Monday, October 5, 2015

About "Dear Fat People"

There has been great angst and consternation reverberating online in reaction to a supposedly comic YouTube video called "Dear Fat People". I was completely oblivious to the folderol until a tumblr post directed me to this video by Tessa Violet, who in turn mentioned this video by Megan Tonjes.

Please watch these two videos. Go ahead, I'll wait.

OK. Normally I don't care even a little bit about the various ephemeral memes storming across the InterWeb seas. But the above videos got me wondering what all the fuss was about, so I watched the "Dear Fat People" video for myself (which I won't link, but is easy to find if you feel you must).

I heard things I used to think (and even say out loud). Things that I stopped thinking about 7 years ago.This post is about how my views, and even my perceptions, changed. I will not describe how or why I came to hold my old views. This is just about how my views changed.

In 2005 a study was started by researchers at the University of South Carolina at Columbia to quantify the relationship between BMI (Body Mass Index) and various health outcomes for seniors (age over 60), while accounting for as many other factors as possible. To do this required a large number of participants over a significant period of time. Such studies are called "longitudinal" studies. In this case, 30,000 participants were enrolled for a study duration of 6 years.

When such studies are designed, great care is taken to set proper goals, and ensure the data gathered can be properly analyzed to assess those goals. In this case, the base assumption was simple: Extreme BMI values combined with age were thought to directly imply poor health outcomes (increased illness and injury, and shorter lifespan). As the study starts, the data analysis starts in parallel, to ensure any problems in the analysis or the study itself are identified as soon as possible.

Just 6 months into the study, the analysis indicated there was a small but significant group of high-BMI folks who had completely normal health. Initial corrections were made to weed out very muscular folks (BMI can't tell muscle from fat), and to correct for a few other known factors,

But the remaining group was still far larger than expected. The experimenters let the study continue while they took a closer look at this group. Over the following year the hundreds of folks in this group were interviewed face-to-face, and the rest of the study population was surveyed to get additional information.

Eighteen months into the study the riddle of the healthy high-BMI group was solved: Aside from a few "freaks of nature", all of the folks in this group routinely exercised at levels well above the norm. They were fat senior athletes.

The study published their findings for this small group 6 months later, in 2007. It made a splash in the press, where I remember the distinctive title of one article in particular: "Fitness Beats Fatness."

This paper was published soon after I joined TCSD (the Triathlon Club of San Diego), and it made me take a closer look at our heavier members. And for the first time, I didn't see folks I assumed were in the club to try to lose weight. I simply saw fellow triathletes.

Well, OK, that's a good step, right? No, it wasn't really much of one. Yes, I wasn't holding their fatness against them, but I realized I still wasn't seeing them in the same favorable light I saw the lean club members. I decided to try my best to truly see all my fellow club members as the athletes they are.

And you know what? It actually worked! It took a couple months, but I soon noticed how my interactions with larger club members changed, how I felt closer to, and more comfortable with, the larger club members.

But there was this damned little voice in my mind that told me I was still placing conditions on how I visually perceived people, that fat folks got a pass only if I knew they were athletes. In my mind, that clearly wasn't fair. Which led me into a more general questioning of my perceptions and assumptions. I didn't like what I learned about myself.

I was raised in multi-ethnic, multi-racial multi-generational neighborhoods, with parents who tolerated no prejudice based on age, race, ethnicity, sex, wealth or religion. My only vestiges of bigotry concerned groups I hadn't met, and those evaporated as soon as I met and got to know members of those groups (e.g., LGBT), I had taken the online "Are You A Bigot?" quizzes, and always scored as "Not A Bigot".

Yet here I was, a fatness bigot.

It took more time, but I finally pounded the simple truth all the way into my head, that a person's weight is their own concern, and had nothing to do with how I should perceive them as a person. Easy to say, easy to think, easy even to know and believe, but much, much harder to live.

Why had I been a fatness bigot? How did that bigotry survive when I was free from so many of the other bigotries that plague our society? How did I not come to recognize it earlier? Why did a scientific study finally force me to take a closer look? Why had it taken months and months to purge?

It would probably take years of therapy to dig that deep. For now, I choose not to be so smug an egalitarian, knowing there may well be other bigotries yet within me.

And today, years later, I hope you see why and how those videos affected me. I recalled my own prejudice and shame, and resolved once more to let people be who they are, and not make assumptions.

Tessa Violet's words burn in my core: "You are the first and last 'you' who will ever exist in all of human history. And you are lovable. And it's such a shame to think anything but."

Please, know this to be true for each person you see. But more importantly, know it for yourself, about yourself.

Friday, September 18, 2015

APX Chocolate Post-Workout Recovery Drink

While at the Triathlon Classic Expo a week ago (11 September 2015), I stopped by the APX display to chat with Jeff, and to let him know I still loved his product. (For those of you who did the race, APX was the course sports drink.)

But something was different.  Next to the familiar APX bags with flavors of Tangerine, Pomegranate and Ruby Red Grapefruit was a new one: Chocolate!  And it's the first flavor in an entirely new APX product line: Post-Workout Recovery Drink.  It is so new, it wasn't on the APX website when I started writing this review (it is now).

While the existing line of Carbohydrate & Electrolyte Replacement drinks is focused on what your body uses in the short term, the new Post-Workout Recovery drink focuses on what your muscles need to recover and prepare for the next workout: Protein (whey isolate) and L-Glutamine, with dextrose and flavors added.

You may recall from my prior post reviewing the APX Carbohydrate & Electrolyte Replacement drinks, it took me years to find a sports drink my stomach would tolerate under all conditions.  I've had a similar journey with protein supplements, but the result has been that I've been using no protein supplements at all.  I tried over a dozen different protein products, and they either disagreed with my stomach, or were priced well outside my budget.

Jeff assured me the APX approach is different.  The drink is tailored for post-workout recovery, a time when the body is uniquely able to rapidly absorb and use protein.  This drink is not intended as a supplement outside of exercise.

While the bag size is the same, protein is less dense, so a larger scoop is needed per serving, meaning fewer servings per bag.  Another difference is the amount of water used per serving.  Here's the comparison:

APX Product Comparison (as of 19 September 2015)
Product Water Added Per Serving Servings Per Bag Cost Per Bag (MSRP) Cost Per Serving
Carb & Electrolyte Replacement Drink 20 oz 26 $22.99 $0.88
Post-Workout Recovery Drink 8 oz 13 $25.99 $2.00

Jeff was kind enough to give me a bag to try, and I finished it just before writing this review.

My first 8 oz serving (not post-workout) was to check for taste and how well it mixes. Unlike many other chocolate protein drinks, it tastes fine when mixed with room-temperature water, though APX does suggest Almond Milk as an alternative. I've often had to use chilled water with other products, or add them to a fruit smoothie, to mask a poor flavor. And again, unlike many other protein supplements, the APX mixed completely with only moderate shaking.

My next test was a triple serving (24 oz) taken immediately after a hard run last Monday, and my stomach wasn't particularly happy with it. About 12 hours later I tried another 8 oz serving, and my stomach was fine with it. I then tried a single serving immediately after a lighter work-out, again with no issues. I wondered if using a full bottle (triple serving) was the problem, so yesterday I repeated the hard run test with a single recommended serving, and my stomach was fine with it. However, my legs weren't too happy about doing two hard runs that close together.

I don't think it would be fair for me to try to judge the effectiveness of a supplement in just one week, but with such a simple list of ingredients, I see no reason for the APX Post-Workout Recovery drink to not work every bit as well as other protein supplements on the market.

When used according to the directions, the APX Post-Workout Recovery Drink has become the only protein drink I can tolerate immediately post-workout. I'll be using it going forward.

UPDATE 19 SEP 2015: Corrected pricing.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

DIY Energy Drinks and Gels

Caution: This blog post discusses the use of pure caffeine, a substance that can be hazardous if misused.  Please do not take anything I say as proven fact, or rely on the few links I have provided: Do your own research, and verify everything before proceeding on your own.

Why is it that adding caffeine to something cause its price to multiply?

A case of 12-oz sodas costs about $0.25/can, yet a case of 16-oz energy drinks costs $1.25/can.  If we allow for the fact that the energy drink is a third larger, a 16-oz soda would cost about $0.33 each.

So the extra cost for adding about 100mg of caffeine is $0.92.  Really?

Caffeine powder is available from reputable online vendors for about $3.00 for 50g (50,000mg), meaning the cost for 100mg is $0.006.  That's six tenths of a cent.

Clearly, energy drink makers don't see soda as their competition, but other caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, which is a buck at McDonald's (who has surprisingly good drip coffee).  So energy drinks are priced not by the cost of adding caffeine, but relative to the competition.

Lately I've been trying to better manage my budget, and had largely replaced energy drinks with coffee and tea (especially green tea).  But this doesn't work so well during a summer day, and my teeth aren't as white as they used to be (my whitening toothpaste isn't keeping up).

Another consideration is that energy drinks don't provide what I'm looking for in a sports beverage.  I'd like to have caffeinated versions of the electrolyte and calorie beverages I use for training and racing.

So I decided to look into making my own caffeinated drinks and gels.  Which means using raw caffeine.

First, caffeine can be nasty stuff.  It is rapidly absorbed by the body.  It can stop the heart if taken in massive doses.  It should be treated as the drug that it is, and not as "just another supplement".  I would treat raw caffeine the same as I would treat a gun or hazardous chemicals: To be locked up at all times except when actually in use.  And to be kept far, far away from children.

Assuming you are able to keep your caffeine safe from misuse, there are other things to consider before purchasing caffeine.

First, what kinds of caffeine are available?  Three kinds are most common: Anyhdrous Caffeine, Dicaffeine Malate, and Caffeine Citrate.

Anhydrous Caffeine consists of only caffeine molecules.  It the "rawest" form of caffeine, and is the type most commonly used as an additive.  But anhydrous caffeine can also be the harshest on your digestive system, especially the stomach: This form of caffeine is one of the most sour substances known. I'd call it "violently" sour.

Dicaffeine Malate binds two caffeine molecules to a malate molecule, where the malate buffers the the caffeine.  Buffering blocks absorption by the stomach, meaning it will be absorbed by the small intestine, which is a slower process.  However,  dicaffeine malate does break down a bit in the stomach, meaning its effects are felt less suddenly than anhydrous caffeine, but more quickly than caffeine citrate.

Caffeine Citrate is the most buffered form of caffeine, and may work best for folks who get mild stomach upset from other forms of caffeine.  It is important to note that due to the large size of the citrate molecule (about the same size as the caffeine molecule itself), this form of caffeine has half the caffeine per gram compared to the other two forms, though it tends to cost about the same.

For my initial tests I followed the Goldilocks Selection Method ("pick the middle one") and chose to purchase dicaffeine malate from Powder City.  I chose Powder City for several reasons: 1) They have lots of useful information on their site.  2) They provide a tiny 50 mg scoop (1/4" in diameter) with every package purchased.  3) They have a great reputation in the market, and appear to be in this for the long term.  4) They were the only reputable vendor offering all three forms of caffeine.  Other vendors tend to offer only anhydrous caffeine, though that is slowly changing.

I ordered five 50g pouches, far more than I'll ever need, because their shipping rates, while reasonable, were combined with a free shipping limit that, for a given cost, meant they essentially gave me free product in exchange for free shipping.  So I have lots extra, if anyone local is interested in a pouch of their own.

My first test was to see how dicaffeine malate affected me, and how it changed the taste of what it is added to.  So I poured two 8oz glasses of orange juice, and added half a scoop (about 25 mg) to one of them.  After stirring thoroughly, I tasted a sip of each.  The difference in sweetness was very noticeable, but not objectionable.  The caffeinated OJ still tasted plenty sweet.

I finished the caffeinated OJ over the next couple of minutes.  I felt no caffeine "rush" like I do after gulping a cup of coffee:  Over the following minutes I gradually felt more energized.  About like I would after drinking half an energy drink.  I added a half scoop to the other class of OJ and drank that as well.  As expected, I wound up feeling about the same as if I had just finished a Monster or other energy drink.

Now, when I said "scoop" above, that's a level scoop of the powder, not packed down.  A half scoop is about half of that.  A heaping scoop would be closer to 100 mg.

Some folks use a calibrated scale and careful techniques to precisely measure their caffeine.  But the cheapest "good" scale I found that was accurate to at least a milligram cost over $50, and I didn't really trust it.  Getting a feel for the "buzz per scoop" has worked well enough for me.

There are two fundamental ways of taking anything into your body: A bunch all at once, or gradually over time.  It is important to take this into account when making quantities of caffeinated beverages in advance, for future use.

I know from my own experience that it takes about 100 mg of caffeine to get me started in the morning.  On cooler mornings this is taken all at once, typically as coffee gulped to minimize the time I spend in a morning fog.  Most mornings, I typically add a heaping scoop to a large glass of OJ.

During long continuous moderate exercise (riding the bike or jogging for an hour or longer) I feel best when taking no more than 100 mg of caffeine per hour (generally less).

When I make APX per the manufacturer's recipe (one APX scoop in 20 oz water) I add one level scoop of caffeine.  This is my standard "between workouts" beverage, when I'm recovering from one workout and getting ready for another one.

But for prolonged activity, I make my APX more concentrated (2 scoops in 24 oz) and add a heaping scoop of caffeine (100 mg), and I also carry water with me.  When I feel good, I drink more water. When I'm feeling spent, I drink more APX.  For these longer activities, I generally try to stay in the zone of "slightly uncomfortable".

I next tried making caffeinated honey. I started out by putting 50 mg (a level scoop) into about 2 fluid ounces of JJ's honey (about as much as a large gel).  The honey was too thick to mix evenly, so I added a bit of water (10-15 drops).  The result was better than I expected:  I couldn't taste the caffeine at all.

There is one important thing to keep in mind when making your own caffeinated products: Labeling!  I put a rubber band around the neck of any bottle containing caffeine.  My caffeinated honey goes in either my SoftFlask or Gel-Bot. (both from Hydrapac, and bought from TCSD Sponsors).

While it may sound like making your own caffeinated beverages is easy, I want to reiterate that there are hazards that require close attention.  There are several general principles that apply to using hazardous things in general, and specifically to hazardous food additives:
  1. Work from recipes.  This encourages you to plan in advance, it permits you to double-check what you are doing, and it greatly reduces the risk of silly mistakes.  A recipe helps ensure you get consistent and repeatable results every time.
  2. Take notes!  I have written down everything I've tried, and recorded what went right and wrong.
  3. Consistently do all work in a single place.  I use one end of my kitchen counter, the same place every time. Build good habits when using caffeine.
  4. Clean the work area before and after using powdered caffeine.
  5. Wash your hands both before and after using powdered caffeine.  It takes only a moment, and will make a huge difference if you happen to wipe your eye.  This stuff can be harsh!
  6. Avoid using caffeine directly from the pouch it is shipped in.  It is too easy to spill, and the pouch can puff caffeine into the air when opened and closed.  Transfer some of the caffeine to a smaller wide-mouthed screw-lid container that is easier to open and close.  Powder City sells containers that are ideal for this, but I find a small baby food jar works very well.
  7. Close nearby windows and turn off fans before opening the caffeine container.  You really do not want this stuff to get around.
  8. Store caffeine away from where anyone (adult, child or pet) could reach it accidentally.
I know the above rules may seem overly cautious, but they are really just common sense.  I do pretty much the same for my Sriracha sauce.

UPDATE:  I've simplified my work area by using a red roll-up silicone baking sheet for my work area.  All cleanup is done at the sink, and any spilled caffeine powder shows up well on the red surface.  Much easier in all respects.  My counter is white, and I was very concerned about spills I couldn't see.  No longer an issue.

Now that I've been making my own caffeinated drinks and gels for a couple months, I must say the results are "nothing special".  That is, my homemade products have replaced the manufactured ones with no unpleasant surprises.  But the pleasant surprises of reduced cost, plus getting caffeinated versions of what I want, are well worth the minor amount of hassle.

Again, these are my own personal experiences.  You may have different reactions to caffeine, so be sure to start out slow, and take your time.

I'm not trying to change the world.  Just trying to save a buck and gain greater control over my workout and race nutrition.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

APX Review

Many of you have heard me go on and on about the products, services and companies that have made real differences in my triathlon life, especially those provided by TCSD Sponsors.  For most products and services, the benefit was obvious to me rather quickly, sometimes in minutes, but more often in a few weeks or a month.

My search for nutritional products has taken quite a bit longer.  First I had to find the right base diet, to fit both my metabolism and my activity.  I made some major (but simple) changes 18 months ago that got me almost everything I was looking for.  Only then did it make sense for me to settle on the nutritional products I'd want to use with training and races.

TCSD members get to sample just about every sports nutritional product on the market, sometimes even before they go on sale to the public.  I have a box of samples at home that must contain 40 different products.  But for me, samples only tell me what doesn't work or feel right at first taste, not what will work long-term combined with hard training.

My most difficult situation concerns liquid products.  My primary need is for a water-based product that not only provides rehydration, but also restores electrolytes and provides some easily-absorbed calories.  I want to meet as many of my needs as possible with a light liquid before I resort to heavier products, such as gels, chews or bars.

Many liquid products pass the first-taste test, but fail for me when consumed during exertion.  For example, I love Gatorade just about anytime, but it causes me major problems ("gastric distress") if I drink it during or just after a race or hard workout.  I repeated this process with several other products, only to be disappointed each time.

Until, that is, I tried APX.  Having been upset by so many prior products, I kept testing APX, waiting for it to fail.  For one year.  Then for another.  Only recently did I finally decide I had finally found the right product, one I could trust under all circumstances.

TCSD's own Jay Weber was our APX rep, and each time I told him APX was still working for me, he'd ask "When are you going to write a review?"  Jay has since moved on to Xterra Wetsuits (yes, it's been that long).

Well Jay, here's that review!

First, some basic facts about APX:
- APX is a local San Diego company that's been around for about a decade.
- APX is a proud TCSD Sponsor.

Next, the ingredient list:  Dextrose, Fructose, Natural Fruit Flavor, Citric Acid, Salt, Potassium Citrate, Magnesium Citrate, and Ascorbic Acid

8 ingredients.  That's all.  That's a much shorter and simpler list than just about anything else out there.

A note about powders versus pre-made liquids:  Pre-made liquids tend to contain emulsifiers and stabilizers to keep the contents mixed and stable between the time the product is bottled and the time it is consumed, which can be many months, and involve storage and transport in a wide range of temperatures.  Powders will not contain such things because the ingredients are naturally more stable as powders, and are generally consumed within a day of being mixed.  For me, this is a case where "less is more".

Getting back to the ingredients:  There is one odd thing here, where I am concerned:  All prior products I had tried that contained only simple sugars had caused me problems.  Only those that also included more complex carbohydrates seemed to stay down.  APX is the first drink containing only simple sugars that has caused me no problems whatsoever.  I'm not sure why, but I suspect it must have something to do with either the electrolyte balance or the flavor.

APX comes in three flavors: Pomegranate, Tangerine, and Ruby Red Grapefruit.  I've tasted them all, and they each have a light taste, just enough to cover the taste of the other ingredients.

I've been using only the Grapefruit flavor with my workouts, mainly because it's the one I've done all my testing with.  I'm almost afraid to try the other flavors "for real", as if I'll make the Grapefruit flavor mad at me or something.  And who said athletes aren't superstitious?

As for my testing, my most recent tests were on the bike and run.  I had taken APX with me on a 3-hour bike ride with a fair amount of time hammering in aero, but no hills.  It was my only liquid on the bike, and I felt great at the end of the ride.  For those of you who know me, I usually bonk toward the end of the 2-hour TCSD Saturday ride, so this was a real improvement.

My other recent test was a 2 hour run without hydration, where a bottle of APX was my first recovery drink.  For me, this is a worst-case test, since my stomach is most sensitive when I'm exhausted and dehydrated.  For this bottle, since I knew I would be following it with more water, I had gone well above the recommended mixing ratio of one scoop per 20 ounces: I had put 3 scoops in 24 ounces of water.  So it was "worse" than my worst case: If anything was going to trigger my stomach, this was it.

Nothing happened, other than I had one of my fastest recoveries ever: I was ready for a strength training workout after 20 minutes and another bottle of water.  And that workout also went well, showing that the APX was quickly absorbed.

Now, I don't recommend doing a 2-hour run without hydration or nutrition!  This run was designed to test my joints and metabolism (as well as APX), and was run along the Mission Bay path, where there are about 2 water fountains every mile.

After well over a year with APX as my only calorie + electrolyte drink, I can only give it my highest recommendation.  It has made a real difference in how I train and recover.  More importantly, I no longer fear pushing to the point where taking nutrition used to become my worst problem.

APX is available just about everywhere locally, including at the following TCSD Sponsors (where your TCSD Member Discount applies): Moment Bicycles, Hi-Tech Bikes, Pulse Endurance Sports, and The Triathlete Store.

APX is available in single-serving packets and in 26-serving resealable bags (scoop included).  After the TCSD discount, APX costs about $0.77 per scoop (130 calories), making it a good value compared to the alternatives.

And one last detail:  All APX profits go to charity.  The company was created as part of a sponsorship effort (much like Rudy), and has never stopped.

For more information. please visit the APX site:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Achieving a record.

My plan is to do my first half-marathon this year, and to do so in record time.

Of course, by definition, whatever time I achieve will be a PR.  But that's not what I mean.  I'm taking an actual record time.  One that's in the books.  Just for a different race.

The world record FULL-marathon time, that is.  The American record, to be specific.  For women, to be precise.  A time of 2:19:36.  Which I'll round up to 2:20.  That's an average pace of 10:40 per mile, which is about the fastest I think I'll be able to sustain non-stop.  It is entirely possible my first half will take an additional 20 minutes.  But my target, at least for now, is 2:20.

My goal is simply to do this non-stop, without walking, as a step toward doing a full marathon using a run-walk technique.  My ultimate goals are to become able to do 1-2 half IM races per year, and to do at least one full IM at some point in my life.

The thing is, I've never run for longer than about 80 minutes.  Not once.  My regular run training includes one 10K run every week, which takes about an hour, depending on what else I add into the run.  Back in the '80's I briefly flirted with the idea of training for the half-marathon distance, and once ran 10 miles, after which my legs fell off.

So, the first step is to see if I can simply stay on my legs for 2:20, jogging, just to see if I can do a run-like gait for the required time.  Three days ago, on last Monday, I jogged non-stop around Mission Bay for 2:10 (I mistimed timed my turnaround) and covered 10.5 miles, for an average pace of 12:23 per mile, a gentle jogging pace.

But now it's the following Thursday, and my legs are still stiff and weak.  But no joint or foot pain whatsoever, which means it's mainly endurance conditioning I need.  Which should not be a problem.

So, as the first real test on my half-marathon journey, I call this a great success!

But there's more to consider: I did this without nutrition or hydration.  Which is a failure as a race technique, but OK as a training assessment.

After I stopped, I drank 24 oz of APX (3 scoops) and another 34 oz of water (for 58 oz total).  Then I did an hour long strength training workout during which I drank another 34 ounces of water.  When I got home I had another 24 oz of water.

That's 116 oz of fluids, nearly a gallon total.  I didn't pee until another half hour after that, a bit over 2 hours after the run had ended.

My next run will include carrying fluids: I have a Fuel Belt that holds a total of 24 oz.

So my next training goal is to see if I can drink and run at the same time.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Car bike racks: What to do?

Bike rack selection is an important issue, especially if you drive a high-efficiency vehicle (high MPG or EV). The most important thing is for the rack and bike(s) to be out of the airflow, and roof-mounted racks typically have the worst effect on efficiency.  Hitch racks generally do well.

Security is another issue.  Bikes on a rack are more noticeable than bikes inside a vehicle.  When I went shopping for my last vehicle, I wanted something that would meet the following requirements:
  1. Fit 1 bike (tri and/or road) inside the vehicle with the front wheel on.
  2. Fit 2 bikes (tri and road) inside the vehicle with the front wheels off.
  3. Have a hitch available as an option, to mount a 2+ bike hitch rack (so other stuff can be inside the vehicle).
  4. Get at least 40 MPG highway.
After I had pared the list of possible vehicles down to something manageable, I took my bike with me and shoved it into each of them, often to the amusement of the sales staff.

The car I wound up with, a 2012 Mazda 3 hatchback with the high-efficiency SkyActive drivetrain, not only met the above requirements, but was also the most fun to drive at a very reasonable cost.

Soon after getting it, I joined a Mazda 3 forum to learn more about the car and its idiosyncrasies.  We talked about the mileage we were getting for our various commutes, and how we achieved it.  Someone on the forum found a spreadsheet that helped test and compare performance over commutes, and converted it to a Google Docs spreadsheet we could share.  For repeatability purposes, the test required us to be on cruise control as much as possible.  We plotted our commutes on Google Maps and plugged the elevation profiles into the spreadsheet, to see how elevation changes affected our commute mileage.

We got some great data, with surprisingly consistent results for most of us.  But a few folks had much worse results (10-20% lower).  The most common factor was a roof-mounted rack (bike, ski, kayak, whatever).  Some of them removed their racks, repeated the test for a month, and had results compatible with the rest of us.

The moral of the story, at least for high-efficiency vehicles, is to use a rack as little as possible, and remove it when not in use, especially if it is a roof rack.

I still haven't purchased my hitch or rack.  Probably means I don't travel enough.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bike Comparison and Sizing

On 07/17/2014 03:56 PM, David Bloxom [tcsd] wrote:
Hi all,

I'm looking at a few used Tri bikes. I ride a 56cm Scott carbon frame road bike, which I have fitted with aero bars, and have been fitted for that set up. I've been told the sizing is right for me.

My question is, in general, should I be looking at 56cm Tri bikes or smaller / larger. I realize the "right answer" is to fit the bike to me and not the other way around. But when looking to but used, that doesn't appear to be the best option.

Hi Dave,

The number "56" is a completely bogus way to compare bikes, even different models from the same manufacturer, much less from different manufacturers.  This number fails to take any of the rest of the bike geometry into account.

The only way I'm aware of to compare any two bike frames is by "stack & reach", so you first need to find the stack and reach for each bike you want to compare.  Here's the Slowtwitch stack&reach database:  Some bike shops and manufacturer websites have additional information, so be sure to check.

But that's only part of the story: There's more to comparing bikes than just the stack and reach: You also need to take cockpit differences into account (unless the same stem, spacers and bars are on both bikes), as well as the relative position of the saddle.

Finally, (well, actually **FIRST**), is to have numeric data for your bike fit, so you can see if any given bike is compatible with your "fit numbers".  After my fit at Moment I was given a printout with not only my fit numbers, but also a drawing showing their geometric relationship to the bike.

I keep my fit numbers in my phone.  When I was demoing bikes, I brought along a small a tape measure, and would adjust each bike to my fit in a few minutes, which permitted me to demo different bikes with the SAME FIT!  Apples to apples.  It would also be immediately clear if a bike couldn't be adjusted to match my fit.  Sometimes, a quick stem and spacer change could turn an "almost but not quite" bike into one that could match my fit.

There are some additional details to take into account before making a final choice, but the above should make it easy (well, straightforward) to eliminate the "no way" bikes.