Monday, July 26, 2010

PFW : Etra Lake to Six Flags WaWa : 20100725

Everyone was having a lie-in, so I headed out for Sunday's ride from Etra Park, this week led by Cliff.

A bridge down on Cedarville Road meant a brief attempt at cyclocross. Fortunately we didn't disturb the troll this time.

We opted for a shorter, more shaded ride, and although I felt pretty good the 33miles was probably enough on yet another very hot day.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pedals and Shoes

Noobies to cycling often comment on the fact that higher end bicycles, particularly road bikes, are usually offered without pedals. I mean, those bikes are a lot of money so why don't you get any pedals?

The thing is that most people who are purchasing bikes at this level will already have a favourite pedal/shoe system which they prefer and people new to serious cycling will be advised of their options.

But what's wrong with a pair of sneakers? You can use straps and cages if you want to be a bit more serious, can't you?

Well yes ... and every cyclist knows of some guy who regularly rides Centuries on his dad's old Schwinn with  pair of Hush Puppies. But modern, clipless pedal/shoe systems are an aid to security, efficiency and safety for most riders.

The most common preconception is that your feet are clamped onto the bike and it's hard to release them. Most pedal systems are adjustable so that it is easy to get your feet out with a little practise. In fact, it's rather easier than getting out of the old cage and strap systems.

But these systems will improve contact between you and the bike, enabling better control and greater pedalling efficiency and comfort.

There are basically two families of cycling pedal/shoe systems; mountain bike and road.

Mountain bike systems usually have a cleat which is up inside the shoes sole, which also has a deep tread for coping with mud an giving a degree of grip. The pedals are double-sided and designed to clear mud and debris to prevent them clogging up.

Road pedals usually have a much larger cleat which protrudes from the bottom of the shoe and a single-sided pedal which spreads the load on the foot more widely.

Mountain bike pedals are frequently used by road riders because they have one significant advantage; it's possible to walk reasonably normally in the shoes. Road shoes make you walk a bit like a duck because of the large cleat which sticks out from the sole. So why use road pedals at all? Well the larger size means the sole of the shoe can be much stiffer so spreads the load on your foot better and the shoe flexes less.

More expensive road shoes tend to have more rigid soles made of carbon fibre or other advanced composites. Mountain bike shoes, by their nature, tend to be more flexible.

Why is a more rigid sole more efficient on a road ride? Imagine spending a couple of hours flexing a bike shoe with your hands ... maybe 80-100 times a minute. That's how much energy which will be absorbed by your shoes instead of being transmitted direct to the pedals.

So the advantage of using a MTB pedal/shoe combination; it's easier to walk, and you can also use the shoes on your mountain bike.

Road pedal/shoes; pressure is spread over a wider area and soles tend to be much stiffer, making the combination more efficient, but walking is not really an option, other than into the coffee stop ...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

PFW : Etra Lake to Clarksburg : 20100711

Another very warm day, although maybe not quite in the same league as the past week, but warm nevertheless.

We set off a half hour before our usual time in Gary's capable hands. I rode it fairly leisurely, although I did press it on most of the ascents. One or two drivers still insisted on overtaking cyclists signalling left. What can I say?

Still, a good time was had by all ... nice way to spend a Sunday morning.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Down to Basics : Cycling Shorts

Undoubtedly, you know you're a really a cyclist, not when you first spend a four figure sum on a bicycle, but when you buy your first cycle shorts.

Some people have the talent to be able to ride a Century in damp denim jeans and flip-flops but most of us need aids to comfort on a bicycle. Apart from ensuring you are a good fit on your bike and your saddle/seat position is optimised, cycle shorts or bibs make the greatest contribution to comfort in, let's face it, a rather delicate area of the human anatomy.

Okay, they're not the most elegant of attire for most of us, but they look a lot better when you're actually riding the bike, although not necessarily stood in line at the coffee stop. However, on the bike they provide support and compression and keep everything in its place as well as a fairly streamlined and flutter-free outline for efficient pedalling. Also important, the nature of the fabric also means that movement around the saddle is friction and chafe-free.

Good shorts can be had from about usd60 up to as much as you want. But you pretty much get what you pay for. Things to look for; quality of the fabric - stretch and compression, the design of the cuffs of the legs - elastic and grippers, and most important, the quality of the pad. It's important that you buy shorts appropriate to your gender for physiological reasons which I'm sure I don't need to go into, although for a long time women had to manage with shorts designed for men.

Most fabrics are based on Lycra/Spandex/elastene type materials.

Cheap shorts have a low elastic content, poor cuff finish which will not grip your legs and a basic and often thick and bulky pad which you might think would make for a more padded ride but in reality will bunch and chafe over a long ride. They are often cut short on the waist which means they will not cover your back adequately when in a cycling position.

Good shorts will have a high elastic content giving support and a degree of compression and leg cuffs which will stretch to accommodate most legs without feeling that your circulation is about to be cut off. The pad will be appropriate to your gender and often a sophisticated construction of friction-free fabrics, variable gel layers and anti-bacterial agents.

Further, the cut of the panels which make up the shorts will be more tailored and make the most efficient use of the fabric's properties and will be most likely cut higher on your waist to make allowance bending forward on the bike.

Now for something you have to know about cycle shorts ... you go commando ... that's right. No panties, boxers, jockeys, skivvies ... nada. Nothing says newbie cyclist more than a VPL under your cycling shorts.

Cycling short designers spend an awful lot of time developing expensive solutions to your cycling comfort without introducing the variable of your chosen underpinnings whether they're from M&S, Target or Victoria's Secret. Try it ... you'll like it ...

I'm sure I don't need to tell you this, but shorts need washing after every use. Cold cycle and non-aggressive detergents in the washer and natural drying will maximise their useful life.

You may also find chamois cream useful, particularly on longer rides. Some people find those glide-type roll-ons for getting into wet-suits help. Ladies, make sure whichever you choose is recommended for you. Some preparations designed specifically for men have ingredients which will irritate.

Now, the question of bib-shorts. Most riders find bib-shorts far more comfortable than shorts. This is mostly  because pressure and the demand to hold the shorts up is taken off the waist which makes them more comfortable. They say once you wear bibs you'll never go back.

Women often ask about bib-shorts because of their reputation for comfort, but think carefully before committing. Bathroom stops mean complete disrobing. That's okay in the bathroom of your favourite coffee stop, more of a problem if you need to pop behind a tree or hedge ... However, women's designs do exist. You'll need to decide if the adaptions to women's requirements meet your needs.

One last thing ... bicycle shorts do not last for ever. Unfortunately, over a period of time the fabric - particularly less expensive ones - can acquire a degree of transparency. I think we can all tell a story about that one ... So you might want a good friend  to check and advise you occasionally.

PFW : Pennington Y : 20100709

Another fine Friday evening from Pennington ... As we were about to start off the Garmin announced it was closing down because it was out of charge. I must have left it on for the last few days. So this route has been traced from memory. If you know better, please let me know if I went wrong.

Incidentally, the Garmin seemed to forget all my settings after its total loss of power. Maybe I reset it when I was trying to get it to switch on? I don't know. But it made a change to ride blind, ie; no telemetry, no speed/time/distance, no map unfurling. It was actually quite liberating ... must do it again sometime.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

PFW : Griggstown Grinder : 20100706

Well, this turned out to be a very hot day. Indications were that it was over 100F/40C.

As I started out for the ride - I usually ride up to the rendezvous - it was if someone was blowing an unusually hot hair-dryer into my face. When it's just hot, once you're moving along there is enough of a breeze to induce some degree of cooling effect. But not this day. It was very hot.

Fortunately, Diane chose discretion and we set out on a gentle, flat and rather short tour of the Millstone river valley.

It was definitely a day to look after your hydration. I drank two 24oz bottles.

I have used insulated bottles for a while now and if you fill them with ice and water or your favourite sports drink they'll stay cool for a couple of hours. If you are really organised, fill them and leave them in the freezer overnight.

Thanks to today's especially intrepid Griggstown Grinders ...

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Fourth of July : Old Cranks Rule ...

So, on the anniversary (more or less) of when those freedom loving English (largely) guys (totally), signed the Declaration of Independence, two Old Cranks, Gene and myself rode our own independent route across the Sourlands towards Lambertville, north along the Delaware to Stockton and then return across the Sourlands.

I'd sort of planned a route, but despite the Garmin bleeping at me to take a right turn - it looked like someone's driveway to me - we took a little detour after stopping for coffee and blueberry scones in Lambertville and ended up with a knee-cracking ascent of County 523 out of Stockton.

There was some relief when we turned into Grafton Road although that was tempered when the descent towards Brookville Hollow Road became a steep, loose gravel track for half a mile around mile marker 24.5. This put us pretty much back on course on a moderate climb alongside the stream towards Sandy Ridge/Mt Airy Road.

Bike route 574167 - powered by Bikemap 

The only other incident was that a couple of bridges are out for rebuilding on the Wertsville Road. We felt a little like cyclo-crossers as we negotiated the first bridge, but obviously the troll who normally lives under the bridge had taken temporary accommodation in a house beside the road and proceeded to complain about law-breakers ignoring traffic signs and what the Queen could do with her country, etc ... seemed somehow appropriate on this day of all days ...

The second bridge looked more of an obstacle and we also didn't want the troll to prove his NRA membership, so we took a diversion north and then parallel to the Wertsville Road rejoining it just before we took Rileyville Road back up into the Sourlands on the basis that it's an easier hill than Lindberg, which it is, but not in the blazing hot sun ... but we made it back; a very nice 47 miles before noon.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

PFW : Pennington to Titusville : 20100702

Another fine evening out of Pennington, heading for the Delaware towards Titusville plus a couple of loops around the neighbourhoods. Spotted a garage with two Model Ts (at least, that's what they looked like to me).

Once again, nice ride. Thanks Andy.

Bike route 572143 - powered by Bikemap