Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hojack Snow Muni

It's been weeks since I've gotten out to ride. This time of year, there are so many potentially bad trail conditions... muddy, wet, icy, deep snow, frozen boot print craters, windy, frigid. Adding these to the rooty hilly trails makes riding kind of crazy. So, to start out my first snow muni of the season, I rode the easy-going Hojack trail.

6.9 miles according to GPS, 6.8 miles according to my cycle computer.

Muni on Hojack Trail - 2010-12-29

It was just below freezing today. On top I wore a long sleeve skiing undershirt, a long sleeve riding shirt, and a nylon riding jacket. I wore my skiing long underwear and nylon cargo pants on the bottom. I also wore some fleece gloves, but I had to take those off within the first few miles of my ride. I also unzipped my jacket sometime before the halfway mark. Generally I was comfortable, but I was a bit hot by the end.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Treadmill Plan

As I posted earlier, I want to create a special treadmill that adjusts its speed to keep a unicycle in the center no matter what speed the rider is pedaling at.

To do this I need a system that can sense when the rider has moved, calculate the appropriate treadmill correction, and command a motor's speed.

First, the motor. Can I get a motor that is powerful enough to move a rider and can be speed controlled very quickly? I don't know much about motors. But I thought of the Segway.

It can move the weight of itself and a rider. It controls a motor so many times per second that it can balance on two wheels. So the motor(s) in it must be close to what I need.

I've seen several DIY Segway builds online, so I went back and read more about them. As it turns out, one of the DIY Segway creators also made a self balancing unicycle! That system has very similar requirements to mine! Trevor Blackwell shared his parts list in his blog.

Unfortunately the motor he used is $300 and the motor controller is $200. Maybe I can find a cheaper alternative.

A micro-controller is an obvious choice for the processing. I happen to own a Parallax Propeller demo board. It's pretty amazing with its 8 processors. And I'm familiar with it, so I think I'll try to use that.

Finally I need some way of detecting where the unicycle is on the treadmill. At first I was thinking of a series of some kind of electronic trip-wires running across the treadmill. But then I realized that since the goal is to keep it in the center at all times, tripping a wire that is not in the center means I've probably already failed. What I really need is a camera to just watch the rider from the side and detect the tiniest movement. But where am I going to get an inexpensive camera that can detect movement and doesn't take an image scientist to make sense of?
The Nintendo Wii remote of course! The wiimote has a tiny infrared camera on the front of it. You point it at the Wii's "sensor bar" which really just has a cluster of infrared LEDs at its ends.
As you point the wiimote at your TV and move it around, it sees the sensor bar LEDs and determines their coordinates in it's field of view. It determines these coordinates 100 times per second! It then takes these coordinates and the states of its other sensors and controls and sends it to the Wii using Bluetooth wireless. In normal use, the wiimote is moving around and the sensor bar's LEDs stay put. But of course it will work the same the other way around.
So if my moving unicycle had IR LEDs on it, I could use a stationary wiimote off to the side to monitor my movements.
I mainly need to detect the horizontal movement of the center of my wheel. But from the side view the center of a unicycle wheel is the axle. That gets blocked from view about 50% of the time by the rider's leg. So I think the LEDs should go on the outside of the wheel at the rim. If I can detect those, then I can calculate where the center is. Although the Wii's sensor bar only has two IR "blobs", the wiimote's camera actually has the ability to detect up to four blobs. This is great news because with the LEDs on my rim, sometimes a blob will be covered up by my leg. I need at least two opposite blobs at all times to determine the center of the wheel. With four evenly spaced blobs I should be all set.

As I mentioned, the Wii uses Bluetooth wireless to get data out of the wiimote. But the camera component in the wiimote can be removed and used directly using the well known I2C protocol. I've read that if you interface to this camera this way you can get blob coordinates out at 200 times per second!

So, my plan is to put four evenly space IR LEDs on my wheel and have a wiimote camera pointing at me from the side. My Propeller micro-controller will read the blob coordinates, calculate the center of my wheel, and determine if I'm going faster or slower than the treadmill. It will then command a motor to move faster or slower to keep me in the center. And ideally, all of this will happen 100 to 200 times per second!

According to Trevor's self balancing unicycle blog post: "When it detects itself tilting backwards it runs the wheel backwards. It does this so rapidly (200 updates per second) that it feels perfectly smooth." 200 updates per second and perfectly smooth. I like the sound of that.

I've already made some good progress with some IR LEDs, my old uni, a wiimote, and my Propeller. More details to come.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dog Bite

The combination of cold and wet lately has slowed my riding down. But today it was nice enough to get out at 38°F. The usual wet spots in Whiting and Webster Park were wetter than usual. Someone leaf-blowed in Whiting but not Webster Park.

About 15 minutes into my ride I was passing a woman and her dogs going in the opposite direction. We were on the Orange trail at the field where the trail is mowed and wide. Her dogs were big dogs, a white poodle and a black... err not-poodle. I moved way over to the right as they approached, but the black dog kept getting closer. As we passed it bit my leg. It didn't hurt much, and I thought it was amusing more than anything, so I kept riding. But after a few cranks I looked down and saw it had ripped my pants. It pissed me off, so I stopped and called the woman back. We talked and she hadn't even noticed the incident. It was a quick seemingly uneventful pass. I lifted my pant leg to find it had actually broken the skin. We talked about her paying for my pants and we exchanged information. But I have since talked to her on the phone and told her it's not really a big deal and not to worry about it. I'm sure the bite will heal up fine, I can patch my pants, and I'm not a big fan of making people pay for accidental or non-malicious things like this. Besides, it made my ride somewhat eventful.
Most people don't leash their dogs in the parks, and I'm ok with that. I break/stretch some rules too... like not always dismounting when I pass and riding in Webster Park.
Oddly enough, at the start of my ride there was a dog that unsuccessfully tried to make me UPD, and later a dog kept charging me. Maybe there is something in the air?

Later in Webster Park there was a woman sitting on a bench just before a downhill. I said hello, and proceeded to the hill, dropping out of site from her. I ended up UPD'ing and running out the remainder of the hill. Frustrated, I walked back up to give it another try. I talked a minute with the woman about how the leaves make it a bit tricky sometimes. She pointed out that riding a mountain unicycle seemed tricky enough! Good point. With all the leaves down, from the bench you can actually see the uphill that comes after the downhill. I told her that after I disappear down the hill she should see me reappear and climb up and over the next hill. I succeeded in my descent and climb and as I disappeared from her site I heard her cheering and clapping loudly. I yelled back a loud "Thank you"! ;-)

Overall it was a good strong ride.
My cycle computer says I rode 12.09 miles.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-28-10

Monday, November 22, 2010

Treadmill Idea

With the cold weather more or less here, I'm not riding as much as usual. It has also been very wet this week. Of course I've been expecting the wet cold weather so I've been thinking of ways to practice my skills inside. Like most people I don't have the room inside to ride. I've thought of machines like a stationary bike (which often has one wheel) but it's hard to simulate the balance involved in unicycling with such a machine. And the object for me is not to just pedal, but to balance and improve my skills. I really need to be riding my actual uni.

I've seen some videos online of people riding unicycles on treadmills:

It's kind of a good start but it has some problems. You can use your actual uni and balance. As you can see in the video, some people can do it, but it's not a natural way to ride. In the real world the ground doesn't just keep moving. If the ground is moving, it should be moving at the speed that the rider is moving. If he pedals 10mph, the treadmill should go 10mph. If he stops, the treadmill stops.

So I like the treadmill idea, but it needs to be controlled based on the rider's speed.

If the treadmill were controlled correctly the wheel of the unicycle would stay in the exact same location, no matter how quickly the rider accelerated or stopped.

I've begun experimenting with some ideas. I'll share some of those in my next post.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

West Bay Trail Work and Ride

This morning I did trail work at West Bay Park. I was there for 3.5 hours helping out. We benched a long stretch of trail. Things are really looking nice there.
Afterward I wanted to ride. I went home for lunch and came back to try it out.
As expected it's just too hilly with not enough flat between climbs.

The trail work has made it better, but it's still hard.
I started at the new parking lot on Orchard Park and did some riding. I got a bit discouraged by the hills. But then I saw another old friend from high school, Damian, and his family. That was cool. He mentioned the trails starting off of Homewood Lane were a bit easier. I've ridden those before, and he's right. After getting back to the parking lot, I saw I had ridden less than two miles, so I decided I had enough energy to try the trails at Homewood.
It was cool to see some of the new improvements over in that area too. There are some nice boardwalks made of rough sawn pine and lots of benching has been done.
It's still not my favorite place to ride because of the hills. But I'll have to keep working on it.

My cycle computer says I road 3.97 miles with an average speed of 4.3mph. Shorter and slower due to hills.

Muni at West Bay - 2010-11-13

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Getting Colder

I took a few hours vacation from work this afternoon to go riding. It was supposed to be a high of 55F but it felt a bit cooler when I got out. I wore shorts and short sleeves and it was good once I warmed up. Any cooler and I'll have to wear long sleeves.

I saw Joe, an old high school friend, and his family on the trail. That was cool. We had a nice talk and briefly caught up. It was kind of funny that he didn't really seem particularly surprised about the mountain unicycling.

I got some good reactions from several other people on the trails. One teenage boy on a bike watched me come through a mildly technical area and said something like "You have so much talent!". He seemed genuinely in awe. I got a few "Oh my god!" comments and the usual murmurs: ".... a unicycle...", "... cool...", ".... look!"

I made it up my nemesis hill on the orange trail on my second lap. I feel good about that. I think my technique is a kind of lunging forward and upward. I should record that and analyze it sometime.

According to my cycle computer I rode 8.39 miles with an average speed of 6.0 mph.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-11-10

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hojack Work

It's been cold and wet so I haven't gotten out riding this week. Next week looks better.

The Friends of Webster Trails had a work day yesterday morning. I attended and we cleaned up an area of the Hojack trail near Klem Rd. This section of trail gets muddy. The plan is to regrade it and/or bring in more earth material, but in the meantime we cleared a whole lot of branches and debris.
This was the last work day of the year, so afterward we had a little celebration with hotdogs and snacks.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Leaves and Red Trail

I rode at Whiting and Webster Park this afternoon. Leaves have been on the trails for weeks now, but there are much more now. I know most of the trails enough to know where the major roots are, so it wasn't too bad.

I haven't ridden the Red trail in a long time, and I know I'm getting stronger and better so I rode it today. I went from south to north, starting at the Orange trail. A lot of it is rideable to me, but there are some parts that were too much. Still, I know I rode a lot more than I was ever able to. Some of the hills are too steep to climb and there was one section with a crazy net of tall roots.
Next season when the leaves are cleared I'll work on it.

My cycle computer says I rode 8.71 miles.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-10-30

Saturday, October 23, 2010

17.5 Mile Muni Ride

I wanted to break my past distance record, which was about 15 miles. So I pushed and rode further today. 17.5 miles (28km)! My average speed was 6.2 mph.
I basically did three of my usual laps at Whiting and Webster Park instead on two.

I made it up the hardest hill I ride, and a bunch of other difficult hills. I had a few spectators at some challenging hills, including my hardest, which was cool. It seems more official if there are witnesses.

I keep going to Whiting and Webster Park. My other options are Bay Park East, Bay Park West, Tryon, and Dryer. But all of these have more hills closer together. Usually when I ride at these I go for a shorter time because I get whipped sooner. But I should probably revisit one soon. Maybe Bay Park West, because there has been a lot of work going on there for the county shared-use pilot program.

My GPS says only 15.8 miles, but it's always less. And as expected, the farther I go, the farther off it is. It thinks I was going 25 mph at some point too, and fell off a cliff.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-10-23

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-10-19

I took a few hours vacation from work to ride this afternoon.
Same old thing.
I saw about a dozen people walking, some with dogs, some on leashes, some not, one taking a dump on the trail, some people smiling, some surprised, some had no expression at all.
I haven't made it up one steep hill in the Orange trail at Whiting in a while. Yet I've made it up other hills in Webster I used to have problems with.

My cycle computer says I rode 12.24 miles.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-10-19

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-10-16

All week the forecast said it was going to rain this weekend, but thankfully it wasn't right.
I rode at my usual spot.
11.96 miles according to my cycle computer.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-10-16

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Family Outing

I took some vacation from work this afternoon and went riding at my usual spot. The whole family came along. Sydney brought her uni and rode some trails! She rode on some of the flatter trails and did great. The ladies stuck together and Kyle and I rode some of my usual trails.
He must be my good luck charm because I made it up all my challenge hills in Webster Park.

8.58 miles according to my cycle computer.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-10-13

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-10-10

My last ride was two weeks ago at the Schenectady muni race. I got sick days after and didn't ride last weekend. I didn't feel too out of shape today, but it wasn't my strongest ride. I didn't make it up as many of the hills that are a challenge for me.

Usually I go early in the morning, but I didn't get around to it until late today. There were a lot more people on the trails. A lot of little kids were very excited to see a unicycle on the trails. I think people like to discover new things on the trails. Seeing a unicycle in the woods must make for a nice story.

9.8 miles according to my cycle computer.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-10-10

Schenectady 2010 Muni Race

Monday, September 27, 2010

Schenectady Muni Race - The Race

Sunday was race day. The course was at Schenectady Central Park.

On the way there, I had one more right turn to get to the race. But then I saw a sign:

Sorry, I didn't take a picture and that image is the best I could get from Google StreetView. It says:
<--- I knew the golf course was to the left, but I thought the muni was supposed to be to the right. I wasn't fooled, turned right and found the race just fine. But someone needs to fix that sign! ;-) There were 11 riders. Some rode 29ers, some 24's. I'm not sure I saw and 26's. I saw a 20 or two, but they may have just been for playing with off the trail. A CBS reporter named Mitch Butler came to the event with an associate (sorry, didn't catch his name). Mitch is actually a unicyclist himself!

The course was on the harder side. Like with all my rides, at first my breathing was more difficult and my heart rate was off the charts. There was a hill climb to start, so that didn't help. I found myself riding with Perry and James for a while. The course was very winding so you'd even if a rider was 500 ft ahead of you, he might actually be only 20 ft next to you. Because of that, I saw a lot of Perry and James during the first lap.
About 1/3 of the way through the first lap I encountered Roland and Steveyo. They were expected to be the top riders, so I knew something wasn't right. One of the two had a camera attached to their uni to help Mitch get some extra footage. Apparently they had some technical difficulties and were fixing it. But they got moving just about the time I was there and were soon out of sight.

Mitch and company were filming in different areas of the trails, always at the more exciting features of course. It felt like every time I was about to finish something difficult, a root caught me. And they always caught it on tape! Hopefully they'll edit all that out. ;-) I'm sure I'll be posting his video once he produces it. Sounds like that might happen in about a month.

There were a good number of logs, log features, and skinnies to ride. Some of the skinnies seemed to go forever. Those we so much fun.
As expected there were some very rooty sections too. Some of it was insane and had to be walked.
There was also a up and down winding section. Unfortunately there wasn't enough time between hills to have the stamina to climb them all. I saw a lot of walking in that winding area.

Because of all the roots and hills, my lower back fatigued early. It was killing me! I find this at my local trails too. In the first lap I was feeling like maybe one lap would be it! Thankfully the trail flattened out in a few places and I was able to deal with the pain.

Part of the course comes back to the road where the finish line is, but then goes back up into the woods. At that point, the lap is only maybe 2/3 done. On the first lap I could hear and then see the people as I approached, and I was glad my first lap was coming to an end. But then the trail took me away for more pain! Arg!
It took a long time before seeing that finish line again to complete me first lap. I think my lap time was about 45 minutes.

On my second lap, my back was hurting, but I was warmed up and my breathing and heart rate were better. I was having more success on the piles and skinnies.
And I ate my first energy gel to keep me going. Still, my back was killing me at times, and I figured this might be my last lap. I was seeing less and less of Perry who was behind me and less and less of James who was in front of me. A woman named Lisa was walking and running the course. We talked a bit on and off. She's a relatively new rider and I guess she was there to check it all out on foot.

At the end of the second lap I stopped to take a breather. I ate my second energy gel and talked with Amy for a few minutes. I had time to start a new lap, and seeing that I had come all this way with the family, I wasn't going to let my back pain stop me. She said I was in fourth or fifth place, which surprised me. I wasn't too careful about keeping track of everyone I passed or passed me very carefully. And a lot of that happened at the beginning of the first lap. But it was good news to me and helped keep me going.

On my third lap I was even more successful clearing log obstacles and skinnies. But I was UPD'ing occasionally for little things. My muscles just weren't responding well. But I made it through. I even did a few do-overs. I wasn't going to let a log pile I'd cleared earlier trip me up on my last lap and I didn't think anyone was close behind me. It turned out I was the last rider to finish.

Here are the results:
1. 3 Laps, 2:01, Roland
2. 3 Laps, 2:11, Steveyo
3. 3 Laps, 2:12, Mark Premo
4. 3 Laps, 2:33, Buzz (me)
5. 2+ Laps, 2:00, Jason K
6. 2 Laps, 1:45, Perry
7. 2 Laps, 1:56, Kai P.
8. 2 Laps, 2:10, Baker
9. 1 Lap, Logan
10. 1 Lap, Steven T
11. 1 Lap, Eric K.

Roland and Steveyo are at the top, as expected. Mark rides a lot of street. He certainly has great cardio stamina. I don't think he messed around much on the skinnies, as I saw him running past me on foot.
Jason stopped at 2:00. He was right at that point on the trail I mentioned that comes close to the finish line. He thought there was no point in continuing since the time was up. And when he was told he could still finish, he chose not to. He was ahead of me for so much of the race, I think he would have finished ahead of me had he continued on.

This time I had my GoPro charged to the max. It still ran out of juice before I did, but I got a lot of good video. I'll be editing that soon I hope!

Schenectady, NY Muni Race - 2010-09-26

Schenectady Muni Race - Fun Ride

This past weekend the family and I went to Schenectady, New York (just outside Albany) for a muni only race. The are at least four hardcore muni riders in that area, Roland, Steveyo, Perry, and Brad. Roland was the main organizer of the activities.

Amy thought it would be nice to turn it into a mini vacation for the whole family. I'm glad she's so supportive of a fairly bizarre hobby.
Traveling by car with baby Kessa is painful because she'll often begin crying 20 minutes in, which leads to blood curdling screams if she isn't pulled out of her seat. It's about a 3 1/2 or 4 hours drive, so Amy had the idea of taking a train so she could hold Kessa and take care of her needs. The ladies (Amy, Sydney, and Kessa) took the train and the men (Kyle and I) drove. It worked out well. Our departure and arrival times matched closely so no one was waiting around too long. We traveled on Friday and stayed at La Quinta Inn in Latham.

Saturday we chilled out at the indoor pool and in the evening we went to a planned muni fun ride at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.

Kai, Steveyo, Mark, Roland, Perry, Brad, me, and Sydney.

Sydney helped tear up the parking lot. The guys were impressed with her skills at age 6.

I had the opportunity to ride a 29er and a 36er, but only in the parking lot. The 29er felt cool. Maybe I can borrow Mj's and ride some local trails sometime. The 36er was bit much. I couldn't free mount but Roland gave be a hand.

The fun ride was cool because we weren't in a big hurry. When there was a feature worth trying over and over, we did just that. The trails had a good number of logs and log piles to get over. And some nice short steep hills to challenge us. But I tried to be careful not to over do it before the race on Sunday.

Above photo by Perry

I used my GoPro camera to capture some of the ride. Unfortunately my battery wasn't fully charged and I didn't get it all. Hopefully I'll be editing that footage in the next week.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

First Muni Ride at Bay Park West

This morning I used a few vacation hours to ride at Bay Park West.
I started at the trail head where Sydney and I did some trail work a few weekends ago.

I didn't like the trails much. Too many uphills to battle. The new trails are generally bumpier and haven't been graded properly yet. But even if they were smooth and all work was complete, the hills are still going to be there.
I probably did about 50/50 riding to hiking.
There were a few sections that were good, but they weren't worth the effort to get to them.

I only saw one person; an older woman with a dog. We talked for a bit. She had actually been to one of the county shared-use pilot program meetings. Unlike many older hikers, she supports cycling in the parks and the trail maintenance that comes along with it. She ripped on the hikers/walkers who whined about shared-use concerns at the meetings. Ha ha!
Her small dog was running around everywhere. When I rode away, it followed a bit and then seemed to go back in her direction. As I rode I kept hearing the woman yell "Sandy! Saaaaannndyyyyy!" I wondered if the dog ever got back to her. Did she think it kept following me? After about 5 minutes of that, I turned around and worked my way back to find her. She said her dog Sandy always goes off on her own and will eventually find her way back to their car. Oh. I guess I didn't need to be concerned.

I didn't ride very far. Oh well. It was good to explore and form an opinion of these trails.

Muni at Bay Park West - 2010-09-21

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Weekday Morning Ride

I took a few hours of vacation this morning and rode in my usual place, Whiting and Webster Park.
It was in the 50's and felt a bit cold at first. But once I got going it was much appreciated.
I made it up a particular hill in Webster Park for the first time. So my progress continues.

If I could consistently power up all the hills I've ever done I'd feel very accomplished.
Then I'd feel the need to move on to bigger hills.
On the loops I like to ride in Whiting and Webster, the only hill I've never gotten up is a very steep one on the Yellow trail. I've never actually tried, so maybe it's about time.
Maybe then I'll try to take on the Red trail. Big hills in there.

I rode just over11 miles according to my GPS, and 11 3/4 miles according to my cycle computer.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-09-15

Saturday, September 11, 2010

West Bay Trail Work Begins

Today I attended the first day of trail work at the West Bay trails.
Sydney came along with me and helped. There must have been about 30 workers there. We collected a bunch of garbage along the sides of the trail. The area has clearly been used as a dumping ground for the neighboring residence over the years. We all filled a dumpster with old junk: lawnmowers, bicycles, a snowmobile, typical garbage, and who knows what else. We wheelbarrowed tons of discarded wall block from where they were dumped, down a winding trail to a new location. A group of workers used them to build a boardwalk in a muddy area. Other workers use flagstone to armor a length of trail and discarded drainage pipe to redirect water under a trail.

At the end of a few hours of work, Sydney and I hiked further into the trails. While we had been doing our part to help, other workers had been clearing new trails. It was amazing how much work got done in a short time.

I didn't bring my GPS along, but I think the map below shows the general area that we worked in.

View West Bay west side in a larger map

EDIT Sept 12: a video and pics were posted by other workers:


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-09-05

We got a nice break in the heat yesterday but the wind has been blowing wild. Today is calmer. I got out to Whiting and Webster Park.
I successfully repeated some of my harder hill climbs and rooty sections, but some still taunt me.

Feeling more comfortable with my route in Webster Park, I tried expanding a bit. But I found there where a lot of overgrown and unappealing trails. There still might be hope to finding another good loop in there, but I didn't find it today.

On my second run through Whiting, I felt a sting on the top of my right ankle. I thought it was a thorn at first, but I dismounted and found a bee was under the tongue of my shoe. I flicked him off and pulled the stinger out by lifting my sock, which it had gone through. I haven't had a bee sting in a long long time. I'm not deathly allergic, so the area just stings and is red.
Odometer says 10 miles even.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-09-05

Sunday, August 29, 2010

North Tryon

Usually when I ride at Tryon I start at the south end. Today I started in the north. I rode some of the trails I'm familiar with, and then explored a bit. I eventually found myself on the trail that leads north to Empire Blvd.
I was hoping to find some moderately challenging trails, but typical of Tryon, I found myself riding for a few minutes and then walking up a hill for the same. It gets old. The new trails I rode were not very exciting to me.

I took a fall on one downhill. It was rocky and rooty and at some point I couldn't stay on the line I wanted, and I fell back. I got some minor pedal bite on my left lower calf. My left forearm hit the ground and I have a minor abrasion. And I fell on my back, but once again my CamelBak saved me.

I record my rides with a GPS receiver and PDA. I protect my PDA in an aluminum "Rhino skin" case in the lower section of my CamelBak. When I got back to my car, I opened it up and found my Rhino case was dented right in front of the screen. Thankfully the PDA is fine. But it looks like whatever I fell on would have hit dead center on my spine. Holding the case in my hands right now and trying to bend it, I realize the force needed to make the dent was enough to put me out of commission. Close call.

Muni at Tryon - 2010-08-29

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ambidextrous Ride at Dryer

As I mentioned in a previous post, I think I'd be better off hopping with my right hand. That really means I should be riding in general with that hand. So I forced myself to use my right hand to hold my seat on hills and rough terrain at Dryer this morning.
At first it was awkward but I got better. And then I found I was more comfortable holding right when turning left, and holding left when turning right, at least when climbing and descending. In the past, when I was only holding with my left hand, I found turning left was a bit sketchy. So being ambidextrous in this way is probably a good thing.

My ride was ok, but I was unpleasantly reminded that Dryer is pretty much all hills. It gets frustrating because I'll accomplish one hill climb, but fail the next because I'm too spent.
My lower back fatigued earlier than I would have liked. So I didn't stay too long... about an hour.

After the never ending downhill switchbacks of Owl's Maze (the winding path on my map), I knew I was stuck with climbing out. I often take the Elevator trail but it's too steep to ride, so I chose a different one, without having a map. It ended up being CMP, which is a black diamond and part way through it became clear it is intended as a downhill, not up. It also has huge berms which seem pointless unless you're on a fast moving, coasting mountain bike. So I walked the whole thing. Blah.

Muni at Dryer - 2010-08-28

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tryon Park / West Bay Park Final Public Meeting

This evening I attended the final public meeting for the pilot program to create shared trails in two of Monroe County's parks: Tryon and West Bay. Here's the PDF presentation.

The plans are all done. Some existing trails will be modified or decommissioned. Some new trails will be made. Some trails will be designated as shared-use for both hikers and off-road cyclists. And some trails will be for hiking only.

The final plan should get Monroe County approval on Monday.
Trail work will begin as early as September 3rd, and is expected to go on through the fall.

The environmental impact and the shared-use aspect of the trails will be monitored by the county for 18 months. If things work out well, the trails will remain shared-use and perhaps more trails in the county will be opened to shared use.

At the meetings I've attended, there are clearly people who oppose the shared-use idea. My perception is that most of these people are older hikers/walkers. Many are concerned about their safety with cyclists on the trails. Some are concerned with the noise of cyclists scaring away wildlife. It's understandable, though their attitudes often seem get-off-my-lawn-ish.

Hopefully cyclists will be very careful to respect the trails and the hikers, so there won't be any complaints that lead to negative changes for us cyclists.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bruise and Hopping

My fall on Saturday left an abrasion but no bruising, until now. It doesn't hurt as much, but it looks worse.

I've been hopping a bit, which has been useful for getting up elevated boardwalks, up to about 6" high. But I haven't been able to get over logs. Eventually I'd like to be able to do rolling hops over them. A rolling hop is riding straight and hopping, just like a bunny hop on a bike.
Like this awesome guy demonstrates here:


The alternative to rolling hops are side hops. These are the kind of hops I normally do, where I ride to a stop, turn 90 degrees, and hop up/over the obstacle.
But somehow I got into the habit of holding my seat with my left hand and hopping left. I should be using my right hand because it's stronger and it's more effective to hop towards my free arm. So two days ago I made the switch and practiced hopping with right hand.
I was surprised to find it was easy to switch and I ended up hopping better than I was before.
Unfortunately, after practicing for a good hour, the inside of my right elbow has been killing me. I remember that problem in the past with my left arm, and with my knees. So I suspect I'm just using muscles and tendons I'm not used to.
I'm side hopping while still in my seat. For bigger hops I need to learn to push my seat out in front of me (SIF).
Like this... haha:

I'll settle for hopping a log. ;-)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-08-21

This morning I rode at Whiting and Webster Park... again. I outfitted my muni with a Cateye Velo 5 cycle computer.

I've been measuring my mileage and average speed using GPS, but I've wondered how accurate it is. I configured the Cateye wheel size by rolling it out and measuring it with chalk marks on the driveway. I got 80-1/8" with no weight. Interestingly, when I sat on it and compressed the tire, I got 78". I just did some math and over 15 miles, the difference gets close to about 1/2 mile. I actually took another 1/2" off, expecting more tire compression on the trails.
According to the Cateye, I rode 15.1 miles. My GPS said 14.3 miles. I think the CatEye would be more accurate because the GPS would cut a lot of corners and has inherent inaccuracies. So I'm gonna go with the CatEye. 15.1 mile muni! My new record!

I also brought along a Hammer Raspberry energy gel pack. Is that a uni on the package? ;-)

After about 1-1/2 hours of riding, I usually have a snack of something like some gummy fruit chews. But I wanted to see if one of these gels allowed me to ride and eat at the same time, and gave me any extra energy in the later part of my ride. It was easy to ride and eat once I got to known flat area, and it did the job of keeping me from getting hungry, but I didn't feel like it made a difference in my energy levels over any other snack. My muscles and arse got tired towards the end of my ride just as usual. I rode further, but I've been riding farther each time anyway.

Coming down a small rooty hill I've done a bunch of times, I took a tumble. Somehow I didn't see a root and I pitched forward. In an instant I was on my hands, then back, then front, sliding about 15 feet down a rooty hill. I remember feeling/hearing my CamelBak as it scrapped down the hill (nice back protection) and I remember being on my front, worried a bit, as I slid down to a few feet before the wood planks crossing the muddy valley.
My left thigh/buttock hurt, and as I stood up I found the muscle was stiff. I grabbed my uni and limped up the opposite hill. I was pretty happy not to have any huge gashes or broken bones. But the side of my butt was killing me. I sat down for a good five minutes and things improved a lot. My leg wasn't as stiff and I was good to ride. My muscles in the area just didn't want to move after being hit so hard. But after my rest, I was able to ride another two hours.
Once I got home, I assessed my damages.
My shoulder got some abrasion, and my arse.

My most major accomplishment of my ride was making it up the hardest hill on the Orange trail at Whiting! So now I've made it through the entire Orange trail both ways. Later, I failed on the same hill, but it was late in my ride and I was very fatigued.

I also made it through a hilly, very rooty section in Webster Park. The best part was having a group of about five older people chatting right in the middle of it. They made room for me. I was impressed they didn't get panicky like some people. A woman said something like, "Gotta stay focused on the trail!". I guess she recognized that I couldn't look at their faces, and the difficulty of the trail. I think they might be Friends of Webster Trails though. One of the men said, "You gotta have balls to do that... and good balance." It's always cool when the encounters happen during a challenging section and I succeed.
The trails were busy. Lots of youth running and dog walkers with the usual positive comments. I saw one mountain biker who said, "No way! That's so cool!"

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-08-21

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ride Before Work

Lately I've been riding longer and pushing myself more, which leaves me a bit sore the next day. So I've only been doing one big ride per weekend. Today I started what I hope will be a weekly routine of riding on Wednesday morning before I head in to work.

I rode at Whiting and Webster Park. I've finally put some pieces together and found a good loop through Webster Park. All I really needed to do was take the time to look at my past GPS maps and connect the dots. I've never liked the many valleys within Webster Park, because what goes down must go up. And the ups are always steeper than I'd like.
But this morning I actually enjoyed the challenge. While I didn't make it up any new hills in Webster Park, I "saw the light" several times.

I got into work 2 hours late and used vacation time. At that rate, I'll only use one vacation day per month. Good deal!

Oh, and I rode my furthest yet. 11.4 miles according to GPS.
I should get a cycling computer to check the accuracy of that. I bet a lot of smaller turns aren't being picked up by GPS, so my actually riding distance might be longer.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2010-08-18

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Whiting 2010-08-14

I rode at Whiting this morning. I thought I might have ridden about 13 miles, because I kept pushing myself to keep going. But it looks like I was just shy of 11. Still my longest ride!
I did well. I got totally through the Yellow trail 2 out of 3 times with no dismounts. And other trails just keep getting easier. There's a section on my way to the Midnight trail that I'm getting very close to riding successfully. And on the way back too, thought there's a steep hill I can't imagine climbing, just descending. I remember, maybe 6 months ago, wondering if even a rider like Kris Holm could make it through this section. It's rooty and hilly. But now I can almost see myself doing it! Or course, KH would probably breeze through it.
I rode the south segment of the Red trail that cuts across the Orange. Usually when I'm on the Orange, I want to finish that trail completely, and it wasn't until recently that I looked at the map and saw this section of the Red doesn't commit me to riding the entire Red. It hits the Orange trail twice. Unfortunately this segment is no good. It like riding through a mowed field. No dirt and few trees.
I also found an alternative way of coming back from the Midnight Trail. Just outside the Midnight loop, there's a fork in the trail, with one way leading further into Webster Park. I never take that way because Webster Park is a huge maze of trails and I don't want to get sidetracked. But today I found if I take that and take the next trail that would logically get me back, it actually works out well. And there's a skinny bridge and a challenging rooty hill. It's one of my new favorite challenges.

Muni at Whiting - 2010-08-14

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Basil Marella

Mj told me a about a park in Greece called Basil Marella Park. I met up with her this morning and we rode there. It has some typical trails, but it is also a disc golf park. The course is through the woods and has some decent hills. You can pretty much just ride the course from hole to hole if you want. At first I thought it might be awkward riding in the area if we'd be in the golfers' way. But there was just an occasional walker or jogger. We only saw one group of golfers playing in the few hours we were there, and they were easy to avoid.

Unfortunately at the very end of our ride, Mj got tripped up and stepped badly on her ankle. It was painful and started to swell. Long story short, it's sprained and she'll be using crutches for a week or two.
Sorry Mj! I hope you can get back on your wheel soon!

Muni at Basil Marella - 2010-08-08

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Four at Tryon

I met Mj and Colin around 11am today. Colin brought another rider, John. I didn't even know there were any other riders in the area. It sounds like he doesn't ride very often, but he did pretty well on the trails.

Unfortunately Mj had to leave soon after our ride due to a prior obligation. But it was cool that she came out for at least a short ride.

Left to right: Mj, me, Colin, John

We rode in the south end of Tryon where I often ride. But then I wanted to find some trails at Tryon called the Clover Leaf Trails. We got real close I think, but never quite found them. But I wasn't carrying a map. We ended up hitting Browncroft Road and road up the hill on the shoulder back to our cars. We then hiked around the edge of the nearby apartments looking for a trail head. But the wooded area around the apartments started with an immediate drop off and no trails were found. Colin and John soon left, and I rode a little bit more in the area I'm familiar with. I had to go back and practice some more hill climbing.

I made it through a trail that I've been working on without a dismount. Woo hoo! And I saw Frank, a local MTBer and Friend of Webster Trails.

Muni Ride at Tryon - 2010-08-07

Trail Work at Parks and Rec

I started today by working with the Friends of Webster Trails on a new trail. It's being built at the new location of the Webster Parks and Recreation center.
The map below shows the general location of the trail with a Blue trail. I didn't bring my GPS receiver with me, so this is just the general idea.

View Trail Work - 2010-08-07 in a larger map
Blue - New Trail work this morning
Green - Existing Bird Sanctuary Trail
Red - Future Hojack Trail extension
Yellow - Existing Hojack Trail

I only stayed to help for an hour, because I had made plans to ride at Tryon with Colin and Mj. I'm thinking I might help out more on that trail on a week night. It's too bad the trail work is only once a month, on a Saturday morning. I always want to ride on Saturday morning and I wouldn't mind helping out on the trails more than once a month.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pilot Program: West Bay

Tonight I attended a Monroe County workshop at the West Bay Park on the west side of Irondequoit bay. The meeting was just like the one last week at Tryon Park. West Bay Park is also part of the Monroe County pilot program to create shared-use trails.
I grew up in East Irondequoit and rode a lot in this park. I have never tried riding muni there because I know that the hills are very steep. But a lot has changed in the 15-20 years since I used to ride there. There are actually a fair number of trails that are rideable for me.
The pilot program will create new trails, and the hills will have switchbacks.
I'm looking forward to this Fall when trail building will likely start.

West Bay Workshop - 2010-08-05

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I usually keep my uni hanging on a hook on the wall in my garage. I doubt anyone would break in just to steal it, but I could imagine it might catch someone's eye as something interesting or funny to take.
Plus I never know when one of the kids' friends might be over and think it's okay to take down and give a try.

So I put a bar on the wall to give me something to lock it to. I used pipe and U-lock:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Skinny Beam

I planned on riding this morning at Tryon, but I woke up with a sore lower back from yesterday's ride. I definitely could have ridden, but I knew I would fatigue very early. No fun.

A few months ago I had put together a "skinny" made from a 4x4" beam. I never really rode it. I started with a 2x4 lying flat on the ground and thought I'd progress to riding the 4x4. But I guess the combination of low success with the 2x4, my inability to get up on the 4x4, and my desire to do other riding, kept me from trying it.
So tonight I screwed a few 2x4's to the side of the 4x4 to make it wider. I can ride up onto it using some flat 2x6's as steps.

As I get more comfortable and consistent, I'll remove the 2x4's one at a time until I can easily ride the 4x4 alone.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Whiting Progress

I rode at the Whiting Rd trails this morning. It wasn't super hot and there was low humidity. Finally! I felt strong, despite not being very active lately.

I was able to ride some hills I've never done before. Going counter-clockwise on the Orange trail, I can ride it all. But my biggest accomplishment was riding the final hill of the Yellow trail riding from west to east. I did it on my second run, and it actually seemed pretty easy. On my third run, I didn't make it. I think that's proof that technique is the key. Still, I've never ridden the orange or yellow without dismounting. I've made it through every hill and obstacle, just never in a single ride.

I talked to a mountain biker, Michael, who I've seen at Whiting before. We talked about possibly riding at Dryer together.

I also met a mountain biker at the parking lot, Louis. He sounded somewhat interested in learning to ride muni.

I rode 10 miles:

Muni at Whiting - 2010-07-31

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pilot Program: Tryon

This evening I attended a public workshop at Tryon Park held by the Monroe County Parks Department. Tryon Park is one of two parks in Monroe County that is part of a program to offer shared-use trails on Monroe County Parks. The other is the West Bay Park.
Currently, mountain biking (and muni?) are not legal in county parks.

It looked like about 30 people attended. Some mountain bikers and some hikers. Leaders and members of GROC and Tryon Bike demonstrated how many existing trails weren't designed to avoid erosion. By choosing smarter trail lines and by using better trail construction methods, erosion problems can be avoided. Switch-backs and grading will make more sustainable trails. And instead of straight, steep hills, we'll end up with more gradual and interesting trails.
In several locations at Tryon, new trails will be developed to bypass undesirable trails. Once in place, the old trails will be blocked and people will hopefully no longer use them.

I think many mountain bikers, and in some cases myself, actually like the steep, rocky, rooty, eroded downhills. But that's the compromise for having shared, sustainable, shared-use trails that are open to mountain biking.

Tryon Workshop - 2010-07-27

Monday, July 26, 2010

And Then There Were Two

I just sold and shipped my 26" Nimbus muni away to Indiana. Enjoy it Noel!
I only road it a handful of times, and only in the neighborhood. It really looks brand new. I wanted to see what a 26" uni was like. While it was faster, I ended up liking the control of the 24", and figured a geared hub would give me my speed.

Like my Onza, it's better off being ridden by someone than living on a hook in my garage.

Now I'm down to two unis: my 24" "learner" and my KH 24 geared muni.
I'll keep the learner in case someone nearby wants to try learned. Come on Frank... I know it's calling to you! ;-)
And of course the KH is now my one and only muni. It stays!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Big Neighborhood Ride

Yesterday and Friday it rained a lot. Today was dry, but I figured the trails were muddy so I didn't ride any muni. Realizing I hadn't ridden all weekend, I decided to get out this evening.

I rode in high gear the "big way" around the neighborhood. It's 1.4 miles, and I rode continuously for four loops. That's 5.6 miles.

Now that I think of it, that's gotta be the farthest I've ever ridden without dismounting.

I'm looking forward to a much needed muni ride.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sydney's Mile+

This evening Sydney and I went for a leisurely ride around the neighborhood. We went around twice and she didn't dismount a single time! That's 1.2 miles!
Not bad for a 6 year old.

Even I UPD'ed a bunch of times. Of course I was practicing my shifting. I'm not looking down so much and I had a much higher success rate. I'm definitely improving, but I've got a long way to go.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Goodbye Onza

Tonight I packed up my Onza muni and sent it to its new owner.
I no longer use it, so I sold it online.
It was my first muni and while it's sad to see it go, it would be more sad to see it collect dust in the garage.

One last picture before I boxed her up:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Minor Hiatus

I haven't been riding as much as I'd like. Over the past few weeks I haven't been feeling too great. Maybe I haven't totally recovered from a cold I had about three weeks ago, or maybe I have some allergies, or maybe it's just been too hot.

I didn't ride at all this weekend, and so, I didn't race at the Fat Tire festival on Saturday. I'm glad I didn't register, it would have been a waste. Saturday I felt pretty crappy. And it was pretty hot and humid outside.

I've been riding on some evenings in the neighborhood. I ride in high gear and Sydney has ridden her bike along side me. Sometimes she even says "slow down!"

I'm still practicing shifting on the fly. I moved my pedals from the 150mm crank holes to the 125mm holes. This moves my heels so they're inline with the shift buttons. This makes shifting 10 times easier. Hopefully I can learn to shift smoothly this way, and then move my pedals to their normal arrangement later.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dryer Race Course

This morning I went to Dryer again. What I didn't mention last Sunday was that I more or less rode the course planned for the the Fat Tire Festival mountain bike race.
Many mountain bike races welcome muni riders. Obviously the idea isn't to compete to win, but just to participate and have a good time.
In this race the riders do a number of laps based on their skill level. Beginner - 1 lap, Sport - 2 laps, Expert - 3 laps. Experts start at 9:00am, Sports at 9:05, and Beginners at 9:10.
Being a slow rider, I don't like this setup. It means that I'll get lapped by a bunch of riders. Dryer is all single-track, and it will be a pain to dismount, step aside, and allow riders to pass. On downhills, they'll come barreling down, coasting, skipping over the roots and rocks with their full suspension bikes while I'm braking, picking a path, and flailing my free arm around.

Last year's Fat Tire race had the same riding classes but had a different course. I haven't ridden that course, but I know the trails and it's pretty comparable to this year's course. Looking at last year's results, figuring average speeds, and using the ~50 minute time I get on this year's course, I figured I'd get passed by about 30 expert/sport riders. I'd still finish with the slowest two or three beginner riders. My numbers are just estimates, but I think they're realistic enough.

Bikers are going to be passing other bikers a lot, so it should be an expectation. While I don't want to get in anyone's way, the bigger problem is that passing bikers will be getting in my way. Obviously I don't care much about my time, but if I'm dismounting 30 extra times it will cut out a lot of fun. Especially when those dismounts are in places like the downhills.

I have a several days to decide if I want to race. I'm still thinking about it, but I might just wait for a race without such tight laps. Dryer's a pretty tough place to ride too. If I'm going to join in a race, I might want it to be on some less hilly trails.

Muni at Dryer - 2010-07-11

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fun at Tryon

Almost a month and a half ago I did some riding at Tryon and captured some video. I finally got around to editing it:

First Guni Ride at Whiting

I rode this morning at Whiting Road Nature Preserve and across the street at the Midnight Trail on my geared uni (guni). There were only a few puddles even after yesterday's torrential downpours; a testament to the hard work the Friends of Webster Trails has done.
I tried shifting into high gear when I knew there was a fairly flat trail. But it was easier said than done. And when I succeeded, it usually made me UPD. It's like I'm riding along and then something just grabs the wheel, because riding suddenly gets 50% harder. I probably need to be riding much faster. It doesn't help that it takes me a dozen attempts, and I never know which one is going to be successful. Once I do get going, I feel like I'm learning to ride all over again. My arms flail and I keep falling out of balance. When I do find my balance, the speed can get scary, especially as I'm falling out of balance. I look forward when I can just shift and ride in high gear without so much effort.
Downshifting is much easier. Pedaling just gets easier and I keep riding.

I've been trying to build up my stamina/endurance by using my elliptical machine. I think it's working because today's ride went very well. I went about 9 miles on trails and I felt like I could have done more. Even after hill climbs (successful or not) I wasn't too out of breathe to keep riding.

Muni at Whiting Road Nature Preserve and Midnight Trail - 2010-07-10