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.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Less is more except for holiday sales.

      A few months ago I mentioned there would  be fewer posts on this blog since I am not the type to be repetitive, and once traveling season is over, and I start pretending to work, the commuting process does get repetitive and you guys have heard it before.  Less must mean more .  There's no real goal or number here but when I cut down my drivel, readership went up.  In fact it tripled.  No coincidence, word must have gotten round that there is a lot less bullshit to sift through so it might be worth it.  Or there is some other sensible reason, but sense is not part and parcel to my program so we'll just move on and get over it.
I went on a shopping spree for the holidays.  
I've developed an unnatural affection for Chrome products  but I can't help it. 
They make stuff that works and lasts and fits the way I ride and the places I go.  They had a lot of useful items marked down and a big bonus discount for ordering during the holidays.   From the left, I got another Duramap hoodie, a work shirt, new IKE wind shirt and a pair of boots.
The  hoodie is just like the grey one I have just a different color but for a cycling hoodie they are ideal and the hood actually fits over a helmet.  The new shirt is a novel and reversible quilted work shirt.  It has buttons for closure.  One side is a quilted beige color while the other is a smooth blue slate.  It weighs practically nothing, is warm, wind resistant and the rear pocket doubles as stuff sack.
I have a feeling this is going to be a traveling staple.
The windshirt is the same design as one I have in blue, but a second one at this price is a great idea.  I got the farmer plaid color to go with blue jeans and, like the other, this has a double zipper and zippered cuffs as well as vented pits and reinforced wind block on the inside. I love it.
The new shoes are quilted and lined with fleece for cold weather as well as having secretly reflective black trim.
They have the same forged soles and stiffened insoles as do their other bike shoes.  They seem to be really warm and waterproof.    Altogether this little self induced Christmas present was a real bargain. If you don't keep an eye on Chrome products, you probably should.  Their stuff is made for cyclists who actually go places other than their car.  At regular prices I would have paid nearly $500 for these four items, between the clearance markdown and the special holiday incentive I paid only $160.  
Now I'm all replete in my new kit with the plaid wind jacket and Rivendell pants I look like a real biker and will probably embarrass any number of spandex hamsters, for any number of reasons.
I understand the aero skin suits and all that but she still needs a helmet.

Even Cippo' uses appropriate headgear when he's
 rockin' the stylish kit on his ride back to the team van.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016, time to pedal forward

        I woke up this morning to realize another year went away last night.  It has been an eventful one which started just like this one with a "Hair of the Dog" ride sponsored by Rupert's Pub.  It's a myopic event where everybody meanders around the downtown area for a bit before enjoying a pot luck buffet and few beers while discussing how close they came to last year's goals.  I get left out  of those conversations since I don't keep track of mileage.  I tell them I went places and saw stuff but have no idea how far or how fast.  I wonder if they enjoyed it more knowing they must improve this year to reach last year's goals.
        Last year started like this one will.   A few months of frigid commuting when I was noticeably alone on the streets if not for the court appointed cyclists struggling to the liquor stores.
After the months of winter commuting to my part time gig as a teacher and listening to the daily remarks about how impossible my ride to work was each day,  I was ready for spring break.
       Making the pilgrimage to Cleveland was like cycling through all four seasons in a week.   April in Michigan and Ohio is changeable but you really can't appreciate how changeable until you live outdoors on a daily basis.  I started in a freak snowstorm, went home and restarted the next morning.  The weather changed to unseasonably warm and beautiful,
back to freezing rain and snow and back to just plain cold and dry.  Despite the trip being both interesting and surprisingly scenic,
 the weather was the the most challenging of any trip I  have taken.  I finished the quest and, no, I didn't have tickets to a Cavalier's game.  Nothing trivial here.

It was a pilgrimage to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  As I said originally, I have done sillier shit, but I endured snowstorms, freezing rain, single digit temperatures and freezing rain
to come home with a fucking t-shirt!
    The springtime became a typical renewal of enthusiasm for the "real" bikers who forsake their wind trainers and succumbed to the temptations of daylight savings time.  The club rides resumed in earnest and continued with fever until June 7th happened
The tragedy nobody in the world conceived.  Nine cyclists run down by a drugged up loser in a borrowed pickup truck.  5 dead and the others critically injured.  The driver faces trial for five counts of 2nd degree murder.  I spent the following week riding and answering calls from people all over the world expressing their condolence and concerns.
Even Lance Armstrong offered his notoriety to help publicize the tragedy by coming to help "finish the ride" with a group a week later.   It's a day nobody wants to remember but will never forget.  It makes us all aware how vulnerable we are to choices others make.
    I was traveling the country side on a previously scheduled trip where I was talking about it constantly; either on the phone with callers, answering e-mails or discussing it with people I met on the road.  The rest of June was a flourish of activity and fundraising.
The club donated all proceeds from our annual charity tour to the victims and their families. 
     At the end of June there was reason for another journey.  Returning to my college haunts in Kansas City for a conference was a good excuse to ride the legendary Katy Trail across Missouri.   I was able to have a reunion dinner with one of my former classmates and his wife.  That was a wonderful evening. Another special treat was stumbling into my first experience with a Critical Mass ride.
There were about 300 of us riding about the shopping and tourist areas of Westport, The Plaza and Brookside areas, taking over the streets for blocks until we paused for a break 
at one of Kansas City's famous fountains.  After a few days
 As trails go, the Katy is one of the better I have seen.  Winding through the Ozarks and along the Missouri river it was a trip you can make as quickly or as leisurely as you please.  A network of cottage businesses have developed to service the traffic from the trail system, accommodations are easy to find and the country side is scenic and rich in historical significance.
It was hot, and the shelter of the trail was a welcome relief from the city streets.
I was never really alone although some of my company was less than sociable.  No, those are not dogs but baby bulls and I was between them and their mother who was wiley enough to find her way into the woods.   It was one way to get the heart rate up while off the bike.
After a few days and some more luxurious scenery along the Missouri, I found my way to downtown 
St Louis for another train ride home.
     Being a well known eccentric I became an esteemed member of the Citizen's Advisory Committee
to the local Transportation Committee last year.  July afforded an invitation to the regional Transportation Planners Conference.   Does that sound like a party or what?  Well it's not, but fighting the nap jerks was not all that was accomplished.
A couple of days of meetings and (totally fascinating) public speakers had me all agog over their preoccupation with developing complete streets.  The changes being planned and implemented here should thrill anybody who goes places on bikes.  It will probably frustrate the majority of cyclists who will find parking in short supply for their BMW's adorned with rooftop Trek Madone's, but screw them.  The traffic engineers are seeing the light and developing better traffic patterns which will not only facilitate active transport, but encourage it.
The goal is in sight!
     In August I found an adventurous advantage to the Hunqapillar.  A bike like that gave me the means to dispense with planning routes.
Using all purpose 29er tires I finally learned the freedom of truly open road touring.  Granted, I was in Western Michigan and very familiar territory, but riding along I just pointed myself in the direction of my next stop and took whatever road looked interesting.  Occasionally, I glanced at the GPS on Google Maps,
but had no qualms about heading down an unfamiliar road as long as it was in the right direction.  It's a new form of freedom I am going to develop in the coming year.
     September brought about the end of the "season" as most cyclists view it.  We lucked out and had a perfect day for our annual anniversary ride for the local club.
In October I enjoyed another gravel run through the idyllic forests of Yankee Springs at the Barry Roubaix Grand Fondo.  And the fall marched forward into the advocacy season when the club managed to push our local administrators into adopting minimum 5' passing ordinances.  That was a great step forward
and I discovered the excellent documentary "Bikes vs. Cars" on Netflix.
Watch it.
I finally found the the tatoo I'd been waiting all my life to define me.  It was a good year, but  one best left behind after the murders and the  most embarrassing presidential election in the history of the American experiment.  Time to put it behind us and move on.


Friday, December 23, 2016

Locks? There's an app for that!

     It's the holidays and there I was minding my own business when a sale popped up on my computer screen.  I had seen the Ellipse U-lock (Skylock) advertised since they began crowd funding a couple of years ago. It promises to be a geeked out improvement on bike security.
  It's a solar powered lock which can be operated from a cell phone and has a motion detector which notifies the owner of any unusual tampering.  Cool, but expensive.  A couple of hundred dollars sounds excessive but, I rationalized it by considering that I ride around on 3-5K bikes all day and a cable is  not the best choice.  They offered another 10% off for the holidays and I bit.  A few days after being charged there was no notice of fulfillment or shipping so I wrote and asked.  I was reminded of a notation on their website that orders taken in November would be shipped before the end of January.  I wrote back to inform him that the notation said January 2016 which had long since passed.  They said;  "OOps!  Thanks for pointing that out."   I had them return my money since that was the second questionable thing I found in their pitch.  The other was the software.  It's supposed to be compatible with Apple and Android Jelly Bean 4.4.  I use an Android phone and there is no "Jelly Bean 4.4"  it's 4.3.  The 4.4 version is nicknamed Kit Kat.  I wasn't too concerned at that because those operating systems are constantly upgraded and my phone should have all the necessary features.  "Should" is the important word here.  Somebody launching and marketing a  new technological revelation in cycling security "should" know what year it is.  Not only that, I wasn't talking to Waterford about a made to order custom bike, it's an accessory.  If they want to sell it they "should"  keep a few lying around in case somebody wants one.  I have severe misgivings over the quality of product produced under those circumstances.  Such is the promise of crowd funding; your customers assume the risk while you get the profit.
     The experience did motivate me to continue my search for a better alternative than the cable and ring locks I had been using.   My arsenal of security ranges from extremes.  I have a cable lock, a cable I use in conjunction with a ring lock, and the extreme "better be ready for a wrestle" Abus Bordo Link Lock (which weighs about 5 1/2 pounds).  

I had tried the Kryptonite U-Lock pictured, but found a couple of things about it I didn't like.
The keys kept breaking.  It was no problem getting them replaced, but it happened over and over, and  it was also difficult to use.  Being as narrow as it is, it barely fit around the substantial tires and frame of the Hunq.
                                      
 I finally trashed it.
    I was unhappy with the geeks and dissappointed by my experience with Kryptonite and looked at Abus locks to see if they would continue to make me happy.  I didn't want to compromise security and wanted something lighter and easier to lug around than the Bordo.  I parsed through their array of U-Locks until I found the Granite mini 54.  Nicknamed the "San Francisco Lock."   It is made a full 1" wider than other U-Locks to fit around the fat parking meter stands in The City.  It has a weird square shackle that is tough to saw and almost impossible to cut with bolt cutters, and has a security rating as dependable as the New York Forgetaboutit while weighing less than half as much.  
I couldn't find one at a local LBS and found that QBP was out of stock when I tried to order one.
So, I was stuck with the internet rather than patronizing local merchants.
It took a week to get it from a vendor in England who offered the best price.
It arrived as gloriously as a lock can make an entrance.
Two keys and the requisite code card for ordering replacements.
One of the keys has a nifty led light which won't help you find your way home 
but might save a few frozen moments at a dark place. 
 I'm not asking for my money back over that useless frivolity,
but I have learned not to park my bike in dark places.
                                                      
The extra size, although only 1", proves to help tremendously in the real world.
I couldn't have gotten the Krytonite lock anywhere near that position.
I could lock the wheel and frame together but not around a bike stand.
 Despite the extra width the lock still fits neatly into the hip pocket. and
if you are a genuine retro grouch using a Pletscher rack, 
they provide a handy clamp for carrying them around.
So far I am pleased with the decision.  Thanks to Ellipse for inspiring me to action.
Maybe someday they will get their act together.
Until then I will not have a gadget to wake me up and tell me somebody is fiddling with my lock,
but I will sleep better knowing my babies are as save as I can make them.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

It's over dammit, the pretty weather went away!

          Sadly, all things must pass.  That's especially true here in the Midwest where we are witnessing the end of the intoxicating fall weather we have enjoyed.  It really did go on longer than usual and we have grown indignant over the interruption caused by our first winter snow.  I mean it didn't have to come all at once, but it did, or is.  We are supposed to have seven straight days of snowfall and the spandex hamsters are scrambling around to get their trainers set up and their Garmin whachacallits all calibrated so they don't miss out on a virtual KOM or their weekly excursion into Freddom.  

I have a routine as well.  Put the studded tires on the Hunq first, rearrange the bikes in the garage, wash the car and position it carefully out of the way of the bikes.  That way I don't loose sight of my priorities, I can still wrench on the bikes, and the car stays snow free in case I should need it sometime during the winter.
After all, I might actually need it.  It doesn't seem likely, but it could happen.