Posted by: Ian | April 3, 2011

Wrist fracture recovery

It’s now almost six weeks since I broke my wrist. A short article in the current issue of Cycling Weekly identifies wrist fractures as a common cycling injury, right up there with collar bone fractures, as you reactively use your wrist to block a fall. By the time my first cast came off it had become too large as the swelling following my accident and operation reduced. Now the second cast is too large for the more miserable reason that I’m conspicuously losing muscle mass in my forearm. I have an appointment with the surgeon on Wednesday and anticipate that I’ll get out of the cast and start some new exercises to rebuild my arm strength. The little exercises I’ve been doing so far have been oriented to mobility. The wrist is getting quite a lot better than it was a month ago but is far from being properly functional. I can pick up some things and just about squeeze toothpaste onto a brush now.

My “cycling” has been limited to gym bikes and the turbo trainer. The gym bike was initially easier because I can sit upright and let my arms fall to the side. The turbo, though, is a better transition back to road riding as I do it on my actual bike. It’s also nice to be able to use my CycleOps PowerTap hub, which gives me much better data than I get from the gym bike. I’m keeping up reasonable power levels – yesterday averaging 200W over an hour – but not yet getting close to the power I achieved on the road on my last park loops session before my accident.

I’d like to be building up my stamina on the turbo trainer to feel that I’m doing something useful towards my preparation for the Tour of Wessex at the end of May. My turbo training limitation isn’t particularly aerobic fitness or leg strength but the amount of time I can spend in the saddle before maxing out on discomfort. For a start, I can’t grip in any meaningful way with my left hand or even rest my weight on it fully so I’m taking more of my weight on the seat. Furthermore, on the road you can break it up by riding out of the saddle, which I’m not sure is even possible on the turbo. As I wrote previously, my CycleOps JetFluid Pro is wonky, which doesn’t inspire confidence. Wiggle suggested I post it back and offered to cover my costs if they agree that it’s faulty; but it was too much of a drag (and I would have had to prevail upon Paula to do it) so I didn’t bother.

As a supplement to the stationary bikes I’ve been doing a bit of running. In the past, before I realised how much more fun cycling is, I was good for half marathon distances. Now, a few years on, I’m only attempting a few miles. Even so, I’m finding it quite pleasant. In London the parks are Spring-pretty and easy to jog round. In Somerset it’s much hillier and also has the beauty of true countryside. This morning I ran for almost five miles around Crickleaze and saw only one car.

While I will probably keep up a bit of running, the exercise I’m doing now feels like marking time and I’m keen to get back on the road. My first excursion is likely to be on my fixie. I can ride it all over London without using the brakes if I need to – not because I have a misplaced sense of brakeless track-aesthetic machismo but because it’s easier on my wrist. Tackling the big hills around Somerset will, it seems to me, put far harder demands on my hands, especially on the downhills where I don’t fancy either bombing it with only steer-by-lean braking or white-knuckling it down for fear of gathering speed. It occurs to me that a low geared fixie like the ones I saw some of the audax riders using on the Glastonbury 100 could be just the ticket. I can see myself doing more miles more quickly on one of these, which enable me to regulate my speed through the pedals rather than the brakes, than on the Astraeus or the Felt.

If I do get a fixie for Somerset, there are a couple of interesting hub options. First, I could get a SRAM Torpedo. Post recovery, this might be useful on rides with multi-mile downhill stretches when I could easily screw it from fixed to freewheel. Even more appealing, and more relevant to my current impaired state, is a Sturmey Archer 3SX. This provides three fixed gears with a gearing differential of 160%, which would be very useful for this locale. The shifter can be on the downtube or, as I would prefer, on the (right) bar end.

While yet another bike is an extravagance, a fixie shouldn’t break the bank. The increasing cost of road bikes is often attributed to the rising cost of groupsets, so I’d hope even quite a good fixie could be relatively affordable. My Condor Tempo, which is a fantastic bike, fell within the £800 budget I’d set myself when I bought it a couple of years or so ago, even with a few upgrades. I’ve made some inquiries…

First, I called Mosquito thinking that if I am going to get another bike I may as well check out the dreamy Independent Fabrication range of steel bikes such as the Club Racer. Since I’d be needing horizontal drop-outs this would be a custom build and would take at least two months and probably nearer three, which (I hope) erodes its primary purpose as an aid to my speedy recovery. Also I suspect that it would ultimately cost me much more than I want to pay. On which topic, the Mosquito guy also tried to interest me in a Pegoretti. At that point I got off the phone quickly before rash desire overcame my good sense.

To re-ground myself in the world of normal, sensibly priced bikes I checked out the Pearson web site, remembering that they have a decent steel fixie at a reasonable price. Indeed, the Hanzo is listed at £550 and even with an S3X could be mine in a fortnight for under £800. While I love my steel Tempo, I worry that the wrong type of steel – basically steel of unspecified composition that is too cheap – will be too heavy to haul up the hills. (For the record, I’m not buying another alu bike, no matter how advanced anyone tells me it is.) On their web site Pearson also advertise a very appealing limited edition carbon fixie to mark their 150th anniversary; sadly, they’ve completely sold out of them and aren’t currently carrying any carbon equivalents.

Next, I went into my LBS to see what they could suggest. They don’t sell many fixies round here so it was out with the catalogues. After discounting the Giant Bowery with its comedy handlebars, the next bike up was a Trek District Carbon. This bike is spectacular, and in so many ways. First, it looks fantastic. Second, it has a Tour-quality Madone Pro frame. And the adaptation to singlespeed is bold and admirable, with a belt drive and 55/22 chainring/sprocket. With its ultra-light weight and fancy Treknology I like my chances of getting it up implausible hills. But it’s £3,000. Luckily for me, it doesn’t come with a fixed gear and just in case anyone might think of customising it, the Customer Care Answer to Q1 on Trek’s website Q&A clarifies that “No, it does not accept fixed gear usage.” So despite the bike’s huge appeal, I’m passing.

The Trek catalogue also carries a £600 steel fixie – the Triton – in its Gary Fisher range. See my comments above on the Hanzo re cheap steel.

So my search for a Tempo-like-in-ride-and price fixie hasn’t started off too well. Returning to the Condor site, I find that my current options are a Classico Pista, one of their limited World Series bikes, or, I suppose, a differently-geared Tempo. As far as I can tell, the price of even the Tempo will be considerably more than my original Tempo was. Also, as I’ve found more than once, the quality of service you get when buying from Condor is a real crap-shoot, ranging from top notch to, well, frustrating.

So I’m not sure whether there’s a drop bar fixie out there for me that’s made of either carbon or high quality steel with which I could use a S3X hub at a price I’m happy to pay for a wrist rehab bike. The best single website I’ve found is this, which includes some of the bikes I’ve cited above and many, many more.

Maybe I’ll just swap out the rear Rohloff-hubbed wheel of my Amazon and stick in a wheel with an 18T fixed sprocket for now. If were buying a new bike I’d choose one with drops but the Amazon’s flat bars might be easier to use in the short term. With the 42T chainring it would give me a far lower ratio than I have on the Tempo and give me a chance on the lumpy stuff.

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Responses

  1. […] downhills manageable. This was enough to convince me that I didn’t need the low geared fixie I wrote about last time. It was a shame in a way as I’d become quite attached to the idea of getting one of these […]


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