Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road is an online cycling magazine. It is intended for writers and riders who want to share their on the road cycling stories and pictures. Submissions that follow our guideline are gratefully appreciated. See the appropriate page in the site menu. Will publish the best of the best each month. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @PicosCycling.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road May 2014 Vol. 2 No. 5

The weather in this part of the world is taking a long time to warm up. Roads are clear though and if you haven't already gotten into the saddle, it's time to get it in gear. This month we bring you a few articles to help you on your way. Enjoy!

In This Issue
(To view articles separately, just click on the links)

A Key to Riding as a Family

Sometimes the joy of riding a bicycle just isn't enough. This is how we inspired our family into touring. We made it about more than just cycling.

Training For the Touring Season

Winter is over and Jack Hawkins is back in the saddle. He's preparing himself for bigger and better things this year and he's taking us along with.

Thunderstorm Rescue

The bitter winter is past but that isn't the only kind of rough weather around. It's always good to have a guardian angel ready to come to your rescue when mother nature sneaks up on you and lets you have it.

Bargain Bicycle Review

Cycling on the cheap doesn't always go very well. This is a road test review on the cheap bicycles sold by bargain stores. If you're considering buying one this will give you an idea what you can expect.

Not Everything Costs and Arm and a Leg - Bike Clothing on a Budget

Jack Hawkins is at it again. This time he takes a look at some new cycling clothes and lets us know what he thinks.

Had some fun putting this together this month. In the coming months we are hoping to have a few more writers share their stories. I think it's going to be a great year! Pedal on!

A Key to Riding as a Family

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano

I can’t just ride for the sake of riding. Neither can I ride just for exercise or recreation. I’m not alone in that. If you want to take your family riding, you have to make it interesting and enjoyable. Going for the same mind numbing training run regularly to prepare of a trip will potentially turn it into a detestable chore. Travelling by bike and only worrying about making mileage each day will not be much fun either. There is a key to making it great.

Starting with training, change it up. Work in other chores and activities. I view my bicycle as transportation. It takes me where I want or need to go. Before embarking on our first tour we trained as a family for more than a month. We did our shopping, and other errands. We visited every nook and cranny of the city where we lived that was in cycling range. Regular trips to the library and local parks were included. Our training schedule never got boring. The biggest challenge was scouting our safe riding routes for our very young group of riders. Detailed maps of the area made that possible.  The key to our success is that we are constantly doing something besides riding.

Guess what. This holds true on longer trips as well. Before going on your bicycle tour figure out what you want to see and do. The same kind of planning that goes into any other successful vacation is needed for a bicycle trip. The only difference is your mode of transportation. Mileage is not a goal. It is a restriction. I don’t mean that negatively. When your mode of transportation is a car you still can’t be in two places at the same time. No you can’t travel as far as fast but you can see things from a bicycle in a way that you would never see them from a car. Plan to do things that the group can reasonably do in the time that you have.

Our first multi-day family tour was a huge success. We visited several extended family members, visited sights along the way, camped, enjoyed good meals, played photo tag with a newspaper sports photographer and rode more than eighty kilometres together. All of this worked within the abilities of the group. We’ve followed that formula with success tour after tour.

Before we leave, we not only train but plan. We choose where we want to go based on what else there is to see and do. We research everything that we can do along the way. Our days end up being full. Yes there are long boring stretches of road but we know that there will be something fun or somehow enjoyable right around the corner.

A well-planned trip can be memorable and enjoyable. This year go out and do it, then write an article about it and send it to us. We want to share it and inspire other tours.

Training For the Touring Season

By Jack Hawkins http://jackonabike.ca/ 

It’s great, you know, to get back in the saddle and start riding again - after months of seemingly endless bitter cold and several feet of snow on the ground.

Recently, I have been able to do just that, and my-oh-my, has it felt great! My first ride was on Friday, April 11th, and I followed that small, seven mile journey with another, eighteen miler, the very next day.

My new saddle, a Selle Anatomica Titanico X touring saddle (see picture below) is performing well, although it will certainly take some getting used to. Particularly the rough edges on the sides. I’ve also graciously been given a Merino Wool jersey from Bobolink Gear to review for them on my rides both this year, and next. But more about that coming in the future.

Since my inaugural rides on Friday and Saturday, I’ve been doing some research on where I could possibly go for an overnight trip. There are several that spring to mind, the first is Kouchibouguac National Park,

My route for the Kouchibouguac trip, mapped with Strava, can be found here. I’ll be reviewing different route mapping applications (Strava, MapMyRide,etc) in a later article, but for now, below are the route maps of my first rides of the year.

And damn! They felt great! My first real test will be that 25-miler to Kouchibouguac, and beyond that - who knows, an overnight trip to Moncton? Miramichi? I’ll also be trying out some new (to me), camping equipment and seeing how that performs.

Thunderstorm Rescue

By Pico Triano
Photos: Courtesy Photobucket, Pico Triano

Every once in awhile as a cyclist you’ll get caught in some weather you won’t forget ever. I got caught in an epic thunderstorm on my way home from work one day.

That summer I’d been living a bit of a charmed life. The terrain was flat and the weather usually tracked in from west-northwest. My ride home travelled nearly straight north and then west. I had two alternate routes. When crossing the freeway right at the beginning of my ride home I had a terrific vantage point where I could see the thunderstorms before they got to me. Several times I chose my route based on what I could see and came home dry each time. This day I wasn’t so lucky.

I contemplated those mean looking clouds from the top of the overpass. Didn’t look to me like there would be anyway to completely avoid this one. I opted for the most direct route. The idea was to minimize the amount of time I might be in it. Also just in case my wife felt I needed rescuing, she would be able to find me without any trouble.

Those clouds got bigger and angrier as I approached. I got almost halfway home before I saw the curtain of rain up ahead. It was coming fast and there was no way I was going to out run it by turning around. With a roar of defiance, I powered straight into it. I was drenched within seconds.

Right about that time one of my co-workers passed me in his minivan. He didn’t stop and disappeared around the curve in the road. That’s when the rain turned into hail. Made a terrific racket bouncing off my cycling helmet and it stung on my bare arms. This was no fun at all and it was about to get worse.

A lightning bolt struck a tree on a nearby ridge of ground and then another and another. I wasn’t too concerned about the lightning right where I was riding at that moment but exiting the curve I would crest that same ridge and then ride a flat open stretch for about a mile into town. I would be one of the tallest objects around. I seriously considered just crouching down and waiting for it to pass.

That’s when the cavalry arrived. Francine, my wife came driving out to rescue me. We strapped the bike to the bike rack and then turned the van around and drove home. At home I took one step inside the front door and asked for a change of clothing, a towel and some privacy. I looked like I’d been swimming.

The next day at work my co-worker apologized for not picking me up. He, at that moment had figured I wasn’t far from home and was wet already. He had no idea the hail and lightning would be quite that spectacular.

Bargain Bicycle Review

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano

We were in need of transportation for the gang and we had a very limited budget. We went to Walmart and Canadian Tire and purchased a couple bargain priced bicycles. I also got one from a friend in good working order and another derelict. I’m reviewing them all together because they are all essentially the same bike. There are minor differences in the frames but wheels, shifters, brakes, handlebars, seats etc are identical. Not surprising they perform identically as well: Same strengths and same weaknesses.

The number one reason to buy on of these bikes is the price. Walmart sells them for $98 and Canadian Tire sells them for $99 (all prices quoted are in Canadian dollars). I’m sure there are several other stores that sell the same thing for a similar price. Most bike shops will tell you they are garbage. I agree and disagree. If you just want to have a cheap bike to ride once in a rare while, this is the bike for you.

If you buy one, make sure that you get a real professional to adjust it for you unless you can do it yourself. Make sure it has been assembled properly. The places that sell these don’t always have someone who knows what they are doing.

Most of the parts on these bikes will serve you well. The brakes and shifters stayed adjusted and never failed even under hard use. I expected a lot less out of them. They do not function as smoothly or as efficiently as higher end parts but they were functional.

One of the bikes evaluated had a problem with the crank assembly but I won’t fault the bikes on this because it only happened to one bike. We pulled the crank from the derelict I was given and didn’t have any further problems.

The big failing of these bikes was the rear wheel, specifically the hub. If not for that part, I would give these bikes a passing grade. It has two problems that I will point out.

The first problem will eventually happen to all the bikes but only mine failed so far. Under hard use in about a month I stripped the innards out of the rear gear cluster. I know they buy these parts cheap by the shipping container full but that kind of failure in my view is unacceptable. That problem was solved for about twenty dollars by replacing it with a shimano gear cluster. I hoped my rear wheel problems were over. Guess again.

I noticed the second issue while checking the bikes right when I got them. The rear hub is cast slightly out of true. If you give the rear wheel a spin and watch the rear gear cluster, you will notice that it will wobble slightly. That is a long-term problem that I’ve grown to understand and detest. What happens is that, no matter how well you adjust the rear cones they will always slowly loosen up. That will cause premature wear of the cones and bearings. Constantly checking the adjustment, repacking the bearings, or replacing worn bearings and cones is a pain in the gluteus maximus. It is more than annoying. The sad thing is, that if the manufacturer put a better hub on these bikes even a rider like myself would get a lot of life out of them. I weigh too much and put way to many miles on to be happy with this kind of bike. All of the bikes purchased experienced this issue and coincidentally that was one of the problems with the derelict as well.

This is my final analysis. If you can cheaply replace the rear wheel with something that works properly, this bike is a bargain. If you can’t do that, avoid these bikes like the plague.

Not Everything Costs an Arm and a Leg - Bike Clothing on a Budget

By Jack Hawkins
Photos: Jack Hawkins

It seems that Spring is finally here, and there’s been fine weather abound. I’ve been getting out on my bike quite a bit, and it has felt fantastic to get back in the saddle again.

I spent my winter researching bike touring, researching destinations, clothing, equipment, technology and found that clothing in particular was quite expensive. And, in the beginning I found myself thinking - ‘Wow, I’m really going to have to shell out for all this stuff, aren’t I?’

I couldn’t have been more wrong. All it takes is some creativity and perseverance to find cycling clothing that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. And believe me, it’s out there. Instead of raving over jerseys, jackets and cycling shorts that cost a fortune and were well out of my budget’s reach, I found myself looking elsewhere - second hand clothing stores, in particular.

It was there that I found a Pearl Izumi cycling jersey, a pair of Easton baseball-come-cycling pants, and a very lightweight, waterproof anorak. Note that only one of these is cycling-specific, and everything cost under twenty dollars. That same jersey would have cost me $50.00 from Pearl Izumi’s online store. A pair of those Easton baseball pants - $40.00, and a waterproof, cycling-specific jacket, well according to Bike Radars opinions on which waterproof jackets are the best… The prices range from $70 USD, all the way up to $500! No, I’m not kidding.

Obviously, as with any sporting clothing - you get what you pay for. And as I ride in the clothing that I’ve purchased, I may find that it is woefully unsuitable, but, so-far, so-good! The waterproof jacket has kept me dry and the jersey has performed excellently.

I have also been graciously gifted a Merino Wool cycling jersey from Bobolink Gear in the United States. The plan is to review this product over the next however long it lasts, providing several reviews throughout this year as I cycle throughout New Brunswick, and next, as I conquer Canada.

Despite my success in finding both cycling-specific, and cycling-applicable clothing in second-hand stores, there are however several things I’m missing when it comes to my clothing. A pair of waterproof pants, for example. Two new pairs of cycling gloves - both full-fingered and fingerless, a cycling windproof headcover (how I’d have loved one of those on the rides in early April when I met up with my old enemy - Mr. Headwind). This list will no doubt be extended as I look ahead to 2015, and cycling across the country!

For now, though. If you guys have any suggestions for me on cycling clothing, where to look for bargains, what to buy, etc. Then please do get in touch. Below are some pictures of me, all geared up.