Friday, January 28, 2011

Schwalbe Winter Tire follow-up

With a second snow storm past us and some more experimentation, I wanted to add a few comments regarding the tires to my original post

For a better context, I typically use Schwalbe Marathon Racers on the recumbent which have a very shallow inverted tread and relatively flexible sidewalls whereas the Marathon Winter tires have stiff sidewalls and v-shaped knobs as well as studs.

Marathon Racer

Marathon Winter
The rolling resistance between the two is quite noticeable.  The weight of the tires is also radically different. 

Late last night, I stopped by the supermarket with the recumbent and I had an opportunity to test out the bike in varing conditions.  Some of the side streets had remained unplowed such that there was 3 to 4 inches of snow and slush with little ice.  Just based on my observations, the studs had virtually zero effect.  Essentially I was riding on 42-46 mm knobbie tires through loose snow and slush.  I managed to make it through with my feet relatively dry, but something wider -- more surface area as well as lower tire pressures -- would have been better.  On streets that had been plowed, there was sections of hard packed snow/ice, opaque/black ice, and pavement.  With regards to tire traction, distinguishing between the three was very difficult.  Besides any visual clues, the tires produced different sounds on the three surfaces which is how I determined what I was riding on. 

In short, if you're riding on (potentially) ice-covered surfaces the studs make a big difference.  If the surface is simply covered in loose snow/slush, these are expensive knobby tires. 

While I do not have a true answer to Jim's questions, I have a bud who picked up a set of studded tires for his mountain bike but inexplicably -- JP has plenty of free time -- has yet to put them on the bike.  I'm hoping that JP plops them on and produces a comparison of wide knobbies versus studded tires.  He picked up a set of Nokians but unfortunately the model as well as his present set of tires escapes my memory.  I'll be sure to post something here when it happens.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My letter to Governor McDonnell regarding the Norfolk Four

Below is my letter to Governor McDonnell regarding the Norfolk Four who were convicted of raping and murdering a woman based on coerced confessions despite physical evidence to the contrary.  Of course, my opinion matters little.  I ask that you consider the opinion of the Society of Former Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation where they state
From our review of the facts of these cases, we conclude that only one person sexually assaulted and murdered the victim in this case. ... Once implicated by DNA evidence, Omar Ballard confessed to police and bragged that he committed the crime by himself.  Ballard's confession is completely consistent with the physical evidence
On the other hand, the "confessions" of the four navy men are completely inconsistent with the physical evidence and have all the hallmarks of false confessions.  
You may believe that former special agents of the FBI with a few hundred years of experience are a bunch of softies with bleeding hearts and, consequently, need more evidence that these men were unjustly convicted, eventually released after ~10 years, but still considered guilty of rape and murder by the law.  If so, I ask that you view the Frontline episode linked below and peruse some of the linked websites and documents.  

Frontline episode, "The Confessions".
Website maintained by people supporting the Norfolk Four.
Washington Post editorial following Governor Kaine releasing the men from prison without a pardon.

If you are convinced of the men's innocence, you can contact Governor McDonnell here


January 16, 2011

The Honorable Robert McDonnell
Office of the Governor

Dear Governor McDonnell,

I am writing in regards to the "Norfolk Four": Messrs. Williams, Dick, Tice, and Wilson.  Both as the governor and a former prosecutor, you are undoubtedly aware of the case and the overwhelming evidence that convinced several former Virginia Attorneys' General, US Attorneys, Federal and State Judges, and the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI of their innocence.

There are several political reasons to deny these men a full pardon.  One, many citizens simply cannot believe that ordinary people will confess to a crime they did not commit despite the empirical evidence to the contrary.   Two, the family of the victim, Ms. Moore-Bosko, continues to believe that the four men are guilty.  Three, pardoning the men despite the efforts of former peers at the Norfolk (and now Chesapeake) Commonwealth's Attorney Office would presumably create issues among law enforcement.

Nonetheless, there is an overwhelming reason to move forward with a full pardon: Punishing innocent men undermines the principles of justice essential for a well functioning society.  Citizens need confidence in society's institutions to fully support and be wholly integrated in society.  Moving beyond the pragmatic aspect of rendering justice, there is a more fundamental notion of "right and wrong" at stake here.  Continuing to punish innocent men is simply a sin that should be corrected as swiftly as possible. 

There is little doubt that these men are innocent.  Your predecessor, Governor Kaine released the four men but fell short of releasing these men from the "rapist and murder" albatross hanging around their neck.  In short, he left the dirty work to you.  It may be the case that the politically astute choice is to let the appellate courts take the cases, hope that a technicality can be found, and their convictions overturned.  But keeping these men in this limbo is particularly cruel and unfair after so much has been taken from them.  Governor McDonnell, we need a strong person to step forward and end this travesty of justice. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Schwalbe Winter Tires

As a year-round cyclist living in an area with snow and frost, despite the cost, I decided to get studded winter tires.  The combination of a few things convinced me that it was worth the experiment:
  1. I caught a sale at a store that had both a 20" and 26" matching tire for the recumbent.
  2. A few positive experiences from friends gave me the opportunity to ask a few questions.
  3. I decided that an injury was far more expensive than a pair of tires.
Given that virtually all of my riding is on roads, my primary interest was dealing with icy conditions on plowed surfaces.  Consequently, I didn't need a particularly aggressive tread.  Vanity pushed me to get matching front and rear tires for the recumbent such that I settled on the Schwalbe Marathon Winter.  At this point, I have several days of riding and commuting during normal and "winter" conditions and have reached a few conclusions.

Let's consider winter weather first ...

We recently had a snow storm with mild amounts of snow -- approximately one to two inches by my unscientific observation -- but excellent conditions for ice formation.  The morning commute had noticeable snow accumulation mixed with slush and ice.  By the evening, there were long strips of relatively thick and hard ice on the multi-use paths (MUP).  The roads, however, were plowed and well treated for ice such that ice was spotty. 

Handling is much much much better on icy trails and roads.  The moderately aggressive tread -- for a city/road tire -- helps somewhat in the snow and slush.  If we assume that it is meant to be applied to the MUPs, Schwalbe's claim of "full control on icy roads", however, is a fantasy that would make Mr. Roarke proud.  During the evening commute, my typical speeds on the flats and downhills will be about 13 to 18 mph.  While on the MUPs, my velocity was roughly cut in half.  Any faster than that and I would get an occasional squirm that was a little unsettling.  Note that I could still pedal up the occasional steep climbs while leaving the Teddy Roosevelt parking lot heading towards Rosslyn.  Moreover, the tires gripped much better than walking while wearing these shoes.  A test walk at the top resulted in comedy that would have made Chevy Chase proud if I had actually fallen.  But the bicycle was very steady.  The tires, however, performed very well on the arterials and side streets.  While I am a little too chicken to ride at 100%, I have noticed no handling changes nor sliding while riding at 80 to 90%.  Mind you, I would slow down more while going downhill; but I am quite pleased with the road performance.    

Now normal conditions ...

The fastest way to describe the tires is that they behave a lot like a mountain bike tire with some moderate knobbies.  Personally, I typically use wide supple tires with little or no tread so the change in rolling resistance and handling is noticeable.  Relative to my typical tire, they are very heavy.  Schwalbe claims the 26x1.75" tire is about 1000 grams.  I believe it.  So while I have friends that do centuries -- or longer -- with the winter tires, they wouldn't be my first choice.  On the plus side, the tires do support a wide range of tire pressures.  During normal conditions I have been running them at 45/50 PSI in the front/rear.  So the ride is comfortable. 

My conclusion ...

In short, if you want to blast down the Mount Vernon Trail or similar, I think you need a more aggressive winter tire.  But it will allow you to ride the trails with much more confidence at a relaxed pace while performing at an acceptable level during normal conditions.  If you want to continue road riding with a much higher degree of confidence, these tires are an excellent choice. 

Important note regarding the tires ...

I had an opportunity to play with tire pressures a bit and ice, snow, and slush handling all improve with lower tire pressures.  As a cyclist that is floating between 190 and 200 pounds and typically rides with lower than average tire pressures -- a story for another post ... I think the average person rides with way too high tire pressure -- I still lowered the tire pressure another 10% or so for road use.  And for the local MUPs, I pushed it further towards 35 PSI in the front.