Monday, November 30, 2009

Former Asheville, NC firefighter gets 4 months for shooting cyclist

Only 4 months?!?

Saved by the helmet??


Robert Matson
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Robert Matson New York City Recumbent Supply (TM) The Innovation Works, Inc. copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

15 Cities for People Who Hate Driving and Long Commutes

15 Cities for People Who Hate Driving and Long Commutes:
Where to go if you don't want to spend a lot of time behind the wheel

From: US News and World Report
Posted: November 11, 2009

Includes wise-cracks from yours truly. Ranked in order of non-car commuters.

Cambridge, Mass.
Average commute time: 24 minutes Non-car commuters: 58 percent
-> Of course.

Average commute time: 23.1 minutes Non-car commuters: 33.5 percent
-> Nice city. Good hills. Great architecture. Eat at Savoia's great Italian restaurant Dish Osteria.

Boulder, Colo.
Average commute time: 18.4 minutes Non-car commuters: 30.6 percent
-> Let me at it.

Davis, Calif.
Average commute time: 20.3 minutes Non-car commuters: 28.7 percent
-> From 35 years ago, remember it being beautiful with a wonderful aquarium. I'd go.

Ann Arbor, Mich.
Average commute time: 18.4 minutes Non-car commuters: 27.5 percent
-> Veni, vidi... and attended college. Town with great core. Too bad about the sprawl.

New Haven, Conn.
Average commute time: 21.6 minutes Non-car commuters: 27.3 percent
-> Got Crime?

Chapel Hill, N.C.
Average commute time: 20.1 minutes Non-car commuters: 26.2 percent
-> Frequently, when a NYCity driver is dangerous and reckless, the car will turn out to have a North Carolina license plate. Maybe all these drivers hail from Raleigh-Cary, no. six on the 2007-08 listof the most dangerous cities for walking and not from Chapel Hill, but I've learned to steer clear of all cars with NC license plates. So, I'd have to learn not to hate 73.8% of the commuters in Chapel Hill. Might be difficult. Sorry. Learn to drive.

Average commute time: 21.9 minutes Non-car commuters: 24.2 percent
-> Got cold. Got art and culture. Got snow. I think I'd like it.

Portland, Ore.
Average commute time: 24.1 minutes Non-car commuters: 22.7 percent
-> Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm sure it's great. But I'm getting sick of hearing about how great it is.

Ames, Iowa
Average commute time: 15.3 minutes Non-car commuters: 22.6 percent
-> I'm sure it's nice, but I've never been there. Here is the webpage with the City of Ames' Urban Deer Management Hunting Rules. Presumably you can buy a firearm when you get there. Please sell it before you come back to New York.

Madison, Wis.
Average commute time: 18.7 minutes Non-car commuters: 21.9 percent
-> "F. 'em Bucky." I like WI people.

Average commute time: 23 minutes Non-car commuters: 21.7 percent
-> Who could say noo to Honolulu?

Provo, Utah
Average commute time: 16.2 minutes Non-car commuters: 21.4 percent
-> Home/grave (?) of Word Perfect. Probably nice. Would I have to be Mormon?

Eugene, Ore.
Average commute time: 16.9 minutes Non-car commuters: 20.7 percent
-> I think I'd like it for a while, but would find it small. However, I do like Oregon.

Syracuse, N.Y.
Average commute time: 16.3 minutes Non-car commuters: 20.1 percent
-> If it ain't NYC, it ain't NY. Just kidding. It's probably stupendously beautiful.

Enjoy cycling.
- Robert
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2010 Robert Matson

Monday, November 23, 2009

Warm Clothes for Winter Biking

The cold fall has made me want to write a few notes about wind chill and staying warm while riding during the cold months.

What I've done is seek out winter clothing favored by winter rock/ice climbers, backpackers and sometimes cross-country skiiers, who require: lightweight, flexible, often thin, zero-failure, temperature adaptability, somewhat abrasion resistant, highly adaptable, warm damp or dry. Also, climbers/backpackers require gear that is smooth on the back (for backpacks), so good cross-adaptability to 'bent riders.

Generally, easy-to-find commercial bike and running gear rates well on the fashion scale, but not on the outdoor-comfort scale. By this, I mean: it tends to look great and be okay if you're out for a few hours; but it tends to be heavy for the warmth it provides and often (nearly always) will sacrifice temperature performance for appearance.

And although I'll sometimes wear running clothes while biking in the summer heat, runners (like X-country skiiers) generate a lot of body heat and sweat with comparatively little activity-added wind-chill, making winter running gear less than ideal for cycling. Cyclists, on the other hand, generate a lot of windchill without generating much body heat.

For backpackers and climbers, in the woods/on the cliffs, no one cares how you look, so performance rules (unless you're on a date); for cyclists, on the roads, fashion seems to rule -- maybe because everyone sees you.

Major outdoor equipment manufacturers -- including, but not limited to -- The North Face, Mountain Hardware, Gore, Outdoor Research, Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS), REI, and others -- have clothing with "wind stopper" technology. In my exp., the windstoppers have provided excellent warmth even in situations with a high windchill.

The best place in NYC for this gear is Tent and Trails on Park Place in Manhattan. It's a true mountaineering store, unbelievably, in NYC. However, EMS in SoHo has good wind-stopping fleeces and shells at good prices. The Rivendell MUSA pants are good wind-stopping (as well as good for cycling), but are bulky to pack.

Since, for backpacking/camping, you want gear that serves multiple purposes, e.g., if it gives warmth, even better if it also stops wind, it's ideal for cycling. The Merino clothing companies (e.g. Ice Breaker, Smart Wool, Ibex) get close to this with tight weaves, but at some point, wool falls behind the best technical gear for the outer layers. For the base/inner layers, merino wool is the best, hand down.

Another key for staying warm during winter riding (for me) is to try both to stop the wind and maximize the warmth at the extremities -- hands/wrists, feet, head/neck -- I'll maybe go to excess here. But it's the lightest and "smallest" way to get body warmth.

I struggle with cold feet. At this time, I'm riding with 15-degree insulated hiking/climbing boots. What I like about them is they are lightweight and designed to fight windchill and cold air and protect the user in extreme conditions (as in "stay warm or die"). If I must wear bike shoes with cleats and it's very cold, I do two things. First, I use chemical "toe warmers" (and carry along extras). Second, I seal off any holes on the bottom of the shoe (bent riders break the wind with the bottoms of their feet) and also try to create warmth in the insole. So, I use tape to cover the holes from attaching the cleats. An insulating insole is great. I also cut up an emergency "solar blanket" (a.k.a. "space blanket") and wrap it around my feet to help keep the heat in/cold out. I'm not a fan of the cycle-shoe covers or neoprene I've tried. Maybe I haven't yet found the good ones. They seem either to inadequately block the wind or else make my feet sweat and then freeze.

My favorite places are:

- Backpacking Light (Rivendell for backpackers in terms of sophistication and knowledge level, but they count grams over durability and the gear is for EXPERIENCED users; know your limits.)
- Moosejaw
(But maybe don't get the packages delivered to work because they enjoy having fun with the recipient, e.g., with big kiss and heart stickers on the outside.)
- The North Face


- Tents and Trails in NYC

For beginner- to intermediate-level quality, I strongly recommend REI or EMS. They often have good bargains and are a great source for buying a full kit of gear, even if it may not be what you ultimately want after you've gained experience. The best gear can be rather expensive, and I believe it's best to understand what and why you need something better, than to just spring -- for example -- for the world's best coat without realizing that actually you needed to buy the world's best base layer.

Scarf not. Please don't wear a scarf while you cycle, lest you get it caught in your wheel or on a passing car. If you need something around your neck, wear a neck gaiter. For more about ill-fated scarf wearing (and the beginnings of modern dance), remember Isadora Duncan.

All best,

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Coordinating tires and rims.

Questions arise about tire sizing. For the recumbents I ride and sell, fortunately, diameters are pretty straightforward; the 26 and 20 inch wheels are well-established standard sizes.

Rim widths are another matter. Questions are bound to arise because recumbent manufacturers frequently supply bikes with narrow rims and relatively wide tires. That's alright as long as the components are high quality and in top condition. But a rider who tries to cheat the system, by using lower quality rims or tires, or not replacing worn out rims or tires -- is risking an equipment malfunction and possible injuries.

Volae Centuries and Tours usually come with Alex DA 16 rims (with roughly a 16mm internal dimension) and generally mount 1.35" tires on them. Though that's pushing the capacity of the rim (in the opinion of a Velocity wheel builder I spoke with at Interbike) with high quality rims and tires (e.g., Alex or Velocity), and high-pressure tires at full pressure, riders are likely to be okay. The NYC Urban Centuries comes with a stronger-than-stock wheel build, with Velocity rims and Schwalbe Marathon tires.

The stock HP Velotechnik Grasshoppers and Street Machines also use Alex DA 16s but mount 1.5" Schwalbe Marathon Racers. Again, this is okay only as long as the rims and tires are in top condition.

If you are thinking about trying different tires, for example mounting Marathon Winters for the icy months, be sure the tires match the capabilities of your rims. In the case of Winters, the main issue will arise when you run the tires at low pressure in order to have maximum traction on icy roads. With the DA 16s, you could be asking for trouble -- the tire may come off the rim while you're riding.

Sheldon Brown has a good page on the subject of matching rims and wheels. It includes an extremely useful chart from cyclist Georg Boeger. This will assist you in making intelligent and safe decisions about fitting tires on your rims.


Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Where is my bike made? (Or, who actually made my bike?)

Where is my bike made? Or, who actually made my bike?

A very interesting article about the originations of bikes, posted to the Prospect Park Peloton Yahoo group by Andy Feldman.

Focused on diamond frames, but eye-opening nevertheless. Readers note: you can be sure your Volae is made by Waterford Precision Cycles, in Wisconson, USA.

- Robert

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Q. How can I stop getting grease on my calf and pant leg?

Q. How can I stop getting grease on my calf and pant leg?

The other week, a trike-riding customer asked me to keep a look out for something that would let her ride her trike without getting grease on her leg or pant leg.
Her objective, as she described it, sounded extraordinarily familiar. "I just want to be able to put on my work clothes and ride to work, without getting grease all over my legs." In fact, almost every customer asks the same thing. Diamond frame (or upright, "head-first") commuters have the Dutch- or Danish-style fully enclosing chain covers as an option. What do we have?

Recumbent riders have chain tubes. Essentially, these are low-friction plastic pipes that cover part of the chain. If positioned near the cranks, not only do they keep grease off one's pantleg, but they also help keep that long chain clean. However, while third party chain tubes are available, few recumbents are designed to readily accept them. I have had customers for whom the aftermarket solutions did not work as well as hoped.

Who else but HP Velotechnik would make a chain tube system that works perfectly? Since HPVelos are optimized for commuting and touring, it's natural that they would make an excellent chain tube mounting system. In fact, their frames include special braze-ons to enable secure mounting of the chain tubes, which are attached via metal springs on the tubes. The chain tubes themselves are made of special high-quality, low-friction material. That the tubes are integral to the bike's design helps explain why the system works so well.

The chain tubes mount securely and are designed for the natural chain line. The top and bottom tubes terminate close to the chain ring in a way that neither interferes with gear changing nor allows your pant leg to get dirty. Honestly, it's amazing.

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson

HP Velotechnik, Grasshopper fx - pics, notes

That's me on the bike. :-)

It's a dreadful business to be sure. Every new bike has to be tested. This unbearable task falls to myself, since it pains me to delegate the job of riding a Grasshopper fx for 50 miles of pure Jersey on a crisp fall day.

Tasks like this put one in an awful temper, so you can well imagine my delight upon finding something wrong with HP Velotechnik's new Grasshopper fx. I'll just get it out now: the platform pedals that are supplied with the bike are crap. Truly awful. Specifically, they are too small. Most people would be grateful they provide pedals at all to make demo rides easier. And most people think cheap stock pedals are more than good enough, since most people stuff the stock pedals in a drawer anyway after a week, having replaced with either a clipless system or good platform pedals (e.g., MKS Touring or Grip Kings).

Beyond the stock pedals, from there on out and for the next 50 miles, HPV's Grasshopper fx simply ruined a perfectly well-tuned bad attitude. And as hard as I looked for something to dislike, I simply couldn't find it. Instead, I found a bunch of nicities. And a darn fast folding recumbent touring bike.

Let me give you some examples, however, by no means is this list complete. For example, I didn't mention the rear rack, which is large, light and strong as the dickens.

- OK. The chain tubes that protect your pants and keep the chain clean? They work perfectly. Friction is low. The chain is quiet. And I didn't get a speck of grease anywhere on my legs, socks or hands, which is odd. The chain tubes are a matte, classy black color. Grumpy people, who prefer ugly and tacky colors, won't like the color.

- The USS steering is comfortable and enables confident and effortless steering. We easily hit 40 mph on downhills where 35 mph was the speed limit. Nit pickers with a grudge will argue that the Grasshopper fx's under seat steering is less aerodynamic than other options and might slow a person down by two or three mph. These same people might prefer something harder to steer, like no handlebars. As for me, I dig USS; it's like steering a rocket.

- The Grasshopper fx folding 'bent rides like a strong, straightened and trued, non-folding bike, riding true at all speeds -- slow uphill or breakneck downhill. At 40 mph, it remained responsive and felt sure-footed and safe. This particular morning, the roads were slick from a morning drizzle, so it was a good test of road feedback and traction, both of which were excellent. The bike's aerodynamics help press it into the road at speed, providing greater stability and grip.

And there's the rub. When I'm in a bad mood, I prefer bikes that feel unstable and set my teeth on edge when I'm riding in traffic. If I'm going so fast that my eyes start to water, I also want to feel like the bike is out of control. I want to see my life flash before my eyes. On the Grasshopper, the level of control is fantastic, and that will leave the ill-tempered crowd sorely disappointed.

- The DT Swiss (rear) and Spinner Grind (front) upgraded shocks are extraordinarily nice. I stopped bothering to avoid bumps, cracks, manhole covers and road debris, as I normally do, even at speed. High quality shocks provide a safer bike for several reasons. One, when you hit bumps, even at speed, the wheels remain in contact with the road, providing positive traction. Two, you never feel the need to swerve from your line -- and into the path of cars -- to avoid obstacles, like broken pavement and potholes, that could cause you to lose contact with the road. Three, they absorb shocks that would otherwise impact the frame which, over many years, can cause frame fatigue. Four, they absorb shocks that would otherwise go into your body, which causes rider fatigue.

- The fenders are solid, provide good coverage, are intelligently designed, and are built with better materials than we normally see on USA bikes. Americans are used to seeing a certain quality (low) in fenders, and we tend to think of these as standard: plastic fenders with adjustable supports that are designed to LOOK like expensive fenders, without all the expensive manufacturing.

The fenders on the GH, like everything on an HP Velotechnik, are on a new level. For example, the braces are reinforced with a metal bridge; the metal bridge connects the supports from the left side of the fender to those on the right side, making the structure very strong. The bolts and fasteners for clamping the supports are especially strong. And the fenders themselves are no ordinary black plastic; they feel especially strong and thick. What this means, in short, is that these fenders aren't going to break anytime soon.

Fenders are great. The only bad thing about fenders is when they break. And "ordinary" ones break all the time. But the HPV fenders are going to be with you for a long time. For everyone other than the grumpy, that is good news.

-The Magura Louise hydraulic disk brakes work so well I felt like I was driving a luxury car; which makes me mad, because I don't necessarily like cars. The Louise brakes provide a full range of stopping force from soft to hard, are responsive, give excellent feedback and control, and are, in short, essentially perfect. To sum it up, like any good brakes, these make the bike significantly safer and easier to control on any road at any speed.

- The SRAM dual-drive. I admit to being dubious, at first. Although I like the potential for internally geared hubs, I also like the simplicity of chain rings and sprocket/derailer* systems (*using Sheldon Brown's spelling). However, I think SRAM is on to something here. I won't go into the benefits of the predictable stuff -- like the fact that you can change the internal gears while standing still, which is helpful on a 'bent -- but what I particularly liked is how widely spaced are the three internal gears, compared to a standard chain ring setup, providing a huge range of gearing for the 27 gears.

I found myself treating the three internal gears more like my main gears, not unlike a 3-speed gear box on a car. I'd find a cog in the cassette that worked for most of what I was riding, and then change the internal gears depending on whether I wanted more speed or was heading up hill or hitting a stop light. I'd use the cassette simply to fine-tune the gearing. It enabled me to take a new approach to gear selection which I thought befitted 'bent riding particularly well.

- Seat: I was using the ErgoMesh seat, which has a mesh back. I expected to prefer the hardshell BodyLink, but after 50 miles of hills and flats, I can honestly say, pros and cons weighed, I have no preference one over the other. They are both very good. I hope that doesn't disappoint you.

The ErgoMesh seat is positioned higher off the frame than the BodyLink seat, so your head is higher in traffic. The mesh fabric back is tight and strong so climbing performance is almost equal. It's comfortable under your bum -- I didn't get recumbent butt -- and the ergonomics of the back support is good. While hard-shell seats generally enable better power transfer, I did not notice any loss of performance with the ErgoMesh seat. Maybe there's a little; I couldn't tell.

HPV is famous for their attention to detail, and in the case of the seat, there are many examples. I'll point out the pocket in the seatback. First of all, (a) it closes and (b) with a zipper which is (c) decent quality. Inside the pocket, you'll find a rain cover for the seat, along with space for a cell phone, wallet, keys, a multi tool and a few gels. I was also able to cram in a warm hat and gloves.

Other details they've attended to include the seat back straps used for tightening the mesh. They are wide and strong and include velcro for securing the straps after you've tightened them. Lesser seats will loosen during a long ride, so this is a detail I appreciate. After taking the time to adjust the seat mesh to provide good support for my back, I prefer it stays that way.

Another nice detail is they've left the structural bars exposed at the back of the seat, so a rear light can be mounted or a water bladder bag can be hung there.

- Being a folding bike that is rated to carry a remarkable 275(!) pounds (rider weight and luggage combined), it should come as no surprise that the aluminum Grasshopper is both exceptionally strong as well as comparatively heavy.

This is a good thing: the bike is engineered to last indefinitely, even under the stress of touring. And a strong frame means it's efficient with your energy. But riders who don't need a folding 'bent and prefer a lighter bike may prefer non-folding touring machines like HPV's Street Machine or Volae's Tour, Century or Expedition.

If you care more about sturdiness, lifespan and practicality than ounces, this bike has it in spades. Urban dwellers will appreciate the ability to fold the bike for easy storage at home or work. Air/train/boat/car travelers, who wish to take their favorite 'bent on a trip, will also appreciate the fold. The long and short is that this bike is a workhorse touring machine that also folds and is fairly small. If that's what you want, this is your machine.

- More aerodynamic than you might expect, especially from a touring bike. The Grasshopper is a hybrid touring/speed machine. With a bottom bracket at 26.25" from the ground and a seat height with the ErgoMesh seat of only 22", we have a 4.25" raise to the feet. It may come as a surprise that this raise is similar to what you would see with a high racer. For example, Volae's Team, an ultra-fast 650x650 high racer, has a bottom bracket height of 33" with a seat ht. of 29" (with their mesh seat) which gives a 4" raise to the feet; one-quarter of an inch less than on the Grasshopper fx!

However, giving the Volae it's due, when using hardshell seats, the Grasshopper fx with the BodyLink hardshell seat gives a 5.25" raise to the feet. A Volae Team, using the hardshell carbon seat at a height of 26" provides a very aerodynamic 7" raise for the feet. This is 1.75" more than on the Grasshopper.

So, for riders who are concerned about speed, and whether the smaller 2 x 20" wheels can cut it, you need not worry. Being a heavier bike (especially compared to a Volae Team), the Grasshopper fx will be slower on the uphills, but on the flats and downhills it's truly an impressive ride.

It is for this reason that I consider the GHfx a folding version of the HPV Speed Machine, but more suitable for urban traffic conditions. The SpeedMachine has a seat height of 20" with the ErgoMesh seat and a bottom bracket at 27.5". This raise is 3.25" greater than on the Grasshopper. The StreetMachine has a seat ht. of 26" with a bb. of 27.2", a total raise of 1.2"; more comfortable on a long tour, perhaps, and higher-sitting in traffic, but less aerodynamic than the GH.

The summary of my very positive experience with the Grasshopper is that I think it will appeal to the customer who wants to be able to carry a lot of weight and wants a fast bike that folds down into a small package for traveling or storing at home or the office. The GHfx will also be preferred by an "experienced" rider, by which I mean one who fully understands the advantages that come with functionality and who is comfortable with a fairly low-riding bent in urban traffic. Also, stronger riders will be less bothered by the weight penalty than newer riders.

All in all, it's all good stuff.

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2009 Robert Matson