Saturday, July 22, 2017

It's Been Too Long

It's been too long since my last post. I've been terribly busy with the day job. When I had time to ride, the weather was lousy.

Today, we have intermittent thundershowers. Tomorrow will be more of the same. And THAT is exactly why I have a trainer in my den and can ride, at least for a while, when the weather puts a damper on things.

If you ride in the rain keep your eyes and ears open. Vehicles slip and slide a lot more on wet roads. Your bicycle will take a lot longer to stop in the pouring rain and you will be more likely to slip and fall on slick pavement. Cars, too, will have increased stopping distances. Be aware of your surroundings.

Always put safety first when you are on a bicycle.

Another threat we have to consider is lightning. If you are riding in the open you are far more likely to be hit by lightning. You would be better off seeking shelter and waiting out the storm.

When the rain stops and you want to proceed, go with caution. Don't ride on lines painted on the road. They are very slippery when wet. This is especially important when you have slick bike tires designed for road racing.

Be safe.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Side-by-Side

It's fun to ride with other people at times. In fact, most of the time when I am on my bike I meet couples riding together. Ohio law says that bicyclists cannot ride more than two abreast.

I see participants in group rides often riding three abreast. Not only is it dangerous, according to Ohio code, it is illegal. Don't do it.

I am an advocate of riding in a line rather than riding side-by-side. It makes sense given Ohio's three-feet directive. When a motorist overtakes a cyclist he or she is supposed to leave at least three feet of space between their vehicle and the bicycle as they pass.

Ride organizers, you need to emphasize that safety is of the utmost importance. All cyclists need to obey traffic laws-- for your own protection.

We are now in the heat of summer. It is also important to stay hydrated. Take along plenty of water. On a twenty mile ride, you should have at least two tall bottles of water with you. Don't ride dry.

The Consequences...


If you ride without adequate water supply you run the risk of fainting. You can also cause bleeding for taking a long ride on an empty bladder. It's rare, but, I know serious long-distance riders who have learned this the hard way.

STAY HYDRATED!

Sun Block...


You might wonder why I ride in the heat of summer in a long sleeve jersey and Pearl Izumi tights. The best sun block is actually clothing. What I choose to wear is well vented and comfortable. It sure beats getting skin cancer. You can look online and find lots of casual clothing designed for summer that still has long sleeves. Do a search for Tarponwear and other similar brands of outdoor clothing designed for fly fishing or saltwater fishing. It's not cycling clothing, but, it will protect sensitive skin.

There are long-sleeve cycling jerseys made for summer riding, but, they are rare in local shops. I buy mine through Amazon.

As always... be safe.
 
 

Monday, June 5, 2017

I'm Back in the Saddle Again

A while back my wife dragged me to the Ohio Theater in down-town Columbus, Ohio. I don't like big cities. I prefer farmland, rolling hills, and wide-open spaces.

Thanks to Ohio Theater's cramped, abysmal seats, my back slipped out of place and I had about two weeks of pain. Cycling was too painful until I was able to slowly get my alignment back to normal. Now, I have no pain and I am riding again.

I have never liked riding in the rain. If the temperature is about fifty-five degrees or above, I will be geared up and on the bike whenever possible. Depending on traffic, I plan my route with safety in mind.

When I am by myself, I push hard to get the best cardio workout. When my wife is riding with me, I have to take it easy and ride at a casual pace. Either way, I am on the bike.

We live on the southwest edge of Columbus. We head west into open farmland when we ride. My wife loves the Camp Chase Trail. I have to admit, I enjoy it, too. Those rails-to-trails projects that are paved, not gravel, have stolen my heart. They are smooth and relatively empty. We pass a few riders on our local bike paths, but, my wife is so much more comfortable on the bike path than the road that she wants to transport her bike to a parking area along the trail and start her ride from there.

On Saturday's ride, a motorist in a pickup was making a rolling stop when he spotted my wife and came to a halt a few feet away from me. If he had not spotted my wife, he would have rolled through the stop sign and struck me from the right. And THAT is why my wife likes the trails and is nervous on the road around here.

Eventually, we will ride the Camp Chase Trail to Xenia and catch the Little Miami River Trail from there and take it all the way to Cincinnati.

If you are not familiar with the paved network of trails now available in Ohio, check with the ODNR and cycling advocacy sites on the web. Traffic is crazy on Mid Ohio roadways anymore. Those paved bike paths are the best thing that has happened for cycling around Columbus.

Be safe.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Wind, Wind, and More Wind

It's Tuesday. The monsoon season has begun. Yesterday, after the rains subsided, the winds began.

Today, weather reports are calling for wind gusts up to 50 miles-per-hour. It is  much too dangerous to ride in that kind of wind.

It is said that April showers bring May flowers. By the time we reach the end of May weather patterns are typically more stable and predictable. The rule for early season cycling activity is to ride when you can.

My cycling regimen is a combination of riding on the roads and bike paths when I can get out, and riding on the trainer when adverse conditions warrant it.

I am looking forward to the end of May and sunny days. I don't mind summer breezes. I prefer country roads and bike paths to my den and riding on a trainer.

For now, I'll write, play music, do a little artwork, and ride on the trainer-- dreaming of cycle touring through Tuscany, the wine region of France, the castle region of Spain, or along the Danube.

I will leave you with this song quote:

Far away places, with strange sounding names...
Far away over the sea___
Oh, those far away places with those strange sounding names
are calling, calling to me___

Friday, April 21, 2017

Diamondback Century Disc Review

I have been an avid cyclist for fifty-four years. I've ridden cruisers (before they were called cruisers), mountain bikes (hard tails), comfort bikes, hybrids, factory-made road bikes, custom-made road bikes, touring bikes, and a home-made BMX bike (before BMX bikes ever came to market).

My real passion is touring road bikes. Sure, I love racing bikes, too, but cycle touring has always been my passion because the world is a beautiful place and I love to capture the beauty of it when I find a scenic vista that stirs my soul.

I have owned so many bicycles over that years that I probably could not name them all. My latest "ride" is a Diamondback Century Disc.

One Hundred Miles In...


A "Century" is the name given to a bike ride that is one-hundred miles long. Diamondback is aiming squarely at that market with the Century series of bikes. At the low-end is the Century Sport. It features an 8-speed rear cog-set, center-pull brakes and Shimano components mixed with a few budget components to hit a target price of around $600 on the street. The Century Disc lists in the $1000 to $1100 range and features a better grade of components and mechanical disc brakes.

Here is the Diamondback Century Disc...

 click the image for a larger view


I changed the saddle to a Forte anatomically designed, gel-filled model for men. It is comfortable and economical. I added a lightweight bike rack on the back and a transit bag. I also added rat-trap pedals for riding efficiency. I prefer them to clipless pedals. I guess I am just old-school when it comes to pedals. Equipped as you see in the picture, the bike sits at twenty-five pounds. From the factory, it was 22.02 pounds according to spec.

Here are the specs:

Frame............... Diamondback butted 7005 aluminum
Fork.................. DBR Podium Airformed Disc Alloy, 1.5" Taper Alloy Steerer
Rims................. DB Equation SE 28h/28h
Hubs................. Aluminum
Spokes.............. 14-gauge, stainless-steel
Tires.................. Michelin Dynamic Sport 700x28c
Crankset............. FSA Tempo Compact
Chainrings.......... 50/34
Front Derailleur... Shimano: Sora
Rear Derailleur.... Shimano: Sora
Rear Cogs........... Shimano HG200 9spd (11-32t)
Shifters.............. Shimano Sora
Handlebars......... DBR Drop Bar Road 31.8
Tape/Grips......... DBR Race Tape w/Gel
Stem................. DB 3D Forged, +/-7° Rise 31.8
Brake Levers...... Shimano Sora
Brakes.............. Tektro Mira Mechanical Disc, 160/140mm Rotors
Pedals............... Wellgo aluminum platform (added rat-traps)
Saddle.............. Diamondback Performance Road (swapped for the Forte)
Seatpost........... Diamondback Performance, aluminum



The Diamondback Century frame is butted aluminum and will provide many years longer use than a carbon-fiber frame at a lot lower cost. For cycle touring, I prefer the comfort of a steel frame, but, I really hate seeing rust on a bike and finding touch-up paint for your ride is almost impossible these days. Maybe I have become a fanatic that way, but, I switched to aluminum-framed bikes years ago for that reason and for the lighter weight.

My first "good" bicycle was a Schwinn Super LeTour. It weighed twenty-six pounds. In its day, it was a real lightweight. It had Suntour components and a chrome-moly frame. It was a beauty, but by today's standards it would be considered a heavy-weight. The trade-off was almost unsurpassed riding comfort and control.

How does the Diamondback Century Disc compare to that old Schwinn Super LeTour? The ride is quite a bit more nimble on the Century Disc. The rear triangle is much stiffer that the Schwinn and that means when you are pedaling, more energy meets the road where it matters.

There is a slight rake on the front fork of the Century Disc that eases steering and provides a more comfortable ride than would be achieved with a straight, racing fork. It's alloy and strong enough to handle hard use, but it's not as light as a carbon fork would be.

The Shimano Sora shifters are a perfect match for the Sora 9-speed rear derailleur. The rear cog-set is narrower than a lot of rear clusters and performs very well. Shifting is quick and reliable. It is heavier than a Shimano Tiagra, 105, or Ultegra, as you might imagine, but you can depend on it. The front derailleur is also reliable. Again, it's Shimano Sora mated with an FSA crank. It is a little heavier than the Sora crank, but, it's a bit more economical.

I plan to swap out the Sora components with Ultegra components at some future time to reduce weight and provide even better shifting. Mind you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Sora components. Like I said, they are reliable and will provide years of use. I'd just like to change to Ultegra for their added value.

If you are used to riding a hybrid bike with a triple-crank, you might miss some of the gear options you had if you switch to a road bike with a 50/34 set of chain rings. That old Schwinn Super LeTour had a 52/39 and that was pretty common on 10-speed and 12-speed bikes of the day. In fact, I remember riding some bikes with 52/42 chain rings.

Sora derailleurs are a lot easier to adjust than the Shimano Altus derailleurs that you'll find on a lot of lower-priced mountain bikes. The Sora borrows a lot of design elements from its more expensive siblings. My first reaction to the shifters was that I was not a fan of down-shifting with the brake levers, but, I've really grown to love them. I was concerned with cable stretch and adjustment issues, but, my concerns have all vanished after a lot of use. These shifters work extremely well.

I did not know what to expect from mechanical disc brakes. I am not a fan of hydraulic disc brakes because of the fluid and frequent need for bleeding the brakes to keep them reliable. These mechanical disc brakes work well. The bike also looks cleaner without the center-pull brakes seated atop the rims. I've grown to really appreciate the cleaner look. Disc brakes do provide the rider with more control and better stopping power even in wet weather.

On my maiden voyage with the Diamondback Century Disc, I realized that I wanted to swap the saddle. That is not unusual, though. Every bike I have had in the last twenty years had a saddle swap within the first few rides. My Fuji bikes all felt as though their seats were designed by Vlad the Impaler. The Diamondback saddle was nowhere near that bad, but, I wanted a wider area across the sit-bones. The Forte is perfect.

To sum things up, the Diamondback Century Disc is a good middle-priced aluminum "endurance" road bike. It is aimed at long-distance riding, day-long centuries and cycle touring. It is built for reliability, but, it doesn't feel like you are pedaling a tank. It rides as if it were lighter than it really is. That might be partly because of the Michelin Dynamic Sport tires and the Equation rims. Their wider footprint offers smooth performance without increased rolling resistance.
 
This bike's frame geometry is to be credited for its road-worthy ride. In truth, this frame was well engineered and gives the bike its nimble handling without making the rider feel as though he is on a buckboard.

I have put a lot of miles on the Diamondback Century Disc in a short amount of time and I will confess, I have fallen in love with it.

It's great seeing Diamondback running with the pack. The Century series of endurance road bikes offer the perfect combination of economy, dependability, and performance. GOOD SHOW DB!   

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

A few days ago I arrived home in time to grab a quick bike ride before dinner. I suited up and headed out the door.

Just south of where I live is an intersection where people often cross traffic to the left. There is no intersecting road on the right. A line of cars was waiting behind the motorist at the head of the pack, whose intent was to turn left. 

Suddenly, an impatient driver in a larger-than-life pickup truck with duel tires on the rear pull off the lane to the right, drove through the ditch and shoulder and plowed back onto the road on the other side of the intersection, cutting off a motorist in a sub-compact car in the process. Had a cyclist been on that right shoulder, what would have happened?

I was about two-hundred feet north of the intersection and a safe distance from the idiot in the truck. I slowed my pedaling and watched as the scene unfolded.

I have been waiting to cross traffic into the street where I live and had people go around me on the wide shoulder that serves as a bike lane on the main road. In recent years it has become a lot busier due to the constant addition of new homes on the west side of the road. It is getting increasingly difficult to cross the road and head south on the shoulder/bike lane that was built to accommodate kids riding to the high school just north of me.

My wife is uncomfortable riding on the main road these days. There are just too many cars at certain times of the day and rush-hour should be avoided if you have a choice of riding times. If not, you need to be diligent when it comes to riding around Mid Ohio.

For all of Columbus, Ohio's bike lanes, wide shoulders, and cycling advocates, there are still innumerable morons out there who don't pay attention to what's going on around them. Like the jerk in the pick-up truck, they dart in and out of traffic without looking at what might be alongside them.

Remember, in Ohio, and many other states, a bicycle is a legal road vehicle and is to be ridden on roads and designated bicycle paths. Bicycles do not belong on sidewalks. If you are on the road in high-traffic periods, watch, look, and listen before changing lanes. Keep your eyes open as you approach intersections. Watch for people who might appear anxious and could whip around someone waiting to cross traffic coming from the other direction. That sort of anxious driver just might pull into the bike path and mow down a cyclist.

Precaution Is the Word of the Day


Don't let fear prevent you from riding your bike. Just plan your rides around areas of the lowest traffic. Where possible, incorporate the use of bike paths and roads with WIDE shoulders. Plan an exit strategy for that occasional reckless driver. Trust in YOUR good judgment and don't rely on motorists to exhibit the same. There are good drivers and bad drivers out there, so, make sure that the odds are in your favor.

There are city planners who have designed bike lanes that are actually dangerous. Adding bike accommodations has become fashionable these days, but, a lot of those city engineers don't really have a clue how cyclists actually ride. Cars that have to cross a bike lane to turn right pose a threat. Bike lanes that are on the right side of parked cars are deadly because motorist cannot see you in that lane when they turn into a driveway or turn right at an intersection. You also need to watch for passengers exiting cars on the bike-lane-side. Just try running into a suddenly opened door at 15 miles per hour. It's not pretty.

Tell your local government what you like and don't like about their intentions when it comes to accommodating cyclists. They mean well, but, often their plans are ill-conceived.

Whether on a bike or not, always be aware of your surroundings. Stop, look, listen. Ride SMART. Ride with confidence. BE SAFE.

 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Rest In Peace Mike Hall

The vast majority of people who read this blog will never have heard of cyclist Mike Hall (UK). Mike won North America's TransAm Bike Race (4300 miles from the Pacific Coast to Virginia).

Running the Indian Pacific Wheel Race on March 31, 2017 it was reported that Mike was struck my a car and killed.

There is a documentary of the TransAm race featuring Mike, among other riders, when he won that event. It is called "Inspired to Ride" and I have watched it more than once.

I am saddened to hear of Mike's death. He was what many call an "ultra Cyclist" and a rare competitor.

Mike had no interest in racing events like the Tour De France. His passion was for adventure cycling-- long, grueling rides (up to 300 miles per day) that test your endurance and he was one of the very best. He was a champion in the true sense of the word.

Cycling is a great way to stay fit. It is rare that someone is killed on a bicycle when they observe traffic laws and keep aware of motorists and road conditions. At Mike's level, it is even rarer that someone is killed on a ride, especially by a collision with a motorist; but, it does happen. For this reason, a lot of cyclists feel more comfortable riding on bike trails or off-road.

The best way to plan your rides is to pick routes that keep you off roads that have no shoulders and roads that are congested.

Columbus, Ohio is a bike-friendly city. The state of Ohio is 16th on the list of bike-friendly states (out of 50 states). Columbus has placed bike lanes on many roads and has added wide shoulders in a lot of roads to encourage people to ride their bikes to school and work. Some of those bike lanes are well-designed and some are terrible (Rome-Hilliard Road is an example of the latter, Hall Road west of Galloway Road is an example of the former).

Plan your bike rides to take advantage of low-traffic areas and bike trails like the Camp Chase Trail (which parallels several roadways and features crossings with stop signs where intersections exist).

Rest in Peace, Mike Hall. You were an inspiration to me and many others.