Lake MX331 Review Continued: Half a Pair is Better than None

Alas, not all is perfect with my new shoes. Thus far, I’ve ridden about 350 miles in them and there is some bad and some good.

The right shoe is very comfortable. I spent some time heat-molding it, and the really great thing is that, once appropriately molded, the retention can be left relatively loose (meaning, still tight but not as tight as would be otherwise necessary). This has a very clear benefit: On longer rides I experience none of the suffering that comes with tight shoes cutting off blood supply. The soles are extraordinarily stiff–precisely what I was looking for: A combination of the stiffness of a road shoe with some degree of walkability when absolutely needed.

That’s the right shoe. The left shoe, while it has potential, leaves something to be desired. There’s a manufacturing defect in the sole that results in an uncomfortable bump right under my toes. I suspect it would be less unpleasant in summer socks, but in winter socks it squeezes my toes into the top of the toe box. While not outright uncomfortable during the shorter (<70-mile) rides I’ve been doing over the last few weeks, it is very irritating and is likely to become a major issue during longer rides. In fact, I can sort of feel an incipient blister from yesterday’s piddly 30-mile ride.

So, I’ve contacted bikeshoes.com* to see if they can send me just a new left shoe. I don’t really want to return the current pair until I have a replacement, as that would leave me switching back to road pedals–and I’ve been rather enjoying the capability of being able to hike-a-bike through mud and snow when needed.

So, that’s the report so far. Based on the right shoe, I suspect this will be an amazing pair of shoes–I just need a left without a manufacturing defect.

…And tonight I’ll get around to reporting on my adventures so far this season.

John

medicalwriter.net

*Whenever possible, I try to buy stuff from my local bike shop, The Bicycle Depot. Bike shoes are just one of those things that are almost impossible to buy locally due to the need to stock a broad range of sizes for multiple models.

Lake MX331 Review (Part 1)

After 5 years of slipping and sliding around on road shoes with Look cleats, I’ve decided to switch back to mountain bike shoes. The original impetus for switching to road shoes was that I was developing hot spots on long rides, which the Look pedals and stiff road shoes solved completely.

However, I’ve found myself avoiding certain routes, particularly those that require some off roadin’ and/or hike-a-bike. Those routes are some of the best. There’s a picture of me somewhere on this blog leaping a log in a single bound in road shoes on one of my rides; what it didn’t show was me falling on my ass half a dozen times or the 10-minute process of completely removing my shoes to clean the mud out of my cleats and pedals.

So I’ve decided to switch back to mountain bike pedals. The great thing, though, is that over the last 5 years cross has increased in popularity dramatically, and now there are shoes that provide a hybrid of road stiffness and mountain bike traction.

These came in the mail yesterday:

They’re Lake MX331s. I chose these because they are made of leather. I had great success with the Rapha road shoes because my feel are oddly shaped, and the leather allowed them to, ultimately, form themselves to my feet. They are more comfortable than my regular shoes, and they still get my highest recommendation if you’re looking for a road shoe (and don’t mind looking a little silly; I still think they look like golf shoes).

The Lake MX331s are moldable, so of course the first thing I did was pop them in the oven at 200 degrees for 5 minutes. Then I put them on and formed the heel cup, which appeared to make a substantial difference in heal retention. Supposedly the arch is also heat-formable, but I didn’t have much success in changing the shape of the arch.

The great thing about these is that they are stiff as hell. I can’t get any flex whatsoever out of the sole, which is good news in terms of reducing the risk for hot spots over long rides.

Now all I need are pedals. I ordered these:

Hopefully they will arrive before my 2015 debut on Monday.

John

medicalwriter.net

Almost time!

I’m back and it’s time to get back on the road!

In years past, I rode right through the winter–in fact I remember navigating deep snow drifts on the west side bike path on my recumbent* in mid-January in temperatures far below freezing.

This year, I took a different tack. On December 1, I officially retired my road bike for the winter, and instead dedicated myself to some, uh, vigorous indoor training. It’s pretty clear after 8 years of winter riding that it does little to contribute to my ongoing fitness, since the rides tend to be short, slow, and damn cold.

I am happy to report that the indoor training seems to have done something, although I’m not sure what. My formerly golf ball-sized calves are now the size of tennis balls, and I can run 10 miles on a treadmill 5-6 days a week. I’m hoping that some of that fitness will translate into improved on-bike speed. Not that I care much about speed other than the fact that it allows me to go further.

I’ve been obsessively doing maintenance on my bikes, reorganizing the bike closet, putting on new cleats, loading routes into the Garmin, and all that other preparatory stuff. I’m so ready to get out of the house again.

So Monday is the big day to get back on the bike. I’ve also resolved to take a more logical approach to early-season training. Instead of starting with something stupid like a 110-mile ride including Platte Clove, like I did last year (and was subsequently unable to walk for about 3 days after), I’m starting slow to avoid broken knees. That means week 1 is two 20-mile rides and a 40 on Saturday. I’m going to up the weekday mileage to no more than three 40-mile weekday rides over a month or so, and add 10 miles to the Saturday ride each week until I get to 200 miles. Then it’s time for the Vermont Special: a 324-mile ride that you are all welcome to join me for! I should be doing it around the time that my friends are suffering through PBP.

As always, all my routes are here. And if you have any questions or want to join me (I should be up to 80 mile Saturdays by the end of March) you know how to get in touch.

John

*Yes, I briefly had a recumbent. I injured my neck in a bike crash–and what’s worse, really, not riding at all or riding a recumbent?

Where’s John?

Still here! Mostly hiking and killing myself with indoor training, although I’ve gotten a few good rides in.

Yesterday, my wife and I and our two minions hiked to the top of Aumick in Minnewaska preserve. It was slippery, foggy, and generally a glorious hike, made five times harder by the slippery slush–particularly on the way up.

I also bought a new bike, but it doesn’t arrive until mid-April.

This last year was a bit of disaster in terms of riding: only 3500 miles. I blame the big move and tons of travel for work. For comparison, I rode over 8000 miles the year before.

My primary goal for this year is a reasonable 6000 miles, with a peak 300-mile ride. I think that should be relatively easily accomplished if I can keep the work travel miles under 100k this year. I’m also going to focus on increasing speed–not because I care about winning a race, but because that means I can expand my range. If you’ve been following along on the blog, you’ll know that my usual approach to 100-mile plus rides is puttering around at 15 mph or less and exploring all the side roads, with lots of breaks for pictures and food. More focus is desperately needed, and that’s part of the reason why I’m staying indoors for a few months and focusing on intensive training.

I’m going to be building up to weekend centuries starting at the beginning of March. Provided work doesn’t interfere, I should be up to centuries again by the second week of April. I’ll announce where and when prior to each ride, and if you want to join me, please do!

John

medicalwriter.net

PSA: Have you Gotten a Flu Shot Yet?

A brief digression from your regularly scheduled programming.

Those of you who know me know that I do a considerable amount of work on vaccines. Among all the revolutions that have come over the past century in modern medicine, I think I can safely argue that–at least from a public health standpoint–vaccines have had the greatest impact on disease burden.

I normally don’t write posts on health topics, but here’s why you should get a flu vaccine this year, aside from the obvious reason that you don’t want to get the flu: The symptoms of the flu mimic the early signs and symptoms of Ebola. Depending on how bad the situation gets (or, alternatively, how paranoid your local health authority gets), you could walk into the doctor with the flu and end up getting screened or even quarantined.

If you live in NYC, go here and follow the instructions to find a vaccination site.

If you live elsewhere, go here.

At most, it’s $35 for a shot; you can even get them for free at some clinics.

Even though I work on vaccines, I’ve never gotten a flu shot before. I’ve scheduled an appointment for Friday!

John

medicalwriter.net

Fin

The Gunks 10,000 happened.

Photo: Larry Chapman

Photo: Larry Chapman

Let’s back up a bit. Last year my friend and teammate Larry thought up a ride that would do almost every climb along the Shawangunk Ridge, totaling over 10,000 feet of climbing.

In my memory, I was involved in the very first spark of the idea, maybe during an on-bike conversation with Larry. But I think that’s just how memory works. Ten years from now, when the Gunks 10,000 is bigger than Burning Man, there will be hundreds of cyclists who were part of the original conversation that birthed the Gunks 10,000, and thousands of cyclists who participated in the very first incarnation of the ride.

Photo: John Cullinan

Photo: John Cullinan

In fact, in 2013, only 6 cyclists were there for the first Gunks 10,000 (or “G10K” as those of us in the inner circle, friends of Larry (FOLs), call it). I wasn’t one of them, although I did go to Larry’s house for beer afterwards.

Larry's yard.  Photo: Andrew Williams

Larry’s yard. Photo: Andrew Williams

This year was different. Last Sunday was the second annual Gunks 10K, and 24 cyclists showed up. The day was perfect, the route was gorgeous, and the event went off perfectly. It had the distinct feel of something that could become a much bigger event in the future, if Larry decides he wants to go that direction.

Photo: Larry Chapman

Photo: Larry Chapman

The expectation at the start was that the ride would split into two groups: one racing, and one at Sunday-ride pace. On the first big climb of the day, a 2-mile 8% classic just a few minutes into the ride, it became clear that just about everybody had come to race. Despite my intention of keeping my own effort throttled down to a level I thought I could sustain for 6 or 7 hours, adrenaline got the better of me, and I put down a personal best on the climb. Pathetically, that personal best was demolished by over half the riders, with the fastest guys beating me by almost 2 minutes.

The day went on like that. The fastest 5 cyclists were all legitimate climbing specialists, including, as it turns out, two former Tour of the Catskills GC winners, and a former New York state masters road race champion. And this despite the fact that Bicycle Depot, my own team — the home team — had two of our best climbers cancel at the last minute, one with the flu, and one with a hamstring injury.

While the skinny guys duked it out at the front, the rest of us settled into our own grooves and enjoyed the beautiful day. Larry and I started our own little competition with one another, which would end with him beating me by 6 seconds out of 2 hours of timed climbing. By the time the 6 1/2 hour ride was over, Jonas from Brooklyn had opened a 22 second gap over his buddy Pablo, to claim a permanently engraved spot on the Gunky Chunk, the handmade conglomerate-and-steel trophy. Larry and I were 18 minutes back, right about midpack; the slowest finishing time of all was only 36 minutes back, which is really not much, considering the epicness of the event.

I predict Larry will be turning people away at the next G10K.

Photo: Larry Chapman

Mid-ride break at Lake Minnewaska.  Photo: Larry Chapman

Larry himself.  Photo: Andrew Williams

Larry himself. Photo: Andrew Williams

Gunks 10,000 route.

Gunks 10,000 route.

That was last Sunday. Yesterday I rode with a friend up to the groundbreaking for the Kingston Point rail trail. Ulster County has an ambitious plan to connect all of the various defunct rail lines into a network of multi-use rail trails, with a hub in Kingston. Some pieces of the puzzle are farther in the future than others, but there is real progress happening. This will be a Good Thing.

On the way home I had to stop to photograph this ridiculous Mount Doom sunset.

Sunset over the Rondout Creek.

Sunset over the Rondout Creek.

Continuing the trend this morning, the weekly Bicycle Depot team cyclocross ride was somewhere between “breathtaking” and “whoaaa.”

Sky Top.

Sky Top.

Copes Lookout.

Copes Lookout.

See you next time.

– John S

Return of Rene

I took Rene out for a 20-mile shakedown spin today–it’s been over a year since the last time I rode this bike.

RIMG0123

Fop chariots are very convenient for late fall, winter, and early spring because there’s enough space for changes of clothes and lots of food. I have a few 200-300 mile rides planned for this fall, and there are few places to stop at 4 am in the middle of the Catskills for a snack. The Berthoud lunchbox and generator-powered lighting are very convenient for all-night rides.

Although I feel slower because I can’t feel the road through the 38-mm tires, I seem to be at least as fast, if not a little faster, on this bike than on my narrow-tired bikes.

John

medicalwriter.net