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

Nelson Au

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Hey Carlo-

Thanks for the advise. I’ll keep it all in mind.

My thinking is I tend to keep something a long time, the Tarmac I’ve ridden will be 10 years this summer. So I’m Thinking about time to go for the super dream bike. But I’m a one bike kind of guy. I don’t think I’d want to invest in multiple bikes for different functionality, Aero vs road.

Funny you mentioned the Oltre XR4. That is looking like the “someday” bike. That’s the one I’m leaning towards. It’s also looking like new territory for this level of bike in that it’s going to be a bespoke build. Not something you can get off the rack as far as I know. Which is fine as I wanted to also pick the component group. I always wanted to go Italian all the way for this build as I mentioned earlier. So I figured for the cost of a couple of bikes, just get one really nice one. To future proof, I’d get all the electronics installed now rather then later.

The Specialissima is the traditional road bike and it is on the table still. The guy at the bike shop felt for my riding the XR4 would likely be better for me and it’s no slouch if I want to climb with it. I imagine it will be better at climbing then bikes from many years ago that we’re heavier.

So if I decide to go this route, it’s going to be a custom build and the shop of course will size and fit the bike for me. I was concerned Bianchi geometry is very different from what I’m used to. I hope to try one.

The XR4 frame with discs is so nice with the hidden cables. But I’m torn about the rim brakes. You make good points about the rim wear. And the bike industry seems to be pushing everyone to discs. I did read about the complexity to maintain them. That’s why I posted that video above, I had no idea they are hydraulic. To see it installed then fluid added was interesting. So maybe disc brakes are the future. I’ll try to read up more about them and yet, there is a youtuber whose a racer who has ridden both discs and rim on XR3 and XR4 and he’s going back to rim brakes, he just likes them better, understands the pros and cons of both.

I still worry about electronic shifting running out of power on a ride. Would be nice if you could carry a spare back up battery to charge it. It was suggested by the bike shop that the night before a ride to charge everything up.

Another rabbit hole are the computers. Garmin and Wahoo are the two leaders. I like from what I’ve seen is you can see what gear you’re in. And you get navigation. That’s not as critical as my phone can do that. But nice. And my watch can do heart rate. Of course the big thing is the power meter. So many new things to learn about and digest.

I agree with your idea about waiting a bit for the 2020 models. Maybe after taxes are done too. So until then, I’ll keep trying to gather more info and try to see the bikes at a bike shop.
ake good points about the rim wear. And the bike industry seems to be pushing everyone to discs. I did read about the complexity to maintain them. That’s why I posted that video above, I had no idea they are hydraulic. So maybe disc brakes are the future.

I still worry about electronic shifting running out of power on a ride. Would be nice if you could carry a spare back up battery to charge it.

Another rabbit hole are the computers.

I agree with your idea about waiting a bit for the 2020 models.
 

Carlo Medina

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re: electronic shifting running out of batteries. SRAM: you can buy spares. The batteries plug into the derailleurs. Shimano: when the battery starts to run too low, first it shuts down the front derailleur and keeps the rear going. You'll have a fair amount of juice to get home. I mean if you're doing a century ride, you should be sure to charge your battery just in case, especially if you can't remember the last time you did so. But if you're doing a normal ride and are within 20-30 miles of home, even if you run your battery too low you should be able to get back home. In seven months, I've never been stranded without juice, and I'm not particularly anal about charging.

re: hydraulic brakes. I've now done a full brake bleed on Shimano disc brakes, replaced the pads and rotors, centered/aligned the pad to eliminate any noise...it takes a little YouTube video watching and some basic tools (and a bleed kit, easily purchasable at Amazon or any big online bike shop), it's not difficult. Is it "more difficult" than rim? Sure. But that's because rim is dead simple, it's like 130 year old tech, it has to be simple.

Discs are the future. And the future is here. Very few 2019/20 models even come in rim. Pretty much only the super cheap bikes (for cost savings) and the super expensive (as an alternative option to a disc model, to appease those finicky pros and semi-pros who are still clinging to the old mentality). Most everything else that came out is disc.

re: bike computer. I love my Wahoo Elemnt Roam. Others love Garmin. Garmin is a little more full-featured, and has a larger ecosystem, but also a little more buggy, according to forums and reviews. Honestly I don't think you can go wrong with either.

Honestly, if I could only have a bike build (assuming same frame) with either
  • disc brakes and mechanical shifting, or
  • rim brakes and electronic shifting
I'd choose the disc and then pay to upgrade electronic later. You can't upgrade rim to disc because it requires a specific frame designed for disc. You'd have to swap out the frame and the wheels, which is essentially a new bike.
 

Carlo Medina

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Oh, if you are committed to the "one bike for 10 years" and don't mind spending the coin, my buddy who is an absolute cycling fanatic, and has owned (and re-sold) so many bikes that he's probably totaled six figures in expenditures...his #1 (I think he currently has 4 bikes) is similar to your all-Italian build.

Frame: Bianchi Oltre XR4 (2017 so it is a rim version because discs were just starting to hit road at this time)
Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 (though if building today he'd probably do the Campagnolo Super Record EPS)
Wheels: Campagnolo Bora Ultra 50

He also owns a TCR (a year or two older than my model), a Trek Madone, and a Cervelo R5. All of these have top-end e-shifting and top-end carbon wheels. The R5 is his newest model (2019) and is disc, which the Madone and TCR are rim brakes. He calls the R5 a "disc brake pig" because he couldn't get it under 16lbs (it's literally 16lbs 2oz). So that shows you how competitively light disc brake models are now, and again, that's a 2019 model (so built in 2018).

Oh and he has a mountain bike. So I guess he has five currently. But he loves his Bianchi above all else in the road category (can't really compare road vs. MTB because they're two very different rides).

Now will a Bianchi Oltre XR4 + Dura Ace Di2 or Campy Super Record EPS + Bora 50s run you five figures? Yes. But will you love that bike for a decade? Yes.
 

Nelson Au

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Hey Carlo, I didn’t reply to your message yet. I’ve been thinking about it. Yes, I think if I did do a custom build bike with the Oltre XR4 and Campagnolo complements, it would be a nice bike that I’d likely be happy for a long time. I don’t mean to say I keep bikes for a decade, it was just that I happen to realize it’s been a decade with my current Tarmac.

What’s interesting is that on my ride yesterday, I looked down at the frame and front fork and brake calipers now that they are sparkling clean and shine in the sunshine, the bike sure looked good! As good as new. And it’s still riding as well as new. It reminded me of the time I repainted my house, I hired a professional who he let me help him. While painting I got some pointers from him and learned a bit of his trade and tricks he uses for good preparation of the house before painting. He felt I was skilled enough to paint the house myself, which was nice to hear. He told me though that like anything else, if you have the skill or talent, you could do a great job with any kind of paint brush. He knew a guy who could paint a fine line on the trim with an old large wide brush instead of a narrow brush. So having all the fancy new tools won’t make you a better painter. I agree with that philosophy in my line of work too. The new fancy tools are great in that they can help save time or produce better results. But if you can do the same with a fat old paint brush as you could with a fancy new one, then that’s a better thing. So on my ride yesterday, I was thinking that as I was fighting the wind. I wasn’t feeling particularly good at that point yet in the ride. It can be a struggle when we’re not fully feed or warmed up or rested. So if I had a super fancy bike, I won’t do any better then on my old bike. :)

No doubt a new bike will be great for the new technology and but it’s the same. Still uses a chain to drive the rear wheel and brakes may be discs over rim, but it still uses friction to stop you. I was thinking yes, I should wait a bit for the 2020 models. And also I want to get more in shape before investing in the new bike so I’m going to be more able to enjoy it. At least after this third week by butt is used to the saddle again. I did a very short climb too and it wasn’t too hard. Less then a quarter mile climb of course. I topped out at 23mph on the decent as I had to slow down before I reached the end. So eventually by the summer maybe I’ll have a new bike.
 

Carlo Medina

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Oh I agree. By far the most important part of a bike (assuming everything's working a-ok) is it's engine (the rider). And yes, with all the talk of "aero" this and that, the least aero thing on any bike is...it's engine. Hence why most pro cyclists are built like string beans (very few are overly muscular like other pro athletes because too much mass = drag). Actually it's been proven in various wind tunnel tests that the most aero gains are 1) reducing your mass, and 2) cycling kit. It's amazing how much drag non-cycling kit adds. It's way cheaper than a bike, and gives you the most bang for buck.

I didn't buy the bikes because I thought they'd make me a pro peloton rider. Though I do have ample evidence via my Wahoo segments that there are significant differences between the three. All things being equal, on the same routes, I average about 18mph on my Revolt (gravel), 21 on my TCR (lightest road model), and 22 on my S3 (aero).

I bought them because they're fun as hell to ride for all different reasons. It's why I'm eventually going to buy a mountain bike. I'll probably average 10mph on that thing, because I'll be doing crazy climbs in the Santa Monica mountains.

Oh, and they're conversation starters too. I can't count the number of times people have complimented me on any of the bikes (surprisingly the highest number is for the Revolt...because of the color, I think), so that also feels good, not gonna lie. :laugh:

But yes, whatever gets you up and out of the house, and onto the roads/trails is a good thing. And you're right, if you get fast and strong on an older, less aero, heavier bike, you'll likely be even faster when you do get that Oltre XR4.
 

Nelson Au

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Thanks Carlo! Hey, nothing wrong with having those bikes you have too! I can appreciate that you can get something different from each one. That is impressive that you can shave 4 mph difference between the gravel and aero bike. Also interesting that your aero bike and lighter road is so similar in speed readings. And I can appreciate the feedback you’re getting on the Revolt. :)

I never weighed my bike, doing a quick check on the web, my bike stock and a 58 sized frame without pedals is 17.5 pounds. My frame is 54, but I can’t imagine it’s much less. I would guess modern bikes now are in the 15 to 16 pound range.

Speaking of aero kits, I’m trying to figure out where to get some new riding gear. I have a pair of long legged tights that I’ve been wearing more in the last few years to protect from the sun. But it’s shredded at the seat, so I really need a new pair. And I don’t know how to figure out sizing and which to look for. If I knew how to determine size, I could buy on-line.
 

Carlo Medina

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My two places for cycling kit are Competitive Cycling and Excel Sports. Both have fairly regular sales so just wait for around 30-50% off. I'm a huge fan of De Marchi and Castelli. I think they give you high quality stuff and when they go on sale they're competitive with the Pearl Izumi stuff in price from REI, but with much higher quality.

Be sure you know your size though and what type of fit you want. I decided I wanted form-fitting, versus "club", "relaxed" or "traditional" fit which hangs off your skin a lot more. Race fit is super-tight, like second skin. I'm not there yet, but maybe another 5lbs off and I may buy one or two race-fit kits.

The reason the Revolt is so much slower is several: fatter tires is one (25/28mm on my other two vs. 45mm on the Revolt). Different gearing ratios. More upright riding position. It's more of an aero position than what my Trek FX fitness bike put me in, but nowhere near as aggressive as my TCR or S3's riding position. So I'm sure at least 1-2mph is due to the different position. The other 2mph is the increased tire size (and tread is more for grip than speed), added weight, less aerodynamic frame form, etc.

If I ride in more mixed elevation routes (which contain a significant amount of climbs) then the TCR's lack of aero is offset by it's better climbing due to being nearly 2 lbs lighter than the S3. If it's mostly flat and smooth roads, the S3 will average between 1-1.5mph faster due to the aero benefits. In terms of comfort/compliance though the TCR beats the S3 pretty handily.
 

Nelson Au

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Hey Carlo, thanks for the cycling kit options. Good points about fit! That’s the part I’m not sure how to get right as I don’t feel I know what my size is. I’m with you on the race fit, not there yet. I’ll check out Competitive Cycling.

Today I did two things today I should not have. While I’m feeling stronger as I resume my cycling, I went further and harder then I have last week. I should have done one or the other, not both! I wasn’t feeling up to going harder but after I got to my destination and headed back, I felt ok. A cyclist passed me and I wasn’t going to chase him. But I felt like giving it a halfhearted try. He was fast and I got up to 17+ mph after a couple miles he slowed and I pushed and passed him. I managed to retain that speed another couple of miles. That surprised me.
 

Carlo Medina

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Sounds like you had a great ride! Nothing wrong with really pushing yourself, as long as you don't border on doing anything that may go past what's healthy. But usually your body will tell you when you're red-lining and when to back off.

Regarding clothing fit: I will say I thought tighter would look unflattering so my first purchase was "club" or "relaxed" fit. I ended up regretting that (though luckily it was only two jerseys) because of they way I could feel them flapping in the wind. They were still more "aero" than normal shirts, but not much, and when you're paying that much for cycling kit you want to get it right.

So I went with form-fitting which does hug the skin, but doesn't make me feel like I put too much sausage meat in too small of a casing. :rolling-smiley:

Plus it gives me something to work for: to look good in the kit. But you know what they say about black and looking slimming. It's true for cycling kit as well.

I do have a race-fit kit which I admittedly don't wear often. But #lifegoals to finally be able to put it on and not feel like I'm about to break the seams...
 

Nelson Au

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Hey Carlo, just checking in. I saw some of your posts on the Covid 19 thread. Cool you’re playing guitar. As I mentioned there, I’ve stopped all outside cycling since late February and I’ve set up my trainer with one of my old bicycles at home and I’m pushing myself for 30 minutes a day. Everyday. Working at home has been great as I have that extra bit of time to get that cycling time in. The Covid situation has certainly put a crimp in my plans and I’m not buying a new bike or any new cycling gear yet. But the good thing is that I can still spin on the bike at home everyday. And I think it’s paying off as some fat might be coming off. Though I’m not sure what my endurance is like as I’m only going 30 minutes and I’m not using a very high resistance. Just enough for now that after about 15 minutes I’m sweating. I could probably go longer, but I’m happy to get off the bike after that time.
 

Carlo Medina

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Hi Nelson - definitely stay safe and good to hear you're riding indoors. I've eased off trying to train for a century (for obvious reasons) and just do a daily ride of about the same length you are on your trainer. I wouldn't worry at all about your endurance, it's all about staying healthy and mentally/physically active during this pandemic. I've even changed my routes to avoid as many other people as I can, it's less about training goals for me and more about just getting outside and getting air and sun since for the other 23 hours I'm basically indoors. :D
 

Nelson Au

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Hey Carlo, for sure, it’s about staying active and keeping the body moving! That’s great you’re going out on your rides. I’ve been unwilling to go on the bike route. I drove by it the other day and a long section of it is on a raised area along the SF Bay. They closed the lane that is along that section so cyclist could ride down on the road too so it would spread out people. Which was a great idea. But it didn’t look like people were observing distance or wear masks.

I’m indoors 24 hours a day as well. But I have an interior open atrium so I can go out there for air and sun. :)
 

Carlo Medina

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Yeah I'm fortunate enough to have pretty wide and open surface streets in WLA, not sure which part of the Bay Area you're in, but I know SF proper can be very densely packed. So I've been avoiding the usual routes and it's been about getting my heart rate up in the 140s, which is admittedly pretty low (usually in the 150s when I was training, with peaks in the 160s when I was really pushing) but it's a heck of a lot better than 60bpm and sedentary on my couch :D
 

Nelson Au

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Hmm, your post had me curious so I checked my workouts on the iPhone. When I rode out on the roads, I was averaging 150bpm and higher. On the indoor trainer, I’m averaging 120bpm, or a bit higher. Thats loafing! I knew I wasn’t working quite as hard, but that’s a good reminder to look at the heart rate. It’s lower then I realized, even though I had seen the heart rate on the Apple Watch while on the bike.
 

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