Author Topic: For lack of a better title... upgrades  (Read 9047 times)

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Offline LpAngelRob

For lack of a better title... upgrades
« on: August 07, 2009, 12:52:22 am »
Hey everyone... sort of a newbie here, although not new to biking. I wanted to throw this out there just to compare notes and talk about what sort of problems I might encounter as I stay on two wheels for longer amounts of time. :-D

Right now I put on 19 miles a day, 4-5 times a week. Once in the morning, once in the afternoon, 9.8 miles in each directions - I commute to work via bicycle.

Naturally, there are things that I might not notice after 10 miles that I might notice after, oh, 40 or 50. Since I don't have an infinite bicycling budget, I kind of want to know which problems I should deal with first. :-) And the only way I can think of to do that is to discuss gear. So here's how I get to work...

1.) Bike - Trek Hybrid, pretty much stock tires. I have trouble pulling myself up hills as it is sometimes, and I have a nagging feeling it's just "slow" - is a road bike more appropriate for longer distances?
2.) Shoes - Heh. I bike in crocs. They've saved my toes from certain disfigurement more than a few times, but I think they're also the cause of those close calls, not the solution...
3.) Pedals - Stock, as above. I hear a lot about clipless vs. clip pedals. What is the importance and advantages of each?
4.) Headlight - there's a whole thread about this elsewhere, I'll read that... I'm going to need one starting about mid-October I think, in getting to work.
5.) Taillight - this is taken care of.
6.) Basket/luggage rack - I haven't really put much thought into this, as I don't need it to go back and forth to work. But one of these would mean I could stop wearing a backpack everywhere.
7.) Helmet - still good!
8.) Tires - Bontrager something, inflated to about 70 psi. As of June. I should actually check the pressure tomorrow morning.
9.) Habits - I think these are the most important changes, and they're free! Some bicyclists use higher cadences, but for all I know, they're racers. I bike as I did when I was 12 - top gear unless I clearly can't handle it. :-p What habits did you pick up in order to be able to go longer distances?

EDIT: I forgot a couple...

10.) Gloves - I don't own any.
11.) Clothes - Generally, t-shirt and khaki shorts. I've since learned that boxers are far better than briefs...

Thanks in advance!
« Last Edit: August 07, 2009, 01:10:36 am by LpAngelRob »

Offline whittierider

Re: For lack of a better title... upgrades
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2009, 03:40:35 am »
just to compare notes and talk about what sort of problems I might encounter as I stay on two wheels for longer amounts of time.
What are your goals?  Does "longer amounts of time" to you mean stepping up to 40 miles in a day, or touring (which is more or less the thrust of this forum)?

1.) Although hybrids have their place, a true hybrid (as oposed to just a flat-bar road bike) is kind of a compromise between a road bike and a mountain bike, and as such doesn't shine in any area.  The road bike will be at least a couple of mph faster on flat ground because of reduced wind resistance, but wind resistance does not play as big a roll in climbing; so I'm not sure you'll gain that much there.  Flat bars don't give all the hand positions of drop bars, so you're more likely to get tired, sore arms on a long ride than you are with drop bars.  You probably need to turn up your cadence (from your #9) and ride at a much higher heart rate too sometimes if you want to get faster.  If you never ride hard, you won't get fast, no matter how many miles a week you ride.  Training volume is no substitute for intensity.  There should be periods of both.

2.) Cycling shoes are very stiff in the sole.  When I got into cycling in the 1970's, I remember clearly the ride where I was 35 miles from home and my feet were in a lot of pain, as if I were barefoot on the pedals.  That was the day I decided cycling shoes were not optional.  I got my first pair, and eliminated a lot of pain.

3.) The advantage to having your feet attached to the pedals is that you can make more muscles share the load, and, when necessary, get a lot more power.  The main addition is not pulling up the back of the turn so much as pulling back through the bottom of the turn.  After people go to clipless pedals and cleated shoes and learn to use them, they never go back.

4.) LED headlights have improved by leaps and bounds in the last few years, and a $50 one will get you one that gives decent light to see where you're going (not just to be seen) and still give at least a couple dozen hours of use from four AA batteries, or several times that much in flashing mode.  Then if you don't mind spending hundreds of dollars (I do mind), the top-end ones rival the HID lights, without making you forfeit a water-bottle cage for a big battery.

6.) Having the luggage on the rack is far nicer and more practical than having it on your back.  Panniers go on and off the rack in a second, so there's no advantage there to using the backpack and carrying it into the office after locking up your bike.  You can do that with panniers too.  If you get into touring though, don't even consider a backpack.

7.) I expect most helmet replacements are unnecessary from a safety standpoint.  Note what the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute says at their web page at :
Occasionally somebody spreads rumors that sweat and ultraviolet (UV) exposure will cause your helmet to degrade.  Sweat will not do that.  The standards do not permit manufacturers to make a helmet that degrades from sweat, and the EPS, EPP or EPU foam is remarkably unaffected by salt water.  Your helmet will get a terminal case of grunge before it dies of sweat.  UV can affect the strength of the shell material, though.  Since helmets spend a lot of time in the sun, manufacturers usually put UV inhibitors in the plastic for their shells that control UV degradation.  If your helmet is fading, maybe the UV inhibitors are failing, so you probably should replace it.  Chances are it has seen an awful lot of sun to have that happen.  Otherwise, try another brand next time and let us know what brand faded on you.

At least one shop told a customer that the EPS in his three year old helmet was now "dried out."  Other sales people refer to "outgassing" and say that the foam loses gas and impact performance is affected.  That is nothing but marketing hype to sell a replacement helmet before you need it.  There is some loss of aromatics in the first hours and days after molding, and helmet designers take account of that for standards testing.  But after that the foam stabilizes and does not change for many years, unless the EPS is placed in an oven for some period of time and baked.  The interior of your car, for example, will not do that, based on helmets we have seen and at least one lab crash test of a helmet always kept in a car in Virginia over many summers.  Helmet shells can be affected by car heat, but not the foam.  EPS is a long-lived material little affected by normal environmental factors.  Unless you mistreat it we would not expect it to "dry out" enough to alter its performance for many years.

8.) You should check the tire pressure every couple of days.

9.) Do train yourself to use lower gears and a higher cadence.  You will be faster and have less soreness after long rides and have less likelihood of knee damage.  Having your feet attached to the pedals makes a high cadence much more practical.  If your feet are not attached, they will just fly off at high cadences.

10.) Gloves serve a few purposes.  If you go through a patch of glass, wiping your tires off immediately will save a few flats by knocking bits of glass out before they get worked far enough in to puncture the tube.  Don't do that with bare hands though!  If you have even a nearly zero-mph fall and put your hand out, even a very minor injury to the palm of your hand can be very painful.  Gloves avoid that.  They give a better grip of the bars when your hands are sweaty, and prevent sun damage to your hands too.

11.) Non-cyclists may think cycling clothes are just for style and being in the "in" crowd, but in reality they are extremely functional.  The shorts are tight and stretchy to keep you from sitting on a wrinkle and moving back and forth on it thousands of times and getting a saddle burn, and the pad in them keeps you from sitting on seams and doing the same.  They're designed to be worn without underwear.  The shorts are much more comfortable for the activity because they don't bind like street clothes do.  The jersey's main attractions are the pockets being in the back so you don't bump the contensts with your thighs, and the zipper (preferably long) for variable cooling.

Offline LpAngelRob

Re: For lack of a better title... upgrades
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2009, 07:21:14 pm »
Thanks for the response - I think I'm officially going to bookmark this thread. It clarifies a lot of what I've observed over the years.

For me, "longer amounts of time" probably means getting in shape enough to be able to do a short day trip. I definitely know that my wife won't be up to doing week-long trips from camping site to camping site, no matter how fit I end up. :-)

But if it doesn't make sense to put clipped pedals on a bike if the bike is wrong to begin with, or if cycling shoes might not be right for, that's important stuff to know before I start spending money.

Offline whittierider

Re: For lack of a better title... upgrades
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2009, 08:55:24 pm »
Pedals, wheels, lights, saddles, and quite a few other things can be moved easily from one bike to the next, so it does make sense to get the pedals and shoes.

Offline DaveB

Re: For lack of a better title... upgrades
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2009, 02:50:55 pm »
One thing that stood out immediately, you haven't checked your tire pressure is almost two months?  No wonder the bike feels sluggish.  Bike tires aren't car tires.  Pump them up at least once a week.

Offline tonythomson

Re: For lack of a better title... upgrades
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2009, 07:23:49 am »
Hi, I would like to go along totally with what Whittierider has to say - very basic sensible stuff.  My only but would be footwear, having toured extensively and obsesive about weight I prefer to ride in Trail Shoes to give me the option of carrying one pair and being able to walk about normally instead of looking like a duck  ;D I fit toe clips on which also makes me feel safer in heavy traffic as will often just have one foot in and one out.

I know there are alternatives but this has always been my preference and feel it has saved me several times from cars in town usually coming too close.

Carrying stuff on your back is I think a total no no.  It unbalances you, makes your back ache and sweaty, not nice!  Definitely fit panniers back and front.  I rode for a while with a guy carrying his liquid on his back always seemed very uncomfortable, plus always a good to have a reason to take a break if you want more than a sip from your bottle.

Whatever you decide good luck and have fun - my blog.
Just starting to record my trips

Offline johnsondasw

Re: For lack of a better title... upgrades
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2009, 02:38:23 pm »
After 30 years of touring, I like fast road bikes, trailers for hauling gear, $30 LED headlamps (2 each), biking shoes with "eggbeater" pedals, and skinny tires inflated to 110 pounds (I ride paved only).  Many tourers prefer a heavier bike with panniers and bigger tires.  I've tried it all, and this is where I've landed for now.  It could change.  I think the way to approach this is to load up and take off and you'll have a great time whatever you use.  Then you'll learn and adjust as you go.  Oh, one other thing.  I believe the most important gear item may be a mirror you are comfortable using.  OIver the years there have been times it may have saved me!  Happy riding!
May the wind be at your back!

Offline whittierider

Re: For lack of a better title... upgrades
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2009, 03:59:15 pm »
I believe the most important gear item may be a mirror you are comfortable using.
Absolutely!  It is just as important to safety as a helmet, although it serves a different puppose-- to avoid the accident, something no helmet can do.  I thought about it above but didn't write it yet as the best type mounts to your glasses and it does takes some learning, and I don't particularly encourage having too many new things at once.  It's not only a matter of seeing, but that when you can see behind, you can develop a surprising amount of control of the traffic behind you.  Additionally, making the best decisions of how to safely avoid or evade situations developing in front does depend also on what's behind.  We find that when drivers can tell that we can see behind and see the safer riding that results, they also respond with greater understanding, respect, and accomodation.

Offline alfonso

Re: For lack of a better title... upgrades
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2009, 08:02:00 pm »
Excellent points made above. May I add a few?

Personally, I don't think gloves make all that much difference to one's comfort ... unless you fall off, even at low speeds. Then they become an invaluable safety feature. I'd get some tomorrow if I were you. And I endorse the remarks about the value of mirrors.

Like others, I'd encourage you to check your tyre pressure every few days. Get a track pump; don't depend on frame pumps, which are inefficient and are for roadside emergencies: unless they are of a decent size, they can take lots of effort to inflate to road pressures.

I'm not as critical of hybrids as many members of this community. I started riding again on a hybrid; it gave me several years of good service and did some long(ish) trips. It let me decide what sort of bike I wanted to upgrade to. True, hybrids don't shine in any particular area - but they do many things quite well. The quality of off-the-shelf bikes has improved almost beyond belief in the last 15 years. I agree with the comments on limited hand positions; this can be overcome to some extent by adding extensions or trekking bars (though those may involve fitting different brakes and shifters).

Offline johnsondasw

Re: For lack of a better title... upgrades
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2009, 10:05:40 pm »
I have found the bar-end type of mirror to be superior.  That's after trying every other kind out there that I could find.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline tonythomson

Re: For lack of a better title... upgrades
« Reply #10 on: August 10, 2009, 11:20:58 am »
Mirrors you are right absolute must - have always had them fitted really important to know what size vehicle  is coming up behind - I use one that is held on with Velcro, stayed put very well, easy to adjust and easy to take off and use to have a shave.  Who am I kidding about the shave?  But that was the theory.

I always like to pack the absolute minimum and add to it if necessary along the route.  Better than having to dump stuff.

Good luck
Just starting to record my trips

Offline johnsondasw

Re: For lack of a better title... upgrades
« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2009, 06:12:30 pm »
This is a good point.  I usually pack too much, and in one case had to send some home.  If you did forget something, you can always buy it along the way.  I would recommend not bringing things if I had any doubt about its necessity.
May the wind be at your back!