Sunday, May 31, 2020

IS YOUR FIGHTER-JET RADAR WORKING?

Some SAFETY philosophy for my bicycle and motorcycle-riding friends.

NOTE: I wrote this a couple days ago and posted it on a couple social-media (bicycle and motorcycle) groups I pertain to. But since then, I've thought about it... and a simple name for all of this, that to me is very meaningful: SITUATIONAL AWARENESS.

Let's talk about modern fighter jets. Built into the pointy nose cone of every one, is a powerful radar. It constantly scans back and forth, up and down, sending out a radar beam. It has two modes - "search" and "track."

Most of the time, it is "searching." If the beam bounces back, reflecting off another airborne object, a "bogey" (unidentified aircraft - could be friend or foe) has been located, and it goes into "track" mode. The radar beam will "focus" on that object, and the onboard computer will be able to determine its direction and velocity, and hopefully identify the type of object it is, long before it is within the pilot's sight distance.

It is amazing technology, and has completely changed the nature of combat, in the years since WWII or thereabouts. Generally speaking, the team that is able to identify the enemy target the soonest, and "neutralize" that target, will win the battle.

The technology has become so advanced, that a fighter pilot can be aware of the position and movement of multiple "targets," all at the same time.

(Passenger airplanes also benefit from the technology. A midair collision involving a passenger jet is almost unheard of, because onboard radar can detect other flying objects, and sound the alarm if trajectories seem to be converging.)

Now let's talk about 2-wheeled transportation, and operators of 2-wheeled transportation.

We don't have the benefit of radar... but wouldn't that be something! (We wouldn't be able to afford it... only the taxpayers can afford those fancy fighter jets!)

Which means - the operator has to use manual "search" mode to locate other moving objects, and "track" mode to determine the direction of that object's travel, AND engage "collision avoidance" if the trajectories seem to be converging. Most of the time, if you are bicycling or motorcycling, you should be giving a good part of your attention to scanning your airspace, looking for targets. The earlier you identify a "bogey," the more likely you are to win! (This is true whether you're riding a motorcycle or a bicycle... but it's even more important on a motorcycle, because "convergence speeds" can be so much faster!)

Once you have the "bogey," you focus on it to determine what it is, what direction it is moving, and whether it will pose a hazard. As a rule, I treat ANY moving object that is getting closer to me - no matter how "innocent" it seems - as a potential hazard. The stakes are ever so high! If it's off to one side, I look at the wheels to see if it's moving, and how fast. If it's a vehicle approaching on the highway from the other direction... it could drift into your lane, or make an abrupt and unexpected turn into your path. Your "collision avoidance" should be on high alert.

Our ground transportation has an advantage over fighter jets - most of the hazards will be on a horizontal plane. We don't have to pay much attention to the sky above, or the ground below (other than being aware of the upcoming surface quality). And - most of the hazards will manifest in the 150 degrees or so in front of us. (Although we need to "check 6" regularly - that's look to the rear. Easier if you have a mirror!)

The human brain is pretty amazing. IF WE ARE FOCUSED, in almost any circumstance our eye-brain interface will enable us to notice that bogey, and identify it soon after. IF WE ARE FOCUSED, once we are locked on target, we'll be able to track that target on full collision-avoidance alert, until it is no longer a hazard. If evasive measures are necessary, our brain-muscle interface will take over. (The earlier the bogey is identified, the more likely we are to deal with any hazard "gracefully.") It is quite remarkable, when you think about it, how much of that process is "automated," once you have the training and experience necessary to be in top tune, and IF WE ARE FOCUSED. If we are distracted - by a handheld gizmo, or the righteous tunes we're listening to, or the "pretty woman, walkin' down the street," or even by the leaky sink back at home - or if we are impaired in some way, we just might miss that bogey while we still have time to engage the system.

There are far more "bogeys" in urban environments, than in rural environments. That's why it's such a pleasure to be on a ride down a country road. But on the other hand, some "country bogeys" can appear almost before you can react! I'm thinking of YOU, Mr. Bambi! (Or YOU, driver of that ol' farm truck that's turned onto the highway 1000 times before, because traffic is so light!)

I get annoyed - and sometimes downright angry - when some other doofus makes me go into full collision-avoidance mode. But at the same time... isn't it mentally rewarding to avoid a collision that would've otherwise been caused by that doofus? (And - isn't it embarrassing to BE that doofus?!! I've been guilty of that, but thankfully it's rare.)

Well... that seems like a good place to end this stream-of-consciousness. BE SAFE! FOCUS!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

190K

In February, 1995, Greg LeMond came to Boise.

Remember Greg?  He was the first-ever American to win the Tour de France... several years before whats-his-name... the disgraced guy.  LeMond won three times in his career.  I stood in line on a gray winter morning to get an audience with him.  I got a photo and we chatted.  I told him I'd ridden 50,000 miles.  (Cumulative, since I started tracking in 1986.)  His jaw dropped... he interpreted that to mean I'd ridden 50k miles in a year!  I clarified.  He laughed, and gave me a signed poster - one of his moments of glory on the Champs-Élysées, with the Arc de Triomphe in the background.  He wrote on it, "To Steve, keep it up another 50,000! -Greg LeMond."  It's a prized possession, framed along with our photo together.

As it turns out, I did keep it up another 50,000.  On September 1, 2004, I rode my bicycle to the Statehouse and lofted it high above my head, in a lame imitation of Rocky!  Because that was the day I hit 100,000 miles.  My office friends were there to celebrate with me.


In 2004, another 100,000 miles seemed insurmountable.  Like climbing to a high peak, and seeing for the first time, the distant, even-higher mountain range.  Shades of Lewis & Clark!

Well... time marches on, and the miles keep rolling underneath me.

Yesterday, I hit 190,000 miles.  Now that tall range is much nearer to the view.  I should hit that peak sometime in 2022, based on current annual mileages.

(This may seem like a silly diversion to many.  And I'd still be riding, even if I didn't keep track.  However, I'd be lying if I said that "chasing those miles" wasn't a motivation for me.  Frosting on the cake.  I keep daily track in multiples of 5... you know 10 miles, 15 miles, 20, etc.  I put a checkmark next to 15, whether I ride 15.01 miles or 19.99 miles.  So if time isn't a factor, I'll almost always be motivated to hit the next higher number.  The Missus keeps things in perspective.  When I boast, "I've ridden 5000 miles this year!," her reply is "That's nice.")

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Ultimate SDV?

I'm really enjoying my choice of SDV (Social Distancing Vehicle) these days!

(For post-2020 readers, if there be any: As of April, 2020, the entire planet is under quarantine, in an effort to prevent spread of the Covid-19 virus. It is the first plague of the 21st Century... if you don't count terrorism or climate change, I s'pose. We are all advised to wash our hands frequently and try to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other people. PERFECT for bike riding... at least the distance part. (There's another recommendation that's plain DUMB... try to keep your group gatherings of less than 10. Futility! If each of those 10 people is a carrier walking away from that gathering, and meets with 9 other people, who in turn each meet with 9 other people... 1000 people infected in 3 "generations"!!) But I digress.)

Some people see cycling as a social activity. You see groups cycling together. To bring even more sense of togetherness, sometimes these groups ride together in matching costumes! (I wish they'd stay off multi-use paths, when they're riding together FAST in their costumes! They really belong on the street.) I've always been more of a "lone wolf" cyclist. Other than my grandkids, who I ride with from age 1 (when their momma will let them go) until they "age out" at 10 or 11 (WAY too cool to do something lame like bike-ride)... I go maybe 3 times a year, average, with other people. I generally enjoy my rides with others, but that means ORGANIZING... when solo, I can just go!

Today, I rode about 2 miles with granddaughter Bonnie at the park. (She's 7, and getting comfortable with starting and stopping. She's ready for expanded horizons.) Then I rode downstream on the Greenbelt, to the bridge a couple miles down from Glenwood. Except for a couple pockets of humanity (people who don't understand, and/or don't care, about airborne disease transmission), it was pretty darn easy to maintain that social distance.





"An Inconvenient Pandemic"

Talk about bad timing!

I just got my April Rolling Stone Magazine. It has St. Greta on the cover, and it's all about the Race To Save The Planet - NOW OR NEVER!

In the magazine publishing world, there are deadlines to go to the printer and such. And the April edition was obviously sent to the press before the "Corona Crisis," because there's not a word about it. Instead, it's chock-full of propaganda and society-shaming about "climate change." There's an interview with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a luminary of the "save the planet" movement, and co-author of "The Green New Deal." There's a scathing expose about Chase Bank, which is apparently financing Global Warming. There are photos of dead whales, forest fires, buckled streets... all just small snapshots of the disasters that await us if we don't do something now!

Here's a tidbit - a Call to Arms to RS readers, to "protest":
Earth Day Climate Strike
"For the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, activist coalition Strike With Us is calling for workers and students to stage walkouts across the U.S., demanding action before it's too late."

Um... where are workers and students going to walk out of? In the Twilight Zone of April, 2020, workers and students are pretty much holed up at home, awaiting an end to Covid-19! Bad timing!

But, maybe it will give people more time for getting educated and thoughtful consideration about other matters, like Earth Day and climate change.

I'm not sure what the Rolling Stone demographic is, but it's obviously aimed at people who will easily become alarmed, and perhaps manipulated. People who will see a photo of a dead whale, and decide they can "walk out" for a day to change the climate... and then go back to business as usual.  (Which is pretty much the modus operandi of the Climate Change hand-wringers and pearl-clutchers.)

Here's some documented history... the very first Earth Day, staged on April 22, 1970, was a result of increasing alarm about the upcoming ICE AGE! More detailed info HERE.

Why is Earth Day on April 22? That date is Nikolai Lenin's birthday. It's also "the day of Bernadette Devlin's maiden speech before the House of Commons." I have to confess, if I ever knew about Bernadette Devlin, that knowledge has been forgotten. But Lenin's name still rings familiar. No wonder Alexandra is all about Earth Day! (And it suggests that Earth Day is as much about political philosophy, as it is about the environment.)

I actually feel some pity for young Greta, from Sweden. Here's a teenager, who, like lots of teenagers is concerned about the environment. (And, I admire her, because unlike MOST luminaries of the "environmental movement," she actually seems to walk the talk. Evidently after her 15 minutes of fame at the United Nations, she was concerned enough that she didn't want to fly home to Sweden, and instead took passage on a boat. How often does Al Gore, or John Kerry, or Leonardo DiCaprio, or Jane Fonda, refuse to take the plane?) But, poor Greta is being USED by the Climate Zealots.

Here's what really chaps me... they are all talk, no action! They are "demanding action before it's too late." What are THEY doing, besides laying down their demands? How does the quote "carbon footprint" unquote of Algore or Alexandria compare with that of Joe Lunchbox?

Please don't misunderstand. I would like to sincerely thank my fellow Earth Citizens who are trying to live a low-impact lifestyle. I don't know how much impact you, or any of us, are having on the climate... but regardless, it's good to make an effort to leave our home at least as nice as we found it. I'm confident that the climate is changing, because it has been changing for the entire history of the planet. I have NO IDEA how much our modern lifestyles are impacting the planet, but I know there are a BUNCH of factors that are probably having much more impact, that we have absolutely no control over! (I'm far more confident in our ability to harness the Covid-19 virus, than our ability to control the climate!!! And I'm not willing to go back to a caveman lifestyle, because it MIGHT cool the planet by 1 degree.)

As for "now or never," for 50 years we've been told that if we don't do something RIGHT NOW, in 10 years it will be too late! SHUT UP!

(I'm trying to do my part! If you want to compare "carbon footprints," get in touch with me and let's talk!)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Mountain bike personalization '20

The whole civilized world is dealing with a virus outbreak right now.  The smart people are limiting unnecessary contact with other people, washing their hands, avoiding crowds, etc.  Then there are some who are apparently using their spare bedroom as a toilet paper repository.  (It's truly weird!  Toilet paper consumption is 1000x what it normally is!  If I'd known, I'd a-told my finance guy, "Put all my money in Charmin!")

One VERY nice thing... so far at least, bicycling is a good way to maintain that recommended social distance, while also maintaining a healthy outdoor lifestyle.  March has been a good month for me.  (Yesterday was a little dicey - I think everybody was on the Greenbelt!  Probably due to the nice weather.  It was jammed with walkers, dog walkers, cyclists, E-cyclists (you know, bike riding without the exercise), skaters.  And obviously lots of 'em got a little rusty over the winter.)

I've also recently applied some upgrades to my Cannondale mountain bike... equipping it for the kind of riding I do.

For one thing... I added a DROPPER SEATPOST.

Traditionally, a person installs a dropper if they need to lower their seat to negotiate particularly difficult or technical stretches of singletrack.  I did it to ease getting started!  My bike is so tall that the saddle hits me at about the waist, when I'm straddling it!  The dropper post (which is controlled by an onboard lever - like your office chair) can be lowered when I'm "parking."  Then when I'm taking off, I get to moving and raise the saddle back up to normal level.  (At some point it might also come in handy if I'm on some technical singletrack - time will tell.)


I also replaced the tires.

The bike came with some "almost fat" knobby tires - perfect for slow riding in loose dirt, etc.  But the fact is, I expect my riding (on that bike) will be a mix of brisk pavement riding, dirt-and-gravel road riding, and the occasional offroad "traditional mountain bike riding."

(But what, truly, is traditional mountain bike riding?  I'm guessing most mountain bikes are ridden more like what I'm anticipating - lots of pavement, some dirt.  I always smile to myself when I see guys lumbering along on FAT BIKES on the Greenbelt!  ALWAYS guys!  That's the opposite of an E-bike - "bike riding with TWICE the exercise!")

Another factor - I wasn't able to hook up my BOB trailer to the mountain bike - not enough clearance for those semi-fat tires.

So... I replaced the 2.35 inch tires with some 40mm tires.  That about 1.6 inches.  They are "knobby" tires, but with a fairly wide solid center ridge, which will allow for brisk pavement riding... or at least that's my line of thought.  Recommended pressure is 50-85PSI.  They should roll pretty nice at 85... and if I get to some gnarly trails, I can bleed some air, and they should be fairly adequate.  And - the trailer can be attached!  (They are Schwalbe "Land Cruiser Plus" tires, with a puncture-resistant belt.)  I hope to provide a review, after some miles and experience.  In the meantime, I'll try to survive the virus with my family, and accumulate those miles and experience.



Stay well, friends!

Friday, March 20, 2020

My new favorite "mail order" bike parts merchant

I always feel good about patronizing the good Local Bike Shops.  They are here for us... those that I deal with are consistently reasonably-priced, particularly with service fees.  If you need a part in a pinch, you can often find it the same day at a well-equipped LBS.  (I've also got to give a shout-out to Boise Bicycle Project.  They are a good source of knowledge, as well as binloads of good used parts that are still 100% functional at amazingly reasonable prices.)

However, as a guy who goes through a considerable number of tires, tubes, and other "consumables" (up to and including brake pads, chains, chainrings, cassettes, etc.), I'm always on the lookout for good prices as well as reliable shipping and delivery.

And - my new favorite parts supplier is not only out of town, it's out of country!  Maybe 5000 miles away!

Chain Reaction Cycles is across the pond - in Northern Ireland.  They have a fantastic inventory of stuff at very competitive prices.  I've ordered from them several times, and their service is really quite remarkable!

Most recently, I placed an order for two tyres (they sell tyres - but they substitute nicely for tires!) and three tubes.  I deliberately ordered a little over $60 of merchandise, which qualified me for free shipping.  The order was placed on March 16 (Monday).  I got an email from the shipper (DHL Express) on Tuesday... enroute, scheduled to arrive Thursday.  I got a follow-up email from DHL on Thursday morning, "Your delivery is today."  And by 10am, I was slicing through the packing tape on the box.  Sah-WEEEEEET!  (I've ordered from the two big state-side bike mail order companies - "N" and "P" - for years, and it typically takes a week to 10 days for the stuff to arrive.)

If you occasionally go to an out-of-town supplier, I'd suggest you put Chain Reaction on your "go to" list.  Remember: tyres = tires, spanner = wrench, etc.
(-;


Thursday, March 5, 2020

Group ride!

'Twas an almost-perfect day today, and I went on a somewhat rare ride with somebody else.  That "somebody" is somebody very special to me - my granddaughter Laurel.  Her momma and daddy won't allow their kids to go until they're a year old - Laurel turned 1 year in February, and we're off to the races!  (I get a LOT more smiles from other Greenbelt people, when I have one of the grandbabies along.  This is the third who has used this little up-front bike seat... their parents gifted it to me, many moons ago, and we've gotten lots of mileage out of it.)








Friday, February 28, 2020

I'm Saddle-Rich!!

In these times of financial volatility, I'd suggest you consider what I'm doing - INVEST IN BICYCLE SADDLES!

A few weeks back, I noticed that one of the screws on my Selle Anatomica saddle was missing. I rode on home... and upon closer inspection I discovered that I had broken another one! (D'oh!)


I've commented at length in the past, about my "Anatomica Experience," including HERE and HERE. In a nutshell, they are the most comfortable saddle I've ever sat on. And comfort is a major consideration when choosing a saddle... no? But unfortunately, at least for me, I've had negative results with their relative longevity. The models I have used are theoretically designed for riders weighing up to 250 pounds, and I'm often close to that threshold... I tend to tip the scales at 235-245 pounds, depending on time of year. (I'm at the high end of that range right now, since it's the end of "holiday eating season," and "ideal riding season" is not yet upon us.) I've probably broken five Anatomica frames in the ten years I've been riding on them. (If they last less than a year, they are covered by a no-questions-asked warranty. After a year, it costs about $50 for a replacement frame... send in your seat and they send it back, fixed.)

The current broken seat is an "H2" model... it's different from the older ones, because it's "modular" - it has screws instead of rivets, and a 3-piece frame. (As seen in photo, above.)  And, it was one of the cast frame pieces that broke - NOT the rails this time.  I chose that one because I expected to have to fix it eventually, and figured it would be less expensive.

I sent a message to the Anatomica people.

While I was waiting for a reply, I decided to check out the alternatives... and ended up deciding to try a seat I hadn't tried before - a BROOKS FLYER. I found one for a very attractive price, on the "Amazon UK Global Store." I have a BROOKS IMPERIAL on one of my bikes, and I've been pretty happy with it. It's almost, but not quite, as comfortable as the Anatomica. The "Flyer" has springs! And... if you register it, they promised to extend the 2-year warranty to 10 years! What's not to love! I ordered one... with about a 2-week delivery window, since it's coming across the pond.

Meanwhile... Anatomica replied. The nice customer service gal told me they'd send me the replacement frame piece for $20, and also made me an irresistible offer on a "B-Stock" new saddle - supposedly with minor cosmetic flaws, but nothing affecting ride quality or warranty. I said, "Send me one of each!"

So - I got the Anatomica shipment a couple weeks ago. Fixed the broken saddle in 15 minutes using common household tools. Was very happy with the "B-Stock" new one... immediately installed it on my "main rider." (I figure I should use it while the warranty is in effect. And supposedly they are using an upgraded CR-MO in their construction now, to make them stronger. We shall see.)

Here's the new Anatomica. Pretty sweet. And just as comfortable as expected, right out of the box.


Well... yesterday the new Brooks arrived. And it's pretty sweet, too!



So - now I've got two fully-functional SPARE sweet saddles on the shelf, waiting for their turn.

I think I'll just have to try out this "sprung" Brooks Flyer. (Brooks saddles have a reputation for needing a couple hundred miles of break-in, before they achieve cosmic comfort. So I expect that... but I'm also anxious to see how the springs affect both comfort and rideability.)

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Nature (bike) hike

A warmer-than-usual day afforded me an opportunity to bicycle downstream once again, along the Greenbelt on the south side of the Boise River, and then upstream on the north side.  Some of the sights I observed:

Once you get out of the heavily-populated river banks, you start seeing more bird nesting areas.  I always enjoy seeing these comorant nests...



When I was snapping these photos, a nice lady out walking her dogs gave me a heads-up about some blue heron nesting activity a little farther downstream...




On the way back, due to some inspiration I received from a photo posted on social media, I thought it would be fun to try some macro photography of moss.  Usually I just ride on by, but even the tiniest slice of nature can be strikingly beautiful.  Below are two close-up photos of "moss canyons," each followed by a farther-away photo that includes the close-up scene...





Friday, January 31, 2020

Banner January

We had unseasonably warm weather through most of the month of January, and being an old retired fixed-income guy, I was able to take advantage by doing a lot of cycling.  (NOTE to people from elsewhere, considering moving to Boise - it's usually AWFUL in January!  Snow... cold... smog.  We just got lucky this month.  Don't move to Boise!)


And as is my custom nowadays... at least this time of year a large percentage of my cycling was on the Greenbelt.  It's not as pleasant in the dead of summer when the pavement is overrun, but in January there are not Greenbelt traffic jams.  And, let's face reality - with the meaningful influx of newbies in cars, the streets are getting less bicycle-friendly and more stressful all the time, year-round, at least on the streets without bike lanes.

I covered the area from the "Highway 21 high bridge" upstream...


... to Eagle Road downstream.


Some nice scenery between the two, as well.  Good times.  (What a blessing it is, to have a flexible schedule that enables me to hit the road at the peak time of day.)








But - the highlight of the whole month was earlier today, when I got to take my granddaughter Laurel on her first ever bicycle ride!  (It was a delight for me... serious business for her!)


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New decade... quality saddle time!

Good fortune was mine...  took advantage of the nice weather.  You know it's going to be a good year and decade, when you squeeze in 20 miles on Day 1!

Out Orchard and Gowen, for an armament check.  (Gotta make sure we're ready for the Ayatollah and his minions!)


Did a loop around the Boise Air Traffic Control Tower.


TRIVIA: The tower is the tallest ATC tower in the northwest.  It's the second-tallest building in Idaho, behind the Zion's Bank Center downtown, which is 28 feet higher.  (But the bank building includes an unoccupied vanity tower on top, that's probably the top 40 feet.)  I was lucky to get a tour of the Air Traffic Tower with a Scout group, just before it was turned over to the FAA back in 2010.  Nice view!



From there, out Pleasant Valley Road, Hollylynn Drive, South Cole Road, Lake Hazel, and back into town on Orchard.  I also had a very pleasant stop along the way to visit with my friend Bob, who I hadn't seen in probably five years.  (Airport tower is still visible in the last photo.)  So - time well spent all around!

Cost of transportation 2020

For 2020, gas prices are projected to hold steady, at less than $3/gallon. Story HERE.

(Note: The story acknowledges that prices tend to be higher in the west. That matches my personal observations, and I'd bet that prices in SW Idaho will top $3, sometime over the summer during peak travel season.)

That's good for motorists; maybe not for alt-trans. I've stated before... I'm convinced that the price of gas incentivizes alternative transportation, likely more than anything else.

Just the same, I'll happily ride my bicycle. In the year just ended I rode 5,597 miles, almost all in Boise and Ada County. I figure I saved around $777 in gas money. (Assuming I would've driven to the same destinations*, paid $2.50/gallon for gas, and the missus' family truckster gets about 18mpg.)

That ain't chump change! 🤩

Keep the shiny side up in 2020, my friends!

* I would NOT have driven a car to all of the same destinations.  A significant component of my bicycling is for the purposes of pleasure and exercise.  I rarely drive a car locally for "pleasure," and never for exercise!