Bee in My Bonnet

Or my helmet, actually. I took an after work ride this afternoon, and while I was on the road, something hit the big vent in the middle of my helmet. I could feel it jiggling around inside.

I put up with it a little while, but it drove me nuts. I felt around inside the vents with my fingers, but couldn’t find anything. Since I am allergic to bee stings, I decided to pull over and get the critter.

The incident reminded me of a ride with my friend David.  He was a few bike lengths behind me, when he called out that a bee had flown into his helmet. He kept feeling around in the vents, but couldn’t find anything. In a little bit, though, he had some discomfort, and asked me to stop. He pulled off his helmet and a bee flew out. He had been stung. Luckily, he didn’t swell up badly.

I know this has happened to others, as well.  Have you ever had a bee fly into your helmet?

In my case, it turned out not to be a bee at all. Instead, it was a small round black bug of some kind. No stinger, no venom. When I took off my helmet, it was crawling around along the inside styrofoam surface. I shooed him away and continued the ride, but now that the warmer weather is here, I think I can expect I’ll be tussling with bees and other bugs in the helmet more often. And I won’t be taking any chances. If one gets into my helmet again, I’ll stop immediately and get it out.

The Bontrager Inform Saddle — Revisited

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel updates his review of the Bontrager Inform saddle — and likes it.

Regular readers may recall that last year I posted a review of the Bontrager InForm RL saddle, a relatively new design that had been getting a lot of attention due not only to Bontrager’s “size-to-fit” concept, but also designer’s choice to forego a cutout in favor of what they considered proper weight distribution to combat numbness.

Though I was never a gushing fan of the saddle, I was pretty happy with it overall…at least for several months. Then, for reasons that eluded me, I started to get that dreaded numbness. No, it never lasted after I got off the bike thankfully, but it got to be a real pain — literally and figuratively — during nearly every ride. By summer, I was finding it really annoying, and wondering if the seat’s foam had somehow broken down.

I asked Trek about it and they asked the obvious questions: had I changed my position, etc. Each time I analyzed the situation I couldn’t think of a single thing I had changed. Not my position, not my brand of shorts, nothing. I started to just think the saddle wasn’t that hot after all, and began researching alternatives.

A funny thing, however, happened over the winter. Here in Florida, it was one of the coldest in history, and as a result I did a lot of riding bundled up in far more clothing than I normally would. And somewhere in the midst of those cold, windy rides, I began to notice something. The numbness was subsiding. Ultimately, it went away for the most part. And that relative comfort has continued into the spring.

Like an on-again, off-again relationship, my saddle and I are once again an item.

Why the change of heart? At first I had no idea. But after analyzing things for a while, I think I found the answer. And I think part of it is the result of all that cold-weather riding in tights.

No, it wasn’t more padding, or a different chamois placement, or anything like that. I continue to wear my regular shorts, pulling on chamois-less Pearl Izumi tights over them. Those tights, however, are made of a more slippery material than my shorts. As a result, I found myself sliding around a little more in my seat. And what I discovered was that I was ultimately settling into a position a little further back of where I had been riding as of late — a position that spread more of my weight on my sit bones at a wider portion of the seat.

Why, or how, had I moved forward? I have no idea. But without any big conscious effort, I was now moving back a fraction more…and finding that riding could once again be a pleasurable experience.

Yes, I occasionally force myself to scoot my butt back just a little on the seat, but for the most part my body has now just adapted to this new position.

Long story short? I once again think the InForm saddle is worth my money, and I’m in no rush to replace it. I also have a fresh appreciation for that advice you so often hear about saddles — they need to support your weight on your sit bones, those two bony parts you feel when you sit on a flat, hard surface, and not on the perineum, that area of soft tissues between your legs that house all those nerves and arteries that you need for other, more important things.

I still think people should try different saddles to see which fit them best, and yes, I think a professional bike fitting is a great idea for any serious cyclist. But if you’re just not happy with your saddle, you might want to move around on it a little bit before you go shopping for a new one.

In other words, you might want to put a little work into your current relationship…before it leads to a pricey divorce.

  • Bontrager inForm Nebula Plus Saddle
    Bontrager originally designed the inForm Nebula Plus saddles for the more upright riding position associated with hybrid and fitness bikes. But we found that anyone who rides upright, be they a mountain biker or a roadie on the new breed of more upright road bikes benefit from the Nebula's design. They feature Flex Form Technology, a rubber elastomer that allows the saddle to rotate subtly from side to side to accommodate the natural movement of your pelvis while pedaling. They also come in 3 different widths that give you superior skeletal support for the ultimate in comfort.
    $74.99 from Idaho Mountain Touring
  • Bontrager inForm Hilo XXX Saddle
    Ride faster, farther, and in greater comfort with the advanced ergonomic support of Bontrager's inForm Hilo XXX Saddle. The Hilo features a full-length CRZ+ channel that allows you to stay in the aero position longer, rotate your hips farther forward, and unlock your power. Zone Density Padding places multi-density padding in strategic areas for optimal comfort and performance. That, along with the inForm BioDynamics, optimizes your natural movement for better efficiency. Oversize carbon rails and a carbon shell keep the weight down to race-day levels, too.
    $279.99 from Idaho Mountain Touring

ABC Quick Check – Do It!

ABC Quick Check is a simple way to check out your bike before a ride. A is for Air. Are your tires pumped up to the proper pressure? B is for Brakes. Are they adjusted correctly? Do they stop your bike? C is for Cranks and Chains. Any looseness in the cranks when you pull on them? Is the chain moving smoothly over the sprockets? Quick is for the Quick Release levers on your wheels. Are they tightened properly? Check is for a checkout of the bike before riding. Hop on, pedal a little bit. Does everything seem OK?

Preston Tyree, the education director for the League of American Bicyclists, does a demo of the ABC Quick Check.

The League of American Bicyclists, among other groups, promotes ABC Quick Check for all riders before they begin their rides. If done properly, it takes only a minute, and it’s a good way to make sure everything is shipshape. I do it. Mostly. But lately I’ve been slipping. And on Saturday’s ride, that slippage could have caused a big problem.

Earlier in the afternoon, I put my bike on the bike stand to wash it. I took off both wheels to do a thorough scrub job, then put the wheels back on while the bike was still on the stand.

They went on okay, but the front didn’t seem as secure as it usually does. After a day of yard work and other honey do’s, I couldn’t wait to get out on a ride, so I set the bike aside and jumped into my bike clothes.

This was going to be an easy ride, but I still wanted to sneak in a little hard work. I went out to the Mopac route. On the return leg, I started thinking about that front wheel. I should really pull over to check it. But here comes an intersection I have to pay attention to. Got through that okay. I should really pull over to check it. But here comes the best downhill part of the route. I’ll stay on the hoods, instead of the drops this time. Above 30, against the wind — pretty good. Here comes the sweeping bend to the north. I’ll get into the traffic lane a bit to avoid the gouges in the asphalt on the shoulder. I should really pull over to check it. Man, going 21 up hill — doing great, but I should really pull over to check it. Maybe up at the end, when I turn into the Veloway…

I did pull into the Veloway, and stopped by the water fountain and covered benches at the start. Had a good swig of water. Okay, let’s check that front wheel. I loosened the quick release a bit — and the dropouts clicked into place over the axle.

I had just ridden more than 10 miles with a front wheel that wasn’t completely locked in place in the dropouts. If I had stayed on the shoulder through the big turn, and hit one of those gouges in the pavement, it could have had severe consequences.

This morning, I loaded the bike onto the car to drive to the start point of my ride. In the parking lot, while the rest of group were chatting and joking, I was doing a very careful ABC Quick Check. Make it a habit.