Friday, October 29, 2010

Safer, Cleaner Cycling

The city of Portland, Oregon is trying out a new bike-lane arrangement called cycle tracks, and it uses parked cars as the physical barrier between motor vehicle traffic and the bike lane. This is such an obviously better idea I'm disappointed I didn't think of it myself. Well-done! Here's a video explaining the concept.

On the Right Track from Mayor Sam Adams on Vimeo.

On high traffic streets, like Fair Oaks Blvd, or Sunrise, that painted barrier should be concrete K-rail painted canary yellow, or traffic orange, but this is a great start in that direction. It turns out, it also improves the air quality for cyclists, especially at peak driving times. Duh! Again, a brilliant idea hiding right under our noses - literally.

K-rail: Physical barriers for cyclists' safety


The last week or so my meteoric rise in performance has ebbed, and the last few rides have been rather weak. Have I mentioned how much that SUCKS? I wish I knew what was behind this. It could be fatigue, it could be the mental let down riding in gloomy weather, and it could be mild infection from dental problems not yet put to rest.

Whatever the root cause, I think I will get my 100 miles in this week with another 33+ miles on Sunday, as Saturday is looking like a continuation of rain forecast for tonight. I don't think I'll be able to get to 500 miles this month, although, I might have if I had ignored the weather guessers and ridden earlier in the day a couple of days this week - fatigue notwithstanding. I'm 51 miles short of 400 miles for Oct, so if I feel strong Sunday, I'll try for that.

On the hardware front, Easton is in the news again, and not in a good way. It turns out the EC90 Zero seatpost is just as lousy as my EC70 Zero. Nice crack running down the front of the seatpost there guys! A seatpost is almost as critical for control as handlebars, so this is inexcusable in my book, even ignoring the groin injury potential.

You should make your own decision, but I have a rule about doing business with a company that is this poorly run. The whole RAD concept was a blunder, should have been found to be so in QA testing, and should have been pulled ASAP. Once you move away from a perfectly round tube you introduce all kinds of unwanted stress vectors. I won't be doing any more business with Easton.

It's gloomy here again this afternoon, and I am so at to the "$hit, or get off the pot" stage here. Rain, get it over with, and let's see some sunshine. All of this 'gloomshine" is affecting my mood. Can you tell? ;)

Happy Halloween to you all!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Techie Tuesday - Wheels & Wheels of Details

My spare rear wheel arrived at the local Performance Bike Shop - shipped free of charge from the online store - in good shape, but with a 100mm front skewer instead of a 130mm skewer. I walked around the store and picked up a few items, especially, a new pair of gloves, squeezing the spokes to relieve them, and then handed the wheel back to the mechanic to have it trued.

It was in pretty good shape, so I am very happy with the purchase, as the cost was a screaming deal at $118 - about half of $205, plus shipping, from Colorado Cyclist. In their defense, my CC wheels were custom built by hand with DT Swiss's Revolution, 14/17 super-butted spokes, so I expected to pay more for them. The PBS wheels use double butted 14/15 Wheelsmith spokes, which as you will see in the photos, have much more abrupt butts. Spokes with abrupt butts usually fail at the butt, if and when they fail.

As indicated a few posts back, the CC wheel has developed a serious flaw at the SUP weld, so the catalyst for buying the PBS wheel was as a spare I can use to keep riding while my CC wheel gets shipped back for a warranty inspection.

I took a lot of pics to get these, which I think are quite good, and highlight contrasts between these two wheel builds. I went through a lot of trouble to get some good shots of the manufacturer's trade-mark stamp on the spoke heads. Once you know what to look for, this makes identifying the spoke mfg quick and easy.

Without further adieu then...

Sorry there are no captions, but BlogSpot's captions currently screw up the HTML so badly that you lose the ability to click on the pics and get full-resolution click-throughs..

Pic #1: Note the prominent "W" stamped on the spoke head for Wheelsmith, the manufacturer. Also, if you look closely you will see the butt area quite distinctly about 30mm out from the spoke head. The transition is done in about 4-5mm.

You might also notice a characteristic of 3-cross spoking - that adjacent spokes are pulling in opposite directions and form an almost unbroken and unbent line from one side of the rim to the other. This arrangement limits stresses on the flange to those pulling along the curve of the flange, nearly eliminating forces pulling away from the flange directly towards the rim. (which is characteristic of radially spoked wheels)

Pic #2: Shows a close-up of the flange and spoke head.

Pic #3: Shows a shot along the drive-side of the wheel, with the halographic Mavic OpenPro decal in focus.

Pic #4: Shows the same shot, but with the Shimano Ultegra 6700 steel freehub body in focus. You can see the butting quite clearly on several of the spokes in this shot.

Pic #5: Shows the DT Swiss head stamp and the very tapered butting. It is very hard to see the butting, it is so gradual. It is easier to feel it, but you can see it somewhat here, and the butting is all over by about 20-25 mm from the head. The same is true on the nipple side, leaving almost the entire length of the Revolution spoke at a very thin 17 gauge.

Pic #6: Shows a close-up of the head stamp and flange.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rainy Days are for Sleeping

I got 98.5 miles in this week, and finished the last 20 minutes of that in the rain yesterday. Does that count as a 'W' for my 100 miles a week goal? Close enough?

I've had quite a week of riding, and a very front-loaded one at that. I rode Sun, Mon, Wed, Fri, and since I am letting the Daily Mile website keep track of my miles, and it is on a Monday - Sunday week, I had to get this week's miles done from Monday thru Friday.

I went to Starbucks in Folsom last night and got fitted for a club jersey, and stayed up last night watching movies and sipping hot chocolate. I was feeling the miles this morning, so after getting up early I went back to sleep ~ 10:00 AM and slept until - GASP - 13:30! I have to say though, I am getting toughened in to the 100 miles a week, and the fatigue is much less now than a month ago.

We don't really have seasons in California, except for wet and dry, but I like the change. Riding home yesterday I was tempted to extend my 'Beal's: No Point' ride down to WBP, but the wind had been very strong the last half hour, so when it started to drizzle I thought it best to get my butt home. As it was the last 20 minutes was in a full-on rain, but a warm, gentle rain, so rather enjoyed that.

It reminded me of some wonderful times I had playing volleyball in the summer in Phoenix (yes, I really did just use 'wonderful', 'summer' and 'Phoenix' in the same sentence) in the warm, monsoon rains that come the 3rd week of July and hang around for a month. All the heat, and humidity too!

I continue to ride hard and push myself, and am setting so many PBs I can't remember them all, but one I am kind of proud of I will share. I got passed by a stealth wheel-sucker going upstream on the west side of Lake Natomas. I was watching the thousands of geese that have been stopping there, and reveling in the sight of rowing teams in sculling crews on the dark blue water as the sun got low and painted it every imaginable hue of red, yellow and orange.

He passed me at about 30mph after the bottom of the only 'long' hill and after the blind left turn that limits speeds to about that. I let him go at first, but decided to challenge myself and try to bridge up and catch him. It took me a half mile at full power, but I got it done.

Top speed was 27 mph, and average 26.1. The trail is right next to the water, so absolutely flat, although just a hint of headwind. My legs really hurt after that, and he dropped me like a greased turd on the climb up to Negro Bar, but I loved the look of total surprise on his face when I came up abreast of him with a big grin on my face!

The calculator in the upper left margin says that works out to ~ 350 watts for a little over a minute. That's power TDF riders can crank out for an hour or more, but I'm very happy with this level of performance. I want more!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Techie Tuesday - Easton Seatpost Fix

As is well-documented on the web, the Easton EC70 seatposts have a problem - they keep sliding down. I tried the cheap alternative to carbon paste, toothpaste, and  that was an utter failure. In fact, it seemed to make it slide much faster. (I'm still a little concerned about the catastrophic failures resulting in groin injuries)

Frustrated, and thoroughly pissed that a good name like Easton would make such a crap piece of gear, I decided to try something a little more aggressive. I cut a strip of 1500 Wet or Dry sanding paper about 20mm wide, long enough to cover all but the front 7mm of the stem, completely wrapping the retarded, flat, RAD back of the post. (on my bike the hole-relieved slot on the seat tube is in back, and the clamp slot is in front)

I turned the paper so the gritty side was to the post, NOT wanting to risk damage to the frame. I had to work the post gently back and forth a bit to relax the seat tube and open  the slot in the frame. You might also just try removing the seat and clamp and leaving it unclamped overnight.

I cleaned both the post and frame with 99% rubbing alcohol and a clean cloth before wrapping the strip around the back and sides and then holding it very tight around the post while I slipped it down inside the seat tube.

I admit, there is was no particular reason to choose 1500 grit paper. I just happen to have some. Something as fine as 2000 might work, or as coarse as 600, but Wet or Dry paper has a very tough back, so I was careful to choose Wet or Dry. (it's actually a cloth back)

I was a little surprise at how easily the paper fit. I had no problems at all getting the paper-wrapped post to slide down inside the seat tube, and the edges of the paper did NOT hang up on the frame. (if they hang up on yours, try trimming the bottom edges at an angle) In fact, I have the definite impression that the post is a little under-sized, and the paper actually makes a perfect, and necessary, compressible shim. The frame doesn't seem noticeably pinched at the top now, like it did before.

I went for a 32 mile ride last night, up to Old Folsom on the bike trail. Up and back on the west side of Lake Natoma because I spent 15 minutes trying to find my HR strap before giving up and riding naked. I just didn't have the daylight to burn going through the lights in Folsom, so I just turned around at the base of the footbridge and came back on the west side.

I ended up riding with a woman on a beautiful Cervelo.  She was real easy to look at too, and kept looking back over her shoulder to encourage this brick to catch up with her after she dropped me on the one good hill on that stretch. Good thing the HR strap was at home! :D

I caught her a half mile later, and we rocked the ARPT back to Hazel Ave, where she turned around to head back to Folsom on the east side of the lake. She was wearing the same Tifosi Vogel sunglasses as I. She likes the auto-darkening feature. I like that too, but love the face seal it gives me at high speeds.

I got passed by the strongest tandem team I've ever encountered, taking a couple of long pulls off my waterbottle just past Hazel Ave. I jumped on it and bridged up to catch their wheel. They were riding a sleek, blue Santana, and were really flying! We averaged ~ 25mph, and peaked at ~ 35 going down a short 500 meter hill. After the hill they stopped trying to drop me, and things got a lot more fun. I could hear them talking, and their communication was excellent.

I really liked their very aggressive use of "LEFT", which left nothing to chance. I'm normally barking "LEFT" or "SIDE" early and loud to make very sure people know they're being closed on. The stoker had her bark timed almost perfectly with mine. On every occasion when I drew in an extra deep breath to bark, her's would ring in my ears. Awesome!

I returned home and checked the 3mm gap I'd left between the seatpost clamp and my Profile Designs seatpost mounted water bottle rack. It was completely intact. Very encouraging.


I had some time to do some research over the weekend, as I had to abandon an 85 mile ride - returning home with a bout of IBS after just 20 miles. If this seatpost fix ends up failing, I'll go with the Syntace Carbon P6  post.

The quality of my Syntace aerobars is just immaculate, so I trust their quality, and also love the way it supports a wide range of adjustment, but still provides almost twice the support for the seat rails as conventional posts.

The people at Syntace just seem to be more clever in design, and more determined in their quality control processes. In short, they just seem to be doing it better. Too bad their English documents suck so bad.

I hope this fix holds up, because the Easton seatposts are going for HUGE discounts online, so this simple fix may make for some great bargains, but if not, Syntace is getting my next chunk of money.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wheel Problems - Again

I bought the last Ultegra 6700 - Mavic OpenPro rear wheel Performance Bike Shop had in their warehouse yesterday for a simple reason - I need to send my custom built rear wheel back to Colorado Cyclist for a warranty inspection. It's showing signs of failure at the SUP weld joint, and I have no clue why. None of this stuff is made in heaven, so mfg defects do happen. Mavic is reportedly very good about standing behind their stuff, so I'm hopeful this turns out well.

There's an extra piece of aluminum laid on the inside of the rim, about the size of a wire bread-wrapper tie, for shoring up the weld area. You can see its "shadow" pretty well through the machined, once-smooth braking surface, in the bottom picture.

My hunch is the post-weld rim was bulging out, so the machining to make the braking surface smooth again cut away too much material, making the rim wall too thin. With 32 spokes pulling with 30 lbs of force, there's almost a half-ton of pressure trying to crush the rim - mashing the ends together at the weld.

The danger, aside from outright wheel failure, is the brake grabs at the point of the weld. This will tend to lock the rear wheel on a descent, resulting in a sideways-skid, and causing you to lose control. 

On paper my 2 rear wheels will be almost identical, but I have heard the Performance wheel uses cheap spokes and nipples, and ships out of true. Good to have a neighbor with a pro wheel-truing setup who owes you favors! As long as it can stand in when I need a spare it's done its job.

If Colorado Cyclists does rebuild the wheel, especially on warranty, I am going to ask them to use DT 14/15 double butted spokes on the drive side. I love my DT Revolution 14/17 super-butted spokes, but they are a bit too flexy on the drive side at my weight and power, and I don't like asymmetrical flexing out back.

I also realized that any serious commitment to training, especially a 2X Century, requires enough spare gear to stick to a training program - and a spare set of wheels is #1 on any such list. As it was I got a killer deal on the Performance wheel, and didn't have to pay shipping as they shipped it to a local store. (tip: if a company has a physical store in your state they are required to collect state sales tax, BUT, they will almost always ship to that store for free if you ask, and most advertise they will do just that. The cost of shipping and tax are usually the same)

I need a new seat, and maybe seatpost too, as my seat just doesn't work for the TT position, and is too old and spongy to make a good 2x Century saddle. I will ride the seat the rest of the winter and keep an eye out for a deal on the Specialized Romin (the spelling has Caesar rolling in his grave, I'm sure), as spongy has a way of getting nice and hard in the cold of winter.

The linked review is pretty thorough, with lots of price and weight info, but I do wish every last reviewer would stop insisting that "The Romin has a cut-out section that runs the length of the saddle..." Clearly, from the picture, anyone can see it does NOT!

I had to make a trip to REI to exchange a pair of Novara Road Gel shorts (the best warm-weather chamois on earth) for a new pair, as the stitching that holds the chamois to the short was coming loose. It's times like these you really love that NQA return policy at REI! While there I looked at the new Shimano 6700 compact crank.

The entire area between the 34T and 50T is covered by a smooth piece of black, ABS plastic, so the chain has nowhere to go but between the gears. Sweet! I am very concerned though about those very, very thin teeth wearing well. The replacement cost of the outer ring is a whopping $277 street! OMFG! Not gear for 2X Century training rides - unless they start using ceramic coatings, as Middleburn has done.

A call has gone out for 2X Century training partners at our bike club. I am going to suggest regular face-2-face get-togethers, maybe with slide shows and such, because there are just so many questions to be answered.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

She Went to Jared

OK, only in my imagination, but thrilling to have a pretty young co-ed checking out my butt on the Guy West Bridge at CSUS last night! It's official, I'm a dirty old man! ;)  I was sweating profusely from cranking out a blistering 21.7 average from Sunrise to Guy West Bridge, and up on the bridge stretching out my hams and gluts trying to catch a breeze.

It was hot and dry yesterday at 4:30 when  heading out the door, so I decided to stick to the flats where I can make my own wind. The plan was to start at Sunrise via Bannister Pk and ride down to Del Paso Rd and then return home via WBP.
I caught the wheel of a guy, who turned out to be my age, on a beautiful, red, Felt S32 TT bike. He slowed just a bit going up a shallow grade on the right-hand turn just past Sunrise, so I jumped hard and bridged up. I couldn't read my Garmin in the flat light, but knew we were doing over 20 mph.

He kept testing me, trying to drop me, on every little hill and turn, but didn't have the legs to make my kind of power. His cadence was in the mid-90s though, with perfect form and immaculate shifts. Very impressed with the latter, especially at the base of hills. The upshot was, I kept overtaking his back wheel when he tried to drop me, so I started hanging back 4 ft and offsetting 18-24 inches to keep a clear view of the trail ahead.

Almost hit a guy head-on going through the tight turns around Rossmor Park, leaning hard and cheating the lanes. The guy was wearing a dark, camo mtb jersey under total tree canopy, downslope from us, and we were looking into the setting sun. He was yelling and cursing, so I knew right where to look, but still couldn't see him until 20 ft away.

I apologized, of course, but he's going to get hit wearing that kind of gear this time of year. We were doing about 23 at the time, so that would have been ugly. There's only one line through those turns, and I was committed, so not sure what I could have done differently.

My rabbit peeled off at Watt Ave, so I rode solo the 2.2 miles from Watt to CSUS. Very pleased I maintained the same speed. Although my HR ticked up ~ 5bpm or so, it was my legs that were really hurting, especially my hams and quads. The surface is brand new asphalt, and very smooth, although a little soft and spongy in the hot sun. I ran across the paving crew on the way home and stopped and thanked them for a job very well done!

Sunrise to CSUS: PB 21.7 mph avg @ 90% of max HR for 32 min
Total ride 19.2, 19.8 on bike trail
252 watts average power start to finish

I am just incredulous I am riding this hard this late in the season. What a thrill!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

I did another ride to Beals yesterday, returning via WBP, for 40 miles, and racked up 104 for the week. It was pretty hot and I was soaked in sweat by the time I got to WBP. Had a nice recovery shooting the breeze until I got sweat in my eye. The salt was so intense it was like acid!

I think I just about have the gearing sorted out. The 12-25 out back makes for decent gears. Pushing 2 cogs up on the rear derailleur when shifting into the big ring, or one down when dropping onto the middle ring, usually gives me the gear I want. Also canted the front derailleur outward just a bit more to allow full access to the 12T in back from the middle ring. Was futzing with the barrel adjusters for the first 10 miles, but have it dialed in pretty well now.

I took my bike to a friend's house and we repacked the bearings on my new wheels. The back didn't need it, but the front was rolling a bit rough. Crazy to wait on this chore. If you have any doubt, get your bearings cleaned up and packed ASAP. I really wanted this done before winter wet and grit arrives. It only took 30 minutes, working together, and we were all done.

Weirdly, the talc on the latex gloves we used got on the back wheel's braking surface, and makes the brakes grab like crazy. I wore all of the toe-in off the brake pads in one ride, so will take a ScotchBrite pad to the rims and clean the pads, and re-toe before my next ride to prevent squealing and chatter.

Seat post still sliding down, so that is still vexing me. Always something that needs attention.

The 100 mile weeks are really helping my fitness level, and strangely, my appetite has really fallen off dramatically. I'm slowly getting lighter and stronger, and getting toughened into the higher training volume - although I very much needed that rest week 2 weeks ago. Just a fact of life as we get older.

I rejoined HammerinWheels today as Perry and Jeff are putting together a nice training plan for the group, and I am getting interested in doing a double, or 3, next year. The California Triple Crown requires me to do 3, so I am busy considering my goals for next year. HWs had 4 members win the Triple Crown this year, and Greg did 5 doubles to get into the Thousand Mile Club. Fitness begets fitness.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Winfall of PBs

I've been rewriting my personal record book left and right the last week. Last Sunday I did all but the warm-up part of my ride at LT, Tuesday I rode hard, but still had enough left in the tank to set a new PB between Hazel and Sunrise racing, and dropping, a 2-man team on TT bikes.

Yesterday I set a new PB going upstream on that same stretch chasing a pair of strong riders, and later shattered my personal best on the Beal's climb - taking almost an entire minute out of my time while dropping a good, strong, kite in the process.

I could point to a lot of factors to account for this, but I think the obvious one is just putting in more miles. For some reason, I'm also eating a LOT less ride fuel on these rides - typically less than a half a PowerBar and one bottle of Gatorade. I'm eating sushi rice before and potato after, but my appetite in general has dropped off, and at a time of year when it's usually on the increase. I have also lost 3-5 lbs in the last 3 weeks. All good things.

My quads were pretty sore today after all of the hammering yesterday, mostly from chasing down faster riders and red-lining for long stretches, but I should be good to go tomorrow or Sunday, depending on weather.

I'm not crazy about the new gear ratios (although I LOVE the smooth, fast shifts), and my new Easton E70 Zero seat post keeps slipping down, but at least the lower seat position spared my calves last night. I clamped the Profile Designs seat post mounted water bottle rack tightly about 3mm up from the seat post clamp, and they were touching after my ride last night. I might also try carbon paste, a double clamp, or even some kind of glue! :-O

The 52/39 gearing paired with the 12-23 out back makes for awkward shifts when approaching hills. I might try mounting the stock (total crap quality) 12-25 in back and see if that helps. It just seems very difficult to land on the gear I want when shifting through tight rollers, which we have a lot of coming back from Folsom on the east side of Lake Natoma.

Issac told me about a novel fix for the seatpost - toothpaste. I found some with silica and am giving it a try, wiping some on the seat post under the clamp area. If that doesn't work I might try some rouge cloth facing inward to engage the seat post. I don't want to scuff up the inside of the seat tube on the frame.

So, after a rest week, and a sub-par one last week due to interviews and matters attendant with the sale of a car, I've been hard at it and very happy with the results. I'm looking forward to riding in fall weather.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Techie Tuesday - Cyclists Lighting System

Learning to fly in Los Angeles at night, if nothing else, is an education in lighting. Once off the ground, and out of the TCA, the familiar disappears into an endless carpet of lights with some random dark spots - defined only by the hard dark line of the ocean. Lighting on aircraft is well-specified by the FAA, so you'd think it would be easy to spot aircraft, but it's anything but easy.

Most commercial airlines now require you to raise the window shades when landing so the cabin windows are lit. They have almost universally taken to brightly lighting the tail of the airplane too. (which G.I.T. requirements would this satisfy?)

Ghosts of lighting past (photo courtesy of Javier Arroyo)
When I took up riding bicycles seriously a few years ago, and this time of year rolled around, I got to thinking of all the lessons I learned about lighting moving objects for identification and collision avoidance. It turns out, many of those lessons apply.

This system is focused on helping others see and react to you. It doesn't cover your being able to see the road, but of course, that is not only important, but a legal requirement too. Without further adieu then, I'll present my recommended lighting scheme.

The G.I.T.  LIT lighting system 
- Grab
- Identify
- Track

The highest priority in lighting is to GRAB someone's attention. Until then, they're incapable of responding or reacting, because they're unaware there is anything around that requires it. Strobes and flashing lights are excellent for this task. Both allow a light source to be much brighter than if constantly on, so be sure to buy a bright light. In any case, the battery drain will be dramatically reduced for flashing or strobing lights, so go big, and as they say, "take two, they're small".

Noticing flashing lights is much, much easier - relying on the very primitive part of our visual system that senses motion (remember Jurassic Park?), and there's evidence they appear brighter than constant-on lights. 

The next highest priority is making sure you're easy to IDENTIFY. Every object has unique properties and behaviors. Motorists rely heavily on knowledge of what they're looking at in order to react appropriately. A jogger, cyclist, and motorcyclist all share some characteristics, and differ dramatically in others.

A jogger you might expect to be facing you, and if lit, to have the light bobbing up and down. Their feet would also be moving in a much different way than the circular motion of a cyclist. A cyclist may be facing you, or may not, but they will be going 3-5 times as fast, so reaction times are compressed. Wheel reflectors will also be making their characteristic roundy-round motion. You wouldn't expect a motorcycle to be facing you, or make quick or radical moves like a jogger or some cyclists.

You would expect a motorcycle to have a powerful lighting system, more powerful than a bicycle and much more powerful than a jogger. It will also be going faster, and can be expected to accelerate faster. If you think about it, even if something grabs your attention, you don't really know how to react until you know what it is.

Anything that lights you and your bicycle well enough so it can clearly be seen as a whole at some distance is best. A headlight mounted on the back of your bike that shines on your backside is excellent. No guessing required. Failing that, highlighting some behavior that only a bicycle can exhibit is good.

Those spoke-mounted reflectors we all remove 10 minutes after we get the bike home, and legally required pedal reflectors - which no clip-in pedal I have ever seen has - are both excellent, but who uses those? I don't (my Sidi shoes do have a quality reflective patch on the heel though).

Helmet light from a donor BRT legstrap
Clothing with reflective piping that creates a distinctive silhouette is very good, as are helmets with silhouette reflective tape. Illuminite type jackets and vests are very good as well.

I have Velcro-ed a Planet Bike BRT strap's internal optic fiber ribbon onto the back of my helmet. It curves around behind the back of the helmet, and is visible from the front, back, and both sides. It's at a motorist's eye level, and when I turn my head to clear a turn it cues motorists where I am looking.

A better variation on this would be optic fibers arranged like the plumage of a Roman helmet, but I have not been able to find one. A unique symbol, similar to the very successful slow moving vehicle triangle is certainly begging to be introduced, but to date, has not been.

Once motorists notice you, and figure out you're a cyclist, they need to be able to TRACK you, or more likely, your lights, to determine course, speed, and proximity. Tracking requires constant on, non-flashing/blinking/strobing lights, and powerful ones. These are primarily rear-facing red lights mounted on your frame or seatbag, but could also be helmet mounted. (assumes you already are using a good headlight, which shows you the road, and allows others to track you when head-on)

Strobing or flashing lights are incredibly difficult to track at night, and since tracking requires constant visual acquisition, it's very demanding of the motorist's time and attention, and perceptually appears dimmer, so this light must be very bright. At long distances, it is likely that you will not yet have been identified when tracking begins. It is by tracking your speed though that the motorist will first begin to form an opinion as to what you are - once you've grabbed their attention. 

While your tracking light will rarely be able to identify you, it can, and sometimes does, grab, the motorists attention. It just isn't very efficient at grabbing it, since flashing lights don't consume nearly as much power, produce as much heat, and for any given power source and bulb, can therefore can be pushed much harder to produce more light. Trade them off.

Have two lights that provide fail-over for each other in either role, as you are trusting life and limb to a battery or few, and a few cents worth of plastics and electronics. This also effectively doubles the battery life of the tracking light. Bringing spare batteries is also an excellent idea for these power-hungry lights, which I always mean to do.

If forced to chose, favor a strong flashing light paired with a dimmer constant light. It's possible to track a strobing light IF it is paired with a still-visible constant light source. Aircraft strobes were designed for years to dim, but never completely turn off for this reason. IIRC, the standard was a repeating pattern of 100-20-100% intensity.

Better to not be forced to compromise, but sometimes fate intervenes. Unfortunately, in LA there is so much ambient light you still lose aircraft between strobes, but not so in rural areas. It's very important that the dim part of a strobe-cycle be bright enough to stand out above the ambient light level. (again, strobes aren't 0% and 100% but 20% and 100%)

Of these three requirements, the IDENTIFY one is the hardest to satisfy. You can be glowing like a Christmas tree, but if the guy can't tell what you are, you still run a pretty high risk of an accident. One promising development here are tires that have reflective sidewalls. From the side, this would make your identification instant and trivial. Worth looking into this winter.


Techie Tuesday late, but worth the wait! (I hope)

Blame it on the MOUNTAIN of laundry taunting me from the next room.

....later today, I promise.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Keeping the Hammer Down

After discovering a SBH climbing ride too late to ride it on Saturday, I decided to do Bread-N-Butter Beals going up on the west side and returning on the east, as I have found that more challenging and like the straight and fast early in the ride, and hilly and twisty late in the ride. I was also reluctant to strike out for Rescue alone after just retaping the bars. That could make for a long ride of misery if my thumb-web injury were re-aggravated.

In doing the TT last month I got a whole new awareness of how difficult it is to keep the hammer down relentlessly, without relief, for long periods of time. Since the TT grew out of a coach's challenge meant to separate racers from touring riders, it reinforced my informal observation that tenacity wins races, as I routinely catch and pass riders late in rides.

My goal was simple, and the same as my TT goal - max average HR for the duration of the ride. This not only means keeping the hammer down, but sprinting before known stops, like the stop light at the Hazel Ave Bridge, and since I didn't want to stop at the base of the Beal's climb, before stopping for a few minutes at Negro Bar Pk.

I found a new hold on the aeorbars, which cover the center part of the main bars, which allowed me to climb the top of Beal's upright, and I averaged ~ 12mph. Very happy with that. Might have been a PB. It really helped me breathe and made much better use of my glutes. I can feel that a bit today, but nice that the Syntace bars will support that position.

On the way home I had some great fun riding with a guy on a carbon black Specialized Tarmac. It had what has to be the loudest cassette ratchet on the planet on its aero Roval wheels. I banged on the button, and was waiting for the light to change in Old Folsom when he showed up to wait with me.

Sporting a LiveStrong bodysuit, we had a little conversation about Lance and Contador before heading down the ramp of the Rainbow Bridge onto the ARPT and piling on the power. We rode together all the way to the light at Hazel Ave before he peeled off, and I picked up the wheel of a 2-man team on TT bikes.

They were working together, and doing a decent job of it, so I hung back in their draft and gathered myself. Both were long and lanky, so after flying down the major hill on that stretch under full power, I went around them on the shallow climb out of the river bottom, and dropped them cleanly while averaging 22.50 mph. Pretty happy I still had that in me after 25 miles.

My only food on this ride was half a PowerBar and one bottle of Gatorade. I did bonk a bit the last few miles, but had no appetite even after the ride ended. I was cramping moderately, so I still need to work on timing the pre-ride meal, and its composition, when performing at these high levels, but that will come in time.

Excluding the 3 mile warm-up, my average HR was 143 BPM, which is right at my LT. I also averaged 255 watts for the entire ride, including the warm-up, and did the bulk of the ride between 265 and 280 watts. That's the 2nd highest output I've averaged in 3 years.

Amped on Claritin, I cranked out a 265 average in April, but this ride was all natural. (The first leg in April was done at 290 watts and 96% of max HR. Be careful with Claritin)

My power-duration curve continues to flatten, so I think the focus on keeping the hammer down is paying off!