Saturday, April 30

Day 30

Today is Day 30 of 30 Days of Biking. I managed 100% and the majority of my riding was strictly utility. Yesterday I rode casually past 500 miles and kept right on going for 26 more. I was going to round out the month with a jaunt up to Boulder and back this morning, purely a recreational ride to scout out a route for future such-jaunts with the family in tow, but as discretion is the better part of valor...

The alarm went off at 5am but when I peeked outside the wind was howling. I crawled back in bed. I'm so sick of the wind I just couldn't subject myself to a long ride in it.

I decided I would do some much needed BeanSeat maintenance. I took some scrap nylon and a foam pad and spruced up the seat. I added a belt and shoulder straps and beefed up the stoker bar with an old seatpost instead of the PVC pipe I had previously used. We're ready for kid-tastic touring!



I got in a ride. Bean and I ran down to the hardware store to pick up some wingnuts for the seat. While standing in line we talked to three-year-old Luke and his mom. Since Lily was wearing her bike helmet in the store the conversation swung to biking with kids. Luke's mom asked Lily if she rode HER bike and she said, no, she rode her dad's Xtracycle. Of course once the kids open the can of worm I am forced to explain the Xtracycle to a perfect stranger. While I love promoting utility cycling, especially in the form of the longtail cargo bike, I do prefer for the moment to be right.

Anyway, the Cannonball is all set up for commutes with Bean in May. I'll be taking her to Lind-topia each morning. I snagged her a rain coat at the ARC Thrift Store last night for moist days. Found a nice Stearns rain suit for a few bucks for Boone as well.

I had a chance to shoot for 600 miles this month, but I didn't push it. We'll see what happens in May. June might be a possibility too. Mandy and I are planning on doing a lot of outdoor stuff during Kid-Free June. And I'm guessing even if we're hiking or climbing or whatever, we'll be riding out bikes to get to where we want to go for the most part. I want to snag a big peak or two, and those trips my necessitate a car trip, but otherwise we'll be going on two wheels for all our trips.

Friday, April 29

Biking To and Fro: No Ramming Speed Friday

Mental health day of convenience, so no work related Ramming Speed Friday today, but...but, Dear Readers, we'll be heading up to Westminster to pick Boone up after school this afternoon so I'll still hit my 500 mile goal for the month.

Yesterday I blazed home even as Mandy was riding back from school with both kids on the Ute. She did awesome navigating her way up through Arvada and into Westminster on her own. We've ridden the route once as a family and I texted directions before she left. Despite a couple of minor setbacks she made it to school and back fine. I really cranked hard to get back to Arvada after work and headed north to meet them so I could take one of the kids but as I met her on Pierce on the easy side of 72nd she was pedaling along with a smile on her face. She made the comment that soon even Thistle Gin would be jealous of her.

We stopped at McIlvoy Park in Olde Town to let the kids play and then cruised over to the library. I had requested “Race Across the Sky” a while back and it finally came in. I also snagged some gardening books and the kids got some books as well.



Having previously watched “Race Across the Sky 2010” I have to say the 2010 film was better all around, but the 2009 film is compelling because it showcases Lance Armstrong's win after his second place finish in 2008 behind Leadville 100 star Dave Weins. Its also interesting because our friends Steve and Jill Kaufmann show up in the film twice. They were race volunteers that day. And we were camping with a church group at Turquoise Lake that day, so the weather patterns the racers faced are familiar to us.

I'm looking forward to volunteering in this year's race and hopefully riding in the 2012 Leadville 100. Lance, look out!

Our temps are going to be in the 70s today. Spring has sprung? We'll see. I ran out to grab some Santiago's burritos for breakfast and encountered another cyclist in the way home. He marveled at the Xtracycle as we rode along Garrison. We talked about the good weather and then parted ways wishing each other a good day. So far it has been.

Bean and I ran to Golden this morning to do an errand. We fought a mean headwind all the way to Golden and rode a runaway train all the way back. Once back in Arvada we sat down for a nanosecond and then headed out with Mandy north toward Westminster to pick Boone up at school.

We were most of the way there and a cold front blew through. The sky to the west was dark and the wind picked up and had a chill edge to it.

“I hope it doesn't rain!” I called over the wind. Mandy nodded in agreement.

We pushed on and finally made it to school. I unlocked Boone's bike. We had dropped his bike off this morning when we dropped him off. Now we had three bikes and a 9 mile trip south back home.

Boone changed into his jersey and bike shorts and we were off. The wind had died down while we were inside, but the backdrop to our ride home was angry skies that promised rain and what looked like snow in the mountains.

We made it home safe and dry by way of Sunflower. The smells of taco stuff is causing me to salivate. I've ridden at least 36 miles today and I've only eaten a breakfast burrito and a couple of handfuls of chocolate covered peanuts out front of Sunflower. But the cooking smells tell me the detour to the store was worth it.

Time to eat!

Wednesday, April 27

You Already Have Energy Efficiency in Your Pocket

Our global economic crisis is really a crisis of energy resources. The economies of most nations revolve around producing and obtaining energy in some form or another. I'll not go into the energy chain in this post, but suffice it to say there is plenty of ink/bandwidth out there dedicated to energy flows on Planet Earth. Our consumption of energy is the real problem, not the actual amount that we have used or what is still available to consume by mankind.

The debates typically center around the specific energy sources and how we have historically used them, how we currently use them and how we think we should use them in the future. Clean coal vs. solar. Wind vs. hydro. Nuclear vs. everything else. Fossil fuels vs. renewables.

What is the most reliable source of energy that most human beings have access to? Human power. It's true! We've basically lost the art of animal husbandry as it relates to power generation. I'm sure if the electric went off for good some resourceful members of the community could cobble together a horse or ox powered grist mill. And each community could build an animal driven mill. I have that much faith in the human race to believe in that possibility. What I don’t have faith in is our ability to scrounge up enough horses, oxen, mules and donkeys to provide a viable alternative to the energy sources we currently depend on at the rates to which we are accustomed.

In the Post Carbon Apocalypse life is necessarily going to become much more human scaled. The primary source of energy will be FOOD. Energy efficiency will be counted in calories, not kilowatts.

This is why the bicycle is important to our future. Once a bicycle is built it really only needs muscle power and it will enable a human being to travel great distances at a high rate of speed (compared to an unaided human being). The efficiency the bicycle provides will greatly replace the work of animals. Of course you won’t be plowing fields with your mountain bike, but for transportation purposes the bike will fill in the gaps left with the decline of fossil fuels. And this is why I see cargo bikes, whether longtail or front load, as being crucial to the movement of human beings in the future. Even non-cargo bikes allow a person to transport small amounts of goods over distances with drastically improved efficiency over arms and legs alone.

Human energy will endure, no matter what else transpires in the realm of energy and economy.

Tuesday, April 26

Make All of My Externalities Positive

Some days I hope that I'm dog-tired and spaced out because Tyler Durden is using my body for nefarious purposes at night…to exact my subconscious revenge upon moto-fascists. I'm pretty sure that isn’t what's happening in my life, but it’s a nice fantasy to have to explain my dry-socket eyes and flashes of after image as I try to focus on menial tasks. I am Jack's Deadpan Gaze.



You hear a lot of negativity about motorists from cyclists and I think we need to grant some bandwidth to the motorists that are doing it the right way. Its not fair to lump all motorists in with the moto-fascists that get our blood boiling on a daily basis. I had to correct my son one day when he stated that everyone I work with every day must be horrible, awful people. I had to stop mid-stream and explain to him the harsh reality of life, that you typically only hear about the negative things in people's lives because we, as human beings, tend to ramble on about the frustrating and annoying things and forget to talk about the amazing and wonderful things that happen to us.

There are a lot of motorists that operate their automobiles responsibly and carefully and make the road a good place for other users to travel. I distinguish them from the irresponsible and reckless drivers by referring to the bad ones specifically as "moto-fascists." I don't believe that every automobile pilot is a moto-fascist. I began using that term specifically because I don’t think ALL drivers are bad.

I greatly appreciate those motorists who pass with plenty of room, and not at a high rate of speed. I appreciate those drivers who patiently wait until its safe to pass, not riding my rear wheel, revving their engine and gunning around me before the opposite lane is clear of oncoming traffic. I appreciate those motorists that treat me like another vehicle on the road, those who don’t forge the traffic laws just because they see a cyclist, and those who stay out of the bike lane. I am thankful that many motor vehicle operators understand that there is no requirement that they pass a cyclist, especially when the cyclist can maintain the speed limit. I'm thankful that the majority of people on the road understand that even though they may not agree with traffic laws as they apply to cars and bikes they still observe them as the good citizens they truly are.

I appreciate those who look out for others on the road. It warms my heart to see drivers being courteous to other drivers, pedestrians and certainly cyclists. And I try to be courteous without completely yielding my space on the road. I will take my turn at a stop sign. But I won't run a stop sign and force others to yield to me. When it makes sense I will wave other travelers on before me.

If it weren't for the fact that all of those forgettable neighbors follow the rules and act courteously toward others on the roadways then it would not be worth it to strike out from Point A to Point B on the ribbon of asphalt. It would be far too dangerous.

So to all those who are not homicidal maniacs behind the wheel…I applaud your civility and will proudly share the roads with you!

Monday, April 25

The Push for 500

I'm on my way to my biggest mileage month ever. Friday afternoon, barring some unforeseen illness or car-jacking (being forced to ride in a car), I will hit 500 miles for the month of April. If I could knock out a century on Saturday I could really punch a hole in the sky with 600!

The spring weather is a nice change. This is the first spring since I've been in Colorado that feels like an Eastern spring. Its been overcast and rainy! Seeing the cherry blossoms makes me miss the…ack! Forgot the name of the pink flowering trees in Kentucky! I can remember dogwoods. What are the pink ones?

Anyway, I think I may try to adhere to a posting schedule in May. Just as an experiment. I can’t decide on the frequency though. Once a day M-F? Twice a week? Fourteen times a day? I'm kicking around the idea of twice a week, but that doesn't seem like enough. But I feel like if I limit the number of times I post and stick to a schedule I'll be more apt to produce quality entries and you, Dear Reader, will benefit. Plus, I need to stay off the computer. I spend far too much of my life with my eyes glued to the screen.

I'll take any reasonable suggestions. What I think I may do is a Monday, Wednesday, Friday posting schedule with twitter updates in between. I can always bank my creative expulsions on the "off days."

Another May update: I may start hauling Bean to the babysitter in Golden in the mornings as I will be going in to work later. Got to get the BeanSeat lined out!

Sunday, April 24

Number Chaser

Last month I had the most miles in a month ever at 488. Today I am at 407 for the month of April and I have six days until the end of the month.

If I only do my normal commute all week I will hit 500 miles on my commute home on Friday. It will be a very special "Ramming Speed Friday" indeed!

I should still have pretty high miles in May, but June might fall off. We're going to be in Kentucky one week in June and I'm taking off a few Fridays so Mandy and I can do some long weekend stuff. The kids are going to be visiting family in the east for the month so we'll be able to get out and bike, climb, hike and frolic child-free for a few weeks. So I won't have my daily commute to boost my mileage, but I might make up for it with recreational rides.

July is going to be interesting. Mandy is heading out to get the kids at the end of June and the three of them are going to New York to visit family so I will be solo for a couple of weeks. I'm already fantasizing about a weekend bikepacking adventure. I just can't decide if I'll head north to Pawnee Nat'l Grassland (Pawnee Buttes and Panorama Point in Nebraska) or south down to Colorado Springs via the New Santa Fe Trail to return over Rampart Range or west into the foothills and beyond. Decisions, decisions!

I guess it will depend on what Mandy and I manage to pull off in June. We might be able to do all three and I'll be looking for some other adventure in July.

Remember, I'm shooting for 5,000 miles in 2011. Anything and everything moves me on toward that goal.

Saturday, April 23

Photographic Interlude


Baby goes to the store


Need some padding and a more solid extension bar, but we're getting there


Found a use for my bolt on drop bars


Enjoying the spring colors from the Xtracycle

Today started out cold and dreary. We actually saw a little snow flying around breakfast time. The kids and I hopped on the bike and rode down to the hardware store where we bought materials to construct a backrest and stoker extension for the X. We rode back via Terrace Park where the kids played for awhile. Then we returned home and I spent the afternoon cutting and drilling. I'm not 100% happy with the results, but in the end I think its going to work out nice. I need to find a solid wooden dowel or handle or a steel pipe for the stoker extension and the stoker will be satisfactory.

Friday, April 22

Ramming Speed Friday: Happy Earth Day Edition

I live in a conundrum. I want to be a part of the green movement. I want my little heart to bleed for the speckled marmot. I want to compost my underwear and eat only organic, cage free dirt.

But on the other hand I am such a non-conformist at heart I can’t get on the bandwagon with ANY movement. I don’t agree with a lot of what the Green Party promotes. I think a lot of environmental groups get bogged down in humanist issues and forget that we as human beings ARE the dominant species on the planet and our survival really is paramount, though not at any cost.

I disagree that alternate forms of consumerism are the answer to our predicament. Since we must CHANGE our mode of thought to truly affect any kind of meaningful reforms it doesn't do anyone any favors by joining some conservation group, by blindly adhering to the views of any one environmental camp or even to joining a particular political party. And taking out a second mortgage to put solar panels on my roof isn’t the answer either.

We must become more informed on what relevant issues pertain to us. In America many of our problems stem from overuse of energy. Oil isn’t our only source of trouble, but it is by far the greatest. And while transportation isn't our only energy related dilemma, it is our most pervasive and most dire.

We've arranged our lives in such a way that we are dependent upon energy intensive modes of transportation. While the answer is simple: scale back to humane arrangements to drastically reduce energy use. To engage our society in the efforts it would take to bring about the change we so desperately need is a depressingly overwhelming endeavor to contemplate. But we must.

Some people feel good about their efforts when they drive an SUV to plant a tree. Some people feel good about transporting their bike hundreds of miles on top of their SUV to ride a single track trail in another state. Some people think that whoever has the biggest carbon footprint wins. If you sell your Chevy Suburban at market value and buy a brand new Leaf you've not really done a darned thing for saving the whales.

There's nothing wrong with taking time to complete a journey. The human mind needs time to process and evaluate new information. When we travel into new places, or even the same old places day after day our minds work on dissolving the massive amounts of data they are bombarded with, even in a purely natural environment. If we slow down and let the juices of our minds work on the input we receive we can assimilate so much more information.

ADHD is a modern ailment. It is the symptom of an overwhelmed mind. If we take away all of the sensory input that is overwhelming us there is much less to compete for our attention.

I think I secretly (well, up to this point) hope for the Post Carbon Apocalypse because my whole life I've wanted to live in a world less complicated, less demanding on my senses. I long for quiet and calm places and there are so few.

Even on my bike rides through No-Man's Land in the mornings I am constantly exposed to the sounds of highway 58 to the north and I-70 fading behind me. There is no escape from the sights, sounds and smells of the military-industrial complex. The days following 9/11 were surreal in that there were no airplane contrails in the sky. It was wonderful to behold the natural sky unmarred by streaks of man-made white. Going up into the Front Range foothills or proper you rarely escape the views of Denver to the east. There are so few places where a man can go and feel a part of the world and not buffered from it by the edifices of other men.

Ramming Speed Friday? Yeah, it was. There was a wind out of the northwest that inhibited speed at first, but once I was headed east out of Golden it was like there were wings on my pedals.

I cranked on at a good clip until I had to pause at 44th. I-70 was backed up so there was a lot of spillover traffic on the side streets which made for a long wait to cross the busy road.

When I got to the bridge on Tabor over I-70 I couldn't resist the Earth Day photo op:


SMUG-tastic!

An Open Letter to Motorists

Dear Motorists,

First off, I hope this letter finds you well on this Earth Day 2011. Not sure why you chose to drive a car today, but whatever. I have a few things I'd like to say to you and I ask that you turn off your ego for a few minutes and see things from my side of the windshield for once.

Your car is a luxury that you have chosen to adopt as your personal mode of transportation. I would like to point out to you that there are other forms of transportation that are actually more efficient, more economic and at times more feasible for your transportation needs. Just sayin'...

I know we all like to throw around words like "rights" and "freedom" all the time and for the sake of argument forget what you know about those two vague concepts. Here we go...

You do not have the right to put the life of a cyclist in danger because of your impatience. Traffic laws remain in force no matter if you agree with them or not. Your chosen mode of transportation is not superior to all others no matter how much you paid for it.

Sometimes its not safe to pass a cyclist. In these cases you should exercise patience and common courtesy. It is absolutely not appropriate to gun your engine to squeeze past a cyclist when there is no room to do so. If you hit an oncoming car or the cyclist you will be at fault. Whatever damages may occur will not be the fault of the cyclist if he or she is adhering to traffic laws and you choose to pass when it's unsafe. It doesn't matter if you agree with the presence of the cyclist on the road. It doesn’t matter if you think the laws pertaining to cyclists should be changed. On the road, moving at speed in your steel behemoth is not the proper place to affect the changes you want. There are legislative channels you can work within to try and change the laws to suit your personal preferences. Harassing, injuring or killing someone is not a legislative process.

It is true that some people make poor fashion choices or sometimes do not adhere to traffic laws or do things that make no sense while riding a bicycle. In no way do these behaviors make a cyclist deserving of injury or death. You do not have the right to endanger a cyclist's life even if they are doing something stupid. You will still be held accountable for your actions as they should be for theirs.

Sometimes it's perfectly safe to pass a cyclist and you may choose to do so in an unsafe manner, either at a high rate of speed or unacceptably close to the cyclist. In most states this is illegal, and you are not exempt from the laws of the land due to the presence of a cyclist on the road. Wherever you’re going there is absolutely no reason you can't slow down and/or give a cyclist ample room as you pass. If you pass too close going too fast you're making a poor choice and unnecessarily putting another human being's life in jeopardy.

Also, it does not matter if you're in a two tone black and white car with lights mounted on the roof or not. The three feet to pass law still applies to you and your car can do as much damage to a cyclist as a non-law enforcement vehicle can. You should be the example to other motorists on the road. It is unacceptable for you, as an officer of the law, to endanger cyclists with your poor behavior behind the wheel.

Just because you can haul yourself into an oversized gas-powered wheel chair does not immediately bestow wisdom or significance upon you. Significance on the roadway is not determined by how much you have paid for your vehicle or on the size of your vehicle. Traveling in a motor vehicle on a paved roadway is not a RIGHT. Having the freedom to drive as fast and as recklessly as you want on the roads is also not a RIGHT. Getting to pass a slower moving vehicle on the roadway is not a guaranteed RIGHT. Harassing and endangering other travelers on the road is not a RIGHT. In fact, by doing most of these things you are breaking laws.

You can argue all day about scofflaw cyclists blasting through stop signs and ignoring traffic laws. Realize however, that motorists are just as guilty and break just as many (if not more) laws as cyclists. Tickets are handed out every day for speeding, failure to come to a complete stop, illegal u-turns, improper take-off, failure to signal, failure to stay in lane, etc, etc. If the argument is that cyclists have no right to the road because they break traffic laws then by all means, lets remove all forms of transportation from the roads that people use to break laws.

When you see a cyclist get angry at the behavior of a motorist and perhaps curse and use hand gestures their mothers would not approve of, understand that the cyclist is behaving so because they typically perceive a physical threat against themselves. On the other hand, when motorists get irate, scream out the window at cyclists (or other motorists or pedestrians), turn red, curse, use obscene gestures…what physical threat are they perceiving against themselves? How can they justify their anger? What valid argument do they have for their childish behavior?

As a cyclist I will promise not to try and run your car off the road. I promise I will not get behind you and blow my horn or rev my engine. I promise I won't roll down my window and curse at you. I promise I won't turn around and come back after passing you to harass you a second time.

In return I expect you to give up an appropriate amount of roadway so I have enough room to travel safely. I expect you to travel at a reasonable speed, both for my safety and yours. I expect you to be courteous and considerate, stay off your phone, leave the radio volume alone and use your brain at all times.

Two last thoughts:

Bicycle manufacturers construct bicycles in adult sizes on purpose.

"Share the Road" means exactly that. Hopefully your mother taught you how to share.


Sincerely,

The Cyclist You Almost Killed This Morning

Thursday, April 21

At Last! The Xtracycle Review You've Been Waiting For



I have a "new" bike: the Cannonball X. But I can’t really do a proper product review of it as a complete bike. The donor bike is a 1994 Cannondale M300. It's been a good bike for me for many years. As part of the Xtracycle conversion I stripped it and had it powdercoated. The only remaining components of the original Cannondale bike are the frame and the front derailer.

What I would like to do is give you my impression of my bike as it relates specifically to the Xtracycle extension. I'm going to go through the positive and negative aspects of converting a vanilla solid frame mountain bike to a longtail cargo bike. I'll try to limit myself only to the aspects of the new creature that are directly related to the Xtracycle and how it affects the bike. I will also compare it to the Kona Ute where appropriate despite the risk of potentially angering other members of my household. So here we go.

ON CREATING A FRAMEWORK

First off, I added an Xtracycle ClassicCargo FreeRadical to my donor bike. It came with the FlightDeck as opposed to the SnapDeck. At first I was a bit bummed, but I think I'm going to be happier with the FlightDeck as I work on adding back rests for my diminutive passengers. I'd still love to have a spare SnapDeck to swap out for special occassions. I have V-racks and gray 2010 FreeLoaders (bags). So far the ClassicCargo has worked well. I had originally wanted to go with the BigStoker, but in the end I decided the cost of adding the footsies, cushion and stoker bar for the initial build was not justifiable.

ON EVOLVING NEEDS

Before the conversion I had been using an Axiom Streamliner rear pannier rack and one pannier for my commutes. When I wanted or needed to haul one or both of my kids as a passenger we used either the trailer, a tow bar/kids' bike or both. With the Xtracycle I just let one or both kids climb on the deck, slip their feet in the FreeLoaders and they hold on to the edge of the FlightDeck. Its nice for my four year old because the FlightDeck has a handle in front that allows a better grip for a passenger.



Still, a stoker bar would be better and that's in the works. For my commutes post-conversion I stow everything in a daypack and just drop it in my left side FreeLoader and cinch the strap down. When I get to my destination I unsnap the strap and take out the backpack. Easy as pie!



It's very nice to be able to take off a jacket or sweater and just drop it in a FreeLoader, cinch down the strap and go. There's no messing with double buckles, a draw string, rooting around in the bottom of a pannier or in accessory pockets for stuff. The FreeLoaders allow ease of access and facile organization for all types of rides.

The FreeLoaders have a built in pocket with heavy duty velcro closures. I keep my pump, u-lock and cable, a spare tube and a patch kit in one side and usually drop my phone, wallet and keys in the drivers' side pouch.



Nothing bounces out of them and they are waterproof, with the outer FreeLoader flap shedding additional water with a drain hole in the bottom. They also protect little legs from moving parts under the deck and behind the V-racks and provide a nice stirrup for riders. I've carried a week's groceries no problem, something I could never have accomplished with my commuter panniers.

ON WEIGHT, MASS AND MOMENTUM

As far as weight management the Xtracycle is amazing. The bike handles surprisingly well with an eight year old passenger and a load of groceries. It seems as if the low slung FreeLoaders greatly benefit handling by keeping the weight low. I definitely notice a difference in handling between my Xtracycle and my wife's Ute that carries its ample panniers much higher. Even loaded down the Xtracycle ridese like a bike. The single kickstand has worked better for me than the double kickstand of the Ute. In fact, my Xtracycle has fallen over just once, and then from a gust of wind, while the Ute topples any time there is more weight on one side than the other.

At first glance you realize a bike with an Xtracycle extension is longer than a conventional bike. Your mind instantly factors in the effects of a longer wheel base and the bags that make the rear of the bike wider. And your preconceived notions about the handling of the bike as it relates to the longer wheelbase would be correct though not as extreme as you would imagine. Also, the bike appears more massive with the greater length and Xtra material. So you would think it would weigh more and you would be slowed down in your travels, but I have yet to notice a difference in my commute times, even when I've been tempted (with greater cargo capacity) to carry heavier loads.

Having pulled a two wheeled bike trailer for a few years now I instantly appreciated the Xtracycle's narrower profile. Also, even though the bike seems ridiculously long it doesn't ride like a tandem. It can be tight getting through intersection "porkchops", but usually the bike clears obstacles with plenty of room to spare even when I think its going to curb check with the rear wheel. My completed Xtracycle and the Ute are almost exactly the same length. Both fit in an elevator and only poke out of my cubicle at work a few inches. The main difference is that the Ute, while long, has a shorter wheel base, while the FreeRadical puts the rear wheel a bit farther back. This does affect the comparative handling of the two bikes, but not by much. Compared to a trailer though, the Xtracycle is definitely more streamlined and compact. Calling it a "hitchless trailer" is a very apt description and reveals one of the most redeeming qualities of the product. My Xtracycle rides like a bike and goes places a bike can go, and it has a back seat and a trunk like a car.

High speed turns, especially when loaded, feel a bit different than on a conventional bike, but the Xtracycle still corners with stability and control. It does take some getting used to, to be able to carve deeply into turns, but its no more difficult once your brain reprograms to the new distribution of mass and momentum. Don’t let the fear of quirky handling keep you from converting your own bike. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how "naturally" the Xtracycle rides.

As far as manhandling the longtail beast into my building and through the office the most revered feature is the FlightDeck's built in handles. The front handle is very close to the modestly loaded monster's center of gravity, making it perfect for pivoting through tight cubicle mazes and through stubborn doors. I was happy to discover the Ute lived up to its promise of fitting in an elevator, and even happier when I discovered my Xtracycled bike fits just as well. Toe to toe for roof top transport the Xtracycle is way easier than the Ute, though the weight and mass of the donor bike plays a significant role in getting the whole affair up over your head.

ON OVERCOMING ADVERSITY

I've not had the pleasure of riding my new X in snowy conditions, so I can't speak to how the longer wheel base is affected by slick conditions. I speculate that there will be two factors that may have an adverse affect on handling. The first is that similar to driving a two wheel drive pickup truck on snow and ice. With less weight over the rear wheel the likelihood of slippage increases. You can counter the effect by putting firewood as far back in the bed as possible…er, or putting weight as far back in the FreeLoaders as possible to increase traction. The second is related. With less weight and a greater distance from the center of gravity I can foresee that the rear wheel could break traction more easily in fast or tight turns on snow or ice. Again, adding weight in the rearmost portion of the FreeLoaders and decreasing speed will mitigate this effect.

The only weather related problem I've had post-conversion was the sudden and dramatic build up of mud between my tires and fenders after a rain while traversing a short section of trail. It was easy enough to loosen the two front bolts of the FlightDeck, unsnap the FreeLoader retaining straps and set the whole rig off on the ground so I could get at the rear fender with some pliers to dig out the sludge. Once I had the bike rolling again it was easy enough to drop the V-racks back on the frame, still attached to the FreeLoaders and FlightDeck, snapped the retaining straps back on, then tightened the two front hex bolts back down and I was on my way. Taking the racks, deck and bags off in the field is quick and simple. This is one area where the Ute is a bit simpler though. With the Ute you just lift the pannier free and unhook the two lower hooks and you can get at everything under the deck. With the FlightDeck attached its not a quick process to remove just the FreeLoaders.


ON THE TURNING AWAY

There are two problems I've had with the bike. The first is more related to the build and to my specific derailers, but I thought the issue bears a little discussion here. The longer chain length makes shifting into my small ring in the front problematic. There is so much slack in the chain that the derailer doesn't apply enough tension to push the chain down. It shifts fine between the other two gears, but just not down to the smallest ring. I realize this is less a problem directly related to the FreeRadical, but it is a factor related to the overall build that might be a problem for you.



The second "issue" I have is that the FreeLoaders don’t provide much built in protection from the elements for your loads. I understand the trade off with the design of the bags. The way they’re made the offer a large cargo capacity with easy access. To include a cover flap or some type of enclosed bag is going to add to the cost, bulk and complexity of the bags. They've mitigated this somewhat with the inner pouches, but those aren’t going to help you if you’re carrying a load of groceries and it starts to rain. I may experiment with my backpacking rain cover and see if it adequately covers a large load in the FreeLoaders. If so then two of those stowed in the pouches would provide all the protection you'd need.



As I stated earlier, I typically stow everything in a semi-waterproof daypack and just drop it in the FreeLoader and cinch it down. And I'm of the belief that if you take it outside you should plan on it getting wet. Life is that simple.

Features I would like to add as funds permit: Footsies, stoker bar, MagicCarpet cushion, P-racks, WideLoaders, and possibly a LongLoader.

Overall the Xtracycle conversion has exceeded my expectations. My bike is still my bike, but better. The longtail bike inspires me to greater feats of bicycling heroics. Stay tuned True Believers! More to come…

In the future I will address surfability, off-road handling, touring capabilities and family bikepacking on the Xtracycle.

Wishes Really Do Come True

I was prepared, and that's the most important thing. I got the rain I had "hoped" for. Bike's all sparkly clean, spring fresh and all…

Actually, it was an enjoyable ride despite a few discomforts. I was almost into Golden on 10th Ave when little ice pellets began hitting my sleeves. I looked up and saw the rain, heard it hitting the pavement, and I realized I was going to get wet. I pedaled harder, hoping to make the bridge under Ford Street on the CCT. I went on to the Washington Street bridge because it’s a little more open and there's more room. Of course by the time I reached the bridge my pants were somewhere between damp and wet. I pulled over and slipped on my rain pants, put on my jacket and hood and covered all of my stuff with a plastic bag.




A good day to be a fish

Hardened against the rain I pedaled on up through the historic neighborhood and then onto the Mines campus. By the time I was on the south side and climbing up to work the rain had subsided. I could look back into the valley between the foothills and the mesas and see low hanging clouds blanketing Golden.

I made the last minute decision to wear sneakers and not my GoreTex hikers. But I still had my wool socks so my feet stayed warm. My fleece gloves were soaked rather quickly and my fingers got a little cold, but not so much as to cause problems.

Other than being a little damp before I got my rain suit on and my cube looking like a homeless person's cardboard box after a rainstorm it was a good ride in.



Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery | No Such Thing As Bad Weather

Wednesday, April 20

Four Twenty


June 29, 2010

A year ago the worst ecological disaster in history (so far) began. A year later what have we learned? Not much it seems.

I was already on my way to begin car-lite/car-free, but that one event that dragged on most of last summer inspired me to move toward a seriously reduced dependence on fossil fuels. That one event has strengthened my resolve and boosted my motivation to live in a more responsible manner and to make an effort, finally, to have a smaller carbon footprint. It’s a process, and I'm still working on it, but a year later I can look at my life and be satisfied that I am making an effort. I've been working to educate myself on global and ecological issues since that time. I've studied politics more closely. I've examined social and personal issues and the relationships between all of the threads of my life. I'm building up a knowledge base to go along with my desire to write.



Post-BP Disaster I am more inclined to believe in a Post Carbon Apocalypse. I have no problem admitting I believe in an impending social calamity. I think the signs are evident. Today is Hitler's birthday. Today is the anniversary of the Red Baron's last victories in the air (he was killed the next day). And today is the 12th anniversary of the Columbine shooting right here in Jefferson County. Of course some enlightened souls are celebrating the ganja today. Glad they could come along on this wonderful journey called life. Glad they get a vote.

But as a society we've been smoking something so much worse…




VS.

On a Positive Note...

I've seen some pretty amazing things from the seat of my bike. I bemoan my interactions with the moto-fascists, but I should give an equal or greater share of bandwidth to the positive aspects of cycling.

When I first went to college in Nashville, Tennessee I took my bike and I rode all over the southern half of Nashville, both for recreation and for transportation. I rode through neighborhoods where famous people lived and I rode down Music Row. I really explored a good portion of the southern city and suburbs. Those were my first real experiences riding in traffic and interacting with motorists AS traffic.

A few years later I lived and biked in Dayton, Ohio. I rode all over the city. I loved riding past Carillon Park and seeing the Wright Brothers bike shop replica in the park. There was a cool sculpture there of a cycling form. I keep looking for my lone photo of it, because it doesn't seem as if its still there in Dayton. Can’t seem to find my photo. I'll share when I finally do come across it.

And then I rode around Lexington, Kentucky on my lunch breaks when I worked there in the summer of 2007. I rode all over the core area of the city and I explored the roads through the horse farms to the north of town as well.

In the years before and between my urban stints I explored around my hometown and the surrounding countryside, including the Red River Gorge area of the Daniel Boone National Forest. I had many good days rambling around the valleys doing short steep climbs to rolling ridges punctuated by severe descents, all bounded by precipitous shoulders.

Since moving west my entire outlook, while somehow persisting, has also changed. I've come back to some of my old thought patterns concerning cycling. I've had my time experimenting, and I've refined my approach to cycling down to the essence of what I've discovered in my 30 years of riding a bike.

I would never have guessed that on my morning commute I would roll along the famed Clear Creek and past Coors Brewery. I'm not a drinker, but if I were I guess that would impress me even more. I first cross Clear Creek just a couple of miles upstream of the mouth of Ralston Creek where Lewis Ralston first found gold. Ralston as in Ralston-Purina. If you ever drive along I-70 passing through Denver you'll get to experience Ralston-Purina nasally. I pass by the parking lot at Coors where the starting line scene in American Flyers was filmed. I ride along the same streets the actors rode in the movie. And then I climb up through the historic section of Golden beneath the quiet fa├žade of Mount Zion where one of the most well traveled climbs along the Front Rage, Lookout Mountain Road, winds up from the plains into the foothills. Out of the historic part of town I continue through the Colorado School of Mines campus. I'm not going to go into it in this post, but in my mind Mines has grown in significance over the past year in regards to world events. And just beyond Mines campus I pass by Harmony Village, a development described in the book Affluenza.

My alternate commute, around the east and south sides of South Table Mountain takes me past the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) which continues to show up in a lot of the documentaries I watch on Netflix and people who work there author articles I occasionally read.

I used to ride from Wash Park in Denver. My commute took me right through downtown Denver, past Invesco Field, literally along the base of the wall of the stadium and west into Edgewater and Lakewood. I rode past the performing arts center and the skyscrapers of downtown along the Cherry Creek Trail. I rode through Confluence Park past REI's Denver flagship store. Then when we moved out to Lakewood I rode past Red Rocks, sometimes through the park for an added workout under the magnificent formations that flank the famed amphitheater. And then I'd ride on past the Dakota hogback, Dinosaur Ridge. A short detour would take me past the remarkable fossilized dinosaur footprints along Alameda Parkway.

Living in Golden for a brief four months, then Denver, then Lakewood and now Arvada I've had the opportunities to do morning rides before work and on weekends up canyons and into the foothills and the mountains beyond. I've ridden controversial Deer Creek Canyon, breathtaking Bear Creek Canyon, Mount Vernon Canyon where I-70 climbs toward the Continental Divide, Lookout Mountain, Golden Gate Canyon and I've ridden all over the metro area. Once I even struck out from the plains for the summit of Mount Evans over 9,000 higher. I've detoured up to Genesee on the way to work and seen the snow-capped peaks of the Divide before work.

Riding my bike I have the time to contemplate these things on a daily basis. History and significance have a living part in my mind each day. I'm not saying I wouldn’t recognize these things if I were driving a car, but they would be mere blips outside the windshield. As I crawl past on my bike I see, I ponder, I analyze. Relevance does not escape my observation. I scheme, I plan, I dream as I pedal where I need to go and I long to ride beyond the paths of necessity. And in my life I've recognized and seized those golden opportunities as often as possible. Life is grand. Life on the seat of a bike is supremely grand.

Tuesday, April 19

Tuesday's On: Bring the Rain!

I hope the rain comes this afternoon. I hope it pounds the Front Range with such intensity that only the transplant Easterners don't quake at the force of it. I want to see rain coming sideways, straight down, splashing up from the ground, swirling around defying gravity. I wanna see what Noah saw before the boat began to rise.

I say all of this because I'm ready for it, and because I'm lazy. And maybe a bit boneheaded. My commute was uneventful this morning except for my own stupidity. I was almost out of Denver West, heading into the last leg of my commute. I was running a little behind, but I'd probably have made it on time. But I didn't. Nope. I dropped off Denver West Parkway just before Federal Ninjas sprang out from behind the NREL sign to kill me, narrowly escaping certain death and plowed down onto the dirt path connecting Denver West and Isabell Street. Well, MUD path today. Before I could dump my velocity concrete-like mud was sucked up between my tires and fenders. My rear fender buckled and threatened to break as I hopped off the bike and tried to roll it forward. I ended up having to back the bike all the way to Isabell proper where I commenced to remove the FlightDeck and V-rack so I could get at the packed rear fender with my pliers. After twenty minutes of work I managed to get the worst of the offending sludge out of both fenders and proceeded on to work.



I'm hoping for a cleansing rain this afternoon so I don’t have to strip off the fenders and break out the hose. Plus our apple trees need it.

As I was finishing up the Easter Bunny ambled over, chewing on some grass, and smirked knowingly. Smug…



So today the Cannonball is locked up to the bike rack out front in the parking garage like a bad puppy, when it was my stupidity that would have soiled the rug.

I attended the first meeting of the Front Range Bicycle Advocacy Coalition at the BikeDenver office downtown last night as a representative (haha) of Bike Arvada. I arrived at 1536 Wynkoop about an hour early. I had ridden straight from work in Golden instead of going home. If I had detoured to my domicile I would have had to have turned around immediately and headed for Denver. It was good. I got to take my time going the short distance from the South Platte over to Wynkoop. BikeDenver's offices are in the Alliance Center which is a cool building. For eco-friendly non-profits the rent is low and the building itself is very green.

I always love going downtown. I historically have considered myself more aligned with natural environments, but something about a bustling city, vibrant with life and texture appeals to me on a deep level. Maybe its the photographer in me. Of course I didn't have my good camera with me last night...


Great public space!

The meeting was a gathering of representatives from bicycle advocacy groups from Fort Collins to Pueblo. I saw a couple of faces I recognized from other events and happenings and got to meet a few more fellow cycling advocates. The meeting inspired some new ideas and direction for Bike Arvada. This summer is going to be good and hopefully we'll grow beyond just my family of four.

But the coalition itself is a great idea conceived by Piep and Maggie of BikeDenver. Through the FRBAC we'll have a greater voice, the ability to activate on connectivity and other relevant issues and in general have better communication between the advocacy groups along the Front Range. We're all in it together.

I'm going to stop writing now to do a rain dance.

Monday, April 18

The Word on the Street

As the folks at Streetsblog have recently observed, higher gas prices are the talk all around. We even had a discussion in our weekly meeting at work in which most of my co-workers agreed through gritted teeth and past chewed lips that the price of everything is going up as a result of rising fuel costs. And in the meantime the news comes down from above: "Still no promotions or raises, be happy you have a job." That's good advice, but moot once expenses exceed income. Are we seeing the beginning stages of the Collapse? I mean, everyone seems to be talking about the climbing cost of living and the signs seem to be pointing to a more long term economic calamity than I've seen in my life. Despite modest increases in the job market and the pundits who are crying "recovery" at every shred of positive movement in the markets it doesn't seem as if we're on a rocket to long term prosperity.

In a recent post I examined that even the APA (NOT that one) has acknowledged Peak Oil. They're no the only ones. The evidence is all around. And remember, denial is one of the stages of grief. It's possible that we're going to start seeing a lot of anger in the coming months and years. I am continually baffled by the lack of anger and outrage the American people exhibit. We should all be stomping mad.

I feel good that my family is hardening against the coming austere times. My mother told me that my dad is worried that we're having trouble with our car because I've been posting so much stuff on facebook and the like about our cycling exploits. I had to laugh and assured her that our car is performing beautifully and that we're just choosing to ride over driving.

I feel good that we have put in clothesline to save electricity and I think we're going to adopt some family policies over the summer where we don’t turn on lights until the sun goes down. We're pretty good about that now, but I think we can improve. We don’t have air conditioning, or even a swamp cooler like many of our neighbors, and while last summer we endured some sweltering nights, I think we will manage and be better off for not "upgrading" our home. The garden is our next project and we need to get it going soon. I'm afraid we're already squandering Spring.

I feel good that we have kept ourselves free of credit card debt and of bad spending habits. We're not perfect, but we typically choose not to spend money we don't have.

While I think we can ride out the initial waves of the Long Emergency, I'm afraid that the Post Carbon Revelation is imminent. Our country is politically, economically, socially and fundamentally ill from consuming too much oil over the past century. Nothing is sustainable, and despite the best efforts of so many that have recognized our dilemma I think its been too little, too late. Sustainability may ultimately become a function of natural equilibrium, and not conscious policy or legislative efforts.

In the meantime we just have to do our best, hang on for the ride and be ready for anything.

Go ride your bike!

Monday Propaganda: What Planners Plan



While I am a Planner, I don’t plan much. The picture I had in my mind of where my career would go after college didn’t involve so many fence permits. And that's where Bike Arvada comes into play. I want to be involved in Transportation Planning. This was something I realized even before the ink on my business cards was dry when I started my current job. Unfortunately when I was sending out thundering hoards of resumes around the country I couldn’t be picky. I had exactly two options: my current job and a comparable one in coastal North Carolina where hurricanes are prevalent.

I don't scribble here on my wailing wall a lot about planning issues, but I am constantly analyzing the infrastructure as I pass by and over it. I peruse Google Earth on my lunch breaks and look for potential connections where none currently exist. I am seriously embedded in transportation cycling for many reasons; my own transportation needs not the least of them.

So its very exciting to me to see improvements moving along that seem both valuable to me for the community and for me as an individual. The City of Arvada has recently been awarded money to complete two different infrastructure projects. One is a Safe Routes to School improvement on Alkire north of 72nd. The other is an improvement project on my beloved Ridge Rd. Unfortunately the worst part of Ridge Rd is within the city limits of Wheat Ridge. I think I may be writing a letter to the City of Wheat Ridge very soon.

But regardless, the improvements will benefit me and my family and the community as a whole. The plans are to widen the bridge over Kipling to allow for bike lanes in both directions, as well as a pedestrian bridge. This is important to the community because there will be a light rail station on the future Gold Line between Kipling and Miller Street to the west. Currently there are not even shoulders on Ridge Rd in this section.

With this improvement there will be continuous cycling infrastructure or cycling friendly conditions from Independence (a block from my house) to Miller where you can turn north on nice bike lanes all the way to the Van Bibber Creek Trail.

Then the next piece of the puzzle comes into play. Jeffco Open Space has announced plans to extend the Van Bibber Creek Trail to the west closing a loop consisting of the Van Bibber Creek Trail, the Fairmount Trail and the Ralston Creek Trail. Construction is projected to start 2013-14, but the extension is still a postive step to greater connectivity in the area. It would give me another viable commuting option that would keep me off of roads that increase stress-related weight gain.



With these infrastructure improvements and the Gold Line going through my back yard with a station a half mile away the possibility of my family becoming truly carfree within the next five years is increasing dramatically. Once the light rail is completed out to DIA we will have no need of a family car. We'll have light rail access to Amtrak and airlines.

I keep my ear to the ground for opportunities to move into transportation planning. But for now I stay involved through Bike Arvada. I'm trying to learn as much as possible by being involved as a volunteer since I can't work directly in transportation now. And sometimes its frustrating because zoning tends to foster the wrong sorts of development and I can see it, but I can't do much about it from where I sit now. Life has given me enough perspective to realize that condition is only temporary.

Sunday, April 17

First Car-Free Weekend

It feels good to say that. We made a trip to Golden on Saturday and a trip to Golden today. There have also been a few trips down to the grocery and hardware stores here in Arvada.

Bean and I rode a solid 38 miles over two days. Mandy and Boone managed around 36.

There's no obstacle left to keep us from going where we want to go in the metro area with the kids on our bikes. I'm sure we'll face conditional obstacles like wind, rain, snow and cold temperatures in the future. And I'm sure we'll figure out a way to surmount those obstacles when the time comes.

The kids are great. They love to go on family rides on the longtails and they are so content while we're out.

Yesterday was the test run for today. This morning we rode to church in Golden. We packed our good clothes and made the ride in a respectable time. If we can pull that off as a family we can do just about anything on the bikes.

What's even more impressive is that we managed to get a pie to the building with us for the monthly fellowship meal and we returned with four flowers in small flowerpots.


Getting ready to leave this morning

Saturday, April 16

But Why Would We Want To?

Warmer weather has increased the enjoyability of family rides. We rode to Golden and back with the kids this morning. It was about 18 miles round trip. Boone wanted to ride his bike but we vetoed that so we could make the trip in a reasonable amount of time.

Its been nice today. Since we've been home we've had all the windows open and its really starting to feel like spring.

This afternoon Bean and I ran down to the hardware store for a couple things to work on the shed and then when we got back Mandy asked what we wanted for dinner. That questions prompted a family ride back down to the grocery store. Bean and I rode about 21 miles total today.

To increase her comfort and safety on the Ute I "modified" the child seat we've had on Mandy's roadbike to fit. I thought I was going to have to get some hardware to make it work but it turns out with some...trimming and a couple of cargo straps we got it on nice and solid. I'm pretty sure we voided the warranty and have broken all kinds of safety laws, but it works really well. The test run was the ride to the grocery store.

Now I just need to craft a backrest for Boone on the Cannonball.







We were cruising back from the grocery store, riding side by side and I said, "If we attached the bikes together we'd have a car." And then the thought popped in my head: But why would we want to?

Friday, April 15

Hardly a Ramming Speed Friday: I Knew It Edition

I even stopped as I was leaving the building at work and tried to readjust the front brake again. I swung past Pedal Pushers to show them the finished bike and then I plowed home against brake friction and a headwind. I managed a respectable speed a couple of times, but when I let off the go juice the Cannonball slowed.

I threw the bike up on the stand when I got home and gave the brake a good working over. Within a few minutes I had it back on and fulfilling its function.


Ripped 'er right off!


Back in business

I grabbed Boone and he and I cruised down to the store to pick up a couple of last minutes dinner supplies. The CBX was rolling fast again.

We're headed out for Golden first thing in the morning, the Cannonball and Lisa hauling the four of us there...

Novelties

I keep wondering how long it will take for the novelty to wear off. We committed to becoming a one car family way back in December of 2009 and it took awhile for the novelty of that aspect of cycling to start to wear off. So now we have a "fleet" of cargo bikes. Last night the whole family rode down to the grocery store for dinner supplies. Usually I hate going to the grocery store, especially all four of us, but last night I was excited. It was fun to go four of us on two bikes. The kids had fun and so did Mandy and I.

We rode down a kid on each bike and returned with both on my bike while Mandy hauled our stuff. At one point we were riding side by side on the sleepy residential street and it was almost as if we were riding in a car. Same number of wheels, parents in front, kids in back.

I'd say the novelty will linger for awhile. But living the car-lite lifestyle is becoming easier and more enjoyable. We're actually more apt, for the time being, to get out and go run errands on the bikes. I find myself less reluctant to leave home than when I had to get in the car anytime I wanted or needed to go somewhere. And we're still fumbling about in Spring! Once the warmer weather settles in for Summer I'm sure the car will sit idle for longer stretches of time.

The obstacles are falling away.

Live, Die and Pay Taxes

There's really more to it than that. Of course we're born and we eventually die. Taxes bring up a whole slew of necessities that add literally tons of weight to the adage. In order to pay taxes you must have income or goods. To have income or good you must work. To work you must eat to have energy. To have food you must either grow, gather or hunt food for that energy.

Human beings typically need to have shelter and also a place where they obtain food and water. Those places could be a cave and a forest in which to hunt and gather. Those places could be a suburban McMansion and an office downtown. And typically human beings will need to leave their place of shelter and travel to the locale where they provide for themselves and their families.

So we live, we die, we sleep, we eat, we work and we travel between the places where we do those things. Taxes only come once a year, those other things are daily requirements of the human condition. Since travel is prerequisite to paying those darned taxes I rode my bike to work this morning. I could have walked, but it would have taken about two and a half hours. That would have changed the adage to "Live, Die and Leave for Work at 5:00am."

I was taxed this morning when the cable end on my front brake got sucked into the disc. It was a wonderfully horrific noise. I had to stop, suck my heart back into my chest, and once I figured out what happened I sorted things out enough to get on to work. I then sat down in my cube and readjusted the whole affair. There is no grinding, but the outer pad is rubbing slightly. I'll make it home and throw it up on the repair stand. I don’t think anything is damaged, just me. My field repairs are not 100% effective apparently.

Will it be a "Ramming Speed Friday?" The first on the newly reformed Cannonball? We'll see. I might be able to crank past a sticky brake pad. I might just be able to do it.

Thursday, April 14

(Not Really) A Snow Day

I sit curled up on the couch with one of my wife's homemade bagels and a mug of Kona coffee trying to think of something witty to write to tickle your cycling sensibilities. Alas, its still early.

I'm taking a personal day to hang with Bean, and when I woke up and saw snow I was glad because I didn't have to commute in it and glad just because its snowing. We haven't had much snow this year and that's unfortunate.

Before I crawled out of bed to help Mandy get Boone ready for school I had pretty much decided I wasn't going to get out myself today; 30 Days of Biking can go fly a kite. But I checked my email and saw I have a hold ready at the library.

"Bean, want to go to the library later?"

She nodded enthusiastically.

So we'll bundle up against the damp cold. The snow has stopped falling (for the time being) but it looks to be the kind of day you want to spend curled up on the couch with homemade delicacies and Kona coffee.

Of course, I don't know how much children's programming I can endure without going completely mad. We'll have to shut off the one-eyed monster after the educational stuff goes off. By then the library will be opening and we can go get some books with the Cannonball. Maybe we'll figure out someplace else to go while we're out.

LATER

It was a good trip on the Xtracycle to town. Bean rides on the deck by hanging onto my back pockets. Every so often I'd feel a hand leave a pocket and then reappear up under my shirt. Those were cold fingers on my lower back. She'd cackle maniacally.

Had a smack-my-forehead-in-punishment moment. We were in the library about fifteen minutes and when we came out I discovered I had forgotten to lock up the Cannonball. Thankfully it was still there!



We had a quick lunch at Ophelia's and then headed home to do some stuff around the house. Its been a relaxing personal (not really) snow day.

Wednesday, April 13

Bikes Can Be Fun Too!

In recent months I've been focused more on utility cycling and less on the recreational aspects of my chosen mode of transportation. But as spring blooms and warmer weather creeps into our lives I have started thinking more and more about riding just for the pure unadulterated heck of it. After five-ish months of scheming to get my family on longtail cargo bikes we’re finally there. So now its time to go back to daydreaming about the long rides. Having a "new" bike inspires a cyclist to greatness.

Planning specific rides also helps me tweak the Cannonball. I've said that I will most likely swap out drops for some other type of bars bars down the road. It will be good to get a summer of riding in and see what type I end up doing more of on the Cannonball. If I start straying off-road a lot I will most likely lean toward mountain bike or riser bars. If I tread the pavement's edge too much I will work on tweaking the drops and going more with a touring setup. If I can't decide then I'll go on and on and on and on about it here for months on end until my wife throws up her hands and goes out for a bike ride without me.

Revisiting the Medicine Bow Trail is high on the family adventure list this summer. Wow, and thinking about riding it without the tow bar and trailer makes my little heart swell. The trailer might still tag along, but not having to pull a train of kid related bike accessories with camping and cooking gear is already looking kinda nice!

The longtail bikes obscure the obstacles. Bikes do make life easier. It’s a misconception that having to pedal all the way to your destination is harder than getting in a car and riding there. The effort expended in pedaling, even in hauling a load of stuff up a hill, creates human strength and endurance. Riding in a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine saps strength and endurance. What seems initially hard become second nature and is ultimately less complicated, less frustrating, less demanding of your life energy converted to currency in the long run. Riding a bike does that, never driving a car.

This is especially true when it comes to recreational cycling. I am baffled by those who will put their mountain bike on the roof of their car to drive five, or even ten miles to a trailhead to ride on a singletrack trail. Even more baffling are those who will drive their bicycle out of a residential neighborhood to an urban trailhead on the South Platte or Clear Creek Trails to ride. How is enjoyable to get the car involved in a bike ride? I'd rather just get on the bike and ride. It's like the people that drive to the gym to run on a treadmill...ridiculous.

And so thinking along these lines makes me second guess my desire to ride the Medicine Bow Trail. It's a three hour car ride through Colorado and just over into Wyoming to get to the trailhead. I'm not saying I wouldn't ride my bike to get there given the appropriate amount of time, but it seems increasingly silly to drive so far to ride so little. I still want to do it, and just going to camp and enjoy that part of the country makes the trip worthwhile, but if we could find some place closer to home requiring the same human energy to reach would be infinitely more satisfying. Elk Park and Kingston Peak anyone?

I've also considered touring up to Pawnee Nat'l Grasslands sometime. I'm not sure why I've been so fascinated with the prairie the past couple of weeks. I'm typically a mountain kind of guy. I typically prefer vertical relief over endless horizons. But the endless horizons are calling me these days as well. I'm being pulled west and east.

I'm looking forward to the first week in May when I won't have to be at work until 9am. I can leave out early one day and ride up to Genesee again. Lookout Mountain looms over my commute through Golden. Many a morning it calls to me. Soon I will be able to sneak in a climb along its winding roads. Soon...


The "threat" of spring

LBS Love

I can’t say enough good things about Salvagetti Bicycle Workshop in Denver. They're great! They got Mandy and I both on new bikes and they've so been helpful and supportive despite our continual harassment. I promise, they will do everything they can, short of giving stuff away (and sometimes they even do that!) to remove the obstacles that are keeping you from riding your bike.

They love bikes (but not that way)! And they love their customers.



We're blessed in the metro area with a few good bike shops. I can’t really bring myself to commit just to Salvagetti for all my cycling needs. Sometimes I need a part or a tube on the way home from work, or a quick fix in the middle of the day, and Pedal Pushers in Golden always comes through. And Arvada Bike has always been good to us with some quick fixes, good advice and great Christmas present ideas to Mandy for me. We frequent them many times primarily because they are more local than local. While Salvagetti provides all of these good services I want to spread the love around and sometimes I just can’t get down to Denver when I need something. But on a scale of 1 to 10 all three of these shops are 10s. Hands down.

Regardless of where you go, please go. Don't buy all your cycling stuff online. But from your local bike shop. We need the LBS as a crucial component in any healthy cycling community. Advocacy tends to center around the LBS. A lot of cycling knowledge and skill is focused there as well. These guys know their stuff and they can keep your jalopy cranking when YOU can't. Without the knowhow and the (cycing) community center that they provide we'd all lose out. If you buy from your LBS you will be supporting an industry component that keeps cycling vibrant and alive in your community. If you buy online you’re supporting a warehouse worker somewhere that can match up numbers to put an order together.

But regarding Day 12 of 30 Days of Biking:

I thought salmon ran in the fall. I had another cyclist come at me head-on this morning. He swerved into the oncoming lane rather than hit me. Thankfully there was no traffic at that moment. But then again the motorists are behaving strangely as well. I was almost to a stop sign and an older woman in a big boat of a car decided she was going to pass me at the last second. Since I was taking up the lane to prevent just that sort of thing from happening she pulled into the oncoming lane and stopped even with the sign completely blocking the opposite lane. I was yelling "REALLY?!" over my shoulder and she was yelling something but I couldn't hear her through the windshield. Really? And I'm sure when she blogged about the incident I was the one at fault.

Tuesday, April 12

The Great Longtail Revolution: The Longtail Manifesto

"I see it in your future its a two-wheeled machine,
It runs on love burns perfectly clean,
Runs on love like something out of our collective dream..."


--Kipchoge Spencer, Xtracycle musician-president (from "Selling the Revolution")

It rides like a bike. It goes where bikes go. But it carries people and things. It expands the potential work you can do with your body. It increases the range of possibilities of the individual. It helps you live up to your true potential.

It won't necessarily make your life easier, but it will make your life better. But where is the value in a life of ease? Effort refines the soul. Adversity sharpens the mind. That which does not kill us makes us stronger, unless it makes us fatter.

The major problems in our society and culture revolve around transportation and energy. The dependence on oil by America drives a foreign policy and a world political climate that is not sustainable. Eventually the rest of the world is going to stand against us. Eventually we're going to be unable to wield the might of a century of energy dominance over the planet. Eventually our Hummers and F-22s will run out of gas.

The bicycle is the antidote to the poison of oil. We've glutted ourselves on the black poison for a century plus now. And we're sick to the core on it. We must wean ourselves because we'd never survive going cold turkey.

There is a Socio-Political Apocalypse looming. And when I say apocalypse I refer to the original meaning of the word, not the sensationalized concept of a great end-time war. "Apocalypse" means a revealing (revelation) or disclosure. And what I believe is going to happen is that at some point the Truth of the Age of Oil will become full clear and open to all. The delicate web we've woven is going to break and everything will become clear. No amount of spin, or mudslinging will hide the facts. Pundits will seek a new means of providing for their families. Their "services" will no longer be needed. The media will no longer be able to side against the good of the people. The truth will be the only thing in demand. The market will finally make the ultimate decision.

To Transition from the Age of Oil to an age of forced sustainability with any kind of order is going to take a greater amount of self control than we will be able to muster as a species. To remain resilient through the post carbon apocalypse will take skills most of us do not possess and do not value enough to acquire.

Stepping back, slowing down, making choices that are not programmed into us by the media and Corporate advertising...these are the first steps to survival and resilience.

Seeing through to the other side of the calamity to come will not be a function of lone survival, of hiding away in a bunker in the wilds of Canada with a rifle and a barrel of flour. Persisting beyond the Age of Oil will be a test of social survival and of being able to live together, not apart. In, as Kunstler calls it, the Long Emergency we will have to form smaller communities that value sustainable practices and more honorable arrangements for living. Of course there will be experiments in feudalism, regional totalitarianism and rampant anarchy. But those that will endure into the future, into the dawn of a new era of human existence (Lord willing) will be those that can reform communities and economies into something that make sense in a world that lacks access to abundant cheap oil.

Regardless of whether there will be a calamity or if we can somehow muster the human energy to transition while maintaining order we are going to have to learn to live in a much simpler manner. We are going to have to learn to be satisfied with simpler arrangements, less complex economies and political systems. We are going to have to relearn civility and civilization.

In the future, the single occupancy vehicle will be the bicycle, or for some the horse. No longer will mankind have the luxury of employing thousands of pounds of steel and plastic to portage a single human body to and fro across the landscape at impossible speeds.

Our roads will persist for some time once heavy trucks stop traveling upon them. The narrowest of them will make wonderful highways for the flocks of bicycles that will suddenly find them welcoming and wonderful as the engines of destruction grind to a halt and the silence deafens us.

And the bike that will dominate the Mad Maxian landscape (where the chapped and feathered antagonists ride bicycles) to come will be the longtail cargo bike. Why? Because the longtail can carry people and stuff. It rides like a bike and can go the places bikes can go. It expands the potential work you can do with your body. And in a world where the human body will be the primary unit of energy the bicycle will be the long range mode of transportation of choice. It increases the range of possibilities of the individual. By allowing an individual to carry other people and stuff the longtail, the hitchless trailer, the SUB, will empower its captain to heroic feats. The longtail cargo bike helps you live up to your true potential. Survivors will ride bikes.

Don't wait until apocalyptic calamity forces you onto a longtail bike. In this fading age of cheap and easy energy the longtail bike is still fun, even if it is functional, it honors community, brings out the natural curiosity in your neighbors and the best in you.

Tuesday's Gone CRAZY!

It was only 40 degrees, but I saw a few cyclists this morning. I guess they're being lured out by the promise of afternoon highs above 50 degrees. These are the fair weather cyclists. And that's okay, better to ride only when the weather is optimal than not at all.

But with greater numbers comes a greater proportion of crazies. I was almost into Golden when I met the first…almost literally. A guy was salmoning east on 10th Ave along Coors. He was standing up, pumping on the pedals of his department store mountain bike, swaying in an arc that spanned the entire bike lane. I stared like a deer in the headlights as I continued cranking west. I had to take the gutterpan to avoid being hit head-on and even then he almost clipped me as he swayed across the lane.

Only a couple of minutes later back on the CCT I met a tandem piloted by a middle-aged gentleman with a pre-teen girl stoking splitting the path down the middle. And of course they were leaning hard into the turn and directly in my path. I think the top of the guy's helmet almost clipped my shoulder.

I made it safe and sound without being pummeled by cyclo-fascists. Now the long wait until my evening commute…

Until then I will dream of longtail touring, of converting an armada of bikes into longtails, of striking off across the prairie, of climbing over passes and to the summits of alpine peaks on the Cannonball.

Monday, April 11

Cane Creek

The Xtracycle is making an impression. Our neighbor across the street owns and operates a carpet business. One of his employees came over to admire the Cannonball while Lily and I were making some adjustments.

He asked if it would fit on a bus bike rack. I told him I didn't think it would. Then we chatted about how riding will boost your metabolism and how riding just makes you feel better in general. Every few moments he would look back under the FreeLoaders or peek at the longer chain. I think he wants one.

I "improved" the rear shifting. Geez, sometimes I can really dial in brakes and shifters, but this go 'round I've had all kinds of trouble. I can't make any headway with the front derailer. It'll ride in the middle ring and that gets me to and from work. So until I can get it into the Golden Bike Shop for my free tune-up I'll make do.

The guys at Pedal Pushers put a Cane Creek headset on the bike on Saturday. It's ironic, we lived on Cane Creek in Kentucky when I was a small child and mom rode around the backroads of Powell County with me in the bike seat.

Moto-fascist Interlude and a Blue Commute

"Get on the sidewalk!"

Haven’t heard that one in awhile. He turned off too quick for me to reply: "But I'm not a car!"

Other than that I had a quiet commute to work this morning. The Cannonball still rides the elevator at work well. It sticks out of my cube just a few inches, hardly more than the Kona Lisa. I hauled my lunch supplies for the week, including a container of iced tea, and despite a jumpy rear- and a temporarily immobile front derailer I made it in 55 minutes, which is normal. All in all a good ride.

Of course I didn’t want to stop at work. I wanted to push on west, up Mount Vernon Canyon and to the summit of Genesee, or to roam the foothills around Evergreen or maybe even on to Mount Evans Road as high as I could get. But alas! Here I sit in my cube, kept company by a really cool blue bike.

Sunday, April 10

A Smugtastic Adventure: A Tale of Two Longtails on a Trip to the Organic Market

Ah! My inner hippie is groaning with happiness. After revisiting my shifter this afternoon I discovered that I had improperly loaded the shift cable into the lever and once I rethreaded it I was in business. Still having issues with getting the front derailer adjusted and the rear is giving me some trouble too. I think it's time to cash in my free tune-up at Golden Bike Shop for winning the Movetober Challenge.

I rode it around the block and up and down the street a bit, but for the full monty maiden voyage we struck out with the Bean for Sunflower Market up at 80th and Wadsworth. Bean hung on despite the wind for the 4.5 miles up there.


Happy little test ride down the street

We got our hippie fuel, loaded it all up in the FreeLoaders and cruised back home, losing the 200 feet of elevation we had gained getting there. Bean rode in the Ute with Mandy on the way home. She fell asleep and her little be-helmeted head was hanging oddly out of the bag. She looks like a pink and yellow version of Rick Moranis in Spaceballs anyway.

We returned home successful and happy. It was a good inaugural adventure for the Cannonball X and Kona Lisa.



Next time we'll take Boone too (he stayed on the street to play with his friend Gabe). It was probably a good thing we didn't take him on that trip.

Mandy's been baking and cooking since we got home. We're both whipped. I did run out on a little ride around Arvada and then finally back out to the grocery to pick up some more flour for Mandy to finish up her baking.

It's been a good day. My stress-related weight gain has fallen off and I've "de-ballooned" back to my Biggest Loser-esqu physique.

Off to bed so I can be rested up for my first commute on the smugtastic new Cannonball, version 4.0, the X.


It's a proper bike, complete with fender

Saturday, April 9

Year of the Longtails: Cannonball X

It's 90% done. And it's been a long, stressful day.

Eric, at Pedal Pushers, got the fork lined out this morning in a little over an hour. He was a lifesaver. Until I solved the fork problem I couldn't really do much else.

Once the frame/fork was back home I set up shop in the kitchen. I think I had another ocular migraine going. The relative shade of the kitchen allowed me to work on the build. If I had been outside the sun and wind would have eventually beat me into submission.



It took some time to pull the tires from the OBS and the Cannonball's wheels and put the commuters on the OBS wheels. Once I got the tires on the wheels I got the wheels on the bike and put the derailers and brakes on the frame.



Finally it was down to cables and housings. There were a few setback, and a few close calls. The front brake housing is slightly too short, but it'll work for the time being.

We were almost done, it was almost 6:00, we had been going on the bike...yes, my lovely wife was by my side all day, lending a hand, even running down to the neighborhood bike shop to snag some housing ends...we had been going for about 6 hours straight and all that was left was to adjust the rear derailer.

The brakes were passable. I still need to work on them some, but they're operational. The front derailer is roughly adjusted, but pretty good for the first try.

But after ten minutes or so it was obvious that there is something wrong with the rear derailer or shifter. I finally deduced that the shifter isn't moving the cable. The shifters I'm using are the Shimano Tiagras I took off the Giant (R.I.P) and it was the shifters that took the brunt of the carport impact. The front shifter works fine, but apparently the rear one is whack.

So I've ridden the bike up and down the street. I can't shift the rear derailer at all, but the brakes work and the front derailer works. I'm going to sleep on it, start over on the rear shifter/derailer tomorrow afternoon and if I can't solve whatever is wrong then we are temporarily going to borrow the shifters off of Mandy's Giant. She offered. I really don't want to do it, but at this point I really, really don't want to buy anything else for the bike. A comparable replacement is going to cost $100. Weep.

One way or the other we'll be in business tomorrow afternoon. I'm going to fine tune brakes and derailers and go back and double check everything else. I can foresee my 2011 letter to Santa:


Dear Santa,

Please bring me a Brooks saddle, and a handlebar like on Mandy's Ute, and please bring me new shifters and brake levers to fit the handlebars. And since I've been SUCH a GOOD boy I would also like some wide loaders and new wheels.

Chris


Anyway, I'm tired. And I'm tired of thinking about this bike. I'm happy the biggest hurdles are behind me. I'm thankful I have such a supportive wife and such patient kids. I hope I can figure out what's going on, but even if i can't I know I have an option that will get me on the road tomorrow.

Goodnight!