Drinking Enough

One of my continuing problems on the bike is drinking enough liquids to keep me fueled during the ride. In early July, I complained about running out of gas out in the country. The problem, I figured, was a lack of high mileage rides. A few days later, a biking friend of mine suggested something else.

“It sounded to me like you weren’t drinking enough,” he said.

My wife nodded in agreement. But then, she’s always after me to do a better job of staying hydrated and fed on longer rides. I thought about what had happened that day, and concluded that my friend was probably right.

I used to have dual water bottle cages attached to my seat. But I got rid of them last year, because I didn’t like the way they scrunched my seat bag. That left me with one bottle cage on my down tube. I usually carry a 16-oz. bottle, and always felt it was enough. But that’s on rides close to home, where I can always get a refill.

On that early July ride, we had no facilities for refills. No one’s house, no convenience stores, not even a spigot on private property we could sneak water from. I was babying my 16 ounces over a 41-mile ride. That won’t do it.

So, I decided to reform. On a solo ride two weeks later, I decided I would use prompts to remind me to take a drink. Instead of setting my trip computer to distance, I kept it set to elapsed time. Every 10 minutes, I tried to take a drink. Those 10 minutes became a ballpark figure I could work around — sometimes I drank after only eight, more often I drank after around 12. I planned on stopping at a convenience store at the 22-mile point in this 38-mile ride. I bought a bottle of Gatorade G2 there, and downed half of it while resting. I added ice to the water bottle and mixed the rest of the Gatorade with the water. A Clif bar went down nicely during the rest stop, too. I finished the ride relatively fresh.

Emboldened by my new system, I was ready to apply it to a longer ride yesterday (Saturday). The ride was going to be 44 miles. It was a route I had never ridden, but there would be support. The ride leader indicated that a convenience store was about 20 miles into the ride, but we would have to go off course a little bit to reach it.

This time, I didn’t go by time to determine when to drink — I went by miles. I determined to drink every three miles. It worked, too, mostly. I never missed by more than a mile. I had gotten out the seat-mounted water bottle cage at put it on the previous day. I half-filled two 16-oz. bottles the night before and put them in the freezer. That morning, I topped them off with water, so my water supply was relatively cold.

My bike with the seat-mounted water bottle cages. (Pic is from the first time I carried them, over a year ago.)

At the convenience store, I bought my usual bottle of Gatorade G2, and I could stash it in the down tube cage, since that wasn’t taken up by water bottles this time. At a rest stop at a picturesque country church, I trashed the empty G2 bottle and topped off my water. I had been munching on a Luna Bar for a while, and that helped, too. Even though the ride turned out to be 48 miles instead of 44, and finished with a series of challenging hills, I felt good at the end.

Then came today. I was leading a B ride with the club. It was a 30-mile round trip on a route featuring rolling hills. Again, two iced water bottles. Again, I tried to drink every three miles. But today was different. Because of the hills, I had trouble finding a good spot to drink. Flying down hill, I wanted to keep both hands on the bars. Going uphill, I needed both hands to help me pull up the slope. At the 15-mile turnaround, I realized I had drunk only twice. I downed the rest of my first water bottle.

At a convenience store two-thirds of the way through the ride, I got some ice and filled the one bottle I’d drunk from. The break helped, and I drank a lot from the other bottle. I was pleased to note that I finished strong.

“Eat before you’re hungry, drink before you’re thirsty.” We’ve all heard that jillions of times. But it bears repeating.  I have a pretty good idea of just hat I have to do to stay adequately fueled. From here on out, it’s just a matter of making sure I do it.

Being Visible

I’ve been riding along some pretty busy roads lately. Most of the time, they have shoulders. Sometimes, they don’t. And shoulders and bike lanes usually end at intersections. So being seen is something I’m always aware of.

It seems whenever I hear of a collision between a car and a bike, the driver often says something like, “I didn’t see you!” Now, that’s generally because the driver was not looking for a cyclist. They were looking for motorized traffic, so didn’t expect to see cyclists.

So I decided early on that I would try to wear clothing that is visible.

Different colors show up differently. Below is a shot from the start of a group ride I attended about a year and a half ago. (It’s kinda nice to see evidence of cooler weather — I’m sure it will be back, eventually!)

Anyway, some colors jump right out. Hi-vis green, for one. On this overcast day, the screaming color makes the cyclists wearing it stand out from the crowd. Another good choice is bright yellow, also obvious in the picture.

Less of a standout — white and black. Again, the overcast sky has an effect. White might work on a day like this, but not as well when the sun is low in the sky. Blue is a popular color. It’s one of my personal favorites, and I have three jerseys that feature blue as a dominant or prominent color. But I don’t think blue is a great choice for visibility. Note the cyclist in blue top and black shorts in the right third of the picture. Not exactly a stand out.

Red and orange show up well. I was following a group several weekends ago, and all were wearing different shades of those. My wife was in her salmon pink and orange jersey, and was riding with a woman in a red flower print top. I could see them clearly well before I could determine who they were.

So I’m at a loss to figure out why black seems to be such a popular jersey color these days. Cyclists in black seem to me to blend in with their surroundings.

In addition to being less of a standout, it strikes me that black jerseys absorb too much heat. I own a jersey with black shoulders and a blue body. I wear it often, but during this hot sunny summer weather we’re having, it is not my first choice. I pick it when my other jerseys are in the wash. Both the Sky and Leopard-Trek teams in the Tour de France wore jerseys that were predominantly black. Ugh. I can’t imagine going more than 100 miles for days on end in the summer, in black.

A lot of cyclists prefer to go the understated way, though. They don’t like to dress in high visibility colors. Why? Often, it’s because they’re engaged in cycling for reasons other than sport. Commuters, for example, would like to wear their work clothes on their bikes. Touring cyclists might want to stop and visit attractions or shops on their routes, and darker clothing makes them less conspicuous in a crowd of non-bikers. Some might think the bright colored cycling jerseys themselves are dorky looking.

Other cyclists argue that color is not important — it’s how you cycle that matters. Make yourself prominent on the road. Take the lane when necessary. Make eye contact with drivers. Just because you’re wearing high-visibility clothing doesn’t mean drivers will see you.

See Me Wear jersey

As in most issues, there can be extremes. A line of cycling gear called See Me Wear is available that — well, see for yourself:

There’s even talk of requiring high-visibility colors when cycling. New Zealand is going through a debate along those lines right now. Proponents say anything that makes cyclists more visible is a good thing. Cycling advocates argue that making mandatory a type of clothing that some might see as “dorky” would discourage some people from riding — and could lull others into a false sense of security.

You wouldn’t find me wearing one of these warning chevron jerseys. But at the same time, I’m not going to take anything for granted. I’ll do what I can to ride safely, and to make myself known to drivers. But I’ll also do it in my red or yellow jerseys, and my hi-vis green jacket. And as I add to my cycling wardrobe, I’ll favor brighter, not duller, colors.

Watch That Sweat!

The oddest thing happened on my Sunday ride. I was about six or eight miles from the end, when suddenly, I couldn’t shift from the big ring down to the small ring.

This was problematical, because at the time, I was approaching the crest of a hill, and I needed the easier effort the small ring would give me to get over the top. I back pedaled — something I never do — and downshifted the rear cogset. That did the trick, and I was in the small ring again.

But the same thing happened throughout the rest of the ride, until for the last two miles, I kept the thing in the small chainring, even when I had an inviting downward grade.

The next afternoon, I took the bike over to our club mechanic’s house. (It’s nice to have a “club mechanic” — in this case, a member with over 20 year experience “making money off of fixing bikes” who at one time was wrench for a pro team.)

“So, won’t shift down to the small ring, huh?” he asked.

His next question startled me.

“Are you a heavy sweater?”

I did a double take.

“Yeah, I am,” I replied. “Does that have something to do with it?”

He got the bike up on the stand and checked it over.

“I’m already seeing some corrosion on the brakes,” he said. “And here on the front derailleur, too.”

“That’s really strange,” I said. “It was shifting fine, and then suddenly, I couldn’t get it to shift down.”

“It was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he retorted. “You thought it was shifting just fine, but it probably wasn’t. You’d just gotten used to it.”

There might be something to that. I’ve had some balky shifts in recent weeks. But I thought that was my lack of shifting technique, not my sweat. I watched him as he took out a bottle of lube and went to work.

“Front derailleur, front brakes, bottom bracket, rear brakes, in that order,” he lectured. “That’s what’s most affected by sweating. The rear derailleur rarely, if ever.”

He squirted some lube on the brake pivots.

“Pay attention to the pivots,” he said.

He shot some lube into the brake grip pivots, then pulled loose the brake and shifter cables and applied a light coat of grease to them. Then he cranked the pedals and started shifting through the gears — snick, snick, snick. Now it was time for the moment of truth — he changed hands to shift the front derailleur.

Click, click, it went. He shifted between the large and small rings several times. Each time, the shift was smoother than the previous.

“I think that’s got it,” he said, wiping his hands on a clean rag.

“So the trick is to keep everything clean,” I observed.

“I recommend that everyone at the very least wipe down their bikes at the end of the ride.”

I paid him for his trouble (he charges a pittance, compared to the LBS), loaded the bike into the car, and headed home.

This morning when I got home from my ride, I found a clean towel and went over the bike.