Archive for May, 2014

Is Citi Bike TRYING to Fail?!?

When Citi Bike launched, I was intrigued. A few months later and after many of the initial kinks were worked out, I joined – and I liked it. But I have to wonder if Citi Bike hates its members or if it is just tryng to fail. Right now there are two obvious and well known issues with Citi Bike.

First, it’s inability to provide enough bikes at commuter hubs during the morning commute and places to dock them during the evening commute. This among other common complaints.

Second, it’s finances:

Despite these (quite enormous) concerns, these aren’t my biggest complaints. Sure its frustrating to get off a train, bus or subway looking for a Citi Bike only to find empty docks, but that’s a problem I understand. And if usage stays high, I can only assume they’ll find a way to fix the finances. (HINT: Charge us commuters more for annual membership. If the program actually works, we’ll gladly pay for it!)

No, my biggest complaint is that the system doesn’t actually work. I’m talking basic functions – like the ability to release an available bike or dock one when done. And don’t get me started about the app!

Let me use today as an example…

This morning – I exit the [A] train at 34th Street and head for a Citi Bike station for my cross-town ride. First station: six bikes, three with the red light indicating they don’t work. The other three? After numerous attempts, none would release for me to use. And several others were experiencing the same trouble. Second station: four bikes, three with red lights, last one won’t release. Third station: no bikes. Fourth station: many bikes, first one wouldn’t release, second one did. By now I’ve taken 10-minutes to get a bike and I’m more than half way across town. Any time savings is lost and, thankfully, I’m able to dock it on the first try near my office. WIN!

This afternoon – Similar experiences at the first two stations, so I launch the app and see this information:

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Cool – 22 bikes! (Of course I’m now only two blocks from my destination, but, hey, I like the exercise!) In the five minutes it takes me to get to the station, I arrive to find this:

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That’s not 22 bikes. And when I refresh the app after undocking my bike (the bike on the left) the app now says 20-bikes. So I ride this bike the remaining 2-blocks, get to the [A] train at 34th Street and find the station has plenty of open docks. Well, it takes me five docks before I get one that will accept my bike. Now I’m frustrated and overheated from ramming the damn tank into each dock because you do need to use some force to get the dock to notice that it’s been penetrated by a 40-pound hunk of metal.

The bottom line is that I can’t rely on any aspect of Citi Bike to function at any time. As a commuter, I can’t always take chances with my time either. And so many other members are experiencing this, yet the official blog just keeps churning out member profiles and self-congratulatory crap rather than openly acknowledging any problems or even telling members what’s being done to fix it.

It’s funny that the Op-Ed in the NY Times likens the system to a government subsidized transit system without the subsidies. Sadly, it’s worse than that since it’s got all the bureaucratic BS of a government system. And still doesn’t get the subsidies.

Update on Selle San Marco Aspide Carbon Open FX Saddle

1549233_654678197903471_1572625478_n[1]Two months ago I posted this: First Impression: Selle San Marco Aspide Carbon Open FX. Well, now that I’ve been riding in this saddle for awhile and completed three century rides (including the 2014 Gran Fondo NY) Here’s my update:

This saddle is truly awesome!

Seriously, I’m not sure what else to say. As I noted in my initial review, saddle fit is personal, so this may not be the perfect saddle for you. Especially if you have a wide spread in your “sit bones”.

But non-compatible anatomy and personal feelings aside, this really is an awesome saddle. I’ve ridden enough centuries to know that just staying in the saddle in the final miles can be a challenge. Yet in the final miles of the GFNY I hardly noticed the saddle at all. It was only after I was home, showered and sitting on the couch that I realized, “wow – I never even noticed my saddle soreness during the ride!”

Being able to mostly forget that your saddle is even there – what more can you ask for?

If you felt differently at the end of your GFNY or other long ride, I only have one thing to say: try this saddle!

Campagnolo Gran Fondo NY 2014 – Ride Report

logo[1]First, I cannot thank the GFNY14 sponsors enough for their contributions to this awesome event. But this year, one sponsor in particular, De Rosa, deserves special attention: not only for providing Gruppo Sportivo with a terrific ride, but for the personal attention that they gave us and this event. I met Chistiano De Rosa at NYC Bike Expo and he was both friendly and humble.  Then, on ride day, he and I shared most of the River Road section on the ride out and encountered each other numerous times along the way. I hope that my cycling hobby (career?) keeps me in such good shape. And spirits.

And before I continue, let me thank a few others:

  • Uli and Lidia for their desire to create such an incredible, international event. And the dedication to make it actually happen.
  • The officials and volunteers (on and off the course) for making the event safe, supported and fun.
  • The Gruppo Sportivo riders for coming out in some seriously challenging weather this year. You guys make winter interesting and make our training so enjoyable!

OK – now, to the race itself…

sportograf-48814788Last year was my first GFNY event and it was only my third century ride to date. And while I trained with Gruppo Sportivo, there was nothing that could prepare me for the conditions of the day – 50F and rain – ALL DAY. It was awful, but finishing the course was epic. And looking back, my official time was quite respectable and this was likely influenced by my inability to stay at an aid station for more than a few minutes before feeling too chilled.

This year couldn’t have been different (except for my official time, but we’ll get to that shortly.) The weather was near perfect – partly sunny with temps in the mid-60’s. And I couldn’t have been better prepared: both mentally and physically, I WAS READY! I arrived early, lined up in the front corral, socialized with fellow riders, fueled up and tried to stay warm until the 7 AM starting gun. (Despite the great weather, it will pretty much always be cold on the lower level of the George Washington Bridge at sunrise.)

And as 7 AM approached, I made a last minute change to my race strategy. During training, I’ve been giving out the advice, “don’t let the adrenaline at the starting gun get the best of you or you may burn out too early.” Well, I’ll still give out this advice, but I made the decision not to take my own advice. I did this for a very specific reason, though. Being a Gruppo Sportivo captain, I’m lined up in the front corral with riders that are much stronger than me. So my adjusted plan was to get into a strong peleton and let them carry me for as long as I could hang with them. And… IT WORKED. I was pacing about 1.5mph faster than last year without overexertion. But soon the wheels came off the bus for an entirely different reason.

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Attacking Bear Mountain

My first 30-miles were really strong. I spent much of this time in various peletons using paceline techniques to my advantage. At about mile 10 is Alpine Climb, the first notable climb of the day – and I conquered it with little difficulty, tying my personal best on that segment. My only physical issue was that my lower back was nagging me early in the ride, forcing me out of the saddle more than usual to stretch it out. Thankfully, my legs were fine, so the added exertion on them was fine. But as I got to the Haverstraw aid station, the nagging was flaring and I took a short break to stretch.

Stretching off the bike was helpful and I got back on the ride quickly. But I didn’t plan my departure well and quickly found myself riding alone along the Hudson River where there was a very notable headwind. Rather than hammer through it, I slowed up and was finally overtaken by a group that I could tuck into and I rode with them back to 9W where we all broke up again (but the wind wasn’t much of a factor here). I made it to the base of Bear Mountain having lost a few minutes (due to my stop) but still notably ahead of my target pace. And I still felt great. Time to attack the Bear…

I rode the first section with a small group all pacing together to the roundabout. The section from the roundabout to Perkins is my favorite – fairly low grade and very consistent, so I found my rhythm and started passing other riders. Typically I’ll gain ground through this mile or so and simply try to hold it through the first mile on Perkins – and when I entered Perkins, that’s exactly how it went. Then I got a pleasant surprise as I approached and overtook Nelson Vails on the climb.

“Hey, Nelson! Not too many hills on the track, right?”

His reply?

“That’s the beauty of riding today – I don’t have to twist myself upside down to beat a time – I can just take it easy and enjoy the ride!”

Touché.

After passing Nelson I started to hear the music from the top of Bear Mountain and that sound can really drive my legs to finish the climb strong. Soon after I reached the top of Bear, music blaring, and I was still about 15-minutes ahead of pace. BOOM! The day was in my favor. And after a rest at the peak that I should have cut shorter, I nailed the descent in record time (for me). But as I passed the 50-mile midpoint, I ran into a stretch of trouble.

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Climbing Gate Hill

Before and after Bear Mountain is a “hill” known as Dundenberg (or Baby Bear) that is 1-mile up and 1-mile down in both directions. It’s also a terrible stretch of pavement along 9W. And while much of it had been patched this year, there were plenty of notable potholes remaining, including the large one I ran into while attempting to talk to another rider. POW – pinch flat. Bummer. But that’s OK, I’ve got what I need and can change the tube in about 10-mins, keeping me on pace. But my first replacement tube was defective – and it took me awhile to figure it out and move on to my second tube – losing a lot of additional time. Ultimately, Matt, a fellow GS-GFNY rider stopped to help me and at the last minute a SAG Vespa pulled up and we finished the job. However, having used both my tubes and both my Co2 canisters, I should have bought another set from SAG – but what are the odds of another flat, right?!?

Famous last words.

With the tube finally replaced, I was back on the course and I started hammering towards Gate Hill in hopes of gaining back some time. Also, Gate Hill is my favorite climb, so I still felt good about my ability make up time. And I may have done so – I was pretty strong through Gate Hill, but then came my second flat on a climb “in the middle of nowhere” – not likely to see SAG anytime soon. I had to plead with passing riders who could spare a tube, but I had a lot acting against me. Who in their right mind would stop mid-climb? During the hardest 10-mile section of the course? And since I having racing wheels, I needed a long stem valve which most didn’t have. Avi, another GS-GFNY rider stopped to offer a tube, but it wasn’t long stem, I eventually found a valve extender in my kit and made the replacement. Sadly, though, I had now lost about 40-mins total to the two flats.

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Colle Formaggio. Those cheerleaders are the best!

Having rested during the repair, I was pretty fresh for the last big climb: “Colle Formaggio” (or Cheesecoate) and I killed it. Both up and down. Following that climb I coasted into the Pomona aid station to buy a tube and CO2 canister, unwilling to take that risk again. Alas, more time lost. Leaving Pomona I did the mental gymnastics required to figure out how I could still beat a 7-hour chip time. And it was pretty daunting. I’d need to average 18-mph for two hours (including one notable climb) – not a likely feat, but I’d certainly try. I picked up a group doing 21-mph on Strawtown Road and that certainly helped, but once I struggled up State Line Hill and the climb that follows, I needed to average 20+ mph for the final ten miles. And there were no groups to draft in sight. I pushed on for the short stretch on 9W before getting into the park and found that I still had the legs for a sprint, so sprint I did.

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Fist bump at the finish.

I got back to the park (last 8-miles) and tore down Alpine (again tying my best time) and I pushed, hard, through the River Road rollers. As the timing mat approached for the finish I could see that I was already a few minuted past 7-hours, so while I pushed through the finish, I dropped from my sprint pace at that point and crossed at 7:07:02. Really not bad considering how far off a 7-hour time I was only two hours earlier. I celebrating with a mysterious fist bump to nothing as I crossed the finish line.

Below are my official results, side by side, from 2013 and 2014. While my improvement of about 5-mins is a bit underwhelming, I’m so thrilled with my performance. Having lost about 40-mins to mechanical issues, I’d have crushed my previous time. And being able to get an official time under 6:30 is my goal for next year. It will be a challenge as I felt in top form this year, but who’s to say I can’t improve upon that form over the next year?

GFNY Results CBND 13-14

Also, there’s more to a ride than the official results. Most important to me was how strong I felt on the ride. I was faster and stronger than ever before and my “moving time” shows this. I don’t have accurate figures for last year, but I estimated my moving time around 6:45 and this year I came in at 6:17. And I had PR’s all over the course just proving how solid I was riding. My full Strava details in all their glory…

All in all, a terrific day with great weather and fantastic people on the course. I talked to so many people along the way and shared great stories. And, of course, a special thanks to Matt, Avi and Heidi who all stopped to help me during my flats. Each of you made the day that much better – your willingness to help a fellow rider is what makes GFNY more like a family than just a group of riders.