Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Family Ride

With temperatures topping out at 89 degrees on Memorial Day my wife's recommendation that we get an early start on our family bike ride turned out to be a wise decision.  The three of us were on the B & O Trail by 9:00 am heading north from Lexington, Ohio.  We rode seven miles to the northern terminus of the trail in Mansfield, Ohio letting Wyatt set the pace. We took breaks along the trail enjoying the fresh morning air and took some pictures at North Lake Park before heading back the way we had come.   

By the time we returned to the car we had logged a solid 14 miles.  I loaded up my wife and son's bikes and they headed into town by car.  I decided to add a few more miles on my own traveling south on the trail before turning west and continuing on homeward.  

Riding on the flat rail trail at a slower pace I felt pretty good.  Once I struck off on my own and got into the hills I could tell I wasn't fully recovered from Saturday's hill ride.  No soreness just a reluctance to turn the bigger gears on the climbs. The heat and Humidity were oppressive but that's not a complaint.  Heat does not bother me as long as I keep up a steady intake of water.  I took it easy and used my granny gear on the hills.  The purpose of this extended ride was just to enjoy the beautiful weather and rolling countryside of north central Ohio.    

This old metal sign from the Farm Burea I spotted on an old barn along the road.  

My route home took me down County Road 57 and past the farm where I spent my teenage years.  There is a two mile stretch along 57 that has always been gravel covered.  This was my first time this season passing along this particular road and I was hoping to find that the surface might finally be paved.  No such luck and the Motobecane got it's first taste of Ohio limestone.  Gravel roads and 23mm tires just don't go together. 

Eventually after three and a third hours in the saddle I pulled into the driveway hot and tired yet sublimely satisfied.  After jumping in the swimming pool we just set up the day before my family and I spent the rest of the day cooking out and relaxing in the back yard.  All in all a great weekend and a super start to the summer with lots of bike riding and quality family time.

Memorial Day Family Ride

Distance:  40.2 Miles
Ride Time:  3:20
Average Speed:  12 mph
Max Speed:  29.9 mph
Motobecane Odometer 187 miles

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Clear Fork Loop

One of my favorite road rides is the Clear Fork Loop.  Last year I documented this interesting route on the recumbent bike here.

This year to start the summer out proper I decided to sleep in and didn't hit the road until around noon.  While I ate a late breakfast and readied my kit the clouds broke up and it looked like it would be a great day.  Sunny skies and summer like conditions have finally arrived in Ohio.  Up until this point all of my rides on the Motobecane have been on relatively flat roads and rail trail.  I like to ride a hundred miles or so on a new frame at slower speeds to allow myself some time to become accustomed to the handling characteristics of a new bike.  Another important consideration to keep in mind during the break in period is structural integrity.  Regardless of frame material it is much better to learn of a hidden defect at 15 MPH than 35.

Resting assured that my new titanium frame was sound the day I have been waiting for had arrived.  The urge to see how the Motobecane plays in the hills was too great to resist any longer.  The familiar grades of the Clear Fork Loop would be the ideal testing ground for my new road bike.  

Orweiler Hill.  

Coming down this hill from the east I have clocked 53 MPH on a bicycle.  But today riding from the west I climbed this short but steep hillside.  As a long time mountain biker I love having a triple crank on my road bike.  The 30 tooth granny gear allows me to easily spin my way up hills without running my heart rate up to the maximum.

The Motobecane's light weight and my smart gearing choices make climbing a breeze.  On the downhills the bike feels very stable and sure.  Certainly the best handling road bike at speed that I have ever ridden.  At the bottom of this hill past the farm in the distance is a downhill S turn and a recently constructed sweeping banked left hand curve.  The bottom of the hill used to terminate in a much tighter curve that I never had the guts to negotiate without judicious feathering of the brakes.  The new road bed follows a much larger radius that I confidently carved at 27 mph without the slightest inclination to touch the brake levers.

  To top off the last third of the ride I was treated with a steady tailwind that allowed me to cruise at up to 24 mph on the flat run westward back to my home.

Clear Fork Loop

Ride Time:  2:00
Distance:  29.7 Miles
Avg Speed:  14.7 MPH
Max Speed:  32.5 MPH
Motobecane Odometer:  146 Miles

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

KD8JHJ Homebrew Vertical Antenna Update

Here is a peek inside the matchbox with the inductance coil in it's place.  The bottom end is not soldered to the PL-259 chassis mount connector yet.  If I have to shorten the coil a bit I can easily do so.  When I first removed the coil from the form the individual turns tightened up against each other like a spring or a slinky.  From past experience I learned that it is impossible to stretch out the coil by hand to precise spacing without deforming the soft copper wire.  After much consideration I decided to use a bead of epoxy resin to hold the coils apart at 1/8" intervals.  I am hoping that the resin does not cause any detrimental effects on the coil's ability to do it's job providing inductance.  The screw is now visible that penetrates through the back of the box and provides electrical contact to the antenna. 

The antenna lower section clamped in my Park Tools bicycle work stand.  While this stand works great for it's intended purpose I have also found it useful for many other tasks requiring a sturdy third hand.  One of my favorite non-bike uses for the Park stand is to hold an umbrella over the gas grill on rainy days.  It can also make an acceptable coat rack in a pinch.

Last night I measured and cut four radials from 12 gauge heavy duty copper stranded machine wire.  I crimped and soldered ring terminals to one end of each of the wires for easy and secure attachment to the wing nutted screws on the radial plate.  At the far ends I will use a polycarbonate insulator and short piece of cord terminating at a tent stake pounded into the ground.  I used this radial calculator to figure the length of the radial wires.  Entering 7.050 MHz as my target frequency the calculator showed 33.191 feet.  I cut the wires to 33 feet 3 inches. 

In the deployed position the matchbox will be between 5 and 8 feet above the ground.  The four radial wires will extend out from the antenna in the shape of a big X gradually sloping to about a foot off the ground.  In the following paragraph I will do my best to describe the purpose of this elevated radial system.

A major problem to overcome when using vertical antennas is ground losses.  To put it simply, the Earth loves to absorb Radio Frequency energy especially in the near field close to an antenna.  Because the radial wires are cut to 1/4 wavelength of the center of my operating frequency range they will act as little antennas themselves capturing some of the RF energy when I transmit and recycle it back into the antenna system before it is lost to earth.  I have learned that antennas are all about compromise and the name of the game is to minimize losses to maximize radiation efficiency.  Radial systems can be very large especially for the lower ham bands.  In my case for the 40 meter band I will need a square area 66 feet on a side.  Because my antenna is closer to 1/8 wavelength rather than 1/4 wave typically used for vertical radiators I have already compromised some efficiency so I feel a good radial system is essential.

The next stage will involve hooking up the antenna analyzer and sending some milliwatts up the feedline to see what happens.  In other words the the moment of truth is almost here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kokosing Gap Trail

This weekend's weather conditions were sunny and warm.  My son and I got out for a ride both days.  Saturday we put in a few miles on an urban ride around town.  Sunday afternoon we headed to the Kokosing Gap Trail in Knox County, Ohio.  When we ride the rail trails I hang back and let Wyatt set the pace.  He is stronger this year and with the added advantage of a geared bike he is doing great maintaining a steady speed and choosing the best gear for an efficient cadence. 

Kokosing Gap Trail

Ride Time:  46:14
Distance:  8.8 Miles
Average Speed:  11.3 MPH

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wyatt's New Wheels

For his 10th birthday this guy got this classy red upgrade.  For a while now he has been wanting shifters and better brakes.  His old bmx 20" bike while serviceable is very heavy and the handbrakes are very poor.  It takes most of my hand strength to close the calipers.  He rode the bmx for a couple of years and I wanted him to ride single speed so he would fully appreciate the advantage of changeable gears once he transitioned to a geared bike.

Choices are very limited when it comes to kid's bikes that are lightweight and built up with decent components.  When children are young and just getting into cycling the standard department store bike is fine but if a kid is lucky enough to be born into an avid cycling family he or she will quickly reach the limitations of the cheap bike.

After looking online at the Trek page I settled on the Trek FX 24" boys bike.  I made a call to the local bike shop (Trek dealer) and was surprised to find out they had one in stock.  My wife and I went over that evening and put a sold tag on it.  I've had the discussion with other cycling parents on the merits of the 24" wheel for the still growing rider.  Sure he will outgrow this bike in a couple short years but proper bike fit is important and that trumps any other considerations.  One other kid specific model that is worth mentioning is the  Felt F24.  The F24 is probably the highest quality performance oriented kid's bike on the market short of building one custom.  Although the Felt is a beautiful road bike it is very singular in purpose.  In the end I decided to go with the Trek for it's upright fitness bike style and handling qualities.  I felt the Trek better fit our general type of riding be it commuting, fast rail trail rides or simply junking about the rough pot-holed streets of our town.  In a few years if he wants a dedicated road bike he will have grown enough to spin full sized 700c wheels.

The Trek FX sports an aluminum frame, twist shifter with a seven speed cluster, 1.5" street tires and a rigid steel front fork.  The side pull brakes are powerful and the levers have a shorter reach perfect for smaller hands.  My only complaint is the 32 tooth non-changeable front chain ring.  I suspect this is the same crankset that comes on the 24" mountain bike and Trek simply spec'ed the fitness bike with the same component to keep things simple.  If my son starts clamouring for more top end I have a Shimano XT crankset with a 42 tooth ring not being used that would provide much taller gear ratios.  The Trek has a three piece square taper crankset so the older XT arms will bolt right up.  The bike weighs a respectable 25.2 pounds, a full 9 1/2 pounds less than his bmx bike.

We have enjoyed several short cruises around town and he has told me numerous times how he is loving this new bike.  Such talk is music to this cycling dad's ears.

Those pesky bottle cage mounting screws!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Ride

The Friday ride is a ritual of mine that I have come to enjoy.  With the work week complete I am usually in good mood and ready to begin weekend's activities.  I can't think of a better way to clear the head and feel the afternoon sun than with a little ride in the country.

B & O Trail

Ride Time:  1:50
Distance:  26.7 miles
Average Speed:  14.4 mph
Max Speed:  19.6 mph
Motobecane Odometer:  102 miles 


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Air core inductor

After dispelling my trepidation with a couple practice runs I am now pleased to present my very first air core inductor.  This basic electronic component I constructed from 8 turns of #16 magnet wire.  The diameter of the coil is 1.75".  The yellow pieces are toothpicks temporarily holding the turns of  the coil at a precise .125" spacing.

So what does an inductor do?   

Wikipedia's explanation makes as much sense as anything else I've read.  I've linked directly to the section on air core inductors of which my coil is an example.  This inductor will be the first thing my radio frequency energy reaches after traveling through the transmission line and arriving at the antenna.  The purpose of the coil is to bring the impedance of the antenna as close as possible to that of the 50 Ohm feed line.  Because of the inductor's precarious position at the base of the vertical radiator the coil will be permanently housed in the gray box I discussed in the last post.  Hence the name "matchbox".

Sunday, May 15, 2011

KD8JHJ Homebrew 40 Meter Vertical Antenna

A steady soaking rain fell all day so I decided to do a little fabrication work on the next phase of my first ever high frequency vertical antenna.  The tasks today involved drilling holes in the 1/4" Lexan match box mounting plate (above left) and fabricating a radial attachment plate.  The radial mounting plate (aluminum piece with the holes and 45 degree bent end tabs) I made from .050" aluminum to provide a sturdy attachment point for four resonant elevated radial wires.

The following photograph shows the components assembled and attached to the base of the antenna radiator.  The box will protect the impedance matching coil and also provide structure to secure the aforementioned radial wires.  A small hole drilled from the inside of the box will allow a stainless sheet metal screw to provide electrical contact from the top of coil to the base of the aluminum radiator. 

At this point I am really starting to get excited and nervous.  The time is drawing near when I will be erecting the antenna in the back yard atop the tripod and with the information gleaned from my antenna analyzer I can begin the tuning process.  I also want to point out that the article from the ARRL Handbook only mentions that a shunting coil is needed at the base of the antenna along with the required turns and diameter of said coil.  So all the engineering and fabrication outlined in this post is of my own design.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bicycle Commuting

We try to ride our bikes to work and school at least two days out of every week.  Last week we met the quota.  Here is the view from the road on our way to school Friday morning.  Our school campus is only a few years old and state of the art in every way except the entire layout was designed around the automobile.  To get to the school grounds we have to cross a state highway which becomes choked with car traffic during student drop off and pickup times.  Thankfully wide cement sidewalks were installed allowing access to the area without having to ride on the busy main road.  Although I personally don't believe bikes belong on the sidewalk it is really the only safe alternative for kids biking to school and riders are encouraged to use them so I go along with it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mustard-BBQ Chicken

Don't worry, Recumbent Conspiracy Theorist is not turning into a food blog.  Some secrets are just too good to keep under wraps.  This peculiar recipe came from my wife's sister's husband's family who hail from the Corpus Christi, Texas area.  

All the required ingredients are pictured above.  Ordinary yellow mustard, your favorite sauce and some chicken.  I prefer white meat chicken but this treatment works equally well for all parts of the bird.  Throw the meat on the grill and slop on a heavy coating of the yellow stuff to both sides.  Flip the pieces one time to allow the mustard to cook and dry a bit.  The mustard glaze is applied only once at the very beginning of the grill.  Continue to periodically flip the chicken and brush on liberal amounts of barbecue sauce.  I love the stuff and will typically consume a whole bottle basting my chicken.  Aside from the great flavor the sauce helps keep the meat moist as it cooks.  I grill the chicken for 30 - 45 minutes on low to medium heat.  Too much temperature and the meat dries out quickly.

Give it a try if your in the mood for something different.  I have been using this method for years now and never grab the barbecue sauce without the mustard. I grill out all year long so it's not surprising to see me snow shoveling a path to the gas grill in the dead of winter.  When the weather is warmer as it was last night and I have time to kill I love cooking on an open wood fire.  In the photograph I am using apple wood I cut last autumn for a sweet smokey flavor.     

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Milestones, Moms and Man's Best Friend

This past weekend I spent in Columbus, Ohio with my wife celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary.  For better or worse, rich or poor, in sickness and in health, boy ain't that the truth!  I also picked up a live flower and visited with my Mom on her day.  I always give my mother potted plants instead of cut flowers because she is an avid gardener and of course a lover of flowers. Amidst all that activity I still managed to chisel out a little time for a spin on the bike.  There is always time for a ride. 

My out and back loop took me into the flat farmlands west of town.  During it's third road ride the Motobecane felt as comfortable and fast as ever.  The bike's natural tendency to hold it's line was made evident once again when I sat up and removed my helmet to adjust the strap. As I rolled on down the road fumbling with my helmet I suddenly realized I wasn't paying the slightest bit of attention to my bars or the front wheel.  My legs turned a lazy cadence and the bike just tracked forward in the direction of my last input.  I can ride all of my bicycles except the recumbent no-handed but only on the Motobecane have I been able to completely disregard the controls and let the autopilot take over.  My other bikes all exhibit twitchiness to some degree and require attentiveness and care while hands are off the bar.

Also during this ride I experienced my first two vicious dog chases of the season.  Nothing like a huge surge of adrenalin and that intense fight or flight sensation to remind you your alive.  I stopped at the hardware store after work on Monday and purchased a can of pepper spay.  Now I have a spicy little treat for the next Fido with an attitude.

So far three rides with a total elapsed saddle time of 4:43 has set the odometer at 74 miles.  Unremarkable I'm sure in serious cycling circles but I like to think not too bad for this 40 year old 40 hour a week desk jockey.

Out & Back Loop

Ride Time:  1:33
Distance:  24 miles
Average Speed:  15.4 mph
Max Speed:  28.7 mph
Motobecane Odometer:  74 miles

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Road Bike Ride

Today after work I took off on the Motobecane road bike for a ride.  The temperature was a chilly 53 degrees and windy but finally a day without rain. I don't mind getting caught in a shower during a ride but I don't start wet.

I rode the regular local loop that circles my town.  It's a nice after work workout with minimal automobile traffic to contend with.  My gear consisted of headsweat (very thin hat worn under bike helmet to keep my ears covered), full finger gloves, thermal base layer, tights and my hi-vis yellow jacket.  My feet froze but otherwise it was still a great ride.  I am so ready for summer!

I have decided to issue a little personal challenge to myself and see how many miles I can rack up on the Motobecane in it's first season.  I will be posting rides as usual here on my blog so maybe that will cultivate some extra incentive to get out there and mash those pedals.

Local Loop Stats

Ride Time:  1:14
Distance:  20.0 miles
Average Speed:  16.2 mph
Max Speed:  28.7 mph
Motobecane Odometer:  50 miles