29 March 2011

Bike commute day 9, to work

Notice: Today's entry is a Dear Diary entry that some readers might find embarrassing or even offensive. If so, read elsewhere today.

It's a ride like this one today that stresses how the things that might seem insignificant can affect the pleasure and efficiency of a ride. Soon after I started, even at turning the first corner, I knew that I was uncomfortable. I tried to shift my "junk" with a grab for it, but the quilted gloves I wore took no hold, and the quilted tights and skinsuit were too resistant to manipulating what was inside. Without even a bit of success, I kept on pedaling in hopes that everything would shift around as I continued on.

I tried again and again: grabbing occasionally, realigning myself on the seat, standing on the pedals, back down on the nose, trying another grab. Still the end was stuck between my leg and the abrading edge of the crotch padding. Then finally a bit of a change happened, to something less noticeable, more bearable.

But the easy unity of man and machine was elusive. Every two-dozen pedal strokes, the abrasion edged in again, then gradually shifted to some more relative comfort, only then to reiterate. My mind was on my body instead of on the road, the machine, and the dynamo that I should have been in the equation.

What could have been an opportunity for relief, a side trip to buy lottery tickets at a gas station near the bikeway, wasn't useful. I was off the bike, gloves off in the quick-shop area, and shifted the underlying skinsuit to fit in tighter to the crotch and bring the package up and out. Ah! Finally, a bit of comfort that the support brings! But by the time I returned to riding on the bike, the had skinsuit loosened, and my junk shifted again and settled into the same irritating position.

What many new cyclists don't take to heart is the advice that the cycling shorts are meant to be worn without underwear. There are tried-and-true reasons behind going commando.
  1. The pad, whether the older chamois or newer engineered fabrics, can absorb and wick away sweat or even water taken in from a rain storm. If moisture is not wicked away, it adds a chafing element to any movement between skin and shorts. 
  2. Cycling shorts are cut to limit the amount of hemmed fabric at the points of most contact. The seams, as small as possible, are along the perineal suture and at the outer sides of the hips. 
  3. The most recent saddles incorporate a hollow that matches the perineal suture, to further avoid irritation at the one seam in the saddle area.
  4. If underwear is worn, the hems along the leg openings and the bunching up of excess fabric all collect and hold sweat, which contributes to abrasion at every contact point with the seat.
  5. My dermatologist has advised using A+D Cream liberally in the crotch to give further prevention of chafing and moisture irritation. I've found this zinc oxide cream a great improvement over using chamois butters and other creams.
But my experience today shows that everything inside needs to be well positioned. So forgive that cyclist you see abruptly adjusting the family jewels before he swings a leg up and hops onto the saddle.

My times today belie the lowered efficiency. Three minutes additional time in the downhill first leg, but still I rode within the usual split times for the second and third legs.

Temperature: 29 to 31°F at 07:30
Precipitation: none
Winds: none to light
Clothing: Top with 4 layers=too toasty (longsleeve Lycra undershirt, skinsuit, fleece vest, arm warmers, wool-lycra jacket); Bottom with 2 layers=just right (skinsuit, quilted tights); ankle socks, quilted gloves.
Bike: Trek 850
Time: 1:00:00 (approx.) for 11.85 miles
Bikeway users: none others

08:24—departing from home.
08:41—passing the zig-zag up from the Mad River Bikeway.
08:52—passing the west gate to Eastwood Park.
09:06—passing the trestle remains at Linden. Side trip to buy lottery tickets.
09:24—arriving at  work.

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