Monthly Archives: May 2012

New Hotness

Along with getting a new power meter, I also purchased a new road bike. One of the benefits of a surgically reshaped hip socket is gaining a whole heck of a lot more mobility. My trusty CR1 never really did fit right and it became more evident as I increased the miles and training after my surgery. I posted the CR1 for sale and quickly found an eager buyer.

I walked into Freshbikes with a few bikes in mind. A bunch of my Squadra Coppi teammates had the Cannondale CAAD10, an aluminum-framed criterium killer that was priced right. A couple Cervelo’s had interested me as well, the R3 and the S5. And of course the Wilier Imperiale has been a long favorite of mine.

I had ridden the Wilier before and liked it, but my biggest worry was the fixed seat mast. As I continue to adapt to my newly shaped hip, there is a likelihood that my bike fit could change. A fixed seat post doesn’t make it easy to do that. Another worry was the stock Imperiale is spec’ed with Shimano bits and I prefer SRAM. A custom-build might be pricey. The Wilier was out.

Getting a good deal for the sake of getting a good deal wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted the RIGHT deal on the RIGHT bike. I ruled out the CAAD10, it just didn’t feel right for me.

I test rode the S5 one warm afternoon and knew right away that this was the bike for me. It felt smooth, fast and responsive. It felt RIGHT. I didn’t even bother to ride the R3. Freshbikes hooked me up with a great deal, and made it even better when I was able to swap out a couple parts I didn’t want. They installed my Power2Max and I was ready to ride.

I’ve had the S5 for two months now. I’ve gotten to know it pretty well. It’s an amazing machine! It is without a doubt the fastest, best handling bike I’ve ever ridden. When you stomp on the pedals, the bike GOES. The bottom bracket and chain stays are thick and stiff and when you combine that with the Rotor 3D+ cranks you get a responsive, powerful drivetrain. There is nothing like that “whoosh” sound of rubber turning over faster and faster as you ramp up the wattage on the pedals. Out of the saddle sprints are stable and fast, the bike never feels loopy or out of control. When the road points up, the bike handles just fine. A slight shift of the weight rearwards and the rear wheel digs in and climbs great.

What may be surprising to some is the handling of the S5. This bike is smooth and stable in the corners. It handles like a rocket sled on rails. I point it on a line and it stays on that line. And not just, “oh, I’ll take the outside line.” It’s more like “I’ll take the line 6 inches away from the outside edge of the pavement and stay there.” Taking corners on this bike is almost like carving turns on a freshly-tuned snowboard. And that’s on the stock Fulcrum clinchers. It’ll be interesting to see how it handles on carbon tubulars.

If there is a flaw to be found, it’s when the road gets really rough. I’m guessing it’s a result of the straight fork, but the front end gets a little choppy over rough pavement. It’s nothing I can’t handle, and it’s not too big a deal, I just want to give as full a report on the bike that I can. It’s probably not the most ideal bike for Paris-Roubaix, but for the roads I ride this bike is just fine.

Some people aren’t too keen on the bike’s lines. Personally, I love it. I nicknamed the bike “New Hotness.”

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My Power2Max experience

Once I got the all-clear to resume riding and training from my Doc, I knew that a power meter was going to be part of the equation. Being able to quantify and track my recovery and progress is invaluable. But which meter to get? I had purchased a Power Tap wheelset from a friend, but after a couple weeks I realized that I’d probably never race on that wheelset and I definitely wanted to know my power output during a race. The logical solution then became a crank-based power meter system.

I started researching the different options and up until March I knew of only two crank-based power meters: Quarq and SRM. The Quarq is what a lot of my buddies had; it’s affordable and easy to use. However, I have heard on more than a few occasions that people have had issues and had to send them back. I’m not a fan of having to send things back repeatedly. The SRM is considered by many, including the authors of “Training and Racing with a Power Meter,” Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan, PhD, to be the “Gold Standard” of power meters. It’s been around for over 20 years. It’s reliable and accurate and SRM seems to have worked out any substantial issues. The battery is not replaceable, so once a year you have to send it in to SRM to get calibrated and a new battery installed. Doesn’t seem like a bad deal. The issue I had with the “gold standard” was that it was priced like it was made of gold! The SRM was out for me, it’s way too pricey.

Late one night, while trolling the internet, I discovered another option. A company called Power2Max makes a crank-based power meter and had just started distributing in North America. It’s a German company and they have been making their meter for a couple of years but it had only been available in Europe. Over the winter they sent a rep to set up shop in North America. Why they picked Vancouver, British Columbia I don’t know! I kid, I’m sure it’s great there. Anyhow, through my diligent research I read some early reviews and comparisons and heard about “drift.” Somewhere on the internets a reviewer claims that the Power2Max readings shift because the strain gauges don’t respond well going from a warm indoor setting to the cold, harsh outdoors. Message boards threw up hypothetical situations of climbing thousands of feet where the temp changes dramatically in the course of a ride and you absolutely had to keep pedaling and therefore it would “drift.” The more I read, the more questions I had. The price on the Power2Max was amazing, was it too amazing? Was it a sub-par product and that’s why it was a good deal?

One of the best ways to get answers is to go straight to the source. I e-mailed the Power2Max rep, Michael Wegner, and immediately got a reply. We began a dialogue over the course of a few e-mails and I felt like it was legitimate product and my confidence grew tremendously. I took one last look at the SRM and Quarq but I confidently decided to go with Power2Max as my power meter. One of the main reasons was Michael’s great customer service. If I had a question, it was answered immediately. Throughout the whole ordering process Michael kept me informed about what was going on. Having been in sales previously I really appreciate excellent service and Michael and Power2Max certainly delivered that.

I opted for the Rotor 3D+ crank in 170mm crank arms and a 130 BCD Power2Max. It doesn’t come with chain rings, which is fine because I like SRAM’s Red rings and their black version goes great with the meter. Freshbikes in Arlington installed the crank into my new Cervelo S5 and I was off and running. One of the first things I noticed was the amazing responsiveness of the drivetrain. It’s stiff. It goes when you stomp on it. I am no expert by any stretch, I just know what I feel. This bike with this crank is by far the most responsive, most solid pedaling I have ever felt. Hard efforts are rewarded with great acceleration and speed. I love it.

The crank is great, but what about the meter? That’s why I got the thing, right? Have I experienced “drift” like people say? In plain, simple language: no. After two months of use I have no reason to believe my power readings are inaccurate. I have not experienced any erroneous readings due to drift or any other crank-related issue. I use the Power2Max paired up to a Garmin Edge 500 head unit. My power when I first got it is right there with what I was doing with a PowerTap. Luckily after two months of riding, my power seems to be improving 😉

Where does this drift issue stem from? Cranks and power meters and strain gauges are all made from metal. Metal is susceptible to changes in temperature; it expands and contracts. Have you ever noticed when you go over a bridge there are metal gaps in the pavement? That’s to allow the bridge to flex and handle the temperature change. How does a crank-based power meter handle the change? They offset the change by zeroing the readings from the strain gauges when there is no load. Each manufacturer does it differently. I’m told with Quarq you pedal backwards twice. Power2Max auto-zeroes every time you stop pedaling for two seconds. According to “Training and Racing with a Power Meter, 2nd Edition,” with the SRM “(the rider) must create a ‘zero-offset,’ or ‘zero-point’ to ensure that the wattage will be zero when there is no load on the power meter. This is a FIVE-SECOND procedure and can be done throughout the ride with no detrimental effects to your data.” Here’s a pic of that paragraph if you don’t believe me:

They go on to say “This only tends to be a problem when a bike goes from 70 degrees Fahrenheit while parked inside a house to a much colder 40-50 degrees outside. It is a good idea to park your bike outside for ten or fifteen minutes before beginning your ride so that the metal of the crank and the strain gauges can adjust to the correct temperature.”

Here’s what I take away from this: ALL crank-based power meters and their strain gauges can be subject to drifts in readings in the event of a huge temperature swing. ALL drift will settle down in around 15 minutes when the metal gets used to the temperature change. Each meter handles things differently. It’s how the power meter and gauges handle the drift that matters. In my own, personal experience, the Power2Max is amazing. It auto-zeroes every time I stop pedaling for two seconds. I don’t have to do anything else. I don’t even have to get off the bike. I don’t even notice it.

Let me be crystal clear: I’ve never doubted the capability of the Power2Max to auto-zero and I’ve never doubted it’s capability to properly display my power readings. It is a terrific crank and a great power meter. It even has a cadence sensor built-in, what’s not to love? If I had it to do over again and all three crank-based power meters cost the same amount of money, I would get the Power2Max. Every time.

I’m not an engineer, I’m a photographer and an amateur cyclist. I have no independent test lab nor do I own four different power meters to test side by side and show you charts. I like getting the most for my money and I do diligent research when I make major purchases. The Power2Max works for me and I’ll continue to be a customer of theirs because of the great customer service experience I received.

Just do me a favor, will you? Shut up about the drift already. It’s a non-issue. Sheesh.

Here’s my crank:

What the duece?!?

Yep, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Things at work have been crazy and time just seems to get away from me. On the upside, I have been riding quite a bit. If I can’t ride AND blog, I’d rather ride. It’s just that simple.

April was a great month for me. I ended up getting a new power meter (more on that in a little bit), a new bike, and rode 18 days. That’s the most in one month since 2010! I typically kept my rides around an hour or so, at a relatively decent pace. Mostly in the little ring, or on the SSCX up the tow path and back.

May has been pretty good. My intensity has gone up a little bit, but not too much. I’m logging more miles and going to other places than Hains Point, though that’s my main riding spot. I even jumped in a “crazy train” one Thursday night. That was an experience, for sure. Nothing like holding 30 mph in a huge pack of riders.

For the most part, I’m not concerned about intensity as I am just logging miles and getting time in the saddle. Running the heart rate up every now and then is fine, and testing to see how hard I can go is alright, but my main goal right now is to build a base, get comfortable riding, get my hip flexor settled down and get ready to train eventually. My plan is to see how I feel after 1,000 miles and if my hip is up for it, I’ll do a threshold test. Right now my hip is great. If I stop riding, it tends to tighten up, but as long as I ride and stretch afterward, things are fine. My right quad, the leg opposite my surgically repaired hip, has been bugging me. It tightened up on me the other day and again yesterday during a 6 minute interval workout. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I took it easy today and just spun in the little ring for 3 laps at Hains Point. I’ve got about 750 miles in the legs this year, and I’m hoping both are up to speed when I hit 1,000.

Here’s a pic of me in Squadra Coppi’s new kit, featuring title sponsor Vapiano USA. I was taking a break during a 44 mile adventure on the SSCX. It was exhausting and fun, for sure.