Sunday, April 16, 2017

ride plus

Well, I've had a few chances to ride the Trek Dual Sport +. I rode with some friends last weekend, quite a bit younger than me, and the Shimano STEPS motor helped level the field a little bit. On Monday of last week I commuted to work. I'm still working on finding the best, safest route so I can continue to commute. And I enjoyed rides by myself on a couple of occasions lately when it wasn't raining.

One of those rides was this morning. It was a little cool, but not cold, when I headed out on a route that takes me to the western edge of town. On a weekend morning there's not much traffic, and it's pretty flat, save for a couple of steep climbs. I wanted to see how the "+" would feel on those climbs I'm so familiar with. Also, I took a minor detour to go down, and back up again, one of the hills I like to ride to train for climbing in Colorado. The sign at the top states that it's 8% grade, and I have measured it at a half mile long.

Overall, I got a brisk 26 miles in. The assist was nice to keep my speed up on the flat sections without knocking myself out. It also really helps to get off the line fast. If I got myself into the right gear before I stopped at a stop light, it only took a couple of pedal strokes to get up to speed again. And on the climbs, the right gear, the right cadence let me maintain a speed anywhere from 15-18 mph. It was even possible to increase my speed as I climbed!

As I rode I couldn't help but think about cadence. Paul Sherwin and Phil Liggett used to talk about the difference between the cadence of  Jan Ullrich and that of Lance Armstrong. Ullrich used his massive thighs to turn the cranks in a high gear. Lance would spin the pedals in a much lower gear. Time after time Lance was able to pull away from Ullrich at a critical junction in various stages of the Tour de France. Okay, maybe blood doping had something to do with it, but Lance was exerting himself aerobically, which was easier to recover from than the buildup of lactic acid that must have accompanied Ullrich's efforts.

While I've never been even a poor facsimile of a professional racer, I have tried to be aware of cadence and have tried to spin the pedals rather than muscle through the big gears. As I'm getting used to riding the DS+, it's becoming clear that to get the most out of this bike, you've got to pedal more like Lance, and less like Jan.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

new ride

It's been a while since I posted here. There's been little to report about resurrecting the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour. I have registered to ride RAGBRAI in July, but there's been precious little riding since last fall. That is going to change.
My bike shop at Scheels in Overland Park, KS has started carrying a selection of Ride+ bikes. We have men's Dual Sport and women's Neko dual purpose or hybrid bikes. We have a men's and women's Lift, and a men's and women's Electra Cruiser. The Electras come with a Bosch battery/ motor system, and the Treks come with Shimano STEPS (Shimano Total Electric Pedal System).

The idea behind "Plus" bikes is that you can get a little help when you ride your bike. You can ride without the system turned on, or you can choose from 3 or 4 different levels of help. You still have to pedal, but the motor can help you maintain your speed going up a hill, or keeping a brisk pace without working too hard on the flats.

To get us up to speed on these bikes we've had training sessions and chances to take them out and ride around the store. In addition, one person from each store was picked to ride one of these bikes as much as possible over the next 4 months. I was picked/ volunteered to fill that role for our store. Last week I brought home a Trek Dual Sport Plus, in my size, with the intention of riding it as much as I can, and commuting as much as possible.
I took the bike for an inaugural ride today. It was cold and cloudy, but I bundled up and headed out to see what I could learn. The main thing is that this is a bike. A 1x10 drivetrain gives you plenty of gears to choose from for most terrain, but you can't just put in in the biggest gear and expect the motor to help you go fast. You have to be in a gear that you can spin the pedals, and allow the motor to help maximize your effort. If you do it properly you can maintain your speed, or even increase it as you climb a hill. I found one stretch of maybe 1/8 of a mile at about 7% grade, and from a stop was able to get up to 17 mph by using the right gear on the bike, and the highest level of help from STEPS.

I'm really looking forward to riding this in some different places, as well as tackling my 8 mile commute. I added a rear rack, and a Bontrager Ion R/Flare City Light Set, and am thinking about a rear trunk bag. If you're interested, I'll be reporting on the bike and my status as a new commuter. And hopefully there will be more stories about RAGBRAI and future Colorado rides.