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This blog is written in plain, fly-over country English. The Author reserves the right to forego nonsensical, feel-good gibberish.

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Stem Mount Workaround for a Bar Mounted Headlight… On an Aero Handlebar

Imagine my horror after installing a $300 aero handlebar on my road bike and realizing the mount for my brand new Serfas headlight that I’d bought just three weeks earlier, wouldn’t work.  I was bummed.
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I began tinkering with the mount when I noticed a large screw head at the bottom of the mount that accepts the light itself.  Just for giggles I took the screw out and checked to see if the stem bolt would fit through.  Sure enough, it worked.  My first ride with that light, I simply took the top part of the mount and bolted it atop my stem cap.  It worked well but the light mount follows the rake of the fork so that means the light shines up in the air and at 20′ in front of the bike, directly into the eyes of oncoming motorists.  Now, I didn’t buy a cheap light.  The sucker’s bright and the last thing I want to do is blind motorists as they’re passing me – most decidedly not cool.
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I took to thinking about ways to work around this.  First, I emailed the owner of the local bike shop and talked to his lead technician who said he’d check with Serfas to see if they had a stem mount.  After work and 2/3’s of the way through my evening ride, I stopped at the shop and Matt and I started kicking the problem around.  At first Matt used a belt sander to file the base of the mount down to an angle so it would level the light out.  That didn’t work because the bolt hole was still square and once tightened down, the light pointed up again.  Then we kicked around filing the bolt hole base down to match the angle of the light mount but that seemed shoddy.  We went in a completely different direction to work around the problem:

We took a spare Specialized cycling computer mount and modified it to accept the light mount base:
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Notice the clip on the right is filed off as is the front lip (that was to allow the clip from the light mount to operate up and down) and the hole drilled in the center.  Here’s what it looks like when we put the two pieces together:
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That done, I purchased some Loctite Epoxy from Home Depot, some plastic gloves and some 80 grit sandpaper to scuff the surface up:
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The rest was simple, mix the epoxy per the instructions, lay a thick bed on the stem mount base (except where the light mount tab was going to be located – I scraped any excess out before laying the base in the epoxy so the tab would function properly). Once I laid the light mount in the epoxy bed, I added more epoxy to the sides so it would take a cruise missile to separate the two pieces:
IMG_5322And here’s the finished product:
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The key to the stem mount is an Allen wrench bolt that locks in the angle.  Simply loosen the bolt, set at the proper angle and tighten it back up.  No worries, mission accomplished and you’ve got a great way to mount a light to a race bike that A) Won’t scratch the paint on the bar, stem or the bike, B) looks pretty good (if I do say so myself) and C) works.  Now, this workaround isn’t perfect because you have to take the stem cap off and replace it to get your light on the bike.  I also won’t be able to use my computer.  So installing it will have to be done with some forethought.  That said, it sure beats the alternative:  Installing a helmet mount on the bar and have the Velcro wear the finish…  Or worse, putting a helmet mounted light on my helmet.  Woof!

Road Cycling: Setting Your Saddle Properly

There is nothing more important in road cycling than getting one’s saddle set to the proper height and position on the seat post.  Nothing.  Just a few millimeters off and your power is affected by as much as a mile per hour off of your average.  A half a millimeter and you can be looking at as much as 3 mph.  Folks, I’m trying to stress here, this is a really big deal.

It’s also a perplexing issue for noobs and some seasoned vets alike when it really doesn’t have to be, setting the saddle properly is quite simple, actually.  This should take a total of maybe ten minutes.

Saddle height is the simplest and the place to begin.  Now, I always do this with my bike set on my trainer in my office because I don’t have to worry about balance and I can get myself set perfectly on the saddle.  One can also hold oneself up in a doorway or have a friend hold the bike up.  For starters, with the saddle height, it makes sense to do this in your cycling shorts because the padding will have an effect on the height.  I won’t be adjusting my height as it’s already right so in the photos, I’ll be in my jeans.

All you do is get on your bike, place your heels over the spindles on the pedals and pedal backwards.  Your saddle is at the right height, within a millimeter or two, when your leg straightens out at the bottom of the pedal stroke.  Make certain your hips stay perfectly still through this, if your hips rock side to side it’s too high.  If your leg doesn’t straighten it’s too low…
IMG_5283Once you get it to the place where your leg perfectly straightens without rocking, lower it 1 millimeter (this gives you a little more power on the bottom part of the stroke).  Now, 1 millimeter is not a lot so don’t go too far.  A problem to watch out for (one that I have to be careful of myself) is that your legs may not be the same length.  I only have to worry about a millimeter so I settle it with a slight adjustment (1 more mm lower) to the saddle but the proper way is to actually have your cleat on the short side shimmed.  If you straighten out without rocking on one side but rock on the other, guess what…

Now, you may have noticed I’m in my street shoes in that first photo…  My cycling shoes have a bit of a heel to them.  If I were to try this with my cycling shoes on, it would skew the result.
IMG_5289Now, for the trickier of the two, setting your saddle to the proper fore/aft position.  The reason that I’m checking mine today is that I had a new handlebar put on my bike and that could change my orientation on the bike just a little bit.  Knowing that a millimeter matters, it’s best to be certain.  For this one, you’ll need a plumb bob* or a 4′ level.  I use the 4′ level because I have several and it’s just a little less time-consuming and a touch more exact.  For this one you’ll need your cycling shoes on.  First, level the bike.  Check by using a 4′ level, placing it under the quick release skewers of each wheel:
IMG_5293Get on the bike, preferably on a trainer, and warm up for a minute or two.  The goal is to get your butt in the proper spot on the saddle – and this is the specific reason I like to do this in jeans.  Without cycling shorts my saddle is like sitting on, well something hard and not comfortable.  I’ll be able to find my happy spot a lot easier without the padding from my cycling shorts.  Once you’re in the right spot, stop pedaling making sure the pedal cranks are parallel to the ground.  Then take the level and place the bottom inside edge on the end of the crank arm and the top on the outside of your knee:
IMG_5290That should be plumb:
IMG_5292Now, here’s the important tip:  If you have to move your saddle forward, you have to raise the saddle.  If you had to move it back you have to lower it.  Usually just a millimeter or two but check yourself with the pedal backward trick above just to make sure you’re right.  Also, don’t get cocky and try to save time by reversing the steps so you won’t have to adjust your saddle height twice.  Why?  I have no idea, but our local pro setup artist has checked me three or four times and my wife at least twice and this is the order he goes in every time.  So I do what he does.

Now, as a last step, check the level of your saddle, just to make sure you’re right on.
IMG_5294Then level out your saddle and Bob’s your uncle.

A few quick tips about saddle level:  The general thinking is that the saddle should be level.  There are occasions to deviate though.  First, I have heard that women generally prefer to nose their saddle down just a smidge.  Also, if you tend to ride in a more upright position, nosing the saddle up a millimeter or three will offer you a little more support for your hips.  I’ve tried that one myself and it surprised how comfortable I was riding on the bar top (it felt horrible in the drops on the hoods though, I ride too low).

*Setting the saddle fore/aft position with a plumb bob:  Instead of going from the outside of your knee, directly under your kneecap is a small bone protrusion.  Place the string directly on the outer edge of that protrusion and allow the bob to rest just above the pedal axle (inside is easiest when you’re alone).  It should be hovering directly in the center of the pedal spindle.

UPDATE:  A friend posted a comment warning about those who have large feet using care with this method, he had a tough time getting his position right the first several times.  I’ll dig into this a little bit to see if I can’t come up with a reason (we’re both stumped).  A second suggests this is a good measure for a baseline, however there are several factors that could effect the actual requirements for the setup.  That said, I disagree with some of his suggested causes (such as arm length which would suggest too short a stem or too large a frame).  In the end, road cycling is simply a compromise of dozens of factors in order to achieve the greatest power to the pedal as is comfortable.

How Bad Do You Want It?

Last night’s club ride showed all of the signs of being one of those sucky, slog-of-a-ride sufferfests. Cold, only 45 degrees (F), cloudy with no threat of rain, and a gnarly wind, dead nuts out of the north and a sparse turnout to boot.

My buddy Mike, even though he said he’d be there when I called, was a no-show. There were four heavy hitters, my friend Phil and a doctor and his wife on a tandem. Against that brutal wind.

My other Mike friend, the age group Sprint Triathlon (and Duathlon) National Champ, headed out for a quick-six warmup… I had on leg warmers, shorts, light tights, wool socks, arm warmers, short-sleeved jersey, long-sleeved jersey, a vest and a headsweats cap…and was perfectly dressed for the ride – exceedingly comfortable, not too hot and not too cold. I couldn’t believe it, I’d spun the Wheel of Fashion and hit the jackpot.

We started the ride at a fair 19 mph pace with the crosswind but that was short-lived. Once we turned north, the pace was ramped up to 21.5-22 and it stayed there for an eternity. There weren’t enough guys to choose from so I wound up behind a horse… Dave. Dammit. The man pulled like I was whipping him for God’s sake, a mile and a half to two miles every turn. I stuck to his wheel like my life depended on it – in fact, and this is one of the great things about riding in a ridiculously fast group, I was able to stay in the drops the whole time… Gotta love riding with competent cyclists.

We finally hit the sharp left to head southwest for a bit of help from that wind, maybe ten miles in. I worked up to the front for my pull at 25 mph, made it maybe three-quarters of a mile, fell back and worked my way back up again… The next time up I tried for a full mile and did fine, falling out with enough juice too latch back on. Unfortunately, I had missed the fact that Phil and the tandem dropped. My count was off and I hesitated to check over my shoulder and a gap formed. When I looked back, I could have made it back. It would have taken some work but I could have done it. Instead I opted to wait for the tandem and my friend.

That was the single, best cycling decision I made all year.

It took them a bit to catch me, in fact I got to take a nature break and spend a mile or two spinning easy but I knew I’d have my work cut out for me once we formed out. The entire rest of the ride was a blur of awesomeness. I took long, fast turns up front, often eliciting a verbal pat on the back after I gave the arm flick… We were in my wheelhouse, 21-22 mph (19 into the wind), that speed where you’re working but it’s fun work, not suffering. We finished in the dark, lights a blazing and smiles and fist-bumps all around.

In the parking lot, after the ride, was the first time since I’d gotten on my bike that I realized just how cold it was. One of the best rides of the year on a night that should have sucked. Funny how that works, eh?

Now I’m not going to kid anyone, seven of ten times that ride would have been brutal but I’d have done it and liked it.  Another two I’d have had a fine time but been bummed about the conditions.  Another nine-tenths would have been fun, but what happened last night is one in a hundred.

Either way, I’d have missed it all if I’d have chosen to polish the couch with my butt.  I had an awesome time because I showed up.  I wanted it bad enough to brave some pretty sucky conditions.

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How Much Does A Road Bike Weigh? A Noob’s Guide to Putting a Bike on a Diet.

My old Cannondale weighs around 21 pounds (aluminum and upgraded with new wheels).  My Trek, about 19 pounds (cf) and my Venge, 16 (cf – after $1,000 in upgrades – and I still have $600 to go which will drop it down to the upper 15 pound range).  I’ll cop to getting into the weight game a little bit because it’s fun (if expensive) and I do ride in the mountains at least once a year, but is the money spent necessary?  In terms of happy cycling, it’s worth every penny.  In terms of performance, the weight game is pretty much a waste unless you’re talking about some serious poundage.  For instance, after training for two months (a bit over 1,200 miles) on the set of wheels that came with my Venge, I upgraded to a set almost a full pound lighter.  I absolutely felt the difference.  Did the upgrade make me faster?  Marginally, if at all but my bike looks really awesome.

First, the weight game will largely depend on the size of your wallet, let’s just get that cleared up right away.  There are few cheap tricks to making a bike lighter but mostly they’re ridiculously expensive…  The simple thing to do, if you want a light bike, is go to a Trek store and buy and Emonda, the nicest one you can afford ($1,650-$15,750) and call it good.  You will have the lightest production bike sold in whatever price-point you choose.  It’s that simple and a whole lot cheaper (and easier) than buying a heavy bike and trying to upgrade the weight out of it. The low-end Emonda weighs 19-1/2 pounds and the top of the line weighs 10-1/2.  You can get the SL 8 for $4,520 (roughly what I will have into my Venge when I’m done) and end up with a bike 1/2 pound lighter (15.5 pounds) – and with a better group set.

With that out of the way, does it matter?

Yes and no.  Nine pounds will make a difference no matter what the cyclist weighs, there’s no doubt about that but there’s a price to riding lightweight equipment:  Durability.  On the other hand, and let’s use me as the example, a recreational cyclist husband and father of two small children, who makes a decent living, taking into account the terrain that I ride on (mainly flat with no “rated” climbs within a 100 mile radius) and I can think of no scenario in which I would need a ten pound bike.  Now, a 16 pound bike?  That fits my situation a lot better, both monetarily and terrain wise.  I can make up any disadvantages with “want to” at that point.  In fact, I think the lightest bike on our Tuesday night club ride (the ride that draws all of the high-priced carbon) is 14 pounds, an S-Works Tarmac.  Most are around 15-18 pounds.

The title of this post is What Does a Road Bike Weigh though and before we get into this there are a few things that we should get straight.  First, weight matters most in the mountains.  Second, “want to” will trump a fifteen pound bike six days a week and twice on Sunday.  Legend has it that Peter Sagan once won a race on his sister’s bike.  So when you hear people tell you “It’s not the bike, it’s the engine”, they’re not kidding.  Finally, unless you’re in the mountains, aero trumps weight.

That said, here’s the approximate breakdown by cost/class:

Big-box road bike ($200-$400), twist-grip shifters, steel frame or maybe aluminum frame:  25-30+ pounds.  If you have serious road cycling plans, these are to be avoided at all costs.  I know, you think $200 is a lot to spend on a bike but if you want to ride with the big dogs, $200 is a lot of money for a pair of shorts.  On the other hand, if this is the best you can do, have at it.  Just know those twist shifters alone will put you at an exceptional disadvantage…  And to upgrade away from them later, you’ll have to change the crank, the rear derailleur, the cassette, the front derailleur, the wheels (probably) and the shifters.  Total cost?  More than you would pay for a decent entry-level bike.

Entry Level ($600-$900), integrated brake/shifters (Shimano Sora or Claris), aluminum frame, carbon fork: 20-23 pounds.

allezTrek 1.1

Mid Grade Entry Level ($900-$1500), integrated brake/shifters, aluminum frame, carbon fork, leisure components (Shim. Tiagra or 105):  19-22 pounds.

Trek 1.5 Secteur Elite Double

Entry Level Race Ready ($1500-$2500), entry level racing components (Shimano 105, SRAM Rival) aluminum or carbon fiber frame, carbon fork:  17.5-19 pounds.

Race Ready mid range ($2500-$4000), entry level racing or 2nd tier racing components (Shim. 105 or Ultegra, SRAM Force, Campagnolo Chorus), carbon fiber frame and fork:  16-18.5 pounds.

Tarmac Expert Emonda SL 6

High End Race ($4000-$7000), 2nd and Top Tier Components (Ultegra, Dura Ace, SRAM Red, Campagnolo Record), carbon fiber frame and fork, aluminum or carbon wheels depending on price point:  14-17 pounds

Emonda SLR 6 Venge Pro Race

Dream Bikes:  ($6000-$20000) Top Tier and Electronic Shifting (Ui2, Di2, SRAM Red, Campagnolo Super Record) carbon fiber frame and fork, carbon fiber wheels:  10-15 pounds

Emonda SLR 10 Venge Di2

Weights are approximations and do not including pedals and cages.  Frame sizes do effect weight.  Classes and Components are an estimation, the combinations available on the market are too broad to properly classify.  The basis for group set types is here.  Bikes shown are property of Specialized and Trek bikes, they are used as examples only and are not meant to be a full representation of all available – I stuck with what I know, love and ride myself.

There is a simple rule for buying a bike that works no matter how much or how little a person makes: Buy the best bike you can afford and don’t test ride anything out of your price-range… Best not to know what you’re missing.

The One Time Going the Extra Mile ISN’T Required…

In my short write-up on yesterday’s 49 mile ride, a woman who has been reading my blog for years commented that her “OCD would have kicked in” forcing her to ride that last mile to make it an even 50.  I like how she thinks, I considered it as well.  However, once I reached my driveway, on fumes, I knew the extra mile wasn’t in the cards.

What I failed to mention in that post was that I’d pulled for most of the ride, probably upwards of  70%, including an epic eight mile stint into the wind that was so strong I had to slow down so my riding partner could catch up – twice.

Yesterday was one of those rare occasions when going that last, extra mile isn’t necessary.  I already had, for 49 of them.

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Too Cold to Ride?!

My buddy Mike likes to ride early, just after sunup. We didn’t have plans to ride but I figured I’d head over to his place to see if he was heading out or not. It was cold, below freezing. Two miles after pulling out of my driveway I wasn’t exactly cursing my decision to suit up in the first place but I was glad that I didn’t run into Mike at the same time. I turned around and headed home having gotten a text from Phil that he’d be riding later after it warmed up a bit.

I rode to meet Phil at the bike shop at 11:15 and we were off. With the wind out of the southwest we were suffering right out of the gate… It was still cold but 45 is a whole bunch better than 31 and the temp was on the rise with abundant sunshine.

We hit mile 18 or so and finally got a little help from the wind which had been steadily picking up in force and that’s exactly when this ride got fun.

I had been pulling for the last eight miles and I was cooked. I tucked in behind Phil to regroup for a couple of miles and we cruised toward home at an easy 20-23 mph.

It was a 49 mile day when it was all over, Michigan fall cycling at it’s best.

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Money Can’t Buy Happiness…

From Gerry at the Vicious Cycle:

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Yup, that’s about right.

Assenmacher 100

100 MileAugust 17th, 2014

July 2013 Lake Burton, Tiger, GA

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