Chris S

Chris S

Finger Lakes region, NY

Chris S's Passions

Biking
Running

Chris S's Bio

I was cool once.

Chris S

Chris S wrote a review of on May 20, 2014

4 5

Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

This is Zipp's entry-level carbon wheelset, but it isn't wholly comparable to the pricier and more refined Firecrest wheels because of the aluminum braking surfaces. Since I have a lot of steep descents in my area, I like these because they offer more assured braking than a 100% carbon wheel. But the Firecrest represents the most aero wheels in the Zipp line--these are one generation removed from the best in that respect so if you're looking to squeeze every possible bit of speed from your wheels you may want to keep looking. That doesn't mean that these wheels are bad, though. But neither are they cutting edge.

These wheels, or any deep carbon wheel, won't make you hugely faster. If you're a commuter simply interested in speed then it will be hard to justify the cost. But if you're a racer then you're at a competitive disadvantage to those who use deeper section carbon wheels. How many watts of energy you save is difficult to estimate because it varies based on wind angle and speed (plus Zipp doesn't have aero data for these wheels up). If the Zipp 60s save you 10 watts, and I'd be thrilled if they did, that's a negligible amount of mph at race speed. But 10 watts is a HUGE difference in effort, especially if you're already going all out, and if you can make someone work 10 watts harder just to keep you from riding off then that might be just enough to push them past their limits. That's where these wheels matter. As for weight, these wheels aren't the lightest but they are comparable to similar offerings by, say, Campagnolo. I have no problem taking Strava KOMs hammering up steep climbs with these. You'll only lose time on really long climbs at 7% or more, like the Alpe d'Huez. Only then does wheel weight matter, and it's a pretty modest effect. But the aero benefit matters at practically every other time.

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Chris S

Chris S wrote a review of on May 20, 2014

5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

The Giro Air Attack is more popular, I see that helmet everywhere, and the aero Specialized Evade can be had at any local bike shop. But those helmets have really polarizing looks and ventilation on steep gradients can be an issue (particularly for the Giro).

The Course helmet, like the Evade and Air Attack, is designed as an aero helmet suitable for road racing. It just doesn't look it, which isn't a bad thing--the Course looks rather like a compact regular road helmet but with an unusual vent scheme. Where most aero helmets present a smooth surface to the wind to limit drag, the Course is designed to simply let air straight through. So superior ventilation is what makes the helmet aero. Exactly how many watts you'll save at race speed I cannot say. But the wind noise is definitely less, suggesting that the helmet is producing less drag meaning that more of your energy is pushing you forward. Or, put another way, Garneau has come across a clever solution to helmet aerodynamics that is unique and seems to really work.

To be clear, an aero helmet won't guarantee that you'll be a winner in a race or dramatically increase your speed. If you're a commuter who simply wants to get somewhere fast, this kind of helmet won't increase your speed enough to justify the cost. Speed is dependent on too many factors, though aerodynamics is an important part of how fast you can go. But if you're in a race in a breakaway and putting out 250 watts, if a helmet reduces drag by 10 watts then it'll take someone chasing you 260 watts just to keep you from riding away. To catch you, chasers will have to work harder still. That's where all the aero stuff really comes into its own--it pushes your competitors closer to their limits and wears them out just a bit sooner. The difference in speed may seem negligible, but people will feel the difference in effort. If you race, there really aren't any disadvantages to this helmet--looks, weight, ventilation, or aerodynamics.

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Chris S

Chris S wrote a review of on March 23, 2014

1 5

Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

Bought this pump to carry with me on my road bike as an upgrade to my previous Wal-mart pump and an alternative to a CO2 cartridge, where if you run out in the middle of nowhere then you're in trouble. While the Crank Brothers pump does come with a frame mount, I like to stick mine in my back jersey pocket. It fits okay. On the plus side, the pump feels very solid and well made.

The problem is when I actually needed it. Got a simple flat on my front tire. I turned the head unit to the appropriate spot and connected the pump to the stem. After pumping like crazy, I could get to maybe 60 psi (and sometimes the tire would inexplicably lose pressure and I would have to start over at 20 psi or worse). I could never be sure that the stem was securely attached to the nozzle. Neither did I notice any difference using either max pressure or max volume settings. After exhaustion from all that pumping sets in, and mounting frustration, I needed to brace the pump against the ground to keep going. Since the nozzle is attached to the pump unit itself, you can only do this very awkwardly. And it's not a good idea for another reason: The valve stem isn't designed to be abused like this and so it snapped right at the rim opening. So not only did the pump not work at all for me, it ruined a tube and forced me to have to call in a rescue from an hour away while standing on a roadside getting hammered by frigid wind. Lesson learned.

If you're on a road bike, get a pump with a flexible nozzle. And make sure it works before taking it out on the road.

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Chris S

Chris S wrote a review of on March 9, 2014

5 5

Power is the only way to train effectively. Speed is too dependent on weather or traffic. Heart rate is too dependent on sleep, age, and health. Perceptions of exertion are often misleading. But watts don't lie. If you're able to crank out more watts, you're getting stronger. With power, you can train with incredible efficiency and see exactly where your weaknesses are and plan accordingly. In a race you'll know if you can go harder or have to back off. On a long climb, you can sit on your best number and pace yourself up while everyone else around you is going too hard and blowing up.

Powertap is one of the least expensive power options and works very well. Spinning the wheel wakes the PT up, allowing it to be read by any ANT+ head unit. It can also estimate cadence, so you won't need a cadence sensor. Do a manual calibration before you ride and you're all set. Maybe the hub weighs more than a regular hub, but you won't notice. With many power units it's a matter of something gained/something lost. A crank unit forces you to use the same bike. The PT forces you to use the same wheel, but you can move it between different bikes. If you use different wheels, you can buy two and build them into two wheels for the price of one Quarq.

Saris is great to work with--my end cap started transmitting intermittently and after a phone call they mailed me another one right away. It works perfectly now.

I had mine built into a Zipp 60 rear wheel. Since the hole placement called for j-bend spokes, I went with the DT aerolite bladed spokes rather than the standard Sapim CX-ray.

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Chris S

Chris S posted an image about on August 14, 2013

Fit picture

I have thin arms and am 69" tall with arms of regular length--this is how the smalls fit on me. The warmers are stretchy, so you should actually be able to wear your regular size with these unless you've either been lifting weights or enlarging your arms with peanut butter cups.

I bought these in red--normally people go for black, but you can see that red should work pretty well with a lot of different kit. (In fact, completely mismatched kit in my case :D).

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Chris S

Chris S wrote a review of on August 14, 2013

5 5

Wore these on a cool (low 50s), damp, and very windy ride and my arms felt comfortable--they neither got too hot through a hard effort nor did they get chilled. Simply perfect. I have long sleeved jerseys but the arm warmers extend the use of my short sleeved jerseys deeper into the year.

I normally wear mediums in Castelli but I have the usual cyclist's noodle arms and so bought these in a small and am glad I did. The warmer stayed put on my arm--no tugging or adjusting on the ride was required at all. The gripper was not too tight. They are oh-so-slightly longer than I needed, so the small can fit someone who is average height.

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Chris S

Chris S wrote a review of on August 10, 2013

5 5

I haven't worn this one on scorching days--I have the Castelli open mesh base layer for that. But this one is comfy and unobtrusive on more temperate days and could even do well for days where you need a long-sleeved jersey.

A base layer may seem like a pointless expense. Until you crash and get road rash on your back because your jersey got shredded and you didn't have any more protection. But I have yet to feel soaked from sweat, which is the main purpose here.

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Chris S

Chris S posted an image about on August 3, 2013

Jersey fit

I have an older iteration of this jersey, one with 3/4 zip, but the picture gives a good idea of how this particular line wears, sleeve length, etc. As noted in my review, this is a medium on a 35" chest--looks almost like a skin suit. I pair the jersey with the Castelli Endurance shorts.

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Chris S

Chris S wrote a review of on July 31, 2013

4 5

After smashing my Specialized Echelon when my wheels slipped out from under me on a fast turn, I got the Bell Sweep on sale as a replacement. To reiterate the good things about this helmet: it's easily adjustable and it looks sweet. It has a nice, streamlined and fast look to it. Being a roadie, of course, I ditched the visor. Roadies wear shades. :D

The helmet isn't perfect. There's minimal padding inside--basically what's along the front forehead is about it. Fortunately I had some stick-on padding from my previous helmet that I could position to make the fit more comfortable. The front pad also becomes saturated with sweat pretty quickly and drops down my sunglasses or down my nose. Which means that sometimes I have to stop every once in a while to squeegee the pads. A headband or other sweat-absorbing headgear would be a good idea on longer rides or in warmer climes.

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Chris S

Chris S wrote a review of on July 29, 2013

4 5

If you go hardcore into cycling, you realize the value of all the specialized bits of apparel. There are shoe covers for every occasion: speed, rain, cold, and cold and rain. The good ones, alas, don't come cheap. But there are alternatives that, while not necessarily ideal for all conditions, can help. That's where the toe thingy comes in.

If the road is wet or you're riding in a drizzle it'll do a good job keeping the leading edge of your foot dry, which is where you really feel the discomfort. The warming benefits seem to me to be fairly minimal given the amount of ventilation that my cycling shoe has, but the toe thingy delays the onset of cold feet a fair bit in temps down to the 40s (but really these are designed for milder temps). Where the toe thingy really shines is convenience. Unlike your typical shoe cover, it's a cinch to put on and you won't wear out any zippers or tear the neoprene on the ground walking around. Plus it doesn't cost much!

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