Mounting a headlight on a Street Machine Gte when there’s no obvious place for it.

Recently, a couple owners of HP Velotechnik Street Machine Gtes asked about the bolt holes on the front boom of the Street Machine Gte.  They wanted to fit their bikes with headlights.  However, their bikes had front booms without the optional derailer post.  The derailer post is a natural place to mount a headlight, whether using the threaded bolt holes on the post or by using the Terracycle accessory mount.  That post is optional, though, if you have a hub gear system like the SRAM Dual Drive or the Rohloff Speed Hub.  If you ordered your bike without the post, but later decide to mount a headlight, what are your options?

HP Velotechnik manufactures their front booms — those with and without the derailer post — with threaded bolt holes on both the top and bottom side of the boom.  The factory uses the threaded bolt hole on the bottom of the boom for installing the headlight mount for a dynamo headlight.  They’ll use the threaded bolt hole on top of the boom for installing the odometer mount.  Obviously, you could use the bolt holes for installing other accessories.

As for the question about the size of the threaded bolt holes, they are simply the same metric sized bolt holes as those used for bolting on water bottle cages and the cable guides on the Street Machine Gte (and most other mass-market modern bike).  Yes, there is an “M” number, but it’s easier to remember that it’s the same as those used for the water bottle cages.

If you want a headlight, but your SMGte has no derailer mast, there are several ways to solve the problem.

1) Attach a HPV odometer (accessory) mount, suitable for a lightweight headlight, using the threaded bolt hole on top side of boom.

2) Use the strong accessory mount built by Hase (google e.g., “Hase Pino”), which wraps around a front boom and can support a headlight or other accessory.

3) Use the threaded bolt hole accessory mount under the boom with the mounts included with a high end (e.g. B&M) dynamo powered headlight.  The Peter White Cycles website has great information about light mounts.

4) Use a nylon Cronometro Nob attached to your front fork or handlebars (see Peter White Cycles website for instructions).

5) Use a high-end helmet-mounted headlight (e.g., from B&M, or Dinotte).

Hase Accessory Mount

Stay healthy and stay well-lit,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2014 Robert Matson

A nice pair for your Scorpion fs 26

Dear Robert,

I ride a sleek blue-gray HP Velotechnik Scorpion fs 26 with white accents that is the ninth or tenth love of my life.  It has a body link seat, rear rack…all whistles and no bells.  Will a pair of HPV’s Moonbiker panniers mount properly?  If not, which others might be my pleasure?  My only requirements are that they look as attractive as the trike and have excellent capacity.

Yours truly,

Dear Zing,

You’re right to require that a pair of panniers look as good as the trike.

Usually, the Moonbiker or Radical Design panniers are suitable, but not this time: they won’t lay properly on the Scorpion fs 26’s uniquely shaped rear rack.

However the Ortlieb Recumbent Panniers are a very nice pair, with 54 liters capacity.  They are attractive, waterproof, aerodynamic, with a fiddle-free mounting system.  As you might imagine, they’re not cheap but, like most Ortlieb products, you’ll want to hold onto them for the long-term.

These Radical Design bags are also good choices, though with less capacity.  They’re attractive and a great option if you don’t feel ready to commit to one or the other: if you have trouble choosing, go with both for 35 liters total volume.

With Body Link seat: Solo Racer wide (10 liters) or Banana Racer (25 liters)

With Ergo Mesh seat: Universal Racer (10 liters) or Banana Racer (25 liters)

Have fun, and play safe,

Radical Design Universal Racer

Radical Design Banana Racer

Radical Design Solo Aero

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

Fairing on a Cruzbike. No, for the front; yes, for the rear. But wouldn’t you rather have an aero helmet?

From a customer:

On Thu, September 12, 2013 10:10 am, James L______ wrote:
Robert and Maria
The ADEM headrest has been wonderful.
I am riding almost 100 miles a week to and from work
I want to go the next step and get a fairing to improve efficiency.
Any recommendations

Hi James,

Your weekly mileage is fantastic!  Great job!

Fairing on a Cruzbike.

Fairing: front

I advise NOT using a front fairing on a Cruzbike.  (Front fairings work better on traditional, non-Cruzbike recumbents and trikes.)

Although I’ve read a few posts and have seen one photo on-line of people using front fairings on their Cruzbikes, I believe a front fairing is dangerous on a Cruzbike for two reasons: 1) front fairings are heavy and that weight is likely to negatively effect steering; and 2) front fairing are sail-like and they catch wind from your back, therefore wind gusts will cause the front wheel to turn in unexpected ways on a Cruzbike.

I’d also mention that, generally speaking, small front fairings — which would impact steering less — give very little aerodynamic benefit (a customer and I once did a series of tests to measure it).  The main benefit of the small front fairing is to keep your feet warm during the winter.  (And they do this well.)

Large front fairings (like the one from HP Velotechnik) — which would impact steering more — help keep you drier in the rain and warm in the winter (and for this, they are GREAT), and will give more aerodynamic benefit than a small fairing, but I haven’t measured this.  At any rate, it’s hardly worth the downside (on a Cruzbike).

So, I don’t recommend a front fairing on a Cruzbike.  However, you may be able to find posts on the Cruzbike forums of riders using a front fairing on a CB with success.  Also, while there have been rumors that John Tolhurst, the Cruzbike designer, once toyed with designs for a front fairing, it hasn’t been introduced.

Instead of using a front fairing, I suggest you experiment with a steeper recline of the seat.  This will give a significant and comparatively safe aerodynamic advantage.

Fairing: rear

A REAR fairing (a.k.a., tail box, tail sock, etc.) gives significant aerodynamic advantage without as much effect on steering.  (My customer and I measured this as well.)  TerraCycle sells a “Tail Sok” but you’re on your own in terms of figuring out how to attach it to a Quest (or any other Cruzbike).  If you figure it out, please tell me, because I like the TC Tail Sok!

An inexpensive and practical alternative to the rear fairing is an aerodynamic bag on the seat back or rack, such as those from Radical Design or Ortlieb.  This doesn’t give as much benefit as a rear fairing, but I’ve measured a benefit.

The easiest and cheapest way to improve your aerodynamics is with a time trial aerodynamic helmet which you’ve bought on sale.

In a conversation, Maria Parker recommended using more aerodynamic clothing, such as a lycra race kit (a.k.a., roadie clothing, spandex, etc.).

I believe an aerodynamic wheelset helps a lot, but these can be expensive.

On that note, another inexpensive option is to look at the tires you’re using.  Schwalbe makes excellent race tires, that are also durable, and are available in 26″ sizes.  This isn’t to improve aerodynamics but to decrease rolling resistance.

If there’s a reader out there who has had a different experience, or would like to share a solution they have tested with great success, please post a note.

All best,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

Cyclists getting attacked and robbed, once again. (Sept. 2013)

Cyclists are being clothes-lined and robbed in Riverside Park this week
(from New York Magazine)

Bicyclists: Watch Out for Riverside Park Tripwires

By Adam Martin (New York Magazine)

In a rather startling series of robberies in Riverside Park, thieves have apparently used a tripwire to knock down bicyclists and rob them. But the tripwire trap has a tell: A rope lying across the bike path that thieves pull taught in order to clothesline the rider. Police think the same gang also robbed a bicyclist by simply ambushing him from behind some bushes. So if you see any misplaced bits of rope, or suspicious shrubbery, probably best to avoid them.

Cyclists are one of the more vulnerable crime targets in the city.  In the city, one travels at speeds and distances similar to a car, so it’s tempting (and easy) to ride into shady neighborhoods at all times of the day and night where one might normally never walk but might normally drive or bike.  (A great example are the areas around the Brooklyn Navy Yard, including the area east of the Manhattan Bridge’s Bklyn anchorage where there’s a beautiful bike path on a road in the midst of projects.)  A cyclist is frequently carrying — riding — in one’s possession, and in plain sight, something of obviously high value — their bike.  And riders take predictable routes, which makes them predictable prey and an easy target to ambush: it’s a bike lane, it’s only a matter of time before a mark comes along; a pedestrian might simply stay away from the neighborhood, or change directions or the side of the street they’re on if they see bad guys up ahead, but a cyclist may be forced to stay on the road, or on a particular side of the road, or may not be able to turn around so quickly, or may have no other route besides “straight ahead.” In a car, you can just drive through, assuming the punks haven’t hidden an IED along the road.

Then there’s the demographic of cyclists: they’re soft, easy, unarmed targets.  They are usually hippies, or yuppies, hard-working ordinary people, practical, just trying to get to work, or the dentist, or home, or the whatever.  And they’re unlikely to be armed: what cyclist is going to carry the weight of a weapon, or a crow bar, or a big f*ing stick, or a knife and risk being poked (or shot) by it as you ride?  And what, you’re going to get off your bike, your best means of quickly running away, and try and use a weapon?  Drive-by shootings I’ve heard of; bicycling-by shootings sounds like something only Conan O’Brien could stage.

For decades, and probably centuries, there are stories of punks swinging bats and sticks at cyclists and knocking them off their bikes, throwing rocks (and food and water balloons and bottles and spit), spreading tacks on bike paths, jumping cyclists at red lights, etc.  This week, we have assholes laying down a “trip wire” that they pull up to neck level when the cyclist comes close, injuring the cyclist, and then robbing them, presumably of their bike, but maybe of their clothes as well.  How very 15th century.

So this is pretty fucked up and disheartening.  It’s just one more thing we deal with as city cyclists.  If it’s not pedestrians walking on bike paths or into the paths of bikes; or debris in bike lanes; or motorists driving distracted, drunk, drugged, disconcerted, half-dead or generally driving dangerously; and if it’s not other cyclists ignoring traffic laws and generally riding like idiots; then it’s street punks trying to fill the vacuum in their hearts by injuring people, why not a cyclist.  There are days I really get tired of this.  I’m just trying to get where I’m trying to go.

Look out for random ropes and strings along the ground.  Look out when riding by bushes near the side of the path.  Look out for people milling about or who seem like they may be the “look outs” for a gang.

What is city hall and law enforcement doing about this?  Are our city council members interested in or informed about crimes against cyclists and their seriousness?  Do the police have strategies for fighting these crimes?  And where’s Batman?  Generally, I’ve seen nothing to make me believe city government is on the case, but I’d like to be wrong about that.

And I’m rather disappointed that even the New York Mag article makes it sound softer than it really is.  They call it a trip wire.  It’s not a trip wire.  It’s a “clothes line,” a rope pulled up to body or neck level.  Even if it’s simply up to the level of the bike wheels, it will result in the cyclist being thrown in an endo, skull first over his/her handlebars.  This can cripple or kill a person, not merely trip them and cause a broken wrist.  What, if NY Mag publishes something alarmist about crimes against cyclists, people will stop looking at the ads on their web site?

(Did I swear here?  If so, I beg your pardon.  But I think swearing may be appropriate when an innocent person’s neck is on the line.)

What plans do the mayoral candidates have to decrease crimes against cyclists?  I haven’t heard a position on this — or on bicycling — from any of them.  No surprise.  As a voting block, we don’t have a check book, so, should they care what we think?  I think they should.

So, what can you do to help?  Don’t just sit there, don’t just ride.  Get involved in the political machinations of our society.  Tell your political representatives what you think.  Write your council members, write those who are running for city council in your district, write those who are running for mayor.  Apply to serve on your community board.  Join Transportation Alternatives and/or Times Up and donate some volunteer hours.  Run for City Council.

How to do it?  Your first step is to click here:

Stay safe and get involved in bicycling advocacy,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

Radical Design bags and panniers for Cruzbike recumbent bikes, no rack required

A Radical Design customer* in England shows how he attaches Banana Racers on a Vendetta, giving the bike 25 liters of carrying capacity without a rack. (*I don't know his/her name but I'd really love to credit the photo and creativity to him/her.)

A Radical Design customer* in England shows how he attaches Banana Racers on a Vendetta, giving the bike 25 liters of carrying capacity without a rack. (*I don’t know his/her name but I’d really love to credit the photo and creativity to him/her.)

To carry luggage on a Cruzbike

I strongly recommend the bags made by Radical Design (“RD”) (sold in the USA by New York City Recumbent Supply) because they are lightweight, high quality and many models don’t require racks.
Radical Design bags are also an inexpensive solution because the rider needs only buy the pannier bags and not a rack plus bags. That quality also lowers the overall weight of the luggage system (bags alone are lighter than bags plus rack).  RD bags may be layered for maximum carrying capacity because they’re made of flexible Cordura(R) nylon and many of the bags don’t require racks.

Radical Design bags work well on Cruzbikes but it’s not always obvious how to mount them to the bike. I maintain this post as a running entry, updating it when I have new information.  Be sure to check back from time to time.

Also, this blog post has good information about attaching panniers to a Quest. Similar strategies apply for the Silvio and Vendetta.


Cruzbike Quest 20 with Radical Design Banana Racer below seat and Solo Aero on back of seat, totaling 37 liters of carrying capacity.
Cruzbike Quest 20 with Radical Design Banana Racer below seat and Solo Aero on back of seat, totaling 37 liters of carrying capacity.
Note: Solo Racer in both wide and narrow sizes fit equally well, though imperfectly, at top of seat on Sofrider, Quests and Silvio. The wide fits outside the seat cushion and may sag a bit. The narrow fits under the seat cushion and rides a bit high. Both work.

Radical Design bags for Cruzbikes

Solo Aero

Available in “wide” and “narrow” depending on seat width. Solo Aero wide (12 liters capacity).  5 colors available. Requires removal of the Quest 20 or 26’s rack. “Wide” and “narrow” both have 12 liters capacity. Manufacturer’s info.

Universal Racer

Universal Racer (10 liters capacity). 5 colors available.

Solo Racer works too (size wide for bottom of seat, size narrow for top of seat).”Wide,” “narrow” and “universal” all have 10 liters capacity. Manufacturer’s Info.

Banana Racer

Possibly my favorite Radical Design bag: the Banana Racer (25 liters capacity). 5 colors available. Manufacturer’s info.

Which bags fit which Cruzbikes

Silvio 2.0 and 1.5
Solo Racer, narrow, at top of seat, under seat cushion.
Solo Racer, wide: fits both at top of seat over seat cushion and at base of seat, at the seat pan, as a tiny rack-free under-seat pannier.
Universal Racer
Banana Racer
Solo Aero narrow fits at top of seat, but, due to the rear suspension, can come very close to the wheel, especially if heavily loaded.

Universal Racer

Banana Racer (25 liter)
Banana Small (40 liter)

Banana Medium (55 liter)
Q-Series and Quest 26

Solo Aero, wide, at top of seat. (Rack needs to be removed and rear wheel comes close depending on seat angle.)
Solo Racer, narrow, at top of seat.
Solo Racer, wide, at top and bottom of seat.
Universal Racer, anywhere on seat.
Banana Racer (25 liter)
Side Pannier small, medium

Sofrider (bike out of production)

Solo Aero, wide, at top of seat.

Solo Racer, narrow, at top of seat.
Solo Racer, wide, at top and bottom of seat.
Universal Racer, anywhere on seat.
Banana Racer (25 liter)
Banana Small (40 liter)
Banana Medium (55 liter)
Quest 20 (bike out of production)
Solo Aero, wide, at top of seat. (Rack needs to be removed.)
Solo Racer, narrow, at top of seat.
Solo Racer, wide, at top and bottom of seat.
Universal Racer, anywhere on seat.
Banana Racer (25 liter)

Rider photos

More photos from our friend in England. Additional straps were added and threaded above and below the seat pan on this Vendetta with Banana Racers. Clever. Provides very secure attachment.

RD bags on a Vendetta


Same Vendetta

More Vendetta

Have Radical Design bags, will ship,

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matso

This will be trouble: CitiBike bike racks prove they make great…city bike racks.

CitiBike enthusiasts find common ground with city bike enthusiasts: “CitiBikeRacks” are great places to lock up a bike.

New York City has been slow to install sufficient numbers of bike racks.  Now, in several fell swoops — and after over 400 community board meetings — the CitiBikeRacks have been installed all over South Manhattan and North Brooklyn.  However, ordinary city cyclists still need ordinary city bike racks.

Problem solved, hardly.
This evening at the Bike to Work party hosted by Transportation Alternatives we saw a future battle that will be played out here in NYC, between CitiCyclists and city cyclists.  Visitors to the party had claimed every pole-like object within 200 yards of the party.  Some, unable to find nearby bike parking, saw the CitiBikeRacks and must have thought “Hey, a bike rack” and locked up their bikes there.  As long as your chain was long enough, the CitiRacks worked perfectly.  (I tried, but my chain wasn’t long enough.)

Attention New York City Department of Transportation: start installing large numbers of ordinary bike racks for everyday cyclists.  Otherwise, the CitiBikeRacks will be full of ordinary bikes and CitiBikers will be unable to use them for their intended purpose: to return bikes.  I wonder if this doesn’t also herald a certain class consciousness among cyclists: CitiCyclists who don’t own bikes, or who are tourists, or who are occasional riders, and who will be readily identifiable by their cute blue bikes and harder-core city cyclists who own their own bikes and commute beyond the horizons of the CitiBike program.

The City needs public bike racks that provide secure bike parking, in large numbers, in all neighborhoods.

I applaud the bike share program, but we’ve jumped forward with it without also massively expanding bike parking and that may create problems.

Idea: install more city bike racks, sell ad space on those racks, and apply the revenue to improving bicycle infrastructure.

How YOU can increase bicycle parking in your neighborhood: help install a bike corral.

Bike corrals are rows of [New York] CityRacks installed in the curbside lane of the street instead of on the sidewalk. This design is a great solution for places where demand for bicycle parking outstrips the available sidewalk space. Anyone can request a bike corral but every bike corral needs a maintenance partner to keep the bike corral clear of snow and debris.

This website at the NYC Dept. of Transportation gives the skinny on bike corrals: how to apply, a link to a downloadable application, locations of completed bike corrals, and a list of bike corral community board presentations.

Nothing will improve unless YOU get involved.

Just CityRide,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

New Jersey Department of Transportation Announces Online Bicycle Map and Resource Guide

Just now, I heard some great news from the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition:

On May 9, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Office of the NJ Dept. of Transportation announced an online New Jersey Bicycle Map and Resource Guide, a “comprehensive tool for those traveling by bicycle for recreation or transportation in New Jersey.” The map includes 18 (count them) state bicycle tour guides (routes), elevation, on-road bicycle facilities, a gauge showing suitability for biking, and cultural, historic, recreational and other points of interest along the way.

The guide divides New Jersey into two regions. (Click the links to download the associated PDFs, but beware, some of them are big):
a Northern map and Resource Guide highlighting the Newark area
a Southern map  and Resource Guide highlighting the Camden area

One highlight is the state atlas.  With this, you can zoom in on sections of the state where you want to ride.

Lastly, the 18 State bicycle tour guides have all been digitized.  You can download them to your smartphone, see where you are on the route, and track your progress.

These new resources reinforce the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s support for bicycling and the Complete Streets philosophy, and its goal to promote sustainable, walkable and bikeable communities.

Help keep NJ great.  Support the advocacy work of the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition by becoming a member. (click there).  Annual memberships range from $35 to $250.

Have fun and stay healthy,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

How to Improve Bicycle Access to the PATH Train (and here are the existing rules).

Today’s Rules about Bike Access on the PATH Train (as of May 2013)

  • Folded bicycles are permitted on the PATH train at all times. (I could see no definition for what constitutes a folding bike.)
  • Non-folding bicycles are permitted at all times except weekdays between 6:30 AM and 9:30 AM and weekdays between 3:30 PM and 6:30 PM (rush hour).
  • There is a limit of two bicycles per PATH railcar.
  • No bicycles are permitted in the first railcar of a train.
  • Bicyclists must use elevators or stairs and may not take bicycles on escalators.
  • Cyclists may not ride bicycles in trains, on platforms or in the stations.
  • PATH or PAPD (Port Authority Police Department) may require bicyclists to wait for the next train.
  • Cyclists are to hold their bikes while on trains and not to block aisles or doors.
  • In the event of an evacuation, leave the bicycle on the train and ensure that it does not block aisles or doors.
Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s web page about bicycle rules.

Suggestions for cyclists:

  • Join New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition and advocate for better bike access on New Jersey trains.
  • Be polite, cooperative and deferential to officials and other passengers, no matter what.  When you board a train with a bike, especially if it’s a recumbent, you are representing all ‘bent riders and cyclists in the Metro Region.  If there is a problem, please do not get into a dispute with the “nice official” (and if his name is not “Sir,” then it is “Ma’am.”)  But do get the official’s name, time of incident, nearest station, etc., take photos or video if possible, and write a note for yourself so you remember the details.  Then file a complaint here:  This is the online submission form for the Port Authority.
  • Do NOT just sit and take it.  Go to Port Authority board meetings and speak during the public comment period for increased bicycle access.  You can contact New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition if you would like assistance in preparing a statement or would like other advice on presenting at a Port Auth. board meeting.  Personal stories make very compelling testimony.  (By the way, the people who attend these meetings can be quite interesting.  It is time well spent.)
  • The schedule for the Port Authority’s board meetings is here:
Have fun and advocate for a better world of cycling, which is redundant,

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

Staying strong through winter, ready for summer.

It can be a challenge to stay strong over the winter, especially if you live in an area where winter cycling means riding short and frantic trips on studded tires while wearing windproof underwear, multiple layers of wool under wind jackets, insulated boots, and neoprene Glacier Gloves. And still freezing.

The tendancy is for riders to get strong over the summer, reach a peak in the fall, and then loose much of their conditioning over the winter. For me, as it concerns my recumbent muscles, this is definitely true. To combat this, a strategy is to incorporate exercises into one’s exercise routine that, at minimum, keep those muscles active so the body remembers why it needs to spend precious energy to maintain them.

My own exercise routine won’t work for everyone, but it may help you generate ideas on how to stay in shape over the winter so that, once spring comes, you don’t have to spend the first three months building up strength so you can — dare I say it? — ride a recumbent up a steep hill.

Maintain your summer body weight

First and foremost, over the cold winter months, when you’re craving sweet and high-fat foods to keep your body warm, try not to add a layer of warm, cozy fat. Maintain your summer weight. It’s incredibly difficult to lose fat once you gain it, so don’t.

Another aspect of this is that a large proportion of recumbent riders are middle-aged and as we age, our metabolisms generally slow down, we get cold more easily and it gets harder to lose the weight we gain.

When it’s cold out, and your body feels chilled, your instinct is to eat, both because you need energy to stay warm, but your body also wants a layer of fat to keep comfortable in the chill air. If you’re like me, you’re more than happy to oblige with two or three cups of organic hot chocolate with added organic heavy cream from grass fed cows. Uh oh. But there’s a way to trick the body into thinking it’s already warm and comfortable and needs no extra layer of fat. This may help you (me) keep it to just one cup of hot cocoa a day. A trick I use is to wear what is essentially an artificial, removable layer of fat: long johns. I wear a merino wool base layer, top and bottoms, more or less every day during the cold, wet months, from November through March. I’m wearing a base layer anyway when I ride down to the pool in the morning (see below), so I just leave it on the rest of the day. I also sometimes wear a hat while I work.

Another trick is to eat hot meals as often as possible. The classics are soups and stews. These help you stay warm without relying on sugars. And it goes without saying, eat your vegetables. Root vegetables are at their best during the winter and so are greens like kale. Go heavy on them. You can also go heavy on nuts like walnuts, which have loads of highly nutritious fats. Avoid sugar except when you’re expending huge amounts of energy for example while you’re active and outside.

Keep up a winter exercise routine

I probably spend more time swimming than cycling. Fortunately, it’s a sport I can do all winter long and it keeps me fit for just about any other sport I frequently do, which is mostly cycling, skiing, running, and hiking. The trouble with swimming is that it doesn’t work the same leg muscles as cycling. That’s also a good thing: cross-training saves the body from overuse injuries.

Here’s my exercise routine, on a normal day:
4:45am up and at ’em; fumble around in a haze; eat a light breakfast; put on shoes.
~5:15 bicycle (usually on a recumbent) a half-hour down to the pool or else jog/walk 45 min.* to the pool.
~5:45 stretch, short pilates workout
6:00 swim (typically an individual medley workout)
~7:15/7:30 stretch, pilates, jump rope
8:00 bike a half-hour — or jog/walk 45 min. — back home.
8:30 breakfast
9:00 begin work

(*My jogging/walking route takes a direct, nearly crow-flies route from home to the pool. My cycling route has less car traffic, but is far less direct. I also stop for red lights, which slows me down considerably.)

After that, any errands, any commuting, everything I need to do out in the city I do by bicycle. I consider that  element of the day’s exercise icing on the cake (please forgive the sugar and butter metaphor).

If I miss my swimming workout (for example, if I’m up late the previous night), I’ll either run for one to one and a half hours, or do a high-intensity biking workout, or do a rowing workout on my Concept II rowing ergometer. The erg has been with me for over two decades. Highly recommended.

Key elements of the workout as it concerns biking.

Obviously, the swimming is the main workout; it’s great, low-impact cardio. It’s fun. I enjoy seeing my teammates on my U.S. Masters team. I like the challenge of the individual medley, which is my event of choice. And there’s little chance of being hit by a car while I’m exercising.

The benefits of the jog/walk probably don’t have to be explained though it may be useful to specify that I alternate walking and jogging when I go to the pool by foot. I don’t jog the whole way. There are a few reasons for this. First, I’m taking cement sidewalks, which are hard on the body, so the walking segments give my body a necessary break. Secondly, I no longer train as a runner and don’t wish to inflict that on my body, so the jog/walk gives me speed for a quick foot-based commute, without stress — I can make it as hard or easy as I like by increasing/decreasing how much and how fast I jog. Thirdly, I’m still stiff at that hour and I use this foot-based commute as my warm-up so, by the time I’m at the pool, I’m really ready to go. A fourth benefit is that running, more than swimming or cycling, is really unforgiving of excess body weight so it firmly reminds you of why you want to keep down your weight.

The stretching. It’s necessary for helping you avoid or minimize injuries. And it becomes more necessary as you get older because — yes, as you get older, you get stiffer — but mainly it’s preventative: it takes a really long time to recover from injuries as you age.

Jumping rope. This is the primary way I remind my legs to stay strong for biking. This is also how I push my max heart rate to again, remind my heart and lungs why they have to stay strong. My rope workout isn’t particularly fancy, but I do something like a Tabata workout, alternating sprints with slower jumping and alternating one-legged jumping with two-legged jumping to keep it interesting. Maybe that sounds fancy.

And the biking part of it? Not really a key element. It’s too short and easy to count for much, but it does serve a little to remind my cycling muscles why they exist. Sometimes I’ll add a few miles around Prospect Park when I head home, sometimes loaded with groceries from the Park Slope Food Coop. The park includes a hill, but normally the cycling part of my morning routine is purely practical; it’s just commuting and, though better than nothing, I’m going too slowly for it to feel like exercise.

Have fun, stay healthy, stay in shape,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2012 Robert Matson

Wind chill, warm hands and telemagenta Speed Machines.

Reckless abandon


Let’s talk about wind chill.  When you ride a bike, you create wind and, on a cold day, that results in wind chill, which means immobile hands and numb feet.

It’s January.  You’re stir crazy.  It’s cold but the roads are clear and dry.  And you’re thoroughly jazzed about the new telemagenta HP Velotechnik Speed Machine you bought yourself for [insert your winter gift-giving holiday here] from New York City Recumbent Supply :-).

You put on your coat and hat and gloves and head out for an early morning ride to Nyack.  Eventually, the day’s high will be 25 degrees fahrenheit but it’s 15 deg. F when you hit the George Washington Bridge at 7am.  You warm your fingers in your arm pits, first the right hand in the left arm pit, then the left hand in the right pit.  At this point you’re still impressed with yourself; it’s amazing what you’ll do for a muffin.

Let’s pretend there’s no west wind, and no runners or walkers or slow cyclists weaving all over the place, so you’re making time, hitting 20 mph up the west side bikeway to the bridge.  With the chill and your early morning start, you’re feeling fast, and hardcore and, frankly, a tiny bit cold.  Well, no wonder.  That 15 deg. F temperature with a headwind of 20 mph results in a wind chill of -2 deg. F.

You’re wearing warm clothes, of course.  On the way there, as you ride up the hills of Henry Hudson Dr., you’re slowing to a very bent-like 5 mph (15 F at 5 mph = 7 deg. F wind chill).  You get warm, even a bit sweaty.  That’s bad.  Moisture compromises your insulating layers.  And you really don’t want sweat freezing on your face, but it’s too late to stop sweating now.

As you ride towards State Line, you hit some good downhills.  This is the fun part.  Usually.  How fast does this Speed Machine go?  Who cares what Robert said about staying within safe speeds.  It’s your bike now and you decide to push it.  40…45…50 mph.  Cool?  More than.  It’s frigid.  15 F at 50 mph = -10 deg. wind chill.  The thrill only lasts a minute and that’s a good thing because now you’re really frickin’ cold.  You can barely move your hands, you can’t feel your feet, and your most prized possession (not the bike) has shrinkaged to the point that it’s inside out.  The women’s equivalent, whatever it is, is doing the women’s equivalent, whatever that is, probably something a lot more sensible.

You begin to wish you were in a car.  Or maybe not.  At the bare minimum you begin to wish you had a fairing and a pair of windproof underwear.  But for now you’ll settle for a scone and hot chocolate in Piermont.  Eventually, you warm up.  You go back outside and start riding back, stopping at the police station and again at the ferry terminal to warm up.  This is beginning to sort of suck.  You can hardly wait to brag about your misery on Facebook.

How could you have dressed for this?  Do you dress for the 15 F temps when you first walk out the door?  The -2 F wind chill of your cruising speed?  The -10 degrees that freeze your fingers beyond any chance of rewarming as you ride?  Or the 7 deg. temps so you don’t sweat on the hills?  Isn’t the idea that you get warmer as you move?

Some people say layers and lots of zippers so you can vent as you get hot.  I tend to believe in vapor barriers which at least prevent sweat from compromising your insulating layers.  Winter backpackers have told me they wear windproof layers over bare legs.

Currently, this is what I’m trying (without using a fairing).  Wearing windproof layers, like rain gear, I dress for the wind chill I predict I’ll experience most of the time with the ability to vent as much as possible as my activity generates warmth.  Zippers must be operable with one hand.  Controlling how the wind flows across my skin is key to staying warm or cool, so a ventable outer windproof layer is important.

Then, since my feet and hands are so vulnerable to wind chill on a recumbent, I try to keep them as warm as possible under the theory that, generally speaking, they can never be too warm (at least not for me).  I do everything I can to windproof them.  On my feet the first layer is a vapor barrier, then warm socks (or neoprene socks), then insulated winter boots.  If it’s not too horribly cold, I’m okay with neoprene socks and bike shoes but, generally, I give up on comfortably* using clipless pedals till the warmer weather.  (*I’ll go out and uncomfortably ride with cold feet for an hour or so with clipless pedals, but not much more than that.  I’d like to preserve the nerves in my feet.)

On my hands, I’m currently doing this if it’s very cold.  First layer, vapor barrier.  (I use cheap latex gloves till they tear.)  Then 3mm neoprene glacier gloves.  Then windproof/waterproof shell mittens.  I’m trying to maintain a layer of dry insulating air between each layer of clothing.  I was disappointed to discover that glacier gloves alone were not good enough (for me) at windchills of about 17 F.  Adding the shell mittens made a huge difference.

If it’s a bit warmer and I want some dexterity, for example so I can handle a bike lock and key, I’ll start with the latex glove vapor barriers, then add glove liners, and then a pair of Outdoor Research Storm Tracker gloves.  I wouldn’t hesitate to put a shell mitten over this.  The advantage to this is I can remove the bulkier layers without exposing my hands for even a moment to cold air and the cold metal of the lock.

I have a metal watch.  I remove it on cold days because it conducts the cold directly to my skin.  When I do wear it, I’ve noticed that my watch hand gets colder than my non-watch hand.  If I feel I must wear a watch, I’ll wear it on top of a base layer.  This also makes it easier to look at.

Any metal on the bike will make you cold, so it also helps to cover the metal brake levers with insulating tape.  An extra layer of handlebar tape or neoprene or foam around the handlebar grips will help a lot too.

Getting deeper into wind chill.

What is Wind Chill Temperature?
It is the temperature it “feels like” outside and is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the effects of wind and cold. As the wind increases, the body is cooled at a faster rate causing the skin temperature to drop. Wind Chill does not impact inanimate objects like car radiators and exposed water pipes, because these objects cannot cool below the actual air temperature.

On November 1, 2001, the National Weather Service implemented a new Wind Chill Temperature (WCT) index for the 2001/2002 winter season, designed to more accurately calculate how cold air feels on human skin. The former index used by the United States and Canada was based on 1945 research of Antarctic explorers Siple and Passel. They measured the cooling rate of water in a container hanging from a tall pole outside. A container of water will freeze faster than flesh. As a result, the previous wind chill index underestimated the time to freezing and overestimated the chilling effect of the wind. The new index is based on heat loss from exposed skin and was tested on human subjects.

For the first time, the new Wind Chill Chart includes a frostbite indicator, showing the points where temperature, wind speed and exposure time will produce frostbite on humans. The chart above includes three shaded areas of frostbite danger. Each shaded area shows how long (30,10 and 5 minutes) a person can be exposed before frostbite develops. For example, a temperature of 0°F and a wind speed of 15 mph will produce a wind chill temperature of -19°F. Under these conditions, exposed skin can freeze in 30 minutes.

The NWS will inform you when Wind Chill conditions reach critical thresholds. A Wind Chill Warning is issued when wind chill temperatures are life threatening. A Wind Chill Advisory is issued when wind chill
temperatures are potentially hazardous.

What is Frostbite?

Frostbite is an injury to the body caused by freezing body tissue. The most susceptible parts of the body are the extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, or the tip of the nose Symptoms include a loss of feeling in the extremity and a white or pale appearance. Medical attention is needed immediately for frostbite. The area should be SLOWLY re-warmed.

What is Hypothermia?
Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature (below 95 degrees Fahrenheit). Warning signs include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. Medical attention is needed immediately. If it is not available, begin warming the body SLOWLY.

Tips on how to dress during cold weather.
– Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Trapped air between the layers will insulate you. Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent, and hooded.
– Wear a hat, because 40% of your body heat can be lost from your head.
– Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
– Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves.
– Try to stay dry and out of the wind.
– Keep your face dry, especially around the nose and mouth.
– Remove metal objects from your body, such as watches, bracelets, jewelry. Metal conducts cold onto and into your skin.

National Weather Service Wind Chill web page

Environment Canada’s Wind Chill web page

[Source: National Weather Service (U.S.A.)]

Have fun and stay warm,
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2012 Robert Matson