Sunday, December 3

Cycle RAT

Hmm, Where Might this Colorful Tree Be? Annie SAID Bikes had to be Involved!
Back in the day, Rantwick held an annual "Rantwick Autumn Throwdown;" RAT for short. It started when he looked for challengers to "The King of Autumn." The King was a spectacular tree. After a few years, seems it was the third or fourth RAT, Anniebikes took up the responsibility, and now it's just a fond memory. JUST IN CASE, however, at top is my own mysterious RAT entry for this year. It was shot somewhere north of Texas and east of Washington. For those still mystified, the photo at bottom clears up the "cycle" part of this title and also the particular locale.

Tending to the Bikes on an Autumn Tour

Wednesday, October 11

No Dogs or Bicycles Allowed

Dogs and Bicycles are Banned from the Wooden Boardwalks in Yellowstone Park
I notice things related to both dogs and bicycles more than a lot of people that don't own dogs or ride bicycles. Recently, we passed through Yellowstone National Park. My loyal reader may know that it is the World's first National Park. It was created under US Grant and was largely protected under the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt. My reader might also know that many hot springs are accessed via wooden boardwalks that pass over the hot and unstable ground. Dogs and bicycles are prohibited from these boardwalks.

I suspect that bicycles are prohibited in order to keep people from riding on the sometimes slick boardwalks. Bike racks are provided, such as the one shown below.

Bike Racks are Provided for Bicycles. Locks Not Provided.
It might not be quite so clear why dogs are also prohibited; particularly those on leashes. Well, dogs have been known to lunge at passing people and it'd be pretty gruesome if a passerby fell into a hot spring while trying to avoid that aggressive dog. My own theory is that dogs are banned in order to protect water dogs such as Labrador Retrievers such as my own. He's been know to leap off docks into unknown waters, and even sometimes when on a leash. I'd hate to see Fergus jump off a boardwalk into one of those clear but nearly boiling springs. Some prohibitions just make sense.

I'd Hate to Imagine a Dog after Extraction from an Inviting-Looking, but Nearly Boiling Spring

Thursday, October 5

A Tent for Eva?

Shower Tent Set Up in Ocean Shores. Water is Temperature Controlled from Outside of RV. Tent was $35 Locally Sourced
Trevor Woodford, over on his excellent "Original Purple Traveller" blog rides his bike when his RV, named "Eva," permits. On a recent post, I inquired about how useful his "Eva the Eriba's" in-trailer shower was. It turned out it was marginal. I noted that I'd seen shower tents that might be just the trick when stopped at a campsite without showers.

This morning, I stopped and got a shot of one that's currently stopped on the owner's empty lot in Ocean Shores. It is shown at the top of this post. The owner noted that it cost $35 at the Aberdeen, Washington Bimart. He also noted that his rig had hot/cold outlet on the outside of his RV that made things really convenient. I suspect that option isn't in the cards for Trevor, what with the cost of British Airways First Class travel nowadays. However, Amazon has a lot of these things in prices ranging from $30 to as much as you want to spend.

It seems to me that smaller ones are best in the "foldable popup" variety. For a little more work, you could get one that is much bigger. Both varieties are shown below. For sunnier days, one could even use one of those solar showers, in which water in a bag is heated by the sun. THOSE are just the ticket for a quick after swim shower when on a boat. Heck, one of those solar showers might even be nice for rinsing off sweat after a spirited bike ride upon return. One thing all these things have in common is they store in little space, are quick to set up or put away, and don't weigh a lot. I'm not sure how Trevor's RV shower experiences have been, but there seems an awful lot of drying down and moisture afterwards to make taking a shower in the RV entirely satisfactory. In-house toilets, on the other hand, are WONDERFUL for those late night times when you have to go and the camp facilities are a long ways off and it is raining...

Popup Tent for about $35
Bigger Tent for about $100


They Even Sell Solar Showers. Just the Thing for a Tent Where You Don't Want to Heat Water IN the RV. About $12

Friday, September 29

Standards - Be Ignored

Might Topeak Have put Holes in to Help the Poor Cyclist?
For a brief, shining moment, I thought that Topeak would let me install legally required equipment without an undue amount of fiddling. Alas, it turned out not to be so. As my loyal reader knows, I've figured out how to install a SAE reflector on a Topeak rear rack. That post is shown here.

Last week, I got ANOTHER Topeak rack. This one was going to go on one of the other bikes. I picked Topeak because their stuff works together. I particularly like the way their bags slide into their racks interchangeably, without needing to use velcro to finish things. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean it works with stuff MOST people consider standard fitment. Like legally required stuff.

Close, but no CEE GAR!
This week, my brand new Topeak rack included a cheesy, plastic mount for a rear light/reflector. Looking at it, it looked as if it'd work with my SAE Standard reflector. Sadly, Topeak did not make it more than close enough to get me briefly excited. In other news, you can see how the rack pretty much obscures the CPSC-required reflector that Trek put on the bike. The photo below shows this, as well as just how much reflector I'm getting for those dark mornings. For the time being, I suspect the adhesive on the back of the SAE reflector will work pretty well, though a plastic Topeak piece probably isn't as good to keep it stuck as the painted metal of the rack. We shall see.

If you Use the Mounts Trek Provides, You Cover Up the Reflector Trek Provides

It looks as if Ace Hardware and tin snips will still be required for a permanent solution. I guess I'm glad I documented that solution earlier and that I've already got a tie cut to precisely the proper shape!

Monday, September 18

Balance and Power

Dallas Museum of Flight Supports the Popular Image of the Wrights and Their Cycling Company
This post is, more or less, a book review. Recently I read again about the effort that the Wright Brothers expended in order to make the first sustained human controlled flight in history. This book, by David McCullough, entitled "The Wright Brothers, recounts their journey. My loyal reader may recall the Wright Brothers as bicycle mechanics, but that serves only to minimize their accomplishments. In truth, their accomplishments were made possible by their cycling background, combined with the love of reading instilled in them by their parents. McCullough makes this point, but fails to emphasize some of the groundbreaking accomplishments these two brothers from Dayton, Ohio accomplished.


  • As cyclists, they realized that proper balance was essential to controlled flight. Any cyclist knows that balance is a prerequisite to movement. The Wrights realized early on that balance was even trickier for powered flight than it was for cycling.
  • Their learning led them to absorb virtually every book written on human flight. One of their sources was Samual Langley, the head of the Smithsonian Institution and an erstwhile competitor to be first in flight with his "Aerodrome." More on this later.
  • They realized that scientific research, whether peer reviewed or not, was sadly lacking. One example was the absence of any serious research into the principles behind propeller operation despite their having been used in ships for a half century. They had to develop the principles themselves. They achieved far better efficiency than the best ship propellers of the time.
  • Similarly, stability and control laws were lacking; this led them to build their own, homemade wind tunnel. One of their first conclusions is that the big problem in flight was the learning of how to control the aircraft, not in the basic principles.
  • The Wrights were far more than sinple mechanics. According to McCullough, before the turn of the century, they were turning out close to 200 machines a year when they started working on building a flying machine. The photos above make it look like they were a couple of country hicks working with tools one might have seen in the American Revolution. They don't look like an outfit that had a wind tunnel in the back room.
  • As they developed the scientific principles needed for flight, they asked all the auto manufacturers of the day to provide them with an engine. They asked for an engine that could develop at least 8Hp and weighed less than 200Lb. Nobody offered to meet their specifications. So they put one of their employees, Charlie Taylor to work. He built one that weighed 150Lb and put out 12Hp. Score another for the cyclists. For comparison, the 1912 Model T engine weighed around 300Lb without transmission and put out 20Hp.
  • Their choice of Kill Devil Hill was also not accidental. They researched all the potential
    From Wikipedia
    locales, looking for one that was relatively unpopulated, with consistent wind, and with lots of level and hilly locales for launch/recovery sites.
  • Somewhat strangely, considering the almost instant spread of news today, the first accurate eyewitness account of the Wright Brothers flights didn't come out until January 1905; more than a year after their first flight. The publication: "Gleanings in Bee Culture."
  • The editor of the first accurate article on human flight (the same "Bee Culture" guy) sent a copy to Scientific American with an offer of free republication. Far from taking him up on the offer, Scientific American ignored it and, instead, a full year later, ridiculed the notion that the Wrights were capable of something they'd been doing for over two years. Wilbur Wright opined: "If they will not take our word and the word of many witnesses, ... we do not think they will be convinced until they see a flight with their own eyes." By that time, the Wrights were negotiating the sale of the Wright Flyer III to the French Government after receiving no interest from the US Government. Three years later, they were making their famous flight over the Statue of Liberty.
  • Oddly, even long after this, in 1928, the Smithsonian turned down a Wright offer to donate the original Flyer. Instead, the Smithsonian falsely claimed that Langley produced the first machine capable of flight. They even had Glenn Curtiss modify it so it COULD fly. As a result, the original Wright Flyer was sent to England to reside in the London Science Museum. It stayed there until after Orville's death in 1948. I guess we're lucky it wasn't hit by the Germans in the Blitz.

I guess the US Government has reconsidered. After the Flyer went to England, the Smithsonian board recanted their denial of the Wrights being the first to fly. Perhaps final vindication came in 1969 when a piece of the original Wright Flyer went to the Moon with Neil Armstrong. One Giant Step indeed!