Monthly Archives: June 2018

A Casual Gravel Bike – The Cockpit Part 2

OH GROW UP!!

Okay.  Okay.  I heard you loud and clear.  It’s just a word.  No need to be childish about it.  I get.  I hear you.  I apologize.

Cock.  Pit.

Cockpit…TEE HEE!!!

Love it.  Okay.  Moving on.  Whats in my Cockpit Part Two!!  What?  You missed Part One?  Thanks for paying attention.  You can find it by clicking on this link.  A Casual Gravel Bike – The Cockpit.  Without a doubt the cockpit of a bike can be the busiest and most personalized part of the bike.  We don’t all ride with the same goals.  I get it.  I’m not telling you to do exactly as I do.  I am telling you I know what I like.  I know how to survive gravel endurance rides up to and including the Dirty Kanza 200.  I know how to complete these rides on very little training as a new rider and I know how to finish them quickly as a seasoned #midpackattack rider.  I admittedly lack knowledge of front of the pack riding.  I simply lack the natural athleticism to maintain that kind of power for more than a few miles.  I am happy to know though that so do a LARGE percentage of gravel riders.

Why do we focus so much on the weight of the bike?  Why do we focus on aero?  Why do we call out those things that are not aero?  I guarantee you this…I have the power numbers over the past 3 years to prove this…5, 10, 15 hours into a gravel ride…if you are NOT comfortable then you are NOT pedaling efficiently.  Period.  (Period?  Okay…tone it down I sound preachy…)  You can not average 13, 14, 15 mph hour late in a ride if you have hotspots on your feet, piercing pain in your shoulders, sore or numb triceps, fingers that lack strength to shift, a head you can’t lift up or an ass you can’t keep in the same position for more than 10 seconds.  You can’t.  You won’t.  You’ll make excuses.  You’ll coast.  You’ll stop.  (#truth)

Marginal gains?  Who gives a crap between Finishing spots 213 and 412?  Push your self hard by all means.  I do!!  Take a small step towards being more comfortable.  It’s okay.  Come to the Dark Side.  Don’t ask “How much weight does that add to the bike?”.  Instead ask “How much bacon can I stuff into that extra pocket?”.  (I like bacon.  Kevin Bacon.  Footloose.  Gary Bacon.  Candied Bacon.  Bacon sandwiches.  Plain.  old.  Bacon.)

Nothing I have on my bike is a cure all.  Parts of me will always ache long into a gravel ride but the longer I can be comfortable before those pains creep in, the shorter I have to ride with those pains and the faster I finish the ride and enjoy stories and beer with friends and family.

Okay…enough preaching…lets knock out The Cockpit.

ShiftersSRAM Rival 1 (Didn’t weight each shifter) – Not much to say here.  Rival 1 works and works well.  I will probably be switching my eTap system shifters over soon.  I currently have them on my Salsa Warbird.  I’m now confident in the True Grit frame geometry so will be riding it more often.  Might as well move over the eTap and see if it works with the 42t cassette…I’ve heard things.  Another story for another time.

IMG_0094

Photo Cred to Ryan Balkenhol! I’m posting this pic for no other reason than to show…one time…ONE TIME…I beat everyone up a hill!

Casual BarsProfile Design T1+ (520 grams) – I prefer the double bend style.  (Yes.  It’s a style.  At least Profile Design calls it a style.  They could have been more creative I suppose.)  My hand and wrist are in a more natural casual (I like that word…casual) position.  I feel the grip position gives me stronger control on the variable terrain associated with gravel.  Plus.  Bonus.  When you remove the extension bar and flip it over…reminds of Han Solo’s blaster from Star Wars.  PEW!  PEW!  Aluminum over carbon here.  I’ve had clip on carbon casual bars before.  The weight savings is minimal due to the weight of the brackets AND I’ve had the carbon fracture in a solo crash.  No.  I was not in the casual bars at the time of the crash…It was a dumb move.  I reached for a water bottle and hit washboards at high speed.  Point is…aluminum would have just bent I think…carbon fractured.  Fractured carbon is ouchy.  I’ll stick with aluminum.

Look, I have casual bars on for comfort…not for being aero.  Safety is always a major concern.  (Especially when I’m leaning on the bars to text, take selfies or watch Star Wars while I ride…kidding!!!  Mostly.)  I’m in my Casual Bars when I’m alone for HOURS on end rolling along on hard pack gravel trying to tackle roller after roller.  Rollers for hours.  Not a turn in sight.  Midwest Gravel.  I’m a firm believer that for the majority of gravel riders, Comfort equals Speed.  If you’re back/neck/shoulders/arms/wrists hurt 4 hours into a ride…you aren’t pedaling efficiently any more.  You start focusing on the pain and stop focusing on your cadence and pedal stroke.  You are busy sitting up and stretching.  Flexing your hands.  I’m thinking “shit this hurts!!!” not “how can I be more aero and make this suck even more”.  Casual Bars are simply another riding position for me.  Be smart though.  You have to focus extra hard and really should only be in them on hard pack surfaces…and relatively solo…which we have and are a lot of here locally.

Bags/StorageRevelate Mountain Feed Bag (107 Grams)- Go to bag for any race here.  I’ll decide on ONE or TWO depending on race needs.  The bags are so, so versatile.  First…my favorite need and the first thing I notice when they aren’t on the bike is Trash disposal.  DO NOT LITTER!!!  Gel wrappers.  Chew wrappers.  Bar wrappers.  The external webbing pocket is perfect for storing these messy…gooey wrappers.  The pocket is super easy to clean since it’s webbed.

Honestly…I put the bags on the top shelf of the dishwasher and have for years.  No issues.  Yes…the webbing has stretched a little after 3 years of use.  Not enough to buy a new one although maybe I should to support a great company.  I use the bags for extra water bottles.  I use the bags for nutrition and extra Skratch hydration packets.  I use the bags for phones, batteries and charging cables.  Heck I’ve even use my feedbag as a soup bowl for Gas Station Chicken Noodle Soup!!!  No I haven’t.  I’ve never had Chicken and Noodle at a fast station but…not a bad idea actually.  I bet it would work.

Bags/StorageTank Top Pack – Cedaero – Love love love this top tube bag.  Large zipper so extremely easy to zip and unzip while riding.  I liked the Revelate Gas Tank bag as well but sometimes those tiny water proof zippers were a frustrating pain 10+ hours into a ride.  In that mental state…any minor deterrent to nutrition is a major problem.  15 minutes becomes 30 minutes and pretty sure you’ve delayed an hour to eat simply because the zipper was annoying.  (I used Revelates Gas Tank bag for over 15,000 miles…great bag)  I wanted to try something different.  Enter the Cedaero bag…awesome zipper.  I like the internal webbed pocket for Credit Card and ID.  Keeps it organized and out of the way of nutrition grabs.  I prefer the velcro straps as opposed to the bolt on.  Depending on angle of top tube sometimes the bolt on doesn’t sit firmly against the headset and stem.  I’m OCD about that wasted half inch of space.  The Velcro strapped version is something I can easily move between bikes and cinch up tight.

That’s it!!  I’m done!  That’s my cockpit.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Lots of people comment on my cockpit.  I felt the need to explain it.  Adam Blake from Gravel City Adventure and Supply wanted me to talk about my cockpit.  Now I have.  My cockpit is not your cockpit.  All cockpits are different.  Never joke about a cockpit.  Just look quickly, give a nod…and move on to your own cockpit.  Take care of your cockpit.  Your riding comfort depends on it.

Next up about A Casual Gravel Bike?  Wheels.  Tires.  Sealant.  Suspension (GASP!!)  Frame.  Seatpost.  Saddle.  Drivetrain.


A Casual Gravel Bike – The Cockpit

We’ll call this grouping “The Cockpit”.  Mainly because at 44 years of age, I still can’t say or type the word Cockpit without giggling a little.

Cockpit.

Cockpit.

Tee…Hee…(the phrase “Tee Hee” also makes me giggle a little.)

Funny little word.  I have a lot going on with my Cockpit, (see what I did there??  Still laughing) so the Cockpit section will be divided into TWO posts.  No real specific order.  You’re lucky I did any overall organizing at all.  Really.  I’d go get my ADD officially diagnosed if I wasn’t 44 years old and already figured out how to live with it.

Scattered.

Thoughts.

Actually (I like) it’s not (Peanut butter) that (and jelly) they (peanut butter first) are (then jelly) scattered (Star Wars) so much (never Star Trek) it’s that they are random and often interrupted by entirely different trains (I like trains) of thought at the same time.  I like it.  Keeps me from napping all the time.

IMG_4528

Ok.  Moving on.  From an organizational angle…the cockpit section covers everything I can reach or see in front of me while on the bike.  I’m going to include my top tube bag here as well.  Yes…I can see my front tire and wheel while on the bike.  No.  I will not be discussing it in this section.  Don’t be dumb.  Have you ever tried to grab you’re wheel while riding??  It hurts like hell.  Sorry.  I shouldn’t have use the term dumb.  No one is dumb.  Maybe slightly less intelligent than another but not “dumb”.  Calling someone dumb is something you do in grade school.  Kinda like calling someone and “idiot”.  We all have different strengths and weaknesses.  We all suffer differently.  We all ride differently.  We all want to be safe on the bike.  No one is “dumb” or an “idiot”.  Some of us are just on a slightly different intelligence level.  Me?  #midpackattack fits me on many levels.  Not just cycling.

Let’s GO!!!

My DK 2018 Bike

 

Stem – Salsa – 100mm 7 degree rise (180 grams)- Stems are boring.  I have nothing really to say.  I’m sure you could go carbon here and save a few grams.  I don’t care.  My reach is perfect.  The height is perfect.  The angle positions me with a slight degree of flex in my reach so that my arms and shoulders better absorb the variable terrain.  No aches in my neck over a 16 hour ride.  #perfection

IMG_8345

Stems are boring. Norah and Nessie are definitely NOT boring.

If you have always just accepted your stem length and stem height without giving it thought AND you experience a little pain in your neck, triceps, shoulders or wrists…this is an under appreciated little piece of bike fit right here.  Sure…it’s not as sexy as new bar wrap or bars…but it’s equally important.  Talk to your local bike shop.

HandlebarsEaston – Carbon – EC70 AX – 16 degrees of Flare (216 grams).  I love these bars.  Handlebars are one place I think the extra cost is worth the upgrade from aluminum to carbon.  The weight difference is quite noticeable if you’re into that.  Weight is easy to quantify though.  The bars come with well placed recessed areas for cable routing.  Theres nothing more annoying (okay, that’s a lie.  Lots of things are more annoying.  Like Jeffy racing to the City Limits sign without telling me its a race.) than being out on a ride and continually feeling shifting/braking cables under the bar wrap.  The ride benefits are noticeable and a major reason I upgraded.  I can feel the extra flex these bars give.  I feel it’s important to say “I can feel”.  Comfort is not quantifiable and everyone’s level of comfort is different.  If you try them and feel better on them…they are worth the upgrade cost.  Comfort equals speed for #midpackattack riders and #backofthepack riders.  We are on our bikes longer and bumps are magnified when you ride slower.  That’s gravel science!!  fullsizeoutput_1507

The 16 degrees of flare works well for me although I will say I have no idea if I’d like 15 degrees or 17 degrees a little more.  Kidding….we all know 16.5 is the sweet spot.  The flare out gives me handling confidence on rough, rocky downhills, loose gravel, high grade climbing and works well for keeping my handlebar streamers away from my knees (I love streamers!!!!).  PLUS!!!!  They give me better bare down and grit my teeth, out of the seat sprinter speed!!!  (I’ll note here that my out of the seat sprinter speed…refers to a 5 second burst followed by 5 minutes of gasping for air.  #truth  #sopro)

Bar WrapLizard Skins – 3.2 mil tape (78 grams).  DUUUUUUUUDE!! (Cool kids still say “Dude” right?  Let’s say yes) I love me some Lizard Skin!!  Well.  Not actual Lizard Skin.  Would that be illegal?  Is Lizard Skin a tradeable commodity?  Wouldn’t it be rather rough?  Real lizard skin would definitely require too much care I’m thinking.  Plus, that’s a lot of dead lizards per bike and that’s just wasteful.  Do people eat lizard meat?

Sorry.

Lizard Skin DSP tape has a great tacky feel.  I don’t wear gloves unless it’s cold or rainy and I have plenty of grip even on sweaty, humid, hot Kansas summer days.  I prefer the 3.2mm for the extra cush but I’ve used the 1.8mm as well.  Same great tacky feel..less cush.  I do pre wrap my drops (drops only) with some used cork bar tape.  I like the extra cush on the drops.  I don’t double wrap the top of the bars.  I prefer a tighter grip on the tops and I don’t ride there that often…usually on a hill climb or to “gather myself” after a hard effort.

OH THE COLORS!!!  THE BLING!!!  So, so, so many colors to accent your bike!  “I prefer black because black is more manly”  Screw you.  COLORS are awesome!  Bling that ride out dude!!  I personally am still waiting for the Lizard Skin/Star Wars Collaboration collection but sadly it may be awhile.  Until then I make up my own names.  I prefer the Empire Red or the R2D2 Blue.  If you have to go black though the Vader Black is pretty sweet since it’s nice a shiny. (like a newly polished Vader Helmet.  I wonder who did Vaders laundry??  Was he a stickler for shiny armor??  Seriously…everyone has underwear and socks.  Who had to wash Vaders underwear and socks?  Is that a position of power?  Like did the guy washing the Stormtroopers undies dream about some day washing Vaders undies or did he fear it??)

You:  “But Bobby…I mean…Mr Casual Cyclist dude…your bike pic above clearly shows Vader Black and a severe lack of bright coloring.  Isn’t this a little hypocritical?

Me:  “The Dark Side is strong.  Vaders grip is tight.  I promise to take revenge soon”

That’s it!!  That’s all I’ve.  More in the next post.  Cockpit 2 – Enlarged.  Cockpit 2 – The Bags.  Cockpit 2 – One’s Not Enough.  Cockpit 2….okay I’ll stop.  Comment.  Tell me what’s in your cockpit…on the bike.  We all have different Cockpits.  Shapes.  Sizes.  Colors.  There’s no right or wrong.  Good or bad.  What works for you…doesn’t work for me.  What works for me…will most likely change as soon as I see flashy new toys.

Let’s chat about Cockpits.  (Tee Hee!)