Archive for the 'Cycling Equipment' category

Ready to Race – Trek Speed Concept

May 13, 2016 2:52 pm

I signed up for a couple Duathlons this summer.  The first one, a local event, is in a week so I moved my Enve carbon tubular wheels over to my Trek Speed Concept bike.  Moving the wheels was easy enough but changing the brake pads to carbon specific pads was much harder than on a regular road bike.  I guess that is the price you pay to have an aero bike that takes great efforts to make things as aero as possible.


Things were also made more difficult by the difference in clearance between the Bontrager brake shoes and typical Shimano brake pads.  Things were such a tight fit I had to remove the entire brake shoe from the bike to do the swap.  That meant removing the covers for both the front on rear brakes to get easy access to do the swap and to make sure I had the brake shoes aligned up correctly.

So how fast is the Speed Concept?  I think it is fast but even though I have taken it on several rides, totaling over 300 miles, I was not sure I am much faster than on my Trek Domane.  The race in one week is mostly part of my training program and even though it has steep one mile climb I plan to use my Speed Concept to get the full experience.  My real target is the Nationals Duathlon Championship in Bend Oregon, the last Saturday in June.  They finally posted the course description. It looks like about 2.2% average grade for 6.5 miles where you turn around and go down to the start.  You repeat this lap again for about 1500 feet of climbing over 40K.  I started to wonder if using my lighter road bike would be better than the Speed Concept so I did some estimates.  Using my weight and the 19 lb Speed Concept, assuming I stay in the aerobars, putting out 160 watts on the uphill and 130 watts on the downhill, I used a very useful Bicycle Calculator to get these values for the outbound and return.


Using my road bike which is 3.5 lbs lighter, same wattage but on the bar tops for climbing and hoods descending I get this result


If you add the outbound and return together and double for the two laps, you get this comparison for the Speed Concept time trial bike vs. my lighter Trek Domane road bike.


This means for 40K the Speed Concept could be upwards of 12 minutes faster than my lighter road bike, which of course assumes I am in the aero position for the entire time.  Not only is it faster, I use less energy so have more left for the final 5K run.  This also doesn’t consider all the aerodynamic advantages of the Speed Concept over the Domane.  So the money I spent on this new bike should bring some significant speed improvement assume ideal conditions.  I only wish I could spend money to improve my running speed by the same amount of time.

New Wheels – Dura Ace 9000 C35

September 16, 2015 12:11 pm
New Wheels - Dura Ace 9000 C35

Just arrived today are the new DuraAce C35 wheelset.  I ordered these from ProBikeKit in England less than 2 weeks ago and today the US Postal Service delivered them to my front door.

When I lived in California I used their little brother, the DuraAce C24 wheels.  They were a great lightweight wheel that well meet my needs with the extensive climbing there.  In Utah there is more flat riding and more pace line efforts and it should not be surprising that many riders here use deep dish carbon wheels.  I was not ready to go that far so decided on a middle ground and bought the DuraAce C35 wheels.  At a depth of 35 mm, vs 45 to 55 mm on many deeper wheels, they may not have the full aero benefits, but they are shown to be very aero and don’t have the same issue of dealing with cross winds that a lightweight person like me wants to avoid.  At the same time they only weigh 100 grams more than the C24 wheels. They are billed as a all around wheel that you can use for training and racing.  A friend was using these wheels on our Italy cycling trip and really liked them more than the C24 wheels he used previously.

I weighed them right out of the box without skewers.  They measured:

Front: 685 grams
Rear:  845 grams

Features from the spec sheet

• D2 Rim design optimizes aerodynamics and stability
• New hubs for 2013, optimized for 11-speed system, utilizing OptBal Spoke System to provide balanced tension = more rigid & durable rear wheel overall
• Extra wide hub flange maximizes lateral rigidity.
• High strength, lightweight titanium freehub body
• Shimano angular contact bearings and oversize A7075 Alloy Axles
• 16 spokes front, 21 spokes rear
• 10/11-speed compatible
• Weight (without QR & rim tape) F: 662g / R: 826g

As an engineer I like the approach of the OptBal spoke system where it has 14 spokes on the drive side (where the stress is much greater) and 7 on the non-drive side.  Most wheels use the same number of spokes on both sides even though when someone breaks a spoke, it is almost always on the drive side.

I also like that they have an aluminum braking surface.  I don’t trust braking on a full carbon clincher rim and I don’t want to switch brake pad every time I switch wheels (such as putting on tubeless wheels).

I have them all ready to roll now and will test them out tomorrow.  I wonder how much they might have helped me on my race last Saturday, Lotoja.  I setup the C24 wheels with a wider range cassette so Anne can use them when she needs lighter wheels than what came with her new bike or we are riding where we want tubed tires instead of the tubeless tires I currently installed for her.


New Richey Break Away Bike for Anne

May 12, 2015 10:05 am

With our upcoming bicycle trip to Italy in August, I decided to get a Richey Break Away bike for Anne.  I ended up ordering the frame/fork from  They were very helpful getting me to pick the right size since you can’t really test ride them.  I ended up ordering a size 48 cm frame, which was just right.  I moved the DuraAce 7800 components and my wheels over to it from my Richey Break Away bike since I had DuraAce 7900 components left over from my Trek Madone, which the factory kept the frame and gave me credit on my new Domane.  Here is a photo form Anne’s first test ride, but she complained about that hard saddle I had put on there to test.



Gear Ratios

March 14, 2015 5:11 pm

Gearing on a bike might be a bit confusing to some since there are several things that affect how low the gearing is.  There are effectively four circles or gears involved:

  • The Crank Arm.  This is measured in mm, with a valued like 170 or 172.5
  • The Front Cassette, which is usually either a Triple which as 3 rings that have 53/39/30 teeth each, a Double which two rings with 53/39 teeth each or a Compact with 50/34 teeth each.
  • The Rear Cassette.  This also defines the number of speeds, usually either 10 or 11 speed and the smallest cassette is typically 11 or 12 teeth and the largest anywhere from 23 to 36 teeth.
  • The Tire Size.  For mountain bikes theses are either 26 in, 27.5 in or 29 in.  For road bikes these are typically 700c.  It is the outside circumference of the tire that is the factor so a fatter tire will have a larger circumference.

To get the lowest gear you would go with the largest crank, smallest front chaining, largest rear cassette cog and smallest tire.  A gear ratio is defined by the the ratio of the number of teeth (or circumference) between two gears but we effectively have 4 gears at work so to get a lower gear ration you go from a large gear driving a small gear, driving a large gear, driving a small gear.

On a bicycle it is a bit more complicated than if all these were simple gears, in which case the middle gears would be idler gears and not affect anything.  But the connection between the crank arm and the chain ring is direct coupled.  The crank arm acts as a lever and like any lever, the longer the lever the easier it is because the longer the crank arm, the more distance your foot moves on each rotation and more distance for the same rotation means less force, or effectively a lower gear.  Likewise the cassette is directly coupled to the rear tire.  As the tire size decreases, each rotation of the tire means moving less of a distance, which means less force is needed for each rotation of the tire.

When you move to a larger tire size (such as the 29ner mountain bike) the same crankset and rear cassette will have higher gear ratios (harder to pedal) than on a 26 in bike.

The crank arm length is picked based on the rider and the bike tires are what works on the bike.  So all that most riders can change is the chain rings size and the rear cassette range.

There are some online calculators you can use where you put in the crank size, tire size, front chain rings and rear cassettes and it will give you gear ratios.  A lower number means a lower gear (easier to pedal).  These will help you decide if you can switch to a Compact Crank instead of using a Triple Crank.

I was considering to buy a new bike for my wife but her current bike has a Triple Crankset with a11/34 cassette on the rear, which I am able to have her use by installing a mountain bike rear derailleur.  I was hoping to get a bike for her with electronic shifting but the lowest option would be a Compact crank set and a Ultegra long cage derailleur that will work with a 11/32 cassette.  With her current bike she rarely goes into the very lowest gear, but on some of the hills she goes in one gear down (30 tooth cog), so she is using a 30 tooth chain ring in the front and a 30 tooth cog  in the rear.  Plugging in the crank arm length (170 mm), tire size (700×25) that is a gear ratio of 2.1.  Now switching to a Compact crank and a 11/32 cassette, the lowest gear ratio is also 2.1.  So she is only giving up the last gear only although that last gear is relatively big jump.




Course on Garmin 810 Without a Computer

October 31, 2013 8:29 am

We brought our bikes to Solvang, California, for a short vacation. I have done the double century ride here several times so I was thinking of just doing about 70 miles of that route today. However when we checked into the hotel they handed us a flyer from the local bicycle shop about the “Solvang Prelude”. Doing a search I saw that this cycling event was this weekend and included a metric century ride. Intrigued I found the route that someone had put on

The problem was I had only brought my iPad and left the computer back home. The Garmin Edge 810 does support Bluetooth so if I could get the course onto Garmin Connect, I could access it with the Garmin Connect iPhone app and send it to my 810. Initially I thought that would be easy but that was not the case.

On the iPad I went to the course on RideWithGPS and tried to do an export but it only opened the GPX text file in the browser. There was no way on the iPad, which lacks a file system, to make this work. So using two iPads I looked at the course on one and manually started to create the course inside Garmin Connect on the other one. Half done the Safari browser crashed, losing all my work. I tried again from the start and again after a lot of work a crash. Frustrated I tried Chrome on the iPad and it crashed.

Then I remembered I had Parallel Connect so I could access my computer at home remotely using my iPad. Doing that I opened up Firefox and then repeated the export and saved the route as a GPX file on the desktop of my Mac at home. Then I opened in the browser Garmin Connect, selected courses and the to create a new course. Then I realized it does not support any GPX import. I knew I could create a course from an activity so again accessing my home computer I tried to upload the GPX file to Garmin Connect but that failed. I tried using a TCX export and that also failed.

Frustrate, I then opened the website GPSGypsies, where I was able to convert the GPX file into a Garmin file. They had several options for the output file format.

I tried the two Garmin file options and each failed. I then tried the GPX course file and it failed. Finally I tried the Garmin GPX Track file. That file uploaded to Garmin Connect where I was able to use the activity to create a course.

Then it was back to my iPhone using the Garmin Connect app, and clicked to send to the 810. A frustrating experience but I finally found it to work. The lesson I have learned is the the iPad is high limited and I would be Bette off with a MacBook Air to have a real computer with a USB port.

GoPro WiFi Back and Remote Combo Pack

May 11, 2013 3:02 pm

I purchase the GoPro Hero 2 camera over a year agot.  Although I used it a lot initially, putting it on my helmet to take photos and video while riding,  both when using my road bike and mountain bike, I found it difficult to use because I had no way to know if it was pointed in the right direction and I had to reach up to the camera to press the shutter or turn the camera on and off.  I was never quite sure if the shutter press or power button worked because I had to rely on a series of beeps and I can’t always hear those if there is a lot of background noise.  When I made the purchase, GoPro was promising a WiFi back and a remote, with the ability to use an iPhone to control the camera and preview what it was taking a photo or view of.

It seemed like a good way to go but it took a long time for GoPro to fulfill their promised device.  About the time they did, they released a new model, Hero 3, with WiFi built in.  I didn’t want to buy a new camera.  I was reading some mixed reviews of the WiFi back on the GoPro Hero 2 so I waited awhile, figuring they would work out the bugs.  I finally bought the WiFi Back and Remote combo pack and was able to get it for $100 at a local bike shop, which I thought was a good deal since it was priced higher on


I opened up the box and in the usual GoPro fashion they make it hard to get to the contents and seem to put more thought into making it look fancy on the shelf.  They should take a lesson from how Apple packages things, but they probably think they have done that, but they have not.  Inside are all the things you need.  Besides the WiFi back and the remote, you get two new backs for the case, one water proof, since the current back would not fit with the WiFi back being thicker.  You also get a standard USB cable plus a special one for charging the remote.


Both the WiFi back and the remote needed to be charged first.  Both charge from a USB port, but as mentioned, the remote has a special USB cable that you don’t want to lose.  Once charged, I then downloaded the CineForm software from GoPro and updated the Hero 2 camera, WiFi Back and Remote with the latest firmware.  Initially I had a problem for CineForm to see the Hero 2 camera, but when I swapped out the 64 Gb SD card for another card, then it worked fine.  Part of the update process includes the need to register the WiFi Back and selected a password that will be used later for the WiFi conection.  That was a good thing because you would not want some stranger using their smart phone with your camera.

When you buy the combo pack the WiFi Back and  the remote are already paired on the WiFi.  For the iPhone I downloaded the GoPro app and then in settings I found the Go Pro camera, selected that, and entered the password I had created early.  I have read numerous reports in the web of people having a hard time to get the devices to pair, but I had no issue at all.

Some items to note before you go this route:

  • The remote is a handy device with a small LCD screen that essentially shows what mode the Hero 2 is in by having the screen be a duplicate of what you would see in the Hero 2.  That means you have the same lame menu system that the Hero 2 uses so you have to go through all the button presses to change things, but at least if they camera is mounted on your helmet you can do that with the remote.  It does larger buttons that are much easier to press than those on the camera itself.
  • The iPhone app allows easier controls than the remote plus a live preview so you can see what the camera is pointed at and recording.  Note that there is a 5 second delay in the live preview but that is much better than shooting blind and not knowing what you get until you download to a computer.
  • The biggest issue I have is that you can only connect the WiFi back to either the remote or the iPhone, not both of them at the same time.  I would like it if I could use the iPhone for preview and still use the remote as a shutter release, but that is not supported.  I am not sure if that is a limitation of the iPhone or GoPro’s issue, but to switch between the two you have to access the camera itself, not a great design feature for a camera that might be on your helmet.  You can use the iPhone to make the switch to the remote so if you want to use the iPhone to get things positioned and select the right options on the camera itself, you can then use the iPhone to switch to the remote, but to switch back to the iPhone you would need to do that on the camera itself (or using the remote to wade through the menu system).
  • The WiFi back has it’s own battery, otherwise you camera battery would drain too quickly.  If the WiFi Back battery get’s low, it will draw power from the camera.
  • There is a distance limit to use the remote or the iPhone and they are not the same.  I have no issue when either are within a few feet of the Hero 2, but for really remote applications, check it out before you go this route.
  • You can use the iPhone to turn the camera off and on, but the WiFi back stays on so make sure you turn it off when you are finished.

I guess I would give GoPro only a C grade on this.  First they took a long time to release a product that they promised upon which many people bought the Hero 2 expecting this ability.  It would be nice to have a Hero 3 with WiFi built in, but they they charge you $79 just for the remote, so the combo pack and a Hero 2 is an okay deal.  If I could use both the remote and the iPhone at the same time, I would raise my score to a B.  Although I think the Hero 2 is a great camera, the form factor and the lame menu system bothers me, but right now GoPro has the video and image quality and all the accessories one could ever want.


Threshold Power (FTP) Testing with the Garmin Edge 800/810

May 10, 2013 6:12 pm

Threshold – What is it?

The term “threshold” is used in many ways in terms of sports and endurance, such as anaerobic threshold (AT), lactate threshold (LT), maximal lactate steady state (MLSS), onset of blood lactate (OBLA).  Exercise physiologists have known for a long time that as you increase the intensity of exercise you reach a point where lactate begins to accumulate in a person’s blood, and this their LT.  It is an indicator of the athlete’s endurance ability.  Lactate is a good thing since it is a fuel for the body during exercise, but when you create more than you can use, it builds up in your muscles and will limit what you can do.

For cyclists who use a Power Meter, this same threshold concept is called FTP, or Functional Threshold Power.   Just as you might see what heart rate you can hold for 1 hour to determine your LT, FTP can be determined by seeing what power you can average for a one hour time trial.  Knowing your FTP can allow you to set power zones for training, similar to heart rate zones.

In the book “Training and Racing with a Power Meter”  by Hunter Allen, and Andy Coggan, a test protocol is provided to determine your FTP.  Not many want to do a one hour time trail periodically just to get this number so their test involves a series of steps, leading up to a 20 minute section where you try to go close to your threshold.  From this test, you can determine your FTP.  The first time I did this test last year, I wrote it out on a piece of paper and taped it to my handlebars, trying to read the next step while I was in the middle of an intense setp.  The Workout Feature of the Garmin Edge products makes this so much better.

Garmin Connect Workout

The first step is to log into Garmin Connect and set up a new workout.  Using the test protocol, I added 11 steps.  This way I can use the Garmin Edge 800/810 to guide me through each step.  Note for each step I selected the time and what to measure.  During the warmup I wanted to keep my heart rate in the range of 110 to 115 bpm, so that was the first step.  The test protocol includes some one minute segments at high cadence, so I selected cadence between 95 and 105 for one minute for those steps, and so forth.  For some steps I could either set a target for Power or Heart Rate but I decided to use Heart Rate since I am more familiar with my threshold for that.


Getting Ready for the Test

Once you have the workout setup in Garmin Connect, you connect your Garmin Edge 810 to your computer and send the workout to it.

Next pick the route to do the workout on.  Ideally it will be one where you can ride without stopping.  For me, I prefer to do the two segments where I need to get my heart rate up high to be on a hill climb.  The only negative is that I need to do a recovery 10 minutes while climbing, but that worked out okay for me.  I decided to do the test riding from home, and then climbing Squaw Peak in Utah.  This allowed me to do the warmup steps on the way the the climb.  You could decide to do all of the steps on a bike trainer, but that would not be very interesting to me.

Actual Workout

Now you are ready to run the test protocol, letting the Garmin guide you through each step.  The workout screen includes a count down time, and the parameters you are trying to achieve, in this case I was on step 10, trying to hold my heart rate just below threshold for 20 minutes.  If I am in the desired zone, a message will show at the bottom, then disappear.  If I am outside the desired range for that step I will get a similar message.


These messages at the bottom auto clear.  The main screen shows your current step at the top, the prior step and your next step below.  When I reach the end of one step, a message at the bottom appears briefly with details of the new step, telling me to speed up or slow down to get into the desired range.



A simple approach when you finished is to see the average power you generated during the 20 minute test.  Your FTP will be about 5% below that since the FTP is for a full hour. Since I ended up with 206 watts for 20 minutes, that means a FTP at my current condition of 206 – (206 x .05) = 196 watts.  Remember that watts is not as important as watts per kg, and since I am a lightweight small guy, 196 watts is much better than it would be for a large cyclists, who needs to put out more watts to go as fast, especially on a hill climb.


If you are a STRAVA user, you can get these type of plots.  Here the current ride, or this test is plotted against my best power vs. time over the last six weeks.  The test was successful because the average power for 20 minutes was just as high as my best for the last 6 weeks.  The test protocol is not to see how much power you can put out for 5 minutes or 5 seconds, but to determine your FTP, or threshold by using a 20 minute segment.


Golden Cheetah

Another good program (free) is Golden Cheetah.  Load the ride into this program and you get all types of analytical tools.  From the plot below you can see that my 20 minute critical power is below what I did last year.  It is a clear indication that I am not in the same condition as my best condition last year where you FTP was at least 20 watts higher.

Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 1.54.46 PM


Hunter recommends that you run this test protocol a few times a year to determine your current condition.  Using the workout feature in Garmin Connect and the Garmin Edge 810, you can easily do this and the test is set so it is not as exhausting as trying to do a one hour time trail.  Just using a heart rate alone makes it difficult to determine fitness since your heart rate is not a direct measurement of your power output, being affected by things such as fatigue and other physiological aspects. That is what the Power Meter is becoming so popular with cyclists.

Garmin Edge 810 or 510 to Strava Without Computer

March 30, 2013 5:58 pm

Updated 10/2014:  The work around shown below is not needed now if you have a Garmin that supports bluetooth upload to Garmin Connect.  Just configure your Strava account to automatically upload your activities from Garmin Connect.  This new addition to Strava is a big time saver.

One of the many near features of the new Garmin Edge 810 or 510 is the ability to upload your ride via an iPhone or Android phone to Garmin Connect. This particularly useful when doing a ride away from home, such as a multi day tour, without a computer. However there is currently no support from Strava for such uploads. Here is a work around.

1. You need some method to save a file to your smartphone. For the iPhone I installed the program “File App”.

2. After your ride is uploaded open Garmin Connect and select the ride.

3. Select to export the ride as a TCX file (GPX will also work but won’t include heart rate data).



4. Select to open the TCX file in the File application (or which app you use).


5. Using the Files application, email the TCX file, as an attachment, to Strava will match up your email address to your account and post your ride. All done!

Power up Squaw Peak

August 6, 2012 9:31 pm

For the last two days I have been using a Power Tap wheel that I have on loan from a local bike shop.  I am finding using this wheel, even though it is heavier than my other rear wheel, is helping me to climb faster.  Without the power meter I only could rely on heart rate and perceived effort.  On both the climb yesterday and the climb today up Squaw Peak, I could see that when I started the climb in my usual fashion, my heart rate was not yet high, but my power output was much higher than I was able to sustain.  Later in the climb my heart rate would stay high, but the power would keep declining.  When I stood up the power would increase.  When I went to an easy gear the power would also go up.  Today I set a new PR up Squaw Peak.

Strava will estimate power expended on a climb if you don’t have a power meter, but that is all after the fact and not of much use while you are actually make the climb.  I have climbed Squaw Peak 57 times since I started to use Strava, here are my top 5 times.  For today’s ride, the lightning bolt by the Power number means it is from a power meter while the others are Strava estimates.

Strava has limited analytical tools so I imported the two rides into a free program called Golden Cheetah.  I am not sure sure how to use all the features, but it has some interesting graphs, such as this one on Critical Power.

And this graph of pedal force with the yellow area for the climb up Squaw Peak.

Strava Errors Without GPS Reset

May 2, 2012 9:18 pm

Most of us have used our Garmin sports devices on two different events and forgot to reset it between the events.  Once you upload the file to Garmin Connect, it does look a bit odd on the map with a straight line between the two points, but the data otherwise is correct in terms of total distance.  This use to be the case with Strava, but it seems that Strava has decided to make a change in how it handles the data upload from Garmin devices.  Instead of taking the data on total distance from the Garmin unit, it is using the individual GPS datapoints to generate the total distance.  This means if you stop, or even shutdown, your Garmin device, drive to a new location, then start your second cycling event, Strava will add the straight line distance between the two.  Because of comments on a friends Strava post about this subject, I decided to do a test.  I did two bike rides and shut down the Garmin Edge 500 between the rides.  It was about 40 miles (straight line) drive up to my brother’s house for the second ride.  My total distance, as shown on the Garmin 500 was 62.2 miles and that is how things show up on Garmin Connect.  However when I uploaded this FIT file to Strava, it shows 102 miles, which is totally wrong.

I then split the file into 3 segments using another program, and uploaded the two real cycling segments into Strava.  This shows how it looks in the Activity Summary on Strava.  The first two lines are the two real segments, the last the full FIT file uploaded.  Not only does Strava get the distance totally wrong, the time includes time when the Garmin unit is shut off.  The suffer score no longer makes sense.

Here is what it looks like on Garmin Connect.  You can see the totals are correct and for most people that is all they care about.  Not only is the total distance the sum of the fist two lines above but so is the time.  I understand that Strava may want to try to do a better job at estimating distance but they have created a problem because most users will have no ability to split a FIT file to fix their mistake.  Strava’s approach therefore does not make any sense to me and then need to fix this issue.