Easter riding

I spent the best part of Easter in Tampere. Since the weather was supposed to be nice I brought along my vintage Bianchi. The plan was to ride around the lake Pyhäjärvi following the Pyhäjärven maisemareitti route. This turned out to be a great idea as you can see from the pics below. I loved the gravel grinding along recreational paths and especially the short single-track sections were great. I give two thumbs up and recommend the route.

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I’ve been meaning to ride the Nuuksio roller-coaster for a while now. The hills on the road to Solvalla are murderous going uphill, but riding them down fixed was too much for my knees.Coming back I ended up flip-flopping my freewheel. I took too many pics on the way so now I have to go back  to improve my strava.com results.

 

Crash free (so far)

Giro d'Espoo 2012

Watching the absolutely brutal 2014 Ronde de Vlaanderen and  gruesome Paris-Roubaix it was apparent that road cycling is a very dangerous sport to all those involved.  Having been at it for four or five years already this far the closest I have come to a serious injury was having to swerve to a ditch to avoid collision. I think there has just been two other times when I have had to panic break in paceline. This far all these incidents have taken place going uphill. Still the web is full of horrible amateur crashes and pro tour races are no better. I realize I may have just been very lucky, but I hope this trend continues.

Some of my good luck might have to do with the fact that I mostly ride solo or in small groups. The only challenges are posed by the errant motored drivers (taxicabs, lorries and busses no less) and oblivious dog walkers/randow drunks. Dealing with people on bike paths is pretty annoying at times, but I try to be courteous. The professional drivers and other assholes are a bigger problem. It is not the way they squirt windows cleaner liquid in your eyes, honk right behind you or flip a bird, but the way they nonchalantly just ram right in front even if they see you is what scares me.

Second reason for having been so lucky might be the vocal members of the local cycling club. They have usually been quite eager to stamp out any divergences from good paceline form. The most horrific crashes I’ve witnessed were in sportives with people from different backgrounds and maybe trying too much.  I’m considering doing the Vättern, TdH and l’Eroica sportives so I need to consider ways to minimize the risks associated with this sport. 300km at night and Tuscany’s gravel roads are nothing to underestimate.

I do wear a helmet, but also wearing gloves could avoid unnecessary road rash. Shaving your legs is supposed to help in recovery so that is another step I could take. While all these precautions are good the most important thing is still to ride wisely. Showing hand signs and staying focused are mandatory. Keeping close to the head of the pack is a way to avoid the yo-yo effect and its repercussions. As long as you can keep upright yourself you should be pretty safe as usually people fall when they bump into the wheel they are sucking.  With all these elements thrown in this season is sure going to be exiting.

Gravelgrinding Friday

Gravelgrinding Friday I found myself home alone Friday evening. Instead of going to sauna and drinking beer or two I decided to go ride. I headed out following my favourite paths to beltway three, but then made a turn west for reitti 2000. I have always wanted to check out if it is possible to ride to Keimola through the forests. Evidently it is, but it sure was lot of work at least riding fixed.

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The thing is the reitti 2000 path acts as a ski route during the winter so even though the road surface wasn’t impossibly muddy it was still was pretty darn sticky. The sharp lung-bursting hills mess with your rhythm and the area feels pretty isolated so you just do not want to get stuck or have mechanical there. At shadowy places there was still some ice on the road, but the last bit was the worst. Off-road vehicles had ruined the path along the golf course so all of sudden the path was like full on cyclo-cross course.

I survived in good spirits and continued towards Klaukkala on tarmac. I even ended up improving my best effort on the Toivola hill. Right when I was ready to call it a nigh I was invited by my local guide to join me on an excursion towards Nurmijärvi. Apparently there are these two gravel roads that go around the former lake bed. We rode the pretty awesome Kirkkotie to the end, but I was already pretty knackered so I stopped at every possible vantage point to take photos.

As the night was closing we came back on tarmac. Heading home my feet were freezing and I was close to bonking. Evidently I was loosing my sight as well as I would have managed to miss two deer sightings. Luckily my companion helped drag me through the worst. Two granolabars helped perk me up so I managed the last 10km home solo in the dark.

When finally made it home it was clear I suffering from hypothermia. It took me best part of the night to get warm even with several extra layers on. This 68km late evening ride puts the 320km Vättern night route in perspective. I must find ways to stay warm, hydrated and energized plus keep in the pack if I want to survive.

Spring riding

On Saturday I took the FM015 on its first outing this year. The classic ride around Lake Bodom went pretty smoothly. I need to play with front derailleur settings some more, but otherwise the bike felt great. Riding the Velskola hill some dude passed me flying. It is pretty obvious I’m not in a great shape yet.

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On Sunday I rode a shorter, but harder route fixed. After the humiliation the day before I was in a mood to punish myself a bit so I rode a new personal record on the Paloheinä hill. I also found some new gravel roads near River Vantaa I had never ventured onto before. Again the sun was shining. Spring is by far the best season for cycling.

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Season postponed

After couple of weeks of nice weather the wicked witch of the north laid some snow on the ground and the weak at heart cyclists like me had to go back to hibernation. The good thing is this time-out has been given me some time to tinker with things. Most importantly I changed the front derailleur cable on the FM015.

näyttelijäntie

SRAM Force front derailleur installation is quite perplexing. I looked at plenty of guides online, but none mentioned the key ingredient for proper cable tension. In the end the I finally figured out you need to start with low stop in lowest mode in addition to having the cable tensioner in its lowest position. Shifting still isn’t perfect so I need to fiddle with it some more.

Since there is still some work to do I ended up going riding with my trusty vintage steel Bianchi when the weather turned for the better over the weekend. I’ve never been a fan of aluminium bikes, but I really appreciate the feeling of a well made vintage steel frame. Funny thing is that once you get used to friction shifting it becomes second nature. So much so that you start searching for the lever on the down tube even if you’re riding a more modern bike. The same applies vice versa of course. You tend to touch those brake levers time to time just to check they are there.

Anyways the weather was pretty awesome Saturday and I even made a pilgrimage to Hong Fu brick and mortar establishment.

Hong Fu store?

Season kick-off 2014

seutula

I spent the best part of February sick and ended up doing very little training. Fortunately March has been much better. I haven’t been sick and the weather is really warm considering it still could be full blown winter in Finland. The recreational paths in the woods are still icy and I really fell hard on my back MTBing two weeks ago. On the tarmac the conditions are excellent for training. You just need some #5 to deal with the headwind and cold toes.

002

Being able to start training early is good news considering I have bought more bikes (eg. the vintage Bianchi in the pics) and the Vättern Rundan start is just 93 days away. For Vättern it seems I will be joining TUT group, at least for travel arrangements. On other news I took part in the L’eroica lottery and I would now have a chance to sign up for the event in autumn. So this could end up as my “international” season.

vantaankoski

Another one bites the dust

I have to confess that although I support the idea of keeping the local bike shops alive I’m more inclined to make my purchases online. I don’t want to gloat, but in all honesty I was kind of glad when one of the local bike shops went belly up. There are several good reasons for their demise and I do think this kind of creative destruction can also be good for the local cycling community. Now at least my favorite bike shop may be on more solid ground.

I have tried to visit this particular bike shop several times, but they had already closed every time. In the end I didn’t even bother trying the door even if I was popping into the shop next door. Sure, evening and weekend pay is expensive, but I don’t understand the logic behind 11-18, 10-14 opening hours. I would assume that you would need to be open at least to 7pm on weekdays so that people have time to go home and grab something to eat. Dashing straight from work is quite unrealistic for most.

So the shop had to close and today they had a clearance sale during the lunch hour. I bought some tools and bibs on the cheap on my first and last visit. Service was friendly and there were loads of people at the shop. The one thing that made me wonder was the number of ugly as heck Trek single-speeds on the wall. It seemed like nobody wanted to even get near them. It is obvious bicycle trade is a fickle business. In the age of  the internet you need to have good sense of what will sell as trends change really fast.

In this case the writing was on the wall. I think it was kind of obvious nobody would buy clunky bikes like that even if it had a respected brand name. The store had it coming and justice was served. We will see if they can resurrect themselves or if this was another casualty in the seismic drift of consumer behaviour as a tide of online shops takes over.

How to improve the Chinarello blog

The number of hits on this site (~200k) just keeps growing so it would make sense to try improve the user experience. From the start the basic concept has been to put the content first. The site is now flush with content (100 published posts) so now would be a good time to find better ways to present it and realign the design to match the editorial style of the content. The goal is to add more pictures to posts, change the visual design and have a dab at activating the no logo cycling community. Bit of a re-branding is also needed.

raasepori

Generally I personally only like to read blogs that start posts with visualizations or images. I have tried to keep the posts short, but even then “text only-posts are kind of boring and do not invite to explore more. So one simple way to improve would be to start embedding more pictures to posts. The least I could do is start posting pics I have taken on my rides since I don’t want to steal others’ pictures. So look forward to some posts in the vain of BikeRumour’s Pic of the Day. Now I just need to remember to stop for pictures when the scenery is nice.

The current layout was originally cooked up in 10 minutes almost three years ago so a new visual design would be in order.  Spending an hour or two creating some eye candy would definitively not hurt the overall look of the site. This far the visual style has been deliberately crude as the intention was not to confuse the readers by mimicking big brand sites. Finding the middle-ground should not be too difficult, but might require an investment in tools.

From day one the blog has purely been a non-commercial venture. At first I even thought about publishing all the information in a Wiki format. Eventually I defaulted to my favourite free publishing platform. Despite the editorial freedom brought by independence money would be nice. Still finding ways to monetize has not been high on my priorities. Testing more new models and gear would be much easier to justify if the blog had some alternative revenue streams instead of my own pockets.

Advertisements would require moving to my own domain and I’m really not all that excited about paying for a server and ruining the refreshed design with flashy banners. I would be open to the idea of infomercials ie. writing reviews on donated stuff, but I have a bad habit of being brutally honest. I don’t like to beg either so Chinarello merchandise could be an easier route to finance some of the purchases. I also really fancy the idea of creating a global community across people riding chinese carbon. Wearing the same uniform has always been the most powerful way to unify a group of people.

In all honesty I kind of think the glory days of chinarellos are over. The brand name carbon frames have gotten much cheaper and there is true variety of offerings available. In many ways the mission of Chinarello Blog has been accomplished. War isn’t over though and I will still keep writing about chinese carbon as I’m looking to upgrade to electronic shifting and buy an sscx. What I would really like to promote in the future is this diversity of white label cycling products that are based on industry wide standards. There is definitely still need for an 0utlet for that viewpoint since other media outlets do not cover those topics.

Goals for season 2014

Year 2013 was a good cycling year. I did plenty of commuting, participated in several fun cycling events, upped my game on group rides and even managed to do some mountain biking. Getting to work required some effort in the mornings, but riding with my son to kindergarden was ace. Yksivaihde community organized bike part jumbles and got me to do some picture hunting (“kuvarastit”). I did some group rides with HePo, but I was happiest about weekly Kampisolmu rides becoming a common phenomenon.

Next season I would like to keep progressing. That basically means I would need to get some competing experience. I’m not expecting being a contender, but getting on the line at a VPCX/HELCX event, criterium, maybe even a Bianchi cup race or similar would be nice. I don’t even mind if I finish last or do not finish (DNF) at all so the only goal is to not chicken out. On the other sportive front I hope I finish Vättern Rundan under 12 hours and can keep in the main group (34-35km/h) at TdH.

To reach the goals I think I will need to train quite a bit to lose more fat. I reckon I should get about 20h of roller training in before the training starts in April. That would be in addition to weekly bouldering session and floorball practice. During the summer I hope I could sneak in hourly equivalent of 5000km of road riding (~200h). I know it is a lot, but I have kept succeeding in my plans so maybe it is time to get little unrealistic for a change. In the end the biggest win for me would be if my son learns to ride without training wheels.

Shopping season

It is that time of the year when most cycling buffs start thinking of upgrades and new projects. I’ve been pretty happy with the chinese carbon racer so it will stay as is for one more season (at least if the barrel adjuster issue can be fixed). I have two vintage racers (Bianchi Mondiale and Olmo Competition) I’m working on, but I already bought some SRAM Omnium cranks and s900 brake levers for a fixie build. I would really like a chinese carbon track frame, but the “killer whale” design (FM126) just does not appeal to me. We will see what comes of this. I might go for a second hand Cinelli, Low or Look if something pops up, but custom Mielec build also intrigues me. Let’s see what Santa brings.

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