Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This is why you wear a helmet?

I couldn't believe it when I saw this, but...I'll let you see for yourself. wow...just wow...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Look Keo 2 Max Pedals

It's been a long time, but I'm back. School has started again and as I head into the second year of medical school, this blog may be finished. Just expect that this will likely be the last of a handful of final posts scattered over the next few months. If you've enjoyed what you've found here, I'm sorry for the announcement. If you're only here to read about the Look Pedals, well then I'll get on with it.

This summer I decided to finally make the switch from my old Look delta cleat pedals that were almost as old as me to something new. Back in April, I tried out the Speedplay Zero. They were a decent pedal, just not quite right for me. Somewhat forlorn, disillusioned (is it possible that Mark Cavendish is that fast for some reason other than his pedals?), I decided to take a look at Look.

My eye fell on the Look Keo 2 Max. I haven't ridden on the Keo pedal before this summer and assumed it would be similar to the old Delta. For the most part, I would say that is true. However, both the cleat and the pedals are much lighter. Just the difference in the cleat was fairly surprising to me. Much more minimalist.

The Keo 2 Max pedal, is light and I worry a little about the durability in the long run, but seems tough enough for my purposes. This is bolstered by a small metal plate over the main contact point of the pedal. As a matter of fact the pedal is so light that it spins more than I am prepared for sometimes after pushing off from a stop. This can make engaging into the pedal a little difficult, but it's mostly just about getting the feel for it. The lightness is all fine and dandy, but it's not what I think is best about the Keo 2 max.

Personally, the best thing about these pedals is the width. They are incredibly wide. So wide, actually that I was a little concerned about the tight cornering I would need to do during the criterium season. However, after a summer of racing I can tell you that cornering really was not an issue with these pedals. And the width is worth every millimeter. On my old pedals I occasionally had the outside of my foot fall asleep (I have kind of big feet). That was pretty much a non-issue this summer while riding with the Keo 2 Max. Also, there is plenty of float depending on the cleats that you use. I prefer the gray cleat with the smallest float, but still some.

One slightly annoying fact is that the only way to put these pedals on and off is with a hex key. My pedal wrench is apparently obsolete now. It's not the end of the world, but it's nice not to have to maneuver around the backside of the crankarms to put your pedals on and off.

All in all, I am very satisfied with these pedals. I think that they are great for road riding and racing. I would especially recommend them if you plan to ride long distances as the width minimizes problems with hotfeet or numbness once you position your cleat correctly. No problems with the float, even with mobility you still have stability. I like these pedals and look forward to using them for a long time.

-Width, by far and away the biggest advantage of these pedals.
-Weight...or lack thereof. Maybe I should say "Lightness"
-strong, easy to use clipping mechanism

-plastic pedals aren't the most durable, but since they are road pedals that's probably not too big of an issue
-If you don't have the right size hex key you are going to need to get one because you won't have any way to use your pedal wrench.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

An Open Letter to the Kindness of Strangers

Last week I got a flat tire. It's been a long time since I had a flat tire that I couldn't do anything about. As a matter of fact, I think the last one was during a triathlon that I did sometime during the summer of 2007. That's a long time.

As any veteran cyclist will tell you, at a minimum it's a good idea to carry a spare tube and something with which to pump your tire up. Last Monday, I decided to ignore this tiny tidbit of wisdom. It's not that I was blatantly shaking my fist at the gods of cycling. I just happened to have locked my saddle bag in the garage when my wife left the house for the morning and I wanted to go for a spin. I was just going to do 15-20 miles and explore a bit of the area we just moved to in Elm Grove, WI. The roads seemed lovely and not dangerous, so off I went.

A little over 8 miles later I found myself leaving Fox Brook Park and feeling a little squishy. My back tire, that is, was feeling squishy underneath me. I was just about to turn to go farther west, so I pulled off to feel the back tire. It was definitely low, and apparently sinking fast. It was safe to roll on for a little bit, so I headed back towards home. After about 2 miles I felt that I had to stop riding on it or I would risk damaging my rims. I stopped, got off my bike, took my shoes and socks off and prepared for a six mile barefoot walk home. It wasn't exactly the way I wanted the ride to go, but sometimes it happens. I had my phone, but no one to call in the middle of the day, so I plodded on.

After about a mile and a half of what had now become a mix of trudging and what probably looked like dancing/tip toeing as I tried not to step on gravel on the pavement or sticks in the boulevard, I saw a car pull a U-Turn not far in front of me. It was a nice car too. As it turns out, it was a 2003 Limited edition Dodge Viper. It looked a bit like this...

2003 Dodge Viper SRT-10 - Front Angle - Dodge Viper SRT10

only it was a nice deep copper color.

The driver was a nice fella named Scott. He asked if I wanted a ride. I told him I was only 4 or 5 miles from home, so it wasn't really that far, and I'd hate to trouble him...yeah, even I knew it was kind of dumb sounding, but it's not everyday someone pulls over in a car that's worth more than your life to offer you a ride home... I looked a little hopefully at his trunk and made what was probably a silly gesture of some sort to which he replied, "Yeah, it won't fit in there." Now it may seem ridiculous, and I don't own a million dollar speed machine of a bicycle, but I would rather walk home barefoot knowing my bike is safe than hide it in the bushes to come back for it.

To my pleasant surprise, there happened to be a girl across the street who was out mowing her lawn. I ran over to ask if I could leave my bike by her garage and come back for it after explaining what happened and that this guy who stopped on the side of the road was about to give me a ride home. She looked a little confused (can't blame her) and a little unhappy that I had caught her sweaty and in her yard-work clothes, but once she snapped out of it, was happy to let me drop off my bike. Happy enough that my ride was safe I hopped in the car, after apologizing a couple time about being sweaty in his nice leather seats, and we took off.

I got home and went back with my van for my bike which was still where I had left it, thanked the lawn-mowing girl and headed back home to fix my flat tire. Despite the misfortune of the day, I have to say I was rather lucky to have gotten a ride home. My feet would of been really raw after 6 miles of barefootness.

All this to say, if you have the chance to pick up a cyclist with a mechanical problem or offer your assistance to anyone you might need it on the side of the road, you should do it. You never know who's day you might have the opportunity to brighten. And if you're late to where you're going because of it, I think whoever is waiting for you on the other end would probably understand.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bravo Cucina/Big Bay Brewing presented by Farmers Insurance Whitefish Bay Classic 7/24/11

Wow, what a mouthful of a name. The Whitefish Bay Classic Criterium was my finale to superweek. It's the first time I've ever spent any time in Whitefish Bay or near the Bayshore mall. It's quite a pleasant location, and very welcoming to hordes of cyclists careening through their streets as well.

Sunday, July 24 was the last day of Superweek and I was ready for a full field of racers to compete against. It turned out that there were only 42 of us. Even though it wasn't at capacity, it's the largest Superweek race that I did this year. I think Superweek's numbers are hurting from the draw that Tour of America's Dairyland has produced. The Cat 4/5 field had 42 riders in total. The course had 6 corners and turns 1-4 were fairly technical with rough tarmac in turns 3 and 4. From riding the course in warm up, I knew that I would struggle a little in the early corners, but could make up lost ground on the long straightaway on the north side of the course.

***Just to clarify why I'd be losing ground in the early corners...I am a confident bike handler and I have good skills to rely on. However, I'm also a savvy enough rider that I don't trust a field of 40 amateur racers trying to cruise around 90 degree corners 3 abreast. In the 4/5 fields especially, the skill levels vary significantly so I'm always a little more cautious than some of my fellow racers. When the pace stretches the group into single file it's not so bad, but that doesn't happen quite as often as it maybe should.***

Aaaaand we're back! I had just moved to a new apartment the day before the Whitefish Bay race and was very tired going into the race after a week of packing, working and moving. I didn't feel very ready to race, but after a 20 minute warmup I was feeling a little more prepared than when I rolled out of bed that morning. On the start line I knew I'd have to follow wheels and pick carefully to make sure I'd stay safe if I wanted to keep up. The whistle blew and we rolled out for 22 laps on our 0.8 mile course. As usual the pace shot up for the first 5 laps or so while the group found its rhythm. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could nestle in behind the main group 15-20 wheels back and ride pretty comfortably. A few people moved to the front and raised the speed, but there were enough riders with teams of 2-4 riders that nothing escaped for awhile. I was starting to wonder if we'd just keep going around in circles without any real signs of aggression when a rider in a bright yellow kit took a flyer off the front with 10 laps to go.

As the attack went, I was probably 3 or 4 wheels from the front, keeping an eye on some of the riders who I knew would be contenders. I pulled off with a couple other guys and let other people start the chasing. The one rider stayed away for a full lap or so and then a couple others started to bridge across. There wasn't a particularly organized chase and people were fighting at the front over doing any work. It was feeling a little sketchy in the back with the surge and slow pattern, especially in corners 3 and 4 where the road was a bit beaten up. With 7 laps or so remaining I found my momentum carrying me to the front of the pack on the north-side straightaway and I made the mistake of letting it bring me to the front to lead the chase. I am really one of the dumbest smart people to ever race on two wheels when it comes to this circumstance. I know the strategy I should use during almost every race, but I don't always stick to the plan very well. I wait and I wait and try to let the group do the work to bring back the break because I never have any teammates, but then it's like dangling a steak in front of a dog for too long. There comes a point where you can't help but do more than just drool over it.

Thus, I found myself on the front riding tempo fast enough to string out the group behind me. I made up my mind to ride the next two corners and then drop off. It was nice having the liberty to take the corners fast and with a perfect line without other riders cutting under me or anything like that. I came into the home stretch and pulled off far enough that the riders behind me had to pull through. A KS energies rider came to the front and rode to the next corner and pulled off. By this point the gap had closed a little, but the rest of the peloton wasn't prepared to do anything. A couple riders jumped across to the break and I got stuck in a no-man's-land of sorts waiting for more of the pack to come through without losing too much speed. The end result was me in the wind for an entire lap too close to the finish. Inevitably, I do this to myself at some point in almost every race. Just a little more patience, or a couple of friends to work with and I'd be a lot better off.

Around 5 or 6 laps to go, the break was caught and we all caught our breath. The pace stayed fairly low until 2 laps to go and then it was a wild ride to the finish. I tried to move up on the north side straight during the finishing lap, but was out of luck. I had used a bit too much energy to make significant progress and didn't want to take the risks of going kamikaze on the last two corners to try to gain position. I moved up to 25th out of 36 finishers by the time I got across the line. Not a stellar performance, but not a bad day given the pre race circumstances either. All told, we averaged 25 MPH for 45 minutes, which felt surprisingly manageable. It's a good sign, but it may be that I'm coming back to form a little too late, now that my racing is pretty much done for the summer.

It's a been a good season. It unfortunately may be my last for a little while. Next summer is my first boards exam, l so we'll see if I can squeeze any racing in between boards and the beginning of third year. But that's too far to tell. I still have three weeks off before school starts again. For now we'll focus on my upcoming weeklong adventure out West in Colorado. Can't come soon enough! This year I'm going to try and ride Big Thomson Canyon up into Estes Park. I'll be back to tell all about it. Until then, enjoy the ride.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Superweek Whitnall Park Road Race- 7/18/11

Have you ever wondered what it feels like to race your bike in a sauna?

I found out exactly what that feels like this past Monday. It was hideously hot and humid as I started the Whitnall Park Road Race at 10:00 in the morning. In my opinion weather shouldn't be unbearable before noon. On Monday, though, it was. Of course, this didn't stop any of us from coming out to race. 23 of us lined up to broast ourselves in the terrible heat for the Men's Cat 4/5 field.

Whitnall Park is where I won a race in April, so in some ways I had a home court advantage. The course on Monday was slightly different--longer actually--and in the opposite direction that I had raced at the Whitnall Park Criterium. The roads were in decent shape, but not fantastic. However, the course had only one sharp turn which was a hard left hander before heading up the finishing climb. The course was rolling and finished with a short steep section approximately 0.5 miles from the finish with a flat/slightly downhill section for the final 300 meters or so. The hill meant the finish would be difficult, but that the final sprint might actually be fairly fast if you could recover in time to give it a go. Although, there was a huge dent in the road just 30 meters or so before the finish (I don't really know what else to call it) that stretched about 70% of the way across from left to right. This meant that my plan was to give a burst of speed on the final climb and then try to stay along the right of the road through to the finish line.

We rolled out only a few minutes late (which is a pretty amazing feat for Superweek) and started our 11 lap (~23 mile) "road race." The race was operated as a road race instead of a criterium which meant no free-lap rule and there was actually a support car driving behind us. Our first couple laps of this glorified circuit race were somewhat blistering in pace as the 4/5 field always seems to like. There was a strong wind from the west, so the north side of the course was a bit difficult as we dove down from the start line and then climbed up into a headwind.

I decided to race this one with my head instead of my legs, so I mostly just sat in following wheels while I let the racers with teammates do most of the work. It paid off and I still had some energy left in the tank to race strong during the last lap. Coming through to the start/finish at one lap to go I found myself in front with a couple other riders as we all spread across the road waiting for someone to take the lead. We eased around our first corner and into the downhill, so I just let myself freewheel easy and wound up on the front. There were a couple piddly attacks as we headed into the headwind and I let myself drift back 5 or 6 places while others initiated the chases. With about a mile to go, an attack lifted the pace as we headed back towards the finish line and I was prepared to stay with them. I got onto 4th or 5th wheel and pushed hard. We hit the hard left hander uphill and I just hung on. I had a point on the hill where I wanted to go all in, but I was forced by the high pace to start my jump two or three bike lengths earlier than I wanted to. It meant that I didn't quite have the power at the peak of the hill that I wanted to, but I was still with the front runners and it stopped me from getting passed by anyone else behind me. I was on the left side of the road and with too many people to make a wild move over to the right where I wanted to be, so I just made the best of my side as I could.

Two guys were strong enough to go off the front over the top and the rest of us were in wild pursuit. Tristan Horvath from MACK racing managed another win against the KS Energies rider who finished second. Meanwhile 9 of us were stampeding towards the line in a group sprint. About 25 meters before the finish I got squinched by the rider on my right as he veered off his line and the rider on my left who was trying to move off the barriers. I sat up enough to avoid a crash and probably sacrificed a place or two in my finish, but still managed 9th. It was a good day, albeit a VERY hot one. Looking back at my heart rate monitor, I recorded yet another new Max HR. 207 this time! This racing back into shape thing isn't going so badly after all.

Next up is the Bravo Cucina Italiana Criterium in Whitefish Bay on Sunday. After that Superweek will be done I won't likely have another race until mid August. Although, I will have more adventures in Colorado to tell about in the interim. Stay tuned.

Before I go. Props to Tristan Horvath! He raced the entire race as a marked man and most of the group made him do work on the front despite being a lone rider without any teammates on Monday. He earned the win the hard way. Nice Work.