Big Sunday Rides

Over the past few weeks my habit has been to my habit to ride to Dickson for a coffee via Mulligan’s Flat. My journey home has been a bit random. On occasion I’ve returned home as directly as possible, but generally I try to find an interesting path.
Because of the new saddle and grips, I was feeling much better. Contrary to my earlier pronouncement, my hands aren’t completely numb-free, my thumbs were also a bit numb… “A little numb some more” might be a better title. However, there is a marked improvement in recovery of feeling. And I took two fairly tough rides on Sunday totalling 50km, so some price must be paid.

Here’s the out journey.  (I can’t embed MapMyRide or Google Earth 3D code in so you’ll have to click the link instead.)

I was proud of my out journey as it was the first time I haven’t used the “granny” ring.  Even on the steep climbs into Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve and Horse Park Drive to the Federal Highway were in the middle chain ring.  I climbed the Mulligan’s Flat course in 2:02.  I’d hoped for under 2 minutes, but that’s still a 2nd place effort.

I’d stopped a few times when I climbed through gates to raise the saddle and make little adjustments to the grips.  Every grip adjustment meant adjusting the brake and gear levers too.

And here’s one for the lap of My Ainslie.

At Good Brother cafe I found that my right grip was not fully inserted so the clamp was not gripping the bar.  A quick adjustment and I was away with a grip and bar-end that would not move.

I was feeling good in the saddle so I went straight up the path, a 1.2km (approx) climb with about 45m gain for a average 3.75% grade.  Yes, this was on the granny ring.  I slowly and surely made it to the top (661m) before the steep and a bit tricky descent.  To deflect run-off, large channels have been cut across the fire trail.  While these stop rain water from eroding and gouging, they are a big and steep-sided bump to negotiate.  Heading South along Telecom Road, the path was straight with fairly steep and long undulations.  But I wanted to head North so I took a turn off towards the Campbell Offices of the Department of Defence.  I was looking for a way through the Mt Majura foothills, but the signs warning of unexploded ordnance and a nice security guard told me there were no short cuts.

I rejoined the equestrian trail and after a loop or two got back onto what became the track to circumnavigate Mt Ainslie.  This is a nice path to the back of houses in Campbell, the Australian War Memorial and Ainslie.

I completed the lap at followed the same climb for a short distance before turning North for home.  The track markers for the Capital Punishment MTB race the day before were still on the track.  Brief stop to lube the chain and remove a tiny twig that was causing the chain to jump and I was ready for the Watson cross-country scramble, apparently reaching 52km/h at one point.

The Federal Highway climb (2km at 2.6%) seemed easier than before.  The saddle and the lack of fatigue gave me confidence and the new bar ends gave me options to hold on with my chest open for breathing.

Comfort on the bike makes a big difference

When fatigue starts and no position feels comfortable, it’s hard to continue.  When you’re comfortable (or at least, when nothing hurts) you can go on as long as water, food and lights will take you.  I didn’t realise how much I was held back by hard grips and a poor saddle.  A 20km ride twice a day was OK.  Maybe, I could have done the 50km option of Capital Punishment (apparently they were short a few riders).  Next year.

Next weekend I’ll extend my out journey to take on some more hills and on the way back I’ll explore Mt Majura (avoiding construction work on the Majura Parkway and I might climb the whole of the Federal Highway to Eagle Hawk and maybe find a way from McHeahnie Lane to Goorooyarroo Reserve.

See you on the trail.

Not numb no more

I took a week off my mountain bike to take the pressure off my ulnar nerve.  My pinky is still a little numb; maybe 10%. Yesterday I visited my Chiropractor for the first time since August 2012. He suspected that the ulnar nerve was being pinched in my neck.

Anatomy of Ulnar Nerve
Anatomy of Ulnar Nerve (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So tonight I had my first ride with my new saddle and holding my new grips. Yes, they worked.

The extra flat area on the grips makes a big difference.  I’ll need to adjust the angle a little, but the change of grips has done the trick.

The saddle worked immediately.  Despite the very thin padding, the saddle is much more comfortable than my old one.  No more sore bum.  The only issue seems to be that I am using some new muscles in my legs.

Prius tank-by-tank and year-on-year

My fuel consumption is much better than last year.  My first few fuel ups from January to March 2012 were:

  1. 5.3l/100km (estimated)
  2. 5.4
  3. 4.9
  4. 4.9
  5. 5.3
  6. 4.8

By comparison, this year to March my numbers are:

  1. 4.1
  2. 4.0
  3. 4.2

Yes, 1 fillup per month in 2013.

In 2012 from the end of January to mid-March we travelled 3661.9 km using 185.79 litres at 5.07 l/100km.  In 2013 from mid-January to early March we travelled 3001.9 km using 123.25 litres at 4.10 l/100km.  That’s like improving from 46.4 to 57.4 mpg (US), 55.7 to 68.9 mpg (Imp) or 21.2 to 24.4 km/l.

Why the big difference?

There’s a number of things that have changed from when I first bought the car:

  1. Driving technique.  I am much more conscious of how to get the best from the car, specifically Pulse and Glide, Driving without Brakes (not literally) and maximising regenerative braking.  Super Highway Mode is still a bit elusive for me, but I achieved a very high level of right-foot mastery.*
  2. Engine heater and grill block.  Together these get the engine up to temperature and keep it there.  The Prius’ startup modes respond to coolant temperature; the hotter it is the more EV and power you have access to.
  3. Tyres.  I had 3 Ovation ecovision VI-682 and a slowly-leaking Bridgestone B205 at 34psi.  Now I have 2 Bridgestone ecopia PZ-X and 2 Ovations at 47 psi front and 45 psi rear.   I know that the Ovations were an end-of-lease quick-fix to having 3 bald tyres, but why doesn’t Toyota fit low rolling resistance tyres from the factory?
  4. I replaced a dead 12 volt battery in late March 2012.  This could have caused poor fuel economy by requiring more from the HV battery and therefore engine to recharge the 12 v.
  5. No cruise control on the highway.  CC doesn’t know when the accelerate except to keep the speed constant.  This includes a very handy feature of using regenerative braking on downhills.  But it is nowhere near as good as a well-placed right-foot.
  6. I ignore Distance to Empty = 0 km.  You have about 9 litres of fuel left when that warning
  7. Major Service in July.  If anything has been lurking, it will probably be found and fixed.  Improvement in fuel consumption should be obvious… unless everything was perfect beforehand.
  8. LED lights, shark fin antenna and subtle aero tweaks.  These are minor changes.  Indeed some in the eco-modder community wonder if the OEM antenna is even long enough to be affected by the air streaming over the car.  But since they make the car pretty and don’t take away efficiency, they can stay.
  9. I use 91 RON instead of the “recommended” 95 RON.  The user manual says that fuel of 90 RON or higher should be used.  However, the fuel flap “recommends” 95 RON.  Research from PriusChatters shows that 87 AKI (91 RON) produces better fuel economy than 91 AKI (95 RON) in the Gen III at least.  Particularly if you very rarely rev the engine beyond the Eco zone, the extra energy in 95 RON is not put to any use.
  10. It is dryer and probably warmer this year.  Temperature has a big effect on fuel consumption and the hot weather has helped.

The real test will be to see how much of this I can maintain during a Canberra winter.  I suspect that I won’t be much better if at all because I had already adopted a lot of fuel-saving measure before last winter.

* I drove my Citroën C5 for the first time in a year yesterday.  The steering is very heavy (but good heavy), the throttle is so quick to respond compared to ECO mode on the Prius and the brakes are very strong; a Citroën trait.  And I can’t believe how low I could have my seat and how high I could have the wheel.  I only used the wipers instead of the indicators once, but I kept trying to engage the parking brake with my foot!


“Ferrari Impounded after Speed and Noise Orgy”, aledgedly

Ferrari 430 Spider
Ferrari 430 Spider (Photo credit: KlausNahr)

The funny things you see when riding…

As I hurtled down the Federal Highway/Remembrance Drive, spinning in top gear at up to 63km/h in the 100km/h zone, I noticed a Police car flashing reds and blues just beyond the Antill Street roundabout.  There’s a very prominent 80km/h speed camera just before the roundabout and a lot of warning signs and thick bump lines that get your attention… if everything else has escaped your attention and you aren’t even going to bother slowing for the roundabout.

Federal Highway and Antill St, Watson, ACT – Google Maps

But the Police car had stopped less than 50 metres from the roundabout.  If the car had sped through the camera zone there was hardly enough distance to stop.

I couldn’t help myself but ride past on the road instead of the bike path.  I’m going to guess that the car pulled over was a Ferrari 430 Spider in Rosso.  I zoomed past too quickly to hear and in any case they were parked in the bike lane so I couldn’t dawdle out in traffic.

In the past month I’ve noticed this Ferrari 430 Spider in Rosso and another one in Grigio Titanio Metallizzato or Grigio Alloy driving in high gears for all the world to hear.  There’s no surprise that they enjoy knocking it back a gear or two; the sound is very unusual and raw.  Ferraris are not common in Canberra, but you know them when you hear them and I’ve heard them often along Horse Park Drive.

I continued on to Dickson via Watson Shops, past the construction site that once was Satis Cafe and a good place for a cycling coffee.  Had coffee at Good Brother, as is my habit of late.  Even though they close at 1400, they were happy to serve take away coffee and allow patrons to sit on their outside tables as they cleaned up inside.  Lovely.

About an hour later I was riding back up the Federal Highway near Old Wells Station Road when I saw a Ferrari 430 Spider in Rosso being taken away on the back of a table-top truck.  I started to wonder just what had happened (and what was about to happen):

  • He had been speeding and Plod had finally caught up as he waited patiently on the other side of the roundabout, or;
  • He had broken down and had just pulled over when a nice Policeman stopped to offer assistance, or;
  • The car was given a defect notice for being too loud.

But there’s no “Ferrari Impounded after Speed and Noise Orgy.  “Summernats is in January” says arresting officer” story in The Canberra Times, so maybe it wasn’t a big thing after all.  And any Schadenfreude is short-lived when you’re going back up Federal Highway and faced with the reality of a long uphill ride.

Cycling – uncomfortably numb and the solution

[…I hope.]

Generally cycling isn’t painful.  Millions do it calmly and enjoyably, meandering along at a reasonable pace, riding to school and work in all weathers.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised how little my recent exertions have hurt.  I can feel my muscles after a ride but they rarely hurt much the next day.  Even if I push a bit harder, such as on Saturday when I beat my climb record by 13 seconds and was under 2 minutes for the first time, my legs recover quite well.

Numb bum

Except my bum.  Boy does my bum hurt.  My legs can have all the strength and plenty in reserve but my bum just can’t stay in the saddle.  And with my full-suspension bike, standing up to pedal induces sag and bounce and very little forward motion or relief.

Numb pinky

1 hour after getting off the bike I lost feeling in the ring and pinky finger on my left hand; totally numb.  This was unexpected and unwelcome, to say the least.  Smothered in Met-Sal cream I slept, but woke early this morning with no change.

I few googles and I found the cause; the ulnar nerve has been compressed and too much weight on the hands is the probably cause.  The nerve connects the pinky and half of the ring finger; something I confirmed as the medial side of my ring finger felt quite normal.

Great, not much chance of shifting the weight from my bum then.


About 75% of the feeling returned by mid-morning Sunday, which gives me hope of a rapid recovery.

I took a quick trip to The Cyclery with my bike.  They offer a by-appointment full fit service but I was hoping I had some obvious problems with obvious solutions that could be found quickly.  First thoughts were that the XL bike was too small for me, but that was dismissed on further inquiry.

Sore bum was explained by a poor saddle.  While it was wide enough at 155mm,  the rounded shape of the cushion meant that my bum bones were barely supported.  Instead the cushion was pushing up between my bum cheeks.

New saddle, Specialized Milano.  Instantly the difference was obvious.  Despite firmer padding than my old saddle, the flat padding mean that my bum bones were immediately comfortable.

New grips, Ergon GP5 fit after I moved the shifters and levers inboard.  The large, flat section gives a much broader base and the bar ends good grip for up hill stretches.

I’ll wait until my ulnar nerve is mended before I try any great distance, but I think that I’ve solved both issues in one.

UPDATE: 11/03/2013 07:18 – it seems that the sleep is enough to cause pressure on the nerve and numb the fingers.  😦  Not as bad as Sunday morning and it seems to be getting better quickly as I move about.  Hmmmm, there’s more to do.

STOP 0x116 is annoying

What a pain. Since 22 February one of my PCs has been locking with no apparent error.  There was no tell-tale stop error recorded in Event Viewer to show which program had caused the crash.

My PCs run BOINC 24/7, so the CPU are running at 100% 100% of the time.  Each PC has an NVIDIA video card (a GeForce GTX 550 Ti and GTX 560 SE) running CUDA.  Note that the video cards are not connected to my monitor; their role is to process BOINC work units as fast as possible.  (BTW, I use a 4-way KVM switch with old RGB and PS/2 connectors with 1 keyboard, 1 monitor and 1 mouse.)  Windows 7 will happily run for weeks without reboot; my dual Quad-Xeon workstation ran for almost 2 months without restart.

And then one of my PCs starts crashing daily.

Are you crash-ready?

I always set up my Windows PCs to capture crash details, here’s how:

  1. Select Control Panel > System > Advanced system settings.
  2. On the Advanced tab, Starup and Recovery section, click the button
  3. In the System failure section;
    1. Check “Write an event to the system log” (the PC’s “black box” recording of the crash)
    2. Uncheck “Automatically restart” (You want time to read the Blue Screen of Death.)
    3. Select “Small memory dump (256KB)”
    4. The directory “%SystemRoot%\Minidump” will be C:\Windows\minidump in most cases.
My System Failure preferences

In Event Viewer a STOP error points to the cause of failure.  The Event Viewer Windows Logs for Application and System can help pinpoint the time and cause of the crash.  But on these occasions, no STOP errors were recorded; the event logs just peter out.  After cold restart, the logs record only one  clue; the time of the crash in this quaint expression.

Log Name: System Source: EventLog Date: 1/03/2013 21:51:16 Event ID: 6008
Description: The previous system shutdown at 9:48:44 PM on ‎1/‎03/‎2013 was unexpected.

The minidump files have more information, which I use Nirsoft’s BlueScreenView to analyse.  The 0x00000116 STOP error is shown with files running at the time, with those suspected as being the cause.  It pointed to a display driver file.  However, updating the drivers and performing clean installs didn’t seem to make a difference.

Nirsoft's BlueScreenViewer.  Look at all of those 0x00000116 errors
Nirsoft’s BlueScreenViewer. Look at all of those 0x00000116 errors.  Look at how often they happened!

The 0x00000116 STOP error is a bit different to you common-or-garden crash.  MSDN describes it as follows, “The VIDEO_TDR_ ERROR bug check has a value of 0x00000116. This indicates that an attempt to reset the display driver and recover from a timeout failed.”  So it is more like a process falling asleep rather than crashing.

Just as I thought I had fixed it, my other PC crashed.  However, since the Startup and Recovery settings to automatically restart and record a kernel dump, which BlueScreenView can’t read, I can only speculate on its cause.  Great, 2 narcoleptic PCs.


I narrowed the causes down to:

  • The video card was getting too warm.
  • The video card had not been properly configured.
  • The BIOS settings were wrong.


Here’s what I think worked (and has worked so far):

  • The case is cramped and was a little dusty.  I removed the heat-sinks from the video card and CPU and vacuumed the case clean.
  • After putting the case back together, the rear system fans became very noisy.  Not long after I unplugged it the 0x00000116 error appeared.  Lubricating the fan motor and reattaching it has done the trick.
  • The video card had not been properly configured.  The NVIDIA control panel is disabled unless the card is plugged into a monitor.  Features such as PhysX were turned off and turning them on probably helps CUDA processing.  Maybe.
  • In BIOS I reverted to fail-safe options (I wasn’t far of standard anyway).  I disabled C1E, a feature that cuts the clock rate when the CPU is not fully utilised.  There’s a few BIOS features that I don’t need enabled such as virtualization that I’ll switch off later.

I don’t know for sure if the problem has been fixed, but it looks good so far.