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