Thursday, March 31

Astute Ute Salute

[with sincerest apologies to Dr. Seuss]

You have a bell on your bar.
You have a saddle of leather.
You can ply the roads in any kind of weather.
You're lean and long. And you roll where you roll. And you are the bike to take us where we'll go.

You'll cruise up and down streets. Pedal 'em over with care. About some you will say "I don't need to go there." With your bags full of goods and your deck as a seat, you're too sharp to go down a not-so-good-street.

Next time you are thinking about replacing one of your cars, or even the last one standing, make the right choice: buy a longtail bike. More specifically: buy a Kona Ute. I'm certain you won't regret it. From its happy little bell to its solidly built aluminum butted frame and fork, the Ute is a fun bike, but it is also a workhorse.

It looks great, rides great and is made to fulfill its purpose. What is that purpose? We'll get to that.

I say it looks great, so bear with me when I say it reminds me of a WWII-era European made motorcycle with its black finish, fenders, swept back Hand Plant handlebars with faux cork grips, wooden rear deck and waterproof pleather panniers big enough to haul a four year old princess and some groceries. But having said that, I have to say it has a certain elegance, a certain poise. The bike makes you want to ride it. The Ute turns heads, but not like a clown car turns heads. It still looks like a bike. It takes people a few seconds to figure out exactly what is different about the Ute. It almost fits into preconceived notions most people hold about what a bicycle should look like. And then they take a second look. And the second look is longer than the first. Then they ask questions.

The Ute has a very practical 16 speed drivetrain. For be-bopping around town and knocking down the small hills around home it's amazing. You can gear down and crank on, pulling food and family up suburban hills. On flat ground or down long easy grades the Ute is a dream, flying along like an elegant black bird. It's quiet, smooth, rolling over cracks and small potholes with its 700c wheels and Continental City Contact tires. Where it falls short is in the high end, lacking a big ring to really pull down ramming speeds on long commutes. And for the Ute that's probably not a bad thing. With eggs in your basket you don't want to be rattling along at 30 mph. With a kiddo or two surfing the Acacia wood deck you don't want to be laying it down in sharp turns. But that said, you can maintain a respectable 20 mph no problem and carve the turns on any bike path. The Ute handles like a bike.

The wood deck is ample for seating. A bit hard on the rump, but you can easily add padding. There is also a accessory composite deck (sold separately) that allows you to put an Xtracycle Pea Pod LT on the Ute. But for older kids or adult passengers a seat cushion and a tandem stokerbar make the Ute into a real sportster. The deck is solid and you can lash heavy loads to it. Check your balance and head off into the sunset with whatever you can imagine perching there.

The panniers are enormous. You can literally put a four year old girl in one where she will be comfortably supported by the nylon webbing that wraps completely around the bag for excellent kiddo support. The bags are waterproof and durable. They are a bit unwieldy, but empty you'll hardly notice they're there. The bike has a tendency to tip over when you only have one bag loaded and the kickstand down. Once you see the bags you'll understand why, they have such a broad, flat bottom the weight ends up far out from the center of gravity of the bike itself. Just make sure to distribute the load evenly between both sides or don't leave the half loaded bike unattended. It's a bit inconvenient, but then again, you're not fighting for a parking space.

In 2011 the Ute features TWO panniers and both front and rear disc brakes for the first time. While the bike looks to weigh a ton, the aluminum construction helps the beast to carry its weight well. There's no problem taking off or stopping with an unloaded Ute. With the step through frame you can wrangle big loads and once you get moving even the most wriggly kid is a breeze to haul.

I can't say enough good things about the Ute. I have risked divorce for the better part of a week, commandeering my wife's new bike for the sake of sharing with you, my Dear Readers, the pros and cons of owning a Ute. It is a fantastic daily commuter. The over-sized bags might be too much for good weather, but in cooler weather it has been nice to just stuff in a sweater and an extra jacket. I folded a week's worth of dress shirts flat in the bottom and they came out unwrinkled after the ride. The bike is a great grocery getter and errand runner. The bags allow compartmentalization and are large enough to cover and enclose whatever you can conceive to put within them.

The Ute is bigger than a standard bike, slightly longer than most, but it does fit in an elevator and I stored it all day in my cubicle with only a few inches of wheel sticking into the walkway, not enough to impede foot traffic in the office. In fact, with the two-legged kickstand the Ute almost took up less space than my other bikes normally do because it would stand upright against the wall of my cube.

The Ute fulfills many wishes, dreams and purposes. Ute is utilitarian. Ute is transportation, passenger hauling, cruise about town, weathering any obstacles, taking it home to meet your parents bicycling. I give it a big two thumbs up, five stars, the pros far outweighing any cons.

Go buy a Ute.

But on you will go though the weather be foul. On you will go though the moto-fascists prowl. On you will go though the chinook winds howl. Onward up the trail of Clear Creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak. On and on you will bike. And I know you’ll bike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many lap dogs as you go. So be sure when you roll. Roll with care and great tact and remember that Cycling’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)
Kid, you’ll haul mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your longtail is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Family Ute

We are a rolling spectacle. Mandy, Bean and I cruised down to the grocery a couple of nights ago to pick up some dinner supplies. It was interesting trying to get the balance and momentum right. Mandy "drove" from our house down to the store. There is a short hill to a crest and then a roller-coaster ride down to Ralston Road. The little climb up almost did us in. Mandy "drove," Bean came next and I held the sprout in place.

"Wheezy" as I like to call my wife after she's taken a kick in the chest from her asthma, had to stop and recuperate a minute before we made the Big Descent. We should have heeded the advice of the nice and helpful female moto-passenger who yelled "Switch places!" at us as the SUV whizzed past. Regardless, Mandy is determined to make this work and I have the utmost confidence that in a very short span of time she will be hauling the whole family AND groceries up Mount Evans on the Ute. I know she has it in her.

We regrouped and swung back onto the bike. We poised at the top of the big hill on Independence and she rolled us over…

It went well. For the first time since I was a small child I rode on a bike and felt the distinct feeling of NO CONTROL. We were flying, and it was all in someone else's hands. Just about the time I had come to grips with the situation and was starting to relax we hit a pothole. I bounced and started to slide off the deck, the bike began to wobble toward out-of-control. I screeched like a little girl. I was already feeling the road rash. And then we lined out, I eased back onto the deck and we continued on to the store. It wasn't pilot error, but nearly ejected passenger. We survived.

On the way home we did switch places and I took the much more gradual 57th to Garrison. With a wobble start we cut across the shopping centers and ambled home.

She loves the Ute and I am glad we got it for her. The weekend weather is looking nice and we're probably going to cruise 'til the tires fall off. Boone really hasn’t gotten to ride his new bike much and I know he is itching to.

I turned the Ute back over to Mandy. I rode the OBS to work this morning. It felt odd, to be riding on 26" wheels instead of 28" with a long wheelbase. Flat bars vs. swept back, knobbies vs. slick commuters. Man, I miss that bike! Be on the lookout for my official Kona Ute review coming soon. It is a solid beast, a fantastic commuter machine. I wish it were mine. But soon, I will have my own longtail!

Cannonball X update: Frame is still off being powder coated. It won’t be before Monday. Might be more like Wednesday of next week. The fork and brakes are in at Salvagetti. Still waiting for the Xtracycle kit. Once I have everything I just need to put it together. Scott had mentioned something about some closeouts at the store. I'm not sure if he was talking about the brakes or if he was referring to my emailed query about getting a new set of wheels in the future. For now the plan is to share wheels with the OBS. It'll be a pain, because I'll probably switch to the commuter tires at first since I'll be riding the CBX most. But then when I want to go MTBing I'll have to change tires. Regardless, I'll make it work.

Unless a miracle of logistics and chemical reactions occurs I won't have it all to put together over the coming weekend. But middle of next week I should be wrenching hard. Keep you posted.

Naked Ute

Tuesday, March 29

Ute in a Cube

Another pretentious commute under my belt. Of course, all of my commutes are pretentious. While participating as traffic I concurrently critique, scorn and direct traffic.

I discovered that the Ute fits in my cube. So I've brought the smug-tastic pretention into the workplace. But ultimately I did it for the Cannonball X. After the build is complete I would not want to subject it to the indignity of rolling all the way up to my cubicle-domicile only to be denied by the simple laws of physics and real estate. In a week or so I will be able to park the bikes side by side and ascertain the feasibility of fit without risking the remorse of constraint.

It MOSTLY fits

But good enough for government work for sure

Have I mentioned that the Ute reminds me of a WWII era motorcycle with its swept back handlebars, fenders, black finish and leather bags?

Don’t get me wrong! I love the look. It's vintage, right?

Ah, I'm sure you've already asked yourself, and your co-workers reading over your shoulder, the question: "What's this galoot doing still riding his wife's bike?!

I know, I said I was going back to the OBS after yesterday. Slight medical malady thwarted my commuting preparations last night. I believe it was simply dehydration when my vision went wonky and it felt like my head was sheathed in a clear plastic bucket around 8:30pm last night. Needless to say, I didn’t get the OBS ready for the morning commute. My lovely wife took care of me and even made my coffee for this morning. I couldn’t ask her to do all the bike and gear prep I needed. In fact, I wasn't sure I would pedaling anywhere this morning. Thankfully the worst of the effects had subsided and I got here okay. I've felt increasingly better as the day has wore on. At noon I'm finally able to look at a compute screen without almost passing out. That's a plus.

I've got an appointment with those people who take a huge amounts of our money every month and spend it on hiring "scheduling specialists" instead of letting me talk to a real, live medical professional. Hopefully a complete lack of diagnosis will cost me thousands of dollars.

THIS JUST IN: Mandy referred me to the term ocular migraine via Google. I believe she has landed squarely on the target. The graphic shows a monochrome representation of what I saw before I started to lose clarity.

I'm going to head out early today and give my eyes a rest from this modern lifestyle. I'm still going to go to the medical mall that is Kaiser Permanente.

Cranking on…

Monday, March 28

Cannonball Evolution: Powder Coating Blues

Well, after slogging to work on the Ute this morning I faced a sunny, but cool and windy commute home. I swung by Powder Coatings Specialties in Golden and entrusted them to strip and apply color to the ole frame.

Don't bother asking the color I chose, it's a secret.

The big bummer is that it's going to take 5 to 7 working days before I get it back. So the stuff I've ordered through Salvagetti (FreeRadical kit, fork, brakes) will be in a few days before the frame is finished.

It felt smug and pretentious to portage the frame to work on the Ute and then run my errand over to PCS with the bike. The guys there speculated I must be serious about bikes. I explained that the Ute was my wife's new car. The didn't look at me like I had a horn growing out of my head, so that's a plus.

Hopefully I will become immune and oblivious to my own smug-tentiousness soon so I can get on with starting the Grand Longtail Revolution.

I'm shooting for a grand reveal of the Cannonball X around the 9th or 10th of April. Of course, this could complicate things, as Boone's birthday is that weekend.

If I don't get it all together soon I may gnaw my fingernails off. O-F-F off.

Galoot on a Ute Commute

[Somtime yesterday]

Mandy: If you want to ride the Ute to wor…

Me: Well, I wasn't going to ask, but I had been hoping. If you really don't mind…

Mandy [with slight grin]: No, I don’t mind.

Me [jumping up and down doing the Snoopy dance inside]

I'm really trying to supress the smugness factor, but its so hard. We love the cargo bike. We'll never go back. While I don’t expect my wife to commute with Boone to school next winter, I do see us leaving the car parked more often, much more often. And Boone has taken up that rally cry. Yesterday I had parked the car in the drive and out from under the carport. Boone lined up all the bikes underneath and declared the carport off limits to the car and to be used only for the bikes from now on. The bikeport.

So I tooled through a rain/snow mix to work this morning, hauling the Cannonball's frame, a week's work clothes in the pannier, homemade bagel for breakfast, homemade lasagna for lunch and dinging the Ute's bell just because I was so darn happy we have finally attained longtail nirvana. Try as I may, I couldn’t leave the hippie smugness behind. I was the most superior vehicle on the road this morning. There! I said it.

Bean and I got our first comment about the Ute last night when we ran down to the grocery store for eggs, salt and butter. A couple stopped as I was locking the bike up and getting Bean out of the sidecar bag and said they thought it was a great idea. They asked her if she liked riding in the bag and she nodded enthusiastically. We made it home without breaking an egg or spilling a Bean.

I'm going to call in a little while about getting the Cannonball frame powder coated. I may drop it off for that process this afternoon and that will absolve me of the responsibility to strip, clean and paint it myself. I'll be able to stop stressing about it. If the cost is too high I'll just paint it myself. It can’t look much worse than it looks now.

I need to stop riding her bike, even if she offers. I feel like such a heel! I am the Ute Thief. Of course I'll be able to offer a reliable comparison between the Ute and the Xtracycle in a week or so.

Well, back to the grind. It feels a little more worth it today.


You'll have noticed some changes around the ole Pavement's Edge blog recently. I moved my sidebar items around a little bit. Everything is still there, mayhap just in a different location. No, I didn't sell out. No one has paid me for advertising space. I posted a photo of Salvagetti, Pedal Pushers Cyclery, Xtracycle and Kona, each will take you to a link. PPC and Salvagetti have been really good to us and I want to give them kudos. And I can't say enough good stuff about the Ute and the concept of the Xtracycle. My belief is that if you truly endorse a product then compensation isn't necessary.

Also, check out Mandy's blog: Cute on a Ute for updates on her entrance into the world of cargo bikes.

Sunday, March 27

Better Than a Car

Mandy was in baking mode today and the kids asked to go to the park. Of course we took the Ute.

Me, Boone and Lily...

Too bad the Bean is going to keep growing. She won't fit in the bag too much longer. Boone is far too big, or he could ride in one, Bean in the other and Mandy and I taking turns between driver and shotgun.

We rode all the way to a park down along the Ralston Creek Trail and then back home through Olde Town. Even with 30 pounds of pink princess in the bag the bike rode amazingly well. Climbed hills like a dream. We finally got to use the bell for real as we cruised along the path weaving around the pedestrians.

Tomorrow I'm going to haul the Cannonball frame with me to work and then on my lunch or after I'm free for the day I may drop it off to have it powder coated. The cost will be the deciding factor.

Well, the Bean is reminding me we need to run to the store for some eggs. Off again!

Saturday, March 26

Year of the Longtails: Resolute on the Ute

Yeah, that was a good idea.

We've put the Ute through its paces since we got it, and it performs wonderfully.

Last night we all rode down to Olde Town for dinner at Ophelia's Restaurant. A) Ophelia's rocks! B) The Ute rocks even more!

This morning I took Boone down to Englewood to Trips for Kids Denver's annual bike sale. We found a nice six speed Trek Mt 60 (kid) mountain bike and a cool pink princess Trek for the Bean. So it was our second New Bike Day in a row.

Again, TFK has been a great place to get a good bike for the kids. Two years ago we bought Boone's 20" Giant BMX bike for $10. The bike we bought him today we paid $60 for. And the money goes to TFK which is a great program. They get underprivileged and inner city kids out mountain biking.

Well, after we got back home Boone and I jumped on the Ute and Mandy and Bean climbed on Mandy's Giant and we cruised over to the ACT offices for the Family Bike Clinic. We had 10 families show up and we got almost everyone out on a bike for at least a few minutes. There were 31 people there total and it was a lot of fun. We spent awhile getting the tandems lined out and ready to ride, and then we worked to get everyone fitted on the bikes.

After the clinic was over our clan cut over to the Van Bibber Creek Trail and pedaled east to Chuck E. Cheese for Little Glen's birthday party. By the time we got there we were really getting warmed up to ride.

From Mr. Cheese's it was short pedal home. Mandy took off by herself to go get a haircut and finally got to put a few good miles on the Ute herself. Now we're relaxing to the smell of homemade pizza cooking.

The Ute was a great idea we should have had ages ago. Once we get the Xtracycle up and running we're going to really rock on the bikes.

Mandy suggested we have "No Car Weekends" frequently in the future. I agree. I think whether we plan them or not, we're going to start having a lot of "No Car" days and weekends.

The kids love the Ute too. And we haven't even added a seat and stoker bar. Seeing the tandem stoker bars made me realize that we need a couple of those stems for both of our longtails. It's really amazing, the Ute is really like a new family car. Earlier Mandy asked if I wanted to take it down to the store to pick up some stuff for dinner. Even though its her bike, it's really like a family bike.

Wow, today was just satisfying and a whole lot of fun. I'm convinced the cargo bikes are a good idea.

Friday, March 25

Year of the Longtails: Brute on a Ute

...and Ramming Speed Friday: Quest for a Ute Edition

Checked the bank account this morning, tax return had been posted, begged off work early, blazed home on the OBS.

And then we headed east to Salvagetti. I've ordered the Xtracycle stuff, new fork and disc brakes. Got a bottom bracket tool for the Cannonball, got the old fork loose and will get the stuff for painting over the weekend. I've got about a week from today to get the frame painted, then next weekend will be Build Time.

As soon as we got in the store at Salvagetti they got Mandy set up for a test ride on the Kona Ute. She cranked out toward downtown Denver, crossed the river, circled Commons Park and returned to the store a Longtail Captain.

Back home we got the front fender and wheel back on (no quick release) and away she went.

Then we took turns riding up and down our street. The kids both took a spin. It was so much fun riding that bike. There is part of me that would get a Ute in a heartbeat over the Xtracycle. But I think I'm gonna love my Cannonball X.

Brute on a Ute

We decided a trip to Olde Town was in order so we loaded up the kids. Because we haven't worked out a seat for Lily yet I rode the Ute with Boone on deck and Mandy rode her Giant with Lily in the child seat. I'm going to work out a Bean seat really soon.

The bike rides so well. Mandy is so excited and loves the bike more than we expected. She said she never wants to drive again.

I felt bad riding over to Olde Town on it. I'll admit I'm a tad jealous because she got her bike first, but I'm really happy for her too. This bike is going to work out great for her.

Oh! As we were riding giddily up and down the street one of our neighbors asked if we wanted a bike trailer. Turns out she had bought a child trailer for her daughter, but before she could give it to her the daughter had gone and bought one. It's dirty and needs new tires and tubes, but it looks like a nice one-kid trailer.

In the morning Boone and I are going to run down to Englewood to check out Trips for Kids Denver's used bike sale and see if we can pick up some gears for him. Then ACT has a family clinic and we're going to help out with that, then a birthday party for a little guy we know. Busy day ahead, and full of bike related silliness.

Thanks to the guys at Salvagetti for hooking us up and helping us out. Kudos to Kona for making an excellent product, and continued love for Xtracycle for the longtail to come.

Thursday, March 24

Year of the Longtails: Nailbiter's Lament

The anticipation is killing me. Tomorrow (FINGERS CROSSED!!!) the tax return will be posted and the order will go out for the ClassicCargo kit.

I've been gnawing my fingernails all week. The Cannonball needs to be painted! How will I get it painted? I'll paint it myself! Where can I get the stuff? What if I do a bad job? What about the bottom bracket? What about installing disc brakes? What if I screw it all up!?

And then there is the Quest for a Ute. Mandy found TWO on craigslist for $750. One was a really nice looking 2007 which is now gone and the other is a 2010 that's been on there most of the week. She sent an email on the remaining one but hasn't heard back yet.

$750 would save us $450 over a brand new one from Salvagetti. We'll go with the used one if we can as long as its the smaller size. Even if we had to buy new bags for it or something, the savings would be worth it.

So I have a little more research to do on the painting, but we hiked down to Auto Zone and found Aircraft Paint Stripper (DO NOT USE ON AIRCRAFT!) and a wide selection of automotive paints. Confidence is swelling in that department.

Even after tomorrow I'm thinking it may be a couple of weeks before I'll be captain of my own longtail bike. Mandy will be swinging the tiller on hers way before I.

The weather has been crazy and I'm keeping fingers crossed and praying diligently that spring snow or rain will hold off until I get the Cannonball frankensteined back together.

Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day.

How The Bike Has Saved My Economy

Not to detract from Elly Blue's series on Grist, but she has inspired me to explore my own history and how the bike has been a boon to me throughout my life and how it has led me along the path I've pedaled. And to put my current thoughts in context a bit I should explain that I've been reading and thinking on the ideas of Transition and Resilience. Of course this all stems from my fascination with peak oil which was born out of cycling literature (specifically Hurst's The Cyclist's Manifesto) and has grown into at the very least a confirmation bias supporting my lifelong post-apocalyptic fantasies. As I've (and many others have) stated recently: you're hard pressed to find someone who absolutely does not believe we are ever going to run out of fossil fuels, specifically crude oil, but people are going to argue about the timing of the Big Trickle until the spigot dries up.

ANYWHO! What this means for the purposes of this post is that what I've been discovering lately, confirmation bias or not, supports the gut feelings that have driven me in my life choices since I was a teenager. I never understood WHY I believed the US was headed for socio-economic meltdown, but I've always seen us as too big to resist falling. It was just a matter of time before a gust of wind toppled the whole house of cards. So without really going into that WHY so much in this post I will leave it at that and continue to the main point, hopefully with a few Dear Readers still in tow. I apologize in advance for the impending long-windedness that will ensue.

1988. I was infatuated with a petite beauty that lived at the opposite end of my neighborhood. It really was a love triangle. It was me, she and my Mongoose BMX. I cruised past her house relentlessly under the non-blistering southwestern Ohio sun day after day after day for hours on end. I'm surprised there wasn't a bicycle tire sized groove in front of it. I saw cruising past her house on my bike as the most efficient means of attracting her favor. I didn't have the esteem capital to throw at the problem, so I substituted it with a propaganda campaign designed to remind her of my presence and show her I would always be there for her. At least as long as it wasn't raining.

Moving back to Kentucky at the start of my sophomore year I tried to choose the bike, but in a rare moment of defeat by peer pressure I stopped riding my bike everywhere because no one else rode a bike. Ever. I gave it up. I didn't choose the bike for a long time. But when the prospect of going to college in a big city arose I decided I would buy a new bike to take with me. At 18 I was already somewhat disillusioned by the idea that the automobile represented freedom and independence. I had hada series of lemons in my late teens and lacked the capital or the knowledge to keep the clunkers rolling. When my parents hauled me and all my stuff to Nashville in the fall of 1992 my car, a 1985 Mustang, stayed parked in my parents driveway with a busted motor. But a shiny new Huffy "mountain bike" I had bought at Walmart lay nestled amongst the tokens of my adolescence in the back of the van as we made the four hour drive.

The first semester I didn't have a car on campus, and I didn’t really miss it so much. I rode all over the area of Nashville around the school and got to know the city and suburbs rather well. I don’t remember being stressed by traffic despite Nashville drivers having a wretched reputation. Even after I brought my car back after Christmas break I rode most of the time. I even rode to my job over the summer quite a bit. It was in Nashville that I was first hit by a car. It was a minor incident, but awakened my to the reality of riding in traffic. I didn’t have a lot of money to blow on entertainment, but I had plenty of juice in my legs to make up for it.

One thing led to another and I dropped out. Wow, such a diminutive sentence to convey the events of that year...

Back in Kentucky I settled into a completely unsatisfying life of shift work in a series of low paying factory jobs. For three or four years when I wasn't at work or sleeping I was driving between my bed and my job and back. I hated it. I wanted a better lifestyle, and while I didn’t see a solution that involved the bike my love for cycling slept somewhere in the stew of my brain. I spent so much money on my car during those years, keeping it running and keeping the tank full.

After a few years I was finally fed up enough with the lack of prospects that I decided to confront higher education again. I enrolled in a photography school in Dayton, Ohio. I would be moving back into another big city. And again, my first instinct was to buy a bike. A friend had a year old Cannondale mountain bike. I offered him $300, which he initially turned down, but later accepted. My long relationship with the Cannonball was born.

With an ailing car and a shiny new bike I landed in Dayton. I spent a winter in Dayton, riding to work most days and to school almost every day and night I had class, returning home after sunset with the benefit of streetlights and faith that the potholes would dodge to avoid me in the darkness. Despite my cyclo-centric lifestyle I couldn't afford to continue in school and with hat in hand I once again dropped out and returned to Kentucky. In the few months I was in Dayton I probably averaged two car trips per week. It wasn't enough to save me then.

And it was after that time that I truly started to recognize the economic and individual benefits of the bicycle as a primary mode of transportation. The car that ailed when I moved to Dayton was wheezing its last when I moved back to Kentucky to take a job working for an outdoor business located in rural Eastern Kentucky on the edge of a national forest. It was 15 miles to town, any town, and I was flat broke with almost no income. My socio-economic connection to the world was my bicycle.

I never believed I could ride the bike out of poverty and into financial success. I never really thought much about my bike. I didn’t maintain it, I didn't refer to it as the "Cannonball" then. I didn’t really romanticize it at all then. I never wore a helmet or a cycling uniform. I didn’t carry extra tubes or a patch kit or even a pump with me for years. The only cycling accessories I had were a cable and a U-Lock from when I lived in Dayton, which I rarely used in the backwoods of Kentucky. I had defaulted to the bike with little mental effort when the car failed to start or when I didn’t have money to put gas in the tank.

The bike got me through those lean times. When I was bored and lonely I would ride. I rode further because I found I had more time than I knew what to do with and no money to fill it with. I discovered I could ride upwards of 50 miles and not die and that began to rebuild the fragile framework of my ego. And it was truly then, when I realized I could cover great distances under my own power, that I did begin to gain some perspective on my other efforts in life. I began to realize that so many things that I thought of as insurmountable problems could be overcome by doggedly cranking away until the gulf was spanned. The steep hills of life could be conquered in a lower gear.

In the summer of 2000 I was married to the love of my life. She inspired me, for the fourth time in my life, to go back to school. For seven years I persisted and for seven years she and I commuted by car back and forth over winding, narrow eastern Kentucky roads to get Eastern Kentucky University degrees. During that period of time the bike was not a solution for us. The distances were too great and the time too short.

Being on campus all the time awoke in me the desire to live a condensed life. Campus living is great when you can walk out of the dorm and then walk or bike everywhere you need to be in half an hour or less. I wanted to build a life that resembled that. I wanted to be free from parking hassles, traffic congestion, vehicle maintenance costs, and rising fuel prices. By then September 11 was a cool memory. But it had burned hot on my brain and it was only after 9/11 that I had any care for the wide world. I became more aware of larger issues in the world and in our country. I started to see the bigger complex machine I had been fighting against in oblivion for so long. I started to care about my impact in the world.

The last few years of my undergraduate sentence was a time when I really tried to pare down what I wanted out of life and what I believed in politically and socially. I'm still working on that, five or six years later, but I've come a long way. During the last couple of years of school Mandy and I talked long and often about what we wanted out of life, where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. We wanted to provide opportunity and perspective for our children. We wanted them to get out of our hometown where there is not much future for a young person and see that the world is an amazing place full of life and beauty. As we tried to pin down criteria to determine what would be an appropriate area to relocate to I kept returning to one in particular: I wanted to be free from the car. I wanted to be able to walk, or ride the bus or ride my bike to work, to school for the kids, to church, to play and everywhere in between. I wanted a smaller scaled life. After so many years of sitting behind the wheel dreaming about a better life I was tired.

And so we ended up in the Denver Metro area. While not exactly what I had envisioned for us, I think it has been the best compromise of what Mandy and I both wanted. We're happy here. And despite many unforeseen hardships we've endured. We've transitioned away from that old life. We've become more resilient in so many ways.

And so the last chapter, not the end, but the most recent has been our evolution from the auto-centric people we were when we arrived here to the bike-centric people we are becoming. Our evolution has been a long process, incremental and slow, exacted with the patience of Job. But each time we could make a decision that put us closer to the goal we did. And with each baby-step the distance closed and it has become easier and easier.

So how has the bike saved our family economy? When the choice came: dump money into a polluting clunker or sell it and commit to the bike, I chose the bike. Then when we decided we needed to get out of the two bedroom apartment for our sanity's sake we were able to afford to move into a modest 3 bedroom house in a good town. If we had held onto the car we would still be screaming through the walls in that 2 bedroom cell or stuck in traffic, or circling the parking lots like vultures. The bike freed us from those things. I believe it wholeheartedly. It has only been since we sold that car that I have FULLY come to realize the value of my bike and how it has benefited me economically over the years. It saved me at times when I had cars that I couldn’t afford to maintain or replace. It has saved money on gas and upkeep and wear and tear. Bike tires are so much cheaper than car tires, and there are only two!

We've been living with little surplus income for the past three years like so many in this country. By not having to put gas in two cars, and often getting away with buying no gas at all for days and days we have had more money to pay our other bills and to buy food. We are better able to weather economic hardships. We are more resilient than our neighbors.

My vague survival instinct against the apocalypse has reinforced our day to day resilience. In preparing for the worst, we've more enjoyed the best. My confidence in the face of what I see as impending turmoil in our world surprises me sometimes. I've weathered the storms of life riding on my bike. And at times I took it for granted and never gave much through to how I was staying afloat. I realize there was more to my success in life than just my two-wheeled steed, but I have to acknowledge that it was a key component throughout it all. The bike was my backup plan, my safety net in some of my darkest times. When I lived alone in big cities, when I lived alone on the edge of a wilderness…I could always pedal back to safety.

We're planning for leaner times now. I'm upgrading my old standard, the Cannonball, into a longtail cargo bike. Who needs a car when you can carry a family on your bike? Mandy is also going longtail with a Ute. We found one on craigslist that will save us a few hundred dollars. Lord willing it will still be there tomorrow. Regardless, we're stepping away from the car. We're putting distance between ourselves and the complexity that can lead to collapse. Without a car to worry over we will be able to give more attention to more important things as the socio-political and socio-economic climates begin to change.

As an individual I believe I have almost completed the transition from petro-centricism to a more sustainable life. As a family we are making big steps in the right direction. And we're first seeing the health and economic benefits and I believe eventually we'll see the fruits of a more resilient life.

There is no danger from living a simple life. I embrace the limitations of this era, which will be the freedoms of the next.

Wednesday, March 23

Double Headwind Wednesday

I was magically transported to my cubicle from Kansas/OZ after my last post. I'm writing a scathing letter to the customer service department of the makers of the Ruby Slippers. They shouldn't advertise that "all you have to do it click your heels together and say: 'There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home.'" when in fact the darn slippers don't take you home, but to work.

Oh well.

To add insult to injury I fought an EASTERN headwind all the way home. The wind is starting to wear on me. Literally. My skin feels raw. My eyes have been gritty for two days. Maybe I can add a wind generator to the Xtracycle conversion...

Well, it's all training right? More wind equals more resistance. I'll drop roadies and MTBers all summer with my head start on "the season."

Hopefully tomorrow things will settle down.

Tuesday's Gone With the Wind

...and maybe Wednesday through Friday as well. Heck, I might have been blown proverbially into next week.

My ride home yesterday was interesting. I battled gusts of thick wind just to get to the Six. I expended more energy in the first half mile of my commute home than I usually do in the entire 10-ish miles. I stopped just before the path to put on my gloves and a gust almost blew me off my feet.

So then I dropped into Golden. Usually I can hit 25-30 mph going down to Illinoising, but yesterday I may have been going 10 mph and pedaling as hard as I could. In fact, it was like pedaling through hardening cement.

I cut across 24th to Pedal Pushers and a gust from the north almost slammed me flat into the ground. Luckily it was just a short burst and before I completely lost control it subsided and almost dropped me windward in the vacuum.

Side note: saw the small floor stand bike rack PP has outside the front door. Kinda made me happy.

As I was leaving, four True Goo tubes richer, a gang of BMXers blew into the side of the building. I dodged their laughing forms and cut through the thick, smokey wind out onto Johnson and plowed headlong into the fray.

It was a slog, but eventually I reached 10th and turned east with the 70-80 mph wind gusts suddenly at my back. I was riding the brakes most of the way then, wrestling with the handlebars and fighting to keep the OBS under the speed of sound. I'm pretty sure my tires hardly touched the ground all the way through No-Man's Land, past I-70 and into Wheat Ridge. Space and time seemed to bend in front of me. I was pretty sure I was going to be humming "Dust in the Wind" as I flew OVER Kansas.

Just past the giant pringle cans I saw I was gaining on another mountain biker. So even though I was far beyond the legal speed limit on a bike in all 50 states and most territories I jumped on the pedals and rocketed past him so fast I blew the color out of his lycra. I saw him give a sharp glance as he heard my approach, and he jumped on his pedals, but I was long gone before he could match my speed. Then the race was on. I straightened some curves in the CCT and carved tightly through the rest. The OBS' knobbies whined as I crossed under I-70 and blasted between the lakes. The meandering curves between the lakes and 41st felt like a pump track as I whipped the handlebars back and forth. Thankfully all of the pedestrians had already been blown off to OZ, so the trail was free of potential obstacles.

But I let my guard down, and my monochrome adversary caught me. I had relaxed my efforts as I climbed up the gravel road from the path to 41st, just before the Wheat Ridge Rec Center and he passed me, ninja-style! I had glanced back just before leaving the paved path and he was nowhere to be seen. I wonder if he didn’t take the dirt path shortcut (bikes prohibited!) or if he just put forth a herculean effort to catch me. Anyway, I believed I was home free but he proved me wrong!

I caught him again within a couple of hundred yards, but he turned into the parking lot at the WRRC and I continued on.

It was okay, I had to fight the wind the rest of the way home as I first turned north, then WEST and then back north and finally WEST onto our street. It took me a solid hour to get home despite my insane rocket ride from Golden into Wheat Ridge. And I was only at the bike shop for a couple of minutes.

This morning the wind was mild until I got into Pleasant View (get your car sandblasted for free!) and then I was hunched over the handlebars, eyes closed against the onslaught, pedals turning slowly as I crawled ever so slowly toward work. I crested the hill on 10th and could see the building. The wall of wind was so high, so wide, so solid…I just wanted to turn around and go home. I believe from that point I could have gotten home quicker than I could have gotten on to work.

So I sit writing this in a greasy spoon in Wamego, Kansas. The Scarecrow loaned me his laptop. The Tin Man is out looking for the OBS. I think it's caught on the branches of a tree out in the prairie.

The ride home is going to be rough.

Tuesday, March 22

Year of the Longtails: Waxing Poetic

I sit at the kitchen table and stare out the window at my neighbors' Trek mountain bike leaning against the front of their house. I fantasize about putting a Free Radical kit on it one weekend while they’re out of town.

Every time I see a bike in a Facebook photo, an REI ad, or rolling down the street I imagine what it would look like with a BigStoker conversion. I've started hating the bike trailer, tow bar and bike seat because they're not Xtracycles. Everyone should have one, whether they think they want one or not. I've decided to convert my mid '90s Cannondale mountain bike, but I often look at my 2009 Specialized and think it should have an Xtra too. Could I put one on my son's 20" BMX? Why aren't all the bikes displayed at my LBS Xtras?

I fantasize about strapping my climbing gear or my crashpad onto the Xtracycle-to-come and then biking to Golden, or Boulder or even Evergreen for a day of climbing with my family. We will bikepack like a family of fiends. We'll tour the countryside astride our longtail bikes. We will surf the prairies and foothills, the mountains and canyons. We'll go farther than we ever have on bikes. We'll go down the long road, tread the pavement's edge for miles upon miles. We'll be loathe to return home and let the Xtras sit idle for even a minute.

We'll answer with grins when people ask about our longtails. We'll gladly share our conversion story. We'll write that story every day, as we ride around town, running errands, going to and fro and to work and school, passing by our neighbors and friends, goofy grins painted across our faces. We won’t be content to sit at home. A glance outside at the waiting Xtras will draw us into the sun (or rain) and we'll find ourselves pedaling toward the horizon with no need of a destination.

We'll forget to notice the price of gas, the passage of time, the angst of youth. Fit and lean, we'll captain our longtails into an era of increasing limitations, beyond economic trials and into the Post Carbon World. We'll go quietly, but loaded down with the cargo of our lives in tow.

I've parked my car. Now I'm working on converting my bicycle. In my mind it's already an Xtracycle.

If Bike Lanes Equate to Terrorism, Then Just Call Me Osama

I take offense to many of the comments in the New York Magazine article entitled: Not Quite Copenhagen: Is New York too New York for bike lanes? by Matthew Shaer.

Perhaps the most outrageous comment is this tirade, uttered by Jack Brown, a former bike shop owner in the East Village:

"'The anarchy that has been allowed to prevail is astonishing. According to butterfly theory, according to chaos theory, I am sure that the level of emotional and psychological damage wrought by the bicycle far exceeds the damage done by cars.' And then Brown goes there: 'It is homegrown terrorism. The cumulative effect is equivalent to what happened on 9/11.'"

While I will openly agree there is an element within the cycling world that ignore any and all traffic laws, manners and common sense, lumping ALL cyclists in with terrorists is a bit overly dramatic.

When I go out in the morning I don't think "Wonder how many moto-fascists I can annoy today?" I don't go out with the intention of slowing traffic or causing any kind of harm. And while I feel I would be justified in some righteous anger when MFers almost kill me, I do my darnedest to let it go and start out with a clean slate, emotionally speaking, each day.

But if what I, and the masses of cyclists in the world, do each day is akin to terrorism then I will gladly step up and join the ranks of cyclo-terrorists. I'll wear a badge. Put me on the FBI's ten most wanted list. Call me Osama bike Laden.

Really Brown? Bike lanes equivalent to 9/11? You need a stiff dose of reality dude. I'm not even sorry that you have more trouble finding a parking space in New York these days. I could care less that you have to slow down for 1.5 seconds and have to THINK for a split second to decide how you’re going to pass the cyclo-terrorist ahead of you on the boulevard. What is truly terrorism are those who put foot to gas pedal and harass everyone in their path with excessive speeds, reckless behavior and aggressive tendencies, combined with inattention and a strong, but unreasonable, sense of entitlement.

Cars are the real terrors on the road, not bikes, not pedestrians. I recently joked about hitting pedestrians, but I would NEVER consider hitting someone on purpose, and I maintain a speed that is reasonable for me to control, and cease if necessary. I never pass within arms reach of a pedestrian and give them as much space as I can. I can’t say the same for every driver on the road that passes me. In fact, it seems as if some try to see how close they can get.


Sorry, the red rage is building up within me and prohibiting the flow of coherent words from my mind. I was planning my next terror-related act.

Home grown terrorism? So I'm like Timothy McVey? When I go out in the morning I am the embodiment of evil. My headlight blinds innocent motorists. My presence fouls the air that passes over me and is a scourge to all who gaze upon my hideousness. I SHOULD be run over on Ridge Road. Right?

Terrorism. The War on Terror. Oh, let's go there! What is the War on Terror, but a huge propaganda campaign designed to bolster popular support for wars for oil resources in foreign lands? What real interest did we have in Iraq? And if we were so keen on bringing the real Osama bin Laden to justice why, after TEN YEARS is he still a free man? Weapons of Mass Destruction? We had "proof" that Hussein had WMD. But then it turned out he never had them after all. Oh, I believe he was a scoundrel, and possibly an evil dictator, but we had no need to go in and root him out. I believed in the propaganda at the time. I believed we needed to oust him. But with the benefit of hindsight, what were we doing there? Why did so many young Americans die and get maimed? What legacy are we leaving behind? I hold the utmost repsect for the willingness of young Americans to serve in the military. But I have no respect for leaders who misrepresent their intentions, and misuse human capital to secure a foothold in the biggest puddle of oil in the world.

New Yorkers who choose a better and more responsible way to travel than the single occupancy (motor) vehicle are members of the same club as Hussein, Qu/G/Khaddafi, McVey, the Unabomber and countless other monsters. At least in the minds of moto-fascists in NYC.

What is truly amazing is that the anti-bike lane rhetoric isn't confined to just the NIMBYs. It is also expelled by elected officials:

"Congressman Anthony Weiner reportedly told (Mayor) Bloomberg that if he becomes mayor, he is 'going to have a bunch of ribbon-¬cuttings tearing out your ******* bike lanes.'"

Wienie later said the comment was just a joke, but Freud would disagree I believe.

To top it all off is Louise Hainline, a Prospect Park resident with way too much time on her hands. Hainline:

"'I’m not saying bikers are ignorant,' she said. 'They’re just holy. They really think they’re doing work for the environment if, instead of taking the car a block, they take the bike to go to the food co-op. That’s touching, and it’s in the right direction. But it’s silly.'"

Well, Ms. Hainline, do you want to know what is truly silly? Believing the SOV is the answer to all of humanity's transportation needs. Believing that someone who wants to make responsible and educated decisions concerning their ecological footprint and legacy for future generations is somehow less valid than you and your decision to drive a block instead of walking. Believing that a slight inconvenience to your daily routine is somehow "monstrous" and "truly offensive."

What is monstrous is the moto-fascism that has run rampant throughout our country. Why are pedestrians and cyclists seen as freaks, and only those piloting thousands of pounds of steel and plastic revered as being "normal?" THAT is a travesty and a crime.

There are those of us are tired of all the resources and money that have gone into building up an environment only suitable for the SOV. We could divert those billions of dollars earmarked for more highways and roads to nowhere into building communities and neighborhoods that are resilient and worth caring about. We could dump some of that money into rebuilding our dying education system, into health care and the future of our country. But no, we as a nation have chosen to put all of our dwindling wealth into building more roads which will attract more congestion and more sprawl.

I'm going to keep riding my bike. Thankfully in my town, and in the greater metro area, the bicycling infrastructure in place is more than adequate. I hope that the NYC moto-fascist attitudes don’t infect my neighbors. As much as I grumble about the MFers here, they exist in far fewer numbers than in other places I've lived and biked. For that I am truly thankful.

Monday, March 21

Ramming Speed...What Day is This?

In an effort to escape Monday I blazed home. "Blazed" is apt, as I cranked through the haze of Golden with a front row saddle for the Indian Gulch Fire. The crazy downslope winds pushed me home, and while that was good for me it's not so good for the citizens of the Golden Gate Canyon area.

Golden proper doesn't seem to be threatened, but over 700 acres have burned and a pre-evacuation notice had gone out on reverse 911 earlier in the day.

As I pedaled across I-70 on Tabor I could also see wisps of smoke from the fire near Bergen Park up in the foothills. Hopefully these are the only two, and hopefully no homes burn. My job could get really "interesting" really quick.

I discovered low PSI before I left work which explained my "funk" this morning. My front tube was at 30 PSI and the rear just under 60. Ugh! So I pumped up some get-go and that also helped with my energetic ride home. Apparently I have a slow leak or two. I was going to pause within the haze at Pedal Pushers and get a few Goo tubes, but I remembered they're closed on Mondays. Boo hoo!

Anyway, tomorrow I'm taking my camera and if the fires are still raging in the foothills I'll provide some visual stimulation for your enjoyment.

Oh! I also passed three roadies as I was headed out of Golden. I was on the OBS and I left their skinny lycra-clad frames behind. And I did it with a backpack full of clothes and bike gear as well as a trunk rack (improv fender) and in my work clothes to boot! They probably had a power bar to split three ways and a tire lever each. I am Jack's smug self-satisfaction.

More roadie dropping updates in the weeks and months to come.

Monday Propaganda: The Era of Limits

In the Cyclist's Manifesto, Robert Hurst makes the bold statement early on that the bike won't solve the world's problems. As a cyclist looking for fuel for my fire I was taken aback. But he immediately goes on to quantify that the bike may solve the reader's problems. After a bit of reflection, a second reading and finally finishing the book, Hurst's point becomes more clear. He's right. Cycling won't save the world. Even if everyone alive began cycling for their individual transportation needs the world would not suddenly become a magical utopia.

But, Dear Reader, you can carry a little utopia in your pocket. You can ride your bike. I can ride my bike and we can solve a lot of our own problems while rolling along upon two wheels.

According to the Regional Air Quality Council's "log your commute" tool I've saved just over $1,000 since October 19, 2010 when I started keeping track. They use the figure of 50¢/mile to operate a motor vehicle. The tool lets you set up a profile and you can choose different modes of transportation: from walking to biking, to carpooling to public transportation, to driving alone. I set my typical commute profile at 10 miles each way and bicycle as the mode. If I ride in with someone I change from "bicycle" to "carpool" in a drop down menu and log the commute(s). I've been fairly accurate in tracking my transportation usage so I feel as if the savings, while in no way accurate, reflect a tight grouping at the very least.

Its good to have a remote idea what I'm saving by choosing the bike over the car. Of course the benefits go beyond mere economics. My stress levels are way down. I've actually, after a long time managed to shed a few pounds, and by riding almost everyday I'm more encouraged to ride and so it is a positive feedback loop.

When I started using the RAQC's online tool I was not riding out of any sense of environmental conservation or a sense of needing to save the planet. But in those five months since I've slowly evolved into the reduction monkey I am today. Again, I'm a climate change agnostic. Whether or not the science truly points to a warming trend we should live as if it does and cut back on our ecological footprints and on our consumption. That is just good living and good sense. There's no benefit to over-consumption. And to those who will argue that it boosts the economy I say, the Economy is a monster that does not need to be fed anymore. Saying "Let the market decide!" is akin to saying let the trained attack dog decide between canned food and the warm, fresh meat of your leg. The market has no care for the future of humanity, only for its own appetite.

The problem with the market, with our infrastructure and with our society, is that the levels of complexity have exceeded manageable levels. The Economy/Market/Government/Culture/Infrastructure Monster is so overwrought and beyond comprehension by the human mind that trying to find a quick fix, or even a long term solution is nigh to impossible.

I'm a climate change agnostic, but I'm a peak oil true believer. And most people, whether they realize it or not, are also peak oil believers. Any time you refer to fossil fuels as "non-renewable" you are admitting the reality that eventually carbon based energy will run out. "Peak oil" simply refers to the graph that illustrates how oil is first discovered, produced and then declines. Where the true controversy lies is in the timing of the ultimate decline. Most liberal (while still being reasonably intelligent) estimates seem to put the Big Trickle around 2035, and maybe as late as 2050.


My children will be 47 and 43 in 2050. Theoretically they'll have children, and perhaps grandchildren of their own. I'll be 76 if, Lord willing, I'm still alive. I will be in no position to affect any kind of change, nor will I be fit enough to survive a collapse of society.

Many conservative estimates predicted a global peak somewhere between 2006 and 2010. After oil ultimately peaks and begins to decline we will see a steep increase if cost and decrease in quality of the remaining oil on the planet. We will never completely deplete the fossil fuel resources of the planet. But at some point, the extraction of non-renewable energy resources will cost more than those resources are worth.

It doesn't matter if that point has already come and gone, and we have entered the long decline, or if we reach that point in 2050 or 2051; once it comes (as any reasonable person would agree it most definitely will) it will be too late to change our bad habits then. We must begin now, even if it's already too late. Some have begun. But a majority of people on this planet need to go through the stages of grief and finally come to acceptance of the fact that the Great Oil Glut that was the 20th century is over and we must transition into the new era of human existence.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm riding my bike into that new era: The Era of Limits. And the bicycle is a wonderful limitation now that will represent freedom and empowerment in the new era.

Sunday, March 20

Year of the Longtails: Tearing Down So We Can Build Up

I feel productive, even though I spent the afternoon stripping the Cannonball down to a bare frame.

It's ready for the Xtracycle conversion. I'm wrestling with the prospect of getting the Cannonball and the Xtra frame painted before I put it all back together. I could get it done for a couple of hundred dollars, but on the other hand I could save a couple of hundred dollars by not getting it painted. It needs it.

So now that we're down to a frame, fork and front derailer (the only thing still attached) I am ready to put on the extension, new fork, disc brakes and then stick on the stem, drop bars and shifter/brake levers from the Giant (RIP). I've taken apart the crank arms and cassette and cleaned them really well. The cassette will go on a new set of wheels with disc brakes eventually.

I've already made a stoker bar from spare parts. It will attach to the seatpost for either adult or child passengers.

Everything else is accessory and unnecessary for the most part. I want a new saddle, but can make do with the one I have for now. I will need to do some work to my bottom bracket, but that should be relatively minor.

The only big decision left to make is to paint or not to paint. I think it needs it, but I don't want to drop the money. Of course, since I've decided to do the build myself, instead of paying the bike shop to do it, I will save a little money.

I've got until the end of the week to get it done. We won't have the money for the xtra until Friday at least.

On a related note: Mandy has found two Kona Utes on craigslist, each for $750. There is the remote possibility that if they're both still available when the fundage breaks free we may have matching vehicles once again.

More to come...


A quick thought...I may try to paint it myself.

Saturday, March 19

3rd 1st Annual Front Range Cyclist Bicycle Show

A quick drive (but long bike ride) down I-25 to the Springs this morning deposited Bob Matter and I at the 3rd 1st Annual Front Range Cyclist Bicycle Show. There's a story behind the "3rd 1st Annual" I'm sure. I'm guessing it's because the second annual show got canceled?

We set up the ACT booth and then waited for the crowds to file in. It was slow, but there were a few people there.

For me it was an opportunity to get to meet some people I have corresponded with via phone and email through the special event process at work. There were a lot of Colorado Springs area shops and organizations and a few Colorado businesses as well as the regional events. There were representatives from the Tour de Cure, the Bailey HUNDO, the Tour of Colorado and ACT shared info on the Denver Century.

My favorite was the Angletech booth. I've never seen a recumbent tandem (or would it be tandem recumbent?).

Angletech has Yuba cargo bikes. I got to ride a couple around, as well as a recumbent trike. If money were no option (money is always obstinate about flowing my direction) I would go out and buy one today.

The smugness factor was low, but spiked at times, particularly when the bamboo bike made a showing. Then there was

I chatted with the ladies at Alchemist Threadworks out of Boulder. They ride their bikes to pick up stock and for meetings and deliveries. They have some nice looking clothes as well: t-shirts and hoodies as well as cycling specific articles that are organic and sustainable. I really do want one of their custom wool jerseys (Team Pavement's Edge across the chest).

I drooled over Tessier Custom Bikes and Victoria Cycles. I'm not a huge fan of custom bikes, but again, its more economics than a real lack of desire for one.

The show was fun, though small in size. I'm looking forward to bigger venues and developing my trade show presence and observation skills. I basically just took it all in and rode a few bikes around. Looking forward to Interbike in the fall...

For me the highlight was the Xtracycle someone rode to the show. I saw it locked up in the bicycle parking area.

Friday, March 18

Ramming Speed Friday: Pedestrian Death Edition

Okay, I didn't really kill any pedestrians. But not for lack of trying.

I stopped at the credit union on the way through Golden to get some cash for tomorrow and after the detour I just couldn't muster the muster to go really, really fast. That, and there was a headwind from the east.

I cranked on as hard as I could. I felt strong. I forgot to check the time when I got home. It might have been a record commute for all I know. I can't say.

Blazing through the greenbelt in Wheat Ridge I had to dodge slow moving and erratic pedestrians. I was not trying to be a cyclo-facsist, but after a long day and gazillions of phone calls (okay, maybe only billions) I didn't have the patience to muck about, slowing down and biking all safe like.

I tried, I really did, to heed my own advice and not scare the bejeezums out of the pedestrians. And I was in a sort of FLOW mode, carving into turns, weaving between unpredictable bipeds and generally ramming my way home through space and time.

Wednesday was in the 70s, yesterday in the 60s and today started out with snow and ended in the 50s with the sun shining bright. Gotta love spring!

I did verfiy: no bike racks at Pedal Pushers in Golden, but Big Ring does have racks beyond just those provided by the city. In case you were wondering...

Absolutely Nothing About My SuburBubba Encounter This Morning

After an extended hiatus from bouldering (climbing close to the ground without ropes) my recent, though brief, over-indulgence has affected my ability to apply my brakes with the appropriate level of diligence. I was concerned because despite the 60 and 70 degree temps of the past couple of days I woke up to snow on the ground. Icy commutes necessitate fine control of the steel steed. Thankfully there was no ice even though Steve Casey told me it was one degree below the point of freezing.

I'm currently "ate up" with excitement for the impending longtail assault on Arvada. My head is ready to explode. I am salivating. Its hard to sit still to compose this post. There, I got up and did a little dance and am now back to go on and on and on and on and on about Xtracycles, Radishes, Big Dummies and Utes. Waaaaahhhh!

I had to get that out of my system.

I'm headed to the Front Range Cyclist Bicycle Show with Bob Matter of Assisted Cycling Tours tomorrow. I'm excited. This will be my first "industry" event. I wanted to go to the Colorado Bicycle Summit in February, but the cost and a brief bout of flu-ish symptoms in conjunction with much snow kept me away. Look for a write-up over the weekend, or Monday. Why, oh why didn’t I gravitate toward a career in cycling back when the choices were easier? Oh well, this will be fun, and a good break FROM work.

I'm looking forward to taking Bike Arvada to local events over the summer and into the fall. The cycling community seems so much more inclusive of all abilities all interests compared to the climbing community. In the climbing realm, if you're not a hard or extremely prolific climber you really don't matter. And despite the perception, I don’t think that's the case in cycling.

Case in point: Salvagetti's Commuter Cycling Team. I have been so encouraged to be part of the inaugural year of the effort, and I hope next year it will continue. I'm working on ideas to share with Scott for the future. I think it can be a great effort, and also involve people who are committed to cycling that are not athletes per se, but who may actually be more dedicated cyclists than road and mountain bike racers and cyclocrossers. The crux of a commuter team is keeping involvement up while not having regular organized events.

Well, got to go back to my day job now. Remember, smart people ride bikes.

Thursday, March 17

Rackless Bike Shops

"Bicycle parking is the indicator species of this new economy, with a business's enthusiasm for its two-wheeled clientele being easy to gauge by the quantity of bike racks out front." --Elly Blue, How Bicycling Will Save the Economy (If We Let It)

The places we frequent are typically bicycle friendly. All the businesses in Olde Town have the cool hitching posts. The grocery store we patronize has racks as well. In fact, the ARC Thrift Store adjacent to King Soopers also has sheltered racks and they sell used bikes. The McDonalds in the same shopping center has a weird mini-swingset type rack. The local Kmart and Target both have bike racks, though only Kmart's is under cover. What is profoundly puzzling to me though is the complete lack of bike racks outside the two nearest bike shops.

Our "neighborhood" bike shop, Foothills Cycling in Wheat Ridge, not only doesn't have bike racks, but there's nothing nearby to which you can lock a bike. We found out the hard way when we took a family ride down to pick up some tubes and had nowhere to lock our bikes. We cabled them together and hoped for the best. At least there's an overhang where you can get the bikes out of rain or snow while you go inside. That's the only plus.

Arvada Bike also has a paucity of bike racks and every time I've been there I've had to lock my bike up to a "No Parking" sign next to the main entrance. While I love their customer service and their selection of bikes and accessories, I wonder why there is no rack. There is a good east-west bike route (W 66th Ave) that passes right by the store, and Olde Wadsworth comes up from Olde Town to the south which is a great short connector route between Ralston Creek Trail and 66th. There is an entryway just inside the first door where you could get out of the weather, but I don't believe there's anything to lock a bike to inside the vestibule.

Most, if not all, of the other bike shops we've visited in the metro area have bike racks. The Golden bike shops rely on the sidewalks racks provided by the city. I won't count it against them, but I wonder if the roadie stronghold Big Ring would provide racks if they weren't already there. I can't remember if Pedal Pushers has outside racks, but if they don't they make up for it with customer service.

Cycle Analyst in Denver has racks by the front door, as does REI. Salvagetti not only has outside racks, but also has a floor stand inside the main door where customers can prop their rides. I think this is a truly bicycle friendly gesture and a rare one indeed. I can't remember the setup at Red Rocks Cyclery in Morrison, but I believe there are outside racks there. It is more of a waystation along the road for cyclists riding from the Lakewood/Littleton suburbs up into Bear Creek Canyon, up through Red Rocks or MTBing into Matthews Winters/Dinosaur Ridge or Mount Falcon Open Space. And then there is Wheat Ridge Cyclery: they have ample racks, but not on the wall where the customer entrance is located.

I just wonder what kind of bike shop owner doesn't cater to ride-up cyclists, the cyclist patron. Why would a bike shop welcome only customers who arrive in a motor vehicle?

Is there a problem when non-cycling oriented businesses (grocery store, fast food, thrift store) have better bicycle related fixtures than a bike shop?

Wednesday, March 16

Year of the Longtails: Making Room

This afternoon we cleaned out our carport shed and rearranged to make room for the longtails to come.

A quick note on our setup: we bought the house in July. Its a '50s era ranch of about 950 sq ft. There is a small shed in the backyard that was built as a playhouse and really isn't big enough to swing a cat around by the tail inside. I've not tried. I don't really like cats so we don't have one available to use as a test pilot. Might have to try one of the crazed squirrels soon.

Anyway, the carport shed is basically a shallow closet on one side of the carport with a wider section at the end opposite the street. I've had trouble storing the OBS in it. I actually have to take the front wheel off and turn the handlebars sideways to get it to fit at all.

I had considered building a bike garage at one end, but my appropriations committee doesn't really like that idea, so we're going to work with what we've got.

The skis and some other random junk ended up in the playhouse shed and the carport shed is all cleaned out with a wall between the wider and narrower sections removed so at least one bike can just roll in and out without having to be hung up. I'm stoked because that will make life easy with the longer bikes.

I also want to put up a bike rack somewhere outside so we can just lock them up good when we're going to be around but may need the bikes on short notice...say for example: APOCALYPSE!

We're short on storage and there's not much room inside for stowing bikes, but we'll do okay. The problem is going to be when the kids need full sized bikes. I think we may need a proper shed in the future.

Okay, now back to Xtracycle porn.

Tuesday, March 15

Year of the Longtails: Bikenomics

We're counting days now. I'm trying to pin down the final components and cost. It will be soon. I will be insufferable in my Xtracycle love pronouncements. Just prepare yourself.

There will be photos. There will be sickly sweet love poems about my bike. I'll be riding more, thinking less. I may miss work as my commutes extend beyond the office.

For now I am going with the basics. The Cannonball X 1.0 will consist of the FreeRadical ClassicCargo extension w/FreeLoader bags, a new front fork and disc brakes front and rear, and drop bars with the SRAM shift/brake levers from my Giant (RIP). In the future I can (will) add a better saddle (maybe a Brooks!), WideLoaders and the KickBack (kickstand).

I'll make my own StokerBar and seat for the kids and I saw an awesome improv adaptation for rooftop racks for the longer wheelbase bikes while perusing the Xtracycle gallery which will save money because we won't have to buy new rooftop racks.

Mandy's going to go with the Kona Ute (Cute on a Ute). Other than an extra u-lock and a pump she'll be set. We'll add lights and a basket as soon as we can afford them, and I'll make it kid friendly so Lily and/or Boone can ride (on both bikes) but otherwise we'll be set to face higher gas prices, social calamity and new family adventures in bikepacking, bike supported cragging and hardcore bike commuting.

Tonight I blazed home on the OBS. I needed to return some library books and pick up a hold so I rocketed over to the library in Olde Town. Then after dinner we needed butter for our dessert of homemade strawberry shortcake so I was back out again to the grocery store. My total mileage for the day was 23.6 miles. That's not a ton, but its a lot for non-recreational riding. And that was 23.6 miles I did not drive a car. There is the distinct possibility that March 2011 will be my highest mileage month ever. It's the 15th and I have ridden almost 250 miles already.

At a rough estimate of $0.50/mi. to own and operate a motor vehicle I have saved $125 this month easy. I don't participate in or contribute to congestion. I don't have to worry about parking there is one more space every day that I ride. I have only put gas in a tank twice in 2011 that I can remember and I am not contributing to pollution or resource depletion with the same intensity as I have in the past. I can't think of a single negative externality that results from my riding. Of course a die-hard moto-fascist would give you a laundry list.

I came across a phrase in a book recently. The author stated we have entered the "Era of Limits." This concept goes along with Kunstler's idea that the 21st Century will be less about going places and more about staying where you are. And it echoes musician Ben Sollee's sentiment that going by bike is a beautiful limitation.

Elly Blue of Grist has started a series of articles entitled: How Bicycling Will Save the Economy (If We Let It).

In the first installment she talked about the "bicycle economy" and the generalities of bikenomics. One thing I really liked from the first article was this statement:

Bicycle parking is the indicator species of this new economy, with a business's enthusiasm for its two-wheeled clientele being easy to gauge by the quantity of bike racks out front.

And I totally agree. I've found myself, over the past year, sizing up bike racks, sheltered areas where I could lock up a bike and the bicycle friendliness of business, offices and public spaces in general. I can tell what areas of the Denver Metro are truly bicycle friendly. And I find it disturbing that many bike shops don't have bike racks within walking distance of their stores. What kind of bike shop doesn't cater to cyclists?

In Ms. Blue's second piece in the series she makes a bold suggestion, but a valid one, that instead of building more roads we could take the funds for a single mile of freeway in an urban area and fund thousands of miles of high-end bicycle infrastructure. And why not? We all know building more roads only increases traffic and congestion. Why not try a solution that might actually work, instead of beating that poor old dead horse for another year?

I know I am going to continue creating as many positive bicycle externalities as possible in the coming year. How 'bout you?

I'll leave you with one last thought. Elly Blue tweeted after a live Twitter chat on bikenomics today:

My secret mission with #bikenomics isn't to berate you into giving up your car, it's to make you want more than what car-centrism gives us.

I think I can wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment here on the edge of the pavement.

Tuesday Propaganda: Perceptions

I may have graffitied this here previously, but I wanted to elaborate a bit, and perhaps articulate a bit more clearly what I believe about the topic.

On one of my commute options there is a stretch of road that is a four lane divided "parkway" with low traffic and a 30 mph speed limit. I've been using the road for two and a half years to get into Golden from the east. I had only ridden it a few times in "heavier" traffic before I started taking the right lane for the duration to avoid getting smashed by cubiclites in a hurry to park their Audis and Beamers.

When I say low traffic I mean groups of three or four cars spaced two to five minutes apart. The section of road is less than a mile long, so there are days (though rare) when I will only encounter one or two clusters of cars. Heavy traffic would be groups of six or so cars spaced two to three minutes apart. We're not talking gridlock.

Those are the facts. I guess I could sit and do a traffic count one day and verify my numbers, but I'm pretty confident with my extensive experience riding this particular stretch of road that I'm spot on. I find it terribly frustrating that I have to take the lane. There really is no reason I should have to, but it is a stark reality. The few times I've ridden far right I've had the lead car in a pack pass completely in the left lane only to have the next car gun between me and the lead car in the right lane crowding me while accelerating, I've been buzzed by buses, shuttle buses, garbage trucks, said Audis and Beamers, and I was honked at and yelled at almost continuously.

So I experimented one day with taking the entire lane. I ride dead center or slightly left of the hump. I had only discovered the concept of taking the lane and this particular location was my testing ground. The results were positive. I've never ridden far right on this road since. I still get buzzed, I still get honked and yelled at, but the instances are far fewer than before. The majority of drivers pass completely in the left lane and traffic is really not inhibited by my presence. Like I said, the traffic volume is so low my impact is truly minimal.

The perception of my impact to moto-fascists must be gargantuan. With the realities of the low traffic volume, wide road and low speed limit I can't imagine why my presence would invoke such ire. I mean, this is the area where I had a guy pull over in a parking lot and come wheezing out onto the road to confront me as I rode past.

Its this unrealistic perception that makes me think a major social issue (and increasingly socio-economic) is a deeply held sense of entitlement. Its this unhealthy sense of entitlement that pervades our culture that is going to ignite major social calamity when the fun money really runs out. Suburbanites are going to be terribly unhappy when they can no longer watch Two and a Half Men, haul their four wheelers into the wilderness for some drunken fun and when the lights go off. They will loudly proclaim blame on everyone but themselves. The president will be at fault, and Congress, the school board, their obnoxious neighbor down the street, academics, those bastards in Planning & Zoning and that cashier that took their money when they had to pay $10.00 a gallon for gas to fill up their extended cab F250. Unfortunately it will be the poor cashier (and Planners) who get dragged into the street and beaten senseless or maybe worse. Most SuburBubbas won’t have access to the president or their congresspersons to vent their frustrations.

I don't know about the gas station cashiers, but us Planners are going to fight back. Well, at least I will. I'm not going to pretend I haven’t been a part of the problem. But I will defend myself with some justified self-righteousness and say now that I am beginning to understand the true gravity of our situation on Planet Earth I am trying to make a difference by conserving energy and resources. I'm doing my part to keep the TV on and the gas flowing into the tanks of the oblivious hoards who continue burning it with no thought for the future. But I can’t keep quiet about it. I can’t pretend the world isn’t spiraling out of control just to avoid looking like a crazy person or a conspiracy theorist.

Regardless of how much time we have before calamity is imminent, we are heading toward a shortage of all things modern and convenient. Whether I have to face it as the head of my household, or whether my children or their children bear the brunt of the collapse, I cannot ignore it and leave the mess for my heirs to clean up.

Who's with me?

Monday, March 14

Mufflo-fascist Can't Even Cheer Me Up

Ah, suck!

It's been ages since I've had a flat, period. And it's been even longer since I had a flat on a commute (like, two years). And I've NEVER had a flat on a morning commute. There's a first time for everything.

As I was nearing the furthest edge of Denver West...almost home free...two things happened simultaneously: first, I realized there was excessive bounce and drag in each pedal stroke. I looked down to see if my tire looked soft. Before I could visually ascertain what I knew to be true through the use of my proprioceptive sense the second thing happened; namely a jackass redneck in a '70s era Chevy pickup became too impatient to just pass me in the full left lane in the 30mph speed zone and "gunned" what must have been at some time a Chevy V8, probably a 350. This morning it was masquerading as a slant 6 or maybe a 4.5 cyl. Oh, and when he put the pedal to the floor and the truck "surged" forward it sounded like his muffler was going to explode and shoot off over the plains, never to be seen again as it rocketed through the skies toward Kansas. The Mufflo-fascist gave me a scathing glare through the dirty rear window of the truck as he tried to cut me off. The effect was a bit weak, since he barely got up to the posted speed limit. I chuckled even as I scowled back at him.

I stopped just shy of NREL (where the Mufflo-fascist finally came to a stop in a cloud of mortal smog) and checked the tire. Yep, mostly flat. I jammed a few pounds of air into it and took off as fast as I could. I didn’t make it. I finally gave up in Pleasant View, just after turning on 10th Ave and put a new tube in. The stupid "Quick Stik" I had in my saddle bag wasn't so quick. I'd rather have had my tire levers. But alas, I rode the OBS this morning and the levers were in the pannier of the Cannonball at home. Then the tube was welded into the tire. It took me a few minutes to peel it out and then get the new one in. I had taken off my gloves to make the change and by the time I got back on the bike to cover the last mile or so my fingers were numb and I was beginning to feel the cold everywhere else.

Its really hard to jack up your mood when the jack has sunk into the mud and the frame of the beast is firmly resting on terrafirma. I was only 20 minutes late, and no one fussed, but it was still hectic getting in and getting ready. I had to go scrub my hands to try and get the road grime and chain grease off. Foul mood persists even now. In the immortal words of Brenda Ann Spencer: I don't like Mondays.

I want to go home.

Saturday, March 12

Back Where It All Began


We took a trip to Denver today. The weather was gorgeous. The bikes were ready. We pedaled. And pedaled. And pedaled. Oh, how I wanted a longtail bike today.

We went with Boone on the towbar with the trailer jouncing behind. Lily rode in the bike seat on Mandy's bike to Auraria campus where Mandy was meeting Bob of Assisted Cycling Tours for a transition fair there. Lily got in the trailer there and the kids and I took a 9 mile (round trip) side trip to our old haunt of Wash Park. That's where the original idea for this blog was conceived.

Originally the blog was titled "Jersey Guys: Adventures in Idiocy." I quickly dropped the subtitle and changed it to "Jersey Guys: Taking the Lane." When I failed to make a writing career out of banging on the roadies and hipsters I changed the name to what it is now.

The kids played on their old favorite playground for a bit. Then we headed back downtown. The ride along the Cherry Creek Trail (CHT) made me realize I am not biased toward motor vehicles. Apparently there are moto-fascists going upon two-wheels (cyclo-fascists?)in the MUPs of America. We were cut off and almost clipped more times than I could count in three miles. Oh well...

We swung by Salvagetti. Scott gave Boone a shirt with his design on it, a water bottle and a $50 gift card for the store. Boone got a bell for his bike and a new pair of bike gloves. Mandy and I got shirts for ourselves. They were out of Lily's size so we're waiting for the next batch for her.

This year in April is Salvagetti's seven year anniversary. Boone's eighth birthday is in April too. These are the seven year shirts.

After visiting for a few minutes we headed out and took the long way home via the South Platte, Clear Creek and Ralston Creek Trails. It was 17 miles from the Confluence area. By the time we got home Mandy had ridden 28+ miles and the kids and I had gone 37. I was running on fumes by the time we returned to Arvada. The four pancakes I'd had for breakfast had been spent along the way and my legs were watery and my brain was crashing hard.

It was a great day. Everyone had a good time. I'm so itching for a longtail right now...the taxes are out, returns will come shortly. By April we'll all be on new longtails!