Thursday, November 13, 2008

Moonstruck

If you haven't had the chance to go for a moonlight ride, go do it right now. It's OK, I'll wait.

This week I have been riding home with my headlights off (once I get off the road). I actually prefer the low light conditions to having a headlight for a few reasons.

Riding with just a bar light gives a tunnel vision effect--everything ahead is clear, but everything to the sides remains a mystery. It's quite easy to see, but I don't like not being able to see to the sides.

A head mounted light I really don't like for commuting...it makes it easy to see wherever I'm looking, but it also makes it far too easy to inadvertently blind oncoming drivers. I don't want them blind. I also have a tendency to want to play with the light, in the sense of trying to look at everything off to the sides. "I wonder if I can see the creek through the trees...yep! Can I see the tops of these trees I'm riding under? Yep! Crap, am I running off the trail because I'm not paying attention? Yep!"

Riding in moonlight is something completely different though. Monday's ride had a not-quite full moon, but I had a well-defined shadow in front of me the whole way home. I could make out every important detail of the trail, though it was very grey. Tuesday was overcast and it was pretty similar--I didn't have a shadow, but I could still make out all the details I needed to. Wednesday was the best, it was raining lightly and the trail was like a mirror. turning the light on didn't illuminate the trail any better than running with the light off, it only made trailside features more visible. Night rides in the rain are an awesome way to gain a new perspective. Rain gear gets hot when the temperature is hovering just under 50, though (I had the pit zips on the jacket open, at least).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Routine, interrupted

My morning routine has been relatively simple.

After I get up, shower, and eat breakfast, I start thinking about what to wear for the day's ride. Previously, that meant I would go to weather.com and look at the temperature + chance of rain, then dress appropriately.

For the past two weeks or so though, their temperature has been way colder than reality.

I learned this when I brought up their site, saw that the current temp was 30 degrees, and dressed for the cold.
It was actually 47, and I was burning up the whole way there (and didn't have time to stop and take off any layers).

Today it says it's 39. The actual current temp is 51.

What this means is...weather.com, you have become useless to me. Stop being useless. (OK, fine, I still use the radar)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Quick reminder

Just a quick entry, but an important reminder:

Check your bolts!

I didn't ride in yesterday because after I got all my bike clothes on and started to wheel my bike out the door, I saw everything on the rack wobbling.

Upon investigation, it was missing the rack bolt on the top right.

Upon further investigation it was also missing the bolt on the bottom left.

I should have checked everything when I noticed the water bottle cage was coming loose, but alas, I did not.

So just a reminder: Check the tension on all the bolts periodically!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another chilly/wet ride

Another ride in conditions most people would hate today.

This morning the temp was about 37 with a chance of rain. The forecast originally called for rain/snow showers, but they took the snow out until 10pm and lowered the chance of rain in the morning to <30%. There was a higher risk of rain in the afternoon though, so I had a good set of clothes with me. Here was my morning wardrobe:

Terramar Merino Wool Long Sleeve Crew
Sugoi jersey--don't see it on their site, but it's long sleeve, lightweight merino wool, half zipper front, single pocket in the back
Woll semi-tights from Rivendell - Unfortunately their rather annoying web design won't let me link directly to them, but this is the best I can do
Defeet wool socks
Showers Pass touring jacket with hood (did not use hood in the morning)
Manzella Cascade Gloves
And a pair of Velowear lycra shorts, since the tights don't have padding

The morning ride was great, the legs were just a tiny bit cool at first, but warmed up pretty quickly. I was surprised how warm I was when I got to the office, I think I might have worn a little too much on my torso--should have just had one jersey. Could have also done with some lighter gloves, but I wanted the waterproof ones in case of rain. I only saw two people on the morning, neither on bikes.

The ride home was in total darkness, with rain, at about 39 degrees. I threw on the set of rain pants I always keep in the trunk bag (they are good for rain and as an extra windproof layer in case I underdress), attached the hood to my jersey, and set off. I also threw on a pair of Visorgogs (scroll to the bottom of the page) to keep the water and cold air out of my eyes.

This ride was also surprisingly comfortable. Except for discomfort around the neck from the rain hood, I was prety good the whole way. The neck discomfort is pro bably just a personal thing, I really don't like things on my neck too much, and anything that passes between my chin and the strap of my helmet causes similar annoyance. I was definintely warm enough the whole way home--once again, I could have lost a layer from my torso and not gotten cold.

The only part of me that got wet from anything other than sweat were my cheeks, toes, and a small bit of my wrists between the gloves and the sleeves of my jacket--it would be nice if the gloves had longer cuffs, but I can deal with them as they are.

About 2.5 miles into the ride, it began to sleet pretty hard. It stung my face pretty good where the hood didn't cover, but the visorgogs kept my eyes clear. They are not as good as I had hoped for fog prevention though, they kept fogging up even in the moderately warm 39 degree air. Moving them around to get airflow cleared them out fairly quickly though.

I would recommend all the clothing I had, it's all of good quality and everything seems to do the job it's advertised to do--I expect the gloves will be good for at least another 10 degrees, and after that I might be able to fit liners in them. Unfortunately Performance only had the large and not the XLs though, those would be a better fit.

Performance has a matching set of wool tights to go with the jersey, but don't buy them to use as an outer layer. They have a fly in them (made just like the one in a set of briefs). Maybe no one would notice, but it's not the kin The Rivendell ones are nicer beause they have a higher percentage of wool, a looser fit, and are a bit more casual looking. They do cost more, though.

I might ride tomorrow and I might not...depends on whether the night ride is still on. Looks like I might be doing two nighttime trail rides this week. Is this great or what?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Slooooowing

My last few rides have seen a sharp decrease in speed. I don't know if I have trouble pushing myself when it's cooler, if the layers of clothes get in the way, or if it's just the very lackadaisical attitude I have toward maintaining tire pressure.

I had thought that I was wearing myself out with other strengthening exercises I've been doing, but I did nothing but relax over the weekend and today saw my slowest commute yet. I don't have additional pain, it just seems like I'm going 5mph slower than usual with the same effort. I don't mind slowing down when I am taking it easy, but going slow for unknown reasons is starting to get old.

There's been road construction along my favored route for the past week. They are running some culverts under the street, but I have never seen it done like this before--it is running along the road as opposed to across it. For over half a mile the road is cut right down the middle of one lane, and they are gradually digging that up, putting in the pipe, and patching the asphalt. It keeps the road closed in the morning, and in the afternoon I get a nice coating of dust from where the work has been going on. On the bright side the construction hasn't affected the road where I ride down the hill, so I don't have to be careful at speed. It will just be a bit annoying to ride up the rough pavement once they're finished. I would get pictures, but it is quite dark by the time I get to that area now.

The cooler weather.darkness is definitely affecting the traffic on the trail now. Today I saw one walker and two cyclists, one of whom had no lights (but at least there were reflectors. I also saw three deer. I am totally ready for the sun to come back now. That happens when, some time in March?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Temperature declining

It's definitely getting cooler out, though nothing I would call cold yet.

The morning commute was in the standard long sleeve jersey and shorts, but when I left to ride home I stopped before I even got into the parking lot to put on the wind shell. There's a definite difference in low 50s with sun and low 50s at night.

I have recently been turning off my headlight when I get away from the roads and riding as much as I can on night vision. It's definitely an interesting experience--being able to see the edges of the path, but not the surface itself. I can make sure I don't run off into the grass, but there is no assurance at all of not hitting a tree branch.

While doing this today, another rider came up behind me. I saw that he was coming because his light caused my shadow to stand out in front of me. He pulled up next to me and informed me that there were a few people ahead, in case I couldn't see them (I could). I responded by turning my own light on full and completely drowning out his 1 watt LED. What can I say, I spent a long time building that light and I can be a bit of a showoff sometimes.

He then scored extra points by noticing I was riding a Long Haul Trucker, and mentioning that people kept asking him for bike advice so much that he wrote a 6 page article on it, and recommended the LHT most highly. I was starting to like this guy.

We talked for a bit as we rode--he is in the unfortunate situation of working in a location that is not safe to get to by bike, as well as living somewhere where he can't safely get to the trails, so he has to load up the bike after work, drive to an access point, then do all his riding after dark. That's dedication, I don't think that I would be doing very many rides at night if I wasn't commuting--except some occasional mountain biking, perhaps.

Soeaking of mountain biking, I might be able to do a night ride this weekend. I have decided that the trials are close enough to my apartment that I should be able to go when I'm on call, because I can get out of the woods and back to my apartment within an hour if something goes bad at work. I'm seeing a STOMP show that might interfere with this particular ride, though. Hopefully I'll be able to do both, but I guess if I miss this one ride I can survive. I'll just have to post at the Ohio Mountain Bike Association forums and see if I can get something together. It will read something like "Anyone up for a slow night ride this weekend? I break my collarbone on 50% of my nocturnal trail excursions."

Tomorrow's ride should be the chilliest yet, temps will be well below 50 in the morning. Not sure if I want to break out the tights yet or if I'll wear some loose pants that are comfortable enough to ride in. Decisions decisions... Normally I leave the tights for below 45, at least.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Various

Hey, I never followed up on my 60-degrees-and-raining commute post.

Conclusion: Long sleeve jersey (thin merino wool), rain jacket, and baggy shorts are fine, bordering on too warm.

The next day was a 50 degree ride through dense fog. I had forgotten one little aspect of fog: It makes you wet. I frequently had to wipe the front of my glasses down with my gloves, and it was chilly--right at the point where I was pondering to pull out my jacket, but not quite enough to motivate me to do it. Plus I was running late and didn't want to stop.

One of the things about riding in the cold--you can feel fine while on the bike because your core remains warm, but when you change at work, notice that your skin feels quite cold to the touch. After a few minutes at work, the chill starts sinking in deeper....I'm generally much colder 20 minutes after a ride than during. I may start leaving a jacket at work (where I am normally quite warm).

Did some mountain biking again yesterday, I was finally able to coordinate with my rother and get him on the trails again. We hit John Bryan State Park and did 8.5 miles or so, at roughly half the speed I commute to work. That's a pretty simple trail, and I am quite slow on it. I have concluded that it's hard to actually be bad at road biking, but it's pretty easy to be bad at mountain biking. It's still fun, though. Oh, and there were some very attractive women hiking. Maybe I should take up hiking.

Oh, on the way back I had to purchase gas. I was on the same tank from Aug 28 to Oct 11, so the driving less seems to be working for me.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

More saddle problems

Well, the lacing of the Brooks seemed to be successful at first...but now it's too soft toward the back, where there are no laces. Not wanting to destroy the saddle by less-than-judicious twisting of the tension bolt, I have posted to Bikeforums for advise.

In other news, the commute tomorrow morning will be cool and rainy. Not sure how I'll handle the clothing issues...it will be (according to weather.com) 59 degrees and raining, so I will have a thin wool jersey with my rain shell over it, but for the lower body I'm not sure. Baggy shorts by themselves might make me a bit cold, but if I wear rain pants over them I have a feeling I will be sitting in a mobile sweatbox for the entire ride. I could try lycra shorts and wool tights I guess, but I have a feeling that would be the worst of both worlds-too warm from the insulation and soaking wet from the rain (though given the choice, I think I would rather be soaked by rain than trapped in my own sweat (as long as the rain isn't too cold)).

This is a difficult time of year to dress for, I always have to choose between being being pretty sweaty in the morning or being uncomfortably cold on the whole ride in.

Maybe or some of the dry rides I should wear two layers of jerseys and forsake the wind shell.

Update: The plan is to wear the baggies and pack the rain pants. If it gets chilly, I can pull the pants on, so the wind will be blocked and I'll be a bit insulated. If not....well, they aren't very heavy and they take up little room in my trunk bag.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Winter's coming...

Well, the time that I can leave work without lights on has officially passed.  Before leaving, I always set my Planet Bike Superflash and home built LED headlamp to flash--the headlamp must be dimmed from max brightness before setting it to flash, otherwise it could blind oncoming cars.  It's is really bright.

I turn off the headlight when I get to the rail trail now, but I turn it back on before I get home--it just gets too dark for me to feel good about biking without it.  It's doubtful I would see a fallen branch that would end my fun pretty quickly.

Night rides are definitely exciting every now and then, but I have a feeling that lonely rides down a deserted trail will begin to wear on me before too long.  Maybe I should look into alternate routes that are slightly more urban--though between 7:00 and 8:00 when I'm on the road, it's likely they would be travelled a little too well for my tastes.

Temperatures have been as low as 50 when I've left for work in the morning, and I've been fine with baggy MTB shorts, light long sleeve jersey, a wind shell, and some thin long-fingered MTB gloves.  Another 5 degrees and I'll have to add some lower body covering though.  I'm thinking of carrying a pair of rain pants in my trunk bag all the time in case I get chilled on a ride--they are made to fit over regular clothing so I wouldn't have any problems there.  Until it dips below 40 I'm not too worried about being chilled though.  We'll see what my coworkers think when I come in wearing tights.

I was tryingto figure out what to do about foot warmth this year, and decided I'd just swap out my Eggbeater Candy SLs with some cheap MKS rat trap pedals from Rivendell.  Then I'll just wear my hiking boots with some wool socks (I bet they'll look awesome with tights).

I've been pretty successful at biking recently, I have over a hundred miles more logged on the bike than in the truck for last month--I'll have to figure up the exact total later.  But at the current rate of gas consumption, I would only have to fill up 6 times a year.  Not quite car free, but definitely moving in that direction.

One thing I experienced for the first time on Monday:  Commuting home in a nighttime thunderstorm.  It started to rain right as I got to an underpass on the bike trail, so I stopped and dug out my rain jacket/wind shell.  It works pretty well, and it was still in the 60s so I didn't regret my lack of rainproof pants.  It wasn't too windy, but the rain did come down for a while--enough to make it exciting, with some flashes of lighting in the distance.

Interestingly, when the rain ended I discovered that I could see the paved surface of the trail exactly as well with my headlight on as with it off.  The headlight did illuminate the sides of the trail, but that wasnt' really necessary.  It should be noted though that nighttime rides in rain while wearing glasses aren't great if tehre's traffic about--I need to wear some sort of goggles in that case so I can wipe the water off.

I suppose that's all I have for now, more to come next week.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Burley Update

Some things I didn't mention the first time around:

One downside of the Burley is they even though it has a cover, it's not completely waterproof. I would not be surprised is water could come in through the bottom around the wheels, and I know for a fact that spray from the rear wheel frequently gets thrown under the front flap and into the cargo compartment--even with full coverage fenders.

The push/pull I mentioned definitely seems to come from the tow bar flexing. I loaded it up with 80lbs of cat liter today (and a few small items) and rocked it back and forth, and could definitely se flex. I don't think it's really anything to worry about though, and it's really only noticeable on roads that are crappy and have deep cracks at regular intervals.

The trailer handles just fine with 80lbs of cargo. Definitely slower, and you will pay for any attempts at ast acceleration, but decent top speeds on the flats and high top speeds on the downhills are the norm. Much slower when going uphill, but that's why the Long Hual Trucker has a 26x32 granny gear (though I didn't even need to use the granny ring today, and I don't think I even used the 32 in the back.

Top speed with the trailer today was 26.4, top speed with it loaded was 26, ride length was 12.21 miles.

One thing to be careful of: The trailer rides so smoothly sometimes that it's possible to forget how heavy it is, but it definitely takes a toll on braking. And mounting the bike when facing downhill, it is more vital to clamp down on the brake levers.

That said, I really want to get one of the Rans Hammer Trucks this spring, as shown by Commute by Bike. I was disappointed when I first learned what they aren't compatible with Xtracycle parts, but they also have a much higher cargo capacity, so I guess that's a win. I was never a huge fan of the crank forward bikes before, but this seems like an ideal application. I'll have to go about 30 miles to get to a RANS dealer though to test ride one to see if it works for me. But hey, I think I should be able to get there by bike, so I can score poiunts with myself at least.

Oh, I also forgot to attach the third pic of my trailer shopping trip the other day, it does a bit better job of showing how much it was carrying:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Burley Nomad

As promised, the possibly long-awaited Burley Nomad review. I'm going to pretend that you're all interested and rapt with attention, so bear with me here.

OK, the Burley Nomad:
http://www.burley.com/products/adventure/nomad.cfm

Narrow enough to fit through a door, light enough that it doesn't kill you by itself, and carries 100lbs.

Here are a few pictures from my last shopping trip (try not to judge me by the food:


As you can see, it holds quite a decent amount of groceries even though the front section could have held quite a bit more. I usually don't use the divider (if it's not velcroed around the crossbar it just lays flat) but I decided that my bag of salad and bagels probably didn't need things on top of them.

How does it handle? Pretty well! Making extreme right turns can cause the wheel to hit the towing bar, but that rarely happens to me--and never will at high speed. Left turns are limited only by the bicycle's turning radius. The way the tow bar attaches, the trailer rides a little bit to the left--the right wheel of the trailer lines up pretty close to the wheels of your bike when going straight down the road. Very convenient as it means if you move over to let a car pass, you don't really have to worry about the trailer falling off the edge of the road. I suppose it's less convenient in countries where they drive on the wrong side of the road, but that's what they get for being weird.

I have mentioned before that on crappy pavement it feels funny. The road that I take to Kroger has lots of cracks in it, and riding along it feels like there's some push/pull aaction from the trailer--I don't know if this is the tow bar flexing or if it's simply the trailer pushing and pulling slightly as the wheels ride up and down the breaks in the pavement. I've come to believe it is the latter.

One has to give a little extra room when cornering, obviously, since like a car trailer it will have a shorter turning radius than the bike.

I have also used a BOB trailer before, an old discontinued model called the Coz. The only difference in the Coz and the Ibex seems to be the way they carry cargo--the Ibex has an open cargo area where one is meant to put a dry bag, and the Coz just has a rubbermaid container bolted onto the bare frame. Handling and attachment should be identical though.

The #1 advantage of the BOB over the Burley is that due to the attachment system and the articulating yoke, it will follow the back wheel almost exactly through turns. This means that you don't have to take turns any wider, and it can be used while mountain biking (very useful for carrying trail tools). The fact that it has only a single wheel in back also makes it narrower, and the whole trailer tilts along with the bike when cornering.

The BOB requires a special skewer to attach to the bike, the Burley needs nothing special to attach, it has a special clamp that fits on the left side of the rear triangle. Note that this means it woin't work on a bike with disc brakes, they make an adapter to attach to the skewer in this case, but I have no experience with it.

The Burley ca be easily attached whether empty or fully loaded, and it's designed so that the tongue weight should only be 10% of the total load weight. BOBs are not supposed to be attached when loaded (and it's really hard to do anyway), and transfer more of the total load weight to the rear wheel of the bike. Burleys also have a higher maximum load, 100lbs vs 50lbs. For touring, this shouldn't make much of a difference, but I like to take mine when I go to buy big bags of cat litter, so higher weigh limits are welcome.

I think when pulling the Burley I get more room from cars. I think this is partly because it sticks out more into the traffic lane and partly because people think it might be a child trailer. For some reason it's OK to hit adult cyclists, but it's not OK to hit kids.

I would definitely recommend the Burley for shopping and touring, but I still think an Xtracycle would have advantages--hopefully I'll be able to build one up by spring and report back. I suppose I could always have an Xtracycle and a trailer attached, but I think that would get a little heavy.

I should go to work soon, so I guess I'll cut this off here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Useful new knowledge

Still no internet so I am posting from my phone again, excuse the brevity.

Discovered something quite useful the other day and have been able to duplicate it twice. I can trip traffic lights with the Long Haul Trucker. Must be the combination of steel frame and rims. Definitely makes handling non-busy intersections easier.

The technique that has worked for me is to pretty much park right on top of the sensor loop along the right side. Considering that I have waited through 2+ cycles if these lights when nitrate on the sensors, this is a definite time saver.

Working on a writeup on the Burley trailer for whenever internet returns.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

reason for not updating

havent een able to post this week since hurricane ike took out my internet.
i dont know at exactly what point hurricanes became a threat to ohio, but it is not my favorite thing to ever happen.
hopefully i will have cable back soon, being without internet access is quite annoying. not to mention the savagery of being reduced to broadcast tv.
by the way, i am updating from my phone, so that explains the lack of caps and proper punctuation.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Caution

Once again my lack of camping disappoints. I decided I should stay in town, as I discovered the Beavercreek Popcorn Festival. I've always been a big fan of popcorn, so I decided it would be pretty awesome.

Summary: There wasn't really very much popcorn there.

The day started out with me finally biking to church (4.6 miles), then riding to the popcorn fest (maybe a mile or so from there). I found a convenient pole to lock my bike to (have I mentioned the way there are no bike racks here?) and wondered around. Got some snacks and left.

Now dear reader, comes a story. A story with an important moral. I normally reserve this blog for general narration on the state of biking in my life, for ride reports, and (when I am less lazy), reviews of commuting gear. But now I feel obligated to speak word of caution.

Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to race a recumbent just after eating lunch. It will not make you look awesome.

I'm guessing I looked "Fred" enough that he counts it as no victory, however.

Before I pull onto the rail trail, I see what seems to be a recumbent trike in the distance, off to my left. I turn right, and begin my ride toward home, eeking out 1 or 2 extra mph so that if I am passed it will not be THAT bad. The path has a very slight grade (1.5-2%) for the next mile or mile and a half, so I usually run about 15 or 16 on this section on a good day.

About halfway up the "hill", I get passed. I call out "Hi!" because I wanted to tell him his trike was pretty sweet (I think it was a Catrike Explorer--I know it was yellow). Alas, I was ignored, likely due to his iPod. I ceeded defeat, slowing to 13-14 for the rest of the "climb". He is still well within sight when I cross Grange Hall Rd. The hill continues though, so he continues to pull slightly ahead of me as we go. For some reason, even though the next block of trail is a similar slope, I am usually way faster. I try to keep my speed above 16 as I ride along now, seeing if I can catch back up. I am definitely making progress, I think, and it becomes more pronounced as I pass the park-n-ride location and move onto more level ground.

I go for my usual sprint on the slight downgrade here, and soon reach about 25. I pass the trike, and am feeling rather proud of myself when my stomach begins to protest.

"Hey, remember me? I'm that chicken pita you ate at the popcorn festival."
"How ya doin'! Man, you were delicious, but you're kind of hurting me now."

"Oh yeah? Well how about me? I'm the large Icee you washed it down with!"
"Mmm.....cherry. Ow, pain. What's with all this pain?"

"We're helping with that."
"Who....who are you?"
"We're the popcorn burger and diet coke you had just before you left. You eat too much, man."
"You may be right, but...ugh, now I'm slowing down! I lose!"

And then the trike rider passed me, since I had slowed way down at that point. Looking at the graph from my Garmin, you can actually see my stomach start to hurt toward the end of the ride.
Oh well, I've never been a racer, but I do usually end up being faster than 95% of the people I see riding on the bike path.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bike marketing

Quick thoughts, decided I'd post before I forgot about it.

Since biking seems to be taking off again now and people are buying bikes based as much on comfort as on anything else as evidenced by sales of city bikes...shouldn't hti be the perfect time for recumbents to take off?

Recumbents are, by all reoports, the ideal bikes for the new craze. Ultimate comfort, great speed, they can carry cargo as well as a delta frame bike (excepting cargo bikes, which there are also recumbent alternatives to). The only place where I see a definite lack of superiority is in price. Let's face it, there's no such thing as a cheap recumbent. People also talk about their lack of climbing ability, but I imagine they don't climb any worse than the 50lb Dutch commuter bikes that everyone seems to love right now.

Is it an image thing? Do people still for some reason think they look "dorky"?

The most compelling argument I've seen for recumbents not catching on is that there's more demand for delta frame bikes because that's what the professional bike racers use. That's both ridiculous and terribly, terribly plausible. Most of the hobbies I've been in, people tend to go with what's popular, whether it be flying a radio controlled Edge 640 instead of a Sughoi (so yesterday) or using foil-like wushu steel broadswords in kung fu because they move faster for competition, regardless of the fact that yoiu can't really do a form right without a properly weighted sword.

What's it going to take for recumbents to catch on?

*Note that I don't have a recumbent. I'm planning on getting one within the next year though--finances are not allowing it just now. Of course, I also need an Xtracycle. We'll see which wins.

1500

According to my log, I hit 1500 miles for the year while on the way to work on Friday. Almost-every-day commuting definitely helps the miles add up. Even better, $238 savings in gas so far. I can deal with that.

Next week I'm going to try to start posting some reviews of my day-to day equipment that had proven useful in my commute. That's the kind of thing I like seeing in a blog, so I'll assume that everyone else likes seeing it too.

Next weekend I plan to take a bike camping trip, probably either to John Bryan or possibly Caesar's Creek. John Bryan won't let you reserve a campsite for Saturday night only though, so that's annoying--I guess I either have to pay for Friday too or pay on-site and hope it's not a popular camping weekend. I would imagine that people are getting out of their system now though--but I'm on call this weekend so I have to stay home. I'm not sure if Caesar's Creek has the same two-days-required-on-weekends system, but I have a feeling that they might be full due to the Ren Festival being held nearby. I should go to that when it is not "Kids get in free" weekend. Maybe I'll bike there. Anyone up for biking to the renaissance period on...say, the 13th? Looks like a trail from Xenia should go pretty close to where it is.

So stay tuned, next week I'll try to offer up reviews of:

-Banjo Brothers Waterproof Pannier
-Ortlieb Back Roller Plus
-Banjo Brothers expandable rack top bag
-Maybe something else if I think of it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Still here, looking for ideas

I didn't get hit by a car or anything, I have just been trying to come up with ideas for the next post. Nothing has presented itself yet.

As Phil Lepanto pointed out in the comments, my last post was a bit unreadable to some people. Apparently the font got set to "Webdings". Firefox doesnt' seem to have webdings (I would bet it's one of the wonderful MS-exclusive fonts), so I imagine only people who used internet explorer would have been unable to see the last post. If it makes you feel any better, I don't think it was one of my better ones.

I've still been doing a pretty good job of biking, as evidenced by the fact that it's been over a month since I've had to buy gas--I think that's the longest I've gone without buying gas since 1996. And I didn't buy any before that since I didn't drive. Still though, I could be doing better. It's much harder to work up the willl to bike to a store 5 miles away on a weekend than it is to ride to work every day. Not really sure why.

One thing I've noticed aboutthe stores around here...up on North Fairfield Rd, one of the larger shopping areas and a place where I do a lot of my shopping (home of Best Buy, Circuit City, Lowe's, Target, Petsmart, a mall, etc), thare is a nice separated bike lane along both sides of the busiest part of the road. Hoorah, bike friendliness, right? ...not one of the stores I've been to along there has a bike rack. Not one! (there might be one at the mall, but I don't much go to the mall) I've always said that having a rack to lock to at a store is more important than building bike-specific roadways to get to the store--after all, I can ride on the road with cars, but I can't lock to air. Maybe I should just write to the manager of a store or the owner of a shopping center, I've heard people have actually had luck with that. Any tips from anyone with experience in the matter?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

MUP traffic, icepick through the skull

I keep noticing that the people I see on the rail trail don't fit the stereotypical profiles I would have guessed at.

Usually when I see rollerbladers, they look like retirees. Maybe I'm just old, but I though that was more of a young person's hobby. More power to them though, being active is always good, and you have to respect them for taking it up.

I also see lots of people in the 60-70 range riding old cruisers. Definitely nice to see them prove that cycling is not just a young person's hobby, and that anyone can do it.

I see quite a few recumbents, too, which always make me a bit jealous. I would love to someday get a SWB 'bent (such as a Bacchetta Corsa) or a trike (like a Catrike Expedition). They look fun. (I picked those models simply because I know someone who has both and he seems greatly pleased with them).

Speaking of trikes, I got passed by one for the first time yesterday. In my defense, it would have been unlikely to happen if I'd had two non-bent wheels, but hey, I can't always be fast. Or usually be fast. Or hardly ever be fast. Anyway... I passed him at one of the park & ride locations on the rail trail and thought about stopping to check out his ride, but decided against it since I just wanted to get home and minimize the damage to my wheel.

I don't see very many others who look like commuters during my rides, but I have a feeling that it's because I'm not on the trail until about 9:20 every morning and 7:15 at night--not exactly prime commuter hours, but I can't exactly shift my work schedule. I have noticed that when it rains I'm pretty muh the only one out there except for some die-haard joggers and dog walkers, but maybe during peak commute hours there's a more cycling-oriented crowd. I wonder what it will be like when I attempt a snow commute this winter.

Today's ride home was slower than it should have been due to an incredibly bad stabbing main in my head, just behind the left eye. Don't know what caused that, easing up on the effort didn't help much, but I sure didn't feel like pedalling fast with that going on. It's still there to a small extent, but nothing like it was coming home. Hope it isn't in some way exercise-induced. Severe head pain might be enough to convince me to stop commuting.

Until next time....be safe, and "keep the rubber side down", to use a cliche I've only actually heard one person say.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Whatever I did, I'm sorry

My current working theory is that at some point in my life I have inadvertently angered a clan of gypsies. Possibly while I was riding my Giant. The gypsies then cursed the bike.

To add to my previously enumerated woes, today I rode the TCR because the Long Haul Trucker is in need of a new chain. I was making really good time until my cellphone rang. It was in my backpack, so I pulled over to answer it.

Pulling over was simple, and involved 1) shifting down to my lowest gears while still moving, then 2) hearing a loud grinding sound and many clangs and pops. 2) is a completely optional step, and not recommended.

Apparently my rear derailleur shifted my chain all the way off the cassette and into the spokes. The spokes were moving quicky and the cassette was not because I was no longer pedaling.

A chain can eat through spokes at quite a rapid rate when properly motivated, and today was no exception. I ended up with a 24 spoke wheel that had, due to budget constraints, been reduced to a 21 spoke wheel. When you only have 24 spokes to start with, every one of them counts. Especially on the drive side.

The first item of business was to try to extricate the chain from between the cassette and the remaining spokes. This is much more easily stated than done, and ended up requiring the collective brainpower of 5 people--two nice couples stopped to help me. If any of you happen to see this, I really appreciate all the help!

The next step was to wrap the broken spokes around the spoke closest to them. This wasn't so hard.

Step three was to try to introduce some semblance of trueness to the wheel. This was very slightly successful, but the paired spoke wheels are apparently tricky to true at the best of times.

Then the rear brakes got loosened, the wheel got replaced, and I carefully rode the remaining 3-4 miles to work, listening to claning noises the whole way and hoping the wheel would not suddenly collapse.

The ride home was my slowest ride ever, I was usually only going 11-13 mph because not only was the brake rubbing, but I was quite fearful that the wheel would collapse. The thought of calling my brother for a ride crossed my mind, but I am way to cool for that. ...

So I guess this weekend I might have to find a good shop. "Village Cyclery" in Yellow Springs was suggested as being quite good, but if there happens to be anyone else in the Dayton area with an idea I'm open to other options.

I might just leave it hanging on my wall and fix it much later though. It's gonna cost quite a bit of money because I have the feeling that the rim is shot and I will be surprised if the derailleur hangar isn't bent.

At least I've got two good commuter bikes, the other of which is rock solid--and is always carrying a spare spoke. I also have my full suspension mountain bike, which I could definitely take to work if I needed to, but is far from my first choice.

In happier news, I went to Cold Steel's website today and saw their new graphic on the front page, which I am sure they won't mind me reproducing here:


What can I say, I like good knives, I like their knives, and he's using cycling to sell the product. Gotta love that non cycling industries are pushing cycling. And the picture amuses me.

Now I think I should buy a knife to show how much I like them.

I should email them though and tell him to be careful of those low spoke count wheels, like me he's a pretty big guy. Only with muscles and things.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Busy riding week

On Thursday I actually managed to turn in another sub 1hr commute. I didn't think I was gonna be able to pull it off, but a skinny guy on a road bike passed me so it gave me something to chase. It's always helpful to have that carrot to chase.

I slowly caught up to him over about a mile and a half, and passed him a few hundred feet before we got to a crossing on the bike path. I came to a near-stop to check for traffic, saw that it was clear, and went on my way.

Shortly thereafter I was passed again. Apparently he saw that it was clear since I went.

I gave chase again, slowly reeling him in until we caught up with a group of kids on BMXs. He came in behind them, looked back, and just waved me by. That was rather anticlimactic.

Oh well, as long as I pass people who probably weigh more than a hundred pounds less than me while I'm carrying 20 pounds of stuff I feel good about myself.

Sunday brought my longest ride of the year so far. I wanted some ice cream, so I took a trip over to Young's Jersey Dairy to meet my brother and his wife. I decided to take the rail trail as far as I could, which meant it was close to 25 miles. Each way. Never done a ride that long before without being in a group, but there are towns along the way to resupply at, so I went ahead and did it.

Here is the route that I took.

It's a surprisingly nice ride...the grades are all very gradual and there were a lot of people out. I probably passed 20 people going out there and another 10 on the way back...though one of them passed me on the way back, so I guess he doesn't count. I was riding the Long Haul Trucker because I wanted to have my Garmin Vista GPS mounted--I hadn't charged the Edge in a couple days and didn't think it would last the whole ride. I was correct and it only lasted for the ride there. Rather unfortunate.

Also, I learned that 1/8" leather lace is apparently not strong enough to hold my saddle together as it broke in two places. I'll have to see what else I can find..maybe just a shoelace will do, though it won't look as cool.

I got just a few pictures on the way there, so here they are.



This was taken in Xenia, not long after getting on the rail trail going north. Xenia is the self-proclaimed "Bicycling capitol of the Midwest", and they definitely seem to do a good job with keeping things bike friendly.



Another shot from Xenia. Have I ever mentioned how much I love separated bike paths?



I few miles north of Xenia. There's a horse trail running alongside the rail trail, and there was a stable to rent horses a mile or two further north. I like having the horses separate because dodging horse crap was never my idea of fun.



Car overpass. It looked to be only one lane wide.



A cow riding a bike at Young's Dairy. they seem to be very bike friendly there--there's a pretty good sized bike rack, and they also give free coffe, tea, or soda to cyclists who come in on weekdays. Good marketing considering they're less than a mile from the rail trail.



Back on the trail going south. Not nearly as deep in shadow as the picture would imply.



A little restaurant in Yellow Springs. This was taken over my shoulder on the way back, when I was going in around 12:30 there were probably 20 bicycles and 10 motorcycles out front. Just north there was a park & ride location for the trail and probably another 15 cyclists there. Yellow Springs has a reputation of being full of hippies and stoners, and I'm afraid that I may have to confirm that. North of this intersection I smelled marijuana for about 3/4 mile. Also, fun fact of the day: Firefox's spell check does not recognize "stoners" as a valid word.

Well, that was my ride. I'll have to do it again sometime, but I'll try the gelato. Maybe play some miniature golf at Young's. This is the kind of ride that would be great to do with another person, but unfortunately I have yet to find a riding partner here.

Young's sponsors a charity ride every year that is 2 day, 83 miles per day that I would like to try next year--if I can gather up the $200 that is required.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Good week so far

So far it's been a good week for biking.

After the mountain biking trip Sunday, I did my regular commute Monday, but my saddle was really starting to become painful. It's a Brooks B17, and it was beginning to sag--probably a combination of getting wet (and being ridden that way) and possibly too much proofide. On the way home from work Sunday I stopped at a craft/hobby store and bought a leather punch and a spool of leather lace--time to try lacing up the saddle as suggested by Sheldon Brown and many others. I used the pics here as a guide: http://www.wallbike.com/content/butchering.html

Punching the holes was easier than I thought--that leather is thick so I thought it might be a problem, but the hole punch went though without much fuss. I laced it up and it felt nice and tight, but I couldn't put it on the bike. Hmmm, there's something not shown very well in the B17 pictures--where should I run the laces to provide proper tension, but not interfere with the seatpost clamp?


I never came up with a satisfactory answer, so I just mounted the saddle and ran the laces in as direct a manner as I could think of. A few of them run right through the hollow center of the seatpost clamp, but I figure that's not a problem unless I take the saddle off, which I am not planning to do unless there's a huge, unforseen catastrophe.

I'm impressed at how well the laces match the honey saddle--one would think they were made for each other. The ride was improved immensely, restoring the comfort and support of my sit bones on the suspended saddle as opposed to on the rails where they had been resting. (ouch!) I'm happy with the results though. What do you think?

Didn't ride it to work Tuesday, though. I felt like going for speed, so I took the Giant out for another ride. For some reason my GPS didn't want to record distance for about he first mile of the ride (which means it also wasn't recording time), but I made note of when I left and my distance to work doesn't vary more than .01 miles, so I could figure up my average easily enough.

I made it to work with an average speed approaching 16mph. This is much better than I usually manage, and it meant that the elusive sub 1hr round trip could be attainable (my commute is exactly 16.25 miles round trip). I took extra care to not load myself down at lunch, avoided overindulging in the healthy snacks, and prepared myself for the trip home.

The first two miles consist of a short climb and a long downhill, but I managed to resist the urge to sprint on the downhill, knowing my energy would be better spent elsewhere. When I got on the rail trail that led home, I just kept my power output above where it usually is, trying to find the magic sweet spot between comfortable riding and burning myself out. For once, the gamble paid off, and my speed hardly ever dipped below 16.

This sort of effort is much easier on a group ride when you've got people to chase and a draft to try to stay in. It's all the better if you don't know where you are so you think you have to stay with the group or risk getting lost.

I arrived at my apartment, downloaded the data from my GPS, and added on the missing time and extra mile that didn't get logged in the morning. 57 minutes and change, average speed of 16.88. Not an Olympic record by any means, but it feels good to finally reach a goal I've been shooting for. Now I suppose I have twin goals: 1) Make the trip in under 55 minutes on the Giant and 2) Make the trip in under an hour on the Long Haul Trucker. I plan to ride the Giant a lot more from now on, it feels more comfortable than it used to. It's too bad the frame isn't a size larger though, I think that would make a huge difference.

Tomorrow I'll see if I can turn in another sub-60 time on the Giant, but I'm not sure that's gonna work because there's some residual tiredness that I need to expunge. Also, I should take it easy so I have energy to ride to Kroger after work--my grocery supply is dwindling at a rather depressing rate, and it may be that I need food to live.

I'm going to have to give up soda though, I have very little self control around it. In just under a week and a half, I drank four12 packs of Diet Coke. I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that even though there's no sugar there's probably something unhealthy about that.

Weight after the fast ride: 254. Hey, it's progress. Slow progress, but still progress.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I want to see mountains again--Mountains!

Ok, so I haven't reeally seen mountains much. And I've never mountain biked on one.

But Sunday I finally got to do some mountain biking again, and it was great fun.

Before the ride, I put a new chain on the Heckler (SRAM of course). Aired up the suspension, set the tire pressure, all was ready.

Met two people at the trailhead who seemed willing to let me tag along (I think they may have just met too, so it worked out pretty well). They were pretty nice folks, hopefully we'll get to ride again sometime.

After about three miles though, my chain broke. My brand new chain. One wouldn't think that would happen.

I borrowed a Power Link from one of my newfound friends, repaired the chain, and set off. Two pedal strokes later the new Powerlink flies apart. I'm guessing I didn't pull it tight enough to properly seat the plates. Only one half of the link is found, the other end probably flew a long way, propelled by the derailleur spring. I decline the offer of another power link and decide to just shorten the chain the old fashioned way. Much greater success this time, and the ride is finished fairly uneventfully--but there was quite a bit of fun.

I really need to ride trails more, it's easy to forget how enjoyable it can be. I also really like the fact that the local trail here stays fairly busy, so you can actually meet people to ride with sometimes. I could ride 18 miles at Sal Hollow in Mammoth Cave and not see a single person.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Jolly Journey of the Jaunty Giant

Mmm, consonance.

Got the Giant back from K & G Bikes yesterday. Apaprently the only 50t chainring they could get in the right pattern was a Dura Ace. All that silver looks kinda funny with my black crank, but it should be pretty resistant to tacoing (of course, so should the other)! Also, in my original post I was mistaken...I said it was an Ultegra chainring, but it was a Truvativ Rolleur. ..drat, I can't find mycamera to document the new chainring. It's there, trust me.

Anyway, moving on...

I ended up having an extra-long and enjoyable ride to work today. I got up this morning, showered, packed some work clothes, got ready to leave, took a quick glance at the time, and rushed out the door without breakfast to get to work on time.

After I'd gone about 4 miles, I glanced down at the time. 8:45. Good, I think, I can make it on time if I put the hammer down going up the hill. A few seconds later I take another look at the time. 8:45. I don't have to be at work until 10:00. I left an hour early!

Since I'm pretty much locked into the rail trail I'm on, I decide to just keep going straight, toward Xenia. I figure I'll get to the main rail trail hub and look for the delicious sandwish shop I'd heard about--maybe get a cold sandwich to take to work for lunch, which I also didn't pack when I thought I was out of food.

I didn't quite make it though, I decided to explore a spur of the trail that goes over a wooden plank bridge. It only went a mile and a half or so, but it was a nice little ride through a park and the fairgrounds. They didn't really look like advanced fairgrounds to me though, I wouldn't have called them that if there wasn't a sign.

Unexpected sight of the day: The Green County Horseshoe Club. Someone was out practicing. They even had a storage shed and a fenced off area in the park. Nice. Too bad I didn't have my camera.

I rode through the park until it entered a suburban neighborhood and then turned around to head back to work, as I had used about half my available time. Rode back to work and arrived just a little bit early. Great commute overall, and the Giant performed fantastically. I also added a good 12 miles onto my usual commute.

A problem I've been having lately while trying to be as car free as I can is that I just don't have as much time for recreational rides as I used to. I need to buy groceries tomorrow, but I also planned to go mountain biking. Carrying a full load of groceries might be rough if I have been playing in the dirt all day. I have been compromising by stopping for groceries on the way back from the trails, but when I reach my eventual goal of riding to the trail that won't fly quite so well.

I also haven't done a long road ride yet. Not only do I not know the actual roads arund here that would be good for cycling, but doing a 75 mile ride on Sunday and then commuting the next day might be detrimental to me in the long run.

Always trying to find balance.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Misc

I haven't posted ina while. Sorry about that. I keep thinking up topics that I think I can write something about, but then I forget them by the time I leave work. Oops.

I was going to do Fatty's thing (even though he didn't tag me because he hates me), but I can't think of very clever answers. Especially since the ones I would have come up with were pretty close to what others did. Oh well.

MY employer, Edict Systems, did something pretty awesome today. The company that stocks our vending machine apparently went out of business--they seem to have been running out of candy for a while, as on Monday we had 5 slots of M&Ms, 3 slots of peanut M&Ms, 3 slots of M&M cookies, one slot of dark chocolat peanut M&Ms, and one slot of Hershey's Kissables (aka funny shaped M&Ms). Anyway, the CEO decided to order a giant refrigerator and stock it with healthy snacks, provided to employees at no charge. Fruit juice, apples, bananas, Nutri Grain bars, etc. It's really quite awesome, and meant that I had some grapes and yogurt to go with my lunch instead of the usual Little Debbie snack cake. I deinitely support this decision, as I have rather poor eating habits.

Currently in another long mileage week...28 miles Tuesday, 38 today, somewhere from 26-38 tomorrow depending on whether I have to take care of my brother's pets in the afternoon. You may notice I didn't ride Monday....first time I've driven to work in several weeks. I had a good reason though! I had to go to Cincinnati right after work to see a Weird Al concert. Because Weird Al rocks.

Other than that though, I have the same tank of gas I had in my car that I bought on July 5th--and right after I filled up I drove close to 300 miles, so I am doing very well on the not-driving front.

I need to start writing down my blogging ideas so they don't vanish.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tour de Whatever

OK, most of the blogs making their Tour de France updates. One of them I read recently had the "Mandatory TdF post".

I guess I'll do one too, then.

I have watched the race before. It's really long and not a lot happens. I think they just throw in the drug scandals to get more attention.

Now, before someone starts saying I just don't understand the strategy or the beauty of the event or whatever....I get some of it, I just don't care.

I don't really watch any other sports either, because watching someone else play a game is not quite so interesting to me as doing something--anything--myself. Actually I might watch some kind of cargo bike competition, just to get tips on how best to carry large loads on my bike.

Now that that's out of the way....I'm not doing a perfect job at the whole car free thing, but I think I'm doing OK so far. I had to drive on Saturday to take the Giant to the bike shop ($100, ouch), and my truck was acting very much not good. Before it warmed up the engine wouldn't idle properly, it just runs slower and slower until it dies. While it did that, the windshield wipers would also stop in random places. I think this just might be an electrical issue, but other than that I can't say.

Short term solution: Ride bike. Long term solution: Win lottery.

Not too much else to write in terms of updates...maybe I'll find some group rides to joun soon, though I haven't done any single rides longer than about 18 miles this year so I don't know that I could handle the distance. Plus I have not been riding for speed, so I'm slow. The current project is to try to make the round trip to work and back in under an hour...so far my record is 1:00:45, so I'm close. Tuesday's time was 1:01:03, but most others are 1:03+. Ah well, after that I'll be trying to make it under 55 minutes I guess.

Sorry this post is dull, I just wanted to get something out there since I haven't written in a while.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Oh Giant, why hast thou forsaken me?

OK, seriously. My Giant TCR1 and I have had our issues in the past, but now I think our relations are straining to the breaking point.


Let's sum up my last two rides before today as kind of an intro:

18 mile ride in to work, rear tire goes flat after 14.5 miles. I have no spare, which is my fault, and I end up walking 3.5 miles to work. This is forgivable.

Last ride, 16 miles round trip, front derailleur drops chain at a traffic light, then the rear tire goes flat. Front tire goes flat after I get home.

Today I rode home from work and decided to repair the flats on the Giant and ride to the grocery store to pick up some butter and cereal. I find both flats, replace one tube and patch the other, put on my almost-too-small-to-be-useful Timbuk2 messenger bag, and head for the store. At first, the ride is rather awkward. The bike is slightly too small for me, it's a Large compact frame when my Long Haul Trucker is a 60cm. The not-broken-in Brooks is slippery under my nylon baggy shorts. Once I get to the rail trail though, it becomes more comfortable. I remember how this bike can fly.

All the way to the grocery store with little incident, swooping around the pot holes like an X-Wing in the death star trench run (in my mind only), I reach the driveway and slow waaaaaaay down because there isn't much room to turn in next to a car coming out, and enter the parking lot.

There's a very slight uphill and I have forgotten to shift down, so I'm still in my 50x12 gear. I decide to mash on the pedals and try to build up some speed to downshift, when CRACKLANG!

Great, I think. I've broken a chain. I thought I was done with that. I broke three or four chains no this bike within the first 200 miles. Don't know why.

I look down and am shocked to see that the chain is not, in fact, broken. It's a little less routine than that:

If you're thinking "Hey, that looks like a broken Ultegra chainring!" then congratulations! You win! You don't win anything specific though. I have nothing to gove.

So I guess it's off to a shop somewhere this weekend to see how much it costs to have a chainring replaced. And have the rest of it given a once-over as well.

And maybe go see a priest about an exorcism.


In closing, I would just like to say....yes, clydesdale riders create a lot of power. And people ask me why I like to ride the heavy touring bike so much...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Emotions

It seems like like is run by emotions and little else.

Two years ago, I lost 50lbs (which was a good thing) in part due to a depression (which was a bad thing). One year ago I gained 40 pounds due to another depression (which was another bad thing).

Nothing more about that, that's just an example of the power emotion can have over one's life.

I experience many different emotions while traveling. When I drive, someone driving slowly or having to go through road construction makes me angry. For a very long time. Unreasonably so (though not uncontrollably, I'm not going to hurt anyone). When cycling, a car can come within inches of killing me due to negligence, and after a minute or two I've fogotten all about it.

Cars isolate us from our environment, make us think of everything outside of our own minds as The Enemy. Bikes allow us to experience the environment face to face, to actually see people as people and not just obstructions. It makes us all human again.

Want another reason I'm trying to go car free? I am done with the anger of driving.

Jesus said "And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away."

I think I should cut off my car and throw it away.

Figuratively speaking.

Monday, July 7, 2008

I'm back!

Well, vacation was pretty good, though it's possible that driving 600 miles to go home and back
for the holiday may be incompatible with the carfree lifestyle I am trying to achieve. I think that long trips should be allowed on widely-spaced occasions, though.

I ate way too much over the weekend. Not just during the festivities, but pretty much every other meal, too. I gained back all the weight I had lost and amc now back to 260. Drat. I just need to figure out how to control my eating. And go on longer rides.

Speaking of longer rides, I decided to take somewhat of a detour on my ride home today and ride to Xenia Station, which is the old railway station in Xenia, Ohio that acts as a hub for several very long rail trails in the area. I hadn't ever been to Xenia, so I wasn't sure exactly how far it would be. Turns out to be a little over 6 miles out of my way to the east, and therefore 12 miles from home--so I basically added 12 miles miles today. It's a pretty good ride, though next time I think I'll try to have a goal in mind for something to do when I get there. I don't know if there's actually anything to do in Xenia, but I guess I'll find out.

Since I'm shooting for a solid month of going car free and I drove yesterday to come home from vacation, I am going to try to go without driving for the next 29 days. It could be interesting.

And as a reward (or punishment) for reading this far, I bring you a story.


My parents and the family next door have always hosted a big 4th of July picnic in our neighborhood. It has expanded from a neighborhood gathering to a huge and unnameable beast of reveling--if by reveling one means playing horseshoes, throwing washers, and participating in the newly popular game of cornholing. Anyway, there are a lot of people that show up. They aren't important right now.

For the first time ever in 28 years of having this party, it was a rainy day. Not constant downpours, but it never went very long without dropping some form of rain on our heads. In many ways we thought this was a favor to us, because wet ground = safer fireworks.

What? Fireworks, you ask? Why yes, we happened to have a bag of those. It was kind of interesting getting them lit since it was lightly raining, but the neighbors had a propane torch that did an excellent job of simultaneously drying and igniting the fuses.

Someone happened to purchase a Large Thing. I don't remember exactly what model it might have been, but it was of this variety. Those are totally the coolest fireworks ever. It is possible that one should think carefully about placement before setting them off, though.

The box was set on the sawhorse we were using as a bas for firework-lighting. The blowtorch was ignited. The fuse was lit. Got got away. We aimed it away from our faces. We cheered as the first shot showed us that it was worth the price of admission.

We watched the second shot fire at a 45 degree angle. Some confusion existed, though I just assumed we had ended up buying the one that had a few shots that fired at angles. It was rather hard to see the box of firework since our eyes were somewhat dazed. It became clear that somethign was amiss though when we saw that the box was in fact facing downward toward the ground, and fired a shell straight in.

"Oh crap, RUN!" shouted a nearby person who apparently was not ready to become a corpse. It was decided that this was good advice, so we followed it as quickly as we could.

Events chose this moment to speed up.

I turned to run, slipping on the wet grass and going to all fours. The shot that had fired into the ground went off, flipping the box just upright enough to fire the next shell at pretty much the location where I was trying to find my feet.

I heard a "thunk" and look to my left to see a 3"...thing. It is emitting orange sparks. It is about three feet from my face. In other circumstances it might be considered quite pretty, though at this time it rather reminded me of a live grenade. After a few more (unsuccessful) attempts to regain my feet, I decide that the best bet is probably to duck and cover. I roll away from it and cover my had with my arms.

BOOOM is what the firecracker has to say about the situation.

At this point the firework seems to have settled on firing into the empty field adjacent to the house, so we watch the last shot or two explode at ground level.

I for one am laughing madly at this point.

That was AWESOME, I state. America is the BEST.

It was all fun and games, because no one lost an eye.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Nighttime adventures

Yesterday it was decided that after work I would meet my brother and his wife for food and a movie.

Last time that happened, getting there was rather miserable, as it involves riding up one of the main roads in town--North Fairfield--for a few miles. At rush hour this is especially not fun. It involves riding the sidewalk. I despise riding the sidewalk. It's jarring, uncomfortable, slow, and unsafe.

After playing with Google Maps a bit, I came up with an alternate plan. I found what seemed to be a mostly-parallel street that would take me to almost exactly where I wanted to go, and it seemed to be the kind of dense residential area where drivers are slow and friendly. Excellent.

When I turned onto the first street, I noticed a green "Bike Route" sign. Looks like a good choice so far.

After a bit less than a mile, I see a green sign with an arrow pointing onto a side street. I decide to follow it, since it will at the very least not be going away from my destination. I keep seeing little green signs and following them, and they seem to keep taking me North and West, toward Fairfield Commons. All good so far.

I am dismayed to see that it dead-ends on North Fairfiel Road about a mile short of where I want to be, and a decent distance from where the rough sidewalk becomes a bike path. Oh well, it's better than riding the whole thing. Have I mentioned, though, that I am quite impressed with the way they have bike routes laid out here?

I arrive at Fox and Hound (a good little pub and grill type place), and begin looking for something to lock the bike to. This is somewhat complicated by the fact that my six foot cable has fallen off the bike where it was bungeed to the rear rack. I have my Kryptonite chain which is always almost long enough to work, and I have my U-lock which is not quite wide enough to go around a pole.

I end up U-locking the front wheel to the main triangle and running the chain around the top tube and a light pole. It leaves the rear wheel unlocked, but nothing's perfect.

We just walk from the restaurant to the movie, so the bike remains there until I'm ready to ride home.

Riding at night is always interesting. In many ways I feel that on busy streets I am more visible than in the daytime, because I've got a lot of red flashing lights going on. It does have a bit of a dampening effect on my appreciation of the scenery, though.

The trip south on North Fairfield to rejoin the bike path is rather pleasant, since at 11:00 most of the traffic is gone so I just take the right lane. It's also downhill for most of the way, and we all know that downhill is better than uphill.

After about three miles of North Fairfield I reach the path. It's completely separated from the roads and has no streetlights or anything, so I'll be depending entirely on my headlight. Luckily it is quite bright (not quite HID brightness, but not far from that either).

Riding down a tree-lined path on a dark night with the only light source on your handlebars is something everyone should experience. Just maybe not too often, since it gets creepy.

I usually prefer a bar mounted light because it shows the contours of the terrain better and keeps me from shining it into the eyes of all the cars I might look toward. It also means, however, that I can't see anything next to me.

My first big scary moment came when I aimed my bars to the left for a quick second to get a look at that side of the path and saw a big shape. I turned the bars back that way real quick for a better look and was face-to-face with a large and very angry deer. ..OK, it likely wasn't angry, but it was probably surprised and annoyed. Suddenly seeing a deer pop up right in front of you at night is pretty surprising, so I may have jumped a bit and sped off. Hey, deer are vicious carriers of rabies. And...anthrax. And err...botulism?

Having survived my enounter with the deer, I continued on my ride home, looking over my shounder every now and then to ensure that there wasn't a cloven-hoofed-ticked-off mother of Bambi pursuing me. Not like I could have seen it anyway, it was dark.

About half a mile from home, I had another wildlife encounter. I saw what seemed to be an adorable little kitten on the side of the path, ready to dart out in front of my wheels, which it of course did soon after. Animals all like to play chicken. I slowed down to avoid hitting it, and it scampered across the path in front of me. I said "Hi kitty!" as it went, because cats are fun sometimes.

It was not a kitty. It was in fact an angry raccoon. I know that it was angry because it looked at me and made a pretty disturbing growling/snarling sound as I rode past. I'm pretty sure its eyes also glowed red and then shot fire at me, but Wikipedia doesn't mention this as being something that raccoons have evolved to do. Maybe I should make an edit. People need to know these things. It could save someone's life one day.

Anyway, I arrived home without being mauled by any cute woodland creatures, so I guess yesterday's ride counts as a victory.

Going back home to Kentucky for the weekend, so no more rides until Monday.

Have a safe holiday, everyone!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Graphing

So I mentioned that I was working toward being carfree. I have definitely been taking steps in that direction, as can be seen by the graphs of my monthly mileage:


I don't expect it to get a whole lot bigger than that from sheer commuting...maybe 70 miles or so, but when I actually start taking time for long weekend rides it might balloon. I don't count non-commuting or shopping rides as gas savings though.

Unfortunately I don't get off work until 7:00, so I don't have as much time for after-work rides as I would like, and whatever club is here probably has their rides start much earlier as well.

Mileage Update

Looks like I logged 437.53 miles for June. Not too bad!

It was 100% utility cycling, too. Hopefully this month I'll get a chance to go on some longer rides on weekends. I also need to start taking some detours on the way home, but it's just so convenient to follow the rail trail right back to my apartment.

Maybe today I'll ride over to Xenia, a few miles east of where I get on the trail to go home. Might as well check out their big rail trail hub, plus I've heard that they have a really excellent sandwich shop where I could snag some dinner.

Current weight: Around 258 still. This is disheartening. Eating less is hard.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The end of me

OK, today was trying to end me, bigtime.

I'm trying to embrace the "car free" mantality as well as I can, but today was definitely testing my resolve.

I needed change for the washing machines here, so I decided to bike over to the bank and get a few rolls of quarters. In the same shopping center as the bank is an Aldi, so I figured I could pick up some cheap stuff and make the taco soup recipe I saw on Fatty's blog. (the recipe is in the comment by James--I make it without the corn and it is awesome. I would call it tortilla soup, but that's just me).


Anyway, I bike out there (about 2 miles) pulling my trusty Burley trailer, but the traffic light for that intersection is not working. Great, thinks I, this is crossing a 5 lane road and the cross traffic is not stopping. So I decided to make a quick right, make a u-turn, and slip into the lot. I'm a genius.

Now, having successfully gained entrance to the lot, I proceed to ride to my bank. It's located across a lovely expanse of concrete with "No biking!" signs everywhere, so I push my bike for a while. It didn't occur to me to notice that none of the surrounding businesses had lights on inside...when I reached the door to my bank, I first notice how dark it seems, and next notice the hand-written sign that says "We are closed due to no power".

Great.

I ride past Aldi on the way back, but they are dark inside as well, so I figure out how to cross the road again--not as easy as one would initially think.

I go ahead and ride out to my brother's house to pick up a package he has for me. I decided to have all my packages shipped to his house in an upscale suburban neighborhood because the only two packages I had delivered here were stolen--and one had about $110 worth of this year's Fat Cyclist stuff, GRRRRR. It's a good 10 miles from my apartment to his house, so I decide to make the most of the trip. I grab two books I had borrowed from him (Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla by Steven King, books 4 and 5 of the Dark Tower series), and throw them in the trailer. Since I'd heard there was a chance of rain, I safely stow them in a dry bag first.

I set out for his house already feeling tired, but I'm not gonna let a little tiredness ruin my carfree ambitions! The trip over there is slow, but uneventful. I'm getting pretty hot and notice that I feel no wind for most of the trip--uh oh, that means a decently strong headwind for the return trip.I get to his house and throw my box in the trailer, then we grab some lunch at City Barbecue. I recommend the mustard BBQ sauce, it's amazingly good.

Anyway, I decide to head back home because it looks like the incoming storm could miss us to the north and the brother had some yard work he wanted to do. Before I go, I check the weather and notice that there's a WSW wind at 23mph. Great, I'm heading mostly W, but a little bit S.

I decide to make it a very leisurely ride. I'm not trying to win a race, I'm trying to run errands. I spin slowly up the big hill in my path as I head back toward the apartment, but then I decide to take a little side trip to Petsmart to pick up some cat litter on the way.

When I get to the top of the big hill, it starts to rain just a little. The wind picks up. I notice darkness in front of me and to both sides. "This could be fun", I think to myself.

After another mile, the rain picks up. The wind begins to whip me mercilessly...I would estimate the gusts at 40+mph, I am cranking the pedals pretty hard and running about 8mph into the wind. The sky opens up. Lightning flashes and thunder booms around me. Finally, an adventure!

I force my way through the storm, sometimes barely seeming to move. I flip on my blinky and my headlight s othat people know I'm out there. I finally take the access road to Petsmart, and roll slowly down it, feeling the left side of my shift instantly soak through with rain. This is a low traffic road and I am still not in much of a rush, so I just roll slowly down the right side. I get to a part that has a couple inches of standing water, but I just roll through it because I can tell there's someone wanting to pass. I don't mind riding through a little water. Unless...

Suddenly the bike seems to drop out from under me. I feel a sharp impact through the bars, pedals, and seat. My left pedal is scraping along the pavement that my bike just left. Rain hides big holes.

I coasted along, looking for somewhere to get my bike on the road, slowing quickly. I put my right foot down, luckily it's a gravel surface and it's gotten shallower here. I take a quick breath and pedal back onto the road.

I'm not sure how deep the hole was that I entered. Enough for my pedal to scrape the pavement when it was not quite vertical, and apparently enough to flood the front of my trailer (since it's just a cloth flap on the front, that only means "higher than the bottom of the trailer").

The worst was over now though, and after I looked in vain for something appropriate to lock my bike to (I settled on a big metal thing that dispenses trash bags for cleaning up after pets), I bought a 50lb bag of litter and a 5lb bag of cat food.

...compared to the beginning of the trip, the ride home with 80lbs of cargo seems pretty uneventful, so I won't summarize it here since I think I've used up enough space already.

Do I get to classify this shopping trip as "epic"?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Giant hates me

OK, so today I took out the Giant again for the first time since the wonderful walk caused by the flat.

Made good time this morning, but then on the way home it started to express its apparent disgust with me.

Reached the bottom of the first hill, sprinting for the light in top gear, but didn't quite make it, so I got to make a very fast stop. Of course, it's pretty hard to downshift while doing that, so I was in top gear sitting at a red light. I didn't relish the idea of taking off in that gear, so I decided to downshift. I'm sure we've all done it, pick up the rear wheel, spin the cranks, work the shifters. I dropped the front into the small ring (it's a double) and started working the rear shifter....only the cranks seem to be spinning excessively. I look down to discover that the bike decided to drop the chain. Joy of joys, I'm in the middle lane with a light about to turn green with a bike that won't pedal. I retreat to the side of the road and try the old trick of pedaling forward while
working the front shifter....nope, it's binding on the rear. Apparently the chain dropped before the rear had shifter much, so the rear der was trying to be in the smallest gear while the chain was sitting on the second biggest, essentially freezing the rear drivetrain due to the sideways strain on the chain. 5 or 6 clicks of the right shifter and I actually get the chain moving on the cassette, so Ican begin messing with the front again. I decide to go the reliable way and just backpedal with my hands while putting the chain on the middle cog with my free hand. This is actually successful, so after THIS red light finishes, I can catchh the next green.

Things seem to be going well, at first.

My speed was getting progressively lower as time went on, I chalked it up to overstressed legs and the headwind we've been having all week. My plans to turn in a sub 1 hour roud trip seemed unlikely to come to fruition. The high speed sprint at the end of the bike path saw me only going about 15mph, I couldn't figure out the problem. I continued riding at a crappy pace until I got to the turnoff at my apartment, and felt the rear end try to jump out from under me. Oh, I suddenly got a theory as to where my speed had gone....yep, the tire felt like it had maybe 40psi. I had pumped it up in the morning, so I knew it had managed to get another leak. By the time I walked to my apartment proper (very short walk) it was at more like 20 pounds, and as of a few minutes ago it was completely flat (on the bottom, at least). So my project for..whenever I feel like it is to find where the hole is and see what might have caused it. I have a feeling I need to replace the rim tape or something, not too long ago it had a small puncture on the rim side.

Oh well, the Long Haul Trucker has never failed me yet.

Oops....too long

It looks like I went a little longer than I had intended without updating. I apologize to my legions of adoring fans.

I made another bike trip to the grocery store pulling the Burley on Sunday. It is actually possible to stuff as much in that trailer as you can fit in a shopping cart....I had to hang a couple bags of chips from my handlebars, but I also had the 3 12 packs of Cherry Coke Zero in the rack under the cart, so I think by volume it balances out. I had posted about the tongue of the trailer seeming to flex before, but I'm no longer sure that's accurate. It might just be super emphasizing my regular acceleration/deceleration as I go over bumps in the road--which we have no shortage of.

My work schedule has changed from 9-6 to 10-7...that could be annoying in the winter when my ride home will be entirely in the dark, but I built a pretty sweet light (http://www.bikeled.org/), so seeing is not a problem. Speaking of seeing, I almost hit another cyclist on the bike path the other night. I was coming home from watching "The Incredible Hulk" at about 12:30 in the morning, and I didn't see this guy until I was about 30 feet away, and even then I only saw the lighter-colored part of his shoes moving. Probably blinded him pretty well too, as I had my light on bright (as soon as I saw him, I dimmed it and aimed it at the ground....if he had been smart enough to actually have any kind of light I could have done this from much, much further away and spared his vision).


I am going to try to be almost 100% car-free for the month of July. There will be a couple of exceptions though. I think I found a doable bike route to church (18 miles), but I will have to give it a test run before I ride it. And I won't be able to ride there when I'm on call, because it would take too long to get back home to my computer in a work emergency if I biked (have to get any problem resolved within an hour or it alerts my boss's boss).

I guess the car-free thing will also be hurt a little bit by the fact that I intend to drive back to my hometown for 4th of July weekend. I think a 400 mile trip for a weekend is allowed when one is flirting with the car-free lifestyle though. I think I would, even if successful, be classified as "car-lite" though, because I still plan to keep the truck around for mountain biking trips. There may be irony hiding in there somewhere.

Every time I see gas prices go up, a little part of me is happy--it means I can raise my estimate of gas saved for the year. There's something wrong with me.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A reason to bike

Well, during my drive yesterday, I remembered the reason I tell people I bike:




And it's up 30 cents a gallon today.

We all know that's not the real reason we ride, though. If they gave out gas for free, we would still ride. We ride because we like it. We ride because it's fun. We ride because it's nice to know we won't have heart attacks when we're 35.

And this might just be me, I like to ride so that people will pass me in their warm dry car and say "That guy is insane."

Speaking of insane, we have had some hellacious headwinds this week. Monday and Tuesday I had a nice 5mph tailwind going in to work, but a 15-20mph headwind for the trip home. I've always found it interesting that speed seems to have more to do with exhaustion level than the actual work you're doing.

12mph into a huge headwind spinning 85rpm in a small gear makes me wish I had a car.
8mph up a steep grade spinning 85rpm is the same.
29mph on a slight decline spinning 85rpm? Utter bliss.

Due to gearing, we can expend the same effort in all situations, spinning the same speed with our legs, but the ones where we go slowly just make us feel tired. I say us, maybe it's just me. Either way, I am in favor of travelling faster.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Driving day

Well, after 6 consecutive days of bike commuting, today I drove to work. I was ready to ride, but started to come down with a migraine, and I dread the ride up the hill with a splitting headache. Mine seem to be the lowest class of migraines, whereI am still functional but very, very miserable. I don't like missing work when I can possibly avoid it though (I have missed one day due to stomach flu and one and a half days due to appendicitis so far this year).

Driving in, I noticed that I am down to about 1/8 tank of gas. Oh goody, that's close to $70 in gas to top the truck off after work. On the bright side, I plan to use it very little except for going to church on Sundays (25 miles one way, don't know a good bike route to that area yet, and I'm not sure anyone wants to sit next to me after that long of a ride....we'll see, though).

I suppose while I have the truck handy I'll pick up some things from various places...like a new copy of my registration, which I seem to have lost. That might need to be near the top of my list.

This weekend I plan to ride out to John Bryan State Park and camp for a day or two. It's not a far ride, and there's very little actual road on the way, so it should be pretty good.

Hopefully I can find someone else who wants to go along. Solo camping isn't always the best.

Weight update: 255. It's going down, though slowly.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tired now

Whew, long mileage week is over! Every day my average speed has been dropping, and my legs haven't stopped hurting since Sunday night. If I were in better shape this would be no big deal, but I think I definitely need to take the weekend off the bike so the legs can rebuild the muscle. Too bad, as that means I have to put a few miles on the truck--need to return a pump to Performance and buy some cat litter. The litter would have gone in the Burley trailer, but it's a 10 mile round trip to the pet store, and I really do need to rest the legs. ...of course, there aren't many climbs on the way there.....hmmmmmmm.

On another note, one of our programmers walked into the break room at work, looked at me, and proclaimed "I knew you would ride today." He concluded this when he saw that it was supposed to storm. Apparently according to his observations, I am more likely to ride when it rains than during fiar weather. Make of that what you will.

And one more item--looks like I crossed the $100 mark for gas savings this year. Go me!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rough day--half over!

Well, this morning's commute was on the rough side.

Took my TCR for a faster ride since I'm being slowly beaten down by the increased distance this week. Of course, the rear tire went flat at mile 14. I was already using the spare tube and had no patch kit with me. Normally I carry a patch kit and a spare tube, but alas.... I got to walk the three and a half remaining miles to work, though I did ride a bit on the flat tire because I really didn't want to be that late for work.

Luckily once I got to work I found someone to drive me to Performance over lunch to get a new tube--I bought four, one of which is now keeping air in the tire. I also bought aTopeak Road Morph pump in case I have problems on the way home, due to using both of my CO2 cartridges in an attempt to make it a short distance on my punctured tire. If I don't need to use it today, I will return it this weekend, since I can just start carrying CO2 again if I need to inflate something.

Yesterday the ride home was killer, pulling the laundry-filled trailer home. I put it on the bathroom scale upon arrival, and it was just over 40lbs, so that gives a workout on the 9% grade on Kemp road. I used my lowest granny gear for the first time yesterday.

I got a few pictures, a couple of them came out OK, so here's where I rode yesterday:



The view out my front door. Yay, pool.



I love that there's a 10 ton limit on the bridge on the bike path. Are they hinting that I really need to lose weight?



My bike in its customary parking spot. Not super secure I admit, but this area has a very low probability of theft. That's also where everyone goes to smoke. Ugh.



I just love this view. It might be better if there were no houses, true, but it's a nice little slice of seemingly happy suburbia.



The same spot, but looking ahead. I have a crappy bike path!



Wait, I don't have a crappy bike path any more.



I couldn't shake this guy until nightfall. He was tenacious



Oh how I love going up this hill pulling a 40 pound trailer on a 30 pound bike with a 6 pound pannier. Really, I do.



Many miles later, a father and son on the bike path. Sun soon to set. Legs tired.




I'm just hoping to make it home today without any mechanical issues. That would make me very happy.