Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two Teeth or: How I Finally Broke Through The Sound Barrier

Captain Kirk - "Scotty, I need more power."
Scotty - "Ya can't change the laws of physics!"
Like hell you can't.

All this year I've been out on my time-trial bike wishing I had one more gear. Too often I'd be spinning out on descents..even little ones...while in my big chain ring and my smallest gear (11) on the back. I needed more power. I needed something. I felt like I was five years old again and on my trike and all the big kids were passing me on their big bikes.

What you may not know, I ride on 650mm Zipp wheel set. That means in order to keep up with the 700mm wheel sets, I need to churn more. The chain ring I was using was a 53 tooth. In short for those keeping score at home, a 53 with 700’s is comparable to a 55 with 650’s.

Mulling over my choices and conferring with my closest advisors, we came on two choices.
  1. Change the cassette
  2. Go to a bigger chain ring
I decided on option two, the bigger chain ring. I would go to a 55 tooth. So, I went to the candy store. I went to Gear West. I had already had some conversation with Curt Wood over this very subject and he agreed I needed to go to a bigger chain ring, especially with my current wheel set.

So, I plunked down a total....you are going to love this....a total of $18. $15 for the part (used), and $3 for labor. I owe the boys at Gear West so much. I felt llike I was robbing them. I'm going to have to do something special for them when the season is over.

The 55 really was not any larger than the ol' 53. Just two extra teeth. Here is how the 55 looks on the bike.

With new chain ring, it was now time to test it out. I decided to first try my 13.5 mile time trial course. I have ridden it enough times to have a set of data worthy of a true comparison. Here are the top five time trial speeds using the old 53 tooth chain ring.

I didn't realize it until I did the time trial but my fastest time was set on August 9, 2009. One year to the date in which I had the new chain ring installed. Coincidence? Certainly uncanny.

So on August 9, 2010 I set out with my 55 tooth chain ring. The temperature was 95 F and the heat index at 100 F. Wind was from the east at 7 MPH. It would be at my back going out and in my face coming back. I knew within a quarter mile, I was on to something.

When it was all over, my time for 13.57 miles was 35:27. That was a bettering of the previous record set exactly a year earlier by 53-seconds. My average speed, 23.0 MPH. I finally am part of the 23 MPH club and it feels damn good. For the record, my official Garmin result can be accessed below.

I am still in test mode with this chain ring. My first race condition test will be Young Life Triathlon in Detroit Lakes on August 21. In 2009, this is the event where I set my fastest bike PR within a triathlon at 22.7 MPH. I look forward to seeing what I might be able to do this time around.

All for a whopping $18. Amazing.


Mario said...

Great Job! Keep testing it. Unfortunately, its hard to control all the variables involved to truly answer why you were faster--like the training and rest in the weeks leading up to TT's, what you ate, jersey worn, helmet, sleep, etc. If you find that pretty much all your races/TT's are faster, then it could be the gear. However, I like to think YOU are just getting stronger and the confidence the new 'teeth' instilled gave you that extra little boost you were looking for. However, anyway you slice it you were faster so the new chain ring can't slow you down.

Brian said...

Yes, absolutely correct Mario which is why I refer to this as my first test. I have one tri upcoming in which I can compare YTD.

I can tell you it did feel faster right away. HUGE noticeable difference. I had 3-4 MPH more speed on the same downhills I've been training on the last 3 years. Just need to see I can now top 23MPH avg in a event. And go from there. Again, for $18....a guy can't go wrong!