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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Saddle Up

A rider touches a bicycle at three points.  At the pedals, the saddle, and the handlebar.  When I got my first road bike the components at these three contact points were chosen for me by James Flatman, the bike builder.  Thank goodness, because the choices of pedals, saddles and handlebars are seemingly endless.

My steel Alchemy came with Speedplay Zero pedals, a Selle Italia SL Flow saddle, and a Ritchey Comp Road Logic handlebar.  I was happy with all those contact points, so a year later when I got my next road bike I was happy to stick with what I was used to.

Welcome to the concept of product updates in the cycling components world.

My titanium Alchemy came with Speedplay Zero pedals, a Selle Italia SLR Flow saddle (the SL Flow having been discontinued), and a Ritchey WCS Carbon Evolution handlebar (the Road Logic having been discontinued).  The saddle and handlebars were not very different from the models which they had replaced, but they were different enough for the change to be noticeable.

So it was that I contracted that affliction that affects so many cyclists.  The desire to fiddle.  In my case with saddles.

Fortunately the itch to fiddle has not extended to my pedals and handlebars.  The scope for mucking around with my pedals is limited anyway.  I like the dual-sided entry of the Speedplays.  Other makes of road pedals are single-sided.  So my only option is getting lighter Speedplays; chrome-moly or titanium.  I haven’t yet been cursed with the ultimate cyclist’s affliction, the desire for the lightest components on earth.  So my stainless steel Speedplays remain my pedals of choice.

I must admit that I like the Carbon Evolution handlebar more than I like the Comp Road Logic handlebar.  The Carbon Evolution has an oval top with a 4 degree sweep, which makes it more comfortable  than the Comp Road Logic.  So about a year ago I put a Carbon Evolution handlebar on the steel Alchemy.

Back to fiddling with saddles.  Of the three contact points I notice the saddle the most while I am riding.  Not that the SL Flow or the SLR Flow are uncomfortable saddles.  They both have a central cutout, which I like.  This is the SL Flow.

Selle Italia SL Flow

This is the SLR Flow.

Selle Italia SLR Flow

The SLR Flow has a slightly larger cutout than the SL Flow, but they are essentially the same saddle.  Equally comfortable.  But as I learned more about saddle shapes and the different materials used to make them, I kept wondering if there may be a more comfortable saddle out there for me.

Then in the latter half of 2011 I read about the Fi’zi:k Kurve range of saddles.

Fizik Kurve

There was enough new technology in the Kurve saddles to appeal to the geek in me.  Spine Concept designs, Re:flex construction, a Tuner interchangeable tension system, a Moebius one-piece saddle rail.  Add positive reviews about outstanding comfort to the mix, and I wanted one.

The Fi’zi:k Kurves appeared in a few London bike shops some time before they turned up in Dutch bike shops.  At the very first opportunity I popped into Condor Cycles in London.  I had every intention of leaving with either a Kurve Snake or a Kurve Chameleon saddle, depending upon what a Spine Concept test showed I was best suited to.

The sales person asked me if I had any problems or discomfort with the Selle Italia saddles.  I said “no.”

I left empty-handed.  She refused to sell me a saddle.  She told me not to try to fix something that wasn’t broken.

That cured my saddle fiddling itch.

That is until I started seeing Michelle again.  Michelle is a Rolf Method Structural Integration Practitioner.   She does myofascial release therapy.  In plain language, she manipulates deep tissue to correct postural imbalances and restrictions.   I saw her regularly in the years before I moved to Houston.  As soon as I got back to Kuala Lumpur I signed up for a course of therapy.  I had lots of things that needed fixing.  Some brought on by cycling.

After Michele had worked on my hip muscles: adductors, glutes, illiopsoas, piriformis, sartorius, etc., my saddles felt less comfortable.  They felt too narrow.

I had learned that bicycle saddles come in different widths.  Perhaps Michelle had loosened up my pelvis such that my sit bones had moved further apart. So I went to a Specialized Concept store to have my sit bones measured.  The resulting number showed that my 130mm wide Selle Italia saddles were indeed to narrow for my sit bones.

Specialized makes saddles in three widths: 130mm, 143mm, and 155mm.  My sit bone measurement showed that I needed a saddle wider than 143mm.  So I left the shop with a 155mm wide Romin Comp Gel saddle under my arm.

Specialized Romin Comp Gel

I replaced the SL Flow saddle on my steel bike with the Romin saddle.   The Romin felt very comfortable at first.  As time went by it felt less and less comfortable.  At the same time the SLR Flow saddle on my titanium bike became increasingly comfortable.  My sit bones must have slowly migrated closer together again.  The Romin saddle started feeling too wide for me.

So when I had to choose a saddle for my Ritchey Breakaway I picked the latest iteration of the Selle Italia SLR saddle.  The SLR Superflow.  A 130mm wide one.

Selle Italia SLR Superflow

The SLR Superflow has a monster cutout.  Which must work as designed because this a very comfortable saddle.

Since April this year I have rotated between the 130mm wide SLR Flow, the 130mm wide SLR Superflow, and the 155mm wide Romin Comp Gel saddles.  The Romin was a mistake.  Certainly in the 155mm width.

Last week I replaced the Romin Comp Gel with another 130mm SLR Superflow.

I think I am done fiddling with my saddles.

But about that handlebar tape . . .

King of Perez Stage 1

Graphic courtesy of Dave Ern

Graphic courtesy of Dave Ern

The 7th in the series of King of 9 Mountains challenges that Dave Ern has put together was held today.  The 100km / 62 mi route took us from Semenyih in the state of Selangor to Kuala Klawang in the state of Negeri Sembilan.  There was a 60km / 37mi option for those who didn’t relish 1,900m / 6,200ft of climbing.

King of Peres Stage 1 Route

About twenty of us gathered in Semenyih for the 7.30am start.  But first a briefing about the route from Dave Ern.

Photo courtesy of Khairuddin Abdul Aziz

Photo courtesy of Khairuddin Abdul Aziz

The turn-around point for those doing the 60km route was 1km up Bukit Tangga.  After the Bukit Mandom 1 and Bukit Mandom 2 climbs.  Bukit Mandom 1 gets the heart pumping.  It is only 1,000m / 3,300ft long, but it has a 400m / 1,300ft section with a gradient of more than 10%, maxing out at 18%.  Bukit Mandon 2 is a bit over 2km / 1.3mi long but it has gentler gradients that do not exceed 9%.

So everyone was ready for a break by the time we got to the local convenience store on the lower slope of Bukit Tangga.

King of Peres Stage 1 Convenience Store

The home-made soft drinks looked good, but this looked better.  I’m sure it tasted better too.

King of Peres Stage 1 Rehydration

The Bukit Tangga climb is about 5km / 3mi long.  If that was not enough to put people off the full 100km route, the thought of doing the climbs from the opposite direction on the way back to Semenyih did.  Only Adrian and I rode on to Kuala Klawang after this group photograph.

Photo courtesy of Khairuddin Abdul Aziz

Photo courtesy of Khairuddin Abdul Aziz

I got to Kuala Klawang in good shape.  Helped by a 65kph / 41mph run down Bukit Tangga.  Adrian and I camped for a while in the Petronas petrol station at Kuala Klawang, guzzling cold drinks in air-conditioned comfort.

By the time we started riding back the way we came it was 11am.


The hottest time of the day.  I didn’t need to tell me that while the thermometer read 35° C / 94° F,  it felt like 43° C / 109° F.  Adrian set a tempo north of 35kph / 22mph.  By the time we started back up Bukit Tangga I was overheating.  My heart rate had come down fairly quickly after the climbs on the outward leg, when it was cooler.  Not so on the return leg.

King of Peres Stage 1 Charts

I should have put some ice in my bottles at that Petronas station.

I tried to keep my heart rate below 150bpm on the climbs by turning as light a gear as possible and going slowly.  Even so my heart rate hit 170bpm on Bukit Mandom 2.  That is higher than I have ever seen it.

The last 20km was all about heart rate management, taking a drink every five minutes, and keeping cramps at bay.

And looking forward to my post-ride beverage of choice.

Durian Fiesta Chocolate Milk

There is a King of Perez Stage 2 planned.  It will be the same route as we rode today, but with an additional 68km / 42mi and another big out-and-back climb beyond Kuala Klawang to cover.

A step too far methinks.

City Ride with a Difference

It has been a long time since I pulled on a pair of  baggy shorts and a t-shirt, put platform pedals on a bike and and rode the city streets.

I headed out into the evening rush hour.  The four-wheeled traffic was hardly moving along Jalan Tun Razak and Jalan Ampang Hilir.  It was bumper-to-bumper, sometimes three or four lanes wide, until I got to the end of Jalan Kerja Air Lama, where it turns into Jalan 1.

Kelab Darul Ehsan Ride Map

Jalan 1 loops around the Kelab Darul Ehsan golf course.  The golf course bumps up against southern end of the Titiwangsa Range.  As I rode around Jalan 1 I was at the very eastern edge of the city.  I had fairways and putting greens to my left, and jungle to my right.  Click on the street and satellite maps to open zoomable versions in new windows.

Kelab Darul Ehsan Ride Satellite

As I rode around the golf course I was not surprised to see monkeys along the side of the road.  I was surprised to see lots of wild boar on the jungle side of the road.


The wild boar were such a novelty that I did the loop a second time so I could see them again.

Then it was back into the traffic to get home.  A wild ride in more ways than one.

Kilo Months

I started keeping track of my rides in January 2010.  I had a new road bike, and an even newer Garmin Edge 705 cycle computer.  Uploading the details to the Garmin Connect web site after every ride became standard practice.   That year I rode 3,173 kilometers.

The heat map below shows where I rode for the first six months of 2010.  The most-ridden routes are depicted in red.  Click on the heat map to open the image in a new window.  You will see that most of my kilometers were accrued on the West End Tuesday and Thursday evening rides, and the Sunday Taco rides through Houston.

2010 Heat Map

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

I had some big rides outside metro Houston:  The Humble Lions Club Ride, The Space Race, and the BP MS150.  But I didn’t have a kilo month, which is my term for riding more than 1,000 kilometers in a month.

In mid-2010 I moved with my biker chick to The Netherlands.  The excellent cycling infrastructure there gave me more opportunity to ride, albeit on my own as I didn’t connect with a cycling group until the following year.

I started riding with the Not Possibles in March 2011.  The Saturday and occasional weekday rides with them boosted the distance I rode in 2011 to 6,985 kilometers.  In 2012 that number increased to 11,054 kilometers.  Almost of those kilometers were around Den Haag, with the 2011 and 2012 Ronde van Vlaanderen sportives, and the 2012 UCI World Championships sportive in Belgium thrown in for good measure.

Heat map courtesy of Strave

Heat Map courtesy of Strave

I racked up my first kilo month in August 2011.  The fine summer weather allowed me to ride eighteen times that month for a total of 1,085 kilometers.

Somewhat surprisingly I didn’t have another kilo month until January 2012, when I rode 1,091 kilometers.  I then had four more kilo months that year.  March, and three in a row from June to August.  My Not Possibles friends and I had a good summer that year.  My biggest ever kilo month was in July, when I rode 1,718 kilometers.  I had the luxury of being able to go on twenty five rides that month.

In October 2012 my biker chick and I moved home to Kuala Lumpur.   My ride frequency and average distance dropped dramatically for some months before slowly increasing again.  So it took more than a year before I had another kilo month, in September 2013.  Helped by five rides of at least 100 kilometers each.

My 2013 heat map looks a lot like my 2010 Houston heat map in that most of my rides are limited to a couple of routes.  Int his case KESAS and the Guthrie Corridor Expressway, with Putrajya and Genting Sempah thrown in for variety.  Scattered around the map are the one-off events that I rode in Johor Bahru, Kuala Terengganu, Kuantan and Penang,  My Racun buddies and I also rode to Fraser’s Hill, and I joined Dave Ern on a ride to Cameron Highlands.  You can also read about the Bike X and Broga 116 rides.

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

It looks like I will ride about 7,300 kilometers in 2013.  And perhaps have another kilo month this quarter.  Garmin Connect will reveal all.