Bike Handling in a Group Setting; The Friendly Shoulder Bump… Or Elbow, as May Be Necessary (and Probably Wiser).
This post was prompted by reading Bike-Handling Basics #6: How to Do Pro Tricks (Read number 5 for the cool shoulder…)
A few weeks ago we had a double pace-line going of around 20 cyclists. Not big by our standards, but not small by any stretch, either. We were cruising down the road at a spirited 22-mph pace when the road started getting choppy along the right side. I was in the left part of the right lane. My counterpart up front started inching closer to me, to the point he started going over the center crown of the lane. He pushed me closer to the double-yellow until I simply wouldn’t go any further left. I’m not getting my handlebar anywhere near over the yellow for anyone… he inched closer.
Now, right there, most people will freak out a little and say something. Not a bad reaction, indeed. Another cyclist starts crowding you like that, it gets dangerous.
Well, folks, there’s no need to get belligerent about being crowded a little. Also, there’s definitely no need to cross over the yellow line into opposing traffic. The key is to ever-so-slightly bend your elbow so it extends beyond the end of the handlebar so it rubs against your counterpart’s elbow. If they’re novice enough to crowd you during a ride, they won’t be able to hold it together when you start putting an elbow into them.
In my case, I wasn’t nasty about being crowded. I didn’t jab my elbow into him, and I certainly wasn’t trying to get him hurt. The elbow did its job, though. I just kind of eased it out there till he bumped into it… After bumping arms with him twice, he moved off of me to the right a little bit and that was the end of it.
As it turned out, I didn’t know why my friend was crowding me like that until he mentioned that the right side of the lane was horribly choppy and he couldn’t keep the pace in the bumps. Things get chippy in a group sometimes. The elbow, or even pushing a on another cyclist’s hip to let them know they’re getting into your personal space a little too much is a great way to set boundaries and diffuse a situation before it gets too messy
Just remember, you get too pushy and you could end up knocking a bunch of your friends down in the process. It is very important that we exercise care, caution and restraint, always remembering that we’re traveling down the road at 40 feet per second.
I’m a creature of habit. I find something I like and I stick with it. Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.
A few months ago, at the urging of our old cable box that kept putting messages up our our screen, trying to cajole us into taking our old cable box in for the latest and greatest, my wife finally succumbed to the pressure. I could have held out indefinitely.
In came the new box, and the vastly improved HD version of all our favorite channels.
And just like that, I no longer knew where my favorite channels were. And just like that, I quit watching TV. Sure, my kids are prone to binge on The Office or Friends, but I’ve hardly flicked the power on in the last couple of months.
Now, to be fair, I still stream an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives every night to fall asleep to, but Lord Almighty, I’ve really enjoyed having time to do stuff. I actually pulled out all of my woodworking tools to build a new, vastly lighter, bike rack for the camper the other day (I wrapped it up yesterday before heading over to the Tuesday Night Club Ride).
To be fair, this’ll only last till the snow flies, and they’re saying this winter will be a doozy, but I’ll take it while I can get it! Thanks Cable Company!
Last Sunday, I rolled over 60,000 miles since I started keeping track in 2011. In terms of a special milestone, it’s not all that special. There’s a phone book of people who ride that in a year, worldwide. It’s my milestone, though. I did it, and what’s important is that I’ve had fun putting almost every one of those miles on my bikes.
Cycling has evolved for me over the last eight years. The first few weeks weren’t all that impressive, until I bought a decent bike. An adult mountain bike. After that, a cavalcade of road bikes… and it was Katy bar the door from the moment I first rode my Trek 5200. I dropped 20 pounds so fast it actually scared my wife. I was skinny. Then I learned how to eat, ahem, for an active lifestyle and have been okay ever since. It could be said that I certainly do enjoy eating a lot more.
Anyway, I’ve had my bikes, one or the other, all over the place – especially all over our home State of Michigan, and after all of those miles, I’m still excited when a big tour rolls around. Who am I kidding? I still get fired up, just to run a quick loop around the neighborhood. For those who ride a lot, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I write that cycling has been my source of fun, rather than a source of exercise. The fact I burn a lot of calories just comes with the fancy pedals.
I headed out last evening to hammer some miles out with my friends and, unlike the stock market, past experience is an indication of future returns. I was driving home with a big smile on my face, thinking about how lucky I am to be me. I’m nothing special, of course, but I do believe I’m a blessed guy to have the wife, kids, friends, bikes and life that I have.
I don’t have a whole lot of money. I don’t have a big, fancy house. I do have a smokin’ hot wife, two awesome daughters, some great friends, a good job, a stellar, clean life, (ahem) six bikes, good health… and some fantastic memories. Above all, though, I am happy.
What I’ve learned over the last 60,000 miles is that the miles don’t matter. It’s the spending time, regularly, with friends and family making memories. As we get older, most everyone wants to slow down time. The only way I know to do that is to take the time to enjoy life. A little bit, every day. When I take the time to savor where I’ve been and where I’m at, life slows down just a little bit… and it’s vastly sweeter.
And that’s enough to make any ex-drunk get a little misty. Keep coming back, my friends. It gets good enough, if you work for it, that you simply can’t believe that things worked out so well.
The obvious answer to that most important question; should a grown man take the time to wax and polish a bicycle?
No, of course not, because your bike is likely powder coated, it won’t need to be waxed. Also, if you own a matte finish, such as the one on my Specialized, without question, no.
However, should you just happen to own a badass vintage bike that was stripped, painted, and shot with enough clear coat your Floridian grandma would be comfortable in Siberia, then the no-brainer is yes…
Sometimes you have to see just how deep you can make that black look.
I have a Punisher decal on both road bikes. I’m particularly fond of the one on my 5200 but like the two smaller decals on the Venge just as well. I like to look at the decal when I’m hurting and wanting to quit – they help me to dig deep when needed.
I wonder, from time to time, to myself, whether I’m worthy of displaying it on my bike, though. Taken the wrong way, as if I were arrogant enough to think of myself as a Punsiher of cyclists, it could lead to… uh, unnecessary misunderstandings.
In the end, a friend gave me the originals that went on the Venge, so I justify it that way… And if I have to have the discussion among friends, so be it. In the end, when I’m in the pain cave, I like looking down at that decal for a little boost. I also have to remember that which is most important; I am fast enough for what I want to put into cycling. Cycling makes me happy. I have no desire to work hard enough at it that I lose the fun.
Friday, after getting home from work, getting my 17-1/2 miles in, showering, and eating some dinner, I got to work on the bikes for DALMAC. My Trek was solid, but I want it to be tip top. DALMAC is the pinnacle of our season, it’s what we train for all year long. Mrs. Bgddy’s bike needed some attention as well, as her back brake was sticking ever so slightly.
I got right to it, as we’ve got limited prep time before we head out Thursday morning and I wanted to have the weekend to test the bikes out before the road trip. First, the chains. my wife and I get a year out of our chains. I changed the Trek’s chain last year during DALMAC because I’d bent a plate on a missed shift into the baby ring to climb a hill. I still had some life left in it, but I’d bought new chains months ago and the chain was right on the edge. I decided to bag them and take them with in my gear bag. This year, if I needed a chain, I’ll have a spare with me. After that, I had a little bit of water sloshing around the frame from the A-100, so I pulled the seat post and drained about a tablespoon. Saddle back in place, I gave all of the bolts a once-over and called it good. Finally, as I always do after a ride in the rain, I cleaned the rear derailleur housing. It collects a lot of crap in the spray. Sure enough, there was some grit present, so a quick wipe down and lube, and I put everything back together. I gave the bike a quick clean and filled the water bottles for Saturday’s 100+k.
Then to my wife’s bike, which needed a little more love. Her chain, also a full year old, was right on the edge, too, so that went. I cleaned up the rest of her drivetrain and took a look at that brake. With internal routing, I’m loath to fully take the cable out as it has to be rerouted through the frame. I pulled it just far enough to clean out the little bit of debris at the shifter and the back cable housing. Lubed everything and put it all back together. It was a lot better, but still not perfect. I’ll probably just wait to get it tuned up after the season unless it acts up again.
With that, and the sunlight fading out for the night, the bikes were tip-top and ready for Saturday’s festivities. The bikes were smooth and quiet for one of the best riding days of the year. A little on the breezy side, but with cooler temps having ushered in, it was all awesome, all morning long. We started off with arm and knee warmers but ditched those around mile 30. We stopped at miles 30 for a restroom brake and 37 for a coffee and breakfast sandwich, and that was it for stops (quite impressive, really – 65 miles is a long way on just two stops – the cool weather helped immensely). I had a smile on my face the entire time. While there was a lot of traffic on the route, it was a really fun loop with lots of terrain changes and a few exceptional hills, including a big descent down a straight, nicely paved 8%’er that had us top 43-mph on the way down – escape velocity.
Finally, we’ve got a 58 miler planned for this morning. Six miles into the ride I’ll top 60,000 miles since I started tracking in 2011… I’m pretty fired up about that little milestone. It sounds neat, of course, 60,000 miles in my 40’s. What’s really important is the memories and friends my wife and I made over all those miles. Thinking back over just the highlights, it’s simply too good to put into words. Throw in my most-excellent recovery and all I can say is, it’s wonderful to know that you’ve been touched by the finger of God, to know you’ve been saved and blessed beyond measure, rising from a state of hopelessness and despair to peace and contentment.
Good times and noodle salad, my friends.
There aren’t many reasons to upgrade brakes on a bicycle, but there are a few.
- You currently own a bike with Axis 1.0 brakes.
- You would prefer a freakin’ sweet set of brakes that perfectly match your A bike:
- Your older bike’s brakes won’t fit a 25mm tire and 25+mm tires are all the rage nowadays.
- Your older bike’s brakes won’t fit a 25mm tire and 25+mm tires are all the rage nowadays.
I could probably come up with a few more; your bike’s brakes just don’t brake well, etc… but I have personal experience with the top three, so let’s just move on.
Now, the first thing one must ask oneself, does putting new brakes on a classic steed take away from its classic awesomeness? Well, technically yes. Then you have to ask yourself, is it enough to matter? NO! With the possibility of an F-bomb in there, if necessary. Especially if you want to get a modern set of wheels on that old badass steed, as was the case for me. I like the idea of the old frame with modern equipment on it, but that’s just me (I’ve got a friend who had a steel Merckx restored and put SRAM eTap on it). Take into account, also, that every generation of Shimano parts upgrades the lower levels to the level above for the previous year… In other words, my old 1999 Ultegra brakes were great by 1999’s standards. 2019 Shimano 105 brakes (something like four or five generations of advances) are better and lighter than the higher grade ’99 calipers.
Moving on, for a modern road bike, if you can find a set of brakes that matches your bike, there’s no question the upgrade is muy bueno, unless said upgrade takes one over the line into gaudy.
Now, on to the good stuff! Let’s change those bad boys out!… For the front brake, turn the wheel so the back of the fork faces you. Don’t bother pulling the wheel off or removing the fork. That’s entirely unnecessary. With the wheel turned, you’ll either see a post there, or it’ll be inside the fork a ways (I have one of each style – the Trek, the bolt tightens to the outside of the fork, the Venge, it’s inside). Either way, it’s the same thing; loosen the bolt after removing the brake cable and popping the cable end cap off. With the bolt end off, you can simply pull the caliper from its mounting hole.
Guess what’s next?! You put the new one on! Tighten that bad boy up (for this part, it’s good to consult manufacturers recommendations so you don’t over-tighten the bolt and wreck your fork). To get the specs for your bike, simply Google it. I go with “Trek 5200 Torque Specs” for the Trek, and guess what for the Venge?! Right! “Specialized Venge Torque Specs”… Anyway, you’ll have to watch because the brake cable housings may need to be changed out or cut. For the Venge, I had to cut housing for the front. For the Trek, I needed a longer housing so I had to get a 2′ length from the shop and re-run the housing, cutting it to the proper length while making sure the “Bontrager” emblem was centered and unobstructed. Center the brake arms over the wheel and lightly tighten the bolt. Install the brake cable into the pinch lock on the caliper. Make sure you use the spacers provided to shim the caliper back from the fork or chain stays as necessary. You don’t want you caliper to rub the paint off your fork or chain stays (I had to double-shim the new front caliper on the Venge to get it to clear). Once you’ve gotten everything where you want it and centered, tighten down the bolts to the recommended torque.
Finally, we have to center the pads on the brake track of the rim. To illustrate, I’ve got two photos of my main road bikes, head on:
The Trek, on the left, cannot be closer to perfect. The Venge, on the right, the left pad (right side of the photo) was a little low. Taking this picture alerted me to the fact that they brake pads weren’t perfectly level as they should be, so I fixed the problem immediately. To align the brake pads, I install mine square to the rim. Some say the front of the pad should hit the rim before the rest of the pad, but I think that’s mainly nonsense. Eventually the tip of the pad will wear so the whole pad hits the wheel flush anyway. So, loosen the bolt that holds the pad to the caliper arm. Center it on the brake track and squeeze the brake lever to engage the brake. This will hold the pad where you want it while you tighten it down. Once the pad is centered and aligned, tighten the bolt again. Switch sides. Then do the rear. If you want to install the pads so the front hits the rim first, simply fold a business card in half and insert it between the back of the brake pad and the rim and tighten everything down with the card betwixt. When you let up off the brake lever, the pad will be just a little skewed so the front hits first.
Once that’s done, you’re ready for the test ride to make sure you did everything right. First, give both brakes a squeeze to make sure you’ve got the cables tight enough. Then look everything over closely. Anything missing? No? Good, from there, move on to the rolling test. I’d recommend a slow roll at first, then work up to speed. Let’s not bomb down a mountain pass on brakes that haven’t been tested.