Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Great Butingting

One of the things that I really like to do is tinker with the adjustments of my ride to make it perfect. A quarter turn of a small allen bolt can make one's brakes fit better. A few millimeters of cleat adjustment can do wonders on one's knees, not to mention power output. A few turns on a knob of a suspension fork can make it all buttery smooth and make the owner realize what a good buy it is when he got it seven years ago.

I really pity those who take their bikes to the bike shops for the littlest of stuff because part of the allure of having one is being able to do what Filipinos call butingting. (Don't you just love how that sounds?)

Admittedly, there will be casualties - bolts will lose threads, wheels will wobble, or there won't be any brakes - but I think this is part of the learning process that makes a cyclist appreciate his ride more.

I did some repair work last weekend on my wife's ride, and I have to say that I'm particularly proud of what I accomplished.

I saw that the past owner wasn't too keen on chain length and the big chainring-big cog combination was impossible to do. So I went to the bike shop and got myself a new Shimano HG-93 chain, and with the help of my trusty old Topeak MacGuyver's chain breaker and instructions from Park Tools, shifting is now excellent. It was my first time to install a brand new chain so to see things go in order is pretty rewarding.

I also switched brakes with her (mine was XT and her's was XTR! Damn!), did the toe-in adjustment and adjusted her brake reach. I'm also planning on getting cable cutters when I have money so I can replace her cables. (Her's right now is a bit short.)

For those of you who want to be your own bike mechanic, don't be left in the dark. Login to the repair section of Park Tools and read up! You can also join the Philippine Cycling Network and ask other cyclists to tips.

Have fun!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Incredible Lightness of Bonking

(With apologies to Milan Kundera)

I was thinking yesterday if there ever is such a thing as glory in bonking, and the only incident I can think of is after one has broken away from the group, goes all out to win the race, and pass out as he crosses the finish line. Aside from that, the whole experience is probably one of the worst you'd ever feel in cycling.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, bonking in cycling means to hit the wall. Wikipedia defines it as "when the athlete suddenly loses energy and fatigue sets in, usually caused when glycogen stores in the liver and muscles are depleted, resulting in a major performance drop."

I think I may have bonked or was in the verge of bonking in yesterday's short ride to the Roxas trail in Maarat. I was climbing with King, Agu and Dandan on the stretch of cemented roads when I just couldn't follow. And it wasn't just getting dropped. It was as if I don't have that much in me to pedal.

I shifted to my granny gear and spun but it was no use. I was running out of gas fast and there was no shade in this part on the climb. White spots are starting to appear in my vision. Uh oh, I know what this is - I'm starting to bonk.

I think it may be heat exhaustion which caused this. Being used to riding in the shady trails of La Mesa and at night in the Ateneo campus with my wife, it was actually my first time in a long time to ride with the heat of the sun directed at me.

When I got to the top, I knew what I had to do. I told the boys that I'm bonking and looked for a shaded area where I can sit, rest, eat and hydrate. Luckily I was able to do this before the cold sweat and the goosebumps came in. After a few minutes, I was ready to roll once more.

I haven't bonked in such a long time, and I'm actually glad that I was able to prevent this one from being an all-out head-between-my-legs affair.

Some tips when you're bonking:

1. Stop cycling and look for a place where you can rest. Walk a while if you still can. Afterwards, sit on the ground so you won't feel lightheaded.

2. Eat and hydrate. Eat and hydrate. Eat and hydrate. Bring food and a hydration pack with cold water every time you do your trail rides.

3. Rest. You've probably gone to the red zone and need to lower down your heart rate to the lower it to normal levels.

4. Tell your riding buddies how you're feeling so they'll know what to do.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Going Online

Since I started the Batangas Mountain Bikers website in 1999 and earned us a Kalabasa Award (for having one of the worst websites in the sports category), I've always dreamed that the boys would adapt to the net and take the pagtambay online, too.

It's a growing process. And in the next editions of the site, as I learned how to use tables, I also introduced feedback through email. This mechanism evolved to the ConferenceRoom embedded chat applet. Sadly, nobody used it.

In the last version before the current one, I placed a Tag-Board. Borrowed from Blog technology, I saw that slowly it turned into the members' online message board. It was great until people got rowdy and I had to pull it out.

For the current version of the BMB website, I'm bringing in more community tools for these people. Instead of the traditional HTML updating, it's now replaced and powered by Blogger for instant publishing. I also made a BMB eGroup (patterned from the now seven year-old PCN) and there are already a handful of members who signed up.

It's great to see that they're adapting to change. Slowly. One by one. Who knows, I might be linking to some BMB videos on YouTube very soon.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Climb I Hate.

I don't usually hate climbs. It's usually me that hate for not being too fit enough to conquer it, but it's different this time. This climb I'm referring to isn't a two-kilometer wall nor is it a super loose uphill trail leading to somewhere. It's actually about three or so kilometers from where I'm staying now. Ladies and gents, I'm referring to none other than the Marcos Highway-Aurora Boulevard climb during rush hour.

It's actually quite a short climb coming from the Marikina bridge. What makes this climb really hateful is all the carbon monoxide emitted by smoke-belching jeepneys and buses that goes straight to my lungs as I try to take a breath of air. That mixed with the heat of the sun and you've got one nasty concoction enough to make you think twice about biking in Manila.

Next time, I should probably take the Tumana Route. It's farther and steeper but at least it's better for my health.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Newbie Mistakes

This is a message I posted in the PCN

While talking about maintenance and fiddling with your bike and also out of curiosity, would like to know what newbie mistakes did you guys and girls do with your bike?

I have a list of my own that I'd like to share with everyone:

1. Improper Tools.
Back then in the early 1990's, I just bought my bike. Being the careless teener that I was (Now I'm a careless 30-year old), the tools that I use for my "maintenance" are a pair of pliers and a screwdriver. Yes, no allen wrenches. What's funny is I force everything with the use of these two magical tools. Hey, MacGuyver was in during these days. I even take out my inner tubes using the screwdriver. You never know how many flats I had to vulcanize (I didn't use the word "patch" then) because of this.

2. Incorrect Lubes.
Come on. Say it with me. You know what this is. Now, all together - SINGER OIL. Yup, that was was idea of lubricating the chain. What I was thinking was it did well on the door hinges so it will do wonders on my chain. And so I did use this wonderful lubricant and my chain immediately transformed into a gunk magnet (I didn't know you had to wipe off the excess). I only learned about bike lubes when I visited the then-hot bike shops of Marikina.

3. Incorrect Tire Pressure.
To be honest I didn't know what the correct pressure was. As far as I know, as long as the tire feels hard then it's OK. Only learned about the correct pressure (and also how to read those numbers printed on my tires' sidewalls) from other cyclists.
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