Those Bike Team Names – 2010 Version – Part I

Hey, the Tour de France is just around the corner! It starts Sunday Saturday. Each year, I like to introduce Bike Noob readers to the teams in the Tour, because their European corporate sponsor names are probably unfamiliar to most Americans. This year is interesting, because of several new teams in the Tour, and four U.S.-based teams. Lance Armstrong rides in his last Tour, and just might contend.

Twenty-two teams are riding this year. Today, we’ll profile half of them, by alphabetical order. The remaining teams will go up Thursday.

AG2R-La Mondiale: France. Ag2r Group is a French-based interprofessional insurance and supplementary retirement fund group, and the La Mondiale Group is a French-based international group for supplementary pension and estate planning insurance. Rinaldo Nocentini led last year’s Tour for eight days.

Top riders: Dimitri Champion, Nocentini, Nicolas Roche.

Bike: Kuota

Astana: Kazakhstan. Sponsored by the Astana group, a coalition of state-owned companies from Kazakhstan and named after its capital city Astana. Last year, the team had trouble making its payroll, until the Kazakh government stepped in. The Tour’s defending champion, Alberto Contador, rides for Astana, but half last year’s team bolted for the new Radio Shack squad.

Top riders: Contador, Alexander Vinokourov.

Bike: Specialized

Bbox Bouyges Telecom: France. Bouygues is a mobile telephone company. Bbox is the bundled Internet, TV, and telephone package offered to Bouygues customers. Last year, Thomas Voeckler and Pierrick Fédrigo won stages of the Tour.

Top riders: Voeckler, Fédrigo, Pierre Rolland.

Bike: Colnago

BMC Racing Team: USA. BMC is a Swiss bike company. The team is brand new, having competed in some domestic races last year, but won a wild card berth to the TdF this year. They’ve made their presence known in some of the earlier races this season, and have a strong stable of riders.

Top riders: US Champion George Hincapie, Alessandro Ballan, World Champion Cadel Evans.

Bike: BMC

Caisse d’Epargne: Spain. The team is registered to Spain, but the sponsor is the fourth-largest French banking company. Their top rider, Alejandro Valverde, is suspended for ties to doping. Still, Caisse is always one of the strongest teams in the Tour.

Top riders: Luis Leon Sanchez, Juan Mauricio Soler, Juan Jose Cobo.

Bike: Pinarello.

Cervelo Test Team: Switzerland. Cervelo is the Canadian bike company. The team made quite an impact last year, when it debuted in the tour.

Top riders: Carlos Sastre (2008 TdF winner), Thor Hushovd.

Bike: Cervelo

Cofidis: France. Consumer Credit. Le Credit En Ligne (online). Offers customized consumer loans either by phone or over the Internet. The company had planned this to be its last year, but now will be around through 2012. They are probably the weakest of the French teams.

Top riders: David Moncoutie, Samuel Dumoulin, Amaël Moinard.

Bike: Look.

Euskaltel-Euskadi: Basque. Basque telephone company. Euskadi is the Basque word for Basque. The Basque Country is an autonomous region in the north of Spain. Basques are ethnically different from Spaniards, and there’s been some separation sentiment for years. Euskaltel is the unofficial national team of the Basques. The team is known for its strong mountain riding. Team leader Mikel Astarloza is under a two-year doping suspension.

Top riders: Samuel Sanchez, Amets Txurruka, Egoi Martinez.

Bike: Orbea.

Footon-Servetto: Spain. Footon makes insoles to correct bad posture.  Servetto is an Italian wardrobe company. The team was formerly Saunier-Duval, which got caught up in a doping scandal. They claim the jersey is gold – most observers regard it as nude.

Top riders: Martin Pedersen, Michele Merlo and Manuel Cardoso.

Bike: Fuji

Francaise de Jeux: France. The French national lottery. This team has been around since 1997. The team had a good year in 2009, but couldn’t win the big one, and are under some pressure to win their own country’s big race.

Top riders: Christophe Le Mevel, Sandy Casar, Thibault Pinot.

Bike: Lapierre.

Garmin-Transitions: USA. Garmin is the top maker of GPS gear, Transitions makes eyeglasses that shade with the sun. The team won 29 races last year.

Top riders: Tyler Farrar, Christian VandeVelde, Robbie Hunter.

Bike: Felt

24-Hour Ride Update

You may recall that last month, I blogged about Bike Noob reader Tommy Foster and his plan to circle his local high school track for 24 hours to raise money for the Livestrong Foundation. He did it this past weekend.

Tommy posted a short item on his ride, with some videos, on his own blog.

Next on the agenda for Tommy is a raffle featuring a three-bike rack. If you’re interested, you can take a look.

Congratulations to Tommy for finishing something that I would never even consider as possible.

Bikeable Roads

For the past few days, we have been on the road (in the car) to attend a reunion of sorts in Illinois. Maybe because I have not been on the bike, I’ve been noticing roads in the areas we’ve passed through, with an eye to their bikeability. And I’ve gotta say, there are some areas out there where bikers have it rough.

The thing that makes for rough biking is a lack of shoulders on roads.  Most of the roads we took were two lane, heavily trafficked, with no shoulder. I wouldn’t take a bike on them on a bet. The roads were hilly and curvy, which would have made for great riding in other circumstances. But on these roads,  cars and trucks moved at more than 55 mph, leaving little chance to react if they should suddenly come upon a bicycle.

As if to add support for this notion of unbikability, I saw only two cyclists in five days. They were a bike touring couple, loaded with panniers, slogging up a hill on a U.S. highway that did have a generous shoulder.

The areas I paid most attention to are in northwestern Arkansas and southern Illinois. Maybe there are cycling groups there, and I hope if that’s they case, they check in with some good routes in those locales.

How about where you are? Is there an overabundance of roads that are designed for motor traffic only, with no consideration of cyclists? I’ve got a few gripes about my home, Austin, Texas, but on the whole, I’ve got plenty of alternatives for riding. The places I’ve been on during this short vacation — not so much.

The Flat Spare

Among the spate of flats I’ve had recently, one stood out as particularly irritating. I was riding down a flat, suburban residential street when I felt the rear tire sag. I pulled over, got the tire off, and got the spare tube and tire levers from the seat bag.

But when I tried to pump the spare a little to mount it on the rim, I discovered that it had a puncture. I always carry a small patch kit with me, so I set about patching the tube.  It seemed to have worn with age and use — there was more a crack in the rubber than a puncture. I finished the patch, rested the bike against a nearby fence, and proceeded to clean up and put away my mess. When I walked over to the bike to put everything back in the seat bag, the tire was flat again. I got it pumped it up to 90 psi, and figured since I was only about two miles from home, I could make it back on a soft tire.

I couldn’t. I rode about a half mile, and the tire was flat again. This time, it wouldn’t take air.  The puncture must have widened with the riding.

I had two choices. I could pull off the tire and patch the leak I had missed the first time, or I could just walk the bike the remaining distance home. The temperature was about 90ºF (32ºC), the sweat was dripping onto my sunglass lenses, and I was tired and cranky. I walked.

I keep my spare tube in an old sock, to prevent it from rubbing against hard surfaces or sharp-edged tools in my seat bag, so what caused the puncture in the spare is a mystery. I assume it was always there, and I missed it when I put that particular tube in the seat bag.

Has this ever happened to you? What other tips do you have to prevent your spare from getting damaged in the seat bag?

Periodically, it’s worthwhile to check your spare tubes.

Presta, Schrader – What Does It Matter?

The other day, my wife and I took an easy ride in the neighborhood. The ride was uneventful, until we approached a stoplighted intersection for a left turn. I looked behind me, and she wasn’t there! That was odd, since the last time I saw her, she was less than 100 yards behind.

I turned around and doubled back. There she was, at the curb under a large shade tree.

“I got a flat tire,” she said.

I immediately broke one of my tire levers trying to pry her 28 mm tire off its rim. The tube came out easily, but when I grabbed its replacement, I saw a problem. Her tubes have Schrader valves. My pump can only do presta valves.

She rummaged around in her seat bag, and came up with four CO2 cartridges and an inflator. Two of the cartridges were used. Why they were still in there, I don’t know. One emptied from the inevitable misfire. Luckily, the final cartridge filled the tire just the way it’s supposed to.

That night, I turned the kitchen table into Bike Tire Central. I had just taken advantage of a sale at Performance, and had stocked up on tubes. I found one, and took it from its box.

Yes, I made sure to leave it spic and span when I was done.

Oh, crap. It had a presta valve. So did the other replacement tube. But the valve holes in Pat’s wheels are large,  to accommodate Schrader valves. I put one of the presta tubes on, and found it wasn’t going to work.

The rim hole for the Schrader valve is large enough that the presta valve lock ring sinks into it.

I must be something of a packrat, because I seldom throw out anything related to biking. Out in the garage, I found two old tubes with Schrader valves that fit her rims. Both needed patching, but I also had three patch kits lying around.

The tire is okay for the time being, and there’s a replacement tube in her seat bag with the correct valve. She rode 28 miles Sunday morning, and didn’t get a flat. But I can see that Bike Tire Central will be busy again soon, when I get new replacement tires for her and mount them — along with Schrader valve tubes — on her bike.

Hot Weather Riding – A How-To

Bill Maroon

Well, summer is here, and that means hot weather riding. We’ve already talked about dealing with humidity. And for many of us, getting an earlier start helps beat the heat. But you can ride when the midday sun is beating down and the temperature is climbing. Bill Maroon, a member of my club, reported on his Saturday ride on a tough Austin route — the Dam Loop. Besides being entertaining, his report is also a good example of what we might do to prepare for and ride in hot conditions. Bill gave me permission to share his report on Bike Noob.

I made the decision the other night that 7 a.m. starts on the rides was too early.  Therefore, I started promptly at 9:30 a.m. for my yearly Texas Sweat-box Acclimation.  A four-hour bottle of Infinit was mixed, half went in the freezer, the other half in the fridge.  One bottle full of water and one half full joined the Infinit in the fridge as well.  All three were my trusty Polar BPA free 24 oz. tall boys.

I drank two 32 oz. cups of water slowly as I ate my breakfast and started getting ready. A double shot of Anderson’s Arabian Mocha espresso was in order to get me moving.  About an hour or so before the start, I took three Endurolyte electrolyte caps so that they’d be in my system early.  Right before the ride I poured the rest of the Infinit in with its frozen half and topped off the water bottles.  The frozen bottle went in the middle pocket with the Infinit and other water bottle on the bike.  I only took a Clif Bar, one package of Clif Shot Blocks, one Clif Shot Gel pack, and a handful of Endurolytes figuring that’s all I’d really need.

The start of the ride was pretty good. I didn’t really start hitting the water until I reached Barton Creek Blvd., at which point I was regularly taking pulls with small sips of the Infinit.  My goal was to kill this bottle of water off by the time I reached Route 620, and my timing was spot on.  A nice tailwind heading north on 620 moved me along easily, and then began the slog on up to Route 2222.  My first pit stop would be the Starbucks at Four Corners and my second bottle was depleted just as I rolled into the parking lot.  Two refilled bottles of ice water courtesy of Starbucks and I was back on the road making my way to River Place.

Knowing what climbs were ahead, I tried to take it easy getting back over to River Place but this is about the time the tailwind turned into a Vicious Evil Headwind (VEH).  Slogging up to the fun descent on River Place hurt and it was pretty hairy at 47 mph downhill into the VEH.  The downhill ended and I was left with the two back-to-back gut checks of the rest of River Place followed by Big View Road.  At this point I was still feeling pretty good but was having some flashback from last years Tour das Hugel (Tour of the Hills) and how much I dislike hills.

Making my way over to City Park I figured that my quads had not suffered enough so on up Courtyard I went (Ed. note: Another big climb, not part of the usual Dam Loop).  Upon cresting the top I figured it couldn’t hurt to have my Clif Shot since I could feel my energy starting to drain and the heat seemed to have gone up a notch or two.  An Austin Flyer rider was on the other side making attempt after attempt to climb Courtyard from the 360 side and just barely making it to the top before starting over.  She was in a very special place of personal torture.

Into the home stretch I killed another bottle of water and pulled into the new gas station on Route 360 to refill.  It was at this point that I noticed that my hamstrings and calves were making it known that they were not pleased with the abuse.  I consumed two more Endurolytes and drained the Infinit.

The stop seemed to make things hurt more and the VEH was not letting up. The rest of the hills from the gas station up to Bee Caves Road were torture with every pedal stroke initiating a series of cramps that threatened to stall me out on the hill. Backing it off seemed to help and I was able to make my way to Mopac without incident.  It was also at this pont that I noticed that my once black bibs were now mostly grey with some white racing stripes.  I guess I was losing quite a bit more electrolytes than I thought!

The rest of the ride across the Mopac bridge and then down to the end was mostly without incident save for a young girl that did a “Right Hook” as I was turning onto the Mopac feeder.  All in all it was a good ride and I definitely made some mental notes on what it takes to ride in this heat.

Stats were 55 miles, 3:38 moving time, ~3500 feet of climbing and just under 4 hours total.

Ed. note: Clearly, I haven’t been paying enough attention to pre-ride hydration. And I think I’ll have to stock up on some Endurolytes and Shot Bloks. Thanks for sharing your experience, Bill.

Kickstands

Back when my wife first got the idea to join a big charity ride, she started training with more experienced cyclists. They quickly showed her the ropes, and introduced her to current equipment that she needed to upgrade to. For instance, her old styrofoam helmet had to go. And she was using clipless pedals before I had ever even heard of them. But there was one item that her friends could not convince her to shed: her kickstand.

Pat’s bike stands proudly, supported by its kickstand.

She never considered her kickstand as a problem. Its additional weight didn’t bother her, because she figured she was slow, anyway, and a few more ounces wouldn’t make a difference. Besides, it was convenient to stand the bike wherever, without having to look for a tree, or a wall, or something solid to lean the bike against.

Besides, since she rides a hybrid, she regards the stand as a necessary piece of equipment. It just looks appropriate there, even if it might not be on a road bike.

In our club, one member rides a budget Schwinn road bike, and it still has its kickstand. When he first started riding with us, it was the subject of much behind-the-back comment. Once he showed he was just as fast as most others (he’s a solid B+ rider), the comments stopped — although it still identifies him (“Oh, you mean the guy with the kickstand”).

The kickstand-equipped road bike.

Just how vital is it for a road biker to unload the kickstand? And why? Is it uncool? Or unnecessary? Or a weight burden? What would you tell someone new to road riding?

Building Your Own Comfort Road Bike

From time to time, we’ve talked about comfort on bikes. What kind of saddle to get, how important a pro fitting is, switching to wider tires. But some cyclists take an entirely different path to comfort. They modify their bikes to suit their purpose.

B.J. Ondo of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is one such rider. He and his wife, Jo, plan to do some bicycle touring. B.J. had a mountain bike, and instead of buying a road bike to go with it, he decided to modify it instead. This is what he came up with.

Click the picture for a larger view.

It started life as a 2009 Jamis Trail-X 3.0 hardtail mountain bike, at a cost of $500.00. But B.J. has modified it enough that he now calls it his “Frankenbrid.”  He says it gets odd looks from other cyclists, but he’s happy with it, because his riding interests are different than a lot of people’s.

“I wanted a ‘tough’ bicycle, since speed is my bottom priority,” B.J. told me. “I didn’t want a lightweight, the bike needed to be able to handle a dirt or fire road. We’re not hardcore singletrack riders, mind you, but we didn’t want to ‘fear’ the dirt.”

B.J. ticked off a list of modifications he made to the bike to get what he was after.

“I changed out the handlebars to the ‘butterfly’ or ‘trekking’ bars, added full fenders and the more upright 120mm/40 degree stem, racks etc. I had the more agressive Deore MTB cranks installed by the shop. I liked the larger big ring (44 teeth instead of 42 on the OEM crank) and the longer arms (175 mm instead of 170) and the overall level of stiffness. I worked an adaptor to make two waterbottle cages fit (the old photo shows the velcro bottle holder). I did a lot of searching on the net for examples of what I like to call ‘Adventure Tourers’ and asked a few questions on sites like Bike Forums too, to get ideas.”

B.J. and Jo are members of a local bike club, and they take part in the occasional group ride, but he’s not out to hammer with the peloton.

“I’m a pure ‘Smell The Roses’ type of rider,” B.J. said.  “Mellow group or social rides are my cup of tea. Fitness is something I don’t actually strive for as I ride as much or more for ‘mental’ fitness and happily accept that the riding helps the physical side too. I like all surfaces — paved trails, bike lanes, hardpack dirt trails and just standard paved roads too. I’m working on miles as I work my way to becoming a touring rider, instead of just a recreational road rider.”

So, after a modification like this, what’s the best thing about the bike?

“I like the feeling that, if I had the money, I could tour to the ends of the earth on this bicycle, with no fear of taking it anywhere,” he said. “I can ride just about any road surface and never give it a second thought. It’s also just really FUN to ride. I like that although I’m the slowest climber, I can usually get to the top of the most ugly hills when others are pushing more expensive bikes! And this bike can really BOMB down a massive grade and take on the bumps and ruts of a semi-crummy paved road and just laugh it off!”

But you’ve got to pay a price in weight with that kind of bike.

“Yep it’s heavy, although I think the stuff I carry in my rack pack is actually heavier than the bike,” he said.

But on the plus side, he got the kind of bike he wanted, and had the satisfaction of building it up his way. He says it’s not that hard. Although he has some experience as an apprentice bike mechanic, he doesn’t consider himself a super wrench. “I’m really good at replacing or changing parts, but I suck at the fine tuning adjustments so most of the adjusting is done by my LBS,” he said.

And he encourages anyone else who wants to customize their bike to meet their own riding needs to follow his example. “Check out some examples and just figure out what you want out of your ‘Frankenbrid,’” he said. “But mainly have fun. I really enjoyed building a bike to fit my purpose instead of just pulling out the credit card and buying something.”

The Upgraded Bike

Over the past month, my bike has acquired a new seat, new handlebars, and a new crankset. The seat came at the recommendation of my sore butt, and the bars and cranks at the recommendation of my bike fitter. The question is: Has all this stuff made a difference?

You bet they have.

First, the seat. It’s a WTB Speed V. I’ve already posted on this. I still like it, and since I’ve had it for more than a month without any complaints, I guess I can keep it permanently. I wish I’d gone this route a long time ago.

The handlebars. I got a pair of 44 cm bars, although the bike fitter recommended 46  But he said I could get by with a minimum width of 44 centimeters. I picked up a used pair at a good price. Even though they’re only 2 cm wider than the old bars, I can feel the difference.  There’s a less constricted feeling in the chest, resulting in a more comfortable riding position. The new bar is a smaller diameter than the bar it replaced, but that’s only really noticeable when I grab the top during climbs.  Not a big deal.

The crankset. I replaced the Shimano Tiagra crankset that came with the bike with a Truvativ Rouleur.  The new cranks are shorter — 172.5 mm instead of 175s.  This is the change I was most interested in, because I was told it would make climbing easier. I suppose it has, although as noted here a few days ago, I’m working more on hills than I have in the past, so I’m getting stronger legs anyway.  However, what I have noticed is that it makes turning the pedals easier. I get moving faster, and I run at a somewhat higher cadence than I had been. In other words, they’re easier to ride than the old cranks, and I am pleasantly surprised at the change.

So, as Don Blount reported last month, upgrading the bike results in a better ride. If you know what you need and have some spare cash lying around, you can coax more performance from your bike without having to spend big bucks for a whole new one.

Hill Repeats

As you probably know if you’ve read this blog for a bit, I’m not one for really intense workouts. But I did one the other day.

Not far from my house is Convict Hill. (Convict labor quarried limestone on the hillside that was used to build the Texas State capitol in the 19th century.) Convict Hill Road runs up the hill, and it’s an okay climb, but most anyone can handle it. However, if you take the back way up, via Kenosha Pass, there’s a good climb followed by a tougher climb. Neither is very long, but I’m usually gasping for breath when I get to the top.

From there, you can recover for a few blocks, but Breezy Pass features another intermediate climb up to Convict Hill Road.

In another block, I turn right down La Concha for a fast downhill. But right away I have to climb up Poncha Pass back to Convict Hill — and that’s a steep one. In fact, some guys I know just do repeats of Poncha — each time shifting up one cog until they’ve gone through the whole cassette.

My favorite part of the route is a long sweeping downhill on Convict Hill Road. But at the bottom, I turn left, and do it again.

I did this little exercise three times, then headed for some flat streets, which I ran at time trial pace. It made for an intense 18 miles — until I got a flat. But that’s another story.

Two days later, I still feel soreness in my calves. They’ll just have to get used to it. I’ll be back to do this one again.

Now, I know Austin is loaded with REAL hills.  I’ve been on a number of them. But it gets boring to have to get off the bike and walk halfway up, and it really takes a toll on your cleats. I’ll go back and try some of those hills again — after I get the hang of doing this little diversion.