Cruzbikes climb steep hills.

Cruzbikes climb steep hills.

Frequently, people ask me about the limit, in terms of grade of incline, that a Cruzbike recumbent bike can climb up a steep hill.  I personally have ridden a CB Silvio up short 25% grade sections and recently, during a New York Cycle Club ride, I climbed a fairly long, steep hill with grades ranging between 20-25%.  Skill and finesse are required to prevent the front drive-wheel from slipping, but the technique* can be mastered by most Cruzbike riders.  (*Consistent, slow, steady pressure on the pedals while leaning forward over the handlebars.)

Here in New York City, since few of us carry clinometers, it is useful to refer to a specific hill and incline that many cyclists know in order to explain how steep a Cruzbike can climb.  My hill of choice is the incline on the West Side Hudson River Bikepath, north of the George Washington Bridge, at that place where the path S-curves inland, up and away from the river and begins following right next to the highway.  It’s an ugly stretch.  While the hill isn’t long, three things make it hard: it’s crazily steep, it’s very narrow, it curves tightly at the steepest section, and — four things — there’s a traffic barrier in the middle of the narrow bike path that you have to squeeze past.  Cyclists tend to think it’s barely climbable on any bike, let alone on a recumbent bike.

I’ve climbed this hill on a Cruzbike Quest 20 when the asphalt was slick due to a drizzling rain.  And I did not put down a foot.  So, I can say with total confidence that this hill is climbable on a Cruzbike.  In addition, I point to this example as one of the reasons I like Cruzbikes for extended long rides where you don’t have the privilege of choosing your route to avoid the hills.

Several months ago, I was having a conversation with a customer about how the Cruzbike climbs.  This guy now owns a Cruzbike Silvio in addition to a Volae Team rear-wheel-drive recumbent bike he bought from me several years ago.  We were talking about this hill so we’d have a common reference point.  He went out later and measured the hill with a clinometer app that he has on his smart phone.  Here is his note.

L___b

10/22/14

Robert,

Recall that you told me that on your Cruzbike you were able to climb that steep climb on the bike trail by George Washington bridge. I’ve never been able to climb it on my Volae.

Last weekend I measured that hill with my phone clinometer.

The bottom 20 feet or so are at an 18% grade.
The next 20 feet or so are at a 20% grade.
The next 20 feet or so are at a 12% grade.
The top 10 feet or so are at a 21% grade, going around a sharp left hand turn to the flat crest of the hill, and I measured on the outside of the turn where the bike would be.

Now you know exactly what you climbed.

Even though I ran the App calibration sequence, which is a 2-step process turning the phone 180 degrees to cancel out the phone being thicker at the camera end, I found that the app still measured 2 degrees different on the hill depending on which end of the phone was uphill. I measured both ways and averaged to get the numbers above.

This App from plaincode is the only free clinometer App I have found that has an option (still free) to measure in percent grade (after one-time setup in the configuration dialog to switch from degrees to percent) the way cycling people like to do. Plaincode makes their money on paid upgrades for advanced features.

This app is available on Apple, Android, and Windows phones and tablets. Website with links to each of the three App stores: http://www.plaincode.com/products/clinometer/

My ride was a 90-mile round trip from Yorktown Heights to Stinky Cheese on 20th street and back. Their Caveman Blue is beyond way out there. Just enough daylight for it at my all-day, 11 mph rate.

Regards,
J__ L____

(By the way, this same customer set up his Cruzbike Silvio with a Rohloff Speedhub.  I’ll post a note about that sometime in the near future.)

Have fun, stay healthy, and go enjoy yourself on some steep hills,
Robert

————

Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2015 Robert Matson

Street Machine Gte on Bear Mountain

HP Velotechnik’s Street Machine Gte improves an already gorgeous view from the top of Bear Mountain.

The other weekend I had a nice 2-day ride across Harriman State Park (New York).  I had clear, dry, non-smoggy air, perfect temperatures, and, as always, a great view from the top of Bear Mountain.  I packed light and slept at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s camp.  On Sunday, it rained.  Those who enjoy riding recumbent bikes up hills would enjoy this trip.  Bear Mtn. has an average grade of about 6% with a short section of around 10%.  In the city, I get a lot of “cool bike!” comments when I ride an HP Velotechnik.  But on Bear Mountain, I got many a “good morning” and thumbs-up from the road cyclists who frequent Harriman’s roads and who, maybe, up until that point thought that recumbents “can’t do hills.”

A “cool bike” posing for a photo in front of the Bear Mountain lookout tower.

Have fun and support your state parks,
Robert
————
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2013 Robert Matson

Wind chill, warm hands and telemagenta Speed Machines.

Reckless abandon
=
wind
+

+
+
chill

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
————
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2012 Robert Matson

Of course recumbents do hills.

Standard frame (or “diamond frame”) riders often ask me how recumbents are on hills.  (Answer: “You pedal up them.”)  Yes, there is the disadvantage that you can’t stand on the pedals, but I don’t need to since I have mountain bike gearing.  And on those steepest hills, where I’d stand up and power through on a standard frame bike, on a bent I just sit and power through.  Same thing.  When I started riding a bent, I admit I’d sometimes have to walk up a hill.  I didn’t yet have a fine sense of balance or strong “recumbent muscles.”  But I haven’t had to walk up a hill in years.  I just ride up.

I was thinking about this the other day after riding through Harriman State Park, from Garrison to Camp Nawakwa on Lake Sebago and back again to Garrison.  We had taken the train up to Garrison and started riding from there.  It’s a 46-mile round trip that begins with about 15 miles of steady climbing, without much more than a few yards of level road, then gives you a steep down, a long uphill false flat, more hills than I can bother remembering, and then you hit Lake Sebago.  The camp’s road is then a series of very steep un-graded hills, more up than down.  On the way back, reverse it.  Lots of down, some up, a long and steep uphill climb, and one very, very long downhill coast on a windy road with frequent blind turns where your brakes are very much your best friend.

The next day, no soreness.  Wow.  That’s a recumbent for you.

What were we riding?  There was an HP Velotechnik Grasshopper fx and a Street Machine Gte, with racks, fenders, and lighting systems.  They’re simply the easiest for throwing on a couple panniers for a day-ride and it’s always welcome to have the folding Grasshopper when taking the train.

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

Nice website for NYC cyclists, bents and otherwise.

I recently discovered this site published by Ken Roberts and Sharon Marsh Robert.

Found while searching for “steepest climbs” near New York City, they also have some great safety advice and reminders for riders of all ability levels and some maps and routes. Good stuff.

My primary takeaway from the safety tips page is the wise reminder: “Don’t do anything beyond your control.”

For the nearest steep climb to the city, no surprise, it’s Bear Mountain.

http://www.roberts-1.com/bikehudson/

Best,
Robert
————
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2010 Robert Matson

The Volae Tour makes molehills out of mountains, using just platform pedals, PowerGrips and sneakers.

Volae ‘bents are said to be great climbers.  And I finally got the chance to put a Volae Tour to the test to see if it’s true.

It is.  In short, the climbing ability is no exaggeration.  If anything, it’s an understatement.  Those stiff frames and comfy, aero, rigid seats are fantastic.

Last Sat., on a beautiful but cold New York Jan. day, a Volae Century-riding friend of mine and I did the following route from the archives of the NY Cycle Club.  If you know the route, then you know it was written by a hill climbing diamond frame maniac (in the best sense).  And you know the hills.

http://nycc.org/rl_db/ride.aspx?id=118
58 miles and 3,200 vertical feet.  (We climbed two of the steepest hills twice, making it 62 mi. and about 3,600 vertical feet.)

If you don’t know the route, in summary, it’s a constantly hilly and beautiful route with many steep inclines.  If you look at the route map, which includes elevations, you’ll get a good idea of the climbing involved.  Total distance from our meeting point at the Soldiers/Sailors Monument was 62 miles, plus the additional 22 miles round trip for me to ride to the meeting spot and back home.  So, 84 miles and none of it flat.

And we did it WITHOUT fancy pedals.  For the trip I was using MKS’ inexpensive $40 Touring/Cyclocross platform pedals and $22 powergrips.  And sneakers.  You can buy the pedals and powergrips at Rivendell Bike Works.  Point is, with a good bike, you don’t need expensive pedals to climb steep hills.

The entry-level Volae Tour is a great bike, and not merely good.  Positively great.  More people should ride them.

Best,
Robert
————
Robert Matson
New York City Recumbent Supply (TM)
The Innovation Works, Inc.
copyright 2010 Robert Matson