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Cycling, my new addiction...er...hobby (or, I finally am taking my doctor's advice)

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Carlo Medina, Jul 16, 2019.

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  1. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Disclaimer: long post(s) ahead...beware all ye who enter...
    You have been duly warned.

    Background

    As those of you who've met me know over the years at various HTF meetups know, I'm a relatively "normal" sized person for my height. Square in the range of "normal" BMI. But as I'm now in my forties, and showing the long-term effects of an office job, there are definitely soft areas of my body I'd like to reduce. Also, as I'm sure most of you in the same boat as me have heard from your physician, I've been told that despite not being overweight, I should exercise more. The problem is, I need something to motivate me. Going to a gym is totally demotivating for me (largely due to personal reasons). My doctor recommended finding something fun that I like to do, which involves exercise. The first thing that sprung to mind was tennis! That was always fun as a kid on the high school team, and it never felt like exercise, even when I was competing in a grueling five-set match.

    But I quickly realized that even in a city as populous as Los Angeles, it's hard to find a hitting partner at about the same skill level and with similar free time. I live in such a high density part of town there aren't many open courts.

    So I racked my brain recalling my childhood and asked myself what other outdoor activity I greatly enjoyed and never felt like a workout. Something that could be done alone or with others. The answer came like a flash out of the blue: cycling.

    Memorial Day Sale
    Luckily, I came to this epiphany right at Memorial Day, which I've now learned is a great sale day for bikes (along with July 4 and Labor Day). I went to my Local Bike Shop (LBS) to try out a load of bikes. I was prepared to spend a few hundred. But we home theater hobbyists know, the more we spend, the better the gear. After riding a lot of bikes in the $500 range, the $1000 range and the $2000 range I learned one thing: it's literally the difference between DVD, HD and 4K. The biggest jump in quality and ride-feel (and subsequent reduction in speed/effort ratio...meaning same speed for less effort, or more speed for the same effort if you're pushing yourself) is going from the $500 range to the $1000-$1500 range. That's like going from DVD to HD. Going to above $2K is like HD to 4K. There are definite gains, but the jump isn't as enormous.

    Given that my local dealer was a Trek shop (along with Cannondale and a few others), and Trek was having a Mem Day sale of about 10%, and to top it off my LBS was offering "they pay sales tax" and their standard one year of free adjustments to bikes they sell, I of course did what any good HTF member would do for their home theater gear. I went 4K. But I went budget 4K, meaning I got a $2K bike for under $2K with the discount and no-tax. I opted for the Trek FX Sport 6.

    The problem? Out of stock in my size (and I later learned, thanks to my LBS how very important bike sizing and fit is). It would likely not be back in stock (at Trek--they were waiting for the carbon fiber frames from China) until mid June.

    The manager, who had been helping me out, saw the look on my face. I told him I'd been looking forward to riding (which I hadn't done in nearly 30 years) and getting back in shape and was hoping to start immediately while the motivation was high. He said he understood, and offered me a nice FX loaner that was several years old (and lower down the product line). I asked him how much to rent it for the weekend? He told me to just keep it until the S6 arrived, no charge. He sized it up, put a front/rear light kit on it (along with recharging USB cables) and even gave me a loaner helmet (the one I wanted was also back ordered).

    I won't lie, I rode the heck out of that loaner for 3 weeks. I started off in not-great-physical shape. I could ride about 10 miles without sucking wind. Now I should also note, in West L.A., there are no flat roads. Everything has a slight-to-moderate slope. On a bike, it gets very easy to detect even slight inclines/declines (to the benefit/detriment of effort). So because I was cardio-poor, I maybe could put in 30m of riding at about 85% of my target heart rate (measured by my Apple Watch's very useful Outdoor Cycling activity tracker) before really needing to rest. Over 3 weeks, I got that number up to about 45m. Even on a much lesser bike I was having fun riding around in my area, feeling the wind rush by, and most importantly, I was working out about 30-45m a day without feeling like a workout. I actually rode nearly every single day.

    Then in mid-June, it arrived.

    Trek FX Sport 6
    Around June 14 I got the call I was waiting for. My FXS6 arrived and was ready to be assembled. I had slowly accumulated a bike repair stand and some basic maintenance tools and supplies, because I'm one of those guys who likes to know how my devices work, and how to do basic maintenance and repairs. My LBS manager knew that so he invited me to come down while he assembled the bike and he'd take me through all the parts that may need adjusting as time goes by. He also reminded me the first year is free through them, so to take advantage of that, but that he and his techs are happy to show me what they do so I can do those repairs and adjustments at home. I had taken the day off of work and came to the shop to watch the magic happen.

    Here it is on the stand, no seat yet, front wheel being installed
    FXS61.

    Front wheel and seat installed, ready to begin indexing gears on rear derailleur
    FXS62.

    Fully assembled, with combo pedals (one side allows you to ride with normal shoes, other side requires cleats).
    FXS63.

    After urging from my LBS to try out cleats...it was a no-brainer. If one wants to seriously cycle (not even in competitions, just say riding more than a few hours a week over various terrains and inclines) you really need to "clip in". This allows you to use your legs for the entire circle of the pedal rotation. With normal shoes you can only push down on the pedal, and then your foot becomes dead weight as it comes up the back side of the rotation. Clipped in, you can use your power (and thus get better exercise as well as efficiency in pedaling) for the entire circle, pushing down in the front and pulling up in the back (while your other foot does the opposite effort). Again, this translates to either same speed, less effort, or more speed for same effort. Since I was using cycling for cardio, I'm obviously interested in the speed gain.

    Three weeks with the FX S6
    It turns out, being made to wait for the bike was informative. It confirmed that I had made the right purchase. While the loaner was no slouch (and beat the pants off of my roommate's Wal-mart/Target special from years ago), this bike was on a whole different level. Even without the cleats, the same peddling effort yielded what seemed like a 15-20% speed increase. The S6, being carbon fiber, was 30% lighter (32lbs vs. 21lbs) and also stiffer, which allows for more of your power/effort to be transferred to the pedal/wheels.

    By the first week of July, I was riding for over an hour per session, working up a good sweat, staying at 70-85% of target heart rate. I was also tackling steeper inclines (vs. avoiding them earlier in May/June) to do short-term high impact training (where my heart rate would temporarily go to 90-95%). My recovery time (how long it takes for my heart rate to decline after exercise cessation) improved drastically. The first day I biked, even six hours later my resting heart rate (RHR) was high compared what it normally is (67-70bpm). Now I was returning to my normal RHR well within an hour.

    I had not lost weight, but I had lost 0.75 of an inch off of my waistline. I had learned that a better measurement of overall health isn't BMI, but rather waist to hip ratio. By that metric I was in the overweight (but not obese) category. Ideally you want your largest waist measurement to be 0.90 of what your hip measurement is. When I started I was at 0.95. Now I'm at 0.935. So that confirmed that the lack of weight loss was due to likely muscle gain (in my legs/thighs) offsetting fat loss from my waistline.

    To be continued...(?)
    I've written a super long post now, so this is a good place to stop. This takes my story up to July 4. Yes, for those who've read this far...that is a significant date for bike sales. And as fellow HTF aficionados (and gear acquirers) you might have an inkling that the story doesn't end here. But this is a good point for me to stop and see 1) what people's responses are to this post, and 2) if there are any fellow cyclists out there, and 3) if you'd be willing to share your stories and post pics of your bikes...
     
  2. benbess

    benbess Producer

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    Thanks for your post on your new bike!

    I rediscovered the joys of bike riding more than a year ago when my son found me a folding bike that would fit in the trunk of my car. Here's a pic of me at a park by the Ohio River in Kentucky.

    ben, helmet, bike.

    My bike is a Zizzo Euromini, and it was about $300. When the weather is good I go biking most days for 30 minutes to an hour, and it's seemingly been good for my physical and mental health.

    www.zizzo.bike/
     
  3. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Very cool compact bike!

    Speaking of different types of bikes...it's so frustrating when I feel like I've made great progress and, say, am able to stay at a steady state 18mph on a long, flat straightaway...only to be handily passed by someone not even breaking a sweat on an e-bike. :laugh:
     
  4. Jonathan Perregaux

    Jonathan Perregaux Screenwriter

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    You made a wise choice there, health-wise. You thoughtfully chose something you know you will like and then committed to it. It’s very easy to get gimbal-locked with “analysis paralysis,” where you miss out on actually doing any exercise until your equipment is perfect.

    I’ve been running for the past six years. Prior to that, I was a sedentary type-1 diabetic with “meh” bloodwork. Today is a totally different story.

    I’ll be sure to post more here, but I’ll leave you with some random stuff I’ve learned and taken to heart:
    • Research! Ask folks, read the Internet, find good books - the more you know, the better you’ll be
    • There are four pillars of health: Rest, Relaxation, Diet, Exercise
    • Recovery is crucial - you build muscle during recovery, but overdoing it has negative effects and can cause injuries
    • Anything worth doing is always difficult, and that’s the point - so don’t give up!
    • Always be mindful of your body - it never lies
    • Push yourself, but don’t hurt yourself
    • You can’t outrun a bad diet, so look into the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet - you may be as shocked by the positive medical benefits as I was
    • There is no such thing as failure, only opportunity to learn
    • Do use devices to monitor your performance and health, but don’t become a slave to them - don’t try to hit some dumb number, listen to your body instead because it is the authority in all things You
    • Avoid and ignore all forms of discouragement, be it road hecklers, your non-exercising friends, some dumb article or, worst of all, yourself in a moment of weakness
    • Fat loss can and will plateau due to your metabolism compensating - it’s never as simple as “calorie deficit equals fat loss”
    • Building muscle raises your basal metabolic rate, enabling you to burn fat doing nothing
     
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  5. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Thank you for the excellent advice, Jonathan. I had been following most of what you'd written so it's good to see confirmative opinions. The one thing I can't do is move to a plant-based diet...I'm born and raised a carnivore. But I am reducing the amount of meat I eat and increasing fruits and vegetables. But I have too many friends who are meat-a-saurases and I'm not strong willed enough (nor do I have the desire to) abstain while they eat. Sporting events and accompanying BBQs are a thing between us.

    I am adding a strength component three days a week. Nothing major: push ups, pull ups, planks, dumb bell curls. I admit that's a "gym" type activity that bores me, so I do as many as I can until I get bored. Usually three reps of 10 each. I'm never going to be yoked (nor am I aiming to be) but I want to at least avoid the stereotype of the "T-Rex Cyclist: huge thighs, tiny arms".

    I have a pretty varied cycling regiment now too. I ride seven days a week, but at different distances/effort levels. 3 times a week I'll do a full on 20-25 mile ride trying to keep a high speed throughout. 2 times a week will be shorter, 10-12 miles, but with some steep inclines that I'll push through very hard (sort of mimicking HIIT). And then 2 times a week I do what I call maintenance rides...between 5-7 miles at a decent clip, not pushing myself but getting my heart rate up to "moderate exercise" level. Honestly I wanted to do the maintenance ride initially to just keep my cardio going, but it's now transformed into I just want to ride. I truly enjoy it and my body feels wrong if I don't get on the bike for at least a little bit in the evenings.

    If at any point my body tells me to take a full day off, I do. That happened a bit early on, but less so now.

    Also, the old axiom of "it takes 21 days to create a habit" had it pretty much on point. From 5/25 - 6/14 (when my bike got here) I was riding the loaner a lot, but it felt like mental effort to get me going. Now it's second nature (and I'm sure some of that is new-gear syndrome).
     
  6. George_W_K

    George_W_K Screenwriter

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    This was a good read.

    I also need to start exercising more as I am overweight. I know diet is the biggest thing I need to change, but I do want to start riding my bike again. I just wish I had someone to ride with. My wife can't ride a bike and has no interest in learning (which I don't understand).

    Going to keep following your progress and try to get motivated myself.
     
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  7. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Hey Carlo-

    That’s a great story. I’m a little older then you. I’ve been biking since the late 80’s.

    My sad story started when I bought a very basic Taiwan made Bianchi road bike. The components were not top notch but were much better then anything I ever had. I was almost 30 then. I was riding on weekends as my office job had longish hours. I road about 18 to 20 mile route around where I live. It partly follows the San Francisco Bay.

    At the start I tried to join my coworkers who did a Wednesday night ride during the nicer months. Being in Silicon Valley, that’s a lot of months. The rides were serious climbs up the hills behind Stanford University and it was tough and I wasn’t at those guys level. One day I came down a hill I’d never done before and hit speeds up to 40mph. Dumb! I had a serious wreck and broke a collar bone and rib and cracked the scapula on my right side. The bike wasn’t damaged. I spent a week in the hospital because the rib punctured my lung. So that took a few days to re-inflate.

    After I recovered I did a few more of those climbs but I hated climbing. I don’t work there anymore so I don’t do those rides anymore.

    I kept riding on the flats around my town. And the route is partly along the Bay. But I had another accident where another rider and I had a head-on collision because the path narrowed and overgrown vegetation blocked the view. I slowed but the other guy was going fast and I had no time to react. This cost me my two front teeth.

    That was 12 years ago. I took three years off cycling and was kind of itching to get back. So I bought a new Specialized Tarmac road bike with Ultegra components and Carbon Fiber frame. I splurged on a really nice bike. It’s light and fast. As you said, carbon is stiff so I could feel every pebble on the road. I’ve been riding that on and off since 2010. I’m not a daily rider, I don’t seem to have the time. I’m not as enthusiastic as I was when I started. My main ride is on the weekend at 12 to 14 miles. I’ve added weights and learning about calisthenics. I work long hours in a Silicon Valley tech company and have a long commute. So after dinner, I recently started weight training and calisthenics which I thought would be good. If I can build more muscle in other parts of my body I can burn more fat. I’ve gained weight on this job which I’ve had for six years, but I love the job and what I do. I just love chocolate so much so the stress gets me to eat more! I’m not fat, but I’m not ideal either as my younger coworkers are still lean like I was when I started cycling.

    I’ve had a lot of hard lessons on the bike. Broke many bones and had other injuries I didn’t mention. But I still feel it’s a great work out. Just be careful on the road! I admire your enthusiastic start and your ability to keep it going. It might get me to ride more.

    And by the way, I love the Apple Watch! I use it to track my activity and with the biking setting, it’s pretty good. The mileage is within .05 of the cyclometer on my bike. Sometimes dead on. I like that it records my heart rate and caloric burn, though I question that feature as it’s a best guess. I also take walks around the building at work and track that with the watch.

    And your LBS was good to be sure you fit the bike. Before I got the Specialized Tarmac, I wasn’t fitted and had neck pain. That hasn’t happened with the new bike.

    By the way, my fantasy was to own a real Italian Bianchi finished in the traditional Celeste green color with Campagnolo components. I may someday do that. But it can be obscenely expensive.

    Great to hear you’re enthusiasm for cycling. Agreed it’s better to do something you enjoy.
     
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  8. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    I hear ya George. I'd say to try and see if the activity speaks to you, in terms of a solo activity. Ride and see how it feels.

    Just like my first attempt at tennis - I still love it, but various realities made it hard for me to find a suitable hitting partner.

    I didn't know initially if cycling would speak to me until I did it. I initially borrowed my roommate's Wal-mart special for a couple of short rides and honestly just loved the feeling of the road beneath the wheels, the wind blowing through me, and living in a high-traffic area, beating cars to wherever I was going within a 3-5 mile radius.

    Now I'm perfectly happy cycling 1-2 hours a day solo. I've kept it up now for the better part of 2 months. And the irony? I'm now getting invited to ride by a few people (one is a barista at a place I'm a regular at, the other is the manager at the bike shop--to join his group). I've declined because I'm still improving and both of those are avid riders, so I don't want to embarrass myself or slow them down. But when I get my cardio and strength where I want it, I'll definitely be joining them.

    The most important thing is to try it out. If it speaks to you, you'll know. I knew even on the "beater" bike that I'd enjoy it. It was confirmed with the loaner (which was worlds better than my roommates rustbucket). And on the Trek fitness bike...it was a revelation.

    But as with all hobbies, YMMV. The only way to find out is to do the activity and see how it makes you feel.
     
  9. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Nelson - what a bittersweet story. Felt weird to "like" your post, but you know what I mean.

    Yes, crashes and road hazards/other drivers is a real thing. I refuse to ride without a helmet (I even bought the new Bontrager Wavecel with MIPS helmet). I bought an insanely awesome Bontrager light set that can be seen from space. I am very cognizant of other riders/cars. I obey the rules of the road as much as possible. I keep an eye out on hazards. Even through all of this, I know I will crash at some point, some day. All I can do is be as mindful and cautious with my surroundings as possible to mitigate the severity of the impact. I enjoy going fast, but I'm also mindful that faster speed leads to harsher crashes.

    I made sure my purchases (oops, spoiler alert!) were through my local bike shop (LBS). Even though I might have saved money online, the fact that my LBS fitted me, gives me one year of free basic adjustments, and the local manager always gives me a 10-20% discount when I buy anything in his store. And I've gotten to know everyone in the shop and they are free with their advice and support even when no purchase is made.
     
  10. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Thanks for liking the post! :)

    With all the accidents, I still enjoy cycling! Yes, sometimes you can’t control the situation and agreed, we have to be very observant of our surroundings. On the bike trails I go on, I’m amazed by how oblivious some people are. Some have kids that don’t know better so I always slow down and go around them. I’ve thought about getting a old fashioned bike bell. It would be so incongruous a sound from a road bike!

    I don’t have a light on my bike, I never ride in the dark, but having a bright one during the day sounds like another way to be sure you are seen.

    About the LBS, the one who sold me mine offers the service to bring the bike back for adjustments. I must have many hundreds of miles and it still shifts accurately and brakes are good. So I never took it back. I’ve gone through two sets of tires. I have pondered getting a bike stand.
     
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  11. Message #11 of 49 Jul 17, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
    Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Nelson - I can't recommend lights enough. Where I live, bikes can sometimes be very difficult to spot. Even now, being hyper-aware of them since I'm now part of the tribe, it can be hard to spot them even during the day. Sometimes tree shade, or poorly parked cars can obscure them. If you have a set of front/rear lights, you can be relatively assured that motorists see you (though it's no guarantee they won't do still something dumb and endanger you).

    I use the Bontrager Ion Pro front light (it's 1300 lumens and since I do a lot of riding in the evening/night hours, I needed more than a blinking warning light, I needed a headlight--this has 5 settings from blinking to various intensities of headlight) and a Bontrager Flare RT rear light. Both claim to be able to be seen from a distance of 2km. Both are USB rechargeable and include the cable (including a high-speed charger USB cable for the Ion Pro, you still need to provide the USB outlet or adapter, I use an iPhone one).

    Re: a stand, I chose the Parktool PCS-10.2. It's a foldable but very sturdy (I would say shop-quality) repair stand. When holding up an expensive bike, you don't want to cut corners.

    I also Parktool's chain cleaner (CG-2.3) and bike brush cleaning set (BCB-4.2) along with a White Lightning Degreaser spray and Finish Line Dry Chain Lube. Keeping a clean chain/transmission will keep your parts from wearing prematurely and keeping that "new bike feel". Depending on how dirty/dusty the environment is, it's amazing how quickly your transmission can grime up and reduce your pedaling efficiency. By watching my LBS put my bike together, and Parktool's various videos, I have gotten very comfortable with removing both wheels and know how to deep clean (degrease) and lube the chain, cassette, and front crankset. Your LBS will do this for you for a cost of between $50-$75 and depending on how often one rides this could be done 2-3X a year. So by doing this myself, all my tools and supplies pay off for itself in 2 years. And I get the added knowledge of being able to fix most minor-to-moderate issues on my bike.

    The other important tools I got was a torque wrench (you don't want to over-tighten screws on carbon frames lest they crack the carbon fiber) with a complete set of common bike Allen and Torx sockets (made by Pro Bike Tool on Amazon). And a "dummy hub" by Feedback Sports to hold the chain in place when you remove your rear wheel for cleaning. This allows the chain to not only stay in place, but makes cleaning the chain without the rear wheel a breeze.

    I cannot recommend Parktool (both the tools and the website which contains hundreds of helpful videos) enough if you're the type of person who likes to know how their bike works, and how to do preventative maintenance and minor repairs.
     
  12. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Part II - The July 4th Sale

    June 14 - July 3

    With a few exceptions, I rode my Trek FX S6 every day since I took ownership of it on June 14. As I mentioned, my strength and endurance increased noticeably, which resulted in higher speeds, better ability to take on inclines, and longer riding. I had opted to go with a fitness (or hybrid, depending on which terminology you like) bike for a couple of reasons:
    1. Being older now I thought that road bikes, and the position in which one rides them (hunched over) was not going to be kind to my aging frame. I wanted to ride in a more upright position.
    2. I still wanted to be relatively fast and light, so I didn't want a full-on mountain bike, which is both heavier and also the handlebar widths are wider to give a rider more control when navigating tough off-road conditions, which I had no intention of riding.
    I was a regular at my LBS. Just chatting up the guys, making an odd purchase here and there (under-saddle bag, flat kit, pump, etc.) but just generally enjoying their company. The manager one day mentions to me about the upcoming July 4 sale and that I should come by and check it out. My LBS is a small local chain of 5 regional stores, and their flagship store is in Santa Monica and apparently on the 4th all of the store managers go to that one store and work that sale. He said there would be deep discounts and to get there early, because there are people who wait the whole year for the sale and buy their one bike for the year. With mock exasperation in my voice I told him "I already spent over 2K in under a month (including pedals, accessories, shoes with cleats, etc.) you're not getting any more of my money!"

    So he looked at me and said, "so I'll see you there bright and early?" and I said "yeah, probably"...

    July 4
    The sale started at 9am. Despite his warning to get there early, I slept in. It was a holiday. I drove by around 9:30 and, no joke, saw a line around the block.

    Hard. Pass.

    I went to my local coffee shop and chatted up with the barista who was also a former amateur cyclist. He asked if I went to the sale (I had told him the night before I had planned on going) and I said that I drove by but it was a total [email protected]#k and that's why I was getting coffee instead of checking out bikes. We talked shop a bit longer, and around 11am I decided to head home. Ok, I made the executive decision to slightly go out of my way and drive by the bike sale before going back. To my surprise, just 90 minutes later, the line was gone. There were still a ton of people there, and the whole back parking lot was turned into their Sale Model floor, so I'm not sure what that line was all about. What the hell, I thought, I found street parking and walked in. I saw many of the workers in my local store that I had gotten to know, including the manager. We chatted for a bit and he showed me the few bikes they had on clearance in my size. For those that don't know, frame sizing and bike fit is ultra-important. Just because there were 200 bikes on sale in the lot, only about a half dozen or so were in my size.

    He said I should try a road model, and I was feeling more confident about trying it out because having ridden regularly now for over a month I was in much better riding shape and thought I could handle the more aggressive "aero" riding style. He took me over to a new 2018 model that was on 25% clearance. Not only was it a road bike built for speed, it had an Ultegra Di2 transmission: electronic shifting. I had never tried that before. It works similarly to mechanical shifting, but instead of a cable being pulled/relaxed to move the derailleurs, the shifters send an electronic signal to the derailleurs which then move the appropriate amount to shift gears. This leads to much smoother shifting, and once dialed in, is a "set it and forget it" type. As cyclists know, as cables age and stretch, one needs to adjust the tension over time. E-shifting eliminates that. After a brief explanation of the shifting differences, I went back to my car to put my riding shoes and helmet on, while he had the staff put on clipless pedals for me to try the bike. The shop is on a straight, long road with wide bike lanes that, on the 4th of July, had very little car traffic. He told me I could take it as far up as I wanted. He sized the saddle height for me and off I went.

    The Cannondale SuperSix Evo Ultegra Di2 (2018)

    Everything you need to know about how I felt in the test ride can be summarized by this image:
    poetry.

    Not only was the lower arched-over-bars position not uncomfortable for me, as I had feared it might be, but after a brief acclimation period it started to dawn on me that I might now prefer that position. Being "aero" (as they say) truly does reduce wind drag by an order of magnitude. Everyone talks about aero bikes and wheels but the great majority of drag is due to the rider and their clothing.

    It became abundantly clear very quickly that the racing/road frame design transfers more of your power to the pedals (and thus the wheels). I felt like I was going 15% faster for 15% less effort...and that's me trying to be conservative and not sound hyperbolic. I thought the Trek FX S6 was a superbike. And compared to what I had ridden, and what most people ride, it absolutely is. But this was like going from a Porsche to a Ferrari. I was flying up and down the long straightaways, and when I leaned into the corners I could really feel the wheels bite into the curve, and the frame's stiffness and responsiveness let me make turns at higher speeds with utmost confidence.

    I came back from the test ride with heart racing (literally, my Apple Watch said 155bpm), body sweating...and the manager knew he had a sale.

    Only he didn't. I wanted a cool down period to think about things. I wanted to go back home and ride the Trek and make sure it wasn't a mirage. I wanted to have a tough talk with myself before dropping another chunk of change, that this would be something I'd commit to. I thanked him and when he asked if he should hold it for me, I said no. I told him I didn't want to cost him a sale, and that if the bike found another owner, I'd be fine with that. I did ask that if I decided to come back for it and it was still there, would they honor the 4th price and he said absolutely and put a note in their computer system. He introduced me to the flagship's store's manager in case I decided to come back in the following days.

    I went home, cooled down, hydrated, and went for a ride on the Trek. Yep. I still loved it. It was still a great bike. But the more upright riding position, while being more comfortable on a ride where I wasn't exerting all out effort, really stood out in its difference versus the lower riding position on a road bike. I was definitely less aero and the bike definitely did not translate effort to speed as efficiently as the road bike.

    I slept on it.

    July 5
    I hopped on the Trek and rode to the flagship store. I rode at a good clip over those 3 miles. I wanted to be very familiar with the Trek ride and effort. I got there and emotionally prepared myself for the bike to be gone.

    It wasn't. It was there, inside now, in all its glory. It had also been cleaned and prepped (tires and frame were cleaned from the test riding people did from the sale)...it's almost like they knew I'd be coming back. :laugh:

    The flagship store manager saw me, smiled, and gave me a warm greeting. He saw my FXS6 and complimented me on it. He read my mind and said "I'm glad you rode that here, it's going to give you a good comparison with the Cannondale". He had the shop staff put the clipless pedals on, and met me out back. He held on to my Trek while I rode the Cannondale, and when I returned, helped me swap out. I switched bikes several times. He patiently let me do the comparison, no sales talk, no pressure, only answering the few questions I had. He knew what I was learning deep down inside: that the bike's qualities would sell itself.

    I had done web research. There was nothing with the Ultegra Di2 transmission within $700 of what this bike was going for online, and that was Canyon, the internet-direct only manufacturer known for passing the "no middle man" savings on to the consumer. Of the major builders (all of whom use the local-dealer model), there was nothing within $1000 of it.

    On the 5th of July 2019, my Trek got a sibling.
    New sister.
    IMG_2017.JPG

    Ever since then, I have ridden the Cannondale at night/weekends during my "training/workout" runs. The Trek has become my daily commute and errand bike. I can lock up the Trek for short periods without too much worry (although theft is a problem in my area). I don't have a lock for the Cannondale. I'm either on it, or within easy arm's reach of it. Or it's safely in my home.

    Both are getting love and attention from me. Both serve different purposes. I can actually quantify the mph difference to some degree. Near where I live there is one of those digital mph signs that the city puts out to tell motorists to slow down. Late at nights, when I'm the only one on the road, it senses me on a bike and flashes my speed. Using a very unscientific method (my "feel"), I've brought both bikes out to that road (thanks to my roommate for patiently waiting and holding my bikes) and went at what I felt was the same effort. On my Trek that effort translates to 21mph. On the Cannondale the sign flashes 25mph.

    Again: unscientific. And it's a combination of riding position, aerodynamics, increased transfer of power due to stiffness and frame design, and I'm sure some measure of psychological impact. But whatever the reason, I not only feel faster, but am faster, on all surfaces and inclines, on the Cannondale.

    Actually, here's another unscientific testimonial. There are a lot of avid cyclists in my area (due to likely the financial demographics of nearby neighborhoods). A lot of MAMILs (middle-aged men in lycra). When I first started riding, it was depressing to see all of them whiz by me. As I got stronger and also got my Trek, the number of instances being passed declined greatly. Now on the Cannondale, I'm usually the passer.

    And that feels good. At the end of the day, isn't feeling good while doing an activity you enjoy what it's all about? Next up: carbon wheels. :rolling-smiley:

    Thanks for reading! Oh, and yes, I do now also own cycling clothes (or "kit"). As ridiculous as it makes one look (unless you have the body for it) it makes a big difference in wind drag reduction and comfort over longer rides.
     
    George_W_K likes this.
  13. Jonathan Perregaux

    Jonathan Perregaux Screenwriter

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    Pretty darn interesting. I bought a “DVD” bike about 10 years ago, never got into it, and now I see why. It was probably more like a “VHS” bike, to be honest.

    Fortunately, I picked running instead and I am quite happy with it. I’m a 53 year old diabetic on an insulin pump who can now belt out multiple 10 and 15K’s and I grew some muscles! I may consider this new information about bikes, though.
     
    Carlo Medina likes this.
  14. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Whatever gets us out and going...running, cycling, tennis, workouts, whatever. It's about finding that motivation to fight the urge to be sedentary. With today's office/desk jobs and DoorDash, UberEats, Prime Delivery, etc. it's easier than ever to never leave one's couch or office chair. I actually am blessed at work with 1) variable height desks which allow me to stand, and 2) overseeing staff in different buildings so I'm rarely in the same place for very long.

    If you do want to re-investigate cycling, I do recommend going to an LBS and building a relationship. Most are helpful. And if one isn't, move on to the next. Not sure where you live, but I'm fortunate enough to have many LBSes with many brands within easy reach. Luckily, the closest one had great people, but the few I've visited since then (including one 25 mile trip to La Mirada to find a rare bottom bracket that only they had in stock) have all had friendly staff who were just happy to shoot the breeze and talk shop. I'm learning that it's a great community of people.

    A good LBS will make sure to take your riding style and budget into account, point you to the right type of bike (road, fitness/hybrid, mountain, fixie, etc.), size it properly, and of course let you test ride to your heart's content. I have ridden dozens of bikes of all price ranges prior to making my choices. Obviously for more expensive ranges, they ask to hold on to your ID and credit card, but that's standard procedure. Now, with the relationship I've built, they even skip that step. I recently rode a Madone ($7K) and they never asked for my ID. They know me now, and knew I'd bring it back safe and sound.
     
  15. Message #15 of 49 Jul 18, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2019
    Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Hey Carlo, thanks for the suggestions on the lights, tools and stand. I’ll be giving them consideration!

    Wow, you got a Cannondale road bike! That’s great! Looking at the photo makes me feel like I’m driving my old school manual transmission (which I love in my car ) verses your new dual clutch automatic transmission which shifts faster for faster acceleration! ( Using a car analogy) :) My bike is a 2010 which was pretty good then, I see yours has the disc brakes. I think those were new-ish at the time for road bikes. I read about the electronic shifters and they made me wonder about dependability? What powers the shifter/derailer? Do you need to recharge it? Does it recharge while cycling?

    I tried a bike that was more upright as well before I got my Tarmac and I definitely felt more right with the race geometry frame! It’s what I had before but this one was sized right.

    I’m glad to see how excited and motivated you are. Makes me want to ride more. I was sure you were going to trade in your Trek for the Cannondale. I see you’ve really got the bug if you decided to keep the Trek and add the road bike. After my first road bike I got a second road bike because the company I worked at had got a deal for employees to get a discount from Specialized since we were doing some products with them. And I got a second road and a basic mountain bike. So I know how you feel now.

    By the way, I need a new kit. My jersey is from the 90’s. I like it still. Same with my tights, though the shorts are newer. My shoes are Sidi with clip less cleats from the 2001 or so. Still fits. Though I need new tights. Of late, I prefer to ride with long sleeves and tights to cover my legs. Plus I wear light weight gloves. I never wore gloves before, but I realized I should protect my skin from the sun and I hate to wear sunscreen.

    All the gear now is so new and different. You are giving me a little gear list. I wouldn’t mind that new Bianchi now! :)
     
  16. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    With regards to kit: I started out with a few cheap pieces from Amazon. I found that shorts with chamois were a necessity for long (over 30 minutes) rides. In normal shorts a 30 minute ride became uncomfortable. With the chamois padding, an hour was not an issue at all.

    For the Tour de France, Competitive Cyclist (online retailer) was discounting different items each day. And they had a long-standing Castelli 25% off certain items sale. So I bought Castelli jerseys, and Louis Garneau shorts and jerseys, and I can now say there is a huge difference between the cheap stuff on Amazon vs. name-brand stuff. I'm a huge fan of Castelli jerseys especially (though I very much like the LG stuff I got too). With the sale, most pieces were $40-$60. The Castelli Entrata full zips feel like a second skin. The LG Optimum shorts fit so much better, and the chamois is thinner but still as comfortable as the knock-off Amazon brands from Asia. Also although I'm not overweight, I'm not "cut" either: 5'7" 150lbs. The Castelli jerseys are flattering. Skin tight but I don't feel like a sausage bursting at the seams in it.

    Regarding electronic shifting: the Shimano Di2 is powered by a rechargeable battery (which is long and tubular and is located in the seatpost). The charger connection is underneath the handlebar, near the stem. It has a proprietary connector (but the cable is included) on one end and a standard USB on the other end. You can charge from a laptop, or standard USB adapter (like for a phone). There are wires that run from the shifters to the derailleurs. Everyone in the shop swears by them, in terms of reliability and function, and all the YouTube reviews and cycling channels I've started following all seem to be overwhelmingly positive. Sure you can google "Di2 failure" and see a bunch, but you can google "[insert product here] failure" and come up with lots of hits.

    SRAM, for their electronic shifting, "one-upped" Shimano in that their shifter "wirelessly" communicates with the derailleurs, so that's less wires in your bike. But from what I understand there may be a very minute (but detectable to seasoned riders) added delay in response from button press to shift action, in comparison to Shimano's Di2 performance. Likely in milliseconds.

    So my Trek has the newest Shimano 105 R7000 groupset, their "workhorse" which approaches elite level, and has many trickle-down technologies from the previous generation's Dura-Ace groupset (top of the line). It's been very well reviewed in terms of performance, especially at the price point. There is no Di2 option for 105, unfortunately.

    The Cannondale has the latest Ultegra R8000 groupset which sits between 105 and Dura-Ace, and I can perceive an improvement in shifting, both in performance and snappiness, but it's not overwhelming. I could have lived the rest of my riding career happy with the 105. There was an easily detectable difference between the 105 and the set below it (Tiagra, I think?). I would counsel anyone who is looking to seriously get into cycling to start at the 105 level. Especially because the 105/Ultegra/Dura-Ace level gets you into the 11 gear rear cassette, and if you ride inclines/hills you will be thankful for the additional gears (Tiagra and lower are 7 - 10 gears in the rear cassette, the lower you go the less gears in the rear cassette).

    There seems to be a 3-4 year product life cycle now, and the top tier groupsets are one year apart, so if Shimano holds to form, a new Dura-Ace line will be released in late 2020 (and the Di2 variant usually 6 months later), Ultegra in 2021, and 105 in 2022. So if you're going to entertain a top of the line variant using Dura-Ace, you might want to wait until late 2020--but this is for bikes costing north of $5000. For the Ultegra line, the current R8000 is in it's early lifecycle (Di2 was just released in late 2018), and the 105 R7000 is newer still.
     
  17. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    To nutshell, for new bike purchase:
    • At minimum I'd recommend making sure the bike uses Shimano 105 groupset, with 11 gear cassette in the back.
    • The performance difference is noticeable but not enormous between 105 and Ultegra, I'd classify it as "refinement" level. Nice to have, if you have the cash, but not necessary.
    • Di2 is a big price premium but adds another layer of refinement, as well as less maintenance/adjusting, and AI shifting. Sequential shifting is super cool if you enable it. Basically it makes it so you only need to use the right shifter and it knows when to go between your small rear gears and big front gear to give you the smallest increment of gear ratio change. So for example at a certain point in the gear progression, if you click shift up (harder gear), it will simultaneously change your front gear from the small cog to the big cog--which normally results in a big change in gearing--and move the rear cog two gears "easier" to compensate. So with one click it goes through 3 gear changes total so the change in overall gear ratio and effort is not jarring to you as a rider.
    This last suggestion is a little nitpicky but it made a difference to me.

    My Trek came with a "compact" front gear ratio of 50/34. My Cannondale, because it's built for top speed, came with a 52/36, using a Cannondale SI crank and FSA rings. I was rarely in the top gear because the ratio was too big. But the gear differences when I took various inclines sometimes seemed too great...like I'd find one too "easy" and the next gear too "hard" depending on the grade of the climb.

    So I replaced the Cannondale/FSA 52/36 crankset with the Ultegra 50/34 crankset (which required me hunting down that bottom bracket) and now the gear ratios are identical between my two bikes, and I haven't had the same "gear spread hunting" that I had prior to going to the smaller front gears.
     
  18. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Hey Carlo, thanks for the run down on your kit. I’ve found the good stuff usually is worth the price. The jersey I wear has lasted an incredibly long time too. Not that I was trying to keep it that long. The tights though literally have holes and i’m kind of lazy now to find a new one. Partly as I’ve been away from buying a new kit so long, I’ll have to understand the sizing.

    And thanks for the info on the electronic shifters. I did not read too much about them when they came out and were announced. My impression then was that it was kind of overkill and I’d rather do the shifting the old fashioned way. My shifter hasn’t let me down. But I didn’t know about the Artificial Intelligence of this new generation. I’ll look that up. I took a quick search on them and ran across an article that basically said, don’t try them because once you do, you’ll never go back. While I love tech, there’s something about the analog manual shifting I just enjoy in an automobile with a manual transmission. But on a bike, I think my attitude would be the same. I did take to the Shimano STI shifters so I am open to change.

    About the 105 component group, when I had my first Bianchi road bike, it had the basic Tiagra component group. After a few years, I upgraded it to the 105 group and added a triple ring to the front as I was still trying to do the climbing at the hills behind Stanford. It was a nice set-up. On my 2010 Tarmac, I’m really enjoying the precision I’m still getting from the Ultegra groupset. About the wheels, I still have the original Mavic wheels, though they were reviewed at the time as slightly heavy, I’m still ok with them.

    I’ll just keep the bike as it is as it’s been working great. When I get my next bike, I’ll go for a little more exotic stuff.
     
  19. Message #19 of 49 Jul 19, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2019
    Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Happy to help! I baby my kit when I wash them (cold, in delicates bags, on delicate setting, air dry on an indoor drying rack I bought specifically for them). Hoping it will last a while.

    Regarding e-shifting feel: they kind of feel like mechanical shifters in that they have a clickiness and some feedback to them, just not as much as the physical act of stretching/releasing tension on cable wire. Think of like a really loud mechanical gamer's keyboard (the opposite of a Mac keyboard)--measurable travel and a satisfying "click" with tactile response at the end. And yes, it's hard to go back and forth between the Ultegra Di2 and the 105...but I manage and that's partly because the 105 R7000 set is really well made (as well as the Ultegra and Dura-Ace non Di2 versions).

    The Bay Area, especially San Francisco proper has way more steep hills than my L.A. area has, so maybe a triple ring in the front makes sense for you in those terrains. The loaner FX I had was a triple in the front and 7 in the back. I really found the innermost ring useless in my every day riding, so it effectively made it a 14 speed for me. And the remaining gear ratios, having only 7 in the back...I was constantly hunting for the "optimal" gear to keep up a constant 70-80rpm cadence.

    Even though a 3x7 transmission is 21 gears and a 2x11 is 22 gears, I find it's really 22 optimal gears for my usage (okay, maybe like 18 of the 22) vs. 14 gears on the 3x7 (due to me not using the smallest front cog) and not all of the remaining 14 are useful. Plus the more cogs you have up front, the higher probably of cross-chaining, which you don't want to do. In fact one of the cool things the Di2 won't let you do is cross-chain. The smallest 2 rear cogs aren't available when you're on the smallest front cog. It will shift to the larger front cog first and move back 2 gears in the rear cassette, and then you can shift up to the smallest cog (by then you'll be at the highest gear possible so you'll be going 30mph+).

    I understand now why the 105/Ultegra/Dura-Ace lines come with 2 in the front and 11 (and a rumored 12 coming in the next gen) in the back. In some gravel bikes SRAM has gone 1x12 with the lone front chainring being a size between the 2x drivetrain (like 46 vs. 50/34 or 52/36) and a larger size differential between the smallest and largest of the 12 rear cogs.

    What's cool is that I've read of people having 2 wheelsets with different rear cogs for racing (with some mild inclines) vs. hardcore climbing activities. They'll have like an 11-28 for the racing, and then swap to lighter wheels for climbing with an 11-34 rear cassette for larger lower gears to make steep climbs easier. The super-serious riders will also change their front chainrings, using a larger 52/36 or 53/39 chainset for more top-speed, and a compact 50/34 (paired with that 11/34 rear cassette) for ultimate low gear options for steep climbing events.
     
  20. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Hey Carlo,

    Thought I’d do a quick post. Yesterday I did my weekly ride, 12 miles round trip along the bay trail that follows the San Francisco Bay. On the first leg, there’s always a headwind so it’s a harder effort and then on the return it’s usually the big front ring and cruising in the high teens, low 20’s.

    Perhaps it was your posts, but I hit it at a more aggressive effort and cut my usual time down a few minutes. It felt good, it was my 4th ride after having been off the bike a few months. One thing a friend commented on was heart rate. What I love about the Apple Watch is it tracks that on my rides, I’m averaging a number that is close to my maximum heart rate for my age so I’m above the target heart rate that is supposed to be the target rate. I’ve never really paid attention to that. I just do what my body tells me. If I feel good and can push it, then I do it. If I can’t I slow down. One thing I find cool is I can easily now see my resting heart rate. It must be the cycling I’ve been doing so long, as if I can catch it on the watch without getting too excited, it shows its well below 60. I’ve never tried to track how fast my heart rate comes back down after a ride.

    https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/target-heart-rates
     

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