Again, the weatherman forecast rain and high winds. Instead, I basked in the sun with no wind. Go figure.
Lou and I did laps on the Stanly Park road. This is one of my favourite workouts. It has everything. Flats. Rollers. A 2 km climb, followed by a 3 km, fast descent. During the summer months, there is a lot of tourist traffic. This time of year, particularly weekdays, I almost have the road to myself.
Lou: “Boy that was fun.”
Today I shared the road with 6 colourful Lamborghinis and a black Bentley. They were a little faster, and a lot noisier but I didn’t mind. They had to stop before slowly rolling over speed bumps, so I got a good look.
I never figured it out. I could have asked. I suspect they were part of a wedding party. Then again, mid-afternoon on a Friday is an unusual time for a wedding. And, no one was dressed up.
I should have stopped.
Lou: “We were having too much fun.”
Did you know the renowned Italian bike racer Tullio Campagnolo invented the quick release skewer in 1927.
In Tullio’s day, racing bikes had 2 gears and no derailleurs. Instead, there were gears on either side of the rear wheel – one for climbing and one for all other terrain. To change gears, the cyclist had to dismount, loosen the bolts on the rear wheel axle, turn the wheel around, re-titghten the bolts, and remount the bike. One time, at the summit of a long climb, Tullio wasn’t able to loosen the nuts on the rear axle with his cold hands. And, that’s how the idea for a quick release mechanism was born.
Chas: “Wow! We have 20 gears and even that isn’t enough sometimes.”
Today, quick releases are commonplace on the more expensive bikes. They make it easier to fix a flat tire, load a bike into cramped spaces (like the back of a compact car), thoroughly clean the bike, and complete other regular maintenance items.
There is a right and wrong way to tighten a quick release. If they are incorrectly fastened, you run the risk of a wheel actually coming off during a ride. If fastened correctly, they are as safe as any other fastening method.
And, there is a right and wrong way to position a quick release. Do it right, and you will look like a pro. Do it wrong, and you run the risk of the lever opening during a ride, find it more difficult to close, and look like a newbie.
Why does it matter how the quick release is positioned as long as it is closed properly? To some extent, this is true. However, if the lever is facing forward instead of parallel with the front fork or rear chain stay as illustrated, there is a chance it may be inadvertently opened by trail side brush (if you are on a MTB), clothing, or something else. So, it is safer to close the skewers in line with the fork and chain stays. It’s also easier to close them in this position because you can clasp the fork (or stay) with your fingers and squeeze the lever closed. And, at least to my mind, they look better in this position. The bikes lines remain consistent and cleaner. It looks like you care. And, you want to care about your bike 🙂
Just before heading out on a ride with either Chas or Lou, I straddle the top tube, lean over the bars, unlock the quick release on the front wheel, tap the top of the tire to make certain the axle is properly seated in the drop outs, and re-lock the skewer, making certain it is parallel with the fork. I do this to make certain the axle is properly seated and the skewer is closed. I will be cycling quickly, and I don’t want any mishaps. With the quick release lever parallel with the fork, it is easy to close. I place the lever in the palm of my left hand, curl my fingers around the fork, and carefully squeeze the skewer closed.
Lou: “I always wondered why you did that.”
Chas: “Me too. That makes sense.”
He’s lean. He’s fast. And, he’s fun.
Why would I want a full-carbon road bike? My racing days are long past. That’s what I kept telling myself. After all, I have several very nice road and mountain bikes. Why would I want a light weight racing bike?
Six years ago, my son got serious about road cycling. At the time, he had a client, a Cat 1 racer, who at the end of each season, sells his bikes at a considerable discount. My son thought this would be a relatively inexpensive way to get started. So, that is how he acquired his first of several full carbon bikes.
He had the bike fitted and made several upgrades. A shorter stem, narrower carbon bars, and a new chain. One day, he asked if I would like to try it. Reluctantly, I took it for a spin around the neighbourhood. After all, why would I want a carbon bike? Well, I’m told I had a smile on my face the whole time. I could not get over how quickly the bike accelerated, how easily it climbed, how fast it went, and how confident I felt. I hadn’t had so much fun on a bike since I was a kid.
I wanted one 😉
That’s how it began. The next season, I asked my son if his client had another bike he wanted to sell. He did. I knew he would. A 2011 full-carbon R2 model with a Dura-Ace group, and an older set of training wheels that had seen several seasons.
I bought it 😀
Since then, I have made several upgrades – a shorter stem, new saddle, carbon bars, compact cranks, carbon Dura-Ace pedals, carbon cages, 23 mm tires, and Dura-Ace C24 wheels. Some of these components were gifts. Everyone knew what to get me for birthdays and Christmas. And, they were all purchased on-line. I was surprised how easily and inexpensively you can purchase components on-line but that’s a topic for another post.
Lou: “I’m lighter and faster than ever.”
Right from the start, the bike had a name.
Lou means famous warrior. And, 18 kings of France had this name. How appropriate. A battler. A fighter. A leader. He was going to help me battle long steep climbs, keep pace with fast paced groups, and lead the way for years to come.
Lou: “I’m the head guy, right?”
I’ve learned a lot from Lou. I’ve learned I’m not done. There is a lot of cycling left in me. I’ve learned you’re never too old to have fun on a bike. I’ve learned I’m faster, and fitter than I realized. I’ve learned there is always room for improvement. And, I’ve learned fast is fun.
Lou: “I told you so.”
It’s good to hang out with a younger crowd. Chas and Thatch are great rides but they are different. Slower. Heavier. Lou is young. More up to date. Lighter. And, faster. He makes me feel half my age 😀
Chas: “You’re ungrateful. If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t be cycling today, wouldn’t even be able to ride a bike like Lou. You seem to have forgotten that cyclists have won the TDF on bikes just like me. Give me some credit.”
Lou and I have shared some great times. We ride several organized centuries each year, and many “recreational” long rides. We never do less than 50 km together, and frequently enjoy 100-150 km scenic rides with like minded friends and family.
Today, Lou and I did a solo ride along the river road – my usual early Sunday morning 50 km ride. It was wet. Rain was not forecast until later in the day, and I didn’t wear my rain gear. Grrrrrr ….
No matter. We had a great ride 😎
Lou: “I look good wet!”
Becky of Restart Urgently Needed nominated me for this challenge. She wanted to hear more about my bikes she said. Thank you Becky 🙂 I have to write 5 posts about my bikes and, with each post, nominate another blogger to accept the challenge.
With the first post, I nominate Ellie (A Writer’s Caravan) for the 5 day story challenge because I would love to read how music has shaped her life. And, I want to hear more of her music.
With the second post, I nominate Bri (Bike Like Crazy) for the 5 day story challenge because I would love to read more about cycling in cold, and snow. Bri is an inspiration to all cyclists.
This summer has been about shifting gears. Slowing down. Working remotely. Fixing up the cottage. A new floating dock. A third bedroom. A laundry room. Recapturing lawn overgrown with weeds. It has been a time for reflection.
Yesterday, while bucking a strong headwind, I passed another cyclist riding an old steel frame bike with shifters on the down tube. Do you remember those bikes? That’s how Chas and I started out. Every time you needed to shift, you had to take your hand off the bar and reach down. Right hand for the rear derailleur, left for the front. For years I rode this way. Didn’t we Chas?
Chas: “Those were the days!”
It seemed natural. It’s all I knew. But it was awkward, particularly when changing chain rings. I would end up in a gear that was either too big, or too small.
Two years ago, I re-fitted Chas with integrated brake and gear shifters that mount on the bars. An Ultegra gruppo. It was not the first time I had cycled with this type of shifter. But it was the first time for Chas and I. Right Chas.
Chas: “They look funny. And look at the scratch where the shifters used to be. I don’t like that.”
For the longest time, I continued to shift either the rear or front derailleur. It never occurred to me that I could in fact change them both at the same time. That is until I was passed at the bottom of a climb. I had changed to the small chainring but was in too low a gear on the cassette and lost speed. I knew better. Lou and I shift more efficiently. But with Chas, I was still in the down-tube-shifting-mode, one derailleur at a time.
Old habits die hard.
We are better now, aren’t we Chas.
Chas: “Yeah. We never miss a gear. Never miss a step.”
So now, whenever I need to change chainrings, I will double-shift. Shift to the smaller chainring and up a gear at the back. Or, shift to the larger chainring and down a gear at the back. Simultaneously. And, without taking my hands off the bars. Large paddles to go up. Small paddles to go down. This way, there is not a big jump in gearing, and I maintain the same, or similar cadence.
Now, Chas rides like Lou.
Chas: “Yeah, now we go faster.”
Lou: “You know these paddle shifters are because of bikes like me. Racers. We go faster because of them. Never miss a gear. Never break the rhythm. You have me to thank.”
So you want to climb.
I live atop a mountain. Every day, whether I want to or not, I have to climb 3-5 km, depending on the approach, to get home. I used to complain but came to realize this “Little Mountain” has made me a better cyclist, and a more efficient climber.
Yesterday, I cycled the Sunshine Coast. We took the ferry to the Langdale Terminal, and cycled to Earl’s Cove and back – 170 km round trip, For those who know the area, you know it is beautiful, scenic, and extremely hilly. We were constantly climbing or descending with grades ranging from a modest 5%, several gruelling, long climbs at 20%, and everything in between. There is no flat on the Sunshine Coast. Needless to say, I had hours to think about climbing techniques.
Here are a few things I thought about.
- Gear down. Outfit your bike with a compact group and a cassette with a lower gear. I ride with a 50-34 crankset and a 11-28 cassette. Even that isn’t enough sometimes.
- There is no shame in spinning in a “granny” gear. It is easier on your knees, and with a higher cadence, you can actually maintain a relatively face pace except on the longest, steepest climbs.
- Sit to climb. You actually deliver more power to the pedals when seated. Stand every now again again to stretch your legs, or to pick up the pace, but for the most part stay seated.
- Pedal in circles. It took me years to really understand this. I thought I did but until I started climbing a lot, I didn’t realize how important it is. Pedalling in circles means engaging all of your leg muscles throughout the pedal stroke. The key to engaging the ankle, calves and hamstring muscles on the way back up is to lower the heel at the bottom of the stroke. Think of scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe. This is why saddle height is so critical. If it is too high, you can’t lower your heel.
- Ride on the tops of your handlebars. This opens the chest enabling you to breath more deeply and rhythmically.
- Relax your upper body. Holding tension in your arms, shoulders and chest only wastes energy. You want all of your effort to be centred on your legs, buttocks and lower back.
- Look 10 feet ahead. Don’t think about how long the climb is. It will only discourage you. Break the climb into smaller, more manageable chunks.
- Drink and eat lots. Every 30 minutes. This type of cycling burns a lot of calories. So, if you don’t want to “bonk” (and I felt like I was close to it yesterday) drink a bottle of water every hour and eat. I had Gels, Cliff Bars and a banana in my back pockets but I needed more. After 120 km we stopped for a wholesome sandwich. Natural foods are best.
I am not a fast climber. I’m faster than I was, and faster than many on the road, but I don’t fool myself into thinking I am a fast climber. Unless you are 135 pounds and been training in the mountains for years, you are not fast. In my mind, the goal is to reach the top with energy to spare for the next inevitable climb.
Do you have a name for your bike?
If you do, you are not alone. A lot of us do. There is actually a name for it. Anthropomorphize. It means to attribute human form or personality to things not human. Well, I anthropomorphize my bikes. They are my friends. My mentors.
I purchased Chas 35 years ago. My first bespoke frame designed and built by Roberts Cycles of Croydon, England. This bespoke frame building business was started following WW II by Charlie Roberts.
My father’s name was also Charlie. He was best known as “Chas” to family and friends. I lost him father shortly after purchasing the Roberts bike at a time when a young man needs mature, fatherly advice. “Chas”, the bike, took my father’s place in a way. It happened slowly. As I spent more time with “Chas”, I realized he filled a void in my life, and helped me deal with daily challenges much the same way I suspect my father might have by being there for me, helping me relax, and challenging me to resolve my problems in imaginative and resourceful ways.
Last year, I rebuilt “Chas”, and outfitted him with an Shimano Ultegra group and wheel set. Today, he is better than ever, there when I need him, still challenging me to be better.
“Lou” is a racing steed. An ultra light full-carbon bike designed to go fast and climb. He is a treat to ride. Fast. Exhilarating. Responsive. He is a Louis Garneau designed right here in Canada. I am a proud Canadian, and go out of my way to support both local and Canadian companies. “Lou” is much younger than “Chas”. I purchased him second hand from a racer friend, and over the years, upgraded him with carbon handlebars, a Dura-Ace wheel set and compact cranks. He is a beauty, and my preferred ride on fast smooth surfaces.
“Lou” makes me feel young. He helps me keep pace with a younger crowd, and when I am astride him I’m 20 years younger. Well, that’s how it feels.
Do you name your bikes?