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.


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 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.