Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nothing up my sleeve...except the rest of my jacket

For what it's worth, I came up with this simple, obvious way to turn my wind jacket into a streamlined bundle for easier carrying on the rear rack of my wet weather bike.

As easy as 1



I usually just roll it and tie it around my waist, but the day was a little warm and I didn't want to block my jersey pockets.

Sleeve-stuffing turns the jacket into a more tubular bundle than any other method, and perfectly restrains extraneous flappy bits.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thinking about the hub

The dynamo hub seems like a good move to streamline my on-board light system. The bottle generator won't go to waste. It can move to the rain bike, on which I already run more rugged tires that may stand up to the wire-brush wet weather drive roller offered by Peter White.

In the world of generator hubs, the Schmidt SON seems to be the gold standard. My budget does not extend to gold, so I have to shop around. This economic fact has guided every cycling purchase since I started my adult cycling habit in college. In my racing years it was a point of pride to find cool components for your bike that looked good and functioned well for less than the price of the legendary Campagnolo. It was also great to find sweet deals on the Campy itself.

Contenders for a bargain gem in the dyno-hub market include the Sanyo H27, the SRAM i-Light and several models by Shimano.

My first impulse is to avoid Shimano. I developed that habit in the 1990s, when they were basically a malignancy in the cycling industry, spreading fast, killing other companies not just on the basis of product quality, but unfairly on the basis of size or less aggressive marketing. Their devotion to obsolescence preyed on consumers and retailers alike. Most of their stuff was not as awesome as the advertising said it was, it was merely good enough. It was shoved down the cycling world's throat on the end of a battering ram of marketing and preferential pricing for OEM spec. However, the big ugly behemoth has also continued to offer some nice basic components for those of us who like to mix, match and roll our own. You just have to remember two things: don't buy their proprietary crap that does not play well with others and stock up on the stuff you like, for the day when they quit making it at their whim.

I can get the SRAM or Shimano hubs wholesale. SRAM isn't exactly the good guys when it comes to obsolescence and tweaky innovation. They actually offer less to the tinkering cyclist than Shimano does, because their barcons are index-only. I have no brand loyalty, I have individual product loyalty. I suggest you do the same.

In the end, what matters is function for price. That's where I may have to roll the dice and do my own product testing, one wheel at a time. So it's not a question of what hub to buy, it may be what hub to buy first. Or scrape up the coin for the Schmidt, assuming the high price really does indicate the best long-term investment.

Of course I will welcome any input from users with a tale to tell. I'm not doing this right away.

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's all fun and games until you hit a skunk (and other observations from the night commute)

Chortling merrily at the power of my new light system I ventured into the deepening dusk of late October and November on the park-and-ride version of my commute. On this route I am only exposed to traffic for a couple of blocks between the shop and the beginning of the trail, and again briefly where the trail crosses Center Street. After that it's just me and the wildlife for several miles.

Regardless of apocryphal cougar sightings, none by me, my wildlife encounters have been limited to small birds at close range and some waterfowl at a distance on the sections of lake I get to see. I gave passing thought to deer, moose and coyotes. Only the moose really worried me. In some places the trail runs on a high embankment with a steep dropoff on either side into wetland. If I startled a moose on one of those I could get stomped before I could get away. They're not exactly quick-witted. But you can ride for many years without encountering a moose at all, let alone at close range. So I've felt pretty serene on my car-free private pathway.

Two nights ago, zipping along in the darkness, I rode into a fresh cloud of skunk spray. It wasn't aimed at me. It wasn't enough to leave a scent on me or my equipment. It is enough to make me peer with a bit more urgency into the shadows beside my patch of light. The whiff I got was only a warning shot. Imagine what a mess a real skunk hit would make.

Fallen leaves have also gotten deeper as autumn has advanced. They make the rail crossings harder to see, especially at night. I overshot one the other night, bouncing over the railroad ties for several bike lengths as I slowed to a stop.

The fun turns where the trail goes toward the Allen A town beach also get more interesting in total darkness. I'd been feeling pretty cocky in deep dusk, because the faint remaining light gave me a slightly wider picture. On my first run through there after the time change turned twilight into night, I found out I don't know the turns as well as I thought I did. I managed to avoid hooking a tree, but not by much.

Wednesday and Thursday nights I took Route 109 past Lake Wentworth to Bryant Road rather than stick to the possibly skunky trail through the spooky forest. A sliver of moon reflected off the smooth waters of the lake. I did have to herd traffic a little. The Superflash still smartens 'em up, but I don't think I'll make the detour a regular thing.

Herding in darkness is trickier than in daylight because I don't have full use of my peripheral vision when doing head checks at night. On Wednesday I left my helmet light on. On Thursday I turned it off because I felt it confused drivers behind me and might also blind them. Without the helmet light I no longer had light aimed where I was looking when I checked the margins of my light patch or looked for obstacles extending in from the sides. On the plus side, drivers seemed less squirrelly.

The generator is about to eat its second drive roller since I installed it. The first one probably wore prematurely because I had not dialed in the alignment perfectly. The second one lasted longer, but it's nearly gone after about a month. The alignment seemed to have drifted very slightly, but I wonder if it also wears faster because the tire is slightly irregular. The uneven pressure has a greater effect as the roller wears down.

I ordered four of them when the first one wore out. I carry a fresh one in the trunk so I can replace it anywhere. I carry spare shift cables for the same reason. I've had some very pleasant roadside breaks while replacing a shift cable. I much prefer it to replacing tires. Tire replacement is a dirtier job.

A dyno hub will alleviate this problem. It would mean building another wheel, though. I don't know how much longer I will push the commute for this year. I have enough rollers to last a while.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Seasonal Reconfigurations

As part of our preparation for ski rental season I cleaned up the high performance rental boots and freshened up their size markings.