Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Growing Up in Middle Age

Regular readers may have guessed, from the prevalent post paucity of late, that I've been over-busy. It seems this thing called "real" life -- whatever the hey that is -- will have its way with me, over and over. It's all good stuff, but I find myself, one more time, drastically cutting back training goals.

This seems to happen every season. You'd think I'd learn and just set humble goals, easily met, but that's not the Velophoria way. If I'm not striving for something, I tend to develop freezer rot. You pull me out and I have that grayish-greenish hue that makes you go, "Hmmmm...."

But striving is not restricted to exercise. We're in the process of adopting a child, and the intensity that involves in terms of time, energy, and emotions is not to be trifled with. (The rewards will be worth it.) And y'all have heard about me building my private practice up; things are going slow there and they have to speed up, because I'm taking a second day per week there starting June. And that's in addition to my steady job.

The irony is, I'm more equipped at 49 to deal with all this than I was at 29 or 39 (or, believe me, I would have gotten it all done back then!). I'm in better overall condition, and I have a better emotional foundation and larger store of valuable experience.

But a middle-aged body can only handle just so much.

I was training for a century this spring, not for the first time, but this time, it looked like I was on track. My long rides reached 50 miles a few weeks ago, and the engine was just racing. I was dropping friends on hills I usually crawled up. This is the year!, thought I. I was drooling at the mental picture of the white oval sticker with "100" inside, prominently place on my car bumper. Then... boom! My energy and motivation dropped off the end of a table.

You know it's time to change something when you look at your bikes in the morning and think, "Ecch."

So, back down to the humble 30- and 40-milers for me. Hopefully with some friends, to sweeten the ride. Growing up is a bear, and it doesn't stop when you graduate high school. It certainly has its rewards, and it's a choice I make enthusiastically.

But the trade-offs are tough!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jamis Quest Review Update

Today seems a good day for an update on my Jamis Quest review. It's been nearly a year since I bought it, and I've put enough time into tweaking and riding it since that review that my opinion has changed.

2011 Jamis Quest Femme
Bumper-sticker version: I liked it before, but I love it now.

I've been avidly putting in the early season miles this year, and the Quest comes up smelling like roses on rides of four hours or more. It affords a very comfortable riding position, absorbs road noise efficiently, and is surprisingly responsive.

Shortly before the first review, I replaced the original Ritchey Biomax bars with the Salsa Pro Road 2 in a wider 44 cm size. The aim was to further increase comfort, and I can confidently say I achieved that goal. The extra width helped the most: in or out of the drops, I have a more open chest, which leads to easier breathing. And I have far less neck pain, even at the end of long rides, as a result of the more natural shoulder position (spread evenly, instead of rounded forward to match narrow bars). Last, but certainly not least: no annoying "ergo" bends in the drops means that my hands have a greater variety of lower positions.

I also fine-tuned my saddle position a few weeks ago. The result was a lot more power, and fewer early-season knee pains than I habitually experienced on the racy Cannondale CAAD 8 that preceded the Jamis. It feels even more like the Quest is built for me now.

The X-factor I referred to in the first review -- the zing within the special Reynolds 631 steel tubes that's hard to put into words -- is still quite rewarding. Jamis shapes the tubes specially for each size of this model, so that each version is well-tuned, and I can feel it. When my legs are fresh, the bike is right there for me. This is, of course, true of any bike, but is more rewarding in a bike that weighs more, and is more comfortable, than bikes built for speed.

With its carbon fork, the Quest weighs in at 19.5 pounds without pedals or cages. That's no thoroughbred, but it's lighter than many of the more popular steel bikes, and isn't much more than the bikes on which Eddy Merckx and Team 7-11 conquired the world. (What's more, it's about the same as  many carbon fiber bikes, and with twice the ride.)

I've stuck with the 25 mm Vittoria Rubino Pros on my 2011 model. I was going to go to 28s for more cush, but I like the compromise of 25s: light and sticky enough for most road usage, with a smidge extra air for the nasty surfaces of New England. However, they really come into their own on those days when you feel like taking a left down a dirt road to get to that refreshing waterfall in in July or autumnal lookout in October. Those measly extra two millimeters have given me enough confidence to ride many of my usual unpaved stretches, if only for a few miles here and there.

I replaced the stock saddle early on with a WTB Speed V, my go-to seat. With firm foam that gives just enough, I don't feel the seat much until I'm nearly done with a five-hour ride.

In my full review, I addressed the problem of shimmy at high speeds and a bit of drift in the line. Flipping the stem a few weeks ago (and thereby dropping the bars a couple centimeters) helped with this; it provides more stability up front, due to more weight on the front wheel. Handling also became quicker and more enjoyable. With such a high head tube, I was ready to lower the bars after the first few hundred miles of the season.

*     *     *

Maybe you want to find out why everyone's been shouting about steel bikes again for the last few years. Maybe you're leery of jumping in and spending a king's ransom on a high-end Rivendell or Independent Fabrication. Mayhap thou'rt wary of losing thy edge in ye olde "spirited" group ride.

You'd do quite well to start with the Jamis Quest, a fine frame well-spec'd, that will take you wherever you want to go, at whatever speed you're ready for. It sports a sticker of $1800 (and it's sometimes available for less) -- pretty fair for a package including Reynolds steel, an Ultegra/105 drivetrain, and Mavic rims (on the 2011 model).

Quest on!