Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cyclocross Solution: Carbon Fork Brake Shudder (revisited)

Note: So far I have not received any feedback calling me a kook or a hack.  I must be on to something.  Aside from the Celebrities On My Bike post featuring American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, this has been one of the all-time most popular posts on The Best Bike Blog Ever, original here.  Since CX season is looming, here's a revisit to to the confounding topic of brake shudder, or as I like to call it fork snap, with carbon cyclocross forks.  After rereading it, a year later, I still agree with my findings.  It's not your brakes.  All forks flex under braking pressure.  The rate at which they snap back to their original position is what is different between say steel and carbon.  The trick fix is to minimize the fork flex, slow the rate of the snap and not throw your bike into the woods.  

I inadvertently performed a bike experiment last night after work. I took my cyclocross bike, an Indy Fab Planet X with an Easton EC90x carbon fork for a spin at a nearby park.Since the glue job on the Zipp 404 CX tubulars was fairly new, over the past week I kept the air pressure high to make sure the glue cured and stuck to riding the roads and bike path while I dialed in the fit.Yesterday was my first cyclocross style ride with the tires at cross pressures.  Instead of driving the mile to the park, I decided I’d just let some air out of the tires in the parking lot at work and ride over to the park. I guessed at it and let air out until I could squish the Vittoria file tread really good with my thumb. The ride in the park for the most part was fine, although the pressure was probably a tish too low on the hard ground. The bike felt like it was pushing to the outside in corners (as if the tire was sort of rolling under the rim.) Since my pump was a mile away, I just dialed back the cornering speed and went on with my ride. Coming down the steep road back to my car at work, I hit the brakes, and I felt the familiar tug-tug-tug of brake shudder. I could see the ends of the fork blade move. Son of a!

I had been riding this bike for at least a week and a half with the tires over 60 psi with no brake shudder. Now the tires were at the extreme opposite (guessing around 28-30-remember I let air out without a guage), probably a few PSI too low for hardpack causing a little shudder when slowing at the bottom of a paved hill. I knew about the possibility of brake shudder with carbon cyclocross forks and consequently hung on to my trusty steel fork in case this was to happen. However, I hardly think it’s time to ditch the carbon fork. You have to admit, it’s pretty rare to have a paved descent in a CX race. I didn't feel a single bit of shudder or snap while riding in the park and I even bombed a few grassy downhills where I had to brake into a corner.  It was a long hill; long enough to hit the brakes and watch what was happening.The brakes were slowing the wheel, but the tire was spinning just a bit faster.When I hit the brakes, the tires traveled a little further than the rim, causing the sidewall of the tire to give a bit and in reaction, causing the fork to flex under the bike with the grabby pressure. Ah ha!

Of course, putting the steel fork back on would reduce the shudder. But, I don’t think the problem is severe enough to add a pound back to the bike.  I also think brake shudder isn’t the correct description. It’s more like fork snap. I think Carbon forks are stiffer and snappier. We all know steel has a very soft and easy flex to it. I think the steel fork flexed too, but it never snapped back to shape as quickly as the carbon. It’s like the difference between bamboo and pine. Both forks will flex under braking pressure. It’s just that the carbon fork will snap back into shape while the steel fork will flex, stay in the flexed position longer and go back to it’s original shape more slowly and less noticeably when the pressure if relieved. In addition the IF steel fork has a greater degree of rake, (48mm compared to the carbon’s 45mm). From the beginning the steel fork puts the contact area of the tire more forward than that of the Easton EC90x.

You can do a few things to minimize the “snap.” The usual fix is to try toeing in the brakes which will put less initial brake pad in contact with the rim surface, which I assume reduces initial braking power, makes braking more linear or gradual, and consequently reduce the fork flex at the other end. However, I think that’s only half, or more likely a quarter of the solution. I think tire construction, the grippiness of brake pads, tire pressure, fork rake and even the hardness of the ground play an equal role. I would go even as far to assume a tubular with a soft cotton sidewall and latex inner tube (like a Challenge or Dugast), would cause more carbon fork snap than say a Tufo or Vittoria with a thicker sidewall and standard rubber inner tube. The ground was hard yesterday, I really only needed to run low enough pressure for comfort and keep the tires from rolling in the corners. I think a few more PSI would’ve made all the difference. The other thing to note is that I didn’t feel any fork snap during the CX practice. It didn’t snap until bombing down a long paved hill.

I think the trick is to keep enough air in the tires so that they hold their shape in the given conditions. This optimal pressure will change with the course and conditions.  If the tires hold their shape, that’ll give the contact patch of the tire less opportunity to get under the fork and pull it backwards. The fork snap should be reduced. Air is the least expensive of the possible combination of solutions.

Ahh. Fhew. Time to put on my smoking jacket and ease into my high-backed leather chair with a snifter of brandy.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Alberto Contador May Sign With Team Alberto Contador p/b Alberto

(Nose Hit News Service: Spain) In a move we all saw coming, amidst the swirling rumors of stalled contract talks with Astana, Alberto Contador will reportedly sign with a new team for the 2011 cycling season; Team Alberto Contador presented by Alberto.  This new UCI Pro tour team managed by Alberto Contador, is slated to sign other top named riders, namely Alberto Contador, Alberto Contador, Alberto Contador and of course Alberto Contador.  “I just got fed up with all the controversy over people saying I’m not a team player.  So, I go on my own.  Who needs teammates when you end up attacking them anyway,” questioned the team owner.  “It’s a win-win!,” the team manager exclaimed in broken English, “we only need two maybe four bicycle, someone to hand Alberto musette bag at feed zone and that’s uh about it.  Alberto’s brother will book the hotels, give massage and drive team car.  All Alberto left to do is fire the pistol and slip on the yellow jersey.”  He has a point.

Although details remain sketchy, rumored sponsors are Alberto VO5 as primary sponsor and Alberto’s Cookies, fancy schmancy Alberto Guardiani designer shoes and famed Salsa musician Jose Alberto.  “It’s all about Alberto,” Alberto raved, “and I enjoy good shoes, good cookies, good music and my fantastic looking jet black Spanish hair.”  Asked if Astana decided to drop him because of his brown tooth that he has yet to get whitened or capped despite earning over two million Euros with his previous Tour De France wins, Contador denied comment.  

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Photo: Devil Claims Levi on Tourmalet

We were all cheering for him, but team Radio Shack's Levi Leipheimer met the sharp end of the devil's pitchfork on the Tourmalet at the Tour De France today, losing 8:59 to Contador on the stage and falling to 14:24 back and into 13th on GC.  Special thanks to reader Andy P. in France for the original Devil photo from today's stage.  Complete results & story on Velonews.

Fan us and visit us on Facebook to comment for tomorrow's Facebook Friday post. Fill in the blank: "It was so hot on my ride..."

In the meantime, below are a few more of Andy P's snapshots from the Tourmalet.

Our correspondent in France Andy P. in the Polka dot headband.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The TDF Leather Jersey Proposal

Obviously there’s some disagreement as to if Contador should not have attacked and/or waited after Schleck dropped his chain.  Some cried foul.  Others insist there are no gifts in the Tour De France.  There will never be any cut and dry rule.  We could spend the rest of our years debating the thin line between winning and sportsmanship, or we could award acts of heroism, respect and coolness in the Tour De France.  That’s why I propose a new jersey competition to stand atop the podium along with the yellow, green and polka dot.  Introducing: The Leather Jersey, Le Maillot Cuir.

There’s no argument that the world’s coolest person ever in the world is Arthur Henry Fonzarelli, aka The Fonz.  Modeled after Fonzie’s leather jacket from the hit TV show Happy Days, the Leather Jersey would be awarded each day to the points leader in the coolness competition.  Of course it’d be a faux black leather jersey, pleather if you will.  It’d have an authentic “thumbs up” silk screened on the back and topped up with an extra tall popped up collar.  The Leather Jersey would be sponsored by Ray Ban and come with a pair of cool guy Wayfarer sunglasses.  Fabian Cancellara, the coolest racer who resembles the Fonz the most, would award the jersey each day.  Instead of kissing, the podium girls would stand back, give a double thumbs up and say, "AAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!"

Points would be awarded to riders demonstrating acts of sportsmanship, heroism, respect, kindness and general coolness.  Double points would apply on extreme stages, such as those with Hors category climbs or on days when the weather is bad.
The Cool Points scale could look something like this:
2              Heroically making the time cut but coming in DFL
5              Offering water  food to a racer on another team
7              Helping unpile the bikes after a mass wreck
10           Checking to see if that dude that just rode off the cliff is moving down there
15           Waiting for or not attacking a rival who just suffered a mechanical or a crash

In a multiple jersey winning situation, instead of giving the lesser jersey to the runner up, the Leather Jersey would be worn layered in conjunction with the green, polka dot or yellow jersey.  This would be accomplished by awarding, for example a yellow jersey with an extra tall upturned black collar.  In Paris it would be an extra honor, showing the world that it is indeed possible to win with respect, integrity, sportsmanship, heroism, kindness and just being cool.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Death’s Door to Door

The shipwrecked remains of the J.E. Gilmore, the A.P. Nichols, and the Forest lay in the chilly waters below the chugging diesel propellers of our ferry.  This is Death’s Door, the historic passage between Lake Michigan and Green Bay where the lives of many a Great Lakes sailor were dashed across the rocks.  That’s the Deadliest Catch version.  In reality, with today’s summery blue sky, calm seas and temperatures in the lower 80’s it’s as harmless as a hot tub.  A couple we talked with compared this vacation fishing hamlet to Maine.  However, Maine has lobsters and corn, Door County (the thumb of Wisconsin that juts into Lake Michigan) has perch and everything that can possibly be baked, stirred or stuffed with famous Door County cherries.  In winter, the same gales and ice capped waves that claimed the Edmund Fitzgerald still challenge the heartiest great lake sailor.  Today, the only thing that might kill me is the sound of the screaming kids two benches behind us on the ferry.

“Should we take the ferry to the island?”  The answer to this question while planning a bike ride, no matter the body of water or the ferry, should always be an unequivocal yes, even if you’d like to throw a few brats overboard. We rode 10 miles of skinny cherry tree back roads from Sister Bay to the Northport Ferry dock.  If you’d like to duplicate this ride, look at a map.  There’s only one way to get to the ferry without riding on Highway 42.  I think I looked at the map four times the whole day. 

As we rolled down Cottage Street near Gills Rock with sneak peeks of Death’s Door between the million dollar lake houses, I asked “You know what’s wrong with this ride?”  “Not a GD thing,” my wife replied with a quirky smile.  Sort of an inside joke, it’s a favorite exchange between us and a few friends when bike rides are perfect.  The ferry to Washington Island takes credit cards and about a half hour to cross Death’s Door.  Till now, I had no idea where the name Door County came from.  Obviously someone was bright enough not to call this beautiful peninsula Death’s Door County.

As the ferry reversed the engines to line up the gate with the dock, Washington Harbor came into view with brightly painted boat houses and work sheds dotting the shoreline.  In architecture, this is still a fishing village.  Bikes are first to roll off.  Hundreds of butterflies danced on the bushes outside the Visitors Center.  Are you kidding me?  We planned a circumnavigation of the island which featured a 10-12 mile route past the house with the Catfish sculpture and up to Jacksonport, which had equally beautiful views of Rock Island, a state park which doesn’t allow any vehicles, not even bikes.  Nearly 45 minutes passed before we saw a single car or another soul.  After snapping a few photos from the Jacksonport pier, we headed the 10 miles or so toward the shops and restaurants on Main Street.  On the way, and on foot, we climbed the 200 slippery algae covered steps of the Mountain Park fire tower for a 360 view of the island.  The brochure said 184 steps.  I counted 200 even.  Maybe my cycling shoes threw me off.  We grabbed a delicious deli lunch at the Danish Mill before taking the ferry back to the mainland and another 10 miles back to Sister Bay.

Even on high end race bikes and only a 45 or so mile pancake flat ride, it still took us more than six hours door to door.  When you knock on Death’s Door there’s no reason to push the pace.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Facebook Friday: Garministan Invasion

I got rear ended at a toll both outside of Chicago on the Eisenhower expressway more than ten years ago.  In slow motion, as I sat stopped waiting to pay, I heard the skidding.  Then from my rear view mirror I could see her coming in way to fast.  A white sedan skidding, looking for the lane with more room to stop.  Bam.  Crash.  Smash.  Bang.  Dominoes.  One car plowed into another, till the rear window of my 1991 Honda Civic hatchback caved in and the Proflex bike on my roof rack flipped onto my hood.  I was okay.  Glass was everywhere.  My frame got cracked.  In a shaky trembly half-scared half-adrenaline spiked voice, much like the one Tyler Farrar used in post race interviews to describe yesterday's sprint at the 2010 Tour De France, I narrated to the officer what happened.  Farrar was freaked out and for good reason.  Crazy things were unfolding in slo-mo in front of his eyes.

After watching the tour coverage of Thursday's sprint over and over, in slo-mo, upside down from the trapeze bar in my living room with binoculars, and by cocking my head side to side like a dog trying to figure out what it's owner is saying, it's pretty clear that nobody in the sprint was riding a line straight enough to pass a breathalizer test.  Check out the video link of "How The Race Was Won" here.

In post race interviews, both Julian Dean and Mark Renshaw, veteran lead out guys, prided themselves on clean sprinting, holding their line.  What I found fascinating, is that neither Dean nor Renshaw mentioned the headbutts.  Headbutting is not against the rules, deviating from your line is.  If you're getting crowded off your line, better defend it with your head than to use your hands at 40mph.  Problem is, Renshaw did more than defend his real estate.  That's what the race jury saw.

Like a game of Risk, Renshaw pounded his way to gain more acreage.  These are big boys.  They know what's going on.  Pro sprinters can thread a needle an inch wider than their handlebars.  There was 3-4 feet to the left of Renshaw, plenty of room to throw a sprinters disco party let alone for Renshaw to pull off and let Cav go straight.  Problem was Renshaw was getting beat by Dean, consequently Farrar was getting the upper hand on Cav.  

Renshaw saw that the only way to regain dominance at the line for both Cav and himself was for him to cross the border on his right.  Sorry, but that was the land of Garministan.  Look at it like a double paceline.  Guy on the left (Renshaw) goes left, guy on the right (Dean) goes right.  While exciting for TV, I think we got robbed of a drag race between Farrar and Cav and for that matter a three up race with Petacchi.  Too bad.  Maybe that's what the jury saw.  This is the Tour De France and we want to see the best go head to head.

Still, the general consensus among FB friends and fans is that the punishment didn't fit the crime.  Getting ejected was a bit harsh.  So, what should've been the punishment?  It's Facebook Friday.  Every week we ask our Facebook fans a burning question and post the comments here.  To be a part of fit, fan us here on FB.  

This weeks question was: "Instead of being kicked out of the Le Tour for Le Head-butting Julian Dean, how should've Mark Renshaw been punished?" 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Holy Water Bottles

I could be going to hell.  If so, my wife and a bunch of racer type cyclists from Milwaukee are coming with me.  Woo hell!  The most extreme epic ride ever!  I’ll wear my helmet with the horns.  We’ll have a Papal Peloton!  I grew up Catholic, went to Sunday school, received a coupla sacraments, know the Lords Prayer and Hail Mary by heart and in all my worldly Theological studies I’m certain that drinking Holy Water at least gets you a few whacks from a Nun’s yardstick.  I’m almost positive that somewhere in the bible it says “Drinketh the wine and thou be seateth at the right hand of the Lord.  Guzzleth the Holy Water, and thou gets few jabiths in the keester with a hot rusty pitchith fork.”

If you’ve been angry because there hasn’t been a new blog post in weeks, I’ve been on vacation.  Rule #1 with this blog is that riding comes before writing.  So while on vacation in Wisconsin we tagged on to the Holy Hill Ride, Milwaukee’s regular Sunday morning pilgrimage to a spectacular spired church perched on a scenic hill 35 miles or so out in the sticks from downtown.  Superweek, aka The International Cycling Classic, also features a stage through Holy Hill country.  This is the second time I’ve done the ride.  I grew up in Milwaukee, but my passion for road cycling didn’t arise till I moved to Cincinnati.  Therefore the only times I visited Holy Hill were on Christmas and at 1am with a six pack of Mickey’s big mouth beers during prom.  The Holy Hill ride ranks right up with Cincinnati’s covered bridge ride, skinny farm roads leading to a place that’s always better reached by bicycle.  Like most cities and their Sunday ride traditions, this ride has been going on for a long time.  From what the peloton of 30 or so said, the Holy Hill ride has been going on probably before the Green Bay Packers won their first Superbowl, but after Harley met Davidson.

Milwaukeeans will try to fool you to thinking that the topography is hilly, mainly by calling people from Illinois “flatlanders.”  Since I’ve moved away to a place that actually is quite hilly, Milwaukee for all practical purposes is as flat as a pancake with a few thick ripples of syrup on top and running down the side into Lake Michigan.  But.  But.  But, for some reason that only a geological genius can explain, there are a few areas that were not smooshed by glaciers.  Holy Hill sits on top of one of them.  The wooded hill probably rises 300ish feet above the farmland below.  Not quite Cincinnati high, but definitely tall enough for a 3-4 minute climb with a couple of soft switchbacks capped off by two steep stabs to the cornerstone of the church.  Of course, King of the Mountain points are in full effect every Sunday.  While, I did not win the surge to the top, I think I certainly made a few locals fear that the out of town guy may spank them on their own hill.

At the top, we stopped for a natural and to fill up the bottles.  The temp was tickling its way toward 85 degrees.  The group split up.  Some stopped at a small out-building with a restroom and bubbler (Wisconsin speak for “drinking fountain”).  The rest of us, stopped in front of this little grotto with what appeared to be a natural spring watched over by a statue of the Virgin Mary.  In plain English, the sign next to the spigot said, “Holy Water.”  Now, I’m no Theological expert, but I’m pretty sure this would lead most god fearing people to believe that this water was meant for blessing and quenching the thirst unfortunate souls and not for guzzling in 28 ounce quantities.  Despite Mary’s furrowed brow of disapproval, everyone filled their bottles from the tap and made holy water jokes in the shadow of the colossal cathedral.  H.  E.  Double toothpicks.

Regardless of our apparent sin, none of us were struck by a bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky.  However, someone did get a flat tire right there at the grotto.  Coincidence?  I dunno.  Regardless, no one wrecked on the way home.  Maybe it was blessed.  We went on to have a wonderful vacation in Wisconsin.  Who knows?  They say the body is 70% water.  For a few days, maybe ours was Holy Water.  Is that doping?