Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reason to Commute by Bike #78

Seeing the sunrise after a rainy night

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Helmet-Mounted Mirror

If you use a bicycle for transportation, you will, at least some of the time, be on the road with motor vehicles. When I first started commuting to work, I used SONAR to keep track of traffic behind me. Seriously.... I pretty quickly learned to tell when a car was in the lane behind me, and when it was changing lanes to go around me, just by the sound it made (the bump-bump-bump of cars hitting Botts' Dots lane markers were a tip-off). But this method had its problems: First of all, while I had some directional sense of where a car was based on the sound, it's much harder to tell how close the cars were. Then, if I wanted a visual confirmation, I had to turn my head all the way around to look, which meant I wasn't looking where I was going and I also tended to swerve off my line of travel. I came to the conclusion that if I kept up this way it was only a matter of time before I made a critical error.

I considered buying a mirror. There are several options available- handlebar-mounted, glasses-mounted, and helmet-mounted. Because I ride several different bikes I figured it would not be very economical to mount my mirror to the bike itself; I'd have to get a mirror for each one. After looking at the selection at my local bike shop, I decided to go with a helmet-mounted mirror. I got a 3rd Eye Pro Helmet Mirror.

It is supposed to mount with double-stick tape to the inside or outside of the helmet. It was literally a five-minute installation. Unfortunately the adhesive didn't last, and I reattached it to my helmet with a nylon zip tie.

Here is what it looks like mounted to my helmet.

And here you can see the zip tie mounting. I had to drill holes through the foam.

So how does it work? Actually, very well.

If you are familiar with using the rear-view mirror on a car, this is very similar, and in some ways better. Because the mirror moves with your head, you can aim the field of view of the mirror with small head movements. So when you first look in the mirror, if you don't see in the area you want, you can move your head a little and see what you want, and you can get a very wide field of view behind you by moving your head a little.

Are there any downsides? Yes. Be aware that the mirror itself creates a blindspot just off to your left. You very much need to remind yourself to move your head (and therefore the mirror) occasionally to be able to see in that area. It is a quick adjustment, but just be aware of this. Also, don't ever totally trust the mirror. When getting ready to change lanes for instance, a quick turn of the head is still necessary. Don't depend on the mirror to give you a total picture of what's behind and beside you.

Also, there is a little bit of an adjustment period. When I first got the mirror, I tended to look into it almost as much, or even more, than I was looking forward. Your brain has to get used to having instant access to the additional information and it takes a little while to "integrate" the extra information into the total traffic picture inside your head. After a while, though, this is all seamless.

Now that I'm getting used to the mirror, it seems to be an almost essential part of my safety equipment and it's hard to believe I could ever get by without it. If I could change anything at all, I may have bought the glasses-mounted version of the mirror so that bonding to the helmet would not be an issue.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Off Friday Ride

Where I work, we get every other Friday off. So today about a half dozen of us met at Lake Benbrook and rode to downtown Fort Worth for breakfast.

Between the ride the group did, and my ride from and to my house, I did a little over 40 miles on my bike.

There were about a half dozen of us that did the ride. The featured part of the ride for me was that we followed the portion of the Trinity River Trail from Lake Benbrook to Bellaire Drive in Fort Worth, a section I'd only ridden once before. It's unique in that it isn't right along the river and there is a lot of shade.

The trail finally comes out on Bellaire

...then after a couple miles we were traveling along Trinity River toward downtown Fort Worth. We cycled on through some light rain.

As the downtown skyline got closer, things dried up.

Then it was a bridge over the Trinity River and we were downtown.

We had breakfast at The Corner Bakery. Most of us had The Commuter Croissant or Baked French Toast; I highly recommend either one.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Shadow Play

This first image is from my good online friend EssexJan. This one is to catch your attention. ;- )

The rest of these I took. I was planning to put them into a post called "Me and My Shadow"

These are just different pics I've taken of my shadow while riding. Some of these were intentional, some (like this next one) the result of accidentally taking a picture when I didn't mean to.

You can see my shadow, kind of, mixed in with the the shadow of the trees.

X marks the spot:

A few other shadow pics:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Almost Like a Car

Many people who begin commuting by bicycle have either been off a bike for a long time or have ridden primarily for recreation, maybe on protected trails. In my case I'd been off the bike for about 20 years.

I live in Fort Worth, Texas, which is the 17th largest city in the U.S. So there is a lot of traffic to deal with and there isn't always a protected trail to ride where I want to go. I went through an evolution in my cycling style, and I'm still evolving. I started out on sidewalks (which resulted in the only accident I've had since I started riding again), then progressed to gutter bunny, and now I'm becoming more of a vehicular cyclist.

Some of the best conversations I've recently had on the blogs (such as this one and this one) have been about vehicular cycling, which is essentially driving your bike like a car on the road. There are debates as to how safe it is to be out there among speeding motor vehicles, but the consensus among those who have tried VC seems to be that there an increase in safety, largely due to the effect that VC has on giving the cyclist more control over his situation.

I didn't really want to do a whole post on vehicular cycling, except to lead in to some information I wanted to highlight. If you're new to commuting, you, like I was in the beginning, may be scared to death of getting squished by a car and try to avoid them at all costs. Vehicular cycling isn't for everyone, but it is worth knowing about. It is a tool you should have in your cycling toolbox. I recently discovered an article entitled Smart Moves: You Lead the Dance, written by Keri of CommuteOrlando Blog, which serves as an excellent introduction to the basics of vehicular cycling. And while I'm at it, I'm going to add CommuteOrlando to the blog list here at BBC.

Thanks to CommuteOrlando for "The Confident Cyclist" illustration

Saturday, July 18, 2009

How I Carry Stuff


That is my primary bicycle. A carbon fiber 2007 Giant OCR C Zero. I recently crossed the 10,000 mile mark on it. It has served me well!

I have been car-free now for almost three years, and I thought I would say a few words about what I carry with me and how I transport stuff. These are the things that work for me, but it may be a bit minimalist for others.

I came to cycling in my youth, and tried my hand for many years as a competitive racer, and that has seriously colored my choices as a transportational cyclist. Please keep that in mind. For example, I value low weight very highly, and that explains why I chose to purchase the Giant. Others have valued weight much less, and the compromises they make will be different than mine. Not better or worse, just different based on how they rate one value over another. There is a wonderful diversity in cycling, and I would be a fool to disdain what others prefer!

This is what is found in the seat bag:

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Clockwise from the top left; A cotton bandanna in a sandwich bag to clean my glasses, spare inner-tube in plastic, a patch kit, two CO2 cannisters, the inflater chuck, fresh batteries for my lights in plastic, a 6mm hex wrench, a 5mm hex wrench and in the center, a spare battery for my computer. (It would be a calamity if my computer failed me on a long ride!)

Because my bicycle is a full Dura-Ace equipped bike, the two wrenches will fix nearly any problem encountered on a trip, a delightful bonus from well engineered equipment.

If I should get a flat, I get one fix and a mulligan, and then it's thumb time. But I am running on Specialized Armadillo Elite tires, and I completely wore out the last pair. I had only experienced one flat in all that time on them.

In fact, the length of time that the spare tube has spent in the bag has caused its own hazard! To reduce abrasion on the inner-tube, I wrapped it in plastic before putting it in my seat-bag. Here is the condition it was in when I pulled it out for the photo:


Holes were worn through the plastic! Yikes! The tube looked OK, so I added more plastic when I put it back.

That are the things I want to be with me during any trip, whether recreational or errands, and so stay with the bike all the time.

This is my wet weather/spare bike:

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It a single speed fendered Redline 9 2 5. I have put on a triangular in-frame bag for carrying the "always must have stuff":

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Tools at the top, top to bottom, five and six millimeter hex wrenches, then a box end wrench that fits the fender hardware, and a box end wrench to remove rear wheel.

On the left I have three tire wrenches, CO2 cannisters, the inflater chuck, a patch kit, a spare inner-tube and two terry cloth rags. It is always nice to have something to wipe your hands with after handling the chain and removing the tires, especially if it is wet out. But also, the CO2 canisters become really cold when discharged, so something is needed to protect your hands. The third important role of the rags is to keep the kit from rattling, which for me can be very annoying!

While I have only traveled a little more than 500 miles on the Redline, I have had at least five flats! There will be Armadillos on it for the next set of tires!

When this fix-it kit is wrapped up, this is how it is arranged in the frame-bag.

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The extra space can used for plastic sheeting (Plastic drop cloth) and bungee cords if I expect to have to park the bike in the rain. But they are not carried with me all the time.

For the rest of the stuff I need to pack around I use either jersey pockets when on recreational rides, or a small back-pack, or a larger capacity back-pack or a messenger bag for the most bulky of loads, depending on how much room I need.


I keep some things at work, like shoes and some cold-weather clothes in case of sudden weather changes. I carry in clean clothes to change into, and lunch. I bring powdered drink mix in. I re-use two liter soda bottles to mix it in and consume it from. I am able to keep my bicycle in the building with me.

Here is what I take with me shopping, perhaps for groceries:


I use the Speedplay cleat system, so I need a change of shoes if much walking is involved. For size and weight considerations, I take these slippers or flip-flops. That loop of rope is used to carry my bike shoes draped over the frame, like this:

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This allows more room in my bag to place items while shopping. Oh, I don't lock my bike up, I take it into the store or restaurant with me. I rarely have had anyone take issue with this, and there is enough competition for my business that alternatives have always been found.

I am single, so I have not needed a higher capacity than the messenger bag provides, though I have made multiple store runs on occasion. (12 mile round trip.) I haven't yet loaded the bag with so much stuff that I couldn't breathe, but I have caused the plastic strap clamp to fail.

What I buy for groceries is also colored by capacity considerations. For example, potato chips and milk are rarely purchased, one because it takes up so much space, and the other because it is heavy. (I rely on powdered drink mixes for this reason too!)

What have you found that works for your commute?

The Eagle Has Landed

40 years ago, the Apollo 11 astronauts were on their way to the first ever landing of a manned spacecraft on the moon.
Launched on July 16, 1969, it carried Mission Commander Neil Alden Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Eugene 'Buzz' Aldrin, Jr. On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon, while Collins orbited above.
Quote and Apollo 11 mission insignia via Wikipedia

You can relive the historic landing by listening to the radio transmissions of the Apollo 11 astronauts here at NASA.gov. There is a good timeline here so you can know when the good stuff is being played back.

Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface
via NASA

For additional Apollo 11 features at NASA, click here. I have to admit that when watching the video on that page, when Neil Armstrong states, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." I still get a chill up my spine. Awesome stuff.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Water Works

So, tipped off by rab of FtW Cycling Experience, I decided to cross the Trinity River at Route 183 on my way home from work yesterday. And the mudflat he described was there. The river has apparently forced a new path under the dam, as evidenced by a slowly rotating whirlpool.

It's okay because the city fixed it. By putting up a sign.

I feel better. Don't you?

This morning was a different kind of water works. I slept right through it, but apparently we had significant rainfall last night. When I went out to get the paper this morning, the ground was mostly dried up already, but there were sprinkles in the air. I ate breakfast and took my shower, and when I set out I found it had rained again. It had stopped already when I started riding, but the world was wet and steamy.

It's a good thing I put those full fenders on my commuter. I had to be careful on the curves; a couple of times the bike almost fish-tailed out from under me. I managed to keep it under control and rode conservatively the rest of the way.