Friday, 30 November 2012

A Winters Ride...

We can no longer deny it - the days are shorter and the temperature is dropping. Winter is well and truly upon us. So some of you may be pulling the trusty old Raleigh Super Sport out of the shed so as not to have your pride and joy covered in filth. But what if you were to do it properly? By this I mean a full blown winter-only hack bike. I have recently finished building my new Pearson EasyComeEasyGo and am now reaping the benefits of a perfect winter steed.

"The Clanger"

Steel is Real

I've opted for our frame as it utilises a Reynolds 631 tube set as used on our "I May Be Some Time" touring frames. We chose this particular tubing during the prototype phase due to its compliance properties, performing like 853 (the top-of-the-range tube set for this type of bike) and being heat treated to deliver a stiffer ride than its predecessor - 531. It also allows the material to be tig welded instead of using the traditional lug method of construction. The frame is a great shape - high at the front and short across the top which allows me to easily set it up according to my CycleFit.

Rider comfort is everything on this type of bike. It features braze-ons for full mudguards and rack. As this is my daily commuting bike as well I've fitted both. There is clearance for bigger tyres to ensure better grip in the typically wetter winter weather and a longer wheelbase for greater stability. We run a slacker headtube angle on this frame to further the stability and reduce toe overlap when running mudguards. With double bottles and a handy rear mounted pump, a complete frame weight tips the scales at just over 2kg, but for a training bike any additional weight is never a bad thing! In the winter your muscles burn more energy just keeping warm and are therefore less efficient. So riding a heavier bike through this grim period means getting back on my shiny MineGoesToEleven in the summer will make me even faster...or so I hope! Mine has been custom painted and renamed "The Clanger" - an inside joke between myself and some of the other staff.

The Spinny Bits

The wheels I've selected for this build are the excellent Mavic Ksyrium Elites. These offer the most "bang for your buck" in the Mavic range. Being lightweight, stiff and weighing in at a mere 1565g for the pair, they certainly retain a substantial tart factor. I've always loved Mavics. They go on for absolutely ages, the bearing quality is great and they star true for aeons. If I'm completely honest with myself, a good set of hand built wheels like Hope Hoops probably would have been more suitable given the type of abuse this machine is likely to receive, but I fancied something a little livelier for some of those steep Surrey hills. Ksyrium Elites are sold as a "wheel-tyre system" so they actually come with light weight racing tyres. I'm going to run these into the ground before swapping them out for a set of Vittoria Open Pavé CGs for better grip and puncture resistance.

Italian Stallion

I've opted for a mish mash of Campagnolo components for this build. Having a firm loyalty to the Italian maestros I find it hard to use anything else. I'm running 2010 Veloce shifters and a 2010 centaur 53/39 chainset. The rest of the build is current Veloce which I've found to be cheap, durable and functional. Just about any transmission would suit this kind of build so what I've opted for is purely personal preference.

Sun in a Jam Jar

The Strada. Also, note the thermos in the cage for those chilly rides!

For the shorter I've selected two different lighting options. For the commute I'm running Exposures excellent Flash and Flare rechargeable set. I adore these lights, they're lightweight, super bright, easy to fit/remove and all in a nice unobtrusive unit.

Exposure Flash Flare

For my main lamp I've also decided to fit an Exposure Strada Mk7. This little beauty chucks out 480 lumens of good quality light. It has three different brightness settings, a flashing mode and a battery indicator all integrated into one unit. Running the Strada allows me to put in the extra miles even when it's pitch black. It throws a wide, focused beam that'll light up even the dingiest of Surrey lanes.

The LED display on the back of the Strada notifies the rider of which setting they are currently using as well as the remaining battery power

No Zip Ties Please

SKS P35 Chromoplastic mudguards are a very popular choice among many riders offering full protection from the rubbish thrown up from the roads. They're lightweight, durable, easy to fit and keep both you and your bike clean. Chromoplastics are also a lot more secure and do not rattle as much as the plethora of 'half guards' out there. A lot of riders have fitted the Crud Road Racer 2. However, I found these to be much flimsier than the P35 (I snapped the front one in the first week!) but they do offer decent protection if your bike doesn't have eyelets or sufficient clearance.

I commute with panniers so I've fitted a Tortec Velocity rack. A relatively lightweight, yet streamlined and good looking offering - not much to say about this other than it allows me to carry bags without spoiling the lines of the bike. On to this I've attached a single Ortlieb Front Roller Plus pannier. This smaller bag is actually designed to mount to low riders on the front of a touring bike, but I preferred the smaller size seeing as I don’t carry a huge amount into work. These are the de rigueur bag for most touring cyclists as they're extremely durable and completely waterproof - almost to the extent that you can submerse them in water thanks to their seamless construction and roll top closure. Bars, stem and seatpost are basic models from Deda and they're finished off with a Fizik Aliante saddle and Fizik tape.

In my opinion this is the ultimate winter bike. It's smooth, relatively lightweight, fun and inspiring to ride. The EasyComeEasyGo is a custom bike so you can build yours however you wish. They are available to purchase from both our Sutton performance and Sheen performance stores. Frames retail for £499.99 with complete bikes starting at £999. Demo models are available and, if you're lucky, I may even let you ride mine!

Happy hacking!

written by: James Thomas - Sutton Pro Shop Manager

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Is cycling proving to be a pain in the neck?

Neck pain usually relates to the prolonged time that cyclist’s necks spend in an extended position. It can be attributed to 3 primary factors:

  • Poor body positioning or posture
  • Poor bike fit
  • Overload/overuse/over doing it

  • Poking your chin forwards and hyperextending your neck places stress and constant compression on the posterior joints in your neck, particularly if sustained for a long period of time. When a cyclist logs many hours of riding, there is repetitive sub-maximal loading on the upper back and neck causing micro-trauma to the tissues, which can lead to pain, damaging inflammation and clinical injury.

    Overusing cervical extensors and upper trapezius muscles will lead to painful fatigue of these muscles. When a muscle undergoes sustained contraction for a long period of time, the circulation of blood into that muscle becomes compromised due to pressure on blood vessels. The muscles are starved of precious oxygen and nutrients while being asked to perform with a continual workload which can lead to painful muscle spasms and trigger points. Trigger points are small knots that form in muscle and adjacent muscle sheaths (fascia), which send pain signals to the brain and contribute to a pain-spasm-pain cycle. This increased muscle tone can also further compress the joints at the base of your neck.

    One of the main causes of neck pain in cyclists is poor posture. Sometimes it is simply a bad habit that needs to be corrected. However, if you are unaware of this posture and are unable to recruit/activate the muscles required to put you in an ideal one it will be difficult to correct. Your goal on your bike, and anywhere for that matter, is to maintain a good neutral spine posture. This is the position where there is the least strain on your knots for the most efficient amount of muscle work.

    Poor Posture

    Good Posture

    Poor bike fit can exacerbate poor posture. Improper position of the seat and handlebars can place abnormal stress on the neck and shoulders. When everything on your bike is in the correct position, this spine posture should be more natural and effortless.

    Some common bike fit errors are:

  • Drop too low - if you need to crane your neck to see down the road, you will be forcing your neck into an overextended position. Over time this position will create joint strain from the sustained poor posture. The cervical extensor muscles which hold your head up will fatigue with prolonged use. This problem is exacerbated when riding on the drops or on TT bars.
  • Saddle tilt too nose down - a saddle that is tilted too nose down will cause you to slide off the front and you will place more weight on your hands to hold yourself up. Your upper trapezius and shoulder muscles will work unnecessarily hard to support your weight, leading to early fatigue and pain.
  • Handlebar (over)reach - a shoulder angle of between 80 and 90 degrees (depending on your torso angle) provides the most stable and efficient support for your upper body. Overworked muscles lead to painful fatigue and wasted energy. The reach can be shortened by adjusting stem length, handlebar width and handlebar shape.
  • Poor fitting glasses or helmet - may partially block your line of sight, forcing you to hyperextend your neck to see down the road.

  • Assuming that your bike is set up well, here are some simple tips for improving your on-bike posture:

  • Shoulders should be relaxed - think about creating a space between your shoulders and your ears. Reverse shoulder shrugs can be helpful.
  • Elbows should be unlocked, with a slight bend to act as shock absorbers so that road impact is not sent straight up to your neck and shoulders.
  • Change your hand position regularly to offload joints and reduce muscle fatigue.
  • Regularly stretch your neck during more relaxed parts of your ride.
  • As cyclists build up their training volume they often suffer from aches in the cervical, thoracic or lumbar spine due to the lengthy periods for which they maintain their flexed trunk and extended neck position. The training for any cyclists intending to build up to a high weekly mileage should be gradual and structured to slowly build up tolerance and condition. During this time your physiotherapist will ensure that any joint stiffness or muscle tightness is attended to, whilst also teaching correct posture and muscle activation for cycling.

    Postural exercises for scapular retractors (and especially for lower trapezius activation) are essential to minimise neck problems, as is lower/deep abdominal activation for a stable core. Poor core stability results in an inability to hold your trunk and spine in a good position. This in turn can put extra weight on your hands and force you to over-reach and overextend your neck.