Sunday, April 23, 2017

Review; Waterfield Club Cycling Pouch

Failing eyesight and the need for reading glasses was the primary driver for upgrading my iPhone at the tail end of last year. I moved from a 6 to a 7+. Of course, the bigger font came with a bigger screen, this meant there was a need for a bigger pockets on my cycling jerseys. Or at least more room being taken up in my pocket by my phone. The problem was further exacerbated by my desire to ride with a Wahoo dongle to capture my outdoor rides within TrainerRoad. The end result was a phone and cable sticking out of the pocket. Not want to have a $1000 phone eject out of my pocket on the road or trail I spent some time looking for an option for keeping it safe and secure. I came across a few possible options that had no problem housing the phone but the cables were always the problem. The cases were just not long enough to allow for the cables poking out the bottom, the opening was on the side and wouldn’t accommodate the phone and cable or they were just plain expensive, upwards or $100 for some.

Some weeks into my search I came across WaterField designs. They offered the Club Cycling Pouch which had the unicorn of phone pouches, a closure at the end rather than the side. According to their website it was large enough to hold the phone, a CO2 cartridge, multi-tool, credit card, cash and key. They offer two versions; the Black Ballistic and the Brown Canvas, I opted for the Black version as it was a bit less conspicuous. I placed my order and a few day later it turned up. It only had to come from San Francisco so by distance standards it was local

I was really impressed with the overall build quality of the Club Pouch. It’s very well made and has some very nice features;

  • The zip closure has a self-sealing water proof barrier
  • There is a separated phone sleeve within the pouch that is lined with soft material to not scratch your phone’s screen
  • It’s lined and the fabric has a great look and feel
  • The ballistic nylon exterior seems to be very resilient
  • It’s made in America and it looks gosh darn nice!
  • I have ridden with it several times now, including Strada Rosso, and I have to say so far so good.

It slips easily into a jersey pocket. It’s actually a perfect fit so it’s not sloping about. It does poke out some but unless you have super deep pockets that’s going to happen.

I have a saddle bag on my bike and so I don’t have any need for the items that WaterField suggests you carry. I have opted for the Professor Gadget version and carry an Anker Lipstick charger for my Phone and Garmin as well as cables to support that. I have cash in there too.

It doesn’t quite do what I need it to do. I am unable to zip it closed with the extra cable but I can get the zip far enough around so that everything is secure in the pouch. No doubt without my additional cables the zip would close without issue. That said this would something to consider if you are wanted to charge your phone and ride as the charging cable has some section that sticks out.

I decided to not remove my phone case while using it. I do stop and take photos and protecting your phone while riding only to drop it on the side of the road would be maddening to say the least. My phone case is not huge but it is a snug fit in the specifically lined section. I just use the other section without any issues.

So overall this is definitely one of the better cases out there. Protection and access are often counter point to each other and the Club Cycling Pouch  does a good job of balancing the two. In an ideal world, for me, it would be a quarter inch wider and a half inch longer but my use case is pretty specific so for most people I think this is a great option.

I purchased the Pouch directly from their website. It’s priced at $49 so it’s not cheap but as a percentage of a cost of replacement phone it is, in my mind, good value for money!

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The Club Cycling Pouch was purchased by me. See previous gear reviews in the tab above. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at quadrathon@gmail.com.

Friday, April 14, 2017

April FTP Test

Looking back at my TrainerRoad history it was November that I did my last FTP Test. Since then I have gone through the CX Training Plan and since the new year both of the Sweet Spot High Volume Base Plans. With hindsight I should have tested my FTP at the beginning of the year but I didn’t. Deep down inside I probably thought it was higher than I was riding at. I was coming off some long endurance months with Dirty Kanza in the Summer and my second Everesting in the Fall. Neither of these are ideal for working up to CX season where races last 45 minutes and you are in Zone 5 for most of it!

So in reality my FTP of 258 was too high through the Winter but I stuck with it through the Spring with the expectation that I would ride “up” to it during the base phases.

As I closed out the first 6 weeks of the Sweet Spot Plan Sweet Spot plan, TrainerRoad announced that they had revised the plans and had added more Sweet Spot rides that are shorter duration vs Endurance rides at the weekend. This didn’t really impact me as most of my weekend rides are outside, at least the Sunday one is. This is weather not withstanding and there have been a few weeks that the week has been sunny and the come the weekend it’s been raining. Not that I am a fair weather rider per se but I am all for making the best use of my time and 2 hours of quality on the trainer far outweighs 3 or even 4 hours in the rain!

So with all that said it was at the start of the next Phase; Build, specifically the Sustained Power Build plan that I sat down and geared up for a FTP test.

I have done enough of these to know what I need to do to make it as successful as possible. I was a couple of days past the Mulholland Challenge and I felt that I had recovered enough. I have a pretty stedy routine for days like this and the key to it to try and make sure every variable is accounted for; time of day, tire pressure, drivetrain cleaned, fluids and so on are all the same as the last time…or as close as I can get.

I use the TrainerRoad 20 Minute FTP test but I front it with my own designed warm up ride. This is simply a 15 minute ride with increasing power that is designed to get the legs spinning and get me, well…warmed up!

I completed my warm up and rode through the first 30 minutes of the test which is in itself a warm up. started the test. I break the actual test into 5 minute sections. I am pretty sure most people do this as thinking about the entire 20 minutes can be a bit overwhelming.

The target power, per TR was 265, I was aiming for 275 which was slightly over but based on recent rides I thought was achievable.

The first 5 minutes went well. I settled in nicely and was having no issues. In the second 5 minutes my only concern was my cadence which was up in the mid to high 90s, faster than I typically ride, I momentarily changed gear and my cadence dropped to 85 and my power shot up over 300 watts. I knew I wouldn’t able to hold that for the remainder of the ride and so I switched back. The net effect of fussing about with the gears was to unbalance the 5 minutes of target vs actual and so I was slightly down. The third 5 minutes is usually the trickiest. You’re past the halfway point and you’re counting down to the end but it’s such a long way to go. That said with the earlier fussing I focused my mind and cruised through. The final 5 minutes is a count down and during the last minute I dialed it up and increased the power. The last section of the ride is the cool down and this was something I needed. My HR had topped out at 170 which is high for me on the bike! 

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The calculation post ride is almost instant and TrainerRoad spent no time in telling me I had increased my FTP 2 points up to 260. I was a little disappointed but the extra 1 or 2 points I was hoping for were no doubt lost during the second 5 minutes’ interval and in future I need to look at the gearing to find something that lets me sit at the 90 rpm cadence. There is always something for the future.

So with all that said my new FTP is the highest it’s ever been. I do think that I was correct in my assumption that I have ridden back up to the prior 258 during the last 8 weeks.

The next step on the plan is the Sustained Power Build, this is an eight week cycle. L’etape and BWR will land on weekends during but that’s the way the plans roll out and it can’t be helped.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Planet Ultra Mulholland Challenge

The Mulholland Challenge is the first in a three-part King (or Queen) of the Mountain Challenge organized by Planet Ultra. When the say challenge, they mean it. The ride is posted as 106 miles and around 12,000’ of gain. It actually came in at just over 107 miles and over 13,200’ of gain. It zig zags across the Santa Monica Mountains with ascents and descents up many of the storied climbs and a few that are less so.

My goal for this race was to ride it faster than last year. While I have had a big year in terms of mileage so far my overall elevation gain is a little less than I hoped. That said I was going off a serious block of training having completed the TrainerRoad Sweet Spot Base plan. More thoughts on my plan to follow in a later post.

The strategy for the ride was to get out as early as possible. The event had a relaxed starting policy that let you start anytime between 6:30-8:00am depending on your anticipated finish time. Becca dropped me off which was great as that ensured I wasn’t hanging or driving around looking for parking. After a quick pit stop in the host hotel I was on the road by 6:45am-ish. The morning was cloudy and cool and would make for a cold start but expected to soon warm up, even more so on when I started climbing.

The majority of the riders were more punctual than me and as is my modus operandi I had missed the actual start. No worries, navigating around or within other riders was one less thing to worry about.

As mentioned the ride traverses the Santa Monica Mountains. The first section was centered around the Topanga Canyon end, south of Las Virgenes (aka Malibu Canyon). After an uneventful ride out along Mulholland Highway, I caught up with the first of the tail-enders after 10 miles. A sharp right onto Topanga and a quick climb to get our climbing legs and lungs ready we were treated the first decent into Topanga Village. Nice and steady. The next climb was up Old Topanga. I settled into a nice steady pace, quick light spinning with a high output. As I got to the top I passed a few more riders. A twisty and wet descent dictated the easy pace as we rolled back down the other side. This proved to be a wise choice as close to the bottom several fire trucks and an ambulance were dealing with, what looked to be, a nasty accident with a tandem.

IMG_3148At the bottom was the first Aid Station. With cool temperatures, all I needed was a checkpoint sticker as proof of me passing through. A rolling section took us to the bottom of Stunt. This was the first of the major climbs. I have ridden it several times, most recently with Becca. It’s not long at about 4 miles with about 1300’ of gain. My ride up took 29:28, by far not my fastest time but there were traffic signals at the bottom where a construction crew was clearing dirt off the road from the overnight rain. For reference Phil Gaimon (former Cannondale Pro has the KOM in 16:03!).

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I picked up a few more riders along the way and at the top I was 2:40 in and had covered 37 miles. A little over a third in distance. The descent down Piuma was a little sketchy. The low cloud had decided enough was enough and to release its load. It was less than a minor shower but enough to make the road wet. I eased up and rolled down knowing that as the road unwound at the bottom there was a sharp right turn. The turn came and my caution proved a good move as there were plenty of cars at the bottom lining up for a local restaurant for breakfast.

Back onto Mulholland and we were riding back the way we came to the next section. Let’s call this the Rock Store section. At the bottom was the second Aid Station. Tucked away off the road there were bathrooms and water as well as some bars and bananas. I scoffed several bananas and left. This was about halfway.

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A quick word on my nutrition/hydration plan. My bottles were filled with Raspberry Skratch. I like it fairly strong and so there was a scoop and a half per bottle. I have also taken to cutting it with Base Aminos. This combination has been working well in replacing electrolytes and muscle fueling. It has been working really well. In terms of nutrition I had started with a handful of bars; Rx, Lara and Clif and then I would take whatever the Aid Stations had to offer. A bar an hour and half a bottle an hour was the rough consumption level, a little more fluid when the sun came out.

The ride up Rock Store was simple. Crossing over Kanan and then a little extra climbing up Encinal to get to the top of the Mulholland descent. This section is where I completed my first Everesting and so the ride down was very familiar. At the bottom, it was a right turn onto PCH and slap bang into a headwind! Well this sucks I thought and it did for the short ride to the base of Yerba Buena. I stopped at the base and stripped off my vest. The cloud had cleared and it was warming up. Yerba is a pretty climb, the views are pretty in the canyon, the road is pretty shitty and the climb is pretty steep! A steady 3 mile climb to the next Aid Station and then, at least in my mind, the worst section of the ride; Cotharin. The road is terrible, it’s only a mile long but you gain 500 or so feet. In the end, it actually wasn’t that bad and in reality the descent down Deer Creek proved to be much more challenging with a heavy side wind trying to blow you into the middle of the road. Back on PCH I headed South and had a nice tail wind which gave me back some of the time lost pedaling North.

IMG_3150IMG_3152I was left with the final climb, Decker, back to the finish. As with all the other climbs I kept a constant pace and a light spin. I caught a couple more riders. My reward at the top was the final Aid Station that had cans of coke! I drank half of one and departed. Of course, this wasn’t the final climb but it was the last “categorized” one. What remained by comparison were nothing but rollers.

IMG_3138Finally, back at base level all that was left was a quick flat finish to the finish line.

Digits from the day; 106.7 miles. No cruising round the parking lot to round up! 13,209’ in 7:50 moving time and 8:25 elapsed.

Overall I was really pleased, I rode a sensible ride and kept a solid work output through the day. I was reduced my ride time by 25 minutes from the prior year and my elapsed time by a total of 37 minutes!

IMG_3144There is no doubt this is not an easy ride. But it’s definitely doable with some preparation and training.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Redlands Strada Rossa IV

This is beyond late in being written and posted but to be honest work got busy and it wasn’t the best of days so I really wasn’t that inclined to sit down and put finger tips to keyboard. But here I am and it will serve as a good reminder when registration comes round again for Redlands Stada Rossa V next year, skip this event.

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As a reminder, I rode this race last year but crashed and ended up limping home with a DNF and with my rear derailleur shot and not being able to change gears. So this year I had unfinished business. It was only to be a B race or possibly even a C race but it would be a good opportunity to put my newly installed 11 speed groupset on the Lynskey through its paces and give me a pretty good sense of how I was coming along fitness-wise in the grand scheme of things.

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Nice and Shiny! It lasted about 30 minutes!

The event is a fundraiser for the Inland Empire Cycling Alliance. Inland Empire is with San Bernadino and is roughly 120 miles or a solid two-hour drive from my house.

The morning and drive out was uneventful, albeit an early one. About halfway into the drive I realized I had left my wallet behind and that I didn’t have enough gas to get home…so no stress there!

I considered my options; turnaround, call Becca and say could she come out and help, call the AAA or beg someone for some cash! As luck would have it I had been contacted by one of the organizers asking if I could donate some raffle prizes and had a name of someone who could (hopefully) lend me $20 to get home! I had quickly reached out the companies that I am an Ambassador for and to a few others that I know. Unfortunately, I couldn’t drum up anything in the few days’ notice I was given so I raided my closet and found some unworn Truckers from Headsweats. Some socks and a cap from 3T. A few bags of Skratch were pulled from my kitchen cabinet. 3TrainerRoad generously chipped in a 3 month subscription and Thread & Spoke created a special coupon code. I was armed with a box full of swag, a name and a need to borrow some cash!

An enforced stop to find a bathroom put me a little behind schedule and by the time I arrived, met my contact, begged some money, handed off the swag and got my bike the horn blew for the start and we rolled out. 200 yards in I then realized I had forgotten sunscreen, with the possibility of an 8 hour or longer day it seemed stupid to not stop, I quickly shot back to the car and slathered myself. Of course, the small-ish group of 90 mile riders were out of sight! Bugger!

Fortunately I had the route in my Garmin and I was able, after a couple of wrong turns, to get onto the route without too much drama. The first 5-6 miles or so was on and off road but nothing too problematic. There were a few more wrong turns but I quickly corrected my errors and was happily making my way along thinking that I would catch sight to the main group riders at some point. Yeah about that!

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Getting out of town…and following tire marks in the dirt!

At Mile 8 the route went off road and here I made a fatal error and missed a turn completely. With hindsight, I should have turned around but at the time it seemed I was on the right trail. I spent an hour riding, hiking up slopes, hiking down slopes, carrying my bike and covered between 5-6 miles. I finally found the missed turning and was back on track. However, I was obviously a long way behind the 90 mile riders. I referenced the route card and altered the distances so I knew what to add on to the miles on my Garmin.

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Rideable, Carryable…it’s all the same!

I did some math on the timing and thought that I would probably miss the first Aid Station as it was only serving the 90 mile ride. Even though there were no posted times for AS closing I was so far behind that it only made sense. I though therefore that I would hit the second AS for me which was the first AS for the metric century riders who had set off 30 minutes after me. I would be at Mile 27 including my extra 6 miles and they would be at Mile 13. Don’t worry about the math, just know that I would find an AS at some point!

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As I closed in there were no signs of any AS, no popup tent, no empty water jugs, not a soul. Ok I thought then hopefully I would catch something at AS 3 (#2 for the Metric riders) at M44/M29 respectively. I was riding back on the road at this point but had no cash on me to resupply so I went into a gas station, ducked down, used their ice machine to fill my bottles and left. I rode onto the next AS location and as before nothing. Fortunately, this was in a park and I found a water fountain and filled up both my bottles which had some ice left in each!

At this point I been covered 60 miles and been on the go for nearly 7 hours. I had started with two full bottles of Skratch, refilled them with ice around mile 40. I had also grabbed a couple of Clif and RX Bars from home. Usually I would rely on real food but I hadn’t had any time to whip up any portables.

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Any port in a storm!

Fortunately I am not a heavy drinker and it was not an overly hot day. There was some cloud cover and wasn’t over heating or even close to it. There were a couple of tough climbs where I got a good sweat on and some pretty rough sections but I was managing on my minimal supply and had started to actually ration myself. My food was gone and with 30 miles or so go I had two full bottles of Skratch and the slim possibility of actually finding an AS location manned. I thought it would be around another 2 – 3 hours of riding as I was averaging 12 miles in the hour. I should probably mention that for the entire day after the start I didn’t see one other rider, not one!

I chipped away at the mileage and actually recognized some of the route from the prior year albeit it we were riding in reverse. I was rolling along and minding my own business when I overcooked it on a descent and went over the bars, the bike landed in a heap next to me and my shiny new shifters were all nicely scratched. This added insuIt to injury. I nice cut on my knee rounded things out. I remounted and got on with the day. No point sitting there pouting!

Despite the lack of fuel and fluid I was feeling pretty confident of finishing but it was becoming a race against time to beat the battery on my Garmin. I had, somewhere along the route, lost my route card and without the Garmin I would be lost too. I did have my phone and I was skirting civilization as I went from road section to off road section so there was no real issue of being lost in the woods so to speak. Also unlike last year there were pretty good course markings with chalk arrows and plastic cones so I was able to follow those quite easily.

Long days like this are often more mental than physical, a fact born out by the technical data; Ave HR 128, NP144. Pushing on when you really just want to say ‘eff this is something that is hard to explain but every pedalstroke is getting you closer to the finish. It becomes an internal narration of continuous forward motion and one where you know that stopping just isn’t an option. Anyway, no one is coming to get you!

With all that said it all came a head quickly; my Garmin gave out a final chirp and died. I was in the back of residential area and couldn’t find any arrows or cones. I rode up, down, left and right and really gave it a good go to find the route but I just couldn’t see anything to follow.

I pulled out my phone, hit Google Maps and pulled up the directions back to the car and the start/finish. I was 9 miles away, I would miss the last 2 or 3 off road sections but it was basically the same net mileage. I turned up the volume and listened to the directions as I rolled back to the start. I was expecting to see the promised food and drink and folks telling war stories and the like. I found a deserted parking lot!

I cleaned up, headed to a gas station, grabbed some food from Trader Joes where I could pay with my iPhone and drove the 2 hours home!

If you want to know about the course my best advice is to download the oute and go and ride it. If you are interested here is my Strava file. I am sure it will change next year anyway. It’s not easy or for the fair weather rider. This year was easier than last I am told and I would agree. It’s a long technical day that challenges your fitness and bike handling skills. Compared to the few other Gravel events I have ridden it was much more technical on the off road sections.

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I had thought to berate and complain about the event. The mysterious missing Aid Stations were apparently there and I have seen photos online from other riders on the course and at the finish line! By my best guestimate I finished somewhere around 2-3 hours after the second to last person. I would certainly not expect anyone to wait for me for that long and I had signed away my life with the standard waiver at the start. It’s an adventure after all!

There are things that could be improved, this year was better than last and I am sure next year will improve again but my love affair with Strada Rosso is over. I had gone to the race to close unfinished business from last year and even though I didn’t quite ride the entire course and I added a section of my own design, I more or less covered the distance and I was certainly out there for the duration.

 

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My Fenix3, which has a better battery life then my Edge810, recorded for just over 11 hours in total, of which 9 hours was moving. I covered 93 miles and 7800’ of gain.

Strava categorized the day as Epic, I wouldn’t disagree!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

DuraAce 9000…is that 9000 miles?

There is definitely some irony to this post! Last month I wrote about how my Cervelo had rolled 20,000 miles. For the record it’s currently at 21,043 miles.

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This week the bike developed a noticeable clunk in the bottom bracket/crankset area. So much so that I could feel it through the soles of my shoes. Today I dropped it off at my local Service Course; Wins Wheels and explained the issue. No worries they would check it out and let me know. Not three hours later they called to let me know that the drivetrain was in their words “dead”.

I am a big believer in logging the details and as I use SportTracks to log my mileages on gear I was able to see that it was actually 364 days ago that the Groupset upgrade was made. I also saw that a little over 8800 miles had been accumulated since the upgrade. The last time the bike was in the shop was November for the BB change and since then I have added another 4000+ miles. It’s frightening how quickly things add up when you ride around an 1000 miles a month. It has basically gotten to the point that I am wearing things out!

Anyway, long story short, new chain rings, cassette and chain. This also means new cassettes on two other wheelsets too. Wins is great in that they have no compunction if you want to source the parts yourself. Unfortunately with the Mulholland Challenge this weekend and a busy week at work I have no time so I was more than happy to let them pull the spares off of their shelves.

Two more hours later I was back in the shop picking the bike up and looking at the new shiny bits!

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For reference, a chain should last about 2000 miles, Cassettes and Chaining rings should last about twice that. Of course, that depends a lot on how and where you ride and how much you look after you kit. If you abuse it and live someplace where there is a winter and all the fun weather that goes with that it could be much shorter! Either way it is significantly less than 9000 miles!

Friday, March 31, 2017

March Summary

WOAH! That escalated quickly!

The month got pretty big pretty fast! The nice thing is that the accumulation is driven by the training and not the other way round. Unless you have been hiding under a rock you will know that I am using TrainerRoad for my training. Specifically I have been following the Sweet Spot Base High Volume Plans. I will cover the plans in more detail in a different post. But to summarize (and copy from TR’s website);

The Sweet-Spot block is the most efficient form of base training for 99% of cyclists — it’s what we recommend. You’ll train in the Sweet-Spot, Threshold and VO2max power zones for a blend of interval training that makes you stronger, faster.”

There have been typically only two diversions away from the plan have been a recovery ride on a Monday which, per the plan, is a rest day. From experience having an easy ride sets up for a better week. Long outdoor rides at the weekend have supplemented the training and given me the opportunity to put into practice some of the training and keep my road skills sharp…well you know it’s all relative.

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The only event this month was the Redlands Strada Rosso. Turned out (again) to not be the event I planned for. I still need to write up the report and will post that soon…it’s still sinking in!

Coming up in April I have two road events; Mullholland Challenge and the L’Etape so lots of climbing and then some more climbing!

Strength training…yeah still need to work on that!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

20,000 Miles and Onwards…

So my Cervelo R3 rolled 20,000 miles!

By today’s standards it’s a dated bike, I like to think of it as a classic! I got it back in October 2010…wow! To be honest it was a cross training tool back then as I was much more focused on running and then triathlon. It was only in the last 3 years that the bike has edged out the running shoes and wetsuit. I have since sold my Tri Bike and wetsuit and a pair of running shoes now lasts six months rather than two! 

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Ready for ride #1 Miles 0

The Cervelo has changed during that time and it’s interesting (at least to me) to see the progressive changes over time. In fact all that really remains is the frame, headset and handlebars! Here is a quick mind dump of things that I can remember.

The bike came with a stock mechanical Shimano Ultegra 10 speed Groupset in time I added a Stages Power Meter. The bike obviously came without pedals and so I installed SpeedPlays. When Garmin sent me a Vector2 Pedalset/Power meter I converted over and removed the Stages. Eventually I upgraded the entire Groupset and now it’s running a mechanical DuraAce 9000 11 speed with a 34/50 and 11/30 gearing. Plenty of teeth for climbing!

Originally the bottom bracket was a standard English Shimano model, this was changed to a Hawk Racing BB, less friction and more speed! Additionally Hawk Racing pulley wheels replaced the standard DuraAce wheels in the rear derailleur.

The original wheelset were stock Fulcrum Racing 7, these got changed to Fulcrum Racing Quatros and since then upgraded to either DuraAce9000 C-24s for climbing or 3T OrbisII 50mm deep wheels for the flat stuff. I used to ride Scwable UltremoZX 23mm tires, this changed to Scwable OnePro 25mm tires in time. More recently I have ordered a pair of Clement Strada LGG 25mm tires as the OnePros need replacing. I have become a fan of Clement tires since using them for Dirty Kanza and all my other gravel rides and also for CX racing last season.

The bike came with a zero setback 3TCycling seat-post, which was immediately changed for a 25 setback post. That post cracked a year ago and so it was replaced.

While these are small changes in themselves the biggest change has been to my position. I started with a 3TCycling 90mm Arx stem. I am riding the same make and model stem but it is now a 120mm and I am thinking of pushing that out to 130mm. After 7 years I finally got the steerer trimmed too!

The stock Fizik saddle was 86d after one ride, I gutted it out with a Selle Italia one that matched the frame but not my ass for another couple of years until finally converting over to an ISM Prologue. In fact all my bikes have this saddle. Good enough for 227 miles and 29,000’ of climbing!

It still has the original Serfas bottle cages that I mounted

The Garmin mount has been replaced with a Cycliq DuoMount.

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Approching 21,000 miles later…

I hesitate to put this down here and it will probably jinx me but I have managed to never crash it and it actually only has a couple of minor blemishes in the clear coat!

I am constantly on the lookout for something new and alas I cannot afford my dream frame, a Cervelo RCA which is won’t see any change out of $10,000 for the frame and fork alone!

Whatever I find it’s got a lot to live up to!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Quantity over Quality

You may have noticed that there is a distinct lack of posts this month. To be honest finding time to write between work, family and riding is becoming quite challenging. So, in an effort to make the content more interesting I am going to cease writing about the weekly training. I keep notes within Strava so if you really want to know what my training looks like and what’s going on you can find me there and follow along.

After over 10 years of writing it’s sometimes hard to get the creative juices flowing. Without the usual blathering’s about training you can expect the posts to fall broadly into 3 categories; Race Reports, Reviews and Special Items. This is much more interesting that reading about over-unders, sweet spot zones and so on.

As always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Summary

Another month of hay in the barn!

Along with the Rock Cobbler at the beginning of the month I rode the Tour of Sufferlandria. I had to dial back some of the intensity to give at least a semblance of readiness for the Cobbler as the Tour ended the day before. With February being a short month it was going to be a push to hit the 1000 mile mark but with a cheeky double I was able to keep the monthly average at the 1000 miles. With that said the mileage totals are not the be all and end all of the riding and I am being sure to not let it impact the actual training.

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I started the revised TrainerRoad Sweet Spot HV Plan and that is certainly making the mileage accumulation easy, especially when I add in an extended warm up or cool down. One thing that I specifically noticed was that the Cobbler was the only ride outside of the month which reinforces my commitment to using TrainerRoad and the trainer as the most effective training method. With the Pro season underway there is plenty to keep me occupied on the viewing front thanks to cycling.tv

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I did fall off the wagon on the strength training so I need to refocus my efforts as it barely takes any time and does make a difference!

So onwards to March with Redlands Strada Rosso.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Thoughts and Tips on being a Brand Ambassador!

Congratulations you’re a Brand Ambassador!

This is always a good email opening line. I have been fortunate enough to have received this several times a year for the last several years!

This is an updated post of one I wrote a couple of years ago. Since then Social Media has continued to grow and change. I have kept up with some of it but some of it has passed me by, I have almost given up trying to figure out SnapChat! The core principle of using Ambassadors is to promote a company’s products or philosophy. It does, however, still remain much more of an art than a science. It is an ever developing field that some companies do very well in and others less so. Having been an Ambassador for different companies of varying sizes my experiences have differed greatly. It’s a tricky and sometimes unbalanced equation that needs constant attention to avoid going stale. So, while I am no marketeer but I do feel, that through my experiences, I have a pretty good understanding of the basics and principles that should be considered. This experience is as both an Ambassador and the role that entails and also the expectations that you could have or should from the company’s Ambassador Program. It should be a two way street and the expectations should be very clear. With that said this post only looks at the Ambassadorial responsibilities side of the equation. It’s also a pretty opinionated post based on the things I think are correct. It is in no way meant to be a definitive guide but more of a Stuart’s Brand Ambassadorship 101! So with that overly long preamble said let’s move on…

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The Product. I personally still believe that this a fundamental basic for being an Ambassador is that you use the Product. In my mind being an Ambassador is a step up from essentially being a Power User. That said it this 100% determined by the brand. Some brands may be looking for net new users who have a large online or in real life presence and influence. Using the product manifests itself in many different ways and the subtleties of messaging come much more into play.

· Given that a picture is worth 1000 words and the nature of Instagram photography plays a huge role. It’s easy to plonk X product in the middle of the photo and say “this thing is great”! To a point this works but it is pretty blunt. The art comes in when you don’t actually have the product in the photo or it is not the main point of focus. It is much more of a lifestyle statement. You don’t have to be David Bailey or Annie Leibowitz but you do need to know some basics. There are plenty of online tutorials about stylizing your photographs and the rule of thirds etc. Spend a little time understanding these things and your photography will improve and along with it your traction.

· Understand the differences between a Reviewer vs. Ambassador. As a Reviewer you need to be impartial and factual. I have written over 100 reviews of products either sent to me or purchased by me (it’s about 50/50). When something works for me I say that and when it doesn’t I say that too. With that said there is often the complaint that reviews are far too often positive. This is a fair point and some of that is driven by the fact that;

· I typically research something before I buy it. I have a need, researched some options and made a choice on the final item. I do have a limited budget (really I do) and this is not a full time gig. Buying random stuff to try and never use again is a waste of my resources; time and money.

· Secondly there are things that I do not use and as a result will not review, these to fall into the camp of “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck! You may have noticed I am not much into ducks so I pass! So this skews the body of reviews on a whole to the more positive side.

· You are typically reviewing something new to you or new to the market. This is kind of obvious but sometimes the obvious things are missed!

· Avoid Brand Conflicts. Again pretty obvious but worth stating. You can’t (usually) be an Ambassador for competing products. Clif vs. PowerBar is an obvious example. You can of course review both products as a Reviewer.

So in summary there is a big difference from being a Reviewer and a BA. As an Ambassador you are expected to (depending on the Brand’s criteria) evangelize their products both online and in real life. If you actually use it this is easy, much less so if you have no idea about it! Using it really means using it, documenting it and then telling everyone what you did!

Social Medial.  Social Media, love it or hate it is here to stay. These are some specific tips;

· From a practical standpoint try to have the same User Name across all accounts, “QUADRATHON” is a throwback to a Nike+ challenge that started in 2006. You can read more here about it. I use the same name across all of my accounts, Google it, I have 3 of the top 5 search results. Having different names across all your accounts is confusing! This can be a pain if you have already set things up with different names but it is worth checking to see if the actual name is available across all social platforms

· Blogging. Back in the day when I started blogging Facebook, Twitter and Instagram didn’t exist! I carried a real camera and had a phone that was just that…a phone! Bloggers left comments on each other’s post and you had a blogroll of likeminded people. Ten years on Blogging is pretty old school but they do serve a good purpose for long form writing.

· Twitter and Instagram. Unlock your accounts, nobody is not going to see anything if your account is locked. But it’s what people use so it’s time to be a bit less private! Make sure you profile is up to date. Add a link to your blog etc. get a nice Profile Pic, all basic but important stuff!

· Facebook. Personally this is locked for Friends only, and I am sure they get sick of my recipes and tire reviews but I am constantly adding new friends! It’s personal preference if you want to “friend” all the other Ambassadors. I am a little selective.

· Facebook Groups is a great way to link up with other BAs, share ideas, collaborate and so on but for every post you post to the group make sure you posted it outside the group too. There is no point in preaching to the converted! It’s also a great channel to communicate with the Company. Several companies that I am a BA for have been using Facebook Live to essentially have online staff meetings where they discuss all manner of things. Super interactive and actually hearing and seeing a person makes it a much more of a conversation.

· SnapChat…like I said I am lost with this!

· Hashtaging. Find out what hashtags you need to use and then use them. Once you start most Phone Apps remember them so that makes things easier! If you can’t remember them create a note on your phone and then just copy and paste into your posts. I use a great App called Often Type that allows me to create Hashtag “buckets” and with a simple tap I can drop them into a post. Find out the accounts of your Product, follow them and tag them when you post Most Brands make this a must but you should be doing that at every opportunity. Some platform allow you set up alerts so you don’t miss a post, this is especially useful when Facebook is using some weird algorithm to catalog and prioritize posts. Again, as with most things in life, there is some common sense needed. Going overboard is simply that! Less is often more and several key hashtags will garner more love that a list as long as your arm.

· Overall you have to be comfortable using it and you need to have a presence. By presence I mean a following. You need to be what is considered an influencer this means having the ability to some sway or be able to persuade peoples choices based on your evangelism!

So there you go some thoughts, if you were selected this year as an Ambassador congratulations, if not you have 9 months to consider the above points. Getting an Ambassadorship is just the beginning! That initial giddiness of receiving the Congratulations email is just the start of the journey. The next 10 or so months are yours to fill with tweets, tags and posts, putting miles on shoes, sweating into clothes, scoffing kitchen creations. You have every weekend to fill with long runs rides or swims and at the end you get tell everyone about it!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

2017 Ambassador Line Up

The dust has settled the acceptance (and rejection) letters opened and this is my Ambassador line up for 2017. I am fortunate enough to have many to continue their support from both 2016 and 2015. I hope it’s testament to their belief in me as much as it is to my belief in the products I represent! So in no particular order;

Headsweats; I love their products, I initially joined their team as a runner and I have used them exclusively for all my triathlons. Now I wear them under my helmet. They keep the sun off my head and the sweat out my eyes! Use Quadrathon25 at checkout for 25% off your order.

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3T Cycling; 3T make some of the sexist and technologically advanced products in the cycling world. I have ridden with their components since 2010 and make a point of changing out any OEM or third party parts on any of my bikes for 3T parts.

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Pactimo; in my opinion this is the best cycling clothing on the planet. I wore their Pro Ascent kit for every training and race last year. Including my Everesting ride where I wore the same bibs and jersey for over 24 hours with chamois cream and without issue! This is my third year with Pactimo. Use BA15STU for 30% off your first order.

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SkratchLabs; this is the third year of working with Skratch. I have switched over to exclusively using their hydration products. Additionally I now fuel pretty much 100% by real food and portables. I’ll be going back to regularly posting recipes so stay tuned.

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Thread+Spoke; if you ever see me in a Tshirt it’s a Thread+Spoke one! They make the best cycling casual wear.  Limited runs of of the coolest niche designer cycling focused Tshirts. Use Race20 for 20% off of order $45 or more.

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So that’s it, now on with the year!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Rock Cobbler 4.0

I first came across the Rock Cobbler at the end of 2015 I was looking for some early in the season beat up races to get me ready for my A race; Dirty Kanza 200. It was a local race and it was described as stupidly hard. This seemed like a great event to cut my teeth on for the year and it would be my first ever “gravel” event. What I hadn’t realized at the time was that I had lucked into one of the most unique cycling events in California. I feel very fortunate to have gotten in relatively close to the ground floor, this past weekend I completed the 4.0 version, so now I can say I have ridden 50% of them! It’s something that’s going to be on the calendar for years to come. You can read about 2015’s madness here.

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So with 2017 being having a distinct gravel emphasis it was without pause that I signed up for this year’s race. I had in mind that I “kinda” knew what to expect but each year the course changes and this year would have the added challenges created as a result of California actually having a winter. We have gone from a state suffering from 5 years or drought to one with more water than we know what to do with! This time last year 61% of the state was classified as being in extreme drought, as of writing this that number has reduced to less than 1%. Most of the rain that has reduced this number has fallen in the last two months. With this in mind it was safe to stay that the conditions would be very different from last year.

Additionally, this year Becca would be trying her hand at the event too, you can read her report here. We had agreed ahead of time to ride our own race, this took the pressure off both of us. Of course, we still both spent many miles thinking about what was happening to each other. You can read about her day here.

So with all that said on with the race report. The route had been release about 10 days earlier and as expected it had its fair share of up and downs. 85 miles-ish with 8000-ish’ of gain was on the docket, this excluded the 4 mile roll back to Lengthwise Brewery which was actually the starting point. I was also planning on making this my fourth UCMA ride and would need to add a few extra miles to round up to over the 90 mark which is the minimum distance that they will consider for qualification.

The night before we made our way out to Bakersfield, conditions looked downright miserable as we drove on the I5 and over the grapevine, thick, low, wet cloud covered and I expressed my doubts that the next day’s forecast of cool temperatures but clear skies would come to fruition. We made our way to Lengthwise Brewery and checked it. I have mentioned it in the past that the vibe is very reminiscent of the Ultra Running one, folks are friendly and laid back, they take the event seriously but less so themselves. It’s generally a very warm and welcoming atmosphere.

A few brews and dinner later in we bumped into some new friends made at the BWR Camp and chatted with them before heading off to our hotel.

The next morning, we were back at the Brewery for breakfast which was laid on for us. Seriously with the organized dinner the night before, breakfast and the post-race meal we picked up three square meals with our race entry.

I could spend the next 1000 words giving you a blow by blow account of the event, the course and terrain! Given that it changes every year doing that serves no real purpose and it ends up reading like a 5th graders “Back to School after the Summer Essay”, dull to read and dull to write! So here is the cliff note version that is pretty applicable in terms of a report and providing some guidance for everyone thinking about 2018’s race;

Elevation: From experience, nearly half of the race is either uphill or downhill, in total there is about 40 miles of flat, 30 miles of this is on the roll out and roll back along the bike path and the rest connects various off road sections. Grades vary across the board anything from an easy spin up to a OMG are you kidding me?! Gear up accordingly!

Terrain: Most the race is off road. This varies from double track, to a tractor path along the side of an orchard, to crossing a river (or two) to an 8” wide muddy goat path on the side of a hill. You could ride a road bike, I wouldn’t suggest it unless you can get decent 28mm+ tires and enough clearance to avoid the mud clog. You could ride a MTB, some folks did, but a cross or gravel bike is the best choice. There are a couple of sections that join the off-road sections and one solid road descent. As mentioned the route changes but from my limited experience the bike path section is a constant.

Wet Feet: Rivers yes, there some and they tend to come without bridges! Last year it was stepping stones to cross, this year it was above my knees and I am 6’1. ZipLoc bags and old shoes are well worth considering. Talking of shoes, Mountain Bike shoes are a must, slippy soled, sexy, road shoes will not be your friend!

Shenanagins; Last year hike-a-bike with push-ups on top. This year they lost the push-ups and added beach-balls! Next year…who knows? I can guarantee there will be some nonsense to contend with! Embrace the craziness!

Assistance; There are enough Aid Stations that you do not need to weigh your bike down with an abundance of food and drink. Use them but don’t linger, get in get filled up and get on your way.
Have an open mind and be prepared to have fun. The event is billed as Ride not a Race, yes there are folks who race it and rightly so but for most people it’s a fun event. Lean into it and enjoy the day!
And with that said roll on Rock Cobbler 5.0

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And with that said roll on Rock Cobbler 5.0!