Category Archives: Miscellaneous

The Privatisation of Water

“…laws that favour private corporations to take over the control of public utilities.”

A look at the water crisis in Flint and Evart, Michigan. The crisis is bigger than this. As the quote above states, it’s private companies taking ownership of natural resources and profiting heavily from it. This is happening in every state, every country, every where.

Why your cycling gloves fail you.

The weather last weekend for the first reliability ride of this year was truly awful. Heavy rain from the start and the type of rain that is thick and penetrates even the best waterproofs. Afterwards there was a heated discussion on facebook about why riders winter gloves had let them down. I was going to write this as a response but figured that it was far too long and maybe deserved a wider audience.

Warm and waterproof gloves are a holy grail for cyclists, cold and wet hands are horrible and often make it difficult to shift and brake if it gets really bad. People can be evangelical about a particular glove whilst others will slate it as terrible, can the same product be both good and bad? The simple answer is yes because there are inherent flaws and limitations with how a winter glove is designed and constructed which can lead to it’s ‘failure’.

Most winter gloves can be divided into two types, those with a single layer of material and those with multiple layers. In theory single layer gloves work in essentially the same way as the outer layer of multi-layer gloves but usually with a thicker material that provide more insulation.

Multiple layer gloves are generally constructed as follows:

– An inner layer next to the skin which is designed to be comfortable and usually wicks sweat/moisture away from the skin.
– A layer of insulating material for warmth.
– A waterproof barrier layer.
– An outer layer usually with some form of water repellent coating.

Water is supposed to bead up on the outer layer and any that does get through hits the waterproof barrier instead of soaking the insulation and then your hands. This system will at some point fail though and won’t keep your hands dry though for the following reasons:

1. All gloves have a hole in them. I don’t mean a tiny pinprick somewhere or an errant gap in a seam I’m talking about the one you put your hand in. This can be mitigated with a good jacket but when your jacket fails too it’s very apparent. I spent many months last year riding in an old jacket that let water in the seams around the elbow and I could feel it running down my forearms and into my gloves.

2. The gloves ‘wet out’ or get dirty. Essentially the water repellent coating is designed to stop water clogging the pores of the layers in the glove especially the waterproof barrier. When the pores of this material are clogged (be that with water or dirt) then the glove stops being as breathable and any sweat and moisture inside is retained within the glove leaving you with wet hands from within. Essentially no glove if subjected to constant exposure to rain is going to keep your hand dry.

3. You use your hands when you are cycling. Unlike a jacket which covers a relatively static part of your body your gloves are constantly being bent and subjected to movement. This means that in the first place the barrier fabric needs to be more waterproof as stretching the fabric adds external pressure which forces water through the barrier (it increases the hydrostatic head which you may see used as a measurement of how waterproof an item is). Your hands are also on your handlebars so a good glove in theory would have a better waterproof barrier on the palm where there is increased pressure mile after mile. I’ve noticed that now I have a better jacket my current gloves let water in on the palm.

4. Your gloves are old. In my experience the performance of a set of gloves deteriorates at around a year and a half to two years with everyday use. The constant bending and pressure on gloves can break the waterproof barrier, also the external water repellent coating will wear off. I have to admit that I hadn’t thought about this until recently and so I used to just throw my gloves in the washing machine in a normal wash, the next pair I’ll be treating like a good jacket and using a ‘technical’ wash to see if that increases their lifespan.

Essentially all items that are sold as waterproof will fail if you’re out in the rain long enough and so people argue that as your skin is waterproof then why bother trying to keep the elements out. With a multiple layer glove keeping out the water is probably more to do with providing warmth than keeping your hands dry. Insulation materials work less well when they are wet so if water gets through to that part of the glove your hands are going to get cold as well as wet.

On the reliability ride I had to stop and have a pee which required removing my outer gloves, my merino liner gloves got wet and so water was introduced into my glove ‘system’. Within minutes of setting back off again my hands were much colder and my gloves weren’t retaining the warmth they had been previously.

So what is the solution? I’ve seen people suggest wearing marigolds and to be honest I might try it, however you would have to wear them over the top of your insulating layer to keep hands warm and    I’m pretty sure as they aren’t very breathable you would just end up with the insulation getting wet from the inside as you sweat. Whether though this would extend the amount of time before getting cold hands though I am not sure. On a long ride/trip when you know you have to spend a long time riding in wet conditions the only real answer is probably spare gloves. Once one set get too wet, remove them warm the hands next to the skin and put on fresh dry gloves.

This post is based on my experience and knowledge from conversations with people I come into contact with at work, mainly the Sealskinz rep who gave me a very good insight/explanation of how waterproof fabrics work. It’s not necessarily completely factually correct as I don’t have a perfect memory. So if you think I’ve got something wrong then feel free to let me know.
Also if you are interested in keeping warm and dry then it’s well worth reading this short piece on waterproof fabrics. Also this blog  by Andy Kirkpatrick looking at the glove issue from a climbing perspective shows that it’s not only cyclists who are still struggling to solve the problem of cold hands.

All out of puns.

I am out of ‘cross puns for titles. Got across to the National Cyclocross championships on Saturday for a short while and saw the Under 16’s race. It was very cold but the pace was really fast, so much quicker than any effort I could currently muster. The course looked fun though, I would love to have ridden round it but judging by Saturday if I’d been in the Senior race on Sunday I wouldn’t have even made it round one lap before being lapped/pulled.

Twisty but wide.
Start of the under 16 boys.

National treasure

The National Cyclocross Championships are in Bradford at Peel Park this weekend, hopefully going to head down and be in awe of the speed and skill on display. Watch some people show how it should be done and maybe learn a thing or two.

This video by Dave Haygarth also made me laugh. Following him in the National trophy series this year. Cyclocross may only be an hour race but it certainly takes more time than that in preparation and bike maintenance!

From The Bottom

My brain has turned to mush and I can’t seem to peice together anything coherent this week, I think I over exerted my abilities last week so apologies if this is a bit of a mish mash.

First up I stumbled across a website/blog that although geographically located in the same area as this one appears to be aiming for much bigger things. We’re bottom feeders at heart and this is where we’ll probably stay, but these guys in their own words “aim […] to make The North Race the major online blog in the UK’s online cycling scene.” I’m not sure if that statement is tongue in cheek but if not it’s one hell of a goal to be aiming for. Fair play to them, I look forward to seeing what content they come up with and report on, in the mean time you’ll find the PRBC, getting drunk and heckling from the sidelines.

The North race are also organising an alleycat/event in a few weeks, so if riding around with your face painted sounds like fun then get yourself down. Sadly a 4pm start isn’t much good for those of us working 20 miles away in retail.

Secondly a tip of the hat to Stevil at All Hail The Black Market, I’ve been a fan of his webloggery since catching the tail end of him avoiding the bummer life but his endeavours since have kept me amused and entertained whilst also keeping me stocked up with stickers, patches and other items. The water bottle I got off of him recently is great in that it ticks pretty much all the boxes, nicely squeezable, large opening at top and dispenses a large volume of fluid in one go. In fact I almost choked the first time I used it as I wasn’t prepared for the fluid load that ensued, oh and ‘my 100% notgivingashit [really] does beat your 8% faster’.
Thirdly thanks to BikeSnobNYC for crediting us as a ‘reader’ recently, our traffic graph never looked so good. You’ll be pleased to hear we ‘retained’ approximately none of those clicks as long term readers by the looks of it. Never mind, we’ve been long term fans of ‘the snob’ and I can say that his second book is an excellent read (I haven’t read the first). There are far too many cyclists who take things (life?) way too seriously, it’s good to have someone to poke fun and hopefully help them lighten up a bit.

Finally I think Andy’s cleats might be a bit worn.
Fuck this, I’m out…


Sram, the future for touring bikes?

A bit text heavy this week but continue reading if you are interested in drop bars and low gears.

Traditionally touring bikes have run low gear ratios, the reason being that if you are carrying load you want a lower gear to spin up hills and climbs. This has been mainly achieved by mixing mountain bike and road components. Up to 9 speed with a Shimano system the cable pull of a long cage rear mtb derailleur matched STI’s and indexed bar end shifters. This enabled a wide ratio at the rear e.g. 11-32 or 34 coupled with a road front mech and ‘touring’ triple chainset (usually 48/38/28 or 46/36/26) to give you a nice spread of gears.

If you wanted to go super low you could try adding a mountain bike chainset up front although with modern chainsets that use external bearings you would generally have to use a mountain bike front mech in order to push your chain far enough out onto the outer chainring*. This is possible with bar end shifters where the left hand works still on friction and isn’t indexed but drop bar STI levers have a different cable pull so won’t function correctly. You also need to consider the chainline and rear spacing of your frame, a touring frame with a 135mm spaced rear will work, with a 130mm (i.e. road) spaced rear then it is likely there will be chainline issues that affect the shifting.

Enter 10 speed and things start to get more difficult, we’re not there yet but as 10 speed travels down the Shimano ranges then it is going to be harder to either find 9 speed components or get components of sufficient quality. You can still get 8 speed shifters but the STI’s are now ‘no name’ items at the bottom of the pecking order, although the bar end shifters are still pretty good quality. If you are going to be doing lots of miles on a tour day after day, you want quality, not necessarily light weight mind just solid and reliable.

The problem with 10 speed is that Shimano have completely divorced road and mountain bike groupsets, whilst also working heavily on the assumption that you will use a full Shimano groupset throughout rather than picking and choosing brands that might be ‘compatible’ but offer alternative chainring ratios for example. This means you can’t use a 10 speed long cage mtb mech and an 11-34 cassette with a 10 speed road shifter. You can get round this problem if you use a 9 speed mtb derailleur as the distance it travels is the same and it will index, I haven’t seen or heard how this holds up long term though. Alternatively Shimano have increased the capacity for 10 speed medium cage road derailleurs to 11-30 with a triple chainset or 11-32 with a double chainset but this isn’t as low as you can get on a 9 speed system.

10 speed also has issues at the front too, Shimano assumes you will use their road chainsets with their chain rings as part of a groupset of components. So the front derailleurs are generally designed to work with 50 or 53 outer rings and a spread of no more than 20 teeth for a triple. They do work with other ratios that are close but as you lower the gearing you risk problems like the deep back plate of the modern front mechs catching the middle ring.

So if 9 speed components do start to get phased out (no confirmation either way yet) and 10 speed is the future then how do we achieve low gears on a drop handlebar set up? The 2013 Salsa Fargo may hold the answer, Sram. There are two models of full Fargo bike, the more expensive of which features a Sram X7 front derailleur and X9 rear derailleur paired with Sram Apex road shifters. The limitation here is that you can only have a double set up from Sram, but with the ability to run a mtb double at the front and an 11-36 cassette at the rear very low gear ratios are again possible.

Sram’s compatibility between road and mountain bike groupsets coupled with their ‘Wifli’ range in the road spectrum also gives you choice. There are medium cage Apex and Rival derailleurs which will accept 11-32 cassettes although I would have thought they might struggle if you have smaller than the 34t inner chainring they are designed to be used with up front, but then if you want to go lower a Sram mtb rear mech can be used instead.

This is more a theoretical discussion rather than necessarily practical as I sadly don’t have the resources to test everything, but it is based on the bikes/equipment that cross my path both at home and at work.

*My current set up is based on a 9 speed double with a 42/29 mountain bike chainset at the front and a 12-28 rear cassette. As the chainset I’m using is square taper I have reduced the axle length to try to combat any chainline issues, not something you can do with a chainset designed for external bearings.  I have got it to work with Tiagra 9 speed STI’s and a Tiagra double front mech although the outer stop is all the way out and there is some slight rubbing when in the highest gear so it isn’t perfect.

I’m going through…changes

Hello, I’m Carl, the most fanatical of our merry band, and probably also the laziest. I profess to love cycling, yet when the opportunity to write about it comes along I play video games, wash up, sleep, anything but put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Anyway, I’ve been shaken out of my exestentialist funk by a number of things, things worthy enough to be “blogged” about (possibly).

1) The ressurection of this site.

The PRBC existed before this blog, and it existed after this blog went to grass, it continues to exist with this blog or without it. I like having this blog, and I like that Ben writes most so I don’t have to. If this blog should become moribund once more, rest assured that the PRBC will live on…

2) I no longer commute by bike.

Whaaaaaaat?! What kind of heresy is THIS?! Well, I’ve moved jobs. Instead of working 12km from home, I now work about 300m from home. My commute is 8 minutes. On foot. 5 if I run. I walk. But, this development brings me onto my next points.

3) Face plants and new shoots.

So, not cycling to work, I let my riding slide quite a lot. I loved cycling to work, and by the end of my tenure of my previous job, it was the only thing I loved about going to work. I went from riding 180km a week to riding maybe 35km if that. I couldn’t motivate myself to go out when I didn’t really need to. I got out of shape. I lost my riding legs. I got slowwww. So, I started going out once a week with a PRBC associate, and on one of these rides I took a nose dive into the tarmac and messed myself up pretty good (see pic).

Steak face.

I couldn’t ride at all for a month, and this enforced time off the saddle made me re-appraise what cycling means to me. Because I couldn’t ride, I wanted to. I wanted to climb on my bike and ride out of the door so badly. My fitness had already got pretty bad, but now it was getting to be almost as bad as when I first started riding. I also got moodier, more introspective and more depressed not to put too fine a point on it. I realised that riding a bike basically keeps me sane. It’s my prozac, my therapist, a best friend that accepts you while exposing your weaknesses and encouraging you to overcome them. It’s better than any gym membership, and above all it’s freedom. You. The Bike. The Road.

So, as soon as I could, I started riding again. I set my alarm clock for 5am, got up before work and out I went for 20km. Then I did it the next day, and the next. Now it’s routine. As much riding as I can fit in before 7.30am (you can get pretty far if you set off on time!) My fitness levels started creeping back up. My mood swings went away. I started to feel good about myself again. I’ve now become a different type of cyclist. Not a commuter. Not a racer or a tourer. Cycling is therapy for me. It’s a drug. And if I stop taking it I start to break and go wrong. There are no junk miles. They all count.

Expect further posts about such diverse topics as The British Summer of Cycling (TM), Lance Armstrong, books about bikes, my inability to ride a mountain bike, and whatever other garbage I can think of writing.