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Stuff About Which I Wonder

Life in the Bike Lane

Tom Frady

Like you five loyal readers, I wonder about stuff. Some of the stuff about which I wonder have actual answers, and deep down, I might know those answers. But like the great philosophers of the world – Aristotle, Kant, Ryan Seacrest – I don’t let “answers” get in the way of thought.

Here are some bike-related wonderable things.

Why don’t Tour de France riders use mirrors? I get that in the crush of a peloton of 125 riders the ability to see who is on your wheel might not be important. But have you ever watched the guys who have broken away from the pack twist their bodies around to look to see how much time they have before they are caught?

Or even more dramatic: when there is a small group of riders working with and against each other to slingshot their guy ahead to the finish in the final yards (or meters in this case). Every time a rider in front twists his body to look back he has to be losing momentum and potentially costing himself a place on the podium.

Get a mirror, Peter!

Many avid cyclists use a CO2 cartridge/inflator to fill a tube after a flat. Just one “pffsssst” and you’re done, instead of 10 minutes of difficult exercise using the standard mini-pump carried on bikes. But it is a moderately well-known fact that the next morning that tire will be very soft. Experienced riders remove the CO2 at the end of the ride and refill the tube with real air from a floor pump.

I’ve heard a number of conflicting and complicated theoretically science-based explanations about molecules and latex, but I’m sticking with an explanation I saw on Facebook. A parrot sneaks into your garage at night and deflates the tire. I’ve seen the video.

Some brands of bike tires have “wear indicators” in the tread to help you determine when it is time to get a new tire. I wonder why bike short manufacturers don’t do the same thing. If you ride with true friends, they will tell you when the Lycra stretched across your backside as you ride hunched over the handlebars has gotten embarrassingly thin. But how do I know when the padding mitigating the seat-to-seat interface is no longer viable? Huh? Some measure of gel compression would be of great service.

Most of the guys with whom I ride use a GPS/Bluetooth-enabled cyclometer that measures, among too many other things, how much climbing a cyclist does during a ride. However, no one gets the same number. Ever. Even units that are exactly the same get different numbers. Even an app on my phone that gets its information directly from my Garmin Edge gets a different number than my Garmin Edge. How is this possible? Again, I have heard scientific double-speak reasons why this is so, but none have been satisfying. Can you imagine if big airplane altimeters were just more-or-less the same?

Finally, why is every bike ride into the wind, even when you change direction? The crazy answer gleaned from actual testing with actual equipment is that out of the 360 degrees from which the wind can attack, 270 of them hinder a rider’s progress. So, ¾ of the time, you ARE riding into the wind.

I don’t think this explains it. I believe the Anemoi, the Greek gods of the winds, are car drivers who don’t like cyclists and enjoy making it difficult for us whenever possible.

They also send a parrot to your garage to deflate your tire.


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