Monday, September 29, 2008

Of Cars and Nerds

I woke up to a light rain storm this morning. I was planning on it being a bus day because I've got some obligations to take care of today. It was just a bus day with a driving headwind and rain. And Coffee. Oh yes, I really needed the coffee this morning.

I put gas in my car for the first time since July over the weekend, and gave it its first car wash in over a year. I hung out with some of my car club buddies from days gone by. Although the places we went were within 5-6 miles of home, the whole point was to hang out and talk about our cars so it would have been somewhat pointless to ride my bicycle there. The club (which is more like a loosely-organized world-wide batch of Internet Forum Dwellers) is for Ford Focus owners. I still like mine quite a bit, and haven't seen some of these people in person ever, and some of them I haven't seen since 2005.

I know this is about bicycle-centric alternative transportation in Kansas City, but I still like my car. I've had it almost 9 years. I own it outright. I get cheap insurance because I rarely drive it. When I do drive it, it gets better than 35 MPG on the highway (thanks to some Engine Control Unit reprogramming by my friend Randy at FocusSport) and if I want to romp on it, the thing handles like it's on rails and it's pretty quick for a grocery-go-getter compact car. The ECU programming does things like disabling the alternator under certain circumstances to decrease drag on the engine as well as modifying the fuel and spark parameters for more efficiency. This means I have to put 91 or 92 octane in it, but as half a tank of gas lasts me more than a month, I'm not complaining much. I've actually ridden my bicycles more than I've driven my Focus this year.

There's also a ton of room if you fold the rear seats down. It's like a little mini-van. I actually write quite a few technical articles about Focus Tech Tips and Repair. Bet you didn't have me pinned as an automotive nut, did you? It's possible to really like your car, but to know when it's appropriate and necessary to use it. As it stands, this thing probably gets started about every other week when the weather is nice. You don't have to be car-free to be free from the Big Oil addiction. I use oil in moderation.

As for this evening, I'll find myself behind the wheel again, as I have to bring a bunch of video and sound equipment downtown for a membership and fund-raising drive for a local non-profit that I'm helping to get off the ground. Cowtown Computer Congress (CCCKC) is "a facility in Kansas City designed, built and maintained by technology enthusiasts of all backgrounds. Members represent all facets of technology ranging from digital art and design to robotics software development and information security. Incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in the state of Missouri, CCCKC will serve as a central meeting place for user group meetings, project collaboration and various networking opportunities for all those who share a passion for technology." It's inspired by facilities such as NYC Resistor and HacDC.

We'll be showing two documentary films (Hackers Are People Too and Graffiti Research Lab) at Harry's Country Club, then we'll go out and set up our own LASER Graffiti rig for people to try out. Bill from i-Hacked set this up at DefCon in August and I got to play with it in person. We'll have the same setup tonight. Weather permitting, it'll be outdoors in downtown Kansas City. If you're local and have even the slightest geeky inclination, you should come on out. Details in the link, bonus points for showing up on a bike.

Sorry I don't have much bikey goodness today. I do a lot more stuff than just ride my bike, and I write about things a lot more interesting than bicycles, if you know where to find me (hint: some of my writing is in print)

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Progress on the new Barnes & Noble is coming along nicely. A big bookstore with a big selection is one of the few things that's missing from the 2-mile radius of my dwelling. This will be a welcome addition. Too bad it's gotta be at The Maul.

Lorin and I spotted this baby bat cowering (and quivering) between our bicycles this morning after coffee. It was just a little over an inch in length. I'd be quivering, too, if someone was holding something 20 times my size 3 inches away from my face.

I've never seen a bat up close before. Cute little creatures, but I know better than to provoke it.

I got a cute fortune with my meal last night. In keeping true to posting my various (mis?)fortunes, I give you another spoonful of "Awwww"

I saw three fixed gear riders today around the City Center Square building. Usually, I only see geary-bike commuters this far north in the morning. The Art Institute kids must have woken up early. No photos of them, I had the camera tucked away already.

With the exception of the rain yesterday, the weather's still great for riding in Kansas City. For those who care about bike racing, this weekend is the official start of KC Cyclocross season. Plenty of my pals from the Monday Night Ride are going to be racing.

Maybe one of these days I'll get a 'cross bike and join in the fun. I'm not much for bicycle or auto racing, but I like WRC and Cyclocross seems pretty close to the same thing on bikes. It looks like fun and a 'Cross bike would probably make a worthy year-round commuter even if I never raced it.

Random Tunage:
Madonna - Ray of Light
Hybrid - I'm Still Awake

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Product Review: SKS Commuter Fenders

Back in March, I bought a set of SKS Commuter fenders, and pretty much fell in love with the function. The look took a while to get used to, but it's slowly grown on me.

The SKS Commuter is supposedly a full-wrap fender, but as you can see to the left, it covers about 40% of the rear, leaving plenty of room to throw a sizable rooster-tail onto whoever happens to be riding behind you. As I'm pretty slow, no one's usually behind me so that's not too much of a problem. The rear fender does keep you from getting a butt-stripe, and the front fender keeps your feet pretty dry through all but the deepest puddles.

About a month ago, you may recall I did some rather unsavory, hackish repair work to a fracture in the rear fender. I examined the fender for other signs of damage and nothing really caught my eye. The initial repair job from August is still holding up great, by the way. I figured that the fracture was from the time it got mangled in May. Now, I'm not so sure.

Yesterday, I noticed some rattling from the rear of the bike and saw that the fender had indeed cracked all the way through right where it attaches to the rear brake caliper. Upon further inspection tonight, it's also about ready to crack all the way through in a third spot.

While they're relatively attractive, moderately priced, functional and come with decent installation hardware/instructions, I can't help but be pretty disappointed that they lasted only six months. I've ridden The Twelve about 2000 miles since I put them on.

In the heat of the summer, my bike was hidden in a somewhat cool parking garage. I never left it locked up in the sun. I can't blame UV degradation or excess heat/light exposure because the only time it was out in the heat was when I was riding it.

Overall: They worked really well while they lasted, but I'm not impressed. I am, however, a believer in fenders now.

Some people I was talking to when I got these fenders expressed a lot of good remarks about the Planet Bike Cascadia fenders -- both in looks and form, with massive mud-flaps that make it less likely you'll rooster-tail riders behind you. I suppose I'll give those a shot when I can afford it. For the time being, I've yanked the fragmented corpse of a rear fender off of my bike.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On staying motivated...

I posted a list of 10 tips for staying motivated to commute by bike over on CBB today. The resulting discussion has quite a few good suggestions, too. Check it out.

Meanwhile, I'm really feeling the burn from that ride on the Townie yesterday. That bike makes you use different muscles and the extra effort wasn't kind to my knees, either. Funny that I write an article on staying motivated, then skimp out and take the bus (hey, it's tip #2 on my list!)

I got my Moo MiniCards in today. My company won't issue me business cards, so I set off to make my own. I was sick of being caught without contact information cards to hand out at things like IT Security World and DefCon, as well as here around town when meeting people with similar interests (such as Music, Information Security and Bicycling).

Moo lets you create your own printed media using photos you upload or that you have hosted online. In my case, I used my Flickr photos and I had a mixed assortment of cards made using cropped versions of Quivira Viaduct Ramp, Hacking and Soundboard. Hit me up in person if you want one. Most of you already know how to get ahold of me, though... These MiniCards are just right. Small, fun and unique. I'm very happy with the finish, the price and how fast the cards got here from London.

Moo also sent me a pair of discount coupons (only good for new, first-time customers, so I can't use them) - One is for 20% off an order of 100 MiniCards, the other is for 15% off your entire first order (however large that might be). Feel free to claim dibs and I'll send the discount code to you via email.

That's all for today. I really need to try to get to bed early tonight. I hope my fellow KC folks are enjoying the weather as much as I am. This stint won't likely last much longer.

Monday, September 22, 2008


I wanted to drop off a copy of a book I just reviewed for fellow cyclist, geek and info-sec buddy, jdoublep after work, and ended up taking the little Townie all the way home. I don't think I'm going to do that again. There was only one place where I had to stand up to get up a hill, but standing up on the pedals of a Townie isn't fun nor easy, as you're basically standing between the big cruiser handlebars.

The ride was relaxing, and otherwise one of the funnest homewards I've had in a long time. I particularly enjoyed greeting people with the bell. Simple pleasures, right? Maybe I'll get one for The Twelve... which is what I immediately grabbed for the Monday Night ride when I got home. The Townie killed my knees -- likely a fault of my own for not having it adjusted too well.

I think I could get around on a 3-speed mountain bike set up with a similar ratio for fair weather. I think for the Winter Beater duty, though, I'm definitely going a bit lower if I do, in fact, set the Sorrento up as a 3-Speed. Again, I'm not ruling out a fixed, singlespeed or flip-flop setup either. All three options seem relatively attractive.


I took my wife's Electra Townie 3S to work today as an experiment. I haven't actually ridden her bike more than just around the parking lot to make sure it's adjusted right and working properly. The rack holds my panniers nicely. The geometry is awkward coming from traditional flat-bar bikes and my road bike, but all in all it's a nice ride. I think her "lightweight aluminum" frame actually weighs more than my steel Diamondback Sorrento, but the long wheelbase frame takes a lot of metal to make.

On with the experiment. No, it wasn't to see how many people would get a chuckle from me riding a "girl's" bike with a step-through frame. It was more to see how the 3-speed gets around my bus-assisted commute routes. It works about as well as I figured it would. In low gear, the Quivira viaduct and the climb from Main to Central on 11th St are do-able. On flat land, 20 MPH or so is attainable. On downhills... well, you can always coast. You won't get much faster than 20 or so with the gear ratios on this bike.

I'm pondering throwing an internal-greared hub on the Sorrento for winter beater duty. My initial reaction was to try fixed gear for winter but I've never had a hub freeze up on me. The Sorrento is going to need at the bare minimum a new rear wheel and cassette, chain, chainrings and front derailleur to be ready for winter. I could forgo the front derailleur and just leave it in the middle chainring, but the chainrings are all worn and I'd be wise to go ahead and replace the whole crank anyways.

I'm sure some would rather have a NuVinci or Rohloff SpeedHub, or even a Nexus 7 or 8 but since this is going to be my winter beater, the Nexus 3 makes the most sense. This bike will be mostly used for getting to and from the bus, riding around downtown and for running errands close to home. It will be exposed to snow, slush, sand, salt, and other crimes against bike parts. When it's nice, I'll probably be on my road bike anyways, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to throw expensive parts onto this bike when they're likely going to be abused and ridden for short-distance rides.

Given the trouble snow has given me in the past, I may go with a relatively small chainring or larger rear cog for an even lower gear ratio than the Townie came with. I don't need the bike to go fast, I just need it to get me there. Heck, I might even like the 3-speed on the novice-level singletrack trails that I like to ride if the gear ratios are low enough for the climbs.

I'm still not ruling out a fixie or singlespeed mountain bike, though...

I might end up taking the Townie out on the Monday Night ride. Heck, I might even try riding this thing all the way back home from downtown. The top-end of my road bike would be missed but I can only think of one hill that will give me any trouble: just south of 75th, either via Switzer or through the industrial park off Wedd Road... it's an unavoidable climb.

More to come. This is a fun bike to ride, but definitely more in its element as a short-distance urban commuter and recreational cruiser bike.

For those of you who have used fixies, single speeds and internal-geared hubs for winter commuting, do you have any suggestions?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

2 Years and counting...

Today marks my 2-year anniversary of my first-ever bicycle commute. It's also "Talk Like A Pirate Day" and in my haste to get stuff ready for work this morning, I forgot to fly the jolly roger. :(

61 Degrees and calm wind made for a beautiful return to the bike. Couldn't have asked for a nicer morning.

More San Francisco pics:

Noah's Bagels. Gotta try that next time I'm out there.

Apple Store and Virgin Records were both right next to my hotel.

This bike belongs to a guy named Dave from Seattle. He's a transient, traveling all over the place on his bike, on buses, trains, and any other way he can. He lives in hostels and campgrounds, finds odd jobs to survive, and goes wherever he feels like.

I can't even begin to describe the sheer number and diversity of bikes and cyclists in San Francisco. It's a completely different environment.

One of many fixed-gear bikes I saw as I wandered around the city.

The view from my hotel room.

Back... Kinda

Technically I'm waiting for the last leg of my homeward trip from Chicago. I think I tried every kind of alternative transportation I could except for buses, boats and bikes out there.

I caught a cable car to Fisherman's Wharf. Very fun.

I took an electric rail streetcar to get back from Fisherman's Wharf. It's like a bus except it's powered by the overhead electrical wires and it's on rails.

BART (light rail/subway) got me around quite a bit, and relatively inexpensive.

Some misc. Photos. I'll post lots more in the next few days.

Do Jetliners count as alternative transportation?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bye for now

Not for long, but I have some training classes to attend and won't be on the bike, probably until next Friday. I'll be in San Francisco. I may rent a bike, but I'm staying at the hotel the classes are at, and there's so much that's really close to where I'll be staying that I won't likely need anything more than my own two feet to get around. I'm going to try to see some sights while I'm out there, but that will probably involve transit, not bikes.

I'll check in when I return, and I'll try to get plenty of pics.

Don't think. Just ride.

Lenexa, KS (my home) is marked with the (+) to the left of the center of the image.

I rode to the bus and got thoroughly water-logged in 2 miles. I would have been just as well off riding all the way. Hindsight is 20/20. For what it's worth, I don't think my raincovers would have kept everything dry if I was out in it much longer since the back (wheel-facing surface) is open.

Random Tunage:
Amber - Anyway (Steve Porter Mix)
Nine Inch Nails - The Day The World Went Away

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reflections on Kansas City media coverage...

I've been somewhat mum on my reactions to the latest media coverage of bicycling in Kansas City. Apparently, my reaction isn't too far off from others' take, either.

I can't speak for everyone interviewed, but there are three recent pieces of media coverage that have me a little bit concerned: Up To Date's show on Bicycle Commuting, the One Planet: Cycling in Kansas City episode, and the recent NBC Action News spot: Bikes Vs. Cars.

The chaps from the BBC, when I first ran into them, were aghast as if they'd just experienced several near-death-experiences back to back. No, we don't have bike lanes everywhere. No, we don't have street sweepers running 24/7. The route they presumably could have used was Main Street. Several times this summer, I've ridden on Main Street and even Brookside Blvd to get around, even in rush hour. It's pretty easy riding, except for the hill near Liberty Memorial. Bicyclists use the bus lanes quite often, and KCATA doesn't have a problem with that. When I see a bus coming, I safely merge into traffic or get off the road and let the bus pass through.

They claimed that putting bikes on the bus is "what you're supposed to do" in KC. Take a stroll through Midtown any time during the day, and it becomes clear that bicycles are viable, respected vehicles on the road. In droves, cyclists travel between downtown and Westport. I'm not downplaying the reporters' opinions. The racks on the bus are good for covering longer distances or for cyclists who are not comfortable in rush hour. The rest of the terror that the reporters seemed to have could be due to anything, including riding on the opposite side of the road. I can appreciate that.

In Up To Date, I think too much focus was given to the dangers of bicycling, the challenges cyclists face, and the lack of infrastructure. That's not really any one person's fault, because the discussion was being steered by the entire panel and the callers as well.

If things were as bad as the media has portrayed lately when I started riding two years ago, I wouldn't be doing this. I would have given up! In the two short years I've been using my bike to get around, there have been a lot of improvements to boot.

Sometimes I wish I could change the name of this site to "KC Commuting" because that's what I'm doing. I'm getting around Kansas City. I don't always use my bike. I don't always use the bus. I don't always use my car. I don't always car-pool with friends. I don't always walk. I use whatever means seems like the right choice to me given the situation. Countless scooters, bicycles, buses, cars, pickups, vans and SUVs interact with one another in a civilized manner every single day in this town. Sometimes I have a bad day and whine about (or even belittle) a fellow road user because of a specific incident. Sometimes it's a motorist who honked at me. Sometimes it's a cyclist riding against traffic. Whatever the case may be, we're all out there. We're all trying to get where we're going, and we're all the same. Urban infrastructure in Kansas City isn't missing a whole lot. Miles upon miles of bicycle-safe routes exist already, and the city is in the process of bolstering and marking them as such.

It's a shame that our panel on Up To Date couldn't praise more of the many community benefits of cycling and walking for basic transportation. Environmental impact is the only community benefit that was mentioned. All the rest were selfish, personal benefits such as health and saving money.

I've been interviewed by NBC Action News twice now. The first time was during Bike Week in May, and I think that one went quite well. The most recent spot was entitled "Bikes Vs. Cars" or something similar. This just boggles my mind. No one actually pits bikes against cars or vise versa. The motorists interviewed were sympathetic, not angry for the few short seconds they were allowed to speak: "I'm afraid I'm going to hit them!"

We ride with cars. We are part of the traffic on the road. Likely, cyclists don't get honked or yelled at any more often than other motorists get honked or yelled at. We're just out in the open and can hear the shouts a little easier. The people who road rage aren't angry at cyclists. They're angry people looking for an excuse to vent. Very few of the incidents where a motorist and a cyclist have an altercation are due to malice and an us-versus-them mentality. Crashes happen because of inattention and scoffing laws in the interest of convenience. ALL road users are guilty on both counts, regardless of what kind of vehicle is in use.

"Bikes Vs. Cars" also seemed to dwell a lot on the injuries sustained by cyclists. Any uttrance of injury was picked up like it was blood in the water. No one writes about the countless injuries sustained by other road users.

Not to break out with the nerd factor too much, but I'd like to start wrapping up this rant with a quote from noted security expert Bruce Schneier. It's about terrorism in the news, but it applies equally as well to bicycling woes:

"... the very definition of news is something that hardly ever happens. [emphasis added] If an incident is in the news, we shouldn't worry about it. It's when something is so common that its no longer news - car crashes, domestic violence - that we should worry. But that's not the way people think."
In closing, I'd like to state that some excerpts of my interviews that made it into media coverage lately might have been taken a bit out of context. All of us get around this town just fine, regardless of what transportation method we choose. As the economy crunches us, we're all going to feel some growing pains. I don't think this is out of the ordinary.

I'll see you all out there on the road!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

So it went kinda like this...

Not exactly the worst commute I've ever had. But close enough.

Something doesn't look quite right.

I couldn't dislodge it by hand, and didn't have any pliers. Thanks again, Dave. Oh yeah, I needed THREE tire levers for the Bonti Hard Case tires, so the integrated ones in the MTB-3 came in useful today.

Grimy. Zogics CitraWipe to the rescue.

Spider Web with raindrops. Yep. Rain, too.

Oh yah. More of me in the news. Seriously, Kansas City media needs to find some fresh faces. My ugly mug should NOT be the face of cycling in KC.

Tricks Of The Trade: Murphy's Laws (and how to deal with them)

1. If you're riding on a roadway that's been traffic free for a while, and you notice an oncoming car off in the distance, there is usually a car coming up behind you. Almost always, both cars will cross paths at the exact moment that the car going your way is attempting to overtake you.
I don't know why, but this "law" usually holds true. This is a dangerous situation for a number of reasons. If either you or the oncoming car must swerve for any reason, you are the one who has the most to lose. You'll either swerve into or in front of the overtaking car, or it will swerve into you to avoid collision with oncoming traffic.

2. Debris, pot-holes, cross-traffic, car doors opening into traffic, storm drain grates and other hazards usually appear in front of you out of nowhere while you're busy worrying about traffic behind you.
Again, if you're worried about what's behind you, you're not paying attention to what's in front of you. Many motorists will get angry that you're costing them precious of seconds of their lives. Many will honk, yell, or possibly even throw stuff at you. None of them want the hassle of dealing with the results of running you over, even if it's just a small court case and a slap on the wrist (which is likely all that's bound to happen, at least here in KC).

What's a cyclist to do?
Be mindful of what's behind you, but pay closer attention to what's ahead. You can change what's in front of you by re-positioning yourself and you're powerless over what's behind you. Motorists will not run you over intentionally! The number of truly malevolent drivers is almost nil. The number of inattentive drivers is pretty high. The best way to avoid these situations is to take the lane, be visible and force the traffic behind you to hold back until it's safe to pass.

  • Keep your sights far, far ahead.
  • Identify active threats (road hazards, traffic) and potential threats (intersections, parked cars) early.
  • If there are hazards or oncoming traffic, TAKE THE LANE instead of hugging the curb. If moving outward into the lane, I'll often signal as if I'm taking a left turn, simply to make it clear that I am moving to the left, and to grab the attention of motorists behind me.
  • Be seen. Reflective, bright-colored clothing and lighting make you more conspicuous and less likely to be a victim to inattentive motorists.
  • If riding with someone else, identify road hazards to others out of courtesy. Pointing to upcoming hazards, signalling to move left or right within the lane, and announcing overtaking traffic are commonplace on group rides, and applicable when commuting with other cyclists.
  • Maintain 360° awareness as you can, but not at the cost of what's ahead.
For some people, mirrors offer a good solution, allowing a cyclist to keep what's behind them in their peripheral vision. The occasional glance-and-scan technique works for me. The worst thing you can do, however, is focus on the car behind you, trying to make sure it won't hit you. At best, you should take a quick note of the car's road position and the presence of any turn signals. While motorists don't always signal their turns, if they do, it's a good idea to take note of it.

Creative Commons photo credit: "Traffic On El Camino Real" by our friend Fritz.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I Lost My Trousers!

Another chilly bus morning, although I think tomorrow I'll man up and ride all the way in it. I'm just not ready for temps in the low 50's, but it's about time to break out the cold riding gear log I worked on last year. I didn't look at it this morning, but my instincts were dead on. A long-sleeve shirt with a short-sleeve over it, and cargo pants did nicely, and looking at the log, that combo worked quite well for the same conditions earlier this year. I should have just ridden to work, but I left late.

It warmed up nicely over the course of the day. Saw a few cyclists enjoying Turkey Creek Trail... there are cyclists there. Trust me. It's PREDATOR VISION, BABY!

Or too much fun with GIMP, since the photo was actually botched beyond recognition anyways. Whatever.

So what's all this have to do with losing my trousers, eh? Nothing. I just haven't gotten around to that part yet. After changing into my cycling gear, I threw on my cargo pants to avoid walking through the office in shorts. Something about corporate atmosphere or whatever. Upon getting to my bike, I stripped the cargo pants off, folded them up, and snapped them to the rack with the spring clip.

Later, I noticed they were missing. I had a few miles of backtracking to do, but they were unscathed, on the side of the road. So while I did lose my trousers, at least I found them in the same condition I lost them in.

I haven't been seeing many cyclists in the morning, but somehow they're riding home in the evening. They were everywhere on my way home, and I'm noticing a lot of the younger demographic as well. Teens that are of driving age are using bicycles. A lot. Time (and maybe some interviews?) will tell. I'm working on an article for CBB on this very topic.

Not Quite Random Tunage:
Nine Inch Nails - All The Love In The World
Plump DJs - Scram

Monday, September 08, 2008

Hello? September? Where ya at?

I was rudely awakened in the wee hours of this morning by a really ominous thunderstorm. I lay in bed until it was time to get up, but I think I probably scored about 4 hours of sleep. The rain stopped right before I left for the bus, but the ride was a chilly one, with mist and temperatures in the mid-50s. As I acclimate to the temperature shift, I usually consider 50°F the breaking point where shorts are no longer viable. Today's temperatures were a shock, and I'm not the only one to notice it, either. It was even chillier, windier and mistier on the way home. Wait a minute... This is October weather!

Upon arriving downtown, I also realized I'd forgotten my wallet. Everything else was accounted for, including some leftovers I'd brought along for lunch. No coffee or anything from the soda machines to wake me up today. The corporate trough is sufficiently vile to avert me even in these dire circumstances.

I ended up taking the bus both ways today. Tomorrow doesn't look much better. I think it's about time to find the fall/spring transition gear and prepare for that wonderful phase of the weather cycle where I have to carry multiple changes of clothes. Oh, the joy.

Random Tunage:
ยต-Ziq - The Fear
Gin Blossoms - Hey Jealousy

P.S. - By this time next week, I'll be in San Francisco for training. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like I'll be able to ride much out there. Oh well.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Tainted Fountains

Saw this residential entrance fountain that got "soaped" on my way to church this morning. The one on the other side of the road was intact. This seems like a ridiculous waste of soap and a real pain in the butt to clean up. Some people will do anything for a laugh, as long as its at someone else's expense, though.

Lenexa, KS is celebrating its history in the Spinach Industry. A few times per year, Lenexa colors the fountain in front of city hall. Notably: Pink for October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) and Green during the time around the Lenexa Spinach Festival.

20-some miles on the bike today between church and errands. Tomorrow and at least through the end of the month are probably going to be solo bike commutes. Karen's done with work for a while (her job is best described as "seasonal" but it's more complicated than that) and no one else has really shown interest in riding with me since I'm on the road so early. With the new sun schedule and whatnot, though, I might be skipping the morning coffee a lot more often, and leaving a bit later in the morning.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Kansas City bicycle mania in the news

The latest edition of INK Magazine is devoted to bicycling in Kansas City. There are two different covers, one of a pro-level womens crit racer and the other of a local urban utility cyclist. Other articles include vintage bikes, tallbikes, and other miscellaneous "bike culture" stuff, mostly of the art-inspired and fixed gear variety. Apparently, most of the articles from INK are online so out-of-towners can read, too. Fair warning: INK may be a little racy, potentially not safe for work.

Also, you may remember more than a month ago when the chaps from BBC's One Planet were in town... Well, the podcast is live for the listening, as pointed out by metalcommuter in my comments from a recent post.

Pea Soup

Chilly and foggy this morning!

48°F - 93% RH

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Long Day

I took the bus in again this morning. Gustav's been kickin' our butts here in the midwest. Yeah, yeah... we ain't got nothing on the coastal communities that get pummeled mercilessly by the full force of these obdurate, sadistic storms... but it truly rained non-stop for more than 24 hours here, all with a crazy cold front.  Any more of that and I'd be looking for gopherwood, start sourcing two of each animal and brush up on my cubits...

Tonight was an important meeting of a new Not-For-Profit I'm trying to help get off the ground.  They just became incorporated as a 501(c)(3) this week, and we're hashing out some of the finer details.  I rode through some mist to get to midtown where the meeting was being held, and then got to ride down Rainbow Blvd on the way home... WHAT A BLAST!

I didn't shove off for home until the sun was setting, though.  As Gustav leaves town, it's making for some magnificent sunsets, though...

Oh yeah. Be seen.  For real.  This might look dorky (hey, it fits my personality, right?) but there's really no such thing as too much lighting or an excess of reflective and brightly-colored material after dark.  I suppose there is, if you're being a real distraction, but when it gets like this, I use at least one flashing rear light to grab peoples' attention, one solid rear light to give motorists something to judge distance by (believe me, it makes a difference) and my reflective vest.  The rain covers for my panniers are bright with reflective piping as well.  I'm starting to see people that seem to be ignoring the fact that it's getting dark earlier. The bike ninjas are out in full force.

This is a long exposure I took of some deer grazing.  In reality, this field was pretty dark and the sky was just as dark as the above photo of me.  It shows up as washed-out white because of the duration of the exposure.

Got home with about 19 miles on the clock for the day. I'm hoping it stays dry for another full round-trip on the bike.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Land Surfer

This morning was rainy with a stiff headwind, gusting to 15 MPH out of the north.  I cheated and rode to the bus.  It continued sprinkling throughout the day, and I don't think it ever really let up.  Only one other two-wheeled rider showed up in the parking garage this morning.  He was in full business attire, covered in a gore-tex get-up.

Still sprinkling when I left work, the wind had picked up a little, but hadn't changed direction.  That meant a massive tail wind.  Heck yeah! Raindrops be damned, I was riding home.  It was like land surfing except using a bike instead of an all-terrain skateboard, and my girthy body in lieu of a proper sail.

I stopped at Chatlain Park to make sure my rain cover wasn't letting the contents of my pannier get soaked.  Although the rain was moderate, everything in my pannier remained dry as a bone.  There was some standing water in the rain cover, but the tight seams and rubberized lower panels of the Axiom LaSalle panniers took care of that. 

My forward lighting setup. Especially when it's raining, I use as much light as I can, including my reflective vest.

Of course, once I got home, it was an entertaining game of "dry and clean the bike and drivetrain" while my grimy shoes were drying off.

I think I might be suffering from Dave Syndrome or something.  I've actually enjoyed the rain the past few days. What the heck is up with that?

Tricks Of The Trade: Drying your grimy shoes

The past few days have been rainy. Today, I decided my shoes won't get dry by morning on their own.  When I have to dry them, this is how I do it.  I'm drying my bike shoes, but you can really dry any shoe this way, so long as they aren't susceptible to heat damage.

First, if they're really grimy, you might as well hose them off.  Run them under the bathtub faucet, use the kitchen sink sprayer, or if you're married, I guess take them outside and use the garden hose. Failure to do so MAY result in a night sleeping on the couch. That's okay, it's kind of like camping. 

Next, loosen the laces so that the tongue relaxes into the shoe for maximum air flow.  Tie both laces together in a small knot near the end.  Repeat with the other shoe.

Optional step: Remove the insole (if you can) and spray with febreeze or some other fabric freshener.

Next, hang the shoes on the inside of the dryer door, holding the knots at the top of the door with one hand, while closing the door with the other hand.

Voila!  The shoes will hang in the dryer.  They won't bounce around and get all beaten up, nor will they "kick" the dryer door open or make a lot of noise.  Run the dryer on high.  It might take longer to dry this way, but it's nicer on the shoes, nicer on the dryer, and a lot quieter.

If you have cycling shoes that don't have laces (ratchet strap and/or velcro closure) you can hang them inside the door the same way with craftily-re-bent wire hangers, knots in some twine, or any other creative solution you can come up with.  Using a dryer to dry shoes with plastic parts may cause deformities, so try this one at your own risk.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Jack In A Box

September officially made its presence known. Around here, September's usually a pretty soggy month.

The weather folks were talking about "pop-up storms" this afternoon. While it looked a little overcast around noon, it was quite pleasant and sunny. No "pop-up" storms here. No sir. Just sunshine, a light breeze, and the road. Sure, there were fluffy clouds, but not anything to worry about.

The clouds got a little more ominous. Entering Kansas, I started noticing puddles, and moist pavement. It'd recently rained here. Karen, riding in front of me for a while, was throwing a road-grime rooster-tail without fenders. Passing Antioch, I got around Karen and that's when all hell broke loose. Karen, riding on Merriam Lane.

Time to use the rain covers!

In a mere 10 minutes, it had stopped raining. 5 minutes after that, you couldn't even tell it had rained, except for some standing water in the pavement cracks. Refreshing Surprise!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day Ride

I decided to ride to my parents' place today. Both of my motorized vehicles are in need of a fill-up and the gas stations are still gouging for the Labor Day weekend. Plus, aside from being a little warm, it was a great day for a ride.

The shortest route I've found to my parents' house is a bit more than 17 miles each way. Today, I took that route, straight down Quivira (and it was a little dicey) then across on 159th St over to Metcalf to get out to Stilwell, KS. The problem? 159th is under construction.

I'll readily admit that I have a problem. Some people have called me out for it, too. The problem I have is that sometimes, I feel certain rules do not apply to me or may be written off in the name of convenience. This can make me come off as bigoted, cavalier, or in its worst form: like I'm a complete jerk. And sometimes, it gets me in trouble with more than just my readers.

I'm pretty sure it comes from my "accept no limitations as long as it doesn't hurt anyone" mindset -- which serves me very well in the Information Security biz. In general, if some superfluous rule exists that's really not doing anyone any good, there's a chance I might use that as rationalization for breaking that rule this time. This is especially true if it's there ONLY for 'my own protection' and while 'protecting me from myself' it inconveniences me a great deal. Fair? Not always. Sorry, folks. I bend or break rules on occasion.

It was with great glee that after having watched a Ford Escape barrel around the road block and through the dirt, I followed suit. The alternative was three extra miles of riding, one of which is on a crowded road that's under construction with no shoulders. It was fun getting some cyclocross-style action in. I'm not terribly well-studied in traffic law, but I don't think there's anything actually illegal being done here. I could be wrong, but it won't stop me from doing it again if I feel it's warranted.

Dad's working on recording some new tunes. He played some for me. Shown below is a preamp, effects processor, compander and equalizer. Barely visible in the top right corner is a power conditioner. This stuff all plays along with an analog mixer board and multi-track recording software running on his laptop. Professional-grade? Not nearly. More than ample for his needs? Certainly.

We chowed down on some fabulous ribs that had been cooking since yesterday.

Taken on my way home: Corn fields. A common rural Kansas roadway scene. Oh yeah. I'm pretty sure I was the model for the "Captain Dashboard" character in the Yehuda Moon comics.

This brings me to another thing that I read just a bit ago on Kevin Rose's "Blogg" - It's a parable in The Miracle of Mindfulness by a writer named Thich Nhat Hanh:

The cup in your hands -
In the United States, I have a close friend named Jim Forest. When I first met him eight years ago, he was working with the Catholic Peace Fellowship. Last winter, Jim came to visit. I usually wash the dishes after we've finished the evening meal, before sitting down and drinking tea with everyone else. One night, Jim asked if he might do the dishes. I said, "Go ahead, but if you wash the dishes you must know the way to wash them." Jim replied, "Come on, you think I don't know how to wash the dishes?" I answered, "There are two ways to was the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes to wash the dishes." Jim was delighted and said, "I choose the second way--to wash the dishes to wash the dishes." From then on, Jim knew how to wash the dishes. I transferred the "responsibility" to him for an entire week.

If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not "washing the dishes to wash the dishes." What's more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact, we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can't wash the dishes, the chances are we won't be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life.
That, my compadres, is WISDOM. Ride to ride. Consider me humbled... For a while.

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