Sunday, October 30, 2011


The family and I went to The Greatest Show on Earth this afternoon, The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus!

Of course the first thing that comes to mind when people see unicycles is the circus!  So it was especially exciting for me to go and see so many unicy.... WHAT?!  No unicycles at the circus?  Not a single one.
The closest thing was a penny farthing in the opening introduction.
Penny Farthing
Oh well.  I guess unicycles aren't for circuses anymore.  So to get my fix I went riding at Bay Park West after the show.

A few awesome guys from Tryon Bike shop and members of GROC do miles of leaf blowing at this park.  With the otherwise wet leaves covering the trails, I wouldn't have been able to ride there like I did.  THANKS GUYS!  By the way, this is what you get when you open up a park to off-road cycling... a team of volunteers to build and maintain your trails for free.

It was about 50°F but I just wore shorts and a short sleeve shirt.  It felt cold at first and I thought maybe I had made a mistake.  But after about 10 minutes I felt ok.  Any colder and I think I'll wear long sleeves, at least to start.

I only rode about 3 miles.  I think the colder air is harder to ride in and I felt kind of worn out towards the evening.  And BPW is a tough park too.  My knee didn't bother me but my lower back was very tight after my ride.  It felt like a good workout.

Muni at Bay Park West - 2011-10-30

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Wease Show

Yesterday I met a nice guy and his family while I was riding muni at Webster Park. It turns out the guy is Jamie of The Wease Show.  He mentioned me on the show today and it sounds like he's gonna give unicycling a try.

Here's the relevant audio from the show:

From the show's daily rundown:
The guy was on a freaking unicycle
Jamie went for a walk at the park over the weekend with his family and was flabergasted when a man went blowing by him.  You will NEVER guess what this guy was doing.  We made a contest out of that question.. because we're trying to get everyone to go to Arrowhead Haunted Hayride in Spencerport.  Wease actually went there over the weekend, brought the kids, and loved it.. so he wants to give away passes seeing as how this weekend is the final weekend that it was open.  So anyway.. the guy that passed Jamie in the park.. he was on a freaking unicycle!! 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fall Ride, Possible New Rider

Today I rode at Whiting and Webster Park.  Fall is certainly here and with temperatures in the mid-50's I was concerned about what to wear.  I always forget at what temperature I should wear long sleeves when I ride.  Thankfully I have my blog for reference and in the past I wore long sleeves when in was in the 40's but ended up getting hot and switching to short sleeves a mile into my ride.  So short sleeves were fine today.  For convenience I should make chart showing temperature and appropriate muni clothing.
I was surprised that the cooler air irritated my breathing a bit. It doesn't seem cold enough for that yet.  Maybe I'm still getting acclimated.

My ride was fairly typical.  The trails are mostly covered with leaves, but it doesn't bother me like it once did.  Though a few hills in Webster Park have so many leaves it affects my climbing.

My Schlumpf hub worked fine.  I don't really notice any of the problems with it when I'm riding.

My left knee was good up until about mile 7 when it gave hints of getting sore.  I decided to play it conservatively and headed back to the car, but I had enough riding to not feel disappointed.

The highlight of today's ride was stopping to talk with a family.  The dad recently saw a unicycle race and became interested.  He's looking to get a unicycle and learn to ride.  He also got into snowshoe running last year, and that's something I've been planning for the upcoming off-season.  So hopefully we'll get together sometime.

I rode 7.5 miles according to my cycle computer.
Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2011-10-23

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Schlumpf Inspection

As I mentioned in my last post, my Schlumpf hub is beginning to make a bit of noise and is feeling less smooth.  It's a sealed system and I there's not a lot of maintenance I can do on it, but today I inspected it.

First I took my wheel off my frame so I could spin the bearings by hand.  I immediately noticed how dirty things looked.
Wanting to clean things up, I removed my cranks:
After going at it with Q-tips, a toothbrush, and paper towels, things look much better:

But unfortunately after turning the axle and bearings by hand, I confirmed that the issues were internal and there was little I could do.  It sounds and feels like bearing issues to me.  It doesn't matter whether I'm in high gear or not.  It has a 5 year warranty, so I have many years left.  It probably makes the most sense to just keep riding it until the bearings get worse and can no longer be ridden.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Knee and Schlumpf Issues

EDIT 2012-07-06:
I stumbled across this post and thought I'd mention I haven't had any further issues with my Schlumpf hub.  I think the noise/vibration I perceived in the bearings wasn't anything.  Maybe a bearing holder was on too tight?  In any case, I have had no problems since originally reporting this.

I hadn't ridden since the Albany race two weeks ago.  I wanted to rest my knee/IT band and have been doing a small amount of daily exercising and stretching to hopefully make it better.  Plus the weather had been colder and uninviting lately.

But this weekend we've had temperatures in the 60's and 70's, so it was time to get out.  I rode at Whiting and Webster this morning.

Unfortunately my left knee started bothering me around the 5 mile mark, as usual.  So my ride was shorter than I like, at just under 8 miles.  I did manage some good climbs, though gave up after four tries on my relatively new nemesis hill on the Red trail at Whiting.  Last time I was able to climb it, but it wasn't in the cards today.  Same with one hill in Webster Park.

The leaves are now falling and the trails are covered.  It can be a bit nerve racking riding fast and not being able to see the hidden roots.  But none got me this time.

At some point during my ride I must have been off my uni and spun my wheel to position my pedals to mount.  The spinning wheel didn't feel completely smooth.  I think I could feel some vibration through my frame and seat and into my hands.  It looks like my Schlumpf geared hub is acting up.  I think the bearings are no longer spinning smoothly and it looks like more grease is leaking out than normal.  Usually it just looks shiny near the seals, but I actually see some grease. This sucks.  The hub has a 5 year warranty and it will likely need to be sent back to Switzerland.  The turn around for this kind of thing can be months.
The good news is, I have my original 24" wheel ready to go for just such a problem.  So I won't be completely out of commission, just without my high gear.  Plus, if I have to send it back, doing so as we get into the winter months is probably the best time.
The other bad news is I'll have to remove the hub from my wheel in order to send it back, but the possibly good news is that I have been thinking about getting a 29'er.  If I do, then I may have been moving my geared hub into a new wheel anyway.
I'll have to investigate the problem closer before I pursue the warranty fix.

Muni at Whiting and Webster Park - 2011-10-09

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Wegmans Passport to Wellness Posts

This morning I attended the Friends of Webster Trails trail work at Whiting Road Nature Preserve.  I was asked if I could help John install two posts at the Gosnell Field.

The posts will be part of the Wegmans Passport to Family Wellness program.  It encourages families to hike our local trails and find special Wegmans plaques.  Then you make a rubbing of the plaque on your passport to prove you were there. Wegmans will then reward you with a free item, gift card, or t-shirt.

So John and I drove over to the Gosnell Field. We hiked in a wheelbarrow with a bag of concrete, a few gallons of water, a shovel, post-hole digger, tools, and two 6' posts.  We installed two very plumb posts.

The actual passport plaques will get mounted later.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mobile Wireless Level

I love the challenge of climbing hills and the satisfaction of being successful.  I'm often curious about the grade of the hills I ride.  I really have no idea what grade they are or what grade I find challenging.  If I knew the grade of an unconquered hill is only 1% more than a hill I've already climbed, it might help me push harder.

So I want to measure the grade of the trails I ride.  I always record my rides with GPS and that records altitude.  Applications such as Google Earth can take that data and draw a path with elevation.  Google Earth will then calculate the grade of sections on trail.  That sounds good, but GPS data can be off by 2+ meters in the horizontal direction and about double that in the vertical.  On a mile long hill climb maybe the grade calculated from the start and end points would be close enough.   But the grade calculations for a short length of trail could be way off.  And I'm only concerned about short steep hill climbs.  I would think calculating based on the both the inaccurate horizontal and vertical GPS data would make the grade calculations extremely inaccurate.

So it occurred to me to go out to the trails and measure the hill grades by hand, writing the results down.  I could use a plumb and protractor, or a digital level.  But this is a bit too manual for me, and it would be tedious to get this data on a map.

What I need is to collect data while I ride, just like I do with GPS, only I want actual level information.
But since a unicycle's frame pivots on its wheel, it moves independently of the grade it's rolling on.  So I can't use my uni.  However, a bike frame stays in sync with the trail grade as it rolls, assuming the wheels don't leave the ground, there's no suspension, and no tire compression.
ZOMG!  Bikes have a purpose after all! ;-)

Months ago I attached a Wii Remote with a Nunchuk to my bike to use as a level.  Both of these devices have accelerometers in them and can be used to measure angles.  The wiimote's data can be read using Bluetooth, and as a software engineer it wasn't too difficult to write an application to log from it.  In testing, I found the nunchuk I had gave me data at twice the resolution of the wiimote, but still only gave readings at about 1.8 degree increments. On a side note, I also noticed another nunchuk I had was actually the same as the wiimote, at 3.6 degree increments.  Hmm.  Anyway, I rode around the neighborhood and recorded some data.  Unfortunately because the wiimote and nunchuk measure position using accelerometers, they're dual purpose, and their values bounce all over the place as they shake.  This is good information for the Wii, but not for my purposes. Even riding carefully gave me extremely shaking and therefore useless data.  The other annoyance with the wiimote is it implements the Bluetooth Human Interface Device (HID) profile.  I can interact with this using my laptop, but not with my Dell PDA.  So I'd have to carry a laptop with me in a backpack to log data.

What I really need is a digital wireless level that implements the Bluetooth Serial Port Profile (SPP).  After an extensive search I found a digital protractor with an accuracy of 0.01 degrees that had an RS-232 interface and mounting holes.  Brand new this thing costs almost $350.  But I was able to find it used on eBay, shipped for $73.  It's branded by many companies, but the model is always the Pro 3600.
With an RS-232 interface I could still make it wireless by buying or building a Bluetooth SPP adapter.  Then it would be simple to log data with my PDA.  I ended up building my own, by buying some parts and using some I already had.  I saved $30-40, but spent a lot of time.  But it's good to keep exercising my novice electrical engineering skills.

Using an baby seat rack I had never installed on my bike, I was able to mount the level and Bluetooth adapter.
So now I can log both GPS data from my Holux GPS receiver and trail grade data from my Bluetooth enabled Pro 3600 protractor to my Dell Axim PDA.  By the way, this PDA is one of the few models that can simultaneous have two Bluetooth connections open at once.  It's specifically why I bought this one off eBay almost two years ago.
Holux M-1000 GPS receiver
Dell Axim x51 PDA
With a single logging program running, I can log from both devices, associating the GPS with the trail grade data.

I still need to do some more testing with the Pro 3600 protractor.  Hopefully it will not be as jittery as the Wii components.  On the trails, I plan to walk with the bike.  I think I can keep a more consistent pace and avoid vibrations this way.

Once I collect trail data, my plan is to use the grade information to calculate and replace the GPS altitude positions.  This way I can still use Google Earth to render the trail for me, and I can view grade information there.  Here is an example of how Google Earth can show the trail grade:

Hopefully I'll be posting some results soon!