Tuesday, August 2, 2016

2016 Giant Defy Advanced 2

I had been considering a good road / gravel bike for some time. I don't take my TCR on dirt roads and my TCX cross bike is great but CX bikes do lack the climbing punch when the vertical gets really steep. Here in western Connecticut we have an abundance of steep dirt roads that often go up in the mid 20% range so when Giant had a sale on the 2016 Defy's just prior to the 2017 model release it was perfect timing. I picked up the Defy Advanced 2 for approx. $500 below list.

The Advanced 2 is constructed with T 700 carbon which is woven in house by Giant. It has the overdrive headset which is 1 1/8-inch top and 1 1/4-inch bottom bearings. (The Advanced pro and SL have the overdrive 2 with 1 1/4 inch top and 1 1/2-inch bottom bearings) Even on the roughest dirt roads the front end stays stable and tracks accurately. The D - Fuse seat post is amazing along with the frame for providing plenty of flex over the nastiest terrain, it's amazing how they engineered the carbon for the effect, no gimmicks here just state of the art carbon engineering. I've actually had to move my saddle forward half a centimeter to compensate for the compliancy or flex in the seat post. Also, the Defy did win the crazy cobble stoned Paris-Roubaix event in 2015.

 For an endurance type frame the bike climbs well on regular roads and sprints pretty well too. It doesn’t climb or sprint quite as efficiently as my 2016 TCR Advanced SL but I'm comparing it to the TCR which is among the best climbing and sprinting rigs around. Wheelset is the Giant PR-2 Disc which are on the heavy side but after some really rough thrashings have held up well and are still true. Brakes are TRP Spyre-C, mechanical disc, 160mm rotors and work impressively for mechanical discs. Giant tires P-SL 1, 700x25, front and rear specific, surprisingly after hammering these over endless sharp rocks they've held up nicely, not even showing any small cuts as of yet. Drivetrain is full Shimano 105 except for the crank which is the Shimano RS500 and the KMC chain. It's just my personal observation that KMC chains are a bit more durable than Shimano but I feel are noisy in comparison. Front gearing is compact 34/50, rear cassette is 11x32 and with the climbs around this part of the country the 32 is sometimes very welcome. Bottom bracket is the Shimano press fit which I do prefer. Overall for endurance type geometry this bike does everything pretty well but really excels where it was designed to - on the nastiest of roads.

Seat stays work together with the seat post
for compliancy

Giant has really upgraded their graphic designs

Giant P-SL 1 25mm tires have held up
surprisingly well over sharp  rocks.
Giant brand PR-2 30mm wheels have stayed true

D-Fuse seatpost is engineered
for an amazing ride

Shimano 105 drivetrain with 11x32 cassette

TRP Spyre-C, mechanical disc brakes work great.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Cleaning Matte finish bikes

This year I purchased my first Matte finish bike, a 2016 Giant TCR Advanced SL in Matte Lime, Black. Great looking bike, excellent quality paint and finish and lots of compliments on the bike but brother it's hard to keep clean. If the color was generally all Black it would be much easier to clean but any bright colored Matte finish shows dirt and grease and is generally very tough to clean. I'm not obsessive about a clean road bike but I do take very good care of my equipment. I've tried most of the commercial bike cleaners around, and while they work basically "alright" I stumbled on a product that out cleans any I've tried. Giant Silk "bright ride polish". I don't think it was designed for Matte surface cleaning but just spray a little on greasy spots and it wipes everything off and doesn’t affect the flat matte finish. Its silicone based so maybe some other silicone based products work well but I haven't searched around. For any OCD bike owners with bright matte finishes this might be the ticket.
Some grease takes a lot of rubbing to remove and
still leaves discoloration deep in the paint. The Giant 
Silk polish takes everything off quickly

Just wipe off and buff a little, works quick

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Importance of Race Weight

Power to weight ratio, racing weight, watts per kilograms or pounds. No matter how you word it the meaning is pretty simple; you need the strength to move that weight. The less you weigh and the more power you generate and the faster you'll propel that bike. Generally speaking heavier riders generate the more watts or power. If your specialty is time trialing or sprinting that would be considered fine but when climbing the situation is totally turned. The higher your body weight the more power you need to fight gravity. To give you an example if I was riding uphill at 250 watts against a rider that was 25 - 30 pounds less that rider would only need approx 215 watts to be at the same speed. The steeper the grade the more this becomes a factor. Now if I could lose 25 pounds but keep my strength I'd certainly crank uphill. Of course losing weight and keeping your power is key because some muscle loss is going to occur with most weight loss and affect my overall power affecting time trialing and sprinting performance.

Bradley Wiggins is a rider who totally amazed me. Watching him years ago he was a spectacular track rider and time trialer but not much of a climber. With an incredible nutritional and training program he lost weight became a first class climber won the Tour de France and still broke records time trialing and rode Paris Roubaix to a top 10 placing showing he maintained his overall power or watts produced. Incredible feat indeed.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Slime Pro Tubeless sealant

Just prior to an active mountain bike season with some planned races I thought it might be a good idea to change the tubeless sealant in my tires. It's been a full year and that's the longest I've ever gone without replacing the sealant and I was curious to see how well it held up. Over time the sealant hardens and or becomes thick to the point it's not effective at plugging punctures any more. I've been using Slime Pro Tubeless sealant and It's worked very well to the point I've slashed sidewalls up to a couple of centimeters and I've still been able to get back to the truck with some air still present in the tire or with a quick shot of CO2. Granted the tire was trashed but I didn’t get stuck miles down the trail. The Slime folks say it's good for 6+ months in a tire and upon dismounting the tire the majority of sealant was still liquid, a little thick but still thin enough to plug a puncture. Nice to see after a year. I'm running Mavic Crossmax SLR 29er UST wheels and Schwalbe tubeless tires so the tubeless tire rim combo is top quality and specially made for tubeless. For bike tires you need approx. 3 - 4 ounces or 89 to 118 ml per tire, I run 29 X 2.10 and use around 100 ml per tire. Also the Slime website says it contains some form of antifreeze and can be used on temps -4 F (-20 C). Shelf life is 2 years and it's compatible with CO2 meaning it will not freeze. Overall a very reliable product.
Very dependable product, I've been using Slimepro for
around 4 years now and have been impressed. 

You can see some residue from the sealant right after
mounting the tire and filling with air. It sealed an
existing puncture quickly.

Mavic set the standards for UST tubeless design
and it's works very well. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Mavic Ksyrium Pro Disc Allroad

One of the biggest performance gains you can invest in come from upgrading to a lighter stiffer wheelset no matter if your riding road, cross, or mountain bikes. My 2016 Giant TCX cross bike came with the stock Giant SX - 2 wheelset, while the wheels performed fairly well and were durable enough they weighed in around 2100 or so grams, definitely heavy. The tires are the Maxxis mud wrestler which does well in the mud during cross season but we're headed for spring and dirt and gravel roads so a less aggressive tire is in the cards.

I've always been more or less of a Mavic fan mainly because of the durability of the product so it made sense to go with the Ksyrium pro disc allroad wheelset. This wheelset is the perfect cross, dirt, gravel or even occasional road wheel. It's UST compliant and comes with all the necessary hardware to set it up for tubeless including the sealant. When ordering you have a choice of 2 different tires, the Yksion Elite guard 28mm which are great if your riding more paved roads or the Yksion Elite allroad 30mm which are great for dirt or gravel weigh 330 grams and was my choice. Tire pressure rating is 58 to 85. Internal rim width is 19mm, Zicral spokes, and front and rear are both 24 spoke. The wheels are compatible with all quick release and thru - axle sizes and come with all the hardware necessary to convert them. The wheels also come in 2 versions for the 6 bolt and center lock brake rotor system. The freehub gets updated to what Mavic calls Instant Drive 360, offering engagement every nine degrees. I really have to say Mavic has everything covered.

As to how the wheelset performs, let’s just say they make the TCX feel like a different bike. They basically elevate the performance of the bike at every level. What is really noticeable is the tracking of the front end, steady and precise. Weight is 1620 grams for the pair so I reduced the rotating weight by well over a pound not including the tire weight difference. List price is US dollars $1250.00
Nicely finished alloy wheelset, 1620 grams for the set. 

Wheels come with all the hardware for setting up tubeless
and for any axle setup  your using. The ring in the center
is the hub spacer for 10 speed cassettes

Choice of 2 different tires, I went with the 30mm
Yksion Elite Allroad which can be run tubeless

Always a neatly finished product by Mavic

Zicral spokes, 24 per wheel. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The NFL and Cycling

I've been reading a lot in the past year about NFL pro football players using cycling to enhance their offseason workouts and the reasons why it's effective. When you look at the science it makes perfect sense. First of all the recovery time for cycling is very rapid, far quicker than running. It's due to the type of muscular contractions the body goes through. Running for example causes eccentric as well as concentric contractions, the eccentric contractions are a result of the muscular system acting as a type of shock absorber when you land. Upon landing your muscles contract in the lower body very suddenly which basically braces the joints for the jolt of landing. This repetive process of landing can be hard on the lower body and requires a high recovery time. On the other hand cycling emphasizes the concentric contractions in the lower body not eccentric, there is really no sudden pounding of the joints. You can compare this motion to the lifting or pushing phase of a weight training movement (power phase). Looking a little deeper the concentric contractions during cycling are longer and deeper in duration than running causing higher lactate loads. The end result is a very controlled way of elevating one's lactate threshold and stimulating the mitochondria for energy conversion. Interestingly, you'll find an athletes running threshold HR a little higher than in cycling due to cycling's higher level of concentric contractions (muscular engagement) and high lactate loads at a lower HR for cycling.

Getting back to the NFL it also mimics the sudden quick explosive anaerobic movements that go with football but easier on the joints and recovery making it ideal for football players in the off season. As one player said, those long endurance rides aren't much benefit but those 20 - 30 mile hard punchy rides can simulate anaerobically what happens on the field that's where the benefits show. If you subscribe to the Wall Street Journal they recently published and excellent column “The rise of the NFL cycling nerd" interviewing some NFL pros who cycle for off season fitness.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

TRP Spyre C mechanical disc brakes

All cross bikes are subject to lots of maintenance due to the hell we put them through so I thought I would pass on some maintenance issues with the TRP Spyre C mechanical discs that came on my 2016 Giant TCX SLR cross steer. Don't get me wrong, I think the brakes are one of the best mechanical disc designs available but I began to notice that my rear braking was becoming nonexistent and the brake lever required massive strength to compress. I was in some really horrid conditions so I assumed the pads needed to be cleaned up or were a little contaminated. I pulled the pads and yes they needed to be scuffed down with some 220 grit paper which cleaned them up nicely and tossed them back on. But the brake lever was still not right, then I noticed the inner pad was considerably farther away from the rotor than the outer pad. After a little research I found out that the TRP Spryre brake pad adjusters (there's one for each pad, inner and outer) sometimes loosen up moving the pad or pads outward. My research discovered this is sometimes an issue with this system. Essentially when I'd compress the brake lever the outer pad which was adjusted properly contacted the rotor and then flexed the rotor over toward the inner pad barely making contact with it, that’s where the stiff brake lever came from. I was actually flexing the rotor with my strength. The inner pad adjuster was backed out all the way so it was just a matter of adjusting it inward which is by using a 3mm allen key. I essentially had one pad braking on the rear. Also on the TRP YouTube channel their tech said don't adjust the brakes by tightening the cable barrel adjuster as it pulls the lever in which applies pressure for the pads making for reduced braking. Always adjust the brakes by the pad adjusters. I actually loosened the cable on the brake caliber and moved the lever outward another mm or so to help increase the levers leverage a little. Now everything's happy. As I said the brakes overall work very well but are a little different than some other mechanical discs in how they operate and adjust. If you’re having braking issues with this system be sure to check the pad to rotor clearance and see if the adjusters are backed out.
Don't adjust the brakes by the cable barrel adjuster as it
moves the lever in reducing leverage or pad pressure.
There are two 3mm allen  key pad adjusters, inside and
outside make sure they haven't backed out.