Jun 27 2017

Putting the Joie Back in Vivre by Farwell Forrest

What does it mean to say you have a passion for paddling? That’s the question Farwell set himself to answer last week. Then his subject was hope. This time around it’s love and joy. What’s not to like about that?

Can you have a passion for paddling — as distinct from a passion for pasta (or pot noodles), that is? I’ve suggested that you can. At any rate, I know that I do, and I know I’m not alone. But there are many passions, are there not? Last week I examined how canoeing engendered hope, even in a time when hope is mighty hard to come by. And this week? My subjects are love and joy.

Of course, it’s difficult to write about either of these without sounding like a street‑corner evangelist — or a real estate agent anxious to keep a would‑be buyer from noticing the flaking asbestos pipe insulation in the basement. (“You’ll just love the garden. It’s a total joy.”) But this is the task I’ve set myself, so I’ll give it my best shot. And don’t worry, both your soul and your checkbook are safe. That’s a plus, surely.

How shall I begin? Well, love always gets a good press, so let’s start there: of life, death, and love… Read more…

Surprised by Joy - Photo (c) Tamia Nelson

Originally published at Paddling.com on June 27, 2017

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Jun 23 2017

Questions Cyclists Are Asked: Why Do You Wear Lycra Bike Shorts? by Tamia Nelson

Many cyclists wear tight lycra shorts, but why do guys and gals do this? Is it showing off? Or don’t they care that they look silly? The reason for the popularity of lycra shorts is a lot simpler than you might think. You might even want to consider getting a pair or two for yourself if you ride a bike. You say you’d never do so? Tamia thought she never would, either. But she changed her mind. Read why.

Bike shorts engender discussion and debate among cyclists and non-cyclists alike. Those who have never worn them can’t imagine why anyone would pour themselves into tight shorts with they’re bulgy padding, like an oversized maxi pad. They look so strange, those bike shorts, so silly, and in the eyes of some folks, wearing bike shorts in public borders on exhibitionism. So, if an item of clothing can cause such strong feelings, why wear them? The answer is simple:


A properly fitted pair of lycra bike shorts is like a second skin. They stretch without binding when you flex your legs, and the fabric transports sweat away from your body. They won’t bunch up to form folds that cause welts and chafe. They’re cool in hot weather, and when worn under tights in cool weather, they’ll help keep your thighs warm.

Bike shorts are lined in the crotch and backside with a pad called a chamois (pronounced SHAM-ee). Chamois vary in design from thin slabs of suede-like fabric to thick, highly engineered pads. The original chamois were shaped of leather from the hide of a European mountain goat-like animal of the same name. Chamois hide is especially soft and supple, and was kept that way by treating it with an emollient after each washing. These days, the leather chamois has been supplanted by absorbent, synthetic designs which usually don’t require treatment to remain soft and pliable.

Together with a well-chosen bike saddle, snug-fitting chamois-augmented lycra shorts contribute to a comfortable ride. Do you need special bike shorts? Not if your backside is happy wearing street clothes while riding your bike. On the other hand, if you suffer from chafe or saddle sores, or if you want to ride for longer periods of time, then you’ll probably be more comfortable wearing bike shorts. Even so, for many folks the major concern is…


Face it. More of us than ever have bodies closer to resembling the Michelin Man than the trim, thigh-bulging super-models displaying second-skin lycra in the bike catalogs. Don’t let it get to you. Your comfort is the main concern. When I returned to cycling after a long hiatus, I worried about how I’d look in bike shorts, so I wore loose cargo pants and cut-offs. Big mistake. Serious chafe and saddle sores brought tears to my eyes and eroded my concerns about appearances. I bought an inexpensive pair of lycra bike shorts and my troubles went away. I’ve never gone back.

If you worry about how you would look in bike shorts, just take a gander around you at people in their street clothes. There are plenty of bulges and sags peeking through skinny jeans, form-fitting yoga pants, and everyday work-wear. Ride often enough, and your sags and bulges will sweat away, and you’re more likely to ride often if it’s comfortable in the saddle. Besides, black shorts have a slimming effect on your body. They’re snug and help compress those flabby bits. And if you want to appear more normal when you go into stores or stop at the coffee shop, pull a pair of lightweight street shorts or pants right over the shorts when you get there. In my handlebar bag, pannier, or rack trunk, I carry a pair of convertible pants — legs zip off to make shorts. They’re compact enough to fold into a small package, but can be pulled over my bike shorts when I need to blend in with everyone else or when I’m shopping and need pockets for my wallet, lists, and other necessities.


If you’re not sure whether you’ll stick with them and don’t want to spend a lot of money, you can buy inexpensive basic lycra bike shorts from online retailers like our old standbys Performance Bike and Bike Nashbar. A quick check just now surprised me with a variety of lycra shorts for about USD10. I suggest buying two pair if you will be riding daily, because you’ll need to wash them after each use. If you discover you like wearing bike shorts and want models which are better designed, then expect to pay upwards of USD50 per pair unless you find them on sale. Haunt the online retailers’ sales for discounts if your budget is tight.

Whatever shorts you buy, they should fit snugly without binding. Loose lycra shorts will not support your muscles, and they’re more likely to form folds that will cause chafe. Choose the size carefully — read customer reviews for their evaluations about size accuracy, comfort, and durability.

Gals, do you need gender-specific shorts? Not necessarily. When I first began buying them, it was very difficult to find women’s shorts which didn’t cost a fortune, so I bought men’s versions. I now have both, though the shorts I find most comfortable are designed for men. My women’s shorts have high and narrow waists, and they have wide hips, too. I don’t particularly like a high rise, and the wide hips means that the shorts are looser than I like around my thighs. The chamois are wider in the women’s pairs, but don’t need that extra bit at the edges near the sit bones. Here are photos showing a pair of women’s (on the left) and a pair of men’s (on the right) bike shorts:

Bike Shorts Compared

The only way to know which shorts suit you best is to buy a pair and try them. Cheaper shorts will probably have rolled seams rather than flat-stitched ones, and the chamois of cheaper shorts are less likely to be well engineered or complexly shaped. Flat seams are less likely to chafe, but the thick chamois is a mixed blessing for some cyclists — some prefer thin padding. Beware of chamois that fold and bunch when you pedal, because this will cause chafe and saddle sores.

After a ride, don’t leave your sweaty shorts in a heap on the floor or in the laundry basket. This will only lead to a moldy tang that will be difficult to purge. Instead, dry your shorts by suspending them from a hanger, an outside line, or a drying rack, then put them in the laundry basket. Resist the temptation to wear used shorts till you wash them, and when laundering, use a mild detergent and cool water. Air dry them outside in the sun if you can, turned inside out so the chamois is exposed to the sun’s rays. The sun is a powerful antibacterial agent. If you need a bit of lubricant, consider a chamois cream, or use petroleum jelly, but be forewarned — creams and petroleum jelly can clog skin pores and help promote saddle sores.

One last thing…


It’s true. Bike shorts are designed to be worn without underwear. Boxers or, worse, tighty-whities worn under bike shorts are sure to promote chafe. Underwear seams will rub against you and defeat one of the purposes of the shorts — seamless contact between you and your clothing.

Still not sure if you like the idea of wearing lycra shorts in public, but you would like some padding? Then maybe you need…


If you’re still a bit leery of being seen in public with skin-tight shorts, just wear a pair of loose street shorts over them. The pair shown below work for me. They’re loose and have airy mesh pockets for my keys and wallet, and they’re baggy enough to be comfortable over bike shorts. Or buy purpose-made baggy biking shorts, which are padded inside but loose and look more like streetwear. Or you could buy lycra liner shorts intended to be worn under street clothes. I prefer cheap lightweight lycra shorts instead of liners when I’m sure I’ll be wearing street clothes, because the price of shorts is close to liners, and the lycra shorts can be worn on their own if I wanted to.

Mountain Bike Shorts


Lycra bike shorts might make you feel immodest and exposed when you first pull them on, but after a couple rides chances are you’ll discover why so many cyclists wear them. Bike shorts won’t instantly transform your body into that of a super model, but they can make cycling a lot more comfortable. Your nether regins will thank you.


Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Jun 20 2017

A Passion for Paddling: Rediscovering Hope by Farwell Forrest

What does it mean to say you have a passion for paddling? That’s the question Farwell sets himself this week, and you’ll find the first part of his answer below. A hint: Hope lies at the heart of the story.

Why would any sane person claim to have a passion for paddling? That’s passion in the now superseded sense, I hasten to add, a sense best exemplified in this definition from the Oxford English Dictionary: “Any kind of feeling by which the mind is powerfully affected or moved; a vehement, commanding, or overpowering emotion; … as ambition, avarice, desire, hope, fear, love, hatred, joy, grief, anger, revenge.” Of course, we can set most of these to one side. Though canoeists sometimes feel fear — Are you certain the guidebook said this was only Class IV? — canoeing seldom gives rise to avarice, hatred, anger, or a desire for revenge. But what about hope, love, and joy? Surely there are many times when canoeists are swayed by these prime movers of human action. I know I am, at any rate. So I can honestly say I have a passion for paddling… Read more…

A Passion for Life

Originally published at Paddling.com on June 20, 2017

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Jun 19 2017

The Gross Anatomy of a Bike by Tamia Nelson

A bicycle is the sum of all its parts — headset, crank, cluster, and many others. But what are these parts, where do you find them? Tamia dissects a bike to identify the most commonly referenced anatomical features. Don’t worry, though, the demo isn’t gross.

Do you know what’s meant by a bike’s headset? Or the rear dropout? Or the chainstay? You might not if you’re new to cycling. Or if you’ve been riding bikes for awhile but never gave thought to more than the pedals, saddle, and tire pressures. Yet if your bike develops a strange knock, or the steering seems wonky for no reason, or the brakes aren’t functioning properly, than you’ll have an easier time diagnosing the problem if you know how to identify the bike’s constituent parts. This is doubly true if you are thinking of learning to service and repair your bike.

Even simple bicycles are built of many parts. The frame is obvious, as are wheels, tires, the saddle, pedals, and handlebars. But what about the other parts? Some you can see, at least partially. Others are hidden. All are important. In the photo below, shot by TNO‘s Contributing Photographer Anthony Jancek, you can see how one kind of pedal breaks down:

Breakdown of a Bike on Display - Photo (c) Anthony T. Jancek

This is part of a larger display of a dismembered bike in a shop window. Each part is suspended from the ceiling by a length of monofilament, which probably accounts for why the pedal’s ball bearings aren’t there. (It wouldn’t be easy to suspend spheres from even the finest thread, after all.)

But what about the bigger picture? Well, here it is:

Gross Anatomy of a Bike - Photo (c) Tamia Nelson

This is a touring bicycle, so will differ in some ways from a racing bike or a mountain bike, but all bikes share a similar anatomy. Listed in the annotated photo above are the main important parts. Caveats? Shifter levers will be in different places on bikes with brifters or grip-shifters, and the handlebars will differ from a straight or raised set. One glaring absence in the diagram is the right side pedal. New bikes, particularly more expensive bikes, aren’t equipped with pedals. The assumption is that each cyclist will have a favorite pair. (Why this doesn’t extend to saddles and handlebars is beyond me.) But you know what pedals are located, right? That’s a good start!

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

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