Do I Look Whiter Than Normal?

While commuting to a class this morning on my bike I was following a bus through a left-hand turn. The road we were on was a major road that had the right of way to go straight or turn left. Though it is a 90 degree turn, it is set up in such a way that you can buzz through the turn pretty quickly. I moved into the middle lane behind the bus and we went through the turn together with a few other cars.

Sitting on the other side of the turn, hidden from my view as we were going into the turn, was a bag of lime (used for cement) that fell off a delivery truck. This is a fine white powder that is dusty and dry. The bus hit the pile of lime in the road and shot up a huge cloud of white dust. Without considering the outcome, I continued through the cloud on my bike getting the dust all over me. It got into my eyes and all over my clothes.

My eyes started watering and I was afraid I would arrive at class with cement stuck to my face. I wiped everything off as best I could and continued on to class.

Why is it that these types of things happen when you are running late? I began to think that arriving late to class would be a good thing since I could slip in to the bathroom and clean up before anyone saw me.

Because it was cool this morning I had on a jacket. Besides my clothes turning white, only my hands and face were exposed to the dust. As soon as I saw the cloud start to billow up I took a deep breath and went through the cloud without breathing any of it in.

When I got to class everyone was still standing outside—no chance of slipping in and cleaning up before anyone saw me. I rode up and asked a couple of my friends if I looked whiter than normal. They didn’t seem to notice at first. But when I took my glasses off and they saw my normal skin color they burst out laughing. I am glad I could provide entertainment for them.

Fortunately I was able to brush most of it off my clothes. My face and hands rinsed off fine too. I don’t even feel too stiff.

Icebreaker Ultralite Micro Bike Socks Review

Several months ago I won some free Icebreaker gear from the TravellingTwo bike blog. I have been wearing them as much as possible over the last few months and I have really enjoyed them.

They sent me three pairs of socks. The ones that were bike specific were the Icebreaker Ultralite Micro bike socks. They are $17 a pair from Icebreaker. That certainly is not cheap for a pair of socks, but the reputation these socks have should make them worth the cost.

Icebreaker Bike SocksI have not done weeks’ worth of bike touring in them; however, I have done several long distance runs using these socks. They are comfortable and fit well. Because they are left/right specific, they do not slide around on my feet like lower quality socks sometimes do.

One of the greatest features is the moisture wicking ability of the merino wool. I have finished runs where the socks have been so wet that I could wring water out of them, yet my feet did not feel the least bit wet. I did not get any blisters from wrinkled up skin or hot spots when wearing these socks.

Another much-touted feature of these socks is that they don’t hold odors. I typically don’t have odor problems with my socks or shoes, but occasionally there is a thick cloud around my pile of running shoes. These socks don’t retain odors nor do they seem to cause my feet to create odors. I wore a pair of the thicker socks they sent me for a couple of weeks without having any odor problems. They got dirty in other ways and I could not stand the thought of putting them on again without washing them. The Icebreaker socks passed the odor test as far as I am concerned.

These socks are very thin. The Ultralite Micro socks are not for cold-weather use. However, there are plenty of other socks to choose from at the Icebreaker website. Their bike socks are thin socks, but you can get thicker socks as needed. For touring and commuting you can easily get by with a thicker sock, though road racers will probably want the thinnest sock they can find.

It is hard to comment on the longevity and build quality of the socks since they have not started to show any signs of wear yet. I can only assume that they will last a long time based on what I have experienced so far.

Are they worth $17? That is a hard question to answer. Certainly if you were going on a long bike trip and only wanted to take 1 or 2 pair of socks, then they are worth it. If you are interested in having a variety of socks in your sock drawer that you can wear on a whim, then these may not be the socks for you. To get the value out of these socks you would want to know that you will be wearing them often.

If these ever wear out I will probably buy another pair, but until then, I have trouble justifying the price just to have another pair of nice socks in my drawer.

High Humidity = Slick Roads

Last night was a cool fall evening with 97% humidity. I was riding home from work and had a clear opening through an intersection where I needed to make a left-hand turn. I wasn’t going overly fast, but I was certainly going faster than I normally would since—for the first time that I can remember—I didn’t have to stop at the light or wait for traffic before turning.

As I was making a beautiful sweeping turn both my wheels started sliding on the wet asphalt at the same time. It wasn’t as slick as ice, but the effect was the same. I was not able to recover from the slide like you can do if only your back wheel slides out from under you. I hit the ground and slid on my left side.

Because there was oncoming traffic (though it was more than a block away), I wanted to get to my feet as quickly as I could so they could see me (the accident happened after dark). I had lights on my bike, but I did not pretend to think that the cars would pay attention to small lights in the middle of their road. While collecting my bike I just happened to look over and saw my phone lying in the road. Had I not seen it, I probably would not have noticed it was missing for a couple of blocks. I did a quick scan of the road to make sure there was nothing else lying around.

My bike is mostly fine; I tore the cover on my saddle. The chain was off the chain ring when I first got on, but with a rotation of the pedals it jumped back into place. I was in the big chain ring. The phone works, but it does have some discoloration in the screen. My pants are destroyed; I ripped a big hole down the left thigh. The sleeve on my coat did not get torn. The reason it didn’t was that it slid up my arm which resulted in my arm having a good bit of road rash. Probably less than I would have if I wasn’t wearing the coat though. I have a few other random cuts and scrapes.

This was my first potentially serious wreck since I was a kid. I have always been scared of hitting the ground in this way. While I don’t want to do it again, I am thankful it was not as bad as I always imagined.

Be careful out there when the humidity is high. Those little rocks in the asphalt can get slippery. Don’t cut it close with traffic. I had plenty of room between me and the oncoming cars to gather myself and make my presence known, but I know there are times when I have cut it too close in the past. Maybe this will serve as a warning to not take risks with traffic in the future. It took less than a second to go from a beautiful left turn to sliding through an intersection.

Nite Ize – BikeLit Review

BikeLit packagingLast summer I picked up a couple of red BikeLits for my bikes. These are LED safety lights made by Nite Ize. These have been a great investment since my family and I commute by bike to our regular activities. Almost half of our commuting is after dark. While I have more than a normal amount of reflectors on our bikes, I needed some lights. Previously I bought lights that used AAA batteries which were very bright, but did not have a good mechanism for holding them onto the bike. The batteries made them too heavy and the bracket either folded down so the light wouldn’t show, or the light just popped off the bike. They were all destroyed within 2 weeks of purchase.

That is the reason I was looking for something with a better way to attach to the bike. If the light had smaller batteries that would have been a bonus. When I saw the BikeLit from Nite Ize I was happy with the possibilities.

This light connects via 2 hooks. These are perfect for attaching to the rails underneath the saddle on our bikes. Another thing I like about the way they attach is that they are very easy to put on and take off, yet I never worry about them accidentally falling off. I was concerned that the hooks would weaken over time, however I have had these for almost a year and that has not been an issue. I don’t foresee it becoming one either.

When turned on you have a choice of using a solid or strobe light. The lights use 2 CR2016 batteries and should last 20 to 25 hours depending on which mode you use. The batteries can be bought through Amazon for less than $1 each. If you use the lights regularly, then you may want to consider picking up a few extra batteries. While I bought these lights in the United States, we currently live in Argentina. I recently had to replace the batteries on our lights and paid $2.50 per battery at a local watch store. That is $5 per light! A friend reminded me that $5 is a small price to pay for the extra insurance a rear light will give you when riding at night.

Originally I paid about $8 for the lights. You can buy a two pack (red and white) at Amazon for less than $11. If you look at that Amazon page, you can choose just the red or just the white light. They are under $7 each. I have no experience with the white light, but if I were looking for a light, I would buy the combo pack just for the savings.

These lights are waterproof. They slip on and off the bike easily. The red BikeLit that I have can easily be seen at a distance. Even if you don’t use them for your bike, at this price it is worth having a couple of these around any time you want to be seen.

First “Century” Ride

Though I am a regular bike commuter, the longest ride I had done was 26 miles. I did that ride on my birthday last year. The goal was to ride 41 Km for my 41 years of life. But, I had a couple of detours and ended up with 42 Km which is about 26 miles. It was time to take another long ride.

There were no plans to make this a fast ride. The point was to enjoy a day on the bike; not to go out there and try to ride my tires or legs into the ground.

Route

The trip was planned for Good Friday. Theoretically this would give me a day on the road with fewer cars. The town I was riding to is a place I had never been before and since we don’t own a car I did not have a chance to drive the route to even see what the road was like. I was going on blind faith that some friends told me the road was fairly good. Even though it is just a two-lane road there normally wasn’t too much traffic.

From what I knew of the area, once I left my town I would not have any services until I got to the town where I was to turn around and come home. I rode from La Plata to Magdalena, Buenos Aires, Argentina. The only thing I would see would be farms, cows and a little water.

I knew the ride would be a total of 65 to 70 miles. I know that is not a traditional century ride, but since I live in a country that uses the metric system, I decided to bend the rules a little and count 100 Km as my century instead of 100 miles. Read the rest of this entry

Handlebar Mounted Bike Mirrors

There are many different types of bicycle mirrors. Some prefer mirrors that mount on the rider’s helmet while others prefer bike mirrors that mount on the bike in some way. There are even some riders who despise bike mirrors completely. Whatever camp you are in, here are some advantages and disadvantages to handlebar mounted mirrors.

There are various types of handlebar mounted bike mirrors. They can be mounted on the bar ends, clamp onto the handlebars or even stow into the bar ends when not in use. Depending on whether you have straight bars or drop handlebars as to which type of mirror works best. One of the most interesting types of bike mirrors for drop handlebars is a mirror that is not much bigger than the diameter of the bars which mount on the end of the drops and allows the rider to look straight down to see the traffic behind him.

Advantages:

  • Always on the bike
  • A stationary position in relationship to the handlebars

Disadvantages:

  • Of necessity, they must be larger than mirrors mounted closer to the rider’s eyes
  • Easy to steal
  • Easy to break in a fall
  • Constantly moving in relationship to the rider’s line of sight

Unlike glasses or helmet mounted mirrors, handlebar mounted mirrors are always on the bike. The rider does not have to remember to grab the mirror before heading out the door for a ride. The bike mirrors are connected to the handlebars; therefore, it is easy to temporarily twist the bars to get a different viewing angle.

However, because the mirrors are further away from the rider, they must be larger to get the same field of view that glasses and helmet mounted mirrors offer. The need to move the handlebars to get a better viewing angle can be dangerous or impossible in certain situations.

The most important thing about having a mirror on your bike is actually using it. Being aware of the cars, and other cyclists, around you will help keep you safe on the road.

Locking Your Bike

I came across an article on how to lock up a bike. The author has some good explanation and pictures. I encourage you to go read the whole page. But here are the highlights.

how to lock a bike

What needs to be locked?

  • Front tire
  • Rear tire
  • Frame
  • Seat

You can do some of these with the same chain or U-lock, but you will need at least 2 locks/chains to secure everything. Also the more locks the thief has to break the more likely you are going to encourage them to move on to the next bike and leave yours alone.

The wheels and the frame should be locked to each other and an immovable object such as a bike rack or solid pole. Even if your bike does not have quick release wheels, you must lock both of them. You can remove one of the wheels and lock it to the other wheel and frame if necessary.

Keep your chain as short as possible. The more slack there is, the easier it is for a thief to break it with a metal pole. This is even more important with a U-lock.

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