Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Year of Brevets in Review

I spend this last year in an epic quest to complete an entire brevet series. For the uninitiated, a brevet is a long distance cycling event that it non-competitive and time-limited. The standard lengths are 200km, 300km, 400km, 600km and 1200km. Other distances are possible, but these are the most common. My goal was to complete the early season brevet series to qualify for the Gold Rush 1200km Randonee. I had mixed results - I had many fantastic rides, some absurd failures, and many lessons learned.

I rode all of my events with the PCH Randonneurs, a Ventura-based group of ultra-distance cyclists. The 200km event started in Ventura, rode south along PCH to Malibu, back north all the way to Montecito, and then back down the coast to Ventura. Although it was a flat ride, it was quite windy in the morning. I remember riding down East Hueneme Rd. leaned way over into the wind that was blowing ferociously against my full-disk rear wheel! By the time we made it back to Ventura for lunch, the wind had died down and I continued riding to Montecito with my good friend, Bruce. It was a great way to start the season, and we finished in 9 hours, 30 minutes.

The 300k started with pouring rain. I'm not talking drizzle here, I mean RAIN...something we are not all that accustomed to here in SoCal. Fortunately, I grabbed the shower cap out of the hotel room, and while it may not have been a great fashion statement, it kept my head dry throughout the event. This ride went from Ventura up to Lake Casitas, over the Casitas pass through the foothills to Montecito, more climbing in the foothills above Santa Barbara and up the coast to a beach turnaround, and back along the coast to Ventura. We then headed south and inland to Moorpark, over Grimes Canyon to Filmore and back out to Ventura.

While this ride was wet for the first 5 hours, it was a great ride. This was the first ride where I started meeting new people. Joseph Maurer and I shared a hotel room at the start, and I rode with several others throughout the ride. While some cursed the rain, I rather enjoyed it. I find riding in the rain akin to being a 7-year-old again, splashing through the mud puddles. I did learn, however, that clip on fenders are not deep enough to prevent spray from engulfing the rider behind me on a fast descent!

More to come...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Following the rules of the road - are we considered vehicles?

My wife always manages to find great articles on cycling for me to read. This one was a particular gem!

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I've been meaning to try the SRAM bar end shifters for some time. Unfortunately, you need a SRAM drivetrain to run with it, and the RED drivetrain does not work with a triple crankset. So...welcome SRAM XX! SRAM XX offers two cassette sizes in 10 speed - 11-32 and 11-36. The long cage XX rear derailleur will handle the triple cranks as well as the wide range cassettes. Finally, SRAM confirmed that the road bar end shifters will work fine with the XX system - perfect!

I currently run Dura Ace bar end shifters with a SRAM 1070 11-28 cassette, Dura Ace medium cage derailleur, and an FSA SLK Light triple crankset. This system has always worked well for me, but I am limited to a 28t max cog in the rear. I have tried the IRD 11-32 and 11-34 cassettes, but they aren't exceptional. In fact, the 11-34 is downright impossible to get dialed in! The SRAM XX system gives me the best of both worlds

I've had the chance to ride a couple times with this new system, and my overall impressions are very favorable. The shifters feel quite different from the Shimano counterparts. They are smoother, with less of a "ka-chunk" feel. The size of the TT500 shifter is wider for better connection when shifting, but they also feel more blunt. Of course, the Dura Ace shifters have the rubber/plastic-like cover that are more comfortable, but the darn things always fall off!

The XX system, with an 11-32 cassette and compact 34/50 cranks, will give you the same low gear as a triple crankset with an 11-28 cassette. Need lower gearing? The 11-36 with a compact double will give you one lower gear, with a triple, you get two lower gears! However, I'm not sure the rear derailleur can handle the 15t spread in the back with a 22t spread up front associated with the triple cranks.

The downside? These cassettes are quite expensive at $328. My hope is that the technology will trickle down next year to the less expensive lines.

Pros - Get a wider gear range in 10 speed or simplify to a 20 speed system and get the same low end. Great alternative to the IRD cassettes, regardless of which rear derailleur you use. Smooth shifting.

Cons- Expensive. Not as comfortable as the Shimano shifters.