Out of Commission

I haven’t gotten in a lot of biking lately. Not only have I been caught up in the end of the semester crunch at the university, but my road bike has been acting up.

A week ago, I found myself unable to shift from the small chainring to the big one. I had to abandon a ride and get home, although that was the same ride where I discovered the broken spoke. I finally got the bike into the shop on Wednesday, where the mechanic listened to my shifting complaint and examined the bike. The chain is okay, since it’s fairly new. But he didn’t like the look of the big chainring.

“You’re missing the little pin that grabs the chain so it can move onto the big ring,” he said. “You’re going to need a new chainring.”

He thought he could get one into the shop the next day. But that didn’t happen, and I didn’t pick up the bike until Friday afternoon, after getting home from some Christmas shopping. Because of the lateness of the afternoon, I was unable to get the bike out for a shakedown cruise.

Saturday was mountain biking day, as we headed for a mountain bike park more than 60 miles from home. The ride was great fun, and although my friend Maggie and I took the “beginner” ride with an experienced leader, we agreed it provided plenty of challenges for us, and was just the ticket.

We figured that Sunday would be a recovery ride day on the road bikes. On the way over to the meetup place, I noticed that shifting to the big ring wasn’t as smooth as I’d like, but at least it worked. I liked the sound of a silent bike again.

We broke away from the main group several miles into the ride, and pointed ourselves toward the Veloway to do some slow laps. But as I pedaled along, I felt a snap.

The errant shift cable.
The errant shift cable.

The shift cable for the rear cassette broke away from the shifter. I was stuck in the smallest rear cog, and while I could pedal, it wasn’t going to be easy. I parted ways with Maggie and limped home.

After parking the bike in the garage, and showering and changing, I went back out to get a picture of the problem. And there it was — the rear tire had gone flat. First flat on the tire since I bought it last summer. Fixing the flat will be no problem, but the bike goes back to the mechanic this week — and I hope the shift cable can be repaired without me having to buy a whole new shifter.

In the meantime, I’m back to mountain biking for awhile.

The Kinda, Sorta Garmin Edge Review

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel is back, with a look at an item the Bike Noob has so far successfully avoided.

HemmelsRide2Judging by the stems and handlebars of an increasing number of riders, Garmin is taking over the cycling world. Or at least, the bike computer part of it. Seemingly everyone has, or wants, one of the brand’s pricey little, GPS-equipped Edge units. Ray confirms he’s about the only one in his group who doesn’t use one. Fellow guest blogger Don Blount is a longtime user. I’m not immune to the little gadget’s allure. When I got the chance to test ride an Edge 500 for myself (I have a relationship with Garmin through my real-world job in the boating industry), I jumped at the chance. Normally, that would result in a standard-issue review, but considering that by now endless other outlets have already done that job quite well, I decided to take a different approach.

Jeff's Garmin Edge. Yeah, he recently did a century. But he says he's not bragging. (Click to embiggen.)
Jeff’s Garmin Edge. Yeah, he recently did a century. But he says he’s not bragging. (Click to embiggen.)

To be blunt, I decided to look at why so many riders had happily purchased a computer that costs several hundred dollars, when far cheaper alternatives — that do the basics quite well — could be had for much less.

For my friend John Matthews, part of the answer was the unit’s multitude of features. “It goes so far beyond the standard wired or wireless bicycle computer that there really isn’t any comparison,” he says of his compact Edge 500, referencing the computer’s ability to display not only speed, time and distance, but up to 61 other pieces of data including cadence, heart rate, elevation, lap times, and grade. Don agrees. “Lots of data,” he notes, while also pointing out the Edge’s accuracy, long battery life (12-18 hours), and auto shutoff feature. “That saves me from putting my bike away, forgetting to shut it off and discovering before my next ride that it is not charged.”

John also points out the unit’s ability to be easily transferred and configured to multiple bikes, and the Edge’s extensive customization potential. On the 500, up to five separate screens can be individually configured, with as little as one — or as many as eight — information fields per page. John also found the customization process, and the unit’s overall operation, highly intuitive and “ridiculously” easy to learn.

It seems to me that an equal part of that answer, however, is that a lot of us take our riding pretty seriously. As the Edge units are ANT+ compatible, they work seamlessly with any number of external add-ons, including wireless heart rate monitors, cadence sensors, even power meters. They can also record and store all sorts of stats from multiple rides for those who like to upload the information to sites like Garmin Connect or Strava. Don notes Garmin’s online log allows him to “download my data and compute totals and compare as far back as when I first began using a Garmin.”

Stats recording was a compelling reason for another friend, Tim Robinson, who purchased a touchscreen Edge 800, a larger device that includes color maps and can display turn-by-turn directions. Tim likes to track his rides, but found fault with the current slate of smartphone apps. “I had been using MapMyRide and Strava on my cellphone, but it would die part way through a big ride,” says Tim. “I wanted something that would do the same thing, but keep my cellphone fully charged for emergencies.” As part of our local group had recently taken to heading out of town for hillier rides in preparation for Georgia’s Six Gap Century, he also wanted a unit that would show his position and a route map so he wouldn’t get lost if he got dropped from the group.

As to Edge model’s high price points, all seemed willing to make the investment. John contends his 500 is actually a great deal. “I have not found anything else that comes close to this functionality,” he says.

Initially, I thought I’d go back to my previous computer after my test period with the Edge 500 ended, but now I, too, have grown pretty attached. Why? All of the above. Like Tim, I also got frustrated with the Strava iPhone app killing my phone battery. That same app also seemed to not accurately record my elevation, a minor detail but something I like to track when I get the chance to do some serious climbing. I also like the Edge’s ability to be recharged via the same USB cable that uploads its data to my computer. My old computer’s battery indicator was woefully inaccurate, and batteries died unexpectedly several times.

What’s not to like? Don notes the somewhat flimsy, rubber O-ring mounting system. He’s opted for a stiffer mount from BarFly that also puts the computer ahead of the handlebars. I’ve tried a similar mount from K Edge that I would recommend. Don also adds the 500’s side-mounted buttons can be cumbersome to use if you’ve also got a light close by on your handlebars.

Still, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives…but is that enough to justify the expense? I guess the answer will depend on how serious you are about your cycling, how obsessive you are about your stats, and maybe just whether or not you think there’s better stuff to spend your money on.

Clearly a lot of people, however, are living on the Edge…pun intended.

Pull It Down

On our Sunday club ride, we were joined by our friend Jerry, whose bad crash and broken leg I detailed in a post earlier this year.

Although Jerry has done some riding on the tandem he shares with his wife, this was his first ride on the roads with the club since his crash. Jerry has always been one of the more cautious riders I know, which is funny, because he’s also one of the faster riders in the club. But to ease back in, he decided to ride with the B’s today. He had decked himself out in a new kit, all in hi-visibility green — including his new helmet. He would be hard to miss.

Our ride was more like an A- group. A lot of folks decided the planned A ride wasn’t to their liking. Jordan came up with a good route, so some of us scrapped our plans in order to go with him. We had some strong riders, several who just wanted to take it easy after a grueling ride Saturday.

The ride got off to an inauspicious start. Just miles in, Maggie called out that she was abandoning. She had gotten a new crankset Saturday, and it wasn’t working out well. A clicking sound that started almost immediately got worse and worse. She decided to head home, and run her bike back to the bike shop for an adjustment.

After a quick run out to the zoo area, which features a nice, fast, twisty downhill, we had to turn around and head back up the hill. The group stayed together, which helped to negotiate the traffic, that was heavier than normal this morning.

Kenny was the next one to go. He had done one of the tough rides the day before, so he peeled off to head home after about 12 miles. Six of us were left to head east, and take a leisurely ride through a nice neighborhood on its ring road — a wide, smooth thorofare with almost no traffic.

It was after we left that spot, and were headed back to the start, that we regrouped at a stop light. Laura turned around to make sure we were all there, and noticed Jerry at the back.

Not Jerry.
Not Jerry.

“What’s with your helmet, Jerry?” she asked.

We all turned around to look.

Jerry’s lime green new helmet was sitting funny, way back on his head. He wears an orange cycling cap under his helmet, but his forehead was now mostly unprotected.

“Pull it down, Jerry!” exclaimed Laura. “You look like an amateur!”

I’ve never had a problem with wearing my helmet too far back on my head. I’ve caught my wife doing it, and gently had her pull it down. If your forehead isn’t covered, an important part of your head isn’t getting the protection it needs.

Kids seem to have the biggest problem with this. Maybe it’s because their helmets are too big off the shelf anyway. Maybe they think it’s more comfortable to wear the helmet back.

Be sure to do your kids — and your riding companions — a favor if you see this problem. Just tell them to pull it down.