Winter commuting traction tip

•January 12, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Even though I am running on studded winter tires, in some conditions I still find the bike is difficult to control. I have deduced that wheel bounce contributes to loss of traction. For example, ice formed from compressed snow at the side of a road, between the plough spoil and clear area, is often choppy. When I ride over this at a good pace, my wheels bounce, and become slightly unweighted. This unweighting is often enough to result in loss of traction!

Besides reducing tire pressure – I run my tires around 35psi instead of summer’s 70 – one can take a tip from the Paris-Roubaix professional road race. Much of this race is over cobblestone roads. The pros run on wheels with lowered spoke tension, to reduce wheel bounce.

It works on winter’s icy cobblestones as well.

For some of you, it will make sense to have a set of winter wheels, set up with studded or aggressively treaded tires. Consider tweaking spoke tension as well to optimize traction.


Alarming Effects of Global Warming – You Can Help

•January 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Alarming Effects of Global Warming – You Can Help

Please help me help the planet by donating – buy donating to my carbon credit fund I will continue to offset your carbon footprint by living a bicycling lifestyle. Many thanks.

Carrying Extra Clothing

•January 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I like to sea kayak in the summer, and have a collection of dry-bags that are just the right size to fit into a kayak hatch. These are now being used to protect clothing inside my paniers. I always do my commutes and trips anticipating a flat or some other situation that will have me off the bike exposed to the elements.

Not a bad idea, if you have the space, to carry some fleece, wool hat, liner gloves, dry socks just in case you have to make a pit stop and withstand the elements.

Winter Cycling, an update…

•January 1, 2013 • 2 Comments

I’ve continued cycling even though winter has arrived. So far, my kit is working well. Some things to note:

  • I wrapped my handlebar grips with closed cell foam: big difference. A little more care needed manipulating brake levers and gear changers, but it is workable.
  • Keep the chain lubricated. Worth repeating. Keep the chain lubricated.
  • A Showers Pass jacket, on a merino wool base layer works well down to about 5C. Below that, add a mid layer. I’ve alternated using a regular short sleeved cycling jersey, to a Nike Hyperwarm long sleeve top. The Nike stuff is warm, warm, warm, and I frequently find even down to as low as -5C that I am even a bit too warm.
  • The Nokian Mount and Ground studded tires are essential.
  • Ride as though you don’t have brakes.
  • Keep the upper body as quiet on the bike as you can.
  • Snow hitting your eyeball at +30kmh or more can really sting. Wear cycling glasses or snow goggles. Sharp cut blue for daylight riding, clear or yellow lenses for night.
  • It’s often easier to ride through untracked snow than to ride on the stuff that cars pack down. The packed down stuff can slab off and become very unstable.
  • Concentrate on keeping the shoulders relaxed.

Oh Wheel, Stay True To Me!

•October 4, 2012 • Leave a Comment

My front wheel sure takes a beating. Over double rail tracks twice a day. I started to nice a slight hump lately. Time to true it up.

I have access to a Park professional trueing stand at work, so I stayed late and went at it.

There is no way I could make that wheel truly round again. The hump developed at the seam in the rim.

The explanation: the rim is stiffest at the seam, and over time, as the wheel ages, the spokes are just not able to pull in the rim at at place. The tension has drawn in the rim everywhere except the seam area. I minimized the hump, and trued it up laterally.

The wheel is not perfect, but it is much better. It will never be perfect again… It’s fully round days were its first days.

Winter approacheth…

•September 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Here at the western end of Lake Ontario, we’ve had one cool morning thus far this fall. It was cold enough for me to need gloves with full fingers, but too warm for a base layer plus wind shell. This is a tough time of year to get it just right.

Looking ahead to winter commuting, I am making preparations and getting the clothing I need.

First order of business was to put a fender on my front wheel. I chose Planet Bike Cascadias – which hit the correct price point, and are easy enough to install. A few rainy commutes convinced me that I would rather not have the salty slush thrown all over my bike and me, so a fender goes on.

Second order of business was protection for hands and feet. I decided to match up a pair of Smartwool gloves with a pair of Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Lobster mitts. I can use these alone or in combination when it’s really cold.

I am trying an experiment to see if I can achieve better hand comfort through the winter. Last spring I had a few rides during ice-pellets and wind, and realized that the heat sink effect of hanging onto the bars and grips was drawing a lot of energy out of my hands. I came across some bivy closed cell foam padding, and chopped up a few bits and zip tied these over my existing grips. I figured that if a closed cell sit-upon would work for backpacking, the same concept should apply for bike grips. Stay tuned for results.

In the footwear department, I’m a big fan of merino wool socks, so I’ve set up a few pairs of DeFeet Wooly Bullies for the season ahead. Amazing stuff. Just will not smell. My Shimano SPD MTB shoes, which are admittedly ancient and low end, leak like sieves. Decided to give Pearl Izumi Soft Shell overshoes a try. We will see if these keep the feet dry enough so that they stay warm.

My bike is currently outfitted with Shimano XTR clipless pedals, which have been absolutely rock solid super star performers for years. I’m not keen on relying entirely on these through the winter, however, as I am concerned about eating it on ice while clipped in. I would like to have the option of switching to my hiking boots for the really nasty days. Solution: Shimano PD-A530 pedals. Flat on one side, SPD on the other.

Shimano PD-A530 Pedals

Head and ears needed to be worried over as well. The day I needed gloves, I could sense that I was a few degrees away from needing ear protection. Pearl Izumi Barrier headband does the trick. For deeper cold, the Pearl Izumi Barrier balaclava is on deck.

Since weather can change during the workday – for example, when a front comes through, it’s often necessary to have on board some colder weather artillery. I may only need the headband on the way to work in the morning, but the dark ride home into a full on headwind with a 10C drop through the day might demand the balaclava.

My plan is to carry items in a dry bag. I already transport my work clothes in one that I borrowed from my kayaking equipment. I will use a second to easily carry and keep dry the warmer gear should I need it.,

For upper body, my plan is to ease into a merino wool base layer – crew with long sleeves, and layer up over top of that. For core warmth, a Polartech 200 weight vest should get me many days, but when a solid winter high pressure sets in, I will need a full jacket. Both have a good collar that wraps the neck. In the deepest cold, I can wear the jacket over the vest, as I sized the vest with a snug fit, and a tall version of the jacket is more relaxed.

I am still in the process of determining which studded winter tire I am going to use. Some parts of my ride will be on icy paths, so a studded tire is called for. Nokian, Conti or Schwalbe are in the hunt. Stay tuned.

Cheap DIY Lemon Lime Sport Drink Recipe

•September 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Gatorade is a great product, but too expensive for me to consume in the quantities I need it. My job is quite physical, and after a ride in the morning, plus a day’s work, I need some gas in the tank to get me home. Here’s a recipe I use to make a drink at home:

5 Tblsp Organic Cane Sugar

2 Tblsp Lemon juice concentrate

2 Tbslp Lime juice concentrate

1/8 tsp kosher salt or Himilaya salt

1/8 tsp no-salt (potassium chloride)

1/4 tsp baking soda (buffers the acid, reduces the burps)

water to make, 1 litre


I start with a bit of warm water, and toss in all the ingredients, then top it up. Keep refrigerated to store.