Curing Old Aches (Just For Cyclists)

I’ve had a lot of aches and pains from cycling in the last 14 months or so – and I’ve had back problems, tendon problems and so on. Cutting a long and tedious story short (because all medical stories are tedious), I’ve identified the so-called Q-factor as a source of problems.

The Q-factor is the distance between a cyclist’s feet when on a bike – bottom bracket width, crank thickness and offset and the pedals all contribute.

Pedal Extender saving the day!

With apologies for the photo quality – it shows a pedal extender on a very dirty and well used bike

During 2013 I rode most of my miles on a bike with a bottom bracket and crankset fitted around about Christmas 2012. It’s one of the new design Campagnolo ones – and it’s narrow. It turns out that that’s the cause of a lot of very ‘in the joint’ hip pain, and possibly also pain in the tendon behind the knee.

I’ve identified this (and eliminated the other niggles I have from the picture) by dint of riding very little for some weeks, doing what few miles I’ve done on a mountain bike with a wider Q and finding that helped a lot on the pain front; finding hip pain returning on riding the narrow Q bike again, and now trying out Specialized Pedal Extenders – and finding they’re making a big difference for the better.

Perhaps it’s because I’m in my 50s and have a lot of years of riding at a wider Q that’s making the narrower sizing a problem, but if you’ve an otherwise unexplained pain come on in your hips, knees or ankles, and you’re now riding a narrower Q-factor, this could be something to consider.

Flood Avoidance (With Route)(Just For Cyclists)

If you’re itching to get out on your bike for a ride but are struggling for a route given all the rain, this loop between north Reading over to the other side of Woodcote might be worth a try. It’s a 20 mile route with a couple of lumpy bits to keep you exercised.

At the time of writing it avoided any major problems caused by flooded rivers or (still) rising groundwater, but be warned – many of the roads are in an atrocious state, and not just the smaller lanes. A lot of care is needed. But that all said, it’s better to be out than in!

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Good Rubber (Just For Cyclists)

A South Oxon ride on Monday was reasonable for the most part, but part-blighted by two punctures – both caused by shards of flint. They used to make tools out of flint for a reason, sure, but I’ve had a very bad run of various Schwalbe tyres getting badly cut and often puncturing in the last few weeks – far more than I’d expect, even given the appalling weather and appalling roads.

So, since then I’ve re-shod my ‘workhorse’ Bianchi Nerone with some Michelin Pro4 Endurance tyres that I had in the garage.

(As for why they were in my garage: the saga is related here.)

Today it was a case of a ride on much the same lanes as Monday – and not only did I not pick up a puncture, the tyres aren’t even showing a cut.

I know that’s not scientific, I know there are any number of small variations between today’s ride and Monday’s. However, that’s as close a direct comparison as an ordinary user can make; it bears out my earlier experience with the Pro4’s predecessor, the Krylions … and all I can say is that I feel a fool for not putting them on the bike earlier. If you’re on a road bike and you’re puncturing a lot, you might find it worth your while trying them.

Up Towards Ewelme (With Route)(Just For Cyclists)

If you’re in the Reading area and stuck for a route that avoids floods, this loop up towards Ewelme proved quite reasonable: plenty of pot-holes and filthy roads, but nothing too waterlogged. (At least it was OK when I rode it on Monday.) I went counter-clockwise, out to Sonning Common and on from there, back via Ipsden etc. It’s easy to extend it if you want to. The climb up to the back of Woodcote is my preferred option for getting up that particular ridge of hills, especially when the roads are bad.

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A Woodcote Cycle Ride (With Route)(Just For Cyclists)

The not-that-great storm yesterday may not have been as destructive as trailed / feared, but nevertheless it wasn’t a day for cycling, around here at least.

Today’s ride was just a short jaunt in South Oxon lanes, chosen mainly because of a very autumnal, strong north westerly wind. Going anti-clockwise and starting out from Caversham, for the most part this offers a classic headwind out / tailwind back trip.

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Autumn Toadstools

Oh yes,it’s autumn

Lights On Bright Days (Just For Cyclists)

I’ve ridden with LED lights in daylight before, but generally only on murky days. However, I’m adopting them all year round now.

LED Light on a bike

Flashing for safety

No, I haven’t suddenly decided cycling’s a terribly risky thing to do. It’s simply because the other day I was out cycling, I was going down a lane that was partly in shade, partly in bright sun, and I didn’t see a cyclist coming up the road.

There wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t even a near-miss – it was plenty wide enough for the two of us – but I didn’t see him until we were almost level. I was genuinely shocked … and I’d say that by being out in the open I had far better visibility in those circumstances than someone in a car.

Hence the new attitude to lights (Knogs, if you’re interested), and today’s ride was the first with them. Pleasingly, the experience I’ve had before with riding with them – by and large you get given a wider berth – remains true even on decent days. All the observations I had about them last October are still true.

So, no, I don’t subscribe to the view that cycling’s some terribly dangerous way of getting around that requires as many ‘safety aids’ as possible: I think a lot of that attitude arises to assuage the consciences of drivers and those that make and enforce the rules for drivers. But I don’t mind applying some (for me new-found) common-sense to my own visibility.