14 Dec 2014

13th December 2014

Saturday 13th 40F, 4C, cloudy to overcast, breezy. Wintry showers promised mixed with possible

sunshine. I enjoyed an hour and a half walk looping up through the woods. Everything is saturated after yesterday's rain. With lots of large puddles in the folds of the fields. The tracks were similarly wet and needed frequent avoidance of watery stretches. There was continuous bright sunshine from a cloudless sky. A light wind kept me cool.

The fragile truce has been broken by a new pheasant uprising. A provocation which soon brought out the big guns. There are no reports of the numbers of casualties as yet. The pheasants are fighting a highly asymmetric campaign against a heavily armed foe. Skirmishes are expected to continue throughout the weekend.

I left late morning on the trike in continuing sunshine. Not going particularly strongly today but I detoured back via my favourite hills despite the heavy load of shopping. I saw a few cyclists out training in the sunshine, both road and MTB. They all seemed cheerful and waved before I did. There was a cold headwind on the last leg.

The backs of my heels are hurting again. Just as they do every winter. They looked bright purple after my shower. It might seem like mild frostbite but it's not like that at all. I know what cold feet are from my first winters riding daily on the trike down to a ridiculous -15C without overshoes. I've tried all sorts of creams and oils and even mixing them for the dryness and cracking of the heel skin in winter. I'm now using Sudocreme which seems to be best so far. I have no idea why my heels go like this but it may be the cold mains water. It may not be rinsing the soap out of my socks properly during the machine wash cycle.

I suppose it could be the cold air being pumped around my heels by the pedaling. Though there is no sense of having cold feet during a ride, nor afterwards. It was 40F today which is hardly cold but they still hurt. Nor do they feel as if they are rubbing in/on the shoes. Despite my usual optimism the high ankle, NW Celsius MTB boots have made no difference to the sudden start-up of these seasonal symptoms. Though this winter has been unusually mild until now. In fact it it has been record warm without being remotely balmy. Nor has wearing completely different combinations of thinner and thicker socks helped. My heels are no problem at all when it is slightly warmer. The skin on my heels is perfectly smooth and pink for probably nine months of the year. So it can't be general wear and tear from the cycling and walking. 19 miles.

Sunday 14th 36F, 2C, windy and overcast. I am still experimenting with handlebar height. My wife has observed that I am walking increasingly bent over as if I have a bad back. Fitting a shorter stem has helped but made me feel very upright when on the hoods. I sometimes glance in the empty shop windows to check my riding posture as I pass.

Lowering the handlebars is not the same thing as changing the reach. It would help if I could establish the cause of my difficulty in reaching the hoods. Over the last couple of years it has seemed more difficult to change gear. I begin to notice that I am spending what seems like too much time holding the centre of the bars. While it might be natural to use the tops for climbing it doesn't help when I need to suddenly brake or change gear on the ergo levers. Prior to that I used bar-end levers but they had quite different problems. It seemed a long reach down from the tops. I want to rest my hands naturally on the brake hoods. It even seems suddenly easier each time I change the handlebar position. Then it slowly becomes more difficult again until I am resting back on the tops.

Leaning forward is far more efficient as far as wind drag is concerned. It also places the rider over the bottom bracket for greater efficiency. Air drag rises enormously as speed increases. It is the major limiting factor as far as ultimate riding speed is concerned. Even at my modest cruising speed of around 12-15mph I am using considerable energy to push myself through the air. Now add in the constant [head]wind of the normal Danish climate. It follows that I ought to try and maintain a nice low torso angle to cut cleanly through the air.

One obvious option would be to ride with clip-on tri-bars to give me [fore]arm rests. This would [hopefully] take the strain off my back muscles. Unfortunately tri-bars are not remotely comfortable for general riding. They would also require dual levers. Or I would be constantly moving my hands from the forward extensions to change gear on the Campag Ergos. Braking would require the same hand position changes on and off the tri-bars.

While I may not need to brake very often I am constantly changing gear on the rear cassette to keep my cadence high. So, for quite a number of reasons, tri-bars are not suitable for normal riding. Besides, riding on the side bars, rather than the forward extensions, offers no arm support. I tried a set of 3T on the Higgins and was very glad to return to normal racing drops. Note the difference between saddle height and handlebars in the image above. The present position of the bars on the Trykit is more or less level with the saddle.

Perhaps I should just accept that I am getting older and stiffer with age. My toes do seem further away when I try to reach them with my fingertips. I am only slowly losing the battle to keep my speed high at all times. I rarely dawdle or stop pedaling, even downhill. It is a habit I learnt as a teenager to ride as fast as reasonably possible all of the time. My present riding regime (for want of a better word) is to ride regularly but only over rather limited distances per day. It all adds up over the year but is hardly taxing. I do not race therefore have no need to do high training mileages nor intervals. My fitness thus remains about the same year round. With little variation over the seasons.

I have been steadily increasing my stamina while climbing out of the saddle. It used to be agony to do just a few yards before sinking quickly back down! These days I keep trying to ride a complete hill while standing up. Finding the right gear is important to maintain momentum as well as road speed. Honking while twiddling on short cranks is very hard work and puts too much weight on the handlebars. Too high a gear and one loses speed and cadence. Changing gear while still putting a load on the pedals takes practice. Reading the tiny digits on the Cateye 'Cadence' computer while honking is completely impossible!

There is not so much pedal resistance when standing up since one can add one's own weight. There is no point in standing up, which uses much more energy, if I could just twiddle to keep up the same speed. Having a shorter handlebar stem makes me more upright while honking. This can be a serious disadvantage into a headwind. Where one might as well sit, keep a tight, low profile and twiddle.[To twiddle:- Pedal quickly, maintain a high cadence or high 90+ pedal rpm]

After coffee and rolls I rode off straight into the wind to try and reach Fåborg or manage 30 miles altogether. Rather short of breath again while climbing. At 15 miles I had more than enough of fighting the strong, coastal headwind. A pretty, but hilly, zigzag route home further inland made it 35 miles total. There was occasional sunshine but it was mostly very cloudy. Dropping the handlebars by a further few millimeters actually seemed to be more comfortable. My elbows are slightly bent when my hands are on the hoods. To help absorb road shocks without jarring. I'll see how it goes with this handlebar height before making any more changes.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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