Tried and liked 2016

Looking back at all the gear reviews I did in the past year, there are a couple of bike related items that I can recommend to anyone.

First up: cargo slings by Carsick Designs.


These bags replaced the ones that came with my Haul a Day that had more or less worn out after about a year of service. They are much better built, are wider, and carry more stuff. Also, you can get them in a variety of colours. The safety orange ones I got were a custom order for a slight upcharge. Despite the weakness of the Canadian dollar, these bags are worth the extra cost.

Raincapes: I’ve blogged about the advantages of raincapes before. This year, Cleverhood came out with a budget option called the Cleverlite that is still sewn in the US. My review compares it to a couple of other options.


BTW if you are in Toronto, the Cleverlite is sold at the Spacing Store, alongside its fancier but more expensive sibling.


If the made in North America factor is not important to you, then I can also recommend the raincapes by Impac that are sold thru the Bike Doctor in Vancouver.

As I’ve noted before, one thing that you can do with any raincape is to find a way to fasten the centre of the front hem to the vicinity of the centre of your bars. This keeps in draped properly, even if you aren’t using the thumbloops (for example where you are signalling a turn). I sewed a patch of velcro to the cape


and I have a loop of double sided Velcro strap on my bars so that the cape is fixed like so:

Wool balaclavas: This is somewhat of a holdover from previous years. However, I got a new one this year that has a four piece design that allows it to be used variously as a balaclava or a neck gaiter. If you are interested in the details you can read this breathless description from Outlier. Mine was from Trew, but I see that it has disappeared from their website. The construction also lets me pull it down under my chin with less tension than a regular single opening design.

Since the TREW is no more for the moment, a good alternative is the one from Wind River. Also note the Safe Zone mirror on my helmet: the only mirror that is adjustable on the fly.

Charlene Seat Pack from Porcelain Rocket.  I added this to my Tikit so that I could stow a toolkit and still leave plenty of space for a light rain jacket and snacks, or even a baguette. It is very well constructed, and much lighter than an old Carradice seat pack that it replaced. Note that MEC has started to carry this line. Also note that although these are not sewn in Calgary anymore, they are still made in North America.

Proviz Reflect 360+ Cycling Jacket.  Retroreflective fabric all over.  Enough said.


The jacket, together with front and rear dynamo lighting and my Torch T2 helmet keeps me plenty visible at night.

Here is my favourites list from 2015.

My year on bikes 2016

According to Cyclemeter, I’ve logged over 800 rides in 2016, and about 7000 km.


Here are some month by month highlights.

January: Coldest day of the year ride.


February: Ice Cycle 2016


March: Lucy and I get filmed for a music video.


1) HPVDT at ASME East. The team didn’t quite get their entry ready to run this year.


2) Toronto Ride of Silence


3) Bike to work day


1) Towards Vision Zero


2) A trip to Tokyo, including a visit to Cycle House Shibuya to see lots of folding bikes, and a look at bikeshare in Tokyo.

July: lots of activity this month:

1) checking out the cargobike and e-bike scene in Vancouver.


2) Seattle to Portland on a folding bike.


3) Ward 13 Audit ride with our local MP, MPP, and city councillor


4) A visit to Glasgow, checking out the nextbike bikeshare system, and a visit to Kinetics: a recumbent and Brompton dealer.


1) opening of the Bloor bike lanes


2)  Open Streets TO with a cargobike meetup.

3) participating in the Brompton Urban Challenge, and comparing my tikit to the Brompton.

September: another busy month.

1) A brief trip to Oslo, and a look at the city by bike

2) my annual trip to the WHPSC, where Todd Reichert resets the world record to just under 90 mph, and a first time team from Japan does surprisingly well.

3) Bells on Bloor, Victory Lap Edition

October: Cycle Toronto bikes Bloor Danforth


November: checking out the bike scene in Hamilton with a short ride up the escarpment in the company of Cycle Hamilton

December: back to winter biking.

Happy holidays, and safe riding next year!

Looking forward to the installation of more bike infrastructure across the city, and the approval of a permanent Bloor Bike Lane.

My trusty winter steed

We’ve gotten two storms worth of snow in the last three days, and it’s been fun being out and about with my winter bike: a Louis Garneau  Sub Zero. It came with Kenda Klondike studded tires, which are a bit narrower and knobbier than the Schwalbe Winter Marathons on my previous winter bike, and they’ve been fine in a variety of snowy conditions.


The only additions that I’ve made to the bike are a rear rack, a Japanese kickstand, and Handlebar Bootie pogies that are now sold under the Metal Tiger brand.  The pogies add an easy 10C to the temperature rating of my gloves, and they cut the wind besides.

Also, I swapped out the galvanized chain (that rusted solid after two seasons) with a stainless chain.

I don’t ride this bike nearly as much as my other bikes (since I only ride it during the winter, but I’ve managed just enough so that I’m under $2 per ride).

The only other things I’m going to add are mudflaps to keep my feet drier on those days where there is a lot of snow melt in the bike lanes. Perhaps Buddy Flaps, which have done really well on the pink bike.

It’s also really important to be highly visible, especially during near whiteout conditions. I’m a big fan of my Torch T2 helmet, and my Proviz Reflect 360+ jacket. I also use a Safe Zone mirror, which is the only helmet mirror that can adjust on the fly. For those folks in Toronto, you can check out the mirror at Hoopdriver Cycles or Urbane Cyclist.


Ride on, and ride safe!

and keep in mind that the next World Winter Bike to Work Day is February 10 2017.

It snowed pretty heavily yesterday and last night, but the plows were busy overnight, and most of the major streets had been plowed. Add to this the relatively balmy temps, and it was a good day to ride to work.

Here is the single snowiest part of my ride in: a stretch of Edwin Ave.


The West Toronto Railpath was clear.


Entering the Bloor bike lane at Shaw. Looks clear.


One small niggle: when the bike lane transitions from a section cleared by a regular plow to a parking protected section that was plowed separately, there is snow plowed into the transition. If it was frozen solid, this would have been an issue. Another problem with the curbside bike lane is the tendency for merchants to clear sidewalk snow onto it.


It is not to say that my ride in wasn’t peaceful. What with the snow, I had the bike lanes pretty much to myself, and there wasn’t the problem of having to pass slower cyclists, or having faster ones buzz by.  Kudos to the City for keeping them clear.


Have to end with this tweet from Yehuda Moon.


image source

Evening update: not so impressed by the snow clearance on Harbord.


but on the other hand, Annette was fine.


Oculus bike headlight

One of the earliest kickstarter projects that I backed was for an American made high intensity bike light. The campaign ended in Oct 2012, with a projected delivery date of January 2013. However, the delivery was repeatedly delayed, and in the end I did not get anything for my initial $161 US pledge. However, just a couple of months ago I received an email that the original vendor was starting to sell a second generation version of the light. The only compensation for original backers was a discounted price. I took the chance of throwing good money after bad, and after payment of an additional $67.50 I received the light in short order.


Inside the box, the light with integral mount and two batteries.


The light looks solid, although there is a bit of the homemade feel to it.


We’ll see how long this plug attachment lasts.


The light weighs 255g with the mount.


Here it is mounted. If you use the appropriate amount of silcone wrap, it stays in position pretty well.


The mount is part of the light, so when you take it off the bike, all that is left is the silicone wrap.


Here is the beam pattern.


Compare this with a Planet Bike Blaze 2W.


Or the Ixon IQ Premium.


The last time I compared several headlamps, the brightest one was the PDW Lars Rover 650. The beam pattern is circular, and I’ve set a shutter speed and aperture so that just the central hotspot is visible.


Now the Oculus at the same camera settings, on the brightest of five settings.


By eye, the brightness of the Lars Rover 650 at its highest setting (nominally 650 Lumens) is between the 2nd and 3rd brightness levels for the Oculus. As another comparison, the Oculus on the second lowest level is about equivalent to my Lumotec Eyc dynamo light.

The beam pattern of the Oculus doesn’t have the sharp horizontal cutoff of the german lights. It looks like five overlapping tightly focused beams. The upper two look like longer distance spotlights, and the lower row of three fills in at closer distances. It is a very effective beam pattern.

In summary, the Oculus puts out an impressive amount of light. Somewhat surprisingly for a light that was originally designed four years ago, the performance/cost ratio still appears to be higher than other comparable lights, such as those from Light and Motion. (The retail price of this 1500 lumen light is $150 US.)

However, the long term durability of the light is unknown as you are essentially buying a light from a home builder.

If you are one of the original Kickstarter backers, there’s not much to be said. Kickstarter gives no guarantee that the items promised are actually delivered. Given that at least some of the backers got their lights, I wouldn’t put this campaign on the level of the cooler, or the Pebble watch. If you never got a light, you can contact Barry, and you’ll be given the same options as I had.

On a somewhat related note, I went over to Hoopdriver Cycles and I saw that Knog is now selling the retail version of their Oi bike bell. The small bell in particular is both louder and more sustained than the ones I got from Kickstarter. I guess than we Kickstarter backers are a bit out of luck on this campaign as well.


First snow on ground 2016

So it snowed a bit overnight, so just out of reflex, I switched over to the winter beater.


This past spring, after a couple of winters, the galvanized chain that was supplied with the bike had more or less rusted into a solid piece, and so this past winter I swapped it out for a stainless chain.  Pulling the Sub Zero out of the garage, I see that the chain is doing just fine.


And off I go. It turns out that the balaclva was total overkill for this morning.


Going in was slow, slow, slow. People were passing me on the Bloor bike lanes!  Was it that I was just getting older?  No, as it turns out, my rear drum brake was dragging the whole time. I loosened up the cable, and dropped by Urbane for a shot of cable lube, and all was fine on the way back home.

BTW, if you want a pair of the handlebar booties you can see in the first picture, then Urbane does sell them. Here’s a picture of a pair on one of the shiny bikes in their showroom.


It’s getting dark and slippery out there. It looks like next week will be even more fun.


Ride safe everyone!


Traction on road markings

Note that this blog post is a companion piece to an article on the Dandyhorse blog where the city has furnished quite a bit of additional information.

I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that there is less traction on the green patches that have been incorporated into several recent examples of bike infrastructure around town. The City of Toronto advises that the green paint is a thermoplastic material that has been blended with grit to give traction similar to asphalt.

Having had training in both Physics and Engineering, I decided to see if I could measure the difference in traction between ordinary asphalt, and asphalt covered in two different kinds of road markings. After some thought, I decided to repurpose some equipment that our undergraduate students have been using to measure the tensile strength of materials. What is relevant to the present discussion is that there is a force sensor that can be hooked to a computer to record force as a function of time.

Here is a picture of the apparatus.


The red string pulls on a lever that presses against a silver plunger that sticks out from one of two blue boxes (the one to the left that is labelled “Force Sensor” in small green type.)  The apparatus has four small rubber feet underneath. The idea is to drag the whole thing to the right by pulling on the red string while recording the force measured, which would be a measure of the frictional force.

The first set of measurements were done on a crosswalk on Runnymede Rd. Here is a picture of the setup being dragged.


I will note that this was done on pavement that was slightly wet from rain earlier in the day.  I started the measurement on asphalt, dragged the meter all the way across the white stripe, and then some distance on the asphalt, just so that I could see if there was a different on and off the marking. The data for three separate runs are shown below. The horizontal axis is time in seconds, and I’m not going to quantify the force reading on the vertical axis.


As you can see, the measurements are fairly consistent, and that there is a dip in each curve (from 4-8 seconds), corresponding to when the meter is being dragged across the white paint as opposed to the asphalt.  Clearly, there is a reduction in friction on the white paint.

Since each of the curves has quite a bit of scatter, I take the average value for the asphalt and the paint sections (with the standard deviation as the error). The results are as follows:

  • asphalt: 5.4 ±0.5
  • white paint: 4.4 ± 0.5

The net result is a 20% ±10% reduction in friction on the white paint.

Now onto the green bike boxes. The difficult here was that my ability to take measurements was somewhat hampered by the fact that I was dodging traffic while doing so. Here is a picture where I took the data, on the Annette bike lane at Dundas St. West.


The data is taken where I draft the meter off of the green paint. Here is the data:


If you are charitable, you might imagine that the first part of the curve, say from 1.5 – 3 seconds is a little higher than from 4-6.  This would indicate that the traction on the green paint is actually higher than on the asphalt.  The numbers are as follows:

  • green paint: 5.6 ±.5
  • asphalt: 4.8 ± 0.6

Therefore, in this case the variation in the data is comparable to the difference measured between the two surfaces, and so it is not possible to conclude that there is a clear difference. If fact, if there is a difference, the green paint might actually provide slightly better traction than bare asphalt.  I will note that the asphalt section adjacent to the green paint was very rough (much rougher than the asphalt on the Runnymede bike lane), and this probably reduced the contact area between the rubber feet and the pavement, which would account for the comparatively friction reading for asphalt. At any rate, the green paint is very comparable in traction to bare pavement, and appears to give better grip that the white paint used for crosswalks (and I assume for bike lane markings etc).