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Why I bought a Specialized Bicycle

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

I found that a lot of people gave me advice when I said I was looking to upgrade my bike and drop a couple of Gs in doing so. There were definitely many camps out there and lots of advice. All of it good which was annoying!

First there was the aluminum versus carbon fiber debate to work out, in the end I decided that if I could get carbon fiber in my budget I would (and I did) but it would not have been the end of the world if I bought aluminum.

There is was “relaxed” fit versus “race” fit. Lots of vendors have both types but in the end I wanted something to race and if it ended up being uncomfortable I would switch to “relaxed”. My tarmac is comfy as far as I can tell.

Then it was what brand. Unlike cars where you can often spot the car type miles away you have to wait for the bike to get really really close then stare at the down tube to get the name. You basically have to choose based on frame as the components are either Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo.  I wonder if anybody every took the names off of frames, gave them to 10 pros and asked them to name the brand…

So now for two controversial statements that impacted what frame I bought.

1- A frame is a frame is a frame – so choose based on your wants

2- In the end, its your body and legs that do the work, so frame is mostly irrelevant

Now at the elite pro level maybe it makes a difference but I don’t think so. You don’t ever hear a pip out of anyone now that HTC has switched from Scott to Specialized, Garmin from Felt to Cervelo etc. If it did matter folks would make a stink etc. So I don’t think there really is a case for “thank god I had brand X under me when we went up that mountain”.

So how do you decide? It’s a very personal decision. I was leaning towards Cervelo but man those guys are anal, you do get the most fawned over frames, with individual bolts it seems going under the radar. Made me think if they remembered the fun of bikes.

Go to cervelo.com right now and look for anything that talks about how fun it is to have a bike and just get out there. It’s we won here, we rule there. Oh, look at how we shaved 1.5g from this bolt. Their video series Beyond the Peleton is awesome however and much recommended. And the plain jane graphics, not for me. So after a while just put me off. Now head on over to colnago.com, here the love of the bike is everywhere, how its presented etc. But those prices, ouch.

Trek is ok I guess, just never gelled with them, and Madone, not a name that worked for me.

Spent some time up on bikesdirect.com and may go that direction in the future.

I approached Specialized much like how I approached Trek. Big corporate entity etc. But funny thing happened on the way to buying my bike.

1st off their site is fun and easy to use and pricing is there (at least on the US site, not on the Canadian one).

Nothing more annoying that digging into a frame and specs then have to do a price check via google only to find its way out of my price range.

2nd of all there seemed to be more of a love of the sport, for those days when you just want to get out and enjoy the sunshine. I agree it’s something out of the marketing department but that’s what I wanted to hear.

Also liked the paint schemes, it was easy to understand the bike ranges and the catalog was pretty sweet.

Lastly there was a local dealer, SportX, in Smiths Falls that has specialized so that sealed the deal and in August I brought home my 2010 Specialized Tarmac Elite!

Next year when I look to get a Tri bike probably still won’t care about the brand!

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Incorporating Biking into Travelling

November 17, 2010 2 comments

I love biking, especially while travelling as it is a great way to really see the place you are visiting. Unfortunately I have found that if you want to add a little bit of training to your regime you are usually out of luck.  Finding a heavy, lazy riding city bike is easy, in some cities like Montreal, Paris and now London you can just pick one off the street, but you can’t really do any training.

When I travel to Europe (up to 10 times a year) I usually have to hang out for a weekend. Instead of the usual tourist mode decided this year as part of 100tofit program to incorporate this into my biking training.

There is always the folding bike solution, but that makes what is already a stressful airplane flying experience just a wee bit more stressful.  And to me anyways folding bikes just look a bit too odd still. There are a few that come close but they are expensive. So I began to look at alternatives.

Depending on where you go there is often a local bike shop that will rent you a more sporty bike. Recently in the UK I did such a thing and rented for the weekend a Giant Defy bike from triuk in Yeovil, England. See bike pic below. This was a Shimano 2300 equipped aluminum bike, fairly basic but miles ahead of the city bikes you usually get. It did what was needed of it.

bikeuk 

The process was pretty easy, prepaid for it before I left, drove to the shop Saturday morning, they put my pedals on it and away I went. I think I was in the shop for less then 20 minutes.  Did have to leave a hefty deposit which took a while to get back on my VISA, but this is an established bike shop so didn’t feel too worried.

Since Yeovil is in the south west of England I then headed up to Exmoor national park. Now as a Canadian when I think of National parks I think wilderness for miles around and rugged paths. Hmmm. Not so much in England.  There are villages and people, loads of people and the designated cycle route is on those tiny hedge lined roads that are often rated at 50mph or higher.  After scouting the route I decided to abandon it and go inland so to speak. The general area I rode is in the photo below.

exmoor

This proved awesome, very few cars, small villages, great steep climbs and beautiful views.

Having procured my bike I wondered if I could do a Triathlon while I was over there, and sure enough there was one about 10 miles from our Maidenhead European HQ. Next post I will talk about the Reading Tri, my most successful tri this year!!

Categories: Uncategorized

Ottawa Triathlon Sept 2010

November 11, 2010 2 comments

After the Smiths Falls Tri earlier in the year and based on my failings in the past I knew I needed to sign up for a later Triathlon. The Ottawa Canadian Event takes place on the long weekend in September and is on the Saturday which is a bit different from the usual Sunday event time but would fit my needs.  Also it meant that I had the whole summer to really get more in shape. The Ottawa Tri has many classes, from full Ironman down to try a sprint. I entered the Sprint Tri with distances of 750m swim, 30km cycle and 5km run. So a bit longer than the one I had done in June.

I think the pictures tell the story, I’m still not trim but looking a bit more the part. I finished in a time of 1:51:09 and 16th out of 19th in my age group. Was moderately pleased but would have liked to do better. Full results at the end of this entry. Winning time in my age group was 1:25:01 so effectively I have to find about 25 more minutes of speed! Overall finished 150th, about 70% down in the list.

BTW, the glasses which I think look great were $9 at Zellers. Did the business!

As usual the organization was fantastic, it was easy to find where you needed to go, there were lots of volunteers and lots of space in transition.  Everything set up time to head towards the beach.

Swim

 WPSWIM

The swim portion took place in the Mooney’s bay beach area. It was easy to get into the water to warm up a bit. As you can see I have updated my gear and now have a Zoot tri pants and shirt. Felt much better to have something designed for what I am doing. Still not a wetsuit kind of guy but at least I look more the part.

There were many different classes going on at one time, some of the Ironman and Olympic distances were underway so was a bit of a scheduling challenge but worked out great. 2 minutes to go started to get the butterflies a bit but then we were off.

The course is fairly easy to follow but you do have a few “obstacles” to get around, some poles and buoys which weren’t obvious. So lots of looking up from time to time.

Came out of the water in a time of 16:30 and it felt pretty good but the fastest time in my age group was 13:11 so more improvement to go!

The run to the transition was fairly quick and my transition time was 2:01, which seemed about average, but some folks were a minute faster.

Bike

Zoomphoto Event Photography 

This was the first race with my new Specialized bicycle and I was excited to see how it would be.  Overall was very pleased with how it went. The course was completely closed and runs along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. Fantastic course and you could focus 100% on your race and not worry about cars.

Again there were many classes on the course and some of these folks were scary fast. I was able to keep up to some, passed others and was passed by quite a few as well. Still felt good. At the finish my time was 1:01:29 with an average of 29.3kph. Fastest time was 50:30 with an average of 35.6kph so there is 10 minutes of my time lost right there.

The bike was excellent. Definitely want to get a Tri bike eventually, but have promised myself that until the engine is running better stick with a road bike. I plan to have multiple bikes for multiple uses, so I will always keep a road bike and a mountain bike besides any future tri bike.

It was also fun to see who was posing. You get really slow guys (always guys, girls don’t seem to suffer from this) on clearly very very expensive bikes going about 22-25kph.  I ended up with a lot of ladies as the elite women I think went right after me in the swim, but that wasn’t such a bad thing!

One thing I tried was to ingest some hammer gels when I was riding. I found that I had a pretty dry mouth so it didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. I think for this distance I will keep to the drinks. Also didn’t drink as much as I thought I might. Again at the sprint distances maybe not as much of an issue.

Run

Zoomphoto Event Photography

Soon enough the bike was over. My transition time was 2:21 so still slow there as well. Good Transition time seemed to be in the 1:30 or less area. Still, with runners on it was out on the course, which also followed the canal. This is where I always die and any time I make up or are competitive in the swim and bike I give it all back in the run. In 2011 this has to be a focus. But while in Smiths Falls I mostly did a slow jog, here I did a moderate jog. Still my times were horrible. I did the 5k in 28:49, only one person was slower than me. The winning time in my age group was 17:17, a full ten minutes and more faster. I don’t like to run, but I love to do tris so you gotta do what you gotta do.

Finish

Finish 

With the run coming to an end the course leads back into the transition area an onto the outdoor track. I followed another guy from my age group and was able to get close but he beat me by a few seconds. Still I felt so much better than the tri in Smiths Falls and was able to give a bit of a kick at the end!  I want to do this one again next year (it’s a great safe course) but will be aiming for the Olympic distance!! Aim high right?

Conclusion

This was probably the best idea I had all year, to have another BIG event at the end of the summer. I think, family permitting, next year I will try to do the Smiths Falls Tri (it’ starts 5k from my house), this one and now another one in mid summer, as well as some time trials and I guess some runs! If I just improve my swim and bike by a bit, my transition by a bit and my run by a lot I should be able to shave 8-10 minutes off my time. Next year will tell!

Full Results for 2010 40-44 Age Group Sprint Tri Ottawa Canadian Triathlon

image

Categories: bicycling, Triathlon