Cycling and a sore bum

I quite often get a sore arse when I’m out on a long ride on my bike. Up until about 30 minutes ago, I’d put this down to merely needing to build up some resistance by doing longer rides, and that seemed to be working, as my last 2 long rides (40+ miles) did not make my butt feel sore. However, I went out for a 57 miler today, and my arse was sore by around mile 33. The last 15 miles coming home became progressively more uncomfortable, to the point where I needed to stop a couple of times to try to alleviate the pain. As soon as I stopped and got off the bike, my arse was totally fine, but as soon as I got back on again, the pain returned.

The types of butt pain you can get from cycling can vary. The type I get is not from chafing, which seems to be a common problem. Instead, I’d describe mine as more a pain near a boney area, but hadn’t figured out what it was.

I did a bit of googling this evening to see what it could be. First, I needed to figure out what part of my skeleton it was that was sore. That was quite easy – it’s the ischial tuberosity, aka the “sit bones”. From there, I discovered an excellent article on the Cervélo site about the four and a half rules of road saddles, where rule #1 hit the nail on the head.

Ultimately, I’m now fairly confident that I have been sitting too far forward on my seat. So, in other words, my sit bones have not been resting correctly on the seat, and have been therefore resting down the sides of the front (narrow) bit of my seat. Even thinking about it makes it feel sore. Instead, I need to sit further back – probably all of an inch further back, and when I tried that on my bike while stationary, it does feel significantly more comfortable.

I’m not sure what the pedalling action is going to feel like, mind you. However, this is on the bike which I’ve had fitted professionally, so therefore I should really give it a go and see what happens. I’ll be out on the bike doing various errands tomorrow anyway, so that’ll be a good time to see if it is indeed the answer!

Cycling in a Group Ride

When I was around 11 years old, I was out cycling in the middle of nowhere outside of the city, when all of a sudden, a large group of adult cyclists went past me. They looked cool, so I sped up to join in, which wasn’t a conscious decision, but instead just something that seemed right. I had no knowledge of group rides, how they can help protect you from the wind and thus go faster with less effort, or indeed the fact that people will actually talk to you. Instead, it just looked cool, and after I realised I could just about keep up, I decided I’d try to keep up for as long as I could.

This clearly took the group by surprise, not least because I was pretty small as a kid and they probably thought I was 8. And here was this tiny kid trying his best to keep up with these regular cyclists – well, they may not have thought much of me at the time, but they did allow me into the group for a short while and made me feel welcome. After a while, I realised I’d gone further than I’d originally intended going, so dropped out and came home. But the one thing I knew from that day on was that I wanted to ride in a group ride with other road cyclists.

That has now finally happened.

I spotted a group ride about a year ago when I was out running. They flew past me while I was training for the New York Marathon, and I noticed that a large number of them were riding Cervélo bikes, so figured they must be fairly useful, or alternatively they all had too much money. But I assumed the former. I figured out who they were and decided I’d try to join in on one of their rides.

This year has been pretty difficult trying to find the time to make that happen. The wife works every 2nd Saturday so that’s 50% of them out of the window already. On the ones she’s not working, there’s always been something to prevent me getting out on a group ride, and most of the time it’s stuff that is suddenly landed on me at short notice. This time, it was getting the fringe cut for one of our daughters. “Not this time”, I said. I was going out on my bike, and she’d have to wait 4 days. I’d waited all year.

Riding in a group was certainly a good experience. I’d checked out the group that I went to join beforehand, by looking at recent runs on Strava. They did three different runs, with the fastest out first, then a slower one. That’s all I could see, but it turned out there was an even slower one behind that. From looking at Strava, the fast one looked good for me, as they average from 16.5mph to 17.5mph. I might struggle to keep up towards the end if they average 17.5, but I thought that was preferable to the run behind it which seems to average less than 15mph.

When I turned up, however, it became clear that the first, fastest run was out of bounds for a first timer. Not to worry, I thought, not the end of the world. “How fast does the second run go at?”, I asked. “Averages about 18mph” I was told by the organiser. Really, I thought? That’s not what Strava told me. Still, I was willing to see what happened, so set off with the 2nd group, sticking to the back to see what happened.

There’s a range of different signals and shouts that people do on group rides. Due to the fact that the group is regularly bunched up, they tend to point out potholes to each other to give you a heads-up rather than clattering into them. This generally meant merely pointing to the ground. Fair enough. Then there was the shouts of “nose!” and “tail!” which meant there was a car coming towards us from either the front or the rear. This was more useful when on back roads which were thin and cars needed to squeeze past. Then there were signs where people put their arms behind their back and pointed left or right. This meant there was an obstruction coming up, such as a parked car or pedestrian on the road. This was very useful.

Once out on the road, I prepared myself for needing to get up to in excess of 20mph for cruising speed since they were going to average 18mph. This never happened. At first, I thought it was just because we were still inside the city, but once outside, it didn’t speed up. It didn’t take long before I was at the head of the group taking on the headwinds for the pack because it was becoming clear that 18mph was actually their average cruising speed, not their average speed. It’s a huge difference. If you average 18mph, then you are cruising well over 20mph because you clearly will have to slow down a lot for various reasons.

Going uphill was another surprise. I’ve generally compared myself to other riders on Strava, and although I have some KOMs, they tend to be flat segments where you’re hitting 30mph for the majority of the time, rather than up hills, and I figured I needed to do a lot of training to get to the point of being able to keep up with group rides. In actual fact, this also was not the case. I cruised up the hills passing the majority of other riders. I even managed to suffer a mechanical, had to stop to fix it, and then still made it to the top of the hill before some of the others.

Therefore, it was a comfortable ride from start to finish. My backside and lower back are getting more used to doing rides of 40+ miles, which wasn’t the case until recently, which is a major bonus as I have a big ride coming up in 6 weeks.

Fixing a rattling stem

For many, many months, I have had a rattling sound coming from my handlebar / stem area while riding, or when bouncing the front of my bike on the ground while stationary. At first, I figured it was a cable banging against something metallic, but after much investigation, I could not find the source. I came to the conclusion that the only thing it could be was a loose stem.

So, after many months, I decided to tighten it up to see if that made a difference. 5 minutes later, and it’s fixed. Why did I leave it that long?

StemThe main thing to know when trying this for yourself is the order that you need to loosen and tighten the bolts. In the picture, you can see one bolt on the top of the stem, and there are two down the side; you can only see one on the side, because the other bolt is facing the other direction, which is fairly normal for a stem.

When you are tightening a stem up, you first tighten the top bolt, and then tighten the side bolts. This ensures that the top cap is compressed as much as it should be before you then tighten the side bolts – doing it the other way would prevent the top cap pushing down, which is what it is meant to be doing. When loosening, you do the reverse. Simples!

Stretching while swimming

Having been away for a week and a half, firstly to London for 3 days and then to Cape Town for the best part of a week, it was good to get back in the pool again today. 70 lengths of a 25m pool was easily the most I’ve swum in one session, which I did in a few seconds over 40 minutes, although there was 30 minutes of stuff on top as I was there with Rebecca who I’m helping to learn the crawl, despite me not knowing it too well myself.

However I made a bit of a breakthrough right at the end with my stroke. I’ve known that the goal is to stretch forward as much as possible as this means you’re pulling the most amount of water and thus going further per stroke, but despite me thinking I was doing this, it turned out I was not. Quite simply, I wasn’t turning my body enough each stroke, and by turning a little more each stroke I was able to both breathe even easier and to reach even further. This made an immediate difference to how fast I was going; when I was expecting to be at a certain point in the pool after 9 strokes, or at best 8, I was there easily with 7. I kept it going and was able to continue repeating it for a few lengths in a row.

This is a definite bonus, because I was starting to wonder whether I’d stop improving at some point, or indeed whether I had already stopped improving, and thus whether I needed to go to a swim coach for further improvements. However, I do still seem to be managing to make my technique better from books and videos and practice, and I’m clearly getting stronger because my torso and pecs are starting to look quite impressive. To someone who is as vain as myself, maybe that’s not a good thing…

Shoulder not happy after swim

Went swimming yesterday and today with Rebecca, so I could help her improve her front crawl. Note I’m still quite useless, but I have enough knowledge to give her some tips as she’s really just starting to learn it. However, after today’s session where I was putting much more emphasis onto pulling myself through the water, I appear to have hurt my right shoulder a bit.

This is the shoulder that was permanently buggered in my badminton playing days, which I had to retire from after my physio finally told me I either had to quit, or get surgery which would prevent me having full use of my shoulder, which would of course mean I would have to also quit. So a quit / quit option – not the best set of options to be given. Anyway, what’s done is done, but my shoulder has never been that stable since those days, mainly because I opted for the “no surgery” option.

The swimming today seems to have loosened it a little, and it’s a bit painful when I extend my arm now. Hopefully it’ll settle down after a couple of days of rest. The swim itself was awesome; I’m getting better at left side breathing, and I managed 4 lengths with only 9 right-hand strokes each, which is the first time I’ve managed single digit stroke lengths.

Groupset upgrade, piece by piece

The damage done to my bike following Thursday’s snapped rear mech hanger continues to escalate. The rear mech, which looked generally ok and The Bicycle Works also thought might have survived has not, in fact, survived. Although it looked like it had taken a very minor bend on one of the plates, it was enough to mean that the chain was not lining up on the lower jockey wheel correctly, and although I tried to bend it back into place, it looks like the RD-4601 Tiagra rear mech has bitten the dust, despite only being used for about 10 days.

105 Chainset

105 Chainset

So this means that my commuter, which ran the Shimano 2300 groupset (aka “the crap one”) for 4 years until I upgraded the whole lot to Tiagra during April’s Easter break is now already on its way to getting replaced with the next level up, being the Shimano 105. I’ve got the chain and rear mech up to 105 now, and the next thing I suspect I will upgrade is the chainset mainly because the Tiagra one looks a bit crap.

Rear Mech Hanger Snapped

I had a fairly spectacular mechanical failure during the week. It all started towards the start of the week when my commuter started to slip gear on the cassette occasionally. I put it down to the fact that I’ve just upgraded the entire groupset and the cables had probably stretched slightly, meaning that I needed a small tweak on the barrel adjusters. However, over the next couple of days, it got progressively worse.

By the time I was heading home on Thursday, it was so bad I kept on having to get off my bike to tweak the barrel adjuster randomly in the hope it would stop skipping gears. It was all over the place – up and down, and my cranks were slipping constantly, really irritating. So when I was about 2 miles from home, I came to a sudden halt.

The noise, when your rear mech becomes detached and launches into your wheel is not one you can mistake. I knew instantly what had happened, and nearly went over my handlebars, but thankfully managed to recover before going all the way over.

IMG_3955I got off my bike and went to have a look to see what had happened. The rear mech was complete detached and had buried itself into my cassette and wheel, with the jockey wheels lodged nicely in the cassette. My rear wheel had become entirely detached from the dropouts and was now hanging precariously with only the chain keeping it anywhere near where it was meant to be.

At first, I thought my frame and wheel would likely be goners. However, what I’ve learnt is that the rear mech attaches to a detachable part called a hanger, and it’s actually meant to brake, to save your frame from breaking. And this is what happened. Also, because I was going slowly when it happened (I was going up a steep hill), and because I’m fairly light, I think this saved my wheel. I can’t see any damage to the wheel at all, and indeed managed to push the bike for a mile before the wife came to collect me, as I managed to reattach it to the dropouts after removing the cassette.

It took quite some effort to get the broken part of the hanger off the cassette, but I got there eventually. I think the rear mech has survived, which is more than can be said for my chain which has a link that’s been completely mashed. However, only one link, so the rest is looking ok. If I get a replacement chain of the same type, then I figure I can make 2 chains out of one, by shortening the new one to the same length as the old one, and adding a link from the new one to the old one to make them the same length.

So it’s off to the shops to try to find a rear mech hanger. Apparently all frames come with their own version of a hanger, but my commuter is a Specialized, so fairly common and therefore I’m hopeful that somewhere will have something…

First triathlon

Completed my first triathlon today – yay! I came a miserable 144th out of 166. Pish, eh? However, there’s lots of room for improvement.

I managed to do the swim without stopping, however I was still 8th slowest out of 166. I followed this up with the 2nd slowest first transition out of the entire field – holy crap. This left me 3rd last overall after the swim and T1.

The cycle went much better. I overtook loads of people, especially at the start, and lost count how many I went past in total, and got to the end without being overtaken myself. Granted, the really fast cyclists would have also been much faster in the pool and thus in a much later heat, but still… So after the cycle, I’d made up 16 places. T2 wasn’t quite so bad, although I still took almost 2 minutes, and from looking at other people, it seems I could have knocked off at least 30 seconds here quite easily.

The run… didn’t go so well. Turns out it was a cross country run, and my ankles don’t cope with such territory at all well and thus it took me far longer than I thought it was going to take. I still made up a half dozen places, but it was disappointing.

So plenty of lessons to learn from it:

  1. Get a trisuit. That will save vast time in transitions, and also make me look less pathetic when going to the start line
  2. Get quicker during transitions in general. This merely means being more organised. I was in total chaos and time flew by.
  3. Keep up the running training. I started far too late, concentrating mainly on swimming with some biking. My run was terrible.
  4. Get better at swimming. Work in progress.
  5. Get better at cycling too! I need to start doing shorter faster cycles. My cycle averaged 16.1mph, so I really need to get that higher

Sky breaks Never Miss feature on their web site

I like Sky’s “Never Miss” utility, as it allows me to make a note on their site of a film I’d like to see which isn’t on Sky right now. However, they have currently broken it. It usually works easily; get an email telling you a film is on in a week’s time, click link from their email to go to their site, click various “Record” buttons, and hey presto – job done. But when you click on the 2nd Record button, nothing happens. Or at least, nothing appears to happen. Actually, what is happening is a web request is sent off silently, but it fails… silently. So you think the link is broken, or goes nowhere. It pretty much does go nowhere, let’s be honest, because the connection is reset by the web host at the other end – but if the site at least told you that, it wouldn’t be quite so bad!

C’mon Sky, fix it please!