Category: How To

If you’ve got a bike that uses V-brakes and it’s making some noise here’s a quick tip you can do to get rid of that annoying sound.

So what you do is grab one of these green scouring pads, cut off a small section that’s wide enough to fit on the rim.
bike commuters tips

Then make sure you do a better job in placing it behind the pad than I did. Just to let you know, I did re-position the pad so it would be just right. Now press the v-brake arm in so you are essentially pushing the brake pad into the rim. Then rotate the wheel a few times.
bikecommuters.com v brake

Now check out the green pad. See all that muck…well that’s a combination of grease/oils and other contaminants that are getting in between your pads and your rims. If you have all that muck, it’s basically preventing your pads from making a solid contact patch, which causes vibration/noise.
bikecommuters.com tech tips

So the next time your brakes are making noises, try this!

Or in other words, groupset. Often times people may not realize that various groupsets come with grades or levels of quality. All this can be confusing as manufacturers keep adding more and more names to their lists. I found this cheat sheet of sorts at a local bike shop to help educate people of the different levels of groupsets.

bicycle groupset bikecommuters.com gruppo

A buddy of mine once told me that the only way to get better at any craft is not just practice but perfect practice. He was and remains one of the most technically superb surgeons with whom I have thus far had the privilege of operating, and his advice is applicable to so many aspects of life, including cycling.

I have personally suffered from this situation, and to the reader, please mentally acknowledge if this has not happened to you already:

I am riding a new route that is longer than what I am used to, and by the end of the ride, I am feeling fatigued. However, over the next week the ride gets easier and easier….until the 8th or 9th day and I feel like I have hit a plateau. From there on out, it feels like the same ride every day, some days feeling stronger, and other days feeling weaker. This continues until I switch up the route again, and the whole process repeats itself.

So what do my buddy’s aphorism and this situation have to do with each other? It’s the notion that commuting to work, while an excellent form of exercise, is not necessarily a consistent form of training. Sam Shaw wrote a good piece on this topic, “Riding your bike and training are two different things.” The title of the article pretty much says it all, and Sam goes on to describe his thoughts on riding with a “specific focus” of training in mind and sticking to that plan unwavering.

I do acknowledge that not all bike commuters are trying to train. But I have yet to meet a bike commuter who didn’t want the commute to get easier, faster, and stronger feeling. While I am a big proponent of technology, I feel that as a society, we have become ever more reliant on technology to improve our lives… I suppose rightly so, given that were it not for our advancements, we might never have made it out of the Stone Age. But the spark of these advancements was our desire to improve, an energy that came from within, a will for self improvement.

So how can we improve ourselves in the bike commuting department?

1. As the scenario (italicized) above illustrates, something as simple as switching up your route every so often not only freshens up things mentally, it can also freshen the activity of the muscle groups firing during your commute. Granted, depending on where you commute, changing the route might make zero difference in terms of the number of hills you encounter, the number of traffic stops etc. etc.

2. Interval training has become a popular concept, and its use is illustrated in the “Cross Fit” craze. Interval training can be incorporated into your daily commute, as long as it is safe!!! Part of the difficulty in training during your bike commute is that often the tempo and rhythm of the ride is punctuated by the fickleness of traffic lights. But if you have the luxury of a stretch of safe road and have warmed up, you can try an “on” “off” interval scheme, e.g. 90 second high intensity sprint, 30 seconds low intensity pedaling, for 4 sets, or as long and as safe as the stretch of road will allow. Bicycling magazine has some suggestions about incorporating interval training in your ride. Adjust the intervals based on your own level of comfort, but as a general rule, start with something doable. 

3. Personally, I keep my bike commute a bike commute and focus on getting to my destination quickly, efficiently, and above all, safely. However, I do train off the bicycle in the form of circuit training using free-weights. Here is my routine most recently.

a. Monday and Thursday (total training time 30 minutes each of those days)
i. Squats, 10 reps, low weight
ii. 10 crunches, 10 leg lifts
iii. Bent over rows, 8 reps
iv. Powerclean and standing military press, 4 reps

v. Squats, 5 reps, higher weight
vi. Same
vii. Same
viii. Same

ix. Squats, 2 reps, max weight
x. Same
xi. Same
xii. Same

xiii. Squat jumps (6 reps, 4 sets, low weight, 30 second rest in between sets)
xiv. Same
xv. Same
xvi. Same

b. Tuesday and Friday (total exercise time 30 minutes)
i. Bench press, 10 reps
ii. 10 crunches, 10 leg lifts
iii. Weighted, pronated pull ups, 20 reps, low weight

iv. Bench press, 6 reps
v. Same
vi. Weighted, pronated pull ups, 8 reps, high weight

vii. Bench press, 2 reps
viii. Same
ix. Weighted, pronated pull ups, 8 reps, high weight

x. Bench press, 10-12 reps
xi. Same
xii. Non weighted, pronated pull ups, about 10 reps.

A few notes: I choose to lift alone without a spotter (saves me time). Therefore, the weight and rep count I choose is such that I go to failure threshold; that is, my last rep of any given set is the one such that any other rep done after that would probably not be possible for me to lift. I have developed this sense of my limits and currently “max out” my bench press and squat weight each at 215lbs (For reference, I currently weigh 165lbs)

You might ask what military press, pull ups, and bench press have anything to do with cycling, a very valid question. First of all, my routine incorporates the standard “power lifts,” namely squat, bench, and dead lift (powerclean includes a dead lift). The addition of pull ups and military press helps activate some of the antagonistic muscle groups. The end focus: core. A strong core means an all-in-all stronger more resilient person. Added benefits with core strengthening pertinent to cyclists include balance and stability, among other benefits, and the geeks at Harvard agree.

The key is that whatever strength training, interval training etc. that you do, KEEP IT CONSISTENT, BUT DON’T KEEP IT THE SAME. Overall, with this supplemental training for the past 6 months, I have definitely noticed that my commute has become even easier than before. But I feel that I may be due for a change…

As with any physical activity, consult your personal physician before embarking on a new routine.

Please post with your own training routines, or if you feel that training is bogus and a waste of time, let us know your opinion as to why.

Do good and ride well.

Editor’s note: we’ve touched on the subject of cycling fabric care before — here are a variety of new tips for you to mull over as the weather heats up.

Looking After Your Cycling Clothes
If you’re a regular cyclist, then you know how important the clothes you wear are. They are an investment, keeping you at a comfortable temperature, keeping you dry and always there to prevent soreness and injury. What’s more important is looking after them so you can get the best use and value to ensure you don’t have to fork out for another set of cycling gear over and over again. Make sure that yours last with these helpful tips.

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Air It Out
Don’t let your sweaty bike clothes fester in a pile, especially if they are damp. The damp encourages bacteria to form and will make your clothes smell. Airing and drying your garments will prevent this to a certain degree.

Before You Wash
When you wash your gear, make sure that you turn them inside out, and apply pre-wash detergent to the areas that are worst affected.
Zip up any zips and close up any hook and loop fastenings before you wash, as these can damage garments. Place them in a mesh bag to prevent them being tangle and stretched with other items in the wash. Avoid putting them in with jeans or towels. Your cycle gear should be treated as ‘delicates’.

Nothing Too Complicated

The soap or detergent that you use to wash your clothes should be just that. Don’t use scents, dyes or softeners on your cycling gear.
Wash on a cool temperature, and if they don’t smell clean enough for your liking, wash them in vinegar or a specialist sports wash detergent. You don’t want your clothes to smell like detergent either, though, as this can irritate your skin.

Air Dry
If you can, always air dry your gear. Tumble drying can damage the fibres if too hot, so stick to a cooler heat if you have to tumble dryer.

Waterproofs
Waterproof cycling gear needs special care, as they are complex garments. Fabrics like Texapore, used on E-Outdoors’ collection of Jack Wolfskin garments, have a breathable, waterproof membrane that lets vapour, but not liquid through. The outer shell is often hard-wearing and coated with a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating, which can wear off over time. You can re-waterproof your garments with a wash-in product or a simply spray. Wash in will waterproof the entire garment – though remaining most effective on the outer shell because DWR will only bind to existing DWR. A spray-on will only coat what you spray.

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A last tip, always remember not to tumble dry waterproofed garments as they could end up smaller than you’d like!

We received this product a few months ago for testing. But it’s one of those things that we can’t just start using. Well, technically we could. But there’s a few things I needed to get done on the bike that we’d use for the test before we even started reviewing this product.

Let me explain what it is. See the photo above? Notice how there’s a passenger in the back with her feet on the pedals? Well that’s what this is for. You can carry a passenger on your bike and it instantly become as a tandem.
vigurvant

Like I mentioned I needed to do something to the test bike we’re using for this review. I basically had to make it comfortable for the passenger, so I decided to build a rear seat board. Here’s some things you need: Upholstery material (left over from the sidecar project), Saw (oscillating power tool), measuring tape, composite wood (or regular wood), foam pad (not pictured) and a smoking pipe.
vigurvant on bikecommuters.com

After measuring the composite board, I cut it down to size and drilled some holes for the zip ties to keep it securely mounted on the rear rack.

I left the zip ties in the holes while I did the upholstery.

Installed pedals. The Park PW1 pedal wrench was either too thick or the pedals didn’t have enough clearance to allow the tool to work. I had to find a 15mm cone wrench to snug the pedal in.

Voila! New rear seat and Vigurvant pedals on the Torker CargoT.

Notice the Vigurvant pedals, all you have to do is flip out that aluminum piece. It acts as an extension on the pedal to allow your rear passenger to place their feet on it.

Now I’m waiting for a volunteer to be my stoker and see how this all works out. Stay tuned!