Saturday, September 29, 2012

Brief Ride at BPW

I rode at Bay Park West this afternoon.  I didn't feel very strong and my lower back fatigued early so I made it brief.

There's a steep climb that comes right after a moderate climb that I always have to pause and rest for.  I remember about three months ago, the last time I rode at BPW, I wanted to make these climbs in one go.  But by the time I got to the steep section it just wasn't in me and I didn't even try.  Today I made the full climb with no rest stop.  I think the cooler low-humidity weather and my continued riding made it easier.

Come to think of it, I made several other tough climbs.  I guess even though I wasn't feeling strong, I was still riding ok.

It looks like I rode 3.75 miles.  Once again my GPS logger had some kind of hiccup. Hmm.

Muni at Bay Park West - 2012-09-29

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Schenectady Muni Only Race 2012

Once again the family and I made the trip to Schenectady for the annual muni race.

On Saturday I went to the fun ride at the Pine Bush Preserve.  The turnout was small, with only Robi, Tom, and myself.  But it only takes a few of us to have a great time.  It was nice that the thunderstorms waited for us to finish our ride!

After the fun ride we went to Robi and Liz's house for dinner.   The tamale pie and sweet potatoes were awesome!  It's always nice to visit with fellow muni riders.  We seem to be a rare breed.

Today we raced at Schenectady Central Park.  We had 8 racers, which isn't bad, though it would be awesome to have double or triple that sometime.

This year we got a good picture of the Schenectady Muni sign.  It gives me a chuckle every year.  While the golf course is to the left, the muni race is actually to the right.  Someone should probably fix that.

In the past, Roland mainly organized the event, but he has since moved to North Carolina.  Robi, who has only been riding for just over a year, took the initiative to organize this year's event.  He and Liz did a great job, and we really couldn't ask for anything more.  Tom, who lives an hour away, helped mark the course early this morning.  Thanks for making it a great event guys!  Also, thanks to Heather Rizzi for managing the timing and insurance for the race!

The course this year turned out to be a bit different than the last two.  It was longer and took us into some super rooty sections and some extra hill climbs.  I liked it.  Unlike last year's 25 minute laps, this year's took me about 45 minutes.  But the rules were the same: as many laps as you can, and your last lap must begin before the two hour mark.

This year I didn't have the great Roland ahead of me.  My greatest challengers were Steveyo and Robi.  Steveyo is a strong experienced rider and has always placed in this race.  Robi is the newcomer who has made huge progress in a short time.

I'm happy to say I was able to earn 1st place this year!  Robi got 2nd, and Steveyo 3rd.  Each of us did three laps. (me: 2:17, Robi: 2:31, Steveyo: 2:32)  Maybe they let me win because today is also my birthday!  Nah. ;-)

I picked a skate-style helmet as my prize, but even cooler than that was the trophy that Robi had made for those who podiumed.  So cool!

Amy made her awesome muni cookies again for this year.  They're certainly a crowd pleaser.  Thanks Amy!

My GPS has never recorded the race properly.  This year it seemed to miss 90% of my first lap.  My cycle computer says the three laps totaled 11.3 miles.  That's just shy of my somewhat typical trail ride at Whiting, but this course is at least twice as tough.

I was happy to find my hill climbing abilities have truly improved.  I was able to climb every hill even when fatigued.  It's rewarding for me to conquer these hills that I was forced to partially walk the past two races.  I had some long clean runs on the skinny sections too.  I also made in over nearly all the log obstacles that are within my ability.  There are a few big ones on the course that I couldn't do even outside of a race.  Probably the biggest difficultly of this course is a few sections of insanely dense, and wet, roots.  But even on those I had good luck, falling a few times.

My lower back was screaming for much of the race.  It's frustrating to have that problem return.  I tried to straighten up and stretch as I rode, but otherwise I just had to do my best to ignore it and push on.  Toward the end of lap three my legs were pretty painful on the hill climbs.  But in general I felt pretty strong.

It was a great birthday weekend for me.

Muni at Albany Pine Bush Preserve - 2011-09-22

Muni Only Race at Schenectady Central Park - 2011-09-25

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tour de Webster

Today I wanted to go riding but my lower back was feeling stiff and sore.  I decided to do a lot of stretching and do a lighter ride.

I've been wanting to do ride a loop from my house through several connecting trails throughout Webster.  Since a good portion would be road and path, it would be an easier ride.  I also raised my seat a bit hoping it would help my back.

I rode on the street from my house to Webster Park.  I knew there was an unmarked trail-head on the eastern most side of the park.  From there I rode the trails, only slightly knowing where I was going.  I don't normally go through Webster Park this way.  It wasn't long before I was on part of my typical route and I headed out to Whiting.

My trip through Whiting was very direct.  I know these trails well and my goal was to pass through: blue to orange to red to white, exiting at Pellet Rd.

Across Pellet Rd I entered into the Gosnell Big Woods.  This is a pedestrian only trail, so I hiked through, pushing my uni.  As a board member of the Friends of Webster Trails, I especially feel obligated to honor the no-riding rules of this trail, and I did.  But I have to say I don't see the issue.  While the woods may contain very old trees, I can't see how riding on the trails would be a problem.  The trail surface appears to be like any trails in Webster and the trees would not be damaged from riding.  Perhaps this will be changed in the future.  I think it should.
As I pushed my uni along, I encountered a group doing trail work.  It was Alisa, a board member of FWT who has been coordinating many scout projects in our parks.  Today the project was to build some benches and extend a bridge with boardwalks.  I stopped briefly to say hi and continued on my way.  Nice work!

Once out of the Big Woods I rode around the Big Field, crossed Vosburg Rd and entered Vosburg Hollow.  It only took a few minutes to ride through Vosburg and I was onto the Hojack Trail.

Aside from the street crossings, I rode in high gear on the Hojack and made good time.  The Hojack was recently extended so I stayed on it the whole way to check it out on my muni.  Another option would have been to take the Bird Sanctuary Trail  to the Chiyoda Trail, which I would probably choose next time.  The new length of the Hojack was made by compacting road millings.  It works, but it's pretty boring.  We need some log piles or skinnies along the way to make it interesting.  Haha.

Finally I hit the end of the Hojack and headed up Philips Rd towards home.  This road has a relatively new bike lane but it's so flat and straight that once you've seen 10 feet of it you've seen it all.  I was able to stay awake for most of it.

Along the way I pushed pretty hard to make good time and there were a few good hills to climb on the trails.  My back didn't bother me too much.  Overall it was a fun outing.

I forgot to turn my GPS logger on until I got to Webster Park, but I added the missing road section using Google maps.
The trip was about 13 miles.

Muni Around Webster - 2012-09-16

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Spirit Ride

I rode at Whiting and Webster Park this morning because I was excited to try my new Spirit cranks.

Mornings are cooler now and I started out feeling cold, but not too bad.  The cranks felt pretty much like I'm used to, but shifting seemed a touch more difficult.  These cranks have a bit of a bend to them so I think I have to push my heel in even more than before to hit my shift buttons.  It might take a few more rides to get my shift success/failure ratio back up.

I felt like my riding was a bit sloppy because I was stepping off more than usual.  Also my lower back was complaining to me.  It hasn't bothered me like that in a long time.  I'm hoping my new seat post or saddle just needs some adjustment.  I may not have set it up like exactly like my old one.  Or maybe I was just more tired than normal.  I did notice I wasn't concentrating as well.

I cut my ride a bit short at about 8 miles.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2012-09-13

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Spirits and Fixed Post

Days ago I got my new Spirit cranks to replace my broken Moments but just got around to installing them.  The quality of Kris Holm parts is first class.  These cranks feel like they're from the future.

I also bought a new seat post.  The one I've been using has extra hardware on it to make the saddle adjustable.  The one I got is fixed, though the slotted holes still provide enough adjustment.  I figured it would be lighter but I couldn't find any numbers online so I just bought it.  Sure enough it is about 100 grams (0.22 lbs) lighter.

As long as I have practice making a comparison chart...

Old PartWeightNew PartWeightSavings
Aggressively milled KH Moment cranks - 125mm/150mm444 g / 0.98 lbsKH Spirit cranks - 127mm/150mm431 g/ 0.95 lbs13 g / 0.03 lbs
KH adjustable post (cut short)258 g / 0.57 lbsKH fixed forged post (cut short)158 g / 0.35 lbs100 g/ 0.22 lbs

That's another quarter pound removed.  Most of it is static weight and not rotational, but I'll take it.

I'm actually more excited to have a working muni than the weight loss.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Borrowed Nimbus

With my muni temporarily out of order, I spent the time to painstakingly compile and sort a list of every single muni rider in the area who might have an off-road unicycle I could borrow.  After four exhausting seconds, I had my results:  Mj or Jamie.

I ended up borrowing Jamie's 26" Nimbus.  He assured me he wouldn't be riding it this weekend and it was fine with him.  This was pretty cool because I've been wondering if I should get a bigger wheel.  My 24" wheel is the smallest size for muni, but 26" and 29" are commonly used also.

A bigger wheel interests me because it would increase my speed when I'm in my low gear.  And it rolls over obstacles easier.  But a bigger wheel scares me a bit because it would increase my potential speed when I'm in high gear, and will make climbing hills more difficult.

So I headed back to Whiting and Webster park this morning with Jamie's ride.  This is the first time in my 3 years of muni that I've ridden on a trail with a wheel that wasn't 24".

It didn't feel all that different.  Like my old Onza, his cranks are 165mm, the longest typically used.  My current uni has 150mm cranks.  It's kind of surprising how the 1.5cm difference can feel like a lot.  Obviously the circle path your feet move in is bigger.  Generally this makes for a slower cadence, but with the wheel diameter being bigger, I couldn't definitively conclude a difference in speed.

I did feel like the rolling over roots was a bit easier, as it should be.  The 3" wide tire, like I had before lightening my load, helps rolling over bigger bumps too.

I tried all the tough hills and my results were not far off from my normal ride.  At times I did feel like I had extra leverage with the longer cranks, but I questioned if there was some power of suggestion at play.  I didn't feel like the bigger wheel was necessarily holding me back when climbing.

I missed not having my Schlumpf hub.  Some of those long flat sections were begging for a high gear.  I also missed my brake.  I was able to descend most hills without a problem, though with a bit less control.  But there are a good number of hills that are steep and also have something of a step down in them.  Without a brake, the momentum gained has to be controlled with back pressure on the cranks alone.  But back pressure can only be applied most effectively when the cranks are in the right position.  Any extra drops on an already steep hill, with cranks positioned sub-optimally, caused me to dismount out of fear.

For now my conclusion is that a 24" and 26" wheel are similar enough that with different cranks and tires, their performance overlaps significantly.  I think I need to ride a 29er to feel a bigger difference.

Thanks for the loaner Jamie!  Both your cranks are still in one piece.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2012-09-02

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Broken Moment

Back in the spring I mentioned I was trying to make my muni lighter, but I never got around to posting the details, until now.

Weight matters because it affects acceleration, deceleration, hopping, and the response of the uni.  The most critical location to remove weight is on the wheel.  This rotational weight is the biggest contributor to the factors I mentioned.

So back in March I took my my unicycle apart, down to the nuts and bolts, and weighed everything on an electronic scale.  I didn't want to make any assumptions about where I could remove weight.
(Google spreadsheet of part weights)

I researched and purchased lighter weight parts.  Here's what I replaced and the weights:

Old PartWeightNew PartWeightSavings
Odyssey Trail Mix pedals566 g / 1.25 lbsWellgo MG-1 Ti pedals300 g/ 0.66 lbs266 g / 0.59 lbs
KH Moment cranks - 125mm/150mm585 g / 1.29 lbssame, but aggressively milled444g / 0.98 lbs141 g/ 0.31 lbs
Duro Razor 24x3.0 tire1421 g / 3.13 lbsPanaracer Fire FR 24x2.4850 g / 1.87 lbs571 g / 1.26 lbs
24x3.0 DH stock tube425 g / 0.94 lbsSchwalbe A 10 24x1.5/2.5165 g / 0.36 lbs260 g / 0.57 lbs
KH two bolt seat clamp67 g / 0.15 lbsWoodman Deathgrip SL Ti11 g / 0.02 lbs56 g / 0.12 lbs
1294 g / 2.85 lbs

That brought my muni weight down from 17.91 lbs to 15.06 lbs... almost 3 lbs!  And all but 0.12 lbs of that was rotational!

The tire and tube change removed 1.83 lbs of weight at the outside wheel, where weight is the worst. That's huge. But the tire is less wide, has weaker sidewalls, and the tube is thinner and more prone to flats (I got one in June).

The pedals and crank changes removed 0.9 lbs of weight.  I love my magnesium pedals with titanium spindles.  When I held one in my hand it the lightness was incomprehensible.

When it came to the cranks, I had seen a few examples online of people drilling and milling material away to make them lighter.  I remembered a friend of mine had a milling machine in his garage and he was willing to do some work for me. Thanks again Mike!!

Here's the before and after:

We went extreme.  It should be clear to anyone that removing so much material would significantly weaken these cranks.  But I'm lighter than the average rider and I don't do big drops, so I figured they had a good chance of working for me.  And they did... for about 5 months.

This morning I went back to Whiting to power up some more hills.  On the White trail I was on attempt four of a hard climb when PING!  I stepped off as if I was stopped by a root and found my pedal was on the ground.

When I first rode these cranks I feared if they broke I might get cut in the leg by the resulting sharp spikes.  My Achilles tendon was going to get severed.  Thankfully that didn't happen.  I'm also thankful I wasn't in a race or out of town.  In fact, I was at the trails closest to home.  Though, I was about as far away from the parking lot as possible.  I jogged back to at least get some exercise out of the trip.

On a positive note, I got home and ordered some new cranks.  This year Kris Holm replaced the Moment cranks with Spirits.  They're made of 7050 aluminum instead off 6000 series aluminum, making them lighter.  In fact they're 424 g / 0.93 lbs per pair, which are actually a bit lighter than my crazy milled Moments!  I got a few other goodies too.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2012-09-01