Monday, 27 October 2014

Sunglasses and lens options - I actually know something about this.

I love cycling, bicycles, racing, and all that related stuff.  I have worked in a bike shop selling and counselling customers on bike choices.  I have gotten my hands dirty fixing my bikes and my friend's bikes.  However, there are lots of people out there who know a lot more about cycling than I do.  My background in eye care does give me a bit more information than some when it comes to (there are still others out there who know more than me ...).

I thought I might pass on my experience and knowledge in case anyone wants to hear my opinions on this topic.

First off, lens choice is very subjective thing.  What one person prefers as their lens of choice is not what another person would choose.  I have met people who wear one lens color for everything, and some who choose a different lens for every light condition and every activity.

In general, the most important advice is to protect your eyes from UV light.  UV is what ends up causing cataracts for most of us at some point in our lives.  As you're sitting out there on the bike for hours on a sunny (or cloudy) day the UV light is getting absorbed by your lenses (inside your eye) if your sunglasses aren't blocking it from getting there.  Luckily, most cyclists wear sun protection already.  Make sure they block 100% UV.  

Lens options come in all sorts of varieties.  This can include the lens color, lens coatings, polarization, and photochromics.  

Lens color facts / opinions:
  • Grey preserves the most color perception and blocks out the most light.  However, it is a neutral filter which means that it doesn't allow the most contrast.  It is best suited for bright days that just need the brightness turned down.  
  • Brown tints can block out a fair amount of brightness, but they are great at retaining contrast in cloudy conditions (provided that the overall light level isn't too low).  Green lenses tend to be similar to brown lenses in performance.
  • Orange lenses are great for ski conditions - generally cloudy with a high need for contrast awareness on a white/grey background, not the best for cycling.
  • Yellow lenses are the best for low light conditions like dawn or dusk.  They can even help at night time for some people because they allow light in a wavelength that approaches our peak sensitivity of 555 nm (think yellow-green, Cannondale-ish).  This means that nearly all of the light passing through the lens is at our peak sensitivity; hence, we see better.
  • Clear lenses are good for night riding and gloomy or rainy days if you don't like tints.  They protect your eyes from UV and bugs, but don't affect your perception too much.

By lens coatings, I am referring to mirror and other coatings on the lenses.  This would include coatings like Iridium from Oakley.  These are filters / mirrors that reflect certain wavelengths of light to help the eyes get "better" light (and also produce a certain look to the product).  A common mirror appears blue because it is blocking the blue wavelength.  Does it make a huge difference?  Not really sure, but they do look cool.

Polarization is important to the cyclist because it is great for blocking reflected light off of the wet roads.  It also blocks reflected light off of cars windows, snow, lakes / rivers, etc.  It is usually more comfortable to wear, but it does take some getting used to because it also makes certain displays and windows (with their coatings) look odd. 

Photochromics are lenses that get darker in brighter lights (and in colder conditions).  These are nice if you want one lens that changes for your conditions without you having to actually change the lens itself.  I think they are great for cycling sunglasses, but they do not make a huge difference to actual lens shade (ie, pink lens to dark pink lens - as witnessed in my Rudy Project "racing red" pair).

I am a fan of companies that make good frames and have great lenses; especially with multiple lenses that can be easily switched out for based on the conditions.  Some brands / models come with several lenses. Rudy Project is great for this (I am surprised they aren't more popular). The Rudy fit is good, the nose pads are adjustable in most cases, and the temples are adjustable.

Rudy Project Noyz - optional lenses available

Smith Optics has a few pairs that also come with the interchangeable lenses - the Pivlok V2 is a great system, I wish they included a yellow or clear lens with each pair.

Smith Pivlock Overdrive - green mirrored lens, grey and brown lens included.

I have no first hand knowledge with many of the other brands, but I have worn Oakley a fair amount - not my favorite anymore, but good.  Maui Jim makes awesome lenses, but they lack the sport models that most cyclists would desire. 

The bottom line: get something that fits well, blocks out UV, and has multiple lenses that change out for the right light conditions, or buy a bunch of pairs with different lenses and keep the local eye care businesses afloat.  

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Love for the bike people.

I think cycling and the world of bicycles contains a whole lot of interesting people; disproportionately so.  I come from the world of health care, where most people don't seem to be that creative or take the time to look outside of their own specialized world.  I know these are generalizations that should not be applied unfairly, but I am amazed each day when I read the cycling blogs written by professionals and amateurs alike.  Red Kite Prayer (RKP) is one of my favorites ... Padraig is a real gem of a writer and a professional; not to mention some of the other writers that write for RKP.  I am also keen to read things by Gary Fisher, hear about Tom Ritchey's exploits, or thoughts by Ben Serotta.

All of these people are famous in the world of cycling for a reason.  They are pioneers and passionate about the two wheel world, much like me.  I don't plan on being famous in the world of cycling, but I certainly enjoy writing and reading more about cycling and bicycles than most other subjects.  These famous bike people are either successful athletes turned business people or craftsmen turned athletes or some combination of the two.  The are a form of the modern renaissance person that has many talents.

In retrospect, I should have been a mechanical engineer.  It would have been more useful for being in the bike world and designing frames or components.  Although I am convinced that a job is just a job. I don't care if you are a carpenter, nurse, social worker, or doctor ... your days are very much the same one day to the next.  And as such, maybe if I was a bike engineer, I may have lost interest in it?  No ... probably not.

I am also impressed by the various creative individuals in the world of cycling that have funneled their passions to make a living based on their true love.  I think some of the smaller apparel companies are pretty impressive.  I like companies that focus their creativity to be different, but remain true to functionality and form (based on actually cycling experience?).  Stand outs for me include:

Handlebar Mustache

Twin Six


Rodeo Adventure Labs

Tenspeed Hero

Some of the current or past pro riders are also extremely interesting personalities.  As an example, consider Phil Gaimon - writer of books, racer of bicycles, and comedian of all sorts.  Evelyn Stevens - a wall street analyst who just decided to become a world class cyclist.  Michael Barry - a rare Canadian world tour rider who not only survived as a pro cyclist for a long time, but is also a fantastic writer (I hope he throws me a mini-blog post some day).  There are many others.  I am referring more to the current riders than the past.  The past is full of characters; both good and bad.  I think we need to bring back the "great" nicknames in full force.  "The Badger," "the Sheriff", or "the Cannibal," sound so much more descriptive and menacing than "El Pistolero" or "the Cowboy."  If Lance was called "the Boss," then that may very well be perfect.  By "boss" do we mean leader of the team / peleton or power thug? (

Creativity is the stuff that makes us move forward to invent, improve and instruct.  Most of us have some form of creative outlet that allows that part of our brain to express itself.  Some of us have made a living on it, and some just produce "art" of many forms just for our own good.  It's so cool to see the eclectic mix of personalities that build bikes, race bikes or just plain ride bikes.

I think the universal passion that people share about bikes is a little crazy and a lot cool.  How many non-bike people think its completely nuts to spend thousands on a bike?  Most.  How many people have friends that don't ride a bike that give you the weirdest look when you say you rode 100+ kilometers yesterday?  Most.  However, we all understand each other.  That's cool.  I'm glad I belong to a group that understands my spending and rides their bikes for hundreds of kilometers.

I love bike people: they are creative, tough, and adventurous.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Fat bike: Fad or Future?

Living in a cold and snowy climate, I can see the appeal of a bicycle that can plow through snow and keep us bike lovers active.  It is a source of depression for many of us when the snow comes and we have to hang up our bikes for 6 months.

I used to make my own studded tired before you could readily get your hands on them.  I would put them on my Fisher AL-1 (before it was Gary Fisher), and I would proceed to ride in the snow that wasn't too deep, but mainly on icy roads and sidewalks that had been cleared.  To be perfectly honest, it wasn't very much fun, the studded tires we made were crap, and sometimes it is just too cold to ride a bike here in Canada.

I will admit that the days when it isn't too cold and the sun is shining, I do feel a bit sad that there is no two wheel option for exercise.  I enjoy spinning on a trainer or going to a spin class, but one of the main reasons we like to ride is to be outside and enjoy nature.

Here in North America, outside of California, we have pretty good air quality (relatively speaking). All the more reason to stay out of our cars and ride our bikes, even in the winter when it is snowy and cold.  I met a guy who tried to ride year round last winter; he was definitely determined.  Now keep in mind, it can be as low as -40 deg C here and the snow can easily get to a foot deep over night.  He told me that one day it took him 3 hours to get to work because of deep snow ... his wife picked him up after work.  I bet everyone wishes they had a boss who understood that you are 3 hours late for work because you rode your bike in the fallout of a blizzard.

SO, if you want to ride mainly for fitness and fun and commuting when the weather permits, then I would definitely see the value in buying a fat bike for winter riding.  In fact, as many bike nuts are aware, the N+1 rule for how many bikes we should have is certainly applicable here.  My goal is to slowly build a garage full of bikes (without my wife noticing) that fills each of the different categories that are needed.  Perhaps, the fat bike will be next.

Now which fat bike?  I am not a rich man, not at least in the monetary sense.  So I may not call up Ericksen and order this beauty:

Ericksen Fatbike - Can you see me drooling?

I think a more price conscience model may be in my future.  Perhaps, I will go to one of the Surly models like the Moonlander. Capable and less than half the price of the highest end fat bikes.

Surly Moonlander - craters would be easy to ride over. 

Another bike I would consider is the Ritchey Commando for no reason other than my greater respect for Tom Ritchey after watching a documentary about Team Rwanda Cycling - Rising from Ashes. What does a multimillionaire need to go to Africa for and start a cycling team?  Now that is a person who has used his money to do something for other people.  And I don't really know that much about him other than his obvious passion for cycling.  I also like a lot of his components for reliability, design, and reasonable cost.

Ritchey Commando - a fitting name for a fat bike.

Not sure which bike to collect next, but I realize if I'm not skiing XC or downhill, I sure would like to be on a bike enjoying the outdoors.  I like - they seem like they are serious about fat bikes in a not too serious way.  Check them out for lots of information on this category of two wheel fun.

On a side note: I'm glad the Tour of Beijing has been cancelled.  I'm surprised the riders don't have on gas masks or respirators for breathing in that air.  Scary isn't it?  One of the world's largest and most dense populations living in terrible air quality.  Hopefully, they make air quality a major focus for improving the lives of their population and the future generations.

All riders will be given a standard issue gas mask, maybe in team colors?
Lens options include clear, yellow, brown, or grey polarized.