So you rode to work…what comes next?

I am a huge proponent of riding to work, whether all the way from home, or in conjunction with another mode of transport – so-called “bimodal” commuting. Once you get to your workplace though, what do you do to transition from sweaty bike commuter to presentable office worker?

I’m going to share my strategy. Obviously, our circumstances may vary, so not everything may work exactly the same way for you, but I bet you can still pick up some tips.

BRING A CHANGE OF CLOTHES

It’s a fair bet most workplaces frown on their employees dressed in sweat-drenched clothing, so at the very least a change of shirt is required.

An old knapsack houses my change of clothing and freshening-up stuff.

I also found out the hard way that trousers or pants are a general no-no for bike commuting. At least for me and my “don’t stop pedaling” style, the action of thighs moving against saddle nose and sides while turning the pedals at 80-90 RPM wears holes through pants very, very quickly from pure friction. It is just not cost-effective except for shorter rides. For this reason, I would much rather ride in baggy shorts or spandex; there is much less material in either garment to get in the way and be subjected to friction, so they last longer. Ultimately, when you wear through the seat of your baggy shorts, it’s cheaper to replace that with a new pair than doing the same with trousers or jeans. Save your trousers and jeans for when you’re actually in the office.

Best to bring spare underwear as well, to avoid your groin and crotch sprouting saddle sores from the moisture and friction of sweaty skin. Petroleum jelly, if needed, is also a good idea.

SECURE A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN FRESHEN UP…AND CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF

The concept of a shower room for cyclists is a pretty strange one for most office spaces, so you will have to make do with what you do have. For me, it’s a cubicle with a toilet and a nearby tap.

Taking a “shower” this way is bound to leave a mess of a wet floor, so I borrow a mop from the janitor’s closet every day to clean up afterwards.

Alternatively, if you don’t have something like this to work with, I’m told baby wipes are a decent way of freshening up. I’m a little iffy about this though, as baby wipes are also notoriously hard to decompose or biodegrade – I try not to use them unnecessarily.

BRING SOAP AND A TOWEL

Cheap, effective, compact, smells inoffensive – what’s not to like?

If the shower option is feasible, I highly suggest bringing a distilled set of bathing gear. I’ve had success with Aquazorb’s microfiber hand towels and Safeguard’s Pure White body wash in the 200 mL bottle because they are as small as I can get away with, while still remaining very effective.

Aquazorb’s microfiber hand towel is small, but very effective.

The Aquazorb microfiber towel in particular is an underappreciated gem, I think. It’s a “hand towel” per se, and it may feel strange against your skin at first, but in practice, it has enough absorptive capacity to put a full-size terrycloth towel to shame. Even in an air-conditioned office, it dries in after around 2-3 hours of being laid flat. When not in use, it rolls up into a little bundle with its own elastic strap. At PhP180 apiece, it’s perhaps the cheapest you can find a good microfiber towel for in Metro Manila. Just don’t wash it with fabric softener.

BRINGING A DRESS SHIRT?

Fortunately for me, my workplace doesn’t require button-down shirts; simple shirts and denim jeans are fine. For guys out there who have to bring a button-down shirt with them to change into at work, one tip from GCN’s Matt Stephens to keep the shirt wrinkle-free is to employ old magazines and sandwich the shirt there…or to make use of the magazine as a shape-giving filler or “spine” for the folded shirt, and put it all in a relatively tight-fitting envelope. I’ve tried this before, and it’s surprisingly effective.

BRING YOUR CLOTHING IN ADVANCE?

Alternatively, instead of bringing clothing every day, you could bundle all the clothes you’d need in a work week and leave them in a locker at your workplace on a weekend. This method may work for some people, or it may not.

 

In a nutshell, that’s how I freshen up after each and every day riding to the office. What’s your post-commute strategy?

The clipless diaries, part 6: Shimano Deore PD-M530 SPD pedals

As I found myself using the turbo trainer more often, clipless pedals made more sense as they allow me to keep my feet planted while I spin high cadences during interval training. I quickly realized just how much I disliked the effort of swapping pedals between bikes, how many tools it required, and how much time it took…the added faff has the potential to discourage me from logging in my training.

I needed another set of SPD pedals. I got a good deal on a barely used pair of Shimano’s PD-M530s. Nominally part of the Deore groupset, this is perhaps the company’s most basic SPD pedal with an external cage.

Like the Saint PD-MX80 flat pedals, the M530s thread into cranks either with a 6 mm hex wrench, or a 15 mm pedal wrench. At 455 g they’re around the same weight, too; weight weenies need not apply. They’re plenty strong, though, as is typical with Shimano pedals.

I like the workmanlike, minimalist aesthetic. No groupset branding to shout, just the Shimano logotype on the outside vertical face. In silver, those would be even stealthier and hide scratches better. Seems there’s lots of room for any mud to fall off the pedal body, too – not that I’ll be testing this, as most of my riding is on asphalt.

The PD-M530 pedals look pretty good paired with the FC-R565 crank. Non-series? No problem.

Had I bought these brand-new, they would have come with the black SH51 single-release SPD cleats. Not a bad bundle for PhP1600 SRP. There are vastly more expensive versions of this basic design, but your added cash isn’t necessarily getting you a better-working pedal – you’re really just paying for exotic materials and weight savings.

Perhaps not the best option for beginners, though…

Compared to my existing Deore XT T780 pedals, the M530s have a much tighter hold built into their SPD mechanism. I think it’s down to a spring with stronger tension. Set to minimum, the cleat retention is as strong as the T780s set to half or even 70% of maximum. It took me a bit of getting used to, but it does eliminate any chance of unwanted release. In contrast, the SPD bindings of the T780s have relaxed over time; sometimes my cleats pop out of them when my pedaling motion isn’t as straight as it should be on the turbo trainer.

The stronger release tension does mean more foresight needed for unclipping in urban riding scenarios, though. In that respect, they’re a little less newbie-friendly, even paired with SH56 multi-release cleats. The T780 or something like Shimano’s Click’R line would be better for nervous newbies to learn on, the latter due to their SPD bindings having 60% less spring tension.

Clockwise from top left: Deore PD-M530 double-sided SPD; Deore XT PD-T780 SPD+platform; Saint PD-MX80 platform

With the M530s, I now have quite a spectrum of pedals – all of them below PhP3500. The Saint MX80s are my reliable platform pedals, further customizable with traction pins; these are going into storage, going back on when my wife feels like riding with me. The Deore XT T780s are my commuter pedals, sporting a platform side, an SPD binding side, and reflectors in the pedal cage. The Deore M530s, with SPD bindings on both sides, are for maximum foot retention for take-no-prisoners riding.

Indoor training, part 6: The flywheel effect

I’ve had the Minoura LiveRide LR340 turbo trainer for a while now and I’ve used it with both Hyro, my cyclocross bike with 700C wheels, and Bino, my 20″-wheeled folding bike. A few buckets of sweat later, shared between these two bikes, I started noticing a few differences.

At this point, I’ve documented numerous times the more rapid rate of tire wear from the smaller wheels – and the larger resulting mess that comes with it. It turns out that’s not the most telling difference between the two bikes.

With Bino, I find I can crank up the resistance and use much heavier gears. I regularly dip into the higher end of the gear ratio spectrum. I’ve gotten to the point where I can sprint in the 50×12 top gear combo at the final flat-out interval of a workout…and push as hard as an indicated 60.8 km/h on my cyclocomputer.

I have no idea how I’d sprint to this speed on a folding bike. My limit on the road is around 44 km/h, at which point I’d be pretty spun out.

Even in my 50×12 top gear, it’d take my legs a pedaling cadence of 154 RPM to get to this indicated road speed. Yes, that’s not sustainable for long periods, and most likely very hard to do out on the open road due to aerodynamic drag, but I’m mentioning it to illustrate my case.

On Hyro, though, it’s a different story. I use nowhere near half the LR340’s total resistance range, and despite using the same cassette and chainrings as Bino, I usually never breach the halfway point of the cassette. Beyond 50×19 or 50×17 are gear combos that are too big for me to push my pedals to on a turbo trainer. My indicated road speed also peaks at a significantly lower 52.5 km/h.

V-max on Hyro while on a turbo trainer.

It’s entirely possible that the two bikes are giving me slightly different workouts, and I pin this down to their rear wheels acting as flywheels of different sizes.

With Bino, the smaller 406 mm rear wheel acts as a flywheel that is much lighter and quicker to spin up with pedaling the cranks. The consequence is it takes much more resistance from the turbo trainer to give the training load called for by sprint intervals. Hyro’s 622 mm rear wheel, on the other hand, has more mass and needs more energy to get going…but requires less out of the turbo trainer to give roughly the same training load.

In practical training terms, I think that indoor training with Bino is more of a test of souplesse, or pedaling smoothness. With the smaller wheel size, I find it is much easier to accelerate and decelerate simply by changing my pedaling cadence. Peculiarly, with a change of bike, I find I could get the same kind of training coaches used to recommend getting a roller trainer for. Bino also has a slight edge for really high cadence work. Mounting Hyro’s bigger rolling stock on the LR340 will allow me the low-cadence training that replicates endurance climbing efforts, as well as getting used to holding low positions for faster riding.

Without hard data, and sharing just my palpable differences training between the two bikes, I feel like I may just be blowing a load of hot air. For that reason, I would love to quantify all this difference with a power meter. Unlike heart rate or speed, where external factors such as aero drag or physical condition can affect readings, power meters are more “insulated” and are better at actually quantifying your training load and output – a watt is a watt is a watt. Unfortunately, while they have been coming down in price almost constantly since 2012, they’re still too rich for my blood.