Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Traveling Pt. 1 - Iceland

Guten Tag.

That's about all the German you will pry out of me (although I did also figure out "Englisch Speisekarte bitte!" pretty quickly) currently, although I have taken up trying to learn a little bit of the language as I realized how inadequate I am when I can barely speak fluent english and everyone in Iceland and Germany spoke at least two languages. I do now understand how some people can spend their entire life planning to travel the world, there is so much out there.

I admit I had considered not writing this and posting it, as not so long ago I decided the new format of the blog would be less about "me" and more about reviews and how to's.  That said, it's still my blog and I'm allowed to change my mind back and forth as I see fit, and beyond that I've been gone so long I had some pictures and stories to share from the trip, and I also didn't have a review or how-to put together that would be out before Christmas, so I figured what the hell.


It might be a surprise, but not only had I never left the country before this trip, but I had also never been on an airplane or a "large" boat before... so we were going to be checking quite a few things off the list in very short order.

My wife's aunt and uncle had generously paid for the majority of our trip as our belated wedding present, and we were fortunate that both of them are experienced travelers (my wife also has some expeditions under her belt, so really only I was out of my element.) and could give me some easy guidance on some pitfalls to try to avoid.

We were going to be gone a total of two weeks, considering we took one extra day off work to drive up to Maryland and stay a night with her Aunt/Uncle. We were scheduled to leave at 7:30 from Dulles airport. Our package included one (50lb) checked back and a carry on bag each. After doing some research online I quickly realized that we would have trouble bringing back any souvenirs from Germany if we both packed a loaded check bag, so I figured I'd see if I could go as spartan as possible and pack everything essential to me in my carry on.

I chose the Timbuk2 Wander pack as my carry on bag. It basically pushes the boundary of the carry on pack, but it does fit, and although this isn't a full on review of the pack, let me just say it was easily one of the best bits of money I've ever spent. Plenty of extra pockets and dividers to keep things tidy, and it doubled as both duffle and backpack being pretty good at both.

Damn good bag

Now the hard part, fitting that bag with enough stuff to survive two weeks in varying temperatures from holy sh*t cold to comfortable. In this I did a pretty good job in retrospect, a great job considering it was my first time... but not a perfect job.  My list ended up like this.
- 1 Pair weatherproof Sperry boots (great choice, worn not packed)
- 1 North Face hoodie (for lounging/layering, worn not packed)
- 1 Travelers Jacket (lightweight, tons of pockets, worn not packed)
- 1 18oz Denim Jeans (worn not packed)
- 1 Baseball cap (to make sure I looked American, worn not packed)
- 2 "Puffer" jackets (the kind you can roll up and save space, packed)
- 1 Pair of thermal base layers (ls shirt and pants, packed)
- 5 Pair boxer briefs (Lightweight fast dry so I could wash them in bathroom sink if necessary - which it was, 1 on, 4 packed)
 - 5 Pair socks (2 wool, 2 lightweight, 1 sport, again some that could be quick washed, 1 on 4 packed)
- 1 Pair winter lined Levi's jeans (packed)
- 1 Pair North Face wind proof pants (packed)
- 1 Pair Converse high tops (packed, pointless never worn)
- 5 T-shirts (1 on, 4 packed)
- 2 Button up lightweight shirts for any fancy situation (packed, should have been 1)
- 1 Long sleeve sweater (packed)
- 1 Toboggan (packed)
- 1 Scarf (packed)
- 1 Pair of wind proof (cycling) gloves (packed)

On top of that I also had my toiletry bag (primarily my contact lenses and glasses) and a portable charger brick (along with a power outlet converter) all fit neatly into my Timbuk2 bag.

In my checked bag I had my Ski jacket (too big for the check bag, didn't want to wear) and water bottle (should have emptied and hooked to my carry on bag) and just because we had a little extra space, I also packed my hand burr grinder and Aeropress so I could get a cup of coffee in most any situation (priorities) while still leaving us with a fair amount of extra space to fill up with anything we bought.

On Monday morning we drove up to Maryland, around an 8 hour drive from the house. We arrived in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day with my wife's family. The next day we killed time in Maryland (and bought my wife a different check bag, as she felt her's wasn't big enough) and really just waited for time to head to Dulles.

Worried about all the checks/getting there on time/delays/horror stories, we arrived around 5:30, and reasonably quickly made our way through all of the hoops that you have to jump through to clear TSA. It actually went by pretty smoothly, other than the fact that I foolishly left my passport in my pocket as I stepped through the scanner. That got me a good feeling up (and without even a drink) but I understand it was my blunder and take it all in stride. First new experience under my belt!

As we've got some time to kill, I explore some of the duty free stores and keep looking out the windows at the different jets. Damn, there are some massive planes out there. Of course, when a dinky little 757 with "Icelandair" written on it pulls up in our gate, my disappointment is palpable. First flight on plane that has been in service longer than I've been alive, check.

My first takeoff was kind of underwhelming really. I kind of expected slightly more "oh shiiiiiit" but I guess they design them to kind of take that element out of it. Unfortunately it was pitch dark, so other than some of the lights of DC there really wasn't much to see. Our plane had onboard entertainment in each headrest, and my wife and I managed to make our way through "Wonder Woman" (yawn) and a couple of educational Iceland videos before Reykjavik was in sight. One smooth landing and a seemingly timeless wait to step off the plane and we were finally in Iceland.

Customs met us and again I had only the slightest problem (take your hat off!) before we were given our stamp. We head for the front door of the airport, where we'll take a bus to the rental car service. Only a few more feet until I take my true first step in a new country! We push open the doors and...

... Fuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!
It's cold. Not just cold, but holy crap cold. My hoodie and light jacket are absolutely laughably inefficient at protecting me from the wind. That walk down the sidewalk toward the bus pick up, and the wait for said bus, might be the coldest I've ever been in my entire life. It's about this time, going on 20 hours with no sleep and no food since a bag of chips at Dulles, that I think, perhaps this traveling stuff isn't for me.

The bus mercifully arrives and shuttles us to the rental car street. After a brief discussion with the man behind the desk  (and assuring him we have no plans of going out into the wilderness) we are given the keys to a "nice" SsangYong XLV (which a quick google search will reveal is the 4th largest auto company in South Korea) which is basically the same as any small SUV you'd rent, with the slight exception that it's 4x4 and diesel, which are both sort of requirements in Iceland. Unexciting in the grand scheme of vehicles you could be driving in Iceland (Do a quick google search for Iceland Super Jeeps) but since we were planning to stick to the roads, it'd do.

There are no rap songs about SsangYongs that I know of, although it'd be fun to try to rhyme.

The drive to our rental was fairly unexciting, it's dark (it's dark a lot in Iceland during the winter) and it was windy, with random bouts of fairly heavy snow, so it was tough to get too good of a grasp on the landscape... other than the ice. Did I mention it was cold?

We arrive in the small town (I won't even try to butcher it's name) where we had rented a condo, in an area brimming with... greenhouses... weird. All of that thermal heat is actually pretty good for growing plants it turns out, so long as you protect it from the biting cold. Our place is pretty nice really, the kind of place you wouldn't mind calling home, if you planned to never leave your home 6 months every year. The floors were heated (again, thanks nature!) which was a welcome relief, with nice, inviting beds. I love sleep all the time, but I REALLY wanted nothing more than to curl up in like 6 layers of clothing and sleep 12 hours, hoping that when I awoke the biting cold would be gone.  Unfortunately, the rest of my crew outvoted me, suggesting that it would be best to suck up the jet lag right now and suffer through than it would be to sleep the day away now and try to adjust later. Sigh.

To thy own self be true... I'm a bit grumpy the next day if I don't get my 8 hours. Take a full 24 hours away from me, and I'm a truly miserable human being to be around. Then add to that I'm hungry and probably the coldest I've ever been for the longest stretch and you'll see why my wife especially is a true saint for not leaving me stranded somewhere in Iceland...

We drive back to Reykjavik to explore the town, and even in my grumpy mood I had to admit, it was a very cool place. The Chuck Norris bar and the Big Lebowski themed bar are interesting sights if you're into goofy pop culture references (I am) and the rest of the town does a good job of being a modern "big" city while still not letting you forget where you are.

We look for a place to eat, and while I was outvoted on whether to get some sleep or not I was adamant that I would not suffer the indignity of my first meal in Iceland being from the equivalent of an Ol' Charleys. Off on one side road I see a three story house converted into a restaurant... LOKI's. Alright, it's got the draw, and it's not flashy enough to make me think it's just a gimmick, so with my half muddled logic of "It's got to be good, look at it!" we cautiously embark on our first culinary adventure.

Let me tell you, this place kicked some serious @ss! While the "meat soup" I ordered sounded pretty adventurous, I'd be hard pressed to pick it out of a blind taste test with Campbell's Vegetable Beef. At the time, that was exactly what the doctor ordered though... the first bit of warmth I'd felt in half a day. The rest of the food was outstanding (lamb and rye is what I got, while my wife tried the Skyre... a form of yogurt native to Iceland.) and I really wish I had had the foresight to have tried some of the more "adventurous" meals while we were at a place like this, but at the time I was in a mental state where I didn't want to risk getting something I hated.

The ride back to our rental I pitched between consciousness and delirium... Eventually settling into a happy medium. I don't honestly remember much else... a stop at a woefully stocked grocery store with an odd piggy bank mascot, debating which bad coffee grinds to buy (no beans) and finally getting a shower. At this point it was evening again... While my wife quickly slipped away to sleep I decided to catch up on anything I had missed back home and kill another hour or so so that when I finally hit the pillow it would be back on my "normal" sleep schedule. Let me tell you... that is the deepest I think I've ever slept. 10 hours blackout.

The next day, after a couple of cups of coffee, I was back to my old self. Still not loving cold weather, but taking it in spite to appreciate everything else around us. I daresay I crossed the line back to "crotchety" away from "impossible to be around." Our second day was filled with lots of exploring, mostly in the car, but really trying to see as much landscape in Iceland as we could. We checked out frozen waterfalls, black beaches and a large crater! On our way to the national park we also found our way into a white out, which is one of the more harrowing things I've experienced. Snow so hard that you literally can't see the lines on the road or the taillights in front of you any longer is a bit of a shock!

Those final two days in Iceland were pretty awesome. I saw tons of things I really never thought I'd see... and came to really like a place I HATED the first little while I was there (look, I don't like the cold.) We're already planning a return trip (during the summer) to explore more of the island and see what else it has to offer!

Sitting in the airport, ready to head off to Germany for the next part of our adventure, I couldn't help but feel like I was leaving with unfinished business. I came to Iceland with one goal... to try Hakarl, (link to the wiki page, but for the abridged, dried rotten shark) which is an Icelandic tradition. There had been only one opportunity (at Loki's on that first day) which I squandered, and now it seemed I'd never get the chance. As fate would have it, as we were looking in some of the Duty Free stores at the airport, there was a little shop with a cooler in the back. More than anything I just wanted a bottle of water, but I was surprised to find a pack of Hakarl sitting lonely on the shelf! Price be damned, I scooped it up, and despite some incredulous looks from the cashier and a long sigh and eyeroll from my wife, I finally got my Hakarl.

Sounds pretty good. It's just shark, right?

Opening the package quickly cleared out the area next to us, so I was free to try it (and video it, which you can see on my FB page) in peace. I channeled my inner Ultimate Warrior and psyched myself up. Feeling the Shark, it really just seemed like any piece of white fish sashimi. Smelling it was another, less pleasant story. Faintly fishy, but overwhelmingly encompassed with a lingering, pungent hint of ammonia. (That is the nice way of saying it smelled like a neglected urinal) Not to be deterred, even in the face of a four hour flight that I was risking possibly enjoying from the wash closet... down the hatch it went.

Chewy, and certainly not "good" by any stretch of the imagination, but not anywhere near the horror stories I had read on the internet. The ammonia smell lingers in your nostrils, although I didn't really catch any "taste" of it, for the most part... it really was just "meh." The closest thing I can think of to describe it to is when you go to that sketchy sushi joint that has all you can eat sushi, and you get that piece of fish that has probably been sitting out for a little too long... that's what this tastes like. With the smell of pee. So, after describing it and re-reading it, it's not very good.

And with that... we were boarding for Germany...

I think this is a pretty good place to stop for now so that this post doesn't take hours to read. I'll finish up with some pictures I snapped from Iceland! You can also check out my instagram or twitter to see even more pictures. My Facebook also has quite a few video's checking in on some famous sights if you want to head over there.

Look, I've played Skyrim, nothing good can come of going in here... except sweet loot!
Inside, no loot unfortunately, but it was pretty cool nonetheless.

A picture taken from the window of our rental. Isn't it...cold looking...

Selfie (hi wife!) in front of the crater. I liked how there were 0 safety precautions taken here... one false step (on ice) and you just plummeted to your doom. Cool.
The crater, sans selfie. You can make out tiny specks in the center... those are people!

I kind of look like a drunken dwarf in this picture in front of the frozen waterfall.

Iceland - go for the views, stay for the shark
Another unbelievable view. Now that's an OWS!

Look, I didn't come to Iceland NOT to eat at sketchy food trucks in the middle of nowhere. Good thing too, because these fish and chips (despite being $15/plate!!!) were awesome!

Alright, thanks so much for reading! We'll wrap this up next time and then get back to some how-to's (which I've got in the works, arts and crafts time!)

Everyone have a Happy Holiday and be safe!

-Christopher Morelock

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Review: A used Computrainer for trainer season!

We're living in a pretty awesome time. The market for smart trainers is quickly following that of power meters, which is to say they are getting much cheaper at a very quick rate. There is a lot of competition out there now vying for your hard earned dollar, and so the question often comes up... what smart trainer is for me?

I do almost all of my riding indoors, and for MANY years I put an untold amount of miles on my trusty old Kurt Kinetic Green Machine. (The angry badger special if anyone remembers what that was.)  But eventually I decided it was time to enter the world of the smart trainer, and so I had to go through that very same line of reasoning... what trainer is for me? I spent a lot of time considering it and comparing models, and in the end I chose a used Computrainer that I picked up for $400 off of a classifieds site. That is still about the going rate depending on the model and what all is included, although with Computrainer shutting down prices seem to have dropped slightly.

So, I'm going to go over my through process and explain how I came to the conclusion that the oldest smart trainer was still the one for me.

First, I wanted a system I could run a fixed gear bike on, which (at least at the time) meant either a wheel based system or the Lemond trainer (which has a fixed adapter) but since I wanted to be able to switch (quickly) between geared and fixed it really meant ONLY a wheel based system. For others direct drive might hold more appeal.

What I liked
There were two main things that in the end swayed me to choosing the Computrainer over another system, reliability and replacement parts. Those two things mean a lot to me since I like to DIY most of my projects and not rely on sending things back to the manufacturer.

I think when people talk about reliability in trainers, it's hard to argue that the Computrainer is still the benchmark, with many professional studios running units hard day in and day out for many years with little maintenance.  That's not to say that some of the newer offerings aren't just as reliable, but they don't yet have the 20+ years of data that the Computrainers has to look back on. It's nice that as a whole the machine is fairly "simple" in design and all of the parts are well built meant to take a beating.
I like that the head unit controller is an easy to understand setup with no frills attached. (as you might expect) It's sort of like the old SRM units, just a couple of buttons, sturdy design, not much to draw your attention away from getting work done. The buttons don't provide quite the feedback I'd really like (sometimes you need to look to make sure you actually hit the botton) but overall everything works the way you'd expect.
While it's certainly not something unique to Computrainers, the stability of the unit is something I like as well. I'm certainly no sprinter, but occasionally I wind up for a meager 800-900w "sprint" in a zwift race or what have you, and I appreciate that a big out of the saddle move doesn't "rock" the trainer. It's a little back of the mind relief that this thing can take much higher outputs without throwing the rider off like a scorned bull that makes me willing to embarrass myself when the green jersey comes up for grabs.
And most of all I like the accuracy. After you've set your crr for the unit you can be confident that 250w today and 250w tomorrow are going to be what you're hitting. There is a great debate out there about whether accuracy is more important than inaccuracy so long as it's repeatable... but why not get it right if you can? This thing is accurate, repeatably!

What I didn't like
For all the things I did like about the Computrainer, there are some things that are not in it's favor. The biggest one is that it is a wired system. That means that ANT+, Bluetooth, and pretty much anything that will come in the future will NOT be compatible with the Computrainer, and (especially now with them being semi-defunct) it's unlikely that going forward there will be any reverse engineering to make it work (like what Zwift have done) and you aren't ever going to get it working on a phone/tablet/whatever.  At current, this isn't a problem for me since I run a desktop to use all my programs, but I can see a time in the future when that becomes either cumbersome or just totally obsolete. You can use both TR and Zwift on your iPad (and Android, at least soon for Zwift) and while that's not the "norm" for most people in 2017, it might be in another year or two. That's something that will likely never work with the Computrainer.

You'd expect, as things look right now that we've hit enough of a lull in technology (both actual hardware and in programs like Zwift / TR being top of the hill right now) that you'll get a good couple more years out of the Computrainer before compatibility really starts to become an issue. Zwift and TR are the current big dogs, and both have been thoughtful enough to include compatibility with the Computrainer, if a bit crudely retrofit. Still, what's hot today is often overshadowed tomorrow, so this is a big sticking point to consider.

Speaking of negatives and software... there is the Racermate program made for your Computrainer. To say it hasn't aged well in the face of the Zwift era is, well, a huge understatement. While there are some parts of the software that are convenient (downloading a race course is simple) it's not something you can't do with the other programs (I just download the course from mapmyride and put it into Zwift)

There is also the video series... I'll admit, the first time or two you load one up it's got some novelty to it, but really, of the stack of videos I got with my Computrainer I've watched/ridden each of them once or twice, and now they are laying in a forgotten CD protector book with my Weezer albums.

Another negative towards the Computrainer is sustained climbing/big gear work. Since you cool the load generator by spinning it, once you slow your cadence down you start heating things up. Eventually you run the risk of burning up the unit... although the tyre might give up before then. For most people this will never be an issue, but it's something to consider if you were planning some epic Everesting challenge.

While I did list reliability and ease of getting replacement parts as a positive, it's also worth noting that it's possible that will change in the coming years. While finding a DIN cable or Audio cable will never be an issue, I could imagine a time where needing a new power strip or load generator might become more difficult. It's also worth noting that while Racermate does sell all the essential parts for the Computrainer as of now, they aren't cheap. $375 for the Handlebar controller, no matter how sturdy it is is fairly laughable. (*as of Nov 17 both the Controller and Load Generator are on backorder... maybe something to consider as well.)

Working with Zwift
Zwift is sort of the shared king of indoor training / entertainment (TR is less so entertainment) and very likely something you've at least considered if you're looking at a smart trainer. The good news is that the Computrainer does indeed work with Zwift... the bad news is that it's not without some hiccups.

Obviously, it needs to be wired into your computer. I think everyone is aware of that, so I won't belabor the point. No iPad/Android Zwifting.

Otherwise, the biggest annoyance is the calibration. The Computrainer needs a couple of minutes at a warmup pace for the tyre to get heated up enough for a stable pressure/crr reading. (I know, in theory if you got the pressure exactly right on the rear tyre with the same air pressure every time it'd be ok, but that's not real life.) Once everything is warmed up and get consistent readings when you check the crr then your Computrainer is ready to go and accurate. Unfortunately, Zwift doesn't have a way to do this calibration In-Game. Once your Computrainer is connected to Zwift, you lose any use of your handlebar controller, including setting the crr. Unfortunately, that means you are going to be spending the first 10-15 minutes of every ride you do off of Zwift, calibrating, then loading up the program.  Some creative folks have tried things like yanking the cord from the computer, setting crr, then plugging it back up... but in my own experience/testing Zwift would never recognize the Computrainer again without re starting the program, at which point you might has well just wait and do it right.  I wouldn't look for this feature to be implemented in the future either... it seems like if an in-game calibration was going to be added, it would have made it's way in around the time Beta ended. As mentioned above, it's unlikely much thought is given to a "dead" smart trainer any longer.

That said, once you are up and running things are great. The Computrainer response in ERG mode is fast and, well... it's a Computrainer. They didn't get everything right, but the things they got right, they REALLY got right, and the ride quality is one of those things. Outside ERG mode (in "riders choice") you have some crude resistance up/down controls and the things works like a slightly smarter dumb trainer.

Final Thoughts
The Computrainer is in an odd spot right now, and that makes it tough to recommend to the average person... certainly it's built like a tank, but how many of us are sending .50 shots at our smart trainer? It does pretty much everything you need it to do, but it (likely) won't do the things  you will want it to do in a couple of years. They don't often break, but if a key part does break, how long will you be able to get parts for it? It's accurate, but it's not high tech. These are things that's the average person really has to weigh against how much they are willing to pay for "the nicest old house in the neighborhood." At present, I think $500 for a nice model with some extra's is about where I draw the line. Anything more than that and the competition is just too steep. Below that and you are in what i think of as "deal" territory. Sure there are other smart trainers in that price range, but nothing quite of the same build quality and reliability.

So at the end of the day, I think it's a good option for folks who have their eyes open going in and don't mind waiting for the right deal. I love mine, and hope I can get another 5 years or so at least out of it before I even start having to think about "upgrading." We will see!

I will be in Germany for the next couple of weeks. It's unlikely I will get any meaningful blogging done in that time, or the immediate future when I get back to work/real life. I will have another post up before Christmas for sure though! Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How To: Dip Your Whip!

Well, it's our first post in the new format, I hope I can deliver!

In the last couple of years one of the things I get the most comments about is my Speed Concept, or particularly how I painted it flat black and then wrote a bunch of crap on it in gold. Well, it isn't paint, it's Plasti Dip. I've painted a carbon bike before, and while it's not the end of the world, it's a bit more job than I want to replicate in my garage again.

Being that it's been about two years since I started riding my Trek, I thought it was time for a refresh. As the theme of the last little bit has been new formats, I thought I might branch out and paint it a new color as well! So, after perusing the local hardware store I chose red. (Fastest color, right?) Since I was going to do it anyways, why not make it a how to!

Plasti Dipping your bike

Prep Work

The first thing I needed to do was strip the old dip off of the bike. You can of course skip this if you're starting fresh, or refer to it if you want to take the dip back off later! One of the big bonuses of using Plasti Dip as opposed to paint is that once you get good and tired of it, it's relatively easy to remove. After removing all the components (it'll be necessary for the next coat anyways, and it makes removing all the old dip / cleaning the frame much quicker and easier) you'll have your choice of where to start as there will be plenty of places that the dip ends. Failing that you should also be able to get your fingernail under some of it and start that way. I began at the seat post insert.

As you can see in the picture above, large chunks really do come off pretty much as advertised. The caveat to that is that when you spray something it has enough of a layer to stick together. If you lightly coat a part (easy to do if you weren't paying attention while spraying something of similar colors) then it will not peel quite as easily, although it still shouldn't cause too much problem. For those problem area's and any residual nooks and cranny's my suggestion is to spray with good old WD-40. Leave that on for about a minute and wipe with a rag... the plasti dip should melt enough to come off pretty easily.

Now you need to give the bike/parts/whatever you're coating a good bath. Make sure that everything is nice and clean so you'll have a good surface to spray onto. Don't skip this step! Just take the water hose and a rag and give your bike a bath you filthy animal.

The next part of the preparation is to mask off the parts of the frame you aren't interested in coating. The better job you do here the less headache you will have later. Trust me. If a degree in design taught me anything at all, it's that a little extra prep work will save you from having a disaster towards the end. You are going for a nice even spray all over. If you have to start cutting/ripping bits of plasti dip off to fit your water bottle cage bolts, it's going to start ripping up your coating prematurely.

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I always start off with big squares of painters tape to block off most of what I don't want sprayed. Holes in the bike (cable inserts, bottom bracket,  head tube, seat post) are annoying because you want to try to get as close to the edge as possible, but you still need something for the tape to stick onto. I go back and forth between taping over and cutting a slightly larger diameter around the opening, and stuffing the opening with bunched up tape. Both seem to work pretty well, it really depends on how well I can get the tape to stick. Then it's time to pull out your trusty xacto knife and CAREFULLY trim the masking tape into the shapes you need. I can't stress enough, carefully. You don't want to be cutting down into the paint, and if you're using a very sharp knife it is easier than you think. Just don't get in a hurry and you should be fine.

Here's how it looked when I got done trimming. You don't need to be perfect, but again, the better you do now the less cleanup you'll have to look forward to later. Once you're satisfied with your masking, it's time to get to the fun part.

Spraying the bike

There are a LOT of options when it comes to plasti dip. I'm going to be using the cheap rattle cans I bought at the hardware store, but you can certainly go hog wild. has some really cool stuff, although I've never used it personally. (I'm a cheapskate)

It's here I'll throw some words of advice/caution out before you get started. If you're using pretty much any color except black, you are going to have a tough time totally covering the designs on your bike (unless there are none of course.) Using red to cover blue/white for example (in this post) it will be very tough to totally conceal the Trek logo's / where the bike sharply changes color. I tested it out on the fork first and decided I actually thought it looked pretty cool with the design very slightly visible underneath, but if you're looking to get a solid coloring out of it my suggestions are to either

a.) build a lot of layers. Personally I go 3-5 sprays and that seems to build up a nice coating. If I wanted to totally conceal what was underneath, maybe 8ish(?) would be necessary, maybe more.

b.) Start with a coat or two of black plasti dip, then use the color of your choice over top of it. Black pretty much covers everything, and then covering black will hide any of the logo's/paint underneath. This probably ends up being cheaper and easier than option a.

So, once that's out of the way it's time to start spraying.

When it comes to spraying, especially out of a rattle can, it can't be understated to do it in a warm area with a warm can. The colder it is, the longer it'll take to dry and the more likely you're going to get runs in the dip. Runs are going to cause you all manner of headache down the road. On the first layer or two you're going to be really, really tempted to load it down with dip... it might look like you're not even getting much of a layer on the first time over... you will regret overspraying the first layer or so, trust me. This is where you're most likely to get runs, and again, runs now are headache you can avoid later.

If it's nice and warm out the layers should go on and be relatively dry quickly. It was around 70° here and the dip was pretty much as done drying within 5 minutes. Give yourself a little time, use a ventilated area (with mask of course) and slowly apply layers.

Now, having said that, I wanted to bodge mine pretty badly so I could show you how to "fix" a bad job and repair plasti-dip.  If you're only a layer or two in and you've got horrid runs/texture/etc, probably the easier course is just to peel it off and start again. But I'm going to show you a little bit more "advanced" stuff. It'll come in handy when you inevitably get a tear in your dip (bike carriers will shred plasti dip, as will sweat eventually.)

Another thing for me to stress to you is that no matter what, you're not going to get professional looking results out of a $5 rattle can. Not in paint, plasti dip or anything else. If you can't live with some imperfections, this isn't going to be for you. You can end up with a very nice job that will look sweet to somebody passing by, but if they put their face right up to it it's probably going to show some flaws. My advice is to fix the major flaws that are in obvious areas, but don't worry about some runs on the bottom of the left chainstay or somewhere else nobody will ever see.

So, back on track... give the entire frame/part a good 2-3 layers, where the plasti dip is noticeably built up.

As you can see, from a few feet away, not bad. Unfortunately, once you get up close the ugly details become more apparent.

The top right of the first picture you can see there are runs that culminated on the downtube. These run all the way down the right side of the bike. When you run your hand down the downtube they are noticeable humps to the touch (that's important, make a note)

In the second picture I've got some rips (I actually ripped it on purpose, but it's easy to do if you didn't let it totally dry and accidentally brush it, touch it, etc... this is also how most of your damage later on will look, albeit possibly bigger)  so I'll go over how to "fix" both types, or at least the way I do it.

Fixing imperfections

Understand first that plasti dip only builds layers on what is already there. So just spraying another layer on top of an imperfection will not do anything but add another layer of imperfection. That mean's that there are two steps to fixing either a tear or a run.
1.) Get the dip even.
2.) Add more layers

In the case of runs, you have too much plasti dip in a few area's (where it has pooled) compared to the rest of the layer. I've found the best way to bring it back to even is by wet sanding with very fine sandpaper (I use 1500, although that takes a lot longer than something like 800 you have more control over it. You really would prefer not to make a dip into a tear)

Sanding dip, like sanding anything, is time consuming. Using a lower grit makes it a lot quicker, but you have a bit more chance of going too deep too soon. I use a spary bottle of slightly soapy water and use a microfiber rag to dry it after I think I've sanded enough. It's important to remember, you aren't trying to make it look pretty at this point, you're just trying to make it even. So sand, rinse, wipe, run your finger over it, if you feel a bump, repeat.

Now, when you have a tear, you need to try to even out the layers a different way. The real PITA of a tear in plasti dip is that the edges inevitably flay back, meaning when you spray it again it will look like crap. We'll fix this kind of stuff by "melting" the surrounding dip back down and smoothing it. There are a number of chemicals that will "melt" plasti dip, but I prefer to use good old mineral spirits because it's a little less "nasty" than some some of the others (many people use paint thinner, but I prefer not to on my carbon bikes)

I take some spirits and pour it in a cup... put on my nitrile glove and dab my finger in it. Then I start rubbing the area I want to loosen up.

It may seem like at first you aren't doing anything, that's because mineral spirits isn't quite as powerful as something like paint thinner. Just keep rubbing and you'll see that the dip starts to slowly melt. Now start working over the area that has the tear slowly. You may need to get another dab of spirits on your finger, and sometimes for bigger discrepancies  it helps to use your fingernail to "help" move it where you want. Again, I can't stress it enough... you aren't trying to make it look good, you just want it to be even. When you feel like it's fairly smooth, give it some time to air dry. (Don't use your towel!) Now go back and rub around the area and see if you got it close.

In the picture above you can see I've done an "ok" job, but still need to go back over it a couple of times and smooth it out further.

Later on, much smoother now.

Once you've got things moderately well smoothed out, go back and add another layer or two of plasti dip to it. When you start adding more layers it should all start to come together nicer. Take your time with these final coats, because if you get more runs now, you've got to go back and start the smoothing steps over again.

Here's the last layer before putting it all back together. There are still a couple of imperfections, but you need to be standing right on top of the bike to see the majority of them.  I certainly could have gotten it better, but for a bike I'm going to beat up, I'm not going to stress too much over it.

Finishing up

Now that you're done with the spraying, it's time to remove the masking tape. You have to pay attention during this step or you're going to end up with tears. If you've put a good few layers on then your plasti dip has sealed over the tape, so just yanking it off will pull some of the dip you want to keep on the bike with it. I go over the edges of the tape with my xacto knife and try to make sure there is a clean break before I yank it off. A good trick for bottle cage bosses is to get the xacto underneath one side and use the sharp edge to both lift and cut at the same time.

If you need to do touch up (either now or later on) the best solution I've found is to spray some plasti dip into a cup (enough for it to pool up) and use a cheap paint brush (a small one, like for painting a picture) to fill in whatever is missing. You'll have to add a layer (it'll probably be watery) let it dry and repeat a couple of times, but that's best for small issues. For larger rips, you really need to mask off a large area and smooth the edges/re spray it. Keep in mind any time you touch up big areas it will not match, with plasti dip you pretty much have to spray the entire bike to get it to look even again. Just something to keep in mind.

So, here's what I ended up with

The total cost, if you include all the "extra's" (most of which I had laying around the house) was about $40, and I still had about 190 extra gloves, some extra trash bags, 50 or so extra plastic cups, most of a gallon of mineral spirits, 2 microfiber towels and part of a can of dip left over.

Hopefully that got you through the crash course on dipping your bike. If you've got any questions, feel free to shoot me a message!

Thanks so much for taking the time to check it out!

- Christopher Morelock

Monday, October 9, 2017

Page Update - Format Change

Hello all,

I didn't want to leave everyone in the dark when a post didn't show up on Wednesday, but this will be just a short update on what's happening.

I started this blog in late 2012, and since then, minus a couple of weeks where I was on vacation / etc I've steadily posted weekly. For the most part, it began as a fun side project for me to get some of my thoughts down. Seemingly on it's own and through feedback from you guys (both in comment and from analytics) the blog became more focused on reviews and how to's, along with a couple of race reports and the intervening weeks being mostly "filler." As I've started racing less and less (moving from Triathlon, to cycling and now almost totally to "only" time trialing) there has been more and more "filler" and a couple of people have let me know that the blog's quality has dropped. (Not that it was a bar of excellence at any point in it's life) Looking back over the last few months with as impartial an eye as I can have, I tend to agree. 

So, like many things in life, it's necessary to adapt and change or become completely irrelevant and disappear entirely. I still enjoy writing and most of the things to do with this blog, so I'm not quite ready to hang up my quill just yet. Nonetheless, it's time for a change.

The new format of the blog will focus on what it seems the viewer wants to see. More reviews, how to's, a couple of race reports and only the most infrequent "what's going on in life." Fair enough. 

What that means
- Less frequent posts overall. The blog will no longer be weekly, maybe not even bi-weekly. From this point forward I'll do my best to post links on Twitter (hey, follow me and I'll follow you back!) when a new one is up.

- Large focus on Reviews and How To's. Keep in mind that my reviews are almost always from things I've purchased with my own hard earned money. (Or ill gotten gains...whatever) So, unless you see a big disclaimer at the very top of the review, you'll know I wasn't paid/given the item to review, and I try to be "practical" about my reviews and just say "I don't know" if I don't know. The how to's will stay primarily bike related, but something else might pop up from time to time.

- Hopefully more quality despite less quantity. It's my hope that with more time to spend on fewer posts the quality of what gets put out will be much higher. This is where feedback helps me out!

So, that's the plan. Thanks everybody who has stuck with the blog over the last xxxx amount of time. I really appreciate it! 

Until next time

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Nostalgia Race Report: IM Augusta 2011

So as Facebook often does, it reminded me that it was six years ago that I did my first half Ironman race in sunny Augusta. I had filed a race report on Beginnertriathlete at the time, and I got a little bit nostalgic. Not nostalgic enough to want to do another triathlon, but nonetheless, looking back at what I felt and wrote at the time was good for me, and I thought I'd share! I'll add my commentary in italics where I feel I need to reflect.

Pre Race
First let me put in my shout outs. All kinds of people deserve thanks, Bryan, Trigal, TriAya, Rudedog, Trix, Lockout, Shane, all the people who have been in my mentor groups, anyone who has answered any of my stupid questions... It would take a whole page to thank all you guys on BT and ST. Beyond that my LBS Cycology bicycles and my fitter Eddie Sloan, who's worked with me for countless hours on my position. 
Also my best friend Wes who has to listen to me talk about triathlon 24/7. 

David, who's not just the only man I've ever met paler than I am, but also a fantastic coach and friend who has to listen to me whine. 

Finally, my family, especially my mom, who doubles duty as moral support, mechanic, Medic, cook, driver, etc. Anyways, that's enough of the gushy stuff, on to the meat and potatoes. 

Getting to Augusta has been a bit challenging. My first two "A" races this year have been pretty disastrous as DNF's (Flatting out at Rev3 Knx and going off course at Amica 19.7) so I was a bit hungry to show I could perform. A week or so ago, I got a little overzealous on my run and ended up doing "something" to my back/butt/left leg. It basically put me to a super easy taper and quite a bit of doubt as to how I was going to hold up on race day. My goals were set up like this 
worst case scenario - finish (I really wanted to avoid a DNF
meh day - 5:05 or better 
happy day - sub 5:00 
good day - 4:52 
great day - anything below that 

I arrived in town midday Friday to our hotel in Aiken. After we dropped off the essentials it was a quick drive over to Augusta Marriot to get signed in, then to scope out swim start and transition. I ended up walking (in sandals no less) quite a bit farther than I expected to / should have. Most of the day Saturday I spent laying around besides setting up transition and driving the bike course. My grandparents and dad arrived later in the afternoon, and while my family went out for the night I walked across the street to Applebees, had dinner and went to bed early. (About 7pm)

woah, already some people I have fallen out of touch with that I miss. Actually the mid-2000's BT forum folks in general were all pretty great. You can see I sucked at taper's from the beginning.

I look so small in this picture!

I got up Sunday at 3:15a.m. took a shower, had breakfast and coffee, took care of the essentials and got the rest of the car packed up. I was feeling pretty good overall, my ankles were a bit sore from walking around in sandals Friday, but no big deal. I set up the rest of Transition, jumped the bus to swim start, and waited around there until they started calling for my wave (wave5, second half of men 25-29) Jumped in the water, and had to make an effort to stay behind the start buoys. It began raining while we were waiting to start, but just sprinkled and had stopped before I got out of the water.

Perfect stuff, spend all day the day before the race on your feet... 

The announcer said the current was not nearly as fast as it was last year, but I dunno, it seemed like it was certainly moving to me. I started at the front of this wave, and got melee'd back to my "ideal" spot. I've found this a better solution than starting back too far and having to battle people kicking. I quickly found some feet and had a very uneventful swim... every minute or so I'd stick my head up to make sure we were on course, but honestly it would have been very tough to get off course. It did seem like we were pretty close to the shore (too close for the fastest part of the current) but I decided it was better just to sit and draft than it was to break out on my own. About 1k to the swim exit we ran into some very thick "seaweed" (whatever you call it in a river) which was a bit gross, but no big deal (or so I thought

I was looking at 35min going in, so when I saw 27' on my watch I knew it was going to be a good day.

You could throw a potato chip bag in the swim start at Augusta and expect it to do close to a 35' swim, so my 27' was certainly not impressive in the least. I didn't drown though.

The run up the ramp and into transition was extremely long. (the entire length of the transition area) and I had to dodge the wetsuit stripper pile up. I had cut about 1.5" off the legs of my wetsuit prior to the race and it made a huge difference getting it off fast, I highly suggest it! As I'm pulling my left leg out my calf cramps!! OUCH. I shake it off fast and keep moving. Helmet on sunglasses on Out the door. Had to dodge a few people all over the course, but finally got into my shoes and down to business, calf being a PITA all the way.

I actually still acutely remember the pain in my calf. I've never experienced the same kind of pain before or after, and I hope I never do again.

Out of transition! No flying squirrel though

This was the first time my bike ride has ever been a "controlled" thing. Generally I just ride...hard. The goal at Augusta was to stay in the neighborhood of 200watts, and around 270-300 for the climbs. The first 10 miles or so this was very easy as I was fighting with my calf cramp along with the miles of people lined up. I spent this time making sure I was getting my calories in and massaging my leg. Eventually the crowds started thinning and my calf gave me some relief. Any time my watts climbed over 230w I would sit up on the bullhorns, just to stretch / grab a drink. The rest of the time I spent in Aero. 
At about mile 15 I was having a new issue. Severe pain in my crotch. I tried to push through it, but it was not subsiding and I was becoming quite worried. Finally I sat up on a downhill and reached down to see what the issue was. I pull my hand out with a fist full of that stupid seaweed! WTF! I try to wash my junk with my water bottle and clean up the situation. I got enough of it to make life tolerable the rest of the ride. 

I was hoping for a 2:33 and ended up with a 2:27, and never felt like I left my comfort zone doing it, so I would call it a good day. 
Avg. Watts: 191 
Max. Watts: 532 
NP: 206

Ahh yes, seaweed crotch. One of my finer moments. Not a particularly impressive bike ride, from the max watts you can see I followed the plan of "around 270-300 on the climbs" almost perfectly... It would take me another 6-7 years to figure out how you pay for stuff like that. Still, it wasn't a terrible bike for the fitness I had at the time.

Man, the Planet X... I miss that bike

Coming into T2 crossed some covered train tracks and otherwise rough pavement. I was about to swing my leg over the saddle when I remembered my cramps earlier in the day... I came to a full stop and stepped over, losing a second or two but saving my dignity. (What there is of it to save that is

Otherwise T2 was pretty uneventful. Again, I did have to run the entire length of transition to get out. (same as the swim but reversed)

Well, common sense seemingly did play a part in my early triathlon career. 

And here we were. 13 miles to the finish, two hours to beat my goal of sub 5. I come out of the gates just a bit hot (pun intended) but quickly slow down to a more tolerable 7:3x pace. The first three miles go pretty well and I am feeling fairly comfortable. Then, like a scene from a movie, the sky parts (it had been fairly overcast all day) and the sun beams down in all its glorious suffering. The heat pretty much skyrockets into the 90's and I immediately feel it. The aid stations on the run were also not exactly a mile apart, so after I miss getting a drink at mile 3 (I was throwing water on myself as opposed to down my throat) I can feel myself burning out. At 4.5 or so I can feel my left leg throbbing a bit in the back area, so I decide to stop and stretch it out. TERRIBLE idea, as soon as I stop and lift my left leg my calf balls up on itself and very nearly puts me on the ground. I get that worked out and decide that stopping is a bad idea in general. New plan - Walk every aid station and make sure to get 1 coke and 1 water (plus as much Ice as I can pack onto myself / under my hat) At one point I have 5 sponges shoved in my tri suit. At mile 8 I start feeling considerably better, but continue to walk through the aid stations. I see that I can very nearly walk the last 3 miles and still beat 4:52, but press on. I do take some extra time at the last aid station to "clean myself up" (Zip up my jersey, remove the sponges, clean coke off my face) and try to make myself look presentable at the finish line. I come into the finish with a last surge and stop my watch (after pictures of course) at 4:46ish... I'm pretty ecstatic as you can imagine! 

Planned Run was 1:40 and I came in at 1:44. With some of the small issues I had leading up to and during the race I can't say I'm unhappy with it, but I can't help but think if I had had a good run today I would almost certainly have been going to Vegas. 

Run splits per mile 
1.) 7:23 
2.) 7:43 
3.) 7:07 
4.) 8:14 (started walking aid stations
5.) 8:21 
6 & 7.) 16:28 
8.) 8:01 
9.) 8:03 
10.) 8:21 
11.) 7:47 
12.) 8:47 
13.) 8:18

Considering my open 1/2 marathon PB was 1:29:55 this is slightly less embarrassing than it first looks. Not an excellent 1/2IM Run, but better than any I managed after it. (Sadly)
Also, even though at the time 1/2IMWC was not well loved (Clearwater was hated and nobody was quite sure about Vegas) I wasn't anywhere near qualifying.

The heat was on. In those awesome Adidas Adios

Post Race
I quickly got checked out in medical (they shipped me over there despite me telling them I just "LOOKED" like crap. The medics seemed to agree and quickly got rid of me) Next it was over to the recovery area, where I graciously accepted a Bud Light, well deserved IMO. Next I found the family and we watched some more of the race, then walked across the street to BEEMIES (sp?) bar/restaurant and had lunch (Great food btw

Post race binge - 
- 1 order onion rings 
- 2 order french fries 
- 1 crab cake 
- 1 appetizer fried calamari 
- Appetizer platter dinner (Shrimp, Chicken fingers, Fried Fish, Oysters
- 1 Bowl Ice cream 
- 2 Pitcher Water 

I also waited around at the rolldown, but being only 2 slots in my AG and me being 13th I knew there wasn't much hope. Nonetheless it rolled down about 6 people... enough that it would have been mine with a 1:36 or so run... well within my fitness on a flat course :/ Oh well.

Disgusting... Bud Light? I really was young and stupid. That Beemies bar was pretty awesome though, if it's still there I highly recommend. 
Mehh... knocking 8 minutes off my run at that time (or any time since) was a little delusional. Looking back, I don't know that I could have knocked 4 minutes off with a perfect day. Still, that's part of youth!

Am I ok?

Augusta was a race I still fondly look back on. I went back the next year and came away 13 minutes slower, falling prey to some foolish mistakes and being impatient in both lead up and execution. Somewhat sadly looking back I never did another 70.3, and I think it was a distance I could have been pretty good at with enough time and work. Priorities shift and now that I'm pretty much a dedicated TTer it's not something I can jump back into easily. Maybe in a few years when things settle down a bit once more I can dedicate myself back to training to be mediocre at three sports instead of one. Anyways, thanks for giving me something to write about this week Facebook!

Until next time, thanks for reading!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Entertaining week!

This last week has been extremely solid if you are a fan of cycling.  Sunweb put a real stamp of authority taking both men's and women's TTT at the World Championships.  Watching the women's individual time trial was pretty exciting as well. I was, of course, rooting for the American's (Imagine how good Chloe Dygert has the potential to be with a few more years!) but it was the Dutch that really dominated. Van Vleuten and Van Der Breggen really looked solid even through that nasty uphill.

In the men's TT Dumoulin really looked like he was on another level, and in a way I'm happy that a "time trial specialist" (although honestly, can you even classify him that way any longer?) still won the bands, as the climb seemed to be put in there as a foil for Tony Martin and friends. Rohan Dennis continues his streak of bad luck in World Championships... he's been my pick the last 3 years and has had an issue every time.  Maybe it's my fault.  Froome looked good overall, but tired. Not surprising considering his Tour Vuelta double. He needed to be a lot fresher to compete with TD in form.
The transition area was ridiculous... and pretty much was consistently a bad idea to change bikes. I didn't see anyone who seemed like they gained anything from taking the swap.  Martin Madsen (MTM on Slowtwitch) did it with only a single ring on his TT bike and finished a respectable 21st. Dark Horse story (well, it was more a story for the UK guys, I didn't see much about it over here) Hamish Bond turned out rather disappointingly, not because of his performance, but rather his mechanical. It would have been great to see how he stacked up with no issues.

hard to argue with that

In the women's road race, it was tough to see anything but the predictable outcome. The Dutch had the power and the numbers, and Blaak, with a little help from her friends, will get by with the stripes next year.

The men's race... what a good race to watch. (except when the coverage got miffed and we stared at the 1k to go banner for 5 minutes) When you look back at it now, I think... of course Sagan won it, but at the time... I never would have bet on him doing it. Even when he seemingly materialized out of nowhere for the sprint, it didn't look like he had it. But he did. Winning 3 WC road races in very different finishes... it's hard not to think he is one of, if not the best one day racer...maybe ever. Long live the champ.

FYI: You can watch the UCI's replay's (and live streams) on their Youtube channel by using a proxy service to get around the Geoblocking they put up. Of course you can also use for live viewing, but you get some sketchy websites/streams and often a lot of non-english language streams.

But it wasn't just the WC going on. The Newly opened Mattamy National Cycling Center Velodrome in Milton, Ontario was the scene for "The Day of the Hour" where 8 Canadians set off on attacks on both the Canadian Hour Records as well as the UCI World Hour Records. You can check out lots of video on it here

By the way, Congratulations to all! I only have a taste of what it's like, and my hat's off to anyone who can ride the track for an hour at some serious speeds.

There were 4 new World Records and 8 new Canadians records at the end of the day, with outstanding performances by everyone. Like any good hour record, there was a non-zero amount of drama that has the forums humming. The placement of the little bumpers was not in it's normal position (which is touching the very edge of the upper part of the Cote, to prevent someone from dipping below the black line)

My awesome art program showing where they "should" be touching

While historically the bumpers do indeed touch the other edge, the always informative Alex Simmons brought to light that in the UCI handbook there isn't a rule specifying where the bumpers must be. (At least back to 2000 - take with a grain of salt as I'm not a UCI Comm intimately familiar with the rules)

From an actual performance standpoint... it's kind of a grey area in my mind. On the one hand, actually trying to gain an advantage by riding on the Cote for an hour record is a little ridiculous (you travel less distance in the turns, but you also have less banking) but on the other hand, having that extra 6 inches or so can allow a rider to be significantly braver about the line they choose to ride. Would I ride farther up the track if I was afraid I was in danger of hitting the bumper? Possibly. So in that way there is a little bit of advantage, if only primarily a mental one.  Since a few records were set with under a lap of distance between the records, it starts getting a little muddy as to the "spirit" of the rules. That said, there were UCI comm's at Milton who had no trouble with it for 8 hour attempts, so I see no reason to be outraged beyond a curiosity. Perhaps, with the renewed interest in the hour and this day in particular, we might get clearer rules.

That's all about other folk doing great things. Me... I've started riding a semi-serious amount again, but not anything overly exciting. With my mind focused on all the things to get in order for our trip to Germany my own cycling has taken a bit of a back seat, in my mind if not in my legs. I'm sure things will pick back up into full order soon. It's about time for a new project as well... I don't have anything staring at me from the workbench in desperate need of repair, it feels a little strange!

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

- Christopher Morelock