New Tires For The Volagi and Stroke

Since I last posted here over a year a go I have not been a well man.  I had a stroke after the Mt Tam hill climb and ended up in hospital for 7 months.  I  am back riding now but I am very slow and don’t push myself too hard.  I am doing around 150 miles per week but I am riding rather than training and take a massive kicking whenever the road points up. My wife has been a treasure and for that I forgive her for all the half wheeling since I got back on the bike. I don’t know if I ever will race again and I have vowed not to shave my legs until I can hang on on the climb on the IC3 Sunday morning run.

Looking at my power meter data since I got back on the bike for the last 3 months I have lost over 100W of ftp.  It feels worse that that and I really suffer on hills although I never feel well enough to give it 10/10.

I decided to try some challenge tires out on the Volagi. They were on awesome sale online so how could I resist.  I have been running Vittoria Open Pave for the last 1000 miles and they are looking pretty cut up so it is time for a change. I have’nt ridden them yet but hope they wont be too sluggish on the road. Riding Impressions to follow.


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EROICA California April 8th-10th 2016

Registration has opened up for the Eroica California and I plan to sign up for the 123mile route which I believe is supposed to be very difficult (I love a challenge). I have already started searching for a suitable mount for the event but I know exactly what I am looking for. I want to ride the event on a 1930’s pathracer style machine and for a suitable donor bike I have been scouring Craigs List for a Raleigh Tourist DL-1. This bike has exactly the long laid back look I am after. It seems to me that most of the DL-1’s that appear on CL get bought by restoration shops that buy them cheap, tart them up and sell them for 2 to 3 times the original price. Considering I am planning on gutting the bike to make it into a pathracer this seems an awful waste to me. In the last 3 weeks I haven’t seen a single suitable donor bike for sale for a reasonable price.

Challenges for the DL-1 build would include how to integrate the rod style brakes with some Major Taylor bars and the Cottered cranks that I absolutely hated as a child but are period correct.  The other problem i have with the rod brakes is how they would cope with the very hilly 123 mile course.  I don’t expect to have modern braking performance but they have to be good enough that the bike can actually stop on some steep gravel descent.

Option 2 is to go out and buy a Pashley Guvnor where all the hard work has already been done for me and I would have a bike that is much more suitable for the 123mile route. It has better brakes and a much nicer frame in glorious 531. They are rare as hens teeth in Northern California but I am keeping my eyes open for a 22.5″ 3 spd model coming up for sale. Downsides to the Guvnor is the steep price and a few items that are not so period correct. I think the stock crankset looks particularly out of place and I would want to run Major Taylor bars which would create it’s own challenge in terms of brake lever and shifter setup. The bike below has a different crankset and the major Taylor bars which would be absolutely spot on for me.

Looking to create something like this but with hub brakes and 3 speeds.

My final challenge is to go back to having a brooks saddle.  In my teens I rode Brooks saddles and found them to be the most uncomfortable things ever created. After switching to a San Marco Turbo saddle I vowed never to let my cheeks touch a Brooks ever again. I hope the saddles have improved as they are essential for the period correct look.  Another thing I cant understand with Brooks saddles is why so many people run them with the nose pointing upwards which must surely be absolute hell on your family allowance. As I said earlier in this blog post….I like a challenge.

If anyone out there has a Guvnor or DL-1 for sale please let me know.

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Low Key Hill Climbs 2015

The events have been announced for the 2015 Low Key Hill climb season and there is an unprecedented number of them that I have never ridden before.

  1. 3rd October – Montebello
  2. 10th October – Page Mill (Never Ridden Before)
  3. 17th October – Alba Road (Never Ridden Before)
  4. 24th October – Mill Creek (Never Ridden Before)
  5. 31st October – Purisima Creek Trail (Never Ridden Before)
  6. 7th November – Bohlman (Never Ridden Before)
  7. 14th November – OLH (Never Ridden Before)
  8. 21st November – Mount Charlie
  9. 26th November – Mount Hamilton

I plan on racing 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 on my Wabi Classic All Steel Single Speed. I also plan on pre-riding all the “Never Ridden” climbs just to figure out an appropriate gear,

Some New Wheels From Wabi have shed some weight from the Classic

Round 5 is off road and i may ride it on my single speed CX commute bike but I am undecided on this. Also thinking I could convert an old MTB to single speed.

Picture from Low Key Website

Round 9 is totally unsuitable for single speed and I would be so slow that my time would be a joke. There are some significant flat and fast sections and two big down hills. If i geared up for the flats I would destroy me knees on the final 6 miles of 6.0%. Undecided about this one.

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23rd August Tempus Fugit TT with and without gears and aero

It was a touch of madness that made me decide to ride two time trials the day after an MTB race in Bodie. It wasn’t just the MTB race but also the 4-5 hour drive home and lack of sleep (I never sleep well in hotels).  In the end I couldn’t miss out on the chance to ride a local time trial after so many have been cancelled this year. I entered the Masters 45+ 3/4 and the Merckx categories which presented a bit of a problem of its own.  My first race was at 10:36 a.m. and my second was at 11:18 a.m. which gave me 42 minutes between events. If I could do close to my personal best I would expect to finish in around 27 minutes which meant that I would have only 15 minutes to get back to the parking lot, have a drink, change helmet, change numbers and of course change my bike. I did not have enough time to change out of my skinsuit so I would have to race the Merckx in it (people were using a lot more aero kit than me)

Race#1:  Masters 45+ 

Masters 45+ 3/4

I got a pretty decent warmup but over the the first few miles i could definitely feel the Bodie trip in my legs and was a bit worried at how slow I felt.  I decided to just relax and not push myself too deep on the steeper sections on the outward leg and gradually increase my pace.  It felt like there was a bit of a headwind on the way out so i was hoping for a super fast return.  I was a little concerned that my pulse was a bit down on normal but my power looked good.

The return leg was fast but there were still areas where the wind was quite difficult and I had a few pucker moments with unexpected gusts of wind at over 35MPH. This course seems to be getting rougher every year and you really need to keep your eyes focused on road hazards.  The final fast and twisty section was spoiled a little bit by me encountering two leisure cyclists riding two abreast on the last fast corner.  This forced me to have to brake and then try to get back up to speed for the last slightly uphill 200m sprint. I reckon this cost me the three seconds I needed for second place.

Thanks to Katie for the picture

I was pleased with my third place and ended up with a new personal record by 3 seconds and a new best power by 4w.


  1. Lanier BENKARD – 00:26:26
  2. Jeff DALE = 00:26:47
  3.  Mark KING – 00:26:49


It was a huge challenge getting ready for the second event but fortunately my wife was there to help me. By the time I got sorted and onto the Wabi Fixed Gear i had just five minutes before my next race began. I was definitely not properly recovered and a bit stressed when I got to the line.  I had opted to ride on my usual 48 x 15 gearing which works out as a reasonable compromise between grinding up the hills on the way out and spinning like a mad thing on the way back.

I love it when a fixed gear bike is on full song. Thanks for the picture Katie

On the Way out the wind seemed to have got up a bit and I felt really over geared on the 48×15 . I have never felt this to be such an issue before but I put it down to the headwind and general fatigue.  It felt very fast on the the way back and i was spinning out in several places (around 140 rpm max). I ended up finishing 23 seconds down on my p.r. and in 6th place which I was a bit disappointed with. I was also very tired.

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2015 Bodie Bowl on the fat bike

Bodie is a Ghost Town nestled at 8000 ft up in the Sierra mountains roughly between the Town of Bridgeport and Mono lake. I have visited it a few times but not since my Sam Angus (The Mad Dog in my Blog title) passed away. As soon as I saw the announcement for an MTB race up there I knew I had to do it in memory of my old friend.

Angus the Samoyed at Bodie Ghost Town back in 2004. RIP my friend.

Bodie Bowl – August 22, 2015
A Mountain Bike Event through the Historic Ghost/Mining Town of Bodie, CA and the surrounding Bodie Bowl. This course will work it’s way through town and then out into BLM lands and a private Cattle Ranch. Great views of the White Mountains, Mono Lake, Mammoth Mountain and the Eastern Sierras.

This event will take place at Bodie State Park on August 22, 2015. Start times will be 8:10 am (Expert), 8:25 am (Sport) and 8:40 am (Recreational). There will be two courses. “Expert/Sport” course will be 50 Kilometers (31 miles) and approximately 2500 feet of climbing. The “Recreational” course will be 30 Kilometers (18.6 miles). The courses will be at an elevation of 8000 – 9000 feet. There is just “The right amount” of climbing on this course with the elevation to make it challenging. Both courses are all on dirt and primarily one loop with a few “out and backs”. Most of the ride will be on soft “Double Track” making it a fast course with easy passing access. You’ll love it!

In my mind the perfect bike for the Bodie Bowl  was a  drop bar fatbike and it was this race that was the genesis of the idea for “Fatty Lumpkin”.

“Fatty Lumpkin” About to get his first proper taste of sand

The race turned out to be a very low key affair with only around 50 entrants and a very friendly atmosphere.  I was also surprised to see 34f temperatures at the start which was a shock to the system after baking in the Bay Area all week.

Pretty Cold !!

I went for a warm up dressed with woolly gloves, arm warmers and a wind vest but the temperature rose very quickly so I ditched the wind vest and gloves for the race.  I wish I had ditched the arm warmers too as it got pretty warm on the climbs.

My plan for the race was to hang on to the only other fatbike in the expert group and hopefully out-sprint him on the uphill run in to the finish. Unfortunately the other fatbike rider turned out to be faster than me.

The race started off pretty mellow with a single speeder dictating the pace round the first of the town center loops. I was glad of the steady start as I had only done 1.6 miles of warm-up. Straight away I noticed  that the other fatbike rider was strong on the short climb.  On the second loop of the town center he opened up a bit of a gap but made a wrong turn on the downhill so the group came back together.

The first three miles were downhill on a bumpy and sandy road so I ended up on the front but I was riding well within myself as I knew we had a long way to go. I wasn’t on the front for long before the other fat bike rider came flying past so I had no choice but to go with him. Pretty soon we had opened up a decent gap over the rest of our group.  When we hit the first climb the fat bike rider started to gap me but I suspected he was pushing too hard so I kept to a pace I was more comfortable with. I felt sure I could bring him back on the longer faster sections (how wrong I was).  I was very impressed at how good the fatbike handled on the loose and sandy trails and was really enjoying myself.  On the first downhill I had to temper my enthusiasm a bit as there were a lot of rocks and I didn’t want to crash or break off a derailleur.

It turns out that we had taken a wrong turn and should not have gone up the climb spur at the start of the race but rather at the end. When I got to the junction I followed the arrows but they took me back to nearly the start.  A few people shouted at me that I was going the wrong way but the arrows seemed to confirm I was on the right course.  Eventually it dawned on me that there was no-one else around and I was only about a mile away from where we started.  I dawned on me that the race was over for me so I turned round and just rode to finish.

Out on Course – Picture Courtesy of Leigh

The rest of the race was pretty uneventful and due to the out and back nature of the course I got to see the lead group quite regularly (I think a lot of them went wrong too but not as bad as I did).  I was really impressed at how well the fatbike handled the terrain and any sluggishness that I normally feel on hard packed trails completely disappeared once I hit the sand. The ride was nothing short of magical.  I think I should have gone quite a bit lower in pressure for this event as I was bouncing about a bit too much on the rocky bits.  On sandy or loose rock climbs the fatbike was amazing.  I felt really sorry for the few people who had turned up on CX bikes as they were having a terrible time digging in and fishtailing in the sand. The course was 100% rideable on a fatbike.

I finished in a time of around 2h30m with 30.1 miles and 2269ft of climbing on the clock.  I really enjoyed this event and plan to be back again next year with some better navigation skills.

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First 200 Miles on “Fatty Lumpkin”

“Fatty Lumpkin”  the drop bar Framed Alaskan Fat Bike and me had a bit of a baptism of fire. My first proper ride was the 100 mile Lost and Found Gravel race where I suffered rather badly and we parted not the best of friends.  Fatty sat unloved in a corner of the garage throughout the months of June and July whilst I concentrated on getting my Time Trial mojo back. August however, brings with it Fatty’s second race (the Bodie Bowl) so it was time to sort out the problems that made me unhappy way back in May.

My biggest issue with my setup was the Salsa Woodchipper bars which I simply could not get along with at all. I went to my local shop and borrowed a set of “Cowtipper” bars to see if these would work any better for me but before I could install them I spotted the new Salsa Bikes launch which had several drop bar MTB’s.  I quickly realized that my bar position was way different to what they had so I tried to mimic what I saw in the pictures.  This involved tipping the bars down to what appeared to be a ridiculous angle but it made all the difference in the world.  The new position allowed me to run the brifters in a  much more conventional position and the result was far more comfortable  and much less cramped.  I also raised the bars about an inch which actually made riding on the newly positioned drops even more comfortable.

New Bar Setup

I also discovered that I had somehow ended up with my saddle too high which was limiting my power and giving me sore knees. I expect when we were trying to sort out the tire issues on the night before the “Lost and Found” the height got adjusted in the work stand and I never noticed. I have also been experimenting with tire pressures and have found my best compromise to be 13psi front and 14psi rear (at least by what my pumps says).  This gives me good predictable handling along with acceptable bump absorption in the front. I still find a little waywardness on very fast downhill corners where i am really cranked over and can feel a bit of side wall deformation.

The first ride out on my local testing ground was a revelation and I felt right at home blasting up and down trails.  After only a few rides I found myself getting close to and even beating some of my 29er times on the trails.  The more I rode, the faster I got on the downhills as I learned to trust the incredible cornering grip.  Rocky down hills are still a bit of a challenge as the fat tires can only soak up so much trail chatter but anything with loose dirt is a blast.  This Tuesday I actually got within 10 seconds of getting my KOM back on a particular local dirt climb on the fatbike and was beginning to think that the fatbike was quite a trail weapon.  I decided to ride my CX bike on that same trail this morning for comparison and reality set back in when I was over a minute faster.

The fat tires and 10 pound weight difference are just too much of a disadvantage for the Fatbike to overcome on this trail. I would have expected to see the Fatbike to claw some time back on the loose dirt section but as can be seen from the trace below the fatbike loses time every foot of the way (fatbike was more fun though)

Comparison of CX bike vs Fatbike (purple) on “Dyer Up” climb.

The only thing I cant really do anything about that I find a little annoying is the Q factor which always feels odd after hopping off one of my other bikes. I know this is a tradeoff for the 197mm rear end and relatively tight chainstays but I wish it was better.

Despite not being as quick as a CX bike I am looking forward to Bodie Bowl where I will be entered into the fatbike category.  It will be interesting to see how I do against other fatbikes. The “Expert/Sport” course will be 50 Kilometers (31 miles) and approximately 2500 feet of climbing. All of the course is at 8000ft plus and the temperatures could be as low a just above freezing early in the morning.

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Hill Climb Season 2015

I am sat at the computer fighting off a miserable cold/ sinus infection picked up on my business trip to Norway and mulling over the cancellation of another two time trials. Naturally my thoughts turn to the hill climb season as with the exception of the tempus Fugit TT the TT season is over. The HC calendar at the moment looks like this.

  • September 12th : Mt. Tamalpais Hill Climb
  • September 20th : Fremont Peak HC
  • October 4th : Mount Diablo Challenge
  • Low Key Hill Climb Series ???????. I am hoping that the low key hill climb series also returns this year but things have been deadly quiet on that front up to now.

With the lack of entries for this type of event in 2015 I have worries that the two hill climbs in September will also end up being cancelled. I have ridden the Fremont Peak hill climb twice before and really enjoyed it but have never ridden the Mt Tam event. Last year the Mt Tam event was cancelled,

Neither of the two events in September are suitable for single speed as both feature a high speed flat opening section but I plan to return to the Diablo Challenge on the Wabi Single Speed. I am hoping to try to knock at least a minute off last years time.

Fingers crossed that no events get cancelled and I cant wait to start training for these events once I get rid of this darn cold.

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I have spent a considerable amount of effort getting a comfortable position on my TT bike after my nightmare experience at the National champs two weeks ago.  Seat of the pants feel is that I am not as fast but I am a 100% more comfortable. I have done a couple of hour long efforts in the weeks leading up to Sattley and not experienced any of the issues (including saddle sores) that hurt my efforts at Loyalton.

My goals for the race were to beat 57 minutes (to achieve a life time personal best at the age of 49) and to finish in a state where I could still walk.  My plan was to go for a negative split where I didn’t push quite so hard on the outbound leg and then have a faster leg home.  I had noticed in reviewing my previous 40K attempts that i always fade on the return leg and i am sure this hurts my time more.

The weather was just about perfect at Sattley with temperatures around 60 degrees and fairly light winds.  I wouldn’t need a bottle today but I took one just in case.  I set off at my target outbound power plan but was a bit disappointed with my speed. It felt like a headwind out so I had my fingers crossed that there would be a tailwind home. The funny thing about the Sattley course is that although it looks flat, there are drags that really sap your speed and they can be quite frustrating. At about 5 miles the road surface degrades a bit and there are expansion joints every 15 feet which are incredibly annoying.  I hit a section of these expansion joints on the way back that completely destroyed my pace for a while.

I hit the turn at at exactly 57 minute pace and was hoping for a storming tailwind home (averaged 289W). Unfortunately it felt like a headwind on the way back too so it was not going to be easy on the slightly shorter return leg.  Even though I had throttled back slightly on the way out I still suffered badly on the way back and struggled home at around 20W less than the outward leg.  I am a little puzzled how I can put out 330W for an hour on a climb but less than 280W for an hour in a flat time trial. I do think that altitude has an impact on my breathing which kills my FTP and today my average pulse was around 10bpm down on my usual 40K efforts.

In the end I managed a new all time personal best of 56m45s  but was deeply disappointed at the finish feeling that I had not done a good ride. I felt I should have rode a much stronger second leg and could not figure out why my power faded so badly.

Result : 6th Place 56:45 (New pr)

Winner : Dan Bryant 50:13

Not as low as I should be but comfortable. Skinsuit is billowing a bit on the top of my shoulders (not good)

Looking at the above picture I thought my saddle looked a bit low and when I just checked it had dropped by 1/2″ during the event. Those expansion joints must have caused the saddle to slip down which is a problem i seem to be having a lot this year with the Trek. I doubt this was the reason for the power drop on the way back but it cant have helped.

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Fiddling With my TT position. 1 Week to State Champs

This week I have ridden my TT bike almost every day and apart from today I have changed some aspect of my position. I have made some huge progress over my nationals setup and my shoulders now feel much more relaxed and my saddle doesn’t tear up my nether regions like a grinder. My saddle is slightly lower, my bars are about an inch higher and my aero bars are a bit wider apart (still not convinced the Specialized Power Expert is the saddle for me).

I feel like i am not as aerodynamic and that I am not putting out the same power but I do feel much more comfortable.  I rode for an hour today in the TT position and got no sores and my IT band problems were thankfully absent so that was a huge win. I don’t really have any benchmarks to compare speed and power in the new position, as I have felt very run down since the 40k, but it is too late to fiddle around with stuff anymore.  In the off season I am going to get a professional TT bike fit but for the remaining TT’s I will stick with what I have.

What’s left in terms of TT’s for 2015:

  • State 40k TT champs (Satley, CA): Flat course at a pretty high Altitude (approx 5000ft) which I seem to have some issues with.
  • Beat The Clock 16k (Woodside, CA) ????: Possible date Change means I might be able to ride this. Currently the same date as Satley.
  • Warnerville TT 35k:  Sporting course with poor roads, railroad crossings, nasty heat, plagues of locusts and an evil uphill finish. I hope to reverse the trend of the last two years where I have gone slower and slower.
  • Esparto TT: 30K: Mixture of a flat to rolling course. Another TT where I seem to go slower every year. Ridden in 2012 and 2013 but missed it last year as it clashed with Tempus fugit.
  • Tempus Fugit Summer 18k: I won this one last year but in the spring version in 2015 i was well off the pace. Only concern is that it is the day after the Bodie Bowl Fat Bike race. I hope the fat bike race and the long drive back doesn’t destroy my legs too much.
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Sattley Time Trial (NCNCA TT Championships) Planning

After the somewhat disastrous National Championships at Loyalton I came away with a few things I need to work on in the short two weeks before the district championships:

  • I need to have a bottle on my bike.  The dry hot air at altitude makes 40K without a bottle a really bad idea for me.
  • I need to be comfortable for an hour on the bike
  • I need to sort out my hip/IT band  issues*
  • I need to sort out my saddle related problems

There is not much I can do in terms of training and stretching that would make my current TT setup effective for Satley in just two weeks.  In the same way there is no point in being super aero if I am so uncomfortable after 20 miles that I can’t stay on the aero bars. With this in mind I am going to work on a position that is comfortable that I can adapt to in a very short time period and one that opens up my hip angle.  I can put out some great power and speed on my current setup for 10 miles but that is no help over 25 miles.

*After some searching on the web I am convinced that what happened to me at The National 40K  was that my Tensor fascia latae muscles were utterly exhausted or cramping.  The hip pain I was experiencing was exactly in the areas shown in the diagram below.  This is all related to IT band issues so If I fix one I should fix the other.

With respect to the Specialized Power saddle I was so unhappy with it that I was going to sell it but after doing much research on line It seems that the nose up aspect of the UCI position is one of the main problems.  Satley does not require the horizontal (nose to Tip) requirement so I can setup the saddle as intended by the manufacturer.  I only hope this will fix the annoying saddle sores this saddle keeps giving me but I still feel it is the width that is causing many of the problems.

So far only one rider is signed up in the 45-49 age group but he is listed as “Team BMC” which means he has to be really fast. I am not so bothered about my position at Satley but my goal is to beat 57 minutes and to finish in a state where I can still walk 🙂

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