English eTapped

It is done.

My friends at Bicycle Depot in New Paltz installed eTap for me. Good decision, they spent a ton of time getting the front to shift right on my very unconventional gearing.

Admission: I have a mountain bike crank and 46/28 ten speed rings from circa 2011–that is to say they are lacking many of the modern conveniences like good shift ramps etc. In any case, they do not get along super well with eTap. Just a note for people who are planning on retrofitting a gravel bike, with gravel gearing, with eTap.

My plan is, ultimately, to get Rotor’s 46/30 “Spiderings” and a Rotor crank to improve shifting. Kind of a bummer to have to get rid of my lovely THM 400-gram crank though. If you want it, you know where to find me.

However, even though the guys at Bicycle Depot were not entirely satisfied with the front shifting, my first words after a ride around the parking lot were “clearly, you guys have higher standards than I do!” It’s still better than mechanical.

Some pictures, I’m going to ride it for real tomorrow, provided my clients give me a minute to get out of the house.

So refreshing to have new bar tape. The old stuff was getting ratty.

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Pretty busy up front with levers, Garmin mount, light mount and blips. But only 2 cables! Looks weird.

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Blips. Mike at Bicycle Depot originally wrapped them under the tape (at my request) and then let me know it looked a little like my handlebars had grown tumors.

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Front derailleur with the aforementioned 10-speed mountain bike rings. Derailleur and old rings do not get along well. I don’t really need 46/28 any more, since…

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…I have an 11-32 cassette.

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PS: If you’re more interested in routes, a complete library can be found here.

John

medicalwriter.net

Over the Ridge and Into the Hills

Well, I guess I’m back in business. I rode 220 miles on an upright bike in 7 days, a good total at any time of the year! Part of it was an accident of weather–I ended up playing hooky last Friday because it was so nice out, so I got two longish rides in within a single 7-day period. I’ll report on the earlier ride separately.

Good news is that I’m a much stronger rider after 13 weeks of killing myself on a recumbent trainer. Plus my neck appears to be fully healed. Unfortunately, on longer rides I still have to stop every 30 minutes or so for a stretch–some of the muscles in my back become extremely sore, presumably from not being actively used for so long, since I was unable to lift anything (or ride a conventional bike) for 5 months.

So…last Friday I rode over the ridge, and down into the best riding country in the area. A friend at a local bike shop refers to this area as his “fortress of solitude,” and that it is. In many years of riding up there I have never seen another cyclist, which is crazy because it is gorgeous country. I’m referring, specifically, to the area north of route 209 but south of the Catskills proper.

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Seriously–if you get a chance, ride up there! If you’re coming from the city, go to the Poughkeepsie stop, ride into New Paltz, and start from there. Here’s the route, with the caveat that there are a few misroutings; if you want a revised route let me know.

Starting from my house south of New Paltz, I headed over to Gardiner, and then up Albany Post to Guilford Road.

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The least pleasant part of this ride is the climb up to 44/55 on Guilford Road. I don’t know why but it kills me every time. I’m totally fine riding all the way up the ridge from there, but there’s something about the way Guilford climbs that is quite painful.

From there, up 44/55. Here’s the traditional hairpin photo.

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And then up to the top of the ridge.

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Here’s an interesting variation: Laurel Hill Road. It says “no trespassing” on one end, but not the other. I also looked it up and it is plowed by the city, so y’know what? If my tax dollars are paying to keep their road clear, it’s mine to ride on. It’s a short, steep, downhill stretch of well-packed dirt.

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I stopped taking pictures for a while. I crossed over in Rosendale on a brief stretch of trail. Wasn’t much fun as the trail was mostly mud last week–not easy on a skinny-tired road bike. Plus my bike got even filthier. Thankfully, I “accidentally” forgot to wash it before taking it to the bike shop and, um, they took care of the dirty bidness for me.

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And that’s it! I made myself some bacon potato soup to recover.

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In other news: I’m converting my English 700C to eTap, or rather my local bike shop, Bicycle Depot, is doing the converting for me. “Wait!” you say, Super Record wasn’t good enough for you? The answer is that an electronic groupset is something that I’ve had a hankerin’ for for many years now. I don’t necessarily need it, but I’m a proponent of dead quiet, perfect shifting at all times, and I’m sick of monkeying with mechanical, particularly because my bicycle maintenance skills are poor. I mean, I can do just about everything needed on a bike–and I even built exactly one wheel–but because I don’t have to work on my bikes often, I don’t have a ton of practice so it takes me FOREVER to get most tasks done. Even something as simple as adjusting a derailleur or maintaining a hub. So hopefully electronic will keep me in perfect adjustment all the time.

Last photo with Super Record.

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That’s all from me this freezing cold Saturday afternoon. Hoping for some great weather next week for more riding!

John

medicalwriter.net

My Special Snowflake

Back to bikes!

I’ve been training hard using TrainerRoad; more about that later. But long story short, it’s awesome; I’m closing out week 7 of 5 rides/week (around 8 hours total each week) with some very significant FTP gains. Highly recommended.

Also just want to brag: Only 1 missed workout, and that was because my knee was a little achy.

I have a build list together for my Fujin SL II, if anyone sees something that could potentially be optimized, let me know!


Headset: Chris King 1″ NTS
Crankset/BB: Lightning carbon, 165mm, no logo, 110bcd spider
Front der.: Shimano XTR Di2 M9070
Rear der.: Shimano XTR Di2 M9050
Display: XTR Di2
Wiring for Di2: Battery, charger, junction, wires
Shifters: Shimano XTR Di2
Cassette: KCNC titanium 11spd 11-42
Chain: KMC X11SL, gold x 3
Front rim: Velocity A23, 20″ (406), black
Fork: Monoblade, CF
Front hub: tbd
Front spokes: tbd
Front tire: Schwalbe Pro One 406×28
Tubeless: Tape, aluminium valve, sealant
Rear rim: NoTubes ZTR Crest Mk3, 26″ (559), 28h
Rear spokes: Pillar Megalite SS rainbow x 28
Rear nipples: Sapim aluminium
Rear tire: Compass Elk Pass 26″x1.25″
Rear tube: 26″ ultralight butyl
Rear hub: Tune Kong, 10×135, 28h
Rear skewer: something light
Chainrings: Powertap C2, 50/36
Chainring bolts: Titanium
Brakes: Trickstuff Picolo, pink, plus rotors
Grips: Extralite Hyper Grips
Light: Exposure Strada 1200
Light bracket: Custom, tbd tbc
Misc: Titanium upgrade for all fasteners as appropriate

Some Hard Truths: Profit, Pharma, and Your Healthcare

I promise that after this, no more semi-political posts.

I read today that our president-elect plans to “negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to get the best price.” Not a bad idea, although I’m not sure how exactly that is going to work in practice.

Here’s a fact, though: Only about 10% of the national healthcare dollar went to prescription drugs. In contrast, 33% went toward hospital care (in 2013, the latest data I could find offhand). With all the hype about drug prices, I bet you didn’t know that.

So if we want to reduce healthcare spending, the way to do it is to keep people out of the goddamn hospital in the first place. In other words, if DJT really wanted to cut costs, he’d launch a massive preventative healthcare initiative. Not negotiate the 9% spent on prescription drugs to 7% or whatever.

Anyway, I know everyone beats up on pharmaceutical companies for drug prices–and there are certainly a few egregious examples of some pretty shady practices. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about right now.

With that out of the way: Let’s face a few facts: The pharma industry, like any other industry, is driven by profit. But wait, you say, healthcare shouldn’t be driven by profit!

In an ideal world, that would be true. But without the profit motive, do you think you are going to get new, lifesaving treatments? If you think scientists at academic centers are spending their time developing new cancer treatments, you are (by and large) wrong. Basic science in the academic setting is exactly that: basic, fundamental work that in many cases has no application to human health, and in other cases won’t have an application for decades to come. It is absolutely necessary to lay foundations, but it rarely produces immediate benefits.

Let’s look at what happened in a specific therapeutic area when the profit motive disappeared. Hypertension. You know, high blood pressure. Almost everyone will have some degree of hypertension as they get older, and most of these people will require medications.

People tend to think of antihypertensives as relatively benign drugs, because a huge proportion of people, especially older people, are taking them. But here’s a sad fact: most of them have fairly significant side effects, and none are particularly effective. In fact, many (if not most) people ultimately require a stew of different medications to get blood pressure fully under control.

Up until about 2010, there was massive research and development into new antihypertensive medications. What happened around then, plus or minus 5 years? A bunch of widely used antihypertensives went off patent. Now they’re available for pennies per pill, instead of substantially more.

Okay, you say, that’s great! Cheap medications! But you know what else happened? The pace of development of new antihypertensives came to close to a standstill, at least relative to the pace before the profit motive mostly disappeared.

The end result? You’re going to be taking the same crappy, ineffective antihypertensives your parents or grandparents are taking right now. Maybe there will be a few new, better drugs. But if you were running a pharmaceutical company, would you spend hundreds of millions to develop a new antihypertensive, put it through clinical trials, and then release it into a market that has hundreds of drugs available for pennies a pill? Probably not.

Hope you enjoy your chlorthalidone and hydrochlorothiazide!

Now, back to my post on Trainer Road, which I’m sure is far more interesting on a bicycle blog!

John

 

A Brief Aside: Health Insurance

So…Republicans are gearing up to kill the ACA.

Now, I’m a Democrat, but the ACA has been an unmitigated disaster for my own personal healthcare. Before the ACA, I had wonderful PPO insurance from the Freelancer’s Union. It was <$400 a month, had a minimal deductible, reasonable copays, and no coinsurance.

Contrast with my situation today: For $950/month, I get a $2000 deductible, copays have tripled and–wait for it–$30,000 in coinsurance. If I’m doing my math right, that means that a major medical issue would cost me $11,400 (monthly premium), $2000 (deductible), and up to $30,000 in coinsurance, for a grand total of $43,400. It’s almost like not being insured at all!

Plus, it’s HMO insurance, which means that I have to go through my primary care provider every time I need anything, leading to massive delays in getting specialty healthcare if I need it. For example, between appointment delays and insurance delays, it took me months and thousands of dollars in healthcare costs just to go see an orthopedic surgeon for a simple corticosteroid injection. I could also count the massive loss in productive work time due to these delays, but I don’t even know how to calculate that.

I’m self-employed, so my insurance options are extremely limited in New York state. The plan I have is the absolute best available to the self-employed here. There are only 3 insurance companies offering plans on the exchange, none with more than a 2 stars out of 5 rating.

So, I ask, why would I care if Republicans kill the ACA? It has had a direct, very negative impact on my personal healthcare. I’m totally willing to pay more in taxes to support social programs–but when it comes to what amounts to taking away any option for decent healthcare, at any price, I can’t support that. The entire process of getting my neck injury treated was absolute hell. Given that my insurance covers so little, economics dictate that I am better off without it and saving for the inevitable medical emergency. Of course, then I have to pay a tax penalty.

Kill it. Kill it with fire.

PSA: Get your flu shot, 2016 edition

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. In fact, I’d say that it is the work that I’m proudest of, and it is truly a privilege to work with people who develop and train on vaccines (plus they are some of my favorite clients!)

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.

Although this post is about the flu shot, just a note: not vaccinating your kids is an antisocial act. In fact, New Paltz is in the middle of a mumps outbreak. Yes, mumps. Nobody should be getting mumps in 2017. Dear dimwits: Jenny McCarthy is not a reliable source for health information.

I got my flu shot last week. I had a day of lethargy that may or may not have been related to the shot, but certainly nothing that impacted my regular activities. If you are afraid of needles, I should note that the needles on most vaccines these days are so fine that you barely feel them. Really!

John

medicalwriter.net

Embracing the Weird

The conversion of upright bikes to recumbents continues. I figure that if I’m going to go recumbent, I’m going to embrace it wholeheartedly and without reservations instead of being depressed about it. Next thing you know I’ll be calling conventional bicycles “upwrongs” and bragging about all the time trialists I’m passing on my recumbent. So I’m not going to call them redumbents any more. I’M ALL IN BABY!

As part of the conversion, I’m doing some extensive indoor training this year on Trainer Road, which so far is pretty amazing because it gives me a quantitative view of my improvement over time. The ultimate goal is a sub-4 century–if I’m going to ride a recumbent I might as well be really fast, right? I doubt I’ll hit a sub-4 this year, but the goal is for next spring. Nevertheless, I have a 100-mile course mapped in NJ with only 1000 feet of climbing across the whole 100 miles. I’ll be making monthly pilgrimages to that course starting in July or so.

So the sale of my upright bikes has left me awash in cash to reinvest in recumbents. Along with my trike, I have two 2-wheeled bikes coming.

The first is a classic: The Challenge Fujin SL II. The theme for this one is light, super light. Built with conventional components this bike is around 17.6 pounds. I’m hoping to get mine closer to 16 lbs. That’s really light for a recumbent. Actually, I’ve been spoiled by my 14-pound English…16 lbs is light for any bike. Di2, please! Also I’ll have a monoblade on the front. I have a very, very good bike builder helping me build this bike. I’m not going to mention his name because I don’t think he wants to make a business out of modifying and building recumbents…it was super-kind of him to help me out on this!

The Fujin has been in production since 2006. Strangely, it was designed such that it is barely functional out of the box, so it requires extensive modifications to be rideable. Only in the recumbent world would a bike be manufactured for 10 years that is broken out of the box. With recumbents, I’m learning, you’re not really buying a bike, you’re buying a project. This is probably a moot point though, because my bike might be one of the last new ones sold in the United States–Challenge has apparently given up responding to e-mails or, you know, actually trying to sell bikes.

An aside: Is it just me, or did Google recently change their algorithm to make searches next to useless? All I get from Google are shopping results these days? It’s gotten to the point where I automatically click on page 2 to skip the garbage. Something is wrong there… Anyway, I switched to DuckDuckGo, which seems to have greater utility these days.

Back to topic: The second bike is a Zockra. I have a deposit down on one, but haven’t heard anything about when it is coming. The theme for this bike is aero, super aero.

That’s all for now. I’m going to write a post in a bit about my experiences with Trainer Road.

John