Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bear's AIDS/LifeCycle Page has Moved!

Moving from Blogger to Wordpress. (Ask if you care why.) The new home for Bear's ALC Page is at:


I'll probably upgrade to a custom URL soon, so be on the look out! Please contact me if you have any troubles finding it.

Your Bear

Monday, March 3, 2014

Powering Up: Bring Electricity with you to Charge your Devices

Guest blogger, Matt Bancroft.
The AIDS/LifeCycle rides through some of the most beautiful countryside in California. And you're
with 3,000 of your closest friends. So, of course, you want to document it all. That and your Garmin needs to charge each night, too. But in rural areas there are lots of shrubs but few outlets. So what can you do? Bring your own electricity, of course!

I've not found a solar charger truly up to the task. They are bulky and the surface areas on the solar cells is often prohibitive. So instead, consider bringing a stand-alone battery pack.

Today, guest blogger Matt Bancroft graciously allowed me to repost the following on this topic. Enjoy!
Hi All, I thought I'd fully outline my testing notes from the Power Bank battery pack I ordered and plan to use for ALC. There is little to no power available in camp each night so it's a good idea to invest in a battery pack. 
The pack is a 12,000mAh battery that should charge an iPhone 5 (1440mAh) 8.3x from dead (12000/1440=8.3). This model has 4 USB ports for simultaneous charging of 4 devices. Weighs less than a pound. 
http://amzn.com/B008YRG5JQ ($40) 
  1. I did not charge the pack before testing. It arrived showing 4 bars of power, 100%.
  2. I charged my iPhone while it was on, connected to WIFI and Verizon.
  3. I did not charge my Garmin 800 (800mAh) during this testing
  4. I used the iPhone as I normally would, which used more power than leaving it in airplane mode like I will during ALC.
I was able to get 8 partial charges out of the pack before it got to 1 flashing bar of power ( < 25%). I plugged my iPhone in with about 20% left and charged it up to about 96% most days, while leaving the phone on and connected (it will charge faster and with less energy if turned off or in airplane mode). The 8 partial charges means the pack was able to charge my iPhone 537% (a little over 5 full charges, if the iPhone was dead). 
  1. 8 partial charges of the iPhone = 5.3 full charges from dead.
  2. Partially charging the iPhone 6x (each night on ALC) leaves me with enough power to charge my Garmin 800 2.4x from dead (I don't expect it to die every day).
  3. With 1 bar blinking, the battery pack still has less than 25% charge. 
I think this is enough power to keep my devices charged during ALC. Your mileage may vary based on your phone and Garmin, and amount of use. 
This pack worked perfectly! I was able to charge my iPhone and Garmin every night on the ride and never ran out of power!
I've been using a similar product from Anker since the beginning of the ride. The one I purchased in 2011 lasted for two years and I just replaced it with this one. FYI: the higher the mAh, the more charges you get out of it. I carry two chargers with me, a smaller one and a larger one. They were enough to charge my iPhone and my Garmin for 80% of the ride (I recharged them both at one camp).

Your Bear

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Sober Truth About Bicycle Safety

Before my planned post on the joys of cycling to end HIV and AIDS stigma, I have to pause for a safety PSA. The Sober Truth is that cycling is dangerous. 677 cyclists were killed in 2011 and 48,000 were injured. These stats remind me of recent events:
Nude cycling is hot, but wear a helmet!
(Image Credit.)
  • I fell twice and my helmet saved me from serious injury.
  • A fellow ALC rider's brother crashed, requiring facial surgery.
  • A Tour of Palm Springs rider was killed by a truck when she ran a stop sign.
Evidence supports helmet use for cycling safety. (See my prior post on helmets for citation.) Yet resistance to the use of helmets remains high.

I see riders at all levels — racers on carbon, hipsters on fixies, grandmothers on cruisers — thinking they're the bomb for riding with their hair blowing in the breeze. But at the risk of sounding authoritarian, I say that such riding is irresponsible. If you don't mind the risk of injury or death, what about your loved ones?

I'm not alone. the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says:
All bicyclists should wear properly fitted bicycle helmets every time they ride. A helmet is the single most effective way to prevent head injury resulting from a bicycle crash.
(See the NHTSA document DOT HS 81 743.) Your helmet will probably save your life some day...and you won't even know that you hit your head until you see the impact site on the helmet. (As the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute says: "Did you crash it? Replace!")

Manitoba has this to say about helmets and safety:

Protect your nut and you're more likely to survive.

Your Bear

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Absolute Beginners: Mid-season Training

Sagan winning Tour of Oman. (Image Credit.)
Believe it or not, but there are only 14 more training weekends before the AIDS/LifeCycle! That means its time to stretch the creaks out, clean and lube your bike, and hit the road. If you've been neglecting your training up to now, no worries. There's still plenty of time to be fit and ready for the ride.

I've made 32 posts about training. The important ones to absorb at this stage are:

I'm not a professional, but these articles all contain my observations about what makes for a successful training season with citations to authority where it was available. In a nutshell, here is what you need to remember:
  1. Hydrate. On a 30+ mile ride, make sure you're draining both water bottles.
  2. Eat. You need to be fueled up before, during, and after your rides.
  3. Train. Time on the bike is probably the only thing which will improve your riding.
  4. Work your way up to 60 miles. If you can do this, you can ride the ALC.
  5. Work your way up to back-to-back days of 30+ miles each. Ditto.
  6. Rest at stops, but don't dwaddle. You get sore; you get hungry; you get irritable.
  7. Ride with mates. Sometimes you'll need to ride alone, but friends make the ride rock.
  8. Be safe. Listen to the safety speech and follow the rules on every ride.
  9. Dress in layers and in bike clothing. Street clothes are not up to the task, are bulky, and detract from your ride.
  10. Keep your bike in good working order. Get a bike fit! Bring your bike into the shop or learn how to clean and maintain it.
But above all: ASK your Training Ride Leader if you have any questions. If you've not already done so, see your doctor if you are embarking on this from level 0.

Your Bear

Over the next couple months, I'm going to write a few articles with the lead-in title "Absolute Beginners," explaining some of the basic principles of cycling. Most of the information is stuff I've learned from other cyclists, bike shop mechanics, classes I've taken, and Google searches. Please help me out and comment with corrections, additions, or supplements which will help my readers learn about how to operate their bikes!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Absolute Beginners: Fortune Favors the Prepared

A bicycle helmet saved my life.

This helmet:
Figure A: This is the Helmet
I was doing my ordinary ride: Bear's house to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery on the American River Bike Trail. Usually that ride is 2 hours and 33 miles. On Friday, it turned into a 12 mile one-way ride. You can click the link or the web widget, below. The route ends, essentially, where I crashed.

Actually, I'm totally guessing that I crashed, because I don't remember the 5 minutes before the route ends, or the 10 minutes following. I can only surmise that I crashed because my face was battered and bloody:

Figure B: My Bloody Face
The next thing I remember is hearing someone telling me that I couldn't get back on my bike. I can't see the person in my remembering, but I can hear him. The next thing I remember after that was being helped to a nearby road by two nice guys who ended up being paramedics (not there on official business but getting in some exercise). They wisely asked me to sit and call Davey to come get me. Davey came and took me home.
Here, I'd like to give a serious shout out to the two fine gentlemen who assisted me. At the time, I didn't have the capacity to get their names, but one of them named Conner wisely took my number. I know he's gonna read this, so: THANK YOU CONNER! Its the spirit of sportsmanship that keeps my faith in humanity alive!
Now the question is: what happened? Well, looking at the map, I know I was in the midst of a turn on a bend in the trail — a turn I've taken many times in the past. I was going about 15 miles per hour on a turn I usually take at around 17. It had just rained, so the roadway appeared damp, but not wet. It was about 54º F, so it couldn't have been icy.

Still, somehow I managed to end up on my face, needing assistance.

The more I think about it, the more the pattern of damage leads me to the conclusion that my wheels slipped out from under me because of slick conditions. My face was damaged on the side I would have been leaning. The chain of events I surmise are as follows:

  1. I entered the turn without braking and steering appropriately (thrusting out with the outside leg) as I usually do. (Evidence: my habit.)
  2. My wheels hydroplaned on the newly-wet surface. (Evidence: my observation and the recent rainfall.)
  3. I tumbled forward onto the pavement and hit the corner of my helmet hard. (Evidence: The helmet was damaged in only one spot. (See Figure A, green circle.))
  4. The helmet bore the brunt of the impact, even though the styrofoam doesn't appear deformed. (Evidence: the helmet must have hit first as it is the only damage showing slide marks; the contusion under the helmet is the least of the wounds, and was nearly healed the day after the accident. (See Figure B, green circle.))
  5. I slide forward onto my face after the helmet did its job. (Evidence: the wear marks on the helmet show sliding, but my face doesn't show slide marks.)
  6. My bike fell away in the opposite direction and landed with little slide. (Evidence: the bike showed only very minor damage to the right shifter.)

Had I not been wearing a helmet, I surely would have had a much more traumatic blow to the head. The moral of the story is: WEAR YOUR HELMET! I've blogged about this before: helmets save lives!

I'm not going to proselytize but if I see you riding without your helmet on, I'm going to point at you and laugh. So be prepared.

If you found this article useful, please consider a donation of $5 or more to my AIDS/LifeCycle ride. Click "DONATE," above.

Your Bear

PS: should look at the end of the ride, you can see where I impact...my speed goes from 15 mph to 9:

Over the next couple months, I'm going to write a few articles with the lead-in title "Absolute Beginners," explaining some of the basic principles of cycling. Most of the information is stuff I've learned from other cyclists, bike shop mechanics, classes I've taken, and Google searches. Please help me out and comment with corrections, additions, or supplements which will help my readers learn about how to operate their bikes!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Absolute Beginners: Ten Rules for a Civil Ride

In cycling, etiquette means safety. For the AIDS/LifeCycle, the rules are laid out in the infamous Safety Speech. Other organized rides have similar rules to guide civility, for instance see the rules at ms150. Other sets of rules are available, such as the over-wrought (tongue-in-cheek?) Rules of the Velominati.

But the rules are only as useful as your preparation before your ride or your ability to recall them at key junctures. So, I've paired them all down to ten.
Image Credit: Cannondale Facebook group.
Thanks, André.
  1. Wear your helmet at all times. (Safety is an etiquette issue because unsafe riding may interfere with another cyclist's ride.)
  2. Dress appropriately. (Inappropriate dress — non cycling clothing which cannot be layered for weather — can delay or end rides. Wearing a team kit you did not earn is just rude.)
  3. Maintain your bicycle. (Poorly maintained bikes are prone to mechanical issues and are just plain ugly to look at.)
  4. Obey traffic rules. (Bicycles are vehicles under the California vehicle code. You can and will get a ticket.)
  5. Ride predictably. (Pay attention to traffic and other cyclists. Maintain a straight line; don't bob and weave. Pass only on the left. Look behind you before passing.)
  6. Announce your intentions. (Use hand signals. Call out: "Behind you." "On your left." "Debris in the road." "Stopping." "Slowing." — in a loud, outside voice. These work to keep other cyclists safe and riding.)
  7. Be self-sufficient, but accept aid when needed. (Learn how to change your flat and keep a tube and pump on you while riding. But accept help from a more-skilled cyclist to speed a return to the road. Ask if you have trouble.)
  8. Stay hydrated and well-fed. (Nothing destroys a ride — both for the rider and his mates — faster or more completely than a bonk.)
  9. Help stranded riders appropriately. (Ask as you pass. If the rider indicates he needs help, stop. If you cannot help, say so. If you can, do it quickly and politely.)
  10. Not all riders have the same skills. (When passing, say "hi" or "good morning." This will mitigate bad feelings. When being passed, don't let your feelings of inadequacy guide you — if the passer was acting safely, there's nothing wrong with it.)
And now for the corollaries:
  • Own your own safety, don't rely on others. (Thus, riders in pelotons are individually responsible for knowing if its safe to pass. Relying on another rider's call out "CLEAR," is unsafe, so check for oncoming traffic yourself.)
  • Be fastidious about safety and the rules. (Your actions will lead others to act safely, too.)
  • Don't upbraid other cyclists while on the bike. (This only leads to hurt feelings. Instead, if you see them at a rest stop, gently point out how they might have acted more safely.)
  • Be polite and smile. (Its easy to be rude, its really hard to smile and use kind words when you feel superior or belittled. Learn how to do it.)
  • Propagate these rules. (If you have a blog or Facebook page, post these rules or your own rules often. Hold your riding mates to these standards.)
My friend asked: "who gets to decide what is civil behavior for a cyclist?" To complete this post, I considered three principles. First, cyclists must obey the law — disobeying the law leads to uncivil and unsafe riding. Second, cyclists should not engage in unsafe behavior, even if it is technically legal; doing so will impact other cyclists negatively. Third, cyclists should act in a way which supports other cyclists, whatever their skill level. Sometimes that means cheering on faster cyclists as they pass, or cheering on slower cyclists as they exceed their goals.

Your Bear

Over the next couple months, I'm going to write a few articles with the lead-in title "Absolute Beginners," explaining some of the basic principles of cycling. Most of the information is stuff I've learned from other cyclists, bike shop mechanics, classes I've taken, and Google searches. Please help me out and comment with corrections, additions, or supplements which will help my readers learn about how to operate their bikes!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year Readers, Riders, and Donors

Wishing all my readers, riders, and donors a happy, healthy, and safe 2014 with a special shout out to all my new cycling friends in California and beyond.

Every day I watch your progress on Facebook and I think about how great this sport is that so many people can excel simply by simply getting on the bike — no competition and no judgments — just the personal challenge of making it happen every day.

Sean, Andrew, CJ, and me at Lake Hennesey, December 2013.
You are heroes all. Thank you for making this my reality.

Your Bear