Sunday, June 7, 2015

Review: 2015 Lynskey Sportive Disc Road Bike

Getting my hands on the Lynskey Sportive Disc was an exercise in patience (started the convo about a year ago), then forgetfulness (I got consumed with work and forgot) and then sheer surprise and delight when Sarah Johnson from Omaha Bicycle Co. emailed me to see if I was still interested in riding and reviewing the Sportive - and would the Disc version be okay? Um, yes?

  -- More about Lynskey Performance - cool American company located in Chattanooga, TN.

I’m still on my Madone and have owned a steel road bike (still regret selling it), and currently romp around on a steel Salsa La Cruz, which I’ve converted into my dirt path / gravel / whatever bike - so I know what both carbon and steel bikes ride like. The one frame material I had not yet experienced however, was titanium.

Picking up the Bike

Walking into the Benson, NE shop one evening, to say I was stoked would be an understatement. I didn't even let the smell of fresh espresso or the shine of some hammered aluminum Velo Orange fenders distract my focus (well, maybe a little).

There, leaning against the service counter was the Sportive - built up even better than I pictured. Sarah and Jim had grins on their faces - probably because my own was pretty obvious.

Kelly and the boys were in the car waiting for me and of course I took too long - so the first ride was put on hold in favor of vanilla ice cream cones. Yes, of course I spun around the neighborhood on those flat pedals, but that's not the same...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Review: Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

Dehydration Makes Riding Not Fun

I have learned through personal, painful experience that what goes in my bottle, and how attentive I am in actually drinking it, has a direct effect on how much fun I have on the bike. Up through mid-2013, my go-to’s were Gatorade and/or plain water. I would drink what I thought was enough, but on hotter days and longer rides I would without fail, cramp up - REALLY BAD. My legs and back would be done and my stomach would usually be a mess. I remember shamefully pulling the plug at mile 52 of a 60 mile charity ride and taking the broom wagon back to the finish line. Not fun at all. 

It wasn’t until the second part of 2013 that I ran across something on Twitter that led me to the Skratch Labs blog where I read about their “Secret Drink Mix” and how it solved eerily similar issues to those I just laid out - but for pro racers. Without much to lose (cycling is hardly my job), I picked up a few individual servings of Skratch's Exercise Hydration Mix to try out.

Fast forward to today, beginning of 2015, and I am actively using all hydration mixes made by Skratch, and I can honestly say they have helped me have more fun because I’m able to ride longer and without fatigue - and in no way are they paying me to say that. Not even a free sample - oh wait they did include a free single-serving pack once when I ordered two pounds of mix. Okay, so I lied. One free sample.

Rambling through reviews of the Exercise, Daily, Hyper and Recovery Hydration mixes probably makes the most sense, but I am selfish (need more blog content) and a bit pressed for time at the moment - so I’m going to go in the order I discovered and started using each mix, and publish the rest of the reviews in the next few weeks.

Review: Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

As I said in the lead in, I really didn’t know the first thing about proper hydration (though it sounds like nobody else did really either), but I eventually realized that terrible cramping, shivers/goosebumps and dry arms caked in salt were not good, or normal. I had to do something.

I started off with Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix in one bottle, with water alone in the other - rationing my single-serve packets to save money. Results were mixed (pun unintended until editing, when it was realized and left in place) and I soon came to realize that my thriftiness was not doing me any favors. I went on a long group ride with one bottle prepped with Mix and two spare packets. I skipped a Mix refill after hour one, but by hour two I could tell I was screwed. I had the right stuff with me, but I failed to consume the right quantities. Lesson learned.

From that ride on, I’ve only filled my bottles with Skratch and set an alarm on my head unit to alert me to take a sip every 10 minutes - no matter the conditions. Pro tip from the oft dehydrated - DO THIS, it works. On super hot and/or challenging days, I drink a bottle of Hyper Hydration Mix before leaving the house, but more on that to come in a future review.

To date I’ve tried all six flavors, with Orange being my least favorite (though not terrible), and a tie between Pineapple and Lemons + Limes for my go-to. I’ve also really enjoyed the hot Mix option, Apples + Cinnamon, but that is usually accompanied by sour mash whiskey on cold days with my gravel bike… I’m also currently testing out the Matcha + Lemons Mix (contains caffeine), but the cold weather does not make for many early AM rides, so more to come on that one.

The Good

I have not felt like death on the bike for a while now - and I haven’t pulled the plug on a ride 3/4 through either. Cannot say the same for my pre-Skratch days. Taste is also a plus. If you’re used to the artificial flavors of Gatorade and it’s brethren - the natural taste of Skratch mix may seem bland and will take some getting used to, but you’ll get there and soon learn to appreciate it. At least I did - definitely noticing the lack of sugary-sick feeling in my mouth. 

Finally - from a functional standpoint, I love that I can keep a big bag at home, but keep some single-serving packs in my phone pouch for mid-ride fill ups. I’ve also heard that old film cases work well for storing refills - but for some reason I don’t have many of those lying around…

The Bad

The only negative I can come up with is price ($20ish per 20 servings), but really if you break that down - $2 to $3 per ride to actually enjoy yourself at the end is totally worth it. Also, if you compare that to the fake stuff you find in gas station electrolyte drinks, you are saving a ton of money.

The Verdict

2014 was my strongest year on the bike ever, and probably the best shape I’ve ever been in. I cannot recall one instance where cramping or early fatigue impacted a ride or workout. No, Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix will not make you ride harder, faster or be physically stronger - but it will allow you to avoid becoming so dehydrated and sick that you feel like quitting something you love to do.   

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Oh Hey 2015

For me at least, January rides in Nebraska have historically been few and far between. February and March too. I just never really had the desire (or the gear) to give it a go. I also didn't want to get my "good bike" covered in dirt, grime, and whatever else the city puts on the streets to make snow melt.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Review: November Rail 34 Carbon Clincher Wheelset


It’s been a little over six months since I last reviewed a November Bikes wheelset - the Rail 52, the company’s then-new effort into carbon clinchers. I was super impressed with the way these wheels performed and loved the way they made me feel on the bike – I just felt PRO, for whatever that’s worth. When I learned that the shallower Rail 34 was on the way, I knew I had to ride them. Unfortunately, that first ride had to wait a bit since my appendix decided it wanted to come out.

Mike and the team over at November have been awesome to work with – sending me a demo Rail 34 wheelset with their own November hubs (which I will be returning of course) and SwissStop carbon-specific brake pads. For the test, I’ve used 23mm Bontrager R3 tires with Bontrager tubes, and my Trek Madone 5.2 - the same setup as the Rail 52 demo (except I used 23mm Bontrager R2s)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Out for Two Weeks with Bodily Mechanical

Lots of riding, not too much writing so far this year. I’m working on changing the second part, but a great new job has meant lots of learning and more time in front of the computer doing work things, rather than blog things. Here is a quick rundown of the season so far.

Fitness is Good, Appendix is Not

So far this year I have felt strong, which I credit 100% to my new bike fit and to work put in late last year on core work from Core Advantage. I still honestly don’t feel like I’m ready to move on to level 2 of 3 of that program, but know that I am way ahead of where I was this time last year.

Now, I’m not going to say that I am in race shape by any means. Quite the opposite, as Bryan and others from a local group ride recently put me in the red - which did led to the season’s only back flare up (so far). I took a few extra steps back just this week after my appendix decided it was done for and needed to come out. No rupture, so things could have been way worse - but that does mean a few weeks off of the bike and some fitness to make up.

Riding Around Austin

My new company has an Austin, TX office, so on a recent training trip I decided to explore the city - by bike. The Austin B-Cycle program is super convenient, and for only $8 per 24 hours, you get unlimited rides under 30 minutes. Just enough for commuting too and from the office, and for checking out downtown, the state capital and the University of Texas campus.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Healthy Breakfast Burritos in Bulk

I love burritos. You probably do too. Breakfast burritos are my newest love (+Chipotle Mexican Grill take note since you're open to new products now), as they can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner if you are so inclined. They are great to have before a long ride too - a good healthy mix of protein, fat and carbs. The problem I was having however, was finding packaged breakfast burritos that didn't cost $3 a piece. Not easy to do.

I had resigned to the fact that I would only be able to afford the Amy-brand knockoffs from Target when someone on Google+ reminded me of The Feed Zone Cookbook's version and explained how they wrap them up and freeze them for easy reheating. I had tried the recipe before and liked it quite a bit, but never really thought about the freezing part. Genius (whoever you were).

Okay, I will say this endeavor requires a bit more work than tearing a wrapper, but will stress that it is worth every single fold of the tortilla. It will also save you a burrito full of money, more on that to come.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

My First Professional Bike Fitting

I don’t have the time. It’s too expensive. It wouldn't make that much of a difference for a cyclist like me - I’m not into racing. These are just a few of the excuses I have been using to convince myself not to get a professional bike fit done over the last few seasons - ignoring the countless counter arguments from riders both faster, and slower than me (there actually are a few).

Well, the excuses are officially over. I recently visited my home shop (where I used to work in college), The Trek Bicycle Store of Omaha, and did what needed to be done to address some nagging knee and back pain that flares up quite a bit during the season. The shop has doubled down on its professional bike fit offerings lately - dedicating an exclusive space and offering the services of very talented fit specialists - including Amy Collison, a practicing physical therapist and all-around strong rider.

Check out Amy's blog The Cycle Therapist for more insight on good form and how to address some common issues faced by riders of all levels.