Monday, March 28, 2011

New Toy: The M5 Carbon High Racer

So, I've been saving my pennies for a few months, in order to pick up a dedicated go-fast. Rob Gentry at RBR, with the connivance of Tom Hovan, came across a lovely used M5 Carbon High Racer, and decided it had my name all over it. (Eventually, I was to find that this was not merely a figure of speech...)

So, without further ado...
(Ignore my filthy basement, please.)

It's quite a bit different from the original incarnation: when I first took it for a spin, the package included HED3 wheels, a bunch of really nice XTR/Dura Ace components, and a matching tailbox:

Amusingly, the initial owner's name was Don, which had been added to the boom as part of the unique and attention-getting custom tribal paint job. In order to *ahem* help cement the deal, Frank (who wrenches at Rob's shop) personalized it for my benefit with the stroke of a Sharpie.


Honestly, it didn't take much to get me to decide to spring for it. Tom (on his Musashi), Frank (on his Baron), and I on the M5 CHR went for a lovely 30+ mile test ride; while I had a bit of difficulty dealing with high crosswinds, I was delighted to find that the bike climbs as well as my old P-38, and is significantly more aerodynamic.

After purchase, I simplified things a bit: went to a nice 10-speed system using Paul's Thumbies and Dura-Ace 10-spd barcons. Also swapped out the minuscule bars for slightly larger ones, and tightened up the cable routing a bit. Made a bit of difference in the cockpit, as you can see:

For wheels, I went with a couple of mismatched Velocity hoops that were floating around. I'll likely do a new wheelset based on a pair of Deep-Vs at some point, but that's not urgent...what I have now is enough to get rolling.

Had a couple eccentricities with which to deal as well. For some reason, the cable for the front derailleur had been run bare through a tunnel in the carbon fiber boom, so had been gradually sawing its way through one edge of the upper hole. I threw in the lower portion of a rivet for leatherworking to act as a grommet...should be a decent temporary fix, but I'll need to work out something a little better suited.

All told, with seat pad and the ridiculously heavy A530 pedals I'm wont to throw on my bikes, it weighs in at something in the 22 pound range. I suspect I could get it sub-20 without trying too hard, but I'm going to spend some time getting to know 'er before I do much more tinkering.

Tomorrow, I'll take it out for the Tuesday evening North Park ride. We'll see how things hold together...

Pittsburgh Randonneurs 2011 Spring 200K

Tom Hovan, with his Potter-esque balaclava-induced forehead seam. Chillin' at the Midland Subway controle, roughly 70 miles into the ride.

Short Version
125.3 miles, ~14.5 mph rolling average, ~7000-8000 feet of climbing, no mechanicals.
Starting temp: 19 degrees Fahrenheit. Yeesh.

Long Version
Well, it wasn't the warmest 200K I've ever ridden. However, with multiple layers of everything, Lake boots, and a firm belief in my own invulnerability to cold, riding in almost any temperature is possible. We shan't discuss the difference between "possible" and "advisable".

Starting at Jim's place in Shaler, we headed through town to the West End, then up Noblestown and into Carnegie. After a brief jaunt through retail hell on 50, we peeled off onto Thoms Run, then Presto-Sygan to Millers Run all the way to the first controle in Avella. The climbing around Hickory was unaccountably a bit more imposing than I recalled (perhaps because I'd only ever experienced it in a car), but, all in all, it was a very nice first leg. Bob Kerr, who had volunteered to keep an eye out for us during the event, showed up in a van laden with innumerable bags of cookies...a fine bonus.

From Avella, we struck out for more northerly climes...heading up to Burgettstown, we picked up 18 through Raccoon Creek State Park, then 168 until we finally plummeted down to the river and the shadow of the nuclear cooling towers at Shippingsport. Our second controle was just across the river: the Subway in Midland, a classic stopping point for various rides in the area.

After briefly retracing our path, we took 68 through Beaver, Rochester, and Zelienople to Evans City. (Cyclists possessing some familiarity with the region will recognize that this is not exactly the flattest possible route.) We all survived, however, and, after a brief stop at the Evans City Uni-Mart clone, enjoyed a mostly flat transit to Mars (the town in PA, not the astronomical body or the cranky deity).

On the classic Mars-Evans City Rd segment, I had an amusing experience. A car full of young whippersnappers (perhaps early 20s) began blowing their horn , pumping their fists, and cheering as they approached in the opposite direction. Then, the words penetrated my mildly addled brain: "YEAH! Recumbent! Yeah!" Although I certainly could have misinterpreted their demeanor, it appeared to be honest enthusiasm. Says something about the market penetration of these funny bikes that A) youngsters actually recognize them for what they are and B) seem to believe that they are something other than dork chariots.

In general, I'm pretty pleased with this new version of the route. The Millers Run--> Avella leg was very pleasant, and the northbound stretch to Midland, while a bit trafficky in spots, was still enjoyable. I'd like to come up with a controleable-within-reason alternative to the Rochester-Zelienople-via-68 segment at some point,'s a bit mean for 80+ miles into a ride.

Lessons Learned
  • Lake boots do a wonderful job of keeping one's tootsies warm. But, fortheluvvaBuddha are they ever heavy over long distances.
  • It is indeed a brilliant idea to try to thaw one's frozen water bottle by placing it inside one's wind jacket. Unless, of course, it is an insulated bottle...said insulation works in both directions. (Pro tip: tuck the bottle inside the jacket or jersey BEFORE it freezes next time.)
  • It's okay to utterly lose control over one's caloric intake once in a while. I completely forgot about any form of metered, measured intake after the first 30 miles or so, and just went with whatever my body asked for. In hindsight, that may not have been sustainable for much beyond the bounds of the ride, but it seemed to work well for a 200K. Every ride doesn't have to be managed to a fare-thee-well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Inaugural FAWOFYW of 2011

Find A Wheel Or Find Your Way is actually bit of a misnomer, at least until slightly later in the season. It's the Western PA Wheelmen's Tuesday night fast ride out of North Park, and is usually spirited, but no-drop, until at least May. Once the switch gets thrown, though, it's pretty much Katie bar the door...

Anyway, I managed to make it out after work. Fred was leading the ride; myself and Tony were the sole participants, as the weather was cold and threatening enough to dissuade many of the regulars.

'Twas really'd been a while since I had a nice fast group ride, and the riding style was a good change of pace from A) commuting and B) sustainable stupid-distance.

The route was an abbreviated version of the usual; rather than head down State Gamelands and back up Conway Wallrose or Hoenig, we took Mingo to Knob via Pleasant Hill. Skipped Tech 21, too, which no-one seemed too distraught over. ;-)

Nice to blow the cobwebs off. The compact crank worked well, and I've finally gotten all of the fender rub adjusted away, so I guess it's time to trim stays and semi-permanently affix wire for tail light and whatnot. Just in time for the Pittsburgh Randonneurs Spring 200K this Saturday...