Saturday, 30 July 2011

Juaraches, Commuting and Billythebike

Well, as predicted, I’m back to quarterly posts.  Running-wise, it’s been a mixed bag in the last few weeks.  In May, I did my lower back in – managed to diagnose the problem as the twist I have to make with bent back when lifting an ever-growing Sara into her car seat.  A Freddo bar in the kiddie seat lures her to scramble in herself from the other side and has sorted that one for now -  but no doubt it won’t be long before she ups her price.

The Juarache - now they fit properly
Since then, I’ve just been ticking over with training really, which has been quite enjoyable and that’s freed up a bit of time to dabble in shoe improvements.  I mentioned in a previous post that traditional huaraches aren’t fastened securely enough for cross-country twists and turns.  Well, I’ve found a simple solution to that – the Juarache.  My huaraches are made from a 6mm sheet of medium density EVA.  The simple addition of a 10mm wide J-shaped strip of the same material to the outside edge of the shoe makes an amazing difference.  They’re still no use on serious mud of course but with trails generally firming up at this time of year, these make the ideal summer trainer.  And racer, for that matter, as they have an all-up weight of 40 grammes each.  Incidentally, tights make the perfect lacing material for these shoes too.

A book about taking your shoes off - this guy could sell ice to Eskimos
On a related theme, I’ve been reading Ken Bob Saxton’s “Barefoot Running Step by Step” So what can a bunch of affluent, middle-class, over-enthusiastic geeks tell us about a subject which is the domain of Third World experts? Well, for those of us in the fat-fuck, shoe-stuffed "developed" World, un-doing decades of bad habits and re-learning the seemingly simple process of running correctly is actually not that easy.  Like a golf swing or casting a trout fly, running is a skill which is difficult but very satisfying if done well. Where these guys are at is mastering the craft of running - aspiring to time every footfall to perfection and gaining pleasure from that as an end in itself.  – and that’s something I can readily empathise with. I found the book to be a very informative and entertaining read.  If Ken Bob is to be believed, even horses are jumping on the bandwagon and shedding their ironmongery by the skip-load (presumably to the dismay of American blacksmiths) in pursuit of hoofing happiness.  Ken Bob also warns of the evils of halfway-houses such as vibram five-fingers and the like (and presumably my huaraches would fall into this category) for beginners.  His advice is to learn to run properly fully barefoot first, as otherwise the senses are dulled just enough to lull you into thinking you are running correctly when you may not be.  He has a point there.  Not that I’m likely to heed the advice though.  Well, I’m not going to throw away my shoes and do myself out of a hobby, am I?

One thing I’ve noticed with my own technique, the more minimalist I go, is that my left suspension needs a bit of tuning – I land on the forefoot sure enough but my ligaments and achilles seem too lazy to do their job properly and the rest of my foot hits the ground too soon for comfort.  Something I’d notice less in cushioned trainers but which I should work on nonetheless.

On Monday, I’m moving work to Rosyth to build the new Forth Crossing (admittedly with help from a few others).  The new location brings with it fresh commuting possibilities; it’s a 17 mile bike ride or 15 mile run (if I go straight over the shale bing at Winchburgh), so I’m thinking of combining the two, perhaps running home a couple of days per week. I’ll probably need it, as the culinary options around Rosyth Docks don’t contribute much to your 5-a-day quota.
New Forth Crossing. Hopefully it'll turn out like the one on the left

Ayers Rock, Winchburgh - Now part of my daily commute (cheers to Auchinoon for pic)
My employer runs a cycle to work scheme, which starts in September so I’ll look into that.  On the face of it, it looks a good deal – you save about 40% on a new bike – but I’ve heard the rules have changed and you now have to pay up to 25% back at the end of the year if you want to keep it, so maybe not quite so good unless you were planning to splash out a few hundred quid on a sparkly new machine anyway.  In the meantime, I’ll be wheeling out my trusty  Peugeot road bike, which I bought for a tenner from a Leith charity shop 10 years ago, and which can be kept running forever with used parts from the likes of the Bike Station. These guys recycle old bikes into decent machines for the masses and are a breath of fresh air in our chuck-away society. I’m off down there on Sunday to overhaul my wheels.

My trusty vintage chariot.  Oh bugger...I've put that rear wheel on wrong again
Racing bikes have come down in weight dramatically over the years, from the 18 kg Tour de France machines of the early 1900s (which, incidentally, is the same weight as a £60 mountain bike I once bought from Asda, which seemed to have been made from scaffold tubes – those  early riders were tough!) to 6 kg today (if you have a spare £8.5 k or so!).  I don’t know much about bikes but as an engineer, I reckon most of today’s offerings are over-bloated fashion statements which have to be over-engineered in any case to be able to carry the kind of lard-arse fat cats who can afford the pricier stuff. I’ve been thinking for a while now that a billytheshoe-string approach to bike design would produce something better and in that regard I’ve been inspired by Graeme Obree, who whittles away with weird components sourced from around the house, to produce radical bikes while watching the telly.  Now that’s my kind of DIY!  I have a few design ideas floating about my head involving garden canes, beer cans and of course, tights.  Watch this space….

1 comment:

Yak Hunter said...

Great Post but you sure made us wait for it. We've been travelling over the road bridge everyday to get to the Tour of Fife and getting increasingly bored of the queues of traffic. Couldn't you just add an upper deck? Anyway, liking all your projects...