Sharing The Road: Safely

bicycle-safetyBicycling weather is just around the corner if you live in the northern part of the United States: believe it or not. That is the good news. The bad news involves automobile and bicycle drivers sharing the road; after a winter off, both drivers may have forgotten how to safely and respectfully co-exist.

In addition to my earlier safety articles, I have compiled several websites and YouTube videos that help define the best ways for automobile and bicycle drivers to share the road.

  1. Bicyclists Behavior & Crash Risks – This is an excellent article with both pictures and videos depicting ‘defensive bicycle driver behavior’.
  2. YouTube Bicycle Safety Videos – A group of videos depicting various various safe and respectful methods for co-existing with automobiles.
  3. Cycling Savvy – The first 1/3 of this article is a sales pitch on the need for bicycle driver education, page down to the start of No Need For Speed. That section, plus Lane Width and Lane Position, Changing Lanes, Merges and Diverges, Bikeways, and Communication have some very good information.
  4. Cycling With Children - Talks about introducing children to safe and respectful bicycling.
  5. The Enforcement Of Imaginary Laws – Depending on the circumstances, a bicyclist may be stopped by a police officer even though the bicyclist is operating in a safe and legal manner. This article discusses several occurrences and various techniques for handling the situation.

Drivers of both types of vehicles, car and bicycle, are responsible for their own safety. Each driver must maintain and operate their vehicle in the manner prescribed by law. Don’t be a dangerous and obnoxious driver, regardless of whether you are operating a car or a bicycle!

Lightweight Tripod & Quick Release

Tripod Head With CameraSmall, lightweight cameras with long zoom lenses are constantly getting better. The good news: touring bicyclists can carry an excellent lightweight camera for catching that once in a lifetime wildlife photo on the other side of the marsh bed. The bad news: it is difficult to get sharp images while hand holding a long zoom lenses camera. Vibration reduction technology helps, but even this has it limitations, and tripods can be heavy and bulky. Enter the Davis & Sanford Quick Connect tripod.

The D&S tripod weighs 11.5 oz, the collapsed length (with ball head folded over) is 15.5”, and the maximum extended height (ground to top of ball head) is 44.5”. The diameter of the collapsed folded tripod legs is 1.75” and the folded width at the top of the ball head is 3”.

Davis & Sanford TripodI also purchased a Tamrac Zipshot Quick-Release kit to allow easy removal of the camera from the tripod; the ball head attachment weighs 0.4 oz, the small camera attachment weighs 0.2 oz, the large camera attachment weighs 0.4 oz, and the cell phone attachment weighs 0.9 oz. The quick release mechanism does quite well with my small camera; it is plastic which can be subject to breakage if excessive pressure is placed on the disconnect arms.

Even though I don’t use the cell phone adapter I did attempt to ‘try’ it out, but neither my Galaxy 2 nor Galaxy 4 phone would fit the holder. The maximum cell phone width that it would accommodate is 2.25”, which seems fairly small by today’s standards; the maximum length it would hold is more than adequate.

I use the tripod/quick release adapter system with a Samsung WB250F camera which weighs 7.5 ounces. Advertisements for this system indicate that its ‘maximum load capacity’ is 3 lbs. In my opinion, there is a big difference between maximum load capacity and functional load capacity.

I have a Nikon DSLR that weighs (with the small zoom lens) 2.73 pounds which I attached to the tripod. The tripod appears somewhat unstable with that much weight on top. There are a couple of tricks which improved the stability: when the camera was vertical I kept the lens weight over one of the tripod legs, when the camera was tilted at 90 degrees I kept the camera weight over one of the tripod legs, and I spread the legs out so they were slightly bowed inward which placed them in tension. These items made the set up somewhat more stable but this is not an arrangement that I would use with any confidence.

The ball head allows 360 degree horizontal rotation of the camera as well infinite vertical angles between 0 – 90 degrees.  I had trouble keeping the ball head screwed tight to the tripod; a little Permatex THREADLOCKER BLUE gel (medium strength) took care of that problem. I also used the gel to attach the quick release base to the ball head.

ElkThe tripod legs are connected to the tripod base with hinge pins. The tripod base/ball head will be somewhat loose if you just spread the legs out. As mentioned above, I place one leg on the ground, and then pull the remaining two legs back toward me so there is a slight inward bow on all three legs. Viola’, the tripod base/ball head is nice and stable.

Small bungee cords hold the individual leg sections together as well as holding the legs to the tripod base. As advertised, all you need to do is hold the tripod base and shake to get the legs to snap into position; most of the time it works. The leg bungee cords could be shortened and one of the 11.25” leg sections removed which would save a little weight; the overall height would be reduced to 32.5”, and the stability would be improved slightly. I have given this some thought, but haven’t actually done this.

Collapsed TripodWhen collapsed, the entire bundle is held together by two self contained bungee cables. These are easily wrapped around and attached, or unattached. It was a nice thought. When collapsed, I turn the top of the all head sideways to minimize the chance for damage with it sticking straight out.

For my purposes, this system has worked very well. I have used it on various types of ground and pavement with different slopes. I have even folded one leg section up to set a short tripod leg on a steep hillside. I have used it in light to medium wind with good results. My camera has a fairly sensitive picture button so there has not been an issue with camera vibration, however, the timed release feature could be used if taking the picture results in blurry images.

The Samsung camera has an 18X optical zoom feature which is more than I can hand hold for sharp pictures. This tripod system has worked well at the maximum zoom. At times, stability has been an issue taking pictures close to the road when big trucks pass by (road vibration and wind turbulence), on flimsy wooden structures such as decks (people walking around), and during more than moderate winds.

JavelinaOne item to be aware of: the thumb knob that locks the ball head in place has no retention device and can easily back out and fall loose. Unfortunately, the thumb knob threads are 6mm metric which might not be that easy to replace if lost when on the road.

For less than $20 this tripod is not the same as a sturdy expensive model; it is not designed to replace a Bogen or Gitzo. On the other hand, it is a LOT cheaper and weighs substantially less.  Overall, I have been very happy with this system. Images at the extended zoom (x18) have been clear and sharp. If you are toting a small, lightweight camera with a big zoom lenses it just may work for you, too.

Gear Inches

Gear Inches – what a curious term. Basically, it tells you how hard a bicycle will be to pedal: higher numbers are more difficult and lower numbers are easier. Specifically it tells you many inches the rear wheel moves when the pedals are rotated one complete turn.

The specific equation is: gear/inches = (front gear/rear gear) X rear tire diameter.

Two examples:

  1. front gear = 48T, rear gear = 11T, rear tire diameter = 25.4″, the gear/inch = 110.8
  2. front gear = 26T, rear gear = 34T, rear tire diameter = 25.4″, the gear/inch = 19.4

Why worry about gear inches, you ask? Whether looking at a new bike, changing your current setup, or comparing what friends are riding, gear inches provides an easy way to compare different bike setups.

When looking at a new bicycle, rather than saying, ‘I currently ride a 48T front gear, an 11T rear gear, and a 26″ rear rim with 1.75″ tire size. How does this bike compare?’ It could be simplified with a, ‘My current bike has an 111-19 gear/inch range. How does this bike compare?’ Then, if the gear/inches indicate that the bike will be too difficult (or easy) for you, you could discuss changes before purchasing it and discovering things are amiss.

In my case, recumbents come with many different rear rim sizes (700c, 26″, 24″, 20″) and many different tire sizes in both metric and English dimensions. I know my capabilities for pedaling a heavy load uphill, so knowing my gear/inches, particularly the lower number, helps me evaluate different bicycle brands and types.

Generally speaking, most bikes come with a higher gear/inch set up than the average cyclist needs.  According to many orthopedic doctors and professional trainers most bicycle related knee injuries come from pedaling a gear/inch that is too high. Using a setup that is too high results in a slower cadence and ‘muscling’ up inclines and rough roads. It may not be as sexy, but having a lower gear/inch setup will allow the average cyclist (like me) to have a higher cadence, resulting in less chance for knee injury. Seldom do I need my highest gears but my lower gears are used quite frequently.

On the fully loaded cross country bicycle ride I used a gear/inch of 111-19; the low end was just barely low enough on the steeper grades. I am now shopping for a different bike and am looking for something on the low end of 17-18. I’ll probably have to do my own gear conversion since ‘as advertised’ touring bikes don’t come anywhere near this low.