Notes on This Week’s Issue
We’ve got another great issue for you today. Before I go over the highlights, though, a quick (humorous!) note about Jim Langley‘s Tech Talk last week in which he discussed maintaining our cycling shoes. He used as examples (featuring “graphic photos”) his old, well-worn 2008-vintage Specialized kicks that have pedaled more than 40,000 miles through rainstorms and all manner of nastiness. Jim wears them strictly to train, he says, and doesn’t much care how they look.
Two or three readers commented on Jim’s piece to the effect that they’d rather chew nails and wash them down with chain lube than wear such ugly, beat-up, “embarrassing” shoes. A couple even suggested – gotta say, I got a kick out of the idea – that Jim should set up a personal “tip jar” and drop in 50 cents or $1 each time he rides. Then he’d be able to afford new shoes in no time!
I just want to assure all RBR readers that Jim is not living on the streets of Santa Cruz with only his bike and those old shoes to keep him company. He does not compose his weekly column on scrap paper, in pencil, and carrier pigeon it to Atlanta.
He does, in fact, own a few pairs of gorgeous, shiny cycling shoes (which he saves for racing, typically). Just wanted you to know.
Now, with that important matter out of the way, here’s what we’ve got on tap for you today:
- a new product review from Sheri Rosenbaum of the Garneau Course Wind Pro LS Jersey and Elite 2 Bib Tights. (Note: Sheri tested the women’s full kit, while I added a capsule review of the Men’s Course Wind Pro LS Jersey.)
- Coach John Hughes says staying as fit as possible rests on four pillars: 1. Consistency 2. Intensity 3. Recovery 4. Enjoyment. He’ll explain each of these in this and the three succeeding columns, starting today with Consistency.
- In Tech Talk, Jim Langley follows up on last week’s shoe maintenance advice by focusing on the other half of the system, clipless pedals. He provides basic tips for inspecting pedals for problems and caring for them.
- a Health column by Gabe Mirkin, M.D. of import to anyone who takes a statin to control cholesterol and has experienced the common side effect of muscle pain; a new study has shown that low levels of Vitamin D may be the culprit.
As always, I hope you find at least one or two nuggets each week that apply directly to your riding and your life. Enjoy!
Will Self-Driving Cars be a Boon for Cyclists?
That’s the question addressed in a recent article in Business Insider titled “Self-driving cars could spark a cycling revolution.”
It’s something I think all of us roadies have probably thought about as we’ve watched self-driving cars get ever closer to reality. The article strikes a positive, hopeful note, yet it also raises the clear hurdles that remain to be overcome in how these marvels of technology deal with those of us pedaling on the roads.
First, the Hopeful Note
“… self-driving tech — in theory — has significant advantages over any human driver,” posits the article. “It won’t tire. It won’t get bored. It won’t be tempted to break the rules of the road. It will be able to look in every direction simultaneously. And crucially, it will have super-human reaction speeds.
“Together, it all adds up to potential massive improvement in safety — the kind that historically hadn’t been possible without major urban redevelopment. By some estimates, self-driving cars could save 300,000 lives a decade in the United States alone.”
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Cars without human drivers whose mobile phones are glued to their ears, or are staring down at that email that just came in, or are texting someone to say they’re running late. And the seemingly endless other ways drivers can be distracted. Significantly lessening distracted driving would be a huge benefit for cyclists, to be sure.
Now, the Hurdles that Remain
But all of the various self-driving car makers (Google, Uber, Volkswagen, Renault-Nissan, et al) are running up against significant issues regarding cyclists. “They’re small, fast in urban environments, and nimble — but also relatively slow on open roads, and immensely vulnerable,” the article states.
As a group, we present a pattern of behavior that is very difficult to predict, and to react to. Think about it: We don’t always come to a complete stop at stop signs (of course, neither do cars). We sometimes move from the right side of the road to the middle or left to take up the entire lane, or to make a turn. We often have to alter our line to avoid potholes, glass or other road debris. Our speed varies greatly based on the terrain and conditions. And – as a group, not just as roadies – we travel both on the road and the sidewalk (kids pedaling to school, adults who don’t follow the laws regarding not riding on sidewalks, etc.).
All of those things, and many more of the human behaviors we exhibit while riding, present enormous challenges to self-driving cars. It doesn’t help matters that the CEO of Renault-Nissan labeled cyclists as “one of the biggest problems [for self-driving cars]…. They don’t respect any rules usually….”
Google Seems to Understand Cyclist’s Unique Needs
At least Google seems to be approaching the hurdles with an understanding of cyclists’ unique needs and rights.
The article quoted from Google’s June 2016 progress report by its self-driving car team explaining that its cars treat cyclists differently (more “conservatively”) compared to other road users.
“For example, when our sensors detect a parallel-parked car with an open door near a cyclist, our car is programmed to slow down or nudge over to give the rider enough space to move towards the center of the lane and avoid the door,” the Google report stated.
“We also aim to give cyclists ample buffer room when we pass, and our cars won’t squeeze by when cyclists take the center of the lane, even if there’s technically enough space. Whether the road is too narrow or they’re making a turn, we respect this indication that cyclists want to claim their lane.”
Kudos to Google, and let’s hope as all the other self-driving car makers progress toward vision becoming reality, they follow that lead. Life on the road could be quitedifferent in the next five years or so, no matter what.
Holiday Season Premium Giveaway Extended through January
As often as I can, I gladly accept quality cycling products to give away in drawings to Premium Members as a way to say a big Thank You! for being the primary financial support that keeps RBR going. To give everyone a shot at these great lights, I’ve decided to extend the giveaway window through January.
Our Holiday Season giveaway will be 2 complete sets of the See.Sense ICON Front & Rear Lights we just reviewed. (Click to read the review.) We’ll give one set each to 2 lucky Premium Members.
Join or renew your Premium Membership before January 31, 2017, for your chance to win these great lights! All current Premiums will be included in the drawing.
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John Marsh is the former editor and publisher of RBR Newsletter and RoadBikeRider.com. A rider of "less than podium" talent, he brought our readers consistently useful, informative, entertaining info that helps make them better road cyclists. That's what we're all about here—always have been, always will be. Click to read John's full bio.