Monthly Archives: September 2009

Texas Time Trials 6 hour TT Race Report. SPOILER ALERT: I won!

1st placeThis weekend was the Texas Time Trials in Glen Rose, TX. This is an amazing event that features 500 mile, 48 hour, 24 hour, 12 hour and 6 hour time trials (the event is a RAAM qualifier).

TT24TT elevation profile

The course is on a hilly 26.5 mile loop (1,500 ft of climbing per loop). The course never goes flat, you’re either climbing or descending – a true leg-breaker.

The 6 hour TT was the focus of my recent training. My goal was to finish 125 miles in 6 hours; however, any lap started before the 6 hour finish is prorated, but you must complete the lap. That means I would probably be riding for 132.5 miles. I pre-rode the course with a couple teammates earlier this month and I was feeling very strong, maybe the strongest ever on the bike until . . . 10 days before the race, when I came down with a sinus infection and bronchitis. The Dr. put me on a heavy dose of antibiotics and recommended that I not “exert” myself for a couple weeks. I decided to play it by ear and hope that I would feel better in time for Saturday. I’m normally a quick-healer so I tried to stay positive.

My Kuota K-Factor with race wheels from Echappe Equipment

My Kuota K-Factor with race wheels from Echappe Equipment

Fast-forward to Friday night. I still felt like crap and hadn’t been on the bike in over a week, but I decided to go for a quick spin and see how the legs felt.
I realized on that ride there was no way I could skip the race. I might treat it as a “training ride” and only do 3 laps, but I had to give it a try.

unloading gear from my trusty FJ

unloading gear from my trusty FJ

I brought two bikes to the race:

  • Kuota K-Factor TT bike with Dura Ace 7850 tububular front wheel and Zipp 1080 tubular rear wheel.
  • Kuota Kredo road bike with SRAM Red and FlashPoint FP60 wheels.

Why two bikes? The course is not TT-bike-friendly and almost everyone rode conventional road bikes or road bikes with clip-on aerobars. I’m pretty comfortable on the TT bike, so I decided to take a chance. If I started having problems, I could switch to my Kredo when I passed the start/finish.

The Cycling CEO

The Cycling CEO

Ken, my CEO at ThinkCash and a cycling buddy, decided to do the 6 hour TT too. It was great to have someone to hang with pre-race. Ken and I would be “self-crewing” so we each set-up an ice chest on the side of the road just past the start/finish line. I planned on doing a fast stop on each lap to get two bottles per lap. The temp was around 90 degrees and I didn’t want hydration to be an issue (especially being sick).

The last smile on my face for the next 6 hours

The last smile on my face for the next 6 hours

After hearing the pre-race instructions from the official we had a few minutes to wait. It was at that moment I realized I had no bottles in my cages! I had forgotten to grab two out of the ice chest. I sprinted over to my ice chest, grabbed two bottles, and made it back just in time for the start.

Myself and another rider separated from the field right at the start. I knew he was a very strong rider and didn’t try to maintain his pace (no drafting in this event so you had to stay at least 3 bike lengths away from other riders or risk being DQ’d). I felt OK on the first lap. My HR was high for the level of effort, which I expected due to being sick. It basically felt like I was only riding with 3/4 of a tank. I finished the first lap in 1:15 (21.2 mph) and stopped to grab two bottles. I was told that the other rider was a few minutes ahead of me.

On the second lap I tried to keep the same pace and finished in 1:19 (20.1 mph). The other rider was about 10 minutes up the road, which meant he was flying (avg. 22 mph+). I decided that I was racing for second and would let-up a little on the next lap since I was 10+ minutes up on the next rider. Just 1 mile into lap 3 my left butt/leg started cramping. The aggressive aero position of my TT bike, mixed with all the climbing, was not a good combination. I seriously thought about turning around to get my road bike, but decided to try and push through it. The next 25.5 miles were no fun. My cramps, plus the heat, plus the wind (which picked up in the afternoon) were taking a toll. I dug out a ClifBar from my pocket and couldn’t generate enough saliva to chew it. I normally have no problem eating on the bike, but my illness had definitely zapped my appetite and putting down a gel pack or shot block was a struggle. However, the discomfort I was feeling was nothing compared to the brave souls racing the 12, 24, and 48 hour races – it was like riding by zombies as the brutal course and temps were taking their toll on everyone.

I finished the 3rd lap in 1:25 (18.2 mph). Considerably slower than my first two laps, but OK given my cramping, etc. As I swapped out for my road bike I was told that the only rider ahead of me had pulled out with cramping after lap 2, so I was the leader on the road (with #2 at least 15 minutes back). This news was huge, not just for motivation, but also for planning. With my current lead I could probably win with just one more lap (negating the need for a 5th pro-rated lap). I picked the pace up slightly on the 4th lap, but tried not to push myself too hard. I crossed the finish line (106 miles) in 5:25. (19.6 mph average). Now I just had to hope that no one else would finish and go out for a pro-rated lap (even with a slower average speed, one extra pro-rated mile would have stolen my win). The next closest rider crossed the line in just over 6 hours – my win was secure.

My very cool trophy for the 6 hour TT win

My very cool trophy for the 6 hour TT win

Considering that just 24 hours before I didn’t think I’d race, I was pretty happy to walk away with a win. Plus, now I have incentive to go back next year and try to put up 125 miles.

The best part of the whole experience was the next morning when Grant (my 4-year-old) woke up and saw my trophy:

“Dad, that trophy is awesome! It’s pretty cool . . . can I bring it to school for show and tell?”

Big thanks to Dan Driscoll and all the volunteers for putting on such a great event.

Zipp 1080 rear wheel from Echappe Equipment

Zipp 1080 rear wheel from Echappe Equipment

Also want to thank the guys at Echappe Equipment (www.racewheelrental.com). Their race wheel rental program is great. For the cost of a tire I was able to rent a $2,800 set of wheels that were selected specifically for my event. It’s like having 10 sets of wheels in my garage!

Now, time to figure out how to defend my title in 2010.

I’m in love! An open letter to Trek Bicycles about the new District Carbon

Trek District Carbon

Following a tradition started by Fat Cyclist, below is my open letter to Trek about my desire to have a 2010 Trek District Carbon.

Dear Trek,

Let me introduce myself. My name is Ben Cooper and besides writing this blog, working a demanding job and being a father/husband – I am also a roadie. I don’t use the term  “roadie” lightly. I rode over 10,000 miles on my bicycles last year and will probably do that again this year. I love all things cycling:

  • I love to talk about bikes – based on my influence 10% of all conversations around our office center on bikes. In fact, my company now sponsors a local cycling team.
  • I love to ride bikes – I’ve gone from never riding further than 9 miles to riding 250+ miles per week.
  • I love to use my bike riding for good – raising almost $12,000 for LIVESTRONG and over $5,000 for MS, and Children’s Medical Center of Dallas.

So you might be asking yourself why am I writing to you? I can sum it up in two words . . . District Carbon.  I saw pictures of the District Carbon bike above and instantly fell in love. I got the “single speed” bug last year and haven’t looked back. There is something very primitive, but very satisfying about riding with one gear.

However, there’s been one problem. I own a very nice (sorry, it’s not a Trek) carbon race bike. I’ve grown accustomed to the benefits that a lightweight carbon frame and nice wheels can provide. So why is that a problem? Because a high-performance carbon single speed didn’t exist . . . until now!

The bike only weighs 11.5lbs!

The bike only weighs 11.5lbs!

What I’m asking for

So by now you probably know where this is headed. I would like for you to send me a Carbon District. Why should you send me a Carbon District?

  • This blog has grown (to my amazement) over the years. It now reaches 10,000+ roadies every month looking for product reviews and cycling stories.
  • This blog was also featured in the greatest cycling magazine on the planet – ROAD (highlighting my Little Known Facts About Jens Voigt).
  • I’ve convinced countless other riders (well, actually 7 riders) to also purchase single speed bikes and learn the pure joy of hammering with just one gear.

But I’m not asking you to send me a free bike, on no.

Here’s what I’ll do

  • A thorough review on this blog of the District Carbon with updates as I learn the subtle nuisances of the bike.
  • I’ll document (via my blog and video) how the Carbon District can be the ultimate, PERFORMANCE, commuter bike. If you’re going to ride a bike to work, a single speed makes a lot of sense for the sake of simplicity. But why ride some slow, steel, track frame when you can ride a performance-oriented, carbon bike that can shave minutes off the daily commute. The fact that my pants won’t get dirty from a conventional chain is a bonus.
  • I will also ride the bike in a LIVESTRONG Challenge  (riding the longest distance available) and guarantee to raise at least $5,000 towards the fight against cancer.

Clearly this is a win-win for all parties involved. I win because my wife won’t divorce me for buying another bicycle and Trek wins because of the huge buzz my posts are sure to create for the District Carbon.

Look forward to hearing from you,

Ben


Kuota K-Factor Review: Is it the best mid-level time trial bike?

Kuota K-Factor

I’ve had my Kuota K-Factor TT bike for about 4 months now, which means it is time for a full review.

First, the build:

Frame – Kuota K-Factor

Gruppo – Shimano Dura Ace

Base bars & aero bars – Easton Attack

Stem – Easton EC90

Bar tape – Arundel Gecko

Saddle – Fizik Arionne

Wheels – FlashPoint FP60s

Tires – Continental GP4000s

Pedals – Look Keo Sprint

K Factor front

You can see from the pic above that the bike doesn’t much of a front profile, which is good (less surface to catch the wind). The total rig (including pedals, bottle cages, computer, etc.) is 17.6 lbs. This is pretty light for a TT set-up. Some of this is due to the K-Factor’s respectable 1320 gram frame weight. This is very good for a TT frame in the low-to-medium price range.

So the bike’s pretty light, but is it stiff? Stiff enough. On a TT bike the only time stiffness is a big factor is out of the start house and when you hit a hill. The K-Factor isn’t the mountain goat that my Kuota Kredo is, but again, it’s pretty solid. The TT position and geometry is going to hurt you more on the hills than the weight or stiffness of the bike (unless your name is Fabian Cancellara.

kuota-k-factor-tt-bike

I raced the K-Factor in a 40K time trial in July (my first TT ever) and did good enough to capture second in my category.  I used a wheel cover on my rear wheel and had no problem controlling the bike in crosswind. It’s an incredibly stable TT bike. I’ve also ridden several centuries on the bike in preparation for the Texas Time Trials. I find the bike very comfortable for long-distance-hammering. The carbon frame helps smooth out the rough stuff and I’ve been able to find an aggressive, yet comfortable position on the bike. I also like the narrow top tube, which doesn’t interfere with pedaling. It’s best to keep your knees in when pedaling a TT bike (more aero); however, in today’s world of larger and lighter carbon tubes, I’ve run into lots of frames where the top tube can be a nuisance (knees hitting the tube when pedaling). This is not a problem on the K-Factor.

Easton Attack Bar

I’m also really pleased with my Easton Attack integrated aero bar. It’s light (350 grams) and very stiff. However, there is no way to adjust the aero bars or arm pads, so make sure you like the fit before buying them. They’re actually so light that it takes a couple rides before you’re confident that they won’t just snap in your hands . . . they’re that light.

With a good set of carbon tubular wheels, this bike could be close to 16 pounds, which would be competitive with any TT bike on the market. There are definitely lighter, stiffer and more aero bikes on the market, but those frames alone cost $4,000+. For most riders, myself included, I don’t think the increased cost would justify the very small increase in performance.

Come on Kuota, send me a Kueen K and prove me wrong

Come on Kuota, send me a Kueen K and prove me wrong

However, if Kuota wants to send me a Kueen K to prove my wrong, I’ll give it a try.

If you’re a triathlete or road racer still time trialing on a conventional road bike or a road bike with clip-on aero bars, and you’re wondering if a TT bike is worth it . . . in the words of Ferris Bueller

“If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

A TT bike is easily worth 2 mph. It’s that simple. Ride the bike enough to be comfortable on it . . . let your muscles adapt . . .and you can ride 2 mph faster at the same level of effort.  TestRider.com actually has a great video that details the benefits of a TT bike. Additionally, that benefit only increases as you go faster (since wind resistance increases exponentially with speed). So if what you can afford is a Kuota K-Factor, I’m guessing that you won’t be disappointed.

Bicycle ride down memory lane

Cowtown Classic

Assuming it’s not pouring down rain (which unfortunately looks like the case) I’m riding the Cowtown Classic tomorrow on my TT bike as prep for the Texas Time Trials.

I did the Cowtown Classic last year on a single speed, but the pic above is from the Cowtown Classic in 2007. At that point I had been riding for just over a year and it was the last “event” I did in my ThinkCash kit (I joined Moritz shortly after that event). I’ve always thought green was my best color, which you can consider foreshadowing for an exciting announcement I’ll make in a few weeks. Let’s just say I’m “Thinking” green.

Countdown to the Texas Time Trials

Texas Time Trials

The Texas Time Trials are rapidly approaching and I’m starting to get pretty exicted. This is a very cool event that has:

  • 26.5 mile TT
  • 6 hour TT
  • 12 hour TT
  • 24 hour TT
  • 48 hour TT
  • 500 mile TT

Texas Time Trials course

That’s right, some folks will be riding on their bike for 500 miles, on a very hill (1,500 ft. of climbing per loop) 26.5 mile course. It’s tough enough that it is a qualifier for RAAM (Race Across America).

I’m not that crazy, so I’m competing in the 6 hour TT (although most of my teammates think I’m crazy for wanting to do a 6 hour TT). I actually pre-rode the course last weekend with a couple of teammates on my road bike. After much deliberation with my cycling crew, I think I’m going to compete on my TT bike (Kuota K-Factor). However, I have a “secret weapon” that I hope to post about soon.

So what’s my goal for a 6 hour TT? I think it’s going to take 120 miles to win my category. However, the loops are 26.5 miles. What gives? If you start a lap before the 6 hour cut-off, that last lap is a pro-rated lap. That means you need to ride the full 26.5 mile loop even if only 5 miles of it is going to count. I’m banking on riding 5 laps, or 132.5 miles no matter what. There’s no support for the event (other than your own crew), so I’ll be “crewing” for myself out of an ice chest on the side of the road at the start/finish line. Need to do a little math this weekend to decide just how many bottles, ClifBars, etc. I need to bring. The short answer – LOTS!

“Did I win?” or How to crash with style

As cyclist, we’ve all been there. The split second you know you are going to hit the asphalt . . . and it’s going to hurt. Most of us sit on the ground stunned for a few seconds after impact before surveying the damage (normally checking the bike first, then our own bodies). However, this racer in Tulsa was still focused on the finish and wanted to know if he crossed the line first. He’s smart, he kept his eye-on-the-prize, unlike the poor loser in the video below