A 17 year project … 😎

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My mother passed away 17 years ago, and left me the family cottage. A cottage that my father built when I was a youngster. A cottage where we spent summer weekends, and holidays.

When my mother passed, I thought I would sell the place. I live on the west coast now, and seldom visit. My kids are grown, and although they love the place, it is difficult for them to spend much time here. So, several years after her passing, I arranged to meet a realtor at the cottage. When I arrived, I was horrified to discover significant water damage in one of the bedrooms and the bathroom. The rood had been leaking for who knows how long. I couldn’t sell it like that. My parents would have never forgiven me. I can hear them now.

So began a 17 year project to restore, repair, and renovate the family cottage. I would steal long weekends when working in the area, and spend a week or two whenever I could. Over the course of the past 17 years, I have put on a new roof, restored the water-soaked bedroom, replaced the bathroom floor, built new decks, installed a floating dock for swimming and moorage, reupholstered an old sectional couch and chairs that belonged to my mother, installed double-paned, picture windows, replaced the Franklin wood burning stove with a propane one that is more convenient and easier to use, and had an arborist trim the numerous pine, red maple, silver birch, oak, and cedar trees that populate the property. There is always something to do it seems.

When my mother passed, her girl friends brought a poem my mother had written in 1988 about the cottage, and placed it on the chapel stage during the service. I copied the poem and several of the pictures, had them framed, and mounted it on one of the cottage walls. In 2008, I wrote a similar poem highlighting the changes that had been made to the cottage. Again, I had the poem and several more current photographs framed, and hung it on the wall beneath my mother’s poem.

This summer, 2017, I wrote another poem called “I have seen it all”, attached several current photographs, and will have it framed and hang it on the same wall with the other poems. These poems, and I use the term loosely, have recorded the transition of the cottage, and its meaning to us, over the span of 30 years.

When my son visits, I encourage him to pen a poem about the cottage, but he refuses. He doesn’t think he can do it. Write a poem. I tell him I didn’t think it was in me either. And I’m not suggesting that I have a talent for it, but when I am here alone, the words come more easily.

He’s visiting next week. It’s time he continues the tradition.

Chatter fixed … 😤

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Yesterday I spoke about an annoying chatter when I was pedalling on the small chainring. It got progressively worse as the week progressed. Perhaps longer. I tried everything I could think of but without a bike stand, I could not get a close look.

Was the derailleur misaligned? That’s possible. The bike was packed in the travel box on the flight here. Maybe it was pushed out of position.

Was the derailleur out of adjustment? I tried as best I could to adjust the cable tumbler but it seems fine.

Was the chainring worn or damaged in transit? It’s possible but I’m careful to pack extra foam around them, and the crankset is only 2 years old.

Is the chain itself worn? Again, it was new last fall, and has relatively few miles with over 50% showing on the chain wear gauge. And, it only happens on the small chainring. If it was the chain, the chatter would be heard on both of the rings.

Is the cassette worn? That doesn’t make sense. There is no chatter when pedalling on the large chainring. Besides, it was new last fall as well.

What’s left? Oh yeah. Is the chain rubbing on the front derailleur? The chatter seems to be at the front, not the rear of the drive train, although it’s difficult to tell while cycling.

Well, I could’t stand it any longer. Either I take it into a shop where there is a proper stand, or fashion a makeshift stand at home. I don’t like anyone else touching my bikes, particularly this one. So, I fashioned a bike stand.

That’s all it took. Get the rear wheel off the ground so I could turn the pedals easily, and get my ear close. It wasn’t the chainring. I wasn’t the chain. It wasn’t either derailleur. It wasn’t the cassette.

It was the end front derailleur cable. The excess portion beyond where it is secured to the derailleur.

It had been bent downward, probably in transit, and it rubbed against the right crank when positioned on the small ring. The lever moves out towards the chainrings when it is positioned on the smaller ring, so that on every revolution it hit the right crank. At first, it was only in some gear positions, but in the end, it rubbed all of the time when I was on the small ring.

How embarrassing.

It was easy to fix. No tools were required.

I just had to bend the end of the cable back.

Glad I didn’t take it to the shop 😂 I would never live it down.

LARGE or small chainring … 🤔

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I have been pedalling on the small chainring. I idea is to pedal faster with less effort, with an average cadence between 90-100 rpm.

This past week, maybe longer, I have noticed an annoying chatter when I’m pedalling in some gears. So annoying that I would change into a larger or smaller one just to quiet it down. It kept getting worse despite my attempts to adjust the cable tensions, or the position of the front changer.

Today I had had enough. I rode on the large chainring. There is no chatter there.

I was once told that pedalling on the large ring develops strength. I was climbing up one of the local mountains, when I came along side a young rider turning a big gear. He said he did this climb once every week or two pedalling in the largest gear he could. It developed power he said.

Well today was supposed to be a slow day. A recovery day. A Zone 1 day. I did 48 km on the large chainring averaging 25 kph but with a slower cadence. Eighty-one. So, I was turning a larger gear but spinning about 10 rpm slower on average. Did I feel more tired? No. It was all in Zone 1, at a lower heart rate. Did I travel faster faster? No. The same as I do in a lower gear but at a faster cadence. Did I develop more power by doing this? I don’t know. But it certainly felt comfortable, and easy. Maybe I am getting stronger.

I’ll stay on the large chainring until I can figure out the cause of the chatter. At first, I thought it was the BB but I have now isolated the problem to the small chainring. Maybe it is loose.

Compact or Race … 🤔

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Several years ago, I holidayed on Maui with my kids. I call them kids, but they are really young adults. We all cycle, and wanted to do the West Maui Loop together – an epic, breathtaking, 100 km ride around the base of the smaller volcano. They are good enough to still want to cycle with me.

We didn’t take our bikes on this trip. We were only there for 10 days, and there were many other things we wanted to see, and do. So, we visited one of the local bike shops looking to rent road bikes. They had them. Carbon bikes all equipped with Ultegra compact cranksets (50-34). I was worried about the ride, and had been advised there were several short, but difficult climbs. I asked if they had a triple for rent. The owner smirked at me and said, “We find the compact is all most people usually need here.”.

A few days later, we returned with our pedals and shoes, rented the road bikes equipped with the compact cranksets, and off we went. This was my first experience with this setup. I had always ridden with race cranksets (54-39), even on the west coast. I thought that’s what good cyclists did. Push big gears. Thought that was how you got stronger, and faster. And when I had difficulty climbing, I just needed to train harder.

To my surprise, I enjoyed the West Maui Loop. The climbs weren’t as difficult as I imagined. The compact setup was more than adequate. I never felt like I needed a lower, or higher gear. I pedalled more easily, and for longer periods without tiring.

I’m not going to debate the relative benefits of the compact or race cranksets. Plenty has been written about them already. I will tell you that after I returned home, I installed compact setups on both of my road bikes. I climb more easily. I maintain a higher cadence with less effort. Travel as fast, if not faster than before. And, I ride longer without tiring. I completed a 40 km ride yesterday averaging 25-30 kph with little effort, all in Zone 1 (if you are familiar with heart rate training). The only time I may feel I need a higher gear is on long descents, and in those instances, I remind myself that 60 kph is fast enough.

It is the perfect setup for me. I live in a hilly, mountainous region. And, I like to ride most every day.

I’m just say’n 😉

The tops, hoods, and drops … 🤔

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I have never appreciated the design of road bike handlebars as much as I have in recent years. I have ridden with them for years, but never fully understood how to use them properly. Never understood when to be on the tops, hoods, and drops. Never understood I needed to be equally comfortable in all positions.

A lot has to do with the type of cycling you do. If you are always riding at a relaxed pace on flat terrain, and without wind, you can position your hands however you like. Ride where you are the most comfortable. However, if you do a lot of climbing, battle a headwind frequently, or enjoy a faster pace, you had better become comfortable on the tops, hoods, and drops.

My weekly rides are usually 2 hours in length. During that time, I use all three positions. Some more than others depending wind, terrain, and pace. When battling a hurting wind, maintaining a fast pace, or descending, I am on the drops. This is the most aerodynamic, stable, and powerful position where you catch less wind, and deliver maximum power to the pedals. When climbing, I am on the top of the bars. This position opens the chest making it easier to breath deeply, fuelling the straining muscles more easily. And, this position also engages the gluts, the largest, most powerful muscles in the body. And finally, I am on the hoods when I am pedalling at a more relaxed pace, or benefiting for a draft or tailwind.

I am comfortable in all three positions. And, on long rides, I change positions regularly to help relax the hand, shoulder, and back muscles. However, there was a time when I wasn’t comfortable on the drops. Perhaps I wasn’t flexible enough, or maybe my stomach was to big. You can’t get down there if you have a bulging waistline. But the more I rode there, and the lighter I became, the more I liked it. It lowers the centre of gravity so the bike hugs the road, particularly when cornering. So, if you are not comfortable on the drops, lose some weight (if need be), and practice in that position. Similarly, if you don’t climb with your hands on the tops of the bar, try it. You’ll be surprised. You’ll be more efficient, and climb more easily.

One last thing, make certain your bars fit you. They come in a variety of widths, and depths. You want bars that position your hands shoulder width apart. By that I mean the width between your arm pits. And, the depth will depend on your arm length, and reach setup. Ideally, you want your elbows slightly bent when on the drops, and to have a straight, neutral back. You may need a bike fit to get it right.

And who thought handlebars were simple.

Cycling kits … 🤔

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Years ago, I never imagined wearing lycra. Never imagined wearing tight, aero clothing. Never imagined there was any benefit.

I sometimes wore baggy, mountain bike style shorts, even on a road bike. And, I had a pair of cycling liners I might have worn under pants. Oh. I did have a pair of wool tights. With suspenders. Remember those. But bibs? Why would I want to wear them? And tight jerseys? Never. I like baggy clothing. Clothing that doesn’t restrict. Clothing that hides imperfections. Tight clothing is for the young with chiselled abs, quads, and butts.

I remember the first pair of bibs I purchased. A black pair with a matching jersey. Size large. I made certain they weren’t tight. Especially the jersey. I needed room to move. To stretch. Everyone teased me. Who do you think you are? A racer? Are you joining the tour next year? I was ridiculed at home, and everywhere else.

That was a decade, or more, ago. How things have changed. Now, I wear little else. Even when I’m not cycling. I don’t have that chiselled look. No, I have that older, rounder look. But who cares. Bibs are comfortable. They stay up. Don’t cut into my waist when bent over the bars. And, they stretch when I move. The jerseys may be tight, but they too move with me, and feel like I have nothing on. More importantly, they don’t catch the wind like a spinnaker, the way my clothes used to.

Now when I travel, I pack more cycle clothing than I do casual wear. I cycle when I travel, and I need the right clothing. And, I need a lot of it. I cycle a lot. Maybe twice a day. And, I don’t always have a washing machine on hand. I need a lot. Bibs. Jerseys. Socks. Caps. Arm warmers. Leg warmers. Wind jacket. Rain jacket. Long fingered gloves. Short fingered gloves. Booties. I need clothing for all weather conditions. And, the kits have to match. They have to be colour co-ordinated. Socks, bibs, and jerseys have to compliment one another. And, the bike.

I know. You’re laughing. I’m nothing more than a fashionista. A slave to clothing. No. Not at all. Cycling kits are practical. First of all, they are comfortable. That is the most important consideration. If you are going to spend hours on a bike, you need to be comfortable. Second, they are aerodynamic. They don’t catch the wind like a proverbial spinnaker. They make the cyclist more efficient, enabling the him (or her) to travel faster, more easily in all conditions. And, most importantly, they look good. If you look like a cyclist, you are more likely to ride like one as well.

These days, I would never consider riding without a proper kit. I’m a road cyclist, and I want to look like one, even if I can’t ride with the tour 😂