I have lost the count of the number of times I have ridden the Altamont pass but I have ridden it 85 times since I joined Strava. I have encountered some absolutely horrendous winds on this road and had my fingers crossed that it wasn’t going to be too bad on the day. On the other hand I was praying for a strong headwind (Westerly) so I didn’t lose all my leaderboard positions on the 3 distinct hills. 9 times out of 10 it is a wind blowing from the West that normally gets stronger as the day progresses. An early start is a distinct advantage. My start time was a very disappointing 1:17.
- Altamont Ghost Golf Course climb – KOM 3m02s – 20.2MPH
- Altamont Mid Hump = 2nd 49s = 20.4MPH
- Altamont Dump Hill – KOM 3m08s – 18.4 MPH
Since my stroke I haven’t been anywhere close to these times and I have been nearly a minute slower on the two longer sections. These best times were from when I was super fit and I don’t expect to ever get close to them again. I didn’t really have any tactics for the race. Try to push as big a gear as possible on the fast outbound leg (holding back a bit) then go as hard as I could on the way back. My chosen steed (TT bikes were banned for mere mortals) was my Storck but I did go for the Kask TT helmet.
Race day dawned with the usual stonking headwind back and quite cool temperatures. It was really fast on the way out and I ran out of gears on the three hills. 50×12 just wasn’t enough for the 40MPH+ descents. I touched 46MPH at one point. My wife on her 52×11 with 60mm wheels touched 56MPH !!!!! I held back a bit on the way out to save a bit for the brutal headwind home. It didn’t really help though and I really suffered on the way back and I was caught by my minute man (ex Team Mate Rick Lawton) on the golf course climb. I was also caught by my two minute man but this time on the Mid hump. My power for the whole course was 230W which was about what I expected. I actually caught one rider and finished 9th out of 10. I was quite pleased to have beaten 30 minutes and not be last. It only took 7.5 minutes to get out to the turn so that shows how tough it was on the way back.
- Position : 9/10
- Time : 29m50s
- Winners Time : 25m20s (Rob Herrick)
Prologue : The Redkite Hill Climb
- Dist : 4.5 miles
- Climb: 745 feet
At the end of March I had a huge setback and for the week after I barely touched my bike. I was ready right then and there to give up cycling. Thanks to support from my wife and friends I decided to keep on cycling. I have decided to abandon my plans for the state 25 mile champs and cancelled several other events I had planned. It took a huge chunk of enthusiasm out of riding the bike
I have done quite a few practice attempts at the Del Valle climb since my stroke and the results are have not been so good. In fact it seemed as if I was getting slower as the year went on. I cant get my head round this but I was actually faster on my recumbent trike than I can manage today. My p.b. is 6m48s from back in 2015 and by the beginning of May I couldn’t even manage to break 10 minutes. When I did my p.b, I averaged 417W and since my stroke (before May) I managed around 260W. I can honestly say that I feel worse at 260W than I did at 400W. According to Strava I have done the climb 59 times and 40 of those were under 10 minutes before my stroke.
I started to see a bit of promise in May and at last managed to beat 10 minutes. My power up the climb had climbed to to 289W and I did 9m33s. This is still a long way short of my previous power but going the right way. When I was five pounds lighter 300W was good enough for me to break into 8 minutes. Unfortunately I came down with a cold two weeks before the event which dragged on till the Tuesday before and stopped me taking advantage of my improvement. The challenge will be to beat 10 minutes up the climb after already putting in the 3 mile effort on the flat (a pacing challenge)
I have only done one practice attempt at actually doing the full time trial and it was very difficult to pace the bottom section so I didn’t completely blow up on the climb. My time up the climb with this practice attempt was over 10 minutes despite trying to ride the first 3 miles at FTP. It was a hot day (90 degrees plus) and this made the climb very nasty. My plan was to keep the first section to FTP and then do whatever I could on the steep climb. I was also suffering from a bit of a cold on this attempt. On this attempt my power on the climb was 273W which is down a bit on my best ride since the stroke but not too bad. My numbers showed my 20 minute power to be 227W which is what I expect. My current FTP is approximately 215W which is way down on my 2015 FTP of 346W. My time was about 3m15s down on my best for this segment. It looks like The flat section and the climb are roughly 50/50 time wise.
For the race itself it was rather a disappointing sign up with only 14 riders. I entered the 45+ 3/4 category but with little hope of coming in anything but last. I secretly hoped that people may go too hard at the start and blow up big time on the hill and as such set a poor time. I do have a local knowledge advantage but I am really riding at CAT 5 level since my stroke and my goal was to try to beat my practice time. If I had my 2015 form I would hope to be about 3 minutes faster and perhaps be fighting out for the podium. My chosen race bike was the Storck without my Kask aero helmet. The Storck was approx. 17 pounds which is not particularly light by modern standards but ok. I expected some people in my category had bikes that may be down to about 14 pounds. My goal was to do a sub ten minute climb.
Race was cool and overcast with light winds. I felt OK on my warmup ride to the start but it was a little chilly. I set off at steady pace and was determined not to over cook it at the start. I kept my power around FTP effort and thought I had a pretty good pace but I got caught by minute man (Ex team mate Rick Lawton) before 3 miles. I put in a pretty good effort on the climb and did a post stroke PB of 9m15s (301W). My result wasn’t last but that was because the rider in last place missed his start. My PB for this course was 16m33s so I was very pleased to just be within 2.5 minutes of that. The winner of my category did an amazing time of 15m20s.
- Result : 12th
- Time : 18m58s
- Power : 277W
- Winner: J Rajhalme (15m20s)
With the red Kite “no tt bike” time trails coming up I was curious to see if any of my chosen helmets would make a difference. I decided to compare the Kask Bambino, Garneau Course and Specialized S Works. The S works helmet was the lightest and Garneau claimed that the Course was an aero road helmet. The Bambino is of course a full on TT helmet.
How I decided to test them out. Choose a day with fairly light winds and ride the Laughlin Kilo at the same speed 3 times in each helmet. The Laughlin Kilo is just slightly uphill but perfectly straight. See strava segment. The course is lightly trafficked but unfortunately there were a few cars today and I don’t know what this did to the results. I did all the tests on the drops on my Storck road bike with a stages PM at as close to 20MPH as I could achieve. Due to the head/cross wind 20MPH worked out to be slightly over an FTP effort so the comparison was done at TT speed. There was a slight head/cross wind.
My conclusion was that I learned absolutely nothing from this exercise. Although the wind was light it did vary and there were a few cars to skew the results but there is absolutely nothing definite I can take home from this data. Perhaps this type of testing would work on an indoor velodrome but out on real roads it was a waste of time.
I expected the Bambino to be measurably faster than the others but the worst result I obtained on the day was with it. This doesn’t make any sense to me at all. If I look at the averages the difference between the Specialized and the Garneau is around 14W which is what I would have expected based on manufacturers claims. The Garneau helmet does feel fastest but I cant believe it is faster than the Bambino. I was somewhat disappointed with how they Kask felt. It didn’t feel fast at all.
Specialized S Works
- Run 1: Time: 1m54s – 20.3MPH – Power 262W
- Run 2: Time: 1m54s – 20.3MPH- Power 256W
- Run 3: Time: 1m54s – 20.3MPH – Power 242W
Average Power = 253W
The huge difference of 20W between run 1 and run 3 completely make this exercise a waste of time. If I had seen those differences between the various helmets I would have been happy. I didn’t think the wind was varying that much but these differences are huge. I am impressed how well I paced each effort. I didn’t note if there was more traffic on any one run.
- Run 1: 1m55s – 20.1MPH – Power 281W
- Run 2: 1m54s – 20.3MPH – Power 256W
- Run 3: 1m53s – 20.5MPH – Power 247W
Average Power = 261W
I was expecting 15-20W improvement with this helmet but the results are all over the place. The first run was terrible and I don’t know why. If these results could be relied upon you would state that the Kask was the worse helmet here. As it is I don’t know what the reason for the poor results are. Perhaps the wind got up for this session. I can’t believe SKY would use the Bambino if it was slower than a regular helmet. I still plan to wear the Bambino for Altamont Red Kite TT as I am sure it must be faster. For the Del Valle TT I will use the Garneau as it it is lighter and cooler (perhaps faster ??????).
- Run 1: 1m55s – 20.1MPH – Power 233W
- Run 2: 1m53s – 20.5MPH – Power 244W
- Run 3: 1m56s – 20MPH – Power 241W
Average Power = 239W
According to Garneau this is supposed to be an aerodynamic road helmet. Seat of the pants it felt to be the fastest helmet but the data simply can’t be trusted. The results between runs are pretty consistent and the wattage the best I saw all day. It is a very comfortable helmet and gets good reviews. For example. It also seems to be the quietest helmet and you cant really feel you are wearing it.
The wind blew over my Tarmac and it fell on a bike pump which put a huge chip in the carbon forks. I had the bike inspected and the prognosis was that it needed new forks. I contacted Specialized but they were unable to find me a new fork so suggested I should get a new frame. New Tarmac frames are about $3000 so I trolled the internet looking for something else.
I found a nice carbon frame on sale for $1500 off the list price from a pretty respectable German company so took the plunge.
The frame is a bit more aero than the tarmac and has a lovely finish. I built it up using mainly old parts from the Tarmac but was pretty pleased with the finished result. It rides really nice and the bottom bracket is very stiff. It doesn’t feel as special as the Tarmac did but it is very smooth. It weighs in about 17.5 pounds which is about 1/2 pound heavier than my tarmac.
I do just about all my own bike maintenance but I have to admit the internal cabling scared me so I paid Andy Frey from Beeline bikes to do the gears and rear brake. He did a great job and the bike ran perfect right from the start. I only did a quick 7 mile shakedown ride. Time to get a proper test ride in.
This was my first race back since my stroke in 2015 and I was in an incredibly nervous state before hand. It felt more like I was riding the national championships rather than a “fun” local time trial. I originally signed up for the Merckx event too but I felt so unwell after the first race that I abandoned this plan. This was also my first race back for Christian Cycling which felt good.
I had planed on riding my fixed gear Wabi for this race but at the last minute decided to ride my road bike instead. I put some Hed 3 wheels on the bike and opted to use my Kask aero helmet to try to save a few seconds. The bike actually felt really quick with this setup even though it wasn’t. I went for Jersey and shorts as I didn’t buy an IC3 skinsuit but the fit of the Castelli team kit is pretty good.
The race started in quite cool conditions with just a sprinkling of rain. This caused my Kask visor to steam up and on the way back I had a very foggy view. I don’t think there was very much wind as the course felt like there was a headwind both ways. I used every ounce of my TT experience to pace the event but I felt pretty poor on the up hills and this really hurt my average speed. My personal record (Trek TTX time trial bike) on the outbound leg is 15m47s on a TT bike and 16m32s on my fixed Merckx bike. Today I did 18m51s which is about 3.5MPH slower.
I was hoping for a super fast tailwind return leg and I tried to push the biggest gear I could turn over but it really didn’t feel that fast. I felt ok on the return leg and was able to push what felt to be a normal time trial speed but the figures show I was way off my pre stroke pace. My best time for the return leg is 11m01s (29.5MPH) on my TT bike and 12m02s (27 MPH) on the fixed bike. Considering my fixed bike (Merckx) is 48×15, 27MPH is a pretty impressive average speed and represents well over 100RPM. Today my time was 12m40s (25.6MPH) which is way off the mark.
My finishing time was 31m46s which made me last place (winners time was 26m04) and I was very disappointed with the time. In the past when racing on my TT bike I used to be in the 26 minutes and my personal best is 26m49s. I am not surprised that I was much slower than the TT bike but what really hit home was how much slower I was than my fixed gear Merckx best. 28m41s was my best time on the 48×15 fixed. I dread to think what my time would have been without the aero wheel and Kask helmet.
No matter how you tell yourself that you know you are not going to do a good time it still hurts to come last in anything. I know my ftp is over 100W down on what it used to be but I hate losing that badly. To make matters worse I felt terrible afterwards and still don’t feel great typing this up many hours later.
My wife Sandra has a better day and she got two podiums.
Every day above ground is a bonus!
Sandra, myself and Gary At the end
I found myself really missing having a three wheeled chariot, especially with my balance issues now. I decided to buy a new Eon Green Catrike 700 from my go to recumbent dealer Zach Kaplan.
I don’t expect to be as fast a I used to be but I do look forward to having a lot of fun. I plan to do the odd time trial, Metric century and low key hill climb series on it. Since my stroke my Strava times are now actually slower than I used to be able to do on the 700 so trikes certainly are not super slow. I have my fingers crossed that the Canada Road TT series will happen this year.
I have ridden several times with the power pod and the readings didn’t feel to me as if they were stacking up with my other power meters. On one interval it looked spot on to me but over the complete ride the data just didn’t look good. I also experienced the thing draining the battery away in storage so twice I ended up doing rides with no power.
When the manufacturers announced a firmware upgrade with better accuracy I felt compelled to try it out (6.2.1). The first ride out after selecting the better accuracy is supposed to be a cal ride but no matter what I tried the pod just wouldn’t work. It just flashed green and red and sat at 50W no matter what I did. In the end I left it until the battery died and tried to upload the software again.
The next ride the calibration process actually worked. You ride out until the power meter reads 50 then stop. You then turn round and ride until the meter reads 100 and the cal is supposedly complete. Unfortunately the data I got after this calibration was total junk and the power was over reading considerably. I saw over 600W when I was probably around 250W. I rode around for over an hour like this in the hope that it would sort itself out but it never did.
I have tried the calibration many times now and I still cant get consistent results, It is not unusual to be riding down hill or with a tailwind and the thing to be reading 400+W. I ride a lot of with a Stages power meter and/or power tap so I have a pretty good feel for wattage and my power pod just seems to be random. I have to admit I am very disappointed with it and wish I could get my money back.
I have contacted the manufacturer for their help and they were very quick to respond so I feel bad saying bad things about the power pod but I will wait to see if they can sort me out. Fingers crossed.
Example ride from today on the above bike. Storming tail wind on the way out. Notice down hill spinning at 100RPM and the power meter reckons I am doing 529W.
I have to say that I absolutely love the way these tires ride on both dirt and and tarmac but I do not know if I would ever buy them again. We have had a very wet January/February and I have done a lot of miles in the wet on these tires. I have done 1200 miles on them since installation and suffered five flats. I have had more flats on these tires than I have had in the past 5 years. On the other hand I have ridden in the rain more than I have since moving to California.
Bike Tires direct have this to say about the tires:
“While many of Challenge’s previous tires are right at home on gravel, they wanted this one to be specially tailored for longer, more demanding rides where tire width and flat protection are at a premium. To this end, they gave the Gravel Grinder Race their Double Puncture Protection System (PPS2) and spec’ed it with a generous 38mm width, resulting in great durability and dependability with comfort and stability on uneven and loose terrain. With file tread in the center, the Gravel Grinder roles smoothly, but still grips turns thanks to its more aggressive shoulder knobs.”
I am afraid I see no evidence of an effective double puncture protection system. I think the tread wear on the back tire after 1200 miles is pretty significant.
Tread wear after 1200 mostly road miles.
The Bethany to O’ Neil Forebay aqueduct trail is a path near Patterson that is extremely lightly used. The surface is generally rough chip seal but there are some sections of pristine tarmac. Although the route is road bike friendly there are regular sections where you have to get off to walk to transverse gates. For this reason, I recommend MTB shoes. There are also a few rough and gravely sections where CX tires make things a lot more pleasurable. The worst sections of the course are some beat up old cattle guards where you really have to be careful.
There is virtually no climbing on the route but wind can be a significant factor. The route is also very exposed so in the summer the heat can be brutal. You see very few humans on the route with only the occasional fisherman for company. I have ridden one mid week in the morning and seen perhaps 3 people all day. The only down sides to the route is that there can be a lot of broken glass near the gated areas (even with chunky CX tires I have flatted) and one section goes by a massive bee community (seasonal).
At the time of writing I have not yet managed to do the whole course. WORK IN PRORESS
Bethany To Patterson Section – 35.6 miles
Bethany To Patterson Section – 35.6 miles
Patterson to Bethany
Patterson to O’ Neil Forebay (approx. 28 miles)
O’ Neil Forebay to Patterson
I was so impressed with the Challenge Gravel Grinders on my Volagi that I fitted a pair on my wifes bike too. I hope she like them as much.