Saturday, December 26, 2009

One season ends as another begins.

This week marks a turning point. We just passed the shortest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere and I look forward to getting a few bonus moments of sunshine each day for the next six months. Soon my commute will not be completely shrouded in darkness, yet it will be quite some time before temperatures rise predictably above the freezing mark around here.

A few days ago, I officially ended one season and began another with the same ride: an indoor (6 hour) century on my trusty Cycle-Ops trainer.  I submitted this ride as my final effort in the 2009 UMCA Year Rounder competition which pushed my total over 3000 miles and allowed me to achieve my goal of the 3000 mile “Gold Award.” I also consider this indoor session to be the first official base-building training ride of the 2010 season. Having spent the past few months taking it easy with both mileage and intensity, I’ve been picking up the volume recently with indoor rides of 2 hours or more and this was my first full-out distance effort with 2010 goals in mind. I hope to log at least two indoor centuries per month between now and April to deepen my base and add raise my position in the UMCA Indoor Challenge.

With 2010 bearing down on us, it’s also time to look back on the past year and plan for the season ahead. In 2009, I:

  1. Completed my first 1200+ event on London-Edinburgh-London.
  2. Missed the sub-100 hour goal on LEL by 45 minutes: roughly equal to the amount of time spent at a pub celebrating the (near) end of the epic event.  Glad to have chosen the social over the symbolic. It wasn’t a race after all.
  3. Successfully upgraded my equipment to include a Schmidt dynohub and an Edelux headlamp, both of which work beautifully.
  4. Reached Gold classification (3000+ miles) in the UMCA Year-Rounder competition.
  5. Finished a double century race in less than 12 hours. (11h34m)
  6. Placed second in the Rapha Gentlemen’s Race.
  7. Did not win the Saratoga 12-hour race, but placed 4th and finished with a respectable 226 miles.

Under the tree this year:

  1. The above photo (framed) taken by my darling daughter.
  2. A Garmin eTrex Vista HCx GPS. I’ll report back once I’ve spent a little time figuring it out.
  3. A black PACE Sportswear Merino Wool Cap (available from Boure)
  4. Spinervals 2.0 Lake Placed Training Ride DVD. Trying it out tomorrow at 6:00 a.m.

Next up: Goals for 2010.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bicycle Quarterly: My favorite piece of mail by far.

As the new issue of Bicycling Quarterly arrived in the mail the other day, I was again reminded of how much I love this journal with its esoteric preoccupation with classic French and English mid-century randonneuring bicycles. Jan Heine, the journal’s editor and principle writer, is a seemingly tireless advocate of all things rando and Bicycle Quarterly rarely disappoints.

BQ is part bike porn, part how-to-manual for the D.I.Y. set, part product review compendium and part travelogue. The crisp black and white photos of classic and modern handbuilt frames are drool-worthy and the high quality paper on which BQ is printed ensures that back issues will land on a special place on a bookshelf for future perusal rather than in the recycling bin like so much else being published about bicycles today.

Major features of BQ are the bike tests and product reviews undertaken by Jan and his friends in the Pacific Northwest. The bike tests have a decidedly scientific methodology and read like a cross between a scientific paper and an episode of "Mythbusters." Jan and his crew tackle the big issues of bicycle efficiency like aerodynamics, the impact of rider weight on speed, tire width on comfort, etc.  Many of their findings seem counterintuitive, like the fact the wide tires are generally faster than skinny tires; that shock absorbing forks are not as effective as wide, soft tires at shock absorption along with many others. Having developed tons of bad habits over the years, I have recently changed aspects of my cycling technique as a result of the BQ articles I have read. I now break with my front break almost exclusively and my handling skills are better than they’ve ever been on descents and elsewhere.

The reviews of equipment and gear of particular interest to randonneurs like lightweight baggage and lighting hardware are peerless. What material is best for waterproof luggage: canvas or synthetics? What lights are better for fast descents at night: LED or HID, dynamo or battery powered? The pages of Bicycle Quarterly are also filled with exciting stories of epic rides both recent and historical from around the globe as well as profiles and historical essays on epic races, bike builders and their products.

I walk away from every issue of BQ inspired, having learned something important and immediately applicable about the sport I love. What’s more, BQ is validation of the beauty found in the esoteric corner of the cycling world known as randonneuring. As I sit here in mid-winter contemplating the season ahead, BQ provides me with inspiration and specific tips to make this year my best ever.

BQ is a must-read journal for all cyclists interested in randonneuring, touring or cycling generally for that matter. BQ does what all great journals can do – provides engaging entertainment, accurate and hard to find information and even creates community. If you do not subscribe – do yourself a favor and sign up today. Subscriptions are $30/year (US) and $55/year (International).   More information can be found on the BQ website.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A lap of Puerto Rico in February? What’s not to like about that?

If I had a thousand bucks burning a hole in my wallet, I’d certainly be riding with the La Vuelta gang in PR this February. 375 miles in 3 days. Temps in the 70s. 9 historic lighthouses. Where’s my Christmas bonus? In this economy, I’ll be lucky to afford a new pair of wool socks and some chain lube.

Early bird registration has been extended until December 14, 2009. Check out their website for more details. If you have the cash and the time, La Vuelta 2010 looks like an outstanding way to spend both. Do me a favor, though, just don’t post the photos like this guy did when you get back. It's just mean.