Saturday, May 31, 2008

Thinking out loud.

An interesting thread on the randon Google group have given me cause to ponder bike weight. It's a topic which obsesses some people, who spend thousands shaving a as many grams as possible off their bikes. The group threw up some interesting answers - which were mainly for laden bikes including mudguards, racks, spares and in one case full water bottles - falling in a range between 11.4kg (25lbs) and 21kg (48lbs) with a cluster around the 16kg (36lb). It gave me cause to weigh the Surly. Ready for commuting/ century rides it comes in at just on 12.3kg (27lb). My long-distance audax load would bit a kilogram or two heavier.

Now I've been thinking about how to increase my speed on the bike. I manage to move along at a reasonable pace - somewhere around 22km/h (13.6mph) averaged over the course of a year - but of course I'd like to go a bit quicker. Is cutting the weight of my bike going to make any difference?

Happily, there is an excellent online tool for calculating just this. At my current (shameful) 103kg (227lb) travelling at 25.4km/h on the flat on a 12.3kg bike I appear to be putting out about 160 watts. It would take me about 3hours56seconds to ride a theoretical dead flat 100km with no wind. (Interestingly, my fastest ever metric century is 3hours47minutes.)

Now, if I bought myself a much lighter bike - say 7kg - I could expect to add a whopping 400m an hour to my speed and save about four minutes over 100km. Even the world's lightest bike, weighing in at 4.1kg top left, isn't going to help me go that much faster. Pretty though it is.

If I dropped my own weight to 90kg and bought a lighter bike I might I'd add 1.3km/h to my average speed and cut about 12 minutes off my time. If I just dropped the weight and stayed with my current bike the speed increase would be 0.7km/h or about six and a half minutes. Ish. Maths isn't my strong suit after a couple of beers.

Hills, of course are a different matter. On one of my commuting routes, there's a 10km climb with a grade of about six per cent. On my current bike I shuffle up at about 10km/h. At the same power output, a 7kg bike is going to lift my speed to 10.4km/h, while dropping my weight to 90kg will see me hit a giddy 11.2km/h. Doing both will get me to 11.7kmh, cutting my 'climb time' from one hour to 51 minutes.

Obviously losing weight is going to help me go faster, and it's a good thing in itself. But spending big dollars on a light bike? That isn't going to help that much at all, so I won't be rushing out to buy something made of carbon fibre any time soon.

Grant, at the engaging Rider Redux is probably on to something. I need to harden up. The secret, perhaps, is obvious to all who've ever ridden a bike. If I you want to go faster, be prepared to pedal a bigger gear, faster. I might just give it a try!

2,378km so far this year.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The ten best things about my bike.

Every bike is a reflection of its rider's tastes and priorities. Every stock standard bike that's wheeled off the floor of a bike shop will gradually evolve over time to reflect who rides it and how. These are ten of my favourite things, the things that make my bike my own:

1. Brooks leather saddle.
Hadn't tried one until a couple of years ago, now I can't live without it. The B17 is a bit heavy and looks a bit old fashioned but there's nothing more comfortable. And when you're riding lots, comfort is a must.

2. Campagnolo levers.
I tried Shimano levers, but I find the cable runs ugly and I'm nothing if not an aesthete. My Campag Veloce levers are about one-third the price of the equivalent Ultegras, feel better, work better and look better. I use a Jtek shiftmate adapter so I didn't have to change my wheels, deraillieurs, cluster etc. It all works a charm.

3. Connex chain.
Pricey but smooth, with the added bonus of a tool-free joining link so it's easy to get on and off for cleaning. Just replaced my first one after 4,000km.

4. Cateye Strada wireless computer.

I've tried a bunch of cycle computers over the years. My long-time favourite was a cheapie I bought in New York in 1996 which finally gave up the ghost a couple of years back. The Cateye is small and smart and would be perfect if there was some way of ensuring all my ride data wasn't erased on the odd occasion I slump over the handebars on a break.

5. Schmidt hub and E3 light
Nothing beats a generator hub. I've raved about this before. With barely noticable drag, this hub and this light are the perfect combination: ready to provide light any time they're needed. No batteries to recharge. Nothing to forget. Ride any time you like.

6. Handbuilt wheels.
Most road bikes these days have machine-built reduced spoke count wheels, which are fine for racing but in my opinion no good for commuting or audax riding where strength and reliability is more important than weight and aerodynamics. With many wheels these days, if you break a spoke, you're walking home. I made these wheels for myself from some vintage 36 hole Wolber Super Gentleman rims . They're true and strong and fast. Just like their owner.

6. Mudguards
Winter in Hobart can be cold and sometimes rainy. A spray of water up the date doesn't make a rainy commute any more fun. And my Soma Eurotrip 'fenders' are dead stylish too.

7. Musette.
These were big in the 80s, but you don't see them much any more. One of these in a jersey pocket means you can turn a trip to the shops into a decent ride. Each weekend when we ride we manage to pick up dinner, the paper and a bottle of wine in town before heading back to our mountain lair. I picked up two for $20 at Clarence Street Cycles on my last trip to Sydney. they must have been the cheapest items in the shop!

8. Zefal HPX pump
These are good, reliable pump. I just replaced my first one after 20 years of use because I accidentally stepped on it and bent the body. These pumps are really good at getting tyres up to high pressures. And they have a reasonably hefty business end, which is good for whacking dogs, and I imagine would do quite some damage to a car's side window if ever wielded in anger. Try that with your minipump.

OK, these next two aren't part of the bike, but they are part of the overall experience:

9. BikeJournal.com
I'm a bit obsessive about tracking my mileage, but it's a means unto an end - keeping my motivation up and my weight down! The good thing about bikejournal is that if you're not consistent you drop down the rankings like a brick. I was nudging my was towards a top 1,000 spot a couple of weeks ago. Now I'm 1300+. Time to get back on the bike.

10. Bike blogs.
Good for rainy day contemplation and time wasting at work. There are some cracking bike blogs out there and more popping up all the time. A decent feed handler like Google Reader will keep them all in line. In no particular order, my favourites:

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off for a ride.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The newpsaper letters page makes me angry.

Australian governments collected $2 billion in vehicle registrations in 2006, and spent $6.4 billion on roads. Motorists can start sounding off about cyclists not paying their way when when car registration triples, you mouthy bitches. Your cars and their highly subsidised infrastructure have turned our cities into polluted and hostile wastelands. And still you want more.

2,181km so far this year.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Deadshits and cowards emboldended

Menacing, harrassing or bullying a cyclist from the safety of a car is a gutless act. And this week's road rage incident in Sydney, where a driver braked suddenly in front of a pack of 50 cyclists has brought the nutters and their kin out of the woodwork.

The deadshit of the week award goes to the driver himself, ''Huss'' - who by now might be starting to realise he's driven his shitty old Falcon into a world of pain. Good. But the cowards and bullies of the world have found a new king. All hail King Huss of Campbelltown. My tip would be he wasn't rushing because he was due in the operating room to perform life-saving open-heart surgery on a seriously ill orphan. He was just driving that way.

Deadshit of the month goes to Elisa Brown of Helsinki, who for some unknown reason wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald letters page.

''The question that occurred to me was why such an enormous group of cyclists had chosen to congregate on a busy road. ''

One wonders why such large packs of cars congregate on busy roads too, Elisa, you ignorant git. Could they be law-abiding taxpayers, going about their legitimate business, breathing the free and righteous air of a democracy?

And deadshit of the year goes to that dim-bulb NSW roads minister Eric Roozendal,
who cleverly points out that because one underhung Neanderthal has a temper problem, we'd better all stay indoors, because like other victims, cyclists who get hit by motorists in peak hour were clearly gagging for it.

"I would have thought it was probably better if they weren't interrupting peak-hour traffic.''


Road ragers? Big trucks? Cars? No, you guessed it. Fuck you Eric.

2,144km so far this year.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Lighting up the night

I've used a dynohub for about four years, a Shimano at first before graduating to the lovely and super-efficient Son a couple of months ago. Teamed with the Schmidt E6 headlight they're a great choice for commuting after dark or for audax night riding.

I ride a fair bit at night, on some pretty dark roads during winter commutes and I love dynohubs. There's no need to remember batteries so you're very unlikely to be left stranded without lights and the beam from the headlight lights up a whole lot of road. The only disadvantage is the need to change bulbs every hundred hours or so.

For some reason among people who ride at night, lighting is a topic which obsesses. Everyone is keen to find that solution of perfect reliability, light weight and sun-like illumination with no blind spots, with which to light their noctournal pedallings. The advent of cheap LED lights has meant that in recent years the lighting arms race has tipped in favour of lights like the Ayup battery-powered models or similar. Those who have come to love their dynohubs have been waiting patiently.

The news is good. There are two superb new lights on the market. The Supernova E3 is so bright it's illegal in Germany. So too is the very sexy little taillight. Imagine that. Illegal in Germany. It must melt oncoming cars. People who have used it say it lights up the night. I must have one. But then, the Edelux light is also about to be released. For about the same price it's a toss up, especially when the carefully worded marketing blurbs don't allow easy direct comparison. I suspect they're both fairly similar 3-watt LED setups, but as the E6 has demonstrated, the optics in these lights can make a stunning difference for the same amount of light. As they say over at the Research Trailer Park, it's a good problem to have.

At the moment, the choice is academic. At several hundred bucks each, I'll be using the E6 for a while to come yet, reading the breathless reviews from lucky owners as they light up the byways of the night.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Oppy 2008

For some reason it always rains during the Oppy. Even in the middle of a drought. It rained last year and it rained this year too, though for longer and with a lot more conviction.

A little additional discomfort fades into the background on a ride this hard though. Despite the logistical nightmare of getting bike and associated kit from Hobart to central Victoria and back, this was a better ride for me than last year. Although I got less sleep (about ten minutes, compared with 25 minutes last year) we covered more ground (386km compared with 365km last year) and for the most part I felt a lot stronger.

The bike went fine and my the company and support of the fine bunch of blokes I rode with was - as usual beyond compare. Not sure whether I'll have another go, although the 400km mark looms tantalizingly close. At this rate we'll crack it next year. I'll have to give it some serious thought.

Now, after a week's rest, it's time to get back on the bike.

2002km so far this year.