Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Vintage vs Modern Fit

A few times, when writing about a vintage bicycle's setup, I have mentioned that it has been configured for a 'modern fit.' Subsequently, I have been asked what that means. Seeing these two bicycles side by side in our yard the other day provided a convenient opportunity to explain. I will preface this by saying that, to experts on the topic - with whom I do not doubt my readership is replete with - my explanation will come across as overly simplified and merely grazing the surface of the subject at hand. But in the interest of those new to the topic and not technically-minded, a discussion needs to start somewhere. And so I'll start mine here.

The two bicycles in the above photo belong to the same rider. Both bicycles fit him. Moreover, despite their dissimilar-looking setups, they fit him similarly - meaning, he is stretched out in a similar way when astride each one. The bicycles achieve this differently: The one on the left stretches the rider out by means of a long top tube. The one on the right does it by means of low handlebars.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sure, I Can Hold That Speed. So Why Was That Club Ride So Difficult??

Having been away for a spell, I have lots of email questions built up in my inbox. Here is another one that seemed apt considering we are well on our way to spring.

It is around this time of year that cycling clubs begin their annual schedule of group rides. Depending on the club, these can include anything from paceline training rides to brevet-style social jaunts, endurance rides, and 3-speed meet ups (see also: On Club Rides and Finding the Right One for You). Some hybrid of the formal training ride and the social ride seems like the most common style on offer. Typically, these rides will be divided into several groups, based on ability, with corresponding average speeds posted as a guide (i.e. Beginners' Group: 12mph, Intermediate Group: 15mph; Advanced/Fast Group: 18mph+). This way, cyclists who are considering joining for the first time can decide which group best suits their abilities.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Rough Ride

I had known the remote mountain road would be battered after the winter. But I did not predict it being this stunningly bad. It was not a matter of having to watch out for potholes. The whole thing was a pothole. More of a ravine than a road. More of a riverbed. As I plummeted, bouncingly, down the mountainside, mud and water sprayed everywhere. Stones slingshot from under my tyres in all directions.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Basket Case: How Do You Secure Your Wicker?

It's a sure sign that spring is on its way and the new bike-buying season has begun, when people start to email me about baskets! Specifically, over the past weeks I've had a few questions about the best method to attach a basket to an upright transport bicycle: Does the basket require a front rack? Some other form of support? Or are the buckle straps that often come with baskets sufficient to hold them up?

And as is often the case, my answer is: 'It depends!' Because really, so much in cycling is context-specific. Speaking broadly, a bicycle will always handle better when a front load is tightly secured and well-supported. And the more performance-oriented a bicycle is, the more important this becomes. So, for instance, on a touring bike on which you ride many miles over mountain passes, do quick winding descents on, lean into corners at speed, etc., absolutely: a front rack is ideal. But is it necessary for the bicycle you will be riding <5 miles to work and back? Allow me to make the bold suggestion, that probably not!

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Cyclist Rest

Here is a local tidbit to brighten your Monday! Every time I post a picture of this pub on social media, it is greeted with such enthusiasm and so many questions, that after passing it again yesterday I vowed to finally write about it here.

The Cyclist Rest is a pub in the village of Fahan, Donegal. Now, some people have tried to find its address and then emailed me when this proved impossible, so allow me to explain: In much of rural Donegal there are no street addresses as such. No postal codes, no house numbers, often the roads don't even have names. So, say you wanted to mail something to the pub? Its official postal address would be simply 'The Cyclist Rest, Fahan, Co. Donegal, Ireland.' And if you wanted to find it physically, you'd need descriptive directions. Luckily, in this case it is pretty easy: From the start of the Inishowen Peninsula at Bridge End, head along the main road toward Buncrana (R238). After about 5 miles, coastal scenery will open up on your left. The pub will be across the road on the right.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Reluctant Roadbike Commuter

When I moved to rural Ireland, lots of people said (or wrote) to me some equivalent of: Aha! There’s no way you will continue commuting on an upright step-through bike. Those distances, those hills, those wind speeds? A roadbike will be more efficient and faster.

And they weren’t wrong about those factors posing a challenge for plain-clothed transport cycling, as I had hitherto known it. However, I resisted the switch. Not out of principle. But because for transport, I genuinely feel more comfortable, more relaxed, more at ease, on an upright step-through bicycle - pedaling at moderate speeds, wearing my street clothes and shoes, arriving at my destination refreshed but not bedraggled.

And so, despite the challenges of my new environment, I never changed my ways. And three and a half years later I still mostly commute on upright step-throughs. There are, however, times when even I must concede this is not a suitable option. When my destination, for instance, lies over a mountain and time is of the essence. Or the wind is so strong, that an upright bike would mean traveling at walking speed. Or even when I want to get some exercise and do not have the time to cycle for transport and sport as separate activities.

On those occasions, I do use a roadbike to get around. And while it's not exactly ideal, I try to make the best of it. And as I rarely discuss this particular topic, today I thought I'd share my setup with you here.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

On the Dating Scene

It's a situation which some people enjoy quite a bit, but which I, frankly, hoped to not find myself in again. I mean, the stress of it. The awkwardness. The expense. The uncertainty about future compatibility. And of course, that question most of us dread to even ask... What if he, or she, is French?

That's right dear reader, I am back on the dating scene.  This time around I am older, possibly wiser, and - most importantly - armed with calipers.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I Sell Fluffy Things

So, dear readers! I have been threatening to do this for - what - over a year now? And at last I am here to annoy you with an announcement of my little side project.

As you might have noticed, there is a new sponsor on the sidebar. And that sponsor is! Well, the knitting version of me, now known as LB Handknits. I will leave you to guess what the LB stands for.

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.