Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Commutigami Mantis

Since my last entry two weeks ago, I've ridden the Cruzigami Mantis just over 125 miles (for more than 200 miles total).  Since the weather has been cooperating (read: above freezing temperatures in the mornings), I have commuted for the first time this year.  Using the seatpost rack I showed last time, I had no problem mounting my pannier in which held my work clothes (I did have to mount the pannier toward the end of the rack to avoid it hitting the rear brake.  I could not tell any difference with the Mantis without the rack or with the rack and the pannier.  And unlike most other folders, I clearly don't have a problem with my heels hitting the pannier.  If I wanted to carry a lot more weight, I'd probably install a proper (supported) rack, but the seatpost rack has a weight limit of 22 lbs and that seems quite sufficient for my commuting needs.

In three days commuting, I rode just under 44 miles.  Not bad considering I doubled the mileage I would have ridden if I had limited myself to the most direct home-to-work-and-back route (that would have been under 20 mile).

The Commutigami, err.. Cruzigami Mantis with Pannier.

I also went out for several nice fun rides, including the ride below, where I managed my fastest ever time, a moving average of 15.1 mph for a ride of just under 600 feet of climbing and almost 11½ miles.  This bike just flies.

Yesterday, I went out for a nice two hour ride into New York state. At about 7¾ miles, I'm about to reach the maximum elevation of my ride and I see two diamond frame riders quickly approaching in my mirror.  I kicked it into high gear (both literally and figuratively) and gave it all I had.  I managed to hold them off for just over a mile before they caught me (I could go a bit faster on the descents and they definitely had me beat on the climbs).  Both were very friendly as they past. A mile later I pulled into a gas station to catch my breath just after the two other riders.  I sat and talked with them for a few minutes and drank the Gatorade they bought for me.  It was a very nice mid-ride pick-me up.

The weather this year has not been very conducive to riding (although the weather was a lot worse in other parts of the US, so I should be careful complaining). At this point last year, I had ridden over 630 miles, where I have just under 415 miles this year.  On the plus side, I have a total elevation gain of over 25,000 feet where as I had under 20,000 feet last year, so I've done 25% more climbing in 30% less distance.  I can tell I'm getting better at climbing.  It still sucks, but it sucks a little bit left.

With the lower seat angle, I often sit up straight when I approach intersections to get a better view. One interesting thing that I've noticed is that how the steering on the Mantis changes drastically.  The bike is much twitchier. A small part of this has to do with generally riding at lower speeds.  But I think that most of it has to do with the fact that when I sit up, I move the center of mass of the system (me and the bike) quite a bit forward.  This is a well known feature of short wheel base (SWB) recumbents and for the reason of the center of mass.  But it is still interesting being able to feel the difference (I find the lower seat angle makes the Mantis feel very stable).

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lots of Nice riding
or Winter is Finally Over!

Since my last entry two weeks ago, I've gotten out for just over 100 miles of riding (five rides on the Cruzigami Mantis and one on the Sofrider).

First, I ordered a new front derailleur pulley for the Sofrider.  When I removed the old one, I found out that it wasn't broken, but rather the cable had simply fallen off.  The new one spun more easily, so I put it on.  I also moved the N-Gear jump stop down a bit.

The new front derailleur pulley above the jump stop.

When I had the Sofrider up on the stand, the chain was running a bit rough (as well as having evidence that the Mantis was faster than the Sofrider; see below), so I replaced it with a KMC 8 speed chain and while I was at it, I replaced the cassette with Shimano HG41 8 speed cassette as well.

I took the Sofrider out for an 11½ mile jaunt and found that it is still slower than the Mantis (for comparison, here's a 14 mile Mantis ride where the first 9½ miles are the same that where the 14 miles are completed in the same time as the 11 mile Sofrider ride).  The drive train on the Sofrider is now quiet and runs well.  The seat angle on the Sofrider is higher than on the Mantis (and therefore the Sofrider has more aerodynamic drag), but I believe the tires (and the tire liners) on the Sofrider is what's causing a lot of the difference as well.  I'll probably probably try new tires to see how big an effect it is. Hopefully more soon.

The rest of the time, I've been riding the Mantis.  I replaced the front tire with a Schwalbe Marathon Racer (a nice enough tire, but a real *#$& to get on).

The Mantis feels very similar to the Sofrider (albeit faster). Last weekend, I went out for two different rides including an (almost) 24 mile course that I've recently done with my Sofrider where I averaged 1.8 mph faster on the Mantis (12.3 mph) than on my Sofrider (10.5 mph).  The Mantis feels just as stable as the Sofrider and it doesn't suffer from its small wheels at all (either in terms of speed or stability).

On Wednesday, Kate wasn't tutoring and rain was expected the next couple days, so after putting the monkeys to bed, I checked the weather report to see what time the sun was setting and set out at 18:45. The ride started off brilliantly.   I was climbing up one of my favorite hills when I realized I should have checked the weather report more carefully. I saw lightening a few miles ahead.

After reaching the top of the hill, I turned around and really started moving.  For a couple miles, it looked as if I would outrun the storm.  But, alas, that didn't happen.  I completed 9 miles with a moving average of 14.5 mph (my fastest ever recorded average speed of an entire ride).  I do wonder how fast I would have been if I hadn't been trying not to get wet; apparently a little motivation can go a long way.

The seat angle on the Mantis was already lower than on the Sofrider. But I wanted it lower still, so I bought a layback seatpost and seatpost shim and I successfully installed these yesterday morning.

The layback seat post and lower seat angle.

The entire bike with the layback post and lower seat angle.

The seat angle is lower than I'd ever had it (and there's still more room for it to go lower still).

Although I could install a fully supported rack (as I did on the Sofrider), but I decided instead to get a seatpost rack which allows panniers instead.  It has a quick release, so when I don't want it, it's easy enough to remove.

The clamp-on rack that allows panniers.

The rack from behind.

Yesterday morning, I went out for a quick 14 mile ride.  With the angle it is, I'm thinking of making a neck rest (like this homemade one for a Cruzbike Silvio) and I'd almost certainly want to add it if I decide to go even lower.  For most of my riding, I enjoy being even lower (less drag).  At intersections, I often found it useful to sit up straight to get a better view.

Today I went for my first ever ride with the Sound Cyclist Bike Club (or SCBC).  The 28 mile ride (with an estimated average speed of 12.5 mph) started 4 miles away from my house and I decided to ride to it instead of driving.

For the most part, everything went as planned.  I left with enough time so that if I got lost (which I almost did), I'd still get there in plenty of time.  And that worked.  We started off at 10:30 with a nice downhill to get things going.

One problem I have riding with DF (diamond frame - regular bicycles) is when I go out with a group that has the same average speed, our speed profiles don't match that well. Because I'm generally more aerodynamic, I go faster on the descents than most of them (and because of where I was in the pack, if they were coasting down a hill, I was often riding my brakes). Because I suck at climbing hills and the aerodynamic advantage is gone, the steeper the hill, the slower I climb.  There were several points where we grouped and it wasn't until  towards the end that I was really at the back of the pack. At somewhere around 22 miles in the group ride, I fell far enough behind that I must have missed a turn and at 23½ miles (28 miles total) reached a busy street that I was sure wasn't on the route.  My GPS pointed me towards home and it was a fairly uneventful 3½ miles.

Over the ride with the group, I averaged 12.8 mph, so I did pretty well.  I clearly still suck climbing hills, but as I've said before: "Hills suck, go climb hills."  Sounds like I need to follow my own advice.

As of now, I have just over 100 miles on my Cruzigami Mantis. I set out to make a bike that works well and can fold or be packed.  I've ridden stably up steep hills averaging at less than 3 mph and ridden down similar hills at 40 mph (ok... 39.9 mph) .  The Mantis is as stable as my bigger bike, as fast as (or actually a bit faster than) my bigger bike, but folds and should be packable to a much smaller size.  I think it's fair to say it's a success.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Good Weekend

This last weekend was the first weekend I didn't have to work the holiday this year and we took good advantage of it.  I got the trailer attached to Kate's bike and the trail-a-bike hooked up to my Sofrider and off we went.  We did a nice 7½ mile ride around Rowayton (part of Norwalk).  It was Kate's first ride of the year and we're off to a great start.

Kate pulling the little monkey in the trailer.

The big monkey and me.  What a gorgeous day.

On Saturday I went out for my longest ride of the year (just shy of 24 miles with 1250 feet of climbing).  I haven't been to New York by bike for a while and it was another gorgeous day.  I've clearly lost some of my fitness over the winter, but it's not horrible.
On Sunday I went for another ride.  I started off with a familiar route, but ended up exploring a lot of new territory.  I was about 15 miles into the ride  well until the pulley of the front derailleur of my Sofrider died.
I was able to get the derailleur shifted into the middle ring and made it home without further incident.

I rode just shy of 50 miles this weekend.  This brings my year-to-date total up to 180 miles, more than a fifth of which is pulling one or more monkeys.  I've ordered a new pulley (and today I received the new tire for my Cruzigami Mantis).  So, all-in-all, a very nice start to spring and riding this year.