I suppose.  We're taking our cross bikes, so I'll do my best to take some pictures of wherever we explore  But really... I'm mainly going to be exploring expanding my butt with good food and drinks ;)

I doubt there will be an update next week. The following week... pictures! (I hope)

Thanks for checking in on me. If you want an interesting thread to read that's a bit more about tri/tt bikes, check out this discussion going on on Slowtwitch about the new data that Cannondale published about disc brakes on TT/Tri rigs. It obviously has it's moments of forum trolling, but there is a good discussion with a lot of smart guys at the heart of it. Interesting to watch for sure!

Until next time, I'll be thinking of you guys next Wednesday while I sip mojito's!

-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

certification trip part 2

Post walk of shame we headed back to the hotel and I got a much needed shower. Jenny used our hotel (Hotel Indigo, a good choice if you are wanting to stay near the airport in Atlanta) gym to get her own workout in and then we headed back out into East Point GA to find some good eats!

I'm not usually one to just plug random places, but if you ever get the opportunity, visit the Thumbs Up diner. It was good enough to convince us to eat there again on Sunday before leaving, and if you enjoy diner / comfort food I hazard say you won't find a better place. I had a skillet hash which basically turned out to be a baked potato cracked open and put in a cast iron skillet, topped with cheese, eggs, peppers, onions and (for me) bacon and sausage. It was an epic meal, worthy of a victory feast, but also a nice comforting defeat meal. Jenny had the chicken and waffles, and while I didn't try it, it looked pretty astounding as well.  (I had the same meal again the next day!)

Great food! Just expect to stand in line for a while
Then we wandered some of the different area's in Atlanta just killing the day. As the UT/GA game was happening I didn't want to venture anywhere near the interstate, so eventually we just headed back to the hotel for a nap.

It seemed a couple of bike (not bicycle) clubs were also staying at the Indigo, and by the time we returned they had dominated the parking lot. It looked like a transition area at a triathlon, with all manner of Harley's, Victory's and other assorted "hogs." I removed the Cervelo from the back of the truck and got a couple of good natured (I assume) comments. They were impressed with my trispoke more than anything. I contemplated what it would be like joining a biker gang, but concluded that I probably didn't have the motor to keep up, although it would solve some motor-pacing issues. Also, the sleeveless jean jacket didn't look very aerodynamic, and everyone's position looked rather lax.

While I'm not a motorcycle rider myself, I have no issue with those who enjoy it. Except the whole "respect others" principle that it seems a group of motorcyclists throw to the wind. Our room was directly above the parking lot, directly above the "festivities." I'm all for a tailgate party, but I think having it at an airport hotel parking lot is a little inconsiderate. I'm sure it's a lot like (bi)cyclists where you just have to show everyone else your newest cool gear, but it get's repetitive hearing "VROOM....VROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMM VROOOROROOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!!!1!!!!11!!!!one!!!!!" every couple of minutes.
Hey man, we get it... new pipes.

Later in the evening we ventured out once more to a neat little restaurant called the Pig and the Pint.

My kind of place!

Located in College Park it seemed to clash with the area which housed it, but the deck was nice and the food was excellent. They also had a respectable whisky menu, which always gains points in my perspective. Again, excellent eating to be had on the trip! (This isn't a food blog I swear... but still.)

Back to cycling!
Sunday I made my way back to DLV to finally finish on the certification class. Everything went smoothly, even though I decided to jump back on "old blue" (as I've come to call the loaner blue Fuji that I rode last time) as opposed to my Cervelo (I wasn't feeling like riding mega steep, neck was just a tad sore.) and besides doing a lot of pace line work (much better than on the road in my opinion) we spent the day doing practise races. Despite a tiny gear I got the sprint by a hair on the scratch race (I know right, winner in the beginner race! hah) and just generally had a good time with my classmates, who were all excellent riders and just a good hearted bunch of folk.

goodbye for now DLV

Unfortunately, time flies when you are having fun (why couldn't it fly by on Saturday!) and it was time to jump back in the car and drive home. That was the majority of the excitement of our weekend, the rest filled with grocery shopping and laundry.  Oh normal life!

Thanks so much for reading, I know this one was a little less focused and a little more fun! (hopefully) next up is a much needed vacation, and then some cyclocross!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Finishing Track Certification and a long 20 minutes.

This past weekend I returned to Dick Lane Velodrome to finish my certification and to attempt an hour for their record day.

I was hoping to have a successful report this week, but the situation did not allow for it.

This came about two weeks ago when I was at DLV for my first day of certification. I found out that Saturday (10/2) was going to be Dick Lane's record attempt day. I, like many people out there, have always wondered how I would/could stack up in an hour attempt. I'm a pretty fair TTer, with a lot of endurance background, it seemed not a question of if I'd finish it, but how far I'd go.

Something something something pride before the fall something...

In reality, I wanted to learn as much as I could about TT'ing on the track, and I was well aware that it was not apples to apples the same as on the road. I couldn't think of a better way to get some firsthand experience than to dive right in. The fact that Atlanta is a 4ish hour drive for me means opportunity to ride (especially alone) will be few and far between, so I jumped at the chance to set a record.

Things did not get off to a good start after I signed up, as you may expect.

The first hurdle was actually getting a bike together to make the attempt on. I have *some* fixed gear equipment, but certainly not an extensive bit. The biggest issue was a rear wheel. I have an old cheap Origin8 flip flop that would have to do the job, and none of my disc covers would fit it. Unfortunately running a deep front with a box rear wheel did not appeal to me, so after eliminating borrowing a disc or converting my old specialized trispoke. (HED of course is very helpful when it comes to servicing Trispokes... in that they don't really want to deal with it at all, but I digress. Maybe that has only been my own experience in the past) Eventually I settled on chopping up an old disc cover and making it fit the Origin8, thanks to a lot of tape!

That solved, there is the issue of gearing. The primary issue... I had no idea what gear to use. Everything I read about hour attempts are from serious folk who have a good bit of help (and track time) finding the right gear. Of course, I had limited options in the gearing spectrum as well. Since I wasn't going to get to ride on the track pre-attempt, I'd just have to guess. I had a 53t chainring, so I finally figured a 15t cog would let me hit 40k (my target pace) at 90rpm. Sure, I've read a lot saying that's too low of an rpm, but I've never done a TT with a much higher rpm. Go with what you know.

I decided that I'd run my Kask Bambino helmet because I planned to be looking down constantly (all you have to do is follow the black line, right???) and considering I haven't been training in the TT position much lately I figured that was a good choice since my neck would likely be a weak point (it was) in my armor. I took both my club short sleeve skinsuit and my older Castelli Bodypaint and left the choice for the morning of and the temperature.

Our (wife was coming for support) plan was to leave after a half day of work on Friday evening, trying to beat Atlanta rush hour. I wanted to get to DLV early Friday evening and at least get a few laps in to try to figure out pacing... which my wife was going to have to do for me.

- (eventual) arrival

We loaded up the car a little before noon and started out towards Atlanta. A 3 1/2 hour drive meant I assumed we would beat the full assault of rush hour traffic. I was woefully mistaken. We made excellent time right up until we were around a mile outside of Atlanta proper. From there it was, well, what you'd expect on a Friday afternoon in Atlanta traffic. Add to that the UT @ GA game on Saturday and well... you know the rest. Since DLV is on the other side of Atlanta, it meant we sat for a LONG time. Planned arrival time - 4p.m. Actual arrival time - 6p.m. (to go like 10 miles!!! F* traffic)
We made a rushed check in and then drove straight to DLV. I unloaded my bike and set up my stuff while we watched a motley crew assorted on the track. A family was walking the banks while a fellow rider split his time riding his hipster fixie in dead sprints, and recovery / snorting a white substance that seemed to be either pixie stick sugar OR possibly an illicit narcotic. He also vomited a few times in the grass as I was kitting up, which thrilled my wife. Different strokes I guess.

- First (bad) taste

I took a couple of slow laps on the apron getting re acquainted with the feel of the fixed gear, then another couple on the base bar again reminding myself that gravity would indeed not be the death of me so long as I promised to ride fast enough. The next lap I get down into my aero position on the straight leading into turn 1. My thought for the first lap goes like this

"Hmm, this isn't so bad... oh wow, turning and following the black line is kind of tough, HOLY S#*T I almost just slipped off my bars and wrecked... that was the roughest bit of pavement ever!!! Oh straight again, alright alright shake it off, look cool, pedal harder. Ok, turn 3, try to line this one up better, oh hell this part of the track is cracked, ooof, crap keeping my arms in these pads is tough, woah I'm over the red line, get it back in position... let's see what the wife thinks, she's supposed to let me know if I need to speed up or slow down... crap I can't see her from this position, gotta look up, woah missed it back into turn 1, death grip the bars this time... sh*t this is hard. Two laps??? Only gotta do that 59 more times!"

After a couple of laps I slow down and decide to see what my laps looked like.
My wife looks mortified. "I can see you bouncing on the track in the turns." Oh, I thought it just felt like I was bouncing. I look back at my saddle and notice that my seatpost has slipped all the way down into the frame. @%#%^!!! That seatpost has been fine (and on some rough Tennessee roads) for over a year! Now that's bumpy. My primary concern is not the back of the bike however, but the front. The narrow 3T pads are not conducive to staying firmly planted. As opposed to riding with my hands leisurely on top of the extensions as I do while road time trialling, I am death gripping the J bends trying to stay planted. I sit down for a moment and collect my thoughts. First thing, let a good amount of air pressure out of the tires. I do so and jump back out on the track for some more laps. Things go a little better this time around and I am hitting my split times fairly accurately. Nonetheless, I decide that 38k would be a better target to start with since things were not really going as well as I'd hoped, I figured a little buffer would help me keep calm.

At this point it was starting to get later in the evening. I wanted to stay out on the track and get some more laps in, but knew that I couldn't do much to help myself at this point and could certainly ruin the next day if I spent too much time. I (along with my wife) was also hungry and in need of some sleep. So reluctantly it was back to the hotel for dinner and then an early'ish night of tossing and turning. My practise laps had not eased the feeling that I might have gotten myself in over my head.

- D(oom) Day

I get up pretty early (of course) and get some breakfast. It's funny, when an event that makes you nervous is on the horizon time seems to move at a very, very fast pace. The irony of how slow time was about to start moving was not lost on me. I put on the smiles and jokes for the wife, but I had a good feeling that things weren't going to be sunshine and flowers... but I was here now and sometimes a man with no options can pull out some amazing things, and I was not about to no-show.

We get to DLV about halfway through the earlier record attempt (Excellent job, he was in control and paced it perfectly it looked to me. Just under 40k and a record) I watched an my spirits were bolstered slightly, maybe I could indeed do this.

First however, we have an issue with my equipment that has to be addressed. Despite not being a sanctioned event, DLV wanted to use a jig to measure the bike and keep it in regulations. No big deal, mine fits. However, they disagree, my extensions are too long, 77cm. I explain that I get one exemption no questions asked (my saddle is far behind 5cm of the bottom bracket) and after a (too) long and tense bit of checking, I'm given the green light.

I get on the track and warm up, but time is still moving very quickly and it's nearly time to start. I look at my seatpost and notice it has once again slipped down. Sh*t. My wife grabs my wrench and I torque down on it as hard as I feel I safely can.

"Time to line up."

I get some final encouragement from the wife and head to the start line. My holder is the current record holder at DLV (40 and some change) and he gives me a couple of tips and commends me on trying it, especially being my second time on the track. I crack some jokes "this is probably going to be a pretty short hour," but despite my levity and obvious silent prayers for Godzilla to attack, a meteor to strike or for time itself just to stop, the countdown clock has started.
30 seconds
crap, I've really got to give this a go, what was I thinking
20 seconds
I really hope I don't fly off the bars on the first turn
10 seconds
crap crap crap think of something smart to say, last words and all that
"Go Time!"
Yes, the best thing I can think of to say is "go time." This might be my biggest failing of the day.

It's funny, starting in a bigger gear is surreal. You are putting down a lot of power, but you aren't really moving. It's like everything is in slow motion. I take a small amount of satisfaction that I don't wipe out on the first turn, and by the exit of turn 2 I am nestled into the aerobars. I hit turn 3 still accelerating and get my first jolt. Slightly less unpleasant than it was yesterday, or at least I tell myself it is. Obviously I'm not on pace on the first lap, so I try to get my rhythm set for the second. Again, entering turn 1 and into 2 I'm jarred on the saddle and pads, but I figure I can manage it so long as I don't loosen my grip.

Time starts to slip away, but slowly. The splits are fine, we only had a very basic form of communication "up, down, steady" to gauge my effort by, but I don't know how far down or up I am, I just have to wing it.  That's the only thing going well. The differences between the road and the track are made (painfully) apparent to me as I tick off the laps. The inside of my thumbs are very sore (read: bleeding) where my rough'ish tape and gloves ending has rubbed a raw spot. My legs feel pretty good, but I can feel some fatigue building up in them... my cadence is decidedly too low for this type of event, because it will certainly slow by the end of the effort, and muscular fatigue will likely set in long before that. The real issue is my neck.  In my inexperience I assumed that I'd be able to hold my head similar to how I do on the road, maybe even further pointed down (that's why I wore the bambino after all) but in reality that is not how it worked. Watching the black line on the track isn't like watching the black line in the pool. You have to be lining up the entry to the turn, stay low in the turn itself, and then exit the turn without overcompensating. This seems pretty simple, but in practise is a big deal. Messing up the turns mean you are going much farther per lap than you need to, and it adds up when you're trying to get things down to the tenth second every lap. The track pulls you up toward the red line as you start going in the turn and it takes a good bit of effort to keep low, but as soon as the turn ends you need to be ready for it so that you don't go onto the apron.

My neck becoming sore is the issue, as it (obviously) leads to my head drooping, which despite my earlier thoughts on the matter is a very, very bad thing. I need to be looking up the track, because when I'm not, my line get's worse and the worse my line is through the turns the more I'm bounced around on the rough track (the black line is slightly less rough than the higher sections) and the more I'm bounced around the more fatigue sets in (and the slower I go, requiring speed pick up) it's actually a very viscous cycle. At around the 15 minute mark  I hit the bump in turn 1 and this time I do nearly come off the pads. I won't lie to you, it shook me. I decided to take a couple of laps slightly easier and rally myself. I'd put my head down in the straights and look up through the turns. It works sort of, but as I start drifting onto the apron on the straights I have to face the facts, I'm a wreck waiting to happen. Sooner or (probably much closer to the sooner side) later fatigue is going to really kick in and I'm not going to on top of the bike when I hit some turbulence. I'm at 20 minutes, things aren't going to get clearer in the next 40 minutes, that much I'm certain of.

As I pass the start/finish line I throw my hand up signalling I'm done.

I wasn't happy about the way it went, and certainly wasn't happy with not completing the hour, only making it a third of the way, but it was the right decision. My inexperience could be sort of hidden while I was fresh, but it was going to catch up with me before the end of the hour, I'm certain. I apologized for my showing and thanked everyone for taking the time to show up, then cooled down and quickly packed my bike back in the truck for the walk of shame.

Despite how poorly it went overall I think the experience (both literally and figuratively) was invaluable. The things I learned (especially how my head and hand positions will change on the track) on Saturday are things I probably couldn't have known any other way with my limited time available. These are things that will serve me very well in the future, both in training and in racing.

Next year Dick Lane Velodrome... next year I'll be back. And I'll be prepared.

Thanks for reading, I think I'll cut it off here and maybe finish our little story next week!

Specificity, even more important than we imagined!!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


There is not much to see here this week. I have a bunch on my plate for the next few days. Let me just assure you that next week will be a very interesting (one way or another) report.

Honestly, it feels good. While I'm not quite ready to share what's up either short or long term, other than that I have regained a vision and a dream to work towards. It's been a long time since I was truly focused, had something to really draw me in and (for better or worse) consume me. The best, and incidentally also the worst part of it is that I do not know how it will turn out. I'm doing my best to document the journey, something to look forward to (if you look forward to reading about a random internet dorks inner turmoil / doubts / etc) sometime in the far distance.

For now, I ask only that you stay tuned. I suspect there will be some interesting stuff to write about next Wednesday!

Here we go...

Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it! If you have a moment, I'll accept any good vibes, prayers, thoughts, ritual sacrifices, etc this Saturday around 10am!

-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tracking Progress

Borrowed bike but my own stylish kicks

Yeah. What a fun, wild weekend it has been. Track cycling is something that has interested me greatly the last couple of years, but for some reason the timing (and that the closest track is a few hundred miles away) has always been off for me to go take a certification class. Checking Dick Lane Velodrome's website, Sept 17th/18th was the last chance to take a class this year, and despite not having any of my buddies who were able to go with me, I decided it was time to make it happen. So, with the wife in tow, we made the trip to DLV to get me certified.

It sort of happened. I got a full day in Saturday, but rain kept up from finishing the class on Sunday, which was quite unfortunate. Nonetheless, I learned a ton in the time I had, most importantly, that track cycling is awesome! Something about the simplicity of it, no gears, (well, one) no brakes, just you pushing the crank faster to go faster clicked with me.  Some of my classmates dismayed at the lack of being able to stop, but it just seemed to make sense to me on a subconscious level... like if everyone on the highway used cruise control things would be very predictable.

Now I just have to bide my time to get back and finish my certification class and I'll be able to start doing some racing! Another step towards some exciting stuff in the future!

getting my bearings on the track 
trying to pick up some free speed 

DLV is in a very neat location, cool place for sure!

Thanks so much for checking in, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review: Silca SuperPista

Tools fill and odd spot in my life. It's no secret that I'm a gear nerd, and that is something that doesn't stop at one aspect of my life. Tools are something to cherish, to collect, to be proud of, but most importantly, they are things to be used.

It was soon into wrenching my own (and my friends) bikes that I understood that not only did I need the tools to do the job, but I needed the tools to last more than one or two times being turned. I believe there is a time to skimp on tools (A $300+ pair of ferrule crimpers or a $200 Hanger Alignment tool might be a little more than most home mechanics, myself included, really needs.) there are also some tools that are so commonly used and vital that you should really spend the money to get a nice, heavy duty set. I'm thinking of things like allen wrenches, tire levers, a nice mechanic stand, a torque wrench... things that get used day in and day out. 

And of those tools, there is only one in my garage that literally gets used every single day. The floor pump.

not quite the "ultimate" pump, but pretty dang close.

I've had a couple of pumps over the years. Some have been great, some have been pretty much garbage, and price has not been the determining factor. I have thrown away a very nice expensive Topeak Joe Blow that was an absolute nightmare to own, and I still have a humble Blackburn from Target that I bought one night on vacation... one I still use pretty commonly (after some modification)  and has long surpassed what I expected out of it. I've used quite a few Bontragers, some Specialized, and a Lezyne, all of which were perfectly acceptable. My favorite of those however, has been my Silca Superpista. It's from the mid 2000's, a time when most people would say Silca was slipping, and in a couple of ways it shows in the pump (the small plastic base is not quite a thing of beauty.) and nonetheless, it would be difficult to compare the build quality of any of the other pumps to it.

The imposing figure cut by the Superpista

That said, when Josh Poertner (was Joshatzipp now Joshatsilca) started churning out the Ultimate Pumps, I was torn between an unbelievable amount of pump lust and, like most people I believe, a bit of sticker shock. Some time later, a more accessible option was finally released... the return of the Superpista! I went back and forth about getting one (I also continually watched ebay and the forums for a "gently used" Ultimate that might get sold at deep discount, but alas) or not, but eventually took the plunge when Silca sold off their magazine samples! I was lucky enough to get one, and now that I've had a little time to play with it... all that comes to mind is...awesome.

So, let's dive right in and take a look at this thing... what it claims, what it does, what I like and what I don't like.

The good
There are very few higher compliments to give a pump than that it works. Flawlessly and predictably, every single time you use it. Silca has a history of making reliable, easily serviceable pumps that, in many cases are still seeing daily use many, many years since being new. Serviceable at first seems to raise a lot of eyebrows... "at that price, the thing better not ever need service!" is a constant first reaction, but let's be realistic, even million dollar hypercars need serviced eventually. The fact that all pieces of this pump are easily secured and replaced  (along with the limited lifetime warranty) means that you won't feel like you have to secure this pump in bubble wrap just to take it to the local race.

If you've never used the little bell shaped presta head chuck that Silca is often associated with, well you are in for a real treat. The push on - push off design takes just a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it there is really nothing else that transfers air to the valve as efficiently. Of course the valve head is not exclusive to the Superpista, but it's worth getting it's own mention just because it's lovely to have on board. There is also a handy pressure relief valve that is worth having a mention, as it lets you really dial in your psi to exactly what you want. There are plenty of pumps that have this feature, but few have it "on hand" at the valve and none that I know of work with similar accuracy.

presta bell! Make it a combo with a chili cheese burrito!

The stroke is enormous on this pump. At first this somewhat threw me off, as I have years of muscle memory using a pump with a much shorter shaft. Once I took a step back and started using the entirety of the motion, the pump really showed off just how smooth and efficient it was at getting high pressure in a tube fast. My wife (who scoffed when I first brought home a $200+ pump) came into the living room after using the pump for the first time and said "I can see why this pump cost that much." It takes a lot to impress my wife, she's very "this is all you need" so for her to immediately warm up to it says a lot (It also sits suspiciously close to her cross bike at all time now...)

Of all the things I like about this pump (and there are so many) my favorite is indeed the base. So many pumps cut corners on the humble base, whether for monetary reasons or for space considerations, and it often means I'm slinging the pump around awkwardly as opposed to putting all my momentum into the stroke. The Superpista is not going anywhere, on pretty much any surface. I keep using the words predictable and assured... and again I mean it as the highest compliment.

Wide and stable, just what you want

The underside

The bad
Is there bad? While I really love this pump, there is one small thing that I wish was at least an option to be made differently on the Superpista. I really, really wish the base of the hose and the lock ring for the end of the presta valve positions could be swapped. I definitely understand why it is made the way it is, (it looks much cleaner for one thing) but for some reason almost every single time I go to use the pump I try to either pull the hose off from the wrong side, or set the gauge facing me backwards. Most pumps have the hose wrap around the shaft, (and secure it at the top of the shaft) and while it looks a little odd it is how it has been ingrained in my mind that pumps work.
That's a pretty small gripe truth be told, and one I wouldn't even mention but for the fact that I had a nice "good/bad/ugly" format set up for this review and needed to fill the bad section with something!

The ugly beautiful
Let's be honest, while you may find some things not to love about this pump (maybe) one thing I doubt anyone can say is that it's ugly. The large, imposing black silhouette that the Superpista casts is perfectly accented with just enough red to make it grab the eye of anyone that wanders by it. The large white face, while intended to make reading pressure easier, does an equally impressive job of conjuring images of a race cars white face gauge cluster. The pumps handle only needed to be functional to pass snuff, but the black kiln beach wood handle that was used adds a very understated bit of class to the otherwise overwhelming "murdered out" vibe that you get looking at it.

Easy to read and gets you in the mind of going fast!

It's unfortunate my cameraman skills can't convey the beauty of the handle here.

Closing thoughts
Let's be realistic. This isn't a pump that most people need. You can find a perfectly functioning tire pump at a much less shocking sticker price. And if that is so, why spend your time considering the Superpista? Certainly I could tell you about the differences in % accuracy (2% as opposed to the normal 5%) or the performance increase (less strokes overall to reach desired psi) and while those things are indeed selling points for some people, in general they are tack on to the real reason to consider it. Because of it's craftsmanship, it's reliability and it's beauty. For those who look at a Timex next to an Omega and say "they both tell time" then no, this probably isn't the pump for you. For those who appreciate it as a FUNCTIONAL work of art, well... look no further. The same could be said for the Ultimate as well... but, well... we all have our limits ;) Convincing my wife a $400+ pump was necessary might take a little time!

Thanks so much for reading... I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Danger of Cool Things and bike gear

Still a very busy time for me, so I am literally hitting "Publish" about 20" after running a proof read from my final keystrokes. Thanks for bearing with me, I've got a backlog of half finished posts that I just can't seem to get done right now! Hopefully a slightly slower couple of weeks is in my future soon!

In the late 90's and early 2000's I was big into a card game, Magic: The Gathering. Like any internet era competitive scene, there was (and still is) endless discussions, articles, blogs and reports about tournaments. It's a game not so unlike chess and many of the other "higher intelligence" games in existence, where deep discussion about theory can be endlessly contemplated. An article that is one of the all time greats to this day written by Chad Ellis was called "The Danger of Cool Things." (link to that original article)

Without going too deep into a very, very complex game, the gist is that we (humans) are often tempted to pick a "cool" solution over an efficient one. So... what does an article written 15+ years ago have to do with anything this blog is about? Maybe a lot.

I'm most certainly someone who is most at risk for this phenomenon... I always have been. I like a little panache with everything I do. Sometimes, that is perfectly acceptable, but sometimes it can be a problem.

The most common time this comes up for triathletes and cyclists is regards to equipment, specifically on the bike. (That's not to say there isn't plenty of "stuff" that qualifies for running and swimming, just that in general cycling is much more gear focused.)

Of my years on the various forums this phenomenon manifests itself most commonly when it comes to buying wheels. Since the surge of cheaper (Chinarello... if I can use such a dated term) deep carbon wheels entering the market, many are wooed over by the promise of pro level equipment at entry level pricing. The problem comes in regards to whether or not you are actually getting high level equipment. (This isn't bashing cheap China frames/gear btw, just an example) There are a few ways this can go

1.) The molds used for these wheels is truly the same as wheels with proven testing / data. This is sort of the "magic Christmas land" scenario, where you are just buying a highly researched / developed wheel for a fraction of the cost.

2.) The mold "looks" aerodynamic / fast, and by happenstance (that is, not by development / testing, but just by coincidence as much as anything) it turns out to be a pretty fast wheel. This is again thinking a pretty best case scenario.

3.) The mold "looks" aerodynamic / fast, but in reality isn't much (if any) of a benefit over something like a cheap Velocity Deep V wheel. This is what I would guess is the most likely scenario on the whole.

Unfortunately, the danger of cool things plays a big role in whether or not you care that a Velocity Deep V / whatever cheap wheelset is faster than the bling no-name carbon wheels. Those carbon wheels look faster damnit! And looking pro is almost as important as being pro! So you get a deep discount versus a pair of HED / Zipp / Enve wheels (or a bit of discount vs. Flo's) with your carbon wheels, but in reality you could have spent a fraction of that amount still and ended up with a faster set of "non-flashy" wheels.

Helmets are another item that often claims victims in this way. There have been a large number of very smart guys that have a ton of time in the wind tunnel / velodrome testing helmets, and almost unanimously they all report that the Kask Bambino is rarely one of the faster helmets... yet Bambino's are very popular options. (Full Disclosure, I have a Bambino...with a chrome visor, no it's not the fastest helmet I tested... I'm a hypocrite I know) A big part of the reason... it looked dang cool (in the world of cycling I guess) to see Wiggo Punch the sky with that big chrome visor reflecting the roadways in London.  Then there are helmets like the Giro Advantage A2 (which I often recommend) which almost unanimously tests "good to very good" on a wide variety of people, selling for under a hundred dollars online and still not often praised and often "upgraded" from.

Frames, clothes, chainrings, aero derailleurs with giant jockey wheels, saddles with shark fins... There are tons of items out there for you to spend your money on. Some of them have real benefits driven by data. Some of them just have empty words and witty marketing, or a very tempting price.
I don't have all the answers as to what is optimal for you, or what is nothing more than a cash grab. However, for the most part, the internet is an excellent resource to research the item you are interested in for yourself. We are in an excellent time right now, where enough people have access to testing methods that companies have a very tough time just sending out unproven equipment with bold claims and expecting the majority to just accept it. White papers and other aero data are becoming a necessity for big bike manufacturers to release with their new projects... and even then it is often (rightly) scrutinized to the point of almost fervor.  So I suggest using that to your advantage... do some research on what you are buying, don't fall victim to the cool things when you can have the efficient things.

Thanks so much for checking in! I really appreciate it.

-Christopher Morelock