Friday, December 26, 2008

GamJams Reviews: Winter Tights

My winter tights are not much to talk about. I bought them from the clearance section in Performance Bike back in the mid-1980's, you know, back when all they had was a catalog and you had to order by phone. They are unique in that they have rainbow stripes on the bottom near the ankle and they have real chamois. I wore them in the 2004 Livestrong Challenge DC Fundraiser ride. This was a forty mile ride around DC with LA at the head of affairs. I remember there was a starting corral right on Constitution Avenue and I was in the very front row. There was space ahead of us for LA and all the top fundraisers. When LA and the others came out for the start LA gave me a double take, I'm presuming because he saw my rainbow stripes and was wondering what former world champion was back there among the commoners. He did it a second time as we passed each other on the Clara Barton Parkway. Anyway, I still wear these tights when I ride outside in the cold but I don't do it very often. Especially since ~23 year old chamois tends to get hard and feel like you are sitting on a brick instead of a saddle. I also will wear a pair of tights I purchased for running and wear these for padding:
I even have to wear these under the old tights because of the chamois brick.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Beans/Kit Have Arrived

One of the perks (if you'll pardon the expression) of joining Team 53X11 Coffee is they provide, you guessed it, coffee! If you haven't looked on their website yet, they offer four coffees: The Early Break, The Big Ring, The Chain Breaker and The Down Shift (Decaf). Here are the descriptions of each.

The Early Break - A very unique coffee blend that comes from five different countries. Our medium roasted beans give you a complex coffee with tons of individual bean flavor. Bright, lively, nutty, a perfect morning cup.

The Big Ring - This is a coffee from the far reaches of Indonesia. 100% Sumatra medium roasted to a very specific profile that brings out all the richness and flavors. You won't be disappointed.

The Chain Breaker - Med/dark roast meant for espresso as well as drip. A secret blend that will bend the cranks and break the chain. Comprised of beans from four different countries to give you a full bodied, heavy on the tongue flavor. You can stand a spoon up in it.

Down Shift Decaf - A natural water process decaf. This coffee is so good, you'll never know it's decaf. Look for a smooth full-bodied cup every time.

The welcome package included one bag each of the first three coffees listed above. I immediately opened and tried the Chain Breaker. The description from the web site is very accurate. It is great for espresso. Alone it has a very strong flavor like navy coffee but does not give you that rot gut feeling one gets after drinking navy coffee. It is extremely good! Next I tried the Big Ring. It is also extremely good! I used to drink Sumatran coffee from one of those coffee shops in downtown DC but had to stop because it was so acidic it upset my stomach. The Big Ring does not do this to me. It is tasty and has little to no acidity. I have not yet tried the Early Break and I did not receive any Down Shift Decaf but I am sure neither will disappoint. Bottoms Up!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

GamJams Reviews: Trainer Distractions - There was one?

The beauty of the RealAxiom Trainer is the trainer is the distraction. Do you find a one hour spin on your trainer to be one hour of sheer boredom? Then ride Alpe D'Huez without boarding a plane. Simply select it from the menu on the RealAxiom and within the first mile you're hitting the first of 21 switchbacks on this ~eight mile mythic climb. Need tunes you say? Load all the tunes you want into a play list and you can ride up the mountain listening to whatever tune spins your crank. Is the average ~9.9 gradient too much for you winter training plan? Shift into the small ring/large cog and spin easy all the way to the top passing cars, bikes, pedestrians, road kill, and whatever was there when they filmed the ascent (bonus in that the RealAxiom tops out at ~6-7%). Tired of being a mountain goat? Do any number of other courses available from or for a modest fee. Need to know where you stand as a cyclist? Take the Training Test which gives you your average watts/kg ratio from the test and uses it to provide a "cyclist rating." Don't like any of the RealAxiom courses? Just go into the Axiom software and create your own course. Or do what I did, build a course of the race where you plan to kick tail to practice it all year long (don't ask me how that turned out). All of this eye candy surely is better than watching the cat yak up a fur ball around minute twenty-three or, if you are Betty-Betty (Itchy Bits), watching the dog take a dump right in front of you during your spin. Better yet, lock the door to your "training room" so you won't have to listen to your young daughter complaining about how her older brother just pulled her hair or your spouse walking in, crossing their arms with a disgruntled look on their face saying "how much longer is this going to take?" These are distractions, or lets call them close encounters, you don't need, but somehow always seem to happen during your spin.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My New Team 53 X 11 Coffee

Yes my friends, I have decided to bail on Team Nature's Path to fly the colors of Team 53 X 11 Coffee. Not only is 53 X 11 Coffee a sponsor of, they sponsor racers too. The following paragraph is straight from the 53X11 coffee blog.

53x11 Coffee
Providing the Best Coffee
Missoula : MT : United States
About Me
Evan and Owen are two guys from Missoula, MT who have been training and racing together for years. The idea for 53x11 coffee came about while training in Tucson, AZ before the 2006 season. They both saw the need for great tasting fairtrade/organic cycling related coffee. The ideas started flowing and it wasn’t long before the perfect blends were selected. Even though they were racing the NRC circuit full time they never lost their vision of providing great Fairtrade, Organic coffee to cyclist across the country. After the 2006 season Evan and Owen made their grand debute at Interbike 2006 in Las Vegas. The coffee was an instant hit in the cycling community. Their coffee was labeled best of show by all who tried it. Since Interbike they have been promoting their coffee all across the country all while riding their bikes and loving life. Both of these guys have never been afraid to work hard and do the footwork for something that they are passionate about. All the 53x11 Coffees are Fair Trade and Organic. This is also very important to both of them. Living a healthy, sustainable lifestyle is what they stand for and they want their business to reflect that.

I can't wait to try it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

GamJams Reviews: Trainers and Rollers - Travel Trac Real Axiom V4 Trainer

Much more than a trainer, the Real Axiom is a cycling simulator, bringing the feel and view of the road inside by pairing a state-of-the-art electromagnetic resistance trainer with your PC.


  • Your PC communicates with the trainer, varying the amount of resistance, reflecting real world conditions as you ride through different courses
  • New features include the ability to race against a human competitor on a LAN and multiple menu languages
  • Includes 14 preset courses, a four week training program and allows you to program your own custom courses
  • View personal ride stats, like speed, distance, ride-time, cadence, heart rate and power output and store them for your own training history
  • Not only does the resistance change based on the course and rider input, the Real Axiom features two DVD’s of actual European road courses-the Limoges climb from the 2004 Tour de France and the 2004 Verona World Championship course - these courses are coordinated to the Real Axiom resistance unit so the rider will experience the ultimate in indoor training realism
  • The addition of the SofTrac roller improves traction, lowers tire wear and allows a much quieter, smoother ride
  • GPS/Google maps for Real Axiom/Real Power now available at
  • System requirements: Pentium III or better, Windows 2000 or XP, 10GB/7200 RPM Hard drive, 256MB RAM, USB port. DVD drive; Microsoft Vista download available at

FirstDropped's opinion:

There are many things to like about the RealAxiom trainer. There are some drawbacks but overall it is a good product. One of the main reasons I was interested in this unit is it's comparability to a Computrainer. Where a Computrainer will cost you somewhere around $2.000 or more, the Real Axiom can be had at Performance Bike for only $799. (I bought mine in 2006 for ~$599). I have ridden a Computrainer numerous times and in most respects the Real Axiom is as good or better. It is my belief that Real Axiom, at any given slope (say 5%) is harder than a Computrainer at the same setting. However, the Real Axiom is limited to a maximum resistance of ~6-7%. Also, Real Axiom sells dvd courses that simulates riding famous TDF, Giro, Vuelta and other monuments of cycling. I have purchased the dvd's for Alpe d'Huez, Le Mont Ventoux, and Vassiviere. There is one dvd where you can race against a pro (I believe it is the Larciano dvd where you get to race Damiano Cunego in the "GP Industria e Artigianato di Larciano") and more courses are being released continually. Another reason I was interested was to help with training and motivation. This trainer comes with testing software that rates your performance and gives you a four week training program based on your test results. Another test provided with the unit is the Conconi test which is used in a lot of European Cycling teams. Let me warn you, the user forum for this particular test is full of folks whining about how difficult it is to complete this test. I have completed it once and can assure you that it is difficult. Personally, I like the RealAxiom. The trainer has a nice feel. The sofTrac roller is quiet and allows good traction for the tire. The unit tends to get warm especially when you put out some high wattage over an extended period. That is why you will see a fan in my photos pointing right at the resistance unit. The ~6-7% slope limitation isn't a big drawback since I don't think that you need any more than that for the races we have in the mid-Atlantic. This will be my second winter using the RealAxiom so I have included some photos to help with my review.

Here is a photo of my setup. (Note the Continental Ultrasport Trainer Tire).

This is a shot of the console that mounts on the handle bar. (Note: the first console that came with my unit had a poor design such that sweat would drip onto the RJ-11 connector and cause problems with the connection to the PC. This is the redesign with the connector on the underside).

This is a main menu shot. RealAxiom is how you get to the DVD courses. The Axiom button takes you to the Computrainer like profiles. History is self-explanatory and more is in the next shot.

More gets you to the Conconi and Training tests as well as where you can import courses and export data (to Excel etc.)

This is a shot of the Training Test screen.

This is a photo of the course I created for my 2 X 20 minute intervals. It is 30 miles at a slope of 0.5%.

This is a shot of the RealAxiom DVD courses I own. Note that Alpe D'Huez is selected and that is the profile you see.

This is a photo of the power file like BRILF posts. Please don't look at the numbers lest I get embarrassed.

In the picture below I have selected the Mont Ventoux DVD course and I am just ready to start.

Just a couple minutes into my Ventoux ride.

This next shot is near the start but you can see in the back ground the top of Ventoux (12 miles later, the two whitish spots in the distance or, as Armstrong would say, the surface of the moon).

Don't ever try riding and taking a picture even while on a trainer for this is what you may get.

Nearing the top.


The results.

Enjoy. FD

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's Official (Well Almost)

After renewing my license with USA Cycling (USAC) for 2009 (which you all should do) I thought it appropriate to review the upgrade language related to MTB categories given the recent announcement that USAC was reworking the categories for next year. Rather than using the Beginner, Sport, Expert, Semi-Pro, and Pro categories that we've all grown to know (and love?), the new categories for next year and beyond are much like the road categories, i.e., cat. 3, cat. 2, cat. 1 and Pro. You say, "FD, there seems to be a problem here. There were five different cat.'s before and now here are only four." To which I say, touche, you are paying attention. USAC has seen it fit to combine the Semi-Pro and Pro categories into a singular Pro category to improve competition and increase the numbers signing up to race. It is my experience that the Pro and Semi-Pro cat.'s were the least popular at the races I attended, so this may make sense in the mid-Atlantic area anyway. But, I digress. I believe I started this post talking about upgrades. The upgrade rules remain the same year to year. Any racer placing in the top five in five races must upgrade or face serious consequences. That is not an exact quote from the USAC website but I think that is what they are trying to say. I find the wording to be rather nebulous. Do they mean any five races? Do they mean top five within your class, category, age group, or any of the above? USAC further muddies the waters by listing the numbers of racers needed for a race to qualify by age (which maybe answers my second question?). So, if you placed in the top five of a race in which you needed ten racers but only nine raced in your category it doesn't count? Regardless, I looked over my results from 2008 and I believe I saw five races where there were the minimum number of racers (10 for those in the 40-49 age group) in which I finished in the top five. So, I have officially submitted a request to USAC to upgrade me from a cat. 3 to a cat. 2, most likely before the ink dries on my renewed 2009 license. When is the first race?

Friday, December 5, 2008

GamJams Tech: Winter Training Tires - Continental UltraSport

If you are like me and mostly ride your indoor trainer/rollers through the winter and have no desire to HTFU, then I have the winter training tire for you. Call it the slick banana, bald banana or anything else yellow (don't go there), but for riding on the trainer/rollers, this tire rocks! I bought the tire to use during the winter of 2006-2007 for Computrainer sessions at the Quest Sports Science Center in Annapolis, MD. ***Warning: Do not ride this tire outside on the road/dirt/grass/etc.***

During that winter I used an old, slick, road tire (Forte Kevlar) on my RealAxiom trainer to prevent me from swapping out wheels/tires between the trainer bike and computrainer/road bike. While the old tire worked fine, after a while I noticed fine black particles collecting all around the trainer (i.e. - floor, roller, resistance unit). This does not happen with the Continental tire (unless, of course, the yellow flooring hides the yellow dust). It is constructed from a special hard rubber compound that prevents it from breaking down and heating up, thus preventing it from falling apart. But beware, I noticed a difference in power produced when using this tire. With the old road tire my threshold power resulting from the RealAxiom Training Test was 460 Watts. When I began using the Continental Ultra Sport my threshold power from the same test was 410 watts. I believe this is due to the lower coefficient of friction of the special hard rubber compound of the Continental tire. While the "drop" in power bummed me out at first, I have decided that it doesn't matter for this year's baseline test as long as it gives me good workout parameters and I can show improvement over the course of the winter. info below:

With a modern roller and the UltraSport Hometrainer in the house, winter can set in when it wants to. Thanks to its special cold-running compound, the UltraSport Hometrainer won't experience the heat buildup of a road tire, nor does it suffer the tread separation that the road tire is prone to under the special loads occurring when cycling and braking on the revolving drums of the roller. The UltraSport Hometrainer has been designed explicitly for trainers and rollers and is not suitable for on road use. All Conti yellow (orange). Size 700x23. 120psi max. Weight 240g.