Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Putting an end to 2013 and looking toward 2014

I've reached the point in the season where it is about time to shut it down and start looking ahead to next year, and hopefully the hour attempt. The dwindling evening daylight during the week, combined with a couple of other issues cropping up, have signaled that it is time to call an end to the hard riding for the year.

Right now I am completely off the bike and likely will be through next week. Because I made the decision to shut it down, I also made the decision to take a fresh look at my fit. I had recently had some discomfort on the bike, and I'm assuming it is because I've moved things out of range on the bike. Using a combination of different bike fit calculators, I ended up dropping my saddle over 2 centimeters, and I made sure that the saddle setback is about 6.7 cm. For those not familiar with 'bike speak,' this puts the tip of the saddle at a point that is 6.7 cm behind the center of the bottom bracket, or the place where the pedals/crank arm connect to the frame.The purpose of this is prevent putting too much strain on the knees, and my particular femur length dictates the 6.7 cm number. The significant changes to the saddle position mean that I will need a few weeks off to hopefully erase muscle memory. Ideally, once I get back on and riding, it won't be to much of a shock and won't cause me to start over-fidgeting with position again.

I've also switched back to a longer 110 mm length stem to extend my reach to the handlebars, although the fit charts suggest I could go as long as 130 mm. From an aerodynamics point of view this will stretch out my form over the top of the bike. However, I'm a little concerned that I don't have the upper body flexibility to support that, and being that stretched out may cause some back and shoulder discomfort. It is something I will have to experiment with over the winter. I will also need to make sure my saddle position holds up and stays comfortable.

In addition to resetting my fit, it is about time to give the bike itself a little bit of love. The brake and derailleur cables will be replaced, as well as the cassettes (the gear cluster on the rear wheel) and tires. The miles have caught up with both, and although changing either aren't normally worth blogging about, it is always nice to get something new for the bike.

Looking ahead, the next steps for training are to take it easy out on the road when I can get out, sticking with a recreational pace. I'll also start to employ some structured workouts on the trainer to boost my endurance. As the fall and winter trainer time progress, I'm hoping to focus on a lot of endurance work with occasional strength and speed workouts. I am taking the approach of base and endurance miles all the way through May, and then integrating speed work in June and July in the buildup. It was the same tactic I was aiming for this past year, but my base work didn't suffice, and I spent the year chasing fitness. Even though I've never raced or ridden cyclocross, I may try to sneak in one just to test it out and keep things fresh.

But for now, it's all about resetting and transitioning back into base miles for next year.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Checking In

As the road season is winding down and I am starting to plan for a winter indoors on the trainer, I realized that I had not posted any updates in a while. Whether good or bad I simply didn't have much to share. Logging miles both out on my own and in group training rides has been the essence of my summer.

I did manage to buy a new set of wheels. I hate to admit it as they are a local company, but I honestly have no love for Zipp wheels. Too much carbon. Too many aero claims. If a wheel is round, and doesn't weigh a ton, it is good enough for me. So I ended up with a set of Weinmann rims laced to Origin-8 hubs that I got from my shop of choice, DG Bicycles. They are lightweight and durable, with a shallow 20mm or so profile. Since I'm looking to do the hour using Merckx Rules, it doesn't make much sense to train on deeper aero rims.

As for my training, the increased daylight of summer allowed me to steal an extra 16 miles by riding to and from the start point of a Tuesday/Thursday night group ride that is a staple of my routine. Unfortunately, by late July and again in late August the fatigue began to build up and I need a week or two off just to recharge. Conversely, hitting that wall gives me important information about how ineffective my trainer session were last winter, as well as how hard I can push myself and when in the lead up to my attempt next year.

Additionally, I am a bit late, but it is time to start seeking sponsors again. I can't do this without their support, so I will need to buckle down and make sure I have more direct contact with potential sponsors this time around. I've been making mental notes all summer of different local businesses to reach out to and I am thinking that expanding my focus away from companies that I thought would have a direct connection to the mission of The Merckx Project may help as well.

So if you are reading this and feel that you or your business would be interested in a different form of exposure, please feel free to contact me for more information.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Trending in the Right Direction

Have been away from the blog for awhile, but fortunately not away from the bike. While the month of April was very inconsistent, May seems to have paid some dividends. I've been able to ramp up the mileage quite a bit. I've also started riding to a group ride I do every Thursday adding an extra 25 km round trip. All in all, things are 'trending in the right direction.'

I am still toying with my fit somewhat, but more so so I can learn each movement's effects as opposed to dialing in the bike. In mid-April I flipped my stem upside down (which was already pre-planned) so that it is parallel to the ground instead of angled up. I didn't expect that change to make such a significant difference in how I felt on the bike. I had planned to do it for aerodynamics, but the immediate change in comfort level was welcome. I also started using the Pearl Izumi 1:1 Fit Insoles to compensate for the cant of my feet and high arches. I also believe I have the approximate measurements that I need in terms of saddle height and it's fore/aft position. I continue to tinker around with different things, but so did Eddy Merckx. So in that sense, I'm in good company. I don't know that I will ever be able to leave it alone. I'm not really built like that. But as long as I am close and not set up in a way that I risk an overuse injury, then there's nothing to worry about.

The last few weeks have seen some drastic weather changes in the Midwest that have made the riding interesting. This past week in particular was warm but very windy. So the riding was hard and dehydration was coming into play. I suffered a few cramps this week but have mostly stayed on top of it and don't think I'll have any long term problems. The week before was pretty chilly by contrast, forcing me to pull out the warmers and gillet.

The riding itself has been enjoyable of late. I think it has to do with a combination of being able to get in good miles and being comfortable on the bike. I don't feel like I'm riding because I have to to train. In a related note, I've got a loop that I've been doing for awhile that I have discovered has about a dozen different spurs that I can add to it to never ride the same loop twice. This too has helped me feel good riding the bike quite a lot.

Hopefully it won't be so long before my next post. Until then, get out and enjoy the ride.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Paris-Roubaix...

With the legendary bicycle race Paris-Roubaix (pronounced: Pair-ee Roo-bay), known for its sections of the course composed entirely of cobblestones, taking place this Sunday, I found a video that is a very interesting look at the race. It was made by a bunch of guys from Paris who bonded together over their single speed, fixed-gear bicycles, the same as what I will ride for the hour record. They decided to ride the Paris Roubaix course on their fixed gear bikes over a couple of days, and documented the experience. I found it to be a very interesting take on the experience from the point of view of amateurs and common men, especially in light of my own ambitions.

Here's the link to the video on Vimeo: Paris-Roubaix Le Film It's in French with English subtitles.

Hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Early Season Feedback

Was able to get outdoors twice this past week, and I feel pretty good about what I saw from my Strava/GPS results. I had been pretty worried that I was way behind where I wanted to be at this point in the year, and while I'm certainly not in optimum racing condition I did feel like I have a better base than I thought I would. I was dropped during the group ride on Thursday although I fully expected it going in. I can also blame it on my fit not being perfect and not being comfortable more than fatigue or lack of strength.

After Saturday's ride, I'm trying another new position (didn't i just say I felt it was nearly dialed in?) that is lower and farther forward than I had been. I think I've finally determined that the numbers that I am getting from all of the calculators are stretching me out more than my physique is able to accommodate comfortably. Getting past the mental block that I think I should be sitting higher than actually should will hopefully help. I guess we'll see how long this one lasts.

Tomorrow also begins the #30DaysOfBiking challenge, a social media event to encourage people to get out and ride their bicycles every day during the month of April. This should give me a lot of saddle time to find my fit. It will also give me a lot of opportunities to get on the bike purely for the sake of pedaling around the neighborhood or for a cup of coffee. A lot easier to get motivated to do that than to climb on the turbo day after day.

Hopefully, in a months time I will see continued improvement.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jersey Concepts

The Italian cycling apparel company Santini SMS held a jersey design contest recently to promote some new fabric or style they are releasing. The two below images are concepts of what I envision the official kit to look like once designed. Accommodations would be made for sponsor logos when necessary.



Wednesday, March 13, 2013

From around the web

here is a pretty nice read from The Wall Street Journal about finishing on top despite being last...

This Is Not A Story About Last Place

Monday, March 4, 2013

Looking forward to outdoor riding

Daylight savings time begins in a few weeks, and I am looking forward to it as it will finally allow me to have some outdoor time on the bike. I've been stuck on the trainer nearly all winter. And that has been inconsistent.

Despite not having the time on the trainer that I wanted I'm still in a base training pattern anyway. This should help prevent burnout in late summer. That is especially important if I am able to get the funding necessary to make my attempt in August.

I have also hit the restart button on my setup and fit, as I was unable to get into a position and fit that was comfortable. I know I have said it before, but this time I really do believe I am closer than I have been in a long time. I looked at multiple resources and calculators for proper bike fit. After taking various measurements and trying a couple of different combinations, I've got my saddle in a new place that already seems to be paying dividends.

I also addressed some of my bio-mechanical issues by raising the arch support for my right foot and adding a wedge under the cleat to roll my foot outward. I also discovered that my leg length inequality that I've suspected is enough to be measured by hand, and mostly occurs in my right lower leg. So with a little trial and error, and a few shims on the left cleat, I've got my cleats adjusted to compensate for the difference.

Between getting my saddle in the right place and my feet properly aligned, I think I've about gotten it right. I could have paid for a professional fit but I knew that it would be more valuable to learn it and figure it out on my own. Hopefully, I've done enough to alleviate the hip pain that bothered me all of last year and have myself in an efficient and still power-generating position.

My last trainer ride indicates that my fit is almost perfect and my fitness is in good shape. Eventually I'll need some speed work. But I think that with the impending increase in daylight and corresponding ability to ride outdoors, I am where I need to be to see results this year.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Calling On The Media

By now, everyone knows that Lance Armstrong has admitting to doping in order to win his 7 Tours De France. Those who follow the sport of bicycle racing closely also know, or believe to know, that the sport's governing body may have been complicit in helping Armstrong cheat his way to the top. In the aftermath of the United States Anti-Doping Agency's (USADA) Reasoned Decision against Armstrong, USADA, the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA), the International Cycling Union (UCI), and other groups such as Change Cycling Now (CCN), have been engaged in a back and forth but otherwise fruitless pissing contest of a press release battle. The UCI at one point established a supposedly Independent Commission to investigate its links to Armstrong, but just yesterday shut it down without providing requested information to the commission.

The net result of three months of work following the Reason Decision is zero. Absolutely nothing has changed. The people most responsible for this dark era of cycling are still in place. The deniers continue to believe that Lance Armstrong was not wrong for doing what he did. No one else who has been implicated in any of the wider doping conspiracies are being taken to task. I also do not believe that the riders themselves will do what is necessary to affect change. The fans will continue to follow the sport no matter what. So it is incumbent upon the cycling media to band together and take a stand. They need to threaten a blackout of the sport.

Considering what we've seen so far, from riders to team personnel to certain backers of Lance Armstrong to those in power, outright asking any of them to do anything is a pipe dream. I believe that the UCI's own hubris has blinded it to the reality of the situation. Those within who are drunk with power believe they are untouchable. It is time to remind them that they are not. I think the only way to do this is to take their crown jewels, their cash cows, away from the public. If no one can watch a particular race, the sponsors lose exposure. The bicycle industry in general also loses positive exposure. No one sees their products being ridden by or on the backs of those who would animate the race. And when sponsors aren't happy, no body is happy. When Scrooge McDuck can't swim in a pool of money, as the likes of Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuiad (past and current presidents of the UCI) are keen to do, changes get made. It's time to drain the pool.

To be clear, I'm not trying to put the media at risk of going out of business, and I recognize the challenges that they may face in undertaking this action. What I am proposing is that those in charge at publications like Velonews, Cyclingnews, Cycling Weekly, Cycle Sport, Peloton Magazine, La Gazzetta Dello Sport, and L'Equipe, among others, as well as broadcasters like Eurosport, Sporza, Sky, RAI, SBS, Universal Sports, and Versus all come together and put out a mandate that unless the UCI changes, they will not cover the UCI's top level World Tour events. These are the events like the spring classics, such as Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix, stage races like the Dauphine, and the grand tours of the Giro, Le Tour, and Vuelta. Essentially a full media blackout of the events that make the most money. It would not be a total blackout, however; all of those entities would full and well be able to continue to cover any news from the industry itself, as well as smaller continental, regional and local races. But they should threaten to cut off the public's access to the bigger events. The ones that everyone wants to see. The ones that feed and support the long-standing corruption at the UCI.

If anyone thinks that the current path will lead to change, you need to remove yourself from the debate. You are wrong. The UCI shut down it's own investigative panel. It spent years backing Armstrong's claim of innocence. It has tried to silence many before me who have questioned it, like Floyd Landis, Paul Kimmage, and David Walsh. Many of the people most responsible for the drugs epidemic; team directors like Bjarne Riis and Johan Bruyneel, as well as notorious doctors Michele Ferrari and Eufemiano Fuentes, have all been uncooperative and defiant in the face of so many allegations against them. The riders themselves only protest when the police enforce doping laws, and want everyone to just move on. Based on the way the fans gave Lance a 'carte jaune' to operate, we can't expect them to properly organize and motivate change on their own. That leaves the media. The one group with the true power to shut it down. Or at least threaten to do so. Sure, the UCI might survive a lack of coverage for some events. But I doubt seriously it would survive a nuclear option such as a blacked out Paris-Roubaix

I do love the sport, in case you thought otherwise. I want to see it continue and prosper. But I am sick and tired of the same crap that has been going on for decades without any recourse. Because of my intent to attempt the Hour Record, I consider myself to be vested in this process. I cannot support the UCI in its current state. If I am to make a legitimate attempt, I have no choice to do so. I have to buy a license from USA Cycling, whom I also have qualms against due to their relationships with Lance. I have to pay the UCI to verify and validate my attempt. I have to pay for a UCI official to be on hand during the attempt. With the current doped and re-infused blood on it's hands, I do not want to give a single cent of my or my sponsors money to this corrupt organization. That is why this matters to me. And that is why I am asking the cycling media to help.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Some other organizations doing some good

Wanted to take a moment today to share a story from a local (Indianapolis) group doing work to spread the word about riding your bike. In particular, they are focused on helping kids lead healthy and active lifestyles through bicycle racing.

Here's a link to their press release: Nine13 Sports and ROLLFAST

Good luck to the both of them.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sorry for the downtime

Seeing as it is winter, there really isn't too much to report. Outdoor rides are few and far between right now, and unfortunately, even trainer time has not been great. I'm still searching for that first big sponsor and hope to know something from the latest attempt next week.

I have managed to swap out my outer chain ring and my stem, as well as working on my fit and set up. The chain ring change was purely cosmetic. The frame on my Rocky Mountain Solo CXR is black while the outer ring had been grey. It was the only 50T the shop had when I bought the bike, and I wanted to upgrade from the stock 46T. The new 50T ring is back to the original black and just looks so nice. The stem was mostly another cosmetic change as well. I replaced the original black Easton stem with a white Origin-8 model. The white now matches the white saddle and bar tape. During this process I also flipped the stem over to raise my bars to see if it helped any with some of my comfort issues I had been having, and it seems to have helped.

Raising my handlebars further encouraged me to take another look at my bike fit. I've been battling discomfort and a sore hip for a year, I know that most of it is being caused by a slight leg length inequality; my right being longer than my left. Shimming the left cleat alone didn't seem to do the trick, so I went back to square one. My biggest complaint was that it always seemed like my right leg on the down stroke of each pedal revolution was being moved in a way that it didn't agree with. I couldn't decide whether or not it was being jammed, or hyper extended.  After watching an hour or two worth of YouTube videos on bike fit, and reading and re-reading a few articles on the subject, I came to the conclusion that I need to focus on three things: saddle height, saddle fore-aft, and cleat position. Naturally, they are the three most basic of bike fit principles. After remeasuring my inseam, running the calculations, and much trial and error, I ended up raising the saddle a lot, moving it forward a lot, and moving the cleats, one backward while the other forward. I also shifted the saddle slightly to the left of center as another compensation for my uneven hips

Things are better now. I still wouldn't say perfect. A few more tweaks once I am able to get outdoors more are in order. And even then I am likely to not be perfectly satisfied. But that is more mental than physical and is something I will have to work my way through. But then again, guys like Merckx himself were always tinkering and tweaking. I am also thinking that it might be a good idea to get myself into a daily stretching routine. Perhaps something simple like Graeme Obree mentions in his book 'The Obree Way.' It is just a set of four basic stretches top keep the lower body limber. Realizing that I'm not in my 20s anymore, this too could be a cause of some of my bike discomfort.

In other news, obviously the Lance news has dominated the cycling world, with an expected on-air confession coming this evening. I see a lot of people, particularly in the cycling world, who ask why it matters now. My answer is that 1) it is bigger than just Lance, and 2) it is still about integrity. I am tempted to write a blog article about it, making a comparison to something like The Black Sox scandal in order to show why taking action even now is integral to saving the sport. If I can get something I like written in a day or two, I'll post it here.

Until then, time to wear down some more tread on the trainer...