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Life in the Bike Lane

Clips, arms and butter

By: Tom Frady
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Just a couple of weeks ago, I digressed in a column to define “kit” (generally, the cycling clothes worn by road bikers) for the non-cyclist.  It made me think (actually, my wife made me think, something she often does) there might be some other terms cyclists throw out that the general public might not recognize. 

Back in the day, someone invented “toe clips” for pedals.  These were essentially straps to hold your feet to the pedal, giving you the option to apply power on the upstroke by keeping your shoes “clipped” to the pedal. 

Then along came the ski-binding manufacturer Look, which used its technology to connect the shoe and pedal, much like ski boots to skis.  Looking (no pun intended) for a way to differentiate their invention from toe clips, they called the new clips “clipless” and the name stuck. 

It is called by many commercial names, but “Butt Butter” seems to be the most popular general term.  Usually made of some combination of mineral oils and lanolin, it is super slick to minimize the possibility of chafing at what I call the “seat to seat interface.”

Even the best pair of bike shorts sitting on the most comfortable saddle can eventually cause discomfort. Just a small dab of Butt Butter can diminish, if not prevent, that discomfort.  If one is on a longer ride or riding for several consecutive days on a bike tour, reapplying mid-ride might be advisable.

If you have read this column before, you know I use the term “donut.”  Donut, scone and fritter are actually code words for high-protein energy smoothies made with fruit, amino acids, electrolytes, monopotassium phosphates and many other ingredients to replace what is lost from the body on a tough ride.  “Bonking,” meaning just running out of the ability to continue, can occur without science-based refueling during a ride.

Just kidding. When I say “donut,” I mean donut.  It’s part of why we ride. 

You remember your old three-speed bike from childhood? Now, most road bikes have 10 or 11 cogs on the rear axle, ranging from 11 to 36 teeth, plus two (or three on older bikes, like mine) chain rings at the pedals, allowing the rider to select from 20 to 30 “speeds.”  While it may seem like overkill, most of us use all those gears on a hilly ride.

I remember my first bike speedometer. I still have a vision of speeding down a hill at age 9, looking at the big round analog dial with a white face and red needle.  Fast-forward:  “Garmin” is a brand with many products, one of which is the Garmin Edge, arguably the most popular “speedometer” today (albeit not without its detractors and competitors).  Not only does the Garmin measure speed but distance ridden, steepness of grade, cadence, how many feet climbed, average speed, heat rate, etc., plus turn-by-turn directions, maps, distance to the end of the ride, and times, temperature, heading and so forth.  Essentially just like the GPS in your car, with features only cyclists care about.  It stores data, talks to your cell phone and home computer and allows friends and family to follow you on the road in real time from the comfort of the couch.

Finally, leg and arm warmers or just “legs” and “arms.” These are essentially sleeves that make a short-sleeved jersey a long sleeved jersey or shorts into long pants, obviously, to be used on cooler days. The advantage to arms and legs is that they can be taken off when it warms up or put back on if the sun goes away.  Arms and legs used to all be black, but in the last few years, we have seen more designs (tattoos are fun) and brighter colors and reflectiveness for visibility. 

Tom Frady is a Lincoln resident and avid cyclist and driver.