2017 Concept2 Fall Team Challenge Tall

Today’s Day 1 of Concept2 Fall Team Challenge 2017

PBC Potomac Boat Club Unisuit Rowing Singlet JLRacing JLRowingToday’s the first of thirty days of the 2017 Concept2 Fall Team Challenge. I’ve decided to join Hope O’Keeffe over at Team Grotto — currently, there are only two of us. Luckily, you only need two rowers to make up a competitive boat. From 2-∞. The challenge starts today, September 15, and ends on October 15.

While I am rowing for Team Grotto, I am affiliated with Potomac Boat Club so I will be erging with my PBC colors during this challenge. I just received this amazing PBC unisuit from JLRacing.

2017-Concept2 Fall Team Challenge

If you haven’t officially become affiliated with or become a member of a Concept2 team yet, you actually have until September 30 23:59 GMT (19:59 ET) to get that all sorted out, so feel free to start rowing today but you need to find yourself a team and a boat in order for those meters to count at all in the 2017 Concept2 Fall Team Challenge. Even if you’re a member of a team, that doesn’t mean you’ve officially become part of the challenge.  Again, it’s not automatic. Individual team members need to confirm they intend to take part in each challenge. You do this from the Team page.

Good luck!  Let me know if you have any questions. You’re welcome to join Team Grotto if you have nowhere else to row.

Cycling: Thu, 14 Sep 2017 18:07:33

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Cycling: Thu, 14 Sep 2017 15:36:33

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Cycling: Sun, 10 Sep 2017 14:48:42

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Cycling: Thu, 7 Sep 2017 18:20:26

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Cycling: Thu, 7 Sep 2017 15:40:34

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Selfie with a BlueParrott B450‑XT Bluetooth trucker headset

Update to my VXi BlueParrott B450‑XT Bluetooth headset review

vxi blueparrott b450-xt bluetooth mobile headsetI received my BlueParrott B450‑XT Bluetooth trucker headset from VXi Corp last week and have put some time on it. Long story short, the sound can go louder than you should listen and the tone is very warm and not tinny or trebly like many headsets. The connection is quick and sure.

The headset worked immediately with the VXi BlueParrott app I installed on my Samsung Galaxy S6 Active with Android 7 and I associated the Parrott Button with mute and it worked fine.

The mute is headset-based and doesn’t turn on mute on your phone. While muted, there’s a light tone that reminds you that you’re on mute.

vxi blueparrott b450-xt bluetooth mobile headsetI took a long walk in the Summer sun and the B450-XT definitely makes my head hot. All my heat moves through my head so the headset got pretty sweaty, maybe resulting in the headset freezing up on me at my halfway point.  

When I first put the headset on, it was pretty heavy. I quickly got used to it, no worries, because the deep tone and vibrant sound makes up for it, compared to all the other VXi BlueParrott Bluetooth headsets to say nothing of all the other headsets I have had from Platronics, Jabra, and Jawbone. It is huge, it is like a set of Beats headsets but with only one housing and earpad. 

Here’s a comparison between the size of the B450-XT and my B250-XT+:

Size comparison between the larger B450-XT compared to the B250-XT+

Size comparison between the larger B450-XT compared to the B250-XT+

vxi blueparrott b450-xt bluetooth mobile headsetI rode on my Surly Steamroller to Miriam’s Kitchen last Wednesday and it wasn’t too heavy and it. And, unlike my experience with the Plantronics Voyager Edge and the VXi BlueParrott Bluetooth headsets, there’s wasn’t a single stutter or problem with the connection when I was listening to podcasts while I rode from Columbia Heights, Arlington, Virginia, to Foggy Bottom, Washington, DC.

In terms of sound and volume, if I increased the volume of the phone to max and then set the headset to max volume, I could clearly hear my podcasts during even the windiest day on the bicycle. 

vxi blueparrott b450-xt bluetooth mobile headsetAfter testing phone calls while riding (I don’t recommend it), nobody I called could tell that I was riding my bike or that I was moving through the wind. That’s brilliant. If folks can’t tell I am riding a bike then they’ll surely not be able to tell that I am in a park or working from the cafe. 

The battery last forever with two exceptions:

  1. the B450-XT will always outlast your phone’s battery (make plans) and
  2. I’ve had a couple problems with my B450-XT seizing up and freezing out on me.

When my B450-XT freezes up

VXi Blueparrott B450-XT Firmware Update

VXi Blueparrott B450-XT Firmware Update

UPDATE: I reached out to VXi Corp for help via Facebook and Twitter and they quickly got back to me on Twitter, acknowledged the problem, and asked me to update the firmware on my B450-XT, which just requires downloading the VXi Updater, installing it, plugging in either your B350-XT or B450-XT, allowing your USB time to identify and install any required drivers. Then, once the VXi Updater recognizes the VXi Corporation Blueparrott headset, you can click the update. It’ll take a while for the process to complete so please don’t mess with anything because firmware updates are tricky. Everything turned out perfect; however, I haven’t tested it out so I don’t know yet if it works. I’ll let you know. Looks good so far!

Once the headset freezes, nothing will reset it until I plug it in to its microUSB charger. Otherwise, I can depress the power button for however long and it won’t reset.

I think the same thing happened with the B350-XT but never happens or happened with my old B250-XT+–ever. I am hoping it’s a fluke. It’s only happened twice so far. 

It’s my only concern and I will be sure to reach out to VXi Corporation to ask them about this freeze up. I have done some reading and the only way to reset the Bluetooth headset is to plug in into the charger, which is lame.

I’ll just keep a USB charger on me

Chris Abraham and his vxi blueparrott b450-xt bluetooth mobile headset

Me and my B450-XT

I need to find out if it’s an issue that’s between my particular Android or the apps I use or whether my head is sweaty or not.

My hack fix is to keep a charger on my bike–which I need anyway in order to keep up with the Blueparrott’s unlimited battery and my S6 Active.

That will solve any issues with the headset freezing up on me.

Chris Abraham's 2010 Surly Steamroller Single Speed with Internal 3-speed hub and canvas tail bag

My 7-year love affair with a Surly Steamroller

Chris Abraham's 2010 Surly Steamroller with 3 speeds

My 2010 Surly Steamroller 3-Speed

I have been riding fixies and single-speed bikes since before some baby hipsters were born. Single speed bikes used as city bikes isn’t a new idea.

I have been living with my trusty Surly Steamroller since 2010.

Now, she’s a three-speed.

My Single Speeds: The Early Years

My first single-speed bike was a 2000 Bianchi Pista in black. I ran it with a freewheel and a front brake. 

Chris Abraham's Berlin SOMA Delancey custom single speed Gucci bike

My Gucci SOMA Delancey in Berlin

After it was stolen, I bought a 2007 SOMA Delancey frame and built it up with every single Gucci component I could think of: fat Salsa stem, a Brooks with hammered copper rivets that, fancy track cranks, chainring, and chain, flat Ritchey bars — she was a sweetheart. She also was a casualty of rampant Berlin bike theft.

Chris Abraham's specialized langster gangster aluminum single speed bike

My Specialized Langster Gangster in Berlin

So, then I bought an aluminum Specialized Langster Gangster single speed bike and brought her to Berlin with me as-is. She was a beauty.

She came with a super-smooth freewheel that also got its ratchet frozen open during punishing subzero Berlin winters.

To keep on riding through the cold, I would stop at little Turkish kiosks and order hot water or hot tea and then pour the boiling water over the freewheel.

red white industries eno freewheel for single speed bikes

My Sturmey Archer S3X 3-speed hub 

It works–until that water freezes and there goes all the forward momentum. No ratchets, no teeth, no pedaling, no biking.

Anyone else every do that? I loved how quiet ratchetless freewheels are but hated the freezing-open thing.

So clicky freewheels from now on–they’re sort of like the pedal bike version of loud pipes.

Frank Merfort with my SOMA Delancey bike on the Berlin U-Bahn subway

Frank Merfort on the Berlin U-Bahn

That’s why I ended up going with the buzzbomb-sounding clicks of the red White Industries Eno Freewheel I ultimately installed on my Surly. 

When I left Berlin (for good? I hope not) I left the Gangster behind (now owned by the son of my buddy Frank, in the picture from back in the day–you’ll see the SOMA Delancey in the photo to the left on the Berlin U-Bahn. 

My 2010 Surly Steamroller 3-Speed City Bike

Chris Abraham's 2010 Surly Steamroller Single Speed with Internal 3-speed hub and canvas tail bag

Glamour photo of my 2010 Surly Steamroller 3-Speed City Bike with Canvas Bag

This is how she is now. After all the mods, none of which is very recent. My next mod will be adding a dynamo front hub that will allow me to replace my battery lights with serious night-splitting lumens, including a battery and a USB port. But not yet. 

Salsa two-finger Cross Levers bike levers

My Salsa Cross Levers brake levers

The build is standard. I believe I ordered the complete Steamroller bike from Surly. I didn’t want to go down the Gucci gulch again like I did with the Delancey.

So, it came with simple cloth-wrapped drop bars. I replaced the included brakes and brake levers with Shimano 105s and really shorty two-finger Cross Levers from Salsa.

I replaced the stock saddle with a classic black B17 Brooks standard leather saddle.

700c x 28c Schwalbe Marathon Plus Bike Tire

My 700cx28 Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires

I replaced the pedals with chunky MTB cage pedals that accepted generic black plastic toe clips with straps.

I’ve had my original DA22 Alex rims for all seven years and I made sure I got a set of 700cx28 Schwalbe Marathon Plus bike tires–I’m on my second set–though I might go up to a 32 or more if it fits–just to try them out, see what it’s like.

Historically, I have really loved skinny tires. 

How I lock my bike in Portland, Oregon

How I locked my bike in Portland, Oregon

But I love the Marathon Plusses so much and would never try another. Why? Here’s the marketing: “The Marathon Plus is the only tire worldwide that can be called ‘flat-less’.

This is due to its unique and patented puncture protection belt: five millimetres thick and made from highly elastic special rubber.

Even thumbtacks can’t puncture it.” And, I have never had a flat. Ever.

I’m sold on them even though they’re pretty heavy tires. I also love the reflective sidewalls that keep me visible in low light conditions.

My Surly Steamroller Reflects Light!

My Surly Steamroller Reflects Light!

In terms of everything else, I got caught out without my lights on a very late NoVa trail ride home from DC and felt very vulnerable.

So, I bought loads of red 3M reflective tape and taped all the bare black tubes. So, even if I don’t have lights or my batteries die, my bike bike will light up under headlights.

I also added a handmade reversible green/purple Black Star top tube pad. You’ll see some early photos in the green but now it’s purple. I might switch it up for fun some time.

Reversible Black Star top bar pad for my Surly Steamroller in purple and green

My reversible Black Star top bar pad in purple and green

Converting My Single Speed “Fixie” into a 3-Speed “Dutch Bike”

Sturmey Archer S3X and White Industries Eno freewheel

Sturmey Archer S3X

When I moved back from Berlin, Germany, I moved to Ballston, Arlington, Virginia to take care of my mom.  Between DC and Ballston, I could handle the hills.

Once I moved to Columbia Heights, above Pentagon City, the short, steepish, hill between the Pentagon and Columbia Pike just kicked my butt enough that I looked into the state of the art of internal 3-speed hubs.

Sturmey Archer S3X and White Industries Eno freewheel

Sturmey Archer S3X

At least for fixies, track bikes, and single speeds, all roads led to the Sturmey Archer S3X. I bought the 3X Silver and had it installed over at local bike shop (LBS), Papillon Cycles here in Columbia Heights.

They did a great job but I quickly broke them–almost immediately. They rebuilt is gladly and gave me a hint: unlike derailleur gears that require pedaling to actuate them, internal hub gears require a pause between gear changes.

red white industries eno freewheel for single speed bikes

Sturmey Archer S3X

Since then it’s been blue skies. I love them. Early on, I also had troubles with my heal messing with the gear chain and loosening the cable. No more. Everything’s tight and reliable and very effective.

Mind you, the top gear is only as high as the chainwheel and rear sprocket combination. And the low gear is not as low as a granny gear.

This is no mountain goat setup.  But it does surely smooth out the road. It allows my to arrive at my destinations a little less sweaty and beat up.  For me, it’s a game-changer. 

My Surly Steamroller locked up at Miriam's Kitchen

Locked up at Miriam’s Kitchen

Right now, I am very heavy and quite out of shape so not even three speeds get me up the Air Force Memorial section of Columbia Pike or all the way up the Capitol Hill section of Independence Avenue–but I am sure the added lower-end grear-ratio will give you the extra compensation to get you up those sorts of hills if you’ve been frustrated by hills before. 

The S3X is 100% durable and bulletproof once you get the gears changed but, as I said, it’s very vulnerable during gear changes.

So, you need to relearn how to shift because shifting like you do on a 12-27-speed road bike with 12-27 gears with front and rear derailleurs.

2010 Surly Steamroller Locked at Miriam's Kitchen

I ride in to Miriam’s Kitchen

In order to properly shift the Sturmey Archer S3X, the bike needs to be in motion, the rear wheel needs to be spinning, and you need to lay off pedaling for the amount of time it takes to shift — then, you can shift one or two speeds.

So, you can safely go from highest to lowest or lowest to highest in one shift–just as long as you’re rolling and not standing still. 

So, if you want to shift down before you stop at a light in order to speed up your start, think about doing that before you stop.

Surly Steamroller locked to a pole

My bike locked to a pole

So, at the high gear, click right down to the low gear right before you stop for the light. Like downshifting, think of it.

I had the shifter for the Sturmey Archer S3X installed at the right bar end of the drop bars, so it’s right there.  I could say it’s pretty easy to install but I had the folks from Papillon Cycles do all this work. In fact, I’ll also have them do any and all of the work associated with installing a front hub dynamo lighting system. Being loyal to the Pike!

The Canvas Tail Bag

The awesome canvas bike tail bag from Andrew Blake Curry

My beautiful canvas tail bag

I don’t know anything about the canvas tail bag except it was given to me by my mate Andrew Blake Curry who makes me look like an absolute pedestrian in comparison with his obsession with bikes and bicycling. It’s got a wooden dowel on top and I used hose clamps to attach the top to my standard black leather Brooks B17 saddle. On the front of the bag, which is nearest the seat tube, there’s a buckled leather strap that I affixed to the seat tube. 

The inside of the cavernous canvas tail bag, including securing dowel

The inside of the bag

The bag is relatively cavernous. There’s a main compartment and a pocket at either side. Each compartment is closed with buckled leather straps and all the straps and points of stress are studded.

I have it set up that a red battery tail light lives on the bag and the way the leather straps are affixed and attached, there’s plenty enough room for me to store my U-lock on the bag at all times when I’m not locking it down. 

I take my Surly wherever I move

I take my Surly wherever I move

The Surly doesn’t have wheel quick release or locking hubs but they are locked down via nuts and that seems to be annoying enough. 80% of the time, I U-lock the bike via frame and front wheel. 20% of the time, only the frame.

The time it takes to break a chain to get a fixie wheel off of the bike seems to be enough trouble.

And since the Sturmey Archer hub attaches via an additional chain to get the wheel off, I am hoping, as a former bike courier who was always hungry for unbent, unprotected, 26″ wheels, wheel crimes are almost always crimes of opportunity.  

The schwalbe marathon plus 700c tire sidewalls are very reflective

Thise Marathon Plus sidewalls reflect a lot!

So, I definitely would consider locking hubs if that would aid to the perception that my bike is inconvenient to steal. People in greater DC are so terrible at even locking their $3,000+ Gucci bikes at all that I assume my gray man sleeper city bike, when it’s locked right next to someone who is only attached via their front wheel with the quick release hub and the other bike that’s not attached at all but leaning against the rack, the only security being that the rider is only a short distance away. 

Well, that’s it!  That’s my bike.

Pretty photo of my Surly Steamroller 3-Speed

My Surly Steamroller 3-Speed

The only thing left for me to do is add a front hub dynamo, a high-lumen headlight, a fixed taillight, maybe a USB connector, possibly handlebar control of the intensity of the front lamp.

What else?

Maybe a handlebar mount for my cell phone, maybe not. And, then, of course, maybe wider tires and maybe secure-looking locking hubs for security theater. 

So, that’s my love letter to my 2010 Surly Steamroller 3-speed city bike.

I would love any advice or questions you make have for me, especially when dynamo hub do you recommend, what front and rear lights do you recommend for the dynamo system, and what other must-haves should I add to the bike in order to make it the very best, coolest, city bike a boy can have for the next 7 years of proud ownership!

 

 

Hiking: Fri, 1 Sep 2017 15:31:29

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Cycling: Wed, 30 Aug 2017 18:42:52

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