Thursday, January 31, 2008

January Recap and miscellaneous stuff

Well, my "Do Not Lick Bicycle" sticker project isn't working too well. I'm currently laminating inkjet transparency film to traditional reflective tape. This is too thick to be flexible. I may need to find some company to directly print these on reflective vinyl for this to work. Oh well. To the left is a cheesy picture of my prototype. It was the 4th and best, but still wants to peel off because of the added thickness and layers.

January '08 stats ('07 in parentheses)
Work Days: 21 (21)
Bike Commutes: 21 (14)
Bus-Assisted Days: 19.5 (14)
Driving Days: 0 (7)
Commute Miles: 151.1 (124.1)
Errand Miles: 46.0 (10)
Rec. Miles: 35.1 (7.1)
Total Miles: 232.2 (141.2)

So there you have it. I almost doubled my miles for January but I have my work cut out for me. I must say that this month wasn't nearly as challenging for me as last January was, but I'm still thankful January's gone. I wouldn't mind some more light powder episodes to play in, but the novelty of snow is starting to wear off, and the really cold weather, while tolerable, is something that I merely put up with because the fun and exercise (okay, and shocking my cow-orkers) is worth it.

Random Tunage:
Nine Inch Nails - Wish
Bloc Party - I still Remember

Plans for '08

You may have noticed (but probably didn't) that I never bothered to talk about my expectations for 2008. Part of this is because my only new year resolutions were to take life as it comes and try to enjoy as much of it as I can. I didn't want to come off like I had some cycling-specific resolutions. These are simply goals and expectations from myself.

Goal #1:
Pack on at least 5,000 miles total for 2008. That's about 420 miles per month or about 100 miles per week. I won't make 420 for January, but given my riding pattern over last summer, I can pretty much guarantee I'll have several months with 500-700 miles. It won't be easy, but it's less than 800 miles more than I rode in 2007. I'm already ahead of where I was by this time last year, but not by enough of a margin to catch 5,000. I'll definitely need to work hard to meet this goal.

Goal #2:
I will ride a genuine century ride. Last year, I did a metric century in one run of things during the last official C'Dude full moon ride. The ride itself was less than 40 miles, but I rode to and from the start point to put me at 70ish miles in one sitting. Combined with my 30-mile round trip commute, I did ride 101 miles in one day, but I still consider that day as just a metric. I want to ride a real century in '08. Maybe two. I don't care if it's a massive event like the Lone Star Century, just cruising the countryside with Chris, 'Dude, Badger or Dave, or even on my own.

Goal #3: 2007 brought with it 25 car commutes. I want it to be 0 this year, but I'll settle for anything under 10.

I expect that my lungs and heart will continue to get more efficient and that I'll end up more endurance because of this.

I expect to finally start losing weight again. I lost about 50 pounds from when I started riding, but gained 15 of those back this winter. I never, ever dropped below 190, but I bounced against 190.0 several times. Once I clear 190, I expect to never see 200 pounds again. Period. We'll see how that works out. I feel better now at 205 than I felt at 180 when I was bulking up on my lethargy phase, so I'd rather not worry about weight and worry more about how I feel. Weight loss is not a goal, so I'm not tracking it too much. I weigh myself once, maybe twice monthly.

Clean bikey!

Not much to say about last night's commute. This morning, I was extra hungry and there wasn't anything tasty at home, so I stopped by Burger King for some breakfast to eat at the bus stop. Once downtown, I saw the remnants of a pretty serious car crash. Lorin swung by to have coffee with me. It's been a few weeks, so that was cool. We bewailed the current state of the presidential race, bickered about music, and discussed the upcoming Bike To Work Week plans.

I swear, this time of year I spend almost as much time cleaning or fixing my bike as I do riding it. Okay, not quite, but I do spend more than a mere morsel of my week doing preventive maintenance, adjustments or repairs. If my bike is in any kind of disrepair, I pretty much have to figure out what's going on. Noisy chains, noisy brakes, and crufty shifting are not an option. Last night's clean and tune took a few hours but it was worth it.

I can tell you that I found the most awesomest degreasing agent ever made. Brakleen. Holy moly! Not only did it shine my rear gear cluster and chainrings up, but it evaporated in about a minute even outdoors in sub-freezing temperatures!

Anyways, here are some obligatory photos. Bath time for bikey!

My whole bike was covered in this grimy film:

I took the wheels off and scrubbed them down first, then threw the rest of the bike in the tub. First upside-down, then right-side up like this, but leaning over so it wasn't resting on the rear derailleur:

The rear cluster. I cleaned it with Brakleen and ran a rag between sprockets while it was still off the bike. This photo was after I re-lubed the drivetrain and all that good stuff.

The Goat is clean! Sorry for the over-exposure. The reflector tape throws it off and I mis-calculated the exposure time.

Random Tunage:
Des'ree - Dreams can come true
Sixpence None The Richer - Breathe

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Might need to tone it down a bit...

My clothing, that is.

It was 9 degrees when I left home this morning. I opted for my thermal base layer, top and bottom. Bluejeans, two pairs of socks in roomy shoes, and the inner layer of my winter ski coat up top. On my head, I wore two balaclavas, the second to keep my chin and ears warm.

I had a somewhat brisk pace on the way to the bus, but I wasn't hammering it. By the time I hit the viaduct apex, my torso was burning up. This is the same upper-body combo that was fine -- no, great at 19 degrees without the increased effort.

If this continues, I may try layering thinner layers. Perhaps my thermal base layer, a hooded sweatshirt and a windbreaker or my ski jacket's outer shell. This should, in theory, be about as warm as my ski coat/base layer combo, but with the ability to vent the outer layer while still having something warmer than just my base layer exposed to the breeze.

As it sits, I rode the last half mile or so of my journey with only my thermal base layer on. I took my coat off on the bus and packed it away, so I was already dry. That configuration is certainly too cold to ride any distance in, but it was better than sweating my arse off.

It's somewhat frustrating to have a setup that you know works really well, and when one variable is out of place the equilibrium is thrown all out of whack. I may have to reserve my ski coat.

The Goat is back in its singletrack form again. The cargo rack is off, the rear fender is back on, and it's looking really, really grimy from the last two days. Some of this is slop from riding it, and some of it is the crusted-on remnants of the briny spray it gets while strapped to the front of the bus on the highway. It'll need a good, thorough cleaning sooner rather than later. I can only hope that we see temperatures above freezing for a bit this afternoon, as I don't really have a good place to clean it off indoors.

Random Tunage:
Dynamix II - Machine Language
New Order - Confusion (Pump Panel Remix) [Blade Soundtrack]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Day After Tomorrow

You know that scene in The Day After Tomorrow? Forget the flooding and all of that. Just the part with the massive cooling effect. Remember that?

Well today was kind of like that. It was 54 degrees when I left my apartment. It was 52 degrees when I got downtown. But somehow, in mere minutes, it was suddenly in the mid-40s before I could actually get to work. This cool-off had to have occurred in as few as 15-20 minutes. By lunch-time, we were down to 17 degrees with strong winds and horizontal snow. Only a few hundred miles to our east, Saint Louis was enjoying temperatures approaching 70 degrees.

The ride to the bus this morning was a little sloppy. The road was sweating with condensation. The air was just right -- again, about 54 degrees. Short-sleeve weather, for sure. Not willing to let it fool me, I had my winter coat packed for my return trip.

The return trip was bitter cold. 17 degrees, very windy, and with slushy roadways and impatient motorists trying their damnedest to make my life hell. The pedestrian bridge was dicey with strong winds and nothing but a chain-link fence to baffle it. Being held 40 feet above the ground and all of the wind-calming protrusions therefrom, I was literally hanging in the breeze and not having much of a good time, either.

At least the rest of the week looks predictably cold. No more of this bait-and-switch weather.

Random Tunage:
Sarah Brightman - Snow on the Sahara (how fitting!)
Reflekt Ft. Delline Bass - I need to feel loved (12" Club Mix)

Poll: Car-Free Household?

The question is simple.

I'm giving 3 options here:

Yes: No one in your household owns a car. To make this clearer, "car" means any motor vehicle that you would have to own a license to use on the roadway. Motorcycles, too.

Share one car: In a household of multiple people of driving age, one car is shared between you. This can be a married couple, room-mates, life partners, whatever. If there is only one car and multiple adults in your domicile, click this option.

No: Either you're single with at least one motor vehicle, or there are multiple automobiles owned by people of-age in your dwelling.

In order to see this poll, you must visit KC Bike Commuting. It will be in the upper-right corner, as usual.

Monday, January 28, 2008

What a night!

Dave asked if I was going out to the Bike To Work Week planning committee kick-off meeting earlier today. It was scheduled to be in Westport. No, thanks. Upon further inspection, however, I noticed that they moved it to Waldo, an area I'm pretty familiar with, and not too far for a bike ride. So, I decided to skip my usual mile-pile group ride in exchange for something with a bit more purpose (okay, and more miles, too).

Against all better judgment, I couldn't resist riding home this evening. 60 degrees, and what I'd find out later was SW (straight-on headwind for the most part) wind at 23 MPH gusting 39 MPH. I am a man of many obscure words, but "grueling" is the only one that I can think of right now, and that's a gross understatement.

Finally arrived home at something like a 12 MPH pace average. Just ridiculous. I quickly Grab some grub. I didn't eat much. Mistake.

I Drove my bike (on the Explorer) a few miles to meet up with Dave. I got out too late to ride to the place I was going to meet him, so I drove part way there to make up the time.

We roughly took this route to get out there, but got turned around a few times and then couldn't find the library. The wind never let up at all. What a genuine pain. But, it was a fun ride, and good meeting the people interested in how they can help make Bike Week 2008 a huge success. 2008's incarnation of Bike Week WILL happen on the LAB recommended schedule. If even part of the brainstorming we did this evening comes to fruition, this should be the biggest, best turn-out to date. I won't make any promises or reveal anything yet, but it's obvious that there's a serious force behind this program in Kansas City.

The trip back was slow going. The wind had taken its toll on me all afternoon, and I didn't eat nearly enough for supper. I floated on the brink of Bonk for quite a while, but in the end, I made it back okay.

It was cool to meet Dave in person. We both bike commute, some of our motives behind commuting are the same. We both work information security in the financial industry. And that's just to name a few things. On the flip side, he's been riding all his life but is a relative newcomer to bike commuting in its current incarnation, whereas I'm a relatively new cyclist with more bike commuting experience -- mostly because that's more than 80% of my riding, though.

I am going to sleep really, really well tonight. I am torn the hell up.

Random Tunage:
ORM - Millenium [sic]
Crystal Method - Vapor Trail

How much longer will it last?

A few mornings ago, it was 1°F, the second coldest temperature I've ridden in. This morning, it was 49°F, a little warmer than last night's errand run. By the time I got downtown, it was 52. Since I already had the road bike and panniers out, I rode the whole trip at an average speed of 18.2 MPH. Not bad for being out of shape like I am, until you realize that at any given time I had 10-20 MPH winds on my hind quarter. It was almost a crosswind, but with enough angle to give me a bump. It felt like a pretty quick ride for the amount of effort I put into it.

It felt damn good to ride the whole way in again. I'm not sure if I'll ride all the way home though -- especially if the wind keeps up the way it's been. Regardless, I'll probably go hit the Monday night ride this evening as long as it doesn't start raining. I need to get crack-a-lackin' on these miles sooner rather than later.

I skipped my usual coffee stop this morning. I brewed up the last of my Nitro last night for my wife and stashed the rest of it away in my vacuum flask, which keeps coffee fresh and undrinkable-hot for a good 24 hours. It's not as bold or full-bodied as my usual French Pressed coffee, but it's still good. I think I have some Mountain Dew laying around here somewhere, that is if the night cleaning crew didn't steal it. Stupid office theft crap cheeses me off.

Oh, and to answer the question of how much longer will this nice weather last... It looks like we're back to flurries tomorrow. Epic Fail. I was just starting to like this stuff.

Random Tunage:
Kimberly Locke - 8th World Wonder
Peter Gabriel - In Your Eyes

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Not-so-late-night errands

Photo: No rollerblades, skateboard or bicycles allowed.

Some of you might be in the swing of things, riding to work when it's nice out, maybe a few days per week. Maybe every day. Maybe even when the weather just plain sucks. A while back ago, Warren posted about Clif Bar's 2 Mile Challenge on CBB. It's a challenge to use your bike or feet for short trips that don't require a car. I started out just riding to the bus 2-3 days per week. It took me a while for it to even cross my mind to try going to the pharmacy or post office on my bike. Now, I live right at the intersection of two very popular suburban arterial roadways. Within two miles, there are 5 grocery stores, a post office, several banks, scads of restaurants, a bike shop, and almost anything else you could really want. Best Buy, Sam's Club, Petco, Toys R Us, you name it.

So back to tonight's adventure. I'm making taco salad tonight, and we also needed more breakfast stuff. With that, I decided to take The Twelve on a shakedown run and get some more groceries. I haven't ridden it since Bike America tuned it up. Now seems like a good time. 48 degrees outside. Just beautiful!

In the duffel:

  • Eggs
  • None of your business :P
In the panniers and/or bungeed atop the rack/panniers:
  • Sunday paper
  • Black olives
  • Family size bag of Tostitos
  • Hamburger meat
  • Bagels
  • Cream Cheese
  • Bacon
  • Sour cream
  • Taco Seasoning
  • Brownies
  • Deodorant
  • Food for our pet rodents
  • Limeade
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Microwave popcorn
And probably some other things.

I could have easily loaded another 15 pounds of stuff into the duffel.
This is the kind of stuff I love about living about a mile away from a grocery store. I can make surprisingly hefty grocery trips with relative ease. Even if there's a lot of shopping to do, it's close enough that I could make 2 or 3 quick jaunts.

Total miles today: a mere 2.3. :(

Random Tunage:
Agnelli + Nelson - El Nino
Nine Inch Nails - A Warm Place :(

Late night errands

The sleep schedule (or lack thereof) been hecktic this week. I didn't get out Saturday like I'd wanted to. I was indoors most of the time, and sleeping a good part of the day as well.

I did have to make a quick midnight grocery run, though. For this, I rode The Goat. At 36 degrees, it felt good to get out. I didn't even bother with socks. Just threw on my ratty Sketchers and an ankle-strap to keep my jeans out of the chain, a windbreaker over my t-shirt, a headband and my Specialized Deflect gloves. It was a great ride, albeit short.

Maybe I'll get out tomorrow. It's hard telling the way things have been going on the weekends.

Random Tunage:
INXS - Need You Tonight
Ben Folds Five - Brick

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Do not lick bicycle when cold!

This all started when Apertome started talking about how when it's REALLY, REALLY cold, his bike actually freezes the condensation out of the air when he brings it indoors. I made some comment, and I actually had "WARNING: Do not lick bicycle!" as my IM status message for a while. It seems to elicit chuckles.

Also, yesterday at one degree, my hand actually stuck to my bike when I went to lock it up at work. Indeed, it was very, very cold outside. To that, I took Apertome's suggestion to specify "when cold" as well. It looks cheesy but it's kind of funny. I like it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Just too tired this morning

But I rode anyways.

Seriously, this was the kind of morning that would have forced me into a car last year. I was honestly considering catching the Dreaded Bus to get to work. It practically offers me Door-To-Door service. This, however, would be cheating, or I'd feel like it is. It really is great to be able to have the absolute worst case scenario available and still have a car-free way to get to work. I really want to make it through the winter without missing a SINGLE bike commute day, though. Taking the Dreaded bus wouldn't ding me as a car commute day (thank goodness), but it wouldn't count as a bike commute day, either.

No. Bullheaded as I am, I rode to my usual brumal bus stop at an average clip of about 8 miles per hour. This is about 50% slower than my usual pace on my mountain bike, about half the usual pace on my road bike (which is the same as hammerfest pace on my MTB), and about 1/4 my hammerfest pace on the road bike -- Just to put things into perspective. I. Was. S. L. O. W. this morning.

Once downtown, I hung out with JR over a warm cup o' joe for a while before heading to work. His birthday was this week, but for some reason he insisted on buying me coffee. Odd, but appreciated.

As far as the tired goes... I'm not sure what the deal is. I get the same amount of sleep every night for the most part, but I think it might not be enough. As the week wears onward, I always seem to feel a little more fatigued. Couple that with the fact that I'm still expected to put out about the same amount of productivity this week as any other week despite having a holiday on Monday, and you've got a recipe for some serious crash-n-burn syndrome. My eyes are burning. My head hurts. My legs are sore, and it's certainly not from all the miles I've been (not) packing on. I'm thinking I should schedule an hour-long meeting over my lunch break in one of the small, windowless conference rooms on the other side of our building...

Random Tunage from my PsyTrance playlist:
Infected Mushroom - None of this is real
Growling Mad Scientists - Shrek

Thursday, January 24, 2008

You can count the degree...

... on one finger!

This is officially the second coldest day I've ever ridden my bike. The coldest was a commute to the bus in 2007 at -3°F. Today it's 1°F. I actually wore the same gear I had on for yesterday's 12 degree morning, just cranked up the effort a bit. With the exception of my big, fluffy ski gloves starting to fail my two outer fingers on both hands, I was doing just fine. Keep in mind that this is only a bit more than 2 miles to the bus stop. I would have needed something extra on my hands if I were to ride much more than 4 miles in this. Glove liners inside or plastic bags outside the glove to block the wind, maybe.

Bike America is officially bad-ass. I took The Goat out there last night to get the wheel trued up and the wrench on duty went bananas on my bike. I guess my rear cone bearings and my headset were a bit out of adjustment. The chain was shot (no surprise there) and a bunch of other little details got fixed up. As usual, they rock. Occasionally it takes them a while to get a part in, so there are always some locals bewailing their service. They get swamped in the summer time, too, but they do their best.

After all that, The Goat is running smooth and quick. Less of a mountain goat and more of a mountain lion, perhaps. I stiffened the tires up to 65 PSI (max recommended) last night which also helped a bit this morning, I'm sure. At this point, the ice on the ground is in little patches and it's mostly dry pavement covered in sand, salt and frozen grime. Nothing my road bike couldn't handle but I like to be prepared for the freak blizzards that KC seems to be famous for these days.

Part of me is seriously ready for spring. Another part of me wants to see a few more really cold mornings in hopes that I can best my previous cold weather record. Let the acrid missives from my fellow KC denizens ensue!

Random Tunage:
Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy
Green Day - When I Come Around

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

One last post this morning. A funny story.

After discovering that I was going to need new brake pads, I had to justify the expenditure to my wife. The conversation went something like this:

"Honey? I need to spend some money on bike parts."

"What? Why? Can it wait until pay day?"

"I need to fix my brakes. I can't ride my bike the way it is. I can't stop. It's dangerous."

"How Much?"

"Cheaper than a tank of gas in the Focus and it should last me at least a year."

"Oh, okay."

In all this, though, is the lesson that you do need to set aside $50 or so on occasion for bike repairs. It sure the hell beats setting aside $600 for the random car repair. It always seems random bike failures usually result in a $40-60 expenditure, whereas random car problems end up setting people back more than $500 at a shop.

The brake-n-shakedown

The brakes worked really well this morning, aside from a bit of rubbing slowing me down. That will go away with a wheel tune-up this evening, I'm sure.

Another brisk morning at 11 degrees, and the additional brake drag was not welcome. It didn't set me back too much but I could tell I was hitting the rim in a little spot every rotation. It was either hit the rim a little bit, or not have adequate braking power for the rear. I chose the slower, safer option.

I had Coffee with Lorin this morning, probably for the last time in a while. He's trying to save some cash and part of that means giving up a few luxuries. I'll still see him on the bus as long as I keep riding it though. I'm going to try to see if I can rope him in for a weekly full-ride downtown once it warms up, too.

Anyhow, aside from that, my morning was business as usual. Ultra-caffeinated with some pressed coffee and a mocha, and all the good stuff that goes with it.

Random Tunage:
Orbital - Desert Storm
Steve Winwood - The Finer Things

Bike Repair Twosday

The Goat's rear brakes were grinding yesterday morning, and were worse last night, starting to chew up my rim. Upon inspection, I found that one of my rear pads had some aluminum built up in it. This isn't uncommon, and I've had the same problem with the OEM brakes on my road bike before I switched to the Swissstops. Furthermore, though, the pads were pretty much hosed anyways, so I set out to get some new ones.

My road bike has some issues as well, so I took it to Bike America while brake pad shopping. They offer free lifetime tune-ups on all new bikes purchased there, which is really a hell of a deal when you consider how much labor could potentially cost for tune-ups alone. If you need a wheel trued up, a new chain, or a complete overhaul, all you pay for is parts. I figured I'd let them work on my 1200 now when business is slow. While I found my brake pads, Tyler went to work.

The main thing that I noticed with my 1200 is that the spokes on my new Shimano R500 rear wheel were hitting the derailleur in its lowest gear. I rarely go down that low, but on the occasions that I did, I was greeted with "ping ping ping" and quickly shifted up again. My hanger was slightly bent. Tyler re-set it for me. My rear wheel was a bit out of true as well. He straightened it up. He also did a quick lube and overhaul of my front brake, which I didn't know was in dire need of attention.

With as bad as my brake cables were last time I checked them, I went ahead and picked up a good length of brake housing, two new brake cables, and the various ferrules and ends for them.

The brake pads I picked up for The Goat (shown above) are Gigapower brand replaceable pads and holders resold under the Bontrager label. I opted for replaceable brakes this time around. The Bontrager and Kool-Stop Linear-pull ATB brake pads will fit these holders, so finding replacements will not be an issue.

The Goat needed a lot more help than I'd initially thought. I ended up completely refurbishing all of the brake pivots. I mean I completely tore both cantilevers completely apart, cleaned them all up and re-lubed them before re-assembly. I gave the frame a good, thorough wipe-down as well, and half-ass cleaned the drivetrain. I started around 8pm and I didn't get finished until close to midnight. Granted, I took a break for supper in there somewhere, but still...

I need to take The Goat in to get the rear wheel tweaked. All the rest of the stuff I was going to have the bike shop do after winter's left us, I did on my own last night. I can true wheels, but I don't have a truing stand so I can't guarantee I'll get the rim centered properly and the rear wheel's out of true in several places making it hard for me to judge what part of the wheel is where it should be and what part is out of whack. I'd rather leave that to a pro.

I didn't have time for a shakedown, but at least I knew my 1200 would be in great shape.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tricks of the trade: Caffeine On The Go

I know a lot of cyclists will berate me for this one, but every time I mention my portable French Press that fits in a bottle cage, it seems to drum up a bit of attention. Caffeine is hands-down the most popular drug in America.

It's been said that caffeine is a way to steal time from your older self. Caffeine users surpass smokers and alcoholics by a significant margin. Some people think Caffeine is evil. Others love it. I don't care where you stand on this argument, but I'll just tell you I'm on the "love it" side of the fence.

With that, my favorite way to enjoy coffee is via French Press. For the un-initiated, there are several ways to enjoy coffee. I'll outline 4 of the most popular ways:

  • Drip Brew. A filter full of coffee grounds sits in a basket. Water is heated from a resevoir and as it boils, it is forced up a tube and drips through the grounds. The filter keeps the coffee grounds from getting mixed in with the coffee you drink. The decanter below catches the coffee and is usually heated from below to keep it hot. This is probably how you get your coffee.
  • Percolator. Coffee grounds are located above a vat of heated water. The heater is located below a tube, forcing water up and onto the coffee grounds. The liquid works its way through the coffee grounds. This coffee-water gets recycled and run through the coffee over and over again until it is sufficiently strong. This is how small stove-top coffee kettles and large coffee urns work.
  • Espresso. Very fine coffee grounds have high-pressure steam forced through them, quickly extracting the flavor and caffeine from the coffee grounds. This is very strong and can be drank as-is, but is most often put in popular espresso-based drinks such as Mocha, Latte and Cappuccino.
  • French Press. Near-boiling water and coffee grounds are stirred together in a container and allowed to steep for a period of time (usually 3-5 minutes depending on desired taste, type of coffee bean, and coarseness of the grounds). After that time has elapsed, a plunger is pressed down, which forces a screen filter through the coffee. This pushes the coffee grounds to the bottom and separates them from the coffee beverage. At this point, you may drink the coffee. In a large French Press, it's often poured into a suitable drinking mug. On a small travel press, you can drink straight from the container if you wish. The coffee grounds will not brew any further once pressed to the bottom.

French Presses come in many different styles, but my favorite one for use on the bike is the Bodum Travel Press. It's made in stainless steel as well as insulated plastic. I opt for the Stainless since it should be more durable. It's also vacuum insulated and keeps coffee warm for a long time even in the single digit temperatures I have to endure on occasion.

I bought mine on eKitchenGadgets, which was once upon a time. Here's a direct link:

Also, Steven M. Scharf's Bicycle Coffee Systems website has a bunch of coffee/bicycle related information, including a bunch of links to special bottle cages and bicycle cup-holders for odd-sized travel mugs and regular travel mugs that happen to fit nicely in standard bottle cages. It's certainly worth a look.

10 degrees, and a great morning

First and foremost, I simply nailed my clothing choices this morning. I took my advice from the 8 degree morning earlier this month:

"Maybe add a light layer to legs, go lighter on the upper body"
The end result:
  • A pair of balaclavas (one showing only the eyes, one to add a layer to the ears and neck, stretched to go around my face) and ski goggles for my head. I don't have a scarf or a neck gaiter but this would have been better than a second balaclava.
  • A wicking thermal base layer shirt under a ski coat for my torso
  • Thick snow ski gloves for my hands
  • Wicking thermal base layer, thin flannel pants and cargo pants for my legs
  • Doubled-up socks inside loose, loose tennis shoes for my feet
I can genuinely say I was really comfortable this morning. No sweating except for the top of my head, and I was pedalling along nicely at a reasonable pace. This would have been way too much clothing for a hammerfest, but as far as my usual commuting pace goes in the morning, it was perfect.

I threw some coffee grounds and almost-boiling water in my bike-bottle French Press a bit before taking off, as well. It was nice to be able to warm my soul while waiting for the bus. No matter how cold it is outside, it seems that my arrival is the cue for all the motorists to evacuate the confines of their steel cages and stand "in line" for the bus. I could show up 20 minutes before the bus and they'd probably get out and stand around. I don't know if it's because they have some kind of sympathy on me, or if they just figure the bus must be close if I'm there waiting for it. Regardless, most of them are shivering while I'm enjoying life inside my warm clothes, sipping on warm, dark coffee.

So begins a short work week. It looks like we stand a good chance of staying below freezing until the weekend approaches. Personally, I think this is a Good Thing(tm).

Random Tunage:
D:Fuse & Hiratzka - In Suspense
Fatboy Slim - Praise You

New Poll: How many bikes?

How many bikes in your household? Maybe there are 6 people and only 2 bikes. Maybe you're single and have 6 bikes. Heck, JR has more than 20 all by himself! Whatever the case, I want to see how many you've got.

Have an interesting story behind some of your bikes? Tell us about them in the comments.

If you don't see the poll in this post, you need to go to KC Bike Commuting to see the poll. It's in the upper right hand corner.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Monday night (no) group ride.

As usual, I like to show up to a bike ride on a bike, not with a bike strapped to an SUV. This is mostly a matter of practicality, not environmentalism. I would similarly rather drive my Focus to an Autocross than have it towed to and forth on a trailer. This set me back a bit, as traffic signals had thwarted my efforts to get there on time. I was about a minute late. That said, we haven't started on time in almost a month. I think I was the only one who showed up. I'd find it hard to believe people actually left on time this week, but no one was around.

36 degrees this time of year is too nice an evening to waste, so I departed on the first leg of our usual Monday night ride. Mark Thomas usually runs something different every week when he's leading. He's out Cross racing in Europe this week, but Russel would have likely lead today anyways. I generally have a good idea where they're going, so I set out to catch up just in case I'd missed the peloton by a minute or two. It was clear that either I was on the wrong path or I was the only one on the ride within 5 minutes or so.

I decided to putz around some side streets. Up Colonial to Lamar, back onto Colonial, got lost and ran into a few dead ends. No biggie. I was just having a good time at this point. I decided that Lamar was nice enough to ride on, so took it all the way up to Mart-Way. This intersection is the main bus transfer depot for our local bus system, and one of my favorite Thai Restaurants is across the street as well. I resisted the urge to pick up a dish from Thai Orchid to eat later. It sounded very tempting and I'm sure the bungees could have held it safely all the way home. Alas, I kept riding.

Up to this point, the majority of my riding had been north and east. With the wind. This whole time, it was a stable 36 degrees as well. My return was a grueling one that started off with a death slog uphill and into the wind on Mart-Way. I found Metcalf, shimmied along it for a while, cut through some lawns and found 61st. Then it was a ride into the stiff wind. I watched as temps literally plummeted. We lost almost 10 degrees in just a matter of minutes.

A glutton for punishment without a good alternative route, I chose to slog Antioch (again, into the wind) to 67th street. The result of that was 300 feet of climbing rolling hills into the wind in just about 2 miles. Wind and hills. Two foes I know well but still haven't adjusted to.

I took a few "detours" along the way. Hopped a few curbs, rode through some grass. Good stuff. The rough outline of my ride is here. There were a few "oopsies" as well, which I didn't mark. Some dead ends and what-not. All in all, though, it was a fun ride. I should be ready to rock and roll for the morning commute now. Looks like I stand a chance of riding in or near single digit temps again.

Random Tunage:
Nine Inch Nails - A Warm Place
Nine Inch Nails - Closer

Friday, January 18, 2008

I want to do this one of these days

Somehow I think my Sorrento isn't quite up to the task.

Heat Wave! But it's still in the 20s...

Sometime around midnight, temps across KC were in the single digits. This doesn't surprise me, as even on my commute yesterday, I watched as temps fell from 25 degrees to 20 while I was en route. That's a lot of degrees to lose in a short period of time. Clouds moved in during the wee hours and got things to a comparatively balmy 23 degrees by the time I started my ride to the bus. I'd call a 20 degree warm-up in a six-hour span a heat wave.

It was a hammer-fest today, with a little bit of the old off-road. As I approached the Maul, I eschewed the road in favor of the snow-covered knoll. I took it at speed, too, which was fun and slightly scary. It's only about 60 feet long, with maybe a 10 or 15 foot drop. It's not that steep, but there are mounds of plow-piled snow and a curb with icy pavement awaiting me at the base. I barreled through the obstacles, which at least makes me feel like I'm using my Goat to some of its potential.

There's a chance I'll be working from home sometime this weekend, and then I've got Monday off for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Since I'm in the financial industry, Stock Market closures are used to mark paid holidays at the company I work for. I'll probably still be out at the Monday night ride. If you don't hear from me until then, you know why. I'm probably going to take it easy this weekend, but as ambivalent and A.D.D.-prone as I tend to be, it's hard to know what's going to happen.

Random Tunage:
Eiffel 65 - Blue
Barenaked Ladies - One Week

Argh. I'm gonna have Blue stuck in my head all day. "Da ba deee da ba diiii..." Or maybe it'll be BNL. Egad. Attack of the 90's tracks.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Photo: Turkey Creek Streamway Trail. It's under there somewhere, I promise you. Click for gallery of 5 or 6 pictures.

I love this stuff, I really do. The parking garage got my bike right up to 32 degrees all day long. It's covered but not really climate controlled or heated in any way. As such, my bike got thawed, and mechanically sound by the time I rode home. I hopped off the bus north of Johnson drive and did my Turkey Creek route. I was slow, but I had a ton of fun.

Flocculent. It's the perfect adjective to describe the experience that enraptures your senses while gliding through pristine powder on a bicycle. I'm talking about powder that's so silky smooth that it doesn't even have that squeak under your tires as it compresses. There's just a ghostly whisper from beneath you. The knobby tires float at speed, so steering and balance come effortlessly. You ride through a frozen, fine mist made of microscopic dust particles thrown into the air before you by your front wheel This is the life. Aside from being 70 degrees and sunny, riding unencumbered on a nimble and responsive road bike, I can't see it getting any better than this.

Random Tunage:
Steve Winwood - Finer Things
Linkin Park - Shadow of the day

Fun, but tough going this morning

Photo: My pile o' stuff. Pants (3 layers this AM), goggles, balaclava, backpack, gloves and helmet. Oh yes, and a coffee press about 30 seconds from being ready to decant. I'll get to the coffee in a moment.

I love riding in the snow, so this morning's ride was blissful compared to yesterday's homeward commute. Shortly after hitting the road, though, things were apparently less than peachy keen. Where do I begin?

My first mistake was not bringing the bike in last night. This would have either allowed it to dry or at least kept the moisture from freezing.

My front brake. The pivots are frozen solid. If I squeeze them, they will not release. It's not the cable. It's the pivots. They're full of water from last night's rain. Shifters. All hosed up. Pawls won't engage on the rear shifter. Front derailleur full of ice and doesn't want to downshift. It'll up-shift just fine. So, I had a singlespeed on the way to work. At least it wasn't an entirely craptastic gear ratio.

The front tried to wash out on 95th street, too. I don't know how many of you are in or around KC so some will have to take my word for it when I say 95th and Quivira is not a good place to be making snow angels in the middle of the road, even at six in the morning. Somehow, I managed to stay rubber-side-down. My old VersaTrac knock-off knobbies never did that, though. Not on powder.

Got to the bus stop at about 6:15. About a dozen cars sat idling. With temperatures at 13 degrees according to Wunderground, I don't blame them. I saw Lorin walking up (not riding) as I did a bit of a cool-down lap around the parking lot. The bus was almost half an hour late, so we were just standing out there in the elements. I was flawlessly bundled for the occasion, so it wasn't a big deal, except for my toes which did get a little bit wet. The bus got downtown a good 45 minutes later than usual, too. All in all, I got to work an hour and a half after I left home. I could have likely ridden all the way to work and beat the bus, as it's only about 9MPH average. It would have been a close match, especially with only one gear, but I think I could have done it.

I didn't get my Mocha this morning, and I'm kind of grouchy about that. As unhealthy as it is, my daily mocha is about the closest thing I get to breakfast most mornings. So, here I sit, sipping on a delicious pressed coffee. It lacks anything resembling sustenance though. Caffeine and warmth only take me so far.

Random Tunage:
Underworld - Juanita
DJ Eyal - Dreamcatcher

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Home sweet home

Happiness is a dry place to sit your bum, a fresh pair of flannel pants, a hoodie, and some big-ol fluffy wool socks.

As I peered out the windows prior to departing, I saw large snowflakes, but heavier than flurries. They turned out to be something akin to sleet with embedded snowflakes, and the ground was still soupy from a day full of light rain. There was no accumulation, just lots of road grime from below, sharp frozen precipitation jabbing me from above, and a stiff chilling breeze from the front.

Pretty much everything was soaked through when I got home. At exactly 32 degrees, this perfectly defines everything I hate all at the same time. Had it just been snow, I'd been in heaven. If ANYTHING was going to stop me from riding other than seriously dangerous weather (violent thunderstorms, baseball sized hail and Tornadoes for example), today would have been it. Alas, I rode home. I didn't take the longer route, but I did ride in it and I'm no worse for wear.

I do loves me some wooly socks and soft fuzzy clothes right now, though. Mmmmm Hmmm!

Random Tunage:
Exposé - As long as I can dream
Jimmy Eat World - The Middle

Brake Check!

I spent the better part of an hour rooting through the discombobulation that has encompassed The Goat's braking system -- specifically, the rear.

I've done a LOT of seriously abusive riding recently. This includes riding down or simply leaping at speed off of urban stairways, bunny-hopping large curbs, and of course the relentless conquest of sandy, salty slush. These things have combined to put my rear wheel a little out of true (nothing I can't adjust myself this weekend), and has caused a lot of gunk to collect in my braking system.

The first order of business was to take care of some brake rubbing issues due to the (lack of) wheel trueness... wheel truth? I don't know the particular verbiage, but the brake was rubbing a bit. To make matters worse, the brake lever was already compressing to the handlebar during hard braking.

While I had the brake system taken half-way apart, I went ahead and hit all the cantilever pivots with FinishLine. Then, I popped the brake cable housings out of their bosses, sliding the cable housing to the other end of the cable, exposing all of the previously covered brake cable. I used my old favorite: waterproof boat-trailer axle grease on a rag to butter the hidden parts of the cables up. They were slightly oxidized, and this treatment brought back a dark luster to the strands. I left some excess on them and slid the cable housing back into location, then moved to the rear cable housing including the metal "Noodle" that's found on most side-pull cantilevers. I gave this segment of cable the same treatment.

Upon re-assembly, I completely re-aligned the rear brake pads, then re-seated the brake cable so that it's adjusted properly with my brake lever's barrel adjuster screwed almost completely back into the lever. This morning, I was rewarded with some amazingly smooth, strong brakes.

The midwestern winter can be really, really hard on a bicycle. When this season is over, I'm likely going to have to haul my bike to the shop and have them give it a complete and thorough tune-up. I can fix pretty much anything on a bike, but I lack the intimate familiarity with the small details that a professional wrench has acquired. I can't get perfection adjusting of a front derailleur or get wheels perfectly true when they've been taco'd. Judging from what I saw last night, my bike is probably ready for all-new brake cable housings. The shifter housings look okay, but I'll probably just have the LBS re-do all of my cables at the end of winter. With it, all new brake pads, both wheels trued, and a shifter adjustment should make my bouncy Goat like new once again, ready to hit the singletrack.

Last night, I grabbed some lunch after work, then did the A Bus Short Route. This morning, it was the humdrum workbound L-Bus with a coffee run. Aside from the usual bouncing around and "special stages" that I improvise en-route, there's not much worth mentioning. The forecast is calling for snow sometime today, and I'm really hoping to be able to ride in it for my homeward commute. If the conditions are favorable, I think I'll get off the bus further from home and take the Turkey Creek route.

Random Tunage:
Altitude - Excession
Energy 52 - Cafe Del Mar (Nalin & Kane Remix)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fifteen Degrees never felt so good

Okay, maybe I was a bit over-layered up top. I put the ski shell over my ski coat, thus forming the complete deal. This bad boy would keep me toasty down to almost zero degrees with nothing but my base layer under it, and indeed that's all I had on under it. Fifteen this morning, Forty Two this afternoon. My intent is to wear the ski shell windbreaker alone this evening.

Two layers of socks in some very loosely-laced Airwalk shoes kept my toes very warm, like a nice spring morning. I can't express the difference it makes to wear loose shoes in this kind of stuff. Clipless d00ds are kind of hosed, as they'd right pop out of their footing. Welcome to yet another reason why I opt for platforms for winter. That, and I can't stand a giant metal heat-sink under the ball of my foot.

Last night's jaunt on the road bike really seemed to wake my legs up. I felt pretty good this morning despite not getting a whole lot of sleep. The Quivira viaduct didn't hold me back at all, and I had a pretty fun run this morning.

It looks like we'll have our little heat wave this afternoon, then in the next few days settle back into the winter that we should be having, complete with snow and all the other good stuff that goes with it.

Random Tunage:
Evans Blue - Possession (Alt-Rock cover of Possession by Sarah McLachlan)
Bloc Party - I Still Remember

Monday, January 14, 2008

2008, Weak Two

Grabbed some grub before hitting the L Bus for the typical Quivira Pedestrian Bridge homeward commute. Hung out with my wife for a bit, then took the 1200 out on the Monday night ride.

I won't make any excuses for driving a few miles to go on a bike ride, but I did. I wanted some more miles, but not that many more, and I was running late enough that even with driving, I didn't have time to throw my chamois on before hitting the road. The ride was a bit under 10 miles, so it wasn't torturous, but I'm wishing I'd have worn it. Okay, so much for not making an excuse.

Weak Two Total: 44.5 Miles
Jan/2008 Total: 105.8 Miles

I guess I shouldn't be complaining too much, this is more miles than I logged all of December, and we're not even half way through January yet.

Random Tunage:
DJ Eyal - Dreamcatcher
Cascade - Escape

Callow Clutter

That's right. Even more of a mess today.

Brain didn't make it through the night. A few hours after my previous missive, he sank further into the clutches of his destiny, eventually taking his final breath while my wife kept watch. I was sleeping. That chapter is over now, and at least he wasn't met with days upon days of suffering. That's about all you can ask for.

This morning has been one thing after another. Kinda cold outside, I left home on time, got to the bus stop on time. All that was hunky-dory. As far as bike rides go, today was just about as mundane as they come. Coffee with JR and Lorin was -- as usual -- an entertaining event full of off-the-wall discussion topics.

Once I got to work, it was an endless mess of jetsam and flotsam that has only just now subsided. I'm certain that it has a lot to do with my employer finally being out of the "Year-End Freeze", a period of time where very little maintenance can be done. Now that we're in the clear, all the rubbish that's been piling up can be hauled out, bringing with it a lot of work to get done in a very short timeframe.

Either it's going to be one of those weeks, or I'm having a case of the Mondays. Neither one is pleasurable, I assure you.

Random Tunage:
Orbital - Planet of the Shapes
The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Collated Chaos

Yesterday: Grabbed some lunch at Jimmy John's before catching the bus. Took the A bus home via Turkey Creek again last night, wrapping up Friday with a total of about 9.6 miles. No more silly in-action photos this week. Sorry.

It's 5:30 PM Saturday and I've done no riding. I probably won't get out tomorrow either. I've been pretty busy with other hobbies, other writings, work, and real life. These next 2 Sundays, I have after-hours server work to do from midnight until 4:00 AM. I'm not going to have the energy to ride tomorrow.

Then there's church. My mom, who usually takes care of slides and song lyrics, is sick with bronchitis, so I'll get to run sound, lights and video at the same time. Unfortunately, I'm pretty much the only one who can handle sound right now, and our video software isn't just some quick little PowerPoint knock-off, either. Very few people are comfortable running it. Have I mentioned how difficult it is to worship when you're running a 20-channel sound board, audio recording rig, and video software while trying to figure out what the heck the praise band is doing?

Also, to top things off, our eldest gerbil, Brain, isn't doing too well today. He seemed fine yesterday. Today, he's lethargic, off-balance, and disoriented. This is pretty much what's happened to every single other gerbil I've owned when it's their time, with the exception of Scooby, who died of cancer. We bought Brain with another gerbil, Pinky about 5 years ago. We thought they were both male. After years of playing with one another, I found EIGHT baby gerbils in the cage one day. Just out of no-where. One of them died shortly after birth. Pinky and Brain only a few weeks later squirted out another litter of five. Four of them died and Pinky soon followed them. I held her in my hands and watched her take her last breath. Her death started much, much like what Brain is doing right now. There are six remaining female gerbils from the two litters. I hope if Brain doesn't pull through this, he at least passes peacefully. It's odd how we get attached to pets. I know I'll be fine once this clears, but it doesn't make it any easier knowing that death is imminent.

So there you have it. The mess that is my life, sorted out into neatly organized paragraphs for your consumption. Collated Chaos.

Friday, January 11, 2008

That was dumb

I'm not sure what I was thinking this morning...

I'm usually chilly when I wake up. It's just how things have always been ever since I was just a nipper. Upon waking up, my first instinct is to find some clothes and throw them on. This morning, my usual thermals and cargo pants went on, and then I found my Guinness hoodie. Ah. Sweet Beer-Touting Warmth.

Now, on with the show... somehow I ended up leaving the apartment in a hooded sweat shirt AND my ski coat. Maybe the hoodie and a windbreaker or my ski jacket shell (the windproof, water-resistant outer companion to my ski coat), but not the fluffy ski coat itself. It was only 24 degrees out, not nearly chilly enough for a ski coat at all.

So, when I got to the bus stop, I ditched it and lashed it to my rack. The hoodie alone was much more comfy. I'm still befuddled as to what in the world I was thinking this morning, though.

A little off-topic:
I'm smitten with "Hydraulics" mode in Need For Speed: Pro Street on my Nintende DS. While I've never actually gone and played Dance Dance Revolution, as far as I can tell, the Hydraulics game is pretty much a DDR ersatz. The premise is that if you hit the right button at the right time (usually landing on a beat of whatever song happens to be playing), you score more points in this imaginary car-show hydraulics competition. The more correctly-timed button-pushes you manage to pull off in a row, the more exponential your points get. Missing just a few hits in the middle can be the difference between 8,000,000 points and 2,000,000.

The entire bus trip, I did nothing but play NFS:PS in hydraulics mode. Seriously. The reasons that it's so hypnotic for me are simple: First, most of the tracks that you have to play to are decent, and secondly, it is kind of like a puzzle that brings quick thinking, quick reflexes and good coordination into the mix. While I know I'm not exactly piling on the IQ points playing this thing, it's a fun way to jog my brain and engage my tactile, visual, and auditory senses in the morning.

Once I got to Starbucks, I threw the guys for a loop when I ordered a Venti (20 oz) instead of a Grande (16 oz) Mocha. I always get the Grande. They see Das Blinkenlichten (my DiNotte 200L and Mars 3.0) strobing and they are already working on making my drink. Then, they tossed in a plastic re-usable cup (one with a somewhat holiday theme, mind you) so that I don't kill the trees with their paper cups anymore. I asked Wolfgang (yes, that's his name) if he knew how many tons of carbon were emitted during the manufacture of the plastic beads and the injection molding process that went into making this mug. It was a rhetorical question, but a valid one all the same.

For those that don't know my stance on this whole environmental thing, I take a "spiritual stewardship" stance. I'm definitely not an environmentalist, but I don't like to litter, I think simplifying things is good, and all that. You won't find me losing sleep over the number of trees that have been unceremoniously decimated to provide me with a paper coffee cup, or the state of "Peak Oil", or the pollution that a certain kind of vehicle is belching out. I believe that many people doing a lot of little things adds up quickly, and I don't think anyone in their right mind would call me on the carpet for being environmentally phlegmatic.

Random Tunage:
Sarah McLachlan - Possession
Spirallianz - Heiterheute

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Miscellaneous schtuph.

First: I know *AHEM* some people like to ride in the rain, but you need to be a really, really sick puppy to like this. Headwinds o'doom, and somehow ice, snow, and rain all at the same time.

This morning, Leg 1 was just chilly. Nothing wrong there. Leg 2, however, brought with it a deluge of rain. 38-degree rain. I was not amused.

The obdurate precipitation continued all day with every kind of wintry-mix element you can imagine. I got out a bit late, and in an "oh crap!" moment realized that the L bus was already several minutes ahead of me when I saw the B pull up. Fortunately, the L bus has a fixed route and schedule. Regardless, it was pretty far into its route, and I had to give it 100% to race it to Union Station. My race was won, but at the sacrifice of every bit of comfort I hold dear. I hadn't the time to don my gloves or balaclava, nor even zip my windbreaker. I arrived to the station soaked, chilly, wind-torn, worn out and with raw lungs from more than a mile of all-out pedal-mashing.

I actually fell asleep on the bus. That never happens. I took it easy for the ride home, and used the pedestrian bridge route.

So, today wasn't miserable, exactly. It just wasn't ideal.

Next: I wrote a little diddy on CommuteByBike about Guaranteed Ride Home programs. For those of us in Kansas City (and surrounding areas), I suggest signing up for MARC's GRH. Even though the cases where I'd be forced to use it are a few and far between, it's nice knowing I have the option if something bad crops up.

Random Tunage:
God Lives Underwater - From Your Mouth
The Postal Service - District Sleeps Alone Tonight

Lunch-Time Musings

On Pizza:

One cannot walk through a populated cubicle farm while carrying a pizza -- even a small one -- without one in five (or more) wanna-be-clever sheeple making some comment about it.

  • "Can I have a slice?"
Listen, I didn't ask for one of the three McLardass burgers that you had in hand when you waddled through here yesterday, did I? No, you can't have a slice.
  • "Oooooh! Pizza!"
Congratulations. You can read two-syllable words now.
  • "Did you go get pizza?"
No. It's raining out. Some college kid brought it to me. And I tipped him, too. Note: I spent two years as a tactical meal deployment engineer. To this day, people that won't tip a delivery driver cheese me off.
  • "You got Minsky's!"
Captain obvious strikes again.

On being OCD
Some background: My work and most of the things I do for a hobby require a procedural mind, one that can find a way around perceived limits. One that sees a fun challenge instead of blind acceptance and frustration when the word "impossible" is muttered. As such, I tend to make puzzles of efficiency or thoroughness out of simple life events.

Case and point: My wife accuses me of not washing my hands often enough. While this admittedly may be true at home, I am extremely OCD about the ritual (not the act!) of washing my hands at work, particularly in the break room (where people are constantly cooking and eating their food) and the restroom.

In my mind, my procedure seems completely logical. The bathroom is one thing, but I'm pretty sure the break room is just as clean if not more so than my own little corner on the sixth floor of this faceless bastille. Ostensibly, I realize that this has to look very, very odd to anyone who happens to witness even half of this process yet it remains a strangely innocuous -- no -- "mostly harmless" habit of mine.

Random Tunage:
Denki Groove - Niji
Suicide Commando - Hell Raiser

New Poll: How do you carry your stuff?

Go ahead and tell us.

Personally, I like my panniers, but this time of year I like a backpack to keep my gadgets safe from peril should I lay the bike down. Since I'm already wearing a backpack, I just toss my clothes in it, too. If I have anything extra, I bungee it to the rack.

How about you?

As usual, you need to go to KC Bike Commuting to see the poll. It's in the upper right hand corner.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Nice afternoon for a longer ride

... and pictures! Click for album.

I took the A Bus via Turkey Creek Streamway Trail to get home. Took some cheesy but artsy in-motion shots. Had some fun. Took it slow. Not much to say about that.

I got home just in time to grab a bite to eat before heading the the BSD user group meeting, which was a blast. Not a huge turn-out, but we had a good time and learned new stuff.

Random Tunage:
Nine Inch Nails - The Frail
Dopamin - Dirty Samba

A good day

Why? Well, a number of reasons.

1) Any day on a bicycle is better than a day stuck in a car for the morning rush hour.

2) The numbers are in, and I got a favorable raise at work. Cost of living increase plus a little on top for merit. I'm not money-hungry, but this will help things.

3) I feel better than I have in a few days. I spent most of Monday evening and yesterday feeling like I was beginning to come down with something. This was probably related to spending a lot of time at the hospital with my wife, and a weakened, sleep-deprived immune system. While I never felt bad per-se, whatever was trying to beat me down, I warded off using some tricks I wrote about earlier this week. Namely, lots of vitamin C, some Echinacea tea at work, and I got about half an hour of sleep more than usual last night. I find it ironic that the malaise started creeping in hours after I wrote that article.

What else?

Ah yes. Geekery: I am attending the first-ever Kansas City BSD user's group tonight. Unfortunately, the timing and location of it will force me to drive there. If there are any UNIX-savvy geeks reading from the KC area, check out The KCBUG website for details. I'll be there sporting my OPENBSD License Plates. Yes, that's my car. Yes, I still have that on my plates, but I have the newer design with the brown buffalo now.

L Bus: Leg 1, Leg 2

Random Tunage:
The Cranberries - Zombie
POB - Boiler (Humate Remix)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Waiting for locusts, frogs, and rivers of blood

Seriously, I have no clue what's going on with the weather this month. A weekend spent mostly in the 50's and 60's just days after I was riding in single digit temperatures, killer tornadoes and baseball-sized hail mauling the great plains, and a wintry mix following that. It really has me wondering if we're in the middle of some kind of plague. Perhaps the apocalypse is nigh and I should be watching for other signs.

No, I don't really think this is the end of days, nor do I really think this is a plague, but it certainly isn't normal for this time of year -- not even for Kansas, which is known for its divergent weather patterns.

The photo above was taken from the pedestrian walkway on Quivira. I rode on the road, but saw the train and rode back over to snap a few pictures.

My cold-weather clothing log shone again this morning. 39 degrees, and I nailed it spot-on with the same attire from last time it was this temperature. If you ride year-round and have trouble staying comfortable in the cold, I can't praise this method enough. Everyone is different, so my clothing might be too warm or too cold for your tastes, but you can't beat fine-tuning your own winter wardrobe by learning from your own experience.

Random Tunage:
Binary Finary - 1999
Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy

Monday, January 07, 2008

Riding in shorts in January...

... and sweating my ass off!

This morning, Temps were right at 60. I was wearing my chamois, MTB shorts and UnderArmour running shirt. I also wear some ear cover below 60, so I had my headband on but didn't really need it. I was plenty warm.

I wore the same thing this afternoon minus the head band. A little bit of sunshine burned off most of the road moisture, and I decided to ride all the way home. With temps clearly in the upper 60's, it was an amazing ride. It dropped about 10 degrees in the last 5 miles of my trip, into the upper 50s.

I switched to long pants and a long-sleeve shirt, then rode to the Monday night ride. I put in 10 miles there, then ran some errands afterwards and came home.

It's amazing how smooth and responsive a road bike feels after about 2 months on a mountain bike. Sadly, it will have no place on the road tomorrow, so I'm swapping bikes out again. I promised myself that I'd stick to the Sorrento this winter, and today was a good day to break that promise. I'm not pushing my luck, though. Rain and snow is in the forecast for tomorrow.

Today: 33.7 miles
January: 61.3 miles

Random Tunage:
Baltimora - Tarzan Boy
Nine Inch Nails - God Given

... or not!

I was going to ride to work the whole way this morning. And why wouldn't I? Could someone tell me what's wrong with this weather?

Temperature: 60.6°F / 15.9°C
Humidity: 85%
Pressure: 29.63in / 1003.3hPa
Conditions: Overcast
Wind Direction: South
Wind Speed: 5.0mph / 8.0km/h

The answer is not "It's January! 60 Degrees in Kansas?!" No, it can stay 60 degrees as long as it wants to!

What's wrong is something that it isn't telling: at some point overnight, the dew point was higher than the ambient temperature, causing the pavement to sweat. And I'm not talking a little sweat. I'm talking a thick layer of condensation mixed with salty, sandy dirt, forming a perfectly even layer of milkshake grime on the road.

So, it was another bus morning. I'm all geared up for a ride home if it dries out, but it doesn't look like it will.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Product Review: SRAM Power Link Chain

I wrote a review of the SRAM Power Link chain over at Commute By Bike. I've been using the same SRAM chain for about a year and a half now on my mountain bike. It's endured lots of rain, slush, snow and grime since I started using it. It's in the middle of its second winter of full-time bike commuting, too.


  • Power Link master link is easy to use
  • Makes deep-cleaning your chain a quick and simple task
  • Power Link is just as strong as other master link systems (such as pressed pins)
  • Requires no tools to remove and install your chain
Go check it out to see the full product review with photographs and more details.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Some good news...

No, the good news is NOT that OP RMC has covered bike parking, but they do.

My wife had been on a blood thinner since about 7 this morning. They can't find any more clots (for example, after a doppler sonogram of her femoral veins and more CT work) so she got discharged tonight, but she has to go see a bunch of docs here in the next week or so. Thanks for the e-mails, comments, and prayers. Hopefully she's out of the woods on this issue.

Quick update - No riding for us this weekend :(

Early this morning while at work, my wife took a trip to the E.R. - dizzy spells, trouble breathing, etc. I guess it was about 4:00 AM. It took a few hours, but they eventually narrowed it down to pulmonary embolism -- that is, some blood clots that'd worked their way into her lungs, which they found via CT scan. As best we can tell, this is from complications with her surgery last week.

I came home for a quick nap, as I haven't slept much at all since last night. I'm about to head back out to the hospital. It's sunny and 60 degrees. Sigh.

She won a most-expenses-paid weekend stay at Overland Park Regional Med. Center. We're not sure how long they're going to keep her there, but it's probably going to be a few days. Please keep us in your prayers, send positive thoughts, or whatever it is you believe in, if you would.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Heat Wave!

Yesterday, Lorin's bike chain was so rusted that I was gnashing my teeth riding next to him just listening to it. I spent a good hour or so tearing my bike apart and tidying up the drivetrain last night just because that's how bad Lorin's chain was! I took the above photo after I was done. That work ate a bit into my sleepy-time, but it was worth it. Shifting this morning was a lot smoother.

Temperature on departure: 30*F (-1C) What a stark contrast to Wednesday morning! I actually had to check my cold-weather clothing log just to jog my memory and figure out where to start. The closest temperature I could find was 36 degrees, and I should have probably taken the advice to wear thermals under my cargo pants, or something to keep my knees warm. 30 degrees is just a hair too cold for a single layer on my legs. It wasn't bad, but my knees got a little chilly. The Underarmour shirt with a windbreaker was perfect, and the Specialized Deflect gloves -- as usual -- rock.

Lorin's chain wasn't any better today, so I hope he gets it fixed up this weekend. While grabbing my morning java with him, I also saw JR again for the first time in what seems like weeks. He'd been besieged by what sounds like a rather nasty stomach flu, which explains his truancy. Heebie Jeebies.

Tonight, my family is celebrating my mother's birthday by participating in the mass consumption of charred mammal flesh. I'm also supposed to have my regular first-Friday meeting at the Maul, but I'm not sure that's going to happen.

I am kind of joking about 30 degrees being a heat wave, but there's really one on its way. We've got temperatures approaching 60 in the forecast for the weekend, and I fully intend on hitting the bike paths with my wife. I may even keep the road bike out for the early part of next week, as it looks like we're going to ride the tide of above-freezing highs for a few more days. I hope this makes it out to Indiana for Apertome and Dan to enjoy, as they've had even colder temperatures to endure than we've had out here in KC.

Random Tunage:
Orbital - Belfast (Leama & Moor Remake)
Way Out West - Apollo

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Mission Accomplished

With the stealth, speed, and precision of a ninja, I tucked all of my belongings away and tiptoed out of the office with only a minute or two to spare. No time for changing clothes. No time for filling the water bottle. I made my egress to the lower level of steel cages. The little corner of the parking garage that'd been set aside for two-wheelers sits almost completely empty, save for my trusty Sorrento -- covered in a partially dried, partially frozen crust of God-knows-what, not much different than the blighting grime entombing so many cars around me.

I hastily dial in the combination to my chain lock and free the bike from its shackles, not much different than the keyboard and pager that bind me for no less than 40 hours every week. Glancing at the clock, I lash a plastic bag to the rack. It's full of extra stuff that didn't quite fit in my backpack. Pushing off with one foot while barely getting the other leg over, I rocket off in a whirlwind of pedaling. Just as I bail from the orifice of the parking structure, I engage my lights. Traffic signals obeying my whim, I whisk to the bus stop to catch the one and only Antioch Express. Once on board, I'm reminded by a passenger that my helmet is blinking. I chuckle and shut it off.

All this to put myself in a position to swing by Turner's on the way home -- before eighteen hundred hours. I got my FinishLine Wax and got out in a hurry (after paying, of course). Mission Accomplished!

This morning was similarly hurried. I got out late, fought a headwind that tried its best to push through my clothing, and got to the bus without so much as an ephemeral moment to catch my breath. People were boarding. Lorin's bike was there on the rack already. It was seconds away from departure. The bus driver waited while I situated my bike. A few wanna-be-clever folks kibitzed about my timing.

My clothing rocked this morning. 12 degrees Fahrenheit. I wore the same as yesterday morning minus the hoodie, plus flannel pants and an extra layer of socks (with Warren's patent-pending bag corner trick)

Random Tunage:
Lords of Acid - Must increase my bust (this track is a riot!)
Laurent Garnier - Crispy Bacon

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Note to self: Errands...

When running errands by bicycle -- particularly the 6-mile round-trip ones on busy roads after dark in sub-freezing temperatures -- It is wise to make sure that the place will actually be open when you arrive.

I guess Turner's Cycling & Fitness either changed their hours for post-holiday-shopping Winter or I've been lucky enough to stop by on days that they're open until 8:00 PM. My drivetrain has taken a beating in the grimy, slushy, salty, gritty conditions the past few weeks. I have to say that the Boeshield T9 lubricant has done better than I had thought for these conditions, but it still needs constant attention.

Last winter, I used FinishLine wax lubricant on my chain and cables, and it worked wonderfully. I am out of T9 as of this morning, and really wanted to switch to a dry lubricant that would flake off with the mud and salt that gets flung all over my chain. The plan was to pick up a batch of FinishLine this evening, but I arrived to find out the shop closes down at 6:00 on Wednesday.

I had to hit the grocery store as well, so it wasn't all a waste, but the grocery store was the opposite direction from Turner's. Oh well.

I polished off my first riding day of 2008 with 11.3 miles, an average of 8.3 MPH (woo hoo) and a top speed of 24 MPH where I dropped a semi while racing him on 87th street on my way to the grocery store. I also found some more apparently pristine snow to ride through but it was likely windblown drifts over trodden snow. The effect is the same, though. I got to ride through some nice powder. Anything beats rutted ice.

Temps fell from about 18 degrees to 15 while I was out. Now they're a notch away from single digits again. Most of the forecasts for tomorrow say the low is in the mid 20's somewhere. It had better warm up really quick, or some meteorologists' heads are going to roll.

Some more cool stuff to kick off 2K8

I'm kind of giddy announcing this, but I just hopped on board as a writer over at one of my daily must-read sites, Commute By Bike. They just signed on a few other new writers as well. I'm genuinely excited to see what CBB holds in store for the upcoming year and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Also in the cool department was a 19 degree homeward commute that I nailed spot-on in the clothing department. Chamois, base layer top and bottom, wool socks, Seirus Thermax balaclava, Specialized Deflect gloves, with cargo pants and my ski coat rounding out the mix. The sidewalk on the way home was just a big sheet of blighted, rutted ice. It was a very difficult ride, putting every ounce of bike handling skill I've amassed to the test. In the end, it was a fun ride, but was mentally and physically draining, requiring unwavering attention to my line, and a lot of work from my upper arms to keep balanced as I allowed the bike to float where it wanted within my chosen path while keeping it upright.

In hindsight, I probably should have opted for the perceptibly perilous passage otherwise known as the traffic lane of Quivira Road at rush hour.

Random Tunage:
God Lives Underwater - Rearrange
Enya - Sail Away

One of the coldest commutes I've done

I've only been out a handful of times in temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and this was one of those. 6F (-14C) this morning, with about 8 miles per hour headwind creating a -6F (-21C) wind chill. Probably colder than that, since I was riding into the wind.

Here's how I battled the cold this morning. Clothing layers listed in order from closest to skin outward.

Head (just right):

  • Thermax balaclava covering everything but my eyes
  • Knit balaclava covering my forehead and chin (not covering nose or mouth)
  • Uvex Ski goggles
  • Bell helmet

Torso (a little warm):
  • Champion thermal base layer
  • Guinness Hoodie (Yay beer!)
  • Ski coat without the windproof shell
Legs (a little chilly but not bad):
  • Chamois
  • Champion thermal base layer
  • Cargo pants
Hands (just right):
  • Thick ski gloves
Feet (Cold):
  • Wool socks
  • cotton socks
  • loose-fitting athletic shoes
I could have used something thinner than my hoodie, another layer of pants (thin, like flannel or something), and one more layer of socks. Other than that, I was very comfortable. It was easily tolerable, and not far from being a perfect match of clothing for the temperature.

I got very little sleep last night, so I took a batch of French-pressed coffee with me and still had to gulp down a quad-shot mocha with Lorin when I got downtown. The caffeine is almost starting to kick in.

All in all, this was a great way to kick off 2008. How did your attempt at First Tracks 2008 go? Post your story (or a link to your blog post) in the comments. Let's see 'em!

Random Tunage:
Plumb - Damaged (Redemption Extended Remix)
Plumb - Cut (Bronleewe & Bose Radio Edit)

Yes, two Plumb tracks back to back played randomly from a playlist of my recent music purchases (200+ tracks). What a trip she is: Christian music that's a fusion of Alternative Rock and Electronica. Yummy.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Poll: What kind of bikes do you own?

I know there are probably 30 or more different classifications for bicycles, so I don't want people to tell me I left fixed gears out, or recumbents, or highwheel penny-farthings, BMXs or...

Most fixies are by definition road bikes, unless you're masochistic enough to go singletracking on a fixie. Most cyclocross bikes are also by definition road bikes, too.

Post in the comments, I have anonymous posting enabled, so there's no signing up for any accounts needed. Show us what you've got!

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

Be sure to check out the previous polls.

Results are in:

Don't forget - First Tracks 2008

Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. The time has come. Some of you might have had work today, but the vast majority of us, I'm guessing, start our first workday of 2008 tomorrow, January 2nd.

Right now, it looks like KC will have it's first foray into single-digit temperatures overnight. Forecasts vary from 3-6 degrees for the morning. It won't stop me that easily, though.

Some parting photos from 2007

I got hosed by the bus system last night. They were running limited bus service, which meant my usual bus wasn't running on its usual schedule. I ended up having to lounge around for an hour, so made some good use of my time taking more pics of the final hours of Kansas City's daylight in 2007.

We had some friends over last night, so I had a lot of last-minute work to get done. After the smoke cleared and people went home, I didn't feel like posting while slightly intoxicated.
So here you are.

Here's the Western Auto building that was in the reflection of Union Station in my last photoset:

A full shot of the front of Union Station. You can see my bike in the lower part of the photo, on the left side.

Westin Crown Center from a different angle

And from the other side

People skating at the Ice Terrace

Some goofy shots of my bike with Crown Center in the background. Tilting intentional.

2555 Grand, the "Shook, Hardy & Bacon" law firm building.

Not sure what this sculpture/structure is called, but it frames Liberty Memorial quite nicely.

"The Link" skywalk. This was pretty much a goof-off photo. I tested my camera's zooming functionality on the display screen that's inside the walkway and then took this photo zoomed all the way out. I liked it for the skyline underneath, though.

Finally, closer to home, there was a train going under the Quivira pedestrian bridge, so I took a long exposure. You can't see the train but for a blur, but you can see the ghostly appearance of the stuff behind the train. I thought it was an interesting photo to share.

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