Sunday, March 22, 2009

My midlife crisis has arrived!

You hear about people entering their (ahem) middle years and doing crazy things like having liposuction, taking up parachuting, tooling around in fancy sports cars, getting a girlfriend or a boyfriend half their age, that sort of thing.

Well, to commemorate my midlife crisis, I bought a bike.

Not just any bike mind you, a titanium-framed beauty, custom built for meeee by Lynskey Performance Designs in Tennessee.

Shamrock on the brake bridge

Why a Lynskey? I thought for a while that my next bike was going to be a Ti frame, so I researched some of the well-known Ti builders – Seven, Moots, IF, Serotta, Merlin, Spectrum, Litespeed, Lynskey, just to name a few.

I then checked out some local dealers, and I really hit it off with Elizabeth and Kurt at wheelgirl on 4th St. in Berkeley, who are Lynskey dealers.

The Lynskey family originally owned Litespeed, but then sold the business and retired. A few years later they came back and started producing Ti frames under their own name. One of the things that appealed to me about Lynskey was that I was able to get a frame built to my measurements using one of their stock tubesets - what they call a "Houseblend Custom" - for not a whole lot more than the cost of an off the shelf Ti frame (plus, as luck would have it, they had a great sale going at the time on their Houseblend Customs, which sealed the deal for me).

Elizabeth & Kurt at wheelgirl were great to work with. They spent a lot of time talking to me about what I like about my current bikes, and what I would like from this bike. I told them I was looking for a comfortable, moderately lightweight bike for long, hilly rides, especially the Death Ride. I wanted a fairly relaxed position, not too bent over but not too upright either. I wanted lots of gears – definitely a triple, and probably a wide-range cassette as well. And, retrogrouch that I am, I wanted bar-end shifters and a Brooks leather saddle. They didn't bat an eye over my bizzaro bar-end shifter request, they understood my desire for low gears (although hopefully by the time of the Death Ride I won't need them, it's still nice to have a bailout or two), they recognized that I'm not a racer wannabe by any stretch of the imagination but that I still wanted a great ride. They got me. :^)

I told them I really liked the fit of my Rivendell, so they set it up on a trainer and looked at my position on the bike, and they agreed it was a great set-up for me. They measured my frame and my position on it in order to duplicate my position on the Lynskey R230 Houseblend frame. We discussed components at length (Kurt is a walking component encyclopedia!), figuring out what set up would work best for me. Then Elizabeth wrote everything up and sent the information off to Lynskey. After only a couple of weeks Lynskey sent back a detailed plan which Elizabeth & Kurt & I went over. I gave my final approval for the frame specs at the end of January, and Elizabeth placed the orders for the rest of the components.

And then I waited, keeping my fingers & toes crossed that it would be finished by early May to give me a couple of months before the Death Ride.

But much to my delight, Kurt called me in mid-March. My bike was already assembled & ready for pick-up!

And I’m thrilled to say that Lynskey and wheelgirl totally delivered. I love this bike!

Happy Camper in front of wheelgirl

The first thing I noticed was how light it is compared to my Riv, even though I didn’t go weight-weenie with the components. It was built up with a mostly Ultegra groupset, with the exception of an XTR rear derailleur and an IRD wide-range 10 speed 11-32 cassette. It has Dura-Ace 10 sp bar end shifters, and Nitto Noodle handlebars. And of course, a Brooks leather saddle, although it’s Ti-railed so it’s not as much of a brick as it could have been. And Elizabeth & Kurt built up a lovely set of wheels, with pretty White Industries H2 hubs laced with Sapim spokes to Velocity Aerohead rims – reasonably lightweight and very sturdy. The bike weighs in at about 18.5 lbs, despite some of the heavier components, which is a very big difference in comparison to my almost 23 lb Riv. I want to giggle every time I pick it up.

The other thing that really struck me was how effortless it was to get up to and maintain speed on the Lynskey. I’m finding I’m almost always in the big ring on the flats, while on my Riv I’d usually be in my middle ring.

And it’s stunning. I opted to leave the frame unpainted with a brushed finish. Instead of decals, the Lynskey logos are etched into the titanium frame. I love how the etched decals look, they’re very subtle. I'm glad I went with the silver Ultegra components rather than the gray Ultegra SL, the sliver looks nice with the Ti finish. I’ve lowered the stack height by one 10 mm spacer since these pictures were taken, and I might lower it a bit more over time.  Once I have the stack height set, I might liven the palette up a bit and put a purple spacer in amdist the black ones, or wrap the bars with purple tape, in honor of TNT. Or, maybe I’ll leave it as is.

Here are a few photos, and more are here.

Bar end shifters :)

Etched logos

Nitto Noodle bars

Morning by the bay

I took a couple of short test rides on the Alameda Creek Trail and Coyote Hills park, including my nemesis hill which is about 1/2 mile with much of it on the order of a 8-13% grade (many call it Nike Hill because it's the site of a cold war-era Nike missle control center; I call it nemesis because back when I first started riding it took me several tries before I could finally make it all the way). Nowadays I can climb it just fine but it still involves some huffing & puffing. But on the Lynskey it was (almost) easy! Crazy.

And the bike is very comfy. After my first longish ride (over 30 miles) I noticed my arms were a bit achey and I realized they felt a little cramped. No problem, we had set up the bike with the maximum stack height so I simply removed one 10 mm spacer and it feels great now. And I feel very comfortable riding in and braking from the drops. I’ll vary the stack height some more until I hone in on the perfect height.

The big test came when I took it up & over Palomares Road a few times this weekend, a four mile climb averaging around 5% with some fairly steep bits. While I wish I could say the Lynskey magically transformed me into a speedy climber, alas, that’s not the case – I’m still pretty pokey on the hills. But a bit less so!

The rest of course is up to me. Or, as a friend put it, "the most important part of the bike is the nut that holds down the seat". :^)

But at least the Lynskey will help this nut get up the hills a bit easier. And with style.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

LT testing at Endurance PTC

On Saturday some teammates & I went for body composition analysis and lactate threshold testing at Endurance Performance Training Center in San Francisco.

We started out with a body composition analysis, where we stood on a scale-like contraption which used electrical impedance to determine the amounts of lean body mass and body fat we're carrying (or, in my case, lugging) about.

I found out that my body fat percentage is 33.9. Lovely. Now, the good news is, my muscle mass is appropriate for my height, so at least I'm doing something right. I just need to loose the flab ... surprise.

After that exercise in self-loathing, we hooked our bikes onto Computrainers and rode a long steady state interval, where the initial intensity was set at 50 watts and was increased by 30 watts every 4 minutes. Near the end of every four minutes, a vampire disguised as a trainer came to draw a bit of blood from our earlobes to test for the amount of lacate. It was pretty easy going at first but at the intensity approached 200 watts the pedalling got tough! I got 230 watts but I cried uncle soon after and I didn't complete the full four minutes, so my last reading was at 200 watts.

Then one of the trainers took us through a brief on-bike seminar on pedaling technique. He showed us the importance of a smooth, round pedal stroke, and how to isolate and work on the various parts of the stroke. After some one-legged drills he also showed us how to improve our pedalling techinque while standing.

After a brief break to freshen up, we then had a discussion about our test results and how we can use them for our own training.

All in all a fun and worthwhile experience! I'm going to do this again in a few months to see what effect the Death Ride training had on my LT and my body composition.

Monday, March 2, 2009

My friend Cyndi

I whine about how "tough" a bike ride is, but this is tough. Strong work, Cyndi!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tough ride!

Our 3rd TNT DR training ride was pretty hard. Evidently it was re-routed from the original route on account of some road construction.

We started out from Sonoma and headed up Trinity Grade, then went through Saint Helena and up Spring Mountain Road. Trinity Grade and Spring Mountain are both steep climbs, with sustained grades on the order of 12-15% or more. Many of us (including me!) had to walk a bit up Spring Mtn. But we'll get stronger as the season progresses.

View Larger Map

I hit a very low ebb at around mile 45 as we were riding on Route 12 back to Sonoma in a headwind. I had about had enough by then! One of our coaches, Paul, hung back with a couple of us slowpokes and towed us back through the wind. My hero! Somehow I managed to get past that low point and I felt a lot better once we got out of the brunt of the wind, so I managed to finish fairly strong.

It was about 60 miles and about 4800 ft of climbing, with much of the climbing on grades in the double-digits. Woot!

I'm really pleased with how I did, all in all.