Saturday, June 30, 2012

Storm Damage

Late Friday afternoon a severe storm blew through North-Central Ohio.  High winds brought down trees which in turn knocked out power service.  Our electricity was out for six hours and aside from a few smaller branches down in the backyard we made it through ok.  This morning after breakfast I took a tour of the city on my recumbent bike and documented some of the damage.

Damage was not just limited to trees.  Here the metal top cap was torn loose and masonry damaged on this industrial building.  Windspeed reports during the storm vary from 50- 70 mph.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Ergon Grips

Besides the invention of the recumbent bicycle over 100 years ago numerous products have been brought to market claiming to enhance the riding experience or make a bike more comfortable.  Most of these claims are dubious at best.  (For example the saddle with the funny slot in the center.)  When it comes to the traditional diamond frame bike the design is perfect from a bio-mechanical standpoint but for anything other than short trips comfort is the first factor that begins to chip away at the fun that is riding a bike. 

Of course it's easiest to forgo all the inherent problems of an upright and just ride a recumbent enjoying the comfortable seat, aerodynamic advantage and great view.  However there are times when I prefer to ride a standard bike over the recumbent and commuting is at the top of that list.  My commute is a short twenty minute ride one-way comprised of quiet residential streets and busier urban areas.  When negotiating busy city streets filled with traffic I like the upright riding position that a diamond frame provides.  Starting up from a stop is easier, visibility is good and for any ride under an hour or less I find the wedgie seat to be more or less comfortable.

I'm always open to any ideas that might make my time aboard my standard bicycles more enjoyable.  Last Monday I picked up a pair of Ergon grips at the local bike shop.  Ergon's have been around a while but I never gave them much thought until I noticed that bike blogger bikesnobnyc uses them on one of his bikes. Bikesnob is very critical when it comes to cycling products and bikes and while he doesn't ride a recumbent he knows enough about bikes in general that he's written a couple of books about them.  I figure if the Ergon's pass the bikesnob litmus test they are probably worth the money.
ODI lock-ons I've been grabbing since I built the Ti general purpose bike.

Ergon Grips installed - Recumbents for your palms!

I have been testing out the new ergonomic rubber handlegrips this week and I am truly amazed at the drastic improvement the Egon's are over my old traditional round grips.  After a short period of trial and error rotating the grip on the bar the sweet spot can be found and the collars can be locked down.  Before I was always looking for the opportunity to sit up and ride no-handed or constantly shifting my palms around on the old grips in a vain attempt to find a comfortable position.  Now I leave my hands on the bars and sit up much less.

It's hard to find words to describe the feel of the Ergons.  The grip's shape provides much more surface area to support the palm and I think that is the key.  The palm pad that extends rearward is rubber and slightly flexible adding a bit of shock absorbtion.  The "sweet spot" I mentioned above locks the wrists into a natural position without uncomfortable bends or kinks.  While standing the sticky rubber feels more like a regular grip.  The Ergons are not overly spongy so feedback through the bars remains crisp and precise.  It's been a while since I've bolted something on a bike that really makes me want to ride it as these new grips have.  In closing if you want the ultimate in comfort ride a recumbent but if you have a standard bike with a straight bar and want to improve the ride for little money and effort try a set of Ergons!

As a side note I'm pleased to report five days in a row of bicycle commuting.

Ride safe and Happy upcoming 4th of July to my American readers out there!  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Field Day 2012

Time sure flies! I can't believe another Field Day has come and gone.  This past weekend I participated in my third event with my club W8BAE (Crawford County Amateur Radio Club).  My son Wyatt is not a radio nut like me but he loves camping so he helped with the set up of our tent and antenna.  He secured permission from the landowner to go fishing and shooting with his pellet gun so he had fun while I was busy making contacts.

My 40 meter CW/Digital station

So what is Field Day?  FD is an annual event put on the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) with clubs and individual hams all over America and Canada participating.  Field day encompasses many aspects of amateur radio.  Experience is gained from setting up and operating a station in primitive conditions and sometimes harsh environments.  FD is a unique opportunity to showcase our hobby to the general public as well as a great way to learn about antennas and other technical aspects of radio.  Perhaps most importantly is the fellowship shared between club members both on the air and off as obstacles are overcome while good times and great food are enjoyed in the outdoors.  The other side of Field Day is the competitive side.  The operating event is like a contest with the goal being to work as many different stations as possible during designated time period.  Some clubs will put forth serious efforts to gain the top spots while others just enjoy the great outdoors, casual operation and camaraderie.

Here is a few of the antennas that were in operation this year at the W8BAE Field Day site:

20 meter inverted -V for operation at 14 MHz

80 meter horizontal loop (3.5 - 4 MHz)

My 40 meter top loaded vertical (7 MHz)

My homebrew vertical antenna worked great for FD netting me 60 contacts in 23 U.S. states and the District of Columbia using CW (Morse Code radio telegraphy) and PSK-31 digital mode.  Of course I had fun showing off my handiwork and received many compliments on my antenna.

My only complaint is the high speeds of Morse Code used during the event.  Stations running at or below 20 words-per-minute are few and far between.  My copy skills at 30 wpm are far from adequate so I usually need to listen to a station work through a few exchanges to make sure I have copied all the info correctly before throwing in my callsign and making contact.

By Saturday evening my brain was fried from hours of high speed code so I switched over to digital operations.  This was my first time using PSK-31 during FD and I found I really enjoyed the keyboard digital mode.  The digital modes are slowly growing in popularity and more and more clubs are putting digital stations on the air for Field Day making this a viable option for operators looking for something different besides CW and Phone (side band voice).  I will still be on the air next year with Morse code but I also plan to dedicate some time and effort into PSK.


The above photograph I took Saturday night shows a small slice of spectrum around 7.070 MHz alive with PSK-31 signals.  The small window at the bottom of the screen is called the "waterfall" as the signals flow in real time from the top to the bottom.  The two small "prongs" appear at the beginning of a transmission and a single prong or tail shows when the transmission terminates.  Besides showing the exact frequency of a signal the graphic representation provided by the waterfall also shows signal strength with the strongest signals showing up bright yellow and the weaker ones ghosting to various degrees in the background.

While the planning and logistics for a Field Day operation can be a bit stressful once everything is up and running the event is loads of fun.  I might even venture to say that FD is my very favorite ham radio related activity.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Norah Jones

Earlier this year I picked up Norah Jones' new CD "Little Broken Hearts".  This record produced by Danger Mouse along with a new band has a bit different sound than her previous work.  The songs are dark and edgy.  Norah definitely pulled up a bucket full of inspiration from the well of break-ups and betrayal and does a great job conveying these raw emotions through her singing and songwriting.

We scored some tickets to the first show of the tour and yesterday made a 300 mile road trip to the great Midwestern city of Indianapolis, Indiana.  My wife and her friend had balcony seats together but they bribed me into being their driver with a single third row center ticket.

Upon arrival in Indy we parked the car and took off on foot.  We enjoyed the bustle of the city as we made our way to a seafood restaurant where we had previously made our reservations.  Obviously Indianapolis is a thousand miles away from the nearest salt water but the food at The Oceanaire Seafood Room was so fresh it seemed like the docks were just down the street.  Highly recommended.

The venue was about a mile walk away and not objectionable in the least after a four hour car ride.

I took 45 pictures from my seat but these four were the only unblurry shots.  There is only so much that can be done with a point and shoot in a darkened theatre.  Still they are neat pictures that capture the visual part of the show and add to the memories of a fun evening.

Here's my favorite shot from after the show:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Recumbent Ride -- B & O Trail

Last Friday I picked up an inexpensive rear-view mirror for Wyatt's bike.  I liked it so much I went back and spent another $4.99 and got one for the recumbent.  I normally rely on my helmet mirror but there are instances when I choose not to wear a helmet and because it is nearly impossible to twist my neck around while reclined on the bike a mirror of some sort is essential.  The mirror, made by the helmet company Bell has a flexible stem and tool-less mounting clamp make set up a breeze.  I leave the clamp snug yet still loose enough to spin around the handlebar for when I lean the bike up on the left side or in the event of a spill.  The mirror is a convex type and provides a wide angle view however the saying: "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear" does apply.  The mirror works especially well at night detecting car headlights approaching from the rear.  The lens is most likely made from a metalized plastic and does not possess the greatest clarity but for five dollars it serves it's purpose.

On Saturday after completing my chores I packed up and drove to the B & O Trail in Richland County and enjoyed a pleasant late afternoon cruise.  I've noticed during the past month on my rides an abundance of wildlife.  Rabbits, chipmunks and woodchuck populations are booming. My wife and I even saw a mink from the motorcycle a couple weeks ago.  Could it be the mild winter we had?  As I made my way down the bike trail I spotted this turtle crossing the path.  He was taking his good sweet time and I left him to his own devices not fearing for his general safety on the bike trail.  When I encounter turtles on the road I usually stop and help them across before they become a speed bump for passing autos.

Nothing else really noteworthy to report just a peaceful and relaxing couple of hours aboard the recumbent.  Excellent medicine for body and soul. 

B & O Trail

Bike:  HP Velotechnik Street Machine
Ride Time:  2:18
Distance:  30.07 miles
Average Speed:  12.9 mph
Max Speed:  20.0 mph
Odometer:  2332.7 miles

Monday, June 11, 2012

Wyatt's First Night Ride

Friday night we decided to go for a night ride.  When summer time temperatures climb going for a ride after sundown is a great way to beat the heat.  This was a special trip because it was my son's first ride out after dark.  I can't remember my first night ride but I can recall the heightened sense of adventure that night riding brings. In the rush of cool night air it feels like you're going faster and familiar surroundings seem strange and different.  I also remember the dynamo generator running off my back wheel powering a bicycle light.  Around and around the block I would go and the faster I rode the brighter the light would shine.

We left before the sun set and while passing behind Wyatt's school we spotted a whitetail deer on the school grounds.  I managed to get a quick snapshot before we spooked it off into the woods.  Just before darkness fell we stopped for fresh batteries for our Cat Eye LED lights.  I always use the blink setting on both the front and rear lights.  The white LED light mounted on the front of the bike works great on blink mode.  I often see motorists slowing way down as they approach.  They probably think a UFO has landed in the street. 

It is interesting to experience the way the cement and pavement covered urban areas hold the heat from the day and quiet tree lined residential streets and neighborhoods cool down quicker.  When I ride at night I seem to hear more sounds and smell more odors.  The glow and sound from televisions blaring through open windows, the flicker of a backyard campfire or charcoal grill and the fragrant floral scents from blooming gardens provide an unending succession of subject matter for the senses. 

I enjoyed sharing this new experience with my son.  Night riding is a blast and a great way to add some variety to the normal routine.  Because it was still light out before we left I didn't notice that Wyatt had a dark shirt on. Next time I'll have him wear a white shirt for optimum visibility.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Thoughts on the Primo Comets

I've now got some rides on the Primo Comets that I installed a while back on my recumbent bike.  The following data compiled does indeed prove that the Comets at 1.5" width are slower than the previous 1.1" tires I have been riding since putting the HP Velotechnik into service.

My recumbent was designed for long distance touring in all conditions and road surfaces.  For this reason the bike was stocked originally with tires having a wide smooth tread as opposed to narrow high speed tires.  Re-installing the Primo's has given me an opportunity to let some pressure out of the tires and do some mild off pavement riding.  Off roading is something I have not experienced on the recumbent. With the primo's deflated to about 30 psi I am pleasantly surprised at the bikes good handling on both slow climbs and downhill.  The front and rear suspension is much more noticeable off the road and worked well at both low and high speeds.

Let's crunch some numbers.  Following is ride data since installing the Comet Primos:

Ride 1    Surface: road                               8.2 miles        11.8 average speed
Ride 2    Surface: road/dirt 2 track        15.5 miles       11.6 average speed
Ride 3    Surface: road                              20.0 miles      12.2 average speed
Ride 4    Surface: road                                9.5 miles         9.8 average speed
Ride 5    Surface: rail trail/dirt 2 track  35.7 miles       12.4 average speed

Overall Average Speed:  11.56 mph

Here is a list of my last 10 rides on the Schwalbe Stelvio 1.1" 100psi high speed tires: 

                                    24.2 miles    16.5 average speed
                                    40.0 miles    15.7 average speed
                                    12.0 miles    15.4 average speed
                                    27.0 miles    14.6 average speed
                                    16.6 miles    13.6 average speed
                                    25.6 miles    13.8 average speed
                                    29.7 miles    13.1 average speed
                                    14.2 miles    12.2 average speed
                                    34.3 miles    14.3 average speed
                                    40.2 miles    13.4 average speed

Overall Average Speed:  14.26 mph

11.56 versus 14.26 mph is quite a difference!  To be fair it has to be considered that two of the five rides on the Comets included portions of off road riding but the data also seems to indicate that the HP Velotechnik goes about as fast on road as it does off.

Ultimately I will probably go back to a narrow high speed tire simply because I like to go faster.  However I have really enjoyed the few rides I have logged so far.  The fatter front tire handles great and with the pressure down a bit the ride is very plush.  In it's stock configuration with fat tires the HP Velotechnik Street Machine is a versatile bike ready for adventure and exploration.           

There is another interesting trait of the recumbent worth mentioning that I discovered while traversing deeply rutted two track -ground clearance.  On a mountain bike which includes both the rigid diamond frame and full suspension designs the cranks are down low with the bottom bracket only 11 or 12 inches above the ground.  At the bottom of the pedal stroke this places the pedal a mere 3 or 4 inches from the ground.  When riding through a 15" deep truck tire rut on an upright bike pedals are going to be scraping and banging off the dirt with every revolution.  This is not the case on the recumbent.  The cranks and pedals are all raised safely out of the way at the front of the bike.

Motobecane Le Champion Road Bike
 Just for the sake of comparison following are my last five rides on the Motobecane road bike.  I am definitely the fastest when riding this bike but of course that's it's sole purpose.  All day comfort takes a back seat. 

                                        24.1 miles    15.0 average speed
                                        20.1 miles    17.2 average speed
                                        22.6 miles    15.3 average speed
                                        23.8 miles    16.0 average speed
                                        23.6 miles    15.5 average speed

 Overall Average Speed:  15.8 mph


Last weekend I got down to the Kokosing Gap Trail starting from Mt. Vernon, Ohio and the connecting five mile packed clay Mohican Valley Trail.  Interestingly on this 35.7 mile ride with 10 miles being dirt I still managed to post my highest average speed yet on the Comets.

Normally this time of year the trails are still pretty moist but it's been dryer than usual and the trail was even dusty in places.  Ruts from Amish buggies and bicycle tires were dried into the surface which when above 10 mph did create a bit of squirreliness in the front end of the recumbent but that's common with any two wheeler.  Keep in mind on the HP the front wheel is directly under my thighs and completely out of sight.  All the feedback from the front wheel is tactile in nature through the handlebars.  It's a strange experience but I got used to it fairly quick.  Similar to most styles of riding the key is a light grip on the bars and let the wheel self correct on it's own.

I forgot my camera but I did use my cell phone for a quick shot of the Mohican Valley Trail.  This is one of my favorite places to ride and I documented the route in one of my first blog posts here a couple years ago.

Luckily the road apples were all flat and dry!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Part II Final Shaping and Sanding

I am always glad to make it to the sanding stage of a project. Specifically to the wood lathe if I've made it this far I've successfully evaded the spectre of tearout, the arch-nemesis of the wood turner. Dull tool edge  or aggressive cutting can overcome the ability of the wood to shear cleanly and large chunks of wood are torn loose by the tool. 

This tropical hardwood is very challenging to turn.  The wood has a course open grain similar to Oak which while tough, unfortunately splinters easily.  Arriving at the final shape takes time as the design is constantly under refinement. Even during this project an unexpected tearout caused me to have to re-envision the entire middle section of the spindle. 

The last steel to touch the wood is a skew chisel.  All of the saucer shaped features and deep angular cuts were created with the skew chisel.  This tool is the workhorse of intricate classical turnings.  While only a gouge with it's fingernail shaped cutting edge can hollow out the internal radius of a cove it's the skew chisel's flat, sharp edge that is indispensable in smoothing out the ball shape of a radius.

I dry sand with 220 grit and 400 grit until introducing pure olive oil to the finishing process.  After a period of 400 grit wet sanding I dry the piece and sand with 600 grit paper.  I'll let the olive oil absorb for a day or two before moving to the next finer paper.

 The following pictures show the awesome color of the wood once exposed to olive oil.

More turning, olive oil and 660 grit wet/dry paper to come.  So relaxing!