I made a commitment …

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Three years ago I made a commitment to myself. I committed to commute by bicycle throughout the year, not just when it is warm and dry, or when it suited me. I committed to cycling to and from the office every day regardless of the weather. No excuses.

Cycling was not new to me. After all, I had trained, toured, and even commuted for years. It’s just that when the weather got cold and wet, I would drive, walk, or take public transit. This time, things were different. This time, the stars aligned. I had a suitable bike, and clothing for all seasons. I could bring my bike into the office without fear of the ubiquitous bike thief. The office had a very casual dress code. There was a shower in the office to clean up, and change when necessary. And, there was a community of like-minded cyclists in the office.

What started as a one year experiment, turned into a three year adventure. Although I had cycled seriously for years, cycling became an indispensable part of every day. Every day I cycled 40 km, and very often, a lot more. It is only a 5 km trip to the office in the morning but a 35+ km workout on the way home.

There are the obvious benefits. I saved money on gas and parking, managed my weight without much effort, and spent more time outside.

And, there are unexpected benefits.

I didn’t expect to become a much better cyclist. I guess I thought I was good to begin with. Today, I am more technically proficient. I pedal in circles without even thinking about it. I spin faster in lower gears minimizing the wear and tear on my knees. I climb, and descend faster. I shift easily, and often, maintaining a consistent cadence. I cycle longer, and farther. I complete centuries faster, and more easily than ever. And, the wind and hills are actually fun.

I take better care of my bikes. I need to. I depend on them. I’m a better bike mechanic confident installing and adjusting stems, saddles, bars, derailleurs, tire, tubes, wheels, chains, cassettes, cables …

I eat better. I eat to fuel my rides, not to feed insecurities. No meat. No fast food. No sweets. And fresh, local produce whenever possible.

I’m acutely aware of how inefficient the automobile has become, creating more problems than it has solved. Congestion. Noise. Pollution. And, the wasteful use of land for roads and car parks.

And, perhaps most importantly, I live more simply. I need less, but have more. What began as an experiment to cycle more has shifted my priorities.

Cycle commuting isn’t for everyone. I understand that. Some need a vehicle for work. Some live too far from their work. And, others are not able. But, as urban densities increase, there is an opportunity, no a necessity, to get more people cycling. Municipalities and local businesses have a part to play by providing the necessary infrastructure – bike paths, dedicated bike lanes, traffic calmed streets, end-of-ride change facilities, bike lock ups … A carbon tax and bridge tolls are being considered here, and if implemented, will spur commuters to look for alternatives.

What are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint?

There is no one perfect fit …

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Lou at rest mid-climb overlooking the bay

I have come to realize there is no one perfect bike fit.

This past weekend, I cycled 120+ km with Lou.

Chas: “What’s with that? We rode all week. Did the most difficult climbs over and over again. Then you do the easy ride with him.”

On Saturday we did a 40+ km solo ride with a lot of hard climbing and fast decants. All the while I kept thinking of how comfortable my son’s Cervelo felt the previous weekend; and, how far I was reaching on Lou.

On Sunday, we did an 80+ km group ride hammering around the river delta. Apart from the climb home, the ride was flat and fast. I was on the drops most of the time, and all the while I kept thinking how comfortably the bike fit.

Lou: “You felt just fine. Not uncomfortably stretched. You see. We are a pair.”

Two different rides, two different feelings. You see, when I’m on the drops hammering or battling a wind, I benefit from the more aggressive setup, and it feels comfortable. On the other hand, when I’m climbing long hills, I prefer a more relaxed fit because I’m on the tops most of the time.

I understand why the tour riders have different bikes for different stages; even different bikes for parts of the same stage; different gearing, and, different positioning.

Maybe that’s the answer. I need more bikes 🙂

One for each of the different rides I enjoy. One for long, difficult climbs with lower gearing and a stiff, light frame; one for the flats with higher gearing and more aerodynamic fit; and, one for rolling terrain with …

Exactly. What do I need for rollers? Something in between 🙂

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Lou at rest in a cabbage patch in the river delta

Chas: “I don’t like the sound of this. You think I’m old, heavy, and slow. Well, you are older and heavier than me you know.”

In my world, there is a lot of climbing. A lot of hills, mountains, and rollers. Occasionally, I do a long, flat ride around the river delta, the only place to find flat in these parts.

Is there an in-between setup? A compromise? Perhaps? I’ll try a shorter stem, but after this past weekend, I’ll keep the longer ones on-hand.

Maybe, just maybe, I have the perfect compromise already. Chas is perfect for the long, flat and rolling rides. His longer wheel base, larger section tires, and steel frame quiet the ride, and once rolling, inertia takes over. He rolls effortlessly. And, Lou, with a shorter stem, lighter, stiffer frame, and lower gearing is ideal for long, difficult climbs.

Maybe I don’t need another bike after all 🙂

Chas: “Now you’re talking!”

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Chas at rest at the “big lake” this past summer

But it would be nice 🙂

Chas: “Be careful what you wish for.”

Some tweaking is necessary …

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I was surprised how comfortable I was on my son’s Cervelo last weekend. I was worried the setup would be too aggressive and that I would not be able to maintain the more aerodynamic position for any length of time. Not so. The bike seemed to fit better than my own.

This week I got the tape measure out and set the bikes side-by-side. It turns out the saddle heights are identical, measuring from the top of the pedal at the bottom of the stroke to the top of the saddle. Surprisingly, even the reach is very similar, measuring from the forward tip of the saddle to the back of the handlebars. There is only a 1/8″ difference. What surprised me, is the height of the handlebars. I expected those on my Garneau to be higher. In fact, they are 1″ lower, the result of a different frame geometry. That’s right. The Garneau is actually setup more aggressively than the Cervelo.

The Cervelo and Garneau frames are the same size but the geometries, tube lengths and resulting angles, are different. Not a lot. Just enough to change the length and height of the stem on the bikes.

Lou: “I thought so. I thought I looked faster just standing there.”

I went for a 40 km ride with Lou today, tacking several lengthy climbs and descents. I wasn’t as comfortable as I was on the Cervelo. I felt more stretched out, as if the reach was a little too long. Although it measures similarly, the bars are lower. I’m going to try a shorter stem. I currently have a 110 mm stem on the bike. I’m going to try a 90 mm one. This will bring me in a little closer. I don’t have one onhand. Longer ones but not shorter. In the meantime, there isn’t much I can do.

Lou: “It’s not so bad. You have never complained before.”

I’m continually tweaking the setup. A mm here. A mm there. You wouldn’t think it would matter but it does. Also, I find near the end of the season, when I’m stronger and more flexible, changes up front are necessary. Once I get the saddle height and position set, I never change it, But the stem length and height is a different matter. I experiment with different setups depending on the type of cycling I’m doing and my flexibility.

Chas: “What about me?”

I also compared the setup of the Roberts to the Cervelo. Surprisingly, they are very close,  closer than the Garneau. Maybe that is the reason I enjoy riding with Chas so much. I thought it was the steel frame and the larger, more forgiving tires. Maybe it’s the fit.

Chas: “I’ve always been a good fit, don’t you think?”