Perfect weather for a bike ride . . .

July 2, 2007

Evolution

The swap-over is complete, and after a couple of days of good solid wrenching in the garage, the Kogswell is down to a bare frame and fork, pretty much exactly how it started it's life in my garage. It's always hard to let something like a bicycle go, especially when you lean towards the romantic the way I often do. I spent a lot of time with it, logged a lot of hard miles, achieved a few firsts, and overcame some really nasty weather with its sturdy tubes underneath me. But really, it's just a tool, just a collection of metals drawn into familiar shapes. It's strange - if melted down I'd probably not give it moments notice - but shaped and honed into a bicycle frame it has an aura of possibility surrounding it. Like the Bianchi, the CrossCheck, the Trek 720, the Schwinn, the World Sport, Purple Hippo, the Univega before it, it will always hold a place in my memory - but it's time to move on. It will find a good home with someone, I'm sure.

After transferring all of the parts to the swap-meet box, and salvaging the ones I wanted for the Cannondale, I now have two other bikes that are better for the whole thing. The Steamroller is complete, and seems more 'finished', instead of simply cobbled together with leftovers. It's something I could ride on the weekends now - not that I couldn't before, but something about it wasn't quite "weekend approved". Partly, it makes me consider the 2008 brevet series on single speed again, but that remains to be seen.

The Cannondale has gone thru a sort of evolution, however. It's not really improved so much as it's refined. The STI levers are gone, and I never realized how heavy they were until they were off the bike. They are, quite possibly, the heaviest item on the front of any modern road bike. Even some high-end front wheels are lighter. Replacing them with the new Cane Creek brake levers and the Shimano bar-end shifters, the front end of the Cannondale is not just light; it’s stupid light. Adding the generator hub might only serve to help keep the front end on the ground during seated climbs!

The shifters were a gamble, but the measurements didn't lie: the old 8-speed bar-cons in friction mode - which is how they've been set since they were last on the Trek 720 - work just fine. The rear spacing from 7 to 8 to 9 and now 10 speed rear cog-sets has remained the same - only the cogs themselves and the spacing between them has changed. So, the limits on the lever feel the same as they have always felt, and even the action is nice. It's a little quicker between gears than the 9-speed, but very manageable and not at all finicky. The brake levers are a great match to the Ultegra calipers, providing snappy feel and good modulation - and a much lighter feel than the stock STI levers. Plus, the hoods themselves are a little shorter and infinitely more comfy (for MY hands that is). Further, where the stock STI levers were a tad long in reach for me, the new set-up is about 12mm closer to me, and the shorter reach matches the Steamroller within a cm. Actually, the Steamroller's reach is now longer than the C'Dale's - but all in all, within one cm on the handlebars is close enough to prevent bike transition maladies, much as it was between the Kogswell and Steamroller previously.

The main thing gained from all this is less weight, and probably more efficiency. Knowing that the Cannondale frame is very efficient, and more power gets to the ground while remaining just as comfortable as the steel frameset it replaces, I can rest easy that both Tejas and the 2008 brevets (if performed on this bike) will be a little bit easier, and faster. I quote Greg Lemond: "it never gets easier…you just get faster." Hopefully that's the case. I have the distance down pat - the only thing I need to work on is speed-at-distance, and this new set-up will certainly help.

On the scales, the Kogswell in full brevet trim weighed in at just over 32 lbs. That's not bad - but certainly hefty. It's deceiving, however, because from the saddle I never had a complaint about weight. The Cannondale, however, in full brevet trim, weighs in at just over 18 lbs. That's nearly 50% lighter, while being more efficient in the process - and it's geared for a higher top-end, so I shouldn't find myself spinning out the top gear like I had in the past in a good tailwind.

In addition, I've also trimmed back my brevet set-up a little - while the Carradice saddlebag system would work just fine on the C'Dale, I had already changed things on the Kogswell after the 600K. Questions arose on that ride, like "why am I carrying clothes for tomorrow, today???" While the Carradice bags holds a lot, I also remember a quote from Dale-From-Iowa: "The only bad thing about big bags is they instantly make you want to fill them." This lends itself towards being OVER-prepared for rides. Layers and clothing are essential, but I did indeed find myself carrying things simply because I COULD - and 300 miles into a 600K, it's common to want to start tossing that extra ballast into the road-side ditch. It doesn't seem like much at the start, but towards the end of a ride, that third tube might as well be a brick. So, I have trimmed WAY back, carrying only the essentials - *NOT* cutting any corners with regards to preparedness, I placed each item from the 600K checklist, and asked myself "WHY am I carrying this?" For many items, I didn't have a need for it. The smaller seatbag that remains holds an amazing array of preparedness items - but only the essentials. Two tubes in a baggie wrapped in electrical tape, 8 Park Super-Patches, three Park tire boots, a tire lever, FiberFix spoke, extra spoke nipple, valve-stem nut, presta-to-schrader adapter, small Swiss-Army pocket knife, Crank Brothers 7-function multi-tool with chain breaker, SRAM 10-speed powerlink, 2 safety pins, 4 zip ties, two spare AAA batteries, and a pair of latex gloves. All of this fits inside a Pearl Izumi seatbag with room to spare for credit cards, ID and some cash. Everything else can fit in the back pockets. For longer brevets in questionable weather, I still have a Carradice Super-C saddlepack wedge that will hold extra layers of clothes and a rain jacket. In either case, it's far less than I've carried before, but more than I ever USED to carry in 2003. Taking Ort's lead after his successful 'minimalist' 600K in Texas, I'm carrying everything I need for anything that can happen to the bike that won't prompt a DNF. His catastrophic blowout 60 miles from the finish wasn't even enough to stop him. While others might have criticized him for taking only a small seat-wedge along, when that tire-splitting flat occurred, he had everything he needed to fix it and finish - and he did. I can't think of a stronger case. Pack what you need - nothing more - and if it's worse than that, it wasn't meant to be. I also hearken back to the Warbird, whom I'm sure will get a kick out of this as well: He rode stupid long distances on nothing more than a small seatbag and water. He told me once that "you can't bring along a spare bike, dude." Pointing to his bag, he'd often say that "this is all I need". Every once in a while he'd borrow a spare tube or a patch from me or another rider - but he was never stranded. All the while, I was purchasing bigger and bigger bags "just in case". Yeah, it worked, and I finished brevets consistently - but I could have been easier on myself. There is a huge difference between touring and randonnuering. Call it the commuter in me - but I always have used roughly the same set-up for brevets as well as rides to work. With a full arsenal of wool I simply don't need to carry as much stuff with me now, even in the nastiest weather, and that's an evolution I can like with. Hopefully for Tejas and the 2008 brevet season the numbers will also evolve to reflect less fatigue, more speed for less effort, and success with less.

The Cannondale looks awfully good, too, in brevet trim. Frame pump, bar-ends, and green (yes, green) bar-tape as a tribute to bicycles past, it's ready for battle. Let's get to training - Tejas is coming!!!

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