Thursday, September 30

Stalker

Mountain bike turned commuter
Rear pannier rack
Single pannier
Tow bar attachment
Sneakers
Street clothes
No helmet

Could be me. But it wasn't. It was the guy that passed me in Wheat Ridge yesterday on his way to Denver West. He had a few years on me and apparently had firmer tires cause he left me in the dust despite my best efforts.

My hero...

Friday, September 24

Gaining Acceptance?



This might be the best street sign I've ever seen.

Of course it is only to allow two way bike traffic in a bike lane on a one way street, but still...someone put it in writing and made a sign with tax payer money. I love it!

I finished The Cyclist's Manifesto last night. Wish I had written it. It is the book I would have written if I were much of a writer.

Still, I am full of ideas, just not so full of perseverance when it comes to finishing a writing project.

Thursday, September 23

Tactical Cycling for Conscientious Objectors

I hesitate to label the conflict between cyclists and motorists as a war. War denotes violence and I most definitely do not want to encourage or support violence. But there is a posturing if you will. Forces are aligned on both sides of the passenger side door.

Having said that, let me also point out that a conflict can be resolved without firing a shot. Sometimes a tactical display of force can quell all desire on the part of your enemy to engage in combat. While this goes beyond the ideal situation (no conflict in the first place) it is an acceptable substitute for opening fire through the car window.

The conflict arises because both sides are struggling to maintain control. The motorist wants to be in control of the vehicle. He wants to decide how fast, where and in what manner he drives his car. He is already limited by lines on the edge of the road, speed limit signs, traffic signals, heavy traffic and laws pertaining to his vehicle that mandate restraint in civilized society.

On top of everything else, there is a skinny punk in colorful clothes, his gluteus maximus flexing right there in the motorists face. He's taking up half the road and only going twenty miles an hour!

The absurdity of the situation is beyond reckoning and for the motorist...on his way home after a long day of arguing with people and fretting over how he can get a raise in this recession...it’s the final straw. His frustrations pour out of the open power window along with his conditioned air.

Once he sees that the cyclist has ear buds in and he realizes the obnoxious pedal pusher can't even hear the motorist's rant he decides he'll show him a display of force. He revs the motor of his burly SUV and cuts within millimeters of the cyclists front tire. And then the cyclist has the nerve to FLIP HIM OFF!

The cyclist is trying to maintain a different sort of control that is somewhat but not fully understood by the motorist. Cyclists want their personal space on the road. And the motivation for maintaining that personal space is noble self-preservation, a buffer of rolling real estate around the cyclist which poorly mimics the safety features of Two-Ton Tessie and her ceaselessly honking horn.

The cyclist does not rage at the motorist because the motorist inhibits his travel. The cyclist doesn't pump his fist at the car's rear-view mirror because he has been forced to slow down. No, the cyclist becomes enraged at the motorist when the motorist behaves recklessly, carelessly or aggressively. I'm not saying that some cyclists don't antagonize motorists. But honestly, believe what you will, but if every car that passed me gave me ample room on the road and refrained from honking and yelling at me (even in greeting) then I would have no reason to gesture obscenely or slip into the middle of the lane to protect myself.

I will be the first to admit that the road is a dangerous environment for cyclists. But it should not be a hostile environment. There are enough inherent dangers to putting yourself in the middle of hundreds of tons of fast moving steel and plastic while straddling a coat hanger on wheels without adding threats to life and limb by your friends and neighbors.

Riding in traffic has an element of danger that makes you painfully aware of your mortality. But if you want to make it to your destination on your bike you should most definitely not think about people talking on cell phones, texting, putting on makeup, drinking coffee or reading the newspaper while driving. All it takes is one split second of inattention for a car to clip a cyclist. If the motorist is distracted enough they may not even know they hit the cyclist. I'm sure the cyclist will not fail to recognize the transaction. Thinking about all that could go wrong while riding a bike on the road will make you want to throw the bike over the hill and into the ditch and strike out cross country on foot toward your destination.

Cyclists need to take and maintain control of the road around them. They need to command a presence without provoking their adversaries to violence. While I hesitate to call it a war, I will fully acknowledge that while cyclists and motorists share the road they are competing for the same resources (space) on the road. While the motor vehicles definitely command the playing field, cyclists are protected by laws much like the poison dart frog is protected by its chemistry. There is nothing that prohibits the large predator from devouring the frog in one gulp, though the consequences are undesirable.

The most basic tactic for controlling the road around you as a cyclist it to be visible. If they can't see you, even the most well behaved and careful motorist can't give you space. Don't ride far off on the shoulder unless you can travel in that space for a long, long distance without crossing other roads. If you have to cross side streets, driveways the like you should ride as far left in the lane as feasible to maintain visibility to both cars overtaking you and cars waiting to turn onto the road. It’s a tactic that is counter-intuitive if you are not a cyclist. But experienced cyclists will ride to be seen not to be separate.





Don't use this tactic to antagonize motorists. If you are plenty visible in the bike lane, then for Pete's sake don't ride in the middle of the main lane of travel. Give the motorists a break and let them pass.



Be a conscientious objector. Let people know how you feel, but don't get the war machine rolling with your behavior. And if it is already rolling over top of you, striking back will not de-escalate the clash.

Let it go!

Wednesday, September 22

The Cannonball's Evolution

So my old standard, the Cannondale M300, my Cannonball, has evolved from a '90s era mountain bike (i.e. fixed frame) to a full blown commuter bike.


First I put an adequate rear rack on it.


Then I put some more appropriate commuter tires on it.


Finally, I put fenders on it. We're ready for winter.

Friday, September 17

The Coming Months

Winter is approaching. Last year during the first week of October we had a significant snow.

I am thankful that we now have a house and a carport/shed where I can maintain and store my bike. It makes commuting so much easier. In the apartment we had white carpet and it was painful to carry the bike up the stairs from ground level and across the carpet to the small deck without getting wintry crud all over the place.

At work I typically store my bike behind me in my cube. I do have the option of locking it up outside. I prefer not to, but its not really a huge deal.

So this coming non-summer season I am confident that I can mitigate any weather related issues surrounding my bike commuting.

My main concern at this point is that my usual route will be fairly dark. There are no street lights along the greenbelt bike path. Hopefully it won't be very bad and I will be able to manage with the LED I have. It doesn't seem very bright, but for the most part I have used it under streetlights.

Looking forward to a little adversity to temper the soul.

Thursday, September 16

Tricks are for Kids?

I never learned to ride a wheelie. I could pop 'em with the best of them, but never ride a wheelie...

A couple nights ago I managed to get a couple pedal strokes while riding on one wheel on Boone's little BMX bike.

Last night I googled: "how to do a track stand" I'm going to learn how to track stand before the weather gets bad. By the end of September...

Who knows what sorts of road rash and contusions this will lead to?

Wednesday, September 15

Committed

My wife may have a job. Its only part time for now, but it can definitely become full time.

The private school where we want to send our kids needs a part-time math teacher this school year and will need a full-time math teacher next year.

This is good. The kids will be out of public school and the tuition won't be a problem.

I hesitate to say this is a con, but if she gets the job I will be fully committed to full time bicycle commuting, no matter what the weather or other conditions. If my bike breaks down I'll have to fix it right away. If I wake up to a flat I'll have to fix it.

No more wimp-out car rides to work.

If I don't feel well I'll still be pedaling.

If I'm not in the mood I'll still be riding.

If there is ice on the bike paths I'll still be riding.

Our plan had been that when Mandy started working we'd buy a second car. I'd still keep riding, but in case of a weather emergency I'd be able to drive.

No such luxury with this job...though I think it will still be a positive step and there is still the distinct possibility that we'll be able to find some sort of solution or alternative.

I am confident we will make it work well.

Friday, September 10

Avoiding Bejeezums

Its all about degrees.

A recent conversation with a co-worker sparked this train of thought and its been swirling around in my head for a few days. I thought I'd share my ponderings…

When I was a teenager I identified that I strongly desired my personal space on the roadways. I did not like to be around large trucks traveling down the road. It seemed as if they never gave other vehicles an appropriate amount of room nor did they travel at a reasonable speed in close proximity to others.

Then as a cyclist commuting to and fro I have had similar, but stronger feelings about motor vehicles in general.

My co-worker who walks her dog on the Clear Creek Trail complains that many cyclist pass far too close and fast to pedestrians, coming up silently behind and passing within inches scaring the bejeezums out of people.

I'm guilty of going too fast on the bike paths. The posted speed limit in Wheat Ridge is 15 mph. I know I hit around 20 and keep it steady for most of my ride. Having said that (and not to improperly rationalize my behavior) I am careful. I do give other trail users plenty of space on the trail even if I don't usually slow down.

I know while riding on the road that if a car speeds by, as long as they're completely in the opposite lane I really don't care so much. My problem is when they are either too close or close and too fast. I'll still be startled by the passing, but if the car has given me enough space I don't get mad about the behavior.

The other issue on the trail is the other users. I try to anticipate what they will do but I know that is an impossible feat. Dogs and kids will dart in front of you. Gramma will see a pretty flower on the opposite side of the trail and step directly in your path.

If I were to hit someone based on my behavior and tactics on the trail it would be partly my fault and partly their fault. I always give people plenty of room. I could slow down as well. Others could maintain a consistent line of travel on the trail, they could stay to one side. Sometimes they don't. If I'm going too fast when someone steps directly in my path without looking it would be at least partly my fault.

I will maintain that people should not walk without looking, step without seeing. It drives me crazy in public places when people wander all over aisles in stores, turn corners without looking and expect for nothing to impede their travel. Same applies for walking your dog or spouse on the bike paths in the morning…

I will try not to scare the bejeezums out of people so much.

Thursday, September 9

Commuter Evolution

With fenders my Cannonball will be all set as an all-weather commuter bike. I got some more appropriate commuter tires yesterday and the guys at Pedal Pushers in Golden put on a new spoke and trued my rear wheel.

The bike rides smoother with the new tires. They are Continental Travel Contact. They had decent reviews, are puncture resistant and are skinnier and smoother than the MTB tires I had on the bike before. I wasn't too confident that I'd be able to put fenders on the bike with the fat tires besides.

So in a few weeks I'll roll the bike up to REI and say: "I need fenders to fit this bike."

Then I should be set for inclement weather. I have the clothes, I have lights.

Wednesday, September 8

Trip Report: Medicine Bow Rail Trail

The short version:

Me, Boone, Lily, two bikes, a trailer and all our camping gear traveled 22 miles round trip from Pelton Creek Trailhead near Mountain Home, Wyoming (and the Wyoming-Colorado state line) to the Woods Creek Trailhead. We camped one night and returned to Pelton Creek TH the next day.

The long version:

It took us about three hours to drive from Arvada to the trailhead at Pelton Creek near Mountain Home, Wyoming. We pulled in to the empty lot at 11:20am. There was a wind advisory for the whole region and I was concerned that it would slow us down on the trail. It was definitely cold a we loaded up the trailer. We ate lunch at the car as I transferred all our gear from Forester Gump's hatch to the Family Express. I reluctantly left a small cooler with the remains of our lunch in the passenger side floorboard.

An hour later we were pulling out on the Medicine Bow Rail Trail headed north, hopefully all the way to Lake Owen about 20 miles away. I figured we had all day so we should be able to creep along and make it with time to spare. The Pelton Creek TH is at milepost 67 and the numbers diminish as you head toward Dry Creek to the north.



Boone pedaled along side me and Lily rode cheerfully in the trailer. The camping gear was all loaded in the back of the trailer and on the flat rack I had fashioned to attach to the rear of the trailer. Our clothes and odds and ends were loaded in panniers on my bike and Boone had a backpack with a few toys.

Within the first mile we had to dismount and roll everything over a fallen aspen that spanned the trail. We were only delayed a couple of minutes and I prayed that we would see no more fallen trees across the trail.



At two miles we had to stop for a "rest." The kids were running all over the place, laughing and wrestling. I decided no rest was needed and got the train rolling again. And of course, within a quarter mile we had to stop to pass through a gate near the WY 230 bridge.

We rolled along slow and steady for another mile or so, seeing a lone free range cow and then we passed through the edge of Mountain Home. I want a cabin there.

Boone cranked alongside me and kept pretty good pace. He was in great spirits and was having a great time. Lily was happy as could be in her trailer. The wind was still blowing, but it wasn't a factor. It didn't hinder us, but it didn't seem to help either.



After what seemed like a very long time we reached the Vienna TH. It was 6 miles from Pelton Creek TH and a long way still from Lake Owen.

We enjoyed the views alongside the trail as we continued on, hoping to at least make Woods Creek in time to set up camp and have dinner. After Vienna TH I felt as if I was lagging and soon after Boone began to complain of being tired. The little guy had pedaled about eight miles of a 3-4% grade. He had done fabulous. So around MP 59 I stopped and put him on the tow bar between me and the trailer and then we pedaled on, though noticeably slower.



The scenery is amazing. In places the trees open up and you can see far to the south. The terrain is oddly flat, but very scenic. It reminds me of more northern climes for sure. We had hoped to see some wildlife (from a safe distance) but only saw a few free range cattle.



At the end of our mental endurance we finally rounded a bend and saw Woods Creek Trailhead.

We made a token effort to continue by crossing WY 230, going through the gate and pedaling a couple hundred feet down the trail on the other side toward the Miller Lake TH. I was tired, the trail was more rough and seemingly less traveled as the weeds in and around the trail were thicker than what we had already ridden. I decided we'd camp near Woods Creek TH and call it good.

We went a few hundred feet south of the TH and unloaded the trailer. I popped up the tent, stowed our gear and we set off back down the trail to refill our water bottles.

Boone pulled the trailer behind his bike to the water hole. He said he was giving me a break. He's got a big heart, that kid.

Unfortunately for those with water purifiers the railbed was built up to cross all the valleys so to get to any water you’d have to descend a steep slope. The sun was sinking and I was afeared of evening drinkers at the water's edge along any of the marshy ponds we had passed.

I implored the kids to stick by the bikes and trailer while I tromped down to the first pond we came to. The first bottle filled quickly, but then the filter slowed to a trickle. I'm not sure if it is plugged up or if something else was going on. But I only managed about a liter an a half in addition to what remained of our initial supply (maybe a liter). I hoped it would be enough for dinner and water to drink until the morning. I figured worst case I'd have to refill again in the morning for our trip out.

Back at Woods Creek TH I set up the camp stove and heated water for ramen noodles for the kids. It was cold and windy but they held out until their food was ready and both laid into their cup-o-noodles like their little lives depended on it. While I was heating my can of soup they emptied their cups and wanted more.



Thankfully we had plenty of snacks and such and they both ate til they were full.

I ate quickly, stowed the garbage in a bag and began fretting over what to do with the food, garbage and our tasty smelling clothes. Initially I thought I could stow everything on top of the restroom propped against the vent pipe. But I really couldn't figure out how to get everything on the roof. After we had all changed into clean clothes I decided I'd take a chance and just put the food box and our clothes inside the restroom. We had only seen four people all day and they were all at Woods Creek, but they had been gone for over an hour and no one else had come along. I didn't think anyone else would come along before dark and I planned on being back up at dawn. I propped a medium sized rock against the door as a further deterrent.

The bikes and trailer were cabled to a trail sign out of sight and our clothes and food were in the restroom. We had also left a small cooler with lunch items in it in the car back at Pelton Creek. Those three things and the three of us in the tent kept my mind occupied til well after the kids were sawin' toothpicks.

I tried to get them settled down. I had brought The Hobbit to read to them. Boone was pretty excited, but Lily could care less. She went back and forth between wanting the light off so she could go to sleep to sitting quietly and listening to jumping up and down as her hair generated millions of volts of static electricity.

We got through one chapter and then it was dark, I was tired and Lily was wearing on my nerves.

As I said, both kids were out, snoring softly and the wind had died down to nothing. The night was still except the occasional car passing a few hundred yards away on 230. I had a really hard time falling asleep. I prayed that a) we'd be safe from roving animals through the night, b) the bike trailer would not be ravaged by animals (years of cookie crumbs had soaked into the nylon), c) no one would mess with our stuff in the restroom and d) no bear would wreck our car 11 miles away.

I slept, fitfully at first, but then soundly after 1:30 when Boone woke me complaining of being uncomfortable. I asked if he was cold and checked Lily to find her sung-a-rug in her blankets. He assured me he was warm so I fell quickly back to sleep. I woke again after the sky had started to lighten. I let myself snooze for a while after that and woke to a much lighter sky. I checked my cell phone and saw it was 7:43. I needed to get up. Prayer "A" had been favorably answered.



As I was piling our gear outside the tent I heard my phone power off. I knew the battery would die. We were in a black hole. Luckily I could use the time stamp on my digital photos to keep track of the time.

I dressed and exited the tent without waking the kids. It was cold, but not frigid. I walked over to the restroom, noted that the bike trailer had not been ravaged by wolverines and was thankful that prayer "B" had been answered.

I continued on to the restroom and to my horror saw that the rock had been moved aside. I yanked to door open and saw our things placed exactly as I had left them. Prayer "C" answered positively. The answer to prayer "D" was still 11 miles away to the south.



Boone was awake when I got back to the tent. Lily was awake but playing possum.

We got busy emptying the tent, getting everyone dressed and loading up the trailer. It was 8:36 when we were ready to head out but that was with re-packing everything and taking down and packing the tent. We were doing pretty good.

The decision had been made in my mind without much internal debate to put Boone on the towbar first thing and try to cover the distance as quickly as possible. We needed to be back relatively early as Mandy had no car for two days.

Boone was ok with that and it was good. He was bundled up in his fleece and wearing my gloves as we took off. I was worried he would get cold despite the warm clothes. Fortunately he did fine with what he had on.

We had enough water left over from dinner for two water bottles. I was pretty sure that would be enough to get us back to the car especially since I hoped we would be making better time on the return trip.



As I stepped on the pedal getting the whole train going Boone called out: "All ABOARD! Whooo…WHOOOOOOO!" He is a good conductor.

And we did. We cruised, ticking off the miles one by one with no rests until we had gone about five miles. It was cold, but after the first couple of miles I stripped off my wool shirt and rode in just my t-shirt.

Cruising along, mile after mile as Boone announced the distance to our lone passenger we rode steadily, if a little slowly. I kept reminding myself that the distance was the same as my morning commute. Of course I don't take the kids and all of our camping gear to work with me.

The ride back was enjoyable and smooth. Boone was in great spirits but I kept him behind me so we could keep up a good steady pace.

We stopped just east of Mountain Home for a solid rest. We had three miles left and a snack was in order. We also picked up a railroad spike as a souvenir.

Back on the bikes we quickly reached the gate under the 230 bridge.

"We're so close Boone!" I exclaimed. He opened and closed the gate as I chugged through.

Mileposts 65 and 66 were a blur and we were on the home stretch. The last obstacle was the downed aspen and when we reached it I unhooked Boone's bike and told him he would ride the last little bit. It took us longer to cross the tree the second day, but mostly because Lily insisted on getting out and "helping" and then I couldn't get her back in the trailer.

Boone took off like a rocket
and I was following behind when near disaster struck.

We were crossing some nasty ruts, bouncing like crazy. I was glancing back to see if anything had bounced out of the trailer when I hit a particularly nasty one and I heard a weird whump, a ding and a whine. I stopped the bike and looked back to see my right side pannier dangling by one clip. I examined further it to find the bottom pannier bungee broke and wrapped around my rear cassette, the hook caught up in the spokes.

Boone had continued down the trail and was out of sight as I stepped around the bike to get the pannier loose. I had to call a few times before he heard me and came back.

It turns out the hook and bungee had broken one of the spokes. With Boone's help I removed the pannier, stowed it in the front of the trailer with Lily and laboriously unwrapped the bungee from the wheel.

I knew to get the broken spoke off (a necessity to go on) I would have to remove the tire and tube, remove the spoke and replace the tube and tire. The tools were all at the bottom of one of the panniers.

I made a quick decision to snap off the spoke and go on.

I endured the out-of-true rear wheel as it rubbed on the rear rack for the remaining half mile to the car. We were back and the car was whole…no bear attack. Prayer "D" was thankfully answered.



It was 10am. It had only taken us an hour and 24 minutes to return the 11 miles.

By 11:20am, exactly 24 hours after we arrived, we were pulling out of Pelton Creek Trailhead on our way home.

We called Mandy just north of Cowdrey, Colorado when we finally got service again and let her know we were on our way home. A quick gas stop in Walden and we turned east instead of south. We had made the initial trip over Berthoud Pass and up the Grand Valley and I wanted to return by a different route. We took the North Park-Cache La Poudre Scenic Byway east out of Walden, over Cameron Pass between the Never Summer Range and the Medicine Bow Mountains and then down the Cache La Poudre Canyon to Fort Collins.

It was a fantastic trip. The only thing lacking, to quote my adorable daughter, was mom. We missed Mandy and wished she could have experienced the trip with us. But reportedly she had a great two days of quiet and clean without us.

Next time…

Sunday, September 5

Medicine Bow Trail Bike-packing: T Minus 12 Hrs

I'm taking the kids bike-packing tomorrow. Mandy has opted to stay home and enjoy the quiet and a clean house for a couple of days. She definitely deserves it.

Today I fashioned a flat rack on the rear of the bike trailer to haul a little camping gear.



I loaded it up and took it for a test ride down the hill with Lily on board for the full effect.



In the morning we'll drive up to Mountain Home, Wyoming and hit the trail. We'll take our time to cover the 20 miles to Lake Owen and despite its closure we'll find a place nearby to camp and then get up in the morning and make the return trip.

More to come...

Friday, September 3

Commuter Psyche

I’ve realized recently that my fascination/obsession with bicycle commuting reaches back at least to when I was in first grade at Clay City Elementary.

We lived out of town on a low rolling ridge. The road was curvy and steep and it was probably three or four miles to the school from our house. At seven years old as I rode the bus into school I saw other kids that lived in town riding their bikes along the sidewalks and I saw dozens of bikes propped up at the bike racks in the front of the school.

I wanted to be one of those kids.

We moved to Ohio in third grade and I was hopeful that I’d be able to ride my bike to school, and for a few short months I did. We lived just a few blocks from Jonathon Wright Elementary and I was ecstatic riding my bike down the street to school, propping my clunky bike up next to the others.

Then we moved out in the middle of nowhere and over ten miles from school. I never rode my bike to school again.

It makes me happy on my commutes as I pass by schools when I see kids riding to class. I am glad I can share the road with them now.

And there are days when I can’t delve deep enough to find the motivation to ride to work and I think back to being a kid and wishing I could ride to work. It becomes my motivation that gets me out the door.