Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review - Dinotte 200L

ITEM: Dinotte 200L lights
PURCAHSED online from Dinotte in 2007
PRICE: About $300 (was a gift)
RATING: Excellent

I got a couple of the 200Ls. One 200L flood for my handlebars to light the ground immediately ahead and another 200L spot for my head to shine some light wherever my eyes are pointing. I got the 4 cell lithium ion battery pack for the flood and the 2 cell pack for the spot.

I've been using these lights for three seasons now. They throw a lot of light and the beam patterns are good. This was a huge step up from my NightRider halogen setup. I have friends with HID and they definitely throw more light, but they are so expensive they just have one unit. I think I am better off with the two units for the money, even if they are not quite as bright as HID.

The dual setup is great - the bar mount throws a wide beam directly in front of me and the shadows help in depth perception. And the helmet mount is always pointed where I am looking, which is more than I can say for my handlebars. The dual setup is also great for redundancy - in my case when a friend forgot to fully charge his light, I was able to loan him one of mine so we could ride back home safely.

The mounts are elegant in their simplicity (this translates to reliable), but the bar mount could be difficult to align if your bars have any sweep to them. This was easy to fix by taking off the bars and dropping one of the rubber bands around the steerer, then putting the bars back on (see photo).

The cable connections are solid and weatherproof. One of the cables on my setup can be tough to disconnect but this is a minor inconvenience. After 3 years of riding, one of the wires began to fray where it enters the light housing. This was because I was mounting the light on the bar and the battery on my top tube, so the wire was constantly flexing as a rode. I fixed it with a dab of epoxy and I now fasten the batter to the stem so the wire is no longer being stressed.

The batteries are extremely light, especially after the NiMH I had with the NiteRider. Dinotte does say that battery performance may vary, but I am seeing way less run time than advertised. My run times are closer to 2 hours than the 8 hours they advertised. Not sure if this is how I am charging / discharging the batteries, but Lithium Ion are not supposed to be as finicky as NiMH, so this is a disappointment.

I had a bad cable in the original shipment so called Dinotte. They were extremely pleasant and dropped a new cable in the mail that same day, no questions asked. When you are spending this kind of money on mail order equipment, it is good to know they will stand behind their product.

STRENGTHS: Construction, Service, Versatility of dual setup
WEAKNESSES: Cable can be difficult to disconnect, battery life not what I expected

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Both Ends

Mike and Andy on Drunken Sailor
We had no idea what conditions would await us today. Sure we knew it would be chilly (20° at ride time). But what about the trails?

It turned out they were just about...well...perfect. If you have ever seen machine groomed trails at a XC skiing facility, then you have a sense for the trails today. The single track was 12-18" wide and well packed. Grip was 8/10. The only real problem was a couple of frozen stream crossings (and a frozen Camelback).

We had to ride in a narrow envelope. Downhill or off camber turns had to be ridden flawlessly, and straying even 2" off any of the single track would shut you down in a hurry. It took almost 2 hours to do the Lakeside Trail and Bonus Loop, but we must have seen 15 other riders out there, and at least 10 of them were grinning ear to ear.

Wide Section of Singletrack
We rode without mishap until we left the safety of the single track to visit some ice fishermen. Ice fishing at Marsh Creek is nothing like the scene in Minnesota. Here it amounts to a lone fisherman or two sitting on a bucket in the middle of the lake staring at a hole in the ice, probably wearing a pair of electric socks and sipping from a flask. Very Zen but...  Anyway when we spotted a pair with a special hut/yurt type thing, power auger, etc we decided to investigate. There was just enough snow covering the ice to make it ridable, or so so we thought until one rider went down. Hard. Instantly our mountain biking instincts kicked in and we laughed as hard as possible without going down ourselves. Eventually we inquired to be sure the victim was OK. I've been on both ends of that - laughing at someone else's misfortune, and laying there in agony listening to the laughter from others. I guess we've seen enough crashes - none of them life altering - so we can afford to be light hearted about it.

Hopefully it stays that way.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review - Performance Booty

ITEM: Performance Winter Booty
PURCHASED at Performance Bicycle in 2008
PRICE: $20 on sale
RATING: Excellent

Neoprene uppers and rubber sole with cutout for cleat. You actually cut out the opening based on your cleat type. These booties zip on over your riding shoe. They are size 14 and barely fit over my size 12.2 shoe, so as a rule of thumb you should probably add 3 to your shoe size when purchasing these. 

They have served be well through 3 winters of riding in snow, mud, and temps down to the single digits. Once you get into the low-teens my feet still get a little chilly, probably because there is not much between my foot and that cold metal cleat bolted into the shoe. I remedy this by stuffing one of those chemical type mitten warmers into the booty before I ride on a particularly cold night. I suppose a $300 riding boot would be warmer, but at $20 this is pretty good value.

STRENGTHS: Inexpensive, warm, dry
WEAKNESSES: Sizing is tricky

Sunday, January 16, 2011

When Less is More

I've maintained fitness but no matter how much or how hard I ride, I see little improvement in my cycling performance. How can this be? Well if I am to believe dozens of medical and fitness professionals who have published on the Internet, it'd because I've been neglecting my mitochondria.

And I believe EVERYTHING I read on the Internet.

Here is how it goes. If you're aerobic then your mitochondria are using oxygen to burn fat (virtually unlimited supply). If you're anaerobic you have outstripped your body's aerobic ability and instead of burning fat you are burning sugar (limited supply). So we need to develop our aerobic capacity in order to reduce fat and empower our bodies to go long distances.

I learned today road riding that the aerobic zone is a very low heart rate. Much lower than we are accustomed to when mountain biking. We need to slow it down. This will burn fat (instead of sugar) and develop improved aerobic capacity. Remember, LSD.

Six Things I Learned on a Road Bike

Who would have thought that road riding could make your smarter?  Road riding! Just back and here is what I learned:
  1. The aerobic zone is very little effort, in fact it's hard to work that little
  2. Riding my SS has created some bad habits (attacking hills)
  3. It's probably not practical to train aerobically on mountain bike / trails
  4. I should have three rings on my road bike
  5. The idea of a CX bike makes a lot of sense right now
  6. People are nice
My goal today was 45 minutes of aerobic exercise and to not get hit by a texting soccer mom on Creek Road. I failed at the first goal because it turns out to be very difficult to keep your HR in that narrow aerobic zone. In one hour of riding I logged just 33 aerobic minutes. Seemingly any level of effort would push my HR above the prescribed limit. While in the aerobic zone, it felt like I was barely working and could have ridden like that all day. It was effortless. I welcomed the hills because it was an opportunity to push a little...but every time I pushed even a tiny bit my HR crept up over 75%. 

So for training purposes I need to unlearn the SS habits of attacking hills and probably need a granny ring in order to keep HR low on those hills. And frankly the MTB trails may not be the place to train (it was hard enough keeping HR down on undulating roads, it would be near impossible on mountain bike trails).

Now on to the CX bike thing - I think there might be merit in trading the road bike in on a CX bike. Why? Well I'm not, don't want to be, and never will be a dedicated pace-line type roadie. For me road riding is an occasional change of pace and a way to stay in shape during the off season. Perhaps I will  try bike touring at some point, but aerodynamics and counting grams is not important to me. A CX bike - with a more relaxed geometry and beefier build - may be more comfortable and appropriate for touring and I could bypass some of the soccer-mom-infested stretches of Creek Road by hopping some singletrack for a few miles.

And speaking of soccer moms, I did achieve my second goal of not getting hit by one. In fast I was impressed yet again by the wide berth given me by automobile drivers - maintaining safe distances and letting me roll through intersections. I know I am just one soccer mom away from the ditch (that's why I don't like riding roads) but I think it is worth pointing out that 99.9% of the populace are generally nice people.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Maxed Out

I justified my new HRM as tool to help re-tune my body for the back-to-back all-day rides we'll be doing on DtM.

It arrived last week. I immediately strapped it on and laid on the couch watching to see how low my HR would go. I got it down to 44. With some Pink Floyd and a glass of Glenlivet I'm sure I could get closer to 40.

Anyway that was entertaining for about 11 minutes, and the burning question still remained about how high I could get it. So today when Sebastian, MikeY, and I headed out into some sketchy riding conditions, I would get my chance to find out.

I had my first shot at the bottom of the Sole Trail. I sprinted up the access road until my heart was ready to explode. I glanced at the HRM and it said "NOREC"... WTF??? No idea what that meant, but the box said this thing would register peak HR so I figured I would sort it out after the ride. One more sprint through the horse farm. I glanced down at saw it peak at 176 before I exploded.

Are we having fun yet?

Once home I opened the manual and learned my peak HR was reportedly 180. I will re-evaluate on my next ride, but for now it looks like my aerobic range is 99-135. I think it will be difficult to keep my HR down that low but at least I have a plan now.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Scotch or Seltzer?

Tuesday. An early business dinner. And a snow storm. What to do?  A glass of scotch and dinner then head home to the couch?  Or a glass of seltzer and then head out for some snowy single track?

"Seltzer with a twist of lime please"

Ride conditions were, well, outstanding. When we rolled at 8:00pm, we had about 2" of the white stuff, temps were in the high 20s, and tires hooked up well in the wet snow. Downhills were a different story. To say the Yo Eddy trail was "sketchy" is an understatement and the price of a dab was compounded by snow-clogged cleats. And with so much snow in the air, head mounted lamps were blinding so we just used the bar lights.

By the time we wrapped around 9:30 there was 3-4" of snow in spots and there was no evidence of trails anywhere. The pedaling was pretty tough...and we were fried...but it was the sweetest misery you can imagine (and imagine you must if you weren't out there).


Monday, January 10, 2011

Review - Performance Windstopper Gloves

ITEM: Performance Windstopper Gloves
PURCHASED at Performance Bicycle in 2007
PRICE: $20 on sale
RATING: Excellent

My existing pair of insulated gloves were too hot and too tight fitting, and I found it difficult to taker them on/off during rides when I wanted to take a picture or otherwise needed some dexterity. So when I saw these gloves on sale I grabbed them, and now they are the only gloves I wear in the winter. If riding in the low-mid 20s my fingers will be a little cold for the first 10 minutes but then they adjust and I am totally comfortable. They are loose fitting so easy to take off/on.  In the teens I will also wear a pair of thin wool inserts but honestly I don't think it makes much of a difference.

I have enough dexterity with these gloves to turn my light on/off and I don't notice any problem shifting with these gloves. There is no padding in the palm area but I don't miss it. The gloves are showing some wear after 3+ years of winter riding, but that is to be expected.

These gloves are $40 at local Performance Bicycle store, when they go on sale I will probably nab another pair.

STRENGTHS: Warm, Durable, Easy On-Off
WEAKNESSES: No padding

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Things Are Shaping Up

I've spent some holiday down time reading and web surfing regarding training and conditioning. The amount of material out there is intimidating but I've been able to distill three key concepts that I think we need to understand AND USE to prepare for Colorado this June:
  • Heart rate. Yes, it's pounding out of your chest at the top of the Quarry Climb (that's probably your max heart rate), but it turns out that number is critical for training purposes. You need to know that number and how to take your pulse. More in a moment.
  • Periodization explains why I make little progress riding at Marsh Creek. I have my favorite 1 hour loop which I ride 3-4 times a week in the spring. I've even done it 2x in a day. With the amount of miles and hours I have logged over there, I should be on the podium every year. But I'm not, ever. Every program on bike training uses periodization, which explains my lack of progress. More on this coming...
  • Diet. As we computer geeks like to say, garbage in garbage out. And when you are stressing your body with a training program, it's even more important to feed it the quality calories it needs.  
So now I’m going to go deep enough on these topics to make us dangerous. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how deep to go. Too much and it becomes overwhelming, fast.  Too little and you're unable to apply it to get results. So here we go...

Monday, January 3, 2011


Damian climbing aboard
This may be the only blog post you will ever see here featuring an L39. Why am I blogging about a Czechoslovakian military jet aircraft? Well this particular one - nicknamed Pipsqueak - is the reason I missed the ride this morning. You see, I got a call last night from my neighbor Damian who was scheduled to fly Pipsqueak today, and he had lost his videographer and was wondering if I would step in. Which I did. Gladly.

So needless to say, it was a pretty amazing day. After Damian completed his aileron rolls, barrel rolls, and a 5G loop over the Chesapeake bay, we poked around the airport hanger to lay our hands on an operational Mig-21 and an almost operational Mig-23. Amazing machines. And sobering when you think about the history of those aircraft.

Sunset ride by the lake
So it was quite a day, but even after all that, I managed a one hour sunset ride and Marsh Creek. The contrast between the L39 and my hard tail mountain bike was striking, but it always feels good to saddle up, elevate the heart rate, and get a little dirty even if it's on 200 year old technology rolling along the ground at about 8 knots.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

MO7S Gear

Santa brought me some official MO7S gear that I never knew existed.

One of a kind.

Can't wait for warm weather.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Go West Old Men

ep·ic [ep-ik] noun - an episode in the lives of men in which heroic deeds are performed or attempted: the epic of Scott's expedition to the South Pole.

Agreed "heroic" may be pushing it, but for half a dozen middle-age dads on the east coast who spend much of their lives behind a desk or shuttling kids to lacrosse practice, June is looking pretty damn epic. That's because 164 days from now we head west for five days of mountain biking and camping under the stars in the rocky mountains.

The idea has been germinating for a while, and with my 50th birthday staring me in the face took on a sense of urgency last summer. We looked at over 20 itineraries from 7 different tour companies, and settled on a custom trip from Hermosa Tours. We chose Hermosa because the fit felt right, we liked the camping format (versus hotels), the point to point itinerary, and the van support which allows us to focus on riding while Hermosa focuses on humping our gear from place to place. Oh and the food - Hermosa has clearly put a lot of thought into this.

We designed a five day itinerary that starts in Durango Colorado and ends five days later in Moab Utah:
  1. Options include advanced singletrack on the Colorado Trail or intermediate on Hermosa Creek Trail. Day ends with downhill into camp. Mileage 30-50 miles.
  2. A very pretty 40-ish miles past the Lizard Head Wilderness into Uncompahgre National Forest and our camp at Miramonte Reservoir.
  3. We work our way along the rim of Paradox Valley and then into Utah near day’s end.  As we enter Utah we’re be making our way up the east side of the La Sal Mountains.  Mileage is about 35.
  4. We continue climbing up the east side of the La Sal Mountains toward Geyser Pass.  This is an underrated part of the route for no other reason that people just don’t go here!  True solitude.  We end the day high in the La Sals ready for a big day 5.  About 30 miles.
  5. The Whole Enchilada.  28 miles of some of the best mountain biking in the world.  High alpine singletrack all the way to the Colorado River 7000 feet below.  Must be ridden to be believed.  Shuttle back to Durango after the ride.
The ride will be physically demanding for us east coast flat-landers. Six to seven hours and 30+ miles is more that we have done on a mountain bike, and we will be doing that on five consecutive days.  And the altitude (day one takes us through 11,000 feet) adds a huge wrinkle.
Little know fact: There are 40% fewer oxygen molecules per breath at 12,000 feet than at sea level.
So we have loads of work to do and my new beater bike will be a big part of that. Training will be a big part of the next 164 days, and my blog posts will turn towards things like conditioning, outfitting, nutrition, altitude sickness, and tour operators instead of the usual drivel about local trail conditions and biking mishaps.

"It is the most selfless way to see the world around you. There is no gasoline, no power steering, and no seat belts. You move forward as one should move through life: by sheer will and determination."
     -- author unknown