Skid lids

I recently bought a new helmet, because I wanted to get away from the discount store helmet I had. I simply didn’t like its looks. I wanted something more contemporary, more “cyclist,” less “family-man-on-a-hybrid-cruising-the-park’s-bike-trails-with-the-kids.” It was pretty dorky.

The Giro Indicator.
The Giro Indicator.

I got the Giro Indicator helmet. You could call this a discount helmet, too, except that it’s not sold in discount stores. This one is the inexpensive choice in bike stores, next to the $100+ race-style helmets. I paid about $32 plus tax for it, at a local Performance bike shop.

Giro is actually a subsidiary of Bell, so it’s not surprising that they offer what is essentially the same model. The Indicator is the same helmet as the Bell Solar, with one difference: the Giro comes with a snap-on visor.

I don’t like the look of snap-on visors. Especially black ones, on a white helmet, which is what I got. The first thing I did was snap off the visor. Now it looks exactly like Mrs. Noob’s Bell Solar.

The Bell Solar.
The Bell Solar.

Except for one thing: Three small holes appear along the bottom edge of the helmet, where the visor used to be.

Oh, well. I suppose 99 out of 100 bikers who see it won’t even notice.

I got it in white, because I think it’s important that the helmet is visible. It’s a safety thing with me, and I’m willing to pass up the multiple color combinations available on most helmets these days. In fact, plain white seems to be hard to find on a lot of models.

I wanted lots of vents, which this helmet has. It’s definitely cooler than the helmet it replaced, which was kinda stingy with vents.

But as it turns out, I might have traded safety for looks.

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute researches helmet safety issues and reviews helmets. I was surprised by one of their conclusions. They maintain that the safest bike helmets are ones that are “smooth, hard, round and slick.” The Institute says aero tails on helmets are bad for safety, because they can be jammed to the side during a crash, and leave part of the head unprotected.

My old discount store helmet was smooth, hard, round, and slick. It didn’t have anywhere near the aero tail most helmets today have. But it was pretty dorky.

So, I guess as a class, bicyclists have decided looks are the top priority when getting helmets. I have. Have you?

Bike maintenance

I spent a very satisfying hour this afternoon putting a new piece of equipment on my bike.  It’s a new cyclocomputer, wireless, with cadence and lots of other data that I didn’t have on the last computer.  I’ll post on it after I’ve ridden with it a few times.  (I installed it after today’s ride.  Yes, after yesterday’s colonic calamity, everything calmed down, and I was able to get in a nice 30-miler.)

After removing the old unit, I could see just how much grit and grime had gotten on my bike under the thing, with all its zip ties.  I did the first really thorough hand cleaning of the bike that I’ve done in a long time, making sure to get into all the little nooks and crannies that are easily missed in a casual wipe down.

I’ve gotta confess, I’m not the most diligent guy in the world when it comes to maintaining my bike.  I’m better than I used to be, when I’d leave it go for weeks on end without even the most routine attention, but I think I could be a lot more conscientious about it than I am.  It gets a quick wipe down once a week, when I also do a cursory check of the tires for cuts or debris.  I clean the chain about every two weeks.  I do the ABC Quick Check before every ride, so at least I’m certain that the bike will roll for me.  But I think I need a more regular maintenance system.

A friend of mine goes over his bike carefully every week, checking for seat height and level, bolts, cables, spokes, handlebars, lights.  Except for the seat, which I do monthly, I don’t do any of the other stuff.

So, what do you recommend?  Should I be doing a lot more than I’m doing? and what about more involved maintenance chores?  

For example, last week, I took my bike in to the LBS, to have them install a new cassette.  The young woman behind the service counter was surprised when I said I was leaving the bike overnight — that I had an appointment to get the work done the next day.

“It only takes five minutes to replace a cassette,” she said.  “If you can stick around that long, I’ll do it now.”

I watched as she took off the rear wheel, laid it on a workbench, and deftly removed the cassette.  The new one dropped easily into place.  Her labor added only five dollars to the total cost, but I thought that was something I could learn to do.  Heck, there are online tutorials about that kind of thing, and more.

I’d really be interested in hearing your thoughts about bike maintenance.  What do you think should be done regularly?  What kind of a routine do you follow?  And what should we rely on the LBS to do?

The best laid plans

So today we were supposed to ride in the LBJ 100, out at the Lyndon Baines Johnson ranch about 60 miles west of Austin.  Pat planned to go 32 miles, and I would do the full 100K (62 miles).  I was really looking forward to it, because we’ve been out there before and took the National Park Service tour.  It’s in the Texas Hill Country, and is quite scenic, with quiet, hilly country roads.  For the ride, the former President’s daughter Luci opened up the ranch to the public.  The ride would start on the private air strip just north of the ranch house.

But yesterday, Pat had a bad fall dismounting from a horse after a riding lesson.  Nothing broken, but bad abrasions and bruises, and lots of soreness all over.  We even left last night’s performance of Hal Holbrook in “Mark Twain Tonight,” at intermission, because Pat was feeling so much discomfort.  By the time we got home, she had decided to skip the bike ride.

Before Hal Holbrook, we went out to dinner with friends at an Italian restaurant.  I figured it would be a nice opportunity to do some carbo-loading before the ride.  But I woke up this morning with major GI distress.  Mother Nature did not cooperate, and I decided the best thing to do was not try to tough it out, but skip the ride as well.

Too bad.  After good weather this week (and some much-needed rain), a cold front came through last night.  Temperature at ride time was only 40F, with a wicked wind gusting out of the north.  One of the guys in my club, who did do the ride, described conditions as “horrendous.”  That would have been good prep for me to ride in the MS 150 next month.  Last year’s ride was into a head wind all the way from Houston to Austin, and ride veterans say conditions were worse than they’d ever seen.  Fighting a cold wind would toughen me up for that kind of adversity.

Oh, well.  I’ll take it easy and eat some yogurt today, calm my insides, and hope I can ride tomorrow.  Maybe the weather will be difficult then, too.