Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Nothing in Life is True

It’s always been a point of pride of mine to maintain all of my own equipment. I don’t hold anything against the cyclist who takes his bike into a shop, but I’ve personally always drawn a sort of zen pleasure out of bike maintenance. So, when I decided to purchase a new ride this fall, that made the decision to build it myself an easy one. I’d never assembled a bike from parts before, so it was a fun and educational experience. Everything when pretty well to plan and after a bit of fiddling around the bike has turned out great. Then, when I decided to move into training with a power meter the choice was clear: for my budget and the experience, I would buy a used powertap hub and rebuild my wheel around it.
First, I purchased the spokes and nipples from the lovely Sellwood Cycles, who helped make sure I had the right lengths. Next, I read Sheldon Brown’s excellent article on wheel building. To make sure I had the whole process straight, I probably read that page top-to-bottom three or four times. In middle school, my shop teacher always used to say, “measure twice cut once,” a philosophy that saves the mindful craftsmen many a head slapping “dough!” moment. Even if it takes you longer to complete your project, it won’t take as much time as if you had to take it apart and do it over again.
I took my time, about three hours of it, but I managed to get everything woven together. The tensioning of the wheel was actually most difficult, but even that didn’t go too bad. I took it out for a quick spin and was pleased that it stayed together. Of course, I took it back down to Sellwood a few days later and they gave it some fine truing and brought the spoke tension up a little bit, but overall it was a successful endeavor. If you plan on investing in a new wheel set, take a look at the custom built route. It was fun gives you another level of intimacy with your machine. Know the bike. Know your body. Know victory!
P.S. I like the guy in the background of that image who looks like he's just pumped to be finishing. That's always pretty dope too!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Watt's up, World?

I just got back from my threshold test at C-Velo. I can tell because my fingers moan at the effort of typing an email. Shut up fingers. It went well.
The ride there was short and barely a warm-up, maybe 15 minutes down the graveyard from Lewis & Clark. I got there with plenty of time for the ruggedly handsome Brad Winn to set me up on a bike and get me up to speed on the way things were gonna go. My classmates arrived and we started off with a quick warm-up, maybe 10 minutes real easy like. Armed with a watts meter for the first time, I can now tell you “real easy like”=about 70 watts. Brad came around and wrote down all our names, ages, and weights while we got the blood flowing. Next, we did a quick latter interval to get an idea of what to aim for in the 20min TT effort. My bike was having some issues during this, so I moved to a different one in the middle of the test. Perhaps this caused the start of my troubles. I lost the data on my lower rungs, but I hit ~270 watts in the second to last rung and maxed out at ~330 two minutes into the end. OK, there's my ballpark. A different dude with shiny gray hair came around and wrote down all our numbers, watts and heart rates and such. We took another quick sesh of real easy like before the main event.
As the TT approached, Brad loaded in the Sufferfest Cycling video of the 2011 World Time-Trial Championships and announced there would be a cash prize of ten Big Ones for the rider who achieved the highest power to weight ratio that evening. The Doctor Will Bar was present, and upped the ante to include one whole box of his finest bars. It's on. I had a goal in my mind. I wanted to do 300 watts. My legs were a little tired from the previous effort, but I believed I had it in me.
Brad, with his perfectly maintained five o'clock shadow, hit play on the tape and the effort began. He had just gotten through telling us about pacing so I started off at about 250 watts. My cadence quickly got away from me though and before I knew it that number was rising. 100 rpm. 290 watts. I was feeling good. Tony Martin’s legs pumped in accordance with mine as he rode his TT on the screen projected in front of me. I could taste victory.
But, I'd gone out to hot. By the 10-minute mark my legs were screaming for mercy. My cadence started to drop so I twisted the resistance knob and struggled to hold onto 240 watts.
"Brad," I gasped for air, "help me." He was off doing something important, but in that moment of suffering I could hear the voice of the Cycling God echoing behind me.
"Dig deeper," it said.
            I dug. I upped the cadence, cranked the knob and brought my watts back above my interval average. I just had to hold it here; I was more then half way done. The time ticked past and I imagined myself soloing into victory alongside Martin in that world championship victory. The seconds ticked by during those final five minutes of distilled brutality. I held. Smashing the lap button on the computer, I sat up in my saddle and the world began to spin. I knew I hadn’t ridden as strong as I’d hoped, but I had given all I could. Shiny gray haired guy came around and collected all our numbers again and went to compare them while we did some well earned real easy like, which now had somehow dropped to 6 watts. He looked at my interval numbers and my average wattage over twenty minutes was 269.
            “Huh, I’d pegged you for 300,” he said. My legs hurt even more.
            He compared the numbers and with my slight frame of 150 pounds I had won the competition, but it was a bitter victory. Brad handed me the two five-dollar bills and Will the box of his Bars, but I still felt empty inside. It was an emptiness even fibrous bars and the money for a twelve pack of Session ales couldn’t fill. I had wanted to break 300 watts and I was over 10% short. I packed up all my things and got on my bike for the ride home, up the Riverview Cemetery. It was surprisingly easy spinning up the hill. Damn, I could have used that energy in the test. But, it was my first threshold effort and in the end I gained something much more important than any prize. I found a new goal. Next time, Brad, I will break 300. Next time.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


On January the 17th I will fly from America to France, where I will remain for six months. I'm going as part of a study abroad program for my college under the pretenses of learning the language and exposing myself to the culture of France. Although I will be doing both of these things, what they don't know is I'm really going to France to ride my bike. From the city of Strasbourg I will be right on the borders of France, Germany, and Belgium, a prime location for riding and a short train ride away from the best of the Spring Classics. The idea of this blog is to chronicle my time there and as it relates to cycling and the general culture. It's sure to be an exciting journey, so check back often.