Friday, November 2, 2012

CanBike Emergency Braking Technique - Part 2.

I sent my previous post about CanBike emergency braking technique to Jan Heine, editor of Bicycle Quarterly magazine. He responded with some good observations and corrections to my original post. Here's a summary of his main points:
  1. the rear break can be useful, but only when it's very slippery, eg. in snow and ice,
  2. the rear brake contributes very little stopping power even at low speed,
  3. the convention of having the left hand control the front brake lever is important because it's consistent - it avoids nasty surprises, and
  4. it's very important to brace yourself against the handlebars when braking hard.
I'm pretty sure the last point was not addressed in my CanBike courses - it'll go into my own notes for sure, if I ever teach a course. The winter 2008 issue of Bicycle Quarterly addressed brakes in detail, and is described on Jan's blog. His complete response to me is well worth reading. Here it is:
The reason the rear brake does not contribute even at low speeds is that almost all the weight is transferred to the front wheel. Furthermore, focusing on one brake only is easier. When you brake truly hard, the rear wheel will lock up even under very little braking, and the rear wheel will slide, which makes controlling the bike difficult. It takes a lot of slipperiness to make the rear brake useful - snow and ice, or rain after a long dry spell are common scenarios. There, you cannot brake hard anyhow, and the weight transfer is limited.
We discussed the issue of which hand should control which brake in our "Brake Special" Vol. 7, No. 2. I don't think a general recommendation is needed, but consistency is useful, so riders don't accidentally actuate the wrong brake.
The most important result of the test for us was how hard one can brake with correct technique. We commonly got the smell of burnt brake pads rising from the front brake after we came to a stop. The risk of going over the handlebars only occurs at very low speeds, because at higher speeds, wind resistance pushes the rider backward. The rear wheel rises slowly, and riders easily can open the brake to counter this. Most "over-the-bars" incidents appear from the rider flying forward as the bike slows down, similar to car occupants flying forward into the windshield if they don't wear seatbelts. Bracing yourself against the handlebars is crucial during hard braking. That is perhaps the most important part of the technique to be taught.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

CanBike Emergency Braking Technique - Part 1.

I just completed the CanBike Instructors Workshop offered by the city of St. John's. The city now has several people who are nationally certified CanBike instructors, and the intention is to offer these courses to the public - another step forward for cycling here on the Avalon, but in this post I want to talk specifically about how the courses address emergency braking.

The CanBike emergency braking technique has the rider brake hard while shifting body weight toward the rear wheel and keeping the cranks horizontal. No minimum speed is specified for performing the test. In both my CanBike courses (I completed CanBike II as well) the instructors pointed out that the front brake does 75 % or more of the work.

After performing the CanBike exercise numerous times I happened upon a report titled "Testing Brakes" by Jan Heine, with Hahn Rossman and Mark Vande Kamp, in Bicycling Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 1, Autumn 2011. These riders experimented with various equipment on a paved 12 % descent, braking hard after attaining 50 kmh. Their technique is pretty much the same as the CanBike manuals; note in the photo above (from the BQ report) how the rider's weight is way back behind the seat, and that the cranks are just about horizontal. Heine et al found that "the rear brake is useless during emergency stops". Should the CanBike emergency braking technique be taught then using the front brake only?

This might not be the obvious conclusion because these writers also cede that "The rear brake is useful when it is so slippery that hard braking on either wheel will cause a skid". Something else that would need to be established is whether the rear brake contributes more at lower speed. I doubt that my classmates and I in the Canbike course attained anything like 50 kmh when we performed the road test. One thing that CanBike could implement, and should I think, is a minimum speed for performing the braking test: 50 kmh may be fast for people just learning the technique but surely an emergency stop from 30 kmh is something that should be in every bicyclist's arsenal.

The Bicycle Quarterly report found a wide discrepancy in performance with different brake pads; CanBike instructors would certainly do well to keep this in mind when evaluating students.

By the way, BQ tested with the front brake controlled by the right hand brake lever; for most people this would be the stronger hand but it's also the case that bicycles in North America are normally set up opposite to this! The BQ report doesn't go into it but I concluded that this is one aspect of bicycle set-up that should have no default - the stronger hand should control the front brake!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ride Around the Harbour - Otter at Quidi Vidi

My rides are getting much shorter as the season winds down, so they`ll be more and more centred around St. John`s. But even a leisurely cruise in the "fog and mist" can be rewarding (see the video below). Today was just a short spin around St. John's Harbour and Quidi Vidi Lake - just over 23 km and very flat, but great for someone who has only a day in the city and would like to ride a bit. With some adaptations it would also be suitable for novice or very young riders.

Domestic Architecture of the South Side
Along the South Side Road you see things like this beautiful domestic architecture juxtaposed with the encrusted hulks of ferries and trawlers hauled up on the drydock for repairs. It`s not everyone`s aesthetic I suppose but personally I find these incongruities fascinating!

Marinoni with The Battery in the Background
This photo of the Marinoni was taken from the Small Boat Basin near Fort Amherst on the South Side Road. The background shows the old neighbourhood known as "The Battery". It's just below Signal Hill on the north side of the harbour. I didn`t go out there today but if you have only one ride in St. John`s you should really include it.

Otter at Quidi Vidi
And this cute little bugger was hanging around the slip in Quidi Vidi gut. Moose, caribou, hawks, eagles - you`ll see them all from your bicycle seat around here, and I have, but this was my very first otter! I'd heard reports before of these fellows along the lower sections of Rennie's River; they must swim up from the Gut, then traverse Quidi Vidi Lake and pass under the bridge at Kings Bridge Road. This one was having a great time hanging out around the stages and boats until a couple of dogs scared him. Here`s some video I took with my Sony Cybershot DSC-S650:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Torbay and Flatrock

Marinoni at Flatrock
Today was overcast and cool (about 7 C) but by noon the winds were down to 15 kmh from WSW, so Lewellyn and I decided to hit the road. Lew took a quick glance at the Environment Canada website and, as usual, summed everything up with superb accuracy, predicting we'd have three hours riding before the rain came on. We kept the pace easy but still managed to take in Portugal Cove, Torbay and Flatrock. The distance was 63 kilometers and the average speed 23.2 kmh (see the detailed map at the end of this post). We stopped in Flatrock to take these photos:

Looking southeast from The Grotto

This is the man who keeps me honest on the bike. He's got over ten years on me, and used to have just as many kilometers per hour! But I think I`ve managed to bridge the gap over the past few years.
A View of Flatrock Harbour

Marinoni by the Sea
The Pope and Marinoni
My Marinoni felt an irresistible pull as we passed Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Flatrock. I attribute this to her partly Italian heritage; no way she was going to just breeze by the memorial to Pope John Paul II and his blessing of the fishing fleet here on September 12th, 1984. Certainly I had nothing to do with it - I irreverently spent that day on my bike too! Back then it was a cheap Canadian made Peugeot though. It came from Bill`s Cycle Shop at the top of Long`s Hill, a St. John`s institution which now is no more. Incidentally, does anyone remember anything about Pike`s bicycle shop? I recall going in there and drooling over the bikes when my family first moved into town in the early seventies. Was it on Springdale street?

Here`s the map of today`s route. It`s not exactly flat, but the climbs are short. We took the Back Road out of  Flatrock, which is a little easier than continuing straight up to the highway. There`s a short steep pitch between Windsor Lake and Bauline Line too. The only real difficulty here is planning your exit from the city. I don't recommend it but today I rode through the intersection of Portugal Cove Road and Newfoundland Drive. The hill on the north side of Torbay has little paved shoulder and the vehicles always seem to take it at very high speed. Click on the little blue bicycle dot in the map to see a big version of this.

Bike route 1878044 - powered by Bikemap 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My Super Randonneur Medals

Super Randonneur Medal600 km medalI`m going to rest on my laurels a bit and rehash the 2011 randonneuring season. This was the first year that I succeeded in completing a full Super Randonneur series. If you're not familiar with the sport of randonneuring (in a nutshell it's long distance bicycling), you can find out all you need to know from the Audax Club Parisien and les Randonneurs Mondiaux. I also have a link to the Nova Scotia Randonneurs club under my favourites (to the right here). So here are my medals.

First is the Super Randonneur medal itself: along the bottom edge you can see the little yellow (200 km), green (300 km), purple (400 km) and orange (600 km) ovals denoting the four brevets that must be completed in a single season in order to qualify.
Next is the medal for the 600 kilometer brevet. I rode this in Nova Scotia with the club from Halifax. It was a loop encompassing Sheet Harbour, Pictou, Oxford, Parsboro, Truro and Dartmouth.

400 km medal300 km medalThe 400 kilometer brevet was also in Nova Scotia. We went north from Halifax to Brookfield, then Chezzetcook, Brooklyn, Windsor, Kentville, Chester and back to Dartmouth.

I rode the 200 and 300 kilometer brevets on the Avalon and, to my knowledge, it's the first time brevets of any distance have been recorded and "homologated" from Newfoundland. You can see detailed maps of these routes under "My Favourite Bike Routes" just to the right here. The 300 wasn't entirely a solo effort: my uncle accompanied me on the first 100 kilometers, and my brother and sister in law joined in for the final 75.200 km medal

Monday, October 8, 2012

Marine Drive in October - The Star of Logy Bay

Wow! It's just about the middle of October and I'm still riding in my shorts! Yesterday's outing encompassed St. John's Harbour (as a warm-up) then headed out over the White Hills to Middle Cove. I blogged about it earlier this year, but now I have some snaps! And the climb up Signal Hill is omitted this time.

You'll be riding through the landscape described in The Star of Logy Bay (this recording is from a site maintained by Memorial University - MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada). Just remember the tribulations of that lovelorn troubadour as you climb up from Outer Cove, and it won't seem nearly as painful! Thanks for the photos Deb, aka photoist1.

Total distance is about 42 kilometers, which includes two climbs of about 1 kilometer each, and a couple of short steep pitches. You may sweat doing this, but it's certainly not going to kill you!

Here's the route map:

Bike route 1868878 - powered by Bikemap 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Avalon Biker in Ontario - Part Three

Okay, one more ride from Ontario, then I`m done with it. The route went from the mighty cataract of Niagara down to Niagara on the Lake and back. You can ride the entire thing on a paved bicycle trail, but I did it in the middle of the week, and traffic was so low that I couldn`t resist the open road.

Bike route 1852046 - powered by Bikemap 

Here`s some snaps from the ride. The first one, taken by an Italian family who seemed to be impressed that I was spending the day on the bike, shows your`s truly at the Brock Monument. The second is my old Specialized Allez taking a break overlooking the Niagara River. Last one's a view looking east over the gorge toward Lake Ontario, again taken from the Brock Monument: