Bino’s day out

After a year and a half of mostly keeping Bino in storage, I got excited to ride him again once his 2×10 drivetrain was finally completed after a lengthy buildup.

Steve, the Singaporean folding bike blogger and DIY mechanical guru behind “Hands On Bike,” served as my inspiration for the buildup of the Dahon Vitesse T20.

It had been a while since I had taken him for a ride longer than the spin around the neighborhood. I decided to go out on one of my Sunday morning long rides as usual, only with the small-wheeled bike instead of the cross bike.

Before all that, my fingers started to itch for something to tinker with, and so I performed a few modifications.

I removed the rear rack for a bit of weight savings. Given how tiny that thing was though, I doubt it made much of a difference.

The second thing I did was to temporarily swap in the Deore XT T780 pedals. I wanted to see how much of an improvement I could get out of the Vitesse if I had clipless pedals and shoes on. After all, I did say that the key to small-wheeled speed was spinning a high cadence. How I would achieve that on 172.5 mm crank arms and this particular bike, I would find out.

One of the reasons I was previously not too keen on riding the Dahon was due to some issues with my bike fit. About two years ago, I had suffered from pain in my right leg’s iliotibial band (ITB), which is a long, wide tendon that runs from the side of the buttocks to the outside of the knee. Trust me, you don’t want ITB issues, as they make walking and going down stairs unbearably painful.

After self-diagnosis, the culprit was my riding with a slightly nose-down saddle, set with a bit too much saddle height. Riding this way, I was effectively pedaling hard while trying to prop myself up against sliding off the nose of the saddle. It was just a matter of a few centimeters and degrees, but those were enough to overload the muscles and tendons just above my knee, leading to a sore ITB as well as over-exerted ankles.  Fortunately for me, I recovered on my own after a week off the saddle and a funny way of walking.

On this ride, I wanted to see for myself if I had my bike fit dialed in on the Dahon, and if it wasn’t, what corrections I had to do. I had already reduced saddle height a few millimeters to compensate for the longer cranks.

So what did I learn?

As it turns out, clipless pedals made spinning much easier. No surprise there. Even with slightly longer crank arms, I was maintaining 80-90 RPM more often than if I had the metal-body folding pedals installed.

Which leads me to my second lesson: I can sprint on this bike pretty effectively. Now this was a surprise. Granted, it’s best done where the asphalt is relatively smooth, so that the frame can take maximum power without the folding joints having to get shunted or flexed by ruts or potholes. Hunched over and pulling on the bar ends, I put out at least half a dozen out-of-saddle sprints, mashing 110 RPM ten seconds at a time and launching myself to 43 km/h, and it was nice how solid the little Dahon felt. Of course, this is a small-wheeled bike, so it’s hilariously easy how all that rolling resistance instantly drops your speed to 35 km/h once you can’t sustain full throttle any more and back off. And have I mentioned how hard it is on your cardio? Some credit to me, though, as previously I would have been able to pull off just one ten-second sprint to 40 km/h…and spend the rest of the ride wheezing.

I felt a little “cramped” while I was tapping a rhythm with the pedals, though. Getting off, I realized I didn’t put in enough layback in the saddle, and it was still nose-down by about five degrees. Now though, I was compensating for the nose-down saddle state a lot better by shifting my bum to the rear, while I recruit my glutes and hamstrings to pedal and take stress out of my quads. I used these findings to dial in my fit, adding an inch of layback and leveling off my saddle when I got home after the ride.

Lastly, I rediscovered just how much of a handicap it is to pedal a long distance ride or even a randonnee on a small-wheeled bike. It does take its toll on you as a rider if you adhere to the philosophy of keeping a relatively high pedaling cadence at all times.

It’s such good training, though.

Maybe I should do this more often.

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