What Is It Wednesday: Cycle Alert

This week I was tossing around a few ideas for WIIW, I have plenty on bike basics I could write about but then I watched this video and just knew this is what I wanted to share with you this week. As I ride more and more on the road (remember I grew up equating riding in the streets with instant roadkill status?) the more and more I’m thinking about safety. Am I visible? Which is safer – road or sidewalk? Arguments could be made on both sides to that question. Will I see or hear the car rolling up behind me if I am slowing down on a hill or coming to a stoplight? Well this UK company came up with a great idea specifically for those big 18 wheelers, but I see a greater application in mind. Also, is it UK anymore after Brexit or have we gone back to Great Britain, or England – it feels like when you keep calling someone by the wrong name unknowingly. Weigh in below if you know.

Anyways.. watch this short video and let’s discuss how this could impact road safety.

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Credit: Cycle Alert

So this company called Cycle Alert posted this video on YouTube about two years ago. Its focus is on the danger that comes with big rig drivers and cyclists sharing the road and the huge blindspots that exist on vehicles like that, especially while turning. It’s bad enough that the blindspots are big enough to hide a car let alone a lone cyclist.

So what Cycle Alert came up with is a RFID tag and receiver system. Cyclists put a tag on their bikes and the truck driver has a receiver outfitted on the outside of the truck and a display mounted on their dashboard. When a cyclist nears one of these equipped trucks, the receiver sends a signal to the display letting the driver know “Hey! You’ve got someone riding on two wheels next to you.” It doesn’t literally say this, but you get the idea. Although, if they ever updated it to include an audible alarm my vote is for Samuel L Jackson to be the voice.

So right now this is a UK based product, and the tags are free  to cyclists (or $14 UK there’s some confusion on their site about this) and the company is working with shipping companies to get them equipped with the receivers. So let’s discuss what works, what doesn’t, and how this could be flushed out to a wider market.

Ok so first off, I think this is an awesome concept that needs refining. For one, the receiver mounts to the outside of the truck on one side, and it’s not clear whether if the cyclist was coming up on your other side if the RFID tag would be picked up or not. They do mention in their video that it works through glass, but I highly doubt it would work unless you had a receiver on both sides and the rear just because of all of the metal encasing the vehicle which just acts as an RFID blocker.

The second major issue that I see plaguing this great concept is that everyone has to opt-in to using it. Cyclists need to put it on their bikes and truck companies need to equip it on their fleets. Kudos to the companies in the UK that already have done so because it’s not just about keeping cyclists safe, it keeps their drivers safe as well, no driver wants to experience something as tragic as hitting a person just because they couldn’t see them. But all of the truck driving companies could have them on their vehicles and it still won’t work unless all bikes are also equipped with the tags. And then you have an environment where drivers may get used to and rely on the device and not check their blindspots for tag-less cyclists (or vice versa for cyclists, but I have a feeling cyclists are a little more cautious considering their the smaller of the two).

The way I see this being a viable option is if it gets built into road safety infrastructure. Make all new cars (not just trucks) come equipped with the sensor and display, and make all new bikes come equipped with the tag itself. Then all you have to do is offer upgrade kits to cyclists and motorists without new bikes and cars. But how can we take this one step further? On their site it mentions they are still fine tuning the system and they also offer other products for motorists with cycle safety in mind such as cameras and turn sensors.

But why not integrate something that already exists in some newer bike computers? Garmin, and a few other companies, already have radar built into some of their units that alert cyclists to oncoming motorists. I’ve even seen some systems that connect to the taillight causing it to blink differently as the car nears. There are several brands of helmets with LEDs on the rear that have a built-in accelerometer that changes the blinking pattern to solid as you slow down to alert riders and drivers behind you.


I say all of that to say this. Instead of having three or four products keeping us safe, visible, and aware – why not just one? What I am hoping Cycle Alert or any other company can do is get car manufacturers to build in cyclist detection even in their non-luxury offerings, and get bike companies to build in these tags as well as an alert system for the cyclist. Basically – make it standard on both sides. Incentivize it if you have to by providing a discount on car insurance if your vehicle is equipped with it.

But that’s just me, what other systems have you seen out there that are working to keep both drivers and cyclists safe on the road?

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Monday M.O.’s

We all get in slumps, like for me – right now. My husband and I are relocating to another state and this post month had been all about doing recon on where we want to move, figuring it finances, one of us finding a job first and the general mayhem that comes with preparing for major life changes. So getting my rides in has slipped a bit – OR A LOT – this month.

It got me thinking that maybe we could all use a pick me up or a pat on the back for a job well done. So starting today I will be posting a Monday M.O. M.O. if you’ve ever watched any crime drama is the way or reason someone does something, “modus operandi” is we want to get all Latin about it. Whether it’s just a gentle reminder to feel good or an update on my own progress, let’s just make Monday a positive start to the week. As this site grows I definitely would love to feature readers’ progress and personal breakthroughs too! So if you’ve got one to share hit me up!

Also, I need to give props to Secret Dream Life for this awesome photo! Perfect way to start out Motivational Mondays!

What Is It Wednesday: Airless Tires

Ok so airless tires aren’t a completely new thing since solid tires have been around for a while. But I recently came across some new concepts, in particular the Ever Tires and Nexo brands. Essentially they took a solid tire, and punched some holes or gas infused them to make it lighter than a traditional solid tire, making it more accessible for people who like the idea of a solid tire but not necessarily the cost or the heftiness (real word, I swear). Before we get too much into these new-fangled airless tires, let’s take a look at how a traditional bike tire (and tube) works so we can see the difference and decide whether it’s worth it or not.

So if you read last week’s What Is It Wednesday on bike anatomy you already know that the tires attach to the rim of the bike wheel and are inflated to their correct PSI (pounds per square inch) via a valve – simple enough. These types (tubular) of tires have inner tubes, which is what you’re actually inflating. The tube itself  wraps around the rim just under the tire that can be glued to the rim. The pros with this type of setup boil down to being cheaper per unit, on the lower end you’re looking at $6-$15 per tube. The downside is that if something punctures your tire and inner tube, it’s going to go flat and hopefully it’s not too far of a walk back.

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Credit: Nashbar

Now there’s also tubular tires that aren’t 100% air filled, they come partially filled with a gel. Slime Smart Tubes is one such example. Inside the tube it contains a gel that when the tire and tube get punctured, the gel (or slime as they call it) will leak out and harden upon contact with the air. Pretty neat. Pros on this one definitely have to be the fact that you won’t get a flat right away if your tire and tube are punctured. Cons, well I’ve heard from others that you can feel the additional weight rolling around the tire which may or may not bother you. The other biggest con I’ve heard is that once it is punctured and you go to change your tire and tube out it can be quite the mess. These will set you back anywhere between $10 – $30 a tube depending on the size and type needed. They have lightweight ones and extra thick ones depending on your tire type.

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Credit: Slime Smart Tubes

So we’re getting closer to the airless tires I started this post with, and as I said tubeless tires aren’t exactly new. Tubeless tires function almost exactly the same as a tubular tire except for one small fact – you guessed right, there’s no tube involved. Instead the tire is sealed to the rim and you inflate the tire itself. The diagram below shows a side by side comparison. Pros here are no need for tubes – yay! Also they seem to roll easier on the ground since the tire can give a little to conform better without the tube being in the way. Cons, there’s definitely more setup involved and you have to be more mindful of maintenance because these can still get a flat, they’re not impenetrable.. Price ranges wildly depending on the size and style you need: $30-$100+/tire.

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Credit:Deer Valley

Now to these tubeless AND airless tires. Phew… it took a minute to get here but it’s worth it. Ok, so what if you didn’t have to worry about fixing a flat, dealing with tubes, or even having to inflate your tires – it might save you some time, right? Well, that’s what a few companies including Ever Tires and Nexo are hoping. The idea is that because there’s nothing to inflate, it can never go flat. These companies have slightly different designs so let’s start with Ever Tires.

Ever Tires use a polymer blend to create a solid but not solid tire. Their tires have holes that reduce weight and add some cushion to the ride. One of my chief concerns with these tires is how to maintain the tire with all of those holes. If I’m riding off-road, I can only imagine the mud build-up that might occur, which will make the tires roll unevenly. I’d be interested to see first hand how easy it is to CLEAN between all those little holes. One positive note is they are rated for 3000+ miles (5000+ if you use their rim set). One downside, which I’d like to know more about, is these would not be ideal for indoor trainers because of the heat generated from the friction. I use my indoor trainer often, so it would be a hassle to have to change the back wheel out, maybe they’ll refine their materials to withstand use on an indoor trainer, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Credit: Ever Tires

The other airless tire I wanted to gander at was the Nexo tire. This is another airless tire that requires no inflation and is rated for 5000 km. The tire is made up of a proprietary compound and a portion of their interior is filled with a stable gas that reduces the weight (ballgate anyone?). To keep the tires centered on the rim, they use a bolt system. While I LOVE the look of the Ever Tires, I have to admit that the Nexos seem like a more practical option as far as maintenance. The concept of the tire being partially filled with gas is interesting because of how it’s done, the gas impregnates the material versus being inflated and then sealed. So even if the tire gets punctured, only a minimal amount of the gas would be lost, therefore no flat. The Nexos may or may not be suitable for indoor trainers – their website says to keep away from heat sources but nothing is specifically said about trainers. I’ll try to follow up with them on this.

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Credit: Nexo

So there we have it folks. We’ve learned a lot about tires today! I hope to get an opportunity to review the Nexo and Ever Tires and if I do I will definitely post a follow up to this. If you’re interested in learning more about the Nexo and Ever Tires, they have a KickStarter up now, which I’ve linked.

Know any great topics you’d like to see covered on What Is It Wednesday, comment below or send me a message. 


 Disclaimer: None of these companies sponsor me or pay for my opinions. Any links added to this article were done for informational purposes only and to credit image source. 

New Monthly Feature!

I hope you’ve already checked out our weekly feature What Is It Wednesdays, the first one focused on bike basics, but in the future we’ll have plenty of cool stuff to cover – like how about tires that you can see through and never go flat, neat huh?

I wanted to also include a monthly feature about my biking journeys and goal setting. So Monthly Miles was born! By the 5th of each month I will post my total miles, individual rides during the month with Strava reports, photos, and hopefully if I can get my GoPro soon – some videos. I’d like to get a mileage meter going somewhere on the site, so if anyone knows how to easily do that, hit me up!

What Is It Wednesday: Bike Anatomy 101

You know, I had ridden bikes for years before ever knowing the frame had different names for the different components, and I’ll wager I’m not the only one who didn’t know. So before we venture too far into What Is It Wednesday land, I thought it would be fitting to start with the basics. Start/click at the top left and scroll through the slideshow to learn about different parts of the wheels, front assembly, the frame, and what we like to call – the heart of the bike.

 

Wrap-ups

So lot’s of new tidbits from this week. First of all, the page looks a little different with some new sidebar action going on – check out the Instagram feed panel. This week has mostly been putting final touches on the base for the site so that all we need to worry about is content, hooray! Also added more social networking widgets so we can all be one happy family and stalk… I mean follow each other.

This week also brought the first announced recurring blog post What Is It Wednesdays. I am excited about this because I am a dork and I like learning about things, so as I learn so can you. The first post will be a basic Anatomy 101 lesson, because it’s always best to start with the basics and build a foundation.

Next week we’re doing something exciting over here and taking a short trip to Richmond, VA. We’re thinking about moving there soon and have heard great things about the city’s bike accessibility. If we can, we are planning to bring along our bikes to check out the area. Either way, there will be LOTS of pictures I’m sure we can share with you.

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Credit: RichmondFuture.org

One more thing before I let you go, there will be an announcement next week about a monthly series we’re doing. Hint: it has something to do with bikes… shhhh don’t tell anyone I told you 😉

 

What are you doing Wednesdays?

After much pondering, I’ve come up with the first weekly installation for From The Top of The Tube. Have you ever wondered – “just what IS that thing anyway” – but were too afraid to ask or maybe thought you’d make a fool of yourself? Well let me be that fool for you! On What Is It Wednesdays I will ask and answer those questions right here. I’ll do the research and you reap the brainy benefits – sounds like a win-win to me. So be on the lookout Wednesdays at 8pm starting Wednesday 11/16/16 for our first installment. And if you’ve ever wondered what something was, send the suggestion over my way and I just might look it up one Wednesday.

So I started a blog…

How original, right? Well I hope so because I couldn’t find a blog doing exactly what I was looking for – a space for a non-uber cyclist/semi pro/pro person’s opinions and experiences. There were some out there that fit the bill of the everyday biker, but few were women, and fewer still had taken the path I have. So I told myself “Self” (how cliche but stick with me here)… “Self, why don’t you toss your two cents in there?” So, here I am!

A short backstory: I grew up in Philly and only got to ride my bike in the summers when we would go down the shore (Philly lingo for the New Jersey shore… no not THAT Jersey Shore). I LOVED it and every year I looked forward to getting back on my bike because it meant freedom. I wasn’t allowed to ride in the city because apparently riding in the street meant instant roadkill status. Fast forward to 2016 – I live in Charlotte, I’m a licensed Physical Therapist Assistant, have lost over 150 lbs on my own, and recently rediscovered that freedom year round. I’m also teaching myself how bikes work, proper maintenance, and all the cool things you can do with them – like I never knew cyclocross existed before now.

So this is what you’ll get from me, a non-pretensious, non-judgey, everyday biker’s take on the world of cycling. So you’ll get my personal experiences mixed with reviews, cool bikey things I’ve come across, possibly some tutorials (as I learn so can you), and I’m sure other stuff will find it’s way in there. I know I mentioned earlier that I didn’t find too many XX chromosomal takes, I don’t intend for this to be a women’s only club – there might be occasional anecdotes that are relevant to women but I’m all about inclusivity on here.

Still working out the details on a specific day/time you can expect updates to be available – stay tuned.

So go ahead and grab two wheels and take a ride with me.

Nikki signing off from the top of the tube.

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