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Disc Brakes in Pro Cycling? Pro and Con   Leave a comment



Disc Brakes in Pro Cycling? Why not?!?

Much debate has been happening around the use of disc brakes in professional road cycling. They were provisionally approved for several spring classics races this year, but they were re-banned after reports of the discs injuring riders in crashes, allegedly causing severe lacerations. Rumors persist that they’ll try them again later this year.
Meanwhile, discs have proven to be safe, effective, and preferred in mountain bike races and cyclocross races for quite a while. So why shouldn’t this technology be allowed into the pro peloton? I see no reason why it shouldn’t.
First, let’s look at some of the cases against discs that we’ve heard:
Argument #1: They’re dangerous and can cut people in crashes.
Response: Isn’t falling off your bike at high speed wearing nothing but lycra and a styrofoam hat already pretty dangerous? Does the off chance that you’ll get wound up in a spinning brake disc increase the danger significantly? I don’t think so.

Argument #2: They’re heavier than rim brakes.
Response: So what? Most pro bikes already fall well below the UCI-mandated 15 pound minimum weight and have to have weight added back onto them. I’m sure that a disc-equipped bike can land right on the minimum weight standard.

Argument #3: It will make wheel changes during the race difficult, due to various different specifications of the braking and axle systems.
Response: Again, so what? If you want to avoid these hassles, you can choose not to use them. If, however, the team decides that the improved braking is worth the trouble, then they should be allowed to use them.

In the end, the UCI should only be concerned about maintaining a level field between competitors. Disc brakes provide no competitive advantage, except perhaps in wet conditions, and in technical descents. Nevertheless, if a team or rider wants to use them (or if a team’s sponsor wants to financially entice the team to use them) then it’s up to the teams and riders to decide whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
Even if a sponsor is simply trying to sell more disc-equipped bikes by featuring them on their pro teams, it’s irrelevant. If cooperating with a sponsor’s marketing ploy helps keep a team on the road, where’s the harm?
Let disc brakes into the pro peloton, and they’ll either succeed or die on their own merits. In the meantime, having pros test the newest and latest technologies will help move technology forward at a faster speed.
In the meantime, for us “non-pros” ride what you want, and if you like disc brakes, by all means use them.

Disc Brakes in Pro Cycling? Why?!?

While it is certain that disc brake technology has become a mainstay in the worlds of mountain biking and cyclocross, does it belong in the rarified air of elite road cycling? While it’s true that disc brakes offer improved stopping power over their caliper counterparts, are they REALLY desirable in a professional road race? I say the negatives FAR outweigh the positives.
1) Disc brakes require significant modifications, not only to the wheels but also to the forks and frames of the bikes themselves. They exert their force over a much smaller circumference (the area near the hub) than caliper brakes (the rim of the wheel). This requires heavier and bulkier reinforced spokes and forks along with elaborate attachment points for the braking mechanisms. All this translates into more weight and (probably) a loss of aerodynamic advantage. Is the improved stopping power worth this?? I doubt it…pro riders want to GO faster, not STOP faster!

2) As an addendum to item (1)…the modifications necessary for disc brakes eliminate the possibility for “neutral support” during road races. (you know, those guys at the side of the road offering spare wheels when needed) Every neutral support provider would have to have 2 different types of wheels…one with and one without discs. And even with this, would the disc–equipped wheel fit every bike?? I doubt it! Neutral support would become a thing of the past and might lead to sacrifices in time and speed.

3) Disc brakes are notoriously temperamental…just ask a mountain bike rider who has a minor tumble and dings his disc brake. Even a minor perturbation to the disc’s braking surface will lead to rubbing and increased friction…a death blow to a pro road rider’s average speed! Forget getting a little grease on the brake when changing a flat…oh the whining!! Not worth the extra headaches in a road ride where speed is critical.

4) Safety!! The UCI had agreed to allow disc brake usage in certain road rides this season. They went back on their commitment after some incidents at Paris-Roubaix earlier this year. Just ask Francisco Ventoso who allegedly suffered a deep gash in his leg from a disc brake in a crash during P-R. In addition, having disc brakes AND caliper brakes in the same peleton could have unforeseen consequences. Say a dude using discs is riding at the front of the pack when he brakes hard to avoid an obstacle. The guy behind him riding a caliper-equipped rig won’t be able to stop as fast…result? Consistency must rule in the peleton…for safety’s sake!

The UCI is now debating whether to again allow disc brakes to be trialed in pro road racing. I am certain that, in their infinite desire to market “enhanced” technology to the masses, bicycle manufacturers and sponsors will get their way and we shall see disc brakes back in the elite pro ranks soon. While this technology might indeed be beneficial to us mere mortals out on our weekend road ride, I am dubious about their use in the major tours yet to come. I only hope there is not a major crash or incident that proves me right.

(Disclaimer…the author recently rode a mountain bike rig equipped with disc brakes and found them VERY cool!)


Technology in Cycling?   Leave a comment

PRO:  Bring it on!

I’ve never understooddownload why anybody would be against progress. Ok, I sort of get it…some people long for a simpler time, when things may not have been so complicated. Then again, if the “complications” are defined as things like indoor plumbing and refrigeration, I’ll take “complicated” any day.

Cycling has also seen great leaps in technological innovation since the days of riding single-speed steel bikes with flip hubs.
Seriously, I’ll take 11 cogs that I can shift from my handle bars (perhaps electronically) any day over having to remove the rear wheel to go to my only “other” gear.

Lightweight carbon bikes may not be rapidly advancing the average speed of the Tour de France, but they do offer designers the ability to execute designs that are impossible when limited to bending and welding metal tubes. The resulting increases in
comfort, aerodynamics, stiffness and/or compliance have certainly improved the rider’s experience…and some of these new frames simply look really cool too.

I also get it if you don’t want to quantify every ride by looking at your wattage, heart rate, total elevation, and average cadence. Nobody is twisting your arm. Then again, when I hear that the guy who won Paris-Roubaix averaged 375 watts, and I see that Strava estimated my average watts for today’s ride approximately 200 watts lower than that, it’s nice to be able to put that kind of abstract data into perspective.

garminWhen my friends ask me why I go out for hours on my bike, rather than trying to explain the inexplicable to them, isn’t it much more straightforward to send them to YouTube to watch some ride footage that I shot with my GoPro, so they can see how much fun it is to carve turns in a fast descent, or hear the banter that goes on in a group ride?

Finally, while I may not be training like an elite athlete, some of the training data that’s now available comes in handy. Tracking fitness can be hard to do. As Greg LeMond once said, “It never gets easier, you just get faster.” If you go out on a challenging ride early in the season, you’ll probably be tired afterward. If, however, you do the SAME ride several months earlier, you’ll likely be just as tired as the previous time. If, however, you can note that you put out higher wattage, went faster, and did so at a lower heartrate, you can confirm that you’ve actually improved. That rewarding knowledge might inspire you to keep working hard.

Technology is progress. Progress is good.

(The opinions of the author do not reflect those of Bicycle World…why, they do, however, reflect the opinion of a guy who is a self-admitted gadget addict who has been known to spend 2 hours going over data from a 1 hour ride.)

CON: Does it REALLY Improve OUR Performance?

During every “friendly” Sunday ride, the conversation inevitablvintage bikey turns to the latest gadgets and gizmos that can befoul our 2-wheeled friend, the bicycle. A friend who gives us hours of pleasure and fitness benefits out the wazoo (yes, I said “wazoo”), and asks for little in return. Carbon fiber frames, electronic shifters, feather-light components, disc brakes, cyclo-computers, power-taps, etc… Where will it end?? Do these technologies REALLY improve our performance, or do they just give us something to talk about? A techno-philic miasma of one-upsmanship!

I say, NAY!! Make it stop! Let us return to a simpler time when frames (and men) were made of steel and we actually had to FEEL how hard we were working in the pedals…not glean it from a device that measures our heart rate, wattage AND elevation gain. Dammit, I KNOW when I’m climbing a big hill! I don’t need to know how steep it is or how high it is…it’s motivation
enough not to keel over and embarrass myself in front of my friends! And likewise, has the undeniable improvement and, importantly, weight-reduction, in today’s frames and

components REALLY led to improvements in the pro peloton? “Yes” you would undoubtedly say…but is it so? Compare the average speeds of the Tour de France, cycling’s ultimate crucible, from 1971 and 2015…38kph to 39.6kph. A scientific study would call that a statistically insignificant difference!! And that is for the PROS who are benefitting from the most advanced training (and doping) that science has to offer. As a doctor, I’m embarrassed to say that our improved doping technology hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference, either. Nor has our improved understanding of exercise physiology and aerobic training.

But what about us common folk? I would dare say the benefits of enhanced cycling technology are un-measurable. If a few grams of weight doesn’t matter to a pro from 1971 vs. 2015, what will it mean to us? NADA! One thing IS certain, however (other than death and taxes), and that is that there is no substitute for hard work and putting in the mileage on your trusty steed. Get out there and ride! Don’t obsess over the weight of your bike or the readout on your Garmin or the next Strava segment coming up around the bend…look up and enjoy the scenery, enjoy the camaraderie. Relax and let the technology help you enjoy the ride!

(The opinions of the author do not reflect those of Bicycle World…why, they don’t even reflect his TRUE opinions as he shamefully admits to owning a carbon fiber bike, a Garmin 500 and a Strava app.)

Posted May 3, 2016 by bicycleworldny in Uncategorized

Tweed Ride/ Pub Crawl   Leave a comment

And Now For Something Completely Different…



As the year draws to a close, it’s common for friends to come together to toast the holidays, and look forward to the new year.  With this in mind, and while thinking about putting together an end-of-year get together, Eric came up with a novel idea that turned into one of the best “group rides” of the year.

In most holiday get-togethers among riding buddies, the conversation will eventually drift to future riding plans.  Lubricated and emboldened by liquid refreshments, the plans that are presented are often overly-ambitious and highly improbable.  Eric’s idea was to include a ride into our annual outing, so that we’d at least accomplish SOME riding as part of our get together.  There were, however, a few rules.

First, we were going to behave and dress like gentlemen.  Lycra and performance fabrics were to be replaced with wool sport coats, scarves, and proper evening attire.  Second, we were to abstain from using carbon fiber and instead ride kinder, gentler bikes from days gone by.  Steel was the preferred material, and proper flat bars were preferable to new-fangled drop bars.  Full coverage fenders might bring bonus points.  Third, the ride would be taking place at night, requiring that everyone bring and use lights.  With this, the “get lit” ride was born, a course was laid out, and a group assembled.  Along for the ride were Eric, Ben, Benny, Mike, Jason, and myself.

We met at the train station in Port Chester, New York.  Its beer garden was to be our final stop of our two-wheeled pub crawl.  We assembled in the parking lot, looking more like a 1930’s era book club gathering than a group of cyclists, and set off for our first destination, the Rye Roadhouse.  The 6 mile jaunt to Rye took us through the neighborhoods of Port Chester, through the mansions surrounding Westchester Country Club, and back down into Rye.  The route had been planned to avoid traffic, and whenever possible provide as much visibility as possible.  The weather was brisk (45 degrees) but dry and clear.

We arrived at the Roadhouse and immediately got weird looks from most of the people in the bar because we a.) were somewhat overdressed, and b.) arrived on bikes.  Nevertheless, we finally got a table, and sat down to dinner and liquid refreshments.  As happens often, I’m sure, our 70 year old waitress took a shine to Jason.  Bourbon and spicy food eliminated any remaining chill in our bones.

After dinner, the next stop was to be another 6 miles away in Greenwich, Connecticut.  After a hearty meal, and “hydration”, a 6 mile ride to Greenwich seemed like an absolutely stupid idea.  We began to debate calling cabs to return us home, when Jason suddenly suggested an alternate plan:  Kelly’s, a local Rye dive bar less than a mile away.  This stroke of genius was all we needed to remount our trusty machines and continue on our quest.  A five minute mostly downhill coast got us to our next destination where we were again welcomed as only a group of inappropriately-attired and vehicled could be:  with a mix of shock, awe, and confusion.

As we “hydrated” again, the conversations that we’d had in previous years about plans for next season had transformed into a more immediate “where should we go next?”  We were onto something with this whole dressing funny, riding old bikes, and visiting bars thing.  Rather than making bold claims about future endeavors, we were actually riding, albeit in tiny increments.

With a goal of eventually completing the loop and returning to the Port Chester train station, we headed to Sam’s bar in Port Chester, a daunting 2 miles away.  Nevertheless, we rode into Port Chester with the purpose and swagger of men on a mission; true outlaws of the open roads.  Sam’s featured a shuffleboard table, and we cheered on as mighty shuffleboard athletes competed in epic battles of sliding little steel pucks across a table.  It was also at this point that we figured out that Benny had his tie on backwards, which was immediately rectified.

We decided that one more stop was in order, so we pedaled a brisk 0.8 miles (partially uphill!) to Davy Byrnes, a neighborhood joint in Port Chester sporting an Irish theme, where you’re just as likely to run into a group of youngsters with questionable IDs as you would a 80 year old grandmother who’s dancing to Run DMC playing on the jukebox.  Eric and Mike found the dartboard, and again we were making an impression as people around us didn’t seem to know what to make of us.

It was getting late, and we decided that it was time to finish the loop, so we formed a paceline to finish up the final 0.75 mile segment to get us back to the train station and Heartland Black + Gold for a final toast.  As we arrived, they were closing, which was probably a good thing for all parties involved.

Ride Analysis:

Total Distance:  10.5 miles.

Time:  5 hours.

Average speed:  2.1 mph.

Total liquid volume consumed:  Just enough.


As I pedaled the one mile “cool down” back home, looking somewhere between “ridiculous” and “dapper,” I was reminded that riding a bike, even in a ridiculous manner, could be a lot of fun, and that I need to find other impractical and silly reasons to ride.  The ancient Roman lyric poet Horace summed it up nicely when he said the following:


“Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans.  It is lovely to be silly at the right moment.” 


Posted January 27, 2016 by bicycleworldny in Uncategorized

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Historical Diversion   Leave a comment

Historical Diversion;

Cycling Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, MD:

Cycling is a pastime that frequently takes us to new and interesting places.  Those that know me well know that I am a self-professed history “nerd” of the highest order.  The fact that I am NOT a cyclist of the highest order is also well-known!  In spite of this, I recently had the chance to combine my “nerdy” passion for history with my devotion to our two-wheeled friend.

An upcoming trip to Washington, DC had me dreading the awful parking lot that is the I-95 corridor between New York and Maryland.  Surely there must be a better way to get there, I thought.  A review of Google Maps indeed showed a more westerly route that added several miles but that might be devoid of traffic and the all-too-familiar monotony of the New Jersey Turnpike.  The fact that a more westerly route also passed many famous Civil War battlefields was an added draw.  Having already visited Gettysburg, I set my sights on the Antietam National Battlefield in central Maryland.

A quick visit to the park’s web-site yielded a wealth of information on the history of the battle and “things to do” when visiting.  The following advice was given; “The best way to view the battlefield is to take the self-guided driving tour. The tour road is 8½ miles long with 11 stops. Most visitors drive the route, but walking and biking are encouraged.”  Interesting!  I was planning on bringing my trusty steed to DC, anyway…could I tour the battlefield by bike?  A plan began to take shape and I left for Maryland on a Friday morning in early September.

Interestingly, the battle took place on a mid-September day (the 17th to be exact).  Global warming aside, I would be riding the battlefield’s roads in similar seasonal weather conditions.  All the better to somewhat appreciate the heat and humidity that the thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers experienced on that terrible day in 1862.  The present day did not disappoint…on opening the car door when I arrived, I was slapped rudely by the 90 degree heat and 90% humidity of a late-summer day in rural Maryland.  I quickly changed into my cycling gear in the park’s visitor center and took a brief look around to get my bearings.  I also procured the park’s brochure and map (entry fee; $4…gladly paid to support our National Park Service).  I brought a small backpack to carry my camera, spare shoes and a bike lock (in case I had to leave my expensive “friend” somewhere to take an exploratory hike).  My one mistake was only bringing one water bottle…this wasn’t going to be a long ride, right??

Always believing that “the best defense is a good offense”, Confederate General Robert E. Lee launched his first “invasion of the north” in the late summer of 1862.  Thinking that a major victory on Union soil would make the Union think twice about pursuing the war, Lee’s army invaded Maryland in early September.  It was also hoped that such a victory would bring foreign recognition (and aid) to the fledgling Confederate States of America.  Union General George McClellan, and his grand Army of the Potomac, were sent to confront Lee.  The two great armies met on the shores of Antietam Creek near the village of Sharpsburg.

The bloodiest single day in American military history (23,000 combined casualties) began early on that September morning with a massive Union attack on the Confederate left flank.  The tour begins at the old Dunker Church in the northwestern corner of the park and follows the battle chronologically from morning to midday to afternoon.  A modest white building, the church seems very serene today…a far cry from the carnage that raged around it, for it was the Union army’s objective that morning.  The church was riddled with bullets and artillery fire but was still standing by day’s end.  It has since been restored and now serves as a symbol of peace on this former killing ground.

I began my ride in earnest now, cycling a long loop around the battlefield’s northern reaches.  The rolling Maryland farmland was perfect for cycling and the park road well-maintained.  Great effort has been expended by the NPS to try and keep the battlefield as it was back in the 1860s.  I truly appreciated my tax dollars at work!

The Union attack on the Confederate left flank traversed a large cornfield which ultimately attained infamy for the indescribable horrors that occurred there.  Most students of history will instantly recognize the name “the bloody cornfield” as symbolic of the many tragedies of Antietam.  Union soldiers emerged from the cornfield that morning straight into massed Confederate rifle and artillery fire.  They were slaughtered and retreated.  Union artillery then showered the cornfield with canister fire…the equivalent of gigantic shotgun blasts…which cut entire Confederate regiments to ribbons.  The cornfield then descended into a hellish cauldron of hand to hand combat, changing hands 15 times in the space of an hour.  Union forces eventually reached the Dunker Church but were decimated in the process and unable to hold their “prize” for long.  Confederate counter-attacks drove them back and left the cornfield a bloody stalemate.

Today, the field is peaceful with rows of corn waving gently in the late summer breeze.  It’s bucolic rural beauty belying the horrors that occurred there.


In spite of the heat, I was beginning to realize something…that riding the battlefield’s roads was an excellent way to appreciate the intricacies of the terrain and what the soldiers on both sides had to deal with that day.  A cyclist is uniquely attuned to topography…something about powering your way up a hill (and the effort that it entails) gives you a better perspective on the lay of the land!  The battlefield itself, surrounding the small hamlet of Sharpsburg, Maryland, is hilly indeed.  The Confederates held the high ground and the Union attacks all went uphill for the most part.

By midday, the battle had shifted to the Confederate center with Union attacks converging on a sunken road through the farmland.  Confederate troops had fortified the road into an almost impregnable fortress which, due to the undulating nature of the terrain, was invisible to attacking Union soldiers until it was too late.  Waves of Union attacks broke upon the sunken road with horrific casualties on both sides.  The road eventually fell to a Union flanking attack and by the afternoon, heaped mounds of bodies littered the road in all directions.  This sunken road would eventually bear the name, “bloody lane”…another synonym for the horror of Antietam.  Photographs of the Bloody Lane after the battle were among the first photographic images of war ever published in America and they brought the horrors of the war home to newspaper readers in the North.  Today the sunken road is well-preserved and it is easy to see how it was such a major obstacle to Union forces.



A large tower marks the mid-point of the tour and it was here that my bike lock came in handy…not that there are many bicycle thieves among history nerds, but you never know!  I locked my friend to a sign and climbed the tower.  A welcome breeze and beautiful vista greeted me at the top with endless miles of farmland stretching out in all directions.  Numerous monuments to various Union and Confederate regiments dotted the battlefield below.  Descending the tower, I was happy to find my trusty friend still waiting for me.  We joined forces again and continued our ride.

The road now became seriously fun…if one can have fun in such a somber setting.  A long, winding downhill led to the southern end of the park and the battle’s final chapters.  The famous Burnside Bridge straddles the Antietam Creek which gives the battlefield its name.  The southern-most of three creek crossings on the battlefield, the bridge became the focal point of the Union’s final thrust against the Confederate right flank late in the day.  A small group of Georgia riflemen held the high ground overlooking the bridge and beat back numerous Union attempts to cross the bridge before finally running out of ammunition and retreating.  Union troops eventually poured across the bridge after suffering heavy losses.  Today, as with other battlefield landmarks, the bridge is peaceful with the burbling creek coursing beneath.  It is easy to appreciate the heights where the Confederates rained fire down upon the Union soldiers attempting their crossing.


All cyclists know that what comes down must go up.  The rangers in the visitor’s center had warned me about the long hill that had to be climbed on the return trip.  Running low on water at this point (should’ve brought TWO bottles!), the hill was indeed challenging in the afternoon heat.  Union troops attacked the Confederate right flank up this same hill and came close to breaking their line.  Only a desperate counter-attack by late-arriving Confederate reinforcements saved the rebels from total defeat.  Climbing the hill on a bike again revealed the difficult nature of the battlefield’s terrain.  A perspective one could not appreciate in a car with the assistance of an internal combustion engine!  Union troops, near the point of exhaustion, climbed this hill directly into Confederate rifle fire.  Many of these Union soldiers now lie buried in the Antietam National Cemetery in the town of Sharpsburg itself, near the end of the tour.


A mile-long, gentle climb was all that remained of the ride and I spun easily up the road on my return to the visitor center and my car.  A thunderstorm gathered to the west and I reflected on a most interesting and sobering ride.  Although my Garmin barely registered 10 miles for the entire park loop, I felt as if I’d traveled much farther…a journey not measured by mere distance but by the passage of time.  With stops and photo-ops, my ride had lasted only an hour and a half, yet it seemed so much longer.  The beauty of the landscape, the rolling terrain and the grim knowledge of the slaughter that occurred here, all came together to affect me as few rides ever have.  Although a stalemate, the battle constituted a strategic Union victory as Lee’s battered and outnumbered Army of Northern Virginia had to retreat the next day.  Lee’s first “invasion of the north” was a failure.  Lincoln used the “victory” as a springboard to issue the Emancipation Proclamation…yet the war continued on.

A great ride under my belt, I too, continued on to Washington, DC, about an hour away.  Although the area around Sharpsburg promises more great cycling, I was pressed for time and (reluctantly) had to return to the present.  Cycling again had given me an unexpected gift…a unique perspective on a great, though tragic moment in our nation’s history.  I hope my two-wheeled friend and I will have more such historical diversions in the future.


– Rick Stafford, Katonah, NY (9/9/14)


Battlefield Map; rick cemetary rick church fence rick field rick

Posted September 10, 2014 by bicycleworldny in Uncategorized

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Winter Riding 101   Leave a comment


Winter Riding 101

Happy New Year from Bicycle World.  So far we’ve had a relatively mild winter, but as we know there are no weather guarantees here in the Northeast, so in this edition we’ll talk about winter.  Believe it or not, you can actually ride year round in almost any weather, if you’re properly prepared for it.  More important, by riding in the winter, you’ll be ahead of the curve from a fitness perspective when spring arrives.

To many, the idea of training in the winter means tortuous hours stuck in a spare room grinding away on an indoor trainer.  While indoor trainers are effective, it can be mentally difficult to ride indoors where the view never changes.  On the other hand, indoor trainers are great for structured training, and you can get a very effective workout in a shorter amount of time if you plan your workouts properly.  Best of all, you’ll never have an interval interrupted by traffic or a red light when you’re on your trainer.  In addition to riding, winter is a great time to cross train.  Hiking, cross country skiing, shoe shoeing, and ice skating are all complimentary activities that can help keep you in good cycling shape over the winter.  Eric Heiden, the 5-time gold medalist for speed skating in the 1980 Winter Olympics used cycling to cross train for skating, and eventually went on to ride alongside Greg LeMond as a professional cyclist on team 7-Eleven in the 1986 Tour de France.

Still, when the weather cooperates, it can be both mentally and physically rewarding to get outside and ride.  Before you do, you need to make sure that you’ve got the right attitude, clothing, skills, and equipment.  Riding in winter is as much a mental challenge as a physical one, and once you’ve overcome the mental aspects, the rest is relatively easy.  Finally, keep in mind that everybody reacts to colder weather differently.  What works for one person might not work for somebody else, so be ready to adapt our recommendations to your own situation and tolerance for cold weather.

The first and most obvious obstacle is overcoming the cold and staying warm and dry on the bike.  More specifically, winter riding means controlling the relationship between the cold outside air and the heat you generate on the bike, while simultaneously staying dry.  Before we dig into specific clothing, it’s important to understand this relationship between temperature and moisture.  When you work hard, you generate heat.  In order to regulate temperature, your body produces sweat which will cool you as it evaporates.  If, however, you cool off before the sweat evaporates, you’ll be cool and wet, and the moisture will rob you of heat and you can become dangerously cold.  Understanding this relationship means that it pays to anticipate the road ahead and prepare for it.  Prior to going into a long climb where effort will peak and speed will drop, you are likely to get warm and sweaty, so before the climb begins, you need to have a way to ventilate the excess heat and moisture.  This can be as easy as unzipping your jersey or jacket.  Once you reach the top of the climb, you need to anticipate that an increase in speed and lower level of exertion will allow your body to cool off, so you need to be prepared to zip back up and trap the heat that you’ve generated.   If it’s wet outside, you have the added challenge of keeping the outside moisture from penetrating your clothing, while still venting heat and moisture from the inside.

Dressing for the cold takes a little extra effort, but isn’t that hard to do if you keep the heat and moisture management principles in mind.  Start with classic layering:  you’ll want outer layers that block the wind and rain, allowing you stay warm.  Next, insulating layers that trap warm air close to your body, should be used, and wicking materials in contact with your skin transport moisture away from your skin to keep you warm.  Finally the ability to adjust airflow across these layers is important.  The typical advice for winter riding is to start every ride feeling a little bit cold since riding will warm you up.

Some of the most versatile winter riding garments include arm warmers, leg/knee warmers, and vests.  Arm warmers can add an extra layer of insulation to your arms, but can easily be removed if you get too warm.  Knee and leg warmers can allow you to ride with your favorite shorts, but keep your legs protected.  Like arm warmers, they can be removed if you get too warm.  Vests do a great job of keeping your core warm by blocking wind and moisture.  In fact, one of the most versatile pieces of cycling apparel is a convertible jacket/vest that can be worn as a regular jacket, or as a vest with the arms removed.  Making an occasional extra stop to adjust these layers is worth the effort and will allow you to stay comfortable longer.  It takes some experimentation to find out what works for you.  A great piece of advice is to keep a log that records what the conditions were when you rode, what you wore, and how it performed.  In doing so, you can easily reference what works best for you under any weather conditions.

If you can’t invest in a full complement of winter riding gear all at once, you may have other options available to you.  Cold weather leggings for running or cross country skiing can be pressed into service on the bike, and work great.  Ski gloves, or even ergonomic work gloves, can be used to keep your hands warm if cycling-specific gloves aren’t an option.  If you don’t have winter shoe covers or riding boots, some strategically placed duct tape on the vents of your shoes, combined with some quality wool socks can keep your feet from freezing.  For insulating layers, practically any fleece or wool layers can keep you warm.  Finally, avoid cotton at all costs.  There’s a saying among backcountry enthusiasts that “cotton kills” because it is a poor insulator and retains water.  A cotton t-shirt will get wet quickly and stay wet for a long time without adding any insulation benefits.

Now that you’re dressed to ride, what can you expect on the roads?  When it’s cold off, there are fewer people out, so traffic tends to be lighter.  With no leaves on trees, you can see what’s coming around bends in the road.  At the same time, hazards like ice, darkness, and low sun angles need to be considered.  It’s a simple fact of physics that water freezes at 32 degrees.  If you find yourself out riding in sub-freezing temperatures, you need to be vigilant about the road ahead.  It’s better to slow down and proceed through potentially slippery areas carefully than to risk it and wipe out, even if it means getting off the bike to negotiate an icy area.  Even if it’s above freezing, you need to look for wet areas where ice may not have fully melted, or shady areas where ice is protected from the sun.  Just because it’s 40 degrees out doesn’t mean that the ground has warmed up to the ambient temperature, and ice may be present.

In winter, days are shorter, and the likelihood of getting caught out after dark increases.  With this in mind, it’s important to have access to lighting, especially if you’re planning a late afternoon ride.  Finally, glare from the sun can actually be more hazardous in winter than summer.  Since the sun angle is lower in the sky, the sun is more likely to be in your eyes at some point, even in the middle of the day.  Trees that have lost their leaves block less of the sun, and if there’s snow on the ground, it can further increase glare.  With all this in mind, it’s not only important for a rider to wear appropriate eye protection, but also to be aware that drivers are more likely to have the sun in their eyes, and not see a cyclist.  As a general rule of thumb, if you’re riding into the sun (eastward in the morning, westward in the afternoon) the same sun glare that’s interfering with your vision will also be hindering the vision of drivers.  If you add in the increase of road grime that’s likely to accumulate on car windshields further increasing glare, selecting routes that minimize oncoming sun glare into consideration is a good idea.

If you dress appropriately and are prepared for potential obstacles, riding in the winter can be a great way to get outdoors, get some exercise, and have fun.  It would be a pity, then, to have your bike break down and prevent you from riding.  The good news is that bikes are durable, and aren’t affected by temperature or moisture.  The winter, however, means salt on the roads.  Road salt loves to eat metal, and splashing through a salty puddle is a great way to get salt into the metal parts of your bike.  Even on dry days, fine salt dust can work its way into your chain and other components and quickly turn them into a rusty mess.  If you’re going to ride in the winter, it’s a good idea to allocate a little extra time after every ride to rinse your bike off and perform some basic maintenance.  If you can get any salt residue off your bike before you store it and lubricate moving parts, you’ll save yourself a headache later.

With this year’s mild winter, there have been plenty of opportunities to get out and ride.  Even if that trend doesn’t continue, by planning accordingly, you can still get out and enjoy your bike the on the next sunny winter day that comes along.

Before I wind up this edition of the blog, I wanted to mention that Bicycle World will be hosting bike maintenance and repair classes on Saturday January 26th and Saturday February 23rd.  Both classes are free, and you’ll learn the basics involved in keeping your bike on the road.  Call the shop at 914-666-4044 to reserve your spot.  While you’re there, you can check out the newly renovated shop area.

Until next time, thanks for reading the Bicycle World Blog.  Feel free to throw us your questions and comments, and we’ll include them in future postings.  Finally, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, subscribe to the blog for updates, and visit our website ( for updates on what’s happening.

Happy winter riding!

Lance, Sandy, and more news…   Leave a comment

The shop awning after Hurricane Sandy

Welcome to the second installment of the Bicycle World’s World News Blog. In this issue, we’re going to cover a few of the big stories in the news that have impacted us and cycling.

Lance Armstrong
We would be remiss if we didn’t address the “elephant in the room” when it comes to cycling news: the Lance Armstrong story. Over the past few weeks, not a day goes by without some new revelation coming to light, or another rider getting caught up in the controversy. It has also been a very polarizing subject, with some people vilifying Lance, and others supporting him. We wanted to give you our perspective on the whole controversy in the hopes that we can move onto more positive topics. Still, since it’s the biggest story in cycling at the moment, we feel compelled to address it rather than ignore it.
While this story has been very damaging to professional cycling, and has virtually destroyed Lance Armstrong’s legacy as a sports hero, there are other sides to the story that are important. It’s an understatement to say that Lance Armstrong had an enormous impact on cycling in the US. While Greg LeMond was the first US rider to win the Tour de France, and inspired a new level of interest in cycling in the 1980’s, Lance’s success and notoriety took cycling to new heights. It’s no secret that the bike industry benefitted greatly from this phenomenon. Lance’s superstardom increased interest in cycling, and put thousands of people on bikes. The ripple effects of this influx of new cyclists are still being felt with things like more bike lanes popping up around the country, more attention being given to safety issues (i.e. Merrill’s Law in New York, and 3-foot law in Connecticut), more bike commuting, increased interest and participation in bike racing, and an increase in overall ridership.
All of these great things can, to a certain extent, be traced back to the impact of Lance Armstrong’s success in professional cycling. In addition, the Livestrong Foundation has helped and inspired thousands of people who have been impacted by cancer. So whether you like him or not, there are some lasting positive things that will always be associated with Lance Armstrong.
The “Lance effect” on the bike industry had already declined after he retired from racing the first time back in 2005. Today those riders who came into the sport a decade ago during Lance’s heyday are now hooked on cycling. Nothing Lance could do or say at this point would tear them away from their bikes. So even if these cyclists were bought into the sport by the “Lance effect” and started riding, they’re not going to quit doing something that they’ve grown to love, just because their one-time hero has fallen. Moreover, a new generation of riders is coming into the sport for reasons that have nothing to do with Lance mania, but instead are part of cycling’s natural growth in the US. So when we hear somebody say that the Lance controversy “is ruining cycling”, we’re just not seeing it in the areas that matter most.
So here’s our bottom line on the Lance story: like many things in life, there are few clear “black or white” distinctions and a whole lot of “grey”. Pro cycling has obviously had a problem with drugs for a long time, and we hope that the attention that this case has gotten serves to finally make positive changes in the sport at the elite level. At the same time, it’s hard to ignore the positive impact that Lance had on cycling in the US, and with cancer awareness. When you boil it down, it turns out that despite the bad stuff, there’s some good stuff mixed in. Human beings are imperfect and will make mistakes and bad decisions. None of this, however, can rob us of the enjoyment we find in just going for a ride. If more people are doing that today than in the pre-Lance era, then that’s a good thing in our view.

Hurricane Sandy
The other major story that has impacted almost all of us was Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath. Luckily the shop escaped with little damage beyond the loss of our awning and some loose siding. We hope everybody out there is ok, and is getting back to normal in its aftermath.
While the storm might not have an obvious connection to cycling, the blocked roads and long lines for gas reminded us that getting around on a bike has some distinct advantages. Whether it’s skirting around trees that are blocking the roads from cars, or not having to wait in line for gas, a bike can be a pretty useful thing in times like these.
While the storm reminded us of how useful our bikes can be, it also reminded us of a great program sponsored by Clif Bar. Their 2 Mile Challenge ( encourages people to replace short car trips with a bike. According to their site, 40% of urban travel is 2 miles or less, and 90% of those trips are done by car. By choosing to make some of those short trips by bike, you won’t be burning gas, will get some exercise, and might even have a little fun. If you want to officially participate in the Clif Bar 2 Mile Challenge, you can log your rides on their site, and they’ll donate $2 for each trip you make to a variety of charities each month. We think this is pretty cool.
Even if you don’t participate in the official Clif Bar promotion, replacing short car trips with a bike is still something to think about next time you reach for the car keys to go grab a carton of milk, or head over to a friend’s house. If it’s a short trip, think about taking your bike! Funny that a natural disaster had to come along to remind us of a really simple idea.

Other News
Other than the wacky weather and Lance Armstrong story, the only other big news item that we can think of is the election, and we’re not touching that with a 10 foot pole. Suffice it to say Bicycle World carries both red and blue bikes, so no matter which way you voted, you’ll find an appropriately colored bike.
Be sure to like us on Facebook (, follow us on Twitter (, and subscribe to updates of the blog. We’d also love to hear from you and answer any questions you might have, so feel free to leave some comments in the comment section below.