Friday, July 31, 2009

Belated "Thanks!"

Looking back, one piece of equipment was instrumental in making my ride at the S1200 successful. It, and the people behind it, deserve a post of their own.

I tackled Matt's ROMA 600K with a standard 53/39 crankset, and didn't suffer because of it until the climb over Edith Gap near the finish. That one gap convinced me a compact 50/34 would be wise for the S1200, but compacts with 180mm cranks are few and far between. Other than the beautiful but très expensive DuraAce 7950, options are limited. That is, until I brought it up with Curtis Dobbins, chief mechanic and manager of the shop at Durham's REI.

Curtis threw out a couple of ideas, and the one we settled on was a "custom" SRAM rig. SRAM's top-of-the-line Red crankset costs roughly half that of the DuraAce. But Red cranks top out at 177.5mm. SRAM's entry-level Rival crankset comes in 180mm, but I've heard of flexy shifting problems, especially for big guys like myself. Curtis' solution, one we'd both seen used at Gent-Wevelgem, was to combine the two. Take the beefy Red outer chainring, and mount it on Rival cranks. But could Curtis get everything in time?

Yep. The parts came in time, then ace mechanic Michael Booze got to work installing them. Michael recommended using my 9 year-old Ultegra front derailleur. Seriously? He said it works for him on a similar set-up, so we went with it. The only warning Michael had for me was to check the main bolt on the crankarm often.

Because I had cut it so closely making the decision, I didn't have time to test ride it more than a few feet before the start. Michael had, but not me. To compensate, I swallowed several Tums and packed a few extra tools in the Carradice.

At the start, not a creak from the crank. It was solid! Then, a dozen miles into the ride, a high-pitched chirp when I stood. Then it got louder. And louder. Then it started happening during hard efforts in the saddle. I worried all the way to Gettysburg. Looking over the bike at the control, I discovered that it wasn't the crank at all. It was my Carradice! A cinch here and there, presto! No more creak.

I never had a crank-related issue on the ride.

That hill-friendly gearing helped too. On several long climbs, I said a grateful word or three for the lower gears. I found myself using cogs that I never thought I'd need. Proof that you run what you bring. But I don't think I could have finished the S1200 on a regular crank.

So a belated "Thanks!" to Curtis, Michael and the entire crew at the Durham REI. I appreciate all of you and the work you do. Chapeau!