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Monthly Archives: July 2018

Kask Mojito Cycling Helmet Review

I recently purchased a couple of Kask Mojito helmets from Competitive Cyclist for a hundred bucks each, about half the retail price. Some deals I just can’t pass up.

Having worn Specialized or Bontrager helmets exclusively since I started riding, I had no idea what I was in for from the Italian manufacturer, but the helmets matched our respective bikes and they’re the same helmet so my wife and I match by default – I just thought that’d be cool.

I was expecting about the equivalent of the dome protectors I’m used to. I was mistaken, what we got vastly exceeded my expectations. Vastly.

The adjustable leather (possibly pleather, but incredibly comfortable) chin strap, the full head padding inside the helmet, the operation of the ratchet adjustment strap in the back that’s fully adjustable up or down so you can fit it where it’s comfortable on the back of your melon… and did I mention a leather chin strap?! The construction of the helmet and the thought that went into it, is exceptional. The helmet is beautiful, fits great and looks fantastic.

Finally, we get to the venting of the Mojito. It’s the first helmet I’ve been able to wear without some kind of backup head cover to deal with sweat. Here’s how the vents are described on Competitive Cyclist’s description:

The liner features a non-slip gel to ensure your helmet doesn’t slide as you move your head around. Twenty six air vents allow air to move freely and help pull perspiration away from your head to keep you cool.

The crazy thing is, the venting doesn’t only “pull perspiration away from your head to keep you cool”, the design of the venting and the padding helps keep the sweat from dripping down onto my sunglass lenses. I’ve ridden that helmet in temps above 92 degrees (I think that’s 33 C) and experience nowhere near the mess on my glasses that I’m used to.

The point is, the helmet is a bargain at retail, let alone what I paid for them. I recommend the brand highly as after a few hundred miles on mine, I’m looking forward to not having to replace that helmet for a good few years. In a word; exceptional.

Be sure to go by the European sizing and the sizing chart. The fit is snug and true to the chart, and at claimed weight of just 226 grams, it’s a fairly light melon protector.

Summertime Cycling; Water is Nice, but Lacking where it Counts

The Fourth of July is one of our best rides of the year. I’m on my sixth or seventh and we’ve always had a hot one. This year’s Fourth ride wasn’t the hottest, but it sure was up there. Then there’s One Helluva Ride in Hell, Michigan (yep, seriously). The ride is aptly named – it’s hot as hell on that one, every year… Not literally hot as hell, as in “my heart was literally beating out of my chest”, but you get the idea. It’s freakin’ hot.

For some nutty reason that escapes me, I’m suited to cycling in the heat… if I’m careful about it. Where my friends suffer, I, for the most part, am able to enjoy myself*.

I learned something about hydration about six years ago that had a huge impact on what I drink on those nasty, hot, sticky days. If I had to guess, I darn-near ran myself out of electrolytes over the course of a few weeks, and it wasn’t pretty.

I was on a weight-loss kick so I decided I shouldn’t drink Gatorade anymore. After all, I didn’t need the sugar so I switched to water with a lemon and a lime wedge. On the bike I carried water. Two weeks at 150 miles a week and temps in the upper 80’s to mid 90’s (27-34 C) and I went from strong and 20+ mph for an average to struggling at 17-mph. That went on for a few days before I realized my sweat wasn’t salty anymore. We’ve had it pounded into us for so long that “salt is bad” and “we get enough salt in our normal diet without adding it” that I lived by it. I never added salt to my food (chicken noodle soup excepted). It was at that point I knew what I’d done.

I started reading up on electrolytes and how they worked in the body. To make a long story short, what I’d read suggested that if we run ourselves down on electrolytes, then drink a bunch of water, thinking we’re suffering a hydration problem, we dilute what little electrolytes we have in the body and bad things happen. That’s right where I was.

I bought a bunch of Gatorade (I am fully aware of the others and the sugarless products – I know, I know, but I’m okay with the good old fashioned Gatorade – it’s simple, cheap and it works) and within two days I was back to normal again, crushing out the mileage.

Now, when I’m doing hard, hot miles, I always take care of the electrolytes and I’m not afraid to add a little salt to whatever it is I’m eating… We have to remember that those average guidelines the talking heads put out are for average people. As weekend warrior athletes, average we are not.

*One Helluva Ride was a different story this year. I did everything right and still wanted to quit. I willed through it with the help of a friend, but I was hollerin’ uncle.

The Answer to a Bicycle’s Minor Clicks, Creaks, and Rattles…

In all seriousness, there’s nothing worse than a creaking, clicking, rattling bike, unless it’s old and the rider doesn’t care.  A cyclist does care, and therefore is mortified riding a bike that develops a creak or a click.  They happen, of course, especially when riding in the rain, and there’s nothing to be done (usually) until we get back.  Now, there’s a shotgun bazooka approach to this that I’ll cover later, but for now, I want to cover some of the things I’ve come up against.

Clicking crank:  In certain cranks, I’m looking at you FSA with your wavy washers, they tend to collect a little grime and road gunk in between the crank arm and the cups or at the spindles.  This will produce a clicking sound that has no rhythm to it, and you’ll be able to tell the clicking is coming from the bottom bracket.  Let it go long enough and you’ll feel the click in your pedals.  It’ll most likely start quiet and will be barely perceptible at first, but it’ll get worse over time.  Remove your crank, clean it and the bottom bracket bearings, lube everything properly and reassemble the crank.

Not all cranks are created equal:

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The Specialized S-Works Crank – one of the simplest, best cranks available today.  Simple, and not noisy.

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The Shimano RS500 (See also, darn-near the full line of Shimano cranks); Simple, and it works… quietly, though it must be installed correctly, and hopefully without the wavy washer.  If you need the wavy washer, throw all of that stuff about quiet in the garbage.  The flaw is the wavy washer as they allow dirt into places you don’t want dirt.

Creaking crank:  In my case, the cause of this was a loose crank bolt that I accidentally didn’t tighten down enough after cleaning out the clicking crank above.  Once I tightened it down to the specified torque, problem solved.

The Shimano Flaw – RS500 (and Up) Crank Line:  There is a flaw in the Shimano crank line that you have to watch for.  First, make sure you’ve got the shim properly located on the left crank arm.  Then, make sure you torque the left crank arm bolts properly (12-14 Nm if memory serves).  Finally, the center cap bolt, that doesn’t get cranked down.  Too tight and the system will creak.  Too loose, it’ll creak.  It’s treated a lot like the stem cap when tightening down a headset.  Finally, the bolts used to pinch the left crank arm to the spindle are notoriously soft – they are soft because it’s better to strip a bolt than the crank arm.  Be careful with those bolts.

Thudding Threadless Headset:  If you go for the loosest possible pressure on the headset when tightening down the stem cap, you can leave it loose enough that you won’t feel it with the rocking test, but you’ll feel it and hear it when you hit a decent bump on the road, say those annoying stress cracks in asphalt roads.  More important, you won’t feel it when you hit the brakes, a thump that’s the obvious sign of a loose headset…  This one is a bit pernicious.  To fix this, loosen the stem and the stem cap.  Try to keep the wheel and the stem lined up, and tighten the stem cap like you normally would, then keep going.  Give it a good quarter-turn and check the operation of the steering.  Is it slower and more labored than normal?  Back it off that quarter-turn and tighten the stem bolts.  If the steering isn’t grabbing a little bit, tighten the stem cap another quarter-turn until the steering is obviously too tight – then back the stem cap bolt off a quarter-turn until the steering moves freely.  Then tighten the stem bolts, and Bob’s your uncle.

Creaking Quill Stem Headset (Threaded):  My 5200 has a threaded headset has an old quill stem.  While its simplicity is quite awesome, dear GOD is it creaky when it’s not clean and properly lubed.  With the quill stem lube job, this will be the only instance in which I recommend anyone be liberal with anything.  When cleaning a quill stem headset because it’s creaking, clean it very well and liberally apply lube to the metal on metal parts and put everything back together.  You should be good, at that point.

Loose Chainring Bolts:  Chain ring bolts are an interesting little piece of the clicking/ticking puzzle.  You’ll wonder how they could possibly loosen, but they do, so if you hear a clicking from the bottom bracket area that isn’t dirt in the crank, the chainring bolts is where to start.  If they’re loose, take them out, one by one, clean them, lube them and reinstall them.  Lubing the threads will give you a better “tight” on the bolt when it’s tightened.  Tight on dry bolts often give a false tight and will creak after a couple of hours of quiet.  Always lube bolt threads unless a manufacturer recommends against that, for some crazy, unforeseen, unknowable reason.

Loose Seat Post Collar:  The seat post collar bolt should be tightened (to the proper torque recommended by the manufacturer) every week.  These bolts will come loose over time and the creak will drive you up a wall looking for it.

Seat Post Phantom Creak:  This is almost like the loose seat post collar but much harder to find… especially if you regularly tighten the collar bolt – had this happen to me once, I was ready to throw my Venge in the ditch and walk away down in Kentucky.  I threw the kitchen sink at this problem and still couldn’t find it.  Just as a fluke, I loosened the seat post collar and worked the seat post up and down a bit before tightening the bolts back up (this should go without saying, make sure the saddle height is right before tightening everything back down).  The next ride, and every ride since, has been silent.  Sometimes you just have to work the carbon paste around a bit.

Grime/Sweat/Gnarliness in the Shifter Cable Guide (under the bottom bracket for exterior routed cables):  This one can cause all kinds of trouble because that bottom bracket area is exposed to a lot of road garbage, drips of sports drink from water bottles, sweat that runs down the bike… all kinds of nasty stuff.  Keep the guide clean or it’ll affect your shifting if it gets bad enough.

Rattling Cables:  They make cable keepers that’ll hold your cables apart so they won’t rattle.  Use ’em, it’s better than a rattling bike.

Clicking Loose Derailleur Hanger:  This is a rare one, but it does happen.  You’ll hear a click in the rear of the bike and it probably won’t have much rhyme or reason to it.  Always good to check the bolts a couple of times a year when cleaning the bike.

Clicking Wheel/Cassette/Cassette Hub Body:  Clean out the wheel – and hope you have sealed cartridge bearings in your wheels.  The loose bearing wheels aren’t all that bad, but sealed cartridge bearings are the cat’s pajamas.  Simply take the hub apart, clean everything, lube the important connection points and put everything back together.  Your wheel should be quiet again.

Clicking Spoke Junctions:  Over time where spokes cross, usually only on the rear wheels nowadays as most front wheels have gone to radial,  they can develop a notch because the spokes load and unload.  It’ll be a pernicious little click and it’ll be hard to pinpoint.  Now, what we do to find out if we even have a problem in the first place, is we pinch the intersecting spokes to see if they’ve developed a groove.  Then, the easiest way to really know if this is your problem is to take a piece of paper and put it in between the spokes where they cross.  Ride the bike, if the noise is gone, you’ve found your problem.  Take a flat file (or better, use sandpaper) and, ever so slightly, file or sand the groove out of the spoke.  Then take a little dollop of lube and get in between the spokes.  That’ll fix the problem.  Obviously, don’t take too much off of the spoke.  You don’t want to find out the hard way, at 40 mph, that you did.

Now, with those out of the way, I promised you a bazooka method to fixing creaks and clicks in your bike.  Well, here you go:

The Bazooka Method to curing a bike’s creaks, clicks and rattles:

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Rebuild the whole flippin’ bike from the ground up.  The only original parts on that bike are the frame, fork, brake calipers and chain ring bolts.  Seriously, that’s it.  Everything else is new.  That 1999 Trek is as quiet as my immaculate 2013 Specialized Venge.

Those Useless Inner Tube Nuts aren’t so Useless. Two Unorthodox Uses that’ll have You Saving Them.

I don’t know why, but I’ve saved a half-dozen of those useless nuts they include with new inner tubes. I keep them, no ironic pun intended, in a glass jar with my bike lock keys.

The other day one of the bottle cages on the Trek pulled free over a couple of years worth of hard use.  I was set to pitch it, until I remembered those useless nuts. They make excellent washers, and it just so happens that they fit perfectly inside the bottle cage indents:

Bottle cage securely fastened.

A while back, the bolt that holds my derailleur cable guide to my frame felt like it was stripped after I’d taken the assembly apart for cleaning. I was relegated to the fear that I’d have to replace the boss in the frame – not a minor project in a carbon fiber frame.

I took the bike to the shop to have the owner give it a once-over.  He reached for a longer bolt and one of those useless nuts used as a washer again:

…And Bob’s your uncle. Those nuts aren’t useless, I definitely recommend hanging on to a few of them. They do come in handy every now and again.

The Ultimate Compliment for a Classic Trek 5200…

I wrote a post the other day on One Helluva Ride in Chelsea over the weekend. I chose to ride the Trek, my rain bike, because there was a fair chance of getting wet.

I didn’t mention in that post, the fella who stopped me at the first rest stop. He was pushing a newer Trek Domane to set on the rack, and he stopped me by asking, “Excuse me, but is that an old 5200?”

“It is,” I replied.

He asked, with a puzzled look on his face, “Did Trek Project One that bike? It’s beautiful!”

I smiled, “Nope, Matt Assenmacher painted it and I put it together. The only original parts are the brakes and chainring bolts.”

Did Trek Project One my 5200?! There’s no finer compliment for a 19 year-old Trek than that.

Trek’s Project One is there in-house customization project.  It is very cool, and it ain’t cheap.

…All Sunny Days are Meant for Cycling

Some days are meant for putting your head down and hammering.  Others are made to sit up, look around, and enjoy the fresh, 92° air.  One thing is certain; all sunny days are meant for cycling.

One of the wonderful pleasures in my life is to spin an easy ride in 90+° temps (32 C) and be comfortable the whole time, after three hard, hot, fast days in the saddle.  Better still are those days where you’re looking down the barrel at a thunderstorm and you think you might beat the rain but you’re not quite certain…

Yesterday was one of those days.  Fresh off a pile of weekend miles (191 miles in three days in temps up to 90+ degrees) I woke up feeling okay but that quickly took a turn.  I wasn’t hurt, I wasn’t overly tired, I just felt a little off – worn out.  Work went well and I quickly regained my “normal” stride.  We were due showers in the evening so I was quite happy with the notion I’d be sitting in front of the TV.  When 4:30 rolled around, however, the sun was shining brightly and it was hot.  Mrs. Bgddy chuckled and made a wisecrack when I told her I’d be riding, “As if there ever was a doubt”.

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I dressed and headed out the door at 5, heading for Chuck’s house with my taillight blinking on the Trek.  I got a bonus mile before catching him riding out of his subdivision and another heading back toward our normal “Monday/Wednesday Route”.  A storm cloud was creeping our way from the southwest but it was far enough it didn’t look like it presented a threat.  I’d arranged with Chuck ahead of time, because we’d ridden a lot of those miles together over the weekend, that yesterday’s ride was going to be one of those slow, hands on the bar tops, “spin it out” rides.  He was in complete agreeance, so that’s exactly what we did.

With the sun beating down on us, we rolled in easy gears making decent time into what you could barely call a breeze.  We talked a bit but for the most part, just enjoyed the scenery.  A rarity, at no point in that ride did the thought, “why are we pushing this hard” enter my noggin.  It was the perfect active recovery ride.

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That storm cloud was getting closer, though.  And I’ve played that game before, only to have to spend the next hour cleaning my bike up.  I told Chuck I wouldn’t be going for bonus miles with four miles left.

I pulled into my driveway with 19-1/2 miles, taking an hour, six minutes to complete it – around 17-1/2-mph for an average.  I felt like I’d won the lottery as I sat on the couch watching Rogue One (A Star Wars Story) after a chili-dog dinner with my wife’s homemade, “most-phenomenal-I’ve-ever-eaten” chili.  As I was clearing my plate, the skies opened up and a smirk stretched across my face.

That’s why I ride, for that evening and feeling right there.  More often than not, I feel like I’d won the lottery after a bike ride.  The only thing missing was some noodle salad.  I could have gone and picked some up at the grocery store, but I think the trip in the car would have taken away from my good vibe more than the noodle salad would have added to it.  That’s still as good as it gets.  For a Monday.

Is there a such thing as a much needed day off in cycling?

The easy answer to the question, “is there a such thing as a much needed day off” in cycling, is, “not if you’re doing it right”.

Since April I’ve taken just four days off the bike.  My penchant for riding almost every day goes back several years – I figure if the pros can do it, so can I, only at two-thirds the intensity and half the distance (or less).

So, in southeastern Michigan, this last week was hot.  We did a fairly intense 21.8 mph Tuesday Night Club Ride, but Wednesday and Thursday were mercifully easy (between 17 & 17.7 mph).  The weekend got pretty crazy, though.  Friday we held a 19.5-mph pace over 35 miles between Jonathan, my wife and I.  Really, it was a surprising effort.  Saturday was a 4:54:30 century, followed by yesterday’s 56 miles at 19.6-mph.  The high temps for each day varied between the high 80’s and low 90’s (30 to 34 C)

I woke up this morning a little haggard.  Actually, I felt really good for the first hour after waking up, but it’s starting to catch up with me as I’m writing this post.  It’s rare I ride that hard three days in a row (before DALMAC).

Thankfully, we’ve got afternoon thunderstorms in the forecast for this afternoon.  If it’s raining, I’ll take the afternoon off.  If not, I’ll ride but it’ll be an unusually slow ride – I’m talking 15-16-mph slow – and that’s usually better than a day off anyway.

So here’s my experience when it comes to daily cycling:

  1. If I fuel the effort properly and get a good amount of sleep, I can ride till my heart is content.
  2. If I intersperse easy, short rides in with the hard efforts, I can ride as many days in a row as I want.
  3. On the other hand, too many tough days in a row will wear me down in a hurry and I’ll need some low-key rest to keep it going.
  4. When you only get a few rain days each summer, take advantage of them and take a load off.  I don’t need to ride every day.
  5. Those easy days sure are fun.
  6. Replace the electrolytes.  Nine times in ten, when I’m feeling rough, it’s because my electrolytes are off.
  7. Daily cycling isn’t for everyone.  In Michigan, we’re stuck in the house for two or three months and we’re riding in cold weather another three or four.  When summer hits, you’ve gotta pry me away from my weekday evening and weekend morning rides.  We only get so many shorts and short-sleeve riding days – I don’t want to miss any.

Done carefully and intelligently, cycling daily is possible and enjoyable.  I’ve been cycling daily for three years now, and it’s been seven since my last side-lining sports injury.

Ride hard and often, my friends… just don’t forget to ride easy now and again, too.

One Helluva Ride: Out of the Frying Pan.

The weather forecast was weird.  It was supposed to be hot, as is normal for this ride (I’ve never done it with a finishing temp below the upper 80’s – call it 28 C), but remain cloudy for much of the later miles with rain rolling in after 3pm – plenty of time for us to get done and get gone.

For those who follow me on Strava, I track certain rides on my phone because I’ve yet to pick up a Garmin so time gets added to my rides when I’m walking at a rest stop – my app picked up a 19.7 average while my computer showed two tenths more miles (I almost forgot to start the app) and a moving time of 4:55:45, a 20.3-mph average.  Let’s face it, six tenths isn’t much, but 20.3 for 100 miles is a lot sexier than 19.7 – especially when you figure we only had five guys.

Anyway, getting back to what’s important, it shouldn’t be surprising with a name like One Helluva Ride that rolls through Hell, Michigan, we haven’t had much luck in completing the ride.  We’d cut it short the last three or four years – and that’s not a bad thing.  By the time we get to lunch, it’s so miserably hot that when one guy suggests cutting it short, the rest crumble in seconds.

Death by 3% Hills

Not literally dead, like “my heart was literally beating out of my chest”, one of the dumbest sentences I’ve ever heard spoken in a commercial.  No, it literally wasn’t.  You’d be dead, sweetheart – and none of our group died because of little, tiny 3% hills.  By the time mile 98 flashed on the computer, though, we’d seen enough.  The point is, there were a lot of little, baby hills and rough pavement that it was torturous on the feet.  If by torturous you mean awesomely painful, yet not really torture, because it’s a bike ride, dude.  In the scheme of things, that’s my kind of torture.

The Winston Wildcard

We had my friend, Winston with us.  He’s about eight inches shorter than me and you would have to sit a 40 lb bag of salt on his lap for him to get an idea of what it’s like to be me, climbing a hill.  He pulled, averaging north of 21 mph, for the first fourteen miles.  When Winston’s riding, it’s gonna be fast.  The dude is freaking strong – and a great guy to be around.  With just five miles to go, I was hurting.  Bad.  I was struggling to stay on at the back and I just wanted to get off my bike.  I was “stick a fork in me” done, so I told my friends I was slipping off the back, that I’d see them soon enough.  Here comes Winston back after me, and he says, “I’m not going to leave you back here with only a few miles to go, now come on… Let’s get it done.”  He pulled me back to Chuck and Mike and the four of us cruised it in – if you can call north of 20-mph “cruising”.

So with that, we set our bikes on the nearby rack and headed over to the watermelon booth, where they served the most delectable watermelon wedges I’ve ever eaten.  Every year, the watermelon at the end is one of the most talked about parts of the ride.  They chill it to a perfect 40-ish degrees, slice it up, and line it up on the table for famished riders to eat.  I had four wedges and almost filled up on watermelon.  Those of you who eat it, know how much you have to eat to “fill up” on watermelon.  It’s a lot, but it’s so good!

There are those scenic rides, like the Northwest Tour, where you want to slow the pace down to look around and take in the beauty of seeing the land from a saddle.  OHOAR isn’t one of those.  There isn’t a lot to look at (though it’s vastly better than the Tee-shirt Ride – woof!).  One Helluva Ride is one of those, “put your head down and let’s hammer this out” rides where you want to see how fast you can get around the 100 mile course, while exploring just how close to heat stroke you can get while doing it.

With today left to run up my weekly mileage total, I’m sitting on 225 miles… Just 14 days into the month, I’m sitting on 583 (that should be close to 640 after today, midway through the month) and, for the year, I’ve already surpassed my total mileage for all of 2012 with 5,388.  Truthfully, this has been one helluva year.  I can say that I’ve had happier moments, obviously, but overall, this has been one great year.  I’m having more fun than politicians would normally allow.  It just isn’t fair for one guy to enjoy life so much, to horde all of that happy.  They’d have to knock me down a few pegs and share some of my happiness with others, you know, to spread the happy.

Why Exercise is So Important to Recovery in One Simple Concept… and some Experience, Strength, and Hope

I was at a meeting last night and we were talking about the reading from the Daily Reflections that talks about humility, and the loose definition therein as it relates to recovery and the most unlikely old-timer dropped the simplest concept I’ve ever heard as it pertains to recovery. I’ve been trying to boil this down to the simplest common denominator for going on seven years (maybe eight?), and here we are at a small intimate meeting and this fella just nails it.

We have this little catch about expressing what we hear in meetings as it pertains to other members who shall remain anonymous so, other than this simple concept, I’m going to keep this very general. This old-timer was talking about how he likes to go for a walk when life is coming at him fast, because his walk gives him time to disconnect from what’s troubling him and sets him up to work the program at his troubles – which is exactly what we do – we work the program at life’s problems so we don’t have to live in that morass that once had us drunk in a ditch. The point is, I’ll just get right after it:

Exercise puts us in the right frame of mind to work on recovery.

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This, in one simple sentence, gets right at why exercise is so important to recovery for so many – it clears out the cobwebs so we can look at what life gives us in a clearer perspective.

From there, it’s simply an inventory, sharing, amends, and maintenance and we’re working on a solution. Once we’ve made it through, we share our experience, strength and hope that it may help others in their recovery.

And that, in one simple sentence, is why Fit Recovery was born in December of 2011. To pass it on. Pretty neat.

Thou Shalt Match One’s Kit to One’s Bike: I have done something a bit rash that may put me in the doghouse…

Okay, it’s well documented that I’ve got a penchant for matching my kit to my bike(s).  I had my Trek 5200 painted to match my Venge, and my wife bought my mountain bike to match the Venge…

Okay?  Well established, I like matching the kit to the bike.  Well, Mrs. Bgddy was recently bitten by the same bug, to the extent that others in the cycling club have noticed and commented on how well put-together she looks nowadays.

So, those damned ads that appear on websites that I visit are so well-tailored to me, I get caught now and again.  The other night I noticed a sale on Kask helmets over at Competitive Cyclist, so I checked it out.  I bought two.

I couldn’t help it…  Not only will my wife and I match our respective bikes, we’ll match each other!  Too cool, man.  That’s how it’s done.