Monday, August 2, 2010
Tailwindscycling.com, Bonding issues, and a Great Product Review
I've been fortunate to be able to get out and crew a couple of really cool events. First, I crewed David Bradley of Team Raven Lunatics to an STP finish. This doesn't sound so impressive until you remember that David has been pretty danged sick (it's not some grand coincidence that we're raising funds for the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative) and that he'd not had a ride over 50 miles or so since February 2008.
Weekend before last I crewed Joan Grant to her RAO finish. Great race, great folks, great crew, amazing racer. Hats off to Joan! This was my 11th successful RAO campaign. I've crew chiefed 6 times and raced 5, with no DNFs. Given that course that's a pretty amazing record to be putting on the line – but I never felt like the streak was in jeopardy. I don't crew for junk!
And I'm making a couple of moves personally. The big one is that I am launching into self-employment again. I'll be providing coaching services and training and nutrition plans for distance cyclists. I'm also going to be putting on some very cool camps, rides, and events. Watch for content showing up at www.tailwindscycling.com very soon (as of now, it's a parked domain). My first “practice” event is coming up soon: a double century on September 18. As David says, every state should have AT LEAST as many DC's as it does congressional districts. Oregon is seriously behind, especially since STP only gets half credit, at most. The Tillamook DC is a free event in 2010 – I'm looking at is as being 'in beta' so I'll be looking for feedback – but we'll be accepting donations for the Sarcoma Initiative.
I've been training – not super hard, just enough to keep my fitness. The real push starts now. I'm getting ready for a fall 24 hour race. I love 24's – probably my best “distance” event if I'm being totally honest with myself – and so I've vowed to solve a few of the logistics issues that always bug me. Like – lights. I've always made do with lights, because I've not wanted to invest in something that's pretty unimportant for my crewed races. I've seen people show up at 24's with a blaze of light and wondered if it might help. I'm going to find out. More on that later....
Great weekend of riding. Sort of. I had a weird equipment failure 30 miles into my Saturday (daytime) ride. I was riding a trispoke wheel – one that I had (loosely) borrowed but did not have a history on. It was looking great – shiny and black, with a brand-new pink tire. I even switched the pink cassette over for it, just because...
Oh, we were having fun, that wheel and I. I was going to ride up to Corvallis, hang out and visit a friend. And I was flying. What headwind? I could hear the wheel 'whush-whush-whush' as I rode, and I've got to admit I liked that...
I got to Peoria and made a pee stop (new motto: “Cyclists Put the 'P' in Peoria” - since we always stop at the boat ramp vault toilet...). When I got back on the bike, the first power stroke felt kinda funny – like an automotive belt slipping. And – I didn't go anywhere. Weird...Tried again. Same slipping sensation. I looked the bike over and couldn't see anything....got back on, rode GENTLY – a little slipping, but rideable.
By now I was a lot closer to Corvallis than Eugene, so I decided to get to a bike shop there. I figured, maybe the freehub had given up? Acceleration was impossible, as was climbing. For those of you who know Peoria Road, you'll appreciate the irony of the girl on the recumbent having to walk a couple of the steeper 'hills'. (For those of you who don't, it's the flattest piece of pavement in the western half of the state.....)
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the reason the wheel was slipping was that the hub shell had come unglued from the carbon part of the wheel! Another 'bonding issue'! Why can't carbon and aluminum just learn to get along? Of course the kid in the shop advised me that it was not safe to ride, and of course I did, anyway. The option was to buy a new wheel – and they didn't have anything I'd want. I figured if I got at least halfway and bailed out with cab fare I'd be ahead.
So – a forty mile “slow race” with myself to get home. I could spin, but not accelerate. I could only start in places where I could get a gravity assist - and I was not going to be doing any hard cornering given the fact that my wheel might end up someplace unpleasant. And, again, I had to walk the 'hills'. But I made it, and since there was a tailwind it only took an extra hour.
So...I re-mounted my (suddenly plain and uninspiring) original rear wheel, had some dinner, did some quick cleanup around the house, and set off for my night ride. I had been looking forward to this. I just got a new light. It's purpose-built for 24-hour racing – designed to give over 12 hours of great light without a battery change. A double-win over my usual setup: MUCH more usable light, and time saved in battery swaps.
If you've not been keeping track, LED technology is moving by leaps and bounds. That's one of the reasons I went with Trail LED lights (www.trailled.com). Grady – the man behind the brand – is a perfect example of PWMTOS. He looked at the available options for lights and knew that there was a lot more emerging technology that could be used to make them better. He got so good at it that he became a PWSSTM (Person Who Sells Stuff They Make...). The system is scalable, customizable, and upgradable. He spent quite a bit of time understanding my needs and getting his head wrapped around exactly how I'd want to mount things on a recumbent bike.
Unfortunately, the day “my” light was supposed to ship (oooh - did I forget to mention that they come in pink?) I got a frantic email from Grady. My light failed QC – something was wrong with the electronics package, and he needed to replace a part. So he did what any outstanding customer service department would do – he sent me his demo unit via overnight express so that I'd have something for the overnight training ride I had planned.
Wow. Someone who actually pays attention to QC, doesn't let defective stuff out the door, and takes care of my main need – having a light and getting experience with it – even when things go wrong. I'm bummed about the main issue, but pretty stoked overall.
The demo light arrived Friday. It was nicely packaged and well protected, fully charged and ready to ride. It looks cool...the light is small, the switches are very businesslike and weatherproof...and – holy conformal coatings, Batman! Check out the battery pack. A really nice piece of work there. I've heard about other manufacturers' lights crapping out the first time they get rained on – it doesn't look like that's a possibility.
The instructions were very easy to follow. The light and battery pack attach with simple velcro straps. The setup I had didn't have a remote, which is how I'm ordering mine – clean and simple – though a remote option exists for people who want to entertain themselves by micromanaging their lumens. Setup was very straightforward; the lighthead attached securely to the TerraCycle Accessory Mount using one of the supplied pump straps (I'll have to cut it down a little when “mine” arrives) and the battery pack attaches to the main spar, between the headmast and the crank. The supplied pump straps were barely too short for the oversized carbon tubes, so I used a Jogalite reflective leg band – perfect!
And off we go, into the dark. The demo unit is capable of 700 lumens of output, but Grady has reprogrammed it to emulate my setup – 500/250 high/low settings – so that I can practice with the light I'll be racing with. The low setting is a lot of light. I had to re-adjust the light a few times to get the beam out far enough, but it's really easy to adjust. I really hadn't trusted how far out the thing would project so I'd undershot.
Unfortunately, I got to discover that since the light mounts and dismounts in seconds, it is very feasible to use it as a 'work light' for flat repair. I'd considered a helmet-mounted light just for that reason but I think I made the right choice; I really prefer a bike-mounted light.
I got 5 laps in on the Coburg TT course before I concluded that I was not going to outlast the battery, so I decided to switch to high beams for the last lap. One of the things that I knew I wanted for this light was the ability to amp up the light output if I start to get sleepy – often just having more light out there will improve my alertness. The high setting was amazing. I was seeing a lot more 'stuff' – by which I mean that the level of detail I could see and process about the road surface and the surroundings was a lot greater. There were suddenly a lot more animals by the side of the road – and no, it wasn't because I was starting to hallucinate. I may have even saved myself a 'skunking'! Riding along...green beady eyes in the road, directly in my path. A few seconds later – NO green beady eyes. And then – the striped flag, flying proudly....WHOA, NELLY! I don't know if the low light setting would've been enough to illuminate that skunk's backside, but I'm sure that my MiNewt wouldn't have picked it up before I was in range.
After a good night's riding I loaded the bike up into Eggplant and drove home. After riding with the TrailLed light, I felt pretty naked with “just” the car headlights – I had to switch to high beams for the drive home! So far I'm pretty impressed.