Campagnolo Craft

There’s something very special about the art of craft and attention to detail here. Campy certainly commands a price for this level of attention, but you can appreciate the extent of their effort to deliver a consistent excellent product.

Paul Smith launches 531 Cycling line

At first this looks like a competitive launch to Rapha, but a closer looks reveals this is even more expensive. $310 merino t-shirts make Rapha almost seem like a bargain.

I do actually like the goods though. The styling is sharp and looks performance oriented as well if not more urban in use.

The Tribe of Solitaire Riders

riding alone

Just read this great piece on Bicycling and the following quote sums up exactly why I enjoy solo riding.  There are absolutely times when it’s fantastic to have a friend or two, but the solo escape, mind flushing capability, mental reset is strong medicine.  Maybe it was years in the pool where you really only hear your own breathing that led me here … or perhaps it’s just the perfect zen quality of an early morning on the road.

Some of us ride to be alone, and others only pedal among others. I’ve never questioned which category I belong to. In the past few years, as I’ve sunk deeper into the regimens of work and family, I’ve come to depend on the freedom of riding alone, the respite from the social world, the thicket of obligations, the anxiety of being observed. If I want to talk when I’m out on the road, it’s only to myself, and I trust the power of exertion and repetition—the spinning of wheels, the steady climb—to push me deeper into that interior conversation. 

Now and then I ride with a friend and value­ the companionship and the break from what can occasionally be a lonely routine. Changing a flat by myself in a cloud of gnats 30 miles from home is more solitude than I’m looking for—but it’s a fair price for the lessons in stamina, patience, will, and clarity that solo riding provides. I’m not alone in my preference for aloneness. I’ve crossed paths with enough riders in the middle of nowhere—always the quick nod, the wrist flick of mutual recognition—to suspect the existence of a tribe of solitaires. – Bicycling – Playing Solitaire

About Strava

Cycling Tips has a great interview with Michael Horvath, the CEO and Founder of Strava.  If you’ve been around me at all you know I love Strava and use it passionately to track and share my rides as well as my (less frequent) runs.

Strava very smartly filled the hole left by Nike+ for cycling though took it up a notch as well given the upper end athletic focus.  The somewhat recent addition of running makes it ideal for the multi-sport athlete and the social features and data viz make it habit forming.   Just about everyone I ride with uses it and speaks Strava as well.  I recommend the interview and of course the service as well.

Strava Pro Pages


Just reading Ben King’s latest at VeloNews and caught a link to his Strava Profile which regular users will quickly see is rather different from what we usually get.  And like the rest of Strav’s offerings, it’s very well considered.

While this is clearly positioned as a Pro (athlete) page, it’s really very similar to what you might expect to find as a brand page on twitter or facebook though clearly relevant to the service at hand.

You can follow / fan Pros though unlike a usual view of another rider, you don’t get to compare yourself directly through the side by side view typically found.  I’d actually really like to see this added as it’s a something you see frequently when interacting with others on the site.

There are quite a few new things clearly visible:

  • Rider Bio
  • Map of recent rides
  • Race Schedule
  • Sponsors and links out
  • Fans
  • Twitter content inclusion … interesting!

Strava has been adding features pretty rapidly for a while now and they’ve quickly become the defacto cycling tracking site.  I’d expect to see more around pro tracking and fan engagement as the season starts to pick up.  Adding in more linked riders for teams and pro comparisons on rides and segments would be particularly great to see.  Of course Pro Teams need to buy in with sharing their data, but many do already just not perhaps at the same degree of intensity as the more enthusiast cyclist.

Additional nice to haves … at least from my perspective would be the ability to track and be notified when riders you follow post rides based on their shared race schedule.  Fan discussion / debate could also become a lot of fun as well.  That said, while strava does offer comments and kudos I can’t see it easily evolving into a discussion board and think that would take away from the core function which really is ride data visualization.

Great stuff – hoping to see more soon!






2011 Tour of the Catskills: Assault on Devil’s Kitchen


Yesterday I competed in my second road race, the Tour of Catskills and it was awesome! I chose a one day race option over the 3-day stage and of the two possible days picked the Assault on Devil’s Kitchen which turned out to be the hardest climb I’ve ever tried.


My race was a mixed class 4/5 65 mile road race and as you can see from the results, only 36 of the 47 registered riders competed.  I placed 7th which I’m quite pleased with knowing I trained well and raced hard.  We left from Tannersville, NY which is on Hunter Mountain and raced through some gorgeous roads in the Catskills.  There were a few climbs in the early stages of the race, but the Devil’s Kitchen climb at the end would clearly define how things resolved in the end.

From the prior race I had entered I knew I wanted to be up front early to avoid any chaos or potential crashing and while I did not start right in the front, I quickly found a hole on the side of the peloton and moved right up the line.  I guess everyone thought I was crazy, since no one followed and I was easily off the pack and riding alone which was quite exciting even if it was only the first few miles.  Unfortunately my chain dropped after a quick descent as we turned onto Scribner Hollow road and into the first small climb.  It took two tries to get the chain looped back and by that time the group had passed me again.  It took a bit more effort than I would have liked to catch back up, but I managed to reconnect with the bigger group and recovered from my adrenaline burst of nerves.  I fought back some cotton mouth as well and soon enough settled back into the general pace.

Throughout the race I found myself either with the lead group or in the chase group which was generally right behind a small gap.  I was taking note of the guys around as we rode and it seemed there was some aggressive posturing going on with a few guys mainly on the flatter portions but those guys quickly gave way as we hit each of the climbs along the way.  I knew I was in a good position within this group as I felt I was one of the stronger climbers – not really knowing what was in store towards the end of course.  There were a few really nice descents including one amazingly long smooth and ridiculously fast run down where I hit a new top speed (55mph!).  During the descents I was generally careful and more cautious than if I’d been by myself allowing guys to float by and to make sure that I had enough space around me.  I don’t generally ride with too many other people and felt it would be best to be safe here.  During that major descent, I think down County Rt 20, I was able to bridge a big gap which was a pretty exciting moment in the race for me both from the adrenaline pumping at that speed, but also as an achievement to ensure my position.

Over the next 20 or so miles the ride got a bit windy and the group really started to thin out.  We dropped a bunch of guys including 3 in a crash which I think happened when a rider lost his chain and was a standing target for guys coming around the corner.  There was a small break of 2 and then 4 guys and they stayed about 30-45 seconds ahead of us for a few miles, but leading up to Devil’s Kitchen we finally caught two of the guys.  We had a really pace line going and I did a pretty long pull to ensure I did some hard work.  The line up chase group leading to the climb was four guys including myself and then … well then Devil’s Kitchen arrived.  Platte Clove Road is a 5K Cat 2 climb that goes up about 1400ft and appears to be mainly straight up.  There are a few slight steps and a few mild curves … it’s absolutely brutal.  Of the four guys, in my group two escaped and I fought on with another rider until we frankly had to dismount.  I was pretty unhappy that it got to that point, but after about 2.5K of climbing I wasn’t sure I could turn the pedals around fast enough to stay on my bike.  I ended up walking much of the rest of the way to the top – though even when I eventually pedaled across the KOM line, the damn hill kept on going!  Amazingly the guys behind and those I passed on the way up from other groups never caught any time on me and for the next six miles I went into time trial mode, pedaling as hard as I could over the rolling terrain.  As the signs starting counting down the final 5K, I could feel the excitement of finishing my first road race and cornering into the crowded town of Tannersville I fired away my last bit of energy to sprint in.  I heard the announcer call me the Man in Black as I crossed the line and I felt great bringing it all to a close.  Full details on Strava

The event was awesome — well organized, guys were great – competitive, but friendly and I look forward to competing again soon.  I’m hoping to do the Tour of the Adirondacks in mid September which is also put on by the same organization.  I pre-rode the main loop a few weeks ago near Lake George and it’s a beautiful run as well.


Strava’s Social Fitness Works You Harder

I’ve become a huge fan of Strava for tracking my cycling workouts as well as sharing and tracking friends and pros.  The data viz portion of Strava is really solid, easy to understand and actually quite robust.  I’ve been a Garmin Connect user since I bought my bike (and GPS) three summers ago, but Garmin has always lacked social connections.  As a result of Garmin’s lacking social functions, I’ve also been using DailyMile and while I really like DailyMile as well, I can see how the updates and strides Strava continues to make will probably assist in my full migration soon …

The basics … Strava gets cycling.  More than any other service, they break down hill sections of your rides into competitive segments and allow you to automatically compete against yourself as well as all other riders who also sync their rides into Strava.  Initially I missed this piece when I first tried it months ago as I was early in and did not appreciate the difference with Garmin.

The ability to quickly see that I’ve climbed my best that day (regardless of how my legs felt) is immediately rewarding, but it’s also quite motivating to learn that even though I felt strong, my time was better on a prior ride.  This gets me thinking of the conditions of that prior ride and how I can do better the next time out.  Adding in the social layer makes it even more competitive and even passively (without actually knowing the other people) you can still compete and set goals to try and ladder up the King or Queen of the Mountain competition for a particular climb.

Another really excellent feature within Strava is that it automatically groups you with the people you’ve ridden with that day as everyone syncs their data.  Today as you can see from the screenshot below, I rode with 3 other people and Strava automatically grouped us so we can easily compare and discuss how things went afterwards.  This type of discussion is happening naturally even with people I’ve just met (like today) and it’s quite powerful stuff.


The updates that Strava added today have only enhanced both the views of your ride data as well as the ability to slice the competitive ladder more discretely (even fairly) so you can compete on age and weight which certainly play a factor in some rides.  I particularly like the Suffer Score and also how your power and heart rate are displayed to show the real level of effort for a particular ride.  Strava calculates power using some algorithmic special sauce.  I don’t have a power meter currently so there’s no way to know how accurate it really is, but for the moment it’s a great baseline to compare like my other stats on the regular rides I do.  I should note that while Strava does offer a free service, it’s $6/month to get the full range of utility and I believe it’s well worth it.

Strava isn’t the only game in town and while today’s update also includes mention of the Running beta and potential for Triathletes, Runkeeper is pushing out their own update to include more social inclusion.  Runkeeper already has Street Teammates which work like DailyMile’s and Nike+ friends.  You can track how each other do each week and cheer people on.  I consider that the basics … Today Runkeeper sent out an email pushing their new update which like Strava will let you digitally run with friends.

You’ll note as it mentions in the email above, you need to do this afterwards by selecting your Street Teammates or Facebook friends.  While this isn’t hard to do, it’s that extra step that Strava does automatically that ensures you are actually using it.  I’m really interested to see how Strava continues to evolve around new sports and particularly how deep they go with Cycling.  If you’d like you can follow me.  I’ve also recently added a widget that shows my recent rides on the ride sidebar if you still visit the site.

Ride safe!



Consider the user …

I know it’s obvious, but it’s amazing how some companies don’t take user experience into account when designing their products.  Take for example the bike route mapping sites MapMyRide and RidewithGPS … MapMyRide appears to be the market leader given they’ve been around for a long time, but man is it painful to use.  They have a decent number of routes if you look around, but the site compresses the map to a small area and there are really a pretty gross number of ads on the page as well as on the map itself.  Their goal is of course to get you to upgrade to a paid account and certainly the incentives are there given the volume of ads … The problem for MapMyRide though is that they are not the only game in town and RidewithGPS arrived on the scene with an excellent route planner and a great map browser.

Take a look at the two screens …

From Route Planning
From Route Planning

Both are views of my local area and show available routes … so the experiences are as “parallel” as they can be to show the difference.  I went into fullscreen mode to try and maximize as much of the view as possible.

Which would you prefer to use?

13 months, 4,000 miles

Garmin Connect - Cycling Report

With this morning’s ride, I cleared 4,000 miles which I find very cool. I bought my bike last July and have ridden regularly for most of the year. There was some lag time over the winter due to weather, but I’ve been generally consistent.

My morning loops started around 20 and tend to be closer to 25 miles which is about the maximum I can do and still make my train to work. Weekends I try to go longer with 45 miles on average though if I can get the time I like to go much longer.

CYGLO – Making that Tron lightcycle possible

Cyglo Press Shot

CYGLO is set to release some tires this fall that will make your bike highly visible, Tron-style. I might have to check these out given the amount of riding I do in darkness as the fall and winter rolls around … You know, for safety purposes.

Rapha’s Hell of the North

It’s almost the weekend and I’m thinking about riding … Rapha’s just emailed about a cool ride, though unfortunately  it’s in London.  UK friends … get on it!

Our homage to one of the great monuments of the sport, Paris-Roubaix, will be an adventure along the lanes, bridleways and dirt-roads of Hertfordshire. Although it won’t have as much pavé (in fact it will be gravé) as northern France it will be tough and potentially filthy. Muddy terrain and bumpy ‘rough stuff’ will be encountered as we celebrate the Queen of the Classics over 100km.

iPhone on the bike

I always ride with my phone in my pocket though more as a safety than functional piece. I’ve certainly had occasion to snap a few pics, make a call or jot down a new buddy’s email. I’ve checked Google Maps when in new places to make sure my route was going to lead me back home. All this has happened while pulled over (ok a few pics while riding) as I’ve never really considered the iPhone hardened enough to serve as a real piece of bike kit.

There are a few companies out to change that perspective with what look like real businesses focused on making the iPhone a bike accessory.

Pedal Brain has a already approved iPhone accessory and developing app ready to try and take on the bike computer market.  The richness of the display data is certainly appealing and they say they are working on battery life.  If they can make their goal of 8 hours (2G only) they’d had a pretty competitive product.  I don’t like the idea of paying a monthly fee for my data … Garmin Connect is free, but this might be cool to have as a commuter.  Not sure I want my iPhone mounted on the handlebar.

Pedal Brain

Via Bike Rumor this am I learned about yet another and more daring approach called ARider. Through the use of augmented reality a Japanese researcher is looking to overlay mapping data into your view – live. This is certainly cool sounding in theory, but it looks (and I know it’s just research now) way too wonky. I can’t see projecting anything across my field of vision while riding at speed or in a city. I want my vision clear!  I also really can’t see having my iphone helmet mounted …

In each of these cases, I’d be willing to bet it would not be long until you ran into the need to run another app (inbound call, arriving email etc) that would start to reveal the limits of a single tasked device. The nice thing about using a bike computer is that it totally stays out of the way and lets you focus on riding. I glance down for a look at my progress, but spend my time really checking out the data when off the bike …

Team RadioShack jersey revealed

Team Radioshack

Pretty cool to see the Team RadioShack jersey revealed as the team gets ready for their offcial debut next month in Australia at the Tour Down Under.

MityCross 350

Mitycross 350

This morning I took my first ride with the MityCross 350 LED bike light an came away generally impressed.  I’ve used two other lights, both from Blackburn but this simply outshines (ahem) the other units.

I do a lot of riding first thing in the morning, typically leaving around 5:30am and it’s dark.  Seeing the road and being seen by cars is a rather critical detail.  With the past lights, I was able to see though there clear limits to what the lights could cover and I’ve wanted to have something much brighter for a while.  There’s honestly no comparison to the other lights in general light output and range of the beam.  While small, the MityCross 350 really pumps out a very bright and wide beam of light.  I was able to see the road ahead as well as a good bit of the peripheral bit of the road in pre-sun darkness.

The best part of the MityCross was that oncoming traffic generally dimmed their high beams.  This is a huge plus as one of the more dangerous aspects of riding in the dark is being blinded by oncoming cars.  Now they see me coming clearly and tend to respect my presence as though I was a motor vehicle.

My usual morning loop is a bit over an hour (all I can do before heading to work sadly) and the sun starts to rise about mid-way through.  Once that happens, I tend to switch over to blinker mode which the MityCross also handles expertly.  The flasher is more like a strobe and again, enabled cars to easily see my approach from well off in the distance.

The main “issue” with the MityCross is that the battery is external and requires that you fasten it to your bike (or helmet) via a velcro strap.  I found that there was plenty of cable to manage, but it’s considerably less clean of an install over an all in one type of light.  The MityCross 350 runs about $200 at retail which is probably more than most people look to spend, but amazing is really just the starting point for bright bike lights.  I believe I’ll be satisfied with this light for a while and expect it to serve my riding needs for many miles.