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

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Bi Annual blood work!

Sorry, a day late! Work and life have been kicking my butt the last week or so!

Well, as I've mentioned quite a bit in the past, after my ordeal with overtraining and my recovery I've become much more interested in keeping an eye on what's going on inside my body, and besides the obvious interest (because it's me!) a much more obtuse curiosity in how things like training, supplements, weather and diet (among others) have an effect on it.

Having a history of data to look back on and chart over time is information which is (or at least can be) invaluable when trying to set yourself up for optimal performance. Of course having the right set of eyes to help interpret the data is also worth it's weight in gold!

- So I'll go ahead and make my plug... I trust Dr. Sprouse at his new place, Podium Sports Medicine to help me lay that bag of snakes out straight.

You are not getting flipped off, promise!

Having a comprehensive blood panel has really opened my eyes to a lot of what goes on in training. I still have such a rudimentary understanding of all of it that it's laughable, but I've gleaned enough to start doing small "experiments" myself. When I first began getting my blood tested (in late '14 when I was really crashing) one of the things that was very tanked was my Vitamin D. I began supplementing it (with Thorne Research drops) fairly heavily and in on my next test it had risen a healthy amount. That was during winter, but as summer approached I began cutting back my amount of supplementing, mainly to see what would happen and whether or not I got enough D from the sun. In my latest labs it has again dropped, not to a scary level, but back under what I would have thought was optimal. I'll start adding a reduced bit back in during the warmer months and move back to a full dose during winter as it doesn't seem like I get quite enough compared to how much I'm exposed to the sun.

We also had my testosterone tested again in the round of labs. Personally I think this is a pretty unhelpful number to test regularly for anything more than curiosity as honestly... there is not much to be done if the numbers come back low. I will admit however, I was slightly relieved to see that I was well into the "normal" range after this test. Looks like I don't have to start lifting heavy things again! Yet...

Otherwise, besides a high'ish cholesterol (something I've had since I was a toddler) and a still elevated (but slowly dropping every time I have a test done) TSH, I got a pretty boring set of results. Of course, in this situation, boring is what you want.  (I was not very happy when the results were exciting! That meant things weren't looking good!!)  Considering my training load has increased fairly extensively in the past couple of months (I should peak around November! PERFECT...hahaha) the fact that nothing has tanked is encouraging that I'm back on the right track for the future.

Thanks so much for reading. If you are serious about training hours, I really do suggest at least having a very basic blood test done. I really would have benefited from it years ago, and now it is too late to go back. Especially if you've been feeling "run down" for a while now. It's very easy for us (endurance athletes) to really drain some of the important nutrients to keeping our body running optimally!

Big things in the future! Thanks again for reading!

- Christopher Morelock