Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ow - redux

I hate being ill or injured. I get irritable when I can't exercise. Fortunately I've managed to get enough range of motion in my knee to work out on my elliptical. I'm nowhere near being able to complete an entire pedal stroke. I'm hoping I can accelerate the healing process with very light workouts on the elliptical.

My Fleche team (a 360km group ride) is half way through their ride. I really wish I was with them. I hope they gave a good time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Rode a fun 36 miles after work on Friday night on the top half of the SART. Then rode Back Bay loop on Saturday with my daughter but touched wheels with her after 4 miles and went down hard on the bike trail. Broke my rear derailler and ripped my campy brake hoods. I also took a considerable amount of skin off my knee (most of it actually) so the ER doctor couldn't put stitches in. In his words "I've nothing left to put stitches into".

I asked him what that whitish stuff poking out of the hole was, thinking 'bone'. He told me it's subcutaneous fat. Ew.

My only wish is that it heals enough that I can ride a 600k brevet in a month. The doctor assures me that won't be a problem. Unfortunately I don't think the doctor has any conception of what riding a 600k entails.

Thank goodness we weren't 30 miles into the ride.

Be safe.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Republican Candidates and Cycling

I've been wondering about how the election of any of the current Republican Candidates for President would affect cycling in the following four years. None of them stand out as being supporters of our sport.

Mitt Romney: His only adult exposure to cycling was while in France as a LDS missionary. Apparantly he hated it and thinks of cycling as something only poor or foreign people do who can't afford a car. He will probably do what he can to 'save' us from having to cycle at all. - Score 2 stars out of 5.

Rick Santorum: I don't think Rick cares much about anything except what other people are doing with their genitals. He may have heard that excessive cycling can cause Erectile Dysfunction which he would consider to be a form of contraception so he would probably try to make cycling illegal. He would certainly fight any attempt to force the Catholic church to allow their employees to cycle to work. Score 1 star out of 5.

Ron Paul: Ron is the only Republican candidate that regularly cycles. I hear he's quite a strong rider. However, as bike paths are created and maintained by Government (note the capital G) and Ron believes government should be as small as possible, I suspect he would happily eliminate all Parks and Recreation departments so we would be forced to ride on the roads. But as roads are created and maintained by CalTrans, WaDot, etc, we would soon not have any roads either. Perhaps if we all created and maintained our own mountain biking trails we could ride our mountain bikes on them and there would be no park rangers (Ron will fire them all) to tell us where we can and cannot ride. Score 3 stars out of 5.

Newt Gingrich: Newt only cares about getting money, power, and fame for Newt. I don't see any way he can personally get money or power out of supporting cycling, but if we name all the bike trails "The Newt Gingrich Bike Trail" he might support them. It'd be a bit confusing though. I hear there are plans to build a bike trail as part of his new moon colony. Unfortunately it'll be outside the dome. Score 2 stars out of 5.

The lukewarm winner is Ron Paul.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sigma 1609 review

Major storm blew through this weekend. I'm glad I wasn't riding Vicky's 300k brevet up in San Luis Obispo. I hope her riders did OK. I have about a foot of snow outside my house right now so I will be using my Schwinn recumbent stationary bike today. I'm gearing up for a fleche (360km in 24 hour team ride) in two weeks. Meanwhile here's my review of my new Sigma 1609 bike computer.

I just mounted my Sigma 1609 and went for a 200k test ride. My initial impressions during the installation process and initial ride are very positive.

The Sigma is replacing an ancient Cateye Enduro that finally failed after more than 10 years and 50,000 miles of service. Two thumbs up for the Enduro, but Cateye's current Enduro doesn't seem as durable so I switched.

I did not install the cadence feature. I've been riding long enough to know when my cadence is in the zone or not. The mount can be rotated so you can install this on the bar or the stem. Wires are plenty long enough (I have a 62 cm frame and had about 6" of wire to spare). The sensor mount uses an o-ring which means it works even on the most aero forks. It took me about 15 minutes to install the computer, some of which was spent removing the old one.

The 1609 has a very large readout (great for those 50+ year old eyes on bumpy roads). The main display is always speed and the second display is one of a a long list. You change the second display with the top right and bottom right buttons that scroll through the list. One of the the secondary options is temperature which, while not incredibly important, is one of the few things missing from my Garmin Edge 705 so the two complement each other to some extent.

Resetting the 1609 involves holding the top left button for a few seconds. Moving into and out of Set mode requires you to hold the bottom left button for a few seconds. I like that the display indicates that you are about to reset or set data while you are holding down the buttons. This helps prevent accidentally resetting during a long ride.

I dislike bike computers that try to do everything with one or two buttons. It's too difficult to remember the magic sequence of button presses required to, say, recalibrate the elevation. The 1609 uses the four buttons very consistently so I don't have to carry the instruction manual with me if I want to correct the wheel size or something.

Talking about the wheel size I notice that even though I chose the wheel size for 700x23 the speed is reading 1.8% too high. Fortunately that's an easy fix.

You can carry over total mileage from a prior computer if you want to. Nice touch.

The backlight is also well designed. It toggles by pressing two buttons together. When it's turned on it lights up the screen whenever a key is pressed. However I could see not realizing it was on during the day and losing battery life as a result. I don't think there's any indication on the readout to let you know it's on. An ambient light sensor would be a great feature for controlling whether key presses activate the backlight or not -- hint, hint.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cold weather cycling

Rode a 200k permanent yesterday ending up with 127 miles. My new Sigma 1609 cyclecomputer worked out really well. I like the temperature feature and the big readout. It was cold when I started - about 50F.

While 50F isn't very cold it got me thinking about the times I've cycled in snow and freezing rain. Cold weather isn't a problem if you know how to deal with it. The best way to deal with it is to know ahead of time what the predicted highs and lows are along your route. Arm warmers and leg warmers are your first defence as the weather cools - they are light and don't take up much room. As the temps drop closer to 50F you will need to add a wind shell which is also very light and rolls up into your jersey pocket when you need it. I have Pearl Izumi arm and leg warmers and a Pace wind shell (15 years old - best value ever).

When the temperature continues to drop you might need to add a vest which layers well with the shell. As your fingers get cold you can add long fingered gloves but I prefer to use silk ski undergloves. Mine came from Campmor and are so thin they fit under my cycling gloves. You also need to consider replacing the wind shell with a heavier jacket like the Performance Century II jacket. You'll notice I'm staying away from the high-end jackets - I find they tend to be too warm and I sweat too much with them.

At some point I will replace the undergloves with lightly insulated full-fingered gloves and replace my cycling socks with neoprene socks. Mine are 1.5mm thick but if you have room in your shoes you can go up to 2mm. Many people have booties that go over their shoes to protect their toes.

Below 35F I'll also add a neck/head warmer from Buff which is very flexible and about the correct weight for exercising. I also own cycling tights and long sleeve jerseys which I can add at a pinch but they are bulky and I only use them if I know it will need them for the entire ride. At this point I might take my Carradice bag so I have somewhere to stow all this gear if it's too much.

I also bought a Capilene base layer for Iditasport many years ago and I still use it sometimes (but it has to be really cold). I remember putting it on near the top of Mt Baldy while it was snowing during a 200k brevet and I was able to bomb back down to the valley. There were other riders who had to keep their speed way down because they were freezing.

You generate a lot of heat when you ride (remember you burn through 4000 calories every 100 miles). There is a tendency to overdress. If you're comfortable standing around before the ride, you will overheat during the ride.

All the above advice assumes you knew the ride would be cold. I've done a couple of rides where the rain/cold caught me by surprise. You don't have to risk hypothermia.

The first trick is to find a big garbage bag. Ideally you'll find a grocery or hardware store. I've seen a rider take the bag out of a public trash can, empty it into a second trash can, and use the bag. That was disgusting. Tear holes for your head and arms and put it on. It works best if it is between two layers. It will warm you up almost as soon as you start riding.

The second trick is for your hands. Go to a gas station and beg or buy two diesel gloves. They give them to you if you buy diesel fuel. They're just very cheap, generic food handling gloves. Put them on under your cycling gloves and they will quickly warm your hands up when you start riding. If you can find them at the store you bought the garbage bag at, even better.

Both these solutions will end up with you cycling in your personal puddle of sweat but they're cheap and they work. I'd like to thank the Davis Bike club for both these ideas which have saved my bacon more than once.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Spirit of Randonneuring

A new randonneur posted an interesting question on our local group's Google Group recently about a RUSA rule. He was concerned about the rules governing outside help but I interpreted it as a wider question about the spirit of Randonneuring in general.

I'm always surprised to meet cyclists who have never heard of randonneuring. It's a French concept that has taken off around the world and is particularly popular in the USA, UK, and Japan (and, of course, France). It has a very inclusive approach to long-distance cycling especially for those of us who like doing very long rides, at a relaxed pace, and can be self-supporting. It's different from the double-century format in that the rides vary from 200k to 1200k (124mi to 750mi) called brevets, have a minimum speed of 9.5mph, and there is generally little to no support.

The organization is typically French in concept. A group of riders start at a prearranged time and place and follow a specific course to the end at an average pace from 9.5 to 19mph. Although this may seem very slow, you'd be surprised how much time is lost at red lights, stop signs, convenience stores, getting lost, etc. Plus on the longer rides you have to get some sleep in too. There are controls at specific locations to give the riders the opportunity to get fresh supplies and also to prove they are more-or-less on course and not taking any shortcuts. They are rarely manned and rely instead on getting store reciepts or answering a question on the brevet card that could only be answered by being at the specified location.

Although the riders are encouraged to stay on route (and there can be secret controls to ensure they don't cheat), it's not uncommon for riders to slightly modify the route. For example on a 400k I rode recently the official route took a parallel road through Laguna Beach because that stretch of PCH can have heavy traffic. However at the time I went through the traffic was light so I simply stayed on PCH and rode the same distance. With a US mentality I broke the rules, with a French mentality I was simply being sensible.

We also encounted a serious traffic accident near San Pedro. The group I was in was fortunate in that the police allowed us to pass through. A group behind us was not so lucky. They elected to sleep for a couple of hours until the road was open again. I'm sure the RBA (Regional Brevet Administrator) allowed them to get to the controls later than the official cutoff time because of this. They could also have found a detour but even with a GPS system the best alternative route would have added five miles. Again, the RBA would have made allowances. They could also have asked someone to drive them along the detour and drop them at the far side of the accident site where they could have continued riding.

All these would be considered reasonable solutions to an unforseeable problem.

The rules prohibit receiving help from anyone not riding or officiating the ride. But they should be interpreted as saying "don't get your friends to come and take turns pulling you for 100 miles". The rules require you to stay on the designated course, but they should be interpreted as saying that you must not take shortcuts.

Odd how Americans fret so much over interpreting the rules, just like the Brits. As a friend said "The French just shrug as only the French can."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Simi Valley to Solana Beach 400k

This is an account of a 400k brevet hosted by Greg and Lisa Jones of the Pacific Coast Highway Randonners.

On Saturday March 3rd a group of  about 16 riders left Simi Valley Amtrak station at 6am and rode to Filmore, Ventura, Santa Monica, Oceanside, and Solana Beach for a total of 250 miles (400k). I'd ridden this ride once before in 2010. I was riding with my daughter, Amber. We were hoping to finish in about 23 hours to catch the 6:45 train back to Simi Valley.

We started with powerful tailwinds as we headed West, then some climbing and headwinds as we headed to Filmore to the first control. Fortunately we turned around in Filmore and had strong tailwinds all the way to Ventura. From there we pretty much headed South on PCH with more tailwinds. I rode a lot of this section with Debbie and Paul.

Santa Monica beach path would have been a lot more pleasant if we'd had it to ourselves, Constantly dodging people stepping onto it without looking or wandering down the middle oblivious to everyone else got a bit stressful. Both Paul and I got a little frustrated I think. The only time I've ridden this path when it wasn't crowded was about 2am. One bright spot - I passed a young lady jogging in the same direction as me wearing a short black skirt and no underwear. Every step she flashed me. It reminded me of that famous poster of a woman playing tennis in a short white skirt with no underwear. Thank you, whoever you are.

As we exited the beach path I bonked massively. Funny thing is I did the same thing two years ago to at exactly the same place. Paul gave me half a sandwich and I had a little trail mix which got me to the 7/11 at mile 144 which was the next control. Had a tuna fish sandwich and got more gatorade. I was beginning to get sick of gatorade by now.

My energy came back strong and we continued south down PCH through Huntington Beach and made a stop at a Circle K at Newport Beach. At this point my stomach was bothering me as if food wasn't being digested. Then some homeless guy lit a foul smelling cigarette and I found myself utilizing a trash can for an unapproved purpose. My apologies to the guy who empties that trash can next. I think that tuna salad sandwich is the prime suspect. Now I just didn't want to eat or drink. Gatorade was not appealing. All I really wanted was water.

Laguna Beach (mercifully light traffic), through Dana Point, San Clemente (another control but I just didn't want to eat). Amber was getting sleepy so she had an iced coffee and I had a red bull, Interstate 5 for a few miles, then Oceanside where I finally started to think about food again. Fifty miles is a long way to ride without taking any calories in so you can imagine I'm crawling by now.

After Oceanside there's Carlsebad, Leucadia, and Encinitas. The section of PCH through Leucadia is normally one of the more dangerous sections of PCH with lots of parked cars, rough road, no shoulders and aggressive drivers. I was planning on using Vulcan if this stretch didn't feel safe but at 4am there were no issues at all.

Finally I dragged my sorry self into Solana Beach. Our official time was 22:40 which is better than my target. Lisa gave me some ginger ale which did wonders for my stomach. I must remember that trick. We showered and changed and rode back to the Amtrak station one mile up the road. Our butts did not appreciate being lowered back onto our saddles, especially as we had changed into day clothes with no padding. Thank goodness there was a cafe on the train because all of a sudden I was starving, and on the drive back, and when I got home :-)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

If I didn't live at the top of a mountain...

Don't get me wrong, I love living at the top of a mountain in a place most people don't get to see unless they're on vacation. But I work 5,000' lower than I live so commuting to work on my bicycle is not an option for me. Even if the climb home at night didn't give me a heart-attack the road is simply too dangerous to cycle on.

I see no end to the increases in gas prices. If I could cycle to work I would save $2,500 a year in gas. Of course I'd spend an extra $500 on food but I think physically, mentally, spiritually, and economically I'd be better off. Even if I could cycle, though, there's no showers here at work and no secure place to store my bicycle. My daughter works at UCLA Medical Center and they charge employees $11 a day to park. They justify that as an attempt to encourage carpooling and use of alternative transportation.

It's easy to encourage employees to reduce reliance on cars when you're making money from it. But corporations also need to provide positive encouragement too, like hours that match public transport availability, work from home, secure bike storage, showers/changing rooms, etc. I'm just not seeing enough of that part of the equation.

You don't change people's habits with all sticks and no carrots.