Category Archives: General

High Quality Bright, Sleak Stark Bicycle Light Set That Keeps The Darkness At Bay

picture front and backNow that it is winter time, you will need bike lighting to make you visible to traffic. If you are like me, then you love riding your bike. Nevertheless, as soon as evening comes you are forced to quit riding your bike- night and you no longer really feel secure riding. I have tried other bike lights, but was not successful. Perhaps, I was to cheap or did not do adequate research, but the lights I bought never ever seemed to work very long – either to dim, not water proof, or not long lasting.

Then I found he Stark bike light set and boy is it great! I have everything I need to set up my bike with high quality lights in the front and back. With the light set I have a very simple installation (much less than two minutes) and these lights are fully waterproof, and are extremely bright. The 120 Lumens is 6x stronger than a common bike light, so it supplies excellent visibility many feet ahead. Finally, the LED lights mean the batteries last a really long time.

I found these lights on Amazon.com. I wanted to give them a try with this bike light set and it turned out awesome! Not only was I able to get a wonderful bike light for a great price, but the packaging was great too.

To top that off, they also gave me a link to a great pdf on how best to maintain my bike in excellent shape. Now I can ride in all conditions and am no longer afraid of the night. The purchase of this bike light set was much more than I anticipated and if you are in the market for a new bike light set then I encourage you to click the hyperlink to order yours now and see for yourself. If you choose to try it out, let me know your thoughts, I am positive you will be pleasantly surprised! Pedal On!

How to get the best fuel efficiency ever AND have fun too!

As you ride your bike, and you enjoy the fact that you are saving so much money I would like to remind you as well that a bike is the most fuel efficient device you will ever own. A bike is better than the best electric car, hybrid bike, even better than some of these wacky solar cars you see pictures out there. How is that you say, let me explain it to you.

Humans are very good at long distance running and we first used running as our method to hunt animals on the Serengeti some 200,000 years ago. We would run them to exhaustion and then just walk up to the exhausted animal and poke a spear in it. Running was our first mode of transportation and if you compare a bike to a runner, both traveling at 16 kmh (or 10 mph) a biker would burn 6x less energy than the runner. We developed a device that makes us 6 times more efficient than before. There is no device which allows us to travel the same distance with such little energy input.

The graph below compares biking with other forms of transportation. Smaller is better.

kcal per hour comparison running biking driving

This graph shows that biking crushes all other forms of exercise and transportation. Even mass transit does not do as well as a bike. Bikes simply rock for efficiency, calorie conservation and conversion into forward momentum.

But wait, that is not all, bikes are super FUN.

I would like to point out that the calories burned by the moped, train and cars are the fuel consumed in combustion and you cannot drink the fuel yourself to power your running and biking.  That would be a bad thing. Only food for you. One thing that gasoline has going for it is its Energy density. There are 31,500 kcal/gallon (or 8290 Kcal/liter) in fuel. This is some dense stuff. Ice cream on the other hand has about 2000 kcal/liter, so gas is 4x as dense as ice cream.  However, ice cream tastes way better.  That is another topic though.

Even if you compare a bike to the most fuel efficient car out there at (128 mpg) you can see on the graph that a bike beats it 4.4 to 1. Put another way the most fuel efficient car out there would have to get to 563 mpg to achieve the efficiency of a bike. This is not happening.

The impressive thing about a bike is that we are able to convert nearly 90% of the energy we put into the pedals into forward moment, compared to a car which is only able to convert about 25% of its energy input into forward momentum. Internal combustion engines simply suck at converting energy into forward momentum.

Biking beats all other transportation hands down without even trying. Even when you approach racing speeds with your bike and cover over 35 km in an hour you still consume significantly fewer calories per km then a moped (the best motorized option).

There are a couple of take aways for me here. First, smaller is better. The bike and the moped are relatively light and allow us to travel with the fewest calories burned. The less mass you have to move the less energy required. Makes sense huh? The other takeaway is when I compare running to biking I see that running consumes a lot of calories and the bike has helped us leverage our calories burned significantly over our human’s first mode of transportation (running).

For me there is one other take away, if you can increase the number of occupants in your vehicle then you can cut your kcal/km per person down. I was in China a couple of years ago and took a picture of a Chinese family on a moped. Here they are able to pack 4 people onto the moped and then they become the most fuel efficient thing out there. I question the safety of doing this with your moped and your family,  but it is possible.

4 people on moped

Alternatively, to be safe I can buy an electric car, and pack my family of 4 in than I can come close to achieving the efficiency of a bike. However, you forget the two for one effect of biking; you get exercise during your transportation.

So, if you want to save money, be nice to the environment and have fun than there is no better option than a bike.

Go have fun on your bike!

 

How I got into bike commuting

I remember asfather-and-son-biking a child my father would take me to school before he went to work. It was always in his car. Then one spring day he told me we will ride our bikes tomorrow. I was excited, as this sounded like an adventure. The first time we rode, the morning air had a good bite to it. We took off and rode many side roads. It was wonderful to sense the outdoors rather than being locked in an enclosed vehicle. The adventure was thrilling and we made it to school in no time. Riding our bikes in the long days of the year was always a treat for me.

Fast forward to adulthood. I am an American and I helped a company start up a plant in the former East Germany. I lived there with my wife and our first daughter. Our house there was fairly close to work and we were able to make it work with only one vehicle. A few years later and the same company moved me to another plant in Germany- this time in Bavaria. We now lived a good distance further away from work and our family had recently grown in size too. A second car or another alternative to get to work was required.

My wife was going to need our car more often than me. When my wife needed the car, she would drive me to work, but that took 30 minutes out of her day and she did not like doing that very often, especially with small kids. The other option was buying a car, and I did not want to have to cover these additional costs, if I could avoid them. The next option was to take the public bus to work. This was time consuming option; it literally took one hour to commute by bus. It was not bad, because I could read or work on the laptop. However, I found I would get car sick on the bus. Definitely not a great situation.

I have been an avid runner since the 1991 and thought instead of running every morning, maybe I could try biking instead of the bus. After using Google maps to find the best route to avoid the freeway and minimize the amount of traffic, I tried out the commute one Sunday afternoon on my old mountain bike. It took me 75 minutes. I was exhausted and I realized this could work. The first year I would ride in the morning and take the bus that evening and on the next day ride the bike back home in the evening. I was getting exercise, loving the experience and learning.

The following spring I bought a commuter bike. It was a Bergamount Alumnimum frame commuter bike and took that for my first ride. Holy cow, it was fast. My commute time went from 75 minutes to 55 minutes one way, and with this bike I was able to start commuting both ways in a day. It took a while, but it was great exercise. I got rained on, I sweated, and I learned about lights, I learned how to change a flat, and how to do simple bike maintenance.

Commuting became an adventure and was fun again like I remember as a child growing up. I hope to share my knowledge that I have accumulated with you here on this blog.

How to be a night rider without having to be above the law:

It is starting to get dark out earlier here on the top side of the world and we need to stay safe while biking as the sun starts setting sooner.   Getting caught in the dark can be stressful if you are not prepared.

First and foremost it is important to remember safety and visibility is paramount. Knowing that the darkness is coming sooner here are 8 suggestions to help you stay safe during the evening hours:

  1. Rear lights. The rear lights that are battery operated allow you to stand out where you are most vulnerable, when a car comes up from the rear. Make yourself visible.
  2. Front lights. The front light is the second most important piece of equipment. It allows you to see the road and oncoming cars to see you as well. Get as strong a light as possible. With the LED lights you can get very high Lumens at low energy requirements.
  3. Brightly colored jacket. Preferably one of the yellow neon jackets. These make you much more visible when a light is shined upon you as well. Additionally, they keep you protected from the rain and weather.
  4. Blinking light on backpack or helmet. One of these devices helps you to stick out more through the rapidly blinking light.
  5. Reflectors on your wheels. When a car is coming onto your perpendicular to you these reflectors help you to stick out further.
  6. A bell. Sometimes while riding you come across pedestrians who may not being paying attention and a bell can help communicate quickly that there is a bike rider nearby.
  7. Choose lightly traveled routes. This applies in summer as well. However, in winter it applies even more. Find paths where cars move the slowest, or not at all.
  8. Cell phone. Keep your charged cell phone on you, so if you do get into further trouble you are able to call home or call a taxi to give you a hand.

These simple tips will keep you safe and let you be a night rider too.

Lights, Camera, Action!

woman-with-video-camera-for-web1I have come across a couple of times in which having a camera would be useful when commuting by bike. The video mounted camera is especially useful if you get into an altercation. It seems that very often the police do not do a good job enforcing violations when bikes are involved and having video proof helps to make your case if you or your bike were hurt in an accident. This is definitely something for increased safety and a good cover your butt move.

These are the following things that you need in a good bike camera:

  • Video capture capability
  • Memory storage which covers the time length of your commute one way
  • Able to mount on your bike, person or helmet – depends on what makes you most comfortable
  • Weatherproof
  • Able to handle the expected temperature extremes you may be riding in of -5 C to 45 C

There are many different cameras out there that fill this need. The best known name in the extreme sports section is the GoPro camera. These cameras are quite good, and very expensive.   The asking price of the GroPro Hero 3+ silver edition is $299.99 as of August 2014. On top of everything you are looking for above this camera is also waterproof up to 40 m water depth (deeper than sport divers). Additionally, this camera can be synced with your iPhone and you can see in real time what your camera is recording, in order to optimize the positioning.

For those looking at a midrange camera I recommend the Polaroid XS100. This is also a very solid camera and priced around $120. Of all the cameras, this camera has the best price to quality ratio. You cannot go wrong with this unit. It is also waterproof up to 30 m too, which is at the maximum depth of sport divers (if you are into that).

However, if you are a little more price conscious than I recommend the camera from Asone. It has many adapters and fits very well on to your helmet.   The asking price is $67.42 as of August 2014. It has good reviews and appears to be a solid plugger.

Any of these choices are solid cameras that can be a great add to your bike commuting set up. In the end I recommend that you mount your camera on your helmet, if you wear one. This limits the amount of vibrations you see on the screen.   Even though some of these cameras are able to stabilize the picture, the fewer vibrations on the camera, the better the picture, and the fewest vibrations are when the camera is mounted on you rather than on the bike.

Let me know if you have had experience with other cameras or what your experiences are with the cameras I mentioned above.

 

Good luck and happy riding 🙂