Category Archives: RAAM

Should I?

You’re probably wondering where I am. I’m not neglecting the blog because I’m tired of it; instead, I’ve been traveling. First California, then Anguilla for the wedding, and now I’m back in California and waiting for my 7 pm meeting. I’m only out for a few days this time, although I’m not getting back until 3 am on Sunday morning.

From last Friday to yesterday, however, I managed to get in almost 150 miles of riding on the new English 650B. I took a few glamor shots of the bike. At least I thought they’d be glamor shots, but I took them with my iPhone and they ended up a little blurry. Here’s one photo, I’ll post the good ones when I return.


I got in a few rides with significant gravel segments. Nothing more than 40 miles, but it was a lot of fun on 650B. I’m taking it easy on my knee right now.




Speaking of my knee, it still hurts a little. I’m on my way to a second formal bike fitting on Wednesday to see if there’s anything I can do about it. There’s nothing that will change about my reach, which has been optimized through a fitting and long experience, but I’m hoping we can do a little work on optimizing my saddle height and, most importantly, cleat position. I clearly have a leg length discrepancy, because when I ride with a Brooks, only one side of the saddle collapses. The knee issues have only cropped up over the last month because of dramatic overuse–the week that my knee really started to fall apart I had ridden 300 miles with almost 30,000 feet of climbing. That’s a lot when you come from the flatlands of NYC.

I know you want to hear about the English. I can’t write a comparative review because I was off the bike for a week due to the knee injury, and then an additional 10 days because of the wedding. So a direct back-to-back comparison with the 700C English is impossible. I will say this, however: I am definitely much faster on descents on the 650B. My usual route into town has about 650 feet of descending on rough, potholed backroads and gravel. I’ve done it dozens of times, and it always takes me 21-23 minutes. I rode into town twice now with the 650B, and the trip took me 18 minutes the first time, and 19 minutes the second time.

This is entirely to be expected. Because the road is really rough, on the 700C bike with 25 mm tires, there’s lots of jumping, dodging, and panic braking. On the 650B, I just roll right over obstacles that would terminate my Clavicula fork or cause a pinch flat. The good part? The handling on this bike is not different from my 700C bike. Other than providing a lot of extra cushion, it really does not feel or act different, even when pushed relatively hard.

Going uphill isn’t faster (or slower, for that matter). But it is more pleasant because of the dramatically lower gearing on the 650B. I’m going to figure out a way to gear down the 700C bike, because grinding up 15% and even 20%+ grades in 34/25, while feasible, is certainly partly responsible for blowing out my knee.

The paint. Holy shit sparkles! It’s amazing. On one of my rides I stopped to eat, and I parked it by the window and stared at the sparkles instead of reading the paper as I had intended. It’s a lovely bike, at least if you’re not a traditionalist who thinks anything with a less than level top tube is ugly. My only regret is not going with something really bright. Oh well…next bike, if there ever is one, will be fluorescent pink with gold sparkles and a My Little Pony sticker on the headtube. Liberace on wheels.

A note about the Spyre brakes. I originally had weight weenies rotors on the bike. After only a few trips over the mountains, they were pulsing horribly. I replaced them with Shimano Ice Tech rotors, which seem more suitable for the type of riding I do.

What about the Spyres themselves? I regret to report that they have poor modulation at best. I thought it was a matter of getting used to them, but really they kind of suck. I’m going to try a few different models of brakes, starting with the HY/RD hydraulics, then I’ll try Shimano, and if all else fails, go back to BB7s. At least the latter work well, even though I hate them because they require a lot of messing around to keep them from squealing.

Regarding the title of this post: I’ve been seriously contemplating a 4-person team RAAM either next year or the following. If my knee is okay, I’ve decided it’s a go. We’ve got two team members so far (including me).

New and improved routes coming fast and furious starting at the end of next week…and, of course, don’t forget you can Win a Garmin! Now, off to do some stretching. I’m making a concerted effort to improve my flexibility.