Sunday, October 31, 2010

Smart yet Humble and My Gluteus Maximus

This is not actually MY gluteus maximus.

Cycling is very special in that it can keep a person smart yet humble.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I rode to the Philly Bike Expo yesterday.  It was a 30 mile ride.  Pretty early in the ride my knees started to hurt.  I've dealt with this issue before, and thankfully it hasn't been consistent.  However, whenever you feel pain or discomfort on your bike it needs to be addressed.  I began thinking of what might be causing my pain.  Is it the cold?  Is it that my rides are just too few and far between these days, so I'm just weak?  Is it my positioning on the bike?  Am I too low, too high, too close to the bars, too far?  Is my core just not strong enough?  I had to admit that I wasn't going to average above 10 miles per hour, and that I probably wasn't going to be able to ride the same 30 miles back home later in the day.  This is what I mean that cycling can keep you humble.

While I was at the expo I attended two seminars.  The first one was on bike fit presented by David Greenfield, president of Elite Bicycles.  First of all, he was hilarious.  He was very good at warming up a room, and has a special way of connecting with people.  He knows his stuff too, which was apparent from all of the appropriate big words he used for internal body parts.  The main insights I was able to garner from this session for myself personally (apart from having to pay alot of money to go through an awesome fitting session with him) is that I probably had a cleat adjustment to make, and I need to build my butt-strength.  You know, gluteus maximus.  Yeah, its kind of weak back there.  He talked about our muscles having force partners that counteract the movement of the other (like hams vs. quads).  He also talked about how important our vestibular connection is to having good balance.  I have yet to google vestibular.  I have yet to understand fully everything he was talking about. 

The other seminar I attended was a presentation on the U.S. Bicycle Boom of the 70's by Greg Honn.  He is the president of Milano Sport, which is a bicycle import company that I mentioned in my previous post.  He's been in the bicycle business for a very long time, and is very insightful and knowledgeable about it's history, inner workings, etc.  I forget what the context was, but he commented on bicycle fit, stating that the 109 percent of inseam is sufficient to achieve the optimum saddle height for any rider.  This was cited from Eugene Sloane's 'The Complete Book of Bicycling,' which was written in 1970.  I have actually owned this book for some time now.  [Here is an interesting Time article from 1970 that mentions Mr. Sloane.]  This scientific saddle height value came from experiments conducted at Loughborough University in England on 100 racing cyclists.  Here is how it works.  You stand straight against a wall (no shoes), and place something sturdy in your crotch, and have it touch the wall.  Mark where it touches the wall, then measure from the floor to that point.  Take that measurement and multiply it by 1.09.  The number you get is the number of inches or centimeters (depending on which you used initially) that the top of your saddle should be from the pedal spindle when the crank is low and in line with the seat tube.  

  I mentioned already how cycling is keeping me humble.  It is keeping me smart because I have to look at this pain issue and figure it out.  I realize it is a fit issue in two senses.  One being that I could be better physically fit, that is more in shape than I am.  The other is the actual fit of my body on the bike.  I know the frame sizes of my Fuji Touring Series IV and the Opus III are virtually perfect for me.  In fact, they are probably about as close as I could get to a custom made frame without actually going that route.  Sensing that the information I received at the two seminars were little insights into my present issue of discomfort, I utilized it hopefully to my benefit.  The first thing I did was adjust my cleats to match more the natural turn of my foot.  The second thing I did was actually do the 109 percent measurement.  Well, what I came up with after that is that the saddle on my Fuji Touring Series IV, the one I rode to the Expo, was actually about an inch lower than it should be for that measurement.  Initially I had set the saddle height of it at the same measurement (in inches) as my Fuji Opus III, which I had done a fitting on with Scott Paisley at BlueWheel bike shop in Charlottesville, VA.  However, what I forgot to take into account, and just realized tonight, is that when I did that I had on different pedals and shoes.  On those particular shoes were my cleats that added probably about half an inch to an inch of height.  The shoes I was wearing yesterday have recessed cleats in them.  The other shoes added height whereas these took it away.  I am really hoping that it is this factor that is the main cause of my knee pain, and not my weak gluteus maximus.

On a side note, Scott Paisley is one of the co-owners of BlueWheel in Charlottesville.  He and some of his custom frames are featured on the ClassicRendezvous website.

First Philly Bike Expo 2010

Yesterday, I rode my Fuji Touring Series IV from Collegeville to downtown Philly via the Perkiomen and Schulykill Trails to attend the first Philadelphia Bike Exposition.  The second and final day is today (Sunday October 31st, 2010).  It was organized by Bilenky Cycleworks and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.  That is Steven Bilenky in the picture above.    Many other small bicycle fabricators were represented at the expo.  Among them were Gallus Cycles, Cedarboro Cycles, Baltimore Bicycle Works, Folk Engineered Bicycles, and Banjo Cycles.  I'm sure I've left out at least a couple.  There is a list of everyone represented on the Expo website.  The big corporate companys were there too like Jamis and Fuji.  By the way, Fuji has a long history that goes back to Japan 1899.  The fujis I ride were made in Japan, but today they are made in Taiwan.  The company that sells fuji now (Advanced Sports) is actually based in Philadelphia.  

Let me mention a few other booths that stand out in my mind.  One is Christ Cycles.  They will have a custom, single speed bicycle made for you at low cost, helping those strapped for cash to get on a bike quickly and affordably.  A Canadian company called Velocolour will custom paint your frame.  His display bikes (one an unknown frame and the other an Olmo) were gorgeous.  Beautiful decal work as well.  I saw an outstanding looking Masi frame that was being sold by Milano Sport, an import company based in Connecticut.  The owner of that company also gave a seminar on the Bicycle Boom of 1968-1974 that I attended.  It was very insightful and informative.  

Advocacy groups in attendance were the League of American Bicyclists, PA Walks and Bikes, and the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia.  A few shops were there, like Trophy Bikes, and a few independent apparel shops were represented like the Sock Guy, Fabric Horse, and alloneword.  Again, a full list can be seen on the Expo website for others.  

I was able to park my bike at the free bike valet of which Neighborhood Bike Works was in charge.  They did an excellent job keeping everyone's bikes safe and secure.  Much thanks to them.  All in all, it was a well attended event.  It helped put bicycling and all of its many diverse facets more in the public eye.  The seminars were informative and professional.  

Friday, October 1, 2010

Child Bicycle Trailer Comparison: Trek vs. In-Step

(I recommend looking at more detailed photos on my flickr page here.)

I recently bought a different trailer in which to pull my daughters.  I thought I would do a comparison of them, hoping it might be beneficial to someone who is considering buying one.

  The In-Step Quick N' EZ came first.  You can read reviews about this trailer here.  Here is another review and probably a great resource.  Here is insteps website.   I bought it I think in 2008 from a local connection I had in Charlottesville.  It was new, but it may have been made a year or two earlier.  I paid $60 for it, but if I had bought it in the store I would have paid at least $80-$120 or so.  It is okay for light trail riding and slow rides around town for short distances, which is what I used it for in Charlottesville.  The longest trail was only a couple of miles long, and we lived downtown where traffic was light.  I would do a regular loop of about 5 miles when we would do our errands.  The wheels are not secure enough on this one to ride safely over 10 mph.  They are basically pins that you push in and secure by a latching mechanism.  The seat canopy is not really that supportive, and is connected to the frame by a strap that is screwed into it on each side, so it is not really that strong.  The strap is mediocre, and in fact, I had to sew a new strap onto the front part of the seat canopy after the original one ripped.  I had to remember after each ride to loosen the front seat strap to keep it from being stressed when folded.  That is actually how it ripped.  I forgot to loosen the tension before folding it.  Also, there is no extra room for the child's helmet so they have to sit with their head a bit forward where the helmet pushes against the back of the canopy.  The straps that go around the child come over the shoulders from the back and hooks onto a D-ring at the bottom of the seat.  This pulls the lower strap up into the child's crotch.  The windows are not tinted, allowing full sunlight in, and there are no side vents to allow for more air flow when the front protective flap has to be down due to wind, cold, or rain.  Apart from one rear reflector, there is no additional reflectivity integrated into the sides or rear of the trailer.  I had to add my own reflective triangle on the back.  On the plus side, it is light, it folds up well enough without too much hassle, and the point where it connects to the bike was secure and flexible.  Like I said, it is best suited to slow riding of short distances, and light paved trail riding.  

The Trek Transit Deluxe
You can read a review about this trailer here.  This one I bought used from a local bike shop for $175.  New it cost between $400 and $500.  It is about 7-8 years old.  The previous owners took excellent care of it.  This model has been discontinued.  In fact, I don't think Trek makes trailers anymore.  I've learned that even though it was sold by trek at the time, it was made by Chariot who still makes them.  It is basically the same trailer as the current Chariot Corsaire XL.  If you are a serious cyclist who wants to get some distance in, but you have to take your child, then this is the type of trailer you need!  First of all, the wheels are attached by quick release, just like the wheels on the bike.  This increases security and speed capability.  The seat is very sturdy and padded, increasing the comfort level for the child.  Also, there is an offset area for the helmet so the child's head is not pushed forward.  There are velcro corner vent flaps on the inside that can increase air flow when the front protective flap has to be down.  The windows are tinted for sun protection.  There are bright integrated reflective strips on both sides and the rear for improved visibility.  The strap set up to secure the child in this one is different.  Since the seating is sturdier, it is not pulled up into the child's crotch.  A shoulder strap from one side comes through a loop on the seat and hooks in to a connector above the other shoulder.  There is also padding on the straps for comfort.  This is definitely a more secure, comfortable set up.  The folding mechanism is quicker and easier.  It is a bit lighter than the In-Step trailer.  I haven't found anything negative to say about this one.  Here in Pennsylvania, I have access to 50 plus miles of great trails, and hope to get out there and ride them.  I will have to take the kids, so I needed something more suitable for their comfort and protection.  I found it in the Trek transit deluxe.  This is good for long rides at regular speeds.  

Price is always an issue for us.  That is why I wasn't able to buy a great trailer to begin with.  But I was patient, and am grateful to have found such a great trailer for less than half of what it cost new.  Since I want to go on longer rides now that I live somewhere with great off-road paved trails I really needed to get something more suitable to the comfort and protection of the kids.  I was ready to spend what I needed to spend to achieve that.  For anyone wanting to ride far, I recommend spending more to get the features of the trek transit deluxe for the sake of the kids.  It will be worth it.  I haven't researched all the new trailer options from Burley, Chariot, and others too much, and they may have some more great features of which I am not aware.  

Good luck, and I hope this helped.  Let me know if it did!  Don't forget to click my flickr link for more detailed pictures.