14 Oct 2012

14th October 2012

14th 44-46F, 7-8C, overcast, light wind, rain or showers forecast all day. I set off to test my new clothing armed with two cheese sandwiches. Better grab a large box of tissues while I pour out my woes.

Where shall I  start? It started raining only two miles from home and didn't let up until just before I returned home four hours later. The winter jacket was soon getting soggy so it went into the bag and on went the Aldi jacket.

Though very comfortable, the Bontrager Race bib shorts were at least as impractical as I had long feared. How do people cope with those silly braces? Every time I stopped in a field entrance it felt as if I was peeing out of my Adams apple! By the time I had reached the supermarket checkouts my voice had risen so high I sounded as if I'd been inhaling helium! ;-)

Despite the thin rubber GripGrab overshoes and mudguards my socks were soon sopping wet. Probably from rainwater running in rivulets down my hairy legs and in through the overshoe cuffs. The secondhand Aldi jacket began to feel chilly on my forearms, back and shoulders before long. It's obviously not fully waterproof but thankfully is was wind-proof enough to keep me fairly comfortable despite everything. I haven't put on my long ski underwear yet, this year, because it hasn't been cold enough. I might have been more comfortable with some extra layers once the damp got in.

Campagnolo Ergo Chorus 11 speed lever.

My brand new £40+ GripGrab Polaris gloves are more comfortable than the thin Sealskinz when dry. Probably thanks to a thin layer of insulating padding. Yet they suffer from exactly the same problems as the SealSkinz. Once my hands are the slightest bit damp it feels as if the soft lining is going to come out with my fingers! Getting them back on with damp or wet hands becomes incredibly difficult!

All the crap on the back of the gloves is a waste of space, bulk and expense. (I notice the latest iteration has cleared to a decorative strap and Velcro) Who needs adjustable decorative straps where the Velcro never (ever) meets? Or adjustable drawstring with massive plastic stops and lock button unless fighting a blizzard? What is the point of that silly (single) gel pad? It doesn't meet any normal human function. I certainly doesn't rest on any handlebars yet invented. Nor probably anywhere ski sticks need any padding. But at least the palms are grippy. So that's all right then.

I'd bought the XXLs, (12s) which I'd never seen on the rack before. They fitted comfortably when dry. But I still struggled to get my hands into and out of them when the slightest bit damp. Just from riding in cool air! Just taking off the wet gloves and putting them back on is guaranteed to get your hands really wet. Once wet inside, these gloves offer no real insulation, at all. My hands were literally aching with the cold before very long. It was this which forced me to abandon my ride rather than struggle on. Another expensive glove failure! What do they wear on expeditions? Or where the humble touring cyclists is a long way from home? What am I supposed to do now? Go back to the £5 Thinsulate, supermarket gloves?

As I rode, on cursing the endless rain, I was looking over my sunglasses so I could see where I was going. So the rain was stinging my eyes and I couldn't see which gear I was in when I glanced down. I might just as well have removed the sunglasses.

Then I punctured. I hadn't gone off road but still managed to pick up a flint. I rode on to the nearest village by hanging well off the opposite side to protect the rim. There I found a shop roof overhang where at least I could work in the semi-dry. Trying to fit a new tube with damp hands covered in fine road grit from the flat tyre is not a pleasant exercise!

The Brooks B17 'Select' leather saddle continues to twist sideways. Try as I might, I could not keep the leather from darkening all over with the damp today. Proofide is not a great water proofer. As I know from experience with my other leather saddles. Drying the leather with tissue when I got home had no visible effect. So I left it in the shed to dry on its own. I suppose one should put the Brooks raincoat on top of the saddle and leave it there. Though I have no idea how long it would last if used like that all winter.

The psychopaths were out driving at 60 in 30mph limits (equiv) and passing as closely as they dared without damaging their paintwork. Special thanks must go to that bright yellow Sl'eazy van. For overtaking me at high speed at the traffic lights in that village. I was grateful for the free shower as I still had places which were not yet properly wet. At least, not until that moment.

I didn't even remember to eat or drink anything. A young chap asked me if I needed a spare tube while I was working on my punctured tyre outside the shop. I thanked him very politely for his kindness in asking. This was the only high point of the entire morning. Oh, apart from buying some baggy, but cheap, skiing underwear from a supermarket to wear on the trike. 29, fairly moist, miles. Am I having fun yet?

15th 40-50F, 4-10C, light winds, mostly clear, cool and dry. Which gloves shall I wear today? Eeny meeny miny... no. I wore the gloves I bought from the motorcycle shop, for the first time. They were quite comfortable at 40F and showed no sign of sweatiness as it climbed to 50F. No problems with bulk or stiffness. A slight tendency to feel slippery but this was probably between the fleece liner and an inner waterproof layer. The other gloves were still wet from yesterday. As is the Carradice saddlebag.

Brooks B17 Select after 360 miles.

My legs were tired today so I limited myself to a circle around a few village shops. The weather conditions were fine for a longer ride but my legs were unusually achy. I've adjusted the handlebars and saddle some more without much gain. You would not believe the mud on the roads. 2" thick for miles! Only 24 miles.

The parcel I was expecting from DHL came with the post after lunch. Perhaps that explains why the DHL tracking hadn't been updated since arriving in Denmark on Friday. Not to worry. That's still only a three working day delivery from Rose bikes in Germany.

16th 46-50F, 8-10C, windy, overcast. I rode to Assens to shop and try out my Shimergo gear system. The gears were amazing. What I thought was indexing with the Shimano bar-ends was not remotely on a par with the Ergo levers. Click, and the chain is on the next sprocket instantly. No hesitation. No over or undershoot. Perfect in every gear! The indexing is far better than the Shimano bar-ends ever were. The Shimano levers used to hurt my hand sometimes it was so hard to move them onto the biggest sprocket.

A couple of times I had tried to change gear with the levers apparently locked up. My thick gloves happened to be resting on the other lever at the time. As soon as I realised what I was doing wrong I was more careful about hand placement.

It will take a little time to get used to the front changer. The Shimano bar-end was friction controlled and it was pure guesswork where to put the lever. If I overshot I just had to drag the lever back a little. The Ergo makes a lot of small clicks with absolutely precise cage movement every time.

Two clicks is usually a perfect change. Either lever can be clicked once to move the cage left or right afterwards if the cage should drag on the chain. Practice will provide a double click in one longer lever movement. I shall just have to concentrate on perfecting the change. Or get a Campag front changer?

A load of shopping, fighting the wind, a heavy sky threatening rain and strangely achy legs brought me home after only 19 miles. I also have a sore throat when I swallow. 

As much as I like the Ergo levers the reach is as bad as the old quill stem and then some. I had already moved the Brooks 'Select' saddle forwards again. Measurement showed that the bars were now providing a 100mm forward projection. (Centre to centre) No wonder I'm stretched out! 

I've just found a cheap and cheerful compact bar online from Bontrager. Shallow drop and only 70mm reach. I'll see if I can find one in Odense to confirm it will do the job. There are several Bontrager outlets over there. I still can't understand why I suddenly feel so overstretched. I spent 3 years and 20k+ miles on the trike. Though mostly with my hands on the bends or tops. Perhaps my spine is stiffening up with age? I can still touch my toes. (just)  

17th 46-50F, 8-10C, windy, overcast clearing to sunny periods. I wore a pair of my new skiing tights. They fit well but needed to allow a  bit of knee room with a knees up.  I rode to Odense to look for some compact racing handlebars. The first large shop had no stock. Nor any sign of brains! I've mentioned the bullshitting manager before. 

Onto BikeBuster in the centre of town. Probably the best performance bike shop in Odense. With active cyclists offering advice full of hands-on racing experience. They had a whole range of compact bars to choose from! I bought a gorgeous pair of highly polished Ritchey alloy bars with a large, swaged centre in the shortest reach they had. About 70mm forwards projection with nice sharp bends to keep the levers high and near the tops. A nice shallow drop for touring. 

Then I had to ask for their shortest stem to match the new oversize 31.6mm centre section. A very pretty, white, Scott, gentle riser stem, but 80mm? Bugger! Out to the trike on the pavement to compare the overall reach. Whoopee! It looks like it should be a full inch shorter to the hoods with the new combination. Another 50 squid the poorer. Hopefully more comfortable now. We shall see. I've run out of handlebar tape! False alarm. I just found some more in a drawer.

Love the Ergo levers! I'm actually using most of the gears now and maintaining my cadence far better. Before this I used to change gear at the chainwheels more than the cassette. With big changes to cadence and the load on my knees it wasn't good. Usually it involved a change at the rear cogs as well. Now I can go up and down the sprockets, all on the 34T middle chainwheel, without effort or delay. Never a missed gear! Perfection is (Shim)Ergo shaped. I even use the small chainwheel now to maintain high cadence on the hills. It's no longer a case of plodding on but to actively seek to keep the revs high.

Fortunately it was mostly a cross headwind on the way home. So I wasn't gone very long today. The usual headwind can add an hour to the journey. 

Just a few of the many cuts to my Continental GP4000S after only 500 miles.

Note the manufacturing moulding strip is still present if you doubt the mileage. .
 Are these even safe to ride on?

Not a pretty sight.
Was somebody asleep when they were "hand mixing" their magic rubber?

These have not been off-road. Just riding on ordinary tarmac roads and rural lanes.

I have just emailed Continental to see what they have to say. (18:10:12 16.40 pm)

Punctured again ½ a mile from home but rode on. That's four punctures to the new tyres already! Only 500 miles. The blue ones lasted for nearly 4000 miles before puncturing and they still looked great. Something's very wrong with these GP4000S! Perhaps they forgot the Vectran? Or even the rubber? If they didn't owe me nearly £100 I'd take the damned things off and throw them away!! Then buy another set of the ordinary blue GP4000. Shame they aren't available in 25mm. The 25mm run much more smoothly than 23mm and need lower, more comfortable pressures for safety. I'm still running the 'S' at about 85psi. I can't believe, for a moment, that higher pressures will protect the tyres from these cuts and piercing punctures. 

I've completely lost confidence in these GP4000S. Complete crap on present performance! Any cheapo tyre would have performed better than this on puncture resistance! When a flint gets through it leaves a damned great hole in the rubber. Grit on the road fills the hole and eats its way through to the inner tube. The blue treads on the 4000s were completely unblemished for nearly 4,000  thousand miles! Somebody forgot the essential ingredient in the 4000S. They were supposed to be better, on all counts, than the common or garden 4000.

I never had a piercing puncture on Bontrager Race Lites and was getting twice the mileage of the highly respected GP4000s. It was always a pinch flat due to running too low pressures. The treads lasted twice as long as even the beautiful blue GP4000. I found a pair of wheels in the shed with slightly worn Bontrager Race-Lites and they still looked very good indeed. If only I had run the Race-Lites at high enough pressures to avoid pinch flats! I would never have become involved in Continentals. Though I really liked the security offered by the blue 4000.

When I were a lad, you could buy liquid black rubber solution in a small tube to fill holes in the  treads of tubulars. To make them last longer. I wonder if it is still available? I'd better email Continental and ask for the price of their 5 litre tub!! 

Talking of crap: I just had to slit the stitching on the Brooks saddle cover. I hadn't looked at it until now. It had been sewn up wrongly under the nose. So it wouldn't go over the nose of the new saddle at all! Imagine if you were caught in a heavy shower and whipped out your genuine Brooks saddle cover. And found it wouldn't even go on your lovely new saddle! You're a hundred miles from home and have to continue riding it while the leather is wet. Arrggh! :-)    

More crappy workmanship! I wonder if Carradice subcontracts to Brooks on sewing these saddle rain hats? Still no response from Brooks to my email requesting saddle care instructions. They must be too busy fielding complaints about broken rails, lopsided leather and broken tension studs. Is the omission of such bog standard information on their website deliberate? 40 miles. Still waiting for my Spa Cycles Nidd saddle. It's two weeks today from ordering. They did say 2-3 weeks so I can't really complain. I'm just wondering about the state of the bananas on the boat which is carrying my saddle.   

Pm. Stripped off all the old handlebar stuff (again) and fitted the pretty new bars and oversize Scott Ahead stem. The Gel strips went under the new sports bandage tape. Suddenly it's looking superb! IMO. This is the first pair of new handlebars I have bought since I was 16! (That was back in the last century!) :-)

Got to do something about the twin computers though. My old home-made bracket is far too thick to fit the gap in the handlebar clamping faceplate. The thinner aluminium sheet is far too prone to metal fatigue. Didn't like the computers on the tops because it forced my hands onto the bends. Which is why I made the computer bracket in the first place.

In the end I zip-tied the computers tight against the new stem on the bulging centre of the new bars. Thanks to the much sharper bends on these Ritchey bars there is masses of room for my huge, winter-gloved hands on the tops now. The bars are also about an inch wider overall than the last pair. Which is all good new for me.

More to the point though, the shorter reach means I can now relax on the hoods. Mission accomplished. (we hope) It was wet and dark by the time I had finished repairing several recently punctured, brand new tubes. The Schwalbe inner tubes were so heavily ribbed I had to use a G-cramp to press the patches into place over the ribs!

If the new handlebars are as successful as hoped I shall finally be able to use my real, old fashioned, cloth, handlebar tape. I've been keeping it safe for the right moment. The way the tops of the bars run straight onto the Ergo hoods, it should all be very comfy. I may even struggle to stay awake in my mobile 'armchair' on longer rides. ;-)

Still haven't done the tape properly in these shots. I want to be sure I have finished playing with the set-up first. For now, the sports injury, binding tape provides a fairly tidy appearance (from a distance) and plenty of grip at low cost.

18th 51-55F, 11-13C, breezy, overcast. Like an idiot I wore tights again. At today's higher temperatures  I was sweating like a proverbial wotsit inside a winter cycling jacket. I blame all those pensioners who asked me if my legs weren't cold at 40F! Though admittedly I felt better dressed in the black tights.

I stopped half way and tilted the bars upwards slightly more. To make the entire top bends and levers horizontal. This worked well and avoided having to to tip my wrists downwards and hands upwards when on the hoods. Now they rest on the level. The saddle clamp is now in the middle of the rails again. The 'Select' is getting steadily more tanned but is still very pretty. I kept the revs up between 90-100rpm as much as possible to get a good workout.

I have worn the GripGrab Polaris gloves again for the last couple of days. My wife had cool washed them at 30 degrees after they were soaked on that horribly wet Sunday. They are rather bulky, a bit sweaty above 50F, lack any cycling padding, at all, but are passable for colder weather. Supposed to be good down to -5C. The salesman said they were okay to -10C. We shall see later on when it get properly cold. The outer material seems fairly waterproof. One just has to be very careful about not getting them wet inside just from having wet hands! That's when the trouble starts. Only a 25 miles shopping trip today. (The long way round)

Brooks has emailed me giving me basic advice on my new saddle.

"Maintenance is rather simple. Ride the saddle frequently, apply Proofide once or twice a year to protect the leather from moisture and drying out. Avoid riding the saddle when soaking wet." 

I just hope I can remember all of that. :-)

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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