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.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Why Do Cyclists Shave Their Legs?

When people find out that I am a serious cyclist they ask a lot of questions. One of the most frequent questions I am asked is this: "Why do cyclists shave their legs?"

There is a popular misconception that cyclists shave their legs to reduce wind resistance. Seriously? Yep, many people believe it. Sorry, guess again.

Do you really think that shaving the hair off one's legs will reduce drag and help improve performance? A lot of people have bought into that idea, even among cyclists.

Marco Pantani received a bicycle when he was a child and first started getting serious about cycling. After he started racing regularly, he stripped every non-essential piece from that bike in order to lighten it. I know what that's like... I did the same thing. People go to great lengths to lighten the weight of their bicycles in order to climb hills faster and easier. Time-trial racers ride the stiffest and lightest bikes possible to cut even hundredths of seconds off their times. But, shaving their legs won't change a thing.

So why DO cyclists shave their legs?

When you put a lot of miles on a bicycle, like I do, at one point or another, you will likely hit the pavement. Now, personally, I've been very lucky because I have not had an accident in decades. I am totally serious. I've learned to be very cautious over the years. The last fall I had was in the 1980s. I know that is extremely rare. Most cyclists are not that lucky.


The injury sustained most often from accidents on a bicycle is what we refer to as "road rash" --abrasions. When a rider goes down in a turn, and hits the pavement, sliding across the blacktop removes skin from every contact point. Concrete is far worse. You can get scraped up badly a long way from home. Your only option is to keep a stiff upper lip and pedal your way home.

Riding into the wind with abrasions all over your arms and legs results in scabs forming before you can make it home to clean your wounds. If you have a couple of water bottles and you are close enough to home you can clean the wounds and remove some clothing, if possible, to ease the discomfort. Riding home with your injuries while scabs are forming with leg hair and clothing sticking to the wounds is no fun.

Shaving your leg hair will ease cleaning your wounds after a fall. Clothing may still stick to wounds, but, at least leg hair will no longer be a concern.

One other benefit of shaving your legs for cycling is more freedom of movement when you wear cycling tights or leggings of some sort.

I wear cycling tights and long-sleeved jerseys to prevent exposure to the sun on lengthy rides. I have known a lot of people who have battled skin cancer and I don't want to join them. In my case, shaving my legs eases movement while pedaling and I am ready if I ever do have an accident.

So the mystery is solved. 

I hope you never hit the pavement, but, if you do, remember, you are in good company.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Spring Colds and Cycling

Years ago I taught fly fishing in a world-famous school in the Catskill Mountains. Al Caucci (co-author with the late Bob Nastasi of "Hatches" and four other fly fishing books) was the owner of the fly fishing schools. He once told me that at the first sign of a cold, he takes the day off work and goes skiing.

Somehow, hitting the slopes seems to fly in the face of what most doctors recommend-- that is: getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids.

Al's belief was that the cold air in his face actually killed the cold germs. For him, I must admit, it seemed to work.

As for cycling, I am not sure what riding would bring. Somehow, having the wind in my face does not sound like a wise course of action, but I see the merits of keeping the blood pumping as a way to expedite the recovery process.

Spring colds are hard to shake. Since I just came down with one, I am a little concerned about my planned weekend rides. Do I go with the Al Caucci approach and ride into the wind? Do I stick to the trainer in my den and drink plenty of liquids and take my cold medicine as recommended? The kid in me wants to do the former while the adult in me wants to do the latter.

I guess I will play it by ear. The road calls me. If need be, the trainer is right here in the den. I can pedal, either way.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cycling in Those In-Between Temperatures

Early spring brings sporadic temperatures. From one day to the next we can go from thirty degrees to seventy. It's possible to start a ride at fifty degrees and be heading for home at seventy-five.

Whatever the temperature is when you plan to ride, take along suitable cover for warmth on the bike. Wearing layers is a good idea. That's why most of the time I am wearing thermal tights in early season. I've been a fan of Pearl Izumi for several years. They keep my legs warm when there's a little bit of a chill in the air.

I typically wear a cycling jersey that is understated. Something in a two-tone, subdued color, like gray and black, vented for heat dissipation, with long sleeves to keep the sun off my arms (don't want skin cancer).

When I start my ride in early morning I will wear a Pearl Izumi "Barrier Jacket" to keep me warm, but, it will go into the Transit bag on my bike rack before the ride is over.

I recently went looking for a cycling outfit to wear for those more stable, but cool, spring days. I wanted something to keep me warm at fifty degrees when I want to ride, but, my summer gear is too cold and I don't want to wear a sweatshirt instead of a cycling jersey.

I was checking out Amazon's cycling clothing and came across a Team USA bib and jersey set with a patriotic theme that was designed specifically for this sort of weather. Here it is (on the right).

The graphic is a bald eagle with the stars and stripes. The bib tights have the same eagle graphic on the thighs with black material at the top and bottom.

I absolutely love the patriotic theme of the whole Team USA line. There are six different designs, all of them sporting the stars and stripes.

The jersey is zipped up the front (zipper is reversed-- zipping up from the left side, not the right). The fit is perfect. The bibs fit far better than I expected. I am 6'1" tall with a perfect riding weight of 155 pounds. Since the bibs had a foam padded seat, I decided to buy the "medium" outfit to fit better in the nether regions. The inseam was supposed to be about 32 inches (mine is between 34 and 36 inches depending on the cut). The bibs go all the way to my ankles. Fantastic! I did not expect that at all. I am so glad that I did not order a "large" outfit. It would not have fit nearly as well on my frame.

If you are looking for a cycling outfit for cooler days or early morning rides, and you want something well-made with a price that can't be beat, check out these cycling outfits. If you want a patriotic-themed set, the Team USA designs are an obvious choice.

Here is a link: