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".


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 (, 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 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.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Miles and savings adding up

Well, the first full day of extra long commutes was a success. I was pretty worn out by the end of the day though....but I was carrying a lot of extra stuff with me. I had my Burley trailer pretty much completely filled with laundry (and basket). Figured I'd take advantage of my brother's absence by using his free washer and dryer. That was surprisingly heavy--I'd guess at least 40lbs.

I also had a my single pannier stuffed almost to overflowing....I had three days of lunch, a change of clothes, a pair of shoes, and a large hardback novel. Also a can of Cherry Coke Zero in my middle jersey pocket.

It's very slow going when carrying a load like this over long distance, but I always find it helps to keep the name of the bike in mind--"Long Haul Trucker". A cement truck might climb a hill slowly, but it gets to the top. With the gearing on my bike, I can carry over a hundred pounds in addition to myself and just spin at a relaxed pace up a hill--as long as I remember not to hurry. Sprints are inviting, but very much the natural enemy of the loaded bicycle rider.

I miscalculated on my savings, though--I actually saved $7 yesterday instead of $6. I can go with that.

Pictures from today's commute coming tonight.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Well, I made this a little bit less glaringly orange.

Now, does anyone know why my blog shows up in GoogleReader as "(title unknown)" instead of "The Lazy Bike Commuter"? I can't seem to find anywhere to set the title.

I know someone's out there, there are two people who read this thing. Or at least me and one person who accidentally added this to his feeds.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Longer rides coming

This week my brother and his wife are out of town, so I am taking care of their zoo. They are about a 10 mile ride from my apartment and an 8 mile ride from work, so my 16 mile commute has turned to 36 (their dog needs to be fed twice a day. Spoiled little mutt).

I only went there this afternoon since they left this morning, but it's a nice change. I don't know if I can keep up the high mileage every day though. My legs are staying sore, and I never learned enough abotu training to know if it is the kind of soreness that is good to ride with or the kid of soreness that is muscles breaking. Probably the former, but I like to whine.

I see from my sidebar that fuel savings have hit $76 today...another good reason to ride to their house: My truck is almost out of gas and I just spent enough having work done on it that I can't afford to fill the tank up until I get paid again. There's an irony hiding somewhere in there, I'm sure. Ah well, if I can concvince myself that I have no choice I'm much more likely to follow through. Snapped a couple pictures of my commute home the other day, so I will post those.

Wednesday I'll try to get some of this long ride, there's some very nice scenery along the way, but tomorrow is supposed to be constant rain, so I won't risk the camera.

Here's a view from the parking lot at work as I'm about to leave

Here's a view of the only traffic light on my ride. Nothing of the ride in between because I'm not about to snap pictures while going 36mph down a twisty road

And here is one of the handlebar POV shots that other people are so much better at than me:

That rail trail is super awesome, because I ride it for 6 miles. Only two traffic crossings, and it connects to my apartment complex. It's like a little slice of heaven for the trip to work.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Running out of steam?

So far this week I have biked to work on Monday, Tuesday , and today (Thursday).

Monday was probably my fastest overall commute and I felt great the whole time. It probably didn't hurt that I was listening to a Nightwish album I just got, "Dark Passion Play". Seems like every time I needed to up my speed, the tempo would pick up and I would be flying.

Tuesday's ride was a lower average speed, but there was some pretty hard rain in the morning, and in the afternoon it was very nice out so I just felt like cruising slowly. It was a good ride, didn't strain or stress, had a great time.

Wednesday I awoke to near-constant barrages of lightning in addition to the wind and rain. I decided to drive that day.

At work on Wednesday, my office bought us lunch at a pretty nice Italian restaurant. I had a big plate of pasta that still had me full when I got home.

Today I made good time going in in the morning, though I was still a bit late because after a little under a mile I realized that I hadn't locked my front door--oops! Time to go back and fix that. Anyway, the rest of the ride in was pretty nice, and I saw way more cyclists than usual.

The ride home is where the tragedy was, though. I started off feeling a bit weak going up the hill leaving work, but on the downhill that followed I hit a new top speed for the route--35.9. Not my best ever, but I think I could hit 40 on my road bike if I were pushing a bit.

At the traffic light soon after, I ended up jumping in front of all the cars and having to take the lane to get where I needed to be. I don't usually get in front of a line of cars just to slow them down, but they were going entirely too slowly through the light for my tastes.

Once I got on the very slight uphill that makes up most of my commute, I started down, though. Like I was on the final stretch of a century. My legs felt like lead weights, and it was hard to push at anything above 12-13mph. There was a pretty decent headwind, but even spinning easily my legs didn't feel great.

Surely I am not overtraining, I'm only riding about 3 times a week. I wonder if the huge pasta lunch yesterday was to blame. I know I feel like complete and utter crap if I eat too much right before a ride, and I imagine it's entirely possible that the load of pasta wasn't quite done digesting yet.

Tomorrow I plan to take my TCR out for the commute. Only a 10% chance of rain so the lack of fenders shouldn't hurt, and maybe a quicker, livelier, faster ride will get me back in the groove.

Today the number of cyclists was about 6-7x higher than what I usually see. Most of them were of the "spandex-clad roadie" variety, but aa couple were commuters. It seems odd to me that they stayed indoors on all the wonderful 70 degree days, but they decide that 90 degrees is more pleasant riding weather.

Weight update: It's been kinda varying between 258 and 260. I know that if I learned to control my diet I would do much better, but I am weak willed. Plus I'm just bored all the time and there's nothing to do if I'm not riding or working.

Reminder to self: Buy a tube tomorrow

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Weird attitudes

Some of the attitudes I get from fellow cyclists are weirder than the ones I get from people who don't own bikes.

A woman at work who is a triathlete (which I guess is almost like a cyclist) generally drives to work. I asked her last week where her bike was, as a way of saying she should ride to work, and the response was "In my garage, where it belongs!"

She didn't think it made sense when I told her the bike should be inside the air-conditioned portion of her house at the very least...though mine was locked up out front at the time.

Friday she rode to work (I did not, as I had a mountain bike group ride half an hour after work), and some bike stuff was discussed.

I had my Chrome Ranchero on the floor next to my desk, and she commented that that was more than she could ever conceive of wanting to carry on a bike. I had it with me so I could change into my biking clothes after work. I don't think it represents an unreasonable amount of stuff, though.

I mentioned biking to the grocery store with the Burley trailer...and her comments led one to believe that people who would own a bike trailer are mentally defective.

I mentioned that the fenders on my touring bike are nice when it rains, and she rolled her eyes and made a similar comment regarding fenders... Maybe I should have brought up my barend shifters next, eh?

I understand the desire to want to go fast and use bikes as a fitness tool, but they are so much more than that. Having the lightest parts or the newest tech doesn't do you a bit of good if it breaks while you're on the way to work.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge nerd...I love the idea of new and better stuff. I just don't like the idea of new and flimsier stuff. I have a Garmin GPS on my handlebars. I ride clipless pedals instead of toe straps. But I ride a leather Brooks saddle. I have a rear rack. I have lights all over the bike, including one with a 3 pound battery. I wear baggy shorts. I prefer wool. Oh yes, the bike is steel.

I guess I just think it's weird that "real" cyclists seem to frown on utility cycling, as if it's somehow below them. To me, that would really be the ultimate goal of cycling...screw racing, bikes should be about usefulness. It seems like the industry finally stopped being dominated entirely by racing in the past couple years. Now we have cargo bikes, commuting bikes are making an appearance...these are all good things. One can even spot the change in mountain bikes...long travel "all mountain" rigs are the biggest sellers, but those aren't generally used in racing.

Somehow I won't be surprised if in a very few years I am spotted riding a recumbent trike around town while wearing a big bushy beard (those are required for proper recumbent riding, I believe).

Here are my two on-road bikes, guess which one gets the most mileage?