Saturday, December 8, 2018

Winter Cycling - Yes, There Are Good Options!

5:30am.  The alarm goes off on my phone.  It is 17F and dark outside.  The hotel room feels so comfortable.  But it's time to get up and get going.

Spin Class / Cycling Bar. 15 minutes later, the snow and ice are crunching under my boots.  I walk into the Upcycle Studio in Boise, Idaho.

This place has been humming since 5am.  It's bright and welcoming -- a stark contrast with the freezing cold and darkness on the street.

30 minutes later I am sweating bullets.  The instructor is guiding the class through imaginary hills, mountains and valleys.  The imaginary wind blows hard at times.  She commands.  She jokes.  She sings.  She demands.

It is hard.  But it is kind of fun.  30 minutes later I am fully awake and drenched.  A brisk walk to my hotel.  It is starting to get lighter.

Shower, breakfast, Uber to the office and I am doing what I love -- high-tech marketing.

All in all, the spin class is great for exercising and staying in shape.  It is a good alternative for not being able to ride outside.  It gets your day going.

Some people love it.  I like it.  But it feels artificial.  Definitely can't substitute the road or the trail.  It is what it says it is, however.  A spin class.

There are also other options for winter cycling, such as lunch rides, trails, commutes, and indoor cycling.

Lunch Ride @ 25F.  There is first for everything.  I swapped my 28mm Continental 4 Seasons with 32mm winter knobby tires and hit the Greenbelt in Boise right by my office.

This was my first experience riding over ice and patches of snow.  It felt really awesome.  Somewhat liberating.  The same feeling of adventure when you hit a new trail or ride your first century.

Liberating.  Cold.  Fun.  Face is freezing.  [On a second thoughts, I need to buy a balaclava for the next time.]  Beautiful mountains covered with snow in the background.  A river with ducks and geese.

A beautiful bike path with snowbanks on each side.  Occasional people giving the look of "you are insane, man".  Occasional cyclists nodding in understanding.

It's actually fun once you get going.  25F + wind feels crisp, especially when you slow down or stop.  But it feels great as well.

I was dressed appropriately with layers, gloves, etc, so it worked well.

Conclusion: cold winter riding is fun when you have the right layers, equipment, and a knack for an adventure.

Winter Commuting.  It works really well in Northern California.  I did the whole commute thing over the last 6 years on a bike.   And when the office got moved to 38 miles away, I found a new way to cycle to work, which turned out to be a sum of a bike and a train ride.

It gave me a chance to combine the joy or riding with exercise and avoiding driving in terrible Bay Area traffic.

My new office in CA is only 4 miles away, so it is fun to ride to work in the morning and then hit the long route via hills after work.

It gets a little tougher with the rain, but plenty of people do it. You get the right gear and it becomes a routine.

Some employees in our Boise HQ commute to work when it is 17F outside, snow and ice.  Tons of respect for these folks.  I would probably do the same if I lived there.  That is another awesome adventure.

Winter Trail Riding.  This is something new for me.  Many people in Boise are obsessed with cycling, especially with mounting biking.

A handful of my colleagues do winter trail riding, even with snow and ice present.

As I am spending more time in Boise (and absolutely loving it), I finally broke the bank and bought my first real mountain bike.  It is a Santa Cruz Tallboy  and it is coming in next week.  I will write about my first winter ride once it is completed.

Finally, there is indoor cycling.  A combination of a smart trainer, Zwift, and TrainerRoad in my case.  It is a decent alternative to outdoors cycling when the weather gets bad.  I am not a huge fan of it, however.   It gets boring quickly, but I know a lot of people who are pretty passionate about Zwift and TrainerRoad.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Recovery Week Thoughts

I always feel guilty about recovery weeks.  I have researched and fully understand the importance and value of the recovery time.  I get it.  But I still feel guilty and uneasy about these.

Now that I have surrounded myself with bikes and made cycling a key part of my daily life, I have an hourly visual reminder to go cycle.  So I have to constantly remind myself to not go commute to and from work, to not go ride at the trail, to plan the weekend differently, etc.

It's all good though.  This week, I am doing some micro rides, where I am trying to not push at all.  I am doing weights and long walks.  I am also trying to catch up on some sleep.  I am driving to work and back, getting reacquainted with my cars, traffic, satellite radio, and phone calls.  And this experience makes me realize that while I really like mike cars, but I LOVE my bikes! 

The more I am staying away from my bike routine, the more I want to do it next week, which is another good thing.

After reading this blog, I also realize that this sounds like a ramblings of an addict.  You can substitute the bike with alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, etc. -- and it probably would sound the same.  This said, I absolutely love my cycling addiction and obsession! 

Here is to the recovery week and more riding coming up!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Pinarello Gan K Disc: Second Impressions

Exotic Sports Car

Pinarello Gan K feels very much like an exotic sports car.  It just goes.  It goes fast!  And it gets going fast really quickly!

It took me a moderate effort to push the bike to 32 MPH, on a slight uphill, which is pretty crazy for an XXL rider!  Yet, it feels magical!

Second Look

After riding around 1,500 miles after my first review of Pinarello Gan K Disc, and doing so on several bikes, my opinion is unchanged: Gan K is an amazing machine for going fast.

It takes very little effort to get it going.  And the nice thing is that it feels like the bike is assisting you, even when you are tired.

Final Word

I am not sure how Pinarello did it, but Gan K feels amazing when riding on a flat course.  It feels planted and controlled when descending quickly. 

It struggles a little (to compare with my 2018 Specialized Roubaix or Biacnhi Vertigo) when you have to climb -- perhaps due to a slightly heavy frame and a middle-of-the-line wheelset.  But the struggle is very minor.  Once you get into the groove, the climbs are over before you notice it.

I think Pinarello Gan K Disc will be the one I take to STP (Seattle to Portland) ride this year.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Specialized Roubaix Expert Review: First Long Ride (2018)

2018 Specialized Roubaix Expert Review

What does define a modern endurance bike for an XXL rider?  For me, the top 3 are:
  1. Comfortable, non-jarring ride -- even when you go over chopped up surfaces 
  2. Ability to get going fast quickly and without too much of a frame / component flex
  3. Fun with hills -- easy to climb and safe to descend 
And then there aesthetics.  I like a classy look that stands out from the sea of look-alike shapes and colors.

2018 Specialized Roubaix Expert in Chameleon Purple / Blue delivers on 90% of these requirements.

2018 Specialized Roubaix Expert - Chameleon Purple

Ride Quality 

2018 Specialized Roubaix just glides over road imperfections and small potholes.  It is smoother than any road bike I have ridden and tested.  The difference is even more pronounced when you do back-to-back tests rides on various bikes.  I tested 2016 Bianchi Infinito CV vs 2018 Trek Domane SL6 vs 2018 Specialized Roubaix Expert.

The riding impressions may be different for lighter riders, but for an XXL cyclist weighting 230 lbs, Roubaix was just amazing.  Trek Domane was very bouncy and somewhat jarring.  In fact, I returned the demo bike after just two miles, cutting my planned 15 mile test ride short.  Bianchi Infinito CV was smoother, but a little flexy, giving me a feeling like it is battling me when I try to get going.

Specialized Roubaix was just amazing!  Smooth, comfortable, fairly fast, and controllable.

Future Shock.  The future shock, which is a spring-based system right under the stem, absorbs the shocks and makes a huge difference.

Just like many other people I spoke with, I thought of future shock as just a gimmick.  I was sarcastic until I actually rode the bike.  It truly does smooth out the ride and makes it much more enjoyable over both short and long distances.

This became even more pronounced during last week's Tierra Bella metric century, which was the 5th time I have done it -- each time on a different bike.  This ride was by far the smoothest.  The Roubaix absorbed road cracks, imperfections, and little potholes.  You almost don't feel them.  Larger potholes were much more gentle on the body as well.  It all added up to a fun, smooth, and fast ride.

CG-R Seat Post. I am a little less enthusiastic on this component.  I think it does a good job of smoothing the ride, however some heavier riders may find it flexing a little too much.

I swapped it out on my previous Roubaix (SL4) in favor of a regular carbon seat post.  That made my ride more precise and less "floaty", where I could feel the road without flexing too much.

On this version of Roubaix, Specialized has moved the seat post clamp lower, reducing the flex a bit.  So far, I like the ride.  There is still a little flex, but that may be a good thing, where it takes road vibrations out and makes the ride really smooth.  I will be able to test it more during this weekend's Sea Otter 91-mile Gran Fondo ride.

Frame.  The Specialized Roubaix 10r carbon frame is noticeably stiffer than my previous 2014 Roubaix SL4 9r with Zertz, making it easier to get rolling and keep the speed without wasting a lot of effort.  It is also noticeably faster (due to geometry changes) than SL4 Roubaix.

This stiffer frame makes it is easy to get the bike moving, accelerate, and maintain the speed.  My only gripe is that it doesn't accelerate quite like a race bike, e.g. Specialized Tarmac or Pinarello F10 or Colnago C64.  But for me, it is 90% there in terms of acceleration, which is fantastic for a "performance endurance" bike.

Climbing is surprisingly easy on this bike.  While I haven't tried overly steep grades or long climbs yet, Category 3 ad 4 climbs were surprisingly fun on this bike.  While it is not a feather-light climbing machine, it is not heavy and with the smaller rear triangle, you can get in the rhythm quickly and get going.  In fact, the Tierra Bella Gilroy Springs climb was easiest on this bike, even though I am in a little bit less prepared form than 2 and 4 years ago.

Descending is really good as well.  The bike is easy to control, doesn't flex a lot, and the disc brakes do wonders for heavier riders.

Design and Looks

Specialized did a really good job with redesigning Roubaix.  There are some classic colors, like matte black with white or dark letters and white frame with black letters.  But this time around there are some really cool colors as well, like Chameleon Purple, Hyper Green, Gallardo Orange, Sunset Chameleon, and some other frames with bright red colors.

I ended up getting the Chameleon Purple / Blue, which is really cool. It looks either purple or blue depending on your viewing angle.

It still looks very classy, but with an element of coolness in it.

After riding Roubaix for a week, I ended up buying a second one for commuting.  This one is 2017 Specialized Roubaix Comp Gallardo Orange.


2018 Roubaix Expert comes with a complete Shimano Ultegra 8020 Hydraulic group.  It is rock solid in every sense.  The shifting is smooth.  There is no flex I can feel.  The wheels are Roval SLX 24, which are 1,515g, which is very light for disc wheels.

All in all, it is a really good performance endurance bike for an XXL rider that achieves a great balance of speed, acceleration, comfort, and good looks.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Specialized S-Works 6 Allez Shoes

The newest addition to the cycling shoe family is Specialized S-Works 6 Allez shoes.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Bicycle Commuting: Bikes, Trains, and Cars

When things get busy with the family and work, unfortunately cycling becomes a challenge.

Especially on the weekends.

Then it becomes a catch 22.  Less cycling.  More fatigue.  More eating.  Less sleeping.

And then there is traffic.  In Silicon Valley and generally in San Francisco Bay Area the traffic is pretty bad.  It usually takes between 60 and 100 minutes to drive 35-37 miles to work and the same amount of time to get back home.

This is where bike commuting makes a huge difference for me.  I figured out a model where I do a three-stage commute: bike --> train --> bike.

Here is how it goes:

Stage 1: Bike to a Caltrain station.  After trying several routes, I came up with two most viable options:

  • Option A.  Ride to San Jose Diridon station that is 8 miles away.  It takes about 35 minutes.  It is the first station where the train route originates, so it usually allows me to get a good seat and a bike spot in a train.  A bullet train is about 35 min to my destination.
  • Option B.  Ride to Mountain View station that is 20 miles away and takes about 65-70 minutes.  It is more challenging and fun.  I can go faster that with Option A.  There are stretches where I can go 27-30 mph on a flat road.  It also gives me more time to think.  And it is more refreshing.

Stage 2: Train.  It takes anywhere from 18 minutes to 45 minutes depending on the station I get on and whether it is a bullet train or not. 

I absolutely love the train.  I get to meet interesting people --  passengers, cyclists, and conductors.  I get to relax, listen to music, and enjoy the scenery outside.  I also work on my emails or other things in the train, so it becomes a productive time vs wasted hours in traffic.  Best of all, I don't get to fight traffic and be stuck on the freeway.

Stage 3: Bike to work.  The last leg of my travel is only 2 miles to the office.  It includes three pretty high overpasses, which get my blood pumping.  It usually takes about 10 minutes. 

By the time I get to work, I am energized and ready to get started with my work day.  I use the shower in the office, change into business attire and get going!

So I get to ride between 10 and 40 miles a day, get fresh air, fresh ideas, energy boost, better health, and avoid the traffic!  It turns out long commutes and traffic can work out!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Endurance Cycling: Geometry or Speed?

With the rapidly increasing popularity and choice of endurance bikes, the question is, what is the best mix of ingredients for making a long rides enjoyable and less tiring.

On one end of the spectrum are comfortable, a little heavier, and not very aerodynamic endurance bikes, such as Specialized Roubaix SL4, Bianchi Infinito CV, Trek Domane, and others.  They are comfortable to ride, handle well, climb fairly well, and make a longer ride less painful.  However, the two areas where they are less fun are shorter rides where you want to go fast and very long rides -- 100 miles or longer with lots of climbing and head winds.

The relaxed geometry and weight get in the way for short and fast rides.  For example, I used to commute 20 miles to work.  I had noticed a pretty big difference between Specialized Roubaix SL4 and a more aggressive road bike, where the former would make me noticeably more tired by the time I got to work.

As far as long rides are concerned, I feel like I get more tired with the comfortable ride and relaxed geometry, which turns into a longer ride and more effort than on a slightly sportier road bike that is not as comfortable, but is faster and takes less effort to get going and keeping the speed.

So far, Pinarello Gan K seems to have the winning balance between somewhat relaxed and aero geometry.  We will see how it holds during lonver rides.