Shallow Thoughts : tags : bike

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Sat, 20 Jan 2024

First Time Biking the White Ridge Bike Trails

[Map of White Ridge Bike Trails] Dave and I finally got around to riding the White Ridge Bike Trails. It's an area north of Albuquerque, adjacent to the Ojito Wilderness (which is also on our to-explore list). Somehow we'd never quite gotten there, but this week was perfect. Here in White Rock our local trails are covered with melting snow, which means they'll be muddy for at least a month even if it doesn't snow any more. But down near Albuquerque they didn't get much snow, and the temperature was forecast as mid-40s, so we hoped conditions would be good.

The map paints trails as Beginner (green), Moderate (blue), Difficult (red), and Severe (black). We're intermediate bikers: pretty comfortable riding over rocks and other modest obstacles, but not good enough to do the super technical stuff like we see at Pajarito. But there's no consistency to bike trail ratings: a lot of trails rated difficult in the bay area were well within our abilities,, while some trails that Los Alamos County puts on their "family friendly" list are so difficult that I can't ride them (we've argued with the county's trail guy, who I don't think is a mountain biker; he insists that they should rated as easy based on some IMBA criterion or other.)

Anyway, the point is that you can't tell what you'll be able to ride without going there and trying it.

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[ 19:41 Jan 20, 2024    More bike | permalink to this entry | ]

Sun, 05 Nov 2023

30-Day Map Challenge #5: An Old Paper Mountain Biking Map

Day 5 of the 30-Day Map Challenge is an analog map.

That got me searching back through old scans, and I found a couple good ones. In particular, some of my old El Corte de Madera maps. [Scan of an old hand-drawn map of El Corte de Madera OSP]

El Corte de Madera Open Space Preserve is one of the open space parks in the Bay Area, above Woodside, CA. It's beautiful, dense redwood forest on a steep hillside. When I lived (and biked) there in the 1990s, ECdM (as it was abbreviated) was particularly popular with mountain bikers for its highly technical trails.

Unfortunately, not everybody agreed about those trails. The Mid-Peninsula Open Space District (MROSD), which administers them, had a policy that there should never be more than one trail going to any particular place, and it also had guidelines for trails that would have eliminated most of the technical ones. The official maps mostly showed the fire roads, which were especially steep, not at all technical, and generally not very interesting for biking.

But there were a lot of good trails at ECdM that weren't on the official MROSD maps. The property had once been used for logging, then for a while it was owned by a motorcycle (dirt bike) club, so there are all sorts of unofficial trails.

Mountain bikers passed around many-times-photocopied unofficial maps, some dating back to the motorcycle club days. One of my treasures in those days was a much-annotated map, marked up with ink of many colors, carried so much in my bike bag that it was coming apart at the folds. Of course, the hand-drawn trails are all approximate: none of us carried any sort of GPS then, and the GPS of the day probably wouldn't have gotten a signal in the deep redwood forests anyway.

In 2013 as we were preparing to move to New Mexico, I tried to find and scan old documents that were prone to getting lost during a move. I found a couple of old ECdM maps, though I'm not sure I found my main one; I remember it being more colorful than this one. Still, this one has a lot of my annotations, so I scanned it in case I lost the paper copy. Looking at it now brings back a rush memories of mountain biking adventures. And the map seems perfect for the 30-Day Map Challenge Day 5: Analog Maps.

Day 4: A Bad Map

By the way, although I didn't do any new work for challenge Day 4: A Bad Map, I wrote an article this past September wherein I go through several quite bad iterations of a choropleth map (regions shaded according to a particular variable — in this case a red-blue voting map) before figuring out how to get the colors right: Los Alamos Voting Data on a Folium Choropleth Map.

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[ 15:23 Nov 05, 2023    More mapping | permalink to this entry | ]

Fri, 23 Dec 2022

A Festive Tree

[Festive tree at the end of Knife Edge trail] Dave and I took our bikes to Knife Edge trail last week to see how it stacked up as a biking trail.

Answer: most of it is ridable, except for the short "knife edge" section that inspired its name ... but it's pretty rocky and bumpy, making it not as fun as other nearby trails. Still, it's a beautiful place with great views.

But there was a reward at the end. Someone had decorated a piñon tree at the very end of the trail. Even better, they used edible decorations — popcorn, berries, pretzels, and what looked like seed balls. Should be popular with the local wildlife!

If you can't make it to the end of Knife Edge, have a festive holiday season anyway!

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[ 18:29 Dec 23, 2022    More humor | permalink to this entry | ]

Tue, 15 Nov 2022

Action Camera Comparison Videos for Mountain Biking

I've long been wanting an "action camera" to shoot mountain biking, and maybe R/C plane, videos.

[Akaso V50x on handlebars] Last week I ordered an Akaso V50x. Everybody seems to agree that Akaso offers the best bang-for-the-buck, but choosing among Akaso's large and varied collection of models isn't easy, especially since there aren't many comparisons between the V50 line and the Brave line. The V50x was well-liked by most reviewers, and gets high praise for its digital stabilization ("6-axis", which apparently means three axes of translation plus three gyro-driven rotation axes).

I worried, though, that all the sample V50X videos I found on YouTube were severely underexposed, and I had written it off my list until I stumbled upon a review that listed all the V50x Settings options and I learned it offers exposure compensation (which it calls "Exposure value").

In the few days I've had the Akaso I've been fairly impressed. The stabilization is indeed very good — if anything, it's almost too good,

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[ 17:46 Nov 15, 2022    More photo | permalink to this entry | ]

Tue, 08 Nov 2022

Fun With Little Bikes

[Jackrabbit ebike at White Rock Canyon]

I wrote in midsummer about the fun Dave and I were having on our Lectric ebikes. We've been riding the Lectrics most days for errand running and jaunts across town, and it's gotten us back into pedalling our regular mountain bikes again, too.

But then one day a big box showed up on the doorstep. Dave had been lusting after a different sort of ebike: a Jackrabbit.

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[ 20:01 Nov 08, 2022    More bike | permalink to this entry | ]

Mon, 26 Jul 2021

E-Biking Fun with the Lectric XP

[Lectric XP above White Rock Canyon] Ever since a friend let us test-ride her electric bike at PEEC's annual Electric Vehicle Show two years ago, Dave's been stewing over the idea of getting an e-bike.

Why an e-bike?

One goal was to help us get into the back country. There are several remote places -- most notably, in Canyonlands' Needles and Maze districts -- that can only be accessed through trails that are beyond our Rav4's ability. Or at least beyond our risk tolerance.

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[ 16:49 Jul 26, 2021    More bike | permalink to this entry | ]

Thu, 19 Aug 2004

Ow my back -- Bikes on VTA

Going to Toastmasters today, I decided I'd try taking light rail. There's a light rail station a few blocks from Coherent, where the group meets, and on this end the Children's Discovery Museum station is about 10 minutes away by bicycle.

(I'm trying to use bikes more and cars less -- more exercise, less pollution. But it's not always easy in most parts of California.)

I tried to use VTA's trip planner, but it's hard to use if you're planning a bike trip: the maximum walking distance you can specify is a mile, and it's a lot farther than that to the closest light rail station. The trip planner prefers buses, which adds a lot to the trip time. If you want to use it for bikes on caltrain or light rail, you have to do your own research to figure out the nearest stations, and use those as your source and destination. You can't just use VTA light rail schedules to plan your trip, because while they have a list of expected arrival times at each station, it's not listed in columnar format like most timetables, so there's no way to tell what time the 10:45 train in San Jose is likely to arrive at Tasman.

Biking to the station and purchasing a ticket went without a hitch, and a train came by maybe 7 minutes later. The web site said to use the middle door of the car, so I did, but there were no bike storage facilities obvious, so when the train lurched into motion I sat down. Eventually I saw a "Bikes ->" sign, so at the next stop I followed it to the end of the car and found the bike storage area.

The way VTA light rail's bike storage works is that there are tracks on the wall of the car, and a hook up near the roof. The hook is way up high and it's offset so you can't stand under it, so I can't just lift the bike straight up like I do when I store my bike on hooks at home. (Maybe really tall people can do that.) There are instructions on the wall that say to get the bike wheels in the tracks, then push on the frame and the seat to walk the bike up the wall, then hang the wheel on the hook. This doesn't work at all; you have to hold on to the front wheel somehow (the handlebars probably work better if you're over six feet all and can reach that high) to keep it from turning, but you have to push against the back of the bike because it's too far in from where you have to stand to be able to hold on to the down tube. Holding on to the seat and top tube doesn't give you enough leverage to swing the bike vertical.

Of course, this would all be easy with a nice lightweight bike. I guess everyone should be commuting on a 24-lb aluminum or titanium wonder. (I have a lovely 24 lb mountain bike, which I don't use for commuting after my previous lovely lightweight bike was stolen. And yes, it was locked, which isn't an option on light rail.)

(Bikes on Caltrain are a lot easier. There are bike racks near the doors, and you just wheel your bike into them and secure them with a bungee cord.)

I eventually did get my bike hooked, and settled down for the ride, covered in sweat (much more so than I had been from the bike ride) and watching the alarming swaying of the bike, wondering whether it might come off the hook (they're more secure than they look). I exited at Tasman, rather than going to the end of the line (Baypointe) and transferring to the Tasman line to get closer to Coherent. I was running late and figured it would be faster to bike it. As it is, I made a wrong turn after I got off the train, so I was late anyway. It took me an hour and a quarter for the whole trip, but that includes ten minutes lost to my navigational error. The trip takes about 25 minutes by car in average traffic. A little over double car-time seems fairly typical for public transit.

On the way back, I decided to take the Tasman line to see how much difference it made. It was a 12 minute wait for a train, but even so, the trip took an hour and ten minutes, about five minutes longer than when I rode the Tasman section. Probably worthwhile.

But it was on the return trip that my problems started. The bike section had three bikes in it already, so I didn't have much room to work with struggling to get my bike up, and managed to wrench my back in the process, and couldn't get past that to get the bike up where it needed to be. A nice fellow rider helped me.

I rode the rest of the trip in pain. I got the bike down without too much trouble when I got to the transfer station, but when transferring to the Santa Theresa line again I couldn't lift it high enough -- it hurt too much. Again someone helped me.

I sat near the bike, trying to find a position that didn't hurt so much. Every so often someone else came on with a bike, struggled with it for a while, eventually got it up, then looked at me, we exchanged sympathetic glances, and the other rider would say, "My bike is heavy" or "I used to have a lighter bike, but it got stolen". Apparently it's not just me -- lots of commuters have this problem with the VTA bike racks, because they're set up for fancy lightweight bikes and lots of people use cheap heavy bikes for commuting.

(That made me feel better. I don't normally have back problems, and I'm fairly strong for my size. I have no trouble lifting a bike, even this heavy klunker, over my head to store it on a normal hook. It's the unusual angles on the VTA cars, the inaccessibility of the hook, and the lack of space in which to work which caused problems for me.)

I'm home safely now, with ibuprofen and a comfortable chair, wondering how long my back is going to be sore and whether I'll have the courage to try VTA again.

Certainly not without a regimen of abdominal and back exercises first. Or a much lighter bike.

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[ 17:19 Aug 19, 2004    More misc | permalink to this entry | ]