Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My Oakleys broke...

I started really getting into cycling around 2000 / 2001. I bought a terrible, department store, mountain bike off a co-worker, and started commuting around Toronto. This was the bike which I kept taking into my local bike shop for repairs, until finally my mechanic looked at me one day and said "No more man, I'm not fixing this bike anymore!".
So... I gave up on whatever that stupid thing was, and bought a Kona Hahanna. A reliable, no-frills, mountain bike from a good company.

Anyway, I bought more bikes, and became a very enthusiastic cyclist, and eventually needed a good pair of sunglasses for long Saturday and Sunday rides in summer sunshine.


This was somewhere around 2003 (give or take a year). I was either in grad school, or trying to decide if I should go to grad school... but either way, money was tight. Adding to the expense was my near-sightedness, and the fact that any sunglasses I bought would have to be prescription ones.

I have no idea what I'd heard about Oakley's back then. I imagine I saw them mentioned in a cycling magazine. Anyway, I decided I wanted very high quality sport sunglasses, and I chose this pair of Oakley's with the blue lenses. I remember them costing what seemed like a fortune at the time, but don't really remember how much I paid - my best guess is $400 to $450. 

So... 2003/04... to 2016. About 12 years. Lots of sweat and lots of sunshine.

I had them pushed up onto the top of my head as I was carrying stuff into the house. They fell down to the kitchen floor and the connecting piece between the lenses snapped. Kind of a mundane way to go for glasses that have seen so many kilometers.

Thanks guys. Take care.



Sunday, March 06, 2016

Tacx Satori Smart

I bought a new bike trainer! This is geeky but exciting. Somewhere around 2004 I bought a CycleOps Fluid2 trainer, and it's been fine, though I really only used it in bursts of training enthusiasm over the years, because, as we all know, riding your bike on a trainer in your basement sucks (until Zwift and a few other things came along over the last little while).

So, I now own a TacX Satori Smart.



I'll note a few comments about the trainer here, after my first use of it this morning, but I'll be clear up front that this blogger and blog post does a much more thorough review of the the Satori Smart than I'm about to.

Unboxing and assembly are pretty straight-forward, if you've used a trainer before. The "quick assembly" manual is actually fairly useless and leaves out, or only BARELY indicates, a few things that I wish they would go into more detail about.
When I had the trainer assembled, and the bike on the trainer, I was thrown for several seconds by the big gap between my wheel and the cylinder. The Satori has a dial and a lever for the adjustment of the cylinder. It is definitely not clear from the manual that you have to turn the dial a LOT to start moving the cylinder up towards your tire. Honestly... I turned the dial one way and the other several turns without it doing anything, and finally had to turn it about a dozen times to move it up to a spot where the large lever finally pressed the cylinder tight to the tire. Having done that though, engaging and disengaging the cylinder will now be a lot easier than it used to be on the Fluid2 - on the Satori you just press the lever and you're either engaged and ready to ride, or disengaged and ready to leave.

Another thing that the manual really doesn't mention is that the Satori takes batteries, and that they're pre-installed and ready to go as soon as you press the power button. I was actually expecting a power cord to be in the box, and actually I might prefer that, because one day I'm going to be riding like mad on Zwift and my power signals are going to disappear because the batteries have run out.
But... anyway, they're preinstalled and ready to go.

I'm so glad that the blogger I mention above referred to the power button on this thing. Wow, what a well-kept secret the user manual considers the power button... it's barely mentioned in there. Anyway, the LED light... the little bump where the arrow is pointing in this picture, is the power button.


TacX has two apps for iphones / Ipods / ipads (not sure about Android but probably they're available for android as well). I downloaded both but only used the "utility" one. The Satori Smart is supposed to be calibrated before each ride. You get on the bike, turn on the calibration part of the utility app, and ride at 40km for a few seconds, and then the utility tells you if you need to tighten or loosen the cylinder. Either I got lucky, or did it wrong, because I got it pretty much perfect my first go. You apparently don't need the apps to calibrate the trainer, it can calibrate just by the blinking of the LED light, but I used the app.
I was actually pretty worried about the casual reference to "speeding up to 40km" part. Wasn't sure I could actually do it, but that wasn't as hard as I thought it might be.

ZWIFT!
And it works great with Zwift, which was my main concern. The Satori broadcasts both a BluTooth (BlueTooth?) signal and an ANT signal at the same time. So, your iPhone and the TacX app will pick up the Blue Tooth signal, and your ANT dongle in your computer will pick up the ANT signal and feed it to Zwift.
Be clear though if you're thinking about buying one - the Satori Smart will broadcast your speed and cadence to Zwift, but that's all. Higher end trainers will interact with Zwift so that when you're climbing a mountain, the tension of your trainer will increase the resistance on you to duplicate the effort of the climb. The Satori doesn't do that.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Broadview Street - autumn or summer?

I'm going to try very hard to submit something to the 2016 CBC Non Fiction Literary Awards this year. I just glanced at the 2015 winners though, and am both intimidated and annoyed by the fact that a well-established writer like Richard Wagamese is entering these contests. Come on Dude! Let the little guys have a shot!

I'm going to write something about cycling in Toronto, and stumbled across this little quirk on Google Street view as I was thinking about what to write. I zoomed in to Broadview Street in Toronto and decided to surf south a bit, and discovered that Google patched together some summer shots and some winter shots for Broadview Street:

565 Broadview



560 Broadview



Both of those screenshots are from Feb 8. And if you surf a wee bit further south on Broadview it's back to summer again! It's like a twilight zone of bleak autumn there at 560 Broadview!!!

Monday, February 01, 2016

Share the Road.... or not?

I'm not sure if this is mentioned elsewhere, but when I first started this blog, I was basically an angry bike commuter. I then morphed into a "puttering away at it" cycling activist in a small city in central Ontario. As part of that work, and the committees I've worked with here, I helped get the Share the Road signs put up. You'll know them, they're all over the place these days (which is itself progress!).



Since I have some history with Share the Road, this research article that just came out in PLOS One is pretty interesting:

Hess, G., & Peterson, M. N. (2015). “Bicycles May Use Full Lane” Signage Communicates U.S. Roadway Rules and Increases Perception of Safety. Plos ONE, 10(8), 1-16.

Yes, unbelievably boring title, but here's the good stuff:

A) THE VERY FIRST LINE = Many of the greatest challenges facing humanity globally can be addressed, in part, by bicycling.

Holy crap. That's a pretty serious first line!

B) SHARE THE ROAD SIGNS DON'T WORK = The research Hess & Peterson did indicates (it's just one study, this isn't necessarily definitive) that a sign saying Share the Road has as much effect on the way a motorist thinks about cyclists as NO SIGN AT ALL! What does work (or at least works better) is a sign with alternate wording, like this: Bicycles May Use Full Lane. Apparently, that wording does get the idea across to motorists that they should wait behind a cyclist until there is a safe time to pass him/her.

C) DELEWARE TAKES THEM DOWN = this is probably slightly old news for many cycling activits, but I guess the State of Deleware actually took down their Share the Road signs, because they didn't feel that the signs were sending the right message... “Some believe the plaque puts more onus on the bicyclist to share the road than the motorist”.

So, I'm hesitant to accept that Share the Road signs are useless. It'd be quite a blow to all the communities in North America that happily installed them, but yeah, what does a long-time motorist think when he/she looks at those signs?

What do you think? Would you rather have the now-traditional Share the Road signs up? Or something that looked like this?



PS - the photo above is from a 2014 Orillia Packet story, discussing Share the Road signs being put up in Oro-Medonte Township in Ontario.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Get on up!

It's winter in Canada. Not much cycling happens for me this time of year - which is probably why my last few posts have been about Zwift.

Not burning calories on my bike-commute has me thinking about where else to burn some calories during these long winter days. Turns out you can burn all sorts by just standing up at work all day. Getting up and shaking your money maker might be better though.



From LifeHacker: Standing caused the volunteers to have a much higher heart rate (around 10 beats per minute higher), which adds up to burning about 50 calories more per hour versus sitting. Over a year, that adds up to about 30,000 more calories or 8 pounds of fat.

I guess this post is also inspired by this product coming across my radar recently, and on a whim I ordered one for work. Basically it's a cardboard box to put your laptop on, on your desk. But, it also folds away really easily, and it was only $30.00 or something. Unfortunately, I'm now realizing that I'll probably have to buy a wireless keyboard for the thing as well.



Thursday, December 31, 2015

Zwift at end of 2015

So I started using Zwift at the end of summer 2015. Zwift is an online gamification of cycling training, and it makes the unbearable (riding your bike alone in your basement) extremely bearable, and actually fun. (Here's one of the many YouTube videos about Zwift). I'm in Ontario, Canada, and so with fall and now winter weather, Zwift will probably be the only exercise I really get until summer comes again.

Here is a snapshot of my ride data as of Dec. 31, 2015, after a few months of sporadic riding. So... close to 1000km ridden in my basement, and in reality, 1000 kms of exercise that I probably wouldn't have gotten outside because I quite frankly wouldn't have ridden (be it a rainy day, or due to time constraints, etc).



Some folks on Zwift really spend some $$ to upgrade their Zwift experience (new and much more expensive trainers etc). I'd like to claim that I'm not that crazy... but.... hey... I just bought a new TV for Zwifting... and a new laptop is on the way (got tired of disconnecting my office laptop and carrying it down into the basement).

Here's what my setup looks like now... using my 2006 steel Jamis 'cross bike.



Today my 2004 Cyclops Fluid 2 trainer started making some weird noises - maybe I'll be buying a new trainer soon as well!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Festival!

This has nothing to do with cycling, but if anyone has been following this blog and enjoyed the writing, you might be interested in my first book being up on amazon now.



After letting several manuscripts sit in filing cabinets for a long time (as children came into my life etc), I decided to dust them off and self publish them using Amazon's self-publishing tools (CreateSpace for print, Kindle Direct for ebooks).

Festival was written when I was in my late 20's, looking back at myself in my early to mid 20s. It's basically a Catcher in the Rye "coming of age" story, set in London, England, and Toronto, Canada. The character has been moving like a ghost through his own life, and begins to crave solidity, and permanence, and he doesn't quite find it by the end of the book, but he's on his way.

The really good news? It'll be free (as an ebook from amazon) from Sunday Dec. 27 through to Thursday Dec. 31! You'll need to have a Kindle, or the Kindle app on your phone/tablet, to read the book though.

Here it is on a few different amazon sites:

- Amazon Canada (ebook only unfortunately)

- Amazon UK

- Amazon US

- Amazon Australia (ebook only)


And this is a Mark Rothko - which a few characters discuss in Festival, and which affected me greatly when I first saw in the early '90s, and still affects me now.



Zwift!

I imagine anyone who follows cycling blogs has stumbled across Zwift by now. I started using it in late summer when it was still free (at the beginning of December it moved to a $10.00 U.S. / month model), and I'm still using it now. If you've never heard of it - it's one of these "gaming the workout" products. You ride your bike on your trainer in your house, with sensors recording the power you're producing, your power (your watts really) get sent to your character in the Zwift "game", and basically... the power you produce on your trainer is what powers your character on the course.


Here's what I like and don't like about Zwift.

Like

- whenever I use Zwift, there are at least a few hundred other people from around the world racing on that course, so it is great riding with so many other people. There's also the ability to chat / text with people near you on the course, but I'm usually pedaling too hard to really consider doing that.
- because it actually makes indoor training fun, I've logged way more miles than I would have otherwise as summer ended and fall weather began here in Canada.
- this is a weird one... but I have never thrown away a pair of cycling shorts... even the ones that have big rips and tears in various places. So, I don't use these ragged ones outside in the real world... but on my bike in my basement? Hey why not? So old favourites that have been retired are now back!
- $10.00 / month (actually more like $14.00 right now in Canada). Could be worse... this is basically the Netflix model... and hell... if I did some math based on "money spent" & "calories burned" it'd be well worth it.

Don't Like

Two things here, one a minor quirk because of the trainer I'm using, and from what I gather in the Zwift forums, is extremely rare.

- I'm using a CycleOps Trainer from around 2004... so an old model. When you use a "dumb" trainer like this one you need to have a speed sensor on your bike to pick up the speed (I'm using this set from MEC, plus a heart-rate monitor). Anyway, Zwift and my particular trainer aren't the best of friends, and when I ride, I'm going slower in the game than I actually should be.
- Although there are very energetic folks who organize group rides on Zwift (search Zwift on facebook and you'll come across several groups), the timing never really works out for me, so I log onto Zwift and just start riding by myself, and more often than not, I'm in a no-man's land, riding alone, too slow to keep up with the folks who blow past me, but too fast to ride with the (few) people that I pass. So, riding solo is a bit of a drag, but still, it's totally worth it.

There are tons of videos on YouTube about Zwift if you want to learn more.