Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Review! Cobb SHC170 Saddle

Locked and loaded on the Cervelo ready for miles.
I'm a Cobb Mobbster. (here's your plug... check out what's up on Facebook) Therefore, I'm not going to blame you to immediately judge me and this review as "propaganda." It's human nature to be suspicious. When it comes to believing what you read about "gear" that goes on your bike, you had D@%$# well better be suspicious... there's plenty of people/companies out there trying to get your hard earned cash... at any cost. (the best puns are the easy ones)

Nonetheless, you'd be wrong if you were one of these judgmental fellows. There are plenty of things you could "fake" a review on. A saddle that you actually use is NOT one of those things. Immediately moving to my point about companies after your dollar... Cobb Cycling is hands down the fairest company in the saddle business. Ninety (~3 months - 90 days - 2,160 hours - 129,600 minutes - a...lot... of seconds) day guarantee and free shipping to your door (if you don't have an LBS selling Cobb products) so you don't have to trust me or anyone else, you've got time to find the solution yourself.

Of course, if you wanted to see some name dropping on fast people who ride this saddle... how about one of the guys who had a lot of input on it.

Rappstar is a fast dude with a slick saddle choice :)

So, now that we've got that out of the way, lets' get to the actual review of the saddle.


Everyone has some specific needs addressed when it comes to their body and saddle fit. For me, the issue has always been the width of the nose and the length of the saddle/rails. I've always pedaled with my knees very close to the top tube, so my inner thighs do not comply with a wide nosed saddle. The original Blackwell Adamo I had required the "zip tie" mod to keep me from leaving the trainer with bloody thighs. Eventually I settled on the Arione Tri2, as it was readily available and long/narrow enough to cause me no issues, as well as firm. (I can't stand a soft squishy saddle on any bike.) And so, as the apathetic among you can relate, I thought my hunt for saddles was done. I was able to put in long mileage on a Tri2, so why continue the search? And so time passed.

Enter the demo phase.

I want it all and I want it now!

It started innocuously enough. I went to my LBS to pick up a road bike saddle. (The HC170) While I was there we got to talking about Cobb saddles and they told me they had some demo's in the back. So, after some elimination process at the store (they wouldn't let me take ALL of them.) I settled on trying the Gen2 and the SHC. (The other demo's available were the V-Flow + and Max and the JOF... from my eyeball test they all seemed less likely to fit my style than the other two.)

After a few days on the Gen2 (which ended up being right on the cusp of too wide at the nose) I mounted up the SHC.

Here's the spec rundown for SHC
202grams total weight (a little less than half a pound)
35mm wide at the nose (I actually measured just a tad narrower)
260mm long
75mm of saddle rail

Mounted up for the maiden voyage
If you listen to people talk about searching for the right saddle, you will often hear about one just clicking. The "right" saddle. I had personally thought that was a bunch of hogwash... a bunch of nancy boys (and girls) whining that their saddle didn't feel like sitting on air when they were crunched down in an aero position. I'm not saying my Arione was a painful ride, but it felt like I thought a saddle should in an aggressive position... tolerable.

That first ride was an eye opener. One thing I like to do when I'm trying out a saddle is give it an hour ride in "race mode." That is, tri shorts with very minimal chamois and little/no Butt'r. I do that because I believe most saddles can be made tolerable if you are wearing good bike shorts/bibs and enough cream. However, tri shorts are usually very thin and I've never actually pre-applied cream before a swim... I always figured it'd be pointless. After an hour of 5x5 sets, I came to a conclusion... this saddle is SICK. Pretty much it was all the things I liked about my Arione, but with more attention to the details of making the saddle work for a long time in an aero position... which is something that is really noticeable on the trainer. (where you don't get micro breaks for adjustment like you do on the road.) The cutout and memory foam were both especially welcome additions for comfort that didn't compromise the "raciness" of the SHC.

That's the good. The bad? I think you'd be hard pressed to find many dislikes from this saddle (if it's the right saddle for you.) but if you had a gun to my head the one thing missing (from Cobb saddles in general) is a lighter weight option and a fairly limited number of colors. Of course on my Aluminum P3 the ~20 or so grams that could be saved by going to carbon are nil, (as is weight in general on a tri bike in my not quite humble opinion) but nonetheless it's an option many of the big saddle companies offer if for no other reason than "bling" factor. Likewise, the color options are limited, so making your ride perfectly match may be an issue. (Although with Black/White being available, you are still safe by "the rules.")

Besides that your only concern is whether you need (or want) a more aggressive saddle. Many very fast guys I know heavily prefer a more padded/supported saddle, and that's why it's important to try out a variety and pick the one that's right for YOU. I will say, if you are like me and have been content with something like the Arione (the San Marco and older Specialized tri saddle also come to mind) then I would suggest having a look, or better yet, a demo, of the SHC. You might find a new favorite seat.

That only leaves "the ugly..."

Just showing off the power between my legs...
(If your mind is in the gutter...well this is the blog for you I suppose...)

So I'll end the review there. This weekend is the Knoxville Half Marathon, my first race of the season. With any luck I won't embarrass myself and with a good amount of luck I'll be back next week with a race report about my PR. (Fingers crossed.)

As always, thank you all so much for delving into my thoughts, I really appreciate it.

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Looking back (new thoughts on old stuff)

I guess we start this weeks post with a look at my run from Sunday. The purpose was to get 20' at race pace after the halfway point, with the rest of the run at a smooth easy pace. I think I nailed it pretty well, so with any luck I'm going to have a very good Half Marathon at the end of the month.
Check out my run and make fun of how slow I am below!
Passing those thoughts, I figured I'd take a little time to give some updated thoughts on some of the stuff I've been using now that it's gotten some age on it. That and I know the real reason a lot of you people show up is to see the reviews of some of the more obscure stuff. So, to feed the wolves...

Oysmetric Chainrings (The review here)

I've had these installed long enough have started thinking of them as "normal." I'm still not convinced that I'd want them on my road bike (although the new versions have ramps that likely improve shifting) but for my TT bike I'm pretty much sold. I ended up rotating them to the suggested (by the tests linked in the review) position and I like it a little more than I liked the "stock" one, but that may be something everybody that ends up with them would need to determine for themselves.

The shifting is something that you learn to live with. It's not wonderful by any stretch of the imagination, and certainly not in the same realm as something like the Wickwerks chainrings, but it's more than adequate for TT'ing or triathlons. I've only experienced a dropped chain once, and it was completely my fault for not having the K-edge (I do think that this is a necessary component for the Osy's) properly set up after adjusting the front derailleur.  It's also worth noting that the Osy's are loud, primarily in the small chainring (when the chain inevitably slaps the top of the FD cage.) or when you are crosschaining (I know... you shouldn't be) Still... I like them and will probably stick with them when/if I move up to 11 speed on my TT bike.

Here you can see the changed angle (note where the safety chain pin is... not hidden behind the crank arm)

Microshift White Group (The Review here and here)

One of the hottest debates seems to be whether Microshift is the genius move for a group or an utter failure. At $260 for the drivetrain, I still stand of the "genius" side of the river. I've given it Crits, Road Races, Training and Triathlons and it's still going strong. As a matter of fact, the only sign of wear has been the coated shifter cables (the coating is now worn off) and the fact that the white hoods are starting to turn more of a parchment color. No, these aren't Dura Ace / Red / Record level shifters, and yes I still think the throw on the Front shifter is too long... but as far as performance to value ratio goes... these things are amazing. Of course, with 10 speed starting to phase out it's not unrealistic to imagine high end 10spd components from the big 3 dropping into this price range, especially if you don't mind "slightly used" being tagged onto the Buy it Now button... Something to consider.

Also worth mentioning is that the new 11 speed (Centos) group has been spotted, with a new (and odd looking) shifter system.

interesting button design

Wickwerks Chainrings (The Review here)

Not a big fan of mysterious upgrades shrouded in pseudo-science? More of an instant gratification type rider? Then the WW chainrings are the ticket. I noticed notably smoother front shifting both on the road and on the stand immediately. If you already use fairly high quality chainrings it's hard to imagine it getting much better... but it can. Necessary? Ehh, I think of them kind of like a comfortable chair... not necessary by any means, but something you are glad you have pretty often. If your current rings are in good shape, I'd probably hold off, but if your old rings are getting worn down, I can't recommend the WW's enough.

And those are the big 3 (from my view count anyways) from my reviews. So there, now you have some long(er) term thoughts on each one.

Next week I'll hopefully be feeling really good about the impending 1/2 marathon. I've got one more weekend run with 30' of race pace... hopefully I nail it and it's smooth sailing all the way through the end of the race :)

As always thank you all for taking the time to read through.

-Christopher Morelock

Monday, March 10, 2014

System shock!

Over the weekend I ran into some system shock. I went by a few of my close bike shops and saw some guys I was riding with last year. I kept thinking to myself... "holy crap, these dudes have got FIT." No kidding, I'm talking ~20lbs or more for each fella. I immediately got home and dusted off the old scale...

It can happen to us all...

Ok. I know I might be sounding a bit over-dramatic. Sure, sure, I hold a relatively similar level of fitness year round (or so I think) and maybe some of the guys I hadn't seen in a while had more to lose... but still. These guys have been busting their @$$es to crush face this season. This season which starts at the end of this month... What have I been doing? Have I REALLY been hitting it hard? Or have I been enjoying House of Cards and Japanese Whisky a little too much? (House of Cards is really addicting you have to admit...)

Don't get me wrong. I've been putting in some miles... but I've also been slacking... I know it deep down. Maybe it's been the winter, maybe it's been the booze, maybe it's just been a slump.
Nonetheless, it's over.
Monday was back on the straight and narrow. The drinks are going back to water, the diet is going to get a little more "athletic" again and the motivation is running on FULL. The best way to start that was with a 5x5 Bike ride into a 30' run brick. It's no secret that I don't enjoy bricks... never have...never will. That's not a good reason to avoid them. I've got some serious goals this year... they aren't going to make themselves happen.

So maybe you're like me... maybe you need a wake up call. Well here it is. Get up off your butt and make your dreams a reality. Nobody else is going to do it for you. Hell, nobody else even cares if you do it yourself.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Ok, I really didn't mean for this post to turn into a motivational poster, but it did and that's that. However, all the motivation in the world is worth what it costs to type it out. We'll see in a couple of months whether this was all hot air, or whether I am still hungry. (You all know I'm still foolish.)

On a different note, I am happy to say my first couple of rides on the Cobb SHC saddle are VERY promising. A week isn't really enough time to give a full review (although that is coming) but I have to say I'm very impressed with this thing. It's basically all the things I liked about my Arione Tri2 without the things I didn't like.

A new love affair? Don't tell Jenny...
So, give me a little time on this thing and I'll have a good old fashioned review ready to roll. (and some updates on my thoughts on the HC170 as well.)

Well, while I could spend a lot more of your time rambling on about random stuff... I'll just condense it to some sweet bullet points (everyone loves bullet points!)

  • The new Sanderson book is awesome
  • House of Cards and Game of Thrones are the best shows ever
  • Swimming at 4a.m. still sucks
  • I can't wait to return to the beach
  • I'm not a very good car mechanic
  • Winter is almost over!!!!
There... the short version of what I was going to draw out :)

As always, thanks so much for reading. I'm about to go for a run!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Saddle Up

First, to take a total left turn from anything even remotely related to triathlon... "Words of Radiance" (2nd book of the Stormlight Archive, following "Way of Kings.") hit the stands yesterday. Sanderson is an amazing fantasy writer (Robert Jordan - Wheel of Time - chose Sanderson to finish his series after his death.) and this series is supposedly going to be his epic saga. (that is...lots of big books) I can't recommend anything he has written enough. If you're on the fence for fantasy (maybe you like Game of Thrones on HBO) then this is a good place to dive in.

Just showing off some of Michael Whelan's amazing art.
Ok, nerd blurb over... but continuing the trend of not talking about triathlon... here's a picture of my Corvette, post installation of a new air intake.

More of a pain to work on than your average tri bike.
While I have to admit I'm not all that great of a car mechanic (although the Internet helps immensely)  so far I haven't screwed anything up and I'm more than willing to experiment on my own (and my braver friends) cars. Of course changing an air intake is pretty low on the wrench scale, but baby steps. I didn't want to pull the top of the motor on my first go :)

Anyways, back in the world of relevance (as if anything on this blog was relevant) it's new saddle time at the Morelock Stable.

Of course, if you weren't already aware (possibly those of you reading this blog in braille.) I'm a Cobb Mobb(ster) this year, so it only makes sense to be riding Cobb Saddles. The first saddle I ever purchased (that is, didn't come stock on my bike) was a Blackwell Research ISM Adamo (a blue one... to match my blue S32) that I used to the point that it had to be retired (left saddle rail of any saddle I keep for an extended period of time eventually sags. Weird problem I know.) I also had a short stint with a HC170, although it was sold to a local rider when I started taking my Scott apart for it's rebuild (which... I swear... is the next thing on my list to finish)

That said, I liked my time with the HC170 enough that I knew it was the Cobb saddle I wanted on my road bike.

Nothing but me, the bike, some fans and a workout.

When I had originally built my "budget" Cannondale, the saddle was the final afterthought. Since I was already ordering Nashbar brakes, I just threw in a $15 Nashbar saddle to go with it. I mean, the bike was only going to be used for short(er) rides and Crits anyways, right? Well, as it turned out I ended up using the CAAD quite a lot, so I think it's fair to say it (or is that I) deserves a nice saddle.

The HC170 probably isn't the saddle for everyone. I have always liked a minimalistic saddle (hell, my Zipp's saddle is nothing but a hard piece of carbon.) and especially so on my road bike. Minimalistic doesn't mean uncomfortable, despite often being misrepresented that way. I've only put about 100 miles on this HC170 so far, (all of them on the trainer, which for me is always a good gauge of how a saddle is going to work - hot spots, chafing, etc.) but I can happily say I haven't had any issues. Like everything else when it comes to contact points though, it's terribly important NOT to listen to what the guy on the Internet says and instead see what works for you. That said (shameless plug?) Cobb does give you 90 days to decide if it's the saddle for you, guaranteed... so there's no need to take anyone else's word for it, especially considering I can usually tell within a ride or two whether a saddle is going to work or not.

Not to be left out in the cold, I also planned on upgrading the saddle on the Cervelo. Unfortunately my LBS was sold out of the SHC... I opted to take a demo home with me while I (eagerly) await the white one heading my way. (Green just isn't working on this bike...don't you think?)

I guess if there was a category for bikes with most garish color combinations

So with new saddles on the whips (whip is such an underused term for bikes... and cars, and anything non-Xzibit related) it's time to get my lazy butt back in shape on the bike. I sense plenty of 5x5's and 2x20's in my future.

I also signed up for the White Sands Triathlon again this year. You may remember I nearly died on vacation last year at this race... so I'm a little hungry for some payback. I will be bringing my wetsuit with me this year as well :) Since being an iceberg of bad choices isn't on my list of things to repeat. The Trideltathon (one of my favorite warmup races) is the week before, and this year is a reverse tri... so I'll like hit that up as well.

Anyways, that's for reading through my mess of collective consciousness. Hopefully you've found some tidbits of usefulness in this mass of messy thoughts. I'll be bringing some more in depth thoughts on the Cobb Saddles (especially the SHC) in the future.

Until next time, thanks so much for reading

-Christopher Morelock