Prescription Biking Glasses

Starting the Outlaw Trail 100 with my old sunglasses.

For years, I’ve worn the same sunglasses for biking that I do for anything else.  They’re at least five years old, with glass lenses. (Although the lenses appear amber in the picture, they’re really dark gray — the early morning light has a weird effect.)

When I got them, I asked that they just contain my  distance prescription, because I felt at the time that I didn’t need bifocals outdoors.  They’ve been okay.  They’re a little heavy, because of the glass lenses, and the prescription could use a little more oomph now.  I think the next pair of cycling glasses I get will also have the bifocal prescription, which would help immensely when I have to do bike-related things like read the pressure gauge on my tire pump, or try to follow a cue sheet on a long ride. They’re not particularly stylish.  (Not even remotely.)

Stylin' the oldies but goodies at the MS 150.

But they are a little better than the ones I experimented with at the MS150 earlier this year.  These, too, have only my distance prescription. Surprisingly, the prescription  is still good — a bit better than my everyday sunglasses.  They’ve got gray lenses too, but there’s a bit of vermillion mixed in, and when they pick up the red color of the frames, the lenses look dark red.  But they’re at least 15 years old, and they look it.  After seeing pictures of myself in them, I stopped using them.

So lately, I’ve been thinking it’s time for some new biking shades.  One thing that’s always appealed to me about biking glasses is their wraparound style.  But because of the curved lenses, I wondered if they lent themselves to complex prescriptions.  I’ve poked around online a bit to see what’s out there, and the ones that are most interesting to me are also the most expensive (Of course, it works that way with bikes, too).

Yeah, something like these.

I noticed that Performance has a moderately-priced wraparound sunglass with interchangeable lenses — and it can also take a clip-on adapter for your prescription.  You just attach it to the nose bridge on the inside of the glasses.  If it’s any good, it might be just the ticket.

But I have to defer to the expertise of Bike Noob readers.  Do you wear cycling glasses with prescription lenses?  What kind?  How well do they work for you?  Do you have experience with the clip-in prescription adapters?

Will Bike Noob have to continue wearing his flat lenses and being uncool out on the roads?

Bike Maintenance Books

I suppose anyone who has been into biking even for a little while attempts to do some maintenance on their bikes.  I know I have.  That’s problematical, because I’m no great shakes when it comes to anything with tools.

So, being the academic I am, I turned to a book.  In my case, it’s the Bicycling Magazine Complete Guide to Bicycle Maintenance and Repair for Road and Mountain Bikes by Todd Downs.  It’s been helpful to a certain extent.  I used it to guide me through some derailleur adjustments earlier this summer, and they turned out pretty well.

Some of the other adjustment and repair jobs detailed in the book are beyond the scope of my abilities — at least for now.  And while the derailleur adjustment chapter was easy to follow, others don’t seem as clear to me.  Maybe it’s just me.

A friend once told me his favorite bicycle repair manual is the Yellow Pages — for the number of his LBS.

Have you latched onto a particularly good bike maintenance book? — one you would recommend to a friend?  Tell us about it.



You know you are way into cycling when:



  • You see someone riding a bike and immediately look at their pedaling cadence.
  • You spend more on a piece of bike clothing than on regular clothing.
  • You know how to pronounce peloton, allez, Merckx and Hinault.
  • You are familiar with Scott, Jamis, Pinarello and Orbea.
  • You spell none: N-u-u-n.
  • The term “shot block” is not a reference to basketball but something you eat.
  • You and your friends debate the best way to drink from a water bottle.
  • You hate the wind.
  • To you “bonk” is a dirty word.
  • Your bike is worth more than your car.
  • You ride your bike more miles than you drive your car.
  • Riding 90 miles with 5,100 ft of climbing sounds appealing.
  • Your bike has its own room in your house.
  • You sneak in your latest biking purchase so your spouse does not know.
  • Your wardrobe of cycling gear expands from one drawer to two drawers to a closet.
  • Your cycling tan causes you to get odd looks at the beach.
  • You are at your LBS so often that they let you stay in after closing.
  • You feel lost when your bike is at the shop for maintenance.
  • The round-trip distance you drive to a group ride is farther than the ride itself.
  • You get up at the crack of dawn to watch live the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España.

Anyone want to add some more?

Driving Near Bikes

I don’t know what it is about cars when they’re around bikes, but drivers seem to behave irrationally.  And it’s even worse when the weather is bad.  My wife and I had that experience on yesterday morning’s ride.

It looked like it might rain, so we opted to just head over to the Veloway and do a few laps.  I was planning to meet up with a friend, John T, so Pat started her lap before me. John T and I got caught in the rain on our third lap, and we took cover under a shelter at the Veloway entrance.  I figured Pat would have finished her one lap and headed home, so should be safe and dry by that time.

When the rain eased up, I said my goodbyes to John T and headed home myself.  On the way, the road leads up to a large supermarket.  I was in the marked bike lane, following another biker.  Two cars pulled even with us.  It was obvious they were going to turn into the supermarket parking lot.  When the first one turned his wheels, the biker ahead of me pulled into the lot — doing a slick emergency right turn.

Instead of waiting for me to pass him so he could turn into the lot also, the second car turned right in front of me.  Now I had to do the emergency right turn.

On a dry day, cars always wait for cyclists to pass before turning into the lot.  They might be impatient about it, but they’re good about waiting the three or four seconds it takes us to pass them.  In the rain, you’d think they would be more careful, knowing that the wet conditions could cause trouble for bikes, and even cars, if they don’t watch out.

When I got home, I told Pat about being cut off.  “That’s funny,” she said.  “That happened to me, too.”

She was getting into a left-turn lane behind two cars at a stoplight.  She heard a third car, but instead of settling in behind Pat, the third car squeezed around her, then cut in front of her in the turn lane.

Geez Louise, wait a cotton-pickin’ second, will ya?  For it’s just a matter of a few seconds we’re talking about here — how long it would take me to pass a car before it turns into the parking lot.  How long it would take Pat to complete her left turn from the turn lane, and then allow the driver behind her to pass.  Three seconds?  Maybe five?  Not a major chunk of your day, pal.

The League of Illinois Bicyclists decided to tackle the problem head-on.  They made a video aimed at drivers — telling them what to watch for when driving near bikes.  Good stuff.

I only hope it gets some distribution so more than bicycle league members will see it.

Finding Your Biking “Style”

I’ve now been biking “seriously” since the summer of ’07, and recently, I got to thinking about what types of riding I enjoy most.

I do a lot of different kinds of rides, but all my riding is on the road.  Although I own a mountain bike, it is strictly an errand bike, and I do not take it out on recreational rides.  On the road bike though, I do the occasional short time trial, trying to hold my top speed for eight miles; I go to the local Veloway and do anywhere from six to 18 miles, sometimes lazily, sometimes with intervals or fartlek, often in just the small chainring to work on cadence; I ride with my club on Sunday mornings, sometimes struggling to keep up with the peloton, sometimes leading a slower B group ride; I ride a collection of routes from the house of varying length, sometimes sticking to my suburban-style neighborhood, sometimes venturing out into the country.

I imagine it’s much the same for most of you.

But if you had your choice, what kind of riding would you prefer over the others?

I have come to the conclusion that my cycling style is easy long distance.  I like to ride country roads with light traffic.  I like to ride without feeling any external or self-imposed pressure to finish by a certain time.  I like to be able to stop, and perhaps take pictures every so often.

My idea of bicycling heaven.

Living where I do, that kind of riding is fairly close by.  I have a couple of routes that will put me on roads like those within six to 10 miles.  Or, I can toss the bike in the car and drive a little farther to get to even less traveled roads.

Now, that’s not to say that I have now begun to ignore other types of riding.  For one thing, I know I have to do some speed work just to be able to enjoy the riding I prefer.  It’s no fun to be 35 miles into a ride and feel tuckered out.  I do the occasional hill work, so I can handle the hills I run into out in the country.

But I’m not at all crazy about the kind of riding a lot of my acquaintances take for granted: long jaunts on the shoulder of a high-speed highway.  The popular “Dam Loop” west of Austin is a magnet for many area riders.  I find it to be most unpleasant, and having ridden it a few times now, I will avoid it from here on out.  (That’s not to say I won’t do it again sometime — I just don’t like it all that much.)

I would guess that the riding I prefer actually accounts for less mileage than the other riding I do.  But that’s okay — it becomes something to look forward to.  I’ll toil on the hills and during intervals, I’ll put in the miles on suburban residential streets, and I’ll ride the shoulders of fast roads — as long as I can get that 35-60 mile weekend ride in, away from heavy traffic, enjoying the scenery, the animals, and the company of like-minded bikers.

I’ll bet some of you have your own idea of the perfect ride.  Come on, weigh in.

A Pair Of Good Noob Tips

When I first started checking out Ray’s blog, it was because I was in search of tips. After years of riding a hybrid, I had made the move to a road bike, and found myself with a lot to learn. I’ve now been a “roadie” for several years, but I still remember a few of the lessons I learned along the way.

Time to share…

Feel Your Pedals

Ray gave a nod to this in a previous post, but it’s worth revisiting. For best results, it’s better to “feel” your way into Shimano-style road pedals than to look and aim.

Why? I’m not quite sure. But I know that early on in my experience with road pedals, especially when in traffic or on a group ride, I frequently fumbled with trying to click in properly. Alone it was often no problem, but when the pressure was on I often missed. Then I took a fellow rider’s suggestion to just feel my way in, rather than try to aim and click in, and found much better results.

Try this on your next ride. As you push off, hesitate for a moment to allow the pedal to swing into its natural, up-and-down orientation. Then without looking, swing your toe forward at a downward angle. It should naturally find the front of the pedal, allowing you to then simply push down and click into the locked position.

That’s a technical explanation, but it’s not a technical move. Rather, it’s one that works best when you don’t try, don’t look and aim, and just feel your way through it.

Relax Your Shoulders

Next time you’ve got the sun above and behind, check out your shadow. I was watching mine the other day and it showed me some bad form — namely I was hunching my shoulders.

I’ve noticed a lot of people do it, especially noobs. Riding with our hands on the brake hoods, we often brace our arms to hold ourselves up, rather than relax the shoulders and bend at the elbows. It creates a lot of tension in the neck and upper back, as well as puts a lot of pressure on the hands. I had been dealing with numbness is my hands a lot as of late, as well as having some saddle issues. Forcing myself to relax and drop my shoulders felt weird, but I could tell by my shadow put me into a more proper riding position. For the first time in a long time, I had no numbness in my hands…and that was over the course of a nearly 50-mile ride.

Sure, you’ll likely feel it in a few other places. Your core muscles are engaged more in this position, and you can also feel it in your triceps. But if you really focus on the proper form, it will become second nature after several rides.

Just remember, Frankie said RELAX…not shrug.

Biking and Home Maintenance

“Are you riding again tomorrow morning?” asked my wife, as we were driving home from dinner out with friends.

“Yes,” I said.  “The club is taking a 66-mile hill excursion.  I’m going to leave with them, but I’m only going half as far.”

She was silent for a moment.  Then:

“I think we’ve reached the point where biking is taking over other important things in our lives.  When you ride on the weekend, you’re gone all morning, then when you get home, you crash on the bed for two or three hours.  There’s a lot of work around here that’s not getting done.  Now that your 100-mile ride is out of the way, it’s time to start pitching in more around here.”

Ouch.  She’s right.  Well, I’m usually not gone all morning on Saturdays, but Sundays can turn into three or four hour rides.  And yes, I do seem to be prone to napping after an exhilarating ride.

She ticked off a couple of must-do items: “We need to do the windows, especially the glass in the arched tops.  That bush on the front corner of the house needs to be drastically cut back.  The garage needs to be cleaned out.”

Right again.  Okay, I’m still doing the Sunday ride, then I’ll plunge right in to cleanup when I get home.

I had planned a B-level ride of about 35 miles, heading out in the same direction as the rest of the club, but stopping short and turning back before they hit their hilliest part.  As it turned out, no other B riders showed up, and 10 miles into the ride, I struggled up a tough hill.  Everybody waits in a parking lot at the top of the hill, but as I approached the crest, I saw them pulling out of the lot.  I flagged down the last rider and told him I was peeling off from the group.

Pat was surprised when I walked through the door just an hour and a half after I left for the ride.  She had on her bike clothes, and was just about to head out for a ride of her own.

I got the windows done, and did some maintenance on our old Kirby vacuum cleaner.  But after a short lunch break, her prediction came true — I flopped on the bed for a two-hour nap.

Okay, the bushes and the garage will get their due next weekend.  I’ll still ride — but I have a hunch my riding will take up a lot less time through at least the end of the year.

Road Bikes & Gravel Roads

The century I rode over the weekend was well planned and well supported.  But compared to two years ago when I first rode it, some of the roads had deteriorated — mostly on the back half of the course.

Yech. Gravel road.

Suddenly, the little county road we were on changed from pocked-up asphalt to gravel.

Now, I have some friends who like gravel.  They ride mountain bikes with wide tires, and can take advantage of the more remote countryside they get to travel on those less-improved roads.  But those are mountain bikers.

Even some road bikes with wider tires can probably do well on gravel.  Some like a Surly Long Haul Trucker with 28 or 32 mm tires should be able to handle gravel with no trouble.

But that’s not necessarily true of a road bike with skinny tires.  I run 25 mm tires on my Specialized Allez, and I was all over the road, trying to find the more tamped-down sections.  I can imagine that people riding 23s had a rougher go of it than I did.

After the gravel ended, I stopped to attend to a hot spot on my shoe.  Bikers who were behind us passed by, and every one of them made a remark about the gravel.

As it turned out, I had good reason to be concerned with the rough surface.  I discovered  low pressure in my front tire at the next rest stop.  I pumped it up with the mini-pump I carry, but ten miles farther down the road, at another rest stop, the tire was soft again.  A sag vehicle was at the stop, waiting to haul a hapless rider back to the start, and he had a big floor pump.  I pumped up the tire again.

At the final rest stop, it was soft again.  I was getting ready to pull out the mini-pump when a Bicycle Sports Shop van pulled up.  The bike mechanic pumped the tire up for me.  I finished the century without any other mechanical problem.

When I got home from work today, I pushed the bike out of the garage to get ready for a short ride.  The front tire was completely flat.  Once I took off the tire and carefully inspected it, I found a small gouge like a sharp-edged pebble would make.  I had to pump up the tube and submerge it in the kitchen sink to find the slow leak.  I found no debris inside the tire, so I put in a replacement tube and took a one-hour ride.

Gravel roads and road bikes — they just don’t mix very well.  Or is it just me?  Do you ride gravel on skinny tires?


I Went Out Too Fast

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen it — cyclists complaining that they would have had a great ride, but they set too fast a pace during the opening miles, which wore them out for the finish.  Taking my cue from those experiences, I went into Saturday’s Outlaw Trail 100 in Round Rock, Texas, planning to take the first third of the ride easy, pick up the pace in the middle third, and have plenty of fuel in reserve for the last third of the ride.  The best-laid plans…

I always get a kick out of meeting riding friends at or near the start of these rides.  John T, who is new to biking this year and rides with me from time to time, was there.  He was planning to start with the 100-milers, but do the 63-mile route.  I ran into a couple of folks I’ve met on rides once before, and at the starting line I rendezvoused with Rick, my riding buddy from my bike club, and Torsten, a Twitter buddy whom I’ve met before but never ridden with.


John T., left, and Rick.





The police car siren sounded at precisely 8 a.m. and we were off.  I settled in next to Torsten, who is 6’7″ and probably the biggest guy I’ve seen on a road bike.  (By the way, his new blog, “Giant On My Bike,” is worth a visit.) I knew he was a strong rider, but the pace was easy at the start, and he and I fell into a general conversation.

Rick was with us, too — unfortunately, I think we left John T. behind pretty early.  I sensed that I was riding at a faster than usual pace, but I felt good, and kept up with Rick and Torsten.

In the crossroads town of Weir, the two of them got a jump on me at a stop sign.  This time I couldn’t catch them, and although I continued my faster pace, they disappeared off in the distance.  I caught them several miles later, when they stopped to wait for me at the second rest stop, which I skipped.

For the next 25 miles or so, I could tell that I was pushing it.  They’d get out ahead of me, and I’d get down in the drops to get more power to my pedals.  I’d catch them, and then they’d pull away again.

The Granger Dam marks the halfway point of the 100-mile route.  I had stopped to take some pictures of the lake, but could feel the complete lack of zip when I started up again.  There’s a rest stop at the far end of the lake, and I took advantage of the opportunity to unwind.


A tired Noob resting at Granger Lake, only 55 miles into the ride.


We got going again, and again I had trouble keeping up with Torsten and Rick. At about 60 miles, Torsten said, “Guys, I’m taking off.  Nice riding with you.”  We said our goodbyes, and in minutes, he was out of sight ahead on the road.

At the next rest stop, about 69 miles into the ride, I was spent.  I seriously considered grabbing a ride in with one of the many Round Rock Park Dept. pickups that were serving as sag on this ride.  But Rick said, “I”ll ride ahead of you to block the wind. If you fall behind, yell ‘I’m off!’ and I’ll slow down for you.”

Now began the slog.  The 16+ mph pace we had kept up for the first half of the ride slowed perceptibly.  Rick could have ridden at a much faster speed, but he stuck with me.  At the 78-mile rest stop, I felt almost rejuvenated — a relative term, but at least I could keep up.


Some of the farmland typical of the route.


I was uncomfortable, though, because I had two hot spots on the balls of both feet.  They made pedaling very uncomfortable.  By now, the temperature was in the upper 80s (30ºC) and I started to slow again.

Rick suggested I put Chamois Butt’r on my feet.  A small packet of the stuff came in our goody bags, and I had stuck it in one of my jersey pockets.  At the last rest stop, I shed my shoes and applied the soothing lotion.

It sort of worked, but by now, it didn’t matter.  The finish was in our sights, and I struggled to keep up with Rick as we passed other bikers on the way in.  The wind from the south was quite brisk now, and I could feel my skin burning under the hot sun.  I couldn’t figure out how Rick managed to wear his arm warmers right up until the last rest stop.  We crossed the line, and met Rick’s wife, Penny, who was waiting for us after doing the 40-mile ride.

I was disappointed in my total time: 7 hours and 41 minutes.  I had done this ride in 7:15 two years ago.  But my computer showed the on-the-bike time to be 6:39 — only six minutes slower than in 2008.  Average speed was 15.2 mph — higher than I thought it would have been, given the trouble I had over the last 30 miles.

So — what do I take away from this experience?  Obviously, it’s to make a plan and stick to it.  I had a plan, but instead of telling Torsten early on that it was nice to ride with him, but I’m going to take it easy, I let hubris take over.  After all, I had gotten in better shape, added many more miles to my yearly riding totals, and had done more long rides to prep for the century.  And now, I could hang with this big guy.  If I’d stuck to my plan, I should have easily bettered my last time, especially in light of the nearly perfect riding conditions.

The other takeaway is the importance of a good riding partner.  Without Rick, I wouldn’t have finished the ride at all — I would have sagged out at 70 miles.  His patience let me complete my third century.  Rick never spoke about his own riding plan (“I’m just looking to finish the course,” he said), but I’m sure I wrecked any thoughts he had of finishing in a respectable time.  Thanks, pardner.