Thursday, May 31

May Mileage and Beyond

The quick and dirty

May: 542

2012 so far: 2,062

2012 monthly average: 412

Projected total 2012 miles: 4,948

The ramble

542 is my second highest monthly mileage ever, only after the 601 of September, 2011. The third highest month was April, 2011 at 528.

I think a goal of 5,000 miles for 2012 is still a good goal. That was my goal for last year, and I see no real reason to up the bar considering I'm shooting to increase my endurance and overall speed significantly. I would also like to see a 700 mile month in 2012. I'm shooting for July or August as I plan on riding at least one or two centuries on top of my normal commuting and additional training rides. We'd like to throw in a bike tour or two as well.

542 came from diligent commuting and a couple of 60 milers. I didn't even have long commutes to Boulder in May.

Felt weak on my way home this afternoon and had a roadie in kit pass me in the Wind Tunnel. I never upped my pace, but after five minutes I overtook him as he ran out of steam.

I kept my steady pace and after five more minutes I looked back and my roadie rabbit was nowhere to be seen.

When he first passed me I was cognizant of my recent comment on this very blog that no one had passed me in awhile. And I felt kinda hollow as I pushed down on the pedals. There was the inkling of a feeling deep down that maybe the roadie was sprinting to drop me just because. So I stayed on my pace and stayed on his back wheel. I noticed he frequently stopped pedaling, and he coasted through all the turns on the path. I never stop pedaling, and will only pause in my pedal stroke for a beat or two if there's a danger my pedal will hit the ground when I'm banking hard.

That gave me a little boost of confidence. I wasn't on my A game at all, and I delivered a solid pace. I was consistent even though I didn't feel it.

Oh, and even though I was feeling puny, I pulled off an 18.6 mph average with two dead stops at red lights.

Leadville is only ten weeks away!

Wednesday, May 30

Not Applicable

Last week I received an email from Facilities. It was addressed to "All employees who drive to the building."

It went on to say blah, blah, blah, blah, something about the parking garage being closed for repairs.

I deleted it.

I never see the parking garages. I approach and enter the building from the opposite side.

Monday was the first official day of summer vacation (103 to go!), and Mandy and I woke up early to take a short walk around the block. When we returned there was a question about whether or not I had time to make it.

"You can take the car," she offered sweetly.

My brain tried to access that deleted email. Unfortunately I do not have a photographic memory.

"Nah, I'll ride," I shrugged.

Thankfully, I made it with plenty of time to spare.

Monday, May 28

Out and Back: Prairie and Sprawl

Out along 104th Avenue, beyond I-76, out near the airport, where there should be nothing but godforsaken prairie and maybe a farmhouse or two, there is another godforsaken land use expanding like a grassfire: sprawl.

There is a development called Reunion. The numerous signs along 104th tout it as "Our Hometown," though if there is anything that distinguishes Reunion from other outposts of stupid development (i.e. Sprawl) I couldn't see it from the road. It just looked like some misplaced suburgatory in the midst of Kansas.

I did a mileage boosting training ride out beyond the edge of the city, into the prairie, and saw this travesty of development along the way.

I wasn't really feeling up to a ride this afternoon, but my lovely wife encouraged me to get out, so I decided I'd do some more family bike tour scouting. I chose Barr Lake State Park as my destination, a cool 30 miles east and slightly north from home.

I left home at 1:55, feeling strong, but sun-sensitive under a blazing orb. I went with a single water bottle and three Honey Stinger gel packs. The first leg of the ride was old hat: Clear Creek Trail to South Platte Trail to it's northern terminus.

Then I was on new ground. I waited for a break in the seemingly heavy traffic and then struck out east. Within a mile or so gritty shoulders appeared providing an opportunity to get out of the sporadic traffic. Then I cruised over light rolling hills through intermittent development, past said Reunion and then at Tower Road I turned north into the prairie proper.

Tower has nice shoulders for most of the way up to 128th. You have to jog east a bit on 128thand then turn north on Picadilly Road. Its a short pedal up Picadilly to the entrance to Barr Lake.

I was ecstatic to have reached the park with little problem. I felt the miles, but I was still pedaling strong. It took me an hour and fifty minutes to cover 30 miles with a slight headwind. I inquired at the gate about camping. No camping. Bummer!

I refilled my water bottle, meandered around the nature center for a few minutes and then headed toward home. I still felt pretty strong, but the wind had shifted and was in my face again. The view of the mountains off to the west was amazing. I was in a nice state of Flow, reveling the movement that carried me back toward home.

Pedaling west on 128th between Picadilly and Tower Rd.

It seemed as if I covered the miles back quickly despite the headwind. Back on the Splatte I caught a beneficial crosswind and picked up the pace even more. Down, down, down toward the confluence with Clear Creek I rolled. There was far less pedestian traffic later in the day and I was able to just cruise.

When I turned onto the CCT I felt the miles. In fact, I felt the impending bonk. I'd skipped lunch and since breakfast only had the three gel packets. I started thining ahead, hoping the bike shop along the bike path was still open.

My progress was steady, but slowed. I made a point to drink all of my water, but I was out of fuel and long past needing to reapply sunscreen. The sinking sun was trying to peek under the brim of my hat, so I kept my head down, partially to keep the sun off my nose and partially to relieve the pain in my aching neck.

Once back on the Clear Creek Trail time seemed to slow down. All that strong effort, all of my fluid passage over the landscape seemed to fade. My legs began to feel hollow. I focused on getting to the bike shop. The Bike Shack, and as I approached the gap in the fence where their small sign was located I was certain they would be closed. It was after 5:00pm on Memorial Day.

But then as I rounded the corner of the first building I saw bikes propped up in front of one of the industrial bays in the complex. Maybe they would have food and I could stave off a bottom of the barrel bonk and make it home without having to call Mandy to come rescue me.

They gave me some water and I bought a couple of Honey Stinger waffles and a tube for Boone's bike. The waffles, I'm sorry to say, did little to push back the bonk, but they gave me a little mental boost, and some cold water helped as well.

I labored the last five miles home, picking up the Ralston Creek and then riding along Grandview through Olde Town and on out the ridge home. In Olde Town I finally felt a flicker of energy returning, but it was too little too late. I just gave in to the new normal: a slow pace.

Excluding the time I spent at the bike shop I was out for 3 hours and 50 minutes for a 16 mph average for my 61.26 mile ride. I'm pretty happy about the effort. Still got a ways to go.

Friday, May 25

Ramming Speed Friday: Ramming Speed Friday

I've set myself up to feel inadvertent pressure to succeed when my mind isn't really into pushing so hard to get up to ramming speed.

This morning I pushed apathetically at my pedals. I didn't really want to go to work. And then I worried that my afternoon efforts would be thwarted by the strong winds prophesied for this afternoon, or just a general physical lethargy I've felt after my strong beginning this week.

Ramming Speed Fridays are supposed to be all about escaping the reality of the work week, of leaving it all behind for two brief days of respite. By 5:00 I may be there, but at 8am this morning my mind couldn't fathom mustering the mental armies to conquer that barbarian hoard of emotions.

I console myself, on those occasions of defeat, with the joy that I'm riding my bike toward home, my refuge, regardless of speed, and I try to take pleasure in just being awheel in the world.

This afternoon I pointed the front wheel of the Cannonball toward that far refuge, snugged down my cycling cap, and...

Wait! No, I had a message from the LBS! The OBS was ready!


The magnificent return...

I wish you could have seen the joy in my wife's eyes when I rolled into the Bikeport towing her "new" bike.

Biketopia Choices

I've not been writing as much lately, it's true. My mind has been on non-cycling things, and try as I might I just can't wrap my brain around coherent ideas about cycling. Well, what new there, right?

Conversely, I've been riding a lot. It's mostly all been commuting miles, but May has been a pretty consistent month for me.

I've been sticking to the bike path and avoiding the streets as much as possible. That cuts down on my commuting stress, or just concentrates it to the end of my rides where I must take to the streets.

Pondering that reality this very morning, I realized what the optimal commuting arrangement would be.

At first I thought: home and work along the same greenbelt. But that idea didn't get my heart all aflutter. Then I decided that the optimal arrangement would be work and home along the same rural, or low traffic road or street.

It's a trade off. Greenbelt trails attract all kinds. And so do roads. Only, on roads, a cyclist rarely has to be concerned with slower traffic.

I'm not sure which would be best, but I think personally, I'd be inclined to want to commute on a quiet road versus a greenbelt any day. Or maybe a 100% singletrack commute? That would not be fun on rainy or snowy morning commutes. Or at least, it might get old.



Or maybe this?

What would be your preference?

Thursday, May 24

Slow and Fast

After three days of rock solid commutes I just didn't feel it this morning. I puttered to Golden, fighting a vicious headwind leftover from the weather system that moved through last night, and wrestling with some inner non-cycling demons.

I was slow. So slow. And that's okay.

This afternoon my wife called to let me know she had to run in to Golden and asked if I wanted a (car) ride home. I accepted. And that's okay.

The commutes have been enjoyable. The weather has been exquisite, even the rainy ride home yesterday was nice, not too cold, not too humid, and so I have wanted to ride more. In fact, this morning I wanted to just keep riding past the building. I could have...

We scouted a key route for a family bike tour this past weekend, and so the bug is gnawing on my bones. I wanna go. I wanna ride away, far, far away.

I finally pinned down a good route to take the family up north to St. Vrain State Park. I also figured out how to get to the much closer Barr Lake State Park. Either destination would make for a good out and back overnight bike trip. Barr Lake is shorter, and simpler, at 30-ish miles. St. Vrain is 40 miles with a more complicated route. There are family friendly campgrounds at both. Both are in the plains, so no big climbs. The major factors to consider would be wind and weather.

Anyway, there's that, and then I need to come up with a good scheme for July for just Mandy and I. While the kids are off visiting grandparents on the far side of the Mississippi we're gonna go somewhere on the bikes. Still haven't worked that one out. July will be too hot for rolling around on the plains.

We're watching The Flying Scotsman on Netflix. It's based on the autobiography of Graeme Obree, the Scotsman who twice broke the world hour record and was the individual pursuit world champion in '93 and '95. He's shooting to break 100 mph on a bike.

Good movie, I would highly recommend it to any cycling enthusiasts. I want to read his book now.

Make me want to go out right now and pedal really hard.

Wednesday, May 23

The Leadville Chronicles: Terminal Velocity

I am becoming fast.

I'm not yet fast, but fastness beckons me.

Long-sufferingness I have. Speed I am pursuing.

In the last couple of weeks I've noticed a distinct reserve of power in my legs when I reach down into my muscles for some oomph, to catch or drop a roadie, to beat a light, to pass a car...of late, I've not been passed by other cyclists at all. And they've tried.

No, I'm stronger. I can put out the watts like never before. And I can keep it up for at least a dozen mile commute. With hills. I've been on a plateau for a long time. Now I've busted through that ceiling and I'm headed for 10,000 feet.

Yesterday on the way home I got into a groove. I straightened some curves, snapped some Lycra, frightened some bunnies and burnt the hair off my own legs.

I didn't feel it this morning. My legs felt hollow, overworked, tired. I did leg presses to the tune of 400 lbs and then 275 lbs sets yesterday morning.

But then right off the bat this morning, as I turned onto Ridge Road, I got my rabbit, a roadie in full kit. Sha-ZAAM! I overtook him and rocketed across the flats. He never stood a chance.

Shortly thereafter I dropped another commuter and blew his doors off. I cranked across No Man's Land and into the Wind Tunnel between the mesas but nothing slowed me down.

As I rolled into Golden I felt a brief drop in energy, but the real climb begins in Golden, so I slammed down on the pedals, and "kicked" as we used to say in cross country, crashing into the building only 45 minutes after leaving the Bikeport. I'd ridden 11 miles. 14.7 mph.

I can do 15.

Scratch The Touring Itch

I'm itching to take another bike tour. It has been almost a year after all...

Over the weekend the kids and I rode in Gump up Colorado Boulevard beyond the northern edge of the urban fabric of Denver and into the more rural climes around Dacono, Frederick and Firestone.

The drive was part family excursion designed to give mom a break and part bike tour scouting trip. I had researched family friendly camping potential within easy reach of the metro area awhile back and I came up with only a few places.

My criteria for appropriate locations were:

1) Must be within an easy day's ride from home

2) There must be a family-friendly route

3) Must offer something interesting to motivate the troops

4) Oh, and must be from our front door, no auto-shuttling

It didn't take me long to determine that there are few good places to legally camp in the plains near Denver. At least, my search is ongoing. Into the foothills and the lower reaches of the Front Range there is national forest land but reaching it on bikes with a family is thwarted by a lack of good safe routes.

Two destinations resulted in my initial research: Barr Lake State Park and St. Vrain State Park.

I've been trying to work out a decent route to St. Vrain. Barr Lake is a bit closer, maybe too close, but also a decent option.

A further jaunt, not for family fare, would be a long haul up to Pawnee Buttes in Pawnee National Grassland up near the Colorado/Nebraska state line. Not much further north is the highest point in Nebraska. That would be a really long two day trip or three days without a good spot to camp along the way.

I'm not opposed to striking out west, but with the kiddos we need flatland. Plus, this is something we've never done as a family, other than the short Medicine Bow Trail trip the kids and I took. It was 11 miles out and 11 back the next day.

So, the planning begins. We'll see what we come up with.

Dacono, Frederick, Firestone multi-use trail

Saturday, May 19

Ramming Speed Friday: Commencement Edition

This afternoon was a mandatory Ramming Speed Friday. I had to rush home to catch a ride up to school for graduation. I didn't have a kid graduating, but my son was in the program and my wife is a teacher at the school.

I rode Minus today and I opted to take the short, though more congested at 5:30pm, route home through Pleasant View, NREL and Applewood.

I've noticed a distinct increase in my speed over the past few weeks. I've been making much better times of late. I even managed a 13.9 mph average on my morning commute the other day. I don't know if that's a record, but I can't remember a time I've done better than 12. I mean, I gain 800 feet in elevation in about seven miles.

Despite having to dodge crazed motorists, and an erratic jogger who almost stepped right into me, I made it home in a chewy 29 minutes. 19.2 mph.

Speaking of 20, I realized tonight that it's now been 20 years since I graduated high school myself. Oddly, I have not been invited to the milestone reunion where we're all supposed to show up and pretend to be skinnier, more successful and still able to grow more hair than all our classmates.

My claim to success, were I to be invited and/or attend a hypothetical 20 year high school reunion, would be that I rode my bike 5,100 miles last year. And I own an Xtracycle.

Friday, May 18

National Bike Month-Week-Day in a SideCar

From Yehuda Moon

Yeah, yeah...I rode my bike to work today. The novelty of Bike to Work Day is gone.

Don't get me wrong, I believe in the importance of Bike to Work Day. I will participate in Colorado Bike to Work Day by volunteering at a breakfast station. I will encourage non-cyclists or less than daily bike commuters to ride that day (and any other). But I won't really feel the firmness of the cultural pat on the back like I used to.

That's a personal thing. I see the value and the importance of events and designations such as National Bike Month to encourage, to educate and to validate cycling as a form of personal transportation.

The real reward of these efforts will come when people are riding in vast numbers but "Bike to Work Day" has lost its novelty for the culture. When people stop looking for recognition, or special encouragement, or a reason to ride, then cycling advocates will have won our grand victory. The day the cycling advocate has nothing left to do...that will be a sweet day.

Sorry, I don't mean to harsh your mellow. Many people are celebrating BTWD, and I do not wish to diminish the enjoyment or effort. I do applaud those who promote and participate in such events. I was caught off guard a bit: I trend to overfocus on the Colorado Month-Week-Day and somehow always miss the Nationally designated bike happenings.

On an brighter note, I saw something incredibly amazing yesterday.  Xtracycle will be producing a SideCar in the fall.

C'mon, who hasn't fantasized about having a sidecar on their bike? I love this idea, and I think it would be a cool DIY project, though I'd be more apt to just buy this from Xtracycle. I've already started rewriting my speculative autobiographical post-apocalyptic novel to include this. I've resisted getting WideLoaders, or even the RunningBoards, so I can carry bigger loads, but I don't think I can resist the genius of this new Xtracycle offering.

I would strap a lawn chair to it, erect a patio umbrella over that, and charge $5 a ride.

Thursday, May 17

A Moto-Fascist By Any Other Name

"Share the road."

Motorists--of the fascist persuasion--like to scream that phrase at cyclists just before they fender them.

And when those same self-entitled moto-fascists get out of the car at the trailhead for the local green belt trail they carry that same attitude with them.

A quick caveat, I know there are maniac cyclists that use MUTs (multi-use trails), and while I acknowledge that they are menaces on two skinny wheels, I am also not going to further address their behavior in this post.

I don't mean for this post to be mean spirited. This is my answer to the scowls I am subject to when other trail users are forced to reel in their dogs on 20' leashes so I can squeeze past on a 10' trail. This is my answer to those walking clubs who cry out in unrighteous indignation when I finally have to scream "Coming through!" to their party of four abreast that completely blocks the trail. This is my answer to those who use the public trails as a patio for private leisure activities (i.e., loiter in the middle of the trail to catch up with old friends, languish mid-trail while letting their cluster of dogs untangle their leashes, breast-feed their infant, etc, etc)

This post is about trail etiquette for pede-fascists.

C'mon, really? Would you stand in the middle of a busy street and have a knitting bee? Well, you might actually... But does it make sense to non-oblivious people? No! Please, step out of the trail for your high school reunion organizational meetings.

Your fishing pole is a monster at eight feet, but I promise if I get a hook in the eyelid because you whip it across the ten foot trail as I pass I will shove it somewhere and break it off.

Who am I kidding? I'm no transportational Erma Bombeck. I am continually annoyed because the same people who scream at me on the trails for going too fast (at 15mph) might also be the people who scream out their car windows at me on the road for going too slow (at 20mph). The sloe-eyed gazes are the same. Sheeple, look up!

Cyclists are continually marginalized by non-cyclists. We're not wanted on the roads or the trails. What is truly baffling to me is that the "Us versus Them" mentality that pervades the issue (from both sides) falls apart the second we stop moving. Moto-fascist, pede-fascists, equestro-fascists, AND cyclo-fascists are all clearly bipedal carbon based life forms with dubious political imaginings.

Can't we all just get along?

Wednesday, May 16

The Joys of Warmer Weather

This morning wasn't my first t-shirt and shorts morning commute, but it was the first one in a couple of weeks. We had that warm spell, and then a cold spell, and now we're warming back up.

Longer days, warmer temps, less precipitation...all are factors that make for more enjoyable commuting.

Don't get me wrong! I love being out in the nastiest of the nasty bad weather. Snow, rain, hail, cyclones...I love it all. But when you're a full time commuter sometimes the bad weather takes its toll on your motivation and mood.

I do enjoy being able to wear lighter clothing. No matter how cold it gets, I struggle to find the balance between freezing as I ride and sweating like a hog under layers. Warm weather is nice because you just dress light and go with it.

The longer days increase my enjoyment levels because all of my commutes are now in full daylight. I've actually stopped carrying The Laser with me on a regular basis. I would still use it on overcast or wretchedly precipitous days though.

That may seem odd for regular readers who have known of my vehement endorsement of good lighting to be seen. I understand your confusion. I've decided to experiment a little with using less lighting. I'm doing this in an effort to cut back on battery cost, time spent recharging the Niterider light, and the added hassle. I know trading hassle for safety is not a wise idea, but I believe that with full sunlight I am visible enough without the light as long as I maintain my vigilance.

I've noticed my average speeds have increased as the temperature has creeped upward. Lighter clothing also means less restrictive clothing, and losing the balaclava allows me to sweat (I'm profuse at it) and not overheat as much when I put forth a greater effort.

Warmer weather is also conducive to direct cyclist - moto-fascist communication because lots of car windows are rolled down.

Tuesday, May 15

The Right Rubber For The Job

Last fall I swapped the Forte City ST tires on the Cannonball for a mismatched pair of old MTB tires in preparation of snow and ice galore.

Well, I probably could have gone all "winter" on even skinnier road tires and suffered few icy crashes.

Recently I switched back to the commuter tires and was delighted at the superhuman speeds I was able to achieve immediately. The windburn on my face is still healing.

I like the 26x1.5 commuters because they roll nice, my average speeds explode, and I can still handle moderately rough dirt and gravel.

Having the knobbies in the slush and mud was nice too, back when I cared more for sure-footedness than speed.

I'm a huge proponent of having the right footwear for the occasion. And I'm compulsively check my air pressure. If I miss a day I make sure I check the very next day.

I hate flats, but due to my high mileage I experience more of them than the average Lance-a-like. I'm a big proponent of Goo or Slime tubes, and as long as I live in Colorado I'll run them in all my bikes.

The thing is, you could proclaim a simplistic cycling existence by going fixie, but you'll still have to deal with rubber issues. Even fixie pixies get flats.

I've bought the $70 Krylions (each) in the past. They work. Except when they don't. I bought a pair of CSTs for $50 and got 600 miles out of them. There's nothing particularly special about the Fortes I have on the X now, but I have Goo tubes in them. I've got more than a few hundred miles on them, and they still look pretty darn good.

The Small Block 8s I have on the One are great for general commuting (they whine like a fighter jet on Ramming Speed Fridays!) and are phenomenal for prairie bike commutes too. More aggressive knobs would really be a drag on my vanilla road commutes.

As you can see, I give more than a fleeting thought to my tires and tubes.

As a vigilant cyclist you will learn to watch the road or trail ahead and try to avoid tire/tube damaging detritus and debris. But with many miles comes great wear, and eventually all tires see the end of their useful days.

Low stress utility cycling or committed commuting can be very enjoyable if you maintain your tires and use the right ones for the job.

Monday, May 14

Monday: Anti-personnel Day

On Friday I took a much needed personal day. I didn't take it because I needed the day off however. I took the day because Bean's babysitter, backup babysitter, and backup to the backup babysitter were all out of town.

I've come to the conclusion that I'm burned out after four years in an entry level position that has a high intensity of interaction with the public. As the weather warms and the masses decide they need decks and dream homes the work load reaches ridiculous levels.

If no one quits between now and the end of the summer it will be the first busy season since I've been employed here that my supervisor isn't out of commission "training" a new person.

I'm not holding my breath.

So I fully enjoyed my day free with Bean, despite the fact that it ended up being cold, and then rainy, and I had an appointment with the eye doctor.

First we made a trip to town I the morning for some top secret cycling stuff. Bean rode on the X in the morning, but when we went back in the afternoon she rode her little bike.

Just as we were locking the bikes up in Olde Town it started to drizzle. We rushed into the vision center just in time to avoid getting soaked.

Bean was stoked because she got to see the inside of my eyeball magnified, and her spirits weren't dampened too much when we left and everything else became dampened.

I encouraged her to let me strap her bike on the Cannonball so she could ride on my deck, but she insisted on riding home on her own. We snugged up her raincoat and set off for home.

I rode slowly along the shoulder on 57th as she pedaled the sidewalk. At one point I asked her how she liked commuting in the rain.

"Cool!" was her reply.

Yeah, I rode the rest of the way home with a silly grin.

Over the course of the weekend we did a lot of much needed yard work, and it was very therapeutic, but always in the back of my mind was the dread of Monday looming in the short term.

So here I am, writing this on my lunch break and plotting an early retirement. The unfortunate reality is that I have far too little money stashed away in jars buried in the backyard to sustain me through a long retirement. That amount would be zero dollars.

Anyone have a position open for a hack cyclo-blogger with experience as a land use planner and a strong interest in and knowledge of sustainability management?

Friday, May 11

Who Needs a Car?

I've been accused of being an "urban homesteader." I'd prefer to be a rural homesteader, aka a FARMER, but alas, I am shackled still to a cubicle.

 On the way home from field day we saw a hand painted sign that read "Organic Tomato Plants $2." Mandy had an appointment she needed to get to, so we went home, I put the "summer" tires on the Cannonball, and Bean and I cruised back through Olde Town to check it out. A really nice lady sold us ten plants and we swung by Echter's for some cages. Unfortunately the weather is looking iffy for the next couple of days so we can't really put them in the ground yet.

When we returned to the Bikeport Bean ejected from the Cannonball and ran to the neighbor kids' house to play. I hung on the old couch and marveled at the wonderful machine that is the Cannonball X. I had hooked up the apocalypse buggy and lashed a plastic tote to it for the hauling of the plants and accoutrements. I hauled ten plants, ten cages and a blond-haired, blue-eyed five year old future mountain bike racer with little effort. I couldn't help thinking: "Who needs a @#$%! car?"

So I milked the chickens and slopped the rabbits. I reconfigured the hutch and moved the coop a few millimeters (I really made the "portable" coop a little too heavy).

After dinner Bean begged to go for a walk around the block, which translates to me chasing after both kids on their bikes at a dead run. At the high end of our street I watched as the princess of princessness turned the corner, blond hair flying in the wind, little legs pumping furiously, and she cried: "Let's see what this baby can do!" And she was gone.

As I ambled down the street she pedaled back up and made another run. Again, she cried: "Watch what this baby can do!" and as she cruised past our yard she pumped a tiny fist in the sky and bellowed: "Yeah baby!"

Then she banked hard into the driveway, dumped her bike in the yard and came running back up the sidewalk toward me with a huge grin on her face. She flung her helmet (with pink flames) into the yard and gave me a spectacular high five. Brought a tear to my eye!

If only five-year-olds could get in the Leadville lottery...

Thursday, May 10

Peak Cycling: Revisited

Apparently I inspired a popular article. I truly had wanted to put out a more thought provoking piece than I did under the title "Peak Cycling." So I sort of threw down the gauntlet unintentionally for others and subsequently myself.

I'm going to go out on a wild limb though, and frame my thoughts in the context of cycling in a post-carbon, post-apocalyptic landscape. My purpose is not to be the Jeremiah to the still hypothetical post-carbon apocalypse, but to provoke some Transition-themed thinking. So please, bear with me.

Assuming some catastrophic event, and much more likely the transition into the post-carbon age will be gradual and not abrupt, but assuming there is a sudden cataclysm which forces all of us to enact Attack Plan-R, then ready supplies of bicycles and parts will, like all other "Made in China" goods, will become scarce, and Gary Oldman may try to kill you for them.

What does this really mean for the diehard cyclist? Will you have to give up your bike after doomsday?

For the current non-cyclist the implications are obvious: moto-fascists will become cycling advocates in the twinkling of an eye. Unless they happened to be recreational equestrians before the apocalypse.

I imagine the guys at your LBS will be stocked up well on tires and tubes. But what about the rest of us?

While its true rubber can be made from the gummy resin of certain trees, in North America those trees don't grow in the suburban microclimate. There really is no proven substitute. So hoarding and killing for tires and tubes would be the new norm.

Then shelf life becomes the pressing question. If you can defend your stash of rubber goods from roving hoards of scavengers they may last a few years. I recently did 30 seconds of unscientific research on google and concluded that bike tires, if unused and stored in a sealed container in a dark place, may last ten years.

So in that first decade after things settle down into a respectable level of PA chaos, ride lots!

Lubricants are easier to substitute. There are natural oils and fluids the could make your bike ride quiet and smooth.Try to avoid animal fats, as they draw flies which in turn produce maggots.

Metal parts may be difficult procure or fashion in a Mad-Maxian world, bit there would be plenty of long lasting substitutes laying around, no, the crux would be the items made directly from petroleum or through energy intensive processes. I don't necessarily like the bamboo solution. Those bikes are uber-expensive now, and while it can be argued that bamboo can grow in many places, I just don't think the type that would be suitable for bicycle frame construction would be as readily available as the dust settles from the collapse of modern civilization.

There are many practical obstacles to constructing new bicycles by hand in a world that has a paucity of cheap and easy energy. So take care of those steel frames. I would avoid carbon fiber like the plague though.

We could find relatively easy substitutes for bar tape, cable housings and even brake and shifter cables. I worry about my plastic shifters and all those zip ties that hold my bike together.

With a decline in oil supplies humanity would also likely face a scarcity of new bicycles and replacement parts for our existing two wheeled machines.

So my challenge to all the out of work mechanical and chemical engineers out there is to work out how our children and grandchildren can craft functional, quality bicycles without petroleum (or at least less than is typically used) and the energy intensive manufacturing processes we rely on today.

Are bicycles energy intensive to construct today? Most definitely. As are most of the goods we use and abuse on a daily basis. It's not the design of the bicycle, or its use, that makes it unsustainable in the modern context.

Orville and Wilbur Wright probably built a sustainable product in their bike shop in Dayton, Ohio. I'm sure there are boutique handmade frames out there that are made in ecologically, economically and socially just ways. It is possible to return to bicycle manufacture as a cottage industry. The Transition to a world where bikes are truly the most sustainable machines rolling over the landscape will be long, but it is a worthy goal for an industry to have. Wait, did I throw down another challenge?

Monday, May 7

Spatially Oriented

I was ready when I walked into to weekly office meeting this morning. I was expecting to hear: "What's the square root of 81?"

I expected this question because a few weeks ago when my boss came in late to the meeting I asked: "What's 5 plus 4?" He replied: "9," and I added: "What a coincidence, that's what time the meeting starts."

It was good natured ribbing, and I expected a dose of my own medicine as I walked in a couple of minutes late this AM.

I was ready with my smart aleck remark: "I'm a spatial thinker, math's not my strong suit." But the question never came. My boss let me down.

I was a couple of minutes late because it was a rainy commute. I'm not complaining. How could I? And in fact, I rather enjoyed the ride. When I left Arvada there was an almost non-existent drizzle, but by the time I was climbing up out of Golden toward the building I was being pelted by sleet.

I dreaded facing a Monday of work, but it was a peaceful and enjoyable commute in on the Clear Creek Trail on the Cannonball.

We had an exhausting, but rewarding, weekend. Friday I rushed home (Ramming Speed Friday!) and got to work building a chicken coop and a rabbit hutch. Saturday morning we slept in, and then ambled over to the Denver Urban Homesteaders monthly chicken swap. There we laid eyes on goats, ducks, chickens, goats, geese, goats and rabbits. Boone was particularly enthralled by the Flemish Giants.

The Flemish Giant we did NOT buy (photo by B. Chaney)

The final head count as we headed home was three chicks and two rabbits (not Flemish Giants though).

I spent the rest of the day working on the coop and hutch, though they wouldn't be finished until Sunday. And since I'm not as old as I used to be I feel somewhat worked over. But again, it was a very satisfying effort, and we're stoked to have added animal husbandry to our little Transition experiment.

Jack and Princess, both girls (we hope)

You may be wondering if we rode the cargo bikes down to the swap, and I must confess, as deliciously pretentious as it would have been, we drove Forester Gump to Denver to pick up the new barnyard treatments.

We would have been faced with facing Cinco de Mayo traffic everywhere, and the distance was great enough that we were cognizant of the amount of time we would have sacrificed toward getting the houses built.

Finished chicken coop

As I rode in this morning I had some strong thoughts concerning my career path downstream. I have much planning to do before I complete my professional certificate so I can start putting my services out there when I'm finished with the Sustainable Practices Program in June.

Also, I humbly recommend that you check out this Transition Voice post that was inspired by my recent "Peak Bicycling" post: Peak Bicycling 

Thursday, May 3

T - 99

Ninety nine days until the moment of truth. To mark the transition to a double digit countdown I rode up to Windy Saddle via Lookout Mountain Road this morning on The One.

Tomorrow the plan is to ride all the way to Buffalo Bill's grave on Minus, and then next week I'll venture back up Golden's cycling centerpiece either via Chimney Gulch or descend some dirty trail after crawling up the road. Maybe both...

The heat is on, both figuratively and literally. Spring has sprung with a vengeance. 51F this morning at 6am...

Yesterday as I pedaled toward Golden against my will I noticed what looked like a klunking bike leaning against someone's garage. Today I snapped a blurry photo on my way to LOM. Take a look for yourself, but to me it looks like a Klunker.

Notice the front disc brake upgrade.

It's funny, because I'd never heard of klunking before this week.

I'll be klunking my way to fitness over the next few months. The time has come for me to get serious or fail. Yeah, the choice is now. If I'm going to get the big buckle I've got to step up all of my efforts.

Wednesday, May 2

The Leadville Chronicles: 100 by 100

The time is going to fly now. The sense of urgency is going to swell like a tube poking out between the tire and the rim of your mountain bike in a concrete basement apartment. BLAM! And your ears echo for hours.

The real countdown now begins. I felt pretty good about my effort on Saturday. I know I need to do much better, but I'm doing better than I expected. Maybe I should shoot for the moon sooner rather than later.

Kingston soon as the snow melts. 80 miles and 7-ish thousand feet in gain. And then Evans. 100 miles and 9,000 feet of gain.

My son just hollered something from his room that sounded like "red velvet jetpack."

Anyway, in the spirit of Leadville and other grassroots mountain bike races, check out this video shared by reader Tom:

Tuesday, May 1

Are You Kidding Me?!

Saturday morning I left the house at 5:25am headed for Three Sisters. Dawn had not yet broken and there were no cars on the road until I reached Ridge. !@#$ Ridge.

I approached Ridge from the north to make a right turn to head west. Independence has a striped shoulder and Ridge is just a big ole wide swath of asphalt until it crosses Kipling.

A car reached the intersection (3-way stop), heading east on Ridge, just as I reached the intersection from the north. I was making a right, there were no other cars, so I didn't even slow down. I made the right from striped lane to honkin' wide shoulder at speed.

The driver of the car yelled from their open window: "Didn't you see that stop sign?"

Are you kidding me? 5:30am on a Saturday morning, no traffic, right turn while traveling outside the normal drive lane...OF COURSE I saw it! Of course I ran it!

The other day a motorist, who may be a cyclist when not trapped behind a windshield, yelled at me to tell me that something I had just done gives cyclists a bad name. I'm not going to brag about what I did, but I like to call it "Oh No You Didn't Just Cut Me Off!"

Are you kidding me? Why is no one worried about motorists giving other motorists bad names? Really, you're going to call me out for something that endangered no one while drivers continuously break laws, endanger other motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, road signs, other inanimate objects and pets?


I accept the consequences of my scofflaw behavior. If I do something stupid enough to injure or kill myself then natural selection has failed to do its work because I've already passed on my genes. I'm sure spitting in the face of natural selection will still hurt. If I get a ticket because I ran a stop sign in the middle of nowhere with no traffic around then so be it. I won't argue. But my scofflaw tactics are strategic to get me between Point A and Point B as efficiently as possible, not to endanger, harass or otherwise inconvenience other users of the roadways.

I've averaged 12 miles a day for all of 2012. I averaged 13.9 miles per day in 2011. I'm what you might call an "experienced" cyclist, more so than the average. Now, before you go getting all riled up, I'm not jinxing myself. I understand the nuances of the game. I know the rules. I understand how the cards move. Again, I accept the consequences of my tactics and behavior.

My cycling motto for the past couple of years has been: be visible, be vigilant, be consistent. I can't impress on you how seriously I take this motto, and how vigilant I am always. Sometimes I catch my attention wandering as I ride and reality jerks me back to the moment. I get the butterfly flutters in the same manner as when I realize I've driven 20 miles down the interstate without having my seatbelt on.

My vigilance has saved me more times than I can count, and I know the day I stop being vigilant is the day I start racing toward my doom.


It's disgusting, and galling, when motorists use the random scofflaw cyclist as an excuse to endanger any and all cyclists. I will not accept responsibility for the scofflaw behavior of motorists. The old adage "two wrongs do not make a right" still applies in this situation. I'm not defending the running of stop signs as acceptable behavior. Lately there has been a video circulating around the cyclo-blogosphere showing two cyclists in Berkley riding in a bike lane hit by a car that then drives away. When someone posted it on facebook I commented: "I'm sure the hit and run was justified because they ran the stop sign earlier in the video."

The scofflaw (cyclist) behavior occurs at 1:16 and the truly criminal behavior happens at 2:39 in the video.

Go ahead. Go ahead you moto-facists and say it was karma, but the reality is that no one deserves to be hit by a car just for running a stop sign. If you're stupid enough to blast straight through a busy intersection without heeding traffic signs and signals then you will reap the consequences, but if you safely skirt the law you may deserve a ticket, a fine, or whatever the law mandates and allows, but getting smashed by a car far exceeds any realistic consequences.

Reading a forum thread on the subject of this video I came across this reply by user eddief

My personal interpretation compares cycling to being a pedestrian. If I was walking, I would slow down enough to look both ways to see if it was safe to cross the street. That does not necessarily require me to actually STOP walking, especially in quiet neighborhoods. (the youtube vid is from such a neighborhood) And that is what I also do on my bike. And that can easily mean that many stop signs are dealt with by casually rolling through them as I believe I am smart enough to know when it is safe to do that.

From a physics standpoint, comparing bikes to motor vehicles is like comparing watermelons to apples. And holding cyclists to the exact same standards on the road as motorists is not realistic. While I agree the laws should apply to everyone, I don't believe all traffic laws are created equal. And I will not accept criticism from motorists or casual cyclists anymore. When you've cranked quite a few miles on my pedals then we'll talk.

Riding on the road is stressful. Interacting with individuals with dubious judgment can really put you on edge. Even in the best of circumstances being a bike commuter is a not a walk in the park. Knowing the rules of the road is important. Knowing when you can safely, and smartly bend those rules makes you an efficient, if not morally perfect, cyclist.