Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Microshift White Groupset Review.

(First I apologize for using stock pictures, my digital camera decided, after over 8 long years of surviving debaucherous trips to the beach and graphic design class mishaps, to crap itself. You've been a soldier Fujifilm 2megapixel Finepix.)

Here is what we've got to work with, plus housing and cables that are included.
Well, I've finally been able to put some (cold) miles on the CAAD8, and, more importantly to this review, the Microshift White groupset. I feel like this is an important review for anyone who is thinking of building their own "budget" bike, mainly because of the value minded pricing on the Microshift groups on ebay. Of course, if it works like crap, then it's not worth it at any price point now is it? Follow through then, and consider my opinion before making your future group choices.

Again, as I said in a previous post, I ended up paying $261 (shipping included) for my set on ebay. Included in the package was everything you see above plus cables, housing and an extra set of "hoods" (white ones and black ones) which was a nice little surprise, because everyone wants to look "pro" with white hoods.

I admit, when I first ordered the White Group I had only mediocre hopes for it. In the pictures it looks...well... cheap. And why wouldn't it look cheap, it IS cheap. A quick search on ebay shows that new Dura Ace 7900 brifters (only) are selling at somewhere between $350-$400. Even Shimano's "budget" minded race set (105) is selling for over $200 new. (again, for brifters only) Admittedly "White" is not Microshifts top end set (Arsis Carbon is, about $100 premium) it's more of the "Ultegra" of MS. Of course you could compare to both SRAM and Campagnolo as well, but I've always been a Shimano man, so that's where my comparisons will come from.

The Brifters
White Hoods included!! Score!
So, lets get the bad out of the way. You aren't going to be able to adjust the reach on the levers... which is a minor complaint that generally women (and some men with svet hands... myself included) have. The next complaint is the cable routing for the shifters, which is to say that it is not internal. Again, this isn't a deal breaker by any means, but Campy, SRAM, and even Shimano have moved almost all of their lines to "hiding" the housing under the bar tape. That said, I still like Dura Ace 7800 shifters better than 7900 ones, and I have always thought it was because of the internal routing "gumming" the shifts just a tiny bit. As for the good stuff, let's talk about the shifting paddles. I suppose the closest comparison is SORA, or possibly Campy's Ergoshift. (although no thumb triggers)  In the picture above it's easy to see the large lever, but you have to look a little closer to see the smaller one sticking down. (easier to see on the right side of the pic) If you are like me and coming from Shimano, this will require a break in period to get used to it. (I still try to push the whole brake lever in to shift down) Both paddles on the rear shifter are firm and responsive, and once tuned right I've had absolutely 0 shifting issues. The front paddle to shift down (the button) is nice as well, but pushing the longer paddle in to get an upshift is not something you can do without putting some effort into it... you really have to push that sucker in. I couldn't get it "tighter" with any adjustments unfortunately. A big plus to these guys is the ability to "dump" your gear with ease. I could drop 5 gears on my cassette with one long sweep of the downshift lever! Braking is pretty much a given at this point with modern brifters and the White's are no exception. Cable pull is fine and I could lock them down on command. Realistically when it comes to shifters you just want them to work... nobody has a good ride when they are hitting the lever and hear the "clicking" of your chain not quite making it to the next gear. Well, at least at this juncture I can say that the White's have been excellent.

Shifters Rating: 7/10

Rear Derailleur

I promise it's not made of cheap plastic... even if it looks it
Besides the shifters, the rear derailleur is the place where you can really tell when something sucks. I'm happy to say that the White does NOT suck. Setup is easy and straightforward, and even with someone like myself who runs an arguably short chain (I always use the line through the pully bolt method, which always ends up being a link or two short in most people opinion) the White didn't do much more than grumble at strange gearing combos, (looking at you 50/28) stretching happily to an awkward looking angle. Quick shifts up and down were concise, and after some tuning (mainly due to cable stretch) I could grind up and down the cassette at breakneck speed without complaint.  I suppose it's worth mentioning here that the White RD (and set in general) is NOT a quite set. If you remember the first couple of years of SRAM's stuff... yeah... it's louder than that! Loud can be a good thing (I've had to look at my Dura Ace before to make sure it shifted) to some people, and it can be a deal breaker to others. It's not as "clunky" as Campy nor as sharp as SRAM... somewhere in the middle. You certainly won't be sneaking up on anyone on this kit.

Rear Derailleur Rating: 9/10

Front Derailleur
Insert Andy Schleck joke here
Oh the front derailleur. Such a simple little piece of the whole setup... never glamorous, often overlooked (or even left off!) but nonetheless essential to most of us. Tour's have been lost on faulty FD's. (Well... in reality lost to faulty user error most likely, but SRAM Red's old FD's were crappy) The MS follows tradition in that it does what it has to do... which is move your chain from big to little (and vice versa) without any issues. So far it has done so flawlessly for me. I admit that in general I'm a bit of a worrier... I usually run a chain catcher with my FD's. I'm sure I'll end up getting one for this bike, but at current I don't have one and have not (yet) paid the price for such blasphemy. The White FD is basically just a copy of everybody elses FD's... which is a good thing, basically across the board they all work great. The only gripe I have is that the adjustment screws are pretty tight on the inside (seems tighter than Shimano's... I'll not mention Campy's glory in placing the screws outward facing... well I guess I just did...)

Front Derailleur Rating: 9/10

Other stuff

Of course cables and housing are about what you'd expect. Nonetheless, it's a nice touch that my little UPS box didn't require a trip to the LBS to pick up small parts. Even the caps were included. I'll mention again that I was extremely excited that there were two choices for hoods in the box. (let's be honest, Hudz for most sets will set you back at least $30, and white always has a premium price!) The box also included instructions for installing everything...if reading instructions is your thing. I glanced them over and was moderately surprised to see that the English translation was actually pretty good, (Good lord, try to read the nokon manual in the terrible broken English it uses) so if you need a little reference, you aren't totally stuck out to dry.
Another seemingly silly thing that is a big deal to most people is the color options! Yes, I know it's called "White" and all the pictures I've posted are indeed of the white White group. Well, it comes in plenty of other colors as well (Black, White, Red, Blue, Yellow and Green - although the green is Team Exergy's kit color... I do not think it's for sale to you and me.)

Overall: 8/10

I think the days of "cheap" Microshift may be heading to an end. A couple of manufacturers (Felt comes to mind) are already speccing bikes with it, and more than one team (Cofidis and Exergy) are using it in big races... and why not. If it works as good as what the big boys are putting out, why not save some cash, whether you're just a weekend warrior or racing for the big purses.

Microshift is not for everyone. If you want the hottest cutting edge groups, you should look elsewhere. If you have a Campagnolo Tattoo, move on. If you'd rather piece together used Dura Ace / Ultegra / Force / Athena, that's fine too. (I've done that one a couple of times myself) But let me say that you should at least *consider* Microshift. You get a LOT of bang for your buck on race ready equipment.

I hope everyone had a very good Thanksgiving. It's time to get back to training!

-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! A cold check in.

I sit here at my computer waiting on the heat/air repair man. Sunday morning I awoke to my teeth chattering and the temperature inside my house hovering at a tropical 58°. Now I'm all for toughing out the weather when it comes to getting a ride or a run in... but when I'm trying to surf the internet or sleep... I would prefer something a little closer to 65+ at the minimum.  Even now as I type this (tough to type with wool gloves on) I look like this....

Triathlete? Negative, I am a meat popsicle.
Ok, maybe not that bad... but wool socks are on and the electric space heater is definitely doing work. It's pretty bad when you get up and are looking forward to going outside to run because you know it'll warm you up!

Tomorrow is the big day (Thanksgiving) and, for many of the people who bother to read this, it means it's also Turkey Trot day. I'll be hitting up a 5k myself early in the morning, hopefully breaking my PR in the process (Sub 19... I can dream, right?) After that it's off to either gorge myself in celebration or disgust, have a couple of drinks, and watch Christmas Vacation / Bad Santa for a few hours before turning in early for the battle that will be Black Friday.

Usually I'm pretty excited about BF, but this year not much has caught my eye. My computer is finished, I've got a 60" TV, and basically all the other "big ticket" items are just meh to me. I'd kind of like a Tablet (the ASUS 32gb Nexus is $229 at Office Depot) but I'm not sure I care enough to shell out the $ for it. If you're going to fight the mobs as well, here's one or two hot picks from my nerdy side :P

-Kmart has a 32" HDTV for $79
-Best Buy has a 40" HDTV for $179 (sub 200! who'd have thought it possible)
-Wal Mart has a 60" HDTV for $688
-Tigerdirect has a SSD drive (120gb) for $49.99 - I paid $70 two months ago and it was a deal then!
-Sears has the Barnes&Noble Ereader for $39
-Gamestop has the PS3 Bundle for $199
-Sams' Club has the Galaxy S3 for under a dollar if you pick up the 2-year plan
-Home Depot has a Magic Chef microwave for $38

Target also has the Gateway NV52L15u 15" laptop for $349... it's probably the best deal on a laptop this year (money spent to what you get) but it's still not a Black Friday worthy deal IMO.

Anyways, enough shopping advice from me. I'll be making a couple of stops to the local bike and running shops looking for any good deals that might be that way... I'd really like to score a nice hardtail mountain bike for around $600 - $900. Unfortunately that is prime real estate for the craptastic Suntour fork that is so commonly spec'ed on cheaper Mtn Bikes. Maybe my LBS will discount the Trek/GF Mamba they have on the floor.

Anyways, that was the quick update for the week. I'll update tomorrow with how the Turkey Trot went and what kind of post race binge / gluttony I took part in! Feel free to 1-up me if you can!

Everyone have a happy and safe holidays. Thanks for reading. Now, off to find another blanket to throw over the shoulders!

-Christopher Morelock

A cold morning 5k and I was fighting through a bit of stomach issues. Nonetheless, I managed to PR with a 19:21 and finish 3rd in my AG. Woohoo... then the massive binge of turkey/ham/eggs/salad/potatoes/pie... whew. So full.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Get Thyself together!

First, a rant!
It's like I'm saying something, but not really.

This morning I get up (at 3:30a.m.) and make my 30 minute drive to the pool. When I get there I'm greeted by a sign that says "Closed for Veterans Day - will re-open at 5:30a.m." What the crap. Veterans Day was SUNDAY. I'ts F*n Tuesday. Nice Holiday hours there 24/7 365 Globogym. I mean I'm all for celebrating Vet's Day but jeez... I've got laps to do. So, I drive myself back home and proceed to continue working on the "projects."


On to the important things. The CAAD8 is almost complete! It might just be an early Christmas Miracle. We've run into a small snag, in that I do not have the silly Cannondale Specific Bottom Bracket cable guide (D'oh!) however it's an easily remedied (albeit $10) problem.
This thing... a tiny headache.
So, that means that all I really lack is FedEx delivering that piece and I'm ready to finish the build! The paint turned out with a couple of runs, mainly because I used a rattle can of "Flat" clearcoat that turned out to be crap. I could have brought it back down and re-bought the stickers, but instead masked them off and used some good old DuPont paint/clear to clean it up. Not perfect unfortunately, but good enough for my winter/crit bike.

What we started with
She's not much of a looker... but we'll fix that.
and here's where we are today. (Ignore the fact that my garage is a mess)

Spider Man floor mat!

Replaced the fork that was cracked with a Reynolds Ouzo

Decals turned out great!

I'm getting VERY antsy for the first test ride. Hoping to get it finished by this weekend! Here's the breakdown for this "budget" build.

-Frame: CAAD 8 (used) - $250 (also included headset, seatpost clamp and derailleur clamp) as well as a cracked Slice Fork. Slowtwitch Forums
-Fork: Ouzo Pro (used) - $50 Craigslist
-Bottom Bracket/Crankset: 105 Shimano (used) - my parts bin
-Groupset: Microshift WHITE (front, rear, shifters, cables) - $261 Ebay
-Brakes: Nashbar Jail Brake - $35 Nashbar.com
-Seatpost: Felt Aluminum - my parts bin
-Saddle:  Nashbar R2 Saddle - $20 - Nashbar.com
-Pedals: Shimano R540 (white) - $34 - Nashbar.com
-Bars: Scott Anatomic Drops - my parts bin
-Stem: Bontrager Carbon (ooohhh)Xlite stem - my parts bin
-Chain: Nashbar x10 chain (pro-tip - it's just a KMC) - $35 - Nashbar.com
-Bottom Bracket cable guide - $10 - Cannondaleexperts.com
-Tape: Lizard Skin - $35 - LBS
-Bottle Cages: Bontrager X lites - $32 (2) - LBS

+ $75 worth of Rattle can paint / paint stripper / sandpaper / clear 

- Total - $872.00

Of course that's considering I already have a set of wheels/helmet/shoes and all that garb. If you were to replace the things I had available with purchases, I'd guess you'd add about $150 for a decent (tiagra - 105 level used) crankset/bb and probably another $50-$100 on the other pieces depending on how nice you wanted to go.  (Bars, seatposts and stems are all excessively cheap if you don't mind aluminum) A set of basic training wheels and tires would set you back another $250 or so. That would bring us in right at $1400.00 if we came from the ground up. It's easy to see why building a bike isn't any cheaper than just buying one (although this guy is built to MY spec and not a factory... and plus, this was way more fun.) especially if you don't have a garage full of extra parts to pull from.

Nonetheless, I'm excited. I'm especially interested in giving the Microshift set a spin. It feels extremely nice in my hands, so high hopes.

On a more depressing note, the Scott is taking it's sweet time to get stripped down. In all fairness I've been focusing my efforts on the CAAD the last few days (I need a road bike up and running!) but now it's time to redouble the efforts.
Here's where the Scott sits (hangs) right now.
You can see the white paint being a pain in the @$$ where it is thickly coated.

It looks worse than it really is, but it looks pretty bad :)

Naked carbon on the head tube. If all of the bike's carbon was only so nice. Sigh :(
Unfortunately, Scott didn't do me the service of giving the bike a final "beauty" layer of Carbon fiber. That means it's got some pretty ugly area's (even before you count all the filler they used.) in it. Also, a few area's of wrap have came undone (where they meet) after removing paint. It'll have to be re-epoxied and possibly re-wrapped (depending on how paranoid I get between now and doing it) This is certainly going to be a full winter project, but I'm hopeful that it'll turn out well. It kind of has to, if only just to get back at all the people who said I was crazy for stripping it down in the first place!

And finally, there's always room for a little training talk. In this case, very little.
I'm running...
...and running...
......and running......
The evil clown laugh is now stuck in your head. Hey, I'm a nerd first, triathlete second!
My mileage both swimming and biking are still pretty low (actually, fairly embarrassingly low come to think of it) and my running/diablo3 mileage are growing :) I can't say that I miss them all that much at the moment. It's been a while (years) since I could say I'm injury free at the end of a season, so it's prime time to work on my running. Hour long commutes to and fro the pool can take a back seat for a while and I can enjoy a little extra R&R. If I can get the CAAD together this weekend maybe I can even escape from the "dungeon" to do some outdoor riding.
My Pain Dungeon, with 3/5 fans visible. Some work gets done here.
And alas that's all the time we have for today. As the cold weather creeps in I'll leave you with warm thoughts. As always, thanks for taking the time to read and share!
Goodbye Warm Weather! Hello Hoodies.
-Christopher Morelock

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Birthday - to me :)

Firstly, my apologies for being a day or two late. Recovery from birthday weekend and all that...

Running towards living long enough to be a dirty old man.

Well, it's that time of the year again. Time to celebrate beating the odds and successfully not perishing these last 365 days. This birthday is probably the first "important" one I've had since I turned 25... (insurance went down! Booya!) not because of my actual age (ahem... 29) but because of my racing age. That's right, I've aged up into the 30-34M category at most races. No longer will being a fairly good biker, passable swimmer and mediocre runner cut the mustard. Now it's either get fast or go home. (In a couple more years, it'll be time to go to the nursing home!)

Zipp has yet to release and discs for this bad boy.
That said, I'm trying! My running mileage has been coming up (although both my biking and my swimming miles are embarrassingly low) and I have stopped feeling like I've had the absolute crap beat out of me every time I walk back in the door, so I'd say that's forward progress. I guess it's time to sign up for a Turkey Trot and get a race under my belt before I gorge myself on Thanksgiving dinner.

So looking back from my birthday, and because really, I've been rather boring this last week or two (well... I have certainly had some wild nights... but this isn't a blog about hellraising... well... mostly.) I think we'll go back through pictures (they're each worth a lot of words I hear) of my time in triathlon (and the M25-29 AG)
That's right, 200lbs of Hanes sock and Schwinn Helmets!

 My first true love. I still ride this bad boy on occasion.

Then I wrecked... broke my collarbone... had surgery... you know...

Picture of the damage

Back in the water not 3 months later! Still not a good swimmer though!
Rev3 Knoxville... my disaster of a first OWS. Somehow I lived... and vowed to learn to swim (good)
And at the end of the same year at Rev3 Cedar Point. This time I was ready for Lake Erie
Loving every minute of the 112miles of cycling. HTFU Disc's first appearance!
140.6 later... I'm an Iron Full Revver
Learning to lose a bit of modesty. TT skinsuit and shaved legs!
Pretending to be a roadie. A far cry from the beginning... I've got a real jersey!
Post Augusta with some cool wall art!

I suppose I'll stop there. I've got some more good pictures, but I may need to use them at some other time! :)

I'd like to thank all of you that read through my little story here, and for sharing this part of my journey!

Until next time (and maybe some real substance!)
-Christopher Morelock