Monday, October 26, 2009

Leafs Lost

Generally speaking I like to keep the topics here on the blog related either directly or indirectly to triathlon. However, I feel that I must comment on the start of the hockey season for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Yes, I am a fan. Not a fanatical fan and perhaps not part of the "Leaf's Nation" but, nonetheless still a fan. There is a family connection that goes back several generations. My great uncle Harold, "Baldy" Cotton played for the Leafs in the late 1920's and early '30's. He played on the Maple Leaf team that won the Stanley Cup in the spring of 1932 - the first season that the leafs played in Maple Leaf Gardens. I have made a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame to see "H. Cotton" engraved on the Stanley Cup. It's a long ago and distant connection, but it's a strong and emotional one. Few amongst the, "Leaf Nation" I am sure can claim such a connection to the team.

I am old enough to recall the last time the Leafs won the Stanley Cup in 1967. It was a big deal. I have vague memories of watching the playoffs on TV that year and the celebration that went on afterward. One of the stars of that team was Dave Keon. He lived in our area of Toronto. In fact, he banked at our bank and my Dad used to point him out for me. You see, back then Hockey players were just regular folk living amongst us - not flown-in multi-million dollar talent that you only read about in the papers.

So, with Saturday night's loss, the Leafs are off to the worst start ever, for the team - a dismal record of 0-7-1. Win-less so far this season. How is it that you can pay all of these people, from the owners of the team, down through the management and all the players so much money, and you get this abysmal level of performance. Crazy. Of course the reason they can, is that the Toronto Maple Leafs Sports franchise is one of the most valuable in all of North America. Forty plus years of futility in trying to win the Stanely Cup and the worst start ever, does nothing to deter people from still cheering on the team. What's that they say about insanity - it's when you keep doing the same things over, and over, and over and expect a different result.

This was supposed to be the start of a big rebuilding process. To make a connection back to cycling and triathlon - Lance Armstrong's Coach Chris Carmichael was brought in to, among other big changes, revamp the Leafs fitness routine and the teams fitness levels. However, it would seem they have taken a giant step backwards! Hard to go further back - the Leafs finished almost dead-last in the standings last year.

I am sure things will turn around at some point. Perhaps they should go back to the old Maple Leaf logo( at top of post). This is what the Leafs logo looked like when they last won the Stanley Cup in '67. Nothing else is working, might as well try this!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Triathletes: Your Next Bike is . . . . A Road Bike!

No you are not reading the title wrong. Yes, triathletes out there who only own a tri-bike, forget more aero do-dads and upgrades to the TT rig, get a road bike and really learn how to ride. I am serious about this. And don't kinda do it, by looking for a super aero road frame and/or going half way with this. Get a real road bike, that fits you properly.

You see, the thing is, many new triathletes, and their has been massive growth in the sport in the last five years, have gone straight out and bought a TT/Tri-Bike as their first bike. Nothing wrong with this. If you are doing triathlons, and you are well fit, comfortable and aero on this bike, you have the right tool for the trade. However, many newer triathletes think this is what cycling is all about, when in fact, they are practicing a sub-discipline of cycling - time-trialing. Ironically, a sub discipline that many real cyclists, loath!

So get yourself a real road bike as a second bike - and keep the tri-bike. You can't go wrong in this regard with the R series of bikes from Cervelo( R3, R3 SL & RS). These bikes are in my view the best designed road bikes on the market.

In my job, I am lucky enough to be able to ride a number of different bikes in a year - usually loaners from friends and customers when traveling. In this regard, I get to really ride these bikes - 2 to 3 hour rides and not just a spin around the block. I can honestly say, that from having ridden a number of the very best road bikes in the world by some of the leading manufacturers, that the Cervelo R3 really does it all in, terms of what you want to get out of a road bike. It's very stable and stiff. Well balanced. However, at the same time it has this amazing ability to soak up rough stretches of pavement. This is truly an all-day bike. It's the kind of bike top road racers look for as they have to spend, many hours each day in the saddle - a touring bike, that rides like a real race bike, if you will. This is the feeling that the R3 delivers - I-beam like stiffness and stability, but with a level of comfort that has to be experienced to be believed.

The secret to the comfort are the thin seat-stays on the rear of the bike. These soak-up and absorb most of that harsh vibration and bumping from the road. The first time you ride an R3, it's not uncommon to keep looking down at the rear tire to check and make sure it's still fully inflated! These thin seat-stays are a wonder of bike engineering.

The RS model has a taller head-tube. If you prefer a more up-right position and or have a short torso and long legs, the RS model might be the better bike and fit for you. The RS's seat stays are slightly bowed/curved and deliver even more rear-end compliance than the R3 model.

The favourite bike frame in the world of the weight weenies is the R3 SL. If your goal is to build up the lightest road bike that you can, then the R3SL is a great starting point to hang all your super light weight components on. I rode a R3SL last year that weighed about 13 pounds and it was perhaps the most surrealistic feeling bike ride I ever had. It was almost like there was no bike beneath me!

Riding a real road bike, such as the Cervelo R3, to the triathlete who may have only ridden on a tri/tt bike, will be a bit of a revelation. Assuming a good fit, the steering will be more predictable. The bike more stable. Carving high speed turns, becomes old hat! You may feel more secure on descents and more powerful on ascents. You will be more comfortable on longer rides. What's not to like?

A real road bike also gives you options. More options than if you just own a tri-bike. You can go on more group rides or organized century rides. Next year, a whole new seris of century rides will be launched in North America, modeled after the Gran Fondo's in Italy. The Centurion Series is being put together by Graham Fraser, who literally put Ironman races and Ironman racing on the map here in North America. From what I can tell, the Centurion events are going to be the next big thing! You will want to do these rides on a road bike.

If you wanted to take it to the next level you could get into road racing with a real road bike. Road Racing, to the uninitiated is completely different than the bike leg of a triathlon. About the only thing the two have in common is that they are both done on two wheels. The similarities end there. Road racing can be a huge amount of fun, and often the final outcome does not matter - just being part of the scene and part of the action of the race is what matters. Unlike triathlon it tends to be a winner-takes-all sport, so finding those other victories and places to slot-in, are key. Whatever, the case, the Cervelo R3, would serve you well in any bike road race. After all, this is the bike that 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre rides most of the time, so you'll be in good company!

Picture at the top is my new R3 in gravel/dirt road mode - mud, dirt and all. This is yet another advantage of this amazing bike. It will take up to 28mm wide tires(give or take). Add some MTB pedals and you have a bike that can even handle a bit of light cyclo-cross riding on easy trails and grass and rides along gravel and dirt roads like a dream! After all, this is the same bike that has been ridden to victory in the famous and brutal Paris-Roubaix road race twice in the last few years!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Big Climb

In my previous post, I talked about driving to the summit of Mauna Kea on the big Island of Hawaii ( Photo above is of the observatories at the summit of Mauna Kea). Mauna Kea's true elevation is 13,796 ft. However, it is also commonly referred to as the tallest mountain on the planet. If measured from the sea floor, Mauna Kea's total height would be about 33,000 ft - that's 4,000 ft higher than Mt. Everest!

My friend Nigel Gray, a top long distance triathlete and coach was over at Ironman Hawaii supporting a number of his athletes who were racing there. With time on his hands, Nigel, like many older endurance athletes these days, was looking for the next challenge. He had heard that there was a road that went right to the summit of Mauna Kea. To a cyclist and triathlete, like Nigel, that's like waving a steak in front of a hungry dog. Nearly 14,000 ft of straight climbing on a bike - why not!

The link below is Nigel's accounting of his Epic climb up to the summit of Mauna Kea:

With time on my hands myself in the days leading up to Ironman Hawaii. I had thought briefly of joining Nigel in this crazy endeavor. However, after hearing Nigel saying that he was completely overwhelmed with his lowest gear being a 39/25 and then actually seeing the condition of the 8km of gravel road that you needed to go over at over 10,000 ft, I was much the wiser for having stayed down at sea-level that day! Perhaps some other time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ironman Hawaii 2009 - Sideline Report &Thoughts

First congratulations to the winners, Craig Alexander and Chrissie Wellington. This is a very hard race to defend and repeat at, but both of these amazing athletes did it in style and with class. Wellington's win was the more predictable of the two. But the two-time winner, continued to raise the bar by breaking Paula Newby-Fraser's long-time course record. As for Alexander, he showed that the men's race has become more strategic( more on this in a bit) and, that it's not necessarily who is absolutely the fastest in each leg, but who puts together the best swim/bike/run on race day. After all - it is a triathlon, not three separate events!

Next up for recognition are four athletes to watch out for in the future. Mirinda Carfrae showed that in her first Ironman race ever, that she may be the one who'll go after Wellington and give the World Champion a run for her money in years to come. On a day where most wilted in the heat on the run, Carfrae broke the run course record for women running a quick 2:56 split for the her marathon. In finishing an impressive fourth place, Tereza Macel completed an improbable and never before done, trinity of high-level Ironman wins and places, with wins at Ironman Lake Placid and Canada, and then a 4th place at Ironman Hawaii! Both Andreas Raelert(3rd) and Rasmus Henning(5th), seem to have torn a page out of the Craig Alexander play book - wait in the weeds, and then run to your final place. Still new to Ironman racing, both of these men with their ITU run pedigrees can run much faster with a bit more experience. Watch out for these two.

I had the opportunity to watch much of the Pro Men's race on the bike up close. Most of These guys have figured it out to a T. About half way out to Hawi a large group formed that at times had 25 of them all legally spaced out 10m apart along the road in a 250m long line. It was a sight to behold. There was from time to time, a shuffling of the deck or a move off the front or from the rear, but they all knew that they had 25 seconds to resolve all this and sort themselves out again and then settle back into the long line. Eight of the top ten men in the race spent a good portion of the bike ride in this group. It was only Chris Leito and Faris Al Sultan who did not. Clearly, the strategy now with the men is to get in this group on the bike and stay there as long as you can, because if you can, and you can run well off the bike, your chances of being in the money and on the podium are highest.

Chrissie Wellington right now is in a class of her own. However, behind her it's good to see that the competition in the woman's race is getting deep, fast. Some have criticized other Ironman races this year with having weak woman's race fields. Not so at Ironman Hawaii. My wife Paolina Allan was off the bike in 16th place last year. This year, in almost the same exact running time on the race clock she was off the bike at T2 in 35th place! That is a dramatic jump in the depth of the field in one year and it is good to see.

Something needs to be done about media on the race course during the bike leg. My understanding is that there are some restrictions on this, but on race day it was hard to tell. There were mobile media in cars and on motos all over the place. In similar sports like Pro Road Racing there is a specific protocol for where media can be on the course and how long they can be there for. The WTC should look into this in more detail. I witnessed numerous incidents of cars and motos riding alongside athletes in cross-winds for a very long time. In some cases doing interviews with athletes during the race!

Another issue that should be looked at is to figure out what do do about the women's Pro race and the timing of their start. Right now with a 15 minute head-start, about half to 1/3 of the woman's field has their own race on the bike while the other half to 2/3 of the woman's field get's gobbled up by large packs of fast cycling age-group men at some point during the bike leg. The race for these women amongst the age-group men is very different than for the women that have the open road around and ahead of them. Indeed, the top-10 results of the women's race was directly impacted this year because of this, with the disqualification of Rebbecca Keat. I realize that there is no easy solution to this, but it seems a bit un-fair to have one race with a group of people that have to race under two completely different sets of circumstances on the bike.

My apologies - more minor complaints: I realize the WTC is a bit hamstrung due to the space on the Kona Pier and the layout of the King Kam hotel grounds. However the post-finish-line area at this event is a bit disorganized and not of the standard at many other WTC events and certainly not at the level of a World Championship event. The finish line itself is historical and magnificent, but beyond that it get's a bit crazy. The flow of people into and out of the area is hard to figure out. There is no where to sit down( no chairs anywhere). I talked to many athletes who just wanted to sit down somewhere after being on the go and on their feet for 9+ hours. The ground is all there is to sit on, and with the beach right there, and the whole area covered in sand and athletes all slick with sweat, sunscreen, Gatorade, coke and who knows what else, as soon as they sit down on the ground they are, in the parlance of beach-volleyball Corn-Dogged! Also the ground back there is all uneven and hard to get around on for people with blown out and wobbly legs.

OK enough of the complaints. This years Ironman Hawaii lived up to itself. It was a deceptively hard and demanding race. Winds were moderate and I am told, it was hotter than "normal" - whatever that is. It seems, blast-furnace-hot to me on the Kona coast, all the time. To use a golf analogy - this is a race where very few people actually hit par. A handful of very select people, go under par, while the rest are way over par. Paolina's day was illustrative of that. Last year, she was 22nd. A year later, in much better shape, with experience and acclimatization on her side, hoping to move up a few places, and it still went backwards for her ending up in 31st. Still not sure what went wrong. One thing Paolina did learn this year is that you can't make the whole year or even the whole trip to Ironman Hawaii revolve around the race. That may sound odd, but it's true. For her it was the going early and training with some of the best triathletes in the world for three weeks before Ironman Hawaii that was the real value in the trip. She learned a great deal. Many thanks to fellow Pro Charlotte Paul and her husband Kristian Manietta for taking Paolina under their wing for a few weeks.

This year I was able to take my bike with me and It was a real pleasure to be able to get out on the famous Queen K and get some riding in. It's extraordinary to note that the shoulder on Hwy 19 is the biggest, widest and best paved shoulder of any road that I have been on, any where in the world. You could use track racing tires on this course! Kudos to the local government and the WTC if they had and hand in this. It's like that for nearly 50 miles all the way out to Hawi! If you like the lunar landscape scenery of the lava fields and even if you don't, it's nice to know that you have that much room to ride on. It gives you peace of mind.

The real essence of this race came for me when I headed out on the run course to the infamous Energy Lab. No one, other than athletes are allowed into the energy Lab on race day and that was fine with me - it's not a place I wanted to go as I had a bit of a melt-down in there myself a number of years ago. Instead, I stood on a barren stretch of the Queen K just along from the Energy Lab and watched a long procession of runners pass me on a relentlessly sunny and very hot day, it was completely silent except for the squish, squish, squish sounds of wet feet, in wet shoes. Everyone very quiet and alone in their thoughts and trying to do everything they can to get across that finish line at Ironman Hawaii. That's what its all about.

Paolina finished and there were some emotions. We stood and chatted with some other Pro women for a bit and then went back to the Condo. Then it was time to be tourists for 2 days! The high-light was making it to the summit of Mauna Kea by car just as the sun was setting( below)! Standing on top of the earth's tallest mountain( if measured from the sea-floor), way above the clouds looking out at that magnificent sunset seemed to be worth it. I some how think we will be back.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Are You Racing?

Are you racing? I get asked this a lot. So does Peter Reid( left in picture above - likley getting asked that same question by John Duke, right, from Triathlete Magazine!!). I have not raced in well over 10 years but when I am at a race and I bump into people I know( or even don't know), it's almost the first question that comes out of people's mouths - "Are you racing?" Reid get's it to - all the time. He's been asked numerous times while here in Kona this year. I was waiting in the Honolulu Airport for my connection through to Kona and there it was from an old friend, "Steve, great to see you. Are you racing?"

When people do pop the question, they invariably follow it up with the comment that I look really fit. I guess it's because, luckily both Peter and myself are forever ectomorphs - skinny dorks that never seem to gain or loose weight. I need to be careful with who I share this information with, but when I stopped training seriously back in 1997, I lost weight. I seem to recall dropping about 5 lbs in the months after backing away from dedicated triathlon training.

In terms of my current fitness - cycling is OK, swimming is terrible and, I am guessing the 3K Underpants jog/walk today in Kona is going to take it right out of me and I'll need the rest of the day to recover! Where are those compression socks?

For a time, I tried to do one triathlon a year - not really seriously, just for fun. I have let that lapse in the last few years though.

So no, I am not racing. What I am doing though is here to cheer and encourage all of the rest of you on. That's what I love doing now more than anything else.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Getting Off The Queen K Highway

The picture above is the classic view of the Ironman Hawaii bike course on the Queen K Hwy. It's straight, but unless you like looking at the same thing for five or so hours, I would not describe it as very scenic.

Yesterday, I took the road less traveled and headed straight up Palani to the upper level highway - Mamalahoa Highway. It's a 2000 ft., ear popping climb straight up from the Kona village. Note that if Ironman Hawaii ever wanted to really get rid of the drafting, this would be the route they should take - it would seperate the whole field rather dramatically right from the get go on the bike. Up at this elevation, it's a whole other world. Cooler. Often overcast with the occasional rain shower. The vegetation is lush. The traffic light along the road. The locals friendly with an eager shaka( hang loose sign) The view out to the left as you head north, is spectacular as you can see all the way down to the ocean and actually make out the Queen K highway far below.

After the initial climb the road does not flatten out but keeps going up and down and around numerous curves. It crosses a few more recent lava flows and you can ride this way all the way out to Waikoloa and then back along the Queen K if you like for a nice three hour loop at a decent pace. Your other option for a real epic ride is to carry on along the Mamalahoa Highway, to the "Saddle Road" and then begin the massive climb up to Mauna Kea, which tops out at 13,796 ft. My friend, Nigel Gray is contemplating having a go at this later in the week( He's not racing)

My apologies. I forgot the camera for this ride so no pics, but I am planning on doing the full Waikoloa loop tomorrow with a group of friends. Will remember to bring the camera.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Allen & Scott - Iron War 20 Years Later

In a little less than week, the focus of almost the whole triathlon world will once again be on Kona and the Ironman World Championships. Hard to believe that 20 years ago this year, Mark Allen and Dave Scott faced off in what has become affectionately known as the Iron War. Where does the time go.

The race in 1989 was high drama from the get-go. Scott was a 6-time winner at Ironman Hawaii and Allen had been vanquished, and defeated multiple times Ironman Hawaii, but was the winner at just about every other triathlon on the planet - including earlier that year, at the first ITU World Championships in Avignon, France. Allen and Scott swam, cycled and ran almost shoulder to shoulder until deep into the run that year and then on a slight uphill with about 2 miles to go in the marathon, Allen, through in a bit of a surge, and suddenly, Scott, Mr Invincible at Ironman Hawaii could not respond, and Allen opened up a gap and ran onto victory.

As time has gone on, what's become more extraordinary about that epic battle, beyond the titanic struggle that it was for both men, was the over-the-top times that both men did on that day. Allen won in 8:09. Scott was a minute back in 8:10. Greg Welch an amazing triathlete in his own right, who would go on to win Ironman Hawaii in 1994, was a distant 20 minutes back in 3rd place! What's even more amazing about Allen and Scott's times and performances from that day is that in 20 years, they have only been bettered by a one man, Belgian Luc Van Lierde who holds the course record from his win in 1996 in 8:04.

The 1989 Ironman Hawaii race, was my first Ironman. I recall three things from the day:

1. Bobbing in Kailua Bay prior to the starting wondering if I could really go that far. I hade been doing triathlons at a high level for a number of years by that point and had trained hard for that race, but bolting it all together in one day was still something that was somewhat scary.

2. As I was making my way out to the turn-around point on the run, which in those days was a giant blow-up Bud-Light can sitting in the middle of the Queen K Highway out past the Airport, Allen and Scott were making there way back towards the town of Kona and the finish line, I was nearly forced off the road from the entourage of people on bikes and other media vehicles following Allan and Scott along.

3. The third thing that I remember occured a few days after the race. My quads were an absolute mess. I could barely walk at all. At the Maui airport, I was designated to walk over to the rental car counter and get our car. As it turns out so was Mark Allen. Mark and I walked together in that ambling post-Ironman-blown-out-quads-shuffle. I said to him, "It seems win or loose, this race just knocks the heck out of your legs". Allan, grinned at me and said, "It's at times like this that you wonder why you do this"!

It's great to be back here this year, 20 years after the great Iron War of 1989. Strange, that in all the great athletes, and all the amazing races that have been raced here on this most famous of Ironman courses, there has never been a repeat of that audacious and extraordinary battle that Allen & Scott waged on that day. Both the woman's and the men's race fields are vary deep this year - the women in particular. Here's hoping that we have some of the same drama this Saturday on the Queen K Highway.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Day at Interbike in Booth 1055

Thursday, Sept. 24

Traditionally, Wednesday and Thursday of Interbike are the busiest days of this three day trade show. By mid-day on Friday, everyone is pretty much done. This year was no different. Wednesday was a full day, but Thursday was really the BIG one for us at Nineteen. We were fully booked with meetings - typically on the hour and at the half hour as well. Dan Rishworth, the owner of Nineteen, and I split about 20 scheduled appointments for the day. But as you can tell, lots of people do just drop by on the fly.

Here's how the day unfolded:

7:30 am - Breakfast Buffet at Harrah's our hotel on the Strip. We talk strategy for the day and review who we met with yesterday and any new developments. I like to have a bigger breakfast, as their is rarely time for lunch and dinner is a long way off!

8:40 - Walk over to the Sands Exhibition Hall, vacuum the booth carpet and get things set up for the day.

9:00 - Show opens and we start in with our first meetings of the day.

9:30 - First presentation has gone well, but I am now freezing cold in the Sands Exhibition Hall( AC is always on high in here it seems). Have brought an undershirt - so I go and put it on. Better now.

10:00am - 12noon - More meetings and appointments.

12:30pm Former Top Canadian Pro Women Jill Savege drops by to say, "Hello". It was good to catch up with her quickly. She leaves wondering where her Fiance Jordan Rapp is

12:45 pm Slowtwitch Programmer, Pro Triathlete and recent Ironman Canada Champ Jordan Rapp checks in at the Nineteen booth. I give him a quick run-down on the line. But then he has to go as he is wondering where his Fiance Jill Savege is!

1:30 - Head over to the concession area to get a quick bite to eat on-the-fly between appointments and give a wave to Steve Harad in the Kestrel booth. Line-up for food too long. Swing by the Gu booth on way back and grab some Chomps. That will have to do for "Lunch".

1:45 - I have a quick chat with the folks next to us on the floor, Beljum Budder - It's a chammy cream and body lube for endurance sports. Nice people. Great product!

1:55 - It's now getting warm in the Hall. Contemplate taking under-shirt off.

2:00pm - Tri-It from Calgary, one of our best customers has their appointment. They have brought all 11 staff members and I give them a 20 minute PK session on the Nineteen line.

2:30pm - Carrying on with the meetings

3:40pm - I grab a quick tete-a-tete with Dean Jackson my counter-part from Blue-Seventy off to the side of our booth. All good. We have some friendly competition in this business but surprisingly some mutual challenges and it's good to know we are on the same page.

4:00pm More meetings and appointments, this time with some good new prospects for Nineteen. Always good news.

4:15pm - It's round about this time of the day that my lower back starts to act-up a bit. I remind myself mentally that after this presentation, I need to do a bit of a stretching routine for the back.

4:30pm - Stretch lower back out. Now much better.

4:35 Pro Triathlete and all around nice guy Jonathon Caron checks in to say, "Bonjour" and he quickly gives me the inside scoop on training with Brett Sutton and the TBB team. Now I know!

4:45- North American Sports CEO and Tri Race Managment Guru Graham Fraser stops by to give me the low-down on the Centurion Series. An interesting and exciting development for road riding and racing.

4:50pm -On a quick trip for a bathroom break and a drink of water, I run into a few of the Cervelo Sales Reps I know. Cervelo does not have a booth at the show this year, but they are throwing a Party tonight. We agree to catch up at the party.

6:00 -Show over for the day. Quickly review all appointments and make some notes.

6:15pm - Walk over to the Cervelo Party which is being held in a private room at Lavo a very nice restaurant inside the lobby of the Palazzo Hotel. I am handed a Heineken as I walk through the door!

6:30pm - 8:00pm Cervelo Party in full swing. Many key people in the road and tri business are there - to numerous to list. Try and, "work the room", as they say, as best as I can - still enjoyable though. VP of Sales Tom Fowler and Co-Founder Phil White give some speeches and introduce the Cervelo Test Team riders there.

8:15pm - Cervelo Party wraps up and it's decision time. Take the bus out to Mandalay Bay to watch the USA Crit Finals or head out for dinner? We choose dinner with a good friend and customer, Ian Fraser, from Cycle Logik In Ottawa, and a few other folks from Cervelo.

8:45pm - Sit down for Dinner at Aqua - a very nice seafood restaurant with an obvious water theme. I have the grilled Mahi Mahi which is outstanding. Talk over dinner is interesting, rambling and varied. Check my Cervelo Test Team musette schwag bag from the Cervelo party and note the goodies in there - a signed Test Team Jersey is one thing.

11:00pm Dinner is done and we walk back to Harrah's. There is talk of heading out for a night-cap as we stroll through the casino area of the Venetian, but I am done and am ready for bed.

11:30pm - In bed and fall asleep quickly ready for another day.

Aerus Bike Bag Review

Flying with a bike( on a plane not off a jump!) has become and extra pain, hassle and most particularly expensive in the last year. When I traveled to Kona for Ironman Hawaii last fall, I met people who had paid more to get there bikes there than they had paid sitting in a seat on the plane - at least in the cabin, you got dry pretzels and a shooter of soda, who knows the treatment your bike got at the hands of the gorilla baggage handlers.

There's always been some sort of fee for traveling with a bike when you bring it on the plane. However, historically it was modest charge, but it was very inconsistently applied. Now some airlines are charging substantially more and good-news/bad-news - it's still inconsistently applied! This latter point can be frustrating when, at check in you get hit with an extra $200 to check your bike in. I get it that bikes, and bike cases are a little more un-weildly to handle - but $150 more dollars more work to handle per bike? Now, some triathletes and cyclists have not helped the cause by way over-packing some of these wheeled hard-shell bike cases to the point that they are attemping to check in a Hummer at the ticket counter! At Ironman Canada one year, it took three men, to lift one of these sherman-tank hard shell bike cases up onto the conveyor belt!

What to do? One solution, is to go the other way, away from the rolling armored-truck style hard cases and use the lightest, most compact bike travel bag that you can find. Enter the Aerus Biospeed Bike Bag. This is a heavy duty nylan bag that is very well thought out with a high level of protection and padding for your bike. The key things about this approach is that, when in the bag, the whole unit is compact and light - weighing in at less than 30 pounds with my 58cm Cervelo R3 road bike in the bag. Also, it's discreet. You can sling it over your shoulder. It does not scream I AM A BIKE from the outside!

I used an Aerus Biospeed bag for the first time on my flight to Kona from Toronto yesterday. I had the bike-bag slung over my shoulder and then another medium sized roller bag to check. At check in with Continental, the Agent asked me what was in the Aerus Bag. I said, "Sports equipment". She said, "Seriously. What is in the bag?". I said, "If you really want to know it's a bike". She said, "I would not have known, as it's so small and light [28 pounds on the scale]. It's only slightly bigger than a normal suitcase. I'll check it as your second bag - no charge"!! Thank you.

Picked up my Bike Bag at Kona airport and when I unpacked it at our Condo all was good. I did go the extra mile when I did pack it up and follow a number of the key points noted at the Aerus web site on packing tips - most noteably using foam copper pipe insulation on all the bikes tubes.

Edit: When traveling with your bike, make sure that before you book and pay for your tickets, check over thoroughly the airlines bike policy and the bike fees. Read all the fine print. As mentioned previously, some airlines, most notably the big U.S. airlines such as United, Delta and American, are all charging $175 - $200 each way for your bike. Do your absolute best to not support these airlines with your business. There is a group of smaller airlines, that have much lower and more modest fees for traveling with a bike. I know that in Canada we are very lucky, bit Air Canada and WestJet have a set $50 fee for Bikes - that's reasonable. That I don't mind paying. Consequently, I do everything I can to fly with AC or WJ, even paying a bit more up-front for my airfare - knowing that in the long run it will be less expensive and I am supporting a business, that supports and understands us.

Hope this helps.

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