Saturday, May 15, 2010


For some time now, I've been thinking of getting a toupée. You know, I'm not so young anymore, and, er, um, padding in certain areas of my physique is not as thick as it used to be.

So, this weekend I finally managed to gather up the courage to get one. I walked into a cycling store (I'm such a bike geek that I do all of my shopping in cycling stores now), yelled out "Give me a toupée!" from the door and this is what they sold me:

It looks crap on my head though. Might as well screw it on the bike and use it as a saddle.

Ok, this play on words didn't work out as well as I thought it would. Man, this blogging is hard. You try it. And I still don't know why Specialized named their saddle "Toupé". If you do, please, let me know.

So, I got a new saddle. Because the old one (a Bontrager Race) was uncomfortable on longer rides. I even sat on a some kind of a gel bench in the store to measure the width of my sit bones. 140 mm, they told me. This saddle better be good. I went through all this trouble to get it and it wasn't cheap either.

I also got a bell for the road bike:

I got one of these for the commuting bike years ago, and I must say I've been very pleased with it. It's very robust and loud, and only the deafest of pedestrians fail to jump aside after only a ring or two. Actually, I'm astonished that most cycling stores here only sell those crap, cheap bells, with weak springs, that don't really make a decent noise. And I know because I've been looking.

But even the Cat Eye isn't perfect: the fastening system isn't designed for oversized handlebar diameter. I had to secure it in place with a cable tie.

And finally, here's a picture of my bike, complete, just washed with the new saddle and bell. Also included is the obligatory bike pic accessory: the disembodied hand holding the bike upright.

Oh yeah, I actually took the thing for a longer ride, the first time this season. It was great, and easy as well. Man, I'm in a great shape. Either that or there really was a significant tailwind on the return trip. There was only one thing bothering me though: a slight clicking sound on the right side when pedaling. When I got home, I found out it was the plastic part of the pedal.

Perhaps it could be resolved by oiling the moving parts, but if not, there's not much I can do... except walk into a cycling store, with a wad of cash in my hand, and yell out "Give me Dura-Ace pedals" from the door. Belligerent, but functioning.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Brilliant morning

This morning I rode to work via a detour along the shores of Vantaanjoki. The sun shone, birds sang, the surface of the river was perfectly calm, flowers bloomed and fellow commuters all smiled happily and gave way politely to each other. All winter, commuting has been about getting from A to B, and occasionally, C, as fast and efficiently as possible, and getting some exercise while we're at it. But now, I remembered, once again, that bicycling can be an enjoyable outdoor experience as well.

This week, I've done some extra kilometers while commuting, instead of trying to micro-optimize the route, as I usually tend to do. That's because there's a fitness campaign at work, in which you get 1 point per 30 minutes of exercise. Therefore I have to lengthen the time I spend commuting somehow, and as it is totally unnatural for a commuter-tempo specialist as myself to slow down, I must ride longer distances. Even though that doesn't always help either; I'm just so damn fast that sometimes it only takes me 25 minutes to do a 30 minute distance.

Anyway, I've been riding through the central park, and I've gotten to like riding on gravel in the relatively peaceful forest. When riding on the roads with cars, it's always like start-accelerate-brake-stop at traffic lights-accelerate-turn-brake-accelerate-swerve-shake fist-yell-do universal hand signal-flee-brake-stop. In the park it's more like start-spin-spin-spin-spin-spin-spin-spin-spin-spin-spin-stop. I like riding at an even pace for longer stretches. Of course, it's not all peace and quiet and solitude in the forest either. There are lots of other commuters too, so you have to look around a bit in the intersections. Then there are the dog walkers, groups of parallel nordic walkers, apparently blind and deaf pedestrians, wild elk, bears, boars, wolves and humans, highwaymen and such.

Oh yeah, and now the efficiency of my drivetrain has improved dramatically, up to 10%, I'd say. I finally got around to purchasing clipless pedals and cycling shoes for my commuter bike. Until last summer, my commuting distance was so short that I couldn't be bothered to optimize my setup, but now I got fed up with the constant need to readjust the position of the foot on the pedal.

I got Shimano SPD ones. I've had a difficult logistic problem: I need to either take the kid to the kindergarten each morning, or fetch him in the afternoon, and with SPD-SL cleats, it's just impossible to walk the 0.5 km distance. With the smaller cleats it's possible, even though there's a nasty crunchy sound on asphalt. And also, now I don't have to think about what shoes to wear when commuting. What do you wear, if not cycling shoes? I think that sneakers are the worst shoes for bicycling. They've got thick, round, flexible soles that feel like you've taped large rubber balls underneath your shoes. Lots of commuters seem to wear them though.