Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Well, tonight I had my first fall since taking up cycling again.

Amanda and I were returning from REI and I took a sharp turn that I should have dismounted for. I clipped my left handlebar on a railing and down I went. Let me tell you, hitting the ground like a sack of potatoes when you're 48 and out of shape sucks.

I wasn't going fast and stopped my fall with my hands. Thankfully I was wearing my cycling gloves, which helped absorb the impact and prevented my palms from getting shredded. I then rolled over and flopped on my right side. I'm expecting that I'll be sore for a day or two from my right hip up to my shoulder. Ibuprofen is going to be my good friend.

I was wearing my helmet but thankfully it wasn't needed because I managed to avoid hitting my head.

The bike is OK. The handlebar end that got clipped suffered some minor damage but it's purely cosmetic.

On reflection, it's funny. In all the miles I ever rode on a bike I never had a high speed crash. Like tonight's fall, they've all been the result of a misjudgment at low speed.

Wear your gloves and helmet.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Updated Bike

A few items I ordered from Amazon arrived today and I installed them on my Trek 820:

The Outerdo bike rack bag is held to the rack with four Velcro straps. It seems secure but if that changes after being loaded I'l wrap a bungie cord around it.

The bag should be able to hold a spare tube, snacks, at least one extra water bottle, and a windshirt or light jacket. I moved my tire levers, bike tool, and patch kit to it so that I can reserve the front bag for my keys, wallet, and iPhone. The bag seems pretty well made for a sub $20 item. It's a little floppy but so what. The main compartment has some minimal padding but I wouldn't trust it to protect or insulate much. The outer compartments (one large on the left side and two on the right) lack any padding.

There's a shallow water bottle pocket on the back of the bag with a drawstring. I'm probably going to put some kind of a better retention strap/bungie on there to prevent a bottle from coming out. On the back of the bottle pocket there is a small strap for clipping an LED light to. To be on the safe side I put some superglue on the stitching to prevent it from unraveling.

The bag has a handle on top and came with a carry strap, so it can be used as a shoulder bag.

The BV lights are pretty cheaply made but bright enough so that you're visible to motorists. The front light takes four AAAs while the back light takes two. I mounted a set on my daughter's bike and let her take a ride around dusk, and I was able to see the blinking red LED of her back light from about 300 yards away. Both have non-blinking and a couple blinking modes, which should extend battery life. I think that if you need a headlight to actually see where you're going, you'll want to look elsewhere.

I resisted putting a kickstand on my bike for a long time because I didn't want the weight. I never had one on the Nishiki road bike that I got in 1986 and put a lot of miles on. However, I've now decided that the minor weight penalty was less important than the convenience. The BV kickstand went on easily, isn't too heavy, and it's nice not having to prop the bike up against something. It clamps to the left chainstay with three 5mm Allen screws:

The RAM GPS mount is held to the handlebar with two cable ties. It should hold up to riding on roads and developed bike trails. I'm not so sure that it would stand up to rough singletrack rides, especially in a spill. We'll see.

The BV saddle bag that I got for my daughter's bike is perfect for her. It feels sturdy and is just big enough for her to have a place to stash her key, some money, and her iPhone 6.

Finally, I also got padded cycling underwear shorts. Note that in the Amazon image they are shown inside-out. When worn correctly you don't get mandrill-butt. These will let me cycle in regular shorts while providing some additional padding for my nethers. At $15 on Amazon Prime, I'll be satisfied if I get a season from them.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Getting Back Into Cycling

At the urging of my daughters I am getting back into cycling. I cycled a lot in high school and college but have done little in the years since. My ride is a Trek 820 mountain bike that I bought back in 1996 or '97. Compared with modern bikes it's rather unsophisticated. E.g., it doesn't have a front suspension, but it'll be good enough for me to get back into riding.

A few years ago I replaced the cracked saddle with a more comfortable gel seat, and replaced the tires. I may have had the local REI do a tune-up but I don't recall for sure. Even though the bike is about 20 years old it's in good shape (sadly due to lack of use).

Yesterday I bought Amanda a new bike since she'd outgrown her old one, and we also got a 4-bike rack to fit the Class III hitch on my Xterra, making it easier to take the bikes to a trail. We went back to REI today where I bought her gloves, and I got a new water bottle, a pair of Pearl Izumi cycling shoes, and a Planet Bike Eco Rack. I have cycling gloves somewhere around here but if I can't find them I'll need to get a new pair (after which no doubt I'll find my old gloves).

The rack mounted easily and should be a secure platform for a trunk in which to carry snacks and extra water. The solid rack should also act as a fender to help keep spray off my back if I ride through a puddle.

I have a set of front and rear lights on order. The reflector in the above picture has a mount that won't allow me to attach it to the rack (I tried) but I may get another reflector for the rack itself.

This afternoon we took a ride down in the Valley Green section of Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. I used to ride along Forbidden Drive quite a bit and it was nice going back there. According to my phone's GPS we did about 4.62 miles. It felt good.

Circuit Trails is an effort to link many trails in the Philadelphia area together, which will create a 750 mile network of trails going from Philly out to Reading. That should provide some good riding.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

New Grips for the 50th Anniversary Blackhawk

The rosewood grips that I ordered from shopruger.com arrived today. I like them a lot. Aside from being smooth they are more hand filling than the original black plastic checkered grip panels.

I'm looking forward to shooting it.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Ruger 50th Anniversary Blackhawk .357

I picked up this Ruger 50th Anniversary Blackhawk in .357 Magnum w/4.62" barrel back in 2006 from Surplus City. It was "used," still in the original red plastic box, but missing the papers. It's claimed that Ruger paid more attention to fit and finish on the 50th Anniversary Blackhawks and I believe it. The action on this one is very smooth.

I haven't shot it much, largely because the OEM grips act like cheesegraters on my hands if firing .38 +Ps or .357 Magnums. (It's not evident in these pics but the OEM plastic grips are checkered.) Last week I ordered a set of smooth rosewood replacements from Ruger that I'm hoping should make it more comfortable to shoot. Anyhoo, I just got around to taking some pics and will get some more after the new grips arrive.

Friday, May 27, 2016

.44-40 Chronograph Results

Today I went to the range with my brother, who has a Shooting Crony Beta Master chronograph. I was able to measure the velocity of three .44-40 loads. Measurements for each load was for a 10 shot string.

All shots were from my Cimarron Firearms Uberti 1873 Sporting Rifle in .44-40 WCF with a 24.25" barrel. Brass was Starline and primers in the handloads were Federal No.150 large pistol primers.

First up were 10 rounds with a ~215 grain cast bullet from my Accurate Molds 43-215C mold on top of 2.2cc (~35 grains) of Swiss 3Fg black powder.

Average velocity: 1329.4 FPS
Standard deviation: 11.6 FPS
Extreme Spread: 42 FPS
Muzzle energy: 843 foot-pounds

These grouped into about 2" at 50 yards.

Second were 10 shots loaded with a Lyman 200 grain cast bullet on top of 8.6 grains of Alliant Unique smokeless powder. The Lyman bullets were from a box I bought years ago. They are pretty good bullets but no longer available.

Average velocity: 1307.2 FPS
Standard deviation: 21.462 FPS
Extreme spread: 82.98 FPS
Muzzle energy: 758 foot-pounds

These printed a somewhat larger group, about 2.5" to 3". They gave noticeably better accuracy than rounds loaded with only 8 grains of Unique. I was not surprised at the much larger SD since I've read that .44-40s loaded with Unique can have wide variations, unless you tilt the muzzle of the rifle for each shot to get the powder back near the primer. In contrast to the largely empty case when loaded with Unique, the black powder loads have 100% loading density, and are in fact compressed loads.

That said, the rounds with Unique performed better than I expected.

Finally, I chronographed 10 Black Hills .44 WCF 200 grain cowboy action shooting loads. As expected, these were a lot slower than the first two loads.

Average velocity: 1123.1 FPS
Standard deviation: 15.358 FPS
Extreme spread: 41.78 FPS
Muzzle energy: 560 foot-pounds

Even though these were more consistent than the handloads with Unique, if you go by SD, they don't shoot nearly as accurately. Just like when I've shot them before groups were about twice as large as the full power rounds. It's also possible that the rifle doesn't like the Black Hills bullet.

I have three more loads that I want to chronograph, all using bullets cast in the 43-215 mold:

(1) 23.5 grains of Alliant Reloder 7.
(2) 2.2cc of Goex 3Fg black powder.
(3) 2.2cc of Goex Olde Eynsford black powder.

I'm expecting the Reloder 7 loads to at least equal but probably exceed the velocity of the Swiss BP loads, the Olde Eynsford to perform similarly to Swiss, and the Goex to tail behind but hopefully shoot accurately.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Rapid Fire with the Cimarron 1873 Sporting Rifle and Black Powder Handloads

A quick video taken by my friend NF last weekend while on our camping trip. The junk in the foreground was related to our ham radios.