Rice as an Electronics Drying Agent

Drying out a bike computer with rice

During the Bike Around the Bay a while back my iSport bike computer got so wet from the driving rain that there was actually water floating inside the computer. Theoretically, the computer is water resistant, but there’s a small port on the front of the computer for gathering wind and temperature data, so the computer body is not completely sealed. When it rains heavily, water can get inside.

I read somewhere that if you place damp electronics inside a bag full of rice, the rice will absorb the moisture from the electronic device, and the device may start working again. I tried this with my bike computer and the rice worked like a champ. Since then, I’ve been caught in a couple of other hard rainstorms that had the same result, a wet bike computer that wasn’t working correctly. The rice trick worked perfectly in both cases. Of course, it would be better if the computer didn’t get soaked in a rainstorm, but it’s nice to know there’s an easy way to fix the problem if it does occur.

Sensor Magnet Revisited

It turns out that the Bontrager Cadence Sensor magnet I wrote about earlier isn’t the answer for those of us who need our cadence data. After a few days of riding, the band started slipping around, and the cadence readout would stop until I repositioned the band. This was annoying. Then, after a couple of months of heavy use, the band started to fray and finally broke. Because the band was positioned on the left crank arm, which corresponds to the foot I normally unclip and put down when I stop, the band was getting abuse when I clipped in again after restarting. (I’m not especially artful when re-clipping.) I tried cutting off the band and cementing the magnet portion of the device directly to my crank arm, but it fell off during my second test ride.

I went back to the drawing board and found some .75-inch round, .25-inch thick cabinet magnets at Home Depot and used some waterproof cement to glue one of these to the crank arm. So far, this has worked well, even though the magnet itself is not especially close to the computer’s cadence sensor. This configuration also has the advantage of being fairly unobtrusive, because there is no band or wire tie looping around the crank arm. After a week’s worth of rides, it seems like this may be the best solution for the problem. However, I haven’t yet ridden in wet conditions, so I haven’t really tested the strength and water resistance of the adhesive I used. My only concern it that since this inexpensive magnet is made of iron, it will eventually rust, potentially marring the appearance of the crank arm. I found some rubber coated magnets online, but these are a little pricey, and I wouldn’t want to use an expensive rubber-coated magnet only to have it fall off after a few rides. Assuming the test with the cheap cabinet magnet continues to go well, I will likely invest in a few of these rubber coated magnets as a final solution.

MS 150 Registration Opens

General registration for the 2012 Houston-to-Austin MS150, which will be held April 21-22, has opened. The registration fee is $100 this year, and the fundraising minimum remains $400. This is the largest single bicycle ride in Texas and is the central event in Houston’s cycling culture. I registered this morning without any trouble. If you want to register, click here. I haven’t customized my fundraising page completely, but you can donate in my name by clicking here.

Bike Around the Bay

Riding the Bolivar Ferry
The easiest part of the Bike Around the Bay–riding the Bolivar Ferry.

A day after I finished the Bike Around the Bay, which benefited the Galveston Bay Foundation, I’m still tired. What a challenging ride this turned out to be. A two-day, 150-mile tour around Galveston Bay, the ride has a reputation for being a smaller, fun, less challenging alternative to the annual MS 150 Houston-to-Austin ride. The ride is also cheaper–$120, including the registration fee and minimum fundraising requirement. The coast hugging route is very flat, with the only climbing provided by various bridges, arched so that shipping can pass underneath. The scenery is varied and in some cases quite spectacular. The organizers did a fine job. In all, this is a very well-organized and well-supported ride. I thought the breakpoints were all sufficiently manned, and the supplies were generous. However, the weather was a different story.

After weeks of drought and miserable temperatures in the Houston-Galveston area, we awoke Saturday morning with threatening weather. It looked like we might get the first significant rain in months, and I was supposed to ride a bike 150 miles over the weekend. As it turned out, the riders were largely spared rain on the first day. There were a few sprinkles, but that was it. However, once I turned onto the second leg of the ride, roughly 20 miles surrounding the first and second breakpoints, there was a substantial headwind. Someone told my sister, Lisa, who also rode, that the headwind was 30 miles-per-hour, but I can’t verify that. Nevertheless, that headwind alone turned a relatively easy ride into a tough one. Most riders were slogging along in a much lower gear than normal.

At first, I attempted to stay with my sister, who was doing her first organized ride and hadn’t ridden in these sorts of winds before. I stopped and waited for her several times. Finally, she told me to go ahead, and I did. Once I turned right on Highway 124, the winds were blowing roughly perpendicular to our path and the going got easier. We crossed a bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway that took us onto High Island. After a right turn onto Highway 87, the nasty headwind turned into an awesome tailwind. This was a fun stretch of road to ride, with breakers slapping onto the beach on our left. After slogging into the wind at something like 12 or 13 mph, and riding a more normal 16 or 17 mph in the middle, I was breezing along at 18-23 mph with the tailwind. After the lunch break, my legs started to cramp, and I was slowed somewhat passing through Crystal Beach. Eventually, I made it to the ferry landing at Port Bolivar and rode the ferry across to Galveston Island. After disembarking, I rode the last five or six miles to the finish line on the Galveston Seawall at the Hilton at a good pace. I was pretty tired and slept 10 hours.

The next morning, the skies looked ominous over the ocean, and there were some cracks of thunder. The skies looked clearer inland, and I was hopeful. At dinner the previous evening and at the starting line for the second day, I heard mentions of “a tailwind all the way to Baytown.” So, it was a little bit of a shock to get out on the road after the second-day start and encounter yet another headwind–not quite as bad as the day before, but still annoying. At one turn, a policeman, who was looking at a smart phone, said, “It’s already raining in Houston.” Sometime after that, it started to rain on the riders. It rained most of the rest of the day. During some stretches the rain was hard and stinging, and there were gusts of wind that made my bike wobble. I knew that it must have been raining hard inland, because at many of the low bridges on the course, the water was only a few inches below the road surface. At one place, there was a road that grazed an inlet, and the water was lapping over some rocks onto the road surface. I was soaked, but I was making pretty good time. It rained so much that there was water sloshing around under the display of one of my two bike computers. I pulled my iPhone out of the supposedly waterproof pouch in which I was carrying it, and I realized it too was damp. One of the nice Red Cross volunteers at a rest stop gave me a latex glove to serve as an iPhone condom.

Unlike the first day, I didn’t stop at all of the breakpoints. Temperatures were much cooler, and I wanted to keep going. The second-day lunch stop was at Sylvan Beach park in LaPorte. I was pretty hungry and wolfed down a small piece of chicken and a veggie burger, which actually tasted pretty good. I was back on the road very quickly. I learned later that a gust of wind blew over the tents at the lunch stop after I had passed through, so I may have ridden faster than the bad weather was moving. Though I was wet, I was actually having a good time. However, I didn’t enjoy riding over the Fred Hartman Bridge. This is a tall bridge over the Houston Ship Channel, which I have ridden a few times before. I’m not a very good climber, nor am I good at descending. I made it up to the top okay, despite the wicked crosswinds. I tried to take the descent comparatively slowly, but the combination of applying my brakes and a rough road surface and the crosswind made my bike start to wobble. I thought I might have broken a spoke, but when I stopped to examine my wheels and drivetrain, everything looked okay. I guess the problem was lack of skill and nerve more than anything else. After the bridge, the ride was pretty uneventful. I did see a lot of folks fixing flat tires, which is common in wet conditions.

The finish line was at Royal Purple Raceway near Baytown, and I was as happy to ride across a finish line as I ever have been. It may be crazy, but I feel a great sense of accomplishment having ridden 75 miles in a monsoon. I’m also proud of my sister Lisa, who completed the whole ride. Many more experienced riders didn’t finish. One of the reasons I like cycling it that it gives you a chance to be alone with your thoughts. On days like the second day, you are absorbed in the second-to-second details of riding your bike so you don’t crash, so you tend to stay in the moment even more than usual. Pretty cool.

Bontrager Cadence Sensor Magnet

Bontrager Cadence Magnet

I have a Garmin bike computer that records just about everything I do on a bike and lets me download ride data to my computer for review and analysis. I’m also very dependent on the feedback this device provides to me during rides. So much so, that when I am forced to ride without it, I feel extremely uncomfortable. I’m particularly dependent on the cadence readout, which helps me manage my work level and tells me when I need to shift gears. During the Bike to Build event yesterday, the cadence sensor magnet assembly came apart, so I was without cadence data most of the ride. The cadence magnet attaches to your left crank arm and triggers the cadence sensor once during every crank rotation, telling you your RPM. I thought I had a spare Garmin magnet on hand, but I couldn’t find it. I tried gluing a small magnet to the crank arm, but I couldn’t get that to work. I went to Bike Barn to see if they had the Garmin part in stock. The Garmin magnet wasn’t there, but I found a really nice alternative made by Bontrager. The Bontrager crank magnet is a one-piece band assembly that stretches to slip over your crank arm once you remove the pedal. This much better than the Garmin part, which attaches with a wire tie. My Garmin cadence magnet was always slipping around, and the cut wire tie had a sharp edge that had nicked me on more one occasion. The Bontrager part is much more unobtrusive and elegant, and it seems to work just fine.

Bike Name Decals

Bike Name Sticker

I’ve had my current road bike for just over five years, and it has served me well. One thing I’ve been missing lately was a custom name decal, which I thought added a nice touch to a very striking bike. My original decal, which was made out of die-cut vinyl, had finally died when the letters started peeling on the one remaining side. Originally, I had a name decal on both the left and right side of my top tube, but the one on the right side had failed because of friction from my right thigh, which rubbed against that side of the top tube when I put my left foot down at stops. I started looking around for the original supplier, whose name I couldn’t remember, but a web search turned up several new competitors. I ended up ordering a set of six name stickers from an outfit called Victory Circle Graphix. Unlike my previous decals, these are not die cut. Instead, my name is printed in reverse on a clear flexible adhesive sticker. I’m very pleased with the result of my order, which arrived in just a few days and only cost about $17. You can choose from a number of stock styles and 20 or so fonts. I selected a script style in red, outlined in gray, which blends well with by bike’s paint scheme. The text is about three-eighths of an inch tall. I can’t testify to the durability of the decals yet, but they sure look nice, and I have four backups if I need them.

Bike to Build

I rode in the Bike to Build, which benefited Houston Habitat for Humanity, yesterday. The ride, which was the shortest organized ride I’ve ever done at 18 miles, was nonetheless fun, an out-and-out sprint for the slightly more than an hour it took me. One of the things about organized rides that wears on me is the necessity to get up really early and drive 50 or 60 miles to get to the ride location. This usually means riding with inadequate sleep. I wish there were more in town rides, but I’m sure urban rides are more expensive to organize and run.

For a first time event, the organizers did pretty well, except for one thing. On Thursday, I drove some 25 miles to go to a packet pickup, because I wanted to ride from my house to the start and then home from the finish to add some mileage to the ride distance. At the packet pickup, they informed me that I would have to sign a release form and take it to the ride on Saturday in order to get my ride number. This struck me as incredibly dumb. I went to the packet pickup precisely because I didn’t want to deal with volunteers sitting behind tables at the ride. Most rides these days do online registration, which Bike to Build did. As part of this process, you normally click a button to acknowledge and accept the release terms. I’m not sure why they needed an additional printed release form. I guess it’s a lawyer thing.

Tour de Pink Recap

The Houston area Tour de Pink bike ride was held last weekend starting and ending at Prairie View A&M University, which is about 50 miles northwest of where I live in Houston. I’ve done this ride once before and remembered that it was well-organized and fun. This edition was no different. After considering riding one of the two longer distances, 90 or 100 miles, I decided to ride the metric century, which ended up being just over 62 miles. I reduced my ambition primarily because the weather over the summer had been so hot, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be riding the last part of a 90-mile ride in 100-degree temperatures. I was also a little worried about the location of the ride, which was near where there had been wildfires over the previous two or three weeks. I wasn’t excited about he prospect of being stuck 30 miles away from my car in the middle of a wildfire. However, I saw no evidence of fire damage while riding. It may have crept into the mid-nineties by the end of the ride, which took me about four hours (rolling) to do, but I didn’t feel especially tired when I finished. The course was a flat as they get in this part of Texas. Afterwards, I spoke to a friend of mine, a much stronger rider, and he said that he was pretty tired at the end of the ride, so maybe it was a tougher ride than I thought.I did experience some mild cramping at home, but I drank some pickle juice to take care of it.

I’ve had pretty good luck with my equipment on organized rides over the last few years, but I’ve been having a lot of trouble with broken wheels and spokes since April. I actually started the ride with a loaner wheel from my friends at Bike Barn and damned if I didn’t break a spoke on my loaner wheel about two thirds of the way through the ride. As I was standing beside the road looking at my broken spoke and an apparently related flat tire, thinking about how much I hated fixing tires while standing at the side of the road, I heard a voice asking if I’d had a flat. The voice belonged to an attractive blond woman, who told me she was there to film a friend riding. She graciously agreed to drive me to the next rest stop, which was about a mile away. At the rest stop, I went to the mechanic’s tent and had the occupant, who was from West End Cycles in Houston, have a look. He didn’t have any spokes on hand, but amazingly, he was able to true the wheel with a missing spoke, without a truing stand. Then, he asked me if I knew how to change a tire tube. Of course, I said, but aren’t you going to do it for me? I don’t like to change tubes unless I must, and if I do, I prefer to do it while the bike is clamped into my repair stand at home. We agreed on a price, and he changed the tire. Professional bike mechanics are so much faster than I am.

As I watched the repairs, the nice blond gal came back to check on progress and started chatting with me. I told her I thought I could make it to the end okay and thanked her again for her help. In retrospect, I wish I’d gotten her contact information, but I was focused on getting going again. Dumb ass me.

I rode without incident the ten miles or so to the next rest stop, where it turned out Bike Barn was providing the mechanical services. I probably could have made it to the end of the ride on my jury-rigged wheel, but Jason and Ben were just awesome, providing me with another loaner wheel on the spot and replacing my tire, which turned out to be in bad shape. I rode the rest of the ride on that new wheel and tire without any further problems. As I said, just awesome.

After the ride, I made my way over to the expo area, where there was a buffet and a few booths. I looked around for a booth where the door prizes were awarded, but I didn’t see one. As before, the lines were very long in the unhealthy food buffet. Mostly, the folks in the lines seemed to be Prairie View A&M students, which was okay, I guess, because many students acted in a support capacity for the ride. That said, the last thing I want to do after a long bike ride, hard or not, is stand in a line for anything. Anyway, I grabbed some healthy food from the short-lined buffet and drove home, stopping a couple of times for unhealthy food during the journey. I was seriously hungry.

This is a good ride, though a little expensive, given the fundraising requirements. Though the ride is done, I still could use a few donations. To donate in my name, click here.

Tour de Pink

I have a couple of charity rides coming up in the Fall. One of them is the Tour de Pink, which benefits breast cancer awareness and prevention. I need to raise $125 for this ride, which is the cost of a mammogram for a woman who might not otherwise get a proper screening. If you can help, I’d appreciate it. I welcome (and prefer) small donations. To donate in my name, click here.

Someburger

Someburger

Someburger is located at the corner of 11th and Studewood in the Houston Heights. I found the cheeseburger here to be tasty, and I devoured it before I got home. I especially liked the nice crunch made by the bun. Someburger looks to be popular. A steady stream of customers came and left while I lurked around. Service was quick. This is a good alternative to the many chain burger places that are nearby.

Someburger Burger

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