Category: Travels and Adventures

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Welcome back bike commuters! So last year I used my commuter bicycle to ride the Rosarito-Ensenada 50 mile fun ride. If you recall, my commuter bicycle at that time was the Devinci Caribou cyclocross/touring bike that I used to do the train-bike commute thing until I found my Spicer Cycles CX bike.

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Turning my Devici Caribou into a road bike was rather easy; I simply removed the rear rack and added road tires and bam! road bike.


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One of my bucket list items is to do a Cyclocross race, guess what? I am doing one this weekend! The great city of Moreno Valley is hosting a Cyclocross event so I decided to join the fun by signing up on the “CX First Timer Race”.

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I will be racing my Spicer Cycles CX commuter bike, this bike was originally built to be a racing bike but I added the rear rack and some lights to make it more commuter friendly.

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The only thing that I am changing is the crankset; it is currently setup as a 52/39 which is great for bike commuting on relatively flat surfaces and not-so-steep hills. I am going with a 50/34 setup which should allow me to tackle the steeper and longer hills at the race course. Check out our Facebook and Instagram pages for action shots and we’ll be streaming live from the race on Facebook Live at around 8:30 AM Pacific.

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This week’s post is a little late because it is about Sunday’s ride which happens to be my 100th ride of the year according to Strava.

I know that 100 rides may not be a lot for some of you but my 100th ride was rather special. In fact, my 100th ride of 2016 is the best ride I had so far. You have seen my posts about my Bike Friday Family tandem, if not, just do a search on Bike Friday Family Tandem and you will see all of my posts regarding this wonderful bike.

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Why so special? Well, it was the first time that my wife and I participated on an organized ride together. The event was the “Ride MoVal 2016” in Moreno Valley California. Moreno Valley is a good hour and a half from Los Angeles but this is where a good friend of mine resides and he invited us to join him and his family on the 15 mile ride.

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We shared a video of the 15 mile start on Facebook and you could see that there weren’t many of us but I can tell you that the Bike Friday Family tandem was a hit. We got a lot of questions regarding the bike and people wanting to take pictures of it including selfies!

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We also met a lot of cool people on the ride, on our haste to leave with the police escort we forgot our ride sheet so we were navigating blindly until a couple caught up to us and they were kind to ride along with us until the end.

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The ride was very well organized, we were greeted at the SAG stop by a bunch of enthusiastic teens and they were fully stocked with fruit, Gatorade, snacks and water. We also met people from the Inland Empire Biking Alliance, I was not familiar with them but they are all about getting people on bikes and this is exactly what this event was all about.

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But the best part of the entire trip was that my wife truly enjoyed herself on the ride and after the ride. Our M & M jerseys were also a hit but the Bike Friday Family Tandem stole the show. We are looking forward to Ride MoVal 2017!

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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