Posts Tagged ‘bicycles’

The Bicycles blog wants YOU!

2012-01-11 by neilfein. 0 comments

Would you like to be part of a blogging community? Do you have opinions about cycling, or just a good story to tell? Do you love the Bicycles site but are you're frustrated by the limitations of the Q&A format? Come and write for the Bicycles blog!

What kinds of posts are we looking for?

Stories about bike rides -- These are easy to write up, and fun to read. If you have pictures from your ride, or even of the terrain or road, so much the better.

Reviews -- Have you bought a bike you love? A headlight that gets you home in the winter evening hours? We'd love to hear about it.

Cycling culture -- Posts about culture, weirdness associating with riding, frankenbikes; really, about anything interesting and strange.

Bike shops -- Do you love your mechanic? Your shop? Tell us all about it, maybe the post will help someone who's looking for a shop.

Controversial stuff -- Do you think helmets are a conspiracy by the styrofoam hat manufacturers? Is "carbon fiber" just another name for "cheap-ass plastic bikes marked up for suckers"? Your Stack Exchange rant-disguised-as-a-question will be closed in a heartbeat because Stack Exchange hates fun, but the blog is a perfect place for you to write about these crazy interesting ideas.

Stuff -- Anything that doesn't fit in the above categories. For anyone looking for ideas for posts, we've started a list of them. This page is filled with post ideas you can use. Also, if you have an idea but you're lacking the ten minutes it'll take to write it up, post to that page and someone else will pick up the slack.

What am I getting myself into (or, "how often will you want a post from me?")

The blog updates once a week on Monday mornings when we're lucky, twice a week when posters are extraordinarily prolific. But you don't have to write a post nearly that often, just when you have something to say.

Okay, I'm sold. How do I get started posting?

You'll need an account, and the simplest way to get one is to ask Neil, Gary, or Freiheit to add you. Just ping us in chat by typing @ before our usernames, or post in this thread.

A tale of a malfunctioning sensor

2011-12-16 by nhinkle. 2 comments

Most urban cyclists have probably encountered the problem of triggering traffic signals once or twice. Most of the time, sensors at traffic lights detect bicycles right away, and are often helpful in reducing wait-time. I know of a few intersections where the sensors are finely tuned so that the light turns green before you even get there, if nobody is coming the other way. What happens though when one of these sensors is out of whack?

I go to school in Corvallis, OR, which currently holds the record for the highest percentage of bicycle commuters nationwide. There's a particular intersection here where the under-pavement loop-type sensor simply wasn't working for me. Some friends had mentioned having problems at the same intersection as well. The sensor is for a left-turn arrow in a turn-only lane, so it probably doesn't get huge amounts of bike traffic, but I use the turn lane there, as do others. You can see the intersection in the streetview image below:

As you can see, there's a pavement indicator for where bikes should stop to trigger the signal. There is also one for the bike lane on the right. It's difficult to see in this image, but there are pavement cuts which indicate a buried sensor loop, which works by magnetic induction, not a visual cue. When I arrived at the intersection, I stopped just past the marker, and waited for the light to turn. It never did. Fortunately, the intersection has one of the new "flashing yellow" sequences, so I was able to turn left when there was a break in traffic, although I did have to wait two light cycles before I was able to make it across.

So, what to do when a sensor seems to be malfunctioning? In hind sight, I should have tried again before seeking help, but having heard similar reports from other cyclists, it sure sounded like there was a problem. Fortunately, it's easy to contact the city public works and get problems checked out. I sent an email on a Sunday afternoon, and on Monday I got a response back from them:

Thank you for the description of the concern you have at location.  We went today to test the southbound left turn loop.  This movement of the intersection uses a quadrapole loop for vehicle detection.  In layman's terms, a loop is essentially an antenna in the pavement, tuned to a specific frequency, to detect metal objects.  When a metal vehicle passes over the loop the frequency of the loop is changed and acknowledged in the traffic signal controller.  A quadrapole loop looks like two long narrow rectangles, placed side by side, with a common line in the middle.  We have a bike marker placed on the pavement, in the center of the quadrapole, at the very front, behind the stop bar.  The bike's crankset should be placed directly over this marker.  We use a Specialized MTB from Public Works to perform our bicycle detection.  We feel this type of bike represent the majority of commuter cyclist in Corvallis.  We did not find any issue with the southbound left turn loop at location.  Every time we installed or removed the bike from the detection, it was acknowledged in-kind at the traffic signal controller.  If you have any questions or concerns please contact me via email or phone.

Wow! In less than 24 hours, a work crew was sent out to check the sensor, and verified that it's properly working. I was slightly embarrassed to hear that the loop is functioning just fine and that I had not been triggering it properly, but that feeling was vastly overshadowed by how impressed I was with the city's quick and helpful response. This is the same city where a police officer was dispatched to cut loose my friend's bike when her lock got jammed (after proving ownership of course), and where the University just finished installing about 500 new bike racks across campus. No wonder so many people bike commute here!

I have yet to return to this intersection since filing the report, since I don't bike that direction often. The next time I do, I'll be sure to try the public works official's tips for positioning the bike to properly trip the sensor. It's odd that this problem occurred, since I've never had trouble with any other intersection. It's possible that the light timing is slightly different and if I had waited another cycle, I would have gotten an arrow. It's also possible that I was just not paying close enough attention to where I was positioning my cycle - if I had originally triggered the sensor, but then moved off it slightly, it might have thought that I went through the intersection during the flashing yellow cycle.

Regardless of the true cause of the light mishap, which I now know won't happen again, the lesson learned is this: if something looks amiss, don't hesitate to contact your municipality's public works department. They're here to help you out, and if my experience so far is any indication, they'll be more than happy to help.

Winter cycling links

2011-11-15 by neilfein. 1 comments

The first cold winds are blowing by my home; winter is coming to the northern hemisphere of our resource-drained planet. We're doubtless going to see a lot of questions about winter riding on the main site. Here are some sites that helped me learn how to ride in the winter.


This is one my favorite winter cycling sites. There's a lot of very, very good information here. The self-proclaimed "Home of the Winter Cyclist and Other Crazy People" is the granddaddy of winter riding sites. Started in 1998, this site is old: Beware moving and scrolling HTML.

Cold Feet

This is cyclist Charlene Barach's page, and it has great advice about cold-weather cycling. The rest of her site is also well worth reading. Charlene has been riding in Canadian winters for years, and knows an awful lot about winter riding.

Winter Riding Tips

Pamela Blalock's site is quite comprehensive. She spends a lot of space on appropriate fabrics for winter riding.

In addition, I've learned a lot from some of the winter riding questions on this site:

How do I gear up a bike for winter riding?

I live in NYC and would like to ride to work during the winter as well. What should one do to a mountain bike? a road bike?
Note: This question has a lot of great answers, but AdamFranco's answer in particular is tremendous.

What to wear when it's cold?

If I put on heavy clothes it will be very hot inside them after the warm-up. If I wear only a T-shirt I'll freeze. What's the solution? I ride around 20 km in a hilly city, with temperatures between 0 and 30 celsius.

What gloves work well for winter riding?

I'm starting to plan ahead for winter riding, and gloves are definitely high on the list. What gloves work well for winter riding? Are cycling-specific gloves the way to go for a flat-bar bike with index/thumb shifters? Would regular winter gloves be good enough?
Disclaimer: I have the top-voted answer for this question, so my opinion of just how awesometastic this question is, is a little subjective. But I think that gloves are often overlooked when it comes to winter riding; it's hard to brake and shift when your hands are numb from the cold.

Hildy Gets Knobby Touring Tires (or, “This is Damn Fun”)

2011-07-12 by neilfein. 1 comments

Lately, I’ve been commuting to rehearsals on the Delaware and Raritan Canal trail. It’s a great way to get away from traffic and potholes for a good chunk of the eight-mile ride. It’s also cooler, as much of the path is covered by trees. The only problem is that it adds ten minutes to the ride, if not more.

The other only problem is that Hildy, my touring bike, has standard touring tires. She’s reliable and fits me like an old, shirt, the kind that’s getting a little ratty, but is too comfortable to get rid of despite the worn hems on the sleeves. She can handle a little gravel, but she’s fickle. Loose gravel or uneven stone will make her say: “Neil, you might consider getting off and walking—or I’ll toss you on your ass.” Yeah, that wouldn’t be pretty. I walk over those nasty bits of path.

Last week, after riding this bit of towpath every Monday for several weeks, I decided that it was time to put my knobby “winter” tires back on Hildy. While the recent resurfacing of the path made it possible for us to ride it on those 700x32 tires, there are still small sections of gravel where I’ll walk the bike, not to mention spillways. My first ride on the towpath with the knobbies I got for last winter was—there’s no other word for it—fun! And Hildy said barely a word until I got to that thousand-foot overgrown rock spillway. I didn’t even wait for her to tell me, I walked that one. (Along with the last spillway where one has to balance on rocks in the Raritan River to get to the other side.)

A patch of coarse gravel or sand became damn awesome, and these are no longer barely-balancing jaw-clenching moments. There’s something exhilarating about riding over an uneven, ephemeral surface.

Of course, there’s a price for all this. The ride takes about five to ten minutes longer now. (Fifteen, with today’s headwinds.) And there are still stone spillways I can’t ride over, although that’s down to two (from five previously unrideable rock-and-concrete stretches.) Also, the bike doesn’t corner as well on concrete. But that’s okay. I’ve gotten much faster at swapping out tires.

I’ve just ordered parts for my mountain bike build again, and may soon finish my offroad project of the last three years. Imagine the fun I could have with proper two-inch knobby tires on that 1994 Stumpjumper frame! No dirt or rock would be unclimbable. Those helmet-cam mountain-maniacs I see on Youtube may be insane, but I can’t argue that they’re not having a good time.

Whoops! Sorry, Hildy. You’re still my favorite, I promise. Maybe it’s time we did an offroad tour.

It’s Tour Time!

2011-07-10 by zenbike. 0 comments

Every year every cyclist I know, in every country around the world, speaks the same language. What language, you ask?

Well, there’s some Spanish, some Portuguese, German, a little English of both varieties and with a few accents, and of course more than a touch of French. It’s that pidgin, that polyglot language, the one we all speak this time of year, even when we don’t bother the rest of the year. It’s the language of the Tour de France.

Whether they root for the sprinter, the climber, the new guy or the old favorite, every cyclist I know watches this race. It’s more than just a race. It’s an Epic, a Grand Classic. It’s a way of life for the pro cyclist, the event they train the year to ride, and they base the success or failure of the season on their performance in the French Alps. And for 21 days in July, we get to follow on the journey with them.

We see every lone breakaway, every crash, and every triumphant finish. The strategy and the communication and the amazing machinery and the most powerful riders in the world make this a mesmerizing draw. Something we just can’t not watch.

And when your friends and neighbors don’t understand why you get up at 5 am to watch the day’s stage, and when the mailman’s only reference to the Tour is to the doping scandals that have plagued cycling in the press, sometimes deserved and sometimes not, all you can do is sit back, watch that day’s finish, and try to explain it to them in terms that they will understand.

It’s our World Cup, our Superbowl, The Final Four, Wimbledon and baseball’s World Series. It’s 21 days of glory and pain and human suffering and human triumph. And we get to ride along.

We get to see what is the best that every cyclist can be. We see heroes fall, and youth take up their challenge. We see the best of humanity in those 21 days.

And it never fails to make us part of the action in some small way. That is why we watch the Tour.

And that is why I hope you’ll watch it with us.