Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mirror mirror on the wall

ACCESSORY 36: Mirror $13 @ Walmart

Though not thought to be as useful as my current mirrors, the size of Mike's mirrors definitely caught my attention in a good way. My current Blackburn Multi Mirror sticks out beyond the width of the tires. I'd be lying if I said I haven't run these mirrors into lamp posts and hedges during my sidewalk rides. A small pair would be ideal not only to allow me to ride through tight spaces, but hopefully would be better aerodynamically for my 20mph laps.

For the price of $6.57/each at Walmart, I couldn't pass it up. Yes, I cheated. I hadn't gotten to my 200 mile mark before buying this. At this price point, I'm worried that by the time I'm ready to buy, there's a good chance that Walmart may not stock this product anymore. I dropped by during my lunch break and picked up a pair. The total with tax for two mirrors was less than 70% of the cost of one of my Blackburn mirrors!

Thinking I might return it if I didn't like it, I took the packaging apart very carefully as to not rip anything. The packaging was decent. I had remembered from my ride last week that the mirrors were not really glass, but some sort of reflective tape. The reflection on the face of the mirror was a bit distorted and wasn't nearly as clear as the Blackburns.

The size difference though is drastic enough for me to take a shot to see if it'd be worth keeping. Notice there is not dial knob on the Zefal mirror. This "spin" model is a lot more sleek.

Can you even tell there's a mirror on the right side of this photo on the handlebar? Barely. The Zafel mirror is nice too b/c it folds away nicely when not in use.

I hadn't previously considered this mirror b/c the retail price I saw online was $13-16, much too close to the $19 I paid for the Blackburn Multi Mirror shipped. The Blackburn product got better reviews and seemed to have more adjustment technology built in. There's a rotating locking ring that holds the angle of the mirror in place. When installed properly, vibration is minimal.

The sheer size of the mirror makes the Zafel Spin worth considering. Though competitor's larger models show more in its reflection, they tend to be more exposed to street obstacles like hedges and lamp posts. In its use, my Blackburn Multi Mirror has suffered scratches on the backside from ramming into things. It's also not the most convenient when turning the trike over on its side during maintenance and cleaning. Sticking out, the Blackburn mirror is the first thing to hit the ground.

I admit that I had installed the Zafel mirror with a 45% intention of returning it. I didn't think the size would be large enough to be useful.

I was wrong.

After 23.5 miles of using these mirrors, I can say that the size takes a while to get used to but still works for my needs. Vibration is also improved over the Blackburn mirror. The Zafel Spin is just so small and lightweight that there isn't really much to bob around during bumps on the road.

While the Blackburn mirror comes loose on a regular basis and needs readjustment, the Zafel mirror holds well in place. Though I've only ridden it once so far, the mirrors hold in place very well. So well in fact that I'm not hesitant to fold the mirrors away as it was designed to, knowing that I can easily flip it back open and put it back into place.

Test drive

KMX Tornado owners are far and few in between. There just aren't that many of us so it was surprising to find that someone I found on the forums (bentrideronline.com) lives locally! We scheduled to meet up and Mike pulls in with a full size flatbed tow truck. Not just any truck. It had at least a 12' long bed!

I never expected to ride the Tornado, but just to check out the different mods. The first thing Mike said to me though was,

Hop on!

Wow! Hopping on for a test drive, I found his Tornado was much more quiet than mine. The drivetrain was whisper quiet. Asking about the mods, I learned that it has the Terratrike idler - yes the $150 one. It's tough to tell if it really translates to more efficiency without riding it on my normal routes, but it was definitely more quiet. This Tornado also had new SRAM chains. It takes three to fit on the trike.

The one thing I really wanted to see were the Schwalbe Big Apple tires. They didn't look nearly as big as I imagined it would. For me, this is good thing. I was worried it would look too bulky, but it looks just fine in person.

Taking the Tornado for a sharp high speed turn, I found it gets up on two wheels a lot more easily than mine with stock no-name tires. Later, I found that this might be b/c the tires were filled to the maximum wheel capacity of 45lbs. Maybe lower pressure would keep all the wheels grounded.

The other thing I noticed were the super tiny handlebar mirrors! In all honesty, they were way too small for me. My current Blackburn Multi Mirror has at least 300% of the reflective surface area as these mirrors. I avoided using Mike's mirrors during my test run and just did a head check.

Mike was a great guy. Excellent personality. He definitely loves his trike! Good to have met another KMX fan!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Install them crank arms

ACCESSORY 35: Crank arms $27 @ Amazon

Excitement followed by disappointment. Rushing home to check my front door, I found that my package arrived!

The new crank arms came in a fairly nice box considering the cost was only $27. I picked these 155mm length ones from SBS, aka RPMcomponents.com. I wonder why all the websites call it SBS and make zero mention of the RPM Components name. Funny b/c SBS is a shop and doesn't manufacture them, yet they're referred to as SBS even at other retailers.

The pieces were nice. Reading the reviews on Amazon saying that they're light, I expected just that. A bit surprised that they're not superlight, but I'm glad they aren't super heavy either.

Even though I've been spending little on parts like this (which can sometimes cost up to $80), I still wanted to do this right. Park Tool recommended using a lube, so the lube I bought. With the amount I saved on choosing these cheaper set of crank arms, I figured it wouldn't hurt to buy some extras.

Comparing the crank arms, I found that they're really not that much shorter. That's the difference between 170mm and 155mm's that you're looking at. Super minimal, but they're supposed to be a night and day difference from what I've read.

The installation starts with removing the pedals using the 15mm wrench. It should take too much effort to loosen these pedals. They're typically hand tightened with only a slight bit of effort to tighten further. Removing them requires turning the bolts towards the rear of the trike. This means the left side is reverse threaded. Clockwise is to loosen for the left side only.

Now it's time to loosen those bolts using an 8mm allen wrench. The first time I did this, it took quite a bit of torque using some ingenious methods. Do whatever you can to loosen these puppies.

Screw in the crank puller from Park Tools. It screws in one direction on both sides - clockwise. Turning the blue handle, I hear a creaking sound. It freaks me out a bit, but I keep going. There's no other way.

Tada! And the crank arm pulls loose! Notice that the threads on the crankpuller are still sticking out. It should only be hand tightened.

All that only to find out that the chainring won't come off the crank arm!!! Ugh. I posted on BORL (Bentrideronline.com) to seek some answers. We'll see what happens next.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

How fast did you go?

I hit a new personal speed record for the flats. 26 mph! I did try a new pedaling technique. Rather than pushing forward with the ball of my feet at a perpendicular angle, I rotated it at a more forward angle pushing more with my toes. It works the quads quite a bit more than normal. Maybe the power comes from using this bigger muscle. Note quite sure. Just a thought.

100 miles this week!

There's a big incentive to ride at least 12.5 miles tomorrow morning. That's how far I am from hitting my first 100 miles in (too bad not 7 days, but) 9 days.

Wannabe mechanic

I'm good with my hands, but have never really worked on bikes until I got a hold of the trike. The closest thing I've come to being a mechanic on my trike so far is adjusting the brakes, which is nothing to brag about at this point. It seems that I've managed to undo all the work I've done. Perhaps I'm not adjusting the right bolts or aren't tightening them well enough. The brakes seem to always need adjusting and readjusting. Maybe it's time to take a class. Mike's Bikes offers free ones every so often.

To avoid further bills and confrontations with the mean boss trying to avoid my business at Nomad Cyclery, I've been reading up on how to remove the crank arms myself. I've searched on the best thing since Napster, Youtube! There's plenty of good info on there. The Park Tool website has also been very helpful. Since it's in the company's best interest to teach people how to use the tools so they can better sell them and convince customers to buy them, you can bet the content is more than sufficient.

I tried the tools for the first time this evening and came to a snag. I'm just too concerned about crossthreading or doing the wrong thing and breaking something. After revisiting youtube a few times more, I finally got it. The crank arms came off and then back on.

Can't wait until next week when the crank arms come in the mail.

Racing with the boys

Saw a couple kids today who were excited about the trike. When they saw me coming 50 feet behind them, their little legs pedaled their own bike as quickly as they could all while laughing. It's been fun engaging with random strangers. It's even nicer to have kids excited about the trike.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Another birdy

Since when does a red light mean go? I'm crossing the street with 3 other cyclists and 4 pedestrians with the "man walking" symbol blinking. A motorist from across the street is waiting to turn right (my left) . As I pass by, he honks? WTF?

The right thing to do when a driver is a complete a$$hole to a cyclist is to ignore them and move on. After recalling all the motorist/cyclist incidences that ended in violence and sometimes death, I hesitated for probably 3 seconds before following the driver....

....to his house which conveniently happened to be just around the corner from where he insisted on going before pedestrians and cyclists. Bingo! I know where this guy lives! I looked at him for a second as he was backing into his garage. I was waiting for his fear to settle in before pulling the one finger salute followed by a gesture,

"I got my eyes on you."

He replied with an equally lanky finger. I guess he doesn't care that his girlfriend sitting next to him probably thinks he's an a$$hole too. Nor does he care that I know exactly where he lives. Can you get any dumber? The confrontation was far away from my house where I just didn't care. Any closer and I probably would have ignored it.

Will I see the guy again? Probably not. There's too many dirty Corolla's crawling all over the City, but there's only one white KMX Tornado with red reflective rims. Hmmmm. What is up with this Asian on Asian aggression? First mugged by a fellow Asian 10 years go and now I fellow so-called brother honks me while his traffic light is red and mine is clearly green with "man walking" symbol? Not only that, but I'm crossing with a whole bunch of people!

I suppose the cost of living in the City, enjoying the views and all that there is to offer is to put up with the inconveniences like this. Perhaps next time I'll just take it and move on rather than risk my life. The guy easily could have chased me in his car and run me over. Another reason to bring my stun gun with me.

Reward Accessory #1

Since deciding to limit my trike accessory/modification purchases to increments of 200 miles ridden, I'm finally ready to make my first purchase. I've ridden 243 miles in 4 weeks. That's not nearly as much as the 600 miles I'm aiming to do in the same time, but for the time being I'm getting shorter crank arms which will hopefully help me get more distance during my morning rides. I hope to reach 600 miles/month shortly.

Of the number of accessories I'm looking to buy, I decided on crank arms first mainly for my health. Although my knees haven't been hurting as much lately, I can't imagine any pain is good. I can't wait to get those crank arms on. They should be here by next Friday.

The stock ones are 170mm long. The main reason I picked the 155mm set is mostly from the advice of members at bentrideronline.com. Though my LBS (local bike shop) said 5-10mm would already make a huge difference, I'm not confident that they are experienced enough with bents to really know what to recommend. I'm sure getting 165mm crank arms to replace the 170's would work well on a DF (diamond frame) bike, but I'm not convinced that they know the impact crankarm length would have on a bent.

I'm choosing the 155mm ones to hopefully experience a big enough difference for the change to be worth it. I'd hate to spend the money on a 5mm change only to not notice any advantage after installing it.

Along with the crankarms, I ordered the square tapered crankpuller so I could do the work myself and avoid another inevitable bad experience at Nomad Cyclery and learn a thing or two about the trike's mechanics.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

First group ride

I'd never ridden in a group until this morning. It's good to meet other people who have the same interest in recumbents. I learned a lot about why people ride, how they got into bents, and modifications they've made to their ride.

Two of the trikes had super loud air horns. It almost sounded like a train!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sand in my mouth

Instead of just sand in my mouth, I literally inhaled it and it's sitting in the back of my throat!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Some details on my previous post:

1. New riding position
I started leaning back a bit more to give my abdomen some space to breathe. Previously, I would instinctively grip the handle bars hard and lean forward. By reclining more in the seat, I'm able to myself some more space to breathe and move my legs.

2. Eating a meal 2 hours before my ride
I had an early snack before getting off work, so maybe my body had time to absorb and digest the energy in prep for the ride?

3. New pedaling technique
I stopped thinking about it and just pedaled. This changed my stroke fairly drastically. I felt that less physical effort was put into each stroke and perhaps it was for this reason that I was able to pedal harder and longer.

4. Distracting soccer game at the Polo Field
During my early morning rides, I have nothing to look at other than seniors' attempt at speedwalking and occasionally some Tai Chi. I'm typically the first one to show up at the field around 5:30am and people don't start coming in until a bit after 6am.

5. Competition with the DF (diamond frame) roadies
This probably has the biggest influence on my ride. Not only is there a lot more motivation, but the DF riders also provide a good reference of how I'm doing.

6. White Lightning chain lube
I used this for the first time after reading all the hype about how great it is. This was the first time I was able to clean the chain well enough to see the silver sparkle! It's typically black. Maybe this wax-based lube is working!

7. Strawberry and Banana Kerns nectar
I didn't feel like grabbing Gatorade, so I took the first thing from the fridge and maybe this gave me the boost I needed to reach 20mph for a pretty good stretch of the field.

8. Riding in the late afternoon/evening as opposed to 5:25am
In all seriousness, this might have been a big contribution to why my energy level peeked. It's too bad though b/c most of my training will have to be in the early mornings.

9. My lucky underwear
They were in the wash that day. This pair made no contribution.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

And the achievement award goes to....

..either one or some of the following. I can't quite figure out which of these contributed to me finally being able to spin out on the flats using my highest gear of 72.7GI's (40T chainring and 11T rear cog).

1. New riding position
2. Eating a meal 2 hours before my ride
3. New pedaling technique
4. Distracting soccer game at the Polo Field
5. Competition with the DF (diamond frame) roadies
6. White Lightning chain lube
7. Strawberry and Banana Kerns nectar
8. Riding in the late afternoon/evening as opposed to 5:25am
9. My lucky underwear

Though it was only for a small stretch of less than 1/2 mile, I was keeping up with the bikers! My next goal is to continue this 20mph speed for at least a mile and increase endurance from there. I had previously only been able to spin out on my highest gear during the downhills. To achieve this on the flats was exhilarating to say the least.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Horse Dung

Another early morning ride and this time I witnessed a display of horse manure in the middle of the bike path. Usually when cops leave their horse's crud on the the roads, at least it's on a vehicular path wide enough for most to dodge. This time it took over 2/3 of a 6' wide path.

There's nothing fancy about taking a horse out in the middle of a big City, but the cops seem to think it's cute and refuse to clean up after their animals. Even the horse drawn carriages in Pier 39 and Fisherman's Warf are required to have bags strapped to the underside of the horse to catch the unmentionables. Why can't the City cops do the same? Instead, they're leaving feces all over public roads!

All meanwhile the City wants to instate a new law to prevent people from sitting on public streets? Say that again? Cops can leave dung on the sidewalk, but people can't sit? It's no wonder last year more people left California then came in.

So what am I going to do about it? Write a letter? Nope, that'll get nowhere. The cops don't care.

If I ever see their horse in action, I'll be sure to mention to the uncaring rider that if dog owners pick up their pets' logs, they should at least pick up their horse's tennisball sized leftovers. Then I'll speed off under 20mph (20mph is the speed limit for cyclists).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Keeping up with a DF

He was a good 50 yards away as I crept up towards him. I tailed the DF (diamond frame) rider by 8'. On mile 5 I was about to give up, but kept going. I couldn't quit until he did. We both had started approximately the same time and I knew nothing about this guy other than he wouldn't stop riding. Although he'd coast for a a few feet every mile or so, he didn't show much sign of wearing out. I was getting more and more tired but maintained the same gap between the two of us. Quads were burning, but I was determined to continue until he decided to slow or leave.

It was 6.5 miles when he finally slowed to grab a drink. I had been sipping my water bottle every couple miles.

As I rode by, I said to him,

"Keeping up with you isn't easy!"

He just looked at me. No smile. I guess he was way tired and wanted nothing but a few more gulps of water. I rode past and slowed my 17mph to 15mph. He came back up and started chatting. Later I found he had only recently started cycling after a 20 year gap!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Early bird gets the worm

I did it! I was out of the house by 5:15am and completed my 13 mile ride this morning to come home, shower and start my 1 hour morning commute to work. So far I'm not too tired. If I can manage to make this a daily thing for weekdays and fit in an additional 40 miles on the weekend, I'll have 105 miles/wk. Hopefully I can get more miles after work and squeeze in some additional miles on the weekend to average 150 miles/week. We'll see.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Take a deep breath

My new trike route is the second most boring thing next to a treadmill. The Polo Field is one big circle. The consistency of it though is perfect for gauging any changes to the trike, my health, fitness, nutrition and cycling techniques.

Though I hate to admit it, my comfortable triking speed is a slow 13mph. Okay, I'm lying. It's 12mph. Since I'm a total beginner when it comes to cycling in general, I've been researching online trying to learn new techniques from the professionals to gain better endurance and speed. I came across an article recommending to align breathing patterns with pedaling speed.

I tried this method only to discover that it works against the goal of a recumbent triker.

Recumbent riders tend to perform better at high cadence (fancy word that those sub 145lb jersey wearing cycling fanatics call rotations per minute). We benefit more from momentum gained by lower intensity pedaling compared to mashing at lower speeds with greater effort. In other words, spinning faster at a lower gear is better than spinning slower at a higher gear. Trying this, I confirmed this to be true.

According to the article I read, this would mean the faster we spin, the faster we breathe. The goal however is quite the opposite. We should keep a high cadence but lower the heart rate.

At least for me, I need to keep breathing patterns and pedaling speed completely independent from each other. This helped tremendously in my 13.75 mile ride this morning. No panting and when I finally arrived home, I felt like I could get back on and ride another 20 miles w/o a problem.

First early ride

Riding on a sunny Sunday afternoon is very different than finding the motivation to wake up at 5:30am on a chilly morning to fit in an early 10 mile ride, be able to come home to shower and take a 1 hour commute in order to show up at work at a reasonable time.

This is my first successful attempt. Last time I tried waking up at 5:00am when I clearly didn't have to, I looked out the window and saw nothing but black. 5:30am sounds like a good compromise. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to see what every native San Franciscan would expect to see in the wee early morning hours in Golden Gate Park - my fellow senior Chinese brethren doing Tai Chi!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Feels good

Remember those Bontrager RL MTB cycling shoes I loved? I had returned them the next day after I took those pictures and today just picked up the same pair except instead of costing $153.29 after tax, I got hooked up for $103.47 out the door!

Even at the original price, it's got great value compared to what the competition is offering. Today was the first time in over 10 years that I spent more than $75 on shoes. I had been really used to my Los Angeles Fashion district $25/pair dress shoes for a decade. Sitting here on the couch after slipping these suckers on, they feel super comfortable. Much more comfy than I can say for the other Shimano ones I've tried on on the past.

I was looking for a red and white pair, but I decided on the black/red theme knowing that white would just get dirty too quickly. All my white jackets are yellow or brown. I learned my lesson. The black base color had the perfect amount of red accent for my taste.

After comparing other shoes w/in the same price range, I quickly realized that there wasn't much competition when it comes to mountain bike cycling shoes with a ratchet strap. Most around $150 come with only Velcros which isn't bad, but why not have the more secure ratchet strap if you can get it? There's good value in this shoe. I think there's only one other shoe that has both the ratchets and have a carbon fiber sole for under $150. I don't remember the brand exactly, but it's manufactured by Performance Bicycle.

Yes, fitment is indeed a word. When commenting to the first sales person how comfortable these kicks felt, he told me that it's a "hit or miss" with many customers. Some people love them while others feel the arch is too extreme. But this can be changed! I looked in the shoe and found a web link to a company called Esoles and this is what their website had to say,

Bontrager is the only cycling shoe on the market specifically designed to accommodate a custom or customizable insole.

Sounds like the Bontragers have interchangable soles! But still don't buy these things online w/o sticking your foot in one first. Anyone considering cycling shoes is probably serious enough about riding to do it for 50 miles at a time. Needless to say, comfort is superimportant for these long rides.

Although the text on the straps looks a bit tacky, the quality of the shoe itself is pretty good. It's noticeably better than the Shimano's and other shoes I've tried on with the exception of the Sidi ones which better be nicer for the $275 price tag. There's no way I'm spending that on shoes, so Sidi was out of the picture. As far as I know, the only pair they have under $200 still doesn't have the ratchet strap. Every other shoe that I've tried on have all felt like pieces of rubber and plastic wrapped around my foot. The Bontrager RL was the only one that actually felt like a shoe. It's the only one where I could honestly see where my money was going.

The first pair of Bontrager's that I brought home had a very pronounced seam that I felt on the inner inside lining right of the tongue on the left shoe. This has disappeared on the current pair. Quality control problem? I don't think it was my socks b/c I tried the same pair of RL's with two different pairs of socks. Not sure what's going on.

I'm waiting until tomorrow to try these suckers outside my Living Room.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Extra Extra!

Read all about it!

An editor of an online magazine, Recumbent Journal recently approached me with a request to publish my article which I posted on the Bentrideronline forum.

Check it out here. It's under the third column under Reviews, titled "Impressions of the KMX Tornado."