3 Jan 2016

3rd January 2016 The C-word!

Sunday 3rd 23F, -5C, roaring gales to 17m/s or 35mph. The promise is for some sunshine but the low temperature and wind speed will make it feel very cold. The wind chill factor is somewhere around -25C in 35mph gusts according to The Danish Meteorological Institute's Kuldeindeks chart for 18m/s @ -5C. There is not remotely universal agreement between wind chill charts posted online. Not even when the same units are used! The windchill factor relates to what it feels like. The problem with wind is that it can breach the heaviest insulation and poorly windproof clothing unless a totally windproof shell is worn. Which is rarely a good idea if man-made materials and serious exercise is involved. Windproof often means it acts as a barrier to moisture escape.

I can clearly remember my first winters on the trike when I still wore [sometimes multiple] fleece jackets and supermarket "skiing" gloves "for warmth." On descents my chest would get colder and colder as my speed increased. Until it felt as if the wind was passing right through me and out the back! It was only later that I would routinely search charity shops [near and far] for "proper" cycling jackets. I was lucky and found several and still use each of them according to the temperature and wind conditions. 

Each jacket has its own, surprisingly narrow, temperature range within which I will [hopefully] avoid sweating or freezing. The main problem is usually finding myself overdressed when climbing. Opening the front zip is no guarantee of a cool back. That prickly feeling is soon followed by that sickening cold as the sweat chills on the next descent. Denmark is heavily corrugated without achieving any real altitude. Climbs and descents come as regular as clockwork on many of my usual routes. I see the "weekend warriors" on their "plastic fantastic" machines looking almost naked in their ultra-lightweight winter clothing. Always in black of course. While I cheerfully pedal the lanes in bulky "coat of may colours" cycling jackets from yesteryear.

I have discovered how very narrow a range of temperatures my jackets offer comfort. So I would be terrified of spending serious money on a single, black, skintight, winter jacket and matching long tights. Just so that I too, can look half naked in a gale and simultaneous frost. Perhaps it is most telling that I often find myself the only cyclist I see on the roads in winter. [Apart from hardy Danish pensioners out shopping.] Which might suggest that the level of protection offered by these long, black condoms is as marginal as they are visually discreet. Having once ventured forth in tights sans shorts I can attest to the feeling of serious under-dressing for a quiet ramble in the supermarket aisles. Were I to don the black suit look I might also have to wear a red nose to confirm my status as the local clown.[on a tricycle]

There used to be mime arteests on British TV who would wear black skin-tight clothing by default. I might be tempted to start seriously misbehaving beside the freezer cabinets, in my new, skintight outfit,. Which might result in my refugee status [from the Margaret Thatcher regime] being rescinded. Being forcibly repatriated to Gravely Blighted would probably be too much to bare. [sic] Particularly after all these years of riding on the "wrong" side of the road. I would certainly have to swap my Cyclop rear view mirror to the other handlebar end. Then sign up for an intensive course of evening classes, on the British Highway Code, simply in order to survive. It is bad enough glancing [all too frequently] down at a non-existent mirror when I am walking beside the road!

So I would probably have to seek sanctuary in a foreign embassy. Anything to avoid the ignominy of a return to a British Airport in full public view of the waiting press. Not to mention the throngs of admirers thinking I was a homecoming [winterized] Sir Bradley Wiggins. Besides, I am fairly sure that two trikes are not their idea of walk-on, hand luggage. Not even if I did have the assistance of two MI5/CIA security officers to help me down the aircraft steps. They might get fed up with my rambling demands and send me on extended holiday to Cuba!

Six years later I am still struggling to find gloves with any pretensions to warmth without getting sweaty hands. I have tried GripGrab's overpriced assortment, with only marginal success, dangerously crap Sealskinz and bulky, Dintex scooter gloves. One pair of Dintex scooter gloves sweats badly and then freezes my hands. The other pair do not. I presume they changed the membrane for something cheaper somewhere along the production run. So sometimes I get aching hands from frostbite but I can't tell the gloves apart. So frozen moisture is the norm at least 50% of the time.

Normally I wear carefully selected, thin "skiing" long johns and tights [bought cheaply from supermarkets] all autumn, winter and spring. Though I cling onto my naked knees for as long as possible and return to hirsute freedom as soon it warms up again. The stretchy material is too thin to absorb much moisture but helps to keep me dry and warm. Thereby avoiding intimate contact between my moist skin and my middle clothing. Over the ski vest I always wear one of my extensive collection of [secondhand] short-sleeved "racing" jerseys. All bought from charity shops of course. I always wear padded racing shorts too, for their comfort and protection from saddle sores. My regular rides may not always be very long but their frequency demands that I avoid getting sore. Otherwise even contemplating greater distances becomes impossible. 

I spent three years wearing poor quality shorts and poorer saddles. So I know exactly what it felt like to be in constant pain every time I sat down. Including sitting on two soft cushions on my already  comfortable computer chair. Saddle soreness always set my maximum distances and I took far too long to discover the Brooks B17.

I kept trying different saddles including a seriously painful and overlong relationship with the NOS Brooks "Professional." I kept wanting it to work for me but it rejected every attempt to make it comfortable.  I had previously bought a B17 'Narrow' when the LBS had no standard B17s and I found that too was painful. My pelvic bones structure insists I need a wider seat and one which is preferably, both reasonably compliant and almost flat. Curvature just tends to act as a wedge between my sit bones. The compliance need not necessarily mean softness. Certainly not a thick sponge cushion under a vinyl top.  

Now I like the better models of the "proper" B17 for their width, superior leather and larger rivets. Though the cosmetically gorgeous "Select" was rather too soft and went banana-shaped sideways. I now favour the B17 "Special" with its copper rivets and thicker leather than the black Bog17 Standard with its tiny, rust-prone, iron rivets which pull through the leather in old age. Even so, the "Special" has to be [neatly] laced to avoid premature sagging. A decent pair of leather-punch pliers works wonders here. Those who would take an electric drill to a decent leather saddle have probably enjoyed far too many "slasher" horror films!

The C-word C17 purchase was a dreadful and expensive mistake! Like all my saddle purchases I was taken in by the lies hype but still desperately wanted it to work for me. The C-word was all hype and offered no comfort at all! Far too curved across the back, as hard as rocks and hideously unforgiving. It even grabbed my shorts and rucked them up. So any hope of lasting comfort on a ride was quickly lost. They claimed it was a B17 equivalent without needing breaking in, tensioning or even a rain cover. It was claimed that the "organic virgin Vegan" C17 could be ridden in perfect comfort straight out of the over-packaged box. They quite literally lied through their teeth and nobody will ever make me believe otherwise!  [Modesty forbids me to show any images of the C-word here which might accidentally result in any cyclists salivating over a potentially disastrous purchase. You can never tell with cyclists whether they actually read the text or just drool over the pictures.]  
The Selle[r] hype department obviously lead the charge by refusing [flatly] to have a flat, comfortable bench for the distance rider, on which to rest their Ischial tuberosities. This destroyed all chance of material flex over the vital sit-bone support area. The rails are as stiff as the rock-hard rubber is. All thanks to the rigid fiberglass patch desperately added as an afterthought [to ensure life-long longevity] did not result in a class action from the ambulance chasers. My own opinion is that the "chancers" will be flogging these C-word saddles as "hardly [sic] used" for decades to come on eBay. So literally nobody will ever test the C-word's true longevity.

If only a serious cyclist had been involved in its design instead of leaving everything to the Ferrari-driving, Seller advertising director's tart mistress. They even tried to modify her broken design by cutting a huge hole in the top. Which only made it look like a hideous prosthetic for the chronically incontinent. Crossed with a very nasty, medieval, sex toy for those who like a nice bit of S&M! The factory desperately wanted "go faster" and "weekend warrior" looks to overcome potential sales resistance to a wider, flatter, touring saddle. [i.e. Something just like the real B17!]

They certainly got the curvy looks.  It is really is quite a pretty saddle if you like that sort of thing. With some nice details too if you ignore the dreadnought class weight, undersized girth and obvious fraying around the rivets. A touring saddle it is most definitely not! I'm thinking more like 250lb+ American riders who obsess about mere grams on the "weight weeny" cycling forums. Ideal for those "serious riders" who have been looking for a new saddle for their fixy. One which won't get irrevocably lost between their nuclear submarine sized buttocks on that short, Saturday morning ride to the local McLardy's Club meet to get "Macxed out."

Perhaps Selle[r] should have talked to somebody at Brooks instead of keeping the C-word completely in-house down in balmy Italy? Could the rubber possibly soften up after baking for an hour [or three] in the Mediterranean midday sun outside a rural, Italian, roadside, mountain café? The saddle gently cooked as the poor Selle[r] saddle testers rested their tender regions on hemorrhoid cushions after a few short but painful kilometers. ie. Until safely out of sight of the factory! With so much invested in its potential sales the Selle[r] testers couldn't possibly be whistle blowers could they? Guess what? They weren't!

I bet they spent far more time, expense and effort at the Selle[r] factory designing the packaging than they ever did on the "comfortable out of the box" saddle. Of course, there is a very slim chance that it has all been a hideous mistake due to a break down in communications. The Selle[r] Unadulterated Hype Director was looking down from his glazed, ivory tower one day and intimated to a passing serf that he wanted a new saddle. One which could be taken straight out of the box and be as comfortable as a just-broken-in B17.

The garbled message, was duly filtered down through several ranks of constantly genuflecting and back-stabbing, under-managers. To eventually reach the ever-so-humble minions, in the dank and dingy R&D Dept. in the cloud castle dungeons. By which time the message had lost something in the translation.

"Real" saddle design is all done in the "Arts and Hype" Dept. upstairs. Where physical testing is completely unnecessary thanks to a few, carefully posed iRottenApple computers strategically placed for maximum decor value for visiting cyclo journo clebs to admire. Why else do they wear vintage cycling jerseys with capacious rear pockets if not to take their [money laundering] bribes home in unmarked notes?  The Word from On High had [apparently] pronounced that the splendid new C-word should be: "Just like a B17 taken straight out of the box." And so it was! ;-))   [Modesty forbids me to show any images of the C-word here which might accidentally result in any cyclists salivating over a potentially disastrous purchase. You can never tell with cyclists whether they actually read the text or just drool over the pictures.]  

Even wearing thin tights adds seams where seams are best avoided on/under a cyclist. I've tried warmer cycling trousers but always overheat even in a hard frost.  Most "civvy" clothing is put together with thick seams coming to a hard knot right in the middle of the crutch. It can take quite some searching to find affordable, non-cycling underclothes with flat seams. Bibs came late to my clothing collection but are superbly comfortable on longer rides. I hate spending money on cycle clothing but good shorts and better bibs are absolute essentials. [Along with real saddles!]

The DHB shorts are okay for daily use up to [say] 40 miles though I have ridden further in them. The Tactic bibs go on if I plan on anything over 50 miles. It just isn't worth the risk of wearing shorts. Simply because they do not conform as well without the vital, but gentle tension, of the soft braces on bibs. I have spent far too many miles standing up at every opportunity. Often every few yards towards the end [sic] as I suffered endlessly from saddle soreness.

My footwear choice after several year's hiccups, is now North Wave MTB with SPD cleats. But only because NorthWave offer greater width for my size EU 46.2525 pedantry plates of meat. The NW shoes have proven to be, not only [rapidly] cosmetically challenged, but able to break their own buckle springs within 2 years from new. It is now many months since my dealer offered to try and get me a single £20 + P&P strap and buckle replaced under guarantee. I had flatly refused to pay for it nor pay so much.

Needless to say he will not be enjoying my custom when I seek replacement cycling shoes. Probably this year as it warms up because I now have no functioning summer shoes for want of a single North Wave buckle spring. Toe-clips and straps are not sensible on a trike due to the lowered bottom bracket. It is all too use to "dig in" a toe-clip even on normal camber. Escaping from toe-clips and straps may not have the emergency quality of riding a (cough) bicycle but ought to be easy if rider longevity is desired. 

Meanwhile, the NorthWave MTB winter boots have been fine and have saved my feet from painful winter chill and wet. Though they do look absolutely appalling because they collect and display every single drop of mud from road spray. Just the price of running 25mm tyres on tight clearance forks. Though I may be able to remedy this awkward situation after being 'improved' by my brother.

Click on any image for an enlargement.


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