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Everyone’s heard of the “spring thaw” but that usually doesn’t include the “spring flood” unless you happen to live along the Nile or the Mississippi. Here in New York, we’re certainly not used to having enough runoff to whitewater raft down the street, but in the past week or so, we’ve seen plenty of H2O. And because the temperatures have been relatively nice, that makes you wonder if you should be riding your bike or building an ark; if you’re one of those riders like myself who can’t wait to get outside again, take an extra moment to consider a few extra measures to keep yourself safe riding in the slop of the “spring thaw.”
Taking a few minutes and spending a bit of spare change can make all the difference between having a good ride, and ending up sliding across the tarmac, looking like a doofus who forgot his water skis.
Spend 30 seconds and lower your tire pressure by a few PSI. This has the effect of creating a larger contact patch on the road giving more traction in wet and sloppy conditions. If you normally run 95 PSI, try 91 or 92. Generally 3-5psi will give you enough of a boost in traction without completely pegging your rolling resistance. Don’t let out too much air, otherwise you’ll be prone to pinch flatting, and nothing sucks more than changing a flat in the slop and wet.
Yeah, changing tires is a royal pain in the ass, but leave those expensive racing tires at home. There’s no need to shred up your good lightweight racing tires in nasty, gritty, sloppy conditions. During this time of year there are loads of cinders on the road, not to mention chunks of rock, grit, salt and broken glass. Invest in some “early season” or “bad weather” tires for just these kinds of conditions. Ideally, they will be something with a heavier casing and more puncture resistance, especially since water on the roads causes debris to stick to the tires and easily work it’s way down to those delicate tubes.
Sure, some bikes don’t have fender mounts (my Look does not) but there are plenty of decent fenders that strap on or mount in other ways that will keep a lot of crap off you and your bike (more to keep crap off of you as opposed to the bike, but same difference.)
Even the most intricate bike outfitting will be all for naught if you don’t take care of yourself. There’s nothing fun about riding in slop while being ill-equipped to deal with the conditions. In fact, not only is it not fun, but it’s downright dangerous. Crap in your eyes, hypothermia, frostbite, etc etc are all small dangers that need to be addressed.
Whether you choose an old set of Ray Bans made popular by Will Smith in a certain extraterrestrial movie, or your rocking/rolling/rubbing the lastest high tech riding wear from Oakley, a pair of glasses will save your eyes in the crappy spring conditions. All that water, grit and sand on the road? Yep, that’s going to make its way towards your face in the form of road spray from passing vehicles, and rooster tails of crap from your buddy’s wheel that you’re sucking on. A good pair of close fitting glasses can save your bacon, because once you’ve got a cinder stuck in your eye, your day is done. Trust me on that.
These two ideas go together like peanut butter and barbecue sauce. Hey, don’t knock it ’till you try it, ok? Anyway, layering in several thin, breathable, wicking layers is certainly the way to go when there’s a chill in the air. Additionally, if you do overheat or should you end up soaked by a passing puddle splash or freak rain (or if you decide to raft down the local creek by the seat of your pants) you can always strip off wet and soggy outer layers before they end up cooling your core too much.
Along the same lines, investing in some waterproof items like a jacket, leg warmers or bib tights and simple things like shoe covers can make all the difference. Once you’re wet, your body will cool off very quickly and you’ll be that much closer to some kind of cold related issue. Staying dry = staying warm.
This seems obvious, but there are way too many occasions where cyclists are just freezing on a ride, but refuse to stop and warm themselves up. Stopping at the local coffee house for a cup of joe and a quick burning pastry will be a welcome relief from the sting of the chilled air and the cold, damp sogginess of slogging along wet roads. Plus, you get the added benefit of allowing your outer layers to dry out just a touch while you rip on your riding buddies a little bit.
So now your bike is fitted for riding in everything short of a horse field full of sewage treatment water, and you’re ready to scuba dive into a septic tank. Still, all the care in the world won’t help you if you lock up the brakes doing 40mph downhill into a T intersection. A couple of easy things to keep in mind about the surface you’re riding on will add the finishing touches on your safety.
I avoid puddles like the plague. Sure, I was always the kid who jumped into the first puddle I saw, but I’ve learned that there are bad things lurking under that water. Actually, the best thing to remember is that puddles CONTAIN the plague; knowing that, you probably won’t roll through them.
The main problem with puddles is that you’re never sure what they conceal. There can be a pothole the size of a small planet under there, there could be broken glass, grit, slimy ooze, hypodermic needles…you never know. Best to steer clear of them so that you don’t end up with a flat, a busted rim or pitched over the bars from hitting the mother of all sinkholes.
Painted lines. They keep motorists in their lanes and sometimes designate a bike lane for us to travel in. They’re also slippery as all hell when wet (that’s what she said.) For that reason, never, never, EVER ride on those painted lines. Be extremely careful when cornering on or over them as well. It only takes a second of poor traction to drop you to the tarmac and have you bloody and sobbing like a playground bully’s daily conquest, so pick your lines extra wisely in the wet.
Though it sounds like a great new garage/grunge/punk band, these insidious little buggers are simply the lines of black patching tar that road crews use to mend cracks in the tarmac. And you guessed it: they’re extremely slick in the rain/wet. Treat them like painted lines, although they tend to be much smaller and generally run perpendicular to your line of travel (unlike painted lines that run parallel to your line of travel) so you’ll likely not have much to worry about unless you try to corner aggressively on them.
As you can see, with a little bit of preparation and a few dollars wisely spent, you can easily conquer the slimy, wet spring weather and spend a lot of very pleasing miles outside in the early part of the season. Of course, once you’re back home, don’t forget to clean that bike properly (see The Fizzy Green Wonder,) refuel your engine and warm yourself up properly. Sure, it’s rough and yeah, it really takes a lot of motivation to be out in nasty conditions, but it certainly will pay off down the road. Honestly, if nothing else, you’ll be known as that badass who goes out and plays on a bike while most other people are converting cubits and building their arks.
Got any more tips for the early wet weather rides? Post ’em up in the comments!
There’s an old expression that says “something’s brewing.” Maybe it refers to the weather, maybe it refers to a rivalry, who knows where it came from and what it refers to? In my world, when something’s brewing, it generally refers to liquid carb loading.
When the weather brewed up an inch of ice and sleet (of course after an awesomely warm 47 degree weekend) and forced us inside, instead of plopping down on the trainer for a couple hours, I figured I’d do a little brewing of my own. A couple months ago, I’d put together a nice recipe for a vanilla Belgian Strong Dark Ale (BSD) and hadn’t really had the time to go ahead and brew. So, I put the bike away for a day, and pulled out the brew kettle.
Everything starts out with the specialty grains. Specialty grains (in an extract brew like I’m doing) add depth of flavor and several dimensions to the finished beer. In this case, the grains went into a small stockpot with a gallon of water, and were steeped for 30 minutes at 150 degrees. Like most aspects of brewing (and good portions of the military) steeping grains is a case of hurrying up and waiting. Although you have to be careful to keep that temperature stable, otherwise the finished beer will have astringent flavors and strange tastes from the husks of the grain. Ho hum, time to surf bike forums for half an hour.
The meat and potatoes (although if I EVER see meat and potatoes in beer I’m going to barf) of any brew is malt. Sugar. Fermentables. Whatever you want to call it, it’s the food that makes the yeast tick. I particularly like the explanation given by Sam Calagione about the action of yeast: “Yeast eats sugar, farts CO2 and poops alcohol.” All that sugar comes in the form of dried malt extract and (in the case of this beer) clear candy sugar; nine pounds and 1.5 pounds, respectively. Between this and the steeped grains, this recipe calls for about 11.5 pounds of fermentables.
Beer would be pretty disgusting if not for the bittering properties of hops. Actually a flower, hops are dried and then boiled with the wort (water containing malts) to add bitterness to the beer. This particular recipe calls for 1 oz of Kent Goldings for 60 minutes of boil, .5 oz of Styrian Goldings for 60 minutes, 1 oz of Styrians for 20 minutes, and .5 oz of Styrians for 5 minutes. This will give a nice subtle bitterness to a beer that’s designed to be smooth, rich, and full of body.
Since the roots of my cycling life were in mountain biking, I was always a student of the “liquid carb loading” school. Now, at about 380 calories per pint, this brew won’t be the best thing for post ride thirst quenching, but there definitely are benefits to burning off a thousand or more calories in a good workout: an extra pint won’t kill ya. Let’s put it this way, it sure beats the hell out of Michelob Ultra. I mean, really, what’s more perfect for those days when there’s an inch of ice on the road and you’re stuck on the trainer than carb loading with what’s brewing.
Any other home brewers out there? Let me hear your comments.
Nothing quite piques the senses like “the world’s most legendary fragrance,” but if you’re expecting to dab this behind you ears, you’re sorely mistaken. In terms of price, this little bottle of amber colored wrenching sauce is pretty much on terms with its aromatic European namesake, so when I plunked down eleven bucks and change for it, I figured that it better live up to its name.
I’ve used a lot of different lubes in my day (that’s what she said…) and I’ve always had a couple of complaints: they’re messy, they don’t wear into the chain and need constant re-application, and they just plain don’t work. In the realm of “just plain don’t work” I’ve penciled in anything that contains the words dry, wax, clean, light, long lasting or spray on. Essentially, I’ve found one decent lube out there (Finish Line Ceramic Road Lube) but it was filed under the “messy” header and the “constant reapplication” headers. Actually, it received a “messy as hell” header as opposed to the regular one, but I digress.
The other problem with all these previous lubes is that my chain was always noisy. Not only is this against the Velominati rules, it’s downright annoying as hell. So when a certain shop owner (Larry from Covered Bridge Cyclery to be precise) informed me that Chain-L would be the answer to all my problems, I actually decided to give it a try. I hunted for a LBS that carried the pricey little bugger, and finally dropped more than eleven bucks for a bottle of chain lube.
So what makes it different? Well, according to Chain-L’s website, “a blend of extreme pressure (EP) lubricants in a high film-strength mineral oil base, formulated to provide the maximum possible lubrication to the tiny bearings that make up a chain” is what you pay all those ducats for. After receiving instructions on application, including warming the bottle in warm water, applying to each roller and waiting about 15 minutes for it to soak in, then simply wiping down, I went to work on my dry, angry sounding Dura Ace chain.
After about 15 minutes, I spun the cranks, and to my amazement, I STILL saw spider webs of lube stretching their sticky strands from derailleur to chain. Even though I was thinking about chalking this up to “messy,” I was bizarrely enthralled by the simple beauty of it. Frankly, there’s no way in hell that this lube will ever leave that chain, especially if it won’t even fly off from the inertia of the spinning drive train. A quick wipe with a clean shop towel was the only finishing work needed. A test ride would reveal all; was this going to be money well spent, or another bottle to clutter up my workbench.
After a mile of…silence…I was ready to believe. After a long ride through the wet, muddy dirt roads around home, I was a believer. After continued silence, even after half a dozen washings, I became an evangelizer. This is the real deal.
Time will tell how often I have to reapply it, but I’m pleased to say that after about 200 miles, I’m still running silent. Frankly, that’s about 50 miles more than any other lube I’ve ever used. Any lube that gives me a better ride for longer is a damn good investment in my book (that’s what she said.) My suggestion? get your hands on this, and never look back.
Agree, or am I way off base? Drop a comment and let me know your thoughts on the chain lube equivalent of the oldest fragrance in the book.
Since the Hudson Valley has been in the midst of a mid-February thaw, that means that all of us who have been stuck on trainers for the majority of the winter have been scrambling to put in as much time on the open roads as possible. Frankly I’m shocked that I’ve been able to do all of my weekly rides outside (hills make MUCH more entertaining intervals than watching them on a DVD.) The best part of the melting snow is the salt being washed off the roads, which means that the road bike is free to roam asphalt again. But of course, there’s always the downside of riding during the thaw: cinders, mud, gravel and a lot of water running across the roads. Of course, since mounting fenders on a racing bike is flat out sacrilege, this means that crap will be flung all over your bike.
It’s clear to see, that after a relaxing 25 mile jaunt over hill and dale, including some of the ever present northern Dutchess County dirt roads, there’s a bit of work to be done on this machine before it heads back into the house. I’ve been accused many times of being overly anal retentive when it comes to cleaning, drying and polishing my bike, and I’ve even been accused of my bike being a garage queen. So, with all the dirt and grit packed into the nooks and crannies, that means lots of hours with a toothbrush and a damp rag, right? Wrong…
It says “Green Fizz foaming bike wash” on the bottle, and as always, I was skeptical. But the guys at Overlook Mountain Bikes assured me that this stuff would be magic. So, I assessed the scummed up Look 585 sitting on my deck and determined that it was time for a trial run of this supposed magic stuff. Since my hose was (and still is for that matter) buried under about 4 feet of snow, capped with a full inch of ice, I wasn’t going to be using the hose. I thought of hooking up the hose from my brew kit to the kitchen faucet, but I nixed that idea on the account of not having 25 feet of tubing, or a valve to shut it off.
After a couple minutes of brainstorming while washing the Accelerade out of my water bottles, coincidentally with hot water, I came up with a quick idea. I filled my bottles with hot water from the tap, pulled out the bottle of Green Fizz and grabbed a couple of clean rags (those actually ARE clean out of the washer; chain grease is tough to get out, even with bleach.) I looked over the mess before me and thought “there is NO way this is going to clean this up.” Starting with a good squirt from the bottle to wash off the worst of the grit and cinders, I held my breath, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. After spraying down the nasty drivetrain and frame, I let it soak for about a minute and a half, then rinsed it down with clean water. As I dried the frame with a dry (and white, I might add) towel, I noted there was very little dirt or grit coming off on the towel.
So it turns out that Green Fizz stuff actually works. There was no scrubbing with a toothbrush, no hours of polishing and cleaning with rags and Simple Green, no picking dirt out of crevices with cotton swabs. So, Pedro’s bike company, wherever you are, I give your Green Fizz a stout two thumbs up.
Give it a try and report back here. I always like to know how my readers fare with my humble suggestions.
Tempers have been flared in the past few days, mainly due to the sham that is the pro peloton. I’m not talking about the performance of the riders, per se, but more of the absolute joke that is the UCI. After seeing the developments in the UCI’s handling of doping, sports and management in the past year, I’ve got to say I’m utterly disgusted. Between the way Pat McQuaid is handling the recent influx of doping problems while actively trying to return the sport to the stone age, I’m surprised there hasn’t been open revolt yet.
First off, the idea of race radios, and the utter insistance of the UCI in banning them is a solid example of a solution for a problem that didn’t exist. Sure, there are a fair percentage of people (mostly fans, not racers themselves) that are clamoring for the ban of all forms of electronic communication, claiming that racing has become boring and predictable. The opponents of radio bans, which happen to include the vast majority of the racing peloton, believe that race radios increase the rider’s safety and allow for the team DS to relay tactical info to the riders in real time. Unfortunately, the riders have really not embraced the radio ban, and have gone so far as to neutralize stages in the Tour de France in protest, openly protesting and delaying the start of races and speaking out in the press.
This radio ban does not work. Having a simple communication tool precludes the DS from having to obtain permission from the race commissaries and then driving up to the tail end of the peloton just to relay some information. It prevents situations where an important rider falls off the back or has a mechanical, and before anyone notices, their race is over because of a stint of bad luck. Not poor conditioning, mind you, but just plain bad luck. Racing shouldn’t be decided by luck, but should be decided by whomever has the best legs on that particular day. And as to the idea of racing being boring with radios, I pose the question to you: if radios really made racing calculated and boring, then why do we still have breakaways succeeding in races like le Tour? Yeah, thought so.
For several years, the UCI has had it’s panties in a bunch about technological developments in the field of aero bikes and components. As of this year, the UCI has introduced their “UCI APPROVED” program, in which all designs have to be submitted to the UCI in CAD format for approval. Once the CAD design is approved, then the manufacturer makes prototypes to be sent to the UCI, who finally approves the design. At that point, the UCI gifts the manufacturer with a cute little sticker that declares that their frame is race legal. Oh, and by the way, it also means the manufacturer paid a bunch of cash for the privilege, maybe as much as ten or fifteen thousand dollars (I haven’t heard the specific numbers yet.) Nothing like a little extortion to ensure that the playing field is level eh? And all this time I thought the UCI was suposed to help grow the sport, both in technology and in rider relations…
Alberto Contador’s clenbuterol, Fabian Cancellara’s alleged motor, Ezequiel Mosquera’s EPO masking agent, Ricardo Ricco’s rancid blood bag…not to mention the ongoing Lance soap opera. It seems that everyone these days is embroiled in some kind of doping scandal, and it seems that every other day some new icon is cast down from his perch in the proverbial village square of the internet. Forums are rampant with discussions about being let down yet again, the hypocrisy of the various excuses and federation pardons, and the ever present question of how to better catch cheaters. Honestly, since I’ve seen it so often, I’ve become utterly bored with it, and have decided that cycling is a sport. And because sports are something I watch for entertainment value, then that’s all I really care about. I don’t care if they cheat; blow each other out of the water while being doped up on elephant testosterone and fine Columbian blow, but if you test positive and get busted, take it like a man, sit your time and deal with it. A little personal responsibility would go a long way in this sport, and I’m not talking about the “Fraud Landis” type of personal responsibility (otherwise known as “all you bastards are coming down with me!)
Valentine’s Day…a Hallmark holiday of passion…although it just so happened to be the first day of the year that we’ve seen more than 43 degrees on the thermometer. So while my passion for pro cycling is waning, I decided to fuel my personal passion for bonding with my bike, and head outside for the first outdoor ride of the new year. It’s certainly a wonderful feeling to be sucking in fresh, crisp, clear air instead of recirculated, bone dry forced hot air. It’s a glorious feeling to have the wind on your face, the road slipping by beneath your tires, and the sting of the hills you missed so much when the snow buried the world in a blanket of colorless crystal.
Oh yeah, and there were llamas too…
At least THEY don’t care about the sad state of pro cycling….but do you? Feel free to complain, refute or agree with me in the comments; I’m always curious to see what people think of the state of our sport.