Wednesday, October 31, 2007

October Recap

As you can see, my mid-month average miles failed miserably. Still, with over 460 miles logged this month, I don't feel too bad about slacking.

The lethargy showed on the scale, too. My mid-month weigh-in put me back in the clydesdale club at exactly 200 pounds. I managed to lose some of that, but I always seem to bounce right off the 190 pound mark. So much for the downward trend. I stopped riding with weight loss as my primary goal back in December of last year, so I'll just keep riding along and having fun doing it. It doesn't matter how much I weigh, really. I know I'm healthier now than I've been since high school. I'm just a numbers freak that likes to keep track of as many metrics as possible.

What's in store for November? I just want to clear 4,000 miles for the year (that would mean riding 300 miles), get acclimated to the cold, and know when to make compromises using public transportation if I feel like I'm going to get sick. That's a tough game, because at any given moment I could be forced to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with a hacking, wheezing, sniffling, coughing nincompoop that doesn't know the first thing about courtesy. Twice last winter, public transit riders got me sick.

So, there you have it. That was my October at a glance.

I'm thinking of a change...

I recently bought a domain, I've been volleying on what I'm going to do to it. Initially, I was thinking of moving away from my blogspot domain name, but now I'm wondering if I shouldn't use as a repository for my commuting-centric informative writing, product reviews, advice, and whatnot, and keep this website around for posting my ride reports, photographs, rants, and all that good stuff.

So, I'll let you guys vote. One vote per IP Address. Sorry for the cheesy look of my informal poll. I whipped it together in about 5 minutes at the coffee shop this morning. I'm not trying to make money blogging, but it does seem like a lot of my really good and useful content gets lost in the messes that are my daily rambling. I'd like to make the useful articles easier to find and more prominent. Personally, I think I will have to keep two separate sites to pull it off nicely.

Either way, will happen. At this point, it's just a matter of what I'm going to do with it.

Let me know what you think.

Mid-50s morning

It was almost warm enough for shorts this morning, but I'm glad I didn't wear them. My cargo pants and a long-sleeve T-shirt was just perfect. I kind of suffered from bike hypnosis this morning, and didn't really wake up until I begun the slog up Main street. I'd love to tell you how my ride was, but I really don't recall much.

I do remember that the road bike was a welcome change, though. I wasn't any faster than I have been recently, but it was just nice letting the bike carry the load, sitting in the more comfortable saddle, and having a middle chainring that's geared perfectly for most of my commute. On my hybrid, I find myself switching large to middle all the time. On the Trek, I stay in the middle chainring except for fast downhill sections, and never worry about spinning the middle chainring out at my usual commute pace.

I saw the usual people this morning. We discussed geeky things over coffee.

Random Tunage:
Sarah McLachlan - World On Fire
Information Society - Walking Away

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A real butt-kicker of a ride

Photo: The sun is getting low early in the day. I crossed this bridge just in time to see a really interesting shadow layout.

The headwinds were about as malevolent as they come, and my upright position on the Diamondback Outlook doesn't make it easy to minimize my frontal area. I spent my entire homeward trip struggling against the breeze. Aside from the extra effort, it was a quite enjoyable ride with temperatures in the low 70s. Once I got off my bike, I could really feel the burn.

My gimpy wrist is feeling alright today, so I think I'm going to give the Trek another try in the morning. I haven't ridden it since I fell off of it, which is what caused my wrist problems in the first place. I need to give it a proper shakedown run this evening to make sure everything is still straight and true. Looking at it from across the room, I can already tell that I scraped 4 teeth of the large chainring. It doesn't look like much carnage, but I can see it from 15 feet away simply because the rest of the chainring is anodized. I'll make sure everything runs smoothly tonight.

Despite 2 weeks of hanging dormant on my Delta Vincent /vin rack, the tires are still holding air perfectly, and I know for fact both tubes are running with multiple patches. I'm actually quite pleased with how the Park Tool glueless patches are holding up. I know I rarely have to top the tires off with regular use, but I was expecting to have squishy tires when I pulled the Trek off the wall this evening.

Random Tunage:
Tumor - Come To Daddy
Eiffel 65 - Blue

Wow. That's random. Some serious darkwave followed by some of the cheesiest eurodance stuff the turn of the century had to offer. Can you believe Blue made it to #4 on US charts back in '99?

I carry a lot of stuff.

Photo: Most of the stuff I carry. Not shown: MacBook (Forgot to unpack it), Phone and Access Card (in pockets already), lunch (in fridge) and Camera (being used to take the photo).

Do I really need all of this stuff? Well, I don't NEED all of it, but it's nice to have. This crap is all in my backpack though, and it makes me miss my panniers. I get sweaty back syndrome when it's above 50 degrees. In the colder weather, the extra back coverage is actually nice to have. This morning? Not so much.

Let's work our way down the 3 loosely-formed columns from left to right.

First column: Tire Levers, USB cable and Park MTB3, Dinotte spare battery holder and 2 keychains (home/bike and some work stuff), Earphones, MacBook Power Adapter.

Second column: Spare inner tube and bike computer, Cable lock, NiteRider.

Third Column: Pager, belt, Gerber multitool (all of which are going on me soon) and Jimi Wallet.

Anyhow, I had a nice, smooth ride in this morning. No psychotic and/or blind drivers trying to run me down. Nothing exciting at all. The DiNotte proved itself pretty well today. I switched it to the most annoying blink pattern once I got to Main, then slogged onward. The whole bike coffee club was out in full force again this morning.

After I was at work for a while, I got a text from Jeff, who lives a few blocks from my office. He'd picked up Leopard for me (thanks!) and I got it from him, then zipped around town a bit, putting on almost a mile to go 5 blocks to my HR office -- damn the one-way streets! I saw Michael, a fellow associate where I work who frequents the same Monday night ride I go on.

So yeah, I saw a bunch of friends today. It was a balmy 52 degrees when I took off from home, and the forecast for my ride home is in the 70's. The NWS observations have been showing wind in the single digits. It can stay that way as far as I'm concerned.

Random Tunage:
Wizack Twizack - Jack Acid
Bruce Hornsby - Mandolin Rain

Monday, October 29, 2007

Great evening!

I got out of work a little after 3:00. When I departed, I knew I'd be faced with headwinds at about 10 MPH, but the temps in the mid-high 60's more than made up for it. I took off down Broadway and did the old Merriam Lane to Turk Creek route. Despite the headwind, I kept a pretty decent pace for riding the Outlook.

When I got home, I found the DiNotte waiting for me, which I wasn't expecting until later this week. Giddy as a school girl, I knew I'd have to try it out tonight. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, I made the ride to the Mexican joint that's now hosting our rides. We rode a little extra distance this evening to go ride past an old haunted mansion. Unlike our usual ride, there were a few high-speed runs and some gnarly death slogs. All in all, a good time and well worth the extra half-hour added to the ride. I made my return trip from the recovery ride all alone. My NiteRider started fading very quickly since I used it for an hour on my way to work, and sparingly on the darkest parts of the recovery ride. It doesn't take much to rack up 90 minutes of use. The last 5 miles or so of my ride home was done simply by the DiNotte, which held up very nicely.

Total miles today: a little over 57. That's what I call a good Monday.

Random Tunage:
Underworld - Juanita
Hooverphonic - Battersea

Got my DiNotte!

I got my DiNotte 200L in the mail today, and was able shake it down a bit tonight on the Monday night ride.

With 3 different flash modes and 3 different brightness levels, it's versatile. The beam pattern is simply a wide, sharp-edged round flood with a very intense spot. The DiNotte 200L seems about as bright as my NiteRider Evolution was before I upgraded the bulb (10W Halogen) with a bluish-white color. It's probably a bit dimmer if you use a light meter, but the vibrant color of the beam makes things pop out of the darkness more.

Running the 200L in tandem with my 15W Halogen bulb on the handlebars is like riding by daylight. The 15W halogen bulb is noticeably brighter than the 200L, but with a run-time of merely 90 minutes on a 9-hour charge, there's a trade-off. I'm interested to see how my helmet-mounted solution holds up, especially paired with my halogen.

It looks like there's a lot of extra weight on my helmet, but the mars 3.0 and the DiNotte light engine are surprisingly lightweight. The 4 AA batteries probably make up the most weight, and my initial test with everything attached to the helmet isn't the least bit uncomfortable.

A proper full review is coming soon. I need a week or so to compare this with my halogen setup.

Monday Madness

Blurry Photo: Workers are putting up a Mor(m)on Billboard. No offense meant to members of the LDS. There's a pretty strong following here in KC.

Anyhow, This morning was a bit crazy. I ran across Karen at about 75th. Near Johnson Drive and Merriam Lane, some f'in old hag in a big old boat of a station wagon damn near took the both of us out. We had a green light and were going through the intersection. She turned directly into our path. Had I not hit the brakes, I would have broadsided her. I rolled up along side her, kind of shaking my fist. Her geriatric ass was putzing along at about 8 miles per hour, hunched over her steering wheel with her seat scooted all the way forward. A little yippy Pomeranian adorned the passenger seat, looking at me, then looking at her pet human as if to say "What the ****, Eunice, you just about creamed those bicyclists!"

I backed off and Karen followed suit. Eventually this lady's ginormous heap of crap exceeded 20 MPH at which point I could finally settle into a comfortable pace again without riding next to -- or in front of -- this wretched old hag, who would likely turn me into a speed bump. I swear, people over 60 should have a mandatory eye check, book test, and driving/parking test every year. My grandmother is 93 and does just fine. I've ridden with her and I'm totally comfortable. It's not how old people are. These people definitely need to be weeded off the road on a case-by-case basis. I couldn't reach my phone, but I thought about stopping and calling the cops. It was too late, though. I was working a brisk pace and stopping would have allowed the morning cold to soak into my bones.

As I slogged up Main some 20 minutes later, I saw the guys putting the billboard up. I stopped for a swig of water and to snag a picture. A few blocks north of there, I stopped for coffee. JR was already there, quaffing a steaming green tea concoction. No sooner could I get my order placed, and Bob was there somewhat clumsily dismounting his Schwinn SuperSport, followed moments later by Lorin on his own Schwinn. They basically ride matching Schwinns, with the exception of Lorin's being a few years older and having nearly a decimeter more frame height. As I sat down with my own Mocha, along came helmetless headphone lady and the guy on the black Diamondback Outlook. No kidding, there were six bicycles practically piled in front of the SE corner of City Center Square.

Despite temperatures in the low 40s, there were bicycle commuters out in droves today. I saw a few more pedaling around town on my way to drop some mail off at the local R2D2 Mailbox. Then, it was off to work.

Random Tunage:
Butthole Surfers - Pepper
Say Anything - Baby Girl, I'm a Blur

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lazy weekend

I didn't do anything this weekend on my bike. I should probably take my hybrid out back this evening and clean the grime and gunk off the drivetrain from the past few weeks. A few days, I rode in the rain. The Boeshield T9 lubricant is keeping the chain rust-free but I can tell it needs to be wiped down at the very least.

I wasted my weekend away learning some new skills and playing with geeky things. I feel like I got quite a bit accomplished this weekend, but I'm still hung up on a few things related to setting up this Linux server. I've been into OpenBSD for so long that I've allowed a whole ton of features to creep into the Linux mainstream without learning much about them. That's for a different blog, I suppose. You're here to read about bikes.

Looks like my morning commute will be in the mid-40's, just like Friday morning. A long-sleeve shirt wasn't quite warm enough, so I'll figure something out to warm my arms up. Dare I say I wish I'd have bought some cycling-specific arm warmers? This is the perfect weather for them. I really, really want to make this a full week of round-trip bike-only commutes. I'm also planning on hitting the Tienda Casa Paloma Recovery Ride again tomorrow night. I'm hoping I can wedge 150+ miles in this week.

My wrist is still gimpy, but getting better. I probably could ride the road bike tomorrow, but I'd rather not agitate my wrist until it feels totally healed. So, here's to another week of being alive and pedaling.

Random Tunage:
Chris Tomlin - Not to us
Goo Goo Dolls - Better Days

Friday, October 26, 2007

Supposedly, I am a dumbass...

or at least that's what the guy in the white panel van on 87th street wants me to think.

I'm not quite convinced. After all, he's the one that has 20 ounces of gatorade all over his shirt.

I'm just kidding about the gatorade. I think.

Random Tunage:
Nirvana - Come As You Are
Kimberly Locke - 8th World Wonder (HiBias remix)

Left a little late

I escaped from home at about quarter-to-six this morning, at least 5 minutes later than I wanted. It was a good 10 degrees warmer than yesterday morning, so I ditched the windbreaker and used my long-sleeve shirt. Unfortunately, it didn't keep my arms warm at all, but otherwise the ride in was pretty comfortable. The road was moist for some reason this morning, but it wasn't raining when I was riding, and the moisture was thin and sparse enough to keep my bike from throwing water onto me.

For the most part, I took my time getting downtown. A train at 67th forced me to use the trail instead of riding on Carter to get to Merriam Lane.

I saw a few other cyclists on the road this morning. Karen was out, and right after I left home, I saw this guy who rides the sidewalk with a bright LED light pointed down right in front of his bike. I see him on occasion. Downtown, there were a few more including Lorin and JR, who gave me hell for showing up late. I just didn't have the energy this morning to push it hard.

Yesterday was my first full round-trip in a few weeks, and I wouldn't have thought it would be so bad, but my sit bones actually hurt the whole way in this morning. It seems that riding just a few miles per day isn't enough to keep you from getting saddle butt. I only put in about 30 miles yesterday but today, I hurt just as bad as I did after my century-day back at the end of August. Really, I didn't hurt that bad afterward, but the fact that I hurt at all after just 30 miles tells me that I really need to get myself back into gear.

Random Tunage:
Sunscreem - Love U More
4 Strings - Let It Rain

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Look what the cat dragged in...

On my way home, approaching the brewery, I saw something ahead of me. Something very... radioactive? It was an insanely bright neon reflective vest being worn by a cyclist.

Turns out, it was Karen, who dropped off the planet for a few months to go bike touring in Europe with her husband. I didn't talk long, because I had to pull over for a phone conference with an office of ours in California. From what I gathered, though, they landed in Budapest, then took the long way to Prague. By "Long way", I mean they went through Vienna. All of that on a Tandem.

I laid my bike down in the grass off the side of Merriam Lane to make the phone call, and I hiked up a pretty big hill to put some distance between my phone and the noise of approaching rush-hour traffic. I sat down in the grass with some paper and a pen, relaying my team's findings to the group we're working with out in CA. It wasn't a long meeting, but this little crab spider kept "hunting" me the whole time I was sitting there on the grass. At first, he crawled up my shoe. I motioned at it with my hand and it jumped off. A few minutes later, I saw it on my pant leg. I played with it while the other people on the phone call talked about stuff that's so vaguely related to the project that it should have been an offline phone call anyways. Once the call was over, I brushed my new friend off into the grass and stood up, checking for any of his buddies that might have latched on.

There was a nice tailwind for my whole ride home. It was in the mid-50s when I left work, but had gotten up to 62 by the time I got home. I took my time and took a few small detours to my usual route, wrapping up a little more than 30 miles total today.

Random Tunage:
Laurent Wolf - Happy TV
Orbital - The Saint

Brisk ride this morning

When I departed this morning, it was a mere 36 degrees outside. I wore the same get-up I was wearing a few days ago (39 degrees) when time constraints forced me to use the bus. It worked flawlessly, if not a little on the warm side. For those who care, I wore my chamois under wicking thermal pants and cargo pants, then my wicking thermal shirt alone under the outer shell of my ski jacket, which is basically a really light windbreaker.

Initially, this combo was just right for my lower body but a little chilly up top. By the time I got to 67th street, I was feeling more than sufficiently warm and unzipped the shell halfway. Shortly thereafter, I hammered down the short but steep hills on 67th street, wringing 40 miles per hour out of my poor little DB Outlook. Smiling ear-to-ear and panting profusely, I downed about half a bottle of Gatorade as I coasted through the RRX to Carter. I didn't sweat, though. My clothing choice was working very, very well. I'm highlighting this combo in my log.

The climb up Merriam Lane to Antioch more than chased away the faint chill I had beneath my half-zipped shell. Lots of effort was met without much speed to cool me off, so I completely unzipped the outer shell, leaving just enough zipped at the bottom to keep the shell on me. This also worked flawlessly at keeping my temperature regulated. Down the road a ways, I'd find myself cooling off a bit, so I cranked up my effort a notch or two and warmed into it very nicely.

I beat Lorin to the coffee shop by only a minute or so. I was outside, talking to my wife on the phone and removing my jacket when he showed up.

One thing I did differently today, is that I put the seat-post rack back on my Outlook. I started getting tired of carrying 2 sets of clothes in my backpack. Today, my backpack only carried my laptop and gadgets. My work clothes and some lighter clothing for my ride home are in a duffel bag held down to the rack. This also worked very well and made my backpack a lot lighter. I'll probably continue like this for the time being.

I have a phone conference late this afternoon, so I'll probably have to take the bus home, unless I feel like stopping in the middle of my homeward commute to sit on my phone on the side of the road somewhere. You never really know with me. I don't usually decide how I'm getting home until right before it's time to leave.

Random Tunage:
A*S*Y*S - Acid Head Cracker
Chicane - Lost you somewhere

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Another nice afternoon

You probably have to click on the photo to see it, but my bike computer says it was 61 degrees on my way home. Before you ask: I do, in fact, have the gonads to coast down a hill at about 30 MPH while taking a panda portrait. Thanks to Fritz, I now know the proper terminology for taking pictures of yourself or your bike while moving.

I did the exact same route I did yesterday evening. There's not much exciting to write about this week so far. I'm seeing fewer and fewer cyclists out on the trail. Heck, even the Monday ride I go on that can gather 40+ cyclists in the peak season has been whittled down to under 10 riders. I don't think I saw a single bicycle once I left downtown.

Random Tunage:
FSOL - We have explosive
Bruce Hornsby - The way it is

Coffee Cyclery Cult

I was running way behind this morning. I wasn't even going to attempt a full commute today. I got out after 6:05 and hit the bike HARD, including a hammerfest out-of-saddle experience all the way up the Quivira viaduct and a sustained 30+ MPH after that. Coming down the backside of the viaduct, that's not so impressive. Keeping it up all the way to 95th, though, I thought was quite a feat. I was ahead-pacing a car in the left lane, going about 35 MPH. This car had been behind me in the other lane by about 10 car lengths the entire way since I crested the viaduct. I ended up having no choice but to pull in front of it (still with plenty of room) to make my left turn onto 95th. It was definitely a surreal ride. There had to be some tailwind involved, but even so, I pushed harder than I've pushed in a while.

Of course, I showed up to the bus stop gulping from my water bottle, gasping for air, and quivering as I leaned over my bike to keep me from collapsing. Nothing says "I'm one tough dude" like showing up to a bus stop 2 miles from home, completely destroyed from the ride. I must have looked like such a wimp this morning. One of the very few things that I enjoy about the bus stop is that it's a short enough trip to really wring myself out without the fear of being unable to make it to my destination.

Lorin pointed out this morning that we cyclists have started to overrun the little Starbucks. He used the word "cult" to describe it. Now we just need some kool-aid, kerosene or something else. If you count JR, Lorin and I, there are 3 of us cyclists who hang out there every day, but at least 5 other morning regulars on top of that -- some of which just dart in and out for a quick drink.

The guy with the black Diamondback Outlook that I see on occasion actually said hi to us today. I didn't see him pull up, but he came inside and asked us if the bicycles outside were ours. Then, he asked if we ride year-round. With temperatures in the 30s and 40s this week, I'm sure that he already knew the answer.

Random Tunage:
Kinnie Starr - Alright (Hybrid Toronto Tech Dub)
Binary Finary - 1999

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Turkey Creek Streamway Trail

Tonight, I took the A bus to Johnson Drive, then hopped over to ride the last 7 (or so) miles home partially via Turkey Creek Streamway Trail. The photo to the left is my lame attempt at some artsy fall bicycle photography while moving. You can see how thick the leaf cover is on TCS Trail, though. Anyhow, it's late and I need to crash. I wrapped up today with exactly 11 miles. I really hope this is the beginning of me getting back into the swing of things.

Random Tunage:
INXS - Need you tonight
The Strokes - 12:51

Tricks of the trade: Coping with the chill

I'll apologize here for the length of this article. Hopefully, it's worth reading.

The blogosphere is always abuzz with cold-weather cycling information this time of year. Fritz posted this article about a year ago. Warren recently posted something similar on CBB as well. Indeed, this is the time when the dedicated bicycle commuters begin to stand out from the crowd. By November, most of the fair-weather cyclists have mothballed their bikes here in the midwest. This leaves only the year-round cyclists, most of which are commuters.

Of course, even the most die-hard bike commuters have their limits when it comes to weather. I'm going to take a different approach to cold weather cycling. Instead of attempting to tell you what to wear and what to ride, I'm going to tell you how to really find your winter groove.

Staying warm
Let's face it, there's a certain temperature that my body likes. It's probably not the same as your body. I may have more or less body fat than you -- I'd bet it's probably more. I may exert myself more or less than you do -- thus creating a different level of body heat. What works for me just wouldn't work for you. You're going to have to figure it out for yourself, but I'm here to help!

In our case, the weather conditions are experimental variables beyond our control. Document them, and then document what clothing choices you made, followed by the results of your experiment. Keep track of your clothing and the results for the whole cold season. Each time you go out, see what worked best the last time you rode in similar conditions and look for refinements you can make based on previous annoyances or discomfort. Was your attire too cold? Too hot? Did it offer adequate protection from any precipitation you encountered? Was it just right? Could have used thicker gloves? Write it down!

This also gives you a great starting point to look at next year when it cools off. You won't need to dig through your memory or guess what will work well, although it will take some time to adjust to the cold again.

Here are some excepts from my own log. As you can see, I layer with plain clothes in cold weather:

62F - Jeans, wicking shirt under hoodie. Too hot.
49F - Long Thermals + t-shirt and shorts, hoodie taken off halfway to work. good.
47F/Rain - Cargo Pants, wicking shirt, windbreaker. soaked/cold lower body.
39F - Thermals, Cargo Pants, windbreaker, ski mask under nose. Just right.

Clothing and layering options
Head and hands rarely require layering, but a good balaclava or ski mask can be re-positioned to cover only parts of your face. Scarves and ear-warmers work well in certain conditions. Cover your hands, feet and head accordingly with some thick socks, gloves, a scarf, some ear warmers or a balaclava. In extreme temperatures, mittens or lobster-claws work better than gloves at keeping your fingers warm. Multiple layers of socks can keep your toes nice and toasty.

For the rest of your body, it's best to go with multiple thin layers. Some people swear by sweat-wicking base layers in the winter. If you play your cards right, you won't be doing a lot of sweating. You want to make sure that your outer-most layers can be removed, loosened or unzipped to allow some airflow.

Regulate your temperature
If you're getting too hot, you can either reduce your effort, unzip an outer layer, or remove a layer of clothing. I usually unzip or loosen my outer layer first, then remove it if that's still too warm. Unless I'm riding in the rain, I rarely rely on effort to keep from overheating. Opposite that, I will usually choose to ride harder if I'm getting cold to see if I can get my body warmed up a bit more. Failing that, I'll start adding more clothing to my body.

Stay dry
Staying dry should be your first priority when riding in cold weather! This includes using waterproof gear when it's raining as well as keeping sweat at bay. In temperatures below 40F (4C), avoid sweating as much as possible. When you're bundled up, there's not much air flow to help the evaporation process, and sweat can accumulate quickly. Wet clothes conduct your body heat outward toward the cool air. The moisture closer to the outside air evaporates quite nicely, cooling the clothing off and draining even more of your body heat. This vicious cycle can lead to hypothermia very quickly.

To combat rain or damp snow, the outer layer should be water resistant. To combat sweat, use the temperature regulation tricks mentioned earlier. The tricky part is keeping from sweating when you're wearing plastic rain-gear. If you open the jacket, you'll get wet. If you don't get ventilation or cool off, you'll sweat yourself into oblivion. I recommend dressing a little thinner than usual in rain, then rely on varying your exertion to stay comfortable. Keep an extra layer handy and dry, just in case.

If you find yourself already sweaty, it's best to take off a layer of clothing to cool off while you're still exerting yourself. Once dry, use layers to control your temperature. It's far more desirable to feel chilly for a while to get dry, then warm back up than it is to remain warm with damp clothing. If you have to stop while you're damp (for example, to change a flat), you'll be in in danger.

Finally, I'd recommend keeping some extra layers of clothing at work. You never know when the temperature is going to change in the middle of the day. This also comes in handy if you can't seem to get your clothes completely dry before it's time to go home.

All the clothing in the world won't help a bit if your bike isn't up to the task. Having a bike that's set up for your conditions is paramount to your success as a year-round bike commuter. Everything changes in the colder months. You may find yourself commuting both directions in low-light conditions. The pavement might be dry in the morning and covered in glare ice or 8" of snow for your ride home.

Choosing your bike
Aside from the obvious question on tire choices -- which I'll get to in a bit, the winter can cause problems with bicycles. Rim brakes can become hard and wet, drastically reducing their abilities. Disc brakes don't suffer as badly from this kind of thing. Ice can accumulate in the shifters and cables, causing shifting and braking woes. Snow can get jammed into the gears and derailleurs, causing erratic shifting, skipping and binding issues. Bikes with internally-geared hubs and coaster brakes are less prone to these problems, but far from immune. Cold temperatures can freeze the grease in your rear hub and cause the freewheeling mechanism to quit working entirely. If this happens, you'll pedal the cranks but your wheel won't move at all.

You may consider trying to ride a fixed gear bike this winter if you have one. Although I don't have one, fixies seem to be immune to most of the winter woes I can imagine. You can brake with your feet applying reverse-pressure to the pedals if the brakes fail or the cables freeze. There are no shifters to get frozen. There are no derailleurs to get jammed. There's no freewheel to malfunction. On top of that, you have more control over your traction. Many people don't have the luxury of multiple bikes to choose from. If you're surfing craigslist or bike shops for a winter bike, you might want to take some of these options into consideration. My used hardtail 28-speed mountain bike worked just fine for me last winter, all the way down to -3F. Bicycle choice isn't the most important factor unless you're really in the market for a dedicated winter beater.

Keep it clean
Ice, salt, road grime, slush and sand are the worst enemies to your bike in winter. On top of the jamming and freezing issues I mentioned above, these adversaries will rust, grind, and destroy your chain and cogs. If you're riding a steel-frame bicycle with some scratched paint, these elements can cause rust to form on your frame as well. Make sure to keep your bike cleaned and well lubricated. Find a good lubricant that keeps water and grime off of the drive train. Last winter, I had good luck with a few different wax-based chain lubes. Fenders will not only keep your bike from slinging snow and grime onto you while you ride, but will guide the muck away from your bike's critical drive train components. Sometimes the best cleaning you can do is not getting stuff dirty in the first place.

Keep the rubber-side down
Some people can ride lightly-treaded road bike tires through snow and slush. This carries some merit, as the narrow tires have a better chance of cutting through the snow and making contact with the pavement. Others would rather have wide, knobby tires that can float on and grab the snow, slush, and mud for traction. Some parts of the world don't see much snow, but encounter freezing rain and ice storms where ice-studded tires are practical. Some people can ride on slick ice using normal tires without losing their balance. I can tell you that studded tires can be more trouble than they're worth unless you live where there's a lot of ice. They don't grip snow any better than cheaper tires made for mud. Furthermore, they make for an uncomfortable, heavy, and noisy ride on bare pavement.

There are simply far too many variables in weather, tire design, and rider capability to tell you how to ride on less-than-ideal surfaces. Much like clothing choices, you need to experiment.

Winter is one of the few instances where I condone using sidewalks -- even if it's just to get the feel for your bike's winter handling capabilities. On top of that, you're less likely to be hit by a car that loses control. As always, take extreme caution on sidewalks and realize that cars might have trouble stopping for intersections. You'll likely have to ride slower on top of being more careful and observant. Last winter, I would often pass traffic on my bike while using the sidewalk. Motorists would attempt to use brute force to get moving from a stop, or would lose traction going up slight inclines. This caused widespread traffic jams and backups. It's times like those when it's just less hassle to use the sidewalk.

See and be seen
Lighting is crucial. On top of darkness taking up more and more of the day, it's very difficult to see or to be seen when it's raining or snowing. Invest in a high-visibility vest with reflective material and good, bright headlights and tail-lights. You can spend $30 on a decent set of LED head/tail lights that are pretty good for getting motorists' attention but offer little in the way of illuminating the path before you. If you're commuting under street lights, this is probably sufficient. If you have some dark parts on your commute, you'll likely want to get a higher-end LED, Halogen or HID headlight. On slick surfaces, the ability to spot obstacles further ahead becomes very valuable.

Evolve and adapt
As you proceed through the winter, you will probably think of or see things that will make your winter bike commuting life easier. Ride as often as you can until you can't cope with certain conditions, and then figure out what it will take to conquer that barrier next time you encounter it. Maybe you need to buy a thicker balaclava or some ski goggles to get you through those really bad sub-zero days. Maybe you're geared up for snow but find your attire selection lacking in protection from rain. Whatever the case, you don't need to spend a lot of money right away to get into all-weather commuting. Take baby steps and face your demons one by one.

In closing
The benefits of year-round commuting are many. First off, you'll have an advantage over the fair-weather cyclists next spring. I have also found that in the 15-20 minutes I would spend scraping snow off of my car and letting it warm up, I freeze my tail off and waste a ton of gas. In those same 20 minutes, I can be to the bus stop a few miles away, nice and warm as I push the pedals on my bike. Then, there's the respect (or fear for your mental state) that you get from co-workers as you hang your bike helmet up and dust all the snow off of yourself while asking them if they were actually crazy enough to drive through that kind of weather.

If you're on the fence over whether or not to brave the winter this year, I urge you to give it a shot. You can always retreat to "plan B" if it doesn't work the way you wanted. Remember, there's no shame in admitting defeat against weather that you feel is simply too treacherous or unpleasant. Many people chickened out when the leaves started falling off of the trees!

Okay, who turned the A/C on?!

My wife and I have been letting nature run its course in regulating the temperature inside our apartment. When I woke up this morning, it was a rather nippy 65 degrees inside. I'd almost feared that my wife had somehow turned the A/C back on for some reason, but the HVAC was sitting there, idle and happily letting the temperature plummet. A quick glance at the weather would tell me that we'd dropped more than 10 degrees outside, skipping from the low 50s to the high 30s in one brisk slap from mother nature's pimp hand.

My wife is working a little different schedule this week, so she wasn't home to wake me up. I called her at work, asking if she knew where some of my clothes had run off to. I had trouble finding my below-40 riding gear this morning and got off to a late start. I decided to attempt a full commute regardless of the temperature, but when I saw it was approaching 6:00AM by the time I got to 75th, I pulled a u-turn and rode to the bus stop instead. There was no way I'd make it downtown before 7:00. My clothing assortment would have been a winner for the temperature, so I noted what I wore and that it's a good combination for the high 30's.

Lorin and I took off from the bus and almost ran over a display stand in front of Starbucks where they were handing out DoubleShot Energy drinks. We eschewed it and went indoors for something to warm our souls. On my way out, I grabbed one of the free beverages for later on at work. It should accompany my Caribou bar just fine.

JR was waiting at Starbucks as well. Bob also showed up shortly after I'd settled in to quaff my steaming, sweet concoction. We discussed cold-weather clothing, tire choices and strategy, and various nervous system disorders. Don't ask.

We're supposed to be in the mid-60s by the time I get out of here this afternoon. I brought along some lighter clothing for the trip home in hopes that I might be able to make the full return trip by bike. We'll see how I feel.

Random Tunage:
Fluke - Atombomb (Straight 6 remix)
Nine Inch Nails - Sin (dub)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Finally got to stretch my legs a bit

After riding home and getting some supper, I tossed the Outlook onto the back of the Explorer and took off for the Recovery ride. My schedule was too tight this evening to ride all the way there, and I showed up just in time to start riding. This is my first time riding with this group at the new location in Overland Park, and it offered some nice routes. Some that I've ridden on, and some that I hadn't before.

Overall, it was a great, fun ride. Mark's wife, Theresa, and one of the cyclocross guys (I think it was Russ) took off in a decent-paced sprint toward the end of the ride. The recumbent rider tried to follow suit, and I took off like a bat out of hell for a moment, chasing Russ and Theresa. I don't think they were at 100% effort, because there's no way I should be able to catch either of them if they're really pushing. It was kind of fun, though. I'm always the oddball in the group. I'm always wearing plain clothes and I rarely use my road bike for these rides. The 'bent rider gave me a run for my money on the Fred factor.

If it stays decent out overnight, I'll probably try to ride the whole way in on the Outlook in the morning. It's hard telling what will happen, though.

Random Tunage:
Bloc Party - I still remember
Nine Inch Nails - God Given

Someone has a case of the mondays!

It's Monday and I am cold, wet, tired and hungry. I plan on fixing that last part with a granola bar I picked up a few days ago (shown in photo). I don't eat granola, but this sounded good even if it's 3.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of protein, and 26 grams of carbs all in an easy-to-carry 140 Calorie breakfast snack thinly disguised as a granola bar. If you look closely, you can see some oats peering through between the white icing on top and the layer of coffee-flavored chocolate on the bottom.

I rode to the bus stop and got absolutely soaked. It was 47 degrees outside when I got the the bus stop. I'm in the process of shaking the cold and wet demons right now. I'm still chilly under my work clothes but my feet are still moist inside my dry, warm socks and work shoes. My saturated riding clothes are hanging up as I make a potentially futile attempt to dry them out before I go home.

Fatigue? Forget about it. My sleep schedule has been so erratic this weekend. I finally got to bed about a quarter-to-three this morning and crawled out of bed about 5:30. It's not as bad as it sounds, though. I got an unintentional 5-hour-long nap in yesterday evening. 5 hours is usually a pretty decent night's sleep for me, and I usually avoid afternoon naps for this very reason. I tend to get a whole night's sleep whenever I try to take a nap. Regardless, the whole 2.5 hours of sleep thing is going to hurt me today. I brought some freshly-ground coffee in with me. It might take a few 20-ounce mugs of french-pressed brew to get me moving.

Random Tunage:
Benjamin Bates - On my feet
Lisa Loeb - Do you sleep

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wrenching on the 'Scort

If you've been reading this for a while, you'll know that I sold my Escort to a friend of mine back in May so that I could pay for my Trek 1200. Since I sold it to a friend and I have quite a bit of experience wrenching on the car, I told him that I don't mind helping with maintenance, especially the things that I knew would need fixing soon, like the clutch.

Yesterday, I went out to his in-laws' place to undertake the task. It took close to 12 hours, but we did it. There were a few complications along the way but in the end, the car seems to work fine. Something unrelated broke today -- not sure why, but it should be an easy fix.

Between wrenching yesterday and having family over today, I didn't ride at all this weekend. It's been raining most of the night, and it doesn't look like it'll dry out by morning. Also, my wrist is doing better but still healing, so I'll use the bus again in the morning.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Not quite irony...

While getting ready to depart, I plunged my hands into the bowels of the drawer of infinite t-shirts without so much as turning on a light to see by. The fruit of my first attempt yielded a black t-shirt. Even in the faint, pale light invading the darkness of my room, I could tell. I descended again -- actually looking this time -- grabbing something lighter-colored. I hurriedly threw it on. Then, I fumbled around on top of my dresser for some gloves I'd seen there the night before. I stuffed them in the pockets of my cargo pants, then went back out into the light to the front hall closet for a jacket.

It's not quite irony, but it's close: I'd be riding my bicycle this morning wearing Ford Racing mechanics gloves, and a t-shirt. Yep, wearing a bunch of automotive-centric gear so that I can ride my bike. The gloves are quite comfy, and feel much like my full-finger bicycle gloves. They've got supple leather padding on the palms to help with the kind of trauma that comes with 8 hours of using air tools. They should do just fine to dampen the handlebar vibrations.

I waddled out into the crisp morning air, lugging the Outlook behind me. Despite being 50 degrees, it felt quite nippy for some reason. As I hammered the viaduct, I started warming up. My pace was offset when a Ferrellgas truck hauling welding containers buzzed me. This is the second time in the last week that a truck from this company has refused to give me room on this stretch of road, so I'll probably air my grievance to the company later on today. I can't say for sure, but it was likely the same driver both times. Next time I see the truck, I'll just start riding the left tire rut, too. If "as far right as is safe and practical" means forcing a 12-ton behemoth to give me some ****ing room, then the left rut IS as far right as is safe and practical.

UPDATE: I talked to the driver's manager. My story didn't come as a surprise to him, but he was very apologetic and seemed livid at the whole situation. I told the manager to make sure that the driver doesn't ACTUALLY hit me angrily next time he sees me. That's my way of saying "fire this guy or switch him to a new route, please." I'm not beyond using a road flare next time I see this guy -- only so he can see me, of course. One does have to wonder, though, what a road flare made of incendiary magnesium would do if it accidentally slipped out of my hand and a foot away onto the flat bed with a bunch of welding containers as I dive off the bike and behind the concrete barricade that demarcates the sidewalk of the viaduct. Fortunately, the world will never know.

While drinking coffee with Lorin and JR, I saw the Diamondback I parked next to earlier this week. The rider now has a gigantic basket on the front, which anchors to the fork. It looks like it could carry three full paper grocery sacks. This guy means business!

Random Tunage:
Steve Porter - Vodka Cranberries
Hybrid - Dreaming Your Dreams

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'm missing my usual ride

This wrist thing is getting on my nerves. This afternoon would have been beautiful weather for riding all the way home, save for the wind. Anyhow, I'm getting stir crazy. Single digit miles every day isn't cutting it, but I'm not healed up enough to ride much further. So, I stick with the bus for one more day, and hope for some healing this weekend.

For some reason, climbing the Quivira viaduct has been into the wind on both legs of my commute every day this week, and I have no idea why. At first it was annoying, but with as short of a distance as I have to ride, I've been taking the opportunity to wear myself out hammering it. This evening's ride up it was pretty fast and fun.

Random Tunage:
Spirallianz - Heiterheute
Mittelstandskinder Ohne Strom - Timing


Photo: I got bored last night and found out that with nothing more than a soda can and some scissors or a knife of some sort, I can defeat my cable lock in about 2 minutes without destroying or damaging it. I was just goofing off, I didn't lose my keys or anything. I guess it's a good thing that I use a high-quality lock and chain when I'm downtown.

There's not a lot worth mentioning today. My wrist isn't any better than it was yesterday, so I'm still on the Outlook and using the bus. I ate a huge breakfast but nothing compared to Hardees' new 920-Calorie artery-clogging breakfast burrito. I had some coffee with friends before work, then came to the salt mine to make a few bucks. Just another day at work.

Random Tunage:
Way Out West - Secret
Orbital - Semi Detached

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Grocery bags: Just a sack, or a way of life?

Right now, downtown KC is simply drenched. Although my Kensington Contour backpack has never given me problems with keeping the laptop dry, I usually end up wrapping all of my gadgets in grocery bags before riding in the rain. When it's wet like this, these mysterious bags become much more than just a thin sack to carry stuff home.

My wife and I re-use the heck out of these bags. Three or four of them crinkle up quite nicely into a small space, so I keep them with me all the time. I can re-use them for a month or more. We also line our small trash bins with them, transport goodies to work in them, and various other things.

Although nothing you get at a store is genuinely "free", there's no line-item charge for things like grocery bags. The cost is just built into the price of goods at the store. That said, they're just about the most inexpensive way to schlep stuff around and keep rain out of your gadgets.

Random Tunage:
She Wants Revenge - Tear you apart
Morningwood - Nth Degree

The little storm that couldn't

The weather folks were tracking a storm that was headed right for my little suburb this morning. They drew a little cone on the map with a projected storm path and time markers for the little towns in its path. They marketed it as an "intense" storm and mentioned that it wasn't severe, but would carry rain, lightning, and possibly hail with it. ETA for Lenexa, KS: 6:10 AM.

I left a little after 6:00. It usually takes me about 8 minutes to ride to the express bus stop. Upon leaving, I encountered some fierce headwinds out of the south, so it took me a bit longer than usual to get to the bus. Raging, furious lightning was approaching from the west as I rode my vulnerable steel frame across the Quivira viaduct, suspended 40 feet in the air on a concrete structure. I felt like a sitting duck. I pushed against the breeze and back to ground level just as rain drops started pelting me. My weekly USNO-synchronized cyclometer's clock read 6:09. Not a bad guess by the meteorologist.

I fought through the rain for about a minute, and heard thunder, but not from dangerously close strikes. Then, nothing. The storm seemingly dissipated or moved on. I was actually disappointed since I had geared up as much as I do for rain above 55 degrees or so. Supposedly, there's a possibility of more violent storms later today. We'll see how that pans out.

I walked with Lorin to grab some coffee after we got downtown. Along the way, a visitor from San Diego stopped us and asked if bicycles just ride in traffic in KC. I guess I was the first cyclist this person had seen out here so far. Most of the big cities in California have bicycle lanes, so riding in traffic was a totally foreign concept. Welcome to Kansas City, a true bastion of progress. Sheesh.

Random Tunage:
Orbital - Walk Now
Moby - Porcelain (Rob D Remix)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Shakedown run successful

I've done shakedown runs for various reasons. Usually it's after I change some piece of safety or drivetrain equipment. This time, it was to see if my wrist was up to the challenge of riding. It still hurts to rest a lot of weight on my wrist or to apply torque parallel to the plane of my palm. I hung up my Trek 1200. The drop bars are a recipe for disaster right now, requiring both weight on my wrists and the kind of torque that hurts.

The Sorrento has low handlebars and a shallow cockpit. The flat bars would keep the torque off my wrist, but pressing the thumb triggers would require some of that torque. Since the bars are so low, I'd be slouched over and resting on my wrists. Scratch that idea.

The Outlook has a deeper cockpit, a longer top tube, and handlebars that are an inch and a half higher than the seat. This gives me the ability to hunker down if I need to, but allows me to feel very natural in a nearly bolt-upright position. You would figure that the twist-grip shifters on the outlook would further agitate my wrists, but they handle that kind of torque just fine, at least just standing over the bike and playing with the shifters and brakes before trying to ride.

I had some errands to run that would take me all along 87th street, and it was already dark. I threw on the backpack and some lighting and hit the road. I picked up some supper, then rode to a grocery store to pick up something for my wife. They didn't have what she was looking for, so I rode past my apartment the other way to another grocery store. All in all, I rode a bit more than 7 miles. 87th street is relatively flat: About 100 feet of total climb for my entire trip, and a maximum deviation of 28 feet total. After 8pm or so, 87th street isn't that much of a death trap, and it was an enjoyable ride. The Outlook happily rocketed to 30 MPH (my top speed for the night) upon request. My wrist didn't give me any problems.

I'm not going to log any hard miles for a while. If I get hurt, I'd like to be in walking distance to somewhere, and that isn't guaranteed on my full route. I'll be riding to the Express bus tomorrow.

Random Tunage:
Peter Gabriel - In You Eyes
Information Society - What's on your mind

Happy Blog Apathy Day!

So, today is so-called "blog action day". What's Blog Action Day? " What would happen if every blog published posts discussing the same issue, on the same day? One issue. One day. Thousands of voices. "

Wow. Must be some issue. What's the issue, you ask? The Environment.

It should come as no surprise that many of my bicycle-blogging interweb friends are partaking. Bicycling is, after all, good for the environment. Being eco-friendly is probably one of the major driving forces behind why some bicycle commuters ride their bikes every day.

So why, then, am I calling it Blog Apathy Day? That's a term I made up, but I'd bet it's already been used before. Apathy is defined as "lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving or exciting." I don't think I could have worded it better myself.

It's not that I hate the environment. I just don't get excited about saving it one pedal-stroke at a time. More to the point: I don't like snobby eco-zealots telling people what to do. It's one thing to be environmentally conscious. If you want to eat organic foods, use rain barrels, recycle, shop from outlets that sell locally-grown foods, use a bicycle, walk, or take public transportation to reduce your impact on the world, then good for you. I'm behind you all the way, and happy that you're leading by example! If you overtly criticize people for their choices that happen to conflict with your world view or relentlessly dwell upon that example that you're setting, coaxing or chiding others into following suit? That's a different story. I don't hate you, but I hate what you're doing. It's not limited to the environment, but today the nosy, boisterous environmentalists are in my cross-hairs.

Now, I don't often get accused of being a polluter. In fact, I don't think anyone's ever called me onto the carpet for not being green enough. I don't litter. I don't recycle every little thing, either. At work, I'll use the recycle bins for cans and paper because they're present and convenient. I put stuff in the bins. Someone else hauls them off. There's no easily-accessible recycling facility at my apartment complex, so I simply don't hassle with it. And before you ask: NO, I do not plan on complaining to my property management company about it. The wonderful thing about apathy is that I simply don't care enough to get worked up over it.

I love driving, but I hate driving in rush hour traffic. I think bicycling is just about the most fun a person can have on wheels (aside from motocross or WRC Racing), and I ride because it's fun. I ride to work because not only is it fun, it's less stressful and much cheaper than driving. When I take the bus like I did this morning, it's less stressful and expensive than driving, but still more boring than fun.

So, happy Blog Apathy Day, folks. While I recognize that my bicycle commuting has some infinitesimal impact on the environment and crowded streets, those are merely inconsequential side effects of my fun time. If someone thanks me for being green, I'll acknowledge it, but I'm not doing it for show, nor am I doing it to set an example for a new era of environmentalists. Bicycles are awesome, and I wish more people would find a reason to ride them. I don't care if it's the environment, enjoying the scenery, spending time with the family, saving money, staying healthy, having fun, or just enjoying the inner peace and awesomeness that comes with getting around under your own power. As far as I'm concerned, that's for each individual cyclist to dwell on and decide. As for me? I'd rather not meddle in the business of others.

I'm doing this only for my sanity, my enjoyment, my health and my wallet. Nothing else.

Let the flaming comments begin!

Update: I just now realize the irony that in making this post, I am participating by "post[ing] about the environment in [my] own way and relating to [my] own topic." (a quote from the blog action day website)

The "D"readed Bus.

My little part of suburbia only has a dozen or so bus routes, so they can get away with labeling them with letters. The KC Metro buses are more numerous by far, and are given 3 to 4 digit numbers. Anyhow, I used to take the "A" bus when I'd visit my wife at the college after work, and that was a long, slow ride. It was freaky-slow. "How could it be this slow?!" slow. "No motorized transportation could possibly be slower than this" slow. Then, I moved to Lenexa and I tried the "D" bus. Slow had a new definition.

No, the D bus doesn't take the most direct route, so it probably travels at least 20-25 miles after reaching my apartment to get me to my destination despite me having a 14 mile ride by bike via the most direct non-highway route I could find. Still, the D bus takes about an hour to complete the trip from the time it picks me up to the time it drops me off. I often pull out of my parking lot just a few minutes before the D bus passes by. It usually passes me before I even get a mile into my trip. I can usually keep up with it for about 2-3 miles before it drops me on the hill slog going north on Nieman. I'll often play leap-frog with it. It will stop for passengers and I'll pass it by. A minute or two later, it passes me, then stops up the road a bit. I usually take the left lane and stay there while this is going on. The bus and my bike are usually the only two northbound vehicles in sight.

Then, I break away at 67th street and take Carter to Merriam Lane while it continues north to Johnson drive, and goes east to the bus transfer station. In one final display of my intent to get downtown as fast as possible, I cross either directly in front of or behind the bus as I ride Merriam Lane through Johnson Drive. Once downtown, I can go in, grab a coffee, drink it, and come back out to wave at the same bus as it passes by. That, my friends, is how slow the "D" bus is. Add to that a slightly unpredictable schedule (driver may be a few minutes earlier or later than the posted times), and you've just figured out why I call this the Dreaded bus.

My wrist is still in pain and I don't feel like irritating it further. There is no bike, only Zuul. Now where's my coffee, darnit!?

Random Tunage:
Way Out West - Don't Forget Me (W.O.W. Dust Biter Mix)
Future Sound of London - We Have Explosive

Monday, October 15, 2007


On my way home this evening, my front tire washed out, flinging me into a curb along Quivira Rd. Front wheel is a tiny bit out of true and there's a few scrapes on the hoods, levers. My saddle was also twisted about 15 degrees. Other than that, bike seems okay. My wrists, though, are on fire. The left one will be okay, but my right one is sprained really, really badly. It's possibly fractured. I'm going to keep it cold and see if the swelling goes down. It's not displaying the classic signs of a fractured wrist, but I can't even lift my laptop up with my right hand.

I'm fortunate to be ambidextrous. Actually, I was born a lefty but forced into a right-handedness by my kindergarten teacher. I kept most of my left hand motor skill, though.

So, if it's not any better tomorrow, I'll probably go see a physician. I may end up walking to the Dreaded bus tomorrow.

I Trekked to the bus stop

The storm that was making its way across the midwest ended up dissipating and weakening quite a bit overnight, but not before dumping some moisture on my little part of the universe. With rain-soaked roads, I didn't feel like riding all the way downtown. Glare from oncoming cars makes me harder to see, and I just don't like getting wet and staying that way for an hour or so on my bike. I ended up riding the Trek to the bus stop. I also used my backpack instead of the panniers for reasons too trivial to discuss here.

I dressed a little cooler this morning. It's not quite 60 degrees but I stayed with shorts and a t-shirt. It was fine while I was riding, but pretty chilly once I stopped to wait for the bus. It'll definitely be nice to not have to carry a bunch of extra clothes home with me this afternoon. I'll be getting a nice, hot mocha in a bit. Hopefully that warms me up.

Also, the Monday night recovery ride is no longer the Trek Store ride, because it's no longer at the Trek Store. We'll be meeting at a little mexican place in Overland Park for the forseeable future. Now, if only I can find the most efficient way to get there on my bike...

Random Tunage:
Underworld - Cowgirl
Hybrid - If I Survive

Like Podcasts? Check this out!

Jason, founder of (one of my daily must-reads) recently started podcasting as well. The site has a few more regular writers, so I'd imagine the RocBike Review podcast stands to take off much like the rest of the site has lately. In the most recent episode (as of me posting this), Jason "... interviews Kevin J. Hayes, author of An American Cycling Odyssey, 1887 (University of Nebraska Press, 2002). The book tells the story of George W. Nellis, Jr., who pedaled a high-wheel bicycle from upstate New York to San Francisco in 1887, setting a new transcontinental record." - a synopsis I shamelessly ripped.

Bicycle touring has always fascinated me, even when I was younger. When talking to other and potential new bicycle commuters, I often draw parallels to bicycle touring. Tourers and commuters are some of the most eclectic types of bicyclists out there. The needs of a criterium, cyclocross, or triathlon racer, for example, are pretty straight-forward so everyone uses fairly similar equipment and clothing for their purpose. Tourers and commuters will borrow form, clothing, philosophy, equipment selection and anything else from all other kinds of cycling to come up with a bizarre breed of cycling pseudo-science that gets the job done for a particular individual. As such, most tourers and commuters end up looking awfully strange when placed next to your average recreational cyclist or road bike racer.

Now, imagine touring on a heavy Ordinary bicycle (Big-Wheel, Penny-Farthing, etc) with "airless" (solid rubber) tires. Yo, that's straight-up olde-school.

Seriously, though. Check it out. I'm only a few minutes in and it's good stuff. I'll finish listening on the bus trip to work this morning (it's soggy again!)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Transmission swap and bar tape

I don't feel like doing the math of adding all my miles since May 1st and subtracting how many miles I logged on my hybrid and MTB to get an exact figure, but my Road bike has easily more than 2,000 miles on it already, and aside from wheel and tire replacements, all the equipment is original from the day I got it. 2,000 miles is more than enough for the original chain, so I finally got around to replacing it. I'm calling it a transmission swap. I wanted a 9-speed SWAM Powerlink chain, but my LBS didn't have it and I didn't feel like calling around and/or driving all over the place, so I just got a lame-ass hyperglide chain, which is what the bike came with from the factory anyways.

Also, my original bar tape has been in a state of disarray for a few months, so I replaced it with some cheap white/black zebra-stripe Bontrager tape.

I'm planning on riding the Trek tomorrow but it really depends on what happens overnight. Both WUnderground and AccuWeather are predicting storms tomorrow, so there's a good chance I'll wimp out and take the Outlook to the bus instead.

Random Tunage
Aquasky vs. Masterblaster - Satellite Channel
Electric Tease - Your Lovin

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Logo

I finally got around to creating a logo. I have mad GIMP skills. Or not.

I wanted something that was both bicycling related, but had more than a healthy dose of geek factor. Even if it's ugly, I hope I succeeded in getting my point across.

Oh yes, and I had a beautiful ride home. I didn't push hard but I was going really fast, and got waved at by 2 other bicycle commuters about a mile apart.

Left to get a potato, came back with sushi instead

I had to deposit a check from one of my consulting clients today. On my way there, I decided to swing by to get a loaded baked potato from Great Steak & Potato Company. I locked my red DB Outlook up right next to a slightly older black DB "Avenir" Outlook. I'm not sure what the special distinction of "Avenir" is for. My Outlook came stock with a plain but rather comfortable Avenir saddle on it, but eeh. No idea.

The line was simply ginormous. Definitely not worth the wait for a damned potato with toppings on it. Across the food court, a lonely Sushi bar called my name. I made a quick look over their lineup. I can spot bad sushi a mile away, and this seemed like it would be pretty good. They were making it fresh right in front of me. So, I got some california rolls, nigirizushi (fish on rice - eel, raw salmon and tuna for me) and miso soup in a rather affordable combo. It hit the spot.

While I was out, I also saw two KCMO Police pickup trucks hauling DOZENS of neatly-racked but rather dirty police bicycles.

Random Tunage:
Prodigy - Voodoo People
The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony


The new new Starbucks fails to meet expectations. That's saying something, because I don't really expect much from a Starbucks. The bar's relatively low. Critiques I have:

* Complete lack of obvious bicycle parking
* Signage only visible from 13th street, which is a one-way road going toward Main, not away from it.
* Tiny inside. There's ample outdoor seating, but winter is coming and this place stands to get crowded FAST.
* Inefficient use of the small space they have.

Anyhow, I'm done ranting. I'll probably take KCBike.Info's advice and write to whomever I need to in order to address the bicycle parking woes. This is downtown for crying out loud. There are lofts everywhere and a lot of bicycles in use downtown. A lot of those bicyclists fall squarely into their target demographic.

In short, I don't think I'm going back to that one.

I took the Outlook to the bus this morning. It seems that most weeks, I end up using all three of my bikes. I chose it over my Trek 1200 this morning because not only was the Trek hanging on the rack, but my backpack was already packed from yesterday and I didn't feel like loading the panniers. I'm thinking of riding all the way home, too. The Outlook's just a better machine for that kind of ride, compared to my fun, bouncy MTB.

The outlook has two wheels, some lights, and a water bottle. It's a nimble, comfortable bike with slick tires; Everything I need today, and nothing I don't.

Random Tunage:
Goo Goo Dolls - Better Days
Alanis Morissette - Crazy (Cover of Crazy by Seal)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Taking shortcuts

If there's one benefit of using a mountain bike for transportation that can possibly make up for all the drawbacks, it's the ability to take shortcuts. By in large, I tend to ride like a little bit of a jackass when I'm on a mountain bike. I don't precisely mean I cause trouble, cut cars off, or make people's lives hell. I do mean that I will hop curbs or medians to make a left turn that a car couldn't make (Not sure if that's "breakin' the law" per-se), I'll dart through hazard-ridden back alleys, bomb through closed roads and maybe ride the short way through a series of parking lots up to and including riding through grass, shallow streams or gulleys, or pretty much anything that is remotely navigable.

I left home this morning knowing that I'd do a round trip on the express bus, but I got out of work late and missed my homeward trip by about 5 minutes. I got permission from the workers to ride through the construction on the Baltimore bridge (thanks, guys!) and zipped through there, hopping over tetanus-infested rebar grid, gently tackling pneumatic hoses, and crawling up and down the huge, sharp-edged craters in the cement work. I made my way down to the crossroads and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Eventually, my bus showed up. The same bus I was 5 minutes late catching. I was so early, that I could have just gone with the traffic jams and made it there on time. This was much more fun.

I had some errands to run this evening in the dark. The mountain bike shone not only with the bright headlight, but in plenty more tests of agility and stoutness.

All in all, I had a great time today. I didn't log many miles, but sometimes, turning the urban streets and suburban scenery into your personal obstacle course can be just as fun as flying between narrowly spaced trees on some rocky, remote singletrack.

Random Tunage:
White Zombie - More human than human
Tool - The pot


I brought a meager, tiny lunch with me today. Mid-afternoon hunger is setting in, and I decided to check the snack machine to see if they had any of those little powdered donuts. Nope.

I went across the hall, and there they were. Staring at me. A whole row full of them, one after another. I inserted some coins and selected D9. The klaxon sounded and the display told me those dreaded words "MAKE ANOTHER SELECTION." Curse you, wretched machine of doom! I tried inserting cash. Same result.

I went up the flight of stairs to another snack machine. There they were. Yummy, delectable powdered donuts. "MAKE ANOTHER SELECTION." I tried inserting more money than it asked for. Same deal.

So, I went across the hall again (now in the cubicle farm directly above mine), and the machine has no powdered donuts within.

I am convinced that the machines are actually working properly, and they must have installed some bizarre sensor array that won't let fat people buy donuts. How Orwellian.

Making a statement

I got a sticker a long time ago. I'm guessing it's been 9 years. It was somewhat vulgar, but it was among a bunch of stuff being handed out for free. I'm not much for unrestricted vulgarity -- a self-described "conservative protestant Christian." In fact, I'll usually censor my own writing if I want to write a swear word. With that out of the way, this sticker that's remained homeless in a box of stuff for nearly a decade finally found a home on my mountain bike. On my bike, it's less a statement of vulgarity, and more a statement of wanton disregard for the system to which I'm currently restrained. F work, I want to ride my bike. If it said "Forget work" or "Work Sucks" I probably would have grabbed a fist full of them.

Some will laugh at me for being torn about plastering the F word on my bike. Some will scorn me for doing it. For example, Lorin (a fellow Christian) was not amused.

If you see it while I'm cruising the streets of downtown KC, don't be offended. Smile and know that like many bike commuters, I'm living to ride, riding to work, and working to live. Deep inside, I really wish I could cut work out of the equation and simply live to ride and ride to live. While I like my current job, work in general is the bane of my existence and I really wish I could just win the lottery (it'd help if I played on occasion) and retire in my 20's.

Tomorrow, a new Starbucks is opening up quite literally one block from the one I usually go to. It's not quite Lewis Black's "Starbucks across from a Starbucks" routine, but it's dangerously close. Tomorrow, I'm going to go to this new Starbucks a block away from the Starbucks that I usually go to. Just because.

Lewis Black's skit has been played over a slide show of various starbucks photos and I posted it below. Give it a listen if you haven't heard it before. I think it's hilarious.

Random Tunage:
Sutro Ft. Tyler Stone - Affected (Honeycut mix)
Binary Finary - 2000

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I don't remember getting home

I remember leaving on my bike, and zipping down Broadway with all my might. I remember choosing to take Merriam Lane all the way to the park on Carter before hitting Turkey Creek Trail. I remember slogging the granny gear up that horrid, blighted monster slope to get to Switzer. I also remember a few absolutely epic track stands. But that's about it.

It was such nice weather today. I drank about 2 sips of water on my way home, which I don't remember drinking. I just know my water bottle is missing about 4 ounces of water. I was just pedaling along at a lethargic pace, lost in thought or the absence thereof. I didn't break a sweat at all once I hit the bottom of broadway. I just soaked up the 70 degree weather for an hour or so, and showed up at home. My bike computer tells me I averaged 12.3 miles per hour today, and that's just fine with me.

Random Tunage:
Chicane - Offshore
Orbital - One Perfect Sunrise

Drive-thru skills

Hungry this morning, I left early for the bus. Yes, I wimped out again, but this bus to work, ride back home routine is working pretty well for me. On my way to the mall, I decided to test my stoplight-triggering skills at the Burger King drive-thru. Would I be able to trigger the sensor to place my order? Would I be doomed to a life of breakfast hunger forever? There's only one way to find out.

Stealthily, I rolled up to the menu to place my order, making sure to align my bike with the faintly visible lines of the inductor loop under the concrete. I clicked out of my pedals and waited. To my surprise, a half-asleep murmur greeted me within seconds. I ordered some miniature cinnamon rolls with an extra dose of that tasty, sweet, tooth-rotting icing and then crept to the window to pay for my goodies. The cashier said that usually the drive-thru can't even detect motorcycles, thinking it had something to do with vehicle weight. I told her that they just don't know "the secret." When she asked what the secret was, I told her that it was a secret, then chortled merrily while handing her a dollar bill and a dime in exchange for breakfast.

I think I may have spooked her a little bit with my routine. When she came back with my nutriment, I gave her a hint. "It's got more to do with where you park your vehicle than how much it weighs." I thanked her and launched in a fury of pedaling and shifting, hammering onto the road to get through the left-turn before the light went red.

Moments later, I sat down at the bus stop and munched on my hard-earned pabulum as motorists-in-wait observed from behind their walls of glass and steel. I arose, chasing the carbohydrate cocktail with water from my bottle before making another high-speed bike sprint across the parking lot to the nearest waste bin and back. By this time, some curious onlookers had emerged into the crisp morning air. Certainly a few of them were envious of the meal which they'd seen me devour in their presence. Too bad.

I wrapped up the morning by discussing religion and philosophy with Lorin over a nice, hot mocha. I don't ride my bike to lose weight. I ride it so I can do stuff like eat cinnamon rolls and drink mocha in the morning without feeling too bad about it.

Random Tunage:
Cascade - Escape
Deep Blue Something - Breakfast at Tiffany's

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


You'd think I was ready for some kind of monumental self-supported tour across several states, but I was actually just on my way home carrying a hoodie, some long pants, a spare pair of tennis shoes that I left to dry overnight, my laptop and associated gear, my lunch bag on top of the rack, and God knows what else.

This is the stuff I hate about this time of year. Yes, I complained about it this morning, but really, this is just insane.

Again, I did the whole ride home. It was nice but there was a headwind. Not a furious one, but a headwind. I managed to slice through it pretty easily, and this bike shines when you just want to go fast. A car made an attempt to cut me off on Broadway. It was the start of a typical "bicycles are slow, so I'm going to get in front of him" kind of maneuver. I kicked it up to 400 watts and held my lane. Looking at my cyclometer's max speed for the day, I was darting down Broadway at about 40 MPH. The driver eventually got the hint and merged in behind me. I got to enjoy other moments of speed as well, but many of these were just tuck-and-roll on downhill sections. None of those approached 40 MPH though, so I'm sure that my max speed for the day was the display of speed on Broadway.

Here's another glance at the massive panniers, ready to burst at the seams.

Random Tunage:
Nirvana - Smells like teen spirit
Rob Zombie - Dragula


This morning, I was extra-tired. Mostly, this was due to some consulting work I'm doing on the side that kept me up pretty late. I've had this project on my plate for a few months and really have to get crackin' on it, but keep running into hang-ups. I was up past my bedtime between working on this project and chatting with my wife while she worked.

Anyhow, when I got to the bus stop, there was a guy there on an iridescent magenta girl's Roadmaster Mt. Climber. Shortly after I arrived, Lorin showed up. The D (DREADED!) bus whizzed by without even slowing down. It usually swings through the Mall parking lot a few minutes before my Express bus. So, with three bicycles at the bus stop, we started kind of hinting at the fact that someone was going to have to lug their bike inside the bus.

The guy with the Roadmaster pipes up that he was waiting for the D bus, which he had obviously seen as it passed by. I asked where he was going, figuring he might be headed downtown. If that was the case, the Express bus could get him there. It turns out he wanted to be 2 miles up the road. 2 freaking miles. The bus fare within the county is $1.25. I just don't get it. Then again, cyclists aren't known for being normal, and a guy on a magenta girl's k-mart bike shouldn't be expected to be any more normal than, say... me, for example. If you didn't know it yet, I'm a moderately strange guy -- definitely not normal.

I don't know what came of his situation. The express bus driver radioed the bus that didn't stop, but I don't know if the bus was going to turn around or if the helpless fellow was going to have to wait for the next bus, or -- horror of horrors -- be forced to ride 2 miles to his final destination.

On a weather note, it was 50 degrees this morning and they're calling for a high of 80 or so. I'm growing weary of carrying an entire wardrobe with me so that I can ride.

Random Tunage:
Bryan Adams - Summer of '69
Filter - Hey man nice shot

Monday, October 08, 2007

35 miles on the mountain bike

The temperatures were in the low 70's when I got out from work. The sun had been burning most of the precipitation off of the pavement, and the winds were a favorable 7 miles per hour out of the north. Not exactly a tailwind, but I'll take a diagonal push over a headwind any day.

Long story short: even though I'm on my mountain bike, it would practically be a sin to let an afternoon like this go to waste by taking the bus. I went on the Trek ride after I got home, too. Total, I snuck in more than 35 miles today, all on the Sorrento.

Long story long: I got changed and packed as much of my belongings as possible into my backpack. Friday, I accidentally left my new tennis shoes at work and wore my dress shoes home. My old tennis shoes were used this morning to get me to work and they were still water-logged. I left them there with my dress shoes, and wore my new tennies home.

I took Wyandotte to 13th or so, then zigged over to Baltimore to continue south toward Southwest Boulevard. The bridge is still out over I-670, and I was met with some construction netting, road blocks, and a foreign pedestrian who was entirely bamboozled by the situation. "How to go other side?" she inquired. Heavy equipment sat idle on the tattered bridge. I told her to walk across carefully. No one was around. I bunny-hopped and rode over some of the construction netting and took the bridge as well.

Once across, I was home-free. The rest of the trip was business as usual. I did notice something that I wish I'd seen ages before. At one of the little parks near Turkey Creek Trail, there is a water faucet. This is about 2/3 to my apartment from work, and I don't know how many times I've found myself near that fountain running critically low on water.

After making some dinner for my wife and I, I took off to the Trek Store ride. Badger (whom I usually see when I ride with CommuterDude) met me there. All in all, there was a pretty massive turnout. They're changing locations for the forseeable future, over at 82nd and Metcalf. Mark Thomas will send me some shortcut tips, but I think the end result will actually be a shorter distance to the Monday night rides if I cut across 91st street.

Anyhow, I wrapped up the day with a little more than 35 miles of riding. Not awesome for a Monday, but not a bad day overall.

Also, I raised my Sorrento's seat up a bit on the way home as I passed through Rosedale and it helped with the leg fatigue I was getting. Given the forecast tomorrow, I'll probably end up on the road bike, but next time I use the Sorrento, it should be much easier to ride. It gave me no problems at all during the Monday night recovery ride, so I think it's dialed in properly again.

Random Tunage:
Laurent Wolf - Happy TV
K's Choice - Not an Addict

Bacon? Check. Eggs? Check. GO! GO! GO!

I was already planning on catching the Express bus with the looming threat of rain last night. My usual wakey-time of 5:00 would afford me the luxury of a proper hot breakfast this morning. My wife jostled me from my sleep a little after 5:30. My alarm hadn't gone off because I'd forgotten to alter the time. My plans to cook some breakfast before work had been nearly foiled.

With less than 20 minutes to prepare, we jumped up and got on it. Together, we managed to still get some eggs, bacon and toast thrown together. Hurried and half-dressed, I slid some (accidentally) over-medium eggs down my gullet and threw some more eggs into the pan for my wife while the bacon continued sizzling on the griddle.

I made my final preparations, then hauled my steed out the door, still chewing pieces of bacon. Mother nature tried to wash it down with rainwater and road grime on my way to the bus stop. I paid the thunderous skies no attention, my body pensively and mindlessly hammering away at the platforms on my mountain bike. I barely remember the trip to the bus. I was in the zone and my brain just along for the ride.

On final approach, I saw another single headlight through the abating precipitation. Looks like Lorin got a late start as well. The usual bus-riding crowd was rather sparse today. I know there are a few bankers (or other workers in the bank industry) on the bus, but I guess Columbus day gave quite a few people a day off. Not I.

I zipped over to Starbucks for some quick coffee, then came in to work, drenched in murky water. While changing, I wrung my athletic socks out into the sink only to be greeted with a faint, cloudy gray liquid. I can only assume that the rest of my apparel is soaked with the same stuff. Thankfully, a full array of warm, dry clothing awaited me within a waterproof bag in my backpack.

Random Tunage:
Donna Summer - I feel love (remix of some unknown origin)
Sarah Brightman - Snow on the Sahara (cover of Snow on the Sahara by Anggun that's better than the original, IMHO)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Tricks of the trade: Backup Lighting

Here in the US, it's autumn and we're losing daylight quickly. It's staying dark until later in the morning, and nightfall is happening earlier every day. Those of us who were commuting by bike in full daylight just a few months ago are left with only a few options if we wish to continue riding to work: Leave later in the day, or use some really good lighting... but what if your lighting goes south?

Battery runtime and power output are reduced in the cold. Bulbs burn out. Blinky lights can fall off and get lost or simply break. What if you're out in the dark longer than expected? These are only a few of the reasons that your lighting might fail. While it's no secret that I might go a little overboard on safety, do you really want to be riding in the dark without being seen?

My usual lighting setup is a NiteRider Evolution rigged with a 15W bulb as opposed to the 10W stock bulb. This system can only deliver about 90 minutes of full brightness, and another 15 minutes of usable-yet-dimming light. This is usually more than sufficient for my hour-long morning commute in the dark. On the back, I use a helmet-mounted Blackburn Mars 3.0. My road bike also has a permanently-mounted Trek DiscoTech on the rack. The Mars is very bright, but requires a small screwdriver to open. When the rechargeable AAA batteries I use get low, the Mars falls on its face in a hurry. It still flashes, but takes a severe nose-dive in brightness and it becomes useless pretty quick. In foul weather, I won't be using the road bike, so the rack-mounted tail light won't be there to help me out.

The two small flashlights shown above with my Trek Incite 11i for size comparison are my backup lighting solution. They're Photon MicroLight IIs. I purchased one with a red LED back in 1996 or so when they first came out so that I could easily read star charts with my dad, and for camping. The light is bright enough to be usable as a walking flashlight, but a good red color to not destroy your night vision. The white LED one I got for free from the crew at the DefCon convention in Las Vegas in 1997. They feature replaceable batteries and a functional on-off switch as well as a squeeze mode, making them pretty versatile. They handle getting wet but I wouldn't use them under water. They can go for days on a battery, so they stand up to hours of use at a time and can last years with regular use between battery changes. Each of these lights is probably on its third or fourth battery replacement, not bad for 10 or 11 years old.

When I started bicycling a year ago, I started carrying the white one with me to use in case I needed to get the chain put back on my wal-mart beater bike or make some other impromptu adjustment. It wasn't long before I found out that tying some old hair elastics onto both lights would give me functional but worst-case-scenario lighting that could easily be attached to my bike.

Other options are carrying a spare bulb and batteries for your lights or buying some compact bicycle-specific lighting such as the Knog Frog lights. I personally think that carrying spare batteries just for an emergency is a bit cumbersome, and to make matters worse, my Mars 3.0 requires a small screwdriver to open. The philips-driver on my Park MTB-3 is too large, so that would mean carrying a small screwdriver as well. That's a deal-breaker. Solutions like the Frog or my MicroLight II will easily tuck into your jersey pocket or seat-bag with your flat repair gear.

Poking around's Keychain Lights, there are some other options that might be more cost-effective for you. The X-Light, for example, is cheaper than the MLII and has the ability to strobe. I'm not getting paid to push their products, but I've been a satisfied user of their products for more than a decade.

Here's a parting photo of my emergency lighting on my Diamondback Outlook. When wrapped around my seat's frame rails, the red light flails all over the place while riding. When seen from behind, this is very eye-catching. The MicroLight LEDs are visible from a wide angle, which helps too. The white LED is definitely more of a to-be-seen light and a pothole spotter than anything else. If I had to resort to this setup, I'd need to ride very slowly and limp home unless there was adequate street lighting available.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Quick jaunt to the mall, walking downtown, and coffee

I took the Outlook to the Mall as bare as it gets. When I arrived, I strapped it to a tree with two cable locks, removed anything of value from it (lights, computer, etc) and locked my helmet to it by passing both cable locks through the vents, but took the helmet mirror with me in my backpack along with the lighting gear. With that, I hopped on the bus. I hope my stuff is still there when I get back.

Lorin was there, and he walked his bike to coffee instead of riding. We were discussing the new wave of portable media players such as the iPod touch and the Zune 2. I'm kind of a curmudgeon about these new-fangled devices. Sure, I like gadgets. I suppose the iPod touch isn't *that* bad. But still, Apple's music player options are usually a bit lacking in the features department. I'm not sure why they made the Touch a flash-only player, for example. I'm sitting here listening to my rockin' Sharp MiniDisc player (shown above).

Anyhow, when we got to Starbucks, JR was drinking coffee and rifling through his camera looking at some pictures he'd taken recently, likely some stuff he's going to be putting on Craigslist, I'd imagine. I didn't ask.

Lorin, JR and I got to talking about Folding Bikes. I pulled up some information and we looked at a few of them. The discussion changed over to MacOS X as Lorin was interested in how my mac has the ability to easily zoom the screen to make it easier for visually-impaired or further-away people to see objects on the screen. Then we talked about old-school games, old-school computers and other nerdy stuff.

I hiked the last half-mile or so to work where I'll be for half the day. Not a lot of riding today.

Random Tunage:
Some stuff I recorded off of LFO Radio last night

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