Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lights Partif Deux

Time to mount and test the new lights. I put the Piko on the helmet. Simple affair to attach with velcro through the vent holes. The Piko battery is light enough to helmet mount. Lupine does supply an extended cord with the set, so you can pocket the battery as well. Worth mentioning is that the connectors are excellent. Look to be WeatherPak clones, and are all interchangeable.

It's a clean, self-contained mounting. I weaved the cord into a vent hole and there's nothing loose to snag on branches.

The Betty mounts on the bar. It uses a simple o-ring. Lupine supplies two sizes for regular and over-sized bars. I needed the oversize ring. This required changing out the stock size. Simply loosen the screw on the mount and swap the rings out. My only complaint so far, is that this screw is Torx head (T-15, I think). Though it would be simple to replace this with a more common hex-head.

Just hook the o-ring and you're done. Easy.

The battery case is velcro. Simply hook the flap over the top tube and the lower strap keeps it from sliding around. Very easy.

My impressions... excellent! It took a few minutes to get used to having a light on the helmet. As I'd move my head, I kept thinking someone was behind me. HA! I got used to that pretty quick though. Having the Piko on the helmet provides nice spot and fill for turns and twists. The Betty provides excellent fill light, and projects far ahead. No blind spots with this combo.

There's beaucoup light. On the road, low settings were more than adequate. I was lighting up reflective signs as far ahead as I could reliabily read. I turned up the brightness on the unlit areas. Wow! No problem seeing. It's almost as much light as a car. Brilliant. I'd have zero problem navigating the darkest singletrack at night. Totally confidence inspiring. No pictures because the ones on MTBR [link] do a better job than I could.

Worth the expense? Yes! For night racing I wouldn't want any less light. Don't think I'd need any more, though. For street riding... the light combo is overkill. The Betty on dim is plenty and the Piko on medium both provide over-adequate light for visibility, and for illuminating darkened areas. Riding at night is a lot less nerve-racking. My only regret is waiting so long to take the plunge.

Now my last excuse for not doing an endurance race is gone. HA! All that remains is some battery capacity testing, and I'm ready. Well... ready, gearwise!


Last night's attempt at threshold intervals went up in smoke. I dive into the first interval. Usually... the first interval feels too easy. Last week I did this workout and it was easy. This is not. My legs are achy after the third minute. I stave off the temptation to quit and make it to the end (18:min). Barely. I do the prescribed 5:min rest period. I ramp up into the second interval and it - just - is - not - happening. I give it another 5:min and attempt again. Same result. I haul it back to the house.

The data download tells a tale. My heartrate was 15 bpm higher than last week during the first interval. On my two later attempts it shot up immediately, rather than making a nice smooth transition like usual. Almost hit my maxHR. No way it should be this high.

What's going on? I'm not sure. It's either detraining, fatigue, or oncoming sickness. Trifecta? Detraining is certainly possible. Over the last couple of weeks my HR has progressively been dropping for an equivalent power level. Good indicator of fitness. Did I give back some fitness with my slacker effort last week? I'm certainly fatigued. My sleep pattern has been disruptive for the last week. Definately contributing. I always see a rise in HR 7-10 days before a sickness. So that's a possibility, too.

Today, my legs are achy. They feel like they did a major effort last night. But I didn't. I'm going to try sleep and re-attempt this workout on Thursday. If that goes similiarly... I'll consider regressing my training by a couple of weeks. Remedial training, HAHA! Interpreting what the body is doing is not a simple task. May be the most challenging part of training. Always learning...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cure to My Light Envy

The sad reality. Being a working stiff means night riding. Early sunsets. Long work days. Night riding is unavoidable. I've been relying on this PlantBike number. It functions flawlessly. It turns on. It turns off. Batteries last quite long.

It is strictly a "be seen" light. The more night riding I do, the more I realize it does not garner much notice by motorists, because it's significantly dimmer than the vehicle headlights a crossing motorist is scanning for. It is easily overlooked where the street scene consists of illuminated signage, and other vehicle traffic.

The lamp fails at illuminating a path into visibility. I've always know this, but didn't realize what 'real' trail lights looked like until last week. A rider pulled behind me on a dark section of bike path armed with an ExposureLights Six-Pack. HOLY MOLY! I could see where I was going. Well mostly. I stuggled because I was riding in my own shadow from his lamp... 30 yards behind me. I felt way safer. And blown away. Need!

The search. There is a huge array of options for bike lights. Everything from DIY, to Chinese imitation lights, to expensive high tech. My criteria were light capacity, form factor, and price. I spent three nights digging around the wasteland known as the internet. The best reviews I found are located [here] and [here]

A few candidates consistantly came up. First candidate was the MagicShine. This appears to be a Chinese knock-off of the Lupine Tesla 5. Several comrades have bought this lamp, and been pleased with the capacity. One calling the naming high power setting "bunny retina burning" level. They are dirt cheap. Around $100. But... Quickly found out why. The batteries and chargers are junk. Numerous reports of batteries being defective caused the primary importer halt sales. Then UL issued a bulletin that the chargers are falsely using the UL symbol. I found few complaints about the actual lamp head. But after looking at options of homebrewing a custom battery and charger... the economy factor is no longer applicable. It seems the major cost of a quality lightset is in the battery and charger. Plus, the only remianing dealer doesn't appear reliable. Shipping times of two weeks to two months have been reported. Although cheap, I'd rather not mess about with the potential headaches.

I looked at the ExposureLights SixPack. It's is a great unit. Obviously bright. It's advantage is wireless form factor, and reasonable price. It's constructed like a flashlight. It's disadvantage is it's wireless form factor. It's too heavy to helmet mount. And quite frankly on singletrack having that mass shaking on a bar mount taking a beating... I'm leery the beam wouldn't be steady, nor the mount to be durable. Perfect solution for a street bike, but I need both.

In the end I bit the bullet and got the Lupine Betty 7 and Piko combo. They weren't cheap lightsets. But I could not find anyone with anything negative to say about them (other than expense). No complaints about batteries, chargers, or overall quality. The form factor is perfect. Bar or helmet mountable. Great chargers, including a car charger. And Lupine have a great history of standing behind product. And they're made in Germany. C'mon the Germans always make great stuff.

I ordered direct from Gretna Bikes. They shipped the next day without delay for the holiday season. I love getting packages!

First the Piko. Comes with lamp, helmet mount, helmet mountable battery, extended cord, and charger. It's 8w LED (16x more powerful than my "be seen" light). Plenty road usage by itself.

The light head is compact and lightweight. Ideal for helmet mounting.

The Betty 7 comes packaged in a nice zippered case. With car charger, wall charger, frame mount battery, helmet mount, extened cord, and lamp. The lamp bar-mounts the integrated base. No mount is required for handlebars.

The Betty is also compact and lightweight. There would be no problem helmet mounting this lamp.

One nice thing about Lupine's chargers. They are interchangeable. Any LiION charger can be used with any LiION battery. Further, the charger included with the Betty also charges NiMH and NiCAD battery packs (including trickle modes). The charge rate is selectable. It works with big and small batteries. Super nice.

This improves the long-term economics on these light sets. In the future I can upgrade batteries and lampheads separately without purchasing more chargers or packaged light sets. It's all plug-and-play. And I can travel carrying only one charger for all my lights: present and future. NICE!

Tomorrow... mount up and test.

Holiday Week Bust Up

Last week was a training bust. Started well. But I only managed a quarter of one other ride for the week. Ugg. I've been struggling to put consistant weeks together all year. The rhythm of training isn't there. I need to find it quick. Spring is closer than the cold weather would have us believe!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Simple Meal

Looong time since I've posted about food. Tonight's meal seems relevant to training. It is a quick meal. And a healthy meal. All cooked in one pan. First... start with some boneless skinless chicken:

Pan them with a dash of oil. Use breasts or thighs or whatever. When they are done, set them aside, brown some onions and garlic. After they are tender, add mushrooms.

When darkened add some liquid. I like to use one can of chicken broff and one can of beef broff. Season as you like. Add one can of rice. Juice of a lemon adds a kick. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the rice is almost done. Add the chicken to reheat...

Bon appetite.

Life on the Gulf Coast

Record high today. Almost 80°F as I plunge out into this ride. Four days before Christmas. I'm out in a short-sleeved jersey and shorts. Great for riding. Not so great for that Christmas spirit. I enjoy it, even if that makes me a scrooge!

The legs have bounced back nicely. Continued threshold work. The uneventful ride allows my mind to wander and reflect on how winter training is going so far. I'm pleased. My theme has been: Don't make it harder than it is. It is easy to get down this time of year. Weather disruptions and holiday distractions squeeze your available time. Riding in the cold is hard. Riding in the dark is harder. But with good gear it isn't that much harder unless I bathe myself in a sea of dread.

Attitude goes a long way. Hope it holds out through January and February. That's when the weather truly gets ugly.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Daylight Savings Time

Where did all that daylight we supposedly save go? I'd like it back now, please.

Yet another ride in the dark on Friday. A strong set of long threshold intervals was the plan. The ride went well. The legs felt pretty good. I got off-plan this week. As a result I ended up with an extra threshold workout. And Friday's threshold session - that would normally be followed up with an easier day - will be followed up with a long endurance ride. After my ride, my legs felt quite fresh. This lead me to thinking... maybe I'm not doing enough. I shouldn't be this peppy.

Saturday. Daylight!! First daylight ride in a while. How is this for clear skies?

Although it's a bit cold the sunshine helps the attitude tremendously. I depart on my ride down Parmer Road in N.Austin. At the first little rise I located the fatigue I was missing last night. Ouch. Hoping this is just cold legs, hoping it will go away after I warm up a bit. My plan today is ride the flats and downhills at endurance pace, ride the hills just above threshold. I keep to this plan outbound. But as I turn... I realize my legs are absolutely cooked. Hmm... maybe I have done enough for the week!

Glad to make this one back. My legs are fatigued, and I feel slow. But this is how I'm supposed to feel. I'm absolutely baked, but not in a bonky way. Legs have just accumulated a weeks worth of fatigue. It's time for a rest. Sunday and Monday are off the bike. Tuesday it's back to the dark and repeat again...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Shorts Sleeves

Past few days have been awesome. Shorts, and short sleeves have been all that's needed on the bike. Wednesday's threshold work went very, very well. Thursday's skill drills resulted in a fall or two. But it was a lot of fun, that amounted to playing around trying hop, over everything I could find around the neighborhood.

Skipped my core stregthening sessions on Wed and Thurs. My elbow was too sore from Tuesday's bar-yanking manual practice. Nothing serious. Feels like an over-use, rather than any damage. Feels almost exactly like the time I helped frame a garage for a family-member and ended up with a sore elbow from all the hammering. I think my hammering days are over, but my bike riding should be fine.

So far, I'm coping with the winter training pretty well. The worst part is riding in the dark. I haven't ridden in the daylight in almost two weeks. Need better lights, too. Otherwise... I'm sticking with this better than I feared.

The cold is back today. Tomorrow's endurance ride won't be pretty. But I'll be glad to finally be riding in the daylight.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Manual Labor

Warmer temps today. The weather was actually nice, but I didn't get into the saddle until after dark. Skill practice tonight. I worked on making better manuals. Pretty basic skill, but my abilities have seriously degraded since breaking the elbow. I brushed up on the technique and off I go.

Like bunny hops... manuals are all about dynamically shifting body mass. There shouldn't be much pulling on the bars when done right. I pulled on the bars a bunch tonight. Enough to make the elbow achy. But it made it easy to tell when I did it right and when I didn't. My loft is good. My hold isn't.

This was a good complement (and contrast) to yesterday's threhsold work. It's a light easy ride, yet a lot more productive than say... a recovery ride. More fitness build work tomorrow.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Character Builder

I vividly recall several rides over the years that I classify as "character buiders". I looked back at a few entries just now. What is a character building ride? A character builing ride is one that test's you in some memorable way. They aren't necessarily hard, but they expand your resolve in some way. They require reach into your desire bank. And you hope you have the balance to cover the check you're about to write!

Tonight was one of those rides. The program wasn't particulary hard. But it was already dark when I was dressing for the bike. It was cold, too. Dark, cold, windy. And I was tired. Long day of working late. But I forced my way out there.

About a quarter way through I wanted to go home and have a nice warm bowl of chili. Then my mind drifted to a question. "What kind of person do I want to be?"

I decided to be the person that finishes the workout. And when it was done, as I enjoyed that earned bowl of chili... I'm glad I did.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter Training

Winter training is off to a nice start. It's fun. A nice change from the summer heat. I'm getting to use the gear I bought last fall in prep for last winter... but never got to use. The next 12 weeks are pretty routine. My weeks will go something like this:

Monday: REST! Glorious rest!
Tuesday: Core strength in the AM, threshold build intervals in the PM.
Wednesday: Core strength in the AM, MTB skills or short trail ride at lunch.
Thursday: Morning core workout, with long intervals.
Friday: Short lunchtime ride.
Saturday: 3- progressing to 6-hour ride with some FTP work and hills included. Trail or road as weather permits. Lots of stretching.
Sunday: Easy ride and a core workout.

it's not as regimented as that would seem. There's actually quite a bit of variation, but that's the outline...