21 July, 2015

Fear No Rock ... Or Repair!

I love my Clackacraft 16LP MegaBox drift boat. The layout has tons of storage and is easy to access. The boat rows like a dream. And, despite having had a hard life as a working guide boat, she's in solid shape.

I also love companies who stand behind their products. Had it a year back with my Remington Versamax shotgun when not only did they replace a problem part I identified, but also checked and found a few others and sent those - despite being over a year out of warranty. Nice!

Recently I've notice that the rower's bench in my Clacka won't stay put. It rides on rails so you can adjust for different leg lengths, gear loads, etc. Even when thoroughly tightened, as soon as you get your feet on the brace and pull a good oarstroke, you slide back. Gets old fast.

So, I give Clacka a call this morning, figuring I'll need to order some new screws or something. As soon as I get the guy on the phone it's evident that he knows this problem well. "Do you have the plastic clip or the metal one...". Of course, I don't know as I've yet to take it apart. "No problem," he says "I'll send you out a set and some new screws. Just give me your address." Wow - impressive. No warranty questions, no hassles, and no charge.

And that, my friends, is why I'll likely never row another brand of drift boat. I truly value companies who stand behind their products. When I hit the Lottery ($152 mil drawing tonight, just sayin'), I'm ordering up a Clackacraft 16' Eddy in Central Michigan Chippewas maroon and gold.

Looking for a new drift boat? I can't say enough good about the Clackacraft brand. Well-built, and well-backed! Kudos!


17 July, 2015

Bike Fit Follow-Up

At this point, I've got in 250 or so miles since the fitting with Jess Bratus of fitmi!. I've ridden as long as 73 miles and as short as 20 miles. What I have now is a bike that gets even more comfortable the more I ride it.

Round One wasn't a rousing success. The SMP Avant saddle that felt good on the trainer in the fit studio proved not to work for me on the road - I'm actually convinced that it actually had too much padding. In an effort to get me in a more upright position, she swapped out my 8 degree stem for a taller 17 degree model. While the shorter reach felt better, bike handling quality really went downhill.

Just like ski boot fitting, bike fitting is a process. It's such a myriad of small adjustments and every body structure is different. So, back I go. Jess immediately smiles and says, "Well, sounds like we need to do a follow-up fit session - we'll get all that taken care of easily enough!" Cool - that's what I want to hear from my master fitter; confidence.

At my initial fitting, Jess mentioned that she had some new saddles coming in from SQ Labs of Germany. A number of long-distance riders are thrilled with this line and she feels really good about what she's learned. Fortunately for me, but my second visit, they had arrived. We quickly settled on 611 Race model. This model seems to fit my need for minimal padding with some flex in the seat base. Feels much better than the SMP on the trainer, so I'm cautiously optimistic.

Next is the stem. In addition to making my sweet ride look like Grandma's upright condo cruiser, introduces some really squirrely handling. At the first fit we'd discussed my traditional bend Bontrager bars (and how they fit almost no one!) and swapping them for a shorter reach bar with more compact drops. This will enable me to return to the stock stem, but get a shorter reach for a more relaxed stance. So, a pair of FSA Vero Compact bars are ordered. She's eager to get me able to comfortably ride in the drops, for more efficiency and to be able to comfortably vary riding position on longer rides.

I head off happy and feeling like we're making progress, full well knowing that the proof will be on the road.

In the morning I set off on my regular 35 mile training loop. From the outset, I'm liking this saddle. It's got the pressure relief of the SMP for the nether regions (or "soft tissue" as the industry so delicately refers to them, but rather than feeling like I'm sitting "in" it, I feel as though I'm "on" it. My sit bones seem to rest at the right location as well. It's a little harsh, but feels like this is more ass acclimitization and saddle break-in than anything else. Best of all, my ride is faster than before, while feeling like I'm not working as hard.

Lizard Skins bar tape - SWEET!
A few days later, my handlebars show up. I take advantage of this to replace the bar tape. Jess suggests the Lizard Skins DSP 3.2mm. In addition to a nice tacky grip and good cushioning, the tape is actually RED rather than the pinkish of my previous Bontrager tape.

The following day's ride is EPIC! Saddles feeling really nice and these bars are such an improvement! The miles melt away and I return home happy. In the ensuing week, I knock off a 64 and a 73 mile ride. Both feel great, but best of all is the next day - no lingering soreness. This tells me we got it! I'm now riding 50% of the time in the drops so that makes me happy.

Up next? The 'cross bike. When I started this, I was really looking to fine-tune for longer rides. Whereas on the 'cross bike, I know I have some issues.

If you're in SE Michigan and having fit issues, I highly recommend a visit to Jess. You won't be disappointed!


02 July, 2015

Rules of the Road

I read an article a couple of months back in Outside magazine about the significant increase in the number of cyclists being injured in motor vehicle collisions. The article has definitely been food for thought in recent weeks. It does seem clear that we all (cyclists and drivers) need to learn to follow the rules of the road. I've been much more observant of behaviors among both groups and we have a long way to go before the roads get safer for cyclists.

Since reading the article, I'm amazed at the number of stupid things I see cyclists do on the road that makes us deserve some of the driver's wrath. For example:

  • Riding the wrong way on one-way streets. WTF? Cars can't do it -why are you?
  • Ignoring stop signs. OK, we all slow-roll some in lightly trafficked areas. I'm talking about brazenly blasting through, often without looking.
  • Riding on the sidewalk. Most non-cyclists are amazed when I tell them that in a significant number of municipalities that bicycles are illegal on the sidewalk. If you're biking on a sidewalk, you run the risk of injuring pedestrians, but you're also virtually impossible to see for drivers turning at intersections. Stay on the road.
  • Not owning the lane. We expect to be treated like other vehicles on the road, yet many of us don't behave like one. Don't make a left turn from the right lane, put on your Big Girl Panties and jump in the left turn lane like a boss!
  • Helmets. Wear one. And, if you do, buckle the stupid strap. In addition to making you look like an asshat, this pretty much removes any benefit the helmet might deliver.
  • Riding two (or more) abreast. Unlike the previous items, which are mostly on less serious cyclists, the hardcores tend to be the issue here. Yeah, it's legal to ride two abreast. It's also stupid. And when a heard of you just takes over a lane, blind to vehicles around you, it just pisses drivers off. Particularly if you're all wearing some matching team kit...
I am truly amazed at the stupidity and anger I encounter on the road. Curiously it's been better this year - maybe more bikes on the road increase awareness? But it's still there.
  • If you wouldn't pass a car, don't pass me. You wouldn't pass a Buick on that twisty, hilly road. What makes you think you can somehow magically slip past me and not cross the center line? And when you do encounter that oncoming car, are you going to hit it or take me out? Yeah, we both know the answer on that one.
  • Stop honking the fucking horn. Yes, I dropped the F Bomb there. For a reason. I get this all the time. I'm riding a virtually silent vehicle, and you're rolling along in 4,000 pounds powered by internal combustion. I know you didn't see me, but I heard you a LONG time ago. There's no need to "let me know you're there" with the horn. I'm quite aware. If you startle me and I fall or swerve in front of you, both of our days are ruined (oh, and I'm dead...).
  • Put down the smartphone. I'm constantly scanning road looking for signs of driver distraction. You'd be surprised how many of you I see peering into tiny screens.
  • Give me a little room. When you pass properly, without oncoming traffic, there's plenty of room for you to pass. Take it.
  • Slow down. Many times I see that way-too-close-way-too-tight pass from people who are just driving far too fast for the road and were surprised by me. That extra 10 mph on a 10 mile drive isn't going to get you there any faster.
So, there you go - we all need some improvement with following the rules of the road. Hope these reminders are helpful, no matter which group you fall into.