And so farewell Leopard Trek … bib tights

Leopard Trek Leggings

You were my first winter bottoms and took me around as I was forged into the toughened specimen that I am now. You didn’t make me time trial like Cancellara, or climb like Andy Schleck (back in the day), or even vice versa.

Perhaps:

  • yes, you were a Chinese replica copy bought on Ebay;
  • your “genuine Coolmax(Tm)” pad was actually not quite the real deal;
  • three and a half years is asking a lot of any garment;
  • the little Fuscii would laugh at you: “Daddy why do you have a zero on your bottom?!” (actually, good question).

But we shared some times… And cyclefucius would also not like to be cast aside in old age, but lately sitting on you is like sitting on … nothing.

cyclefucius has pondered different options such as replacing the offending pad or putting padded shorts underneath.

Let it go, grasshopper, let it go. My butt and associated parts are delicate and inevitably endangered by lengthy sessions in even the most comfortable of saddles. They deserve if not the best then at least the most adequate money can buy. When the pad goes, you are wearing … tights. Biking in tights cannot be good.

Your matching top is still good (new zip and still fleecy). But alas you must now be relegated to other winter pastimes. Not many got closer than you… Thank you, my friend, time to retire gracefully…

Mud 2: the revenge of mud

It’s testing times here. I almost preferred the minus 6 December outings than the drizzly fog of January. Everything is wet. Stuff doesn’t even dry from the day before so you go out damp and the yesterday’s raindrops have rain sex with today’s and create lots of little rain offspring on your back. Then you break into a sweat which stays warm just long enough to meet the chilling onslaught of osmosis from outside. Reach for bidon – about as refreshing as a freezing headwind (talk of the devil…)

Another cyclefucius paradox: body temperature is at absolute zero but outside temperature is just high enough to ensure that snow turns to slush and mud as thick as wallpaper paste (like cycling through a world of gel).

However, unlike ‘hill work‘, ‘slogging through gel work’ does give time for reflection. At one stage, slogging through uphill gel, I pass some downhillers with full face helmets and Super Bowl style armour bouncing happily down and hup … and down a nearby ravine. I’ve got this all wrong, I think. Moments later I pass the Land Rover they came up in. I’ve definitely got this wrong.

Come Summer, though, who’ll be laughing then, huh? Probably still them. But cyclefucius will be tougher! Though throwing yourself down ravines is pretty tough. Dammit, they probably even write good cycling haikus…

If this is yours, don’t come near me

Chair
You cannot be serious

Seen today on the trail. Seriously, I have seen some refuse around (amunition boxes, beer bottles, towels, single shoes?, um … sexy stuff) but this is probably the record. You would think it probably took more effort to put it here than to dispose of correctly. It hardly blends in either. Dudes, this stuff does not biodegrade.

I – and I’m sure all reading share this – just don’t get how anyone can think this is OK. cyclefucius knows that punching other people is not a good way of resolving anything, but is getting to feel that there might be some exceptions… (off to meditate for a while now).

A nasty case of hill work

Hill work

Feeling great – like having a tailwind! Get up, potter around doing everyday Fucius household stuff. Check the training programme. Two words to take the tailwind out of those sails: “hill work”.

Actually what is says is: “45 mins warm-up; hills 2 x 15 mins (10 mins seated at 80/85 rpm cadence, last 5 mins standing); total recovery between the two climbs; 45 mins confortable speed warm down.”

Kind of quirky and all I have to do is:

  • go out and find 15 minute hill;
  • go up;
  • go up again;
  • go merrily home.

Now round here, hill work is fairly relative – actually I think I did exactly the above yesterday without meaning to. So what to do? I decided to go for a particularly nasty one nearby with some 20%s in there and which I normally save for much later in the year when feeling at the top of my game.

So what did I learn?

  • it is a Good Thing to do something that you think is maybe too hard. Actually you may find you can do it.
  • standing up for five minutes (in cyclefucius’s currently electronics-free world about 300 Mississippi) is something that needs training. This is worth doing even if you wouldn’t actually “in real  life” (see next points).
  • unless you are Sr. Contador or Chris Horner standing up is not very efficient – you will lose form and cadence and, if not on the road, then traction as well.
  • however, there is such thing as “standing up for a rest” i.e. to bring in other muscle groups.
  • warming down gradually helps (i.e. continuing to pedal rather than stopping suddenly) – not just for your legs but maybe even more for your heart.
  • unless you are really a pro or have chosen your hill very carefully, you will forget about cadences and heart rates – it may just be about survival (a sensible bit of “pushing it” seems to me OK and inevitable) [legal says this is where you tell them you are not a doctor etc. – Ed.]
  • while doing hill work it is almost impossible to enjoy the view, think sweet thoughts, compose blog posts etc. You are definitely training not riding. The only thoughts you are likely to have are how your body feels right now and how ‘future you’ will be grateful. This kind of takes away some of the point of getting out on the bike. It’s only a little Zen – living simultaneously in the present and the future.

So “hill work” done. A necessary evil? Hope so. Motto of the day: easier than yesterday and not as easy as tomorrow.

Breaking! Cyclist attacked by mud

Muddy cycling shoes

I have to admit I am not the sort who goes out actively looking for mud. Maybe I am more of a tourist than a hardcore mountain biker. Cross? Great to watch with a beer.

I am also not the person in the Fucius household who does most of the washing.

But cyclefucius would not be cyclefucius if he did not ponder the fact that there are some necessary skills to be learned here.

Snow is melting right now giving a perfect blancmange of slush, ice and mud to challenge the cyclefucius bike-handling abilities. One day I may do a “cornering” post – something that doesn’t seem to come naturally, but which we are working on. (Be water, my friend…)

But actually – go figure – mountain bikes and tyres are actually designed to keep you upright in this type of situation. It was kind of fun.

For a while. After a few seconds, we discover that mountain bikes and tyres are also designed to spray fluid of varying degrees of opacity and viscosity up into the air, face, boots, backside, saddle, moving bike parts, cars, joggers, hikers and any other mountain flora and fauna.

cyclefucius has a particular issue with glasses at the moment – at the first sign of cyclefucius industrial strength perspiration, they steam up; at the second sign, the perspiration transfers itself onto the inside of the lenses. Couple this internal attack with the external attack launched from the tyres and the problem was not navigating the corners, but seeing the corners.

Yes it was fun. Kind of. But if any evidence were needed that cyclefucius does not have any Belgian ancestry, this is it. Roll on Spring.

What on earth is in my cycling recovery drink?

What the heck are isoflavones?

Recovery drink. You need it when done (even more important than showering). Water won’t do. Keep the sweaty clothes on for a minute and get some protein and carbs inside you.

cyclefucius is not too familiar with the biology/physiology of all this. However, experience says that chemicalish stuff is not my thing (especially of any colour that could be on a pro-team cycling shirt: from the past of course – lately they all seem to be black…). What natural alternatives are there?

The best I have tried? Chocolate milk: protein – tick, carbs – tick, cramps – none. Although the chocolate part is not so natural and really full of sugar. If you’ve just done five hours in extreme weather then this may not really matter. However, if you are getting the weight off then it just seems a bit … heavy.

So plain milk. But also not wanting to ingest too much cholesterol. So skimmed milk. cyclefucius came across some skimmed milk fortified with soya “isoflavones”. What the heck? Same low fat as skimmed but more protein than semi. Trying is believing and I now swear by it. No next day stiffness ever.

These things are probably very personal. But what are your own pro tips?

Smooth operator takes on disk brake maintenance

DT Swiss Wheels

Sometimes it seems to cyclefucius that mountain bikes are looking more and more like motorbikes. Huge forks, fat tyres and the dreaded disk brakes.

Now, cyclefucius has no experience of motorbikes. But imagines that they must be somewhat similar to cars and need servicing maybe a couple of times a year.

Not so the disk brakes on cyclefucius’s off-road setup. I won’t share here the name of the maker of the dreaded stoppers, but they need more attention than a neglected puppy.

Back in the day when said machine was acquired there wasn’t the wealth of knowledge to choose from posted on YouTube by nice Canadian men. The first days of ownership required various returns to the local bike shop for: bubbles in the system (pro tip: never turn machine upside down), floppy levers (pro tip 2: always use those little spacer things when taking off wheels – the hydraulic elves love to press the levers and make you force open the brake pads), and/or grabby brakes (cyclefucius heard recently that the young Chris Froome used to ride up mountains in Kenya with brakes applied in order to emulate Tour de France mountain passes – why he didn’t select a higher gear is beyond me – but at that rate cyclefucius must have a few “hors catégories” in his legs courtesy of Mr Sram – OK, you got me).

Given all this, cyclefucius got to the point of never going anywhere near the little white wannabe motorbike spares, once approaching anything near a proper set up. So the brake pads have been worn down to ear-watering, tooth-juddering, air-cleaving, metal-melting microns in order to avoid interference.

This was not going to last for long. And the showdown came the other day when cyclefucius’s off-road activities came to a sudden halt. Ironically on the road, doing the right thing trying to make eye contact with a driver arriving at a junction apparently in rehearsals for a role in “Tommy” and crashing into the raised kerb of a bus stop. (No, not the actual bus stop.)

Puncture, but wheel survived relatively unscathed. However, once returned to its place, Chris Froome brake syndrome took over and the return home became Tourmalet.

As ever, cyclefucius likes to try the self-sufficient approach. New brake pads and then let’s see if professional help needed.

Let’s do this. I am sure that the pads are designed to be replaceable without removing the wheel but perhaps the face-melting excess of wear makes this impossible. So wheels off. Bike steadfastly right way up (see above). Old bits out. Quick clean. New pads go in. Little spacey things do their job (see also above). Wheels go on. And of course fail to rotate. Squeeze brakes a few times like it says in the manual. Still no rotation.

But cyclefucius has pro tip 3 at his disposal: in the absence of rubber bands, tie brake levers tight with shoelaces, loosen the little Allen bolt things to allow realignment to take place (pro tip 4: the ones at the back not the ones at the side where fluid falls out if you unscrew them), pump a few times, re-tighten, pray.

And … rotation restored. Not a miracle. cyclefucius has learned something over various years of bubbly, floppy, grabby, tinkering times. Not to be beaten. Maybe I should do a video. But … for sure … next bike will definitely not have these particular ones. And road bikes really shouldn’t either.