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.