Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Drills to help master your Cruzbike.

Riding a Cruzbike requires a fair amount of coordination between the hands and feet.  For many people, myself included, it takes practice to master that coordination.  Some people are more patient with themselves than others, but I assure you that if you've bought a Cruzbike, your utter patience and practice is a worthwhile investment in a really neat, high performance machine.

The following are some of the drills I give customers (and myself), for refining the coordination required to confidently handle a Cruzbike.

The payoff is that these drills will help make the hand-foot coordination second nature more quickly than if you simply spend your time riding down the bike path.

Guiding Principals and Tips for getting the most out of the drills.

Press with your feet, pull with your hands.  So, you will pull with your right hand while you press with the right foot, then you will pull with the left hand while you press with the left foot.  Got it?  This is as opposed to pressing with the right foot while pressing with the left hand.  I know the "official" Cruzbike instructional videos show an open handed "pressing" technique for beginners; I teach a pulling technique.  We're both right but I find it easier for me to pull against the bars and that's how I teach others.

Concentrate on coordinating a brief moment of “punctuated thrust” between your foot (pressing) and your hand (pulling).  Continue a very tight mental focus on that coordination while doing the drills.  For a while (how long varies by individual), you the rider may need to think a lot about the coordination.  After a while, it will become second nature.

Make everything other than the coordination as easy as possible.  Bring the seat to the most vertical position possible.  This makes it easier to balance.

Wear reasonable shoes.  Don't try and learn with toe clips or sandals.

For all the following, first ride with two hands, then ride one-handed, alternating left and right.  When riding one-handed, switch from left to right hand on the bars after every 10-20 pedal strokes.  The exact number doesn't matter; you simply want to make sure you're working the same amount on both sides.

Bike speed is slow during the drills.  Although your cadence will often be fast, ride at a low comfortable speed for all drills.  In fact, your riding speed under all conditions should always be "comfortable" and under control.  Never, ever ride a Cruzbike (or any bike) at a speed beyond where the coordination feels comfortable and second nature.  Take this advice seriously.  Your welfare depends on it.

While doing the drills, your aim is to be perfectly in control of the steering, always.  This means there is never a moment where the bike is in control of you as opposed to vice versa.

Do the drills both laying back in the seat as well as sitting up straight, with your back off the seat.

The goal is to build your coordination between the motion of your feet and your hands.  Keep pushing at the limits of your coordination by increasing the speed of the cadence from slow to “too fast.”

These sorts of drills are not unique to Cruzbikes.  Every recumbent rider can benefit from them.  For the record, standard frame riders who want to ride well do drills like these as well.

The Drills

- Slalom “S” turns: pick a comfortable slow speed and maintain it.  Make slalom “S” turns beginning with narrow turns and then gradually get wider till the turn is exaggerated.
- Figure eights and double figure eights. Maintain perfect control, pedaling continuously.
- Figure eights: open circles, decrease the radius with each circuit till you can’t go any smaller.
- Cadence/coordination: Begin riding at a moderate cadence, gear up and ride with a very slow cadence.  While maintaining speed, gear down to easier gears, maintaining speed while increasing the speed of your cadence, keep gearing down while increasing cadence till you can no longer maintain the coordination between your hands and feet.
- Create an obstacle course on the ground, whether it’s by choosing marks on the pavement or dropping your hat and gloves in a pattern.  Challenge yourself to ride the course, changing cadence from slow to ultra fast as you ride.  Adjust the course, continually making it more challenging.

Have fun and keep on cruzin',
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Will improved helmet technology reduce cyclist injuries and deaths?

Can improved technology reduce cyclist injuries and deaths?

The Invisible Bicycle Helmet | Fredrik Gertten from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

Thanks to NYC Volae-rider Dan C. for forwarding this video to me.  The invisible airbag helmet is a nice idea.  Would it reduce cyclist deaths and or injuries?  Would it work for recumbent bike* riders?  Is it only comfortable for riders sitting in an upright "Dutch style" riding position?
[*I'm learning to write out the bulky phrase "recumbent bike" in order to enhance my search engine optimization.  Aren't I good?]

I don't have an opinion -- "good" or "not" -- though I agree it's cool.  However, I prefer solutions that involve no technology and little expense for the rider, if possible.  Surely the invisible helmet airbag will be an expensive device, won't it?

The solution is safer streets for everyone -- cyclists, pedestrians and motorized vehicles -- and these will result in fewer cyclist injuries and deaths.  I do not believe the solution is either greater helmet technology or helmet laws (not that the video gets into that).

While I don't want to go too far down the rabbit hole of helmet safety for this blog entry, briefly, statistics show that the larger the number of cyclists, the fewer the number of cyclist deaths and that helmet laws discourage cycling.  Therefore, helmets (and helmet laws) appear to have the effect of increasing the number of cyclist deaths.

In 2005, Dr. Ian Walker of Bath University conducted research which suggests:
"Cyclists who wear protective helmets are more likely to be knocked down by passing vehicles, new research from Bath University suggests. The study found drivers tend to pass closer when overtaking cyclists wearing helmets than those who are bare-headed." [from the BBC]
As it relates to the "invisible helmet" in this video, all this should mean the "invisible helmet" will provide an effective double buffer of safety for the cyclist.  Cars will give more space to the cyclist who is not (apparently) wearing a helmet and, if that cyclist is struck, the airbag helmet will give needed protection.  Fantastic.  But I can't say I want to spend money on -- or deal every time I ride -- with that airbag helmet device.  I suppose plastic and foam helmets are funny looking, but they're also pretty simple, even if they're of limited effectiveness.

Here is more research about bicycle helmets.

The only effective and fair solution is for government to develop street infrastructure that encourages cycling, same as was done for cars.  This would include bikeways -- bike lanes, greenways, separated bike paths -- wider shoulders on roads, reduced and enforced speed limits for cars,

Have fun and look out for the damn cars,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A customer writes...

I love it when customers write me...

Subject:   Thank you
From:   "M____ A____"
Date:   Wed, November 6, 2013 9:09 pm
To:   "Robert Matson"

Dear Robert,
I wanted to thank you for the time, effort, and patience you extended me during my demo ride.  Minutes after meeting in your bicycle-rich apartment, I was learning the basics of front wheel drive handling.  Riding in the park gave me ample opportunity to try out the speed and handling characteristics of the [Cruzbike] Quest.  Later I had my first remote mechanic FaceTime call as you helped me with some assembly questions.  So despite three back fusions, I am once again speeding down my local bike trail.  Many thanks, Mike Anderson MD, Great Falls, Va

Have fun and stay healthy,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson