Category: Travels and Adventures

Minorca is known as one of Spain’s most popular tourist destinations. However, it’s also a great place for cycling enthusiasts. From viewing the island’s impressive forests, to its beautiful bays; there are a variety of cycling routes that will allow you to enjoy the sights of the island to the full, for more information on what to do when on the island visit Saga Navigator.

Mao/South Coast

This is a route that will allow you to see the La Mola fortress in Mao, then the city’s bay and port, before heading on to Mao city centre. From there, you can take the opportunity to see more of the south coast of the island. This will include a visit to Cales Coves, with its notable caves, before you enjoy the lovely beach at Cala en Porter. After a trip to the ancient Torre d’en Galmes settlement the ride concludes in the centre of Minorca at Alaior. The whole ride will be around 25 miles in length.

Cap de Favaritx Area

This is a circular route, some 25 miles in length which wraps around the Northern part of the island, and has some of Minorca’s most spectacular scenery as a backdrop. Along this route you’ll see holm oak and pine forests, before the journey ends at Cap de Favaritx. Here, you’ll encounter not only a unique lighthouse, but the lunar landscape that surrounds it.

The Wild Coast

For riders looking to enjoy a wide range of interesting views of the island, this route will definitely appeal. On this 23 mile route there will be woods, lakes, dunes, lowlands, and eye-catching gorges to see, as well as pristine beaches and the cliff-face at la Vall; which is several hundred feet high. The natural harbour at Cala Morell, on the Ciutadella coast is noteworthy, as is the prehistoric burial site in the area.

Off-Road Tour

For the more ambitious cyclist, travelling all the way round the island is an option. Utilising the Cami de Cavalls is the best way of doing this, though using a mountain bike will be advisable, considering the sometimes rocky nature of the path. Mostly a coastal route, it does occasionally go inland. The whole route is over 150 miles long, and offers sights of coves and cliffs, although there won’t be any really steep climbs.

Image by MontanNito used under the Creative Commons license

Image by javimorenoe used under the Creative Commons license

Sometimes, as bike commuters, we meet the most interesting people at stoplights. Maybe it’s because we’re not ensconced in metal-and-glass shells, so we seem more accessible. I’ve met my share of folks at stoplights; just ask my friend Gordon R, who sometimes posts here as “The Other GR”. We met at a stoplight in Tampa and became fast friends.

A few weeks ago, I was out riding at an unusual hour (for me), trying to get some night shots of a dynamo light I am testing. At a stoplight, another cyclist rolled up behind me and asked me about the light. We got to talking, and he mentioned that he is the inventor of the technology behind Veloloop.

Have you seen this thing? Veloloop uses radio signals to communicate with the induction loops that control stoplights, and triggers them in a way that bicycles sometimes cannot on their own. Turns out the inventor lives a block away from me, and holds a variety of patents. He wishes to remain anonymous for the time being, but was gracious enough to answer a few questions for Bikecommuters.com. Veloloop has already received favorable press in a number of news outlets, including Outside Magazine and Bike Radar.

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A couple of weekends ago, my neighbor and I met and he demonstrated how Veloloop works. I hung back to watch so as not to inadvertently trigger any stoplights. I can say that the device really works — my friend would roll over the induction loop, the light on the Veloloop device would blink for a bit and then go steady, and the crosswalk countdown timer would start ticking away. Seconds later, we had a green light to proceed!

BC: How did you come up with the idea?

Many years ago a co-worker asked if it would be possible to do something like this. There are other approaches in the patent literature, but I found them to all be a little less than elegant. I’ve done a fair amount of radio design, and I had studied how to make radios that transmitted while they received, and eventually I realized how to apply that knowledge to this problem.

How long have you been working on Veloloop?

I spent a significant amount of time over the 1999-2008 timeframe learning how traffic sensors work and exploring various ways to electronically activate them. Then about two years ago Nat Collins approached me because he wanted to do something similar and had seen my patents. So, we cooperated and developed a practical version.

How does Veloloop work?

First, you have to understand how the loop sensors work. They are really just big metal detectors. They transmit a high frequency signal into a loop of wire beneath the road surface. That loop has an electrical property called “inductance”. Inductance is a measure of how much magnetic field is creted by a current. When a car drives over the loop, the inductance changes. It actually goes down. This is because the metal in the car intercepts some of that magnetic field. The sensor detects this sudden change in inductance.

There are several ways to do this, but usually the sensor’s own frequency depends on the inductance, so it can notice a sudden change in frequency to indicate vehicle presence. The key thing here is that it’s a high frequency signal, and the inductance changes when a vehicle is present.

The Veloloop has a transmitter. Once it figures out what frequency the loop is using, it sends back a signal at *almost* the same frequency. In fact, the signal it sends back deliberately varies its frequency, a little high, then a
little low, etc., just to be sure all bases are covered. It is able to keep listening while it transmits to make sure it is still over a sensor and near the right frequency. This transmitted signal gets picked up by the loop in the ground and looks to the detector like a sudden change in inductance. Voila, the bicycle gets detected.

How prevalent are inductive loop traffic sensors in the U.S.? Are there other technologies to detect cars and bicycles at intersections?

They appear to be going away in some areas, and are being replaced by vision systems. Vision systems are often unable to detect bicycles and have trouble with accumulation of dirt. Inductive sensors are still common in many places and there are several well-established companies making them and coming out with new models. I expect them to be around for a long time.

What is some of the backlash you’ve seen regarding press coverage of the Veloloop in news sources? Any persistent myths that bicyclists repeat?

Much of the backlash comes from the fact that often proper placement of the bicycle over the sensitive part of the sensor is adequate to generate detections. So, there is a perceived lack of need for an active device. There is also the stupid idea that if you don’t get detected, it may be permissible to run the light.

In reality, there are many detectors that are just unable to detect bicycles regardless of placement, and many situations where it would just be a whole lot safer, faster, and more convenient to get detected. This is where the Veloloop can help. It also takes a burden off of traffic departments who often have trouble fiddling with sensitivity.

Oh, and then there’s the “magnet myth”. This is the urban legend that says that putting magnets on your shoes will somehow trigger the sensors (Editor’s note: I was guilty of believing in this myth — had a hard-drive magnet glued to the bottom of my cycling shoes back in Florida). As I pointed out, the sensors use a high frequency signal while a magnet produces a static field. They are not the same. This old idea is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of electromagnetics and has been disproven many times. What probably happens is that someone glues a magnet to their shoe or frame, and then proceeds to place their bike over the sensitive part of a cooperative loop, and gets a detection. They think it was due to the magnet, but in reality it was the placement (or the car that came by in the opposite direction). Enough people have done the scientific test with just a magnet without a bicycle at a deserted intersection, to debunk this one.

Anything else we should know? Any improvements in the works, or other details to share?

We’ve looked at eliminating the loop and using the bicycle frame as an antenna. That would involve some big up-front costs to make a special transformer, so we didn’t start there. We are also looking into the motorcycle market. We’ve have a lot of inquiries there. Neither of us (the Veloloop developers) are motorcycle owners, so we don’t have first-hand knowledge of the requirements.

Recently, the VP of engineering at a major induction loop manufacturer contacted us to test one of the Veloloop devices. He can tell us just what effect the unit is having on their sensors (trigger, error condition, etc.).

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Editor’s note: The Veloloop’s Kickstarter campaign is struggling a bit — so there’s still time to contribute if you’re interested. We’d like to thank the developer for taking time to demonstrate the device and for answering our questions. We’ll have a followup once the induction loop manufacturer submits his report, too.

(Editor’s note: as many of you know, the BC crew LOVES Las Vegas…especially when we get to go to Interbike. Read on for some tips to make your bike trip to Las Vegas a rousing success.)

Cycle Vegas!

It’s around this time of year that many of us (particularly those in the Frozen North) start to dream of some kind of adventure. The beauty of a bike trip is you can easily transport your favorite ride to somewhere exciting and fun, or just rent one at your destination, and neither option is going to break the bank. Some destinations, in fact, might leave you better off financially than when you arrived…

Vegas!

Las Vegas, Nevada, is one of those cities that everyone has an opinion about, even people who’ve never actually been there. If you think it’s just smoky poker rooms, mind-bendingly noisy slots and cheesy entertainment, you should know that – as well as all that – there’s pretty much everything anyone could possibly want on offer here. There are good cycle routes around the city itself, as well as trips out of town. There are a couple of things to be aware of if you’re planning a trip, however.


Points to Consider

Firstly, check the temperatures for the time of year you want to go. There’s a reason all the casinos are air-conditioned, and from May to October, average highs tend to be between the high 80’s and the low 100’s – not most peoples’ idea of perfect cycling weather. Spring is ideal. Secondly, unless you’re fanatically anti-gambling (in which case, why are you going to Vegas?!) you’ll probably end up in one of those casinos at some point.

Routes

Some of the best riding in the area is to be found on the edges of the city, with wonderful desert roads winding past the other-wordly rock formations and mountains, but there’s also good news for town riders; 100 miles of dedicated bike routes in Las Vegas itself.

One of the best routes out of town is the Red Rock Scenic Ride, a 13 mile loop taking in some astonishing scenery. Mountain bike types will love the Cottonwood 11 mile route, while there’s a 35 mile paved track around Lake Mead that’s a must for the energetic cyclist.

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North Las Vegas is a good spot for city riders who want to get the feel of the place before belting up and down the Strip. There are miles of cycle routes (wide outside lanes and signs instructing drivers to “share the road”); cycle lanes (signed/striped sections of the road for cyclists only) and shared-use paths (separate from vehicles, also used by pedestrians and skaters etc).

Routes around North Las Vegas Airport are highly popular as a result, and many local riders post details on bikinglasvegas.com; one example is the Training 25 route added by member Cabinetguy433, starting in Myrtle Creek Court and circumnavigating the airport for just over 25 miles. This route has the advantage of taking you to Downtown Vegas and Fremont Street on the way, a whole different experience form the mega-casinos of the Strip, and a window into what Vegas was like in days gone by. You might want to stop here and practice your new-found gaming skills!

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Interbike 2014

Finally, when you’re planning your Vegas bike trip, don’t forget that September brings Interbike 2014, held again this year at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. For the first time, the public is invited to attend Interbike on the final day of the show. Registration is open now.

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Editor’s note: Between trips to work and school, many of us often dream of hopping on our bikes and taking a lengthy tour of someplace exotic. Read on for some tips on cycle touring in Mexico.

The Mexican landscape is large and diverse; there are mountains that soar into the sky, beaches that stretch for miles and ancient ruins that will take your breath away. From the bustling cities you’ll visit on Cancun holidays to hidden villages full of charm and Latin flare, a Mexican adventure can mean many different things.

Cycling in Mexico is an amazing way to navigate the country. For cyclists who are wary of the trials and tribulations of a trip deep into South America, Mexico presents the perfect option; exotic but not too exotic, a comfortable range between first world amenities and new world adventure.

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Routes
One of the most popular cycling routes in the country is for cyclists to venture down the Baja Peninsula and then hop onto a ferry headed for mainland Mexico. There are alternative routes down the Pacific coast but none rival the stunning scenery (if well-worn trail) of the Baja journey.

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Roads
Roads in Mexico include toll roads whose profits go to maintaining wide-shoulders and perfectly smooth road surfaces which are ideal for cycling on. The toll roads are also quite safe for cyclists, as there isn’t very much traffic on the toll roads and they also bypass almost all of the towns along each route.

Camping
Camping is often the preferred method of accommodation for cyclists and this is easily done in Mexico. Locals are incredibly friendly and happy to share camping site recommendations or even to help pitch a tent.
Small towns and villages are quite safe and a good bet for a setting up a night’s camp, just be careful not to wander off in search of ‘hidden spots’ in the larger landscape, campsites should be easily accessible and close to a town or village.

Visiting
Couch surfing has become incredibly popular in Mexico, thanks in large part to Mexican mothers who genuinely love to spoil visitors with delicious food and generous hospitality. While couch surfing is most popular with younger travelers, it is a great option for cyclists looking for a home cooked meal and a friendly (and local) face to help sort out the next day’s route. Local hosts are also known for providing authentic and interesting information about the towns they call home.

Safety
Visitors to Mexico are likely to see police officers with rifles in the street at some point during a visit. This is because the Mexican government has been cracking down on drug gangs and violence in recent years which has meant more armed men in the streets and checkpoints on roads (which apply to cyclists as well) but rest assured these officers are there to keep everyone safe. However, visitors are well-advised to avoid city-centres at night and exercise general caution to ensure that a Mexican cycling adventure is the trip of a lifetime.

Cycling in Mexico can be great fun, so why not take a chance this summer and do something a little different?

From a Darwinian standpoint, it may be that fear of the dark is an inherited trait, passed down since the beginning of time by those humans prudent and afraid enough of the dark to avoid being eaten by nocturnal predators.

Lamppost, Gateshead Request for condition reports on street lighting. One of these is on every lamppost. Photo borrowed from http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1199747

Lamppost, Gateshead
Request for condition reports on street lighting. One of these is on every lamppost. Photo borrowed from http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1199747

There is definite wisdom in being wary of traveling in the dark. However, humans are able to learn and adapt, and riding in the dark is no exception. Having made some errors and sustained injuries during night riding, I have kept some strategies for riding at night that have helped me avoid major trouble thus far (knock on wood).

RL had posted an article a while back about riding at night and below are the comments taken from that article. I have them summarized below:

Be safe, first and foremost: wear a helmet; find a route that keeps you away from the major streets…even if it means extra miles or time…it’s worth it to find a quiet back street with little or no traffic; wear clear or amber sunglass lenses after dark; put in a little extra thought…use your own super tuned senses and hyper alert riding habits to keep yourself aware of any other moving objects, as well as upcoming potential hazards.

See and be seen: reflective vests; orange reflective triangle pinned to your back, blinkies, DOT reflective tape, reflective stripes; the goal is to light up like a Christmas tree…better a geek with a heartbeat than a macho fixie rider without one; run two headlights (one steady, one blinking); helmet-mounted light to shine into the eyes of oncoming drivers; consider a product made for motorcycles called the “halo helmet band”;  have a good back up light.

Be prepared: may get flats at night…so carry a head lamp to make bike repairs a lot easier.

One way to get noticed and seen.

One way to get noticed and seen.

Below are some of my own tips for night riding, some of which echo the advice given above:

1. Slow down. The less you can see, the less time you have to react, so the higher likelihood of crashing if you go at your normal daytime speed.

2. A key distinction with bike lights is being seen versus seeing. Both are equally important. When cars see you, they avoid you. But if you don’t see your surroundings, you risk the chance of an accident.

Example: my blinkies did not help me see a piece of car tire in the middle of my bike lane late one night. It got caught in my spokes when I rode over it, and my bike stopped dead in its tracks, and I catapulted forward. I was also going pretty fast that night.

I use a yellow reflective strip, a white reflective plate, and a red blinker (Blackburn Flea)

I use a yellow reflective strip, a white reflective plate, and a red blinker (Blackburn Flea)

Solution

– As stated above, you can run more than 1 headlight on your bicycle, one flashing to be seen, one steady to see.

– There are a wide range of powerful bike lights, like a 4000+ lumen lamp for a pretty penny.

– Try slowing down just a tad; if I had ridden just a little more slowly, I feel that the severity my accident would have been reduced.

– If all else fails, and you just cannot make out the road ahead of you, try what I call “vicarious lighting.” This technique basically takes advantage of cars’ bright headlights as they pass you or drive towards you from the lane of opposing traffic. By looking at the road as illuminated by these headlights as the car drives ahead or towards you, you can gauge if there are any major debris or potholes lying ahead for the next 10 meters or even further, depending on the circumstances of the car, the curviness of the road, etc. You just have to train your eyes to track the area of the road illuminated by the car and estimate when your bike will reach any area of potential concern or danger. However, use this technique with caution because in the few seconds when the road is not illuminated, you cannot guarantee that a cat, for example, has not scurried in front of your bike.

Using a car's headlights to help illuminate the road ahead.

Using a car’s headlights to help illuminate the road ahead.

3. Usually, I bring only one pair of lights (front and rear) and have a USB charger to charge them up at work. But sometimes, I have picked up a riding buddy on the way home who doesn’t have any lights. Or, I am biking in a group and one person’s lights have died. In this situation, I “split” the one set of lights between two people: put the front light on the front cyclist and the rear light on the rear cyclist. Of course, the pair now has to be much more careful about keeping a safe distance from each other.

How I use a pair of bike lights for 2 bicycles.

How I use a pair of bike lights for 2 bicycles.

4. Dooring sucks during the day time, and I’m sure it sucks even more at night. To reduce my chances of dooring at night, I slow down. I also keep a distance from the parked cars on the side of the road and am especially vigilant when a parked car’s lights are on or if I see any movement inside of the car.

5. Last, but probably the most important, in my opinion, is planning. If I am thinking of biking a new route and know I will likely be riding at night, I try to drive the route before biking it. Sometimes, I even drive the route at night if I feel it necessary to scrutinize the surroundings before committing.

Questions I consider while driving and surveying the route:

– Do other people bike this route? If there are and I can safely drive by them, do they seem very cramped for space?

– How fast do cars drive on this route?

– Does it seem safe in the surrounding areas at night? Is it a busy street at night and well lit, or is it desolate and scary?

– What is the quality of the road? If I can feel lots of bumps while driving, it will probably be about 500 times worse on a bicycle. And you run a greater risk of pinch flats, among other bad things.

Thinking about these sorts of issues is critical to preventing major trouble during a commute, especially at night when bad can get worse very quickly if you are not prepared. If any of these questions cause concern, time to look for another route.

If you have any other tips about biking at night, feel free to comment. Do good and ride well.