Too old to improve?

New shoes. Fi’zi:k R5. A Christmas present from myself. Found them in a local shop at a clearance price.

New cleats. A Christmas gift from another.

Finally installed the cleats last evening ready for the next ride. Surprisingly, the setup is lighter than my Shimano SH-R240 shoes.

I purchased the Fi’zi:k shoes because I¬†liked them, I needed a new shoe for commuting, they were a good price and, I wanted to reduce the wear on the Shimano’s. Now, I am not certain which I will prefer to wear. The Fi’zi:k’s are sweet.

Fitting the cleats last night got me thinking. Are you ever too old to improve?

I like to think I am older but¬†better. I am a better cyclist today than I was 25 years ago. I’m in better condition. Have better technique. And, I cycle more than ever. Can I get better at my age?

One of my sons is a personal trainer. And, an accomplished road cyclist. I asked him if he thought I could continue to improve. Asked him how to get stronger. I asked, “Son, if I were to do just 3 strengthening exercises to improve my cycling power and endurance, what would you recommend?”. Without hesitation, he said “single-leg squats, dead lifts and hamstring curls!”.

The squats develop the quads and buttocks. The dead lift the lower back and hamstrings. And, the curls focus on the hamstrings. These are the key muscles used when pedalling.

So, in addition to my “coach-on-the-wrist” workouts, I have introduced these exercises into my weekly routine. Even without weight, they were difficult in the beginning, particularly the squats.

I do the dead lifts with an empty bar at the moment just to ensure I have the right technique but am ready to add weight. I do the squats without weight as well. Just my weight. Already I notice a difference. I can do more repetitions, more easily and with good form. More importantly, I notice a difference cycling. Stronger for sure. But I am spinning more in circles. At first, I thought I was simply concentrating on circles more. But no. I am spinning with better form as well.

I have only been doing these additional exercises for a few weeks but already notice a difference. So, if you want to become a stronger cyclist this season, take my son’s advice.

Single-leg squats. Dead lifts. And, hamstring curls.

I need to fit cleats on my new shoes …

I purchased a new set of fi’zi:k road shoes¬†a month ago. They were an early Christmas present to myself and are waiting patiently on my bookshelf. ¬†They need cleats.¬†They are on my Christmas list.

In the past, I have had a professional fit. This time, I am going to fit them myself. This GCN video explains how it is done. It’s not difficult but, then again, I don’t want to have knee or ankle problems.

The last time I had a fit, I did have a right knee problem. After a 50 km ride, I could hardly move. The fitter advised me not to make any adjustments just yet. It was early in the season. He was confident they were properly fitted and that I had over taxed myself on the ride.

He was right.

I have been cycling with these shoes and cleats for 2 years now without any difficulty. Long rides. Steep climbs. You name it. All types of conditions.

I can use the positioning of the cleats on my Shimano shoes as a starting point for the fi’zi:k shoes. And, while I am at it, the cleats on the Shimano shoes¬†need to be replaced as well. And, for that matter, so do the cleats on my commuting/spinning shoes.

Santa, if you are listening, I need 3 pair of cleats.

Shimano make 2 types of cleats. The SPD models which use a 2-screw mount and are used mostly on mountain bikes. And, the SPD-SL models which use a 3-screw mount and are used on road pedals. This is the type I use on my commuter, the Kuwahara.

The SPD pedals come in 2 flavours. Silver cleats (SH56) which have a multi-directional release and are preferred by beginners. And, Black cleats (SH51) which only release when twisted (not lifted) and are preferred by road cyclists because they do not release as easily and deliver more power to the pedal. This is the type I use on the Garneau and Roberts.

The Shimano SPD-SL cleats come in 3 flavours – yellow, blue and black – supporting different amounts of lateral movement of float. The Yellow cleats have 6 degrees of float and are generally recommended for most road cyclists. The blue have 2 degrees of float and, the red are fixed (no float).

So, Santa if you are still listening, I need 1 pair of the SPD Black (SH51) and 2 pair of the SPD-SL Yellow cleats.

Winter Tune Up (Part I)


Winter has arrived. The rain has started. These past 2 weeks I have been preparing the bike and my wet weather clothing for 5-6 months of wetter, cooler weather.

This time of year, I ride the commuter more often than the road bikes – the Roberts and Garneau. They will get a spin but only on dry days. I’ll commute and train on the Kuwahara most of the time for the next several months.

The Kuwahara gets the most wear and tear. I commute to the office on it most of the year and save the good road bikes for training and longer rides. As a result, it needed work. A new freewheel and chain. New, smaller profile, lighter weight tires. New brake pads. I also decided to put on a new set of wheels. This wasn’t necessary but the old ones were mismatched and one of the rims was beginning to show a lot of wear. I purchased a new set of 26″ wheels with lighter, stronger, double-walled aluminum rims and 36-hole hubs with larger flanges.

This was Winter Tune-up weekend. I installed and tuned all of the new parts. The bike rides like new. Better than new. The wheels are lighter and faster, particularly with the smaller tires. The new freewheel and chain make the biggest difference. The bike feels more responsive. And, the brakes are positive.

Now that daylight savings has arrived there is much less daylight. It is often dark when I leave in the morning and return in the evening. I pulled out the lights and fully charged the batteries. A necessity this time of year.

The bike is ready for the winter. Finely tuned. Tiptop and rolling like new. Even better. Every time I re-work a bike, I upgrade the parts. Better quality freewheel, chain, tires and wheels. It won’t ride or perform like the road bikes but it will be faster, more reliable and, fun.

Next, how to stay warm and dry.


The Shimano RS61 Wheelset

What a birthday present!  The kind of present you want to both give and receive.  The kind that makes you better.  Makes you faster.  And, makes you feel younger.

I installed the new wheel set on the Roberts this morning.  It was quick and easy.  I transferred the tires and tubes from my old set of wheels.  The rims are tubeless but accept tubes as well.  I removed, cleaned and installed the old cassette remembering to use the 10-speed spacer provided with the wheels.  This wheel set supports both 11 and 10-speed systems.  I installed a new set of Kool-Stop Dura Road brake pads both front and back.  These pads are made with a softer compound, break quickly and wear well.  There is a lot of life left on my old Shimano pads but I wanted a new set for the new rims.

I was ready to roll.  Anxious to try the new wheels.  I decided to do a 45 km lap around the Stanley Park road.  The ride includes a combination of several good climbs, a fast descent and rolling sections.  A route I am very familiar with.

The wheels were brilliant.  Quiet.  Sturdy.  Fast.  And, they look really good.  I was a little surprised how positive they felt.  It may be the larger, wider hubs.  I climbed the Prospect Point Hill faster than I ever have spinning a larger gear.  I descended faster down the hill than I ever have reaching speeds of 55 kph on the relatively short descent.  On the flats, I was rolling at 30-35 kph, several kph faster than I usually spin on these sections.

I am in better shape after spending a month on the bike in Bolsover.  I am certain that is part of the reason for the increase in speed.  But the wheels made a difference.  They felt smooth, solid and fast.  I had confidence in them taking corners more quickly than usual and descending fearlessly.

What a great present. ¬†The wheels made me feel younger. ¬†That’s the kind of birthday present you want to give to your aging parents.



The Roberts completed …

The Roberts rebuild has been a labour of love.

I purchased this Roberts bespoke touring frame in 1980 when I first got serious about cycling.  I have toured with it in Ontario, Quebec, Maine, England and British Columbia.  Later I built a set of wheels with tubular rims and trained on it for years on many of the same routes I frequent today.  This frame has been an integral part of my cycling experience.

This bike is the most comfortable ride I know. ¬†The longer wheel base and steel frame absorbs the road bumps. ¬†My son wanted to convert this to a fixie. ¬†I wouldn’t let him. ¬†I still want to ride it and leave it to him in better shape then ever.

There is a lot to consider when rebuilding an older bike.  Is it a restoration or updating project?  How will the bike be used?  Touring?  Training?  Commuting?  I chose to update this bike as a short trip touring and supplementary training bike.

  1. I decided to use 700 c wheels. They have become the standard and it lets me easily interchange wheels with my other bikes. ¬†27″ wheels are much less popular today. ¬†And, although 26″ wheels may be stronger they are heavier and slower.
  2. The 700 c wheel set required long reach brakes. ¬†The frame was made for 27″ wheels and standard brakes would not fit the rims on a 700 c wheel.
  3. I wanted an indexed 10 speed with integrated shifters.  A 10-speed hub meant the frame had to be cold set to the correct width.
  4. I chose to use a compact chainring rather than a triple.  It is a little lighter and with an 11-25 tooth cassette, I have a wide range of gears.
  5. I chose the Shimano Ultegra group set for 2 reasons.  My other road bike has a Dura-Ace Group and I wanted similar capability and feel.  And, since all of my other bikes have Shimano parts, I have all the necessary tools and am familiar with the installation and maintenance procedures.
  6.  I chose not to repaint the frame.  I love the original colour and, although there is some wear and a few scratches, I was concerned I would not be able to match the colour well enough.  Besides, it adds character and I remember the occurrence of each and every nick.  I did wash it carefully and apply several coats of wax for protection.

Although this project took several months, most of the time was think time.  Once I had all of the parts, my son and I assembled and tuned the bike over a couple of days.  I hesitated initially because I was not familiar with the cold setting process (it was easy and inexpensive) or the installation of the newer style brakes (it required enlarging the bolt hole on the forks).  These were not difficult problems.

There are several original parts in addition to the Roberts frame. ¬†I kept the Campagnolo headset. ¬†There was little or no wear on the races but I did replace the bearings. ¬†I also kept the Weinmann housing guides on the top tube. ¬†I preferred these to any new ones I found. ¬†I am also using a Shimano training wheel set and Fi’zi:k saddle I have had for several years. ¬†In time, I may replace the wheels with an Ultegra set.

I will ride this bike a lot (again).  It will not replace the carbon Garneau but I will train on it, tackle longer, steeper climbs and travel with it on holidays.  Now I have 3 very serviceable bikes Рa commuter, a fast, carbon road bike and a touring bike for longer rides and short trips.

Do you have an old bike worthy of a retrofit?

Here are my other posts on this project –

  1. More parts arrive –¬†
  2. Bars, stem and seatport ‚Äst
  3. Possible parts to consider ‚Äď
  4. Options considered ‚Äst
  5. Cold setting the Roberts frame ‚Äď
  6. The Roberts frame stripped down ‚Äď

Selecting components for my c. 1980 Roberts

I have decided what components to purchase for the Roberts re-build.  It has been a lengthy endeavour.  There is a lot to consider.  Part sizing.  Gearing.  Wheel diameter.  Stem type.  Use.  Cost.  And, all this while respecting the period and integrity of the frame.
My son introduced me to Feather handcrafted bicycles from Yorkshire, England.  They build beautiful custom steel frames and fit them with contemporary components.  Feather was an inspiration for my Roberts project.
Now I can begin shopping.  My son shops online for components.  I have been sceptical but he saves a lot of money.  I preferred to support the local bike shops.  This time, I am going to compare the relative cost between shopping at my favourite local shop and shopping online at eBay and and the likes of
Stay tuned.  Once I am done, I will itemize the actual cost.  So far I have spent $2.00 for a new set of bearings for the Campagnolo headset.