Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gravel Worlds

I went into Gravel Worlds testing the small amount of fitness I had with no idea how things would turn out. I didn't have the high expectations that many others had, in fact I only had decided a week ago to ride the event. Last year I watched the pace of the front group get too high to even try to hang onto and figured it'd be the same this year. Well, that's not quite what happened and I found myself riding quite comfortably, although probably a little bit stronger than I should have been for the first hour. We turned on to Branched Oak Rd and I started questioning whether or not I deserved to be up there. As fate would have it, that was not a question I had to answer. Somewhere a couple miles into Branched Oak, I dropped my chain, which was a near fatal mistake to the day. After dropping the chain for the next several miles I tried in vain to chase back on. The pace was super quick, and being on your own meant it was a futile battle. I eventually settled in and allowed myself to fall into a reasonably hard pace. I was trying to remember to drink and eat reguarly with reasonable success. I rolled into Valparasio and had a slow pit which became a comedy of errors of sorts. But 7 min later I was back underway all alone headed towards Malcolm. I made it through section 2 with relative ease and just the slightest tinge that my legs were not agreeable but all in all I felt good and my average speed was still decent. I also switched to Powerade in Malcolm and was happy with that choice. I felt pretty good till I hit the 15%+ climb south of the interstate that made both legs cramp. I also messed up my water calc @ the first oasis and was 1 bottle short by this time. A kindly local allowed my use of their spigot, with John Vondracek would be appreciative of later on when he was in desperate need of a bottle outside of Hickman. Miles 90-111 felt like purgatory and I was coming apart in pretty spectacular fashion. Hill climbing speed was reduced to about 5 mph and I was regretting the choice of a 39-53T x 11-25T cassette in a big way. When we got to Hickman there were several people there and I downed some calories loaded up the pockets with 2 extra bottles of Gatorade and rolled out. The ride from Hickman to the oasis was done at a crawling pace. I contemplated how I could escape the race and the hellish conditions but couldn't come up with a way. While I am directionally sound when figuring my way around, attempting to find my way back to a parkinglot in Lincoln strung out from the effects of 8 hours on a bike seemed like a worse idea than suffering through the rest of the route. I wished I didn't come to the race, in fact I wished I didn't own a bike for several miles. I cursed many and praised few, but then after painstakingly crawling over terrain that wasn't that challenging I arrived at the oasis. At the oasis they took care of me in short order, filling two bottles with gatorade and giving me a coke and some cookies. They had a garden hose and ICE, which the ICE would prove very beneficial. Anne Savery convinced me to put some ice in a baggie which I did and put on my neck. That ice on my neck had the power of a shot of a powerful drug and I rode with newfound strength as my core cooled. I powered through the last 12 miles covering it in around 40 minutes, which may not sound like much but after covering only 25 miles in the previous two hours was quite the accomplishment. I wished I had listened to James Blake back in Hickman and figured out a way to cool my core before returning to the road. If I'd have spent 5-10 minutes solving that problem it would have paid off in spades. But alas I did not and I finished the race in 10:36 with approximately 45 minutes of off bike time. Not a bad showing but not what I was looking for.

The takeaway from this weekend is that in conditions such as these, keeping your core temperature at a proper level is crucial to success. Last weekend at Crowder, I did great in doing this, this weekend at Gravel Worlds it was a bit of a failure. I'll be back next year, a little lighter and hopefully a little fitter. Dakota 5-O is coming up in 14 days and this weekend is the icing on the cake before a nice taper. Lets hope I can hold onto this small sliver of fitness until then.

Finally, to Corey and the rest of PCL I thank you. You don't create the weather but you did create a spectacular course. The event was top notch, and you deserve many thanks for holding this event. I had a great time and I'll be back next time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review - Cervelo SLC-SL

Last week I said I'd start posting up some reviews of some of the bikes in my stable. I've owned the Cervelo for a little over a year now so I'll start there.

The Cervelo SLC-SL I rides like you'd expect, fast and stiff. Its not very forgiving, it never gives the rider much of a break mostly due to the aero post I believe. The post is awful stiff, and I really can't think an ISP would be much stiffer than this thing. It does not have the most torsional stiffness of bikes I have ridden, in fact I felt like the R3 was far stiffer yet was more compliant. I think that some of this has to do with the 'aero' tube shapes that the frame's got going on. The 3T Funda fork while well behaved is not as stiff as say an Edge Composites fork, or an Alpha Q and probably does not help out the sensations of stiffness in the front end.

The SLC-SL has probably seen more action than any other bike residing in my stable but the current frame has been ridden approximately 3,000 miles (more on that later). I have found that originally I thought the SLC was okay, but not great and almost parted ways with it several times. The SLC,as mentioned above is stiff and somewhat punishing, I think that helps contribue to the feeling I have that the more fit I am the better the bike performs. Honestly, I ride it out of shape or when just wanting to putz along and I think its not a very fun ride. However, go out and push the pace and this guy shines. For those out there without a ton of flexibility, you may want to look elsewhere, the headtubes are pretty short as well. My 51 is being run with 20mm of spacers and a 15mm HS top cap and still has quite a bit of drop. A word of note, obviously, its paramount to try to get your saddle height in the correct position but never have I felt this in such a manner as on this bike. Too high and the bike really handles poorly. Get the saddle height right and this bike will corner in a well behaved manner. It doesn't have a super low bottom bracket (68mm drop) so it feels a little taller than some european bikes but is pretty much on par with the offerings of the other major carbon manufacturers.

So, can you ride this thing for 6 hours and still walk? Yes. I think my longest days on this bike have been around 6 hours. The longest week I've done on the bike was around 22 hours over 5 days down in Gainesville in February on a variety of road surfaces from super smooth to rough FL chip seal. I was recovering well between days and never felt like the bike held me back. The bike is not smooth like a Synapse, Trek 5 series, and in fact is not as smooth as the Cervelo R3 (the S3 supposedly corrects this shortcoming). Would it be my only long day bike? I would say as long as I was reasonably fit, yes. Its a great bike and the carbon dampesn vibration/feedback reasonably.

So, what is there not to like? Well, couple nitpicks on this one. I ride a 51 (or 54) and wear a 46 or 46.5 shoe. The toe overlap on this bike is attrocious in the smaller sizes but in most real world riding situations its not too much of an issue. Just be careful when doing slow speed cornering maneuvers. The airfoil tube shape can be a handful in crosswinds but you get used to it over time. It wouldn't be my choice for the riding conditions we've had lately if I had options (which I do). The only other problem was I broke the first frame @ the bottom bracket within about 2,000 miles. Some googling shows this bike is prone to break at this spot, and I'd carefully consider whether or not buying one of these used is a good idea because of the known breaking point.

If someone took all my bikes handed me $3,500 and said replace it all with one bike would a Cervelo S series bike be on the list of candidates? Yes. Would it be the winner? That's tough to say but there are some deals out there on these things that would cause serious pause and consideration.

To rate the bike on a scale of 0-10 I'd give it an 8.