Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bring out the Slop

Everything at our house comes in pairs.
Late winter and early spring road riding in the Northeast can and usually is a mixed bag. Some days are cold and dry but more often we will have wet, gritty and nasty road conditions even on nice sunny days. In fact, the nice sunny days are often the most causing the roadside snowbanks that we traditionally have to melt and flood out into the road. The other thing that we get lots of in New England is road salt. Nasty stuff for sure which loves nothing greater than to eat Toyota pickup frames or destroy your fancy bicycle components.

Each year we go through the motions of putting full fenders on a bicycle that we deem our winter training bike. Often this is some older beater bike that we don't mind giving the abuse to. However, the winter and spring training bike got a whole lot of use. You see, some of the biggest rides of the year tend to be in the late winter and early spring, before race season starts. These are the base miles if you will and often the will be four or more hour rides. Yes, that means long rides in often miserable conditions on a beater bike that isn't really all that much fun to ride.

Ready to go.
A few years back I made the realization that spending a lot of time in crappy conditions on a crappy bike was stupid when I had all sorts of nice bikes sitting around, depreciating. The reality is that bicycles and bicycle parts are not gold and they are not investments. They will not appreciate for the most part over time and worse, as sporting goods in a throw-away consumer based high-tech marketplace, they will become obsolete way too quickly even if they are in great shape still. With that, we started using nice bikes as our trainer bikes and have been doing so ever since.

Last year was basically a no-op with warm temperatures and no snow. This year has been different though, especially of recent. Early season we got some light nuisance snow, not enough to actually ski on but enough to make MTB riding difficult and the roads nasty. Then it dried up and looked as though we would have another banner year. Then it got cold and started to snow. Since then we have had cold, wind and wet roads. Throw in some occasional rain and it has been a mess. Good old fashioned winter is here, so to speak.

Disc brakes and full fenders keep things clean in the spring slop.
This year we purchased new backup cyclocross bikes with the intent of having them serve as winter training bikes as well. We made sure that they had clearance and eyelets for full fenders. We chose bikes that were good quality and not obscenely heavy while also not too expensive. We also chose bikes that had disc brakes. This was actually the prerequisite and impetus for getting backup cross bikes in the first place as our primary race bikes are disc equipped and I found it cumbersome switching from a disc to rim brake bike during the middle of a race, should an incident occur. That dramatically limited the possibilities, especially when coupled with the fact that we couldn't justify spending a whole ton of money after we had just gotten finished spending a whole ton of money on our race bikes, the pair of Cannondale SuperX disc that Cathy and I purchased this past fall.

The weapon of choice or at least, the weapon of physical and budgetary availability turned out to be 2012  Raleigh RX2.0 aluminum cyclocross bikes equipped with disc brakes. Chris at our shop was able to get these bikes in quickly during the cross season which was one of the biggest selling points. The competition was all unfortunately out of stock.

Sealed cables and inline adjusters.
These bikes came stock with a respectable Shimano 105 drivetrain which we promptly switched to SRAM Rival in order to be consistent with the SRAM on our primary race bikes. I also made a few other performance related improvements which included adding sealed shift cables and housings to help keep out some of the crud and keep the shifting working as well as it possibly could. A few other setup changes including stems and seatposts from the parts bin which got the fit inline, swapped to Avid BB7 from the stock BB5 also a parts bin salvage and a swap to the Stan's 340 disc wheelsets that we had left over from the tubular conversion on the race bikes were a huge weight improvement. With the wheels I also swapped the rear disc rotor from a 160mm to a 140mm, which is more than enough. The front could only take a 160mm or larger rotor though as it used the old IS mount on the fork rather than the newly adopted old standard post mount design, which has actually been slightly modified as well to allow 140mm rotors.

The finished product is a respectable if slightly pudgy by race standards, bike that has good working components and is as fun to ride during really miserable conditions as one can expect. It also has lots of spiffy green accents that look marvelous. Accessorize! All in all, a pretty good choice for the long rides in miserable conditions that we are in the midst of,

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