Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lots of Riding, and Thoughts on Gear

I've been doing a lot of riding, and have racked up 725 miles for Dec and Jan, in part because I'm trying to get 100 miles in reliably, every week. The weather has been dry,  but I've also been relentlessly working wheel, tire, handlebar, saddle, and lighting issues, and because I can ride dark safely after dark with the 5 Point lighting system. 

I'm working on a post about riding in the dark and cold of winter, but had to relegate it to a draft after finding my thoughts a bit muddled last week, so that will be coming sometime in the next few weeks, but not just yet.

Also available in BLUE and PURPLE
I picked up a tiny AAA Fenix E05 R2 flashlight to light the Garmin and thermometer at night, and I'm amazed by this little light. The size of my little finger, it drains an AAA cell in 3:30, but cranks out 27 ANSI-certified lumens with a lens that makes a perfect pool of light from 1-80 ft. I can read my wristwatch at arms length 50 ft away. Stunning.

The best place to mount it for lighting the cockpit turned out to be the front of my helmet - so it's Velcro-ed there, and is doing a credible job as my forward, white helmet light. It's a "be seen", not a "see" light in that mode (except for the many steel posts where roads cross the ARPT where it makes their reflective tape really come to life) but weighs .39oz, lights my hands for signaling, and generally brightens up night riding a lot by keeping my hands and cockpit lit.

No matter where I look, it's just magically lit. Drinking fountains, bathroom doors, front gate lock, front door lock, gearing, AND, hands-free lighting for fixing a flat tire in the dark.

After 1:30 the light was turning a little yellow Friday night, so I decided to try swapping a AAA eneloop NiMh (it's optimized for NiMh, but will work fine with Alkaline too) cell from my old PB SuperBlinky taillight before it got too drained. It worked fine, and I discovered that the Ultegra 6700 shifters work great for prying open the taillight's body to get to the batteries. (no coin required)

While I intended to use the E05 solely as a utility keychain light, because of it's incredible performance, it's rubbing up against a lot of other uses, while having a little less battery life than I'd like. First and foremost, is being a real "see" helmet headlight.  The perfect light for all of the above roles is probably the Fenix LD10. It isn't enough headlight alone (except as a fail-over light), but great for filling in the dark spots going through turns.

Note the discrepancy between claimed max output between Fenix's website and Amazon's ad. The technology is advancing very quickly, but not enough to change my evaluation, or RX uses for this light.
My PB 1W Blazer headlight, with an excellent lens, is 70 lumens, but the Fenix L10 is smaller, 1/4th the weight, more aerodynamic, and should easily outperform it on for a couple of hours on high.

Settings are low (9 lumens), which runs for up to 34 hours on a single AA battery; medium (50 lumens, 6 hours); high (105 lumens, 2.2 hours); and turbo (132 lumens, 1.5 hours). Plenty of lighting options, and I like the SOS setting. On low or med it would make a great cockpit light for even the longest winter rides, and an excellent go-to light on double centuries.

For an excellent Double Century light, check out the Fenix (pronounced Phoenix) TK15, which runs on 1 rechargeable 18650 LION cell, OR, 2 CR123 cells available at Bertha-N-Bubba's Bait shoppe anywhere in the northern hemisphere.

Power options include CR123 AND 4,000 mAh LION cells. State of the art

I wore my new Voler Artico FS bib tights Friday night, and they are excellent above the waist, and OK below the knee. The chamois is excellent too, but the fabric on the upper legs, especially over the top of the quads and thighs, is pathetic.Not even a little bit wind resistant. The new Voler tights have remedied this problem, but at $185, not an option. After using a discount code, I paid $108 for these, including postage.

I have a standard test for a fabric's ability to stop wind - I hold it to my mouth and try to blow through it. Unlike, for example, the PI Barrier Fleece around the face on my PI balaclava, which I cannot blow through at all (like Saran Wrap), the Voler fabric I can blow right through. This, once again, turned out to be a perfect predictor - unfortunately.

Above the waist the bib fleece extends up to my naval in front, and all the way up to my neck in back. It's close to an additional base layer above the waist, and prevents "frozen belly". I really appreciate the extra protection in front.  All-in-all though, a major disappointment, and a head-scratcher too. Why make a bib whose upper is too warm to ride above the 50's, and whose leg protection is inadequate below 60?  Hard to understand.

Once home, with shoes and clothes still on, I tried slipping my PI leg warmers over the top of the tights. That worked very well, even over shoes, and the reflective piping on the 10" zippers will be welcome too. Fortunately, the PI leg warmers have sticky grippers on both the inside and outside up top, so they can be pulled all the way up to the crotch and stay there.

This would make the bib tights very versatile for cold morning starts, especially with a SS jersey and arm warmers up top, but that's not why I bought them. I don't want bib tights that are only warm down to 55F in calm conditions, and 60 in windy conditions. I wanted protection down to the 38-40F range.  Will keep looking until I find something that meets this requirement.

I wore the new PI Barrier XL vest alone tonight. It doesn't seal very well at the armpits, which I hated early, but appreciated once I got warmed up and wanted to vent some heat. It does flap ( a HUGE source of aerodynamic drag) a bit in the wind, but I bought it XL to fit over my black Columbia Titanium jacket with pit-zips - not exactly Hi-Viz by itself -  so am happy with the size. I know I have broad shoulders, but would it kill PI to make the arms an inch longer over the shoulders?

I wish someone would just make a 1" zipper strip that zips into your existing zipper and adds another 1" of girth. Perfect way to adjust the size of a vest or jacket for different layering schemes. DUH!

In part because of the cold, and in part because my glutes and quads are still kind of sore, my hams were taking a beating tonight, and my left one, under the knee, was threatening to cramp. I wish I'd had the leg warmers along to see if temp was the problem.

I turned on all my lights at WBP - everything up brighter than everything else - and had cars nearly running into each other head-on to give me my lane. Nice! That's how it's supposed to work. I am going to replace the PB SuperBlinky with the new Turbo version though, as the lens body on the Turbo is more translucent than clear, and when on in constant mode, the entire body of the light glows red. Not so with the older version, which offers almost no side visibility. $25.

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