Friday, August 15, 2014

How the Sun Sees You

Cyclists spend long hours baking their epidermis in the sun.  Skimpy kit makes for exposed arms, neck, and legs. One of the great forgotten bits of cycling equipment is sunscreen.

Back in the day when I was younger, I played ultimate frisbee.  A doctor friend always showed up to play with a brimmed hat, long sleeves, and plenty of sunscreen.  It was one of those moments when it occurs to you, "If he ~ who is infinitely wiser than I in the ways of medical health ~ is taking these precautions ~ perhaps prudence dictates I follow a similar course."

Of course there is something to being middle aged and no longer giving a damn about how you look.  I bought myself a fine large brim beach hat and some nice high-viz long sleeve shirts.  I also bought several tubs of sun screen.  One sits on my desk at work ready for the ride home and the other sits by the door at home.

Another doc said we should always apply sunscreen twice.  Why?  Because most of us do such a lousy job the first time that it requires two coats of paint.

Oh yeah, and remember, even the "sports" sunscreen only lasts like two hours.  Buy some small tubes and throw them in your saddle bag for use in Purceville.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Experimenting with Disc Brakes

When I bought my Cannondale years ago, it came with V (rubber pad) brakes but was upgradable to disc brakes.  As a 100% bicycle commuter, 12 months a year, I found that V brakes were a bit of a problem.  As a large guy, going up and down the Arlington hill, in all types of bad weather, I was wearing through brakes like Chiclets. And if I was wearing through brake pads, I was also wearing through wheel rims!

At the hounding of a cycling friend, I caved.  I bought Avid BB7 disc brakes for front and back.  I have replaced rubber brake pads before, but I have never installed new brakes and I have never installed disc brakes.  It presented a certain level of anxiety as you have to align the whirling disc inside of the brake, without it hitting as it goes flying by.  This certainly cant be easy.

But in fact it was.  It's a bit hard to describe: first you get the wheel relatively in line, which should make the disc relatively in line. Then you squeeze the brake so that it clamps onto the disc, and tighten the brake bolts so that the brake lines up with the disc.  After this, there are some adjusters to make minor fine adjustments. It didn't take long before I could adjust the brakes on the fly as needed.

Disc brakes offer clear advantages over V brakes.  First there is the "not wearing out your expensive wheel's rims" thing.  The disc brakes give me better feel; there is a greater difference between lightly applying the brakes and a full squeeze emergency stop. In addition, disc brakes are less affected by water, dirt, and mud ~ all those wonderful conditions that come with off-road cycling and which will chew up a rim if you use V brakes.

Disc brakes started on mountain bikes.  They have moved into the Cross Bike category and you are now even seeing them show up on road bikes (even though they do add extra weight).

So what's the take away?  After several months of riding with discs, I love the responsiveness and I love the fact that I am no longer destroying my rims or replacing my pads near as often.