Sunday, September 30, 2012

Can You See Us Now? Ride 2012

This year a few of us participated in the Can You See Us Now bike rally.  The ride is to raise awareness of bicyclists on the road, and it is a slow bike rally from Nob Hill down along old Route 66 for 5 miles finishing at Old Town. I heard numbers anywhere from 350 to 500 riders this year.  We had 4 full Penultimates (Peggy, David, Ali and myself) and one partial Penultimate (Connor).

Its a pretty fun ride - biking down Route 66 gives you a new view of the city!  After a slow 45 minute ride down Central to Old Town we hung around at the ride end as they raffled off prizes.  After a little bit (enough time to give the small Penultimate some time at the park) we then rode back to Nob Hill by heading down Mountain, up Indian School, and then to the diversion channel and back along Silver.  We were meeting a lot of other Penultimates (a total of 12) for dinner at what was supposed to be Serafin's, but they were closed.  But we moved across the street to the Route 66 Malt Shop for delicious burgers and milkshakes and enjoyed a nice fall evening.  At the end of the pictures below is the blurb from the local news.  If you look closely you can see Captain Snookums just over the interviewed lady's shoulder at 15 seconds.

At the ride start
Bikes as far as the eye can see!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Raffle Results

The drawing results are in!  We sold 67 tickets for our super awesome raffle - a total of $1340 raised for the National MS Society!  Four of us met for beer at Tractor Brewing (our great jersey sponsors) on September 7th to do the drawing.  The ticket list was randomized and everyone was assigned a number.  The numbers were all placed in a hat and drawn at random by our lovely drawing picker TJ. 

The lucky winner goes to Jesse Gore and the ticket seller were Blythe and Andrew!  Between the two of them, they sold 18 tickets.  Bravo!  We plan on doing a raffle again next year, and we kindly thank all our wonderful donors that contributed to this years drawing - Rainbow Ryders, Heritage Hotels and Resort's beautiful Hotel Albuquerque, and High Desert Yoga!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rider's Notes: Ali on MS150 Day 1

[Here is a special writeup from Ali who rode her longest ride to date at 60 miles on day 1 of the MS150.  Sounds like they had a great ride!]

So, putting aside the fact that this is only the second time I've ridden with a big group and that this would be my longest ride to date, I think I was in great spirits.  The day was beautiful, everyone else was really excited, and I was set to ride with a great group of women.
Captain Snookums with Ali and Val in pursuit!
Owing to a very disorganized start, Val and I got separated from the rest of our group.  We tried valiantly to catch up with the Flying Scotsman, but he proved too elusive.  Instead we agreed to make our way to the first stop together and catch up with everyone there.  We arrived in time to see a pack of Penultimates take off, find Margaret, and realize that we had somehow already lost Jen (sorry Justin).

So, the three of us headed off together with newly introduced Margaret and Val totally hitting it off.  I rode a bit ahead with some great ladies and had my first experience having to fend off chasing (large) dogs.  Thankfully I was with a group and not alone.

We caught up with Jen at rest stop 2.  She had been in such a groove she didn't feel like stopping.  We had time for Val and Margaret to stretch, down a couple fabulous cookies and contemplate chasing them with pickles (more on that later).  The next 10 miles, while mostly uphill and against the wind, I found truly hilarious.  I think Val found her true calling.  Instead of training dogs, she should switch to training people.  Remarks of note, and by no means in entirety, include: "you need to peddle faster", "If I see you with straight arms again I will smack you".  I laugh, but only because most of the harassing was not directed towards me.

We reached our turn around time in order to cheer on Buddy, Dave and Peggy who were just leaving.  More stretching, some amazing muffins and more hydrating.  At this point we had a discussion about the irony of being thanked by the many volunteers.  This is humbling to me because I feel like I have the easy job.  I get to ride my bike, with amazing people through beautiful scenery, stopping at my leisure to quickly inhale all food and liquid in my way.  They have to sit in the heat, in the same spot, for 6 hours taking care of sweaty, stinky, tired riders.  I totally have the easy job.

At rest stop 3!
Moving on, we'd been warned about some stray dogs chasing riders on the return.  Witness Val aka:  Mama Bear - fending off dogs armed with sticks, and continued harassment about form.  Amazing!  We made back to rest stop two in really good time.  More stretching, cookies and pickles and off we go!  Not my favorite stretch of road ahead.  Although it had a wide shoulder it also featured several inch deep rumble strips which made the inevitable switching back and forth a little teeth-rattling.

Our last stop of the day was by far my favorite for atmosphere.  The family in charge of the Walk MS in Santa Fe decorates tents in a luau theme, complete with Tiki bar and dancing hula boys (coconut bras optional).  Not only did they offer mango juice, chocolate covered strawberries and brownies, but it was a great boost to spirits for the last 10 miles.  In a happy turn of events, we met up with Peggy, Dave and Buddy, who had been slowed by Buddy's tire trouble.  Margaret also needed a quick tune up and we were soon revved up to finish.

It was nice to ride in a good sized group as we headed back into Espanola, giving us a bit more visibility.  Our Tiki stop revving lasted, at least for me, until the last climb into Pojaque.  A quick stop for fortification for the last 3 miles and it was smooth sailing into the Casino parking lot with the 7 of us finishing together.  That was pretty cool, I must say.
the seven of us finishing strong
We probably spent the next hour talking about how amazing Fritos, popcorn and creamsicles are.  I believe the words "life changing" may have been used.  The simple pleasures.

Regrets: only ate one muffin at rest stop 3, didn't bring extra chamois butter, having tutu envy

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rider's Notes: Larry on the MS150

[Here is a special writeup from our mystery rider from Colorado, Larry.  I am so glad he could join us on the ride this year and I hope he returns to ride with us next year!  By far the strongest rider in our pack, he hung with us - Team C - the first day through all our tire troubles and general slowness to finish the whole 100 miles with the Penultimates!  Thanks Larry, we had a great time!]

Looking fast on the descent!
Any MSer who is reasonably adept at riding a bike owes it to themselves to try this ride. The challenge this ride offers, the phenomenal organization, and the relatively limited number of riders make it a real gem among MS bike rides. Thank you Maggie, Krista and Dave for once again putting on such an incredible Bike MS experience.

It can truly be said that Pedal los Pueblos is a ride for “Those Who Dare”. If I had been on my own I probably would not have done the century on the first day but of course, whenever you put 4 guys and one girl together the dares get bigger, even when two of those guys have MS, (me and our team captain). Screw the MS, screw the heat, never mind the piles of loose gravel on the road and who cares if we add a few hundred more feet to the climb that day. The century was not an option, it was a given.

Almost as soon as we got down from the out and back century and headed up the last hill before the lunch stop, our strongest rider had a flat tire. Could be the reason he was fish tailing around on the century loop descent. Everybody stopped but I figured that 4 guys and one girl were 4 people more than enough to fix a flat, so I headed on up that hill planning to wait at the lunch stop just over the top. Turned out I might have been wrong.  Although bike repair on a hill, in the midday sun isn’t my idea of a good time, it’s possible my presence could have been valuable and had I stuck around we might have had an easier time later on.

At the top of the hill was a temporary, mobile rest stop manned by two very energetic guys. I generally don’t dismount right away when I stop after a relatively arduous ride and true to form, I pulled up to this rest stop unclipping one foot to rest for a few minutes before I dismounted. As I was standing over my bike, one of the guys came over and began to spray me with a misting bottle, a lightly scented misting bottle. A moment later, the other guy came over and offered to refill my water bottle, an offer I of course couldn’t refuse. When he brought my water bottle back he offered to clean my glasses. That was such an unusual offer that I didn’t understand it at first, but, when I figured it out, and as I’m sure anyone who’s ridden 58 miles uphill knows, they were covered in sweat and grime, I was ecstatic to have an opportunity to get them cleaned up. As a final FĂȘte de la rĂ©sistance , he offered a cold wash cloth to wrap around my neck. Wow! These guys are like super heroes or something, number 1 in the Nation, maybe the world. The fact of the matter is, after the pain of climbing the hills, enduring the heat and pedaling the miles fades away, it is all of the fantastic volunteers with a mobile rest area, or home made carrot cake cup cakes or banana bread and cookies that sticks in my mind.

Our little group met back up at the lunch stop and we all left together for the mostly down hill ride to the finish, hitting every rest stop along the way. The flat tire reared its head again in the form of a slow leak this time. We stopped to pump it up 5 or 6 times before we reached a rest stop where we could affect a permanent fix. The wind came up in the last 15 or so miles, getting pretty nasty at times with 20 to 25 mph gusts, but when you know your that close to the finish, a little wind won’t stop you. I finished the first day’s 101.5 miles in 7:20 saddle time, 10:08 elapsed time (yes, the rest stops were that good) with about 3,500 feet of ascent. I was tired and hungry and sore but I refused to contemplate what effect today’s century could have on tomorrow’s climb.

Day 2, the Truchas Hill Climb, or Why Selective Memory is a Wonderful Thing.

You have to ride about 12 miles and climb about 1,000 feet just to get to the Truchas hill and that’s good because it gives you a chance to work out the last of the stiffness from the previous day. The first five miles of Truchas are a wake up call for sure but they’re manageable, maybe the steeper grades in there don’t seem that tough because the morning air is so exhilarating and the legs are still reasonably fresh. But all of that changes rather abruptly when, at a certain point, you look up and see an impossibly steep hill looming just ahead. 

This isn’t the kind of hill that you try to stare down, thinking “You’re not so tough, I’ve got you”. No, this is the kind of hill that says “I will eat you alive, I will bring you to your knees and make you weep and beg for air and strength”. Fortunately, I remembered this hill and I knew, although it was steep, 11% as I recalled, it was less than a quarter of a mile long. Yes, it was finite, it was possible, I had done it the year before, I could do it again. I humbly bowed my head and stared just ahead of my front wheel and I climbed that hill, slowly, very slowly.

What I did not remember was that this was only the first of the big hills on the way to Truchas, and they followed in rather too rapid succession. Over the next two miles there were 5 or 6 more hills ranging from 8% to 10% grade. I began to realize that my memory had tricked me and I started to scramble for some new thoughts on just exactly why I wanted to keep climbing these outrageous hills. What I finally settled on was that the descent of these inclines would be more than worth the climb. 3 miles and 40 minutes later I was in Truchas.

I can’t just jump off my bike after a climb like that, my legs would not be happy about it. Fortunately I didn’t have to though because almost as soon as I stopped and unclipped one foot, one of the rest stop volunteers presented me with a cyclotini, gatorade in a martini glass complete with a green olive on a skewer. A few minutes later and I did lay my bike down and stumble through the crowd to refill my water bottle. Oh, and BTW, I was not DFL, not by 20 or 30 riders.

The descent was indeed worth the climb. I reached speeds of over 49 mph without ever having a death grip on the handlebars. My bike performed flawlessly, it was comfortably solid at those speeds. The road surface was very good, the curves were broad and sweeping and there wasn’t any wind to worry about. It was pretty much just a matter of tuck and go, go as fast as you can, as fast as you dare. After all, it was why you climbed that hill in the first place.

I finished the second day’s 55.5 miles in 4:06 saddle time, 4:39 elapsed time, with 3,484 feet of ascent.

Pedal los Pueblos, for those who dare,


2012 Ride by the Numbers

As always it was a great training season and wonderful ride!  I still can't believe how much we have grown this year, and how much we accomplished.  This year's breakdown:
38 total teammates (a 100% increase over 2011)
3 fundraising events
$4290 raised at fundraisers to fight MS!
Training season:
0 - number of bike free weekends since June 23 (team wide)
1 - case of Fig Neumans (a huge thank you to Newman's Own Organics)
1 - bowl of posole (don't ask)
7 - breakfasts at Serafin's (team wide)
1 - crash
13 - days of training rides
5325 - Miles of training miles (team wide)
At the MS Ride:
31 - riders Day 1
27 - riders Day 2
21 - riders to completed the Century ride Day 1!
23 - riders to make it to Truches on Day 2
28 - riders in Penultimate jerseys
6 flat tires (team wide)
30 Domo dolls on bikes, helmets, and backpacks
54 temporary Domo tattoos (team wide)
14 Penultimate supporter buttons distributed
1 cigar
1 fast rider (go Bryan go!)
4276 miles rode a the MS150 (team wide)
8 top fundraisers

$23,955.45 (and counting) raised by the Penultimates!

$169,486.55 (and counting) raised to fight MS at the Pedal los Pueblos!

MS150 Day 2: Captain's Log

Despite passing out at 9 pm the night before, the morning still came way too early!  We were to the ride headquarters by 6:15 to get our calorie load for today's ride.  You could tell from the way everyone was moving - slower with a few more grimaces or groans - that yesterday's ride had taken its toll.  But, even though the flesh may have been weak (and sore and abused), the spirit was willing!  Smiles all around, and everyone was looking forward to the days ride.  A map of todays route can be found here.

Always so beautiful and so epic!
The first 10 miles of today's ride is my favorite stretch of ride of the whole MS150.  As you slowly wind your way up hill from Espanola you bike through some spectacular scenery.  Farmlands and pastures, past an old mission church, on to gorgeous red rock and finally to a thrilling downhill into Chimayo.  Another great part is that early in the morning, there is no road traffic so the bikes take over, and you bike through this beauty accompanied by cyclist before and behind you.  Ali and I rode with each other the whole way enjoying the morning and the view.  Rest stop 1 also has some great food with coffee and donuts from Napoli Coffee.  Yum.

On the ride up to Truches.  This is actually a movie - this is how slow I was going.
Next up is the real work of the day - the brutal up hill to Truches.  It is almost a 9 mile uninterrupted uphill with longs segments of 8% and 10% grade.  Ali (sanely) decided to get a sag ride up to the top to see everyone, but I headed off for the climb.  I was lucky to be able to ride with fellow Penultimates John and Diane for most of the long hill, until we got separated in the last miles.  But I kept telling myself as we went up, that however hard going up, it will be that much more fun on the downhill.  I also take comfort in knowing my inability to do hills well is really due to physics. Yep, just physics and not overall lack of ability.  Seriously, read my discussion of it here if you dare.  My first year of riding, this was the hill that haunted me all training season, but I have found that as I ride more the hill becomes less of a big deal.  Yes, it is long and steep and difficult, but every year it become less "the hill" and more "a hill".

Cycle-tini in hand before I could even dismount.
Pulling into reststop 2 at the top of Truches,  I was excited to see the large bulk of the Penultimates at the top!  Counting the three fast riders that we saw descending as we were climbing up (Bryan, Danny and Larry), I think we had a 23 of our 27 riders make it to the top of Truches.  I also attribute this to superior captaining!   The sense of accomplishment of making it to the top, combined with the excellent  reststop personell and food - cycle-tins (gatorade with an olive on a skewer), tropical fruit cups, and pickles - made this a great stop.  Another plus?  Ali was up there to join everyone, having been sagged to the top. 

Go Domo!
We all posed for a quick victorious photo, before the long and fun ride back down to the bottom - a long 13 mile down hill to the next rest stop.  It was a blast!  It is fairly straight and long with a beautiful road that was resurfaced 2 year ago.  All conditions conducive to going really fast.  I topped out around 49 mph, which is pretty close to my theoretical terminal velocity (again, it's all physics - read about it here).  Many miles later with Calvin still close behind even after me trying to lose him for the last 13 miles, we pulled into rest stop 3 to see the rest of the team waiting for us.

At this point of the ride, you only have 20 miles left.  I was really looking forward to the next little go - to be able to ride both with Ali and most of the team.  But fate was against me, and my back tire exploded about 5 minutes after arriving for still unclear reasons. Lots of wear on the back tire, so maybe the tube got too hot?  All I can say is thank goodness it happened then, and not when I was bombing down at almost 50 mph!  No mechanic here, so I got sagged to the next stop to leave everyone else to pedal the 10 miles to catch up with me.

Got there and got my wheel all fixed up and ready to go with some time to chat with some fellow riders.  Finally everyone arrived, and I headed off with Ali on the final 8 miles of the day.  Fairly uneventful, but we crossed the finish line together which was really nice.  All told, a very successful end to the 2012 Pedal los Pueblos season!

Friday, August 31, 2012

MS150 Day 1: Captain's Log

The alarm went off early, but we were pretty excited to stat the ride and rolled out of bed at 5:15 am.  Connor was sleeping in his crib in our room, so we carefully snuck out of the bedroom and out to the living room which contained our biking clothes and bikes.  We quickly got dressed and brought Granny over from next door.  Just when we were going to leave Connor awoke in the next room.  Sorry Granny!  But we left the two of them reading some stories and let them know they should try to head over to the ride start by 6:30 am to see us off.

We headed to the ride head quarters in the darkness to eat some bananas, hard boiled eggs, and oatmeal at the ride center with some of our other bleary eyed teammates.  After that there was a flurry of activity of attaching rider bibs, securing Domos to helmets and bikes or stuffing him in backpacks. (Thanks again Val for the cool idea!).  We got a team photo at 6:45 but we probably only had about 20 out of our 31 riders represented.  Such is the chaos of the morning ride.
The official picture, although missing quite a few riders.
The Penultimates more or less left as a pack, with the riders intending to do the slow ride leaving near the end.  I departed with Ali and we cruised by Connor and the grandparents who gave us a warm send off.

And we were off - heading toward Espanola with a cool police escort.  Always fun to ride on the road as if there were no cars around!  Ali told me to go ahead and try to catch some of the riders doing the longer ride, but I am not that fast and ended up riding up most of the next 10 miles solo.  Just as I pulled into the first stop the bulk of the Penultimates were just leaving, with the instructions to plan to stop at every other rest stop (meaning that rest stop 3 at 30 miles was the next rally point).   I let them go ahead and waited until Ai got to rest stop 1 as well.  We spoke briefly, and then I headed off to try (in vain) to catch up to the main group.

I had a nice meditative solo ride for the next 20 miles, catching up with Buddy at rest stop 2.  I biked with him for most of the ride from mile 20 to mile 30.  Near the end, I caught a pace line with a few riders from Los Monos Ayudantes which included a fellow rugby coach from the Los Alamos HS program. We made pretty good time, and I closed the gap between the Penultimate vanguard and myself significantly.  I rolled in there just as the bulk of Penultimate headed off again.  I recovered and waited for a while at there to see if Ali and the other 60 mile riders would get there (Val, Margaret, and Jen) but they never showed up.  So I headed off again and rode with some new friends onto the next rest stop.
Domo hanging out in Buddy's backpack was looking at me for many long miles!
At rest stop 4 (mile 40) I caught up with Larry, John M, and Diane.  At this stop was the decision on whether to head out to do the 100 mile spur, or continue on for 88 miles.  My thoughts were that I could either drop the 100 mile spur, and catch up to the bulk of the main Penultimate riders and try to hang with them, but on closer introspection realized that I would be dropped by them too eventually.  For that reason, and lots of encouragement from the other riders, I opted to go with the 100 mile spur and headed out with John M, Diane, and Larry.  (Thanks for the encouragement guys!)

The spur was a rough ride as the surface had just be redone and consisted off chipped rocks poured into the asphalt.  If a few years it will be smoother, but right now it was the roughest surface of the day.  It also turned out to be mostly up hill for the 6 miles to the turn around (good thing I didn't look at the topo before hand or might not have done it), but we stopped briefly for some water and headed back to main ride.

After a little rest and recovery at stop 4/5 we were ready for the final 10 mile leg before lunch.  We also caught up with TJ, which had missed a turn and had gone out about 6 miles before returning to the course.  So the 5 of us headed out to complete miles 50 to 60.   It started with a relatively steep uphill section.  At about a half mile into the hill, John got a flat tire, which necessitated us changing the tire on the extreme slope.  Luckily, a sag vehicle stopped and helped us out.  John got the tire changed relatively quickly, but then it took us a while to figure out why his brake was dragging.  Finally after about 20 minutes we were ready to continue on.

Field changing the tire.
Both John and I had actually forgotten what this leg was like, as we both remembered it being mostly down hill after the initial climb.  That turned out to be wrong, as it actually was a long slightly uphill ride for the next 6 miles and one of the most grueling legs of the day.  It was hot, we were hungry, and the hill didn't seem to end.  Finally when we made it to the top there was a sag vehicle there that was giving out iced towels.  These things were amazing and just the thing to recover from a grueling segment!  All that was between us and lunch was a 2 mile descent and ride through the tiny town of El Rito.

We had a nice lunch in the shade of big trees with John's wife Mary and his kids who where volunteering at the lunch site.  After a quick lunch of sandwiches and chips, we headed off on the next segment.  According to the rest stop volunteers, we were only about 25 minutes behind the main group when we got there, so that stretched onto an hour by the time we left.  At this point we were 60 miles in, so 40 miles left and 3 stops.

Heading out after lunch.
The next leg was uneventful, a slight downhill the whole way with a few slight uphills.  It is the kind of riding I like, we kept a pretty good pace for the whole leg.  The five of us reconvened at rest stop 7 for  some bananas and gatorade before heading off again.

At rest stop 7!
The last 30 miles is when it really starts to feel like work!  The temperature kept climbing, the energy levels were dropping, and we began the not so pretty ride into Espanola on some rolling hills.  The five of us spread out a little bit but kept within view for most of it.  John noticed his tire was slowly going flat (so this makes two tire problems today) and we covered about 3 miles of John sprinting ahead for a quarter mile, quickly filling his tire, and repeating.  As we rolled into stop 8 (unbelievably without seeing any sag vehicles the whole time we needed them), his tire gave up.  John swapped out his tire again and after a longer rest (they always become longer near the end of the day) we headed out on the last 20 miles.

These passed rather uneventfully, if slowly.  We were just ahead of the van that was breaking down the rest stops (there were only a handful of riders behind us now) as we headed off.  The climb out of Espanola toward the casino was extra grueling, and my cycle computer showed just shy of 100 as we topped the hill.  The last little bit down the hill and to the casino went pretty quick, and we were greeted at the finish line with friends and family.  One thing I am very proud of is that I was the "penultimate Penultimate" to cross the line (the second to last rider for our team to cross the finish line).  Sure, there can only be one person to finish first, but there can also only be one penultimate rider too!

All told a long day - depart at 7 am finish at 5 pm for slightly over 100 miles covered!  We definitely could have shaved about 45 minutes off our time if we would have had better luck with tire, but a finish is a finish.  Take that MS!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Physics of Cycling II, or Why I am Awesome on the Downhill

[As a few people correctly pointed out, my previous analysis is for constant velocity - these totally neglect acceleration.  When you consider acceleration, more things come into play such as rotational inertia of the wheels, etc..  That is a whole other problem entirely.  Maybe next time...]

So believe it or not, while pedaling my butt around northern New Mexico this weekend I thought about the physics of cycling.   My last post talked about the big disadvantage heavy riders have on the uphill. But for every uphill there should be a downhill right? So this post will talk about the advantages of going downhill when your a big fat guy like myself.

So we will use the previous equation that talks that takes into account such things as rolling resistance of the tires, drag factor due to aerodynamics, the effects of headwind, and slope of the road. That equation still holds, the only difference is that our slope is now negative.

When we plot up some downhill slopes for two different rider weights, we see some interesting trends. As shown in the plot below, you will notice that the power output dips negative before increasing as the speed increases. This means it does not require any work by the rider to achieve speed on a down hill. In the case below, up to about ~12 mph both riders can just coast along using the slope. If the rider just coasts and doesn't pedal (when power output equals zero), this will be his terminal velocity on the slope. In the example below, the heavy 235 lbs riders terminal velocity is 13 mph compared to 10.5 mph for the 140 lbs rider. Supposing they are both cruising along expending 200 W (the output for a relatively fit rider), the heavy rider will go at 23.5 mph, the light rider at 22.5 mph.
 Things start to diverge as the hill gets steeper. For a 2% downslope, the terminal velocities are 16 and 20 mph for the light and heavy rider, respectively. If both expend 200 W, the velocities are 25 and 27 mph for the light and heavy riders, respectively. To think about it another way, if both riders are cruising beside each other at 25 mph, the light rider is expending 200 W while the heavy rider is only expending 130 W.
Things really start to diverge as the slope gets steeper. For a 4% downslope, the terminal velocities are 24 and 30 mph for the light and heavy rider, respectively. If the light rider wants to match the heavy riders terminal velocity speed of 30 mph (which requires no work for the fat guy), the light rider has to pedal at 200 W.  This my friends, is the origin of the phenomena known as "getting Scrymge'd".
Now lets just look a just terminal velocity. Assuming that wind speed is zero, the equation from the previous post can be rewritten as
Vt = terminal velocity in (m/s)
Ka = drag factor (kg/m) typical values 0.2-0.25
m= rider mass (kg)
mb = bike mass (kg)
S = downslope in (%grade) so 4% grade = 0.04
C= rolling resistance, 0.003 typical for road bikes
g = gravational constanct = 9.81 m/s2
which is the equation for terminal velocity of a cyclist.

The terminal velocity of two cyclists who again weigh 140 lbs and 235 lbs is plotted in the figure below as a function of down slope. For small slopes (<0.5%) they go about the same speed but then rapidly diverge. As one can see, the terminal velocity for the 235 rider is much faster than the lighter rider!  For a sanity check, my top speed on the descent from Truches last weekend which had long sections of 10% grade was about 49 mph. I didn't pedal, nor did I tuck that much (which would have reduced my drag or Ka). By the plot for a 10% grade my speed should have been about 47 mph. As we would say in science - pretty good agreement!
What happens if I would tuck compare to cruising down in a comfortable riding position?  In the comfortable riding position, my Ka is approximately 0.25.  If I could myself more aerodynamic so that my back would be the highest point of my body would make my Kapproximately 0.2 (which is the Ka of a professional road biker in a tuck which I probably couldn't achieve).  What happens?  I could squeeze a few more mph out of the descent - my Truces descent of about 10% would go from 47 to about 52 mph.  So tucking actually does make a difference.  To make your Keven lower requires body suits and funny helmets or even teardrop shaped recumbent bikes.
If you are curious about your own terminal velocity check out the 2D plot below. The x axis is rider weight and the y axis is the slope. The color on the plot corresponds to your speed. So say you weigh 180 lbs, to figure out your speed put your finger on 180 lbs and move your finger straight up to see how fast you are going on a given slope. If I head down a long 15% slope, my 235 lbs makes my terminal velocity almost 60 mph.  Yikes!
Google tells me that supposedly the one of the typical fastest down hill speeds is ~74. (rider JJ Haedo did 72.7 mph on the Giro de Italia in 2006, and the fasted Tour de France speed is 74.5 mph - but I can't find any reputable sources on that). Apparently, the pros get a little scared at speeds north of 50 mph so most descents are about that average.

Contact me for the Matlab programs that were used to were generate these plots.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Physics of Cycling, or Why I Suck on the Uphill

For all you non-nerds out there - avert your eyes!  This is the nerdiest post you will ever find on a cycling blog.  The bulk of this post is about the physics of cycling paying special attention to hill climbing.  Bored all ready?  Go read something else - maybe this.

Still with me?  Cool.  I am reading a wonderful book written by David Wilson entitled "Bicycling Science, 3ed".  He must be an OCD physicist who is really into cycling.  This book has everything related to cycling and more including but not limited such interesting/obsessive topics as: fast twitch vs slow twitch muscle fibers, properties of commonly used bike materials, gearing, heating of rims during braking, and the most efficient way that humans move (hint, its the bicycle).

I was particularly interested in the physics of rider/bike weight related to hill climbing ability.  Here is the master equation for cycling which relates rider power to bike velocity with effects such as rider aerodynamics, rolling resistance, wind speed, incline, bike and rider weight included:

W = Power delivered by the wheel (slightly less than what the rider produces due to losses and coupling efficiencies)
Ka = drag factor (kg/m) 0.1 to 0.3 small recumbent rider 0.1 large upright  rider 0.3, typical values 0.2-0.25
V = bike velocity (m/s)
Vw = wind velocity (m/s)
mr = rider mass (kg)
mb = bike mass (kg)
S = slope in (%grade) so 6% grade = 0.06
Cr = rolling resistance 0.02 (racing tires) - 0.08 (MTB tires), 0.003 typical for road bikes
g = gravational constanct = 9.81 m/s2
Before we proceed, it is helpful to discuss what rider power output actually means.  I have never trained using power, so all these values come from the book.  Supposedly a recreational cyclist on the flats usually rides at about 100 W.  A fit cyclist can maintain 200 W for hours.  The power output of Marco Pantani (an excellent Italian hill climber) who climbed the Alpe d'Huez stage of the Tour de France that has an average slope of 0.079 (7.9%) for 13.84 km in 38 minutes, sustained an output of 400W that whole time.  So I am guessing that realistic values for power output to be 200W to maybe 300W for the average weekend warrior.

Playing around with this equation in Matlab lets us play with a lot of different scenarios.  For example, what happens if we swap out road tires for mountain bike tires keeping all other things even.  The result?  For the same power output by the rider, you speed increases by ~3 mph going to the road tires.  [Most of the calculations below are for my weight and best guesses for other parameters, obviously yours would be slightly different, but the trends would hold.]
How about the effects of headwind?  Suppose there is a 10 mph headwind (not uncommon here in NM). Riding on the flat at 15 mph takes about 100W, while maintaining 15 mph in 10 mph headwind now takes 240 W.  Conclusion, wind bad.

What about the effect of aerodynamic drag?  A small rider in a recumbent bike has a Ka of 0.1, while a large rider on an upright bike has a Ka of 0.3.  Most road riders have drag factors of 0.2-0.25, where 0.2 might be for a tucked rider where the small of his back is the highest thing on his body.  So what does going from upright position to tucked position gain you?  For a 100W output, you would jump from 14.3 mph to 16 mph.  Not bad.
Now we get to the meat of my analysis - weight and hills.  My steel frame beauty, Guiseppe, is not light by any stretch of the imagination.  It is a huge frame and has heaver than normal wheels.  What would happen if I found a magic bike that was half the weight of my bike?  On the flats, nothing really.
How about on a hill - a fairly steep 10% grade hill?  If I rode a really light bike what would happen?  Turns out, not much either (plot below).  If my climbing power output is 300W, then halving bike weight would increase my speed from 5.25 mph to 5.66 mph.  If my power output is 400W (which it isn't), then halving bike weight would increase my speed from 7.00 mph to 7.5 mph.  So minor improvements.
Now lets look at the effect of rider weight (plot below).  Suppose we had two riders, one weights in at 235 lbs (me) the other at 140 lbs (not me).  If both riders are pedaling up a 10% incline at 6 mph, the heaver rider is expending 334 W compared to the 216 W for the light rider.  It is hard to be a big fat man. 
With a little manipulation you can turn the above equation around so that you can fix power and see how your velocity varies.  This is done for a heavy (235 lbs) versus a light (130 lbs) rider in the plot below. If you assume that most recreational riders are about the same power output level (which may be a good guess), the difference in speed on the hills solely comes down to weight.  For example, supposing two riders can output a sustained 300W for a hill climb.  The light rider will go 8.1 mph while the heavy rider will go 5.2 mph.  In order for the heavy rider to keep the same pace as the light rider, he would have to have a power output of >400W - or in other words be a stronger rider than Marco Pantani mentioned above.
That's not gonna happen.  So enjoy it you light weight skinny people!  Physics is on your side on the hills!

Enjoy this?  Check out the companion post about why going down hill is awesome for big people!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Satuday's Ride 8/19: Return to Jemez Dam

What a great ride for the final ride of the 2012 training season!  The 65 mile round trip from Nob Hill north to the Jemez Dam (details here).  It had it all - beautiful weather, a gorgeous ride through the lush farmland along the Rio Grande river valley, some ups and some downs, lots of flat fast riding, and of course some great teammates to share the miles with.  It also featured the greatest moment of my training season so far, but more about my victory later... 

Five of us - Gary, TJ, Laura, Eric, and me - rallied at the O'Neill's parking lot at 6 am a little surprised by the darkness and the relative chill in the air (here comes fall!).  We headed out through Nob Hill then up the north diversion channel just as the sun broke over the mountains.  About halfway there I got a call from Jeff, who had slept through his alarm, and plans were made for him to rally with us later in the ride.  After a quick potty break at Eric's office, we continued north to mile ten where we met up with Calvin and Greg who had biked down from the Northeast Heights.

Along the north diversion channel at dawn.
At the rally point, I quickly called Jeff to let him know where we were.  I just redialed the number he had called from before, and was taken aback by his voice, which sounded very womanly and kind.  After a second confusion, I realized I was in fact talking to Jeff's mythical wife.  Of course by mythical I mean seldom spotted and maybe imaginary sort of like a unicorn or a mermaid.  But barring some elaborate setup we have officially confirmed her existence.

Heading north toward Bernalillo
We headed west on the Paseo trail to eventually catch 4th street north after winding our way along Rio Grande, Alameda, and Guadalupe Trail.  Right around the circle (mile 18ish) Jeff finally caught up with us and we cruised north along 313.  We set a pretty nice pace line and cruised along at ~18 mph for most of the next 10 miles.  Getting closer to our first stop, Eric hopped into the lead position and our speed quickly edged up closer to 20 mph.  I struggled to stay on, and our pace line split into two.  But eventually we pulled into our first refuel stop in Bernalillo.  When I caught everyone Eric explained the sudden burst of enhanced performance - he really had to use the rest room.  

The next leg of the ride took us through Bernalillo winding our way on back roads to avoid the high traffic of 550.  From there we turned north and headed toward Jemez Dam - an mile spur up to pretty decent hills with a long descent in the middle ending at a nice overlook.  It was a fun ride as there was a charity run/walk to benefit the fight against diabetes so lots of runners and walkers out on the road.

At the Jemez Dam overlook
After a nice rest at the overlook, we headed off on the next leg.  First up we needed to descend one hill, climb another, then do the long descent down to 550.  As everyone knows, I am what is euphemistically called a "Clydesdale" rider - one who violates the tyrannically body norm of cycling by  weighing over 185 lbs (shocking, I know).  This makes me terrible on the hills but I make up for it on the descent.  So I saw my chance just ahead.  As we neared the bottom of the first hill, most of the other riders were in front of me, so I turned it on and built up a head of steam.  Right as the hill started, I blasted past everyone else like they were standing still - I was going about ~22 to their ~14 mph.  As I screamed past them I yelled out "see you suckers" in a fit of pure cycling joy.

As in real life, victory is often short lived.  True for me as well.  My speedy ascent began to slow I went from fast, to not so fast, to my normal uphill speed - slow.  To add insult, probably within 30 seconds I was overtaken by a few of the hill climbing demons who yelled out gleefully "on your left" as they passed.  Oh well, for short time I passed everyone on the uphill - and you can't take that away from me! My favorite post-script came from Laura who over heard a jogger observing my daring manuever yell out "Don't let the argyles beat you!"  Ha - if only she knew my true cycling style - always last.

The rest of the ride went rather uneventfully as we cruised through roads that criss-crossed the high desert on the mesa west of town.  Heading down Paseo de Vulcan, I kept thinking that this is where they film all the desolate desert shots in "Breaking Bad".  We wound our way back down into the valley to take a quick cruise through the hamlet of Corrales before making our way back to the Bosque trail. At this point, Jeff, Calvin and Greg headed off back toward home by making their way back up Tramway!  Ouch!

The five of the starters at O'Neill's headed back toward Nob Hill along Paseo and then the north diversion channel trying to keep a pretty good pace line.  As we neared the end, Gary's back tire finally gave up after fighting a slow leak all morning.  He phoned reinforcements (Rebecca) for a pick up who was conveniently stationed at Serafin's awaiting our return.  After the rescue maneuver, the five of them finished the morning at Serafin's while I headed home to relieve Ali, who as usual spent the morning watching the Boy-o.  All told a great conclusion to our 2012 training season!

Addendum:  Boo - Yaa!  [The following was written by Calvin who headed from the Bosque trail back up Tramway to get home.]

Three riders originating from the NE Heights broke off from the main pack at the Alameda Open Space, and embarked on a long climb back home along Tramway.  Along the way, Calvin half-jokingly suggested adding on a climb to the Tram Base, which to his unpleasant surprise was accepted by Jeff and Greg.  The joke was on Calvin though, because he was severely dropped halfway to the summit.  So, here we are at the end of a long day (pic) after 10 final miles, 1300 ft of additional climbing, and a couple of minutes waiting for Calvin: the base of the Sandia Peak Tram.  On a side-note, we were almost run off the road at a stop light by a crazy driver honking and yelling "Domo" names at us.  Apparently, these Penultimates (Danny Boy driving a truck with a 1-ton horse trailer) are such punks.  =)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Penultimates Raffle

For our last fundraiser of the year we will be holding a raffle for some pretty sweet prizes!  We are pitching this as a romantic weekend in ABQ, but you could use this however you see fit (really nice Christmas presents, time with the family, time away from the family, etc...)  

The prize of the raffle is a:

Pretty nice right?  A $575 value!

Tickets will be $20 and can be purchased from any Penultimate (email for details).  All proceeds go to the National MS Society to fund awesome science dedicated to kicking this disease in the nether region.

The drawing will be held on September 7, and the winner will be notified by phone and email and announced on this blog.

The fine print:

Hotel expires on 6/8/13.  Also valid at the Nativo Lodge (ABQ), Hotel St. Francis (Santa Fe), Hotel Chimayo (Santa Fe), the Lodge at Santa Fe (Santa Fe, duh), and Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces (Las Cruces).  Blackout dates are present.

Ballon flight expires on 6/30/13.  Not valid 9/25 to 10/25.

Yoga expires 10/12/12.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Rider Bio: Kenneth

Who you are: Kenneth Douglas (Erica's husband)

Why you ride: When you look this good in lycra, it is a crime not to ride.

Who do you ride for: All my peeps out there (and not just the yellow ones).

What do you ride: I am not going to lie, I prefer fat tires but when I have to roll skinny I ride my Specialized Tarmac Comp with Sram groupo (because Sram is better).

Longest ride to date: I once attempted the Swampman 100 in southern Georgia when I lived in N. Florida. However, my lower back started giving me pain on about mile 70, so I only managed 80 miles. Apparently my lower back couldn't compete with the awesomeness of the rest of my body. I have since replaced it with nanobots.

One interesting fact about you: I can transform into Optimus Prime...but only when you aren't looking.

Best cycling memory: Bombing down the Porcupine Rim trail in Moab

How epic are fig newtons in general: I don't think that the true epicness of fig newtons can be understood by us humans. I am convinced that scientists will eventually find that the cure for MS is in-fact...fig newtons.

Your post ride routine: I sign autographs for my fans.

Your favorite recovery meal/beverage: I drink chocolate milk.

He either pulled this off or crashed spectacularly.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday's Ride 8/12: Ali's first 50-mile ride of the season

[Ali kindly wrote up today's ride, which she subtitled her "first 50 mile ride of the season with seasoned Penultimates".  Her 3 fellow riders had all gone to Santa Fe the day before, but where in the saddle to get used to riding two back to back days.  Ali's write up below.]

That's right! Looking for more pain, Greg, Gary and Jeff joined me bright and early for the big loop around the city. (Insert the photo that should have been taken here...oops!)

Since the other three were in various stages of saddle soreness/recovery, I'd like to think the pace I set was just right for everybody. We made it Smith's in good time and headed up Tramway. No one seemed super excited about the tram spur, even taunts about beer buying didn't work, we kept going around. We said adios to Jeff at the Paseo spur and the rest of us kept heading down the Bosque.

It was a beautiful morning, but when it decided to get hot, it did so pretty quickly. We were slowed down a little due to a race on trail south of Tingley (Was that your race Eric?), and a little more due to my waning endurance. While the last 10 miles seemed to take forever for me, I was continually boosted up by teammate support. I still owe Gary a Slurpee for that!

I just have to say how lucky we are that we have each other to train with. I'm really looking forward to riding with everyone in two weeks!

Next weekend: looking for ideas. Hill workout? Jemez Dam part 2? City loop in reverse? Any ideas let me know.

And thanks again for a great ride!


Saturday Ride 8/11: The High Road to Santa Fe

Wow-za.  The high road to Santa Fe.  From Albuquerque over 65 miles with over 3200 ft in elevation gain.  The first 20 miles alone are entirely uphill.  A long day in the saddle, but a rewarding one!  This ride isn't just a ride - it is an adventure! It involves cycling through spectacular scenery, some grueling ascents, some heart racing decents, a train ride, great food, and of course good company.

Today 8 riders gathered at 7 am at our Nob Hill rally point for the start of the ride: TJ, Gary, Andrew, Jeff, Greg, Eric, Laura, and myself.  We cruised east through the city winding our way toward the mouth of Tijeras Canyon.  At about mile 7 we had a seat malfunction, and we spend about 20 minutes trying to MacGyver Greg's saddle back into proper position.  It proved to be more than we could fix with our assembled tools, so Greg decided to tough it out and ride with us the rest of the day. (Ouch!)

Our first major rally and refuel stop was at the Triangle.  There we talked to a few other cyclists who  were there because the road to the Crest, the ride we did last weekend, was closed due to a motorcyclist who had wrecked on the decent.  (Not a happy ending to this story, unfortunately).  Somewhat sobered, we headed out on the next leg in good spirits after eating many newtons, drinking much water, and slopping on more sunscreen.

Heading out of Sandia Park toward Santa Fe.
On the next leg leaving Sandia Park on the way to Madrid, we all kept a pretty good pace as we started down the first decent of the ride.  It didn't las long as we all started to split up into a few groups as the hills started - a series of four long, long hills, some with grades of 14%!  Eventually we all made it to the top of the last hill at the peak elevation on the ride at a little over 7000 ft.  

After regaining our breath, it was time for the exhilarating 5 mile decent into Madrid!  This was by far the highlight of the ride as we cruised down the relatively straight roads off the top of the mountain pass and toward the valley below.  Only as we pulled into the tiny art community of Madrid did we have to use the brakes.  We stopped at the general store which was stocked with whatever a thirsty, hungry, smelly cyclist could possibly dream of (including a very delicious Twix ice cream bar that did not last long after being liberated from the cooler).

The next leg on the ride was the final 25 miles into Santa Fe.  This is where the ride became work.  We had just passed noon and the sun was out in all her high desert fury.  It was hot - thermometers on bikes registered as high as 106!   We knew were were getting closer, but things seemed to slow to a crawl as we inched our way to the finish.  We rallied in the shade of a tree at mile 52, before the last painful 7 miles.  The contents of water bottles were all hot, legs were tired and burning, and the heat, my god, the heat!
Enjoying the food, company, and shade!
But then we made it - what a sense of accomplishment! We pulled into El Parasol at 1:30 pm tired, hungry, thirsty, and ready for a little relaxation!  We were met there by the significant others of two of our riders, and we all settled down for a leisurely lunch on the veranda.  TJ and Andrew headed home early with Virginia via car, which the rest of us rode the 2 miles over to the train station at 3:15 to catch the 3:45 train south to ABQ.

The hour ride train ride back afforded time for conversation or quiet meditation (read: napping).  After quickly deploying from the train (an highly orchestrated maneuver), we said hello to Ali and Connor who were waiting for us on the platform.  Five riders then headed home toward the diversion channel for the final 10 miles of the ride to get back home.  All told a long day, but a good training ride for getting ready for the MS150.  All told, 73 miles in 5:30 of ride time.  Go Domo!