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Archive for August, 2009

Climbing Technique

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Ray, of the Bike Noob blog, posted a question about how to improve at climbing. I don’t consider myself an expert on the topic, or even a particularly good climber, but I have done a whole lot of climbing, especially since we moved to Pennsylvania.

I definitely agree with the comments on that post: you need to practice climbing hills to get better at riding them. Furthermore, I find that each hill becomes less daunting as I become more familiar with it and know what to expect. The first time I climb a hill is usually the worst.

Here are some other lessons I’ve learned; your mileage my vary, of course.

  1. Pace yourself. This can be hard to do if you don’t know how long a hill is, but try to save energy in case you need it later in the climb. Maybe you’re just getting started, and it gets steeper toward the top. You never know. I used to worry about trying to take as much momentum as possible into a climb, but I’ve found it’s better to save that energy for later in the climb.
  2. Spin in an easy gear. Keeping a high cadence in a low gear is easier and I’ve found I can climb for miles this way without stopping. Some cyclists act like there’s some shame in using the granny gear, but that’s just ridiculous. That’s what it’s there for!
  3. Be patient. Climbing a long hill takes time. Try to settle into a groove. You might even enjoy it! When necessary, I will sometimes stop during a climb. But rather than walk, I will stop long enough to catch my breath and then continue climbing on the bike. I don’t feel like I’ve “conquered” a hill until I have done it without stopping, but stopping doesn’t mean you have to walk.
  4. Reward yourself. Whether this means enjoying the view from the top, relishing the speedy descent, contemplating what you’ve just accomplished, or just having a snack, it’ll help you feel better and make the climb seem more worthwhile.
  5. Ride lots of hills. The more you do it, the better you become and the more fun you’ll have.

This is what works for me. Some people are great at “power climbing,” mashing up hills in a higher gear. This may be a viable option, depending on the hills, you, and your bike. I’ve learned that trying to climb this way on my Long Haul Trucker is not very effective, so I don’t do it very often, so I really can’t help you there.

What is your climbing technique?

Cracked Velo-Orange Fender

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

I’m still sick. No more rides to report.

But I wanted to revisit my fender problems. My front fender developed a crack on my ride to Tunkhannock, during a bumpy chipseal descent. These are Velo Orange 48mm fluted aluminum fenders that I bought in mid-August of last year and have about 2000 miles on them. The crack is where the fender attaches to the L bracket that joins it to the fork crown. Here are some photos of the damage.

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Whenever a piece of gear fails, it makes me think: was this a defective sample? Did I install it wrong or otherwise abuse it? Or is it an inferior product?

In this case, I honestly don’t know. I installed the fenders with leather washers, although I realized when I removed the fender that I did not put leather washers on the underside of the two bolts above — only on the top of the fender, by the bracket. I do a lot of riding on gravel roads and a bit of trail riding on this bike, so maybe the fenders have sustained more vibration than normal. But I don’t think I used them in ways they weren’t intended to be used. I sent an e-mail to VO to see if they have any thoughts, and to find out if they are under warranty.

My experience with these fenders has been mixed. They look fantastic, but I found them very difficult and time-consuming to install. I justified it by telling myself that they would last for many years. Now, even if VO replaces the front fender (which I doubt), I have lost a lot of confidence in them. I think aluminum may just be too brittle for this application.

I’ve also noticed that my fenders show a lot of wear. I’m not someone who babies his bicycle. I ride on all kinds of surfaces, I lean my bike on the ground, or up against things, without thinking about it too much. And I sometimes carry my bicycle on a trunk rack on my car. All these things can cause some wear on a bicycle, and that includes the fenders.

Fortunately, I don’t care if my bicycle looks pristine. However, this fender looks beat up enough for me to think that maybe they’re not rugged enough for my needs. Looking at the photo below, man, that left stay is bent.

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I’ll see what the folks at VO say, but I assume this damange won’t be covered under a warranty. I plan on getting some Planet Bike Cascadia or SKS P* fenders instead. I have SKSes on my old mountain bike-turned-commuter, and I’ve had a great experience with them. And I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Cascadias as well. I’m leaning toward them, mostly since they have built-in mud flaps.

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