Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Cyclist's Best Accessory - A Car ...

We all know riding a bicycle is a very eco-friendly activity. And if you're able to integrate it into your daily routine by commuting, using it for local transport, going to the liquor store, etc, it becomes even more sustainable.

However, when it comes to leisure, riding trails and roads away from your home, a car becomes indispensable.

Curiously, in the UK, the incidence of car ownership among regular cyclists is higher than in the general adult population. I presume that statistic is reflected here in the US. So when drivers tell us we have no right to be on the road we can, with some justification, respond that we probably pay more in road associated taxes than they do and our cars are currently parked up while we minimise our damage to the roads and to the environment.

Okay ... I'll get off my soap-box ...

Using the car does mean that there has to be a way to transport the bike, either in or on the vehicle.

Carrying the bike inside the car is an option, but bikes are bigger than you might think, and the constant loading and unloading can damage both the car and trimming and your bicycle. A common problem frequently experienced is a bent rear gear hanger which is difficult to spot - and requires a special tool to fix - and is a common cause of poor gear changing and eventual failure of the hanger.

There are a number of ways of carrying your bike outside of the car.

Strap-on Bike Rack
Strap-on bike carrier: This type of bike rack uses adjustable straps and hooks to attach to the rear of the car's trunk/boot or rear door. Some more sophisticated racks use metal straps and various locking devices to improve security and attachment to the car.

Chose a rack with a six-point fixing. Some more expensive racks use a four-point fixing, but these are carefully designed and engineered systems. Many cheaper devices employ a four-point fixing and seem to me to be very insecure.

Frequently, at the bike store, we  are asked to check if a rack has been correctly installed and are faced with a cheap big-box store device which is almost impossible to mount securely. I have to say, use these at your own risk!

Also, some surprisingly large and robust vehicles cannot use this type of rack due to elements such as rear spoilers and doors which use glass or plastic trim along the top which are unable to take any weight.

Strap-on bicycle racks are useful for occasional use. The more expensive versions can be used as a permanent accessory, but as with the less expensive versions, the rack is in contact with the body-work and glass of your car. This may eventually cause some damage either at the points of contact or with bicycles coming into contact with the car.

Roof Rack
Roof rack: This is the most expensive option and will have a marked effect on your car's gas/petrol mileage, but it looks pretty cool ...

But apart from that, remember, loading the rack will require lifting your bike to the roof of your car which could be quite a stretch if you have a minivan/MPV or SUV. There is also the risk of dropping the bike onto your car.

Some carriers will carry the whole bike. Some require you remove the front wheel and require a special adaptor if you use disc brakes or run a Lefty.

Most modern cars require a special attachment kit. Some cars, obviously soft-tops and folding roofs, but also with full glass roofs - more common in Europe, or with no gutter or attachment points cannot carry this type of rack.

However, for some types of bike, for example, tandems, a roof rack is the only way.

Suspension Hitch Rack
Hitch Rack: This is a rack which attaches to a vehicle's tow-hitch. Most cars will require a tow-hitch to be fitted, so this adds to the cost of the rack. However, it means that bikes can be carried with virtually no danger of contact with the car itself so the possibility of damage through contact is minimal.

There are two types of hitch-rack; those which suspend the bicycles from the holder and those which hold the bicycle on a lower platform.

The suspension type tend to be less expensive, and, depending on the weight class of your hitch, can carry up to five bikes. The proximity of the bikes means they can swing or rattle against each other so the possibility of damage is still there. More expensive models have facilities for folding down or swinging out to enable rear doors to be opened.

Platform Hitch Rack: I've recently changed my bike rack to a Thule T2. You can see the bike sits on the rack and is secured by a lockable arm which swings up and holds the front wheel so there isn't even any contact with the frame of the bike. Another advantage is that the bike only has to be lifted a few inches to sit on the rack. This type of rack can only carry two bikes, unless you have a hitch with a higher weight rating. In the US this means a hitch with a 2" receiver.

When in bike carrying mode the rack extends from the rear hitch, but it can be folded up when not in use.

Being able to carry your bikes in, on or behind your car is a major element in expanding your cycling horizons.

Just get out there and do it!!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Griggstown Grinder : 20110628

I read the forecast. There should have been thunderstorms, but all I saw were a few drops of rain earlier in the day. So it was hot and muggy. Is that a British expression? Okay ... it was hot and the humidity was high.

I don't think I drank enough today. My legs  ached. I went backwards on the hills. If someone had offered to buy my bike? I might have thought about it.

 I wasn't the only one.

Anyway ... apart from that it was a great ride. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Maybe not stronger, but wiser. The lesson is, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Start drinking water well before the ride. Take more than you think you'll need with you.

In the end we all survived ... Thanks Diane for yet another challenging ride. Yes, it was enjoyable ... in an S&M sort of way. Thank you.

Summary: 30.70miles/50km and 2,400ft/730m climbing.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Déjà vu, all over again : 2010626

Sunday saw beautiful cycling weather and maybe more than 25 riders turn up for the regular C+/B- ride from Etra Lake Park.

There were enough participants to split the ride into C+ and a B- sections. So I joined the B- guys and set off on Gary's meandering road to Battleview Orchard using the same route as last week.

For several riders it was their first ever B ride. All survived with flying colours and all agreed it one of the best morning rides ever with the added benefit of blueberry strudel.

Garmin Edge 605
All the ride maps on this blog are compiled using a Garmin Edge 605, now superceded by the Garmin Edge 800, which adds some functionality and a larger touch screen.

Now a Garmin GPS unit is a very good device which can enhance and transform your enjoyment of cycling, whether you're just interested in its route mapping, ability to show cue-sheets or logging your performance through cadence, heart-rate and even power output in combination with a device such as a PowerTap.

However, these units do not come with a map included, which sometimes seems misleading when you look at the images of the units in publicity and adverts with the units' full colour screens displaying detailed maps.

Garmin Edge 800
Until you add a map, which can be around $100.00, the unit cannot show topographic or route detail on screen. Given that Garmin are also happy to offer an annual update for a further $100.00 this seems mean, especially since their GPS offerings for cars include the full map plus POIs ,voice alerts, photo galleries, .mp3 player, etc, etc, and cost far less.

Now, there are ways around this, most notable of which is The Open Streetmap project where some members are compiling copyright free maps for Garmin devices.

Okay, gripe over. Otherwise a GPS device can add a new dimension to your enjoyment of cycling.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Midsummer Night's Dream : 20110621

Midsummer's Day, or the start of summer? You decide.

But it definitely is the summer solstice and this week's Griggstown Grinders' ride made the most of the longest day.

31miles/50km through the Sourlands to Neshanic Station and back with nearly 1800ft/550metres of climb, just in time to see the sun set across America.

So once again, thanks to Diane for dragging this raggle-taggle group kicking and screaming around the central New Jersey hills.

See you all next week!
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Monday, June 20, 2011

Battlefield Orchards : 20110619

Okay ... I confess this is one of my favourites calling at Battlefield Orchards for what can truly be called a Pie Stop.

This Sunday's ride from Etra Lake Park  was down a little on participants, possibly because it was Father's Day.

The ride clocked in at just over 40 miles/65km with 1900ft/575m of climbing, all at a fairly quick pace. Or at least quick for most of us.

A nice way to spend a Sunday morning ... I went on to ride around Bull's Island on the Delaware with Linda. We managed to miss the main path ... don't ask me ... but had a nice time pushing the pedals and a beer at the Black Bass over in PA. We now know where to look for the bike path next time.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rain, rain, rain ... and a word on cycle shorts

Rain stopped play this Tuesday evening, so no Griggstown Grinder.

Actually, the sun did attempt to shine an hour or so before the start, but it was p!ssistently pouring down again by 6.00pm/18.00.

A couple of instances lately reminded me of some advice I gave on cycle shorts and bibs on this blog a while ago. Please don't ask ...

Cycle shorts give you a degree of comfort and support nothing else can match ... except for bib shorts which are even more effective for many riders.

But, or should I say butt (?), lycra/spandex/elastene, of which most shorts are made, will degrade. Washing, wearing and UV will cause the original fabric's qualities to break down over a period of time.

One of the most potentially embarrassing consequences is that even black lycra becomes translucent, if not transparent, over a period of time. So you should be advised to ask a good friend if your shorts are still effective, and don't leave you scaring the horses or giving your fellow riders a new perspective on you. Actually, just holding them up to the light will give you a good indication if it's time for a new pair.

And lastly, while I'm in cycling's intimate secrets mode, cycling shorts/bibs are designed to be worn without any other pants, knickers, undies, panties, boxers, skivvies, bloomers, jock-straps, thongs, drawers, etc, etc. It takes a little getting used to, but the shorts, the pad and everything else is designed to be used commando style. I've said it before, but nothing says cycling noobie like VPL.

So check those old cycling shorts!!!
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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Sourlands Grinder : 20110607

And it was yet another fine evening for the Grinders as we set off on Diane's idea of happiness. Just short of 26miles/42km and over 2000ft/600m of climbing. Happiness indeed.

The ride started off with the usual into the breeze section on Skillman Road as it heads off into the Sourlands. Turn right up Hollow Road, whose surface gets worse with every week and defies you to get a good rhythm as it deceptively ascends towards Long Hill Road.

For some reason, Long Hill isn't nearly as much of a challenge as Hollow. Maybe it's the surface, which is markedly better. Or maybe Hollow is just plain deceptive. Descending Hollow is a bit of an eye opener as to just how much of a climb it is.

As Long Hill metamorphoses into Zion Road it meets Lindbergh. We made the cut across to Ridge Road while Jen told me her theory of attacking hills.

The whooping descent of Rileyville Road towards the Wertsville Road is either exhilarating or white knuckle inducing. Rich claimed 47mph/75kmh and I believe him. He was dropping away from me and I was over 40mph/65kmh.

A short run along the Wertsville Road towards Peacock's Country Store then the foothills of the Lindbergh climb with its initial 500ft/150m climb, descent and then a knee cracking 20% heave just when you thought you were on a nice swoop back down to the Hopewell valley. Jen reckoned this scored 50 using her new found hill-climbing technique.

We charged back to the start to beat the sunset. And it was worth watching.

Don't forget, Team Old Cranks is riding the Metric Century - 100km/62.5miles - this Sunday from Princeton Junction. All proceeds to help beat diabetes.

Please consider sponsoring either Gary, Gene or myself, Grinders all. Even better register as an Old Crank and come along for the ride and help this good cause.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Hightstown/Etra - S Brunswick : 20110605

It's Sunday. It must be the Etra ride. But with a difference.

This year Cliff and Gary will alternate most Sundays, with Cliff running at C+, and Gary aiming for a B.

So today saw an untypical run from Etra. Gary led us off at a fast rate; virtually no climbs at all, just a very smart pace from the get-go.

I totally lost direction so was surprised to find myself near Monmouth Junction. Distance was down, but pace was up. So I was pleased to find ourselves at Pierre's. Nice bakery, nice place, in fact. But no seats outside. The cranberry muffin was nice anyway.

Once again, a fine route from Gary.

Next Sunday, the Tour de Cure from Princeton Junction. A metric century, 100km/62.5miles, for diabetes research. Take a look at my sponsorship page and help if you can. Let's hope for a constant tailwind.

Support Team Old Cranks!!!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Griggstown Grinder : 20110531

Once again, the fearless Grinders assembled for the regular Tuesday evening slog into the hills.

It was very hot. The temperature was hovering around the high 80Fs/30C+ as we pedalled off, grateful for the cooling effect of the motion induced breeze.

The main challenge of the day was the climb towards Lindberg. A brief relief after Longhill brings you onto the final teeth-gritting ascent on the Hopewell-Amwell Road. It looks like a blip on the ride profile - at mile 9.4 - and actually, it looks like a blip as you approach it, but the slope exponentially increases towards the top, close to 20%. Argh!!!

A mechanical meant that the last stretch, from Hopewell to the start was conducted at top speed.

An evening for drinking plenty of water and checking your tyres ...