Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Intermezzo #13: Wind and snot. A ride on my bike.

Let me take you on last Saturday bike ride. For those who don't know, my bike is a very nice Cube LTD Team 2006. My Cube dealer has serviced my bike into tip-top condition. It rides like a bird.
My broken radius kept me off my bike for more than a half year, but this summer vacation I carefully started riding again. What is left over of my radius is poking into my under arm muscles. I guess I got to get used to it. I think the pain will get lesser and eventually disappear when I ride a lot. The Coastal Marathon is in a few weeks. I support the last runner and I want to know if I still can ride the bike for a longer period.
It was quite a busy week at my work. I had to start up a lot of experiments, because the summer school vacation just finished. My legs felt still pretty tired and stiff when Bram jumped on my bed around 8:00. Maybe I should ride only a short round.

Normally there is a south-west wind here, but I read in the morning paper that there is today a weak north east wind. That's interesting. Normally I have the wind in my back when I ride northwards. Riding against the wind has it advantages. When you get tired, simply turn around and get the wind in the back.

I had no idea which route I would ride, but I started riding in the direction of Veere. Aargh. My legs are stiff, I feel my knees. THis is probably going to be a short round. Middelburg - Veere - Vrouwenpolder - Middelburg.


Indeed, there is a slight north wind, but nothing special. My legs are still pretty stiff, but I have no pain in my arm anymore. Lets go to Vrouwenpolder.

Dike to Vrouwenpolder:

My legs feel actually better. A group of elderly people were riding with electric bikes through the small forest to the dike.

Challenge 1: try to pass them safely before the next bend of the small cycling path. Accelerating... Feels good. With 25 km/h I ride the slope of the dike. It feels good if I am on top.

Challenge 2: Off road. With 25km/h I navigate my bike over the top of the dike (the cycling path lies slightly lower, about 5 meters on the left). No pain in my arm, while there is no track on the dike, it's a pretty rough ride with holes. Interesting.

Further on the dike I hear some noise behind me. A swarm of road bikers is gaining on me at high speed. I look at my GPS. I am riding 28 km/h. No way I can out-ride them. I have a steady heartbeat of 165 bpm. A half minute later I'm in delusion that I'm in the Vuelta. Road riders before me, road riders next to me and road riders behind me. And all very close. If I stretch out my hands I can easily touch them. Panting, commands...four letter words, not worth to repeat. Two slower bikes are almost rolled flat by the black and white tornado. What's the fun of riding at these speeds so close in a group? As fast as they appeared, they disappear in the distance. I can look over 1 kilometer before me. Several other cyclists have the same strange experience as I had and see them desolating being flushed out of the peloton. I feel good. I see the peleton ride through the tunnel at Vrouwenpolder and they race northwards to the Veersegat dam (marked Oost Westweg on the map) . That's interesting. I can do that too.

North Sea dike Noord Beveland, viewing the Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier:

I am a bit surprised. At sea this is not a weak to moderate wind. It's hard to keep my pace up to 20 km/h. The air is remarkably clear. I am thirsty. I have ridden 50 minutes. About 17.5 kilometers from home. I could go back. In the distance I see the island Schouwen-Duiveland. Far in the distance I see the firehouse of Westerschouwen. This firehouse is bright red and white, which is clearly visible above the dunes. For about 5 minutes I keep looking at the firehouse, while I rehydrate myself.
"I can do it, I can do it". I hear the little voice in my head. I get on my bike and ride to the barrier. As I got on the first section, the wind is merciless. My speed dropped under the 20 kilometers per hour. My Heart Rate Monitor shows this is not easy. From time to time the alarm sounds. Moderate wind. Well, it more feels like a small storm. I try to get everything out of the closet. Nothing helps. The speed now even drops more. I have to be happy with an average speed of 16.5 km/h. Why did I do this? After about a kilometer I can only see the lonely road before me and behind me. I am the only cyclist riding north. Only a few times cyclists pass me southwards. They look like high speed trains, no matter what bikes they ride on.

Neeltje Jans:

Finally I arrive at Neeltje Jans. The road to this artificial island rises. That's not fair. Isn't the wind enough. Finally I can descent and see I have to follow a detour, because the lock is open. One tiny yacht wants to enter the Eastern Scheldt. Murphy's law. After riding around the lock there is a long straight road, where only walkers and bikes are allowed.

There are a lot of windmills here. I have to ride almost under this one. It's unbelievably high. No idea how big it is. 30m? 60m? 100m? The sound of the wings is terrifying. I try to accelerate. Somehow I am imagining what would happen if a wing would break off. It happened several months ago somewhere else. Somehow I never feel fine when riding so close to these mills.
Of course, the wind did not stop, but I see another challenge. The highway is situated on a dike, that is about 8 meters higher. There is a steep slope to the top of the dike. The view above is great, but I am a play-ball of the wind again. Neeltje-Jans is an artificial island. It is known for it's unique nature. But probably not on the side I am riding. All I see is asphalt, a bit of concrete and uh... asphalt.
I might be complaining about the wind, the sky is almost clear and my GW-5525A gets a lot of sunlight to recharge it's batteries.
On the north of Neeltje Jans the Barrier continues in two parts. In the last part the wind exactly against me. 14.5 kilometers per hour. I can't make it more. Three young women had visited Neeltje Jans. Carefully I pass them. Though it looks like I'm crawling over the road, it also looks like the women are standing still on their bikes, while I am sure they must be moving forward. A few hundred meters further the scene repeats when I pass a boy and a girl. It seems that my speed is not as slow as it looks. Finally, finally... I reach land on Schouwen-Duiveland.


A couple jumps aside as I ride off road into the dunes. I did not mean to fright them. There was more than 3 meters between us. A road is embedded in the dunes and leads behind the dunes to Westerschouwen. With great speed I descent from the dunes. A kilometer later someone funny has put a 8 meter high pimple in the road. Every normal person would have put the road around it. Pretty tired from riding the long barrier against the wind, I noticed my legs enjoy climbing the pimple. And what goes up...

Since my arrival there is no notice of the light house. I continue my trip into the forests in the dunes. This is fun. At least in the beginning. The trees catch all the wind, and I gain pretty much speed riding up and down the hills. Until I notice I am not alone. No problem you should think. Everyone goes up and down. Most of them are elderly people (70+) with a poor feeling of direction and position of the road. They discovered en masse the joy of electric bicycles. As Evil Knevils they ride uphill, to continue with a snail speed when riding down, left, right and middle of the path. At random choice. Stop without warning and block the road with their bike, to wait for those who came behind. Keep on the right at a bend with no sight in a forest? Never heard of it. This is not why I fight myself uphill. I like to enjoy descending at high speed.

After riding an half hour in the forest (my brakes seem to work terrific) I sit down on bench and write Eva an SMS:

"They should forbid electrical bicycles in the dunes, specially for elderly people." Eva shows the message to my mother in law that was visiting our house. I'm out of the testament....
I must have biked quite some time, until I found a parking place I recognize. I decide to ride the other direction, back into the forest. At the end the road rises pretty steep. I end up in a flock of kickbikes. The kickbikes followed the wrong road. They cannot ride over the sand trails. They turn around.
Actually there are interesting things to see as the kickbikes are left. While I observe a panorama tower, suddenly a few people crawl out of a small concrete box at the side of the road. It appeared to be an old army shelter. It is "Open Monument Day" and it was possible to visit the shelter. I choose to climb the panorama tower.
It was a long climb, but it provides a great view over the island. The sun is shining, so though there is a hard wind (haven't we met before) it is quite pleasant on top.

Finally, when I look north, I can see the firehouse. It was not possible to ride straight to it, so I decided this was close enough. The view is very beautiful, but I can't stay forever.
With a speed running up to 38 km/h I cross the barrier and dams back to Middelelburg. Unfortunately I ran out of water. It felt like riding in the desert. I'm thirsty. I see my heart rate run up and a headache is coming up. Early signs of shortage of body fluids. I had to call home for ravitaillement.

Sint Laurens:

Finally, 8 km from home I get a fresh bidon with water. The bidon is empty before I get home. At home I drunk at least 1.5 liter water in the next hour. Trip distance: 68 km, time on bike 3h15m.

Well, I think I'm in shape for the coastal marathon in a few weeks. A bit stiff here and there. A colleague of my made a frame for my sign board. It says something like "broom bike", which is the Dutch expression for last "support of last runner". In the last years I got often the question where my broom was. Well, I fixed that.
All photo's, except the photo's of my bike, were made with the crappy camera of my iPhone. Sorry for the poor quality.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

#40 Dutchy Orange-G at high tide.

#40... It sounds like a magic number. Several times I had no idea what to write, or which model had not been featured. Therefore I'm happy I reached this milestone. It means I have to write only 10 stories this year. Since I didn't take a break this summer I will take a short break of about 2 weeks from here.
Regular readers of 50 Gs would have probably noticed. I very much like the Men In Rescue Orange and Rescue-G models. If you ask me which one I like most, I probably would tell you this one. Or if it ain't this one, it's one of the Riseman models.
The color orange is adopted from the clothing, vehicles and tools of rescue workers. The series is a tribute to people who risk their lives to save other people lives.
The color bright orange is not chosen because it's beautiful, but because it's highly visible. It shows big contrast with the mainly green, blue or gray colors of land and sea masses.
When the MIRO were announced for the September 2008 release, I was quite excited. Not only Casio revived the legendary "Men in ..." series, they also started of in an exeptional and very nice color. The Men In Rescue Orange series are Tough Solar Atomic Masters of G. In this case a Mudman, a Gulfman an Riseman model. For people who do not need the solar and atomic feature Casio released the Rescue-G series a few months later. Were the MIRO models only available in Japan, the Rescue-G models were only sold outside Japan.
Normally I would choose the Atomic Solar version, but this Gulfman has a feature I pretty much miss on the solar version. The tidegraph.
As you could have read in my G-Travels post, I live in the province Zeeland (Sealand) that is formed by (former) islands. If you are surrounded by sea with a tide difference around 4m (12ft), a good programmed tidegraph is pretty handy. As a child you learn here not to go to far in the sea when the tide lowers. Dangerous currents can draw you into open sea fast. Luckily we have a lot of good trained lifeguards patrolling the coast.
The MIRO and Rescue-G models have matching orange displays. The accents are deep black, which result in a deep contrast with the bright orange color.
A tidegraph on your watch is pretty handy, but only if it's programmed correct. What do you need to know...
First you need to know roughly the coordinates of your location. Actually only the longitude is important. In my case the longitude of Vlissingen, 3.6°E, is close enough.
Second it's important to know your local tides. If you live near open sea, you probably know your sources. I used to check my week calendar or my local paper. Nowadays I have an application on my iPhone telling me the tides where ever I am, using my GPS location.
The third and last thing you'll need to know is when the moon passes you latitude. In the Northern hemisphere this means that the moon stands in the south. On the southern hemisphere the moon stands in the north. A good way to find out when the moon passes over is to go to the worldclock page on Date and Time. It shows not only local time of many cities, but also sun and moon data. Of course not every city can be found, but Ghend, with a longitude of 3°41' is close enough.
When gathering these data, you'll notice there is probably an interval between the moon passing over and the high tide. This time is called the lunitidal interval. In some cases the interval can be negative. If so, subtract this interval from 12 hours and 25 minutes and you got the correct interval. The interval can be everything between 0 and 12 hours and 25 minutes, but normally it will be within a few hours before or after the moon passing over.
When you have entered the longitude and interval, you have a correct working tidegraph function on your Gulfman. It's a bit pity the latitude data can't be added. In the past there were G-Shock models that could calculate sunrise and sunset times with longitude and latitude data. This would have been a nice extra function.
Besides the tidegraph, the Gulfman shows the phase of the moon. This is not just a gadget function, but you need to know how to interpret this into the tidegraph.
At full moon and new moon you've got spring tide, because the gravitational forces of the sun and the moon are combined. At the moon quarters the sun and the moon are working in a 90° angle on the Earth, resulting in neap tide.
The tidegraph and moonphase display are not the only adaptations on the Gulfman for life and work on or at the sea. The salt water is not quite friendly for metals. When I'm on vacation in France, I always am surprised to see so many oldtimer cars in such a good condition. Here in Zeeland they would probably have been long rusted away.
The Gulfman is prepared for this. All metal parts outside the case are made of titanium, providing the watch it's rust resistance. The titanium brushed back shows a turtle that is cleaning his shell, probably from rust. The black structures at both sides of the display feel like a hard material, but appear to be resin when the bezel is bend a little (titanium does not stretch).
Unlike most G-Lide water sports models, the G-9100 Gulfman comes with a 24 hour timer with a repeat function.
With a world time function, three alarm with a hourly chime and a stopwatch, you can say this Gulfman is a complete watch.
So, is there more to see on this model? Actually at night you'll notice another neat feature, the Dual Illuminator. It was already featured earlier on the G-9000 Mudman. While normally only the display is illuminated, with dual illumination also the ring showing the functions of the button lights up. Both cool and effective. The Rescue-G Gulfman of course shows the symbol of the MIRO and Rescue-G series in the backlight, a gigantic rescue axe as used by fire brigades.

I think this eye catching Gulfman is both a real good looker and a great functional watch too. Also the titanium back might be a solution for people who have allergic reactions to stainless steel. Titanium is known to be anti-allergic. In a few weeks I will be escorting the last runner of the Coastal Marathon. I will be working close with several lifeguard districts and (para)medics. The marathon follows the shore of three islands (connected with dikes and constructions). Guess what I will be wearing at this years marathon.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

#39 Millitary Specs for every Timezone

Military inspired G-Shock themes seem always to be popular. Today's model is the M-Spec DW-5600B-1AVER, that was released in Japan as the DW-5600B-1AJF.
In Japan it was released as a limited edition model in August 2005. I remember Seiya-San had it on his web page for sale. With a suggested retail price of ¥12000, it must have been cost less than $100,-. I am actually not sure where I bought my first, it could be I bought this watch from Seiya.
What began as a limited edition ended up as a basic model. A few months later this model suddenly appeared on the US marked, followed in the Fall/Winter collection in Europe. It even got a name, "Timezoner". In the US and Europe this model was "just" a basic model of the 2005 fall/winter catalog.
If I'm correct a Dutch Watchuseek member (Bjorn) pointed me to a cheap sale of this model in my country. So I got myself a second one, one to wear.
Even now, 4 years after it's initial release, it's still available. A quick search on Google learned me you can find it for £60.- on Amazone UK and for €99,95 in an on-line shop in Germany.
Sometimes you wonder what limited edition means. Recently a very limited collaboration edition was released in the US. Riley, from "My G-Shock", proudly presented his new "Pegleg x Union NYC" watch. Only 100 were made... Until the August releases came out in Japan. Well, if it appears on the monthly releases, you can bet on it another few thousand are added. In the mean time I have seen it appear on two blogs of friends in Japan (Aga and Fumi). So far for rare.
Casio let them inspire of the street culture of that time, "like military cargo pants. Light ballistic nylon from bullet proof jackets is adopted in the fat strap of one piece" according the description on the press release.
Normally I am not fond of wearing these "small" 5600s, but this one looks beefier. The strap feels like it's made of a kind of canvas. Maybe the kind of canvas used in military jungle boots. It's pretty stiff, but when strapped on, it is actually very comfortable.
The strap is wider and is in one piece. Instead of attached on both sides of the case, the case is attached upon the strap. Therefore the case hovers about 2 mm higher above the wrist, which gives the impression of a bigger watch. I like that.
Sturdy leather lugs, band keeper and end piece adds even more zest to it's look. Small metal rings do not only strengthen the strap holes, but look sturdy too.
Originally not on this model, but I couldn't help myself... I applied a face protector ("bull bar") on it. I had one lying around and this seem to be the perfect model.
When worn, this is pretty much a stealthy watch. When you take off the watch, a pretty eye catching feature reveals. Actually I think it's cool. The inside of the strap is bright orange. This bright orange is adopted from the bomber jackets.
The case is mat black and the text is not painted. On the crystal around the display the functions are written in a dark gray tone, even the red part of the "Shock Resist" logo is low key.
On such a stealthy watch, a negative display can't be missed. Of course not just a negative display. Like the "Military Inspired" series, digits are used with a deep amber tone.
In dark circumstances this display will be pretty hard to read. For military discretion the electro luminescent backlight is relative dim and amber. So, when you are in the field at night checking time, you are not playing sitting duck with this backlight.
Overall I think this is a great watch and I think it's a model loved by many G-Shock enthusiasts. Though it's a small DW-5600 model, it appears bigger and looks distinctive present on the wrist. Though it's a 4 year old model, I think it can still be found easily. It seemed to be produced in large quantities. Although shop prices in Europe are high (suggested retail price of a basic DW-5600E is €99.-), I think a fast search around the internet will lead to quite affordable prices that will make acquiring this watch very attractive.