Monday, August 31, 2009

Dark Side Ride Recap

I think we had a total of 13 riders, including one who's new to the full-distance dark side rides (he came to the cave ride too!) and to cycling in general. I think he's hooked.

I saw this right before I went on the DSR. Confident in the Hard-Case's abilities, I rode on it anyway, without any problems. I replaced it Sunday night. This tire had about 3,700 miles on it without a single puncture. The tire on the front is now up to 7,400, also without a single puncture since I put it on.

It's hard to put into words exactly what's so awesome about riding a bike at night. Having only a narrow cone of light ahead of you seems to intensify all of your other senses. Nature's noises and the subtle susurrus of mechanized synergy jump out at you. Variances in temperature and humidity surprise you more. Crisp air off the streams, putrid vapors of roadkill and skunk, earthy tones from nearby gravel roads and the distinct smell of recently-mowed grass fill the nostrils.

All the while, you can be cruising with a small group of people and no one says a word for miles, then spend the next half hour talking about hobbies non-stop. The DSR rides tend to vary a lot in pace. On this particularly cool (for August) evening, some people were hammering just to stay warm. We always re-grouped, though. This was taken at 195th and Holmes.

And then the turn-around point in Belton

I'm not sure if this morning was a record low or not, but I don't ever recall needing a windbreaker in August. September will be truly bizarre. I logged a puny 250 miles this month.

Friday, August 28, 2009

We'll see what the weather does...

Tonight is supposed to be the August 2009 Dark Side Ride. I've ridden in a lot of rain this month. While I'm not vehemently opposed to riding in it, I'm pretty sure I only know two other guys crazy enough to join me for this ride if it's pouring down. I'll probably still be out there at spring hill high school rain or... uhh... no rain. Feel free to join us, just bring lights, reflective gear, a helmet, and maybe a poncho.

This morning, mist and drizzle met us. It was actually refreshing, and not enough to make the roads wet. John C, myself and Lorin (whose bikes are pictured below in that order) converged on Starbucks to caff up and talk about random stuff.

The new phone (an LG Env3) has a panorama feature that automatically stitches things together. I really don't think the photo quality is much better than my last phone. It just takes higher resolution photos. Oh well. It's everything I need in a phone, and it was almost free.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Brakes: You're Doing It Wrong!

... as seen on the bike/bus homeward commute. I have a new phone on the way. Hopefully it will have a better camera. I can't always get to my Canon for stuff like this.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Only" two miles

I had to stop somewhere after work on the way home, and I'm testing some new stuff out on my mountain bike this week. Actually, just today. I think I found out what I needed to know after one day of use.

On my way out, a guy was on break, standing next to my bike. We talked for a bit while I unlocked it and got things situated. He asked how far I have to ride to get home. I said "Not too far, only 2 miles."

He repeated: "HAH! 'Only' two miles."

I think a lot of people have this recollection of "Running the mile" in gym class more than a decade ago on their high-school 400-meter ovals. When it comes to cycling, they fail to comprehend how oddly efficient it is -- likely because many people haven't ridden a bicycle nor walked very far in quite some time.

I haven't ever sat down to do the math, but I've heard experts say you can travel 4 times faster, 4 times further in the same amount of time given equal effort between cycling and non-mechanized transportation. I didn't break out into Wikipedia mode on this poor fellow, but I did explain that it's faster and easier than walking the two miles before I bid him farewell.

I think this kind of confusion is one of the biggest barriers to getting people out of their cars and onto bikes for short errands.

Get your lights charged... it's time for another Dark Side Ride!

What: August '09 Dark Side Ride
When: 9:00PM Friday, August 28, 2009
Where: Spring Hill High School, 199th and Ridgeview Rd.
Route: Belton Out-and-Back 33 miles, so bring lights that can survive for 3 hours or so.

Lights, helmets, and some kind of reflective gear required for this one. See you out there!

Friday, August 21, 2009


Last night: Cheap Japanese take-out on the way home. Have I mentioned that I love the springclip on this rack? It's the gift that keeps on giving. John, I'm pointing at you. This thing rocks.

60°F this morning. 74 is the average low. Cold? No, but a bit of a shock to the senses for the first 1/4 mile until I got warmed up.

The cool morning air exposes the warm, humid steam that still lies beneath the surface of a good chunk of Kansas City's streets and sidewalks.

This chubby pigeon reminded me of The Godpigeon from The Goodfeathers cartoon. It was part of the Warner Bros. Animaniacs cartoon series.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I realized part-way there that I'd left my wallet on the coffee table at home. Bus pass and work badge were both inside, so I returned home. On my second attempt to get to the bus, I made it in 6 minutes flat, with a solid average speed of 20 mph. I pulled up just in time to throw the bike onto the front of the bus with John C's singlespeed.

Obviously, I suck at sprinting, but that's a new personal record for me on this short route. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna catch my breath now. Then make coffee: some Kohana Rockin' Like Austin dark roast that my parents brought me back from their trip to Texas. Stuff is gooooood.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Does It Ever End?

May was hot (for may) June was a freaking scorcher, with temperatures and heat indices that rivaled solid August numbers. July was kind of May-Like, and August is feeling a lot like fall. What the heck is going on here?

Mad props to Mother Nature for tricking me this morning with an innocent-looking overcast sky that decided to unleash on me half way to work. You got me good. Such a prankster, you are!

On my way home, it looked like it was going to open up on me AGAIN. Fortunately, I beat the second storm of the day home by a good 40 minutes or so.

This whole month has been riddled with rain, overcast skies and vibrant thunderstorms. As I sit here, winding down for the night, we have another round coming in. This will be the 3rd batch of
storms in 24 hours. I'm really ready for my fenders to come in.

The storms might be unseasonal, but this little guy wasn't scared at all. My wife saw it while I was trying to catch lightning on camera. The above photo was the closest I got. I'm honestly surprised the next photo came out as clear as it did, using Program (AE) mode, manual focus and the lowest flash setting on my camera (EXIF Here). No doctoring, not even color adjustment or anything. I just cropped it. I'm amazed at the luck.

Oh yeah. Warning: There's a spider photo in this post. If that bothers you, don't look.


Monday, August 17, 2009

School is back in session

What's that mean for me? Less teens on the road during my commute. More school buses.

I eschewed the bus this afternoon, relishing in the break from the storms. The temperature was just about perfect. It was kind of humid, Turkey Creek was swelling and the plains near the creek were flooded.

Ambivalent, not apthetic

Karen alerted me to news that 20 cyclists participating in one of the weekly rides in Kansas City got pulled over and ticketed -- to the tune of $95 each -- for running a stop sign, presumably all in a group.

Now, I'm not going to point fingers DIRECTLY at the weekly ride, or the nefarious behavior of the local yacht bicycle club, but suffice it to say, I'm torn. I most certainly do not want to stand in their defense. At the same time, I can't say I feel sorry for them.

They had it coming, but their transgressions as a group aren't much different than the transgressions I witness frequently -- by motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike. It just so happened that this group was preyed upon because it was easy, predictable pickings. Entrapment? Please.

I feel that this will give a lot of the bike haters (and believe me, there are many in this town) a reason to say "we told you so!", and that sets a bad precedent. While I don't know how the math works out statistically due to how unbalanced the transportation mode shares are, I can say that I see a LOT of motorists doing the same things that they accuse cyclists of. And I see a lot of pedestrians pulling some of the most asinine and brazen of jaywalking stunts, too (and NO ONE complains about them)

If cops are going to get into the business of camping out near intersections for the purpose of issuing "failure to stop" tickets, I would bet that Warren can think of an intersection that might be a good candidate...

Our society has become fueled almost entirely by entitlement and superlative self-importance. We're talking about a culture of individuals who in the not-too-distant future may happily throw all of humanity under the bus to spare their own existence.

Stuff from the weekend

Didn't do much this weekend. Storms came and went and came again for its duration.

The road rash on my leg (which covered just a bit under 5 square inches) is almost completely gone. I used a total of three Tegaderm sheets on it:

1) Tuesday morning at the office, after gently cleansing the wound with water.
2) Tuesday night, after showering and deep-cleaning the wound with a wash cloth
3) Friday night.

You're only supposed to leave them on for 3 days before changing them out. Friday night, I did the alcohol test. If I rub alcohol on it and it still burns, it will still probably scab over. By Sunday morning, there was definitely a fresh layer of real skin over everything. Tegaderm came off. 5 days isn't too bad at all. I can't recommend this stuff enough for road rash and other abrasions! It just sucks that it can be hard to find in reasonable quantities. Places sell the box of FIFTY 4 x 4.75" Tegaderm sheets but if you need that many, you might consider driving your car or picking up a different hobby. I've had the best luck finding boxes of 4 or 5 at CVS, but not always.

While my wife and I were out running errands, we happened upon a gathering of classic car nerds. I stopped for the photo-ops. Despite a bicycle being a very practical machine for getting around, I have a soft spot in my heart for things with a lot of horsepower and/or that classic look.

Juxtaposition: '73 or '74 vs. '09

I love this Barracuda, even if it is 'only' a 383...

Classic lines.

This guy looks kind of like a circus bear

Lots of chrome...

It's all about timing.

And then, some not-so-classics, like this supercharged C6 Vette.

And then the bizarre...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Product Review: Axiom LaSalle Panniers

I bought my Axiom LaSalle panniers in May 2008, after having recurrent bad luck with my Banjo Brothers Saddlebag panniers, requiring re-stitching of seams on a regular basis.

I paid $99.99 for these from a local bike shop in downtown Kansas City, MO. They're now going for $119.99 from the same shop, but they can be found online for less than $90 and upwards of $120 depending on where you're looking. This is quite a bit of flux in pricing. Shop around. It might be worth your while to buy these online if shipping prices are reasonable. At this point, you may be asking if these could possibly be worth $100. That's a good chunk of cash for some of us. I'll answer that at the end. For now, let's take a gander at the panniers themselves and what comes with them.


  • Cavernous 40 Liter capacity (2440 cubic inches)
  • Compression strap system adjusts for variable load sizes
  • Outer zipper pocket on side, mesh pocket on back for easy access
  • Adjustable shock cord webbing on top for extra storage
  • Adjustable bungee-attached hook for quick installation and removal
  • Reflective piping on seams
  • Rugged, rubberized bottom panels
  • Lock-down toggle to secure panniers to your rack rails

Accessories Included:
  • Extra hardware (mounting brackets, bolts, nuts, Lock-down toggle)
  • Shoulder strap
  • Two rain covers (with included zipper storage on the top flap)


With more than a year of all-seasons abuse, I've rarely felt let-down by the LaSalle panniers. For the utility cyclist and commuter that carries a load, these are a great balance of form, function and price. With occasional re-treating, the bags alone will repel light rain for about 10 minutes before it begins permeating the seams. The rain covers add about 15 more minutes to this process. The rain covers tuck away nicely into a zipper pouch within the top flap. This area is also a nice place to stash other small, thin, or rarely-used items. I keep an emergency poncho in one and some CitraWipes in the other.

Since the drawstring-closure area at the top adds a few extra inches of capacity, each bag can carry a nearly-full paper grocery sack and still manage to snap closed over the top of it, although the taper at the bottom clearly separates the LaSalle from being a bona-fide "grocery pannier" which is okay for me, as the taper means that I don't smack the bags with my foot every pedal rotation.

The mesh rear pockets are the perfect size to carry extra water bottles for touring or long, summer rides but they easily hold other things you may want easy access to. The side zipper pockets are great for things like your house keys, wallet, and phone, but they can be difficult to get into without opening the main flap if you have the compression straps pulled down tightly.
The adjustable shock cord tie-downs on the top of the panniers are good for carrying a rolled-up jacket or anything else that can be tied town: like eggs, so they don't get crushed.

On back: adjustable bungee for the rack hook (pull the cord a bit and it will shorten the bungee as shown) and the black plastic toggle keeps the panniers from bouncing off of the rack rail. Note it's mounted off-center to accommodate different styles of racks. The upper mounting brackets are covered in rubber, supposedly to keep the bags from marring the rack, or maybe to keep them from sliding around much. This rubber got torn up the first few times I used the panniers, but there's still some of it there. Also visible, the handle on top. They snap together to make them a bit easier to carry around. Both bags have plastic loops on back to latch the shoulder-strap to. Only one shoulder strap is included. I'm not sure why.

In a heavy downpour, or riding through frequent deep puddles, there will inevitably be water flooding the lower part of the panniers within just a few minutes. The rain covers don't seem to help much, either, as they, too, help trap the water. Although there's a brass "drain" grommet at the base of the vibrant yellow rain covers, water manages to pool in them. If carrying sensitive stuff (good work clothes, electronics, etc) in heavy rain, you will most definitely want to make sure to place them into a water-resistant or waterproof container before they go in the panniers. Double-bagging things in plastic grocery sacks is usually sufficient for my needs.

Like almost all panniers, the LaSalle has a tendency to lurk eerily close to the wheel's spokes. This isn't so much a flaw with panniers, but I'd recommend a rack with some extra rear-support like the SunLite rack I have, the Tubus Cargo, or Topeak OS.

The long compression straps are nice because they allow you to cram an insane amount of stuff into each bag. When you don't need all that room, though, the straps tend to flail around. They look messy and I fear that they'll get pulled into the chain sometimes. To clean them up, I cut small rubber-bands from an old inner tube and used them to tame the straps.

Also, the QR skewers on both my mountain bike and road bike often dig into the bottom of the pannier on the non-drive side, especially during removal. For those with adjustable racks, this might be avoidable or may be a non-issue entirely. My non-drive-side pannier has gotten a little torn up on the bottom, though, where the skewer has rubbed away parts of the thick rubber covering. Note: you can see how much room these panniers have in this photo. I stuffed it full to take this photo.

In closing
Axiom sells an entire line of smaller waterproof panniers such as the Typhoon and Monsoon models, so if you commute in wet climates often, take a look at those. According to friends of mine, they work well enough, but I don't know anyone who's put a whole year of daily use on them to really put the "waterproof" claims to the test once regular wear-and-tear gets involved. I personally wouldn't mind a set to use ONLY during the wet seasons.

Regardless, the LaSalle seemed like the more appropriate choice for my daily, year-round commute and errands due to its size and price. Overall, the workmanship and construction of these bags seems very good. In over a year, they are only showing minimal wear down where the QR skewers have caused some damage. I have seen similar Axiom panniers (not sure of the model, but all part of the Journey Series) in use by other commuters and tourers and they're still going strong after several years of use. I'd definitely buy these again, if I had a chance. I'm just not sure I'd pay the full $120 MSRP for the privilege with cheaper options available.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pedal-Powered Projects

Through the course of my casual web-browsing adventures (almost always powered by Google Reader these days), I often happen upon projects where people use pedal power to do strange things.

The Webcycle is a stationary bike that gives you more bandwidth as a reward for your exercise.

This pedal-powered apple-grinder is kind of clever.

Someone's using a tire-dragger dynamo to charge a mobile phone...

Bicycle-Powered carnival rides?!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


The Lortab does nothing. But I'm feeling a bit better this morning.

Last night, I decided I'd see what it took to get The Goat back into action. Last time I rode it, the rear wheel was so wobbly that it felt like it was going to buck me right off. Doing the age-old "brake calipers as a truing stand" trick, I found out that the wheel itself wasn't too bad. But on one side of the tire, the bead was fraying, allowing the tire to bulge out enough to cause significant wobblation. Wobblage. Wabblitude. Whatever.

I kludged the bike by unceremoniously clawing the tattered tread from the wheel and throwing one of those crappy Kenda ATB tires on in its stead. It worked well enough, and the upright mountain bike posture was a refreshing reprieve for my dolorous deltoid.

Sorry for the camera-phone photo. I accidentally left my Canon on the tripod after trying in vain to capture images from the Perseid shower last night.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


In May, I went to hang out with some friends and new acquaintances at Arthur Bryant's for lunch. Jolie and Kurt cornered me and interviewed me guerrilla web-2.0 style without giving me any prep time. It was cool, though.

So, here's what happens when people interview me without trying to talk about injuries, road rage or the dangers of bicycle commuting. I've ranted about this kind of thing before. It was also completely un-edited and un-slanted. Despite my "uhm" every 3 words, this was one of the more pleasant interviews I've had.

I'll spare you the photos

Let's just say that fresh sand and cornering don't go too well together. And road rash sucks. And once you dislocate a joint (skiing accident, 1994? 1995?) it will dislocate easier for the rest of your life. The bike's got some new scrapes, too. It was about time for new bar tape anyway.

But hey, I still had some of that wonderful Tegaderm stuff in the office, and a co-worker had some Aleve. I think I got my shoulder re-set fine. If it gives me too much grief today I'll probably go see a doc after work.

Ah, Tuesday. How's yours going?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Piloting a lightning rod

Heebie Jeebies. I narrowly avoided thunderstorms on both ends of my commute today. Strangely, the pavement was still so hot that the rain from overnight storms had mostly evaporated. Not so much for the afternoon storms. Soaky soaky.

New axe: Fender Precision Bass, given to me by a close family friend who needed more room in his stable. I rocked it out on praise team yesterday. I love the sound. The action is somewhat different than the Washburn I usually play. It will take a little getting used to. This is the third bass guitar I've ever laid my hands on, so I don't have much to compare it to. But it does sound very warm, and the pickups are pretty hot for being passive.

Our container garden yielded one cucumber so far. That's it. One. Radishes were a no-go, snap peas didn't thrive. I'm holding out for the green onion. It's still got a few weeks left.

Ants, this morning. They were slowly but surely reclaiming the remnants of a baby bird back to the earth from which it came.

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