Monday, January 31

Discretion and Valor

I bummed a ride in an automobile this morning.

I went out to see what the "freezing rain turning to snow" thing they were blabbering about on TV was all about. I almost fell flat on my face one step from the door.

I went back in the house immediately and said in a clear, loud voice, my head held high:

"I ain't ridin' my bike today!"

It worked out okay, but I've ended up at work an hour early without my bike, and there is supposed to be inches of snow on top of the layer of ice by quitting time.

My lovely chauffeur is going to have to get both kids out in the mess to come get me or I'm going to have to con a co-worker into taking responsibility for my car-hating carcass. I think I can get a ride home.

Sometimes you just have to call it on account of freezing rain...

In the mean time, check out the latest Bike Arvada post, which is essentially a repost from a Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition article which was a repost from a Team Estrogen forum thread.

Friday, January 28

They Made Me Do It...

I really hate politics. I registered as an independent ages ago (almost twenty years now) because I wouldn't choose the lesser of two evils. I am still adamantly as far from the Right and Left as I can stay.

Since 9/11 I have become increasingly...interested in politics. Nah, who am I kidding, I'm not the least bit interested in politics, but since I've been out on my own I've taken an interest in things that affect ME, and after 9/11 I've realized more and more that more and more things actually do affect me directly.

Oh, this post is not going to be about cycling....very much. Instead, it's going to be more anti-oil. And in a roundabout way, in my mind anyway, oil is related to cycling.

The impetus for this post was a Grist post about a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Institute press release.

I'm going to go on record as saying I am in agreement with Mr. Johnson, and add my own rant.

The press release drops this doozy on you right off the bat:

"Raising taxes on the industry [Big Oil] that fuels our lives shows a profound detachment from our energy and economic reality. This proposal, along with the effort to stall both current and future development of energy in the Gulf of Mexico & Alaska, will harm our economy and make us even more dependent on foreign oil."


It's bad to expect Big Oil to pay their fair share of the costs of doing business? They've made us dependent on the supplies of cheap oil they provide, but they have no answer for the question "what happens when the oil runs out?" And the US citizenry has paid for the infrastructure which makes possible the "growth" big corporation, especially Big Oil, have enjoyed mostly free and clear for decades. Those gigantic oil companies could not have glutted themselves so completely on our collective natural resources if not for the vast public works that have been created for mutual benefit. Why not expect them to give back a significant portion of their earnings to offset the costs?

The profound detachment displayed is by those who deny that we are addicted to oil with the same ramifications of drug addiction.

We must first accept that we have a problem. We do. The problem isn't one of economics. Our economic roller coaster ride is a symptom of the addiction. Oil is the drug of choice.

In the State of the Union our president said:

I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don't know if -- I don't know if you've noticed, but they're doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's.


They are "doing just fine on their own" at our expense. Big Oil has been sucking the lifeblood out of the rest of the country for too long. Looking to Big Oil's health to determine the health and vitality of the national economy is like taking he vampire's pulse to see how his victim is doing.

It baffles me how no one in government can agree with anyone else about what our real problems are and what viable solutions to those problems would be.

Oil is finite. Instead of driving on, full speed ahead, indefinitely, we need to get off the oil teat NOW. The US needs to focus on radical reductions in our petroleum usage.

The main problem is that oil has historically been a HUGE cash cow for a minority for decades, and those few who are used to the unrestricted flow of wealth directly into their pockets have set up the game in their favor. The greed of a few is going to result in social calamity for all.

Right now oil is cheap. But predictions for just a few short months ahead are that gas prices are going to rise. And with so many out of work and struggling to pay the bills gas at $5.00/gal. or more will wreak economic and political havoc. When gas prices skyrocket food prices skyrocket, heating and electricity generation go up, plastic widgets are more expensive, fees goes up, your monthly bills go up.

Until everyone...EVERYONE accepts that oil is the diminishing lifeblood of our way of life, and accepts that it is going to start running out sooner than later we are living the denial of a coke addict on the verge of overdose.

In this country we are so locked into the mentality that the car is king that we are unwilling to relinquish out tight-fisted grip on our car keys for any reason.

To paraphrase Kunstler, in the future the scale of our economy and culture is going to be local rather than global because the living arrangement we've built up since WWII is no longer going to be sustainable.

Hallelujah! I said it! They drove me to it!

Political rant over...

Go ride your bike.

A Trip to Olde Town

Recently I took my daughter to the library in Olde Town. We rode north to the Ralston Creek Trail and then headed east toward Olde Wadsworth Blvd.

First off, why the heck has the City of Arvada denuded Ralston Creek from Garrison almost all the way to Carr Street?


















The tree service guys had the trail completely blocked at Carr Street, but no signage indicating that an alternate route should be chosen.

I've answered my own question with a quick visit to the City's website. Apparently the complete clear cutting of trees along the creek is for floodplain mitigation.

I'm not going to go on my "shouldn't have built in the floodplain in the first place" rant. Suffice it to say I think the tree removal scheme is cockamamie.

Anyway, we turned south off of the RCT onto Olde Wadsworth and headed up the hill. I'm comfortable riding on Olde Wadsworth in traffic, but when I saw the "Bike Route" sign indicating a route to the west on W. 59th. I decided I'd give it a try, see if the Bike Route would be a viable option to riding up the hill on Olde Wadsworth, as the bike lane there ended and traffic lanes narrowed.

A block after turning onto W. 59th the "Bike Route" is directed back onto the RCT. An endless feedback loop?

In the graphic below our direction of travel is indicated with blue arrows, the signage for the Bike Route indicated in green.


















I'm not sure what the intent is with the proposed Bike Route. If the route directs southbound bike traffic on Wadsworth onto the RCT, why wouldn't it just put you there at Marilyn Jean (Monroe?)? Maybe the intent is to keep cyclists busy while motorists go on about their happy truckin'.

Of course I turned south on Van Voorhis and returned to Olde Wadsworth to cross Ralston Road into Olde Town. We had an elderly lady in a Cadillac buzz us. She stopped at the red light at Ralston so I pulled up beside her open window and said:

"That was a little too close."

"Oh..." was her reply. She didn't seem like she was gonna beat herself up over it. I'm certain if I had passed her walking her schnauzer in the middle of the RCT on my bike she'd have called me nasty names and painted me three shades of red to her bridge club.

Despite our ob-stacles the Bean and I reached the liberry unscathed. We followed a young man on a Diamondback to the front door. We hitched up to the hitching post as he was dropping his books in the return out front.

U-lock and cable in place I was turning around to shoo Beanie into the liberry and the young man pointed to the Cannonball and asked:

"Do you climb?"

"I do..did! Not so much in the past four years," I nodded at the Bean, "but I used to climb a lot."

"Well, with the La Sportiva, Misty Mountain and Sterling Ropes stickers..." he pointed at my frame again.

I chuckled. Those stickers are about 15 years old.

Turns out he climbs some himself and is interested in learning traditional (trad) climbing. I gave him a Bike Arvada card and suggested he email me sometime and we'd go climbing.

He lives in Wheat Ridge, but comes to the Arvada liberry because it's closer to where he lives and has a better selection.

We wished him a good day and went on in the building. I had requested Twilight in the Desert by Matthew Simmons, and Beaner got a Wiggles movie and a book about fruit written in Spanish.

Before leaving town we nailed up a "Bike Arvada" flyer at the kiosk out by Olde Wadsworth. We sat at a table enjoying the sunshine for a few minutes and then I texted Mandy to let her know we were in town. I knew she'd be coming through shortly.

The Silly one wanted to go into the Army-Navy store (chip off the old blockhead) so we went in to browse. Mom showed up a few minutes later so we did a family browse before heading home.

We actually beat Mandy and Gump to our street. As she got out of Forester she said matter-of-fact: "I guess you proved we never should drive downtown again."

And I guess we did.

Thursday, January 27

Hang My Head in Shame

The new section of MUP ("Shared Use" on the City of Golden website) is not called the "Highway 93 Trail" but instead it is the "Highway 6 Trail." S'UP?

The confusion (and lack of adequate research) is mine. I will make amends by NOT going back and changing every instance in the past few weeks where I referenced "The 93."

Going forth I will henceforth forthwith call it The Six.

Highway 93 spans 18.8 miles between Boulder and Golden, on the south end ceasing to exist at it's junction with State Highway 58 and US 6 (Clear Creek Canyon). US 6 turns south and melds into 6th Avenue just outside my non-existent window.

See, this bothers me because I am, by nature (and not so much by education) a Geographer. I take pride in knowing the names of locations and locations of things with names. I should have known!

Anyway, tonight I will transverse The Six...or do you think because of its inherent brevity it should be THE SIX...and make for Arvada.

There Are Nice Jersey Guys

I had the brief opportunity to chat with another cyclist this morning in Golden, while waiting for the light at 10th Ave and Ford Street. He was already at the light, paused in the left turn lane when I pulled up. He was an older gentleman, a Jersey Guy, but amiable enough.

"How are you this fine morning?" He called cheerfully.

"Great! How about yourself?"

He agreed he was doing well.

"It's a good day to be out and about," I added.

He agreed, and then added: "Tomorrow is going to be even better."

Then he nodded, indicating Mount Zion ahead of us to the west. "I guess I'm going to ride up that mountain."

"I wish I could," I pined, "I've got a schedule to keep."

"We-ell, I don’t have that problem." He grinned awfully big behind his gray beard.

"I've been thinking about leaving early tomorrow and ride up there myself," pointing in the direction of Mount Zion, "take advantage of the good weather."

"You should!" He encouraged.

Then the light changed and we bade each other a good day and pedaled down two different roads. It was interesting, because I rarely get a change to talk to other cyclists on my commutes. I see many, especially when the weather is good, but rarely do I exchange more than a "Hey!" and a slight wave.

Carried the camera along this morning to capture some of the aspects of the new alternative component of my commute, The 93. Might also shed some light on The Elk Incident from last night.


Does this look dangerous to you?


The Amiable Jersey Guy with Mt Zion beyond


Elephant graveyard or Golden RV Park?


I think I threw up a little in my mouth...


The (New) 93, apparently you're supposed to ride backward up the hill. Whatever...


In case 300' of steep climbing wasn't enough




The scene of the Elk Incident last night


Just for fun...blegh!

Wednesday, January 26

Elk

This is one use I was not expecting on the MUP today:



Along the busy section of highway 93 between 19th Street (Lookout Mountain Rd) and Jefferson County Parkway, some governing agency (most likely CDOT) has created a pathway for wildlife to cross the four lane divided road. They've erected tall fencing along a very long stretch of road with only one major break, complete with flashing lights, a "crosswalk" for wildlife and the obligatory deer and elk crossing signs.

Tonight as I headed home I decided I'd take The 93 all the way to the CCT instead of shortcutting down Illinois. To be honest, I haven't had a chance to descend the "Steep Trail Next 1300 Feet" section of the new section of MUP, and I wanted a reason to scream like a school-girl on my commute home tonight.

I passed the Illinois cutoff and began climbing the first rolling hill which is the one where the "crosswalk" is located and I saw a cluster of elk at the top of the hill, silhouetted against the darkening sky, and standing in the middle of The 93.

A Golden police officer was parked on 93 proper and as I slowed to a stop he suggested I wait as they were going to stop traffic to let the elk cross. I wasn't going to argue. The smallest of them, presumably a calf, or pup or kid, whatever you call a juvenile elk, was still big enough to give the Cannonball a good thrashing.

Time moved on. No stopping of traffic occurred for many long minutes. I considered retreating to IL, but really didn't want to back track. The elk, sensing absolutely nothing of what was going on, began to amble away from the gap in the high fence and clustered on the right half of the path.

Finally the police officer moved his car forward, lights winkin' and blink' and all the traffic (ALL the traffic, A LOT OF TRAFFIC) stopped. The elk bunched up, huddling, perhaps to throw together a plan of attack. Then they broke up a little, peed on the trail and then continued to loiter in the middle of the way as if to say, "Uh, we're just gonna hang out here. You guys can go on about your business."

I wanted to just go on. No one was coming to herd them through the opening. I was downhill and on the side of the opening from them, so if I had moved forward or made noise I would only have shooed them away from the crossing. I didn't want to be charged with obstructing the migration of wildlife, so I stayed put.

Finally the elk decided the grass was greener on the side they were already on and they casually stampeded over each other for a few yards and then stopped. It seems this was a pre-arranged signal between the elk and police officers to indicate something because as they moved on down the trail (where I needed to go) the police car moved onto the shoulder letting traffic flow again and the officer blatted his siren at the elk a few times.

This seemed to confuse the elk (Uh, what seems to be the problem occifer?). So they stopped in the trail. By this time I had creeped to the top of the hill and was looking down on the whole docu-drama below. I tried to calculate how fast I would need to go to buzz the elk without alerting or startling them until I was almost past. I was confident once I was mostly past that they would move away from me. What I was afraid of was that if they saw me before I got past they have may become less confused and decide they were done monkeying around and get down to the business of stomping on me. They did have juveniles in tow after all.

I paused near the police car and the officer got out and motioned me on.

"You can go on," he said with a grin.

"I know," I replied," They're just a whole lot bigger than me!"

He chuckled. I didn't really think it was funny.

In the end I waited until they were all moving away from me toward a break in the fence on opposite the road and I jumped on the pedals. They ran away across the prairie grass and I continued toward my less than epic descent.

It was anti-climactic.

After that it felt like "Ramming Speed Friday" but the sucky thing is that I have to go back to work tomorrow.

Are YOU Addicted to Oil?

Okay, so based on commonly understood signs and symptoms of drug addiction I'm going to help you, loyal reader, determine if you are addicted to oil. I will also apply this rubric to my own lifestyle choices and make changes where appropriate. I have come to realize that oil dependency and our auto-centric lifestyles have much bigger impacts than I had previously paid attention to.

If you only read one (secular) book this year, read James Howard Kunstler's The Long Emergency. This is the first non-fiction post-apocalyptic book I've read, and if you don't think Kunstler's view of what could potentially happen in the world then don't bother taking the oil addiction quiz. You're going to be blindsided when the OD comes anyway.

Give yourself a point for each positive answer (YES).

1. Can you (or do you) sit for long periods of time in your car, either moving or not, on a daily basis?

2. If you go too long without making a car trip do you find an excuse to "go to town" or "go out for a bit"?

3. Does your life seem to revolve around driving and getting places on the roads? Are you always "on the go"?

4. Have you seemed to abandon activities that you enjoy such as exercise and sports, hobbies which require physical effort? Do you choose the the elevator over the stairs?

5. Even when gas prices are high and there are negative news stories about oil dependency and depletion, do you continue driving for asinine reasons (to go rent a movie, hang out at the mall or make a third trip to the grocery store in one day)?

6. Do you get angry when you find yourself back in the car fighting traffic, but do not turn around and go back home immediately?

7. Do you have high stress levels related to traffic, road rage and vehicle maintenance and upkeep? Do you have stress-related weight gain in conjunction with auto-related stress?

8. Are you making payments on a car and the related insurance and continually unable to make payments at the same time other personal finances suffer?

9. Is your life arranged completely around places that are only easily accessed by automobile? Can you walk to school, work, the store, church, the movies, etc., or do you have to get in your car for EVERYTHING? Do you need your car to accomplish simple tasks, such as mailing a letter, getting groceries or visiting friends?

10. Do you occasionally ignore common traffic laws, such as coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, stopping for ALL red lights, exceeding the speed limit (even one mile an hour over)?

Your total ____


Let's go on the standard (at least when I was there) public school grading system in reverse. (Warning: no actual science went into the creation of this quiz)

9-10 points is failing. F. You lose. You’re addicted to oil. You're part of the problem and will be up against the wall with the Oil Barons like Dick Cheney when the revolution comes. PS: You are a moto-fascist.

7-8 points: D. You're mostly addicted, but there's still hope for you. You might have been salutatorian of your high school class, but you’re guzzling from the oil well like just about everyone else. Don't worry, you’re probably "average" in your oil consumption. Someone will be over later to drain your gas tank and cut your brake lines.

5-6 points: C. Middle of the road, you aren't addicted, but you sure are doing your fair share of damage to the environment and you’re approaching rock star levels of consumption. Throw your car keys down a storm drain before its too late. Did you remember to take your house key off first? You are a "C" student after all.

3-4 points: B. Congratulate yourself for making better choices, but don't pat yourself on the back. You might hit your headrest or drop your cell phone.

1-2 points: Yay! You get an A. Do you want a cookie or something? Take that last step. Sell you car. Or better yet, roll it off a high cliff into a deep pool in the river. Make sure to get all your epithelials off first.

0 points: You live in the Amazon and probably don’t have computer access to take this quiz. You might survive the apocalypse anyway.

So how do you kick oil addiction? Easy, you don't. We can't. Fossil fuel use permeates our culture to its very bones.

Everything we use, abuse and throw away each and every day in American is somehow dependent on oil to fulfill its purpose.

I could have added a few more criteria but I wanted to keep the math simple (for myself). If you can answer yes to the following questions give yourself more points and understand you will be poorly prepared for apocalypse.

11) Do you deny there is a shortage of oil in the world?

12) Do you vehemently defend your right to drive your Hummer?

13) Do you have a bumper sticker that reads "One More Car"?

14) Do you think the suburbs are America's hope and future?

PS, for my upcoming birthday (37th!) please help me get to 5,000 total pageviews for FPE. As of 4:15pm 1/26/11 we are holding at 4,913. Less than a hundred views to go! If the current viewing rate continues I should have 5,000 by the end of tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 25

Ohm...Ohm...

I spoke of a hypothetical situation in my previous post: that I could ride all but 2.2 miles of my commute completely on bike paths. I say hypothetical because before this morning I had never described that exact path in one complete commute.

I typically take some shortcuts here and there that involve short stretches of road, especially in Golden. And until recently I had not ridden the new part of the highway 93 path at all.

This morning I decided to put the rubber to the road, so to speak, and I rode down to the CCT and then made a sharp right hand turn, where-whence I commenced to ride almost to the western terminus of said CCT. Forthwith I made another hard turn, though leftward at this point and headed south, directly into the blazing sun and upward, upward, climbing the steeply new (or newly steep, or steep and new, or new though steep) highway 93 path and then followed it all the way to work.

Y'know, my stress level was pretty low in a comparative sense. It was a nice (if time consuming) ride. It only took me an hour and a half. But by sticking to the bike paths wherever possible you incur a lot more climbing around Golden. It's an okay trade: more climbing for less stress.

As I crawled up the steepest portion of the…geez, I'm already tired of calling it 'the highway 93 path' repeatedly. How about The 93? Good…as I crawled up the steepest portion of The 93 I couldn't help but let my gaze fall to the west upon the eastern slopes of Mount Zion and the thin ribbon of Lookout Mountain Road zig-zagging across the tilted prairie up there.

It's been too long. I'm in need of a Lookout Mountain - Mount Vernon Canyon loop ride in the near future.

Here is the CCT - 93 connection:



Monday, January 24

Summits Galore

I'd love to be able to go to the National Bike Summit in D.C. in March. As it is, I may have the opportunity to attend one day of the Colorado Bike Summit in February. It's in Denver, and I'd be able to ride my bike to it.

I'd love to go to both days, but money is tight. If the tax man would bring us the bags of money we're expecting I could swing it, but there's no way that's going to happen in time.

So I'll either get to go one day or I won't. If I don't I will most definitely plan on going next year and figure that into the transportation budget for Team FPE.

Lately I've been avoiding the roads more often than not, and my blogging fodder has started to dry up. I need some bike vs. car action to get the keys a-tappin'!

Okay, not really...

It's been nice to have low-stress commutes. I really can't complain. And now that Golden has completed the highway 93 MUP from 19th down to Clear Creek I am fortunate enough to be able to ride off-street for the majority of my commute if I so desire. By sticking solely to the paths when I have the chance I am taking a longer route (by about 3 miles) but my heart rate only gets up when I start climbing from Clear Creek wa-ay up to 19th.

That route is just shy of 13 miles with only 2.2 miles on street. About 3/4 of a mile of the on street sections is very low traffic as well. I have to get from our house down to the CCT, which is about 1.5 miles, and then the CCT takes me all the way to the hwy 93 MUP which goes all the way to work. There's a section of the CCT that utilizes 2-3 blocks of street to connect sections of trail.

I can vary my route enough that I never really get bored. Since I discovered the new hwy 93 section I've only ridden it twice. It's usually more expedient to cut through the School of Mines campus on Illinois, but this morning I decided to take the MUP. I pedaled along the CCT past the Golden City offices and then the RV park. With the famous Clear Creek on my left and the RV park on the right I felt like I was recreating instead of commuting.

It was slightly disappointing to pass gargantuan RVs with full sized Hummers parked next to them. Seems like there was a day when the RVers pulled small compact cars behind their motor homes to runabout town. But these days they must figure they need some serious firepower to defend the oil reserves required to keep their behemoths guzzling.

Oh well...

Dependency and Addiction

The higher foothills were wrapped in snowy goodness this morning. Y'know, those misty clouds over already fallen snow with the promise of lots more…made me want to pedal right on past work, up Mount Vernon Canyon, through Bergen Park and on up Squaw Pass Road and beyond. But alas! They would stop paying me if I stopped showing up. I am a whore that way.

I started working a little more diligently on my magnum opus yesterday. It's going to be bike-centric and slightly anti-automobile and anti-suburban sprawl. I wish I had a cabin in said foothills where I go could go and just hang out as the snow fell (either softly or in a blowing manner), read and write books, wander out into the woods, stoke the fire, ride a bike when the snow is gone and snowshoe or ski the rest of the time. I'm anti-social that way. Other than my family I prefer my doses of society in teaspoon droppers, infrequently and even then only through the internet.

Like I keep saying: I'm not saving for my retirement; I'm holding out for the apocalypse. I think the prospect of my retirement and the potential for social calamity resulting in apocalypse are neck and neck. Why fight it?

Anyway, what does all this have to do with cycling? Everything I guess. If I were a professional writer (you couldn't tell?) I'm sure I would have drifted toward cycling related writing long ago. If I could have been self employed and/or worked from home long ago I think I would have gone fully over to a carless lifestyle much earlier in my life. I've honestly been trying for…well, ever. My first job slinging hay for local farmers involved me commuting by bike to the farms where I worked. I was fifteen. When I first went to college my car stayed behind with a busted motor until Christmas break. By then I was so used to riding my bike around Nashville I didn't stop just because I had a car. And then when I went to photography school in Dayton I was facing the death of my car so I relied almost completely on my bike (the Trusty Cannonball) through an Ohio winter.

It was only while I lived in Kentucky and was in school that I was unable to use my bike as my primary mode of transportation. As I look back on my life as a grown human being I am beginning to see more and more that I have been a cyclist all along, with short periods of dependency on the car, instead of a motorist with short periods of dependency on the bike.

The only time in my life I wasn't more trusting in two wheels over four was my years 16 to 18 when I was completely infatuated with the car for its own sake.

As I mature I see more and more value in stepping away from the car for good. It can happen.

Friday, January 21

Ramming Speed Friday

In the no-man's land (mainly occupied by women joggers with their dogs) between Coors and I-70 along the CCT my knobby tires sang to me as they whined along on the smooth saw-cut concrete of the trail surface.

Howling east, with a mean western tailwind, I cranked solidly as the light seeped from the sky. I glided through turns, full of faith that all the snow and ice was gone. Or at least hoping The Laser would burn it off ahead of me.

I was not on the Cannonball. I was not on a rocket. I was astride the OBS. Ah, the Orange Blossom Special! My "slow" bike.

I think I've finally got it adjusted perfectly for me, and I finally got a good dry day to open 'er up. Who am I kidding? Today wasn't my first opportunity to pound on the OBS, but for some reason today was the first day it seemed like it responded with real speed.

I had been worried that my intention of riding it in the 2012 Leadville 100 was folly, that it's sloth would prohibit me from obtaining a glorious belt buckle. The ride home tonight gave me hope.

In unrelated advocacy news, there is a remote possibility...nah, not going to give up this secret just yet.

Anyway, hope you get out and ride this weekend wherever you are. I think I probably will.

Please read the proposed (by Rep. Andy Kerr (D) a fellow Cub Scout dad) Colorado Open Roads Act.

Plans Within Plans and Planners

We're going to do a lot with our tax return this year. Pay for college for two kids, add on to the house, get Lasik for us four-eyes in the family, get a big screen TV, but a new belt drive touring bike, take a vacation, buy world peace, buy happiness, get a subscription to Hummers Weekly, and hopefully, if there's enough left over and our bills are paid: buy an Xtracycle kit and (FINGERS CROSSED!!!) a Kona Ute for Mandy.

Got the ole W-2 today and it's weird, it shows I make far less than I thought I did. Poverty! (I'm crying it)

But between the mortgage we don’t want and the mortgage we don’t want hopefully we'll get a big tax break (since we really don’t get much other relief or compensation) and we can pay some bills and upgrade our transportation situation to two long bikes.

My pipe dream is that some day we can go completely carless. I think we can do it. But at the moment it would be difficult, and only possible under extreme duress. But as it is, we really can’t afford to replace Gump, our 250,000+ mile Forester, with another car, so our best option is to replace Gump forthwith with a vehicle we can maintain and repair at a much reduced price.

In fact, the more we bike and avoid using Gump, the longer he's gonna last us anyway. I guess that is one good impetus for going carless, but still owning a car. The car will last a whole heckuva lot longer, and it will always look like someone's home.

Something I've realized is that our storage situation may become critical if we end up with two long bikes. As it is, we don’t have storage for one. It's not that we have a ton of crap, we just don’t have a lot of room.

So I have been planning in my head (I am a planner after all) an enclosed addition to our carport. I think I could do it relatively cheaply and add what is basically a garage for two long bikes and accessories. Shouldn't cost too much, and since I'm in permit review the permitting process should be on par for brain damage.

One a side note, and a word of warning: if you want to sleep at night, and be motivated to go about your daily business, DO NOT read any Kunstler, Ruppert or Simmons. Stay away from anything that describes Peak Oil and its aftermath, and for crying out loud, don't read Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Don't watch A Crude Awakening, The Future of Food, Collapse or any other documentaries that outline the impending doom we have built up for ourselves with our happy-go-lucky Global Economy.

Thursday, January 20

Snow Day Musings

I sit wrapped around a steaming mug of Kona and The Bean munches on a bagel with cream cheese. The only thing that would make the scene better would be the ambiance of a coffee shop. But alas! We were up at 4am this morning and are lacking adequate rest to be out cavorting in the snow. And if we had gotten the appropriate amount of sleep last night I'd be at work and Lily would be at the babysitter's.

As it is- she's winding up, and I'm winding down. I hate to say it, but I may need a nap before lunch. And I'm mostly useless now, with only the ambition to switch on Netflix, but I know it will lull me to sleep like a ball-peen hammer to the occipital lobe.

What is more interesting to me is that through my sleepy fog I'm still scheming a bike ride. I keep thinking I could hitch up the InStep to the Cannonball, wrap Silly Bean in a couple blankets and strike out on the open (but snow-covered) trail.

Our last cycling adventure is too far away. We need another to get the old heart pumping. Warm weather is too far off to pin a goal there. We need an adventure NOW. I've camped in winter many times, so that prospect doesn't dissuade my ambitions.

As a Boy Scout I slept in a sagging pup tent and Kmart sleeping bag in four inches of water on a "winter" campout in southwestern Ohio. The only thing that kept us from a snowy versus a rainy campout was about three degrees. We had many other winter campouts through my years in Scouts. In fact, I don't remember very many summer campouts. My sleeping bag nostalgia revolves around shivering, frosty coke-bottle glasses and the smell of dirty woodsmoke in everything I owned. I remember being cold a lot.

Maybe that's why I like cold weather. I think my adolescence desensitized me to the adverse effects of winter weather. I actually enjoy cold mud, bone-bare tree branches under gray skies and the promise of significant frozen precipitation.

I'm getting the hang of this winter riding too. Like I said previously- I'm not sure why I've waited so long to embrace winter riding, especially commuting. I like physical challenges, especially those that involve snow and ice.

One of the highlights of each winter we lived in Ohio was the Klondike Derby. Each patrol in our troop had a derby team and the race involved pushing an 80 pound sled from station to station along a course laid out around the local Scout camp, tackling challenges to gain points while racing against the clock. Most years we pushed, pulled and wrestled the sleds through mud, though occasionally we were fortunate enough to have snow on the ground to ease our passage.

Talk about human powered transportation! The big challenge every year was a massive (by Buckeye standards) steep hill at the end of the course. It was basically a dirt cliff that each team had to surmount with their laden sleds.

I remember getting into an inter-team tuffle one year, and the picture that stands out in my mind is of Dennis W., tossing a mudball from hand to hand, tears streaming down filthy cheeks as he threatened retribution against the teammate (can't remember who) that had blasted him in the face with a frozen mudball. Somehow we managed to de-escalate the situation and wrangle the sled to the top of the hill.

Our mothers must have dreaded the heroic, if somewhat mudcaked, return each year.

Because I endured the trials of Boy Scouts in the context of dreary Midwestern winters I think I really am suited, and perhaps predisposed, to winter adventures. The only thing holding me back today is that my children are four (IN THREE DAYS!) and seven. They're really not old enough yet to truly enjoy the suffering I fully intend to subject them to in just a few short years.

Wednesday, January 19

Multiple Loss-of-Traction Events and Noxious Gases

Snowy, slippery ride home tonight, fraught with fun.

My boss (same one who shuttled me last week) offered me a ride home. I said I was okay. Looking outside I saw a thin layer of snow and figured it wouldn't be too bad.

I got out the door, pedaled to the short but steep sidewalk that gets you to the bike path along 93 and slid sideways. I had to walk up to the bike path and remount there.

I could tell it was really slick and creeped over to JC Parkway. The snow was coming down fast in heavy flakes. The temperature was 19F when I left work.

Crossing at the main road before the descent into Golden I had to meander around an SUV that was blocking the cross walk. I took a dive in the road there.

After two loss-of-traction events I was slowly rolling down the steep bike path to Illinois Street. I traversed the quiet street over to 19th and then onto the Mines campus. I continued on Illinois knowing I was approaching a really steep and potentially super-slick hill. Sure enough, it was snot-like. I eased down as a car sat immobile facing up the hill. I was thankful the driver chose to sit still as I passed, and I worried another car would come down behind me and not be able to stop. But I had my own problems.

Near the bottom of the steepest part I had a third loss-of-traction event and went down on my belly, nose down and sliding down the hill. I didn't go far, but I had enough time to contemplate my predicament before I came to a rest.

It was tricky to get back on my feet, right the bike and continue to flatter ground. At that point I knew I needed to stop and let Mandy know it was going to take me awhile to get home, and to call back to the office and warn my remaining coworkers about the road conditions.

I continued on until I was under the Washington Street bridge on the CCT. I made my calls and put on my shell and steeled myself to get out of Golden onto the open path beyond.



The trip out of town was relatively uneventful but still slick. I managed to get some speed once I crossed 58 and for quite awhile I managed a consistent and respectable speed. After the giant pringle cans I noticed my rear derailer was starting to freeze up. Ugh!

The light was fading fast and the snow was coming down hard. I had changed from my wretched motorcycle goggles to my sunglasses. They don't fog at all, but it was dark enough I was having trouble seeing the path, even with The Laser. The snow was piling up on the path as I got into the no-man's land between McIntyre (the pringle cans) and I-70.

As I approached I-70 I was in a zone, listening to the crunch of my tires and the squeal of the ice building up under my rear fender, and then suddenly I was passed by another cyclist!

Immediately I was overwhelmed by a noxious cloud of gas. Geez Dude! I don't know what you had for lunch, but it's really rude to expel toxic fumes as you're passing another cyclist.

He cranked on, Elmira Gulch style, despite the slickery conditions and when he was a few yards ahead of me I slammed into another noxious cloud. If you're going to pass another cyclist, please refrain from passing anything else...

He veered off a few minutes later and I was glad he took his gastro-intestinal distress in a different direction.

The light faded further and I switched The Laser from strobe to solid beam. I planned on stopping under the bridge at Kipling near the Wheat Ridge Rec Center to put on my clear goggles (foggy or no) and text Mandy to let her know I was still okay.



It was nice and dry under the bridge and I got a much needed respite. I sent my text and was going to change eyewear, but the goggles fogged up even before I could get back on the bike. I gave up and went naked (my eyes) as I headed on toward home.

I made it on with no real problems after that. I worried as a I pedaled along Garrison that some goofball would slide into me in their coffee cup holder on wheels. But no one did and I rolled relatively unscathed into my driveway an hour and a half after leaving work.

Ta-DA!

The last couple of miles the snow built up rather thickly between my rear wheel and fender. As if I needed added resistance to make the ride interesting...





I've already gotten the OBS out for the ride in in the morning.

When People Should Behave

So I've got to chime in on the New York City proposal to ban headphones for cyclists. Everybody's got their opinion, so I'm going to try to point out some facts that apply to both cars and bicycles. After reading the recent Streetsblog article I started thinking, and of course, because I'm a cyclist first and a motorist second I see it a little more clearly from outside the dirty windshield that separates motorists and cyclists.

In response to the Schaufler quote in the Bike Portland post I would have to stop and point out that when he says he saw the guy wearing headphones and thought "He could get run over" that statement is a car problem, not a bike problem. "He could get run over" by what? Another cyclist wearing headphones? A pedestrian? An elephant? No, a motorist. If the cyclist was riding intelligently and responsibly BUT wearing headphones and he was struck from behind by a car, would wearing headphones or not wearing headphones really have any bearing on the outcome? Not as much as if he were using a rearview mirror, or had better rear lighting, or if the driver hadn't been Brett-Farving to his girlfriend at the time.

It's like the helmet issue. Wearing a helmet has no effect on the likelihood of actually getting struck by a car. By mandating helmet use, seat belt use, vehicle insurance and prohibiting the use of headphones government is protecting travelers FROM OTHER TRAVELERS, not themselves.

I suspect that Greenlick's proposal is similarly geared, not to protect children from falls on the bike, but from being on the bike when it is struck by a motorist. Again, the danger comes from people who should be taking more responsibility behind the wheel.

By mandating these things to protect us from others government ignores the true root of the problem: negligence, recklessness and irresponsible behavior by those that drive motor vehicles. If we as a society really wanted to make roads safer we would outlaw eating, putting on make-up, curling hair (I saw it with my own tow eyes!), cell phones, talking to passengers and of course, the bass-thumping radios. I'm not proposing we actually do all those things, but somehow we need for drivers to be MORE accountable for their actions, instead of putting the burden on all the potential victims out there.

And then we come to an issue I've had for many, many years. We give licenses to people when they are absolutely least capable of driving and acting responsibly upon the roadways. A sixteen year old has social, biological and emotional pressures tugging and pushing at them until they have no way of giving anything the proper attention it deserves, most definitely not the fluid, dynamic, high-speed environment of the road. Teenagers are not responsible or mature enough to have free reign of the roads.

I can say that with complete authority. I was allowed free reign of the road from sixteen on, and it is only by the grace of God that I didn't kill myself or others. In retrospect it would have been best if, along with all my peers, I had not been allowed to get my license at sixteen but instead after high school was over. Maybe even later for some...

That's the other issue, it is far too easy to get a driver's license. It's too easy to get one and too easy to keep one. How many stories have you heard about someone who has multiple DUIs and either still has a driver's license or somehow manages to keep driving for a long time after losing their license? The feeling of entitlement to cars in our culture is sickening to me. If you are a menace on the road then you SHOULD NOT be entitled to your happy motoring. It really should be a privilege that comes from exhibiting responsible behavior. And when you cease behaving on the road, motorist or cyclist, then you should lose the privilege.

Having said all that, let me conclude by saying that I think wearing a helmet is a good idea and not wearing headphones while riding is a good idea. But there are times I deem it okay not to wear my own helmet, and sometimes I really want the headphones to block out the world. For me these are judgment calls and I feel that as a 30 year cyclist and 21 year motorist I have ample judgment to know when it's a reasonable risk to not wear a helmet or to put the ear buds in.

Franken-Cannon-Stein-Ball X

I've had a thought, and good that I've had it now, even if I don’t take advantage of my genius when the time comes I can still say I considered the possibility and chose not to take that advantage.

As you know, faithful reader(s), I have big plans to convert my mild mannered Cannonball into the Cannonball X: a mean, long-tailed haulin' machine. It occurred to me within the last few days that I could convert the old Cannonball over to disc brakes at the same time. Oh yeah! I said it.

Dave Lutes, were he dead, would be turning over in his grave. He pestered me for years to get front shocks and disc brakes for the old metal monster. In fact, when he did the complete overhaul of the bike way back in 2006 or so, I fully expected to get it back looking like some Jersey Guy's mountain bike. As far as I know Dave is still pedaling, so please, don’t tell him what I'm about to tell you.

I'm not going with front suspension (though I briefly considered that option too) but I think I may go with at least rear disc brakes initially, and if not at first, then down the road a few months maybe make the change over to front disc brakes as well.

The impetus for this is when I realized it would be easy enough to get the Free Radical kit with disc brakes as opposed to V brakes. And then I realized I could swap out the OBS's wheels until I could afford a second dedicated set. Oh, it would be inconvenient at times, but I never ride both bikes at the same time, so it wouldn’t be that big a deal.

Then I got to thinking about what it would take to convert the front to disc. I've been pondering going from a threaded headset to threadless. A former co-worker gave me a drop handlebar a long time ago (before he left for Montana) after a conversation where I contemplated going commuter with the then MTB iteration of the Cannonball. The catch is I can't just swap out handlebars, so I need to do the threaded-to-threadless thing and then use the stem from the Giant (RIP). If I am going to go to all that trouble it might just make more sense to find a cheap threadless fork on craigslist that will readily accept disc brakes.

In my fuzzy knowledge of bike components it seems as if this would be the best way to go, but I'm slightly uncertain if all the metal parts will fit well together. Looks like I'm going to be harassing some bike shop guy soon. And then I could just glean the almighty internet. But you know how that goes. You've got to paw around in the gross stuff on top until you find clean water beneath. I've been fairly fortunate with bike related stuff though. Once I get the vernacular right I usually find what I'm looking for pretty quick.

So there you have it, my continuing Frankenstein scheme aimed at my beloved Cannonball…

Hope I have photos to share soon.

Saturday, January 15

Results of the (Winter) Commuter Hardship Challenge 2011

Here it is short and sweet...

How I met (or not) my goals:

Showered at home every day. Wore works pants to ride and took shirt in backapck.

I stored the bike inside in the stairwell every day except Friday when I forgot my cable lock.

I didn't use any cycling specific clothing all week and only used my pannier on Friday.

I blew the goal of riding new routes. It's okay though, I guess the reasoning behind that was to simulate the learning curve of a new commuter and I've gone through that over the past three years anyway. I've had four different points of origin to reach the same destination and I guess I know the Denver Metro area as a recreational and commuting cyclist pretty good considering.

Because of the nasty road and path conditions I ended up riding the mountain bike Tuesday through Thursday, so I went pannierless three days (four if you count Monday's failed attempt) and I really didn't notice it too much at first because I think I was preoccupied with the weather and the ice and snow. But by Thursday I was ready to have my pannier back. I debated on riding the mountain bike one last day, but in the end I rode my commuter bike to take advantage of its fenders and cargo capabilities.

Despite "carpooling" on Monday I feel like I didn't really bust my last goal, which was not to use a car to transport anything to or from work. I carried everything in a pack that day and I didn't leave anything for the benefit of the next day. The underlying reason behind this particular goal was to prevent a lightweight commute, devoid of my daily necessities.

The weather started out Monday morning in the single digits with fresh snow on the ground. The week progressed up to Friday afternoon, thawing, freezing, warming and improving slowly each day to 50 degree temps on Friday afternoon.

Motivation was tough and the challenge itself provided just enough to keep me going. At first I thought the timing was disastrous for such a personal quest, but timing proved sublime.

It was good, and going beyond my original goal of some new fodder to blather on about, the Commuter Hardship Challenge gave me the opportunity for some new commuter knowledge and experiences I may not have had otherwise.

Friday, January 14

(W)CHC Day #5 - Final Evening Commute

From now on Fridays are going to be Ramming Speed Fridays. I flew home this evening.

So the challenge is over. I survived the whole week. Hallelujah!

Roads and trails are in much better shape now and should improve over the long weekend. By Tuesday morning it should be almost back to normal. I'm thinking of doing some sort of ride, either a solo early in the morning or a family ride or three.

The biggest benefit to having challenged myself this week is that I was compelled to ride on days I may have faltered otherwise. I gave up Monday when I was bogged down in snow, but Tuesday I went our and slogged it out with the cold white stuff and overcame the worst commute I've ever faced.

I'm confident in dressing for cold weather now, and I feel much more comfortable riding on snow and ice.

For now I'll sign off the 2011 (Winter) Commuter Hardship Challenge and rest my buzzing brain.

Have a great holiday weekend!

Cannonball X as a Snow Machine

Something Bike Snob stated recently about his long tail (he has a Big Dummy, and not the Free Radical I want) made me realize that the Cannonball X (CBX) is not going to be the best wintry weather option for me. I will still have the OBS.

And you do have to admire the literary craftsmanship the Snob exhibits:

It's sort of hard to place your body weight over your rear wheel when it's all the way back there in a different county.

That got the old brainiac juices flowing though. Once the Cannonball is converted I could invest in studded tires, OR I could plan far ahead and just go ahead and get the Xtra-cycle kit with the disc brake option and craft some DIY "chains" for regular knobbies. While the CBX would still lack the benefit of my body weight (considerable) over the rear wheel, there are options which would make it a mean, snow-gobblin' machine. Initially I could use the OBS rear wheel on the CBX until I could afford a dedicated wheel with a disc brake.

Are you still following? 'Cause I'm kinda lost.

(W)CHC Day #5- Morning Commute

O, Cannonball! O, Cannonball! How lovely are your fenders!

The ride wasn't as slushy as I expected it to be today. But I was still glad for the fenders in a couple of places. And because I switched bikes I blew one goal: I had to store the Cannonball in my cube today, I forgot to put my cable lock in the pannier.

That's the big downfall to storing the bike in my cube every day, I tend to leave heavy locks and cable at home because I don’t need them through the day. The problem arises when I want to stop somewhere on the way in or the way home and I don’t have a lock with me. I've been keeping a lightweight cable and padlock in my pannier, but for some reason I took it out since last week.

Oh well, it worked out well and from now on I know I have a good place to put the bike if it gets super-wet or muddy or covered in road grunge.

Last day of the challenge and I think I did pretty good, definitely not 100%, but better than I expected I'd finish on Monday. Look for a brief (hopefully) write up sometime over the weekend. I'll try not to ramble, as I've done that twice each day and give you a thumbnail of the whole week.

In more disturbing news, I dreamed I was hit by a car last night. In the dream I wasn't hurt, but the car kept going. So I chased it down and when I got near the driver's side window (on foot) I saw the driver was asleep. I yelled "Hey!" and she woke up, completely oblivious to having hit me. I don't typically think about these things or dwell on the possibility of being hit but I think its interesting that I would dream that the driver was asleep.

My view is that I'm probably much more likely to be in a serious car accident while driving that actually being hit by a car on my bike. Today the majority of my ride was completely separated from vehicular traffic, and the portions that I had to share with cars were less busy streets (in far better condition today I might add), even Ridge Road which I braved in an effort to cut down my commute time.

Speaking of close calls…BE VIGILANT! I was sitting on Tabor at 44th waiting for a break in traffic to cross. A delivery truck approached from my right to make a left onto Tabor and he stopped in the turn lane. As the lane cleared to my left the driver of the truck waved me across in front of him, presumably because he couldn't make the turn with me in his way. I waved in thanks to him and jumped on my pedals, gaining speed just as I hit the middle of the turn lane. And I then pulled hard on both brakes.

I didn’t assume he had looked in his mirrors to make sure nothing was coming up from behind him out of my view (the truck was blocking a long stretch of the road to my right). I stopped with my front tire inches from the right side painted line of the turn lane. Two cars rocketed past side by side just as I stopped. The truck had inched forward and was only a couple of feet from me, but he must have seen me and stopped. Thankfully I had the presence of mind to stop and look and thankfully he didn’t assume I was out of his way and gun forward.

If I had assumed he had made sure the lane beyond was clear I'd be dead. So my lesson learned today is this: don't trust drivers. Ever. They don’t take into consideration all the aspects of riding a bike, in fact, a lot of them don’t have a reasonable grasp of traffic and how it only relates to motor vehicles.

I am pretty adamant about making cars go first, unless its clear they just aren’t going to go until I do. I'd rather have them out of my traffic equation when I'm negotiating an intersection and not have to guess if they see me or if they are actually going to wait for me. In the future I'll insist the truck driver go first.

That's the moral of the story: motorists may seem to have your best interests in mind, but maintain control of the situation and only do what is safe for YOU.

Thursday, January 13

(W)CHC Day #4 - Evening Commute

One reader emailed and asked about the corrosive effects of auto-dependency on the US…wait, no. One reader emailed and mentioned the corrosive effects of salts and chemicals used to treat icy roads and their effects upon bikes and their components (Hi Tom!). I was actually contemplating that very subject in my mind this morning as I rode in.

Its been far to cold too turn on the hose this week, until today actually, and I do plan on giving the OBS a good dousing either tonight or tomorrow night. If you plan on washing your own bike take special care around your bottom bracket (the part of the frame where the cranks attach) and don’t get water inside that area. Most especially DO NOT use high pressure sprayers around your bottom bracket. In fact, its best not to use a high pressure sprayer at all, but if you do just be really careful around the bottom bracket and other bearing components. Its best if you keep water out of any vacant spaces on the bike.

I'll probably take my chain off and give it a good going over and then clean the bike up good. The reality is in winter its hard to keep a bike that your ride every day free from road treatments, but if you can give the bike a good going over once a week it'll help you get through the winter on a single bike, instead of having to replace the poor beast when it crumbles out from under you.

I think I'll be riding the Cannonball tomorrow, so I'm sure I'll end up having to go over both bikes, though if its dry enough I might get away without having to cleanup my regular commuter bike just yet.

It was good and wet on the ride home tonight by the way. Snow is mostly gone from travel surfaces, but a lot of slush and puddles remain. Fenders tomorrow for sure.

(W)CHC Day #4 - Morning Commute

I remember when 42° felt cold. This morning it felt warm. It was 30° when I woke up and by the time I passed Steve Casey's Recreational Vehicles it was the aforementioned 42°. I stopped in the shadow of Mr. Casey's sign and stripped off my wool shirt and lashed it to my pack. I was really comfortable the rest of the ride in. I was also able to go back to just my light hiking boots and my fleece gloves. It was nice to not be so bulky on the bike.

I was torn on which bike to ride. There is still enough ice and snow that I wanted the knobby tires of the mountain bike, but I knew the slush and water on the roads and paths would be a big mess all over me without the fenders of the Cannonball. I managed to make it in on the MTB without getting covered in road grime, but I don’t think I'll be able to make it home smelling like roses.

I'm glad the challenge is almost over. Not sure what possessed me to impose added troubles and trials to my rides…I was looking for something new to write about when I came up with the idea. Well, the weather alone this week was enough to write about and if I hadn't imposed the silly challenge on myself I could have begged rides from co-workers with a clean conscious. Oh well…

Maybe the challenge was a good thing. It (for the most part) kept me honest this week, of all weeks, when I needed the extra boost to motivate myself to ride. I know I can ride in really bad weather and in really cold temps now, and I think I know when to call it and catch a ride. I don't think I could make that decision with confidence before Monday and Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 12

(W)CHC Day #3 - Evening Commute

It was 29°F when I left Golden tonight. The sun was down and the light was fading from the sky. I went back to my old commute route through Applewood. Denver West Parkway was a little hairy, but otherwise the ride was pretty straightforward.

I'm starting to get dangerous riding on the snow and ice. While I'm not back to my usual commute times I'm making the trips much faster. This morning I climbed up to Golden in an hour and a half when on a good dry day I could have made it in an hour and ten minutes or so. Tonight I got home in about 55 minutes over terrain that would normally take about 40 to traverse.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to fail to meet the goal of riding new routes this week. With the roads and paths in the condition they're in I just can't justify striking out into unknown territory. I took a risk just riding through Applewood tonight instead of sticking to the CCT which I've been riding all week.

I debated as I rode tonight if I would ride the Cannonball tomorrow. I don't think I will, though I plan on riding it on Friday for sure.

Looking back at my goals I have complete confidence I will meet 1,2,3 and 5. 6 has been compromised by the cluster of errors that was Monday morning. And like I said, I just don't know about 4. I might change my mind tomorrow. I still have four commutes out of which to pick three to ride new routes.

Two more days...

(W)CHC Day #3 - Morning Commute

Today the commute went a little more smoothly. I didn’t stop for photos, the paths were mostly clear and I think I've sorted out my single digit temps attire. The ride was smoother, but it took me a long time to get in. I was wearing the pack and still had to navigate around piles of snow (and now sand), ice and some of my shortcuts were still impassable.

It was cold this morning. The local news was reporting -2°F when I woke up and by the time I left it had increased to 4°F. When I passed the digi-sign at Youngfield it read 9°.

A little about my routine/dress: This week I've been waking up and showering at home. Because its so cold I've been wearing long polypro under my work pants. I can get away with khaki cargo pants, so that's what I've been wearing for a couple of weeks actually. My slacks proper just aren't comfortable for riding. I put on a thick, long-sleeved polypro shirt, a cotton tee over that (because the poly shirt is clingy) and over both of those I wear a long sleeve button-up 70% wool shirt. That's it! I have been taking my shell in the backpack in case I got stranded somewhere or have to stop for an extended period of time, but that's my attire to ride in. It has worked on 40° rides and now low single digit rides. I definitely sweat less today.

I carry a button up dress shirt for work in the pack, and when I get to the building I lock my bike up in the stairwell, then go to a bathroom where I change shirts. Because I've been wearing the polypro pants I also take those off. If it weren't for the underpants I could probably get away with changing shirts in my cube.

My hands and feet get the royal treatment. I've been wearing my winter boots (waterproof Columbia Bugaboots) and discovered I've had them tied too tight. Loosened them up a bit this morning and my toes did better. I've got some Gordini waterproof gloves I bought a few years ago and they do pretty good. I'm considering buying a pair of silk socks and glove liners for really cold days. The only concern I have is that my frigid digits seem more to be a result of restricted circulation, whether from poor clothing or riding position I'm not sure. I'm willing to give silk a try in case my popsicle toes are not circulatory in nature.

Today I went back to the neoprene face cover, thin poly balaclava and fleece hat under my helmet. The ski goggles work with the neoprene face mask, as it has breathing holes and the nose hole diverts my breath down and away from the goggles. I only had a little fogging today. It's funny how the thin polypro balaclava alone causes more problems with my eyewear than anything else. I guess it has a pretty dense thread count or something and doesn't really let the air through the fabric, directing it up and typically into my eyewear. Because it causes such fogging problem I usually pull it away from my face when I start breathing hard. Not a huge problem on 40° days, kinda a big deal when there are frostbite warnings.

So I was happy that I made it all the way to work without exposing any skin.

Tonight is going to be a dark ride home. It looks like the temperature is going to be warmer than last night, and I'm hoping for some beneficial thawing through the day today. We'll see. I've decided if I had studded tires I'd be unstoppable. But I don't know if I need to be unstoppable.

ADDENDUM

I mentioned that I've been wearing only a long-sleeved polypro and long-sleeved wool shirts. I want to clarify- I am a heat engine. I'm always overheated, always sweating even when I'm cold and I am typically comfortable in less clothing than a lot of other people would be. I wouldn't recommend my mode of dress for others. But I would encourage you to let your body keep itself warm while riding.

Tuesday, January 11

(W)CHC Day #2 - Evening Commute

I made it to work this morning and back home tonight under my own power. I spent about three and a half hours riding today, though I only managed about 25 miles total. That's not terrible really. I definitely made up some time on the way home.

I was ecstatic to find the CCT plowed at Independence Court. I didn't have to plow it myself. The ride home felt colder, though I think the temperature was a few degrees warmer. Trail and street conditions were comparable to the morning ride with the exception of a clear CCT between Independence and Anderson Park.

I think this week was not a good one to start this "challenge." It would have been a challenging week to ride without self-imposed hardships. And there are deeper issues going on with me that are causing me to have a sour mood about the whole affair. More on that to come...

I'm going to push on and finish the week abiding by the rules of the challenge. I really don't see any benefit to postponing it.

I did realize I hadn't established my criteria for success or failure. It's not really too late, but I don't want to compromise the challenge with preconceived notions.

So here goes:

The reason behind the challenge is my desire for first hand knowledge on the trials of a person contemplating and attempting to be a bicycle commuter without the benefits of the luxuries I am fortunate enough to have access to.

So success will be hard to quantify, but essentially, if I gain some insight, some experience beyond my normal and routine commuting experiences, if I can see the other side with some clarity the challenge will be a success. By the end of the weekend I will post my final observations and results. I'll summarize each day and how I met my goals/rules and how I did not. I'll compare my normal commuting style with my "limited" commutes of this week. I'll examine what it takes to overcome common obstacles to commuting that a new commuter will face.

Success will be if I can finish the week meeting my goals and be able to express my thoughts on what I experienced.


Locked up in the back stairwell


After the ride home

Non (W)CHC Interlude

On the bike I am in control of my own destiny. I am not subject to complex mechanical breakdowns. I'm not subject to traffic, lanes, roads, speed limits, traffic lights, one way streets or anything really. I can ride on the sidewalk if I so choose, or through a field, or yard or between curbs, trees and fence posts. I can pick up my bike and set it over an obstacle. I can take it inside with me, I can hide it, or hide with it. I can go where I want as fast as I want.

I am not separated from the outdoors when I'm on the bike, and I truly wish I had more time to spend outside. It is a win/win situation.

The bike is cheap, dependable, easily maintained and fixed, easily loved, easily modified to better suit a new purpose. Bikes threaten nothing, despite the behavior of moto-fascists toward cyclists as if cyclists were somehow terrorists or marauding carjackers or puppy kickers.

When I was much younger I drove a lot. I grew up in rural Eastern Kentucky in a county of 5,000, with the largest town's population right at 3,000. The eastern end of the county bordered National Forest and a wilderness area. I spent so many days hiking around, typically alone, then for a few years climbing with friends and then later bouldering, again alone.

For years I made the minimum fifteen mile drive (sometimes upwards of thirty) to various trailheads and wide spots along the roads. I wandered all over, exploring, introspecting, wallowing. I drove a lot because I hadn't discovered the ultimate power of the bicycle. Oh, I had a bike, and I rode it occasionally, but it never occurred to me that the bike could be the same means to an end that I had sought in the car, to get me where I wanted to go.

I realize if I had rode my bike more in those days I may have had a much narrower territory. The time it would have taken to ride to the places I drove, and then to expend energy, sometimes to almost complete muscle failure and then still have a ride home would have limited my range for sure. Looking back I wish I had chosen the bike years ago. It would have been easy then. Not that it's so hard now...

If I were ever to move back (no intention of doing so) I'd go carless there. I could. After doing it here for three years I've realized that the car is an accessory that I am happy to do without. The cost, the investment of time, concern and energy, combined with the stress of going upon the road and roaming around to find a place to rest the two ton steel beast is just not worth the brain damage it causes.

Pouring over cycling problems is something I do. I am always trying to find a more efficient way to transport myself and my STUFF on my two-wheeled steed(s), but its almost relaxing to immerse myself in the quest for cycling solutions to my lifestyle problems.

Still, it's good to be riding off to meet destiny on a bicycle.

(W)CHC Day #2 - Morning Commute

Today was hard. It was colder than yesterday. I made the whole ride in, the long way to take full advantage of the bike paths (Clear Creek Trail and Highway 93 path), and it took me over two hours.

I retraced my route from yesterday. I passed through Anderson Park no problem. Then when I saw the connector path from the parking lot over to the CCT my heart did a little jump for joy. I rolled easily over a thin layer of super-dry snow (Xtra-traction!) until I reached the CCT. Not plowed. Seriously?

Same spot as yesterday…

I didn’t think long about it before cranking forward into the untrammeled snow beside the packed footprints in the middle of the path. I kept going, trying to be positive, hoping against all hope that only a short section of the path was unplowed. I ended up having to walk for a few hundred feet until the path dumps out on Independence Court at 41st. When I picked up the path again west of Kipling it was plowed and I was happy, though moving slow at that point.

By then my ski goggles were useless, moist first, then glazed over with frost on the inside. I kept trying to keep them clean, but it was no use. For the remainder of the ride my eyes went naked, my eye lashes alternately freezing and then dripping. At least my contacts didn't freeze.

I plodded along into Golden and then down 10th to the CCT near the Golden Community Center. Then I turned south onto the new section of MUP along Highway 93. Plowing was less than adequate and for the first time ever I saw a sign on a path that read: "Steep Grade, Next 300 Feet." After the initial 300 feet I saw a sign that said "Steep Grade, Next 1300 Feet."

It was steep. It was snowy. I was tired. I had been going a long time.

I made it to work just in time to pick up some free grub for the reception after the swearing in of Jefferson County's new Commissioner. I locked up the OBS in the back stairwell on the ground floor. No carpet to soil, out of the way, little traffic, solid steel railing to cable to. Now I just hope no one from Facilities sees it and freaks out.

The mountain bike went well on the snow. The conditions now would be good for studded snow tires and I thought long and hard this morning about if they would be a benefit for me or just one more complication. They would help, but I don’t think they'd be necessary. There's really only one surface condition that gave me fits and studded tires would not have helped.

This morning much of the snow has been packed down by vehicles. So riding on the streets is sort of like riding on asphalt. The surface is firm and the traction is pretty good. Its still cold enough that the snow really hasn’t started to turn to ice en masse yet. But there are soft spots and sections of unconsolidated snow that grab your front wheel and whip it all around. It’s the soft patches that cause violent involuntary steering incidents that make the ride difficult. Studded tires wouldn't do a thing for that situation. Its like riding off the sidewalk into deep sand. There's really nothing you can do.

Also riding through the deeper snow, I don’t think studded tires would help. They may provide a bit of traction, but again, the problem is more about keeping the wheel straight, not slipping and sliding. For those that are familiar with the sensation, riding through snow a few inches deep, over a hard surface is very similar to surfing a wave on a river in a kayak. You use similar twitches of the hands and arms to control your craft.

Observations:

It takes a lot more TIME to cover the same distance in snow and/or below zero weather. Technically the air temperature was in the single digits, but the news reported negative windchills. I had to stop numerous times to adjust my headgear. My ski goggles ended up being useless and they have always been my last resort. Sunglasses or safety glasses would have been no better. It was time consuming to try and sort out my eyewear on the commute.

A stock mountain bike goes well in the snow without much winter specific gear.

I dressed in the same attire I would have worn if it had been as warm as 40 degrees this morning and for the most part I was comfortable. Despite winter boots my toes went numb and as I said previously, I had a lot of trouble figuring out a comfortable configuration for my headgear and eyewear.

I'm not sure if I'll be riding home, or just over the hill to meet Mandy tonight at the church building. We'll see.







Monday, January 10

(W)CHC Day #1 - Evening Commute

The total system failure of the morning commute put me in a raw mood. I hated that I had given up, that I couldn’t come up with some workable solution to the snow in my path. It was frustrating and slightly embarassing to have my boss offer to come pick me up. I didn’t ask him to, and wouldn’t have asked. I believe in being completely self reliant at all times. There are time that we all must rely on others for help, and I'm not above asking or receiving help when necessary, but it just seemed to me that I shouldn't have needed help this morning.

I made it past the dangerous part of my ride with little difficulty and was then thwarted by less than five inches of snow. It was a learning experience for sure. I need to figure out some way to be able to keep going even when the snow piles up. I wasn't slipping or sliding on the snow. In fact, it was cold enough that the pristine dry snow provided much better traction than the compacted and/or treated snow in the roadways. But it was like swimming in butter trying to keep the bike moving in the untrodden powder.

My schedule today was supposed to be 9:00am to 5:30pm. At 4:00 I went into my boss's office and asked (in a jocular manner):

"You got me here, are you taking me home too?"

He replied: "I was gonna come ask if you wanted a ride home."

"Well," I continued,"It's ten degrees and the sun just went down. Either you're taking me or I'm leaving now."

I was not wussing out. I was carpooling. He ended up driving me home, and given the circumstances I welcomed the ride.

Today was a disaster in planning on my part. I didn't give up on the challenge, it's just that the conditions overwhelmed my ability to do damage control. I had no backup plan in case the bike path had not been plowed, I didn't leave early enough, and I gave up too easy.

I did scout out the bike paths I could see on the ride home. They look pretty good now. So tomorrow we go at it again, cold temps or no, darkness or no, homicidal traffic on Ridge Road or no...well, to be fair, I won't be on Ridge Road tomorrow, so it doesn't matter what those fools do.

Some observations at the end of the day:

Carpooling is okay. If someone is already driving the same way you're headed it's okay to ride along. You are not creating an adverse impact. You're not selling out. It's something everyone is going to have to do at some point. If you're car-free and walk or ride a bike, if you do it long enough, you're going to need to catch a ride with someone. Heck! Even if you drive a car your whole life chances are you're going to run out of gas or break down at least once.

There are going to be days that you just can't do it, man! This morning I dressed perfectly. I was stoked to ride. The surface conditions just weren't conducive to riding a bike. The streets were unsafe because cars were skating around everywhere and the bike paths were too deep with snow. If I had the luxury if waiting around until a quad-runner with a blade whizzed past I could have ridden in. But I had no idea how long it was going to be before the CCT was rideable.

I ended up storing my bike in my cube. It thawed partially in Mike's SUV and by then I was just to thinking straight. Before i knew it I had the bike in my cube, dripping into the mud-colored carpet. To quote my boss: "Who cares?"

Limiting myself to a backpack today caused me to think hard about what I was actually taking. I ended up leaving some things like wallet (still had ID) and checkbook, but I took two pairs of gloves, a shell and my cable lock. I could get by without panniers (and I'm not counting today because I only rode two miles) but they make life so much easier.

It was nice showering at home and then just walking in to work without worrying about having to go down to the locker room and get ready. I was ready when I got there. We'll see how I do tomorrow after riding the entire 10+ miles (adverse weather route).

I didn't start out how I had wanted, but I think I did learn a lot today. I wonder how the whole affair would have played out if it had just been a normal commute day and not Day #1 of the Commuter Hardship Challenge?

(W)CHC Day #1 - Morning Commute

Tainted. But not a complete loss.

I struck out this morning for work on the OBS. I skidded down Garrison to Anderson Park. I crossed the park on the auto tire tracked drive and stopped cold (no pun intended) on the south side of the back parking lot. The snow beyond was deep and unplowed. I couldn’t see the CCT but I assumed (had been continually assuming) that it was plowed.

I walked the bike from the parking lot to where the CCT was supposed to be. No bike path, only a single set of footprints arcing off through a tunnel of snowy, bony limbs.

It was a perfect opportunity for photos of the cold black waters of the creek. A quick internal debate led me to the conclusion that I wouldn't easily be able to make it to work, but I’d give it a go. I went ahead and texted my coworkers saying I was going to try to come on in, but if they didn't see me to assume I had given up and gone home.

Before continuing I took a couple more photos, and then my phone rang. It was my boss.

"Where are you?"

"Anderson Park," I replied.

"I'll come get you."

"Okay."

Crap!

I meandered back out to the front parking lot and waited. While waiting I noticed an odd sight at the intersection at the entrance to Anderson, an RTD bus had an Audi pinned to the curb. Oops!

Soon my boss arrived and we put the OBS in the back of his Suburban (Less-than-urban) and a few short minutes later (9am on the dot) we reached work.

I'm not counting this as a non-riding commute. A) I carpooled. B) I had given up on the commute and was preparing to head home and got the ride offer (which I couldn’t really refuse).

My only recourse would have been to not answer the phone. I have a feeling he would have kept calling me. Everyone else made it in despite the roads. Of course the main topic of conversation in our weekly meeting was the commute in…but y'know.

My initial observations are 1) It is difficult to ride on unplowed, but already traveled streets. 2) Riding in fresh snow is easier than riding in tire tracks. 3) It doesn’t take much snow before the effort it takes to continue riding becomes prohibitive. 4) Single digit temps are not so bad.

I showered at home and was not terribly sweaty when I finally stopped. I had been exerting myself wallowing in the snow, so I did start to get warm. Hauling the daypack instead of using the panniers was no big deal. I had to limit the things I brought today because the weight would have been oppressive if I had just shoved in everything I wanted.

More to come on the evening commute...








Seemed apt

Saturday, January 8

Final Thoughts on the Commuter Hardship Challenge

Ok, I thought I should list the rules for my (Winter) Commuter Hardship Challenge this coming week. The time frame is going to be Monday the 10th to Friday the 14th.

Here they are:

1) I will not use the locker rooms and showers at work.
2) I will not use the bike racks or store my bike in my cubicle.
3) I will not wear any cycling specific clothing. The only cycling specific gear allowed will be the bike and helmet (bike lights, fenders, etc will be allowed)
4) At least three commutes I will ride less than 25% of my usual route(s) between home and work. So I will ride three new routes that makes sense.
5) At least two days I will not use my rack and panniers.
6) I will not take any clothing or supplies to work by car.

That's basically it. I'll simulate the conditions for someone who is faced with a less than ideal commuting situation, and I'll report daily on my progress and observations. What will make this challenge interesting is that Monday and Tuesday promise to be very wintry. The lows will be below zero and the highs will just barely be double digits and we're supposed to get at least as much snow as we had last week.

Again, I'm doing this because I feel as if my perception on commuting in general and winter commuting specifically are somewhat skewed because I have the ideal situation with a locker room and showers, bike racks and also the ability to store my bike in my immediate work area. On top of all that I have access to a refrigerator, sink and microwave. It's hard for me to relate to many of the obstacles associated with bicycle commuting for those who do not have the ideal situation.

EXPLORING ARVADA

The kids and I did an exploratory route north to try and work out a bike commute for Mandy and Boone to get to school. Mandy went up around 1pm to help out with an upcoming play so we hitched up the trailer and struck out north through darkest suburbia.

We described a good route, but I don't know how feasible it would be for Mandy with Boone either on his bike or on the back of a longtail (once we get her one). The distance was the same as my commute (9.2 miles) but with 450 less feet in elevation gain. But the route is a bit more convoluted, and I'm not sure the route we rode today is the best or most expedient route they could possibly ride. Its going to take a few more scouting rides I think (darn!).

It took us and hour and a half, but Boone rode a good portion of the route on his single speed 20" bike and for the remainder of the route I was pulling him and Lil' in the trailer. It was a good ride though. Glad we got out before the weather gets bad.