Cadence Kit … ūüėā

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I have written about my new cycling computer before. The VDO M6. It has functions I never had previously. Heart rate. Gradient. Elevation gain. Time spent in each of 4 pre-defined training zones. Temperature. Stopwatch. And, with the optional Cadence Kit, current, average, and maximum cadence.

Well, this week I purchased the Cadence Kit. It’s optional, and I wasn’t sure¬†I needed it. Then, while training on the spinning bike, I noticed how much attention I pay to the cadence display. A lot. I have learned¬†that by increasing my cadence while in a lower gear, I actually increase my wattage output. This is a lot easier than pushing a higher gear. I’m using my¬†cardiovascular system to generate the power, rather than my leg muscles which tires more quickly.

For the most part, the higher the intensity, the higher your cadence should be. The reason for this higher cadence is that it stresses the aerobic component more. A higher cadence engages slow twitch (Type I) muscle fibers, which are the oxidative fibers, thus saving your powerful and fast twitch (Type II) muscle fibers for when you need them – sprinting, attacking, climbing, surging. Pedaling with a higher cadence also generates decreased muscle tension and blood vessel compression. This allows blood to flow to the muscles with O2 and carry waste products away easier.

On the spinning bike, I average 90-110 rpm, sometimes higher, during my workouts. Can I do the same on the road? I have no idea, but I’m about to find out.

Most social cyclists sit on a cadence between 75-85rpm. They’ll plod along at one tempo for hours, regardless of changing terrain. What we suggest you learn is increase your cadence to between 90-100rpm regardless how flat or hilly the route is. – BikeRoar

Well, I’ll try.

I installed the kit on the Roberts frame for now. I’ll be training on this bike mostly for the next 2 months while I’m back at the cottage, cycling the quiet, rural roads. By the time I return, I will have a better understanding of what cadence I maintain on the flats, and while climbing.

How will I train differently, you ask.

I’ll try riding at 90-100rpm most of the time, and increase my¬†cadence on small grades, remembering to control my¬†cadence through gear choice, and not by¬†increasing my¬†physical effort. Once I¬†have this down pat, I’ll increase my¬†physical effort¬†and pedal a faster cadence in a higher¬†gear, which means¬†I’ll¬†go faster uphill ūüėā

Sounds easy enough. Right?

Stay tuned ūüėÄ

Is there a safer colour … ūü§Ē

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Since my high-speed crash, I have been thinking a lot about cycling safety – the confidence fostered by dedicated bike paths, separated bike lanes, traffic-calmed streets, and, the increased visibility of florescent, reflective clothing popular these days.

I walked to the gym for a spinning workout yesterday. Without much thought, I placed my new runners and cycling shoes beside one another as I was packing up. They both feature florescent yellow-green markings.

Why is that? What is there about this colour?

Well, it has been proven to be the most noticeable colour, standing out from all backgrounds, and thereby making it safer for cyclists (and runners) to share the road with motorists. In that moment, I realized I frequently wear the most dangerous kit colours of all. Black. Black shoes, tights, bibs, jerseys, and jackets. I do wear some colour but no florescent yellow-green. None.

So, I had a quick look on-line at one of my favourite cycling apparel shops. Guess what? They feature numerous jackets, and jerseys that are florescent yellow-green.

Is it time for a new cycling kit ūü§Ē

You guessed it.

I purchased a florescent long-sleeve, cycling jersey, and wind jacket. If nothing else, I am going to be seen on the road this spring.

 

Notes to my former self … ūü§Ē

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Adele Archer introduced me to the¬†idea of¬†writing a note to my¬†former self. She said it would be “a very cathartic exercise!”

If only I knew back then what I know today.

The above picture is of me, taken about the time I first became serious about cycling. I was an adjunct professor at the time, and had been cycling more seriously for several years.  I was concerned about my health, stopped eating meat and dairy, disposed of my car, and began using my bicycle as my sole means of transport.

So, what would I say to¬†my former self ūü§Ē

Yeah, what would you say?

Well, I’d begin with¬†a discussion about cycling. There is a lot we could discuss but cycling will be a common thread throughout the remainder of your life.

We can start there. I love cycling but am pretty well informed already.

Really?

You are young, and you think you already have all of the answers. Well, you don’t. You have inconceivable¬†hardships ahead, and a move you never imagined. So, pay attention, if you can.

First of all,¬†be more patient. Don’t make dramatic lifestyle changes too quickly.¬†It may seem easy for you, but very difficult for your friends and family. Remember, food is not only providing nourishment to sustain your health, it is also the focus of social events. You share food¬†when you¬†visit, and entertain. Don’t make it unnecessarily difficult for those around you. Take the time to explain why you are making changes, and involve them more in the process.

You are right about this. I have already seen the consequences.

Recognize that cycling is your sport. It is an integral part of your life now, and always will be. You’ll have a lot of opposition but persevere. For you, the benefits greatly out number any possible detriments.

What kind of opposition?

Friends that aren’t interested. Employers that don’t¬†support bike commuting with secure bike lock-ups, and adequate change facilities. Municipal governments that have never heard of dedicated bike lanes, traffic calmed streets, or bikeways. I told you it wasn’t going to be easy.

Purchase the best bike you can afford, and always upgrade it with better components when necessary.

Find hills to climb. Think of them as your friend. They may be difficult at first but will make you a stronger, better cyclist.

I don’t mind hills. It’s just there aren’t many in these parts.

There are always hills. You just need to search them out.

Learn to clean, and lubricate your drive train. Do it regularly. It will reduce the wear and tare on your drive train. And while you are at it, learn basic bike maintenance. You need to be able to install a new chain and cassette, replace your brake and shifter cables, fix a flat tire, install new tires, true your wheels, replace a broken spoke, and re-pack your hubs and bottom bracket. Don’t worry. It’s not difficult, and there are a lot of resources available to help.

But bikes require specialized tools. And they are expensive.

That’s true but cheaper than a tank of gas every week, or annual car insurance.

You are not fast. You are built for endurance. Open water swimming, distance running, and road cycling are your sports. Accept you may never win a race, but will always finish strong.

That’s true. Runners and cyclists are always passing me on the road no matter how hard I try.

If you learn to train properly, instead of just going out for a ride when you please, you will get stronger, faster, and more confident.

How do I do that?

I told you. Find hills, and climb them repeatedly.

Purchase more than one bike. You need one for the roads. Maybe two. One to train on. The other for organized cycling events. And, you need one for getting around the city to commute, and run errands. You may even want a mountain bike to enjoy the trails as well.

How can I afford it?

Make bikes a priority. Instead of spending money on a car or public transit, invest in your bikes.

Live where the weather is suitable for cycling all year round. And where the municipal government, and local businesses are supportive so you have a safe commute on dedicated bike lanes, and traffic calmed streets, and at the end of the trip, a secure place to store your bike for the day.

Yeah! I hate the snow and ice in these parts.

Learn to dress for all weather conditions. The heat. The cold. The wet. Weather is no reason to stop cycling. You need a waterproof kit Рbooties, pants, jacket, gloves, and  helmet cover. And, learn the benefits of wool. It keeps you warm, even when its wet.

You are right. I need proper cycle clothing, especially those padded shorts. And spandex ūüėā

Build a bike shop. Find space in the basement or garage for your bikes. A place where you can store them out of the weather, out of site, and where you can work on them easily. This will encourage you to keep your bikes in good running order at all times.

What more can I say ūü§Ē

What about women? My education? And, a suitable career? ūü§Ē

Well, I have one last suggestion for you. Don’t procrastinate. Get to it!¬†I waited too long, and don’t want you to make the same mistakes.

¬†ūüėā

 

 

 

 

Do you need inspiration?

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Do you need inspiration this year? Inspiration to get off the couch, and out on the bike? Inspiration to train in the off season when the weather is less than ideal for cycling?

I was given a copy of Clara Hughes’ memoire “Open Heart, Open Mind” for Christmas. I am a fan of Clara Hughes but this is not the kind of book I would normally read. For those of you who may not know Clara, she is a 6-time Canadian Olympian, a 6-time¬†medal winner, and the only athlete¬†to win multiple medals in both the summer (cycling) and winter (speed skating) games.

I have a friend who competed in the 1972 summer Olympics. She did not medal, not even close, but it was, and still is, the highlight of her life. She is very proud of the experience, and it has shaped her life since. Imagine, if you can, what it might feel like to qualify not for 1, but for 6 different Olympiads, and to contend for a medal each time.

What is truly remarkable about Clara isn’t the results. They speak for themselves. What surprised me, and makes the medals so remarkable, is the difficult upbringing she had. She came from a highly dysfunctional family from Winnipeg, enduring an alcoholic, and abusive father. She was destined to a life of alcohol, drugs, and trouble until she discovered speed skating as a teenager.

Despite all of her success, Clara suffered, and still does today, from acute depression. Her story is about how she battled this demon, and became an advocate for all those suffering from this debilitating disease. Despite all of her success, she remains down to earth, the girl you would love to have live next door, and mentor your kids.

So, if you are having trouble motivating yourself this year, I suggest you pick up a copy of “Open Heart, Open Mind“. This book may not make you an Olympian, but it will make you want to get off the couch.

The Burrard Bridge …

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I cycle under the Burrard Bridge most days, but seldom stop to look. It is one of 3 bridges connecting the downtown core with the residential areas to the south.

This heritage, Art Deco, steel truss bridge was first opened in 1932, and services 65,000 automobiles each and every day. As the city has grown, so too have cyclists needs. Amidst considerable controversy and resistance, one of the 6 lanes was converted to a dedicated cycling lane in 2009. Ever since, bike traffic on the bridge has steadily increased.

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Between 2013-2015, the monthly cycling trips over the bridge has almost doubled lending support to the municipal government’s initiative to improve and expand the cycling infrastructure within¬†the city (last evening the proposal was approved by council).

It demonstrates that if you build it, people will use it. Kudos to the local planners with the insight and political conviction to make cycling a priority, and a viable alternative for thousands. It takes vision, determination, and political will to connect these memorable destinations in Vancouver with safe, low traffic bikeways.

I have never thought of it before, but Vancouver is a premier cycling destination for all types of cyclists. For road cyclists, there are numerous scenic, fast, challenging routes, and mountains to climb. For mountain bikers, there is the Pacific Spirit Regional Park, not to mention the legendary North Shore mountain biking trails. And, for casual, recreational cyclists there is an extensive network of dedicated bike lanes and traffic-calmed bikeways.

I’m sounding like a billboard. Never mind. If you are planning a trip to Vancouver, get in touch. I’d be pleased to share my favourite rides with you.

 

 

He was a Christmas present | 5 Day Story Challenge

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He was a Christmas present.

A surprise gift from my partner 25 years ago. A hand-made, rigid mountain bike. Perfect for exploring the local lanes with my 2 young sons. Or, so she thought.

He¬†has served me well, and like all of my¬†bikes, has seen several reincarnations. In the beginning, we did explore the neighbourhood lanes with my sons, teaching them how to ride safely. When they were ready, we began cycling the trails in Pacific Rim Park. The park boasts a network of trails, including several lengthy climbs and fast descents, where you can easily lose yourself for several hours. And then, when they were ready, we progressed to the legendary trails on the North Shore. These are more challenging, more difficult, and for some like me, downright dangerous. At this point, the bike wasn’t enough.¬†I needed suspension. We needed suspension. We¬†now have a stable of hard tails and full suspension bikes suitable for the North Shore, Squamish and Whistler trails.

These days, my Christmas present serves a different purpose. He is equipped with a set of narrow, slick, street tires, a pannier rack, a decommissioned Brooks Professional saddle, and an assortment of used parts from other bikes. Now, he serves as a utility bike and commuter.

Chas: “Hey! That’s my saddle.”

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I have put a lot of kilometres on him. Still do. He¬†is my main ride¬†throughout the work week, and in the winter, when the weather is wet and cold, I continue to ride him¬†regularly. Chas and Lou don’t like wet.

Chas: “Hey. It’s not me. It’s you. You don’t like getting me dirty.”


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We have shared some great times.

He accompanied my son and I to London, England¬†for a month. My son had a trial with one of the top London “football” clubs. He was only 15 at the time, and I wanted to be with him, but needed something to do throughout the day while he was training. Every day I cycled throughout London and points north exploring every park I came across.

Thatch: “That was fun. I like going to new places.”

Another time, we climbed up to the¬†Elfin Lakes, a popular hiking destination. It’s a long, steady climb up, and no place for a rigid MTB, particularly on the way down. I had my hands on the¬†brakes¬†all the way and could¬†barely¬†straighten them by the time we were down. The trail is rocky, and without suspension, it was a very uncomfortable, and dangerous, descent.

Thatch: “I’ll say. That was hard but I did it.”

Once we even cycled to Squamish, a popular, very hilly, 80 km route popular with road cyclists. It took us a long time. Four hours I think. The rest of the group were on road bikes and waited patiently. Or, so they said.

Thatch: “I think you liked doing it with me. My small chainring made the long, steep climbs easy for you.”

I have even flown him to the cottage several times to cycle the quiet rural roads. So, you see, he has been a good friend for a long time. Almost as long as Chas.

Thatch: “I’m not that old.”


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Here he is leaning against a tree overlooking English Bay. His tree. The same tree he has leaned against for 20 years. When we first started stopping here to rest, enjoy the view, and exercise a little, the tree was a sapling, only a few inches in diameter. Today, it is wide around the girth, a bit like me.

Thatch: “This is my favourite place! Take note. I haven’t put any weight on.”

Unlike Chas and Lou, he didn’t have a name until recently. That’s because he isn’t¬†a he. He’s a she. Her name is Thatch. An iron lady. Strong. Tough. Determined. Resolute.

Thatch: “That’s me. Not like those other two that can’t handle heavy loads, rough surfaces, and inclement weather.”

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5 Day Story Challenge 

Becky of Restart Urgently Needed nominated me for this challenge. She wanted to hear more about my bikes she said. Thank you Becky ūüôā I have to write 5 posts¬†about my bikes and, with each post, nominate another blogger to accept the challenge. This time, I am nominating Ellie (A Writer’s Caravan) for the 5 day story challenge because I would love to read a story about how music has shaped her life.

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Is the grass really greener?

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Is the grass greener somewhere else?

It is human nature to think others are better off. They have more of this or that. Their lives are easier, more interesting, or happier. You know what I mean. They think the grass is greener on the other side of that proverbial fence.

I was training in Stanley Park last week on my road bike like I have for almost 30 years when I began to wonder if there is any better place in the world to cycle. I am certain there are a lot of other places, and I know of several in the area that are comparable, but there are some unique things about Stanley Park that set it apart.

For those of you who have never visited Vancouver, Stanley Park is a 1,000-acre public park that borders the downtown of Vancouver, Canada and is almost entirely surrounded by the waters of Vancouver Harbour and English Bay. There is a pedestrian seawall that circumnavigates the entire park along the waterfront, and a vehicular road that circles the interior of the park. Traffic on these arteries always travels in a counter clockwise direction, so there is never any oncoming traffic to contend with, and both routes are approximately 10 km in length without any stoppages. No intersections. No traffic lights. And, no stop signs. You can cycle continuously for as long, or short a period of time as you like.

Yes, the park can get busy. In the summer months in particular, the Seawall and road can be busy with walkers, skateboarders and cyclists. However, in the off seasons, and early morning hours, it is quiet. So, if you pick your times carefully, you can cycle without traffic of any sort for hours.

The Seawall is flat, smooth and winding. Without traffic, you can race around, enjoy the ocean scenery and fresh sea air. The road which cuts through an old growth coastal forest includes a 1.5 km climb, a 2 km descent on a very smooth surface, and the balance of 6.5 km is rolling and winding. In 10 short km you can practice sprints, climbs and descents without ever having to stop.

Add a mild, temperate climate enabling cycling all year, and you have a cyclists paradise. The park is 10 km from the house on traffic calmed bikeways, and 5 km from the office on quiet streets and bike paths. And, the park is on the way home from the office.

What could be better?

So, if weather, traffic, road surface, scenery, fresh air, and terrain are important to you, I know the perfect place to ride.

There is no greener grass than that under your wheel.

“The bicycle saves my life every day”

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¬†If you have ever experienced a moment of awe or freedom on a bicycle; if you’ve ever taken a flight from sadness to the rhythm of two spinning wheels, or felt the resurgence of hope pedalling to the top of a hill with the dew of effort on your forehead; if you’ve ever wondered, swooping bird-like down a long hill on a bicycle, if the world was standing still; if you have ever, just once, sat on a bicycle with a singing heart and felt like an ordinary man touching the gods, then we share something fundamental. We know it’s all about the bike. – Robert Penn

Recently, I have been reading more. I read a lot with the work I do, but not enough for pleasure. I am making an effort to change that.

I have just finished Robert Penn’s book entitled “It’s ALL about the BIKE”, published in 2010. Robert Penn is a writer from South Wales, and an enthusiastic cyclist. He cycles to work each day, even¬†cycled around the world on a Roberts frame not unlike mine. This book is the story of his¬†pursuit to build his¬†dream bike, and along the way outline the history of the bicycle in exquisite detail, culminating with the bespoke bicycle of his dreams.

The project took him throughout Europe and the US in search of the best frame builder, handlebars, group set, hubs, rims spokes, saddle, and wheel builder. In the end, the bike cost him $6,500, a lot for a bike some may think. A small price to pay for a perfect dream.

“It’s all about the bike” is one of those books that is difficult to put down. I kept it with me for several days taking every opportunity to revel in it. I was captivated with the book. First, I identified with Penn. We both purchased a Robert’s frame about the same time. We both have a lot of¬†bikes. We both commute to work. And, for each of us, the bike is much more than a means of transport. It is that, but it is much more. And secondly, despite having read widely about the evolution of the bicycle, I learned a lot.

Did you know that Tullio Campagnolo, the founder of the company bearing his name, invented the quickly release. In the 1920’s he was¬†a bike racer. In those days, bicycles had two gears; one for climbing, and one for everything else. And, it was no easy task to change gears. Rear wheels had one small gear on one side of the hub, and a larger gear on the other side. To change gears, riders would dismount. loosen the axle bolts, turn the wheel around, re-tighten the bolts, and hop back on the bike. During a race up the side of an Italian mountain, Tullio was leading. When he reached the crest of the climb, he dismounted to “change gears” but his hands were so cold, he was unable to loosen the bolts, and subsequently lost the race. He went home wondering if there was a better way. The quick release we are familiar with today, was born. In a small shop behind his father’s store, Tuillio¬†began manufacturing quick release axles, and so began the Campagnolo company.

The book is filled with stories like this outlining the evolution of the bike from the invention of pneumatic tires by a dentist wanting to make a smoother ride for his son, differential gearing enabling up to 33 gears today, ball bearings used in headsets, hubs, and bottom brackets today, leather saddles that are made the same way today as they were 50 years ago, and steel spokes that cushion the ride better than wooden ones … Stories¬†about Brooks Saddles, Brian Rourke Cycles, Cinelli, Nick Gravenite (Gravy Wheels), and Chris King.

If you are an enthusiastic cyclist, read this book. You will learn something, and gain a new respect for the bike. If you have a bike collecting dust in the basement, read this book. It will get you back out on the road. And, if you don’t have a bike, read this book. It will inspire you to buy a bike, and give you sound advice on what to look for.

Happy reading ūüôā

They laugh …

IMG_2743 They¬†laugh. They think I look ridiculous. I don’t care. I’d rather be dry, and warm.

I ride in the rain, if¬†necessary. Not the good bikes. They don’t see rain unless by accident. I have rain gear including a helmet cover that keeps the rain out of my eyes, off my head, and away from my neck.

Today, I dressed for rain. And, that means my helmet cover was on. This cover is unique. IMG_2737 It has a brim like a cycling cap to keep the rain out of my eyes. It has a flap at the back to keep my neck dry. And, it has reflective strips on both the sides and back so I can be seen more easily in low light conditions. IMG_2739 The cover cinches on quickly, and easily. It stays in my pannier in the event of rain. I never know in these parts.

They laugh. They say “Real cyclists don’t wear helmet covers”. They may wear a cycling cap. A cassette. But never a helmet¬†cover.

Let them laugh.