Norwalk bikeway and pedestrian plan underway

Exciting development – Norwalk kicked off planning for making the city more bike and walker friendly. Initial meetings have been held – here’s a copy of the presentation. At the top is a link to a survey you can take. At the end is a request for email so you can stay up to date. The key thing is for the planning process to have as much community involvement as possible, the more voices and perspectives taken into account, the better it will reflect all of Norwalk’s interests.

Cateye Strada wired with cadence

Cateye Strada wired with cadence

For whatever reason, the Sigma Sport 2606L wireless computer with cadence just wouldn’t work properly on my road bike Trekkie. I like Sigma products generally and their warranty and customer support are exceptional. They worked with me to resolve, swapping parts and such, but no luck, so I looked elsewhere. I’ve had great experience with Cateye – one of their cadence units installed on an older road bike works perfectly after 18 years. I would have moved it, but the display doesn’t show speed and cadence simultaneously, whereas the Strada does.

I went for the wired version. They have a well-regarded wireless unit, but at this point I wanted dependability and simplicity. One of Cateye’s calling cards is that speed is taken off the rear wheel and cadence from the left crank, putting the sensors in one line and avoiding having to wire both wheels, which gives a clean appearance. Installing is straightforward. The manual specifies 3mm (about 1/10 of an inch) distances between the magnets and sensors, but there was no way I could make the gaps that small. The nearest I could get was about 10mm. I routed the wire anyway, configured the head (off the bike) and then mounted it on the handlebar. A few turns of the crank confirmed that the sensors picked up the magnets just fine. For my road riding, I care more about cadence than speed, so I’m happy. Some people have written that the cadence display is small, but I haven’t found that to be an issue. The unit does what it’s supposed to do; it’s one-touch control is a nice feature.

Timbuk2 Bullitt Pannier Messenger Bag

Timbuk2 Bullitt Pannier Messenger Bag

With hot humid weather hitting, I looked to swap out my backpack for a convertible pannier that would fit on the rack and serve as a messenger bag off the bike. Hunting around online wasn’t that helpful to me. The selection was large but without seeing any bag up close, I didn’t have the confidence ot decide. I also wanted to avoid return shipping, returns or exchanges. Poking around bike shops and luggage stores, I saw some but wasn’t thrilled until I came across the Timbuk2 Bullitt Pannier Messenger Bag at a sport shop near my work in NYC. If fit the bill perfectly – an easy on/off system, stylish for the office, large enough capacity, waterproof and well made. It connects to the rack with two deep hooks, no additional restraints are provided or needed. The key is that the hooks have a reverse bend at their ends allowing one of them to grab one of the struts on the rack. I was nervous at first and did some test rides, empty, over smooth and pocked terrain. I figured that without any weight at all in the pannier it would have the greatest chance to unhook. It didn’t. I’ve ridden with it about two weeks now, and it performs perfectly. No worries anymore.

Some reviews I came across mentioned that the pannier would be improved with pockets on the outside. I feel Timbuk2 made a good choice by not doing that because it gives the bag a more professional appearance and also because a cleverly placed pocket is accessible through a zipper that is under the covering flap. All in all, I’m very pleased with this bag’s intelligence, and grateful that I no longer have to suffer from backpack sweat.

Norwalk Green to Calf Pasture Beach route

Calf Pasture Beach, Norwalk CT

One of Norwalk’s gems, Calf Pasture Beach is a breeze to get to by car. But by bike the car route is unsafe. I looked for a way that would avoid crossing over 95 and the roundabouts by the cemetary and park just past Nik’s. You can find it here: Norwalk Green to Calf Pasture.

Click on Print Cue Sheet to print the cue sheet

Click on Print Cue Sheet to print the cue sheet

A really nice feature of this and the other maps is the ability to print the cue sheet. You can see the location of the link to click from the image on the left. The cue sheet gives you directions that include Cumulative Distance, Distance for each segment, Directions, Notes, Direction and Elevation. A snippet of this ride’s cue sheet follows:

Cue sheet for the ride, gives a lot of valuable info

Commuting speed

15 minutes for a 2.5 mile commute

Thanks to an unused Sigma BC 800 cycle computer my son gave me, I’ve been able to track my commute distance, speed and time. Taking it easy over my 2.5 mile route, I’ve averaged a tad over 10 miles per hour, which takes just under 15 minutes, just five minutes more than driving. Incidentally, that’s about the speed Google’s bicycle routes use for their time estimates over the routes I take, so they’re reasonable for commuting purposes. When you factor in the exercise, ride enjoyment and lack of driving stress, those five minutes add to life’s quality in so many ways.

Norwalk bike map, a beginning

Norbiker David Marcus started mapping major roads in Norwalk. CLICK TO VIEW MAP. What’s really good about it is that he color codes the routes with detail, like “has shoulder,” “path,” “caution,” “dangerous,” and “recommended.” It’s an early and good start to developing a comprehensive cycling map. David grew up cycling in King County, Washington, a very cycling-friendly area, and knows how to rate roads. Some posts ago I mentioned the Madison, WI map. Here’s a link David provided to the King County map. . It’s another great one.

Routes to and from the South Norwalk Train Station – Norwalk Green

Bikely provides us with pretty simple ways to map rides. I mapped two routes this evening, both to and from the Norwalk Green to the South Norwalk Train Station.

Norwalk Green to South Norwalk Train Station: Good in the early morning. Part of it runs along East Avenue, a dangerous street. Like many people I ride on the sidewalk for safety reasons. The west side of the street has no cross streets, so the sidewalk is a long stretch. The route goes under 95 instead of over – another danger spot, and comes out on a secondary street. I don’t recommend this route for returning because the traffic is dense.

South Norwalk Train Station to Norwalk Green: I like this route for afternoon returns. You’ll notice that leaving the station it rolls along North Main street to Marshall (or Ann) rather than go down to Water Street and cross the entrance to the Stroffolino Bridge. Here the reason is to avoid the traffic coming from 3 directions that want to go over bridge. At quitting time there’s too much traffic and none of the drivers is thinking about a cyclist.

New cassette – riding shows a real improvement.

Harris Cyclery Century Special 13-30, 9 speed

It’s been a couple of weeks now that I’ve been riding Trekkie with the new Harris Cyclery 13-30 9 speed cassette. I bought it with the recommended Sachs chain and had both installed by Smart Cycles, who did the swap overnight. Shifting is crisp and clean across the cassette and up and down the chain rings. I had thought about changing the rings to lower the ratios further but decided to wait and see how widening the cassette from 12-25 to 13-30 would feel. So far, the extra points have made a real difference, allowing me to find climbing gears on which I can keep my cadence up and not struggle or lose form. I haven’t had to use my 30T chain ring yet, which I sometimes dropped down to for some of the short, steep climbs on my routes because I needed something lower than 42/25. Looks like I’ll have plenty of reserve, which was a goal, and don’t have to lower the front rings. While researching cassettes I learned that 11-32 are quite popular on triples and compact doubles. For the type of fitness riding I do – and the terrain I ride – on Trekkie, I didn’t think I would get much use out of the 11T and 12T cogs, so it seemed that starting with a higher cog like 13 would be a better choice for me. If I owned, or was buying, a new bike with a 10 or 11 speed cassette compared to my 9, the 11-32 seems to be a good choice, as it gives a wider range and the option of bigger gears when you want them.

Bike friendly Madison, WI

Cycling in Madison WI

Cycling in Madison WI

Business took me on my first trip ever to Wisconsin and Madison. Over the years I’ve read about Madison’s cycling friendliness, it’s ranked 7th by Bicycling Magazine, and now had my first opportunity to see it up close.

The first clue came at the airport at the Madison tourism/information station where their bike map was prominently displayed. No ordinary bike map, this one comes with extensive, detailed and illustrated instructions for riding safely, commuting, registration and laws, pre-ride checklists, parental advice, and links to government resources, bicycle organizations and contacts. If not already, this map and information should be a standard everywhere.

For routes, the map shows bike lanes or paved shoulders, bike paths, and even where the bike path runs on sidewalks. Bike boxes provide an extra margin of safety, these set the traffic back a few feet from the intersection. And bike boulevards are specially marked low volume, low speed, local streets that “take the shared roadway bike facility to a new level.”

Madison appeared to be on the flat side. Although I didn’t get a chance to ride, I saw lots of bikes on porches and locked-up in racks around the city.

After seeing this, I’m going to contact the city to see if we can put together a few basic maps and add signage, as David Marcus suggested in a comment to an earlier blog post.