Friday, October 31, 2008

Mad Props for Link Love

These fine sites sent plenty of people my way this month. Thanks for linking to me, and let me return the favor (in alphabetical order by URL). There are lots of familiar ... ehhrm faces? in the crowd!

A Midnight Rider
Sirrus Rider
Bicycle Frenzy
Paul Dorn's Bike Commute Tips
Biking Bristol
Chuong Doan
Commute By Bike
Crazy Commuting Cyclist
Curb Destroyer Chronicles
Cycle * Dallas
dailymile (I have invites if you want one)
Dan On Bike
Drive My Bike
Eco Velo
Gatlinburg Spokejunkie
Two Wheels
Carbon Trace
Johnson County Bicycle Club
Kansas Cyclist
Metal Bike Commuter
Doug in Minnesota
Spinning my wheels (MU Pedal Pusher)
Working On It
Revrunner | The RocBike Review
See Teacher Run
The Crumudgeonator
The Fredcast

Thanks, all!

October Recap

(Photo: parking garage at the maul this morning)

First off, MY WIFE IS HOME! Wh00t! The next few days will probably give us a better idea how she's going to do in the long run. She got discharged at 2:00 today, and I had to grab my steed and go full gallop to get home as fast as I could. Side note: I'm a slow Clydesdale, so most roadies might consider my gallop to be more like a trot.

Now, for the good (more miles than I expected for october), the bad (a long ways to go), and the ugly (me).

I actually managed to slack off a lot this month with 18 of my one-way commutes being by bus. Back in January, I envisioned October to be one of those smooth-sailing months where 300 miles would be sufficient. The reality is that I logged about 500 miles, but still leave October 280 miles behind schedule.

I only got two recreation rides in (the Dark Side Ride and one Monday Night Ride), but made up for it with quite a few errands and rides to church.

Commuting: 387 Miles
Recreation: 52 Miles
Errands: 58 Miles

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Since people have been calling and e-mailing me...

Here's where things stand:

  • For most of the year, my wife has been having heart problems. Irregular rhythm, blood pressure spikes and tachycardia. I've seen her HR hit 209 bpm! 
  • Doctors have ruled out psychological disorders (stress, anxiety, etc), endocrine disorders, (hormones) and many other potential causes. We've spent a lot of time at the hospital this year.
  • Doctors suspected Supraventricular Tachychardia (SVT), a condition where the heart more or less gets duplicate signals, occasionally beating 2x normal. We had scheduled an appointment to discuss further treatment options.
  • My wife went to the ER Last Friday with another one of her episodes.  She had several episodes in the hospital prior to the procedure. 
  • Doctors logged the attacks, but they seemed to be a different kind of tachycardia, not specifically SVT.
  • She went into catheter surgery on Monday. The Electrophysiologist and Cardiologist did not find anything that would cause SVT -- not a surprise, given the data we saw. 
  • While catheterized, doctors did some ablation (removal of nerve tissue) in order to stabilize her heart rhythm. That seems to have worked to a certain extent. praise GOD! 
  • The ablation procedure caused some irritation and now she's still in the hospital with pericarditis. The pericardium (protective lining around the heart) is swollen and putting pressure on her internal organs. It's a common and easily treatable condition, but it's frustrating that my wife's been in the hospital for almost a whole week.
Hopefully, she'll come home tomorrow night, after they're done giving her treatments for the pericarditis. After that, it'll take a few weeks of healing and probably some experimentation with various medicines before we know for certain how well this whole trip to the hospital worked out.

My wife an I are extremely thankful for the calls, e-mails, comments and support.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

AMC Fork & Screen

Dinner-and-a-movie (literally at the same time) isn't exactly a new concept, but it's certainly not common these days. Movie theaters have pretty much become crowded, expensive venues where you pay to have people kick you in the head and step on your toes.

AMC, headquartered a block away from my office, is trying to change that... well, the part about being crowded, getting your head kicked and your toes stepped on anyways.  I was invited to come out to a pre-opening tour of AMC's Fork & Screen concept venue at the AMC 30 in Olathe. Many other local bloggers and social media gurus formed the group of tourists I was in. I saw a few familiar faces and plenty of new ones as well. I'm betting they were hoping we'd all come back and write about it. I guess it's working.

They completely revamped one whole wing, took out a few theaters, gutted the remaining ones in the wing, and started over. 

The lounge is called MacGuffin's, and is named after the term "MacGuffin", popularized by Alfred Hitchcock.  The walls within and leading to MacGuffin's lounge are lined with several examples of popular MacGuffins (Dorothy's ruby slippers, The ring from the LOTR Trilogy, etc).

They let us sample some of the appetizers they offer. This is good, because I had a very light lunch.

Aside from ample lounge seating, the bar area has interesting light-guide counter tops that are fun to play with for about 10 seconds. I suppose they'd be really entertaining if you were inebriated.  Once you have your ticket to a movie showing in the Fork & Screen area, you're free to enter the lounge. This means you could spend a considerable amount of time (and money) here.

The normal Fork & Screen seats are only slightly more spacious than "normal" theater seating in terms of width. To make room for the dining bar in front of the row of seats (shown below) there's quite a bit of space between you and the row in front of you, and the seat rows don't go all the way across. They're broken up into segments. This should make getting kicked in the head almost impossible, and getting your toes stepped on a little less likely.  

Oddly enough, these seats are no more expensive than the regular theater seating, but there are fewer seats available. The exclusivity, plus the ability to dine (on real food or concessions) will likely keep this place packed, though.

Then, there's the Cinema Suites.  These lavish accommodations include swivel trays, huge reclining seats, and more room than you know what to do with. There's even a place under each table to store your coat or purse.

It's an additional $10 per ticket to get into these theaters, and they hold less than 40 people each. You do get a $5 credit on your food purchases, though. If you're the kind that has to have popcorn, it basically means you only pay $5 extra for these seats.

If you need anything, you press a button. Your light turns red and kitchen staff comes to see what you need. Drink refills, concessions or dessert after your meal for example. If you don't press the button, you don't get interrupted.

AMC did show a movie to my group, but I was unable to stay for the full showing, as I had to get back to my wife. I think she's doing better but she had a bit of a scare last night while I was at the movies. I didn't feel right about sticking around.

It's worth noting that despite being within half a mile of residential areas, AMC 30 still doesn't have dedicated bicycle parking. There are plenty of light posts, gas meters and other suburban pavement furniture to lock up to, but I'd think that an entertainment establishment such as this would have finally gotten around to installing a few bicycle racks.

The concept is definitely competitive. The food prices are up there, but when you consider the places directly surrounding it, it's not that bad.  In hard economic times, I'm pretty sure the entertainment industries are having to find new ways to innovate in order to continue to lure in people with higher levels of disposable income. Hopefully that works out for them. If you're interested in seeing it for yourself, the concept officially opens to the public on Halloween.

Now, I'm going to fill out this survey and see if I can't get some bike parking added.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Living in the hospital

Photo: Fire suppression, test valves, drain pipes and gauges. The oft-forgotten crannies of a hospital provide many eclectic industrial scenes to enjoy.

It's hard to get a good night's sleep at a hospital. My wife's doing a little better, but we're not yet sure when she's coming home or what exactly is wrong. Fortunately, the hospital's right across the street from a bus stop, and I made it to work today.

I'll be having some fun this evening thanks to a generous offer from an old co-worker. I'll post some photos from tonight's event and let you know what I've been up to.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Crazy Weekend

It's 4:00AM. I can't sleep. I'm not going to work today, because my wife's having what the medical industry considers a "minor" heart surgery. We were going to wait until Thursday to discuss the treatment options, but she got zipped to the E.R. on Friday and they decided to work on her ASAP (that'd be Monday, today) instead of waiting any longer. She's had a rough year, but it looks like the doctors might have finally zeroed in on what's been plaguing my wife's health. Similar to this photo I took Friday, there's light on the horizon, but we can't quite see what that light looks like, except for a broken, indirect reflection.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Welcome... to the Dark Side

A bunch of us (9? 10?) had a blast at what will probably serve as the last Dark Side Ride of 2008.

This was the sunset at about 7:00 or so.

I rolled up to the start of the ride at 8:30 and cracked open the coffee. I found out that my stainless coffee flask fits perfectly in the spring clip of the SunLite rack.

One by one, cyclists rolled up. Badger, c'Dude, Dave, Mike, Mike and the couple on the tandem who I'm too tired this morning to recall the names of.

On our way to Edgerton we picked up a few more: Randy ( and Randy. Yes, two Mikes and two Randys on the ride. This was about half-way for us.

The tandem kept flatting out. I snapped this near New Century Air Center while we waited for them to catch up. Dave was back there helping them, so we waited.

A heavily-processed flash photo I took at one of the re-group points.

I rode to and from the ride, which added 29 miles onto the 38-mile night ride. This is my bike on the 127th Street bridge I used to ride on every day when I was first getting started commuting by bike and by bus. Riding over it again was like running into an old friend. Riding over it at 1:00AM was a little odd.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Crazy Few Days

This week has so far been one with relatively few miles ridden, quite a bit of bus riding, a little car-pooling, some health issues with both my wife and I, and some geeking out. I took this at Jazz (a cajun restaurant in Midtown KCMO) while dining with some friends, fellow geeks and some fellow cyclists. Odd, I've noticed more than a modicum of crossover between information security geeks and cyclists (particularly the commuting variety)

I'm hoping I make up some miles on tomorrow's Dark Side Ride, assuming weather cooperates. If that plays out the way I want it to, I'll have an additional 55 (or so) miles on the bike, finally bringing me to less than 700 miles from my goal. Right now, I'm just playing catch-up for the slacking off I did earlier in the year.

I'm well ahead of my initially planned miles for October. I left September 475 miles behind schedule and I've managed to close that gap by 100 miles this month and still have plenty more time to shrink it even further. I'm still more than 300 miles shy of where I thought I'd be by the end of this month, though. I don't think I'll log that many miles in the next week, but the Dark Side Ride and anything commuting I do before Halloween will help.

Random Tunage:
Kimberly Locke - I Could
Underworld - Born Slippy

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I don't feel so good.

No commute (bike, bus or otherwise) today. I called in sick, so here's one I snapped yesterday on my way home.

"Dump The Pump" is part of a campaign that's at least two and a half years old. This bus or one wrapped just like it has been around KCMO at least that long.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Like Night Riding? Dark Side Ride this Saturday

We haven't done one of these since The June Moon. These things are always a blast. Think of it like a longer version of the Lenexa Midnight Ride. Last year, this ride netted me my first metric century.

Anyhow, come on out and join us. I kind of just heard about it last-minute-like, but I'm gonna try to wedge it into my schedule.

1) RUSA Article 10 rules apply for this ride. I shall quote it in its entirety here:

For night riding, vehicles must be equipped with front and rear lights attached firmly to the vehicle. Lights must be turned on at all times during hours of darkness or other low-light conditions (rain, fog, etc.). At least one of the rear lights must be in a steady (rather than flashing) mode. All riders' lights must meet the requirements of local laws. A rider is not permitted to cycle at night or in other low-light conditions without working front and rear lights attached to the vehicle; therefore backup lighting systems and/or spare bulbs are strongly recommended in case the primary system fails and cannot be repaired on the roadside. Each rider, whether riding in a group or alone, must fully comply with this requirement. Everyone must use their lights!

During hours of darkness or other low-light conditions, all riders must wear a reflective vest, sash, Sam Browne belt, or some other device that clearly places reflective material on the front and back of the rider. During these times all riders will also wear a reflective ankle band around each ankle. (Due to their unusual seating position, recumbent riders may modify their reflective torso devices to show better from front and rear.) Other reflective devices on clothing, shoes, helmets, and machines are encouraged for increased safety - but they are extra and may not take the place of the minimum items listed above.

Any violation of these night riding rules will result in the immediate disqualification of the rider.

2) If it's raining, it's off. Period.


4) It's at the price chopper at 159th and Mur-Len. Not the one at 151st and Mur-Len, Not the one at 135th and Mur-Len. No. The one at 159th.

5) Carrying extra batteries and maybe even a spare bulb is a good idea. No, really.

6) We'll roll off on Saturday, October 25th, 2008 at 9:00 PM SHARP.

7) Expect to ride about 35-40 miles with multiple re-group locations.

8) Have I mentioned that you will need lights if you're going to ride with us? Glad I cleared that up. We can get separated and it'll be pitch black out in the country where we'll be riding. Safety first!

I love my windbreaker

I always get a little more room on the road when I wear it.

I definitely needed it this morning, too.

Went on the Monday Night Ride yesterday, and my wife actually came and hung out with us afterwards. Her medical issues have kept her off the bike this year, but getting out and socializing is something she doesn't do nearly enough. Social Anxiety Disorder isn't just "all in your head" or excessive shyness, so this is a pretty big deal, and I'm proud of her.

It sounds like next week's Monday Night Ride will be a halloween-themed ride. No, we won't all dress up, but we'll do the traditional ride to Sauer Castle like we did last year.

On my way to work this morning, I surpassed last year's mileage total (4,236) so I've got about 760 miles to go to make my goal of 5,000 miles for the 2008. Things are starting to get blustery, and the threat of precipitation is looming. Will I make it?

Random Tunage:
Plumb - In My Arms
Orbital - Know Where To Run

Monday, October 20, 2008

Another nice morning

Low 50's. A little chilly but nothing extraordinary for late October. Karen and I had to take Turkey Creek Trail from 67th to Merriam Dr. because of a train. I think I need to start getting out a little earlier. It seems like I'm running into the train a few times per week these days.

The waning moon was high above KC when I got downtown. This clear weather's only supposed to last for today. The forecast for the rest of the week looks pretty shaky.

Random Tunage:
Madonna - The Power Of Goodbye
Cranberries - Dreams

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lenexa Train Depot

It was really windy out of the south this morning, but it was otherwise a great day for a ride. I rode to church, then to Border's Bookstore on my way home. I ran sound at church today, and snapped this during rehearsal.

This is the old Lenexa Train Depot. Fortunately, today was not one of those omni-directional headwind days. Getting home was quite literally a breeze with temps in the low 60s (my fave temperature range).

Random Tunage:
VNV Nation - Prelude
M.I.A. - Paper Planes

Friday, October 17, 2008

I love Midtown

You see some of the most bizarre stuff in midtown KCMO. I love this mural.

I finally got the bike back on the road and had a nice, chilly ride in this morning. It was hard to get out of bed. Between being at a meeting until 8pm, making supper and fixing the tire, it was a late night.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Moon Over Lyric Opera

Audio Warning: We like tha moon.

Oh yeah. You can't park your bike right next to City Center Square because it looks trashy and/or like a sign of poverty. But leaving this cart where I used to lean my bike is just fine.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Out of commission

I picked up a new tire, but must have done something wrong (I'm guessing I damaged one of the glueless patches or pinched the tube in the bead while installing).

Regardless, my cheapo old tire levers can't get the EXTREMELY TIGHT tire back off the rim, and my good tire levers got stolen with my Hybrid. I have some running around to do after work anyways, so I'll just take the Dreaded Bus in the morning, take the bus to midtown after work, then car-pool home with my friend after the meeting in midtown.

I'll probably get some better tire levers over lunch tomorrow. River Market Cyclery's just a mile away from my office.

Caving to the bus

A heavy, driving rain came in right after I woke up. I decided to wait it out for a while. By 5:40 or so it was evident it wasn't going to let up any time soon. I took the bus.

Apparently, many others had the same idea. It wasn't just standing room only. It was packed like a can of sardines! After the Mall, two other people got on along 95th street.

I saw one positively horrifying wreck on US-69 and a spin-out on I-35. Apparently, this morning was riddled with bad crashes (including a pedestrian/car incident). Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea to take the bus in the first place.

Random Tunage:
Kaskade - Everything
Orbital - Choice

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Slow going

I took it really easy both ways today. I had to ride to the data center in Raytown. Maybe it was the dimly lit and only vaguely familiar roadways. Perhaps the chill of the morning had something to do with it, or the knowledge that my rear tire is close to bursting without warning. I know the increased amount of traffic lights had plenty to do with it as well. Regardless, I was a lot slower today.

Moseying through quiet suburban back-roads before 6:00 AM is quite surreal. Where the pavement was dry, there was not a sound to be heard, and at perhaps 10 MPH, my bike was also pretty much silent as well. Working my way through Mission Hills, only the occasional car pierced the darkness with its headlights. The people who live here are for the most part still sleeping.

Getting into the data center was interesting:
Any car that pulls up must wait, while bollards are lowered and the arm is lifted by pneumatic machinery. Once past the first set of bollards, they're lifted, trapping the car next to the guard station. The occupants of the car must activate the access card readers. Then, a second set of bollards are lowered, a fence retracts, and finally, the arm lifts, allowing the car to proceed. Pulling up to the fortress-like entry-way to the data center on my bike, however, really got the guard's attention. People don't roll up on bikes too often.

Work went as planned.

Moving from Des Moine to Galveston... on a bicycle. Yes, really.
I met a guy named Barret on my way home. He was riding a girl's schwinn mountain bike with some upgraded components, a nice set of Wald baskets on back, and pulling a cheap kid trailer completely loaded with stuff. To say he was a well-equipped bike tourer would be an understatement. Barret's moving from Des Moines to Galveston, by bike. I saw him walking his rig up the sidewalk of 63rd St. and asked if everything was alright. He was just tired and didn't feel up to pedaling his cargo uphill. He declined to take any of the leftovers I had from lunch (some oranges and a sandwich) as he had plenty of nourishment with him. Some might call him homeless, but he had everything to set up camp and seemed optimistic and upbeat about his journey and new job prospects in Texas. I wish him the best.

He didn't seem like the kind of guy who would want me taking pictures of him or his setup, so I didn't even bother asking. It was a pleasure meeting him and talking for a while, though.

My journey pretty much paled in comparison to Barret's. I spent the rest of my ride home contemplating just how tiny my commute really is.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Time for a new tire

Cleaning my bike off after the grimy, rainy commute home, I saw this:

This tire lasted 3,000 miles. Not too bad at all, considering the kinds of roads I ride on and how short the life span of the original tires were. The whole center line is very thin all the way around and there are a few other spots on the tire kind of like this one, but this is the biggest. This is the same tire that took a nail through the kevlar and sidewall back in September. The Park Tool Glueless patch is still holding well, and the tire is structurally just fine where the puncture happened.

They might not be the best for racers that need to corner or brake hard (as I found out in May) but I've been more than happy with them for their durability. The next tire I buy for this bike will be a Bonti Hard-Case.

Unfortunately, I can't afford a new tire until Wednesday's homeward commute. I may see if I have one of my OEM Tires (Bontrager Select) laying around until then. I'd rather spend the cash gearing up the Goat for winter, so I may finish out the season with one of the gimpy Bonti Selects if I can find one in my pile of bike parts.

Happy Columbus Day!

Good Morning from Kansas City! What a delightful morning for a ride!

Some of you have the day off. I, however, am not one of those. Banks are closed, but Wall Street is open. That means I'm at work. I changed things up a bit by riding up Summit. Summit's not the steepest grade I've ridden on, but it's the most brutal climb I know of that's on my way to work. Riding the Death Slog known as Summit, however, puts me in the position to take photos like the one above from the bridge over I-70.

Somehow, I just know I'm going to pay for that little stunt.

Ponak's on Southwest Blvd:

"Bicycle Parking" while I took the above photo.

Random Tunage:
Active Sight - Take The Day As It Comes
Fragma - Toca Me (Inpetto 2008 Mix)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Construction, trails and commuting news

It looks like KCMO is gearing up to start the construction that's referenced in this press release sometime soon. Southbound Broadway between 6th and 14th is getting torn up, and it could last well into December. The city's been doing the same thing to 10th St, and that's apparently close to being done. Broadway, however, is a much different beast. If you have to get out of downtown and rely on Broadway, I might suggest cutting over to Wyandotte or Baltimore. Baltimore is one-way (north only) north of 11th Street or so, but I often use Wyandotte to get down to 14th before cutting to Baltimore. Both roads are lightly trafficked in comparison to Main and Broadway.

I must say that I like the new streetscape aesthetically, but I'll have to see what effect it has on traffic.

Photo: unrelated construction on Turkey Creek seen on my way home Thursday evening.

Speaking of Turkey Creek, the Turkey Creek trail is getting extended from Antioch to Metcalf by City of Overland Park, then being taken further by City of Mission. I can't find all the details yet, but it looks like Turkey Creek Trail will eventually become a thoroughfare that stretches from 75th and King's Cove all the way to Kansas City, MO.

I like the fact that the trails are going in, and that they're becoming popular among bike commuters as a way to get around. The longer ones in the area (Particularly Indian Creek Trail) often make up the majority of bike commuters' journeys. I have mixed feelings about riding on the trails, but as you can often see from my commuting photos, I do ride Turkey Creek Trail frequently.

Reasons to ride the trails are numerous. To name a few:

  • To get out of the wind or the sun
  • To slow down and take it easy away from traffic
  • To get some photos
  • To take it as a detour when the trail's shorter/easier than the road (i.e. to The Trek Store)
The down-sides of taking the trails are numerous as well:
  • Narrow and curvy paths make it harder to see oncoming cyclists
  • Narrow and curvy paths require you to go slower than you might on the road
  • Often crowded with pedestrians and pets
  • Winding, scenic paths often require you to ride a longer distance than using the roadways
All in all, though, I'm glad more effort is going into the trail network.

It looks like the Let's Go KC bicycle count has been postponed until Spring. This was going to be an effort to quantify the number of cyclists on the road. Downtown, I still see quite a few bikes in use. According to my friends, Midtown and other parts of KCMO are no different. The number of cyclists I see making the trip between KCMO and Johnson County, however, has dropped off severely. In July and August, I was personally running across as many as 10 bicycle commuters on each way of my trip. Now, I always see one or two others, but rarely more than that south of Boulevard Brewery.

The evenings have been really pleasant for riding, but the mornings have been brisk and the fuel prices are at a one-year low. It's amazing to think that I was slightly miffed when gasoline hit $1.50 per gallon. Now I barely pay the fuel prices much attention. Also, bus ridership is waning considerably. For more than a month, many of the buses in my area were standing-room-only. Now, the busses are in heavy use, but certainly not full to seating capacity much less standing-room-only. I'm sure that it's a combination of weather and fuel prices that are driving these trends. Regardless, I think it's for the best that the bicycle tally gets postponed. This is definitely no-one's idea of peak riding season, no matter how nice the afternoons are.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The game of the day...

On the homeward commute, the game was "wave as emphatically as possible to those who honk at you" - There were a few. Kind of odd, since I haven't gotten honked at in weeks. I don't really care too much, as I was enjoying the weather! I opted to believe they were just saying "hi" although the one guy that honked again while flipping me off out the driver's side window after he saw me wave probably was genuinely displeased with my presence on the road. Hopefully his day got a little better and he wasn't 8 and a half seconds late for whatever it was he was on his way to.

I've said it before, but people aren't really mad at cyclists. They're just angry people looking to vent their frustrations. This particular one was honking from 3 cars behind me as I climbed up toward 18th St. Expressway. He gave me plenty of room, he was just hurried.

A funny observation I've made lately is that the bicycle club mailing lists are just burning up with "HEY! I'm riding tonight! Come with!" style e-mails. Most of the regular weekly social and training rides fell off the bike club calendar in mid-September, so who can blame them? It's freaking NICE out in the afternoons! Why waste it?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

4,000 Miles, Finally.

4004.3 to be as precise as my bike computer gets...

I was downright chilly this morning. I checked the hourly-updated
conditions when I woke up at 5, but in the haze of sleep I didn't
realize that the 5:00 stats hadn't actually hit the local National
Weather Service page. I was looking at numbers from an hour ago. 43
degrees didn't seem terribly harsh. I dressed pretty much like I
mentioned in my last post for "below 50" - the problem is that by the
time I left at 5:40 or so, we'd lost 5 degrees, putting the ambient
temperature squarely below 40. I didn't find this out until I got to
work and looked at the numbers. I knew when I left home that I was
operating at the lower-end of the effective temperature range for a
long-sleeve-under-short-sleeve top. I couldn't believe how positively
chilly my arms got, though.

Yes, I had a windbreaker with me, but I figured I'd get warm if I
cranked up the effort a bit. Keep in mind the entire trip, I'm
operating under the belief that it's above 40 and that I've worn this
stuff at this temperature before without a problem.

Karen's been back on the road the last few days, so I'm not cruising
solo anymore (or at least not as often). Yesterday morning, we saw a
car get pulled over after passing us. I'm not sure why. It didn't buzz
us and it wasn't speeding at the time it passed us. Having someone to
be miserable with on a chilly morning like today does something for
morale. Not much else going on today. I haven't told anyone until now,
but I'm planning to ride the rest of the month out in "rain or shine"
mode in an attempt to avoid using the bus altogether. I'll likely cave
and take the bus before November 1st, but I'll try not to. Why?
Mostly for the sake of trying to hit my goal of 5,000 miles for the
year. It's looking pretty bleak unless I harden up a bit.

I've got about 1,000 miles to go, and 84 days of what most cyclists
consider "the off season" left to rack them up. That's 12 miles per
day. Figure that 24 of those days are weekends where I don't ride much
anyways and a few holidays are strewn about as well... Assuming I
don't run any errands or do any recreational riding for the rest of
the year (not likely), I've got to average more than 17 miles per work
day to make this work. Doing some quick algebra in my head, with my
full commute being 29 miles and my average round trip involving the
bus being 5 miles, I need to go bike-only for half of the remaining
commute days left this year. 30*29=870. 30*5=150. 870+150=1020.

I didn't post a September recap, but my September was weaksauce
anyways. This is pretty much where I stand right now, though.

Random Tunage:
Taffy - I Love My Radio
Rockell - In A Dream

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

From the readers: Cold Weather Gear

I've started getting a lot of e-mails from readers regarding cold weather and suggestions for riding in it.

To those who've e-mailed me, I've pretty much covered this in my replies to you.

what works best for me isn't guaranteed to work that well for you. It depends on how hard you ride, how much heat you build up on your own, and how far you have to ride. Your best bet is to experiment. Here's what I use, though:

  • Below 50: A long-sleeve t-shirt under a short-sleeve. Long pants (cargo pants or jeans) over bike shorts. A headband to keep my ears warm and some light gloves
  • Below 40: A windbreaker over a t-shirt, long pants over thermal long johns and a balaclava (kind of like a ski mask) with some light gloves
  • Below 25: A thin coat over a t-shirt, long pants over long johns, a balaclava and heavier gloves
  • Below 10: A thin coat over a sweat shirt over a t-shirt, long pants over flannel pants over long johns, balaclava with ski goggles (keeps the eyes from freezing) and heavy gloves
  • Below 0: A thick coat, sweat shirt, t-shirt, long pants, flannel pants, long johns, two ski masks, ski goggles, and mittens. No, really. Mittens. Keeping the fingers together keeps them warmer.
People vary in their comforts, a lot. You've got people like Kate who I think bundle up quite excessively for temps in the high 40s. Lobster claws? Fritz took this photo last year and I asked him what the temperature was, commenting that I didn't think it got that cold in the bay area.

Then you've got people like Doug who overheat wearing a balaclava (ski mask) even with a -25°F wind chill.

Experimenting is simple. Just keep a log of the temperature and precipitation, then write down what you wore and how well it worked or how badly it sucked. Use that as a guide for the next time. I didn't log every single condition I've ridden in, but I keep track of especially great clothing combinations and I've found that any setup I use is good for about a 10 degree range.

Dressing in layers is great, especially if you have some spare room in your bags to store the layers if you need to peel them off. Additionally, I usually keep one light layer with me in case the temperature drops or I under-guessed the weather.

Your ideal clothing setup for cold-weather riding will probably feel a little chilly when you first get going. It doesn't take long to warm up, though. Dressing too warm can actually be worse than not dressing warm enough. If you're sweating excessively, you run the very real risk of hypothermia. You might be okay while you keep moving, but if you're soaked through your clothes and need to stop to fix a minor issue with your bike, you won't stay as warm and the moisture will quickly sap heat away from your body faster than you're generating it.

Adding or removing layers isn't the only way to regulate your temperature, though. You can also try putting some more effort into the bike if you start to feel chilly, or slow down a bit if you're getting too hot.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Soggy Surprise

This morning's ride in was really, really dark. The 5W bulb in the NiteRider wasn't doing much to help, and even with its excellent optics, the 2.4W CatEye HL500II wasn't cutting it. I was ready for rain on the ride in because yesterday the forecast called for a 70% chance in the morning. I was pleasantly greeted with a lack of precipitation, and 61°F with a wee bit of a headwind. The overcast sky and the sun's current schedule made for some eerily dark stretches of trans-urban velocommuting.

I'm almost certain there was more light coming off the back of my bike than from the front. Pardon the cameraphone photo. Yes, two of those are shining through the rain covers. Yes, the PB SuperFlash is lens flaring.

On my way home, I had to swing by the NQLBS (not quite local bike shop) at 95th and Nall. This is just about as inconvenient a location as can be for me. I really, really needed to pick up a new 15W halogen bulb for my NiteRider though, and Bike America was the only place in a reasonable distance from my route that had it in stock.

To get there, I took Roe Lane from Southwest Boulevard. I've never even DRIVEN on this stretch of road so I had no clue what to expect. It dumped me eventually onto the larger Roe Blvd which most Johnson Countians are familiar with. I was a little bit skittish at first, being that it's pouring and I'm about to try my hand riding a well-known arterial roadway that I've never tackled by bike before. To my surprise, motorists were not just courteous but they were flat-out friendly. Maybe it's just because I was out there on a bike in a downpour with three tail-lights, lots of bright colors and my reflect-o-vest on, but really, the whole ride from 50th down to 95th was great. The lanes are kind of narrow where there are two lanes in each direction, but everyone moved to the inside lane to pass me. When it dropped down to one lane, it was a nice, wide lane that was easily shared. 95th was barely traveled, and getting to Nall was just a couple of blocks of riding.

Getting home was as simple as Nall to 87th, then over to Quivira. 87th street is another sketchy stretch of road I often eschew but I was feeling a bit brazen after tackling Roe and 95th. It was a piece of cake and motorists also were forgiving today.

Despite all the wet riding, the raincovers did a great job, too. I've had mixed results when staying out in the rain for extended periods of time but today they worked as designed. In preparation for the rain that I knew was coming today, I did hack my rear fender back together a little. I'm glad, as it definitely helped.

I'm not much for rain, but today, everything seemed to really go well. I'm looking forward to having some real lumens to throw onto the road in the morning.

Thoughts on the Bike-Commuter Bail-Out

As you've undoubtedly heard, a provision for bicycle commuter benefit
tax credits made its way into H.R. 1424 (The Emergency Economic
Stabilization Act of 2008) that passed last week. The bicycle
commuting benefit has been tacked onto myriad bills in an attempt to
get buy-off on it, mostly because it wouldn't make it through the
process on its own. Some bloggers are praising this. Others are asking
"how do I get my $20?". Regardless, there seems to be a lot of
misunderstanding all over the place. I'll try to clear it up.

Currently, employers can get a tax credit for cutting their commuters
a break. This includes partial or total subsidization of parking and
transit costs. Employers who offer benefits to car, carpool or transit
users can apply for a tax credit. This bike commuter verbiage simply
adds provisions for a tax credit if the employer chooses to offer
benefits to bicycle commuters. This doesn't mean that the employer
will give all bike commuters $20 per month. It means that they will
get a credit of up to $20 per month per bike commuter if they provide
said benefits. The law, as it reads, also states that the company
can't get credit for bike commuters who are already accepting another
form of commuter credit. For example, right now I'm signed up for the
discount bus pass. I'd gladly ditch the bus pass if the company
offered me a locker room and shower as part of a bike commuter benefit
plan, though. This shouldn't surprise anyone, as most employers who
offer benefits for parking their cars or for users of transit force
employees to pick one or the other. At work, I can't get a discounted
parking space AND a monthly bus pass, for example.

A bunch of other legislative riders made it through. Things like tax
breaks for motorsports. The fact is that while bicycle commuting does
have a little bit in common with the financial despair this country is
experiencing (money crunch = less money for fuel = potential increase
in bike commuting), it wasn't added to the bail-out bill for the
explicit purpose of bike commuting. It, like almost all the other
riders, were added in order to buy a few extra votes. The Emergency
Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 couldn't pass on its own, either.
Provisions were shoved into the Act to sweeten the pot for congress
members who would not have otherwise voted in favor. Earl Blumenauer
didn't push for this addition. This was added in attempt to buy
Blumenauer's vote. (By the way, I respect the fact that he still voted
against the H.R. 1424 despite the fact that his bicycle commuter
provisions were added.)

Personally, I'm calling this one a wash. In looking on the bright
side, I do plan on passing this along to the corporate "green team" to
see what the feasibility is. I'll even volunteer to help with the
drafting or proofreading of the policy. And yes, we have a "green
team" whose current accomplishments are things like hiding the
paper/styro cups in the breakrooms so people are forced to bring in
re-usable containers (I use my bike bottle anyways) and installation
of robotic toilets, sinks and light switches...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Mopeds, take-out and groceries

This was fun. I was riding home last night and I saw a chicken in the street. I've seen it before, but I thought I'd stop to get a photo. By the time I got stopped, the chicken had vanished somewhere.

By the time I got moving again, a guy on a moped passed me. I got back on the bike and found out the moped was barely going 20 MPH. A few other cars had passed, and I figured I'd try to catch up just to see if I could. By the time I started climbing the hill west of Roe, he was long gone.

About a mile later, just past Lamar, I encountered him again, idling on the sidewalk. It would die if he tried to throttle it, and he was trying to figure it out.

I offered to help, as I'm quite handy with almost anything mechanical. Upon inspection, I saw a lot of air in the fuel filter and bubbles coming from the fuel line into the filter. The fuel line was resting on part of the engine: A classic case of vapor lock, a condition where the fuel is heated in the fuel delivery system enough to boil, causing a bubble or bubbles that block the flow of fuel. He'll eventually have to move the fuel line, but the best thing to do is to let the whole thing cool down while tapping the line to get the bubbles out. He got back on the road in a few minutes.

It was 2600 night at The Maul again. Among other things, I demonstrated the Balancing Hack using my MacBook as collateral, ha ha. I've done this with almost every can of soda I've ever consumed. It always freaks people out.

After that, my friends and I ate some light snacks at Applebee's and I took something home for my wife (who's finally out of the hospital).

Oh, and this morning, I made a quick grocery run for the next few days' worth of food. We didn't have enough eggs for breakfast, so it was nice to have a short, chilly ride this morning. It made me feel like I earned my morning meal to a certain extent.

Bonus: Kitties watching the chipmunks gather stuff for the winter.

Of particular and interesting note: I never once left the 2-mile radius of my home for these trips. My commute might be longer than some would choose to use a bicycle for, but there are so many places that people choose to drive to around here that are quite accessible by bike. If you don't need to carry much (or anything at all), the bike makes a lot of sense.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Getting Cooler: Pros and Cons

The days are getting shorter and the mornings are getting colder.


  • I have a really good excuse to carry (and drink) coffee on the bike again.
  • If I dress properly, I can show up to work sweat-free but not freezing.
  • The sun becomes a problem. It's rising and setting during heavy traffic.
  • Cool mornings and mild afternoons mean carrying two sets of clothes.
I used my Cold Gear Chart to see what would work best for the 48° morning ride and I wasn't let down. What works for 51° worked great this morning. I must say that it was more enjoyable with Coffee By Bike, thanks to my wonderful bike-bottle french press.

I'm fortunate that I arrive downtown before the sun comes up and blinds me this time of year, but it'll probably be close to blinding by the time I get home this evening. It was nice to get the full ride in to work today.

Random Tunage:
Moonman - Galaxia
Hybrid - True To Form

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Faux Toes

Okay, no toes. But I did see this tiny BMX bike. Aside from the asinine saddle angle, it's actually a nice looking rig.

This cranny has always fascinated me. I find lots of cool little spaces both downtown and in suburbia. This one is in the historic KCMO Garment District. Unlike some of the ones I find, I really can't figure out what the purpose of this one is. As it's some of the only grass in a few block area, local residents seem to think it's a place for their dogs to crap without the hassle of clean-up. In the hot, summer months this pit is raunchy.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

To boldly park where no man has parked before...

Well, okay, I'm sure someone's parked in these places, but when there aren't any bike racks, you improvise!

Case and point: Power & Light District. I went and snagged some lunch with Clem. Yes, there's a ring and post a block away. I was feeling lazy. Besides, it gave me an excuse to do a cyclocross rolling dismount and run up the stairs with my bike over my shoulder while people in general thought "what the heck?!"

Things are changing for the better (and quite quickly, I may add) in KCMO. Next month, we'll get a real grocery store downtown. This is huge, and I personally think will do more for urban revitalization than any amount of upscale madness. From a sustainability and urban planning perspective, this means people living in the urban core will have one less reason to rely on their car or take a bus trip. Basic necessities will be easily accessible without the trip to Westport or North KC.

Then, I got this exciting Let's Go KC e-mail from Laurie Chipman (recently featured as KC's best outdoor activist by Pitch):

Some good things have been happening in our fair city. Hazard mitigation is going on every day. If you don't know what hazard mitigation is, it is new grates that don't eat your tires. The BikeKC plan is getting done at last! I even saw a new grate in my own neighborhood and several around town!

The other cool thing I found out about is a bike parking rack at our beloved midtown Costco at Linwood and Gillham. I was talking with the check out guy there and he said they had just put one in. Some of their regular customers had been asking for one. I was trying to stuff the suggestion box myself but I was glad to hear that other people were way ahead of me.

I also heard that there is bike parking at the midtown Home Depot but I have not seen it.

Just want you to know that requests are being heard so keep asking!
Really, KC is showing some serious effort to make good on their promise to become a bicycle friendly community. Let's just hope that the successors to KC's mayoral throne don't mess it up.

Bicycle racks at a hospital. Conflict of interest or not? After all, the medical industry is making a killing (pun intended?) on the obesity epidemic in America. Olathe Medical Center seems to be embracing this epidemic wholeheartedly. Try as I might, I saw no bike racks here. Shawnee Mission Medical Center and Overland Park Regional both have racks, for what it's worth. Hey, I got to park 10 feet closer than the Volunteer Of The Year. Warren calls this phenomenon "Rock Star Parking" and I'm definitely re-using that phrase as often as I can.

While on the topic of words worth stealing, Bike Snob NYC recently introduced me to the word "clustercoitus" which is also going to find a place in my vocabulary.

Lens flares as I was getting ready for the ride home.

God Bless America. And Long Exposures.

The ride home was quiet and uneventful. I had a good route picked out which involved a little bit of riding through construction. The CatEye HL-500II c'Dude hooked me up with is nice but quite anemic (too narrow of a focus) when you're in no-man's land in pitch darkness. Other than that, it was a great evening for a ride.

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