AATLT: Bar Tape

You may have noticed that we’re big on acronyms here at RATG.

AATLT is All About The Little Things.  Today’s edition relates to….BAR TAPE!!!

I hate doing bar tape.  My A/R tendencies make me tape and retape, over and over again, to get it just right.  And then I get a wrinkle, gap, or other issue that makes me go insane.  But hey…after a while, I get it right.

When you get to the end of the tape and want to secure it to the bars, what to do?  My favorite wrap, Lizard Skins, includes some nice matching tape to finish the job.  That’s a perfect solution.  But if you’re rewrapping the same tape or using a different brand of tape, what do you do?  Sure…there’s always electrical tape.  But I have a cleaner, stronger, easier solution.

Silicone sealant tape.  It adheres to itself (and only itself).  Once it’s bonded to itself, it will not come apart.  It is waterproof and very durable.  But if you do need to take it off, you can cut it with a razor knife, and it will peel off with no sticky residue or anything else left behind.  You can also wrap it nice and tight around the end of the bar tape, and get a really nice looking edge/seal on the tape:

It’s available at home improvement stores everywhere.  This particular brand came from Home Depot.  After it bonds to itself for a while, it will not come apart.  No loose ends to unravel, no issues, no problems.  Just neat and clean edges.  The Vaytanium is much happier now…

By the way, the setup featured in the pic above is a 3T Ergonova LTD carbon fiber drop handlebar, 42cm, with Lizard Skins DSP bar tape over Bontrager IsoGel bar gel…for super smooth gravel riding.  I neglected to take a “during” picture showing the bar gel, but here it is:

AATLT No. 1.  Bar Tape with Silicon Tape sealant.  You read about it here, first.

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25,000 French Hydraulic Drop Bar Brakes

Ok…this could have been three posts, but it was more fun as one.  Three notes:

1.  We’re now well over 25,000 views.  So we’re doing something right.

2.  I don’t speak french…but there’s some pretty tasty bikes on this french biking site.  How did I find that?  Someone on that site liked the Vaytanium, and linked to it.  Cr-azy.

3.  Hydraulic Drop Bar Brakes…another take on them.  This looks kind of like the fancy-schmancy pieces that Gnat is using on one of his builds…the cable to hydro setup.  I’m sure it works really well…I’m waiting until everything is integrated like in this week’s spy shots from Sea Otter).  Here’s the pic:

Man…those are some beefy brake lines.

Secret Training.

Saturday morning would, this time of year, normally be a group road ride for me, out at NCC.  This morning, when I awoke for the ride, it was dumping and the radar was an angry dark green.  Accordingly, I had breakfast with the RATG family, and was fortunate enough to get clear weather thereafter.

I’ve been so overjoyed by the carbony wonder of the ENVEs on the Ridley, and it’s been such a dry few weeks, that I haven’t put many good miles on the Vaytanium lately.  So this morning, with a 42 degree mist falling and some 20-25mph winds out of the east, I mounted up on my titanium steed and headed out to my secret training ground.

I’ve found that my riding is much stronger this year–riding all winter has undoubtedly upped my game.  It has also upped the game of those I ride with.  My two weakest areas are: 1) sustained 90%+ efforts (e.g. fast group ride with lots of wind and lots of pulls); and, 2) longer climbs.  So in other words, I’m a great rider unless I have to ride hard or uphill.  Obviously, there’s work to be done.

I’ve found a local loop that is 7/10 of a mile.  There is a 900′ stretch of the loop (a little under 2/10 of a mile) in which you climb 120′.  In other words, it’s an average 13% grade, albeit for a relatively short duration.  This is still Illinois, after all.  Since there are a few spots where it levels out a bit during the climb, I’d venture that most of the actual gradient changes in the 900′ climb are probably closer to 16%, and towards the top, there’s a 20%+ stretch (but only for a very short duration).  The good news is the layout.  It’s not on a road, but it’s a looped, paved surface…so you ride a hard 900′, and then loop back 1/2 mile to the start–and hardly ever see any other bikes, walkers or traffic of any kind.  I’ve been using it for intervals, where I do one climb in the big ring, out of the saddle, at max effort, loop back, then do one climb in the little ring, sitting, spinning as hard as I can, loop back and repeat.  It is steep enough that when the pavement’s wet (like today), you really have to manage your weight balance between the front and rear…to much to the rear and the front will lift…too much to the front, and the rear will spinout.

It may only be 120′ of climbing, but when you put together 10 or more loops, it will kick…well, it kicks my butt.  It’s rare to find somewhere in my neck of the woods with elevation changes that are this significant and repeatable, on a paved surface.

On my other rides, I’m working on those 90%+ efforts, and trying to step up my game.  The funny thing about those rides is that I either run out of cardio (breath) or legs…but never both at the same time.  I’m trying to figure out exactly what it is that I’m doing differently…I don’t know if I’m pulling a bigger gear to slow my cadence and burning up legs vs. spinning faster to burn up cardio, but I’m trying to figure it out.  I’m also continuing non-traditional workouts at least 2 days a week…so I’m getting good exercise 5 or more days a week.  Even at that intensity level, I’m still holding steady at 150#.  Good news/bad news: I’m not losing weight / I’m not putting on muscle.

But I’m riding, feeling pretty well, and making some important changes in my life to improve my general outlook.

Riding the secret training grounds, and heck, riding at all this morning, reinforced that I want to be on the bike.  Even in crappy conditions, I still enjoy it.  And I love the Vaya.

It’s a Small World–Race Across AMerica.

I had recently posted how incredulous I was that, in my small sphere of cyclists, I was being exposed to the brandy-spankin’ new Domane.  Today’s post will be brief, but similarly incredulous.

Have you ever been dropped, on a group ride?

Have you ever been dropped, on a group ride, by a guy wearing a backpack?

Have you ever been dropped, on a group ride, by a guy wearing a backpack, who rode 22,000 miles last year?

Have you ever been dropped, on a group ride, by a guy wearing a backpack, who rode 22,000 miles last year, who is riding RAAM this year?

Amazingly enough, I can answer affirmatively to all of those questions.  One of the..ahem…stronger riders in the regular night ride at North Central Cyclery is a gent by the name of Paul Carpenter.  I just found out last night that he will be riding in RAAM this year.

Details on his website, here.

That takes a lot of dedication…and perhaps a minor loss of sanity.  RAAM is a non-stop, non-drafting cross-country ride.  That’s right–non-stop.  No ‘stages’ with rest in between.  The clock runs continuously, and you stop to rest when you want to…with the clock continuing to run.  Having read a few books about RAAM, it’s a race of attrition.  And, as indicated…no drafting.  It’s a solo pull the whole time.  There are a myriad of rules that govern what you can and cannot do, the route you have to take, what happens if you get lost, etc.

I’m just dumbfounded that a guy I know is riding it.  That’s all.

Clipless Pedals: Road or “Mountain”

I run the Crank Brothers Candy 3s on my Ridley because, frankly, it’s convenient to have crank brothers cleats on all of my bike shoes (road, mountain and winter), so I can jump from bike to bike.  In the immediate aftermath of that post, however, I’ve had a couple forum jockies post comments, and I’ve received a few blog comments and emails (some rather strongly worded, so I haven’t permitted them to post through) criticizing this practice.  The gist of the comments is that I should convert to a larger road platform pedal, for greater pedaling efficiency.

Is there really a performance or efficiency advantage going from a mountain pedal (basically, an eggbeater with a small platform around it) to a road pedal? My road shoes are carbon fiber sole (Bontragers…either RL or RXL–can’t recall off the top of my head)…so there’s not really a ton of flex there. And I see that some pros run speed plays, which are just as small, if not smaller, of a platform as my Candys.  And the Candy’s are reasonably light–so there’s not going to be a ton of weight difference (if any).

What’s the skinny on pedals for skinny tires?

Ridley Noah Review: To the Quick

The long-promised Ridley Noah review.

Beauteous compound shapes.

Why “to the quick”?  Two reasons.

First, because it’s quick.  Seriously quick.  Quick as in quick handling, quick as in quick acceleration, quick as in fast.  I know all of the sayings–”the bike is only as quick as the motor”, etc.  This is a quick bike.  It makes the rider faster.

Why else?  Cutting something to the quick means that you’ve laid it wide open–you’re down to the meat, the marrow, the heart of the matter.  And that’s what the Ridley does.  It leaves you with no excuses–you can’t blame bad results on the bike.  As a rider, you’re exposed.  It will let you reach your greatest potential, and will show your failings.  When you go to a ride on the Ridley, people see it and have expectations–lofty expectations–about how you’re going to ride.    If you don’t bring your “A” game, it’s all your fault.  The bike doesn’t share the blame.

So what are we talking about?  Ridley’s 40-50 ton, high modulus carbon.  Frame that is totally designed for aerodynamic performance…from the wispy design to the split fork and seat stays.  And even as configured, it’s light.  How light?

Really light.  And that was when it was sporting the Fulcrum Race 3 alloy wheels.  As you’ll see below, she’s sporting new wheels, and has lost a bit of weight.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I’m a bit…obsessive…about my bike cleaning and maintenance.  But my bikes have to earn their keep.  In the past week, I’ve put 140 miles on the Ridley, checking out the new wheels.  At the start of that time, it was perfectly clean.  Now, not quite.  But let’s be honest: this is how it looks when I ride it.  I got the frame as a demo frame (58cm), and it had a few imperfections.  So I cut myself some slack, and just ride and enjoy the Ridley.

A few pics:

Designed for aerodynamics?  Think so?

Yeah.  Pretty darn narrow.

The split (for aero) seat stays wisp into a narrow unified top stay that molds into the integrated seatpost.  Also, in this pic, you can see the Dura Ace brakes.

You can see the split in the seat stays on thefastestbikeintheworld.  The split is to permit airflow from the spokes to escape past the seat stays, to reduce turbulence and drag.

This particular Noah happens to be the Katusha team issue.

It’s a Ridley…

Noah.

You can also see the aero strakes on the Fork (same reason as the seat stays).  Vredestein was the Katusha tire sponsor.  I happen to run Bontrager R3s.

Narrowed fork, from the front.

DT240 hubs on the oh-so-nice ENVE Smart 3.4 Clinchers.  (30mm front depth, 40mm rear depth).

Bladed DT Aerolite spokes.

Deda Zero 1 alloy stem.

3T Ergonova Team Carbon Fiber handlebars (42cm).

Ultegra group (53/39 and 11-28), with KMC diamond like coating chain.

Enve.  Enve.  ENVE.

Front clearance with 700x23c tires.  25s will fit.  28s will not.

Rear clearance.  Same clearance.

Integrated seatpost.

Seatpost cap.  I run a Selle Royal Respiro saddle.  Yes.  And I like it.  So there.

Crank Brothers Candy 3 pedals.  Why?  They’re reasonably light, have a good platform for pedaling stability, and perhaps most importantly, take the same cleats as the Vaytanium, the Rumblefish and the Mukluk.  So all of my shoes fit all of my bikes.  I have a thing with forgetting to bring shoes to rides.  So I keep an old pair of shoes in my car…and that way, I always have something that will work.

As pictured, with pedals, cages and saddle…but without seat bag or GPS, she’s 16 pounds 13 ounces.  Dirty.

Pardon the clutter…but here’s the confirmation shot on the weight.

Where’s it from?

North Central Cyclery, of course.  The only place to go.

How does it ride?  Amazing.  My previous road rides included an aluminum framed-Trek and a carbon fiber Blah.  The Ridley is amazingly stiff in the BB.  Every scintilla of umph that you put into the pedals translates into forward progress.  Climbing on the Ridley is about as fun as climbing can be.  When I’m having a good day, she’ll accelerate uphill and just fly.

I should note that I’m basing my review comments on the current configuration, which includes the Enve Smart 3.4 Clincher wheel set.  The wheels bring a huge benefit to the ride…I’m not sure exactly how, but they seem to quiet chatter more than the former alloy wheels did.  They’re lighter.  They’re far more aero.  They’re more responsive–both in sprinting (again, with the stiffness of the frame, it’s just ridiculous how the bike will accelerate–how it will lunge forward), and in handling.  Minor steering corrections bring no wheel deflection, just immediate directional change.  Despite that, it isn’t nervous in the geometry.  On super-long rides, you get tired from the ride…but the bike isn’t punishing.  For me, the fit is just perfect.  The bike fits like an extension of me, so being tired or uncomfortable is the product of exercise, not the product of being beat up by the bike.

It is stiff–definitely.  You feel the sharp edges of potholes and road irregularities.  But even with Illinois’ crappy roads, I don’t come away from rides feeling beat-up.  The vast majority of rides that the Ridley sees are training rides, 25-35 mile group rides, and similar exploits. It also sees centuries and longer rides.  But it isn’t a commuter.  It doesn’t see fenders or panniers.  It doesn’t see gravel roads.  Well, at least it doesn’t see them on purpose.  For how I use it, it’s perfect.

Strengths include reasonably light weight, amazing wheel set, amazing aerodynamics, sharp handling, sporty ride, and of course, great aesthetics.

What are its weaknesses?  As you can see above, it’s 16 pounds, 13 ounces even with my heavy pedals and saddle, and an Ultegra build.  Dropping into the 15 pound range would be easy, if that were a concern for me.  (But frankly, I ride with a seat bag including a multi-tool, spare tube, CO2, etc., so I’m happy with it how it is).  The Integrated Seatpost is light, aero, and fits me perfect, but limits resale value if I ever get rid of it.  Ridley doesn’t have a huge following in the US, which again limits resale value.  But right now, I’m not sure what I’d want different in a road bike.  The fit is perfect, the performance is phenomenal.  When this group gets burned up, I might go to Dura Ace or Force, but otherwise, it’s about perfect.  I’m running a standard 53/39 crank and an 11-28 cassette.  That gives me enough gears to climb anything in the midwest, and enough top end to keep up with the speed-demons in my group, even with my lumbering pedal strokes.  I certainly wouldn’t mind an 11 speed cassette, but not because I need a wider range of gears.  With the 11-28 cassette, there are some gaps between gears that would be nice to minimize.  I sometimes think about changing the stem to a matching 3T carbon stem…but that’s pure aesthetics.  This bike is far more bike than I need.  I run out of talent far before I run out of bike.

There have been updates to the Ridley Noah since mine was made…including the integrated brakes.  But the fundamentals are remarkably similar.  It’s an amazing bike.  Did I mention that it’s fast?

That’ll be my final point.  After riding this bike for a year, I’m a believer in aerodynamics.  I genuinely believe that there is a palpable difference with an aero bike…and in flat Illinois, here on the plains in the land of the constant headwinds, I’ll take all of the aero advantages I can get.

I love my Ridley.  Really.  It’s Ridleydiculous.

ENVE Smart 3.4 Clincher Review Update

Consider this to be the 140 mile update on the ENVE Smart 3.4 Clinchers.

I have no complaints of any kind.  I am convinced that there is an aerodynamic advantage at speeds over 20mph.  And frankly, even if the benefit was only mental, that’s still a benefit.  They are palpably stiffer and more responsive than the Fulcrum 3s that I used to run, both in terms of acceleration and lateral stiffness.  I have noticed a significant change in handling with the ENVEs.  I hadn’t previously noticed the Fulcrums deflecting with steering input…but now riding with the ENVEs, I can tell that the Fulcrums were.  The ENVES steer NOW.  Not nervous, but direct.

I’ve dragged them over a fair share of potholes, and over the infamous Peace Road bike path humps in DeKalb, with no ill effects.  140 miles is way too soon to make any conclusions about durability…but so far, so good.  I love the DT240 hubs.  The front hub is stiff and quiet.  The rear hub is stiff and reasonably quick to engage.  It would be nice to have faster engagement–and if they get rebuilt, I’ll do the upgrade to 36 teeth to help with that.  The pawls do have a nice, quiet, smooth sound and feeling.

They’re hot.  Seriously hot.  That’s all.  More to come with more miles.