Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Returning to the tunnel.

The worlds biggest cycling vacuum cleaner

I've even written about how in retrospect many years later I didn't think my time spent at the tunnel was overly productive. So why in the world am I talking about going back?

Partially because I am hopeful that I have learned enough in the last 5 years to not make the same mistakes (new mistakes!) and also because I have some hope in working with Brian Stover and Heath Dotson at Aerocamp that we'll tease out some information I can apply. There is also a time sensitive matter in the back of my mind (the worlds worst kept secret) that, when it boils down to it, is part of what you are paying for going to the tunnel vs. track testing every time I get a chance to head down to Rock Hill. Convenience always costs premium.

I also have slightly different expectations out of the tunnel nowadays. It's not a cure all, or even the definitive way to a final position... it's just a tool.  Nice, clean air in the tunnel is not the same as the dirty turbulent air you find in the wild, but likewise, because of that same thing testing in the tunnel is much easier to get repeatable results. Give take and all that.

In 2012 I wanted to do EVERYTHING in a couple of hours... helmets, suits, positions... pretty much jack of all trades it. This time, I want to nail down a few things with multiple controls to make sure I leave with data I trust and can build off of. Things like helmets / skinsuits are low priority because it's pretty simple for me to test those myself. Instead, knowing the difference in positions (to compare with the metabolic cost / efficiency) is what I am after.

Is this

Better than this?

If it is, how much does it cost me in terms of watts I can produce. Which is better at different angles, does it change?

Obviously the top picture is more compact, and likely more aerodynamic (although sometimes you get surprised) but what if I can produce 20 more watts in the second picture? Is it THAT much more aero? These are questions that are important when trying to find every free watt.

I am excited for the opportunity to go back and work on things some more. Fit is always an evolution, at least for me, and this is just another step on the road to learning.

I'm scheduled for early March, of course I'll have a full write up!

Thanks so much for reading my randomness this week, it's been busy! (Tax returns and car sales = work work work!)

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

More Bike Nascar!

Happy (belated) Valentines day everyone. Hopefully you got to spend it with somebody special... or celebrated Singles Awareness day in an exciting way.

Last weekend we loaded up the truck (literally not a truck at all) and headed over the mountains to Rock Hill and the Giordana Velodrome, primarily so that us Knoxville guys and gals could get a little bit of practice racing in. 

It was also a good chance for me to get some feedback on the Fuji in both configurations. As far as a nice, predictable stable bike goes... the Track Elite is awesome. I'm very pleased with my choice.

Add caption
The build for endurance stuff
- Dura Ace crank w/stages PM
- DA Bottom Bracket
- DA Chainrings and Cogs
- Ultegra Pedals (I know...for shame)
- Izumi chain
- Walker Brothers Revo2 w/ Vittoria Pista (training tire)
- Hed3 (clincher) w/ 20mm SuSo
- Fizik Ares
- Tririg Sigma X
- USE Tula w/track pods
- Aerocoach Align pads
- Zipp Evo70 extensions

With the changes for group stuff being the wheels and going to drop bars (Nitto bars and a Look Ergostem)

Every trip it seems like we are constantly being buffeted by the wind on what should be a pretty calm area... Riding the black line is still tough for me, but I am getting better. I'm at least able to keep it inside the sprinters lane pretty much indefinitely, which is a big step in the right direction for me.

Showing off that nice Podium Sports skinsuit as well!

The practice races were awesome, despite the fact that for the most part I don't have the top end to keep up with the fast guys on the laps that count. During the scratch race I got a good view of the moves that ended up winning (from far behind haha) and during the elimination race I spent the majority of the time attempting to figure out the strategy of where the best place to be was. Inside the sprinters line seems like a great way to be boxed out (especially later in the race) but my strategy of riding high each elimination lap only worked well until the fatigue of being in the wind the whole time caught up with me. I lasted to about 5th man but then got dominated.

Jimmy coming around in the elimination race final

The Points race is a little more my style... endurance'ish enough (especially after the other two races) that you don't "just" have to be explosive. I picked up a lap, but still only managed to finish second. Maybe I'll start sprinting more in the future.

As usual, it was a great trip to Rock Hill. They really have an awesome setup with the track, BMX track and crit course right there in one area. Jimmy and Sharon even snuck onto the crit course for some recon ;)

How cool would it be to see signs like that everywhere!

So good times with good friends (new and old!) with hopefully man more to come. I know I'm coming back in March, so stay tuned for more adventures in cycling Nascar!

Knoxvelo/Hicks Chicks. I didn't get the cool socks memo.

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Is Fashion hurting us on the bike? (pt1)

Always time for a Gene Wilder meme

We're all at the very least swayed by fashion, whether we like to admit it or not. This can be especially true of cyclists and triathletes. Our sport is so gear driven that oftentimes we upgrade simply to be upgrading. At least for the majority of us, we are heavily swayed by the pro's when it comes to our equipment selection and even our setups. But do the pro's know it all? And even if they do, is that in any way applicable to us individually? I'm going to look at some things the next week or two that I think we may need to look at a bit closer... this week mainly road bikes, next week TT/tri bikes. Certainly these posts aren't intended to say "WRONG" about any of this, the point is just to start thinking about it, possibly in a different way than we have been.

On our road bikes the trend has moved us (the last 10 years or so) all to riding smaller frames with much more seatpost and stem than has generally been the norm historically. Also, saddle to bar drop has increased a considerable amount as well.

I'm not picking on Gilbert, but it was the picture that suited my needs

I do some aero testing... generally that's on my time trial bike, but not exclusively. Sometimes I like to test things on my road bike as well, as I usually entertain the thought of doing a lot of criterium racing early in the season. (right up until the racing starts, at which point I become much less enthusiastic about it.) One of the things I tested a lot was where I was at my most aerodynamic on the road bike. Spoiler... it's when you are "virtual time trialling" as I call it... with your forearms resting near the stem like you are riding aerobars. Of course, this isn't a realistic road cycling position both for safety reasons and logistics (shifting/steering in a group) so the next fastest option down the line needs to be considered. As it turns out, that seems to be the "Sphinx" position, made popular in track cycling by Cameron Meyer (and the 3T bars of the same name) where the rider rests the forearms on the top of the bars at the hoods (or wrapping the hands around the outside on a track bike) pretty much forming an "L" shape with the arms.  I found it interesting that myself and all of my test subjects friends were at our most aerodynamic in this position.

But there was more... another interesting thing we had in common was that going from riding on the hoods to riding in the drops was not all that impressive a change. In one case (I won't name names) it was almost pointless for the rider to ever move to his drops. (From an aerodynamic standpoint at least) Things like that start making you question...why?

This is a pretty old picture (2011ish?) but it does a fair job of illustrating some things. Look at the guys riding in their drops (rear two riders) and how locked out their arms are. That's how most of us ride in the drops. Realistically, the HTC rider on his hoods looks just as slick on his hoods.

What about the old timers?

Sure, it was a different era, but look at that... much closer to that same "L" shape we were talking about for the sphinx position. If you are still following me, you are either nodding along or think I'm crazy... and while that's possible, it might be worth considering another guy people thought was crazy was trying to take this to the extreme (how could he do it any other way) for an attempt on the Merckx hour record a few years ago.

Obree never made that attempt. I believe he decided that the G forces put on the body on the track made it unbearable to ride like that for an hour. Still, it's obvious he was trying to make the "sphinx" position work 100% of the time in the drops. I wonder, if he had succeeded with this attempt, would the way we look at something like this be totally different?

Personally, I look much closer to the top pictures than that of the bottom three. Why? Good question... one I asked myself and really had to think to find the answer. Whereas a lot of my time the last few years has gone into my time trial fit... I can't think of any time I've dedicated to changing my road bike fit since my very first one many years ago. Sure I've messed with saddle height a little bit, maybe added or subtracted 10mm to my stem... but certainly no overhauls like I've done on my TT bike. So, when I was set up on my road bike year's ago, it was set up with one position in mind as being where everything felt "good." That was on the hoods. So everything we set up revolved around me being in my "optimal" position while riding the hoods. While that's probably the right way for most club riders (and almost certainly for a beginner cyclist) it doesn't quite make as much sense for someone who would be focusing on racing, especially if it were fast paced racing like criteriums where you usually want to be in the drops.

Unfortunately, as I've also always been a "slam that stem" type of guy... I don't have much room to adjust my own setup outside of a very funky looking upward angled stem. I may keep my eye out for a cheap 1 1/8" fork with more steerer tube and see what I can discover.

Next week, we're going to talk about aero bikes.

Until next time, thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


It has been a busy week or so. My wife has started her new job and is (as most personal trainer's are in the first few months of the year) busy to an almost stressful degree. I am doing my best husband housekeeper, but it has also sapped some of my willpower to finish my own non-essential projects in the works. I suppose it didn't help at all that Resident Evil 7 dropped last week as well... sometimes you can't stop the gamer in you egging to eat away your week in non-conductive progress...

I have managed to get my Fuji track elite in a state of "almost" assembled. There are still a couple of finishing touches that have to take place (most importantly, those Tula Pods have to become a color other than red!) but overall I'm extremely pleased with how it turned out.  No test ride yet (I admit I'm scared to tighten the Sigma stem down to 15Nm!) but I'm antsy to make it happen. Heading back to Rock Hill in two weeks, so hopefully everything will be set by then.

The other cool thing I've got to play with is this handy UCI jig. It really makes measuring the extension and saddle setbacks a ton easier. My father in law is a woodwork master, so of course he took the simple design I had requested and make a decked out (probably nicer than what the UCI works with) jig. I've still got to finish it and paint it, but it's a fantastic little tool to add to my growing collection of obscure bike related items.

I'll give you guys a full build spec of the Fuji in the near future! And also some other interesting stuff I've got in the works. Honestly... I'm ready for race season to be here! Very Excited for the year!

Until Next Time, thanks for reading!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Review: Bike Trainer Tape

First let's take care of the full disclaimer: I was sent this tape to try out and review at no cost to myself. It does not reflect (positively or negatively) in this, or any of my reviews, but some folks get hung up on things like that and so I like to put the info out there.

A couple of weeks ago I was sent a new product to put through it's paces, Bike Trainer Tape. (You can also find their Facebook page here and amazon store here.)

So, let me give you the short and quick thoughts on it first, then we'll delve into a little more thorough thoughts on it.

After going through almost all of my roll (I still have enough left for one race) I will say that if you fit the target audience, it's a pretty nice, life simplifying product. There are plenty of people who absolutely loathe switching tires to go between riding outdoors and indoors, and for them, I'd say it can certainly save you some headaches. There are also the racers that don't like warming up on a $100+ race tire (myself included) that the tape can certainly be a benefit to.

My goal from the outset was to put the tape through the absolute hardest (not recommended even) conditions to see where (and why) the point of failure was. Anyone who knows me knows I spend a VERY large portion of my training time on a trainer of some sort, so it's certainly worth prefacing with the fact that I was almost certainly tougher on it than the vast majority will be.

 Anyways, lets' get to it.

The Good
I am in a very fortunate position when it comes to my indoor trainer / outdoors riding. I have a stable of bikes and multiple power meters... so it's no great cost to me to have a nearly 100% dedicated indoor powertap wheel with a trainer tire on it. That isn't the case for most people, and so to BTT's primary audience it can be a boon. I would hazard to guess that the majority of folks split their time indoors and outdoors either pretty evenly or slight to moderately favoring the great outdoors. If you are using a traditional turbo trainer, that either means you swap tires when you hop on the turbo, or you just accept the added wear that riding the turbo will do to your tires.  While there are certainly other solutions to the problem (changing tire, direct drive trainer, dedicated trainer tire/wheel) BTT is certainly the cheapest and quickest to take you from outdoors to indoors ready.  Installing the tape takes about thirty seconds, maybe slightly longer your first time or two. (or if you double wrap it)

The things I found that were most important when installing it are to get it at the "sweet spot" of tension as you wrap it around the tire. You don't want it to be pulled so tight that is starts to stretch, but you do want to make sure it is securely around the tire so that you reduce the risk of it bunching up when you put pressure on it. Once you've got it fully around (slightly overlapping at the end) you run around it again and get rid of any air bubbles that may have formed. Then you are ready to go as usual.

The other group of folks (that I lump myself in with) that could use the tape are cyclists looking for a way to protect their expensive race tires when doing a warmup before the start. I carry my old Kurt Kinetic Road Machine with me to all my TT's, and I've always kind of just had to cringe and bear it when I clamped the pressure down on my $100 Turbo Cotton or Veloflex Record. You could also swap wheels to warm up, but that opens up some situations (especially with superbikes or those with horizontal dropouts) where user error (whether because of lining up the wheel or the hard to adjust brakes on superbikes) can lead to at the least a much more hectic race to the start line. I don't know many of my friends that race a lot that would remove their rear wheel of their tt bike minutes before their start time.

To try this out I did my full TT warmup using my race gear. (Speed Concept, Zipp 404 Powertap, Spec Turbo Cotton 24 w/ latex, KK Road Machine with a little over a billion miles on it) I set the pressure on the rear tire of my KK by the "slip test" (hold the flywheel and pull up on the wheel. Tighten right to the point where the tire no longer slips)

The warmup itself I'll spare you from having to read. It involves a couple minutes easy spinning, a few efforts at tempo, a build up to slightly above race pace and a couple of "leg openers" going up to a few short "not quite sprints." The wattage range went from ~150w to upwards of 600.

I double wrapped my tire for the warmup (just like I would/will on race day) because I wanted to make sure I got all of the Turbo Cotton that would be touching the roller protected.

After the 30 minute "warmup/test" was over I hopped off and removed the tape.

There was a very slight bit of residue left over when I removed the tape. I was able to get it off with just my sweat towel and water with minimal effort, but I think it'd be prudent (and BTT recommends) using alcohol to wipe it down to make sure you get all of the residue off. I'd say it might take you 1 to maybe 2 minutes to get it totally clean after you jump off the bike.

The Bad
Another preface - BTT has a specific caution against using the tape with a computrainer OR with a trainer tire, both of which I'm about to talk about doing. So take most of "the bad" with a grain of salt that I'm going against manufacturer recommendations.
Unfortunately (for me particularly) I could not get the tape to work with my Computrainer, nearly at all. I tried multiple tires, different amounts of press on force, pretty much everything I could think of and it always either bunched up or pushed off of the side of the tire within the first few minutes (generally before I got to the point of setting the rolling resistance)

a whole load of things not to use with BTT in one picture!

My theory is that the Computrainer uses a mounting bracket for the resistance unit that allows for quite a lot of adjustment, both fore and aft and also side to side. Unfortunately this opens up the possibility to get the roller slightly off center/angled. Racermate's way to check is to roll the tire forwards and backwards and watch for the tire to move side to side on the roller... and while I've got my unit nailed down to where it is no longer noticeable, I would guess that it is still a couple of degrees away from perfectly even. That seems to be just enough to push the tape off the side of the tire. Double wrapping did not help. I would also guess that since ERG mode (on all smart trainers like the Computrainer) adjusts the resistance in ways other than you actually shifting gears, that you would heat up the tape quite quickly (which I don't think I need to tell you is not good) and probably have similar or other mixed results. Unfortunately I do not have another Smart trainer to test this out, so that's only speculation. (And BTT does not have any warning against using it with other smart trainers)

computrainer resistance unit bracket, you can see the large hole in the middle that allows for adjustment/tuning.

I *did* try the tape with my Tacx trainer tire on the Kurt Kinetic as well (again, using a trainer tire is not recommended by BTT) and although it did not work (it actually bunched up, I should have gotten a picture but didn't, sorry.) with a single wrap, it did stay on and work as advertised with a double wrap. Now, why you would use BTT on a trainer specific tire... I don't know... but I tried it anyways just out of curiosity, so it *can* work.

The Ugly
BTT currently sells for ~$13 a roll. Each roll is good for (I actually got a little more than the advertised amount out of my roll) 10 tape jobs, 5 if you double wrap. Now, considering a single wrap is estimated to give you 40-80hours of ride time (I'm afraid I did not put the longevity to the test, but it does seem reasonable) then for the most likely "target" audience that is considerably cheaper than buying a trainer specific tire, even if you swap between road and turbo a bit. However, the cost does start to climb if you are going indoor to outdoor frequently, as the tape is done once you pull it off. (I tried to re-use a strip and it did not work at all)

That means that the other target group, the warming up cyclists, will burn through a roll of the tape pretty quickly. If, like me, you are going to double wrap your tire, you're looking at $2.60 in tape each time you warm up before a race. Is that more or less than you'll chew off of a race tire in around 30 minutes of warming up? I'm not sure (and it likely depends on your setup) but I'd guess it's somewhere in the ball park. Is that couple of dollars worth not having to deal with swapping out your race and trainer wheel to warm up? Again, depends on the person, but I'd guess that in general it is.

BTT contacted me and let me know that there will be upcoming promotions aimed towards time trialists to help ensure they get a good bang for their buck. I will update when we have more information.

Oh, and only orange? C'mon guys... we need a variety of colors to coordinate with our kit ;)

Final Thoughts
BTT is certainly a quality of life item, not an essential one, but like central heat and air or smart phones... there's nothing wrong with quality of life items. There are definitely those out there who it will work better for than others, but if you are the type of rider who pretty much stops riding outdoors as soon as the weather turns cold, or are somewhat apathetic when it comes to changing tires between the great outdoors and the turbo (be honest...) then BTT can be a nice middle ground. Same for the racers looking to protect their high thread count rubber before start time.
So, if it sounds like BTT might be for you, I say give it a go. While it won't be something I use a a regular basis, I will definitely have a roll in my travel bag ready to use before my races.

As always, thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Time out

I apologize that this week's post will be so short. I have absolutely been slammed with other "real life" stuff going on and unfortunately the review I had scheduled is just not even remotely finished / formatted / readable. Hopefully I'll have it up and finished next week.

What's been eating my time...

Helping other people with their setups as thoughts of the upcoming race season start popping into folks heads, doing some of my own aero testing, putting up new blinds in our house, planning for my 1 year anniversary,  re-cabling my Speed Concept (which is always a joy) and... most excitedly (well... almost as most excitedly as my anniversary ;) ) my Fuji Track Elite finally came in.

Hipster cred

Thanks to Randy at Bearden Bike & Trail for hooking me up with a new whip. Now to build it up and try not to embarrass it.

Thanks so much for checking out the blog, I really appreciate it!

-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Quick gear Review: New Microshift Brifters

I've been riding Microshift White 10spd for about 5 years now (wow... really) and from what little bit of keeping up with the traffic on my site tells me, you guys are interested in it. (and have continued to be) My original review  of the White groupset is consistently one of the most viewed posts I've ever written.

When I bought the White set it was largely a budget concern. I had just built a new road bike and didn't have tons of disposable income to throw at it. If I'm honest with myself, I had planned to upgrade to 7800 / 7900 Dura Ace pretty quickly at the time. But surprisingly, I quickly grew fond of the Microshift look and feel. Other projects took the front seat, and honestly, I just didn't feel much need to spend the money on an upgrade for something that was working fine.

Fast forward to the end of 2016. I was killing time on ebay looking at bike parts (as I'm wont to do pretty much daily) when I ran across some of the updated Arsis 10 speed brifters. They are actually fairly rare since Microshift released them around the same time as everyone (them included) made the jump to 11 speed. I had the itch to try something new, and for a while now I had been looking to put the shifter cables under the bar tape, so perfect opportunity!

The first sighting (of the 11 speed) at the Taipei show a few years ago.

The re-design of the brifters is pretty significant. The original White series brifters (and the entire range at the time) was something pretty closely related to Shimano Sora (at least in terms of actuation) but the newer design instead "borrows" heavily from Campagnolo Ergoshift, most notably with the thumb shifters as opposed to "just" levers, but also in the shape as a whole of the brifter. There is also a bit of SRAM in the texture of the rubber shifter covers. It's pretty evident that Microshift did some cherry picking for the things they liked from the big 3.

Also, still that ancient Nashbar brake ;)

A good view of the textured grip, as well as the actuation of the shifters.

So, how have the new brifters been doing?
Well, let's take a look back at some of the complaints I had about the original "White" brifters. From the aesthetic side of things, having the cables hidden under the bar tape makes everything look MUCH cleaner, I don't think anyone will ever complain that hidden cables look worse.  Since my very narrow (36cm) drop bars aren't internally routed, it does mean that I have added some width to the bars under the tape, which isn't a disaster but also not ideal. I will also, probably until the end of time, argue that shifting is not as crisp with the cables under the tape as it is when they exit the side... I thought the same thing when 7900 Dura Ace came out... but I admit that after a couple of rides I'm not sure I notice any more or if the old curmudgeon in my mind just tells me I notice. Shifting is nonetheless crisp enough to not be able to be upset with it.

There is still no adjustment for reach to the paddle, something I wish they had "borrowed" from SRAM. That was a fairly big complaint (for me) on the White set, and it's still something I'd be happy to have. It is slightly less of an issue on the updated shifters though, as the thumb triggers are (obviously) considerably closer. Since what (I) really wanted from shorter reach was an easier time shifting to a harder gear in the back while in the drops, it is a compromise that was an overall win for me.

Reaching (half) the shifter on the Arsis brifters is possible from most positions in the drops

Trying to get to the shifter on the White brifters was something I basically had to give up on.

Speaking of which, my main gripe was that shifting in the drops was very hard with the White brifters. The new design does a relatively good job of addressing that problem, and while it's still a good ways away from the "ideal" setup (sprint blips for electric shifting obviously being the best solution) it is good enough that I can actually shift down to a bigger gear from the drops. So a big step in the right direction in my opinion.

Overall, you could do a lot worse in a set of brifters. They look nice and clean, work well and won't break the bank if you crash out on them. Perfect crit gear.

Thanks so much for reading! I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock