Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ride Out Technologies long term saddle review, an update

I received a saddle from Ride Out Technologies back in July for review and installed it on my Raleigh Sports for a test ride that turned out to be a test Summer.

The saddle is claimed as being the most comfortable bike seat in the world. Some of you have commented on the contrary about that and some of you have agreed. I'll give you my honest opinion about the seat that stayed on my Raleigh bike for the entire Summer by answering a few obvious questions and share my riding experience.

First off, is it comfortable?

In my experience, yes with a few side notes. You have to adjust the seat in relation to your butt and riding style. It may take a few tries to find that sweet spot. I had to adjust at least 3 times before getting there. Also, I found that coasting on long rides would make my left butt cheek go numb. That's because my bike has a coaster hub and that somehow makes me coast with my left leg down all the time. Something that is also of great importance, and the seat outperforms anything else I've tried in that department, no numb genitals ever! That's a good thing. Make that a great thing.

Does it absorb road bumps?

Incredibly, yes it does and very well I might add. I must admit that I was very doubtful when I got my hands on this that it could even come close to absorbing the hits that my fat spring saddle takes, but it does.

Does it ride well?

One of the things that freaks me out about this seat is that as soon as you pedal, it vanishes. The more you pedal, the more "invisible " it gets. A recent all out 29 minutes time trial I did on bumpy City streets confirmed it even more. My brain was being fried by pain signals from my legs and lungs but my butt wasn't even a tiny blip on the radar. It usually is. The swivel effect when you pedal goes unnoticed until you get on another seat, this is just marvelous.

Is it durable?

No signs of wear on the seat whatsoever. I didn't bother being careful. I even dumped the bike like yesterday's laundry on concrete after crossing the line on that time trial run and there's not even a scuff on the Kevlar where it hit hard.

No marks from a hard fall on concrete

Is it worth the bucks?

No it's not a $20 seat from your regular chain store. The quality in the build and material is there. Just the fact that they took the trouble of putting Kevlar on the sides for protection and the decent 375 gram weight speaks well about the attention to detail. Volume is also a consideration, they don't make millions of these but the price might come down if they sell more. I've sat on a brand name $300 leather seat that was only good at trying very hard to go check my prostate! I say it's good value for the money.

Lastly, I have to mention something unique to this seat. After any long ride, my posterior would ache for a while from the ride. Not the case with this seat even when I get a numb butt cheek from coasting. 

It is impossible to please every one in the bike seat department but I think that Ride Out Technologies as come close to perfection. Would I buy one? Yes, they are coming out with an all black model that really looks good and there is no way I'll ever ride a road bike on anything else, unless someone comes out with something better.

Don't forget to check out the how-to articles post
and download my free bike maintenance book if you haven't already.

Until next time, ride safe and free.

Gerry :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Red Bull Minidrome Montreal 2011

Yesterday I went to Red Bull's local stop of the Minidrome World Tour here in Montreal. I was expecting madness on wheels and I got served well. This tiny velodrome made of plywood is so small that there is barely enough track on the straightaway to get momentum...let me correct that there is none! The straight is about the length of a bike.

Riders had three tries to manage to at least stay up on the track before even attempting a qualifying run. The run was 10 laps to show that you could actually do it and then 6 laps to establish a benchmark time. I saw very good riders not even able to get up and run 1 lap. Those that I did see pull it off were getting dizzy on the microscopic oval after their run.

All the fixie and other bike clubs of Montreal were well represented, SRS, Red Dress Bike League, IBike, among them. All the riders present, guys and gals wearing everything from spandex to flannel, had serious guts just trying out this thing. I saw one rider get is front wheel caught off the track and doing a serious face plant in the plywood. Thankfully Red Bull was well organized for sort this of thing with paramedics on stand by at the event.

Now you're not going to get results and who did what beyond the last paragraph. Not only was I getting dizzy from watching this fast mini go round but I was not looking forward to more of the mayhem. I know many of the riders and seriously I just couldn't watch any of them get hurt, even less taking pictures of it. So I left early. The event is Red Bull all the way as it goes to extreme in a big fashion and that's fine. It just wasn't my cup of tea.

To those who showed up on that track, you have my utmost respect and admiration even if all you did was stepped in to give it a go. To whoever won it, you are a biking demi-god!

Don't forget to check out the how-to articles post
and download my free bike maintenance book if you haven't already.

Until next time, ride safe and free.

Gerry :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bike recalls for Walmart and Specialized

I don't think that people who read this blog are much into carbon fiber forks but The Next Hybrid Bike problems might be interesting to know.

Gerry :)

Biking Bis - Bicycle Touring and More :: Two bike recalls -- 14,200 from Specialized and 91,000 from Wal-Mart distributor

Monday, September 19, 2011

29 minutes and 57 seconds, Beat the Main.

Once and a while an event comes to your attention and fascinates you to the point of luring you in, you just have to do it. Beat the Main was such an event for me.

Beat the Main is a yearly time trial held in Montreal that starts at the south end of St-Laurent Boulevard (The "Main") on de La Commune and stops at the very north end of the Island passed Gouin. This street is mostly a 2 lane one way commercial street that opens up in the North end and becomes both way traffic. The total distance is 11.5 km. This time trial is run on a Sunday afternoon...in traffic.

Yes you read it right, in traffic, with the potholes, traffic lights and the world famous insane drivers of Montreal. See this time trial isn't organized by a big racing body, it came to be when a few courriers decided to challenge each other at who would cross the island shore to shore the fastest. Since then it has been run 7 times. This year was the 8th and I got the chance to find out about it 6 days before the chosen date.

I had planned to run it in 2009 but got stricken by a heart attack and last year I found out about it after the fact. Even though my chances of beating the standing record of 16 minutes and 10 seconds are the same as getting a date with Angelina Jolie, I had to do it and find out what I was made of. My first goal was to take it easy and actually finish.

I chose the only bike in my fleet that could come close to completing such a task, my 1958 Raleigh Sports. It weighs in at 29 pounds, runs the original steel cotter pin cranks (I love those cranes on the chainring) and apart from some fresh grease, the original bottom bracket bearings, cones and cups. I had changed the wheels to new 26 inch rims with 26 X 1.5 slick tires. The gear ratio is 48 to 18 on a single speed coaster hub and the chain is slack. Nowhere near an ideal ride but the best I have at hand.

My preparation before showing up at the starting line was checking tire pressure that same morning, making sure that the wheels were turning freely and true (Heeding my own advice) and finally packed enough tools and parts to keep Murphy at bay. Since I'm a mechanic, I can guaranty you that I'll get a flat if I don't have everything I need to fix one. No I didn't bother to train, well yeah I took a long walk the day before.

At the starting line it was a gorgeous day with the wind blowing North, perfect. Everybody was in a great mood and it seems that we had a great run ahead of us. We were assigned starting positions for our timed start, one every minute. I was going to be the 32nd one off out of 50. While I was strapping my helmet and checking my bike one last time, I remembered the words from my friend Jeff: "Don't go all out on the first hill, you have a way to go, save your energy." Sarah behind me wished me luck and a safe ride. I wished her the same and started my stop watch 5 seconds before the start. I guess I could do it between 30 and 40 minutes.


Man there's a lot of people out today. How are you going to negotiate that?


Check for oncoming traffic, plan ahead for the start.


The first intersection is a no right turn, guess I'll hug the curb.




Great clear intersection.


I get up on the pedals and hit the first hill right off the start. I'm not exploding off the line, I'm getting a feel for my legs and the bike. Surprisingly the British High Tensile Steel beast climbs easily and my legs are quite responsive. At that moment I decide that I'm going for 30 minutes. Up the hill over the hump and down the bowl to go across Chinatown. A red light with lots of traffic at the very bottom of that hill kills my momentum.

Off the line and up Chinatown, my legs start to go and I'm concentrating so hard to keep going that I don't even see the surrounding beauty of the place(As of this writing I still can't remember the Chinatown leg!?!). I manage to get up to speed again and blast through Ste-Catherine heading for the worst hill of the course, Ontario to Sherbrooke.

My legs totally give out halfway up. I jump off the bike and start walking up at a fast pace, I don't want my heart rate to go down. Back on the bike at Sherbrooke I go for the long climb that stretches out to St-Viateur. You have to realize that Montreal is a hump and the top is at about St-Viateur, it's mostly all downhill from there. While climbing through the Plateau I realize that I'm getting very tight tunnel vision. I'm concentrating too much on the pain in my legs and not enough on what's coming ahead of me. I force myself to widen my field of view and watch for car doors like a hawk. Luckily, none will open during the trip. I clear all the lights in that stretch and now I'm over the hump.

I blast under the train tracks not even feeling the small climb back up on level ground, I'm entering little Italy. I look at my watch and I see that I'm 17 minutes in this thing. I decide right there that I can beat 30 minutes, the speed demon as a hold of me. The Café's, terraces and sports bars are all a blur to me. I slalom through cars at a high rate of speed. A car decides to turn into the left lane and an SUV wants to go into the right lane at the same place. I fly through this instant funnel bringing my arms in to clear the mirrors of both vehicles. I see the gates marking the end of the well known neighborhood and pray for a green light at the upcoming major intersection, Jean-Talon. I get my wish with a twist. It's green all right but I happen to blast right in front of a cop car coming out of a gas station and he's going North. Sure enough the next light is red and he's behind me, gotta stop. $?*&% !!!

I blast off the line and give it everything I got. The pain in my legs and my burning lungs are down the list of priorities of my senses. I gotta clear the next big intersection, 2 sets of lights that cross under the main highway. I'm far away and I see them green. I can't get caught there, if I do I lose too much time. I find energy I didn't know I had and push the Raleigh into another Universe, one that the people at Nottingham never planned for. The bike feels like it's shaking itself apart and I pedal so fast that the slack chain is pulled off the chainring teeth by the centrifugal force! I slack off the RPMs after I barely clear the second set of lights and it settles down.

Now I'm entering the commercial and residential sector of the Main. The streets are wider and clueless drivers abound. My brain is like  an AWACS aircraft and all the crew is working overtime. My eyes are everywhere to clear intersections and momentum is making me run out of bike. Yelling and screaming myself to a frenzy, I'm pedaling faster than the wheel can keep up with and the chain still wants to come off if I don't watch it, she has no more to give. I'm clearing the second to last intersection and the time sits at 27 minutes, I'm going to make it...

I've got this beast by the tail and all that stands between  me and the finish line is one last traffic light. It's 2 blocks away and it's red. After that it's a free run to the end. I calculate that by the time I get there, it will change. I calculated wrong. I'm coming in at full speed when I finally see what the other side of the light is, one and a half car length away from the stop line. It's not even yellow, it's green with a ton of oncoming traffic! For the first time during the entire run, I lock up both wheels and stop right at the line without going over the bars.

Sure enough, a second later it changes and I explode off into a sprint with every ounce left of energy that I got and some that I don't. The only thing that makes it to my brain is the cheers of my friends and family waiting for me to cross. I somehow found a way to show off at the end and lock up the rear wheel into a skid at the finish, dump the bike, walk off and fall on my ass. I made it.

Official time, 29 minutes and 57 seconds. 49th out of 50 and under 30 minutes for an untrained, 46 year old, better than average recreational cyclist, I consider that I did beat the Main.

I wish to extend my thanks to all my cycling friends who made this fantastic life experience even more enjoyable. You are all a great bunch of people and it's always a great pleasure to ride with you. Thanks as well to my friends and family who showed up to cheer me on despite some morale objection to my endeavor. Will I do this again? I'll be thinking about it for the next year but even if I do, it will never be as exhilarating as this one was.

Don't forget to check out the how-to articles post
and download my free bike maintenance book if you haven't already.

Until next time, ride safe and free.

Gerry :)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pre-Ride bike check, why you should do it.

A few weeks ago I went on a critical mass ride that took me up and down some hills. Well more up than down or maybe I can only remember the pain of going up...whatever.

Anyhoo, I was riding along and compared to the week before I felt that I was sluggish. As much as the bike had felt very peppy the last time I took it out, this time I was under the impression that I was not getting as much out of it.

My first reaction was that my body had gone south after a week back to work riding a desk. I was just not getting everything I expected out of my legs. Then I got a revelation that my legs had nothing to do with it. I was heading down Berri hill, which is legendary around here because it is steep and long, and I could barely hit 45 km/h coasting down! The week before I had to hold back the bike because I was afraid to pass the 55 km/h mark on this freshly assembled Frankenstein bolt on monster and 55 km/h it did easily.

I was thinking that tire pressure could be the culprit but it couldn't be that bad after only one week of being parked. So I waited until I got back home, hours and many kilometers later, to check everything out.

Turns out I was right and then some. Tire pressure had gone down by 10 pounds over the course of one week. The problem was that I had filled them during a heat wave and the temperature had gone down steeply since, affecting tire pressure seriously. While I was at it I decided to check if the wheels were turning freely.

I spun the front wheel and it came to an abrupt halt at the end of its course. Not good. Did the same thing with the rear wheel and wouldn't you know it, it stopped dead as well. Turns out I was running on low pressure tires and rim rubbing brake pads. No wonder the ride felt like crap! I guess I did some work on the wheels and forgot to check brake pad clearance.

So the lesson here is check your tire pressure on a regular basis and make sure your wheels are turning freely. The few minutes you take doing this before a big ride will save you a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering down the road...or is it up.

Don't forget to check out the how-to articles post
and download my free bike maintenance book if you haven't already.

Until next time, ride safe and free.

Gerry :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Commemorating a tragedy the best way I can

9-11 touched me deeply. Not only do I find the taking of innocent lives for an idea totally sacrilege but the loss of those who went in to save them just floored me. See a lifetime ago, I was a firefighter.

It takes a special kind of human being to run into a place that everyone is trying to leave as fast as they can. This is not something that can be taught, you have it or you don't. It's not a super power, some people are just made that way. That crazy ability to run willingly into unknown danger makes us all Brothers and Sisters where ever we are.

When I saw those towers collapse, I knew right there that many were making the ultimate sacrifice right before my eyes and it just broke my heart. Mind you all of us know this can happen, just not at that scale. Nothing can prepare you for that.

I wept that day and I still catch myself shedding a tear once and a while when there is mention of it. I vowed  I would honor all the victims of that tragedy by living my life as fully as I could and try my best to leave this world a little better before my time is done here.

Today is the 10th anniversary, just a number really but a chance to reflect. On such a beautiful day with the sunshine blazing I did the only thing that I thought could commemorate that tragedy, enjoy my freedom and the ultimate freedom for me is riding my bike.

Enjoying freedom is giving the finger to those who would kill me because they wouldn't want me to have it. Enjoying my freedom supports those who don't have it but wish they did by not wasting it. Enjoying freedom honors those who put their lives on the line every day so I can have it.

So if you have it, I urge you to enjoy your freedom however you feel is best for you, give thanks for it and think of those who don't have the privilege.

Never Forget.