Sunday, October 20, 2013

Riding a bicycle in the dark

Niterider Digital Headtrip
I have been reading on my Google+ groups and talking to a lot of cyclist in my cycle club who have a fear or reluctance to ride after the sun goes down.  I am posting this on all of my cycle groups so that you all can get a good opinion on riding at night.

All summer I ride most of my morning commute in darkness.  When daylight savings time ends I will start to ride most of my evening commute in darkness all winter. Riding in darkness has it's advantages and disadvantages.  I will discuss some of the best ways to optimize riding in the dark based on my experience.  

Just this year alone as of this writing I have cycled 6,883 miles. Of that mileage I have bike commuted 4,768 miles. I estimate that almost half of the bike commuter miles was in darkness.  I have ridden my bike in the dark in California, Oregon, Texas and now Georgia.  Each time I have stopped riding for a year or two and I start up again I have to relearn a few things on my bike.  For this discussion I had to relearn how to ride in darkness   I have been putting off writing about this for some time, but today is the day to write it.

Niterider Pro 1800 Race 
When I started bike commuting last year here in Georgia back in September 2012 I was mostly riding a short 8-12 mile commute in the city.  I was using my Niterider Headtrip.  I got the Headtrip way back last century when I was living in Oregon.  I used it with my lead acid based Cateye frame mounted two light system.  Since I was riding on lighted streets the Headtrip worked out fine.  When I am wearing my head mounted light I will to position the beam so that it is aimed about 30 to 50 feet in front of me with my head in my normal riding position.  Most cyclist think that helmet mounted lights are only for mountain bike use, but I like to bike commute on the road with one for several reasons.  When I am riding at night I want drivers to see me before they turn left into my path or pull out from a driveway or side street in front of me.   I like to have my helmet beam mounted so that when I look at a car the beam will hit the driver right in the face.  There is no mistake that they see my beam so they know where I am.

My Niterider Solas and a generic flasher on my rear tool bag.
So this brings the discussion to an interesting point, how many lights do you use when riding at night?  Well for me at a minimum I ride on the road with one frame mounted light as I ride mostly down country roads on my commute.  On the country roads I have the same problem with cross traffic as in a busy city, but for different reasons.  Instead of cars pulling into my path I have a fear of deer and wild hogs getting in my path.  When I am riding at night and I hear any sounds in the brush at the side of the road I yell out "wooop, wooop" so that the deer or what ever is there will know I am riding by.  This generally lets the deer judge my speed and they will run along the side of the road with me until they see that they can out run me and cross in front of my bike without causing me to hit them.  This week I am going to put my light back on my helmet because having two lights looking forward is the safest way to ride at night on the road or on the trail.  Two lights make the shadows disappear in areas close around your bike in the dark.  When I am riding having a bike light on my frame lights the path where my bike is pointed.  Having a light on my helmet lights the path where I am looking.  I will always look in the direction I am turning before I turn my bike.  In the dark I need every split second of advantage to make decisions that I would normally take for granted in full daylight.

My helmet flashers
I also have two red flashers on the rear of my bike and I have two flashers on the rear of my helmet.  I ride in rain and fog so I always want to make sure motorist can see me.  If I get hit by a motorist it will be from a motorist who is drunk, sleepy or just wants to take me out. I will not be  hit by a motorist because they were alert and did not see me.  I always turn on my rear flashers when I am riding into the sun or riding where there are a lot of shady trees on the road.  I try to remember how it is when I am driving and imagine what the road is like for me as a motorists.  Anytime I am on a road and I am riding into the sun motorist will have a hard time seeing me so I turn on my rear flashers.

My Niterider Pro 1800 with battery on my areo bars
Now that I have covered my thoughts on gear I want to share some experiences with riding in darkness.  When I started bike commuting I got bored really fast on the short 12 mile one way commute in through the lighted part of town. When I lived in Portland I had about 4 or 5 ways to get to downtown from my home in Washington County.  I started out in Portland riding on lighted streets and soon found myself riding on Skyline drive in pitch blackness hoping not to hit a 1,200 pound elk when I was going 46  MPH down the hills.  Just like in Portland in the 1990's I had to overcome my fear of cycling alone in darkness here in Albany.  Although it is really flat here and I do not reach speeds over 20 MPH on my bike commute I still have to watch out for deer, wild hogs, rabid foxes and dogs on my bike.  After the first two trips down Eight Mile Road where it is totally dark last winter I was forever confident on riding in darkness in SW Georgia.  To be clear my adrenalin is always going full speed when I hear somthing rustling in the bushes or grass on the side of the road and I can not see what it is, but I keep riding anyway because I love riding my bike at night.

One of the main advantages that I have found by riding in darkness is that I am more aware of where motorist are when I am cycling.  For a long time I always cycled with a rear view mirror on my glasses  I have been riding without one for almost a year.  At night you can see headlights coming towards you and you can see them coming up from the rear without looking.  Most motorist drive on country roads with their lights on, but I know that I have occasionally seen a motorist driving with their head lights off so I am aware of these crazy folks are out there and they may be drunk.

Another advantage to riding in darkness is that it is cooler than riding in full sunlight especially during summer days.  As a bike commuter if I do not ride my bike to work and then to home I do not have enough time to get in my cycling fix.  By having lights on my bike I extend the time during my waking hours that I can enjoy cycling.  Do not let the fear of cycling in darkness steal the valuable time when you are awake to ride your bike.  Ride in darkness when all of the motorist are asleep.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

My First Full Year of Continuous cycling in Georgia Part 1

In September of 2012 I started bike commuting to work on a regular basis.  That was when the cotton was just about ready to be harvested here in SQ Georgia.  Well it is cotton harvest time again and I am glad that I have accomplished one of my goals and that was to bike commute for one year.  I had to invent a few games along the way to keep me inspired to keep cycling to work and taking pictures of the cotton fields on Eight Mile Road was one of the games.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

BRAG fall ride with hills and head winds

This century ride was like no other in that I did not have the complete belief that I was prepared physically to ride 100 miles. My last 60 mile ride a few weeks ago saw me black out in my wife's presence one hour after the ride. I felt fine after the ride, but after sitting in the recliner for an hour after my shower I tried to stand up and got intense leg cramps. When I finally stood up I got dizzy and sat back down. My wife told me later that I had blacked out and my body was shaking.

I have never experienced this after any sort of exercise activity. My my doctor's test and wife believes I have a deficiency in manganese. I believe that I can not ride with the 40 somethings at 20+ MPH for 30 miles and then ride another 30 miles st my normal 16 MPH pace.

My wife has been feeding me mineral rich foods including bone marrow soup with green leafy stuff like kale.   She has also been stuffing a few vitamin supplements in my mouth every evening.   All in all I have renewed my focus on being the NASCAR crew chief for my biological machine that powers my bicycle. 

So today was my chance to find out if I would pass out after a long bike ride. I decided to stack the deck in my favor. I purchased another water bottle. I took four on the ride. I put four scoops of Spiz on two bottles an I carried them on my pockets. I also had my usual bottles filled with two scoops each of Heed. I also took two is caps each hour of my seven hour ride.

During the ride I ate four bananas, eight Fig Newtons, one cheese sand which, one bag of potato chips. All of my water bottles are 24 ounces. I drank two full Spiz bottles (1000 calories) and 6 bottles of Heed and Powerade.

Post ride, no cramps, so far I have not passed out. I use to be this meticulous about what I fueled my body with when I was trail  running.  Looks like I will have to pay serious attention to fueling my body when I cycle.  I also did not ride fast. I avoided any pace lines. I discouraged anyone from following me. I rode solo as fast as I wanted. When I wanted to stop and take a picture I did.

The Garmin 810 is still not 100% accurate on following a route. I purchased a Garmin map. I used Garmin Base camp to create the 100 mile route from a cue sheet supplied by the ride president. I am glad the route was well marked on the pavement with yellow paint and each turn had a orange sign that you could see from 300 feet. My guess is that the Garmin tries to get you the most efficient route to your destination. I went off course once following the Garmin, but I did get back on the course. I ignored the Garmin when it told me to turn and it did not agree with the course directions.

All in all it was a fun ride. Leaves were blowing. Wound was blowing. My seat came off at the 63  mile rest stop. A fellow cyclist loaned me his multi tool so I fixed my seat. I took my multi took out of my bag right before this ride because I thought it was too heavy. I am putting it back in my bag. In fact I am going to replace the Trek seat bag that I have had for 15 years with a bigger one so I can carry four tubes an the multi tool.

I love my areo bars. I will list all of the cycling rules that I have broken.
Nice country mansion with horse farm mile 35.
+Lonnie Wormley at mile 75 gawking at Halloween decorations
 Halloween decorations at mile 75
Looking north on Chattahoochiee River  at the Thompson's camp site.

Richard and Sharon Thompson's tent on the Chattahoochiee River
Bike Fest campers next to the Chattahoochiee River

The Stats of the ride

I am posting the ride route from my Garmin.  I am relieved to see that I gained almost 5,000 feet in elevation.  I purposefully did not want to know the elevation before I rode this course.  I have driven in the area so I knew it had some hills, I just did not want to know any elevation before riding it for the first time.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Pecan City Pedalers 2013 National Bike Challenge celebration ride

I had an enjoyable ride with the Pecan City Pedalers this morning.  I did not want to ride fast, but the lure of riding with friends and the sound of 14 tires on a country road allowed me to keep up with the group for most of the ride.  It was a beautiful fall day in SW Georgia, the winds were slight and the sun was not too hot.  A good time was had by all.

We were celebrating the fact that our team, the Pecan City Pedalers Wing nuts came in first place for the state of Georgia in the National Bike Challenge.  I came in 10th place for the state and 737th nationally.  I was injured for August and September so I did not get the miles in that I wanted.  Next year I will do better.