Monday, April 2, 2007

Code of the Road

Over the years, I have developed some funny habits that I follow to a T throughout the cycling season. Some of these habits began as humorous coincidences and others follow the standard code of the road. Growing up in a cycling household meant that I learned much of my discipline from my father who in turn learned from a long list of PROfessional cyclists. Some of these practices seem funny and dated but I also know from my years spent in the cycling industry that often these practices have solved nagging issues for many cyclists. Here is a sampling ranging from humorous to bizarre:

Never expose your knees in temperatures below 21 degrees C.

In colder, wet weather, the muscles and ligaments require the additional protection to prevent injury and keep the blood circulating. In essence, lubricating the knee. (This, of course, is counterintuitive to the entire BKW philosophy. But hey, I am far from a PRO and plan to ride my bicycle for another 60 years.)

No white bar tape before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.

This rule came about out of my love for the peak season ride. Now I love the cold, rain, and wind of the Spring, and nothing spells HARDMAN like braving these conditions, but there is something so basic and pleasurable about the peak summer months. The Tour in July, Vuelta in September. These rides take place in primarily beautiful weather, basking the riders in a warm glow. Often all the PRO teams are sporting the white tape in these months. Therefore, in an effort to protect my mind's snapshot of summer racing, the white is reserved for the warm months.

Early season development on a fixed gear.
A cyclist should spend the first 1600 kms of the season pedaling a fixed gear machine. This period helps develop the ability to spin a larger gear with greater fluidity, blessing the rider with the ultimate skill, a skill the French refer to as supplesse, or "suppleness". A rider begins with a lower gear combination, working up slowly every 500 kms, progressively building in gear size.

Cleanliness: Keep on it. This is a tough subject to address because the areas covered are tres personal. I'll be as candid as possible: Bacteria is bad, anyway you slice it. Wash your shorts, wash your ass; chamois time is clammy time. I have spoken to none to few about saddle sores and discomfort while riding. A couple great pairs of shorts are the first remedy followed by a disciplined approach to caring for them and you. Make all efforts to relieve yourself (read #2) before your ride. Follow this with a shower, a light layer of chamois cream (or Noxzema if you are truly an OG), and a clean pair of shorts. Rotate your shorts and wash after every ride. When you finish a ride, get out of your shorts. There is nothing PRO about sitting around in a wet chamois for hours on end, even if you're drinking a sweet espresso on a warm day. Happy cyclist, happy backside, and when forced to sit on your wheel, fellow cyclists will thank you.

Tire label at the valve.
Here is another simple but often overlooked practice. When installing a tire, line up the valve with the label on the tire. One, it makes things look PRO and two, when you have a flat, it makes identifying the source of the puncture in the tire easier. Find the hole in the tube and then locate the corresponding area in the tire. this allows for identification for the cause of your flat, staple, glass, tack or pinch flat. Wha-LA!

Sharing a water bottle: No Bueno. Never, ever, share a water bottle. As the season wears on and the warmer months take over, the heat goes up and so does liquid consumption. Concurrently, with more miles and intensity, the body's immunity begins to settle into a weakened state. This is the reason so many PROs are susceptible to colds and stomach bugs. Well, I guess the stomach bug can also be related to doping issues but let's stay on the positive. So as a rule, no matter how thirsty I may be, I never share a water bottle. I don't need to catch a cold or a stomach bug from one of my teammates. Plan ahead, bring enough water, and always be alert to sources for clean water and a bottle refill.

Drink Hot Tea. Following a ride in less than ideal conditions, immediately hit the warm shower, change into dry gear, and then enjoy a cup of hot tea. The tea helps your body warm from the inside, which will equip you to stay comfortable all day.

Tune it up. By April 1, I like to have all of my gear for the coming season dialed in. This means tires are new, cables and housing is replaced, and a new chain and cogs are fitted. I go a bit overboard and use the time to tweak the machine, I replace the bottom bracket, check, and clean all bearings and reapply grease and Anti-Seize to all threaded surfaces.

Some of these items may be helpful and some funny, but many of them govern my cycling life. As time goes on, some of these tips seem dated. Time changes the practice of cycling and this is not better evidenced than by the CONI suggestion to sport a cabbage leaf under your hairnet to keep your body's temp regulated. I'm grateful to have learned much of what I know from my father; he's been a great mentor and leader in this sport. Even as I begin to ride more and he begins to ride less, I'm always amazed at the wisdom and insight he poses. His advice centers on the simple and often overlooked, something that comes from age and experience, something I hope to be gaining every day I ride and follow my own code of the road.


esthetecyclist said...

My concurrence is utterly total. I have just bought silver bar tape, which I won't put on until the weather clears, but which nevertheless is calling out my name.

Cleanliness: my friends always rip on me for the post-ontlasting shower, but it's simply a must. I've never had problems with saddle sores, which I attribute to my regimen.

Tire label and tea - couldn't agree more. What's even nicer is to build the wheel with the hub label facing upwards, so the tire label, air valve and hub are all visible from the top down.

I like a painter's brush and a solution of dish detergent, de-greaser, and hot water. Dip the brush in and go to town like the mechanic in A Sunday in Hell. Gets the brakes good and shiny.

Radio Freddy said...

esthetecyclist - Thanks for the comment. I am in total agreement on the valve hole trick. In the days when mechanics were only as good as their wheels, the valve/hub/rim alignment was a tell-tale sign of a great mechanic. Thank you for taking the time to read my post.

josh said...

the keep your knees covered and the shower/tea are spot on.

as for washing your bibs after every in college, and laundry costs too much money. I wear them each twice (never in a row, each gets 1 wearing before any one is repeated). Call me gross, but it saves a ton of money. If they get nasty however, they only get 1 wearing.

Anonymous said...

My collegiate team had a tongue in cheek phrase for teammates who kitted up way too early or stayed in their kits after racing: "Chamois time is training time."

I do like your "chamois time is clammy time."

Anonymous said...

What's the best way to clean white Cinelli cork?

Radio Freddy said...

Mix a solution of hot water and Dawn dish washing detergent. Spray the tape with Simple Green and then srub the tape using a natural bristle brush. Bright, shiny and like new.

Anonymous said...

Sort out the tan line/base line. pick your SS jerseys and do not fluctuate!

Length is key.

noel. said...

Good call on the tan line set-up and maintenance, zee-dee. In keeping with the "knees covered below 21c" comment, it's always funky to go deep into the season with weird mid-calve lines from my knickers when everyone else is well established at mid-thigh. Ah well.

It's funny about the wearing warm stuff in the warm weather. It is for sure Pro, but I was stunned the first time I saw it in real life. '03 Worlds in Hamilton, one of the training days on the course was in the 20c+ range, and here were all these Euro studs rolling up the climbs in tights, vests, warmers etc etc. I nearly had heat stroke on their behalf. Now I'm a few years older and I'm starting to get it.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm from Brazil, and sorry, my English is really bad. I'm thinking about hanging the helmet on handlebar, while the rider is drinking a tea or cheating at the bike shop after the training ride. This seems to be very PRO! "Um abraço para todos"!

JBP said...

I thought this was all common knowledge. I've always wanted a bidet installed at work/home.

White Deda tape cleans-up a lot better than Cinelli cork. Use a white, stiff bristled brush and don't use that brush for anything else.

My own personal rule is never mix brands when it comes to bar/stem. Eat the whole bird! Deda stem? Deda bar! And by that rationale, wrap it up with Deda tape. No one wants to hear the logic behind a 3T stem, FSA bars, and Salsa tape. Sorry.

Radio Freddy said...

Seth - You are on it! "Eat the whole bird"... your killing me over here. I have a rule that i never mix tires or Campag/Shimano/SRAM. But the bar/stem/tape rule I am in violation of. Deda, Deda, Cinelli. I may need to kick my game up a notch.

zank said...

no white tape for cyclocross season? Seriously?

Francis said...

Great string guys!
Long Live the Code:

Both Japanese and Italian don't belong on the same bike.
Cover them knees.
WEAR TEAM KIT: IF YOU RIDE FOR THE TEAM!!!!!! I'm sick of chasing down pros on the road for autographs just to find dentists and accountants!
Really though-- don't chase down pros. Be cool.
Don't be the guy with the loud bike.
Never make excuses.
Don't cover your entire chamois with cream: go directly to your sits bones.
Leave the headphones at home.
Be able to fix your own flats.
Ride your own ride: know when to pass/be passed graciously.
Be someone who makes new riders feel welcome. Then make them fearful of taking you out.
Be ready to go on time.
Turn the ringer off.
No saddle bag. Jersey has plenty of space.
White shoecovers and armwarmers are always ok. Don't let anyone know you bleach them overnight.

Radio Freddy said...

Frank - You get the picture; well said.

Art said...

Esthetecyclist is dead on about the wheel build, except real hubs don't have labels. They have grease ports. They may be useless. They may be dead weight. But in my eyes at least, nothing says "classic" like mirror bright Record hubs with grease ports. Sadly an endangered species.

If you can't find a hub with grease ports, at least have the decency to tie and solder.

Jeremy Schultz said...

I want to print this out and frame it Freddy, thanks for putting this together! I've only recently read of the pre-ride shower, but it makes great sense. And I love white bar tape. It couldn't be more appropriate for the utopian Portland summers I get. Thanks!

Radio Freddy said...

jds, md - thanks for the read, feel free to print and burn to memory. It has served me well for decades.

Jeremy Schultz said...

Thanks Freddy! I've thought of a couple more that I've picked up over the years that I haven't seen here, both relating to cleanliness. 1) Keep those helmet straps clean. In the summer especially, helmet straps (black are the worst) collect the sweat and salt from your head, and a frequent rinse in the sink keeps these free and clear. 2) Keep bottle cages and therefore bottles clean. This one may be controversial, but I don't like the bottles I see that look like they've been rolling around on someone's garage floor. I've found that if you occasionally wipe the inside of your cages with a wet (or with a little degreaser) rag, you can keep your bottles from getting grungy.
P.S. I tried the pre-ride shower Saturday and it worked out great. What a good way to warm up the muscles a bit, and to start off so clean. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Back in the 80's we used to call it , "growing mushrooms" , if you were lingering around too long in your shorts after a ride. Get out of them , shower your ass , THEN go for a coffee!

Anonymous said...

If I am in a rush after work to just hop on and ride, I like to clean my anatomy with baby wipes (easy to do since I have a little one in diapers) before donning my cycling gear. Arm pits too, nothing like being that guy with the bacterial funk wafting around.

Anonymous said...

+1 Noxzema. Proud to fly my old guard flag- never felt the need to switch to anything slimier or more spendy. Tea good, but why stop at one cup? Drink the whole pot.

Anonymous said...

more on the code:
post ride if the bibs aren't heading straight into the wash then the rule is if they are wet enough to come off inside out then they hang that way until they get washed. who wants to keep all that nice warm wet petrie pond water in the padding jump started on growing funk and fungus when in stead it can be getting some circulation while the shorts are inside out. if you won't do this because of the way the shorts look inside out then your cleanliness issues run a bit deeper.

my earliest road code was no socks no shorts under the shorts. maybe one would think that the socks was a tan line thing, but I got it from the cyclocross/MTB guys because no socks meant no wet socks and a foot didnt fall apart as fast in the wet rides. still do the same today on the road when its raining.

DW said...

+1 To Frank's "No Headphones"

Nothing says rook like a pair of white ear-buds. If you can't get psyched to ride without your Hoopastank, you're definitely not PRO.

brettok said...

21c? Is this a typo? Hardly the weather for knee warmers, Belgian or otherwise. I'm sure you meant 12c....