Brief Hiatus!

So I’ll be taking 2 weeks of from the regular postings in order to finish packing and organizing our upcoming move. I’ve got some things planned for when FTTOTT is back from the new home base of Richmond, Virginia and likely plenty of stories to share about moving with bikes. I’ll document the packing process and let you know how things turn out #crossesfingers But I’m truly excited to share what it’s like cycling in a new city – new trails, new shops, new everything. 

See you in 2 weeks!

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What Is It Wednesday – Chain Wear

No, not referring to some haute couture line made up of bicycle parts, which could actually be a hot new trend so don’t steal it in case I want to go into the fashion world one of these days. No, chain wear refers to the overall health of your chain and what many, including up til more recently – ME – refer to as chain stretch.

We’ll look a little bit about the different parts of a  chain so that we  can understand how chains can wear over time. We’ll also see how to measure our chains to see whether it’s time to replace or if we still have a few more miles left. Alright, let’s go!


Story Time

So the VERY first WIIW I did was on bike anatomy. Researching that has helped me out on more than one occasion when troubleshooting a problem that I might have otherwise just brought my bike in to a shop. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely LOVE supporting my local bike shops, but if it’s simple and I can handle it, then I want to do it myself. So last night as I was riding, my chain popped off and got wedged in between the chain ring and the frame – and it was in there GOOD. When I say GOOD, I mean I had to take a flat head screwdriver and a hammer to tap it out link by link GOOD.

Let’s back up just a little bit – the last time I cleaned, degreased, and lubed my bike I took note that it’s been a long time since I’ve had my bike, and I wondered if the chain was still in good shape. I meant to check it out at that point but it got dark, I got tired, and I forgot. More recently I’ve had my chain pop two or three times, this last one being the worst. Once I got the chain off with aforementioned hammer and screwdriver combo I looked up how to measure my chain. Being the experiential based blogger that I am, I thought there’s gotta be a blog in here somewhere. And voila, there is!


Chain 101

The bike anatomy post I did for the first WIIW is more of a gross anatomy breakdown, now this is zooming in on one very specific part. So, let’s take a look at a couple photos. The first one from Tsubaki shows a couple varieties of chain parts. I thought this would be helpful to see, just in case your chain doesn’t look like mine, no worries. The second photo is what we’re going to be going by for this post.

So the basic parts you should know about: inner plate, outer plate, roller, pin, and bush. The outer and inner plates are pretty much self explanatory – get in real close to your bike chain and you’ll see that the links are held together by an inner plate and then a pair of outer plates sandwich the ends of two links together to form a chain. The teeth of your chain rings slip in the spot formed by the gap between each roller. The roller takes the impact of the chain rings and rolls on and off the teeth as it circumnavigates the chain ring. In fact, the more wear on a chain, the higher the rollers will ride on the teeth, which contributes to the teeth wear. The bush is inside the roller, it absorbs shock and is a load bearing part that the pin fits inside of. The pin, or rivet, holds the whole system together. it passes through the outer and inner plates into the bush which is inside the roller and back out the other inner and outer plates. So needless to say it’s a vital component. The space between pins is referred to as the pitch and should be 0.5″, whereas the distance between each link is 1″.


Chain Wear Not Stretch

So you’ll often hear that a chain stretches over time and on one hand this is true, the length between links can expand, but it’s not like the chain is actually stretching. What happens is that over time the parts of your chain that were so tight fitted become looser and the bush starts to sit to one side instead of in the dead center of the roller and therefore you get a greater distance between pins and links. RJ the Bike Guy has a great video up about this, and in fact his video was one of the ones I used to educate myself on how to measure a chain.

rj
Credit: RJ the Bike Guy

Measuring Your Chain

If you have a chain checker, great! All you have to do is insert one end and drop it in to see if the other end doesn’t just easily slide in. Some chain checkers are double sided for anywhere between 0.5 – 1.0% wear. But fear not, if you don’t have a chain checker as I assume most of us may not, you can simply use a ruler like I did.

chaincheck
Credit: Bike Radar

Go grab your ruler and we’ll work through this step by step. But before we begin, you should know the distance between each link should be 1 in. (2.54 cm.), meaning 6 links should equal 6″, 12 links should be 12″ and so on. Additionally the longer the ruler, the easier it is to see how worn your chain may be as the acceptable loss before you need to replace your chain is roughly 1/16″ over the course of a 12″ length of chain. I am using a shorter ruler because A) it’s what I had available and B) my bike is so compact that getting a 12″ length of straight chain would be incredibly difficult. Since I am using a 6″ ruler, my acceptable difference will be just 1/32″ – basically I need to be SPOT ON.

  1. Locate a good spot on your chain to measure, you want a good run of straight chain. Either the length from the cassette to the chain ring or the chain ring to the rear derailleur will do.
  2. Find your starting point – I prefer to use the left pin that goes through an outer plate. Line up your ruler to the very center of this pin. Make sure you’re lining up with the 0 point on your ruler, not necessarily the ruler edge which might extend past 0.
  3. Align the ruler so that it is parallel with the chain length and running through the middle of each link.
  4. If your chain is new or has little wear, the 12″ tick (or 6″ tick in my case) will line up with the dead center of the pin. If you used the left pin on an outer plate like I did, then you should also end in the same spot at the end of your ruler.
  5. Determine if you need a new chain.

It is a little difficult to see in my photos simply because trying to take an in-focus photo and hold the ruler up to the chain at the same time was a challenge. Off-camera I can say that my chain was certainly about 1/16″ past the 6″ mark, which is equivalent to being 1/8″ past the 12″ mark.

What does all that mean? Well let’s just talk about a 12″ section of chain, since most of you will measure that way. If the center of the pin extends beyond 12″ and is still within 1/16″, then you’re fine, your chain doesn’t need to be replaced yet. If it’s in between 1/16″ and 1/8″ you should replace it so that it doesn’t start to damage the teeth on the chain rings and cassette. Anything longer than 1/8″ REALLY needs to be replaced and likely so do the cassette and chain rings.

Right now, scaling down for my 6″ measurement, I need to replace my chain right away. In theory I should also replace my cassette and chain rings but looking at them, they still look fair, not great, but fair. So I will likely replace the chain this week and then the cassette and chain rings in the near future.


Well I hope that was as informative to you as it was for me. I suspected my chain needed to be replaced but this confirmed it, and it’s a simple way to check. It’s one of those things that now that I am riding my bike regularly I will have to keep an eye on it more diligently.

I hope you’re liking these WIIWs and I have plenty of other ideas in mind for future posts. I had planned an adaptive biking post but I will be holding off on that because I will be sitting down with a adaptive sports organization after our big move and would love to work that into the post. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, drop me a line, I’d love to read them!

Monday M.O. – 01/16/2017

No one starts out amazing, and failure is not a dirty word. Failure is a learning experience. If you go into a new experience expecting to fail sometimes, particularly at the start,  then when it DOES happen you won’t be so rattled. You can assess, understand, and refine. But in order to do any of that you have to take the chance and start. Start a new biking routine. Start a new way of thinking. Start a new relationship with yourself and others. Just start, otherwise you haven’t gone anywhere, done anything, seen anywhere, or bonded with anyone.

What Is It Wednesday – Indoor Trainers

I thought this WIIW topic was fitting for the start to a new year/winter time since I have been logging almost 100% of my miles on it lately. We’ll cover what the different types of indoor trainers, their upsides and their downsides (sorry it’s not all unicorns and lollipops), and I’ll talk a little bit about my current routine on the trainer.

But first let’s clear up the myth that cycling indoors is boring. I’m here to tell you that it isn’t, but sometimes it is. What you say?! Hey, I’m just being honest. The fact is it doesn’t HAVE to be boring, but it still can be, but there are ways to get around that. Keep reading and I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing lately to stay engaged while riding nowhere.

Alright, now for the main attraction! There are 4 basic categories of indoor trainers out there for you to choose from. You’ve got wind, fluid, and magnetic resistance types and then you have their crazy cousin rollers. Their price points range widely, and I will say in my experience you get what you pay for within each type so if you plan on using it a while, invest (unless you can get a sweat deal on Craigslist). There are others that are drivetrain based, but we’ll be discussing the wheel-on options here since that is the most common for at-home cyclists.


Wind

Here’s what you do, you get a big fan and stick it in front of you while you ride around the

windstat
Credit: PCStatic

room in a tight circle. Oh, that’s not how that works – my bad! Wind based trainers have been around a while and currently are the leading cheapest models out there, so that’s happy news for the wallet. Some of you may have even seen old-school stationary bikes with a fan attached at either the front or back “wheels”, my mom actually had one of these growing up and it was a great way to cool down someone else in the room. It looked something like this one here, and often had those movable arms like an elliptical.

 

Wind resistance trainers drew inspiration from these stationary bikes but have definitely innovated on the style and function. They work by connecting your bike to a fan, the faster you spin those cranks, the more resistance you experience. Gone is the wheel sized fan, these trainers

windtrainer-96135
Credit:CycleOps

utilize a much more compact version  One of the most popular and highly rated is the one offered by CycleOps coming in around $169 currently. Your rear wheel is held to the unit by the top bracers clamping onto your rear skewer (you may need to get a compatible skewer depending on your bike). The rear wheel rests on the barrel in the back which adjusts to accommodate several wheel sizes. The fan spins as you pedal and the rest is pretty much history.

Wind trainers are a great option for anyone on a budget since most can be picked up for what this CycleOps model runs or less. If you’re not sure how you’re going to feel with an indoor trainer, then wind trainers might be a good introductory option for you. Also, if this is just looking for a rainy day trainer, and you do’t often get many of those, I would say save the money and use a wind trainer. One word of caution, they tend to be the noisiest of the trainers, so set it up somewhere out of ear shot of everyone else in the house or put some music on to drown it out.


Fluid

The set up on the wind, fluid, and magnetic are all relatively the same – pop your skewer into a clamping holder and the rear wheel sits on a barrel that spins as you pedal. The major differences come in HOW the resistance is applied. You just read about wind resistance, another equally popular and higher price point version is fluid resistance. You could just take your bike to the pool and try and ride around underwater but the whole needing to breathe thing limits this possibility PLUS Mythbusters already did this.

how-does-a-fluid-bike-trainer-work
Credit: Bike Trainer Guide

So there is a little misnomer about fluid trainers, they’re also magnetic (most of the time). There is a magnetic flywheel WITH thick oil in the chambers. Bike Trainer Guide posted a wonderful graphic on this (above). This fluid adds to the resistance and is supposed to have the most road-like feel of all the trainers. It’s on the pricier end, I was lucky and got my CycleOps Fluid2 model at half price during an open box sale, but it typically runs the $350-$400 ranger. I’ve heard great things about the Kinetic Road Machine line as well, similar price point.

One thing to be mindful of is the fact that with heavy use, the oil could potentially heat up and burn out or cause a leak. I have yet to experience that or know anyone who has. The biggest, most common issue is just the wear on the tires, as comes with any trainer that your wheel sits on. You can buy a tire specifically meant for trainers which stands up to the heat produced and the wear and tear, but opinions are mixed on whether you need this. Aside from that, it is MUCH quieter than wind resistance models. The noise I hear from mine comes from the tire on the barrel, which could be alleviated if I weren’t using a MTB tire on it – but hey, you gotta use what you got.


Magnetic

OK, last of the squeeze your back wheel onto a clamp and let it roll on a barrel type of

conquer
Credit: Conquer

trainers is magnetic. Magnetic or “mag” trainers, like fluid, offer varying resistance levels and are quieter than their wind counterparts. The resistance is provided by a magnetic flywheel, and some newer models offer an electromagnetic version that allows the user to change resistance with a remote for example.

Conquer offers up a model that I have seen some nice reviews on for around $75. Definitely a great price, but with how often I’ve seen these crap out, I’m not sure it’s worth the pain to have to replace as often. Also, the resistance it offers is a smaller range as compared to the fluid trainers. But if budget is your main concern, go for it but be prepared to have to repair or replace. And if budget is the only concern, I’d say make the step up in price to a wind resistance model, it’s more upfront but more durable overall.


Rollers

That leaves us with the most expensive and more challenging model of indoor trainer. BTW – being challenging doesn’t have to be negative, I like a good challenge. What rollers offer up is the fact that both your wheels are spinning as if you were on a road. Basically your bike sits atop 3 rollers freely and you pedal to your hearts content. Resistance is provided by the diameter of the rollers themselves (smaller = higher resistance) or by adding on wind, fluid, or magnetic components (thought we finished with them huh?).

tacxroller
Credit: Tacx

The challenge with this method is balance and staying on the rollers, it’s easy to roll off until you get the hang of it. Sorry for the horrible pun. Big bonus on these models is they are quiet and compact! The other models we covered can fold up to take up less real estate but rollers can slide under a bed, or hang on a wall in the garage. One big consideration is cost. For as simple as they look, they range in price depending on materials used and any additional components, so you can get away with a basic model for $150 or go all out and get one for $600. Tacx Antares will set you back around $250.


What about me?

Well hopefully now you have a better idea of what indoor trainers are and which one might work the best for you. Currently I use CycleOps Fluid2 and have been using it for 3 years without issue. Since winter hit, I have been logging most all of my miles inside since the cold air hurts my respiratory system, one of the only remnants of my childhood asthma. We don’t get much if any snow here, so I do try to head outside when it’s not so cold out. But how do I keep it fun and not mind numbingly dull? Well right now I have the trainer set up in my living room, and pull it out in front of the TV and pull up YouTube videos, right now I am wrapping up Season 10 of Good Mythical Morning. I try watching stuff that will make me laugh, which GMM always delivers on, because then I can focus on having fun while my body is doing work. I also break up the monotony by including a warm up, cool down, and intervals of either sprints, heavy resistance to simulate climbs, single leg work, glute focus, and standing.

I’m actually thankful for the indoor training because I haven’t been able to do a standing pedal since I was a kid and I was able to figure out the mechanics again with the trainer’s stability assist. I’m also doubly thankful that it provides me a means not to slack off, without it I would not be able to stay consistent with my goals during a portion of the year. And since I’m moving back a part of the country with ACTUAL winters, my trainer will be more useful than ever before.

There are definitely a lot of trainers out there, including some that are meant more for commercial spaces and can run up a bill of over $1000 or more. You don’t have to spend a lot, just figure out what works best for your space and how much usage you will get out of it. And if you need more of a competitive spirit to get you going indoors, consider signing up for services like Zwift or Trainer Road. I’ll be signing up for Zwift in the next couple months and will give a review after I spend some time with the platform, so be on the lookout for that in the Spring.

 

Monday M.O. – 1/9/2017

The view is pretty sweet from the top. Maybe it’s just the top of the hill by your house (prompt side-eye given to the one I live on) or maybe it’s the wrap up to a grand bike-tour. Either way, hills can suck! They’re challenging, they make you question whether you can make it, they make you question life itself. And I’ll be honest, some days you won’t make it up on the bike, you might have to hop off and walk your butt up it before hopping back on. But guess what, if you keep trying, it will get easier. Your body will adapt, your muscles will get stronger, your lungs will get more resilient, and your heart more efficient. Plus, when you get to the top all on your own, you will feel A-MAZ-ING. Double plus – it’s so much fun to go downhill after you kicked your butt on the way up!

They See Me Rollin, December 2016 Monthly Miles Update

Total Miles: 52.6 (womp womp)

Total Rides: 12

Average Miles/Ride: 4.38

Average Miles/Week: 13.15

No fun pictures on this update since it was all done from my trusty CycleOps indoor trainer. All in all, December wasn’t spectacular BUT it was a step up from November. I was about 2/3 to my goal of riding 20 miles per week. I won’t beat myself up too much about it though because I kicked it into higher gear, pun intended, the last two weeks of the month and January started out strong (minus the fact that I am now sick as a dog).

So what next? Well January’s goal is going to be to hit at least 20 miles/week average.

 

Monday M.O. – 12/26/16

Just a little reminder that more stuff does not = more happiness. I’ve unexpectedly started heading down a minimalism path recently, all completely prompted by our upcoming move. You really never realize how much stuff you have and NEVER use until you have to decide whether to pack it or not. So lots of stuff getting donated, sold, or chucked in my house right now. I also watched a great documentary which is a little intro to minimalism, it’s up on Netflix right now, you should check it out: Minimalism, it was made by the two guys that run The Minimalists blog.

All that being said, try to spend less, love more, and pedal longer.

What Is It Wednesday: Bikes That Question What a Bike Is Really

I bet plenty of you are rushing to get ready for the holidays, even if you don’t celebrate the end of the year tends to be a time of reflection on how far you’ve come this year and where you’d like to go in the year to come. Bikes have been around for centuries, with some argument over which was the first and over the fact the first wheeled human-powered device didn’t look like the bicycles we know and love today. Isn’t it interesting that the predecessors of our two wheeled wonders were so similar and so dissimilar at the same time? Fast forward a century or two, or six to some interesting design modifications to the standard bike. Now I’m not talking about the differences we see from the various styles of bikes, or even frankenbikes, I mean commercially available bikes that get a double take when they pass by. You know the ones – the prone, the treadmill, the elliptical bikes. So let’s take a look at a few.


 Prone Bikes

birdofprey
Credit: Bird of Prey Bikes

If you’re not familiar with anatomical terms for body positions, prone is when you lay face down on your abdomen. The cyclists lies on a padded platform that supports their core and pushes behind them to propel the bike forward. Instead of the bottom bracket being, well at the bottom in the center of the bike, it’s extended back behind the rear wheel. The rider’s position makes this an extremely aerodynamic bike, and by moving the crankset to the rear the rider is able to engage their lower extremity muscles more efficiently because they are in what we physical therapy folks like to call a gravity eliminated position, which basically means their legs aren’t fighting gravity every time the begin a new pedal stroke. You can see the Bird of Prey in action with it’s creator to get a better sense of how this bike just seems to glide on the road.  The Bird of Prey isn’t the only one to do this, the H-Zontal and others have explored using the prone position for cycling, likening it to flying like superman.


Elliptical Bike

elliptigo
Credit: ElliptiGo

So if you’ve ever spent hours on an elliptical at the gym, you know how boring it can be, effective but boring. A few companies have challenged the concept that ellipticals need only be an indoor experience. Whether it’s a two wheeled bike-elliptical hybrid like ElliptiGo’s model or a trike-elliptical hybrid like the StreetStrider, I’ve got to admit they do look like fun and definitely eliminate some of the typical soreness and tight muscles associated with traditional riding positions. I saw one of these on a marketing video about a year ago, and not more than a month later did I see someone riding (running?) theirs on the street on my way to get groceries. I wanted to stop and asked them what they thought about it, but sadly not dying in a horrible car accident caused by braking suddenly and running out of my car was not in the cards for me that day – phew. I’ve been on the lookout for that guy ever since. From what I saw in person he was going at a pretty good clip without looking like he was overexerting himself to do so until he got to the hills that dot my neighborhood. I’ll be honest, I love this idea as a cross training device and wouldn’t mind giving one a whirl, but I don’t see making this my standard-get-around-town bike by any means.


Treadmill Bike

lopifit
Credit: Inside EVs

Now some may classify this one more scooted than bicycle, and I won’t necessarily argue with you there, it is very scooter-like. I’m including it here because unlike a traditional scooter which requires the rider to push with the feet akin to a skateboard, the Lopifit is an electric treadmill/scooter/bike hybrid. Now I plan on covering e-bikes in a future WIIW so I won’t go into too much detail here, but this is indeed an electric based design. The Lopifit glides you along the road using different gear levels while you walk at a normal pace on a small treadmill belt at speeds of 4 to 17 mph. Not too shabby. I could totally see this being a part of a bike rental program in tourist heavy cities if only it weren’t for the hefty price tag per unit. Also, at over 100 pounds per bike, it’s a chunky monkey should you actually need to lift it for any reason. Interesting concept none the less, and I can see this being a nice gateway device to get someone into biking who’s fearful of being on a traditional bike or lacks coordination.


Bicycles got their start not necessarily looking like the ones we lust after today/ These bike hybrids are taking the chance to break the mold of what we consider a bike. I foresee that happening going forward for quite some time ahead as we play around with the notion – what really IS a bike?