Conversations about Bicycling

I began my search for bicycling shoes last weekend.  I went to the local REI store to see what they had in stock and I found the Giro Reva, a shoe that I really like … the style, the color and the tread. The reason I didn’t purchase these shoes had everything to do with the fit.  They are a bit too narrow for my feet.  I tried on every style of biking shoe they had there in my size, regardless of appearance, and I found that every pair that fit my foot length was just too narrow.  I glanced over the men’s selections and could not locate a pair small enough to fit my foot length.  Bummer.

I went online to see what I could find.  None of the web stores that I visited carry wide sized women’s biking shoes.  Several Google searches brought up forum posts containing comments about the lack of wide-width women’s bicycling shoes.  I looked around at men’s styles and realized that very few men’s biking shoes are short enough to fit my foot and the ones that do cost an arm and a leg.

At a lazy moment today, I decided to try another search and found myself an interesting read at  SlowTwitch is a place for triathletes and anybody that digs that world probably knows about their web pages.  I’m not a triathlete, but I took the time to look through the forum posts that Google spotted for me there and I found a few options to check out in the coming days.

The majority of posters suggested Louis Garneau and Northwave shoes.  Several other posts commented on which brands are normally more narrow and which are wider.  I also saw some mention of custom made riding shoes, which I’m certain is way outside my price range. The posts I looked through aren’t new, and I suspect some of the style models I read about might be discontinued, but at least I have a place to start looking for appropriate shoes.  The search is renewed!


Bike Carrier Frustrations

I began researching bicycle carriers before I purchased my LHT, and I was very disappointed with my options.  If I had known that I would be riding again in a few years back when I bought my vehicle, I would have chosen a car model other than a Mazda 3 Hatchback.   That spoiler on the rear of the vehicle causes a lot of problems. 

During my bicycle search, I asked about my hauling options at every bike shop I encountered and, as far as rear-end carriers go, one option was suggested almost every time … the Saris Bike Porter.  I considered other options, like rooftop carriers, but I just couldn’t figure out how I could logically and physically manuever a bicycle to the top of my vehicle by myself.  I’m just not tall enough to handle that task.  And when I mentioned hitch mount options, I was warned about the low clearance issues caused by a hitch frame on my kind of car.

The price was right, for sure, so I went with the Saris bike rack.  From the moment I first set eyes on the rack, I was disappointed.  That one arm at the top of the rack had me concerned right from the start.  As the bike shop clerk showed me how to install the carrier, he assured me that single arm at the top was no worry, that it was a sound design.  And, although the spoiler appeared to be in the way of the top straps, I was told the carrier design was intended to keep too much pressure off of it.

I’ve had the carrier since December and my review is not a good one.  The straps loosen themselves with the normal vibrations caused by the movement of the car.  Once a bike is mounted, it is next to impossible to get to those straps on the bottom to tighten them up.  And since my carrier has attachments for three bicycles, one would assume that it could handle two bicycles.  Well, it does, but it is scary watching the sway of the bicycles in the rearview mirror, listening to the creaking caused by the weight on the spoiler and the rattle of the two bicycles clanging together.  And it is frustrating to pull over to try to tighten those straps every twenty miles or so.  I keep thinking that there has to be a better option for me besides purchasing a new car just to accommodate my bicycle.

I did a search this morning and saw a new contraption from Saris – the Gran Fondo.  Could this be a sound solution to my hauling problems?  It looks like a sound design, although that rear spoiler on my vehicle is still in the way, I bet. 

I’m going to keep my eye on the internet to keep up-to-date on reviews of this carrier model.  I hope I hear wonderful things about this hauling model because I am running out of patience for a solution to pop up.

Saris Gran Fondo Bicycle Rack

Motor Pacing

My Google home page contains a widget that keeps me up-to-date on Useless Knowledge.  I found today’s useless entry pretty amazing.

American John Howard holds the world record for bicycle speed. In 1985, he reached 245.08 kilometers per hour (about 154 miles per hour) by cycling in the slipstream of a specially designed car.

 While I enjoy cruising down hills during my rides, it makes my skin crawl thinking about moving 154 MPH on a bicycle.  I did a search to read more about that incredible journey, and here’s what I found:

Olympic Cyclist and IRONMAN triathlon winner, John Howard set a 152.2 Miles per Hour speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover, Utah on July 20, 1985.  He is drafting in the wake of a 500 Horsepower Streamliner.  This type of  human powered record is called motor pacing.  The pace vehicle was modified by adding a large tail fairing to 337 MPH record holding Vesco Streamliner.  The fairing keeps the wind off John and reduces the aerodynamic drag he is pedaling against to near nothing.

How many crank rotations does one have to pedal each second to travel at that speed?  This is really an incredible story, and I recommend reading about it here.


Squeaky Wheel

On Saturday, I took my bicycle back to the The Hub bicycle shop where it was purchased for its free 30-day tune up.  I purchased this bicycle last November and the tune up is a little overdue.  But, honestly, it has been just the last couple of weeks that I have noticed some minor issues with brakes and gears, so I don’t feel too bad about putting off the tune up work.  Like my dad would say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

The Hub bicycle shop is located in Athens, GA, home of UGA – The University of Georgia.  The drive to Athens on 316 was rather uneventful with the exception of backed up traffic in one spot due to a traffic accident.  That is nothing new.  There is always slow traffic somewhere along that highway.  But it was pretty smooth sailing compared to the traffic on the day I picked my bike up for the first time.  That was also a Saturday, but there was a UGA home football game against Auburn U. that day and I swear most of the city of Atlanta and maybe half the state of Alabama was out there trying to get to the game.  I knew better than to head in that direction on game day, but my bike was ready to go and I just couldn’t wait another week to bring it home.  Instant gratification outweighed my impatience with nasty traffic.

This time, it took about 30 minutes to drive to Athens from Lawrenceville and the tune up was finished in less than 15 minutes.  As I waited, I searched the store from top to bottom for eye protection options.  After he finished working on my bike, I asked the shop owner what he recommended.  This guy confirmed that face shields for bicycle helmets are not available commercially except for the most expensive racing helmets.  His best suggestion was to purchase tight-fitting sunglasses or just put up with eye irritation.  I’m re-thinking the option of prescription sunglasses, despite the cost.

Today was the first time I took my bike out for a ride after the tune-up.  The skies were cloudy and dark when I left the office, but the weather forecast assured me that the rain would wait until later in the day.  Wrong.  About two miles into my ride, the drizzle began and at about four miles it was steady rain.  That’s when I noticed a loud, annoying squeaking sound emanating from around the front cogs.  With each turn of the pedals, the squeaking continued.  When I found a wide spot along the roadway, I dismounted and hand turned the pedals to see if I could find the problem.  No squeak.  I got back on the bike and began to pedal again.  Right away the squeaking sound returned.  As much as I disliked the thought of driving back into Athens, I decided this was something that needed quick attention.

When I was about a half mile from the end of my ride, I looked down and noticed that the toe area of my right foot was actually rubbing against the crank arm.  I slid my toe slightly towards the outer part of the pedal and, presto, the squeak sound went away.  With the proper cleated riding shoe, I suspect my toe position would remain static, my cranking effort will be more efficient and that irritating squeak sound will no longer exist.  The Shimano PD-M324 pedals I have installed on my bike have both a flat and SPD platform, so I can use just about any shoe.  It appears that road bicycle shoes are my next research project and purchase to improve my riding experience.  Suggestions are appreciated!

Eye Protection

The local weather included a lot of wind this week.  I wear corrective eyeglasses and they just haven’t done the job to keep bugs and other nasties out of my eyes.  After today’s ride, I decided it was time to do a Google search to track down something better for protecting my eyeballs when I’m on my bike.

I found a lot of sunglasses in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors.  But I didn’t see any good options for those of us who need corrective lenses.  I could always purchase a prescription pair from the optometrist, but I really don’t want to dish out that kind of money.

I am hoping to find something like a visor or partial face shield that could fit onto my Giro bike helmet.  Is this sort of thing really so rare?  The only items I was able to locate via Google were specialty shields made to fit very expensive helmets.  One web site devoted to bicycling safety informed me that eye protection visors were available for most models of helmets.  So, why can’t I find them?

Several search results included instructions on how to make my own face shield.  I discarded the idea of using wing nuts to attach a motorcycle visor to my Giro helmet.  That’s just a bit too redneck for me.  The fellow who created the All-Weather Bike Helmet displayed a really sharp-looking visor attachment, but I suspect my construction would wind up looking much different and perhaps a wee bit scary.

I will drop by some bike shops this weekend and ask some of those merchants about my eye protection options.  In the meantime, I’ll just have to carry a small bottle of eye drops with me as I pedal.

Mapping Routes

Before I begin this post, I want to state a disclaimer:  Yes, I am a software engineer – No, I am not a developer on the application I’ll mention below.

I was lucky to stumble upon a wonderful Android app and I’m going to sing its praises here.  This is MapMyRide, a  great utility to keep track of my location, elevation, distance, time, pace, average speed and burned calories during a ride.  I’m thrilled I no longer have to retrace my route in my vehicle to guess how far I’ve gone.

When I first found this application, I was sitting at my desk and used my laptop to plug in the route I travelled earlier in the day.  That task was a bit tedious until I forced myself to read and follow the directions.   I rarely use this feature but plan on pre-mapping out some new routes to get an idea of what kind of hills I might encounter in advance.  I hate unexpected hills!  So, when I finished this task I wondered if there might be something like this for Android, so I did a web search and, lo and behold, I found MapMyRide for android!

There is a free and no-so-free version of this application available.  I have the free version and find the occasional online advertisement to be tolerable.  I may download the non-ad version in the future, but for now this one works fine for me.

Using the app from my android phone is simple.  I launch MapMyRide, select “Record” from the menu, then press the “play” icon.  I sleep my phone, stick it in my pocket and I’m off on my ride.  When I finish my ride, I wake up my phone, tap the “Pause” button and then confirm that I want to save my route.  That’s all there is to it!  My route has been mapped!  I can later sit down at my leisure and fill in any missing information about the activity – including tagging spots along the route, adding my comments, naming the route, etc.  I can also choose to keep my route private or I can publish it to the MapMyRide web site for other’s to see and, hopefully, use.  There’s also the option provided to share my route on Twitter or Facebook.

There’s probably a lot of other features available that I have yet to discover.  I’ll keep playing with it and I’ll write more if I find something else that I find amazing.

MapMyRide is a very useful application.  If you want to keep track of your biking activities and own a smart phone, I highly recommend giving it try.  You’ll be glad you did.

The Logan, UT area is a wonderful place to live if you work locally and own no motorized transportation.  The hills around the valley are tolerable until you approach the foothills of the Wasatch-Cache or Wellsville mountain ranges.  The climate is relatively dry.  The morning and evening temperatures are mild during the summer months.  And when the winter weather clutches the valley, there is a free transit bus service to help folks get from point A to point B without freezing to death.

I lived in Logan for 26 years and my bicycle was my primary source of transportation for half that time.  Before the bus system moved into the valley, I walked during the winter and biked during warm weather.  But once I purchased a vehicle, the bicycle eventually wound up in storage.  I occasionally dragged it out for riding adventures in Green Canyon, Blacksmith Fork Canyon and Logan Canyon.  In 2003, my bike got more use when I motivated myself to shape up and lose weight.  I rode a 10 mile route from my home to Airport Road and back each evening.  When I bored of the route, I made little side trips to keep things interesting.

My bicycle returned to storage after I moved to Dacula, GA. in 2003.  I gave riding around my neighborhood several tries, but I disliked the big hills and detested the narrow roads with non-existent paved shoulders.  The traffic is oppressive and many drivers are just downright mean and nasty.  I found riding around Dacula to be a frightening experience.

As the middle-age spread returned to my body, I finally decided that I would give the bike another chance.  My mountain bike is pretty sluggish for suburban riding, so I researched road bicycles for many months.  I finally purchased a Surly Long Haul Trucker from The Hub in Athens, GA.  I would prefer to have a carbon frame bike for daily exercise and the Trucker for long distance trips I plan to do in the future, but I don’t have the funds to buy two expensive bicycles, so the Surly will have to do for all biking experiences.

I have found some great places to ride, like the Greenways and  roads around the Progress Center business area.  I experiment with new routes from time to time and log my routes using an Android app.  The hills are  a challenge everywhere I ride in Gwinnett County.  There just aren’t any roadways without elevation changes around here.  I just have to grin it on the way down the hills and bear it on the way up.

I am enjoying biking again and decided to start a blog to record my own discoveries, thoughts and ideas.  I hope some other bicyclers show up to keep me company and suggest new routes and ideas.

That’s it for my first post.  It’s time to suit up and get some evening miles logged.