June 25, 2006 5:57 AM   Subscribe

Cycling questions: UK cyclepath etiquette, numbness, squeaking, body temperature!

1. UK Cyclepath Etiquette: Riding the Bristol -> Bath railway path. Most people seem to use the path like a road (there is a line down the middle) where traffic stays to the left. Some people take up both lanes while walking or cycling (mostly middle ages people, sometimes with kids, or very old people). I find this very rude as it prevents me from keeping a steady pace by just riding around them; I instead have to shout "excuse me" and then wait as they scurry around figuring out what to do. Would I be in the right to semi-friendily suggest to them that they should stay on the left?

2. Numbness: I wear Shimano SH-R073's. My feet are a bit wide, so I purchased a larger size cycling shoe than I might otherwise wear. Starting at about 4 miles my feet sometimes (but not always) start to get numb starting from my little toes and moving inward. I usually haven't tightened the velcro straps down very tightly as this seems to cause greater numbness on long rides. So: are my shoes just not wide enough? What are the other factors that I should examine to fix this?

3. Squeaking: My seat squeaks when I pedal, but I am at a loss what to tighten (or not tighten). I have a cannondale seatpost and Selle Italia saddle. I have torn everything apart, cleaned, lubed, and reassembled the seat; it didn't squeak for about 5 miles, but then started right back up. I am at a loss for which bolt to tighten as it seems that I can essentially tighten every bolt indefinitely. Could it be the seatpost bolt? Am I perhaps overtightening things?

4. Body temperature: I am about 20 pounds overweight. I ride fairly fast, especially on streets as it makes me feel safer when navigating traffic and when I ride slowly it feels, well, slow. After riding pretty much any distance, I find that my body temperature spikes upward and stays high for quite a while after I have ceased riding. If I'm just riding for exercise this isn't a problem since I can schedule time to sit around and cool down. I also ride for transportation, though, and when I arrive at some destination if I go into some place where the ambient temperature is on the warm side I find that I immediately feel really hot and start sweating, even if I wasn't sweating substantially when I got off my bike. Any tips on regulating my body temperature better in these situations?
posted by beerbajay to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total)
1. Yes, I've always found staying on the left is the understood thing, with other cyclists at least. But most people wandering down these kinds of routes aren't even aware it's an actual cycle path, so I wouldn't get too annoyed.

Do you have a bell? Fit it on your handlebars so your thumb can get to it easily. Most effective is a 'friendly 'ding, ding' as you approach a pedestrian, and then an urgent DING!! if they've completely failed to move and you're almost open them.
posted by randomination at 6:02 AM on June 25, 2006

1. On the Brooklyn Bridge, frustrated cyclists will actually clip you with the handle bars if you are dawdling in the wrong place.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:07 AM on June 25, 2006

1. etiquette
I second the "ringing the bell when approaching them" suggestion. That's what cyclists do along the Grand Union Canal in London (which is sometimes so narrow you have to walk in single file to let a cyclist pass).
One lady who didn't have a bell shouted "meep meep" instead, we found that exceedingly cute.
I reckon you would be in the right suggesting they stay on the left, but then you'd definitely lose your steady pace wouldn't you. And you're unlikely to meet the same people again so you wouldn't benefit from it. I wouldn't bother.

3. squeaking
Could it be the spring / shock absorber? I don't really have any suggestions though. I had this on one of my bikes and just put up with it.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 6:33 AM on June 25, 2006

Best answer: 1. I've never ridden in the UK, so I can't make a specific comment on bike path etiquette, but here in New England, I've found that calling out "Rider Left" or "Rider Right" -- far enough in advance to give time for them to move out of the way -- works pretty well.

2. This is pretty common, and often has a lot more to do with your pedal/cleat setup than your shoes. What kind of pedals do you use? Buying a custom insole can make a big difference. I use the Superfeet Grey insole, but there are lots of products out there. Go to a good local shop and as what they have and what they use.

3. Is your seatpost adequately greased? Are all bolt threads (including the seatpost bolt) greased? Are you absolutely sure it's the seat and not something else? Many parts of a bike can squeak, and it's often difficult to tell where the sound is coming from. Check your hubs, spokes, handlebar and stem bolts, and bottom bracket to make sure they're not the source or a contributing factor.

Also, sometimes the fabric in your shorts will squeak on the saddle itself, so check that too. Try riding in a different pair of shorts and see if the squeaking changes or goes away completely.

4. You're always going to feel hotter after you get off the bike, because you'll no longer have tons of air moving over your body and cooling you off. So, unfortunately, the only advice I can offer is to learn to go easy. Not every ride needs to be a super-hard, super-fast effort. Embrace slowness; slow recovery rides are important in developing as a rider and for staving off overtraining. So get used to going slow sometimes and just enjoying the ride. (I realize this is probably not exactly what you wanted to hear, but, I can say from personal experience, it's difficult to get used to going slow, but you really can, and you'll be a better cyclist for it.)
posted by dseaton at 6:34 AM on June 25, 2006

1: If you don't have a bell, then a quick dab of the back brake makes an effective head turning noise (best on gravel)... sometimes it can be too effective though and people can be surprisingly dense and jump in front of you! (especially dogs and little kids, always go slowly past these).

Oh, and even though it's a cycle path, it's always nice to say thanks as you go past, it means that the next time they will be well disposed to cyclists.

2,3,4: what dseaton said
posted by itsjustanalias at 7:46 AM on June 25, 2006

Best answer: Numbness - This sometimes comes from having the cleat too far forward on the shoe; it should be directly under the ball of your foot or even slightly further back. Also, try some good footbeds.

Squeak - This usually occurs between the seat rails and clamp. Put Teflon plumbing tape between the seat rail and the clamp or lube with grease or graphite lube. The Teflon tape lasts longest in wet conditions. Oil works for a day or so, wax chain lubes for maybe a month or two, at least in my experience. The tape works best. Use several layers.
posted by caddis at 8:39 AM on June 25, 2006

Response by poster: dseaton: Positive it's the seat; the bolts are all greased; the seatpost itself is probably not greased enough, however. I shall try doing that.
posted by beerbajay at 8:40 AM on June 25, 2006

I find that the more frequently I exercise, the better my body gets at regulating temperature; when I first started running, I didn't *start* sweating until after I got home from a half-hour run. Now I sweat during running like I'm supposed to, and I cool down much more quickly. Fancy clothes like those cooling, wicking shirts have helped a bit. YMMV.
(I, too, am at least 20 pounds overweight, and I strongly suspect that affects the temperature situation, as well.)
posted by librarina at 9:09 AM on June 25, 2006

1. Etiquette: Get in the habit of shouting "ON YOUR LEFT" as you approach someone - usually from about a bike length behind the person to be passed. This gives them enough time to react, and you enough time to react if they don't.

2. Numbness - insloes, definitely. Also, don't ratchet your shoes down as tight as they can go - they should be tight enough to not shift up and down as you walk, but not much tighter than that.

3. Temperature - I suspect the overweightness is the biggest factor there, as I am also a bit more than 20 pounds overweight and I tend to sweat like Meat Loaf for at least 15-20 mins after I ride. But it does get better as you exercise more regularly.
posted by pdb at 10:26 AM on June 25, 2006

Numbness - insloes, definitely.

Or, insoles.
posted by pdb at 10:26 AM on June 25, 2006

Shouting on your left only works for people who deal with cyclists a lot. On walking paths locally, I've noticed that every time I shout 'on your left' they immediately step to their left, realize their mistake a few seconds too late, and then step to their right again right as you were correcting to go around on the right.

I've gone to shouting 'bike' and letting people do what they want, and only use 'on your left' for other cyclists.
posted by devilsbrigade at 10:55 AM on June 25, 2006

I have a nice bike with a useless loose bolt attached on the rear. It rattles constantly. I don't hear the noise anymore but pedestrians always know I'm coming.

With cyclists, I also shout "on your left." When I first heard it I too tended to move left, not right, so I can sympathize with people who get confused.
posted by nev at 11:53 AM on June 25, 2006

One special note that I should have mentioned before, if you have a carbon seatpost and/or carbon seat tube, you should absolutely not grease it, since the grease can react with the carbon and compromise post and frame.
posted by dseaton at 12:19 PM on June 25, 2006

Response by poster: dseaton: cleats are LOOK 247's.
posted by beerbajay at 12:56 PM on June 25, 2006

Are you drinking enough water when you ride? That would help cool you down. Also, my mom has the same problem with her feet and she claims that water helps that too.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 1:25 PM on June 25, 2006

If they're going the same direction as you are and you're in the UK (where people are supposed to keep to the left), wouldn't you actually be shouting "ON YOUR RIGHT"? Both of you would be, ideally, keeping to the left half of the path and the passing "lane" would be to the right. Right? The idea is that slow moving traffic should stay as far to the edge of the path as possible.
posted by redfoxtail at 1:44 PM on June 25, 2006

1. I slow down slightly when approaching pedestrians, and use my voice to say (not shout) "Ding Ding!", imitating a bell. Without fail, they are amused, smile at me and very graciously move over.

In urgent / dangerous situations I shout "Watch out" or something similar (with varying degrees of hostility and foul language). I never say "on your left / right", because it confuses people the way devilsbrigade described.

2. Agree with suggestions to experiment with cleat position, and to look at custom footbeds. But consider also that perhaps your shoe is too big or not the right shape, thus movement of the foot within the shoe as you pedal is placing uneven pressure on the outside of the foot.

The best way to size sports footwear (whether cycling shoes or ski boots) is to put on the smallest pair you can tolerate while keep your foot flat, keep them on for at least 15 minutes, take them off and look at where your feet hurt / are red. If the discomfort / redness is mild and evenly spread over the foot, they are the right size and shape for you. They will expand with heat/moisture and as you break them in.

3. If everything's been greased, then it might be the flexing of the saddle rails or the saddle itself. In which case you either put up with it or get another saddle.

4. Wear as little as possible when riding. And shower or do a quick wipe down in the sink afterwards, as clean skin is much more efficient at regulating your body temperature. When sweat evaporates immediately from your skin (place your hand a cold surface and you can see the moisture condense), you are close to equilibrium. When your pores are clogged with dirt / dried sweat, that interferes with evaporation.
posted by randomstriker at 2:21 PM on June 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Those pedals, unlike, say, Crank Bros. Eggbeaters, have plenty of contact surface with the shoe, so they're probably not (directly) the source of the problem. I'd put money on the custom insole/footbeds making a big difference.

Also, what caddis said.
posted by dseaton at 2:24 PM on June 25, 2006

1. If you walked along the path one day, you could talk to people about the cyclists' point of view. And they could explain to you what they feel about having a cycle appear suddenly from behind them cycling "fairly fast". Yes, cyclists and walkers don't mix well on the same path. Your problems are the planners' fault, not the walkers'.

As a walker it would never occur to me that a white line down the middle of a path applied to me unless it was very clearly signed -- it simply isn't something that walkers normally meet -- and I still would not see a need to comply if the path was not busy. I guess everyone assumes that their type of use is the most important one, and other users should adapt around them.

A general rule of etiquette is that you don't make other people fear for life and limb. So I am afraid that even if people are keeping inside the line as you would like, you still should not sweep past at speed. And if they are spread across the entire path, you have to hope that the cyclists ahead of you were polite enough that they will want to get out of your way. A bit of "please" and "thank you" might help.
posted by Idcoytco at 3:59 PM on June 25, 2006

I walk on mixed-use paths in the US a lot. Standard ettiquette here is shouting "ON YOUR LEFT" when you are behind a slower-moving group that you wish to pass. In the UK, I assume that would translate to "ON YOUR LEFT." FWIW, beeping or ringing just makes me look around confusedly, but that's just me.

Idcoytco - I think the main problem is when a group of walkers or riders takes up the whole path, which IMO is rather rude. If there's no one around, then by all means, take up the lane, but if someone is approaching from the back or the front, then the slow group should take the initiative and form a single-file line. It's just polite.
posted by muddgirl at 5:06 PM on June 25, 2006

As an Englishman and a cyclist who has spent the last 4 days cycling around Chicago on a hire bike (clocking up over 90 miles), I think I'm in a good position to reflect upon the first question. For the remaining 3 I will issue some poorly thought out off the cuff remarks.

If people are walking down the middle or the cycle path or walking in a group all the way across the path your best bet is not to say "on your left" or "move it". Firstly, you'll need to be quite close to them to get them to hear you. Secondly, it's the kind of phrase that will make them stop and look around, rather than bolt out of your way. Thirdly, it would not be apppropriate to advise pedestrians on the correct places to walk. Not unless you want one of the following to happen: for you to become the victim of a happy-slapping/D-lock mash-up attack; for someone to laugh at your funny shoes and lycra shorts with the padded bum.

Free-born Englishmen have a right to roam! A right to ramble! A right to amble! And a right to jay-walk! And a right to take the piss out of red-faced, sweaty, oddly-dressed cyclists! (And there is a massive debate going on about cyclists and cyclism in the letters pages of several much-loved left/liberal newspapers in the UK).

As noted above, you need a bell. A good bell that you can operate with both a downward and an upward movement of your thumb. I wouldn't recommend a horn as they're only ever seen in comedy sketches. Armed with your bell, ding away. Make sure your bell has a clear, crisp sound (the higher pitch than your voice is more clearly understood and it's clarity is not as mangled by the doppler effect as you move towards the pedestrians).

On numbness in the feet. Sounds like it is caused by either a lack of free movement/blood resting in your feet/poor circulation. The solution would be to try and move your feet about in your shoes more. It won't be that your shoes are too tight, but that they're tight in the wrong places, like over veins, etc.

As to the squeak. I am reminded of a car advert where the squeak inside the car was actually caused by the driver's wife's earings. Are you wearing earings whilst cycling?

On body temperature. I'm a prolific sweater. There, I said it. I can be freezing cold and start to sweat. If I run or cycle I sweat. My advice? Live with it. If you're going somewhere public straight after cycling, take a small face cloth. Get rid of the beads of sweat on your face, neck, etc. and mop up after yourself.
posted by xpermanentx at 9:02 PM on June 25, 2006

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