Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Toe Overlap Mars Perfection - Perhaps

Bridgestone after snowy commute
The perfect commuter bike?

In 2011 I purchased the frame, including fork, of this 1982 Bridgestone Sirius road bike. At the time it was the "top of the line" road bike sold by Bridgestone in the U.S. I bought it used on eBay for a little over $100 including the shipping, which was a good price. The frame appeared never to have had components attached to it or to have been used - it was, in effect, a 30 year old unused bike. I attached a mix of components (many not "period correct" alas) and commenced using this as my main commuter to and from work, about 19 miles round trip.

Serious toe overlap with front wheel/fender
Winter cycling shoe (boot) cleated in to pedal and amount of overlap with front wheel and fender

I would suggest that any bike used for commuting represents a series of compromises, starting with how much money you are willing to spend versus your desire for certain features. (The perhaps trite phrase for bicycle choice generally is, "strong, light, cheap - pick two.") This Bridgestone is relatively light given that even after I bought components and assembled it all, it was only around $500. I chose to stick with wheels and tires that are relatively narrow compared to what is popular now. Most people are not crazy about downtube shifters but they are extremely low maintenance. I also like the dual pivot brakes which are more modern than what the bike would have had when originally sold in 1982 but not as good at stopping as the disk brakes I had on the bike I used before this - but I got tired of the maintenance associated with disk brakes. The dual pivot rim brakes are predictable for both maintenance an performance.

One problem however that I simply live with is the toe overlap. I fitted the bike with fenders, which makes the wheel extend back towards the pedals that much further, but in winter the problem is more with the bike boots I wear and where I have the cleats fitted on the bottom of them, which means that the front ends of the shoes are well in the travel path of the front wheel when steering. The crank arms are relatively short at 170 mm.

As it turns out in practice, awareness of this problem is the main thing - I haven't had a problem with this in years. And as it happens, as a practical matter, I hardly ever steer hard enough left or right that it matters, which may seem surprising but seems to be how it is. I ride up Capitol Hill on the Capitol grounds on a roadway where I zig-zag my way up (to decrease how steep it is for the ride) and even that at a relatively slow speed doesn't require a particularly tight turn, or enough that this overlap matters.

So if this is all that keeps this from being the perfect bike, I can live with it.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Arlington VA Winter Bike to Work Day->Friday Feb. 8 (2019)

Snow and Bike on Gravelly Pt
A winterized (more or less) commuter bike at Gravelly Point, near National Airport

EventBrite registration for the event Friday February 8, 7 to 9 am.

World Winter Bike to Work Day Twitter page.

Arlington County organized a Winter Bike to Work Day last year, but it was in Rosslyn, which isn't on my way to work. This one will be at Gravelly Point along the Mount Vernon Trail, right where I will be going. Yay!

1972 jet "roars" over Gravelly Point
1972 National Park Service photo of Gravelly Point (not in winter) and bicycles, from the Library of Congress (via Flickr).

Saturday, January 19, 2019

This is my Road - book by Yoshizo Shimano (2008) Book Review

This Is My Road: The Shimano StoryThis Is My Road: The Shimano Story by Yoshizo Shimano

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this because of my interest in cycling, and in particular, Japanese bicycles and bicycle components.

This book was apparently produced from some Japanese language articles that were published, re-purposed and translated into English to produce this memoir and personal history of the Shimano bicycle (and fishing tackle, but not much about that) company.

Apparently because the book was taken from some serially-published articles, the 30 chapters are all short and all about the same length. Some themes continue from chapter to chapter and get a little more in depth treatment eventually, but there isn't much depth here. On the other hand, there is a certain amount of refreshing honesty, I would say, as Mr. Shimano looks back.

Given that I was mostly interested in the cycling history aspects going in, I didn't get that much - but I found it interesting in other ways, as it turns out, as he talked about his family relationships and the company. The discussion of Shimano's development of different products and leadership is presented only very briefly.

It is somewhat curious that the translation is not that good. No credit is given to a translator; sole authorship credit is given to Yoshizo Shimano. He lived in the U.S. for decades; perhaps he did it himself? It would certainly be in character.

An interesting example of seeking out a book to read for one reason and coming away satisfied with the experience mostly for other reasons.

View my book reviews about cycling books.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

14th Street Bridge Approach Still Not Perfect

Of course, what is perfect. Not much.

I have not been commuting by bike since early October (2018) when I had some surgery. At the time, work had started at the DC end of the 14th St Bridge across the Potomac for the pedestrian/cyclist access. There was a relatively narrow strip of asphalt that followed the contour of the hill towards the Jefferson Memorial - this was widened.

14th street bridge addition 2018
Looking towards Virginia

Above you can see the main enhancements, such as they are - before there was just some poorly applied asphalt to the right of the two poles in the photograph. They added and redid the asphalt so there is more of it for cyclists and pedestrians inbound and outbound can maneuver better at the approach to the bridge. Not visible, reflect panels were added to the far pole so that cyclists on the bridge riding in the dark won't plow into the pole. I am disappointed that they didn't add a railing - if you made a mistake and went over the wood edge material you would be seriously injured going down the hill.

14th street bridge addition 2018
Looking in to DC

14th street bridge addition 2018
Not very friendly supports for road railing

If a cyclist makes a mistake where the asphalt curves in and falls, a cyclist could easily fall onto the ends of the girders that support the road railing. This was true before, of course, but this was project was supposed to be a comprehensive improvement.

Monday, December 31, 2018

American Pro: The True Story of Bike Racing in America (Book Review)

American Pro: The True Story of Bike Racing in AmericaAmerican Pro: The True Story of Bike Racing in America by Jamie Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the third book by Jamie Smith about American bicycle racing, the American bicycle racing scene (as perhaps one can still say). I read his first book, published ten years about (also by VeloPress) -
. He has a more recent book, Reading the Race, written with Chris Horner is (apparently) intended as an instructional book for road bike racer-beginners - I have some interest in reading it but haven't got around to it yet.

VeloPress has some further background information on Mr. Smith.

The first book, Roadie, was intended to be somewhat humorous but this third book is more of a narrative where the humor that appears is part of what the narrative describes. The author's goal is to clarify what much of professional cycling racing at the levels below the World Tour (ie, Tour de France type events) is like in the U.S. today. He describes five seasons (2012-2016) of racing by a particular team that competed both in road events and criteriums.

You don't have to know that much about bicycle racing to enjoy the book. He doesn't focus a lot of attention on the bicycles themselves and their technology. Most of the narrative is more about the people involved and the challenges of this kind of semi-professional sport. The approach is mostly chronological covering the five separate seasons but there are some separate chapters, such as one on how families often host bicycle racers. Any book on bicycle racing has to have some blow-by-blow descriptions of interesting races and Smith is good at those.

Very nice.

View my other book reviews.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Cyclist Safety - Is it Really that Hard to Understand??

I found this on the Internet, from the govt of the state of Georgia.


Abstract: An accurate understanding of the expected effectiveness of bicycle and pedestrian safety countermeasures is needed to support decisions about how to best allocate limited public resources to increase safety for non-motorized users. However, the kind of data necessary for developing Highway Safety Manual (HSM)–style safety performance functions for bicycle and pedestrian treatments are not currently available. Limited research has been done to date about the impact of bicycle and pedestrian treatments, and most studies are not robust enough to draw broad conclusions. Most agencies surveyed valued safety as a key component of their decision to implement infrastructure, but most did not collect enough exposure and crash data to adequately assess the safety impacts. The two major challenges in using crash records for bicycle safety research are that crashes in general and cyclist crashes specifically are underreported, and pedestrian and bicycle crashes are rare events. Therefore, GDOT should pursue case-control approaches in the immediate and build toward more robust data collection, including new sources for bicycle and pedestrian crash data, counts for exposure data, and site-specific before-and-after treatment data collection.

As I read this, bicycle and pedestrian accidents are sufficiently rare and/or not reported that their approach will be to wait until there are more reported accidents and then study the subject. But in the meanwhile . . . after all, those resources that you might allocate are limited. Etc.

Also, the pseudo-military phrasing, "expected effectiveness of bicycle and pedestrian safety countermeasures," sounds like it concerned with measures to oppose rather than support safety, but who knows. And why do they refer to "bicycle and pedestrian safety" and not "cyclist and pedestrian safety?"


Saturday, October 6, 2018

When Is an eBike No Longer a Bike?

This Gazelle (from the Netherlands) appeared on the bike rack in the garage where I work.

eBike example at work

I am amused (or something) by the seat on the bike rack, which I guess is intended for a child too large for a conventional kid's bike seat. It would put a fair amount of weight relatively high up.

The entire bike is quite heavy. Out of curiosity I tried lifting it by the back rack and I would guess the whole thing is at least 60 pounds. So a certain amount of what the electric motor is doing is assuring all the bike's own weight gets down the road, before it starts in with the rider. Or riders, in this case.

Given the weight, I would expect hydraulic disk brakes, but it has conventional rim brakes. Perhaps you aren't expected to go that fast, but with this much weight and rim brakes, you would have less stopping power than you might want and go through brake pads at a pretty good clip. You would probably go through (expensive) wheel rims much more often than most people expect (which I think is typically never - people don't expect to wear through wheel rims with rim braking).

The Gazelle USA site suggests this kind of eBike costs somewhere upward of $2,500 - many of their models are around $3,500.

I guess because of the cost (value?), the owner of this thing has a chain that he uses to lock it to the rack. Most people do lock their bikes to the rack in this garage, but I don't see the point - there is no public access to this garage. I prefer to keep the time I don't spend messing around with bike locks. And certainly I don't carry a massive chain with me! Or any chain, actually. I use the strap on helmet through part of the frame to assure the bike doesn't fall down during the day - this is the worst sort of bike rack for that.

One realizes how things change looking at this - the Dutch Gazelle bike aesthetic (or something like that) for me was always a simple, mostly steel bike - utilitarian and simple. Ageless. This thing has heaps of plastic (that will most certainly age poorly) and I don't think "simple" is a word that comes to mind, although I guess it is utilitarian.

P8070917_2 Gazelle Toer Populair
"A Timeless Classic" from user MacFred64 on Flickr (CC license)

This probably pigeonholes me as an aging cyclist frump of some kind. Oh well.