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.

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.

Insulated Camelbak Bottle

Camelbak Podium ChillJacket
A while back, I wrote about the new Camelbak Podium bottle. I praised the valve, which I thought was easy to use. Even though I liked the bottle, I still found myself using my insulated Polar bottles. The insulation is useful in hot Houston, you see. Now, Camelbak has come out with an insulated version of its Podium bottle, the ChillJacket. This bottle seems to retard liquid heating as well as the Polar bottles do, but the Camelbak is not as stiff as the Polar bottles so it works better with the Camelbak valve.

Best Ginger Snaps on the Planet

Stauffer's Ginger Snaps are the best.If you like ginger snaps, you need to get yourself over to H.E.B. and buy yourself a couple of bags of Stauffer’s Ginger Snaps. Don’t be confused by brown bagged pretenders in other grocery stores. There are lots of ginger snaps sold in brown bags, but Stauffer’s are┬áby far the best ones I’ve ever eaten. I’m not sure what makes this brand so good, but the taste and texture of these cookies makes me want to make a special trip to buy some.

If I were to arrive at a rest stop on a bike ride and see some Stauffer’s Ginger Snaps sitting on a table, I would be in hog heaven.

I Heart Thelma

Every bike rider who participates in organized rides needs some sort of bike rack for his or her car. I’m on my fourth one. I finally can say that I have one I like. It’s a Saris Thelma, a lightweight hitch-mounted rack that is easy to use and sturdy. Most hitch-mounted racks have a couple of horizontal prongs from which you hang your bikes by their top tubes. This arrangement usually results in at least a little rubbing and banging. In contrast, the Thelma supports your bike from underneath. Only your bike’s wheels touch the rack, so the frame and components are better protected. All you have to do is lift your bike into position and tighten a couple of straps around your wheels, and you are good to go.

The Thelma folds up easily. When it is folded, I can pull into my garage and walk behind my SUV. I leave it on my vehicle most of the time. When carrying a bike or folded up, the rack does block access to my rear hatch. Because it is light, the rack is very easy to remove from your car if you need to haul mulch or fertilizer. My last hitch rack was so heavy and awkward to install, I usually just tossed my bike in the back of my vehicle.

The rack comes in two- and three-bike models. Mine holds two bikes, but I’ve only carried one on it so far. I’ve driven some reasonably long distances at fairly high speeds and have noticed no problems with the rack. Highly recommended.

Look Keo Pedal Recall

Look has issued a “voluntary” recall of Keo pedals with chromoly axles manufactured between January 2004 and December 2005. If you have Keo pedals that you suspect may have been manufactured during this period, you should check your pedals to determine when they were made. Good luck with that. The date of manufacture is stamped on the bottom of the pedal, but it is tiny. I ended up taking a photo of my pedals with a macro lens so I could see more detail that I can with my eyes alone:

Keo Date

Turns out my pedals were manufactured in December 2006, so they are not covered by the recall. I’ve heard at least one story of someone who had a Keo pedal break on a ride, so you should check if you are not sure when yours were made.

iPhone Love

I upgraded my mobile phone to an iPhone 3G about a week ago. I went to the Apple store before work, waited about 30 minutes and picked up a ticket that guaranteed me the right to buy a phone that day. When I returned after work, I waited yet another hour before I finally got called into to buy my phone. The process of activating the phone was pretty cool. The salesperson had some sort of hand-held device that checked on the status of my AT&T account and switched off my old phone and activated the iPhone without even opening its box.

I’ve been a Macintosh user since 1985, and I think Apple creates great products. Apple’s success with the iPod and now the iPhone has helped bring new users to its personal computers, which are simply the best there are. The iPhone is by far the easiest-to-use phone I’ve ever had, and I find myself doing advanced tasks that I never really even thought about doing with my last three mobile phones. The best thing about the new iPhone is that it is a platform for developing mobile applications. Apple has created a set of first-rate development tools and a process, tied to iTunes, for distributing applications to users that makes outfitting your iPhone pretty painless. I’ve looked at other tools for creating mobile apps–in particular, RIM’s Blackberry development kit–and Apple’s stuff looks to be way better.

So far, I’ve bought an application for creating blog entries from my phone and an application for sending tweets to my Twitter feed. Both have a similar user interface and work well. I think that programs that run on mobile devices like the iPhone are the next frontier in software development. I have a couple of ideas for bicycling-related applications that tie into my vision for the Lair13 web site. We’ll see how that works out, but I think the iPhone is great gear for bike riders.