Monday, March 31, 2008

March Recap

I had higher hopes for March than I was able to crank into reality, but March was a good month for riding. It just wasn't a great month for riding. I was shooting for a 500 mile month, but ended up with a bit over 300 miles. I actually rode all of my bikes more than 20 miles this month, for whatever that's worth.

2008 Totals:
664 miles
56 bike commutes
6.5 bike only commutes

March 2008:
Commute Miles: 191
Errand Miles: 70
Rec. Miles: 42
Total Miles: 303
Car commutes: 0
Bike commutes: 19
Full commutes (no bus): 3.5

Waking the dead at midnight

After I got home with Hybridzilla last night, I sprayed the drivetrain off with my water bottle and wiped it dry. I let it sit to finish drying a bit. Before I went to bed, I re-lubed the chain, brought it inside, and turned in for the night. This was around 10:30 or so.

At about 11:45, I was sound asleep, and was awakened with BANG!!!! HISSSSSSSSSSSSSssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss... Followed by a ton of clatter, banging, and god knows what else. I figured my bike's tire had popped and the bike itself may have fallen over. The bike was still upright, but the noise had to have awakened the dead.

It turns out that the cats have a certain aversion to loud hissing noises. My cats don't even like this hiss of the floor pump as I pull it off the stem after topping off my tires, so this noise scared the hell out of them both. As it turns out, my youngest cat was asleep on one of those 5' tall cat posts with a nest at the top. She launched from it with enough force to knock it over, then proceeded to jump up on the counter in the kitchen and knock almost everything over in an attempt to find some kind of shelter from whatever doom she feared would come of the failed bike tire. This made a considerable mess (okay, only spilled water from a knocked-over drinking container but still).

So, I spent the next 30 minutes cleaning up messes and putting a new tube in Hybridzilla. The Schrader valve actually had a blowout at the base of the stem. I'd never seen that before. This is an old tube with 5 patches on it (including 3 park tool glueless) that had been filled, refilled, and moved between rims more times than I could count. There's no patching a stem, though. It had a good life and served me well. Remember what I had said about how much of a pain it is to work on these SlickCity tires? Well I had to do it all over again, this time using my only spare 26" tube. This is a new one I bought about a year ago that's never been used. I've had really good luck with all of my knobby tires, as I've never, ever flatted with knobbies. The SlickCity tires do pick up goat-heads and glass and they're getting kind of thin, hence the number of patches in the one tube.

My heart was still pounding and adrenaline still pumping when I lay back down to go to bed again. It took a while to calm down and fall asleep. I'd pay for that this morning. My alarm went off at 5:00 but I turned it off and passed out again. Fortunately, my wife woke me up with 15 minutes to get ready and out the door. Without time for breakfast, I grabbed a few bananas and packed them with my clothes.

I was greeted this morning with really nice temperatures, but crazy humidity in combination with rainwater already on the road. To match the humidity, wind out of the south was at a static 25 MPH with gusts well into the 30's. Not fun at all. Combined with a start that was 5 minutes behind schedule, I barely made it to the bus stop on time.

I needed the coffee this morning, badly. Lorin, JR and I talked bike shop and discussed the various people who were "admiring" our bikes.

So, how was YOUR morning?

Random Tunage:
Binary Finary - Freshwater (Jose Amnesia Mix)
Binary Finary - Decoder

Okay, this is NOT random tunage. This is an album that's about 2 years old that I just found out about, and it's awesome. Binary Finary, about a decade ago, put out a track called 1998. It was awesome and got remixed into oblivion (and subsequently named 1999, 2000, etc), and many of those remixes were usually good. They were included on many Electronic music compilations. As such, that's all they ever did, was that one song and a few remixes of it... or so we thought. This album has a bunch of other stuff from them. It's basically the missing album I was looking forward to buying a decade ago. And now I have it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Silly me, breaking the rules too.

The wheels came off The Goat today. I can't remember the last ride I rode on the Diamondback Outlook (lovingly dubbed Hybridzilla), but I do know that I shuffled things around back in early December, decommissioning 'Zilla. From that point forward, she's rested on her back protected from moisture but left in the cold of my balcony. Today, She traded places with The Goat. Bike cannibalism at its best.

The Forte SlickCity tires came out of hiding, and boy are they in sad shape. Usable, but the tire beads are showing their age. Whenever you have to do anything with these tires, I swear it's like trying to put 24" adult BMX tires on 26" rims. It's hard on the tire bead, it's hard on my levers, and really hard on my hands. When these tires finally give up the ghost, I am definitely buying another set. These have been awesome tires for building a street friendly and quick ATB. Combined with clipless pedals and a cassette with an 11t cog, this bike scorches along quite nicely. I achieved 29.5 MPH on its shakedown run at 93 RPM cadence. Sprints well into the 30s will be easy to come by, and the 32mm 85 PSI tires feel plush compared to my road bike but still glide along the pavement with some efficiency.

With any luck, The Goat won't be on her back for too long. Assuming my wife still has a job this week (very long story), I've been given permission to shell out for that double-wall XC wheelset that JR is selling.

The last half of my 6 1/4 mile shakedown run happened with a really gross mist and lots of wet road grime. She still runs just as well as I remember. The SlickCity tires handle water okay with the exception of really hard braking, so tomorrow's rainy commute shouldn't be much of a problem.

Random Tunage:
Binary Finary - 1999
Binary Finary - ChacMool

Top Ten tips for road bike photography

I've been without my road bike for about a week now. In its absence, I've been looking at photos that others have taken of their own bikes. After looking at literally hundreds of bicycle photos, I started to see a few recurring themes. Here are ten tips for taking some really great photos of your skinny-tired pride and joy:

10) All photographs of your road bike must be of the right side so that the crank, chain and derailleurs can be seen in all their glory. This is especially important if you have Shimano Dura-Ace, SRAM Red or Campagnolo Record components.

9) It is preferred that your cranks be turned so that they are parallel with the chainstay, with the drive-side crank and pedal extending toward the front, or parallel with the seat tube extending downward. This rule may only be broken in certain situations.

8) Your bike must be in the highest gear possible. Use the smallest cog in the back and the big chainring. The world needs to know that you are strong and never need to use any gear aside from 54x11.

So far, it looks like this bike's owner has got it made. He even meets some of the other criteria mentioned later on. But he fails miserably at the next one.

7) Your bike must be leaning against a white garage door. Off-white is sometimes acceptable, but anything else is not. If you have a garage, it is your obligation as a road cyclist to paint the door white so that you can take proper photographs of your bicycle.

6) If, like me, you do not have a garage, you must find the most bizarre location possible, and you must prop the bike up by leaning the left pedal against a brick, pole, or some other device capable of holding the bicycle upright with the pedal and two wheels acting as a tripod. Simply leaning your bike against some random wall for a photo is forbidden and punishable by making fun of you at Starbucks. It is often easier (and recommended) to find someone else's white garage door for your photo-op.

5) There should be some part of a car visible in your bicycle photo. It's preferred that this is a luxury or performance car of some sort. Lexus and Mercedes models are very popular cars to include in a bicycle photo, as are Corvettes, WRX's and Evo's. Failing that, it seems that a Mini Cooper or speedboat are acceptable substitutes.

4) SPD-R, Speedplay and Look Keo are the only acceptable pedals for a road bike that's being photographed. Plain old SPDs or Time Atacs will get you laughed at. Platforms or toe clips might get you caned with a frame pump at your next group ride.

3) Your tire valves must both be pointing the same direction. Straight up or straight down seem to be the trend.

2) Carbon bottle cages or no bottle cages. Make no exceptions.

1) It should go without saying that your bicycle should be perfectly clean with absolutely no signs of use or wear whatsoever. Some people still don't get it and insist on posting photographs where the bar tape is dirty or -- heaven forbid -- scuffed! These bikes have obviously been ridden and are not worthy of being photographed.

At least this guy got 1 and 2 right.

Oddly enough, I couldn't find THE PERFECT road bike photo where the photographer took all ten tips into consideration.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Interesting Homeward Commute

Took the A bus to Johnson Drive this evening. The bus driver had to drop me off on the south side, which put me, eventually, right here:

I rode about a quarter mile of that stuff, some of it was really steep, other parts really rocky, some well graded like what you see, and some was really dry and sinky soft. Loads of fun. As I made my way to Turkey Creek Trail, I got stopped by a train.

Found a bunch of rail hardware. Sat on my bum. Waited. Waited. Drank some water.

Turkey Creek Trail was nice with not too many people out today despite shining sun and temps in the 50's. I stumbled across this on the trail. I'm pretty sure I know how this person feels. That reminds me... I found out today that my RD Hanger for The Twelve still isn't in, and won't be in until Monday at the earliest. Grr!

I have no clue where this roller skate came from, but I took the photo op anyways.

Here's a close-up. It doesn't look like it's been touched in a few days at least because of the waterspots from recent rain. No matching skate to be found anywhere. I think someone just planted it for the WTF factor to see if someone would take it or something.

Random Tunage:
Rockell - In a Dream
TATU - All The Things She Said

Stuff 'n' Things - March 28th, 2008

Go By Bike
Looks like the Go By Bike Challenge winners won't be announced yet due to "overwhelmingly positive response." In my opinion, this is great news. The fact that between the three cities involved, possibly hundreds or maybe thousands of people have applied can mean only one thing: hundreds or thousands of people have given bicycle commuting some serious thought due to this challenge, even if it's for such self-serving reasons as publicity or getting hundreds of dollars worth of bike stuff for free.

Let's face it, though: some of my reasons for bike commuting are just as self-serving. I'm pretty sure some of your reasons are, too. The difference is that most of us still had to buy our own bikes and gear.

Almost 80% humidity but temperatures near freezing set the scene for the morning commute. At least it's not raining. It'll be in the 50's for the ride home. Last night as I exited the parking garage, I was thinking to myself that it feels an awful lot like late October. My mind has some pretty strange memory triggers, and for some reason, the light and the weather right now is transporting me back to fall and bringing back memories of dressing for 40 degrees in the morning and 60-70 degrees in the evening. Ah, yes. The seasons are changing. I just wish we could fast forward to May and stay there for a very, very long time. 70's in the morning, 80's in the evening. Bliss defined -- or maybe it's more like bliss with the occasional tornado or hail storm.

The Goat's temporary nuance has been lost pretty quickly. Knobby wings. What was I thinking? I really miss The Twelve, but I'd even settle for Hybridzilla right now. Unfortunately, I cannibalized my beloved hybrid when I tacoed The Goat's front wheel. I think JR might have a decent double-walled XC wheelset to sell me for a reasonable price. Then, I can put Hybridzilla back together properly with slick tires and have some bulletproof wheels on The Goat that might endure my hare-brained urban frolics and ham-fisted singletrack exploits. All of this is to say that my entire stable of bikes (not counting my wife's) is in some state of disrepair. There's light at the end of the tunnel, though.

The Commute
Not Vapid: Best described as pleasant, perhaps even tranquil with a little bit of bike hypnosis induced by the harsh pale amber output of sodium halogen street lights over the Quivira viaduct as they held my tread pattern almost perfectly still for the spinfest death slog at about 8 miles per hour. There was hardly any traffic. The bus driver had the heater cranked up to 11, as I swear it must have been nearly 90°F in that wretched cabin. Arriving downtown, I unzipped my shell to soak up the near-freezing breeze on the way to coffee. JR and I talked bike and car shop. Lorin and I partook in a battle of wits, debating the (lack of) merit of so-called "Motown" music, which relentlessly dominated the sound system while I made an attempt to enjoy my mocha. Detroit got a LOT of things right in the 70's. Music was not one of those things.

Random Tunage:
Plumb - Stranded
Paul Van Dyk - Out There And Back

Thursday, March 27, 2008

As vapid as they come

A stark contrast to yesterday's lively homeward commute, rapid was replaced with vapid. 45 degrees. Piercing crosswinds hard out of the north made the ride seem longer. The stinging precipitation was blurring the line between mist and rain, with water droplets just large enough to carry momentum and just small enough to build up a lot of speed.

It wasn't a bad ride home -- it seldom is. It was just... boring. It was something that was taking up 15 minutes of my time. Sure, combined with the A bus, it wasn't much slower than if I'd have driven home, so it wasn't really setting me back. It was just something I had to do to get home, but better on a bus and on a bike than stuck in a car on the highway. I can relax on the bus and take a quick power nap if I wish. I can clear my mind on my bike. I can't do much of either when I'm driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic dealing with Kansas Citians who suddenly forget how to drive when there's a drop of rain on their windshields.

Not much more to say about that.

According to the forecasts I'm seeing, it looks like we'll be dealing with near-freezing temperatures AND the possibility of rain for my work-bound commute in the morning. Rain and sub-40 temperatures combined. That's one thing that will actually make it hard for me to see the benefit in riding my bike, even to The Maul to catch an express bus. I'll probably do it anyways, but it won't likely be any more fun than I had on my way home this evening. Where's spring? Where's this Global Warming thing we're all so worried about?

Oh, yeah. I posted a review of my Cannondale Doubletrack cycling shorts on Commute By Bike today. Quick note to anyone thinking of writing a product review: Always use the word "investment" in your review if you like the product. That way someone, somewhere, on the Internet will berate you. And you can chortle wildly while drinking a beer and not really caring.

Random Tunage:
Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Lars Tindy - Past and Future

The Quintumvirate of bicycle commuters

Okay, so I made that word up. But if triumvirate is a word, quintumvirate is fair game, darnit.

For some reason, there was an epic turnout of (as you may have guessed) five bicycle commuters for coffee this morning. Yes, we five hardy torch-bearers of the bicycling lifestyle descended upon the Downtown Loop, holding a round-table discussion of all the most important topics. You know, the real issues at hand: digestive problems, The Grateful Dead, slow group rides, dangerous group rides, Trek's Go By Bike challenge (winners announced today, I think!), broken bicycles and that sort of thing. Hey, we had to talk some bicycle shop.

Joining the usual crowd (Lorin, JR and myself) were Andrew and Bob. We were just talking about Bob yesterday, wondering if he had fallen off the face of the Earth. It appears he has not. We're all glad, but his bike is broken down, joining The Twelve in the sick bay.

It's foggy, cool, and still somewhat misty today. Temperatures were nice in the mid 40s, so I wore my work sweater over a t-shirt and rode in that way. I still don't like tearing up my good slacks, so I just changed pants when I got to work.

Indeed, this was a good morning, as most are, for a bike commute.

Random Tunage:
Vengaboys - Up and Down
The Chemical Brothers - Star Guitar (you have to see This Video. It's really well executed, and quite trippy)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A misty flight on knobby wings

I have no clue what got into The Goat this afternoon. She seems stronger. Different.

Overcast skies ruled the later part of the day. A mild breeze from the southeast meant a bit of a tailwind from the A bus, which I took to get home. Something was different. The tailwind wasn't THAT strong, but The Goat was running really, really well and wasn't asking much from me in order to give me a very spirited jaunt back to home base.

After my wife lay down for her pre-work nap, it was even more pronounced. I had to make a few grocery runs. Two trips. Two different markets. You've gotta love it.

As I hauled The Goat down the long flight of stairs from our second-story apartment, there was a glistening coat of moisture visible on the ground. The air was misty, with a foggy aura. The sun, about half an hour from sunset, was nowhere to be seen, but you could tell it was setting by the nebulous gradient of the atmosphere above. Engaging only my LEDs, I set out for the closer of the two markets.

Given the low visibility, I opted for the sidewalk along 87th street, knowing full well that my already assiduous awareness senses would have to be intensified even more on the sidewalk. This tactic worked very much in my favor this evening, as there aren't many intersections along this particular stretch.

I mashed. She went. I hammered. She went faster and begged me for the hammer ring. Not being one to deny a bike the object of her carnal desires, I pressed my left thumb, still hammering away at the cranks. As if receiving a burst of nitrous (two bottles, the BIG ones!), she darted forward. Twenty Two. Twenty Five. Twenty Seven miles per hour... Intersection ahead is all clear... I was flying through the misty evening air on The Goat's knobby wings which oddly were rolling smooth but still whining on the concrete. I'd be lying if I said it was anything less than surreal.

I hit the abrupt ramp up the other side of the intersection at speed, catching just a little bit of air, then took up the cranks again: Twenty Five. Twenty Seven. Thirty miles per hour and running dead even with traffic. Approaching another intersection -- controlled by traffic lights, I scrubbed a lot of speed and brought it down to a more reasonable 10 MPH as I crossed.

This process continued both directions multiple times. With the wind, and against it for nearly 9 miles this evening total. I'm still uncertain what caused this phenomenon, until I saw a strange figure in one of my photographs which seemed to be casting some kind of power-spell upon The Goat:

Naw, just kidding. That's my hand. This, however, is one ugly, mysterious monster:

Random Tunage:
Fluke - Dirty Little Mouth
Prodigy - Smack My Bitch Up

A gentle nudge for my KC readers

Not surprisingly, most of my readership comes from right here in Kansas City. For those of you around here, I want to tell you about some cool things.

First off, is Choose2Bike. I've probably brought it up before and heck, it might even be one of the links off the side of my site somewhere. This Kansas City-specific site is for people to write about their miscellaneous observations and experiences in choosing to bike for little (or not so little) trips that most people would drive for. The goal is for cyclists to share their inspiration with others. Choose2Bike went a little bit radio silent over the winter, but it's SPRING now. If you're from KC, sign up and write. If you're not, go there and read. Talking to Mark from (Choose2Bike's parent site), it sounds like there will be some truly epic give-aways for writers in the pipeline if the site gets popular enough.

Next, I really have to give props to Family Bicycles, a new bike shop in Waldo that's got to be the most commuter-friendly of any in the area. Theresa Van Ackeren's soul is practically on fire for bicycling as a lifestyle. Rooted in the environmental, health, social, and financial benefits of cycling, Family Bicycles aims to be the shop for new or dormant cyclists, people who are looking to start running errands or commuting by bike, and people who are just looking to enjoy the bikes they have by riding them more often.

This is pretty much a paradigm shift compared to many other shops out here. You won't find $500 clipless shoes or full-carbon race bikes at Family Bicycles. What you will find is an abundance of competitively-priced, easy-riding cruisers and folders, and scads of accessories to help you turn a weekend fun bike into an all-purpose utility vehicle for running errands -- NOT stuff you'll find a lot of at most other shops around here. It's not quite Mellow Johnny's, but it's a big start and a great vision.

Well, no Twelve for a while

They admitted The Twelve to the sick bay for a few days. It turns out the shop has to order my RD hanger from the warehouse, so it'll probably be ready to rock on Friday or so.

Photo: No more R2D2 Mailbox. :(

I obviously took The Goat out for today's adventures in bicycle commuting. I'd thought of asking if I could use my wife's Townie 3 Speed, because it really is built from the factory for things like commuting around for short distances, but I figured being caught waiting for the bus at the already-dicey 10th and Main intersection with a "girl's bike" (a step-through frame) would probably be a Bad Ideatm. It is a sweeeeet bike, though. It would make a bad-ass Xtracycle, as it's already got a relatively long wheelbase and cruiser lines. While we were at the shop yesterday dropping my bike off, my wife picked up a bell for her Townie (ding ding!) and scored us a couple of Polar Bottle insulated water bottles. She rocks! We're waiting for her cardiologist to give her clearance to get back on the bike. The docs have been telling her to take it easy lately.

Alas, The Goat came out of semi-retirement last night for a quick grocery shake-down run, complete with lots of riding through grass, hopping of curbs and other delightful stuff that would put the hurt on any road bike. This morning was a bit of a hammerfest into the headwind. I left later than I should have but made it to the bus stop on time.

Hard telling which bus I'll end up taking home tonight. 87th street is tolerable on the road bike because I can get scooting and hold onto something resembling 30 MPH for most of the duration that I'm forced to use that section of road. On the MTB? No way. I think I may take the L(oser) bus home and ride up Quivira. Ugh. At least it's not the D(readed) bus.

Random Tunage:
2 Unlimited - Twilight Zone [Random indeed. WTF?!]
Way Out West - Don't Forget Me (Dust Biter Mix)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Product Review - Shimano SH-MT20 shoes

I've had these for more than a year now, so I guess it's as good a time as any to tell you what I think. While I was off the bike for a while last year (after The Face Plant) I bought clipless pedals, a new helmet (the old one was cracked) and these shoes.

Knowing that I wasn't going to be doing a lot of mountain biking, it seemed kind of silly to look at mountain bike shoes, but the more I looked around, the more these appeared to be perfect for my situation. I was facing some longer rides and potential full-commutes (almost 50 Miles round trip at the time) and I was starting to do a lot more utility cycling. I wanted a shoe that would click into my SPD pedals, but would let me walk around the grocery store or coffee shop without sliding around on the cleats or without having to prance all over the place in bright, shiny, slick roadie kicks.

If I had it my way, ALL shoes would use a ratcheting strap system to fasten. It's actually my favorite shoe closure mechanism. Wearing shoes with ratchet straps isn't exactly normal in public, though. I personally can't stand velcro for primary closure on shoes. Shoelaces fall right in between in functionality, but score high marks for looking normal and being easy to replace or repair when worn out. Try repairing ratchet straps or velcro on shoes. Not so easy. Therefore, the SH-MT20's shoelace closure strikes a great balance of utility, functionality and style. Some cycling shoes might earn you a couple of "George Jetson" comments. These? No one will even notice them.

On the road, the Shimano MT20 offers a moderately stiff sole for good foot support, ample ventilation on top, and enough room around the cleat so that you can get good, positive pedal engagement without fumbling around.

On the ground, faint cleat rub can be heard, especially on concrete. You don't lose traction or slide around, though. SPD cleats actually engage on the top part of the cleat, so you can get away with quite a bit of walking around without affecting how the cleats engage. They look much like plain old tennis shoes from the top, and the sole has enough flex in the toe so that you don't need to stomp around flat-footed in order to walk.

These shoes are almost as at home strolling between vendors at the farmer's market as they are when you're hammering out miles getting there. For commuters and utility cyclists that want the flexibility to get off the bike and walk around, need positive pedal engagement, but don't like other methods (toe clips, power grips, etc), these are a great choice. Retail price: about $50.

See Also:

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Twelve took one for the team. :(

Let's see... Homeward commute was windy as hell. I had to go to my wife's Dr. Appointment which was basically across the street from our place. Got home, went to the Trek Ride... and that's when things got goofy. Photo: Singlespeed Road bike...

Our group was approaching a steep grassy hill as we took a shortcut from a parking lot to a residential road. Genius boy over here decides to throw it down into the lowest gear possible and hammer it while LOGICAL people tackle the hill at an angle. Genius boy is also a Clydesdale. That means when I use a low gear then get out of the saddle to stand on the pedals, there is a LOT OF FREAKING TORQUE on things. Well, Mr. Derailleur hanger promptly BENT, then BROKE, and then to make matters even more delightful, my RD got tangled up in the spokes pretty good, jamming chain, derailleur, and spokes against the chainstay. Of course, this all happened 5 miles or so from where we started.

At first, I thought my chain just fell off the small ring. It does that on occasion in the rare cases I have to drop down that low. It took about 5 seconds to realize I was wrong.

I'd left my MTB-3 back in the Explorer, but someone had a chain tool with them. I cut the chain, pulled it out of the RD, loosened the derailleur cable, tied the RD off around my bottle cages, then went to work finding a gear ratio that didn't suck, didn't put lots of excess slack in the chain, and had a somewhat straight chainline.

Anyhow, the other riders were patient while the hacker within me engineered a workable solution to the problem. My chain slipped out of gear two more times on our way back, but the fix was as easy as stopping, spinning the chain backwards and guiding it back onto the right cog.

When I got back to the start point, I cleaned up for the first time using the Zogics CitraWipes. I've got to say they do a really good job for roadside clean up. The FinishLine wax is tenacious if not all-out brutal. Even with soap and hot water, cleaning up after fussing with the chain like this can be a chore. The CitraWipes worked really well, exceeding my expectations. They're not quite as good as hot, soapy water, but you can't exactly keep hot soapy water in your seat wedge, either. Full review tomorrow.

SPEAKING of tomorrow... No work tomorrow. I'm taking a day off. My wife has another medical appointment that I want to be there for. To top things off, I've obviously got to send The Twelve off to the shop. Then there's taxes to do. So I'll be plenty busy, just not at work.

*waving with a grimy hand*

See Ya Wednesday!

Random Tunage:
Orbital - Walk Now...
K's Choice - Not an Addict


Temperature: 25°F, relatively calm air.

Dress: Hoodie and Cargo pants.

Result: WTF was I thinking?!

Anyhow, another REEEEEALLLLLY long night. 2 hours of sleep. Headache. Chills. Hunger. Not enough caffeine on teh Urfs to make life tolerable right now. For some reason, I'm at work.

No Tunage. Only WebbAlert and TWiT. For now.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Long Easter weak-end recap

Daily, many people throw their bikes into or onto their vehicles, then drive off somewhere to go for a ride. This weekend, I saddled up to ride to my car so I could bring it home from the hospital. I'd left it there when I went to meet my wife at there (remember, pneumonia?) and I was getting scared thinking what woes might befall my poor little Focus should I leave it there one more night. I think it sat there at the hospital for three days. I've just been busy, and haven't needed my car. The parking is long term, so no one would care if it sat there for a week, but thieves of opportunity might see something they like.

Anyhow, my bike didn't mind the 35+ MPH flogging on Quivira in peak-traffic hours on Saturday. In fact, I almost suspect it enjoyed the spirited 3-mile jaunt. What The Twelve did NOT approve of was being crammed into the back of a Focus. Sure, maybe if the ride in the Focus was off to some smoothly-paved cycling utopia where upon I'd ride hundreds of miles in a sitting, Twelve could forgive me. Instead, I was using -- no, ABusing my bike to rescue some abandoned car. The mere thought!

A few other grocery and food runs this weekend. Not much to get excited about, but 32 miles for the long weekend isn't too bad considering the fact that I didn't have to ride to work.

The morning air is going to be pretty chilly (relatively speaking), and tomorrow afternoon is going to be a windfest. I'll be doing the bike/bus thing, but time permititng I should be at the Recovery Ride.

Top 10: Tips for transportation cycling

I've been saying this for a while, but spring is practically here. With it comes "driving season" and increasing gasoline prices. More importantly, though, people are starting to wipe the dust off of their bikes and hit the paths. Whether you ride for fun every year, or you've not even sat on a bike in a decade or more, here are some tips to help you out if you plan on riding your bike instead of driving for some of your trips this year.

10) Learn basic bicycle maintenance. If you're replacing your car with a bicycle for some of your shorter trips, you will probably be riding your bicycle more miles than you used to, or you may be riding a bike for the first time in a while. Park Tool and Sheldon Brown both have excellent instructions for bicycle repair. Start with the basics: Cleaning and lubricating your chain, fixing a flat tire, or maybe adjusting your brakes and shifters. In the dead of summer, it might take a week to get your bike back from the shop if you take it in for a flat tire. You can fix it yourself with very few tools, and it's easier than you may think.

9) Get some tools. This goes with #10, but you should have enough tools to do minor adjustments to your bike. Honestly, I got by for almost six months needing no more tools than what came on the Park MTB-3 multi-tool. I keep it with me while commuting for road-side repairs.

8) Learn how to pick a good route. Don't think like a driver. Instead, think of lesser-known roads that may be a block or two away from the big roads you normally drive on. Think of little alleyways or sidewalks between cul-de-sacs, and how you can utilize multi-use paths. If in doubt, check out Veloroutes or other cycling map sites to see if anyone has plotted some good routes. You may also ask in the bike forums regional discussions to see if someone local knows some decent routes.

7) Logistics. Figure out how you're going to get yourself, your stuff, and your bike to and from your destination and stored safely, and get a plan laid out. This is mostly concerning commuting to work by bicycle, but you should also have some idea of how you're going to handle your errands if you should choose to do those by bike as well. Securing your bike, cleaning up if you get dirty or sweaty, and transporting your clothes are things to think about.

6) Take The Lane! Tim Grahl put together an excellent article outlining five reasons to claim the lane with your bike. I can't convey it any better than he did. By staying off of the main arterials, you usually avoid the necessity to use sidewalks. They still have their place for certain situations, but if you're not commuting on a bike path, you should probably be commuting out in the middle of the road where you can be seen.

5) Be visible. Bright colors. Reflective materials on you and your bike. High contrast. At least one bright, red tail light should be lit up even during the day. A second, blinking light is great, too. Headlights when it's dim outside, and a blinking front light even during the day is a good idea. Always, always have DOT-legal reflectors on your bike. There's no good reason not to. It doesn't matter how "cool" you think you look on your bike. To drivers, cyclists on the road all look dorky. Might as well go all out, right?

4) Don't skimp on the bike. I know this hurts to think about, but bikes you find at sporting goods stores, toy aisles of big-box stores and the like are sold and marketed as toys. Things that 100-pound 13-year-olds will ride for a summer and forget about. You wouldn't buy a Power Wheels to get you around town, would you? If you already have an old bike, there's not much harm in getting it fixed up and checked out. If you're going to buy a new bike, I recommend going to a specialty bicycle shop. If you can find a used bike cheap that the shop tech agrees will hold up to your riding, you could get away with spending under $150. Otherwise, consider the $350 price point "entry level" for new mountain and hybrid bikes, and $500 the entry level for new road bikes. You're shopping for a replacement vehicle, not a toy. If unsure, browse the new CBB Commuter Bikes Database for bike ideas.

3) Give yourself some time to adjust. It took me a few weeks to get my routine figured out and for my body to get used to riding a bike again.

2) Learn your local "village". Knowing all those little shops near your home, near your popular destinations (such as work, parks, etc) and along the way is a great way to find stuff that's easily reachable on a bike. You might be surprised by what is nearby. After looking around, I found that there are few places I need to go that are more than 2 miles from my home or office.

1) Stay motivated. Come up with fun goals or get a riding buddy to keep yourself motivated. Soon enough, you'll be hooked!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Slowest... Ride... Evvverrrrrr...

Photo: People arrive for the Friday Hen House ride in Prairie Village, Kansas. Click for album.

Now, don't get me wrong. This is a great crowd. Some of the nicest cyclists I've met. I took off a little after 7:00 this morning to ride to this group ride. Having never been to this one before, I had no clue what to expect. Common sense tells me that it was probably going to be self-employed or retired riders, being that it starts at 8:00AM on a week day. And I was mostly right.

I took 87th straight across, and followed it as it turns into "Santa Fe Drive" (or whatever) through olde-towne Overland Park. 79th to Tomahawk, curving around to 71st and Mission. Simple, enjoyable ride at a moderate pace. Not too long, about 7 miles worth of riding.

I hung out for a while, then people started showing up and getting their bikes out. A few actually rode to the ride. Most were clad in winter gear, but I was doing just fine in shorts with temps in the lower 50s. These people were hell-bent on ribbing me for my lack of clothing, but I was quite comfortable, and actually thankful for shorts once we got moving... that is, if you call an 8 MPH average pace "moving". I felt like I should have left my bike locked up and jogged with these people, or perhaps brought along a pair of rollerblades. This was without a doubt the most lethargic ride I've ever been on, and that includes my journeys through 6"-deep snow.

I did eventually end up with a breakaway group that took off ahead of everyone else, but this pace was no more than I'm used to with the markedly slow Monday Night Recovery Rides.

Our final destination was Panera at 119th and Nall or so. It took us about 45 minutes to get there. I'm not sure how far it was because of the awkward route we took, but it had to have been considerably less than 10 miles. We all locked our bikes up to the patio fence, then went inside for breakfast. Several people knew me from here or from the Bike Week Planning Committee. As a social event, this ride was plenty of fun.

I took off after a coffee and a blueberry muffin had settled in my belly, and worked my way back via what some would call a "treacherous" route. Straight up Nall to 91st, to Hadley, up to 87th, then straight across to my apartment complex. At 9:30-10:00 AM these roads were well-trafficked but by no means crazy. It was a pleasant ride back, despite strong headwinds.

So, to those who were there, it was nice to meet some new faces. Take no offense to my criticism of your pace. It was nice to just be able to ride and enjoy the sensory experience of an early-spring morning after sunrise. Usually I'm still riding in the morning darkness this time of year.

I racked up a little more than 21 miles, all said and done today. Not bad for a day off, considering that only 10% of my miles are recreational.

Of course, I did ride to a group ride that most people drove to... Then I rode to breakfast... Does that make this morning's miles "errands" or "recreation"???

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chilly but oh-so-nice

My wife is down and out with the early stages of bacterial pneumonia. She stayed home from work last night. I got my bags packed and we got to bed pretty early (10:00 or so) netting me almost a solid 7 hour coma for which to recover from yesterday's adventures. Her new antibiotics seem to be working pretty well.

This morning, I grabbed some breakfast so she could take her next batch of pills, and threw together a batch of Gatorade for the road and a few PB Sammiches to eat once I got downtown. A quick check of the e-mail via my phone showed that no one other than Karen was going to take me up on my convoy. Flipping over to Wunderground Mobile, I saw that conditions were similar to what most people were predicting. 37°F and a south breeze. I threw on the Deflects and Balaclava (for ear and neck cover) then I was off.

Karen's LED headlight glistened over the crest of 79th to the west of Quivira, and I waited for her to roll up, then it was downtown bound: a mostly quiet single-file trip due to the fact that there seemed to be quite a bit of traffic. We parted ways near the brewery, shortly after passing Sidewalk Riding Wrong Way Bike Ninja Guy. It's always the same guy, too. He waved at us this time.

It's odd how you come to recognize things. I see a lot of the same cars when I ride downtown. This is only my 5th ride into downtown this year, but I'm pretty sure all 5 of them, I have seen the black Ford Ranger with its piercing blue-ish fake HID headlights and its large-ish CB antenna. I used to see it almost daily back in the summer. Then there's the silver Mazda 3 with the 2RUNNRS plates. Compared to the evening rush hour ride home, traffic in the morning is almost non-existant, but I do find myself picking out familiar vehicles.

I was almost flawlessly dressed for the sub-40° temps. Under Armour running shirt under a hoodie, and a chamois under cargo pants worked nicely. KC will easily clear 60° this afternoon, so it'll be the running shirt and my MTB shorts on the ride home, I think. I'll also be dealing with (barely) double-digit headwinds. Should make for an interesting ride home.

Random Tunage:
Nirvana - Lithium
Junkie XL - Mushroom

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Got to my bike at 3:32. Got to my mailbox at home at 4:42. 15.0 MPH rolling average, with variable (changing direction frequently) winds around 10 MPH. It was kind of a mixed bag of head, calm, and tailwind. This kind of speed (if you wish to call it that) is a first for 2008 as far as a full ride goes.

A little past Lackman on Merriam Lane, I caught up with Karen. I only rode alongside her for a few miles before branching off to take the curvy, fun, slower Turkey Creek alternate homeward route. That KIND OF makes my average speed even a little more impressive (again, if you think 15 MPH is impressive). My goal when I left the parking garage this afternoon was to stay at a cadence of 90 RPM pretty much the whole way. 90 is at the high end of a comfortable cadence for me. Drop below 85? push harder or downshift. Above 95? Upshift.

Personally, I don't think it's impressive considering my personal hammerfest best of 19.2 on the all-road (no MUP) route. But it's nice to see a little speed boost. The Twelve scorched along on the curvy path, but I kept a close eye for pedestrians. Along the straightaway north of 67th, I saw a guy walking, twirling his trekking pole, but transfixed as he gawked off into outer space (also known as The Animal Haven animal shelter). I figured he saw me coming but I slowed it down a bit, perhaps to 12 MPH or so. As I passed him, still twirling his trekking pole, he jumped and let out some single-word expression. He was in his late 50's perhaps. Before I even got to 67th street some two hundred yards further, I'd concocted the following baiku:

Mindless trekking guy
Oblivious to others
I scared you to death
I repeated it to myself a few times so that I'd be able to recall it now. I don't think I've actually scared an oncoming pedestrian before unless they were running around a blind curve. What a dweeb. He had almost a full minute with me in his sight, my DiNotte blinking on evil death mode, nonetheless.

I shot through the business parks at a pretty good clip, taking my usual back way to 85th street.

I'm rallying all the riders I know that would possibly come through my area on their way to downtown -- that would be Karen, Lorin, Chris and I. We'll see how many are up for a convoy tomorrow morning. When I saw her along Merriam Lane, Karen told me she'll be out in the morning. As far as Lorin and Chris, I don't know yet.

Random Tunage:
Regina Spektor - Fidelity
ORM - Cube Loop

Long ride on Friday? Anyone in KC/JoCo?

Being that I'm in the financial services industry, I get quite a few nifty holidays. Good Friday is turning into Most Excellent Friday, as I needn't show up to work. Wall Street is closed. So is my office. That's how it works.

Given that I usually require some recovery time after a long ride, I figure Friday's as good a day as any to get some serious recreational junk miles in. I'm not talking a sustained 2:45-3:00 pace. Just some miles. The more, the merrier. Anyone down?

Getting there

Getting where? Well, last night, I was getting to the grocery store. I had a few items to pick up at the furthest of the grocery stores in my 2-mile radius. Things we had to have were only available there. Oh Joy. I'm lazy, and usually choose to stay closer to home for things like groceries. The large item protruding from my pannier is a 12-pack of 7-up. I could have gotten that closer to home, but I really felt like lugging 144 fluid ounces of HFCS-laden goodness for two miles instead of less than one. I'm just goofy like that. I've also come to the realization that these panniers work great for lugging stuff to work and back, but I would probably be better off with smaller, squarish grocery panniers or Wald fold-out baskets. Too bad the Walds are not Quick Release but I guess my saddlebags would go over them when they're collapsed. Ah well. More crap for my wish list. Oddly enough, last night was my first trip using the panniers and the fenders at the same time.

This morning, getting there was getting to the bus. The temperatures were below 40°F and there was a decent headwind still coming out of the north. Those two combined kept me from riding the whole way to work. Had it been above 40 or had winds been calm or tailwind, I would have jumped on it. So, here is my bike in its current commuting setup. I'm actually diggin' it and with the panniers on, the fenders really do complete the look. Well, that and the coffee press that's sitting on the seat tube. Damn, I love French-pressed coffee. And coffee on the bike is just... zen. Or maybe I'm just a helpless caffiend. Yes, I made that word up.

The weather is also getting there.

But really, I am getting there. Slowly. In August, it seemed like 170 miles in a given seven-day period is where I started to get fatigued. That was "The Wall" so to speak. There were times that I blew past that figure, but it was painful. Clinically, I was over-reaching and probably under-fed in the area of proteins. I was likely doing more harm than good those times. Evaluating my current situation, I was feeling pretty worn down after a 65-mile rolling week 2 weeks ago (using Wednesday to Tuesday) and now I'm at about 75 miles and feeling a bit better. I guess I thought I'd be ready to rock and roll and just hop back into 150-mile weeks no problem but it's been harder than I'd imagined. Things just don't want to work without hurting. Back, core, and legs mostly. I'll get there.

Last but not least, The Twelve is getting there, too. Really, not much has changed since I bought The Twelve on May 1st. I bought the NiteRider, the pedals, bottle cages and rack the same day I bought the bike. Here's a current run-down of my setup for those who are interested:

I Started with a bone-stock 2006 Trek 1200 54cm
Pedals upgraded to Shimano SPD M525
2x Specialized cheapo bottle cages
Blackburn XR-1 Cross Rack
Banjo Bros. Saddlebag Panniers
NiteRider Evolution Headlight (Upgraded to a 15W bulb)
DiNotte 200L-AA-S
Trek Discotech rear light
Mars 3.0 Rear light (helmet mounted)
Headland CMT Wedge
Shimano WH-R500 rear wheel (OEM got trashed)
Bontrager Race-Lite Hardcase rear tire (I've never flatted since)
SwissStop Green brake pads (OEM brakes sucked!)
SKS Commuter Fenders

Really, it's pretty much perfect for what I do. I've replaced the chain once, the brake cables once, and replaced the crappily-executed original bar tape. That's it. In several thousand miles, that's all this bike has needed save for a few adjustments here and there. How much has this all cost me so far? I'm afraid to total it up, but I know it's probably close to $1400. The original purchase with the accessories I got ran me almost exactly $1000.

So maybe the bike is the one thing that's already there. The rest of my situation is just playing catch-up.

Random Tunage:
Crystal Method - Busy Child
Hybrid - I'm Still Awake

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Great afternoon!

Photo: Lots of standing water on the way home. No big deal. Click for album.

I had to drop some stuff off at the doctors' office before 5:00, which meant I needed to get home with The QuicknessTM. 3:00 hit and I was the hell out of the office. Sun occasionally prying through the overcast skies kept things near 50°F, and an ever-so-slight nudge was given to me out of the north. The 14 mile ride home was blissful. Big storms cells are brewing south of here but never quite made it up to my neck of the woods today. The only moisture I had to contend with was under me. Nothing more than a fine spray ever hit my shoes. I'm very pleased. I've also amassed about 20 miles on these fenders now, and not once have my toes hit the fenders nor have I heard any noise from them. I've strapped the bike to the bus a few times as well, so the fenders don't keep me from using the bus in a pinch, either.

You can check out my first impression of the SKS Fenders on CBB.

I'm sold.

Yesterday, the rain didn't stop... and the fenders only do so much when the skies are unloading on you. I could see muck flying straight forward from my front fender, while watery grime oozed down the sides and out the bottoms of both. They appeared to be doing their part, but it did little to allay my misery. My agglutinant trousers were soggy and frigid. My windbreaker was dank. It's water resistant but had enough exposure to get permeated and cumbersome by the time I arrived home. Not surprisingly, it was also wicking warmth from my torso. We'll just say that it wasn't a terribly pleasant wait for the bus and that the remainder of my homeward trip was interesting to say the least. Not un-enjoyable by any means, but my mind is preoccupied with those sunny afternoons with a slight wind out of the northeast and temperatures in the mid 70s.

This morning was hectic. Some of my family is on a long-ish road trip and I am one of two family members that's taking turns pet-sitting. I picked my wife up from work on my way out of town (yes, driving) and took care of the animals, getting home just in time to throw some stuff in my backpack and hit the road to the bus. It rained almost all day yesterday, and with 97% humidity, the moisture on the ground wasn't going anywhere. With a mild clime of 43°F and an ample layer of water and some big puddles covering the ground, this would be the true test of the fenders.

The results? After two miles of speeds up to 30 MPH (but closer to an average of 15), I had but a few drops of water on the toes of my shoes. Normally, my shoes would be soaked. Water would be seeping down the inside of my ankles from my socks and pants, and most of my front-facing leg surfaces would be soggy. There would be a mud-stripe up the center of my backpack... the rack keeps water off my back like a mini-fender but the backpack sticks out into the stream a little bit. I arrived dry as a bone. I do miss seeing the spray of water in the beam of my DiNotte headlight, as it really is a hypnotic and breathtaking vision -- but a vision I'm willing to trade for warm, dry clothes.

No, I don't wonder how I went so long without fenders. No, I'm not going to turn into a fender evangelist. I'll simply continue riding The Twelve in these conditions that would have otherwise soaked me. And, time permitting, I will probably use these days as full bike commutes instead of wimping out and riding to the bus.

Random Tunage:
IIO - Rapture (Deep Dish remix)
The Killers - When You Were Young

Monday, March 17, 2008

Well, they don't get in the way...

I was worried that my feet would hit the front fender or that it would make it difficult to get my bike onto the bus. Neither was the case this morning. I didn't have any rain or wet pavement to shake the fenders down with, but they don't rub, they don't get in my way, and I can still remove the front wheel and set the bike down without smashing the front fender.

It's raining now, so the fenders will get a good test this afternoon.

Also, I lost about 5 pounds over the weekend. No, I didn't diet. I got my hair cut. Not many of you have seen me recently, but my hair was getting insanely long. Now it's about 1/2" long. I'm exaggerating about losing five pounds, but I wouldn't be surprised if the cat-sized pile of hair on the floor weighed in at more than 16 ounces. It's taking a lot of people by surprise this morning. I'm telling them I lost a fight with a weed eater. It should keep my head a lot cooler. This morning, that wasn't desirable with temps near freezing. Oh well.

Random Tunage:
Butthole Surfers - Pepper
Ben Folds Five - Brick

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I pulled the trigger... just in the nick of time

Something is different about The Twelve...

I have been looking around for affordable, durable, full-coverage fenders -- preferably with mudflaps. The SKS Commuter Fenders (35mm wide) were one of the few that met my criteria, mostly on price, fitment and coverage. The support arms for the front fender were excessively long and required me to chop them short with a Dremel cut-off wheel so that my feet don't hit them. Other than that, install was as simple as can be without being snap-on fenders. It came not only with the basic hardware needed to install, but with various lengths of bolts and optional brackets to make installation possible on different kinds of bicycles.

Really, I'm amazed at the refinement that went into my Trek 1200, though. Even the brace behind the bottom bracket was perfectly located and already drilled and tapped for attaching a fender. The rear eyelets easily accommodate both the rack and the fender.

So, there you have it. I went for it. I may have said many times that I don't need them, that I don't like them, or that I don't even want them. But we'll see how I like these. Look for a full review after a few rainy rides. It looks like I'll get my first shot tomorrow.

Top 10: why many bike bloggers work in IT

More than 3/4 of the bike bloggers whose writings I peruse definitely work in IT, either as worker bees like myself or in IT management. There are a handful of others that I suspect work in IT but I'm not certain about. Then there are a few who are definitely NOT IT folks. Even among the non-blogging bike commuters I know, there's a similar bias towards techy folks. What's with the disparity? I have my own thoughts on it. This isn't commuting specific, but there seems to be a tie between bicycles, geeks, and bloggers. Here are 10 of my primary speculations for this seemingly unfair balance of us versus them.

10) This is the Internet -- arguably, geeks are the home team around here. Not specific to bicycles, most bloggers have technical tendencies. If you're looking at blogs on the Internet, you're going to find mostly tech-savvy writers.

9) Blogging has a certain social aspect to it, regardless if you're just ranting about life, writing a bunch of short stories, posting your photos or artwork, or working on a serious, industry-relavent blog. IT geeks seem to enjoy the intersection of technology and social circles.

8) Many problems that IT workers face require time alone and away from the problems to work through in their mind. While this is true for many professions, I think a lot of IT-working bike riders use their bike riding time to sort out their thoughts. I know I do.

7) Working in IT teaches you to make adjustments for the sake of efficiency. Applied to real life, it's easy to see that bicycling is an efficient mode of transportation for certain tasks.

6) After dealing with spreadsheets, programming languages, and being stuck "in the matrix" all day, there's something about metal, rubber, sprockets and levers that makes you feel like a real person again.

5) Most office workers sit at a desk all day long. Most IT workers are office workers. Many of these people sit on their butts in their cars, at their desks, and at home. Bike commuting offers them a reason and some motivation to get some exercise.

4) Cooped up in an office is no way to spend a life. A car is usually even more cramped. You have seemingly infinite room to decompress when you're on a bike.

3) Ditching the Information overload. Facts, figures, names, policies, places, numbers, graphs, stats, procedures, schedules, commands, configurations, prices... UGH! At the end of the day, sometimes I just want to hammer out some mindless miles so that there's absolutely nothing pestering me by the time I get home. I can only imagine this is one good reason that anyone with a stressful job would want to bike commute.

2) IT people multi-task without even thinking about it. We're not talking about reading the NY Times while shaving, brushing teeth, drinking coffee and attempting to get to work. There's something blissful about getting time to think, getting where you need to go, and getting your daily cardio all at the same time.

1) Writing regularly in structured sentences, often in narrative form is completely different from most office communication. This exercises different parts of the mind, keeps things interesting, and provides a creative outlet for those who don't have time for more involved expression.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It must be in the air

Seriously. It feels like I've dealt with more rude behavior on the road this week than the sum of all of winter combined. I'll get to that in a bit.

Over lunch, I took a trip to Raglan Road, a new authentic Irish restaurant drawing its inspiration from real Irish pubs. You know, the ones in Ireland. The interior was strikingly vivid, rich in detail, and pleasing to the eye. This was just across the street from Sprint Center where the Big 12 tournament games are going on, so the game was on TV and the place was packed.

I had the Fish 'n' Chips. Good Stuff! But not worth waiting 90 minutes for.

Okay, so on with the commute. I saw this happen right after I left work:

I actually came from the other side of this wreck, but rode up to make sure no one was injured. I was on the phone with 911 as I took this photo. The cop (visible left) was just pulling up. The Tiburon hit the curb and stopped, then got bumped by the semi, which swung the car about, destroying the rear suspension (which the two drivers are examining). No one hurt, but north and southbound traffic was stopped on Broadway at 3:40ish on a Friday afternoon. In short, this is A Bad Thing.

So, I'm on a bike, home free southbound on Broadway with virtually NO traffic going my way. It's about this time that the stuck northbounders start making impromptu u-turns in the middle of the road. This includes a taxi, who nicely let me pass before completing the turn. Then, there's this guy:

He did a u-turn after the taxi, then got up on me at a stop light. Ahead in my lane, a UPS truck blocks the road. Common for this time of day, and if I were driving I'd NEVER use the outside lane on Broadway going southbound. I used the sidewalk. I beat the taxi through the intersection, and hopped off the curb after the UPS truck back out into the road. The taxi was behind me in the other lane, and mister "I have a new Volvo XC90" pulled in right behind me after the UPS truck. Then he tried nudging in between me and the taxi. Then he saw he wouldn't stand a chance of getting around me, and pulled in behind me as I turned right onto Southwest. All along Southwest, this guy was bullying cars around. At one point, he almost ran another car into oncoming traffic. At the next stop light, I took the above photo.

Passing Boulevard Brewery, I ran across Karen. A little ways past Antioch, we both nearly got right-hooked at the same time by a red Civic. Sorry, no pictures of that one.

Oh well. I'm done ranting.

All kinds of interesting stuff

Let's see... after last night's post, it was determined that I had to make yet another grocery run. I don't know what the deal was last night, but I just wanted to push really hard. I'm fat and out of shape. My lungs certainly are better off than they were two years ago, but as you can tell they're still in need of conditioning. Over short distances, I can lay it down pretty hard if I want to.

With the nearest grocery store just a little more than a mile away, I hit it really hard, and it felt good. I caught my breath while grabbing some items from the store, then hit it hard on my way back home, but not before I stopped in the parking lot to pick up a really nice, heavy duty bungee cord someone had left laying around. This also reminds me... I saw a VAULT DOOR for what looked like a small gun cabinet next to the dumpster at my apartment complex. I love locks, locksmithing, and that kind of stuff. No clue what the vault door was doing there, but it's obvious that someone had to partake in destructive entry. I forgot to pick it up last night. I'm only writing this here so I remember to go check it out this evening and see if it's still there. If so, I'll probably disassemble the door (it's usually easy from the inside) and get the lock to play with. Locks are like puzzles to me, and I am an amateur locksmith among other strange traits.

Enough rambling. This morning, you can imagine I was greeted with sore legs. Very sore legs. Although I stretched well last night both before and after laying the smack down on the pavement, I still have a lot of soreness. I took it easy on the way to the bus this morning. The ride happened to take me through two miles of fog so dense that it looked like mist in the sharp beam of my LED light. There was no hammering to be done. I averaged about 10 miles per hour this morning.

Coming off the Quivira Viaduct (where I kind of pushed it a little on the downhill) it was apparent that I was being tailgated by someone driving a PT cruiser. In no hurry and with an open lane to my left, I putzed along at maybe 12 MPH. Just cruising. It's a slight uphill. The driver remained glued to within 10 feet of me. As I approached the entrance to Circuit City, the driver finally decided to pass me. Now, I'm guessing this person was staying behind me because they needed the right lane. And there's only one reason you need the right lane when the left one is empty. It's because you want to turn. I slowed down more in anticipation. I was completely ready for what happened next, but it still cheeses me off. I got right-hooked by some old lady, hunched over her steering wheel. I had to turn with the PT cruiser to avoid broadsiding it because the driver slowed way, way down to turn. I rode along side it and pounded on the window. She screeched to a halt, startled and rolled down the window. I screamed at her, and she said she didn't see me.

I'm going to interject here. This is just insane. She didn't see me? Why was she pacing me? Does she just drive 12 MPH all the time? Why did she use the left lane to go around me? Does she always go into the left lane before making a right turn? Did she somehow miss 10 LEDs on the back of my bike, and two bright orange reflective strips? As she passed me, did she somehow miss half a kilo-lumen of photon energy in her passenger mirror?

Whatever. I told her to be more careful. She didn't apologize. She just drove off. Situational Awareness. I have it. Others don't. I'm conjuring up all kinds of mayhem which I could have wreaked upon car and driver in the moment, but chose not to. I'm talking air-hanky in the passenger window, Gatorade on the leather seats, and cleats meet paint kind of mayhem. Also, Kansas did just recently pass a Concealed Carry program. Not that I would stoop to the level of cage-ragers.

Ah well. I took a nap on the bus (I actually hate when I do this) and showed up to the coffee shop with Lorin to find JR waiting for us, and a new, unfamiliar bike next to the door. A dark navy frame with totally unfamiliar markings. Very thin stays and fork. Definitely steel. Likely custom. Black and purple bar tape. Racy looking, somewhat old school but not ye-olde school. This must be Andrew's bike. He comments here on occasion and had mentioned yesterday wanting to meet up with us. Now, because of various things that had happened last summer, I thought that I'd already met him, but I had not. Today was Andrew's maiden voyage for bike commuting, and he's starting off with a nice multi-mode setup riding from Prairie Village to Waldo, taking the bus to downtown, then riding some more to get up north.

So, our little bike commuter coffee clan had four members again. Bob dropped off the face of the earth back in September, so it's been a while since we've had four bikes outside of Starbucks all at the same time. It was nice running into Andrew. Hopefully bike commuting works out as well for him as it has for so many others.

This is a great time of year to get started commuting by bike in the great plains. As it warms up and gets lighter, things seem to get easier and nature tends to lend itself to longer and harder rides and the discovery of more interesting, possibly safer routes. It also gives you a good solid six months to get helplessly addicted to the habit of riding a bike damn near everywhere as you build your obsessions on all the wonders of the bicycle. Apertome also started about this same time last year. As it turns out, he became a pretty serious year-round bike commuter, even if his cow-orkers don't realize it. Maybe we've hooked another one.

Random Tunage:
Erlend Øye - The Black Keys Work
Stabbing Westard - Save Yourself (whatever happened to these guys?!)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

That's *IT*?!

I had to make a quick jaunt partway through the day to test my "alternate workspace" for business continuity today. You know, in case power gets knocked out in my building or any other emergency somehow makes my current workspace even more uninhabitable than it is now. At this point, I think a fire or an Anthrax outbreak pales in comparison to getting the occasional ear-full of celebrity gossip, political banter and what have you while enduring temperatures in the upper 70s. But apparently the business continuity planners don't see it my way.

So I rode to a nearby branch, where training is usually performed. Various cow-orkers of mine and a few others whom I didn't know commandeered an entire classroom and made a makeshift battle center out of it. We checked to make sure we could access all of our stuff, and that all of the programs we needed were installed. Then, we proved we could work in that environment by printing, accessing our e-mail and actually doing some work tasks. That part was a breeze since there was only one gossiper present in our new office away from office. Without others to gossip with, I could hear myself think. And the Air Conditioning is actually functional in this building. Radical.

I had more madness to partake in this evening, so had to rush home on the A bus. I was in full-on sprint mode once I got off the bus. Some punk kid in a rusty old Taurus was riding my ass from Shawnee Mission West High School all the way to Switzer (I don't know, about a mile, I guess). Approaching the 4-way stop, he rolled his window down and pulled up next to me. Panting and probably rolling my eyes, I figured this kid was going to tell me to get off the road or some such. I was going at least 30 in a 25 MPH section of 85th. To my surprise, he exclaimed "You were going 35 back there! Awesome!" Between huge gulps of air, I managed to ask "That's IT?!" and then thanked him after another gasp. He took off. I took off behind him, again approaching 30 MPH or so. He was long gone, but I was still hurried.

I darted through the BP lot and out onto 87th street. This road is a death trap for cyclists, but I was scooting at a good clip and the outer lane was clear so I went for it. Most of the lights played in my favor. I pulled the hardest, fastest corner I've ever tried as I veered right onto Earnshaw from 87th to get to my apartment complex. I was crouched in the drops, probably going 20 MPH as I leaned past 45 degrees. I was pretty sure I was going to end up sliding sideways and buying some new handlebar tape but The Twelve stuck. I don't think I will try a corner like that again any time soon. A small patch of sand would have ruined my day.

Of course, now I'm paying for it with an asthma attack. But that'll pass. The only times it really bothers me are balls-to-the-wall jaunts like this afternoon's, or really cold, dry air. I think part of this is just my lungs adjusting again and coming out of my relative lethargy for winter. As I recall, there were plenty of other days last year where I felt like I was in pretty good shape except for my lungs.

Does anyone else here suffer from Exercise Induced Asthma or know someone that does? What are you currently doing for treatment?

Random Tunage:
Nine Inch Nails - Sunspots
Nine Inch Nails - Sin

I am Contemplating...

... the insides of my eyelids!

I had a bit of a sleep-deprived night. To top that off, my legs aren't quite accustomed to being used full-on. My knees are hurting a bit, and my right foot has been hurting too. This is only since I've gone back to the road bike. It could be anything: Bike fit, re-learning clipless after 3 months off, or just not being used to the additional distance and saddle time. My bike feels like it fits okay. I don't do a whole lot of forceful pulling on the up-stroke but I'm also far from spinning perfect, smooth circles. I don't really have to justify myself, so I don't know why I'm wasting my breath. Despite nearly identical weather to yesterday morning (but without any wind at all), I chose to head to the bus.

I also used my backpack today instead of the panniers. It's supposed to start pouring cats and dogs today as well, and the backpack works better than the panniers for keeping my stuff dry. While not the most comfortable thing in the world, it's not really a big deal to carry the backpack for the whole trip. I do it whenever I take Hybridzilla downtown, but she offers more upright seating.

Despite having put more than 80 miles on The Twelve since I switched over to it as my primary commuter again, I'm still getting used to riding it. Mostly, it's still surprising me. Trading back to an efficient and nimble bike with a more direct connection to the road is simply amazing. Don't get me wrong -- trading efficiency for winter durability and terrain-conquering antics was fun, but now a road bike simply flies. The grass is always greener on the other side, isn't it?

Let's see. It's FINALLY Thursday, and it's taken what seems like a long time to get to this point. Yesterday seemed like it was just about the longest work day of my life. Partially because of this:
Oh yeah. I was too wrapped up whining about Evil People yesterday to mention the HEAT in my office. Yes, it's what you think. That had been sitting on my desk away from computer equipment all day. It was registering Eighty. Flipping. Two. Degrees. Fahrenheit.

Can you grasp that? 82° is when I take almost all of my clothes off and go swimming. It's when I start making sure that I have my water bottles filled completely with ice and just topped off with water before I go on a nice, long bike ride. Needless to say that I was having trouble concentrating and getting work done. Even My little fan felt more like a hair dryer than a source of relief, forcing me to switch to active evaporation techniques just to keep my sanity. That means wetting my face with a rag wrapped around ice cubes and letting the fan dry it off. And believe me, I dried off quickly. We're already up to 75° in the office this morning. I'm not sure I can handle another day in the office like yesterday.

Random Tunage:
Steve Winwood - Back In The High Life Again
Peter Gabriel - In Your Eyes

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Friendly Scofflaws

You know my favorite kind of scofflaws? The friendly ones. Those are nice. What's a scofflaw, you ask? It's one who scoffs at laws, of course! You see them everywhere. They cut people off in traffic. They go 90 on the highway. They ride their bikes through red lights. And they embrace it.

Can you guess what else they do? They barrel through crosswalks when they don't have the right of way, but they wave and smile at you. Because they're really just that friendly. So, thank you, soccer mom in the burgundy Ford Excursion with license plates WTE something. My helmet off to you for your display of kindness. It really brightened my day that you took the time to wave as you blasted right past this:

Do you know what that is?

First off, it's thermonuclear yellow and it's sticking out of the middle of the road. I know it had to have caught your eye. It also has one of those red-n-white octo-whatever shapes on it. I know you might not be able to read one-syllable English words, but a stop sign is a stop sign, and they're ubiquitous and universal here in the US. I know you have meals to cook, mouths to feed, and kids to pick up from practice. Please, for the love of all things good in the world, learn what to do when you encounter a sign like this in the future, especially if there's someone waiting patiently to enter the intersection. Smile and wave all you want. Just make sure you stop as well. The five seconds it sets you back will be rewarded by knowing that some nerd (like me) isn't going to berate you on the Internet.

The same goes for you evil school bus drivers.

You a-holes don't even wave. Bastions of safety with your day-glo orange vests, your powerful traffic-stopping swing-out signs and four-way blinkers. You'll stop at railroad crossings to guard the lives of those on board. You'll radio the cops if a car passes while your stop sign is out. At the same time, you refuse to give pause to pedestrians with the right-of-way in crosswalks unless you're in a school zone. I would laugh at this dichotomy if it hadn't resulted in countless close calls. Wonder why your dispatcher chewed your ass out over the radio? It's because I called you in, nimrod. You are driving a massive vehicle with your company's name all over it. Each one of your ginormous twinkie-shaped kidlet carriages is individually numbered. This isn't so kids know which moron to ride home with. It's so people like me can return the favor when people like you make my life hell.

Can you guess what else scofflaws do? They litter. They throw Sonic and Burger King cups, cigarette butts, and all kinds of jetsam and flotsam out the windows of their cars so that they can be whisked away into storm drains by rain or street sweepers. The rubbish doesn't end its journey there, though. It traverses a series of tubes (not the Internet) and winds up in a creek or a river somewhere, kind of like this.

What? Can't see it? Let me zoom in for you.

Okay. I need to turn this post around. My blood pressure could probably burst a tubular tire right now.

Really, my ride home wasn't that bad. I just felt like venting. Enjoy some more photos.

The wheel is going to attack these people:

I haven't seen this truck before, but this guy's campaign was something like 3 years ago. I guess Scofflaws also like to deface things. But this was chuckle-worthy.

Obligatory close-up

Old Logo is back, Winter Recap

I switched to my Winter Logo on December 12. It's now March 12. I changed the logo back yesterday. Even though they're predicting snow this weekend, We're in spring now and 3 months is a nice round number.

Over winter:
I rode 56 of 57 work days.
I took The Dreaded Bus one day that I was sick (I should have stayed home) and didn't use my bike that day.
I rode a total of 7 one-way bus-free trips over winter.
I missed one day of work (took one real sick day)
I rode a total of 478 miles.
I drove to work 0 times during normal work hours.
The coldest temperature I rode in this winter was 1°F on January 24th.

Soaking it up before we get soaked

Photo: Dropping off some mail on the way in to work. Yes, that's a postal drop box decorated like R2D2. There are a bunch of people on Flickr who have an unhealthy obsession with these things.

43°F this morning. Balmy, for certain. It shouldn't surprise anyone that I saddled up dark'n'early to ride downtown. I am still getting used to spring. Around here, 43° ostensibly sounds like swimming weather. Break out the short sleeves. Really, it's quite chilly for shorts. Impossible? Certainly not. Unwise? Most definitely.

I over-dressed a little bit, but it was only for a lack of owning anything really appropriate for this kind of stuff. A long-sleeve tee-shirt would have been too chilly, and my windbreaker was too warm. A long-sleeve wooly jersey would have been perfect. Alas, I do not own one of these. Perhaps I'll buy one as Autumn approaches.

My narrow tires traversed the road like razors on rails. Despite headwinds, sitting in the drops gave me some decent purchase against the breeze. Crisp, spring morning air severed by a man-machine united rushed past me but without a sound. Nothing but the hum of tires on pavement and the whispering mechanical whirr of jockey wheels feeding chain to the gear cluster. No cars for miles, either. The soft yellow glow of my halogen beam highlighted all hazards well ahead of me. A rhythmic, hypnotic strobing pattern of piercing white-blue light accented street signs at 120 pulses per minute, providing tempo for the electronic music stuck in my head on the ride in.

Approaching Rosedale, KS I encountered a bike ninja. Dark bike, dark clothes and no lights. At least the rider was on the sidewalk. Say what you will about riding on the sidewalk, but that's probably the safer location for a bike ninja before dawn. There were scads of bike commuters today, evidenced only by myriad bikes locked to various stationary objects all over town. I only saw one other person riding, save for the bike ninja which I could have just as easily missed, but it was obvious that I wasn't the only one who thought it was a stellar morning for a bike ride.

The city streets and parking lots have been more crowded than usual this week with the hosting of the Big 12 tournament here in Kansas City's new Power & Light district. The cramped roadways and parking spaces could easily be a few reasons that people are choosing their bikes right now. When faced with congestion and temporary overcrowding, it becomes obvious that riding a bike is actually the lazy and convenient way to travel, if not the only way to actually get around at a reasonable speed in rush hour. The widespread use of bicycles in densely populated areas such as NYC, LA and Beijing is starting to seem a lot more logical to me now.

Even in the pre-daylight phase of morning, Main street is a disaster with traffic. I ended up hopping on the sidewalk to get past a major logjam of cars. In downtown, it's technically legal to ride a bike on the sidewalk, but you always have to be mindful of pedestrians, getting doored by shops or cars, and of course at every intersection. Fortunately, I only needed to sidewalk it for one city block to get my morning coffee. JR's bike was present, and Lorin walked up as I was taking off my heat-trapping windbreaker. Discussion of sports and bikes over coffee filled the remainder of my time before work. I'm not much for ball sports and kind of see it as people getting paid to chase a ball around, so for the most part I zoned out and enjoyed getting caffeinated and gnawing on a banana that I'd brought from home. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking more of what I'd be writing this morning than anything else.

The rest of the week calls for rain and possibly more snow. Today, I am going to soak it up. Tomorrow, we're going to get soaked.

Random Tunage:
Jon Secada - Just Another Day
Say Anything - Baby Girl, I'm a Blur

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