10 Apr 2010

Brooks Professional

16th March 2010. 37F.  I finally found a "brand new" Brooks Professional in a bike shop at a reasonable price:

Brooks Professional: The teaser view:

I had been trying my luck for a Brooks Pro on eBay(UK) and getting nowhere. Those who will post worldwide fetch much higher prices than those who insist on UK bidders only. By the time the postage has been added a new Brooks Pro isn't much more. I suppose those who collect old racing bikes may want a vintage saddle to authenticate the bike's period more accurately. They are obviously willing to pay good money for the privilege.

The new Brooks is as hard as a rock and rather like balancing on a highly polished, marble sculpture of a saddle. At first I wasn't sure where to perch because I was too busy trying to stay on! It took some miles to discover I was sitting too far forwards. Sitting in the correct position actually felt like I was hanging right over the back. Though I could still feel a rim of protruding leather behind my racing shorts when I checked. There really is very little, natural sense of correct location at this stage. Hopefully that will come sooner rather than later when the saddle gives to the pressure of  my sit bones.

The Brooks Professional side view. 163mm maximum width measured across the dark brown skirts with the saddle inverted. Modestly sized, perfectly hammered, low profile, copper rivets are from mid-90s manufacture according to Brooks. Interestingly, the embossed code letters underneath are only there to help Brooks decide on warranty issues. They aren't intended for general consumption or dating by the merely curious. Judging by my own example the code cannot be read as the date in any way, shape or form.  Since saddles are so easily swapped the code would be very unlikely to offer a clear date of manufacture for any bike. Not even if Brooks were kind enough to share the real meaning of your particular code. Not unless your saddle was guaranteed to be original equipment.

The saddle in front (of you) is a Brooks Professional. Beware of wide loads! Note the absence of bag loops, perforations or side creases.

I think later saddles really are black and the copper rivets even larger and more domed. I like this one a lot. Though it must have been lost in the stock room, for quite a while, it was absolutely perfect when it left the shop. Not even a mark from a saddle clamp has ever sullied its chromed rails. Rather oddly the tension nose-piece is copper. As is the colour of the tail badge.

Brooks Professional: The snooty view. Note the total absence of indentation for the sit bones after only 30 miles. The appearance of the saddle changes completely with the camera viewpoint. It is actually slightly wider than my Vetta SL. The camera has considerably distorted the apparent length of the nose.

The odd thing was that the Pro wasn't actually painful. I have sat on some modern saddles which I could not stay on for more than a minute. I own a dozen, rather dated, modern saddles inherited from various recycled bikes. None of them are in great condition but they can't have changed much from new. They just feel completely wrong for the  human anatomy (well mine anyway) yet probably once sold in huge quantities.

My new Brooks Professional saddle enjoying the Empty Quarter for the first time on the Higgins trike. I carefully checked the saddle with an 18" builder's level before tightening the seat post clamp but the Pro still looks a bit nose-up. I can easily adjust this as I become used to the saddle and it to me.

Note the flooding in the background from snow melt-water and the huge cracks in the tarmac.  The copse is standing in deep water. Probably Alder or they wouldn't survive.

I put nearly 30 miles on the new saddle on my first ride. After the first ten miles I felt more grip on my lightly padded, racing shorts.Which was an improvement because I felt rather more secure. Probably just sweat but it worked for me. Just after 20 miles the Pro started feeling a bit hard on my sit bones but not bad enough for me to head straight home. I even continued with my detour to see how I coped. I don't think I would have actually enjoyed another ten miles but it really wasn't bad for a first ride from new.

I can't easily explain why but the trike felt considerably faster for having the Brooks Pro under me. At least in comparison with the Vetta SL. I was averaging 25mph on the computer for some miles. Which isn't bad for my age and slowly increasing fitness level. I presume the stiffness and polish on the leather wasn't robbing me of energy as a modern, padded, plastic saddle does.

I must have put at least 2000 miles on the B17 and Vetta SL combined on the trikes so I must have toughened up my nether regions by now. Neither saddle is remotely like the Brooks Pro in either shape or form. While the Vetta SL was reasonably comfortable I have noticed it was becoming slightly uncomfortable again after about 25 miles. Hence the longing for a Brooks Pro.

I've been reading online about applying wet cloths to the rear of a new Pro saddle to speed breaking in. I'm not sure whether I'm brave enough to try this yet. I'm certainly not using the horse saddle oil on it  because it will make the leather far too soft. I think that was what went wrong with the B17. My attempts it make it look like new made it too soft and stretched the leather away from the rivets. It became rather (er) saddle-backed.

I did 29 miles today. Pushing hard all the way to keep my weight off the new saddle as much as possible. :-)
To end the uncertainty over Brooks saddle identification my fellow tricyclist Alan H. has kindly provided some really excellent images of his various Brooks saddles for comparison. They appear below. Alan holds the copyright to these images so they should not be published elsewhere without his permission.

The Brooks B17 "Champion Special" on Alan's immaculate Longstaff trike: Large copper rivets, perforations, chamfered skirts and a clear shoulder line. I read somewhere that the leather is also thicker and better quality on the premium B17 models. 170mm wide.

Brooks "Champion Special" identification badge with close-up of skirt chamfer.

 The Brooks B17 "Champion Standard" with tubular steel rivets, bag loops, perforations and a shoulder line. No skirt chamfer. 170mm wide. A popular, long-lived touring saddle.

Brooks "Champion Standard" identification badge and unchamfered skirts.

A black version of the Brooks "Team Professional". 10mm narrower than the Standard B17, copper rivets, chamfered skirts but no perforations. Thicker leather makes these saddles stiffer and harder but longer lived. The lack of give made them popular with professional racers in the past. Brooks say their Pro saddles are intended for those who have their handlebar height below their saddle height. I find this to be true so far. Sitting as upright as possible (e.g. when climbing a hill) points the sit bones (at the bottom of the pelvic girdle) straight down into the hard (and still convex) leather. Which can be quite uncomfortable after a while. Leaning forwards to hold the brake hoods offers immediate relief and much greater comfort because the pelvic girdle is automatically tipped forwards. I suppose my own saddle is at least a couple of inches above the handlebar tops.   

 Brooks "Team Pro" (Professional) identification badge.

 Yet another Brooks saddle variation: A pre-softened version of the Professional (Team Pro) clearly marked as such by the factory. Saddle rails can be painted black, chromed steel, copper plated steel, or solid Titanium. (Ti is lighter but usually twice the price of a chrome version of the same saddle) 

I believe the "Team Pro" replaced the Professional and became a choice between black or "Honey". (Light-medium Tan) The earlier "Professional" usually looks dark brown rather than black. The Professional Badge remains the same. The tail badge changes over time.

'The Headbadge': The Evolution of Brooks Saddle Badges

Note that Brooks have always made a large variety of saddles. Offering a constantly changing range with variations on names and themes. Some are unsprung while others have a variety of spiral, suspension springs and matching rails. Some of which are incompatible with modern micro-adjusting  seat posts.

Premium models may have relatively short sales lives or are strictly limited editions at premium prices. Specially coloured leather, rail and rivet material choices are commonplace. Hand cut, chamfered skirts are usually a sign of a premium saddle. Copper rivets are much harder to set and require considerable skill with a hammer. Wastage must be problem where the leather may be bruised by a single blow with the hammer when it misses the rivet. It is this which helps to explain the higher prices for these models. Special colours are also premium and attract higher prices. It is obvious tat Brooks is trying to market themselves to appeal to a very wide audience. They cannot compete on weight so must achieve sales in other ways.  There is a global fad for the so-called "Fixie". (a form of classical track bike with fixed wheel but not of the extreme, specialist form seen on the steeply banked tracks of today) Those who follow this bike fashion are usually avid users of Brooks leather saddles to satisfy the correct image.   

Here's an American website from a highly respected supplier of Brooks saddles: It gives a real taste of what is available.

Brooks Unsprung Saddles at www.wallbike.com

 A scenically-situated, timber-framed, thatched farmhouse near the edge of the Empty Quarter. Beautifully restored and painted it is well above average condition for houses of this type. The hill behind the house has been clear felled letting more light in. A massive old oak stands guard in the foreground.

I jokingly refer to this rather attractive area of countryside as the Empty Quarter from my first attempt to cross it on the trike. I was already tired out when I became lost in the narrow rural lanes when I didn't recognise any village name plates. The day was overcast and I mistakenly thought I was heading for home. As I rode along a twisting lane I found  there were absolutely no other roads off the one I was already travelling along. So I was committed to riding on until I recognised the first village I came to. Only then could I finally head for home. By retracing my own tracks into a freezing head wind! I didn't see a single car or person while travelling in either direction.  Hence the Empty Quarter tag.

This twisty lane is almost devoid of houses as it meanders up and down through the open, undulating  countryside. Much of the area is rather marshy with lots of woods dotted about. Which means the farmers haven't been able to turn it into their usual prairies. This unspoilt area probably looks like much of rural Denmark once did before the farmers drained the endless marshes. Marsh (mose) is a very common name amongst Danish villages and areas of farmland.

April 17th 41F, 5C. Another 31 miles on the Brooks Professional. It felt a bit hard at 25 miles but was better after a while. Definite signs of the convex back sinking very slightly. The glaze has worn off making it a bit less slippery. I had a greater sense of for-and-aft location than yesterday.

April 18th 51F, 11C. Bright and breezy. No jacket or hat needed today. I've fitted the Shimano 550 pedals and a new pair of toe-straps. I would have liked leather but had to make do with black, woven nylon. The latest set of squeaky, quill pedals were just not wide enough for my feet. The Shimano pedals feel very solid and have plenty of clearance from the inner edges of my cycling shoes to the cranks. It doesn't hurt that they look rather smart. I could actually do with a much shorter bottom bracket axle. It would also have been better if the toe-clips had been stainless steel but the original plastic will have to do for the moment. I'm not sure why Shimano made them so flexible.

A cheap pair of black, plastic toe-clips has been serving me well for a couple of years and they are far stiffer and haven't aged rapidly like some metal toe-clips. Particularly when the bottom bracket is so  low on my trike. The toe clips touch the ground almost every time I climb on. The role of the toe-clip is not really to resist powerful foot pressure. More to hold the toe-strap well clear of the foot as one pushes one's shoe into place. The toe-clip isn't stiff enough to replace a well fitted shoe plate but a little stiffness certainly helps when  used without plates. Perhaps the use of shoe plates will overcome the extra flexibility?

The problem is finding the original (very complex, now rare and very expensive) shoe plates. My tour of a great many bike shops did not turn up any originals. I may still end up making some simple (old fashioned) slotted plates on my lathe to fit my Shimano shoes and the 550s. Only a powerful sprinter would need both front and rear foot location. As is provided for in the design of the Shimano 550 pedal and matching shoe plates. I am still missing the ability to pull up on the pedals but don't want to go the whole hog and change to a modern clip-less system just yet.

Another stately home, from 1656, a still frozen lake (and moat) and their own, very pretty, suspension bridge. (on the right across the moat) Is the Higgins having delusions of grandeur? Not likely! You didn't see the struggle we had rolling crossing the incredibly bumpy, cobbled courtyard in front of the great house! The courtyard may be a public right of way, on a very quiet, minor country road, but there is certainly no need to make life too comfortable for the riff-raff. Otherwise they'd only use it as a commuter rat run!

The Brooks is getting slowly better. It still feels rather like sitting on an oval, polished stone, but not painful. Comfort is a relative thing but it seems to come and go. The new saddle is better for being slightly damp from normal use. It starts off feeling rather slippery but improves after a few short miles. The amazing thing is that, despite it being so hard, it isn't so uncomfortable that I have once considered it a mistaken purchase. Of course it is only 3 days and 82 miles, so far. So I have high hopes.

It helps that it looks so good on the Higgins. I love the perfection of its shape and finish and the real leather colour. It is also changing colour (slightly) already. Probably from the effects of sweat and being rubbed by my slightly damp racing shorts as I slide about. I will look for some Brooks Proofide in the bike shops next time I'm in town. It is foolishly expensive over here at £8 (equiv) and one online dealers wants £6+ just for postage! For a tiny tin of wax! I know I won't need much wax so it will last literally for ages. However £14 is a large fraction of the cost of a new Brooks Pro! Still lots of snow lying about in shady parts despite the rapidly rising temperatures. Only 22 rather enjoyable miles today.

April 19th. 50F. I only had time for a short ride before heading for the city to buy some Brooks Proofide wax.  Kjeld's Cycle shop in Odense has some great chaps working there and a superb range of bits and pieces. I'd drawn a complete blank on finding a nice, new mirror for the Higgins at lots of different shops but Kjelds had a whole selection to choose from. I need a mirror to watch for traffic due to the width of the trike and the often poor road surfaces near the verge. I have no desire to be a nuisance to traffic but want to be able to use a bit more road when it is quite safe to do so. Nor do I want to keep looking over my shoulder when the edge of the road is often broken away or slumping.

My present, lightweight, strap-on mirror doesn't protrude enough to allow me to see it (at all) when my hands are on the brake hoods. So most of the time I am completely blind to the rear unless I'm riding on the tops uphill. The old mirror surface has also been steadily deteriorating so I bought a new convex mirror to clamp to the dropped handlebars just below the left brake lever. (riding on the right side of the road applies in Denmark) The mirror is a good size but very lightweight with an articulated, plastic support arm. Designed for a bar end fixing I shall have to make a simple metal, strap clamp for it.

Here's a thoughtful guide to the careful treatment of a Brooks saddle based on thousands of miles of real life experience:

Unofficial Brooks Saddle FAQ

I applied a good coat of the Proofide to the underside of the Professional using my bare fingers. This was recommended in a bike forum post and worked really well. The fingers melt the wax and allow it to be smeared liberally over every millimetre of the leather under surface. I gently eased the stiff, side skirts out from the chromed rails to allow my fingers to wax over the entire inside of the saddle. Using the fingers has the advantage that it sets a limit on how much wax can be applied.

No further addition of Proofide to the leather undersides should ever be necessary. Fortunately a trike doesn't wet the underside of the saddle from a bike back wheel used without mudguards. I finished off with a coat of wax on the top of the saddle. Again using my fingers. Then I put the saddle aside indoors to allow the wax to soak in overnight. The Proofide wax is soft, white and almost completely odour free. Despite being generous in my first application of the infamous Proofide I barely made a dent  in the virgin wax surface in the tin. The wax on my hands was easily washed off with soap but completely resisted plain, warm water. Which is a good sign that it offers quite a degree of waterproofing as well as nourishing the leather.

The Brooks Professional looking slightly darker but still brown after waxing with Proofide. Note how the wax is still sitting on top of the nose area but has soaked straight into the area which has experienced most wear at the rear.
Don't worry about the small size of the Proofide tin or its apparently high cost. It will last for years if you use it as rarely and as sparingly as Brooks intend. You can easily spend far more on any other single component on your bike (or trike). Having read every post and piece of advice I can find online it seems a 6-monthly treatment with Proofide to only the top surface of the saddle is perfectly adequate. This assumes a first treatment with Proofide of the saddle top and particularly the undersides. There is no need for special oils which will tend to soften the leather far too much and probably make the saddle sag. Working the saddle leather by actually riding on it is by far the best way to ensure decades of useful life.

The slipperiness of the Brooks is wearing off rapidly and I can really feel some resistance to involuntary movement after a couple of miles. I lowered the saddle by half an inch when I changed from the very low profile Vetta SL.  Today I put it back up again because it felt as if my legs were too bent at the knees. I will play with saddle height some more. I have still not noticed any discomfort (at all) after getting off the trike and sitting down. During my earlier battle to find a comfortable saddle I often felt the soreness after a ride as I sat at the computer scribbling my thoughts. The Shimano 550 pedals and shoes (still without plates) are also working well together. Only 9 miles today and rain forecast for the next few days. I was looking forwards to a Saturday morning ride but it is already raining. It is supposed to clear up later....

April 20th Rain all morning. Late ride for 12 miles.

April 21st. Sunny periods but blowing a gale. 15m/s is over 30mph. At one point I was standing up on the pedals going downhill at 7mph into the headwind! I don't like the wind. Not even when I can travel fairly effortlessly at 30mph.  I know I'll always have to face the wind later to get home.

I was chased by that damned dog again today. The owner was in the garden but the dog completely ignored his shouts. (of course) I had to sprint above 25mph into the wind and keep going for hundreds of yards! The road they live on is a direct route to the shops which avoids a very open and exposed main road. Where cars always travel well above the speed limit.

The new mirror is better than the old one but is too curved. So the image is very small until a car is right on top of me. Fortunately the (compulsory) car headlights show up to give me about five seconds warning before they pass at 80kph. (50mph) This usually gives me enough time to be able to choose my path through the potholes and cracks before returning to the verge again. I'll have to keep looking for a flatter mirror. (but not a flat one) 23 miles today.

A quiet ride through the woods. The ground is littered with beech nuts and leaves.The bag is only sagging because it hasn't been hooked back over the saddle while I took the picture.

April 22nd. 45-50F. Sunny but windy again. I was too warm and should stop wearing the skiing tights and thinner Thinsulate gloves. Time to put the fingerless cycling mitts back on again.

I keep changing my route daily to provide variety and maintain interest. Fortunately this area is blessed with countless small, interconnecting roads and even smaller lanes. The light is constantly changing. As is the season. No two rides are ever alike. If I'm feeling strong I deliberately seek out a hilly route and push as hard and fast as I can. I never dawdle anyway because it doesn't make me fitter or stronger. There will never be a better day to be out on the Higgins than today. Tomorrow may be a lifetime too late. Every day is a priceless gift. Smile often, if you can. They cost nothing and somebody might need one desperately more than you do. Scowls are given away free everywhere you go these day. They must be worthless or they'd have found a way to tax or ration them by now. 24 miles as the trike flies.

April 23rd. 50F, sunny but very windy. 17m/s. Still some snow clinging on in the shade. The Brooks Pro saddle is wrinkling even more in the sit bone areas. I've done almost 200 miles on it already. 29 more miles today.

No matter how many lines he crosses first there are no medals for he who goes unnoticed.

Treebeard leads the last inhabitants of Fangorn forest into battle against the endlessly greedy farmers. [LOTR]

Denmark has a very low forest cover compared with many other lands. At only 12% it is the same as the UK. Though the UK's forest cover is probably greatest in remote Wales and Scotland. The area where the picture was taken has many inroads into the original forest. Note the total absence of roadside hedges. Soil erosion must be a serious problem in Denmark. We have often seen brown fogs and clouds in the last few years. The farmers obtain a fine tilth for sewing only to have the dry topsoil removed by gales. Hedges are constantly grubbed up and large gaps made for the enormous modern farm machinery.

Yet employment on the land shrinks yearly and many smaller farms are part time projects with the "weekend farmer" holding down a full time job elsewhere. The larger holdings swallow up the smaller, uneconomic farms to turn their smaller fields into vast prairies to be worked by low paid Eastern European labour. Housing estate building on green field sites is extremely commonplace. Often completely destroying the unique character of existing villages with swathes of identical "biscuit cutter" houses.

April 24th. 51-47F. Cold SE wind. 15m/s. Chose a very hilly route with two long hills in succession. At least 6 miles of steady climbing. On the first hill I was averaging 18mph. On the second I dropped to 12-15mph in a strong headwind. The Brooks Pro saddle started hurting after 20 miles. Then a drive side axle bearing started clonking after 25 miles. I was wearing my slim, old Nike trainers because the Shimano cycling shoes are making my toes very sore. Though the correct size they are much too pointed. Leaving no room for my toes. The Nike are much too soft in the soles. Which hurts my feet if I stand up on the pedals. Ain't life hell? :-) Still managed another 30 miles though the last five were rather painful. I'll have to try and find a pair of cycling shoes with roomier toes. Ironically the saddle is showing definite concave curvature over the sit bone area. The shorts I wore today have very thin padding though. Second day without skiing tights and wearing fingerless mitts.

April 25th. Dismantled, greased and rebuilt the Higgins rear axle. No obvious reason for the loud clonking. Might try new cones from Chris Hewitt as mine are a bit worn on the ball tracks. I like the way the wheels come off so easily with the Trykit hubs. A waggle at the rim and they come free.

After hours of online searching and reading reviews I did a tour of town to find some comfortable cycling shoes. Most were far too garish for my tastes. Those I tried were much too narrow, far too small in my nominal size and foolishly expensive for Chinese labelled products. Larger sizes fell off my heels and still hurt my toes. I was shopping primarily for Specialized MTB Sport but even the 47s were not made for my normally wide EU45 sized feet. Like wearing two stiff, pointed shoes boxes. They reminded me of the pointed fashion shoes of the 60s which ruined my feet. 

I ended up with a pair of Specialized Tahoe.  The styling has changed from earlier online images. There is now no Velcro flap across the top of the laces. The red highlights are modestly understated.

Instantly comfortable, they have a roomy round (but not industrially ugly) toe and a stiff enough sole made for real cycling and natural walking. Not for technical ice climbing in the Alps! Supposedly aimed at the more casual market they aren't trying to be anything but touring, cycling shoes. I'm too old to be a fashion victim so if it looks like a trainer at a glance it's fine by me. I'm wearing them as slippers around the house to break them in a bit. I shall miss doing my lost pony impressions in the supermarket aisles. The Shimano road shoes were incredibly noisy even when I tiptoed around the freezer cabinets to avoid the stares of rural, village pensioners.

I could easily have gone over to clip-less SPD pedals at the same time but decided to try the new shoes with toe-clips first.  The Shimano MTB-520 style SPDs don't have a lot of axle length and a pair of size 46s/UK11s cast a rather large shadow. I didn't want crank clearance problems after my recent struggle with quill pedals and toe straps. The Shimano 550s which replaced the quills aren't at all comfortable with my thin-soled, slim Nike trainers. The soles of the Tahoe's are quite knobbly but probably just smooth enough for toe-clips and straps. On a trike there is rarely a panic situation where you absolutely must get your feet free or fall over. (At least not since the first week of riding the narrow track Higgins)  We'll see tomorrow on the first ride if the shoes suit toe-clips. It is not beyond my understanding that clip-less pedals would provide more forward speed from my breathless efforts.  Reviews are bit mixed on the earlier Tahoe with quite a short life reported by some users. I'll be very cross if mine don't last me a few thousand miles of normal riding with short supermarket stops. All my shoes usually last for years. 

Far too late to get a ride in today after fixing the Higgins. 0 miles.

Difficult to capture with the camera because of the hedge. A great swathe of superb snowdrops.

April 26th 52F. The new shoes were fine despite my toes still being sore from the last rides with the Shimano road shoes. The Tahoes  are very easy and comfortable to walk in and are nicely stiff on the trike. The tread seemed to lock into the Shimano 550 pedals and acted as if I had slotted shoe plates fitted. They made my pedalling seem much more powerful though I wasn't consciously lifting on the upstroke. A slight fiddle getting the shoes into the toe clips and straps before take off but very easy to get out again. The Higgins axle has returned to silence again. The saddle was also far more comfortable today. Perhaps it was simply the rest day yesterday which made the difference. 23 miles.

 Snow still lying in a drainage ditch on the 26th March! Almost certain to see April in.

April 27th. 44F. Winds light. Did two shopping rides for a total of 30 miles. Shoes fine. Saddle hurting worse than ever on and off. It is only dented on one side so may be a local variation in the leather.

The patch snow is still there despite heavy overnight rain. The golden retriever was out again so I quickly dismounted before I came close. The dog seemed uninterested in me as I walked past with the trike between it and myself. It seemed to be avoiding catching my eye. Only when I had passed did it stand up and start barking furiously. Then I realised that it was probably tied up. I couldn't see the dog any more for shrubs but it made no attempt to chase me. A good result. The road it lives on is too important a route for  me to take detours just to avoid it. The neighbour's dog hasn't been out lately when I was passing.

April 28th. 44F, overcast and windy. The saddle wasn't nearly so painful today. I wonder whether the saddle would respond to a suitably shaped weight on the sit bone area? More Proofide over the specific area involved?  30 miles today exploring all the small roads through a large wood.

April 29th. 42F, windy. With rain forecast for the week ahead I took the opportunity to visit Alan, the Longstaff owner. Almost a straight line on the map. Out and back. Thanks for the tea. :-)

With a tail wind going I saw 25mph quite a few times. I was counting on the wind falling light for the return journey.  I was wrong but still managed to keep going into the headwind. I punctured on one of the many huge pieces of gravel littering the cycle paths. The cutbacks in council expenditure by central government means the cycle paths are never swept these days. Yet more lip service to fighting global warming. Judge them by their actions. Not by their empty promises. Shoes fine, legs fine and the saddle surprisingly okay for most of the trip. 48 miles is a new milestone on my way back to fitness. Despite the considerable increases in my speeds of late I'm still struggling to get above a 12mph average. Though this includes visits to supermarkets on most rides.

The grimace of owning a Brooks Professional saddle? Or the thought that I have to ride another 24 miles into a headwind? It was getting quite chilly as I left. Thanks for the picture, Alan.

April 30th Cooler and very windy. Roaring in the hedges and trees. Gulls floating over the fields. 24 miles.

April 31st 50-45F. Winds lighter. Feeling strong so rode at 80-90% for first hour. 50-60% home into the wind. My quadriceps are hurting a bit. That hasn't happened for quite a while. 34 miles.

I bought some Shimano M520 SPD pedals in an LBS. Their cheapest double-sided MTB. Now I wish I'd bought the slightly more expensive model with better bearings and prettier axle. (me a fashion victim?) Not that I have any complaints about these pedals. Checking for online pricing (just out of curiosity) I paid more than twice Chain Reaction's Danish prices! I could have had the third model up (M770 XTs) for not much more.  But, and it's a great big but, I get their expertise, endless patience, personal recognition on arrival and a welcome smile from the staff at this particular LBS. No other LBS makes me feel remotely as welcome despite my very limited spending on accessories. Despite the obvious savings I think It would be very bad form to buy online immediately after seeking expert advice of an LBS.

Once my 46's are clipped into the pedals and whirling around nobody can see what model they are anyway. Do I suppose I ought to have the top model because I might break the cheapest with the sheer power of my pedalling? Will I notice a Newton or two in extra bearing drag? I don't think so. It's nice to have the pretty, upmarket stuff but I think these look "techy" enough. At least enough to impress a complete stranger outside a supermarket. I held all three models and the differences between the quality of the bearings was very obvious. The appearance less so to the uneducated eye.

Even these cheapest of the SPD pedals are absolutely superb by the standards of any previous pedals in my decades of experience. Half a dozen attempts from new and I can already click in positively. Clicking out is even easier. Plenty of angular float with a good solid feel at the limits of rotation. Plenty of crank clearance even for my size 46 Specialized Tahoe shoes. (thanks for the useful advice on clearances, Alan)  I left the tension settings at factory levels.

It is interesting how cool air is pumped into the shoe when I lift on the upstroke. Perhaps not quite so much fun in winter but an airtight insole might solve that problem when I get to it again. One minor niggle is that the shoe plates/cleats just touch the ground when I walk. So really fast cornering in the supermarket aisles now requires some care. The shoes are brand new so any wear on the sole will further expose the shoe cleats. It is naughty of Specialized not to have foreseen this problem with such a popular shoe cleat. Another couple of millimetres of cheap, Chinese rubber on the treads would not have broken the bank.

On the bike the shoes and pedals feel great together. With a tremendous sense of security compared to toe clips and straps. My only real worry is the very small pedal area may shorten the life of the shoes. I'm presuming the sliding material sandwiched inside the sole spreads the load somewhat. There are also two solid areas of rubber either side of the cleat area. I set the cleats to maximum crank clearance but it isn't really necessary in practice. There is no floppy, adjustable, toe strap and laterally insecure shoe position dragging on the crank to worry about. Once locked in any small amount of clearance is probably more than enough. The excellent degree of float ensures knee problems are totally avoided. Unclipping is an outward movement of the heel so no extra clearance is required here. I understand that special cleats also allow inward unlatching but I can't see the point of this on a trike.

I was struggling to get the Tahoe shoes into the toe clips and straps on the Shimano 550's. The knobbly tread was catching and rotating the pedals away from my feet. Getting my feet out again was also difficult with the straps tightened the least bit close to the foot. It was only the fact that I was riding a trike which made it possible to sit and waste time getting in and out of the toe clips. On a bike it would have been a disaster waiting to happen. I was also finding my feet were pointing at funny angles depending on which part of the shoe tread locked onto the rear pedal plate. I want to avoid injuries from misalignment at all costs. I have noticed quite a number of cyclists with their knees pointing outwards like jug handles.  I don't know how their knees survive a hundred metres of this motion. I tend to wear the paint off the cross bars of my bikes after a few years. Though only from my trousers flapping in the past. These days I use shorts so it never occurs to me to have my upper legs other than parallel to the top tube.

My second GPS logger has packed up. Windows doesn't recognise it and their weird USB plug won't stay in place now. Though the unit will be replaced under guarantee (again) this is a great disappointment. It is such fun to see one's route and all the data after a ride from such a handy little device. With Easter starting tomorrow it may be a while before I can get back to the shop. This means I'll miss recording some routes.

March is finally over with a monthly mileage of 666 and a total for the year, so far, of 1364 miles.  The new Brooks Professional saddle now has 400 miles on it and is only just beginning to dent to fit my sit bones. It doesn't feel the same two days in a row. Or even five minutes apart on the same ride! I "cheated" and added another smear of Proofide to soak in overnight on the sit bone area alone. This seemed to accelerate the sinking on the left cheek area which had previously been very reluctant to change shape at all. There are now two distinct areas of wrinkling and two very slightly concave areas instead of the former convex. I am probably suffering longer than necessary for not trying a good soaking in saddle oil. I only hope it is worth it in the end. (no pun intended) ;-)

A very tall TV mast 1050' high (320m) placed almost centrally on the island is a useful guide to one's whereabouts when on unfamiliar rural roads. It can be seen for miles and has a distinctive bluish flash from the lights arranged at vertical intervals to warn aircraft. A wind turbine at the base is completely dwarfed by the sheer scale of the mast and its guy lines. I tried for a bit of drama with the sinking Sun just above and to the left of the mast but it didn't work out quite as I had planned. I partially rescued the best of the original images with PhotoFiltre. Judge for yourself. The mast looks completely insignificant with such a wide angle lens. I couldn't see anything on the camera screen with the sun being so bright. I couldn't get far enough away on the other side of  the narrow road to use any other setting to make the mast appear any bigger.

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