Apr 30, 2007

Did you hear about Basso? The sport of cycling is seriously messed up. I'm not declaring him guilty or innocent or anything, but none of this is good for the sport. Maybe its just a witch hunt. Maybe most of these guys are innocent. Then its just a search for dopers who don't exist thats tearing everything apart. More probably, a lot of people are guilty. Maybe Landis and Hamilton and Ullrich and Basso are all using something. That gets you thinking about the level of competition out there. If the top guys were doping, what is everyone else doing? Is everyone on something? Maybe doping doesn't actually help that much, can other guys compete on natural ability? Are the guys who have a really great year just having a really great year of doping? If cycling can't get cleaned up, it makes you concerned about the future of the sport.

I'm not above contemplating the use of an unfair advantage over another athelete. I can sympathize with the pressure pro's are under to perform. At some point though, can't you realize that even if you win, its not good for your sport and probably not good for you in the end.

Apr 28, 2007

Well, today was pretty good and not so good. It started out nice, it was warm and the sun was out and I got there with plenty of time to relax and take a look at the course. The course at the Redwater Roubaix is a circuit, made up of a gravel road 'U' and a rolling two lane road that connects the U together. We do seven laps. I thought the race would be a lot slower this year, since J.R. and Phil were gone and there was a strong headwind on the road straight. Then I saw the gravel, which was much smoother than last year with lines that would be much easier to follow.

The race rolled out pretty well. I was riding nervously because I hadn't done a group ride in a long time. I wish we had some group rides around here, not just races. Anyway, I made the lead group like I wanted(yay!) and by the end of the first lap, there were nine of us with no one in sight. There was a prime the first lap, so we were screaming along, but by the end of the second lap things had slowed up a little bit and I felt pretty good about getting to the end of the race, even if I wouldn't do much once we got there.

I didn't know many of the guys in the lead group with me, so I tried to stick to the wheels of Jim, John and Eppen. Unfortunately, on the third lap, those three decided to kick it up a notch. I'm not sure if they just wanted to set pace or if they were trying to drop someone, but either way the latter happened. I was mixing it up in front with them and realized I was working too hard and I should move back in the field. At the same time I was moving back, we went through an S-turn on the gravel, I was forced to take a rough, bad line and I was spit out the back. I chased for a little while, but I was already spent and it quickly became apparent that at that speed, I was never gonna catch them. Later on, John said that was pretty much the hardest he was riding all race and it slowed a bit pretty quickly. I spent the next four laps pedaling around by myself. I wasn't fast enough so that I could catch Jim, who was five minutes ahead of me at the finish, but I was too far ahead for anyone to catch me.

In the end I did OK. I made the break like I wanted and was able to put down power like I wanted, but I couldn't behave above threshold as well I know I can and I need to work on my pack skills.

I looks like Eppen and Dyan are the real deal. Eppen was able to take third overall. He doesn't look like he can put down a ton of power, but he's always fast. Afterward, you could really tell he left it all on the course, which I really admire about him. Dyan was in her first race ever, and was able to hang with most of the guys pretty well.

I felt bad for Calvert. He went out today for his first real ride on some new cranks and the chain fell off. I was somewhat (mostly) responsible, since I put the crank on for him. I had set up the chain to what I thought was right, but I didn't get a chance to test ride it. I should have checked up on that before the race. :/

Apr 25, 2007

Races about to start

So the first race of the year, the Redwater Roubaix, is Saturday. I know I did the HPV races, but they don't really count since you're in a weird position and racing really strange distances. I feel pretty good, and while this should be a 'C' race for me, I'm taking it really seriously. Maybe its just because its the first race and I'm really freakin excited to compete, or maybe its because J.R. and Mr. Bushing left town and I actually have a slight chance to win. Either way, I've been talking this race up for weeks and I can't wait to start on Saturday.

The race is 29 pretty flat miles, about 3/4 of the time is spent on gravel. The winning times last year were just under two hours, so its not a high speed affair. Since this is the first real race and Minnesota races start in 2 weeks, this will be the race that tells me what kind of shape I'm in. I feel pretty good, but it might just be that I feel a lot better than last fall. The idea is to make the lead break and sit in for the first 3 or 4 laps. After that, hopefully I'll be feeling good enough to do something and if not? I'll just try to finish. ....

Apr 20, 2007

More pictures!

Team Picture

Mucker sans fairing

Mucker tearin up (or not so much) the sprint course.

Chico's 'Al or Nothin', which had an aluminum frame (engineers are such dorks). Unfortunately they broke an axle 15 laps into the endurance event.

Portland's 'Vike Trike II'

Rolla's 'Fly By' on display on Friday.

Inside Rolla's vehicle, notice how simple and elegant it is.

Western Washington's Valkyrie, which looked really cool, like the real deal, but had some controlability issues when fully faired.

My favorite, Cal Poly. It just looks fast.

They used carbon for almost everything. I don't know if you can tell, but the carbon subframe supports the pedals, handlebar and front fork.
One of the really cool things about HPV competition is how friendly everyone is. Of course, everyone really wants to win and is proud of their own vehicle, but nobody takes it out on anybody else. People are willing to talk, share strategy and design ideas and just bullshit about anything cycling or recumbent related.

Apr 19, 2007

More HPV

Final results:

4th overall

1st Design

10th Sprint-> 8th Male, 10th Female

5th Endurance

I think we actually got 9th in sprint, though it doesn't change anything in the big picture. Overall results can be found here.

Impact testing: So scientific!!

NASA's 80x120 ft wind tunnel. This is the diffuser where air is drawn in, I guess. I'm one of the little blue guys in the lower left.

Phil bustin' a move with one of the San Francisco street performers.

Dyan (in the background) passing Portland State at the end of the front straight. Go Dyan!

Oregon State's upright vehicle...... they finished 20th in design and 2nd in endurance.

Colorado State's lean-steer vehicle.

I'm riding Mucker. Alex said I had a scowl on my face the entire time I was riding. It was probably because I was too big and couldn't move my head at all!

Nevada Reno, another tadpole trike.

UMR (the winning team) in the endurance event.

HPV is pretty much over, so i have frighteningly little to occupy my time. I've been catching up on old work. On the bike I just started doing some aerobic intervals and they feel great. Its nice to be able to devote time to training again.

Apr 17, 2007

HPV Wrap Up!

I've been desperately trying to find pictures, but I've only got one. That's Rolla during the sprint event.

Saturday started well. The good news was the fix from the night before worked. It worked so well that we called the trike 'Band-aid' all day. I can't say enough about how well it worked. Derek and Calvert came up with a good design and the whole team worked well together implementing it. When we woke up Saturday morning the JB Weld had nearly hardened and after a little bit of time with a heat gun, it was ready for the sprint event. If that wasn't enough, the patch had majorly increased the torsional rigidity, which (obviously now) had been caused by the weak front sub frame.

If that wasn't enough, we won the design portion of the competition. Friday night, I was convinced that Portland, Cal Poly and Rolla had put together stellar enough vehicles that it wouldn't be likely for us to take design. Apparently I was wrong. From the sheet, you can see that we had a pretty well rounded vehicle. The guys from Cal Poly and UMR deserve a lot of respect. I believe this is Matt and Andrew's last year as undergrads at HPVC and they put together fantastic vehicles, as we'd see throughout the weekend.

Extra props should go to Montana State and Dr Jenkins, a past advisor at SDSM&T. They put together a good vehicle and a 7th place design. Not bad for a second year team.

The bad news of the day came once we got to the sprint event. Amid intermittent thunderstorms we found Mucker just off pace. Other top schools like Chico, Cal Poly, Portland and Rolla were finishing in the low 30's for their women and high 30's to low 40's for their men. We could only muster 25mph and 32mph respectively. I'm sure it wasn't the riders. Dyan, Phil and Baldy are in excellent shape and possess the talent necessary to hit 40. It was either the Sturmey Archer XRK8 hub we used which seemed to have a ton of drag in it or the combination of a short sprint course this year and a vehicle that weight 75+ lbs by the time we got it ready for the sprint course. Whatever it was, we just couldn't push the vehicle fast enough.

Saturday night we did a little tourist stuff, then practiced our rider exchanges and discussed race strategy for Sunday's endurance race.

Then endurance race is always fun. Racers get to push themselves to the limit and teammates take part in what effectively becomes pandemonium as each team tries to go their fastest while praying their vehicle stays together. This years course was a long, fast 1.5 miles and pretty bumpy.

Sunday morning was bright and sunny. Our team got their early so we racers could check out the course while the rest of the team could check over Mucker. The fix from Friday night seemed to be holding and (almost) everything checked out great, but more on that later. We were starting in 10th place and the hope was that Dyan and I could go out for the first part of the race and get us into a decent place for Phil, Calvert and Baldy to crank it up and bring us home.

I started warming up on the trainer when the race started and Dyan took off for her two laps. When she came around to start her second lap I was surprised and elated to see that she had moved from 10th to 4th place, behind only Rolla, Cal Poly and Chico. Later on she said that everyone was being tentative in the turns and she was confident enough on Mucker to carry speed through each turn and move up in the field. When she came into the pits from her second lap, we were only 30 seconds off Chico. Derek and Brett threw me into the vehicle, buckled me down and I was off.

I took the first lap easy. I was still uneasy about the frame fix and wanted to get a feel for each of the corners before I really pushed it. By the beginning of my second lap, I had caught Chico and was really starting to push it in third place. I was feeling pretty good and lapping slower vehicles on every straight. As I started the third lap, delusions overtook me and I thought that if I could only hold this spot, the last three riders would have a chance of catching Cal Poly or maybe Rolla. Then out of nowhere, Rolla passed me on the front straight and I knew 1st place was gone. I screamed at myself, dug down deep and tried to hold his wheel, but I knew that if we'd been lapped on the 5th lap, I had no shot of holding him. By my 4th lap, I was starting to feel like I was in a flying coffin. I was surrounded by black carbon fiber with only hazy plastic windows to see through. I could barely move side to side, and if I lifted my head at all it would smack the roll hoop on every bump. The uncushioned carbon fairing created a cacophony over every dip and crack in the road. All I could hear over the noise was my own breathing and by the end of the race I had the strange feeling of being buried alive. My legs certainly didn't notice as I was able to push myself to the limit over the last few laps.

Justin waved me in on my 6th lap and I pulled into the pits to switch with Phil. He roared onto the course and immediately set a new fast lap for the team. I was beginning to feel good as he continued to fly on his second lap. Then he threw a chain off its cog. It didn't slow him down much, but if we'd already thrown a chain this early in the race, it didn't speak well for the remaining 16 laps. Phil was able to hobble through his remaining laps, alternating between hammering out the course and throwing his chain on two separate occasions. Calvert was able to go out and stay in one gear for 3 fast laps, but when he traded with Baldy, the chain kept jumping off and it was obvious we weren't going to finish strongly. Luckily(or unluckily), Chico and UNR also had mechanical problems and we may have been able to hold onto 5th overall in the endurance race.

Portland put out steady laps without any major issues and was able to finish a strong race for 4th (I think). Cal Poly finished a strong third, first getting lapped by Rolla and then unlapping themselves toward the end of the race. Oregon State showed up with what was essentially a home built standard road bike. Not many of the competitors were incredibly pleased that they finished the endurance race 2nd. Rolla was able to overcome their demons and finish first in the endurance race and first overall on the weekend, something that has been eluding them for many years at West Coast. Congratulations to them and Andrew, especially, a guy who works harder than most.

It turned out that we overlooked one of the bolts connecting the rear dropouts to the frame and it worked itself out over the course of the race. That extra flex, combined with Phil and Baldy's aggressive style was the reason the chain jumped so much. Considering the bad luck we had on Friday, we're lucky a little bolt is the only thing that went wrong with the vehicle.

I'm really proud of what we were able to do this year. Two short years ago, Kyle, Chris, DJ and I competed as juniors with a vehicle that didn't do so well. We were able to put together a composites intensive vehicle which won design and, despite falling apart, put up a good showing in the two racing events. SDSM&T showed up with some of the best composites work at competition. We were one of the few teams to use carbon fiber structurally, and we did it well. We definitely had the best organization during the endurance race. Our rider changes were always less than 30 seconds, where other schools were at least a minute. Our rider fitness was stellar this year. I would put our team of riders against almost any other at competition, which really gave us a fighting chance despite a few mechanical issues. I think that we've created something on campus that could be used as a serious building block for future years.

Apr 14, 2007

Friday the 13th

Unluckiest day of the year!

It all started out well. We got up early, did some finishing work on the vehicle and went on a tour. Halfway through the NASA AMES tour (in the biggest wind tunnel you'll ever see, 150 ft tall!) Kacey called and said their was a problem with the rear wheel disks. No problem, we pull the wheel disks off and get Mucker ready for the design presentation at 3.

The design presentation even went well. The judges seemed impressed, we were well prepared and got to say pretty much everything we needed to say. Afterward we took our time getting back to the rooms. Once there, we took Mucker out to practice vehicle exchanges for the endurance relay event on Sunday. Dyan took the vehicle first, rode it around in a circle and came back to exchange with me. Once she was out, I hopped in and was about to strap my seatbelt down when- CRACK!- the vehicle fell three inches on the left sound.

I hate aluminum.

If you've ever heard aluminum break, its a pretty sickening sound. This is my third aluminum frame to fail, two of which I helped build. It was a fatigue fracture across a weak weld on the front right wheel mount, where the weld didn't get proper penetration. We were just lucky it happened while it was standing still.

The team came together pretty well. Dolan would be proud of our teaming. A solution was designed and approved before 6. We had most of the materials we needed with us. A team let us use some steel and tools that we needed. A big band aid was made by 11:00 and we might be able to ride in tomorrows spring event. I didn't handle it so well. I was disappointed that it broke and frustrated that we were in a catch 22 situation. The aluminum wheel support had been glued to the carbon fiber frame, so the aluminum couldn't be welded without breaking the bond and the aluminum couldn't be fixed properly without welding it. In the end we created steel brackets to JB weld and bolt to the aluminum, hopefully reinforcing it enough to prevent any more problems.

Some other teams brought interesting stuff. Rolla did the usual improvements to their iterative design. Portland State did some really interesting design and testing, including a full sized wind tunnel test to verify computation fluid analysis. Oregon State brought an upright and Chico has a super low frontal area. The really impressive bike was Cal Poly's. They brought a carbon body tub two wheeler (the only other team that really brought carbon framed vehicle) that was just perfectly elegant design. I think we did pretty well, but Cal poly will be hard to beat.
Pictures of Mucker(before the accident), I'll get more up here ASAP.

Apr 8, 2007

On the way to California

West Coast HPV Preview

The big schools that come out for HPV are Chico State, Cal Poly and UMR.

Cal State Chico: They've been refining their tadpole for a few years now. Last year it was good enough to win overall with #1's in both sprint and endurance. The drivetrain is exceptionally smooth and the steering seemed to be well put together. Also, they seem to have some of the best riders at West Coast competition.

Cal Poly SLO: Winners in 2004 and 2005. They've got a FWD two wheel bike that seems really well designed. For whatever reason last year, they had some issues that hurt their reliability, so despite winning design they didn't do so well. I have a feeling they'll be extra motivated this year. I read that a couple of the team members even went to Battle Mtn this year.

Missouri Rolla: Winners of just about every East Coast HPVC, they keep coming up just short at West Coast. Their two wheeler is a really simple, straightforward recumbent. They seem to do really well in design and testing.

Oregon State posted something on their website about a "traditional upright bike" that takes advantage of aerodynamic aspects usually restricted by the UCI. Portland and Montana State showed potential in their first years last year and should be exciting this year (Dr. Jenkins even mentioned titanium!). Many other teams are capable of a good showing, so Friday should be interesing. Hopefully I'll post back with updates and pictures!

I'm Bak!

Its been a long winter. I know I haven't posted much lately, but I'm hoping it'll pick up.

In addition to the usual class and training, I've been working between 20 and 50 hours a week on HPV. Its almost over. We go to competition on Wednesday and the racing is Saturday and Sunday. If I have access to a computer and internet, I'll post updates. Things didn't come together exactly as I expected this year, but we've got strong riders and a well designed bike, so anything is possible.

The collgiate HPV races are sort of... different. Its split between two days: a sprint race on Saturday and an endurance race on Sunday. The sprint course is about a quarter mile long with a 100 meter top speed trap. Each team usually gets like 15 runs('cept for last year) and each run is about a minute of all out effort. The endurance race is a 65 km relay crit, essentially. The loop is tight and fast, usually, and each rider rides between 5 and 20km. Since vehicles are usually considerably faster or slower than one another, drafting is minimal and its basically a TT. Neither race is especially indicative of cycling fitness, since they're such odd distances, but its almost always the first race of the year so its the best I've got. Real races start April 28th, so I'm psyched for that.

Check it out!