Icycling & Other Diversions

On the road between Statenice and Tuchoměřice. The sun is shining. The roads are clear and quiet. All is right with the world.

Remember all those harsh things I've been saying about Prague winters? The damp, bone-chilling cold. The nostril-stinging coal smoke. The sunless, suicidally gray days.

Well, I may have to take it all back.

I'm sure things will soon revert to their normal state of affairs, but the weather in Prague the past few days has actually been quite lovely. Springlike, even. Especially considering that it's mid-January in Central Europe.

To take advantage of the mild conditions, I took Friday (January 18) off from work and suited up for a solo ride. The sun was shining, the temperature was around 8 Celsius (46 Fahrenheit), and I couldn't wait to get on the roads.

I felt like a prisoner released.

My good mood was tempered somewhat once I took my bike out of the garage and inspected the damage from my previous ride. My chain, gears and rings were caked with mud. My front forks were also filthy. I'd have to agree with my bike mechanic, Matej, who chided me a few months ago for not taking very good care of my GT.

The caked-on remains of my ride on January 1.

I've also recently learned something that came as quite a shock, and will probably reveal me for the passionate novice that I am. WD-40 is not much of a lubricant.

I've been using WD-40 for quite a few years to lubricate my chain, gears and rings.

I'd give every nook and cranny of my bike a generous squirt and be on my way. Turns out WD-40 is more of a solvent really, and only contains a bit of oil. Although I have noticed it on sale at my bike shop, so I'm not sure what the whole story is.

Maybe someone can learn me.

(I do know that a can of WD-40 explodes real good if you whack it with a big stick. Check out this video from YouTube.)

More remains of the day.

I finally bought some real bike lubricant a few days ago (Finish Line "Cross Country" Wet Lubricant), and before my ride on Friday I did my best to clean the biggest chunks of gunk off my bike before liberally oiling my chain, rings and gears. The oil I used was very thick, quite a difference from the spray-on WD-40.

I know I should have really cleaned my chain and rings, but I just couldn't be bothered, nor did I have the proper tools.

Perhaps it the power of suggestion, but the lube that I did use did seem to make my pedaling a lot smoother. (Well, duh!)

I decided to try for a 50-kilometer ride and chose the Tour de Coalson, a ride that circles the Prague airport and which is mostly roads and mostly pretty flat. It's named after my riding buddy Rob, who takes this route a lot. I modified it slightly from the first time I rode it, since I knew parts of it would have been totally impassable from the mud and ice.


I began in my home village of Černý Vůl, headed out through Statenice to Tuchoměřice, before cycling through tiny villages with names such as Kněževes, Dobroviz, Jeneč, and Hajek, before re-entering Prague through the suburbs of Sobin, Řepy and Bila Hora. I then connected with obora Hvězda park, then cut across Velaslavin to the main Prague thoroughfare Evropska, before entering Divoká Šárka park.

From there, I crossed the park to connect with V Šáreckém údolí, headed down that road to the river, then took my usual route along the river through Sedlec and Roztoky, before taking the forest paths to Únětice and back hom to Černý Vůl.

You can find a detailed map of my route by clicking here.


As usual, I saw lots of interesting sights along the way, including many huge hawks sitting patiently in the middle of farmer's fields or up high on telephone poles, scanning the pastures for mice and moles and such.

I've previously written in this space about the Trabant, the small, homely car with the two-stroke engine that was manufactured in the former East Germany starting in 1957. You still see a lot of them on the roads here in the Czech Republic.

It sounds like you're about to be overtaken by a lawn mower when one passes you on the roads here. Their owners became skillful mechanics, through necessity, and the damn things just never seem to stop running.

I passed two fine examples of aging Trabants on my ride.

In the village of Dobroviz, I also came across an exciting discovery. Regular readers will know that I am on a continuous quest to discover the cheapest half-liter of beer in Prague and around the region. So far, the record stands at 17 CZK for a half-liter (about $.93 at today's horrible exchange rate).

However, on my ride, I spotted a rather sad looking shack near a football pitch that appears to advertise a half-liter of beer for 15 CZK (about $.82). It was closed, but you can bet I'll be back in the spring to see whether there's truth in advertising.

This pub ain't much to look at, but it appears to sell the cheapest half-liter of beer I've yet found around Prague.

It was on this part of the ride that I encountered a pretty stiff headwind, which slowed my progress considerably. I definitely didn't break any speed records on this outing. The ice didn't help, either.

The roads on this day were wet and sloppy, but the snow had all melted and the worst were some fairly large puddles. However, once I went off-road, conditions changed considerably. The main walking/biking paths in Divoká Šárka were clear, but once I got off the beaten track, things took a turn for the worse. The paths were nothing but solid ice, covered in a layer of water. The forest path from Roztoky to Černý Vůl was also treacherous.

Sadly, I had forgotten to attach crampons or gigantic metal spikes or chains to my tires, so I ended up inventing a new sport -- icycling.

Two paths diverged in an icy wood. And I, I took the one impossible to cycle by. And that made quite a difference. Two reasons why I didn't take the clear path: It didn't go where I wanted to go, and it was a very steep climb. Not necessarily in that order.

Somehow I managed not to fall on my ass, although I came close a couple of times, especially when I got off my bike and walked it down a few fairly steep inclines.

I'm also still trying to figure out the best things to eat before and during a big ride. (I consider anything 50k or over a big ride.)

I had a big bowl of granola-type cereal before my ride on this day, and halfway through I stopped for a PowerBar (vanilla crisp -- yum!) that I'd brought back with me from the States. That really did seem to give me a second wind.

Me, in the forest of Divoká Šárka, shortly before my legs fell off.

However, about two-thirds of the way through my ride, I started to flag again, my thighs cramping and my energy draining. A second PowerBar (chocolate) didn't seem to have any effect.

The 18-day-old water in my squirt bottle probably didn't help matters either. In my excitement to set off, I had forgotten to replace my half-full bottle from my ride on January 1. It didn't taste too bad, all things considered!

(My bike was stored in the garage, which isn't heated, so at least the water was kept somewhat cool.)

I limped home with 58k under my belt.

I felt like I'd done a century.

Length of ride: 58 kilometers
Average speed: 16.1 kph
Maximum speed: 48.6 kph
Time on the bike: 3.34.38
Distance ridden so far in 2008: 90 kilometers

My rings after my ride on Friday. No, I haven't cleaned them yet.

I just had to stop and admire the sun shining on the Church of Our Lady Victorious (Kostel Panny Marie vítězné) in the Prague suburb of Bílá hora.

I'm a big architecture and design nut, and it always amazes me to pass by derelict buildings in the Czech countryside, many dating from the turn of the 20th century, featuring wonderful design elements that no one seems to notice. It's very sad to see these treasures rotting away.

Speaking of architecture, I've always admired this block of apartments near Veleslavin in Prague. The developers and architects tried to do something a little different, rather than the standard gray concrete towers. It makes a huge difference, not only to those living there but to those, like me, who pass by.


Pauline Lim said…
Nice post and pics, Grant! I use WD-40 when I don't have time to clean the chain before lubing it (we use Pedro's or Finish Line dry-lube products-- dry so they don't attract dirt). It works as a temporary fix. But in no circumstances should you squirt WD-40 into places that are packed with grease, such as the bearings. It will dissolve the grease and wreck the parts. Ideally, you should clean the chain with citrus cleaner or Chain Brite before using a good lube on it. After a muddy ride, I squirt the water in my water bottle at the mud. You don't want to deal with it when it's dry and caked on, as I'm sure you can attest.

You're very brave to ride on ice! That looks like it sucked!
Gladiator said…
Hi Grant,
Very nice blog and stories.
Enjoy your bike trips thru Prague and the CR.
As per WD-40, do never use to lubricate. As u said it is rather a solvent.
My bike tech. always use and recommends using oil u use for machinery (according to him the very best is the SINGER oil used for sewing machines)
Good luck.

Boris-Joseph A. CHAOUI
Kimbo said…
HI Grant

Thanks for a very enjoyable blog.
If you're looking for quality beer at cheap prices in Praha, there's no need to go so far out of town. Try U Klokocnika on Na Veseli 48, Praha 4-Nusle which sells excellent Kacov beers including the 10% light at 15kcs. The pub suffers from a very smokey atmosphere (for us Brits anyway) but the beer makes it worth the trip. Maybe best to visit in the summer as there is an outside seating area. Recently visited on 18/01/08
Grant said…
Hi, Kimbo,

Thanks for the tip. I used to live in Nusle back in the '90s. Unfortunately, it's not a great place to ride a bike, though, especially starting out from where I live!

I don't think I've ever had Kacov pivo, either. I will have to check it out next time I'm over that way! Hard to beat 15kc in the center of Prague!

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