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

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ritchey Swiss Cross

With a handful of rides and a race on my new Ritchey Swiss Cross I can offer some informed feedback.

The bike has classic lines and simple panel paint scheme consistent with its heritage as a race bike.  Several companies offer steel cross bikes, but few outside of boutique builders Zanconato and Richard Sachs offer a true steel race bike. 

I hadn't ridden a cross bike since last year's Gravel Grinder but I have to say the Ritchey handles more like a mountain bike than any other cross bike I've ridden.  Switching over to this felt very natural and predictable, which shouldn't be a surprise given Ritchey's experience building cross bikes for mountain bike racers.   

There's still a skinnier tire learning curve after spending so much time on mountain bikes, but the bike a great blend of smooth ride feel and predictable handling.  My first impression was how well the bike matched my expectations right out of the box.

One of the updates from the original is the integrated bearing cups.  It's a small thing that adds a modern touch and saves some weight in the process.

There's no frame mounted barrel adjuster for the front derailleur so you need to run one in-line.   

Fortunately this frame is devoid of rack and fender mounts but does have bottle mounts.  You can easily use the stock bottle bolts to fill the mounting holes but I prefer to use nylon bolts cut to length.  They cost about $.70 each at the hardware store and not only do a great job of sealing out moisture but also look really pro. 

The rear brake routing uses a straw-style cable guide around the seat cluster.  This was common with steel bikes and is similar to the sleeves used in internal cable routing.  I used a short length of rubber hose from a nosed cable ferrule, but really any sturdy small diameter tubing (like heat shrink tubing) would work. 

The Swiss Cross uses a modern 27.2 seatpost unlike many of its steel predecessors that used a 26.8 or 27.0.  The thin diameter triple butted seat tube uses a relatively rare 28.6 front derailleur clamp so if you're using a SRAM drivetrain you'll need to use a braze-on front derailleur and source the clamp from Shimano or Problem Solvers since SRAM only offers front derailleurs in the more common 31.8 and 34.9 sizes. 

Ritchey socket dropouts were the standard for high quality production steel bikes.  Like most steel frames the derailleur hanger is dedicated and can be worked back into position rather than replaced. 

Since I've owned many steel bikes before I was ready for the build-related nuances of a the smaller front derailleur clamp, rear brake cable routing and need to apply a rust preventative treatment as soon as it was out of the box.  The Swiss Cross is offered as frameset with fork and headset only so I used a SRAM Force cross build kit, a WCS bar and stem and some other parts I had kicking around to complete the build.  Total weight right now as pictured is 19 lbs flat including Shimano XT pedals.

With those small but important details in mind the only real assembly related hiccup was an excess of paint in the threads of the derailleur hanger.  The alloy mounting bolt on the Force derailleur would not start on its own so I chased the threads with a derailleur hanger straightening tool although I suppose any steel derailleur mounting bolt would work as well.   

My taste in bikes is pretty consistent- I like high quality metal bikes with legitimate race cred and stable handling, so for me the Swiss Cross is a perfect fit.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Swiss Cross- It's Here

Build kit should arrive today.  I'll post more pics and build details as I put it together.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Miscellaneous Bikes

In no particular order are some bikes I've virtually stumbled upon and thought were cool.  

First up is from the Sfatto facebook page.  Not sure of the manufacture, but the frame is slick, modern carbon with suitable box section training wheels, deep drop bars, a slammed front end and a super cool retro SRM.  Understated and completely purpose-built. 

This Moots Pscychlo-X RSL (lifted from the Moots fb page) is another great example of the best builds being a mix of new and old.  The lastest PX RSL sports the 44 mm headtube and PF30 bottom bracket like most ti race bikes, but the older and still awesome Dura Ace 7800 build and unidentified non-machined rims mean that this setup wasn't a single order of QBP's latest.  The Paul chainguide has been custom anodized to match the blue decals, tape, chainring bolts and hubs.  There has to be some sort of reducer to make that crank fit within the massive PF30 shell, but I can't readily tell what it is from this image.

This Cannondale SuperX was featured on a Norwegian blog which I've just discovered.  Its author has a penchant for lightweight and mostly carbon components and published these pics of his tuned Cannondale SuperX.  In these images it's setup for road duty with 39/53 chainrings and road tires, but it's a very cool and very light setup.  'Cross bikes often look weird as road bikes, but this seems totally legit. 

Last up is from recurring favorite Spooky.  Lifted from their tumblr site this is a customer's bike that's been setup for 'cross racing.  The orange looks sweet with the skinwall tires and silver rims, and upon closer inspection you'll notice the ISP, Quarq-equipped crank, single chainring and SRAM X0 rear derailleur.  'Cross bikes need to be a blend, and I like the offroad ISP along with the power meter/single ring combo.  Eclectic without being hokey or contrived.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fall Plans & An Update

I hate to admit it, but fall is in full swing here in New England.

The weather has been erratic and it absolutely poured through the two weekends of peak foliage.  Some days have been warm but overall it's been overcast and rainy more often than not.  The volume of rain hasn't been that high yet the rain that has fallen has been spread out enough that we've only had 2 or 3 completely dry days in the last 2 weeks.

Fortunately I got some road miles in when the weather was cooperating the weekend of 9/22.  Of course I didn't realize that the Peak 6/12/24 Hour race had been moved to that day so I didn't know I was missing out on competing.  I even rode through Pittsfield though I didn't pass the venue.

My original season plan was to focus on the summertime endurance races without putting much effort into 'cross.  In years past I've felt like I've spread myself too thin and in doing failed at both by neither fully committing to endurance races nor being fully rested to start a cross campaign.  As I've said before a bad day at a marathon means suffering to a decent finish while a bad cross race means getting shot out the back on the first lap; I've decided to focus accordingly.

With my August burnout/allergy issues I didn't set a firm schedule for September.  I was tired, and felt like I needed a break so after 2 weeks off I started training again with the primary goal of losing weight without worrying about maintaining top end race fitness.  During the season I can maintain my race weight but have a hard time getting below it without wrecking my power output, so this was really about getting lean first and foremost.  Over the summer I realized that I could take another big step forward with even just a modest weight decrease, and losing 10-15 pounds would make me unstoppable.  I was riding just behind the next tier of regional racers and with some improvement I could close the gap.

The results have been interesting.  I've had some awesome rides and have mostly been climbing better, but I've also had a few rides where I've felt weak and empty.  On one ride in particular I cut 9 minutes off of my best time for a 21 mile loop, so on some days I feel like I can do some damage on the race course.

So really I made some improvements but I don't feel like I'm done yet so I've signed up for the CircumBurke at the end of the month.  I'm not sure how cooperative the weather will be in East Burke in late October, but it's worth a shot.  I'm expecting that it will land somewhere between a smooth, fast day out and an "epic".  As long as it isn't a total disaster I'll be happy.

And what about 'cross?  I pretty much missed all of the Catamount 'cross races and as of mid- October have yet to get a bike which obviously makes competing difficult.  I do still love 'cross, and helping Carrie get into it has been a lot of fun for me.  It's a lot easier to stand on the sidelines and cheer than it is to compete, but it's tough to stay a spectator when I know I have some fitness.

So what will I be riding?  A Ritchey Swiss Cross.

In this post I mentioned that I'd missed my opportunity to own one of these from the last production run and now I'm very excited to run one.  This year I'll probably do 2 races- the Spa Cross in Saratoga and the Paradise Cross Frenzy next month, but more than the races I'm looking forward to a beatiful smooth steel ride for mixed surface rides and dirt road epics. I'll be sure to post some pictures once it's all built up.

I can't wait.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review- SDG Duster Saddle & Lock On Grips

A little more than a month ago I got my hands on an SDG Duster ti railed saddle.  At first I was taken by its very vogue green and white color scheme and competitive weight but unsure about the comfort factor.  Saddles preference is very individual, so although some models have broad-ish appeal nothing is going to make everyone happy. 

I've had really good luck with the WTB Devo and have spent a fair amount of money outfitting all of my road and 'cross bikes with them.  After some initial fiddling I got the Duster installed close to where I thought I'd want it.

On my first ride I was pleasantly surprised how comfortable the Duster was.  The overall shape is very different from the Devo but I'd argue that in some ways it's more trail-worthy.  The tapered tail allows more leg clearance when moving back or around the saddle and the cover also doesn't stick to shorts- baggy or lycra.  So far the cover has held up well and hasn't shown signs of fading or yellowing. 

The rails on the Duster are pretty long and allow for ample fore/aft adjustment.  

From this shot you can get a sense of how the profile of the saddle is rounded side-to-side.  That's probably not the right shape for me for long road rides where I spend hours in the same position on the saddle, but it's great for a balance between seated comfort and offroad maneuverability.  Although I like the Devo's support its wide tail section does tend to get in the way during technical sections. 

I've also been running the SDG Lock On Grips and was really impressed with the comfort and grip.  For longer rides and races I've been using a much wider profile grip, but the overall density and feel of these made me consider the benefits of a standard round profile.  These have been comfortable for rides up to 2 hours and may be fine beyond that, but I haven't done any rides longer than that with these installed.

Here you can see the clever usage of the SDG logo as a grip pattern. 

And here's a shot of the tried and true ODI lock-on clamps and end cap. 

I would recommend the Duster RL saddle to riders looking for a good balance of comfort and maneuverability for trail and XC racing applications especially in technical terrain if you're not running a dropper post.  I'd want to get a few more long rides on it before signing off on it for marathon racing, but I am considering running it for the 40 mile CircumBurke later this month. 

I would also recommend the SDG lock-on grips.  The weight, feel and security of the well established ODI system make them a good option for any technical riding pursuits.  

For more information visit www.sdgcomponents.com.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Moots Training Camp

If you're on the Moots program (or just own one, or own many) check out the exclusive Moots Owner's Cycling Camp through the Cycling House.

Here in Vermont the weather in the first week of December is really only conducive to drinking, so getting in some miles in the warm weather haven of Tucson sounds pretty enticing.  If I was trying to race through December I'd seriously consider it- even Sven Nys takes a mid-season break from the Continental weather to train in Mallorca. 

For more info check out www.TheCyclingHouse.com or call Jon at Moots- 970.879.1676.

See you there maybe?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Enzo's Embrocation

One of my favorite parts of fall is embrocation, and this year I'll be using the Oil Stick and Embro Stick from Enzo's.  I've been using Enzo's chamois cream for the last couple seasons with positive results so I decided to give their embrocation line a shot.

Traditionally embrocation is used for cyclocross and road events when the weather is cold and damp.  It's a little less popular for mountain biking, but I'll use it for any ride when I know I'll only be cold for the first 20 minutes during my warm up or if there's a good chance I'll be splashing through puddles.  It also looks incredibly pro.

The Oil Stick is for wet conditions between 55-70 while the Embro Stick slots into the temperature range just below that of 45-55.  Both have a unique dispenser similar to a large chap stick container which makes application fairly quick and neat.  Also included are some thin latex gloves for applying the embrocation and the best removal instructions I've seen anywhere.  There's one more Embro Stick for temperature ranges below 45 but I'm still in denial that it will be cold enough to need that for a while... 

The Oil Stick provides subtle warmth and is good when you want just a little bit of extra warmth.  Contrary to the name it's not super slick or greasy and has consistency similar to chap stick.  It's generally subtle but noticeable and works very well within its claimed temperature range.   

The medium Embro Stick is my favorite, and during a very wet 2.5 hour road ride on Saturday it did a great job of keeping my legs warm without feeling too "peppery."  It's definitely warmer than the Oil Stick and I wouldn't use it if it's warmer than 55-60, but it's a nice addition to rides that would otherwise be cold, damp and miserable. 

More than anything this stuff smells amazing, and it does exactly what it's supposed to do.  For more info check out www.enzoscyclingproducts.com/.