While has been a slow year for biking, biking gear, and biking adventures 2014 has been a wonderful and interesting year. Much has happened this year, Nancy and I got married, I lost a job that I had been at for 19 years, I got a new job that started a week after the wedding, and I had my first summer off since 1977. But, no bike vacations. No century rides. So with that:
Companies that I still love using their products:
It’s been a while since I’ve posted because
1. Work projects involving lots of writing; just didn’t feel like writing more
2. Getting ready for a wedding – mine and John’s!
I’m down to one writing project now and have some time and brainpower for writing about biking.
The wedding took place on September 14th and what a wonderful day it was! We’re honeymooning, with bikes, in Vermont and upstate New York. Our first stop is the lovely Three Mountain Inn, in Jamaica VT.
Yesterday’s ride was just short of 50 miles. The route was beautiful, with 3700 challenging feet of climbing, starting with the first 2 miles out of town. Just under 20 miles were on dirt roads. These were packed firmly enough to ride on but a little bit scary with little potholes and some loose gravel. I should have brought the ANT! My Soma was a little nervous on the rougher terrain, though it’s tires were fine.
The route took us through Londonderry, Grafton, and Townshend. It was one of the toughest – and one of the loveliest- rides I’ve ever done. None of the climbs were particularly steep. Instead, they were long and there were a lot of them. Let’s just say, when John realized we were just .4 miles short of 50, my reaction was “That’s close enough!”
Beforehand we agreed either of us could call a photo-op stop at any time, that we’d stop for lunch and walk around a little. Good decisions. We worked hard on the ride and had a great time. Leaves are just starting to turn, the weather is sunny and cool – perfect for cycling.
It was time to replace the much loved but irretrievably sagging Brooks 17S. I had it transferred to my to my Soma when it was built last year. It was only 4 years old when it developed a very uncomfortable sag. It was fixed once and held up well for about a year. There are many who say Brooks leather saddles aren’t what they once were. Two summers in a row that included week long tours in the rain may have hastened it’s demise. I used a saddle cover of course but after enough days and nights of rain maybe some damage was done. I’d been curious about the Cambium for a while. Given John’s positive experience with it (see previous post) I was ready to give the C17S a try.
I’ve now ridden over 300 miles on it and overall, I like it. I agree with John that it’s amazingly shock absorbing. I didn’t find that it was easy to fit or instantly comfortable though. Part of this might be that the C17S is longer in than the B17S, which changes the feel of the contact points quite a bit. It also made it a little tricky getting the right “fore and aft” position. We couldn’t just copy the positioning of the B17S.
This saddle doesn’t break in. That’s no surprise. What you feel at first is what you get. So I had to toughen up. After a couple of weeks the bruised feeling subsided though was still not entirely gone. I think this was largely due to how long it took me to get the right seat post adjustment.
The Cambium has less height than the B17S. I read other blogs suggesting a need to raise the saddle post .5″ to compensate. That wasn’t the right adjustment for me. After fidgeting with it over a number of weeks (and having the predictable pain behind my kneecaps and then in the muscles around my knee) it dawned on me to look up how to fit the a seat post.
Grant at Rivendell Bicycle Worksg says to adjust the seat post to PBH-4″ from saddle top to the middle of the crank arm. I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant. Which way should the crank arm be positioned? My next “aha” was to check this out using my perfectly fitted ANT (thank you, Baltimore Bicycle Works!). It emerged that you position the crank arm to be parallel with the floor. I made the needed adjustment and now I think I’ve got it! It turns out not only does the right seat post height relieve knee pain and give you full use of your quads for climbing, it also relieves undue saddle pressure. I don’t know the bio-mechanics of that, just reporting the experience. Now when I hop on the ANT the B17S on it feels oddly short and lacking in support. I might end up with Cambium on it, too.
If you read John’s review you’ll see he had no fit problems with his Cambium. He just put it on the bike and he was fine from day one. So there you have it. My experience may not indicate what yours would be like in any way.
Verdict: The Cambium may never give your butt the nice custom comfort that comes with a broken-in leather saddle, but it is noticeably better at smoothing out the ride and it is comfortable when positioned properly. Rain is no problem for it. As others report repositioning yourself on it is easy even though it’s not as smooth as a leather saddle. I expect it to be more durable but won’t know about that for 4-5 years!
Christ, it has been awhile since I have posted here. Work has been crazy and I have not bike commuted since before the Seagull Century in early October of last year. Also shockingly for me, I have not really bought much bike schwag this year. But I did buy some…
Brooks Cambium saddle
I have seen these at the Philly Bike Show. They looked interesting and they claimed waterproof. Since I live in Maryland where it has been known to rain more than say New Mexico, I was interested. I perpetually lose the damn Brooks saddle covers for the regular leather saddles like twice a year. While this is good for Velo-Orange and Rivendell, it sucks when I am awaiting my order.
So I bought a grey one this spring and put it on the Rambouillet. Comfortable, check. Attractive, check. Waterproof, check. FWIW, I got the grey one since blacks shorts apparently stain the tan ones and it does not look pretty. Nancy got the tan one so we will see…
What I Like
What I have learned is that this saddle is comfortable immediately (for me at least. your mileage may vary). I did find it a bit “grippy” when I first got it and was trying to slide back into the saddle. This faded in the first couple of rides though.
Stylish though not a leather saddle.
Absorbs a lot of road vibrations.
What I did not like
Not a damn thing.
strong buy recommendation
I live right near Paradise but rarely go there. This isn’t a philosophical metaphor, it’s a fact! Paradise is a neighborhood just a mile or so down the road from us. It’s a little hard to access Paradise by bike due a busy highway interchange that separates it from the rest of Catonsville. The interchange is nearing the completion of a long term construction project. Once it’s done it promises to better connect the two parts of town. It’ll actually have bike lanes and sidewalks, or so I hear!
On Thursday I decided to find a way to visit Paradise by bike. I picked out a route that would let me dodge the under-construction interchange and check out the Short Line Rail Trail, a project of Catonsville Rails to Trails. The 8 mile round trip involved taking Edmonson to Prospect and Prospect to the trailhead. Late afternoon traffic was moderately heavy on Edmonson, but the road’s wide enough that wasn’t a problem. Prospect would take you right to the trailhead as shown on Google Maps, except that once you cross Frederick, Prospect is one way. That lead to
getting a bit lost some exploring of Paradise’s charming side streets. Even though I have no sense of direction I managed to stay oriented and before long found my way to the Short Line Trail.
The 2.2 mile trail is covered in flat loose gravel which made my bike skittish. I travelled it pretty slowly, concentrating on staying upright and appreciating the trail’s woodsy surroundings.
Short Line Trail Head at Paradise and Prospect Sts
It passes behind the Baltimore National Cemetery, which I’ve previously only seen from Frederick Road. The trail ends shortly beyond the cemetery. This is a VA cemetery which explains why the gravestones are all exactly alike and lined up so symmetrically.
From there I rode to the other end of the short trail, marked by this mural:
End of the Line!
The return trip was easy, even the part where you bike past the Beltway on- and off- ramps on Edmonson. The traffic signals and maybe the design of the ramps keeps traffic slow and drivers alert. This little trip to Paradise was just the break I needed that day.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the bicycling mothers out there. And Dad? Thanks for teaching me to ride!