26 January, 2009

New look for the blog

I decided it was time for some change. I think this template suits my personality more - that is, it's more direct, purposeful and to the point.


01 January, 2009

Rivendell Bicycles Tips for Happy Riding - agreement and criticism

I'll start off by saying that I really like what Rivendell Bicycles is about, and if you don't know about them, go check them out for yourself at rivbike.com On their site is this list entitled "Tips for Happy Riding" and while I understand that from the perspective of the writer the whole list seems sensible, I'm going to add my thoughts since I found myself strongly agreeing with some points while taking great disagreement with others. My comments in green.

Learn right away that the front brake is the most effective one, and to never lock the front wheel in dirt (or on the road, but it's more likely in dirt.
- sure, that's a good start
Learn how far you can lean over without scraping a pedal.
- yup
Learn to keep the inside pedal UP when you corner, and learn to ride safely in all conditions. Be the master and commander of your own bicycle.
- yes, but I'd argue that this is more important from the perspective of good bike handling (which lets you go faster) than with respect to safety
Signal your approach to pedestrians, especially if they're old, and a bell is better than "On your left!" If no bell, try clacking your brake levers. If all you got is "On your left!" that's fine, but if you ride a lot on paths, get a bell.
- Strongly disagree! Given I don't ride a lot of "paths" but the racer in me thinks "On your left!" is far more useful than any noisemaker. It's louder than 90% of bicycle "safety" noise devices, and it specifies which side you are passing on so you don't both go the same way.
At least one ride in 10, go without your sunglasses and gloves. Sometime next month, put some double-sided cheap-style pedals on a good bike and ride in non-cycling garb. It works shockingly well, and sends a good message to would-be bicycle riders.
- nice idea, but I don't think it sends any message at all (who would notice?) and it doesn't seem worth it. Sunglasses are a good idea on or off the bike. I like my eyes intact.
Carry an extra tube you can give to somebody with a flat tire and just a repair kit.
- on long road rides, for sure. I wouldn't go to the trouble of carrying 2 tubes all the time, but a good group will share enough that if I've given my tube away I'm sure someone could give me theirs if needed
If you're a guy, don't try to be a mentor to every female cyclist you meet.
- yeah, I think a lot of guys are guilty of this
Don't ride in shoes you can't walk through an antique shop in.
- when is the last time your ride stopped at an antique shop? I'll ride in shoes that make riding more enjoyable, thanks.
Don't - yup clothing that makes your sweat stink even more.
- this is a reference to their endorsement of wool over synthetics, and I agree to some extent. Wool is very nice, but not all synthetics are created equally. At some point performance garments are just not readily available enough in wool, and you have to wear a synthetic garment if you want the right tool for the job.
Don't think you'll go faster in a significant way if you and your bike become more aerodynamic.
- unless you're doing a TT... over 40km/h an aero helmet alone saves something like 30 W - that's not insignificant at all
Put a $20 bill - yup your seat post or handlebar and hold it there, somehow.
- I agree with the notion that you should always carry money to be prepared for an emergency food stop when you are bonking or something, but why inside the seatpost or handlebar? Just so you don't forget it? When I head out for a ride I'm filling my pockets with all sorts of "be prepared" items, and money is just one of them along with a tool, inflator, etc.
Don't ride until you're confident you can fix a flat.
- agree
If you ride more than one bike, have a set of bring-along tools for each one.
- why?! most bikes use sufficiently similar tools that aside from appropriate tube size (road, mtb, etc.) the same things go with you on more or less every ride
Learn how to remove your rear wheel (put the chain onto the small cog, etc.).
- indeed, most beginners do not know this and it's very helpful
If you ride in a group, bring food for you and somebody who forgot to.
- again, reasonable to a point... don't let your friends bonk if you can help, but don't weigh yourself down with 10 lbs of bars just so nobody goes hungry
Go for a one-hour ride underdressed sometime, because it's good to be really cold on a bike every now and then.
- really? I don't see the point in chilling yourself in an unhealthy way for thrills. A fresh winter ride is one thing, but riding underdressed is not smart.
Never blame your bike or your health or anything else if you're the last one up the hill or in to the rest stop.
- agree, it's the motor that counts
If your brake hoods are black, wrap your bars with a different color tape.
- preferably white, but white gets dirty quick. My favourite is white hoods (easier to clean than white tape) with black or coloured tape.
Never let your chain squeak.
- yeah, I guess this is their way of saying you should lubricate your chain?
If you pass another rider going up a hill, say more than "Hi," but if it's a woman and you aren't, don't assume she wants to chit-chat. Treat her as you'd have a generic guy-rider treat your wife/daughter/girlfriend.
- why do I have to say anything? If I can pass them safely without, I will do so.
If you're a woman and it's a guy, you can chit-chat all you like, they won't mind.
- except for the fact that they're getting passed by a woman. I don't have an issue with it personally, but I don't have the same ego as many male athletes...
If you see another rider approaching you from the rear, trying to catch you, let it happen. Fun is more important than fast.
- how is trying not to get caught not fun? I'm assuming it's a training ride we're talking about, otherwise, well, I don't get passed much on any other sort of ride.
Don't put any cyclist up on a pedestal, except Lon and Freddie.
- not even Jens Voigt?
Sometimes, bring normal food on your ride. Sometimes bring none. If you're reasonably well-rested and have eaten anything at all in the last eighteen hours (and are not diabetic), you should be able to pedal your bike for two to three hours without supercharging your system with carbohydrates.
- pedal for 2-3 hours at a leisurely pace, sure. At race effort glycogen stores last 60-90 minutes in the average person, and less for some. I think saying to eat when you are hungry would be better advice.
Shoot photos on your rides and give them away.
- yes, but I'm not much of a photographer
Feel comfortable mixing high tech and low tech, old and new parts and technologies, and don't apologize to anybody for it.
- I race a rigid mountain bike with brand new XTR shifters, so I don't need convincing here.
Compliment other people's bikes, especially if they're new.
- absolutely! It feels great to have a new bike, and better to know that other people think it's as cool as you do.
Buy the cheapest helmet that fits well.
- terrible advice. Buy the helmet that you will want to wear every time you ride. They're all safety approved, so get one that fits, but also one that is sufficiently light to be comfortable and one you like the look of so you feel happy wearing it. A safety device is no good if you leave it behind for fear of how you look, and we all know that the cheapest helmets look absolutely aweful.
Try seersucker shirts for hot weather riding, and long-sleeved ones are best.
- I'm hoping to do this when I get around to buying one
Don't underestimate fig bars.
- though nutritious, I don't like figs
If you get a new widget and like it, don't "swear by it."
- I agree, if I am taking this correctly: you can't really endorse a product wholeheartedly until you've used it for a significant amount of time. You can state that you are liking a new purchase so far, and later decide it's the best you've used, but when it's brand new you don't really know yet how you'll feel in the long run.
Don't always shop by price and never ask for discounts at your local bike shop. Every time you go into a bike shop, spend at least $2, and if you ask a question and get good advice, spend $5 (get a cable).
- most people can't afford not to shop by price. I have loyalties, and I do try to support my LBS and buy things there when I can, I will not pay significantly more than I have to, especially on major purchases. One should not however discount the value that a shop provides in fitting and recommending a product, but if I know what I want and the LBS cannot compete, I will buy where I can save money.
If you buy a rack, don't ask for free installation.
- I'd install it myself, as with any job I'm capable of
Don't assume your bike shop is making money.
- unfortunately too true in these times
Ride only when you feel like it.
- agree to some extent - as Friel says in his training bible, a skipped workout is better than one of poor quality. Sometimes "not feeling like it" is simply a lack of motivation though, and one needs to differentiate between knowing when to call off a ride for poor legs that day and just blowing off a workout to sit around and be lazy. Nobody said training was easy.
If you know a fast new rider, don't say, "You really ought to race."
- why not? Maybe not the first thing you say, but I think everyone should race - there is so much to be gained from it. Fitness, competition, humility, mental toughness... I could go on.
If you see a stocky woman rider, don't suggest she race track.
- yes, I'll give them this one; that's just rude.
Have at least one bike you feel comfortable riding in a downpour.
- we'd all like a bike for every situation, but there are limits to how many we can afford and also how many we have space for at home. The "rain bike" or "beater" is certainly not a big investment, but it does factor in somewhere. I don't have one, really, but I'll put all my bikes through hell if I have to, though I'll be home cleaning it thoroughly right after.
Ride in weather that keeps other cyclers indoors.
- I like this one: the hardman concept.  Today's snowy mtb ride was great.
Never keep track of your pedaling cadence.
- these ones are starting to get to me. I agree that tracking your cadence throughout every ride is useless, but drills at specific cadences go a long way to developing technique and strength.
If you have a normal loop or ride, count the number of times you shift on it; then the next time you ride it, cut that in half and see if it makes any difference.
- it will make a difference. Not necessarily a big one, and not necessarily a negative one, but it will be different. Singlespeeding is great, but not shifting your geared bike at sensible times is just stupid.
Learn to ride no-hands and to hop over obstacles, but not simultaneously.
- yup, useful skills I will agree
Never hit a pedestrian. In traffic, be visible and predictable.
- does anyone try to hit a pedestrian? I agree with the latter bit of course.
If you have several bikes, set them up with different equipment but always ride the saddle you like best.
- very good advice
Don't try to keep up with faster descenders if you're not comfortable descending.
- yes, there is a difference between confidence and recklessness.
Never apologize for buying something that's not quite pro quality by saying, "I'm not going to race or anything."
- I don't apologize for anything I purchase at all
If you buy a stock bike, do something to it that makes it the only one exactly like it in the world.
- I'm not one to have a stock bike, so I'll agree with this
Don't think it's important to match front and rear hubs or rims.
- I don't think it's necessary to have the very same model - in fact sometimes it is best to mix, but I think they should match aesthetically, with each other and the rest of the bike.
If you borrow somebody else's bike, for a short test or a long ride, say something nice about it.
- I wouldn't go insulting someone's ride needlessly, yes, but it's ok to be honest about how it rode for you
Always bring a pump.
- or CO2 inflator. Exception: racing on closed courses.
Build at least one wheel.
- definitely
Wear out something.
- I do!
Don't ever describe any bike, no matter how inexpensive or dilapidated, as "a piece of crap."
- some bikes really are "a piece of crap" and I think being honest is perfectly acceptable
If you get a fancy bike assembled by somebody else, allow them a scrape or two, especially if the bike is really expensive.
- saving the best for the end, I do agree with this. When assembling my 29er, the fork got a paint chip which they touched up sufficiently to prevent corrosion, but it could still be seen upclose. I was offered a repaint on the fork when I had some downtime for the bike, but I'm not sure I'll bother taking them up on that. The whole bike will need a refinish after a few seasons use anyway, as it's a mountain bike with wet paint.

I found this list quite polarizing, though obviously both the original text and my responses are just opinions on the internet (and we all know how much those are worth).

Best of 2008

This post was inspired by this one on Jeff Kerkove's blog.

Best bike used in '08: the True North Cycles 29er, of course.  I loved my cross bike too, but the True North was most excellent, living up to everything I wanted it to.

Best new bike component: this is a tough one since I used so much new stuff this season, but I think it has to go to my Chris King/Stans Arch 29er wheelset.  This is kind of cheating since the rims and hubs were both special in their own way (and I have another set of the Stan's rims on other wheels) but in combination they're a fantastic set of wheels.  The King hubs are not the lightest, but they are solid performers, easy to service and look great.  The Arch 29er rims are sufficiently light, and provide a solid platform to mount a tubeless setup on.  I may even cheat a bit further and plug the Schwalbe Racing Ralphs in this one, as this wheel/tire combination was about as perfect as I can imagine with light weight, low rolling resistance and good grip.

Best new cycling apparel: another tough call, but it goes to the Sidi Dominator 5 shoes.  I won't go into whether or not Sidi shoes are as good as they're made out to be, or whether they're worth the price tag - for me the point is that I have a wide foot, and the Sidi Megas are one of the few shoes that fit them properly.  They're very comfortable, stiff enough, and the fit alone is worth the price to me.  It doesn't hurt that they're among the most stylish cycling footwear available.  I only wish they'd make the Mega width in white...

Best online retailer: though my order was barely inside '08 just a week ago, I'll give this one to Total Cycling in the UK for their combination of good prices, reasonable postage and fast delivery.  I had to make a change in my order after it was placed, and with a quick phone call it was done and without any problems.  A mentionable 2nd place goes to Universal Cycles in Portland, OR for consistently good service on many orders, and a great web interface.  Their prices are average, but with coupon codes which are readily available, they offer competitive pricing while having the best web store for letting you know what is in stock, when it will ship and how much postage will be.

Best race attended: I think this has to go to the Life$tyle$ of the Rich and Famou$ 24h race.  Though it's a little more money than the big events, it's hard to argue with a 24h race that provides warm accommodations and meals.  The small number of participants keeps things casual, and this race is about as fun as they get while remaining competitive.

Best race performance: both in placing and in the way I felt, definitely the Subway 'Cross event that ended the (official) season for 'cross in Southern Ontario.  I had a good race and after a good start with the lead group, dropped back into 3rd wheel and held it to the end.  Runner up would be Paul's Dirty Enduro (3okm version).  I went into this with no expectations (I was actually just going to hang out until a decision 30 minutes before the start) and ended up 5th in my age group.  I'll definitely consider going back for the 60k next year.

Best race watched on TV/internet: 2008 CX worlds, I guess.  There were a lot of good races, but this one was very exciting with Boom's dominant performance, and it was one that helped build my interest in 'cross when I was just getting into the idea of trying it.

Best "I don't think I'm going to make it" moment: probably on the Hamilton Endurance Ride (Round 2) undertaken by some MTBR Eastern Ontario forum people, led by our good friend Jeff.  It was one of the toughest rides I've done with all the climbing (1250m), and just the sheer distance covered offroad (~95km).  It was pretty warm that day too, and I was having trouble keeping enough food down to fuel myself.  A near bonk experience bailed out by a bottle of Coke topped off the day.  I don't think I would have finished a ride like that without the good company of the folks I was with.

Best all around ride: this one, based on the fact that it was blogworthy on its own, and all the reasons I gave in that post.

That's all I've got for now.  I think it sums up the year pretty well; hopefully 2009 will bring more good experiences.

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