Thursday, February 12, 2009

from darkness to human powered lights...

As St. Valentine's day is nearly upon us, I try to shake the stillness and dark of the northern winter. There are time's when I embrace the psuedo-hybernation that winter imposes, with the deep and bitter cold and the lack of sunlight. And then, winds change and days get longer. By chance a southerly airstream brings what feels like late march...if only for a few days. And I am reminded of all that is ahead. The feeling of time begins to accelerate, if ever so slightly. And new plans for bicycle journeys and the making of art begin to refresh my spirit.

In addition to general daily riding and commuting about the city, I enjoy doing several challenging group rides throughout the season. My riding partner is my older brother. together we have done rides like The Horribly Hilly Hundreds,  The Brute or the Dairyland Dare. Rides that sound menacing, that you might think are full of painful miles alongside testosterone laden compatriots. And to a certain degree this is true, however, as the miles spread out one can find theirself virtually alone, enjoying the peace of a rugged prehistoric land, unchanged by the glaciers that have shaped much of the rest of Wisconsin.  It is here in the driftless area that most of these rides take place. My brother and I tend towards the routes that are in the neighborhood of 200km. In this terrain that means 12,000 to 15,000 feet of climbing. so needless to say, one needs to "train". And as I have never been one to embrace this notion I am finding that it is a necessary routine to "ride" your bicycle to "nowhere" as much as possible, until which time as you can actively pursue forward motion in the open air once again!

I have been interested in venturing into rides known as "brevets" which are similar to the rides mentioned above. However, the big difference is that brevets are entirely self-supported and of varying lengths, from 200km to 600km. If one is involved in brevets that are sanctioned by RUSA, then you may qualify to ride in some of the more historical bicycle events that exist. Before there was a Tour de France many touring cyclists endured a challenge ride from Paris to the costal town of Brest and then back again to Paris......all this done in 90 hours or less. This is the grandaddy of them all known simply as the PBP.  This is a 1200km event that runs every 4 years. the next one is in 2011. For several years now I have fantasized about traveling to do this and be part of the cycling history. So a major step towards this goal is to begin a series of brevets closer to home. I have somehow talked my brother into partnering up with me and we intend to ride in several of these staring in April with a 200km brevet sponsored by Great Lakes Randonneurs and culminating with a grand 600km brevet sponsored by Iowa Randonneurs. The latter must be completed in 40 continuous hours or less with stops at specific controls along the way to have one's control card stamped, proving that the route was maintained throughout. In the longer brevets, lighting becomes critical and is in fact required. Having done my research I decided to contract my bicycle heard by doing a bit of liquidating this winter, in order to have the funds to acquire a proper lighting system. Seen below is the latest version of a Schmidt Nabendynamo known as the SON 20R. This hub, according to information I have gleaned form sources like Peter White Cycles, is lighter and offers less resistance than earlier models. And though, it is designed for smaller wheels, when paired with a high quality LED light, will acheive full brightness at a very low speed. No need for heavy batteries as your own locomotion provides the necessary energy output. I have been thinking about investing in one of these hubs for a number of years, but with their high cost, I have held off.....until now. Given that I have decided to plunge headlong into the brevet scene, I felt that it woud be easier to justify. Afterall, cycling life in a city (in my experience) does not require lighting that would light up the road like a motorcycle light may. Cycling through the night on remote roads would be impossible without such a lighting system. 

The Edelux light is the latest in LED technology from Schmidt in Germany. Since these hit the market last spring they have sold fast and furiously. I put my order in back in the early part of November and received my light at the very end of January. According to Peter White, it is the brightest single light he has seen. If you look over his site you will find pictures comparing the throw of lights from a number of different types and brands. and from those images one can see how this may be true.

 Now that i have figured out my mounting  position and hardware, all I have left to do is to wire the Edelux to the hub and wait for the streets to be reasonably clear of salt and let the night riding begin. I will follow up with my take on the pros & cons (if any) once I have put in suitable time and mileage


  1. Wow, you're a MANIAC! 40 continuous hours? Surely that's a typo. The sleep deprivation alone would kill me. You also write very well, enjoying the blog.


  2. Yes, you may be right about that..and yes 40 hours continuous, but that is the time alloted to complete the route. We will sleep in Richland Center, WI for a few hours....get up, drink some coffee and roll on. Thanks for keeping an eye out and the kind words..I hope to write more as the winter turns to spring....