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.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Attention All Motorists: "Same Road Same Rules." In California (And Pretty Much Everywhere Else), It's The Law.

California seems to have a problem of epidemic proportions.  It has been brewing under the proverbial radar, but with some recent high-profile incidents, the issue of "Road Rights" is set to explode, and big time!  If you are a cyclist, this is a battle you don't want to miss.

See, there is growing angst among the population here in the Golden State over Rights & Responsibilities of the state's roadways.  On one side are motorists which want everything THEIR way, on the other side are cyclists whom just want some friggin' courtesy.  And, in the middle are state transportation and law enforcement officials, completely indifferent to the whole situation.

The issue of sharing the road, along with the rights of cyclists, really needs to be "driven" home by officials at all levels, beginning at the top: The State.  These Public Servants have a duty, and responsibility, to legislate, inform, and enforce the rules of the road for all citizens.

And, they are failing, miserably. 

Still not convinced cyclists have a right to the road?  Read the following expert from a fine website, aptly named, "Same Road. Same Rules."


Motorist Myths

Myth: “Share The Road” signs mean bikes have to move over
Get out of my way!
Reality: “Share The Road” signs mean motorists are to give space to bicyclists.
  1. “Share The Road” signs are often used when there is not enough room for a bike lane on a road, but there is heavy bike traffic. If you see one while driving be extra alert for cyclists
  2. Bicyclists have a legal right to use the entire lane, which means that if they want they can ride right in the middle of the lane, especially for safety reasons.
  3. Slower-moving traffic (like bicycles) is supposed to facilitate the passing of faster-moving traffic. Bicyclists might not always be able to do so right away, but give them a little time and they will move over. Remember: honking horns can scare cyclists and cause them to crash.
  4. Most motorists will only lose a couple seconds of their time to safely move over and give a cyclist space on the road. Is it worth hurting or killing someone to gain a few seconds?
  5. It’s the law that cyclists belong on the road. If you don’t share, you are breaking the law and putting people in danger.
Myth: If there is a bike lane, bikes have to ride in it
It’s a bike lane, get in it!
You are not allowed to be in the lane!
Reality: Bike lanes are to keep cars out, not to keep bikes in

  1. Bike lanes are designed to provide space for cyclists to use the road.
  2. Bike lanes often attract new riders to use them, as such they are often occupied by riders who are not as skilled.
  3. Bike lanes are designated areas that cars are not allowed to enter. Due to the size and weight difference it is important to keep cars, trucks, and buses away from cyclists – a bike lane does this.
  4. Often cyclists will need to leave the bike lane for safety reasons.
  5. It is against the law to drive or park in a bike lane. It is also illegal to harass cyclists who choose to leave the bike lane.
Myth: Bikes have to be on the sidewalk
Get on the sidewalk!
Reality: Bikes belong in the street
  1. Bicycles are legally vehicles and as such drive on the road.
  2. It is much more dangerous for cyclists to be on the sidewalk.
  3. Pedestrians, people in wheelchairs, people with strollers, small children, pets on leashes, people getting into or out of cars, people going into or out of buildings may be endangered by cyclists riding on the sidewalk.
  4. Roads were originally paved for cyclists. It was only later that cars came along, so if you like paved roads thank a cyclist (don’t believe us, see here, and here), and remember they were there first!
  5. It is against the law in most cities in Massachusetts for adults to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk, so screaming at a cyclist to get on the sidewalk is encouraging them to break the law.
Myth: Cars have the right-of-way
That biker rode right at me while I was making a left hand turn!
Reality: Cars and bikes follow the same rules
  1. Bicycles are legally vehicles; as such they get the same right-of-way as cars.
  2. When a cyclist is proceeding straight through a green light, motorists must yield before making left turns.
  3. When a cyclist is making a left turn they must be in the left lane; motorists must wait for them to turn left, and not crowd them while turning.
  4. When a cyclist is stopped at a red light in a lane that allows right hand turns on red, but is going straight, right turning vehicles must wait until the light turns green before turning right (just like they would if a car was in front of them that was not turning).
  5. Cyclists and Motorists follow the same set of laws. Aside from some restrictions on where bicycles can ride (they cannot ride on limited access highways) and how a cyclist may drive (they are allowed to pass vehicles on the right), they basically use the same roads and follow the same laws.

The bottom line here is not that cyclists are demanding anything from motorists.  We are not.  We are only pleading with them to show us some courtesy, show us some respect, and to please not run us down.

Is that too hard to understand?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Great Moments In Cycling Inventions.

We filed this one under, "Why didn't we think of that?"  Or, to quote Will Smith in the movie Independence Day, "I have got to get me one of these!"