Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hemorrhage in my wallet

I love training camps. They provide the clarity of a singular purpose; ride your bike. It also provides necessary relaxation (for the most part) and lots of coffee and internet browsing. I definitely run out of cycling sites to hit when on camp. Then again, I wasn't hooked on blogging at the last few camps.
Realistically, tho, it's not like you get to sit around for hours. There is always something to do - clean bikes, make breakfast, make dinner, clean bikes, etc so sleep rest is not a guaranteed 10 hours per night. I think only Todd Wells does that. In any event, I do enjoy all that is camp because I get to enjoy some simple pleasures I don't normally get to enjoy.
Take, for example, coffee. I've somehow associated sipping coffee from a true mug (ceramic, not paper/plastic tumbler) while sitting down as one of life's little joys. It's ever so much more enjoyable when an espresso is close by said mug. I've thus far been pretty limited in my espresso experience because I don't yet have an espresso maker, and there aren't any local coffee houses that serve their espressos in a ceramic mug. I can get the folks at Starbucks to serve me one in a small, er, tall mug, but it's not the same thing, and as BKW wrote, taking your espresso in a paper cup is just not the same thing. Besides, Starbucks espresso is not THAT good. It's merely good enough.
Anyway, back to camp. We're under two weeks out and I'm looking forward to it. Alot. As I look at the route plans, I note there's about 35 hours of riding on tap. Thirty five hours. Three-Five. That's alot. Like I said, I'm looking forward to it, but I know it is going to take a huge toll on my body. As such, I feel it necessary (mainly because I can) to indulge in a few niceties to help, mentally if nothing else.
A quick check on my stores and I note that I am out of embrocation, and low on recovery oil. Some may balk at using such products, but I know embrocations work and the self-massage on the ol' gams one gets from applying recovery oils is worth it alone, but it helps to have a bit of lubrication to make the mini-massage that much better. On both counts, this means I need to stock back up so there is cash outlay #1.
Touching back on espresso, I check the various retailers for espresso machines from time to time just to see what's out there. I know an $80 machine is not going to be that good, so I've held off. That and it seems like $400 is about the minimum to get a good European model. $400 is too damned much money for this tight wad.
Imagine my surprise when I was ordering Peet's coffee (Arabian Mocha Java, thank you)for the upcoming trip that I stumbled across the Bialetti stovetop espresso maker. At $25, I can test the waters and not feel bad if it doesn't work out. Since it's pretty much the same design from the 1920s, and is the most copied design out there it can't be that bad. Add in a set of espresso cups , and you have cash outlay #2. Ugh.
As I'm sure you've noticed and probably silently complained, I've been lacking on the pictures, especially on-ride pics. Feeling this pressure, I decided it was time to break down and get a good/ride friendly camera. Cash outlay #3. I guess I could argue that the camera will be used for alot more than just rides, so it's a worthy expense (as is the espresso maker, duh!).
You can sleep well at night knowing that I'm NOT going to be that guy that tries to get group shots at every stop, directing people to move here/there, smile, etc. That's bunk. However, from time to time, I catch myself saying "Hey, that would be a sweet picture."

And so it is.

-the ATM

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The New Hotness

After an excruciatingly long time, I finally got it built up. I'm still debating on whether I should fire my mechanic. Man, that dude is slow. I got the bike Wed night around 9 and was quite tired so I postponed any activity until Thursday. I had lady-friend plans at 7 so it would have so wait until after. I jumped right in after I got home and threw in the towel around 1a. Everything was roughed in so I was OK with that. Detail work is best done when fresh.

The list of work to do was extensive; I basically started from scratch, but had to strip it to the frame to started. Fork, cockpit, cranks, seatpost/saddle, etc all had to go. In order to maximize resale on the stock XT cranks, I installed an old favorite 2x9 C'dale crankset. A bit non-PRO, but just wait til I get the real cranks. Trust me. At least the white fork/saddle/grip tape helps to offset that.

SRAM X.0/X.9 is installed for the go; I'm trying the X.0 Grip Shift on the front derailleur to see if I can get used to it. All previous attempts at running a Grip Shift always resulted in a dumped chain when manualing over logs and such, so this is a test. My mistress, Marta, provides the slow. The added bonus is they are anno red. A fiery redhead, indeed!
As per standard operating procedure, I'm leaving the steer tube as-is until I feel safe to cut it to the proper length. I'm also hopeful the front end is stiff enough with the spacer stack because it looks so much better to have the stem horizontal.
As built, it tares out at a svelte 21.2lb, which will easily fall when I replace the portly cranks and backup skewers. I've also got a set of Schwalbe Fast Freds that, at 380g per, are about a half pound lighter than the Fast Trak LK/SLK I'm running now. Hard to give up the solid feeling I have for those tires, but we shall see. So the end result may be a solid mid-20lb bike, Not too shabby considering it's a 19 inch frame (Thanks Isaac for having a 19" bike in your living room for me to try!)

So I'm excited to ride it, this being the first post-Cannondale Lefty era bike, and all. A full week at team camp in NC is coming up in two weeks so I will assuredly shake it down.

In other news, I decided the SRAM TT ring I was undecided on is cool. They look damned sweet when rolling over at around 100rpm.
What's not cool, tho, is the bunk-ass approach to leaders jerseys/skinsuits at the AToC. Straight black bottom with no team sponsor mention up top?? If you want to be the biggest stage race in the US, lean on Voler to man up. Seriously.

With that, I'm out.

-the ATM

Monday, February 18, 2008

Well, that only took a year

Wow, I should fire my mechanic. I mean, really. A year? I've been chasing a ghost shifting issue on my road bike for it's entire built up life. I first thought it was all the wheel swapping I was doing, then thought it was a bad cable so a new cable was installed (well, 3 new cables were installed over said year, actually).
The weird thing that clouded my troubleshooting was that it shifted fine for about a week or two after retensioning the cables. It got to be annoying to have to shift once then half shift again to trim the chain position so that it wasn't trying to go up or down one gear.
After having racked my brain for way too long, I realized I had neglected to eliminate one semi-obvious part as a suspect. In retrospect, it was fairly obvious but I had convinced myself I needed an inline barrel adjuster to dial out the ghost shifting. Whenever I replaced cables I noticed the housing ends into the adjuster tended to be bent a bit and thus replaced. Dumbass.
After putting the removal off for a few days, I finally decided to take jump in. This meant new housing, which meant re-wrapping bars. This provided a nice little benefit of extra motivation to swap out the Ritchey Classic Italian bend bars for a gifted set of Deda Newton Deep bend bars. My burly man-hands were just a little cramped on the Italian bend and the Belgian bend feels awesome. Sweetness.
I do realize it's not uber-PRO to have bars and stems from different manufacturers but I'll deal with it for now. But swapping parts like I want to do would get really expensive really fast and I have yet to get my new MTB rig to start that onslaught...

In other news, I'm a big fan of billboard-type decals yet at the same time a fan of the understated. Funny that. Anyway, I like billboards, like the Easton Tempest II carbon deep dish hoops. That should make me like the SRAM Red TT rings, but the jury is still out on that one. Big labels are definitely cool, but I kinda think SRAM overdid it on the cranks.

I'm still noodling on them, but in the mean time that is one damned big ring. I bet that's Cancellara's little ring on his TT bike.

Speaking of unloading bikes, anybody want a barely used Ridley X-fire, hella sweet all carbon frame/fork in size 58? I'll throw in a Ridley skinsuit and way cool Limar helmet.

That's all for now
-the ATM

Monday, February 11, 2008

Back on the wagon

I wasn't really geeked up about this week since I had to be in West Virgina for work in the middle of a coal mine. The weather is supposed to be around 20-25F with wintry mix and snow thrown in for good measure. This would not be bad except I'll be pretty much standing outside for about 10 of the 12 hours per day on the cold dirt/stone. Eh well, skills to pay the bills I guess.
Things looked to be picking up when I went to pick up my rental car and they gave me a Volvo S60 with the 2.5L turbo. Score! Way better than the previous various Kias and Pontiacs I've had to drive. I shuffled my feet and felt something that turned out to be a case of CDs, so my day picked up even more... at least until I opened the case. It was a who's who of crap I would never EVER listen to. I guess that'll help with my conscious when I return it. At least the weather for the 5 hour drive was OK. There was also a little bonus in the arm rest in an aux input jack (god bless my iPod!). I guess pretty common these days, but a life saver so as not to have 5 hours of searching for a radio station that was no bucolic in programming.
After meeting up with my engineering counterparts for dinner, I came back and posted up in my room. Pretty sweet digs. Wide open room, 40-ish" phat panel, mini-fridge and a good interweb connection. Plus the bed is damned comfortable.

It's easy to get back on the wagon when you can pack a car full of whatever you want and drive to there

For my viewing pleasure...

...when on the trainer

comfy bed

So I've kinda got a nice setup except I have to work. 6a is going to come around pretty early tomorrow so I'll sign off for now.

-the ATM

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Off the Wagon

This weekend was a bit rough... I started the weekend off with a meeting of the original Sweat Shop Crew at our favorite eatery in greater downtown Indy, Buca di Beppo. It's our favorite mainly because in my former life, the Tanqueray & Tonics flowed like wine. That, and the food is pretty damned good, especially their Macaroni Rosa.
So we started out with a celebratory cocktail. It was celebratory because anymore, we only get together about twice a year, so why not have a cocktail with one's friends?? Being four men with very much non-girlie appetites, we started off with a Spicy Arrabbiata Pizza. It's got a super thin crust with spicy sausage and it was pretty slim on the cheese near the edges. I stuck with only one piece, so I wasn't that bad off. Yet.
Next came the Macaroni Rosa, which is actually rather guilt free unless consumed in volume; corkscrew pasta, baked chicken breast, peas, broccoli, whole mushrooms and a tasty marinara. Yummy. The others wanted some veal Parmesan, so that came last. I wasn't quite down with it but I did eat one bite to not be chastised the rest of the night.
At some point the manager came out and apologized for the slow service that we did not notice. He offered us a few desserts for our trouble. Uh, sure. Cheesecake and some Sambuca drizzled brownie please. Ugh. I had about two bites of cheesecake and the same for the brownie. I felt like even though I fell off the wagon, it was only about 2 ft off the ground. I wasn't stuffed, either, so things were not that bad.
That is, until TK busted out the recently imported Montecristo #2 cigars. We headed to Nicky Blane's cigar bar to find a safe haven.
A quick side on smoking. I pretty much can't stand cigarettes, and cigars aren't far behind but if you've never smoked a cuban, you should. Never inhale (you shouldn't anyway), and Cubans are about as harsh as 1500 grit sandpaper. You don't wake up thinking you tried to eat a bag of cotton balls soaked in molasses.
Back to the story... once lit, the Torpedo burned long and smooth. TK being the aficionado he is, he understands you don't need to burn one to the end to appreciate it. This was nice since the rest of the stogies in the joint had started to take their toll on me, and I was ready to leave.
I was staying with Jeff on the North side of Indy since I was driving up to Fort Fun the next morning to throw down some dubbyas with Don. Since I hadn't seen Jeff for about 4 months, we caught up a bit before turning in for the night, a hefty (for an old guy such as me) 1a. 7a was going to come quite early.
A quick bowl of Cheerios and a bagel with some coffee and I was off. I got to Don's on time an got set up, then got warmed up on the trainer. When I started getting into the meat of the exercise, it was obvious to both Don and me that I was not putting out what my heart rate should have been putting out. Chalk that one up to Friday night. Bad Andy.

I headed in to the shop so I could pick up a few more bits for the bike, then headed up to my old Auburn stomping grounds for my dad's birthday party. While waiting for the time to arrive (surprise party and all) I ended up having a fatty Stout at Mad Anthony's Tap room. If I'm going, I'm going big... The pint was smooth, but I capped it at one. Good Andy.
The rest of the night wasn't super on the intake front but I did single handedly take care of about 3/4 of the broccoli and cauliflower on the veggie tray. Unfortunately there were chips and salsa plus some cheese and crackers, too.
I ended the evening around 11 then woke up around 7. I got some coffee and my interweb surfing done, then headed to breakfast with my mom. A final cup of coffee with Don on the way out of town turned into another 1:30 on the trainer. After that it was time to make the trek home in 7'F temps with 20/25 mph crosswinds the entire 3 hour drive. Sweet.
All in all, it was good to see friends/family I don't see often, but all that was at the expense of the wrong inequality... cal in >= cal out. The benefit to the entire weekend is that now I am officially 100% all-in with no excuses. I'm still on track weight-wise, just need to focus rather than maintain. Training volume is ramping up so that won't be a problem.
Game on.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


I'm not one to look forward to trainer sessions, which means riding outside. I'm not opposed to this as long as I can stay comfortable temperature-wise.
Over the past several years, preparing to ride outside meant sliding into a set of tights (no bibs or chamois) that were given to me by my brother. They were, how you say, a bit big even 3 years ago. Add in a steady decline of mass (~25lbs) in the past three years and they become REALLY big. The drawstring waist looked like an accordian on full compression. Needless to say, I needed to find a new solution.
When I first started looking in the fall, I thought I was going to get a hook up on some Craft gear but that fell through, so I looked elsewhere. I decided on a set of Vermarc SuperRoubaix bibtights (non-bibs need not apply) size L according to their website sizing. I eagerly awaited them but once I got them and tried them on I was disappointed to find out the legs were too small and I couldn't even pull them up over my thighs (insert fat joke here). Because I got a different hookup, I couldn't return them so I threw them on eBay and got hosed... barely got half what I paid.
Imagine my surprise when I saw a set of Campagnolo knickers on blowout, so I ordered the size XL given my previous foibles. They came and I tried them on. They seemed to be the right size; not too small, not too big. The first ride in them, however, I spent about 30 minutes continually trying to get them pulled up enough so the chamois hit the right spots. There was also the minor problem of me twig and berries not getting any benefit from the fleece lining. To gloss over delicate matters, let's just say the tights were too big. DAMMIT!!! I figured I could have a friend's mom sew them up for me to take up slack so I set about safety pinning the bejesus out of them. The results were better but not 100% acceptable.
So I came full circle back to Craft and ordered a set of their winter knickers size L . They came today and after trying them on with underwear (return policy dictates) I believe they'll fit. They have to. No gaps where there shouldn't be and a quick spin on the bike in the trainer and they seem to be the right stuff.
The funny thing is when I first looked at various options, I had the same reaction most people do when they see the sticker on a set of Assos anythings: "What?! that's insane!" Alas, I sit here with my finally-fitting knickers and two wasted pair of ill fitting knickers which essentially means I have paid for those Assos knickers without the benefit of actually getting the Assos knickers.
Lesson learned: When it comes to cold weather clothes, pay retail - utilize the return policy. Man, I hate paying retail.

-the ATM

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Today was pretty much a bomb-ass day. I loaded up on coffee while reading "Paris-Roubaix" then dropped off a wagon load of stuff at the recycling center. As it was the sunniest day we've had in a few weeks in addition to 40 degree temps I decided it would be a stellar day to wash the fleet.
I started off washing my car that I've neglected in the 20 degree weather we've been having, then addressed my non-functional windshield wiper nozzles. Job done I switched over to bikes. My 'cross bike's chain was pretty mankey since it's fairly new and still had that nuclear grease they pack 'em in, as was the case on the mountain bike. Ugh. I had to bust out the nasty degreaser that removes skin to get them close to clean. Naturally it was a last resort after having read how to clean a chain from BKW. That procedure works, except on nasty grease.
With a few years taken from my life, I pressed on. Cleaning my road bike is always a pleasure, not only because it is generally barely dirty, but when clean it shines all sweet-like. Add in some bright sun and it's a recipe for pictures!

I like the feel of the bend of the bars in my hands but I think I need to try a deep traditional bend to get the drops a least somewhat level. Unfortunately, the hoods are as high as they can go on these bars... and daddy likes 'em high. At least everything else is dialed in terms of components. Looks pretty sweet if you ask me.
I also washed pretty much every wheel in my garage so the rims aren't covered in brake schmag and cassettes are shiny (and thus will last forever) and match the accompanying chains.
On to the domesticity front, I ended up cleaning my garage from all the leaves that blow in daily. As I was doing this I remembered that I wanted to flush out my water heater tank as it seems to have lost some of it's hot water capacity. After opening the drain and nothing but a few drops coming out, it pretty much confirmed that I had a nice layer of insulating calcium deposits at the bottom of the tank blocking the drain. I launched into a 2 hr effort to get as much as I could of that crap out. I managed to only splash my face twice and crotch once. There are three aspects of this that are bad: 1)all splashes were loaded with aforementioned calcium chunks 2)the water was still rather hot 3)my recently washed car was directly behind me and despite my best efforts, I could not block all the water from getting on the hood. Sweet.
to top it all off, when I went to reassemble the valve, it leaked. A few failed attempts to clean up the sealing surface and I was off to Lowe's to buy a new valve. New valve installed, I called it quits for the day and got my freshly washed bike set up to do a workout on the trainer.
I'm pretty much wiped out now so I'm calling it a day.


the ATM