This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Yeah, I took a few days off.

      I've been working on a larger project for a bit and took a few weeks off from the blogosphere, but you realize that  winter commuting gets a bit routine on the bike.  My life, as exciting as it sounds, is just about as routine during the winter as a spandex hamster during the ride season.  Now the snow is going away I started noticing the vague signs of danger I was so confidently wandering through each day.  
      Finding my way through the frozen muck of the north on a daily basis I tend to get very comfortable with my route.  Riding the same way, the same time each day it's pretty easy to take things for granted.  I don't really notice the drivers that much and assume that I'm seeing the same motorists in the same cars at the same time each day.  Such is life embroiled in the grid.     
Now I'm beginning to see the damaged 
signs of the danger I was navigating
on street corners where I had grown so comfortable in my daily commute.  I have to wonder what made a driver go so far over the curb.  Do they know what they are doing is dangerous?  I've been driving for 50 years and never lost that much attention in a day.    It's just a rude reminder that we have to look out for our own safety, if they can't see a street sign that's protected by a curb they are not too save on the road.
    In the meantime the "All Powerful Bike Lobby" has struck again!  Yeh US!!!  Our Michigan legislature has finally passed a law requiring motorists to yield 3 feet of distance when passing cyclists.  We don't expect rampant enforcement but it is a general step forward to educate the public about vulnerable road users.
Take that Dorothy Rabinowitz!
     In the meantime I have been doing a little wrenching on the Hunq.  Spring is time for cleaning and I took it step farther.  I was getting stressed at the damaged paint  from all the back road traveling I do.  I could no longer get a reasonable touch up color and the bike was starting to look like crap. 
So I had it stripped, and there below two top coats and a coat of primer I found a photo shadow of the original decal.  That's some pretty serious UV light.  I'm not forgetting my sunscreen.  Onward.  I polished up the frame with a sanding sponge and coated it with a super duty epoxy/polymer something or other that is made to bond, seal and protect bare metal from rust.
I love the way it turned out and the brass brazing material highlights the lug work beautifully.   The good people at Rivendell provided new decals at a modest price and it looks like something from a mad max episode.  More about this in a much later post, don't jump in and try it without research.   I tested some other rusty metal before I did, and the substance itself is really nasty to work with.  I opened the can, my cats ran under the bed,  and  I was fearing brain damage, but everybody needs a hobby right? 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Are we there yet?

      Ok,  I know it's not really spring  yet.  I live very near the 45th parallel which  means practically nothing except that our four seasons fall right on the lunar calendar.  No matter what that rodent in Pennsylvania says about winter, ours will last until March 23rd.  Plan on it.

        This year has been beyond crazy, even by Michigan standards.  We are getting 2-3 feet of snow in multiple day onslaughts alternated with a week of 40-50 degree sunshine to melt it all down.  What are we supposed to do with this?  When I plan to go skiing it's too warm,    I take the studded tires off, another storm hits.  It's enough to make the President believe in climate change (I seriously doubt it, but I thought I 'd throw that in).  So we have been riding through waist high drifts on icy streets one day 
and flooded trails a few days later.
While we are out on the streets hoping not to freeze to death one day or drown the next, Lexus is offering Michigan cyclists an alternative.
       Their new velodrome takes indoor training to the next level and is developing praise all around as a magnificent facility.   Is this really an attempt to promote the sport of cycling or an elaborate indoor trainer?  They sponsored a beautiful new track, a cage to keep the spandex hamsters off the street and out of their way. I smell conspiracy.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Onward, 2018 straight ahead.

This past year was  sedate, encouraging, adventurous and disappointing at the same time.  Oh, yeah, like life.  It began with some comments from innocents.  A class of high school freshmen asked me why I rode a bike rather than drive a car.  I asked them to explain it to me.  After providing 8 or so good reasons to choose a bike over a car they were dum founded and could offer no reason to drive a car.
I had to offer "social acceptance" as a primary reason for most people's choice. That, of course, left them with more quizzical looks on their faces.
Our mayor was awarded the "Friend of Bicycling" award by our local club.  He had been instrumental in passing the new 5 foot passing law which was instituted in the city.
The area transportation study, KATS, continued their outreach to the public attempting to develop a coherent network of non-motorized routes through the municipal area.
    I dipped my toe into the technology arena by making an hilarious attempt at going tubeless.  Despite what you might have heard, a special tire is required.  On a positive note, the Stan's Sealant works pretty damn well in tubes.  This year I had 8 known punctures and only one actual flat.  The flat that I had was catastrophic.  Whatever I hit punctured the center tread and Kevlar belt of a Schwalbe Big Ben tire, and the anti-puncture strip I was using, and then left a hole large enough that Stan's wouldn't seal it. So, you have to carry a tube and inflator anyway.  I guess the tubeless thing is only an advantage to racers, the sealant a convenience to real cyclists.
Once springtime got underway, I discovered one of the worst excuses for a rail trail.   This mess is called a bike trail and is useless.  It runs between Hartfort Mi and ends near the Lakeshore but is an unmaintained grass path barely navigable on a 29er.  I suppose it gets some snowmobile traffic in the winter but I bailed to the county roads.
Back in town the city of Portage was quick to post signs
 educating the public about the new passing laws.  Bravo!!
Scott Towner was my first Warmshowers guest for the year.  He traveled from Toronto to Southern Cal and stayed with me for a night.
The following weekend our paths crossed while I was taking a weekend trip to the Lake.   We shared a campsite for a night before I went home and he pedaled onward to Chicago.
I embraced a new twist on old technology in the form of a Blackburn trunk bag for my Hillborne.  It's a new version of the Topeak design with small panniers folding down from the sides.  The trunk itself has a light insulation and is HUGE.  It will easily fit a 6 pack of your favorite bottles and a few other things.  It's a perfect bag for an overnight at a B&B on the lake.  Unlike the Topeak design, it will fit on any rack with a couple of velcro straps.
Mary's ride, one of my favorite ad hoc charity rides, went well  again this year.
This time with beautiful weather and favorable winds.
I now have proof positive that I can wear out or break anything.  I managed to bend the pin on a Park Tool chain break.  How, I will never know, but I am proud to say "I did it my own self."
There was a huge turnout for the ride on June 7th commemorating the tragedy of 2016 when 9 cyclists were run over by a pickup truck.
Linus. a student from Germany, was my other Warmshowers guest this year.  He took some time off from his studies to travel across the US by bicycle.
He managed to break an axle just outside of town and Rick Lee from Zoo City Cycles was glad to have it repaired free of charge.
My own journey's took me by Amtrak to infamous HWY 61 in Minnesota
for trip down the Mississippi which is a route frequented by cyclists and I found campgrounds dedicated to us along the route.
For the most part the weather was magnificent,
the scenery sublime and the roads flat 
until I passed Praire Du Chien.  
There, for about 80 miles it was climb after climb
reaching some magnificent vistas before reaching
the flatlands of Illinois and the ride home.
(I took Amtrak not the penny farthing.)
The annual vintage bike show at the Tavern was blessed with a big crowd and beautiful weather.
I took a little tour of Manistee National forest, it's trails and sandy roads
where I discovered Idlewild, a hidden piece of Michigan history in the middle of the forest.  It was one of the first places in the USA where Afro-Americans were allowed to own real estate.
A little east of there is an interesting intersection in Reed City of two rail trails cutting across the state.
I settled down into a fall of commuter cycling and the local transportation study released it's plan for developing non-motorist routes through the city.
It's a very aggressive plan and backed by the fact that they hold the purse strings to the Federal funds used in the area.  It promises to be one plan that does not collect dust on the shelf.
Unfortunately that was followed by the Ying to their Yang.  The KRVT, a local trail organization, completed the most disastrous and misconceived connection through our downtown area to connect their trail sections.  It's a comical farce winding through the most heavily trafficked streets in town turning 14 times in the length of a mile.  I'm just glad the rest of the year was positive and am planning the travel for the coming year.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

One step forward two steps back.

    Despite the optimistic development I noted in my last post, Our local trail system, the KRVT, has been struggling with a dilemma the  past couple of years.  Part of the system was finished on both the west and east end with no route to connect the two parts in the middle of the city.  Obviously there is a lot of real estate to consider and a bit of controversy.  There is a side street which intersects with the west leg and seems a perfect candidate.  Most of it could be made a bike boulevard with a side path added at the west end where there is more auto traffic.   A sign could be installed to direct cyclists to another safe route to the shops and restaurants downtown. That would have provided a straight one mile connection that avoided all the congestion and traffic downtown. 
Whoever is in charge thought it better to take a route they believed would bring cyclists into the retail area.    They made a grand announcement and had a ribbon cutting to celebrate it's completion so I thought I should take an honest look at the accomplishment.  

The new connection begins by crossing Westnedge Ave,  
to access an off street, expanded sidewalk/trail 
where I immediately waited to cross Business Loop I-94 to continue  the "sidewalk/trail"
which winds around between some parking lots and 
crosses the southbound leg of Westnedge called Park St.
After crossing Park St. the "trail" winds again
 around some parking lots and between two office buildings.
before reaching a "crossing" in the middle of the block at Rose St
where we can wait in a median between streams of traffic.
From there it winds between the Museum and Community College campuses 
into the attractively landscaped sidewalk behind
before going back to the street  which leads the trail 
through the middle of the local festival site, 
which makes the trail unusable during an event.
From there we wait to ride back across Business Loop I-94
to reach another protected lane 
adjacent to Business Loop I-94,
across a rail crossing and past Bell's Brewery 
to turn further south on another protected bike lane
and leading to a route 
which squeezes between several parking lots
across another rail siding
between ware houses before
finally reaching the other east ward trail head.
Of course you notice all the retail exposure this accomplished.  There were two bars.
As a somewhat experienced cycle tourist, I have learned to depend upon marked routes and trails to help navigate strange communities safely.  This trail system is part of a network advertised and promoted to guide cyclists safely across the state from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.  After riding the new connection exposing the "better" part of Kalamazoo authorities wanted to showcase, I wonder how this made sense to anybody.