Cycling Goals for 2015

2014 was a pretty good year for the wife and I in terms of cycling. In total, I cycled over 2,000 miles. Here’s the screenshot from the MapMyRide dashboard:
Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 6.36.42 PM630 of those miles were bike commuting to and from work, and that was starting in June(ish).

So here are my goals for 2015:

Total miles: 3,000

Commuting: 1,500

Based on my round trip distance to and from work (~14 miles) I calculate that I need to ride at least 108 days in order to hit my goal. I think that’s totally doable. It’ll be even easier if I take the same longer router to work that I take home. Though that will require getting up earlier and, well, I’m not a morning person. But I’m fairly sure I can eek out the other 1,500 miles doing the MS150 & it’s weekly training series, along with a few other organized rides like the Tour de Houston, and just going out and doing 40-50 miles on the weekends. 3,000 seems reachable between bike commuting and regular riding.

I’m finally getting back on the bike tomorrow to start this all off. It’s been too long of a break over the holidays and the cold snap we’ve been having down here.

If you’ve made goals for 2015 leave them in the comments!

And please donate to both my wife and myself to help support our participation in the MS150, and the National MS Society! Check out THIS POST to donate. Thanks!

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Fi’zi:k bar tape: disappointing. Back to Profile Design tape!

A couple weeks ago I rewrapped my handlebars with some Fi’zi:k [here on just Fizik] bar tape, and unfortunately it has been pretty disappointing. I’m used to a pretty cushy foam/cork combo tape from Profile Design, and this Fizik tape turned out to be really thin, offering very little comfort. I also moved my brake hoods forward a bit as an experiment, but the spot where my wrist/ulnar area rests on the handlebars had almost zero padding. It’s a shame, as the tape looks really great. I ended up ordering more of the Profile Design wrap from Amazon and rewrapped them last night. I also moved my brake hoods back up a little as the reach was just a little too far. Even without riding yet, the cushioning of the PD tape is just so nice. You may remember I previously had the same exact tape, but in orange, and currently have the orange on my commuter bike.

I highly recommend the Profile Design tape. It’s very affordable, and offers superb comfort.

Removing the Fizik tape. You can kind of see how thin it is.

Removing the Fizik tape. You can kind of see how thin it is.

The good stuff!

The good stuff!

Bars wrapped in the Profile Design tape. Noticeably thicker.

Bars wrapped in the Profile Design tape. Noticeably thicker.

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2014 Biking goal: complete.

At the beginning of the year I set my mileage goal at 1,500 miles. Finally met it today, and still have four more months to go in the year. I guess that means my goal for 2015 is going to be a little higher! Finally getting back to bike commuting to work almost daily has certainly helped.

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Review: Tacx Behind the Saddle Water Bottle Clamp/Holder

Remember that really sexy Raleigh I rebuilt for commuting? Well it doesn’t have eyelets on the down tube for a water bottle cage. Whether this is because it’s14397104957_df4ebf3cf0_c too old, or because it was a bottle of the barrel bike in the early 80’s I don’t know. But the fact remains the frame has no mounts for bottle cages. This becomes a problem when you’re riding daily in Houston, Texas, and at 7:30am it’s already 78 degrees out. Today I rode home in a 105 degree heat index. So, yeah, water bottles.

I toyed with the idea of using various clamping systems to simply clamp the bottle cage to the down tube – as there seem to be a fair amount of options in this department. There are also some incredibly horrible looking versions that I wouldn’t be caught dead with on my bike – especially an old steel steed like this. See what I mean, here…take your pick. Ugh.

bottle_cage_clampsThere are some decent clamping systems out there though, and if I hadn’t purchased the item I am writing this review for, I would have gone with these clamps pictured to the left from Velo-Orange. The hitch is, you’ve got to have a bottle cage that has tabs on the mounting plate so the clamps have something to, you know, clamp down on. I considered this but decided I didn’t want to scratch my kick ass 1984 paint job. I had no evidence to support the idea it would scratch the paint, but I wasn’t going to risk it.

Another alternative is the obnoxious handlebar mounted cage holder. They look terrible, and frankly would be in the way. Convenient I suppose, yes. You often see triathletes or racers with bottles and straws strapped to their aero bars so they can grab a sip without getting out of their aerodynamic position. Me – I’m just riding to and from work. Anyway, aside from not having a blank spot on my bullhorns where there isn’t any bar tape, I think it looks hideous so we’ll just leave it at that.

So I settled on a behind the saddle option. There aren’t many options out there. The ones you see around mostly are these, from Profile Design. The only problem is the contraption is absurdly expensive. I don’t see why. Either way I wasn’t dropping $40-70 on a thing that holds water in a place that’s already inconvenient to get to.

zadelklem-leftI came across the Tacx mount, and thought I’d give it a try since the price was much more reasonable. Here is the picture you’ll see on Tacx’s website as well as on Amazon (where I got it from). As you can see they’ve got it outfitted with a nice carbon-fiber bottle cage – which is extra of course. In fact the picture is very  misleading because the bottle cage itself is what the eyes are drawn to first – not the actual mount. The good thing it the mount will receive pretty much any type of bottle cage – since they are all pretty much a standard size. But still, it looks pretty simple and low profile; an advantage this had over the Profile Design as well – it’s not big and bulky.

NOTE: Pay special attention to the assembly instructions because there is a tricky piece that you need to put in the center of the pivot elbow and it’s not exactly clear. Also, best to go get some eyelet screws from your LBS because it doesn’t come with enough for mounting multiple bottles.

So here are some pics from my assembly of the Tacx behind the saddle bottle cage mount, and some notes to go with them. It’s a bit quirky and also has a few flaws, but overall it’s working alright. Read on…

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The clamping system seems a little flimsy and cumbersome all at once. The metal plate on the inside is curved/shaped to align with the rails on the underside of your saddle – but it didn’t on mine. It was…close…(using the word liberally), but it didn’t clamp perfectly so I had to rely on tightening it enough so the pressure held it in place. Now on the flip side is the problem with that need – the other plate is just plastic – as you can see in the above picture. I was fairly nervous about tightening the screws enough to clamp it down because plastic breaks easily enough. Thankfully – so far, so good.

You can see the pivot point sticking out behind the saddle. This is what the next piece of the arm attaches too so it pivots up and down.
IMG_0060This is the next piece. And it’s a bitch. Before you attach this piece to the other, you’ve got to attach the cages. It doesn’t say that in the directions though, naturally. If you don’t do it first, you can’t get any tools up on the underside of the saddle to help attach the cage and it’s just infuriating. I also took this picture specifically to show the square washers that fit into the square holes at each of the screw points. These were also infuriating. Because they are so small and just plop into the hole, you have to hold them down with something tiny while screwing the screw from the other side – otherwise it just flops about and you’ll never get it threaded. These are also the only points of attachment for the cages so make sure  you tighten them enough.

Notice there are three holes for mounting. That’s because the mount can hold a single, or two bottles. In the pic I just have the one, but after taking these photos I attached two completely different cages – as you’ll see below eventually. To attach a single, just put the screws in the center. To attach two simultaneously, use the two outer sets of holes.

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I had just the one cage attached for a few days but didn’t like the way it looked – also I needed two cages anyway. So, here’s the result:
IMG_0103 IMG_0101Looked much better.
So now here it is with my commuting water bottles, and fully ready bike heading out in the morning.
IMG_0072 IMG_0073 IMG_0071Overall I’m happy with it however there is one major flaw (aside from those damn square washers). Tightening the pivot point has proved to be somewhat hard. It operates on a gear-like system, where a little nub will seat itself between two bars to set it in place. It’s easily changeable so you can pivot the cages to the angle you desire. However, because the plastic gear-like system is pretty flimsy it just doesn’t stay. I started with my bottles angled upwards as you see in the picture above, and by the time I had gone over a handful of bumps in the road, they were angled down almost all the way they could flop. No matter how many times you lift them back they just flop right back down again. I’m going to try to tighten the screw some more, but I’m wary or it’s ability to hold given the cheapness of the overall mechanism. Of course, having two bottles worth of water weight probably has something to do with it – but still it’s not functioning as it’s designed too.

It takes some getting used to reaching around behind to grab a bottle while riding. Be careful or you’ll go down or swerve into something stationary. Grabbing it out is usually OK – it’s getting it back in that’s a problem. I’m getting better and can do it now while riding.

So there you have it. The Tacx behind the saddle bottle holder. A moderately priced alternative to normal bottle cages, or a decent add-on if you need more water for a longer tour.

Next up is a review of the rack you see in the pics: the Blackburn TRX-1 Ultimate Touring Rack.

Get out there, and ride!

 

I finally got an iPhone. It does panos. Here is one.

From our 40 miler today

Click to see it big(ger)

Click to see it big(ger)

A soggy Tour de Houston

We rolled into the parking lots on the outskirts of downtown Houston at 6:45am this morning. It had rained overnight; the roadsIMG_0244 were wet and there was some fog clinging to the tall buildings surrounding City Hall, where the race started. We heard at the packet pickup that around 5,000 people had signed up to ride but I think the rain and the possibility of some storms kept a lot of them away. I’d estimate around 2,000 – 3,000 riders showed up.

It sprinkled for about a minuteIMG_0246 shortly after the first waves of riders went out for the longer routes, but then stopped. Since we were doing the 40 mile route (long route was 60) our large group went off about 30ish minutes after the first riders. Once we got out there we heard some thunder and even saw some pretty intense lightening but thankfully it ended up skirting the city to the south.

Unfortunately towards the halfway point – about 20 miles – the regular rain showed up. And it didn’t stop until I after I crossed the finish line some hour and a half later. We got soaked. Water was pooling in my cycling shoes, both my shirts were soaked through. The water was running down my back and into my shorts. It was all sorts of great stuff! Ended up seeing only one person wipe out due to the slick roads, but I heard there were plenty. Saw a handful of riders pulled off with police, and ambulances/fire trucks assisting them with injuries I presume. I also couldn’t believe the number of flats people got. I guess having hybrid cross tires on my Cross-Check really helps instead of skinny slicks.
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Today I also became of a member of the “can’t unclip in time so you fall over” club. I came up to a group at a stop light who couldn’t decide if they were going through of going to let the one car waiting to go first. Half started going, half didn’t and started yelling, I slowed and was forced to stop and I couldn’t unclip my pedals so down I went. I didn’t get hurt or anything, it’s mostly just embarrassing. I was more pissed I fell on the drive side of the bike, but my gears look ok. And the worst part? I was like 300 yards from the damn finish line. Argh.

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But, all in all, the ride was a great success. Despite the bad weather, there were thousands of cyclists who came out to ride through and see parts of their city they don’t normally see. The roads were in pretty good shape for the most part, and I have to give a  lot of thanks and respect to the Houston Police Department and Sheriffs and volunteers that helped with traffic control at the intersections and keeping us rolling. You guys were awesome. Thank you!

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Finish line. Soaked!

I’m really getting into this whole organized ride thing. I love riding with other cycling enthusiasts of all skill levels and age. [Most] everyone is always super friendly and helpful. The snacks at the rest stops are great fuel bumps and there’s a good bit of satisfaction when you cross that finish line. I’m already signed up for the Bluebonnet Express in Waller, TX next Sunday!

Biking Stats for 2013 / Goals for 2014

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Not too bad for getting back in to biking toward the end of March. It hardly seems like it’s only been 9 months since we acquired bikes from Craigslist, and started commuting to work and taking longer rides on the weekends. Many thanks to the lovely greenways of Knoxville, TN, and to the awesome bike paths here in Houston.

Goals for 2014:
-1,500 miles
-Average between 2-3 minutes per mile
-Burn 60,000 calories
-Complete the MS150 without dying
-Buy a frame or old bike and build it up into an awesome new bike

Christmas Day Bike Ride!

Christmas in Houston today was a cloudy 55° – great for a bike ride to put all our new bike stuff to good use. And we weren’t the only ones. We saw a ton of people and families out in the park riding, walking, running, and playing pickup games of soccer and football with friends and family. It was fantastic. Christmas in Syracuse consists of shoveling or snowplowing your driveway, scraping off your car, and staying inside where it’s warm. Of course, our closest friends and family are there and we miss them incredibly so. But, since we were staying in Texas this year for the holidays, this was the best way to spend it!

Me & Annie with our new bikes!

Me & Annie with our new bikes!

On the boardwalk spanning Buffalo Bayou

On the boardwalk spanning Buffalo Bayou

Back on the trail going through George Bush Park. Annie is holding my bike - we were taking pics of the bikes.

Back on the trail going through George Bush Park. Annie is holding my bike – we were taking pics of the bikes.

Back at the parking area

Back at the parking area

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Added the new bottle cages and pedals!

Added the new bottle cages and pedals!

Delta Inox bottle cages, and Shimano A530 hybrid pedals

Delta Inox bottle cages, and Shimano A530 hybrid pedals

Annie's bike. Specialized Tricross. The thing strapped to her downtube is "The Stick", which is a muscle roller she used for when her knee hurts.

Annie’s bike. Specialized Tricross. The thing strapped to her downtube is “The Stick”, which is a muscle roller she used for when her knee hurts.

Front view of Annie's bike.

Front view of Annie’s bike.

And from this morning:

Annie took this great pic of Rayleigh nesting in the remnants of our presents.

Annie took this great pic of Rayleigh nesting in the remnants of our presents.