Category Archives: Bicycles

Strava rules to live by

Yesterday the sad story was making the rounds of the Internet about a cyclist in California who died last year in an accident while descending a steep road. He attempted to avoid a car and flipped off his bike while trying to win back a KOM on the popular sports network Strava. What made the story go viral now is the fact that his parents are suing the site for negligence. Some have wondered if this will be the end of Strava. All I know, is that it reminded me once again that we’ve all got to be careful out there.

I’m a Strava junkie. I admit it. I enjoy that site that allows you to see what your friends are doing out on their rides. I’ve learned some new routes and met some new friends. It has also pumped a bit of life back into some routes that I had grown sort of burned out riding.

It was another aspect of Strava that is involved in the accident mentioned above. That is the competition side of the site. When you ride, all types of data about your trip is recorded to the site. This includes speed, course and time. You can create “segments” of road that you can use to measure your fitness as you ride it again and again. Of course, other Strava users can see those segments made public. This leads to competition. When you win the competition for that segment, you get awarded with an “achievement”.

For instance, there is a segment called the Chick Springs TT. If you read this blog, you have seen several posts about it. It is a stretch of road that someone used to create a segment. I happened upon it and saw that the time in which other riders had covered the distance. I then set out to get a better time.

So, I can fully understand what led this 41-year old cyclist in California to go out and try to “win” back his achievement — in this case what Strava calls a KOM. However, because I understand how competitive nature can lead me to make irrational decisions, I place some rules — or at least guiding principles — on my Strava use.

The Yellow Line Rule

This is pretty basic. If you have to cross the yellow line to get the KOM, then it ain’t a KOM worth going for. Now, I’ll admit that there are stretches of road where I will cross the yellow line. For instance, there are a couple of stretches on the Furman side of Paris Mountain where you can see yards ahead on a winding road — the same thing happens on roads like Highway 178 in Pickens. I will “straighten” the road a bit when there is no car approaching. However, the vast majority of curves do not allow this line-of-sight.

The Know the Road Rule

If you are going to be going for a segment, you need to know the road. This doesn’t mean just the terrain of the road, it includes the side roads, traffic patterns and even the time of day. There are certain roads that I may ride and compete for a segment on at one time of day that I wouldn’t do at another time of day. There are sections where even during light traffic I have my eyes locked on a side road where I know traffic can come.

A KOM is a King of the MOUNTAIN

I don’t own any downhill KOM achievements on Strava. It isn’t that I haven’t tried to get a good time descending (I did that before I even knew of Strava), but in my mind descents are second rate. Yes, you could say it takes a lot of courage to descend quickly. You could also say it is foolhardy to descend quickly — especially on an unclosed course.

Climbing is another matter. Climbing takes courage of a different sort. It takes power, technique and suffering. These are the segments that really deserve the KOM label.

The other thing is that inherently, they are safer. Yes, here as well people have a temptation to break the Yellow Line Rule. However, the need for quick reaction times and danger from road conditions are lessened. Then again, maybe this is why I don’t like descents!

Know When to Let It Go Rule

Finally, you have to know when to let it go. This is all for fun. Having some fun knocking your buddy off the leader board is fine. Getting consumed with it to the point of making dangerous decisions is not.

Sometimes, it is a good idea to just say, “Good show, buddy. Enjoy the top of the turtle pile.” You can always move on to a new segment.

In defense of Strava…

What about Strava leading to risky behavior? Well, I think what it may do is expose risky behavior. Tracking best times on the local hill or racing for the county line is nothing new in the cycling world. It is just now those segments can be measured for anyone to see.

Risky behavior is also nothing new in the cycling community. I think it is safe to say that the people who engage in risky behavior were doing so well before they downloaded the Strava app to their iPhone. There are also plenty of “responsible” Strava users who know when to say when. Come to think of it, the rules I listed above don’t just apply to Strava. They’re common sense whether you use the service or not.

Paris Mountain fixation

One of those times has come into life when I woke up on a Saturday morning and didn’t really want to get up and out on the bike. I’m not sure why, but the idea of getting up and taking a slower paced morning was appealing. Perhaps it was because the afternoon and evening was going to be busy. Still, I knew that I needed to get out and keep what fitness I have.

Once again I was heading out on the fixed gear. Perhaps that was also part of my problem. I would have preferred to go out with the Sunshine Cycle Shop Hour of Power ride, but I didn’t want to hold everyone up as I chased them around with one gear. I would be doing this ride alone.

About two hours was all that was allotted to me. I figured in that time I would have to go out and ride and then swing by Sunshine to get new rubber for the SE Bikes Draft. The rear tire was showing the threads beneath the worn rubber. Actually, I was taking a chance riding this way, but I couldn’t make the shop stop at the beginning of the ride because they weren’t open.

I meandered toward downtown to get on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. At least there wouldn’t be a lot of climbing there. What I did find was a pile of runners/walkers. It was an organized event, though I never figured out who was sponsoring it.

Thankfully, things cleared out before I got to the SRT Cafe and Grocery. I was able to settle into a nice cadence on the fixed gear and before long I was starting to enjoy the beautiful morning. My start must have many later than many because as I was riding out, I came upon a couple of larger groups coming back toward downtown.

The closer I got to Furman the more an insane thought began to creep into my mind. “Why don’t you ride the Draft up Paris Mountain?” My legs rebelled at the idea. My lungs asked, “Why do you think of things like this?”

I looked at the clock. 45 minutes had passed since I rolled out from home. Really, if I was wanting to make it to Sunshine Cycle Shop, get the tires and get them changed before going home, then going over the mountain was the fastest option. The temptation to make the climb was getting stronger.

Finally I committed to making the climb. I knew it was going to be tough pulling the 23 pound bike with a 48 teeth chain ring (and shorter crank arms) up the mountain. I had done it before back when I had the original chain ring which was smaller. Even that time, I had to stop and take a break on the climb.

I hit the base trying to keep my momentum as best as possible. When the grade got a bit steeper, I would stand to use my weight to help push the crank arms around. When the grade was less acute, I would sit and try to get my heart rate down a bit. Whether standing or sitting, I tried to use my back stroke as well as my forward stroke to get an even flow of power.

The top of the water tower segment came in about the same time as my geared attempts. The actual water tower segment was one of my fastest. However, I could tell it as I was starting to breathe much harder and I had to seek for recovery as best I could.

A fixed gear drives you. There is no letting up. There is no looking for an easier gear. When you think one leg is about the give out, the other one just pushes it around for another revolution. You can’t really slow down either. Slowing basically means you are going to come to a stop. You just have to gut it out.

I reached the half way point in about 6:15. Still, that wasn’t bad at all. However, I knew I was just borrowing from the road ahead.

Riders out for a Saturday climb were all along the road. I kept passing one and then another. It wasn’t that I was trying to get around them. It is just I had no choice but to keep my momentum. Several of them commented on the fact of the single gear. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do much but huff out a “Good morning.”

Then I reached “The Wall.” My intent was to finish what I had started. I had slowed considerably and reached the turn up to the wall in about 12:20. Who knows how much time I would burn over the next quarter mile. I stood, put my head down and started clawing my way up.

My legs were tired. My lungs were burning. However, it was my arms and shoulders that were screaming the loudest.

I really need to start doing some upper body work. Climbing with the fixed gear required me to really work the handle bars to shift my weight from side to side and get as much power as possible on the crank. My arms were yelling for me to relax my grip!

Finally, about 20 meters from the top — right as the road kicks into its steepest section — it happened. I got stuck between the down stroke of my right crank and the up stroke of my left. It was as though the bike wanted to start pedaling backward. By the way, that is entirely possible on a fixed gear!

At a standstill, I finally put my foot down. My arms were now yelling “Hallelujah!” and my lungs weren’t yelling anything. They were just pulling in oxygen.

I walked up about 10 meters and then remounted. I was able to ride across the KOM line and stop the clock at 14:22. Really, considering everything, I was quite happy with that.

Now I had to scare myself by descending the mountain on a fixed gear with clipless pedals. I would be riding the bull! Thankfully, I had brakes.

Ten minutes later I was at the bottom and heading over Piney Mountain to Sunshine where I was able to put some wire mesh rubber tires that should last me for a good amount of time in the future. Thankfully, I also had time to ice my knees (another disadvantage of climbing with a fixed gear) before heading over to my son’s baseball game.

If nothing else comes from this time on the Draft, I know it will make me appreciate the Giant TCR Advanced all the more!

Riding a fixie while waiting for fixes

Well, my bicycles are still out of commission. The Giant is waiting for new headset bearings. The Felt is waiting for a cosmetic repair to some carbon fiber. I won’t get them back until next week.

Actually, I do have the Giant with a stop-gap repair, but I don’t want to risk it out on the road. With my luck I would end up messing my bike up permanently going over a railroad track or something. I’m staying off of it until I get the new set.

The fixed gear SE Draft to the rescue!

The problem is that I don’t want to be off the bike for all this time. I sold my mountain bike some time ago. My options for wheels comes down to riding my daughter’s Specialized Sirrus or my fixed gear. For a host of reasons, I choose the SE Draft!

I pulled it out Friday afternoon so I could take my first bike ride since Monday. That is a long time for me to be off the bike. I start getting grumpy and antsy when I go a number of days without exercise. I needed to get some stuff out of my system.

The platform pedals had to go, so I moved the Speedplay pedals from the Giant to the SRAM Omnium crank. This would allow me to get my cadence up a bit higher without worrying about getting thrown off. Staying on the pedals is important around here with all the downhills.

I rode up to Sunshine Cycle Shop in hopes that they had their scale back in operation (they had loaned it to the officials for the pro race). I wanted to see how much weight I would be hauling around. Unfortunately, they hadn’t gotten it mounted. (Later my bathroom scale informed me the bike weighs 23.2 pounds.) After adding some air to the tires, I headed out to have a little fun taking in the Chick Springs TT Strava segment on the fixie!

I turned onto the segment and on the first section was spinning like a mad man! There was no choice but to try to keep up with the bike. There was a small amount of force being created as I was putting out rpm’s of 132 – 144. The cadence never dropped below 100 rpm until the very last few meters when the road kicks up.

One of the fun things about using the fixie with Strava is that I get to see the service’s calculated power. I find that it is normally around 20 watts under my power meter wattage, but it does give me some idea of what type of numbers I can get on the bike.

My max power was around 900 watts. The average for the segment was 278 watts (with a meter, I don’t doubt it would be around 300). The bottom line is that I covered the segment in 2 minutes and 24 seconds with an average speed of 28.5 mph.

I then headed toward the Swamp Rabbit Trail. The plan from there was just to have a leisurely ride before returning home to take my son to his baseball game. The evening was cool and I was having fun.

Nearing the trail near Broad Street, I noticed the rain was beginning to fall. There was a reason it was cooler. A front was blowing in. The clouds were beginning to roll above my head.

I decided to turn left on the trail back toward home instead of right toward TR. The idea of getting stuck in a cold rain was not very appealing. As it was, it would take me about 20 minutes to get home and that was plenty of time to get soaked.

The rain came and went as I rode through Cleveland Park. I turned onto Stone Avenue and still was avoiding getting soaked as I rode underneath I-385. Then, just as I passed under the overpass, a bright flash of light startled me. At first I thought it was a bright car light or something. Then I heard the rumble of thunder.

As I turned right onto East North Street, the threat of rain increased. I was standing on the pedals now and driving for home! The announcement I had heard earlier about possible hail was on my mind.

One thing about a fixed gear is that once you can get the momentum going, it is actually pretty easy to climb a shallow rise. The climb up East North is a 3.4% average with most of the steeper section at the beginning of the effort. My cadence was pretty close to what I would use on my road bike. The power numbers came in at 500 watts average for the half mile climb.

As I turned onto my street the bottom let loose. At this point the rain felt good. Of course, that might have been because I knew that in a few moments I would be nice and dry.

The bad luck continued though as I looked at the bicycle after the baseball game ended and the sun came back out. I could see the rear tire was pretty bald. The rubber was an old Michelin Pro racing tire that had quite a few miles on it before I put it on the Draft. Looks like I’m going to have to get this fixed as well.

Overall, it was a fun experience. I even got an unexpected PR and KOM on a Strava segment. Still, I don’t think I want to ride a fixed gear all the time. I’m getting ready to stop fixing and start riding!

Duh, clean your bicycle

I took my bicycles to Sunshine Cycle Shop after the Memorial Day events. My plan was to get things set up so that I would have one TT bike and one road bike. Well, the whole process has opened a can of worms… or should I say corrosion.

Up to this point, I had been keeping both bikes as road bikes until I decided to do a TT. When a TT was coming up, I would convert the Felt. The Giant would then be my training bike.

The Felt AR was my primary bike because it had the power meter. It isn’t necessarily because I like the Felt over the Giant TCR Advanced. For more technical riding and climbing, I actually prefer the Giant.

The Felt AR will soon live life as a dedicated TT machine

Finding myself doing about a many TT races as any other kind, I figured it would be best to let the Felt AR go back to its roots and live out its life as a dedicated TT machine. I would move the SRAM Red components along with the Quarq CinQo power meter to the Giant. I would take the SRAM Force components and couple them with the SRAM Red TT shifters on the Felt.

Confused? Well, we all were as we tried to figure it all out. However, we finally arrived at what we needed and the guys got down to work making the switch. That is, until I swung by the morning to check on things.

“Man!” said Clint as I walked in. “You sweat!” Turns out I was pretty much destroying my bikes with my bodily fluids. It was especially the case with the Giant. The bearing in my head tube were stiff to the point where you could hardly turn the bars. The various levers and bolts on the brakes were also sticking. “You need to wash your bike more often.”

The soon to be rejuvinated Giant will become my primary road machine

Well, I do clean my bike. I clean it very often. However, I learned something important about cleaning. It takes more that just a spray with bike cleaner and wipe down. You need to get water flowing inside some of those spots where cleaner doesn’t go. A fastidiously clean bike on the outside might be coming apart on the inside.

Ironically, I had avoided water in order to keep it out of the inner workings of the bike. I didn’t want water to get in there and rust anything. However, I was ignoring the fact that I was sending salt and other minerals along with water into those very spots. The water evaporates leaving a fine power of minerals. That can end up “welding” parts together or slowly grinding them down.

You’re better off getting the water in there to wash out the minerals and then allowing it to evaporate. Use of the bicycle and not keeping it constantly wet will take care of any concerns about rust. Obviously, it doesn’t hurt to have an occasional disassemble clean.

At first I didn’t understand why the Giant was giving me so much trouble suddenly with the gunk. I really hadn’t been riding it that often. It had sat for several months with little use. Things seemed to be pretty much fine as I took it out for the weekend. Then suddenly, on Wednesday, I could hardly turn the handlebars.

What I came to realize is that as long as I was riding the bike and sweating down into the headset, things were being “lubed”. However, when I let the bike sit all the gunk began to “set”. In this case, under use exposed the issues sooner than later.

Not treasure from the bottom of the ocean -- headset bearings

Learn from my mistake (or maybe I am the only idiot) and use water — even soapy water followed by a rinse — to clean your bike ever so often. No need to power wash it! Just turn your hose setting to mist and let the water get in those spots that need some good irrigation.

It might help you avoid having to order new headset bearings from your bicycle manufacturer.

My bicycle: the time machine

Okay, I haven’t posted in awhile. It isn’t because I’ve taken a break from riding. It has simply been because I was enjoying a break from writing.

I spent a week ago with my parents near the small town of Bladenboro, NC. Actually, the homestead is almost exactly between the aforementioned town and Dublin, NC. Highway 410 runs between the two with long stretches of straight asphalt. Off of this road are many more rural roads winding through swamps, fields, and forests.

That is where I spent a good amount of time on the bike. I’ll tell you, it was pretty great! Other than the brief amounts of time I had to spend on Hwy.410, the traffic was nearly non-existent. Never had very windy days and the roads are just as flat as can be. Perfect conditions for some steady-state training.

It was funny to see the reaction I got out of folks. Riding through town I was enough of an oddity to cause people to stop and follow me with their gaze. Most times on the road as a car would come toward me I would get the obligatory hand wave from the steering wheel. Only rarely did I get a horn — and that was always a friendly (though misguided) “I’m coming up behind you” beep.

The most fun I had were those days where my training called for me ride for a couple of hours at around 200 watts for the duration. All I had to do was point the bike in the right direction, start spinning my legs at a consistent cadence, and let ‘er roll! This also meant that I could do some exploring.

So, even though I had spent 18 years of my life roaming around this area, I had never been to the town of Evergreen, NC. I had seen the signs for it on other rides. This time I made the turn off of Hwy. 410 onto Hwy. 242 and set the town as my goal.

Off I rode through flat corn fields. Then I wound my way downward to a black water creek that ran through swamp land on either side of the road. Back up to the flats and some more corn and soybean fields later, I arrived at the small hamlet of Evergreen.

The town was made up of a four-way stop sign with a convenience store on one corner. Tall water oaks over sandy soil stood in front of the few homes. One road was called “Evergreen School Road” and I assumed the buildings I saw between some trees was said school. It appeared that the school was the primary reason for the town’s existence — that and the traditional structure of the Evergreen Baptist Church.

As I passed through the town I made my way through yet another swamp. The black water lay still beneath the moss laden trees. It was as though I was riding back into time. Then I passed through a canopy of trees to find a new scene.

In front of me were large earth moving machines and a towering bridge that looked as though it would soon be a highway overpass. I had stumbled upon Highway 74. Traffic was heavy and the speeds of the cars passing were a stark contrast to the sleepy existence from which I had just emerged.

I turned to look behind me. All I could see was a tree line with a tunnel made of leaves and pine needles. Looking back toward the construction, I saw a man standing atop the huge mound of dirt created to form an on/off ramp. I could tell he was studying me. What was going through his mind? I’m sure he was wondering what I was doing there.

It was all pretty symbolic to me. The contrast of the seeming simplistic rural existence of my childhood and the bustling, high-speed world of my current life. Still, I had a few more days to enjoy the roads that followed paths first formed in the late 1600s – with not too much changing since then.

I turned around and rode back into the trees.

Could seat angle be cause of my pain?

Periodically I keep bringing up the issues I am having with my hip. I’ve tried lots of things — rest, stretching, foam roller, and more. However, while these things have helped, it seems that the pain is simply being managed. Finally, I wondered if the problem might be my bike.

When I got my Felt AR, I had it set up with the numbers measured from the Giant TCR Advanced. The measurements matched up perfectly. So, I assumed that my body was positioned identically.

Recently, I had the Felt converted to a TT bike. While it was rigged that way, I was riding my Giant more regularly. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something felt different. I also found that my hip was — while still painful — not hurting as much.

When I got my Felt back in its road race configuration, I decided to see about getting a fit. If the bike was set up correctly then I would at least be able to rule that out. If it wasn’t, then that would give me some hope that making some changes to my bike would help me combat this pain.

Eastside Chiropractic

I called my friend and chiropractor, Dave Mruz at Eastside Chiropractic, and asked him if we could set up a time for him to take a look at me — and my bike. As usual he arranged for me to meet him at a time when he could devote the time needed to give me the full treatment. I was looking forward to learn what he would find.

He was skeptical at first that the problem was the bicycle. He wanted to take a look at me. I explained to him how that I would wake up in the morning with my right hip nearly locked up. I described how when I tried to sleep on my left side my middle back hurt to the point where I couldn’t breathe.

“Come with me,” he replied and led me to an examination table. He ran some range of motion and resistance tests. I could tell I was failing. My right leg simply couldn’t resist the pressure. “You have problems,” he stated.

It was then time for him to go to work. Within 30 minutes, I was felling better. You know how it is that you get used to pain? It becomes the new normal? Then you realize how much pain you had when you get relief from it. Sometimes that happens when you take pain medicine. You find yourself spontaneously chuckling as the relief floods over you.

“Okay, let’s take a look at the bike,” the good doc said. I sensed he still thought that the problem was mostly with me, but he agreed that we needed to remove the bike as a potential cause for my problem. I was really hoping that it was set up incorrectly. I wanted to think that I could pinpoint the root cause of my issues.

After explaining how I had the bike set up originally, we went to the Internet. Dave wanted to see if the geometry of the frames of the Giant and Felt were similar — primarily the seat tube. What we discovered was that the seat angle was different. So, that meant though the distances measured between the various points on the two bikes were the same, my actual position on the Felt was lower than the position on the Giant.

So, we started from scratch and positioned me on the Felt frame based on the angles of my body. That lead us to raise the seat a number of milometers. It felt good on the trainer. Now I just need to see if that translates into improvement on the road.

Dr. Mruz tells me that the change should also help me produce more power. That would be a nice side benefit to the process. Overall, though, I just want to find an end to the pain.

One of the other things I like about my chiropractor is that he is a cyclist. He is always thinking of the physiological aspects of the sport. For instance, before performing a particular procedure that would open my rib cage he had me breath into a lung volume analyzer. I registered a 5200 on the scale. When he was done he had me blow in the tool again. This time I registered 5700.

“Yeah,” I said, “but how long does it last?” He explained that this was something he surmised would happen based on what the procedure is attempting to accomplish — loosen the tension of the ribcage. Less tension there the more the lungs can expand. “I’m still compiling data,” he explained. “I only know that it creates an immediate improvement. I need to do more testing.”

It is that kind of thinking that attracts me to his office. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he is the chiropractor that many pros seek out when then are in town. Not to mention the fact that he is just a really nice guy! Thanks so much, Dr. Mruz.

Feeling good about my Felt

Currently there are four bikes in my stable. The oldest one there is a Giant Trance X2 mountain bike. Next up is the SE Bikes Draft that I’ve converted into my fixed gear. My 2010 bicycle is the Giant TCR Advanced. Now I’m adding the most recent acquisition to the hooks embedded into the ceiling of the Low Cadence Lair.

It is based on a Felt AR frame set. It’s components are 2010 SRAM Red with Boyd carbon 50s. Saturday I took it out on its first real shakedown. I must say I am very happy with the results.

The latest bike in the Low Cadence stableUnderstand, I really can’t tell that much of a difference from one top-line bike and another. I loved my Giant TCR Advanced, and I can’t say that the make of the bike is really better or worse. However, there is one significant change that does make a difference for me. It is the size.

This frame is much larger that the Giant’s. The way my body is distributed over the geometry of the frame makes me feel so much more stable and comfortable. The smaller Giant was nimble (to say it positively) or twitchy (to say it negatively). This one is just smooooooth.

Of course, I can’t go wrong with my SRAM components. They are the ones I had on the Giant TCR Advanced. I moved the Force set I had on the demon bike to my Giant. It is nice to know I have them broken in and using them is second nature.

SRAM Red shifters and brakesSo, really the unique thing about this bike is the frame itself. It has a road geometry, but with time trial aerodynamics. Does it really make me faster? I don’t know. However, my plan is to get a time trial cock pit that I can put on there for time trial competitions. I’ll just switch it out.

If you are interested in learning a little more about the creation of this frame, you can take a look at the below video created by Felt. While this is an older model, it does show the genesis of the design and creation. Not much has changed since that original design.

Loaded with the heavier aero wheels, the bike weighs in at just a smidgen over 17 pounds. Of course, the S900 crank with the Quarq CinQo powermeter also adds a few grams to the weight. However, it is still under one pound difference in weight from the smaller Giant frame when it was set up with the same components. The Giant without the powermeter and running climbing wheels comes in under 16 pounds. I think I’ll be using that one for the Paris Mountain Time Trials this year!

It certainly isn’t a traditional look. I don’t think anyone else on the POA Cycling Team is going to be riding this frame in 2011.  Those riding the Felts will be racing the F series frames.

I’m glad I went this route. It is versatile. I think it is great looking. I feel confident on it. I believe I’ll be riding this bike for a long time.

Batteries, batteries everywhere

I had a bit of fun putting my iBike Aero on my Draft fixed gear bike. The fun ended when I just could not get the iBike to configure correctly. Perhaps my experience might help some other iBike users avoid some frustrations.

My setup works this way… instead of the two sensors (one for the crank arm to measure rpm and one for the wheel to measure speed), I use a Garmin cadence sensor that allows me to mount the unit in one location on my chain stay for both readings. This helps cut down on the “senor clutter” on the bike. Thankfully, the iBike Aero with the wireless base allows you to install firmware that allows the two devices to communicate.

I am using the wireless base for the iBike unit on my stem. The data collected from the Garmin sensor and the various data collection points on the Aero is then communicated to my Garmin Edge 500 that is mounted on my top tube near the base of my seat post. I could just as well carry it in my back pocket. I don’t plan to look at the Garmin, but I do want to keep my data collection consistent when it comes time to upload the ride information to WKO+. This setup allows me to keep using my Garmin to communicate with my coaching software.

So, what is the problem? The problem is I could not get my iBike to configure correctly. It all had to do with the “tilt” configuration. My understanding is that the iBike uses gravity as one of the important forces from which it calculates the power reading. Obviously, going up and coming down an incline affects the way gravity exerts its laws on you. In simple terms the “tilt” measurement helps calibrate the device’s awareness of gravity.

When setting up the device you are told to place the bike on level ground and mark where the wheels touch the ground. You then start the calibration process. The device screen tells you to HOLD STILL. The printed instructions say to hold VERY still. That capitalized VERY always played with my confidence. It gives you the impression that it is VERY easy to mess up this process.

You then turn the bike 180 degrees making sure that the rear wheel is now place where the front wheel was once. This done you push a button and once again hold VERY still. After another 180 degree turn that puts your bike back in the original position and another few seconds of holding VERY still, you should receive a message on the screen that says, “Good tilt.”

My problem is that it said, “Bad tilt.” I tried and tried again and again. I even set it up so that I could let the bike stand without me touching it. Unless there was some underground tremor I was unaware of that bike was VERY, VERY still. “Bad tilt,” the iBike continued to say.

I then took the iBike and placed it on the USB mount that connects it to my computer. FYI, the iBike only comes on when you connect it to the base. One base is the one used to connect to your computer, the other base is on your bike. Once I got the iBike on the USB base, I went through the process on a flat table. On the first try I got a “Good tilt ” message.

What on earth?! I went back to the bike and raised the spacers and flipped the stem in order to create a flatter angle on which to mount the iBike. Perhaps the device was on too steep of an angle on the bike.

Still no go.

I did notice the screen of the Aero was a little hard to read. Perhaps my problem was a battery issue. I had already replaced the battery in the Garmin cadence sensor because the iBike kept losing the connection with it. I thought for sure I had a new battery in the Aero, but I tried again.

Still no go.

There was only one other battery left. It was the one in the wireless base mount there on my stem. However, I didn’t see how that would be the issue. The iBike has its own battery and the battery in the mount only powered the wireless chip, right?

Anyway, I took another 2032 battery and dropped it into the mount with the + up. I knew something was different right away. The contrast on the Aero screen was greatly improved. Suddenly, I was full of hope!

Set. Hold VERY still. 180. Set. Hold VERY still. 180. Set. Hold VERY still.


What a relief! I had almost come to the point where I thought I had broken one of the sensors inside the Aero when I wrecked back in May. It is a testament to the unit that it survived the hit it took during that race. What a relief that it was just a battery!

So, now I understand that the battery in the iBike mount does more than provide power for the wireless. It also helps to power the iBike unit. If you ever have trouble getting you tilt to work, be sure you replace the batteries in both your iBike unit and stem mount.

Now it is time to go out and do my first calibration ride on the fixed gear. That done, I’ll be able to train with power using both my fixed gear and my road bike (using the Quarq CinQo). Good thing because my training starts tomorrow.

I’ve got only one gear

Even though I wasn’t riding my bike much over the last month, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about bikes and playing around with them. Most of my focus in that regard has recently been centered around my SE Bikes Draft. It’s been a lot of fun getting it to its current setup.

SE Bikes Draft on the streets of Austin

SE Bikes Draft on the streets of Austin

I got the bike a couple years ago. It was an end of the year sale at Sunshine Cycle Shop. I had done some work for the shop and Mike let me roll it out the door for $75. At that time it was a single speed with a free hub. I used the bike to ride to work on nice days when I didn’t have meetings planned in town.

Out of the box, the bike looked just like the one you see in the above photo. I happened across the above bike while walking through Austin. However, I couldn’t just leave it alone! It just didn’t seem to have enough character. The first thing I did was to add a fixed gear to the rear hub so I could flip the wheel if I wanted a “fixie.”

What I really wanted to do was put drop bars on the front and switch out the pedals from the meat grinders that came with the bike to a set of clipless pedals. I quickly discovered that it wouldn’t be that easy. Replacing the bars would mean replacing the brakes. I also learned that the threads on the single piece crank were too small to accept the SpeedPlay pedals I wanted to put on it. So, for a year the bike pretty much hung up in the back of my basement.

Then I busted up the “Demon Bike” and had a bunch of high end spare parts — like a seat, a nice stem and bars. Just for fun, I put the seat on the Draft. I chuckled because I realized that the seat cost twice as much as I paid for the bike! Then I turned my attention to the bars.

Taking the straight bars off was simple enough. Even replacing it with the drop bars was fine. However, I’m not a hipster and the thought of riding that bike without brakes does not appeal to me. First I tried to find a way to mount the original brake levers on the drop bars. I ended up breaking the brakes in the attempt.

So, at Sunshine, I bought some 20 dollar brake levers (I just haven’t gotten into the eBay habit) and stuck them on there. That also lead me to order some more solid brakes. The original brake calipers had huge gaps between the pads and wheels and once I put some skinnier wheels on there it was even worse. The new brakes were more for safety than looks — though they look better as well!

Drop bars with brakes – done. Now it was time to move to the crank. This got complicated real fast. First I tried to just screw in some clipless pedals. The higher end pedals were too large to fit in the standard single piece crank set. So, I decided to have a machine shop widen the existing holes and tap in new threads. After finally getting hold of the proper taps, I had the new threads bored in and I now had clipless pedals!

SE Bikes original crank with clipless pedal

Clipless pedal on the right with platform pedal on the left

Then I took it for a ride. Hmmmm, this wasn’t going to work. It felt all wrong. First of all the crank worked okay for tooling easily around town or back to work, but actually taking it out at speed showed me 1) the pedals were not entirely straight, 2) the crank arms were not long enough for my comfort, and 3) I didn’t have confidence in the amount of mass left around the threads. I had been told of instances where people had done similar things with their cranks and had them snap.

So, now things were getting more complicated. I went searching online for a way to replace the single piece crank set with a three piece unit. I found one on the site by the late Sheldon Brown. I placed my order and soon received a bottom bracket adapter kit.

Crank converter by FSA

FSA single to three piece converter

At that point I busted the budget and sprung for a SRAM Omium track crank. You can see the bottom bracket caps screwed into the adapter in the picture above. Basically, the adapter is made of two caps that go in the hole left in the frame once the sealed single piece crank set is removed. Rods connect the two caps and once tightened create a standard style threaded bottom bracket.

New crank in adapter

New SRAM crank in the adapter

Then it was just a matter of sliding in the new track crank. Wow! What a difference. The bike was now a joy to ride. The biggest change to get used to was the gearing. The SRAM gear was larger than the original Draft front ring. I was now turning a 48 x 16. It allows me to get more speed, but when I took the 24 pound steel framed bike up Paris Mountain I ended up having to walk a couple times. I was able to climb all the way with the original gearing.

That isn’t a problem. It just gives me something to aim for — climbing Altamont all the way with the 48 x 16. The trade off of having more speed on the flats and not spinning out so quickly on the downhills is well worth it. Besides… doesn’t it look sweet?

SRAM Omnium crank

SRAM Omnium crank

Taking my SE Draft single speed from this…

SE Bikes Draft

SE Bikes Draft - Before

To this…

SE Bikes Draft with conversions

SE Bikes Draft - After

It has been a blast. I’m not done yet. Wait until you see what I’ve done to prove I’m not a hipster.

That will have to wait until another day.