Monday, November 19, 2012

Lighting 2012: Helmet Mount for Headlight Pt II

Like historians, who didn't know to number "The Great War" until the next one came along, labeling it WW-II, I find myself needing to update my helmet lighting again after just a short time.

I was ordering bar tape to match my new saddle and needed to order a few extra bucks worth of something to get free shipping, so decided to splurge and spend $37 at Amazon for a Fenix E25 2xAA cell flashlight.

I almost sent it back when it arrived, because it looked too big. Too big for the mounting system, and too big for the top of a helmet. In the end though, a frontal area only 26% that of a MagicShine was appealing, so I cut it out of the package and tried it in the mount.

Whoot! It fit. Just barely, but it fit. Tight enough I aligned one of the groves in the hand hold area with one shoulder of the clamp on the bottom, but it fits quite nicely. Even with the extra thickness of a star and cut-washer set of lock washers, the bolt was long enough I could get it started by squeezing the clamp shut lightly while starting it in the threads with a screwdriver.

Two layers of Velcro straps go on either side of the Volt's "V". Note topside position of the 3-position switch, sealed by the grey rectangular patch on top

Note how the back half of the shoulders on the shoe are cut away to improve the fit

The retention tab, covered by 2 layers of Velco straps, in addition to the Velcro stuck to the shoe and helmet, provides excellent front-to-back stability.

Light is mounted slightly behind the center of gravity to allow angling it up enough to point it well up the road when in the aerobars

Minimal frontal area and low-profile mount makes this aerodynamic, silent, and keeps the weight from shifting the helmet around.

The E25 is a little long. An E35, powered by a single 18650 LION cell would be better, but the price is close to that of a Cygolite then, and this mount doesn't allow you to slip the light off when riding in daylight. It does allow you to walk into "Bertha and Bubba's Bait Barn" anywhere in the US and buy AA alkaline cells on double centuries.

The involvement on the inside of the helmet is minimal, and being a soft mount, doesn't compromise the structural integrity of the helmet's protection in any way I can detect.

This shoe got covered with an inch of soft-side Velcro which added a lot of stability when interfacing with the scratchy side Velco stuck to the helmet

The "Velcro" comes in rolls, and isn't Velcro, but a Chinese rip-off with smaller loops and hooks. It is just a bit stretchy, which really helps when doing a soft mount like this. The Fenix LD01 is pictured here for scale.

I had already futzed around with the Velcro on the mounting system before trying this, but note that the new approach is cleaner and more stable. The changes to the system are as follows.
  1. I cut the shoulders off of the shoe about half way from back to front to get a better straddle over the helmet's raised "V"
  2. I ground the shoe's retention pip off on some concrete (crude, but effective) to make the shoe completely flat
  3. I covered the flat part of the shoe with a strip of self-adhesive soft-side Velcro to interface with the scratchy-side Velcro already stuck to the helmet top
  4. I ditched the red Velcro strap running side-to-side as the mount is completely stable side-to-side now without it
  5. I added a 2nd layer of front-to-back mini-Velcro, running one layer on the right side of the Volt helmet's leading "V",  and one layer on the left side
  6. I added a star lock washer against the plastic of the mount, and a cut-washer type lock washer against the bolt head. This keeps the screw from unscrewing itself when you work the tilt mechanism back and forth when transitioning from the blocks to aerobars and back.
In the end, what made the decision to keep the E25 easy was it's extremely tight beam pattern -  1.5ft @ 25ft, and able to paint reflective signs at over 5 blocks. It lit up the dozens of trash cans in the bike lane on California Ave for 2 blocks ahead, and almost blinded me when I accidentally bounced the beam off of a 4x4' yellow speed caution sign.

I also appreciated that it was very easy to point away from oncoming riders on the ARPT by pointing it at the shoulder 20ft ahead, knowing that almost no light was spilling out into the oncoming rider's eyes. I had no difficulty at all seeing where I was going, even looking into lighting in the 2,000 lumen range from multiple bikes riding in a paceline. It's that bright! (rated at 156 meters, and it's all of that)

In talking to endurance riders, those that ride double centuries, Brevets, and 500+ mile rides, as well as devoted night riders and commuters, one thing comes up again and again. The battery life of headlights should be at least 2X your greatest need on the highest setting. The alternative is constantly 2nd guessing yourself about how much light you can afford to use, fearing complete darkness. The more challenging the ride, the less welcome this constant nagging thought becomes.

I'm going to try a single 18650 cell flashlight just for grins, as it will be smaller and should last longer, having 1 X 3.7v X 3,000mAh or 11.1 watt-hours of energy stored, v.s. 2 X 1.25v X 2,700mAh or 6.75 watt-hours of energy, and will be lighter as well.

In the end, everything is going to be powered by 18650 LION cells, because this is what electric cars, like the new Ford C-Max Energi are using. CygoLite uses these in removable packages in many of their lights, but as yet, you can't walk into a gas station in a remote area and buy them like AA cells. 

If you give up on a battery solution for the duration of the ride, then by all means go with batteries that are readily available along the way. The 1st time you are humping a bunch of dead batteries up the side of a mountain 10-12 hours into a double century, this will become abundantly clear.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lighting 2012: Helmet Mount for Headlight Pt I

What started out as a map light to light the Garmin 305 Edge, thermometer, and the tops of the bars morphed into a headlight as well with the incredibly bright Fenix LD01 "pen light", which puts out 85 lumens on high.

The one frustration I've had with this light, is getting it to tilt up for lighting the road properly, especially when riding down in the aerobars, and down again when I want to read my Garmin or thermometer.

With an upcoming 25 hr noon-to-noon ride on the 4th, when we "fall back" to end DST for 2010, I wanted this problem solved. I started looking at the mounting options I had laying around, and in an epiphany, I realized that the body of the Fenix is the same size as the seatstays on most bikes, so by swapping the roles of the clamp and the mounting shoe, I could make a perfect flashlight holder, purpose made to tilt.

The first mount I made was for my Bell Volt Helmet, and then, just to test the flexibility of the Velcro approach, I did another mount on an old Bell Ghisalo helmet, where the shoe fits down into the vent hole on top of the helmet, so is VERY streamlined.

Despite the scale these close-ups seems to imply, these lights are not much bigger than the AAA cells that power them - very GOOD AAA cells would be my suggestion. I'm using mostly Sanyo 1000mAh cells, and carry 2 extra batteries in my saddlebag, in addition to the 6 that power the taillights.

The red Velcro I got from an auto parts place, and the black from Amazon. The black version is not Velcro, but some "hook and loop" system, which scaled down in every way, and doesn't interface well with the normal sized Velcro. Both work well, and it's nice to have the flexibility of 2 sizes, but they won't stick to each other properly.

I've also replaced the Blackburn Mars 3.0 with a 4.0. It's easily 3-4X as bright, about half the size, weighs slightly less, has the same mounting system, but is sans the rarely used "marquee" flash mode. It still, stupidly, uses colored lenses when LEDs already produce the proper color all on their own, so the colored lens just blocks light needlessly. Planet Bike has wisely used clear lenses, and a translucent white body so the whole case turns red in constant-on mode.

On the plus side, the Mars lights have a simple flash pattern that can be tracked, not as well as in constant-on mode, but still trackable in a pinch. Their hose clamp mount makes for easy helmet mounting, and they have amber lights on each side to properly indicate to traffic they're looking at you from the side. (reflective tire sidewalls and wheel reflectors do this too)

Before, with Blackburn Mars 3.0 taillight and Velcro mount

After, with Blackburn Mars 4.0 and Velcro-ed PB seat-stay mounting system with dyslexia.

Velcro running in both directions for a good anchor. Note the lock tab forward where the back Velcro passes over it before being threaded into the inside of the helmet.

View of the inside of the Bell Volt helmet. Always run Velcro UNDER the helmet's sweatbands.

2 layers of Velcro under the shoe. One sticking to the helmet, and one on top of that (red) running under the PB mounting shoe

Close-up of mount. Easier to do the Velcro work with the clamp OFF, especially when running the black Velcro across the top of the red.

Note the receiving slot of the PB mounting shoe clearly visible here. I may cut the vertical part of the shoe off later and put some adhesive Velcro on the then flat shoe to make this an even more stable mount.

Fenix LD01 flashlight is mounted right at the balance point so it will have no tenancy to tilt up or down

The lock tab on the PB mounting shoe is clearly visible on the front side here

Bell Ghisallo helmet with PB receiving shoe mounted down inside the top vent hole

Black Velcro holds the shoe forward, tightly against the tapered front of the vent hole

Note rubber spacer wrapping the flashlight. Its cushion is required to allow the teeth in the tilting mechanism to slip past each other. Also note that the slotted holes in the wide part of the red Velcro were both worked down around the leg on the shoe that holds the clamp to it. With Velcro running in opposite directions, this makes for a great side-to-side mounting system.

These Velcro straps have just the right amount of stretch for this application, although the mount benefits from a rather tight cinching. It's also worth noting that using this same approach, a pretty large flashlight, or headlight, could be mounted if the small clamp were replaced with the large clamp.


Friday, July 20, 2012

FAIL Whale: Performance Bike Shop

I have been waiting to post the R&R of my broken Shimano 6703 shifters for Performance Bike Shop to complete the exchange - which they have FAILED to do.

Out of frustration, after 7 weeks, I took the duplicate set of shifters they sent me to the local store and asked them to credit my card. Because the item was over $100 they FAILED to do so. This after waiting 8 days for a snail-mail that was supposed to contain a Fed-X label for the return - the 2nd such label has FAILED to materialize.

After 9 days, I called the local store, and they have FAILED to receive any indication my package was returned to PBS's return center, or resulted in a refund.

It is very apparent to me that Performance Bike shop is on the ropes financially. There are a few indications of this. 1st, and foremost, any healthy company would have a functional CRM software system in place by now. PBS's system seems to be ancient, and badly broken. After a half-dozen extended phone calls, and a store visit, NOTHING is in any system anyone at customer service can find back. This is beyond pathetic.

By contrast, had good CRM in place by the 2nd yr of their existence, and currently handles all returns completely online, printing both the return authorization and mailing label on your printer so you can ship the package back, with complete confidence it's being tracked, and everyone knows the complete history of both ends of the transaction at all times.

The other indication PBS is on the ropes, is they've dropped a lot of vendors, and my guess is, the remaining ones are having to finance PBS's inventory.

Finally, their prices are no longer the best. Amazon can usually meet or best their price, and offers free shipping and no taxes to boot. The tax treatment is something PBS can do nothing about, but even ignoring that, PBS no longer is price competitive. My guess is, Amazon has pushed them to the brink, and they are going down.

The local PBS guy asked me to wait another week. After that I'm going to call my card company and take my money back. I'm beyond disgusted with these nit-wits.

UPDATE: 7/ 26/2012

I got a call from the shipping manager (the person who I hand-delivered the redundantly shifters to on 7/11) at the local Fair Oaks Performance Bike shop on Monday the 23rd, in response to inquire on Thurs the 19th.  Nothing.

I called today, Thur the 25th, 2 weeks and a day after returning the shifters, and talked to the sales manager. Nothing. Promised they would escalate the matter with the store manager tomorrow and call me back after I threatened to have my credit card company revoke the charge, and/or call the local TV stations. Beyond pissed off!!!

UPDATE: 7/27/2012

Got a call from the shipping manager at noon today. The return package was received on the 24th, but only after burning up a lot of phone line were the local shop people able to find this out. I wasn't entirely satisfied until I found my credit card had been credited. So 7 weeks after this debacle started I've saved $339, minus the shipping that PBS failed to reimburse me for. Draw your own conclusions. I think I'll pay a little more and get a real guarantee in the future.


Monday, June 18, 2012

In the Drafting Room

An oldie, but a goodie. Phred's peering over my shoulder.
 I've got a post in draft mode I'm working on that expands on my MIBM comments about saddle sores, which focuses on how to prevent them, or failing that, how to treat and manage them.

I have also taken a bunch of pics of my broken Shimano Ultegra 6700 front shifter, and will be blogging about the repair of the shifters, and how well Performance Bike Shop stands behind their 100% satisfaction guarantee. More wrenching porn for all those unsung heros who keep the world's massive bike fleet up and running!

Also on tap, and has been for some time, is a timeline, and discussion of nutrition intervals, covering the full cycle of nutrition from 2 days before, through event nutrition, into recovery, both shallow and deep, and then full-circle back to carbo-loading. I got stuck behind some serious discrepancies in how much muscle glycogen is stored by the body, and the discrepancies are at least 10:1, so will have to make  some decisions before writing that post.

After an especially difficult flat fix last Thursday evening, I'm toying with the idea of another flat-fix post. I was the 5th guy to show up to help a Damsel in Distress, who had been waiting on others for ~ 45 minutes as the sun was setting, and am convinced she'd have been walking home in the dark if I (or a pretty good wrench) hadn't shown up. Again, a very tough case, but then $hit does happen.

Finally back below 100 degrees here in Sacramento, after a 105, and 103 degree days back-to-back. Looking forward to getting out the door for a ride this evening, but hope to get the saddle sore draft done tonight or tomorrow.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

RX: for Saddle Sores

The emergence of saddle sores is often met with macho bravado, and this is a HUGE mistake. Often times, and this was certainly true in my case during MIBM, these are not sores at all, but crushing and tearing wounds that create permanent scars and injury which never fully heal. Such wounds will forever limit your saddle time, and deserve an all-out, maximum remedial effort.

There are distinctions to be made between tearing/crushing wounds, sores/boils attendant with infected pimples, or hair follicles, and chaffing or pressure soreness.

Of course, the best injury is one that never happens, and to that end here are some good ways to prevent saddle sores.
  1. Clean and Sterilize your shorts, chamois and seat.  Soaking your clothing in a bathtub of mild bleach solution is an excellent protocol to clean, sterilize, and remove salt from your chamois.
  2. Wash you bottom side with a good antibacterial soap, like Dial, or for problem areas, use  chlorhexidine gluconate soap to sterilize your skin for 6-8 hours. Use this RX for road rash as a general guideline. Wallgreen's soap is cheaper and smells better than Hibiclens, but both are excellent.
  3. Keep skin in tear-prone areas elastic by using lotion when off the bike, and cover with shorts made of non-absorbent materials to prevent lotion from drying out or being absorbed by clothing.
  4. Keep your bottom side dry and ventilated for boils or infections. Save Neosporin for time in the saddle as it will suffocate the wound and retard healing. Apply Hibiclens every 6 hours.
  5. Use an alternative short with a different kind of chamois, different shaped seat, or some combination of these to change the pressure points on your bottom.
  6. Try a seat with a center channel void to increase ventilation to promote drying and cooling.

Once the sore spot develops significantly, you either need to avoid putting further stress on it, or get of the bike. For boils, use max sterilization protocols, and turn everything up louder than everything else. I caught my boil very early, and stayed off the bike for 5 days, as I also was dealing with a tearing wound.

I have not tried talc, cornstarch, or Baby Powder, but have it on good authority that these often work better than chamois butter, lotion, or Utter Butter. I used Utter Butter, and wasn't impressed. Palmer's coco butter lotion was still there and still slick at the end of a bunch of 60 mile rides.

If boils blister, you can pierce with a sterile needle. Using a hemostat and needle, dip the needle and end of hemostat in a small tray/dish of 99% alcohol, and then light on fire with a butane lighter. Let cool and you have a very sterile instrument. Everything that comes out of the boil is infected and full of bacteria, so use Hibiclens to persistently sterilized the surrounding area, and rewash the boil and area after popping it with a sterile needle.

Personally, in a MIBM situation, where you want to minimize the time off the bike, I'd find a good doctor as soon as there is any blistering. Women should be careful not to get Hibiclens on their girl part/s as it has been known to cause numbness. Betadine is a good alternative here, but doesn't have the persistence that Hibiclens does.

Properties of various antimicrobials
Note that the compound in Dial, and other antibacterial soap, Triclosan, is on this list, and persists for at least 45 minutes. It's chemistry is compatible, and reinforces the action of Hibiclens. Dial gets the big chunks off, so the Hibiclens can soak in and get the deep stuff, and keep on killing pathogens for 6+ hours.

Also note that many of these compounds are partially neutralized by organic material, including the cotton of a cotton washcloth. Use a synthetic washcloth for washing. They are commonly available as microtex dish cloths in the grocery store kitchen cleaning supplies area. Mine is labeled Mr Clean. I bought it at Safeway.

These can be sterilized by washing in bleach(kills almost everything known to man), which insures your washcloth stays part of the solution, and doesn't become part of the problem. Just be very sure you rinse all the bleach out, as it will destroy the action of Hibiclens.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

MIBM Recap: Lessons Learned

Finally back over 4,000 per year, and 500 per month.
 2012 is the first year I made a serious effort to rack up some miles for my May Is Bike Month (MIBM) pledge. While trying for 100 miles each week now for 2 years, I usually end up with around 300 miles a month. Reviewing my rides and mileages on DailyMile, I noticed a few changes I thought I could make to break the 500 mile/month barrier.

577 miles in 13 rides. Some LSD in May
First, I noticed that I never rode two days in a row to avoid muscle glycogen depletion. This was no accident, it stemmed from a combination Friday evening, and Saturday morning ride where the Friday ride leader didn't get us to a cafe in time to recover properly. This led to a disaster of a 60 mile Saturday ride where my muscle glycogen was so depleted I suffered through a pathetic 212 watt ride. I decided to challenge this limitation again, and see if it was a 1-off experience, or a real limitation.

Second, I noticed that general fatigue, weather, or allergies often kept me off the bike for 5-7 days at a time, which wastes a lot of days in the month. Weather is hard to beat, but having good lighting gave me some crucial flexibility to beat heat, cold, and allergies.

Third, I began to notice last year, when I started to get interested in riding a double century, that if you want to reliably get out the door for the long miles required to train for doubles, you have to have spare parts you can use when things break, bend or wear out. (I crashed the 3rd week of Feb, on the last ride of my Big Week, so March broke the trend - temporarily - because I didn't have a spare me).

Finally, I noticed that hand numbing, numbing boy parts, and shoe hot-spots started to take their toll after 100 miles a week. If you've been reading along over the last 15 months, you know I've been relentlessly identifying and addressing these problem areas.

So how successful have my efforts over the last 15 months been? I thought MIBM would be an excellent challenge to test my adaptations, and that turned out to be true. I was also inspired by my ability to steadily increase my monthly mileage starting around Thanksgiving last year. Each month I'd tack on another 10-25-miles.

Only 1 day off, and burning a LOT of calories. My Big Week experiment back in February
I started testing my ability to evade the fatigue that normally comes with back-to-back days in March, and racked up a 214 mile week, with only one (unnecessary, as it turned out) rest day, and generally, long days separated by short, 20-something recovery rides. Fatigue is  a problem if I spend more than 30 minutes in Zone 5, or at 100% of max HR for more than a couple of minutes. Keeping my HR in Zone 3 solved the fatigue problem, except for cumulative fatigue after days of riding. Psychological fatigue played a bigger role than I'd have thought, making it hard to find the motivation to get out the door.

I was inspired to try recovery rides because there was a report published early this year by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute that showed cells accumulate various and sundry flotsam when working hard, but they scavenge themselves to find, and burn these fragments for fuel - BUT- this process is triggered only by mild, recovery ride type exercise. The process is called autophagy.  I still need to rein myself in on recovery rides, but if I keep my HR below 130, and at an average of 120, recovery rides help.

I spent almost the whole first week of May off the bike due to high winds and high pollen counts, but then hit on the idea of getting up before 5AM, before the offending plants opened for business, and while the wind was still calm. Having bought good lighting for winter riding, I was safely able to ride early. That approach worked, as long as I finished up by 10:00am, when my throat would start to swell shut. I still had to put up with some red, blood-shot eyes, and sneezing, but the early mornings were quiet, serene, and very cool.

Starting the 4th week the heat became a problem, but once again, early starts, or riding after dark, provided the needed scheduling flexibility to ride comfortably. In fact, the night of the 31st I rode 51 miles, stopping at WBP park, instead of extending down to CSUS because nobody was out riding at 10:00 at night. Weird, since hundreds of people rode after dark all winter, and have the lighting to beat 100 degree heat. I also used my lighting, especially tail lighting, to stay safe in early morning rush-hour traffic when returning home after very early starts.

Early in the month I remounted my custom built Open Pro wheel, and it was pinging and popping till it nearly drove me mad. I did everything I could think of, and nothing helped - except putting the "spare" I'd been riding all winter back on the bike. It's almost an identical wheel, except it has WheelSmith 14/15ga spokes instead of DT Revolution, and it costs half as much. Problem solved. (still need to come up with a long-term solution, like rebuild the wheel using a DT Swiss RR465 rim, but not under any great pressure to decide as the wheel is functional as a spare, albeit annoying)

The most serious problem I encountered were saddle sores, and those are a very serious problem. I've had friends who've been off the bike for months, and those sores continue to limit their time on the bike. I tried chamois butter, talc, shorts with different chamois, and riding the SS bike with it's classic seat. It all helped, but the sores kept getting worse. I finally ordered an expensive Fi:zik Aliante seat, which was even worse than my Specialized Avatar since I spend so much time in the drops and aerobars. Staying off the bike while waiting for the seat, riding my SS, and changing to shorts with different chamois helped, but still wasted 5 days.

I should also mention that the Mavic Cosmic Elite front wheel (made in Romania btw) helped considerably on days when I was tired and the wind was fierce. I ran into a problem with it though on the SBH ride on May 31st, because I blew the front tire off, ruining the inner tube, and the spare didn't have a long enough stem to air up the tire past 35lbs - at least for 10 miles or so. I tried again at WBP and got about 75lbs in it. That was good enough to add a trip up to Folsom and 20 miles to the total.

The biggest problem of all turned out to be nutrition, and for what turns out to be an obvious reason. Ride fuel is cheap and ubiquitous, whereas good nutrition is expensive and time-consuming to prepare.. Tired of baking potatoes after, and cooking and eating rice before the ride (no appetite so early in the morning), I started eating a LOT of french bread - as much as 2 one pound loaves per day. This turned out to be a disaster, as my blood pressure got out of control, diverticulitis and constipation were a constant threat, and fatigue started to set in. I was scrambling to find something that would work.

I went back to potatoes after, and resigned myself to spending the money for commercial ride fuels, and eating them on the bike, especially early in the ride, as appetite would allow. The best recovery meal I had included 4oz of left over T-Bone steak with my recovery potatoes on one glorious Monday. I could almost feel that hit my muscles. My pepper chicken dish really hit the spot too, and the micro-nutrients were so effective I could almost feel myself getting stronger with each bite. Angel-hair pasta with hot Italian sausage, crushed red peppers, and Newman's Own Sockarooni sauce was excellent - but I was often too tired to cook.

Still, I was searching for nutritional solutions while waiting for the new seat and nursing saddle sores, so not so sure the nutrition thing is really fixed. I will have to push the Big Mile frontier again, and see if I can get it dialed in. I did come to love Espresso Love GUs. The maltodextrin really helped put some snap in my legs on a few occasions, though, caffeine should be saved for late in a ride to prevent going too hard too soon, and dehydration.

It's worth mentioning that days of back-to-back riding progressively strips the body of carbs, so getting enough carbs becomes more important. Fruit, whole wheat bread, and pasta, all with GIs in the 20s-30s, are the go-to foods after initial an initial recovery  period of 1hr (or the duration of the ride for rides longer than 2 hours). Start with very fast carbs to prevent catabolic muscle destruction, and taper into slower carbs, and good, balanced nutrition. Midnight snacks play an important role in reloading muscle glycogen. Raisin bran is my favorite.

Quads are still my weakest link, and even now, after 9 days off the bike, my IT bands on both legs ache a little. I need a solution to this problem, and that may be BenGay, compression shorts, massage, or something I haven't considered, (like a wife) but this problem still needs solving.

Overall, though, I was pleasantly surprised that so much worked so well. My wrists were fine, my feet were fine, I had the clothing and lighting to ride as early or late as needed, and I was able to keep motivated with the help of my friends on DailyMile, the MIBM website (which reported rival's miles), and my bike club, the Sacramento Bike Hikers.

Finally, I should mention that shifting on the front derailleur was getting worse and worse, and it finally locked up completely coming home on the 31st. I've torn the shifter down and found one of the release ratchet dogs broke off. There are no user inputs to this mechanism, other than those required to shift, so I'm not sure what happened, but I did find a 1/2" strand of shifter cable inside the mechanism. My best guess is a defect in the metal dating back before mfg began. These are tiny parts, and even tiny defects can cause failure.

I'm  going to blog the entire RnR project, but having not just spare parts, but a spare bike as well, is helpful if you want to avoid any training gaps. Something to think about.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Got Milk?

When I find better nutrition, I like to share it with the world, so others can benefit from my experience. Recently I've found something I think adds a lot of benefit. Horizon organic milk/s with DHA Omega-3.

Milk is the 2nd best natural source of protein, after egg-whites, and being animal proteins, they reduce recovery times after hard riding - according to Joe Friel's book Paleo Diet for Athletes.

Specifically, they contain branched-chain amino acids, which are unique to animal proteins. And yes, I have been eating more eggs too. Eggs contain a substance that prevents their cholesterol from being absorbed into your bloodstream. This explains why someone who ate 25 soft-boiled eggs a day for 15 years had normal cholesterol levels. You didn't think egg research funded by cereal companies was going to admit that, did you?

The Journal of Nutrition did their own study. Same cholesterol result, but they also found eggs imparted significant levels of lutein and zeaxanthin to the human body, in part, because of a much higher bio-availability than plant sources. These micro-nutrients help protect your eyes from sun damage attendant with outdoor sports.

(Paleo shuns milk - because cows are too big to milk...rolleyes. Heard of goats? For an excellent discussion of Paleo's underpinnings, read this wonderful research piece (pdf file) by people who would rather find things out than make assumptions. Fascinating!)

For those interested, here is a great academic presentation of how cholesterol is metabolized in the human body. The bottom line is, for healthy people dietary cholesterol is NOT a concern.  Eat all the eggs, milk and animal protein you want, but remember to steer clear of saturated fats, and above all, trans - aka hydrogenated - fats.

About 6 months ago I started buying Horizon whole milk to put in my coffee. I call whole milk "spice milk", because I use it exclusively like a spice, in my dark, Italian Roast coffee  - until recently that is. For the most part, I drink only skim milk.

In addition to a RBBB, which impairs my heart function somewhat, I'm at an age where I sometimes walk into a room and can't remember why I'm there. Horizon's plant-based DHA (Omega-3) from algae seemed worth a try, even though it's $5 a half-gallon.

After about 4 months I started to notice a couple of things. First, even when riding in Zone 5, my chest pains were non-existent, or minimal. Second,  I haven't walked into a room and wondered why so far this year, and I have stopped taking CoEnzyme Q10 for my heart, so I think the DHA is helping a lot.

In addition to the DHA, and being organic, I've noticed the milk is sweeter, and based on the nutritional info printed on the carton, it has more sugar (lactose), and about 20% more protein than regular milk.

Because my "spice milk" use restricts my intake, I've been looking for ways to incorporate more Horizon milk into my diet, and I've done that in 2 ways.
First, I've started to use their chocolate milk as an intermediate recovery food, which I drink after 15-20 minutes, favoring faster carbs for initial recovery to prevent catabolic muscle destruction. They sweeten the chocolate milk with sugar, not HFCS, and chocolate is an excellent anti-oxidant.

Official USDA Antioxidant food list by typical portion size.
Look how potent spices are by weight. Any wonder the spice trade flourished? Europeans must have realized they were receiving huge benefits from what were then exotic spices.
I'm not sure how much chocolate is in the milk, but there's none in most ride fuels, so in addition to dark chocolate I eat in deep recovery, like Newman's Own excellent Organic 50% Chocolate, whatever chocolate Horizon uses is welcome.

Second, I've noticed that using their whole milk on Raisin Bran as a midnight snack, kills my craving for ice cream, and is much healthier. I think ice cream gets a bad rap, and think cyclists don't eat enough fat in deep recovery, but this is a healthier way to get your fat.

The DHA Omega-3s don't come with nasty side-effects, like mercury poisoning, and raisin bran is low on the glycemic index. It also has the non-soluble fiber you need to 'take out the trash" in the morning, so you get rid of toxins from metabolizing ride fuels.

Just a reminder, May is Bike Month. See you out there!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Techie Tuesday: Mounting Helmet Lights

After crashing in Feb, I replaced my Bell Ghisallo with a Bell Volt, and have had to experiment a little to find good mountings for my summer lighting. The Blackburn MARS 3.0 taillight was pretty easy, and very similar, but mounting the Fenix LD01 flashlight in front, to use as a map light, and/or emergency headlight, required some innovating.
Overall, a pretty light and slippery lighting system. The Fenix starts in Med mode, and is switched by quickly twisting the front of the light to toggle it through its 3 settings. Med-Lo-Hi. Nice that that's a 1-handed operation!

MARS 3.0 taillight is offset 2.5" from the back of the helmet, which makes it visible except from directly ahead. Combined with the headlight, it makes it easy for motorists to figure out where I'm looking at night.

The Blackburn mounting system uses what is essentially a plastic hose clamp. It works very well with the addition of a wooden dowel as a "soft" spacer. No need to over tighten. Easy does it!

Mounting system is minimally intrusive on the human side of the helmet

Bug's-eye view of the Fexix LD01 "headlight"

At .5oz for the Fexix, and whatever the AAA weighs, this little guy (20mm) is 1/10th the weight, and 1/5th the size of most headlights, so it doesn't grab much wind, nor block your helmet's cooling vents

A little hook-side Velco stuck to the helmet, and then a Velcro wire bundle tie looped over the top, makes a nice soft, movable/adjustable mount for lighting the cockpit, and/or, the road.

The back of the flashlight body was wrapped in a 3" strip of soft rubber gripper, held in place with a tiny zip-tie. It was pillfered from another mounting kit. Hollow back aids cooling.

Detail of inside of Velcro mount. Note it is "clamping" on solid Styrofoam, so not compressing two unsupported slots together.

I left a small slot at the top of the flashlight uncovered when wrapping it with loop-side Velcro, to allow for better cooling. The light, if anything, tends to push air into the front slot, and suck it out of the rear slot, improving overall ventilation
Based on a suggestion made on, I inserted a LION 10440 cell into the Fexix LD01. It's very bright anyway, but the 72 lumens jumps to about 225 with 3.7 volts pushing it, instead of 1.25 volts. On the lowest setting it produces about the same light it's supposed to on the 27 lumen setting. On med, about 100 lumens, and I'm scared to leave it on high for more than a minute as it gets hot fast.

I'm going to experiment with this setup a little, but can't recommend it at this point. On low the 10440 cell only lasted 2.5 hours, so not much on endurance. I may try the medium setting with the flashlight in my freezer just to see if it's the LION cell's voltage regulation circuit that is limiting it's burn time, not power drawn. Happy trails!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Techie Tuesday: Mavic Open Pro - How Tough Are They?

It's been a little over 2 months since I crashed in the rain, ruining my custom built Mavic Open Pro wheel, laced with 32 DT Swiss Revolution spokes 2X to a Shimano Ultegra 6700 hub.

No wheel ever built would have withstood sliding 3-4 feet sideways at a 40 degree angle, at 15mph, into a notched utility cover slot. After rebuilding my wheel with a DT Swiss RR454 rim, with Revolution spokes laced 3X, I took a closer look at the OP, and think it stood up to a tremendous amount of damage with some remarkable results.
  1. None of the eyelets pulled through, despite tremendous damage to the rim
  2. The tire did not go flat, nor come off the bead
  3. None of the DT Swiss Revolution spokes broke
  4. None of the alloy nipples were stripped, with all the threading intact
While the advertised weight of the OP is 425 grams, it's measured weight is 440 grams, but even still, the RR465 is 465 grams, so the OPs are very light. I believe the 2012 OPs have lost 5 grams, weighing in at 435 grams now.

I went with the DT Swiss rim because I've had so many problems with SUP welds on my OPs. First, my custom-built Colorado Cyclist rear wheel's braking surface started to buckle right ahead of the SUP weld, and when they rebuilt it (at no charge) they were either vindictive about selecting a new rim, or I had very bad luck.

Without ever riding the replacement wheel, I took to to MadCat here in Sacramento and had Eddy inspect it for usability. As a result of photo consultations, and caliper measurements provided to Mavic, that wheel was rebuilt a 2nd time, again at no charge to me, as Mavic paid for everything. I am extremely happy with the OP wheel Eddy built for me. Even after sticking a heel into the drive-side spokes when I crashed, the spoke did not break, and Eddy charged me $0.87 to fix and true the wheel. Excellent customer service all around!

This front wheel jammed hard into the fork and front brake calipers, leaving some deep gouges on the inside of my fork, but, as you can see, the wheel held together, although just barely at the SUP weld. I think the rim strip was actually holding the SUP joint together, or at least, the small stress of removing it so I could unscrew each and every spoke to check for stripping, broke the SUP weld.
Very Egg-shaped, but still a cohesive object, and it held air for 3 weeks, until I carefully disassembled it.

Enormous stresses borne by this wheel are evident in the tearing of the Maxal aluminum alloy. Serial number front and center for the folks at Mavic, who I hope will have a look at this
Note the seperation of the sidewall from the rim here. About 1" (25mm) of seperation here was the extent of this mode of failure

Mavic's SUP weld plug. It looks like concrete, but I'm sure it's aluminum alloy of some sort. Note the "T-shaped" slot
The other, mating side of the SUP weld, with some kind of plastic alignment plug protruding. Note the massive amount of damage here. Somehow, it did NOT break all the way. Very, very impressive!

 So this brings me to some observations, and conclusions. First, all metal rims are going to have joints, so you can chose between sleeved joints and welded joints. Carbon rims have no joints. Advantage carbon. This does bring up an interesting option though - alloy rims with carbon joints. I'm thinking of something like an inch of ExoGrid structure.

Second, anyone that says DT Revolution spokes are weak, and break easily is lying, and I would encourage you to tell them they're speaking from ignorance if you read this claim, or hear it in person. Demand they show you proof, as I have done here.

Revolution spokes are so elastic they are virtually impossible to break. I bent one around the heel of my shoe, putting a 35mm indentation in it, and it still didn't break, and neither did even one of the spokes on this wheel, in spite of totally destroying the wheel and rim. Beyond that, the 300 stainless that most spokes are made of is so elastic it can stretch to nearly doulble it's original length before failing. Titanium spokes? Yes. Aluminum spokes? Absolutely! Butted stainles steel spokes? Never!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Techie Tuesday: Riding in Cold & Darkness

One by one I've attacked the challenges attendant with riding in winter, mostly those of riding in the cold and the dark, since it has been dry this winter, and I don't consider riding on the road safe with motorists looking through rain-spattered windows. A great litmus test for whether you've got your gear nailed, it will test you to the limit at times, but it's also been very rewarding. In Dec, and Jan I set a new PB for mileage, and then broke both of those in Feb and then again in March.

--- COLD ---

Before going any further, I should warn you that riding alone at night in the cold is dangerous, and very unforgiving. If you have a flat, or take a spill, or can't ride and make heat for any reason, hypothermia is almost a certainty, and that could be fatal if you're riding alone at night. 

There's an art to riding in cold, some finesse, endless clothing combinations to work out, and some thoughtful planning.

It's important not to over-dress, but rather, keep extra clothing dry, and in reserve. Overdressing just creates hydration problems, leaves you chilled and soaking wet, and with nothing dry to augment your protection, likely to make things worse, not better, if stopped in the cold. Always bring a foil blanket along in the saddle bag. It will make up for a few poor choices, or unfortunate circumstances.

A convertible jacket with zip off sleeves, a dry balaclava, a 2nd balaclava, 2nd vest, or leg warmers you can pull on over tights, can all save your life. Keep your legs warm at all costs. If they get cold enough to start cramping, which is a constant threat for me personally, you can't pedal hard enough to make enough heat to stay warm. Let your arms and core freeze if you must, but keep your legs and head warm.

Climbing out of the saddle on a steep hill is the best RX for warming up - if it's not already too late. The lower speed minimizes convective, motion-generated wind losses, while the extra effort of climbing out of the saddle maximizes muscle work – especially in your core. Cold legs that won't spin will still mash, and using the gluts and lower back draws on muscles that are hopefully still fairly warm.

The worst-case scenario is crashing and being knocked unconscious. You might well wake up dead, having succumbed to hypothermia while unconscious. Keep this in mind when planning your riding gear for the day, and have sufficient lighting to avoid rocks, sticks and debris.

Dressing right for cold weather riding relies on having an accurate thermometer, and a very deep pool of clothing to draw on. You can mix and match clothing to adjust for various weather conditions, but only if you have to have a good thermometer on the bike, and take note of those temps. (I'd buy a GOOD thermometer, masquerading as a cadence sensor, in a heartbeat. Garmin are a bunch of dimwits, and have added a thermometer so BAD, it's next to useless)

SMUD, our local municipal utility company, passed out some energy conservation kits last year, and part of that kit was a cheap digital thermometer which fits in my map clip perfectly. It reports to tenths of a degree, and seems as accurate as my more expensive household digital thermometer. It reacts in seconds to temp changes, unlike the Garmin 500, which has so much lag built in, it's almost useless for the 5 degree drops in temp when rolling down into a low draw along the river. 

Dressing for those transient cold spikes is important, because a couple of thousand yards of that kind of cold is enough to bring on cramping, and if that shuts down your legs, you're in serious trouble.

 Knowing where it's cold, and when, is invaluable in planning your clothing for the day. For example, upstream from Sunrise is about 5 degrees warmer than downstream, and since temps can drop as much as 25 degrees after sunset, I've taken to riding the cold part first, while it's still warm out, and the warmer part after sunset when temps are plunging. The more uniform temps make dressing much, much easier. (I set out in 75 degree temps recently, which became 79 degrees up in Folsom, and dropped to 52 a few miles from home below WBP. A 27 degree temp swing in 2 hours)

Besides temperature, wind, cloud cover, and humidity are significant factors. While temps typically fall 10-15 degrees, and as much as 30 degrees about 30 minutes before sunset, to an hour after on clear nights, overcast skies rarely allow temps to drop more than 5 degrees an hour around here.

In addition, very cold, clear nights are often created by cold, dry arctic winds here, and the dry wind greatly increases evaporative losses. These are the only nights I want to wear a jacket, which covers my armpits, because human skin tends to sweat even when cold to maintain a minimum surface humidity. (there was a lot of research into "vapor barrier" clothing in the late 70s, which I haven't read anything about lately, but it's for real) "Wind burn" is also more problematic in such dry air.

The biggest threat I've found from wind is quads quickly chilling until they start cramping, but to a lesser degree, this is true of all the leg muscles, and the feet and hands as well. The PI Barrier Balaclava does a good job keeping my face, forehead, and neck protected, but below 45 degrees cold, dry wind needs to be stopped with a helmet cover to prevent ice cream headaches and stiffness in the back of the neck.

There are lots of little changes that have to be accounted for as well. Powerbars I slip into jersey pockets are hard as bricks, so I've gone back to slipping them under the right leg of my bib shorts, against my skin. The foil wrapper helps keep my thigh warm to boot.

Water bottles, especially the Polar ones, become almost impossible to squeeze, but even the wonderful Camelbak bottles get hard to squeeze. You might also need to start your ride with warm Gatorade and an insulated bottle.

Batteries, especially NiMh batteries, don't work very well in the cold. They don't produce as much voltage nor store as much energy, as the voltage curve is shifted lower, and drops off aggressively after about 30-45% of normal durations. If you carry spares, an excellent idea, carry them close to your skin to keep them warm.

On the plus side, LED lights never have heat problems in the winter, requiring them to temporarily drop down to a lower setting. Also, running them at cooler temps may extend their lifespan somewhat. (although, 50,000 hrs is probably longer than you'll ever need them, as the technology keeps improving)

--- DARK ---

Planning for riding in the dark is much less an art, and much more straight science, than dealing with the cold. Dark just requires good lighting, although that did turn out to be a significant trial and error process. With the addition of the small Fenix E05 flashlight though, I'm pretty close to finished with lighting. With the G.I.T Lit plan, implemented as a 5-light system, you can safely ride anytime, anywhere, within reason.

The greatest danger after dark, is hitting something that SHOULD be lit, but isn't. Just after sunset there's a high risk of meeting other cyclists head-on who gambled on getting home before dark, and lost. Their bad - just make sure it isn't yours too. 

Other risks are gravel, stones, branches, road debris, trash cans, pot holes, cars coming out of driveways,  cats, dogs, wild animals (deer, especially bucks with big racks, freeze in headlights, and are likely to gore you, and they're never lit), rushing water, and low-hanging limbs. Think your lighting through carefully, but also, look around corners, and think around corners. Ask yourself if it's just unlikely, or really and truly impossible to encounter something. 

For example, it isn't very likely you'll encounter a drunk driver speeding down a bike trail at night with no lights on, but it sure isn't impossible. Metal thieves around here have been pulling out, or running over steel posts meant to prevent auto traffic from gaining access to the ARPT so they can steal guard-rails, signs, and even planking.

Being attacked and having your bike stolen is possible, as is happening upon the scene of a crime, and being an accidental witness. You might want to consider arming yourself. A S&W Bodyguard .380 is a good choice for that. Very small and light, and with a built-in laser targeting system.

You need to ride defensively to the extreme. You can't take anything for granted, and need to assume if they can hit you, they will. Cars coming out of narrow driveways can be unnerving at any time because you can't see the driver's face to check for the "Ahh Ha" look. At night, you'll never see the driver's face.

You have to rely much more on being seen and hoping the driver will keep you out of danger. For example, I've noticed at night that drivers will often wait at an intersection for a few seconds longer to "Sheppard" me across the intersection – interspersing their vehicle between me and crossing traffic – to help keep me safe. Cars will often wave you through an intersection as well, not wanting to risk a collision. If you've made them comfortable, and done your fair share to keep things safe, these kindnesses happen quite regularly, but it all depends on you being seen.

Little things help too. Like coming out into the middle of the lane at 4-way stops so you can see and be seen better. Riding down the center of a bike trail to avoid the debris and animal incursions is also a good idea. If you're going to have to take the lane to avoid garbage cans in the bike lane on public streets, do it early and robustly. Any following traffic should know, without a doubt, that you are taking the lane and are not going to move over for them.

The Fenix is the size of my little finger, but puts out 27 ANSI certified lumens of perfectly uniform light. Its light is so uniform and natural, that Velcro-ed to the top of my helmet, it's more like I can summon the sun. I magically have light when I need to read my Garmin, thermometer, gears, or highlight the 2" steel posts in the middle of the bike trail to keep metal thieves from stealing everything bigger than a dime. It's also nice to have my hands and bars lit, especially if using hand signals in traffic.

I have found one very unexpected benefit too – it cheers me up and keeps an otherwise depressing gloom at bay. Usually, within 15-30 minutes of sunset, I get a small case of SAD, and lose motivation. Quite to my surprise, having my cockpit, and the road beneath my front wheel lit, changes everything. The boredom dissipates with the darkness, and I find riding at night as invigorating as driving at night.


This is far from a complete expose` on winter riding, and you can expect I'll be back to edit this as I think of things, but the winter season is pretty much over now, so before I forgot all of these subtle lessons, I thought I should get this 1st attempt out there for the benefit of those just taking up cold spring riding. 

We recently had a cold snap and I was out riding past sunset, and the vibe was surreal. All of us die-hards were out there paying tribute to each other's steadfast determination to ride all year, through cold, dark, and occasional rain, day in and day out, thrilling at the incredible beauty seen by only a chosen few when winter sunsets just take your breath away. 

The feeling of camaraderie was overwhelming. Each rider was happy to be in the other's company, slowing down, reminiscing fondly, in a silent, shared recognition that their elite membership would too soon be revoked by warmer days ahead. It is with sadness that I say goodbye to my cold weather memories, a special fellowship of riders, and light to die for at sunset. A photographer's wet dream.