Archive for May, 2012

Mileage Report 8

The month of May is rapidly evaporating, the victim of a surprising number of travel events, both expected and unexpected.  I won’t be cycling seriously again until June, but did manage to squeeze in one short ride this week, on a portion of the Chester Valley Trail.  My souvenir snap is of another one of Pennsylvania’s marvelous rock formations:

10.52 miles, slight wind, 82 degrees, paved trail

Total recorded mileage for season:  184.98

Related websites for the Chester Valley Trail look as if they could use some updating, but here they are:

Chester Valley Trail, at chesco.org

Friends of The Chester Valley Trail

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Nutcase

My (main, and preferred) helmet’s a Nutcase:

It’s  Checkerboard, and I bought it because it was the only non-floral Nutcase REI had at the time, and no other helmet felt as good on my  head.  Their motto didn’t hurt either:  “I love my brain.”  I do, thanks.

I kind of like the rally reference, but if I had to replace it, I might go for the watermelon:

It’s out of stock at the Nutcase online store.  Hmmm, wonder why?

On the other hand, this one seems perfect for my trike, doesn’t it?:

Ah, Nutcase, you make it so hard to choose.

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Mileage Report 7

Short one today; it’s been a rainy week, and it’s threatening to do it again today.  Stopped by the West Chester Grower’s Market, picked up a few goodies, and had a great conversation about the trike with a very nice fellow.

There’s been just enough rain to encourage greenery everywhere.  Love the tendrils on this shale:

Is that actually shale?  I need to brush up on my earth vocabulary.  Pennsylvania lies on a fantastic, iridescent, crust:

Sure, you can see it from the turnpike, but seeing it from a cycle is a whole different experience.

Saw a redwinged blackbird today, which settled just feet from me.  The sight would have made a fine photo, but I was sure that pulling my camera out of the bag would have interfered with his moment on the branch, so I restrained myself, and settled for the memory.

Today’s big news:  Rode 4 miles along a  problematic stretch without using pedal assist for the first time.  Whoo-hoo!  I’m getting stronger.

18.28 miles, winds more or less 7 MPH, 70 or so degrees, suburban rural, with a few blocks in town

Total recorded mileage for season:  174.46

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Shoes and Pedals

When I started riding my trike, I wore Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove shoes.  Love these shoes!  If I could have ridden truly barefoot, I would have, but these super-light, extremely comfortable shoes were the next best thing.

I loved being able to feel the pedals, and these were terrific shoes until I started riding 20 miles at a time.   Around that time, I met an opinionated cyclist, and she told me that I needed proper cycling shoes.  With clips.

Yikes!  Clips made me think of cages — the metal toe-grabbers that serious cyclists use (used?).  I’d always thought of them as the stuff of nightmares — and broken ankles.

It turns out that modern clips are a whole different story.  First of all, if you attach your shoes to your pedals, that’s called riding “clipless”.  Go figure.  Apparently that’s because the steel cages I feared in my youth are called “toe clips”.

The guys at the bike shop told me that I could expect cycling to be about 15% easier if I “went clipless”.  Fifteen per cent is a lot, in my book.  I’ve mentioned that my trike is more than half my weight, so I work a little harder than most cyclists to get where I’m going.

One of the guys claimed that another benefit is that, with a clipless setup, my calves would be doing more work.  Without them, my peddling is mostly driven by my thighs.

I took the plunge.  First came the shoes; all I cared about was having enough room in the toe box, because I’ve never abused my feet, and wasn’t willing to start now.  The business part is on the sole, though:

That cleat is screwed into the shoe, just behind the toes.  It’s metal, but ever-so-slightly recessed into the sole.  I wouldn’t walk on wood floors in them, but they shouldn’t cause much damage to most surfaces, since they’re somewhat protected by the vinyl (? I know it’s not rubber) rim around the shoes.

Then came the pedals.  My opinionated informant said that mountain bike pedals, with SPD clips (cliplesses?), would be best for me.  The fellow who helped me when I choose my shoes seconded this advice, and recommended that I get a pedal with the SPD binding on one side, and a flat surface on the other.  That’s the binding side, above, that connects to the clip on the shoe.

Here’s the flat side.  On this particular pedal it’s pretty broad; the guy at the shop pointed out that having this pedal meant that I could still ride my trike, even if I’d taken it hundreds of miles from home, and failed to pack my SPD shoes.  Gulp.

That was one easy sale.

So how do I like them?  They’re amazing — well, maybe the most amazing thing is that a novice like me could feel the difference immediately.

Whatever little lift the clips offer the pedal on the upstroke is just enough to make it much easier for me to make it up a bunch of inclines, without pedal-assist, that I couldn’t quite do on my own, previously.  My legs seem more capable, and (as promised) it feels as if I’m using calf and thigh equally.  It feels good to use those calves.  My feet had never really gotten sore on the long rides, but they definitely knew where they’d been.  The stiffer cycling shoes, though, are very, very easy on the tootsies.

Here’s a look at the underside of an SPD pedal.  Unlike mine, this pedal has a binding on each side of the pedal.  That, presumably, is because the cyclist, writing, as he is, on MtnBikeRiders, is quite a bit more hardcore than moi.  (The reviewer didn’t like this cool-looking shoe very much — follow the link to read his comments — so let this be a lesson:  All cycling shoes are not the same; buy the shoe that works for you.)

Any drawbacks?  Well, an unexpected change.  I tend to use  the battery  more than I did BC (Before Clipsless).  Why?  Because I have to take my right foot out of the clip to turn the battery on and off.  I’m not really adept at that yet, though I expect I will get very good at it over time.

For now, though, it’s easier to leave the battery on if I know I may need it in the next few minutes.  Formerly, I turned it off every single instant I could.  I actually don’t like using the battery, so I’m hoping this changes fast, but it’s a minor issue compared to all the good things the shoes do.

Oh, and the break-your-ankle factor?  Technically speaking, you could get stuck in the pedal and go down.  Apparently this is a real risk for bicyclists, but that would be virtually impossible on a tricycle.  You release the shoes by twisting your heel to the side — kind of the motion you’d make if you wanted to break your ankle.  Only you don’t break your ankle, you just release the cleat and binding.

Shimano warns bicycle riders to detach shoes when slowing and before coming to a stop; that’s a habit that’s worth practicing until it’s second nature (just as you’d want to make the process of clipping and unclipping into an almost unconscious act), but a trike rider is unlikely to get into that kind of trouble, as a tricycle stays upright when stopped.

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An Unexpected Discovery

The Uwchlan Trail appears to peter out in a subdivision, but if riders continue follow the asphalt path beyond the Pennypacker Country Club, they will encounter a rather Potemkin-looking commercial development, called “Eagleview Town Center”.  It’s pretty grim — rather vacant and uninspired, in spite of liberal use of brick-like building materials, but look what is hiding down the drive:

It’s a little gem of a bookstore!  New books and used; attractive displays, coffee and pastry — and library ladders

beautifully arranged, inviting seating sections

and lots of light

The children’s nook features over-sized cushions on the floor

and this tempting display (the sign says “Please Play With These”:

Oh, and there’s a rare book room, presented with great economy, but perfectly outfitted with two club chairs, and a chess board, set up

It’s like a dream library . . . with refreshments, and all sorts of engaging tidbits scattered here and there.  Why not start at the Struble Trail, pick up the Uwchlan Trail and stop for a spot of refreshment and book shopping before heading back?

The book selection looks excellent; this is not your local chain book store — not by a long shot!  Wellington Square Books is the name (it’s technically in Exton, apparently); there’s lots of content on the website, and they’re apparently open on weekdays until 7 PM, making them an excellent destination for evening rides all through spring and summer.

It’s a beautiful little bookstore, but my second visit wasn’t a good one.  I stopped in mid-way through a recent ride, and asked the only visible employee, a young-ish woman,  if I could get a cup of coffee.  There were only two other customers in the store — a woman and a small child, who were in another section — and the employee had to leave her paperwork to help me.  She seemed distracted, and didn’t welcome me, either when I walked in the door, facing her,  or when I asked about coffee.

She seemed annoyed or confused when I asked for “half-caffe”; another employee materialized, and said something to her, apparently clarifying what I’d said; the employee got the coffee and gave the mug to me.  She’d forgotten that I’d asked for room for milk, though, and it was full nearly to the brim.  More signs of mild irritation when I asked her to pour off some coffee to leave room for milk.  She brought the mug back, and I had to ask for the milk, which is kept under the coffee bar.  More obvious annoyance from the employee.

I said, quite neutrally, “I’m sorry to inconvenience you”, hoping that she’d offer some kind of explanation for her disengagement.  You know, something along the lines of “Oh, I’m sorry.  I’m a little distracted today” with, you know, a mitigating smile.

“You’re not inconveniencing me” she replied, unconvincingly.  Then she walked away, and I had to call her back to ask the price of the coffee so that I could pay her.  No apology, no smile, just complete disinterest.

Five (six, if you count when she had to turn back to let me pay her)  opportunities to interact positively with a customer, and she failed them all.

Ironically, while all of this was going on, another customer entered the store, ordered a coffee, and began discussing, with the other employee, how difficult survival is for independent bookstores.

There are a couple of espresso machines at the coffee bar, but purists who order plain coffee will not be pleased that it comes from a vacuum pump in the back.  In spite of that, I liked the coffee:  it was strong and robust.

However,  I won’t be going back.  Not only did I not feel welcome, I felt entirely in the way.

There’s no good reason to break up a beautiful cycling trip ride with an experience like this.  Too bad; not only do I drink coffee, but I normally read three to four books a week, and I own an extensive personal library, all of which I — you got it — purchased.  Regulars may love this place, but newcomers like me, who hope to become regulars, may find the going less than congenial.  A small business, especially a bookstore, shouldn’t be a club where only the employees feel at home.

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