Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Catchup

Well, lots of stuff has taken place since the last post. For one thing I've been on vacation enjoying NOT riding every day. I've found that a week is almost perfect for me, because on the first day or two I am just so excited to be doing nothing, but by the 5th and 6th day I'm just like "shit let me get home so I can ride my bike again!" Similarly the same holds true for eating. My wife told me towards the end of the week "I'm ready to start eating clean again!" Me too. I think of vacation sort of like a pendulum that swings with equal force to how little of that kind of stuff you do normally. When I'm on vacation I treat it like what it is... not real life... and don't sweat things like having a beer with dinner (or two) or ordering fried fish instead of grilled. I soak all that junk in... basically binge and purge. That way when I'm driving home I'm ready to get back to "real life."

it's good to have this view every now and then

That said, I got an amazing bit of swimming in while on vacation. It astounds me that I still feel just like I had never stopped swimming... for the first few minutes... of course then all the muscular fatigue sets in and I feel like I'm dying. Ahh well, at least if I ever decide to start again I won't be coming from absolutely nothing.

Relaxing painting of DEATH waves

I won't bore you too much with vacationing tales... as most of them started and ended with "went to the beach" (unfortunately my poor wife did manage to get sunburned towards the end of the trip and we had to skip the last day or so.) and because a lot has happened in the tri / cycling world over the last two weeks.

The big talking point over the last little while has of course been the independent bike test put on by the Aerocamp fella's (Heath Dotson and Brian Stover) and the very controversial Kileyay (PV) the results of which we are still waiting for. Also, following on the tail end of that, Thomas Gerlach drove down and tested some tire combinations at A2, another gofundme project. It seems like all the rage these days, and perhaps this might be a next step in getting "real" data out to the public.

I admit I donated to PV's project despite not personally liking the way he went about things (Sorry TG, I was on my way to Florida when you announced and my wife probably wouldn't have been happy with me allocating our vacation money to more testing, especially after my own recent trip) because I like the idea of what is happening and what it might mean in the future. That said, my guess is that all of this is a lot of thunder without much actual storm. For one thing, the number of people who actually truly care which bike is fastest, whether disc brakes are slow or whether the "data" given to us from manufacturers is fudged is VERY low.  Most bike buying decisions even by the most serious of athletes really boils down to finding some kind of justification for the one you really want deep down (it's more comfortable, it's faster, it's stiffer, it stops better, etc etc) so in all honesty, we don't really WANT the fastest bike (as shown by the quick demise of the P4) we want the bike that we WANT to be the fastest, and we'll accept pretty much anything that lends us some justification.

There is also the unfortunate fact that while I'm of the opinion that when testing things like this you pick the "best compromise" between all the bikes and just accept that you can't have a 100% level playing field... there are going to be many that ruthlessly attack the protocol  no matter how cleverly Heath and Brian (and Geoff) set it up.  While most of that is noise and not substance, it will do a job of keeping the truly useful stuff hidden in a quagmire of trolling forum posts, somewhat ironic given PV's history.

I've got a little testing of my own upcoming. I'm interested in knowing which of the "aero shoes" out there is the fastest. (well... of the one's I could afford... I didn't set up a gofundme, probably foolishly)  I suspect there won't be much difference (none of them are the Bont Chrono, which Aerocoach tested 4w better than the Bont Riot... and the Chrono is a very aggressive shape) but I am quite interested to see if there is any repeatable difference. The lineup
-Bont Zero+
-Specialized Sub6
-Fizik R3 road shoes (control)

Showdown in progress

My guess is that the DMT P1 will be best. It's smooth and the laces are covered with a zipper. I had thought beforehand that maybe it would be the Bont's, but after having them in my hands they are just BIG shoes. Very wide, with a clunky flap (when compared to the DMT's) however, they do feel amazing, and I haven't heat molded them yet. I'm not sure about the Sub6's... on the one hand, the laces are probably worse without a cover (because of silly rules, the sleeve, which isn't a part of the shoe isn't allowed, but the zip up dmt's or flap on the Bont's is fine... silly UCI) but the shoe itself is very narrow, strikingly so against the almost clown shoe size of the Bont's. The R3's with their ratchets and straps hanging off just have to be the worst, but I'll test them anyways, always good to have a control if nothing else.
aside - I don't understand Bont's thinking on the updated Zero+... adding the toe bumper (the original zero was lacking it) seems like a big mistake except for longevity w/ toe overlap. The cover flap fitting over top of the boa dials also seems way worse than how it would fit over laces... but we'll see.  /aside

And of course it's back to hitting it hard on the bike now that I've had my week of being lazy. States is not far off and I have high hopes to at least have a better day than I did last year. So, back to the grind.

Thanks so much for reading, it's good to be back to writing (if you can call it that) a bit.

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Review: Giro Aerohead MIPS

The Arrowhead Aerohat Aerohead. Few Helmets are as striking, and very rarely do they come with such high praise before release. It's no secret that I have a thing for aero lids and an almost sickness for looking for just a couple more "free" watts here and there... so when I read Jim Manton (ERO) had tested it better on everyone he put it on, I paid attention.

Rohan has set some impressive times in the Aerohead (and not in it as well)

The danger of claims like that (as you should know if you are a follower of this blog) is that blanket statements like that are dangerous. It's certainly NOT the best helmet for EVERYONE. We are all too different, if only slightly. But that said, it is certainly in contention for the most consistently good helmet offered right now.  I've seen nobody (again, dangerous terminology) test it that it wasn't in the top3 best helmets they put on.

So, let's talk about it... there's more to a helmet than being fast, right?

The Good
The good news is that there is a lot to like about this helmet. For me personally (and for many of you as well) the start and end of pretty much everything dealing with a helmet will be whether or not it's fast. In that regard I would guess it will be tough (not impossible) to beat. In my own n=1 example I tested most of the "fast" helmets against it at A2. In the end, the Aerohead was a clear winner (size medium, beating the next closest, a size small Specialized TT04, by a couple of watts) with the only questions left out there (currently) being either the eye wateringly priced Aerohead Ultimate, the astronomically priced  Crux (Team GB 2012) helmet or the not yet released Kask helmet we saw on Froome at the end of last year. (A longer tailed Bambino, close to the Crux design)

Of course that is only for me... As I alluded to above, some very smart guys (including Jim at Ero and Brian / Heath from Aerocamp) pretty much agree that the Aerohead tests "very well" on most everyone. I wrote not too many weeks ago about the importance of doing your own testing, but also mentioned that if you were unwilling/able to do your own testing, a good fall back is to pick something that does well on a wide variety of people. In the case of helmets, I think the Aerohead is high on that list, if not at the top.

Whether you believe MIPS technology is a huge step forward or just a fancy acronym, I can't think of any reasons not to at least be lukewarm to the fact that it's included in the helmet design.

Many helmets use magnets to attach the visor, but Giro really got it right. The magnets they use are powerful and locked in place. "Finding" the right spot for the visor (both down or flipped up) to sit is very easy, as a corner quickly locks and then pulls the rest in place. After dealing with snap on visors or (even worse) the old glued on magnets, it's refreshing to find one that just works without a bunch of hassle.

snapped up

normal position note the long powerful magnets

Another thing that's pretty nice is the price. At $250, it sits as the cheapest buy in the "superhelmet" category, slightly cheaper than other good options like the POC or Specialized. It's not a big price drop, but considering what they could have priced this helmet it's refreshing not to just be getting heavily price gouged.

The Bad
The visor, despite being well thought out, is not really an optional piece of equipment with the Aerohead. Sure, you can pull the Taylor Phinney and ditch it, but at that point you're better off wearing another helmet. So despite it seeming pretty nice to be able to remove it quickly, you really won't be. The exception to this is in the case that the visor fogs up. I wipe down my visors with anti-fog as a precaution, but in the even that it happens it's not nearly so catastrophic as it would be in a lot of helmets with visors, where you simply have to choose no visibility or ditching the visor and hoping to pick it up later. Still, that's not ideal.

Phinney seemingly ditched his visor (from fogging up likely) halfway at the 2016 US Nats.

Another negative rolls back around to pricing. Sure, Giro cut a few bucks off the price, but they also don't give you much in the way of accessories. Most of the other aero helmets come with a carrying bag (or even a hard shell in some cases) and at least a clear visor to swap to. The Aerohead comes with some extra padding and that's it. The Ultimate does include a hard shell and clear visor, but at double the price. Supposedly both are going to be made available for purchase separately, but so far I haven't seen either listed on Giro's website. (This could be because of the visor redesign, see below)

Using my old selector bag to transport the Aerohead... not ideal with the visor

Heat and Weight aren't things that I normally factor in much to my helmet purchases, but if you do, then both segments are likely negatives. The helmet is fairly heavy (the heaviest aero lid I have just by my rudimentary "pick up" test.) which is somewhat surprising since a lot of the "helmet" is really the visor. I guess in most other helmets that space the visor fills up is really nothing more than a plastic fairing... As far as getting hot... I personally don't think it's anything especially warm, but I've seen that cited multiple times in different people's opinion of the helmet, so it's worth mentioning if you're prone to overheat.

The Ugly
Besides the helmet itself?  (It is a... "striking" design)

Giro has had a couple of hiccups with the helmet. The original release (check your date) had a lot of complaints about the visor digging sharply into some folks cheeks. That (I'm guessing) has delayed some of the optional pieces being released (like the different tint visors) as Giro has had to re-work the visor for the next batch. To their credit they will send you the (slightly) adjusted visor if your date matches up free of charge.

Fogging is the other issue that can get ugly. You can find endless discussions and recommendations about prevention online, and mostly I've found the "common" ones to work pretty well, but not flawlessly. Sometimes it seems like it's inevitable.  That's definitely something to consider. The other (current as of 4/12/17) issue is the lack of visor options. The dark lens is great on sunny days, but is pretty lacking in overcast/rainy days and also indoors or at night. This is a problem that is likely soon to be solved, but as of today it's not.

Final Thoughts

If you're just going to be guessing what helmet is best, I think the Aerohead is a very safe bet. The wrap around visor gives a nice full view and the MIPS *could* help save your noggin. There's a lot to like in the Aerohead's rebirth (Lemond was using the original in '89) so I'd say it should definitely be on your radar. As always with anything aero, it would be best to test it yourself, but if not... it's a smart guess.

Thanks for reading! I really appreciate it.

-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Putting it all together

I've been hard at work. With our vacation looming in the near (less than two weeks, thankfully) future, I've made it a goal to get all of my bikes in perfect operating order in need of basically nothing. When you've got a full garage of bikes, that's a pain in the butt and a lot of work, but I'm making headway. I'm down to just cleaning up my road bike and replacing the derailleur hanger on my wife's cross bike.

So what have I been up to?

As you can probably figure out for yourself, cabling the Speed Concept has taken the lion's share of the time. As if a regular cabling job isn't enough of an annoyance on any "superbike" I wanted to up the ante a little bit by insisting on using my Nokon's and to really amp it up, set the brakes up with the USE Tula's. Nightmare mode for sure. (I've even found a couple of bends nokons will not allow you to make! Great!) Really though, despite the Gen1 SC's having some...not so well thought out designs (having to remove the rear brake to re-cable the rear derailleur is laughably annoying.) it's not that bad once you've played around with it a few times. That said, if this cabling job can last me all season, I'll be thankful.

While I've got my Fuji dialed in for endurance work on the track, I started thinking maybe it would be nice to have a bike specifically set up for mass start events. Well, my aluminum P3 was sitting on the garage floor looking awful pathetic not built up, so I figured it would continue it's faithful service by being my new pursuit bike.

Despite the fact that the paint would chip and crack at every available opportunity, I had some real trouble stripping this thing bare, even using some pretty nasty chemicals. Following that it was sanding it down (320/400/600 sandpaper, then a finishing pad) and polishing the heck out of it (Eagle One and Mothers) something I picked up polishing Torque Thrust wheels many years ago. Bringing out the shine in aluminum is a black hole... you can literally obsess over it forever and still not get it perfect... this is going to be a "beater" so I got it 5 footer smooth and waxed it. You can tell it's not quite on par with the bars, but meh, it's good enough.

It's not only the bicycles that have been getting put through their paces... I haven't let my 3d printer sit idle either. The problem is that I run through a lot of filament on designs that are "close" but eventually just are a few mm out of spec. It's annoying, but I'm getting a little better at it.

These plugs were just fun little things I made with our (Podium Sports) logo on them. Certainly not the bleeding edge of what is possible with a 3D printer, but hey, might has well add some bling where you can.

This on the other hand is something actually pretty useful. Since it's a no-no to have the computer in a visible area on the track, I created this handy dandy mount to fit behind the saddle of my Fuji, in matching blue filament of course.  Having one made (a real pain because most track mounts are Garmin specific) is closing in on a Benjamin, so I count that as offsetting the cost of my 3D printer! (At least that's what I told my wife!)

It's a little tougher to see exactly what you should be looking at in this picture, but it's actually an (extremely) low stack dust cap. I didn't have any 1" caps that were low enough to work with my Cervelo, so I took a measurement or two and bam! Perfect fit.

So I've been pretty busy the last few days. I'm also quite excited to head out on vacation... but there is still a lot of work to be done between now and then... Next week I may just have a new review up unless I get distracted between now and then!

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

-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Why Testing is important - The Outliers

Another theory blog? It looks like it. Seems like lately I've just had a lot of heavy stuff coming down on top of me that needs put into words. (Heavy for bike related stuff, not real life stuff)

If you like to nerd out on bike stuff (and, if you are still reading this blog I assume that has to be at least relatively true) then I'd say there is a very, very good chance you have either googled, posted on a forum or asked a friend / competitor "what is the best xxxx." Whether xxxx is helmet, shoes, bike, wheels, tires... whatever. And you almost certainly got an answer... more likely if you asked on a forum you got a LOT of answers, and a lot of contradictory ones as well.  Now, the overwhelming majority of those answers will come from a place of "I use/like this so I recommend it" or, slightly better they have read and regurgitated that x piece of equipment regularly tests better than y. Very few have actually done testing, of those even fewer have tested on a sample size other than themselves, and none have tested that piece of equipment on YOU.

So, you will find yourself at a crossroads with three possible paths to take.

  1. Just pick the one you like the best. This one requires the absolute least work on your part... and nonetheless, this is often a suggestion even I give people, because when it boils down to it if you are spending your hard earned money on this or that piece of kit, you have to like it. Buying a much faster aero helmet won't do you any good if you don't pick it up to use it in races because of whatever reason that "really" boils down to you not liking it.
  2. You do some research and pick the one that seems to be "best" on the most people. This is really just playing the odds and hoping that you are NOT an outlier. It requires a bit of effort on your part as you need to dig through quite a bit of information to find these kinds of things. A good example is aero helmets... most of the modern Giro helmets test very well on a wide variety of people, so it's a safe recommendation if you are in the market for an aero helmet to just pick up the one you can afford (A2's run under $100, Selectors a slight bit more and Aeroheads in the mid $200's) and bank on the "it's good for more people than it's bad for" odds. You obviously don't "know" you fit into that category, but it's probably the best you can do for a guess.
  3. Personal testing. There are many methods of individual testing, and when it boils down to it, most of them are relatively effective at giving a clear answer as to whether A or B is better. These methods each have their own benefits and negatives and can wildly vary in cost and accuracy. The "gold standard" is of course the wind tunnel, where you'll spend a couple of hundred dollars per hour but will get an accurate number with the minimal amount of heavy lifting required by you. There is velodrome testing that ERO and Aerocoach have made popular as an alternative to tunnel testing, generally a bit cheaper but with slightly more variables. Then there is the "at home" testing, the (currently) best of which is the Chung method. This will require at least a little work by you to figure out how to actually sort through the data, and you'll need a (accurate) power meter, something most of the semi serious athletes will already have access to. Seemingly the hardest part of Chung testing is actually convincing someone to take the time to go out and do it. If a power meter isn't in the budget, there is always the old fashioned rolldown test... which doesn't take any "extra" equipment other than a friend, a stopwatch and a hill... and the patience to do many, many repeats to try and eliminate botched data. Some of the old school guys used to take pictures from the front then cut out their silhouette and weigh it to measure frontal area (now much easier with something like photoshop) although frontal area is limited in what it tells. 

Personal testing is great for everyone, but it's especially important if you are the outlier. (See the circle of life coming together here? How do you know you are the outlier...) For most people, I think the Rudy Wing 57 is not a terribly great choice for an aero lid. Nonetheless, Rudy 50% discount codes abound and it's a very popular helmet. Most of the people I help with their testing find that the Wing57 is not great for them. On the flip side, the Aerohead is consistently the #1 helmet for folks. So it's my go to suggestion when people blind ask "what helmet." Nonetheless, an athlete just this weekend tested them head to head... the winner? The Wing57. In this case, If she had went with option 1 or 3 (which she did) she'd have gotten the best helmet. If she'd listened to me (option 2) she'd have picked a slower helmet. So you can see the dangers in randomness and in taking someone's (even good) judgment as truth.

I really got this reinforced into my head at the wind tunnel this past trip. I had a custom Nopinz supersuit that I had ordered last year that I had been wearing in my A-races. The thing was very difficult to get into, so I never took it out to my loop and field tested it, I just assumed it was a great suit. When I took it to the tunnel... I was giving up about 10 watts vs. my "backup" Castelli Bodypaint 2.0.  I was shocked. So every time it really mattered in a race I was penalizing myself 10 watts. Even the pastor needs the gospel reinforced to him every now and then.

Thank you guys for reading! I really appreciate it! Now go test!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Triathletes and Reach

This week, I'm just going to ramble off into some musings about stuff I've noticed... Let this be your disclaimer that I'm not a certified fitter, professional, expert, guru or anything else you might attach some fancy title to... I'm just an athlete that pays attention and likes to go faster. Take any "wisdom" from this post at your own risk.

As I have made a transition into the world where staying UCI legal pertains to me, it has given me a new appreciation for how much I really liked a "long" bike. Primarily because now I have a limit on it.

It's something difficult to convey in pictures, especially my own because even now I attempt to "scam" the system by riding very far back on my saddle rails, which effectively "stretches" the reach once more. Here's a few pictures of my position over the years.
Circa 2012/13 still very much a triathlete Saddle is slammed as far forward as possible on a P3 w/ a long cockpit to keep a pretty good amount of reach

Much later (2016) my hands are still way over limit and my I'm still a few cm in front of the bb with a long front end.
Current. Saddle 8cm behind the bb extensions just a little behind the 80cm line.

 Like I said, the progression of my own is kind of masked by how much farther I end up traveling backwards to "emulate" the same stretching out. It's a little more obvious between pictures 2 & 3 above, as you can see just how much further (on the same saddle) I am sitting on my Fuji. (not to mention how much further back on the rails it is)

I'm limited as to what I can do now. It's go backwards or get more compact. Why go backwards to accommodate such a stretched front end? To go faster of course. In my own experience, reach is an excellent way to shift/remove two very big cylinders (your upper arms) from hitting the air head on. But if that's true, why are so many folks that have no "guidelines" to follow so compact. Specifically triathletes, who can ride pretty much anything / way they want. I'm not suggesting for the general population to go full on superman... but they literally aren't restricted from it. The position above is nothing new, the "deep/down diver" has been around long before I was ever turning cranks. Here is one fellow who knew a bit about going fast

What a beast, right?

So if guys are trying to stretch out under the watchful eyes of "big brother" and doing some extreme stuff to get there, why aren't the guys that have no rules?

I've been helping some athletes the last few weeks to get faster... that is, more aero on the bike. One common theme I have is that the guys/gals that want to do races where they *might* have to pass a jig are ALWAYS beyond the 80cm length limit. (These athletes, as a disclaimer, are already very, very fast and have almost to a rule come to lengthen their cockpit on their own before ever talking to me)  This usually ends up with us moving them backwards on the saddle and in some cases going the more extreme/costly route of putting them on di2/etap to get them a couple more cm. (Don't get me started on how you measure mechanical shifters...:rolleyes:)

What I've found very interesting is that most of my triathletes are very near meeting the 80cm rule without any prodding. (or necessity) Look at a state level TT'er, arms are very obtuse (like Obree's / mine) look at a triathlete, that same angle is almost always 90° on the dot (or within a couple degree)

I'm not going to throw anyone under the bus (even some random off of google search) by posting "look at this position, isn't it meh!" but you can do a search of your own "triathlete bike position" into google will bring you hundreds of examples. You'll see some outliers, but you are also going to see a whole lot of "90°/115°/150°" folks out there as well.  I suppose it makes sense, as there are so many fit "systems" that basically revolve around this, and as no surprise, almost all of them are focused towards triathletes.

Sure, you can search for "TT bike fit" or even "track bike fit" but the interesting thing is that in either of those searches you will come up with a lot less info. In fact, TT bike fit will almost certainly just bring you results for a tri bike fit, as the two are so often lumped together despite being truely different disciplines. For track fit... well you'll basically get a couple of tips on slightly adjusting your road bike / tt (tri) bike fit...maybe.

Am I going to put a tri fit system (I won't pick any out in particular, as most follow very similar guidelines) on blast. Absolutely not.  I think some very good, efficient fits come out of them, whether it's FIST, Guru, BG, about 1000 websites, whatever. They have excellent broad guidelines to get pretty much everyone into a "decent" position that is relatively sustainable. Unfortunately, that's often where the fit ends for the majority of people. Instead of a tool, it's often used as a crutch by the person doing the fit, which is why you see so many athletes in cookie cutter positions. Certainly, as I've said before, you shouldn't necessarily have a long distance triathlete and a 25mi TT'er in the same position, but neither should be limited by a system that isn't taking them specifically into consideration.  I know 90° supposedly is the easiest way to support your upper body skeletally... but in practice it's often not any more difficult for somebody to support themselves at a much more obtuse angle. The key is to experiment and not be a slave to a system or the accepted common knowledge.

Andrew Coggan said this many years ago, and I still believe it's one of the quickest ways to get into a "fast" position with minimal input.

 If my goal were to set myself up
in an aero position with minimal drag and I didn't have access to a wind
tunnel, I'd just drop the elbow pads far enough down below the saddle
that my shoulders (acromion process) were within a couple of inches of
being level with my hips (head of greater trochanter), move the elbow
pads in to where my arms were as narrow or perhaps narrower than my
thighs when viewed from the front, tilt the aero bars up
ever-so-slightly, and keep my head down. I'd then go out and ride the
bike - hard - in that position and see how far foward (and thus up) I
needed to move the saddle to where my thigh-torso angle was similar to
the "working position" on my road bike. I'd then ride the TT bike for at
least one hour - hard! - each week for at least 6 weeks before any race.
Sounds crude, I know, but for a flat TT this neanderthal approach will
probably get you to within about 1 km/h of your maximal speed.

That's pretty much what I did above. I'm of the impression that this works well for just about everyone, with enough time to adapt to it. Don't take that as me saying "use this, not this" system. I'm just sharing ways people have been doing it for many years, but the vast majority of athletes do not know.

My whole point of this post (if there is one) is that we spend tons of income on go fast goodies that we hope will make us faster. Helmets, cranks, bearings, chain lube, etc (all great things) but for those of us without "limits" (again, speaking of UCI) - basically all triathletes and *most* non-elite level time trialists - maybe we should start looking at how we can make our bodies the big improvement. Don't be afraid to experiment... take measurements of where your position you are comfortable with is RIGHT NOW, then experiment slowly with changes. Maybe you'll hate it, in which case you can go back to your original setup... but maybe you'll like it. Maybe it'll make you slower... maybe faster. Never settle... continue exploring and looking for something better!

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tunnel Fun

And so I've returned from A2 with some new insight and some slightly alleviated fears, along with one or two issues to work out. There is much to discuss but unfortunately not nearly as much that I can share currently (for a couple of very different reasons) so I apologize in advance.

The first thing I have to lament is that before leaving home I decided it was time to cut off my Peter Sagan - like locks. My hope is that it did not have a Samson-like effect...

Just a picture of the first leg shave of the year...

I drove down to Rock Hill on Thursday morning to do some pre-testing on the track. These numbers would be very helpful in validation since we don't actually ride in a wind tunnel and there is always some fear that what we find "inside" doesn't translate as well to the real world. There is more to the story about testing on Thursday, but it's not for me to expand upon at this time... let's just say it was a learning experience and that there are some very exciting things just around the corner for aero nerds.

Unfortunately my wife had to stay in TN and work (somebody has to be responsible while the rest of us play) which left me pretty much stuck around the hotel and surrounding area for the rest of the day. I took the opportunity to catch up on some of my recovery and basically just sat around watching Youtube video's and checking Slowtwitch every hour or so until bedtime. Unfortunately the one thing I couldn't do was fall asleep... so I tossed and turned on and off until I thought it was "reasonable" to get up and start trying to turn hotel instant coffee into something drinkable. I was not terribly successful, but it did tide me over until the real coffee was brought out to enjoy.

Friday I spent the majority of the morning just wrenching everything on the bike and making sure that I had not forgotten anything important for the tunnel visit. The drive from Rock Hill to A2 was estimated to be about an hour, so in my typical anxious fashion I left with plenty of time to arrive at my scheduled time of 12:30... I left around 9:30

Needless to say I had plenty of time to kill in Mooresville when I arrived. I explored a nearby Starbucks (the same as every other Starbucks I'm afraid) and then found a deserted (literally... I was there almost an hour and was the only person/vehicle/lifeform around) park that I walked the perimeter of in a thinly veiled attempt at passing the time.

When I arrived at A2 I was greeted by Heath and Geoff. We walked through a basic outline of what I wanted to test and then started unloading my car of all the junk I had brought with me. For the course of the weekend (including some training) I had a disc rear, ghetto disc (cover) front, 5 spoke, 3 spoke, training tubulars front and rear, 3 aero helmets (Aerohead, Spec TT, Kask Bambino) two aerobars (USE Tula and 3T Brezza Nano) and some skinsuits (team short sleeve castelli, Bodypaint, Nopinz Supersuit) along with two boxes of tools/spare parts and my drop bars. Whew... There was not much room in the car!

I tested at low yaw (0 and 2.5°) for all my runs, with the sweeps only on the controls, as I was looking for track data. I won't bore you all with every run and how many watts it changed (most of my changes were very small.) but I will mention a couple of things that ended up surprising me.

Run #1

- A trispoke, 5 spoke and (again, rigged up) front disc were all very close at 0 (and 2.5) with the disc slightly edging the other two out. What was very impressive was that my 5 spoke is a no-name Chinese knock off wheel, although one everyone who has looked at it has been impressed with. It also measured pretty narrow (~20mm at the rim) and with a 19mm Evo Pista tire on it one would assume it'd be pretty good at low yaw. Actually, at 0 yaw I would have expected the disc to possibly do the worst simply because it had a 23mm GP4ksII on it (compared to the 19mm Evo on the 5 spoke and a 20mm SuSo on the H3) I guess there is truly no replacement for depth.

- All the (fast) helmets I tested were pretty close, with the majority of them being within about 5w of each other (I tested the Specialized TT in small and medium, the aerohead - best, Poc Cerebral, Catlike long tail, and the Bambino, with the medium Spec TT being the worst and the small being second best) I expected a larger delta in the bambino honestly as I've heard it's often pretty bad. I went in expecting the Spec TT to be best, but it seems what we've been told about the aerohead being great is pretty true.

- UCI legal bars that are supposed to be fast (Tula's, 3T Nano's) were very, very close to one another. Within the margin of error I'd think. Maybe finding some narrower Tula's would be slightly faster still, or perhaps having better plugs (they had small cable holes in them) for the 3T's would have pushed it in favor of one or the other.

- Skinsuits were somewhat surprising. I truly expected my very nice Nopinz skinsuit to come out on top, but it was nearly 10 watts worse than my Body Paint, and around the same as my short sleeve Castelli (really a CX skinsuit w/pockets) and worse than the Cuore suit Heath let me borrow. In defense of the Nopinz, I didn't have two numbers pinned/glued to the other skinsuits, so it's possible that delta would be different on the road. Also of note is that my Supersuit was custom sized for me at 150ish lbs. At 165ish lbs it was a very, very tight squeeze. (it fit snug at lower weight) it was constricting in the core when bent over, and it's possible that had some effect. Long story short though, the off the shelf Body Paint suit is a slippery bit of kit.

- Lowering my position was not better for me. In fact my tallest bar height was best. That was very surprising, and I'd guess has a lot to do with how I hold my head (much higher) on the track.  Being higher helps open up the hip angle, so I'll take it. Likewise, raising my saddle a cm didn't negatively impact the CdA (which I also found surprising) but again, more comfort at the same speed is certainly something I'm interested in.

- Holding my hands higher was a pretty big jump for me. This was Heath's idea and it was a valuable one. Gripping the end of the extension with my pinkie and letting my hands "sit" on top was the second biggest change. Of course, this is VERY difficult to hold on the track... but I've got something in mind to help with that (and put the 3D printer to use!) already in the works.

All of our control runs were very close, and we spent the last bit of my time doing a long control run to see if there was any variation as I went along. All was very neat and close.

Final position/equipment

Later I checked in the data I had taken at the track and compared with the tunnel data. The two days lined up very nicely, which was a great bit of validation that what we had tested in the tunnel would actually translate to the real world.

Thanks very much to Heath and Geoff, they made the experience much better than just data collecting. Both guys you'd drink a beer with, not just listen to prattle off on a forum or an email. Also thanks to the folks at the Giordana Velodrome, who are always excellent folk to be around. And to the other genius out there who I won't name, a special thanks as well. I appreciate your insight more than you know.

Until next time, thanks for reading!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Quick catch up before heading to the tunnel

Well, it's time to head back into A2 (on Friday) and nail down some numbers. I had hoped to source a front disc in time but ended up coming up short, so I'll just have to assume "it's better." (at least inside) That's life.

I've already hashed out what I'm hoping to gain from this trip to the tunnel, so I'll save you the repetition and we'll just see how it turned out in a week or so.

As for my 3D printer adventures, I've honestly spent most of the last week just working ON the 3D printer... it's the perfect piece of kit for somebody who loves to just try out different stuff for no real reason. "Does this xxx work perfectly as is? Yes? Then let's take it apart and try to improve it!" Mindset has gotten me into trouble a few times in the past I admit...

Nonetheless, I got a couple of good toys out of it already. Behold the evolution of my 3T risers. I wasn't too keen on paying $80 for a 10mm riser, so I just printed some!

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The first draft I just tried to make as close to the 3T ones as I could. After a run or two of them I decided that they weren't quite beefy enough to make me feel safe on them. The revision I totally filled in the design instead of leaving it hollow, aside from the two holes for the bolts of course. I also printed them in black.

These turned out much nicer. They are plenty strong to survive the forces put on them and they totally blend in with the bars. I'm not sure if I'd be willing to print very tall risers (definitely not something like 60mm ones)  in PLA/ABS, but I think stacking a few would probably be fine.

Installed (only the forward facing bar) they totally blend in and look stock

There are some interesting and exciting applications to fit with something like this. It would be very easy to print a riser in 12mm of rise, something you couldn't buy from the factory if it dialed in your position. You could also angle the risers to help with a "mantis" like position. All kinds of neat things that *can* be done, if only somebody had enough time to play around with it and make it!

Off to Carolina. See you all next week!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Third Dimension

Very quick update this week. Tax time for a used car salesman means it's been a slightly busy week. Anything to feed the addiction, right?

While this toy was purchased primarily for work applications (right, wink wink) I have no doubt I'll be able to get a couple of good results out of it for cycling.

Rise of the machines?

I'm fully out of my element, I took a couple of classes on 3D modeling in college (Is Maya still a thing!?)  and have some very, very basic knowledge of CAD software, but this thing is like a science project on steroids. Time will tell if it is a life changing piece of equipment, or just a toy.

Thanks for checking in on me, I promise we're going to get back on normal content schedule in the near future.

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Returning to the tunnel.

The worlds biggest cycling vacuum cleaner

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

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

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

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

Is this

Better than this?

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

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

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

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

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

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

More Bike Nascar!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Showing off that nice Podium Sports skinsuit as well!

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

Jimmy coming around in the elimination race final

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Is Fashion hurting us on the bike? (pt1)

Always time for a Gene Wilder meme

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about the old timers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


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

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

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

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

Until Next Time, thanks for reading!

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Review: Bike Trainer Tape

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

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

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

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

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

 Anyways, lets' get to it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Time out

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

What's been eating my time...

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

Hipster cred

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

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

-Christopher Morelock

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Quick gear Review: New Microshift Brifters

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

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

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

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

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

Also, still that ancient Nashbar brake ;)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks so much for reading! I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock