Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Great Allegheny Passage

I've never really taken a cycling vacation - but it appears that one is in my future. In early summer I'm planning to do the Great Allegheny Passage, from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland. More information is on this page.

I think I'm going to try and do a six day trip, from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, and then back to Pittsburgh again, which is about 482km.

Hopefully I'll be able to upload my own GAP trail video in mid summer, but here is one that is already up there.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Veo Strips

A gentleman from Veo Strips contacted me in the summer, and asked if I wanted to try out this new product. It seemed a bit intriguing, so I said sure, and it's taken me until December to really give them a try!

So... first... what's a Veo Strip?!
Take a look at the picture below. It's a solution for the sweat that pours into your eyes when you're riding a bike - either on the road, or on a trainer. The sweat drips into the VeoStrip, and the strip diverts it towards your ears and away from your eyes.

My review below is based on using it during an intense indoor trainer workout on Zwift.

Picture taken from the Veo Strip website.

My review
Basically - it worked!

Generally when I ride on my trainer, I use an old-school sweatband, and fairly frequently take the headband off, towel off my head and face, and then put the sweatband back on and keep riding. That works, but the sweatband gets completely soaked, and eventually you just can't use it anymore... and depending on how long you're planning to stay on your bike, you ride without it and have to towel off your head more frequently.

The VeoStrip seemed to be a good alternative to my sweatband and towel approach.

First, it's easy to put on, it stays on nicely as you ride, and then it is easy to take off.

As far as how it felt while riding... well... I didn't really notice it. Nor did I really notice where the sweat was going. Both good things.

I didn't use a towel once during my ride. I guess the urge to grab the towel and wipe off my face and head only arises when the sweat is dripping into my eyes. The sweat must have been trickling down my cheeks and eventually from my chin to the floor, but I honestly didn't notice what was going on. Wherever the sweat was going, it was somewhere better than into my eyes.

My hunch on how it'd work on a hot summer road ride?
I haven't been doing much of this kind of riding for a while now. But I think you'd totally forget that it was on your forehead, and that the only time it was brought to your attention was when the guys in your group teased you about wearing the thing. But... they'd have sweat in their eyes, and you wouldn't , so screw them!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Bicycle Lights Review

I just bought and installed a MonkeyLight, and thought I'd do a post and mini-review about the various lights I run on my bicycle.

We all have a box in our garage or basement, full of those mediocore lights we bought at MEC or REI etc, and which got us through several years of cycling, but there is some really good stuff on the market these days, and which I show in the video below.

First, here's what is in the video:

Front Wheel
MonkeyLight : M210
Just bought this one, and really my first look at it was in the quick little zips back and forth in the video below. I need to try more of the patterns to really get a handle on this light, and it'd actually help to see someone else ride my bike and be able to watch from the side of the road.

Red Light at Back
Lezyne Strip Drive Pro (Rear)
This is an expensive light, but with the one setting being a 100 lumens, this is a brilliantly gorgeous light. I bought it as a rear day-time running light, and have started to notice how often, on a country road, you're riding through shadows under the shade of trees, and how much safer I feel having a brilliant light flashing out behind me.

On left hand and on helmet
Road ID Supernova
I've had several of these, for quite a while now. I love them, although my newest one (a green one not shown in this video) is kind of glitchy and a nuisance.
Anyway, I buy them with the velcro strap, which is how I fastened the one into my helmet, and how I have the other one wrapped around my fist... which is additionally handy when I'm signalling with that hand.  Anyway, tiny little lights, that can fasten to you or your bike in many different ways, and are really impressively bright.

And here's the video, shot in late October 2016, narrated by my 6 year old.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

How to warp your rear wheel

Well, this is a brand new one for me.

On Friday morning, I left for my nice, mostly scenic, "long" ride to work. I was intending to take it fairly casual, but when I made the left turn shown below, I was coming down a bit of a descent, and had a good bit of speed flowing through my wheels when I hit the gravel.

I ride very heavily loaded... my panniers always crazy heavy, and I never really know how my daily gear always seems to load me down so much.

So... left turn, with too much speed, heavily loaded - AND - just as my front tire was about to enter the gravel, I kind of righted myself on the bike, worried about hitting the gravel at too much of an angle and falling down.

I think, effectively, the "righting" of the bike was similar to putting the wheel in a vice and pushing hard on the top of the wheel, warping it.

I knew immediately something was wrong - but at first just hoped it was the fender or the rack. BUT.. it was the wheel itself rubbing against the chainstays.

Turned around, pedalled home... the smell of heated rubber (the tire rubbing on the chainstay) in the air... threw my panniers onto my other commuter and zoomed to work the "short" way.

My Friday morning commute!


Monday, May 30, 2016

Ottawa in May

I went to a small conference in Ottawa, Ontario in May, and knowing how famous Ottawa has become for cycling, I threw my bike in the car as well. Wow, Ottawa, congratulations. Those are some jaw-droppingly beautiful cycling routes you've created!

Not having done much "on street" bike commuting while I was there, I'm not going to try and verify Ottawa's growing reputation as a bike-commuting paradise. However, walking around on foot (in the U. of O. area) it was obvious that cycling is a huge mode of transportation in this city.

What I can gush about were the scenic rides I was able to get in... on the Rideau Canal, and along the Ottawa River. The canal ride seemed to be more or less through the city-proper, and riding around 7:00am there were tons of other cyclists and joggers out using this multi-use trail. And the Ottawa River ride, on a warm late spring afternoon, was just gorgeous. And the trail went on forever... winding scenically along a beautiful and historic waterway... and when you come into town, you're right behind the Supreme Court and the Houses of Parliament and have snuck your way straight into downtown Ottawa.

Dow's Lake, early morning:

The Ottawa River... somewhere in the Nepean area

And this, just for the heck of it, is the University of Ottawa pedestrian / cycling bridge across the canal:

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.

I had to email TacX about this, because I couldn't find any information about it online, or in the user's manual. The Satori Smart takes two double A batteries. The battery compartment is on the underside of the unit, where the lever is to tighten and loosen the drum against the wheel. Undo the top two screws and the plate comes off, replace the batteries, and replace the plate.
My batteries went dead pretty quickly... like a month or so of riding ... and I was only using this thing twice a week or so.

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.