Tuesday, September 20, 2016

SoCal CX Prestige Skills Clinic

So on Sunday I headed across Los Angeles to Fullerton to attend the SoCal CX Prestige Skills Clinic. I was definitely a part of town I had never been to so I was interested to see what trails and the like were available. We were to meet at the Fullerton Bike Shop and would be riding the Fullerton Loop which was a well-known local ride.

After a quick sign in we were off. We stopped a local parking lot which had to grassy medians and had our first lesson. Mounting and Dismounting; the key to this is to maintain forward momentum. The purpose is several-fold to allow you to navigate your way out of trouble i.e. sand or to allow you to jump over the hurdles that are found on course. I did pretty well, managing to not fall over or crash and the worst thing that happened was my phone fell out of my pocket. It was retrieved and then stashed in my saddle bag hence the lack of photos.

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After perfecting these we set off again on the loop until we reached the next little park where we practiced Cornering; here the key is to actually steer with balance rather than by simply turning your handlebars. So for 15 minutes we serpentined across the park while looking like we wanted to be excused for the bathroom!

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The final practice was on the Run Ups. These are basically hills that you can’t or fail to ride. They key is to minimize any lost momentum. Oh and not fall over. There is definetly some skill to the dismount, pick and shoulder your bike. We found a short sharp hill, maybe 40 yards long but a nice steep grade.

So after that these practices it was an easy ride back to the start where we peppered the RD with questions for another 30 minutes before the 90 minute drive home.

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All in all a great experience, lots of new things learned and practiced. My first race is in a couple of weeks and until then it’s all trainer riding with lots of intervals! I have a few bits and bobs arriving between now and then including some nice bright orange bar tape! The bike will need a quick look over by the local Service Course; Wins Wheels and then I’ll be racing myself fit through the end of the year!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Review; Wind-Blox Pro

So the good folks at Wind Blox sent me over two packs of their Wind Blox Pro to try. I was keen to try them, as anyone knows on those long descents the wind whooshing in your ears often blocks out the sound of cars and other traffic coming up behind you. This can be especially disconcerting when it’s another cyclist who thinks he or she can descend like Vincenzo Nabali and swoops past you at 55mph when you’re doing your best to rail the apex of the corner doing 40+! Trust me it’s happened!

I received two packs of the Pro Version; one in Black and one in Silver. There are two versions; Pro which is 10cm long the Classic which is 6cm long. Length is driven by how long the strap is on the side of your face. Fitting them was easy enough. Velcro closures with the newer less scratchy small looped Velcro allows you to wrap them around the straps on your helmet. I had to lower the little plastic clasp that joins the straps that come from in front of and behind your ears. Some other wiggling was needed to get my sunglasses to sit comfortably. They felt noticeable against my skin when I thought about them, but other than that were pretty easily forgotten about. They were also pretty missable when you look at them, they sit close on your cheek underneath the strap so other than the small bulge and the text on the outside you would never know they where there. This makes them signifcantly less noticable than their competitors and don’t draw any real attention.

With them installed I took to the roads. It seemed best to head out on some hilly rides to maximize the potential for wind noise. I used the last couple of rides from the Santa Monica Challenge and for my Birthday ride.

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These rides ranged in duration from 2:30 to just under 7:00 and had up to 7500’ of gain (and descent), plenty of wind in the ears.

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The temperatures on the rides maxed out at in the mid 80s. I mention this as at this kind of temperature and when you’re sweating anything rubbing on your skin feels at best annoying and at worst will chafe!

I am unable to quantify the actual reduction and so I have to use qualitative interpretation. I think my expectation was a bit high as I was expecting there to be the “eye of the storm” with all the noise being reduced. Wind Blox claim up to a 80.2% reduction in wind noise. This combined with the impact of the “Hawthorne effect”; that is the behavior of something changes in response to it being observed may have skewed my interpretation. So while I do listen for traffic coming from behind I am more focused on the road ahead and while wearing these I was focussed on listening.

So with that all said the bottom line was that during the descents there was a decrease the overall whooshing air noise, this in turn makes them safer and that’s a good thing.

The reduction in noise make these an easy solution to a problem that all cyclists face. They are simple to fit and work. Simple and effective is always a good combination but something that so many products miss the mark on.  Add to that they cost less than $20 and it’s almost a no brainer!

Although it’s a bit early these are the perfect stocker stuffing for the upcoming Holidays!

This Product was free of charge by the good folks at Wind Blox. See previous gear reviews in the sidebar on the right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at quadrathon@gmail.com.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Wind-Blox Pro for free from Wind-Blox Pro in consideration for a gear review.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Everesting #2

So Yeah! I kinda ninja Everested! That is I did it mostly while no one was looking! The plan was to go for it and if it worked it worked and if it didn’t I would see how far I could get! Somewhere around the half-way point I let the cat out the bag and then gritted my teeth to the end.

It was on my mind and then on the cards after DNFing the HRS back in July. I had found a hill nearby which looked pretty good but there was a gate and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be locked at night and I couldn’t take the risk. So at the last minute I changed it to another hill.

This was much different from the ride last November. My Hill choice addressed some of the challenges I faced last time. This ride was;

  • Much closer to home so it would be easier for Becca to support me.
  • In a more residential area so there were some street lights.
  • Was a much shorter segment. This segment was a fraction under 2 miles up with the elevation gain of 500’.

So the math was 54 ascent/descents for the Everesting and if the door opened it would be another 8 more to roll up to the High Rouleurs 10,000 meters “Limit” ride.

The ride spanned the Sunday and Monday of Labor Day holiday. I started just before 7am on the Sunday. My Base camp was the minivan which was stocked with all the usual goodies. My plan was to ride with one bottle and 2 bars and go back to the van when I was empty, roughly every 90 minutes, to replen. This would be around every 5 round trips roughly 20 miles.

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The weather was cool and cloudy and was pretty much as perfect as I could expect for the time of year, it warmed up to around 90f during the day but it was by no means blistering hot. At the other end of the spectrum the night got really cold I ended up having to shelter in the van with the engine on and the heater running a couple of times during the night just to warm up. This was despite having wrapped myself up in essentially what passes for winter clothing in Southern California. In the end I wore everything I had. Five layers on top and two on the bottom along with long fingered gloves and warmers etc.

Becca played her usual guardian angel, although I would argue that she is just an Angel with the amount of crazy shit she puts up with! She brought me three square meals during the day, mostly Del Taco French fries or burritos and coffee during the day and then breakfast the following morning.

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She even brought her new steel gravel bike and rode with me for a little while and also stopped to grab some photos but fundamentally I was by myself for this one.

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Now the thing with Everesting is that you just ride. It’s you, the bike and the road. Life moves on all around you but you are just riding up and down. In the middle of the segment was a parking lot for a trail head. I spent a fair amount of time watching hikers, bikers and runners come and go. I was riding past when they arrived and I was riding past when they left. I am pretty sure I was riding past when they came back the next day!

In the end the riding part took about the right time over 20 hours. What took much longer than expected and much longer than it should have was my stopping time. Even allowing for the warming up I ended up being stationary for 9 hours! I’ll be honest and say I have absolutely no idea how that accumulated so quickly and so much. My plan of stopping every 5 laps was reduced to every two during the night but even so it was a staggering amount of time to be still! It adds up to about being stationary for 30 minutes in every hour, this is an average, of course, but it’s a stark ratio.

With it being a couple of weeks post the event this still somewhat sours the achievement. As expected I slowed down during the night and my laps doubled in time when compared to my first lap of the day. Some of this is due to increased caution while riding in the dark and some of it is due to being tired and not wanting to do anything stupid! At the time they all felt pretty speedy! With all that said, it’s still a hell of a (daft) thing to do!

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A blank slate to a full bucket!

So that’s a pretty short write up on a pretty long event but I’ll spare you the lap by lap recount which, to be honest, is mostly forgotten!

You can read my recap from my first Everesting here and the DNF from the HRS here. Both of which have much more comprehensive lessons learned and some hints and tips for those of you considering this.

I wouldn’t say the HRS monkey is off my back but it’s back in the cage for now! I am sure in time it will get pissed and start throw shit at me to express its general displeasure!

In the meantime I am off to ride some cyclocross!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Everesting #2 Approved

My submission from last weeked’s ride was approved by Hells500. My report is still pending but that’s number 2 in the bank and was a somewhat facesaving event from the failed HRS from July!

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Write up to follow…