Training, racing, gear, facial hair styles and thoughts from my push to become an elite cyclist.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Adjustments and Corrections

In my previous post I talked about competing without being 100% and danced around whether or not I planned on racing at Catamount.  Well I did end up going, and results were mixed.

From staying up late, stressing about the trip and generally not getting enough sleep I knew I wasn't going to be able to put my best foot forward.  A midday rain shower also added to the list of factors conspiring against me.  In truth I'm not good in semi-muddy conditions- it's got to be totally dry or totally treacherous.  When it's in the middle with some slick and some grippy spots I have a hard time gauging cornering speed and traction, and of course in the middle is pretty common around here.  For some reason I can handle totally treacherous reasonably well because I guess I just expect the bike to skate all the time so when it does I don't panic. 

The course was pretty dry considering and in good condition.  The usual suspects made it out and I was chided for being such a Facebook whiner.  Oh well, and I'd thought I was adding motivation by setting myself up for a little positive peer pressure.

After a short start loop and some potential carnage (avoided by staying upright through a two wheeled drift as a fellow racer slid out in front of me) we made our way into the woods on a very twisty, flat course.  I tend to think that I don't like hills, but amazingly the flat courses don't suit me as well as the punchy ones.  The same is true for endurance races- I pass people on the hills and maintain on the flats...and that still doesn't make any sense to me.

In the semi-slippery corners I definitely didn't feel super confident, but I was pacing well enough to be where I needed to be without burning too many matches.  Races that bottleneck quickly are always a mad dash for the holeshot and this was no exception as there were very few places to pass on the mostly singletrack course.

As we wound our way across the serpentine course on lap 1 I found myself dropping back a little on the myriad of slippery corners, and with how hard I'd been working on that I was getting more and more disappointed as the race wore on. 

On lap 2 I stopped to let a little more air out my tires, and as I did I discovered a little more traction.  I was hovering a short distance behind the same riders I'd been chasing the week before, but on the super twisty course they were harder to see.  Also on lap 2 my back pain level went from feeling uncomfortable to being almost crippling, and as the pain started to radiate down my right side into my hip I realized I needed to pull the plug. 

Somewhat dejected but less muddy than expected I made my way back to the car.  As I packed up the bike and got changed the post-race analysis and pity party started simultaneously.  I decided that my move to lower the handlebars was definitely a bad call especially given how my back has been suspect recently, so that was one adjustment to make.

When I got home I still needed to pack for my trip, but really I needed to first do the laundry so I could pack for my trip.  That allowed me a small window to wallow for a little while before I had to get serious.  With clothes in the washer I poured myself a drink and sat down to see if results had been posted.

Turned out that although I felt like I wasn't going anywhere I was actually riding reasonably well and my placing before I dropped out was consistent with where I was the week before, which really surprised me.  I definitely wasn't where I wanted to be on the cornering, but it wasn't as bad as I'd thought either; there was some improvement over last year.  Ultimately I'd love to be able to make up time in technical terrain, but for now I'm setting my sights on being able to keep pace with the guys I want to ride with that are still a few minutes up the trail.

My pride was slightly less wounded, but I knew I needed to adjust my positioning to try to mitigate my back issues.  As I looked into traffic stats on the blog I stumbled upon this picture and realized that in swapping multiple saddles (Devo/Evoke/Devo Carbon) my position kept getting pushed back.  When I shuffled down into the basement I saw that even though I'd moved the saddle forward I was still pretty far back.  

Last night I spent some time tweaking my position, and after an hour of pre-ride fiddling I was ready to ride.  Here's a laundry list of changes I made

  • Checked fork positive and negative spring- no change
  • Increased rebound speed (5 clicks more rabbit)
  • Opened the gate 1/2 turn on the XLoc (less compression damping)
  • Moved saddle forward 12mm
  • Moved saddle up 7 mm
  • Moved handlebars up 1 cm
The saddle up and forward was immediately noticeable, and after taking careful measurements for how much offset I had I ended up sliding the saddle forward quite a bit to get over the center of the pedal spindle.  It's hard for me to believe I was so far back when I was really after the offset I have right now.  The same goes for the rebound damping- I was way off, and probably have been since I bought the SID last July.

With those tweaks made I headed out on my ride.  Making the fork more active definitely helped to keep the front end on the ground and tracking smoothly over bumps with better traction, and moving the saddle up made my back feel much better.  Of all of the changes the handlebar height gain was the least noticeable since the total drop stayed about the same since both the saddle and the bars moved up together.  The net reach decrease made things easier on my back as I was less folded in half and more balanced between the wheels.

The true test is the race course, and I'm considering another run at it tomorrow night.  Hopefully my corrections will be positive ones.

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