Should You Use Sports Detergent on your Kit?

As athletic clothing becomes more advanced, there’s been a rise of sport-specific laundry detergents to help keep our gear stink-free and bright. For expensive items that we wear often (while sweating, in the dirt, and which contain highly technical, delicate fabrics), sports detergents might seem like a no-brainer. But we wanted to find out for sure. 

    RELATED: Making a Cycling Jersey: What you Get At Every Price

After all, while specific ingredients vary from brand to brand, the ones that make laundry detergent work are common to both sport washes and conventional detergents. Most contain a surfactant, which binds to dirt and oil and lifts them off—and then a host of other ingredients to help the surfactant do its job, like enzymes, which break down proteins and fats to a manageable size; and water conditioners, which create an ideal pH. Finally, you’ll sometimes find some kind of brightener to make whites appear whiter, and coloring and scents to cover up any remaining odors. 

Which combination of ingredients works best for your stinky chamois? We tested three popular specialty sports washes against a common supermarket brand and a widely available “eco-friendly” option to find out. 

athletic wash test

athletic wash test

How to Motivate Yourself to Start Working Out

I see Mark, my brother-in-law, once a year. He’s a great guy, and the visits are always fun. Except for one part: The inevitable workout question.

In general, I love to share fitness advice. It is, after all, what I write about for a living. The problem is, Mark doesn’t actually work out, and hasn’t for most of the time I’ve been married to his sister.

     RELATED: 6 Ways Your Health Suffers When You Stop Working Out

Some years, it feels like giving travel tips to someone who never leaves home. This year, though, the question had a different slant. Instead of asking technical questions about the best way to build his arms or lose weight or utilize the Total Gym he keeps in his garage, he wanted to know how to get motivated to work out.

I was stumped. 

I’ve explored motivation a few times over the years, most recently in ‘How To Make Your Unhealthy Dad Give a Crap,’ about how to help a loved one get up and moving. It explained why nagging someone never works. In fact, it often has the opposite effect, provoking a response psychologists call “behavioral reactance”—the adult version of “I don’t have to and you can’t make me.”

But this was beyond nagging. Mark was asking me, in effect, to help him rewire his brain and override his natural aversion to exercise, a task I figured would be impossible to pull off. Then I talked to someone who convinced me otherwise.

(In the market for a workout you’ll actually look forward to doing? Check out METASHRED EXTREME—the most efficient metabolic training system in Men’s Health history.)

Digging for Pain

Alwyn Cosgrove and I have known each other since 1999, and written six books together. In all that time, I can’t remember asking him about motivation. I just assumed that the paying customers at Results Fitness, the gym he owns with his wife, were ready to train. Why else would they pay Alwyn’s coaches to train them?

But it’s not quite that simple. 

“People won’t always tell you why they want to get in shape,” Cosgrove says. “Sometimes they don’t even know themselves. We have to find their real ‘why.’”

     RELATED: The 9 Ways Sports Psychologists Motivate Themselves to Exercise

It goes something like this: A prospective client comes in, checks out the gym, and expresses enough interest to sit down with a trainer. The trainer asks the client why he wants to work out there. The answer will fall into a narrow range, some variation on “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get in shape.”

What matters, Cosgrove says, is why that’s important to them. If they’ve tried multiple times to get in shape—and most of them have—why is this time different? And what happens when they lose the fat? What changes?

“It’s like the movie Inception,” Cosgrove says. “You need to go two or three layers deep.”

If those questions don’t get to the client’s motivation, this one usually does: “What happens if it doesn’t work? What’s the consequence of not getting into shape?

“He might say he thinks his wife is cheating on him,” Cosgrove says—something he hasn’t even admitted to himself until that moment. “That’s what’ll get him doing hard circuits at 6 in the morning when he’d rather be in bed.”

It made perfect sense in theory. But would it work with Mark?

Tough questions, honest answers

I first met Mark in 1993, shortly after his sister and I started dating. He was a lean and handsome 28-year-old who had a good job in the booming cellphone industry. Like countless others in Southern California, he also retained some show-biz aspirations.

“I worked out regularly up until my mid 30s,” he says. “But I never enjoyed working out. It was always a thing I had to do, rather than a thing I wanted to do.”

He tells me he “basically went cold turkey” on exercise when he simultaneously left the job and lost access to the company’s gym. That shouldn’t have been a problem in L.A., where you rarely have to drive more than a mile or two to find an adequate and affordable place to work out. But Mark is the fitness equivalent of a picky eater. He likes to do circuit workouts, but franchise gyms are too crowded to allow him to go from machine to machine with minimal rest. And the atmosphere, which he describes as a “meat market” and “fashion show,” is intolerable.

He thought the Total Gym he found on Craigslist a decade ago was the answer, but he was quickly frustrated by the limited exercise options. So he bought an updated version a few years later, and for a while, he says, he got pretty good results, packing muscle onto his arms, chest, and shoulders.

Alas, the infomercial device didn’t help him whittle down his swollen midsection. That bulge—“a classic beer belly,” he says—is the result of 15 years of steady weight gain. He now carries 235 pounds on what used to be a classically proportioned 5-foot-11 frame.

Which brings us back to the original problem: How can he find the motivation to do something he fundamentally dislikes but also believes is crucially important? It was time to test Cosgrove’s technique and see if we could find an answer.

     RELATED: 21 Ways to Overcome Exercise Excuses

Question #1: Why does he want to work out?
This one’s almost too easy: “My goal is to get back into shape,” Mark says. “And over time remove this bulbous thing in front of me. I’m looking for something surgical.”

Question #2: Why is that important?
This answer is a bit more complex.

“It’s a health issue,” he says. “I’m starting to get some stuff that’s weight-related. I have frequent ankle strains and bouts of plantar fasciitis. I’m going into middle age, and these problems will only get worse unless I do something about it.”

I notice his choice of words—“going into middle age.” Anywhere else in the U.S., you probably wouldn’t think of yourself as less than middle-aged in your sixth decade of life. But L.A. is different. If you’re not in denial about your age, you aren’t really trying.

“I’m 52 now, but I answer to 47,” Mark explains. “I got 41 the other day. If I get in better shape, I think I’d be mistaken for 41 more often.”

Now, I think, we’re getting somewhere.

When you start working out, follow these tips to avoid accidental weight gain:

Question #3: Why now?
Mark works as a high-end tour guide, taking wealthy out-of-towners around to see the homes of the stars—or, more often than not, the imposing gates outside the stars’ homes—while providing a steady stream of witty commentary. The job is volatile, to put it mildly. It’s not just subject to seasonal and economic fluctuations, as you’d expect, but also to the current political climate, with fewer tourists coming to the U.S. with money to spend.

Then there’s the unpredictable nature of driving in L.A. He conducts his tours in a luxury car, owned by his employer. The tiniest fender bender could lead to astronomical damage claims. In the worst-case scenario, he’d be classified as a high-risk driver, which means he wouldn’t just lose his job, he’d be virtually unemployable in his field.

He’s haunted by thoughts of that future job search.

“Of course I want to look good for an interview,” he says. “I have no problems with confidence, or the ability to learn, or anything like that. But the impression on somebody when I walk into an office, I want it to be better than it would be now.”

     RELATED: Where to Start If You Want to Lose a Lot Of Weight

Question #4: What happens if you don’t get into shape?
Something I haven’t yet told you about my brother in law:

He’s never married, but for the past 24 years, he’s been a surrogate father to the daughter of his former roommate. Mark and the roommate were never involved romantically (she was already pregnant when they met), but they remained close friends and provided a stable household for her daughter. But now, with the daughter out of college and living with her boyfriend, “I’m not sure I want to be finished with parenting yet.”

He wants to explore foster parenting, and perhaps even an adoption down the road. But he knows time isn’t on his side.

“Being in good shape would make a more favorable impression on adoption and foster agencies,” he says. “And the energy from being fit would help me keep up with him or her or them.”

He then shifts to his personal life, something I never ask about.

“Through the first half of my time as a parent, I dated a lot and got serious twice,” he says. “I don’t date much now because I don’t really feel I have a lot to offer, is what it comes down to. I don’t feel like I’m there.”

This feels like we’re pretty close, but when I run these answers past Cosgrove, he tells me to ask one more question:

Question #5: What happens when you do get back in shape? How is your life different?
To my surprise, Mark circles back to the age issue.

He talks about the confidence he’ll have by not just looking younger, but also feeling younger. It’s the linchpin connecting everything we’ve discussed—employment, dating, and even the chance to start a new family.

“I enjoy being mistaken for younger than my actual years, in part, because it can also make me appear smarter,” he says. “Fair or not, attractive people, especially in L.A., are better perceived and have a leg up on others with similar qualifications.”

Now I think we’ve arrived at motivational ground zero. The open question is, is it enough? I guess I’ll know when we see each other a year from now.

Lou Schuler is an award-winning journalist and contributing editor to Men’s Health. His latest book is Strong: Nine Workout Programs for Women to Burn Fat, Boost Metabolism, and Build Strength for Life, with coauthor Alwyn Cosgrove.

This article first published in Men’s Health.

motivation carrot workout

motivation carrot workout


60 Minutes Is Investigating Motor Doping in Pro Cycling

For months, Istvan “Stefano” Varjas has told select press outlets that a major exposé of illicit use of hidden motors in pro cycling is coming.

Varjas should know. He claims he’s the inventor of hidden motor systems that have been used by pro cyclists as far back as 1999, and has cast himself in interviews as the primary source for the exposé.

Among other allegations, Varjas claims competitors have used hidden motors surreptitiously in races, including the Tour de France, for years, and that sophisticated electromagnetic motor systems are being hidden in wheels. He’s also claimed that cycling’s governing body, the UCI, is using an inferior detection method, has rejected other detection technologies, and even tipped off a maker of motor systems that French police were at the Tour, possibly investigating motor use among race teams.

     RELATED: How Mechanical Doping Works in Cycling

While Varjas’s long-promised story hasn’t yet materialized, Bicycling has learned that the television news program 60 Minutes is investigating the issue and may air a segment on it sometime in January.

A communication, provided anonymously to Bicycling, shows that producers of the show have already attempted to secure an interview with a possible source. Separately, an independent news article suggests that both Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton have been contacted, but the article did not provide sources or other information to back up those claims. That report also pointed out that 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker visited Budapest in June, where Varjas is from. (Whitaker’s Twitter feed has one post with three pictures from the trip, but there’s no direct indication that he visited Budapest for this story; his account is only sporadically active, with less than 100 tweets since he joined in July 2011.) Armstrong and Hamilton, via a representative, offered no comment when contacted by Bicycling.

Several times in the past few months, Varjas has proclaimed a coming exposé. He made his most recent pronouncement in a mid-December interview with the French national daily Le Monde. The paper added a note of skepticism to its story, pointing out that Varjas has spent time in prison in both Hungary and Monaco and quoting the head of Monaco’s Monegasque Cycling Federation, who said that several riders told the federation that Varjas has tried to sell them systems—contradicting the engineer’s claims that he doesn’t sell directly to riders. 

In October, Varjas told Ger Gilroy, host of Newstalk’s Off the Ball radio program in Ireland, that he had sold an early hidden motor system at the end of 1998 in a deal that gave the buyer exclusive use for 10 years. Varjas also told Gilroy that riders with high-cadence pedaling styles would benefit most from the system. That detail and the timing of the supposed exclusive sale have led some to speculate that Armstrong, whose signature fast cadence was well-covered during his seven-year run of wins in the Tour de France, purchased or used that early system.

Armstrong, for his part, strongly shut down Gilroy’s line of questioning on motors when he appeared on Off the Ball earlier that month and has denied ever using a motor, including when questioned by Le Monde

     RELATED: Just How Widespread Is Motor Doping in Cycling?

Speculation of motor doping goes beyond Armstrong. The first incident to fuel significant suspicion came during the 2010 Tour of Flanders, when Fabian Cancellara executed a cyclocross-style mid-course bike swap at a key moment in the race and later accelerated away from Tom Boonen with seeming ease. Cancellara has always denied using a motor and retired after the 2016 season.

Other riders under question include the now-retired Ryder Hesjedal, due to a widely viewed YouTube video of his crash in the 2014 Vuelta Espana, after which his bike’s rear wheel continued to spin; Alberto Contador on the basis of curiously timed bike changes in the 2014 Giro d’Italia; and Chris Froome, who has a high-cadence style that he has used to ride away from competitors on the Tour’s biggest climbs. It’s unknown at this point if the 60 Minutes story focuses on Armstrong or is a broader investigation of the topic.

The 60 Minutes report, if it comes, also may answer whether Varjas has (or still does) produce such a hidden system. Several companies make crank-driven, electrical, motor-assist systems that can be retrofitted to existing bikes, most notably Typhoon and Vivax. But, except in custom form, the systems have some technical restrictions (like a minimum seat-tube diameter), and rely on larger batteries housed in water bottles or seat packs.

     RELATED: You Can Buy the Mechanically Doped Bike Everyone Is Talking About

The UCI uses a custom scanning application for tablet computers to check for motors, but critics like Varjas have questioned how effective it is. To date, just one motor system has been found—at the 2016 World Cyclocross Championships on the bike of a female Espoirs racer, Femke van den Driessche. 

Motor Doping
Belgian Femke Van Den Driessche was found racing with a concealed motor at the world championships cyclocross cycling on January 30, 2016. BELGA/Getty

The latest speculation, fanned by Varjas among others, suggests that riders may be adding electromagnetic propulsion systems based on magnets to their rear wheel. It sounds like science fiction, but in 2014, wheelmaker Lightweight showed a prototype city bike at the Eurobike trade show in Germany that used a version of the technology.

However, there are several technological challenges to an electromagnetic motor, including how magnets placed in a rim could affect braking and the system’s overall weight, among others. The Lightweight bike weighed 14 kilograms, well over the UCI-mandated 6.8-kilogram minimum weight for racing bikes, though that model was not for racing and was designed to provide up to a 500-watt assist for an hour. A system that produced a far more modest 25- to 50-watt boost could be lighter and still provide a small but meaningful advantage over competitors at key moments in the race, like the final 15 minutes of a climb.

But Varjas has not yet done a live-media demonstration of his own hidden technology. Past stories from outlets like Le Monde, France’s Stade2, and Italy’s RAI Sport have used either inert, non-functioning parts or systems from other makers.

It remains to be seen whether Varjas can prove he actually does what he says he does, and what his motivations are for blowing the whistle on the practice of so-called “motorized doping.” An unnamed rider agent told Le Monde to “be careful” of Varjas’s stories, claiming that the engineer is talking mainly to drum up publicity for his products, which the agent described as outdated and unreliable.

Stay informed about the biggest news in cycling, training tips, nutrition hacks and more by subscribing to the Bicycling newsletter.

uci motor doping tour de france

uci motor doping tour de france


Dealing with Fear After a Crash

If while riding your bike you’ve ever crashed hard, had a car-bike collision, or even just a close call with a wayward deer, you likely know the feeling of fear. Whether you suffered significant bodily harm or not, the mental scars can linger, leaving you tentative, even nervous every time you head out for a spin. This is essentially a form of post-traumatic stress disorder, and it’s a very real ailment that can suck the pleasure out of your two-wheeled fun. (For more ride tips and advice to make the most out of your riding, check out our Complete Book of Road Cycling Skills.)

But don’t despair. There is a way past the anguish of trauma, assures Julie Emmerman, PsyD, a clinical sport psychologist based in Boulder, Colorado. Just like when you’re trying to psyche yourself up for a race or long ride, Dr. Emmerman says positive thinking can also play a role in overcoming a traumatic experience such as a crash.

         RELATED: Jens Voigt Recalls His Tour Crash and Recovery

"Say you had an accident involving a car," she explains. "You need to think about how many times you have ridden your bike without incident versus how many times this one traumatic occurrence happened."

According to Dr. Emmerman, traumatic experiences get lodged in a part of your brain called the medulla, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response. So even though your bad experience happened just once, it can get frozen in your mind. To promote the proverbial thaw you, need to remind yourself of all the good times and dwell on those instead of dwelling on the bad.

         RELATED: This is Your Body During a Crash

"This helps diffuse the toxicity of that one experience in your mind," she continues. "This isn’t just thinking positively in an airy-fairy way, but in a more constructive and rational way. You need to actively look for the things that are positive."

In another example, Dr. Emmerman talks about having a bad experience on a descent (perhaps a deer darted in front of you) and how to regain your downhill mojo.

         RELATED: 6 Tips for Crushing Every Descent Safely

"If you are really scared about descending a certain road, it doesn’t work to just think positively and go," she says. "Instead try to focus on how you place your weight on your bike, and where your pedals go, and where your eyes look. You hear the wind and feel the temperature. All this helps take your attention away from the negative experience and the fear it’s caused. Also try to be aware of the difference between being frozen in fear versus feeling relaxed and fluid."

It can also help to take a problematic section of road and break it into more manageable chunks. Instead of trying to ride the troublesome descent top-to-bottom all at once, do one section several times in a row until you begin to feel more comfortable on it.

"When people are really afraid, they lose their sense of internal awareness," adds Dr. Emmerman. "So it helps to simply ask yourself if the situation at hand really poses a threat, because in many case you’ll realize there is not a real threat. It’s just in your mind. The bottom line is that you need to control what you can control and then surrender to the rest. You can’t spend your life worrying about every car on the road or you’ll never be able to relax and ride."

This article was originally published in The Complete Book of Road Cycling Skills.

Staying in the Saddle and Dealing With Fear.

Staying in the Saddle and Dealing With Fear.


Welcome to the Gruppetto

Just like the United States of America, I’m slowly dragging my broken body towards the finish line of 2016:

(Image from here, as far as I can tell.)

In the spirit of limping, please note that there will be no post tomorrow, Tuesday, December 20th.  I will be back on Wednesday, though after that it’s anybody’s guess what’ll happen with this blog between then and New Year’s.  Nevertheless, stay tuned, and together we’ll get through this.  After all, it’s crucial we direct the full force of our efforts towards mounting a defense against liberal America’s dastardly War on Christmas:
(Lance Armstrong’s greatest crime was inventing the awareness-raising rubber bracelet.)
Yes, by keeping the Christ in Christmas and the cops in bike lanes we’ll finally make America great again:
Holy Luau, A-Men.
(Who didn’t love the A-Men?  Mister Tea was awesome.)
Moving on, which bicycle frame material produces the best ride quality?  Is it the lateral latitude and vertical vertices of crabon?  The sublime suppleness of steel?  The reassuringly expensive twang of titanium?
Exquisite bicycles can be built from all these materials to be sure, but none of them can compete with the the combination of smoothness and smugness produced by a bicycle made entirely from garbage.

And no, I’m not talking about your average Specialized.  I’m talking about a bike made from actual garbage:

If you’ve ever longed to answer the question "#whatpressureyourunning" with "trash" then this is the bike for you:

Imagine that you are going down the street and something jabbed your tire. You have to waste time to repair it and obviously it will cost you money. This will not happen with the new Urban GC1. Its tires are designed not to use air. Magic? Not. It actually uses rubber, recycled plastic and our GC Panel. Thanks to a special metal structure the rim is kept in excellent condition. The GC Panel, rubber and plastic, help to create the necessary shape of a tire and absorb the vibrations generated by the movement. This makes you feel a smooth ride, but without worrying about the air on your tires.  

And the inventors also assure you that your garbage bike won’t dissolve when it gets wet, which means it totally will:

We know … kraft paper and water do not get along. If it gets wet, it gets damaged. Not in the Urban GC1. Since it uses recycled polystyrene paint … yes, even the paint is ecological. This allows the water to not touch the paper and you can continue pedaling while it rains.  

Of course, if you live in snowier climbs, you might want to look into a "SkiByk" instead:

"With the support of our backers, SkiByk will soon be the next major snowboard craze."

How can it be the next snowboard craze?  It’s not a snowboard.  Isn’t that like saying Rollerblades will the next major bicycle craze?

In any case, I’m not sure the world needs a conveyance that bridges the gap between bicycles and skis–especially when the concept is already well established in the toy industry:

Yes, the fact is that some bikes are better left unbuilt, just as some packages are better left un-probed:

This is very much the visage of someone experiencing a prolonged and thorough package-probing:

As for the contents of the much-probed package, it took awhile, but Team Sky’s director Dave Brailsford has finally settled on just the right lie:

Brailsford had previously refused to clarify exactly what the package contained, but he now says Sky’s team doctor Richard Freeman told him it was Fluimucil, which is used for clearing mucus.

“Freeman told me it was Fluimucil for a nebuliser,” Brailsford told the British government’s Culture, Media and Sport committee during a hearing about doping in sport in central London.

“That was what was in the package. It was what Dr. Freeman told me.

Sure it was.

He should have just said it was a gift of fragrant artisanal Frumunda cheese and left it at that.  Then everyone would have stopped probing the package and instead just backed away from it slowly.

But if anybody knows the details of Bradley Wiggins’s package its Rapha, who for years have made the clothing in which it is swaddled.  And as it happens Rapha is the subject of a Bloomberg photo essay:

Here’s where they test scranial conditions and tune their chamois for optimum frumunda production:

A cyclist tests equipment in "The Vault," a climate simulation chamber in the basement of the Rapha club at Spitalfields market in London. Almost one in three vehicles heading into the heart of the British capital during the morning rush are bicycles, and the city estimates bike trips will soon outnumber those in cars.

I’m not sure what his has to do with Rapha, since from what I saw in London the typical bike commuter does not exactly embody the Rapha aesthetic:

Everyone else wears a hi-viz vest and rides a Brompton.

Nevertheless, it’s no surprise that Rapha is doing so well given the massive crowds bicycle racing attracts:

A customer watches bicycle racing on a screen in the outside terrace area at the Rapha Racing cycle club in Spitalfields market.

This may not look like much, but bear in mind it can get twice as crowded during the Tour de France.

Lastly, what do you do on a balmy summer day in Finland?

Why, conduct some bicycle brake thermal imaging tests, of course!

SPOILER ALERT: disc brakes get hottest.

They should have tested a ski bike.

The Elusive Finish

Most bicycle builds begin with a vision, a plan, an ideal of what it is the maker wants to accomplish. Then, somewhere along the way, reality intervenes. Unforeseen compatibility issues arise. Certain parts turn out to be unavailable when the bicycle is being assembled. Budgets shrink. Inevitably, compromises are made, and the end result can deviate quite a bit from the original vision.

It was exactly 4 years ago now that I built the frame and fork for this bicycle. And 2 years ago that I first assembled and rode it. In between these two events, I underwent some major life changes, including a move overseas. When I finally got the opportunity to put the bike together, I just didn’t have the stamina – or the resources – to care about the details as much as I did back when I was planning the build. On a short visit to Boston, I dragged the frame, fork, and a burlap sac full of spare parts, to a friend’s house. Mumbling "doesn’t matter, let’s just get it ridable," we used whatever compatible parts were on hand.

The result – promptly named Alice – was by no means bad. In fact I was delighted by how well the bicycle rode. Not only did the frame and fork not shatter immediately beneath me, but over the next two years the bike proved feisty, comfy and dependable. It was close to what I had in mind when I first set out to build it.

So what exactly did I envision when I conceptualised this bike 4 years ago? Mainly: I wanted to make a bike that was not a compromise between, but a combination of, a performance machine and a fully equipped mixed terrain traveller. The distinction is an important one. The former implies sacrificing performance for the sake of having fat tyres, mudguards and a rack for carrying luggage. The latter implies that, if done just right, both can be achieved. Inspired by Jan Heine’s descriptions of sub-20lb fully equipped brevet bikes from the 1930s, I was convinced this was possible. And I built the frame and fork with this in mind from the start, using the lightest tubing and fittings – sometimes against the advice of my instructor! – and aggressive low-trail geometry, to achieve an exceptionally light and (I hoped) responsive frameset.

Aside from that, I wanted the bicycle to have a modern drivetrain with low gearing. And to look aesthetically pleasing, yet muted and unfussy. I did not want a gleaming remake of a vintage French museum piece, but a classic/modern melange that reflected my needs and preferences more than any textbook ideal.

The first iteration of Alice accomplished these things to some extent. There were, however, some niggles. Firstly, the fit. The too-long stem, combined with handlebars I had not originally meant to use, proved more uncomfortable than I anticipated. No matter what adjustments I made, I could never quite get the feel of the "cockpit" quite right.

I also knew pretty much straight away that the drivetrain – 10speed Chorus married to Rene Herse cranks – would not be staying. I will not go into detail on that topic here, but let’s just say combining modern Campagnolo Ergo systems with vintage-style chainrings doesn’t work perfectly for me, and I am done experimenting in that regard. In future, I would either go with an all-classic, friction-shift drivetrain if I wanted to keep the RH cranks, or all modern.

In the looks department, everything was good, except that the overabundance of silver-coloured parts began to bother my eyes over time. The bike was literally too shiny!

And finally, there was the weight. As those who’ve aimed for a lightweight bicycle build know, the only way to achieve this is to scrutinise every single component obsessively (see: Toward an Understanding of Weight Weenie-ism). Not having done that at all when the bike was first assembled, it is perhaps not surprising that it ended up heavier than I had hoped (just under 25lb complete). Now, weight doesn’t bother me for weight’s sake. But on a bike that is meant to be performance-oriented, ridden by a fairly lightweight and not very powerful rider, it does make a difference. I could especially sense the weight in the wheels, which felt noticeably more effortful to rotate than the wheels on my skinny-tyre roadbike, especially when accelerating and climbing.

While, visually, the re-build of Alice was quite subtle (so subtle that none of my local friends even noticed a difference!), it addressed all of these issues.

For the handlebars and stem, I considered several possibilities but in the end – influenced heavily by my husband’s recent adventures –  decided to go for some used Italian racing parts. The 3T Prima199 bars have massive amounts of reach and drop with lots of hand positions, which is what I wanted. And with the 80mm Cinelli XA stem the reach is perfect. This stem and bar combination is also quite a bit lighter than the previous Nitto/Soma setup, so I saved some weight with this change.

In keeping with the Italian/ weight savings theme, I also replaced the original seatpost with a sexy carbon fibre Spada (imagines seatpost singing "I’m too sexy for this bike"…).

Having found new homes for the Rene Herse crankset and the 10-speed Chorus parts that made up the drivetrain previously, I then moved over the 11-speed Chorus bits from my Seven Axiom – except instead of using a Sram setup in the back as I had done there, this time I was able to go all-Campag. Because luckily, Campagnolo had recently released its new Potenza 11-speed group, which allows for low gearing.

The Potenza derailleur accommodates cogs up to 32t, and my cassette is 11-32t. The levers and derailleurs and chainrings all play together perfectly. I have tried to drop or jam my chain through deliberate awkward maneuvering, but have been unsuccessful so far. The 11-32t, paired with a 50-34t crankset, gives me a nice range of gears. My lowest gear ratio is not quite 1:1 as it was previously, but nearly. And so far, it seems that the missing low gear is well compensated by the bicycle’s sudden weight loss and the rider’s gradual fitness gain.

And finally… the wheels. The original wheels were built impeccably, quality-wise. But they were not performance wheels. I’d been planning to re-build them as soon as I could find a local willing to take on my "exotic" 650B setup. At last, I found one: Me! You can read about how this happened here, but long story short I can now build wheels. I will describe the 650B rebuild project step-by-step in a separate post, but to summarise briefly: I re-used the original Pacenti PL23 rims, re-lacing them with light double-butted spokes and a lightweight front hub (the original generator hub needs servicing, and is temporarily out of commission).

I also converted the wheels to run tubeless and fitted them with lighter tyres. All in all, I removed nearly 2lb in weight off the original wheel + tyre setup. And let me assure you, I can feel the difference when riding the bike – especially accelerating and uphill.

As pictured, Alice now weighs in at just over 21lb. That’s including mudguards and front rack, but not including handlebar bag. I could have brought it down to sub-20lb by opting for a lighter saddle (the Brooks C17 being not exactly weight-weenie territory), using a rackless handlebar bag setup, and making a few other minor changes. But for the sake of comfort and utility I decided not to do any of that. Once I rode the bike with the new wheels and tyres, I knew the crux of the matter lay there. The current overall weight is fine with me, considering how well the bicycle feels in action.

In the long term, I will probably return to integrated lighting (a project for my friend Velo Lumino, formerly known as Somervillain, perhaps). But for now I am just sharing the Lezyne battery lights that we use on all our road bikes.

In the nearer future I might also outline the lugs in metallic copper, and finally get the poor girl some decals. Oh and I’d like a sexier brake hanger for the rear, than the one I currently have. But none of these are pressing matters.

I’ve been riding this bike in its revamped state for a couple of weeks now, and could not be happier with the end result of the modifications. It’s the same bike, yet a different bike. With the dramatically lighter wheels (1490g for the pair), it is as fast and responsive as a skinny-tyre roadbike – no compromises. The drivetrain works like a normal modern drivetrain, freeing me from anxiety during tricky elevation changes. With the altered handlebar setup, the fit is absolutely perfect now, and the bike feels better balanced as well. Finally, the infusion of matte black and gray parts makes it easier on my eyes.

To my eye, the modern Italian bits also work nicely as a way of shaking up the French museum piece look, which I think can at times overwhelm these types of builds. I know that some people look at the "ugly" handlebars, and the drivetrain, and all the black parts, and the Tacx bottle cage and go "Huh?" But to me it all makes sense. (Oh and the plastic cage, before anyone asks, is to make it easier for me to grab and replace the bottle while I ride. I find the metal ones too grippy.)

But all the minutiae aside, the main thing is this: the bicycle feels finished, in a way it didn’t before. Certainly when I look at it. But even more so when I ride it. It feels finished, finally allowing me to breathe a sigh of relief and satisfaction, in that the project I began 4 years ago is completed, as intended – with not only the frameset, but now also the wheels, that I built myself.

With sincere thanks to Mike Flanigan, Jan Heine, Somervillain, Curious Velo, Mr. Wheelson, and my very own O.G., for the help, advice and inspiration, Alice and I are off for our evening constitutional.

Canyon Adds Disc Brakes to US Road Models

German direct-to-consumer brand Canyon bikes is set to start sales in the US in 2017. Today, it announced that it will add a disc brake option for all road models it currently offers.

Canyon first started exploring disc brakes for road bikes with the Project 6.8 back in 2006. Even though that bike tipped the scales at the UCI minimum weight (hence the Concept 6.8 in the name) and featured a full hydraulic brake system, Canyon felt that disc brake technology wasn’t where it needed to be for the masses, let alone WorldTour teams, and shelved the project. Jump ahead ten years and Canyon is back at it with disc brake equipped models across its complete road product line. 

         RELATED: What You Need to Know About Disc-Equipped Road Bikes

For consumers it means road models are available in both men’s and women’s versions, including the Aeroad CF SLX, Ultimate CF SLX, Ultimate CF SL, Endurace CF SLX, and Endurace CF SL. 

Each new version has been specifically engineered to take advantage of the disc brakes’ ability to increase stopping power and control. The change also allows Canyon to tune the frames for a more comfortable ride and increase the frame and fork’s clearance to allow for larger tires. Testing of the frames’ aerodynamics shows that the disc brakes add a 1.5 percent penalty over the non-disc version—something the average rider probably won’t ever notice. Two 12mm thru-axles stiffen the connection of the wheel to the frame for repeatable wheel and rotor positioning and a unified structure. Canyon claims a 70gram weight difference between rim and disc model frames.

All of the frames will accept Flat Mount-style caliper fastening for the lightest and stiffest connection to the frame and fork.  Rotors will be 160mm front and rear on all but the smallest size frames. 

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Canyon Aeroad Disc96679

How It’s Possible to Overdose On Coffee—and What to Do If You Drank Too Much

You’re a dozen exclamation points into an email when you realize that triple shot of espresso was maybe a mistake. Your hands shake as you wipe sweat off your face.

You’re officially buzzed—and not in a good way.

The good news is that mild caffeine over-indulgences (like an extra cup of coffee or two) are not dangerous, says Samantha Heller, R.D., a senior clinical nutritionist at the NYU Langone Medical Center.

Still, feeling like your heart is thumping to a dubstep beat isn’t pleasant.

         RELATED: 6 Ways You Completely Ruin Everything Good About Coffee

Which brings us to the bad news: You’re going to be feeling like this for a while.

“Four to six hours is the general rule of thumb for how long it takes caffeine to wear off,” says Heller.

However, there’s a range in how people metabolize the stimulant. Your weight, genetics, and tolerance will determine how edgy you feel and for how long. Unfortunately, there’s not a ton you can do to speed up that process, says Heller.

         RELATED: Why Caffeine Won’t Do a Damn Thing After One Too Many Late Nights

Adam Splaver, M.D., a South Florida cardiologist, suggests hydrating well to flush the caffeine out of your system. Exercise may also help, since it will torch excess energy while speeding up your metabolism.

If you start to feel yourself panicking, Heller recommends taking a deep breath and reminding yourself that the situation is chemically induced and temporary, since caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant.

“It affects the body chemistry in ways that make us launch into fight or flight mode,” she says, so freaking out only makes the situation worse.

Want to make sure you never experience this horrible state of being again?

Try these 7 Ways to Boost Your Energy Without Caffeine—and if you really can’t go without your cup of Joe, limit your caffeine intake to 400 milligrams a day, says Heller. Most brewed coffee has anywhere from 80 to 200 milligrams.

(For an amazing coffee with naturally bold flavors, check out The Better Man Blend from the Men’s Health store.)

“There’s a lot of variation depending on how it’s made and what type of coffee it is,” she explains.

Two or three cups is fine—four cups may even be safe if you have a high caffeine tolerance. Going over that, though, is asking for trouble.

         RELATED: How to Make the Best Coffee You’ll Ever Drink

And if you start feeling nauseous, faint or dizzy, you may be tottering on the edge of a true overdose. While rare, overdoses can be serious, especially if you have a known heart condition or high blood pressure.

“[An overdose] can cause heart rhythm disturbances, vasoconstriction, heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure in certain populations,” says Splaver.

If you think you’ve truly overdosed, you should head to the emergency room—just don’t blame your barista for over-serving you.

This article was originally published on Men’s Health.

How It’s Possible to Overdose On Coffee—and What to Do If You Drank Too Much.97099

Your Friday Post on Friday for your Friday Enjoyment

It’s Friday and it’s cold.

Anyway, the smart move on a cold day is to grab a rugged all-terrain bicycle, seek shelter amongst the trees, and engage in some determinedly slow-speed riding.  So that’s exactly what I did today:

Of course, you can’t employ this tactic if you must orient your bicycle towards a specific workplace-type environment and such terrain does not exist between your abode and working hole, in which case that totally sucks for you.

Hey, it’s not like I don’t work.  I am, after all, a semi-professional bike blogger whose artisanally-hewn cycling-themed content delights thousands of bots and at best dozens of actual humans on a daily basis.  (Apart from weekends, and holidays, and vacations, and trips for the purposes of self-promotion, and crippling bouts of dehydration–though I did sneak that one in under the wire, so technically I’m not in breach of contract.)  And being a semi-professional blogger, it occurred to me as I rode that I was at that very moment using various products simultaneously had that found their way to me because every now and again some unfortunate company or marketing person mistakes me for an "influencer."  One of the many, many, many sucky things about the Bikey Internet is that nobody ever seems to follow up after mentioning a product, so I figured this was at least a chance to check in on some stuff I’ve been using awhile:

Marin Pine Mountain 1

It’s the bike you’re looking at in the above picture.  I really like this bike.  I vibe hella and it’s my classic peep during Art History.  I think the equivalent bike for 2017 is now just called the Pine Mountain and the Pine Mountain 1 has a bouncy fork and some other stuff.  Whatever.  It’s a rigid bike with wide tires and wide gearing and it’s become my grab-and-go bike for when I’m not sure exactly what kind of ride I want to do and figure I’ll just make it up along the way.  I also have a special affinity for cheap-but-good bikes, which this is, and I like it so much that I bought it from them with actual American money.  It’s only going on its second winter now so I can hardly claim to have put it through its paces, but apart from replacing the bottom bracket due to wear and replacing some other stuff entirely for personal reasons (grips, saddle, the usual) it’s been solid.  Even the tires still have plenty of life, and they see much more pavement than I’d like.

Outlier Winterweight OG Pant

Before Levi’s got into the urban cycling market, Outlier were one of the first companies to do the whole hip on-the-bike, off-the-bike clothing thing.  The idea was that the cool Brooklyn proto-alt-bros could ride around on their sweet NJS fixies, do the over-the-leg dismount thing without blowing out their crotch seams, and then sit in front of giant monitors designing minimalist websites.  Adorably, the good people at Outlier must have been laboring under the misapprehension that I spoke to this demographic, because they sent me the aforementioned pants for review.  (They also sent me shorts, which I slathered in mayo.)  Particularly noteworthy is that I assigned this review to Spencer Madsen, my ironic intern at the time, who also tested the then-groundbreaking Mongoose Cachet, which was the world’s first department store fixie.  Having foolishly figured he’d just "scored," Spencer pretty much made off with both the bike and the pants.  He has since become a poet and publishing impresario of some note, for which I of course take full credit.  As for the pants, it’s been six years now and they’ve held up quite well.  (My pants, that is.  No idea what Spencer did with his.)  Granted, I don’t wear them incredibly often, but they are in fact warm, comfortable, and durable to the point that on a cold day I will ride singletrack in them for an hour or two on the way home from my "office" and not mind them at all.  In fact their only real weak spot is that they’re overly susceptible to cat claws, and when the cat jumps in your lap and does that back-arching-claw-flexing thing they get stuck in the fabric and are liable to pull a thread or two.  The solution to this is not to own a cat, which is something I wish I’d known before I got mine.

Giro New Road Winter Jacket

Back in 2013 Giro went heavy into this whole "new road" concept.  Basically, the idea wasn’t all that dissimilar from the Outlier concept, except in this case it wasn’t aimed at East Cost alt-bros; it was aimed at their West Coast counterparts who do mixed-terrain rides and then bro down in cool hangout spots with epic burritos.  Someone representing Giro sent me a whole suit of this stuff, even though I have even less in common with the West Coast bike bros than I do with the East Coast ones.

Basically the stuff wasn’t too far removed from regular Lycra stretchy clothes, but the lynchpin of the whole concept was that you wore baggy shorts over your bibs for no good reason, and your bibs had a fly so it was easier to whip out your dongle:

Now I do wear shorts over my cycling shorts from time to time, specifically when I’m doing a longish ride but also want to carry stuff in my pockets like a normal human.  The Giro shorts however had no pocket to speak of, save for a little zippered affair that could hold maybe a u-lock key or a dime bag.  (Do they still have dime bags?)  In retrospect I guess the idea was you needed the baggy shorts to cover your bib shorts because they now had a stupid-looking fly in them.  As for the fly itself, just like the fly on your actual underpants you’d never, ever use the thing.  (If you’re not equipped with male genitals, believe me when I tell you that nobody uses a fly, because attempting to thread your appendage through a fabric labyrinth is both inconvenient and uncomfortable.  Maybe you’d do it if you were wearing a tuxedo and you couldn’t open your pants because you were locked out by your cummerbund.)  You now know more than you wanted to about dong doors.

Anyway, I have no idea if Giro is still pushing this New Road stuff or if it totally fizzled out.  Either way, while the bibs with the fly were pretty stupid, there were also some genuinely nice garments.  Once of these garments was a jacket.  It indeed works great as an on-the-bike, off-the-bike cold weather jacket.  However, I can’t find it on their site, and if they no longer offer it well that stands to reason because of course it was one of the few New Road collection pieces that made any sense.  So there you go.

Merino Skins Thermal Undershirt Something-Or-Other Thingy

Grant Petersen once sent me this long-sleeve undershirt I’m wearing which is like the warmest, most comfortable undershirt I’ve ever had.  This thing plus a decent sweater plus a jacket and I’m comfortable well into the 20s.  Sure, I’d probably need more shirt to hang with Captain Beardcicle up there, but if I’m to be totally honest I don’t really want to hang with Captain Beardcicle, so there.

I’m not sure I find it on the clothing section of the Rivendell site but not too many people know more about practical garments so if you’re looking for on-the-bike, off-the-bike, do-absolutely-whatever-in-them clothes with absolutely none of the Outlier or Giro pretense (and you think baggy pants with sandals qualifies as "presentable," which is debatable) that’s where to get them.

Rapha Winter Hat

In the early days of my blog Rapha actually liked me.  They sent me a winter hat in, I dunno, 2008?  It fits under a HELMET and it’s quite warm, and I wear it to this day, even though the plastic brim is cracked and it’s poking through the fabric.

You are now fully up to date on the shit in my closet that people have given me.

In other news probably only of interest to me, I totally found pictures on the Internets that are relevant to my most recent Brooks blog.  For example, see this old abutment?

Here it is in the olden days with the train station still on top of it:

The Wheelbarrow Fred has just walked by the spot where the soiled mattress is now.

And see this street?

Here’s the train station that stood right where the apartment building is now:

Sorry, I’m a sucker for this stuff.  The past is seductive.  At the same time you’ve got to keep it in perspective.  See, on one hand there were barely any cars and it was beautiful.  On the other hand, polio.

You just can’t win.

Speaking of our dystopian future, Pinarello is now developing ABS braking, which slots in right behind an automatic chain lubricator as the last thing you’d ever need or want on your bike:

(Not just magnets.  Nano-magnets.)

Basically, it works like the stupid "sport mode" button on your automatic transmission:

The BluBrake also takes into account the conditions in which you are riding. There’s no “cognitive electronic platform” magic happening here though — weather conditions and riding style (you can choose from tourism, racing and custom) are entered via a handlebar mounted control interface.

It also has a "Sixth Sense Haptic Actuator:"

Which sounds like a liver disease.

And it isn’t even ABS, really.  It just vibrates to warn you when your wheel’s about to lock up:

If the idea of placing your safety in the hands of a robot sounds a little bit too HAL9000 for you, fret not as the BluBrake isn’t actually an automated ABS system — unlike the one designed for e-bikes that we reported on earlier in the year, this is just a haptic feedback system that is designed to warn riders, through vibrations in their brake levers, that their wheel may be about lock up.

Because you suck:

And before anyone succumbs to the temptation to make jokes about rich bankers buying flashy Pinarellos and not knowing how to use their brakes, let’s withhold judgement until we’ve had a chance to try out the potentially nifty system.

Let’s not and say we did.

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that at this point in human history we’re working backwards.  Disc brakes are too powerful for a 16lb bike, so you need them to warn you not to lock up your wheel because you no longer have the nuanced feedback you’d have gotten from a rim brake.  Similarly, our cities are a shitshow since we stopped riding trains and started driving cars, so we’re designing self-driving cars in an effort to return to the safety and efficiency of trains.  And what about those self-driving cars, anyway?  Sounds like they still need some work:

In the ride I took through the streets of SoMa on Monday, the autonomous vehicle in “self-driving” mode as well as the one in front of it took an unsafe right-hook-style turn through a bike lane. Twice. This kind of turn is one featured in a 2013 blog post that is known to be one of the primary causes of collisions between cars and people who bike resulting in serious injury or fatality. It’s also an unsafe practice that we address in all of the safety curriculum we offer to professional drivers, including the videos we consulted on for Uber as recently as this fall.

Oh, don’t worry, they’ll work it out.  Tech and auto companies always have our best interests at heart.

Lastly, here are "bicycle racing athletes:"

There are few things more exciting that bicycle racing athletes competing on a multi-terrain course.