• A Look Into the Life of a Collegiate Cyclist

    My thoughts on cycling and life, racing experiences, training, training tips, and various cycling product reviews!
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Aaand I’m Back….

After a month of beautiful weather and some great riding, I safely made it back up to Mars Hill yesterday in around 12 hours. Greeting me was even more beautiful weather! Dark skies, snow storms, constant freezing temperatures, it just doesn’t get any better, especially for riding! All sarcasm aside though, it’s pretty cold to say the least, but I’m keeping warm and will be spending a lot of my time on the trainer. I spent a good bit of time last semester on trainer and didn’t see any drop in fitness, so I’m not too worried. With the racing season right around the corner though, I would like to be able to get out on the road to ride as much as possible, also to test the new bike.

One good thing that has come out of all of this bad weather is a cancelation of the first day of classes, which is a huge relief. I also have a feeling that classes will be canceled Wednesday as well, but will just have to wait and see.

The Blue won’t stop looking at me begging me to ride it! The Rock Lobster is the designated trainer and bad weather bike right now, but I’ll have to get on the Blue more at some point to get used to the positioning.

I also met the two new recruits today which both seem like really awesome guys and I look forward to the training and racing we’ll be doing together! One of them is from Germany, while the other is from South Africa. Both boast an impressive riding resumé, so it’s great to have people of that caliber on the team. I managed to join them and some others for a trainer session today even though I was still feeling some of the long drive in me, but had a good time. Tomorrow we’ll be doing another session with a bit higher intensity and possibly some threshold tests. Wish me luck!

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Update and Pre-Review: Blue Axino

When it comes to cycling, but more specifically cycling equipment, not too much comes cheap. The idea of buying an entire new bike for most is quite a daunting thought. I was in the market for a new racing bike, when I was informed by the Mars Hill Cycling coach, Hugh Moran, that the team would be given a deal with Blue Bikes. I had already been looking at their AC1 aero frame, but caught draft of a new frame for 2011, the Axino. Without hesitation, and on a budget, I checked out this mysterious new frame.

Because it hadn’t been released yet, it was difficult to decide, but after taking one look at the bike on Blue’s website the decision was made! The Axino simply screams “race” with its compact geometry, BB30, sleek internal cabling, and downright badass looks. A frame weight of 995g doesn’t make the decision too difficult either. When the frame arrived at my door, I knew that I had made the right choice, and carefully tucked it in bed with me that night.

True to my word from a previous post and with no regrets, I built the frame up with SRAM Force, though the entire specification can be seen on the “My Bikes” page.

The first pedal stroke I took on our first journey on the road together, I seemed to move forward with ease. The Axino is undoubtedly fast, and after only a few rides I can already tell you that this is my favorite bike I have ever owned. It’s speed, stiffness, and comfort make it absolutely perfect. Adding to this perfection is the fact that the geometry “fits me to a tee.” My old bike left me a bit stretched out, but with the Axino it feels as though I’m on a custom frame!

As I get more rides in over the next few months, but more importantly take it out for racing, I will post a detailed review about the bike.

Blue is beginning to make a much bigger name for themselves in the U.S. cycling scene, and with this frame along with its fair pricing, its sure to be a huge success!

Keep an eye out for the upcoming review!

Click here to see more details about the Blue Axino.

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A Look Back and the Start of a New Season

Though it may just seem like another usual day of training, today is actually the one month mark before the first collegiate road racing weekend! In the past few months I’ve seen a lot of cold weather, some snow, and have unfortunately been sick on and off. Despite everything I’ve been able to get some great training in and cannot wait for the first race! I’ve had a lot of fun while up at Mars Hill College this past fall semester and am ready not only to get back up to training in the mountains, but actually to get going with my classes as well.

Coming from the Florida flatlands, its been a mission to get used to training in the mountains, but the process has been a blast. Compared to this time last year, I’ve noticed a definite increase in my fitness level for the time of the year. My favorite rides have been those that head up the Blue Ridge Parkway (about 20mi from school), not only for the hours worth of pure climbing, but also the descent back down.  Overall, I’m in love with everything about riding up here, especially the terrain. The weather has taken some getting used to, but as long as there’s no snow on the roads I’m alway up for a ride.

I even had the chance to give cyclocross racing a shot one weekend when one of my teammates had a wreck the day before, offering to let me use his bike for the race the next day. I’ll let you know, that before this race I had never been on a cyclocross bike, let alone be in a cyclocross race! I thoroughly enjoyed it though and could only laugh every time I would attempt to dismount, hop over the barriers, and remount back onto the bike. Though I was only able to do this one race, I’m hoping to be able to get a cyclocross bike built up for myself for next season. If you haven’t ever raced cross’, it’s a lot of fun, but its 100% go the entire time, and requires your total focus. So yes, it was quite painful!
Speaking of cyclocross, the team as a whole as well as the individual members had a fantastic season, finishing second at nationals for Div. II! The mountain bike season was also a success with Mars Hill finishing 11th at nationals with only a 2-person team! All of this has worked to push the team into the Div. II #1 spot nationally heading into the 2011 spring road racing season! The good news for Mars Hill Cycling doesn’t end here though, as the team was also named the 2010 Collegiate Club of the Year by USA Cycling!
As things are looking right now, Mars Hill Cycling will without question be a force to be reckoned with and the men’s “A” team is looking super solid along with the addition of two new riders this upcoming spring semester.
More racing updates to follow as the team heads into the collegiate road season!

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Review: Handlebar Comparison – Shimano PRO Vibe 7S vs. 3T Ergonova Pro

To some, like me, choosing bike components on a new ride can be a laborious task. Picking out handlebars for myself is no exception to this, and I find is actually one of the harder components to choose from. When taking into consideration your comfort while on the bike, as well as positioning while trying to remain somewhat aero, it’s easy see why this can be such a hard decision.

Two handlebars over the past several months have caught my attention, and I’ve had the chance to test both out to see if they live up to all the hype. Although they are two very different styled handlebars, they are both used for the same function which means its basically all out on the table.

First, is Shimano’s PRO branded Vibe 7S handlebars. These bars utilize a 7050 grade aluminum to have maximum rigidity and stiffness. On top of the material choice, the entire bar is oversized, not just at the portion where the stem clamps to like most handlebars. What this means is that you’re getting an incredibly stiff bar that maintains a respectable weight of 285g, not bad for an aluminum handlebar. To give you an idea of the level of stiffness, this bar was the choice of world-class sprinter Mark Cavendish for some time before he released his own version of the bars (same bar, different name). The bar is available in anatomical, compact, and traditional bends. Because it is what I was used to, I went for the anatomical bend. After using the bars for sprinting, climbing, you name it, I fell in love! They felt amazing under power and I quickly grew to prefer the oversized portion on along the top to hold onto when doing longer rides and climbing. The issue I found was that some bar end plugs wouldn’t fit perfectly because of the oversized tubing. Unless you have expanding plugs, you may find yourself having to wrap some extra electrical tape around the bar end before inserting it in the tube.

Next on the list was the 3T Ergonova Pro Aluminum handlebar. I have to admit that I was much more skeptical when purchasing this bar. I’ve never been a huge fan of the “winged” top handlebars, but I thought I’d give it a shot. Another feature of the bars that I was a bit unsure about was the fact that it has a flare. Handlebar flare is when the hoods are actually more narrow than the drops. Normally I ride a 42cm c-c bar, so I wasn’t sure if I should go wider to have the same width on the hoods. In the end, I decided to stick with a 42cm width meaning that the hoods measured about 40cm c-c. The main reason that these bars appealed to me so much is because they have both a shorter reach and drop than most handlebars. The reach is about 77mm and the drop is around 123mm, making it a little easier for those of us that can sometimes have a sore back. The final difference between this and the Vibe 7S is that the Ergonova has a compact bend. Compact bends generally make it much easier to get in and stay in the drops, and give you much more available hand positions while riding in the drops. Overall, I found that I was a lot more comfortable while using these bars. Once I got used to the wider winged top and compact drops, I couldn’t imagine riding anything else! There is without question a noticeable difference and increase in comfort when riding in the drops with the Ergonova bars. As an added bonus these bars come in a little bit lighter than the Vibe 7S, weighing around 260g.

Although the PRO Vibe 7S may be stiffer and have a little bit more “coolness” factor (personal preference), had I the choice to purchase another set of bars I would go with the 3T Ergonova’s. One thing to note is that the Vibe 7S is available in a compact bend, but the reach and drop is still higher than its competitor, meaning it may not be quite as comfortable (as least for me), leaning the odds again in favor of the 3T.

You may have noticed that I chose not to get the carbon version of either of these bars. Although at the time I had the option to get the carbon version of these, I now always stick with aluminum. Unless you just love the looks or want to be a weight weenie, I would seriously consider going the aluminum route. In a wreck with carbon, they may not always break, but you never know what tiny cracks could develop into an eventually break when you hit a nasty pothole going down a hill. To me adding a few extra grams is well worth avoiding the risk of injury.

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Review: Sram Components (Red vs. Rival)

VS.

With the many advancements being made in the world of cycling, there are so many new products out there that are pretty incredible. The only downside to this – the price tag.

I’ve had the chance to ride the three biggest competitors in the road components category (Sram, Shimano, Campagnolo), and Sram has won my favoritism without question. I made the “leap” to Sram when I purchased my current racing bike in summer ’09, going for their flagship “Red” group. It didn’t take too long to get used to the doubletap shifting Sram has incorporated into their unique and visually appealing shifters. When compared to the other two groups, there are some differences to be aware of, most good in my opinion. The most noticeable difference is that Sram components are going to sound much louder than both Shimano and Campy, especially if you are using the OG 1090 dome cassette. Second, is that the rear shifts are definitely more reassuring. By reassuring, I mean that the shifts are not quite as smooth as the other two component groups. Even when using the Red group, you’ll feel and hear a loud “clunk” when you shift. Personally, I prefer to have this attribute, especially while sprinting. The one bad thing I have found is when shifting into the big or little front chainring. When being compared more so to Shimano’s Dura-Ace, too much power on the pedals when shifting can sometimes result in a dropped chain with Sram.

Despite any flaws, I absolutely love everything about the Red groupset, so much so that I decided to sell an older Campagnolo Record group on my spare bike to replace it with Sram’s lower-end Rival groupset. After riding the new Rival set for several weeks, I’ve come to some surprising conclusions based solely on my own opinion and not hard facts. Overall, other than the weight and aesthetics, there wasn’t too much of a major difference that I could tell between Red and Rival. The most noticeable was the lack of the “ZeroLoss” function on Rival’s right shifter. Basically, it took a little more effort to shift the rear drivetrain. The second thing was that Red definitely shifted quicker, smoother, and more precise at times, but not by a huge margin. After looking at the differences, I find it somewhat hard to justify the $1000+ price difference!

Had I had this knowledge prior to purchasing Sram’s Red gruppo in 2009, I can honestly say that I would have settled with the middle-ranged Force group. Though Force is functionally the same as Rival, it’s a tad bit lighter, looks nicer, and only cost around $400 more. The only thing I might consider changing would be to use an all Force group with Red shifters to have the ZeroLoss to make the rear shifting just a little quicker.

Some people might just like to have the top of the line equipment, but my advice for next time you’re going for a purchase is to research every little thing and always have a test ride! You might just be surprised…

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First Ride With Some of the Team

Even though only a few of us went out for an easy Monday ride, I was pretty excited to get out and start learning some of the routes around school. This area definitely has a lot more climbing than the area back around Pfeiffer. Admittedly, it was kind of hard to have a recovery/easy ride with all of the climbing we had to do. Even worse, the person leading us on the route told us this was an easy route with “no hard climbs!” I know I’ll get used to the terrain, but coming from the flatlands of Naples, FL its the complete opposite.

At one point we found ourselves heading down an road with a number of cattle fields lining it. One thing I noticed was that one of the fields had no fences blocking the cattle from going onto and crossing the road. As I noticed this, we all saw what we thought was one of the cows standing in the middle of the road. Getting closer to it, all of us realized it wasn’t just a cow, but a bull that was pretty big! We came to a stop, unsure of what it might do, but the moment it turned in our direction and came towards us we all clipped back in and bolted away. In our getaway we were now being chased by three German Shepards which by the look of them, really hate cyclists. After one minor wreck amid all the chaos, we got away, but I definitely won’t be going back down that road anytime soon!


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The Year Begins…

I’m finally up at school and can’t wait to get started with riding and finally have some interesting experiences to share. I was being slack while home in Naples because there wasn’t too much news, but I’m looking forward to getting this thing back on the roll again!

I’ve been up in the Mars Hill/Asheville area for a little over a week now and I’m having a seriously amazing time so far. Asheville is definitely unique and a place that I can see myself having a lot of fun in for the next three years while I’m at Mars Hill College.

With our hotel only being about four miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, I couldn’t pass the chance up to go for a good climb in the mountains with my dad. We had planned to ride from Asheville to the top of Mt. Mitchell, but we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Having not been in the mountains for some time, and my dad only having a 23t ring as his highest gear, we had to call it quits before we made it to the top! We ended up with about 44 mi. and 4500 ft. of climbing, not bad for the first day. With the new Garmin 705’s GPS, I’m already planning tons of routes around school and back to the Parkway. One route is almost 11k ft. of climbing in 83 miles, we’ll see how that goes!

I can’t wait to get some rides in from school and find some nice group rides in Asheville, I’ll have a lot to share in the upcoming months at school.

A quick look at my half of the room!

I’ll be having several reviews coming out in the next few weeks so keep an eye out!


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