Friday, December 31

It Can Be Done

9ºF and I rode my bike to Target to get an RCA cord for our DVD player. We've been suffering with the same one for a few years and I'd finally had it. The old cord had a short, so I decided to go and get a new one. It's a mile and a quarter to Target, so I dressed warmly (but not over-dressed) and pedaled over.

I think I'm getting the hang of riding in the snow. And I'd like to share what I've learned so far.

I'm riding on regular mountain bike tires. So far no studded tires and I haven't tried the DIY zip-tie fix.

1) Keep your butt on the seat. It's okay to stand up if you're moving carefully with some momentum. I raised up a few times on my way home yesterday which was almost a necessity since I was two hours getting home. But if you try to stand up on the pedals as you take off you're going to break traction. It's imperative to keep your weight equally distributed between the front and rear wheels all the times. It makes starting out from a foot-down stop tricky.

2) Take curves and turns easy. Slow down wa-ay before you need to turn. Moving forward and stopping are not as tricky as you'd think. But turning on snow/ice is as difficult as you can imagine.

3) Stay loose. If you ride relaxed you can react effectively if you slide or skid. Play around on the snow and ice before heading out on a longer ride. If you get comfortable sliding and skidding around you won't fall and rupture yourself when you skate around unexpectedly.

4) Allow more time to reach your destination. Face it, you're just not going to be able to go as fast as you normally would. And there is always the possibility that the conditions of your route necessitate that you walk.

5) If you dress right you CAN keep warm while riding. The keys are good gloves and good shoes. Hands and feet will get cold first. If you have good insulation and wind protection on your torso and you keep moving you should stay pretty warm. But keeping the blood flowing alone won't prevent poorly protected hands and feet from going numb.

I'm getting more comfortable with the idea of riding on snow, just as I've recently embraced the idea of riding at night. All it takes is giving it a go and seeing that its possible. Try it sometime!

Not to change the subject, but I think I've got the OBS (Orange Blossom Special) all lined out. It fits me really well. With the longer stem at the lower (flat) angle the bike fits me perfectly.

Thursday, December 30

It's Official...

...I now have experience commuting in the snow. I've ridden on days when there was snow present, but today I rode 10+ miles from Golden to Arvada with at least a couple of inches on the ground. It wasn't as bad as I was expecting it to be.

I rode the Orange Blossom Special. It does great in the snow. Going forward, braking and climbing steep hills in low gear was no problem. Turning was dicey.

One co-worker was a little freaked out when she realized I was going to be riding home.

"We could probably get your bike in my trunk." She offered with a worried look.

I assured her I would be fine. I could have chosen to drive this morning, but I opted to ride because I didn't want to risk wrecking our one car. I had planned accordingly with warm clothes and the right bike.





Riding down into Golden from work I took it really slow. Through CSM I took it slow and DID NOT bomb down Illinois as usual. I picked up the pace a little on the bike path and by the time I got to the long downhill after the 58 bridge on the CCT I was comfortable hitting 12-15 mph.

After I passed the giant pringle cans the wind picked up and I started feeling the bite of the storm. I stopped under the McIntyre Street bridge and wrapped my face and head up a little more snugly. And then I plodded on along the CCT through Wheat Ridge. The trail was pretty good riding, but once I got off onto the streets and headed toward home the wheels got all squirrelly under me. I managed to stay upright the rest of the way home, but there was potential for bike skiing for sure.

It took me twice as long to get home, but I was stopping to take photos and enjoying being outside in the winter weather. I've been home long enough that I almost want to find a reason to go back out, but its nice sitting in the recliner, watching the big flakes fall and thinking about tomorrow.

It can be done!

I read somewhere recently where someone stated that if you can dress appropriately for cross country skiing then you can dress appropriately for winter bike commuting. I agree.

Winter Attacks!

Last night I was putting duct tape over the vents on my bike helmet in preparation for the coming storm and both Boone and Lily wanted to get their helmets and do the same. It was pretty cute. I finally had to tell Lily that we shouldn't put tape on hers because she doesn't ride in the rain and snow like dad. Sigh! May give in and let the kids do it.

I rode the "Special" bike in this morning. I rode it because the snow is supposed to be just over the horizon and barreling our way. I rode the mountain bike, not so much for the tires, but for the disc brakes.

The roads were even more post-apocalyptic this morning than previous mornings. I'm going to miss the quiet. Even Denver West was still and peaceful. I should have counted the number of cars I saw. I bet it was a dozen or less. Next month I am back in the fray. I'll be riding in between 7:30 and 8:30 as opposed to the past two months when I've been riding in between 6:00 and 7:00. I'll be deeper into the evening commute as well. The up side is that I'll have enough time to stick to less busy routes. I can utilize more of the Clear Creek Trail and stay off the busier roads.

I did prove to myself that I can do my middle-length commute as fast as I've been doing my short commute. I just need a rabbit. Last night I cut through Golden to the Clear Creek Trail and was heading down the long hill after the 58 bridge. I was pedaling pretty hard and making a good clip when a roadie blazed past me. He opened a gap but after he was a couple hundred feet ahead we hit flat ground and I hung on tight.

The trail goes straight for awhile and I was crankin' hard to keep up, but I wasn't dying. When we passed the giant pringle cans the trail got curvy and the roadie would slack off on each curve while I kept crankin' and hanging the curves like a roller coaster. Having fatter tires is a benefit sometimes.

I steadily closed the gap with each bend in the trail. After the second one I saw him look back. He knew I was catching up and I could see him jamming harder on the pedals. But then at each curve he would stop pedaling and coast through, slowing perceptibly. I, on the other hand, didn’t stop pedaling and didn't touch my brakes.

I caught him at the short steep hill just before the Youngfield trailhead. I was only a few yards behind him and I heard him gearing down at least three gears. I dropped one and stood up on the pedals, rocketing past him on the hill and gunning ahead, opening a huge gap as he slowly crested the hill.

As I passed I could hear him gasping for air. And I grinned under the short bill of my cycling cap and kept right on pedaling, heart ticking over just above idle and lungs slowly exchanging air...

Now, I'm not really a competitive person. The only sports I was ever involved in as a kid were running sports. I ran cross country and did a short stint in track (we mostly ran for the fence and then to town to get a burger before practice was over). And I don't usually attack while commuting home. But then again, I don’t usually get passed. And when I do I typically see it as an opportunity to motivate myself to ride faster. It just happened to work out yesterday that I had a good roadie challenge and I made good on it. I have a feeling Mr. Breakaway doesn't ride to work every day. I could tell he was commuting because of the backpack and rear blinker.

But he was more roadie than commuter. He had these weird pogie things on his handlebars. They looked like the neoprene things kayakers use in cold weather on their paddles. And of course he had the SPD shoes with the zip on covers. Man, I hate those things! Mine were useless.

Anyway, I don’t think I'll be attacking anyone on the way home today. It will be the first winter stage of the Tour de Home for sure.

Wednesday, December 29

Sub-Urban Hell

Please, oh please…don't make me go back to South Jeffco ever again. I say SUB-urban much the same way Gozer the Gozerian referred to the Ghostbusters as sub-creatures. Less than urban, "urban" being something resembling a city.

South Jeffco is one of the largest unincorporated SUB-urban areas in the country. That translates to the largest tract of real estate dedicated to McHouses and strip malls in the land boys and girls!

I went on a site visit, the second in my three year tenure. I was excited to get out of my cubicle/cage, but then once I headed out and realized where I was going I wasn't so excited. I'd much rather have been going on a site visit to Deckers. Maybe I can arrange one soon.

I reached my destination a bit shell shocked. I haven't driven in such deep SUB-urbia since we moved from Lakewood (aka SUB-lakes with forests) back in the summer. Our neighborhood now is 1950s era suburbia. Its on the border of downtown Arvada, within walking distance still, and while the houses are similar, they are modest yet rugged.

Traffic was a nightmare as I strove to get into the heart of South Jeffco at Bowles and Wadsworth. It was the middle of the day for crying out loud! It was past lunchtime, but not time to go home yet. I realize the kids are out of school, but few of them have obnoxiously distinguished silver hair and drive Mercedes.

As I walked around the center that was my destination cars were zooming in off Bowles Avenue in a constant steady stream. People who would be pedestrians in a few short moments were bearing down on me while barreling through over the posted speed limit for the parking lot. It was insane.

As I drove down and back I tried to pay attention to the roads and how bike friendly they were. They're not. What passes for cycling infrastructure in that region of SUB-urbia are wide sidewalks paralleling the parkways and boulevards. Ironically, the wide sidewalk/MUPs inhabit a strip of green between the four lane windey roads and tall noise barrier fences which enclose the hallowed SUB-divisions.

It was horrid. I need to stay out of motor vehicles and/or visit a wilderness area ASAP.

Paying Your Dues

The more I browse around the almighty internet and read forums, articles and blogs by other cyclists I realize I am still a long way off from being an even decent bike mechanic. That doesn't dissuade me at all, I've been riding a bike for 30 years. Well, not the whole time. I've been riding but not tinkering.

My approach to all things mechanical has always been "if it ain't broke I probably will break it." Bikes, toys, cars, toy cars…I've always left them alone until something went awry. Having grown up believing I was poor I just could never justify the risk that I might make some irreparable repairs.

So I've been slow to gain the confidence to tinker and fidget with my bike. I'm discovering that I can work on it, but I'm a bike shop of one with one customer. And while I don’t believe I'm poor these days I do realize I can't just be throwing money away on junker bikes. And at present I really can’t afford to wreck the Cannonball outright. I need it to get me to and from work.

I also realize you can't just gain the knowledge overnight. No matter how much Sheldon Brown I read I'm not going to gain any kind of real world experience. I need to be tightening and loosening components (ideally without over-tightening and breaking them) and making bikes ride better.

My pipe-wrench dream is to build a bike from the ground up. A touring bike...

So I'm resolved that any minor or major adjustments or repairs that any of our bikes need in 2011 I will do myself. No bike shop bail outs. I'm gonna have to step it up.

Gasp! I just had a revelation! More to come…

Tuesday, December 28

The Difference a Year Can Make

Before:



















After:



















The seatpost mounted rear rack was a short lived thing. I used it before I got the Axiom Streamliner rack which is on it now. So the first pic is of the Cannonball earlier in the year before the Giant got slaughtered. Back then I used it to pull the trailer and Boone with the towbar. I rarely used it to commute.

Then after the Giant was slain the Cannonball once again became my primary mode of transportation. And at that point I began converting it to a utility bike.

The second picture shows the Cannonball as it will look as it ushers out 2010. In 2011 you'll see an Xtracycle conversion and if all my dreams come true it would have a new paint job before the year is out. Not holding my breath on that one.

I See Traffic

Traffic has been quiet this past week. With schools being out for the holidays and apparently many people off work my rides have been relatively quiet. It's been very nice.

My normal route takes me past two elementary schools in addition to an office park. When school is in full swing traffic is absolutely crazy within a mile of the schools. I am heartened to see quite a few kids walking, riding and scootering to school in both places, but the SUV/minivan traffic is still pretty ridiculous.

The roads away from the school have been quiet too. People this past week seem to have been giving me more room and there seems to have been fewer cars overall, especially in the mornings. Except for one day last week the roads have been mostly devoid of cyclists as well.

Next month my schedule changes and I'll be riding deeper into rush hour both coming and going. At least I'll have the option of taking a longer route to work.

Traffic bugs me these days. It seems to me that as I've gotten older that the behavior of motorists on the roads has irritated me more. The obvious explanation is that I'm more aware of traffic and of how motorists act towards me as a cyclist. But I don’t think I was necessarily riding around in a cloud when I was 19 years old. I made the conscious decision to ride on roads that wouldn't have been the first pick for the casual cyclist. I'll admit I am definitely more engaged in the roadway environment now as opposed to 15 to 20 years ago. But I think there's more to it.

My second theory is that motorists' perception of me has changed as I've aged. I've always appeared younger than my actual age, so I believe that through my twenties most people probably perceived me as a kid or at the most a teenager and they reacted with less hostility toward me because they assumed I a) didn't know any better, b) had idiot parents for letting me ride my bike in traffic c) was mildly retarded, d) didn't know any better, etc. so they left me alone. It's normal (or at least it used to be) to see a kid or even a teenager riding a bike.

These days I don't sport the scrawny geeky kid look anymore and I think I get a lot of flack from motorists because I am obviously an adult (full-sized) now. The hostile attitudes are born out of the attitudes of a) you SHOULD know better, b) you’re an idiot for riding instead of driving, c) you’re eff-ing retarded, d) get out of my way if you know what's good for you. Where I grew up it's most definitely NOT normal for an adult to ride a bike, unless he (or she, though to be fair its usually the guys) have lost their license to drive a car. No one can fathom why a grown man would ride a bike when there are plenty of perfectly good cars out there.

This makes people uncomfortable. I'm really not sure why it makes them uncomfortable, but for whatever reason it DOES and it often causes them act in a less than respectable manner.

The third theory really doesn’t explain it, but I think it contributes to the overall issue of car vs. bicycle traffic. I think that in the past 20 years there are just more people on the roads. I think we have increased the number of drivers who are alone in the car, thereby increasing the proportion of cars in relation to the population and I believe there are just a whole lot more people on the roads. Its more common for families to have a car for each person of driving age in the household than it was when I was a teenager.

And of course the last contributing factor is location. My proximity to a larger number of people has changed my perception of traffic. When I was 15 we lived in rural southwestern Ohio. There really was very little traffic when I rode my bike around there. These days those big empty fields are filled up with McHouses. I'm sure if I lived on that same street today I would notice a marked difference in the intensity of the traffic. And while there seems to be a lot of traffic where I lived in Kentucky, the numbers are minimal compared to the sheer volume of moving humanity in the Denver metro area. The cars never stop rolling. Part of my problem might be the continuous onslaught compared to the ebb and flow of my previous haunts.

I know a lot of it is my perception, but I also believe a motorist's perception of the cyclist they approach has a lot to do with how they overtake them. I wonder if there are any published studies on this topic?

Monday, December 27

Less Work, More Commute

So today I rode the Cannonball and got to try the new bolt-on drops. The ride in I wasn't too happy with them, but maybe they just need a little extra padding at the joint. On the ride home they worked wonderfully. I flew. Well, it felt like I flew. My time was about the same as normal.

It's been a few months since I've rode with drops. It's a nice change.

I wish I could find a job that paid as much as the job I have now (only because we have needs) that is totally cycling related, whether it be writing about cycling, working on bikes, running a bike shop or just riding bikes all over the place.

Anyway, I finished the Bike Snob's book last night. It's a good read. Between Bike Snob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling and Robert Hurst's The Cyclist's Manifesto you get a really good balanced picture of cycling in America, how it is and how it should be.

I'd love to write my own cycling book, but I'm afraid I'd tread too much on well traveled ground.

I might do up a more detailed review of both books in the next couple of weeks. Keep your eyes peeled!

Miles Ridden and Miles to Ride

As the end of the year approaches I am compelled to look back and tally my mileage for the year. It seems like I've ridden a lot this past year, but a monthly breakdown shows my riding has increased as the year has progressed. Remember, we sold our second car in the middle of last December, so I've been using the bike as my primary means of transportation (in theory) for just over a year now.

Last winter and early spring I was still wussing out a lot and driving or having Mandy take me to work. And then in June I was off work for a week and then in July we were getting settled in the new house. I'm kind of embarrassed about my mileage in July though. There really was no reason for it to be so low.

However, from August on I had a steady increase in mileage. I included recreational and utility riding in the totals. Commuting is important, but I ride a lot of other places as well. And the reality is I am certain I didn’t record every mile I rode. These are approximates regardless. And I rounded up or down to the nearest mile. I don’t see the point in showing you the nearest hundredth of a mile. So here it is:

Jan - 120
Feb - 46
Mar - 187
Apr - 102
May - 105
June - 293
July - 143
Aug - 256
Sept - 274
Oct - 315
Nov - 252
Dec - 356 (421)

The number in parentheses is how many miles I'll have ridden when I get home on Thursday. I don’t foresee any reason I won't ride the rest of this week. The weather is supposed to turn Friday. Regardless, December has been my best month this year. I owe it all to La Niña.

November was low because I was off work for election day, Veterans Day and a week at Thanksgiving.

My annual total mileage for the year is going to end up being 2,514. That's woefully low based on the number of days I actually worked. My monthly average is 209, which isn't bad, but it could be a lot more. My commute prior to July was about 4 miles less round trip, so my miles would have been somewhat less early in the year, but 46 miles in February? Ugh!

So a quick calculation (read: approximate) of the number of days I'll be working in 2011 is 240 (weep), and based on my normal short commute if I ride every trip I would pedal 4,459 miles. My goal then for 2011 is 4,500 miles. I know I can do it…barring a broken leg.

Realistically I think I can ride over 5,000 miles with trips around town and for recreation with the family.

Saturday, December 25

Letter to Santa Revisited

Santa is good.

I got the bike repair stand. I love it. I've already used it to break my rear shifter.

Santa also put some bolt on drops for the Cannonball in my stocking and I've got them on and the bar ends trimmed off. All I need now is some bar tape. Actually, it was when I was moving the shifters and brake levers that I overtightened and broke the shifter.

Oh well, duct tape goes a long way to soothe all wounds.



So the Cannonball continues to evolve. With narrower bars and drops it feels like a more nimble and speedy bike.

I need to get bar tape tomorrow so I can ride it Monday. According to Amazon.com I can get a new set of shifters for somewhere in the neighborhood of $33-$73.

I'm actually kinda excited to give it a whirl.

I didn't get the other stuff I really wanted, but the Xtracycle conversion is in the works. In a year's time the Cannonball has gone from "vintage" '90s era mountainbike to a full on commuter and is almost gone over to the dark side of longtail haulers.

With the repair stand I'm on my way to being the neighborhood bike geek and it makes tinkering so much easier. And it encourages me to overtighten. I was wa-ay too excited to be ratcheting down on the hex bolt on my shifter.

I also got a couple of cycling related books. I've already read The Cyclist's Manifesto, but I wanted a copy for myself and I got the Bike Snob's book.

Boone got a jersey. He's been out riding around the street with it. He's pretty cute.

All in all it was a good haul.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24

Crankmas Eve

I was going to get up before dawn and ride my mountain bike up to Standley Lake. But alas, the bed was warm and cozy and there was no other reason for me to wake up so early. So I slept in.

Today I needed to do a little last minute Christmasing so I rode over to Olde Town and got some stuff.



I got a few last things and rode home, then Mandy had a grocery list for me so I rode over to King Soopers and Kmart. Got the last thing I needed gift-wise and picked up some 50% off jingle bells. They'll be great for the bike next holiday season.

The weather was pretty mild today. I got away with riding without gloves. I wish I had gotten up and rode this morning. Definitely won't be riding tomorrow morning. It was good to ride around doing what I needed to do. It looked like traffic was pretty crazy and the parking lots were jammed like a Russian radar.

Thursday, December 23

Movie Review: The Bicycle Thieves

Out of principle I typically stay away from black and white films. I'm not really a technicolor snob, but I have my standards. However, I have read in a few different places that Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thieves (Ladri Di Biciclette in Italian) is a good movie. I looked it up on the library website and found they have a copy so I requested it a couple of weeks ago.

I sat down last Friday and watched it and was impressed. I really didn’t think I'd like it, being black and white and in another language. It was difficult for me to keep my attention on the screen to read the subtitles and keep up with what was going on, but I turned off the laptop and watched the movie.

The story follows Antonio Ricci (portrayed by Lamberto Maggiorani) as he finally finds work I the war ravaged country. Ricci must have a bicycle for the job he is offered but he has pawned his bike to feed his family.

He goes home to tell his wife of his conundrum and she comes up with the quick solution: pawn their sheets to get the bike out of hock.

I love the scenes where they ride two on the bike after he gets it back. The streets are filled with bikes and while you would never call Ricci a "cyclist" it is great to see how he uses the bike throughout the film and how the bike is regarded as a tool for a working man.

Ricci rides from his home outside of Rome into the city to his job and then rides around town while working. There are some inspiring scenes where the bikes outnumber automobiles on the road.

There are a few scenes early on that leave you tense just waiting for the bike to be stolen. You know its going to happen because the film is called The Bicycle Thieves. Finally the deed is done and Ricci spends most of the rest of the movie desperately searching for the bike which becomes less of a simple tool and mode of transportation and more and more a symbol of his family's survival.

The only real problem I had with the film was it seemed to me that he could have somehow continued working until he could afford a new bike. Maybe I missed something in translation. He was 'bent on retrieving the ONE lost bike. Of course if he could find the bike then he would be spared the expense of getting a new one, but the hopelessness of his quest to me seemed to be enough to have turned most people to making plans for a new bike.

Of course economically depressed Italy in the late '40s was not the ideal place to be trying to support a family and it sounds easy to just save up and buy a new bike, but obviously it wouldn’t have been so easy.

Without giving away the ending, suffice it to say that with modern cinematic expectations you'll be surprised at the ending.

I liked the movie and would definitely recommend it and watch it again myself. Maybe I'd pick up on a few more nuances which would help me better understand Ricci's predicament. The fact that De Sica used non-actors and filmed the movie entirely on location makes it interesting and authentic.

An Experiment and a Philosophy

I had been trying to, and had been thinking about dropping the cycling "costume" and just go back to wearing regular human being clothes like I did pre-2007. Seeing the Yehuda Moon strip about the leg band made me resolve to try a whole lot harder. The past two days I've worn pants. Yesterday I wore a long sleeve poly undershirt, a t-shirt and a button up wool shirt over all that. That worked ok, but with the poly shirt seemed too outdoorsey.

Today I wore the pants, a long sleeve cotton t-shirt and the wool shirt over it.

I've misplaced my smaller fleece hat, so both days I wore my thick wool and fleece hat in lieu of a helmet (because the hat's too thick!) and I worried that it would be too warm.

Both days I've started out cold, but within a couple of miles warmed up enough to be comfortable without sweating. Yesterday the temps were in the 20s and low 30s as I rode in and the same today. Last night as I rode home I think it may have been just above freezing.

What made me especially happy today was that once I got into work I took off my hat and I was as comfortable inside the building as I had been pedaling along. Same clothes, two different environments...

The problem is that the required attire for work isn't very appropriate for riding. And I do sweat if its not below freezing so I can't really wear a work shirt on my ride in, though I've worn my work clothes home a few times.

I'm really not to the point where I can shower and get dressed at home and then just ride in and go straight to work. Maybe that will be my goal this year...

So much of the gear cyclist think is mandatory really isn't. I rode the Cannonball around for years wearing just street clothes and shoes in good weather and bad. In Dayton when I was going to photography school I typically wore running pants a t-shirt and an anorak type thing. Then I had a big fleece head piece I wore on my head (no helmet) and some hiking boots.

I've always hated the "shop mentality" that there are certain things you have to have. I'm baffled that more people don't see through the sales pitches.

Ages ago when I decided I was going to get a kayak I was first exposed to the whole myth of the "package deal" of outdoor shops. My first whitewater experience had inspired me. A friend and I paddled a particularly remote and rough section of the local river. Due to his inexperience in a canoe I realized I would enjoy paddling a whole lot more with a boat of my own. Enter the kayak.

I went into Phillip Gall's in Lexington and told the guy what I wanted. And basically what I was looking for was a flatwater boat. I was more interested in Class I & II stuff and flatwater, but the saleman in the shop ended up selling me a creek boat with all the regalia.

Needless to say, the first time I got into flatwater I was miserable, and cursing retail salesmen all.

Then when I got into climbing it started all over again. The worst thing in climbing is the incessant push to put every climber in shoes that are three sizes too small and so tight they kill brain cells every time you wear them.

There is absolutely no reason a 5.8 climber needs slippers that bend his foot in half. If you can't enjoy the climb because of the self-imposed pain in your feet then something is wrong. I've argued with so many salespeople about the size of my shoes and actually had one guy (a real jerk) refuse to sell me the shoes I wanted.

Cycling is no different, except that you can walk out of a shop with just a bike. Unless the bike doesn't come with standard flat platform pedals.

When I bought my Giant I had no intention of going with clipless pedals. I don't race bikes. I don't need maximum efficiency to go as fast as I possibly can. The speed I can pedal while pushing on flat pedals and wearing my Columbia hiking boots is plenty fast enough for me.

The day I bought the Giant it was buy pedals or buy shoes. I gave in and decided to give the shoes a try. Then I suffered with them for a couple of years. I've since taken the SPD pedals off the bike and have gone to flats. I've been much happier since. My feet don't get numb or cold like they did in the stupid SPD shoes. I just can't see the usefulness of them. If I were racing maybe...maybe.

I've read that clipless pedals or toe straps keep your feet from slipping off the pedals. I can tell you from years of experience that the discomfort and off balance falling does not offset the inconvenience of the few times I've had a foot slip off a pedal. It just doesn't make sense.

And yet sales people continue to push gear that just doesn't make sense for the average cyclist. Bicyclist.

I'm a firm believer that the key to enjoying the outdoors is dressing smartly. But that doesn't mean you have to have layers of expensive armor that you don't need.

By all mean, support your local bike shop (LBS), but don't buy things you don't need that will ultimately complicate your life and take the enjoyment out of riding.

Wednesday, December 22

Getting Dropped...

...by a girl no less. But she was on a road bike and had no extra weight. Who am I kidding? She left me in the dust :(

On the up side I have broken 300 miles this month. Pretty good for a winter month. I bet that's my December record for sure. Now that its officially winter I am resolved to keep riding every day. For me it'll be a little easier in January and February. I go to a later schedule and won't have to be at work and ready until 9am.

I'm not going to state the obvious and go on about how the days are going to start getting longer now. I have a feeling the worst weather is coming soon. And how could it not? We've not had much of a winter at all. We've had one pathetic snow.

So come on Old Man Winter...HIT ME!

Today I experimented a little with going costume-less (see Yehuda Moon strip previously referenced) and it went rather well. On both my rides I wore the pants I wore at work. Its so dry here its not a big deal. The problem is that no matter how cold it gets, unless I am absolutely freezing, I sweat like a hog. Any shirt I wear while riding is a mess when I get where I'm going. Since I have to be somewhat presentable when I get to work, I'm still stuck with needing to shower once I get there and having a fresh shirt.

Oh well...

As I was finishing this post up my wife came home from the bike shop where she picked up my...GASP! special order Christmas present! I'm not gonna peek, but if it weren't just three days til I might be sneaking one. She's wrapping it now!

She just emerged from the bedroom with a four foot tall wrapped package.

Folding bike?

Repair stand?

Long skinny Xtracycle prototype?

BOB trailer?

We'll see...in three days!

Bad Influence

Man, reading Yehuda Moon makes me want to work in a bike shop. If I didn't have a family to provide for I'm sure I'd drop everything to become a "wrench." I'm not wishing my family away, not at all, but if money were no option I'd do it in a heartbeat. But my kids gotta eat...or do they?

I'm a die hard Moonie now...

It's Not About Getting Dropped

I can't remember the last time it happened, but I dropped another commuter today. It was weird, as I hit the I-70 frontage road (my least favorite section of my ride) I saw a bike light winkling in the distance. For a split second I thought about catching them, but deep down I knew it wouldn't happen. Other commuters always leave me in the dust. Its rare that I overtake another cyclist and I usually only try when I'm headed home (and downhill).

But after crossing 32nd and turning onto Alkire I saw the lights again. Closer.

On Dasher! On Dancer! On Prancer! On Fixie! I jumped on the pedals and closed the gap. And it stayed closed.

As I got closer I knew I would overtake the guy. He was on huffing and puffing on a mountain bike with big ole knobby tires. Huffing and puffing? I was sucking wind pretty hard myself. It wouldn't do to pass the guy completely out of breath, only to have him pass me again on the same street. I backed off the pedals a bit, with Jedi mind control I slowed my breathing and as I rolled past him I casually said "Mornin'!" He was startled.

And the fact that he was startled was surprising. I have the laser on the front of my bike. Before I got close enough for the guy to hear me I was already scorching the asphalt alongside his ride. And still he didn't perceive me approaching.

He was well illumed. He had two flashing rear LEDs and two decently bright (but not as bright as the laser) front lights, one handlebar mount and one helmet mount. Man, I should put the laser on my helmet and use the Blackburn on the bars. I could vaporize cars with a sharp glance.

I passed the guy and left him in the dust. When I felt as if I was far enough ahead I risked a glance back and he was so far back I could hardly see his lights. I never saw him again.

I wasn't really pedaling that hard. He must not ride much.

Tuesday, December 21

The First Ever Unofficial Bike Arvada Winter Solstice Ride 2010

We just couldn't make it to the BikeDenver Winter Solstice Ride. 5 o'clock traffic, lack of planning on my part and a series of ob-stacles thwarted our efforts.

A last minute executive sessions wrought a stroke of genius...the first ever (though unofficial) Bike Arvada Winter Solstice Ride.

Next year we'll plan and promote it for sure. Despite the chill and the impromptu ride with no planned route we had a good time. We rode from our house over to Ridge Road, then to Olde Town and we returned to our neighborhood via W 57th Avenue.

By next year we'll need at least one more string of Christmas lights, some jingle bells and a at least one more set of bike lights for Boone.

Can't wait!

My New Favorite Comic Strip

Yehuda Moon & The Kickstand Cyclery

Winter Solstice

It sure doesn't feel like the first day of winter. Oh, it was cold, in the 20s and maybe low 30s, but the Denver 'burbs are dry as a bone. I rolled in a little late this morning so there was a enough light I could see some wintry clouds lingering behind the Front Range foothills.


Foothills from Tabor Rd

Snow was falling somewhere, and somewhere close there will be a white Christmas, but not in my neighborhood.

Tonight is BikeDenver's Winter Solstice Ride and my family is planning on going. We picked up some blinky white Christmas lights for Mandy's bike last night and I'm hoping to find some more lights for Boone's bike before the ride tonight. I think it'll be a lot of fun and I think the kids will have a good time too. I've been looking for a good excuse to get down in Denver to get some photos of the lights anyway. This is the perfect opportunity and with a bike theme!

I'm torn. As a bike commuter ("pro" no less) I should be ecstatic that the weather has been so mild, but the reality is that I want it to be a snowpocalypse like so many other places in the country of late. It's all my fault though. Back when it first got cold and hinted that it was going to snow I bought a sled for the kids so when it finally did snow we'd be able to go sledding without having to scramble for a slidey thing. Maybe I should get rid of it. I'll post it on craigslist!

Hopefully I'll have some good photos of the ride tonight. More to come…

Sunday, December 19

Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I have been a very good boy this year and I hope that you can bring me the following:

First I want a bicycle repair stand. I've been maintaining our bikes a whole lot more this past year and not only would a repair stand make my job easier, it would make me look all cool, stylish and pretentious. To go along with the repair stand I'd also like a truing stand and for my stocking I'd like a tool tray that clamps on the stand.

Second I would like a valet bike rack to put out under our carport and store all our bikes. For my stocking it'd be great to have some hardware to bolt it to the concrete so we could lock the bikes to it.

Lastly I'd like an Xtracycle Big Stoker kit to convert my Cannonball (1993 Cannondale M300) to a longtail hauler. Any good Xtracycle accessories would be great for my stocking and if you have room please, please, oh please bring Mandy a Kona Ute to go under the tree. I can have it fitted to her at the bike shop. For her stocking a cool basket to go on the handlebars would be perfect.

Boone would like a bike with gears and Lily is outgrowing her pink princess bike. I'm sure she'll learn to ride all on her own soon and she's going to need a good bike. They've both been pretty good this year too, though I know for a fact your bag is already full up with toys for them. If you can squeeze in a couple of bikes for the kids you'd make our Christmas GREAT!

We've been oh so good this year and if you bring us these gifts we can go carless much more often just like you.

Thanks,

Chris

PS, we'll make sure to have cookies and milk out for you. We might even have one Ale-8 left.


Saturday, December 18

Salvagetti Commuter Team 2011

Twitter spat out a pearl amongst the sludge today. I saw a tweet from Salvagetti Bicycle Workshop earlier today announcing a meeting for a pro-commuter team.

So I went. Mandy was playing at being Santa putting one of the kids' big present together when I headed out from Arvada. It's nine miles to Salvagetti's shop down on Platte Street near REI in Denver. I knew I'd fit in from the non-cyclist point of view, but that I'd probably stick out like a broken shifter with the hipsters.

The ride was good, because it helped me work out the best connection between our part of Arvada and Wheat Ridge, Edgewater and Denver. The eastern two thirds of my ride tonight was basically my old commute between Denver and Golden. I just had to sort out how to intersect it from the north in a way that made sense. I found it.

It was nice to cruise back through Edgewater and around Sloan's Lake. I loved that part of my commute when we lived in Denver and it was really enjoyable tonight. The ride back around Sloan's after dark was incredible. The lights of Edgewater reflected in the cold, clear water.

The meeting went well. What it comes down to is basically a pro deal (i.e. big discount on gear) in exchange for promising to abandon your car for more than 50% of your commutes between January 7 and March 31 and report your mileage and any interesting stories to be shared. The second component of the deal is that you convince a non-commuter to commute at least three times during that timeframe.

For me it's a great opportunity to make connections with other cyclists and to get some exposure for Bike Arvada. It's growing even though it's still little more than an idea.

I had also been wanting to visit Salvagetti because they are one of the two known Xtracycle dealers in the Denver area. I got to check out some stuff as well as the Kona Ute, which is a manufactured long tail hauler. I'd love to get one for Mandy. Between an Xtracycle and a Ute we could haul the family around no problem.

I'm excited because things seem to be moving along to help me gain the experience and exposure I want and need to move me toward a career in transportation planning. It might still be a few years off, but I'm working that direction and getting involved so that's exciting.

I'm excited that Salvagetti is sponsoring this endeavor in the name of commuting. Not everyone is an athlete, but as a commuter cyclist you can be out there, talking, promoting and being an ambassador for cycling to help make cycling more accessible for those already riding a bike and for those considering it.

One thing I really like about this program is that they want us to encourage and help someone else get started commuting by bike. That's one piece of advice I feel is glaringly absent from all "How to be a bicycle commuter" lists. My list would include "Seek out other commuters to advise you and to help you get going." Having a mentor, or at least a companion, makes something like commuting by bike in city traffic (or rural traffic for that matter) so much easier.

Friday, December 17

Asphalt Justice

So Marty Erzinger pled guilty to two misdemeanors yesterday. He should have been pleading guilty to a felony reckless assault charge. He should have manned up and taken responsibility for his actions, inactions or presence at the scene where Steven Milo suffered life altering injuries.

Instead he got the compassionate support of the DA, the judge, and probably a lot of drivers out there who think cyclists shouldn't be on the road in the first place.

And the whole case comes down to money. Its the OJ Simpson effect. Erzinger represents a great deal of money and therefore he is the subject of unmerited and undeserved favor. His defense has been that he had undiagnosed sleep apnea, again, because if he had known he had sleep apnea before then he could still be considered reckless for getting behind the wheel. And the most recent absurdity is that he succumbed to the fumes from his "new car smell."

From the Vail Daily:

The “fairy tales” of sleep apnea and a leather car smell — both presented by Erzinger's attorney, Richard Tegtmeier, as causes for the accident — are embarrassing and insulting, Milo said.

Compare this story to another recent local story, where a motorist hit expectant mother Laurie Gorham and fled the scene. Horrific to say the least, tragic because Gorham lost her baby a day later and is still in the hospital a week later.

The outrage is palpable. It's mind boggling that someone would hit a pregnant woman and leave. That's cold and ruthless. That's selfish beyond selfish.

But once the authorities catch this person the perpetrator has a nice two-pronged defense that's guaranteed to work. The criminal can say they unknowingly suffered from sleep apnea and/or succumbed to new car fumes. They'll get probation and maybe 90 days in jail if they're as suave as Benzinger. Unless they don't drive a new Mercedes. What if they drive a beat up '90s model Chevy Blazer? Oh, they might be screwed then.

Last night police responded to a call from a witness to the hit and run reporting the vehicle that he had seen strike Gorham. They seized the SUV at a Walmart no less. This poor schmuck isn't going to be able to afford the same level of legal defense that Benzinger could. He's (or she's) gonna ride the lightning. He's gonna meet his maker.

Now, to be fair, Benzinger didn't kill an unborn child. He did cripple a man for life and then blamed it on his new car smell.

I mean, how...pretentious is that?! "I'm sorry I hit you, I was awash in a cloud of bliss at the smell of my new Mercedes Benzzzzzz."

No, Benzinger didn't even really say he was sorry. He dodged responsibility like lawyers in this country have trained us to. And while I hope justice is applied adequately once they find the driver who struck Gorham, I know that the public perception will be different, and I know that if this person is some working class stiff who was texting or talking on their phone at the time they hit Gorham then they'll hang 'em.

I wonder if anyone examined Benzinger's cell phone history?

Well, it doesn't matter, it's like I yelled at some pretty blond woman who was blabbering on her cell with one hand while steering her Mercedes through Arvada the other day, "I guess Mercedes ALWAYS have the right-of-way!!!"

But leaving the fast and furious world of hit-and-run drama for the time being, let me tell you about my ride home last night...on Ridge Road.

I was pedaling through suburban Applewood last night and I decided that I wasn't going to run scared or frustrated from Ridge Road just because a couple (or three) morons couldn't be considerate. I decided I would acknowledge and maintain my entitlement to the right couple of feet of eastbound Ridge Road.

I had one truck get a little too close, but I had prayed hard that I would keep my cool, be visible, be vigilant and be consistent and get it done. I refrained from gesturing or cursing at the truck.

But as it dwindled in the distance I noticed an odd cluster of headlights headed west, I noticed the moron who had passed too close braking and I wondered what was going on up ahead.

I soon found out as I got close enough to see a Wheat Ridge city cop sitting midway between Tabor and Kipling. Everybody was screeching to their best behavior as they saw the black and white car in the fading light.

I rode past with a huge smile on my face.

What amazes me most about the hostile motorists who think it's cute to buzz cyclists is that they are playing a much more serious game than they realize. They think they're making some kind of social statement and exercising their freedom of expression I'm sure, but what they're really doing is acting in an unacceptably reckless manner. If they waved a gun at someone the consequences would be much more severe than if they get reported to CSP's aggressive driver hotline (*CSP, got it on speed dial, I've used it twice) for driving fast within inches of a cyclist while honking their horn.

It's not a game and it's not funny. I do have a right to use my bike on the road by law and I generally obey the law to the letter.

When you hear motorists defend their reckless behavior the logical inconsistencies are frightening. So A cyclist blew through a stop sign in front of you two weeks ago. That does not give you any good reason to buzz that cyclist or any other and endanger their lives.

Would it be just to force you to play russian roulette because you ran a stop sign in your extended cab pickup while yammering on your cell phone? I didn't think so.

If you think a cyclist has broken the law then the proper course of action would be to report that action to the police. Same as if you saw another motorist break the law. If you saw a kid in a Mustang run a stop sign would you buzz the old man in the Dodge Diplomat driving five miles an hour under the speed limit in front of you? Well, probably. But does it make sense to rational human beings? No.

Well, I have better things to do today than go on a perpetual rant. I saw the Benzinger headline and it just went through me. That case is the perfect example with what's wrong with our legal system.

It doesn't matter who has the inherent responsibility in a matter, and I'll be the first to say that on the road EVERYONE, including cyclists, have the utmost responsibility for their own actions, that the moving environment of roads is all choice and no chance, but motorists operate vehicles that have the potential energy to destroy almost anything in their paths. There is a great responsibility that comes with that power and most of us seem to disregard that responsibility while lawyers in this country have given us to the tools to divert attention from our own careless mistakes.

Rant over.

Wednesday, December 15

Really?!

I know, three posts in a day...my typical "no-more-than-one-post-a-day" rule of thumb went out the window today. I wouldn't but after reading Bike Snob NYC I feel compelled to try and entertain and after my commute home I desperately need to blow off some steam.

My commute started out good. At 3:50 a co-worker said in a sing-songy voice "It's snow-ing!" And my boss chimed in: "Chris is gonna be co-OLD!"

I jumped up and stepped into his office. "I'm gonna go ahead and go, not because I need more time to get home, but because I'm excited about ripping it up in the snow." Or something like that.

Five minutes later I was pushing past the smokers huddled by the back door, refusing to make eye contact as I switched on my lights, ignoring their comments about how crazy I am even though they're the ones sucking fire through dry leaves. And then I was off.

When I left it was sort of drizzling around some big fluffy wet flakes of snow.

I took the longer commute through Golden to avoid traffic. Ironic that blasting right through the middle of town and across the School of Mines campus exposes me to less traffic than the suburban office park at Denver West.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the City of Golden was ushering me quickly out of town with new bike lanes along 10th Avenue past Coors. They're so new there are only lanes and not cyclist icons, just bad-graffiti "Bs" ever few yards. Even more irony...the lanes end at the railroad track, just when the pavement narrows and lanes would really be helpful. Buzz-buzz! Go the cars!



The further I went on the CCT the drier the pavement was. By the time I turned north on Tabor the rain/snow was only a faint smell in the air,creeping behind me as I cruised home.

I-70 was a parking lot, and I guess Santa's karma elves were watching as I chuckled openly at the stranded motorists. I shouldn't have taken so much delight in the transportation misery of others.



It all fell apart on Ridge Road. There is no shoulder on Ridge Road, though it is ok to pass. Funny that despite the "Three Feet to Pass" law and a legal passing zone that three motorists decided to buzz me. I say "decided" because the first one didn't bother to slow down or hardly swerve to miss me, raising my ire and setting the stage for the pair of idiots coming up behind me.

I heard Number 2. I held out my left hand with three fingers (no really!) held prominently out in the lane. He almost clipped my fingertips. Almost.

Number 3 was a ball-cap wearin' suburban redneck in a big pickup yakkin' on his cell phone. Again, didn't slow, didn't really "pass", just somehow managed not to drive directly over top of me.

I was screaming incoherently creative obscenities over the roar of the diesel engine. At that point I was ready to fight. I would have gladly gone to jail for assault just so I could punch some cinderblock cell walls and rumble with hardened criminals.

It was a good thing my family wasn't home when I got there. I needed to cool off. My kids didn't need to learn the words I was muttering vehemently under my breath.

Needless to say I'm glad I'm off the road for the night, and I am pretty sure I won't be riding on Ridge Road for awhile. I had stopped back when I was riding to work at rush hour and home at rush hour. It was just too stressful. Its really not been too bad for a few weeks, since I've been going in and returning home earlier. But now I am just going to stop again.

What really gnarfles my garthog is that I am hideously visible right now. If I'm ever hit by a motorist absolutely DO NOT let them argue that they didn't see me. I have the Real Genius laser on the front of my bike, a winking, blinking rear LED and a strand of multi-colored LED freakin' battery powered CHRISTMAS LIGHTS!



I'm considerig keeping the seasonal illumination throughout daylight savings.

Awesome Video Touting the Fixie

Jumping at Shadows

I dread when the time changes and the days get short. I've never been afraid (ain't skeered) of the dark, but its often daunting to go out of the house, into the wide world before the sun has put in an appearance for the day, and at this time of year, when I'm on early shift I leave the house in the dark in the morning and the sun is setting as I leave work for home. There's some level of darkness for my commute both ways.

In the past this has quelled my motivation to ride and I've chickened out and drove or begged a ride from my lovely wife/chauffeur in lieu of facing the darkness alone. But as my seven year old has gotten older I've encouraged him many times by saying, "There's nothing in the dark that wasn't there when it was light." And its true. The dark alone is no reason to pause.

These days its usually not the lack of light that chills my heart in the mornings, but the actual temperature out in the dark. The cold can be a strong deterrent, and despite my best efforts to mitigate its effects I still sometimes sit, full dressed on the couch drafting my call-in excuse. And then I drag myself out the door, into the dry icebox that is the Front Range prairie-scape and I head west toward Golden.

I've always been good at keeping warm in cold temps. I am a heat engine, usually overheated any time I'm inside and typically comfortable outside in cold weather as long as I keep moving. Despite being a furnace that burns carbs, when I stop moving I get cold. And that first five minutes on the bike are the hardest, when I'm still closest to home before my heart gets pumping and delivers warm blood to my cold-shocked extremities.

But lately a new game has motivated me to keep moving. It’s a race actually, and it works best in the well-lit streets book-ending my commute. It goes like this:

As I approach a pool of light from a street light I pick up speed, I glance over my shoulder and see him, my adversary, chasing me, and I stand up on my pedals to outrun him (which jump starts my heart of course). I glance back as I pass through the light cast by the street lamp and invariably he overtakes and passes me as I pass directly under and then leave the pool of light. He shoots ahead into the darkness and fades into it. I race ahead, pumping the pedals to try and beat him to the next circle of light on the pavement. And somewhere in the darkness I always pass him. As I enter the light I glance around to find my opponent. Here he comes again! And we duel it out again with the same outcome.

The race is on as long as there are islands of light to race to, me and my shadow racer, trying to beat each other to Golden. Sometimes if the pool of light is big enough we'll race neck and neck for a long distance and I'll watch out of the corner of my eye as he pedals furiously to overtake me. And then I drop my eyes to the road and attack, jumping up on my pedals and rocketing toward the edge of the darkness ahead. He always beats me there, returning home to the shadows of the pre-dawn, never relenting, never tiring, always attacking.

We do it all over again on the way home.

Tuesday, December 14

Throw the Dog a Bone

In Colorado dogs haven't really been a big issue for me as a cyclist. Occasionally someone will be walking their dog(s) on a bike path and let out a mile of leash, but other than that the canine climate here is much more friendly than the rural Eastern Kentucky backroads I used to ride.

There were times in Kentucky that I had to outsprint the pack of semi-feral dogs or go down fighting. I bought a couple of cans of Halt! just before we moved and never got a chance to use them. They have just not been necessary in the west.

There had been times there that I was truly afraid that some vicious monster, probably bred to protect a meth lab, was gonna eat me alive. It seemed that most dogs lived at the bottom of a hill and ran in packs.

I don't miss the dog insanity. It was an issue I had to confront on almost every ride. It got old. And people seem to feel entitled to let their dogs run free all the time, never considering the danger to the dogs or to the people (in cars, walking or riding) that the dogs chase.

Today I had an interesting dog encounter. Actually, it was kinda funny. Along 10th Avenue in Golden there are three or so dogs that live in a fenced in yard. Some days they watch apathetically as I pedal past, with looks that say, "Yeah, dude! Ride it! Rock on!"

And other days, like this morning, they go absolutely bonkers mad, growling, snarling and acting out a feeding frenzy which I suppose should strike fear in my heart. They are all small-ish dogs and even as a "pack" they are somewhat less than fearsome.

But today the smallest of them, small in stature but obviously not in enthusiasm, went stark raving mad as I pedaled slowly past. His jaws were locked on the wire of the chainlink fence, gurgling snarls spraying directly out of his throat past extended lips, eyes blazing and bugging as they tracked me predatorily along the street.

I had to chuckle.

"Go Killer!" I encouraged. I could hear the snarls of rage fading behind me as I continued on to work.

Monday, December 13

Burn Carbohydrates, Not Hydrocarbons

The title of this post was a quote I found on the almighty internet. It applies great to cycling, but I wonder if it won't apply to a lot of Americans (including my family) as fuel prices increase over the winter.

Remember the late summer and autumn of 2008? We were all paying ridiculous amounts for gas at the pumps, at least those of us who were driving at the time, and people who heated with natural gas were suffering too as the temperatures turned cold. My family didn't see a huge impact in our heating bill because the house we lived in at the time had geothermal. We noticed a bump in our electric bill for sure.

Price of a barrel of oil in July 2008? $126.16.

Price of a barrel of oil today? About $90.00. Last month it was $76, the month before $73, the month before that it was in the 60s.

The price of a barrel of oil has been creeping back up and is now hovering around ninety bucks a barrel. The last time oil was this expensive was September 2008. And then magically the price of crude plummeted and saved us all from freezing to death in early 2009.

When last gas was at $90/bbl the national average for a gallon of gas was right around $4.00 and we were ALL crying "UNCLE."

I'm curious why our at-the-pump prices are still so low. To me it looks like we might break above $3.00 a gallon real soon. And you know that that means as we enter the really cold part of the year heating costs are going to go up for those of us sucking on the natural gas teat.

I'm sad we don't still have geothermal heat, and i wished we could afford to install it. Solar, geothermal and wind power all look really nice to me right now. I just wish we could afford to invest in a combination that would allow my family to go off the grid. Unfortunately we were not born with bamboo spoons in our mouths like good hippies.

So why am I posting this here in my cycling blog? I haven't mentioned cycling and other than the general reference to transportation this post really is less about cycling and more about economic aspects of our social problems.

I think there is a major link though. If the US could rethink its habits, preferences and social conventions then we could change the face of the planet, literally. What scares me is that not enough people see the necessity of making drastic changes in our lifestyles.

We believe that "freedom" is an inherent right, that we have this great big Santa's bag of entitlements that have been given to us by "freedom."

Sources:
Gas Price Historical Charts

History of Crude Oil Prices

Saturday, December 11

Missed My Calling

I should have been a bike mechanic. I spent some time last night and a little time today working on the Cannonball and I've got to say it was quite therapeutic. If I had any amount of training and/or experience I think I could be pretty good at it.

Even the work that frustrated me a little worked well for me, it was like problem solving.

And then today I fixed up the trailer tires so Lily and I could go for a ride. There was a heinous goathead in one of them.



Yesterday I got my battery powered Christmas lights. Now I will be much more visible on my morning commutes ;)



Anyway, I'd definitely like to learn more bike maintenance skills and either work part time fixing bikes or do it on the side voluntarily.

As far as the Cannonball, I need to put on and adjust the new brake pads tomorrow. If I can finally figure out brakes I'll be well on my way to being the bike mechanic on my street.

Friday, December 10

It IS Christmas After All

Last night Mandy showed me a craigslist posting for a used Free Radical kit. They wanted $350 and were going to throw in a new rear deck and footsies (foot rests for passengers).

Drool. But $350 for a used kit makes me wonder...I'd probably have to cobble together to buy new the hardware to make the conversion. Honestly it's probably still worth it for that price with a new deck and footsies. Still...

We got a little money from grandparents for Christmas and the timing was perfect. I had found a wheelset for the Cannonball on craigslist for the exact amount I got. So I went and looked at them last night and they are nearly new and should work perfectly. I'll make the switch tonight or tomorrow. Next week the Cannonball should be braking a bit smoother assuming I can finally learn how to adjust brake pads.

So that is a first crucial step toward an Xtracycle. I didn't want to move that direction with worn our wheels. It might still be awhile but for now I'll have safe braking on my commutes in the hypothetical bad weather to come. Did someone tear the pages out of the almanac titled "2010 Winter in Colorado"?

Wednesday, December 8

Pinning Down a Plan

So I have changed my mind a little bit about what sort of cycling resources I'd like to have in the future (near and far).

I had been looking at a Raleigh Sojourn, and while I would still like to have one I'm leaning more now to getting an Xtracycle Free Radical kit for the Cannonball.

It just makes more sense. I have the Cannonball and since Tom gave me the Specialized MTB for Christmas I can't justify getting another bike. So it's back to the Cannonball and I will continue to maintain it as my transportation and utility bike. The Specialized is my backup and my fun bike. The Cannonball is now, and will always be, my SUB (Sport Utility Bike).

The next logical step for the cannonball is an Xtracycle upgrade. I might have to visit one of the two dealers in the Denver area soon.

Right now the cost is all that's stopping me. The Cannonball needs some other maintenance. I probably need at least a new rear wheel and perhaps a new wheelset. Brake pads are becoming a necessity and I am sure my bottom bracket shouldn't be creaking and popping like it is.

For the Xtracycle kit you could drop anywhere from $300 to $600 easy and with various accessories the bill at checkout could near $1,000. My current needs are probably in the $150-200 range so my wish list would easily cost a noble benefactor anywhere from $450 to $1,200.

I gotta get my brake issues sorted out, so the rear wheel/brake pad are my priority.

Still, the Cannonball has been a great bike for the past fifteen years.

Monday, December 6

The Non-Conformist Manifesto

Its that time of year again, when there is frost on the tips of the grass, you can see your breath in the crystal clear air and when my coworkers begin harassing me because I ride my bike to work.

"Wow! You rode today?"

"Uh-UH! You didn't!"

"You're crazy!!!"

Today at least I got a couple of novel responses. From a married couple who also bike: "I bet we're warmer than you, well, no, you're probably sweating."

And another coworker who mountain bikes: "Now there's a REAL cyclist." I had to clarify that I was not riding because I wanted a workout, but because my family is a single car family.

Let's go back to the You're crazy comment for just a second. No, I'm not.

I would comfortably venture to say that I am a raging non-conformist, a closet anti-social and a devout believer in the power of the bicycle to save the world. I am not crazy.

I've always been a non-conformist. Oh, don't get me wrong, I've fallen prey to good advertising before, heck, I've fallen prey to some really shoddy advertising. Who hasn't? But set aside my impulsive nature and when it comes to making conscious decisions I pretty much follow the beat of a different drum 99% of the time.

So riding a bike on days when the fair-weather commuters are sipping coffee while texting behind the wheel is pretty much in character for me.

What's funny is that despite being a philosophical non-conformist I believe more people should be like me and step outside of convention when it comes to their daily transportation choices. I hate to use the word diversity because of what it has come to mean, but a diversity of creative ideas will strengthen a community.

But it fundamentally comes down to this point: if you ride, or if you profess to be a cyclist, hiker, rock climber, tennis player, etc, then why would you stop doing something you love because the weather is less than ideal? And I think this is where I diverge from conventional thought. Its not that I am biking on a cold day, but that I am comfortable doing anything outside on a cold day. Most people avoid being outside when the temps drop below freezing. I understand that, I get cold too, but I've never been the sort of person that believed that the weather is a strong enough deterrent to keep me inside when the urge strikes me to go outside and do something.

The flip side of the coin is that up until recent history humans were more used to functioning in all sorts of weather. In the days before the climate controlled cubicle we labored in fields, drafty factories and hunted and gathered without the benefit of Gore-Tex. I myself have had some pretty weather intensive jobs in my pursuit of the American Dream. In particular I worked at a sawmill for a couple of years and can honestly say that it was both the hottest and coldest job I've ever had.

Mitigating the weather is more a state of mind than anything. If you can learn to dress appropriately you can survive outside in the US with little problems. And honestly, 22F degrees in arid Colorado isn't as bad as people think.

Also, check out this film from Streetfilms:

Saturday, December 4

Exploring Standley Lake South Shore Trails

Boone and I explored some of the south shore area of Standley Lake this morning.



There are some pretty good views of the foothills near and south of Boulder. The terrain is very conducive to easy prairie biking and the trailhead is accessible right off 86th Ave.



The Gearless Wonderboy rode his 20" BMX and I rode the Hardrock Sport. The temps were cold, but it was sunny. Boone got hungry very quickly into our ride so it was hard to get him to explore.

We ended up on a narrow singletrack path through tall prairie grass on the way back and it was hard for him to slog through it. We ended up turning around and just following the doubletrack back to the car.

There's not a lot of technical riding, but you could get a pretty good workout cruising around the double loop through the sunny prairie.



The lake is a little over five miles from our house and if I can sort out a decent route up there I might start going up to train for Leadville.

Friday, December 3

Positive Externality

So you only hear about bad news, right?

I've confessed my traffic sins here and I am not proud of my behavior at times, and I don't mean to share this story to pat myself on the back or to do some shameless self-promotion. But here goes...

Yesterday on my way home I was riding through Denver West, headed northeast toward Applewood, and I was taking the right lane as usual. Denver West is a 30mph, four lane road through an office park. Headed home the ride is downhill and on a road bike I can exceed the speed limit (hypothetically of course). On the Cannonball I am certain I can easily hit 25 mph and approach 30 without breaking a sweat.

Anyway, I was taking the lane as I always do to prevent motorists from breaking the 3 foot rule as they cruise past at 40-50 mph. There is little traffic and it's just safer.

I was taking the lane and a motorist in a minivan, going maybe five miles an hour faster than I was, HONKED at me. Not a toot, but a HONK.

My reactions in the past have been scowling (at the mild end of the spectrum) to energetically flipping the vehicle off while yelling "JACKASS!" (coarse end of the spectrum). My response has been typically related to the degree to which I feel threatened on the road. If four hundred cars have already buzzed me on my 9.3 mile ride in I will probably react with more hostility. The first of the four hundred usually gets a scowl and a shake of the head.

But not yesterday. I was taking the lane when the minivan honked at me and I...

You've got to wonder what people are thinking when they pass a bike while driving their cars. My perception nowadays is skewed because I am a cyclist myself. I imagine there are people who patiently pass, understanding that I am as free to ride my bike on the road as they are. I also know for certain that many people do not understand either my perspective or the reality of the situation, that I am subsidizing their means of transportation while they are honking and cursing at me. I know they don't understand that by hanging it all out in the lane I am actually SAFER than if I were to balance on the white line and let them buzz me with abandon. They don't understand that when they honk, yell, curse and rev their engines that I am certain they SEE me, and that's what matters most, because I maintain faith that 99.9% of motorists will not purposefully murder me with their cars in frustration.

And when the minivan driver honked at me I WAVED AND SMILED into their rearview mirror. It felt really good. My heart didn't race in anger. My breathing was not short and once I realized what I had done I was really happy with myself.

Try it sometime.

Thursday, December 2

Bike Arvada

So I've officially taken over the Bike Arvada website. Due to some technical difficulties it may be a short bit before you would see changes to the site. I have control of the domain name though, so once I sort out the hosting/editing issues I should be able to get the site up and active.

I've also created a Facebook and Twitter account for Bike Arvada, as well as a blog (I'm a blogging fool). Check them out when you get a chance.

As far as direction it seems to me that promoting transportation and utilitarian cycling as well as recreational cycling should be paramount. Arvada is a bronze level Bicycle Friendly City and I think it could be at least a silver, if not higher. It is basically a suburb of Denver, and fostering and developing connectivity to the surrounding communities would allow residents better opportunity to travel by riding, walking and public transit. I think all three are key to reducing oil dependency and I think Arvada stands to benefit from the new light rail line and the existing bike/ped/transit infrastructure. Certainly there is potential for improvement and I know it can happen.

In the meantime I plan on continuing to explore Arvada and the surrounding communities by bike to better familiarize myself with the terrain and how they are connected separate and apart from the automobile.

Tuesday, November 30

Well, Winter Slapped Me In the Face

Today was the first really cold day I have ridden this season. I rode home last night and was frozen by the time I got there. It was probably around 30F degrees.

This morning CBS weather claimed 14F, however, I passed a digital thermometer which read 23F. And then as I rounded the mesa I caught a face full of bitter wind out of the foothills. Brrrrggg!

I have no idea what the windchill was as I crawled through Pleasant View, but it was enough for me to keep repeating to myself "it's just a few more minutes, it's just a few more minutes." My torso and arms were sweating, my face and ears felt brittle and the fronts of my thighs had begun that freezer burn thing.

I'm gonna say that these conditions were not hard core. No, talk to me about hard core when the temps drop below 10F and the wind/snow/ice is coming down like an avalanche.

I know I can dial in my dress better. I'm out of practice for cold weather riding. I just need to get my system back in sync.

Despite all that, I must have dressed better this morning than last night because I am not as cold now that I'm in a warm place. I warmed up much quicker. And there have been days already this fall when I was still shivering when I sat down in my cube.

Monday, November 29

Alexander D. "Pap" Ruff

I first learned about A.D. Ruff shortly before I left my home state of Kentucky for a job in Golden, Colorado. It was about the time I bought my first real road bike and had begun extensively exploring my backyard roads. I was 33 years old.

Kentucky doesn't have much of a cycling history. In fact, I would venture that obscure "Pap" Ruff is one of the two most notable Kentucky cyclists to have come down the pike. The other would have to be Joe Bowen of Bowen, Kentucky.

The written history of Alexander D. Ruff's life is painfully absent. There is little written and documented about his life and two wheeled exploits. But there is a history there, even if unknown to anyone still alive this day. How to uncover a history with no known record?

In July of 2010 I drove my family 1,200 miles east to our hometown to visit relatives and my wife and I took our bikes. In the back of my mind I had a scheme, to ride from Stanton, my hometown, to Owingsville to visit the grave of A.D. Ruff. I had ridden a portion of my planned route and it had been one of my favorite rides while still living in Kentucky. And I thought maybe if I could travel upon the backroads that "Pap" (as he was known) had pedaled and visit the town where he lived and died I might discern a little of the history that is unwritten about the intriguing figure.

Alas, obligations to family and the priorities of adult life left me unable to make the 60 mile round trip pilgrimage to visit the remarkable headstone in Owingsville Cemetery. I had seen a photo of the monument, but just seeing the stone was not my goal. I wanted to experience something that Ruff may have experienced.

Over Thanksgiving break of the same year I had a glimmer of hope that I'd make the ride, or an abbreviated ride starting closer to Owingsville if nothing else, but again, the desire to spend time with family and friends compounded with declining weather prohibited me from making the ride.

Instead I went out for a quick photo shoot on the Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving and ended up driving over to Owingsville to the cemetery.

When I pulled through the wrought iron gates I immediately saw the marker and parked my car. A few steps took me right up to the monument erected by the Kentucky Division of the League of American Wheelmen (now Bicyclists).

I tried to compose a thoughtful shot of the stone and bronze bike wheel, but it is what it is. There is little information on the stone itself. The inscription reads:

1827 1896
ERECTED
IN MEMORY OF

A.D. RUFF

BY KENTUCKY DIVISION
LEAGUE OF
AMERICAN WHEELMEN


The bronze bicycle wheel which contains three wings and the initials LAW is the perfect balance of beautiful, yet simplistic. Its worth going to Owingsville to see the monument just for the wheel if you're a cyclist. If nothing else it is an elegant piece of public bike-related art.

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Ruff lived in a world where men were diligently striving to refine and produce motor vehicles. Many bicycle makers and mechanics were delving into motor powered transportation while Ruff was working as a jeweler in Owingsville. The year Ruff died the famed Wright Brothers began manufacturing their own brand of bicycle in Dayton, Ohio. The profits from their bikes would fund their experiments in powered flight.

Three years before passing from this life "Pap", as he was known to his Wheelmen compatriots, rode cross country to see the newly designated Yellowstone National Park. In 1893 that must have been quite an adventure.

Imagine a countryside where there were no paved roads. There was no Rand McNally road atlases. Human settlement would have been more sparse and bike shops even more so.

The so-called "Golden Age of Bicycles" came into public consciousness in the 1890s, after the introduction of the "safety bike" and its availability to the masses in the late 1880s. You could imagine that a single, wealthy jeweler like Ruff may have thought the new machine a curious novelty to invest in. Cycling was suddenly accessible to all, with a replacement for the intimidating penny-farthing bicycles of previous decades. The safety bike would have made A.D. Ruff's Yellowstone adventure possible.

Tooling around Owingsville on a stylish safety Ruff would most likely have rested in the shade of the grandiose Bath County courthouse or leaned his trusty steel steed up against the newly built Owingsville Banking Company while he went inside to do business.





I wonder if Ruff was a self styled "cyclist" or if the bike was merely his mode of transportation in his day-to-day comings and goings. Did he love the freedom the bike offered, allowing him to roam about the countryside, maybe pedaling down to Preston or Olympia Springs to catch a train into Mount Sterling or Lexington, or was the bike strictly utilitarian?

Most Americans today do not refer to themselves as "motorists" though the title certainly applies. Did Ruff regard his bike with the same affection as your neighborhood bike hugger? Or did he see it merely as a means to an end, a way to get where he was going that did not need to be fed or boarded?

I believe Ruff was a cyclist. He left a large chunk of money to the then fledgling Kentucky Division of the League of American Wheelmen and he has been commemorated for his support. I suppose its also possible that being single, without a family to speak of that he randomly chose the LAW as a beneficiary of his estate, but its doubtful. Pap Ruff died of pneumonia after a three day illness in January of 1896. It would seem that if he had made any provisions for his untimely demise that he consciously included a chunk of money for the Wheelmen.

He also designed a cyclometer. Its hard to imagine such a gadget prior to the turn of the 19th century, but Ruff, being good with his hands and inventive, patented the device in 1895.

I like to imagine that he roamed about the Kentucky countryside, much as I have myself. He must have been comfortable riding long distances, as it was said of Ruff that “there are few who can cover more ground in a day than he.” In his obituary in the Louisville Courier-Journal he was regarded as one of the pioneer cyclists of that century. That's quite a distinction to lay at the feet of a casual participant in cycling, especially during the Golden Age of Cycling.

The claim that he was a pioneer during such a pivotal time in cycling begs the question: why don't we know more about A.D. Ruff than we do?

I speculate that despite his activism, his invention and his pioneering of cross country cycling that Pap Ruff was just off the national radar and out of the limelight so to speak. Owingsville is a backwater. Even in Ruff's day the C&O rail line between Lexington and Ashland bypassed the hilltop town a few miles to the south through Preston. Who would have known about the exploits of a cyclist in his sixties except his friends and fellow wheelmen?

Arg! Pain!

I must have hyper-extended my left knee (or something) when Tom and I did out bike ride back in October. It began hurting as we climbed out of Sunset and has bugged me since.

And then after my ride yesterday it has hurt really bad, making me stiff-legged and limpy.

I opted not to ride this morning and rode in with Mandy and the kids, though I did bring the Hardrock with me in hopes of riding home.

We'll see...

This should have gone away a long time ago and that's what has worried me. My gut tells me I need to lay off it altogether for awhile, but not having the second car is going to make that difficult, or at the very least expensive.

Sunday, November 28

Meet the New Bike

Tom hatched this scheme where by both he and I could get a new bike. He bought a new one and I got his year old bike as a Christmas present.

I don't mind really. In fact, I am really digging the bike.

It's a Specialized Hardrock, orange and is currently featured in the background photo for this blog. He brought it out when they came last month and rode it when he and i did the Switzerland Trail.



I rode it out to the Golden Bike Park this afternoon and did the Gold Rush Trail and the pump track and then rode back via Eldridge and the Van Bibber Creek Trail. The bike rides really good.