– En el principio no había nada ni espacio ni tiempo. El universo entero concentrado en el espacio del núcleo de un átomo, y antes aun menos, mucho menor que un protón, y aun menos todavía, un infinitamente denso punto matemático Y fue el Big Bang. – de Cántico Cósmico, por Ernesto Cardenal, 1989
“In the beginning, there was nothing no space no time. The entire universe concentrated in the space of the nucleus of a single atom, and before even less, much less than a proton, and before still less, an infinitely dense mathematical point And there was the Big Bang.” (translation by half-fast cycling club)
The red spots in the images above are described as newly forming galaxies, one formed 350 million years and the other 450 million years after the big bang. They are about 13.8 billion light years away. The resolution is not as clear as the star above, so the images may not be as awe-inspiring at first glance, but this is incomprehensible…The light we are seeing left those galaxies more than 13 billion years ago.
As Sen Everett Dirksen once said about money, “a billion here, a billion there – and pretty soon you’re talking real money.” If you counted out a billion dollar bills at the rate of one per second, it would take you about 32 years to count them – multiply that by 13.8 and you have about 457.5 years. 13.8 billion is a lot.
Since light travels at about 670 billion mph, it would travel almost 6 trillion miles in a year. This makes thinking about 13.8 billion light years in terms of miles or kilometers pretty much impossible.
This is made all the more incomprehensible when you recall that the universe is only 5783 years old. ; ) Cardenal (a Roman Catholic priest) lets us know that believing in a god and acknowledging science are not mutually exclusive.
Let it snow, let it snow
It was time to remind myself that I’m somebody who rides a bike in all weather. I was afraid I was getting soft in retirement so I headed out today. It was snowing lightly, temperature 25º (-4 C), and windy (windchill 13 F). It was a great day for a ride. Since I no longer commute, getting out involves a conscious decision.
Here in Wisconsin we are strong supporters of the Right to Bare Arms. Despite that, I was pretty well covered up for my ride. Remember that when you ride into the wind, the apparent wind (and therefore the windchill) requires adding the wind velocity to your speed.
I woke up to fresh snow – not enough to ski, but enough that the door scraped through it upon opening.
This means it’s time to get the winter bike ready. It needed a new rear sprocket. I have written before of the value of a belt drive bike for winter – lower maintenance being #1 on the list. While there is less maintenance to do, when it comes time, the tasks are a bit different than on a chain-drive bike.
The sprocket on top is the old one. Note how the teeth have worn down to sharp edges, unlike the rounded profile of the teeth on the new sprocket below. Changing the sprocket is simple, according to the YouTube tutorial from Gates, maker of the belt drive system. There is an expensive-looking tool – the Gates SureFit Tool – sure enough, I found it on sale for €81.95 or between $133 and $150 US on three sites. It is totally unnecessary. It is for installing the part but not for removing the old one. Installing is the easy part.
While the tool is very impressive-looking, in anodized aluminum with a knurled grip (like the knurled stock on the Official Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 shot Range Model Air Rifle made famous by Ralphie in “A Christmas Story”, or Jean Shepherd in “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash” for the literary-minded among you) – it is completely unnecessary and would be a waste of your money. You can watch a second tutorial to see how to do the installation with the tool. (Photo from Rose Bikes)
What the tutorial doesn’t show or tell you is that before you pry loose the “SureFit fingers”, there may be a lock ring to remove. In the second photo, the putty knife is wedged under the lock ring. The “round lobes” on the sprocket and the opening of the lock ring are aligned with the indents on the hub shell referred to in the video. My lock ring pliers would not work on it, but it can be pried off fairly easily with a flathead screwdriver (which is also what you use on the “fingers”). The hub in the photos is the SRAM i-motion 3, which has been discontinued. The sprocket is the same used for Shimano hubs, which is what is shown in the video.
While we’re talking products, I don’t know as I’ve yet sung the praises of the seat pack I bought for the coast-to-coast tour last summer. It was the Evoc 3 liter (the large size) with Boa seatpost attachment as well as Velcro straps to the saddle rails.
The bag can be rolled tightly and fastened with a clip to hold a few essential tools and spares, or unrolled to hold a complete rainsuit as well. It keeps things dry and takes just a minute to expand or contract to hold the load tightly without swaying. It is wedge-shaped – narrow at the front end so as not to rub on your inner thighs when you pedal and wider behind to increase capacity. To carry even more I used Velcro straps to attach other items to the outside of the bag. When open, things may slide out the back, so check the ground before closing up any time you move things in or out of the pack.
When the trip ended I thought I would go back to a smaller bag but, three months later, it’s still back there. I guess I like it.
While the winter bike is ready to ride, the snow tires did not go on today. There are two starts to biking winter here – the day I bring out the belt-drive bike, and the day I switch to studded snow tires. The latter usually comes at the end of December.
With that in mind, we decided that the fall color ride, being one of the highlights of our year, might be twice as fun if we did it twice. On Tuesday, October 18, we decided to put that to the test. Finding two available dates was surprisingly hard for a group that is mostly retired. [By “mostly retired”, we don’t mean like “mostly dead”. We mean that most of us in the group are retired.]
And so, on Tuesday morning, after a breakfast that couldn’t be beat, we headed off into the sunrise. It was a fine fall morning…
Or maybe we didn’t. It snowed a bit on Monday, with a temperature that never got out of the 30s (<4ºC) and winds that stayed in the teens all day. The forecast for Tuesday was more of the same so, one by one, folks found other ways to spend the day. We rescheduled for a day when it is supposed to be about 40 degrees (F) warmer.
What to do? I made my own breakfast and coffee instead of going out with the gang. On the road early, temperature right at 32 (0 C), a strong wind making the wind chill some number I don’t care about. Why do I own warm cycling clothes unless it’s to ride when it’s chilly?
It was a beautiful morning. The colors are past their peak, but don’t tell that to the maples in their Serrano chili red, or maybe it was Ferrari red, or maybe crimson or scarlet or a red with no name. It was a red that made the sunlight different when I passed those trees; a red that made the sky around it bluer; a red that made me realize I don’t know what red means.
Alas, none were close enough for a good picture. As the kids’ book detective Cam Jansen would do, I said “click” and took a picture that only I can see.
One of these days, we will head out for the final group ride of the season. You’ll read it here first (since you won’t read about it anywhere else, ever).
Oh! The sacrifices I make for you to write this blog! 😉 I have written about winter biking and clothing more than once and I thought I’d written my last.
I realized that, while I have written and raved about my mittens from Empire Wool and Canvas Company (more than once), and mentioned Bar Mitts (aka pogies), I’ve never tried them. As a responsible blogger, I bought a pair.
The Bar Mitts brand come in regular and Extreme models. Living in a rather extreme climate (having ridden in temperatures from -26 to +106 degrees F [-32 to +41 C]) the Extreme seemed the logical choice. If I wanted to see if they could replace my mittens, the Extreme was the only choice.
Other reviews I have read talked about sweaty hands. In cold weather, that is not an issue worth losing sleep over. I rode with them at 50 degrees (10 C). I forgot how warm 50 degrees is. My windfront tights were too warm. My jacket was too warm. The cap under my helmet was too warm. My hands did not become too warm until after I realized I was overdressed in general. Even then, I removed the cuffs and opened the zippers, which allowed flow through ventilation. My hands were the most comfortable part of me. In the upper photo you can see a bit of light coming through from the bottom. That’s where the zipper is.
They come in multiple sizes. The place I bought mine stocks only extra-large. I can’t imagine a smaller size. There wouldn’t be room to get my fingers around the brake levers with warm gloves or mittens on. In a warmer climate, that might not be a problem; but then, you wouldn’t need the Extreme model, would you?
Mounting on the bike
is a simple process. They open up with a zipper and slip over the bars. Zip them shut, then Velcro two tabs around the cables on the stem side of the bar. The mitt is held in place with an expanding bar-end plug. (If you’ve ever used a boat with a drain plug, you’re familiar with the concept.) It takes a bit of fishing through a small hole in the Neoprene with a 4mm Allen wrench to tighten. Removing is likewise simple, but not something I’d do as often as I’d change from one pair of gloves or mittens to another.
takes a bit of adjustment. Since they cover the bar ends, you can’t use that hand position. If you have bar-end attachments, you can buy a model with holes so the bar ends stick out, but then you can’t use them and stay warm at the same time. To signal a turn, you slide your hand toward you to get it out of the mitt, then signal; so it’s a two-step process and takes a bit longer than just removing your hand from the bar to signal. Slipping back in is easy but, again, different than just re-gripping the bar. When approaching a turn, to remove your hand to signal, slide it back in to apply the brake, and maybe back out to signal again is a bit of a chore. If I had reason to get my hand out fast, I think it could be a problem. If you use a bell, it will be inside the pogie, meaning the sound is greatly muffled. You can’t see your hands, but if you need to see your hands to shift or apply the brakes you have a bigger problem.
is the reason for these, right? So how do they stack up? Since they stay on the bike, if you leave your bike in an unheated space, they are cold inside until your body heat warms them. They are not air tight, so there is a breeze coming through where the cables exit. You can adjust the air leak by tightening or loosening those tabs. If you’re gonna pull your hand out to signal, you still need a glove or mitten unless it is pretty warm out. If you never signal, they are much easier. Then again, I don’t want to ride with you. You do need less glove than without the pogies. I have so far tried liner gloves, full fingered lightweight gloves, full-fingered “winter” gloves, and woolen mittens. The coldest I have ridden so far is 5 degrees (-15 C). At that temperature I needed mittens under the pogies. Gloves weren’t enough. There’s not a lot of room inside with a mitten on, so applying the brakes takes a bit more concentration. I would not wear my big Empire mitts inside. (I just tried them. I can get them in but once there, they stay there. I have to pull my hand out of the mitten and the pogie to do it with any speed.) The mitts I wore at 5 degrees would not have been enough at below zero temperatures and getting my hand in position around the brake lever in that tight space took some doing.
If your hands are always cold, you can’t get Empire mittens because Kevin isn’t making the bike mitts anymore, you have gloves and mittens that you like but they’re not quite warm enough, Bar Mitts/pogies might be for you; especially if your mittens use Thinsulate or some other warm and not bulky lining.
If you never signal your turns anyway, Bar Mitts/pogies might be for you.
If you don’t like anything bulky on your hands, Bar Mitts/pogies might be for you.
If you don’t ride where it’s really cold, Bar Mitts/pogies might be for you. Around the freezing point they are pretty comfortable with just liner gloves under them – once you warm up the insides. But that’s hardly what I’d call “extreme.”
As for me? The jury is still out, but the ‘no’ votes appear to be ahead. I admit, it hasn’t been a fair test. I’ve only used them between 5 and 50 degrees. But gimme a break. I haven’t had ‘em a full week yet.
They now have two weeks of use. I will leave them on until it is too warm to use them…but I’m not so sure they’ll go back on next winter.