6 Feb 2016

6th February 2016 It's [all] a drag!

Saturday 6th 44F, 7C, windy, heavy overcast. Expected to rain all morning. I feel guilty at my poor mileage so far this year. The combination of an injured back and bad weather still seem like weak excuses to a cycling OCD. As I glance over my monitor at the trees rocking outside the dormer window I can easily imagine the resistance as my speed plummets below 10mph out on the road.

I have removed the clip-on tri-bars but now wonder whether that was wise. When I first fitted them the 'free' 2-3mph increase in speed was rather intoxicating. Then, gradually, I started using them much less. My aging back usually resented being bent over so far. While increased breathlessness suggested inefficiency somewhere. It sometimes felt as if my chest was more congested and I was drowning in my own mucous. I would have to sit up and clear my throat.  Or, perhaps I was simply trying much harder when down on the elbow pads and making myself more breathless. 

So it became a habit to use the extensions only on descents. Where the higher speeds made the most of my reduced drag. I would see 31mph on familiar hills instead of my more usual 27-28. Though still the chains of cars would overtake me. The tri-bars did help in fierce headwinds but I quickly resented the discomfort.

Then I would endlessly ponder the voluminous, sports bag constantly hanging off the saddle pin. Usually it was resting on an equally large, Camper saddlebag. Which itself was exposed to the headwind being accelerated between my flailing legs.  Does the rapid leg movement disturb the air and does it make a bag's drag worse or better? Not the sort of thing reported in the technical press when dealing with wind tunnel results.

There I was, sporting tri-bars as if speed was my most serious intention. While simultaneously dangling a faux, braking parachute out at the back. Soon it seemed the tri-bars were only there to have somewhere to hang my computer. I did think at one point that the tri-bars helped to make my back more flexible. The increase in the trike's weight over bare handlebars was hardly significant. Particularly in comparison with carrying a massive Abus U-lock. Nor did the tri-bars noticeably affect the steering. I had just noticed that I wasn't using the tri-bars any more. They had become more of an affectation than a useful advantage. 

If greater speed, or less effort for the same speed was my aim, then I ought to seriously consider reducing drag elsewhere. Not by letting my nose drip onto the A-head stem bolt, but by rotating the large rear bags by 90 degrees to reduce their [and my]  cross sectional area. It would need a longer rack rather than a wide one. Or some kind of cantilevered extension rail to support the overhanging tail of the bag. Lose the saddle bag and have just the sports bag aligned with the head wind from my forward motion. Something more like a pannier bike rack than a trike rack. Though not with panniers which probably double the drag compared with a simple saddlebag. But then, the sports bag is almost an extension of my bum rather than fully exposed to the wind. Side pockets may be handy on a saddlebag but they must be costing a fair few watts! They also get uncomfortably close to the muddy trike tires when trying to undo the buckles.

On another note: Pushing the B17 saddle as far back as possible seemed to help. Going against my always fuzzy logic, it immediately reduced the weight on my hands. I do have to remember to push myself back but it is not a serious problem. While I was on my ride into the wind a couple of days ago I was stretched right out with my palms flat on the Ergo 'humps.' Which, I should add, are uncomfortably sharp even when wearing winter gloves. I kept that position up for several miles without too much [back] discomfort. It even occurred to me at the time that I could fit a slightly longer stem so my hands could rest on the hoods. The Ergo hoods are also beginning to feel much too short for my gloved hands.

Perhaps I really ought to have another look at the plastic, "big hands" extensions supplied with the new Ergo levers? I have always dismissed them before but do actually have the very large hands they are aimed at. More on this later. There's bound to be a YT video on fitting these hood extensions. [Nope.] Longer hoods would be the equivalent of a slightly longer stem... More forward lean reduces drag. Everyone's a winner! Or not. "Ow me back!"

I soon dispatched myself to the trike shed despite the inclement weather. Where I started by swapping the A-head extension from 65mm to 85mm. This gave me room to fit the computer on the stem as the 65mm was much too short. The computer looked daft sitting on the top tube! I could not even read it unless it was pushed back to clear the extension. Which made it even more obvious and a greater potential target for theft. I kept catching my knees on it too when cornering hard.  I'll see how I get on with this extension length before deciding how best to proceed. The stem can easily be raised, lowered, or I could return to the 65mm. I don't have any other "oversize to oversize" extensions to try.

Slackening off the Campag lever clamping screws allowed me to fit the "big hands" extensions. Though they do not have a dramatic effect. They tip the levers up very slightly allowing them to be lowered on the handlebars. Which gives more room for the fingers to wrap themselves under the lever hoods. My black, compact, dropped handlebars are looking the worse for wear after the damage done by the tri-bar extension clamps. I'll probably wrap the center tops in black electrical tape to hide the damage and to save replacing them. I'm not sure whether silver finished bars would go with all the naked stainless steel of the Trykit. The Higgins has identically shaped, silver bars but they look well with the faded mauve paint, dirt and rust.

The A-head handlebar system makes life very easy swapping handlebars and stems. However, removing and replacing handlebar tape is a real chore for  a lazy old git like myself! I use athletes fine, cloth, binding tape instead of foolishly expensive bar tape with bells on. I've tried the commercial tape but it doesn't last long [cosmetically] with regular use. Nor does it ideally suit gel padding strips. I much prefer traditional cloth tape to plastic or cork granules. Probably the result of trying to fall off the bike when I fitted slippery and shiny, plastic tape in my  youth. Cloth was considered track tape back then but gave excellent grip even in the wet.

Talking of grip: I ordered a pair of replacement Campag Ergo rubber hoods before having to order a new pair of levers. The spare hoods eye-wateringly stink like those horrid rubber clogs/sandals they sell in the discount supermarkets! The hoods absolutely reek but the new levers do not. Coincidence? Or is Campagnolo now farming out work to the slave wage, vicious dictatorship of China? 

It was drizzling steadily all morning so I had to work just inside the shed door. I much prefer daylight when working on mechanical detail because it aids my aging eyes' poor close focus. It is called "lack of accommodation" due to natural stiffening of the eye lens. I have three different strengths of £5 "reading glasses" depending on how close I need to see. Conversely, by sheer coincidence my eyes are now perfectly adapted for distance, without my needing my lifelong distance reading glasses. Six years ago I needed glasses just to read an office wall clock. I put the beneficial improvement down to natural adaptation to my regular cycling. Or sheer luck!

Post lunch and the rain has finally petered out for the moment. Off we, jolly well, go. Just a hilly 10 miles sweating profusely in my supermarket rain jacket. It didn't rain except inside the jacket.


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