Arizona Road Cyclist News
October 29, 2008

Welcome to the first edition of Arizona Road Cyclist News. Feel free to distribute this newsletter to your friends. If someone has forwarded this newsletter to you, you can sign up for your own free subscription by visiting our Website, www.azroadcyclist.com. Arizona Road Cyclist News is a bi-weekly publication that attempts to cover topics of interest to cyclists who ride the streets and roads of Arizona. I hope that you enjoy our initial issue.

In this issue:
                A product review of Veloplugs
                Do sports bars contain female hormones?
                A course review of the Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists' Expert cyclists' course
                This weekend's Heart of Arizona Century Ride

 

Veloplugs, Product Review:

Veloplugs, manufactured by wheel builder Velocity, are a replacement for rim strips in clincher wheels. Each plug snaps into a spoke hole inside the rim. Besides saving weight, the plugs free up the space that the rim strip would otherwise occupy, making it easier to install a tight-fitting tire. When they fit properly, they are a great product. However, despite advertising claims, Veloplugs do not work well with all rims.

Veloplugs come in two sizes, each size with its distinctive color. Red Veloplugs are designed for nominal 8.0 millimeter spoke holes, and the newer yellow Veloplugs are designed for spoke holes from 8.5 to 9.3 millimeters in diameter. In this case, size does matter. If the Veloplugs are too small for the spoke hole, they will not fit snugly and will be in danger of falling out when the tire is removed to fix a flat, so it is important to purchase the proper size. Some riders report success using Veloplugs on larger spoke holes by gluing them in place, but that sounds a bit dicey to me.

I purchased a set of Veloplugs out of desperation when even the thinnest rim strips began to bunch up inside my new Zipp 404 clincher wheels, resulting in frequent flats. After deciding that the red plugs would fit my spoke holes, I began searching for a discount and found the plugs at less than retail at an E-bay online store.

The plugs were difficult to install. The fit was so snug that I ended up pounding them in using a hammer and wooden dowel. Installation was time-consuming, but because I did it in front of the TV set while watching a presidential debate, installing the plugs was not the most mind-numbing activity that I was engaged in. Those babies are in there tight, and they won't come out unless I pry them out. I have since put over 500 miles on the wheels, and the only flat tire I have had was caused by a thorn, not by failure of the Veloplugs. I am quite happy with the plugs, but perhaps I am lucky, because they fit my wheels very well. Not all cyclists report such good results. For example, the plugs do not work properly with wheels that have a grommet or eyelet covering the rim of the spoke hole, because the tabs that hold the plugs in place are too short to reach through the grommet, and the grommets also prevent the flange of the plugs from fitting snugly against the rim. V-shaped rims may also prevent the flange of the plugs from lying snugly against the rim. Spaces between the plugs' flanges and the rim leave rough edges that can wear though the inner tube and cause flats, and rims with a textured inner surface may abrade the inner tube, even if the plugs do fit correctly. With some rims, the spoke nipple is very close to the rim, and there is not enough space for the tabs on the Veloplugs to grip the rim.

In summary, Veloplugs work very well for many wheels, but not for all of them. The plugs are lighter than rim strips and very durable; they make it easier to install tight-fitting tires; and when they fit properly, they are more reliable than rim strips. They can be moved from one set of wheels to the next and be used over and over. On the minus side, they are expensive, they do not work well with all rims, despite the manufacturer's claims, and they are time-consuming to install. Before buying Veloplugs, you may want to check online forums to see what sort of results other cyclists have had using them with your brand of wheel.

Suggested retail price: $14.00 for a pack of 72 plugs, enough for a pair of touring wheels and perhaps for three racing wheels.

PS/Since writing the above article, I have learned that Shimano is recalling some carbon clincher wheels model WH-7850 that use spoke-hole plugs similar to Veloplugs. The problem with the Shimano wheels seems to be that the plugs themselves as well as the inner surface of the rim can abrade the inner tube causing flats. Shimano is reportedly fixing the problem by installing high-pressure rim strips.

Do sports bars contain female hormones?:

While waiting for my Saturday morning ride to start, the two of us pulled out fig bars to munch on, and a third rider congratulated us for choosing them instead of sports bars, mentioning that sports bars get their protein from soy and contending that soy contains "more female hormones than cow's milk." Could that be true? How did female hormones get into a plant food? I replied that Asians eat tofu made from soy and do not seem to suffer ill effects, but the other rider pointed out that Asians eat far less tofu and other soy-based foods than many Americans do. Japanese, for example, may adorn a bowl of rice with a few small cubes of tofu or season it with a few drops of soy sauce, but they don't eat tofu by the spoonful, and they don't have soy-based sausages, soy-based hamburger substitute, soy milk, soy-based textured vegetable protein in their hamburgers, and soy-enriched baby formula. Also, many Asians, particularly the less-affluent ones, have healthy diets that are low in meat and high in fruits and vegetables, so their good health may be due to factors other than their consumption of soy.

After doing some online research, I discovered that soy does not actually contain female hormones, but it does contain organic chemicals called isoflavones, sometimes referred to as "plant hormones," which mimic the female hormone estrogen and can weakly bind with estrogen receptors in human cells. Whether isoflavones are good or harmful for human health is a question that medical science has not answered, probably because it is not a good idea to conduct studies on healthy humans involving hormones or hormone-like substances. However, the effects of soy and isoflavones on animals have been studied with mixed results. Scientists have long recognized that feeding animals too much soy can cause infertility and digestive problems. However, in smaller quantities, soy is a good source of protein.

You can get a sense of the confusion by looking at the Website breastcancer.org. On the "Lower Your Risk" page, the first paragraph states that the isoflavones "in soy may stimulate the estrogen receptors of breast cancer cells and make them grow." The second paragraph begins with the sentence, "On the other hand, there are some that believe that soy may protect a woman from breast cancer."

The Web site www.isoflavones.info claims a number of benefits of isoflavones including easing of menopause symtoms, reduced risk of heart disease, protection against prostate problems including prostate cancer, improved bone health, and a reduced risk of cancer in general. The Website also lists a large number of scientific studies that are purported to show the health benefits of isoflavones, although I note that most of those studies were conducted on rats and mice, not on humans. I also wonder how many of those studies were financed by Archer Daniels Midland or other companies that promote the consumption of soy.

Should you avoid sports bars, which use soy as a source of protein? From my reading, I believe that medical science cannot answer that question. My plan is to limit my consumption of sports bars but to not eliminate them altogether. I certainly feel more uneasy about eating them than I did before I began my research, and I definitely would not guzzle soy milk or eat large quantities of tofu, although eating a cup of tofu is probably not nearly as unhealthy as consuming a 16-ounce steak. Fast foods and processed foods may contain large quantities of soy in the form of textured vegetable protein, but hopefully most cyclists already know to limit their consumption of these foods. People with food allergies, especially those with an allergy to peanuts, should probably avoid soy-based foods altogether.

The Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists - Course Review:

The Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists' mission statement on the organization's Website (www.cazbike.org) says that the Coalition exists to "to promote efforts that improve bicycling usage and bicycling safety within the state of Arizona by addressing law enforcement and transportation engineering issues through education, outreach and advocacy programs thereby enhancing the role of bicycling in local, county and statewide transportation plans." The Coalition works with the governor's office, with the Arizona Department of Transportation, and with local planning and police agencies to advance the cause of bicycling in our state. Some members of the Coalition wear two hats and work as traffic planners in their day jobs, which facilitates communication between cyclists and planners.

As part of its education mission, the Coalition offers seminars on bicycling that cover such topics as traffic statutes relating to bicyclists, riding safely in traffic, basic bicycle maintenance, and mountain bike basics. Although the Coalition previously charged for the seminars, which some cycling clubs reimburse, it has recently received a grant that enables it to offer the seminars free of charge.

On Saturday October 25, I attended one of the seminars, billed as "Road 1 for Experts." I was disappointed to note that there were only four of us in the class including another racer and a member of the coalition staff. I would say that the other racer and I were the only two attendees who might be classified as "expert" cyclists. I would classify the other two attendees as intermediate riders.

The seminar lasted all day (the beginner's version of the seminar takes two days) and consisted of classroom sessions alternating with sessions on the bike. Although I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about traffic law as it relates to cyclists, the classroom discussions of the laws and tactics for maneuvering in traffic deepened my understanding of those topics and made the seminar worthwhile. I definitely think that the classroom discussion, perhaps boiled down to a two- or three-hour session, would be of help to almost any cyclist, no matter how experienced. However, I do not believe many experienced street rats, those who know not hug the curb while riding in traffic and routinely ride in tight packs at fairly high speeds, will benefit much from the on-bike sessions, which consist of such skills as how to look behind for approaching cars while riding a straight line, how to swerve the front wheel (but unfortunately not the back wheel) around objects in the road, how to signal in traffic, and how to make a sudden turn to avoid a vehicle that unexpectedly turns in front of the cyclist. These are all good skills, but they are skills that I believe most expert cyclists already possess.

To summarize my criticism of the seminar, I think the present "experts" course should be renamed "Road 1 for Intermediates". A shorter version of the course boiled down to a three-hour classroom discussion would be more suited to true expert cyclists.

The Heart of Arizona Century:

The Heart of Arizona Century ride is an annual event promoted by the Bullshifters Bicycling Club. This year's version takes place this weekend on Saturday, November 1st. The ride begins and ends near Congress, Arizona, which is in turn near Wickenburg and features two versions: a 103-mile century ride and a 200 kilometer (120 mile) double metric century. The ride is without question Arizona's most strenuous century ride and is not for wimps! The ride features several thousand feet of vertical altitude gain, so if you plan to take part, put your climbing cog on the rear wheel. The good news is that the ride is a loop, so for every foot you climb, you theoretically get to coast a foot downhill. The bad news is that sometimes the headwinds are so bad that riders have been known to pedal downhill in the little chain ring. However, the ride finishes with a thrilling, curvy descent down Yarnell Hill that is largely protected from the wind. This descent and the chow waiting at the finish line alone make the ride worthwhile.

There are four sag stops on the route and hot dogs and hamburgers are served to hungry riders at the finish line. Be sure to get to the finish line early, because I intend to scarf down as much food as I can get away with. Early registration for the ride has closed, but you can register on site for a slight extra charge. Riders who show up with money in hand will probably not be turned away. Bullshifters, GABA and ABC members get a $5 discount. More information can be found on the Bullshifters' Website at: www.bullshifters.org/heartofaz.htm. This is a great ride, and I highly recommend it to those who are fit enough to pedal 100 miles through the mountains.

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