I was in for a few surprises when I picked up my Selle carbon saddle.
I thought it was going to take a while to get used to, with the lack of padding. Nope, it’s like butter. Well, very expensive butter.
I thought the cutout was going to be too big. I refer back to that $50 a pound butter.
I didn’t think it’d look good on the Venge (it definitely wasn’t bad on the Trek, if it was a little out of place).
I don’t think it could have gone better, overall.
The test on the trainer was short, because I don’t ride that bike on the trainer, but I think it’s close enough for government work… at least for now. I’ll dial it in on Venge day, if it needs it.
The best surprise was how the Selle matched up with the existing components. The white lines on the saddle brings out the white on the stem and even the quick releases. After I lost the red and white decals on my Vuelta rims, when one cracked on a pothole that couldn’t be avoided, I always felt the white didn’t balance out… now I can finally relax about it.
A post in which I geek out so you don’t have to….
The cassette is one of the least faffed about components on a bike but has the most profundity in relation to… Okay, not that geeky.
Here’s the deal; the humble cassette can make your bike a dream to ride, or a nightmare. The sad thing is, most cyclists will just take what comes on the bike without giving it a second thought. Two teeth on a big chainring can mean the difference between the perfectly appointed climbing machine and always feeling like you’re in too high, or too low a gear – and it will have everything to do with the cassette.
My road bikes are the perfect examples, because I set one up to be a climber, and one to be my go-fast bike. Ironically, the go-fast bike is lightest by about three pounds but let’s not get lost in the woods.
So let’s get right into this, folks. The standard these days is the 11-28 cassette, ten or eleven speed doesn’t matter. The bigger cogs jump the same on both, the last two cogs increase in size by three teeth, then four.
I, being naive, bought two high-end 11-28 cassettes last year. One went on my go-fast bike, the other on my climber.
On the climber, the 11-28, coupled with a 50/34 compact crank, was simply fantastic. I had an extra gear on every hill I climbed last year, and I could comfortably pedal up to 40-mph before running out of gears. Each gear had its place and I used every one of them at some point. From 4-mph up an 18% hill, to well in excess of 40-mph down a few hills.
The 11-28 cassette, by contrast, sucked on the go-fast bike. My Venge, being the go-fast bike, has a 52/36 chainring combination up front. Where this gets dicey is in the bigger, easier gears on the back and the big ring up front.
We get into trouble with the bigger chainrings. Specifically, that jump from 21 to 24 teeth. The 21 tooth gear is good for about 21-22-mph. The 24 is good for 18-1/2. When you’re a 21 to 23-mph average rider, that hole between the 21 and 24 tooth gears is in a horrible place. The best way to describe this is that each tooth is worth 5 rpm for your cadence. When you jump 3 teeth, that’s 15 rpm. This leads one to feel like they’re always in the wrong gear whilst riding somewhere between 19 and 20-ish-mph.
With the Trek and its 50/34 chainrings, the 19 and 21 tooth gears are the cruising gears and the 2-tooth, 10 rpm jump is easily managed. The 11-28 cassette is perfect on that bike.
It all boils down one’s average pace. I wrote in the opening that I’m a 21-23-mph average cyclist. On the weekends we’re often a little slower than that, call it 19 or 20-mph for an average. If I was a little faster, maybe a mile or two an hour on the high side, the 21 to 24 tooth hole wouldn’t bother me as much as my normal cruising gears would be 17, 19 and 21.
There are two ways to fix the problem with the Venge. Obviously, swapping the 52/36 chainrings out for a 50/34 combo would fix a lot – if the combo works on the Trek, it’s going to work on the Venge, too. My buddy, Mike talked me out of that, though. The Venge doesn’t have the same use as the Trek. The Trek is my “take anywhere, touring bike”. The Venge is just meant to go fast, so I opted for the simple cassette fix. I picked up an 11-25 tooth cassette.
- 11/25 Tooth (11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25)
No three or four tooth jumps. I won’t be able to climb as well, but I should be able to handle anything up to short 20%’ers. Heck, if I lose a few pounds, I should be able to do better than that. With the 11-25 cassette I won’t have any holes to worry about with the easier gears on the big ring.
In the end, there are several important factors to be taken into account. If I were riding in hilly terrain regularly, I’d probably stay with the 11/28 cassette and go with compact 50/34 chainrings for the improved climbing characteristics. If I were a little slower, I could look into an odd gear cassette, maybe a 14-28… That would get my gear jumps down into a two-tooth range. If I really wanted to get crazy I could have gone with an 11-21 or 11-23 “corncob” which would mean 1 tooth cog increases but horrible climbing characteristics. Or, if my Venge was my only bike, I could go with three cassettes; a corncob for flat cycling, an 11-25 for mixed terrain and a 14-28 for hilly days.
Oh, and if the Venge was my only bike, I’d go with a compact 50/34 crank up front. No question about it.
The point is, if you’re experiencing holes in your gearing that often make you feel like you’re in the wrong gear, cycling isn’t supposed to be like that, and there are simple fixes to correct that – as simple as swapping out a cassette. The operation takes a wrench, a special nut to remove the cassette, and a chain whip… and about three minutes.
Ride hard my friends.
I could have left well enough alone. The new (to me) ultra-light Selle a friend gave to me a couple of weeks ago worked surprisingly well on the Trek. I couldn’t believe how much I liked that saddle on the 5200. I had my eyes on that 140 grams I could lose off the Venge, though – and leaving well enough alone is not what I do when it comes to bikes, in case you’re new here. Getting my aero-bike down to within a few tenths of a pound above UCI weight was just too much temptation to handle (aero-bikes are notoriously heavy because aero trumps weight until you climb – it is a rare day you can have both, but that is the case with the first generation Specialized Venge, if you sink enough money into it).
Rather than go back go the old, heavy Bontrager mountain bike saddle I had on the Trek, though, I’m opting to put the Specialized Romin saddle from the Venge on the 5200. While the Selle is great, when I get the position right with the Romin, it’s as good as it gets.
After my trainer ride last evening, I began the switching over process. I’ll be swinging by the bike shop this evening to pick up a cassette for the Venge (11-25 as opposed to 11-28 – I’ll get into that decision at a later date) and the saddle clamp that will allow me to clamp a 7×9 mm saddle rail to my Venge (sadly, that requires a special part). Once the Selle and the new cassette go on the Venge, with the Romin on the Trek, I’ll be complete for the season. No more changes necessary.
If you ever want to know why I continue to stay sober, read this post again. I LOVE my problems.
Next up on the “problems to fix” list is Mrs. Bgddy…. Somebody has a new set of wheels in her near future…
Well, if you haven’t gotten the news yet, go ahead and look out the window. Spring is going to be put off for a minute. Or several. In fact, up here in Michigan-land it looks like it’s looking more like 21,600 minutes – at least (that’s 15 days). All I have to say about this is directed at Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog: “Kiss my ass, Phil.”
So, after one really nice day on the road bikes and a colder day on the tandem, it’s right back into the freezer. What to do?
We’re already maxed out on our hardest gear and we’ve been pushing that for a week, so what could we possibly add?
This doesn’t have to be anything too crazy. If you’re watching commercial TV, it’s easy – your intervals are through the commercials. With a movie, no commercials, it’s a little more challenging. You don’t have to get too technical with it, either. The idea is to get out of the comfort zone that we’ve built up to. Every once in a while, when you feel good and rested, crank it up for a minute or two – give it a 120 or 130 rpm cadence to get the sweat flowing.
It may not be riding outdoors, but you’ll be more than ready once spring does get here.
Ride hard my friends.
A Great, if Cold, Saturday Ride on the Tandem with My Wife… Or, If You Want to Be Strong on a Single Bike, Ride a Tandem.
Saturday morning was cold, certainly below freezing, but livable. I picked up a pro-grade jacket and vest for just $30 at a bike swap meet a couple of weeks ago and the jacket was perfect for the temperature – the finest I’d ever worn.
Mrs. Bgddy asked if I wanted to take the tandem so I took the cue and got it ready… pedals, saddle bag, air and food (just in case a bike ride broke out). I really wanted to take the Trek, but I figured the workout would do me good.
We wheeled the beast out the front door and got rolling almost immediately.
It was a weird morning. Completely overcast, chilly – maybe even cold enough to justify the trainer – but it had been so long since we rode outside, I didn’t care. The first two miles were crisp but I warmed up soon enough.
I love riding the tandem.
We both had a boneheaded “sorry about that, I wasn’t thinking” moment – you’d think riding a tandem would be just like “riding a bike”, but it isn’t. Possibly because we don’t ride it as much, but we always go through a learning curve after we’ve been off it for a while. We just have to get used to working together again.
On the plus-side, once we got into the headwind, my wife tapped my butt a couple of times to get me to ease up a bit to keep from dropping our friends.
It always makes me chuckle to myself; when I’m up front, I’m always thinking, “You’ve gotta push harder, they’re all just chilling out back there wishing the train was moving a little faster.”
In reality, I was flogging myself for nothing. Funny how I have that tendency.
Finally, a day on the bikes, outside! Sweet Baby Jesus in a manger!
It wasn’t even all that warm, though for a late February afternoon, I wasn’t about to complain. Oh, and it was spectacularly sunny!
Mrs. Bgddy waited for me to get home from work so we could ride together, and I’d had a late day at the office the day before, so I played a little hooky and left a few hours early. The ride was slow and enjoyable. Even with the layers I had on, leg warmers just wasn’t enough… I should have worn a pair of tights, too. Still, even a little under dressed, I couldn’t help but smile at being outside in the sunshine. My wife and I just turned the miles at a leisurely pace and talked over some of life’s happenings.
And then we’d sprint for the City Limits signs. Of course.
Better, that ridiculously hard, tiny saddle my friend gave me is easily the most comfortable saddle my butt has ever had the pleasure of sitting on. The saddle is nice for riding on the trainer, but outside, on the road, it’s simply amazing. Vastly more comfortable than my old mountain bike saddle that has eight to ten times the padding. Vastly.
As in, jaw-droppingly, fantastically comfortable. I don’t even know how it’s possible on that little tiny thing – especially considering it’s not all that fantastic on the trainer (even as dialed in as I got it the other day). That saddle is going to be excellent on the Venge.
So, today is it. We’re heading out in an hour for the last outdoor ride for a couple of weeks. We’re heading back to outrageously unseasonably cold weather for the next several days… Tomorrow’s high is supposed to be 47° (8 C), but after 50-mph winds and a cold front, the bottom falls out and the low will be 16°… or “butt-ass cold” for Celsius fans. Folks, enjoy ’em while you get ’em.
We’re not getting outside next week. First time since I started cycling, and it’s going to be way too cold to ride outside in the first week of March.
We’re looking at lows in the teens (F) next week, with highs well below freezing. We’ve even got a couple of days with highs in the teens.
That’s a bit too cold to want to head outdoors. If the rain holds off Saturday, we might get lucky and sneak out for a quick ride, though. A little context is in order here; there’s an 80% chance of rain Saturday. A 35% chance of rain in Michigan works out to a realistic probability of rain closer to 97.421%. In other words, by the time you get up to 80%, it’s simply going to rain, the only questions are when and for how long. After rain on Saturday and Sunday, we’re into the freezer once again for another week or more.
Spring is going to be put off a bit.
Of course, this isn’t so bad, either. I’ve been working my ass off on the trainer and it’s paying off. I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been. I’m ready for spring, all I have to do is wait for it to get here.
In the meantime, it always does me good to remember the good times. We’re almost there.
Numbers, contrary to popular mathematical belief, can lie when it comes to cycling and saddle position. Numbers are a great start, but sooner or later you’re going to want to go by feel… And I’ve never subscribed to the notion of “level it and forget it”.
When you’ve got some padding on a saddle, you have a little room for error in the setup when you’re riding 30-40 miles.
Take away most of that padding and jump that mileage up by double or even triple, you better have that saddle right or you’ll be hating life. And your bike. And your shorts. And your saddle.
Now, keep the mileage up and cut the padding in half again. One look at that saddle and you wonder if two pairs of shorts would work…
No two saddles are alike… unless they really are alike. Erm… I’ve got two Specialized Romin saddles, one on the Venge and one on the tandem. I set them both by numbers, then feel. By chance, I had them set side by side one day in the bike room. A simple glance and I noticed they’re on exactly the same plane. I set the saddles next to each other and stepped back for a closer look; same plane.
Over a hundred miles (or 50 on the tandem), the heinie don’t lie.
So, I thought I might take a moment to share with you, my friends, my unscientific method for dialing in a new saddle.
First, as the process goes, the less padding, the better – you get a lot more feedback.
I like to start on a trainer with a new saddle. I’ll be in the saddle most, if not all, of the time so it helps to feel what’s going on. For the new Selle, I matched the tilt from the old saddle after setting the fore/aft. Then I set the height (36-3/8″, to be exact). Then I climbed on with the intention of giving it 45 minutes.
I lasted five. Maybe. I could feel my hips rocking a little bit. Hips rocking means the saddle is too high. I don’t know how that was possible, though. 36-3/8″ should have been dead nu… Um, phrasing. I lowered it a millimeter. The saddle could be a little farther back than the old saddle was, that would require the saddle to be a shade lower…
Another five minutes. I lowered it again. Just a millimeter. Another 20 minutes.
I could feel pressure from the nose of the saddle that kept me from wanting to ride in the drops. It wasn’t outrageously uncomfortable, just a little nag. I lowered the nose a quarter-turn on the front bolt.
And there the saddle stayed for more than a week. I thought I was done. The saddle felt okay, about as good as you’d expect from just one millimeter of padding (not much).
I’ve worn, over the last week, every pair of heavily padded bibs I own and took a few spins on medium padded bibs to make sure the saddle is where I want to it be. Last night, I’m about ten minutes into my ride and something just wasn’t right. The fore/aft position of the saddle was perfect, I’d already lowered the saddle a couple of millimeters so that wasn’t it… I could simply sense something was a little off, a little pressure where there shouldn’t be pressure in front of the sit bones. This calls for a systematic “shotgun” approach. I had a sneaky suspicion I just needed to lower the nose a pinch… I backed out the rear mounting bolt an eighth of a turn and tightened the front bolt the same amount and climbed aboard.
And the angels sang.
Once the pressure was off… um, a very delicate area that doesn’t much like pressure, and the saddle felt like a $400+ saddle should feel like. It’s still stiff, but I wasn’t thinking much about where my butt was on the saddle as I finished my ride, either.
This is why I love breaking a new saddle in on the trainer. Outdoors there are too many distractions and variables. Bumps, rough pavement, in the saddle, out of the saddle… up a hill, down a hill. Accelerate, decelerate, headwind, tailwind, crosswind, traffic, pedestrians… On a trainer, it’s just my butt and that saddle for 45 minutes. I get a lot of good feedback when all I have to distract me is a movie I’ve already seen five times.
And that’s about the done of that. I think. Maybe.
If you’ve been joining in with me on the push to spring, the goal is to be pushing hard gears on the trainer so that we’re in better than normal shape before the spring push hits. The solitary goal is to enjoy the spring speed ramp-up whilst everyone else has their tongues dangling in their spokes.
That is, everyone except those riding smart trainers on Zwift. They’ll likely be right there with you. CURSE YOU, ZWIFT!
That said, last week we were just getting into our hardest gear. This week we should be fully embracing the big gear that we picked a couple of months ago. Over the next two weeks, as the weather starts to warm up enough to ride outside, we want to be pushing the hard gear every workout, with the exception of rest days (if necessary) and an active recovery day here or there.
This phase is going to take some want to, but if you stick with it, you’re spring will be a lot more enjoyable.
Push the big gears, my friends. We’re almost there….
I was just sitting here thinking about nothing much when my mind wandered into what I might want to do differently this year for cycling. I’ve gone wireless in the past, opted to go without a speedo for a while…
With that new saddle I’ve been testing out I’ll have the Venge down to the low 15 pound range – light enough that getting lighter really doesn’t matter anymore – especially for an aero bike. In fact, the only way I could get the Venge any lighter is to go very drastic; tubular tires/wheels (call it $3,000) and a Dura Ace groupset (another $1,600-ish)… and I’d only drop a half to three-quarters of a pound from where I’m at already. Even if I had that kind of money, and I don’t, why?
On the other hand, and I’m just spit-balling here, what if I put the carbon wheels and the good saddle on the Trek?! I’m in the mid 18 pound range with the normal setup on the bike. With the carbon fiber wheels and the 110 gram saddle… It’d be down to the high 17 pound range… Not bad considering the bike was 20 pounds not too long ago.
So what would it be like to hang the Venge up for a year and ride the Trek with all of the good equipment on it?
Now that’s something to contemplate!
The only down side is what would I do for a rain bike? Swapping out the wheels would definitely be a chore if there was a chance of rain. To put rain wheels on the Trek, or alloy wheels, I’d have to swap brake pads and adjust the pad height so the pads hit the brake track on the alloy wheels every time there was a chance of a shower. Folks, I think that’s a little too much work. Still, I wonder, what would my Trek look like decked out in the finest? The notion is pretty compelling…
I have to admit, as a recovering drunk/addict, it is awesome to have my problems today!
And that is definitely sexy.