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Archive for August, 2008

Car=1, New Bike=0

I went out for a two and a half hour ride today that turned into a six hour ordeal.  About ten or eleven miles from home, I was riding on a fairly busy main road when I saw a car stopped at the stop sign on a smaller intersecting street.  I had a strange feeling about the car, but I thought I made eye contact with the driver.  As I got closer, the car pulled out.  I was sure he would see me, since I was right in front of him, but I still swerved to get out of the way.  Unfortunately, he did not see me or hit his brakes until he had hit me.

I tumbled over the handlebars and crashed to the street.  As I lay there holding my head and looking at my mangled bike, I could see cars stopping all around.  I thought vaguely about trying to get my mobile out of my jersey pocket, but I saw a woman in a car roll down her window and shout that she was calling 911.  In what seemed like seconds, there were several people all around me, and when I attempted to move, they told me to lie still.  The police rolled up quickly, and then the firefighters and EMTs.

The driver of the car that hit me was wandering around in what seemed to be a bit of a daze, and he kept saying over and over, “I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry.”  A small part of me felt bad for him, as if I should comfort him, but a larger part of me wanted to yell at him for smashing up my new bike, so I’m glad he didn’t come over to talk to me.  The people who were gathered around me kept him away, and when he suggested that he move my bike out of the way, they jumped all over him.  “The police need to see where it is!” they told him.

In the meantime, one of the women at the scene called Dorothy and told her what had happened.  A physical therapist, whose office I had conveniently crashed in front of, was on hand, helping to check me out and make sure I hadn’t done serious, vital damage to myself.  Others appeared to be directing traffic and generally being good Samaritans.

Soon I was strapped into an uncomfortable neck brace and lashed to a stiff backboard.  The EMTs and firefighters loaded me into an ambulance and took me to Danbury hospital.  After getting my vital signs checked for the fourth or fifth time, a nurse wheeled me into the x-ray room, where I got my chest and neck zapped.  Back in my little room, Dorothy was waiting for me with a worried expression on her face.  I assured her I was fine, but a little banged up.  I then got a CAT scan, another x-ray, and a lot more waiting around.

The PA who saw me happened to be a cyclist himself, though he confessed to having too little time to ride as much as he might like.  He told me I had nothing too seriously wrong with me other than a lot of banging around and bruising.  My left wrist somehow took the worst of it and is badly sprained at the least.  I have to see an orthopedist soon to have it checked out.  My neck got a little wrenched by the fall, but is not badly damaged, and there is some minor road rash on my right shoulder.

I have to go to the Newtown police department tomorrow to pick up my bike and see how bad it is.  From my vantage point lying on the road, I could tell that both blades of the form were shattered, but I could not see it well enough to know if there was more extensive damage.  This hurts the most–I have only had the bike for a week, and now it is all smashed up.  The only consolation I get is that the driver’s insurance will be paying for this.  That doesn’t make me feel any better, though–I really like my new bike, and it makes me very sad to see it.

The only other good thing is everyone involved was very professional and very nice.  The Newtown police officer who took my bike back to the PD, the EMTs, the people driving by who stopped–everyone was very kind and helpful and made me feel a little better about our world.

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Clinched!

  • 23.0 avg
  • 34.4 max
  • 144 AHR
  • 178 MHR
  • 18.99 miles
  • 49:36.8

Those stats include the cool down and part of the ride home–I forgot to stop the timer after the race.

Tonight was a points race, and I just needed to get 8th place to clinch the series lead, and that would only be necessary if the second place guy got first.  I took second in the second sprint, and then more or less sat back and let the race happen without working myself too hard.  The second place guy took third tonight, and I took sixth, so I have a 19 point lead with only one race remaining.

That means I’m the Tuesday Night World Champion!

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  • 19.1 avg
  • 37.4 max
  • 136 AHR
  • 167 MHR
  • 22.74 miles
  • 1:11:28

At this time of the season, I always start to feel tired and sluggish, as if my muscles are not going to push any more. It always surprises me, then, when I have a ride like today. I felt tired and sluggish as usual, but at the end of the ride my stats showed that it was one of the fastest times ever on that particular training route. This good time was without any sense that I had pushed especially hard or had really worked the hills or concentrated on speed. During the early spring, I can ride this same course at a hard, training intensity pace and still finish it six or seven minutes slower. The one truly bad part of the ride is that my cracked rib is hurting more and more. It’s going to be a stubborn, slow healer, I can tell.

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A Couple of Rides

  • 17.7 avg
  • 36.9 max
  • 129 AHR
  • 160 MHR
  • 18.19 mi
  • 1:01:44
  • 16.5 avg
  • 38.6 max
  • 119 AHR
  • 161 MHR
  • 19.0 miles
  • 1:09:16

A couple of short training rides.  My rib is still hurting quite a lot when I ride, so it is difficult to plan a long ride.  The bike, though, really does have a nice feel to it, and I am now convinced that the front end is tighter and more responsive than my old bike’s.

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  • 18.1 avg
  • 38.3 max
  • 134 AHR
  • 164 MHR
  • 38.92 miles
  • 2:08:57

Cannondale has discontinued the Six-13 for the 2009 model year, but, now that I have one race and one serious training ride on it, I can say that it is a very fine bike that holds its own on the road.  It’s not terribly surprising why the company decided to get rid of the Six-13: with a new carbon/aluminum ride (the Six) and an expanded line of carbon bikes (the Supersix HiMod, the Synapse HiMod, and the Six Carbon), the Six-13 is redundant.  Since it is basically the CAAD9 with two aluminum tubes cut out and replaced by carbon, it has the legendary great tracking and acceleration of the lower-line model; the carbon, I guess, is supposed to cut down on road vibration and provide a slightly more comfortable ride.  Since I haven’t tried out the CAAD9, I can’t say if this is true or not.

But, on to my review of the Six-13.  It is really a great-riding bike.  I went out today for a two hour ride through the hills just south of home, past the reservoir and up some backroads that are bumpy and mangled even by Connecticut standards.  First, the ride quality.  Despite the very tight rear triangle and oversized aluminum tubing, the bike never felt harsh.  Of course, this is a subjective assessment, and, since I ride a lot of miles, I’m probably a little less sensitive to so-called harshness than many other riders.  Still, I never felt the frame was chattery or skittish on rough road surfaces.

The frame is also noticeably stiff, but I want to stop here and say that the obsession with a “stiff” frame is largely marketing hype.  I read a lot of bike chat forums, and the low-miles gearheads are always going on and on about how stiff a frame is, as if that is the ultimate test of a bike’s qualities.  To clarify, then, here is what I mean by a stiff frame.  When I stand on the pedals and accelerate hard, the bike surges forward with no sense of loss of power.  When I corner aggressively, the bike tracks straight with out a feeling of give at the apex.  My BMC, though remarkably tight in the bottom bracket (hmmm…that sounds vaguely obscene…) had a fork that was probably too light for someone with my size and power, and I did notice a slight sponginess in hard corners, as if the bike really wanted to take a more leisurely way through.  So, the Six-13 feels like it wants to carve the curves a little more tightly.

Cannondale has been building bikes for a long time, and they know what they’re doing when they weld aluminum tubes.  This shows in the little things, like the sense of stability I get even when cutting a tight line through a sharp corner, or the ease with which everything fell into place when I was building the bike up.  It tracks beautifully and simply feels solid.  Nothing fancy: just solid and dependable.  It is a workhorse frame, tough enough to get the job done with a minimum of fuss and flash.

I had a moment of fright this afternoon on my ride when I was swooping down a fast hill and some dipshit in an SUV pulled out in front of me.  I had to climb on my brakes to make sure I didn’t end up smashing two frames in less than two weeks.  This told me two things.  First, the bike is stable even under harsh, sudden movements.  Second, I did a great job building the bike, and, more specifically, adjusting the brakes.  The latter is a HUGE relief, since I can be a little insecure about my mechanical talents.

This is actually a difficult review to write.  The truth is, I didn’t really notice the bike as I was riding unless I glanced down at that very bright orange top tube.  It simply disappeared beneath me as I pedaled, which is exactly what you want a bike to do. All I had to think about was keeping the pedals turning.

This invisible quality was very evident last night in the Tuesday Night World Championships.  The final sprint was a mess, with a huge glob of riders still at the front, including a lot of pack fodder that had no business getting in my way.  I started the sprint late, partly because three guys decided they were just going to give up about 300 meters from the line, and they would not get the hell out of my way.  Then, I had to do some bobbing and weaving to get through the clogged lane to a clear path to the line.  I found daylight and screamed up the left-hand side, passing about ten guys in the last 100 meters to take third place.  If not for the bad positioning, I probably would have won, since I was seriously gaining at the end.  At any rate, the bike was not in my mind at all.  All of my concentration was focused on getting to the line as fast as I could, and the Cannondale did everything I asked it to do with no complaints, even when I made some very hard demands on it.  And that, friends, is what makes a good race bike.

It looks like our club will be sponsored by Cannondale next year, which I like.  I’ve been thinking about getting new race bikes for both me and Dorothy, and the CAAD9 might be a good bet here, especially since C’Dale is offering a special edition of that frame for sponsored teams.  If it rides as well as my new Six-13, it will be a very worthy bike, and will look awesome with the new Campagnolo Record 11 Speed hanging on it.

One final note on the ride.  My rib hurt like crazy after about thirty minutes.  The bone I cracked is high up under my armpit, so it doesn’t flex as much when I breathe as the lower ribs I cracked two years ago, but it still hurt like hell.  Even a new bike couldn’t cure that pain.

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In Praise of the LBS

After I crashed at the Rochester Criterium and noticed that my bike was cracked, I was sure that my quest to become the Tuesday Night World Champion was over.  I was sure I would not be able to get a new bike in time or at anything like an affordable price.  However, at Dorothy’s urging, I called the shop from my cell phone while we were driving through torrential downpours on the New York Thruway to find out if I could salvage the remains of my season.

I had decided that I wanted to get something cheap but race-worthy, and I figured the Cannondale CAAD 9 would have the best price/performance ratio around.  It’s not a glamorous frame, but it is tough, and you see a lot of them at local races.

I got Greg, the manager and owner of the bike shop, on the phone and explained my predicament.  I was very worried about getting a bike and getting it on time, so I was surprised when his first question was not about which frame I wanted to order but about how badly banged up I was.  After assuring him I was fine, we discussed the possibilities and the problems of getting a frame–a lot would depend on what Cannondale happened to have in stock.  Then came the big news:  If there was not a frame available in my size, he would let me borrow his custom Serotta Meivici carbon fiber dream bike to ride until my new one arrived.  The Serotta would be a little small, but for a short time it wouldn’t be a big deal.  Now, that is real service.  He took my cell number and said he would call back when he had some answers.

A little bit later, he called back with the results of his search.  He happened to have the district sales rep for Cannondale in the shop, so that made the search a lot quicker and easier.  The CAAD 9 frame was not in stock, but I could order one custom-built, but the wait would be over a month.  The other possibility was a Six-13 in “Afterburner Fade,” a screaming red-orange-yellow paintjob.  This one was in stock, in my size, and I could have it for about half the retail price for such a frame.  I was ready to say yes, but I said I’d think it over and discuss it with Dorothy before getting back to him.

Of course, the discussion was short.  It was a good, solid bike, at a good price, and it would be in the shop by the time we got back from Vermont.  When I called the shop back, Lou, the Cannondale rep, answered the phone, so I got to place my order directly with the guy from the company (and I live 2 miles from C’dale’s corporate HQ, so it helps to be a local).  Although I had anticipated that the pain of replacing my broken frame would be worse than the cracked rib, I was wrong (and is that rib ever hurting these days!).  My local shop rules.

Today, I picked up the frame and the few other things I would need to complete the build–new cables, new bar tape, a new stem.  Sean, the service manager, had even checked out the details of my old frame and the new one to make sure that things like my old seatpost would fit the new frame.  I brought the things home and built up the new bike in a couple of hours.  It looks very cool, and the screaming paint is much more appealing than I thought it would be.  At the shop guys’ urging, I got yellow bar tape, so the whole bike is really bright, and it sort of matches my team kit.  In the race configuration, with my Fulcrum 1 wheels and no seat bag, it weighs in at 17.5 pounds, which is more than respectable.

This incident truly emphasizes how important it is to have a good relationship with your local bike shop.  I’m lucky to live a five-minute walk from mine, and the people who work there are good friends who really care that their customers are happy with their bikes.

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The Rochester Twilight Criterium, the second event in the Rochester Omnium, was open to amateurs, and I signed up to race the 3/4 field, right before the main event.  The course, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is a tricky, technical twister, but very fast, with very little elevation change and some long straight stretches to allow the speed to build.  The roads are in iffy condition, especially on the Court Street bridge, but nothing too bad for anyone used to racing on New England roads.  The race also attracts huge crowds, as one would expect for a UCI sanctioned event, and the energy of the race is bolstered by the raucous shouts and noise from the stands.

My race had 58 people signed up, and everyone seemed to show up to race and race hard.  The speeds were fairly fast right from the gun, but I was able to stay within sight of the front.  Dorothy, who was watching with her parents, told me later that some started falling off the back right from the start, and I wasn’t surprised to hear this.  There is a fairly wide turn from Court Street to Exchange, and we were taking the apex of the corner at 28 or more mph.

Things were looking good, because I was sitting in a good position, and I felt strong, even though my heart rate was fairly high at around 168.  Then the rain started.  It poured.  Hard.  The road was drenched, and the manhole covers were slippery as ice.  Guys started crashing, especially on the short, narrow Irving Street, which had something like 6 steel covers in about 100 feet.  When two guys crashed in front of me, I lost contact with the main pack of 25 to 30 and found myself racing all alone.  I kept the pace as high as I could ride comfortably, which probably wasn’t all that fast; I didn’t want to challenge the slippery surface.  Soon, though, three of us got together in a group and were working okay together.

Then, disaster as one of the guys lost his grip on one of the slick corners and I skidded out and landed on top of him.  A rider coming up behind hit my bike.  I ended up with a bunch of bruises and a potentially cracked rib.  My bike didn’t do so well, though.  The big chainring got bent, and the left chainstay cracked.  So, my nice BMC is no longer a viable machine.

Criterium racers have a saying: If you can’t afford to replace it, don’t race it.  I’ll be getting a new frame next week, but I have decided not to spend as much on the fancy rig and will go for a more utilitarian, hard-working sort of frame.  I’ll post more on this later.

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