First Audax of 2014

I was originally going to kick off 2014 with a 200km ride to celebrate not having a cold any longer, but I decided to truncate it to a 150km to better fit around family.

The route was pretty much a straight shot from Aldershot to Bristol, exploring a few more of the roads north of the M4.

This was the first proper test of the Lynskey Sportive Disc (LSD), here posing while I ate lunch.

Sportive Disc

I still don’t like the height of the rear rack (who needs 6″ clearance from the wheel), but it was the only light one I could find that would also mount a light, which is essential because my rack top bag prevents me from using a seatpost mounted one.

I was a little disappointed by the total and moving average (not as good as my 300km last year!), given I had a mild tailwind all the way. The total average wasn’t helped by getting a puncture at 1/3 distance when I didn’t really gain anything by stopping, then having to stop about 4-5 times to put on and take off my rain jacket. The moving average I don’t think was helped by my foolish use of too many country lanes, many in a terrible condition (which also contributed to the puncture I think). The roads between the M3 and Overton, Whitchurch and the A4 and Broad Hinton to the M4 were particularly lousy. However, the section between Marlborough and Broad Hinton was particularly scenic and a pretty good surface. Also, Chipping Sodbury and Yate provided rather welcome cycle lanes and smooth roads. More A4 next time!

By the time I got to Chipping Sodbury, the weather had degenerated to 3 degrees and heavy sleet, a good test of my wet weather set-up. This came through with flying colours: Sealskinz gloves and socks, Specialized rain jacket and Gore “Windstopper Softshell” bib tights.

The bike / Rivet Diablo / Thudbuster  definitely absorbed the bumps better than the Sirrus, but I still had a little saddle soreness, partly from the non-integral  seatpad (old) and perhaps the saddle angle (I had a go on my mum’s bike with no soreness, but getting back on mine the next day was not so pleasant). Still some work to be done.

One thing that was a massive improvement with the LSD was the brakes (which was why I got it). I no longer had to fear building up any speed in the wet, because I could be confident I could actually slow the thing down. I also didn’t end up with aching hands at the bottom of every ugly descent. Disc brakes, yes.

Back in action

After a good three months of feeling ill or my wife being horribly ill, I’ve finally gotten a ride in. Also the first trip with the Raptobike tailbox. Unfortunately, because it was only 20 miles, I didn’t really need it to carry anything. I put a rain jacket in it anyway, just because I could.

The speed wan’t as good as it has been, but the wind was strong, so I probably couldn’t have done that time on the race bike. In fact, there was a good lowracer demonstration. A “team kit” type on a road bike followed me up a 5% hill. Then we turned into the wind and only a 1% hill and the poor fellow dwindled into a tiny dot, then disappeared.

Motorway cycling

Recent BBC article that ended up on the front page of the website raised two questions with me.

The first point, which is bound to come up everywhere else in the cyclosphere is the reaction / reporting of the incident.

“You didn’t notice him until you were right up close to him. He came out of nowhere.”

Aside from sounding very SMIDSY, this ignores the fact the cyclist shouldn’t be in a position to be run into given that this chap was riding down the hard shoulder.

I’ve also never seen a front page article such as: “Person drives like a fool, has a crash, took me 3 hours to get home”.

The second point is that maybe it’s time to get people cycling on motorways. Below is a detailed analysis of the pros and cons of using motorways for cycling compared to other roads:

Road type People driving really fast Huge segregated piece of tarmac people don’t drive on Lots of junctions / side roads (where most cycling accidents occur)
City road :( / :) :( :(
A / B Road :( :( :( / :)
Motorway :( :) :)

[edit] My wife has verbally trolled me along the lines of “what about motorway junctions?”. Well, the junctions of major A-roads (which are legally cyclable) present a similar problem. Some I’ve seen use a scheme by which cyclists go down the slip road a little before crossing perpendicular to the traffic. Not sure this would work with 2-3 lane slip roads (maybe some investment in small tunnels / bridges?). However, I  stand by my “scoring” because motorway junctions tend to be further apart and the “junctions” I’m referring to are of the side road / roundabout type where SMIDSY occurs because the cyclist has right of way and is not seen / ignored.

Motorways may not be cycling Nirvanas, with slip road crossing introducing delays and getting onto motorways involving death defying roundabouts. However, once on, you would have a few miles of partially segregated “infrastructure” to ride on, so let’s not be so hard on this fellow who was finding a better way to get to work.

Bike Timeline

For fun, I recently put my bike “history” into pictorial form.

The columns represent the purposes of the bikes. Left to right: general purpose (now icy commuting & child pulling); race / commuting; recumbent and folding. I could probably justify 3 of the “strands”. The race bike I use to commute, the Brompton means I never have to use the Underground and the old MTB I use when it’s icy, fit really heavy child pulling racks etc and leave in places I’d never leave the others. The recumbents are an experiment. They look cool and may well be the best solution for a long distance, but  I don’t use them enough to really call them practical.

Bike life

Velokraft Tailbox

I took delivery of my Velokraft tailbox today (after only 4 months wait!), and a very nice piece of kit it is too. It’s about the same weight as the mudguard that needed to be removed to fit it! The nice people at Bikefix fitted it for me.

Here’s a picture of the assembled beauty, taking advantage of South West Trains’ bike space. Glad I didn’t try this at rush-hour!

Raptobike with tailbox

There was much appreciation of the box outside the shop from various recumbenteers, including a velomobile rider. Also, someone wandering about on his lunch break took the time to say, “that’s awesome” as I waited at lights.

Cycling mileage 2013 vs 2012

Straight onto the stats.

2012 2013
Miles Count Miles Count
Brompton 821.9 175
Sirrus 611.83 20 2529.39 124
Sirrus Light 1597.21 75
Khatmandu 42.55 3 84.94 8
Khatmandu – ice 190.15 11
Windcheetah 53 3
Raptobike 49.17 5
Mum’s Raleigh 8.6 1
TOTAL 1537.88 202 4450.86 223

Massively more miles, mainly because I’ve been cycling 9 miles each way to work rather than 2.5, which was the case for the majority of 2012.

Less miles than the All Season Cyclist and I haven’t even had surgery or live somewhere where it’s freezing half the year! However, I do have children, which means I tend to prefer being with them rather than on the road.

Rivet Diablo vs Brooks Swift comparison

Six months ago, I decided to take the plunge and buy a Brooks, given their reputation for being good over long distances.

I decided to get a Swift. The B17 was recommended for a more upright position, which left the Team Pro, Swift and Swallow. The Swallow seemed too expensive. I contacted Brooks to ask the difference between the other two and they told me that the Swift was preferable for lighter people, so that’s what I got.

Having ridden the Swift for > 500 miles, I still wasn’t getting on with it, though I did like the leather feel. My legs would cramp rides, my buttocks would ache (possibly leading to the cramps) and I had a pain down the side of my leg. I tried many different heights, angles etc, with similar results. For the sake of experiment, I borrowed a friends B17. I found it very comfortable, but too wide for me. I think my thighs would have been chafed over a longer distance by the leather sides flaring out under my weight. With this in mind, I had a look round for something a similar shape to the B17, but narrower.  On the way, I found someone with the same mission as me: http://www.randorichard.com/hints-helps/saddles.

The shortlist became:

  • Brooks Swallow – still too expensive
  • Selle Anatomica - sounded like it would have the same problems as the B17
  • B17 Narrow – score on the narrow front, but I think the flanges on the sides would still squish outwards into my thighs, at least when it got worn
  • Rivet Diablo – similar looking to the Sallow, but cheaper

I liked the Rivet website, because it went from first principles about what saddle to select, unlike some British manufacturers who’s product descriptions are all about how nice they look! I measured my sit bones (which I should have done much sooner and they came out to 110mm, which should have been fine for all the saddles I’ve owned, but would explain the B17 being too wide. Having had trouble with the Brooks, I found the importer of Rivet’s to the UK and asked if I could borrow one. The nice people at Carradice let me have a demo Diablo for 3 weeks, which let me give it a thorough test, including a 100k ride and 200+ miles of commuting. I really liked it and will hopefully be getting one for Christmas :-).

Comparing the saddles, I think I can see why I didn’t get on with the Swift. Diablo is white (not my choice), Swift is black. Remember that the Rivet is a demo model so has a few wear marks, apparently the latest model is also 2cm shorter.

WP_000955 WP_000956 WP_000957

What’s difficult to see from these pictures are the contours of the saddles. To do this, I cut some strips about as wide as my sit bones and wrapped them onto the contours, with the following results.

WP_000960 WP_000962 WP_000966 WP_000967WP_000961 WP_000965

You can see that there is quite a large flat area on the Diablo where my sit bones could rest, then a quick drop off. The Swift starts curving down from a tiny flat area at the back, so that either I had my buttocks on the rivets or I had my sit bones significantly lower than the middle, which I don’t like as my perineum is a little sensitive. This would explain why I always seemed to prefer sitting at the back of the Swift. The top of the Swift also has a significant curve to it, which either exacerbated my perineum trouble if tilted back, or pushed into my buttocks when tilted forwards.

Perhaps with slightly narrower sit bones (or even some suspension), the Brooks would come into it’s own. I do enjoy the freedom my legs have on the Swift and I can’t imagine I’d get any sores in the area where it drops off. The narrower nose of the Swift could be an advantage as well, but I quite like sitting on the TT bars, where a slightly broader nose is nice.

Only time will tell if the Diablo works of 200k+ rides, but initial results are good for commuting and 100km, which bodes well.

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