Monday, March 18, 2013

It IS about the bike: My 2012 racing season

MHPVA PRESIDENT MIKE MOWETT on his John Morciglio-built M1 during the 200-foot sprints at the Michigan HPV Rally in May 2012. In the stock class, he was second fastest in the top-speed event, 39.5 mph. (Mike Eliasohn photo)

By Mike Mowett, MHPVA president, St. Clair Shores

Last year was an exceptional racing season for me.  I set multiple stock recumbent records and won multiple races with my M1 carbon fiber lowracer built by John Morciglio of Waterford, Michigan.  In doing so I became perhaps the nation’s fastest-ever stock recumbent cyclist.  (Note: A stock class recumbent is one without an aerodynamic fairing. )
I was proud to race a homegrown product, be the 2012 state 20-kilometer time trial champion, and be faster than nearly all the “pro” Category 1 and 2 cyclists riding upright bikes that I raced last year.  My average speeds of 28- 30 mph on my M1 lowracer I could have only dreamed about in the past on any other bike.  Lance Armstrong’s book, “It's Not About the Bike,” is not correct when you have a bike as fast as a M1 – that is what I told people at the races last year.
I didn’t train any harder, but I went a lot faster due to what the M1 enabled me to do.  It was also a lot of fun to go fast and set speed records! 
John Morciglio has built a variety of carbon fiber recumbents over the past five years, but the M1 is his fastest – until he builds something faster!  He is a remarkably gifted craftsman with about 30 years of experience as a master woodworker building custom homes and other projects. He built a few carbon-fiber racing kayaks in the past,before building his first carbon bike.  John got into this sport about five years ago, after he was passed by Chris Evans, also of Michigan, riding a Velokraft NoCom lowracer at a local park.  John had no idea what type of bike had passed him, nor did he have a chance to catch up to Chris who was speeding along. 
John then found the website, and saw pictures of the NoCom.  So with little further input and working on his own, he designed and built the M1 lowracer.  He showed up at the Michigan HPV Rally in 2008, totally surprising everyone with his remarkable craftsmanship.  In his home workshop, he’s now built about 40 carbon fiber bikes, including the Apache dual 700 wheel highracer, the Arrowhead 650/700 midracer, the M2 ViperBlue midracer now raced by Brian Stevens of Grand Rapids, a swing-boom front-wheel-drive and a back-to-back tandem. He is currently building a three-wheeled tilting velomobile that will be convertible to a two-wheeler and has started making carbon fiber guitars.
The cost varies according to what the customer wants. The best way to reach John is by email: kmorciglio@comcast.netYou can see his latest builds, as well as photos of his past projects, at

While the M1 may appear to be a NoCom lowracer bike, in my opinion it is better built with better design features.  The NoCom has been around for at least 10 years and most of the really fast guys have raced on one. 
The M1’s bottom bracket is adjustable fore-aft and integrated into the frame, whereas on the NoCom, the front boom has to slide with the bottom bracket in it.  I’ve heard that several NoCom owners have had problems with the booms cracking when they are clamping them in place.  Also it seems the wheel dropouts on some NoComs came misaligned, requiring straightening and reworking.  John’s frames have been perfectly aligned. 
The M1 frame is stronger and stiffer for more power transfer, according to some riders who have tried the NoCom and the M1.  The “pistol-grip” handlebars from John are more aerodynamic than the tiller bar on the NoCom.  The M1 has larger chainstays than the NoCom, which may help air flow behind the rider's shoulders, by acting like a small tailbox. 
It has carbon disk covers, also built by John, over its Velocity spoked wheels – 406 (small 20-inch) front and 700 (27 inch) rear.  John is now a Velocity wheel dealer so he can acquire wheelsets at a good price.  He uses TRP brakes, which are aerodynamic and sold for upright triathlon bikes.  He tucks them behind the fork for maximum aerodynamics.
 The M1 is a fast machine, at least 2 to 3  mph faster in average cruising speed compared to my previous “fast” Optima Baron and Challenge Fujin recumbents.  This is due primarily to its excellent aerodynamics, small frontal area and narrow “pistol-grip” handlebars that keep the hands and arms close to the body. 
It weighs just under 25 pounds with the components I have on it, including a lightweight 10-speed KMC chain, a huge 65 tooth chainring and custom 11-12-13-14-16-18-21-21-26-34 SRAM cassette that I built to give me a few big low gears for starting and lots of high gears for smooth shifts at high cruising speeds.  I’m a slow cadence pedaler (about 60 to 65 rpm) and I’ve found that going to bigger gears has allowed me more speed.  The high gear on the M1 is a rather large 154 gear inches; the low is 60.  To cruise at 30 mph requires pedaling at 65 rpm.  Yet at 60 rpm I can still climb some moderate-sized hills at 9 mph.
 I first test-rode the M1 at Stony Creek Metropark in the summer of 2011.  This is a course that I rode hundreds of times, so I knew all my personal bests on my other bikes at this site.  It previously took me about 27 minutes and 40 seconds to cover two laps, or 12 miles on my Challenge which is an average speed of 26 mph. 
I made a deal with John that if I could break my personal best riding the M1 I’d consider buying it.  Well I broke my personal best by an incredible 2 minutes on the M1 (averaging 28 mph) on that very first test ride.  Furthermore, I knew I could possibly win the state time trial championship on it, which I later did (see below).
 I’ve been racing for almost 25 years, primarily on an upright bicycle with a bodysock fairing.  I was 38 years old this past year. I finally switched to a recumbent about five years ago, but until this year, I was never as fast as the really “fast” racers who do our HPRA circuit and time trials.
My training usually consists of riding five laps or 30 miles at Stony Creek.  I  do this at a high intensity once or twice a week after work.  I also did some long rails-to-trails rides of about 40 to 50 miles on my upright hybrid bike, and found them more enjoyable than just going around in circles at the park! I paid attention to nutrition, but that’s it; nothing different compared to other years. 
To be successful in racing, you should race often, which is what I did, but sometimes too much racing and traveling affects your overall training schedule.
 I didn’t go to Battle Mountain in 2011, so used the saved money to purchase the M1 from John that fall. My first time racing it was in the last HPRA race of the year, on the half-mile Hawkeye Downs rspeedway in Iowa.  Sean Costin and I covered 27.9 miles finishing first and second respectively in the one-hour event, Sean sprinted by me to win by less than a second, but that was okay as I had let him draft me for much of the race, and I was really enjoying being out in front for once.  I looked forward to the 2012 season.
 For years, I have been noting records and the best performances at bicycle races, for uprights and recumbents. With the M1, I’ve become as fast as the fastest “professional” riders on uprights and faster than some of the fastest recumbent racers.  I went speeds and times that I could only dream about going on an upright, like a 30 mph average in a race or 40 kilometers in 52 minutes or 25 minute in a 20K.  Dreams can come true with the right bike. The following are my best accomplishments in races or time trials in 2012 – all with the M1.  I’ve described the courses, I was surprised that even on courses with a narrow turnaround on a two-lane road I was able to average the speeds I did.
 1) Northbrook, Ill., velodrome –  50-lap stock race record – I added 1 mph to the previous best by Sean Costin, and became the first to average nearly 30 mph in the U.S. for a 50-lap event.  I raced to the front at the start of the race.  Sean's chain derailed at the start, otherwise the race would have been even better.  I let a four-person paceline draft me throughout the race.  Thom Ollinger, Dennis Grelk, and Sean (when he caught up) were behind me enjoying the 30 to 32 mph speeds I was doing lap after lap. 
My race tactic was to just do a“time-trial,” meaning I wasn’t going to try to draft someone, then sprint around them at the end.  That is how most of these 50-lap races are won.  Since I led the whole time, I had no help from others to draft behind, but that is how I wanted to ride, at the front, doing essentially a time trial performance so the outcome would be all my own. 
This ranks as my most noteworthy performance of the year because it comes at the toughest and most contested recumbent event on the HPRA schedule.  Sean's previous record was 29.0 mph.  Now I’ve taken it to 29.9 mph.
2) Colavita Zipp 24.62 mile time trial in Celina , Ohio, a first-time challenge organized by Thom Ollinger – First overall amongst unfaired riders, second overall, 1 minute behind a streamlined Quest, 1 minute ahead of upright Gary.  Also bested the best recumbent riders.   I beat Thom, Dennis and Warren.  My time about equals Sean’s fastest time on a similar 40K course – the Double Bong.  If conditions had been a bit better, not so much wind and wider turns, I should have gone faster.  Time 52:22 for 24.62 miles, 28.20 mph average.
 3) Michigan state 20 kilometer time trial – First overall by more than a minute vs. a pro on an upright  bike, just off second and third  fastest speeds in history, and I did it in the rain.  Time 25:19, distance 12.42 miles, average 29.44 mph. 
4) 28.1 mph and 28.0 mph  New one-hour record averages at Stony Creek over 30.25 miles (5 laps), bested my 27.7 mph from last year. Stony Creek is my benchmark for performance and while a personal ride, setting a personal best here ranks on my list of best accomplishments.  Did best of 28.1 mph during the week of the Northbrook races, I think on Thursday night.  Time: 1:04, distance 30.25 miles, average 28.1 mph
 5) Defiance, Ohio – Overall winner by 2 seconds ahead of  Gary Painter on a upright bike.  First win in a major race overall. Distance about 12.69 miles, average 28.4 mph. Out and back course with a turnaround over rolling terrain and a couple of turns.
 6) 7-mile time trial (5 laps) at Waterford – overall record, first to break 15 minutes with a 14 minute 28+ mph average.  With over a thousand runs on that track by several hundred riders, including Category 1 and 2 riders, I’m the fastest ever by almost 30 seconds.  14:49 time record with a 2:54 first lap catching and passing a guy who later finished fourth overall in the state time trial on July 19, 2012.
 7) Setting one-mile record at over 30 mph in Florida in Maple Mile.  First to dip under 2 minutes.  We did three laps of a flat track with no banking and several left-hand turns that you had to navigate carefully at full speed.  Beat John Schlitter; we both ran twice.  Later he beat me in the lap races, I won the 200 meter race on the velodrome though, setting another record
 8) Cycling Saddlemen 10-mile time trial at Hines Park – I set the overall record and was the first to break 22 minutes, with a 21 minute something.  Out and back course with a turnaround over rolling terrain.
 9) St. Mary’s Ohio time trial – I was second overall by just 2 seconds behind a tandem team. We both had some difficulties (me at the turnaround by getting off my bike and the tandem with a van pulling out in the road at the end). Out and back course with a turnaround.
 10) Kenosha, Ill., velodrome – 50-laps, not as fast as at Northbrook, but still new record.  This performance might not be remembered as big, since it’s almost like second fiddle to Northbrook. 29 mph average.
 11) Michigan state 40 kilometer time trial– 12th overall. First time going out west to the Duck Lake course.  My first time officially breaking 1 hour in a 40K; I did a relatively good 55 minutes.  Course was two laps of a four-turn course with one good climb.
 12) 26 mph in the one-hour at the Michigan HPV Rally at Waterford, Hills Sean dropped out, though I was having trouble keeping up with him.  My best there, never even did 25 mph previously.  Completed 19 laps, which is a record for me.
 13) Calvin's Challenge – Riding a solo century in just over 5 hours, 12 minutes early in May on bumpy course, set recumbent class unfaired record, including a bathroom break, riding last 7 miles at 23+ mph average with John Schlitter, Kent Polk and Kurt Seagoval who all went on to ride 12 hours in records of 270, 269, 268 miles.
 And starting the 2013 season, I set more records at the Florida Challenge Feb. 23-24,. I set the 50-lap record there, again doing a time-trial tactic, so that’s my third venue on the circuit where I now own the records.  Last year I set the 200-meter sprint record, this year we had a shorter run-up, but still came very close to it.  And this year I set the kilometer record – all on the velodrome.
 My goal for the rest of the 2013 season is to at least go as fast as last year.  I hope to do BlackBear on either my M1 or in my streamliner. 
In the future I will give John’s Arrowhead, a 650/700 midracer a try to see if it faster.  If it is, then I will race it.  In the U.S., many racers are curious as to why the highracers in Europe are so fast, even though they should be less aerodynamic than a lowracer.  Part of the the answer may be that the bigger wheels have less rolling resistance.