My Blog Is Adorable Today

After two or three false starts — last week there was a snowstorm that left six inches of snow on my lawn — I’m pretty sure Spring is here now, for real.

And I have promised myself that this is the Spring I get the twins to learn to ride bikes, without the training wheels.

But I am not having an easy time of it.

I think there are a number of factors at work that have made the whole “teaching the girls to ride” thing difficult. One part of it is that, well, they’re girls. And while I make a conscious effort not to, I know for sure that I am babying them more than I did the boys.

More than the “girls” thing (or more accurately, my chauvinist treatment of them because they’re girls), though, is the “twins” thing. Specifically:

  • They’ve got each others’ back. If I am stern or even mildly firm with them, they both cry. If one’s tired, they’re both tired. If one falls, they’re both in tears.
  • I don’t magically have twice as much time. One of the secrets parents of twins have is that once you get past age four or so, the net amount of work twins take is hardly more than a singleton. Sure, you have to spend a little more time doing some things, but those are balanced out by how much less time you have to spend dealing with the “I’m bored” syndrome. But learning to ride a bike is a strictly 1-to-1 activity. And, as it turns out, I currently have other fish to fry. So they’re each getting less help from me than I’d like to give.

All these reasons, though, are trivial. I have a theory that the real reason the twins are reluctant to ride their bikes in a cul-de-sac or parking lot is because I’ve already introduced them to the hard stuff.

Saturday, for example, I took them each for a 90-minute ride, pulling them on the tag-a-long bike up Spring and down Rodeo at Lambert park. Now, I’ve always been curious what the twins’ expressions are like when we’re downhilling, so this time I mounted the helmetcam so it faces them.

Here’s Katie’s ride, in what may in fact be the most adorable mountain biking video ever made.

Once you’d done this, how much appeal would riding unsteadily around in a parking lot have for you?

Lessons Learned

I learned several things while taking the girls on this ride.

  1. Batteries are important. I’ve now definitively figured out why my helmetcam shut off during the downhill on Grove last week. The batteries wore out. I found this because I did not replace these batteries, and within moments of taking Carrie out to Lambert Park, the helmetcam had –yet again — shut down. So I got no usable video of Carrie, making this a “Katie” video instead of a “Twins” video. I think I can safely say that someday several years from now Carrie will use this as prima facie evidence that I am a terrible father and that I treated her unfairly. Unless, of course, I make another video exclusively about Carrie. Which I guarantee I will. Anyway, from now on I will always make sure the helmetcam’s batteries are fresh before heading out on a ride.
  2. The twins need helmets that fit better. I could’ve sworn that the helmet on Katie’s head fit snugly and properly. Judging by the way it’s about to slip off the side of her head in this video, I was wrong.
  3. Hauling 80 extra pounds for a 3-hour ride is a good workout. The girls each weigh sixty pounds (they have not yet reached the age where they don’t want their weight public knowledge). The tagalong bike weighs around twenty. The round trip from home up to the top of Rodeo and back home takes around ninety minutes — and the video shows exactly how much of a pedaling contribution the twins make (hint: about enough to make it very difficult for me to balance the bike). So, that’s about three hours of hard riding I got in on Saturday.
  4. Multitasking rules. While I was taking the twins out on this ride, I was accomplishing all of the following:

    • Making Susan Happy by keeping the twins out of her hair so she could get some work done on her jewelry and her novel.
    • Being Dad of the Month by taking my kids out on an adventure on a beautiful Spring day.
    • Being Dad of the Year by recording this adventure on videotape.
    • Getting Fodder for a Blog Entry which you are reading right now.
    • Getting an Intense Workout: Hill intervals while pulling up an extra 80 pounds really work your legs
    • Learning to Use My Helmetcam: I’d hesitate to say I’m competent yet, but I took another step in that direction.

Feel Free to Skip the Rest of This Post

The rest of today’s post is really just me talking — pretty much humourlessly — about what I’ve learned about using the VIO-POV.1 recently, just in case anyone else is experimenting with helmetcams and is interested in what I’m learning.

I’m fully prepared to admit the likelihood that there is nobody interested in my very novice efforts toward capturing good video while mountain biking. So, feel free to skip down to the comments section and tell me how adorable Katie is in that video.

Still with me? I didn’t think so.

My biggest lesson — apart from using fresh batteries — learned this weekend in using a helmetcam is to keep the mount as simple as possible. See, when I bought the VIO-POV.1 I went a little nuts, buying all kinds of mounts, thinking this would facilitate interesting shots.

I started out this weekend with this monstrosity fastened to my seatpost:

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The knob you see there tightens a vice-style clamp to the seatpost. Then there are several other joints and knobs, letting you pivot the mount on all three planes. Then there’s a gooseneck, to which is mounted the lens clamp.

In theory, it’s awesome. In practice, the constant jarring and vibrating of the trail kept loosening all those knobs and relaxing the gooseneck, so the lens wouldn’t stay where I positioned it for more than a minute or so. Even if I would have had fresh batteries during my ride with Carrie, she would have kept drifting out of the shot.

So, when I got back home and put fresh batteries in the helmetcam, I also switched to a different mount:

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One of the rubber half-circles sits on top of the tagalong toptube, the other end holds the lipstick lens. And then velcro holds the whole thing down tight.

And as you can see in the video, the lens stays nicely in place the entire time — for about 90 minutes of video, which I mercifully trimmed down (currently using iFilm ’09, though I hope to make the jump to Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects once I am less clueless about how they work) to under four minutes for you.

Of course, that mount is only useful for making the lens point in a direction parallel to the bar it’s mounted to. I have a similar mount, good for pointing the lens in a direction perpendicular to the bar it’s mounted to:

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This is the mount I use when I want the camera on my handlebars or seatpost.

Putting the Helmet in Helmetcam

I have to admit, for a while I was puzzled about how I should mount the camera to my helmet. See, my helmet — a Giro Ionos — is so vented, there’s no easy place to mount anything.

The solution I came up with — and tested for the first time in Lambert Park just over a week ago — was simple: get a new helmet. I bought an inexpensive BMX / skater helmet with very few vents, and plenty of surface area for a helmetcam mount.

Reviewing that video, it seemed like the camera’s vantage point was too high, which made sense since I mounted the camera right on the top of the helmet.

And then I noticed that the adhesive holding the mount was starting to come off. That’s not a good thing when you’ve got the business end of a $600 camera on top of your head.

I solved both things at the same time:

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Just in case you can’t tell, I took some sandpaper and roughed up the side of the helmet and the mount, then used plastic epoxy to bond them together pretty much permanently. I could have cleaned up the extra epoxy around the mount, but I like the sloppy look. Seriously, I do.

I really like the idea of having this permanent mount on a helmet, and it’s made me think: I should perma-bond my HID light mount to the top of this helmet (or maybe to the other side, to keep things balanced?) in a similar way, so the light doesn’t slip around all the time. And then I’d be all set for night ride filming. Which I think could look very cool indeed.

My current plan is to wear this helmet with the camera setup for RAWROD 2009 this weekend, though I worry about riding with this helmet all day; even riding for a couple hours with a heavy, non-vented helmet gets a little uncomfortable. Wearing this all day with the sun beating down on me in the desert might be a little more than I want to put up with.

Zipties Are Your Friend

Zipties make it so easy to keep the cable routed out of the way. And then they can be snipped off at the end of the ride. I am going through zipties at a prodigious rate right now. Good thing they’re practically free.

Excited for More

I’m almost embarrassed to put up the videos I’ve done so far (but am doing it anyways, of course). I realize that I’m not even to “beginner” level yet. And my editing skills are worse than weak. But I’m having so much fun capturing these videos and showing Susan where I’ve been riding all these years — she’s finally getting more than just an exaggerated description of the trail; she’s getting a reasonable visual facsimile of the ride itself.

And I’ve been thinking of all the other trails I want to film: Jacob’s Ladder, Tibble Fork, Leadville 100, Mount Nebo, Frank, Gooseberry Mesa, Goldbar Rim. And on and on and on.

Is it too late for me to join the AV club?

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