Sunday, August 31, 2014

Basement Bike Shop: Upgrades to the Cervelo

The Cervelo P2 was dropping chains on the inside for a while, I got sick of the lame Shimano "Dura Ace" TT shifters, and the Ultegra 6600 group that came new on the original P2SL in 2008 was showing its age, so I invested in some tidbits for an upgrade:
  • Sram R2C shifters, indexed, optimized for the Yaw front derailleur.
  • Sram Red Yaw front derailleur,
  • Sram Force rear derailleur.  (Have you seen the price on the Red option?)
Sram Red Yaw FD

Sram R2C Shifters
Sram Force RD

Other projects:
  • It's not new, but I also determined to swap in a Sram Force crankset (172.5 crank arm length) that's been gathering dust in my parts bin.  As part of that task I needed to move the chainrings from the current crankset to maintain my 52-36 gearing.
  • I decided to swap in the Hed wheelset to replace the uber-bling Supra set I've been racing recently.  Somehow they look better on the Focus.
  • May as well replace a cable or two while I'm at it.  They do break with use, if thankfully infrequently.
  • Other tweaks that made sense while the bike was in pieces, including new bar tape and new brake calipers.
One challenge:  I needed to get this done in time for the Saratoga 12-hour, which I rode in mid-July.  The parts did not arrive until Monday and the race was Saturday; making matters worse, I was off on Wednesday-Thursday for a funeral.
Here is my report on the upgrade process.

A.  Installing the Sram Force rear derailleur:

No surprise, but this could not be any more straight-forward.  Here's the process:
  1. Pull the metal crimp-thingie from the end of the derailleur cable with a pliers.  Keep.  These can be re-used and I can never seem to find the jar of new ones.
  2. Using a 5mm hex wrench, release the cable from the derailleur.
  3. Using the same wrench, remove the derailleur from the hanger.
  4. Set the old derailleur aside.  It will build back on the FUBAR P2SL frameset for a wall-mount bike using old parts.
  5. If the cable is not terribly frayed, pull it through from the shifter end.  Use the pliers to reshape the crimp-thingie as needed and replace it on the end of the cable, crimping it to hold.  Coil the cable and preserve for emergency use on a tour.
New RD.  Housing is in place but cable is not yet threaded.
Old front and rear Ultegra 6600 derailleurs.  Anybody want 'em?
Old RD cable.  Keep for roadside repairs.
 B.  Installing the Sram Red Yaw front derailleur:

a.  Removing is trivial:
  1. Rinse and repeat the above instructions for the cable.  In this case mine was too frayed to be worth keeping.  Because the longer rear derailleur cable that I am keeping will work fine as a backup for either the front or the rear, I tossed this one.
  2. The attachment bolt for the Ultegra front derailleur turned out to require a 4mm hex wrench and you had to remove the bolt, then replace it in the now removed unit so as not to lose it.
b.  Installing the Sram Red Yaw FD proved to be a tad more complicated than was installing the Force RD:
  1. Use a 4mm hex wrench to get the unit started in the slot on the braze-on.  Tighten enough that it holds on its own but you can still manipulate it up and down and side-to-side with a little effort.  Don't do as I did and forget the convex washer-spacer on the opposite (front-facing) side of the braze-on.
  2. The instructions require 1-2mm spacing between the bottom edge of the derailleur and the top of the tall teeth on the large chainring.  Measuring is a minor challenge, but I found using a 1.5mm hex wrench as a spacer worked quite well.
  3. The Sram derailleur has a line imprinted on the top side that you are instructed to line up with the teeth of the large ring to get the side-to-side position correct.  This works well, but you then need to ensure it does not move when you tighten the fixing bolt.
  4. Tighten the fixing bolt to 5nm of force.  Having spent hundreds on near-top-end componentry, I gave up on the usual "until it feels snug" approach and pulled out the torque wrench.
Using a 1.5 mm hex wrench to check the derailleur-to-chainring tolerance.
A really bad picture of the Sram Red Yaw FD installed, with my foot on the right.
Torque wrench tightening the new FD.  5nm of force is prescribed.  With expensive parts, no more "tighten until it feels right"!
 c.  The chain-catcher.  The new FD came with a chain catcher, which -- having been dropping chains to the inside -- struck me as an excellent addition:
  1. This installs with a 2.5mm hex wrench, tightened to 1-2nm of force.  
  2. The key is spacing on the small chainring.  With the FD in the correct position, it is not hard to get the spacing correct -- but because the chain-catcher bolts into the if the FD is not in the correct position, you have to remove the chain catcher to reposition it.
  3. The chain catcher has a 2.5mm adjustment bolt that interacts with the convex washer-spacer (number 1 in the immediately prior set of instructions).  Loosening the bolt moves the spacer toward the center (inward) -- away from the small ring; tightening it moves it outward -- toward the small ring.  The idea, obviously, is that with the chain turning the catcher does not ever quite encounter it, and the place to test the position is in the smallest gear (small ring, large cog). 

C.  Installing the Sram R2C indexed shifters:

This turned out to be the greatest challenge in this upgrade process.  Suffice it to say that internal cable routing is nice for the person riding the bike and a real pain for the person wrenching on the bike.

a.  Removal:
  1. The Dura-Ace bar-end shifters come apart with a flat-head screwdriver.  That part is easy.  Screw them back together at the end to keep for a different project.
  2. Having separated the body from the mount, use a 5mm hex wrench to loosen the insert and remove it from the bar ends.
Remove the lever.

5 mm. hex wrench to loosen the compression plug.

The shifter once removed.  Put it back together or the parts will get lost!

b.  Installing the new levers:
  1. Insert the shift levers into the ends of the aero-bars.  Using a torque wrench with a 5mm hex attachment, tighten the compression plugs to 8nm.
  2. Loosen the hex bolts on the inside (red-colored side) of the levers.
  3. Position the levers in an "aerodynamic angle."  (Seriously.  In my case that meant pointing them basically straight ahead, which I assume to be aero, and trying to match the angles between left and right.  The matching process is not trivial, and I did not accomplish the goal in several tries -- but it's pretty close.)
  4. Tighten the hex bolts to 9nm.
  5. On each side, feed the cables into the housing.  Install the dial tension adjuster in the front derailleur housing somewhere before it meets the frame by (1) cutting the housing; (2) trimming off ~1/2 inch; and (3) bringing the two ends of the separated housing together on either side of the tension adjuster.  The cable then runs through the entire rejoined length as if it were a single piece of cable housing.  (There is no tension adjuster to install for the rear derailleur because the barrel adjuster is built into the derailleur.)
Tighten compression plug to 8 nm.

Good thing I have a basement wind-tunnel.

Oh yeah, that feels way aero!

9nm.  Good luck hitting that tightness without disturbing your aerodynamic angle.
c.  Running the cable:

The next bit is frame and cockpit dependent.  I have a Cervelo P2 (carbon) with Profile Design T2+ aerobar extensions.  Different bikes and bars will require different steps.  I hope they are easier:
  1. Where the cable housing runs depends on your bars -- with my Profile Design T2+ alloy bars, it enters into the bars through slots on the underside about 3" back of the ends and exits the back end through holes in the specially-made end caps.  The housing then runs to the down tube on the frame, with the right shifter entering the right-side port and the left entering the left-side port.  The front derailleur tension adjuster should be somewhere between the exit from the aero-bars and the frame entry point.
    Tension adjuster for front derailleur, just back of the aero-bar extensions.
  2. Feed the naked cables into the frame at the ports.
  3. Wiggle, twist, pull and push, and generally move the cables for however long it takes to get them to emerge from the frame just below the bottom bracket.  This process took me ~20 minutes.  (It turns out the inside of the tubes on a carbon frame is not nearly as smooth as is the outside!  Past experience with two different aluminum-framed bikes was much, much easier.)
  4. Run the cables through the plastic cable guide screwed to the frame at the underside of the bottom bracket housing.
  5. Bend the front derailleur cable upward and insert it back into the frame at the entry point in the seat-tube behind the crankset.  Wiggle, twist, pull and push, and generally move the cable for however long it takes to get it to emerge from the seat-tube below the front derailleur.  This process took me another ~20 minutes.  Take whatever steps necessary to be sure it does not slip back out!
  6. Run the rear derailleur cable along the drive-side chain-stay to re-enter the housing for the final loop to the new rear derailleur.
D.  Attaching the cables and tuning:

The basics of this process are pretty simple.  Getting it right is art, not science, and you may conclude (as I usually do, and ultimately did here) that taking the bike to the LBS for a final tune is wise.  In short, you now need to attach both front and rear derailleur cables; adjust the limit screws; and dial in the tension to get the indexed shifts right on target.

The below assumes you have installed the chain.  In my case I replaced the crankset as well.

New Sram PC-1091 chain.  Picture is of the quick-link used to attach the chain.  I measured the chain to match the length of the one I removed and used a chain tool to remove the excess links before installing.

a.  Attaching the cable on the front derailleur:
  1. Trigger the left (front) shifter to the loosest point. On these shifters that means moving it upward one click.
  2. Tighten the inline barrel adjuster to the maximum by turning it to the right.
  3. Pull the cable through the attachment bolt on the front derailleur.  Pull it hand-tight.  Tighten the cable attachment bolt. I never waste my time with a torque wrench here.  I just yard on it.
  4. The front derailleur sits naturally at the small chainring location.  Once the rear derailleur is attached you can adjust the limit screws and cable tension.
b.  Attaching the cable on the rear derailleur:
  1. Trigger the right (rear) shifter to the loosest point.  That means moving it downward as many clicks as is required.
  2. Tighten the barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur all the way.
  3. Pull the cable through the rear derailleur attachment bolt hand tight and tighten the cable attachment bolt.
  4. The rear derailleur sits naturally at the small cog location. 
c.  Adjusting the derailleurs:
  1. Spin the pedals and operate the rear shifter (upward clicks) to move the chain to the largest cog.  With the chain on the small ring it is now in the lowest gear.
  2. Getting the chain to move will require tightening the cable with the barrel adjuster.  Tighten the cable by loosening the adjuster.  This is counterintuitive:  what you actually are doing by loosening the adjuster is lengthening the housing, which has the effect of shortening the cable that runs through it.  If you find yourself opening the barrel adjuster too far, screw it back down tight, loosen the cable attachment bolt, pull the cable tighter (perhaps using a pliers), and re-tighten the bolt.  Then try again with the barrel adjuster.
  3. Pull the lever beyond the final click to see how far you can move the rear derailleur.  If it moves toward the center from the largest cog, you want to tighten the limit screw so the unit cannot move so far inward.  (The danger, of course, is a chain dropped in your spokes.)
    Limit screws.  Much more accessible on this Sram RD than on the Ultegra 6600 I removed.
  4. Move the derailleur to the smallest cog and repeat the limit screw exercise.  When moving the derailleur, use the barrel adjuster to get the shifts crisp.  If a particular shift is not immediate, turn the barrel adjuster 1/4 turn in the direction you are trying to move the chain and try again.
  5.  Repeat the exercise for the front derailleur.  The adjustment process up front never seems to be as smooth.  You want to check the limit screws for the front derailleur with the chain in the cog most likely to cause a dropped chain -- the large cog for the inside ring; the small cog for the outside ring.  You are likely to have to tighten the cable using a pliers before it is taut enough to effect the first shifts.
  6. Once the front derailleur is shifting, the inline barrel adjuster can fine-tune the shifts.

I got this done in time for the Saratoga 12-hour and the bike worked fine for that event.  The indexed shifting on the front derailleur was a nice change from the shift-by-feel of the old Shimano levers.  The R2C shifters look cool if nothing else.  I then dropped the bike at the LBS for a $25 tune.

A worthwhile change?  I don't know.  Dolling up the Cervelo a tad will hopefully keep me from buying a new tri bike anytime soon.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Racing on the new race bike

Saturday from 7 to 7 was the Mid-Atlantic 12-hour, run coincidentally with a 24-hour and a 104-mile time trial on a handful of rural roads around Washington, NC.

Map of roads east of Washington, NC, where race is held.
Damon and I headed down Friday evening, supped with J__ and B__, and crashed in a seedy Comfort Inn just down the street from Washington's downtown strip.

The ultracycling dirtbag lifestyle.
We checked in at the race HQ, a tent in a high-school parking lot a few miles from the Comfort Inn.

Washington High School -- as if I never left home.
 The disorganization was exquisite.  I paid my entry fee and was given a race number . . . with somebody else's name on it.  When I returned the number, she exchanged it . . . but did not write down my name.  Punchline:  when I went to check on my final result at the end, she asked my name to write, in ball-point, on the medal.  It reads "Maxx Huffman."

If I'm ever a movie star, that's the spelling I'm using.
 We started in a parade format following a gold PT cruiser.

Much of the field continued in the parade format, riding in a peleton for the entire first lap.  I suppose much of what I like about these events is the laid-back casual atmosphere, although one does get frustrated when "laid back and casual" means "no rules enforced."

The course was flat and fast, with approximately 1500' of climbing over the 225 miles I rode.  The first few laps, before the heat rose and other realities also set in, were extraordinary.

Still feeling extraordinary.
 Some new equipment in my collection:  I've reported on the Focus Cayo Evo Di2 in two recent posts.  Here it is in the picture.  It is a nice-riding rig, plenty comfortable after hours in the saddle, able to clear 28mm tires, and fast-seeming (although that is a terribly subjective characterization).  I am running Schwalbe One 28 mm tires on those cheap Supra carbon wheels.

I did get painfully uncomfortable several hours in, more so than I have experienced in recent rides, but considering that I have only twice eclipsed 200 miles this year, with this race's being one of them, I can't really blame the bike for that problem.

A new Giro Attack helmet (on the head, above and below), which looks rather bad-ass, even if it serves no other purpose.  But it is supposed to be aerodynamic.

Badass-looking lid.
J__ and B__, there to see Damon through his third 24-hour of 2014, also provided me with remarkable support -- filling bottles, encouraging me to get out of HQ between laps, offering to pick me up at the end of 12 hours from mid-lap, and handing me a Whopper for end-of-race nourishment.  (J__ also served as the photographer, taking most of the photos on this blog post.)

The release of adrenaline at the end of these events always amazes me.  One can be hammering at 21 mph trying for that final mile one minute and sacked on a piece of concrete the next.

Adrenaline drain.  Yes, that is my Whopper I am holding, and prepared to protect with my life.
Damon continued on to reach 436 in 24 hours before his race bike imploded.  I picked up my medal and hit the sack so one of us could drive back the next day.

First age-group.  There were two of us in the age group.  The other guy was hand-cycling.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Grand Morango, Interrupted

The editorial team here at HBC recently attended an off-site team-build event, driving from the Northwest (which was experiencing unseasonably and uncomfortably hot weather) to Utah and Colorado, to enjoy some beautiful scenery and wonderful climbs.

The initial plan, as proposed by Max, was to complete The Grand Morango, a 3-day loop covering approximately 400 miles from Durango to Grand Junction to Moab to Durango (or any combination thereof). Unfortunately due to a lack of fitness on one participant's part, the initial plan was sacked in favor of shorter local rides.

That said, it was not a total loss. In fact it turns out that some scouting was probably a good idea. At least a portion of the Grand Morango would have been a challenging and hair-raising experience, with large climbs and fast descents on a highway with virtually no shoulder and massive drop-offs.

Day 1: La Sal Mountain Loop, Or At Least A Portion Thereof

The first day we started out on one of my favorite Moab road rides, a roughly 60 mile loop up and over the La Sal Mountain Loop Road. The stretch out to the loop road from Moab was frustrating. The first 10 miles has a stealthy 1000 foot climb and that, coupled with a headwind, made for a really slow start.

Once we hit the real climb Max noted some ominous clouds in the distance with accompanying thunder and lightning. We decided to climb as far as we could while still feeling safe, and ended up turning back after the first sustained pitch. Could we have gone further? With the benefit of hindsight, probably. But at the time riding on metal bikes high on a mountain during a lightning storm seemed like an unwise way to start the teambuild.

Those clouds are about as unfriendly as they look.

Regardless, we did get a respectable 2300 foot climb in over 30 miles.

A Portion Of The La Sal Loop Road

Day 2: Grand Mesa South Side

For day 2 we headed up to Delta, a few miles from the start of the Grand Mesa climb. Grand Mesa has two routes, North from Mesa and South from Delta. I'd previously ridden the North side, so Max and I opted to tackle the South side for this ride.

After stocking up at the local Safeway we headed out with a short jaunt along Highway 92 before turning onto the climb. The trip started out inauspiciously, first with Max getting a flat tire about 10 miles in, followed by gum on both tires after another 5 miles. While getting the gum off his tires, I flatted. Our stash of 4 spare tubes was suddenly looking optimistic. Fortunately our only other flat of the ride occurred near the top of the climb.

While the North side of Grand Mesa is steep and switch-backed, the South side is a steady and reasonable grade. One can easily develop a rhythm and just keep on keeping on, all the way to the top. As we climbed the hot temperatures of the valley gave way to cooler alpine temperatures, bottoming out in the mid 50s with a pleasant wind.

Steady is another word for relentless, and this climb was that. Starting out right below 5000 feet, we topped out at 10,839, a 6000 foot gain over 29 miles.

Grand Mesa South

My recollection of the descent on the North side was that it was a rip-roaring fast descent, but with numerous switchbacks that required deft braking. Not so the South side. Brakes were entirely optional, and neither Max nor I partook. The 6000 foot descent was glorious, with perfectly engineered curves that allowed one to carry momentum all the way back to the highway. We traded off taking the lead as it is honestly quite challenging to hold an aggressive tuck continuously for 30 minutes.

This was a great ride.

Day 3: Black Canyon Of The Gunnison

While I'm pretty sure that Max had another tough ride in his legs, Strava told me that I should take 3 days off after day two's climb. So we rode into the Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park. What a remarkable feature! The canyon is blacker than the Grand Canyon, though also quite a bit less grand. The day started with a terrifically challenging climb into the park and then some pleasant rollers up to the appropriately named "High Point". We took the opportunity to stop where-ever possible to admire the scenery, including several short hikes off the road to viewpoints.

The short 23 mile out and back provided 3200 feet of climbing, but the scenery made the climbs seem even smaller than that. The ride down from the park entrance was again delightful, losing nearly 2000 feet of elevation over about 6 miles.

Black Canyon Of The Gunnison

Day 5: Piddling Around Durango

After taking a day off to drive back to Durango, we planned a short ride out of town. Durango is surrounded on four sides by mountains, and we quickly realized that even a short ride in Durango is going to include at least a thousand feet of climbing. As it was, our jaunt along Highway 210 next to Lake Nighthorse (a wonderful rolling ride with great scenery and good road conditions) and brief tour through a couple mountainside neighborhoods in Wildcat Canyon provided 2000 feet of climbing over 25 miles.

The ride out of Wildcat canyon was really something special, with a slight downhill and moderate tailwind that let us maintain a 30+ MPH pace for many miles.

Day 6: Guanella Pass

After several days of taking it easy, we decided to tackle another significant climb before the week was out. Colorado has no shortage of long passes, but we had a specific destination to attend a family reunion, so our options were mostly limited to climbs between Durango and Estes Park.

Some quick internet investigation pointed to Guanella Pass. Until recently the road surface was horrible, but a couple years ago they re-surfaced it and by all accounts it had become an extremely pleasant ride.

We drove to Georgetown, a touristy town at about 8500 feet, and parked at the Visitor Center (a mistake for which we would later be gently chastised, by a friendly older fellow wearing a train conductor's uniform). Heading out of town the road quickly turns vertical, with a 1500 foot gain over the next 3 miles. Along the way we encountered some bighorn sheep grazing on the side of the road. Bighorn sheep are named thus because they are sheep with big horns, a fact that was not lost on us as we checked our 6:00 until safely out of range.

The road up Guanella Pass is a launching point for many Mt. Evans ascents. As such it was littered with cars (and tents) on the sides of the road, but traffic headed up was sparse. What traffic existed was extraordinarily courteous, and the entire climb was pleasant and scenic.

Before we knew it we'd reached the top at about 11,600 feet. Surprisingly there was no elevation sign, so we headed down the other side a ways to make sure we hadn't reached a false summit. I strongly suspect that Max was willing to ride all the way down to highway 285 to get another good climb in, but I was having none of that. We turned around when it was clear that our original summit had been successful.

Including our short descent on the other side, we covered 26.7 miles and a bit over 4000 feet of elevation. The climb was absolutely lovely, as was the descent.

Guanella Pass


We rode a lot of great roads and several wonderful climbs. One could argue that a route should ideally be more than just a climb and descent, but as Max pointed out, with limited time it's useful to get the most memorable experience out of a ride. And each of our rides were memorable.

There are a lot of fantastic routes in Colorado, and we're already looking ahead to next year's event. Mt. Evans is certainly on the list, and though we've heard mixed reviews of Pikes Peak it at least warrants some investigation. Another recommendation was Independence Pass, and Loveland Pass seems to be popular as well.

Friday, August 15, 2014

My Craigslist Ad

Pretty proud of the digs I get in at the courier crowd.  Of course, I hope they don't see them as digs, or it might alienate my only real customer base.

 Hed Jet 60 Front Wheel - $50 (nw dc)

image 1image 2
© craigslist - Map data © OpenStreetMap
condition: good size / dimensions: 700c
Used Hed Jet 60 (6 cm deep dish) front wheel. 700c, 100mm spacing (normal for road/cross bikes) Clincher with aluminum brake track. Currently unmounted but can add a tire and tube for an additional $25. No skewer but may be able to dig one up for $5 or so (ask if desired).

Bearings are getting old, wheel works just fine but you'd want to take it in for servicing if you planned to race it. But it rides fine as is and yes, if you are wondering, this would look awesome, maybe even ironic, on a fixie.

Decals in photos are trivial to remove with a fingernail.

    Thursday, August 14, 2014

    First Ride -- Focus Cayo Evo Di2

    This bike is new to me as of yesterday.

    The Focus Cayo Evo Di2
    I rode it 25 miles from home out Beach Drive and back, adjusting the fit as I rode.   I swapped out the saddle for my white WTB Rocket V, added a cheap carbon WB cage, and added my cheap spare Look Keo pedals.

    1.  The Bike

    It is sure ugly!  The picture does not do it justice.  There are 11 instances of "Focus" written on the frame set, one of my bugaboos about modern mass-production bikes.  The paint design, which looks in the above picture like a mix of stripes and naked carbon, is not that at all.  It is a weird pattern that reminds me of a kid's painting with sponges in elementary school.  On the other hand, the white tape, white saddle, and red-and-black coloration work pretty well in general.

    The tube shapes are inelegant.  Consider first that big-ass head-tube.  Frame-makers advertise benefits of stiffness in the front end, which surely exist, but at what cost?  And the down-tube is simply enormous.  Think bottom-bracket width all the way, without visible tapering.  The sloping top-tube leaves several centimeters of seat-tube above the junction for reasons that escape me.

    The fork has a weird jog just below the junction with the head-tube and the stays are curved out from the seat-tube.  Finally, the seat-stays are joined with a solid carbon piece above the rear brake, painted with some gosh-awful line design that looks something like a hill depicted on a contour map.

    Summary about carbon bikes generally, with the Cayo Evo Di2 serving as a serious offender:  carbon is billed as great because it can be molded into any shape. The problem is that a bike should be made with round tubes and a parallelogram design.  Any other shape may have performance advantages, but it will never look good.

    2.  The Frameset

    The Focus is noticeably stiff.  Adding power from a stop or coast causes the bike to veer weirdly, requiring me to pay close attention to the steering.  The result must be that when I hold the line straight I get better linear power transfer -- that is certainly the argument favoring stiffness, anyway -- but holding a straight line will take practice.

    (Interesting side-note:  metal flexes during pedaling, permitting the wheels to hold their line.  The flex is not permanent, so the force from the rebound is transferred into motion.  Thus, flexion does not necessarily equal inefficiency and stiffness does not necessarily equal greater forward speed.  Cite to JH and Bicycle Quarterly for this wisdom.  But if stiffness leads to side-to-side motion, with a bike following a slight slalom pattern down the road, that does necessarily mean a stiff frame slows you down vis-a-vis one that you can ride straight.  I'm still assuming operator error on my part, but I will be curious to see whether it gets better with experience.)

    Bumps and ripples on the road are more noticeable than on the Gunnar.  It is weird to say that, as I tend to disbelieve those kind of things are that noticeable, but it is true.  I frequently wondered whether I had a flat when it turned out I was simply feeling pavement undulations transferred from the wheel into the frame and into my arse.  It wasn't uncomfortable, just unsettling.  I suppose I will get used to it.  I will certainly try running 28 mm tires instead of the stock 24 mm Continentals, which was the idea all along.

    The bike is very stable and comfortable at speed, with the caveat that my high speed on the Beach Drive out-and-back is around 35 mph.

    3.  The Gearing

    I'm running a standard crank and 11-28 rear for the first time in many years.  (The triathlon bike, at 52-36 front, is the closest I have.)  It takes getting used to.  Normal spinning gears are in the 20s in the back, rather than in the 17-19 range on the compact crank.  That would be fine but that the spacing gets bigger when shifting between the larger cogs, which means more awkward shifts.  Again, I just need to get used to it.

    4.  The Groupset

    Full Ultegra 6770 Di2:  it is lovely to behold in a dark gray with internally-routed wires and cables.

    I won't bore you with a paean to Di2, about which I have never read a criticism.  It does everything the reviewers have been saying it does since it came out.  It does threaten to make even a well-tuned cabled groupset feel awkward.  I will add a few words about how a traditionalist (me) perceives the benefits.

    Moving from the cabled group, the precision of the shifts is the first thing you notice.  Moving with confidence between the big rings, with no fear of a dropped chain, is a wondrous thing.  (No matter how carefully I set the screws, after several hundred miles between tunes on the cabled groups things seem to work loose and I drop chains.  It has happened in normal use and it has happened in races.)  I was much more likely to use the small ring when climbing than I am on the Gunnar, when I find it convenient to shift with the rear derailleur and stand in the big ring when the hill gets steeper.

    The speed of shifting is the next thing you notice.  I am accustomed to feeling the chain lift and settle on the next ring or cog, requiring a turn or three of the cranks.  Not so here.  Shifts happen in less than the time it takes me to turn the crank a single time; engagement is immediate.  That is almost completely good.  One disquieting phenomenon:  when I am shifting between cogs separated in size by two teeth, rather than on tooth, the substantial up-shift or down-shift happens quickly enough that I notice it much more than I would if I had to back off the power to help ease the chain onto the new cog.  In 25 miles I did not quite get used to the feeling.

    And auto-trimming:  I can run big-big or small-small without chain rub on the front derailleur.  A good thing?  Maybe, maybe not; chain rub reminds me to shift into a more efficient gear combination, but the auto-trimming sure does permit shifting without thinking about it.

    5.  The Summary

    I wanted Di2 and I got it cheap.  I thought a carbon frame might go faster and, based on one ride, I think it might.  The Focus Cayo Evo Di2 should serve as a good drop-bar race steed.  I'm not selling the Gunnar anytime soon, though!

    Friday, August 1, 2014

    Focus Cayo Evo 2.0 Di2

    For some reason there has been a surfeit of carbon bikes built with Ultegra Di2 available for what seem to be low prices this summer and fall.

    First, I nearly avoided paying $2700 for a nice looking Felt Z3 at Merlin.  (Pleased to see some enterprising individual bought it from Merlin and relisted it on eBay for $500 more.)

    I was too slow when Pricepoint's July 4 sale dropped their Litespeed Ci2 to an astonishing $1749 ($1999 with $250 off); needless to say that deal sold out quickly.  Too bad, too, because I had talked the Litespeed factory into giving me a free bumper sticker if I bought a Ci2.

    I did not take the bait when the Pricepoint deal on the Litespeed Li2 went to $2500 minus 15% -- or $2125 -- because the reviews aren't perfect and the Litespeeds don't take 28mm tires.

    Colorado Cyclist still has a very nicely built-up Fuji Altimira, including Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels, for $2800, but thankfully their internet customer service is not terribly engaging and I was just annoyed enough not to take the plunge.

    But Jenson finally caught me with the Focus Cayo 2.0 Di2.

    Focus Cayo Evo 2.0 Di2

    What happened?

    First, at $2400 listed and less after some negotiation, the price was about perfect.  I've seen cheaper (Pricepoint) and I've seen better built-up (nearly anything from Competitive Cyclist), but this bike seems to sit right where those two curves meet.

    Second, Focus bikes come nicely equipped at manufacturer spec.  Full Ultegra Di2 groupset -- not some FSA crankset painted to match the frame.  Carbon post and stem -- the latter a first for me.  3T Ergonova bars.  What mfr. specs with 3T Ergonova off the rack?  Focus, apparently.

    Nate King at Jenson did me well with some build changes, including new Schwalbe One 28mm tires, upgraded cassette and chain, and a shorter stem.  Even with the changes I'm at $2399 delivered.

    The reviews (and here) (and here) on this bike are superlative.  (Note that they are all from the UK.  Focus does not have much of a distributorship here in the US.  Now that it is owned by the same parent as Cervelo, one wonders if that will change.)  And Nate and Kemi (partners, I believe, and both semi-pro cyclists working at Jenson to keep the lights on while staying active in the industry) gave some great e-mail based customer service.  It is no joke to say this is the most engaging bike-purchase process I've ever experienced, up to and including the semi-customization on the Gunnar when I ordered it specially from the LBS (Revolution Cycles in Arlington).

    The bike isn't quite done:

    First, I don't have it yet:  after I return from Colorado, I hope. 

    Second, I'm replacing the saddle with the WTB Rocket V Pro that was on the aluminum Cervelo before I cracked the head-tube. 

    Third, I'm in the market for a good pair of lightweight daily-use wheels.  Merlin has the Ksyrium Elites for $423 shipped or the SLR for $850.  On the other hand, I'd just love to quit spending money on bike gear, so who knows.


    Several years back Damon took the locally famous "OMG-WTF" route and added HFS and HTFU to create Ascension.  The route goes up, down, and around the ridge in Maryland's Gambrill State Park.  Once a year a group heads up to Frederick and launches from a middle school for 60 miles and 8000+ feet of climbing.  Damon and I did the ride the other week.

    (Gambrill is primarily a mountain bike destination.  Every time I have been on the first climb (and last descent), Hamburg Road, I see scores of mountain bikes on cars being driven to the top of the hill.  I've only once ever seen a mountain bike being ridden up the hill -- but, who am I to judge?)

    Here is the Garmin data.  A few high points (so to speak):

    1.  Top speed, 49.1 mph.  That came on the descent out of the park at the end of loop 1.  It's a beautiful stretch of road with long sweeping turns, good tarmac, and few to no cars.  The worst part of that descent is hammering the brakes to take a turn when the main road continues down, down, and further down.

    2.  High elevation, 1707 feet.  Not much to write home about, but with the low at 380, we were playing with 1300 feet net elevation, which is not trivial.  Or not when you do it several times.

    3.  The steepest piece of road comes near the bottom of the Coxey Brown climb, which is the last major climb represented on the chart.  I saw the Garmin reading 28% on the very inside of the corner.

    4.  Best climb to skip:  Jackson Mountain Road.  Ascension, done properly, includes a final trip up the 40%-grade Jackson Mountain Road.  It's short but definitely not sweet.  For the first time, we did not ride it.