Friday, March 13, 2015

N+1 or S-1?

The Velominati have a rule (#12 - this link points to #11 since the #12 link makes you scroll up to #12), which states that the minimum number of bikes you should have is three but that the correct number your should have is N+1 where N is the number of bikes you currently own.  There is a corollary, which states that the optimal number of bikes to own is S-1, where S is the number of bikes which would cause your spouse to leave you.

For a long time (since 2009) I have owned two bikes.  One is a road bike with fenders for occasional rain.  It is also equipped with dynamo powered lighting for early morning rides.  The other is a dedicated commuter with racks, fenders and also has dynamo powered lighting.  It has decent tires for off road recreational rides and also serves as a child hauling bike with a rack compatible with a child bike seat.  In the past I also pulled a trailer with one of my boys on this bike.  Do I need a third bike, which I would find useful but would also help me meet the Velominati minimum and would also help me meet the N+1 imperative and actually help my life?

This all depends on what your perspective is.  Mary from Chasing Mailboxes recently talked about her stable of bikes but her situation is far different from mine, not least because her husband has a large stable of bikes so they they both are on the same page.  It seems like a nice merging of interests in a relationship.  While my wife rode when we met, that sort of fell apart during the years we were trying to and having children.  And she hasn't been on the bike very much since that period.  But she recognizes that I like to ride and we manage to make some time for riding and some room, and money, for bikes.  But space in our small house is at a premium and money is tight so I have to make a strong argument for why I need another bicycle.

It's an easy argument to make at first glance.  I want a bike to ride to Alewife when the weather is bad so I can take public transit the rest of the way to work.  I also might consider taking it all of the way in in less than perfect weather, knowing the bike may be abused some and not perfectly maintained. (Matt Roy calls this willful neglect.)  It would also be nice for short trips around town.  Optimally, this bike would be a simple 3 speed with a steel frame (and I don't mean hi-tensile steel) with platform pedals and good brakes and fenders and eyelets for racks for the future.  I'd carry a backpack with a couple of u-locks (because it is would be an inexpensive bike doesn't mean I want to make it easy for a thief to take it).  To answer the question, "what would it do for the family?", I'd say it would give me some exercise in the middle of the worst weather.

My wife might counter with this, "you always want to add something to your bikes", which is true, especially in this case.  I'd want studded tires (I know some people ride without them, but I'll chose to have the security) and they cost real money.  I wouldn't add dynamo lighting, except by moving a wheel and light from another bike, so it wouldn't be excessive.  Maybe I wouldn't be able to restrain myself but I think I would be able to.

A more complicated problem is this - aren't there other bikes that I might like to have?  And the answer is yes.  I would love to get a long tail with the children's seat that Xtracycle sells.  But before we went that route, we would really need to decide if we want to be an occasional car-free family, which I don't think my wife is ready for (and she agrees with me).  And more importantly, I'm not completely sure my boys would love to get around on bike.  They sometimes enjoy going with me on the bike seat, to some degree.  But an investment in our lifestyle like a long tail, we'd have to do it on marginal weather days and days when they really didn't want to ride.  I think about our trailer, which wasn't all that big of a success.  Our older boy really didn't like it.  He is a talker and would be talking with me but I wouldn't hear him until he was crying inconsolably.  He was fine when he fell asleep in the trailer but he would always wake up before we got home and you can guess what happened then.  The second guy enjoyed the trailer but enjoys the bike seat more.  And both boys are about grown out of the bike seat.  We have used a trail-a-bike, which is pretty hard to ride for me but we will continue to use it.  We are likely to get new bikes for the boys this year but I'm thinking training wheels for now, by their request.  I'd also like to get a Ti randonneuring-ish bike one day and maybe something like the Honey All Roads bike.  But that's for the future since my current bikes do just fine.  At a minimum, they are fabulous for much of the riding I do .  So there isn't any new bikes that I want to have now and commit space and money to.

So we made a decision and an inexpensive 3 speed with decent brakes and a decent frame is on its way.  This mythical 3 speed I am thinking about might be fun to ride with the boys and maybe it will help me to motivate the boys to ride.  I'll share more about this bike when I've had it for a few weeks or a few months.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Generator lighting, my history

In the winter of 2012/2013 I moved from battery powered lighting to generator powered lighting and I did it slowly.  I made the move because I was doing early AM rides (have kids, get up early or don't ride, for the most part) and some times the batteries didn't last and sometimes they weren't charged in the first place, which meant I didn't ride. I remember one late night/early AM when I woke up quite early but couldn't leave for an hour since my fully charged light wouldn't make it to sunrise.  Yes, I could have bought more battery powered lights that lasted longer but I didn't want the worry.  And I wanted lights that didn't blind people riding, walking or driving towards me.  Patria from Ride Studio Cafe once told me that it looked like a train was coming towards her when it was me with my light on low. The first time she told the story she said that she thought I was a car so maybe there's some exaggeration here.  In any case, that's reason enough for me to change to generator lighting.

So I had Harris Cyclery build up a wheel with a Shimano 3N80 hub laced to a Mavic Open Pro rim, matching the rear rim.  I also bought a last generation Busch and Mueller IQ CYO headlight and a Spannigo Pixeo taillight.  I mounted all of this on my commuter/dirt road bike.  This has been a great combination for both commuting and recreational night rides.  I did a number of late rides last spring and a few in 2014 and the lights worked well for fun and certainly great for commuting.  It isn't quite enough light for rough dirt roads but my small battery powered light fills in enough to feel safe.

My only complaint was that I didn't want to use the same wheel on my road bike, which I thought was possible.  But that meant that every time I wanted to ride my road bike at night I needed to unmount the tires from both bikes and remount the road tire on the commuter dyno wheel.  I soon bought a second set of lights (same headlight, BM Secula Plus for the road bike's tail light) because switching lights could happen only once before you wanted a second set of lights.  But the time for moving tires between the wheels was eating into my riding time.

The next step, in the summer of 2014, was to get a new wheel.  I wanted a hub to match my custom built road bike and the current rear hub and I wanted to minimize weight and friction when the lights weren't on so I went with the Schmidt SON Deluxe, mounted to the a matching rim.  This setup works quite well.  I now always ride with lights on for safetly, with one exception: I was barely making it up the east side of Hurricane Mountain Road, near North Conway, NH (the road tops out at a 17% grade).  I have no regrets about this.  The Deluxe shouldn't be able to charge a device (like a Garmin) while running the lights but I'm on the very low probability for riding a 600 KM brevet so that won't be a big concern.

If I had to do it all over again, I'd do the same thing with both bikes.  The Shimano hub has been a workhorse, with about 4000 miles on it without any complaint.  I know that Brad, then from Geekhouse and now with Seven, put a Shimano Alfine hub on his beautiful bRad  touring bike.  I got to ride with him on the 2013 Diverged ride and he still had it on the bike for off road use.  I saw him in the late fall and he still has it on the bike, which is now built up as a commuter (and it's still a beautiful bike).  If I were to put a generator hub on an inexpensive commuter, that I might leave at Alewife, then I would look at the stock generator wheel sold by Harris Cyclery and the BM EYC, which Peter White recommends as a great commuter light.  I'd worry about the lights but I've been parking my commuter at work for a couple of years with the slightly more expensive lights so I don't think I'd worry that much more at Alewife.

(added 3/5) One potential significant difference between the Shimano and Schmidt hubs is the Schmidt's claimed resistance to internal rusting.  The potential circumstance - taking a warm bike into cold rain.  The temperature difference would draw moisture into the hub, ultimately causing corrosion.  Schmidt claims to have solved this. The solution for Shimano hubs is to get the bike outside, under cover, before the ride to allow the temperature of the hub to cool.  I'm not sure if this is still the case but it's worth researching if you can't leave your bike outside to allow the hub to cool to the ambient temperature.

Having said that I prefer generator lighting, I do continue  to carry and use battery powered lights for front and rear (USB charged in a couple of cases) and set the dimmer front light to blink when the traffic doesn't seem to notice cyclists (which could be most of the time in urban areas).  In total, I use up to 3 lights in the front and rear.  No sense in not doing everything reasonable to be seen.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

More winter dreaming - D2R2 2015

It's still winter and more snow is expected tonight.  The great melt started already but it's been slow and will come in fits and starts.  We expect rain and temps in the 40s on Wednesday but I'll be shoveling snow tomorrow morning.  It's not great fun at this point in this long, heavy, cold snow season and it impacts travel a lot.  And that means, for me, very limited opportunities to commute to work for bike, let alone recreational riding.  So, I continue to dream of summer rides, and that includes the D2R2.

I've done the D2R2 in various forms for the last two years and also in 2009.  I rode the 100K version in 2009 and loved it, in a way.  The roads were crowded, especially the narrow dirt and gravel sections and the more experienced dirt road cyclists barreled past me in ways that made me feel uncomfortable.  You can read my thoughts that I wrote right after the ride here.

I had a second child the next year and it was impossible to even consider doing the ride and it remained out of mind until 2013 when a colleague. Alex,  and his now wife were interested in riding it.  Carla's family runs a Franklin County farm and she has long been aware of the Franklin Land Trust, which benefits from the D2R2.  So I looked at the ride again and did the Green River Ride, which worked.  Another friend, Carl, joined us and we all loved the ride, which was pretty easy compared to the 2009 100K version.  You can read about that ride here.

Alex and Carla were interested in going beyond the Green River Ride in 2014.  There had been an extra loop for people like them, people who could do the dirt road ride and maybe wanted to see what the rest of the D2R2 looked like.  Unfortunately the covered bridge at the lunch spot was closed so the extra loop that the ride organizer, Sandy, planned on was not feasible, unless we wanted to cross the Green River on foot, which we didn't.  Very fortunately, Sandy emailed us instructions on how to extend the ride in a different direction, giving us 4 loops that we could take and see if we still wanted to do more.  His instructions were impeccable and I used these to make a GPX file for my Garmin.  As it turned out, Alex and Carla did the first loop but, with social activities planned for the early evening, bailed on doing more.  I decided that I should go through with at least one or two more of Sandy's extensions, which brought me onto the 100K route, some roads not on any route, and later to the 115K route after their lunch stop (which made more than a few people question their route finding skills, not mine).  I loved this ride and really enjoyed the quieter dirt roads and the busier roads, and I got to ride the last 15 miles with Mike Flanigan, which was a pleasure.  You can read more about it here.  Carl came with me to take pictures with his large format camera and hung out at the cornfield.  You can see his picture of Josie and Tyler here and his picture of Alex and Carla here.  I'm still waiting to see the picture he took of me.

So now people are planning on riding the 2015 D2R2, with a deadline of less expensive registrations fees expiring yesterday.  Alex and Carla already registered for the 100K.  I'm a fair weather dirt road rider and will pass on it and may pay the higher fee the week of the ride.  Or maybe I might just be happier taking the road less traveled while still participating in the big event.  I compiled all of Sandy's route extensions here and it looks like a fabulous ride for late summer, especially from this snowy vantage point.  Maybe Carl will join me for the ride or maybe I'll just do it on my own, joining other riders when I'm on the official route.

[Edit: I did the 2015 D2R2]