Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What the...

Okay…so I’m not an orthopedist…but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night! Hang-on this is going to be a rant on ignorance and the commercial circulation of ignorance! This rant will most definitely receive a PG-13 or greater rating…so the prudish should turn away now!

There are those times in life when you are obligated to say, “What the Hell?”

The most recent issue of Bicycling arrived today, and there…, there-in black in white…, there-filling a half page…wasting forty square inches of magazine space, is one of the most preposterous articles I have read in a long time. (The previous sentence sounds better in your head if you whine it in an Arlo Guthrie-like Alice’s Restaurant Massacre ballad voice.)

Tackle Tingly Hands: Tips and Exercises to Strengthen Your Grip by Selene Yeager (p. 37) demonstrates that the author has no awareness for the limitations of her source (Andrew Pruitt, “a bike-fit and sports-medicine expert”); and, the phenomena that affects many cyclists known as paresthesia!

What the Hell is Cyclist’s Palsy? Do we take prosaic liberty to contrive a medically absurd name for this functional disorder? Palsy suggests paralysis! Look it up in a Stedman’s or Dorland’s Medical Dictionaries…yeah, the ones we use professionally…you know in medical school and practice!

I’ve never had, nor will I ever have, palsy or paralysis from gripping my handlebars. Why? Because my mind refuses to allow me to continue compressing the ulnar and median nerves in the heal of my hands (thenar and hypothenar compartments) and the palmar vascular arches. My mind mitigates the potential for irreversible damage by responding to the resulting sensation of paresthesia (“pins and needles”) brought on by compressive insult to the nerves and blood vessels! The sensation can become so intense that a continuance of the improper-positioning of the hands on the handlebars becomes unbearable…so you quit doing it. It comes down to the burlesque gag—

Patient: “Doctor it hurts when I (do this)…”
Doctor: “Then stop doing it!”

And…What the Hell does “overextending your wrists” have to do with gripping the handlebars? Stop, In the Name of Love for Diana Ross and the Supremes…you would have your wrists hyperextended in the Supreme’s iconic choreographic “halting-position,” such that gripping the handlebars would not only be uncomfortable from the onset, but unsafe?

What the… does the subtitle: “Tips and Exercises to Strengthen Your Grip” have to do with relieving the paresthesia? It’s the tight grip that got you into the predicament—relax that grip and take the pressure off of the nerves and vessels of the proximal hand.

“If you’re prone to pins and needles, some experts advise stretching and strengthening your lower arms to increase your tolerance for long hours on the bar.” WHAT…? It’s the hands! The pressure is on the hands! Increasing strength of the ‘forearms’ does not alleviate the problem of compressive insult to the nerves and vessels of the hand. I’ll agree that strengthening the forearm muscles will allow for greater endurance in maintaining a neutral or straight wrist…but it will not reduce the compression in the hands nor increase tolerance. Strengthening your back muscles would be more appropriate, allowing you to transfer some of the force (weight of the body) aft, that would otherwise be placed on the handlebars through the hands.

Several weeks ago, I submitted an article, How to Handle the Handlebars, on this very topic for the next FAB Newsletter. The explanations and diagrams are more explicative and less ranting. Watch for it…we’ll talk again…Oh, What the Hell…

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Do You Remember Your First Quarter Century?

Distance measured with a pair of compasses, is not precisely the same as when measured by the leg.”—Jerome K. Jerome

A novice cyclist (right) discovers the satisfaction of his first “quarter century” ride.

Friday afternoon, thirteen student, staff and faculty cyclists assembled to ride the bike trail in another installment of our campus community wellness activities program. The baker’s dozen departed by half past three. The experienced riders were very supportive and patient with the inexperienced; and, like last week, there were those learning moments before we set out —tire inflation, flat fix-it’s, and mechanical adjustments.

The weather was magnificent, except for the southern wind that had picked up to around 20 mph by 3:00 PM. We rode into the wind from Sherman Park. The various rider skill groups started to appear almost immediately, and the participants regrouped. A few minor mechanical problems further subdivided the participants. For the group furthest behind, the pace was leisurely (6.5 mph average); so it was nearly five by the time we all rendezvoused at Falls Park. Several riders had to depart to attend to dinner engagements, family and friends…but three journeyed on!

The trinity completed the 25.9 mile route by six-thirty…the greatest distance one of our budding cyclists had ever ridden. I suspect it was the second record he had set in two weeks…with the first record being set at the previous week’s ride. He was excited about making the “full circle” around the bike path…but had not anticipated the gusty southern wind we would once again encounter on the return route from the Pump Station. He started to bonk just north of the Maple Street Bridge. I rummaged through my handlebar bag for toffee Power Bar® and offered it to him…he inhaled it and chased it with some water. Being refreshed (or at least buzzing from the instant carbohydrate load), we resumed our trek back to campus passing by a necessary Kodak Moment (see photos below).

Next week, our newest quarter century rider has yet another record to break…maybe a half century…we’ll start at noon.

Alright cycling friends, I need your help. The popularity of group cycling is catching on over at the “Coo”…the University of Sioux Falls (formerly Sioux Falls College—affectionately nicknamed “Soo Foo Coo”). Twenty-three campus cyclists have indicated an interest and future participation. It’s time to give this group a moniker…what do you think? Hopefully their interests will expand so much that they consider joining FAB and ride more frequently!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Metering the Week--A Cycling Compendium

Albert Einstein’s passions for bicycles are venerated in many of his infamous quotations, but foremost is his metaphorical appraisal of life to riding a bicycle—“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

So truthful was this statement during the past week.

You, my revered cycling friends and inspired bloggers, will agree that many of us need our habitual mind-clearing ride or me-time to maintain our balance. I got mine this Sunday morning.

Wednesday afternoon, as part of our multipartite campus community wellness program, I agreed to share a little known part of me by organizing and leading an activity that restores and refreshes me—a bicycle ride. I had one of the most amazing rides of my life…6.3 mph average speed for 12.22 miles. You can’t believe the things that I saw on the bike trail and the conversations that were conducted. The experienced riders, several that you will recognize from the photograph were very supportive and patient with the inexperienced. There were the teaching moments—flat fix-it’s, group riding taboos (weaving and unexplained braking) and verbal/hand signaling. I now apologize to any ride leader that I ever gave less than a genuine heartfelt Thank You!

Saturday, the Sanford Biking for Breast Cancer Ride was delightful…no, honestly I mean this! I was encouraged by the participants’ fortitude in riding despite the inclement weather…because we all know that nothing spells c-o-m-f-o-r-t, like a wet chamois for fifty miles in the rain and cold. Thank you to those that organized the event, executed the plan, participated in the event and raised the public awareness to breast cancer. I extend my wishes for a quick recovery to WindInHisShorts, who took a serious fall on the railroad tracks north of Lyons.

So…Sunday morning before the Sun rose, I set out to collect survey data for the FAB helmet usage study. The weather was trying to change; I just guessed it was changing in the wrong direction…drizzle with a northwest wind at 20-25 mph and gusts to 30 mph. My solitary ride out to the Sioux River Pump Station on the north end of the Sioux Falls Bike Trail was really quite peaceful; there were no other bicyclists, only a variety of waterfowl resting in the diversion canal. It was deafeningly quiet…except for the wind whistling in the vents of my helmet. I paused for better than a half-hour at the Pump Station, marveling at the wonders of the early morning and relinquishing my senses to experience the beauty of the creation. SighBalance.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Helmet Hut Saturday

The FAB Helmet Hut public service activity was Saturday, September 6th. Even though the weather was autumnal, bicycle traffic was heavy on the bike trail…until it rained. Then, amazingly the traffic subsided?! Nothing promotes comfort like a wet chamois...

You’ll be seeing the results of the FAB Helmet Usage Survey at the FAB Web Site soon…but we still need more data (he said in his most maniacal inner voice). Preliminary results suggest that the number of cyclists wearing helmets, on the Sioux Falls Bike Trail System, is around fifty percent. That’s the good news! The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported a similar proportion in 1998…the bad news. A significant increase in bike helmet usage was seen between 1991 (eighteen percent) and 1998 (fifty percent)…but we have not seen any increase since. Perhaps, we have already convinced all of those bicyclists that we can—to wear the most essential piece of bicycling protective equipment.

I know we touched some of the bicyclists on the trail this last Saturday. A couple stopped to get a discount coupon to purchase a new helmet (replacing a decade old model), a helmet-less rider stopped by to pick up a discount coupon because he had been "meaning to buy one" (the time seemed right) and we talked with a family (all were wearing helmets) that needed a new one for the youngest of their riding group. These we will mark as successes…but we will also count those abundant helmet-less passersby that cast us their “guilty glances” knowing that our presence served as a reminder that helmet usage is prudent.

The arguments on using bike helmets bore me…and frankly, those debaters that are most vehement are disturbing. As pragmatically as I can state this—ANY skin I can save on my face and scalp, ANY impact energy I can dissipate to the helmet instead of my brain and braincase, ANY grief and distress I can save my family in caring for my vegetative self and ANYONE I can convince to do the same by example, makes wearing my helmet worth it. Besides, I think I look dapper in my commuter helmet.

Consider that most reported bicycle accidents do not involve motor vehicles (approximately ninety-five percent); over 600,000 bicyclists visit emergency rooms and physicians about injuries sustained in bicycling accidents, annually; and, approximately 900 people die as a result of bicycle accidents, annually. Don’t be a statistic…unless you are one that we are counting on the bike trail—wearing a helmet!

Thanks to all that helped with sponsoring the Helmet Hut (Harlan’s Bike & Tour, Prairie Cycles, Spoke-n-Sport, and Two Wheeler Dealer), the committee (Harold, Minus Car, and Hellimat), and the many FABulous members that stopped (Kari, the Mayor, Dirk (the Prez), Rocket, Shirley, Ed, and others).

Monday, September 1, 2008

Luv' Bite

It’s come to my attention that many of you are not aware that I have more than one bicycle…it’s true. But since most of you only see me riding around town, all you have seen accompanying me is my “townie,” hybrid or comfort bike (I hope one of those is the right term). Twice last week, I had different people ask me whether I had purchased a new bike—when I was riding a bike that I have had for the last two years?!

Yes, I have a road bike (I know that’s the right term)—a Cannondale Synapse. Now she is the flagship of my fleet and probably has more road miles on her than the other three combined…no…not the townie, hybrid or comfort bike. My reference is to the rest of the fleet—a 35 year old reconditioned classic Schwinn Speedster that my father rode, a 20 year old Specialized Rockhopper and the Cannondale Adventure 3.

Each of these bikes has a personality, and I think many of you will agree with me that yours do too. The Schwinn is the Ol’ Man of bicycling that creaks, grunts and groans about moving but is solid and reliable even though a bit crotchety. The Rockhopper is an Ol’ School ride with no suspension and many a scar from the incoming freshman, but as durable as it is aloof. The youngster of the fleet, the hybrid, is made for comfort and taking junkets around town always eager for another adventure or three.

It’s the road bike I want to talk about…she has a persnickety personality that can become somewhat spiteful at times. She loves the open road, but doesn’t get out as much as she would like. She loves speed, but her rider is often more reserved. She loves attention, but is treated like a “trophy bike”…all guised with nowhere to go, so she hangs on the wall at home. But every once in a while, she reminds you that she is “all that!” You envy her light frame, sleek design and superlative performance; but be aware, she emphasizes her displeasure with disuse by offering a mindful nip from her chainring—a Luv’ Bite—that will remind you to take her for a spin more often.

Thanks to Bellyton--PedalPower, the Hooterville Mayor, Double G, and Road Legs...and the Breakaway--the kErnEl, Dirk, Gene and Craig for a great ride on Saturday!