Saturday, December 31

From the Pavement's Edge

What's in a name? My original title for this blog was: "Jersey Guys" and the original intent was to share an autobiographic fictional account of our "adventures" interacting with the cycling culture that typically terrorized Washington Park in Denver.

Somewhere along the way I realized I was getting away from that intent, mainly because I wasn't being very fictional, and I wanted to focus less on the negative aspects of cycling culture and share some of my more personal adventures. So I changed the name to "From the Pavement's Edge: Taking the Lane."

I imagine the initial inference would be that "From the Pavement's Edge" would reflect the viewpoint of a road cyclist or a commuter cyclist who is striving to hold his own on the fringe of the pavement, and while the latter most definitely applies in my case, I think my intended meaning was more along the lines of a cyclist treading the crumbling edge of the pavement, gazing off across the non-paved landscape looking for answers.

I was a dormant mountain biker at the time. I had ridden off-road in the past and knew I would eventually get back to it, but at the time I was happily a roadie.

And also, frustration with the car vs bike climate on the pavement led me to look away for possible answers, outside the storm of controversy and rage that exists there in abundance. Answers may lie beyond the pavement.

Riding the edge of the pavement is kind of like being registered "independent" politically speaking. Yes, people may call you "straddlepole," but what they don't understand about your position only belies their own ignorance. I feel as if I have a right to the roads, equal to everyone who rides on four wheels, but I also long for freedom from needing to use roads. So when motorists express their fervent desire that I leave "their" roads--in my heart, deep down--I want to do so.

The conundrum is amplified by the truth I often cite: all destinations are located along roads. While the statement is absolute, the underlying truth is not. Of course I can claim my destination is the peak of some mountain far beyond the end of all roads. But for the practical cyclist, the one who only wants to replace his dinosaur juice drinking machine with an elegant velocipede, all practical destinations do lie along roads.

The destinations that are situated outside the normal circle of society are usually sought in moments of freedom from routine, schedule and obligations...a tour, a recreational ride, an escape from the lawful authorities. If you live in a community and are gainfully employed roads are part of your existence.

But that truth need not hold indefinitely. We can reshape our paradigms and create practical destinations that do not have to lie along roads, or that can be accessed by other means as easily and even more efficiently than by roads within motor vehicles.

Over the past couple of years I've wrestled bodily with the issues of obeying the law versus obeying my own common sense, helmet versus no helmet, road versus bike path, and many other cyclocentric issues. I don't claim to have all of the answers. Who can? But I can say I am willing to experiment, to explore different possibilities, and to forego convention in pursuit of biketopia.

There are days when I long to let my wheel drop off the pavement and never look back. I've had my days of hating cars...motorists. But I know the stark reality is that for now I must continue my journeys along the Edge, dodging risk and uncertainty, asserting my own space as best I can without infringing upon the spaces of others, seeking out the best routes, the most effective courses between the destination of my life.

Pavement is not a necessity, but it is a reality. It crisscrosses in our paths like devious black cats. You cannot swing said black cats by the tail without hitting some pavement. It's everywhere. And it defines our society to some extent. I do my best to keep it from defining me, even as it guides me to the questions and answers that keep me here on the Edge.

Friday, December 30

Year of the Longtails: The Review

What a year it has been! We've discovered a lot, hauled a lot, covered a lot of miles, had a lot of fun, solved some problems, created some problems and in general we've embraced the cargo bike lifestyle with gusto.

2011 was the Year of the Longtails and 2012 is going to be the Year of *Sun Powered Transportation. One will build on the other.

But to sum up this past year, with its ups and downs, revelations and mysteries...here we go.

The first quarter of the year was filled with longing and dreaming about owning and piloting a cargo bike. I pined, I whined and I was like a kid on Christmas Eve...for three months.

And then we really got going just after I attended the Front Range Cyclist Bike Show. There I got to test ride a Yuba Mundo, saw an Xtracycle and my excitement levels went off the scale.





Front Range Cyclist Bike Show write up

First we bought a Kona Ute for my wife. We ordered a FreeRadical kit at the same time, but it had to be shipped. Meanwhile, Mandy loved her new longtail cargo bike and I loved her new longtail cargo bike. But I wanted my own...

My old bike had been stripped and the frame had been powder coated and the shiny "new" frame was waiting for its new corporeal form.

Finally...finally the FreeRad came and I spent a whole day doing the build up. Finally, finally I had my own longtail cargo bike, my own Xtracycle. My precious...

We rode many glorious miles from April on. It was a good time.

Mandy and I rode our longtail bikes to the Rocky Mountain Bicycle Festival in Denver and were rewarded with an urban landscape infested with lontails:









Rocky Mountain Bicycle Festival write up

Then when my family was visiting New York I took my beloved Cannonball X on an ambitious bike tour, from my house in Arvada to Guanella Pass. From Guanella I hiked to the summit of Squaretop Mountain, a 13er, and then I returned home the way I had gone. I gained over 8,000 feet and traveled over a hundred miles under my own power over three days. It was an amazing experience, made possible by a longtail cargo bike.

Cargo bike in general got a fair amount of press this year, with Bicycling magazine featuring them, as well as other publications, especially bloggers.

While watching coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests I am 99.999% certain I saw two people riding a longtail cargo bike in some aerial footage of the street scenes in NYC.

Besides my blog, and my speech, and my normal commuting routes the Cannonball X showed up in a few other places. It showed up on the national scene in Mother Earth News as part of a letter I wrote in regards to a cycling article in the well known mag. Then it showed up on the local CBS news station after I posted a photo of it wrapped in Christmas lights to their facebook page in answer to a call for "photos of your Christmas lights."

Mother Earth News letter:


While it was the Year of the Longtails, it was also a year in which I rediscovered a love for mountain biking, resolved to do the Leadville 100 and began shooting out on long bike rides again.

I set a personal record and satisfied my goal for the year by riding more than 5,000 miles [final tally is 5,100.55]. Most of those miles were on a longtail cargo bike. I commuted by bike all year, and only carpooled a small handful of times. I only drove alone less than half a dozen times. I rode in sub-zero temperatures. I rode in snow, over ice and after crashing and wrecking my shoulder. Oh, and I crashed and wrecked my shoulder.

It was a biketastic year. And I hope 2012 will be an even more biketastic year. Things are looking good so far. Mandy and I are planning to do more touring, both with the kids and without. Leadville looms. I have just over two hundred days. And I need to get whipped into shape. Mandy has mentioned she wants to try a duathlon. I think that could be a lot of fun.

Looking forward I am hopeful. Looking back and I'm content with the past year. It was a good one in more ways than I've described here in this blog.

Here is a List of Notable Rides in 2011:

Dirty Bismarck from home
Bike Depot Visit
Lily's first pedal to town
Big Dry Creek
USA Pro Cycling Challenge
Mineral Belt Trail, Leadville
Buffalo Creek MTBing
Guanella Pass Tour
Revisiting Red River Gorge
Commuting with Lily
First car free weekend
First Xtracycle ride
Storming the State Capitol

Hear are the "Year of the Longtail" specific posts:

Franken-cannon-stein-ball X
Bikenomics
Making Room
Tearing Down So We Can Build Up
Waxing Poetic
Nailbiter's Lament
Brute on a Ute
Resolute on a Ute
Astute Ute Salute
Cannonball X
A Tale of Two Longtails
At Last...the Xtracycle Review You've Been Waiting For
Greening of the Thumbs
What I Did On My Summer Vacation
YOLT Update
Breeding Like Longtails
In the News: Cannonball X
Cannonball Xmas
Upgrades, Not Up Grades

The Great Longtail Revolution: No More Obstacles
The Great Longtail Revolution: The Longtail Manifesto

* Was "Human" Powered Transportation due to a proofreading error.

Thursday, December 29

End of the Year BSO Update

The suspense must be killing you.

For your viewing pleasure click HERE.

Yeah, it's awesome.

Here's what it looked like back at the beginning of September:



I think I've been working on it for over four months now? I forget when I stopped shaving. I've trimmed a few times, but nothing drastic. I also started letting the top grow out. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

At least I don't look like this:



We're going to see this thing through as long as possible. I'm hoping for a Grizzly Adams look by summer:



ZZ Top by fall:



And this by the end-of-the-Mayan-calendar/apocalypse:



It seems to be doing its job:


Back at the beginning of December

I'm going to see how far I can take this...

Wednesday, December 28

Stowaway Love

In the pre-dawn quiet I went to load my bike with the day's necessities and I discovered my son had tucked a drawing my handlebars. Then as I went to put my things into the FreeLoaders I found a folded drawing for/of me by my four year old daughter.


For a moment, ignore the obvious conundrum of Obi Wan and Luke fighting Darth Maul together, obviously from Luke's landspeeder, and bask in the awesomeness...


My four year old can write now

I love my kids...they are awesome!

So the CBX 4.1 rides awesomely! I felt a bit more sure-footed/wheeled with the knobby tires and the H-bar is great! The only slight issue I have is the final configuration of the shifters and brake levers. By putting them both on the bottom legs of the "H" there is little room left to comfortably rest my hands. I think I might move the shifters forward of the cross bar and leave the brake levers behind.



But...having the different hand positions is great. The bars let me sit up a little more than the drops did and the wider stance makes for more facile mounting and dismounting of the bike. I have a feeling that I will have more control riding with a loaded bike as well too.

I also noticed, and believe this to be a factor related to the wider bars, that now the long bike feels shorter. I don't have the distinct feeling of dragging a half mile of bike behind me. This is both good and bad. Good because, while the bike is still as stable as before, it rides more "naturally" but bad because I may forget my rear wheel still has to turn way back in the other county and that could be disastrous.

I can also rest my forearms across the cross bar and the forward "H" legs in a sort of impromptu aerobar position. Nice!

Having wider bars and knobby tires makes me feel like I'm riding the Hummer version of a bike. It makes me feel like I can crush anything under my wheels. Grrr!!!

Tuesday, December 27

Laying Siege to the People's Republic

I think I've mentioned that I will be taking some classes in Boulder over the coming year. I'm pursuing a professional certificate through the University of Colorado's Sustainable Practices Program. By wrestling with time and space a bit I convinced the powers that be to allow me the necesary Fridays free from work to attend class, and I even managed to convince them to pay for it!

As a direct result of my scheduling needs my employers have instituted an experimental flex schedule for myself and three other co-workers. If we don't screw it up we'll be able to take a flex day about once every two weeks. So...no need to take mental health days to train for Leadville...

The conundrum that then remains is the physical gulf I must span to get from my home in Arvada to the campus of University of Colorado in Boulder some 20+ miles way by 9am on certain Fridays.

By bike my best route is 22 miles with some 800 feet of gain along the way. I have to cross at least five drainages. By bus, if I get a ride with Mandy and the kids up to the park-n-ride at Sheridan and 36 I can make it almost to the classroom in about 35 minutes with an hour return trip in the evening.

I'll have three classes in January, and then one each in February, March and April. The remainder of the classes I want to take have not been scheduled yet.

I'm hoping for much thawing and no accumulation between now and my first class on January 6th. If the surface conditions are amenable to it I am going to try and ride there. With a 9am start time I should have ample time to make it all the way up to Boulder so long as I leave early enough. To get home after 5pm (after dark this time of year) I have three options: 1) bike home, 2) Mandy pick me up in Boulder, 3) put the bike on the bus and mass transit home. Having Mandy pick me up would be the fastest path home. Riding would be the most enjoyable, unless the weather is unfavorable, and riding the bus would involve the most stress until I had a successful crossing under my belt.

I have a feeling the bus is going to become a reality at some point between now and my class in April.

So the CBX 4.1 is ready to cross road and trail. My 22 mile bike route involves some dirt, including a small bit of the Dirty Bismarck. See, I had my reasons for those explorations.

I'm hoping to gain even a small bit of familiarity with cycling in Boulder. I know I won't have much time to explore extensively, but I will have to get into and out of town and there will be a lunch break each day and I will probably take advantage of that to learn my way around campus. I'm compulsive like that.

Boulder is a Platinum level Bicycle Friendly Community. Until I signed up for these classes I have had no reason to ride there for other than recreational purposes. Surely I'll gain some insight from behind the handlebars.

Regardless of what cycling knowledge I can obtain, the program promises to be a good educational opportunity for me.

Monday, December 26

Cannonball X 4.1

Jones H Bar, knobby tires, new Alvio shifters and back to the original brake levers.







I want to get it off the pavement...and I'm not ruling it out as a viable Leadville option.

Year of the Longtails: Upgrades, Not Up Grades

Grumble, grumble, grumble?!

Translation: Why does the bike shop not open before ten?!

When I first did the Xtracycle build and gave birth to my monster I was still wrestling with the handlebar configuration.

I didn't want to go with flat bars because I intended for the finished Cannonball X to be closer to a touring bike. I wanted to be able to ride a century or ride to work or to get groceries or out for the day on the metro area MUPs.

I also didn't want to commit to cruiser bars, or something like the Ute's swept back configuration for the same reasons. I liked riding the Kona Lisa and for my daily commute the swept back bars are perfect, but for the long haul I didn't think they would serve me well.

At the time I thought my only other option was to go with conventional drop bars. So I did, but in the back of my mind I knew that the CBX with drops would not be the final form of my longtail cargo bike.

One other factor to consider is that the Cannonball frame is a bit large for someone of my stature. I'm average at 5' 9", and I bought the bike from the original owners who are brothers and both very tall. Any handlebar configuration had to be carefully considered so as not to make the bike unrideable. I had to go with a shorter stem to make the CBX with drops work at all.

And then I saw the Jones H-Bar. I knew I'd found the perfect handlebar setup for the X. Multiple hand positions, swept back ends, straight and flat middle section and forward and center swept ends.



The H-bar would satisfy my cruiser tendencies, my MTB tendencies and my touring needs. So when mandy asked me what I wanted for Christmas I explained the H-bar and how it would make the CBX a superior machine. And I added that I'd need new shifters too. I still have the original Cannonball brake levers in the shed.

So we trundled over to Arvada Bike and put in the order. My wife is awesome!

My hope was twofold: 1) That the bars would be as functional and versatile as they seemed. I was fairly confident they would be, and 2) that some of my front chainring shifting issues would be fixed with the new shifters.

Another plus is that with the new shifters I will be able to adjust at the shifter end again, where with the Tiagras I took off my slain Giant (RIP) you can only adjust at the derailer. There are some other pros to switching: more rise, better control with a loaded bike, better dirt possibilities. The cons seem slight: wider bars...I guess that's really it.

Christmas morning I tore into the wrapping paper and held aloft my new H-bar...I. Have. The Power!

And then the "fun" began. Down comes the existing cockpit and I had to build up the new one. Everything had to be newly adjusted, tweaked, fiddled with. Oh, and then I had to wake my family so they could open their gifts.

I decided since I was going to be wrenching down deep on the reconfiguration I might as well give the ole CBX a good going over. It needed a good cleaning, check the brake pads, check the fenders and all the other bolts and attachments and I wanted to put my old knobby tires back on for snowy weather. No small job...

But on Christmas Day I was hard pressed to find the motivation for deep maintenance on the ole cargo bike. I got the handlebar on, the shifters and brake levers in place and the bars wrapped and ready to go.

Still lacking were both brake cables (Tiagras and the new Alvios utilize different cable ends) and the long shifter cable. I couldn't get the gumption to swap tires and fiddle with my rear brake. It seems like the brake issue might be an adjustment or something, so until I have the new cable there's not much I can do.

Alas!

9:22am. Bike shop opens in less than an hour...maybe I should go camp out?

Saturday, December 24

New Christmas (Eve) Traditions

My family has pioneered new Christmas (Eve) Traditions. This morning we woke to the quiet sounds of Boone navigating through Netflix (turned to obscene volumes) to get to the episode of the original Star Trek where the crew of the Enterprise meets up with the entity known as Redjack ("Wolf in the Fold"). It starts out with a belly dancer who is quickly murdered Jack the Ripper style.

As we pondered the (predictable) outcome of the episode we heard the angel song of sizzling sausage in the skillet as Mandy made breakfast. Homemade biscuits, homemade gravy, eggs and homemade apple butter. Roll me into 2012.

And the apple butter is like angel kisses. I could eat enough to stun a goat. Actually, I think I did...

Mandy just asked me what kind of cookies (I thought) Santa would like and I told her to ask me later because all of the blood had left my brain to go fight a battle in my belly. I actually felt a little woozy when she asked.

Anyway, now my wife will blast Christmas music at obscene levels and drive me and children from the house like rats leaving a sinking ship. That's okay, we will sacrifice the gift of hearing for the delectable baked goods that her musical trance will produce.

I wonder if there are subtitles for Star Trek on Netflix?

Friday, December 23

Black Hawk Bicycle Ban Update: Dec 2011

You remember the Black Hawk bicycle ban?

The gambling town (if you can call it that) in the Front Range foothills west of Denver banned bikes from town roads in 2010.

The Colorado Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of three cyclists who were ticketed in June of 2010 for riding their bikes on city streets in Black Hawk. After a Black Hawk judge affirmed the ban and the Gilpin district court ruled against the three cyclists they appealed to the state supreme court. The state's highest court has decided to hear the case, though no court date has yet been determined.

The city cites safety as the primary impetus for banning bikes within Black Hawk, claiming that the streets are narrow and were designed for horse and buggy traffic, not for bicycles. Of course considering the narrow and twisting nature of the streets it seems as if bikes would be a more appropriate form of transportation within the city than the unending flow of motor coaches which shuttle would-be gamblers into town from the plains.

Bikes are also banned in Clear Creek Canyon, which is the major connector between Golden and Black Hawk, due to numerous narrow tunnels. However, hoards of private motor coaches are still allowed to travel the narrow, twisting roadway despite their insane propensity to exceed the speed limit and take both lanes.

The supreme irony is that after only one year Gov. John Hickenlooper has decreed the week of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge as a "Colorado Cycling Holiday."

Can these two things both happen in the same universe without bringing on the apocalypse?

Probably not.

Thursday, December 22

Solstice

In the Denver area today was significant for a few reasons.

First, it was the first full day of winter. Winter commuting season is THE season. If you commute through winter by bike here you are hardcore.

Second, today there was about a foot of snow on the ground all over the Front Range and the metro area. Some places, like Coal Creek Canyon and parts of Boulder County, had almost three feet of snow. In my estimation today was an unrideable day, but I have a feeling there were people who rode. For me, having a ten mile commute, I just could not rationalize getting out on two wheels. The roads I normally travel were not conducive to cycling. And with the snow coming down as steadily as it was, no amount of clearing would have made the paths easy going.

And third, today marked winter solstice. While winter will be settling in over the land and pummeling die-hard cyclists, the days will only be getting longer, lending more light by with to see the sheets of ice and snow drifts, and to melt the lingering snow.

I'll be driving again tomorrow. My opportunities to drive (ugh, did I just write that?) are so few that when they coincide with a major weather event I feel compelled to take advantage of them.

Oh, and there's only two more shopping days until Christmas...

Complaining About Abstract Consequences

I drove today.



My family is off school all week. My employer did not call a snow day today. I was not going to ride my bike in a foot of snow in the dark even as more snow was falling.

My employer should have called off work today, or at least delayed. All the other jurisdiction around us have either delayed or closed. There is three feet of new snow in Coal Creek Canyon this morning. The roads are horrible, some of the worst I've seen in four years here, especially considering that crews had about 14 hours to clear them before I had to head out to work this morning.

And what would have been the real consequences of closing for snow today? There were no real consequences, only abstract consequences. But let's go ahead and put life and property in danger just so we can say we did. Those are the real consequences...risking injury and/or damage to our SOVs when the alternative would be an empty office. That's all.

If I had no other choice but to ride, I would not have ventured out this morning. Was I any safer in my car? Not really.

Wednesday, December 21

The Charge of the Light Brigade



Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
-- Alfred Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade

Sometimes getting home is the hardest part of the day. On Monday I got to work before the snow started falling. But by the time I was heading home there was a good coating on the ground and heavy flakes were swirling all around.

I cranked first north, and then east into the fray. Descending into Golden was treacherous. Traversing along Clear Creek I got sidetracked onto what should have been a closed trail and had to walk across shattered piles of ice that covered the trail by about three feet. Then I got on the Clear Creek Trail proper. I had to keep my speed in check going down the hills and around the curves.

As I cruised along the straights of the wind tunnel between the mesas I started to feel the cold. I decided I'd pause under the McIntyre bridge and pull on my balaclava and text Mandy to tell her I was running slow. And it was getting dark. I switched the Laser from blinding strobe to Real Genius mode. The snow hissed as it cut through the heavy flakes.

I sent my text and then yanked on my polypro headsleeve named for a peninsula in the Ukraine where the Light Brigade (wearing hand knitted versions of my polypro article) made its infamous charge due to a miscommunication during the Battle of Balaclava. The phone buzzed and I saw: "Want me to pick you up somewhere?"

And so the British lost...

I suggested a meeting point and a 20 minute delay and was back on the bike, trying to maximize my speed.

So my lovely wife met me at a park near our house and portaged me over the sloppy roads. Even with the car ride it took me about an hour to get home. And much like the British...I lost against the Russians/weather.

I'd been home a couple of hours before I finally warmed up. It was a good ride.

The forecast is for more snow (4-8 inches) and even colder temps starting this afternoon. We'll see if we can give it another go...maybe slay those pesky Russkies in the end.

Of course the British didn't have to deal with crazed afternoon traffic in Denver West.

Monday, December 19

Just Another Monday

Liars.

Turned on the TV this morning and at the bottom right side of the screen I saw "35ºF" and there was no snow on the ground.

Liars.

So now the snow is to be moving in before 9am. It looks ominous from the south end of Golden looking north. The "forecast" is still for only a couple of inches.

I debated: Ute, or MTB? I only decided as I was ready to go out the door.

Because I haven't had the chance (motivation) to strip the CBX and figure out what the awful noise in the caliper was the other day, I didn't want to chance getting it out in snowy weather. I rode the Ute to town yesterday to do some very last minute shopping so it became a reminded option. But if there was going to be a few inches of snow I didn't want to take Mandy's Lisa into the fray. So it was down to The One.

I rode the MTB.

Liars!

The commute home will be frosty, as the temperature is supposed to plummet and the snow is supposed to fall. Today is both the weekly office meeting and the end of the year quarterly meeting-slash-Christmas party-slash-white elephant gift exchange-slash-wrestling match for booze. Will there be a chance to salvage productivity before St. Nick pounds on the door early Sunday morning?

Slash.

Can you tell I am joyfully immersed in the Xmas spirit? It is Monday after all. This is pretty good "Xmas spirit" for a Monday.

Sunday, December 18

Dreaming of a White Christmas

The forecast for tomorrow morning is for a couple of inches of snow and colder temps. How much colder? Well, the high will be about where the lows were last week: 29F.

I can ride The One (MTB) tomorrow because I already have everything I need at work. I guess I could manage on the non-cargo bike all week. Oh, and then I'll have access to the car all week too.

I've got to give the CBX a good going over sometime soon. On my ride home Friday I think I picked up something off the trail that got between my rear disc and the pads. As I was cranking up a short steep hill I heard an awful noise. So I pulled over and tried to figure out what was going on. But without taking the P-racks off I couldn't really get in to see what had happened. I did narrow the sound down to the caliper area.

As I pedaled tentatively toward home the noise eventually went away, but I fear that I'm going to need to put my spare pads on. It wasn't a happy noise. And one of the joys of riding an Xtracycle is not having easy access to the rear wheel. Seems like its always the rear tire that gets flats, the rear brakes that give me fits and the rear derailer that needs tweaking.

Oh, my rear derailer needs some tweaking too. But, I have it on good authority that I will be getting a new H-bar and shifters for Christmas (I picked them up from the bike shop yesterday) so that will be taken care of with the upgrade.

I'm pretty excited about the new setup. Of course I'll be posting pictures post-xmas.

Friday, December 16

Ramming Speed Friday: Racing Toward Christmas

One more week kiddies!

I can't claim a valid RSF because I had to stop off and run an errand in Golden on the way home. Kinda kills the ol' average when you do that.

It was a Ramming Speed Friday of the spirit. I raced away from another week of stress related weight gain and internment in the corporatist system.

One of the building department guys told me earlier in the week that if he had his way he'd snip my cube's Xmas lights with wire cutters. I'm guessing in his eyes they're a fire hazard. And I would pay money to see him snip the wire with an uninsulated pair of wire cutters.

So tonight we head out for Mandy's work related Christmas party. The kids will be held against their will by some friends so perhaps we can get a little seasonal shopping in. Perhaps.

Otherwise there will be distinct pressure to wake up tomorrow morning and drag ourselves out to "bustle" with the rest of humanity. We're doing our best to avoid buying for the sake of buying, but there are a few little things. And of course I still lack great gift ideas for my wife and mother.

Nothing like a little performance anxiety when it comes to choosing gifts. What if I totally screw up? Cause you can't get out of that job next year by bombing it this year.

Oh well...soon it will all be over. Christmas will pass, and my family will enter the long dark winter of the birthday season. Ugh! At least we'll be 1,200 miles from most of the cake.

Busic Mlogging

Yah, a lot of people blog about the music they're listening to on Fridays. It's not something I've ever done, and not something I plan on making a habit of doing, but I thought I'd share.

Lately (the past four hundred years) I've been listening to bluegrass and folk almost exclusively, except when my wife expresses an interest in some rock or pop song or group, or turns off my music in protest. Occasionally I wax nostalgic and listen to a Metallica song or two, or revert back to some punk/ska from the days when I was living a car lite lifestyle as a rock climbing guide.

Recently our son discovered the Beatles. He did a school musical which was all Beatles songs. That led to us trying to find our Beatles CDs and a Netflix screening of A Hard Day's Night.

In the process of flipping through stacks of CDs I was taken back in time a bit, and also rediscovered a lot of music I used to listen to. Most of it came from that climbing era, about '98 through 2002 or so, and I decided it was time to put those bands back into rotation. So without too many frills here is the list of albums I've got spinning in my hard drive this morning:

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Chronicle Vol 1 (weren't expecting that huh?)
Face to Face - Live
Hagfish - ...Rocks Your Lame...
Homegrown – Act Your Age
The Ramones – NYC 1978

...and oddly: Nirvana – Nevermind

Of the Hagfish and Homegrown albums I only like five songs total, but the Face to Face album is one I can put in and listen to straight through. Kinda the same thing with the Ramones, except I tend to use them more as background noise. And of course, Nevermind was one of those albums that was filled with, in the words of Cliff Poncier, the anthems of my youth. I graduated in 1992, so I'm a little Grungey on the inside.

Monday I may go back to strains of the Steep Mountain Rangers, The Tillers, Tim Dennison & the Creepers and more twangy stuff. But for today I am blasting some electrified tunes through the cubicle at my fellow inmates...er, coworkers.

Thursday, December 15

Lazy @#$%!

Last night my wife met me at the door to congratulate me on 5,000 miles. She's awesome that way!

To celebrate 5,000 miles in 2011 I think I should have called in "sick" today. Alas, I did not. No, to "celebrate" I got on my bike in the dark (though it was draped with two strands of battery powered Xmas lights) and pedaled off down my street. I was cold. I was not motivated to ride. 5,000 must be my threshold.

Nah, I am just weary of this routine. Four years at one job is a (another) record for me. Weary of routine...and lazy. Yeah, I would have driven this morning if I'd had the option. Fortunately I did not.

It felt like I was dragging a concrete block behind the CBX all the way to Golden. It hurt my feelings every time I had to downshift. I probably need to check the air pressure in my rear tire. Squeeze test feels okay, but sometimes the fingers lie.

And then somewhere in the darkness I realized that next week I will have access to the car. My family will be off school. And then the demons started gnawing on my brain. Do I ride (in the car)? Do I drive (my bike)?

I'll leave that decision for next week. The weather Sunday looks downright tropical at 50F (but with an impossible seeming low of 17F) so I may want to ride and enjoy the weather and a less restrictive wardrobe. But then again, I may feel more lazy than I did today. If that happens then we will see just how strong my resolve is.

Wednesday, December 14

Midweek Ramble

Title seems innocuous enough, right? I'm working on a few other posts right now, the one you may have an inkling about is related to the survey I posted yesterday. Please take a few short minutes and fill it out if you haven't already. And if you have, or do, thank you for participating!

No, the reason I'm writing is because I will probably not have time tonight when I get home to post, but somewhere in Arvada as I pedal through the fading light the ol' mental cyclocomputer will tick over 5,000 miles for 2011. I'm just under 12 miles shy of the mark as of this morning's commute.

Wow.

Wow.

I more than doubled my miles of the year before. In 2010 I rode 2,400 and change. Now, I know there are many people out there who ride 5k or more every year and they may not keep track, they may not realize how much they've ridden or they may. And I do not wish to belittle the efforts of anyone who has not ridden big numbers. Riding is riding. For me this (5,000 miles) is significant.

2008 was the first year I kept track of my miles for an entire year, and it was the first year I rode a significant number of miles. 2008 I rode 1,717. At the first of the year, 2009, I signed up for the Triple Bypass and I vowed to up my miles and crush the TBP because of the sheer number of hours in the saddle. I rode 2,012 miles in 2009.

Last year was my first as a "full time" bicycle commuter. I rode 2,480 in 2010. I wasn't truly fully committed until late in 2010 when my wife went back to work. And then last winter it was on!

I kept my monthly mileage average pretty high. My only moment of doubt was the end July, when I'd only ridden 303 miles. Amazing considering that was the month I did my three day bike tour (80-ish miles).

But then I cracked 600 miles in a month in September. I'd only cracked 500 for the first time in April of this year.

I'm not really a lot faster now than I have been in the past. But I think I am consistently faster than I had been in previous years. It's rare that I get to work in less than 50 minutes, or get home in less than 30. But my range is 50-55 minutes in the morning and 30-40 minutes in the evening (depending on the route I take). In years past I could never predict how long it was going to take me to get anywhere. My pace was all over the place.

Another thing I've noticed is that while I don't do a lot of singularly long rides, I don't need as much saddle time to get back to being comfortable riding longer distances. My Dirty Bismarck jaunt from home back in November went surprisingly well for a forty miler off the couch, so to speak.

Life is good. Not so long ago I was dreading the hours I'd soon be facing riding in the cold and darkness of winter. Now that I've got a couple of weeks of it under my belt I'm kind of settled in to my routine and I'm at peace with the fact that winter bike commuting season has begun.

Now the question is: do I participate in Salvagetti's Winter Commuting Team? There's a catch, you know...

Tuesday, December 13

Doing Some Research, Please Help!

Please help out a poor cyclo-blogger! I'm doing a survey for an upcoming blog post, and I'd like to get as many responses as possible. Retweet, post to facebook, spam email to friends and family...anything!

Please make sure you scroll down and hit "Submit" at the very bottom of the survey.

Thanks in advance!

Monday, December 12

The Psychology of Descent

Introduction

This post is the last in a three part series on "psychology." The first post was the Psychology of Long Rides and the second was the Psychology of Climbing. We're almost down man!

***



Some sick souls are just gluttons for punishment, riding up steep grades on bicycles for no good reason...sick. Of course those sick souls must find a way down from their lofty heights. And getting down can be a big deal.

More rock and mountain climbers are injured or killed on the descent than any other time while climbing. Could the same be said of cyclists?

The hard part is over. You did the ten mile slog up to the pass just so you could whoop-de-doo down the backside at 50 miles an hour. Your wife would divorce you if she knew you cracked five oh on the ole cyclo-computer. Child services would whisk your kids away in a nanosecond. But you pushed on those pedals as if your life depended on it once you saw you were coasting at 45 mph.

Reckless? Or calculated risk?


Descending Mount Vernon Canyon

Part of the thrill of riding a bike is bombing down hills. I don't care who you are, you can deny it, but you love the feeling of going really, really punk rocker fast down some curvy hill. It might scare the pee out of you, but you love it. Screaming down a steep canyon road with tears whisking back into your ears is one thing, riding willy-nilly-out-of-control down a snaking singletrack is a completely different monster.

But both types of descents require complete focus and fast descents are not for everyone. The good news is that bicycles are typically outfitted with brakes, so your descent does not have to be such a kamikaze affair.


Cyclist coming down Lookout Mountain

When we rode the Virginia Creeper Trail a few years ago we met an elderly gentleman and his wife. They were on hybrids with upright sitting positions. But gramps extolled the virtue of a good fast ride down an incline. They intended to fly into Damascus down from Whitetop Station. They took off and we never caught up with them as we bombed down the mountain ourselves.

On roads I've always been a full throttle kind of descender. I'm cognizant of the hazards. I accept the consequences of my risk. But I ride a bike to have fun, even when I'm riding a bike for utility. Going fast is fun, and the easiest way to go fast is to start at the top of a hill, the steeper the better, point the wheel downhill and pedal. Hard.

Until recently I've been a more reserved dirt descender. I have no desire to implant a tree trunk into my brain. I like trees, just not that much. And you never know when you'll round some sharp, narrow curve and come face to face with an obstacle you don't want to merge with on a molecular level.


Buffalo Creek

You must have confidence to descend fast. And to gain that confidence you really have to have quite a few successful descents. The best way to survive this process is to start slow and build up to faster speeds. This is a pretty common notion in any activity. You've got to build up to it.

The danger with cycling is that any yayhoo can point the bike down some monster and let gravity do all the work. Voila! Sudden death.

Yayhoos notwithstanding, even you Dear Reader, can succumb to going too fast. Even I...

But as in climbing rocks and mountains, you can't let your guard down once the hard stuff is over. Even though you're going to let the single most powerful force in nature move your nappy behind down the road, you must still exert some power and will of your own. While rocketing toward the flats below, make sure to keep your attention riveted to the road or trail ahead. If you want to take in the view...stop.

The reason rock climbers and mountaineers perish themselves while descending is because they believe the hardest part, and most dangerous part, is over. The reality is that moving with gravity can increase your danger exponentially because of momentum and endorphins. Your brain was awash in a "runners' high" only seconds before as you reached the apex of your climb, but you find yourself blazing through the atmosphere at near terminal velocity as the bottom drops out from under you. You want to enjoy the moment, revel in the feeling of accomplishment, but you shouldn't be doing those things at the expense of your attention to the task ahead: descending safely.

Enjoy the ride, but remember a few things:

1) Focus on where you want to go, not on where you DO NOT want to go. Don't stare at the rock in your path, zero in on the narrow gap between it and doom.
2) Plan ahead. If the route is blind SLOW DOWN. If you can see far ahead, then put the spurs to 'er Chuck, but be ready to stop, slow down, or maneuver before you get to any obstacles.
3) Keep yer hands on the bars. While descending at speed you should not brush mud off your downtube. You should not take the opportunity to wrassle with a gel packet. You should not be picking your nose. Keep your hands on the bars.


And lastly, only YOU know your limits. Don't let the thrill of gravity and momentum lure you into speeds that you can't manage. And slob in a smelly t-shirt can hit 50mph. Be the slob that hits 50 and lives to tell about it.

Friday, December 9

Ramming Speed Friday: And We're Ba-ack!

Just last night I realized there had not been a bona-fide Ramming Speed Friday in a long time. Friday, November 4 was the last...

And so, in an effort to reintroduce an institution here on the Pavement's Edge, I felt it would be good to give you a little history on "Ramming Speed Friday."

I would have to say that the original idea came when I integrated a line from the character Stu, the 'bent rider, in Yehuda Moon during a conversation about biking. It didn't take long before my wife and I had included the phrase "ramming speed" as a permanent fixture in our conversations.

The original post (1/21/11) was simply entitled: Ramming Speed Friday and I did little to define the parameters which would qualify a given last commute of the week as a valid RSF. Since then I have determined that for a ride to qualify it must be executed at least a 17mph average for the entire ride. Therefore there are Ramming Speed Fridays and there non-ramming versions.

Since then there have been quite a few posts referencing Ramming Speed Friday. What follows is an exhaustive list.

The original post
RSF: Slushy Side Streets Edition
RSF: Three Day Weekend Edition
Anti-speed Friday
RSF: Headwind Edition
RSF: The Great Escape
RSF: Pedestrian Death Edition
Ramming Speed...What Day Is This?
RSF: Get That Aluminum Foil Off Your Head Edition
Cargo Speed Friday
RSF: I Knew It Edition
RSF: Happy Earth Day Edition
No Ramming Speed Friday
RSF: It's All Training Edition
RSF: Speeding Toward Rapture
Ramming Speed Last Day Before Vacation
Cruising Speed Friday
Healing Speed Friday
RSF: Suspended Until Further Notice
The Early Return of Ramming Speed Friday
RSF: Course Preview Editon
RSF: Warp Factor Apprenticeship
RSF: New Bike Day Edition
RSF: Breaking the Commute Barrier
RSF: Random But Here
RSF: Busted
Relaxed Speed Friday
RSF: Short and Sweet
RSF: Antisocial, Anarchism and Animosity
RSF: Inlaws Edition
These Go To Eleven

The criteria, to determine is a day is an official "Ramming Speed..." are:

1) The average speed must be over 17mph for the entire ride.
2) Typically the commute will be the afternoon or evening commute at the end of a work week.
3) There are no criteria, I made all of this up to take up space.

So today is Friday. Was today a valid RSF?

Alas, no. I only mustered 15mph. I was struggling to maintain that too. I did have to slow for a lot of patches of ice. But I felt sluggish too. Never fear, Dear Readers, I'll be back up to Ramming Speed very soon!

And at some point during the day we crossed the 11,000 pageviews threshhold. Keep 'em coming!

Thursday, December 8

Falling On Our Swords

Sometimes those who are "hard core" cyclists will wrassle with some pretty mean demons. And sometimes we (I loosely identify with the hard core crowd) beat ourselves up pretty bad for losing some of those wrasslin' matches.

One thing I've realized recently about being a full time commuter is that the majority of the time I do not have to make a decision about car or bike. I made that decision a long time ago. And then I wake up to conditions like I saw on Monday. Well, no, Monday is a bad example because I was somewhat excited about the prospects of riding in in single digit temps, with fresh snow so I could try out my chains. Let's skip forward to Tuesday.

Tuesday was cold. All of the snow had been churned up by thoughtless feet and tires. There was no easy path between Point A and Point B. And by the time I got to Point B it felt like I was somewhere around M or N. On Tuesday I hated it. I hated it. I hated it.

I was exhausted down to the frozen cores of my bones.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I opted to carpool. I rode in with a co-worker that lives nearby. She often encourages me to ride in her car when the weather is "bad" though most of those times I don't think it's such a huge deal. But when I called Tuesday night she immediately asked: "Do you want a ride tomorrow?" And I said yes.

Now, as someone who has made the goal (and posted it forever to be memorialized on the internet):

"...by the end of 2011 I will (as an individual) be completely car free."

Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahahahahaha!!! Ha.

As someone who made that goal I could be committing ritual suicide at this point. I won't. And I'll tell you why.

The reason I'm not going all seppuku on myself is because I am a realist. Life happens. We live in a world designed for cars. We live in a fluid and dynamic environment that often throws curveballs. We inhabit fragile bags of dirt with sensitive nerve endings.

The reason I've been able to make peace with the occasional car ride is because I know I am doing the right things otherwise. I made the choice long ago, almost two years ago now, to be free of the car. And while I end up being dependent on internal combustion engines from time to time, I also know if there were no cars available that I could still manage.



I rode my bike in a few inches of snow covering ice beneath in single digit temps. I've ridden in colder weather. I've ridden in deeper snow. I've braved wind and rain, blazing sun, headwinds born somewhere up near Boulder and I've swam through the currents of traffic like you wouldn't believe. Well, maybe you would.

So on the rare day when I just can't muster the mental energy to enter the fray...and choose for a brief moment to pull back from my chosen lifestyle and briefly, if not totally, concede defeat...I can still go on, sleep soundly at night, and not feel traitorous to my bicycle commuting kindred souls because I have made the right choice and continue to abide by it.



I realize if I still depended on the car, and occasionally rode my bike to work that I would find too many reasons not to ride. I would give up more often for lesser reasons. But because I'm faced with the choice only in the worst conditions I find I am much more likely to choose the bike more often.

I did ride this morning. It felt good. I was a little slow. I was a little timid around the ice at first (I've taken the chains off) but by the end of the ride I was artfully crossing glass-slick sheets of ice exhibiting the experience I gained last winter. Confidence grows quickly.



So I will not be sacrificing myself in shame, falling on my sword and letting the auto-centric hoard overtake me. I'll keep plugging along like I have. I'll get back on the bike again and again and again and again and again and again...

I'm about 90 miles shy of 5,000 for the year. Sometime next week I'll hit it. How will I celebrate? Maybe a giveaway of some swag? We'll see. Be ready for anything!

Wednesday, December 7

Rattling the Chains

The real test came. The path ahead steepened. And I stood up and pounded on the pedals. The bike surged forward and over the incline as I'd intended it to.

So what was the test? Three inches of snow on top of a layer of ice.

Monday I did another fun arctic commute on The One. But this time I was armed with my new Slipnot Traction System (bike chains).

I'll admit I was skeptical that the chains would benefit me, an "experienced" winter cyclist, but I needed an added boost to my confidence at the beginning of this wintry season. The long debate between studded tires and chains was over. Chains had won out in my mind. But the confirmation was yet to come.

My rationale was that chains are much easier to put on and take off than a set of tires. Theoretically chains should be easier. So based on that assumption I ordered a set of chains.

I chose the small set which are intended to be used on 26x1.9 to 26x2.25 sized tires. The Cannonball X has 26x1.5s and The One has 26x2.1s. My intention, at least initially, was to use The One (Cannondale Trail SL 2 MTB) on snowy days. Then in the future when I replace the tires on the Xtracycle I will be cognizant of the slightly larger size tires needed to work with the chains and go with those.

That was really just a throwaway idea in the beginning, but after using the chains I don't think the long wheelbase will be as much of a liability as I had initially believed. I'm not saying the X will go as well as the shorter wheelbase MTB, but I think it will go better than conventional wisdom would allow. And I'll tell you why.

The chains provided much better sure-wheeledness than I'd predicted, especially on ice. In situations when I would have been squirreling all over the place, or losing all traction, I kept right on going, solidly in a straight line. I could apply as much power as I wanted and the bike moved. When I needed to stop the bike stopped. On a dime. No slip-sliding away.



The major cons I see are this: the chains are not super easy to whip on if yo're riding along and encounter snow or ice. A unit of consumption would be a single ride. Put them on before, take them off after. Anything less is going to be painful. Also, I chose to keep the PSI low in the tires after installing. This will slow you down over a few miles. Combine that factor with slogging through a few inches of snow and you're looking at a serious workout. Maybe not a con?



The second day I encountered a significant amount of hard, dry surfaces. I can see some wear on the chain links. It is apparent that the links could wear through rather quickly and there is no warning against riding on dry pavement anywhere on the packaging or on the website that I could find.

I would recommend limiting dry use, which brings us back to installation and removal on the go. You may want to carry a small pair of pliers to remove the chains if the surface conditions do not warrant their use.

I am satisfied with the Slipnot Traction System. I think they perform well, and even if there are a couple of weaknesses, I think the flexibility over studded tires is a huge selling point. I'll provide an update later in the winter commuting season.

Tuesday, December 6

Circling Our Wagons

The royal...anyway, about three quarters of the way in to work this morning I gave up. In my mind I stopped enjoying the car-lite lifestyle. I was hating.

In the past two days I've spent five hours slogging through snow, teeth rattling as I've bounced over frozen footprints, doing my best to avoid the street surfaces to keep the corrosives off my bike frame and components, and I've gotten chilled down to the very marrow of my bones three times.



My body is over-sensitized more than usual. I'm exhausted from pedaling through a frozen hell and my brain is just done. For some strange reason people are more idiotic behind the wheel when the conditions mandate more maturity. The very few spots where I had to interact with traffic were more stressful the past two days than they have been in the past.

And then I stopped forward motion for a few moments as I approached NREL. I took off my face mask. I got the blood flowing again to my hands, and feet and just as I was ready to push off for the final slog in to work an NREL shuttle bus rolled to a stop beside me (I was on the sidewalk) and the driver asked me: "Do you want a ride on in?"

I couldn't help but grin, and I thanked her, but no, I was not headed for NREL but beyond. She smiled and drove on and my attitude improved dramatically. Of course I was still ready to get back in a heated passenger compartment. I'd buy a mid-90s model Jeep Cherokee in a heartbeat if I had the cash.

The ride offer, and the fact that I could finally use the showers in the locker room at work again today made the morning somewhat bright. Also, the sun had returned to the earth again.

Instead of my usual text (and occasional accidental tweet) to my wife: "Made it. Love you!" I instead texted (not tweeted): "Made it to work. I'm exhausted."

Mandy replied a little while later: "Can I pick u up tonight?"

I almost wept. I replied: "Please! If it's not too much trouble..."

I really am exhausted. I could lay down and go to sleep right now. I've expended so much energy in this weather. Of course I should be happy, I'm burning loads of calories and I need to be burning loads of calories.

The ride in was pretty amazing. I rode through frozen fog. I saw beaver tracks in the snow. I saw many rabbits. I inhaled car exhaust. I saw the sunrise. I dodged moto-fascists. I marveled at the fact that my body was warm but my extremities were blocks of ice. It was a good ride.

If I can stick it out for a couple more days the temperature should inch back up and the snow should mostly go away. A short reprieve would help me sort it all out, reload and fire back at the injuns of bicycle commuting adversity (to be totally non-PC*).



*I am, in fact, part Cherokee myself

Monday, December 5

It's All Training: Who Moved the Arctic Circle Edition

Brrrghh! I'm still cold.

I cranked in. Slowly. Another two hour commute through frigid arctic air.



When I rolled past Steve Casey's he told me it was 4. Four. Quatro. Actually the digiboard displayed a red (warm?) "4F." "F" for "freezing!"

I don't think Leadville can throw anything worse at me. Well, maybe wind and rain...but still.

At 11am I was still cold. My hands still felt chilled. That never happens to me. But I'm hoping by the end of the week I can cross "Get frostbite" off my bucket list.



The ride home was long and cold and I walked in the door an hour and a half after I left work a Chriscicle. It took another hour to thaw this evening.

It'll be even colder in the morning...sub-zero.

The Psychology of Climbing

Introduction

This post is the second in a three part series on "psychology." The first post was the Psychology of Long Rides and the last will be the Psychology of the Descent. Not really building on my previous post, I want to explore where the mind goes when the legs are cranking against gravity.

***



The nature of climbing on two wheels is interesting. Purists will not walk a bike up a grade at all. Realists will acknowledge that some hills, or some days, are just too steep. Some will use hills as an excuse not to ride at all.

The bicycle is a very efficient tool for climbing though. And if you let it a bike can help you attain heights you'd never be able to reach otherwise.

There are 3 truths about climbing with a bicycle.

1) You don't have to climb fast.
2) You can get off the bike and walk.
3) Riding down the other side is freakin' fun!



You really don't have to come out of the saddle to get up most climbs. Mountain bikers tend to stay seated while climbing because once you get your weight off the rear wheel in dirt you tend to lose traction instantaneously. On pavement you may want to stand up to keep your momentum over short hills or to power over severely steep inclines. And that's okay. But there's no written rule that says you can't just drop into your granny gear and bobble over the hill at a snail's pace. Why break a sweat, right?



You want to go to the top of some hill, ride some pass, cross some valley, but you just don't think you can do it on your bike. Could you hike it? If so, give it a go on your bike. Unless you're facing a ten mile hike while pushing your bike you have little to lose. And you might just surprise yourself.

There's a vicious steep climb near where I grew up. It's something like 700 feet of elevation gain in less than a mile. It took me three tries over a few months to finally ride it without walking the bike. There's nothing wrong with stopping to rest. There's nothing wrong with walking the bike. We all do it at some point. If you want to remain pure in your efforts you can always stop, rest and begin again where you stopped. I tend to keep walking the bike after I come off. I'd rather keep moving than cease forward movement.


I walked this one too

There are a lot of rewards for facing down a big, scary climb and then reaching the top. Whether it's a gnarly mountain bike trail or a smooth ribbon of pavement climbing into the clouds, the accomplishment can make your heart swell and a big goofy grin break through the mud crusted to your face.

Sometimes those climbs live in the shadows of your heart and growl at you every once in awhile. But once you start hacking away at them, chinking away at their bony armor, you can usually find the path to their heart and if you strike with purpose you can slay your dragons.

When I was training for the Triple Bypass Loveland Pass was my bugaboo. I refused to ride it before the big day. My wife encouraged me to just go ride the pass, but I wouldn't. I rode Squaw, Guanella, Berthoud, Genesee Mountain, I tried Evans from the plains...anything and everything except Loveland.


Approaching the summit of Loveland Pass

On the day of the ride I stopped for a long time at the aid station at the bottom of the pass. Finally I started up. And all the way I passed people heading back down, shoulders hunched, some with tears, all defeated. Many stopped along the way, collapsing off their bikes and I kept going, hoping they would get back on.

As I screamed down the south side into Keystone my heart was nigh to bursting. The beast was slain. I stopped near the top to text my wife: "Over Loveland" with tears in my eyes.


Over Loveland

Getting to the top means you get to coast (or crank) down. Getting to the top means you've fought the good fight and won. Getting to the top is cake, and sometimes its the icing too. If you do enough climbing you may eventually find that you enjoy the climbing more than the descent. Even in the midst of suffering up some long slog you can enjoy the scenery as it slowly passes by, you can let your mind settle into sweet oblivion, and you can find peace in a world of chaos. And sometimes that's all the therapy you need.

When in doubt, drop into your granny gear and plod upward. Off we go, into the wild blue yonder.

Saturday, December 3

Intro to the Slipnot Traction System

What follows is not a proper review. I have only ridden with my new bike chains one time. But I wanted to give you a quick overview and my initial impressions.

The meteorological fascists forecasted snow for Thursday. On Wednesday I wrassled with the decision: use the chains, or not use the chains. Based on the amount forecasted I finally decided not to install the chains on Wednesday night. I woke Thursday morning and was reaffirmed in my decision. There was only a couple of inches of snow on the ground in my neighborhood. My only moment of doubt was when I had the fleeting the thought that Golden, six hundred feet higher, might have significantly more snow.



But moving on, I pedaled my way in to work, plowing through some small drifts, only crashing once as I drifted off the paved path and then rolled back up against the edge of the concrete.

It took me an hour and forty five minutes to make my commute. Oddly, I was still the first of my co-workers to arrive.

I wasn't regretful that I opted not to use my new chains. It seemed to me that the chains would have only slowed me down even more, and since I made it mostly upright it didn't seem as if chains would have benefited me much.

Friday I stayed home. Admittedly, the single digit temps played a part, but I'd been having some back trouble the night before, and because of the discomfort ended up sleeping very little.

This morning we woke up to quite a bit more snow. I decided today would be the day to give the Slipnot Traction System it's baptism by snow.

I dragged my feet for much of the day. The kids and I had a furious snowball fight. I extracted the skis and gear from the packed shed. Finally I screwed up the gumption to put the chains on.



I'd put one on before and discovered that to get them on the tires on The One I must deflate the tires, put the chains on and then reinflate the tires. I bought the small set which fit tires sized 26X1.9 to 26X2.5. The tires on the bike are 26X2.1 so I didn't think I would have any trouble getting them installed. It just takes a little time. And its not something you'd want to do on the side of the road in the snow.

It probably took ten minutes to install both chains. Then I got dressed and rolled the bike outside: clack, clack, clack as the chains rolled softly across the hardwood floor.



With little ceremony I threw a leg over the top tube and pushed off. As I started cranking in the thin snow where I'd shoveled this morning I felt the bike move forward solidly. Then I rolled into the street with its unconsolidated ice and snow and ribbons of untrammeled deep powder. But as I pedaled forcefully the bike moved on. I experimentally jammed on the brakes and the bike stopped cold. And I tried it again on some ice. The chains seemed to give me better control.



I went around the block and cut into the railroad right-of-way and plowed through snow higher than my pedals. The bike rolled strong back to our yard. As I turned into our driveway again I discovered that my brakes had frozen. I'd only been out a few minutes.









We're supposed to get more snow tomorrow. And the air temperature is supposed to stay cold into the week. I'm leaving the chains on until the snow melts significantly. Winter has truly arrived!