Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Short cuts

1) In the last two weeks, I've ridden over a hedgehog, an adder and two squirrels. But don't blame me for the untimely demises of these creatures -- they were already dead. The drivers did it. (How do I know? Animals don't get that flat when ridden over with by bicycles. Even if the peloton rode over a hedgehog, there'd be some bumps left.)

2) "The slender leg, with a little bitty calf, belongs to the climber. The good-sized thigh - that's a sprinter. The long and harmonious leg - a rouleur (a racer on the flats). A short femur? He'll be swift. Rounded buttocks? He'll start strong. Slender ankles and knees mean class. Contrary to what's usually claimed, fat calves aren't all that useful: the essential energy of the cyclist is concentrated in the back, the buttocks, and the thighs." - Paul Fournel: Need For The Bike.

I'm definitely a climber then. My thighs grow slowly but steadily, but my calves don't seem to bulk up much. Being unable to grow them, I'm relieved that big calves aren't that useful. They may look impressive though.

3) After reading Bike Snob's book, I thought something along the lines of "Wow, he said it all". Is there a point in blogging anymore when somebody's already written the things you've vaguely thought of writing about, way better than you could ever do it? Perhaps there is. At least I get to practice typing.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Route optimization

I recently discovered a slightly shorter route for daily commuting. For about a year now, in a certain intersection, instead of going straight forward, I've been taking a right turn, going up hill, then down hill, doing some turns, stopped at traffic lights, then up and down two hills and through another set of traffic lights.

I used to think that that was the straightest route there is. In my experience, when bicycling in places you've never bicycled in before, you tend to get lost, ride into dead ends and turn up in unexpected places at first. Then, when you find a reasonable route, you tend to stick with it, even though there might be better routes. This happens because the bicycling routes aren't very well marked around here.

So, there I was, one morning, once again grinding through my established, although not very smooth, commuting route. I bypassed a fellow commuter just before the aforementioned intersection, then made my way through the ups, downs, turns and traffic lights, going as fast as I could, as usual. Then I bypassed the very same fellow commuter again. Wait a minute! They know something I don't. There has to be a better route, which is a kind of a holy grail for the ever micro-optimizing commuting tempo specialist.

Actually, at the intersection I keep writing on about, I've often thought to myself something like "must check on Google Maps where that other road goes to someday", and then, promptly forgotten to do just that. So, the next morning, I just went straight where I usually turned. This is what the intersection looks like:

Yes, that's a traffic sign indicating a light traffic route. But then there are also these ones:

A traffic sign for a dead end street, two signs indicating a construction site. But wait, there's more:

A sign forbidding motorized vehicles and yet another sign of a construction site, which also denies uncalled-for access, complete with a picture of a guy doing the "talk to the hand" gesture.

As a (mostly) law-abiding citizen I'd interpreted these signs as "no-go", even though, I suppose, bicycling isn't actually forbidden here. But from behind this bewildering array of signage, there opened a peaceful, flat, lovely, fast bicycling route to the place I wanted to go (work, that is). No hills. No traffic lights. No cars. A true secret passageway.

There was some construction work going on, on the first 100 m or so, so I guess the signs for the construction work are valid. But at least the dead end sign, clearly, is false information, at least from a bicyclist's point of view. That sign, I suppose, must be the primary reason why I'd never before considered taking that route. But I was curious, I went there even though The Man tried to tell me that I can't, I survived, and now am more street-wise because of doing so.

I think there's a lesson to be learned here. Like, don't believe the traffic signs. Or perhaps, complain more to the authorities about the poor state of bicycling routes in Helsinki. You know, I've tried, but doing it on the official complaint channel, at least, doesn't seem to have much effect on anything. It's just preaching to the choir, man. Which can be a fun hobby, if you're into that sort of thing.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Bicyclists often seem to define pecking order by comparing the number of units of distance ridden per unit of time. And yeah, as much as I'd like to say that I prefer quality over quantity (don't know why I'd like to say that exactly, I guess I just like the apparent cleverness and conciness of the sentence), I think that quantity makes quality in this case. The quality improves when you ride more. When I was a beginner bicyclist, way back in 2004, I remember the pain when returning from 20 km rides, on climbs, with my belly flapping on my knees. The pain made sense though, and now, after riding a lot more, I can wear myself out on much longer rides, and still feel and even enjoy the pain. And now, I can also enjoy all the results of the hard work I've done over the years. I can fly up hills that used to nearly kill me several years ago.

This year I've been having some trouble measuring my kilometres with the scientific exactitude I'd like to have. Usually people count the kilometres they ride in a single calendar year. For the first couple of months this year, I didn't have a bike computer installed. It was in the other bike, couldn't be bothered get a new one, and the winter of 2010 was a dark, cold time in the distant past I don't want to reminisce about anyway. So, I'd estimate that in that time, I rode about 750 km. About 15 km a working day for some two and a half months.

Then I got around to installing the bike computer on the commuting bike, even though it was too f**king cold to do that. The odometer shows some 850 km now.

Then there's the Garmin Forerunner to be used with the road bike. But I forgot to reset it at 1.1.2010 00:00. So, the actual device doesn't know what I've done this year. Luckily, can give me reports on my activities in a specified interval of dates. Unfortunately, to distinguish the running from the bicycling, I need to set my activity types first per each exercise. This will require some work.

Anyway, I'd estimate the distance I've ridden on the road bike this year must be some 150 - 200 km. What? So little? That's pathetic. In fact, I should be out riding, right now, instead of drinking beer and reporting, in way too much detail, my probably insignificant and mostly uninteresting thoughts to a probably imaginary readership. But the beer contains carbohydrates, which I need for bicycling, so I'll valiantly continue.

So, I'd estimate might have ridden some 1700-1800 km this year. On the other hand, I'd like to know the exact number. On the other hand, this is good, because I can exaggerate somewhat, without feeling too much guilt. I just don't know exactly.

And then there's the problem with measuring the statistics of a single ride. Before, I had a simple bike computer, that measured time and distance when the bike was in motion. Stopping in traffic lights didn't add up to the total time and average speed. Now, I have a bike computer that does that, but in addition, I also have the Garmin with the GPS that measures time and distance even when the bike is not moving. Ok, Garmin Connect can show me both average speed and average moving speed, which is actually excellent. But, in order to compare my results with old ones from years ago, I have to fork them out somehow. Well, as long as the trend curve is curving upwards, everything is good...