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

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tumultuous Thursday

Photo: Hybridzilla sits outside the coffee shop, lights twinking. Much attention was focused on the bike as I quaffed my caffeinated callibogus, looking for reactions.

Today was wrought of chaos. First, I forgot my cell phone at home, which meant very limited Internet access downtown. Sure, I could have posted via e-mail from work. I am geeky enough to have that feature enabled, and it wouldn't be the first time I've done it. I decided to let it slide.

Work was a mad-house. Nothing worth talking about, but this is usually a slow time of year for my group so this is kind of a surprise to me. I finished up my day early by going to the HR office to pick up my December bus pass, then rode to Union Station to catch the MAX bus to Waldo.

I haven't spent any actual time in Waldo in probably a decade. I've been near the area recently, but never on bike. It's actually a nice little place. I surfed the streets, winding through little neighborhoods to get to 79th, then went west until it became Somerset. From there, I was home free to the dentists office.

My last dentist was a jackass. He thought there was nothing wrong with my tooth's root while I was concerned about an abscess. "Definitely a sinus infection or something else." My ass. This dentist located and clearly showed me the abscess, which is exactly what would have caused my swelling and high fever back in September. So, in the next few weeks, I get to have a root canal and my tooth rebuilt yet again. Huzzah.

I escaped the dental chair at about 4:30, just in time to get blinded by the sun on my way home. I'm really glad I took Hybridzilla out today. If the Sorrento is a mountain goat (and it is, in every sense imaginable) then Hybridzilla is a Greyhound. It's not super-fast, but it's efficient and graceful. It lacks the refinement of my road bike, but keep in mind I'm comparing it to the Sorrento that I've been using for a few weeks straight.

Random Tunage:
Selena - Dreaming Of You Tonight
Cygnus X - Superstring

Parts & Crafts - Festive Bike

I actually did this before I made my Holiday Wheeth last night. I just didn't post about it until now. When I added lights to Hybridzilla last year, it was a crowd pleaser. I was initially going to wait until December 1st to pull this out, but I did it last night instead. The lights I used last year were incandescent bulbs that would leech a set of 4 AA batteries dry in mere hours. Also, the battery cases were frail and subject to taking on moisture. Those lights met their untimely demise in only a few days.

These lights are of similar quality, however the bulbs are LEDs and will go for days on a set of batteries. To combat the issue of the battery holders' subpar semblance, I strapped the holders together with a rubber band, bagged them in plastic, and I'm suspending them under the seat from my Serfas seat bag. Usually, this holds a spare inner tube, levers, and patches. Those fit fine in my backpack for the time being.

The LEDs are much brighter than the incandescents I had last year. I really hope these stay functional through December. This weekend, I may move them over to my MTB.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Parts & Crafts - Holiday Wheeth

Surely, I am not the first one to do this, but I haven't seen it in my 14 months of cycling. I'll spare you the 2-part instructions, as I'm pretty sure you can figure out how to make your own without my help.

Yes, that's a glob of decade-old grease on the dork disk. No, this isn't a good wheel. It's the heap-o-crap freewheel that came stock on Hybridzilla. I replaced this cheapo thing with a less cheapo joytech/alex cassette quick-release wheel. I would surely destroy this hub in weeks if I put it into service. Have some taco'd rims laying around? Now's your chance to put them to good use!

Out with the MTB, In with Hybridzilla

A bus rider stopped the bus to exit at 95th and Nieman, so I took the opportunity to follow his lead, and got off at the same time. I can take Nieman up to 91st, then over to Quivira's pedestrian path, which is what I did. The downside is that it takes a bit longer and there are narrow lanes the whole way. The bonus? Considerably less traffic in the evening.

For those of you that remember the crash back in March that snapped a few of my teeth in half, I'm working on getting my "fang" repaired permanently. The tooth that broke cleanly horizontally has been fine ever since I had my teeth fixed in April. The one that snapped diagonally has lost its cap twice now. To further the mess, I think that the diagonal crack (which goes to my gumline) has allowed a periodontal pocket to form, given some symptoms I've been having. If true, this will also mean that my previous dentist's diagnosis was completely wrong. Tomorrow, I'm seeing a new dentist in Prairie Village. This guy will likely have to see me three times or more before my tooth is all up to snuff. We'll have to see.

I was going to just ride all the way there, but I changed my mind. I'll take the Metro Area Express (MAX) to Waldo, MO and ride a few miles over to the dentist's office. From there, I'll ride home. It's basically just 2 miles east of where my usual Monday night rides start and end. I just got done reenlisting Hybridzilla and setting the mountain bike aside. With a bit of longer distance tomorrow, I'll be thankful for the lighter, nimbler, sleeker, smoother ride. My panniers are still on vacation, so there's not much point in taking the Trek out tomorrow. Once I tuck into the drop bars, my backpack gets really annoying, so I'll be limited to the hoods or flats anyways.

I might be wrong, but a memory check verified by a quick glance at my previous posts says that I've been on the mountain bike for about 3 weeks straight. We'll see if I remember how to ride clipless on Hybridzilla in the morning.

Random Tunage:
D:Fuse - Bodyshock
Nine Inch Nails - The Only Time

Police chase... of DOOM!

Photo: Police chase ends in arrests (Credit Fox 4 News, Kansas City)

What a frantic morning. If I thought my abs hurt yesterday, I was wrong. They were burning even worse when I woke up today. The weather sites I look at are telling me that it's in the high 40s outside. I hit refresh a few times, and check the timestamps to make sure I'm not seeing last night's numbers. I love this stuff! I quickly tossed on a single light layer of clothes. Then, I packed up some leftover chili for lunch, some tooth-rotting, artery-clogging breakfast stuff, and my water bottle. Look at the time! I got outside at 6:05! I was running WAY behind schedule, and it's probably a good thing.

I heard sirens as I stepped out. Not just one police car. Several. Looking in all directions, I couldn't see any constabulary cruisers. As I hit Quivira, everything changed. I encountered a headwind that I'd later find out was closing in on 30 MPH, gusting 32. Then, I got to the viaduct. Running late, riding uphill and into the wind, I slogged. That's when all hell broke loose. The cops' clamoring klaxons wailed coarsely behind me. Within seconds, my rear view was full of sapphire and scarlet strobes. I retreated to the narrow, rubbish-laden gutter on the viaduct. One, two, then three black-and-whites lumbered past, piloted by Lenexa's finest. The doppler of their sirens was like something you'd hear in a cartoon. They vanished over the incline's apex in the blink of an eye.

Just as I lost visual contact with the third cruiser, the obstinate headwind seemed to slow. Gentler and gentler the breeze got, until it came to a moment of calm. Suddenly, a maelstrom overcame me from aft and port, sending gutter debris into the air and pushing me gently against the concrete barrier next to which I'd halted. I have no clue how fast the officers were traveling, but they were clearly in the left lane, nearly 20 feet from me. As I crested the viaduct, a fourth, unmarked law-enforcement buggy whizzed past with dazzling luminescence and plenty of noise, not going much faster than the posted speed limit.

Ahead, many more emergency vehicles were convening and barreling southbound on Quivira. Upon arrival to the bus stop, I discover that one transit denizen had counted as many as a dozen such vehicles. Click on the photo for the full story. Needless to say, had I left on time, I would have likely been much more involved in the chase than I already was. Earlier this month, a young cyclist was actually killed by an evading driver during a police chase. While officers have the judgment, reflexes, and concern to keep left, I'm almost certain that the only such chivalry I would have been granted from the reckless adversary would have come at the bequest of luck.

Who needs coffee with an adrenaline rush like this?

Random Tunage:
POB - Boiler (Humate Remix)
Crystal Method - Born Too Slow

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Glutton For Punishment

I took the evil Express bus home tonight. I got out just in time to watch it sprint past. All out, I chased it down 10th street to the bus terminal, hopped a curb, and came to a skidding stop while frantically waving at the bus driver. The bus was running behind schedule by the time we got out of downtown, and Quivira was a serious mad-house. I opted for the pedestrian sidepath instead of the main roadway.

Somewhat enchanted by last night's spirited bike safari, I decided to have another go at it tonight. Chris was peeved that he couldn't make it last night, and was thinking of trying to go out there, too. I ended up arriving a bit before 7:30, just in time to watch some cross country runners exit the trailhead. We encountered a few more of them just a few hundred yards into the journey. After that, not a soul in sight.

The main trailhead dumps you right into the middle of the easy loop. I took the opposite direction I rode last night to get to the difficult loop, then we destroyed the terrain from there. I definitely feel a lot more confident and in control now than I did when I first got out there last night. This will definitely help me come winter time.

Now I really hurt. Total trail distance: 5 miles. At least I remembered to stretch afterwards this time.

Random Tunage:
Underworld - Crocodile (Oliver Huntemann Remix)
Junkie XL - More (Junk O Flamenco Remix)

If you dig electronic music and don't mind a bit of vulgarity (for the JXL track) you really need to check both of those out.

Yeah, that burns

It's hard to really appreciate the workout that you get from trail riding until you've gone and done it after a long hiatus. I checked my computer last night, and I logged about 6 miles out there on the trails last night. I would have probably ridden twice the distance or further, even on the "lethargic" paced road ride I usually attend. Even in those 6 miles, I got a much more complete workout than usual.

I slept like a baby when I finally got to bed, which was a bit later than I'd have liked. All in all, I still got a good night's rest. When I woke up, I felt the burn: Everywhere. Chest, abs, shoulders, back, and I even had stiff hands -- likely from a few white-knuckled episodes of high speed through the trees. If you were ever fascinated by the speeder bike scene in Return of the Jedi, you really need to go ride through some tree-covered bike trails.

I think I might start alternating my Mondays between my usual road ride and Shawnee Mission Park. I don't know for sure if this will really help sharpen me up for what winter will throw at me, but I did find myself keeping my balance and holding a better line by the end of my little adventure last night.

I shook off the stiffness and did some stretches this morning, which is something I forgot to do last night. I'm regretting it now. I was planning on hitting one of the few fattening fast-food joints on the way to the bus for breakfast this morning, but I spent too much time shivering in the living room trying to get motivated to get out early. I grabbed a fistfull of Caribou Mocha Bars for the road and took off.

As I pulled up to the coffee shop, I ran into headphone lady and her boyfriend (husband?) which is the guy who rides the old black Diamondback Outlook. They comm on my lighting setup. Right now, it's a red/orange helmet blinkie (mars 3.0), a totally illegal but very eye-catching blue blinkie under my seat, the Dinotte (blinking) in front, the NiteRider on my helmet, and TireFlys on the wheels. I'm lit up like a Christmas Tree. Just wait until I string miniature Christmas lights on my bike when it gets closer to Christmas. That was a big hit last year.

JR, Lorin and I dispensed our sage bicycle wisdom to a gentleman that was looking for a bike to get around town for fun and transportation. He'd probably be fine with a hybrid from the sounds of things. He says he wants to ride around on streets but wants to be able to go "off road". From my experience, most peoples' idea of "off road" for a bicycle is totally within the capabilities of a hybrid, or hell, even a road bike. I've taken my Trek 1200 on a few dirt BMX trails. The only time I had a problem was a loss of traction when I was climbing a dirt hill out of the saddle. I sat back down and it was all better. A serious cyclist looking for a mix of on/off road and all-weather performance would be better off with a cyclocross bike, but the cheaper mass-produced hybrid bikes really work well enough for most.

Well, I'm off to the grind.

Random Tunage:
Madonna - The Power Of Goodbye
IIO - Rapture (JC & SK)

Monday, November 26, 2007

That was freaking EPIC!

... Well, for me, it was.

Photo: My DiNotte and head-mounted NiteRider cleave through the tenebrosity.

This was only my second time out on "real" mountain bike trails. The trails are right across from the lake and enshrouded in a thick, misty blanket of darkness. I have to say that's probably some of the most fun I've had on a bike in months. I was out for a little longer than an hour. Temperatures were in the low 40s but I had no need for a jacket. Just a short t-shirt did the trick.

My 15W NiteRider on my head, and the DiNotte 200L on the handlebars cleared my path easily, but the NR started to eat it about 10 minutes before I could find the terminus. I'd done two morning commutes to the bus without charging it, so it only had an hour left when I got to the trails tonight. I had to navigate the last part of my journey with only the DiNotte, but it did a fine job. I just had to choose my line carefully since the beam is pretty narrow and attached to my bars.

I took most of the "easy" trail until I came to the intersection where the hard trail loop joins. From there, I took the more difficult loop. I ran across 4 other souls who were braving the stygian singletrack. I couldn't keep up with any of them, but it was cool to see some others out there.

I'm not afraid of the dark, but I was expecting this ride to be a little bit on the creepy side. I saw dozens upon dozens of beady, iridescent eyes peering back at me through the leafless, wintry boughs. The experience wasn't remotely eerie, however.

After finding the trailhead and finally making a clean egress, I spent a few minutes talking to one of the EarthRiders guys who pulled out of the murky forest right behind me.

My buddy Frogman tipped me off to a Craigslist posting for a Garmin GPS-12 that was being offloaded for next to nothing, so after I got my bike all racked and packed, I blazed a trail down to Olathe to pick up my new intergalactic positioning gadget. It's not quite as small as my old eTrex, a screen that's not quite as clear, and a menu system that's a bit more primitive than what I'm used to, but it works, and works well. I don't think I'll use it as my primary cyclocomputer the way my eTrex was being used, but it's small enough to keep in my backpack or panniers, and it'll come in handy for war-riding.

The homebound commute was a short one. I rode to an office park to meet my wife after one of her appointments. I threw the bike on the back of the Explorer, and we snagged some grindage before I took off to the trails.

Random Tunage:
Fluke - Pulse (Trisco Mix)
Way Out West - Don't forget me

New Poll: How cold is too cold?

I rode three times last year where the temperatures were below zero (Fahrenheit). I think about 10 below would be my limit, hopefully I won't need to find out this winter.

This poll is more about any kind of riding, not just commuting. How cold does it have to be before you don't even think about taking your bike out? The poll is at the right corner of my site..

I just went out in 45 degree weather in a short sleeve shirt and my work pants to get some lunch. I logged about a mile. I don't think I'd want to go any further than that without some light gloves and ear cover, though.

Tonight, I'm going to skip my usual Monday night ride and hit the singletrack at Shawnee Mission Park. If anyone in the area wants to join up, I'll be over by the old marina docks (near the trailhead) at about 6:00 or so. Bring lights!

Poll Results:


Why they're not called "Tireflies", I'll never understand. I did a complete clean and lube on the Sorrento last night, and added a set of Tireflys. They cost a few bucks at some unmentionable retail outlet. If you don't know what Tireflys are, they thread onto your valve stem (Schrader only) and when you ride, they flash. If you're moving quick enough, you get a fun persistence-of-vision display. A long shutter release on my camera this morning made for a blurry picture, but it looks kind of cool in an abstract sort of way.

The Tireflys are really bright, but I wouldn't call this a product review. I just added them for fun and for a little extra visibility from the side.

We got another light dusting of flurries on Saturday morning, but it melted off before I could even think about claiming first tracks through it...DARN!

The trip to the bus was nothing spectacular. When I got to the coffee shop, JR watched on as Lorin and I -- as usual -- debated about our differences. We have a lot in common, but it's far more entertaining to point out our disparity of opinions and attempt to justify them. Temperatures are hovering around freezing, the atmosphere is ripe with moisture, but it's too dry and just a bit too warm down here at ground level for anything to come of it. Maybe later this week. Let it be known by all that I am ready for winter.

Random Tunage:
The Crystal Method - Name of the game
Finger Eleven - One Thing

Friday, November 23, 2007

Full ride, near freezing on the Sorrento

Call me stupid. Call me hardcore. Call me whatever. I was getting stir-crazy at work and technically we only had to log 4 hours today, even though the company didn't officially close until 1PM. Regardless, about 11:30, I took off. I didn't feel like waiting for the mid-day bus, and I didn't feel like staying at work, so I rode home. Things warmed up to a notch over freezing, so it was tolerable. My mountain bike sucks for long distances, so it was a slow, somewhat relaxing ride home.

I was ravenous upon departure, so I stopped by QuikTrip for some snacks to tide me over. By snacks, I mean reese's PB cups and honey roasted peanuts. Not far into my ride, my DiNotte slipped into warning mode, but it stayed in warning mode for over an hour. I'm convinced it was the temperature decreasing the batteries' power output. It never went into low-power mode. The button turned red and it stayed that way for the rest of the ride.

I took a kind of odd route home, and I used a lot of sidewalk. I don't normally advocate riding on the sidewalk, but if certain criteria are being met, I'll hop over and do it that way. Namely, if I'm on an arterial roadway and incapable of maintaining a 10 MPH clip, I figure I am more of a "fast pedestrian" than a "slow vehicle" at that point. If traffic is light enough, I'll stay out in the road. This afternoon wasn't like that. Again, I don't recommend using sidewalks along arterials. It requires an extreme amount of attention and diligence, using a mirror and your eyes to check and double-check your blind spots while keeping situational awareness of ALL possible sources of traffic which can be 4 or more directions at any given time. VERY difficult unless you're going slow and used to multi-tasking.

I got to a section of Quivira north of my apartment where they just throw sections of sidewalk willy-nilly all over the place. Some places, there's sidewalk on both sides. Other times, it's back and forth between sides, and then there's a quarter mile without any sidewalk at all just north of my place -- truly annoying but not terrible with my mountain bike. I spent a lot of time hopping curbs and crawling over medians when the sidewalk ended on one side, then the other. I will admit that I could have just tackled the grassy sections and that I did the hopping mostly for my own personal amusement. It does annoy me that pedestrians are left to their own devices if they wish to travel along Quivira road. There's quite a bit of residential development near me, and a lot of dining, shopping, and services located in walking distance... but no sidewalks to get there! I think I'll raise a stink to the City of Lenexa.

I think my total mileage today was about 20, all on the MTB. My legs hurt. Oh yeah, and the stuff that I wore that was really awesome for 17 degree weather? Well, it sucked wearing that crap in the mid-30s, which is part of why it was slow-going for me. I'd rather enjoy a nice slow ride than sweat myself into oblivion.

Random Tunage:
Aria - One
Nirvana - Smells like teen spirit

Black Friday 2007: Doom, despair!

Mad props to whoever can tell me what movie the above image is from. I think it's pretty obscure (I could be wrong) but it's one of my faves.

I woke up to check the weather, and temps had crashed into the mid 10's. I can't even believe that Monday's ride home was 75 degrees! That's a huge disparity, and both were way outside our averages: Average high is 48; Average low is 30.

I Started with my wicking thermal base layer, then added my cargo pants. I double-layered my socks, Dug out the Thinsulate (tm) ski-gloves and used the inner, thick layer to my ski jacket. My tattered, knit balaclava covered my ears and face, while full, clear safety goggles kept the breeze and debris off of my eyeballs. It's not nearly cold enough for ski goggles yet, and the ones I have are tinted, which would be a bad thing in the morning.

So, I pedaled off into the brumal ambiance, well prepared for the temperature. My gear was perfect, if not just a little tiny bit on the warm side up top for my short commute. I didn't sweat, but I definitely didn't need to warm into my commute, either.

I found it ridiculous that Johnson County Transit sent a 40' bus out for my route this morning. Usually, we pack it full, almost to capacity (about 50 people) but they should have known that riders would be sparse this morning. I shared a 40' bus that likely gets 5 MPG with one other person. That's it. The two of us could have gotten better fuel economy driving a pair of Chevy Suburbans downtown by ourselves. Oh well, at least I'm not directly paying for the fuel, and I'm still saving wear and tear on my car, having fun on my bike and avoiding the parking fare.

Since I was riding to the bus, I had to navigate the bizarre phenomenon of rush-hour at 6:00 AM. Usually, I see one or two cars on my way to the bus stop. Riding on Quivira this morning really was just like riding it at 5:00 PM. There were cars everywhere, bullying each other around, trying to get into or out of parking lots, and all that jazz. It doesn't help that my bus stop is at the most popular shopping maul in Johnson County, and to get to my bus stop, I have to ride past a Sam's Club, Circuit City, Best Buy, and Toys 'R' Us. The traffic choppers above completely eschewed the highways, instead providing airborne coverage of parking at Black Friday shopping hot-spots.

Consume. Obey. Conform. Submit to authority.

Random Tunage:
GMS - Shrek
Ben Folds Five - Brick

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Today, I'm giving thanks for the loads of calories that I took in which will likely throw me cleanly back into the clydesdale club if I don't work my ass off on the bike in the next week or so. Talk about motivation!

Last year, I rode about 18 miles from my old apartment to my parents place for thanksgiving. That's Olathe to Stilwell, for those who know the Southern Johnson County part of the area here. It was the Sorrento's Maiden voyage, so to speak. It wasn't it's first ride, but it was a huge turning point for me. First off, it was the longest ride I'd ever been on since high school. Also, it was the first time in my adult life that I'd ridden somewhere other than to the bus stop, or around the corner to the grocery store. It was when my eyes were opened to the world of utility cycling regardless of distance, as I proved to myself that I could, in fact, ride more than 3 miles in a sitting.

With that, I'm thankful for the opportunities that the past year have opened up for me related to cycling and otherwise. I'm thankful that I have a wonderful family that usually supports my cycling addiction, including my wonderful wife who also took up a little bit of recreational cycling herself. I'm thankful for switching from contractor to employee back in January (and somehow getting a raise, to boot). I'm pretty much thankful for everything, and recognize where it all came from.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

And here comes the snow!

No one's ever accused me of being under-prepared, but I wish I'd worn some eye protection. I really, really hate the ice pellets I was being bombarded with on my way home. Oh yeah suspended pedestrian sidewalk overpasses freeze faster than anything I've ever seen before. I didn't fall, but I came close a few times.

Random Tunage:
Noma - Soon
Prodigy - Narayan

Tricks of the trade: Winter, the way I see it

By now, most of the people still riding their bikes for transportation in the northern 3/4 of the USA are what we call "year rounders" -- The cream of the funny farm, so to speak.

I'm not planning on continuing my full round trip during the winter months, and I've already started to slack off a bit as evidenced by my continued use of the bus during what some (including myself) would consider to be okay riding weather. As it get colder, though, and as snow and ice starts to form here in Kansas City, I'll look increasingly more hardcore to my peers. While this works fine for impressing people, I have to admit that I continue to ride a few miles to the bus each morning, even in the snow because it still makes sense.

Now it's time to explain:

Below freezing, the lead-acid battery in my car loses its potency as the chemical reaction slows down because of the temperature. I don't have the luxury of a garage. This means my car may not start. On the flip side, I stay indoors. My bike may or may not. Regardless, the engine starts every morning.

When it's cold out, so is my car. I can either sit in a freezing cold car and shiver for the first 15 minutes, bundle up really, really thick, and take some layers off once the car warms up (dangerous to do while driving), or let the car idle in the driveway, burning fuel for 15 minutes. On my bike, I can dress up in thinner layers because my body will heat up shortly after I start riding.

When it's been snowing or sleeting outside, I have to spend 10 minutes scraping my windows and cleaning off my car (while it's idling and using fuel, of course). This requires me to stand outside in the cold weather. Or, I can just hop on my bike and ride away.

On snow and ice, my car doesn't do so well, plus it could use a new set of tires. My SUV has four wheel drive with high and low settings as well as automatically switching on if I start to lose traction. It works most of the time, but it's not invincible. Other cars on the road can lose traction and cause traffic jams. Snow drifts taller than 18" can high-center it, and 4WD vehicles can still get stuck in the snow. My bicycle's knobby tires are surefooted on snow and on ice. When the road is blocked, it will happily navigate between vehicles or take to a narrow sidewalk with ease. If the snow is too deep even for a big SUV to tackle, I can still walk through or around it on my feet, carrying my vehicle with me.

Simply put, for short distances in the winter time, a well-outfitted person on a properly equipped bicycle is still the most robust way to get around. That said, you aren't likely to see me going on too many epic winter adventure rides this season, but we'll see.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Operation: Turkey Schlep

I got off the bus at 67th street today, which is a road that I'm only vaguely familiar with. Tasked with getting a turky breast on my way home, I had to get to 87th and Lackman. 67th is a street that's good for getting from one side of I-35 to the other, and aside from the killer hill from Nieman to Carter that I coast down in the morning, that's about all I knew about 67th. That same hill is a murderous death slog of doom and despair if you must go westbound, something that I avoid at all costs most of the time.

Well, as it turns out, that slog is just the tip of the iceberg. Oh, yes. The further west you go, the more evil the rollers get. There were two separate occasions where my puny mountain bike, thanks to gravity, surpassed 40 miles per hour as I tucked down low and let it roll. On the up-swing? More like 8 miles per hour.

The grocery store was completely packed without a parking spot in sight. There should be no surprise there, as the doomsday ticker is counting down the minutes to Thanksgiving by now. I saw a lady vulturing the parking lot for a good spot as I wiggled my way through the congested jungle of steel and tarmac. I leashed my steed to a masonary pillar, sauntered in, and was met with great opposition at the butcher. You see, everyone in Lenexa had decided to pick up a turkey today. The store was selling Turkeys on a reservation-only list. They were already sold out, pretty much.

No, I just wanted a turkey breast. My parents have a whole smoked turkey, but we're bringing some non-smoked to go with it. Fortunately, not all of the turkey tits were spoken for. As I paid for my prized chunk of avian flesh and tucked it away, I saw the same lady, still circling the parking lot, waiting for someone to leave. I unlocked my bike and set out for home. Total distance this evening was a little more than 8 miles, but they were some hard miles.

The forecast calls for snow late in the day tomorrow, with possible rain overnight. Oh Joy.

Random Tunage:
Blank & Jones - Desire (Accuface Remix)
Tumor - Come To Daddy

Product Review: Park MTB-3 Rescue Tool

One of the first pieces of gear I purchased when I started bike commuting was the Park MTB-3 Rescue Tool. I realized that my Gerber multi-tool wasn't going to cut it for roadside repairs, so I checked out a wide variety of tools before settling on the Park MTB-3.

Designed with singletrack trail riders in mind, the MTB-3 is Park Tool's answer to the trials and tribulations of mountain bikers everywhere. As it turns out, it contains pretty much everything I've ever needed to get myself and others out of a bind. I've found that it doesn't matter where I'm riding or what kind of bike I'm on, the Park Tool MTB-3 is always the right tool for the job when I don't have access to my huge box of tools at home.

The MTB-3 comes with a very impressive array of tools at a reasonable price point, and that's what sealed the deal for me. My goal was to carry only one multi-tool, some tire patches and an air pump, yet remain confident that I wouldn't be left stranded somewhere. Clearly, I was seeking an affordable, sturdy and robust tool that had most of the right tools for my bike at the time, including a chain tool and tire levers.

The Park Tool MTB-3 stood proud of offerings from Wrench Force, Crank Brothers, and Blackburn regardless of price, which was often higher than that of the Park Tool MTB-3. Try as I may, I couldn't find a wider variety of tools in one compact package, and never once have I found myself wishing that Park Tool had included just one more thing. I've never needed anything else on the roadside, ever. It comes with a handy, attractive and rugged ballistic woven nylon belt holster, as well. It truly is a toolbox on your hip or in your bag.

Over the course of the last year, I've helped several bicyclists including myself tighten loose pedals, brakes and seatpost clamps. I've turned bikes with destroyed derailleurs into short-chained singlespeeds, I've adjusted shifter stops, re-attached clipless cleats, fixed flat tires and a host of other things, thanks to the Park MTB-3. it doesn't matter if I'm commuting, just taking a nice lonely ride in the country, group riding, or out on the singletrack with buddies: I simply don't leave home on my bike without it. I even used it to crack open a refreshing bottle of Boulevard Wheat after one of my group rides, just so I didn't have to wait for the communal bottle opener to make its rounds.

What, then, does this mysterious tool hold within those sleek blue nylon tire levers-turned handle? There are three snugly-interlocking pieces that nest together. Feast your eyes!

The center piece contains a chain tool, Bottle Opener and Pedal Wrench. Side 1 offers a Philips-head, Torx T25, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm and 8mm allens. Side 2 is loaded with a Flat-head, Serrated knife blade, 8mm, 9mm, 10mm box-end wrenches, 1.5mm, 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm allens and 3 different spoke wrenches.

It's pretty obvious from the photos that my MTB-3 has been put through its paces in the last year or so. The handles are stained with chain grease and marred from scores of impromptu bike surgeries. The tools themselves are made of high-quality plated and polished steel, and there's not a scratch on them, nor have they torqued or bent. The nylon handles have bent a little bit from prying off some very stubborn tires, but they still work well both as handles and as tire levers.

I did have one problem while tightening a pedal on one of my group rides a few weeks ago. A minor crack formed in the MTB-3's pedal wrench, and I'm pretty sure I was within torque specs. Park Tool, however, sent me a replacement center section via priority mail with no further questions aside from where to mail it!

If you don't yet have a decent bike-specific multi-tool -- and everyone who relies on their bike for transportation instead of as a weekend toy should -- I strongly recommend the Park Tool MTB-3.

See Also:

Bouncy Bouncy!

I took the Sorrento to the bus this morning. You can guess the outcome. :)

Slogging up the Quivira viaduct was really difficult this morning. Let me count the ways! I was wearing a bulky backpack, riding uphill on knobby tires into a ridiculous headwind on a viaduct that puts you right out there with nothing to baffle the breeze.

It was still fun, but I'd compare this morning's ride to getting kicked in the teeth with a pleasant, minty aftertaste. Times like these make me really wish I had a cyclocross bike.

Random Tunage:
Orbital - Halcyon + On + On
Chumbawamba - Mary Mary

Monday, November 19, 2007

My goodness...

400 PM CST MON NOV 19 2007


K.C. INTL CLEAR 73 54 51 S18G25 29.88R
K.C. DOWNTOWN CLEAR 75 55 49 S21G30 29.88R
LEES SUMMIT CLEAR 73 55 53 SW21G28 29.91R
OLATHE - IXD CLEAR 73 56 54 S16G24 29.91S
OLATHE - OJC CLEAR 72 57 59 S14G20 29.91S
LAWRENCE CLEAR 75 55 49 S17 29.88R

For those of you who don't know what's up with that, it means that I had some insane headwinds to deal with this afternoon, but with temps clearly in the mid-70s throughout KC, it was still a nice ride, just a little slow.

Not much more to say about that.

I took my panniers to a Tailor today after I got home from work. They'll be out of commission for a few weeks while they get fixed up. My daily abuse over the last 7 months has caused 2 seams to start to tear. Nothing major, but I want to get it fixed and have all the seams reinforced before they get worse. I'll be using the backpack for a few weeks, I guess.

Between time at the tailor and eating my supper, I ran out of time before the Monday ride, so I drove there. I know, for shame. I took the mountain bike out, and I'll probably keep it out. I'm putting the Outlook on the back porch (covered) and hanging the Trek on the wall indoors. The Sorrento will be my main ride for a while.

On the "Recovery ride" I made the mistake of chasing the breakaway. Two very fit guys on fixies and one CX racer on a Conquest pro took off like a bat out of hell and I was growing weary of the lethargic pace of the core crowd. I kept them in sight, but I couldn't keep up with their crazy pace on my mountain bike. I was wringing out my gearing and just not getting any purchase. I arrived to Tienda Casa Paloma (the end point) gasping for air, legs and lungs on fire. So much for recovery. Russ (on the Conquest) and a few others always go for this little sprint at the end, and they ride like they're racing for points. It's pretty funny to watch, but I should have known it was pretty ridiculous for me to try to keep up with them, at least on the Sorrento.

Random Tunage:
Garbage - I think I'm paranoid
Lisa Loeb - I do

Is that rain? No...

55 degrees, 90% relative humidity this morning. When I walked the bike down the steps, I saw glare off the pavement as if it'd been raining. The skies above had clouds, but not the kind that make rain. Looking through the weather observation history for the overnight hours, all I see is fog and haze being reported. No, it did not rain. That's dew. Condensation on the road, and a lot of it. Enough to leave a solid film. Enough to fill in wheel ruts with 1/4" deep water.

As I rode, my the hairs on my arms actually accumulated dew themselves. It was hard to tell because I was also getting the occasional water splash from the wheel ruts.

Karen pulled out behind me as I passed 79th street. I don't know why, but she had a long-sleeve windbreaker on, which seemed ridiculous to me. I was staying pretty warm in my short-sleeve wicking t-shirt and shorts. That's her off the edge of my picture. You can see how wet the road is.

None of the regulars showed up to partake in coffee this morning, so I gulped my mocha as quickly as possible and made my way to work.

Mark Thomas has been getting more adventurous on the Monday night rides, so I'll probably switch over to the Sorrento tonight. Forecast calls for rain starting sometime tomorrow, followed by a wintry mix for Wednesday into Thanksgiving. I'll probably shelve the Trek for the rest of this week, which means full trips are not terribly likely for the rest of the week. If I'm feeling up to it, I'll ride all the way home tonight, but we'll have to see how I feel, what the wind is doing, and all that jazz.

Random Tunage:
Vertical Horizon - You're a God
4 Strings - Let it Rain

Sunday, November 18, 2007

3,999 ... 4,000!

Four. Thousand. Miles.

I hit the 4,000 mile mark this year with my panniers loaded full of groceries, riding a mile back home with one hand on the handlebar, the other hand carrying a 10-inch pie dangling in a plastic grocery sack. I had to look like a complete goofball, but that's not terribly uncommon from what I've gathered talking to people.

When I set out to buy a bike back in September 2006, I did it wondering if this childhood pastime of mine was still enjoyable regardless of my massive weight-gain episode in my 10 years of desk work and general lethargy. I didn't even bother counting how many miles I rode until the beginning of 2007, so I'll never really know how many miles I have ridden since I started. By January 1st, I had two bikes and I knew I was hooked. I decided to start counting. I had no idea where bicycling would take me, or what it would come to mean in my life. I certainly had no expectation of achieving 1,000 miles -- much less 4,000! If I keep it up, I may have the opportunity to hit 4,500 by the end of the year, but I'm already more than pleased as punch to have gotten this far in one calendar year.

So far, my miles are broken down like this:
Commuting (to / from work): 2646.3
Errands (meals, bank, travel, etc): 648.7
Recreational (group rides, singletrack, solo fun runs): 705

Random Tunage:
Sarah Brightman - Snow on the Sahara
Bloc Party - I Still Remember

Haven't ridden to church in a while...

"Church" in my case, is Olathe East High School, which as you can see has a bicycle rack, complete with locks that kids leave on the rack, much like I do with my lock at work.

The weather was in the mid 40's this morning and I woke up early enough that I decided to ride to church. Normally, I drive since I usually go to my parents' place after church. That'd make for about 50-60 miles on the bike, which I don't have time for on Sundays. This week, I'm not going over there, since Thanksgiving is coming up this week anyways.

You can see my reflection in this photo.

It had warmed into the mid-50s by the time I got out of church. Just beautiful! On my way home, I had to swing by a store to pick up something for my wife. It was a bit out of the way, but not too far. I came up Black Bob to College Blvd, made a loop over I-35 onto Santa Fe Trail Drive, which brought me home through old town Lenexa. The whole trip was a little more than 15 miles. I took a few photos while I was out. Click on either of the ones in this post to see the whole gallery.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Stop and smell the hippies.

Now, I have my own personal take on "The War" which really doesn't have much of a place here. Maybe I'll start a political blog for those kinds of rants. That said, one little tiny thing that I do believe is that as absolutely horrible a tragedy these deaths are, there would likely be serious hell to pay if we just packed up and came home. Who knows, though. Well, these guys think they know.

I departed at about 1:15 to ride to my KC PHP User Group meeting, which is actually more like a (L)AMP fanboy club. On my way there, I found a stickered-up Nintendo DS in the gutter. It still works. It includes a positively horrifying game, and the only personalization it's got aside from the stickers is the first name of the kid who owns it, programmed into the user information profile. I put up a Craigslist Lost & Found posting for it. If some parent can tell me the color, the kid's name, and the other unique things about it, I'll hand it over. Otherwise, it looks like I go shopping for a power cable and some games. Go me!

The meeting was... the PHP meeting. Nothing exciting worth mentioning. On my way home, I saw the hippies. I stopped to take a few pictures and laugh at them. People were honking and they would all beat their chests, raise their signs up and cheer loudly. There were megaphones in use. Chanting. All that good stuff. I particularly enjoyed the irony of the guy with the "Peace takes brains" sign.

Oh well, not my fault that they wasted an absolutely beautiful evening making fools of themselves, I suppose. Far be it from me to tell people what to do. They provided me with at least 30 seconds of enjoyment on an otherwise dull slogfest towards home after my KCPUG meeting.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Nice ride home & Drive-thru at the bank

Photo: Arriving home at twilight. The Trek DiscoTech takes on steady taillight duty while the Mars 3.0 flashes away on my helmet (not shown). The DiNotte 200L casts a pretty impressive beam up front.

I departed work today a little later than usual, but not so late that I thought the bus was mandatory. Talk about beautiful weather! It was about 60 degrees, but there was a bit of a stiff headwind. I just took it easy and rode it out. In what I can only call "training" -- and I don't "train", mind you -- I decided to not coast at all on my way home. Move those feet! It seemed like an easier trip than usual given the headwinds. I'm not sure why.

I had a UPS guy drive right in front of me near home, and I had to lay on the brakes. I followed him around and gave him a quick lecture that began with the "did you see me back there?" question. I won't call him in, because he seemed genuinely apologetic. I can only hope he SEES both ways next time he LOOKS both ways. It seems a lot of people are really good at turning their heads and eyes down the road, but really bad about actually paying attention to what their eyes are pointed at. He didn't pose a direct risk to me because I had already started braking. Some truck drivers are pretty good at looking out for people, but it's my experience that most are a little on the cavalier side.

I got to my apartment complex at about 4:40 this afternoon, which is a little later than usual. When I checked the mail, I found a check for some consulting work I'd done earlier this month. Without even coming up to my apartment, I turned around and set out to the bank.

Now, I used to hit the drive-thru all the time when I lived in Olathe. Bank, pharmacy, restaurants, and anywhere else. Since I moved to Lenexa, I haven't really had the opportunity. The pharmacies near me are in strip malls, and I've been using the bank downtown when I need to do business. They do not have a drive-thru at the closest branch to my office, either. Today was my first attempt at a bike-thru of my bank's closest branch. This required the crossing of 87th and I-35. I'll be honest. I use the sidewalk along 87th during rush hour most of the time, at least near I-35. This whole area is a death-trap, and for what it's worth, there is a pretty well-designed pedestrian path on the bridge.

The transaction at the bank went as smoothly as if I had driven through in a car. I always love when it works out like that.

Random Tunage:
The Strokes - 12:51
Chicane - Saltwater

Just to see what it's like...

I'm trying to push myself a bit on the cold weather thing, so like a complete and total nincompoop, I departed today (30*F, -1*C) with long pants, but no balaclava for my face, no long finger gloves, and only a short-sleeved t-shirt and a headband for my ears. Granted, this was another bus day for me, but I am trying to really get acclimated to the weather, and over-layering isn't doing me any good. On full trips, I find myself having to slow down a lot and peel layers off if I wish to keep from sweating. I figure it's better to get used to the cold and dress a little lighter than it is to turn into a slow-riding sweat machine.

Really, the only thing that made me suffer was the fingerless gloves. I got to the bus stop pretty early, then found myself waiting in a parking lot wearing a t-shirt and headband for warmth in sub-freezing weather. I had a long-sleeve work shirt with me that I could have tossed on to stay warm if hypothermia started to set in, but 30 degrees really isn't that cold. Just think of it as 272 degrees Kelvin; that makes it sound nice and roasty!

Random Tunage:
Notorious B.I.G. - Mo Money Mo Problems
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - If You Leave

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Got out a little late

Photo: My (rather portly) Trek waits for the bus to arrive.

You've gotta love the Information Security business. Yesterday, a little blip showed up on my security radar. That minor blip on my radar turned into something pretty epic today. Nothing major in and of itself, I just caught a bug mere days away from becoming something ugly and difficult to clean up.

Anyhow, a few extra meetings and e-mails today made for a delayed departure. With the evil sun destroying the retinas of all drivers going my way and the evil traffic that manifests itself whenever I don't get out before rush hour, I decided to bus it home. What a shame, too. It was in the low 50s again. Ah, well.

I thought I had missed my bus, so I high-tailed it down to Union Station. Everyone knows that a bike can beat a bus so it was just a matter of beating it to the next major stop. On my way, one of my co-workers beeped his horn at me and waved while I was stuck roadside tightening the gear straps on the top of my panniers. Not more than 30 seconds later, I waved at him as I filtered through some gnarly construction that was congesting the lane. I love my bike. I'm sure I'll catch hell from him in the morning, but I was in the right lane... even though it was closed. Oops.

Random Tunage:
Martin Page - House of Stone & Light
Depeche Mode - Everything Counts (In larger amounts remix)

Apparel Poll

I'm interested in how you guys handle the beginning of chilly season. I'm not talking 20-below-zero. When it's just a little too cold for your usual early-fall apparel, what's the first thing (or things) you add to fight the chill? Take the poll to the right.

And yes, I realize I forgot to add full-finger gloves to the list, AFTER I had published the poll. I'd have to start over again and get rid of the existing votes if I wanted to change anything. :(

If you're getting this via an RSS reader, then Click here to see the poll.

Random Tunage:
Bam Bam - Where's Your Child
Moonman - Galaxia (Solar Stone Remix)

Poll Results:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Dogs are a mixed bag with me. I inherently trust all dogs unless they prove that I should not trust them, however, I've been wronged by enough of them that I've learned a thing or two. I was once pulled off my old 10-speed and my right thigh turned into a chew toy by a Doberman, for example. That won't ever happen again.

This particular dog was clearly one of those "I AM MEAN!!!!!1!!! Ohh wanna race?!" dogs. All sorts of bark, gnashing of teeth. The whole nine yards. But, he wouldn't actually come near me. That right there means he's just a big teddy bear. As soon as I'd mount up, though, he'd bark at me and act like he was going to chase me. So I stopped, and hunched over my handlebars like a sprinter ready to launch. Ears went up, he got in a similar stance, ready to launch. Then I knew, this little pup just wanted something to chase. He ran alongside me for about a quarter mile at about 12 MPH. A nice leisurely pace for me. Wringing out the stubby legs of my new friend, though. He eventually gave up.

Let's see... Lunch today? I went to Taqueria Mexico down at Rainbow and SW Boulevard and had lunch with Eric while talking about mostly bikes and computer nerd stuff. It was a nice ride for lunch, not quite 8 and a half miles round trip.

It was in the low-50s all day, including lunch and the ride home. T-shirt and shorts were working fine, but this is pretty much the absolute low end of the temperature spectrum where I can get away with this kind of clothing. 30 Degrees tomorrow morning. No more mister tough guy. I'll wear cargo pants and a windbreaker.

Did the full ride home with a killer crosswind, gusting up to 25 MPH and the bright sun shining right in my eyes as usual. Of course, I also saw the Dog shown above. Nothing else about my ride really stands out. While my body was pedaling away and a very small corner of my mind was actively keeping tabs on my surroundings, the rest of my mind was occupied working through some points I must make for an article I'm in the middle of writing, so bike hypnosis was pretty much a way of life today.

Random Tunage:
Setharian - Patch This
Regina Spektor - Fidelity

Hammer Fest & Breakfast

Photo: Waiting in line behind an old Bronco II, money in hand, for my breakfast.

I upped the game this morning by riding in shorts and a t-shirt, although it was barely 50 degrees. Normally, I'd wuss out and wear jeans and at least a long-sleeve shirt, but I felt like sprinting this morning. I also felt like getting breakfast. I was also quite tired from playing around with last night's project and -- yet again -- getting to bed way too late.

So, I sprinted. I sprinted like I had rabid greyhounds chasing me. I kept it above 20 MPH going up the Quivira viaduct, which is usually the bane of my existence. I got up to 40 on the backside of the viaduct, and held it over 30 MPH to Burger King, where I pulled in to partake in a sacred tradition here in the fat belt of the USA: A breakfast comprised almost completely of carbohydrates and cholesterol. I packed my prized breakfast into the panniers, then continued my sprint to the bus stop where I sat and digested it in plain view of the few early-arrivers.

One guy didn't know what was the most peculiar part about me, as he pondered out loud whether it was the fact that I was wearing shorts in 50 degree weather or the fact that the guy taking the healthy mode of transportation was the one pigging out on cini-minis. Oh yes -- a very clever guy, indeed.

A mocha on top of cini-minis would have certainly sent me plummeting into some sort of diabetic coma, so I eschewed my usual concoction, instead quaffing whatever the dark-roast-brew-du-jour happened to be.

Random Tunage:
Britney Spears ft. Madonna - Me Against The Music (Gabriel & Dresden Club Mix)
Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone (Jason Nevins Mixshow)

Okay, what in the HELL is with the bizarre pop-star remixes in my playlist this morning?! I feel icky now.

Late night ramblings

Some of you may know that I do a little dumpster diving on occasion. Today, I had a pretty major score. You can check out the results over at HiR Information Report.

Oh yeah. I saw the bumper sticker on the left today as I left the parking garage.

KCMSD is Kansas City, MO School District. I kind of chuckled to myself as I pondered the juxtaposition had it mentioned Spanish instead of French. Racism, anyone?! There's a significant Latino constituent here in KC. Who cares if KCMSD lost its state accreditation? As long as our kids know how to speak a language that has zero practical application in Kansas City, we're good to go. Thank you, KCMSD!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fun in the West Bottoms - Windy ride home

It's been quite a while since I visited the West Bottoms, one of the oldest parts of Kansas City. It's dripping with both character and blight at the same time, and is a genuinely fascinating place to be. It's directly west of what is now "downtown" Kansas City, MO.

One of my favorite places in the Bottoms, not because of history or anything like that, is Surplus Exchange. They sell old used furniture, computer hardware, electronics and other fun stuff. I haven't been here in about a year. I took Broadway to Woodswether Road, which is a relatively un-used path to the West Bottoms from my office.

Next, I was hungry for a burger, and Jeff told me about Jerry's Woodswether Cafe on 9th street. I saw it while putzing around in the Bottoms and swung by for a burger.

I made the mistake of ordering a double cheeseburger. I figured it would be like a Wendy's Double. which is in and of itself a pretty filling sandwich. When the waiter asked "Really? A double?" I should have queried why exactly this was such a big deal. No. I was just hungry. I got food alright. This burger was MASSIVE! Forget "I can has cheezburger?" This was "I can has a whole cow plz?"

I rode through the 'Bottoms to the lower level of the 12th Street Bridge, and slogged To Beardsley to get out of the bottoms and back to work.

The ride home was insanely windy. A few miles into my ride, Karen caught up with me from behind and I suppose we shared the misery of riding both into the wind and into the blinding sun, glaring off the roadway. It was too windy to even think of talking, so we just settled into some good solid pace work against the wind, and I kept my eyes open for cars coming up from behind that might not see me because of the road glare.

Random Tunage:
Orbital - Planet Of The Shapes
Chumbawamba - Tubthumping

What follows are more pictures I took over lunch. The big spiral on the side of the building is the only way out of The Edge Of Hell. Enjoy.

Mark kicked our butts last night!

Photo: Mark Thomas' CX Whoops from the race on Nov. 4th. Shamelessly grabbed from ©hrisGo!'s Flickr Album. Mark returned the favor by passing the punishment on to us last night. Oh, it was loads of fun, mind you. But damn.

About 15 riders took the the road last night, and we went on a few little excursions. A few grassy fields. A few back yards. A few dicey curb-hopping sections. A few short but ridiculous hills. Oh yes. There were several "Mark Thomas special stages" last night. I enjoyed them on the mountain bike, but I also had to stop for supper and groceries on the way home, too.

Truth be told, I really needed exactly what I got last night. As I use my road bike less and less, preparing to switch to the Sorrento for full-time duty very soon, I really need more miles, and tougher terrain on my Sorrento to get into the groove. I'm actually looking forward to some more fun stuff like this on Mondays. The colder it gets, the more "hard core" the average Monday night attendee is, and the more likely we are to do a few crazy things. It's not that I don't like the other people that show up, but I enjoy it when a small group can really go bananas once in a while.

I was worn out last night. I crashed shortly after my wife left for work, slept like a baby all night, and barely woke up in time to let my wife in this morning. I took the Trek to the bus, too. It was about 41 degrees when I left, but it's supposed to be mid-60s later this afternoon. I opted to NOT wear heavy gear this morning. Just blue jeans and a short-sleeve t-shirt, fingerless gloves and a headband for my ears. I packed shorts for the return trip, but that's it. Yes, it was a chilly ride to the bus, but I pushed pretty hard all the way there without sweating. I didn't regret my clothing choice, and it'll save a lot of excess bulk and hassle when I prepare for my homeward journey.

Alas, now I'm neck-deep in work stuff until it's time for another bike ride. Where the heck is my coffee?!

Random Tunage:
Alphaville - Forever Young
Yaz - Only You

Oh yes -- 80's fever. Woot!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lunch, errands, coldness, and a night ride

Over lunch, I tried to go to Acme Bicycle Company. Fail. Closed on Mondays. I grabbed a sandwich and took the long(er) way back to work, riding past the Federal Courthouse. It's probably my favorite building design of anything we have downtown. It's got a very progressive look to it. Unfortunately, I didnt' capture it in all of its glory with the photo I took of it today.

I also had to swing by corporate HQ to drop off some papers. It was closing in on 70 degrees this morning for a while, but by the time I got in from lunch, it was in the high 50s. Now it's 51. I'm still heading to the Monday night recovery ride, though. It'll just be a little chilly.

Decent weekend, beautiful morning

Last night I took my sis-in-law's new bike out to her and got it all adjusted. She has a job a few miles from home, near Crown Center, so it should work pretty well. Right now, she's blowing $60 a month on bus fares. She'll still have to pay for some bus fares when she has to take my niece to day care, but this should help her out quite a bit.

I bought a lock and chain (ghetto rigged the same way as the chain I use to lock up at work) for her, and donated one of my reflective ankle bands and one of my emergency tail lights, which isn't very bright - I told her where to get some good lights for cheap or free. Heather needed a new backpack for her college classes, so my wife also tossed in a backpack she bought last year but hasn't been using much, and some goodies for our niece. If this works out well for her, I told her I'd meet her halfway on a new set of tires. They're $15 each at a local shop -- they're a really obscure size, but the guy at Turner's always stocks some oddball tires for people like me.

Of all the people on my wife's side of the family (aside from my wife, that is), Heather's pretty much the only one that's shown any level of responsibility lately. I know a $15 bike, a lock and chain, and some miscellaneous gear isn't much, but I believe in my heart that it will go a long way. She earned it.

There's rain in the forecast for today, and I'd already had my mind set of mountain biking to the bus this morning. I'll make it up by hitting the recovery ride tonight. It was a wonderful 62 degrees when I left, and 66 or so by the time I showed up in the parking garage at work. The thick, grey cloud cover overhead displayed a few deep violet and red gashes of bloody sky, lit up by the obscured sun. It was quite a sight.

Random Tunage:
Bloc Party - I Still Remember
Agnelli & Nelson - El NiƱo

Sunday, November 11, 2007

And one for Warren, too!

From the "WTF?" department, we have a story of a squirrel. And Warren thought he had a squirrel problem.

Flaming squirrel ignites car. No. Really.

Lindsey Millar, 23, and her brother, Tony, 22, were both home Wednesday at about 12:45 p.m. when Lindsey's car suddenly started burning outside their 42nd Street home.

Tony Millar said firefighters told them it was the work of a buck-toothed saboteur that had been gnawing on overhead power lines connected to a transformer directly above the 2006 Toyota Camry.

Click to read the rest of the story. Oh well, the only purpose squirrels serve is to die and be a warning to other squirrels. Or so it seems.

Random Tunage:
Deep Blue Something - Breakfast at Tiffany's
Harvey Danger - Flagpole Sitta

I'll bite...

John posted a link to this personality quiz. No surprise, I am Midnight. Now the only thing I wonder is why the Midnight Rider is made of everything sunrise.

You Are Midnight

You are more than a little eccentric, and you're apt to keep very unusual habits.
Whether you're a nightowl, living in a commune, or taking a vow of silence - you like to experiment with your lifestyle.
Expressing your individuality is important to you, and you often lie awake in bed thinking about the world and your place in it.
You enjoy staying home, but that doesn't mean you're a hermit. You also appreciate quality time with family and close friends.

Random Tunage:
Kaskade - Everything
Green Day - Basket Case

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bought another bike today

But this one is going to my sister in law. She lives close to downtown Kansas City MO (near 27th and Jackson for those who know KC) and uses the bus a lot. After riding with us back at the end of July, my sister in law seemed to warm up to bicycling for transportation. It's faster than walking and beats paying for the bus for short errands. She doesn't have a car.

Anyhow, I found this relic on Craigslist last night. It's a Murray 10-speed. All steel, of course. It's probably from the late 70s or early 80s. I've never seen a 10-speed with 26" wheels before. It may well be older than I am. It was only $15 but needed some love, despite being in seemingly good shape. I had to tighten a lot of stuff. The headset was loose. The rear derailleur limiter screws were all out of whack, letting the chain freely drop off both ends of the cluster. The bottom bracket was crunchy, so I took apart the one-piece crank and refurbished all the bearings. I cleaned them well, and applied a gratuitous amount of marine axle grease. That stuff is simply amazing in bottom brackets. It's a little more viscous than I'd desire, but it keeps things well protected.

Anyhow, I'm taking it over there tomorrow to see if it will work for her. It's very small, and given the adjustments I had to make to my MTB to get it set up for her, this should be just about right. It's got the OEM tires on it, but they appear to be in suitable shape to ride on for the time being. The good thing is that almost any mountain bike tire should fit on this bike, given the wheel size, frame clearance and brakes.

I put about a mile and a half on it between the initial shake-down run and all the little tweaks and adjustments I had to make.

Friday, November 09, 2007


It wasn't really all that cold out this morning (high 30s) but I left my jacket completely unzipped, figuring that I'd warm up nicely after departure. I left late and I planned on mashing it a bit, but didn't want to sweat too much - That's why I didn't zip up.

Well, after a mile, I wasn't getting any warmer. I wasn't that cold, either. A few miles down the road, I was getting colder, not warmer. I figured that the slog up to Antioch road would surely heat me up. Nope. My arms and head were warm, but my legs and core were just getting colder. Finally, about 9 miles into my 14 mile work-bound trip, I gave up. I tried to zip up while riding, but couldn't engage the zipper. I had to pull over.

Of course, the whole inside of my jacket was cold from being filled with cool wind for the last 9 miles, so it did very little to immediately warm me up. It's one of those blue service-worker jackets with a foam-filled liner, and overall it's a great middle-weight jacket. Its liner was saturated with cold air, though, which was not a good thing. Eventually, my back warmed up, but my front never did. I got to the coffee shop and took off my jacket. My back was starting to sweat from the Main street slog just moments before, but my belly and chest were frigid. That was more than an hour ago. I still haven't chased the chill from my bones.

Note to self: zip up at the beginning of the ride, and then unzip to ventilate if it gets too hot.

Random Tunage:
Sarah McLachlan - World On Fire
The Distance - Measure

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Had some fun on the way home.

Along the way home, I took the panda portrait below after tooling around on a steep concrete embankment for a bit, then I continued onward. Then, I decided to play around on the dirt mounds and plateaus pictured left. Much bouncing, hopping, and ramping fun to be had. Overall, I just had a blast on the way home. I was riding slow, but who cares? It was some 60 degrees outside. It can stay like this all year round as far as I'm concerned!

Random Tunage:
Erland Oye - The Black Keys Work
Cardigans - Lovefool

Panda Baiku

Oh concrete mountain
Steep and tall above the path
I have conquered you

Taken while standing 3/4 way up an overpass wall, about 30 feet off the side of Turkey Creek trail as it passes under Shawnee Mission Parkway.

I'm not cool enough to own an iPod

... so I use the "cool" headphone pass-through on my backpack for my NiteRider battery cord when I run it on my helmet.

I took the mountain bike to the bus today. I've been on a notable argumentative streak lately, stirring the pots of online philosophical deliberations that would normally fizzle into concession between my friends and I. The debate must go on! This gouged my slumber time, and I'm positively fatigued. I regret not having the moxie to make the full ride in this morning - the weather was splendid for mid-November.

I'm not sure what tickled my mountain bike nerve today, but I lived it up by eschewing traditional pathways at every possible venture. I rolled over raised medians, gallivanted on grassy hills, slid down small stairways and promenaded over parking lot islands with a smile on my face -- just because I can. If you haven't figured it out yet, that's usually what happens when I get on the Sorrento. I pine for the powdery snow, when I can genuinely flog this steed to its full potential. This is going to be an awesome winter for cycling. I can taste it.

I'm quaffing my third caffeinated beverage of the day, but I'm still a bit groggy. I need to hit the sack early tonight.

Random Tunage:
Regina Spektor - Fidelity
Madonna - Get Together (Jacques Lu Cont mix)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I'm (in)famous. Again.

While Eric (from and I were at the most recent of the 127th street planning meetings, we ran into Carolyn Szczepanski, a fellow cyclist who happens to be a writer for various publications, including The Pitch. After a small email discussion on a local bike commuting mailing list, I had an interview-esque series of e-mails with Carolyn off-list. A few weeks later, there's a photographer meeting me to take my picture as I sit on the Kemper Memorial Fountain a few blocks from my office.

The article is kind of gloomy. On one hand, it's hopefully a wake-up-call to KC motorists that cyclists are out there. On the other hand, I think it paints a bit of a disproportionate picture of cycling in Kansas City. With profiles that start with titles like "Injured", "Set On Fire", and "Killed", I'd imagine the article has great potential to sideline a few cyclists. Hopefully, both cyclists and motorists alike just become more aware.

The whole content of the article is not online, and I'm not sure why. There's a whole page in the hard copy of The Pitch that leads up to the 10 rider profiles.

Anyhow, go ahead and read it, if you want. I'm not hard to spot. Thanks to Chuck France for the photo, he sent me a few of the un-used pictures, and I've replaced the mysterious mirror-eye with a cropped version of a photo Chuck took of me last week. Also, Jeff is in there with a few other people that I know from the various bike clubs and group rides around town.

Random Tunage:
Tomski Ft. Jan Johnston - Love Will Come
The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony

Product Review: Dinotte 200L LED Headlight

I have been using the DiNotte 200L headlight system daily for a week now. I owe it a proper review.

I picked this item up as a weekend special ($70 discount) from DiNotte. The catch? No rechargeable batteries, no battery charger, and no helmet mount kit were included. I didn't need any of those, so it was worth the savings. Even so, at about $170 with all the above stuff included, this is a great lighting solution for the money.

Package Contents

* DiNotte 200 Lumen LED light engine
* Battery clips (batteries not included with my purchase) (2)
* O-Rings (2)
* Velcro straps (2)
* Canvas battery pocket
* Basic instruction sheet (in the trash by now, I don't believe in instructions)


The DiNotte has a unique mounting system that's elegant in its simplicity. Just slip the o-ring around the handlebar (or seatpost for the tail light) and snap it into the groove on the top of the light engine. The o-ring provides holding power that's more reliable than awkward clips or clamps, and a small rubber pad on the underside of the light engine grips the handlebar to keep the light pointed where you aim it.

I was also able to easily mount it to my helmet without any special mounting hardware, but that was only due to the shape and placement of the vents on my Bell Solar:

Using the light
Since I threw out the instructions right from the get-go, it took me about 30 seconds to figure out how this thing works. That's okay, because the instructions would have taken me a minute or two to read.

  • Double-click the button to engage the light.
  • Hold the button for two seconds to turn the light off.
  • Press the button to change brightness (steady mode) or pattern (flash mode).
  • Hold the button for six seconds to change between steady and flash mode.
It's that simple.

There's a light in the button which normally glows blue. It blinks at different speeds to communicate what brightness level or flash pattern is in use. When the battery pack gets low, the button's back-light will switch to red and the LED will momentarily strobe quickly. After a few minutes of warning, the light system will fail to low brightness mode and the red switch will flash. With healthy (but depleted) rechargeable batteries, this "limp home" mode can last quite a while, but the LED will eventually dim and fade out. On a totally dark road or bicycle path, you will want to ride slowly and cautiously if the light switches to reserve power.

Run time
I started hunting for another light setup when I realized that 90 minutes of run-time from my halogen rig wasn't going to cut it. I'd say that the DiNotte's run-time for the amount of light it offers was the biggest selling point for me. Although it might only be a few times per month, there are occasions where I may be riding in the dark for 3-4 hours in a single day.

From a set of 2000mA NiMH Rechargeable AA cells, expect about 3 hours of use at full brightness, 4-8 hours on the medium steady and blinking modes, and an astonishing 12 hours or so (not tested) if using only the low light mode.

The LED element in the DiNotte 200L draws some serious current. Inexpensive LED lights claim run-times as long as 20 hours on four AA batteries, so 3 hours is quite a drain. Those amps have to go somewhere, and inevitably, there's quite a bit of heat being created to go with the light. The light engine's casing acts as a heat sink for the LED. Indeed, the case gets hot if left on without airflow around it. That pattern in the metal isn't just for looks -- it's a radiator!

Light output and comparison
When I was on some of the longer night-time rides, I was forced to use my old Blackburn Quadrant as my only source of light. It works fine as a "to be seen" light, but does little to warn of obstacles in the path before you. The DiNotte is the answer to my problem of having enough light to see with while not compromising run time.

I'd say that the light output of the DiNotte 200L on its highest setting is about equal to my NiteRider with the original 10W bulb (which burned out with about 3 months of daily use) To compare my NiteRider Evolution 10W side by side with the Dinotte:

Since the halogen bulb burned out in my NiteRider, I switched to an aftermarket 15 watt bulb which reduced run time by almost an hour. The modified NiteRider is considerably brighter, with a much tighter spot light effect, but a broader flood than the DiNotte. If seeing down the road at all costs is the objective, the 15W halogen bulb wins. The DiNotte beam is on the left, 15W Halogen is on the right.

If you run the two at the same time, you essentially have broad daylight at your disposal:

During the morning and evening twilight hours, the DiNotte's strobing patterns are extremely vivid and hard to ignore. I would almost call it annoying. Reflective street signs blink back at me, even with the sun in the sky. Now, even during the day, I don't commute without the DiNotte flashing away.

LED lighting has come a long way in the last few years. It used to be that LED lights were only "okay" to be seen by. The new advances in LED technology have brought us to a point where a lot of usable light and some good run-time can be squeezed from LED-based solutions.

Overall, I think that halogens still have a solid hold on the title of "best bang for the buck" simply because halogen setups are so inexpensive. They can be over-volted, bulbs are cheap and require no extra circuitry, but the only way to get a long burn out of halogen is to carry around a bulky battery pack. The more light you want, the more batteries you'll have to carry.

With the DiNotte, I can have the batteries hooked up to the light, then carry one spare battery clip full of freshly-charged cells in a pocket somewhere, and get 6 full hours of light that's on par with a 10W halogen setup. The cost is a little higher, but I think the payoff is worth it in the long run if you don't need more light than the 200L will put out.

The DiNotte 200L-AA-S kit (most similar to what I purchased) can be found here:
It includes all that's shown above, plus 4 NiMH AA cells, a battery charger, and helmet mount kit. Retail price: $169.

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