Archive for April, 2013

I hardly knew you my Bandersnatch friend

Posted in ride reports, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 29, 2013 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

I’ve posted several ride reports and/or gear reviews for my Vassago Bandersnatch, aka Big Red.  Well, as of last Friday there will be no more such posts, as I sold him on ebay to a really cool career military officer from Fort Benning.  I only got around 8 months worth of riding on Big Red, with a grand total of around 300 miles….not exactly banking the miles, though I attribute most of that to two things: 1) I spent some time running that I might have otherwise normally ridden, and 2) it was a long cold winter here and between the temperature and the short days I just never found much time to get out.

Selling Big Red follows just a week or so after selling Sexy Lady…all so that I could thin the bike herd and replace two bikes with one (a cyclocross bike…hope to have a post on one soon).  Once I committed to selling Big Red, I knew I had to get in one last trail ride.

Two Sundays ago I headed out on a fun little ride on the EBSCO property above Mt Laurel.  I started up Double Oak Way, but ended up dropping my chain when the hill got steep and I had to apply a lot of torque (SS 32×16 you know).  So, I hooked my chain back on and turned around out of fear of it happening again.  I next took the short but brutally steep hike-a-bike up to the ridgetop from Mt Laurel.  Once on top, I did a double-back hill repeat to warm up the legs, and then went on my way towards the southeastern ridge doubletrack that meets up with the power lines.  Along the way I cross paths with some turkey hunters who were on foot looking for something to shoot.  They were really friendly and said they had not even seen a turkey all day, which was a shame because I saw two really large turkeys running wild about two miles back.

Rather than risk getting shot by another hunter who they said was up ahead, I turned it around and took the northeastern ridge doubletrack to the first set of power lines.  Along the way I dropped my chain again, only to reattach it and keep going.  After taking a gel break at the first set of power lines, I started heading towards the next set but for some reason it just felt a little spooky.  Not sure why, because I have ridden it many times over the years by myself, and sometimes even early in the morning as the sun is still rising.  But no big deal, so I simply turned around and started the steady uphill back to Double Oak Way.

Once finally hitting Double Oak Way and reaching the wall-ish steep climb to the top I somehow dropped my chain again….really aggravating.  It finally dawned on me that when I removed my chain tensioner a few days prior to start cleaning my bike to sell it that I forgot to properly tighten it back up.  Once I got the right tension I was good to go for the rest of the ride.

On my way back to Hwy 41 I passed Travis, who was doing some hill repeats on his mountain bike.  I decided to turn around and ride with him for a while, which meant climbing the long hill to the top of Double Oak way for what would be my third time (well, maybe 2.8 times since I turned around a little shy of the high point on my first trip of the day).  Then we called it a day and rode back to Mt Laurel together.

Some ride pics are below, including a photo of some rather large paw prints in the mud.  This is really what spooked me to turn around not long after the first power line crossing.  Strava link can be found here.

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so long old friend

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 22, 2013 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

Last week I ended up selling Sexy Lady (my Specialized Tarmac)….you can read a long-term review of it here.  It served me well for the past few years, but it was time to let her go.  I also am actively looking for a buyer for Big Red (my Vassago Bandersnatch) so that I can put the money towards a cyclocross bike.  (Actually, this should give me a surplus of money considering I don’t plan to spend much on the cx bike).

But before selling it, I took it for one last ride two Saturdays ago.  The weather was perfect, so I had hoped to get in around 35-40 miles of riding.  However, I noticed some major looseness in the chain when shifting to the small chainring on the Hwy 25 ascent, so I turned it around and headed for home via a small detour going the opposite direction on 25.  Turns out the chain was simply too long (I recently replaced it and must have ordered one with more links than needed).

While I was out, Double Oak Life Magazine asked me to take some photos for their June issue.  Not sure if they are going to use any of them or not, but below are some pictures I took along Shelby County Highways 41 and 101.  I’m usually too concerned with getting from Point A to Point B as fast as I can to ever really notice how beautiful these stretches of road can be in the spring time.

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trail run with a rattlesnake and a wolf

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 1, 2013 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

I decided to hit Oak Mtn State Park for a trail run last Friday…my first run out there since I did a race last Fall, and also my first trail run since I injured my leg in early January.  Having only run two very short distances (basically just two 5Ks) since I did the Mercedes Half Marathon in mid February, I decided to keep the tempo fairly mild, which was not hard to do considering the run started with a 2-mile uphill climb on the “Red Road” at Oak Mtn.

Really there is not much worth reporting on this run, except that I saw a rattlesnake crossing the trail in front of me.  A mountain biker came by and warned me that there was a 5-foot long rattler on the trail ahead, but once I got to it I estimated it to be closer to 4 feet long.  He was also still a little skinny, likely just out for one of his first trips in the ‘hood since coming out of winter hiding.  He was very slow moving, and also never even rattled his tail at me when I nudged it with the longest stick I could find.  He was more like: “come on man, leave me alone….just trying to enjoy the weather and go for a stroll”.  Once he got far enough out of the way I decided to just keep running ahead.

The next thing I came upon was a chick out hiking with her two dogs.  I swear there is a leash law in effect, though this girl didn’t seem to care.  I had to deal with what looked like a tall thin wolf trying to bite my hand as I jogged past….all while the chick seemingly didn’t care that her wolf-dog is off his leash trying to mess with people.  I thought about warning them of the snake in case they were planning to turn around soon, but then decided I would let her deal with it on her own.

After reaching the green outpost shed on top of the ridge I decided that was a good place to turn around.  So, I got to deal with the wolf again on my way back.  Whatever.

All in all it was a little over 8 miles with some descent climbing at a comfortable pace.  Strava link can be found here.

 

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Specialized Tarmac Comp – long term review

Posted in gear review with tags , , , , on April 1, 2013 by 41flyersracing - o'kelley

Now that I have had this bike for 2.5 years, I figured I would be remiss if I didn’t post a long-term review.  I’ve only had one road bike previously, which was a Cannondale Synapse….aluminum frame with carbon fork and carbon seatpost.  So, I don’t have a lot of experience with other road bikes to offer much comparison, but I can speak in general about the quality of the ride.

Frame – I noticed a big difference in ride quality when I bought this carbon-framed bike compared to my previous aluminum-framed bike.  The minor bumps in the road were greatly smoothed out and the bike just feels like it floats on the road with much more suppleness than an aluminum frame.  There is also some weight benefit that comes with the carbon frame, though really not that much in the grand scale of things (I tend to think in terms of pounds rather than ounces or grams, so anything less than a pound gets generally un-noticed by me).  Another big difference between the Tarmac and the Synapse, at least for me, was that the Tarmac was actually the correct size for me.  The Synapse was always too small and just never quite felt right, whereas the Tarmac (a 61cm size) felt just about perfect.  I could probably feel slightly better on a 60cm frame, but they didn’t offer that size in this particular bike.

Shifting – while my Tarmac has what is technically a lesser component group than my Synapse had (Shimano 105 group vs the more expensive Ultegra group), shifting was more precise and a little smoother.  I attribute this mostly to the technology being around 3 years newer and therefore more refined.  But Specialized, or more likely Bike Link in Birmingham, did a wonderful job of dialing in the derailleurs, shifters, cassette, and cranket so that it always performs well with great consistently.  As a matter of fact, aside from replacing my chain and making very minor adjustments to the tension of the front derailleur cable, this bike has never needed servicing.  I also greatly prefer the standard double chainring setup on the Tarmac as opposed to my compact triple chainring setup on the Synapse.  While I sacrificed some of the very low gears, I had a higher top-end gear ratio which allowed me to keep pedaling on some of the descents that I normally would be forced to coast.

Climbing – this bike is a beast while climbing.  Just find the right gear and sit on it for a long climb.  Or for short bursts it responds well to getting up out of the saddle.  With the stiff carbon frame, you can really feel each pedal stroke getting full energy transferred to the wheels.

Descending – I’ve never been too confident while descending on road bikes….something about the skinny tires, rim brakes, and ever-present possibility of a car pulling out or a dog jumping into the road.  But with that said, this is a respectable descender.  Probably not quite as much as some of the endurance-oriented frames out there, but nonetheless it always gave me enough confidence to get to the bottom of long steep hills without much sacrifice of speed.

Flats – this bike is great on flat terrain.  With the right fit and perhaps some aero armrests it could be a serviceable tri or TT bike if someone had to use it in a pinch.  I’ve set some surprisingly high average speeds on certain sections of Hwys 41 and 43 while riding this bike on solo rides.  And it handles very well when in a group paceline.

Overall – I have been extremely happy with this bike….going so far as to consider it perhaps the favorite bike in my limited collection last summer.  I didn’t name it Sexy Lady for nothing…it is a great looking bike that is equally alluring while riding it.  I would not hesitate to buy another one.  In fact, if I were to buy a new road bike then a new Tarmac would be on the short list.  But with that said, I am about to try to sell it.  Not to buy a newer or better road bike though, but to hopefully finally buy a cyclocross bike.  With some of my ride opportunities likely to be replaced with running this year, I figured I could thin my herd and opt for a CX bike like I’ve wanted for a few years.  A spare set of road wheels should be enough to allow me to still go on road rides whenever I want.

Sexy Lady - Specialized Tarmac Comp

Sexy Lady – Specialized Tarmac Comp

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