Living Outside The Box Born-Again Techo-Geek Renaissance Man

22Jul/160

New Bike: ’82 Peugeot

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Anyone familiar with The Rules of cycling knows that the proper number of bikes to have is "N+1" where N is the number you currently have.

My first real 700C road bike was a used 12-speed Peugeot I got back in the early 90's. When I think of old-school road bikes, that's the first thing that pops in my head. It's French, it's classy, it's fast... what's not to like?

And thus I've procured an '82 Peugeot 12-speed. Well, most of one. The picture is from Josh at Simplicity Vintage Cycles, who sold me a different, but identical bike (sans wheels). Mine will look very similar, though with a different crankset, and other different small bits and pieces.

This particular model is an '82 PH-12 Centennial Edition, which was to commemorate Peugeot's founding in 1882. Everything on the bike was French, including the "Carbolite" steel tubing and Michelin tires. This bike is interesting not only because of that, but also because it's aero.. like, really aero for the 80's. Brake levers, downtube shifters, ovalized tubes, water bottle, and brake calipers were all specifically made to be aerodynamic.

So I guess what I'm going to do is build it up and see just how aero it is, compared to a modern swoopy-tubed bike. This will be my go-to bike for club rides where my heavy, slow Surly would be a liability.

I'm pretty stoked about it, really. Can't wait to get it on the road!

30Oct/150

Building A 2-Wheeled Urban Assault Vehicle: Part 1

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

As I've written about many times, cycling is a great way to get fit and be practical at the same time. The toughest part will be getting your human-powered Urban Assault Vehicle ready for action. But fear not! We aren't going into uncharted territory. In fact, I'm going to show you just how easy it can be to build the Ultimate Pavement Bomber, on a budget.

Start With A Bike

Do you already own a bike? Good. You're better off than most people. Chances are you've got one of these three types of bikes:

  • Mountain Bike - fat/knobby tires, flat handlebar, possibly suspension fork and frame
  • Hybrid - skinny tires, flat handlebar, usually a suspension fork
  • Cruiser - fat tires, swept back bars, usually 1 speed (not always)

Any one of them can be pressed into service, with a few tweaks. If you already own a drop-bar road bike, then you're pretty much there. Hybrids are awesome for shorter trips (less than 20 miles) because the upright riding position is good for visibility in traffic, but longer rides can be hard when you've only got one position to put your hands in.

Let's assume the bike is in decent working shape: brakes and gears are adjusted and working, no loose hardware, and the bike is roughly the right size for you. If you have one of these rare unicorns, consider yourself blessed. If your bike needs work, then spend some time on Youtube learning how to adjust it, or bring it to a bike shop and have them do it for you (I recommend learning it yourself, for obvious reasons). Once your bike is in good working condition, it's time to make its conversion to the dark side complete!

28Oct/150

Gear Review: Axiom Journey Rack

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

If you've ever tried riding somewhere with a heavy backpack, you can appreciate the practicality of having a rear rack to carry stuff.

When I built my bike years ago, I used cheap second-hand racks made of steel, and all of them broke under regular commuting use. So I went about finding a proper replacement, and stumbled upon the Axiom Journey rear rack.

The rack itself is made of welded aluminum tubing. It's surprisingly light for how strong it is, as it's rated for 150 pounds and only weighs 1.5 pounds! Believe me when I say this thing is beefy. The most I've carried on it is about 80 pounds.... one of my kids rode sitting on it with no problems. I'll just say my rear wheel would probably blow spokes before the rack breaks.

24Aug/150

Monday Motivation

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

As of yesterday, I weighed 165 pounds, which means I've lost approximately 10 pounds in the last 6 weeks. I think I'm going to focus on nutrition and building muscle mass at this point. Even though I could probably lose a bit more weight, I think I would be better served by increasing my strength and endurance, now that I'm within a few pounds of my ideal weight.

Here's some music to get you moving on this Monday morning.

20May/150

Back In The Saddle

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

I've decided, after making decisions loosely based around Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, to focus on developing my "Important But Not Urgent" activities in my life.

Quadrants

You've probably heard it said, "the Urgent is the enemy of the Important." That's because urgent things demand our attention NOW, and we never get around to doing the important things.

4Feb/156

Tasker And MyTracks

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

As part of my Constant Struggle To Simplify, I wanted to track my cycling miles without having to jump through hoops or do anything crazy. Up until recently, I was using Endomondo to track miles (and before that I used MapMyRide). These programs promise all sorts of features; social commentary, audio coaching, ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity, route planning, etc. etc. But really, I found I didn't use any of these extra features. I just wanted a simple, automated way to track my mileage that I could keep in digital form. And with Endomondo's recent feature creep I was having to tap 3-4 menu items just to get to where I could record a ride! Nothing wrong with my Cyclecomputer, either, but I like analyzing numbers and stats.

Keeping with my wanting to use Tasker to automate stuff, I found a Tasker Plugin that allows it to start and stop Google MyTracks recording. MyTracks doesn't have all the fru-fru social stuff, but it supports ANT+ and Bluetooth if I decide to go that route later (and Tasker can automatically connect to them). Plus it automatically syncs with Google Drive, so the potential for 100% complete automation is there. Let's get busy!

There's a couple of plugins I use to do this: AutoActivity, and the MyTracks Tasker Plugin.

AutoActivity is a service that runs in the background that guesses what you're doing (walking, cycling, driving, still) based on GPS and inertia input, and assigns it a "confidence" score percentage of how sure it is you're doing that. You can use it both as a trigger (i.e. "when you detect me driving, do this") or an active variable (i.e. "Do this only IF activity=xxx")

Tasker is so ridiculously flexible, it takes some playing around to figure out the best way to accomplish something. Sometimes the "best" solution isn't immediately obvious. This is definitely the case with this problem. So, let's look at what we want to accomplish, and how we can go about it.

2Dec/141

6 Free Fitness Tracking Apps Reviewed

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Note: since this was published, Google has announced the end of MyTracks, and as a result Google Fit now tracks bike mileage, though without any other kind of stats.

We can't escape it, we're in the digital age. Companies are all about Data, and we as consumers have followed along. With the rise of GPS-enabled devices in phones and bike computers, almost anyone can now track their cycling and running statistics, complete with geolocation and tons of other stats. This of course allows us to not only track our ride history, it allows us to compare information and apply it different ways.

I've long been a fan of GPS technology, and so naturally I migrated to using GPS to track my bike rides and commuting miles. But there are so many choices out there! How's a person to decide what's best for them, except try them all? I even made a poll in the G+ Bike Commuter Cabal community!

Poll Results

Fear not, for I've already used them all*, and my findings are here to help you make a decision on which App is best for you and your riding style.

We're going to look at the top ones, and also include Google's newcomer "Google Fit" to the mix, just to see how it stacks up against apps that have been on the market for years. I started off using a 7" Samsung Galaxy Tab, and recently got a Motorola Moto G, which is what I'm recording rides with now. All app data and screenshots are from the Moto G. The apps will be reviewed in the order I tried them, nothing special about that.

Criteria:

  1. App itself (quality, reliability, features, ease of use, accuracy)
  2. Accompanying website, features, ease of use
  3. File Formats import/export
  4. Paid features (if available)
  5. Score/uses/thoughts
8Sep/140

Rural Commuting: Gear Talk

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

As a result of Rural Bike Commuting: It's Not The City, I've had a few people ask me to clarify some of the equipment choices I've made to accommodate the longer distances. My choices certainly don't reflect everybody's, and there will always be bike commuters who do things a bit differently, even if their routes look very similar to mine. But with that in mind, here's a few things I've learned.

Bike:

If you're commuting long distances, you're going to want a bike that's efficient, sturdy, flexible, and comfortable. It doesn't have to be a race bike (in fact, there's plenty of reasons why race bikes make terrible commuting rigs) but as long as it's strong and comfortable, it'll work. The more braze-ons it has, the more things you can do with it, and the more versatile your bike will be.

For commutes of 10+ miles each way, on rural (rough) roads, you will want to consider a bike made for long-distance riding, like a touring or randonneur bike. (*NOTE: in some cases, bikes labeled as "cyclocross" or "gravel" bikes will work, but sometimes they won't. More on this later.) Most touring/rando bikes have drop bars for more comfortable hand positions, but you also want to balance that with a somewhat upright riding position to be able to function in traffic without losing visibility. Drop bars give you the best of both worlds; you can ride low in the drops for long windy stretches, or ride on the tops/hoods for in town.

Some great bikes are out there that are trouble-free, solid, and relatively efficient. The Surly CrossCheck is a universal favorite, for obvious reasons... it's adaptable, comfortable, durable, and reasonably fast. Despite being labeled as a "cyclocross bike" it's more suited to light touring and commuting, which is exactly what we're looking for. The Straggler is basically a disk-brake version of the same bike, if you're more comfortable with disks. There are plenty of others, also, but be warned!! Some bikes marketed "go-anywhere, do-anything" are really racing bikes, not true utility road bikes. They are made for recreational weekend warriors, not commuters who ride to work with racks and fenders. If it doesn't have eyelets or bosses for a rear rack, it's probably not meant to be used as a commuter. Caveat Emptor. Some good examples of bikes for long-distance commuting:

14Aug/140

Safety By The Numbers

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Life changes, and sometimes you find out you're just along for the ride. Three years ago, just as I was turning my life around, I ended up in the hospital with a shattered femur. I had been the victim of a red light runner, and let's just say mid-size cars aren't very forgiving when they plow into you at 35MPH. My hip required reconstruction. (My Surly LHT, however, came out okay. Can't say enough about the durability of Surly bikes.) I never imagined how much it would change my life. As I get ready for bed tonight, taking Aleve because my titanium femur aches when I spend all day walking at my job, I can't help but be thankful that I'm physically as well as I am, and mentally adjusted to deal with what my new "normal" is.

But I'm not telling you this to scare you away from riding your bike. There's a lot of lessons I learned, and I still 100% believe that cycling is the key to a happy life for a lot of people. If nothing else, I want people to understand what I learned from my accident, and how I can still ride.

What did I learn from this radical change in my life? I've boiled it down to a few nuggets of wisdom... consider them learned the hard way.

  1. Be confident but predictable - If you're riding your bike, you're doing more for your future than most people, and you're probably having fun doing it. Don't be afraid to ride. If you're obeying the traffic rules, you're not doing anything wrong. Don't be ashamed.
  2. Be courteous - I always motion to cars when it's safe to pass me. Most people are very thankful that you acknowledge them. It also fosters good will towards other cyclists. Every bit helps!
  3. Be visible - If you are sharing roads with cars, then there's absolutely no question: do whatever you can to be visible. If something happens to you, the first thing they will ask the driver is "did you see them" and if you're lit up like a UFO, then the only thing they can conclude is if they didn't see you, they weren't looking. It does work!
    (Bonus tip: The single visibility item I've gotten comments on more than anything else is reflective ankle bands!)
  4. Be alert - This means always look twice. It means assume they don't see you. It means pay attention to traffic around you, and the route you're on. It means get enough rest so your judgement isn't impaired. It means get a rear view mirror and use it. It seems like a lot, but once you get the hang of it, it's not difficult at all.
  5. Handle Your Bike - If you ride big miles, you eventually learn bike handling skills, and this helps a lot. But if you're a beginner, you may want to check out a Traffic Skills 101 class from the League of American Bicyclists. Don't be afraid to ask questions and practice!

With all that being said, #4 is what got me. Even though I had a green light, I didn't double-check the intersection to make sure nothing was coming. I was focused on getting to work on time, not watching for cars. I wasn't rested enough, and I made a bad judgement call to go through without checking.

As cyclists, we condemn drivers for being inattentive (and rightfully so!) but we are just as capable of making the same mistakes. Take your time, spread some goodwill, use your brain, and keep on cycling!

12Jul/141

Three Years: Looking Back

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

Today makes 3 years since I was waylaid by a car that ran a red light. I never imagined how much it would change my life. As I get ready for bed tonight (taking Aleve because my titanium femur aches when I spend all day walking at my job) I can't help but be thankful that I'm physically as well as I am, and mentally adjusted to deal with what my new "normal" is.

The question is, if I knew I was going to end up in the hospital when I started riding my bike, would I still have done it? How much risk is acceptable... especially considering the massively potential benefits? How do we go through life mitigating risk? Should we live in fear, cowering in the dark every day of our lives?

No. Life is meant to be lived. Pain is a part of life, in varying amounts. Joy, love, exhilaration, and happiness are also part of life, also in varying amounts. We can't only expect comfort and pleasant sailing when we're accomplishing difficult things. It makes me even more thankful for the happiness I do have, and the good things that have happened. A lot of people would be bitter. I am thankful. Not thankful for the pain, but thankful that I lived to tell about it, and realize how much I had taken for granted. Thankful that God allowed me to recover, and through it, brought me closer to Him.

Don't live life afraid. Embrace it fully, experience it deeply, and put forth your best, warts and all. Sometimes it will hurt. You just get up, get back on the bike, and keep riding.