Sprinting in Place

Indoor training is one of my least favorite things to do.

Yet I do it.

I think of warm days outdoors, or just about anything that will distract me from the monotony of sprinting in place.

It’s a great thing to do to keep you moving though, and it makes a big difference in the spring when you’re ready to ride outside again. I haven’t gone with a high tech trainer yet, and I haven’t tried training tools like Zwift, but even though I don’t always enjoy it, sprinting in place is worth doing as you wait for longer and warmer days in spring.

So I spin away, dreaming of better days to come.

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My Orbea on the trainer

My experience with the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, the Strava application, and a little personal history…

 

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The Cateye Strada on the left, and the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt on the right. 

A bike computer is a curious device for a number of reasons. It’s a training tool, a source of information when riding, and as I’ve often said, a taskmaster.  When I was a child, I didn’t need one.  A few years ago life put me in a difficult place. I was recently divorced and I was hurting.  I had moved back to my old college stomping grounds in the Washington DC area to start over, and I knew that if I didn’t find something to keep me busy, I was going to slide into depression.  Depression wasn’t a matter of if, but when. I loved cycling and reached out to an old friend to get some advice. As a result, I got involved in my local cycling club, and I got some good gear recommendations, including this: buy a computer.

A little background…

At the time, the GPS computer was in it’s infancy, a large and curious device that was expensive and even a bit exotic. I didn’t even consider one. What little research I did led me at first to a wired Cateye Enduro model. It had more functions than I actually used, but it was reliable. It looked awful with a wire wrapped around my brake cable and down the fork, but at the time, (2005) that seemed to be fairly common. It wasn’t long before I went wireless though, buying another Cateye product – the Strada – that I liked so much I bought one for my Orbea Onyx in 2010 and my Cannondale CAAD 12 in 2015.  These were simple things that did everything I needed.  They told me my speed, and the distance I’d gone, average speed, the time I’d spent moving, the maximum speed on my rides, and it included an odometer that was really only of use since the last battery replacement. It had all I needed to follow the average que sheet – the ride directions on paper that I clipped to my bars or stem.  Information storage was a notebook. I wasn’t as accurate as I could have been, and my yearly mileage totals were only approximate, but they were fine.  I didn’t feel the need to spend money to get the latest and greatest.  I have an unusual facility for remembering routes. It is very hard for me to get lost in a place I’ve already been. Given this innate gift of navigation, I never felt the need to get more from a bike computer.  I finally gave in to the GPS revolution when I started my passion project late last year. This season, most of my riding has been done with a GPS computer on my bars. I didn’t want everything available in a GPS, because I didn’t use everything I already had. My research led me to the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. I have heard people complain about it’s competitors, but never the Bolt. I’ve come to understand why. Now that I’ve had it for nearly a year, it’s time I wrote about my experience with this technology.

The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt

Apart from wanting to give Wahoo more examples of the letter “e” to use in their unit names, I found the Bolt to be an excellent computer. The most important thing is the unit’s ease of use.  Most of the controls are found on a smartphone app, and the buttons on the unit itself are easy to access, even when wearing gloves. The 2.2″ screen is black and white – which can be a bother to some, but I find it easy to read. The newer Wahoo units, such as their Roam, make limited use of color, and I think that’s a nice addition, but not strictly necessary. However, like most features of the modern GPS unit, familiarity with color on my computer might just change my mind. The screen has good contrast and the controls for backlighting the display are easy to find and use.
The on/off button is on the left side of the unit, the two buttons on the right side change the size of the information displayed on the unit to show more or less information, and also to scroll through menus.  The three buttons on the front allow access to other menus and features such as the mapping display.
At the top of the display is a row of LED lights that can be configured to alert you to various things. They show me if I’m riding above or below my average speed, and they flash if I’ve gone off course.  When you get back on course, the unit resumes the route seamlessly. I’ve found this through short cuts or route changes this year, and I could ignore the lights, knowing where I was.  Even so, I think this is an excellent feature if you’re riding somewhere you aren’t familiar with, and you wander off course.
The unit can display a map, which shows the route using arrows. The maps can be added to the unit according to where you live or travel, and they are updated automatically through the application.  I don’t use the map feature much, but I have found it easy to follow when I have.
What you choose to display is controllable from the companion app on your phone. If you have speed and cadence sensors, a heart rate monitor, or a power meter, all of those sensors can be connected via the app and displayed on the Bolt. The genius of the unit is the phone app. It lets you set what to display and in what order to display it. Rather than trying to find controls on the unit, most of the work is done on your smartphone, including pairing with the unit and sensors. Downloading routes is simple in the application, and synchronizing with the unit is easy, as is selecting a route. You can turn the unit on, ride where you like and save the route. The best part is that when you’re done riding, it automatically uploads your ride information to the apps you use, in my case Strava and Ride with GPS.  If you don’t have WiFi available when you finish, sync the unit with the Wahoo app when you get home, and your ride will be uploaded. Now Strava keeps my ride data, and I’ve come to like having all the data it collects.

Strava – catnip for competitive riders

Strava is an application that I have been aware of – and wary of – for years. Stories of people having accidents because they were chasing personal records or racing to be the fastest on a particular segment have been circulating for a long time. Ways to cheat Strava have popped up, and such stories kept me away from using a GPS and tracking ride data because I’m competitive by nature and I know that these aren’t things that I can ignore. I stepped over to the “dark side” though, and to my surprise, I’ve learned to stop worrying and love Strava. (Yes, that was a thinly veiled “Dr. Strangelove” reference.) Early on I chased segments and personal bests on local rides from home, but a funny thing happened after a few months – I stopped chasing personal bests. This isn’t to say I didn’t care. I will look at my feed after a ride to see how I did, particularly if I felt good or fast that day. But while I did start out by identifying segments where I thought I could go for a personal best when I started using Strava, after the novelty wore off, so did my desire to chase segments, or at least to pay attention to them and plan what to chase. On the usual routes that I ride on weekday evenings, I know where the segments are. If I’m feeling good, every so often I’ll go for a personal best, or at least sprint a segment to see what happens. More often I’ll look at a ride after it’s been uploaded and discover that I had a personal best that I hadn’t actually been trying for.

While I thought Strava would appeal to my competitive nature, what I found was that after years of riding without such data, I didn’t actually compete with myself over segments, and I use it to get a feel for my fitness level. I track miles, I look back over rides and show friends where I’ve gone.  I understand the drive to use Strava to compete with yourself and others. I thought that I would do that too, but I didn’t. I was tempted. I just found that I didn’t want to race. When I’m in the mood, I go for it, but I’ve taken a more practical approach than I thought I would. Strava is a tool, and how you use a tool is not the choice of the tool. So I’ve come to see Strava as a good way to keep information, while understanding how it gives competitive people an outlet for their drive. Maybe it’s an advantage of age – I’ve found Strava at the right time to avoid being obsessive about it.

Snapshots

I’m writing this in early November. It’s gotten colder, and my rides have become shorter and are limited by the shorter days. The last time I wrote here was months ago – and through a combination of being active and having had a lack of motivation to write, it’s been far too long since I’ve written an update.  This update will be a series of short updates, snapshots of the last few months of activity.

Comfort – The Indian Head 100

This year’s Indian Head 100 was like an old, familiar friend. Every Labor Day I ride it with friends, and I have never been disappointed in the experience. In fact, this year we made a new friend of a fellow who wanted to ride with us – a fellow from Virginia named Jim who seemed to fit in well with our riders. As always, Indian Head provided all the usual joys, and the day was fabulous. The sandwiches at the first rest stop remain the best rest stop food ever, the course was rolling and challenging in places, and as ever, the post ride brews tasted that much better for the effort.  I think as I get older and slower, I may ride fewer events, but this is a century that I want to keep riding as long as I’m able. When you find an event that gives you the kind of comfort and enjoyment that define the reasons you ride, you stay with it. I felt good and even though it was hot, I climbed well. I was satisfied with everything about that ride. It was another experience that I’d like to bottle and save to experience again.

Struggles – Amish Tour and Backroads Century

Much as I enjoy cycling, there will always be difficult rides, and two on my calendar this year certainly qualified! If anything, I can say that when I struggle it’s my own fault. I’ve had plenty of experience, I’ve completed over 100 century rides since I started riding them, and by now I should know what kind of things to do and not to do.

Amish Tour is a ride I hadn’t done in years, mostly because it happens on the same weekend as the Maine Lighthouse Ride, which I’ve done for the past few years. This year I stayed in the area, so I decided to ride it again with my friend Ron. This year, just before we headed out, Ron got an eye infection. So he had some issues with driving – and I not only drove, but I had to pull him along for 100 miles because he wasn’t seeing well. It was a decent weekend, but stressful for both of us. I think next time something of that sort happens, the best move would be to cancel!

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In front of the Delaware State House with Ron before the Amish Tour.

Backroads was a different kind of trouble.  I bonked. Blew up. Hit the wall. It was a hot day, and I had been drinking the night before. This is something I should have avoided. I’m not an alcoholic or a hard drinker by habit, but I had too many pints, which were good in the moment, but less so in the long run. So I suffered needlessly. I cramped – HARD.  That isn’t what I wanted from any ride, and certainly I wanted more from that ride. I knew better. I also knew it wasn’t my last event of the year, so I hoped to end the season on a happier note.

 

Redemption – The Seagull Century

I have often written about the Seagull. There have been years when it represented my only actual vacation time for the year. This year I hadn’t gone to Maine, or anywhere else outside the area for that matter.  That’s something I shouldn’t do, but this year it made having a good Seagull weekend a little more important to me. As it happens, the weather was cool and bright – perfect conditions. I enjoyed the entire weekend. Many of the people I commonly ride with weren’t there, but I rode with John, Tony and Jim, who we met at Indian Head.  I was prepared. My ride was strong and fast, the perfect way to end the year. There is so much to a big event like the Seagull that can’t be explained in a blog post, but I have always felt the positives of this event and the good memories made it worth riding. As my last event of the year, it felt like I redeemed myself for the mistakes I made at the Backroads Century.

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Tony, Jim, Myself and John on Assateague Island at the Seagull Century.

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With Tony in the beer garden at the Seagull Century after the ride.

Reward – Riding for the soul as the season changes

After I’m done with events for the year, while I’m still riding strong and the weather is still good and the leaves are turning, I ride for the soul. These are often the best rides of the year. I go where I most enjoy riding, and instead of riding hard, I ride at a pace that lets me enjoy the scenery.  This “soul riding” is all about the time, the company and the pure enjoyment a bicycle gives you.  I satisfy my soul riding in the Agricultural Reserve in Montgomery County Maryland.  I managed to ride up Sugarloaf Mountain for the first time this year, and took the time to enjoy the landscape and this enjoyable way of moving through it.

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With Eric atop Sugarloaf – enjoying the scenery and riding for the soul. 

Mentoring

At one time or another, we have all been inspired to learn something new, or go beyond what is comfortable and add a new experience to our lives. Often this inspiration comes from others and their experiences.  When that happens, having a mentor to guide you can be the difference between a positive experience that adds to your life, or a negative or indifferent experience that can lead us to a bad or frustrating experience, or even lead us to drop the idea altogether.  Recently, I had a chance to see that process from the side of the mentor. It added to my own experience in a positive way.

Inspiration

I’m an early riser. However, I’m seldom the first to get to the office. I have a co-worker who is usually there when I arrive, and I’ve gotten into the habit of talking to him in the mornings.  Ken was inspired by my stories of cycling. He had a bike of his own, but his riding was not like mine. My stories started to resonate with him. He was inspired to get a road bike and see what all those experiences I  talk about felt like.  When you see that inspiration, you have to support it. Fanning that spark into a flame is the start of a process that can be a positive not only for others, but yourself.

Setting Goals

Part of mentoring includes goals. It’s one thing to talk about something, but achievement requires real goals. I knew of a ride not far from Ken’s home that would be the perfect launching pad for a road cyclist.  The Covered Bridges Classic. I said if he wanted to ride it, I’d ride with him.  He signed up, so I did too.

Advice

A mentor should be a fountain of information. That keeps the spark of inspiration alive, and it keeps the learner from wandering down blind alleys or focusing on the wrong things.  I’ve been riding events for close to 15 years.  We talked a lot about equipment – what to take with you, what you didn’t need, What to wear, training tips. All the questions have to be answered. The benefit of experience brings the goal closer.

Participation

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At the ride start. 

The final part of seeing inspiration turn into something real is a willingness to be a direct example. While we were riding different distances, we rode together for the first 12 miles.

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At the first Covered Bridge

After getting a good start, Ken finished on his own.  Despite difficult conditions, he finished strong. He isn’t a beginner any more, he’s a real roadie. He has a lot of cycling events in his future – maybe even a century. I felt like I was part of that – I got him started, and he finished. Now he knows what these cycling events are about. Being a mentor is really about spreading your passion and enthusiasm. It’s about sharing a little of yourself. I love the value of positivity. This was a positive experience. If you’re reading this, and you get the chance to invest in your passions and inspire others, I hope you’ll take it – you won’t be disappointed.

The Art of the Cafe Stop

We cyclists tend to be serious people. We like speed. We like distance. We talk about suffering in offhand ways, such as “I was really in pain on that last climb”.  We love bicycle tech. There are a lot of ways we show our love of cycling. Not all of us are serious to the same degree; there are quite a few subcultures among cyclists, but on the whole cyclists tend to take themselves seriously.  Having said that, sometimes you just need to stop.  Stopping can be an art form.

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When you can enjoy the artistry of a foam bunny in your Latte, you’re in the right place!

Most cycling rest stops have a purpose.  At events, you can refill bottles, grab a snack, maybe even get your bike looked at by a tech on site, but it’s just a scripted rest in a larger event. Some club rides take rest stops at particular places – as a way to pick up more drinks and snacks and recharge.  The point of such stops is to get back on the plan and keep moving before you get too cool, or too hot, or your body starts to think you’re done before you really are. Normally, a rest stop lasts about 10 minutes or so. Often less.

Then there is another kind of stop, the kind that doesn’t have a time limit or a purpose. Sometimes it isn’t even planned.  Even if it is, what you want from it is time to slow down and talk, or fuel up with style.  That is the Cafe Stop.  A Cafe Stop can’t be rushed. It has to include some genuine joy in itself. It’s about taking time OFF the bike. As I write this it’s an extremely hot day in July.  In order to get a ride in with any hope of comfort, some friends and I decided to take a short ride and leave early in the morning. The point was to warm up, have a fun ride, and be done before the heat got oppressive.  We did, but near the end, we decided on an impromptu Cafe Stop. It was just the right thing to do.

A Cafe Stop has to be the right thing to do in the moment. Whether it’s planned, or you decide on one at the spur of the moment, time has to wrap around it.  At a Cafe Stop, relaxation rules apply. No rush. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy the company. Enjoy your surroundings. Soak it all in.  The ultimate Cafe Stop might have you locking your bike and taking a meal, or a long coffee or tea break, or just sitting around a table with friends having a laugh off the bike in the right surroundings. The magic is in the moment, and the moment doesn’t involve movement, but a meaningful pause.

Some people are natural Cafe Stop artists.  Some people don’t know much about them or don’t care for them, but there is a time for one. A moment when that pause makes perfect sense, or defines a perfect moment.  I love Cafe Stops, and I don’t do them as often as I could or should, but they can make an unremarkable ride unforgettable, or a good ride magical. They add a luster to the experience. Sometimes the key to enjoying exercise is to know when to enjoy a pause.  There are times when you have to appreciate the art of the Cafe Stop.

 

Sunflowers, Butterflies, and Summer Heat

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My focus in life has always been enjoying experiences. Cycling has always been rewarding for me for that experience and the feeling of freedom. I’ve never been disappointed by my experiences on a bicycle. My focus is not necessarily speed, because I’m not a racer, but there is something about riding among others that makes cycling special, and so I tend to ride with friends, and I ride a lot of events, just because that feeling of community is also a feeling I value.

This week I found myself thinking about the heat and getting in a good ride on the weekend. Since my local cycling club wasn’t offering a ride that felt right to me, I sent out an email to my friends saying that I would be riding through one of my favorite places, at a specific time, and they were welcome to join me.  The response was more than I could have hoped for. Seven of us set out on the ride. All of us had our ideas of what we wanted, but it was wonderful to have them all choose to join me. I had no actual plan for a route to take, just a general direction and a distance I wanted to go. One of the opportunities along the route was a field of sunflowers.  They put me in mind of so many cycling photographs from the Tour De France, with riders passing fields of sunflowers. Since the weather was mostly sunny and hot, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. It was just another experience to enjoy.

We weren’t pushing too hard on that ride. We stayed together and defied the heat and humidity.  We enjoyed the scenery, and I started to notice butterflies on or near the road. I have a story about butterflies and cycling that I enjoy telling. One of the events I’ve ridden is called “Storming of Thunder Ridge”, which is known for a climb up the Blue Ridge range in Virginia. The climb is 13 miles long, gentle at first, and becoming steeper near the top.  There is even a rest stop in the middle.  By the time you reach the top, you’ll know a lot about pain. I found myself near the top of that long climb, feeling the pain, while my world contracted into a tunnel with my focus on the road ahead. What I remember most was the butterflies. There were three kinds I remembered through the haze of pain as I climbed. One was mostly yellow, another mostly black and a third black and purple.  None of my friends who were there seemed to notice them. So the butterflies might have been a hallucination! This day, others noticed them. My butterflies were real, and they came in all the same colors that I remembered.

Despite the heat, we all had a fantastic time.  Some of us had a beer together and lunch afterward, yet another way that these experiences can be enjoyable.  We all got a ride in, rode the distance we wanted, and enjoyed the experience.

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Looking back on Spring

Today is the first day of summer. I started training outdoors in early March. My first century of the year was in early May.  Since then, riding has become less stressful. Because I’ve already ridden the Six Pillars Century in early May, I feel confident about my riding. The Century was a pressure test that I passed.

Copper bike

Every year I get ready for an early century, then the rest of the spring brings me events like the SMECO 75 and the Patuxent Rural Legacy Ride (I refer to it as Pax.).  SMECO is a strange distance, 75 miles is usually around the point in a century when I start to tire. I normally get a second wind before the end of a century, but that “in between” distance it feels like you finish just as it gets tough. Pax is a metric, and that is a perfect distance. Long enough to challenge, but it unlike a century, which asks you to push through a little pain and fatigue to finish, a metric can be comfortable the entire ride. Pax is a scenic and enjoyable ride with something for everyone. Most of my weekend rides have been between 50-60 miles. If I keep riding, I’ll be comfortable on all the Century Rides I’ve signed up for in the fall.

This spring has had a lot of wonderful moments.  Here are some of them that stand out:

A steep climb on the SMECO75 ride, literally just before the first rest stop.  It was a cool morning, and the sun was just lifting the mist. At the top of that climb, a memorable feature of that event, the light was shining down on the hilltop, while we rode the tree-lined climb in the shade. At the summit, a rest!

A recovery ride that included a ride across the Potomac River on White’s Ferry, with a meal stop in Leesburg, Virginia. Cruising downhill to the ferry, and feeling free on a cool spring day. I felt the speed and joy of cycling. A comfortable ride with friends and a day to remember.

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Crossing the Potomac with Rita, Ron and Stephanie. 

Riding alone between the second and third rest stops at the Patuxent Rural Legacy Ride. Seeing a red jersey far ahead in the distance, and catching that rider – and passing! Sitting with a circle of friends sharing laughs and a beer post-ride.

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Relaxing after the Patuxent Rural Legacy Ride.  It’s one of my favorite events, and my cycling friends agree. 

Riding in the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve, and watching two foxes cross the road just ahead of me. One stopped and watched me as I passed.  Some things you’ll see on a bicycle that you just won’t see from a car.

My summer will be busy too.  I have to keep pedaling to be ready for fall, the season when I ride most of my centuries. It’s been a good year so far, and it’s only going to get better!

Gearing Comparison: Campagnolo vs. Shimano

After a few weeks of riding on Campagnolo gearing with my new bike, I feel confident using it without thinking about what I have to do.  I use the Campagnolo Potenza groupset, and on my other bikes I use it’s Shimano counterpart, the Ultegra groupset.  At this point, I feel comfortable comparing them. For both, I use a double chainring setup in front and an 11 cog cassette at the rear wheel. The setup itself is similar, with the cogs on the Campagnolo bike being slightly taller. The Campagnolo cassette is 11 tooth on the smallest cog to 32 teeth on the largest cog. The Shimano bike I use most often has an 11-28 rear cassette, and both bikes use a 52 tooth big chainring and a 36 tooth small chainring.

The three major groupset suppliers to the road bike market are Campagnolo, Shimano and SRAM. I have tried the SRAM mechanical shifting system, but it was not an extended trial. All I can say about SRAM is that I was not impressed. Without an extended trial, I can’t say any more about SRAM.  The other point I need to make is that I have only used mechanical gearing systems.  Electronic shifting is common on high end systems from all three companies, but while they are acknowledged to be excellent systems that are in most respects superior to mechanical gearing, at this time, electronic shifting is more expensive, and the cost of a top end electronic shifting system alone is enough to get an inexpensive bicycle with mechanical shifting components. Electronic shifting may eventually come down in price, but as I write this, mechanical shifting is affordable, and for the most part allows the same gearing options.

Shimano

Shimano has been dominating the market since they developed their Shimano Total Integration (STI) system. Integrating the braking and shifting on the same levers changed the market. [Special note: There are people who have decided to call a shifter a “brifter” because the brake is in the same place. Such people, who need to make up a name to remember that the shifting and braking are on the same lever, should never, under any circumstances, be allowed to work on your bicycle. It’s too great a risk.] The Shimano system includes an inner and outer lever. Moving the inside lever shifts the chain to a smaller cog or chainring. Moving the inside and outside levers together moves the chain to a bigger cog or chainring. My experience with the last two iterations of the Ultegra groupset has been positive. It provides a light, accurate shift.  Shimano levers are canted slightly outward and the levers have a short, positive throw. In all the time I’ve used Shimano levers, I can’t remember having had mechanical issues.

Campagnolo

Campagnolo has had a reputation for innovation for generations. Campagnolo gave cyclists the Quick Release wheel skewer, and the cable operated Parallelogram Rear Derailleur.  When Shimano patented STI, it was an industry game changer, and Campagnolo responded with a system of its own.  The Campagnolo system uses a single lever for each action.  The brake lever is fixed. The lever inside the brake lever shifts the chain to a bigger cog or chainring. A thumb lever on the inside of the brake hood shifts the chain to a smaller cog or chainring.  My experience with the Potenza group has shown me that the system is solid, accurate and every bit as quick as Shimano.

Differences

Shimano can be so smooth and quiet at times that you almost can’t be sure that you’ve made a shift.  Campagnolo drops into gear with a comforting “click”.  Both of these could be called an advantage. The biggest difference that I’ve noticed is the ergonomics of the hoods. The Campagnolo hoods are slimmer and curved slightly inward. To my hands, they feel better than the Shimano hoods.  Since this is such an individual thing, it seems to me that there isn’t a great deal of difference between them other than feel. This feels like I’m avoiding a choice, but I like them both.  The more I use Campagnolo, the better I like it.  Yet Shimano has proven that its technically brilliant.  I can’t find fault with either one, so sadly, it comes to preference. Much as I’d like to recommend one over the other, it comes to aesthetics and feel.

 

My Passion Project is complete!

After considering it for years, and waiting 4 months since I ordered it, my hand built steel bicycle has come home!

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My Wilier Superleggera. The copper color is called “ramato” and it is a classic color made famous by professional racers on the Wilier Triestina team.

It started with a hand built, lugged frame made from Columbus SL tubing by Wilier in Italy.  The Superleggera. I’ve added custom wheels, with Velocity Quill rims and Campagnolo hubs. The gearing is Campagnolo Potenza to go with the Italian motif. It has a 52/36 crankset and an 11-32 11 speed cassette. I went with a quill stem, Campagnolo record headset, threaded bottom bracket and a Selle San Marco Regal saddle.

Pictures don’t really do this bike justice. the copper color could be described as “liquid” and with polished surfaces, this bike is everything I had hoped for. Despite the inadequacy of the photos, I’m including some to show details.

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The fork crown, with the Wilier “W” Stamped on it.

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The bottom bracket lug, with a stamped Wilier logo.

Derailleur

Gearing is Campagnolo Potenza.  The silver color is a nice change from the carbon black of common modern group sets.

Saddle

My saddle is a Selle San Marco Regal.  The copper rivets seemed to fit the motif! Note: The saddle bag isn’t white – it’s reflecting the flash!

Everything on the bike looks like a throwback to another age; the steel tubes look tiny compared to modern shaped carbon and aluminum tubing. The lugged construction is something that has long given way to smooth joining techniques or monocoque frame designs. This bike wouldn’t look out of place in a line of steel bikes made in the 60’s or 70’s.  Though you’d quickly find a few differences.  Steel tubing has gotten better – the bike weighs less than my imagination made steel out to be. Downtube shifters have given way to modern gear shifting on the levers. The gearing is modern 11 speed with a cassette ranging from 11-32 teeth cogs.  This bike may look vintage in some ways, but it is better defined as “retro”, where the look is vintage but there are modern components that are more convenient.

On the Road

My first ride on the Wilier was interesting. I was worried about the weight of the bike, but it didn’t matter to me after I got going. On the road, the bike seems to float; it’s a comfortable ride. It handles beautifully.  While riding, another cyclist we passed commented on it. It is truly a work of art. I’ve heard the term “Steel is Real”, but I didn’t really understand it until now.  This is a bike to enjoy. I plan to ride it as my primary bike, with my old bike as a backup.  This isn’t just a work of art, this is my everyday ride. This passion project will be an inspiration to me for years to come.  I’m still getting accustomed to the Campagnolo shifting, but that will become second nature after a few more rides.

My passion project has become a reality, and it’s all I could have hoped for!

 

 

The Wait is Ending

When I finally committed to buying a new bike, I had a lot of options. I’m not a particularly difficult body type to fit to a bicycle.  Since I don’t have any fit issues, I had the widest range of options imaginable. I am past the point where I might race or take advantage of higher speeds.  My joy in riding is found in different areas of the cycling experience.

Buying a bike from a manufacturer like Specialized or Trek or Giant would have worked fine without a wait. I would have had to choose a bike among a great number of brands and models.  While all are good choices in their own right, all are mass produced and therefore they are not truly unique. Each would come in a choice of one or two colors; and some are more customizable than others, but customization always comes at extra cost, and while the best technology can be purchased this way, the best technology won’t make me better. So rather than take the most common option, I looked elsewhere.

Getting a truly custom bike would be the ultimate in personalization.  That specialization always comes at a high price. One of those prices would be time.  Waiting a year for a full custom bike is often worth it, but with my fit metrics, I knew that while it might fit like a glove, such a bike is a wonderful thing that would be worth the cost, but would it be worth the wait? It was a difficult choice, but in the end, I chose a third option.

Buying a frame and choosing my own parts specification seemed to fit my desire for a unique, handmade bike that wasn’t common while giving me a good fit and the experience I wanted.  I’ve already described my decision in this forum, but After waiting four months, I finally have a delivery date!

The frame has arrived in the United States from Italy.  It will be shipped to the shop, where all the parts I’ve chosen will be added to it.  Since my friend Travis will be building it, I’ll see photos of the process, including building my wheels and building up the bike with all the parts that have been waiting for it. It will be used (with my enthusiastic consent) to market his skills and his customer service.

My wait has nearly ended. As I waited, I had no idea how long it would take to see the finished product. Now I know. I write this on a Sunday, and the bike will be delivered to the shop on Tuesday, and delivered to me on Thursday.  Watch this space to read more about the final steps of my passion project!