Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cycling Gear Review

Time for me to review some cycling gear!  Yes, one of my goals with this blog was to be able to point out good kit I have found, so that perhaps you too can benefit from it.  I actually have 3 items to review, the Giro Savant helmet, and two Pearl Izumi bits--the Elite Barrier Convertible Jacket, and the Womens Drop Tail Suit, but am only going to cover the helmet today.  The PI stuff will be another post or two.

Helmets...most of us in the half-century age group grew up without even the thought of a helmet on our heads, unless maybe it was a motorcycle helmet, and even then....but a bicycle helmet?  Are you kidding me?  Still, helmets are now an integral part of cycling, and finding a safe one is easy.  Finding a comfortable and thermally acceptable (cool, not "Cool!") one is more of a challenge. 

Helmets are built using various head-shaped moulds, some round, some more oval, etc.  The trick is, by trial and error at your LBS, to find what maker uses the mould most like your head is shaped.  Once you find that, you tend to stick to that brand--not because it's the best, but because it fits, and fit is critical in helmets.  If it won't stay on your head at impact, it's useless.

Price does not reflect the general level of safety.  Helmets are usually certified CPSC or Snell or sometimes both.  There are some significant flaws in the certification systems, due to impact research and improved technology being able to analyze how cyclists suffer head injuries and exactly what happens (rotational impacts, direct impact, high speed vs slow speed etc.)  The old stagnant certifications do not take this into account, but it's the best we have right now.  Some helmet makers are beginning to dabble in dual density structures, and rotational systems, but it is not widespread yet.

So, what IS the difference between that $35 helmet and that $225 helmet?  They both meet whatever certification the maker has chosen to follow, right?  Pick them both up--you'll find the expensive one weighs a LOT less, and generally has a lot more vents (holes).  Yet it still passed certification.  That is the real difference.  It weighs a lot less, and cools your head better yet is strong enough to protect your bean.  Higher end helmets also tend to consider style a bit more, and may offer better fit adjustments and other refinements.

Enough background...I am a Giro helmet user.  For me, they fit well, and they just proved to me, that they stay on when I need them to, and they break when they are supposed to!  Since I broke my helmet Wednesday night, and had a pay-ride yesterday, I obviously needed to get a replacement helmet by then.  On pay-rides here in Texas, and probably everywhere else in this country, you are required to wear a helmet during their event. 

I went down to my LBS, since they did carry Giro, and I like to spend some money there when I can.  It's a good shop, with the right "feel" to it, and they treat me like a real cyclist, not some freak because I ride recumbents.  I appreciate that.  The Monkeys and I went down to check out their offerings.  Immediately, Monkey1 says "Mommy!"  There, on  the wall, was a couldn't miss it from a quarter mile away it was that loud.  It was a Giro, even better! Headache (Hi-Viz)Yellow, with reflective striping from Giro already applied!  Be still my heart....I popped it on, dialed down the Rok-Loc 5 retention system, and knew my brief search was over.  It didn't even cost 3 figures!

The Giro Savant was designed for folks like me--urban road riders who want a lighter helmet, with good venting for those hot summers, and an eye-searing color to add one more level of safety by trying to catch the eye of distracted drivers.  This one even has reflective stripes added by Giro to help outline your head for those of us who ride in the dark.  I immediately added some red reflective tape to the rear of the helmet to better light me up to drivers approaching from behind at night.  My work passes the flashlight test well!  The red reflective really "pops" in the dark when you hit it with light.

I hope I never need to test the effectiveness of my bike helmet.  Once really was enough for me.  I've been a dedicated helmet user since 1993-94.  This was the first time I ever broke a helmet in a crash.  I hope you never need your helmets either, folks.  But I do hope you wear them whenever and where ever you ride.  It's better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Random 5 Friday 10/25/13

Wow, another week gone by already!  I totally forgot to have my weekly R5F post ready to go.  Oops!  So without further delay, here is my offering for R5F this week.

1.  I seem to be healing up fine from my bike crash on Wednesday.  No real visible bruises, just a lot of soreness.  Today my low back feels almost normal.

2.  The crash set me back 1 helmet (broken), and one front tire.  Why'd it have to be the expensive Continental GP4000s that got the ruined sidewall?  I did find a great replacement helmet, but it was still $90, which considering the fit and venting is pretty reasonable.  Helmets these days can run upwards of $200.  But what price to you place on your CPU?

3.  The house repairs are coming along.  The front window framing has been rebuilt, primed and is ready to paint today.  I suppose I need to find some old trash clothes to wear for this job.

4.  I still cannot believe my old local NFL team, the KC Chiefs, are actually 7-0 so far this year!

5.  The dogs are driving DH and I nuts at night.  Out-in, out-in, 2-3 times a night, right in the middle of our deep sleep cycles.  They don't need to go out, they just want to go chase critters in the yard and explore.  The main culprit in this endeavor is Shiloh...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Close Call...Crash Night

Yeah, I had a close call last night, with becoming a Chrysler 300 hood ornament.  The simple fact that I am here typing this morning from my own desktop should tell you I survived with only minor injuries.  Oddly enough I am not freaked out by the whole affair.  Last night of course I was exhibiting my classic English ancestry, Stiff Upper Lip and all that, but we few, we happy few usually freak out the next day after the danger has passed!

Location:  A divided 4 lane road, with usually light traffic at night.
Time:  Approximately 20:10.  Yes it was dark.  More on that later.
Bike:  Giro 700c recumbent.
Car:  Dark Chrysler 300, driven by an older woman.

The set up:  I'm rolling down a slight decline in my lane (rt), all lights on--this is a DiNotte 1200 lumen white front light, a helmet light, and a DiNotte 400 strobing red rear light.  This video is not me, but my lights are the same ones shown in the night video.  My rear light was set on the strobe-steady mode which is a series of flashes, followed by a steady red (the light never goes out).

Bike is well covered in reflective tape as is my helmet.  Two cars approached at 40+mph from the rear, side by side.  This is an area where cyclists ride all the time, all year 'round, day and night.

The driver later stated she couldn't tell which lane I was in (possible due to the slight curve of the road, but it also means she SAW ME, well in advance of the incident.)  I saw them coming up behind and thought she would pull into the left lane like all the other drivers had done all night long.  She didn't.  I checked my six again, and realized the closing speed meant I was going to be a hood ornament in about 2 seconds, when I heard her lock up her brakes and begin to skid.  At the point I heard the skid start I knew I was toast if I didn't do something, and honestly on a bike there isn't a lot you CAN do.  So I flung myself and my bike at the curb, in hopes of crashing on the dirt and weeds instead of her front grill.

Recumbents do not bunnyhop curbs well at all.  Texas roadsides in a dry summer are not soft, but they are softer than concrete, or the hood of a Chrysler.  My impact with the ground is sort of a blur.  I remember hitting my head and getting a bunch of dirt in my face, tumbling around and sliding.

I ended up lying beside the bike, and was able to get my phone out of the rear bag and call 911.  I waited until EMS arrived before I really tried to move anything.  A nurse and an off duty EMT stopped by to offer help too, along with an elder from my church who happened upon the scene too.  My thought, upon seeing him standing over me (he's quite tall) was "Wow!  God sent Marty here awfully fast!  I wonder if that's a good sign, or bad?"  Fortunately it was a good thing.  I suspect it was more for the benefit of DH than me, seeing Marty, as he is a very reassuring figure, and a friend. 

EMS decided that other than my BP being elevated (understandable from the crash), I was pretty ok, all things considered, and I could go home if I wanted.  I didn't feel like I needed to go to the hospital either, so it was home and a hot shower for me.

Today is post-crash assessment day.  The left side of me is undamaged.  The lower right side, especially the lower back is mighty sore, and there is a tiny bit of road rash on the right hamstring area.  I'm tired, and I feel mostly like napping, and eating comfort foods.  I need to get the bike looked at, to make sure there is no hidden damage to the frame or fork.  I need to go look at a new helmet, since this one did take a fairly significant impact, and helmets really are one-crash items, even when they do not show visible damage.  Why risk it?

In all, I was lucky last night, and I know it.  Defensive cycling saved my life.  I CHOSE to bail, knowing I would crash hard, but it was a better option to me, than the high risk of a car hitting me and the bike.  I will be back on a bike (the tandem) this weekend.  And if it isn't damaged, I'll be back on the Yellow Peril next week.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A homeowner's work is never done.

It seems like the list of things to do and fix around here is never-ending.  We have been consolidating our list of repairs/upgrades this Fall as we have shed off our last consumer debt, save for the mortgage, and we are working on that

Things that need repaired or replaced—

  •          The back fence
  •          The kitchen floor
  •          The exterior house paint
  •          The back deck demolition
  •          The back screen door
  •          Refinishing the front door
  •          Painting several rooms
  •          The dead/dying Nanking Cherry bushes

This list alone is enough to keep us busy all Fall and Winter seasons.  We have scheduled the fence for spring Tax Season due to budgetary constraints.  Most of the rest just takes time and some paint, though the patio won't be cheap even doing the work ourselves.

Then there is the list of stuff to build—
  •          The front planter
  •     The new patio
  •          The gazebo/roof for the new patio
  •          New flooring ideas in several areas 
  •          Guttering

The biggest issue with fencing is being in a subdivision, we do not own all the fencing around our property line.  One part is a double fence (co-owned), one long run is ours (we have the posts on our side) and one belongs to the other neighbor on the south.  Trying to coordinate 4 households to work on all sides of our fence is going to be a challenge.  In addition, all four households have dogs and cats that need their yards returned to an intact fence status fairly rapidly.  I suspect we will have to piecemeal the fence work. 

Not everything is yet to be done however.  We do have the new dishwasher now, and it is nice.  After 17 years the old contractor grade unit just needed to go… plus there other kitchen appliances are all newer scratch ‘n dents or floor demos.  Hopefully they are of sufficient quality to survive our household!  Also the house has a new roof as of last summer.  That was a big thing that needed doing, and I am glad we were able to get it done.

Don’t forget yard maintenance either, or the HOA Yard Patrol will send you nasty-grams.  I guess some folks just ignore the nasty-grams as they have not mowed their weeds in over a month.  Photinia  shrubs grow like the weeds they are, and usually add 3-5ft each summer.  It routinely overtops the roof line in a single summer.  We chopped that back today, and later on we will attack the Photinia that over hangs our back fence from our west neighbor.  His shrubs are about as tall as a two story house, and growing.

All this work to do ought to keep us busy and out of trouble…maybe!  I am beginning to think I feel like Six, over at The Warrior Class, except I am not tearing up remodeling my bedroom, yet!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Random 5 Friday 10/18/13

Whew, back from a long vacation, and feeling good!  I know I missed reading a lot of others' blog posts while I was in the Land of No Internet/Cell Coverage.  Yes there is such a place, but I'm not giving away its location either!

Here is my contribution this week to Random 5 Friday.

1.  The long drive from here to there and back, is even longer when you have to take two vehicles...

2.  The bike rides we did on vacation on the new tandem were fun, though DH's back was not happy.  I think we need to work on his seat position on the bike some more.

3.  I am disgusted that the House caved on the debt ceiling and the other stuff.

4.  I think it's cool that the Russians found a huge chunk of the Chelyabinsk meteorite .

5.  I am looking forward to seeing the Fall colors soon.  I was hoping to see some good color on our trip, but it was not to be.  Only the sumac had turned red, so sadly I missed seeing the lovely hard maples.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

There's no place like home.

Whew!  It was a long vacation, with long drives on both ends, but relatively peaceful.  We went up to our favorite place, our old home town, to stay at the church retreat site.  This was to be our first one-grandma vacation, what with my mom being the last surviving parent of our family.

We timed it to have both the cooler weather, and to hit an old favorite bike ride called the Octoginta, in northeast Kansas.  We hoped to fish a lot, catch a lot, and catch up on R&R by visiting with old friends.  Oh, and take care of Mom's work list.

For the most part, everything worked out well.  I fixed Mom's scissors (sharpened them to fix a bad edge), tried to find her neighbor's lost pendant with our metal detectors (no joy there), the tree got trimmed, the bulbs dug, and the walkway repaired and painted with anti-slip Behr Deck Over (more on this in a bit).  We also had fun on the bike rides, though we only did a total of about 70mi over two days.  DH is still trying to get his position right on the tandem, as he was having some back pain on the longer of the two rides.  I think his seat needs to lean back more, and be scooted forward just a touch more.  Time will tell if I am correct or not.

As for the fishing, while I was not totally skunked, I only got one crappie.  Nobody caught a lot of fish, unlike in past years.  I think next year I will bring a bunch of hot neon pink baits as they seemed to bite that best.  I wish I had gotten more quiet time up there, and had more time to fish, but that was not to be. 

The Octoginta was not quite the ride I had remembered from years past.  It was way less organized and supported than pretty well any t-shirt ride in Texas.  There was one lone deputy to control intersections.  SAGs were fewer and further apart, though the fare was much the same.  They even had pickles!  DH was happy about that.  I had also expected to be able to download the routes in to my GPS well before-hand, but that was not possible.  They did not publish an official route until day-of-ride, and then only on paper, which was nigh-impossible to read.  No cue sheet was included either.  Now in their defense, the routes were marked with the colored arrows on the pavement, and I KNEW where I was (my old stomping grounds) but others unfamiliar with the area could have easily gotten misdirected.

Still don't let the above convince you that I did not enjoy myself.  I really did have fun!  The tandem rode very well.  Shifting was good, especially when we remembered to shift down in advance of loading the drivetrain (granny gearing on the hills).  See, they have hills in NE Kansas, unlike my part of Texas.  A granny is essential on a tandem, especially a recumbent tandem like Serenity.  I was comfortable on the bike both rides.  Yes, it uses the muscles differently, and I have a learning curve of pedaling at DH's cadence and basic gear choices, but nothing hurt.  My legs were sore from use, but not from a poor fit.

It was fun riding there.  We were not even the only recumbents there!  There were a couple trikes, and a Rans Stratus even.  Next year we may rent a trailer to haul bikes, and bring the tandem for the Tour de County ride, and the Giros for the big Octoginta ride.  That would mean we could get away with only one car (the van) on the trip.

As promised, I'm putting this bit in for Six, over on Warrior Class who is in the midst of a major home remodel project.  We needed to fix my Mom's wooden walkway, both for esthetic and safety reasons.  After replacing a couple warped boards, and fixing a disconnected stringer, Mom wanted to have the thing painted.  Her neighbor had used Behr Deck Over on their wooden deck and liked it a lot.  After finding the color Mom wanted, we bought 2 gallons and some brushes and pole-rollers.  The paint has some non-slip grit mixed into it, about like 600-grit emery cloth.  It has a consistency somewhat similar to semi-set chocolate pudding when mixed.  It smells like ammonia when you are working with it, and it dries quickly, but cleans up easily with water.  If you put it on with a brush, it will fill in minor imperfections in the base wood like cracks, nail holes and smaller knots.  Brushed on, it also is smoother to the touch.  Rolled on, it doesn't fill as well, but is rougher to the hand and more anti-slip.  Our solution was to put on the base coat with a brush, and then on the walking surfaces, we rolled on a top coat.  Hand rails only got the single brush coat.

The paint isn't cheap, running about $35/gallon.  It also doesn't cover as much (ie: you need more paint) because of the thickness of the paint.  However, it really works!  Reports from other users say it weathers and wears well.  I like the texture of it, and the fact you can sort of control it with the brush and rollers.  If we wanted to rebuild our own wooden deck I would buy this stuff again in a heartbeat.

Friday, October 11, 2013

R5F 10.11.13

My offering for random five Friday.

1. Fall is my favorite season.  I love the cooler temps.

2.  Fishing is fun,  even when the fish refuse to cooperate,  but it is more fun when they are biting!

3.  I love dogs,  always have,  but I don't think I could manage a border collie.   Too much energy!

4.  I'm really liking the new Behr Deck Over paint.  It makes a nice non slip surface,  dries quick,  and cleans up with water.

5.  My sinuses are telling me there is a front coming... I hate sinus headaches.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How I spent my afternoon. ..

In the emergency room...I am actually ok, but my mom almost wasn't.  We had gone out to lunch with Mom, our treat,  and had enjoyed some decent bbq.  Afterwards,  we all headed down the block toward the bike shop,  when Mom  unexpectedly tripped over some broken sidewalk.  None of us were in a spot to catch her,  so down she went,  hard!

Face first on the cement...ouch! She didn't black out, but did have a good sized goose egg over one eye,  a nose that looked broken and a busted pair of glasses.  After seeing the goose egg,  I decided she,  at 83, ought to go to the ER.  I drove.

3-plus hours and 2 CT scans later,  she was released,  with nothing broken,  and no TBI. Whew!  I guess that's where I get my hard head from!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Because Brigid would appreciate this...

And so will the rest of you Zoomies out there!  A flashback to Radial Land, courtesy of the CAF (Confederate Commemorative Air Force).

Fifi - the last flying B-29 in the world.


I can't explain my fascination with radial engines.

A sight few have ever seen...

Sentimental Journey - a flying B-17.
Yes, those engines are humming!

 There are a couple B-17's that still fly.  Collings Foundation has one, Ol' 909.  Sentimental Journey is another, operated by CAF.
For a price, you can take a ride in a B-17.
Classic B-17 nose art
Curtiss Helldiver - the last flying Helldiver in the world.
An even more rare sight, as the Curtiss does not come out as often to play.

Gunfighter - a P51D Mustang.
Not rare perhaps, but way cool!

Then there is Diamond Lil, the B-24 Liberator.  I always get the B-24 mixed up with the B-25 Mitchell.  Both types fly around here on a semi-regular basis, as CAF bases one of their B-24's at Addison.  But eventually I picked a mnemonic for it, 4 engines = B-24.  You get to go inside the B-24 tail section, and they also put up stairs to see into the cockpit.  Not a lot of room up there.

B-24 cockpit

There were a bunch of other aircraft there too, including a C-47 in  D-Day paint, an Expediter, a Texan, and a couple of Stearman-like Navy biplane trainers.
AT-6 Texan

N2S Stearman

A Stearman designed Travel Air 2000/3000/4000 I think.

I have a huge soft spot for the C-47/DC-3.

This one is a Stearman Speedmail.
 Below is a Stinson ST-10J.
I see this one and think of Alaska for some reason.

The Monkeys and I had a grand time.  They got to go into Fifi, and Diamond Lil, plus they got to see the B-17 take off and taxi after landing.  We missed seeing the flight of Fifi though.  I bet she is impressive!

If you ever have the opportunity to go to a show where the old Warbirds are on display, I highly recommend you do it.  There are very few of them left in operating condition--it's not like they make spare parts for these planes any more!  They often have to make their own replacement parts.  Even tires are hard to source.  But please, check out the Commemorative Air Force tour schedule, or the Collings Foundation schedule.  Both organizations fly these types of planes all over the country.  It is well worth the chance to see them and hear the sounds of freedom.