Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dom's new steed

Within the next few days, the "masher" Dominic will be taking delivery of the latest addition to his stable:

The Specialized Transition Pro, a slippery wind-cheating machine, if there ever was one.


 *  Specialized E5 AEROTEC frame, fully manipulated Columbus aero tubing, compact Transition race design.
 *  Specialized FACT monocoque carbon aero fork, carbon legs, crown, and steerer, Speed Zertz.
 *  Profile Lava, OS stem and Specialized Zertz Transition bullhorn bars.
 *  Shimano Dura-Ace components with carbon aero brake levers.
 *  FSA K-Force MegaExo, 2-piece carbon crankset.
 *  Zipp 404 (58mm rim height), carbon clincher wheelset - no dimpling on rim.
 *  Body Geometry Toupé Gel saddle.

What I'd recommend

 +  Upgrade all bearings to ceramic hybrids (not so much for the reduced friction, but more for the lower weight).

 +  Lose the stock Specialized saddle and get the Sella Italia SLR carbon fiber / titanium saddle (140 grams). You can add a sweet dedicated carbon fiber saddle bag for it too.

 +  If you have a cast iron butt, you can go for the 76 gram (!!!) Sella Italia SLR C64 saddle. What's a little pain for more speed, eh? :-P

 +  Replace steel hardware with titanium upgrades from the following merchants:

       HBC, LLC
       Racebolt, LLC
       Ti Kinetics

 +  Find out why the supplied Zipp 404 wheelset are non-dimpled. Dimples increase aerodynamic advantage.

Dom's vintage Scott USA Race Pro with Cloe at the Mandai Army training grounds.

       In other news, I'm very happy with Xero™'s lightweight rim tape (see previous post). They shave off 14 grams per wheel. I never thought losing 28 grams of rotating (and unsprung) mass could make such a difference. On a 35 mile (56 km) ride, my average speed went up by 0.9 mph (1.44 km/h) without any perceptible increase in effort. Woot!

Bike Porn

Campagnolo's 2007 Shamal Ultra wheelset is so tempting. They whisper to me each time I step into Colin's shop at Sixth Avenue.

They are even dynamically balanced and are available with ceramic hybrid bearings as an option.

Weight: Front 605 grams. Rear 790 grams. Total 1395 grams.

Hubba! Hubba! Hubba!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Rim tape blow out

       Yes, I must be a little bored to write about this, but who knows? It might help someone out there someday :-)

       I will state for the record that this has never happened to me. Maybe the rim tape on this wheel (borrowed from Dominic) is old, or maybe I pumped the pressure too high on the tire (my floor pumps usually come with a pressure gauge). Anyways, I was cruising along at a good clip (about 26 mph / 41.6 km/h) when I heard a loud pop and hissing from my rear wheel. The first thing that came to me was, "That's odd. The Specialized Fat Boys have Kevlar™ Flak Jackets. Not even broken glass can get through them." I pulled over anyway, and sure enough, my rear tire was rapidly deflating. O....kay.

       I felt the inside of the tire carcass but felt no foreign object. I checked the outside of the tire and found nothing either. So, before I installed my spare tube (I try not to do roadside / trailside patch ups), I pumped up the deflated tube to locate the puncture. The puncture turned out to be on the inner circumference of the tube. Using the valve as a reference, I quickly found out the cause of the puncture. The rim tape gave way over one of the spoke holes, resulting in the tire tube pushing itself against the sharp edge of the spoke hole and blowing out. A patch kit is not going to fix this. Installing a new tube would just result in an immediate blow out.

       I stood and thought about it for a while. This is the first ride I didn't bring an emergency tire boot which I can trim to fit over the blow out. (Don't you love Murphy?) I recalled a piece of advice from a biking magazine: a PowerBar™ wrapper can function as emergency tire boot to get you home. I looked at my packet of energy gel and thought, "Energy bar. Energy gel. Po-tay-toe. Po-tar-toe. It just might work."

       After consuming the contents of the energy gel, I used the tab as an emergency "rim tape boot." As luck would have it, the tab was exactly wide enough to span the width of the Mavic 220 rim :-) Don't you just love serendipity? I made sure both sides of the emergency rim tape boot are held under the bead of the tire, installed the new tube, inflated it, and was on my way.

       Here are some pictures (I'm at home now, of course):

Here, you can see how 100 PSI (or 105, or 110 PSI. The tape was old and it was a hot day.) in the tire tube might have caused the Velox™ cloth rim tape to fail, allowing the tire tube blow through the spoke hole.

The tab from Crank e.Gel™ energy gel packet.

Energy gel tab installed as an emergency rim tape boot. The tire has been removed for clarification. There is no need to completely dismount the tire, you can simply slide it under the tire bead on the side that's not removed. Refer to next picture.

How the repair is accomplished (and should look like). From here, install a new tube, making sure that the emergency patch hasn't slid around, inflate, and you are on your way.

The puncture. Not very pretty. I'm not sure if a regular patch will hold it.

As a precaution, I replaced the rim tapes on both wheels with superior variants. The Velox™ cloth rim tape is identical to the Zéfal™ rim tape in the picture. I upgraded to Xero™'s lightweight rim tape. (As a general rule in cycling, whenever you break something, it is the perfect excuse to upgrade :-P ) The Xero™ rim tape is four times the price of the regular cloth rim tape, but it is non-adhesive (no mess when uninstalling), lighter, synthetic (i.e. doesn't rot when wet like cotton does), and, is a literally a snap to install — simply align it to the rim's valve hole, stretch it over the rim, and you are done.

Xero™ rim tape installed on front wheel. That's a 1991 Mavic™ Paris Gao Dakar Commemorative Hub, by the way. It still spins as smoothly as the day I bought it. You can spin it, go take a shower, come back, and it will still be spinning. That's Mavic™ for you.

       Happy trails :-)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dogging — and chugging — it

While visiting 30 pubs in 6 days across Ireland, Hans Rey and Steve Peat managed to do some biking — including riding on the very edge of the Mines of Moria Cliffs of Moher.

'Glad it didn't result in this :-P

Hans' take:
In the late afternoon we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher, which were for me the main reason why I wanted to come to Ireland. The 600 feet tall cliffs are entirely vertical and the edge is very abrupt. My dream was to ride along the small narrow ledge that was between 6 feet to 6 inches wide and looked like a long curvy balcony without a handrail.

                                        [ . . . ]

       Locals warned us of the upward drafts, that blow people off the cliffs - and sure enough the wind was picking up over night. We got an early start, and even the extra strong italian coffee I brewed couldn't clear our heads. Even though the conditions and weather were less than good, this was our one and only chance to ride the cliffs, so we did. It was a rad feeling to ride along the exposed edges and jump over some of the gaps. As time went on we started to feel more and more comfortable and daring. Shortly after we got done it started pouring rain, nonetheless we continued the trail on top of the cliffs, which was one of the more spectacular trails I have ridden. We followed it all the way to Hag's Head.

Steve's take:
The trail eventually brought us to the cliffs of Mohar, I know Hans was excited about these as he has been looking at a picture from them for years now. We did a quick reccy of the cliffs that evening but couldn't ride them as the security guy and all the tourists in the way put a stop on us. We decided an early morning poach was best so we slid off and stumbled upon the most fun night of the trip.

                                         [ . . . ]

       Well our poach of the cliffs started with a hangover and an early rise to beat the mad rushes, the wind was definitely blowing the rain sideways at us so we just had to knuckle down and ride the 6-inch wide edge of the cliff, I don't know about Hans but I was pretty nervous at the start but soon found my wheels and got a little more confident, maybe it was the 200meter drop to the ocean below that was unnerving me a little. We found a little sheltered spot from the wind and got some amazing riding shots. After the cliff edge we moved onto a fun single track trail that followed the cliffs around to Hags head.

The next 2 pictures really remind me of my rides in the Marin Headlands, North California:

Replying to those who judged Hans and Steve suicidal, lelebebbel wrote:

Ever ridden on a bike path next to trucks going 50 mph (80 km/h)? If you fell into traffic you'd be just as dead as these guys if they had fallen off that cliff. It just wouldn't be as spectacular.

As these gory pictures — Warning: graphic images. NOT child-safe. NOT work-safe. (1), (2), (3), (4), (5) — clearly attest, being run over by a truck is just as fatal — and messy — as falling off a 702-feet cliff.

It's the up-drafts that get you: wind hitting the cliffs from the seaside and then being forced up the face, when they pass as they go up they create a suction of sorts and actually "suck" you off the cliff.

That sounds similar to the effect when a big truck or bus at high speed goes past a cyclist, if the cyclist is unstable or doesn't brace, he or she may topple towards the large vehicle, and risk being run over by other traffic.

The Cliffs of Moher at sunset.

Trail to Hag's Head at twilight.

I don't own a GT or a Santa Cruz bike, but hey, Hans Rey and Steve Peat rock!