26 April, 2013

Got It!

Picked up my returbed Clackacraft 16' LP today. Bottom is CHERRY. Can't wait until water comes down so I can row!


16 April, 2013

Spring? Finally?

I write this from my iPhone (ain't technology great?) as I sip a Guinness on my back deck and watch my black lab mix pup Lilly chase tennis balls across the backyard. After so many false starts (it friggin' SNOWED on both Saturday and Sunday), maybe it's really here?

Looking forward to so much from the warm months. Miles on my road bike. Learning to row the new-to-me Clackacraft, smallies on the fly, canoeing the Huron, stripping streamers to trophy trout, and a UP expedition in search of my first Atlantic Salmon.

Hurry Summer. Please?


09 April, 2013

It's Row Time!

Well, OK, not quite yet. But the bottom should be re-glassed by the end of the month. I'm making arrangements to get the raft and it's trailer back downstate and listed for sale. I've just decided that for a recreational fisherman with a day job and a ton of other competing hobbies, owning two boats is pretty ridiculous.

This would be the "before" picture...

For those new to the blog, it's a 2009 Clackacraft 16LP. It's got some fishing mojo, as it's last owner was Mike Schultz of Schultz Outfitters (and a bunch of other places before that). If you can fly fish for it in the Midwest, it's been caught from this boat. Mike's a good friend and I'm proud to be the next owner of his boat.

The new boat came with some great advice from guides and drift-boat owning buddies. Some highlights include:
  • "Dude - now you'll never fish. But your Dad will love this!"
  • Buy some good oars - later. Learn to row on the beaters first. But after that a good set of sticks will make your life SO much easier.
  • A drift boat is like a sheet of plywood. It'll never plane and a higher horsepower motor will only cost you a bunch more, burn more gas, and be heavier to lift on and off. 3-4hp will do you just fine.
  • If you can't row, you can't go. I'm even applying this one to Dad. The wife might get a free pass. I suppose the dog will, too.
  • Point at danger and backrow.
All seems solid. I've got lots to learn. But I'm already plotting floats to take and places I'll explore. Thus opens a new chapter as a fisherman. I can't wait.


07 April, 2013

Initial Product Review - Shimano Ultegra Clipless Pedal System

EMBARASSING CONFESSION #1: For some reason, I was never a Shimano guy. Kind of like how some folks hate Microsoft. I think it stems from my early days racing BMX as a kid - you were either Suntour or Shimano. I was the former, or at least until I got hooked on high-end one-off tricked out gear. Anyway, we've made our piece. I love my new Ultegra 6700 grouppo.

After upgrading the wheels, drivetrain, shifters, crankset, and saddle, my Olde Schoole Look PP206 clipless pedals were looking decidedly uncool. And, we can't have uncool.

When I headed to the shop, I was in search of Speedplay. Those trick-looking lollipops that you can't clip into the wrong side seemed like just the ticket. But a quick discussion with the knowledgeable shop dude suggested otherwise. Evidently Speedplays have a reputation for being hard to clip in and out of. If you've ridden with me, you know I'm a touch paranoid about that. I clip out pretty early. Falling on asphalt mixed with gravel SUUUUUUCCCCKKKKS.

Because I was replacing Looks, somehow spending a bunch more money to buy another pair of Looks seemed weird. Which led me to the Shimano SPD family. As mentioned earlier, I have had a built-in bias against Shimano. But, damn, I do love the new Ultegra set-up. And my 105 hubs. So, I start looking at the Shimano 105 and Ultegra pedals.

EMBARASSING CONFESSION #2: You know I bought the more expensive Ultegras. And you know why. Yeah, it's because they'd match the rest of the set-up. Fine, you're better than me. I'm over it.

Cool - so how'd they ride?

It was an interesting transition at first. The Look's had a much longer engagement "stroke". You could tell you were on them and they were clicking in, even if it took a while. The Shimano's were much more "wham, bam, thank you m'am". While I didn't get the immediate feedback, if your foot's in the right place, you're in. Quick. Simple. And with a polite "click".

Clipping out was similar. Didn't really require much thought, but also didn't provide much feedback. Twist - and you're OUT. At first, this was a bit weird. But after a few miles, the Ultegra's feel an immense improvement over their predecessors. The Ultegra clipless system is clearly a number of levels better than the old Looks. Crisp and refined.

The unexpected bonus was the larger platform. I've had some issues with hot spots and numbness in recent years. I was hoping that a different platform might help. And, so far, it has.

More to come as I get a few more miles on these, but early impressions are very solid. Quite happy with my purchase.


02 April, 2013

The Fizik Factor

During last year's professional fit my uber-squishy Serfas RX saddle was the first thing to go. All that gel and padding had me just floating and moving my hips oddly. It was replaced by a Fizik Alliante VS. If you've never had a look at one, these saddles are both gorgeous and incredibly well-designed. The bike just looks faster with this saddle. It took me a bit to adapt - going from heavily padded to a board - but now I love it. Comfortable for the distance and smooths out my pedal stroke.

But wait...

So when I'm dropping my bike off at Aberdeen Cycle & Outdoors, Josh says, "Oh, cool - you can put the Fizik seat bag on this". Wait a minute - the WHAT? So, it turns out all Fizik saddles have an integrated clip system that enables you to attach their Saddle Pa:k seat bag without any external brackets or straps. My Topeak saddle bag is fine -- a bit too large and requires a mount at the top as well as a Velcro strap around the seat post. This last strap is a pain as I have to remove the bag to put the bike into my Park workstand. Not the end of the world, but a nuisance.

The best part about the Saddle Pa:k? I can score a brand new one for 20 bucks on eBay -- including shipping! Sweet.

My bag arrived yesterday, so I was understandably eager to install last night. Funny, it took me longer to take the Topeak bag off than to install the new Fizik! I'm very happy with the results. It looks sleek and integrated, rather than tacked on. And the smaller size is perfect for a spare tube, multi-tool, a house key, and a $20 bill! A great product from a pretty cool company.


01 April, 2013

New(ish) Ride; First Impressions

It all started with a lowly 2005 (I think) Giant OCR3 road bike purchased from Great Lakes Cycling and Fitness. I was looking to get back into riding and mine was last year's model at a great price. Lots of upgrades since then, though the major one was having Steve Sauter at Great Lakes build me some lightweight, durable wheels.

But this year, the upgrading got serious. I scored a great deal on a gently-used Shimano Ultregra grouppo from a friend. The folks at Aberdeen Bikes & Outdoors in Chelsea did the build-up. Super cool shop -- my new local favorite. Cool people, nice selection, and no 'tude.

So, what's the finished product like - in a word UNF*CKINGREAL! Got out for my first ride of the season with buddy Josh on Saturday. Shifting was now super-crisp and predictable. I'm not sure how much weight I shaved with the new components but the reduction was VERY apparent. More "spring" and "jump" - with the ability to accelerate at an incredible pace. The Ultegra levers were especially wonderful as they put me in a very nice riding position and fit the hands really well.

But hands-down the best part is the new Ultegra double crankset. I hated the original FSA triple and it's evil companion the Shimano Sora front derailleur. Unless you're a hardcore touring afficianado, triples BLOW! Mine was heavy, shifted like crap, and generally frustrated me. But no longer - the Ultegra drivetrain rocks the house. Smooth, stiff, and the shifting is perfect. I think this upgrade is likely the biggest improvement, but time will tell.

So, here's the run-down on this beast as it stands now - I think I'm done with upgrades, but you never know:

Frame/fork: Giant OCR aluminum frame with carbon fiber fork
Drivetrain: Shimano Ultegra 6700 crankset, front and rear derailleurs, 10-speed rear cog, chain, Ultegra pedals, and Dura Ace super-smooth cables
Cockpit: Bontrager aero bars, Bontrager 100mm stem, Fizik bar tape, Shimano Ultegra levers
Saddle: Fizik Alliante VS, stock seatpost (amazingly...)
Wheels: Shimano 105 hubs and skewers, DT Swiss spokes, Mavic (I think) rims, Michelin Krylion Carbon tires in 23mm
Computer: Garmin Edge 305 with heart rate and speed/cadence sensor

And, a few pictures finish the story.

Trusty new steed on Huron River Dr. - my fave!

Shimano Ultegra drivetrain -- even the pedals!

Command Central.

Fizkik saddle and I took a while to make friends.

From a lowly recreational bike to a performer!