Cycling Science …

I have been amusing myself by dipping into Cycling Science a neat little book by Max Glaskin, published by Ivy Press. It’s pitched at the interested reader but you don’t need a science degree to read it and the style is quite light …

There are hundreds of parts on a bicycle … Without doubt the most important part is the frame, often described as the heart of the bicycle by people whose grasp of anatomy should disqualify them from medical practice.

Yes, it’s the skeleton, of course.

Chapter 5 is on aerodynamics, such an important part of cycling that it repays any cyclist handsomely for the trouble of reading it. And it contains this welcome boost to my ego …

The graphic concerns the part that aerodynamics played in Chris Boardman’s one hour record (56.375 km or 35.03 miles) set in 1996. At this scale reading the print is a bit difficult but don’t hold that against the book. It is nicely illustrated. The gist of it is that Boardman adopted the superman position and reaped the benefits of reduced drag . Each line above that indicates how far he would have traveled in other positions. On a sit up and beg bike like my mountain bike (top line) he would have covered a mere 14.893 km. Well Mr Boardman you’re not superman at all – I can cover 25 km.

Returning to reality I suspect that Boardman could beat me on an icecream seller’s tricycle and that the calculations are a little astray in this particular figure.

A good addition to any cycling tragic’s library.

A Day of Rest …

Today is a rest day. I am itching to get on the bike but my will power is strong. Rest days are very important.

The temptation to ride is even greater in the midst of the Covid-19 epidemic. I have no idea when the government will lock me in my house and drive me screaming up the wall. The routes that I ride around home are deserted at the best of times, the perfect place to exercise in isolation.

One blessing of the restrictions is that  my travel budget is available for repurposing. That computer my bike was lusting after is now in reach. An alternative reading of that sentence would be – The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt was on special and I bought it. I suspect it was on special to knock down stocks prior to release of something even more desirable but hey.

So here is the written version of an unboxing video. It came in a box and I took it out.

It’s quite easy to set up using the app which you download on your phone. It talks to a variety of peripherals such as a cadence meter, heart rate monitor or power meter. Did I mention that my bike was very keen that I should get a heart rate monitor and I got the Wahoo Kickr?

I now have speed, distance, time elapsed and heart rate displayed on the front page of my very aerodynamic and light weight Ellemnt. This is a minor reorganisation from the default settings and easily achieved. The screen is tiny but these metrics are quite legible. A couple of button pushes bring you to the maps page. This is where the screen size limits functionality. Street names are not given. If I were lost I would reach for the phone  in my pocket before trying to plot a route on the Bolt. Having said that I wouldn’t want to be riding around with an iPad on my handlebars.

Turn by turn navigation can be set up prior to a ride in Strava or elsewhere and downloaded to the machine. I haven’t used that feature. I understand that the route  can’t be modified en route.

After the ride the Bolt talks to the app on your phone which will talk to Strava if you wish. It’s a bit different from dealing with Strava direct – you don’t get to name the rides or decide how private they are. Within the Wahoo app you can review your speed at any point, see where you were in a climb at that moment and check your heart rate. It gives a nice breakdown of how long you spent in the various heart rate zones and provides an approximation of the calorie expenditure. I like it.

The Kickr is easy to use. It’s a chest band monitor. You wet the two areas that pick up the signal and fasten it round your chest, just below your nipples for boys, just below the breasts for girls. Mine has stayed in place very nicely. I think the extra information this gives makes planning your training much more purposeful.

Which is much more than I would say for a cadence meter. Yes there is probably an ideal cadence but this varies from moment to moment depending on conditions. In the long run you will change gears by feel. Anyone who gets back from a ride and pores over their cadence needs to discuss the issue with a psychiatrist – in my humble opinion.

On the other hand every serious bike racer these days uses the power meter as the most accurate way to measure their effort and plan their training. It’s also the most expensive of the monitors. I have not yet succumbed.


The Norco Charger …

It happens that Gayle is a tall and elegant woman or in other words we are of similar height – both needing a medium frame on our bikes. Her second hand bike was an uncomfortable fit for her but she could transition to the eBig Tour without even needing the saddle moved.

This would have to be one of the strongest arguments for an ebike. They enable riders of differing abilities to enjoy a ride together.

Back to the shop I went. I wanted a similar set up but without the motor. A hard tail because I didn’t expect to be leaping from rock to rock but softer forks for the more ferocious corrugations. An aluminium frame for economy. A single chainring for simplicity. A very pleasant young man steered me to the Norco Charger.

It was love at first sight – with the bike that is. I would have liked a more exciting colour but hey.

It’s a bit more mountain bike and a bit less the tourer. For rear suspension you stand on the pedals and absorb the bumps with your legs – just like skiing. The front forks are perfect.

Of course it weighs a lot less than an ebike so my average speed jumped a couple of kph.

What’s missing?

The computer …

The eBig Tour …

The blame or the credit has to be sheeted home to friends John and Carole. They are both older and fitter than we are, how annoying. Gayle observed the difference in circumference between John and I and declared a war on my waist.

They keep trim by cycling and keep flexible with yoga. Cycling OK. Yoga is for yuppies. John extolled the ebike for a someone making a comeback. I negotiated a good price for two ebikes but Gayle chickened out and picked up a second hand ladies mountain bike of conventional propulsion.

I picked up my Merida eBig Tour on the first of December 2019 and off we went.

It has three levels of assistance from a Shimano motor cunningly concealed in the crankcase. Shimano terminology for them is eco, trail and boost. They are selectable via a control that falls under the left hand. The right hand controls the derailleur gears. Both hands have a disc brake to manage.

Eco provides a pleasant tailwind effect and the battery may be good for 120 km or so. I’ve never got that far. Trail provides more assistance but the range drops. Boost will leave a Ferrari for dead or at least make climbing hills easy. Take care the first time you select it.

There is a fourth option which is to have the computer on but the motor off. I really like the computer which provides your speed and average speed, elapsed time, distance traveled, cadence, odometer or range. You can review them all after the ride. Bloody luxury.

Now surely this is cheating. How are you going to get fit if a motor does the work?

The first thing to note is that if you don’t pedal it doesn’t go. There is no throttle. What happens is that your effort on the crank is measured and the motor adds some extra. You can work as hard as you like. Under Australian law the motor must cut out at 25 kph any way.

Riding the ebike is just like riding any other bike. The big difference is that you became a Tour de France quality rider overnight. It’s huge fun.

The eBig Tour is essentially a trekking bike. It has big fat tyres suggesting that it will do well in the gravel of our local roads and it can be ridden on fairly technical terrain. There is no suspension at the rear (a Hard Tail in Mountain Bike jargon) but the front forks compress and provide some relief on the corrugations. Reviews I’ve read generally find the forks adequate but they’ve not been tested on the roads round here. The ride can be uncomfortably hard at times.

After two months I’d done about 700 km mainly on gravel roads and forest tracks. I spent one afternoon climbing a little hill called Mount Hooghly and bombing down the other side. Boost got a work out on the climbs, I survived the descents.

The main problem was the disparity in riding speed between Gayle on her 24 inch conventional bike and my turbocharged eMTB. In order to get a good workout I did most of my riding with the motor off which gave me a good idea …

Negative review …

Recently it was suggested to me that I try a particular Thai restaurant, it sounded good, I decided I would.

I googled it to get the address and found not only its address but a scathing review of its decor, its food and its service. In word of mouth I trust.

When I got there I found two Thai restaurants just a few doors apart …

Reviews on social media can easily be corrupted. Peter Hook, the director of communications of Accor Hotels for the Asia Pacific area, has been ordered on leave of absence after he was discovered posting negative reviews online for rival companies under a fake name. He admitted to posting the reviews on Trip Advisor.

The reviews were posted on the travel website which allows the public to share their personal experiences and is based on a rating system of one to five stars. Reviewing under the handle Tavare, Mr Hook joined the website in 2006 and has contributed 105 reviews.

Makes you wonder if one Thai restaurant got its hooks into the other …