January 31, 2010

Most Embarrassing TT Start Ever

Speaking of Time Trials, those starting ramps can be a killer.
Must be Australian Rules Time Trialling.
Stay between the lines. The lines are your friends.
Especially when you are after a spot on the Olympic team.

January 29, 2010

TT Chronicles Pt. 2/5: Is That Bike UCI-Legal? Who Knows?


While reviewing TT bike in Part 1, I came across the rumour that the latest and greatest time trial bikes from some of the biggest manufacturers in the business are not UCI legal.
Trek, Specialized, Scott and Giant, the biggest of them all. Some of these bikes will be horrendously expensive. Only the Giant is actually available to purchase it seems and Giant does have (relatively) cheaper versions.
So the anti-UCI argument is based on the theme that the UCI are luddites, are stifling innovation, are driving us back to the dark ages of steel bikes with 1 speed and wing nuts for quick releases. Bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea. Proponents of this argument want the right (at least theoretically if not financially) to buy whatever the engineers can come up with. In this way, bike science will progress.
The pro-UCI argument is that the athletes should be competing, not the bikes. The best-funded athlete should not have an advantage. Winning should be determined by strength, fitness, mental toughness, etc. This becomes an even bigger issue in the local racing ranks where not everyone can afford that fancy TT machine that gives you 1 or 2 minutes in a 40K race. 
I have to side with the UCI. Bike designs should be kept reasonably simple and it shouldn't cost >$10K for a top time trial bike. Define a design box that keeps the sport affordable to be competitive at the highest level (relatively). Without the UCI, a $10K pro bike (frame) would be cheap. It has happened before. Keep it cheap! (Yeah, I know, $5K isn't cheap either, but it's closer). Then let the athletes decide who wins.

If you take the anti-UCI arguments to their extreme, we should allow doping too. The UCI is stifling athletic potential and the evolution of the sport by banning performance-enhancing drugs. You can see that we need boundaries to ensure the competition is fair and the winner is determined by athleticism and not how deep your pockets are (or how willing you are to forego future health for money/fame). I think the UCI is in the right ballpark from this perspective.

The UCI does suck badly in one very important regard. They need to enforce all the rules all the time. Otherwise poor average Joe gets stuck with an illegal bike when the UCI suddenly starts to enforce a rule they ignored for years. And bike manufacturers waste R&D and set up of production facilities. Arbitrary UCI decisions on when, and when not to, enforce the rules are a significant problem for the bike industry and bike buyers. The uncertainty is unacceptable. The inconsistency is arrogant.

Oh yeah. Don't forget this is just a rumour, although it seems the manufacturers are participating in the forums too. That makes it credible unfortunately. Hope it gets cleared up soon. I expect this uncertainty will hit sales of certain TT bikes soon. Let's have an official ruling please. Now.

Late breaking news: Just noticed that Felt is now the official supplier of bikes to the UCI World Cycling Centre. Bodes well for Felt bike sales as I imagine their TT frames have to be deemed UCI-legal now. Clever.

Check out the next edition of the TT Chronicles.

January 27, 2010

Contador Livestrong?

If you believe the bike mags, it is a well-known fact that there was no love lost between Lance and Alberto. Sounds reasonable when you consider they both are driven winners. Imagine you are Contador and you have just won the last three Grand Tours you were in - in a row. Then your team brings Lance on board, just when you finally get back into the Tour after sitting out for a year. "Hey" he might say, "Wasn't anyone watching when I won those grand tours?" Or "What did I do to piss you off this time Johan?" Or "What have Americans ever done for Khazahkstan?" All very good questions Alberto.

Definitely not an optimal situation for Alberto and pretty amazing he was able to ignore all the distractions and just perform. Talk about mental toughness. That boy, or whoever mentored him during this time, should take a page from Lance's entourage and write a book on self-motivation. Someone knows what they are doing. Now if he could just improve a bit on the PR side. Of course, controversy is good for the profile of the sport. So the trash talk may not be an entirely bad thing.

Something interesting I just noticed about last year's Astana kit. Besides the fact that their jerseys don't match in the top TdeF photo. If you were Alberto, wearing Lance's Livestrong brand on your left sleeve and left leg would be kinda suck, don't you think? He might have asked "How about putting the pistol on the right sleeve? But for that you need a pistol charity. Perhaps the NRA? Great personal incentive for Alberto to get the yellow jersey - no Livestrong logo. Although still stuck with Livestrong on the shorts.

January 25, 2010

A Dog In A Hat - Book Review

A Dog in a Hat is a great cycling book. Read about the gritty world of semi-pro European road racing. Very interesting look at a sport that can be beautiful, but can also be very, very ugly. I just started reading the book again while typing this, and I got so wrapped up in it my screen saver came on. This really is a very interesting book and highly recommended for anyone who would like to learn more about road racing and the culture and history of the sport in its European epi-center. Read it. I did (twice now).

January 23, 2010

Winter Bike Wash

Winter is hell on bikes, especially this winter it seems. The City, being a big fan of road salt, has decided to use it on the bike paths as well. As a result, the commuter is getting exposed to a lot more salt this year than ever before. Since corrosion has been a problem in the past, this year is going to be really bad.
So I broke down and did something I never did before. I washed my commuter in the winter. It was crusty with salt and I had to. You can see the chain is rusting at an unprecedented rate this year too. It's a brand new chain this fall, still with no wear, according to my chain wear indicator. And yes, I lube it, a lot. But even one ride in salt slush causes the lube I was using to wash off. Actually, I lubed so the chain was noticeably wet and it still seems to rust. So I am going to try a goopier lube - I'm thinking Phil Wood Tenacious Oil for starters since I have some sitting around. I will let you know how it works out.

January 21, 2010

TT Chronicles Pt. 1/5: What is the World's Fastest Time Trial Bike?


I am thinking about buying a time trial bike.
The obvious question is: What is the fastest time trial bike in the world? Not that I can necessarily afford it (unless it is cheap). But inquiring minds need to know. Time to do a little research.

Bike
Cost
Toroidal Wheel Compatible
Available
Looks Aero
Manufacturer Superlative
Giant Trinity Advanced
$5,050-$14,000
Yes
Maybe
Very
World's fastest TT/Tri bike
Cannondale Slice
$2,000-$10,000
Yes
Yes
Fairly
The fastest road machine we've ever built.
Specialized Shiv
$10,000?
Yes
No
Very
Challenges any other bike to best it in the wind tunnel.
Specialized Transition
$2,500-$7,700
Yes
Yes
Fairly
Wind cheating, Ironman-winning geometry
Cervelo P4
$6,000-$12,500
No
Yes
Very
Fastest bike ever tested in the San Diego Wind Tunnel
Cervelo P3
$3,600-$4,500
Maybe UPDATE 13 Mar 10: At LBS today - my Stinger 6's FIT THE P3!
Yes
Fairly
Nothing specific
Felt B2 and DA
$3,800-$10,000
Yes
Yes
Very
Fastest UCI-legal bike in the world
Trek Speed Concept
??
Yes
No
Very
Slipperiest machine on the road
Ridley Dean
$8,500
No
Yes
Very
Fastest bike in the world
Orbea Ordu
$4,600-$10,500
??
Yes
Fairly
Infinite wind tunnel evaluation
Scott Plasma 2
$3,500-$8,500
Yes
Yes
Fairly
The lowest drag of any wind tunnel tested triathlon bike.
Scott Plasma 3
??
??
No
Very
Nothing yet.
Pedal Force TT2
$2,500
Yes
Yes
Fairly
Numerous features to reduce aerodynamic drag

Wow. It seems that if you want that extra 15 seconds, you are going to pay - big time. Kudos to the UCI for forcing manufacturers to produce their bikes for public sale. But five figures is crazy. I guess that is how some manufacturers avoid selling to the unwashed masses. Some of these bikes are not even on their manufacturers websites for bragging rights (Specialized, Scott and Trek).

Speaking of the UCI, there are lots of rumours out there that the TT superbikes are all UCI-illegal. You only see these rumours on forums (e.g., here is the ultimate forum discussion). There is no official release yet. Most of the bikes on the list above are mentioned. All of the discussed bikes have been raced in pro-tour UCI events. Very confusing - even with the "practical guide" which is indecipherable. Of course if you are a triathlete, who cares? But if you race in UCI events, you care. Hopefully the rumours get confirmed or denied soon.

There are some other bikes that I could have put on the list, but you get the picture. Plus they were not easily available or I plain didn't like them. I stuck the Pedal Force in there to show what you can get directly from Asia versus through a middle man. I suspect that bike has never seen the inside of a wind tunnel.

General Learnings:
  • If you want the latest and greatest, you need deep pockets and a lot of patience. Last year's high end bikes are not available from Scott, Specialized, and Trek.
  • Companies like Cannondale, Felt and Orbea deserve a hand for making lower cost versions of their highest end bike. This means you get the exact same aerodynamic technology, but much cheaper. They may weigh a few pounds more, but its really all about aerodynamics and how much money I have to spend.
  • Cervelo deserves a hand too for producing bikes that are relatively affordable. Wish they had wider chainstays though to take the new fatter wheels from Zipp and Hed.
  • All of these bikes are fast, but we have no way of knowing which is fastest. Giant, Specialized, Felt, Trek, Ridley and Scott all claim to the fastest. Obviously, all but one of them are lying. I doubt any of them have tested all the other bikes. Some of these bikes aren't available. I'm guessing nobody on earth knows which is fastest. 
  • Cervelo's P4 claim of fastest bike in the San Diego wind tunnel sounds factual and testable. I believe that statement, at least on the date it was made. Similarly Cannondale, and Pedal Force deserve credit for honesty.
  • I put compatibility with recent wider toroidal wheels from Zipp and Hed on the list. Toroidal spoked and disk wheels are quite a bit wider than the last generation of aero wheels and don't fit some these frames. But for disk wheels, this may be less of an issue. Supposedly, the new Zipp Super9 has "ample chainstay clearance for even the tightest aero frames". Assuming you have a little over $2K to spend for a disk wheel. I expect Hed will have to come up with something similar for a bit less money (hopefully).
 Some general aerodynamic design principles seem to be emerging (besides aero tubes):
  • Short seatstays that tie into the seat tube well below the top tube.
  • Area between seat tube and back wheel is filled in, shielding the back wheel.
  • Perfectly horizontal top tube - no fancy curves.
  • No sharp angles in tube cross sections - e.g., diamond shapes versus curves
  • Multiposition seatpost allowing different leg-torso angles.
  • Hidden brake calipers.
  • Nose cones seem to be popular on the newest bikes. Is it hype or a real advantage? Don't know but filling the head tube area a bit in one way or another seems to be important. It also seems to be the biggest reason these bikes may not be UCI legal.
So what is the fastest TT bike in the world? Whatever one Fabian Cancellara is riding of course. Let's see, he's won on the Cervelo P3 lots of times, the Specialized Transition and the Specialized Shiv just in the last 2 years. I'm guessing it doesn't matter which high end bike he is riding (but maybe not the Pedal Force TT2). He doesn't even bother with an aero water bottle. Conversely, the Schlecks rode the Shiv and it didn't seem to help them.

Hmm. Note to self: Train.

Stay tuned for the next edition of the TT Chronicles.

January 19, 2010

The Time-Crunched Cyclist - A Review

Who wants to get fit, fast and powerful in 6 hours a week? I do, I do! So of course I got excited and bought this book when it came out a while back. This book is written by Chris Carmichael, famously known as Lance's coach. Say no more. If he's good enough for Lance, he's good enough for me.

Now before you read this book I recommend you read Joe Friel's book if you can as it provides more background. That will help you better understand what is being proposed in this book.

Basically, the book is about fewer training hours and more training intensity. I know it will work to some extent. I trained like that for several years. You can get pretty fit this way, at least for shorter races. If you have other time demands like family and work, you really have no choice, do you? And the book is entirely honest. You won't reach your full potential (but who does?) and you won't be able to maintain peak fitness for as long. You thought it was going to make you a competitive Cat 2 on 6 hours a week, didn't you? Sorry, there are tradeoffs. But you will be stronger training on this program for 6 hours a week than you would be if you had less intensity in your training.

If you only have 6 hours a week (or thereabouts) to train, then this book will be beneficial to you. If you are willing and able to put in 10 to 15 hours a week, then you will achieve better results following more conventional periodization training. However, this book is still useful for helping you understand the relationships between rest, intensity, base miles, etc. It has the workout programs for specific targets (experienced and new competitor, experienced and new century rider) to get you to your goal. You should also get this book if you have an interest in fitness science. It does explain the rationale behind the program and recommend other training and nutrition advice that is very useful. There are also a number of good stories, so it has entertainment value as well.

I don't recommend this book as your only source of info. But I like the book and think it will provide valuable information to just about everyone. Chris Carmichael is coaching at the leading edge of the sport after all. I think older masters riders will need to be very careful on this program to avoid injury. And you are going to suffer a lot on those long, very hard rides/races because you won't have that deep endurance. But what did you expect? You're taking a shortcut after all.

January 17, 2010

Vive Le Tour - From 1962 - Hard Men

The bikes, the kits, the nuns, the fans, the vehicles, the helicopters, the drinking raids, even doping.
A fascinating look at the Tour almost 50 years ago.



January 15, 2010

Fabian's Specialized Shiv Time Trial Bike

Wikipedia says: A shiv is a slang term for any sharp or pointed implement used as a knife-like weapon, including knives themselves. However, the word in practical usage is frequently used when referring to an improvised bladed weapon. Shivs are commonly made by inmates in prisons across the world.

A recent article in CycleSport America shows a few pics of Fabian's "Shiv" time trial bike made by Specialized. The bike is still not for sale and it is not known in which prison it is currenty being made, but it is probably in America. It is expected that manufacture will be moved to an offshore prison when it goes into production for retail sale, probably somewhere in Asia.

The bike has a few interesting modifications noted in the CycleSport America article. Good mag. Give it a read. But there are a few more interesting design issues that should be discussed. 

Front view of Shiv

Pro: As a leading edge manufacturer, Specialized decided to rethink the leading edge of the bike frame. The leading edge of the frame is the first portion to contact undisturbed air flow and therefore, it's design is crucial to functionality of the entire bike. The Shiv was developed using modern biomimicry design principles. That is, if you want to design something, take a look at how nature has already solved a similar design problem over 3.8 billion years of evolution. Might save you some time. The Shiv nose cone has been designed to mimic the nose cone of the male Mirounga spp., sometimes known as the elephant seal. Since elephant seals have to swim through water, a much denser medium than air, they have undergone tremendous evolutionary pressure to develop a leading edge (or nose) that minimizes drag. As shown in the images, the shapes are identical.

Pro: Not only that, the nose cone is a proven sexy design developed over 3.8 billion years of evolution to attract females (female elephant seals that is).

Con: Of course, the nose cone may infuriate males (elephant seals again). So prospective riders should be extremely careful near the beach. An attack from a rival male would be very damaging to the typical lycra-clad cyclist. And a triathlete wearing only a speedo and tank top is essentially totally defenseless. Are there elephant seals in Kona? Better check before you buy.

Nose cone accessory for Shiv

Con: Notice the damage to the frame behind the nose cone in the top photo of the Shiv. It appears the nose cone hits the frame when it swings around. Both sides of the bike are similarly scarred, assuming the Shiv Fabian is riding on the back cover ad is the same bike. Of course, scarring like this is typical for male elephant seals and is a sign of maturity and the eternal struggle for mating privileges. Note identical damage in the elephant seal photo (the one with the nose cone that isn't red). Not surprising to see on the Shiv and true to it's design principles. Left unchecked, this would be disappointing if you spent $8K or $10K or whatever this bike will cost. Fortunately this potential issue is easily and inexpensively fixed with the right Specialized accessory. Problem solved.

You gotta admit, the boy can ride.

January 13, 2010

Squats - The Cycling Fountain of Youth, Use With Caution

Squats. They sound just as amusing as they look. But fountain of youth? Sounds weird I know, but it's true. Thanks to Joe Friel, I decided to hit the weights again in fall of 2008. Hadn't done it for several years. Didn't miss it. Or so I thought until I gave it a try. I could feel the extra strength on the bike after a couple of weeks and my knees felt great. Not only that, I started to feel light on my feet just walking around. It is a really good feeling. Now maybe that feels so good because I'm old and more used to feeling tired and broken down. Regardless, it was the weights that made the difference.
Anyways, start doing the weights. Take it easy at first. It is irrelevant how much cycling you do or how good your aerobic fitness is. Perhaps it is the cycling, but I find it is easy to do a lot of squat reps, even on day 1. And it is just as easy to be very, very sore the next day - or sore for the next week (yes week, trust me). Squats (and lunges) are the worst for muscle soreness. With the arms, you get tired before you hurt yourself too much. But not squats and lunges. Why? No idea. That's just the way it is. Be real careful or you will lose a week of fitness, just like that.

OK, so this is how to do it if, like me, you've been slacking off for several years on the weights. First day, do two sets of 12 squats, with no weight, down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. If you are brave use the bar (not an olympic bar, one of those 20 lb recreational bars with no weights). Now wait 24 hours. Sore? Better wait 24 more hours to be sure. The longer it takes to get sore, the longer it takes to recover. Sometimes it takes 2 days. Remember, you're a puny weakling, you have to start at the beginning. Plus you can't lift weights every day can you? That's crazy. Do it every second day, at least for the same muscle groups.

OK, so assuming you can do 2 sets with little or no weight with no stiffness the next day (it's OK to be tired, but not sore), you can start progressing. My progression is:
  • 2x12 reps, 
  • then 3x12 reps, 
  • then add 10 lbs a side to the third set, 
  • then the second set too. 
  • then add 10 lbs, to each set and stick to 3 sets. 
  • when that is OK, add 10 more, etc. 
Do the weights every second day over the winter at least (and don't just do squats). Once you get to say 60 lbs total weight for 3 sets of squats, you should feel something. Don't progress to the next step until you can do a step without getting sore. This is a pretty conservative progression and you can increase faster than this if you feel strong. But wait until you get a bit of experience with how your body responds to weights.

And here is some more news. You don't have to hit heavy weights to feel the difference. For squats I got up to 75 lbs a side which I consider heavy. Others don't. But try a superset like this with 60 lbs total weight: Do 12 squats followed by 12 lunges (per side) followed by 12 pushups without resting between exercises to complete one set. Do 5 of those sets without stopping. That is a total of 60 reps (5x12) of each exercise per superset. You can eventually do 2 supersets (with a rest between them) and they have a large aerobic component - you puff because you don't stop moving. Make sure you build up to this first or you'll be very soorrry. For example do 3 back to back sets instead of 5. First time I did this I did 2 supersets and I was sore for a week. And I had been lifting for months, just not like that.

The advantage of light weights with lots of reps is that it is pretty safe. You can control the weight without a spotter. And you can do it at home with minimal equipment. Even old stuff you just have laying around.
Save $$$. You can use any old stuff you have lying around.
But enough with the weights buddy, you better get on the bike.

Of course you need to do more than just squats. Lots of good advice out there on what exercises to do, but I like the Joe Friel approach. Not too many exercises, so it goes fast. Works into the overall training routine nicely. This is more than cycling advice, it is healthy lifestyle advice. It will help everyone, cyclist or not.

January 12, 2010

What I Wear For Winter Cycling At -35C (-31F)

It's January. Nice. I commute to work in Canada as you may have read on this blog. And it's almost 3 years since I missed a day (when I'm in town). To do that requires that I be able to ride in winter temperatures as low as -35C. Which is pretty dang cold. Now I won't kid you and say -35C is an enjoyable temperature to ride my bike. It isn't. All that gear feels restrictive, goggles fog up, you can't see as well peripherally, and of course, it's cold and dark. The bike is a real beast with a lot more rolling resistance. A lot more.

But there is a certain satisfaction is knowing you can actually do it. Cave man stuff. Also the streak that has to be kept going. And you do actually derive fitness from all riding, including -35C riding. Don't forget saving the planet. Be a hero! So how do you dress for extreme cold? Here is what I wear to give you some info so you can do it too. This system works for 20 to 30 minute rides for me.

I will start at the head. At these temperatures, no skin can be exposed to outside air. You are moving so you have wind chill. At -35C (-31F), moving at 25 km/hr (15 mph) causes a wind chill on your exposed skin of -51C (-59F). That's pretty cold isn't it? Even a sliver of skin behind your goggles will feel like someone is sticking a knife into your brain. Speaking from experience.

For my head and neck, I use a snowboarding helmet, a fleece windproof helmet liner, snowmobiling goggles (by Polaris), and a neoprene facemask. I use a clear lens because it is usually dark for the winter commute when it is really cold, both ways. I have found that by wearing my helmet liner backwards, it covers those two little patches behind the eyes, between the goggles and the helmet. Absolutely critical to cover this at all temperatures below about -20C to prevent freezebrain/skin. I forgot to include my neck tube in the photo. It is just a simple knitted tube that keeps your neck warm and fits over your collar and the neoprene mask.

The mitts in the photo are simply the warmest mitts I could find. They are thick and windproof with cuffs to keep out drafts.  I find I need mitts at all temperatures below about -10C. Gloves make my hands freeze, no matter how big they are. When it is cold, I often have to pull my thumb in with the fingers to keep it warm, at least during the first 10 minutes. Hands are a weak link and need to be kept toasty.  They are one of the first things you will freeze if you screw up with your dressing.


Next is the torso. I use 4 layers on the torso at this temperature. Lowest layer is a thick, long-sleeved underwear shirt. No collar. Wearing all these layers, I find the multiple collars start to choke me if this layer has a collar. Next is a typical spring cycling jacket. This one is partially windproof, but that isn't necessary, as the outer layers are windproof too. This is just a cozy layer under the next layer which is nylon.


The outer two torso layers start with a very light parka. This parka is perfect. It is nylon with about 1 cm of synthetic insulation. It is surprisingly warm and I cannot wear it at temperatures warmer than about -20C (-4F),  even if I leave out the spring cycling jacket and the windproof outer layer. It is also very light which is nice when you are wearing all this stuff. And the final layer is the blue gore-tex cycling jacket. The high windproofness of this layer really helps all the insulation that is underneath do its job.
 
The legs. Of course the legs do most of the work and if you wear too much on them, it gets harder and harder to pedal. I start with a normal pair of cycling shorts. I avoid bibs for commuting and just use cheap shorts with a chamois. I'm never going far.  Over that I wear a pair of Craft windstopper thermal tights. These are great in winter. They have a couple of layers of material and are only used from about -10C (14F) and below. Cozy and warm. Regular fleece tights would not cut it at -35C for me, even under wind pants. I sew hockey suspenders onto all my commuter tights to keep them from riding down. Want to keep that lower back covered. Once it gets to about -20C (-4F) and colder, I put the breathable wind pants on top of the tights to fully block the wind. These are great because they have nearly full length zips for ventilation. They are also waterproof for those cold rainy days just above freezing.

I have tried thick fleece pants under the wind pants and they work well too. They are even warmer than the Craft tights if you block the wind and they're cheaper. But they can't be used alone at warmer temps because the wind goes right through them. The Crafts are more versatile if the temp changes during the day. So the fleece pants mostly sit in the closet now. I would use them if it got really cold though (Colder than -35C? Are you nuts?). Fleece pants have to be similar in thickness to your typical fleece jacket to work at these temps.
Footwear is the other key place where I tend to get frozen first. I have had a pair of Lake winter boots for several years. They are expensive, but they are also warm and extremely durable. At the end of last winter, some of the sewing was coming undone. I took them to a shoe repair guy and he stitched them up for me. Good as new. The boot material shows very little sign of wear. I did not clean them up for the photo and have never applied waterproof anything to them. These boots are quite a bit warmer than summer cycling shoes. I have frozen my feet many times in my life, growing up on outdoor skating rinks, so summer cycling shoes would not cut it for me. These boots are good to the low -20's C by themselves. But below about -22C I need to wear neoprene covers over top of them. The boots are big compared to shoes, so I had to get XL covers for my size 10 feet, to fit over the boots. Oh yeah, I always wear merino wool socks - one pair.

So that's it. With this gear I can cycle for 30 minutes without getting cold. I find that a longer ride will result in my body being too warm, but my toes gradually freezing. I cannot keep my toes warm at these temperatures for very long without those chemical toe warmers. But like I said, my feet have poor circulation. This works fine for my daily commute when it hits -35C. At -20C, the only difference is I don't need the orange parka layer or the neoprene boot covers. At -15C, I leave out the wind pants. That about covers it for the colder temps. Give 'er a try.

January 10, 2010

Leadville 100 Rematch Film - Go See It

If you don't want to see this, you are on the wrong blog.
Looks awesome, spectacular. I gotta go.
Race Across The Sky
Coming to a theater near you.

January 09, 2010

Elete Electrolyte Tablytes (Tablets) - Review

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have a chronic muscle cramping problem that has caused me grief in the odd race. When it happens, you cannot do any rapid accelerations or you just cramp up. Not as big a problem in a training ride, but definitely a problem for a race - assuming you want to perform. And races, because of their intensity, are where it happens the most. Usually it hits me in the calves, but I have had it in various locations in the thighs. Those post-ride arch cramps - ow. And after a hard day on the bike there is always that potential for a cramp in the middle of the night when you roll over in bed. Now that's a wake-up call!

I have tried several products to deal with the customary explanation of low electrolytes. This is one of them. Every time I am hoping for the magic bullet that will eliminate muscle cramps forever. Like so many things, I have not been able to find the magic bullet. Dealing with muscle cramps requires a suite of tactics.

Elete tablets are one of my tactics. When it is warm out and I am going to be sweating, I take one of these every hour and sometimes one after the workout. They have a mild salty flavour. Definitely not overpowering. One cyclist I know simply keeps a salt lump in his pocket. He has been known to use water softener salt. That's gotta be overpowering. I think I will stick with elete tablets. They are relatively cheap (90 tablets lasts quite a long time) and they are made using sea salt, so you get lots of micronutrients. I like sea salt and I like elete tablets.

The other thing you need to do to prevent cramps is regular long, hard training rides done over many months. I believe you can train your body to deal with whatever is causing the muscle cramps. But you still need electrolytes. Give these a try.

January 08, 2010

California Doctor Sentenced in Road Rage Case

Sentenced to 5 years prison time. More info on my views in the original post here. Good article by Velonews can be found at:

Link to Velonews January 8, 2010 Sentencing Update

Garmin Edge 705 Cycle Computer Review Update

January 8, 2010 Update: So I updated my Garmin software and guess what? The average and max power readings are bang on again. Yay.

Original post can be read here.

January 07, 2010

Specialized Floor Pump Review

So the Silca floor pump was getting a bit tired after 20+ years of distinguished service. Still pumps OK, but the gauge is off 10 or 20 psi. Ish. Not reliable when you are trying to be specific with tire pressure for the cross bike. It has had the guts replaced a few times over the years and is OK at high pressure, but at 30 psi, forget it.

So I read the review on the Specialized Floor Pump at bikeradar and thought wow, 5 thumbs up, sounds like the answer. Hunted around and found one at a local store. Took it home and been using it for several months now.

What do I like? It has a long barrel that gets up to pressure at a pretty decent rate. It has a long hose which allows me to pump up tires without taking the bike off the bike stand. It has a nice little button on the handle that allows me to bleed off excess pressure. But most importantly, the built in pressure gauge is bang on when compared to my digital air pressure gauge. Even at pressures under 30 psi. A very important feature for me. Looks all shiny and silver too.

What do I not like? It has a large base platform. Stability is nice, but this is overkill that makes the pump a bit awkward to pack. It doesn't have to be that big. I'm thinking about getting the hacksaw out and cutting it down. Maybe cut off one of the three lobes.

The next problem is the fancy, shmancy head on this thing. I wish they would stop trying to make these one size fits both presta and schraeder pump heads. Or alternatively provide a second head that works better on a presta valve. The head is somewhat huge and clumsy to use. You really have to jam it onto the valve, then lock it down and it doesn't have a great shape for that. The ergonomics are poor and it's easy to pinch yourself with the locking lever. But you can get it on and clamped if you are careful (or learn how to hold it after a few pinches). I still can't say I like it though. When it cooled off this fall, I found another issue. I could not get a seal on the valve stem when the temp was much below 0C (32F). Must be the rubber getting too hard at those temperatures or something. I could not get air into the tires until I moved everything into the house and let it warm up. I have to keep it in the closet and bring bikes into the house from my garage to add air. Nice thing about the Silca - it always worked regardless of temperature.

Overall rating. Well I definitely wouldn't call it perfect like bikeradar did. I would call it a capable pump with a few flaws. The accurate guage is great. Four thumbs up at most, maybe three. But I will keep using it and don't feel the need to rush out and get another pump. I expect they all have problems too. The Silva is still a keeper though. I'm going to will that to someone with the Vaude panniers.

January 06, 2010

Best Bike Toss Of 2009

There are lots of bike tosses that could be considered bad form.
Not this one. Guy in China nailing purse snatchers with his bike.
At end he returns the purse. Nice work bud.
One time where carbon fiber is not the preferred frame material. Steel is real.
"No thanks required ma'am. Anyone would've done the same."


January 05, 2010

Penaten Cream for Prevention of Cycling Saddle Sores - Review

I have never had a serious saddle sore - i.e., one that interfered with cycling. But I have had skin irritations that could lead to saddle sores several times, typically in association with warm weather and high mileage. I immediately get to work on them to ensure they don't get worse. The more you ride, the more potential there is for problems. There are some fundamental precautions to follow:
  • Use proper cycling shorts with a chamois. Those 70's gym shorts don't cut it for serious riding.
  • Never "recycle" in a pair of shorts. Your shorts should be clean at the start of each day.
  • Never sit around in your sweaty shorts after cycling. Change into clean dry clothes. Ideally, have a shower as soon as possible.
  • Use cream as a preventative, not just a cure. Use it before you encounter any skin irritations. Apply it where ever you have a history of skin irritation. No history? Put it where it hurts - after a long day of cycling.
  • If you get irritated skin, you have to be fanatical about cleanliness or it will get worse - unless you stop riding which is a less than ideal solution.
There are lots of cool cremes with lots of cool names out there for cycling. But after having kids, I had some Penaten creme sitting around. So I thought, if it's OK for babies, it should be OK to put on my old butt. That was more than a decade ago. For me, Penaten has been the answer. As long as I consistently put some on before longer rides (say 2+ hours), I never have any problems. I usually don't bother with it for shorter rides (but do if I have any skin irritation, even trifling ones). And I still follow the principles bulleted above. The nice thing about Penaten, is that it's readily available at just about every supermarket, it's cheap and a can lasts a long, long time. A big tin lasts me quite a bit longer than 10,000 km. That's less than 1 cent per 10 km. Can't beat that.

January 15, 2014 Update: Continue to use this product and am able to ride about 500 hours a year without any issues whatsoever. Cheapest chamois creme ever and it works.

January 03, 2010

Chainring Nut Wrench Review

Do you change your chainrings from time to time? If you have a powermeter on your crank, a not uncommon task allowing you to switch the crank between bikes. Road rings (39/53), time trial rings (42/53), cyclecross rings (lots of choices, say 46/38) may have to be swapped out for the preferred choice for the day. A lot of the time, you don't really need anything but an allen wrench to get those rings off and on. The nut on the back of the chainrings just stays put, more or less. But every now and then, it starts to slip and drives you crazy. You can't undo it or conversely, you can't tighten it up properly. Once it starts to slip, it becomes a chronic slipper. Most chainring nuts have a slot in them which is the only place you can grab onto them. Most of the nut is shielded by the chainring and crank spider. You try to jam a screwdriver in and hold the nut to get it loose, don't you? Right tool for the job? Not quite but what choice do you have? Close enough. Ever skin your knuckles or goon the nut? Been there, done that.
Now here is a handy, dandy and cheap tool that means you never have to struggle with that screwdriver again. No excuse now. There are two slightly different ends to the tool, presumably for different chainring nuts. When you use this tool, do not try to use it to unscrew the nut. Use this tool to hold the nut still while you use your allen wrench to remove the bolt in the usual way.

My tool is made by Park and cost $3.95. Worth every penny (and then some) when you need it. Of course, if your chainring nuts lack the slot, you will need an allen wrench or some other tool to help you remove the chainring bolt. Take a look before you blow the entire $3.95.

January 01, 2010

African Bike Drifting

This is an oldie, but a goodie.
You really have to admire the athleticism it takes to do this.
I can't do it. Can you?
I might give it a try with my slicks on my commuter next spring.
Remind me.