Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Recap-o-rama (with shoutouts)

I'm going to be too busy to make a proper post tonight because my wife and I are having friends over, but I already know I'll end up with somewhere between 4.4 and 6 miles for the day. By now, it's pretty obvious what 2007 will bring me.

With that, I'll recap now.

My goal for December? To ride 3 singletrack rides. That's it. I failed and rode none of them. What I did do is ride in some awesome snow that was probably more than enough fun on its own, but I really wish I could have hit the trails too. Oh well.

For the past few years, my new year resolution is to take life as it comes and try to enjoy the trip. It's almost like resolving to not have a new years' resolution, but without the irony. It also reinforces my typically temperate temperament towards turmoil. So how 'bout them apples?

That said, in the back of my mind, I was really shooting to avoid using my car -- at least for getting to and from work -- as much as possible. The result of this experiment:

25 days behind the wheel of my car to or from work or bus stop. Some of those days were illness or injury. Others were sloth, and a few were errands that I absolutely had to do on my way to or from work that I couldn't feasibly do with the bike and the bus.

214 days of commuting by bicycle. Most of those involved the assistance of the bus, but dozens of full round trips took place. Commuting accounted for more than 2800 miles of my riding this year, a vast majority of my riding.

Although I typically enjoy every mile I ride, more than 730 miles were ridden only for the sake of getting out there and riding for fun, with no real destination in mind other than to return to the place I started.

Errands accounted for Almost 670 miles. In general, I count errands run on my way to or from work (even if they're out of my way) as commuting miles, so this is a little skewed. These are trips where I left one place to run a quick errand and came back: lunches while I'm at work, trips to the grocery store, pharmacy or post office, and things like that.

My grand total will be more than 4230 miles for 2007. If you would have told me on January 1, 2007 that I'd have more than 2,000 miles for the year, I probably would have dismissed you with a chuckle.

Favorite Bikey-things of 2K7:

  • Shaking some new hands and meeting some new faces thanks to the blogosphere: Chuck, Warren, Chris from BadgerLand, Chris from Olathe, Eric, Jeff, Jason, Keith the Commuter Dude (who still has a picture of my fat arse at the top of his website), Andrew, Mark and probably a ton of others that I can't think of in my pre-caffeinated case-of-the-Mondaze. This also includes all of you who have greeted me off-line in person. I have no clue who most of you are, but I guess you know me. Thanks for saying hi!
  • A few new people in my sphere of e-friends (also thanks to the blogosphere), including but certainly not limited to Richard, Michael, Dan, Doug, and pretty much everyone else who frequently checks in and comments or links to me.
  • Favorite bike errand I ran in 2007: Paying for my cars' license plates on my way to work.
  • Favorite KC local bike information/news sites: and
  • Favorite Bike/Industry news and resource sites: Industry Outsider, Cycle-Licious and The Cycle People
  • Favorite Bike Commuting resource sites: Bike Commuters, Commute By Bike, and Bike Commute Tips Blog
Finally, this morning 2007 decided to go out with a bang. Insane gusts of frigid wind hindered my progress to the bus stop while penetrating my layers of clothes, chilling me to the bone. While I rode, I thought of this baiku:

Arctic headwind of despair
Your breeze chills my core
Gusting twenty miles per hour

Friday, December 28, 2007

More snowy fun and errands

I wanted to get home a little early today, and took a different bus that runs earlier but drops me off a bit further from home. I had to run to the pharmacy, too. I opted for the sidewalk on 87th Street. The snow was infrequently disturbed by footprints and for the most part was wind-blown drift snow interrupted by large mounds of plowed snow at parking lot entrances. The mounds were sometimes 2 feet high or more, but loosely packed enough that I could charge through them. In fact, I actually kicked it up to 400 watts on approach to one of the larger mounds and proclaimed "RAMMING SPEED!" before my collision resulted in pieces of snowpack flying every which way.

The drifted snow was almost as deep as my bottom bracket, so at times I was pushing my feet through the snow just by pedaling.

My errands didn't give me a whole lot of time for goofing off, but I did take my favorite off-road detour on my way back from the pharmacy, and found a bunch of kids playing in the snow. I wrapped up the day with about 8 fun, snowy miles.

Random Tunage:
Massive Attack - Angel
The Killers - Smile Like You Mean It

Funnest ride in recent memory

... of course, that's not saying much given that I've barely broken into 3 digits for my miles this month...

Photo: obligatory timed shot in the snow, taken while waiting for the bus.

I knew it would likely be snowing. Although my little slice of the troposphere was nowhere near as rimy as some of the days we've already had, I opted for the ski goggles to keep the snow out of my eyeballs, and for that I was thankful.

When I got out of my apartment, a fresh, clean layer of powder awaited me. The parking lot was loaded with a few inches of powder: pristine, unplowed, untrodden. What have you. On my way up the Quivira viaduct, I got myself into the zone, spinning away and climbing at a stone-solid 10 miles per hour. I was huffing and puffing through my balaclava, but I wasn't getting fatigued. What's funny is that the cars were having a rough go of it as well, often not going much faster than I before their wheels spun freely against the snowpack.

Once at the maul, I rode around and around until the bus showed up. I made bizarre patterns in the snow. I tried to ride as fast as I could. I tried locking my brakes up and sliding around. I really do love playing in the snow this time of year! It even looks like Warren has seen the light of snow biking.

Random Tunage:
Information Society - What's on your mind (Pure Energy)
Crystal Method - Born too slow

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Slush into snow, playing with Christmas goodies

It's been snowing off and on most of the week. For a change, the white stuff didn't get a chance to burn off all the way, despite temps in the 50s yesterday. They slipped down a bit below freezing overnight, resulting in a gooey, slushy mess on the way to the bus.

I tried out my Specialized Deflect gloves and my new semi-balaclava this morning. The Deflects are apparently made of a kind of thin neoprene or something. They do a great job of blocking the cold wind. I'm going to guess they'll be good into the teens, when I'll have to retreat to thick snow-ski gloves. The balaclava I got is basically a flannel stocking cap with a flip-down scarf that covers your mouth, chin and cheeks. It does little to protect your neck. In the high 20's like it was this morning, this was ample.

By the time the bus had arrived downtown, there was already a nice layer of snow on the ground and it was still coming down. Lorin and I had fun zipping around in the white stuff. I'll take snow over messy slush any day.

In other news, I got my LG Chocolate all figured out. I had to take a rather hackish route to get my contacts moved over from my old phone, fudging around with iSync and BitPIM. In the end, it all worked smoothly. I also picked up the music kit which comes with a data cable. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the data cable will charge my phone without the actual charger brick. The cable itself has a port for plugging in the power cord, so I assumed that it wouldn't charge my phone. This means I don't need to buy a second charger for my office.

Although I woke up early enough to make b-fast for my wife and I while still having time to press a fresh batch of bold, redolent brew, I really needed an extra kick this morning. I redeemed my free drink coupon from Monday to get an uber-ginormous mocha, and it was a welcome addition to my belly.

Random Tunage:
Freeloaders - So much love to give
Lisa Loeb - Stay

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas...n' stuff

Well, Monday was crazy. Tuesday was crazier. Today's wild. Let's recap!

Monday: You all know I fell. Go me. Monday afternoon, I grabbed a bite to eat with Jeff at Cheesehead, a kind of boutique grilled cheese shop. I had the Pizza Grilled Cheese; The Matrix told my brain that it was juicy and delicious -- or, not so much juicy as delicious. I took off from there to catch the Mid-Day bus, which ended up being the absolute slowest piece of motorized transportation I've ever used. I would have been better on a lawn tractor -- or possibly on foot. I was tuckered out from a late night, though, so riding all the way home was out of the question. Christmas eve, I had to take my wife to work at 11:00PM: Mega Lame!

Christmas: I picked my wife up from work at 7:00, then we drove to my parents' place about 20 miles from where we live. My sister, her husband (and their dog, Winston) as well as my maternal grandmother showed up as well. We opened presents, ate our traditional Thanksgiving-esque Christmas lunch, then parted ways. Gift recap in a bit.

Today: My wife had to undergo surgery. We knew it was coming, but I've been kind of mute about it. I took the day off. Without going into details, I'll say that she's recovering nicely right now (taking it easy and sleeping the anesthesia off) but it could be up to two months before we know how well this whole thing worked and about a week before preliminary results come back from the surgery.

So, on with the goodies:
My wife and I got each other new cell phones (LG VX8550s a.k.a. second-gen "Verizon Chocolate"). Mine's black, hers is a dark red. We started dating almost 11 years ago, and this is the first time we've ever had the same model of phone. I hope we don't keep confusing each other's phones, as they're very similar in color. Now I need to figure out how to get it to work like my current Moto e815 for all the bluetoothy stuff I do. I really didn't outwardly ask for any bike stuff. I'm sure to most, it looks like I have all the bike stuff a person could want. As such, I got quite a few non-cycling things. It's not that I don't want or need anything bicycle related, but I made away with some new Specialized full-finger gloves and (yet) another balaclava. At the rate my balas get funky and sweaty, I can't ever have too many. Well, 6 would be more than I could put to good use. This makes 3, and there's a 4th one buried somewhere in the abyss of stuff I packed back in June when we moved.

I'm back to work Tomorrow, and I have a bunch of stuff to do -- with two major deadlines looming heavily on me. I'll probably have to skip the holiday meal at the casino on Friday, which isn't a huge deal in my opinion. I'd have been likely to skip it even without the 2 days I took off this week. There's just too much to get done, and not much time to do it. I work very well under pressure, though.

In other news, I am changing the navigation of the site around a bit. Namely, I took out the list of labels from the side, and I'm replacing them with a very abbreviated list of relevant links. I also changed the color scheme just a little bit so the polls look better (i.e. readable). Look for another poll coming later this week.

Random Tunage:
Regina Spektor - Fidelity
Sarah McLachlan - World on Fire

Monday, December 24, 2007

Initiated to the ice commuter clan

Finally. It took God knows how many days of riding on ice and snow, but I had my first real slip-n-fall. Fortunately, it was a notch before six in the morning and I was in the relative privacy of my apartment complex, not out and about where I'd have to use one of these tricks.

There have been a handful of times when the bike kind of slipped sideways and I was able to just put my feet down and catch myself. Maybe more than a handful, but not more than 20 or so such incidents.

The one time I did manage to bite it last winter, I succeeded in doing an awesome sideways skid in the snow to throw some powder on a cow-orker. The skid progressed a bit more horizontal than I'd intended, resulting in me sliding on my side for a few feet in the snow, before using BSNYC's "Did you SEE THAT?!" line. That was a fall due to goofing off, though, so I don't think it really counts.

This morning, the concrete walkways were moist but not frozen. I'd assumed too much, though. The tarmac parking lot was littered with the kind of crunchy re-frozen slush that gives way under the pressure of your weight. That stuff is quite easy to navigate. The seemingly clear parts weren't clear, though. They were made of the best kind of black ice that sneaks up on you like the tasty burn of a great Thai dish.

Without warning nor expectation, as I turned a corner in my parking lot to hit the road, the bike flew sideways. There wasn't any kind of The Matrix slow motion scene or anything, but an edited-in audio clip of a slide whistle would have been perfect. Mmmph. I rode the rest of the trip as if on a sheet of ice, which means going a bit slower than usual, and making my turns very wide and upright.

A whopping five people were on the bus this morning. I guess most people either got the day off from their employer or took vacation time. Not me. It's another half-day, though. I'll likely end up taking the mid-day bus home, which is kind of like taking the Dreaded bus, but a little bit faster.

Here's a bonus picture. The Maul parking lot has dozens upon dozens of these awesome snow piles all over the place. Unfortunately, they are too loosely packed to conquer on bike or on foot without being Doug or wearing snowshoes.

Random Tunage:
Marilyn Manson - The Beautiful People
Peter Gabriel - In Your Eyes

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The snow hath returned!

I had to drive in it, too. The first time around, it was in my front-wheel-drive Focus with less-than-ideal tires. They're all-season but showing their age. It wasn't terrible, as it had just been sleeting. A while ago, I had to go back out for some last-minute Christmas stuff and there were several inches of snow on top of glare ice. You'd better believe I took the Explorer 4x4 for that. As much as I love my bike, 4 wheel drive on snow and ice is a blast. There were countless vehicles littering the side of the road, some of which had been very recent.

You're not here to read about my gas-guzzling SUV, though, are ya?

I couldn't resist the temptation to head out and play in the snow. Given that it was also supper time, I made a stop by Taco Bell. Hey, it's close, what can I say?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Beautiful ride tonight

The view as I leave my office

With temperatures squarely in the low 50's this afternoon, I decided to put a few extra miles on and rode down to Union Station -- one of the last stops in KCMO before heading back out to the suburbs.

I took pictures aplenty. I'll just rifle them off here. There's not much to say about the ride, other than it was very pleasant. Enjoy the scenery. I sure did!

Descending 10th street

Truman Rd. and Main St.

Train yard between the Freight House and Union Station, featuring the shortest commuter train ever (probably headed toward St. Louis)

Loading the train

The Freight House shops

2345 Grand, The Hyatt (with Skies revolving restaurant on top) and the Assurant Building

Reflection of the Olde Western Auto building through the Union Station windows.

Liberty WWI Memorial

The name of this one escapes me, and it's pissing me off. It's right on the tip of my tongue, too.

A Metro Area Express bus. MAX. Soooo Cheesy.

One of the ubiquitous parking structures found in KCMO.

Christmas stuff, and water fountains. WTF?

More fountains, and a kid considering playing in them. More WTF?

KC Skyline through the front window of a grimy bus

Two Free Mochas!

... well, not exactly free, because time is money. More on that in a bit.

I did something today that I don't usually do: I had a nice, relaxing ride to the bus. It took 12 minutes for an average speed of 10 miles per hour. But hey, I left on time and could afford to just enjoy the sights and sounds of my short morning ride.

The manager was late getting to the coffee shop this morning. As such, Lorin, JR and I (among others) had a choice: Wait for this manager to show up, or walk a block to the other Starbucks. We all decided to be lazy -- mostly for the prospect of getting our caffeine fix on-the-house. After the manager finally showed up, we did -- indeed -- get our drinks gratis plus a courtesy card for a free drink next time. At least they know where their bread is buttered.

I'd better get crack-a-lackin'. I'm in the middle of two projects with short deadlines, and the caffeine buzz is finally starting to take hold. I'd better ride the wave while it lasts!

Random Tunage:
INXS - Need You Tonight
Das Ich - Destillat (VNV Nation Remix)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Product Review: Headland CMT Seat Pack

I'd been meaning to write a review of this for quite some time, but I keep on forgetting. Today, a reader submitted the following quandary, which finally got my butt into gear (thanks, Alan!):

Can you tell me what type of bike seat bag you have on this bike: (link to my profile) I liked the looks of it, and would like to get one for one of my bikes.


The seat pack in question is the Headland CMT (Compression Molding Technique) as seen in my profile photo:

I don't have a better photo of it on my bike, and I can't get a good indoor shot that gives it justice. The one I have is the medium-sized model, which is pretty big for a seat pack -- ample for an urban-assault commuter's flat kit, for example.


The Compression Molding Technique results in a rugged, dense foam pack that's got a durable outer rubberized coating. After almost a year of use, the CMT looks as good as new. The outer coating doesn't absorb water, either. While it's not water-proof, what's inside will probably stay dry in all but the most torrential of deluges, barring complete immersion in water.

On the back of the pack, a plastic strap is riveted, which can be used to hold a belt-clip tail light. This plastic strap, with my Mars 3.0 blinky, broke off on a group ride. I'm not sure I'd recommend mounting a tail light on the CMT seat pack. I replaced the broken strap with a pair of zip ties, which seem to be working quite nicely.

Highland eschews the traditional Velcro rail and seatpost straps for some more intuitive attachment methods. A plastic clip with a rubber strap firmly grasps almost any size of seatpost effectively, while a spring-loaded clip snaps onto the saddle rails. There are other manufacturers using similar methods, but all the other seat packs I own attach with velcro.

The inside of the CMT is lined with a soft padded fabric, and you can see the release mechanism for the seat rail clip. The CMT comes off in mere seconds, just as easily as installing it. If you're locking up your bike in a high-crime area, this is a benefit, as you can simply take the pack with you.

A total perimeter double-zipper and Faux-leather hinge at the front of the pack gives it the ability to open all the way up for easy access to all your goodies:

If you carry a lot of goodies like I do, then you'll appreciate the CMT's cavernous payload capacity. I keep my emergency lighting, presta/schrader adapter, CO2 inflater with 3 Cartridges, a spare tube, tire levers and glueless patches inside. There's still room for some spare AA batteries or my Park Tool MTB-3 in there, but I simply don't have the need to carry anything else in my seat pack. Keep in mind, there's another model even larger than this!

See Also:

Ho Ho Ho!

Photo: Checking my rear-view mirror for those pesky reindeer that just got dropped by a fat guy on a mountain bike. Blitzen just kicked it up to 400 Watts.

This was a balmy morning. No wind, lots of humidity, temperatures above freezing. I had a nice, pleasant ride to the bus, and got a friendly honk from a passing motorist who was ostensibly entertained by my apparel choice this morning. As was mentioned in the Parts & Crafts post, I got lots of comments all the way around.

Next Friday, my whole department is heading out to Ameristar Casino's buffet for our Annual Christmas "Holiday" Banquet. There's already talk of carpooling, but I'm thinking of trying to drum up a bunch of people to ride the bus out there instead of driving, since there are so many of us. There's a pretty good express schedule just for the casinos, and one of its stops is 2 blocks from my office. Wish me luck as I try to initiate the affluent masses to the joys of mass transit. I'd venture to say only a handfull of my cow-orkers have set foot on a bus since grade school.

Random Tunage:
The Postal Service - District Sleeps Alone Tonight
Kevin Saunderson - Powerbass

Parts & Crafts: Santa Helmet

This is the final huzzah for the 2007 Christmas season for me. There will likely be more Parts & Crafts later, though. Don't you worry!

Unfortunately, there aren't many Santa hats made large enough to fully fit over a bicycle helmet. I used small bungee cords passed through the helmet vents to grip the fabric of the hat and hold it firmly to the helmet. Other options are thread/yarn or velcro. It was a big hit on the road close to home and here downtown, as well as on the bus.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Changed things a bit

Adult on-set ADD. I'm sure I have it. Warren's sure he has it, too. Maybe it's not that uncommon. Whatever the case, my incessant quest for a better way to do things has reared its ugly head once again. My profile on the right has a very condensed version of my personal motto. If something is broken, I can almost always fix it. If something works, I can usually make it faster, better, or easier to use... or I can always break it!

So, my adult on-set ADD led me to strip the road bike of its rack and throw the panniers, rack and all onto the Sorrento. Since ice can mean both very rough riding or fallovers, I decided to keep my laptop and gadgets in the backpack, while using the panniers for my clothing, bike tools and whatnot.

There's a little bit of heel-strike with my usual foot position, but since the MTB has platforms, I just scooted my feet forward a bit. I'll have to deal with that issue later. Also, you can see that I got some reflectivity for my bacpack. They're actually LED-illuminated, but alone they're quite reflective as well. In fact, sometimes after I get home at night, I think they're still on because of how the light hits them.

Anyways, it's nice to have a (relatively) light backpack again. We'll see if I keep this configuration around for long, or if it gets on my nerves.

Random Tunage:
Deep Blue Something - Breakfast At Tiffany's
Crystal Method - Busy Child

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Got my panniers back!

... and this heat wave has me chomping at the bit to ride my road bike (nom nom nom.)

The air's been above freezing since yesterday morning. There was lot of melting yesterday, and today the last of the slush has burned off. There are some plow piles laying around, but the roads and walkways seem to be mostly clear.

I had to chase the bus down this afternoon because the driver didn't stop. Once on the bus, someone elusively mentioned this blog. It's not the first time it's happened, but I'm still not used to people recognizing me while I'm out and about. I'm not exactly famous (and have the site stats to prove it) so it's odd to find out people -- real ones -- actually read the stuff I write for fun.

Almost a month ago, I took my panniers to a tailor to get some seams stitched up and reinforced. I figured that I'd get a call from them when they were done, but didn't. Today, I swung by to check on it. I guess they don't call customers, even though they had my number. The shop did a great job, and didn't charge me much for the repairs.

I'll probably resist the temptation to break out the Trek, so it might be a while before I get to see how well the seams hold.

Random Tunage:
Eclipse - Drummer Boy
Orbital - Nothing Left (Breeder Remix)

Advocacy: Bring the Katy Trail to Kansas City!

For those of you who are in the region, please take a moment to add your voice to the petition. From Brent Hugh, director of MO Bike Federation:

KC area bicyclists and trail supporters,

The Taum Sauk settlement, which includes the provision for the Katy Trail connection to KC, has a 30-day public comment period.

Some opposition to the Katy Trail portion of the settlement has surfaced--so if we'd like to see the KC connection to the Katy happen, we'd better spend a couple of minutes voicing our support.

We've made it dead easy--and this is a case where no long letter is needed, but just adding your voice to the chorus of "We support the Katy Trail".

Do it in two minutes flat:

The comment period ends December 27th.

We'd like to get a few hundred comments. With Christmas coming up and only 10 days to do it, that won't be easy . . . so I'd really appreciate it if you'd spend a couple of minutes and also invite your friends to do the same.


Dr. Brent Hugh, LCI #1335
Executive Director --- Missouri Bicycle Federation 816-695-6736

Poll: What kind of winter riding do you do?

Well, results are in for First Tracks 2008. 18 of you brave year-rounders have put dibs on riding to work your first work day in 2008. That's better than I'd thought! Two of you are ambivalent, and that's okay!

About once per week, I try to publish a new poll for readers to take. It gives you guys something to do, and helps me figure out what kind of people actually take the time to read my ramblings. Everyone loves a poll!

Now, let's see what you've got in store for winter. I hope I didn't miss any of the obvious choices. Winter seems to be popular only for year-round commuters, cyclocross racers, off-roaders and occasionally obsessive-compulsive riders who will take the bike out on the road whenever it's safe to do so. A few of you guys are lucky enough to live where it doesn't get too bad during the winter. If you're south of the equator, no cheating by telling us what you're doing right now. Tell us what you do in July!

Most riders just put the bike up for winter, which is fine. Some choose to cross-train at the gym. Others choose to take spin classes or put their bike on rollers. And then there are those of us who just like to indulge. (Mmmm, Pie!)

So let's see what you're up to this winter.

As usual, to take the poll, you have to visit my site if you're going through RSS. The poll will be in the upper right-hand corner.

Be sure to check out the previous polls.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Pedestrian zig-zag of doom, and shakedown ride

It warmed up nicely today. A freak heat wave kicked us up to 43 degrees this afternoon. Everyone, get ready to go swimming!

The walkways were melting a bit, too, so instead of trying to ride the craptastic gutter of Quivira, I took the pedestrian zig-zag of doom. First, you slog up the south side of the viaduct, then you apex it. And on your way down, you cross a funky intersection and then you run into this thing shown to the left, which as you can see is still covered in slush.

You can also see the switchbacks are pretty tight. They're navigable on a bike without dismounting, but only just.

Once you get through the first level, most of the path is clear. As you weave your way back and forth down (or up) this huge ramp, you feel like you're in some kind of a rat maze. A swath of concrete forty-eight inches wide sits between cyclone fence; As you look down the ramp it seems to get narrower. The harsh electrical hiss of the sodium light ballasts grabs your attention.

It's hard to tell from here, but from top to bottom is about 40 feet of elevation. Back and forth, back and forth. Occasionally, you'll get to look in awe at the tops of train cars as they pass almost directly adjacent this ramp. The deplorable din of 12,000 horsepower worth of generators, gnashing box-car couplings, and flat-spotted steel wheels clunking and shrieking on iron rails echoes and resounds in the concrete chamber, shaking your very soul. But not today, thankfully.

The monday night ride was of small turnout. Vivek brought his singlespeed Fetish CX bike, and his friend brought a similar one. Another guy (sorry, I'm forgetting names) was on a mountain bike. I was on the trusty Sorrento.

I had some tweaks to make before I could take off. The rear brake needed tightening. The stem was just a teeny bit off-center resulting in slightly crooked handlebars, and I wanted to pump my knobbies up very firmly before embarking on a ride on plain old clean pavement. Vivek's friend was shaking down the CX bike on its maiden voyage as well. We rode a few miles, mostly just to see a little neighborhood that decorates the hell out of everything (they call it Candy Cane Lane) and then around some other neighborhoods.

Sorry for the light pollution. I had the camera on my saddle in timed mode. It took a picture just as a car approached with its lights shining right at me.

We logged a mere 4 miles by the time we got back, but that's okay. It was fun. Mark (our usual ride leader) was inside the restaurant we usually meet at, having a business meeting. I grabbed a plate of nachos and talked with Mark for a bit after he was done with business. Mostly about the epic Cyclocross nationals.

Next Monday is Christmas eve. The one following that is NYE. There won't be another official Monday night ride until January 7th. That said, it sounds like there might be a pretty serious showing on that first ride to kick off the new year. I'll have details as they become available.

That's what I get...

... for not preparing last night!

I cooked some breakfast for the misses and I, while catching up on news, weather, and all the latest drama on some forums and mailing lists I'm on. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, I started gathering my things for work. I usually don't forget anything, as I've been doing this pretty much every work day since January 1st, and quite often but not daily before then.

The problem is, remembering what you want to take with you does no good if you can't find those things, and with a temperature of 15 Fahrenheit upon departure, things like thick gloves are somewhat important. I couldn't find them for the life of me. I had trouble finding my good balaclava, too. It's only been a few days! What gives?!

Well, I found my not-so-warm knit balaclava, and my mechanic's gloves. Better than nothing, I suppose. As I went to grab an extra layer of socks (I wear 2 layers on my feet below 20 degrees), I found my good balaclava. I got stuck riding to the bus in my mechanic's gloves, though. They were better than nothing, but not by much. They're meant to keep your hands from getting insanely greasy, and there's padding on the palms to absorb the impact and vibration from using tools all day long. Above freezing, they work pretty well, though.

Various weather forecasts are calling for temperatures to climb to the mid 30's, if not 40 degrees today. I guess my mechanic's gloves will be fine tonight. I'm not sure if I'm going to the Monday night ride or not. The park will likely be slushy. Riding on the trails would cause excess erosion and damage. I'll figure something out, though. My miles are lacking severely. I've put on 65 miles or so this month. None of them are recreation miles. I wanted to hit the trails a few times in December, but I don't even know if I'll make that goal.

It's not even about my desire to ride at this point. It's just that I've been busy as hell. 2 weeks ago, the Monday ride was canceled. Last week, there was an ice storm brewing and I was busy making ice tires. Work is crazy. The holiday season is crazy. I have other goals and projects (non-cycling related) that I'm working on as well. I might write a lot about my cycling adventures here, but I'm still a nerd at heart -- with all the "lab-or-a-tory" experimentation and other quirks that come with it.

So, it looks like December is going to be a bare-bones riding month, with very few miles aside from the daily trips to and from the bus stop.

Random Tunage:
The Killers - When you were young
Blank & Jones - Desire (Accuface Remix)

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Dreaded Bus

I took the first northbound D (Quivira) Bus this morning, in the interest of not further agitating my lungs. My apartment is almost halfway between the second and third bus stop on the schedule, and it will stop right there in my apartment complex if I am standing on the sidewalk. Basically, I have the option to use this bus door-to-door from home to work and back, but as you can tell, it's ridiculously slow, landing me at my office near the 10th and Main stop almost an hour after picking me up.

I've said it before, but if I'm on my hybrid or road bike, I can actually race the bus to work and beat it by a pretty good margin. That certainly wasn't the plan this morning. I woke up with a tight chest. The wheezing had subsided, though. My usual mantra is "If I'm too sick to ride, I'm too sick to work" however I could have ridden, I just didn't want to make matters any worse.

I brought my bike with me and still did my morning coffee. That netted me about a mile on the bike. If I feel better by the end of the day, I'll probably take one of my two usual bus routes home. If I still feel like I do right now, I'll use the Dreaded bus and get home late.

The headset refurb worked pretty well. I bought two new crown bearings (caged ball bearings) for a grand total of $8. The head tube cups and fork races were a little bit eroded and pitted. I'll probably need to spring for a brand new headset here in the next year. For the time being, I cleaned all of the races up with my dremel and a wire brush attachment, and liberally applied marine-grade boat trailer axle grease into the bearings. Everything went back together nicely. Steering is smooth as glass once again, and the slop I was feeling in my headset (which I couldn't tighten out without binding) is gone. Bike is happy. I am happy. Brand new headsets of higher quality (FSA, for example) are actually priced pretty reasonably, or cheaper than I'd expected. When this $8 fix bites the dust, I won't mind spending $40-$50 or so for something better.

I will say this, though: repairing or replacing a threadless headset is more complicated than doing a ball-bearing bottom bracket, which in its own right isn't a cakewalk. This side of lacing a new wheel, it may be the most laborious repair you can make to a run-of-the-mill bicycle. I'll wait for a pro like CRUM to confirm or deny this.

Even after not riding much this morning, catching almost 45 minutes of sleep on the bus, and having my mocha, I am still tired. I think I'm going to press a fresh, hot cup of black brew and see if I can get some work done today. *Yawn*

Random Tunage:
Steve Porter - Drama Queen
Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone (Jason Nevins Reprise)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thanks again, Warren!

Quite a while ago, Warren linked to I've never really needed it to find a song I heard, but I knew it would eventually come in handy. Today was the day. I was going to get my new headset bearings and a song popped onto a local radio station, a good song (well, to me, anyways) and I had to figure out what it was. to the rescue!

It was "Shadow of the day" by Linkin Park, for the curious.

My bike is almost put back together. I shocked my lungs on my way home by not having the balaclava over my mouth, and then pumping out about 90% perceived effort for about a mile on Quivira in crazy traffic. I feel kind of like bronchitis is going to set in. That's NOT what I need right now.

I got nothing else. I need to quit goofing off and get my handlebars straightened up and my bike computer put back on.

The knobbies work great, but...

First things first. The Kenda Hammers work very well on slush and snow at 35 PSI. On glare ice, they work about as well as I recall my old knobbies working. What's that mean? Well, it means I didn't fall over. It also means I wasn't all that confident. They slid around a bit. Put mildly, I wouldn't want to have to make an emergency stop on ice. Even though the studs weren't perfect, they really helped during braking -- they slipped a bit as well, but stopped me instead of locking up. I think these knobbies will be fine, though.

On pavement at 35 PSI, they're sluggish and more noisy than the old tires. I ran them up to 65 PSI last night for a bit and they still had a whine to them when riding, but they were more responsive to input and seemed to roll quite a bit easier. It's still nothing like the efficiency of my Forte Slick City tires, much less the skinny Bontragers on my road bike.

You can compare the tread pattern of my photo above to the WTB Velociraptor and you'll see what I mean. When I saw these two side-by-side, they looked almost like the same tire.

So, now for the bad news. My headset is completely and thoroughly destroyed. When I was running with the studs, I felt like I had some serious resistance to turning the handlebars. It would bind up out of the blue. I kind of blamed it on the studs. Last night, I didn't feel the sensation while shaking the bike down with the new tires. It was back this morning. When I got to the bus stop, I lifted the front of the bike and listened in horror as my headset made horrible grinding noises as I turned the handlebars. I may take the fork off tonight and attempt to R&R it myself. Headsets are generally pretty easy to work on from what I've seen, but all the work I've done on them was just tightening and lubricating threaded and threadless sets. Sheldon Brown makes a headset overhaul look easy (scroll down to the correct part), but then again, he makes everything look easy for the most part.

My road bike needs a rear derailleur issue looked at anyways. Maybe I'll just switch over to the Outlook for a while, take the Trek 1200 and the Sorrento to the LBS, and call it a day. Ugh.

Random Tunage:
Liquideyes - Closure
Acquire The Fire - Here I Am To Worship

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New logo for winter

I decided to update my logo to somewhat accurately reflect my take on bicycle riding in the Great Plains during the winter season. I hope you all like it!

Click here if you're viewing this with RSS, or just visit my site.

Ow. W00t!

No, I didn't fall down. My legs burn. The sidewalk north of 87th was still covered in a thin layer of ice, which worked nicely with the studs this morning, but I think they would have been ridable with normal knobbies. The path over the viaduct, however, is a different story. The slush had frozen hard into an arctic moonscape. Imagine technical singletrack with 1/10th the traction. The studs did worse on this than before it was frozen. Yesterday, it was merely difficult to pedal through. This stuff was constantly flailing my bike around all over the place. Needless to say, my ride to the bus was very, very slow. I don't have a proper pair of studded tires to compare them to, but I'm pretty sure there's not a tire out there that would make easy work out of this stuff.

I could have ridden in the street this morning, as there's never any traffic. I simply wanted to put these things to the test. I've ridden 10 miles on the studs so far, and the studs themselves are showing almost no wear at all. I've ridden 3 miles on wet pavement, 2 miles on glare ice, 2 miles on rough ice and 3 miles on slush. It can ride on all of these, but the only place the studs have really come into their own for me is on the smooth glare ice. I rode a few miles on that kind of stuff with regular knobbies last year. While it was slippery, it wasn't impossible. Also, smooth ice is so rare around here that I'm considering writing off the studded tire project. I haven't given up on them yet, but I need to compare the handling to some normal MTB tires.

With that, tonight I am going to scrub the Kendas off in the tub (to get rid of any rubber mold release agent and/or protectant) and then put them on the hybrid's wheels. If I can, I'm going to give them a good run this evening, probably through the snow or slush, just to get a feel for them. Regardless of conditions, I'll be on plain old MTB tires tomorrow, and I'll try to find some ice to ride on for the sake of comparison, but I have a feeling that I'll be back to my usual riding style for this kind of weather very soon. Preliminary studded tire results will get their own post, probably sometime tomorrow or tonight, depending on how much riding I can get in tonight on the new tires.

In other off-topic news, one of my favorite words ever -- "w00t" -- is now in the Merriam Webster dictionary. I don't know whether to be enthused or depressed about this. This bastardized leetspeak interjection never actually stood for "We owned the other team" -- That's a Backronym. It is currently used to express joy. Back in, oh... the late 80's perhaps, "woot" (with o's, not Zeros) was used as the expression of joy when a system cracker (you might call them hackers) had gained root-level administrator access to a system. This was long before there were networked multi-player shoot-em-up games, and before anyone was "0wning" any other team in anything.

Regardless, another stupid word has crept into acceptable use in the English language. Mom, if you're reading this, you'd better brush up on your leetspeak reading sk1llz0r5. Yu0r 57ud3n7z w1LL b3 h4nd1n6 1n h0m3w3rkz0r w|21773/|/ L1k3 d1z 1n a ph3w y34rz. For those who don't know, my mother is a college English professor, who will likely have to put up with this sort of asshattery. For those who can't read "leetspeak", the above jumbled mess of bytes translates roughly to "Your students will be handing in homework written like this in a few years."

May God have mercy on our souls if this madness continues.

Random Tunage:
Snap! - Rhythm is a dancer (Roll On Remix)
Ecano - Run

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Shock value

I just got back from a fun "wintry mix" trip to the pharmacy and to pick up some supper for the misses and I. I'll mention that the ice studs helped pretty well on parts of the sidewalk that were frozen over. I also took one of my favorite "unorthodox shortcuts" behind Lenexa city hall. The ground was soupy with a crispy layer of ice and snow over it. With ragged steel edges pulverizing the ice, I sounded exactly like a snow plow on tarmac as I barged through the pristine passage with first tracks.

Along the way to the restaurant from the pharmacy, I almost got broadsided by a PEDESTRIAN who was running out of a bar to his car. Reason for running: Freezing rain. Famous last words: "Oh S*** dude! I'm sorry! Hey, it's too cold for that S***!" I laughed.

Seconds later: Some guy walking toward the same bar: "Hey Noah!" What the deuce?! It's a fellow (fair weather) bike/bus commuter that I see most every day on the bus. I stopped for a moment to show off my new kicks.

At the restaurant, the bartender/waiter who only knows me as "the bike guy" jokingly asked if I rode today. Since this place is so close to home, it's actually faster to ride there, so I often do, and bring it home on the bike. "Of course!" I reply. Quizzically, he asks if it's kind of slippery for a bicycle. "Probably for most, but I have ice tires. I was on my way home from somewhere else anyways."

I should also mention that today was a pretty heavy "20 questions" day from my "concerned" (read: critical) cow-orkers, all of which seemed to think today would be the day to break me of my riding habit. I pointed to the spiky front QR wheel sitting neatly under my desk. Reactions ranged from amusement and/or awe, to disbelief. Every last one of them felt the need to firmly prod a machine screw with their finger before telling me how sharp the studs are. I really hope none of them get Tetanus from that.

So, even if the tires didn't do any better than run-of-the-mill rolly stuff on the slushy watery roads this afternoon, the ghetto ice tires earned their keep with shock value.

Very few bikes could prepare you for...

Thin ice on top of slush on top of water on top of concrete. Then, throw in some ice divots from people trampling in the mess.

This is easily some of the most difficult stuff I have ridden in. I remained shiny side up, fortunately. There was a lot of rear wheel slip, and the front wheel needed constant babysitting to keep from washing out. I don't think the studs hurt me much, but they certainly didn't help for most of it. I took the Quivira pedestrian path, and once I got to the zig-zag "stairs", I was thankful for the studs. I almost ate it on this structure the first time we got freezing precipitation. The studs grabbed what little ice was present, and allowed me to stop and turn effectively.

The whole ride home was like this. The wide outer lanes were narrow with slush and crap. In rush hour during winter, I have no problems or qualms about using the sidewalk, especially where there are very few intersections and driveways.

We've been hovering within 3 degrees of freezing for the last 30 hours or more. Temperatures are supposed to drop, but I just don't see it happening right now. Are we going to be doomed to a whole week of slush?


Okay, the 80's wants their meme back. That's okay though.

When I went outside a little after 5:00 this morning, all the ice had sloughed off the truck. The pavement was still slick in the parking lot, but with temperatures just barely freezing, there wasn't enough chill to make it stick.

What's that mean for my studded tires? A lot more slushy water was flung all over the place. Other than that, they worked just fine. I definitely didn't need them this morning. It's still raining, and the temperatures are supposed to drop throughout the day. With any luck, the return trip should have some ice.

Tonight, I'll probably take the wheels off of Hybridzilla and put the Kendas on that wheelset. The jury is still out on what I'm going to do, but I'm leaning strongly towards putting the wheels and new tires back on Hybridzilla and leaving my Forte Slick City ST tires in the closet for the rest of winter. If it's really nice out, I have the Trek. This time of year, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have only one bike geared up for bad weather and two bikes with slick tires.

This change would make the Diamondback Outlook no longer a hybrid in my book, and it might mean that the Outlook becomes my primary ride for winter. I'm not sure how keen I am on that yet. In sub-freezing temperatures, I do have better luck with the grip shifters on the Outlook than I do with the RapidFires on the Sorrento. I may go the other direction and put the studded tires on the Outlook, or I may just turn the Outlook upside down without wheels for winter, and swap wheelsets off of the Sorrento. I'm pretty indecisive.

This is only my second winter of bicycle commuting. I learned quite a bit last year, but my whole attitude about cycling is different this year. Last year, I rode some winter days for the challenge. This year, I am riding because that's what I do -- and there is very little that will stop me. If rain at 32 degrees Fahrenheit is a riding day, I don't know what would constitute a non-riding day.

Random Tunage:
Vertical Horizon - I'm Still Here
Depeche Mode - Precious (Misc. Crunch Mix)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tricks of the Trade: Make your own studded ice tires

Okay. I did it. Just because. I found a great deal on some Kenda tires that I couldn't pass up, so I decided to butcher my old knobbies to see what exactly it's like riding on studded tires. This is highly unofficial and there's freezing rain outside as I type this. They'll get their maiden shakedown run in the next 12 hours.

Doing it is easy, but time consuming. I spent about an hour per wheel.

Before you get started, you'll need a pair of Mr. Tuffy (or equivalent) tire liners. I went with one size up from what's recommended because I wanted to make sure the liner would cover the screw heads.

Before you go gallivanting off to the hardware store, you need to to figure out where you're going to put the studs, and how many you'll need. I opted for opposing blocks on the tire shoulder in a zig-zag pattern. I then counted the blocks I intended to stud. In my case, I needed 68 studs per tire. This is a fairly tame stud pattern, which will place 4-5 studs into the ice at a time if I run the tires at 30 PSI or so. At 65 PSI, the studs won't even touch the pavement unless I'm turning. If I want some in the center block, it will require 102 total per tire, but I chose not to go that far just yet. This will vary depending on the tread of your tire and how aggressively you wish to stud it.

When you're buying screws, look for screws no longer than half an inch long (a little less might be preferable depending on your tires), and look for philips-head machine screws that have a flat face but a pointy tip.

You'll also need drill with a very small (less than 1/8") drill bit, and a screwdriver bit for your drill wouldn't hurt anything at all. This works best with a variable speed drill.

Finally, I recommend using some good leather gloves while doing the screw insertion and drilling. Be safe!

Now we can get started!

First, remove and clean your wheels and tires. Cleaning isn't really required, but all of my rolling stock was disgusting.

Then, deflate the tire:

Next, remove the tire from the rim. I really like the Pedro's levers. Note the tasty road grime and soap suds in the bath tub. I'm going to need to clean that up before my wife sees it!

Carefully and meticulously drill small holes in the tire where you plan on placing each stud. Consistency in placement and spacing is key.

Start threading each screw by hand. You should be able to see the little holes left on the inside of the tire from the drill bit.

Once you've started all the screws by hand, use a screwdriver or your drill to drive them in. Do not strip the tire rubber by over-inserting them, but don't leave the head standing out too far from the tire, either.

It should start looking like this

Once all the screws are driven into the tire, install the tire liner. This keeps the screw heads from abrasively wearing into your inner tube. It also holds the studs in place if they start getting loose.

Carefully install the inner tube and studded, lined tire back onto the wheel. Don't grab the studs! It'll hurt! Air them up and test them for leaks. If all's well, throw them on the bike and enjoy!

As with any modification like this, your bike will ride differently, so be sure to take it easy out there. Studs aren't meant for aggressive or high-speed riding. They're meant to keep you shiny side up. Riding with studs on hard, dry surfaces like pavement will decrease the life of the studs. It may also increase your potential to get a flat tire if the screw head eventually wears through the liner.

I put about 3/4 mile on them just now, and they work very well. They're not as noisy as I thought they'd be, and they're not totally slip-proof, but they're very, very confidence-inspiring, especially on level pavement with sweeping curves such as found on the apartment's communal ice rink jogging trail. Even 5% grade climbs and descents, while dicey, are do-able. Full report in the morning.

Arctic Apocalypse is upon us

This morning it was all smiles. 18 degrees but warm inside my layers of clothing. It was another perfectly-dressed ride. There were a few spots of snowy stuff that had been pushed out into the street, but for the most part this was just hardpack snow, not ice. The grimy saline crud on the ground was actually drying up. As I rode through the dried salt residue on the road, my tires became contrasty: a pale grey color for the blocky treads, while the sipes remained black. Under the high-frequency strobe of halogen streetlamps, the tires seemed to dance with a hypnotic persistence-of-vision pattern before me. If I kept a certain speed, my tires appeared blurry but motionless, if that makes any sense. This same thing happens every morning, but it's more fascinating when the tread blocks have a lot of contrast against the rest of the tire.

Some weather outlets are saying 100% chance of precipitation this afternoon. NWS has upgraded our winter storm advisory to a full-blown ice storm warning. A fellow kansan on BikeForums is already lamenting ice woes and having trouble staying upright even with Nokian studded ice tires from this weekend's weather outbreak. They must have gotten it really badly out toward Salina.

We'll see what happens tonight. There's a pretty good chance that I'll end up driving my wife to work tonight and picking her up in the morning. Even though we own a nice 4WD SUV with decent tires for such occasions, she isn't comfortable driving on ice. If she's forced to stay at work late (as she often has to when it's bad outside) then I might not have a chance to catch the bus. This could mean a driving day or just a day off tomorrow.

Random Tunage:
Vengaboys - We Like To Party (Trance 2000 Mix)
Seal - Killer

Friday, December 07, 2007

Two Hundred for Two Thousand Seven (So far)

Some of you have actually been reading since shortly after I started writing. A few of you might even remember this post, when I started counting my bicycle commutes. See, prior to Jan 1, I just rode occasionally. Since then, I've attempted to commuting by bike -- in whole or in part -- as much as I can. Today marks my 200th bicycle commute in 2007.

I've only driven to get to work 25 times. Most of those were just to the bus stop. Two times, I drove because I woke up late. The rest of the reasons were either illness or related to errands that would be impossible or terribly inconvenient to run on my bike.

This brings my bicycle-to-car commute ratio up to a mind-boggling (to me) 8.0:1. In March, I was struggling to get up to 3:1. How things change!

I've got the usual first-friday meeting with some nerd friends of mine, so it's going to be a quick jaunt homeward followed by a drive to the Maul. I'll try not to put the emo kids out of their misery. Wish me luck with that. Hopefully, the joyful spirit of holiday shoppers will provide too much positive energy for their comfort and they'll just stay at home.

Random Tunage:
Fall Out Boy - Sugar We're going down
My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade

HAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!!! Fooled you! Freaking emo trash. I'm actually rockin' out to VNV Nation's album "Matter + Form" right now. A Must-listen, even if it is a few years old.

The things about winter that I actually hate...

Slushification. Is that a word? No, not really.

The temperature upon departure was 34 degrees. It was on its way down, and we're currently just below freezing here in KC. What happens is that it snows, then public works comes out and salts the everloving crap out of the roads, then the temperature bobbles between freezing and not-quite-freezing for weeks on end. The end result is an unpredictable blend of black ice, re-frozen plow debris, standing water, grimy slush, and difficult-to-navigate paths.

Ah, the difficult-to-navigate paths. Yes, people still walk when it's snowy, and they use the sidewalks and multi-use paths. When lamenting the various gnarly results of human- or temperature-altered snowfall, I forgot the icy piles of hard-packed divots amid powdery or sticky snow that you find on foot-trodden thoroughfares. Much like glare ice, the frozen boulders thrown onto the sidewalks by snow plows, and the soupy disaster caused by a day above freezing, it's just one more thing that gets on my nerves. These things are mere technicalities, though. I still love riding in winter, but sometimes I have to earn my indulgence.

If it would simply stay below freezing after a snow, we would have a lot easier and cleaner go at things. This morning, however, sucked. Briny slush gets thrown everywhere and a very thin mud-like solution of road grime, sand, and dissolved potassium chloride forms a messy, quick-drying film on everything in sight.

Why can't it just get cold and stay there?

Random Tunage:
Morningwood - Nth Degree
Prodigy - Breathe

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The singletrack paid off. I made it!

Photo: Yes, I can take in-motion shots in the snow, too! Today's were kind of blurry. I hope you can forgive me.

The "training" on the singletrack really paid off. I needed every bit of that re-learned balance and agility today.

I also found out via a horrible miscalculation that most of the roads I planned on riding didn't have sidewalks, and some were one lane only. It's okay, though. I made it, and that's what matters.

As far as the root canal goes, this guy was a badass. I tensed up but took the novocaine. After that, he was done in 20 minutes or so, and I basically took a nap while he got me squared away. Then, it was a hike up the stairs to have a hole drilled, a ceramic post bonded, and a new cap put on my broken tooth. After I was done there, I really didn't feel anything. The novocaine wore off quickly, and I was able to just depart on bike.

The ride home from the dentist's offices was sluggish but quite enjoyable. It took me a while to warm back into it, but then I stayed comfortable except for my slush-soaked pant legs. The mudflap on the back of my bike kept most of the grime off of me.

Click the above photo or this link to view the whole album. The image with my ski goggles was just for show. I wore them for a bit from the bus to the dentist to protect my eyes from sleet. Once the sleet stopped, I took them off.

I know, I need more reflective gear. My vest doesn't show from the back at all when I have the backpack on. I am still working on a solution to the reflective problem. As you can see, the bike is not lacking in the shiny department.

Random Tunage:
Safety Scissors - I am the cheese
Massive Attack - Angel

It's here! It's here!

Root Canal & A "Wintry Mix"

This should be a fun...

This morning: 2 mile trip to the bus stop. 20 degrees. No problem. Quite comfy, actually.

This is the Nat'l Weather Service outlook for the day. FYI I'm starting IN Kansas City, then going south of it:


I'm leaving at 1:00 or so, which should be right in the in the middle of the "storm".

I'm going to take the mid-day bus to Lamar & MartWay, then ride a few miles to have two back-to-back dental appointments. One with an endodontist (Root Canal!) and then another with my normal dentist (getting a ceramic post and cap put on a broken tooth).

Then I get to ride 6 miles or so back home on what will either be ice or slush. After a root canal. I'll need to check the rulebooks to see if commuting on a mountain bike 8 miles through ice or slush after having a root canal is worth more total points than commuting through 16 miles of foot-and-a-half deep snow on a Pugsley, but I think I might be more hardcore than Doug today. Just today, though. Ye gods, that guy gets a lot of miles.

Now, I'm faced with an interesting dilemma. I suffer from a rather odd and severe case of trypanophobia. I'm talking about not even being able to watch someone get a shot or blood drawn. Even on television. I have to avert my eyes. I can't even stand it when people (even my wife) mess with the veins in the pit of my elbow. Writing about this is making my pulse quicken and my palms sweat. When I broke my face in March and needed a Tetanus booster, 3 people had to hold me down. When I had to get the roof of my mouth cut open to attach an orthodontic bracket to an un-descended tooth, I had them do it with only topical benzocaine. Yes, the scalpel hurt, but it was better than getting stuck and injected with Novocaine.

I know the root of my tooth is dead, and I'd bet most of the nerve tissue is dead with it. It probably wouldn't be too bad. Or would it? Dare I tell the endodontist to eschew the needle and just go to town reaming out the remnants of my tooth sans local anesthesia? My skin is crawling thinking about it either way. What's funny is I don't mind the dentist at all. I've never had a cavity. I had crooked teeth (and had braces) and now I have two gimpy teeth thanks to my bike wreck. Even getting them capped, I had no problem with the dentist. It's just the needles.

Random Tunage:
Paul Van Dyk - Avenue
Dirty Vegas - Days Go By

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Poll: First Tracks 2008

I don't have anything better to call it. This is a "distributed" group commute. By signing up, you're committing to commute by bike (in whole, one way, or just part way) on your first work day in 2008. No excuses allowed. I have January 1st off, but I swear that I will commute by bike regardless of conditions on January 2nd.

As usual, to take the poll, you have to visit my site if you're going through RSS. The poll will be in the upper right-hand corner.

Are you in? I am!

By the way, I took the other two polls down, and copied the results into their respective posts for future reference. I'll do the same with this poll :)

Poll Results:

Bait & Switch

When I got home last night, I was kind of chomping at the bit to hit the trails. My wife laid down early for a nap (she works graveyards) and so I took off to Shawnee Mission Park, gear in hand. It was 55 degrees outside, partly cloudy, and already dark. My NiteRider was all charged, and I had spare batteries for my DiNotte. The trail layout is somewhat confusing at night, so I had the GPS with me. Key points in the trail (including trailheads) are marked as waypoints. Indeed, I was ready to rock.

No sooner did I get the bike off the back of the Explorer, my phone goes off. My wife wasn't feeling well and I had to take her to the urgent care doctor. This is basically a cheap after-hours walk-in clinic. Bait & Switch #1: No trails for me. I was right there. I could taste it. It kind of sucked being that close and having to turn around, but it was certainly more important to get my wife to the doctor. She got the advice she needed and she feels much better this morning. That's a good thing.

I woke up and did my usual routine of averaging the forecast between 3 different weather services. The reults were strikingly similar. 42 degrees currently (at 5:30 AM). Hellacious wind out of the north (tailwind!) High of 42. Low of 26 or so. What the heck?! So, I had to do something interesting: Pack warmer clothes for my ride home than my ride to work.

I stepped outside with just a knit cap, long-sleeve tee shirt and cargo pants on. Should work, right? Well, no. Bait & Switch #2: Between 5:30 AM and 6:00 AM, the temperature had fallen 5 or 6 degrees, into the mid 30's. I rode to the bus stop as-is, but had to layer up once I got to the bus stop. It was simply too windy and too cold.

At this rate, I hope that the temperature doesn't get any lower than the mid 20's for my ride homw, because I'm simply not prepared for anything much cooler than that. They say we have a chance for a little snow. That will be welcome in my book, but with the warm-up later this week, it looks like tomorrow and into the early parts of next week will be full of grimy, cold rain. Rain and temperatures in the 30s are a very real possibility for tomorrow's commute. Heebie Jeebies.

Also, not so much bait and switch but similarly disappointing: I forgot to grind more coffee and bring it in today. I depleted my supply of brown, aromatic grounds yesterday morning. I refuse to imbibe the toxic swill from the communal mud trough in the break room. This is going to be a very long day.

Random Tunage:
Dynamix II - Machine Language
Paul Van Dyk - Nothing But You

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

From humble beginnings, to a humble end.

  • 365 Days of blogging. Okay, I missed some days on the weekend.
  • 556 posts.
  • Plenty of readers... Some of which leave nice comments. Some of which leave snide remarks.
  • A broken face and one tooth remaining to be fixed.
  • 50 pounds of my excess weight left somewhere along the roadside.
Anyhow, this has been a fun year of blogging. I'm glad you all stuck around to read. With that, all good things must eventually come to an end.

Just kidding. Like I'm going to stop writing? Yeah, right!

Here's to many more rants, raves, humor, berating of evil and stupidity, product reviews, and goofy questionnaires. This good thing will eventually come to an end, but this isn't the Bike Of Doom or Ze Frank's "The Show". No. This is not an intentional year-long experiment to see if I can actually keep it coming. Stay tuned, kids. This is just the beginning.

By the way, I added an RSS feed link to the navbar on the right, and enabled FeedBurner. I know some of you are already using RSS. I don't know if this change will affect how you read my wholesome verbiage.

By the way (part two) - Yes, I enabled ads in my RSS feed. I hope you don't mind. Thanks to all of you readers who clicked on my ads, this site paid for one and a half 16-Ounce mochas last month. :P


Last night, I got home via the Turkey Creek Trail and prepared for the usual Monday night ride. I decided I would take the Trek out so that I could keep up with the breakaway that almost always forms half-way through the ride. Attempts to chase them on my mountain bike always end in vain. Not only is the mountain bike sluggish, but I'm not nearly as fit as the guys I'm chasing. Those guys aren't likely breaking a sweat, they're probably just riding at their own comfortable pace. I'm just a wimp without a lot of endurance at the elevated output these guys are cranking. I can hold onto them on my 1200 though, with a modest effort.

I got it down off the wall, aired up the tires (which had both slid from 100 PSI to about 65, not bad for a month of dormancy) and then took a look at the temperature trend, just to make sure I was donning proper attire. Then, my email tab showed a new message. It was the ride leader. No ride tonight. He wanted to know if I could show up and lead anyone else who showed up, even though he announced there wouldn't be a ride. Unfortunately, I don't know the new turf well enough to be comfortable doing that. When people ask where we ride, all I can tell them is "sometimes we go out towards Tomohawk, Belinder, and end up going through Fairway." I know we ride on Mission road for a bit. I really don't pay attention to the roads, though. I'm just playing follow the leader. I opted out of leading, since I'd likely run into some dead ends and be more of a hindrance than a helper to those who thought we were riding.

I already had my gear off of the MTB, and it was getting too late to worry about hitting the trails. I enjoyed a nice evening with my wife instead. Later, I rode across the street to acquire some kind of edible substance, and wrapped up the day with precisely 10 miles. 10 bouncy, cold, fun miles. Okay, I'll be honest. I really just wanted to stay home. In my heart of hearts, getting some miles in this month is really nagging on me, but I really didn't feel like riding any more last night. Although I didn't ride over the weekend, I just felt like resting a bit.

Oh yeah... I measured the Turkey Creek Switzer Extention Death Slog-o-Rama with the GPS last night. On 275 feet of trail, there's 49 feet of rise (957 to 1006ft elevation). I think that works out to an 18% slope, if my math is correct and my GPS readings are trustworthy. The Goat spun right up it in second-to-lowest gear, but it's extremely difficult on my road bike. 18% Sounds about right. I replaced most of my decade-old mathematics discipline with other stuff -- probably a craving for sushi -- long ago. Not only did I have to rely on Google Calculator to solve it for me, I probably botched the algorithm entirely. Someone correct me if I did.

So, to complement the reprieve for my legs last night, the temperature also remained above freezing overnight, which was a welcome event for the morning commute.

Over coffee, I inquired about 26" Flip-Flop wheels. To my dismay, JR said he can't get any through his catalog, and that they might either be very rare or flat-out impossible to find. I am kind of considering going fixed on the Outlook with a really spin-happy gear ratio over the winter. For my short commute to and from the bus, it would make more sense than a geared mountain bike, especially once we get lots of snow and find ourselves in the single digits. Does anyone have a bead on a 26" flip-flop or straight-up fixed gear wheel? I know I could easily go with a freewheeling singlespeed, but I'd like to try it fixed, especially since there are no pawls to freeze in the disengaged position. I suppose I could always go singlespeed freewheel and use one of the (rather hideous and unmentionable) methods to thaw it if it ever freezes up.

Random Tunage:
Daft Punk (Live) - Around The World / Harder Better Faster Stronger (Thanks, Jason!)
Delerium Featuring Sarah McLachlan - Silence (Michael Woods Remix)

Monday, December 03, 2007


While digging through my assorted boxes of still-packed stuff from the last apartment, I finally found my Ski goggles. Oddly, they weren't packed with all of my cold-weather stuff like the gloves, sweats, insulated base layer and all that. No, they were packed with the Christmas stuff. Don't ask. I have no clue why, either.

Last year, I reserved the ski goggles for use in temperatures below 15 degrees or so, except when there was precipitation that would get in my eyes. This morning, the temperature was about 23 degrees and oh-so-calm. Just beautiful.

(edit: I just looked, and that was the downtown temperature. Actual temperature in my neck of the woods was 17 degrees)

I really wanted to see how the ski goggles do with my new helmet, mirror, and balaclava. My last balaclava was pretty torn up after just a few weeks, and it was thicker, made of some kind of flannel or something. As such, it let a lot of fog into my goggles. My new balaclava is made of DuPont Thermax, which is a proprietary wicking polyester, maybe a blend. It's much thinner, stays dryer, is easier to breathe through and seems to stay warmer. Enough of that, though, I wanted to see if it would fog up my goggles.

I have been wearing clear safety glasses in the morning to keep the biting wind out of my eyes, but they seem to fog up no matter what I do. The balaclava, either the knit one, the flannel one or this new one, it doesn't matter. They fog up. Needless to say, my expectations for my ski goggles aren't too high. Much to my surprise, though, this new balaclava is thin enough to allow the ski goggles to seal, and the moisture from my breath stays outside.

I might change my ways. I know ski goggles are a little extreme, but riding a bike below freezing is also a little extreme to most motorists around here. The tint on my goggles isn't very dark. It's kind of a pale olive tint that does make darker objects seem a little darker, and makes lighter object very contrasty. I'd prefer totally clear lenses for the morning, but I'll take what I can get. They're wide enough to not limit too much of my peripheral vision, and I can still see through my helmet-mounted mirror. 23 degrees might be a little too warm to consider wearing them, but I'll probably wear them when it drops below 20. That seems to be when my eyes get easily irritated.

It was a pleasantly warm and comfy ride in today despite the temperature. My clothing choice was supurb. Nothing special on the feet (socks and tennis shoes), thermal base layer top and bottom, cargo pants and my work shirt (long-sleeve rugby shirt) with a windbreaker, ski gloves, Thermax(tm) balaclava and the goggles. I left on time and didn't really push it. It felt very much like I was riding on a nice, 70 degree morning.

Random Tunage:
Alanis Morisette - Head over feet
Nine Inch Nails - Dead Souls

Friday, November 30, 2007

November Recap

I wrapped up November on Hybridzilla, got off at Nieman and did the death slog over the viaduct which I so brazenly conquered this morning. This afternoon? Slow-o-rama.
Remember what I wanted November to be like?

  • Clear 4,000 miles for the year (300 miles in November)
  • Get acclimated to the cold
  • Know when to make compromises using public transportation if I feel like I'm going to get sick.
The last one's pretty ambiguous. I certainly used the bus more than I needed to, but this time of year, it's just the smart thing to do. With sub-freezing temperatures in the morning, and blinding sun in the evening, both directions are more trouble than they're worth for a full round trip by bike

What actually happened in November?
  • I had another 400+ mile month
  • I commuted by car 0 days
  • I commuted by bike 21 days for a total of 268 miles
  • Only 3 of those days were without bus assistance in one or both directions
  • I ran 93 miles worth of errands by bike
  • I went on 6 recreational rides totaling less than 50 miles
  • I cleared 4,000 miles for the year
  • I had tons of fun, and got really cold a few times while getting acclimated
  • I got my first-ever blog comment troll, just a few days away from a year of blogging almost daily. Insults are the best flattery.
December is going to be November on steroids. In weeks, it'll be dark and sub-freezing for both my morning and evening commutes. My bike, my clothing, my resolve, and my lighting will all be put to the test.

My goals for December:
  • Not use the car for my normal work commute at all. Regardless of the errands I need to run before or after work. Regardless of the weather. No car for getting to or from work. This may mean a few trip on the Dreaded bus (the one that basically picks me up at my doorstep)
  • Go on at least 3 mountain bike trail rides. Maybe try another park I haven't visited before. Kill Creek and Blue River parks are both pretty close.

I'm gonna miss Hybridzilla

Approaching 87th street on Quivira this morning, the traffic signals were ALMOST working in my favor. Cars were stopped there. The lights turned green and I was seemingly close enough to sprint and make it, so I tried. I hopped out of the saddle, using my clipless pedals to push and pull at the same time. My feet became a cyclone as I spun out the midrange of my middle chainring. I kicked over to the large ring and kept hammering, clicking through the final 3 gears or so. 25... 30 miles per hour as the stale signal turned to amber. 35 miles per hour as I entered the intersection. About 3/4 through 87th street, the signal turned red.

I eased up a bit and sat back down. The spokes were whistling as they severed the air. The chain whirred away. I clicked down to the middle ring again to blitz the viaduct's apogee with a solid, quick pace to the top. Once I cleared the peak, I had the most peculiar and seemingly ironic sensation: my lungs were burning as they inhaled sub-freezing air. Imagine Habanero-flavored ice cream.

The back-side of the crest greeted me with the opportunity to wring my legs of their remaining cadence juice. 35... 40 miles per hour down the hill with what I'd estimate at about 80% perceived effort while remaining in the saddle. All the while, little Christmas lights were innocently twinkling away, gently wrapped around the main triangle of Hybridzilla's cold steel frame.

As the tarmac came to the level, I stayed in a high gear and kept my speed in the 30s all the way to Burger King, where I acquired loads of gooey carbs. Okay, I actually ate pretty light this morning, but it still wasn't good, wholesome food.

Once I'd scored my breakfast and strapped it to the rack, the hammerfest came back from intermission to make the final jaunt to the bus stop. Panting and sweating, I snarfed my sustenance as baffled motorists looked onward. I chased it with the entire contents of my water bottle, then stood and waited.

The Sorrento is fun in it's own right, but it will never, ever be capable of a ride like I had this morning. Her knobby tires, heavy frame and front suspension fork, and low gearing will serve me well this winter, but the past few days have given me the taste of speed that I'm not going to see much of for the next few months. I'll still break out Hybridzilla or the Trek for recreational rides this winter when the conditions are right. I've resolved that my main winter commuter -- regardless of conditions -- will be the Sorrento. I learned my lesson last winter, and I need to stay prepared for bad conditions.

Random Tunage:
Jimmy Eat World - The Middle
Ben Folds Five - Brick

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