Monday, March 28, 2011

Cold enough to....

....freeze the balls on a brass monkey.

We all know it was cold this past weekend, cold and windy. Not ideal riding weather at all, although the roads are pretty much bone dry. I got in two quickies...two short rides that is...I mean two short BIKE rides.  I'm not gonna go into detail about my rides, but talk briefly about some new equipment...BIKE equipment.

First, a new saddle. I've been using my current road saddle for about 5 seasons. It's a Selle Italia SLC Carbonio, and looking at it is enough to make you cross your legs and feign being kicked in the nuts. Over the years, I've had many people ask "Is that comfortable?!?!?!?!" But the thing is, I've ridden it for so long because it IS comfortable. Because of its design, it flexes a lot, and as a result, moves with me. BUT, in the last season and a bit, it's been getting a bit uncomfortable, right where the saddle starts to narrow (where the REAL sensitive bits sit, if you catch my drift).

 The old perch. A Selle Italia SLC Carbonio.

 For the most part, a comfortable saddle. Lately, it's been bugging me towards the nose of the saddle, near where the cut out ends. Too much pressure/weight on a small amount of material.

I started my quest for a new saddle last year, and demoed a Bontrager Inform saddle, and did not find it comfy at all. The saddle was very flat and didn't distribute pressure very well. I recently decided to give a different Bontrager saddle a go...the Affinity RL. At the beginning of my ride on Sunday, I felt it right felt much harder than my Selle Italia, despite being more cushioned. Towards the end of my ride though (a short 100 minute ride), I hardly noticed it was under me...a good sign. I'll have to see how it holds up after some longer multi hour rides, though.

 Bontrager Affinity RL...Already dirty! The middle of the saddle, where that black design is, dips down to take pressure off my "sensitive bits".

The other new component was a pair of Look Keo 2 max pedals. I wanted to replace my current Looks (Keo Sprint), because the plastic body was starting to wear out wear it contacts the cleats. I'm hoping the metal platform of the Keo 2 will have a bit more longevity. The best part about the new pedals though, were the cleats. They're "grippy". No walking around like a stiff legged old man trying not to wipe out on any semi slick surface.

 Lots of wear, especially over on the right next to the Look logo.

 The metal contact area should hold up to wear and tear.

 The old cleat. Good luck trying to walk up and down painted wood stairs (like the staircase in the old Pipolinka).

The new cleat. The dimpled areas at the base and the tip are a softer plastic/rubber that offers traction when off the bike. A welcome addition.

I don't know what else to say about the pedals...I've been using Looks for as long as I've been road biking; I like them and they work. Never have to adjust them or maintain them. That in itself is good enough for me.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Blingy road bikes

"Should be a perfect day for the blingy all-road bikes that have been hiding indoors all winter."

This was in the email that Matt sent out on Saturday. After a dry ride on Saturday, I thought "Wicked, I'm gonna bust out my road bike for Sunday." After four plus hours and 114km of riding out to Cascades and Wakfield with a good crew, this was my road bike (or the worst of it):

Any bling was gone.  Lessons learned: 1) Dry roads on the Ontario side does not mean dry roads on the Quebec side. 2) Don't listen to Matt.

I have to poke just a little fun at Matt, but I was also the only one in a group of 8 who showed up without fenders. DOH!

All in all, a great ride out in the sun, good company, and sore legs today.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dry roads

Tried taking pics with my phone today. Figured I should try and figure out how to take advantage of all the features on the damn thing. Not as user friendly as my point and shoot, but if I take a ton of shots, laws of probablility should mean I get at least ONE good pic.

Short-ish ride today (2 hours), on my fendered cross bike, but the roads were in such good shape (as in dry) that I could have ridden my road bike. Spring is here.

The smell of spring is in the air.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring is coming!!!

Usually, the sure-fire sign that spring is here is the unmistakable smell of defrosting dog shit permeating the air. However, that *oh so lovely* smell was absent this past weekend. But by my standards, two tell-tale signs that spring is approaching are:
1)  I got out for 2 consecutive road rides, and
2) Seasonal spring beers are starting to hit the shelves.

On Saturday, I took advantage of the (barely) above freezing temps to get out for a ride to the middle of nowhere. "Nowhere" was actually "somewhere" north west of Dunrobin, exploring some roads I've never ridden before. The nice thing about the middle of nowhere is that the country roads are clear and dry. By constrast, the city roads are covered with runoff, dirt, snowbanks encroaching on bike lane space and spray from cars. Sunday was a shorter ride, but higher in intensity due to stronger winds. The bottom line here is that roads on the Ontario side are great for riding.

And now, on to the good, and a seasonal beer to look for, Amsterdam Spring Bock. Bock is a German term for a strong beer; variations include doppelbock and urbock. Doppelbock translates as "double bock", and is traditionally very malty, with little bitterness and an alcohol content ranging from 7 to 13% ABV.

Amsterdam Spring Bock..."respect the bock".

I haven't had many encounters with Bock style beers, and I tend to avoid them...I was turned off by Creemore Springs Urbock which I found to be too bitter for my liking. However, I decided to give this offering from Amsterdam Beer a try.

As you can see, VERY dark for a lager. And check my new drinking vessel!

This beer did not disappoint. It lives up to the expectation of a traditonal dopplebock, very malty, slightly sweet, with no bitterness whatsoever. The bottle stated this was a "2010 vintage", so it was a year old, and well worth the wait. For me, the basic measure of a beer's worth is would I buy it again, and this beer gets a resounding yes.

For an interesting read about the origins of doppelbock, check out the following (from
"Doppelbock emerged in the late eighteenth century as a powerful lager variant of the old monastic strong beer, the monks' "liquid bread," which they traditionally brewed for the Lenten season. Living by the strict rules of their order, the monks were regularly required to castigate themselves by periodic bouts of fasting, when next to no solid food was allowed to pass their lips. The longest and most taxing of these periods of culinary abstinence was, of course, Lent, the 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Because the monks believed that liquids not only cleansed the body but also the soul, they would make plenty of liquid instead of solid bread from their grain, and then drink it in copious quantities...the more, the holier. Because the monks were society's role models in those religious did the monks so did the common folk. The secular verson of the sacred strong bier was called a Bockbier."

So for those of you who give something up for Lent, it would be sacrilegious to give up beer!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ultimate XC

Every year, when I'm thinking about potential races for the upcoming season, I always include one or two events that I've never done before. A couple of months back, I came across The Ultimate XC, a 3 day adventure stage race that takes place at Mt. Tremblant.  Day 1 is a 67km kayak, day 2 a 58 km trail run and day 3 a 100km mountain bike. You can choose to do individual days, and distances vary. There was absoulutely no way that I was going to register for the whole shebang...a 67km kayak would probably reduce me to smithereens, and with a lack of long distance kayak experience, my biggest concern would be trying to take a whiz over the side of the boat. Instead, I opted for the 50km mountain bike race. There's a selection criteria to enter the mountain bike races based on results in Quebec enduro races and past race experience. In other words, I had to send in my "race resume", because according to the description, this will be the  hardest race I've ever done:

"The races are set on the toughest terrain we found in Tremblant. Although at least 97% of the race course is ridable, you should still expect having to dismount a few times to take a break.You should be prepared for a 7 hour day if you are doing the 50 km race and a good 10 hours if you are registering for the 100 km. Only very experienced riders with extensive background in endurance mountain biking should consider doing the entire distance at a pace faster that 11 km an hour average."

I'm not so sure about 7 hours for a 50 km race....compared with other races I've done, I wouldn't expect more than 3 hours. BUT, I've never ridden at Tremblant, so I'm not too sure what to expect in terms of trails and terrain. However, this convenient little video gives you a taste of what to expect:

So a lot of technical climbing from the looks of it, a bit of downhill biz...I'm starting to think it's going to be almost 50km of straight up technical rocky, rooty singletrack...great. But as long as they play the Beastie Boys during the race, I'm fine with that. Whatever the course has in store, though, it should be challenging (in a good way), and it's only a 2 hour drive away...bonus. At least I have almost 3 months to get ready for this, while the first race of the year that I'm eyeing is only 1 month away. All of this snow is definitely not helping, and as long I know now that I'm gonna suffer, a month from now, I *think* I'll manage. That's what I have to tell myself, anyway, and hope that my bubble doesn't burst.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

New Gloves

Whoa!!! What's going on?!?!?!?! Two posts within a week...crazy talk!!! Ok, silliness aside, today's forecast was essentially crap. Snow in the morning, changing to rain, followed by rain and more rain. I was determined though, to get out for a ride, and despite the cold piss coming down, riding I did go (do I sound like Yoda??????). Within 5 minutes of heading out, I was questioning how smart/safe it was to be out riding. The roads were slushy, with packed snow/ice in places, sometimes hidden by massive puddles. Not what I was hoping for. Add on top of that poor visibility, limited space to ride, and drivers most likely not expecting a cyclist on the roads, I just didn't feel safe riding my bike. After 30 minutes of apprehensive riding, I decided to turn around, head back home and relegate myself to the trainer. However, as I approached my house, I decided to check out some of the major roads south west of my place, as they have wide, paved shoulders. Well, I was in luck, so I "kept on truckin", battling the rain and cold temps. Once I got home, I had put in close to 2 hours of riding...not bad for a crap day.

So, the title of this post alludes to some new gloves I picked up. (You're probably saying to yourself "No sh*t sherlock".) For awhile, I've been trying to find a pair of warm, waterproof gloves for riding in cold, rainy temps like today. I've had my eyes on a pair of Gore Bike Wear Cross gloves or Count Down gloves, but they never seemed to be available when I wanted to get a pair, so instead I settled for the Bontrager RXL Thermal. This glove fit the bill...warm primaloft insulation, and seam sealed to keep water out. I was eager to try out these gloves, which is partly why I was stubborn enough to go for a ride today.

So what can I say about these gloves? The main thing is that they kept my hands dry. Plain and simple. 2 hours of rainy riding, and not a drip of water made it to my hands. The only downside was that the gloves don't have a DWR coating, so they became wet and water logged, which meant that my hands eventually got cold. Every so often I would clench my fist and squeeze the water out of the gloves. I'm gonna spray these suckers down with some Nikwax to make them water repellant and prevent the exterior from absorbing water. It's also nice to have the dexterity of a glove, as opposed to a split finger mitt or "lobster" mitt. All in all, I'm happy with these gloves. They retail for $69, which makes them cheaper than the Gore Bike Wear gloves.