Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Frosty Old Peruville

It did not take very long to convince myself that a small Cateye head light was not quite cutting it on my night rides. As I plan to do many overnight rides this year, I decided to invest a bit on a Schmidt dynamo hub. These are made in Germany and probably are the best hubs available. Along with such a nice hub I purchased a great LED light, the Supernova E3. I received both items a couple of weeks ago, but only yesterday did I decide on a specific setup. Today was a perfect day to test my new hub/light combo and compare it to other lighting systems that I have seen. I had noticed that Ben Kraft has a nice setup, so we decided to compare our lights along the Old Peruville route, with plenty of dark roads and little traffic.

We started around 7pm at the HSBC parking lot and soon I realized it would be a tough test for my cold weather gear. As quickly as I felt the cold I also saw light, and a lot of it. Ben has a Shimano hub with a B&M IQ Fly, a very good light. Actually, the IQ Fly has a more focused asymmetrical beam. The E3 has a symmetrical beam, however powerful enough to illuminate the road with almost the same intensity of the IQ Fly. In addition, the E3 illuminates significantly farther down the road. It was capable of lighting up road signs in the distance and also the occasional pedestrian taking the dog out for a walk. It seems perfect for fast descents. I am very satisfied with the my lighting system and highly recommend it. A note: I purchased the lighter of the Schmidt hubs, the SON20R, which is not originally intended for a 700c wheel, but for a smaller 16" and 20" rims. The newer LED lights require less power than halogen bulbs for which these hubs were originally designed. Because of this, I am able to use a larger rim with a smaller hub without problems (on a smaller wheel the hub can be smaller because it spins faster for a given speed). At very low speeds this might make a difference. On the other hand, it is when you go fast that you need the light the most.

Riding side by side we were lighting up everything in front of us. We made a couple of stops because I was having trouble keeping my water from freezing. I was using a Camelbak and blew in the tube to make all the water go to the reservoir. In spite of my precaution, I had trouble drinking, but I did manage. Ben had less luck, forgetting to put the cap on his thermal bottle. Soon he had only ice left. As we crested Ed Hill we could observe a glow on the horizon, the city lights illuminating part of the sky. A very beautiful sight. Riding at night offers a unique experience. To hear are only the sounds of the pedals turning, our breathing and a bark here and there. The world rests as we move along. I like to imagine the scenes in the homes we pass by, and often wonder if we are seen.

The climb up Pleasant Valley was much welcomed as I my feet started to get cold. Ben jumped ahead and I followed. As we reached the top I then pushed hard on my cranks, relaxed my elbows and hands and lowered my torso. It is such a good feeling to move fast, legs smoothly tracing circles, upper body still, wheels cutting through the air. At least I would like to think so. We continued descending until we reached Conlon Rd. This then took us back to 34. Here we made a detour from the FLCC version of the ride. Ben wanted to make a quick stop by his parents place on West Dryden. That meant that we had a gradual climb for about 5 miles. Soon we were on West Dryden and as Ben stepped in I remained outside, in an effort to keep my frozen beard frozen. The average temperature during our ride was 4F, a personal low for me. If we take into account the wind chill factor, well, it was cold. Hence ice had been accumulating on my face for some time by then. Ben soon came out and the rest of the ride was down Warren Road, through campus and back to my place on Maple Ave. There I asked my wife to take pictures of our frozen faces. These can be seen here

It seems 4F is not cold enough to keep me off my bike, or Ben off his.

Juan S.

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