Thursday, May 28, 2009

A "Sweeping" Trend

A common trend in Mountain Bike handlebars over the past two years has been to increase the amount of sweep. Old-school flat bars typically had 3 degrees of sweep. Then 5 degree bars became popular and now you can find bars with 17 degrees of sweep. But is more sweep really better? More sweep brings the end of your bars closer to your body and might require a longer stem to maintain the same reach measurement. The theory behind more sweep is that the increase in sweep accomodates your body's natural arm angle as your arms move outward. For example, hold your hands in front of you as if you were holding a handlebar. If you widen the stance of your hands they naturally open a more relaxed angle.

Since building up my new Air 9, I have been tweaking my position on the bike and have been running a flat bar with 11 degrees of sweep. I am not feeling the love. The feeling is too "cruiser bike" and not enough "mountain bike" for me. However, I do like a bar that is at least 660mm wide as I have wide shoulders (compared to the average thin-buff cyclist build). You can still find 3,5 and 6 degree bars but most of them are super narrow flat bars aimed at the World Cup crowd.

Synatce is offering 9 & 12 degrees of sweep

Salsa does offer a 660mm bar with 5 degrees of sweep..but only in a 25.4mm diameter

Niner's 9 degree, super wide bar is cool because you have plenty of room to cut it down to fit your shoulder width

A new player in the handlbar game, Edge Composites also offers a 5 degree bar but it is too narrow for my tastes

Even Easton, who is typically conservative in their offerings, has increased sweep to 9 degrees

This example does not even take into account the Nitto & Jones-type bars that many have adopted recently.

My tinkering with bar width and sweep will continue. Out of curiosity, I would like to know what you prefer. How wide is your bar and how much sweep do you have?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

First Attempt at Crit Racing

Rather than trying to put together an eloquent report detailing a 40 min race where I was pinned and drooling on my top tube most of the time, I am just going to blurt out a few memorable moments.

The Cat 4/5 field of 26 racers felt “big” on our 9/10ths of a mile crit course and moving up or positioning for corners was not as easy as simply stepping on the gas. Often times I would have to simple wait for a hole and try to jump into it.
The speed of Cat 4/5 pack “felt” fast during the race and once I looked at the PT that was verified: 25.7 MPH average and a 30.5 MPH top speed. Yeehaw!

Riding at or near the front was my plan but that is easier said than done. At one point in the middle of the race, I could hear Joel Bingham yelling “Dave, get up to the front”. Sometimes I would find a hole, squirt up to the front, and then the pack would surge and I would fall to 15th wheel again just like that. Learning to anticipate the surge and then going with it would be a helpful skill. Near the end, I squirted up to the front a little too aggressively and found myself off of the front for the entire length of the back stretch…it was fun while lasted.

Our course was the perfect initiation to crit racing since nearly every corner could be taken at full gas…unless a knucklehead in front of you grabbed a handful of brake in the middle of the friggin’ corner. Don’t brake in the corner. Period. Nobody crashed but there were two close calls around me and it was obvious that as people get tired their concentration goes out the window.

Things got serious with 6 laps to go. The speed notched up a bit, riders were accelerating out of corners more aggressively, and moving around in the pack got tougher. Fun! Through all of this I was very alert and began to formulate my plan for total crit domination. Ha! I remember telling myself that 2 ½ laps to go would be the perfect time to attack...but several people had the same idea so the front of the pack surged and everyone was trying to move up and jockeying for the prime positions.

Does your throat always feel as if it is on fire after a 40-minute crit? I had the dry cough goign all night.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

This just in...

...Holy crap, crit racing is fun! Finished with the lead pack but was too out of position to launch any kind of attack or sprint at the end. Knowing and executing are two different things.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Crit Racing returns to Jackson

It has been many years since a USAC Crit was held in Jackson. Closed & swept streets, live race commentary, solid fields in all categories, and sunny weather should make for an awesome first-year event. The local cycling scene just gets better and better. If you live around here and haven't signed up yet, get on it! Go to Athlete360 now!

I hear crits are pretty nerve-racking and this will be my first one. Here's to keeping the rubber side down!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dry dirt close to home

We finally have some dry dirt to ride close to home here in Teton Valley and I can't tell you how good it felt to ride in shorts and short sleeves and NOT be cold for a change. Michelle, Kenai, and I headed to Bench Trail Sunday expecting a little mud and possibly some snow but it was bone dry and even dusty in places. It is amazing how quickly that area dries out with a little sun.

Evidence of dry dirt

Late birthday presents are fun! Back in March, Michelle surprised me with a Niner Air 9 frame for my birthday...but they were back ordered until May. My new Air 9 frame showed up at Fitzy's last Thursday so I tore the parts off of the Alma and built up the new hotness before Sunday's ride. 23.5 lbs as it sits here.

The "Raw" finish is sweet

The top tube of the large Air 9 is the same size as my Sultan and I feel much more comfortable on it. I have always felt a little scrunched up on the Alma and I prefer to run a 100mm stem.

Michelle & Kenai approaching a huge downed tree from last week's wind storm

South Fork of the Snake River

Foals are popping up in pastures around the valley

Hot Foot Update: I slid the cleats back a full centimeter on the "one size too big" Sidis and I noticed a big improvement but I am still going to experiment with a few more things.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hot Foot

My recent DNF at the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde has me digging for a long-term solution to my feet issues. This was certainly not the first time I have had foot pain in an endurance race but it was the first time that the pain got bad enough to stop me from pedaling.

After some research, it is pretty obvious that I am suffering from Metatarsalgia, or what endurance cyclists refer to as "Hot Foot". Precision Bikes has an article that perfectly describes what I am experiencing:

In cycling, it’s known as “hot foot” - a burning pain in the ball of the foot, perhaps radiating toward the toes. Severe cases feel like some sadistic demon is applying a blowtorch.

Hot foot occurs most often on long rides. It may develop sooner or more intensely on hilly courses because climbs cause greater pedaling pressure. The pain results when nerves are squeezed between the heads of each foot’s five long metatarsal bones. These heads are in the wide part of the foot (the “ball”) just behind the toes.

Feet always swell on long rides (more so in hot weather), causing pressure inside shoes that normally fit fine.

Hot foot is actually a misnomer. It’s not heat but rather pressure on nerves that causes the burning sensation. You’ll sometimes see riders squirting water on their pups in a vain attempt to put out the fire.

So what are my options? Here are a few cycling-specific solutions I found:

1) Loosen the shoe straps across the toes

2) Use thinner insoles & socks

3) Re-focus the pressure. Many riders solve hot foot by moving their cleats to the rear by as much as 8 mm. Long-distance enthusiast may go back as far as the cleat slots allow. They might even drill new rearward holes. After using this remedy, lower your saddle by the same amount if you moved your cleats backward 2-4 mm. If more than 4 mm, lower the saddle about half the amount. So, if your cleats go back 1 cm, put the saddle down 5 mm.

4) Add metatarsal buttons. These foam domes are placed on insoles (or are built into them) just behind the ball of the foot. They spread the metatarsal bones so the nerves running between them aren’t pinched by pressure or swelling. You can find these products in the foot-care section of drug stores.

5) Purchase custom orthotics. These plastic footbeds are supplied by podiatrists or sports medicine clinics. Among their biomechanical benefits are built-in metatarsal buttons. Be certain the practitioner understands you're a cyclist, because orthotics for runners are not what you need. Cycling is a forefoot activity, not a heel-strike activity.

Since I already do what is recommended in #1 and #2, my plan is to try the simple forefoot pad with a metatarsal button (#4) to see if I get any relief from it. If it helps, I may pursue a custom orthodic with the metatarsal pad built into it. eSoles offers a cycling-specific footbed that is low volume and has a metatarsal pad option.

As a last resort, I may slide my cleats all the way back but this goes against everything I have read about achieving a proper bike fit.

Monday, May 11, 2009

12 Hours of Mesa Verde Quick Report

After 9 hours and 87 miles, I quit riding due to severe foot pain from hot spots and swelling. Most of my last lap was spent coasting with my butt in the saddle while lifting my feet inside my shoes to take the pressure off of my hot spots every time the course would allow it. I have had foot pain during endurance rides & races before but nothing quite like this. Grinding along somewhere mid-pack in the solo male field, I was having an “ok” race before pulling the plug but a lot can change in the last three hours and I am bummed that I couldn’t be in the mix at the end.

I will have to figure out this foot issue if I want to continue to race the endurance distances that I love. Having a very wide foot (EE) severely limits my shoe options but my search begins immediately. I normally wear a 45 “Mega” width Sidi Dominator. For the race I wore a 46 “Mega” so I could loosen the straps as the race wore on and allow for foot swelling as the day got hotter but it wasn’t enough.

More on the race itself later…one of the best race I have attended. MTB Race News has a nice writeup.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mesa Verde Pre-Ride

If you don't think the 16.5-mile course for the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde is fun then someone should repossess your mountain bike and you should take up golf.

Huge field for tomorrow and I am little concerned about the start and how 200+ riders are going to race & pass on lap #1. The course is never straight, is tricky to pass on, and it is nearly ALL singletrack.

Let's light this candle!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A little pre-race trash...

You thought I meant trash talk didn't you?

Gabe and I roll out tomorrw AM to Cortez, Co and the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde on Saturday. The solo category is full so it should be a good one.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fit Check

Many of us have more than one bike and ideally our saddle positions would be the same on all of them. This is especially true if you have two mtn bikes that you plan to race over the course of the season. I try to keep my bikes dialed in on my own but yesterday I sought the help of a pro. Fitzy helped me with a quick fit check on my mtn bikes and I learned something: The sag of a full suspension bike while sitting on it slackens the seat angle and therefore changes your fore-aft saddle position. It seems so obvious now but I was not taking this into account when measuring my bikes.

Here is my Turner Sultan. The lime green line is an over-exagerration of the seatpost angle once I am sitting on the bike and the shock is compressed 20%.

Here is my Alma 29er hardtail. In order to duplicate the position of my Turner, I needed a seatpost with more setback so that my knee alignment was not too far forward.

This FSA seatpost has 32mm of setback and allowed me to get my knees slightly behind the pedal spindle where I like them.

My favorite Thomson seatpost, with 16mm of setback, doesn't have enough setback for the Alma but works on the Sultan.

Yesterday confirmed that my positon on the Alma was off just a bit and that my position on the Sultan was great so no changes were made there. It is interesting that I require so much setback on bikes with a seat tube steeper than 73 degrees given that I am average height. However, everone's femur lengths are a different percentage of their leg length and this has a huge effect on saddle position.