Re-post: Uber Tips for Bike Commuting

Posted this a couple years ago when I first moved down to Greenville, now that I’m back in the Engineering game and starting to train again for 2016 it’s relevant again!

So it turns out working a full time job and putting in a respectable Pro-level training load is a wee bit of a time commitment, thus I’ve been neglecting the blog (plus it’s the off season). Initially moving down to Greenville I cut out my bike commuting because of my short 10-15 minute commute. However I quickly realized once training started up how difficult it was to motivate myself to ride after work and get the hours in. I forgot how easy it is to pile on the miles with bike commuting There are all sorts of benefits of commuting to work by bike, but for me it really boils down to just two: time management and stress.

Time management is a big factor for me when I’m trying to put in the training hours. Driving to work is a huge time killer and was particularly so for me when I lived up in Cincinnati. The commute could easily top 30 minutes each way. Riding my bike that same distance took only 45 minutes. Since I was going to train most days after work anyway, it really just freed up another hour of my day. Additionally, bike commuting was extremely consistent in terms of travel time. Without traffic (which on I-75 in Cincy was a total crap shoot) to worry about I could leave at exactly 8, get to the gym at exactly 8:45, shower and be at work by 9 every day. The ONLY time I was late commuting by bike was when I got a flat tire. This commute became so routine for me that I started to dread my forced off days where I’d have to rest the legs and drive in. The miles quickly add up as well. Even without additional training or detours that was 6 hours on the bike during the week, not too bad.

As far as stress relief goes I didn’t even realize how stressed out driving made me until I started riding. It may have been because I knew I was essentially wasting time in the car, or just the fact that driving during rush hour and sitting parked in traffic is always a pain, but I would become extremely stressed out driving to work. Whenever I rode to work I knew I already had some of my training already built into the day which helped me relax and focus on work. I’d also show up to work very alert and awake since I’d already been exercising.

I’ve become a total convert of bike commuting, but it definitely takes ALOT of planning to make it enjoyable and worthwhile, however once you have a routine going it’s a blast. Here’s some of the things I’ve learned, if anyone still reads this blog I hope it can help you start or improve your commute:

1. Find a shower
This is tough to go without, I found a gym near my place of work that I joined. The money I saved in gas quickly paid for the membership each month. If you’re training after work you’re going to shower twice a day anyway.

2. Get a locker
This makes your life a whole lot easier. Not only can you keep shampoo/soap/deodorant there, carrying wet cycling gear to the office isn’t an option sometimes (it smells). If you get to expert level of commuting you can leave cycling/work clothing there for a few days worth. Bringing this stuff in on off days allowed me to commute/train backpack free without having to stop off at home before heading out to good routes.

3. Bring an extra pair of underwear to leave in the locker
You will forget and it will be uncomfortable

1. Scout some routes
The route you use to commute is VERY important. Take an easy day on the bike to pre-ride your commute. This way you won’t get lost the first time you ride in (and end up being late), you also wont be time limited and can check out other roads that might seem better for commuting

2. Avoid busy roads
Obvious, but if you need to jump on a high traffic road always go for 4 lanes. You’ll be surprised how much space you’ll get from drivers, even in traffic, if they have another lane to pass you in.
– A sub-but very important-point to riding a 4 lane road is to ride in the MIDDLE of your lane. If you gutter yourself people will pass you without changing lanes and will get WAY to close for comfort

3. Avoid Suburban Areas
This may seem counter-intuitive but it’s been my very consistent experience that the more suburban (vs urban) the less tolerant people towards bike. Not sure what the reason exactly, but in the hundreds of commutes I did through Cincinnati I never experienced aggressive drivers in the more urban or poorer areas of the city. However without fail whenever I crossed into Glendale I had people giving me pieces of their mind out their window or with their horn.

4. Avoid large intersections
They kill your flow, add time to commute, and are usually highly trafficked by impatient people.

5. Explore new routes
After a few months I followed some random guy commuting and he took me behind an old Jim Bean factory to this pedestrian bridge across the freeway, this took 2 major intersections out of my commute. In a city there’s all sorts of weird oddities like this, so once you get your basic route down, don’t be afraid to try new ones out.

1. Ride 25mm tires or bigger
Less flats, nuff said. I had a flat in the west end of Cincy once….switched over to beefy tires immediately

2. If you ride with a backpack you’ll have to tilt your saddle down or raise your handlebars
It will feel different

3. Get lights
Or not, getting caught out in the dark in the hood is actually a great excuse to leave work on time.

4. Ask if you can keep your bike in the office
Lot less headache and worry, plus you can ride your sweet bike in instead of a beater.

5. Get fenders
Riding in the rain is fun, and people give you all sorts of weird looks

1. Get your stuff ready the night before
Trust me it your motivation for riding into work is very low at 7 am

2. Run errands on your way home
Adds some miles, also multi-tasking

3. Start in the summer
Less clothes required, less dress up time, easier to start the routine.

3. Keep your head on a swivel
Don’t get distracted by speedometer, music, etc. Your senses are the only thing between you and getting creamed by some idiot driver not paying attention.

Be obvious and ride like a Honey Badger, Honey Badger don’t care
This took me some time to learn but greatly improved my overall quality of commuting: Don’t give a shit about pissing off drivers.

You are riding with people in 2 ton metal contraptions whizzing past you with not always the most competent people at the helm. Think of the drivers for a second: they’re in a rush, they’re on their smart phones, they may be drunk, they may be dozing off, who knows. The bottom line is don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings, be as obvious of a cyclist as possible. Ride in the middle of the lane, pull in front of people at stop lights, wave your arms wildly when turning. It may not convince any drivers to love cyclists, but really, a few people getting pissed off is a small price to pay when you consider the consequence of being hit by a car. If someone has to slow down because of you, yells at you, or honks at you, they’ve noticed you.

Those are just some things I’ve done and work best, hopefully it’s helpful to anyone considering it. Oh yeah and there’s all that, saving money and saving the environment stuff that goes along with bike commuting.


Don’t think Disc Brakes will happen

So the UCI just approved the usage of Disc brakes in the pro peleton. This is AWFUL, really the only end result from this decision is mass de-limb-ing:

Tis But a Scratch Disc Brakes

Yes the addition of new sharp point objects can only lead to mass chaos in the gallup to the line. Additionally high level stunts as the prevoiusly-reseverd-for-mountain-bikers “Cart Wheel” will become commonplace

endo fail




In all honesty though it doesn’t REALLY make sense to use discs for the vast majority of road racing. Sure discs are great for literally every single gravel 1-11 (11×56) bike out there, but roadies are not exactly F1 drivers and a small difference in breaking performance is not going to make a big difference in results.

There’s a decent weight penalty, and a BIG aero penalty for disc brakes. I doubt the likes of Froome-dog would sacrifice all the work he’s done getting slippery for a SMALL braking advantage (even though he’s quite the descender these days).

So what really are the advantages for the Pro-Roadie?

  • Better tire clearance: really only good for Roubaix, otherwise this becomes an Aero detriment…although fat 25c+ tires are way better
  • Carbon Clinchers: Tubies only, this is the UCI
  • Wet weather braking: Meh, really not that bad with today’s brakes

I guess there’s SOME slightly better modulation for the Clydesdales out there where a few extra grams of drag/weight aren’t really going to make a difference on the Fondo circuit, but I’d find it hard to believe the top riders looking in every direction for an edge are going to willingly pick disc’s.

REALLY the question is how much are the sponsors going to push them to ride the Disc Brakes so the consumer can buy more expensive crap, that breaks, and get expensive repairs.


Why test bike wheels at 30 mph if I only ever ride 20??

I’ve heard this more then a few times:

“How many people ride at 30 mph? I’m not riding in the Pro-Tour, why do I care if a wheel is faster at 30 mph if I’m riding 20 mph?”

Because you care about aerodynamics, that’s why. And 30 mph is how you determine what is Aerodynamic.

In all of the analysis we’ve done CFD domain run speeds were set at 30 mph. Not only is this the de-facto industry benchmark but it gives you a nice representation of the developed flow structures.  Reynolds Number, which is a non-dimensional indicator of how a flow behaves (mainly laminar flow vs. Turbulent) is the indicator for which kind of flows you should expect for a given object flying through the air. For bicycle wheels the flow ranges from 11,000-650,000 (20mm rim @ 20mph and Full Disc at 30mph). Flows (of any kind, water, air, gas, etc) transition from smooth/mathematically predictable structures, called laminar, to unpredictable Turbulent flows around Re’s of 2000-4000.  Reynolds Number Turbulence Developement

This is sufficiently high to place wheel aerodynamics in the fully developed turbulent region of air flow (i.e. Re>4000). This means that flow structures remain relatively constant throughout interested flow speeds and Drag will scale directly with a square relation to velocity. This means that in the drag equation F_d=\frac{1}{2}\ \rho\ C_d A\ v^2.

The 1/2 *rho *Cd * A term will remain constant for a range of velocities.

At low speeds the spread between different wheel manufacturers is very small, meaning experimental or computational error noise would make it difficult to determine which wheel design is in fact better. A higher wind speed amplifies these differences in order to actually see what wheel is faster.

The other takeaway from this to be aware of is that at low speeds a lot of wheels are ESSENTIALLY the same, Aero Performance Wise. This is why we took a multi-disciplinary approach to designing wheels; including features such as tubeless technology and wider rims.

VeloNews Wheel Drag Plot

The plot above is from actually a pretty good VeloNews test on wheel performance (usually they’re fairly half ass-ed). Notice that the largest discrepancies among top Aero wheel brands is 25 grams at best (8 pennies weight worth of force for those keeping track). At lower AoA’s (where you spend most your time riding) this difference is smaller, additionally at 20 mph that drag spread drops down to 4 pennies worth of drag (~12 grams). At which point wind tunnel measurement inaccuracies start becoming a significant part of your delta. Not to mention things like atmospheric conditions (in an open wind tunnel like A2), manufacturing imperfections, and tire wear can all play a pretty big role in affecting your measurements.

In the end performance always comes at a premium. You CAN  drop $2500 on a wheelset that is sometimes 3 grams faster than the competition, but as an informed cyclist you shouldn’t feel obliged to. It’s not going to hold ANYONE back (unless your last name’s Froome). Instead, maybe just go out and ride a little more.


Downhill Time Trials

So last week I went to InterBike with Boyd Cycling. It was a pretty cool experience, really a thing I always see on all the bike tech sites out there but finally going there is a totally different experience. First of all, the coverage that all the online venues covering the event combined don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the number of exhibits there. It’s pretty overwhelming. For instance there are foreign sections, China, Japan, Italian “villages” that essentially get no media coverage. There was a HUGE e-bike section of the show as well (which also seemed to be the best funded). However the best section, in my opinion, was the “Urban” village. This encapsulated everything from custom cruisers, fixies, to folding bikes. By far these were the most creative and off the wall exhibits and products.

Our booth was tucked into the “Triathlon” section…..yeah yeah. I spent most of my time hand modeling for BikeRadar in the booth:Boyd Eternity Hub
Tubeless Nut

Hand ModelAnd also showing off our one gimmick:

Boyd Cycling Wheelset

Climber’s Wheelset

Yes the most entertaining part of the show for me was to tell people to go pick up our “Climbing Wheelset”. Weighing in at 15 lbs, this thing could serve as a flywheel for an old school steam tractor. There’s a lot of hype around 3D printing right now and a lot of questions were fielded at the show about why we didn’t go that route. The reason is two fold: 3D printing is finite and not continuous. This means that the finish for a curved surface would be stepped surface which would require further finishing (another possibility for imperfections). Additionally 3D printing is typically done with plastics which do not carry high loads well (think spoke tensions and tire pressure).

Why does all that matter? The Aerodynamics of bicycle wheels is converging onto a single (correct, sorry reynolds) design. This means that the variation between the best aerodynamic wheel-sets are getting smaller and smaller. Aerodynamics is VERY sensitive to small variations. Something like 20 psi vs 100 psi in a road tire or low tension (bent) spokes could also greatly alter aerodynamic drag results. So by doing a solid Aluminum wheelset in the wind tunnel we could model a REAL wheel.

Why go through all this trouble anyway? If you see a wheel company showing their slick carbon wheel in the wind tunnel, it means they’re testing a finished product (cough #AeroIsEverything cough). It’s well known carbon molds are very expensive, and if you’ve made the mold, you’re pretty much married to the shape you created, so you’re either wasting money and translating that stupidity to high costs to your customer, or you’re just going with a bad design. This prototyping allows us to make small design changes or evaluate several design at a relatively low cost before making the costly investment in a mold.

Mistakes are how you learn, so it’s better to make i

Bike Wheel Wind Tunnel Testing

Aluminum Prototype in A2 Wind Tunnel

nexpensive small ones than expensive big ones.

Also see my other post (excessive rant) on why Wind Tunnels are absolutely necessary.


What is this…a Time Trial for CARS?!

It’s July, that means hours streaming the Tour de France through some pirated grainy feeds…AND a lot of bogus Aerodynamic information, including an ESPECIALLY ugly looking Giro helmet:Rohan Dennis Tour de France Time Trial

After the opening TT it’s important to remember the importance surroundings play on the Aerodynamics of a cyclist.A Center for Ants


Obviously drafting a car gives you a huge advantage, but a car drafting you? It turns out you can get a SIGNIFICANT advantage from a follow vehicle. Current UCI regulation is 10 meter minimum distance.

Bert Blocken has a great course on about mostly cycling and some city/urban aerodynamics. You can check it out here.

He also recently published a research paper about the effect of follow cars in a TT situation.

When a body is moving subsonically through a fluid, an area of high pressure is created in front of the object as the air rushes to get out of the way of the moving body. Behind a body is an area of low pressure, this is basically the mechanism that creates pressure drag.

So how does a car help a rider from behind? The high pressure area in front of a vehicle (or even other rider) for that matter, acts to fill the low pressure region behind a cyclist. This acts almost as a fairing, increasing the pressure on the back side of the cyclist, reducing drag. A picture from the above mentioned paper gives a better example.followcar

The high (red) pressure area acts to fill the area behind the cyclist (which is pretty clear to see when the car gets real close). The effect is even noticeable at smaller distances:followCarDraftAs you can see here, the benefits get pretty drastic below 8 meters (26 feet). I took a quick look at the Tour de France prologue using a simple F=1/2 Cd A rho v^2 calculation for force then converting to power. Based on this calculation, Dennis put out 492 watts (neglecting drive-train/elevation losses) for almost 15 minutes over 13.8 km’s.

A car at 10 meters (UCI legal limit) give’s you a 0.23% advantage. Let’s say his car was only 2 meters closer, giving him double the car draft advantage of 0.45% (Thus a 0.22% difference). I’ll factor this in as a reduction of the CdA term and keep the wattage for Dennis constant for the calculation…

Given this ONLY 0.22% reduction in drag, Dennis would’ve saved a whopping 10 SECONDS!!!!!!

In a short TT decided by only 5 seconds across the top 3 riders…any team manager in their right mind would get FINED TO DEATH in order to drive as close to their rider as possible.

This isn’t even taking into account video moto’s…which somehow are above UCI rule and can drive as close to riders as they please (in front or behind).

So pay attention at the next short TT in this year’s tour to see if each respective DS is doing their jobs correctly (rider safety be damned!!!).


-This analysis is quick and dirty, CdA values are VERY approximated

-TOTALLY neglecting acceleration

-Drive train losses neglected

-However the actual wattage produced by Dennis may be different, the benefit should be roughly the same since we are not looking at that side of the speed equation