Friday, July 27, 2012

Why doesn't it climb so good ?

Last Wednesday, I finally got the chance to really compare my Alterra Road with the Zenetik Pro. Together with a couple of collegues we drove down the the beautiful town of Aywaille in the Ardennes to ride the Route des Légendes, a 100km tour. I did not have the chance to really ride the Alterra uphill before and although we have no mountains in Belgium, the Ardennes offer plenty of uphills. 

The last time I rode in the Ardennes was with my Zenetik Pro and I remember having a hard time then. To prevent this with the Alterra Road, I changed my rear cassette to an 12-30, which would make it easier to get uphill (in comparison with the 11-27 I had on my Zenetik). Turned out I was wrong. I had to shift to the largest rear sprocekt to get on top of the first uphill, that was not how I planned to complete the ride ! Since there were steeper uphills to come, I did not feel very comfortable. I turned out that I had a harder time riding uphill with the Alterra then with the Zenetik. Riding uphill turned out to be really tough on the Alterra. And the fact that my fellow riders had to wait for me at the top of almost every uphill did not make me happy either ....

My weight and condition are still more or less the same, so I think it could be the bike. Besides the difference of frame geometry, there's also the difference of the handlebars. My Zenetik had straight bars, the Alterra has drop bars. So what's to blame ? On the Alterra Road, I ride on the brake lever hoods most of the time. When climbing, I switch to the straight part of the drop bars close to the stem. On the Zenetik Pro, I stayed at the ends of the handlebar all the time, whether I was riding uphill or not. I could keep my hands at that position for a couple of hours without any discomfort. On the Alterra, I have to change hand positions say every half hour, to prevent them from going numb. It's not a big deal, I see a lot of regular road bike riders have the same problem. But that's not how I want to ride my bike.

So what now ? For me, it's pretty obvious : the drop bars have to go. I will take the Alterra to my local bike shop and have the drop bars changed with the straight handlebar from my Zenetik. And see how the Alterra handles uphills with a straight bar.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Another holiday

The last two weeks were spent in Vaals, the Netherlands, close to the German en Belgian border. As usual, we rented a cottage in a holiday center. My wife took her new electric bike and I took the 700X with me, which turned out to be an excellent choice. I also brought a new toy with me, a MONTANA 600 gps. I spent over a year deciding whether or not to buy a gps-device, but a couple of weeks ago I did get myself one. Mounting the MONTANA on my 700X was pretty easy : I just installed the Garmin Bicycle Mount on my KLICKFIX mount and was ready to go.

Is it big ? Yes, it is. I guess you don't need a gps-device this size just for riding your bicycle only. But since I use the MONTANA both for cycling and motorcycling, you get the best of both worlds (long battery life and a big enough/bright screen).

Compared to where I live, it is very hilly over there. I needed all of my gears most of the time. The 700X handled everything just fine, I only found out that a couple of times my gear was not low enough (or I just can't ride up hill at all). I might consider getting a bigger cog on my rear hub to overcome that problem.

Summer really was late this year, only this last week temperatures finally got up and evenings were mild enough to be spent outside. I spent at least 3 hours a day on the bike with no real discomfort at all. The city of Aachen was really close, so we visitied this wonderfull city several times by bike. Another nice holiday spent close to home.  

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thoughts on riding the Alterra ....

So far, I've taken the Alterra Road with the Alterra seat pan for a couple of rides (3 to be exact) but to be honest, I do not like it at all. The seat pan is way too small and reminds me of a regular racing saddle. It may be the shape of my butt, but I'm way more comfortable on the carbon Zenetik Pro's seat pan, so I changed it back today. Then took the Alterra Road for a road near the canal and felt much better on the wider seat pan.

The last couple of weeks the towing path besides the canal was closed due to work in progress : the old layer of asphalt is being replaced with a new layer. Most parts have been finished, so the potholes and most other irregularities have are now covered with a new layer. The weather has been very mild lately, which made it possible to still ride my bike with shorts and short sleeved jersey, nice ! But as you can see on the picture : autumn really has begun. Not bad, since I like the change of colors along the route ....

So, what are my thoughts so far on the Alterra Road ? I do not experience a lot of difference between the road bike's geometries, although it's obvious in some ways : there's no front wheel touch with your feet with the Alterra and it is much easier to ride the bike standing up. The biggest difference are the drop bars on the Alterra. Although these bars offer more hand positions than the straight handlebar I had on the Z Pro, I really have to wear padded gloves to prevent my hands from getting numb on some positions. It takes a while, sometimes half an hour or more, but than my fingers start to tingle so I know that it's time to change my hand position. I also notice that there's more weight on my shoulders, arms and hands with the drop bars, meaning that I'm leaning more forward on the Alterra than on the Z Pro. Is all this a problem ? Not yet. At least not such a problem yet that I'm considering installing the straight bars again. I really like the looks of the drop bars on the bike and I feel a little more on a "real" road bike when riding it. But for now, I'm still hanging on to my Alterra the way it is. Only future will tell ....

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Another cycling holiday

I just got back from another cycling holiday in the Netherlands. We rented a small cottage in Zutphen, in the provence of Gelderland. Last year I rode my velomobile up to there and found out that my velomobile was a bit too wide for some of the bicycle paths (like the ones in the National park the Veluwe). Also some of the paths of the bicycle route system are gravel paths running through forests, not ideal for velomobiles. So this year, I took my 700X with me, which turned out to be the perfect choice !

Weather was nice all week : mild temperatures with strong breezes earlier this week, but the second half turned out to be a real Indian Summer when the wind lay down. During day time I rode my 700X in shorts, short sleeve shirt and (SPD) sandals, only at night rides, it was a bit too chilly and I had to put on a jacket and bike shoes. Since my 700X has a good head light, it was the ideal bike to ride through the city at night.

Miles and miles of bicycle path near the river the Ijssel

Although I hade one pair of bib shorts with me just in case, I never needed it. There were days that I rode my bike for 60 + miles without any discomfort, in total I had a little over 300 miles on my bike computer from last week. Pictures I took during my bike trips can be found here

Friday, September 02, 2011

Changing the seat

So far, I've ridden a little over 300 miles on my Alterra Road. On my second or third ride, the right part of my bottom got sore after the ride. But last week I did a 60-mile ride with no discomfort at all. When it comes to the handlebar, I change my hand positions a lot and I'm still searching for the perfect spot. On some positions, my hands start to get numb, defenitely not the way to go. Altogether, I'm pretty happy with my Alterra, but comfortwise it's no where near a recumbent. I do not want to get into putting extra padding to the seat or anything alike in order to get a more comfortable ride.

My friend Wijnandt and CF-pal is very satisfied with his Alterra seat on his DYNAMIK PRO, and since I have a spare Alterra seat I changed the seat today. First thing I noticed that there were 2 metal plates underneath the carbon seat pan of the Zenetik's seat. When using the Alterra plastic pan, it is impossible to use the largest of the metal plates since it is too big for the Alterra pan. So I only used the smalles metal plate to put the Alterra seat in place.

Useless piece of metal for the Alterra seat pan

First thing I noticed when sitting on the Alterra seat is the upward curve of the seat pan, which is more distinctive than the one on the Zenetik seat. I compared both seats before putting the Alterra pan on my bike, but both seat pans seem to have the same curving line at the back. Maybe it's because of the material that the Alterra seat pan feels different? I'm not sure. Anyway, I'm curious how the Alterra seat'll do in practice, I'm about to find out !

Friday, July 01, 2011

New bike in town ....

After much consideration (and a lot of reading at the CF-forum) I decided to replace my Z Pro with an Alterra Road. I ordered a frame from Nanda Holz at and had my local bike shop transfer the parts from the Z Pros' frame to the Alterra. At least, that was the plan. I wanted a drop bar with STI shifters on the Alterra, but since that's not available in 9-speed anymore, I've had to have the 10-speed version installed, which also implied having a new set of cogs at the rear wheel and a new chain. Well, okay then. I took my Z Pro and the Alterra road frame to my bike shop last week and picked my Alterra up yesterday.

And .... wow ! Nice looking bike ! Just like the yellow of my Z Pro, the red of the Alterra looks kinda dull until the sun hits it, then the sparkling little things show up nicely :

First thing I checked was the space between the rear tire and the brake bridge. And yes : there is plenty of room ! Real nice !!!

I also had the original carbon seat transferred from the Z Pro, because there's no carbon seat pan (yet) for the Alterra line of bikes. I did order an Alterra seat with the Alterra frame but will stick to the Z Pros' seat for now, let's find out how it'll work out.

Riding home from the bike shop felt pretty weird, it has been more than 10 years since I last rode a bike with drop bars and it'll probably take some time to find a proper position on it. Riding the bike standing up is indeed much easier on the Alterra than it is on the Z Pro. I never rode my Z Pro standing up because it felt weird, on the Alterra it feels more natural so I think I'll be doing it whenever necessary.

I asked my local bike shop to double wrap the handlebars with tape for more comfort, since there seems to be more weight on my hands. I remember that when I used to put my Z Pro next to my 700X, both the handlebar and the seat were at same level. Not longer so : the Alterra Roads' seat is a bit higher and the handlebar a bit lower. I still can change the height of the seat, but not that of the handlebar, so I'm curious what it'll work out in time.

I had too many issues with my lower back on the Z Pro and that's what kept me from riding it. Let's hope that the Alterra geometry solves this issues, but since there's only one way to find out, I'm afraid I have to ride it. A lot .... Poor me, life's just too hard sometimes ;-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

And another holiday ....

Just got back from a 6-day holiday. Last Friday my wife and I drove to la-Roche- en-Ardenne where we spent 3 days in a hotel. Last Monday we drove to Biersdorf- am-See in Germany, where we spent another 3 days. Since we took the car as our main means of transportation, I could take a bike with me. Since I did not want to stick to asphalt, I took my 700X.
It seems that summer already arrived early last week, sunshine all day and temperatures over 25°C. On my first ride on Friday, I reached the top of a local route. When I took the picture that is shown here, I suddenly realised that there was total silence in the midst of the forrest ! No cars, no motors, no airoplanes to be heard, just the birds singing in the trees and the wind touching the leaves. Amazing, these places are hard to find these days !

Although there are many mountain bike routes in La Roche, I stayed mainly on the roads. The 700X was no real mach for the rough MB-routes through the forests, especially not when going down. The routes were so rough with lots of big rocks and ruts from the trees that I only managed to ride downhill while braking most of the time. With lots of up -and downhills, I got more than my share of work out on the roads. Unfortunately, most of the roads were in no good condition, but that did not stop me from riding my bike.

When arriving in Biersdorf-Am-See, one could tell that you were in Germany only by the state of the roads. As usual, most of the roads were in excellent condition and showing only little damage of the past winter. I rode a new part of the Prümtalradweg around Bittburg and some parts of the Kylltalradweg and the Nimstalradweg. The Dorint hotel we spent are nights was located near a lake and with summer temperatures but no summer crowds, the location was as heavenly as in tourists brochures.

Not all was rosy though. In comparison with earlier holidays with the 700X I did not suffer from my butt. It did get very sweaty with these temperatures, but it never got uncomfortable. The only thing I noticed was my lower back. I never had issues with my back before, but lately when riding either my Z Pro or the 700X I noticed that my lower back started to hurt after a while. Especially when riding uphill. It might be that the forward reach is just a little too much for my back (and my age isn't probably helping either). It is true that I do not ride my CF-bikes as much as my recumbents, but the main idea is to ride a bike that is more comfortable than a regular bike. I'm considering ordering an Alterra Road frame and swap the components from the Z Pro. The Alterra has a different frame geometry, which might do the trick. Stay tuned to find out.