Saturday, April 30, 2016

Tripping the Light Fantastic

Actually this is about tripping ordinary lights.

Those of us with non-ferrous bikes ie carbon, aluminum, or titanium know how frustrating it is to sit at a stop light that doesn't know we are there. It lowers our average speed and raises our ire. It's especially frustrating on timed rides, or when the weather is bad.

I saw a program on Netflix that claimed that a rare earth magnet could trip stop lights by interacting with the magnetic fields produced by the sensors. I bought some on Amazon paying $20 for a set of four. They weigh one ounce each. Never allow them to come into contact with each other. They are almost impossible to separate.

I took one and attached it to the inside of my left crank arm on the opposite side from the pedal. The crank arm is aluminum but the bolt that attaches the pedal is ferrous. I put some gorilla tape over it too so it wouldn't shake off. Don't put the magnet on the right crank arm because it will grab the chain every pedal stroke.

I rode my Lucky Greek 100k permanent on Friday night and I found myself alone at a red stop light five times. I put myself over a sensor and stood with my left crank arm down. I never had to wait more than 45 seconds for the light to change.

This isn't exactly a scientific test and I realize it might have just been coincidence that the light changed for me, but I'm pretty sure the magnet is working.

Update: I did some research and the magnet doesn't have any effect. It turns out that the sensors work by running alternating current through the sensor loops and detecting the change in impedance when a large amount of ferrous material is near the loop.

For those who are interested, the changing magnetic field in the loop induces eddy currents in your car that impede the creation and collapse of the magnetic field which occurs 60 times a second and incidentally warms up your car slightly. This effectively increases the resistance of the sensor and reduces the current flowing through it. It is this current reduction that tells the sensor that there is a car parked over the sensor.

Placing a magnet over the sensor changes the magnetic field, either increasing or decreasing it but as the sensor is looking at how the magnetic field changes over a timespan of a few milliseconds, the magnet is not detected. Even the effect caused by moving the magnet over the sensor is too slow to be detected.

So the effect was purely placebo. Bummer.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Listen to your body

When you have been doing endurance sports for a while you learn something very important - listen to your body. When it tells you something you had better listen. For example, my wife and I did a 14 mile hike today. It's 7 miles with 2000' of climbing, lunch at the Angeles Oaks restaurant, then seven miles back. When my wife got to the restaurant she mentioned she was craving chocolate milk but she didn't order any so I ordered it for her. There must have been something in chocolate milk that her body needed. I don't know what it was and that doesn't matter. When the body speaks you must listen.

Of course, normally the body doesn't speak - it just whines. It's like when the wife is all mopey and you say "What's the matter?" and she says "Oh nothing". Then you spend the next two hours figuring out that she got a haircut or new shoes and you didn't notice. So when she actually asks "Do you like my new shoes?" you'd better reply "Oh they make your butt look tiny!". The same response works for haircuts.

That's what my body does a lot. I get an upset stomach and I have to figure out if I have drunk too much water or sugary drinks or caffeine etc. So when my body actually says "I want pizza!" you can bet I start looking for pizza. If I'm riding, that is. If I just spent the day sitting in front of the computer my stomach can crave what it wants - it isn't getting any.

So on an endurance ride it makes sense to listen to your body. Not only is it likely to be telling you what it needs, its also telling you what it wants. It's really hard to shovel in enough calories to match what you are expending so eating what your body wants is a good idea.

If I ride conservatively I can cover 100 miles in eight hours. That means I am expending 500 calories an hour but I've read you can only absorb about half of that while exercising. I suspect you ride and eat more efficiently with practice, but clearly it's difficult to avoid calorie debt. So if you eat what your body wants, you will eat more.

I remember riding a tough 200k down in San Diego county many years ago with Amber. We made an unscheduled stop at a 7-11 and while we were there this incredibly tall randonneur stopped too. It was the first time I had met Ron and he was having some problems. Something was aching and he was bonking and dehydrated. He was having a hard time. I looked at him and said "You're having some problems. The 7-11 has everything you need. What are you going to do about it?" Fortunately Ron is smart and he realized I wasn't being a jerk. I was making a simple statement. Your body has told you everything you need to know. It's up to you to buy aspirin, cookies, water, etc and solve the problems.

The simple ability to do that is a huge part of randonneuring.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Campionissimo - Dead man riding

I rode my Lucky Greek populaire permanent last Friday even though it was horrendously windy. I normally don't ride in such windy conditions but it had been raining the previous Friday so I hadn't ridden then.

I had a 25mph tailwind all the way out the the Lucky Greek and got there in 1:35. Not my fastest but pretty good. I've been losing some weight lately so I wanted to see if my average speed had improved. However my weak efforts were swamped by the power of nature so I have no idea.

I had my usual fries and soda and headed back into the headwinds which had not moderated in any way and was soon down to 10mph on my aerobars. It was a 2:30+ grind back to the start for a total of 4:08 which is my average for this ride. I guess doing an average ride time for such windy conditions might suggest I am improving but it's hard to tell.

I rode with Amber on Sunday doing the Beachwood BBQ ride. It was windy again so we had a strong headwind all the way out and NO TAILWIND on the way back. Man did we get screwed!

I have started considering ways to change the Triple Loop route for 2017. I have tentative routes for the first two loops. I moved the start inland because the hotels are nicer. Also I can avoid Camp Pendleton which has introduced a pre-authorization requirement. I will turn Las Pulgas into an info control.

I will have to test ride the route between the hotel and the SART. On the map it looks OK but there's nothing like getting on the bike to get the real feel of the route. I've simplified the second loop but I'm not sure about riding the entire length of 6th street through Corona. I used to do that when I rode home from Irvine to Riverside after work and never really liked it very much. I'll have to do some surveying to see what people think.

One nice option about the new route is that I can now offer a 200/400/600 combined ride. Apparently some of the 400/600 riders think the 200 option would attract spouses.

For now the tentative routes are at

A possible third loop route is

Monday, April 4, 2016

Orange Triple Loop 600km brevet

I hosted my annual Orange Triple Loop 600km brevet last weekend. This is an endurance ride that covers 600km (372 miles) over the course of 40 hours. As 600km rides go this is a fairly easy one but CalTrans, Parks and Recreation, and others did their best to throw up roadblocks.

Last weekend Willie ran his IE 400km brevet and it did not go at all well for many of the riders. Pete had his bike stolen at a control, Charles lost his fancy electronic car keys and paid close to $800 to have a locksmith come out on Easter Sunday and replace them. Dana struggled with his form and had to DNF. So I got a lot of 400km riders signing up at the last moment.

CalTrans chose this weekend to close Auto Center Drive which is the main road that connects the east and west sides of Corona under the 91 freeway. Long Beach scheduled an electric race that shut down many of their roads. I knew about the Grand Prix scheduled two weeks later but missed this one. Dana Point decided to shut down the San Juan creek trail and post inadequate detour signs. And of course we had yet another heatwave for the weekend of the ride. For the past five years the temperatures have been 8-10 degrees above average on the weekend of this ride. I think it's about time to redefine the average.

I got up extra early at 3:30am to grab some pancakes and coffee from the Dennys next door. Then riders started drifting over about 4:30 and we did the paperwork.

I had 20 riders start the ride at 5am. As usual I was more nervous seeing them leave than actually doing the ride myself. I always worry about my riders, even though the route is as safe as I can make it.

I went back to my motel room to try to get a little more sleep and was woken around 5:30 by a rider who had set his alarm clock wrong. I did his paperwork and set him going. He looked strong and I knew he would catch other riders pretty quickly.

Around 7am I set off for a quick 30 miles myself which was great. I rode over to Kokomo's but they were closed so I just rode back and had an early lunch at Dennys. It was a very fast ride. I have lost about 10lbs over the past two weeks and it seems to be helping even on the flat. I have many more to lose before Crackerswamp.

The fastest riders were back around 10:30 looking pretty happy. It's a fast century loop and the winds are normally kind to them. Riders continued to show up until about 1pm. One rider, John, whose wife had scheduled something that evening - perhaps not understanding quite how long it takes to ride 400km - DNFed at that point. John and Charles had both come down from Redding where they are considering hosting a brevet series next year. Amber and I were up there last year and really enjoyed riding parts of their river trail system. So much prettier that the river trails here in SoCal. Keep an eye open for their rides - I know I will be.

I got a call that Doug had DNFed and his wife had picked him up. He was having stomach issues - possibly heat induced. I also got a text from Steve letting me know when he was at the far end of the second loop. That was really handy.

Ruth, who normally hosts the Riverside control at mile 200 had a family emergency Friday night so she was unable to host the control. I know this was a disappointment for her and the riders as she puts on a great spread. We had to wing it and some of the riders expressed difficulty finding a substitute control. Several of them ended up taking a photograph of her house. I wonder what her neighbors would have thought if they had seen successive cyclists riding to her house and photographing it in the wee hours of the night! Our condolences to Ruth and we hope to see her next year.

I tried to guess when the fastest riders would complete the second loop so I could order pizza for them. I ordered three pizza but I was surprised that many of the riders didn't want any. A lot of them had everything they wanted in their hotel rooms already which is a great advantage of this ride format. Plus I got extra pizza.

I got a strange phone call early in the morning. Dana had left his brevet card at a donut shop. Now Dana is a really nice guy and he must have left a good impression with the owner of the shop because he took the trouble to call me. I called Dana and let him know he had left his card behind. "****" Dana's response was predictably unprintable. "It's ten miles back - I'm not turning around!". I called some other riders who I knew were behind Dana and left messages. One of them stopped off and picked up Dana's card. Some people are so nice!

The last of the riders finished up the first 400k and got back to the hotel around 5:30am. The deadline is 7am so they didn't get much sleep but there was pizza left and a microwave for me to heat it for them. All the 400km riders completed except Redding John. Pete, of the stolen bike, DNFed at 400km although he had a decent time. It must have been stressful trying to set up his wife's bike to do a 600k on such short notice. I'm not sure I could have done it. He had no dynamo, no smart phone, no Garmin, and a strange bike. I think 400k was quite an achievement under the circumstances.

Sunday was even hotter than Saturday but the last loop sticks to the coast so heat wasn't a problem. They made good time down to Oceanside but when they turned around the headwind was stronger than usual. Many of them mentioned that the stretch from Oceanside to Dana Point was brutal.

The turn inland is on San Juan Creek trail which was closed. Some riders had no issues while others seemed to be very inconvenienced by the closure. I'm not sure what happened there. There were trail closure signs up when I did the staff ride but they seem to have closed more of it in the past 10 days.

The section through Lake Forest and Irvine can be irksome if you hit too many red lights. I'm completely revamping the ride next year and I have several options I'm considering to deal with that.

The fastest riders finished the 600k in 30 hours, Julie and Charles completed it in 39:50. That's a little tight for me but, hey, everyone gets the same credit.

We are unable to submit results for RUSA for now but you can see the results we will submit for the 400k here and the 600k here.

I'm going to start a conversation on the redesign of this route on Google Groups. Keep an eye open and please contribute your thoughts.

I am also going to write a web page that covers expectations during and after the ride. I was surprised by the number of people who didn't know how brevets cards work etc. Now that I think about it I shouldn't have been surprised at all - how could people who have never ridden a brevet before be expected to know the things we all do?

See you next year.