Friday, May 30, 2014

A pleasant surprise

I had a package notice in my mailbox today, and in the package ... a SRAM DD3 hub with the trigger shifter and clickbox!

Now I just need the chainrings I ordered to come in - then I can set up an appointment with a bike shop to install everything and I'm in business.

Of course, there are a few more items on my wishful thinking list that would make things a lot better ...

1. Disc brakes;

2. Better crank arms;

3. Competition wheels;

4. 10 speed cassette, derailleur and shifter;

5. ...

But those are just in the wishful thinking stage right now, and I am MORE than satisfied with where I am now compared to a year ago - I have a handcycle (with some NICE tweaks) and I'm not falling when I go for run/walks!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


I've decided that I will stick what I have ... with a few modifications.

1. I already added the crank handle extensions. The cranks aren't ideal, but I don't see the $$ being available to change them any time soon, so ...

2. The Shimano Crankset (FC-M431) has 26-36-48 Chainrings with an 11-32 9-speed Cassette. This gives a "low speed of 2.5 MPH and a spin out top end of about 32 MPH. The low is a little high and the top end isn't nearly enough. Playing with the numbers (and finding what's actually available), it looks like a 24-36-52 set of Chainrings will give a low of 2.2 MPH (cadence of 40) and a high of 34 MPH (cadence of 100). Definitely a change in the right direction.

Who makes a 104 BCD 52T Chainring, you ask? Rennen Design Group does! You can choose from 32T to 52T AND you can also choose DIGITAL increments. But wait, that's not all! You can also choose your color from Black, Polished, Brown, Red, Blue, Green, Gold, Orange, Purple and Flourescent Pink!

I went with Blue 52T (ignore what the photo says for number of teeth)

64 BCD 24T Chainrings are commonly available - even in Blue. I went with the Blackspire Super Pro Blue 24T

3. The 9-Speed Cassette isn't ideal - a wide range 11-36 10-speed cassette is a definite improvement ... on the bottom end. With a 1.9 MPH low at a 40 cadence, there will be few hills anywhere I will be racing that can't be handled. The top end is still stuck at 34 MPH, though - which is NOT enough going down hill! Let's see - SRAM PG-1070 11-36 Cassette - $65; SRAM X9 10 speed trigger shifter - $61; SRAM X9 Long Cage 10 speed derailleur - $90 ... $210 to change the Cassette - not happening soon.

4. There is still that pesky top speed - time to look at the SRAM DD3 again. That moves the low end down to 1.4 MPH -  definitely a hill climber ... and the top end goes up to almost 47 MPH - which is MUCH more like it! Without changing the cassette, I'm looking at the same top end and a low of 1.6 MPH ... hmmmm!  DD3 Hub, shifter, etc - pretty close to that same $200 plus area and still out of reach right now ... especially if I go with the disc brake version.

5. Did someone say disc brakes? There goes another $170 ... nope.

6. Not really a performance enhancer (well, maybe a tiny bit), but a neck rest really would feel good and let me push just a tiny bit harder. Enter Steve at The Finer Recliner who is custom making one for my Force 2.

So, just where am I headed?

The extensions will work for a while - check;
52T Chainring ordered - check
24T Chainring ordered - check
Neck Rest ordered - check

I REALLY want the DD3 hub now - and the disc brakes ... but that's $400 or so that I just don't have right now and won't for a while.

What does that leave?
Fund Raisers - NO, not going there!;
Time - I have plenty of that;
Corporate Sponsors; etc.  If you happen to know a Company that would like to spend a little for some VERY active word of mouth advertising ... send them my way and I will talk with them.

Monday, May 19, 2014

BFD Catfish Crawl 5K

BFD stands for Blountstown Fire Department, btw.

So my handcycle isn't 100% perfect; so I showed up a little late; so I was the first ever handcycle entry for the 2014 BFD Catfish Crawl 5K; so I ... set a PR of 22:40.

It's a nice out and back on part of the Florida Rails to Trails, with plenty of shade. The boardwalk under the Highway 20 Bridge is ROUGH for a racing chair! Mostly flat with some small rollers ... and an uphill climb to the finish.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Not as much rant

Last evening I took the chair out for a spin now that I have the extensions installed and as much tweaking as I can do for positioning ... and turned in 2.8 miles in 19 minutes. That's a damned good time for me - not near what I want to be, but still very respectable.

BUT, it could be better:

1. I could tell that I could have gotten more power into my cranking IF I could have lowered the Bottom Bracket another 2 or 3 inches (you want the centerline to be about the level of your lower sternum for the highest efficiency). That can't happen without more clearance - and that won't happen with the current crank arms.

2. I could feel the flex in the crank arms under maximum load - that is NOT a good thing! I'm really afraid the arms are going to fail - probably during a race when I really need them the most.

Current options:

1. Keep using the current setup until the point of failure and then have to raise money to replace the crank arm system;

2. Start a fund raiser to replace the necessary parts to upgrade to a wider crank arm system now;

3. Try to get a sponsor so I can get the really nice things - such as racing wheels, better cassette (10 speed to go with a SRAM DD-3 hub), better crankset and disc brakes. You have to set high goals ;)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Rant ... Part Deux

I got the handle extenders in today ... and I could lower the crankset head 1/2 inch! That made such a difference ... NOT! Well, maybe a little bit.

It DID get the handles out closer to square with my shoulders - 18" versus 22" center line to center line of the shoulder joints.

The extensions are the longest I can use ... and to be honest, they are probably too long - I can see the crank arms flex and torque under maximum push/pull on the handles. That is going to lead to work hardening and stress fractures of the crank arms - I can see it now.

Short term, I can use the handcycle as it is now. Long term, the crank arms, etc need to be changed out.

Now that the handcycle is in realistically usable condition, I'm going to be putting a LOT of miles on it. I have a bunch of races later this year (up to 50 Miles in the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic), and I will be doing a LOT of training. We will just have to see how it holds up under the stress.

Perspective - I put well over 200 miles on the leased handcycle in the 3 months I used it. I anticipate putting in that much every month during training. Between training and actual runs, I can easily foresee cranking out 3000 Miles every year.

3000 MILES?!? What can you expect? Replace the tires; replace the chain (probably); the lower end quality cassette and crankset will both be showing signs of wear; those pesky aluminum crank arms could very well suffer fatigue failure within the first year; etc. It can get expensive real quick ...

On the other hand (aka a short rant).

After actually doing some training runs on the Force 2, I'm starting to see a couple of minor issues.

1. I had to adjust the crankset to its highest setting just to clear my legs. Because it's so narrow, there is little room for adjustment. I have ordered some crank handle extensions that MIGHT let the handles clear on the sides and let me drop the crankset down some. With the crankset up as high as it can go, I'm not cranking at the most efficient angle!

2. I had to adjust the seat position some to try to clear my chest from the crankset and handles. Maybe the handle extensions will help here too.

3. I'm really beginning to doubt that the extensions are going to be enough - which makes the fix very expensive. The next step requires changing out the bottom bracket, crankset and handles ... which is about $500. I can't see why so much has to be swapped out, but Top End is looking at that bottom line. All you should have to do is swap out the crank arms, but Shimano has a proprietary spider on the crankset the Force 2 comes with.

4. That brings up another touchy subject - the crankset. Why the &@#$%^ have a 104mm BCD on a handcycle? It's not like it's a Mountain Bike that needs the clearance. It makes chainring selection rather limited. I see no reason they couldn't have gone with 110mm (or even 130mm) BCD - which are standard sizes for road bikes.

5. Yes, disc brakes would have been a little more expensive - key word LITTLE. Disc brakes require less 'squeeze' to activate - which IS a big deal when your arthritis is flaring in your hands. They are also more consistent in the wet ... such as after (or during) a rain or in a damp, foggy day.

6. An 8/9 speed hub - really? Yes, you can usually put a 10 speed cassette on the 8/9 speed hub, but an 11 speed hub works with all 4 cassettes and costs little - if any - more. The 11 speed hub is also better in a lot of ways. Why not go with a better product? My guess is the bottom line.

7. No, the VA won't furnish 'real' racing wheels (and I don't disagree with that) ... but it would be nice to have something better than the bottom end wheels and tires that come standard on the Force 2. If you are getting a competition  handcycle doesn't it make sense to get competition level wheels and tires?

Overall, I think the VA was penny wise and pound foolish. They HAD to bring the cost in below a fixed point because of rules, etc - and I can see that making sense in a lot of cases ... but I'm the square peg that doesn't fit that round hole. There needs to be some wiggle room for the special cases - such as the standard crank arms that I truly believe are NOT going to work out and will have to be swapped out in the long run.