Favorite Bike Websites

Spent some lazy weekend time (when not riding) perusing websites on the iPad. Weekend mornings before of after my bike rides are a good time for that. And of course, the websites I poked around on had to do with biking.

I think most regular readers of this blog will have figured out by now that I’m no speed demon. I like to go fast, but don’t work to get faster — that’s not one of my biking goals. What I do like are longish rides, preferably on roads out in the country away from heavy traffic.

I’m intrigued by randonneurs — those folks who routinely ride 200, 300, 400 kilometers or more on a single ride. I’m not sure I’m up to their kind of on-bike torture testing, but the websites I’ve seen encourage me that maybe some day I can at least try it. So a couple of websites I spent a lot of time with last weekend were rando oriented: Velo Orange Cycles and Peter White Cycles.

Velo Orange is an Annapolis, Maryland company that sells bike parts and equipment that appeal to long distance riders. They also have a limited selection of frames. It’s all good and well to navigate their site and get a feel for what they offer the long distance rider. But if you dig a little deeper, there’s a nice selection of articles about their style of biking. Click the link for “Tech Info.” You can learn how to install various pieces of gear they sell, like their elk hide handlebar covers, as well as get a feel for their philosophy about stuff like handlebars, headsets, and bottom brackets. I’m not mechanically adept, but I find these articles to be good reads. Velo Orange also has a blog on the site that covers their product lines as well as cycling for fun and distance. I like their “Rando” frame, and the pictures of various builds of this frame. If I’m ever destined to get another bike, it could very well be one of these.

Peter White Cycles is up in New Hampshire. He specializes in building wheels, and guarantees them to hold up — even under tough conditions. White offers  frames as well, geared toward long distance riding, commuting, and a bicycle lifestyle. In addition to frames, he stocks various components, such as cranksets, bottom brackets, cranks, chains, lights, racks, bags — the whole gamut. But even if you’re not interested in his inventory, take a look at the tab on his website called “Articles.” He’s got a very personal take on bike fitting, and is passionate about choosing the right light for night cycling. His comments are priceless, too, such as, “If you’re not racing, what the heck are you doing with a racing bike?”

So if the “traditional” approach to cycling appeals to you, you might want to check out these two websites. Even if you’re not sold, you’ll probably take away some useful information.

Have You Ever Fitted Yourself?

We’re looking forward to spring here in Central Texas. For this morning’s club ride, temperatures were in the upper 40s, the bright sun warmed our backs, and a brisk wind played havoc with our riding — especially on fast downhill stretches.

Most everybody at the end of the ride seemed to be in good shape, with no complaints about sore lower backs, or numb hands, or etc.

But during the ride, I noticed that I was often scootching back on the saddle, to the point that my butt hung off the back. Not the most comfortable of positions, but it offered some relief from the discomfort I was feeling.

Whenever we stopped for a breather (not often today) and I unclipped from the pedals for a few minutes, I was able to get back on in a normal position on the saddle — perhaps a tidge forward of center. This is a comfortable position, but as I said, in a while I’m scootching back again.

I think I need to make an adjustment to my saddle position.

But I don’t intend to get an expensive bike fitting. Seems to me this is an adjustment I can make myself. I’ve been poking around online, looking at sites about bike fitting. Most say the same thing. For fore and aft positioning, they recommend the “knee over pedal spindle” (KOPS) method. To do this, you need a plumb bob (which can be fashioned out of a piece of string with a weight at the end — a washer or two will work well.

Wearing bike clothes and biking shoes, get on the bike and grab onto something. If you have a trainer, so much the better. Put your crank arms at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock. Have a helper hold the unweighted end of the string against the bony protrusion under the kneecap. The weighted end should be directly over the pedal spindle. If it isn’t you’ll have to adjust saddle forward or back. That is, if the plumb bob hits behind the pedal spindle, you need to move the saddle forward, and vice-versa. A cautionary note: Plenty of bike fitters think KOPS is bunk, because it considers only the relationship of one body part to the bike rather than the whole body to the bike.

I have putzed around with positioning without much luck. On my mountain bike, I found that the saddle height was too high, and that’s now a more comfortable ride. But I’m only on that thing for neighborhood errands, so it’s not a big deal.

For the road bike, I’ll have to get more precise, and actually recruit a friend to help with the measurements. Once, I attempted to do the KOPS measurement myself, and the results were very inaccurate.

I’m interested in learning what your experiences are with do-it-yourself bike fitting. Have you tried it? Are you happy with the results? Did you screw it up so bad that you had to swallow your pride and pay  a visit to the local bike fitter? Or do you not trust yourself with these important measurements and only do the pro bike fitting routine?

Working & Biking

Dashed home from work Tuesday in time to sneak in 15 miles on the bike. That happens rarely, but I wanted to take advantage of the day, because we were enjoying summer-like temperatures. I rode in short sleeve jersey and shorts, and didn’t even need a base layer. The sun was just behind the horizon as I pulled into my garage at the end of the ride.

Today, I tried to do the same thing. I figured that even if I work a little later than I did Tuesday, I would be able to get in some time on the bike. Besides, who could pass up this weather? We hit 90 (32C)! A guy’s just gotta ride in those conditions.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. I was scrambling toward the end of the day, and it seemed that as soon as I put out one fire, another flared up. I was still sitting in my office, getting the last items crossed off the to-do list, at 5:30 this evening. Even if I let the traffic on the Interstate pull me along at what seems to be their new standard pace of 80 mph (which I did), there was no way I would be home in time for a ride today.

My flexible schedule will allow me to get in a ride on Friday…oh, wait! The car needs an oil change! I get to leave earlier than usual just to sit in a quick lube joint for a half hour (It never takes the 10 minutes they advertise).

When things work out just right, I can ride Tuesday, Friday, Saturday an Sunday. But it’s more likely things won’t work out right, and at least one of those four days will be a washout. It’s not that I have to get in those miles. It’s that I need to ride for my mental well-being. The bike takes care of both health aspects.

I suppose it’s all for the best, because when I do get a ride in, I treasure the time more. And besides, here I am complaining about not riding one day a week when my biking friends up north can’t get out at all. They’re either grinding away on their trainers in the basement, or pedaling or doing the elliptical machine or something else at the local health club. Maybe I don’t have it so rough after all.

A Chat With a Pickup Truck Driver

Debra with the fortunate wheel.

So I took everyone’s advice and rode with friends Sunday, rather than try for a high-mileage ride. It was a good choice, as always, because I rode in one of my favorite areas, with some of my favorite people. Debra, who organized the ride, was in fine form this day. She entertained us all with the story of how she ran over her carbon wheel with her SUV — and only wound up replacing a few spokes. Not a scratch on the wheel itself.

We rode near Dripping Springs, Texas, which I’ve written about before. Country roads in mostly good shape with little traffic, and enough hills to keep things interesting. Barbara, a former regular with our group, recently moved from Austin to San Antonio, and she made the trip up here to ride with us again. Since starting her new job, Barbara has ridden only a couple of times, so there was not going to be lots of speed or lots of distance as we helped her get back in the groove. Russ said he hasn’t ridden much, either. Only Jerry and his friend Nancy seemed to be up for a brisk ride. But Nancy was on a new bike — a nifty Jamis Xenith — that she hadn’t quite dialed in yet. She had some dropped chain problems and said her legs got sore when she tried to go fast. As it turned out, she kind of liked our lazy ride.

Nancy & Jerry on one of the typical roads in the area. (Click on the pix to enlarge.)

A herd of goats runs away as Barbara passes.

Stopping for a breather at a cattle guard. Nancy, Jerry, and Barbara.

As we gathered for a brief rest to let everyone catch up, a pickup truck stopped at a stop sign just opposite us. The driver rolled down his window and called out to us. “Ya know, sometimes it’s hard to see very far ahead on these curvy roads,” he began. He had our full attention now. We didn’t know if he was going to cuss us out or what. But he went on in a casual manner. “And sometimes, the way bikers ride around here can cause problems.”

Okay, we see where this is going, I thought. But I was surprised again. “I was riding along here not too long ago,” he continued, “and I came around a curve and here’s a whole group of cyclists coming at me. They covered the whole road from side to side. I was going to plow right into them. So I hit my brakes just as I came to a cattle guard. The truck skidded sideways across the guard. I coulda taken out the whole group. I coulda killed somebody.” The incident clearly had had an effect on him. “I was lucky not to hit anyone,” he said. “But I wish you all would watch how you ride and keep to one side of the road.”

“Yeah, I know the kind of cyclists you’re talking about,” said Debra. “I hate those types.”

That prompted a double take from the pickup driver. He obviously lumped all cyclists together. We wished him well, and pushed off on the last leg of our ride. He waved and continued on his way.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all biker-motorist meetings were this civilized?


Four Years of Noobishness

Yeah, do you believe it? This marks the fourth anniversary of the Bike Noob blog. One thing I’ve noticed since I started writing in 2008 is that cycling seems to have gained in popularity, so much so that it’s now featured in one of those Internet “what they think — what I think” memes that’s going around:

Click to embiggen.

That fits me to a “t” — especially the chimp. I’m him.

I’ve been wondering what keeps bringing people back here to read my posts, and it occurred to me that if I just dig into the statistics provided by the fine folks at WordPress, I might get a clue. So here are the five most popular Bike Noob posts of all time:

5. Metric century. I hadn’t checked all time stats for a while, and this one surprised me. It makes perfect sense, though. A metric century is probably the first major mileage milestone targeted by noob riders.

4. The Selle San Marco Ponza. This is the racing-style saddle I rode for about a year, including on two century rides. I wonder now how I did it, it was so uncomfortable after about an hour. The Ponza is a fairly well-known saddle, and I seem to get lots of traffic from people looking for a review.

3. Triple chainrings — or compact double? For a long time, this was the number one post on this site. I think once new riders get a bike and ride it for awhile, they start to wonder about the advantages or disadvantages of whatever chainring setup they don’t have. To the point that…

2. Triple vs. Compact Double –Again! is the second most-viewed post on the site. Folks, I think we’ve run out our discussion on this one.

And the most-viewed post on Bike Noob of all time?

1. CO2 cartridges or a pump? This post goes back to the first few months of this blog, so its longevity has something to do with its popularity. It’s also one that I listed in my “Favorite Posts” tab, which undoubtedly drove traffic to it. But clearly, these kinds of basic equipment discussions pique the interest of the target audience for Bike Noob — riders who are either new to our pastime, or who are looking for straightforward information about the basics of our sport. And to the post itself, altho I carry a cartridge and an inflator, I will still rely on the pump in the event of a flat.

So — equipment and/or accessories tops our interest quotient. That continues on down the list. Other popular posts include a survey of Speedplay pedals, cleat position (under the ball of the foot for power, but all the way back for long-distance comfort), wet or dry chainlube, and cyclocomputers.

My guest posters, Jeff Hemmel and Don Blount, have also contributed posts on equipment. Jeff’s reviews of the Bontrager Inform and Bontrager Affinity saddles are right up there in page views, as are Don’s posts on trainers vs. rollers and the Bont ctt3 shoes with the moldable insole.

It’s hard to pigeonhole the least-viewed posts — they tend to be all over the map, although many of them were posted in the blog’s first year, before Bike Noob caught fire and rose to become one of the pre-eminent blogs in all of bikingdom. Several of them had to do with specific rides I took. Lots of bike blogs write about rides, so maybe that shouldn’t be a focus here. We’ll see.

I’ve taken down the tab for Favorite Posts, simply because I think it has driven traffic to those posts to the exclusion of others, and for that reason I think I’m not getting an accurate picture of what really interests my readers. We’ll see if the stats appreciably change in the coming year. Besides, if I were to list what I consider MY favorite posts, they’d probably be a different five altogether. (Remember “Smoked By An Old Guy?”)

And while I’m mentioning Favorite Posts, I should note that after two years, it’s time to redo the look of this blog. Nothing drastic, but enough to keep it fresh.

Anyway, in the coming year, I pledge to try my best to keep you interested and engaged with what you read here, as you follow the ramblings of an oldish and unmechanically-inclined cyclist of middling ability and an entry-level bike who just happens to love getting out on two wheels.

Waiting to Ride

My Facebook fracas was resolved, and I’m now back on, thank goodness. I can’t imagine how I would live without Facebook for more than eight hours. What a hole that would put in my life…

Okay, let’s get back to biking. Except that I can’t. On Friday, I do a neighborhood ride I’ve dubbed the “Friday Niter.” (Which means I do it late in the afternoon, while there is still plenty of daylight.) Today I was looking forward to doing the Friday Niter during the day. I had a dentist’s appointment in the morning, and I’d brought work home, so I could do what needed to be done in the comfort of my living room. It turned out to be a perfect day to work in the living room, because with a steady rain throughout the day, there was no way I would get to do my Friday Niter. I’ll just have to wait for my Saturday morning ride.

That’s another neighborhood ride, but it’s longer than the Friday Niter, and includes some hill work. But with all the rain today, I decided I’d better check the forecast to see what kind of weather is expected. Rain again. Maybe it will clear up in the afternoon. That’s what the forecast says. But I know I still have lots of work around the house to do, so even if the rain does stop, I might be too busy to take a break and ride for almost two hours. So the Saturday ride is iffy.

That leaves Sunday. That’s the regular club ride morning. The A ride will go south on an out-and-back course that could cover anywhere between 45-58 miles. It’ll still be pretty chilly when the ride leaves at 8:15, but the day is supposed to warm up to 60 or so. I’m tempted to head out with them, because while I know I’ll be dropped after several miles, I need to get some distance under my wheels and ride longer than I’ve been used to lately.

But one of our friends posted a B ride in the Hill Country that would leave later, at 9:30 a.m. It’s not going to go as far as the A ride — not by a long shot. But it will be a social ride, because a former member of our group who moved out of town is coming back for a ride. So — go long or go with friends? I suppose that’s a good problem to have.

Facebook Troubles

Well, this is a heckuva thing to post to Bike Noob — but my Facebook account was hacked by someone who tried to co-opt it for a phishing scam. Facebook has disabled my account. When I try to reclaim it, it prompts me to set a new password. I’ve done that four times today. I’m running out of password ideas! Each time, it circles me back to the Reset Password page without letting me continue to reclaim my account.

Facebook’s “Help” page is completely automated, so I can’t find any help from them for my situation.

I will continue to post on Twitter, but not from the Bike Noob Facebook fan page. It looks like that page will be inactive for the foreseeable future. My five most recent tweets will continue to display in the right column of this blog.

I do have a Google+ account, which I might actually have to start using now. Unless I decide that I am perfectly content to live without Facebook. Which I might be.

Have any of you run into this kind of problem with Facebook? Any ideas how I can fix it without having to change my password again? How many of you have deactivated or deleted your Facebook accounts? What are the pros and cons of that?