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Bicycles and Bugs in the Mouth

Last week I was moving along smartly behind another rider I was using to set a pace. We were clipping along at between 18 and 20 miles per hour. Suddenly, something smacked the roof of my mouth. I felt a chitinous object in the back of my throat about the size of a bean. Instantaneously I hacked and spit it out. As it came out the only thing that I could verify for you is that it was black and that I was able to confirm the size as it accelerated toward the ground.

The roof of my mouth was throbbing with pain. I wondered whether or not to declare an emergency, but decided to wait while monitoring for some other side effect such as swelling from a sting. After all, it could have been a bee or a wasp.

Later in the evening, the symptoms evolved into something like a sore throat. That night I had some issue with breathing because the back of my throat was swollen. The symptoms persisted the next day, although it was getting progressively better.

There is a need, I thought, for bug protection for bicycle riders. Research on the Internet uncovered mixed results, as it often does. One solution that I found is a screen to cover your face, similar to the protection worn by fencers. That is something that I do not want to be seen wearing. A bandanna is also in that category. I had visions of a small mask to fit over the mouth with a screen to keep the bugs out. I must have been channeling Hannibal Lecter.

Other sage advice from the Internet included, “Keep your mouth shut”. That’s a problem if you are forced to mouth-breathe due to allergies or exertion. Another person suggested you will “learn your lesson” if you happen to suck in a bee or wasp.

I happen to have a theory about that to ease your fears, although not scientifically founded or proven. Some bugs are less likely to run into your face because they can sense the slightly increased pressure in front of you. Flies have that ability. They can sense the slight increase in pressure as your hand or the swatter approaches and escape just in time. Bees, wasps, and flies are maneuverable and they can get out of the way to save themselves, unlike a beetle lumbering through the air.

Today I “got back on that horse” and rode my usual 25 mile training run. I must admit that I tried to keep my mouth shut as much as possible. There were a couple of clouds of gnats that I rode through, but no more bean-sized suicidal beetles. The farther I rode I realized that there was no problem to solve. I’ll swallow a few gnats, but another collision with a black bean is unlikely.

NSAIDS and Cycling

Since 2011 I have been on an aspirin regimen to avoid stroke as prescribed by my cardiologist. The problems sometimes associated with aspirin such as bleeding and allergy have not been problems for me. That made it easy for me to unwittingly take a slightly higher dose than normally recommended with the feeling that more might be better. That is not so.

 

There was a recent post on the journeyonabike Facebook page on this issue that got me interested in researching the topic more. People were commenting on their use of NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) to prevent or minimize discomfort during a ride. Others were warning against that practice and I decided to look into it since it pertained to me. I am not a doctor and if you need more information as it pertains to you, you should consult with your personal doctor.

 

The overall concern is the effect of NSAIDs in general on renal (kidney) function, especially on people who are engaged in rigorous exercise, including bicycle touring and related training. NSAIDS and dehydration are a bad combination and the use of NSAIDs as a preventive measure is not recommended. That is, dosing with an NSAID to prevent pain during a ride is not a good idea. The long term effect of this can be kidney damage. There are other side effects on heart rate and heart health, but it has been difficult to find all of the pertinent and credible information in one place. A typical article is the one that I found at the National Center for Biotechnology Information. It is straightforward to find much more information on this by doing searches on the Internet for topics such as “NSAIDs and hydration”.

 

Another personal finding is that the bad effects of NSAIDs can be mitigated by lower doses. It appears that at lower doses some of the enzyme and hormone activity affecting digestive and renal function are impacted less. The recommended dose of aspirin as a stroke prevention regimen appears to be 70 to 350 milligrams with many suggestions that 70 to 100 milligram dosage is adequate. I am pursuing this with the guidance of my cardiologist.

 

There are other concerns with the use of NSAIDs, including discontinuing an aspirin regimen and use of more than one NSAID at a time. There are studies indicating that discontinuing an aspirin regimen can increase the probability of a bad heart event. Using another NSAID such as Advil or Ibuprofen while on an aspirin regimen can increase the chances of bleeding. Use of acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead is recommended by some, which can have its own bad side effects on the liver when overused or used along with regular alcohol consumption.

 

All of that said, personal caution is the best course of action. NSAIDs should be used with moderation and regular dosing should be with the care and consultation of a medical doctor. This is especially important for people such as cyclists who tax their organs with regular exercise. Above all, do not use NSAIDs in an attempt to make your ride more comfortable. Instead, use regular training to build yourself up to what ever level of performance you need for your travels.

Stationary Trainer Time – Boring!

At this time I’ve started using my stationary trainer once again. I wrote about it in an earlier post. It is still working well after three years, although according to my records on Strava I only have about 360 miles on it. I record all of my rides, including the imaginary ones on my stationary.

This year I fell short by about 600 miles on my annual 3000 mile riding goal. That was for several reasons: bad spring weather, major home remodeling, and a bad cold. The winter is beginning to look like a cold and wet one, keeping me off the trail. I will ride my bicycle outdoors down to 20 degrees, but not on snow and ice.

So, here I am, back on the stationary trainer, trying my best to stay in shape for real riding and for life. I moved it to the front of my little room by the windows so that my neighbors can watch me go nowhere for nearly two hours, two or three times per week. One thing that is real is the sweat.

It is very difficult to maintain the discipline on something so boring. It does take close to two hours to get a good workout. That’s about the length of my outdoor training rides. I rarely ride less than 25 miles and average about fifteen miles per hour. I do the same thing on  my virtual rides. While I complain, I still recommend it for when the weather gets too cold and icy as long as you can muster the discipline.

Dave and the Electric Bike

Dave and I met two years earlier on the same ride from DC to Pittsburgh. This was his ninth time on the annual ride. My memory of him as a cyclist was that he was not the strongest, but had the stamina and drive to ride the entire route. Both of us were the last riders to reach Pittsburgh that year.

This year was different and Dave was sometimes among the first riders to reach camp each day. I’m 71 years old and Dave is about the same age. I didn’t think that it was possible to build endurance and strength at our age, so it was surprising to observe Dave’s performance given my past experience.

On the last day of our latest ride, Dave and I were among the top group to arrive in Pittsburgh. As we approached the city I was cranking along at 16 to 17 miles per hour and when I looked behind me Dave was right there. At one point he shouted something like, “You can’t get away from me!” It reminded my of the 1950s song “Beep Beep”:

While riding in my Cadillac, what, to my surprise,
A little Nash Rambler was following me, about one-third my size.
The guy must have wanted it to pass me up
As he kept on tooting his horn. Beep! Beep!
I’ll show him that a Cadillac is not a car to scorn.

I was motivated to keep up the pace and after some time I left him behind.

I reached Pittsburgh and the rendezvous point for the end of the ride ahead of him by a few minutes. When he arrived we began to talk and I realized by something that he said that he was riding an electric bike! It is a very stealthy electric by Trek with a relatively small battery and the motor in the bottom bracket. He had bought it several months before this ride. Dave said that it weighs about 45 pounds and offered to let me try it, which I was eager to do.

After a quick introduction to the controls, I pedaled down the trail. I must have laughed all the way because the sensation was fantastic. Up I slight incline, the motor kicked in to keep my effort and speed constant as I pedaled. It is an electric assist design rather than full-time electric. On the return ride, I began up a rather steep incline and pushed the button one or two times to increase the assist. I zoomed right up, applying the same effort that I used on the flat, giggling all the way.

When I returned to the parking lot, Dave and I talked a bit more and I learned things about him that I didn’t know or at least didn’t remember from our previous meeting. In the past nine years he has had a heart bypass, four stents, and a mechanical heart valve implanted. This remarkable person wants to stay active and the electric assist bicycle gives him that opportunity because he has much more control over exertion and heart rate. Everybody on the ride has internal drive that makes them strive for life. For me, Dave epitomizes that striving.

As I departed, I shook Dave’s hand and said, “See you next year.” Dave replied, “We’ll see.” At first I though that was a very fatalistic response. I came to realize that this is a man living every day as though it was going to be his last. I hope I have the pleasure of being with him again next year.

Maintain Your Chain

This year I’m trying something new: I replaced my chain before my cassette became so worn that it also needed to be replaced. In February one of the mechanics at Harris Cyclery recommended that I check my chain more frequently for wear. I had been taking my Long Haul Trucker in once a year for service with about 3000 miles between service. That’s too long for a chain and each time I also needed to replace a worn out cassette.

As a chain wears the rollers get farther apart due to the wear of the pins that keep the rollers in place and provide a small axle for each roller and connecting link of the chain. People refer to  this as “chain stretch”, but it is not stretching. The cumulative effect of pin wear is that the chain does get longer, but this is due to the loose fit of the pins at each wear point on the chain. They can wear badly enough to fail, causing the chain to break at one of the links. You never want to let a chain get that bad.

I purchased a Park Tool CC-2 Chain Checker. They are available from Amazon for about $27. The tool features two pins that measure the distance between a set of rollers. The user fits the pins on the tool between two rollers on a taut part of the chain. I usually measure the chain above the chain stay. The next step is to rotate the indicator dial until it stops moving, which means that the pins are as far apart as they can get between the rollers.

The dial has numbers .25, .50, .75, and 1.0 on the dial that measure chain wear. I measure a new chain so that I have a baseline. The numbers on this tool are not a unit of measure or a percentage. Interpreting them is a judgement call and that’s why I recommend measuring a new chain as a baseline. For example, my new chain measures at .25. Above .50 I will replace the chain. I got about 1200 miles from my chain before replacing it. I probably could have gotten another 200 to 300 miles from it. I decided to get it done before a fall tour.  

If you ride long and hard with a worn chain, it will wear the teeth on the cassette. This wear effectively increases the space between the teeth and rounds the corners of the teeth. When this happens, the cassette must be replaced together with the chain. If the cassette is not replaced, the new chain will be stressed and will fail sooner because the rollers will not make proper  contact with the teeth. This misfit can cause problem shifting as well as vibration and chain jumping.

One key to maximizing the life of a chain is to lubricate it frequently. I lubricate about every 50 to 100 miles. If I ride in the rain or get the chain wet some other way such as washing the bike I will lubricate before my next ride. I use a lubricant made specifically for chains: Finish Line DRY Bike Lubricant. I’ve bee using it for about four years. Do not use WD-40 or household 30W oil. WD-40 is volatile and will evaporate, leaving the chain unprotected. Household oil may be too viscous and fail to wash contaminants out of chain when applied.

Another factor in maximizing chain life is your riding style. I try to favor the largest chain ring because that will tend to favor the larger sprockets of the cassette. This is important because on the larger sprockets more teeth will be in contact with the chain. Chain wear impacts the larger sprockets less and will help extend the life of your cassette. In practice, if you use the largest chain ring, you can achieve a comfortable cadence on a larger cassette sprocket in many circumstances. Of course, on some terrain such as hills this may not be practical all of the time.

This is the first time I’ve had a chain replacement without the cost of a matching cassette replacement. In my opinion it was worth the change at this time because the rear derailleur seems to perform better with crisp shifting up and down the range. It also gives me confidence that my equipment is as mechanically as good as it can be.

Cycle the Erie Canal 2017

This year my son Eric and one of my granddaughters, Sofia,  joined me on the ride, my fifth with Parks and Trails New York. This was Eric’s second time on the ride and Sofia’s first. She is thirteen years old and handled the ride very well. I found myself behind her for much of the ride. I was behind not because she was riding faster, but because she was great at setting and maintaining a sustainable pace.

Along the way there were some great, old-fashioned diners where we enjoyed some meals on the road. At each tent city, we pitched and broke camp as a team and got on the trail every morning before 7:30. Sofia assembled a food cache in her panniers with tidbits from each rest stop that she shared with her dad and me. She quickly learned bicycle tour etiquette and contributed to making the ride safe for all of the riders with coaching from dad on the fine points.

At our last camp in Niskayuna, a person came up to me as we were standing outside our tents in the evening. We talked and he asked about our pace on the trail. I told him that we were among the first in camp each day. He expressed his thought that perhaps we were not able to “smell the roses” and enjoy all that the ride has to offer, including the historical sites. In my opinion, the ride is significant in many different ways for different people.

Each year my ride has had a changing significance. During early rides, my focus was on the history and attractions along the trail. Last year, riding with my son during his first Erie ride, my focus was more on performance, trying to keep up with him. He always beat me into camp, but we both arrived in camp very early in the day. We have great memories of sitting at the information tent and talking with others who had also arrived and watching those who were arriving.

This year it was a joy to see Sofia become immersed in the ride. Her energy on the trail was surprising. I watched as she cranked up the mile long hill in Canajoharie without stopping or slowing as she reached the top. We will enjoy talking about our adventure together for some time to come.

Ready for the Erie Ride 2017

This will be my fifth ride on the Erie Canal with Parks and Trails New York. I wrote a review of the ride a couple of years ago and I continue to recommend the experience. Last year was special for me because my son Eric joined me. The year Eric and granddaughter Sofia will be joining me.

Each year I support PTNY with a donation in addition to paying for the ride. I recently received correspondence from PTNY concerning funding for the major trails in New York state. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of PTNY, there is funding to close the Erie Canalway Trail gaps between Buffalo and Albany. The funding also provides for connecting the Erie Canalway Trail, the Lake Champlain Canalway, and the Hudson River Valley Greenway. When completed in 2020, the Empire State Trail will be the longest contiguous set of multi-use trails in the United States, a total of 750 miles.

New York State is a great place to ride. I look forward to the Erie ride again this year. It will be great to ride the entire Empire State Trail in just three years.

Rebuild of a Bianchi Ibex

In the spring I took my son’s Bianchi Ibex to The Bike Stop in Arlington, Massachusetts, for a major rebuild. The bike is about 25 years old and Eric used it heavily when he was in high school. It has a steel frame assembled using lugs, a feature that is difficult to find today except on high end bicycles. It was an older mountain bike in concept including the stock wheels and off-road tires, but with many frame characteristics of a modern hybrid. It didn’t have any suspension springs or shocks to complicate the rebuild. We were able to reuse the fork as well as the frame.

Eric was planning to ride from Buffalo to Albany with me on the 2016 Cycle the Erie Canal tour that is run yearly by Parks and Trails New York. I took the responsibility for getting the rebuild done. I initially took the bike to a local shop and the owner of the shop characterized my requirements as a “repair”. I felt that he didn’t understand the job and walked away. The Bike Stop is a shop that I pass regularly on my training rides along the Minuteman Bikeway through Arlington. I stopped there and met Louis. I described the project and Louis recognized it as a rebuild.

louis-and-bike
Louis and the Completed Rebuild at The Bike Stop, Arlington, MA

The next step was to bring the bike to the shop. Louis was very knowledgeable concerning the available components so that I didn’t need to do extensive research to make the upgrade happen. We discussed each component so that I understood what I was getting.

The key in the conversion was to change the crankset and cassette so the range of gears would be appropriate for the road rather than single track and off-road. The brakes as well as front and rear derailleurs were replaced in the process. New rims with 26 x 35 tires were installed and I added Shimano clipless pedals. We kept the old handlebars and added extensions for touring.

Some of the parts were in stock and others needed to be ordered. I entrusted the rebuild to Louis and he completed it i a little more than a week. It was so well done that no adjustments were needed even after many miles of riding.

It was an expensive rebuild at $615 including labor. You can argue that we could have bought a new bike for that kind of money. I’m convinced that we did the right thing especially because of the build quality of the frame and its nostalgic value. The rebuilt frame also performs like a new bike. Eric trained on the bike for the Erie ride. He didn’t have any problems with it on the 400 mile ride from Buffalo to Albany. He was burning up the trail and keeping pace with some of the faster riders. The experience reintroduced him to cycling and he has been using the bike regularly since our tour together. Our compliments to Louis, who looked at the frame and knew what to do.

New Site Design

I have given edeksattic.com a new appearance and layout. The posts and pages became very disorganized in the old design. Change was necessary to make everything easy to find and view. Hopefully I’ve achieved that goal. More changes will be coming as I reorganize the approach for viewing photos and photo albums. Please stay tuned. Thanks for visiting.

LHT 10K Mile Report

In 2012 I did my first bicycle tour and it was a 400 mile, self-supported tour. The bicycle that I used on that trip was one that I bought in the United Kingdom. It was an Apollo hybrid that I purchased at Halford’s in Uxbridge UK for $300 brand new. It had sentimental value since I rode it on weekends during the months that I lived in the UK, touring the roads and canal towpaths outside of London, so I brought it home to the US. It was poorly balanced when it was fully loaded with panniers and tent. After about three days I was applying creams to my thighs to manage the chafing from the stock seat.

That experience made me love bicycle touring in spite of the problems that I had and served to convince me that I need a better touring bike.  In late 2012 I bought a stock Surly Long Haul Trucker. At that time I had quite a bit of research that narrowed the touring bike choices down to three and I chose the LHT. The other choices were from Trek and Raleigh. My choice of the LHT was probably based more on availability than any other factor. There was a dealer that had the frame size that I needed and I went for it.

This week I rolled up the 10,000th mile and I’m happy with the choice that I made. During my touring over the past four years I met many other Surly owners who were as committed to the brand as I am. They were not necessarily all riding LHTs. I’ve met people touring fully loaded with Crosschecks and Karate Monkeys.

My LHT was completely stock and everything operates today as it did the day I brought it home with notable exceptions. The exceptions are not unexpected. For example, after my first tour on the LHT I replaced the stock saddle with a Brooks B17. I made the switch to Shimano clipless pedals. Tires wear out and I have been buying new tires each year. That is, except for his year when I discovered that my Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires were not ready to be replaced. I usually get 3,000 miles out of a tire. The Schwalbes have 4,500 and going strong.

The next exceptions on the stock items are the brake pads, chain, and cassette. I replace my brake pads each year during annual maintenance. Since I ride at least 3,000 miles a year, I replace the chain each year as well. Many experts give chains a life of only 2,000 miles. I lubricate the chain frequently whether training or touring and I am able to confidently get 3,000 miles. I check the wear in mid-season to verify that my chain is well within tolerance. When the chain is worn, the cassette should be replaced as well because the sprockets wear to accommodate the greater distance between the chain rollers as the chain wears.

Everything else on the bike gets checked each year and adjusted when needed.

Every once in a while I get a hankering for a new touring bike. Those urges are becoming fewer and fewer as the miles rack up on my LHT. As the LHT gets older, I have come to depend on its reliability and road characteristics. The bike has a lot of sentimental value that you can’t measure very easily. I’ve trained many miles on it and I’ve taken it to the Adirondacks, to Canada, to Cape Cod, to the Erie Canal, and to the GAP and C&O. It’s been loaded with gear on both front and rear for long self-supported tours. I’ve ridden it unloaded on supported tours. My cadence and personal performance are tied to my feeling for the weight and geometry of the bike as well as the gears and shifting. I’m going to stick with it until it breaks.