2014: Year of the JellyFish

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The weather has been so warm this Christmas that the Rotters have been joking about doing one final JellyFish for a few a few days. On Boxing Day, Woody and I were talking to JubJub at his famous annual party and taunting each other to go out this weekend. So when I woke up this morning and the sun was shining, it didn’t really matter that the wind was blowing 30-40KPH easterly I was going out for a ride. ONE LAST LOOP! Took the bike off the trainer, put the saddle bag back on and made sure the Garmin was fully charged, this one was definitely going in the books and on Strava.

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And let me just say that after the loop was done and I had 55KM done, I was ready to brag. Usually by this time of year, none of the paths would be open, the hard shoulders would all be snow banks and there would be so much sand and salt on the dry roads that the Shimano gear would commit Seppuku. But this year the roads where so nice and despite the wind, the car drivers had also remembered a few manners so when you got pushed into the middle of the road, there was some extra wiggle room.

The odd thing is that I was far from the only one out there, JubJub finally made it out and I even past more than a familiar runners like Etienne, Marc, and a neighbour from up the street. Despite then wind, more than a few braved the Abbott Hills and the l’Anse a L’Orme TT. The one thing that did seem to unite everyone was the clothing. I basically wore XC ski gear, with a nylon biking wind breaker and some boot covers. Last year, my cousin gave a skull-cap that is meant to be work under a helmet… Awesome buy! As were the knee-high compression socks for alpine skiing. The only I would have done differently is some lobster miss instead of running gloves… And that is only because on the wind. Of course most of the gear I own in MEC and it served me well. Right now they are having a huge clearance on cycle gear which always doubles up well and Xc ski gear so head on over and add to cart.

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As the title says, this year has mostly been the year of the JellyFish (see above) a modified Rotters loop that usually turns out to be a pretty good 40KM time trial. A few windy bits, a couple of hills but when ridden with the Rotters on your wheel, it’s a few hours well spent at a decent heart rate. No insane distances this year and only one crazy imperial century though southern Maine. In fact only 6,300KM compared to last year’s 8,000KM, but at least 78 commuting days. Sure I have added in 800KM of running and few events this year like my second RTCC (RIP Kat & Greg), my first sprint triathlon with Edno, a sub two-hour half marathon with my sister and a couple of 10k’s under 50 minutes. It’s been a good year, the boys pushed me hard and they rib me about never letting up the front but I think most of them enjoy riding behind the tank. ūüėČ

It’s been another great year Rotters and thanks for all the JellyFish!

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Today’s Riding Lesson: Commit to the Cattle Grid

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This morning I set out for ride through the New Forest which straddles the Hampshire and Dorset county line. I left Bournemouth just before 6AM and headed up towards Cranborne for some lovely climbs past Gaunts Common, Holt and our old cottage near Horton. After an brilliant descent into Cranborne, I spent the next 25KM climbing towards Fordingbridge and then up aptly named Godshill before another awesome descent into Cadnam, hitting 66kph before tucking in and hoping to stick the roundabout. It was on this descent that I learned a vital riding lesson:

Commit to the cattle grids!

When you approach six horizontal bars anchored into the pavement at 40 to 50 kph, the worst thing you could ever do is slam on the breaks or try and change directions. I have no idea if any cycling club would ever recommend this, but here is what I did: stood up with feet at 3 and 9 O’clock, hands on the hoods with arms bent and two fingers gently covering the brakes; with my knees bent I squeezed the saddle with my thighs and lined myself up to cross the grid panel head on and right in the middle. You want to stay away from the edge that get butted together, those look far too inviting for 23mm wheels. I hesitated between a bunny hop and just lightly lifting the pressure off the wheels. To be honest I was concentrating so hard on NOT letting any poo come out that I can’t remember which technique I actually used. The first grid scared me silly, especially since there was no warning that I was approaching it until it was far too late. By the time I had crossed my third grid, I was actually welcoming them. Now granted it was a very dry day and my tires and rock hard at 120psi, I’m not all sure this technique would work in the wet or in a curve (if you’re the guy zoning a cattle grid in a curve then f&$@ you). Also if you’re riding a MTB you are probably well versed in stupid road hazards, so your thoughts on this are welcome in the comments.

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The Pack Mentality, Re-Learning to Ride Safely

In light of this weekend’s tragic accident during BC’s Ride to Conquer Cancer where a young cyclist aged 16 lost his lost after clipping another rider’s wheel and falling into oncoming traffic. I think it’s important that we all remember and in some cases learn some of the basic rules for riding in a pack.

We share the road with cars who despite our numbers, loud jerseys, reflectors and lights will always claim they did not see us. Therefore it’s always a good rule to assume that you ARE invisible to them and try to ride in a way that is akin to the way motorcyclist call defensive driving, anticipate the road and the others around you. If you don’t make eye contact with the driver, then assume they have no clue you are on the road.

I stumbled upon this piece from the MEC Ride don’t Hide blog and had to share it. Please click on through and the read the great tips from Jess Hainstock and¬†Allan Prazsky.

‚ÄúFluidity and subtlety are key whenever you‚Äôre in a pack, because an element of risk comes with group riding. Etiquette within the pack is important for several reasons, most notably safety for you and those around you,‚ÄĚ Allan responds, when I explained the code of conduct I‚Äôd observed on the group ride. ‚ÄúThere is something called ‚Äėthe accordion effect,‚Äô where the action of the front rider gets magnified as you travel to the back of the group. A sudden acceleration, deceleration, or swerve becomes exaggerated as it moves through the pack, ultimately leading to frustration, a crash, or worst case, a frustrated crash.‚ÄĚ

As my buddy Alister mentioned this morning when he forwarded the CBC news clipping: Safe Riding People

via Ride Don’t Hide ‚Äď The Pack Mentality | MEC Blog.

Century Uno: The RTCC Training Continues

SafariScreenSnapz006It’s Victoria Day Bank Holiday in The Great White North and after a weekend of staining the deck and pergola, I just couldn’t take it anymore and had to get out on the Red Rocket. What started off as a simple Ile Perrot loop turned into my first metric century of the year. The wind was pretty forgiving and the carbon fibre K-Factor made all of the West Island roads feel pretty decent. Although I will admit that Ile Bizzard and Ile Perrot roads are pretty bad.

It felt pretty good to finally get a real 100KM ride in under my belt this year, especially after last week’s pretty abysmal commuting schedule. For some reason May always seems to just kick my ass, last year the weather and travel schedule didn’t help and year it’s been high winds and illness.

The Ride to Conquer Cancer is just over a month a way and if things keep going at this pace, I should be fine. It’s never too late to make a donation, just use the link above. ¬†And if you’re keen on joining me in my training rides, just send me a note. I always welcome the company.

 

Workouts: Get Lost in the Data

Whether you have been riding, running or skiing for a while, an essentially part of every workout these days is to make sure you spend most of the post-workout time reviewing/bragging about the workout itself. I have been using the Polar FT4 which has now been replaced with the FT7 that also includes a new EnergyPointer feature that visually indicates when you are in your fat-burning range or aerobic fitness range. It’s been a pretty robust watch, I’ve been wearing it for over 212 workout hours and the zone feature is pretty good at telling you when you have to pick up your pace a little more or slow it down so you don’t pop a gasket

Polar FT7 Men’s Heart Rate Monitor Watch (Black / Silver)

However if want to go a little more Pro and compare your heart rate to your speed, elevation, and power output, then Garmin Forerunner 410 is a pretty good deal right now at only $200 for either Amazon or Costco. (We’d prefer if you went with Amazon of course, link below). And it can sync right up to the Strava web site so you can go crazy studying you power output without spending thousands on a SRM. The nice thing about the Forerunner series over the Edge is that it’s an excellent unit for anyone who does more than just cycle. Being a skier I am really consider picking one up soon. Of course it is my Anniversary and 40th Birthday coming up. Hint Hint.

Garmin Forerunner 410 GPS-Enabled Sports Watch with Heart Rate Monitor

The French Fixie Conversion

Earlier this spring, I was over at my buddy Al’s house picking up some tools I need to finish ¬†up a job at the house and he showed me a couple of old bikes he had hanging from the rafters of his shed. Both were road bikes equipped with some pretty casual looking handlebars, fenders and big old seats, but the one thing that really stuck out was the overall size of the frames and how light they both were. Especially this 1970’s era Peugeot Cadre Alleg√©, compared to my current mountain bike, this thing was about half the weight if not more. I asked him why he kept them both in the shed and he simply shrugged ¬†his shoulders and asked if I wanted the bikes. Well I couldn’t pass up the chance to get my hands on such a classic bike, which let’s face it was about as old as me. He also gave a big box of parts that had been swapped out for the casual stuff you see in the picture above.

Once I got it back to my workbench, I knew immediately that there was no way this thing was ever going to be ridden in it’s current state and rebuilding it with today’s parts was going to be a very expensive and¬†laborious task. However the frame, even if a little¬†scuffed was in very good shape and like I said before incredibly light. From everything I have read so far, these earlier bikes were made from some pretty good quality steel which makes them very strong, very light and very forgiving on our Montreal roads and cycle paths. So after speaking my riding buddy John and Fab, a colleague at work, I decided to do the only logical thing and build myself a fixed gear bike.

The oldest and simplest type of bicycle is the “fixed-gear” bicycle. This is a single-speed bike without a freewheel: that is, whenever the bike is in motion, the pedals will go around. You cannot coast on a fixed-gear machine.

— from SheldonBrown.com

OK, I’ll admit that it does sound a little crazy to ride a bike a that you can never coast with. Yet these are the same kind of single speed fixed geared drive trains that they ride on tracks and velodromes, you get the most amount of control over the bike, your cadence sets the speed and the deceleration. Also since there are no derailers, extra sprockets and sometimes no rear brake, these bikes are very low maintenance and ideal for commuting and flat land rides. Anyway, if you want to know more about Fixed-Gear bikes you really need to take a look at Sheldon Brown’s site.

So once my mind was made up, I set about talking the bike apart and seeing what I could Peugeot Stem Badgere-use. The 27 inch front wheel was in pretty good shape, nice and straight, the rear wheel was a little warped but the cassette appeared to be fixed on. Both tires and tubes were completely worn out. In fact all of the cabling was also fragged. And the original white flex tubing has been seriously yellowed with time, Thankfully I was ripping all that stuff out. I had considered scrubbing down the frame and repainting it, but the decals and badges are so cool, I just couldn’t do it. In it’s current state, it might actually act as a theft¬†deterrent¬†too. This actually turned out to be a blessing as it was the only sure way to identify the bike as being French built and not a Canadian build. The “O” is what give it away, or so I’m told.

Unfortunately, the pedal arms and crankset were welded together and there was no way to  remove one the cranks. Also the bottom bracket had cotter pin type fittings so that meant I would be stuck with 40-year-old pedal arms forever. The chain was also useless since it was made for a derailer and would never fit on a single speed crankset. So in order to make this work I would need some new parts for this old foreign bike.

  • One Ole-Skool French Bottom Bracket
  • One 46 tooth Crankset with 170mm pedal arms
  • One 16 tooth Shimano fixed gear
  • One Lock Ring
  • One 27inch or 700c Flip-Flop wheel (More on flip flop wheels from SheldonBrown)
  • 2 New¬†inner-tubes¬†and high pressure road tires

So basically, the entire drive-train.

Piece of cake right? Well not really. In fact the 27 inch rear wheel would have been quite expensive to order from Harris Cyclery as the delivery and duty costs alone would have added far too much to the total cost of the order. So I decided to try to source everything locally in The Great White North. This meant settling for a 700C rear wheel which actually fits really well on the bike with only minimal brake adjustments. And, yes I am putting a rear brake on this bike, riding in Montreal is hilly and dangerous enough that TWO brakes are usually a good idea. After scouring the net for while and always ending up on BC sites for small shops that want you “come in with your frame”, I discovered a small shop downtown called Bikurious. ¬†An unfortunate name considering where it’s located in Montreal but a truly fantastic shop with some of the most¬†knowledgeable¬†and¬†honest¬†staff I have met in a very long time. They are the ones that immediately¬†recognized¬†the Peugeot as being an earlier French built model and not a Canadian built version from later in the 70’s. They were also honest enough to let me know that if I did take on this fixie conversion, it would end up costing me more than if I had picked up an old Raleigh or CCM bike. But since was the tallest frame I could find, I decided to go ahead with it. They also suggested I get a AlexRim 700C wheel, rather than build my own or attempt to rebuild the 27 inch. The wheel is not only pretty cool but very solid and light with more than enough spokes to support my 6’4″ frame. I also picked up the bottom bracket and crank-set from there as well. They took the time to review my gear choice and after explaining my usual route and objective of 5000KM agreed that 46/16 crank/cog set would be fine. John had already given me the 16 (Shimano Dura-Ace of course), so all I needed was a lock ring and a 46 tooth crank-set with 170mm arms to fit on a “Old French” style bracket. The odd thing about the bottom bracket is that:
A) It’s about twice the price of a standard American bracket.
B) It has a double clockwise thread, so it’s very easy to mount it backwards. Which I did of course.

The drive train was actually pretty easy to assemble since there really isn’t anything complicated about fixed gear bike. Simply get the bottom bracket and crank-set on properly, install the rear wheel and then careful fit the chain making sure to align the cog and crank for minimal rubbing or torsion and then use a chain fitting tool or a quick release chain ring to secure the chain. Be very careful of your fingers when you do this, remember that if the wheel is turning, that chain is moving and that one gears will grind whatever gets in the way. Because the crank is a proper fixed gear crank and not one converted from a road bike, I also had to make to get a 1/8th chain. I picked up a heavy-duty chain similar to a BMX chain at the local shop to handle the extra pressure of my large frame and the grind of my long levers on Montee Peel. At this point the bike really started to look right, once that drive train is on all you need is some brakes to stop it before you can take it for a test ride. Some hard-core fixie riders will boast the merits of brake-less stopping and skidding but that’s just not for me.

I swapped out the original spring-loaded seat (seen up top) with a slightly more rigid leather Schwinn seat I had lying around (pictured above). The seat post was still too short, but having a 23.4mm down-tube meant it wasn’t an easy item to replace. That’s when I discovered that BMX chromolly seats are usually 22mm and extra long so with an extra shim I could potentially use with my road seat, beware that is has to be chromolly for extra rigidity and to endure the stress of a heavier rider. After a few weeks riding I also swapped out the 38cm handle bars as the original stock bars where rather narrow and I could feel my chest tightening after an hour of riding. I picked up some 44cm drop bars from MEC at a nice price of $24 and added some black cork grip tape and the suddenly I had a real commuter to haul my back side up and down the windy Lachine Canal every day for the next 4000KM

I started building the Peugeot Fixie in late June and managed to get in on the road for July which turned out to be a relatively dry month. The whole reason I built the bike was to make my time in the wind a little easier. However it turned out this bike is such a joy to ride, that I ended up taking it out for errands, extended rides home and even on longer weekends rides too, the tune pf 940KM. ¬†I guess I’ve always loved the speed of road bikes as I did own two “sweet rides” as a younger man, but living in various rural areas over the years as well as cycling with the kids¬†got me into mountain bikes. But let’s all be honest, there is nothing more fun than the sound of thin tires whizzing along a nicely paved road, but the real thrill is taking a fixed gear bike over a nice path and can be a real joy to ride. This might sound a little like Sheldon Brown, but I honestly think I have become a better rider from putting in my time on this Peugeot. My cadence is stronger and more consistent, my turns are better paced and my overall control of the bike just seems more intuitive and natural especially compared to trying to fumble with 28 gears before a stop light. And yes I still use my brakes even if they sounds like a screaming eagle, I’m not an idiot after all. The overall maintenance has been minimal, I’ve had to change one tire due to some bad road conditions and apart from keeping the chain lubed, I’ve only had to pull the rear wheel back once and only after a particularly fast descent on a 116KM weekend ride. Building it was a fun and taught me a lot more about bikes, but riding has been a real blast and has really taught me a lot about cycling.