Sunday, May 30, 2010

AH! A True Holiday Sunday

Got up late, took a leisurely ride to Starbucks for a Caffè Mocha and a Fruit and Cheese Plate.

Puttered around the house, ran cleanups/defrags/malware checks on the computers.

Around 2:30 PM, hopped in the pool with granddaughter Keira and her mom and dad:

Hopped out of the pool, showered up, maybe take a trip back to Starbucks this evening.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

That's MY Lane

I've mentioned this on the BikeSpeak forum, but not here because I was originally kinda embarrassed about it. Now, the embarrassment has faded.

I was on my way home last Tuesday, approaching an intersection right at the point where the bike lane had just ended, and I was almost pinched into the curb by some guy in a newer Audi. He zoomed past me, straddling the white line between the right-hand lane I was in and the left-hand lane, and pulled into my lane so quickly that I didn't even have time to downshift.

I shouted "Hey!" as I got the bike slowed enough so that I didn't rear-end him. Didn't see him even glance back my way in his rear-view mirror. I saw just enough space between the side of his car and the curb to get my bike up beside his passenger side door, and noticed it was going to be a couple seconds --- the traffic light at the intersection hadn't changed and there were two cars ahead of him --- so I coasted up next to his right-hand rear-view mirror and shouted "Hey! That's MY lane!"

The guy acted he didn't even hear me or see me (which I find hard to believe, my wife says my booming voice would wake the dead from the last century); he kept his eyes fixed on the vehicle ahead of him.

So, then the Ol' Cat does something REALLY stupid, folks. I pulled ahead of his car, and put Bluetiful sideways directly between the front of his Audi and the bumper of the car in front of him. I looked over the hood of his car, directly into his eyes, pointed to the pavement in front of his grill and shouted "This is MY LANE!"

I KNOW he saw me then, because his jaw dropped into his lap. So did the jaws of the four occupants of the car right next to him.

About this time the light had changed and the cars in front of us had left. I gave the guy one last deeply-angry-glare, put my foot into the pedal ... and of course was reminded immediately that I was in the 7th cog on the rear cassette. I wobbled like a drunk forward, but finally got up enough speed to clear the intersection still on the green light and got into the bike lane. The guy passed me, and gave me a little wave that looked somewhat sheepish.

I berated myself all the rest of the way home for putting myself in an even MORE vulnerable position as a result of being pi$$ed off, but most of my buddies over on the BikeSpeak forum are of the opinion that I was in no real danger and I've come to agree with them. The late model Audi was white, and unless the guy was smoking crack I doubt he would have wanted to get my blood all over his car. The traffic light was red, he was stopped and had nowhere to go so I doubt if he would have struck me and dragged when things got going again.

I think next time that happens I'll just sneak up behind the the guy's car and hock a king-sized loogie on his back window.

He'll get the point, I'll laugh my butt off and I won't be in any danger.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Better Computer Mount

I've only got about ten miles on Hardiboi since I mounted the bargain Bell Platinum 15-Function Wireless bike computer I got at Target and described in One More Computer Story.

As I mentioned in that blog post, unless your line of sight is perpendicular to the surface of the computer you see ghost images of the other features available on the LCD, even if they are not "on" or "lit." That presents a major problem with the original mounting point on Hardiboi:

As you can see, open real estate is at a premium on the Trekking Handlebars, and even the open areas come with some mounting challenges as a result of the proximity of the shifters and brake levers. The only way the Bell could mount required the LCD to be parallel to the ground, which meant it was at exactly the wrong angle to be seen from the saddle.

With the Trekking Bars on The Roadley, I solved the problem by simply using the loop mount for the Specialized Speedzone computer:

I wondered if I could use a Specialized loop mount with the Bell, so when I was in the LBS getting a new tube last Thursday I asked the owner if she had one of those loop mounts left over. She searched her back room, and boxes of spare parts, and came up with a loop mount for a wired Speedzone:

I gave her five bucks for it (usually a full mounting kit for a Speedzone, including the loop mount and the handlebar mount, runs around sixteen dollars), took it home and cut off the wire. I strung two small Zip Ties through the mounting plate for the Bell:

I then carefully centered the Bell mount on top of the loop mount and strung the ties through the loop mount base:

Cinched everything up nice and snug:

Snipped off the extra lengths of Zip Tie, popped the handlebar stem cap off the bike, put the loop mount on the stem and fastened the stem cap down again:

A perfect custom mount which allows me to tilt the Bell computer to just the right angle in order to see the LCD clearly:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Over the Century Mark at Last

The National Weather Service said we hit 101°F today in Phoenix.

About halfway home today the thermometer on the bike computer hit 100°F.

About a mile later, when I had just turned south, the temperature bounced up to 102°F.

It didn't go below the 100°F mark all the rest of the way home.

Summer is here at last!  

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Racing the ... Thermometer?

At around 4:15 this afternoon I pulled Bluetiful out of Luxury Bike Parking in my office and headed for home.

The bike computer said the bike had been enjoying a nice, cool 70°F temperature.

About a mile from the office I headed down through The Rescue UnderPass:

Temperature had jumped up to 97°F.

About the time I hit the Six Mile Mark ...

... the bike computer read 99°F.

I turned south and the temperature dropped to 97°F again just before I pulled into the LBS.

When I came out of the store with my new tube, the temperature was down to 91°F.

It had crept back up to 97°F again by the time I reached the front door of the house.

Tomorrow, it's supposed to hit 100°F for the first time this year! Yeeee, haaaaah!

(Note: the above photos were taken at different times during this last year. I was too busy racing the ... thermometer ... today to stop and take pics!)

A Parked Flat

Last night, I'd packed the panniers and topped off the tires on Bluetiful in preparation for this morning's commute.

I was back in the bedroom, prepping for bed, and I heard a loud noise like a big bag of BB's being emptied onto the tile floor.

It freaked the cats out.

My son, my daughter-in-law, my wife and I started scouring the front room, looking for the source of the noise. Finally, I checked the tires on the bikes. The 20" front tire on Bluetiful should have had 100 psi in it, but it was really spongy; couldn't have had more than 20 psi. I bent the valve stem from side to side and could hear air escaping.

I've always had problems with this tube, I could never get the valve stem to seat properly in the hole in the rim. It was always canted slightly forward, as if the tube were thicker on one side and was causing the stem to lean. Evidently, leaning against the side of the rim hole like that caused a groove to be carved in the side of the stem and it finally gave way.

My son commented that he guessed I wouldn't be riding to work in the morning. At which point I whipped the spare tube out of the seat bag on Bluetiful and asked him "Why not?"

Sunday, May 16, 2010

One More Computer Story

I was strolling through Target last week, and I stopped in the bike accessories section. They had a Bell Platinum Wireless 15-function bicycle computer there at a regular price of $19.99. I had a $20 Target gift certificate which I'd gotten for my birthday in April, and thought I might give it a try.

This is not the old circular Bell FreeFit 15-function wireless (which seems to be universally panned), but a new design in a more-or-less rectangular housing:

Followers of my blog will recall that I was satisfied with the Specialized Speedzone I had on both The Roadley and Bluetiful, until a stretch of rough road bounced the one on Bluetiful right out of the clip and underneath my rear wheel: RIP, Speedzone.

Y'all will also remember that I have been less than impressed with the replacement Trek Incite 9i: New Computer for Bluetiful.

Question: How does a 20-dollar bike computer, from Bell, stack up against a 45-dollar computer from Specialized and a 70-dollar computer from Trek?

Answer: Pretty darn good a week into testing it!

The Bell has more features than the Trek or the Specialized. It is much more sensitive than the Trek: I have the fork sensor attached to the right-hand fork of Hardiboi and the computer mounted on the left side of the handlebar stem and have had no problems with the computer failing to sense the wheel turning.

The Bell instructions are far superior to the instructions from Trek or Specialized. Here's a quote from the Bell instruction manual: "Make sure bracket tab is facing toward bike as shown in illustration." (Emphasis is mine.) There was almost no text at all in the Trek manual, but in the Bell manual it is as it should be; text backed up by illustrations.

Not only are the illustrations in the Bell manual very informative (one pair of drawings shows the correct AND incorrect way of mounting the sensor to the fork), but they are very well done. You can actually tell which way the zip-ties are supposed to go.

I have expressed my belief that there is a design flaw in the mounts of the Trek and the Specialized, in that the computer slides upward into the clip. That was, in fact, why the Speedzone popped out of the mount when I hit the bump: the stops are at the top of the clip, so there is nothing but a set of friction bumps to prevent the computer from sliding down out of the clip and off the bike. The Bell computer has it right, the computer slides downward from the top into the clip, and is retained by a little thumb tab. In order to fall off the bike, the computer would have to slide upward all the way past the rails. I can't imagine a bump severe enough to cause that to happen!

There is no Bell warranty on the product, but Target has a standard, 90-day return/refund policy.

I have only one complaint about the Bell. Unless you are directly over the LCD, and your line of sight is perpendicular to the surface of the display, you can make out ghost images of the other features. In the picture above, you can see an example of this as the "SCAN" feature (which was NOT on at the time) is visible in the upper left-hand corner. In bright sunlight, if you are viewing the display at an angle, you see almost all of the features as plain as the features which are "lit".

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bicycling Challenges

The ride home yesterday was filled with challenges. Not only did I continue to have problems with the Trek bike computer on Bluetiful, but I was almost taken out by an airhead woman in a white Mercedes. I had started across the street, in a crosswalk, talking to an attractive young female pedestrian walking beside me, and this lame ... er ... person whipped around the corner and sped past me less that a foot in front of my front wheel.

I shouted out something appropriate, gave her the Universal Sign of Disgust (which I KNOW she saw because I could see her eyes in her right-hand rear view mirror and she tapped her brakes), and continued across.

The pretty pedestrian smiled ever so slightly and asked if I was okay. I said "Yeah, I just needed to vent."

Good news is that I didn't get hit ... even better news is I think I figured out the problem with the bike computer: the sensor had slid down the fork slightly so I believe the spoke magnet was too far away from it to trigger it.

The computer worked fine today, and nobody tried to run me over.

Didn't see that cute pedestrian, though.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bike Computer Problems

I'm having some issues with the New Computer for Bluetiful. Hopped on her this morning and got two blocks from the house before I noticed it hadn't turned on. All the rest of the ride in this morning I messed with the sensor on it.

It's a cheap looking little plastic shell clip-on magnet, rather than having a nice, metal screw clip housing. And, like I said on my blog, it ain't very sensitive so ya gotta have it just right on the spoke. If it gives me fits this afternoon on the way home I'm going to fire off a complaint to Trek.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

BluesCat RV Test

Hooked the Schwinn Scout trailer up to Hardiboi and took a trip up to PetCo. Bought a 44 pound bag of cat litter ("40 pounds and 4 pounds FREE!") and put it in:

The trailer seems cavernous!

Going home, on the uphills I hardly even noticed it back there. Most of the ride, however, is slightly downhill and that's a different story. Whenever I would squeeze the brakes, I could feel a slight push. As I went over the speed bumps, I would feel the Scout tug at the bike --- ever so lightly --- when the trailer wheels hit the bump, and then the trailer would give the bike a bump of its own when it came down off the hump.

Again, I never felt like the Scout was going to send me out of control, but then I kept my speed down around 12 miles per hour.

Since the Scout is built to tote two kids, it is pretty wide. Going through the entrance to PetCo was no problem, but as I entered the house through the front door I had to make sure I was perpendicular to the doorway: there is less than an inch of clearance on either side.

So far, I'm pretty happy with the Scout.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bikes Unsafe in Drive-Thrus, Really?

Last Monday, 4/26/2010, in the evening after work I rode over through the drive-thru at my nearby Walgreens on The Roadley and dropped off a prescription for my wife. Around 7:30 that same evening I rode back through the drive-thru again to pick it up and, well, here's the description of what happened as it appeared in the message I sent to Walgreens via their corporate web site:

For several years I have ridden my bicycle through the drive-thru at my local Walgreens. The most any of the pharmacists or clerks have ever said is "you be careful out there." Today, however, when I pedaled in to pick up a prescription I was told the next time I came to pick up a prescription on my bike I needed to park it and come into the store. (Nothing was said to me when I pedaled in to drop off the prescription just a half an hour before.) I was further informed it had to do with "safety and liability issues." I find this curious, because I don't know of a single instance of a bicycle/car accident in a drive-thru, much less a business being sued on account of it. There is no posting about "No Bicycles in the Drive-Thru Lane" at this Walgreens. I would think that your company would be at the forefront of promoting the healthy lifestyle of bicycling. Furthermore, in Arizona “a person riding a bicycle on a roadway or on a shoulder adjoining a roadway is granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle” (Arizona Revised Statutes Section 28-812). If I have all the rights of a vehicle out on the road, why would I not have those same rights in your drive-thru lane? I have not been prohibited from using my bike in the drive-thru lanes at six different businesses in my area, including my bank. Could you tell me what the corporate policy is regarding this issue?

On Thursday evening, 4/29/2010, I received a phone call from the manager of that Walgreens store. He said the note had been passed on to him by corporate. He said he did not see anything wrong with my riding my bike through their drive through lane, and he would inform the rest of his staff of that. He explained he thought it was a concern for my safety, but he added that I had made some good points in my message and maybe his staff was being overly concerned.

He added that he hoped I would take regular safety precautions such as having lights on my bike, and I assured him I always wear a helmet and have a taillight and two headlights on that particular bike.

He went on to say he had been unable get a reply from his corporate office concerning company policy of bicycles in drive-thru lanes, but said his understanding was a business could prohibit bikes from using drive-thrus just as they could prohibit pedestrians from using them.

I told him my understanding was an Arizona business could refuse service to anybody they chose, for no reason at all. I added that I didn't believe that would be very smart customer service, and I did not think they were exposed to any additional legal liability by the presence of my bicycle in their drive-thru. He agreed.

My wife thinks I'm a troublemaker, what do y'all think?