The San Marco Ponza revisited

When I check my Bike Noob stats, one post keeps popping up among the most viewed of a given day — sometimes THE most viewed, even though it originally appeared way back in May. It’s the review I did of my saddle: the Selle San Marco Ponza. I’m pleased that folks looking for saddle info are finding this post and checking it out. But at the rate of eight to 10 times a day? Every day? Why?

You riders out there must really be sore in the nether regions. I can’t think of any other reason to keep searching out this review. So, to add to your information overload, I thought it would be appropriate to update the review, and see how I feel about the saddle now that I’ve had it for six months.

The San Marco Ponza is an inexpensive saddle found as standard equipment on some mid-range bikes, easily available by mail order or over the counter at bike shops. Compared to many standard equipment saddles, it’s a lot narrower, and looks like a racing saddle.


I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the saddle is less of a factor than bike fit. A couple of weeks ago, while out riding, I noticed my knee was a bit forward. Later at home, I did the plumb bob test. The bob (in my case, a washer hung from a piece of twine) is supposed to land right over the pedal axle. Mine was too far forward. I moved the seat back a little bit.

The next day, on our club ride, the saddle bothered me more than it had recently. Apparently, my bum had gotten used to the forward riding position. But it’s where all the bike fit experts say it should be now. I figured it would just take some getting used to.

But when I went out again two days later, I didn’t even notice the saddle under my bum. I concentrated on cadence on that ride, and never once experienced any discomfort.  The same thing happened Friday, and Saturday, and on a 40-mile ride last Sunday morning.

As I said in my earlier review of the saddle, I like its narrow profile. It’s just wide enough that my sit bones perch atop the saddle wings, but narrow enough that there is no chafing whatever. A slight upsweep at the back cradles my butt in the seat. I can easily shift positions forward and back, depending upon whether I’m climbing, descending, or pushing hard on the flats. The stitched San Marco logo, which is slightly raised above the surface of the seat, hasn’t caused any chafing of my butt, but lately I’ve noticed that several of my shorts are developing a rough spot where they contact the embroidery. We’ll see if that gets any worse with time.

And the beauty of it all — it’s relatively inexpensive for a nice saddle. You can find the new Ponza Lux model (a little more padding) for about $25.

So, should you rush out and buy a Ponza? I’m not making any recommendations. Saddle fit is too personal an issue. Many shops offer a tryout period for saddles — see what the policy is as your shop, and give it a test ride. Just be sure to do a quick fitting first.

What kind of biker are you?


I am a B rider.

As the cooler weather approaches, I’ve been contemplating the upcoming change in my cycling habits. Here in Texas, we can pretty much ride all year.  But experience tells me that I will be cutting back on the amount of saddle time in the weeks to come.

But some of my friends in the club will stay at it, at about the same level they did during the summer. Gets dark earlier? They’ll ride with lights. Gets cold? They’ll bundle up. I see what some of them do, and shake my head. While I love to be on my bike, I’m just not the kind of biker they are.

Which got me to thinking — what kind of biker am I? And for all you Bike Noob readers out there, what kind of biker are you?

Okay, I’ll go first. I’m a “B” rider. I ride at about a 15 mph average. I can’t keep up with the fast riders in my club, but I like to turn out for the longer Sunday morning rides we have. This is why I started leading the B rides in our club. For example, this coming Sunday, we B’s will probably do a 30-mile out-and-back route over some rolling hills. It’s a favorite of mine, especially since they repaved the road, but the rollers make you feel like you’ve put in some serious saddle time.

The A’s, by contrast, are talking about taking the same route, but going much farther out before turning back. Some of them may do an 80-mile round trip. I could do 80 miles, but not now — not without training for it. And even if I trained, I couldn’t do it as fast as most of them.

Actually, I’m pretty happy with where I fit in the biking continuum. I’ve really improved since I took up the sport two years ago. My weight is down, my fitness is up. I enjoy long rides, even ones that wear me out, but I don’t go whacko with them. I also like my 15-milers, where I can turn on the juice, or practice cadence, or attack uphills.

How about you? What kind of biker do you consider yourself to be? Do you ride with the “A” group in your club? Are you primarily a utility biker/commuter? Do you prefer riding long distances on weekends? Or racing? Do you ride for fitness — biking replacing running?

Light up those comments, or send me an email. I’d love to know what kind of riders are out there, just to get a better feel for your riding styles and preferences. Heck, it should even help me do a better job of tailoring this blog to your interests.

Vertigo — Part 2

Guest poster Don Blount continues the story of his recent crash — and its unexpected side effect.

BlountOnBikingI awoke early Saturday, I think it was about 4 a.m., feeling woozy. The bedroom was dark, except for the glow of a smoke detector indicator light on the ceiling. The only problem was that the light was not stationary. It seemed to be zipping clockwise around the room.

I was sweating and nauseous. I staggered a few feet to the bathroom, splashed water on my face and the dizziness went away. I made it back to bed.

Two hours later I was awakened by the same sensation. This time I stumbled to the bathroom and held on to the basin for dear life until the room stopped spinning.

I also hurled. I would do so another nine times that day.

I tried to eat some broth and some crackers but nothing stayed down.

I spent that portion of the day face down on the floor with a bucket next to me.

I remember hearing Bob Griese, Chris Spielman and another broadcaster announcing the Michigan State-Wisconsin game (Michigan State lost). I didn’t have the strength to change the channel. I heard carpet cleaners come and go, and I didn’t want to move for fear of another episode starting.

My wife was on the phone with an advice nurse. Initially it was thought I had some type of head injury from my fall days earlier. It can take up to two weeks for symptoms to develop from a head injury. But when told that every time I moved I got dizzy, the nurse surmised that I could have vertigo.

Vertigo isn’t just an inner ear problem that causes dizziness and imbalance. It can be brought on by a head injury – that was the concern with me. It can also happen for no specific cause in what is known as spontaneous vertigo.

My wife was able to get a 1:45 p.m. appointment at an after hours clinic with our health care provider. She dropped the kids off at friends and came back for me. As we drove to the office, I told her about various bill due dates and passwords she would need. At that point I thought I might have had some type of head injury and may end up unconscious or sedated. She was trying not to cry.

The doctor had me describe my symptoms and do certain balance tests, such as stand on one foot and touch my nose with my eyes closed. I wasn’t drunk, just sick. It wasn’t until I hurled in front of him like Mr. Creosote, the glutton who eats too much and blows up in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life that he had his “Ah Ha” moment.

“I’m going to give you something for the nausea,” he said.

“Thank goodness,” I mumbled to myself.

I received that shot – in the butt, not the arm – at about 3:15 p.m. I was still dizzy but at least I wasn’t queasy. I was sent to the emergency room at another hospital for tests.

We sat in the emergency room for one hour and 40 minutes. A repeat of America’s Funniest Home Videos was airing. I just sat there with my head in my hands, asking my wife every few minutes how long we had been there.

They performed a cat scan and various blood tests but found nothing abnormal.

MezI was given meclizine, a drug used for motion sickness and dizziness.

I was battered but well enough to go home. We left sometime after 8 p.m.

I could function but was far from healed.

The symptoms went away in stages over the next few weeks. I couldn’t tilt my head back or move quickly and I had to sleep propped up too.

Don's new helmet.

Don's new helmet.

It kept me off the bike for nearly a week. I got back on the rollers first and after that went well, was able to convince my doctors to take off the cast and let me wear a soft support — my wrist was still fractured after all. A soft support I could ride with, a cast not easily. I took my bike out on the road the following day.

Don continues to monitor himself for any return of vertigo, which the doctors now say was completely spontaneous. But it can linger.

Vertigo — Part 1

Our new guest poster, Don Blount, is getting over a nasty crash. Not only did he crack a helmet — and a wrist — but he had to deal with an unexpected side effect.

BlountOnBikingI nearly always thought of vertigo as an Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. At least that is until I came down with it. But when I awoke early Saturday Sept. 26 and the room was spinning, I had no idea that was what I was dealing with.

But let me back up a bit. Four days earlier, on the first day of fall, I had taken a tumble from my bike halfway through a 46-mile ride.

BikeI had ridden to a nature preserve and stopped to take in the scenery and eat. My legs felt good. I stopped at the Visitors’ Center to look for a trash can to discard a banana peel. There were no receptacles but there were plastic bags to put your trash in and take it out with you. I put the peel in one and stuffed in a jersey pocket. I got back on my bike and started on my return trip home. As I looked up I saw a car approaching and thought it would be a good idea to get as far to my right as possible. The walking path was clear and I began to drift over.

What I didn’t see was that there was a gap between the nice asphalt road and the cement walking path. My front wheel caught in it, and I went down.

Best I remember, I fell on my head and left side, fracturing my left wrist and getting some road rash on my left shoulder, hip and knee.

As I have said previously, I wouldn’t ride without a helmet. My injuries would’ve been more severe had I not been wearing one.

HelmetA couple of cracks are obvious in this shot.

The helmet did exactly what it was supposed to do. It absorbed the blow, cracking in about a half dozen places so my head would not. I still received a sizable bump on my head that would take a few weeks to fully heal.

My bike was fine aside from some torn bar tape and a scrape on a brake lever. I was able to gather myself and ride the 23 miles home, wrist and all.

I was less successful hiding the injuries from my wife.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Uh, nothing,” I replied. She followed me as I limped through the house.

“What’s wrong?” she demanded this time.

“Well,” I said, “If you must do something, help me take my jersey off because I can’t lift my arm.”

I managed to get in the shower and muffle my moans as I cleaned my road rash.

Sling2The next day my wrist was swollen and unusable and I went to see a doctor who put it in a soft support and my arm in a sling. I would miss work this day.

CastTwo days later, Friday, I saw an orthopedist who put my wrist in a cast. I picked purple as a color because my daughters like that color.

I went to sleep that night thinking the worst was behind me and that I’d have to figure out how to make do with a cast for a few weeks.

I didn’t know how wrong I was.

What else could afflict Don? Join us again tomorrow as Bike Noob  brings another installment of “Blount on Biking.”

Online bike videos

In this age of easily accessible online videos, we bikers can take advantage of a wide selection of videos to cover nearly all of our biking interests. Sometimes, reading about something isn’t enough. We have to see it to learn from it.

A simple search for bike videos will connect you with all sorts of videos. But there’s a built-in caveat when accessing them: their quality varies widely. Some are pretty well done. Some are pretty useless. Some are so poorly shot and edited that even if the information is good, they’re not much fun to watch.

So, what’s out there?

Here’s one from Expert on YouTube. Judge for yourself:

Lots of YouTube videos can be accessed in “high quality,” which means your video fills a larger window in your web browser. Some videos are shot in high definition, which makes them nice and sharp.

If you’re interested in doing your own maintenance, search for videos on that topic. You’ll find plenty. If you want tips on improving your riding technique, try going to Chris Carmichael’s Nissan-sponsored site, “Master the Shift.” His stuff isn’t bad, as one would hope. Try this link for starters:

It’s easy to kill a lot of time watching biking videos, but I’ve found that if I do a good search, I’m paid off in good results. Most video posters realize that people don’t like to watch long clips, so you’ll find a lot of videos of less than three minutes.

If you’ve already been watch bike videos online, maybe you’d like to recommend some clips — or entire sites — for the rest of us.

Another writer joins the Bike Noob fold

Don Blount

Don Blount

It’s a pleasure for me to introduce a new guest poster to Bike Noob readers. Don Blount has been reading this blog for well over a year now, and has contributed a number of ideas for posts (You may remember the occasional reference to “Don, of California”). Now Don, who is a newspaperman by trade, has agreed to author posts of his own, rather than just send along ideas. Here’s his first opus:

It’s been a little over a year since I became a recreational road cyclist. I don’t run because of my knees and I tired of doing the elliptical trainer and treadmills in the gym. I ended up on the bike. I got sucked in slowly, starting by riding my mountain bike around town. I had fun and thought “hey, this isn’t bad.” Going 12 miles on that bike was about all I could take. (It’s a bike best suited for riding around with my kids.) After about a month I upgraded to a road bike. I came to this activity as a complete novice, knowing how to ride a bike but not knowing anything about road biking.

Here is what I’ve learned and would share with anyone looking to get into this sport:

It is about the bike

I ride a Scattante CFR Comp. For a first bike I did OK. It has a carbon frame, Shimano 105 shifters and front derailleur, Ultegra rear derailleur. I recently upgraded to Michelin Krylion tires. The bike works for me. I was actually going to buy a less expensive bike but an experienced cyclist who looked at the bikes I was considering advised me to buy this one because it had better components than the others, a carbon frame instead of an aluminum frame and would be a bike I could ride for years without getting bored with it. I spent a lot more than I had planned, but I did get a much better bike than the one I would’ve purchased without direction.

Get a professional bike fitting

I rode my bike for about five months with the setup that I received at the LBS where I made my purchase. During that time I slowly developed pain at the back of my left knee and in my lower back. My original set up wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t right on either. I went for a professional fitting and discovered that my seat was too low and too far back. I have a copy of my measurements, which I check monthly or if something doesn’t feel right to ensure sure my set up remains right.  Riding without getting a fitting is akin to wearing a suit without getting it tailored. Maybe some people can wear right off the rack but not many. It’s worth the investment.


I had sticker shock when I first looked at something as simple as a pair of shorts. That was before I understood the difference between good cycling gear and not-so-good gear. I have a friend who has no problem going into triple digits for bib shorts, tights or any other piece of bike clothing. Yet he wouldn’t dream of spending nearly as much for regular clothing. I’m a big Pearl Izumi fan because I know that brand will fit and will wear well. It took me awhile to come to this conclusion. It wasn’t until I returned a set of bib shorts three – yep count em three – times to an online retailer and paid about $15 in postage that I drove an hour to a Pearl Izumi Factory store and got the things I wanted.

Dealing with your local bike shop

I like my LBS and enjoy going in there. But one thing I noticed was that it seemed the clerks were always trying to sell me something. Well, it is a store and not a library and the clerks get commissions on their sales. They weren’t pushy and were quite nice but I’m not the kind of guy who likes to be sold. I like information. I’ve been in that shop enough now that I know just about everyone who works there by name. And I’ve learned enough and they know me well enough that they no longer try to sell me and I can go in just for the discussion. Now I spend more time talking to the mechanics about repairs and talking to others about riding. And I’ve learned a lot from them by doing this.

Wear a helmet

I’ve worn a helmet for the better part of 16 years, including just riding around with my kids. I have a hard time understanding those who say they want to be free or don’t like the feel of a helmet or give some other reason for not wearing one. I recently had a cast removed from my left hand as I took a tumble on the first day of fall, seems appropriate, and broke a bone in my left wrist. I also bruised my left hip, knee and shoulder. I’m probably lucky that I didn’t break my collarbone judging from the way I went down. I was moving out of the way of an oncoming car and my front wheel got caught in a gap between road surfaces. I was 23 miles into a 46 mile ride. The only injury to my head was a bump. But my helmet cracked in about a half dozen places. If I had not been wearing a helmet, I doubt I’d be writing this. However, I finished the last 23 miles of the ride.

Don is back on the bike, recovering nicely from the fall, and promises to send along a more detailed account of his recovery, and an unusual side effect the fall triggered.

Cool weather gear, or, the wuss factor

LSIt’s that time of the year again — fall. When days are warm, almost, and nights are cool — or downright chilly. For cyclists, it’s time to dig into the jersey drawer to see what new stuff we need, and reacquaint ourselves with our old standbys from last year.

Friday evening, after I got home from work, I decided to head out for a ride. Mrs. Noob said she wanted to come, too, so we figured we’d do a trip to the Veloway, and I’d do my usual three laps, while she did her two.

She was astride her bike, waiting for me, when I came into the garage to put on my shoes and helmet. “What?” she asked, in amazement. “Long sleeves?”

“Hey,” I replied, a little miffed. “It’s getting cool, and the shadows are long.”

I think  I heard her say, “Wuss,” under her breath. We headed out.

I’ve got two long sleeved jerseys that I use a lot come this time of year. One I’ve had for nearly two years. It’s the basic long sleeve model by Performance, and the inside is slightly brushed to trap heat. I love to wear it by itself when the temps are down around 50-60, or 10-16C. The one I was wearing this time is a summer weight jersey with no brushed fabric. It’s light, but it covers my arms.

I don’t react well to wind when riding, and my arms are the main protesters. I learned two years ago when I started riding that if my arms are warm, I’m good for the ride. If a cool wind blows on them, I’ll be uncomfortable. So I’ll go with the summer weight long sleeved jersey any time the temperature gets below 70 (21C). Besides, it has black panels on the sides, which I’m certain have  a slimming effect.

My arm warmers are another option, that are an even better choice because they’re more flexible. I can wear them when the weather is cool at the start of a ride, and pull them off when it warms up. Lots of the riders in my club showed up on a recent cool morning ride with arm warmers, a base layer, and wind vests, which looks like a nifty way to layer for the chill. Wind vests are small and thin, and easily stashed in a jersey pocket when they’re no longer needed. The arm warmers can join them there when it warms up even more.

When we got home from our ride, I mentioned to my wife that I was right to wear the long sleeves. The long shadows mixed with the cool breeze did chill the arms, and the sleeves mitigated the discomfort.

“I don’t think so,” she said, as she walked by in her sleeveless jersey. “I was very comfortable out there tonight.”

I unzipped to reveal my base layer and my bibs.

“Wuss,” she said, as she headed to the shower.