Friday, June 29, 2018

Bike from Bikesdirect.com

I sold my old Trek bike about 8 years ago after a leisurely riding of 7 km put me in bed for a week. This summer I am getting another false recovery and I am getting ambitious. So I bought a used bike that weighs 40 lbs for pennies and I was able to ride 4-5 miles without getting sick. And I figured I can ride further on a lighter road bike.


I spent months searching for a new bike --  I can't help, I get obsessive on this kind of things -- and settled with Motobecane Le Champion CF SL Di2. I didn't need such an expensive one; I'll ride 10 miles a week at the most. But I figured I'll future-proof it just in case I make a fully recovery, so I wanted a light weight climbing bike. This Motobecane bike was a real deal, at first anyhow. Just the groupset and the wheelset alone was worth more than the bike price. Then they switched the spec after I pre-paid for it. Now it is slightly cheaper than a name brand bike would be, not a gang buster deal I thought it was at first. It may have been an honest mistake on their part, but the effect was the still the same: it was a bait-and-switch.

I could've cancelled it  and go with Giant TCR Advanced SL 2-KOM that I found on sale in a local bike shop last week. I saw this shop while I was driving through East Sacramento, dropped in, and they conveniently happened to have one in my size on sale for $3200. That was a kick-ass price for a bike of this caliber. At the end though, I decided to stay with Motobecane. It still comes with decent parts and the electronic shifting will make it easier for me as I plan to ride with my hands on the top of the handlebar at a walking speed.

If you price them out though, Giant was a better value:

Motobecane Le Champ CF SL Di2Giant TCR Advanced TCR SL 2
Frame10002500
Wheels 5001400
Groupset1300700
Other200200
Total Value30004800
Price+Tax22003500
Savings8001300

The discount on the value of the bike is $800 for Motobecane and $1300 for Giant. If you take into account the cost of replacing the stem and handlebar on Motobecane -- the crank also came with one size too big for a small bike, but I'm not going to bother with it since that's too expensive -- the gap gets even bigger.

One could argue that Motobecane frame is worth more than $1000. I came up with $1000 because: 1)  it is open-mold (generic) frame, not a highly engineered, brand-specific frame, and 2) the material is one or two grades below Giant's SL 2 frame which is ligthter, stiffer and just about the best frame on the market. A well received Chinese-made generic frame that is lighter than Motobecane's sells for $700. And Canyon's highly acclaimed CF SL frame, made in Taiwan, sells for $1400. I think $1000 is a generous price for a Taiwanese-made generic frame.

If you are a hardcore cyclist, the frame and the wheels are the most important thing. And Giant TCR Advanced SL 2 has much better frame/wheels, hands down, so it comes out at the top on that account as well. You'd be a fool not to choose Giant hence.

Then why did I choose Motobecane? Well, for one thing, I'm not a hardcore cyclist. And, as I said, electronic shifting was the deciding factor as I needed something I can sit up straight and shift by pressing buttons rather than hunch down to twist the lever. Giant TCR is a full blown race bike and it wasn't too comfortable for me at the moment. I also got additional $100 off for ordering the Motobecane early and a carbon seat post worth $200 for their spec mistake, so that partially made up the value difference. I kinda regret not getting Giant though. I could truly future-proof with it and therefore it could've been the last bike I would ever buy.

I did the same pricing exercise comparing Motobecane Le Champion Pro and Canyon's CF SL 8.0, and Canyon was a better value too. And it was full price comparison, not sales price:

Motobecane Le Champion CF ProCanyon Ultimate CF SL 8.0
Frame6001400
Wheels400735
Groupset700700
Other200500
Total Value19003335
Price+Tax17002500
Savings200835

The frame on Le Champion CF Pro is a mediocre one that is heavier than its CF SL version and you can buy it from bikesdirect.com for $600. Here, the value difference is whopping $635 in favor of Canyon.

Any finally, here is the most apple-to-apple comparison between Motobecane CF SL and Canyon's CF SL:

Motobecane CF SLCanyon CF SL
Frame10001400
Wheels800735
Groupset700700
Other500500
Total Value30003335
Price+Tax20002500
savings1000835

Motobecane has a carbon crank while Canyon has carbon stem/handlebar and better saddle. So the price for "other" parts add up to about the same. The net saving is also about the same, meaning you don't get much more value by buying Motobecane. You get a similar result if you compare it with Canyon CF SL 8.0 Disc which is available in the US.

The conclusion: The price difference comes down to the frame. If a generic frame will do, you could go with bikesdirect.com and save on the frame and tax. But don't get fooled by bikesdirect.com's price. You get a better deal with major brands at the year end sale. That is especially true when you account for the intangibles like warranty and service at your local bike shop. 

Here is a review of bikesdirect.com by a owner of a major bike shop. It is writtten in 2014, but I think it is still spot on. You should read it first if you are considering bikesdirect.com for your next purchase.

Update: Bikesdirect.com fail to deliver the good. They notify me with the tracking number, but for a week nothing happened. Turned out, they only created the label to create an impression that they were shipping without actually shipping. So I cancelled the order and I'm back to square one. Maybe I'll try them later when they actually have the bikes in stock. Not sure if I trust them though. They may not be an outright scam, but they certainly are a shady operation.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

False Recovery, Again?

Last Friday, I meandered through the Grid all the way up to H Street. It was 100F weather and I felt like keep walking. I logged 3 miles in 3 hours at the end of the day.

Two days later, I biked 4.3 miles. I went to the Tower Bridge, napped for a while and then worked on my computer for an hour. Then off to my wife's work in downtown to keep her company. Business was slow and she was bored. I had a cold drink, left my phone with her so that she could surf the Net, and came back. It was a super slow biking practically at a walking speed, putting the pressure on the pedal only occasionally.

I had trouble sleeping on both days despite all that walking/biking, just like in the summer of 2016. I woke up in the dawn after 5 hours sleep and I was wide awake. Still, I was functioning fine the next days.

Yesterday I went to a local bike shop and tested a bike for half a mile. I did pedal most of the way and I pooped out by the time afternoon rolled in today. Pedaling half a mile puts a lot more stress on my body than rolling at half the speed for 4.3 miles apparently. That's the proof that I'm still a way off from the recovery.

It's an improvement nonetheless. I remember biking 7km back in 2011 and crashing for a week.  That was an easier ride too: the trail along Han-gang river had no stop signs and I took more breaks along the way. I sold the bike shortly after that and never rode till now. But chances are, this improvement will also fade by the autumn just like the last one. I'll enjoy it while it last.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Trip Analysis

I finally got around to charting my activities during the trip. Here it is the trip route and the 7 day rolling sum of the number of steps taken.






























The bad days, with the condition level 4 or less, are overlaid on the activity chart as the red vertical lines:

Here are some observations:

  1. There is no red line in late March and April. This is when I was on the move.  
  2. Thick lines appear in early May when we stopped in Virginia. 
  3. The lines disappear again till we settled in NYC in June.
  4. Then the lines get denser as we approach July. This is the post-trip struggle in NYC.
  5. Lines disappear in August as we got back on the road. 
  6. Thick lines in the middle of September when we stopped for  a week in Mesquite.
  7. Once we got back home, the lines became regular as before.
  8. Similar pattern appears while we traveled to Paris in Oct and Nov. It was less conclusive though, because it was only for a month.
  9. Ignore thick lines in Dec and Jan. This is when I was having flu.

These observations agrees with what I observed before:
  • The novelty of taveling elevates the crash threshold
  • When the novelty fades, so does the elevation effect
  • When the elevation effect dissipates, post-trip struggle sets in.
  • The post-trip struggle ends quickly when traveling resumes.





Saturday, February 3, 2018

Heat Wave

It's now 7PM and still warm. I had to take my outer shirt off. It was even warmer this afternoon. I went to Naked Lounge this afternoon and lounged in 72F weather. A lot of people were out on this sunny Saturday afternoon. The air was so pleasant, it took me an hour to get off my butt and come back. (I'm looking forward to the summer in Sacto -- it'll be hot and I'd like to find out how it affects my CFS).

It appears my post-flu struggle is over. I looked at my activity log and it seems to have ended on 2/28, about 2 weeks after the flu was over. It is the same amount of time it took to get over the struggle after the flu shot in 2016. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe low grade inflammation persisted for 2 weeks after the flu was over. Or maybe I'm forcing myself to find a pattern. I was looking for the end of one-day-up-one-day-down pattern. And it ended on 1/28 when I went several days without a down day. After a down day on  2/1, I took 7500 steps and then 5500 today. So the struggling pattern is definitely ended.

As for the post-trip struggle, my theory now is that the trip triggers inflammation that takes 3 weeks to fully dissipate. Healthy people either don't feel it or recover when the inflammation goes down. CFS patients, on the other hand, continue to feel the the full 3 weeks while the low grade inflammation persists. This also gibes with the depression as an inflammation disorder. (Post-vacation blues are commonly understood as depression). How credible a theory is that? Well, I'm now boldly predicting that they'll find the inflammation marker in people who suffer from post-vacation blues. And, if the test is sensitive enough, it will reveal that the low grade inflammation persists for 3 weeks. And my theory is likely to be true if that prediction comes true.

One could ask: why don't people feel the inflammation effect while travelling? My answer is that their tolerance to inflammation goes up while they are aroused. For CFS patients, that also means the crash threshold goes up, or perhaps even removed. I'd like to test that out the next time I travel. I'll finish 2+ mile hiking over 600+ feet elevation and see what happens. That ought to be enough even for people without CFS but extremely out of shape. And that is more than the Navajo Loop that I did not finish last September because I didn't want to get sick while travelling. If I make it at a decent pace, I could claim that the crash threshold is entirely removed while travelling. I'll have to continue to travel 4 more days afterward though, and taper down. If I quit travelling right after the hike, the inflammation will be high enough to trigger the crash or worse.

Finally, I'm making a slow progress in analyzing my trip data. I got tripped up on last year's February data when my Fitbit went kaput. It took me 2 weeks to replace it, so there is a hole in the tracking data. I spent a couple of days to figure out the best way to deal with it and settled with filling it with NA. That done, I'll resume the data analysis tomorrow.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Out of Jail, Out of Penalty Box

It's been a while. The post-trip struggle was over in December as expected, about a month after we settled in Sacramento. Shortly after, we went to SF and I registered 10,000 step on Christmas day.  That's when I caught the flu. Then another one in January and I missed my nephew's wedding. It was a nasty one and I got back on my feet only a few days ago. Then I went out for a walk, got caught in the rain and walked fast back home. And I paid for it with 3 days of post-exertional sickness. So only now I'm finally out of jail (of the post-trip struggle) and out of penalty box (of post-exertional sickness), book-ending the two flus in between. Long story short, my plan for post-trip observation went out the door, lock stock and barrel.

I'm now in the familiar one-day-up-one-day-down territory as if I'm back in a post-trip struggle. I'll get out of it in a few weeks and then we'll see if there has been any steady state improvement from the pre-trip condition. I'm hoping for at least the half way between the pre-trip valley and peri-trip peak.  (I'll call it the post-trip plateau). That means about 43,000 steps per week.

Meanwhile, I'll finally get to analyze my trip activity data for the past 9 months this week. I'm anxious to see what they will turn up, though I pretty much know already what it will look like: the elevation during the trip followed by 3-4 weeks of post-trip depression when settled in, sprinkled with several post-exertional sickness during the post-trip struggle. But it'll be good to confirm with the concrete data and see if it reveals anything new. What I still don't know and am really interested in finding out is weather the post-trip plateau is real and there is a lasting improvement after the post-trip struggle is over. I haven't been able to observe that so far, thanks to the double flu. But I will in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Settling In

In SF, I've never turned on the heater. The first night in Sacramento, I borrowed a space heater from the landlord and had it run all night long. Its a little colder in winter and the old building with hardly an insulation didn't help. I don't see staying here too long, though we chose it knowingly because of the midtown location. I don't need the location, but wife who doesn't drive does.

And all that moving didn't help my health. This second story walkup has a narrow and steep stairs in the back and carrying a few stuff on the first day was enough to throw me into a post-exertional sickness for 4 days. It's always the quads -- a few squat used to be enough to trigger the sickness so I stopped it long time ago. Apparently it hasn't improved. And the triceps still ache when quads over-work.

Why is it that the triceps ache when quads over-work and vice-versa? It's as if they are somehow connected. With what, I'm  not sure. One possibility is the inflammation. Though the muscular inflammation is supposed to be local, the inflammation the day after may not. The cleaning up of cellular debris has to be global since the debris are circulating in the blood stream. That global inflammation could trigger the ache in the triceps. And why triceps and quads? They may have gotten sensitized by the years of judo, perhaps by sprouting more inflammation receptors. Anyway, these are all speculations. All I know for now is that use of quads triggers the sickness and quads and triceps are highly sensitive.

Coming back to the walkup, having to go up and down stairs everyday will reduce my margin of error. Managing CFS can only be done statistically -- there are so many unknowns and measurements are imprecise -- and not having enough margin of error will make the post-exertional sickness more frequent if I don't reduce stress elsewhere. I'll have to pace more carefully and keep it below 90 steps per minute all the time. Distance probably won't get effected -- it's always the sustained speed/intensity that  triggers the post-exertional sickness.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Back at Home

The air feels just different here. It's fresher and crisper. That's what I feel every time I come back to the Bay Area. And the blue sky too. Paris was swell, but the air wasn't much better than Korea that constantly suffer from smog blown over from China.

Anyway, I slept 9 hours, then was fed and pooped. Now I feel like a million in bucks, the day after the ordeal of 18 hour flight.  And my pace was up to 98 per second this morning on my way to retrieve the car from the garage. No jet leg for now, it seems. Will I be suffering from the post-trip struggle again? I already paid the price in Paris and this leg of the trip from Paris to SF lasted only one day really. So, I'm thinking I shouldn't get another one. We'll see.