Friday, January 6, 2012

Side by Side

Bikeyface and Our Bikes
My last ride of 2011 was with the delightful Bekka of Bikeyface, who is slowly but surely getting drawn into roadcycling (eeexcellent). We've been practicing our "epic" faces, as you can see. 

Ride Studio Cafe
We had some things to talk about, so we decided to "go for coffee" - a 20 mile ride to the Ride Studio Cafe and back. 

Breaking the Bike Rack at RSC
Once there, we nearly took the rack down with 60lb of collective bike poundage, but never mind!

Bekka's Surly Cross Check
The weird thing about riding with Bekka, is that her bicycle - a Surly Cross-Check - is the same make and model as the Co-Habitant's bike - only about half the size and built up very differently. The smaller sized Cross-Check frames have sloping top tubes and different seat tube angles (75° on the 42cm frame vs 72° on the 62mm frame), so altogether her bicycle registers as sort of the same bike as his, but not really. Freaky. And it also goes to show that when reading bicycle reviews and test ride reports, it's worth paying attention to the size of the bike described - this factor can make a difference. But despite the blatant differences in frames, both Bekka and the Co-Habitant are quite happy with theirs, so it seems fair to conclude that the Cross-Check is a crowdpleaser.

Surly Cross Check, Rivendell Sam Hillborne
With Bekka on the Surly and me on the Rivendell, we were pretty well matched for speed, which was nice. It was a quiet morning just before New Year and we were able to ride side by side some of the time. I used to be vehemently against cycling side by side on the road - especially in the city - because I felt that this distracted me from paying attention to traffic. Now I am less vehement about it, simply because I've ridden with people who cycle side by side as a matter of course and have learned to adapt. Still, I seldom have a good feeling about it. While in Massachusetts it is legal to ride two abreast, one could argue that doing so is not always practicable, and therefore not in good faith. It has also been known to provoke driver aggression. The local cyclists I've been riding with are split on this one, with some groups prohibiting riding two abreast and others insisting on it, so I am getting some rather mixed messages. I'd like to decide on a policy and stick with it without being influenced by the people I am riding with, but haven't made up my mind yet.

Surly Cross Check, Rivendell Sam Hillborne
Switching from "lone wolf" cycling to riding with others has caused a rather dramatic upheaval in my little world. I had tried the social cycling thing before and did not enjoy it, but somehow this time around it clicked. Suddenly I have a full "dance card" of cycling events every week, and in the winter at that. Not that I am complaining! But this is definitely a new era, and I am curious what the future will bring. 

58 comments:

  1. One of the really nice things about Dutch cycling infrastructure is that it's designed for side-by-side cycling (I'm a huge fan of cycling at the speed of chat). And it's not just a luxury - not only does it allow faster cyclists to overtake slower ones without bugging them, but it also allows parents to cycle alongside their children with a helping hand on their backs to push them along - you see this all the time with the littler kids. It solves the problem of allowing kids to cycle independently but without having to go at the speed of a tired and cranky four-year-old.

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  2. My view on riding side-by-side with people is much like my view on a lot of things - sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn't. When riding around town with people on roads that don't have bike lanes (bike lanes are almost never wide enough to really ride abreast), I will often ride abreast, but I keep an ear/eye out for traffic coming up behind, and if a car comes up, I'll usually maneuver into single-file until they pass, unless we're coming to a stop sign or stoplight, in which case I'll try to stay abreast so they don't try to blow past me unsafely just to get to the stop first (which happens regularly if I don't assert myself in the middle of the lane). I generally don't ride abreast on busy streets, but then, I rarely ride at all on busy streets.

    Anyway, I don't think there is a concrete answer as to whether riding abreast is "good" or "bad" - I think it depends on the circumstances, and can be both depending on what's going on. You just have to kind of play by ear and adjust as necessary. At least, that's my opinion :)

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  3. I agree about the benefits of infrastructure for transportational and leisurely cycling. Doesn't have to be Dutch either. The Danube path that goes through Vienna is perfect for cycling through the city as well as to the countryside with friends side by side.

    For roadcycling however this system doesn't work. You might be surprised by how fluid the definition of the "speed of chat" can be - Yesterday I was chatting at 16-20mph on a club ride! At that speed we'd be a menace to anyone on a bike path.

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  4. I think a good policy for two-up is:

    Sometimes it's okay and sometimes it's not.

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  5. I love both your blog and bikeyface. Not knowing either of you, it makes me happy from afar that you get to ride together. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. We don't cycle two abreast here...its too dangerous! Cycling teams often get in the news because of some crazy driver. On paths its ok, although the get narrow quickly. I love your bicycle! I'm so glad you have this blog :D

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  7. Oo, Strickland does pithy, however people don't even like my one-up policy.

    Poor bar, "Hi, here's my boat anchor - where's my Ti tester?"

    Well, I hope you two got drunk on chamomile and did bumping drills.

    Upheaval here? Nah.

    Bekka, looking forward to another post on Hirsutism patiently.

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  8. Forget all the techy stuff. I love that you got out and you went for coffee and croissant (food easily amuses me).

    I still love those pinky bars.

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  9. Bill and Dave - That policy makes sense in theory. But in practice there will sometimes be conflicting opinions in a group re which situation calls for falling back and which allows 2+ abreast. There have been instances where I do not feel safe in the middle of the road and would like to fall back, with other cyclists insisting we cycle in a formation. This can get chaotic.

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  10. @Velouria: but it seems like that will be a problem regardless of you settling on a personal position, right?

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  11. Ride the curb side if it freaks you out. Some groups have no common sense and should be avoided if it doesn't jibe.
    Or, you could get over it. Time.

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  12. Dave - Well I feel like if my personal position was strong, I could just make it explicit and be firm about it. But at the moment I am extremely passive and puppyish as a roadcyclist, just happy for others to guide me since I don't really know what I am doing yet. So it's more a matter of deciding where I personally draw the line between going along with the group vs asserting myself.

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  13. Yeah, that makes sense. I suppose rides with people you know well, like with Bekka, can probably help with that too, since you probably feel comfortable stating "I don't feel comfortable in these circumstances, let's agree ahead of time we'll stay single-file in these cases."

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  14. "Ride the curb side if it freaks you out."

    Ah. But no. The curbside traps me into going over ditches, branches and glass, since there is no escape from them. On the road side I have more control, since worst case scenario I can just accelerate to the front and get out of the road that way. That's fairly easy on a bike that accelerates well if someone is behind me. But trapped on the curbside there is no control at all, I don't like it.

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  15. You shouldn't be riding in the gutter or detritus, that's too far.
    The group should be competently led by someone who knows the roads intimately: history of road rage, every pot hole, local behavior, cycle of the moon - I am serious. The group should be on the same page and have good bike handlers. The better they are, the tighter they can ride, the less space they take up on the road. If not the case, riders spread all over with big gaps trundling along at a leisurely pace, the inability to hold a line, re-evaluate the collective wisdom of the group.

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  16. I think it really all depends on the group dynamic. In my experience so far, every group has a diff personality unless it is a super-formal paceline training ride where everything is spelled out. Otherwise, just when I think I know what kind of ride to expect, I am inevitably surprised.

    That said, I do not mind any of this. It's been interesting and wonderful with almost every group/person I've been riding with. Just a matter of figuring stuff out on my end.

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  17. are those iphone pics?

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  18. Since two- abreast is so often impractical, I've gotten so much in the habit of single file, that I forget, or the Scientist forgets to drop back and ride together even when conditions allow. And it's too bad, because riding next to each other is so much more fun for chatting and hanging out.

    That said, trying to bike side by side on and off in an intermittent traffic condition is too much for me to process most of the time, which is why I end up riding single file as a default.

    I do end up riding abreast with a co-worker fairly regularly when we meet up on the ride in. In heavy traffic, taking the lane anyway and not filtering, it makes poking along in bumper to bumper traffic more pleasant when you can chat.

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  19. This will be figured out in much less than 5k.

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  20. Why is anyone 'who is slowly but surely getting drawn into roadcycling (eeexcellent)' riding on such fat tyres?

    The bikes pictured in this article seem an odd mating of road bikes, tourers and MTBs, and to no particular advantage.

    As Boston is in New England perhaps things have to be done in a New way.

    I'm an Old England admirer of the USA, and I know that we haven't had a Tour de France winner and you have, but nevertheless I still think many US cycling enthusiasts are needlessly reinventing something that was never lost in the European world of cycling.

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  21. Why is anyone 'who is slowly but surely getting drawn into roadcycling (eeexcellent)' riding on such fat tyres?

    Because fat tires have less rolling resistance than thin tires.

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  22. Hey, is that the red Moser hanging on the rack by the other bikes too? :)

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  23. Yup. I had taken this bike home to test ride over the holidays and left the Moser behind. Now the test bike is returned and I have the Moser back.

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  24. Patrick, of Red Kite Prayer (a blog you will read if you become addicted to the road) has a new book with many tips for road and group riding: http://www.amazon.com/No-Drop-Zone-Everything-Peloton-Riding/dp/0897326601

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  25. Really enjoying your blog. Luckily the cycling infrastructure here in Switzerland is top-notch. Riding 2 abreast is normally not a problem.

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  26. A European complaining about us crazy Americans with our fat tires, fenders, and racks? Weird or ironic?

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  27. "Because fat tires have less rolling resistance than thin tires"

    People who make this claim usually cite the Bicycle Quarterly test. The fastest tires in that test were narrow. That's not what fat tire fans make of the article, but that's what the table of results showed.

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  28. haters gonna hate
    fat tires gonna keep rollin

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  29. I love my fat Hetres, and I love the Bicycle Quarterly, but intuitively I feel that there is something not right about the fat tire/ less rolling resistance claim. It would not surprise me if a flaw is found in the study, or chart, or method. That said, I am not prepared to tear the test apart and back this up in any way.

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  30. What??? No balaclavas???
    It must be unseasonalby warm in Massachusetts, as it is almost everywhere else.
    How nice that the authors of two great cycling blogs are cycling buddies.

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  31. The width versus speed debate almost always oversimplifies the issue and generally misses the point anyway.
    - A lot of the tests were comparing 23mm tires versus 25, etc. You can't extrapolate that data to compare 23's with 35's
    - One of the biggest factors in tire speed was how the tire was constructed as sidewall deformation is a much larger energy suck than rolling resistance. That issue is generally unrelated to tire width. However, high end racing tires tend to be skinny and well built so there's some correlation. But I think Velouria's experience that certain wide tires roll much better than others shows that wide does not equal poor rolling.
    - tire pressure is also a big factor. But it is how the pressure interacts with the road surface. Higher pressure is always faster on a perfectly smooth surface, not so on a rough surface. (I think Boston area roads qualify as a "rough surface", no?)
    - "ride quality" like shock absorbtion, cornering traction, etc. are also important. A "faster" tire that fatigues you due to vibration transmission will be "slower" in the real world.

    In short, anyone who says "skinny/fat tires are faster" is wrong. It's just not that simple.

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  32. Velouria, have you already said what your instagram handle is? Sorry if I missed it.

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  33. ^ It's lovelybicycle and here's a web version for those who don't have Instagram. I do not always put my iphone pictures there though, sometimes I will upload them on flickr in addition or instead. Just click on the pictures in the post to go to my flickr account.

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  34. Off topic, but just wanted to put a bug in your ear about the upcoming Van Nicholas review. (Back in December, you said you'd post it "in a week or so".) I'm considering the bike myself and can't wait to hear your thoughts!

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  35. I only returned the Van Nicholas yesterday actually. Thought I'd have it just for a weekend, but ended up riding it longer. The review will be up in a bit. I have another review already scheduled first and don't want to publish one right after the other.

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  36. Wow, that's awesome you got to keep the Van Nicholas longer. That means an even more thorough review! :-)

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  37. It's true that the Jan Heine's studies on tire rolling resistance have been wildly over-simplified and taken out of context by a great many commentators in cyberland.

    Wider tires are NOT faster when the riding involves a great many explosive accelerations, like typical riding in fast groups or in road racing.

    Wider tires are NOT faster in climbing.

    Those two factors alone can mean that wider tires could be slower, depending on the type of riding one does.

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  38. A European complaining about us crazy Americans with our fat tires, fenders, and racks? Weird or ironic?

    UK ain't Europe. Just ask Mr. Cameron.

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  39. We tend to follow Bill's line, often riding two abreast and singling out when road conditions dictate. We have a core team who have been riding together for 20 years and know who will want to go in front and who will want to drop into the line.

    I have stopped riding with one local club because I didn't like the way they rode. Nothing wild or extreme, just I wasn't comfortable with some of the traffic decisions being taken.

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  40. Unless you make your living riding a bike faster than everyone else, pleasure should rank high on your list of reasons for being on a bike.

    If Bekka likes her tires the fact they may keep her a second or so behind someone on tires she does not like is meaningless.

    And say what you will about Jan's wide tire preference. His PBP times on a steel bike with Hetres impress me.

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  41. I'm a fan of side by side cycling, it makes social cycling much more enjoyable. But I only do so when such does not impede passing traffic (in either direction), whether that traffic is a motorist, cyclist or pedestrian, whether on road or path. I define impede as making it more difficult for others to pass as compared to cycling in single file, which i think is most consistent with traffic law. This can be complicated, to assess traffic in both directions and the size of the road, but then all rights have associated responsibilities.
    This does mean on the narrow two lane roads common to the western suburbs, side by side traffic is not practical, unless there is very little traffic.

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  42. Hi Velouria,

    Love your blog ! What kind of front (handlebar ?) bag is on your Rivendell ? Is it actually bar mounted, or is it supported on a frame mounted rack ?

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  43. Gary - It is an Ostrich handlebar bag from Velo Orange circa 2010. Attached to a Nitto front rack and also to the stem via a decalleur.

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  44. Re tire width and Bekka's plans for roadcycling... The Surly is her all around bike. It makes no sense to buy a new bike or even to replace tires before she decides whether she is even interested. I mean I did my first pace line ride on the Rivendell and only then decided that I needed a roadbike. The RSC women's rides are more relaxed anyway. She is planning to buy a proper road bike in spring/summer if this ends up being something she wants to do.

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  45. Re: the Cross Check. Do you know if it has a problem with toe overlap? I think I finally have a full bike in my "spare parts box" and am thinking about trying to build up a bike myself for the first time. (More for the education of it than anything.) Don't want to spend a ton on a frame but don't want too cheap either. The Surly sounds like it might be a good bet for me. But like you, overlap drives me nuts. Any thoughts?

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  46. Someone should mention my bar end shifters. Those slow me down before my tires do :)

    Yes this bike was bought to carry paints canvas and wander long distances in the suburbs/country doing landscape painting. May eventually become my commuter. Speed was never a concern, neither was road cycling until now... But new bikes are expensive and I don't want to buy the wrong starter road bike. I need to push this one to it's limits and see who I am as a cyclist first. Who knows, maybe I'll end up going back to biking through the woods to paint interesting mossy trees. (Well, I plan to keep doing that...)

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  47. "She is planning to buy a proper road bike in spring/summer if this ends up being something she wants to do. "

    First my wife, now Bekka....your persuasive magic is very strong, Velouria of the Lovely Bicycle!
    (cue evil laughter)

    Social riding is fun. My riding rules are "don't do anything that will surely get you killed or arrested." Be prudent but not overcautious or timid, as that can get you in trouble, too.

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  48. I put 28 mm high pressure tires on my Cross Check and can now use it for road rides with the club team. It's my one and only bike so it has to do it all, which includes sometimes putting the original 32 mm tires back on to take it into the woods to draw and paint!! Any links to you're mossy tree ptg's Bikeyface??

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  49. Re: small frame sizes. The tiny surly cross check may ride very differently than your cohabitants due to size, physics and design issues that come up when shrinking a bike. Remember things are still designed with bigger people, and (sorry!) more often than not, men of a larger than average women size. My surly lht is 46cm and it has been such a struggle. Good well built bike, but not right. I had contacted bqp about their very good surly lht review and was told that in all likelyhood, while the average to larger frames are excellent, the smaller frames may have an issue with being overbuilt, sluggish etc..especially if you are a smaller lighter person. Also the new modern steel bikes are being built with oversized tubing, which are meant for larger riders, or bikes specifically for heavy heavy loads.
    As Bekka may be fairly new to cycling in terms of experience and different bikes, she may be very happy with her cross check, but given a chance to ride something better, she may start to notice issues. Is she tall enough to ride any of your bikes?
    Her blog is hilarious!

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  50. I don't see a need for a strict policy or anything wrong with being influenced by people you're riding with - it's not like a question of the death penalty or reproductive freedom. ;) I generally prefer to ride single file, but I easily go along with anyone who wants to ride two-abreast, no big deal as long as cars can get around us (and usually someone drops back when a car approaches).

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  51. Heather - I tried a 54cm Surly Cross-Check at the same time as the C-H was considering his purchase. The 54cm size has a level TT and a 72deg ST angle, just like the larger frames. Major TCO with wide tires and heavyish (though very stable) handling. I remember thinking that it was similar to my Rivendell (including a long TT - 56cm), only without lugs and with TCO. I think that the smaller frames, like Bekka's, are actually quicker handling, because of the steeper angles and compact geometry.

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  52. Those tires I have are almost 2" so narrower 28mm might have less TCO with a 54. The thing to do is to measure the distance from the bottom bracket to the front axle (called front center) on a 700c bike that has the tires you want (and fenders you want) and no TCO, and then, armed with that measurement, go into a bike store and measure front center on a floor model. That will tell you right away if there will be a problem or not.

    When doing a comparison keep in mind that crank arm length (and to a smaller extent BB spindle width), foot position on the pedal, shoe size, and even BB height affect TCO. So it's possible to have TCO on one bike but not another with the same front center due to the above mentioned variables.

    Having said all that:

    The front center on the largest Surly XC is 64cm.
    The front center on the 52cm Riv SH is 61.5cm.

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  53. Wow, thanks MDI for the very thorough explanation! TCO has been such a problem for me and I couldn't wrap my brain around it. Up to now, I've always blamed it on the fact that I have giant feet for a girl. I ride a 52 cm frame yet have size 12 feet. (Yes, size TWELVE.) But now I have a formula!

    Thanks so much!

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  54. Is that stainless thing next to the pastry a creamer or a thermo mug? If the latter I want one. If the former the SO wiill veto.

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  55. Surly publishes frame geometry that includes chainstay length, wheelbase, and bottom bracket drop. Solving for front center in each frame size using Pythagoras and a calculator should be straightforward.

    Wish mfrs who go to the trouble of publishing geometry would give the front center.

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  56. I also didn't quite find the right 'fit' with the social cycling thing during my last attempt. I've got a few rides in my calendar for this year, so we'll see if my timing's a little better now! I don't mind single-file or pairs, but I find the latter works well at a slow pace if one feels like a bit of a chat!

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