Categories: all aviation Building a Biplane bicycle gadgets misc motorcycle theater

Tue, 08 Jul 2014

New Tire Report

I discovered a few weeks ago that all the obvious consumables on my Surly Disc Trucker were in need of replacement: brake pads down to nothing, chain well over 1% stretched, rear tire cracked and front acceptable but looking worn.

Time for an overhaul.

The drivetrain was fairly straightforward, although I foolishly hoped that my front chainring would be good enough. After just over 3000 miles on the same chain and cogs (time flies when you're having fun, I guess), it all had to be scrapped, though. The new chain creaked and groaned uncomfortably with the old chainring, so I ordered a Surly stainless steel front ring, and tossed the big and small chainrings to make it single-speed in front.

On the tire front, I had had my heart set on Vittoria Randonneur Pros based on my previous very good experience with them. However, I checked in with numerous local shops and couldn't find them. I found some Randonneur IIs, but they didn't have the reflective stripe that I've come to consider a requirement for urban cycling.

When I went into Freerange Cycles in Fremont (where I got my bike in the first place), Kathleen recommended Schwalbe Marathon Supremes, offering up some persuasive arguments that boiled down to, "They're really good, and worth the surprisingly high price." She knows what she's talking about, and has never upsold me when there wasn't a clear advantage for me as well as her for her income. I took the chance, and dropped $160 on a pair of schmancy German tires.

I just got back from my first day riding on them, and I can tell you that the difference was quite noticeable. My previous tires were the Continental Contacts which came with the bike. I was never enamoured of them, but it seemed silly to discard perfectly serviceable tires. The Contacts are, according to Continental's numbers, 660g tires (or just under a pound and a half if you swing that way). They were durable, never suffering from a puncture flat from glass -- I think I lost one load of air to a very thin wire which would only have been deflected by solid steel. I've certainly dug a fair number of glass chips out of the Contacts' tread blocks, so they were very effective at their job of keeping me rolling.

The big thing I was hoping to get with the Vittorias, and which was also true of the Marathons, was a reduction of weight. I believe the 700c x 35mm Marathon Supremes and Randonneur Pros are the same weight: 440g, or just under a pound. Losing 1/3 of the tire weight on a big rotating inertia storage device like a wheel should make a noticeable difference, and I was curious to see whether I could actually feel it or not.

Those of you who've ever made a change like this already know the answer: losing almost a pound of rotational weight made a huge difference. It's not like my heavy touring bike turned into a rocket racer, but I could definitely feel the difference. It was a very pleasant change. And that's only after the first day of riding.

The change that I hadn't expected was the difference in suspension. The Trucker is many things, but "plush" isn't one of them. No sliding gubbins here, just comparatively stiff 4130 steel. I'd always assumed that this was just the way things were and would always be. The Marathons were a welcome surprise, softening out any number of traditionally cringe-inducing pavement flaws (the tree roots on the Burke Gilman trail didn't become more pleasant, but perhaps became a bit less harsh).

Reviews suggest that the wet grip is also quite good, but I haven't had a chance to check on that. In any case, I'm such a conservative rider when it comes to testing the limits of things like traction that I don't expect to make any surprising discoveries any time soon.

So, based on about 20 miles' ride so far, the Marathon Supremes get a solid thumbs-up from me. We'll see what happens wtih durability and the ability to reject glass, but based on the experiences of others, I'm not too worried.

Posted at 00:06 permanent link category: /bicycle

Tue, 25 Sep 2012

A Snapshot

I'm riding the Human Powered Freight Train (aka, the Xtracycle with the trailer attached): a 100 pound mess of aluminum, steel, rubber and wood, to which is strapped the cello in its battered black case. The swirling night coalesces around me, embodied by a man walking past: a human-sized Hagrid, all black and grey hair. His voice, which is comfortably familiar with the tang of tobacco and whisky, murmurs into a telephone. "He's got a stand-up bass on a trailer behind his bike..." He might have ended the comment with, "Wicked," but I couldn't be sure.

Posted at 23:03 permanent link category: /bicycle

Sat, 30 Jun 2012

Doing It Right: Vetta RT255L Bike Computer

By way of setting expectations: I am a daily bicycle commuter, usually riding between 10 and 20 miles per day depending on what errands take me out of the way. I ride at all hours and in all weather (including snow, thanks to some Nokian Hakkapelliita studded tires). I don't ride for pleasure, I don't race, I rarely ride with anyone else, I'm just getting from point A to point B. This review reflects that reality.


When I was a teenager, riding my cheap Nishiki 10-speed around before I got a driver's license, my grandparents got me an unthinkably cool gift for my birthday one year: a Cateye Cateyemate bicycle computer.

This was the 80s, and I recall having been aware that bicycle computers existed, but I imagined that they had to cost hundreds of dollars. I have no idea what the Cateyemate sold for at the time, but it was, to me, an extravagant gift, and I was thrilled to strap this shining jewel of high-tech to my bike. I logged many a mile on the Cateyemate.

Of course, this presaged things to come. Electronics were getting smaller, and it wasn't long before bike computers were commonplace, and we're now at a point where the cheapest bike computers cost less than the shipping charge necessary to receive them. That $5 bike computer does more than the Cateyemate ever did.

Scroll the narrative timeline forward to the early 2000s. I'm riding a motorcycle every day, and decide I really want a clock on my bike. I don't recall where exactly I got the idea, but somewhere online, someone suggested the Sigma BC800 as a good motorcycle computer, which just happened to have a clock. Aha! thought I, a clock, and an accurate speed readout (my bike's speedometer was well known to be inaccurate). Done.

The Sigma was a good choice, but it had this weird habit that I never got used to: when it woke up from its sleep mode, it always displayed speed and trip distance. No matter what the adjustable lower display had been set to before, it woke up to trip distance. I wanted the clock, so I'd always click the little button five times to get it to the clock. It was annoying, but workable.

Then, in 2006 and 2007, when I shifted back to bicycles for daily transport, I stuck with the Sigmas, because better the devil you know, etc. Still, with increasingly sophisticated models, Sigma insisted on this weird habit of waking up on trip distance. Otherwise, they were great, but this one issue bugged me.

So, when I got my new Surly Disc Trucker a few months ago, I decided to check out the field, and find a computer that more closely met my needs. I wanted to not have to switch modes every time the thing turned on. After a bit of looking around, I added to my list that I wanted to also have a clock displayed at all times, with the option to show some other number, and if I could possibly swing it, I wanted a thermometer.

My Sigmas had all been wired units, and that choice felt right to me: wireless units look to have occasional reliability problems, and it means more batteries wasted, and potentially more weight, depending on the system. The search eventually led me to the Vetta RT255L:

On paper, this hit all my points: two switchable display areas (the top and bottom sections), one of which could be left on clock all the time if I wanted; wired; no serious design flaws (more on that later); appeared to stay on the previously selected mode; and as a bonus, it included a backlight, something I've occasionally wished for. The fact of staying on the previously selected mode is actually something that no one said. The manual didn't say anything about it, online reviews didn't mention it at all. I eventually had a find a store that carried them (and they only had a sample set from the distributor, having decided not to sell them), and test it myself.

In my search, I went through a number of other likely candidates, although I've already forgotten exactly which they were. They were all promising looking, but had some fatal flaw. This one only came in wireless. That one only had one display section. This other one had a reputation for a terrible mounting system. There was one which required, when changing the time (such as you might do twice a year for daylight savings time) that you re-enter every setting on the computer: wheel size, odometer, time ridden, etc. Talk about cumbersome, and how often would I forget to write down those numbers before launching into the time change procedure? Fail.


Installing the RT255L was pretty straightforward. Installing bike computers usually is, but occasionally I've seen reports of difficult installs.

The mounting bracket, which looks pretty sturdy (one review claimed that the computer flew off the bracket whenever you pressed a button) attaches to the handlebar with supplied zipties. It's a very secure-feeling mount, attaching solidly to the handlebars. Compared to the Sigmas I'm used to, which use a large O-ring to fasten the mount to the bar, it feels welded to the bike. In a crash-prone bike, the solid ziptie mounting might well be a deficit compared to the rubber band mount, though.

The included wheel magnet has a metal spoke mount with a setscrew to fix it in place. Although it feels solid, I found myself wondering if I was doing damage to the spoke. A poorly finished setscrew end surface could easily score the spoke, which would lead to early failure. I repositioned the magnet a couple times, though, and didn't see any marks on the spoke.

The wheel sensor mounts to the fork leg with included zipties. The instructions include clear direction on how to align the magnet to the sensor, something which doesn't always make the cut in manuals. It's not intuitive, either, as most of the sensors out there are most sensitive somewhere other than the center of their mass. This sensor includes a molded-in line showing its most sensitive area, and the kit contains a little rubber cap with a conical point on it that goes over the magnet, and is used to precisely align the magnet to the sensor. With the rubber cap on, you have a clear indication of both distance between magnet and sensor, and radial alignment along the spoke. I really liked this extra thought given to the installation process.


One of the weirder selling points of the RT255L (and its brethren in the Vetta lineup) is that you can swap faceplates. This allows you to change the color or appearance of the fascia around the display. I'm sure this will appeal to someone, but I just wanted a black computer. The RT255L comes with a red faceplate installed on the computer, and a clear faceplate (which results in a black appearance) in the kit. But if you really want a bright pink bike computer, they sell a faceplate for you. Curiously, the faceplates are hard to find except on the Vetta website, suggesting I'm not the only one puzzled by this particular choice.

Setting all the options in the computer is fairly straightforward, assuming you have the manual at hand. If you don't have the manual with you, half the options are complete head-scratchers, with obscure codes that aren't meaningful, relying on flashing icons to convey meaning. Fortunately, the manual is available online, so even if you lose your paper manual, you're not completely lost. The paper manual is one of those giant sheets of paper folded a million times, with the instructions repeated in 5 different languages. It's laid out well enough, and I didn't have any trouble following the instructions, but the text is tiny, and it seemed like the instructions might have been translated from a different language into English.

The setup menu does give you the option to input your own odometer and time-ridden values, features which matter to me, as I keep a running odometer on my bike when possible, to track maintenance and bolster my "biking badass" self-image. I don't know if the memory will disappear upon changing the battery. The computer uses a standard CR2032 battery, so you won't have any trouble finding replacements.

The setup menu includes a lot of stuff I didn't care about, like freeze frame memory, and lap timing and probably other stuff I've already forgotten. They didn't matter to me, as a commuter, so I skipped over them.

The computer includes a database of wheel and tire sizes, so if you don't want to measure your wheel, you can get close by selecting your bike's wheel and tire size. When I did this, I found my reported speed to be 6% over reality (judging by distance ridden) when compared to a GPS. I ended up measuring my tire's circumference, and found it to be 20mm or so shorter than the database value, but this may only be a factor with my individual setup.

One of the weirdest features of the Sigma computers is that they determine whether your clock is 12h or 24h based on whether you're using MPH or KM/H. The RT255L doesn't have this failing: it just asks which kind of clock you want. This is so much better -- I want to use a 24h clock, whether I'm looking at miles or kilometers.

Using It

In daily use, the computer comports itself nicely. It wakes up in the mode I was last in, so I leave it with the clock on top (this occasionally changes when I accidentally bump the display-1 button), and usually with trip distance on bottom. I occasionally switch to average speed, but just find that depressing -- my last computer was, unbeknownst to me, set to be 6% optimistic on speed and distance, and there's nothing quite as demoralizing as discovering that what you thought was a 13.x MPH average speed is actually 12.x.

Unlike the newer Sigmas, the RT255L will allow you to see all the numbers while you're moving, including odometer. This struck me as a weird choice on Sigma's part, and I'm glad to see Vetta's not following the lead. Honestly, reviewing computers from different companies, I'm not sure they're paying any attention to each others' product lines, they're so different.

Resetting the trip values on the RT255L is a little strange. Rather than using the prominent 3 button (which goes unused in my daily life, but perhaps it's for one of the features I don't use), you have to set the lower display to trip distance, then hold down the 1 and 2 buttons together for 3 seconds. Likewise, to get into the setup menu, you have to set the bottom display to clock, then press 1 and 2 together for a few seconds. This is all rather unintuitive. It's always a tough call how to make this kind of thing work on something as non-standardized as a bike computer, but I like Sigma's dedicated buttons better.

When you reset trip data (trip distance, average speed, time ridden), you reset it all at once.

The backlight has a neat feature, where you can set time limits during which the Auto Backlight operates: press any button and the backlight turns on. Outside those times, the backlight only turns on via the dedicated backlight button.

One thing I don't like in daily use is that the update rate on the computer is pretty slow. It feels like the display only updates every second or two. I'm sure this is done to save battery life, but it means I've looked down immediately after stopping to see 5 MPH still registering on the display for a second. In a world of ever-increasing responsiveness and speed, this feels like a step backward.

A feature which feels related, but isn't, is that the average speed only updates as frequently as the trip distance changes. Since the trip distance is measured (and apparently stored) in tenths of your selected unit, this means that average speed updates once every 528 feet, or once every 100m. It's not a big deal, but it's a bit surreal to look down at the start of a ride, and see that your average speed is 0.0 despite the fact that you're riding along at 16 MPH.

I also find moving to a 0.1 mile resolution on the trip odometer a bit disappointing after having 0.01 mile resolution with the Sigmas. It's a minor quibble, and not one I worry about, but it's there. I'm a precision freak along with being an accuracy freak, and reducing precision by an order of magnitude troubles me vaguely. I could increase resolution by going to metric, but the odometer stores itself in your current unit, so if you switch back and forth between the two, the odometer will go a bit crazy (if you ride in MPH for 500 miles, then ride in KM/H for 500 km, the odometer will read 1000, no matter if you set units to Metric or US).

If I were designing a computer (and I gave this some thought, but discarded it as being too much work), I would run and store everything internally as metric, and if the user was mad enough to request MPH, they'd get converted values. That is, in fact, how it works in my Air Data Instrument, although it doesn't have any persistent storage.


Having now ridden several months with the RT255L, I'm pleased to say that it's met all my requirements, and I recommend it. Here's what I like and dislike about it:

I should note that I bought and installed my RT255L; no one is paying me for this review. I've never used a Vetta computer before, and I have the impression they're not very popular, so I wanted to share my experiences with other bikers who might like the same things I do in a computer.

Posted at 13:26 permanent link category: /bicycle

Thu, 29 Dec 2011

The Agony of the Computer

I'm pondering getting a new bike in the near future, which means I'm also looking around at new accessories. Recently, that's been bike computers.

My two current bikes have Sigma Sport computers on them, largely because I had good success with the Sigma Sport I installed on my motorcycles many moons ago. The Sigmas are pretty basic, with two lines of information and one of "title," telling you what the second line is showing.

As far as display goes, this is great. No information overload, just your current speed and something else. Unfortunately, the "something else" I want to see 99% of the time is the clock. This is unfortunate because with the BC800 (pictured above) or the BC905 (which works about the same way), in order to see the clock, you have to hit the mode button 4 or 5 times, depending on the model. So every time I get on the bike, I have to cycle through a bunch of crap I don't want to see. This gets old.

In addition, the 24h vs 12h format for the clock is tied to whether the speed is displayed in metric or US units. Whuh? I guess they... saved a menu item there? So I set the speed units to metric and use my math powers to have the speed displayed in US units (despite the little KPH icon), because I'm a nerd, and prefer my time in 24h format.

So, I started looking around at other computers. Approximately one million and one years ago, I had a CatEyeMate computer, which was the size of a charcoal briquette, and might have shown current speed and maybe an odometer. I was terribly proud of it, but I was also 12, and would have been proud of damn near anything electronic and cool I could strap to my handlebars. But I decided now, 1,000,001 years later, to check back with Cateye.

Over the Christmas break, I found myself in an REI store, and perusing the bike section. I spotted this little number, and was actually kind of excited. Wireless! Small! Calorie count! CO2 offset! Neat! It's a Cateye Urban, and it's very nearly the right thing. The reason I say it's nearly right, is I found this shortly afterward:

This is the Cateye Commuter. Even better than the Urban, it always shows the time, and even shows temperature! Cool! Then I read the reviews: to do a bunch of basic things with it (which you'd normally do with the computer on the bike), you have to dismount it to get to the four switches recessed into the back of the thing. There's one switch you can hit while the device is mounted to the bike, and it only covers about half the functions you want to do. Not so cool. A bold and worthy concept, but poorly executed.

And that kind of left me scratching my head. The ideas shown in the Commuter (clock always displayed, temperature readout) are compelling, and now I don't want to go without them, but the Commuter is clearly not the right thing (and anyway, it's $70, vs. the $15-30 range I'd previously been looking at -- I'm not honestly sure why it costs so much).

There are other computers out there, but they all have weird weaknesses, like buttons that can't be operated with gloves on (WTF, yo?), wireless systems that aren't very reliable, etc. I really don't need anything fancy, but I really want it to work well for me.

So, I have been formulating Ian's Manifesto of Bike Computer Goodness:

  1. Can be configured to always display clock and speed
  2. Uncluttered display
  3. Light weight
  4. Good value for money
  5. Easy to operate
  6. Includes trip odometer, full odometer, and average speed
  7. Reliable
  8. Stores wheel size and odometer to non-volatile memory

Honestly, about half of these things are complete and total no-brainers. Non-volatile memory, for instance. This seems to be complete anathema to bike computer makers, but it would not materially change the cost of their devices to include a dozen bytes of EEPROM memory. Get with the 1970s, guys. Instead, I get to lose my odometer every time the battery goes south (often without any warning, despite the "weak battery warning systems" theoretically in place).

And the wake-up mode thing. Do bikers really want to always see their trip odometer every time they start rolling? Is that really the most important thing, or is it the most convenient thing for the programmers? Feels like lazy programming to me -- you're already maintaining memory registers for a bunch of stuff, use up another byte to store the current display mode.

Of course, I haven't had much experience with non-Sigma brands, so perhaps I've just been using the wrong brand all this time. Further research will see. It's fun to research stuff like this, although it's frustrating as I realize the extent to which these manufacturers are not interested in the commuter market. Apparently all bikers (or at least those who buy computers) are training for the Olympics. Kudos to Cateye for the nod to utility riders, but maybe hire a new UI guy next time.

Posted at 01:01 permanent link category: /bicycle

Mon, 12 Dec 2011

Well... Huh. I Guess That Didn't Work.

I recently re-trued the rear wheel on my commuter bike, as I'd noticed it was a bit wobbly. I looked down the other day to see that the wobble was back, and worse, so I put the bike up on the stand tonight to fix whatever was wrong, and mount the snow tires (it's been getting frosty every night).

Either those spokes were way tighter than I thought, or I got kind of a crappy rim. I'm actually going to vote a bit from column A, and a bit from column B. I guess the commuter's out of commission until I rebuild that wheel.

Posted at 22:23 permanent link category: /bicycle

Mon, 24 May 2010

The Art of the Turn

I was pondering a phenomenon on the way in to work today. When I swerve around an obstacle on my bicycle (or motorcycle), I've noticed that I never perform a nice sine-wave curve, with the obstacle at the peak of the wave. Instead I end up making a kind of stretched wave, with the obstacle at the front shoulder of the wave.

In thinking about it, I realized that of course this makes sense: turning a cycle is a multi-step process, which is one of the reasons they're harder to pilot than a car.

Step one: decide to turn. This isn't the meaningless distinction it may initially seem. You need to choose to turn before you can start the turn, and there is necessarily some delay between deciding to take the action, and actually taking it. In particular, when swerving around an obstacle, you have to decide it's safe before you're willing to turn back into your original path of travel.

Step two: initiate the turn. This includes a bunch of sub-steps, which you may or may not take, but which I do. The first is to turn my head and look at where I want to go. If you're not already doing this, it's a simple but astoundingly effective way of guiding a cycle with confidence. The next step is to actually lean the bike over, a step I've actually spent hours and hours considering, filming, talking about, and writing about, using a method called countersteering. Finally, once the bike is leaned over, you're actually in the turn.

Step three: roll through the turn. This is the simplest part: you've set yourself on a path, and you continue along it. Interestingly, there's a kind of inertia to turning a cycle, so that deviating from a curved path takes more energy and thought than just staying on it. Newton might not be happy with it, but it's true.

Step four through whatever: recover to your original path. This is essentially the reverse of the curve you just took, but without the decision-making step about whether or not the obstacle is a further factor.

The key thing in all of this is that in order to describe a nice curving path around an object, and place it at the peak of the curve, you have to decide to turn back, and actually be in a turn, before you can pass the obstacle. As I've just outlined, it takes time to follow through with those actions, and particularly with obstacles (and double-particularly with live obstacles like animals or humans, who are prone to doing stupid things like move toward you), you don't really want to decide to swerve back until after you're past the obstruction. Thus, the too-long curve back to your original path.

This all actually plays heavily into racing. If you're running as fast as possible, and you decide you want to turn, you have to have made the decision and gone through all the steps to actually get you into the turn well before you reach the turn. It's kind of counter-intuitive, and is one of the reasons that inexperienced racers end up running wide through turns, or having to dramatically slow down: you've got to be looking at the next turn, not the one you're in. I'm still working on that, myself, mostly through turns 3 and 4 at Pacific Raceways, but that's a discussion for a different time.

Posted at 11:31 permanent link category: /bicycle

Sat, 15 May 2010


I finally took some time to do to do a couple of minor tasks on my commuter bike, and looked down to note the mileage (I keep a maintenance log, and that probably tells you more about me than I could in ten times as many words).

There it was, in bold letters on the little display.


That's a lotta miles, y'all.

Posted at 15:40 permanent link category: /bicycle

Fri, 19 Mar 2010

Supernova second impressions

I've been riding with my Supernova E3 Pro for about a week now. After the initial shock of the beam pattern wore off (see previous entries), I had some more thoughts I suspect will be welcomed by searchers on this subject.

Effort: I haven't actually noticed any difference biking with the new hub and light. I've got a front wheel built around a Schmidt Dynohub, and if I were to judge only by riding, I don't think I could tell you it's any different from a normal bearings-only front hub. Of course, when you lift the front wheel off the ground and give it a spin, it slows down noticeably quicker with the light on than off. But still, that should give you an idea -- spin the front wheel with your hand, and it goes around for a while. The hub just isn't taking much energy from the wheel.

Hardware: The light itself continues to impress me with its design and construction. I've got the Lefty mount, and flipped the arm over so that the light hangs pendulum-style, and then used the straight arm to mount the whole thing under the handlebar stem. To mount it, I just drilled a hole through the stem itself, and a M6x45 bolt with some red thread locker holds the whole thing together. In an effort to make it less glaringly obvious to potential thieves, I colored the bolt head with a black marker so it's not shiny and stainless-steel looking. I should probably redo it with matte black paint so it more closely matches the anodizing on the stem, but it's not a big enough deal for me right now.

Support: When I contacted Supernova via email about my beam shape problem, I had a response the next day. Their support has been very good, and I certainly have nothing to complain of in that realm. The fact that they're in Germany complicates shipping and means that email exchanges take a day apiece due to time differences, but I knew that going in.

Overall, if you discount the fact that I ordered the wrong lens on mine, I've been very happy with the light. I really enjoy having a light that just comes on when I ride, and incurs so little penalty that it makes sense to leave it on all the time. I have the Supernova tail light that I still have to install, but once I do that, I'll have front and back lights that are always on, which is very cool. Once I get a different lens in my front light, I think I'll be quite happy with my bike light setup.

Posted at 10:51 permanent link category: /bicycle

Fri, 12 Mar 2010

Supernova further update -- wanna buy a light?

Supernova has indeed agreed that they can swap lenses for me, and that the turnaround will be right around 3 weeks. They also offered me the option of buying a symmetrical-lens'd light at a discount, so I could sell the glare-free unit on Ebay or some such.

Honestly, that sounds like the best option. Are you interested in a slightly used glare-free lens'd Supernova E3 Pro? Scroll down for video of the lens pattern. I have to admit, my reaction to the light definitely falls under "personal preference," and clearly Supernova thinks enough of the design to produce and sell it. I suspect it would be a good choice for someone whose average speed is a bit lower, or who rides in different situations than I do.

If you're interested, please contact me at reaper at obairlann dot net. I'll post a picture of the light as installed in the next day or two. The only thing that's not absolutely shiny-brand-new about it is that I cut off about 12" of the supplied dynamo wire, and one of the mounting screws has had a wee bit of the black paint chipped off.

This could work out well.

Posted at 16:43 permanent link category: /bicycle

Wed, 10 Mar 2010

Supernova update

I got an email back from Supernova, to the effect that they are quite capable of swapping lenses, but that it will require me to send the whole light back to them, as it will involve soldering in a different LED in addition to putting in a different lens. Hopefully I can pursue that course of action soon, as riding with the light in its current configuration is irksome.

Posted at 16:40 permanent link category: /bicycle

Tue, 09 Mar 2010

Headlight pattern

I just uploaded this video showing the headlight pattern of the Supernova E3 Pro with the "glare-free" asymmetrical beam.

My ride home last night was enough to show that I'm not at all happy with the asymmetrical beam pattern. It casts far too much light too close, with the result that I found myself repeatedly staring at a spot 10 feet in front of my front tire. That's incredibly unsafe when compared to keeping your eyes at the horizon, and I really don't want a light that encourages that kind of unsafe riding.

I would be very happy with an asymmetrical beam pattern that wasn't so deep, and could be focused further out, but my hope now is that Supernova will be able to sell me a symmetrical lens, or swap out the one I have, or something. Peter White won't take the light back, because I actually installed it, cutting off some of the supplied wire. Silly me, actually installing a light. Still, I've read anecdotally that Supernova will swap lenses, so hopefully that will work out. I really don't want to have this ridiculously spendy light on my bike that angers me every time I ride in the dark.

Posted at 10:58 permanent link category: /bicycle

Mon, 08 Mar 2010

Supernova E3 Pro first impression

Last night, I finally got my new Supernova E3 Pro headlight installed. I received this, along with the new Schmidt Dynohub, a few months ago. I finally got the hub built into a wheel last month, and I finished installing the light yesterday.

The E3 is a dynamo headlight that was designed to be the ultimate dyno light, and the price reflects that fact. If I weren't biking every day (and getting incredibly sick of batteries that need constant recharging), I wouldn't have sprung for it. But I am, and I did.

I opted for the shaped beam version, which has a pattern similar to a car's headlight: a sharp cutoff at the horizon, so as to avoid blinding oncoming drivers, while casting as much light as possible on the road in front of you.

I had actually temporarily installed the light a week or two ago (with a hilarious combination of zip ties, alligator clips and safety wire) and gone for a brief ride along a dark trail. That proved that the beam pattern was pretty useful, and showed that my intended mounting location (right under the handlebar) would work well.

My very first impression of the beam was that it wasn't very bright. That is, it seemed about as bright as my current headlight (a NightRider MiNewt X2). Then I realized that, although it seemed about as bright, the bright area covered something like 5x the area of the MiNewt's bright spot. That means it's a tremendously brighter light, it's just spread out into a much larger, more useful area. There's not much point in spearing a single point in the distance on a bicycle, it's not as if I ever move any faster than 40 MPH at the fastest, and 25 MPH normally.

The beam pattern itself is a bit odd, being quite wide, with "saddlebags" of brightness off to the sides, and not as much right in front. I have a feeling it was designed to be multipurpose, including being useful for offroaders. I'll see if I can get a photo or video of it, and post that here.

The LED or optics give the light a greenish tint, which is a bit displeasing -- when spending this kind of money on an LED light, I expect excellent color, and greenish is not an excellent color. Now that I look at posted pictures of the beam pattern on both Supernova's site, and the Peter White beamshots page, I also have the impression that my beam is a weird shape, and not what I thought I was getting, particularly compared to the beamshot on the Supernova page. I may be talking to Peter White (where I got this light) after tonight's ride.

The light itself, in terms of construction, seems to be well built. The mount is a very pretty machined piece, and the light body suggests high quality. It's fairly heavy, but that's to be expected, since this light includes a lot of aluminum to dissipate heat, as well as a large capacitor to act as a "stand light," keeping the light on for a few minutes after you stop riding (for use at stoplights). The stand light is about half the brightness of when riding, but it's still enough to be seen pretty well. I didn't time it, but my stand light was still glowing 5 or so minutes after a ride. It seems to slope down brightness over time.

Other than the beam pattern, I'm pretty happy with this light. It was spendy, but ideally that's bought me a bright, durable light. I'll post updates as I have them, but I hope to get some photos and possibly video in the next few days.

Posted at 10:58 permanent link category: /bicycle

Wed, 02 Dec 2009

Monkey Light update

So, for the last 9 months (sorry for the serious delay there), I've been riding with this Monkey Light on my front wheel. It's pretty cool.

When we last touched on this story, that was my feeling as well. Prety cool. I remain, clearly, unswayed.

What I can now tell you more about is living life with the thing.

So far as I can tell, no one has tried to steal it, and no one has crashed into me from staring at it. I do get the occasional thumbs-up or someone looking intently at it, but nothing problematical. I've stood the bike up on its rear wheel and spun the front to show off the light at a stoplight on about a dozen occasions so far, and I expect I'll keep doing that as long as people express interest.

The battery life is pretty good. With three 2500 mAh NiMH rechargeable AAs, I get many weeks of daily 30-50 minute runs with it running on the lower brightness setting. I have only charged the batteries about 4 times since I installed the light 9 months ago, but I've also mostly left it off for a lot of that time. Now that the days are shorter, and I'm using it every day, I expect I'll have to charge it every month or so. The low-battery warnings (a set of yellow X patterns, followed by red X patterns as the batteries run down) seem to come on with no warning. The difference between "dim" and "bright" (you have to switch from off to dim to bright to off in that order, every time) becomes visibly less obvious as the batteries wear down, but the low-battery Xs still surprise me when they show up.

I've come up with some favorite patterns in the rotation, but I'm not sufficiently motivated to figure out the menu system to set them as high priority, or however it is that that works.

Overall, I highly recommend this light if you're into side visibility that's more interesting than yet more blinky lights. It's a nice feeling to ride around and think that I'm putting a little bit of whimsy out into the world.

Posted at 11:30 permanent link category: /bicycle

Tue, 21 Apr 2009

And people wonder...

And people seem boggled when I yell at them for riding their bicycle through a stop sign:

From Facebook, today. Reasonable, non-violent people react to bicyclists.

Posted at 11:02 permanent link category: /bicycle

Tue, 24 Feb 2009

Monkey Light post-ride update

The ride was essentially uneventful. I got one verbal compliment on the lights, one thumbs-up from a little kid, and otherwise very little reaction. Of course, I can't know what people in most of the cars were thinking, but hopefully I was more visible to them.

I noticed from some more-distant observations that the light really is visible nearly 360° around the bike. As long as something wasn't blocking my sight line (such as a wheel, fork, frame, etc.), I could see the lights. When they spin around the wheel, they're pretty eye-catching.

I got up into the low 20 mph range, and didn't notice the imbalance in the wheel. However, in the spirit of fixing that which ain't broke, I decided to make three changes. The first change was to move the light as far towards the rim as I could and still have one of the zipties capture two crossed spokes. This prevents the light from sliding outward at higher speeds. Having the light further out increases its sweep speed, making the patterns persistent at lower speeds-over-ground.

The second change was to safety-wire one of the attachments. This makes the light visibly harder to steal, which will hopefully be enough deterrent for those times the bike gets parked outside. Having all the racebike gear turned out to be pretty handy -- MonkeyLectric recommended using a heavy paperclip, which would have been pretty annoying to install. The safety wire is hardly the last word in security, and anyone with diagonal cutters (such as anyone with a multitool, really) could have it off in a minute or less.

The final change was the real "fixin' what ain't broke" choice: I added counterweights to the wheel. It ended up needing 49g of lead opposite the light to get it almost in balance. The wheel is still slightly heavy on the Monkey Light side, but my front wheel is now considerably closer to being balanced than it's ever been before.

Of course, the downside to this is that people pay good money to lose less than 49g off a front wheel. Adding that much seems a bit ludicrous, but I'm curious to try it out. Might make riding more pleasant. Might make riding more work (this is almost certainly the case), but hopefully not by too much. It's worth a try.

Check back, I have pictures to add, but they have to wait while I perform some vital computer maintenance.

Posted at 20:46 permanent link category: /bicycle

MonkeyLectric Monkey Light -- initial impressions

I just received my Monkey Light, and eagerly tore open the packaging. I ordered it in the Eco Packaging, which uses less material that I'm just going to throw away anyway -- huge kudos to MonkeyLectric for making this an option! It came in a ziplock bag with some paper crumpled up as padding.

The first impression was pretty favorable. The unit itself feels solid, and appears to be well-built. The "clear hard coat" over the LEDs was a bit unevenly applied, but appeared to have full coverage. Not a complaint, just an observation.

It comes with two photocopied sheets, one with installation instructions and illustrations (more illustrations than instructions, really) that made it pretty obvious how to install. The second sheet contained a lot of the copy that's available on the website, plus the all-important instructions on what the various buttons do.

I didn't spend much time delving into the menus, since they basically seem to limit the lights to less options. I don't really care about that yet. I was interested to note that the power button cycles from off to "efficiency mode" to "high power." This works well for me, since I'll be running it in efficiency mode (which is about 2/3 the visual intensity of high power) most of the time.

Unfortunately, it didn't appear to then be a single-click to power off, instead requiring a double-click through high power mode before it shuts off. This is typical of bicycle lighting products, but I figured with the obvious brains available inside the Monkey Light, they could have engaged a 5 or 10 second timer so that whichever mode you're in, the next click on the power button turns it off. A minor upgrade (or option to include) for the next version, perhaps.

Waving the device back and forth in front of my eyes wasn't satisfying (although I did see the patterns), so I ran down and installed the thing on my bike.

Installation is about as straightforward as you can imagine. Three zipties, three rubber pads, and it's done. I debated a bit on the placement, eventually opting for shoving the light almost down to the hub. The trade-off is that it won't move as fast, so the patterns won't look quite as cool as if it were out at the rim, but it also won't unbalance the wheel quite as badly.

Some quick initial tests suggest that the current placement isn't optimal, but I take too many hills too fast to risk the severe unbalance that would come from having it further out. I'll probably relocate it towards the rim once I get home, and can add some counterbalancing weight on the far side of the wheel. Even with its current placement, the bike was wobbling on the stand pretty severely at 15 mph indicated. This makes sense -- the wheel is now dozens of grams out of balance, if not over a hundred.

I'm pleased with the light, and at least based on initial impressions, would recommend it to anyone who's interested in increasing their bike's visibility. I'll report back after it's been through some rain, and after I get it mounted farther out on the wheel.

Posted at 11:23 permanent link category: /bicycle

Fri, 20 Feb 2009

To the woman in the white SUV at 105th and Dayton

When you are turning left, you are expected to yield to oncoming traffic, whether that traffic is propelled by gasoline, electricity, or human power, such as a bicycle.

If that traffic honks its horn at you because you are turning directly in its path, the appropriate response is not to stick your tongue out. The appropriate response is to stop and realize that you just commited a traffic infraction that can result in death, even if it's not your precious life on the line.

Seriously. Sticking your tongue out? Who the fuck approved these people for driver's licenses?

Posted at 18:51 permanent link category: /bicycle

Mon, 09 Feb 2009

Learning our lesson

Last Wednesday, a bicyclist was killed in Ballard. It was morning commute time, just before 9 am, and he was blitzing down a hill toward the center of Ballard. There's been some controversy over exactly what happened, but that's not really what I want to talk about.

The general concensus, regardless of the details, is that the bicyclist was coming down the hill with some reasonable speed. A van pulled into traffic in such a way that the bicyclist was unable to avoid hitting it. For whatever reason, whether intentional or not, the bicyclist "laid 'er down," or fell off the bike. He collided with the van, and ended up under its rear tire, sustaining injuries that would leave him dead within a few hours.

The situation he found himself in was essentially an impossible one, for a couple of reasons. He was by all accounts going pretty fast. He moved in such a way that would have been safe if the van had pulled into the flow of traffic instead of turning across it. By the time he realized the van was turning instead of joining traffic, he was too close to affect any changes that could have saved him.

The driver of the van, according to accounts, was pulling out pretty quickly, trying to get the U-turn in before a wave of oncoming traffic arrived. In her haste, the driver almost certainly didn't see the bicylist coming down the hill, and the rest is history.

There were a series of mistakes made in this situation, and that's what I'm really writing about. I feel like the driver's mistake was pretty obvious, and not worth discussing (there's already a lot of acknowledgement that bicycles are hard to see). The bicyclist's mistakes, on the other hand, are not normally discussed, and this will eventually kill more riders.

The first mistake the bicyclist made (none of these are necessarily more or less important, so I'm starting at random) is practically built-in to a bicycle rider: "Must preserve speed." Riding a bicycle is hard work. Unlike in a powered vehicle, hitting the brakes is the option of last resort for most bikers, because it takes so much work to get going again. In fact, it's not that bad, but that's the mental attitude that develops. I suffer from this myself.

This attitude leads to a lot of the behavior that non-bikers find offensive: swerving through traffic, blowing stop signs and lights, etc. If you don't slow down, you don't have to speed up again. It also means that if a car pulls into your lane, it makes a lot of sense to swerve out of their way rather than slow down.

The next mistake the bicyclist made was that he assumed how the van would behave. Most likely, he saw the van pulling out, and thought, "This guy's going to join traffic southbound, so I'll swing wide of him on the left." If the van had behaved as predicted, this would have been a safe if somewhat obnoxious maneuver. However, the van didn't do what the rider had predicted, and started tracing a U-turn, so that it would be headed up the hill, to the north.

The final mistake was that the bicyclist may not have understood how his bike worked. I don't know for sure, but many bicyclists I have met suffer from this problem. They don't understand emergency stops. I'm not saying anyone doesn't know how to use their brakes. I'm not saying they don't understand how to stop the bike. I'm saying that they've never practiced an emergency stop.

This is absolutely standard practice in the motorcycling world. New riders are taught to practice emergency stops, if they go through any of the training programs available to them. Get thee into a parking lot, goes the wisdom, and practice running up to 15-20 mph and then stopping as fast as you can. As a motorcyclist, I do this myself, at least once a year, and am amazed every time at how much grip that front tire has.

Yet, for bicyclists, there is no such encouragement. A bicycle, I think the common wisdom must go, is a low-speed recreational vehicle. It requires no skill to stop, because a bicyclist will never pass about 12 mph. Likewise, once you've mastered balancing a bike (which is actually mastering countersteering -- if you can stand upright, you've already mastered balance), no thought is given to riding, beyond some simplistic rules: don't ride in traffic; wear a helmet; etc.

One dead cyclist from Ballard has recently proven that this is not the case. He was going about as fast as a 50cc scooter can go, and that requires a license (this is definitely not a screed in favor of licensing bicyclists, I'm just pointing that fact out). He was going as fast as (possibly faster than) my average speed, when I'm riding a motorcycle. He was going fast enough that training and skill were required.

What can we learn from all this? What is the lesson? I think there are a few.

First and foremost, if you ride a bicycle, and ever get over that mythical 12 mph limit, you need to do some training in emergency stops. Get your bike out into a parking lot. Wear long sleeves and long pants, wear your helmet and your gloves. If you have pads for knees and elbows you might want them, too -- braking is dangerous, and you might as well practice with as much safety as possible. Ride it up to a decent speed: 15 mph or so. Pick a mark, and when you hit that mark, start braking as hard as you think you safely can, with both brakes. Keep your eyes up, not fixed on the ground (this is hard, but will help you not fall over when you come to a stop, among other things).

If you're like me (I tried this exercise this weekend), you'll lock up the rear tire -- this is fine, the way to deal with a locked rear tire is to leave it locked and come to a complete stop. It's not as efficient at slowing you down as a rolling rear tire is, but that's not a big deal, and definitely not something to worry about at first. (If you try to release a locked rear tire in a real panic braking situation, it's possible to flip yourself off the bike due to the tire fishtailing, so just ride it to a stop every time.)

Practice your stops as many times as you can stand. Start with relatively mellow stops and work up the braking pressure. I got to the point where my fingers were unwilling to squeeze the front brake any harder, and the rear brake was consistently locked. Based on my experience, I am probably going to look for a 203mm front brake disc to get more leverage out front.

The next exercise is more mental, and you can practice when you're riding. I think of it as the "What if?" game, and I play it on the bicycle, on a motorcycle, or in a car. The way it works (you're probably way ahead of me, but I'll sketch it out) is that you look at a potential threat, such as a car waiting to cross your path at an intersection, and think, "What would I do if..." and make up a scenario. What if that car darted across your path right now? What if that car on the shoulder pulled a U-turn from the curb? What if that bus didn't see you were passing, and started to pull out?

When you start thinking in these terms, you will start riding more defensively. Given that in 100% of collisions, you'll go squish while the car driver will wonder what that thump was, it's in your best interests to ride defensively. This defensive thinking must include the option, "I would slow down as fast as possible." If you fall into the "preserving momentum" trap, you're just as doomed as the bicyclist in Ballard.

If you ride in traffic, you need to treat yourself exactly as you would if you were driving a powered vehicle. When you start ignoring the rules of traffic (not the laws, I'm talking about how people expect everyone around them to behave), you become unpredictable. Bicyclists are already at a tremendous disadvangage in almost every way: underpowered, nearly invisible, completely vulnerable. Anything you do to increase your disadvantages (such as behaving unpredictably) has the effect of multiplying them, not just adding to them.

If you only take one thing away from this article, practice emergency stops. You can do it anywhere (check for anyone behind you first), and even a little bit of practice could save your bacon when confronted with a real emergency. You'll know how fast you can stop, your fingers will know how to behave on the brake levers, and you won't be surprised at what happens (for instance, the rear wheel locking up). This is practice that can save your life.

(Update: I just ordered a 203mm disc and new caliper mount from Price Point -- total charge: $37. I forgot upgrading disc size was both easy and comparatively cheap.)

Posted at 02:53 permanent link category: /bicycle

Sun, 25 Jan 2009

Ouch update

After my crash last Monday, I decided in the afternoon to get myself in to the doctor. The pain in my hip seemed to be getting more intense, and taking on the edge that says, "This isn't just muscle pain, suckah!"

In the mean time, I crammed myself full of ibuprofen (which didn't help a whole lot) and Liz came down at the closing whistle to take me home -- I clearly wasn't going to ride home in that condition; I could barely walk.

The doctor visit came and went, with the doctor expressing the desire that I sling myself into an MRI machine to see what sort of clever rearrangement of bones and tendons I'd managed to effect. I called up, and got myself set up for a scan the same day, in the afternoon. After a very pleasant but painful day slacking on the couch with Liz, we trundled down to the Swedish campus for the test. She was dropping me off, to go tend to her own errands.

To my delight, I found a free wheelchair at the entrance and with a nod from the information desk, plopped myself into it. Suddenly I could move much faster than before. On foot, I was making a step every second or two. Give that a try if it doesn't impress you -- it's damn slow. And I wasn't taking big steps, either, these were like, "shove foot forward 12 inches; pause; try again." Little baby steps. So the wheelchair was a most welcome addition to my life, however temporary it might be.

I wheeled myself over to the elevator, and discovered that one of the many joys of the wheelchair is that they take a lot of room in an elevator. On the appropriate floor, I signed myself in, and after 10 minutes of paperwork and a mere additional 15 minute wait, was on my way into the lair of the MRI machine.

Here I was instructed to slip out of my clothes and into the obviously much more comfortable dressing gown my helpful assistant pointed out. "Let's see, you're pretty tall," he said to himself, then, pointing at a pile of dark green gowns, said, "go ahead and slip into one of those." After several minutes of very very slowly divesting myself of my garments, I pulled open the dark green gown to find it was roughly the size of a three-person army pup tent. I extended my arms fully to the sides, and grasping the corner of each gown flap, wrapped it around me. I asked Liz later, and she said that if a person doesn't fit into one of the two sizes of MRI machine they have at the hospital (ie, someone who'd need the full extent of my tent-gown), they have to go to the MRI machine at the zoo.

The tech laid me out on my techno-slab, and I was slowly trundled into the machine for roughly 40 minutes of lying perfectly still in a coffin-like tube while something that sounded like a broken bilge pump rat-a-tatted at me at varying pitches. This was the 20th, inauguration day, and the tech had given me headphones on which I could listen to KUOW, the local NPR station, as they covered the Obama-related festivities. (Suffice to say that I didn't make it to any inauguration-day festivities myself that day, but I feel I had a pretty valid excuse.) I felt exactly like I was trying to sleep on a small, becalmed sailboat, in a quarter berth which was a bit too small, and next to the bilge pump which would. not. shut. up.

The first test they did was a location-scan, so the machine could figure out (or show the tech) exactly where I was situated. It apparently involved the highest power of the machine, and felt very much like tiny imps were plucking at all the muscles in my lower abdomen. It was a very odd sensation.

Every once in a while, the tech would say something like, "Ok, the next test will only take 11 minutes," only he'd forget to turn down the radio, so what I actually heard was this sort of dream-like confusion of voices as whichever NPR reporter would continue with his story, while a discontinuous voice would meld in with weirdly-unrelated news. The headphones were all-plastic, piping the sound in quite literally, through plastic tubes -- magnetic headphones would have been ripped off my head fast enough to remove my ears, I suspect.

Eventually, about 30 tests later, I was done, and surprisingly warm. The tech explained, after I asked, that yes, in fact, an MRI was roughly the equivalent of a precisely-metered microwave oven. (He didn't say that, I extrapolated it from his explanantion about stimulation of hydrogen atoms and radio-frequency energy.)

I asked for and received a chance to review the pictures they'd gotten. It was a bit like looking at a black-and-white picture of what my lower abdomen would look like if you cut it cleanly off at whatever point we were looking at. If he panned quickly through the layers, you could make sense of the shape of legs and hips and such. Pretty interesting -- my legs looked like nicely marbled steak, which I guess is about what they are. He said he wasn't allowed to do any interpretation, but he did point a noticeably-larger pocket of fluid inside my right hip joint that wasn't there on the left.

And with that, I was trundled out and on my way. No more paperwork to fill out, etc. Here's the elevator, off you go! All told, I'd only spent an hour and a half there, and I had entirely expected to wait two hours before even getting into the machine. Crazy! The joys of going when they're running on schedule, I guess.

The next day, I got a cryptic phone call from my doctor's office. "Dr. Flooblejabble [not his real name] said to tell you that there are minor changes shown on your MRI," said the woman on the phone. "'Minor changes?'" quoth I. "That's all he said," she explained. Uh-huh. "Thanks," said I, and hung up. I'll be having a little talk with the good doctor about his willingness to do things like discuss my results with me on the phone. Trying to figure out his cypher left me with a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the day.

However! The excellent thing about that morning was that the night before I'd had my first anti-inflammatory pill. The good doctor looked slightly appalled when I told him how many ibuprofen pills I was shoving down my gizzard every 4-6 hours, and set me up with "the maximum dose you can take" of some prescription anti-inflammatory. "So that way, we know you're at the maximum and don't have to worry about your liver exploding," he said. If he'd had reading glasses on, he would have looked over them at me severely.

And indeed, I had awoken that morning feeling noticeably better. I was definitely still broken, but I was walking much faster, and it no longer felt like someone had gone after some key muscle groups with a cheese grater. I was able to sit at the computer and pretty much work a normal day, albeit at my house instead of at the office.

Each day after that, I'd wake up feeling noticeably better. Walking got easier and easier, until today, when I feel very nearly normal again. There's still a bit of soreness there, and I can tell that certain motions will be rewarded by more or less searing pain, but it's pretty cool to feel mostly like a normal person again. Hooray for anti-inflammatories!

So, if you've been sitting on the edge of your seat for the last week, that's what's been happening. I'm scheduled to see Dr. Floobenjabble again on Tuesday, when I might have definitive word on what exactly "minor changes" on an MRI might be. Hopefully we can also sort out a better arrangement regarding certain peripheral issues such as speaking in plaintext over the phone.

Posted at 17:37 permanent link category: /bicycle

Mon, 19 Jan 2009


I was riding into work this morning, thinking whatever thoughts I normally think on my ride into work. There had been frost on my deck, but the roads seemed clear, so I was buzzing along at my normal clip.

Coming down N 50th toward Fremont Ave, I downshifted a couple gears to take the turn as I normally do, slightly annoyed that a car had just passed me too close. I was peripherally aware of a biker standing on the sidewalk, but I thought he was waiting for the crosswalk or something.

I turned into the corner, and with extreme consternation noticed that my bike was no longer under me. I hit the ground before I had any clue what was happening, and tumbled, noting in a sort of detached way that my helmet was scraping along the pavement. There was a bloom of pain in my right hip, and suddenly something heavy plopped down in front of me as I slid to a stop -- my shoulder bag, I realized.

I lay there trying to disentangle my thoughts, testing bits of myself to see how damaged I was. The pain in my hip was subsiding, but it was obviously not going to be happy in the near future. Nothing was obviously broken, so I started getting up.

"Oh, I wish I'd seen you," said the biker on the sidewalk, "I just did that exact same thing. There must be ice there." Thanks. I picked myself up with a severe limp on the right side, my hip explaining in bright flashes of pain that it was, in fact, extremely unhappy at the abuse. I got my bike onto the sidewalk. I didn't spare it much attention, but nothing seemed overtly broken.

Slightly Helpful Biker asked if I was ok, obviously about to get on his way. He'd taken a moment to scoop some dirt out of a nearby planter and spread it over the area where the ice probably was. I said I was probably fine, but that my hip hurt. "Ok, I'm off to work then," quoth SHB, and rode off.

I sat there, my glasses entirely fogged over (all the heat I'd generated in riding rising to coat them), and just stretched out on the sidewalk for a minute to see if I could stop shaking. I tried to assess what had happened.

I came around the corner, and the bike just went away. Obviously, it was ice, or something so like it that quibbling over definitions was pointless. I bore the brunt of my fall on my right hip, although my shoulder was also unhappy. I could move, and I didn't seem to have broken any bones.

I painfully hoisted myself back on the bike, after several false starts getting my leg over the seat. Fortunately, the path ahead of me was entirely downhill, and so required practically no effort. The worst part was limping up to my office to check into the meeting that caused me to be on the road 30 minutes earlier than I normally would have.

Now, several hours and 1200 mg of ibuprofen later, my hip is the obvious casualty. There's a little bit of road rash on my patella, and my shoulder occasionally twinges (amazingly, I don't appear to have broken my collarbone), but I've got a patch of road rash on my hip that I can just cover with an open hand, and I walk at a highly comical and halting .3 MPH or so. Fortunately, sitting upright is completely pain-free, it's just standing upright and walking that sucks. Even more fortunately, I don't seem to have impaired my normal computering abilities at all.

So, what did I do right? Helmet, baby. That helmet absorbed what would have been a painful if not deadly sideways whack, and kept the side of my face off the ground as I slid to a halt. Conveniently, I was wearing long pants and a slippery windbreaker that I believe kept me from getting worse road rash than I did.

What did I do wrong? Well, I have a hard time classifying it as "wrong" exactly, but I didn't anticipate the black ice. The road had been clear of ice that I could tell, and I had no indication there was ice around this corner. I was complacent about road conditions, when I knew it was cold enough that ice was a possibility, if not likely.

Given that the two-wheel crashes I've had now were both low-sides, and both landed me on my hip, I'm starting to think that some padded biking shorts are called for. They would have materially reduced the injury I received today, and would have made my racetrack motorcycle crash less painful, although that crash didn't result in any lasting injury.

I find it interesting, although predictable, that my motorcycle crash caused me less damage than my bicycle crash. On the motorcycle, I was going about 70 MPH, but I was also riding a tiny bike (ie, I sit close to the ground) on a racetrack (ie, no curbs, cars, gravel, etc. to deal with), and I was leaned way over, so that my butt was inches from the pavement. On the bicycle, I was only going about 18 MPH, but I was sitting at least 3.5 feet off the ground, and wearing less protective clothing. The difference between less than 12 inches and over three feet is considerable, and that's where the real injury came from.

So, I have a feeling I'll be working from home for the next few days, and may investigate getting some variety of cane or crutch so I can walk at a speed faster than a snail's pace. Hooray for dangerous pursuits!

Posted at 11:13 permanent link category: /bicycle

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