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.

Batteries:
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.

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!