Thursday, October 28, 2010

New (to me) winter commuter on layaway

The Goat has served me well over the last 4 years, but it will cost more to fix it up this season than a solid used bike. This Schwinn Moab 3 should fit the bill nicely. I have nothing but good things to say about used bikes from Bike America. This one belonged to an employee (or Owner?) and it has been completely tuned up with fresh tires, brakes, cables and shifters. I put a deposit down this afternoon, so she will be mine in a few weeks! I will put the frameset from The Goat away for another time.

In Today's News

Stocking caps are making headlines.

I had to be in to work really early today, and temperatures dropped into the mid-30s overnight. That means it's time to start breaking out the real winter commuting gear. I was still dressed pretty lightly, but this is the first time this season I've needed a stocking cap.

The early commute also gave me the perfect opportunity to do a totally dark ride with the Light & Motion Vis 360 (shown left) that I'm testing out for At an advertized 115 Lumens, I was figuring that this light would end up being most useful as a "to be seen" light, but it actually casts a really good beam that's totally suitable for night-time riding at speeds of 15 MPH or so. The fact that it's helmet-mounted makes it good for Pothole Patrol. The side markers are brilliant and eye-catching, and the rear light is suitably luminous as well. I expect a full review to be done in the next week or so.

To test it, I took it out with a few other headlights I own, and took pictures of beam patterns. Its competition:

  • A Bell Orion I found on the roadside back in early 2009, loaded with a pair of fresh CR2032 batteries. This embodies the ubiquitous cheapo front headlight from discount stores. It's usually helmet mounted. I made a handlebar mount for it when I found it (missing the helmet mount)
  • Blackburn Flea
  • NiteRider Evolution Halogen (15W Bulb)
I'll save the beam comparisons for the full review, but here are some teaser images.

L&M Vis 360

L&M Vis 360

L&M Vis 360

And the beam shot from the Vis 360. This was the darkest spot I could find at my apartment complex this morning, far from the best place to do this sort of thing, but gives you a good idea of the beam pattern. I can say it's not nearly as bright as my halogen, but it knocks the socks off of my Blackburn Flea. It had better, for the price!
Light & Motion Vis 360 Headlight

And off topic, we're finally getting settled in at our new apartment. We had a lot of help moving, but the tedious process of organizing and unpacking has seemingly only just begun. Oh, and the Brown Recluse spider infestation that we were dealing with at our old place won't likely be a problem for much longer, even if some of them did move with us. I found this friendly guy on our first day at the new apartment. It's a Wolf Spider (Hogna carolinensis, specifically) sitting atop a 50-cent piece (Diameter: roughly 1.2")
The Citadel

I really like large spiders such as Silk Spiders, Orb Weavers, Wolf Spiders, Tarantulas and Nursery Web Spiders. They are typically very gentle, but eat most smaller spiders and any other bugs nearby. I'm pretty sure the days are numbered for any Recluses that happened to stow away in our belongings.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Moving Again

No, I'm not switching jobs, nor am I leaving the area. I'm not even leaving the neighborhood. This weekend, my wife and I are moving around the corner from where we live now. As such, there's a lot going on, and I've had a lot of errands to run during the day. Today, I drove, but on my way to one of my errands over lunch, I saw something that's hopefully good news. The worst railroad crossing on my workbound commute is getting patched up:

I'll be back into the usual swing of things shortly.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

By the numbers

By the numbers, originally uploaded by KC-Bike.

In the US, there's a 68% chance you're charging that "green" plug-in electric/hybrid with fire and smoke. Dumbasses. Source.

Randy pointed out to me that 100% of traditional vehicles are petroleum-powered.

Of course, some traditional vehicles with small, efficient engines use less fuel than certain hybrids do. As always, gas-powered vehicles can be used frugally by combining trips, choosing closer destinations, car-pooling and walking or bicycling for trips when feasible. Cars themselves aren't the enemy. Sprawl, gluttony and excess are.

Hal grades your bicycle locking skills

Elizabeth from posted this to Facebook today. Hal is a wrench at a popular Manhattan bike shop. He takes to the mean steets and criticizes bad bicycle locking jobs.

In short, he's looking for 3 things:

  1. Use a really sturdy chain and lock (not a cable) to secure your frame to a large, immovable object.
  2. Make sure both wheels are secured to the frame or to the immovable object with more than just the axle nuts or QR skewers.
  3. Make sure the seat is properly secured (again, with something more than the seatpost collar)
I usually don't worry about my seat when I park at work. I have a thick towing chain that I pass through both wheels and the rear triangle, then around the bike rack. If I'll only be in and out (like the grocery store) I'll often use a cable lock, but I'll pass it through both wheels, the frame and the seat rails before attaching it to the rack. In higher risk areas (such as when I was riding to a not-so-great part of downtown Kansas City, MO for my monthly check-in at the unemployment office), I use both techniques at the same time.

Hal's comment on quiet streets generally being safer is generally spot-on, but you could be asking for trouble if your lock-up spot is too secluded and you frequently lock up there for long periods of time. He also discusses the fact that locks only buy you time. As a security guy, I would say that it's more complicated than that, but not by much.
  • If someone really wants YOUR bike (because it's the most expensive one they came across, because they hate you, or because it's the only bike around), then locks only buy you time.
  • If someone just wants something easy to steal (including individual bike wheels, seats, etc) and yours is locked up better than the others in the area, thieves will usually choose the easier target.
It's not as big of a problem in Kansas City as it is in larger metro areas, but bicycles are generally a commodity on the street. A working bicycle can be traded for about $25-$50 in goods or services unilaterally on the black market. It doesn't matter if it's a discount-store Bike-Shaped-Object or a carbon fiber track bike. Generally speaking, though, thieves are willing to put a little more work (and risk) into making extra money out of nice bikes by parting them out and fencing them or by trying to sell them as if they're the owner, either in person or on sites like Craigslist.

I'd still like to know where Hybridzilla ended up. I checked all the pawn shops, all the online places and the local newspaper want ads. I like to think it found its way to someone that appreciates and rides it much as I did. It was purpose-built for getting around reliably.

Random Tunage:
Derek Howell - Frozen
Cascade - Escape

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Time to consult the clothing log

My breaking point for shorts is 50 degrees Fahrenheit. As the fall has moved in and morning temperatures dropped into the low 60s and 50s, I think this is the first year that I trusted myself to believe that I'd regret throwing layers on. This week, however, has greeted me with low 40s. Psychologically, my brain processes this as "just a little above freezing," and the temptation to break out the balaclava, wool socks and ski coat becomes very real.

This time of year, I'm really glad that I kept track of years past and what kinds of clothing worked particularly well at given temperatures below 50 degrees. This morning, I rode in my work pants, a synthetic shirt, some light gloves and a hoodie. Truth told, it was still a little warm. I opened the zipper on the hoodie and kept my speed down to compensate. I used the hood under my helmet for ear coverage, but I think a headband and a light windbreaker would have been a better call. Duly noted in the log.

Utility cycling is all about finding your own groove.

Random Tunage:
The Crystal Method: Busy Child
64-Bit - The Arrival

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