Friday, August 31, 2018

Lights For Bikes 2018

Bicycle lights serve two functions.  They help us to see where we are going when it’s dark outside, and they make us more visible when we are riding around other traffic.

In the past few years a quiet revolution has been taking place in the realm of bicycle lighting. The advent of CREE LEDs along with lithium rechargeable batteries and superior optics has been nothing less than astonishing.  It is now possible to purchase really good, strong lights that last a long time, and the price is quite reasonable.

We are not going to get into prices and brands here, but rather, let’s consider some situations, and our best recommendation for specifications to meet them.

For daylight road riding:
            Front light ~ Look for a white light, in the 800 to 1200 lumen range.
Rechargeable. At least 1.5 to 2 hour burn time on high. Handlebar mounted.

Rear light ~  To be “daylight visible, these should emit at least 150 lumens, 
and have multiple flash and solid modes.  Again, rechargeable.  Burn time 
should be at least two hours on the bright setting
Expect to paybetween $75 and $120 for the front light and $40 to $60 for 
the rear.

For night time road riding:
Oddly, much lessillumination is required at night on the road.  Your LED type lights have a very high point source intensity, and are visible for a great distance at night.  It takes a lot less power to give you sufficient light to see and ride safely.
Front Light ~ White light, in the 400 to 800 lumen range.  Rechargeable.  
2 hour burn time on high.  Handlebar mount is adequate, but mounting lower 
on the bike gives better contrast illumination of road surface hazards.

            Rear light ~  I would recommend the same thing as above.

            Expect to pay between $50 and $75 for the front light and $40 to $60 for the 

For night time path riding or mountain biking:
More light is required at the front of the bike for off-road activities because there is much less ambient light in these areas.  On the other hand, a less powerful tail light is just fine.  Light mounting strategy also changes when we go off-road.  The ideal setup is to have two headlights, one mounted on the handlebar, and one helmet mounted.  Next best, if only one headlight, use it on a helmet mount.
            The emphasis on a helmet mounted light for off-road riding is practical.  Roads are built for cars, and even a “curvy” road is fairly straight for cycling concerns.  Paths and trails twist and turn sharply.  Often it is desirable to shine a light into a tight turn, and it’s notpractical to turn the handlebar mounted light.
Safety Note:  Do not use a helmet mounted light with a MIPShelmet.  The mount will interfere with the function of the MIPSinner shell.  (I’m not sure yet how to solve this one, but I’ll publish info as soon as I have it.)
            Handlebar light ~ Minimum 400 lumens.  To 800 lumen (or better) 
            Rechargeable.  Two hour burn time at 800 lumen setting.

            Helmet mounted light ~  about the same as handlebar.

            Rear light ~  anything over 50 lumen is sufficient.  Rechargeable.  At least 
four hours burn time.

Expect to paybetween $75 and $120 for bright high quality front lights and 
at lease $30 for a decent tail light.

Monday, April 2, 2018


How to get ready to ride 125 miles in one day, Audax Style

What follows is sound advice to get riders ready for this ride, but…  The following plan is not set in stone.  It assumes the rider is starting from  a relatively modest level of condition.  The biggest factor is actually time in the saddle.  Hopefully, what follows will prove helpful.

Let’s begin with some basics…

Everyone enjoys riding on a nice light bike, but… 
Plan to pack your bike from the very beginning.  These are self supported rides.  That means, if you want or need it, you must carry it.  Specifically, the predictability of weather in north Georgia being what it is, we strongly suggest you pack a rain jacket and sunscreen.  Given the time of  year, plan to carry at least two water bottles.  Carry your own spare tubes!  If your bike has any very individual and cranky parts, carry spares!  If you have any specific dietary or medical needs, pack for them.
                  We strongly suggest that you start your training on a bike that is loaded out for the tour, and then ride a bike with that load, or even a bit heavier, whenever you can.  The old maxim, “Train heavy and race light!” applies, even though this is not a race.

 Words about pacing. I’m often asked about the pace of these rides. The intent of this question is always, “Will I be able to do this thing?” It’s an honest question, but a simple and straight forward answer is often misleading. We need to maintain about 14.5 mph average between stops.  That means something like 10 mph overall average.  So first we must discuss averages. (Sorry, but this really is necessary.)

Averages Defined. Most cycle computers have an average speed function. This usually does not record unless the bike is moving! That means that this is a rolling or moving average speed. Unfortunately this is misleading in two ways. First off, rolling average does not get you to the end of the ride. It is your over-all average that gets you to the finish. Very few bicycle computers have an overall average function.  Second, being able to maintain a high average for a shorter distance, does not necessarily translate to a sustained lesser over-all average.

Here’s the straight story on the Audax Ride. The over-all average will be close to 11 mph. To do this a rolling average of about 14.5 mph is necessary. This is a bit harder than it may seem. Simple arithmetic tells the tale. To deliver a 14.5 mph average for over eight and a half hours, requires that one must be going faster than that for most of that time. Bear in mind, there are plenty of hills and one mountain on the Audax Ride Route.

Can you do it? The best way to answer that question is to start training, and then do the Tune Ups. By the end of the five Tune Up Rides, you and I will both know what your chances of a successful completion are. Be ready to chat with me about that during and after the Tune Ups. I’m pretty good at judging a rider’s ability, and I will not pull any punches.

A Bit More on Average Speeds
It’s a good idea to use actual overall averages throughout your training for the Audax 200K.  Here’s an example that shows both how and why this should be done.
Let us say that a rider named Dave goes out for a training ride.

  • Dave leaves his home on the bike at precisely 2:00 PM
  • Dave rides well and feels good and returns to his home at precisely 4:00 PM
  • Dave has been gone exactly two hours.
  • Dave looks at his cycle computer and notes that it says he traveled  exactly 22.5 miles at an average of 15 mph.  Dave is happy.  He will tell everyone he averaged 15 mph on his ride.  From an Audax standpoint, Dave is wrong. 
  • In point of fact, Dave’s overall average was 11.25 mph!
  • Why?  What happened to the other 3.75 mph?
  • Simple.  Take Dave’s total distance of 22.5 miles and divide it by his total time of 2 hours.
  • What happened?  Well, Dave’s computer only records when he is moving, but time progresses even when he is stopped.  Every time Dave stopped at a traffic light, or stopped to fill water bottles, or ducked into a store for a “nature break,” he was not moving, but time was passing. 
  • In this simplified example, Dave was actually moving for an hour and a half, but all the two hours counts.

When we are training for an Audax Ride we need to use overall average speeds.  If our cycle computer, or GPS, has an overall average function, we should use that.  If not, we need only note the time of the beginning of the ride, and of the end of the ride, then divide the total distance by the total elapsed time.  ‘Nuff  said.

Why on Earth should I want to do this? Like mountain climbers say, “Because it’s there!” The sense of accomplishment after meeting a challenge is enormous. The camaraderie on these things is great. They are, in a word, fun! And the Monday morning bragging rights are pretty good too.

Here’s a recipe:
 Start with two each “workout sessions” per week.  These should be higher effort activities, hill repeats or intervals.  These could be done inside on a trainer.
To the “workout rides” add one low effort “integration ride” of  about two to three hours. 
That amounts to a total of about five hours per week.

Around the end of April, add another, low effort, outside ride of one to two hours.  Bringing your weekly total to between six and seven hours.

To this add another relatively short ride of an hour or so. See, you’re already doing about eight hours.
Gradually increase the times on both of your outside rides, until, by the end of May, you are doing a two hour ride and a four to five hour ride every week. That’s four training sessions a week, totaling eight to nine hours.
In June, add another short ride, of about an hour. This one should include a 15 minute warm up section, about a half hour of hill repeats at moderate intensity, and a 15 minute cool down. Then, near the end of the month, add another hour, either as a separate ride at low intensity, or by extending one of the other four or five rides.
Along about that time, I’ll start doing Audax Tune Up Rides.

The Tune Ups. Look for these rides in June, July, and August. We do three of them. Two are about 45 miles long, and the last one is about 65 miles. We do these for several reasons. The first and most important, is to give us all a chance to practice riding in this group-stays-together-controled-pace style of riding. The second is to act as an assurance that each individual will be able to accomplish the goal. The routes for the Tune Ups are deliberately more hilly and challenging than the overall route of the Audax Ride.  If you can do all of the “Tune Ups,” especially the 65 milers, then you are capable of doing the 200K.

One last item:  This blog started as a means of communication and information about the Audax Ride.  If you care to see more, feel free to go back and "mine" the years of posts.  Not everything pertains to these rides, but a lot does, and there's a lot of other stuff in here too.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

What in the world is an “Audax Ride”?

On Sunday, September 9, 2018 we will ride the annual Audax 200K.  This post is intended to provide the basic information about this ride.

Who is this “we”?  Well, it’s me, and anyone who wants to come along and is in condition to do so.  If you think you might be interested, please read on.

Let’s start with a definition.

Audax (oh docks) – A style of group bicycle touring found mostly in France, but also in Holland and Belgium to lesser degrees.  A steady pace is set by a road captain, who is in charge of a group of fellow club members.  In modern times the pace is usually about 22 km/h (13.5 mph) between stops; the itinerary and resting places are planned in advance. 
(from the Randonnuers USA website)

Audax is a riding style not often found in the United States. But what is an Audax Tour?  It’s a group ride, where the group stays together. There is a group leader who is responsible for setting the pace. There is a predetermined route. There are reservations at the major stops for meals and lodging. It is a self-supported tour. The group carries what is needed to accomplish the tour. If a member of the group has a difficulty, the entire group stops and works as a team to fix the problem, be it mechanical, a flat, or other issue.

You find these types of ride in Europe a lot. There are clubs, and organizations of these things all over the continent. Some Audax events are long, multi-day affairs.
The ride we do is a 200K. That’s about 125 miles. We do it in one day. There are several rest stops along the way, and one really good lunch stop, with a full, sit-down meal. There is a large “snack” at the end of the ride. The usual tone of the ride is one of laughing chatter all day long. In short, it’s a lot of fun.

The whole point of this kind of ride is to enjoy the day with others.  To ride with company.

Getting ready for the ride.  Doing 125 miles in one day can sound intimidating. Oddly, a fair number of riders who have done this one, have never gone farther than 65 miles at one time before ride day. It’s entirely “doable.” Preparation begins with simply getting on the bike. Gradually build time and capacity. The goal is to be doing 10 to 12 hours per week, by mid-August.  We have help and advice on that, and you won’t have to do it all alone.

We will provide two items that will assist prospective riders to prepare for the 200K.  Just as important, these activities will help a rider to determine if he or she actually wants to do it.

Item One:  We will do a series of “Tune Up” rides.  These get progressively longer, and cover terrain that will prepare a rider for the long event.  We ride the tune ups in “Audax Style.”  The group stays together in mutual support.  They, like the 200K are self-supported.  No SAG truck.  No "staffed "break points."  It's, "Do it ourselves or it doesn't get done.  Bring it ourselves or it doesn't get brung."  But the spirit of the thing is ,"One for all, and all for one!"

The tune ups start with a ride of approximately 35 miles.  Then,  at approximately two week intervals, we do four more “Tune Ups.”  Two of these rides are 45 miles long and then there are two each 65 mile rides.  These rides are designed to prepare riders for the 200K.  More importantly, they allow prospective riders to decide if this style of touring ride is for them or not.
                  The “Tune Ups” will be ridden Audax Style.  The group will stay together.  While not strictly “no drop rides,” we will not ride off and drop anyone.  Sometimes it happens that a rider has to “abandon.”  If this occurs, the group will work to get that rider to a safe location, where there is food, shelter, and help, so that they may arrange “pickup” and do so in safety.

Item Two:  We will post a plan that any rider can use to prepare for these rides.  Look for that in a post on this blog tomorrow.

Monday, June 5, 2017


The S24O.  Bringing back an old friend.  The S24O is a low key, high fun value, “micro tour.”  The title, when decoded, tells the tale.  It stands for “Sub 24 hour Overnight.”
The idea is to launch between 5:00 PM and 6:00 PM.  Then ride to an overnight destination, and spend the night there.  Then get up and ride back in the morning, finishing up between 9:00 AM and 10:00 AM.  So the whole thing takes around 17 to 18 hours.  These work well on Friday or Saturday evenings, but could be done on just about any day of the week.
The S24O works for a trip to just about an kind of destination, but it’s ideal for an overnight camping trip.  The destination could be a park, a friend’s remote back yard, or even (with permission) a disused pasture.  Some very good destinations might require a drive to a “remote start.”  It’s a very flexible kind of thing.

I’m researching possible destinations now, and will be happy to accept any that some of you might offer.  I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

THE TOURING CORNER: Short tours? Long tours? Regional tours? Transcontinental?

Some of the above could mean different things to different people.  Let’s start with a bit of definition.  
Short Tour:  Let’s be reasonable. And say this is anything that could be comfortably done in a two or three day weekend.  Say between 100 and 200 miles.
Long Tour:  Let’s say this is something that could be done in a “normal” vacation, anything from a week to a month.
Regional Tour:  Usually this would be a trip across some region of the country, involving multiple states.
Transcontinental (Transcon):  All the way across the country, east to west, or north to south, or anything of that magnitude.

Obviously, none of those definitions are rigid, or received wisdom.  They are just general guidelines.  I’ve done a trip that started in Delaware, crossed into Pennsylvania, then into Maryland, and back into Delaware again.  Sounds impressive, but that trip was only a bit over forty miles.  I know of a location where it is possible to Start in Maryland, visit Virginia and West Virginia, and be back in time for lunch.  But I think we get the picture.  Multi state doesn’t necessarily mean long, and there are places where doing an out-and-back in the same state is an epic.  Texas and Alaska come to mind.  It’s really more about the distance and time involved.  The idea is to have some general bounderies to talk about.  This is important as things change (sometimes radically) as we consider longer types of rides.

Training for Short Tours:  This isn’t too hard.  One works on riding the bike and building time and endurance.  At the same time, it’s a good idea to ride a bike that you will tour on, and load it as if you were touring.  Let me make this point                absolutely clear!  There is a huge difference between doing a 50 to 100 mile ride on a 20 pound bike, and the same distance over the same terrain on a 50 to 75 pound “loaded” rig!  Train on the heavy bike!  Commuting and utility cycling is a great way to accomplish this.  And, no, it’s not strictly necessary to ride a fully loaded bike all the time…  just most of it.
            But do keep this in mind!  You can train yourself up to handle a two day tour, or a week long tour.  The thing is, it’s not possible to train up for a month long (or longer) trip.  For the long journeys, you can only get into sufficient shape to begin.  After that, while under way, you will ride yourself into condition.  The first week will be grand, but you will be getting tired.  The second week will suck.  Then you will slack off a bit.  By the end of the third week, you’re into it.  After a month, you’re made out of lumber.
Packing… Just what should be carried on a tour?
            While you are training, you can be refining what you pack.  What and how much depends on your preferences, how far you’re going, the time of year.
            Folks who do bike tours tend to fall into one of two groups, the over-packers and the under-packers.  Interestingly, both groups have the same problem.  No matter how much you pack and how carefully, you will, invariably leave something behind…  And it will prove vital.  No matter how frugal you are with your load, you will, invariably, carry something completely useless around with you.  In both cases, you will survive.  Your ingenuity and adaptability will allow you to work it out.

Monday, May 29, 2017

THE TOURING CORNER: Self Supported Touring

The title for this week’s topic conjures up what many people think of when hearing the words “bicycle touring.”  Also known as “Loaded Touring,” and sometimes as “roll your own,” or even “heavy touring,” this style is about traveling by bike and carrying all you need with you.  The “loaded touring bike” is the Winnebago of the bicycle world. 
            Before we delve any deeper into this, a quick digression is in order.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone do a “pure” kind of any type of touring.  I know light tourists and credit card types who pack abit for emergencies, and every “self supporter” I’ve ever known has confessed to the occasional hotel stay, or a bit of “couch surfing.”  The essence of touring is the tour, and the key skills and traits of any good tourist are improvisation and adaptability.
            So what is self-supported touring?  It’s about loading a suitable bike with all that’s needed to keep the bike running and provide for the tourist’s daily needs.  Think about that for a moment.  This is not a style that lends itself to racing type bikes.  The machine for this stuff is designed to carry loads.  Make that heavy loads!  Consider a list that includes only the top categories.
·      Tent
·      Sleeping bag
·      Sleeping pad
·      Cook stove and fuel
·      Camp dishes
·      Clothing
·      Tools
·      First Aid kit
·      Spare parts
·      Lights
·      Book, computer, or other writing equipment
·      Camera
Add in water and a bit of food, the racks and bags that support it all, and the load can easily be between 60 and 100 pounds.
There is an old saying, “You can do three things on a bicycle, Have fun, go fast, carry a lot of stuff.  Pick two.  Self Supported touring is not about riding fast.  It’s about being out on the road, traveling, and being self-sufficient.  Loaded touring is essentially a trip from one campsite to another, repeated until the journey’s end.
      About the bike:  Touring bikes are built to be tough.  Start with a rugged strong frame.  That frame will have a lot of eyelets and attachment points.  It will be equipped with a driveling that has a lot of gears, and some seriously low ones.  (Think about climbing a mountain pass on a 70 to 100 pound bike.)  Wheels will be stout and built to be strong.  Tires will be wider and tougher.  The fit will put the rider in a more relaxed and upright position.  This is not a lightweight bike.  The basic machine, complete but without racks, fenders or other accessories, will probably weigh in around 30 to 35 pounds.  This isn’t an Arabian, it’s a Clydesdale.  But this beast will carry the rider a long, long way.
      Loaded, self-supported touring is not for everyone.  Loaded tourists tend to travel solo, or in very small groups.  Many folks would read the above and shudder.  But others will be drawn to the idea of traveling in solituted, relying on one’s own resourcefulness, and being the powerplant behind it all.  If the idea of covering ground on the open road, camping along the way, and providing for yourself as you travel sounds good, then you might want to do more investigating. 

Resource: Adventure Cycling  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

HE TOURING CORNER: Credit Card Touring

In a way this is a minimalist approach to cycle tourism.  The credit card approach is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the fully loaded, self-supported, tourist.  The type of bike isn’t important, but the credit card tourist can be mounted on just about anything.  Here’s an extreme example of the type.
Bill plans to be in San Diego.  He does a bit of research and calls a bicycle shop there.  He arranges to rent a nice road bike for a few days.  After arriving in San Diego, Bill picks up the bike.  He is carrying a very light backpack, with a change of clothing and a few sundries.  He has made a reservation at a B & B about 50 miles north of San Diego.  Bill takes off on the bike, seeing the sights and exploring his way up the coast.  He spends the night at the B & B, where he has access to all the amenities.  On the second day, Bill rides further north, enjoying the scenery and the day.  This day will be a “loop,” bringing Bill back to the B & B for a second night.  His third day will take him back to San Diego, by an alternate scenic route.  Along the way, Bill has purchase what he needs.  He has even arranged to ship a couple of items home.

            Credit Card tours are usually shorter in length and time.  The single largest benefit is the freedom from carrying a lot of stuff, and the flexibility to be very spontaneous.  This type of touring can work just as well in one’s back yard.