Longer Rides and Such

2013 Roubaix

2013 Roubaix

I bought my 2013 Roubaix for one thing and one thing only, to do longer rides. So far I’ve done two 40-mile charity events and one metric century charity event in Corpus Christi. Besides the charity events there are the training rides of 30 and 40 plus miles leading up the events. I love cycling on the Roubaix. It’s nice and smooth, quiet, love the double tap shifter and after the bike fit, it just fits perfectly. The Richie handlebars is also a great addition to the bike. It has just enough backward sweep that my wrists are very comfortable when I ride the tops. With over 800 miles on it, I have no regrets on the purchase of it.

With the longer miles, I have to hone in skills needed for the longer rides. Most of it is nutrition before, during and after the ride as well as pacing myself and others that I’m riding with.

Everyone has their favorite nutrition remedy, whether it’s home-brew system to packaged stuff like GNU, Hammer Nutrition, or Endurox (just to name a few in a crowded market). Before my rides I usually eat a whole grain cereal and maybe a peanut butter sandwich (kind of rare that I do both) and for the ride, one bottle with plain water. If it is super hot or humid I’ll eventually add an electrolyte tablet to the bottle. It’s a neutral flavor, but it does give it a slight lime taste. On the other bottle I’ll add either Hammer Heed or Hammer Sustain to the water. The rest stops will have the oranges and banana’s for the short-term fuel spike.

Since I’m diabetic, I always carry a gel pack with me as an emergency glucose fuel. Normally, I don’t need it as the rest stops has what I need. I have been on training rides where I had to stop and take it because I could start to feel the effects of low blood sugar. Those have been rare, but it does happen so I do carry one or two of them.

For me, I like the Hammer Nutrition products, whole grain cereals, peanut butter sandwiches and some pickle juice later after the ride (as needed). The Hammer stuff doesn’t do a number on my stomach like Gatorade does. Even diluted, Gatorade still upsets my stomach and makes for an unpleasant ride. What ever you choose, I’ve learned to stick with it and not experiment on the day of a long charity event.

Long rides require fuel of some sort. It can either be solid, liquid based or something in-between. I prefer the liquid form. It does well to keep me going the distance. Although some of our routes does take us to a favorite convenience store for those tacos, so in that case my arm is twisted and I opt for a few of them. It’s a good break to get out of the sun and cool off a little bit.

As for pacing, I use my power meter to stay within a certain power range for most of the ride. I usually mix up my gearing/cadence between 80 and 90-95 just for some variety and of course the wind conditions.

Sugar Cane fields

Sugar Cane fields

I’m really enjoying the long rides with my friends or the solo rides. No music anymore since the death of my dailymile friend Dale (not sure if that was a contributing factor or not, but just want to ride safer over all), so the scenery will have to do. In a car, you really don’t get to appreciate the view as it’s gone in a few seconds. On a bike, however, the view lasts for a few minutes. At least long enough to pull out the camera and take a shot or two.

To me, long solo rides are such a challenge. It’s just you, the bike and the road. You have to be 100% self-sufficient. No one around to change the flat for you and no one to draft off of. I just gotta remember to take the appropriate gear. I have been known to take off without my helmet.

Solo rides also means no one to talk to which can be tough. I usually end up playing songs in my head and focus on what I’m doing, but always aware of my surroundings. I’m so good at it that when I ride with groups I’m usually quiet and grumble (to myself) when others are too chatty and not paying attention to the road conditions. Although, I do say silly things to break things up. I think I need to be more social when I’m riding with others.

Long rides can be fun with others and tough when you’re out there by yourself. Either way, my Roubaix is there to keep me company and take me on small adventures. As always, I suggest to keep them wheels spinning and be safe out there.

2013 Specialized Roubaix Elite Apex Compact after one week

2013 Roubaix

2013 Roubaix

It is the start of my second week with my new bike, the 2013 Specialized Roubaix Elite Apex Compact. I spent a long time with the bike shop using the loaner bike, tweaking the setup until I could ride comfortably (or close enough). After searching their catalog to see what is available at my frame size. The picking were slim due to the transition from the 2013 to the 2014 models that I found myself in. Not wanting to wait until the 2014 models come out, I went this model.

This model uses the DoubleTap system from SRAM and I’m liking it. Very easy to use. The brakes are what I have to condition myself to use. I’m used to the flat-bar and it’s mountain bike style of shifters and brakes. All within your finger tips. Not so with the road bike handle bar. I’ll get the hang of it, especially for those emergency stops.

Ritchey_Pro_Biomax

Ritchey Pro Biomax handle-bar

I didn’t like the handle-bar on the loaner, especially on the tops. My wrists and thumbs felt jammed and on chip seal roads it was jarring experience for my hands. After much looking around, I ordered the Ritchey Pro Biomax to put on it along with the Specialized Body Geometry Bar Phat tape (which also included the body shapers). So far so good. That little backward sweep puts my hands in a more comfortable position on the tops and the short reach really helps when riding on the hoods.

Riding on the hoods stretches me out more than the Sirrus does, so I’ve got back pain. I’m hoping that with a combination of more conditioning (exercising) along with daily rides, my back should get used to it. If I still had back pains after one or two weeks I’ll opt for a shorter handle-bar stem. Last Sunday I was able to go for a 25 mile ride with little or no back pain! I’ll give it another week and see if I settle down into the bike comfortably.

Planned changes to the bike will be the skewers. I really don’t like the gym quality industrial strength look of them. I looking at some Salsa Skewers in Pewter to match some of the highlights on the bike. I kept the tires that came with the bike. They are supposed to be training tires with double Black Belt for puncture resistance, but surprisingly, they are easy to roll. So,  I’ll stick with them and see how it goes.

So onward I go for a 40 mile ride this weekend and later next month a metric century. I hope to continue to do longer and long bike ride. Loving the bike is all I can say.

Keep the wheels spinning and drop a me a comment if you have the Roubaix and the things you have done with it.

Update: 8/29/2013

After a month later, I was still having some back pain on just 20-25 mile rides. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rank it at a 7. I thought that I was not riding consistently enough to get used to the new riding position, but with Conquer the Coast (CC) coming up next month, my 65 mile ride was in serious jeopardy of not happening.

Speaking of CC, some friends of mine signed up for the 25-mile tour, but I know they haven’t been out on the road training for it. I figured that this was a great opportunity for me to start putting in some longer miles and for them to get out in an organized fashion and train for their event. I planned the event for every weekend until the date of CC. A win-win situation.

With the training rides looming and the prospect of aching back, I conferred with a friend of mine and decided a change was in order. Off I go to Bicycle World I go for another tweak. I replaced the 100 mm handlebar stem for a 90 mm stem and wow, what a difference that made! I did a quick 20-22 mile ride and felt no problem.

When Saturday morning came around, I led a 30-mile ride training ride with absolutely no problems as far as back pains and very little hand numbness. After the ride I was thinking that maybe I should do the same ride again, but at my pace and not the slower beginner pace that we took. So, the next day I took off and proceeded to go at a faster pace, pushing it like I normally do. After the ride I felt just fine. I just had some minor aches, but on a scale of 1 to 10 it was a 2. I think I got the bike dialed in just the way I like it.

I get a few more weeks to build up to be able to do the 65-mile ride, but now I feel good about my chances. Everything from the Ritchey handlebar to the Specialized Bar Phat makes for a comfortable, enjoyable ride. Now for that cup holder …

Possible new bike addition: 2012 Specialized Roubaix Elite Compact

2013 Specialized Roubaix EliteAs I progress in my fitness level I have considered doing longer and longer rides. Currently, I ride my 2012 Specialized Sirrus Limited and it’s a great city bike. I just love cycling in it, but for longer rides my hands complain of numbness. I had  bike fit recently and that helped with the leg problems tremendously and we are still working on the hand problem. What I think the problem might be is the flatbar. There are not many choices for hand placement and I think that is contributing to the problem. After doing some research on new bikes, I found that the Specialized Roubaix series of bikes are designed for endurance rides over pure racing. That sounds likes it matches my goal.

My bike shop made some tweaks to the saddle position and tilt on the Sirrus and I will ride that the rest of the week. On Friday, they will also bring in a test bike (Roubaix) for me to try out for a few days. It will be fitted to my frame and I’ll get to go out there and try it out. I stand at 5’8″ (although they disagree with that, they say I’m closer to 5’9″ or 5’10”) and weigh in at 237 lbs. I want to be sure that if I get that bike, I will not have hand problems. I see no sense in getting it if I continue to have hand numbness.

I would like to hear from Roubaix cyclists out there and give feedback on the bike, your height and size of bike you got. They plan to get a 56 cm frame and my seat height will be at 78 cm. Anyone similar? Any adjustments to the stem? Comfortable? Hand numbness problems? Preference between the Elite and the Apex models? Any advice? Drop me a comment.

 UPDATE: 07/19/2013

Ritchey_Pro_Biomax

Ritchey Pro Biomax

Well after a week with the loaner bike and some additional tweaking of the handlebar I decided to get the bike. Problem is I’m right in the transition period between 2013 and 2014 models. Looking on line, my bike shop could not find the Elite model in stock. My choices were to go to the next model up (more $$) or go down one level to the APEX Compact. I went for the APEX model and the double-tap shifting.

The one thing I did not like from the loaner was the handlebar. It was too narrow and uncomfortable so I looked around and found the Ritchey Pro Biomax bars and order that to use with the new bike. With it’s 6 degree backward sweep, it should place my wrists in a more comfortable position when I’m on the tops of the bar. The two should arrive around the same time and hopefully get it by the weekend.

As for bar tape, I’ll probably try the Specialized Roubaix tape and or maybe the Body Geometry Bar Phat system. Later if I want or need, I can also try the Body Geometry Bar Shapers. All of them look interesting and have some endorsements from other sites.

Over all, I am happy with the buying experience I got from Bicycle World. They fitted me and they even got me a loaner in the bike I was looking for and at the right frame size. Sure I had to sign paperwork and take responsibility of the bike, but it is worth it. After one or two long rides on roads you are familiar with you can decide if the bike has all the characteristics you are looking for in a bike. That is something you can’t do from a quick spin in the parking lot. My advice, find a dealer that can either loan you a bike or rent one to you. It will be worth it.