Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bike fit, one step closer to the new bike

Last Friday I went to see Ben Williams at IT&B for a bike fitting session on the new Guru machine. I was so excited I forgot to get any pictures. Here is the one the Guru made; the computer is not much of a photographer.

This was the first time I ever tried the now classic aero position, the signature look of a time trial bike. This made Ben's job a lot harder. The process is something like an eye exam. Ben would direct the machine to move the seat or handlebar position up, down, forwards, and backwards, and ask me which way feels best. At first I found it impossible to say which was better because everything felt strange. Ben pushed everything out to the limits, where I clearly felt uncomfortable, then patiently homed in on a comfortable position.

Something I learned by reading various web sites -- mostly SlowTwitch -- was that most people end up with several frame sizes to choose from. A good resolution would be to pick one that is right in the middle of the adjustment range. In my case that turned out to be a Cervelo P3 size 56.

Bodies come in many different proportions. I have relatively long arms and legs. All my life I have struggled to find off-that-rack coats and long sleeved shirts that fit. Get the sleeves right and the torso looks like a flag on a flag pole. Get the torso right and the sleeves end halfway to my elbows. Ironically this long leg/short torso arrangement is supposed to favor runners. No sign of that in my case, at least not yet.

In the photo above you can see that my elbows are right at the pads and my upper arms are at almost a 45 deg. angle. This is a bit more angle than perfect, but if I come up too much (pull the arms back) my chest will open up to the air stream, producing massive drag. A lower bar would help here, but when Ben lowered the front I fell like I had too much weight on my arms, as if I was on the verge of falling over the bars. A person with normal length arms would be closer to a 60 deg. angle; I have seen some people at 90 deg. As with proportions, there is no single standard that works best. You have to try different positions until you find the one that works best for you. That may not be the position that produces minimum drag. Power generation and comfort are a big part of the equation. There is no point in riding in a radical position if you cannot hold it for the duration of your longest planned ride.

Knowing what size frame to buy is the first step in a long process. Next comes sifting through all the suitable makes and models. I am homing in on the P3, and have eyes for the new QuintanaRoo PRsix. Then there is the matter of mechanical vs. electric shift. What wheel set to use. Should I add on the power meter and make it a bundle?

Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

You can't buy a good race, but gear helps

Triathletes have a reputation for being gear crazy. I am not talking about being gear heads -- the meaning is different. The gear head triathlete will know every detail of every brand of carbon fiber aero wheelset, even if they do not own any. A gear crazy triathlete will not hesitate to shell out several thousand dollars for a set of carbon fiber wheels without looking any deeper into the selection process than to find out what model his or her favorite pro uses. There is some overlap, but they are not the same condition.

I have a tendency to be gear crazy, but with moderation. If I feel that a piece of equipment will help me I will buy it, without much consideration about the deal I am getting. I do prefer to patronize my local bike shop, but if they do not have what I need or a web store has it on a special, blow-out deal I will order stuff.

My short list of stuff I want to buy has been unchanged for many months:

Tri bike
Garmin FR920xt
Power meter

Gear aquisition can have a cascading effect. Keep that in mind when planning your purchases. In my case, a new bike will demand a new helmet -- as much as I like my old Giro helmet it is rather old; besides, it just does not look tri. I will on the other hand avoid for now the use of tri shoes. I have two pair of very expensive Sidi road bike shoes and my times are so slow that saving a minute in transition is not worth buying more shoes. Sidi shoes last forever.

The reason I did not rush out and buy all this stuff is pretty much the same reason I have put off buying tri shoes. I already have a bike, a very nice Merlin Magia. A bike one feels honored to ride. Some people describe it as twitchy. I would agree. Not the bike to win a stage on, as soon as you raise your arms overhead it will go out from under you. All in all a bike that needs no excuses. But like any road bike it is hard to get aero. Not a big deal on a sprint tri. Not significant in a race with no cutoff times. But my goal is Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, and for that the benefit of getting aero could make the difference between finishing or being cut. My swim is slow and my run is slow, so my bike has to be really good. As much as I love my Merlin, I need to seriously consider a tri bike.

At this point I have narrowed my search down to two models, the Cervelo P3 and the Quintana Roo PRsix.

Cervelo P3 Ultegra  $4,300
Quintana Roo PRsix Ultegra $5,000

Those prices are not too bad, about what I paid for my Merlin many years ago with a complete Dura Ace group set. By comparison, the Cervelo P5six comes with a Dura Ace group set and goes for $8,500. I do prefer those HED wheels.

Back when I was just a cyclist and using a simple bike computer (speed, time, distance, cadence) I discovered my cell phone could track my rides. Hello, MapMyRide. When I got tired of just looking at maps of where I went I started using Training Peaks, which is how I learned how heart rate plays a critical role in assessing activity. Previously I had used Polar and Timex HRMs but these were not GPS devices -- hard to figure out where you were when the HR line goes up and down. To get the most out of Training Peaks I needed something better. I finally settled on a Garmin Edge 500, but Pattie insisted I get the 800 because it has a map and she worries I'll get lost. I have never regretted that purchase, and after many years of service it is still going strong, maps and all.

In 2011 I decided to do the 2012 Honolulu Marathon. This was a significant undertaking, as at that time I did not run at all. After a few months, when I knew my legs would not snap in half, I bought a Garmin FR610, at that time the top-of-the-line running HRM. Another purchase I never regretted. I use it almost daily and it is still going strong. I will admit the case has corroded a bit and I have replaced the strap, but everything else about it is perfect.

In 2013, after my first marathon, my friends started bugging me to do triathlon. All I needed to do is swim. How hard could that be? The hot ticket item then was the Garmin FR910xt, but it was expensive and I already had the cycling and running parts covered. Then the Garmin Swim came out, and it seemed like just what I needed. Not much use in open water, but for pool workouts it is perfect, and a whole lot cheaper than a 910. Eventually I decided that if I did the Honolulu Triathlon and the Tinman Triathlon, and wanted to keep going, I would buy that 910. Soon I began to suspect that it would be upgraded, and it was, to the 920 - even more reason to buy one.But I didn't. Why? Because I did not feel like spending $500 for a bunch of features I already had (provided I changed devices for each activity).

A few days ago Pattie forwarded me a Costco ad, a bunch of stuff on close-out. In there amongst the TVs and laptops was a Garmin multisport watch. A Fenix2. Pattie thought I should check it out. I said no, it is just for hikers and kayakers. But I did check into it, and mostly from a review by DC Rainmaker I realized it did everything I needed from a 920 at half the price. So I bought it. Cross that one off the list. Since I already have the Edge 800 I will continue to use that on the bike, at least as a display head. That way I can leave the Fenix2 strapped on my arm.

That brings us to the power meter. This post is long enough already so I will save that for another day, but I will say this: like the tri bike, I know I should use one but am just not ready to plunk down that much money for a piece of gear I do not really need. At the risk of over-simplification, a power meter is to a heart rate monitor what a heart rate monitor is to stop watch. You do not need it to train, but the data it provides helps make the training time more productive.

UPS says my Fenix2 should be delivered today. I will stick to my plan and swim at Ala Moana on my way home. Next time I do I will track my swim on GPS. Look out!