Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Not Just A Cycling Blog

Outward appearance may suggests my blog is about my bikes. This is not the case at all. I have many interests and endeavors that I hope to document in blog form. Life would be pretty dull without hobbies to fill the little spaces left over after job and family obligations. I try to cram the most into the recreational sliver of my daily pie chart of life.

Most evenings after dinner I can be found at the operating position at KD8JHJ my amateur radio station pictured above. I have been interested in radio since I was a young boy but never got around to getting an amateur license until the summer of 2008. Since that time I have acomplished many goals. I taught myself the International Morse Code and now use it as my primary mode of communication on the ham radio bands. I enjoy experimenting with antennas and implemented my laptop into my radio operations by using different digital modes to communicate keyboard to keyboard with hams around the world. All without any internet access using only the laptop, transmitter and an antenna outside. Pretty amazing stuff.

In the old days (up until a few years ago) one had to pass a Morse Code test to obtain an amateur radio license. Now only a simple multiple choice test on radio theory and basic rules and procedures is all that stands in the way of a person wishing to get their ham ticket. Over the years Morse Code has slowly been fazed out of commercial and military use first by the railroads in the 50's and 60's then lastly by the maritime services once satellite communication became established and widespread in the 80's and 90's. Because of this the amateur service followed suit and no longer is proof of Morse Code proficiency a requirement. Amateur radio is now the last service to continue to use radiotelegraphy or CW (continuous wave) as we call it. So we hams are the "keepers of the flame" so to speak, using and preserving the very first method of electronic communication. I am interested in history so I was naturally drawn to the code. Yes it does takes some effort to learn as it really is like another language but I think well worth it. Neat to have a conversation with someone a thousand miles away by simply beeping out dots and dashes.

Here's a list of the states and countries that I have made contact with over the last 16 months I have been an amateur radio operator.

Canadian Provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, British Columbia
Peurto Rico, Cuba, Guatamala, Uraguay, Columbia, Argentina, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Portugal, Switzerland, Russia.
My longest distance covered by radio to this date is 5009 miles to Orel, Russia. This past Saturday I made contact with Vladimir a 17 year old ham who lives in Orel about 200 miles south of Moscow.

Friday, January 22, 2010

General Purpose Ti Bike

Ever since the early 1990's I have wanted a titanium bicyle. Over the years I resigned myself to the fact I probably would never have one. I do ok but I don't have the salary of a dentist or a banker or an insurance company executive. About five years ago I found a titanium mountain bike frame for sale as a closeout from one of the big mail order houses. The frame is long and tall and is way to big for me as a trail bike but the geometry is fine for a commuter/road trainer/general purpose fun bike. For $350.00 I could not pass up the deal and the opportunity to ride on this magic metal. If that sounds like alot of cash go price a titanium bike today. The frame was built by a company called Titanium Sports Technology here in America. I threw on some decent components and have enjoyed this bike greatly. Out of my stable this bike gets ridden the most.

The Bike's initial configuration was a single speed with a 44T-16T gear set up. The weight was about 16 and 1/2 pounds and was a blast to zip around town. I even rode my 50 mile flat loop on it just to see if I could. Practicality won out and eventually on went the rear derailleur and some fenders. The weight is still a respectable 20 lbs with a seat pack and a couple full water bottles. I run a 12-25 road cassette on the back and the same 44T ring up front and have yet to find a hill I could not climb.

Old man winter has my part of the planet in his icy grip now so the ti bike is currently stuck in the trainer in the dining room where I spin away and watch tv. My usual routine is a 30 minute spin as a warmup for my strengh training workouts. In the winter time I taper down my cardio and concentrate on weight lifting. I find lifting challenging and a nice way to break up the monotony of off season cardio training. Where it really pays off is on the mountain bike trail. Upper body strength helps make bike handling easier and instills confidence.

Anyway back to the ti bike post. I know carbon fiber is all the rage in the cycling world now but I'm old school and I like my bikes made from metal tubes and welds.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


What is a recumbent? Here is a picture of the one I ride. It's made by a German company called HP Velotechnik.

These bicycles are nothing new. They have been around since the late 1800's. What makes the recumbent unique is that its design is not a cookie cutter standard like the traditional diamond frame bike that is familiar the world over. Recumbents are available in different wheelbases, wheel size and wheel combinations. For example my bike has a 20" front and and a 26" rear wheel. Frame geometry varies wildly as well as the amount of recline of the seat and steering controls.

My HP has what is called Under Seat Steering (USS). This is my favorite feature and was one of the reasons for my choosing this model. USS allows my arms to rest comfortably at my side. In colder weather I need only a light pair of gloves and my hands seem to stay much warmer than when riding my upright bikes. I have an unobsructed view of the road ahead and In my opinion it just looks cool. The only downside to USS is an increased turning radius.

So what's the conspiracy? I don't know if there really is one. I just wanted a catchy hook for my blog. In my 33 years of riding bikes I have ridden a century (100 miles) and quite a few metric centuries (100 km) on diamond frame bikes. If I am going to be on the bike for more than an hour the recumbent is my choice. I have often wondered why there are not more of these great bikes being ridden. In the last five years I have noticed more and more 'bents and trikes out on the rail trails so I think people are starting to see the light. Or at the very least their butts feel better after a long ride.