Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ahhhhh... Fresh Coffee!

For those of you who like coffee, there's nothing quite like fresh roasted coffee instead of what you get at the store.  I started roasting coffee a few years ago using hot air popcorn poppers (it's actually very easy).  For our tenth anniversary,  Kate bought me a Nesco Coffee Roaster.  It has a catalytic converter so that you can roast inside without smoke filling up your house (which can be a problem with a lot of different roasting techniques).  It's almost fool-proof way to roast 4 ounces of coffee and using it fills the kitchen with a wonderful coffee aroma (without the smoke).

The biggest downside of this roaster is that it doesn't like to make dark roast coffee.  What you have to do is unplug the roaster and plug it back in before it gets to its cool-down period.  After doing this a few times, I bought a switch into which I plug the roaster, so I can just flip it off and then on when needed.

Almost certainly not what the makers of this roaster have in mind, but it works pretty well for me.

One thing about roasting coffee.  After finishing the roasting, it tastes the best if you let it sit 12 to 24 hours before roasting (which the exception of decaf which apparently you can drink right away for peak taste).  For anybody who is interested, I highly recommend Sweet Maria's.  This is where I buy almost all of my green unroasted coffee.  They are willing to sell you a $3000 roaster as well as tell you how to roast coffee using a hot air popcorn popper you can pickup at Walgreens for $10.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Almost Installed New Crank

I was hoping tonight's blog post would be titled something closer to Great New Crank.  Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.

I bought a Shimano Alivio M411 triple crank which has a 48T large chain ring (like what is currently on the Sofrider) and a 26T small one (compared to the 34T).  I received a bike toolkit yesterday, so tonight was a good time to try and change the crank.

Taking the old crank off was pretty easy (with the crank pulling tool).

And it was very easy to get the new crank on:

The problem is that the new crank is too close to the frame and the front derailleur can't shift the chain into the  granny gear.  I put the original crankset back on and ordered a wider bottom bracket that will hopefully fix the problem.  Stay tuned!

Monday, February 27, 2012

First Time Commuting by Bicycle

Today was the first day I commuted to my "new" job by bicycle (and by new I mean I've only been there for about 9 months).  I only live 3 miles away and if it weren't for the hills, it would be almost too easy.  It takes under 15 minutes if I push it hard and which is exactly what I did since it was really quite cold this morning (about 20° F) and I wanted to get warm.

There are showers at work, so I can just shower there instead of at home.  I bought a pannier to attach to the side of my rack to carry my work cloths.  So far, everything is working out pretty well and biking instead of driving doesn't seem that much more difficult.  I found that I actually had a lot more energy this morning than a usual Monday morning.

A friend of mine Avneet was nice enough to take this picture when I was on my way home.  This is me in full battle gear (except for my helmet which I did put on before riding home).

On a different note, today I learned that one can load GPX files up to one's Garmin Activities account. GPX files are a general format for GPS tracking software (such as MyTracks for Android which is free and very useful).  This is very useful for people who already have a Garmin sports GPS so now I can put all of my tracks in the same place.  Even if you don't own a Garmin device, you can still get a free account and keep track of your progress, so everybody with a smart phone and GPS should be good to go.  Once uploaded to this website, it's easy to share any rides you want with other people (this one is from yesterday).

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A New Ride. A New Rack

I went for two rides this weekend (A new ride, a new rack, and another new ride just didn't sound as good) and installed a new rack in between the rides.

The first ride was yesterday and I did my standard 11.5 mile route.  I did it averaging 12.0 mph (I averaged 11.5 mph last time), so I'm getting faster.  I knew I'd be close to 12 mph average, so I pushed really hard at the end and was properly exhausted when I finished.

Today's ride was me just getting on the bike and going.  This ride was just over 13 miles (which is probably longer than I've ridden in quite a long time - hopefully that will change very soon) and I managed to average 11.3 mph.  On this ride, I had a lot of bad luck with lights (e.g., a red light at the bottom of the hill so I'd lose all of my energy and have to climb the next hill from a rest).  A lot of the roads were had quite a bit more traffic on them than my usual route, but it wasn't too bad.

In both cases,  I got on the Sofrider and rode it without any issues; my body remembered exactly what it was supposed to do.  I still have a lot of room for improvement (such as high speed handling and sharp corners), but it's getting better all the time.  It's only about six hours after I rode today and I'm already sore in my shoulders.  There were a lot of (for me) quite steep hills and I was really working my whole body to get up those.

I replaced the seat post rack with a standard rack (Delta Cycle Ultra Megarack - a nice rack with a silly name) and mounted a tank bag.  Since the Sofrider has rear suspension, it does not have the usual rear rack mounts.  My idea was to mount it to the seat post clamp.

As you can see from the pictures, I only have one brace to the seat post clamp.  The problem is that the nut on the other side of the clamp has a lip with a large diameter, so I'd need to drill out a larger hole on the other brace.

I had this rack on for today's ride.  It held up beautifully, but having it link to the seat post clamp means that I have another link from the rear wheel to the seat post besides from the rear shock.  I don't think this makes a huge difference, but I'll probably end up moving the braces to be attached to where the rear shock absorber is attached to the frame holding the rear wheel (this will probably involve rigging a simple adapter as the shock  bolts are even bigger but I've seen this done before on Sofriders on their forum.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

First Pictures

Since I've been asked for pictures, here are two.  I'm sure more will come as time moves on.

The rack on the bike is a Delta seatpost rack with pannier support.  I like the rack, but it won't allow me to attach my daughter's Trek tag-along bike at the same time, so I'll probably switch it out for a standard rack.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sofrider - The First Four Days of Riding

I got the bike Wednesday last week.  It took me about an hour and a half to get it from the box to completely assembled.  Friday morning, I tightened everything up and started trying to ride this beast. The Australian Cruzbike site has this nice page about how to start riding.  I looked it over the night before and found it very useful.  The basic idea is that one "Flinstone"s the bike (that is sits on the seat and propels only by pushing on the ground with your feet) and then practices coasting.  Eventually, you lift your feet and put them on the pedals without pedaling. Within 10 minutes I was pedaling up and down my driveway.  I practiced for a total of about 30 minutes.
Friday afternoon, I took the bike out on quiet streets and rode a 1/4 mile stretch  back and forth about 20 times, starting and stopping.  Unlike Illinois, there are no flat areas around here, so I got plenty of practice starting on hills.  After about half an hour, I wrote the 2 miles round trip to my children's school and back as well as another jaunt for another 2 miles in the neighborhood.  I was getting pretty good although I was pretty exhausted as well.

On Saturday, I took the bike out for a standard 9 mile ride.  I averaged 10.5 mph and dealt with grades of about 6-7% with no problem.  It was already clear to me at this point that I am going to like this bicycle. On Sunday, I did an 11 mile ride (similar path to Saturday's ride with an extra loop) averaging 11.5 mph.  I was quite tired at the end, but that was a very enjoyable ride.

Monday was a vacation day from work, and Kate (my wife) and kids came a long for a ride (I pulled both kids in a trailer).  You can see the ride and stats here.  Pulling the kids, I only averaged 9.5 mph for a 9 mile ride (this is pretty normal for me pulling both of them).  The Sofrider comes with a double front crank (48-34) and an 11-34 cassette.  The cassette has enough range, but I was worried that the front crank didn't.  After pulling the kids up the hills, I went ahead and ordered a triple crank (48-36-26) that I think will make the hills much easier.

Now that I've ridden the bike about 40 miles, here are my impressions:

  • I like it a lot.  It's a lot of fun and I find it much more comfortable than my folding bike and quite a bit more comfortable than my "comfort" bike.
  • As far as my legs go, I can tell I use different muscles than my upright bicycle and even a bit different than my long wheel base recumbent bike.  My forearms and shoulders were (the good kind of) sore after my Sunday and Monday rides, so this is using my upper body more.
  • It is a front-wheel steering bike like almost all others.  But it almost feels like a rear wheel steering bike.  I think that this is because I am sitting so close to the steering pivit point and  suspect this is probably  true of short wheel base recumbent bicycles in general (but this is the only one I've ever ridden).
Update: For those of you who are trying to learn how to ride a Cruzbike yourself, or even just considering it, here is the best advice I have for you:

  • If you are riding and feel like you are losing control, take your feet off of the pedals.
 The Cruzbike is rather unique among bicycles in that it directly couples steering and pedaling. This interaction takes time to get used to.  After the first few days riding, I didn't feel the need to do it much anymore, but when I though things started to go badly, pulling my feet of the pedals let my "normal" bicycle skills kick in and make everything alright.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Why a Recumbent Bicycle? Why a Cruzbike?

I started riding bikes again regularly a several years ago.  What I noticed on longer rides on my mountain bike is that my hands start to go numb after a half an hour or so.  To fix this, I got an upright "comfort" bike which did help a lot, but just didn't want to move as quickly as I'd like.  The more comfortable I was, the less aerodynamic.  And while upright was more comfortable as far as seating, it still wasn't very comfortable.

I've been fascinated by recumbent bicycles for a long time (I even bought a used long wheel base recumbent (LWB) several years ago) and thought that they would solve several of the issues I was having.  I'm not afraid to ride weird things (I can still ride my unicycle).  Having experienced a LWB, I wanted to try a short wheel base recumbent (SWB).

I started reading about these bikes in depth about 8 months ago.  One of the many brands I looked at is Cruzbike. These are SWB that are front wheel drive (the chain drives the front wheel instead of the usual rear wheel).  It also has a moving bottom bracket (basically, where the pedals are attached to a piece between the fork and the handlebars).  This makes some things more simple and some more interesting.

For one thing, it means that when you pedal (hard), your feet are pushing on the steering.  As a result, your arms are more involved.  So in addition to riding a Cruzbike being quite a bit different, it means that you can get more of a full body workout and there are theories that this makes Cruzbikes better hill climbers.

So, long-story-short, I got myself a Cruzbike Sofrider.  More soon.

About Me


Recumbent - Lying down, especially in a position of comfort or rest; reclining.
Quant - An expert in the use of mathematics and related subjects.

That pretty much describes me (although I'll leave it to others to decide if the "expert" is the right noun).

I'm an ex-high energy physicist (last working on the CMS experiment at CERN) who is now a quant at a hedge fund.  (This is actually a common happening for high energy physicists!).  I'm married  (to Kate) and am the father of two wonderful (although not always well behaved) children.

Since moving to Connecticut, I have been trying to get in better shape by regularly riding bicycles.  I just bought a Cruzbike Sofrider, which is a front wheel drive short wheel base recumbent bicycle.