Friday, July 31, 2009

Were you ever in the ATF?

The really well written post, Helmet Mounted Mirror, on Beginning Bicycle Commuting, prompted me to look at some pictures I took of my helmet setup a while back.

It started out with a little experimentation by adding some reflective strips on my helmet and eventually grew into its current stage.
When I initially started bicycle commuting (in the US), I did not have a very powerful front light on my bike and I used to ride a lot more in St. Louis, MO.

So, I attached a Black Diamond Spot climbers light to my helmet, which became my first helmet-mounted light. It is the one on the left in the picture below, secured to the helmet with a yellow Velcro reflective band. This is my very first climbers' light and I still love this light. It is a great value for the price. It has both a steady and a blinking mode and has a double-power LED bulb and 3 single-power LED bulbs, which can be operated independently one another. This light runs on 3-AAA batteries, which give it a great battery life. It used to adorn the very front of my helmet. But for balancing purposes, now, it has been mounted on the side of the helmet. This light is not heavy at all.
The second and the most powerful helmet-mounted front light I have is the Dinotte 200L-AA-S. This light is the one on the left in the picture below and it is the one on the right in the picture above. In the picture below, the black pouch contains the battery unit for the light. This light runs on 2 AA rechargeable batteries, which give it a really good battery life.

This is not a cheap light but it is so phenomenally bright and increases your visibility by leaps and bounds. It is a great light to be seen and is a very reasonable light to see with, at night. It has a two basic modes (High or Low) and under each you have the choice of steady or three flashing modes. This light is not heavy.

I use the helmet lights to communicate with motorists, especially with those who are merging on to the road I am riding on. Some people like these lights and some don't and I totally understand and respect that. I personally like having them as they give me a sense of security.

The third most important light I have on my helmet is the Planet Bike Superflash (in the back of the helmet in the picture above). It is a nice product and I would recommend it. It is not at all expensive and it is quite bright for its intended purposes.

These are not the only lights on my bicycles. On my commuter, I have other front lights incluing a Light and Motion ARC and rear lights including a Velleman Strobe light.

Another useful item attached to my helmet is my Tiger Eye Rear View Mirror. It is a great product and it is made right here in Texas, in the US of A!!

The heaviest item on my helmet is the Oregon Scientific Helmet Camera, which I bought for $50 or so at Sams Club. It is an okay camera and the greatest assets of this camera are 1) that it is a self-contained unit and 2) it is totally waterproof (not just water resistant). The batteries, memory etc., are all contained right inside the camera. I do not quite care for the smallish buttons atop the camera, which take a while to get used to. But it is a good asset to have handy, while on the road. The one thing I wish this camera had was a still shot capability. I am considering buying a Hero Helmet Camera some point in time, which can do both video and still shots.

Oh, by the way, the helmet camera, I think is a rude-driver deterrant, don't tell the non-cyclists, okay? :)

I do carry a regular digital Camera in my pannier/handlebar bag whether or not I have the helmet camera mounted on the helmet.

On a lighter note, I have gotten several complements on my helmet setup and have also heard some interesting remarks about my helmet setup, one of which was, "That looks like a tactical helmet". I simply took that as a good joke :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Goodbye HotRock, Hello F6!

Yesterday, my family said their Goodbyes to my kid's Specialized HotRock (HR) Mountain bike. We got HR in 2006 from Mesa Cycles in St. Louis, MO. HR served my kid very well. It was my kid's first geared bike. A gentleman from Fort Worth bought it from us for his kid. Bye, HR...we'll miss ya!...
HR has been replaced by Daddy's Cannondale F6, which I bought off Craigslist in Richardson, TX. Although, the transformation from HR to F6 was not a major problem for my kid, there were some minor glitches. The stock stem on the F6 was way too long. So, we had to replace this one with something that will be super-short. After talking my buddies at REI Dallas, an unanimous decision to replace the stock stem of the F6 with a Truvativ Hussefelt.
While the Hussefelt is heavier (a whopping 203 grams) than many other stems I have had the pleasure of knowing, it is built like a tank. I ain't kiddin' ya!So, Kudos kiddo! You have earned it by hard work, proving to me that you can ride like a lioness and that you deserve a bigger bike.

Many more years of happy riding and safe trails to you!

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Dissection of my Co-Motion Americano and other sundries!

Here is my beloved custom Co-Motion Americano. It is a model year 2008, which I bought in Fall 2008. Much of the bike is stock. With the Co-Motion Americano, all the stock parts are of very high quality. The reason I changed some parts are because of my personal preferences only and not because I thought the stock parts were inferior.
Here are the changes I made to the bike:
I bought the Gilles Berthoud fenders at Wallingford Bicycles (purchased online). Mr. Bill Laine, the properiter of Wallingford Bicycles gave me some really useful tips about the installation, over the telephone. While the installation was not a snap, it was not unreasonable.

The Gilles Berthoud Mud Flap is a great way (preventive) to keep water off your shoes (toes) on rainy days, especially if you ride in sandals and woolen socks like I do, in Spring and many Winter days. Well, it is one of those crazy habits I picked up while living in Canada.

I have Tubus front and rear racks (Tara and Logo, respectively) and Arkel panniers to go touring, if and when I get my act together :) Currently, the rear rack is on my Cannondale T800, the commuter.

Of late, my water bottle of choice has been the CamelBak Insulated Steel Bottle. As I mentioned in a previous post, I did try the CycleAware Torpedo Steel Bottle but it is no good. It looks nice and flashy but it is not very good at keeping the water/drink cold. I have not weighed the CamelBak Insulated Steel Bottle to see how much it weighs. I do not care about how much it weighs, to be quite honest! All I know is that it keeps the water really cold for many many hours!!

So, my modus operandi has been: a) carry ice cubes in CamelBak Insulated Steel Bottle b) carry ice-cold water in the Torpedo. Refill each on the way as needed! And drink lots and lots of water!!

Peace :)

Brooks Colorful New Limited Editions

Brooks Colorful New Limited Editions

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Kiddie Ride!

On hotter days, when I do not want to venture out too far, I usually ride the Campion Trail, near my home in Irving, TX. This trail is roughly 5 miles long and is a paved trail which is great for riding with your family. It is usually not very crowded although I have seen some days when it was crowded, over the summer. It supports all types of physical activities like walking, biking, roller skating etc. Here is a quick look at the nicely paved trail, just as one exits Valley Ranch, going under Valley View Lane.
Those of you who have never been on this trail just have to believe me when I say the Trinity River runs just to the left of this trail for a little while. But there is a one body of water or another on this trail, pretty much all along the way. That is one big plus, if you ask me! You also find some enthusiastic sportsmen fishing in the river. I am not sure if they actually eat the fish they catch or if they just catch and release. The water does not look very clean :(
The Campion trail runs all the way from Valley Ranch to California Crossing, in South Irving. Along the way, you go by a Polo Field and Equestrain Trails. Because of the presence of the Trinity and the canal that runs along the trail, there is usually lots of water birds along this trail. There is also a designated Bird Watching area on this trail, where I have personally seen so many different types of birds, including Herons. Being a nature lover, I love all kinds of animals and birds and everything that is nature.
If you are ever in my neck of the woods and you feel like checking out the Campion trail, I would highly recommend it for a place where you can ride leisurely. Although, I personally do not care for some that ride this trail who do not signal that they are passing you either verbally or by using a horn or a bell. There are also some that ride this trail without any lights at all, at night. I think these kinds people put themselves and others on the trail at risk. I do not want to sound sour but I have come closer to being hit by some of these :(

I do not want to end this post on a negative note. Here is a little video (my first video post, YES!) to cheer you up :)


PS. I rode my Cannondale Mountain Bike on this ride!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Trinity River Trail Fort Worth

I rode the Trinity Trail in Fort Worth with a couple of my friends today. We started around 8:30 AM and so it was not too hot yet. This trail runs right along the Trinity River in Fort Worth. It was my first trip to this trail and so it was very interesting to me.
Based on what I know, I believe there are about 30 odd miles of paved trails along the Trinity. The trail we rode was quite scenic, in spite of the repressive heat. While the Trinity was low, it was still to ride by a river. I had not done this since I left Missouri (especially, the KT Trail in St. Charles and Columbia) and it brought back some fond memories. I saw tons of cranes along the river.
Along the trail, there were misting stations and shade available. So, if you wanted to take a break, you could relax for a bit and get a break from the sun. There were also water fountains along the trail, although I did not have the need to refill. I had my backpack bladder filled with lots of ice and water, which lasted the entire trip.
We had planned to ride 60 miles or so but the trip was cut short, unfortunately, due to one of the fellow's tires blowing up. Although, this was a bummer, the trip was a real nice one, the ride was great and I would definitely recommend this trail. I plan to go back and ride this one again.

PS. I tested the CycleAware Torpedo bottle and I am gonna give it a thumbs-down. It is not as good as the Camelbak Stainless Steel Insulated bottle, in terms of keeping the water cold. I also did not like Cycleaware's customer service. I had to call them several times to find out where my package was. A week after I was supposed to have the bottle, they told me that they had not shipped it as they were out-of-stock :(

Celina to Whitesboro,TX

I recently joined the Lone Star Randonnuers (LSR). From the LSR, I got a nice route to get to Whitesboro, TX from Celina, TX. So, I set out to ride this 64 miles route on July 4, 2009. I took my chances with the heat, thinking I can make it but I had to cut the trip in half as I felt I was close to a heat-stroke.

The lows of the trip were the intolerable TX heat (102 degrees F) and the lack of shade. And, the six or so dead snakes I saw along the way didn't help much either :)

Lesson learned: If it is going to be 102, do not ride during the hottest part of the day!

In spite of these things, this ride opened my eyes to the beauty of Texas countryside. I was once again reminded that I was going after the experience and not necessarily how fast I get to the destination.
I saw over 100 horses on that day. They came in all colors, sizes and shapes. So, majestic! I also saw some guys that were either donkeys or burros. They guys were incredibly cute and so I decided to add them to my collection of nature's splendor!

And there were acres after acres of fields (corn?). While some parts of the ride were scenic and verdant, there were parts that were boring as it can be and dry.
I saw this one sign that caught my eye. Made me wonder if they were using GM seeds :(
I am gonna ride this entire route back again and complete all the 64 miles. But, I might wait till it gets a bit cooler, perhaps in the Fall / Winter.