Monday, December 17, 2012

Progress on Riding Comfortably

Back in the beginning of September, I posted a discussion of changes I was making to my Surly Crosscheck to make long rides more comfortable; replacing the stock plastic saddle with a Brooks B17 leather saddle and raising the handlebars using a stem extension. At that time, I was limited in how high I could raise the handlebars by the relatively trivial problem of the front brake cable being too short. However, I rode on my bike in that configuration for three months before resolving the brake cable issue. I rode my Surly over 1200 miles with the above changes including four rides of more than 70 miles.


On  one of these four rides, I had a minor issue with saddle sores, but I attribute that to dressing incorrectly. My impression is that the saddle sore problem has been reduced by switching from a plastic to a leather saddle, but because this problem is so occasional and only occurs on the longest rides, I am not yet certain of that. I do know I don't enjoy worrying about rain damaging my leather saddle and in that sense the plastic saddle was more practical. However, I intend to continue using the Brooks saddle until experience suggests I do otherwise.


The intermediate increase in handlebar height I used for 1200 miles seemed to significantly reduced the incidence of pain in my neck, arms, shoulders, and hands. However, it was not enough to allow me to use the handlebar drops comfortably.

Recently, have succeeded in replacing the front brake cable and thus getting the handlebars to the maximum height allowed by the stem extension. This photo shows the effect of lengthening the brake cable and raising the handlebars as high as possible:

Note that the stem is now at the top of the extender, with the spacers all below the stem. Previously, the height of the handlebar had been increased by two inches. Now it has been increased by three inches. This turns out to be significant. Immediately after making this change I went on a 17 mile ride and was able to complete the entire ride on the drops, something that I would not have been able to do previously.

This photo shows the impact on the bike as a whole:

The bags on the back of the bike contain approximately 40 pounds of produce. One of the standard rides my wife and I do is to is to Canino's Market, a 20 mile round trip that I will be describing in a future post.

Note that the handlebars are now significantly higher than the seat.

The difference in height between the top and the drops of the handlebars is 6 inches. Thus, riding on the drops, which I could not previously do, positions me about 3 inches lower than previously, and riding on the tops, 3 inches higher. This should give me much more versatility in future rides with one position more aerodynamic than before and a second more comfortable.

My current training regimen calls for short rides; 8 to 14 miles of training preceded and followed by a couple of miles of warm up and cool down. (As the season procedes, I will be both extending these rides as well as adding in a weekly long training ride.) I have been doing the warm up and cool down on the top of the bars and the 8 to 14 miles of training on the drops to become more comfortable with that position. Only time will tell for sure, but so far I am optimistic that my Surly is now configured to make long brevet rides more comfortable.


(Heart Rate of 125 BPM)
December   3, 2012: MAF Test = 10.3 MPH
December 10, 2012: MAF Test = 10.8 MPH
December 17, 2012: MAF Test = 12.0 MPH

A MAF test is the average speed for a 45 minute ride at the indicated heart rate, in this case, 125 BPM. I will be reviewing my experience with Dr. Maffetone's aerobic training regimen at the end of one month of training but as promised, I will list the results at the end of each week's blog as well. In my experience so far, there is a fair bit of day to day variation in the results of the MAF test, some due to conditions (e.g. wind), some do to minor variations in health, so a change from one week to the next may not be significant; consistent changes over longer times will probably be a better indicator of real improvement.

According to Dr. Maffetone's regimen, the heart rate at which one does a MAF test should be the same as the heart rate at which one trains. For reasons that I will explain at the end of the month, I have been increasing my training heart rate but leaving the heart rate for the tests constant.

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