At the start of the year I didn’t have any particular plans for making modifications to either of my bikes, but as time went on I just couldn’t help but make some changes and additions. This post pretty much wraps up the changes from the beginning to the end of the year, all of which were applied to the Felt VR5.
Selle Royal Respiro Saddle
If I were a true “roadie” I’d be looking for the lightest, slimmest saddle around, with the ultimate being an unpadded carbon fiber shell that would be torture on even a short ride. But I’ve never thought that being uncomfortable was a necessary part of bicycling and am always on the lookout for a better seat. This Selle Royal mainly came about because I was impressed by the comfort of the seat on my wife’s e-bike and took another look at their lineup. The medium-width Respiro stood out because it was designed for the sporty but not extreme riding position that I prefer and still had the advantages of gel padding and a good relief cutout (the jury’s still out on the “ventilation” feature).
I installed it right before this years multi-day Cherry Country Tour and it proved its worth that week as well as during the rest of the season. It also had a feature that I didn’t realize was there at the time, but which proved to be very useful as noted in the sections below.
Garmin Varia Radar Taillight
As an admitted “gadget guy” I was attracted to the novelty of this product, but it has proven to be a very worthwhile addition when riding on the road. It connects to my Edge 1000 (or most other late-model Garmins) and provides an alarm tone when it picks up an approaching vehicle, which is indicated by a colored dot on the left side of the screen that moves toward the top as the vehicle gets closer.
It will handle multiple vehicles at once and manages to pick them up before I can see them at all in my rear view mirror. And as a vehicle gets closer, the light itself gets brighter and flashes faster, providing another layer of safety. It does pick up other bicycles as well, but since it only reacts to objects that are approaching, this shouldn’t be a problem when riding in a group.
The only drawback was that the mount that it comes with is made to attach with elastic bands to the seatpost. This was almost a problem because I have a medium-size seat bag and the Varia had to be positioned so the radar cleared the rear tire, but not so high that the light would be obscured. The required mounting position was OK, but meant that I couldn’t use it if I also had the removable rear fender installed. This problem was later solved as detailed below.
BUP Labs Universal Mount System
As mentioned in the preceding section, I was looking for a better way to mount the Varia than on the seatpost, and was interested to see that an outfit call BUP Labs had a line of mounts for things like the Varia, GoPro cameras, etc. There’s usually no easy way to mount something to a bike seat, but I saw that they had a mount that fits into the ICS (Integrated Clip System) slot on some models of Fizik saddles. Since my Selle saddle also happened to feature an ICS slot, I went ahead and ordered one to try it out.
Well, it turns out that ICS is not as strict a standard as you might expect, and the slot on the Selle saddle was different enough that I found it difficult to insert the piece that they sent, and in fact I broke off part of it when trying to push it in far enough to clip into place. When I contacted BUP about this, they said that they were aware of this situation, were working on a Selle-specific variant, would appreciate my help as a beta tester. A couple of prototype and pre-production parts later, this is what I ended up with:
I also got the Varia mounting piece, and since my seat bag extends a bit past the back of the saddle, I added a 1-inch extender piece. So this is what I ended up with when mounted in place:
So it makes for a pretty neat installation up and out of the way. Like I said earlier, I’m very impressed with how well this gadget works.
Shimano 11-34 cassette
It’s not as if I’m going to need this very often, if at all, but there were a couple of times on the summer’s big tour when I felt like I could run out of gears getting up a hill. My previous cassette was an 11-32, so I’m only picking up a bit of lower gearing, but even this combined with the 46/30 crank exceeds the specified capacity of the rear derailleur (by one tooth) and I don’t want to push it or get into making major changes. As of this writing, it has only been installed long enough to make it onto the trainer where it is absolutely useless, although I was able to verify that the shifting works throughout the gear range. I’ll give it a try next season.
Kenetic Fluid Trainer
I’ve been thinking of getting one of these off and on in the past, but finally decided to get something that would help keep me in cycling shape over the long Michigan winters. This is a pretty basic unit, but with a few useful features. It is not of the “smart trainer” genre that can be paired with Zwift and all that; it’s just a good-quality fluid trainer that provides all the resistance that I’m likely to call for, and is quiet and easy to set up.
One nice feature is that it has a built-in power meter that communicates via the ANT+ wireless protocol that Garmin uses on its devices. So for the first time, I can monitor and record my power output when riding with my Edge 1000. I’m just using it for basic workouts and interval drills while listening to my favorite podcasts as the time goes (slowly!) by.