Thursday, August 29, 2013

What Type of Cyclist Are You?

From Forbes.

Researchers at McGill University in Canada recently did a survey of cyclists and concluded that a one-size-fits-all approach to promoting cycling might not be best.

The study found that cyclists fall into four groups: Path Using Cyclists (36 percent), Dedicated Cyclists (24 percent), Fairweather Utilitarians (23 percent) and Leisure Cyclists (17 Percent).

Where do you fall in?

I found the categories to be pretty good, but they don't quite fit me. I have a road bike and a bike path bike. I enjoy riding them equally, and tend to ride one or the other in spurts. I'll be on a bike path kick for a while then switch and primarily use the road bike on city streets.

After thinking about it for a while, I think I fall into the Dedicated Cyclist category. The study defined these riders as people who consider cycling to be an important part of their identity.

You can view a Forbes story on the research here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Road Bike vs. Path Bike

I haven't been able to blog much the past couple of weeks. My mother-in-law had surgery and my wife has been aiding in her recovery so I've had the kids. My exercise has been limited to morning runs three times a week and longer weekend bike rides.

I has given me the opportunity to compare and contrast my two aluminum steeds, both from Specialized: Sirrus and Allez.

The Sirrus is my bike path bike. It's got 32-inch tires and is well suited to this purpose. Aluminum gets a bad rap, but it has its merits in this application. Namely, it's light. Too rigid to be sure, but the bigger tires do an adept job at sucking up some of the vibration of asphalt bike paths and crushed limestone rail trails.

Nonetheless, the Sirrus is heavy. Especially when you add a back rack and panniers full of stuff for a longish ride. I try to limit my gear, but I feel the need to take along my wallet with the possibility of a lunch stop looming. That also necessitates the need for a bike lock. And since the panniers are on there, why not go ahead and pack a light jacket?

Then there's my diabetic paraphernalia. Test kit and bottle of G2 for lows. Donuts or some other fast-acting nutrition to fuel the ride. I've often said the daily routine of testing, insulin shots and need to carry fast-acting carbs is more nuisance than anything else, but thank God science has progressed to the point that for many people like me, it's only that and not much, much worse. I'm not going to complain about the few extra grams of weight it requires me to carry.

Then there's the road bike. Also aluminum, I can't afford carbon at this point in my life. It's rigid, which isn't the worse thing in the world. It's light, but not as light as carbon, and if there's one knock it doesn't have that supple rigidness of steel, which makes for a pliable ride like butter.

I bought the cheapest Specialized Allez they made in 2010. It looks good right out of the box - a sleek, silver bullet every bit as beautiful as the garishly colored and more expensive Tarmac models made by the same company. It is a work of art in its own right. Not in the same way an Italian bike is like a fine sculpture or painting, but more like a photograph - a newer medium, just like America. It might not be made in the US, but it was designed here and has all the elements of economy, flair and compromise for mass production that one would expect from an American product.

It's flaw, soon to be corrected, is its Shimano 2300 groupset. The best way I can illustrate this is that the crankset might as well be made from iron. Upgrading to SRAM components as I will be doing later this year will easily shave four pounds off the weight of the bike. I have already ditched the stock Alex rims for Mavic wheels that have significantly lightened-up the bike.

As for performance, I'm not the slowest cyclist out there (I am probably the slowest runner), and probably average at best, but this bike is a sports car. I'm often shocked at the acceleration you can produce by standing up and pounding. It's quick, even with me driving.

The Allez is easily half the weight of my fully-trimmed Sirrus.

With this in mind, I set off on roughly 25-mile rides on consecutive Sundays. First on the Allez, then on the Sirrus. Both rides relied heavily on the county's excellent trail system, with some road mixed in - more on the Allez than the Sirrus.

After the first ride, despite feeling the paths had torn up my backside and wrists, I was ready for more. It was 25 miles, but it felt scarcely longer than the regular 15 - 18 I do. This bike was meant to ride fast in a relatively straight line, so it can get a bit dicy on tight turns on the bike path, but I'm used to it. I do find myself clipping out more often in case I need to come to a sudden stop navigating strollers, dogs and clueless walkers.

After the second ride, I was spent. I carry around a lot of weight on my body, and the rolling resistance from the larger tires coupled with the weight of the extra gear was akin to jogging in the sand. It was only about a mile longer than the first ride, but it felt like it took all day. It did take longer because my average speed was down almost a mile, this despite being almost entirely on bike path. Navigating tight curves and foot, paw and stroller traffic was no problem. I hardly though about unclipping from the pedals. It was a workout.

This might sound like I don't like the Sirrus. Hardly. I love the thing. It's perfect for what it was designed to do. Just like the Allez.

You have to have the right tool for the job. I think too often people buy a bike that's a compromise. It does a lot of things, but nothing very well. A lot of people also make the mistake of buying a department store bike. Now, if you only plan to ride a few times a year, then a used bike from Craigslist or a cheap department store bike is just fine. But if you plan to ride every week or several times a week like I do, a more expensive bike is a must. You don't need to go crazy. My Allez cost around $800 initially and the Sirrus was under $500.

But, a $300 department store bike sitting in the garage costs a lot more than an $800 bike that's ridden three times a week.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Freaky Biker Dude

There is a guy who lives in my neighborhood who my wife and I have named "freaky biker dude."

I know his name, thanks to the local bike shop, but I won't use it here because I don't want to single the guy out for ridicule. If you have seen the guy and want to talk about him, ride up to me at a group ride and we can talk.

First the good. This gentleman is an outstanding physical specimen. He is not very tall and solid muscle thanks to hours a day spent on a bike. I wish I had the ability and determination to ride as much as him. It's July turning into August and when I saw him today his skin is already a dark coffee color reminiscent of the leather chair I am sitting in at Starbucks while I write this.

Anyway, atop his flat bar road bike or racing bike (I've only recently seen him on) he does miles a day in all sorts of weather. Rain, sleet or snow, the U.S. Postal service has nothing on this guy. When we see him, my wife and I make a point of calling or texting one another and saying, "You'll never guess where I just saw freaky biker dude?" It might be 20 miles from the house with a lot of difficult geography in between. I think this guy must do 100 miles a day. Easy. Probably on a rest day he does a century.

My friends and I used to see this guy around midtown we call AIDS Man. He probably does not have AIDS, which is no laughing matter, but he does have superhero abilities, of that we are certain. What he is is probably a heroin addict. Well, more than probably. Anyway, we have consistently amazed over the the span of, what two decades now, that this man still walks the earth. I saw him fall over one day at a bus stop and go into convulsions. I circled back to see if I should call 911, only to see him doing the same act again when another car passed. My guess is that he did not have bus fare and needed a ride. A friend of mine once saw this guy throw up in Barnes & Noble after riding an escalator.

Anyway, my obsession with AIDS Man has been replaced by Freaky Biker Dude.

So here is that bad part, and this is where I don't want to get too far into the story. He has a mental problem. He rides for a reason, namely, that I don't think he is allowed to drive a car.

And here's the worst part. He's going to get killed.

He rides a lot, but not fast. Ever. He's usually taking up a whole lane at a workman pace that is going to result in a fatal rear-end collision from a texting teen or distracted minivan mom. It's not a matter of if. It's a matter of when.

And if he doesn't get struck by a motorist, he's going to be gunned down after yelling at the wrong person.

Take today for instance. I pulled up behind him about a mile from our respective houses and he was angrily signaling to the car in front of him. I'm not sure why he felt slighted this particular time, but I can tell you it might be anything, including the mere act of passing his pokey ass. In fact, he'll yell at just about anything, including people walking dogs.

You see, I don't see Freaky Biker Dude every day, but when I see Freaky Biker Dude, Freaky Biker Dude is usually yelling at a motorist about something.

Someday I will stop seeing Freaky Biker Dude and wonder what happened.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My first road bike

My first road bike was a 1982 Schwinn Continental. It was what we used to call a ten-speed, and if I remember right that meant a 2X5. I remember picking the bike out at Wheeler's Schwinn on Wornall Road in Kansas City with my dad. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the bike shop. I can't imagine that it cost $100.

1982 Schwinn Continental - My first road bike.

I rode this bike all through high school and through part of college. The shifters were on the stem and it had cheater brake levers so you could break without going into the drops. God how I loved that bike. I would give just about anything to have it back.

1980 Schwinn Continental.
It was black with gold lettering, the same colors as the University of Missouri, where I suppose it ended up. I have no idea what happened to this bike. I don't remember selling it or giving it away. I can't imagine I abandoned it in the bike rack at Hudson Hall, but I might have. I just don't remember. A sad ending to a machine that served me so well. I probably bought this bike after seeing Breaking Away. I wonder how many bikes that movie sold?

In the late 1980s road bikes (10-speeds) were going out of favor. Everyone was buying mountain bikes and putting street tires on them. I was no exception. Dad and I headed back to Wheeler's and I picked out a gray Nishiki Colorado to take back to Columbia for my Junior and Senior years. I miss that bike too, but not like that Schwinn.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Simon Bennett does not let diabetes slow him down

Read the article here.


I really enjoyed the profile of Pinarello in the May/June issue of Peloton magazine. Pinarello is an exclusive bike maker that knows its place in the world. They cannot be a Specialized or Trek, and have no desire to be. Their bikes are expensive and awesome racing machines and they make no bones about it. It is a fine family-owned business in the Italian Cycling tradition.

Here is a review of Tour de France Champion Chris Froome's Pinarello Dogma.

You can see CICLI PINARELLO S.p.A.'s Web site here.