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Video from WHPSC 2014

I usually don’t repost content from other sources but I had to post this video which was edited from footage taken by Team Tetiva last September 2014 at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge.

As documented elsewhere on this blog, the WHPSC is an annual gathering of people who try to break the absolute speed record for bicycles on flat ground, on highway 305 just south of Battle Mountain Nevada. This is a fairly long video that might only be significant to the participants of this event. However, it does a really good job of showing how these streamlined recumbent bicycles are launched at the start of the 5 mile run up, as well as the catch area where the bikes are brought to rest at about 1.5 miles beyond the timing traps.

What makes this a treat for me is that I’ve never spent much time at either start or catch, so this is one of the first looks that I’ve had of these parts of each run. The other thing that makes this special is to see the cooperation of people from all the teams, from all over the world, working together at catch to keep the bikes from falling over, and taking the fairings off as soon as possible so that the racers can breathe and recover after their runs. It is a competition, but everyone shares the joy of when a racer gets in a fast run.

Credits: videography by Earl Cassorla, with footage from Alexei Kiristaev and Team Tetiva, edited by Warren Beauchamp (who runs the recumbents.com website, an invaluable resource for the HPV community).

Life is good

A couple of weeks ago, I was bummed because I broke a Park Tools drinking glass that was a gift from a dear friend.

Last week, when I got home from work and got ready for dinner, the older daughter surprised me with a replacement, filled with beer, no less.

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Life is good.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am a fan of rain capes.  They might not be the most stylish piece of gear, but they keep you dry, and they also keep you from sweating in comparison to wearing a shell and rain pants.

About a year ago, I saw a very stylish rain cape at the Toronto Bike Show, and given that it was made “domestically” (in this case meaning the US) by a small company that says all the right things about “livable cities” on their website, I picked one up from the nice folks at Allo Vélo.

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It is a Cleverhood, which has gotten some nice reviews in the bike press.  Lots of nice features such as slits for the hands for when you are off the bike that snap closed with magnets. I noticed that it was picked up as a retail item by the Spacing Magazine store here in town.

So how does it compare with my very cheap plastic Chinese rain cape?  Of course it is much higher quality, and the fit of the hood is quite good. Of course there are limits to how good it looks since we are talking about a rain cape: you can judge for yourself how it looks.

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Compared to this:

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Much delayed first impressions:

When I rode off for the first time, I was using the built in thumb loops. I immediately figured out that this made it impossible for me to signal my turns. For me, for the way that I ride in the city, this is the single biggest bone that I have to pick with this cape. Of course it is possible to ride without using the thumb loops, in which case you have to take some care in holding a corner of the cape with your hands on the handlebars.

My cheap Chinese cape has a clip in the front that fastens the centre of the front hem to the stem or handlebars, and this is surprisingly effective.

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So I put some velcro onto the same spot of my Cleverhood to do the same thing. First a square of loop velcro on the cape:

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then a length of double sided Velcro that can be laid sideways or vertically, depending on whether you want to fasten the cape to your stem or handlebars.

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With this simple mod, I find the Cleverhood to be as useful as the other rain cape. If the vendor wanted to consider a more permanent solution, that would be great. A possible alternative would be to have two sets of thumbloops, with the second set further out on the cape in order to give enough slack in front to allow for hand signals.

The Cleverhood comes in several different fabrics. I chose the electric houndstooth for the look (just what you would want if it happened to rain during a Tweed Run) but it is fairly heavy and bulky in the pannier. If this is a concern, I’d suggest one of the the lighter fabrics.  Or, a sub $20 vinyl cape from ebay……

 

 

Retiring my rain boots

I’ve been using a pair of Tretorn Strala Vinter rain boots since about 2010.

Last year, I noticed that they started leaking, and this fall it was obvious that the rubber uppers had cracked. It was time to retire them.
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They have served me well. I used them on rainy days, and also biking through most of the winters, supplementing them with thick wool socks.
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They have been replaced by a much more expensive pair of Bluntstones, which were a birthday present.

(BTW you can get them for 20% off at the Australian Boot Company if you are a Cycle Toronto member.)
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Impressions after a couple of months:

  • They certainly have much better traction.
  • They are probably a touch warmer than the Stralas.
  • They are much more comfortable. The vertical slit in the rubber upper of the Stralas that was behind the elastic panel was always an issue.
  • Also, my girls no longer point at my feet and say that I’m wearing duck shoes.

So far so good. We’ll see how they hold up.

From the pictures posted to Twitter, it looks like Cycle Toronto got a good crowd out for today’s ride.

https://vine.co/v/Otwr1JIBLI9/embed/postcard

I wish I was out there with everyone. Instead, I’m stuck indoors doing stuff like this:

It’s a comparatively balmy -7°C right now, the wind is not too bad, and we had some snow just a couple of days ago to make things pretty. Ride safe everyone!

Here’s my report from 2013

and from 2012

Update: some exceptionally nice photos of the event here.

The Trouble with Kickstarter

Over the past three or four years, I’ve funded various bike related projects and products on Kickstarter. Of these, I’ve reviewed the Torch Bike Helmet and the Blaze Laserlight in past blog posts. Both are examples of unique products that were brought to market by entrepreneurs via crowdfunding, and I’ve been pretty happy with both. However, if I look at all of the bike related Kickstarter projects that I’ve helped fund, I can see that my Kickstarter experience has been somewhat of a mixed bag. This table summarizes all of these projects. Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 5.49.09 PM As you can see, funded projects range from printed things (comics, shirt, posters), bike accessories (lights, camera), documentary films, and the latest: a complete cargo bike. Vendors ranged from individuals to established companies. There are a couple of patterns. The most obvious one is that in cases when a completely new product has to go from a prototype that is just at the stage where launching the Kickstarter is possible, all the way to a product manufactured in large batches, things can be delayed significantly. The most overdue project is a high intensity bike headlight that promises not only to be exceptionally bright, but to have well designed optics for a beam pattern that has a sharp vertical cutoff. Given the rapid development of LED’s over the past two years, I now question whether the light will be competitive with recent commercial lights such as the latest from Fenix. The Blaze light and the Torch helmet were less late, and also had the advantage that both were arguably unique products, with no direct commercial equivalents. In both cases, a steady stream of updates during the long delays made the waits more bearable. The other two product Kickstarters that I am waiting on are the Haul a Day Cargo Bike, and the Bitlock electronic bike lock. These are quite different projects. The Haul a Day involves Bike Friday, which is a very well established manufacturer that was raising capital in order to be able to expand their ability to built cargo bikes on a larger scale. I already own two of their bikes, and I have every confidence that their bike will be of high quality, and that their after sales customer support will be great. Thus, it wasn’t much of a risk to support them, and as a cargo bike user, I also support their larger goal of popularizing longtail cargo bikes for everyday utility biking. The Bitlock falls more into the category of the Torch or Blaze: a first time group that is still working out the bugs in supply chain, etc. The delay means that their product will no longer be that unique. There have been a couple of other bike locks on Kickstarter since then, and there is a crowdfunded solar powered competitor as well. This won’t necessarily affect the unit that I will get as a result of the Kickstarter, but it certainly would affect the viability of the Bitlock as a commercial product in the long run. I have also supported projects that I have a personal connection to, such as the two Aerovelo projects, and more peripherally, the Graeme Obree film. In all three cases, I’m more than willing to cut the projects a little slack. Finally, there are some projects related to bike culture or bike advocacy such as the Less Car More Go, or Cars vs Bikes documentaries. Here again, I am basically supporting a cause and am not so concerned about what I actually end up with at the end of the day. I had to support the second one as I am actually in the trailer for the film. Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 8.47.32 PM (from Bikes vs Cars trailer, footage taken during the Henry Mejia Memorial Ride) What do I consider when I back a project? If it is a bike widget, I look first for uniqueness, tempered by the expectation that I might end up with something that is not fully sorted, and that might not have any meaningful warranty support in the future. Given that most of these things are made in small numbers, I’m not necessarily going to get something that is a screaming good deal, as it is very very difficult to compete on price with established bike accessory manufacturers. I do take care in reading the descriptions of the projects, but in some cases I still end up with something that I won’t necessarily use that much. Case in point: the Fly6 video camera. I didn’t realize at the time that this unit only mounts on a seatpost, and on all my bikes, I either don’t have enough exposed seat post, or there is a pannier, rack or bag that will block the view of this unit. I’ll figure out how to use it eventually, but in the meantime, there have been plenty of other small video cameras that are capable of loop recording that have come down in price. Of the product projects that do get funded, I’m not sure how many will survive as retail products. The Blaze Laserlight is a very nicely designed product, but the price point is quite high, and the safety that it provides is probably not more than what $200 spent on other bike lighting products would provide. I do get lots of comments on it though. Similarly, I get lots of questions about the Torch Helmet, so there would appear to be a market for it as well. One bike project that attracted a lot of funding was the Vanhawk bike, which promised to integrate smart electronics into a carbon fiber urban bike. I wasn’t that interested in the bike as I didn’t buy into the concept, and I had some reservations about the apparent lack of bike design smarts as presented on the kickstarter page (their prototypes clearly had some issues), but it was fascinating to read the backer comments and expectations during their campaign. Here was a bike promising all sorts of things at a price point that was pretty low. The other thing about the project was there were all sorts of bells and whistles to be added to be bike such as disc brakes and belt drive at various stretch goals. Delivering a carbon bike with embedded electronics and haptic feedback for $1000 was going to be a challenge ($1250 with a NuVinci hub). With the over the top success of their campaign, they now have to provide belt drive and disk brakes as well at the same price point, something that I think would be a challenge for an established bike manufacturer. For example, here is a non carbon bike with similar bike spec without the whizz bang electronics for $1400. It looks like they have hired some good people so I hope that they pull this off, and it was amazing to see the buzz during the campaign, but I hope the backers of this project will not be disappointed.

Here is an interesting article about kickstarter and crowdfunding gadgets in general.

Update: Aerovelo delivered the ETA Speedbike swag today, so they made their February deadline!
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My year on bikes 2014

It’s time to sum up my year in terms of bike activities. Firstly, my mileage totals, which are significantly off the average since I was on leave for six months, as well as the fact that my riding year ended early in December. Nevertheless, there were a decent total number of rides, reflecting the large number of errands that I ran by bike.
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February:
Biking on the Humber River
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Icycle 2014
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April:
Bikecentric urban design in Tokyo
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May:

HPV Racing at Waterford, MI

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June:
The Sunnyside Bike Park: a fantastic, family friendly facility on the lakefront in Ward13.
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July:

A visit to Bedford Unicycles

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Checking out the Cornwall Bikeway in Vancouver
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Jenna Morrison Memorial Footpath
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August:
Memorial ride for Immanuel Sinnadurai; one of three memorial rides this year in Scarborough.
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Ward13 Audit Ride with Sarah Doucette and Peggy Nash We are working to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians going to and from the Lakefront.
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The team gets ready for BM2014
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Open Streets TO, take two
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September:
World Human Powered Speed Challenge 2014; hanging out with the world’s fastest cyclists once again.
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October:
The Reading Line: a great books and bike event.
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Watching the steady progress on the Harbord Bike Lanes
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Installing Atlas (the human powered helicopter) at the Ontario Science Centre

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November:
Checking out the very active social bike scene in Baltimore
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December:
My riding for the year comes to an untimely end.
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Very much looking forward to getting back on the bike next year.

Safe riding in 2015, everyone!

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