Monthly Archives: May 2009

Going to France to see Lance

Lance San Remo

So I eluded to this trip when I compared the greatness of my wife to my bike (which Kevin S. astutely guessed), but Jess and I are going to Europe this summer to catch part of the Tour de France.

Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo

First, a day of catching the sites in London. Then we are going to spend a week in Monte Carlo, Monaco; where we will catch the first two stages the the Tour de France (including the opening prologue, which loops around the city) as well as visit some of the great coastal towns on the Med (Nice, San Remo, etc.).

The village of Varenna on Lake Como, Italy

The village of Varenna on Lake Como, Italy

We will then head east into Italy and spend a few days on Lake Como. From there we will travel to Milan and then back home to Texas.

I must admit that the idea for this trip was really driven by Lance Armstrong’s return to cycling and committment to riding again in the Tour de France. I would be excited to see the Tour in any year, but the energy around this year’s Tour should be amazing.  However, I will also be pulling for Levi Leipheimer (see image on my blog header and here) to get a podium spot – he’s having a huge year. I’m also excited that my buddy Kevin D. and his lovely wife will be joining us in Monte Carlo, so hopefully Kevin and I can squeeze in one day of riding while the wives pamper themselves at the hotel spa.

On a related note, the Lance Amstrong Foundation has a very cool contest  to see Lance and the conclusion of the tour in Paris. But I can’t imagine the contest winner having more fun on this trip then the Coopers 😉 – July can’t come soon enough.

UPDATED 7-2-09

We’re leaving for the Tour today. Here are my predictions:

Green Jersey – Mark Cavendish

KOM Jersey – Carlos Sastre

White Jersey – Andy Schleck

Yellow Jersey – Alberto Contador

Rest of the podium – Denis Menchov, Levi Leipheimer

ThinkCash & the Texas State Criterium Championships

TX State Crit Logo

People in our office are probably getting tired of green spandex? It’s not a fashion statement, it’s the kit (uniform) of the ThinkCash cycling team (today just a group of employees and friends-of-the-company that like to ride). The team has slowly been growing and has really improved the visibility of the company in our community. I’m constantly hearing from people who see someone in a ThinkCash kit passing them by on the Trinity Trail. I was “patient #1” to catch the cycling bug at ThinkCash and it has been fun to see as more and more employees discover the joys of cycling. Our Tuesday night rides started as 4 or 5 of us riding at a moderate pace (to make sure no one got dropped). Now are rides are often 8+ strong and consist of lots of 25+ mph sections with lots of sprint “hot spots” along the way.

The "Mean Green" ThinkCash Train

The "Mean Green" ThinkCash Train

Well, we have decided to continue supporting cycling in our community by sponsoring the 2009 Texas State Criterium Championships right here in Fort Worth on Memorial Day (Monday, May 25).  It’s the largest 1-day race in North Texas with over 500 USCF participants and over 3,500 spectators. Additionally, it raises money for a great cause since all proceeds benefit the Fort Worth Police Bicycle Patrol – through Safe City Fort Worth. It’s their second-largest private funding source with over $10,000 raised each year.

The races run through Fort Worth’s Cultural District (with a start/finish line in front of the Will Rogers Center). The 1-mile figure-eight course has been praised as the “best course in Texas.” The racers even ride over a section of bricks on Camp Bowie and must negotiate several challenging turns at speeds of 30+ mph.

There is no cost to attend the event (Yes, FREE outdoor entertainment!), and there are races throughout the day. The flyer here has start times for the various races/events. I would recommend coming out for the Men Pro 1,2 race at 10:30 a.m. These are the best racers in Texas and will hit speeds of over 40 mph.

Additionally, those of you with children 9-and-under should bring them out for the Kids Race at 11:50 a.m. The kids are allowed to ride for a short distance along the finish line where they are cheered on by all the spectators. All kids in the race get a medal, so they are all winners.

This will hopefully be the first of many ways that ThinkCash can increase the awareness of our company in our community.

Video – Bike Race Prank

Video – Bike Race Prank

Posted using ShareThis

Top speed on a bicycle – how fast can you go downhill?

Tuesday night during our Team ThinkCash ride, we had a nice tailwind on the 820 service road descent. So like most cyclists – we all tried to see how fast we could go. Comparing bike computer results as we soft-pedaled up to Chapin Rd., most of us fell between 40 and 45 mph. This started the conversation of, “what’s the fastest you’ve ever gone on your bike?”

I think I was the only one that had broken 50 mph on numerous occassions (no small feat since I only weigh 150 lbs). I know I’ve hit 50 mph while riding in the mountains of California a couple times. However, my most memorable 50+mph ride was in a Cat 4 race at Lago Vista (just outside Austin) last season. There was a steep downhill on the backside of the course and the peloton would hit 50 mph every lap. It’s definitely a little unnerving to ride in a pack when you’re doing 50 mph on tires the width of Scotch Tape.

As evidenced in the video above from the 2003 Tour de France (when Lance Armstrong does a little cyclocrossing), anything can happen (even to pros) when you’re going downhill that fast.

pros going downhill - don't try this at home

pros going downhill - don't try this at home

In fact, even the pros get a little skittish when speeds go north of 50 mph. In today’s Stage 6 of the Giro de Italia the pros hit ridiculous speeds on the descent off the Hochkrimml. The pros were even “comparing” their top speeds (just like the ThinkCashers on our Tuesday Nighter) after the descent. So who had the top speed? Saxo Bank’s JJ Haedo hit 117 kph – that’s 72.7 mph!

VO2-to-the-max Part 4: Final Results

The Lab

The Lab

READ PART 1 HERE

READ PART 2 HERE

READ PART 3 HERE

My work at TCU is finished. I wrapped up my participation in the study with one last VO2 max test and a time trial. Below are my final stats:

VO2 Max:  65.2 ml/kg/min

25K TT Average Watts:  302

25K TT Average HR: 174

All in all it was a very interesting experience and I have a new level of respect for researchers. In fact, I also have a new respect for how studies are conducted and just how difficult it must be to isolate as many variables as possible.

What is the meaning of life? How big is the universe?

I can’t answer the first question; although, it is something we all think about from time-to-time. However, I can help answer the second question with the help of the series of photos below. There are a lot of them, but I promise if you go through the whole sequence you will be amazed. The actual size of the universe is truly mind-blowing, which makes the answer to the first question even more difficult. As a bonus, if you get all the way to the bottom I’ll let you know why I think we’re all here:

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So what is the meaning of life, considering how insignificant we are in relation to the size of the universe?

To enjoy the ride.

No one is as good as their best achievement or as bad as their worst deed.

So I say love, be loved and have fun.

SRAM Red Review: Is it better than Shimano Dura Ace?

kuota-kredo-with-sram-red

I finally feel like I’ve ridden my SRAM Red group long enough now to give a good review, but first – the backstory.

  • I’ve been riding, seriously, for almost 3 years now.
  • I’m currently a Cat 4 roadie
  • I rode 10,000 miles last year
  • I weigh 150 lbs and my FTP is probably around 285 watts right now
  • I’ve had my Kuota Kredo for almost 2 years now.
  • It previously was all Dura Ace, with Kuota Viking bar/stem, Look Keo pedals, Fizik Arionne saddle and bottle cages from the good folks over at Arundel.
  • Before my Kredo I had a Specialized Roubaix that was all Ultegra. However, I’ve also spent considerable time on Campy Record, Chorus and Shimano 105 on rental bikes while traveling.

kuota-kredo-with-sram-red-2

Initial impressions

From an aesthetics standpoint, the group looks great on my bike. Cleaner and with a little more “bling” than my 7800 Dura Ace. It also shaved off some considerable weight – just over half a pound (since the Red groupset is only 1928 grams).  With my Dura Ace 7850SL wheels running tubeless, bottle cages and pedals, my rig now weighs right at 16.5 lbs.

The overall ride

The first thing I’ll say about Red has to do with the shifters – I love them. From an ergonomic standpoint, the Red shifters fit my hands perfectly. Compared to 7800 Dura Ace – I now feel like I sit on top of the bars instead of leaning into them (feeling I had with Dura Ace due to the size of the shifters and the saddle horn shape). I also swear that the bike feels 10 lbs lighter because of the reduced weight of the shifters and lack of exposed cables. I know it is mostly mental, but the handlebars just feel “lighter” and seem to move more freely, which gives the impression of riding a much lighter bike.

In general I feel like I am in a better “aero” position when riding Red on the hoods compared to Dura Ace.

sram-red-shifter

Shifters/Deraileurs

As mentioned above, I love the shifters. The actual shifting is very crisp (the throws to upshift with Red are incredible short and very crisp). The DoubleTap shifting becomes natural on the 2nd or 3rd ride – much shorter learning curve than I expected. I’ve heard some complaints about front shifting, but I have had no problems so far. You can only trim when in the big chain ring, but if you’re trimming in the small chainring, you should probably be shifting anyway. I also love the ability to shift from the drops. In a “race” scenario it is great to take the lever with you in the drops and then be able to change gear at will.

sram-red-brakes

Brakes

Brakes seem to be on par with Dura Ace for modulation, feel and raw stopping power. Braking also feels a little more secure with the double tap shifters since (like on Campy) the brake lever is solid and doesn’t perform double-duty as a shifting mechanism.

sram-red-crankset1

Crankset

The crankset is great. Very stiff and I swear that the ceramic bearings do feel smoother (may be placebo effect, but I’ll take it).  It’s also a great looking crankset.

sram-red-cassette

Cassette/Chain

I love the 1090 cassette. The 11-26 cassette is a perfect training cassette – offering a full range of gear ratios.  The cassette is crazy-light and the fact that it is machined from a solid piece of steel is pretty cool. Haven’t had to clean it yet, so I may not find the design not so cool at that point, but for now I like it. The chain/cassette combo is slightly noisier than Dura Ace, but not to the point of being distracting or disturbing.

Conclusion

Let’s be real. The top groups from Shimano, SRAM and Campy are all very good. None of them will be the difference between winning and losing, so it all comes down to:

  • Looks – honestly, sex appeal is a big factor for high-end bikes
  • Personal likes – I can’t stand the “thumb” shifter on Campy, but some people swear by it.
  • Value – Even when buying a top-end group, it’s nice to save money or feel like you are getting good value.

So considering the points above, in my opinion:

Is SRAM Red better than 7800 Dura Ace – YES

Is SRAM Red better than 7900 Dura Ace – TBD. I haven’t ridden 7900 DA yet, but considering the considerable price difference between the two groups right now (~$400), Red is probably still a better option.

Is SRAM Red better than Campagnolo Record – YES. I haven’t ridden the new 11 speed Super Record group yet, but considering that it is ~$700 more than Red, I can’t imagine it being worth the increase.