Hand Held Bicycle Mirror

I am actively looking for a bike mirror to use on my commute.  I saw this one on Amazon and was intrigued.  In the picture below the flap is closed concealing the mirror.

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Here is is with the mirror opened. This is the standard way to wear it with the mirror sitting on your wrist.

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This is the way that worked for me.  I have it on riding over the backside of my palm and canted at an angle.

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It works but it does have issues.  I have a huge blind spot no matter how I angle or wave my arm around in an effort to try to see what is close behind me.  I had one big delivery truck thirty feet in back of me and couldn’t see it.  I could hear it though.  I could only see it using the old school method of simply turning my head.  The mirror definitely needs to be a little bigger, and it also needs to magnify the image more.  Stuff looks pretty far away back there.

Tomorrow I am riding my hybrid.  I am anxious to see what happens without the drop bars.  Will the straight bars, and the geometry of that bike make a difference?  Useful, but not the solution I was looking for.

I have one intersection that is very busy when I come home, and cars drive fast.  There is a bike lane, but I to make a left turn in front of whatever is behind me, and whoever is oncoming as well as deal with people merging one direction or the other from the street I am trying to turn onto.  Often I just pull to the side and look.  Turning the head doesn’t work so well in this situation.

The other area where I would like a good mirror, which  has lots more traffic than the aforementioned intersection, is downtown.  Other than that, except for a detour while there is some bridge construction, is the trail.  Most of my ride is on a trail that is free of traffic except for other bikes, and people on foot.

I used a helmet mounted mirror years ago and I was not a fan.  I am going to try it again, and just work with it until I get used to it.  That is the plan anyway.

 

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Bike Commute Redux

I had tried my hand at bike commuting but never committed to it.  Just the occasional attempt now and then. When we got down to just one car an opportunity presented itself.  Something that could have been a setback turned into an opportunity.

Two years ago we had an old Toyota Corolla which was a fantastic car, and what was then a new Toyota Rav.  The Corolla burned oil, and had certainly seen better days.  My wife used it for her job which requires her to spend most of her day driving from one home to another, from one appointment to another, as part of her work as a parent educator.  All city driving.  But, it was a beater car with dints and dings, and the kind of car that you didn’t care if somebody dented it some more.  Which did happen.  And it certainly was not the kind of care that somebody would break into.  It was also reliable until it just wasn’t anymore.  When our mechanic informed us that it was time for a new engine we knew it was time to put it down.  What to do?

She asked me if we should go car shopping and I suggested that we try car pooling instead.  So she inherited the Rav. On Tuesday and Thursday when I went in late I would ride my bike.  Or I would have her drop me off sometimes and I would hike home.  However, this last May I decided to try my hand at bike commuting, and with one week to go I only caught a ride with her for one and a half trips to work. One day both ways, and one day I walked home.

I had ridden my bike to work a time or two before, but could never gather the courage to be regular about it.  It is pretty hard to roll out of bed in the morning, especially when it is cold, and ride 5 or 6 miles to work.  I decided to post pictures from my ride the day before yesterday.

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The pictures are looped but in order. The first picture in the series is my bike in the garage as I prepare to leave, then outside on the drive next to the Rav, and ends with a picture of my closet at work.  Two things that make this whole project possible is that about two thirds of the ride is on the Katy Trail so I don’t have to deal with cars, and I have that closet at work. It is a small closet and kind of rough but it gives me a place to keep clothes to change into.  I have about six pairs of paints, and as many shirts.  Two pairs of shoes .

My normal ride is 33 minutes there and 33 minutes back.  Just this week a main section of the trail was closed off for several months while four old bridges are replaced. So I have to make a detour.  Most of it riding next to traffic.  It makes it 6 instead of 5 miles and includes a pretty big hill.

In some future posts I want to review my evolving gear closet, and discuss what I have learned.  I love using the bike. I hardly drive anymore which is fine with me.  Driving has lost its allure with the demise of REAL super cars.  Like the 40 Dodge Magnum, GTO, GTX, the Shelby Mustangs!  It saves money, and it is free exercise.  So now I don’t have to worry about finding time to exercise.  I have to in order to get to work and then get back home.  I miss running but this is a fun, and practical, replacement.

I would love to hear from anybody who commutes, and how they handle things.  Gear, dealing with weather, and dealing with traffic.  I will be sharing what I am learning.

 

Evening Bike Ride

Surly Cross Check on the New Trail Bridge

I took an hour ride after work today.  Beautiful night, great workout weather, and wonderful fall trees.  I rode the Surly!  Starting to love it, but the stock  brakes are HORRIBLE. Is it just the pads? Worse than a tandom I had, which vastly  improved with just a brake pad upgrade. My bike shop is moving 100 yards from my house so that problem will get solved soon.

As you can see Fall is beautiful here in the Midwest.

I arrived him as it was getting dark. Commuter traffic is so dangerous here. One car turned tight toward me as I was making a left, and they were making a right, off of a residential side street.  That stretch is treacherous, and especially so during rush hour when when it corresponds with dusk.

Safety First

I love the new battery powered LED lights.  Finally bike lights worth the money.


Cycle Safety

Just a short rant on safety and bicycling.  I plan a few more, but this one is about carrying pepper spray on my commute.  Why?

I ride about one mile on lazy residential back roads to the trail.  Vehicular traffic is heavy but manageable.   Then it is onto the trail system that, unfortunately, has many people who use the trail that either do not leash their dog, or long leash it to the point that their beloved pet, that would never hurt anybody, lunges at you as they chortle in loving parental delight at the escapades of their beloved rascal.  Usually pit bulls.  Then there is the beautiful park that has been taken over by a pretty rough crowd (one guy walks around with a 12 inch hunting knife strapped to his leg), where an acquaintance was assaulted, on a walk through with friends, ending up with a chipped tooth.  The same place where a group of angst filled fun loving teenagers did not want to make way for me and stared daggers at me for disturbing their delinquent repose.  Oh, and if you are into the crack scene you can scratch that itch there too.  There have been other tense moments.  Also, the trail system is not well patrolled and there have been instances of assault and one sexual assault just last week.  It is not a total disaster, but it has the potential, to be. By the way,  there is a short bypass to that park so I don’t even ride through it anymore.  I also make it a point to warn people, usually students from the University of Missouri, not to continue their run through it either.

A few days ago I happened I meet a friend on the trail whom I had not seen in about a year (he has not been riding because a car hit him about five months ago in a parking lot – I will be dealing with cars/trucks a bit later on down the line) and I noticed he had a pretty large can of pepper spray strapped to his bike.  He told me his own war stories.  What to do?

That night I went straight to Amazon.  There I found this product:

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So now I ride back and forth with pepper spray strapped to my bike and still feel out gunned.

So now I ride back and forth with pepper spray strapped to my bike and still feel somewhat vulnerable.

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It is just a regular canister of Sabre pepper spray in a velcro holder.  Is this overdoing it?  I hope I am not becoming “that guy,” but I don’t wanna be that victim. Oh, and my friend?  In his pannier he carries a .357 magnum.  Missouri is sometimes like the wild west.  No kidding.

My Bicycle Commute Home

Today I decided to document my ride home from work.  It was a beautiful fall day.  So, this is just a picture essay. The pictures start outside the building where my office is, and then end about a quarter mile from my house.  There is also one picture of me – for the record.

I am so glad I took these photographs.  It helped me to appreciate the incredible trail network we have here in Columbia, Missouri, and it made me notice the beauty and diversity of my ride home.  Columbia is one of the top 50 bicycle cities in America according to Bicycle Magazine.  For good reason.  Also, for once I paid attention.

NOTE:  I just updated this.  The slideshow was not working so I made a quick change – now the pictures are just presented in order.

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Flat Tires and Bike Commuting: Are Airless Tires the Answer?

I try to commute whenever I can. The local trail is about a mile from my house, I ride the trail for about three miles, and then exit in the downtown area. From there  it is a  wee bit under a half mile to my job.  A pleasant ride that takes me just under a half hour there, and back.  I started last year, and this semester I have been doing it a little more.  It helps that I am better organized, and have fresh clothes that I keep in my office closet to change into. Being a guy you can get by for a couple of weeks with just five pairs of paints, five shirts, and three sport jackets,  with one pair of black work shoes. I just mix and match the shirt and trousers so that I I have different outfits.  After I have worn everything a couple of times, I switch them out with fresh ones on the weekend. It works great. Below is a picture of my commuter bike which has made a previous appearance on this blog:

20150902_150404A couple of weeks ago on my way to work I came close to crashing.  The next day on the way home I recreated the incident:

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On the way to work I rode into a large crack, a seam in the road, and was barely able to muscle my way out of it without going down. I was about a quarter mile from home when this happened.  By the time I rode into my driveway the tire was flat.  I changed the tube and tried it again the next morning.

That next morning I managed to get just past where I had ridden into the crack when I noticed my tire was going flat.  I called my wife,and luckily she was able to to pick me up, and she dropped me off at the bike shop where I do business which is located very close to where I work, and they were able to take a look at it right away while I waited. I ride with two spare tubes, a co2 kit, and flat patch kit, but I didn’t want to bother fixing the puncture and getting grease all over me on my way to work. Two flats in less than 24 hours.

It is because of such possibilities as this, that I make sure to leave in the morning at least an hour early, and the day when my front tire went flat I had left even earlier.   The shop replaced the tube at my request after they were unable to find a hole in it. They also adjusted the rim tape.  So far, after sixty miles are so, no further problems.

The one thing thing I dread the most is the possibility of flats in the morning when I am going to work. I don’t mind fixing them, or changing tubes.  I don’t even mind having to push my bike if I have to.  What I want to avoid most of all is being late for class.

What to do?  Since then I have been investigating other alternatives and have discovered several possibilities.  One possibility I am gong to try for sure is the Slime Tire Sealer.  You put the slime inside the tube and it seals small punctures.  If nothing else it might buy you some time. Several small companies are working on solid tires, and airless tubes, and you can find them on Amazon, or other retailers.  I also found airless bike tires at www.airlesstires.com.

The reviews for the flat proof tires are all over the place but they do have certain disadvantages.  For one thing, there is air in tires for a reason.  It does not weigh much, and it acts as a shock absorber.  The reviews I did read talked about increased rolling resistance, a rougher ride, problems with getting a proper fit, some handling issues, and difficulty in fitting the tires to some rims.  In addition there were stories of the tire rolling off the rim, sometimes causing a crash.  It seems the idea has been around for awhile, but so far not that effectively.  However, I think we will see great strides in airless tires, which are essentially flat proof, in the next five years if some of the bigger tire manufacturers get behind the concept.  I suspect that for this to work well, it will require special wheels which can hold the tire in place, and a more-or-less regular tire casing on the outside bonded to some kind of effective shock absorbing material on the inside. Flat proof tires are too good of an idea to go away.