Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Some Cycling Winners And Losers In 2013

As the end of the year is at hand, it is quite apropos to reflect back on said year, me thinks.  This includes pondering things we did, things we did not do, things we planned to do, but did not have time, things we planned to do, but chickened out of, and finally, things we did actually do and were damned surprised to get away with.
General George S. Patton said it best when he espoused the only way to really find out what was going on was to talk to the troops rather than the officers.  This, of course, led to his “If everyone is thinking alike, no one is thinking,” quote.  Therefore, I have spent the year canvassing local bike shops, talking to the bike shop owners, old riders, new riders, prospective riders, municipal officials, law enforcement, non-riders, et al, to discover what people were indeed thinking, and to get a grip on what this whole cycling thing is about. 

Some of my discoveries were local and some are macro.  Thus, I put forth the following tidbits, with my first (hopefully to be annually) Winners & Losers list.

Winners: Fresh & Easy Markets.  I had never been to a Fresh & Easy, but after the treatment I received at a local Trader Joe’s, I am now a solid customer.  The products are comparable, cheaper in a most cases, and they are 100 % bicycle aware and friendly.  Don’t have a bike lock?  No problem.  Bikes are allowed to park in the store while you shop.

Losers: Trader Joe’s.  For a chain that touts itself as health and athlete friendly, they really are not.  I stopped in while on a ride to pick up a couple of items and asked permission to park inside the door for a brief minute.  The sales clerk said “OK,” and even moved a plant display to facilitate my bike.  Right then, the store manager barked at me what an inconvenience it was to have my bike in the store, what a huge favor they were doing for me, and “All of you cyclists expect preferential treatment.”

After I made my purchase ( no more than 60 seconds after being lectured and talked-down to), another sales clerk knocked my bike over in full view of the manager, checkout staff and customers.  No apology came from any of the staff members or management.

Sorry T.J’s, you ain’t getting my hard earned money, anymore.

Winners: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s and California Highway Patrol.  Friendly and helpful, with the safety of all cyclists in mind.  They are aware of us and always willing to lend a helping hand.

Losers: Monrovia Police Department, Monrovia, California.  Short fuses, revenue minded, with no patience, and little understanding of cyclists.

Winners: Pasadena Cyclery, Pasadena, California.  Allan and the boys put the relationship with the customer before the sale.  They are fair, knowledgeable, helpful, and above all, very friendly.

This is the kind of local shop we should support, because when you need them, they are there.  Mail order is not that helpful, nor friendly.
Losers: Shops that do not establish a business relationship with their customers and sell at full-boat retail.

Winners: All of those who got a bike, got out on it, met people, stopped for coffee and soaked in the sunshine.

Losers:  Those who continue to miss out on what a wonderful world cycling is.  Also, those who do ride, but are rude, arrogant, and view cycling as something to be hurried through, just like sex and root canals.
Winners: Real Cycling Clubs.  Providing a place for cyclists of all levels to meet and ride with others.  There is inclusiveness, kindness, and assistance, all without the cliqueiness.  A riders cycling life will thrive and prosper here.  There are tangible benefits to membership, and this club will grow by leaps and bounds.  You will know when you have found one.
Losers: Phony Cycling Clubs.  The antithesis of the “Real Club,” these types really offer no hope for a rider’s growth potential.  New riders are not nurtured, nor welcome, thus membership will dwindle.  Save for the controlling clique, there are no real benefits of membership.  You will know when you have found one.
Winners: Safe, Kind, Courteous Drivers.  These are the folks that understand what “Share The Road” means.  They will live long, happy, prosperous lives.

Losers: Rude, Selfish, Dangerous Drivers.  These people are far too frequent, and they will most likely die behind the wheel, if not from an early heart attack.  They are impatient, angry, and are so self-centered, they think the Universe actually revolves around them.

Winners: Disc Brakes.  They are coming, they will be awesome, and they are a whole lot safer than the standard rim brake.

Losers: The Rim Brake.  Long on the tooth, short on actual stopping power, its time has come.

There are, of course, many, many more examples, however, I am not doing a thesis here, just a few items which popped into my head when I sat down to write this missive.  Truth be told, this exercise was kinda’ fun to put together, so I will throw some more points into my next “Random Thoughts From The Passing Scene,” installment.

In closing, ride, be safe out there, have fun and talk to people.  I have ridden motorcycles long enough to understand that one loud, open pipe Harley, or one knucklehead sport bike popping a wheelie on the freeway, lumped us all into the same group of “Bikers.”  Well, though I have traded internal combustion for pedal power, the treatment and lack of respect from the driving public seems to be worse.  I do not see this changing anytime soon, unfortunately.  Therefore, be friendly, be courteous, and above all, be patient.

Remember, Cycling is people.

Happy New Year!

Darryl Bustamante, Editor

Saturday, December 28, 2013

You Meet The Nicest People Out On The Road: The Big Kahuna

Phil, and just one of his many steel bikes. This one a gorgeous, Nishiki.

Probably the single, greatest component of cycling lost on many riders are the actual people involved in our beloved activity.  We, as a collective, seem to be obsessed with getting up at God-awful hours of the morning to pedal our little hearts out, looking the part, all the while getting lost in a haze of carbon fiber, heart monitors, and cadence numbers.  What we fail to notice, unfortunately, are the people.  You know, those other creature on the planet astride a bicycle which are not us. 

Thus, whilst I was recently on a ride in the foothills of Claremont, California, I met one of those other people.  A rider was stopped at the side of the road, and I pulled over to see if they needed any assistance.  Happily refusing, and telling me all was well, we struck up a conversation.  Turns out he not only rides, but makes a living at, and has an actual passion for bicycles.  Plus get this: He likes people, too!  Phil is the owner of Big Kahuna Bicycles.  Buy, sell, restore, or customize, steel has never been more real in his world, and, after conversing with him for a bit at roadside, it would be hard to fault his philosophy on bikes and life.  It was as if we had known each other for the better part of our lives.

After parting company, I replayed the chance meeting in my mind for what it was: A pleasant experience with another human being who was not only interested in bicycles, but also the people that rode them.  How refreshing it was from the usual snarl's, frown's and stares from the kit-cladded, road-set.

So, the next time you are out cycling, instead of being the proverbial spandex asshole focused on humiliating people up that next hill, take the time to wave, offer assistance, or, dare I mention it, even say "Hi" to fellow riders.

Remember, at its core, cycling IS people.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Saturday, December 21, 2013

From The "Great Minds Think Alike" Department: Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Aero Gloves, Team BMC & Me.

 Philippe Gilbert, 2013. Graham Watson Photo

Taylor Phinney, 2013. Graham Watson Photo

Darryl Bustamante, 2012. Helen Blum Photo

It was a nice surprise to see Team BMC embrace the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Aero Glove this season, as I had been testing (and using) them since last year.  Besides, as soon as Pearl Izumi came out with these gloves in 2012, well, I just had to have a pair.  I mean, they looked so cool, pro's were already using these types of gloves in Time Trials (so, I figured they had to be good for the road), and they came in red!  What was not to like?

I used to be of the mind that thicker padded gloves were the way to go, however,  I have completely moved away from so-called "Regular" style cycling gloves, and I now have a stable of "Aero" gloves in my drawer.  I like the snuggness, excellent tactile qualities, and lack of bunching in the palms that regular gloves seem to always exhibit.  And, even though the P.R.O.'s have zero padding in the palms, I have not really noticed that fact while out slaying the battlefield grade roads of Southern California.

As for the coolness factor, it was nice to see the pros take-after the amateurs for a change instead of the other way around when it comes to equipment.

Clicky for Pearl Izumi's website.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Even More Random Observations From The Passing Scene

“Eddie” from the movie “American Flyers” lives in Southern California.  Ride the San Gabriel River Trail through the City of Pico Rivera if you want to meet him.

Own at least a basic set of bicycle tools.  And, know how to use them.

It is not a social faux pas to have a cassette larger than 25-teeth.

Cycling is a life experience.  Don’t be afraid to try new things, such as ride routes, ride times, components, clothing, and even the people whom you ride with.

Ride out of your comfort zone on occasion.  You will be amazed at what you can do.

Why a “Top of The Line” cycling helmet should cost as much as a very good motorcycle helmet is beyond me.

Check your tire air pressure before each ride.  You are already doing this, aren’t you?

Check your tires post-ride for debris, cuts and tears.  You are already doing this too, right?

It is not a crime to ride an “Endurance” bike.

Cycling jerseys should ALWAYS have a full-length zipper.

Tall cycling socks add a touch of flair, provide some protection from road debris, plus offer compression and support.

Front and rear, bright, blinking lights during the daytime are a darn good idea.

While riding a bicycle, trust absolutely no one!  You are responsible for your own safety.

Ride on the correct side of the road.  If not, you are just pissing people off.

Bicyclists are the most vulnerable to collisions with motor vehicles, even more so than pedestrians are.  Yet, cyclists are treated with the most distain by the public and law enforcement, alike.  This needs to stop.

Who mandated such ridiculous stock seatpost setback numbers?  Give us zero to five degrees, and let us work it out for ourselves with the saddle and the stem.

The vehicle code is a set of RULES.  They are not suggestions, as so many cyclists seem to think.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mission Accomplished: Shimano Ultegra 6700 Upgrade Complete, Plus The Hidden Beauty Of Fizik Microtex Bartape

Continuing with Frankenbike’s mission in life as a product test bed, it was high-time to eliminate the cable spaghetti of the stock Shimano 105, 5600 Series shifters in front of the bars.  This also led to an upgrade of both the front and rear derailleurs, thus finally making the gruppo homogenous, overall.  Not that it was a moral imperative; it was just high-time to replace all of the cables, so I figured, hey; why not upgrade components, too.

In regards to the controls, up to this point, I had been running an Ultegra 6700 crankset and bottom bracket, 105 shifters, 105 front derailleur, 105 long-cage rear derailleur, and SRAM Red brakes.  Well, the Red brakes stayed, but the gruppo had to finally be unified (there is a new SRAM Red Wi-Fli rear derailleur sitting in my bike toolbox, but that is for a future project).  Having a complete Ultegra 6700 group would not only make me happy, but it would look good, and perform even better.

The more ergonomic, carbon Ultegra lever shown above, and the new PRO Vibe 7S alloy bar shown below.

The difference between Ultegra 6700 shown above and my old 105-5600 gruppo shown below. A much cleaner setup with the 6700 shifters!

New GS "Long-Cage" derailleur above (with red cable housing this time), and 6700 front derailleur shown below.

I now have a few hundred miles on the new equipment, and I must admit I am very pleased with the results.  Those whom have been using under the bar cable shifters for awhile will not be impressed, nor will those using Di2.  But, for those still using legacy groups (and there is nothing wrong with that, as they are solid, reliable systems), cleaning up the cables out in front of the bars is a big deal to us.  So, in addition to the new, clean look, the 6700’s are very smooth shifters (though they do require a firmer swing of the lever than my previous 105’s), and the hoods are significantly smaller, so the feel to my larger-sized hands is much more comfortable.

Shimano PRO Vibe 7S alloy bar, and Fizik (hooray, it's reusable!) Microtex tape.

As for the bartape, well, in a previous review of the Fizik line of Microtex products (Cycling Dynamics, 09-21-2012), I was very pleased with the look, and durability, of the product.  The only downside was the difficulty of installation, due to the tape’s unique stiffness.  Well, it turns out that its inherent stiffness is also a blessing.  Allow me elaborate.

With the addition of the new shifters, and both front and rear derailleurs, I decided to try a Shimano PRO Vibe 7S alloy bar in place of my trusty alloy Ritchey WCS, anatomical.  And, being the Microtex tape has performed so well day-in, and day-out, I decided to see if it was reusable.  Well, turns out it was, thus my spare box of gloss red Fizik tape will remain in the bike toolbox for another time.  

As for the bars, I like them a lot, save for the drops which are not as deep (and comfortable) as the Ritchey’s.  Fortunately, they flex just enough while in said drops to give some relief from the road, and I like the fact the top of the bar is a constant 31.8mm, before tapering down at the hood area.  This is much less fatiguing on the hands than the smaller diameter tubing of the Ritchey WCS.

I anticipate years and years of trouble-free use with this new gruppo.     

Pedal safe, my friends.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

In Case You Have Not Heard: SRAM Issues Red Wi-Fli Derailleur Recall.

SRAM worked with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and other global authorities on a voluntary product recall of SRAM RED 10-speed medium cage rear derailleurs. SRAM has determined that there is a potential for the derailleur parallelogram to jam and no longer shift...

Continue reading the details at Roadbike Action Magazine.

See the Recall Notice at the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Specialized Bicycle Corporation Steps In It, Again. Unleashes It's Legal Dogs On Small, Independent Bike Shop (Again!). Industry And Consumers Step In And Smacks Specialized Down.

It is a story that would actually be amusing, if it were not so sad.  In a classic tale of the proverbial David versus Goliath, Specialized Bicycle Corporation, Goliath, went after David (again), this time in the form of little Cafe Roubaix, in Alberta Canada, and its owner, Dan Richter.  Seems the issue was over the use of the name "Roubaix," which Specialized claims to have ownership of due to its line of Roubaix road bikes.  Mr. Richter believed the name of a French city, and probably the hardest one-day bicycle race in the world, was an open-source name, and offensive to none.  So, that's what he named his small shop (which, by the way, does not sell Specialized bicycles).

Well, Mr. Richter was wrong, or so thought Mike Sinyard (Specialized's Head-Honcho) and his merry team of lawyers.  So, Cafe Roubaix was hit with a C&D letter (Cease and Desist), courtesy of the big, red "S."  That was when the Fit-hit-the-Shan, as social media lit up with anger at Specialized for doing what Specialized does best: Namely, bullying small businesses.

In short, it appears that Specialized has now backed-off, but it seems to be more from public backlash then from suddenly finding a corporate conscience.    

So, without getting too much farther into the big details, here are some links to stories from the bicycling industry which explain the situation in much greater details.  

The Story:


Red Kite Prayer

Riding Against The Grain

The Apparent Resolution:

Bicycle Retailer And Industry News


Riding Against The Grain

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It Had To Happen Sooner Or Later: Prototype SRAM Electronic Gruppo Spotted.

Full story on what is known at the moment can be seen over at Bikerumor.com

All we can say here is that it was bound to happen sooner or later.  In addition, will electronic gruppo's across the main manufacturer's spell the end of mehanical systems?  Probably not.

Pedal safe, my friends.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Break From The Usual Routes - Eldorado, Found.

The Whittier Greenway Trail

Every once in awhile it is nice to just get out and ride.  No destination, no usual routes, and no course where one is seeking a new, best time.  I mean, just getting out, turning the pedals and seeing where we can end up.  Well, this was one of those rides, and it was suggested by a friend of mine.  I certainly was glad she put forth the idea which led to the interesting ride described below.

I arose early in the morning (not one of my personal, strong suits), ready and roaring to go with thoughts of coffee and good food in my head.  Dressed, tires pumped-up, and eyes finally open, I rode to the meet-up point to join my posse.  We usually meet at a local park, and this morning was no exception for the group which assembled for the adventure.  Saddled up, we headed south on the San Gabriel River Trail in search of mischief.  Riders in search of a unique, morning adventure, headed for the path less pedaled.  And, we found it. 

After heading south on the trail, we hung a big left in Pico Rivera, headed for Uptown Whittier, where we struck gold: The Whittier Greenway Trail.  A former Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way, turned bike-path, the Greenway runs from Pioneer Boulevard on the west, to Mills Avenue on the east.  While in Uptown, we stopped to refuel at the California Grill.  Not only was the food, coffee, and service excellent, but they were very bike friendly, even on the super-busy, crowded morning we dropped in.  That’s class, being there are still a lot of eateries which are none-too-kind to cyclists for some reason.  The California Grill was a nice exception.

                                                   Uptown Whittier, California

Fueled up, we hit some of the local bike shops to check out their wares (emergency bikeshop tours are a habit of mine), then we headed back to the Greenway, thus using the trail to Uptown and back, traversing a lot of territory off of city streets.  That was the actual goal of the ride, as combined with the San Gabriel River Trail, it was a good scenic run free of motor vehicles.  However, the only downside to the trail’s unique, smooth pavement is the amount of it punctuated by street crossings.  Other than that, it is a good, scenic trail.        
This was without a doubt a fun ride, relaxing, and very interesting ride.  It was conducted mostly on bike-paths (about 98%), and according to the trusty Garmin, it was 40 miles round-trip from our start point, making for a moderate leg-stretcher.  The real beauty of the route, however, is that one can start from about anywhere up or down the riverbed to lengthen the ride to suit.  In short, it won’t be boring by a long shot. 

So ride, boldly ride, my friends, till you find Eldorado*.

* Regards to Mr. Edgar Allan Poe

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cycling & Politics: I Tried To Stay Away From It. I Really, Really Did.

And, just what was it that I was doing my best to stay away from?  Why, Cycling and Politics, of course.  However, it just seems damn impossible to do in the age of Media Made While You Wait, and innuendo-turned-fact before our very eyes.  For some reason, more than any other sport, we just can’t ride, read, or hear about cycling without politics being at least some part of the discussion.  And, it goes something like this: Lance Armstrong and Doping, or Doping and Lance Armstrong.  It is as if the two were not mutually exclusive, and have in fact for many, become Proper Nouns.  And, there seems to be no shortage of people lining up to take a swing at the Armstrong piƱata for their own macabre self-validation. 

Here is my ire with the whole Cycling/Doping/Lance conundrum.  First, cycling is supposed to be fun.  Let’s keep it that way.  Two, doping, i.e. looking for an advantage over another, is as old as humanity itself.  And three: Armstrong is who he is, and he did what he did.  Anything else, above and beyond, is just plain B.S.  And, pray tell, what do I mean by this?  Simple: Armstrong is being held up as the Eternal Scapegoat for all things wrong with cycling.  And, there is no shortage of people in the sport piling on, including many big-name racers, as they seek to distance themselves from the situation.  It is all a feeble, sleight-of-hand attempt to make it appear like the problems of the Pro Peleton were solved because Armstrong was finally busted.  Dream on, sports fans.

While there are those who feel even being in the same room with Armstrong will give them a case of the heaves, I say Lance has actually done cycling a huge favor.  If folks can just peel back their outright hatred of the man, they would see he can be of immense use to cycling’s future in the realm of catching past, current, and future cheats.  See, if he won seven Tours all without getting caught, then who better to help the Powers-That-Be police the ranks, right?  And, this is not too far-fetched of an idea. 

For a prime example, just look at the Cyber-Security industry.  Cyber-Security companies are not as dumb as professional cycling in terms of eating their own and recognizing the existential value of a cheat, as in their case, Hackers.  While cycling pretends doping does not exist, in the high-tech world of network security, to catch hackers, they hire the biggest hacker they can get.  Conversely, want to find out how riders did it, what they took, who administered the juice, and how the support system operates?  Call in the best “Expert” we have – Lance Armstrong.

If Cycling can only park its sanctimonious pride, it could learn a lot from Lance Armstrong.  No, it does not matter how big a dick he was/is, as there is no law on the planet against being a large, walking penis.  However, there are laws against Performance Enhancing Drugs, and tragically, the top expert on the planet is being ignored because he might have hurt some people’s feelings once.

Grow up, cycling.  And, for all of the myopic Lance Haters out there: Shut up and Ride! 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday Specials: "Frankenbike" Becomes A 2.5 & This Writing/Product Evaluating Thing Is Not So Bad.

Well, I really did not go out shopping on this "Black Friday," as I never do, anyway (I have way better things to do with my time).  These latest toys are just part of my "Happy Birthday to me" upgrade plan to make Frankenbike homogenized, component-wise.

When I purchased my Trek 2.3 in 2010, it had a complete Shimano 105 gruppo.  The 105 performed admirably, however, as time went by, the urge and opprotunity arose to upgrade and to be honest, try new things.  And, try new things, I did.  Components, wheels, tires, you name it, it all pretty much got tried, all except for the entire groupset.  Well, not anymore.  With the addition of the front and rear derailleur's (to go along with the crankset, bottom bracket and shifters), my bike will pretty much be what Trek sold around the world as the "2.5," alloy road bike.  It differed from the North American 2.3 by means of having a Shimano Ultegra gruppo, while the 2.3 was equipped with a full 105 compliment.  So, with a complete Ultegra setup, I now have the aforementioned 2.5, save for the brakes, which are SRAM Red's.

Frankenbike went through quite a few upgrades and experimentation, all as part of its life as a Product Testing platform.  Not that it was planned that way.  See, after I got down-sized out of the Aviation industry (if any of you are dying to take a career roller-coaster ride, try Aviation - More Up's & Down's than an evening in Kim Kardashian's bedroom), I suddently had the chance to ride a whole lot more than I previously could, and I felt a need to pen my thoughts, so to speak, and keep my brain occupied via the life of a scribe. 

And, I can't say I am complaining, either, as this budding Scribe/Product Evaluator, in addition to having a lot of fun, has had the opportunity to meet a lot of new, and very nice people in the business.

And the latter, you cannot put a price on.

Pedal safe, my friends.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving From The Staff, Family, And Friends At Cycling Dynamics.

A time to give gracious thanks for all things is also the time to remember to whom all these gracious things were made possible: The Good Lord.

May we all experience His infinite Blessings in 2013 and beyond.

Pedal safe, my friends.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Happy Birthday To Me. Time For A Little Upgrade.

Seriously, it really is my birthday today.  And, unlike that famous quote by Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark, "It's not the age, it's the mileage," in cycling, it really is about the mileage.  The age part is just a by-product of life tacked on to remind us to not waste any of the precious time we have here on Ol' Blue.  And, waste not, I.

I bought Frankenbike, my reliable Trek 2.3, in 2010, and it has seen me through thick and thin, as well as serving as an excellent testbed for product evaluations.  However, as honest of a ride as it has been, one thing had always kinda' bugged me: The mish-mash of cables out in front of the bars, courtesy of the stock Shimano 105 5600 Series shifters.  While my old friend Mr. 105 has never let me down, I have always admired the clean look of under-the-bar cables, and being it was time to change out all of the cables anyway (three-years was plenty of time), why not clean up the cable routing, too?

Enter Tweaked Sports of Glendora, California, and the fine gentlemen there helped solve my ire with cable spaghetti with a beautiful set of Ultegra 6700 shifters.  Good-bye cable spaghetti!  In addition, they also provided a Shimano PRO Vibe 7S Alloy bar to go along with my birthday upgrade, and to compliment the Pro Vibe 7S alloy stem I have fallen in love with.  The Vibe bar is basically the same as my trusty Ritchey WCS Logic II alloy, but the Vibe carries on where the Ritchey left off: A constant 31.8mm diameter across the tops of the bar.  I have discovered over time that I like the constant diameter, as the Logic II's narrow quite a bit from the center.

Well, there you have it.  Some new stuff to try, another year older, and more roads to explore, yonder there horizon.

So, with the sincerest apologies to Mr. Indiana Jones, give me miles, miles, and miles.  The age factor I cannot do anything about.  

The box.

The prize: New Ultegra 6700 shifters.

Shimano PRO Vibe 7S Alloy, Anatomical bars.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Shimano PRO Turnix Titanium “AF” Saddle Review

After my review of the Turnix PRO TU, or “Tail-Up” (Cycling Dynamics, 10-20-2013) saddle, I was curious to try out the AF version to see if, perhaps, I was missing anything.  The AF, which stands for “Air Flow” differs from the TU by means of less padding, a flatter profile, and a cut-out, relief channel.   That being the case, how did it work?

The AF is more of a traditional saddle in the sense it basically has one sweet-spot.  Unlike the TU model, on which you can comfortably put your buns anywhere you like, the AF is more “Placement Critical” for the best performance (at least for this mild-mannered evaluator’s backside).  This is due primarily to the aforementioned thinner and the flatter profile, which had me slamming it forward to get the placement just right for me.  However, once I found the sweet-spot, I still found myself wanting to get back on the TU. 

In totality, was I disappointed?  No.  Though the AF was not as comfortable overall as the TU, the wide, flat profile, combined with the cut-out channel does make for a nice place to get your pedaling done efficiently.  It just all depends on your preferences and how the Good Lord made your sit bones. 

                                                                            The packaging.

The AF has a flatter profile than the TU.

The "Tail-Up" profile of the TU contrasted with the "Flatter" AF model below.

From the rear the difference in padding is clearly visible.

On a final note, the double-edged sword of saddle evaluation is that no two butts are ever in total agreement, and that is what makes saddle evaluation more or less the wicked stop-child of subjectiveness.  This article is meant to inform, however, the final decision is up to your butt. 

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Tweaked Sports of Glendora, California for providing the test saddles

The Stats:
·         Available in Black or White
·         Microfiber cover with hi-density foam padding
·         Relief Split-Cutout for comfort
·         Carbon-reinforced nylon base for increased rigidity
·         Lightweight & strong oversized, hollow titanium rails   
·         Approximate weight: 200g
·         Dimensions: 132mm Wide, 280mm Length
·         Retail $145.00 USD


Friday, November 8, 2013

How To Keep Your Bike Clean And Looking New

Total cost: $2.00 USD. You don't have to spend a lot of money to keep your bike looking new

You paid a lot of money for that new ride.  You are rightfully proud of it, and people give you many a complement when you are out on the road.  You want to keep it shiny, new, and happy.  And, since bikes can be pretty darn expensive these days, the least we all can do is treat them with some respect, and keep them in the best mechanical and aesthetic condition possible. 

And, now for a little bit of bad news.  The world a bike must live in is very harsh, dirty, and nasty.  It is as if every element in the universe is keen to take the sheen off of your ride and tone down its rolling awesomeness.  Yes, by the sheer act of riding, our beautiful bikes can get very dirty.  However, with a little active effort, they can be kept looking good for many, many miles.  Here’s how I do it.

The key is to get your bike clean to the point that you can follow a simple, post-ride regimen to keep it there, that way you are not doing a major job everytime you turn around and look at it.  For example, in less than a few minutes, I can wipe the chain, clean, and polish the bike, and it is ready to go for the next outing.  If the bike is very dirty, it will require a hose-down, with soap and a scrubbing.  No high-pressure washers, just a hose, some mild detergent (Dawn dish soap is very effective at removing grease and dirt), and a soft rag. 

Once I get the bike to the point where it is clean, there are basically two schools of thought from here-on regarding a continuous cleaning schedule.  First method is to use commercially available, bicycle specific products, which are nice and convenient, yet expensive.  The other method, and the one I use, is to utilize everyday household products.  They are readily available, effective, safe, and best of all, very, very cheap if procured with a little bit of forethought.  What I have discovered through trial and error is that a combination of Mr. Clean in a spray bottle and simple furniture polish (like Lemon Pledge) works wonders on my bike.    
Post ride, and after servicing and cleaning the chain (Chain Cleaning And Lubing: How To Ride More Efficiently, And Look Good While Doing it, Cycling Dynamics, 09-28-2013) I use the Mr. Clean sprayed onto a clean rag and wipe the bike free of dirt, grime, brake dust, chain lube, and the inevitable electrolyte spills from the water bottle.  I also clean the controls, wheels, and my Microtex bar tape.  I then use a clean micro-fiber cloth for the polishing.  As with the cleaner step, I always spray the polish onto the rag, not onto the bike, as this would just cause over-spray mess and waste product.  First the polish step, then the wipe-down with another micro-fiber cloth to complete the process to a high shine.  Elapsed time: Less than five-minutes. 

                                     Three years-old, and it still looks as good as the day I bought it.

The results are fantastic, and the costs involved are minimal.  The cleaner, polish, and micro-fiber cloths can all be had from your local discount store.  I get my Mr. Clean, furniture polish, and micro-fiber’s (usually in a pack of three) from my local 99-Cent Store for a total cost of $3.00 USD.  As for the cleaning rags, well, we all have rags lying around the house in the form of old cotton t-shirts, socks, sheets, and towels.

The cleaning regimen I use has been tried and tested, and not just on my own bike, but it was honed to a science on my motorcycle, my car, and yes, I have even utilized it on business jets I used to maintain for a living.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

It’s Not A Man’s World. And, It’s Not A Woman’s World, Either. It’s A ME World!

Yes, it really is all about ME, ME, and ME!  Nothing else matters, just ME!  I don’t care about anybody else, I just care about ME!  Courtesy, kindness and morality, heck no!  It’s all about ME!  Did I mention it was all about ME?

So, why do I putteth forth this gargantuan cluster of ME’s?  Well, the subject of ME was swirling around in my head during, and after, my regular training ride today.  With the cluster of selfish, dangerous dolts behind the wheel of motor vehicles about off the proverbial hook, even if one is just a once-in-a-blue-moon rider, they know motorists have ZERO respect for a cyclist’s mere, puny existence.

There was a time when it used to be just careless automobile drivers to keep a watchful eye out for, but it has since escalated to commercial vehicles, and yes, even school buses.  Just short of the Pope running us down in a hurry to get to Mass, in my view, the problem of lack of concern from the driving public for cyclists has now reached its crescendo.  The final nail, at least for me, was driven into my psyche today.  You ready for it?  OK, here it comes:

Law Enforcement Officers (LEO’s). 

Yes, it finally happened.  A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s patrol car pulled out in front of me, making a left turn across my bow, coming from my right.  Oh, he eventually saw me, but that was after he almost had me splattered across his windshield.  And, for the record, I was wearing a bright red riding kit, a super bright front strobe was blazing my way, I was following all of the applicable laws of the road we must share, and still it was not enough to keep me out of the potential harm and negligence of another. 

It was all of the former proactive safety measures, combined with my common sense in expecting him to cut me off, which kept me out of the local community emergency room.      

So, what does this prove?  Well, in addition to everyone out there only looking out for themselves (ME, ME, ME!), we, as cyclists, must be extra-proactive to ensure our own survival.  We must ride in accordance with the Vehicle Code, wear bright, hi-visibility clothing, with super-bright, flashing lights on even in the daytime.  Remember, and too bad it has to be this way, but the only person responsible for our own personal safety is us. 

The precious resource of Common Sense must not be trusted to others.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Weekend Wrap-Up: Maybe Getting Up Early Is Not Such A Bad Idea, After All

Half-asleep, one eye open, and climbing.

While I freely admit to not being the earliest of riser’s in the world, on occasion I do my part to ring in a new day before sunrise.  Saturday was one of those days.  Though my greatest love in the early morning hours is my pillow, I was ordered to be at my riding partner’s house at the crack of 0700.  Thus, at the screech of the alarm clock, I arose out of my warm, friendly bed at 0600 in a lame, half-hearted attempt to be somewhat coherent for a morning in the mountains.  In this case, it was Southern California’s Glendora Mountain Road (GMR).

Not that I am supremely susceptible to being ordered around, but when Carla said I was going up GMR at 0700, well, I kinda’ felt like I owed it to myself to jump out of my comfort zone and take that ride.  And, I am extremely glad that I did.  See, in addition to being quite the cyclist, she is also employed at my primary care physician’s office.  I guess you could call it a medical rehab program, as lately I have not been on the bike as much as I would have liked due to a nagging illness.  

                                                     My Drill-Instructor.

And the reward: The gorgeous view.

As demanding as she is fast, my partner literally dragged my tired, slightly out of shape behind up the hill.  And then it hit me:  It was totally quiet.  There were no cars, no blasting, high winds, not even any other cyclists.  So, this was why she was so adamant about riding at the crack of “Oh my God, it’s early!”  It was total freedom.

I guess there really is something good to this getting up early, after all.  I loved every minute of it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Quick Peek: Park Tool DC-1 Digital Caliper

Most people just get on their bikes and ride, whilst leaving the mundane chore of maintenance and upgrades to their local shop.  Not that this is a bad thing, it is just that some of us prefer to do our own tinkering.  And, in the cases where it is required, we need to measure things, and accurately, at that.

When the boys at Tweaked Sports of Glendora, California handed me the DC-1 to try out, my first thought was one of indifference.  I mean, I already assessed things with a tape measure, ruler, and blind luck, however, I soon found myself using the tool to not only check manufacturers claims on components, but I soon began to measure wear on various items in which we cyclists encounter, like brake pads, chains and tires (I even used it to measure some components on my Ducati motorcycle).  I even found myself using it around the house on various things.  Hey, maybe every household should have a set of digital calipers.

However, the reality is the DC-1 was meant to be so much more (after all, it is a serious shop tool and not a toy), so when I do my next bike overhaul, this caliper will be right there to help me along.  And the best of all, to quote Marisa Tomei from the movie My Cousin Vinny, the Park Tool DC-1 is “Guaranteed to be dead-on-balls accurate.”

The Stats:

  • Large liquid crystal display (LCD)
  • Displays metric, decimal inch, and fractional inch to 1/128”
  • Measures external, internal, depth, and stepped dimensions
  • Accuracy: +/- 0.02/0.001mm
  • Repeatability: +/- 0.01/0.0005mm
  • 6”/150mm scale
  • ON/OFF, Zero-Out, and MM/Inch push buttons
  • Stainless steel and ABS composite construction
  • Includes a protective case, instructions sheet, and battery (SR44)
  • Retail $49.95 USD

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Shimano Pro Turnix Titanium “TU” Saddle Review

The bicycle seat.  It is coveted by few, misunderstood by others, and hated by many.  While it is a necessary component in cycling (well, to most people), a lot of riders view them as a necessary evil.  The good news is that it does not have to be that way.

Enter the Turnix.

Courtesy of the fine folks at Tweaked Sports, of Glendora, California, I was provided with a Shimano Pro Turnix TU, or “Tail-Up,” titanium-railed model to put through its paces.  I mounted it up to a Ritchey WCS alloy, one-bolt post, and took the Turnix for both long and short rides to see where this saddle fell in the grand scheme of things: Comfy bliss, torture rack, or somewhere in between.  

Well, I am happy to report, and don’t just take my butt’s word for it, the Turnix is the most dynamic saddle I have tried, to date. Dynamic, you say?  What does that mean?  Well, at first glance, the shape of the Turnix makes one wonder if it will even work, with its sloped-down nose, its up-turned tail, but this is what gives the saddle its unique qualities.

Think both comfortable AND supportive and you have the idea. 

The beauty of the Turnix is in its shape. There's room for everyone!
This is definitely one saddle many people will find comfortable due to the inherent shape, padding, and construction.  The nose slopes down to aid in getting low in the drops, while the “Tail-Up” back of the seat adds support by providing your butt with something to push against during climbs.  It is due to these attributes (including a relief-channel), that the Turnix offers many different levels of adjustment to suit different riders’ tastes.  Though the Turnix measured almost 19mm shorter than my trusty Fizik Arione, I did not notice the missing real estate at all.   

Additionally, this is one saddle where the horizontally, dead-level rule need not apply.  And, that is why this seat can be so much to so many riders.  You can aim it up, you can aim it down, and it will not feel weird once you find your own, personal “Eureka” with the angle.  Try that with any other saddle!  There is a little more padding than most other saddles, and this actually adds to the dynamics of the Turnix, even if you don’t have Shimano’s relief cut-out version of the Turnix. 

In the top photo you can see the relief channel. The bottom photo of the rear shows it even better.    

Overall, the Turnix has been quite an amazing saddle to work with.  While most saddles strive to provide the rider with a specific “Sweet-Spot,” the Turnix amazingly has more than one, making it the most versatile saddle I have ever used.  In attempting to create a saddle for the masses, well, Shimano may have indeed, actually succeeded in doing just that. 

I have tried quite a few saddles from the big players in the business, such as Fizik, Selle Italia, Bontrager, Ritchey, and WTB, however, now that Shimano is on the scene, they are taking their saddles very seriously.

And, so should you.

The Stats:
·         Available in Black or White
·         Available in Flat or TU, “Tail-Up” rear profile for comfort and power
·         Microfiber cover with hi-density foam padding
·         Carbon-reinforced nylon base for increased rigidity
·         Lightweight & strong oversized, hollow titanium rails
·         Also available with carbon rails and a relief-cutout  
·         Approximate weight: 200g.
·         Dimensions: 132mm Wide, 280mm Length
·         Retail $145.00 USD

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bicycle Aerodynamics. Spending Dollars To Save Cents.

Illustration courtesy of CD-adapco

While the “Aero” craze is alive and well in the bicycling world, there are actually two sides to this slippery story.  It is kind of like Yin & Yang, actually.  On one side is the possibility of free speed & on the other side is nothing but what I call “Orgasmic Marketing.”  Think of it this way: Spending resources on an already aerodynamic shape makes sense.  Doing the same on a very un-aerodynamic shape, like the human body, is futile and very expensive at best.  Before anyone begins yelling at their computer screen, allow me to explain my rationale on the subject.
The inspiration for this article was a growing amount of dissent on various on-line cycling sites bemoaning the drag produced by anything “New” on a bicycle, like disc brakes, any exposed cables, taller hoods (think SRAM hydraulic), even wider tires and wider bars that properly fit the rider.  I hate to break it to these people, but in the bicycling world, drag really is not all that huge a consideration worthy of throwing millions of Research and Development (R&D) dollars at.  Sure, it may matter to a rider like World Time Trial Champion (WTTC) Tony Martin, but the odds are, all else being equal, he would still be WTTC, even if everyone rode mountain bikes. 

Not yet convinced?  Please, peruse the following. 
One does not need to be a Certified Aerodynamicist (I certainly am not) to understand that the induced and parasitic drag on a rider and bicycle are indeed quite large.  Let’s face it – Trying to hide a human on a bicycle frame is fantasy at best, and pure marketing hype at its most sublime.  You can “Aero” every conceivable part of a bicycle, except the largest part – The Human. It is similar to rounding the edges of a huge, square rock.  Sure the rock would be a tiny bit more aero, however, it is still a rock.  It is just one with pretty, rounded edges now. 

First some aerodynamic basics: 

Try as we might, the rider will always be the biggest "Drag."
Nature truly knows its business when it comes to what constitutes the best in “Aero.”  There is a reason a rain drop is, well, shaped like a rain drop/tear drop.  However, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has out-right banned anything actually, and usefully “Aerodynamic,” so the notion of the tear-drop is out.  This useless, bureaucratic decree has thus given birth to a host of names and acronyms to describe frame shapes not violating the UCI’s arbitrary 3:1 ratio rule.  And, the bicycle manufacturers have indeed done their homework, plus they have happily passed on the huge R&D costs – To us.

Second, think of the analogy of moving through water, and since air is indeed a fluid, thus, we and our bicycles are bound by its properties.  So, the more aerodynamic a shape, the smoother it will travel through (with less work) a given medium, i.e. air or water, for example. 

Some basics on drag: 

According to Webster’s Dictionary, drag is defined as: “The resistance caused by a gas (or fluid) to the motion of a solid body moving through it.”  The formula for drag is defined as F_D\, =\, \tfrac12\, \rho\, v^2\, C_D\, A .  Thus, by plugging in the numbers, we can arrive at a known Coefficient of Drag (Cd).  This is where the marketing department jumps on the “Aero” bandwagon.  Why?  Well, the shape of an object influences its aerodynamics, and thus, the amount of air resistance or drag it experiences.  In a nutshell, low Cd good, high Cd bad. 

Example of aerodynamic properties of basic shapes.  Smooth = Good.  Blunt = Bad.
And, here is where the nomenclature of drag boils down to for us cyclists: Induced Drag, the drag produced by physically moving through the air, and Parasitic Drag, the drag produced by the body’s actual shape (there are additional forms of aerodynamic drag, but we are just not going fast enough to worry about those).  Remember, air has mass and volume, so it takes force to push it out of the way.  This is the force (wind resistance) we all feel when pedaling.  And, thanks to Daniel Bernoulli’s hydrodynamic principle’s, we know that drag increases proportionally to the square of the speed (formula R  v2).  In English, the faster you go, the more drag you will produce. 

So, when does aerodynamics really matter?       

In reality, all of the time, just not so much to the everyday, recreational rider (the bread-and-butter of the bicycling industry).  We could do this rider a better service by just having them get into the drops versus spending BIG bucks on an aero bike.  In addition, a larger body, a heavier bike, and a non-aero frame are actually better for this kind of rider from an exercise standpoint.
Here is a relational example. 

I recently rode with a friend of mine whom just bought one of them new-fangled aero-bikes.  In the summertime, he usually rode very early in the morning to avoid the heat and constant afternoon winds normal to our area.  Well, the ride we took was in the late afternoon, in the heat and wind, and he was complaining all the way.  I explained to him that riding at different times of the day, in different conditions, would make him a better cyclist.  Still giving me the “I don’t understand look,” I put to him this way: By only riding at the most comfortable, calmest part of the day, he was actually cheating himself out of getting a better workout.  I related it all to resistance-weight training.  Riding at only one time of day was like only lifting a five-pound weight, all day, everyday – It feels good and it is very easy.  Riding at other times of the day, such as in the wind and heat, was the equivalent of lifting progressively heavier weights – It would make him stronger, and thusly, a better cyclist.

So, by bowing to the alter of All-Things-Aero, he was cheating himself out of quantitative improvement, plus that aero frame was really not making him any better on its own.  OK, I take that back.  It made him Feel better.  Score one for the marketing department.

“Yeah, but what about the Racers?”  

For a racer, this is truly as Aero as it gets. Body position matters more than all parts of the bike put together.

Aero matters to racers, because they are paid to make sure it matters.  To the professional racer aerodynamics can produce a slight advantage, however, those tiny little bits of many things must add up to a real drag-reduction-whole.  And, it indeed matters more so to the Time Trail (TT) riders and Triathletes, where fractions of a second can indeed make the difference.  However, before anyone can claim that current WTTC Tony Martin needs every aero advantage he can get to win, I previously pointed out that he would most likely best all-comers, regardless of the type of bike he rode, or the bikes’ tube shapes. 

See, any aero advantage one rider has can easily be matched by another riders aero, or even overcome by another rider of superior strength and skills, all else being equal.  So, how much do those magic fractions of a second an aero bike supposedly provides actually matter in the empirical sense?   

But wait, there is always the proverbial “More.”  Another rider with an aero advantage, plus superior riding skills, plus good Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s) will wipe the former two off the map. 

The latter case is what we call a Tour de France winner.

So, what does this all mean? 

It looks good and sounds good, we just are not going fast enough for it to make a real difference.

So, the bottom line is this: No matter how hard we try, moving a large, un-faired object through a fluid is nothing but pure drag.  Once an object begins to move, our old friends, Induced and Parasitic Drag, join the party no matter how tight your skinsuit is, how much you tuck in, whether you have an “Aero” frame or not, and certainly it will not matter if you have integrated brake caliper, and sexy, deep wheels or not. 

The money spent to save a gram of drag here and there, save for a focused professional, is not money well spent, and keep in mind, those research costs are passed on to all of us when we buy a new bicycle, the sexiest, deep carbon wheels, or the latest “Aero” component.

A Boeing Commercial Aircraft engineer was once very upset when the hinge fairing for the vertical stabilizer trim tab on the 777 ended up being much larger than were originally planned.  He had a right to be upset.  A small amount of parasitic drag on an already aerodynamic shape would cause a significant drop in fuel economy over time.  Now, on an object like a rider and bicycle, which to the wind looks like a phone booth (remember those?), a minute reduction in drag makes no overall, significant difference for the everyday rider, and a tiny difference, at best, for the professional.

Can true, significant, aerodynamic gains actually be made?  Of course they can.  That is not the point of this article, though.  The 800-pound gorilla in the room no one admits to is while these multiple, minuscule gains may indeed add up (I repeat, MAY), it is being served up at an extremely high cost.  It is similar to throwing thousands of soldiers into battle and having them slaughtered to just to gain a few inches of ground. 

The major difference to us regular, everyday cyclists is that the sacrifices we are taking are not human beings, but those soldiers dying on the hill are our hard-earned dollars seeking watts and seconds which really do not matter in the grand scheme of things.