Monday, December 2, 2013

Scenic Drive, December 1

The view from my bike.

If you are touring the Pacific coast, make time for Scenic Drive. It runs parallel to Route 101 and gets you off the Freeway. These photos were taken about 2 miles south of Trinidad, California.

 I rode my Rans Stratus XXP

Ten miles to the south skeletons of old barns dot the Arcata Bottoms. Fog country. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"I'm not part of gang bangers," said the mayor

Cycling Hall of Shame member Rob Ford is back in the news. 

Mayor Ford also said he was “not an addict,” a week after admitting to smoking crack cocaine while in a “drunken stupor.” 

When the dust settles (on Ford?) Toronto can begin to undo his attacks on cyclists and could end up with a bike-friendly transportation system.

Monday, November 11, 2013

What to Do on Sunday If You Have an Artificial Knee

Had to stop for a chat with the engaging Ingrid of Westhaven. A lot of people with plastic parts inside their knee would be propped up in front of the widescreen on a Sunday afternoon. Ingrid saddled up her bionix-assisted (battery) Greenspeed trike and headed out to Scenic Drive. She can make 10 miles in hilly country, 50 in the flats with a combination of pedaling and battery boost. The trailer with passengers adds 150 lbs to the package, a no-brainer if you've got puppies who are up for a Sunday cruise along the Pacific. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Beautiful Willamette Valley

We moved south into Oregon. 

The valley has great bike rides in every direction with little traffic. The hills were gentle but the summer heat made midday riding uncomfortable. On some days, we left very early and stopped after lunch. 

Northwest Lakes and Forests

White sand dunes, Florence, Oregon

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

See Washington From Your Bike

I rode west to the Pacific from Florence, Oregon.

Near the river's mouth, Florence Oregon. No sun that day...or ever?

Florence, Oregon

On display behind the bar

For some reason, not a popular hangout

Friday, August 9, 2013

American Cycling: The Frantic Style

You'll find many good points to consider in this thoughtful Dutch video. Is your ride to work a mad dash? Is your weekend riding group relaxed or driven? Hopefully, if you flat or break down you are offered help. But if you linger  for a moment to smell the roses are you quickly left behind? Sure, speed is fun but racing bikes have terrible ergonomics. I've yet to see a runner, swimmer or hiker bend over double for hours at a time. We might justify weird postures on a bike to win a race but why practice acrobatic contortions in public in the name of exercise?

 I started this blog back in 2008 after an eye-opening bike tour of Holland. The Dutch cycling model changed the whole society in a few years and certainly could work here.  If you want to see bikes become a part of American life, take note.

The High Road to Woodland

About 5 miles north of Woodland, Washington the bike route starts to climb.

The Columbia River

And then the road turns to loose gravel and serious  climbing...

I pressed on through small farms, mini-mansions and antique shops. 

At the summit I sat back and let the bike fly downhill all the way to Woodland with just one unavoidable stop on the way. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Road South from Elma Washington

The Chehalis River

To continue last year's Northwest tour, Steve Fox and I met a few riding friends in Elma, Washington and headed south.

From left to right: Steve Fox, Steve Sipma, Linda Roddy, Sheila Ross, Mary Bradley, Noreen O'Brien. And in the foreground Steve Fox's awesome new HP Velotechnik Scorpion 26. 

8 AM Push off.

Central Washington, the flat lands

Near Centralia we discovered an unopened new bike trail. Consider it open now.

After a long day on the road, we met for an unhurried dinner in the historic Centrailia downtown. Good food and beer, unhurried conversation. We sat in a front window booth, well away from the earnestly awful house band.

You could do a lot worse than end up in downtown Centralia. This beautiful old hotel, now converted to offices and condos, was a few blocks from an antique railroad station. Both have seen some Washington history. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Review: A Better Cycling Camera and an Essential Ergonomic Accessory

The Canon S95 which I called the ideal cycling camera and its successors the Canon S100/110 remain the best choice for a very light, good quality cycling camera. However, small cameras come with a built in limitation: a smaller sensor, the recording device that replaced film. Onscreen photos are crisp enough but 8X10 prints begin to look soft--and become noticeably softer if you enlarge further.  Unless the laws of physics are rewritten you can't expect to print large, high quality photos from a small sensor camera.

Want to hang your cycling photos on the wall? Generally this has meant jumping to a large sensor SLR and a collection of high quality lenses. Unfortunately, SLR lenses can weigh a pound or more each and some require a tripod. Pretty soon you're hauling a photo package that weighs half as much as your bike! I've met bike tourists with fifteen pounds of photo gear.

Recently, the major camera manufacturers have compromised: smaller cameras with a medium sized sensors that accept mini lenses. Such "mid size" units approach SLR-quality photos without the burdensome weight or bulk.

If this were a camera site I'd roll out mind-numbing statistics to justify choosing a Nikon 1 V1. I'd split hairs citing  test equipment "differences" that human beings can't actually see. The truth is almost all digital cameras will take decent photos if all you want to do is post online. Printing is where the rubber meets the road. Print quality improves dramatically as  sensor size increases. And large sensor cameras are also much, much faster, a critical capability when shooting action. But an even more important difference, the one you might want to obsess about, is in the ergonomics.

Speed first: no camera now made at any price in any format is faster than Nikon's entry in the new "mid size" camera market the Nikon 1  which will actually take 60 (Sixty) perfectly exposed frames in one second! You have to see this happen at, say, a soccer game or bird preserve, to appreciate the jaw dropping results.

Doting parents and grandparents struggling to capture fast-moving kids need look no further:  the Nikon 1 is the camera you've been dreaming about. Gone are the empty goal posts shot  just after the  heroic touchdown. Every single moment is captured in sharp, high resolution color and the video capabilities are impressive as well.

Cycle tourists will take home perfect renditions of all shots taken in decent light with this camera.

Now to the ergonomics: even at less than half the size of an SLR, cyclists must consider the extra weight involved, which will vary according to how many lenses you pack. (Two will get you through most situations). The Nikon V1 includes a proper viewfinder which permits you to hold the camera up to your eye instead of struggling to make out a sun-blasted  screen while balancing the whole camera in front of your face, a great feature. Both the photo quality and speed are far better than any small sensor camera, making the mid size Nikon 1 an attractive option for cycle tourists who are serious about photography. The Nikon 1 V1 (below), now last year's model, has dropped to a fraction (as little as one third!) of its original price and can still be had new with a factory warranty. But it has a serious ergonomic flaw:it can easily slip from your hands.


As it comes out of the box the Nikon 1 V1 is a handsome camera with classic rangefinder styling, but how are you supposed to hold on to it? The cosmetic ridge below the "1" isn't going to do you much good if you are shooting one handed from a bike.

As soon as you add the Richard Franiec Grip the V1 is transformed from a slippery bar of plastic to a fine hand tool. Like all Franiec products, the grip appears to be factory made by the manufacturer. In this case it's better than the one that Nikon grudgingly added to the V2 (below).


Nikon followed Franiec's lead: the V1 needed a grip so they  tacked one on to its successor, fattening up the camera even more by squeezing in a (reduced capacity!) battery. The result looks like a halfway measure, an awkward afterthought. If Nikon had simply hired Franiec to design an ergonomic grip the V2 might have retained the elegant good looks of the V1.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

iPhone Power-Saving Tips

Want your iPhone to last all day? Try these settings on your next ride.

  • Turn off Bluetooth (very important)
  • Turn down brightness ( very important)
  • Turn off ask to join networks
  • Turn off push notifications in mail
  • Turn off maps
  • Turn off mail
  • Turn off location finder

Monday, May 6, 2013

Review: Ecco Yucatan Sandals

Last year I moved from clip-in pedals to Ergon pedals, which allow me wear any shoe for a bike ride. To put it mildly, this change is liberating. Despite dire warnings from my clipped in peers I have no trouble keeping up with other riders and hills are not a problem. Thanks to the Ergon pedal's great ergonomics, my foot doesn't slip off the pedal. In fact, unlike any other pedal I've tried, the Ergon includes a fitted depression that perfectly accommodates the ball of my foot. Grant Peterson may have a point when he calls special cycling shoes (and so called "clipless" pedals) "one of the biggest, fattest lies of all time."

Skipping clipless pedals on a tour means you are spared the bother of hauling extra shoes in order to take a walk: your riding shoes become your walking shoes. I did my first unclipped tour in Shimano bike sandals, a fairly heavy "dedicated cycling sandal" with a rigid sole. Even so it's a big improvement over two sets of shoes. I replaced the sandal's metal clip in mechanism with Shimano's rubber insert but I couldn't do anything about the interior stiffening material which felt like a thick steel shank. The Shimanos are really intended to clip to a "clipless" pedal.

The rigid and somewhat heavy Shimano Cycling Sandal

I was able to walk a bit in the Shimanos without feeling like I was balancing on the cutting edge of a saw. But when I needed to hike two miles to a beach I found myself yearning for "real" shoes.

A few weeks ago I visited an Ecco shoe dealer in San Francisco and discovered the Ecco Yucatan Sandal. As a walking shoe they are simply superb: no break-in needed. You simply walk out of the store and into your life. And since I do my life by bike whenever possible, it made sense to take the Ecco sandals for a ride.
The Ecco Yucatan: a gift for your feet

It's not your imagination, Ecco sandals actually look more inviting, a clear sign of good ergonomics.  Unlike Shimanos, Eccos are form fitted against the arch and will flex as you walk. Better yet they weigh significantly less than Shimanos; riding or walking you hardly notice you're wearing shoes. I doubt that anyone has called these sandals "bike shoes" but with a decent pedal like the Ergon they add a significant ergonomic advantage to your ride.

One caveat: Ecco shoes come from Denmark. Like a great many Scandinavian products they are ergonomic—and pricey. Yes, you can get by with $6 Wallmart flip flops...and you can sleep on a sheet of cardboard out in the park.

Walking or cycling, the Ecco Yucatan feels just right. I've found the sandal for my next bike tour!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

After the Rain: The Arcata Bottoms

I went for a long ride across the Arcata Bottoms yesterday afternoon.

I wasn't alone. Thousands of geese were feeding in the pasture. Alas, no zoom leans this ride. 

While I was watching the geese I attracted some attention from another creature.

I didn't have any goodies for my new friend that day but I will be watching for him next time.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Road to the Far North

For cyclists who want to avoid riding on a freeway, Southern Humboldt County--and all of California to the south--has been linked to Oregon and everything to the north--by a single, rapidly disintegrating bridge over the Mad River. If, say, you were headed south (You don't want to tour the Pacific Coast heading north because you will be fighting head winds daily) you needed a way to cycle from this…

Redwood National Park

to this

Downtown Arcata

"Emily's House"  7th St Arcata

You had to hope the Mad River bridge on The Hammond Trail, which is crusted with rust and no longer maintained, lasts long enough for you to cross it.

Now we have a very sold alternative. Caltrans has added a protected and separate bike lane to its Freeway (route 101) bridge over the Mad River. The bike path wasn't officially opened yesterday, but I followed the lead of other cyclists and joyfully jumped the detour--and rode across the river.

Pick it up in Arcata (on the south side) by opposite the Chevron station on Guintoli Road. On the north side simply take Central Ave in McKinleyville to North Bank Road.

I headed north yesterday...

...and returned on the Hammond Trail, which I had all to myself for miles on end.

To the north Oregon, Washington, Canada and Alaska. And to the west the whole way…