Sunday, January 31, 2010

A clean bike is a happy bike..

While the thermometer is plummeting and the wind is whistling around the door, it is time to head into the basement.. This is a perfect time of year to do some winter cleaning, adjusting and preparation to the bikes prior to the not-so-distant spring.Some time spent now with basic bike repairs will allow you to get the most out of your bike, improve your bike longevity, and even prevent catastrophe later on in the season. A couple of pointers for the novices, some reminders for you old hands..grab an allen wrench set, some sponges, degreaser and a couple of old cut-up t-shirts..the work is going to begin! First you will need the following:
  • a good sized bucket or basin, or an old spackle bucket (cleaned)
  • dish soap fom the kitchen.. if it is good enough for your bike, it is good enough for your dishes!
  • a sponge, (big old car sponge, smaller dish sponges: all the ones you wouldn't use in the kitchen, but still have life left in them)
  • a large brush (an old toilet bowl scrubber works great), otherwise an assortment of toothbrushes, small nail brushes etc)
  • clean rags
  • a quality citrus degreaser, available at any good bike shop
  • chain lube
  • Music! Music makes even the nastiest jobs seem a more fun..crank up the tunes, imagine yourself n few short weeks powering through the trails and roads on a shiny happy bike..
1. Clear the area in which you will be working, use a canvas drop cloth or an old blankie to soak up the gunk from the me, your partner in grime will thank you..
2. Pop the bike in a bike stand: all the better positioned at eye level to prevent you straining your back! With a bucket of warm soapy water and some old car sponges: gently remove last years grime from the frame, wheel rims, and tyres.Wipe down with a dry, soft cloth.
3. Spray (citrus-based) degreaser generously onto the derailleur, chain, cassette: allow to soak in for a wee bit..
4. Shift the gears into the smallest cog in the rear.. Spin the cranks and watch the chain run through the derailleur. Familiarize yourself with the routing so that you can return the chain along the same path of travel once you have cleaned it..
5. Open the brakes and pop off both wheels for better access to cleaning the brakes and the wheel rims, cassette etc.
6. If you have a chain cleaning tool fill it with degreaser, attach to chain and run the pedals backwwards while the chain gets magically clean. If you don't have such a tool, get one of these! it will save you hours in un-necessary manicure repairing, and dozens of band-aids.
7. Use an old toothbrush to get the junk out of the pedals, the remainder of the chain links and the brake calipers. Check the chain for cracks, stiff links. Lube the links and if they remain stiff, get a new chain.. if not, you risk it snapping mid-ride and leaving you stranded. Ask your mechanic about chains with replacable links and learn how to install the chain using a master link..
8. Check the brake pads for wear: if there are no grooves left on the pad surfaces, you need new ones! If you have disc brakes, carefully remove the pads, they have a spring clamping them into place. Removal and replacement is a good way to both check for wear, and to understand how they are put together.. trust me, these skills learned in the warmth of a basement without pressure, will come in handy when you are a few hours from home, hungry and cold..
9. Check your tyre sidewalls for cracks: if you have lots of tiny wrinkles of cracks, they are suffering frm dry rot and can fail when inflated in the spring.. get a new set if in doubt, a worthy investment.
10. Get up close and familiar with your clean, soap-free frame: check for dents,dings, paint loss, exposed frame: paying close attention to the welds and underbelly of the frame down by the bottom bracket, (where the pedal cranks are attached onto the frame).
11. Replace the squeaky-clean wheels onto the frame, remembering to center the wheel in the brake calipers. Make sure you do this while the bike is on the ground, first pulling the derailleur all the way rearwards over the outermost ring or cog of the cassette. Release the pressure on the derailleur, and jiggle the rear skewer into position in the dropouts. Tighten the quick-release, making sure it is snug, leaving a little dent in the heel of your hand as you push it into place.
12. Run some teflon dry lube onto all cables and along the chain. Rotate the pedals for a couple of revolutions to get the lube distributed evenly, remove excess with a dry cloth.
13. Release the cable housing from its position and get a couple of drops of lube down into the plastic housing and onto the steel cable itself. Replace the housing and squeeze and rlease the beakes a few times. If there is sgnificant resistance to braking still, you might need new cables and housing (usually good to replace yearly).
14. Check all other moving parts, get as much grime off as you can with toothbrushes and small rags. If you are in doubt about your ability to replace parts on the bike..don't take them off: simply clean it as best you can, then take it to your friendly bike-repair shop. Believe me, they enjoy working on clean bikes..
Below is a list of our local bike repair people, some with fancy store-fronts, some with special services of pick-up and drop-off or pre-race tune-up deals. Use them, support them. Instead of rushing off to do your grocery shopping, buy them a cup of java and ask if you can watch while they work on your bike. You will learn a bunch, and possibly save yourself so time and money in learning how your machine is put together.
Whether you have professional tune-ups, or whether you like to fiddle about with your own tools, a good bike repair book and a bit of time spent messing about in the basement can go along way towards a better bicycling season.
Dave Krum, Sag Harbor @ BikeHampton: 631 725-7329
Myles Romnow (mobile) @ Eastern Cycology: email:, 631 255-9568
Rick Laspesa, Southampton @ Rotations:  631 283-2890
Kevin Otto (mobile)@ kevinsbikeworks: 631 875 7507
Twin Forks Bicycles, Riverhead:  631 591-3082
Country Time Cycles in Mattituck: , 631 298-8700
Imagine rolling in the sand covered in sun tan lotion, then getting into nice snug bike shorts and sneakers, then going for a run for an hour.. this is what your bikeparts feel like when they are covered in grime and mashing against each other..not fun, not efficient, not a good feeling.. Do them a favour, clean 'em up, lube 'em up and enjoy the coming season!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

endless swimming in the snow

Winter journey from 2009 into 2010
Dennis and I drove the 8 hours off the ferry, to BogBrook cove in Maine, to visit our friends David and Alan. Arriving at their farmhouse on the morning of New Years eve, we left our car (low profile wheels, 2WD, no traction in the predicted 2-3 feet of snow) at the end of the driveway 2 miles away, and hoofed it back to the house, ready to get buried in for the weekend.
A beach walk with Lola and David brought had all of us skating on pond ice and crunching salty icicles. We made the short drive to Lubec to search for lobsters, but being the eve that it was, the old smoke house was shuttered tight so we wandered to the wharf where there was some life in the diminishing light. Alan procured some fat scallops right from the boat, with the fisherman popping one in his mouth, fresh from the shell for good measure!
Dennis and I trekked over to the barn for a pre-dinner swim in the endless pool.. how spoiled are we? I didn't feel like doing very much swimming, so I happily ducked under for long breath-holding spells to watch him swim and to give feedback. I love this pool, not purely for its situation on the base of a rocky promontory overlooking the ocean, but for its utility in teaching, with instant feedback, about body position and efficiency in the water. Are you listening Santy?
We feasted on a wonderful dinner celebration with tons of champagne, local scallops and shrimp and good company rounded out the year, as the snow began to blanket us..
New Years day began with waking to the crashing ocean while tucked up in bed in the "grainery", an 18th century crop storage building renovated as a bedroom on the farmhouse..The new year was heralded with a pre-breakfast swim where I was totally lost in the endless pool, working on drills, experimenting in the water, refining stroke components and having fun! I totally understand the connection with Terry Laughlin's "total immersion" concept, and am able to apply it much more readily in this circumstance. I thoroughly recommend this tool to anyone who is curious about swimming, who wishes to master and refine their technique or who simply want to explore their physical function in a watery way..Here is one of my wintery swim workouts, which can be modified and replicated in a regular pool, but is specific here to the endless pool, endless fun!
Warm up: 10 minutes, @ low speed, (10 x 1 minute/ 50 strokes: 10 sec rest interval (RI)
Drill set @ very low speed: push off back wall to glide in streamlined position, allow current to return you to wall, try to maintain fuly streamlined position and land close to, or at the starting position. Allow your knees to flex deeply upon landing, pause then push off into the current again. The purpose is to develop body position sense and work on alignment in a fully streamlined prone position, as well as working on the plyometric components of the swim turn. Repeat 10-20 or more times or until you feel like your take-off and landing positions have the same footprint, ensuring control during the explosive phase, and optimal positioning in prone phase of swimming.
Warm-up set: (5-10 intervals@ moderate speed/ 100-200 strokes (2-3' intervals with 20 sec RI) with focus on alignment and elongation from previous drill.
Recovery 1-2 minutes @ low speed
Main Drill Set: @ low speed: Side-lying kick drills: 3 sets of 3-4 intervals on each side until "failure" point, 30 seconds to 1 minute each with recovery of breaststroke for 30 seconds: the point at which you are unable to maintain a consistent position in the current: pushing into the center of the pool in a side-lying position, once you have found the "sweet spot" that Laughlin refers to, maintain the balanced streamlined position and continue to flutter kick in sidelying. Try to alternate face down and face up while maintaining this position, using a point on the ceiling (in my case, one of the barn beams!) or an object on the wall as a visual guide. Alternate with Catch-up drills, with breathing on alternate sides. Here you will really feel the difference in balance from one side to the other, don't be reluctant to drop the speed of the current further in order to master the drill at a lower speed, before nudging the speed up for an increased challenge.
Main swim set: 3-4 x 5 minute steady open-water pace swim @ moderate pace, 1' RI @ low speed, inching the current up from the first to the final interval. Focus on the practices worked on during the drills, balancing right and left side glide while breathing, extending the reach upon hand entry, following though to complete the pull.
Finish with 5 bursts at full speed, maintaining central positon in the pool while concentrating on minimizing the splashing!
Cool down with low speed breaststroke, multi-directional walking against the current, or some on-deck stretching.
The snow was dumping about an inch per hour all day as we moved with reading material and coffee, from the kitchen to the living room and back to the kitchen before settling in front of the fireplace with a full-bodied zinfandel and some snacks. A brief trip (by Toyota Highlander Hybrid AWD) to get wood from the woodshed had the truck battery crash, while deep in snow, and resulted in us hoofing several armfulls and bagfulls of birch back to the house while the wind and snow whipped us sideways with 30 knot icy blasts. Having left the SUV buried, we were finally totally stranded! Our tracks each time, were totally obliterated, so we waded in increasingly deep waves of snow, through the fields and back to the warm farmhouse.
The next morning we feasted on Danish pancake dumpling things that Alan whipped up, resplendent in a sauce of maple syrup and farm-grown blueberries, from the lower fields outside the house. Rest assured, I ate many, many more than these few..Fully loaded for the winter weather, Dennis and I schlepped down to the cars to dig them out and prepare for the return journey to the real world! Some hot tea, more reading, some school work, some chatting followed by more tea, some short hikes in the deep heavy snow, and a final swim before preparing dinner for the final night..
Truly, a great break from the final wind-up of Christmas and Winter 2009 and fully recharged for 2010..
NEXT post: Goals, races, plans for 2010..