I hate to repeat myself, but bright lights are for safety. With a few days of riding on my new dynamo light, I now have another anecdote to share. Yesterday, while riding down Mass Ave north of Porter Square, I was about 30 feet behind and to the right of a car. As they prepared to turn and, presumably checked their mirror, I had something that rarely happens, and almost never at night and from that distance (about 45 feet behind their mirror): they stopped and let me pass. In fact, on more than one occasion on that ride did I have vehicles stop and let me turn rather than cutting me off, but this was the most memorable.

Following up on yesterday’s post, I had another close call, this time from a car running the light. In close proximity to my previous anecdote, I started to ride when the light turned green. However, a car going in the other direction had sneaked through the intersection on a dying dedicated turn phase (or something like that). Luckily, he saw me and stopped. In addition, another kind biker called my attention. (The driver then proceeded to honk at either the other biker or a crossing pedestrian.)

Finally, I thought I would add a little spice with a picture of my commuter bike from yesterday.

My commuter bike

I pack the full complement of equipment: two racks (Cetma 3-rail half rack up front for big cargo, Toba rear rack for panniers, both purchased from Hub Bicycle Company), Planet bike Cascade fenders, dynamo hub and Blaze 1-watt, Kryptonite lock bracket, water bottle holder, and even a cycle computer (I mount it under my seat so I don't check it compulsively). With this set up, including lock, it weighs in at 40 lbs. Camera phone apparently only makes blurry pictures...


Temperature: 41, but feels like 50 🙂

Road condition: Basically dry

Clothing: Rain shell jacket, timberland shoes, cotton Pearl Izumi gloves, Timberland shoes. It’s so lovely outside today! I meant to wear the bike shoes for some variety, but forgot.

Comfort: Lighter clothing and still cool weather means you can ride harder, but managed to stay mostly cool.

I got the Blaze 1-Watt Dynamo Light this week, and got to installing it last night. Wowza! Dynamo lighting is everything I imagined, and more! (Well, it’s pretty cool, anyway.) I had it on while riding in this morning, and definitely noticed the extra drag; once I switched the light off, I could feel a little boost going up the Longfellow Bridge.

I’m still waiting for more inspiration on my homemade light; now that I have a baseline light for comparison, it should be a little easier to push myself to finish it up. I think for iteration 1, I will just attach a 350 mA buckpuck (cheating, I know), and save stand lights and voltage doublers for another time. I may also rely on some tool help to get the mounting for the light all set up.

Weather and Clothing

The beautiful conditions this morning call for a “fair weather” tag on this post. It was definitely on the lower end temperature-wise, but I could have gone down to a spring jacket and been quite happy (with gloves). With a high of 54, the day today is undeniably good for biking.

Temperature: 41

Road Condition: Mostly dry, still wet on the Longfellow Bridge for some reason.

Clothing: Heavy winter coat, EVO gloves, Timberland shoes

Comfort: I didn’t zip the coat, and I was still pushing the upper limits of comfort. Tomorrow will call for some lighter clothing (and rain).

I’m back on my commuter bike, with only a back rack (the horror!), although I rarely load anything onto it aside from panniers. Last night I switched back to my 3-season tires and ditched the studs, which will have to wait a while to see some ice.

The ride in today was just lovely. It was cool (38 degrees) but not cold; the pavement was dry; the traffic was light (har har). I rode the fixed gear today and boy was it fun. I forget how I have to resist the temptation to tear it up on that bike – I get into work all overheated.

Clothing: Heavy winter coat, gloves (although I took them off halfway through the ride), waterproof shoes. NO rain pants today (a winter treat!).

Every so often I’ll see someone riding along with an absolutely atrociously rolled up pant leg. The pants are crumpled the whole length, the bottom is balled into the back of their knee, and their bare leg is exposed to the cold. It gets the job done, but this method is uncomfortable, unsightly, and results in very wrinkled clothing after the ride.

Rolling up your right pant leg is a necessity (unless you have a chain guard, or you’re wearing shorts, duh), as it will keep the bike from at the least rubbing grease on your pant leg, and and at the worst from ripping a hole in the pants or causing you to lose control. (All these things have happened to me – see below.) If your bike is really dirty, it may behoove you to roll up the left one too (a lot of the cuffs on my left pant legs have black streaks from rubbing grit off the frame).

The proper way to roll up your pants (and shirt sleeves!) came to me by way of the military, which, you may know is a stickler for neatness. The key is not to just push the offending fabric out of the way, but rather to fold the excess into a flat, neat cuff. This is basically the same technique you would use if you were tight rolling jeans, and it’s easy with a little practice (best done with the clothes off you to remove some variables). I’ll explain how to do it standing over your clothes and you can extend it to when you’re wearing it.

1. Lay the pants flat on a surface, face up, with the seams on the side and the fabric smoothed out.

Lay the pants flat

Lay the pants flat

2. Fold the inseam over an inch. The amount you fold over can vary depending on the amount of taper in your pant leg.

Fold over

Fold over

3. Fold the bottom of the leg up 1-3 inches (depending on your preference; it is easier to do when you use more fabric).

Fold the bottom

Fold the bottom

4. With one hand (let’s say, your right) pinching the back of the pant leg and inside the fabric from step 3, gently form a cuff with your left hand with the remaining fabric by turning it inside out and smoothing around your right hand.

Pinch the inside of the cuff

Pinch the inside fo the cuff

Fold the remaining material underneath

Fold the remaining material underneath

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 one or two more times. Two rolls will give you a more secure roll.

Make a second roll

Make a second roll


Flatten out the second roll

Flatten out the second roll

If your pants are pretty snugly fitting, you don’t need to do step 2: the cuff will remain neat without gathering the extra fabric. When done properly, you can create a very neat roll which will not crease your clothing and will also keep your pants away from the chain.

* The worst chain chomping I’ve had was in Times Square in August 2010. It wasn’t the chain’s fault, per se, but it had similar effect. I was making a right turn on about 47th Street on my fixed gear, when an errant shoe lace on my left foot got wrapped around the crank. With every revolution (as I frantically backpedaled and slammed on the brake), my foot was bound tighter and tighter. When I came to a stop, my weight listed… left and I slowly tipped over. This being New York, nobody batted an eyelash at some biker falling over for no reason in the middle of the street. I picked up the bike and literally hopped to the curb to unravel my shoelace.

** The worst clothing-chain chomping I’ve seen was when my fiancee and I were riding on Cambridge Street near Harvard Square, totally flying along when her bike (also a fixed gear) comes to a screeching halt and she falls to the side. Her pant leg was totally caught inside the chain, and the tire was rubbed flat through the tread.

Clear Winter Day

January 18th, 2012

Today was a pretty easy day for using the bike. Yesterday’s snow is almost all gone already; the trip home yesterday was rainy, not icy, and by this morning the pavement was dry. It was a little windy and that is meant to increase later. Temp around 35.

Clothing: I went for the rain jacket with a sweater. Heavy gloves, nothing else special. I was quite comfortable.