A little more info on wide tires

From Slowtwitch

Remember, if someone is talking only about tire pressure and never mentions sag (looking at you Jan Heine) they’re not giving you the whole story.

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The Freedom Matrix

Or; how I left the road race-industrial complex.

So much has happened in the past few months. Uh..well at least for my cycling life. If you live and ride a bike in the USA you’d be forgiven for thinking that riding fast and racing were the pinnacle of the experience. This has started changing in recent years but of all the pages printed and all the bandwidth used to discuss bicycle stuff, the majority is going to be about racing and “being fast.”

I got trapped into this myself. Started out innocuous enough; “riding a bike is fun and I see all these things about how racing is awesome so I should do that for the best cycling experience!”

This is wrong. Racing, especially road racing, is not the pinnacle of cycling and a lot of times is just a bunch of bullshit you don’t need. Now, I do like some racing but it’s important to know that being fast should be done sparingly. If you’re just riding around be sure to stop and take a picture or rest or turn off your route to investigate something cool. Sit down to eat your $2 stroopwafel.

For years it was so hard for me to do these things. I was so obsessed with being fast and riding hard so I could be a racer that I wasn’t actually doing things that made me happy. It seemed like I was, mainly because you punish yourself so hard that when you stop you immediately feel awesome and the cause/effect gets conflated. It feels the same as exploring a new route or seeing a beautiful vista or petting a stray cat but those things are not as hard as 195 beats a minute up a 11% grade trying not to get dropped so you can come in 50th our of 180 entrants.

So I’m still racing but now it’s more partici-racing. I’m more interested in the experience than the training or being fast. It’s fun to have an event to prepare for and attend on the weekend. Riding hard and then laying around and napping as the sun sets is such a wonderful experience. Legs sore and body pumping out drugs to make you feel good.

What’s really changed is how I ride now. I’ve abandoned any pretenses of riding fast or being fast on my regular rides. I just pedal along, ready to stop for anything interesting or to rest. It’s so liberating that I wonder how it was so easy to give up in the first place.

So what got me out and back into fun cycling?

  • A front rack – riding in regular clothes usually means you can’t carry much as pockets become unreliable. Having a front rack gives me my tools, food and other stuff right there. Also opens up the possibility of stopping to pick up something cool.
  • Street clothes – doesn’t feel as ridiculous to use a sidewalk to connect to a cool road I never rode before because there wasn’t a good way to get there. Also allows for easier stopping, don’t feel like a idiot sitting around in racing kit.
  • Just not being fast – my first few rides averaging less than 14 miles per hour were hard to deal with but now I don’t care. If I want to be fast I can pick a short segment and blow up there. My rides taken as a whole are for fun and exploration, not speed.

It’s not really much but just having a front rack is what opened up everything else. I can carry what I need so I’m never worried about being stranded and feel comfortable going pretty much anywhere.


I’m still waddling around on vestigial SPD-SL shoes but that’s the next item to change once spring hits.

Front loads and high trail Part 2

So I have almost two months riding this set-up, about 70 hours. Here are some things I’ve noticed. Remember this bike is set-up with 650bx42 tires and has a trail of 75mm.

The more I ride the set-up the better it feels. I seem to be adapting to the way the load changes the handling. Feels like a normal bike now whereas before it felt a little weird.

It’s more akin to riding a mountain bike than a road bike. Turning at high speed requires body english, leaning the bike and paying attention to where my weight is. It feels totally natural to go from my 80ish-mm trail 29er mountain bike to this bike.

It’s slower. On a strict mile-per-hour basis it doesn’t seem like much; maybe .5-.7 miles per hour per 3-4 hours. But really that’s around 3%-7% speed decrease, not insignificant in those terms. I think this might have to do with a combination of the cornering and climbing changes due to how the front load moves up and down as the handlebars move left and right. In essence, I’m not just pedaling the bike forward I’m keeping the front wheel tracking straight and this requires more power than before. My current load is only 2-3 pounds heavier than what I was carrying in my saddle bag and on my person so I’m not convinced it’s weight related. Might be small aero losses as well or that could just be from wearing a loose cotton t-shirt. Oh well.

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There’s an inspired confidence to being able to carry necessities in an easily accessible location. I roll around with a full my full winter complement of additional clothes and have no stress about being caught unaware by weather. If I decide to change my two hour ride to a four hour ride I have extra batteries and clothes to accommodate this.

Find a three pound 16-inch wrench in the middle of the road? Pick it up and strap it to your rack!

Lots of rain and 20 degree temperature variation? Strap all the clothes you own to your rack and go for a ride.

This needs a handlebar bag or basket or something. I’ve got a handlebar bag working but I’ve just been strapping stuff to the rack and each other like a bicycle hobo so it works ok but bags/baskets would be better.

I am deep into my imitation of Patrick Plaine, at least in style if not necessarily in substance.

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Still above is from this short film: https://vimeo.com/58201809

 

Signs and signals – what you wear and how people treat you

I started riding in a college town in late 2010 wearing regular clothes and a hat my girlfriend bought me. In the 8 months of so I was riding around town I only had one or two negative experiences that were relatively benign. Once a domino’s delivery driver buzzed me and once a drunk dude told me in a regular speaking voice to move out of the road. The times I was riding were mainly during the midday or late at night. Usual traffic was stay-at-home parents and college students.

Then I moved to a suburb of Atlanta in Gwinnett County in 2011. Much higher traffic roads and a much wider variety of road traffic. I wore the same type of regular clothes and hat and was riding in the morning after commuting hours. Usual traffic was stay-at-home parents, delivery truck and landscaping trucks. The only negative experience from 2011 to mid-2013 I remember was when a passenger opened his door to try to hit me as he was passing at more than double my speed. I followed him to his destination as the driver pulled in right after they passed me, he got out, walked to his pouch and started ranting at me. I think he had some mental issues as his posture and syntax was really strange. I just watched from across the street for a bit and then rode off.

In the spring of 2013 I bought a road bike and started racing. I bought racing kit, a helmet and stopped wearing regular clothes. In the 6 months I rode around Gwinnett County wearing racing kit I had several negative experiences. Several times I was honked at, people flipped me off, a high school student tried to brake check me into the curb/back of his car. Once a old man honked and yelled at me as he passed and then pulled over at the next turnout and got out of his car – I just rode by confused at his aggressive posture and screaming. People also seemed to pass closer and faster and use less care in choosing where to pass.

There are other incidents I cannot recall but the experiences live on in license plates kept in my notes and Strava titles listing make/model of car but nothing else.

It’s hard to quantify the changes and kind of hard to say my experience was in any way objective but truly I noticed a difference in how I was treated on the road due to a simple change of attire. I’ve been thinking about this recently as I’ve abandoned wearing racing style cycling kit. I ride in a t-shirt, cutoff shorts and a cap under my helmet. It’s been about three months and I’ve noticed the same changes mentioned above. People just don’t treat you quite so shit when you’re wearing regular clothes. Now, I read enough about other’s experiences to know that regular clothes are not armor against impatience and a 4,000 pound automobile but they do seem to tone down the aggression from drivers.

What it is about racing kits that signals to drivers that this person requires less care and caution?

 

Bike food v. real food 

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Now that I’m more budget conscious I’ve been thinking about food. It’s always just kind of assumed that bike food is a luxury item and the costs are significantly above what one would pay for “real food.”

This came up recently in a slowtwitch thread:

I really don’t think triathlon is expensive if you choose to be cheap. I’ve been on 6 hour riders eating my peanut butter sandwiches and water and person beside me is eating $20 worth of gels (10-12 gels) and pre bottled Gatorade ($2 per bottle). That ride cost me around $1.

Thread here, it’s not a great read since triathletes are pretty disconnected from reality and most of the posters on slowtwitch are pretty rich so it’s more like 2-steps than 1-step.

The actual comment is pretty stupid, $1 worth of food for a 6 hour ride? Probably not. The sentiment remains; gels, “pre-bottled” gatorade – specialty bike food is seen as expensive. It’s smart and frugal to make your own food and bring it with.

But, is it frugal? is it smart? And if so, how smart? How frugal?

I made a table with the cost per serving and per calorie for all the sports candy I just purchased compared to real food items that I have seen suggested for consumption during rides.

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So the poster above rode for 6 hours eating PB&J? Using the cheapest available items from Walmart and not factoring in any cost associated with travel, prep time and so forth. He must have only eaten 1 sandwich of 380 calories. Seems a little low for a 6 hour ride?

My point is that bike food, like most food, will trend towards the lowest market price. And really for what it is I think it’s a great deal. I can buy small packets of food that will fuel me at a high level of physical exertion for several hours. They remain edible for weeks, are unaffected by temperature and are packaged in containers that can be jostled/dropped/squeezed without failure. I can order these delivered to my house for around $0.50 per 100 calories or a half-cent a calorie. This seems like a pretty good deal.

I’m not coming to this blind. I’ve done the DIY powerbars, the rice cakes in their stupid wax paper/foil wrapper, baked potatoes in plastic bags with salt and PB&J getting smushed in my pocket. “Real food” sucks for cycling – it takes time to go buy, time to prepare, is heavy and does not last more than one ride. I can carry a powerbar in my pocket on a six hour ride in 95 degree weather, sweat all over the wrapper and if I don’t eat it, it’s still good tomorrow or next month.

So no, I do not think real food is a smart choice for cycling. It’s also not especially frugal as travel, prep and wastage add up.

You want to save money? Supplement your regular bike food with gatorade/powerade powder. It’s extremely cheap and essentially the same nutrition as eating a gel. I like to put gatorade as my first edible so I always eat it first and do not waste it as it does not really keep after a day or so. After that I’ll go to the more expensive bars or gels or something. This is $0.17 per 100 calories and is probably the best price for a convenient bike food. You can even carry the powder and mix later during your ride if you don’t want to commit to mixing right away if you’re worried it will go unused.

Winter Clothing Considerations and Other Stuff

This is kind of dumb but I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit.

So I’ve been riding in a cotton t-shirt with a wool/polypro pullover on top and have been much warmer than previous years where I wore a jersey and baselayer.

I’m wondering if I’m just acclimated to the cold or if there’s a difference between relative warmth of a slightly looser baselayer/top and a tight fitting jersey.

I’m thinking my body does better by being insulated through tiny warm air pockets near my skin from looser fitting tops than it would by a thick(er) layer right against the skin.

I remember getting up early to ride in November dressed in regular kit, coasting down the hill out of my apartment and getting blasted by a freezing wind that cut right through my kit. Turned around, went home and went back to bed. I have yet to have that knife-edge wind wearing looser tops. A lot of the polypro clothing I have is just cold feeling too. I’ve never gotten out of a shower during the winter and been like “Oh man I really want to put on one of those 100% poly racing t-shirts.”

They’re just colder I guess.

But really maybe this is just a renaissance of going back to how I used to ride. Cut-offs, t-shirts, a hat and my bicycle.

Which moves me to another thing I’ve been thinking about. When I first, first started riding if someone asked me how my bike rode I would respond like this:

“Man, fixed gear riding is so fun. It feels so fast and looks so cool. I got wide tires (lol @28s) and they ride really well and sometimes it’s bumpy and sometimes I feel slow and shitty but I really like riding and going places I’ve never been and seeing how fast I can ride sometimes.”

Now? Someone asks me and I respond like an asshole:

“Well, 650b is obviously more cush than a 700c tire but I’ve found it to be slower as well. I like the cornering on pavement but the back end seems to be a little too stiff, look at those chainstays. I think overall the blend of road and mountain technologies is a good thing but it’s not quite perfect yet. The bike feels good on most terrain but I think the stiffness of the frame and especially the front end give it sort of a dead feeling on gravel and rough terrain. It doesn’t necessarily plane for me but in some instances it performs really well.”

‘Course this is just symptomatic of the bigger issue of having 6 bikes, discretionary income, and no real time obligations outside of a job. Back when I was poor, unemployed and living at my mom’s house “things” were a lot easier because there wasn’t any other option. Try to find a job, spend time with my family and ride my bike. It was nice I guess.