Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Curious Case of the 3-Speed Hill Climb



For a good few years after I first began cycling, I was quite weak at climbing hills. For steep gradients in particular, I needed low gears, a lightweight bike. And by 'needed' I don't mean preferred; I mean that I would be walking otherwise.

Three years of living in Ireland changed that. I am not the strongest cyclist out there by far. But I've adapted to my surroundings. And my surroundings are hilly! If I'm riding long distance, I sill prefer to have (and use) low climbing gears. But when it comes to each hill on an individual basis, I no longer strictly speaking 'need' a super-low gear to scale most of the ones within commuting distance.


Monday, February 20, 2017

When They Were Good



A friend of mine owns a late 1980s Claud Butler roadbike. And whenever I have occasion to look at it, I experience a mix of feelings that, for the longest time, I could not quite place.

Once in a while the bike is extracted for show-and-tell. Neighbours gather round.

"Ah this one's from back in the day," one says, "when they were good." And he points to the lugs, the Reynolds 531 decal on the frame. Others nod understandingly.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sticky, Squishy Love, Part II: Of Tubeless Tyres, Their Joys and Sorrows



On the heels of a certain holiday which celebrates all things heart shaped, I thought it apt to post this second installment of 'Sticky, Squishy Love.' In Part I, as you might recall, I shared some notes on my experience with tubular tyres. Allow me now to share my experience with tubeless setups.

By way of a basic introduction, the term ‘tubeless' refers to a clincher tyre and rim setup, which foregoes the use of an inner tube. Instead, the tyre is inflated directly. To the naked eye, a tubeless tyre and rim look identical to an ordinary clincher setup. However, it requires some modifications. Namely, the rim needs to be completely sealed to ensure no air leaks from any part of it. Also, a valve needs to be sourced, since the tube it would normally be integrated with is absent. Finally, a specially formulated sealant is pumped into the tyre prior to inflation.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Yesterday's Champagne



In college I had a friend who was known for one curious thing. Any time she would attempt to throw a party, some inexplicable calamity would halt the festivities. The causes were as varied as they were dramatic. A fall necessitating a trip to the ER. A flood in the building. The death of a relative. A cat giving birth in the basement. Food poisoning. Leaking carbon monoxide. A hurricane. Those of us close to her grew so used to this state of affairs, we did not even bother to show up for whatever event she'd invite us to. Instead, we would come on the following day, to help clean up and sip on stale champagne whilst listening to her recount what had happened. It was all a rather hilarious, pathetic mess. And truth be told, we enjoyed it more than the more 'successful' parties we had gone to.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Cycling With Your Legs



A few months ago I underwent some minor surgery in the abdominal area. In the aftermath I was on two weeks mandatory rest from bicycles entirely. Then two more weeks of riding upright bicycles only. After that, the cycling ban was lifted, albeit with a warning not to strain my pelvic or abdominal muscles.

"Well, that should be fine," I thought, "I mostly cycle with my legs after all." And for the first time in a month I set off on my roadbike.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Bookman Curve: Eye Candy You Can See In the Dark



Of all the fetishes one might develop for bicycles and their accoutrements, thankfully I never had a thing for lights. Living in the countryside these days, I mainly want my bicycle lights to be bright. If, at the same time they manage to be fairly lightweight, easy to recharge, visually inoffensive, and reasonably priced, I am happy enough to give them no further thought.

Unfortunately, the Swedish designers at Bookman seem intent to change this sane state of affairs. While I've always found their tiny LED concoctions visually compelling, their latest iteration of the Curve takes it one step too far. When I see these lights, I want to touch them, sniff them, eat them, decorate my body with them... And yes, I know this isn't a normal reaction! Or is it exactly the reaction they want?.. Well, we'll have to ask them. But their confectionary aesthetics aside, are these objects more than just eye candy? Read on and decide for yourself. Or better yet, take one and find out firsthand. Because the samples are free to a good home.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Stranger In a Strange Land? Some Musings on Revisiting the Coaster Brake



As mentioned earlier, I am in temporary guardianship of a small lot of vintage bicycles, of various styles and stages of decrepitude. While the majority of the bikes are English 3-speeds, hiding among them was this classic Dutch omafiets. Although it has clearly seen better days, the bike is actually not that old: judging by its parts and styling, I would estimate the late 1980s. And despite its dire condition, I was pleased to discover that it is perfectly ridable, if rattly and creaky. So I've been using it for local errands for these past couple of weeks, delighting in the novelty of its ultra-upright position, boat-like steering, and other bits of traditional Dutch-bikeyness.

Among these features is, of course, the coaster brake.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Frustrations, Transformations, and Biological Limitations: On Watching My Husband Become a Cyclist Again



I did know the entire time that it was only temporary. Like one of those stories, where a girl finds a weakened wolf cub, takes it in and nurses it to health as if it were a puppy, only to realise - once it gets better and starts doing scary wolf things - that it really is a wolf after all. I knew that it was only a matter of time until the tables would turn and I - with all my advice, encouragement, and energy - would be left in the dust, smarting with disappointment.

"But then so what?" I thought, and feigned a cool anticipation of this inevitable outcome.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Slower In the Cold? Facts and Psychosomatics



It seems like I've had a few conversations lately where cyclists have mentioned off-handedly the notion of being "slower" in the cold. Since I don't experience this phenomenon myself, my gut reaction is to question it, which, in turn is met with insistence that it's a well known fact, complete with Reasonable Explanations.

Here are some popular explanations I've heard:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sticky, Squishy Love, Part I: Some Notes on Tubular Tyres



I had no preconceived notions of tubular tyres, until I tried them, for the first time, 6 years ago. A friend in Vienna lent me his track bike thus equipped. I had it for about two weeks and rode it for hours on end around the nearby park and countryside. I do not recall the brand or model of the 23mm tubulars. But the memory of their soft, squishy, very particular ride feel stayed with me for some time and I knew that some day, when the opportunity presented itself, I would have a set of tubular wheels for one of my own bikes.

The opportunity presented itself this summer, when a friend agreed to build me a set of lightweight "vintagey" wheels (this was the prequel to my learning to do it myself). He suggested using tubular rims for the build, and I readily agreed. On riding my bike with the new wheels, I was so ecstatic that my husband grew curious and wanted in on the action. So we built him some tubulars too. And he liked them so much, that he then built another set for his second bike. Long story short... 6 months later and with 3 sets of tubular wheels between us, we feel sufficiently committed to this setup to have now sold off most of our clincher wheels.

Why? Well, I can only speak for myself. And here are some notes on my experience.