Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wheeler Dealers

The Seattle Times ran what I think is a pretty good article about some of the cycling issues here in their Pacific Northwest Magazine this past weekend. The full text of the article and pictures can be seen here:

http://tinyurl.com/y44wmy

There has been some lively discussion (both pro & con) about Critical Mass, helmets, bike lanes, bike safety, etc. You can see some of the discussion over on the Cascade Message Boards here:

http://tinyurl.com/y4xfeu

What I like about the article is that it shows that different people have different views of the situation, different perceptions, different ways of trying to further their cause. There are some folks who think Critical Mass does more harm than good, some folks who think it's making a real positive difference, some folks who view it as a party. Some folks really think bike lanes help matters, some folks strongly think otherwise. The article stresses that there are diverse views on these issues.

I wear a helmet but I don't favor mandatory helmet laws. I stop at stop signs and red lights. I use a whole lot of lights and blinkers and bright clothes. I try not to give people another example of "you bikers who run red lights and break laws" but I understand that some other cyclists feel that civil disobedience is the way to institute change. I defend both their right to protest and the rule of law.

I don't believe the premise that "if you're not with us, you're with the enemy." Some folks see things as being very black and white and others see everything as shades of gray. I guess I'm not consistent or maybe the world isn't that consistent. I look around and see some things are black, some are white, some are gray and some are all kinds of other colors.

I like fluorescent yellow and reflective tape. And blinky LEDs. We can spend lots of time yelling at each other about how you're doing it wrong and I'm doing it right (or vice-versa) . Or we can try to do our best. Sometimes doing our best involves yelling at the other guy and telling him he's doing it all wrong. Sometimes doing our best means just doing our thing.

I don't have any neat answers. Sometimes I'm not even sure I'm asking the right questions. But I like to ride my bike and I try to do what I can to help other people ride their bikes.

Keep 'em rolling. Ride safe out there.

-- Kent

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

David Smith's Bicycle Fatality Report

David Smith thinks a lot about bicycle safety. He rides a lot of miles and asks a lot of questions. He is an advocate of the position that cyclists are safest when they behave as vehicles and he is often a critic of segregated cycling facilities. One of David's pages is at:

http://www.bikedexter.com/

David strongly believes that the current bike lane structure on Dexter Avenue in Seattle is flawed and could be improved. I think he makes some good points.

But David has a problem in that he often presents so much information that things get buried. In chatting with David a while back he told me about a study he did of cycling fatalities. I got him to send me the direct link and I found it very interesting. Some quirks of in the original formatting prevented me from printing the report and it also seemed to not show up on Google's nearly infallible radar.

I took the liberty of reformatting David's original paper (I didn't change any of the contents) and posting it here:

http://www.carsstink.org/peterson/FatalStudy-Smith.html

I found the paper to be quite interesting and I think it deserves a wider audience. By mentioning it here, I'm exposing it to the blogosphere.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Solving the Right Problem

Sometimes the most important part of problem solving is making sure that you are solving the right problem. Recently I was involved in this exchange over on the iBOB list.

Here is the original post that kicked things off:



Date: Fri, 13 Oct 2006 13:04:03 -0500
From: "Gates, Keith W [NTK]"
Subject: [BOB] From saddlebags to panniers

After a long stint using a single Carradice Super C saddlebag for commutes, I've reached a point in my job where I have to start ferrying the laptop home in the evenings. I looked at this as a chance to upgrade my commuting rig! No problems!

So, I recently bought and installed a Tubus Fly, and bought a cheapy pannier, waterproof - but cheap and basic - so basic I won't bore you with the name of the company. Nothing notable. A recent heavy rain proved it's waterproofness, but it has no pockets, a cheap suspension system, and look like it might only last a single season, maybe slightly longer.


I love the rack --- VERY well made, with tubing almost as thick as the seat stays on the bike!! Install was clean, and it's SOLID. Makes me wonder how conservative their 40 lbs. rating is -- but I'll never exceed it on a commute anyways. I digress.

To my chagrin, the Super C saddlebag was not big enough to hold all my clothing and such AND a laptop -- the laptop *DID* fit in there, surprisingly, but it left me no room for winter layer overflow, groceries. Thus the pannier solution -- Carradice Super C holds all the normal commuter stuff with room to spare, and the laptop in a neoprene sleeve rests inside the cheap pannier between some 1.5" thick foam pads I cut out. However, this is a little clumsy, so I'm already thinking of ways to fully convert from saddlebag-dom to pannier life.

My saddlebags will survive for tours and weekend stuff, but for the daily grind I'm looking for opinions on office-style panniers -- I have it narrowed down to three makes, for functionality, weatherproofness, build, and apparent functionality off the bike:

Carradice, Arkel, and Ortlieb all make "briefcase" style panniers, all with differing mounting systems, and all with their own unique attributes. I have to admit, I'm biased towards Carradice for the fabric, build, and the luck I've had with three of their other products I've owned (which is why I was hesitant to give up on the saddlebag in the first place!) --- I had heard of Arkel, but had never seen one, and after an internet search I found that Arkel seems to be VERY well thought-thru, very well-made - but sadly not waterproof as it sits, unless I added a rain cover to my order. Back to Carradice: Cotton duck has it ALL over anything else I've used, but I wonder if Carradice has as much thought in their laptop protection, pockets and suspension as Arkel seems to have? Then, there's Ortlieb; famous fr waterproofness and toughness, but it seems always at a the expense of pockets, features and off-bike convenience -- their bags will take you around the world with maximum protection, but it seems like they are smaller, have fewer features, and it's harder to access things. At least that's my impression. There are some other options from Jandd and a few others, but for the price and the quality it seems that the three I mentioned are truly the best choices, unless I missed one out there.

So, before I rush out and buy the Carradice briefcase pannier, any thoughts from people that have used either of the other two in the real world?

Sorry my posts are always so long, folks -- I'm a details guy, and I think it gets me a quicker answer if I try to cover everything right off the bat. Thanks again!

After I get this answered, I wonder what I'll do with the OTHER side of the rack??? :)

keith Gates



Keith did get a few replies about various panniers and then a fellow who goes by the online name of "Nom DePost" sagely replied:



Date: Fri, 13 Oct 2006 16:45:32 -0700 (PDT)
From: Nom DePost
Subject: Re: [BOB] From saddlebags to panniers

> After a long stint using a single Carradice Super C saddlebag for
> commutes, I've reached a point in my job where I have to start
> ferrying the laptop home in the evenings. I looked at this as a
> chance to upgrade my commuting rig! No problems!

Plan B:

i stopped dragging the laptop around - flashdrives.
first i used a chunk of my iPod to store data and then got
into flashdrives, 4-GB so far.
also, check out this site:
<http://portableapps.com/>
(i'm typing this in portable Thunderbird.)



At this point I jumped in with my advice:



From: "Kent Peterson"
Subject: Re: [BOB] From saddlebags to panniers
Date: Fri, 13 Oct 2006 17:03:15 -0700

Nom DePost wrote:

> Plan B: i stopped dragging the laptop around - flashdrives. first
> i used a chunk of my iPod to store data and then got into
> flashdrives,
4-GB so far. also, check out this site:
> <http://portableapps.com/>

> (i'm typing this in portable Thunderbird.)

Amen to everything Nom typed and I'd add this. A lot of us have high speed connections both at home and work. You can file transfer a lot of stuff back and forth and use remote desktops like:

https://secure.logmein.com/

My job is helping people commute by bike and probably half of those who think they need to take a laptop back and forth are amazed to find out that they don't.

Kent Peterson
Commuting Program Director
Bicycle Alliance of Washington



The next day Keith posted this note to the list:



Date: Sat, 14 Oct 2006 18:29:27 -0500
From: "Gates, Keith W [NTK]"
Subject: [BOB] RE: Saddlebags to panniers

> https://secure.logmein.com/

> My job is helping people commute by bike and probably
> half of those who
think they need to take a
> laptop back and forth are amazed to find out
>
that they don't.

> Kent Peterson
> Commuting Program Director
> Bicycle Alliance of Washington

At the risk of venturing off-topic, I'll keep this short:

Once again, Kent Peterson saves the day -- honestly, this solution never even crossed my mind.

I just saved at least 8 lbs off the bike, the extra hassle of docking/undocking, etc. every day to and from work, not to mention the removal of risk while commuting this winter, etc.

The system recommended above works flawlessly - my problems are solved!

I'm keeping the Tubus rack -- it's so light, it doesn't matter that it's
there, and I still have the cheapy pannier for grocery runs, etc. I'm back to my successful "one bag" formula with the Carradice Super C saddlebag and SQR system. Life is good again, as I reply to this on my work computer, which is docked at work, while I sit here at home with a cup of coffee and the TV going. Bliss.

Thanks, Kent! Superior recommendation, and a great example of something non-cycling directly benefiting the cyclist.

keith Gates



I'm glad Keith has happily solved his problem. I myself go into the office four days a week and on Wednesdays I use logmein to telecommute.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent

Saturday, October 14, 2006

You can't make up for slow climbing


I live at the base of the Cascade Mountains in Washington state and I like riding my bicycle in the mountains. I'm a fairly light guy so I don't suffer as much on the climbs as some of my heavier companions. Some of those folks are much faster descenders than I am and you might think that at the end of the day it all evens out. It doesn't. Climbing slows us all down but if you want to be faster in the hills, you have to get faster on the climbs. You burn up your time by going slow, so the key is to spend less time going slow.

Here's a simplified example. Let's say you can ride 24 kph on flat ground. In an hour, you cover 24 kilometers. Now let's put a big mountain in your path. The mountain is symmetrical with 12 kilometers of climbing to the summit followed by 12 kilometers of descent. Let's say that it's steep enough that it knocks your speed in half on the climb and your speed is doubled on the descent. So you climb 12 kilometers at 12 kilometers per hour and descend 12 kilometers at 48 kilometers per hour. That works out to a total of 1 hour 15 minutes to go 24 kilometers so your average speed is 19.2 kph.

But let's say you can put some more effort in somewhere, you can descend even faster or put some more effort into climbing. You get much more payoff by climbing faster. Let's say you can get your climbing speed up to 16 kph and keep your descending speed at the same 48 kph. In this case you'll spend 45 minutes climbing and 15 minutes descending and your overall average is 24 kilometers per hour.

But let's say you tried putting your effort into descending faster. You get a nifty recumbent bike that doesn't climb any faster but it can descend like a rocket at 90 kph. So now you climb 12 kilometers at 12 kilometers per hour and then zip through the 12 kilometer descent in 8 minutes. Your average speed is 21.18 kph. Your super fast descent might be really fun (or really scary!) but it doesn't buy you nearly as much overall speed as what you gain by climbing faster.

The way to get faster at climbing is to work on climbing. Weight does matter somewhat but Eddy Merckx said it best when he advised: "don't buy upgrades; ride up grades."

By the way, I think this relates to something I've noticed about myself. If I'm riding a fixed gear, or a single speed, or a three speed or a bike with a whole bunch of Disraeli gears, it doesn't seem to matter much in terms of my overall speed. With more gears I can maybe go faster on the descents, but the lower gears seem to make me a little lazy and I gear down and go slow on the climbs. With fewer gears, I'm more likely to grind it out. The simpler bikes might not be real fast but they spend less time going slow.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Big Lebowski Brevet

This past weekend was the first Oregon Randonneurs 600K Big Lebowski Brevet. Four of us van pooled down from Seattle for the ride. Peter Beeson made me swear that the SIR newsletter will get first publication rights to my story of the event so this isn't the ride story, this is just a tiny comment on the ride.

Half the Seattle crew (Eric Vigoren and myself) were on bikes with those Disraeli gears and the other half (Bob Brudvik and Peter Beeson) were on single speed Bianchi San Joses. The San Jose riders continue to say wonderful things about their steeds although Peter has adopted a new monosyllabic mantra that rhymes with "truck." He chants this while weaving up some of the steeper climbs.

The Big Lebowski is the prettiest, most fun and hardest 600K I've ever ridden. Huge kudos to the Kramer and Ms. France for an epic course and wonderful support. Scheduling a meteor shower for Saturday night was really going above and beyond the call of duty.

A map of the route is here:

http://www.orrandonneurs.org/brevets/2006_BigLebowski_Map.jpg

Ride info is here:

http://www.orrandonneurs.org/brevets/2006_BigLebowski_Info.html

The Big Lebowski Results, September 30 -October 1

Peter Beeson 39:04
Jon Beilby 37:25
Ken Bonner 33:32
Robert Brudvik 39:04
Albert Kong 37:09
Greg Olson 35:00
Scott Peterson DNF
Kent Peterson 37:52
Eric Vigoren 39:04
Paul Whitney DNF