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I want to ride my bicycle... and all that.
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11 May 2005

The Strike is Here

"Workers unite!" and all that

Yes, Greece (or Athens) is on strike today. Yes, May 1st was postponed to May 11th. Workers unite! and all that. Asked my boss yesterday if we will be working. He said: "We are working, but if someone of you wants to go on strike, it's ok with me."

This morning I found the entrance to the metro blocked. No public transport for swiss geeks today. For a moment I looked out for a taxi, but they were all busy with 5 passengers each. So I returned home and borrowed my flatmates bicycle. The taxi would not have brought me luck, Athens centre is blocked from Omonia through Syntagma to Syggrou. Even with the bicycle I had to do some detours. But I arrived without problems and not very tired. The way home will be more interesting, lots of uphill battles to fight.


Posted by betabug at 09:37 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
28 January 2013

Going to Work by Bike

Well, getting there
You will not find "Paralia" on a map

We're on the 12th day of public transport strikes today. During those 12 days, either the busses or the metro or both were on strike (along with tram, trolley busses etc.). So, it wasn't easy to get to my office. For two days while only the Metro was on strike, I took the bus. It wasn't so bad, since I get on at the first stop, I had a place to sit. But it was hard to get off the overstuffed bus and the traffic jam was epic. (Sidenote: I think the strike is justified, even though I would prefer if they had another means to fight for their rights.)

On Saturday I got myself a bicycle. This morning I went to my office by bike. I tried to avoid the big roads. Result: I got lost in the small streets. It wasn't that bad, since those were quiet streets with some nice old houses from time to time. I stopped a lot to check where I was on the gps. I got lost again, more stops for the gps.

On my way I also came across the spot in the picture with those three signs. I know those signs for many years and always I wanted to stop and take a picture. With the bike it was easy. If you speak Greek, please don't read on and try first to spot what's wrong with those signs. Το βρήκες; Μπράβο! For everybody else: The Greek word Παραλία can indeed roughly be transliterated as "Paralia" (it's not pronounced the way an english speaker would pronounce that), but that makes no sense. Παραλία is no place that you will find on a map, it needs a translation, it means "beach" or "coast". So the sign say: Stay on the 2nd lane if you want to pass through to the coast.

All in all, it took me a bit more time than the trip with bus and metro would have taken. My guess is that when I find a good route (and not get lost) I can make it in 45 minutes, which would be half the time from taking public transport. Well... except, tonight it will be all uphill to get back, so I will see how I will manage that part. One option is to take the Metro for a part of the way, as today the Metro works and it's ok to take a bicycle on the Metro (it used to be possible only on line 1).


Posted by betabug at 14:55 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
29 January 2013

Biking Home at Night

Easy ride, no Metro

Yesterday's ride home wasn't so bad with the uphill as expected. For one thing, the bike seems to be quite good. The gear lever system works well. I seem to have the most important "clicks" (shift down) already in my muscle memory. I could do with a lower first gear though, I've been in first gear quite some times, so I wonder what will happen if I have to go really steep uphill somewhere.

Traffic wasn't bad. For one thing, I started around 22:30. Also I took mostly smaller roads and where I was on big roads, I took the by-lanes (παράδρομο). I must admit that in one stretch I was on the by-lane, even though it was one-way. I also drove on the sidewalk on two occasions. Once (very slowly) near a Metro station, where the traffic is a bit crazy with all the taxis in line. The other one on a looooong uphill on a road with fast traffic. Nobody was walking there anyway. Oh, and I didn't put the bike into the Metro, the ride was easy enough. IIRC the online map planner said it was 13.5km or so.

The light system of the bike seems to be good too, I sure didn't notice the dynamo doing some work. The backlight that keeps the light for some time even when the dynamo is stopped is great: I'm still visible, even when standing at a traffic light. I wasn't so happy with the front light. It needs some tightening, it was jumping all over with the slightest shake. Should be fixed with a (torx) driver in no time at all.


Posted by betabug at 09:56 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
07 February 2013

Bike navigation in Athens

Still biking on, times are getting better

So I've been biking to and from the office for one and a half weeks now. Not every day, last week I made the trip 3 times, this week not even as many yet. Still I already got totally used to it. I developed a bit of a routine procedure. I check the route before I leave on the computer (in detail in the beginning, more loosely now), sometimes making adjustments or trying out new routes. I then transfer the route to my phone (manually, the version of navigation software on my phone doesn't sync).

Neither the Nokia navigation nor google's maps navigation have a "bike mode" in Athens. So the routes that these two suggest always take the biggest roads they can find. I counter by setting strategic waypoints that force the route to more bike friendly small roads. It works ok mostly, but it's not yet totally bike friendly. For one thing the notion of uphill is totally lost on the software. Due to Athens being a maze of one way streets, the both halves of my ride take different routes, and in the one direction I end up with some lousy steep uphills to climb. I guess with time I will map around them as good as I can.

I also skip navigation for the last bit of my trip to the office, where both navigation systems insist on putting me on a big and extra aggressive piece of road. So I end the navigation route early, because at that point I know my way myself anyway. For the most part of the ride, I place the phone with voice navigation turned on to almost full volume in a sweater pocket. I don't see the display, but I get the voice instructions (and I guess it must be funny for bystanders to see this guy drive by with a voice blaring to "turn left after 200 meters"). I've been used to using the nokia maps navigation like that for driving a car too and I consider it much safer than trying to look at the display while driving. I expect that over time I'll get to know my route better, so I won't need the GPS any more for navigation.

The other thing I use the GPS phone is to track my ride and my times. I'm using a sports tracker software that shows me afterwards on the computer my times and where I rode on a map. It's interesting. It also makes me want to ride faster, which isn't necessarily a good thing. I have this tendency to wanting to ride fast on a bicycle anyway and arriving tired and sweaty isn't always the best thing. In any case, my fastest times have come down to 46 minutes, which makes it about half the time of the average that I plan for when I take the public transport. Not bad at all.


Posted by betabug at 23:29 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
13 February 2013

Bike in Rain and Metro

Come rain or shine, another bicycle post, hope you won't get bored
The bike in the Metro

This morning, after doing some work at home, I decided it would be a good day to ride the bicycle to go to the office. Sure it looked dark and cloudy outside, sure the weather report talked about rain, sure it had already rained, but... it was only some sprinkling. The bike has fenders, good brakes, lights, what could possibly go wrong? I started well enough, at first driving very carefully, until I noticed that the tires have a bit of profile and work really well in the rain. Then I pressed on some more. When I was about the distance away that makes you not wanting to turn around any more, the heavy rain started.

I went on. It started to pour more and more. I was starting to get totally soaked, except where my upper body was covered by the nylon windbreaker. I decided that I would put the bike into the Metro, to avoid a part of the trip that would take me either on big roads with cars (which will be more stuck than usual in the rain) or through small streets with multiple steap uphills. Good plan, but even up to the Metro, it was pouring on, and what's worse, large parts of the road turned into rivers. My feet were soaked by the water splashing up when I was crossing deeper ravines. It was slightly less agreeable than my previous bike rides.

Now in Athens it used to be that bikes weren't allowed in the Metro lines 2 and 3 (and there were some restrictions on line 1 too). Now you can take your bike into the Metro and put it into the first or last coach, in the outermost door. Up to two bikes per coach. No other bikes were riding with me today. A few days ago I had seen a guy with the bicycle in the Metro, taking it slowly, and I had thought: Since you gain on a big part of your trip using the Metro, this guy does it right. So I followed his example and took it easy to get in and out of the station and train. Relax.

When I came out of the station I had hoped that the rain would have let up a bit, but no such luck. I thought about waiting a bit, but then decided that I couldn't get any more soaked, so might as well go for it. When I arrived at the office, I changed into dry (and clean clothes) and warmed myself up. It wasn't the most clever idea to drive off into the rain, but having a change of clothes and a warm place at the end helps to amend things.


Posted by betabug at 22:12 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
23 February 2013

Critical Mass

Freeday Ride to Keratsini

Now that I have a bicycle, obviously it's time to finally take part in the Critical Mass ride here in Athens (where it's called "Freeday" and is held every Friday night, with the exception of August). People assemble outside the Thisio subway station at 21:30, where the route is going is announced on the evening before (on f*book, which I totally disagree with, and on the podilates.gr site). I was there the first time, didn't know anybody and had a great time. The ride was taking us to Keratsini, an industrial area near Piraeus.

It had rained a lot on this Friday, but the weather report had claimed that after noon the rain should stop. Ha! When I rode to the center, the rain started again, just as I had decided not to take the metro. It wasn't the full on assault as in the morning, but it made the evening's ride look suspect to me. Thing is, I don't have proper rain gear since, wtf, I live in a place where we are supposed to get more than 300 days of sunshine a year! So I was at home and expecting not to go, when the sky cleared totally around 8 in the evening. Off I was, at 9:30 in Thisio and... waiting. We left a while later and I had almost gotten cold, but it was well worth it.

We went on Piraeus Street to Omonia, rounded the square once and then drove off back in direction to Pireaus. Being in a group of about a 100 bicycles (my totally uneducated guess), going around Omonia, up Agiou Konstantinou and in the Process blocking all traffic there, it was wonderful. The streets got quiet around us. Lots of bicycle bells to be heard. I was riding about in the center of the mass, occasionally looking back just to enjoy the view of the riders. I guess this is where the name "Critical Mass" comes from. When I'm alone in traffic, it's always me stepping back. Car drivers tend to look out for me, but much more I have to look out for myself. But put 100 riders or more on the road, and the thing turns. Not only does it give us an open road for the night, but it puts up a signal too: there are cyclists even in this city.

We kept on riding at a very slow and easy pace (my gps said we had an average speed of 11.7 km/h). I felt like I was coasting all of the time, with only an occasional push on the pedal. It actually felt as if I was coasting even on the few uphills. (Upon returning home, my legs were far from being tired, but my back told me that a bicycle with a more upright position would be nice for rides like these.) Around me a lot of people knew each other well and/or were there in small groups. Lots of talking and laughing. I didn't mind riding by myself, enjoying the quiet and easy ride, leaving the route and coping with traffic to the others. It was like a sightseeing tour on bicycle. In fact I knew a lot of places from old times down there, so often I played the "guess the place" game with myself.

We made a tour of the Piraeus harbor (saying hello to the big ferry boats that I will be hopefully soon be a passenger on again), then entered even more industrial areas till we stopped for a break in a small park in Keratsini, with a view on some industrial harbor installations, oil tanks, all that nice stuff. This is still Athens, so on the back of the park there were apartment buildings with people living there. After the break we rode back, on a different route. The end point is again Thissio, but I broke off a little bit earlier to take a directer route to my place. I had ridden 3 hours (not counting the break and the ride to get to Thisio). This really was an enjoyable experience, I would suggest it to anybody who wants to see more of Athens on bicycle, without having to slalom through traffic.


Posted by betabug at 11:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
26 March 2013

Freeday, not Critical Mass

Yepp, I'm still here

In other news, Kosta informs me that in fact the Friday evening ride in Athens is the "FreeDay", while the Critical Mass is on the first Monday of each month and lives on criticalmass.gr.

I've been slacking pretty hard on putting something on the weblog here, but I haven't been slacking in riding my bicycle. Been to the FreeDay 3 or 4 times now, went on a niiiiiice ride with a local bike group to Lagonisi on a sunny sunday morning. Also coming and going to the office about 3 times a a week.

I'm enjoying it. It took me a while to get over the traffic. It used to make me a bit aggressive, but at one point I decided that I'm having a good time, so I might as well ignore anything that annoys me, and enjoy the ride instead. Now when the light turns red just as I was passing through, I consider it as a chance for catching my breath. I'm going for speed only when the streets are empty. I'm logging speed and kilometers (got 470km so far this month), but not going to fuss about it.


Posted by betabug at 09:55 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
11 April 2013

North Road

It's like a got a new bicycle
North road handlebar on a hybrid bicycle, with chance encounter cat passing by

I might be slacking on this weblog, but I still ride my bicycle. In fact, I went and adapted it. I found a friendly bike repair shop that had a "north road" style handlebar in stock (the actual name of the product was "tourist", as these are sometimes also called "tourist style handle bars").

It's like having a different bicycle. Totally different ride. Obviously I'm sitting more upright, but changes don't just stop there. It seems to me that I can push harder when riding uphill, it's easier to get up on the pedals. But then it seems to be harder to get the bike rolling from a standstill (e.g. on a red traffic light).

It's much easier to ride in traffic, I have a much better overview of the traffic situation around me (even though my mirror didn't fit and I'll have to find a different style mirror to mount there). I seem to have an easier time to steer around potholes (we have lots of those here in Athens) and "moving obstacles" (pedestrians crossing the road in mid-traffic). When I do hit a pothole, there is a harder hit on the rear wheel, the more "forward" position of the straight handlebar allowed me easier to "get light" over a bump.

I've kept the old, straight handlebar, since I'm not yet 100% sure I'll keep this one on. Aesthetically for one thing, it doesn't really match, neither from the type of bike, nor from the color - it's shiny aluminium, nothing else on the bike is. Not that I care much when I sit on the bike, at that point I don't see it myself. What's more I want to get more used to the riding position before doing a final decision on which one to keep.


Posted by betabug at 16:14 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
03 May 2013

Bicycle on Ferry Boat to Naxos

It's as easy as that

When you want to go cycling on Naxos, there are basically 2 options: Either you bring your own bike, or you rent a bike. I have no experience with flying to Naxos (neither with or without bike), but I just got my bicycle to Naxos by boat. Going with the Blue Star Ferries boats, we asked what it would cost to bring the bicycle and were informed that bicycles are considered "luggage" and as such you don't pay extra for them. In fact it was as easy as that.

I just showed up with my bicycle at the entrance of the ship. I showed my ticket and after stating my destination to the "loaders" got directed to the car parking deck. I lashed my bike to some pipes (using bungee cords I brought) and locked it to another bike. My U-Lock (needed for survival in Athens) didn't fit on the pipes, so lucky me, the other bike owner went to Naxos too and offered to tie our bikes together. For the next time I'll get a cheap and long cable lock.

If you don't want to bring your own bike there is the 2nd option: You can rent one. The first choice here is Giannis from naxosbikes.com. I went and had a look at his offerings. He has Hybrid bikes for easier rides, Mountain Bikes and Road bikes (Ideal OnRoad). The bikes look to be in great shape. I bought some bits and pieces I was missing, and had a nice chat. Giannis gave me some good tips where to ride and also invited me for a group ride (on a date where I unfortunately can't make it). He also has a repair shop, so even if you bring your own bicycle it's good to know him. Other motorcycle rentals sometimes have a few "mountains" for hire, but personally I'd go to the specialist.


Posted by betabug at 16:35 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
26 May 2013

Why I got myself a Cyclocross Bike

... because that's where the tarmac ends
... where the tarmac ends and the dirtroad starts

Shortly before (Greek) Easter, I got myself a new bicycle. Readers of this weblog (if there are any left) might have noticed that I am already the proud owner of a bicycle, so that makes it my second bike. It took me a long time of searching, fretting over, and deciding again and again what I wanted. In the end what I got is a low-end cyclocross bike. It's so low-end, if I'd actually show up at a cyclocross race with this thing, I'd get laughed out over the track. Never mind that I have in no way the athletic condition to stand up through a real cyclocross event.

So why did I get this thing? Well, I wanted something that is faster and lighter than what I ride in the city. I got about 4.5kg less now and leaner tires. It came with mud-tires and I replaced them with something more street-worthy, but still with a little bit of profile. I've made some kilometers on naxian asphalt roads, where the bike showed its road worthiness... but then take a look at the picture (and please excuse the poor phone camera): The tarmac ends, the dirt road starts. This is where the road racer bike stops. People ride here with mountain bikes, but with a mountain bike I wouldn't do the longer tours I'm also doing. So, something in between, which is the cyclocross machine. Fun and play on the dirt, then zipping back on the asphalt.

Another plus point for my new bike on Naxos: It came with a triple crank set. This bike climbs like a little girl up a tree. No burning calves, no sore muscles, no aching knees. Just patience and patience and enjoy the view when going up to Apeiranthos. Which doesn't mean that I don't get out of breath, because there are a lot of steep climbs on Naxos.


Posted by betabug at 12:22 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
02 June 2013

Zu Besuch in Azalas

... und vorher ein kleiner Ausflug nach Panormou
Unwirkliches Licht, durch Sahara-Staub, Blick runter nach Moutsouna

Am letzten Mittwoch hatte ich einen Ausflug nach Moutsouna und Panormou geplant. Doch in letzter Minute kam mir der Südwind dazwischen. Der Wetterbericht am Vortag hatte noch von spielerischen 3-5 Beaufort berichtet, doch in der Nacht fing es an zu stürmen. Auch morgens um 7 wetterte es noch, mit Windgeschwindigkeit 45km/h und Böen von 75km/h. Kein gutes Wetter um über die Berge zu fahren. Der Südwind brachte auch Staub aus der Sahara mit, der alles in ein nebliges Licht einhüllte. Es sah kalt aus, war aber warm und stickig.

Mittags drehte dann der Wind, es klarte ein klein wenig auf und wurde kühler. Am Donnerstag stand ich auf und fand die Insel fast in Windstille vor, aber immer noch total "neblig". Ab ging es mit dem Velo, den Berg rauf nach Apiranthos - eine Steigung, die ich schon gut kenne. Von dort aus geht es rechts runter, Richtung Moutsouna, auf einer kleinen Strasse mit vielen, vielen Haarnadelkurven. Normalerweise ist die Aussicht hier ganz speziell schön, in diesem Dunst war es nur "speziell" (siehe Foto). Giannis hatte gemeint, dass ich nicht viel Verkehr zu erwarten hätte, doch er täuschte sich: Ich hatte einen Tag erwischt, an dem Schmirgel transportiert wurde. Mehrere grosse Lastwagen überholten mich und andere kamen mir entgegen. Ausserdem ist die Strasse viel schlechter ausgebaut als die von Apiranthos nach Filoti, so dass langsamere Fahrt angesagt war. Doch schon nach ca. 1 Stunde 20 Minuten war ich in Moutsouna.

Von dort fuhr ich weiter in Richtung Süden, nach Panormos. Jetzt war wirklich kein nennenswerter Verkehr mehr da. Die Küstenstrasse geht mal rauf, mal runter und ist recht malerisch. Panormos war natürlich verschlafen, zu früh am Tag, zu früh im Jahr. Zum Baden war es mir auch zu früh, dafür habe ich nochmal gefrühstückt und bin dann wieder zum Rückweg aufgebrochen.

Gebadet habe ich am bekannten Strand "Psili Amo" ("feiner Sand"), der mich nicht gross beeindruck hat. Es kann natürlich am Dunst in der Luft gelegen haben, der Strand sah halt aus wie einer von vielen. Schwimmen war trotzdem nett, die Beine freuen sich immer nach dem radfahren. Badetuch hatte ich keines dabei, so dass ich nach etwas trocknen in der Sonne wieder weiterfuhr. In Moutsouna unterhielt ich mich mit einer älteren Dame über das Velofahren, die Schönheit von Naxos und (wie immer) wo ich herkomme und so weiter. Ich hatte sie nach dem Weg nach Azalas gefragt.

Dorthin fand ich auch so, und mit etwas Hilfe vom GPS fand ich die Ferienhäuser von Astrid und Nikos (sehr schön beschrieben unter http://azalas.de und auf Astrids Blog). Als ich ankam, war Astrid grad im Garten und sammelte Zutaten für einen Salat ein. Von ihr bekam ich dann erst einmal kaltes Wasser und zwei Stück Kuchen vorgesetzt. Wir unterhielten uns, während Sie Salat rüstete. Später holte Sie die Kinder vom Schulbus ab (Grundschule ist in Apiranthos, Gymnasium in Halki - wenn ich es richtig in Erinnerung habe) und dann kam Nikos zum Mittagessen, zusammen mit den Bauarbeitern, die dabei helfen ein neues Wohnhaus zu bauen.

Nach Mittagessen und spannender Unterhaltung, bin ich kurz zum Strand und dann in den Schatten auf ein Nickerchen. Der Plan war, die wärmste Zeit des Tages faul rumzuliegen und den Rückweg etwas kühler am späten Nachmittag anzugehen. Um 6 Uhr verabschiedete ich mich wieder von meinen Gastgebern und ab gings. Zuerst über die Schotterstrasse und dann bergauf. Von Meereshöhe auf 670m, eine grosse Steigung, alles am Stück. Es war spannend. Ich machte 3 mal Pause um etwas abzukühlen und wieder zu Atem zu kommen. In Apiranthos oben angekommen war es schon toll, geschafft! Von dort geht es eigentlich fast nur noch abwärts nach Hause. Nach 1 Stunde 45 Minuten angekommen war ich geschafft, aber zufrieden.


Posted by betabug at 20:59 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
13 July 2013

Vacations II - Return to Bike Island

Sometimes the sequel gets it right too
Enjoying the view on a ride

That week on Amorgos was great. Only thing I would change on the next time: I'd definitely walk everywhere. No more bus to the beach (it's an easy walk anyway, and then you can go any time and come back when you want). They also have a good set of ancient walking paths, connecting all the villages together. So I'd do the sightseeing by walking too. Even in summer, with the wind and being high up on the mountains, it is ok to walk there. Just bring enough water. I definitely recommend staying in the Hora - it's by far the nicest village, and one of the nicest village of all the Aegean islands.

Now I'm back on Naxos, and after 2 days of half-working, I'm back to another week of vacation mode. It's quite different, as I have net access. Mostly I cycle and I go for swims. Sometimes both of these things combined, ride to the beach and back.

Since it's summer, the idea for cycling is to use either the morning hours or the evening hours, when things are a bit cooler. For going to swim, evening hours work better for me. Otherwise, both systems are great, since I love the landscape both in the early morning and late afternoon/evening light. What doesn't work so well is the really long rides: when you want to do more than 4 hours, either you start to run into the mid-day heat, or the night. I'm thinking about ordering a stronger bike light and see how night riding works out.

Coming back from swimming

Posted by betabug at 11:29 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
08 August 2013

The Cycling Summer is here

The cranks on my bicycle turn like a broken record too
Inside the fairy tale mountains of Naxos

Wow, it's been some time since I wrote a post. So, I'm back to work. Which works out fine. I'm also back to Naxos, after a brief stopover in Athens. Here I can work in a much cooler temperature and environment, and I can combine my programming work with photography walks in the evenings and... cycling. Yepp, I tend to sound like a broken record in here, but the truth is, I ride my bicycle a lot lately. At least the one bicycle I have here on the island with me.

A while back I used to ride either in the early morning or late afternoon. For now I've switched to "early morning only" - it's tougher to get up, and I get less of the "reward at the end of a work day" feeling. But then, since we're now in the main tourist season here, in the early evening the streets are full of cars. Or at least much fuller than I like. I kind of got used to having really empty streets in the last months.

Early morning is better, the tourists don't get up so early. The bad part is that if I'm delayed I run into the heat, while in the evening I'd run into the darkness. You can deal with the darkness with good lights, but the heat always has the upper hand. Still, on our Sunday rides with the local bike gang, we get pretty much into the noon hours. I'm ok with that if it doesn't happen too often it seems.

We did some really interesting rides. Not going to list them all here, but "going to Moutsouna for coffee" was certainly fun. Last Sunday's excursion to Liona and then climbing back up from there, was certainly "interesting" - it just happens to be a Category 1 climb. Tough ride, that one, I was happy when I was up. The picture is from a simpler morning ride, when I was riding through what I call the "fairy tale mountains" of Naxos (taken near Kinidaros),


Posted by betabug at 19:45 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
20 September 2013

I still have something to say...

... but then, it's bubbles
bubbles, bubbles everywhere

Hey there, so, I'm still here. Here on the weblog and here on Naxos. I've been working, biking, and occasionally swimming. The work is going fine. I've got interesting stuff to do, and with the team that works for one of my customers we will soon have another sprint week, here on Naxos.

The cycling is going fine too... obviously, since I'm in a great environment for cycling. I've bought a big, freakin' bike light, so I can head out in the late afternoon and continue riding well into the night. I'm considering writing a review on that thing.

Also there is the swimming. This year during August I didn't go much to swim. For one thing I was cycling. Then, due to the main tourist season I didn't much like to go out on crowded beaches. Now that it's September, it's much more relaxed. The sea is still warm, the sun is still shining and it's nice to enjoy it all a few days more.


Posted by betabug at 12:20 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
30 September 2013

CatEye HL-EL540 - Night Riding Light

Shine on you crazy diamond

I spent a lot of my free time this summer cycling on Naxos, I had really caught the bug. In summer there is a lot of daylight to ride, but still I happened to be out and cought in the dark a couple of times. Sometimes, because I was riding too far in the twilight evening hours that I like so much, another time because I went for a swim and some pasta at the italian restaurant at the surf club on Orkos beach and then it just was dark when I came back. I wasn't afraid of that, as I had lights with me, but my headlight was one of those small commuter things that are much more suited to getting you seen than to see yourself.

Going downhill with that thing meant to go really slow and hit the breaks a lot. On that evening after the Carbonara at Orkos, going uphill fast from Mikri Vigla, I was often feeling like riding with my eyes covered. Also with those batteries I was always wondering if on any particular evening the light just appeared to be so low or if by any chance the batteries were running out.

Then I ordered the CatEye HL-EL540 (actually the HL-EL540RC with rechargeable batteries) through Giannis bike shop in Naxos town. Now that is a totally different story. [Warning, cheap pun ahead...] man, I saw the light!


With this light on the "big scale", I can descend a mountain road with 30+km/hour and still see ahead. Now 30km/h is not superfast to descend, but it's a pretty ok speed, I'm not in a race, yet it doesn't feel like going down with the handbreak pulled all the time. The light has a very shaped beam in the form of a trapezoid on the road. The LED is directed backwards at a mirror that forms the beam. It lights up the road approximately 10 Meters ahead. This means: Very bright light on the road straight ahead, but in tight curves (especially hairpin curves in the mountains), you don't see so much. Time to hit the breaks before the curves in any case. In longish curves you can also push on the lamp a bit, as the fastening allows for some sideways movement. That helps a lot in those long drawn slight curves going down. This is not a light for mountain biking on dark paths, where you want to see every branch on the side of the path.

When climbing or on level roads, the "low" scale is very much sufficient. It enabled me to see enough ahead of the road and to be well seen by oncoming cars. In fact, on the big scale and sometimes even on the low scale, oncoming cars would lower their headlights for me, which is pretty impressive. Switching between low/big scale is very easy, as the switch is more designed like a computer mouse button than a switch. A "long click" switches the lamp on or off. A normal "click" switches between low/high beam. A "double click" switches on blinking mode. On a ride in real darkness, I'd switch a lot between low and high beam, depending on my speed.

And indeed I'd been out in some real dark corners. Mountain valleys out "in the sticks" on Naxos, with no streetlights, no nearby villages, no cars, and only a tiny little bit of moon. This light worked very well in those conditions. In fact I was loving those rides! Sure you don't see so much of the landscape, but then you climb up a bit and suddenly there appears the sea in the distance, shimmering like silver next to a dark cutout of mountains.

I guess if there are more lights around, you'd need less of the high beam and the lack of "curve support" would bother you even less. The four rechargeable 2300mAh batteries are said to last 15 hours on the low beam or 5 hours on the high beam. Using a mix of those modes, but high beam only when really necessary should get you through a long night of riding. I haven't tested that out (yet). The batteries are not built in, they are normal AA sized. So if in a tight spot, you can swap in normal batteries and go on for a while. A "wall wart" charger is included. I would have preferred a USB charging cable, but maybe there isn't enough "juice" on USB to charge these. Still I'm happy with rechargeables, and even more happy that some day when the rechargeables will run out, I can at least replace them without having to replace the whole lamp.

One downsize to this lamp: It's big. If your heartblood depends on having your skinny bike as naked and pristine as it can be (e.g. the thought of adding an under saddle bag makes you wanna puke), this light might not be for you. Even if you don't mind to stick things on your bike, have a look before you buy. It weights about 260 grams. Opinions about the mounting system vary, some people deeming it inadequate, some attesting it holds. There is a smaller (2 battery) model, but with much less power. I sure don't care about the size, give me the functionality and the joy of night riding on quiet country roads, and I'll prefer it over "aesthetics" any time.

Posted by betabug at 12:49 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
15 October 2013

Riding the Apollona Round with Wu

Almost 100km of cycling fun on Naxos
Between Stavros Keramotis and Apollona

This sunday I went for a big bike ride with my friend Wu. The local gang of cyclists call this ride the "round of Naxos", but since it does not go around all the island (it can't, there are no suitable round-trip roads in the south), I call it the "Apollona round". I've ridden it a couple of times. This time though, I was going to ride it with Wu. He isn't such an experienced cyclist (yet), the longest rides he had done so far was 26km on his own and 36km a few days ago with me. So this was going to be a bit of an adventure.

The track of the ride

We started out at a nice and easy pace. Soon we discovered that it was windy (and with the north wind, it was in our front), so a quick lesson in "riding on the wheel of someone" was called for. (For those not into the bike riding thing: if you "draft" - ride right behind another cyclist - you get a bit of protection from the wind, saving around 20% of your energy). As usual, after Chalki, the wind was blocked by the mountains. We took the big climb to Apeiranthos slowly, as Wu hadn't climbed something like this before. Arriving there, we called our car-driving friends where they were... they hadn't even started yet.


On we went, more climbing, and again more wind near the Stavros. Lots of wind. We made it to Skado, where we had some lemonade and a toast at the cafe.

Clouds in the mountains, going down from Koronida to Apollona

From there the plan was to take the road from Mesi, which is shorter. Instead we decided on the longer road from Koronida, since our friends would be delayed longer. This choice brought us by some really nice areas and then on the looong downhill to Apollona. "Payday!" for all the climbing. At Apollona we visited the "Kouros", when our friends called that they had arrived in the village. Down there we went.

We sat down with them for some coffee and snacks, but my club sandwich turned out to be a huge plate. Carbo-bombed, we went on to the long, long north coast road. That road seems to never end. First with a climb from sea level up to ~ 250m, then down and up and down and up and... almost endless. What you get back are spectacular views over little gulfs and coves.

Wu on the north coast road, a bit after Apollona

When we finally made it to town, we stopped for some sweets and met our friends again for lunch. A long lunch, with more carbohydrates.

Here we looked at our kilometers and decided they were almost going to add up to 100. So we decided another small detour, passing by Agia Anna. Which was a good choice since it goes up more gently and it was a wonderful ride in the evening light. This was an experience.

97.9km, 1748m of ascent, 5:25 hours riding time, 18.1km/h average speed while riding, 10:06 hours total time with all the breaks.

Posted by betabug at 10:16 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
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