2012 New Year’s Day Ride

I don’t want to confess how long it’s been since I was on my bike. I carried it all the way to Missouri, let some great riding weather slip by while I was working on some projects and then decided I didn’t want to expose my Florida Surly Long Haul Trucker to ice and sleet. OK, I didn’t want to expose ME to ice and sleet.

Osa said she had been slacking off while I was gone, but had gone riding three or four times.

When we got to the end of Hypoluxo Island on a perfect New Year’s Day, I warned her that she might want to slow down since her bike handling skills might have deteriorated. Sure enough, she didn’t pay any attention to me; if anything, she pedaled harder. Just as she saw seawall and water looming closer, she grabbed the front brake. I’ve done an endo and gone flying over the bars, but I’ve NEVER landed as high as she did. (You can click on the photos to make them larger.)

Fire departments don’t get cats out of trees

“Osa,” I explained. “We may have a problem. I was in fire dispatch one day when a 9-1-1 call came in from a distraught woman who said her kitty cat, Snookums, got out of the house and was perched at the very tiptop of a tall tree in the front yard. She was emphatically requesting a ladder truck be dispatched immediately to effect a rescue.

“The dispatcher tried, as gently as possible, to say that fire departments didn’t rescue cats from trees anymore. It’s just to dangerous for the firefighters. Finally,” I said, “the exasperated dispatcher snapped, ‘Lady, Snookums will eventually come down on her own. When was the last time you drove down the street and saw a skeleton of a cat in a tree?'”

Fortunately, Osa, like Snookums, managed to extract herself from the tree. I noticed that she was a lot more careful grabbing that front brake on the way home.

Every word of this story is true. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to eschew exaggeration and tomfoolery.


BoomBotix: New Favorite MP3 Speaker

I have a new favorite Mp3 speaker for my bike, and I’m surprised that I like it. The funny-looking BoomBotix does a good job at a reasonable price. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

Christmas season is coming up, so here’s where you can get your BoomBotix BB1 Portable Speaker for your favorite cyclist (even it that’s you). If you click on that Amazon link, you’ll get it quickly and I’ll get a tiny piece of the action at no additional cost to you. Commercial’s over. I wouldn’t link to it if I didn’t like it.

i-Ride Pro isn’t an option

When the BoomBotix people contacted me, I said, sure, send me one. [Full Disclosure: the unit I reviewed was provided at no cost to me, not that it would have made any difference.]

My old favorite – the Active Tunes i-Ride Pro – has had customer service problems and may even be out of business. Their website appears to be down. Based on my last experience and customer complaints I’ve received, I can see why. The vendor had problems with his Chinese suppliers, then he had serious family health issues that took priority. I guess it got too be much for him.

Funky design was off-putting

Right after I unpacked it, I send several questions to the supplier, along with a first impression: “Gut reaction right out of the box: it’s ‘cute’ and perfect for the young, ‘edgy’ demographic. Less perfect for the long distance tourist, who is generally older and more interested in performance than appearance.”

“It’s a lifestyle device”

BoomBotixer Lief Storer responded, “I like your ‘gut reaction’…. that’s exactly what we’re going for. I suppose its also worth noting that this product isn’t really restricted to just biking. It’s more of a lifestyle device. Surprisingly, we get a lot of older users that just like the look and use it for simple tasks like gardening, working out in the garage, hiking, or general travel. It’s not who we market to, but its sometimes who buys them and loves them.”

I’m won over by the BoomBotix BB1

My next email to Lief was a little more positive: “Second gut reaction: I’m more impressed than I was when I opened the box. My kid came over tonight and I was showing it to him, saying that I thought I was going to have a tough time writing a favorable review.

Then we plugged it in. Very acceptable sound. Better sound than the Active Tunes speaker. In fact, I had to frisk him when he left to make sure it stayed here.

On second look, it’s also less offensive than I thought it was originally. The clip looks sturdy enough to stay on my Camelbak strap.”

BB1 easy to use

The power switch and and Up and Down volume control buttons are located on top of the unit. There’s an LED on it to let you know that it’s on. It blinks when charging and is steady when it’s topped off.

The back has a very sturdy metal clip. There are two rubber-covered jacks under the clip. One accepts a standard 1/8″ audio plug; the other is to plug in a USB cable to charge the battery. It’s claimed to be water resistant (and I believe them). Recharge time is supposed to be about 45 minutes. I didn’t put a stopwatch on it, but that felt about right.

Battery life better than expected

When I read the specs, it said battery life was four hours at full volume (3 watts rated / 5 watts max). That was a major drawback to my iPod Classic. Until I got an external battery, the unit would die before I did. Lief told me that four hours was a conservative estimate.

Being a “trust, but verify” kind of guy, I wanted to see if that was true. Unfortunately, the next few rides I did were with a partner and I generally don’t play music when I’m riding with someone. I DID go on a Tuesday night ride and played it for about 30 minutes when I was by myself. On Thursday night, I decided to ride again. When I grabbed my Camelbak, where I have it clipped, I noticed that the power LED was glowing. Bleep, I thought. It’s gonna be dead. To my surprise, it was still going strong at the end of the evening.

Does it hibernate?

I sent Lief another message: ” Does the unit hibernate or otherwise not draw power when it’s not playing (except to keep the LED lit)?”

His answer: “When the unit is on, it powers the amp and the LED, but the amp will not draw much current if there is no voltage running to the signal input…so you’re basically running the LED and the amp at a really low wattage.”

BB1 battery doesn’t taper off

Another battery question for Lief: “When the battery starts getting low, does the volume start to drop or does the sound quit abruptly?

“The reason I ask is that I wanted to give battery life a test, so I hooked it up to my computer and played it most of the day. It felt like I had to crank up the volume toward the end of the day, but it never went completely dead.”

Leif’s quick response: “As battery gets low, you’ll just get an abrupt stop. Basically as long as you can power the amp up to around 3.5V, then you’ll get full performance. Once you drop below a certain voltage, the battery shuts off completely. If you didn’t do this, it would potentially damage the battery because it would try to push more current, but not have enough voltage.

First try on the Camelbak

I almost always ride with a Camelbak M.U.L.E. I’m not entirely sure if I buy all that “Hydrate or Die” hoopla, but, after a couple of bouts with kidney stones, I DO believe in “Hydrate or you’ll be wishing those pain pills were stronger.” It’s also a good place to hang stuff like the BoomBotix BB1. I thought this mounting position would work great, but it turned out that it put the speaker behind me and was just tall enough that it blocked my Hubbub helmet-mounted mirror.

The BB1 is happy here

There’s a place on the Camelbak strap that holds the speaker where it is close enough to my ear that I don’t have to have the volume turned up too loud and it doesn’t interfere with my view to the rear. I wasn’t happy with the MP3 player just clipped on to the side of the strap, so I took a piece of Velcro strap and put it around the backpack strap so that the Sansa Clip would mount vertically and more securely. (This photo shows the Clip before I used the Velcro strap.) This position would allow me to adjust the volume on the BB1 easily, but I tend to do that directly on the MP3 player.

Is there a bike mount?

What if I don’t ride with a hydration pack? Is there a bike mount for it?

Well, there has been one promised for a long time, but this blog post from the BoomBotix folks explains they’re having trouble getting one they want to sell. I’m pretty sure I could rig a way to hold it on my bike using that nifty Velcro strapping mentioned above.

I like their approach to customer service. They’ve been very responsive to me and they seem to be on the ball in talking about their product and stumbling blocks encountered along the way. I don’t find their website the easiest to navigate, but sometimes I’m flying in the fog with all the instruments spinning, so I hesitate to put all the blame on them.

What’s the bottom line?

If you want to listen to music without earbuds and you want something that’s not TOO big but has decent sound for what it is, and you are looking for reasonable battery life without breaking the bank (roughly 40 bucks), then the BoomBotix BB1 is a good buy. It has a bigger brother (sister), the BB2 that will connect wirelessly using Bluetooth. Blogger Justin does a much better job than I do talking about things audio. I’m a guy who thinks a speaker is what you use to hear a dispatcher intoning “One Adam Twelve, see the woman…”

Again, here’s the Amazon link for the Boombotix BB1 Portable Speaker.

What are those other things hanging off you?

I’m a gadget freak. Hold on a day or so and I’ll post a list of some of the stuff you see in the photo, where you can get it, and any reviews I’ve done.


Ladies Cycling Society Night Ride

I’ve been getting invitations to the Ladies Cycling Society Tuesday night rides for some time, but I’ve either been out of town or lightning has scared me off. I’m not saying I DESERVE to be hit by lightning, but why take a chance that Thor is having an off night and misses the target he was aiming at. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

Riding partner Anne on the mend

Riding Partner Anne has been to several of them, but was afraid she wasn’t going to get medical clearance after a fall that resulted in broken ribs and a punctured lung. She’d like to brag that it happened on her bike, but the real story, while frightening, doesn’t involve road rash or crashing out. (That’s Anne in the pink jersey on the right in the top photo.)

Gender reassignment not necessary

When I got my first invitation from organizer Tyra Forker, I wanted to clear up something first.

Here’s my message to her: “Thank you for adding me to the Ladies Cycling Society. Before I accept the honor, I have to ask one important question: there’s no gender reassignment involved in the membership, is there?”

She quickly assured me that I wouldn’t have to switch to a girl’s bike, but guys are asked to kick in a $5 donation that’ll go toward paying MS150 expenses.

(That’s Tyra, in green, installing a spoke card above.)

Carvel is West Palm Beach institution

Former coworker George Primm and I met Tyra on our way to our first West Palm Beach Critical Mass ride a couple years ago. We were stopped at a red light when a car went blasting through the intersection and almost T-boned another one. She was on one corner and we were on the other.

When the light changed, we stopped to compare notes about what we had seen and started chatting about bikes. She was new in town from Kansas City, down to work on arty stuff at the Armory. We invited her to join us. That marked her introduction to the Freakbike Militia community. We like to thank that chance encounter at a red light has had something to do with her sticking around the area.

Colorful bikes

The rides form up at Carvel Ice Cream on South Dixie on Tuesday nights at 7 P.M. Roll-out, strictly enforced by Tyra is 7:20 SHARP. A coin flip decided whether the group was going south to Lake Worth or north to Palm Beach. The coin came up heads, so Palm Beach it was.

Spoke cards by Tyra

Before we pulled out, though, we were given one of Tyra’s creations: laminated spoke cards to put between our bicycle spokes.

We headed over to Flagler Dr., across the Southern Blvd. bridge, then up A1A to the lifeguard stand on Palm Beach.

As fast as slowest rider

The ride was almost exactly 10 miles from my house, which is only a few blocks from Carvel. It’s a ride that’s billed to be as fast as the slowest rider. My average speed for the whole evening was 9.6 mph. Considering that Anne and I picked up the pace when we were riding back by ourselves, the group ride speed would have been even lower.

A good part of the time was riding in a double line because traffic was so light. If we saw someone coming up behind us, we’d single up. We got lots of friendly waves and had no unfortunate encounters with anyone.

Charlie Brown would have been at home

The invitation said the evening was going to consist of a bicycle ride, a dip in salt water and flying kites. At least three riders brought kites. We arrived at the beach just about dark-thirty. Kites were launched in near – then pitch – darkness. There were a few Charlie Brown moments, but no riders were permanently injured.

A few of the riders headed down to the surf for a quick swim. When Tyra sent an invitation for a swim ride while I was out in the Midwest, I made a suggestion: “Do it sans suits and I bet the guys would kick in more than $5.”

Her response wasn’t exactly a no: “We’re saving the sans suits ride for the calendar photo shoot! Hope you’re enjoying MO besides the heat…”

Getting comfortable on the beach

We had just stated getting comfortable when we saw the glow of a nearly-full moon pulling itself out of the ocean.

Here comes the moon

I had just about decided that this one of those nights when make I’d memories, not photos, when the temptation to grab a few frames got to be too much. I discovered that I’m not capable of hand-holding a camera with an exposure of 8 to 10 seconds. Still, I sort of like the effect.

Just think a couple generation ago, beachcombers might have been illuminated by the soft glow of a campfire. Today, the illumination comes from a smartphone screen.

Waves in the moonlight

You can see from the moon that I was moving the camera around during the long exposure, but the waves came out fairly well.

Goodnight, Moon

Finally, almost too soon, it was time to hop on the bikes and head out. Several of the folks wanted to make a bathroom break, so we rode over to public restrooms in West Palm Beach. (Palm Beachers don’t like to provide those kinds of amenities.) Anne didn’t want to stretch her first bike outing too much since her fall, so we peeled off from the group and headed home by ourselves.

If you are on Facebook, here’s the fan page for the Ladies Cycling Society of the Greater Palm Beaches.




Palm Beach Stambaugh Cottage Move

When seven-year-old Grandson Malcolm went on his first ride on the Palm Beach Lake Trail, he never dreamed he’d get to see a house being moved.

Video of the ride and house move


The first part of the video shows the start of the ride; the second part is the move of the Stambaugh Cottage.

This is the first time I’ve ridden with Malcolm in six or so months. He pedals to school every day, so he’s probably got more miles under his seat than I do for the year. Today’s ride – about 12 miles – was one of his longest, Dad Matt said.

I was really impressed with the way the kid could maintain speed and hold a straight line. When we had to get off the trail and onto city streets from time to time, I didn’t feel any qualms about his ability to ride in light traffic.

Palm Beach landmark being moved

When we were several miles into the ride, a fellow on the trail warned us that it was closed ahead. That’s when I remembered hearing that a landmark Palm Beach building was being moved.

The Stambaugh Cottage, built sometime around 1910, had been used as a golf course caretaker’s home for decades. It had originally been occupied by Orrel Stambaugh, who helped build many of the area’s roads. A story in The Palm Beach Post said that the golf course had planned to tear down the building to put up a new groundskeeper’s house in its spot. Some of Orrel’s descendants put up money to move the house and the golf course donated the building and the money they would have used for demolition to the cause.

As of now, the cottage is sitting on a barge while a final destination is worked out. It took a little over two hours for the house to be moved to the barge after all the initial prep word was done.

Gallery of Stambaugh Cottage move photos

Thanks to Matt for shooting the stills while I concentrated on the videos. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to mover through the gallery.


St. Louis Moonlight Ramble

I was stuck in Cape Girardeau, Mo., waiting for a rebuilt transmission to be put in my van so I could return home to Florida. Brother Mark, who lives in St. Louis, encouraged me to come up for the 48th Annual Moonlight Ramble Saturday night / Sunday morning. It attracts 10,000 riders and kicks off somewhere around midnight.

I told him I didn’t have a big problem with midnight, but that I didn’t like the idea of being on streets clogged with a mix of riders.

He assured me that he had ridden the event several times and that starts are staggered, the streets are wide and the 13-mile route is long enough to let everybody have plenty of space.

Mother loaned me her Mazda

I didn’t bother to even try to see if my Surly Long Haul Trucker would fit in my mother’s four-door Mazda until Saturday mid-afternoon just before the two-hour drive to St. Louis. I figured that her two rear seats fold down, giving access to the trunk, so loading my bike would be a piece of cake.

Well, the seats DID fold down, but the access hole was way narrower than I thought. There was no way I was going to get the bike in THAT car without taking off more than I was willing to take off for a 13-mile gaggle.

Enterprise rental is just up the road

I’ll just rent a car. No big deal. Except that Enterprise closes at 1 p.m. on Saturday and it’s after 3. I put in a call to Wife Lila, who tells me that there’s a Hertz dealer just down the road.

They closed at noon.

I’ll buy a rack

I have a Yakima Kingpin 5 on my van, but it’s stuck in the transmission shop. I don’t trust strap-on racks for good reason. Still, I pulled into Cape Bicycle, folks who wouldn’t steer me wrong. They HAD a rack that looked sturdy enough to hold my LHT, but it cost $149. Too much for one-time use.

How about U-Haul?

College is starting up. They didn’t have a piece of rolling stock to rent me, even if it hadn’t been too expensive. They sent me to Budget. They were closed, too.

At that point, I called Bro Mark and said I was bailing. “When you foul off that many pitches, the next one is either gonna be a strike or a beanball. Somebody’s telling me that I shouldn’t be doing this ride. Even if I could FIND transportation, I have this fear that there’s a tanker truck with my name on it somewhere between Fruitland and Old Appleton.”

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard reward

Mark said he’d document the ride with his iPhone, and that’s what he did. It appears that the Ted Drewes Frozen Custard at the end was the high point of the ride for him. (Either that or he was picking up some product placement payola that he didn’t share with me.)

Moonlight Ramble Photo Gallery

Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to mover through the gallery.