There's not many people who have ridden a bike, from the youngest kid on their first bike to the most seasoned veteran, who hasn't dealt with a dirty, greasy, and possible noisy chain. Although some bike builders have experimented with a belt drive (quiet, clean, no lube required, lasts a long time but requires an internally geared hub to have gears), the chain drive bicycle is obviously far more common.
I've certainly gotten less fastidious with my chain care over the years compared to my bachelor days, but I will run it through my chain cleaner and scrub it the best I can before a race or "when it looks like it needs it." While deep down I have always known this, there's more research showing that this is not a great approach and that I probably should be paying a bit more attention to my drivetrain.
One of my wonderful clients, Eric, keyed me into this podcast by Dave Schell:
You may know Dave from his TrainingPeaks Podcasts as well.
And I also came across this one from Dylan Johnson:
That really drives the point home.
Eric is always willing to try new things and experiment, and went ahead and ordered a pre-waxed chain. Instead of me telling his story, he offered up to be the guest blogger for the week.
Here's his tale:
Wax It If You Got It
The thought of chain wax seemed like more work than it was worth. Would the potential for less friction during a ride and less wear on parts be worth the deep cleaning of the chains, bathing them in hot wax, and the ongoing maintenance? I was not sold as it sounded like margin gains for a lot of effort, but I kept hearing it is clean; really really clean.
I live in a condo and reducing the risk of smearing grease and grime had me intrigued because I seem to have this natural ability to get chain grease on stuff. My existing chain was near the end of its life so I ordered a pre waxed chain (see link below) to avoid the initial setup steps of cleaning a brand new chain.
I removed the old chain and before installing the new pre-waxed chain I cleaned off my cassette and chain rings with some Muk Off degreaser.
The waxed chain exceeded my expectations. A quick wipe with Xtri Bike Wipes post ride and it was like new. A few weeks of riding and the chain was still surprisingly clean. To extend the time between re-waxing I apply some Slica super secret (link below) which is wax based and a good for touch ups between full waxing.
After month of riding I took the chain off and did my first waxing in the small crock pot I bought from amazon. I would likely get the slightly larger one but this still works fine:
The longest part of the waxing process was stringing the chain on the swisher which I bought with my wax but an old spoke or hanger can be bent into one. Once the chain is on the swisher, you then just put the chain on top of the wax and turn the pot to low. An hour later the chain was ready. Just swish it around and take it out to dry.
I hung it dry overnight and put it back on the bike after loosening it little. I leave the wax in pot so it ready for the next chain as you can reuse it for a while before refreshing the wax, which is great for saving on wax and excellent for being lazy.
At this point I am a full wax convert, so for my new bike I took the next step and cleaned the new factory waxed chain using a few baths in mineral spirits and a final clean in denatured alcohol. https://moltenspeedwax.com/pages/clean-your-chain and/or Zero Friction https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3CxiZqItGw
I found cleaning a new chain easier than I thought. Note: a used chain is much harder to fully clean due to build up (or so I hear).
I am not sure if it makes me any faster (BJL Coaching does that for me anyway), but the ride is smooth, the chain stays clean, and components will longer.
For those interested here are some links I found useful:
Zero Friction is the best site I found for all things wax and chain lube. https://zerofrictioncycling.com.au
They also have a YouTube channel and episode 4 cover waxing:
YBN pre waxed Chain and master links:
Molton Speed Wax
Swisher Tool and chain pliers
Micro Fiber Towels:
Super Silca waxed based chain lube for quick touch ups:
Back to B.L.
Eric and I pre-ride a mountain bike course in dry but dusty conditions just this past weekend. I was showing him the loop so he was behind me most of the time riding through my dust. We got done with the 6 mile loop and I looked at his chain...SHINY. And then he said, "watch this," and ran his fingers on the chain. No grease at all.
So this is all very intriguing to me. At the very least, I'll do a better job keeping my chain clean and using some high quality lube. But maybe I'll but out that old crock pot and go for the full wax!
Thanks again, Eric!
May was indeed a busy month for the rassers! Everyone continued to train hard and recover harder and their performances are evidence of their diligence.
This report begins on May 15. You say May 15 is a Friday, though. True, indeed, but it was also the date of the 4TH CCNS KERMIS P/B CCAP in Hartford, CT. This is another unique crit race around Rentschler Stadium, and one that Paul L. didn't want to miss. Check it out here. Despite getting stuck in traffic and almost missing the start, Paul finished in the top third of the Cat 3 Field which included 70+ starters.
On May 16, Kevin E. would buckle up the aero helmet again and line up for the Upper Freehold Time Trial. This is a another great circuit course with some challenging turns and a few ups and downs. Kevin cut through the wind and finished up 11th in the Cat 4/5 Men. Again, his consistency has paid off in that after this event, he is now in the top 10 for the Cup with 6 races left on the calendar. Frank S. also competed in the TT, but unfortunately missed a turn where a marshal had left their post for some reason. He found his way back on course, and despite the 2 miles extra, was able to still come in faster than a few of his competitors.
The New Jersey State Mountain Bike Race would return to the wilds of Jungle Habitat in West Milford again this year. Team Town Cycle organized this event on Sunday, May 17, and a nice group of BJL Coaching Athletes got their tech on for this fun event, which was also H2H Race #3. Greg S. had his best placing of the year so far, taking 4th, just 50 seconds off the podium, in Cat 1 Masters Men 50+. Brooke W. jumped up on the last step of the podium in Cat 1 Master Women 40+. For the Cat 2s, Chris C. battled with a late race flat, but still took the VICTORY in Junior Men 15-18. Rod M. scooped up some more points for the overall with a 9th place in Master Men 50+. And Stef M. had as solid race over the rough course coming in 4th in Master Women 40+.
Many of the mountain bike racers would be resting and training on the next weekend, but Memorial Day brings some big crit racing to New Jersey. Paul L. decided on Bound Brook on Sunday and the Grand Daddy of the crit races, Somerville on Monday. His goal on Sunday was to get his legs moving and primed for Monday, and he did just that. He finished with the main field in this fairly technical event. On Monday, Paul was riding great in this national calendar event, when a reality of crit racing showed up...crash. He was taken out with over half the race to go. Unfortunately, his saddle broke, among other things on his bike, and couldn't take advantage of the free lap and get back in. FORTUNATELY, Paul himself escaped rather unscathed and would live to fight another day, and he certainly did. (Spoiler alert: Paul WON the next race he entered in early June--update coming!)
The final weekend of May saw the local mountain bikers head north to Tymor Park for H2H Race #4. A few of the BJL Coaching Athletes made their way up to LaGrangeville, NY, for this fun and challenging course. Stef M. would have a good showing in her last race before shoulder surgery, scoring a 2nd place finish in Cat 2 Women 40+. Rod M. scooped up a handful of points in 11th in a DEEP Cat 2 Master Men 50+. And Chris C. kept up his winning ways, taking the victory in Cat 2 Men 15-18, and also posting the fastest Cat 2 time out of EVERYONE!
The temperatures and the racing has been heating up and the fun continued through June.
It's been far too long since I reported what the amazing BJL Coaching Athletes have been doing out on the race courses, and it's TIME! Most athletes are well into their season, whether they're racing road, time trials, mountain bikes, or some combination of the three disciplines. The weather has been great for the most part, and there's been some super racing action.
The last weekend in April saw plenty of racing in the region. On April 25, Kevin E. went "Down the Shore" for the Long Beach Island (LBI) Time Trial. This 10 mile course includes two turn arounds so you can experience different wind situations. Fortunately wind wasn't too bad that day, and Kevin finished 15th in a deep Cat 4/5 Field. He was able to grab some points for the overall TT Cup and gain some valuable experience on a course that was new to him.
Also on that Saturday, Chris C. attended the Juniors in the Jungle High School Mountain Bike Race promoted by Team Town Cycle. Chris entered the Men's A Category, which would be equivalent to High School Varsity. He took first in the race, and since this race was part of a three race series, he would go into race #2 leading the points.
Sunday brought many of the athletes to the 15th Annual Tour de Lake, a competitive cycling "challenge" that has two courses options through northern Morris and southern Sussex counties. All the athletes who participated chose the longer route which was 40 miles with almost 3000' of elevation gain. In the Women's field, Stef M. grabbed 6th place in her first go at the 40. She's been on the podium in the 20 and did great with the longer, tougher course. Sarah P. had a solid ride, and despite being mislead off course by deviant who painted some false arrows on the road, still came in 15th place. In the Men's race, Keith L., my teammate and the event organizer, took 6th place in the stacked field. We had three athletes in the Men's 45+ race. Top honors goes to Greg S. who took 8th in the, then Frank S. who came in 26th, and Jim G. who also followed the false arrows but finished up 35th. This will certainly serve as great training for Jim in his journey to Leadville.
As we moved into May, Chris C. kicked off the month with another podium performance locking in his first place for the overall High School Series. Saturday, May 2 was the 10th Annual Team Bulldog Youth Race and NJ State High School Mountain Bike Championships. Chris C. came in second in the event, not far behind his teammate and fellow BJL Coaching Athlete Morgan P., who claimed the High School State Championships for the second year in a row.
On the road side, Kathryn C. entered the Men's 4/5 Field at Prospect Park early Saturday morning for some great training. She stayed out of trouble and hung nicely with the pack.
Sunday, May 3 was Race #2 in the H2H Mountain Bike Race Series, where we saw a number of top performances. Chris C. rounded out his weekend with a victory in Cat 2 Junior Men 15-18, making that 2 for 2 in the series, and one of the fastest times of the day. Stef M. finished in 5th place on the challenging course in Cat 2 Women 40+. Rod M. dispatched some demons and came in 8th in Cat 2 Master Men 50+. In the Cat 1 Race, Greg S. continued to move forward in the series with a 7th place finish in 50+. Finally, Brooke W. took 2nd place in Women 40+ in her first race of the year.
Dropping down south of the Mason Dixon line again saw Paul L. hitting up the Bunny Hop Crit. He rode a smart race coming in 12th out of 80+ starters in the Masters 35+ field.
Jump ahead to the weekend of the 9th/10th, and we begin with yet another Victory for Chris C. On Saturday, May 9, Chris participated in the High School Series Finals, held by Team Marty's. He took first in the Men's A field, ensuring his overall win for the series. Way to be consistent, Chris!
On the paved side of things on May 9, Paul L. was ready to bang bars again at the Orchard Beach Crit Race, where he finished up mid-pack out of 60+ racers. Also that day, Kevin E. raced the clock at the super cool Somerset Circuit TT and came in 10th in the Cat 4/5 Men. His consistent performances have moved him steadily up the standings in the TT Cup, with his sights set on the top 10 overall soon. I also attended that event, and came in 4th, just 15 seconds off the podium in the 35+ Field, and 9th overall.
On May 10, Mothers' Day, brought Kathryn C. to the Bear Mountain Spring Classic. This is one of my favorite road races of all time, and I was glad I was able to provide plenty of intel on a course that would be new to her. Coming off a 4th place Battenkill as her last road race, she was hungry for a podium. I could hear the passion and excitement in her voice as we discussed race strategy a few days prior to the race. It all came together as she WON the Cat 4 Women's Race! She was able to get into the early break which was eventually whittled down to two racers. She attacked on the final pitch up Lake Welch and held on for the victory. Amazing, KC!
It's really been a wonderful year so far working with this group of dedicated cyclists, and I know we have a lot more successes in store!
Look for the May 16 to May 31 report coming shortly...
Since I've last checked in with a racing recap, there's been quite a bit of action with the BJL Coaching Athletes.
Let's jump back to the Ides of March and the MTBNJ Grundle Short Track Mountain Bike Race was taking place. The conditions were snowy and muddy, but that didn't deter these hardy racers. One of the area's top U19 Racers, Morgan P. entered in the open men and finished just outside the top 10 in 11th. In the Women's Open Field, Kathryn C. put her 'Cross skills to good use on her mountain bike and took home second place. This was a nice tune up race for both athletes.
The strange weather in March left the weekend of the 21st and 22nd open, but the following weekend brought us three very different races. Masters Racer Greg S., making his comeback after a 20 year break from racing Pro Mountain Bikes, headed south the the March Mayhem Mountain Bike Race. An early race mechanical forced him to stop and lose contact with the gravy train on this fast and flowy course, but he fought back hard to finish 5th.
Paul L. got involved in the penultimate Branchbrook Spring Series, battling stiff winds and a talent rich 35+ field. A break went up the road, and Paul finished 3rd in the field sprint to take 12th place overall.
And for something completely different, Kathryn C. went back to her mother land of Michigan for the very popular Barry Roubaix dirt and gravel road race. Just shy of 3000 (yes, 3000) folks register for the three different race lengths, and of course Kathryn was all in with the 62 mile loop and 3800' of elevation gain. The morning brought mid-teens for temperatures but she used her 'cross racing experience to be properly dressed and prepared. The mass start presented some difficulty in knowing who was in your field, but KC kept fighting hard and finished up 6th in the Open Women out of 41 starters, of which only 28 finished.
The first weekend of April had the Time Trialists ready to race against the clock for the first time this year. Both Kevin E. and Jan S. went to the northern part of the 'Jersey Shore for the classic TT kickoff race, Sandy Hook. This would be Kevin's second go at the 7 mile out and back course, and Jan's first. The wind was nasty that day, gusting up to 30+ mph. Kevin bettered his result from last year coming in at 11th with friend and temmate Jan, coming in just seconds behind him in 12th. Great start to the season, men!
Also on April 4th was the last Branchbrook Park Race, dealing with crazy windy conditions again. Frank S. got involved getting his legs back under him with a strong pack finish where many in his Cat 4 Race were dropped. Paul finished up 15th with a strong field sprint chasing yet another break in the 35+ Race.
On April 11th was the Cherry Blossom Challenge back at Branchbrook Park. This race traditionally brings out the best road racers in the region, and this running didn't disappoint. Paul L. entered the Cat 3 Race as a little tune-up for his race on the 5th, and finished up 18th, again doing well in the field sprint after a break away got clear on the first lap. Frank S. put himself back in action and finished in the pack in the Cat 4 Race, where almost a 1/3 of the field didn't finish due to the windy conditions. I enterred the Pro 1/2/3 Race, and with $1500 on the line, I knew all the heavy hitters would be there. I was happy to stay in the field after a breakway went clear at about mile 40 of the 50 mile race. I finished up 28th of the 81 starters, 3rd place Cat 3. The conditions wreaked havoc on this group as well, as only 43 finished the race.
The next day, Paul got his game on at the Carl Dolan Memorial Spring Classic. He rode a beautiful race and sprinted for 5th place out of the 79 finishers. This was a super result and some more points from USA Cycling.
On Saturday, April 18th, the TT'ers were back at it at the 2nd running of the Allamuchy TT Course. This super fun course had some great conditions and Kevin E. put himself just into the top 10, in 10th. This will give Kevin some good cup points and help to hone his form for the rest of the season.
The 18th was day one of one of the largest races in the country, The Battenkill Pro/Am. Pete S. took the journey to upper New York State for his first test of the season, and crossed the line in 22nd out of the 50+ starters in his Cat 5 group. Pete showed tremendous tenacity and will power after a bit of a late start to his training this year. Kathryn C. had a wonderful race, making all the right moves. The Women's Cat 4 race would be won by a solo breakaway from mile 9, but KC put herself into the head of the field as the chase group whittled itself down to a mere 8 riders. Kathryn sprinted her way to 4th place, missing 3rd by a 1/4 of a wheel. None-the-less, a brilliant race, Kathryn!
Sunday the 19th was the first Hudson to Highlands Mountain Bike Race of the year. This is an 8 race series located in NJ and NY that brings out the top racers of the region. The race was promoted by MTBNJ and they laid out a challenging and fun course. BJL Coaching Athletes started the series off strong with U19 Racer Morgan P. coming in 2nd in Cat 1 Men 19-39, Stef M. earning 4th in Cat 2 Women 40+, Rod M. scoring 7th in Cat 2 Men 50+, and Greg S. taking home 7th in Cat 1 Men 50+. Chris C., in his first Cat 2 Race of his life, finished 1st in the 15-18 Junior Men, and top 5 out of all Cat 2s.
This is a great start for all of these athletes. Their hard work and perseverance is really paying off, and will only pay greater dividends as the season rolls on. I'm very excited to witness all the success that will come!
This weekend is bringing some great racing action for BJL Coaching Athletes!
Kathryn C. and Pete S. will be up at The Tour of the Battenkill, testing their skills and endurance over the 68 miles of dirt and paved roads on Saturday. Kathryn will be bringing her cyclocross racing experience along with some amazing fitness to tame the unpaved roads and climbs, and Pete brings his amazing tenacity and attitude while using this as a training race.
Kevin E. is racing against the clock at the Allamuchy Time Trial, stop two of the NJ Time Trial Cup, also on Saturday. Kevin finished just outside the top 10 at Sand Hook, as is well prepared to conquer this fun out-and-backish course.
Chris C., Brook W., Morgan P., Greg S., Stef M., and Rod M. will also be at Allamuchy, but on Sunday racing mountain bikes at the kickoff event of the Hudson to Highlands Regional Mountain Bike Race Series. The good folks at MTBNJ.com have laid out a fun loop for their cross country racing pleasure.
I will be racing the South Jersey Law Enforcement Challenge with my good pal and teammate Keith L.. This event, which was developed to raise money and awareness in memory of Police Officers killed in the line of duty, takes place in Medford, NJ. Teams of two must stay together throughout the entire event while they trail run, mountain bike, canoe, then finish up with another trail run.
Good luck to all! Leave it all out there and have fun!
Coach B.L. is the head coach at BJL Coaching and an avid racer and cycling enthusiast himself.