Sunday, December 26, 2010

That time of the year - December 26, 2010

I managed to get a most of my commuting in, but with amount of things to do both at work and home, it has been a challenge to get time to post.  The only one day that I didn't was Christmas Eve, both for plans later and because there seemed to be no reason to tempt fate and become THAT headline; "father hit and killed by driver on Christmas Eve".  Ugh!

I got great gifts from Santa.  A book entitled "Mud, Sweat and Gears"  It's the story of a family on their first trip together across Canada, on bicycles.  "The Metal Cowboy" as the author is known as has done a lot of tours, but this is the first including his kids and wife.  It was an entertaining read, I will be curious to see what Trisha thinks of it.

I also got a Road ID (wrist band with my emergency information on it) so I no longer need to worry about not having my license on me at all times.  I also got a cycling calendar of old advertisements from around the world and a great new backpack.  The only scary thing with the backpack is it's size; it probably has twice the capacity of the last one, so I can now put twice the weight in it...great!

I think the great thing with a hobby is that it makes everyone's life easier in figuring out what to get and I always have a fresh supply of new cycling trinkets.  I had great thoughts, but all the fattening foods must have wiped them from my mind.  I'm back to dieting and all that after the holiday food.  I miss be young and not having to worry, I think that come summer I will be having an easier time of it with the extra riding and calories burned.

I will be curious to see how much I am improved over last year with consistent riding all through the winter.  That plus the lack of gears that I have bemoaned about, the large loads and the heavy rotational weight.  I figure that in terms of equipment by the time summer hits I will be putting out less the half the effort for the same results.  Hopefully this results in better stamina and speed (I won't hold out for climbing ability) for the upcoming year.

I will need to get a few things to get my road bike, road worthy, but nothing major.  My headset is shot, I need new cables and I have to get the bearings in my front wheel looked at.  All minor things and very little money is needed.  I am good for tires and most of the other fast wearing items for probably the entire season with the possible exception of a chain about mid season.

Rambling thoughts tonight...hmm I wonder if I have a bicycle tour in my future.  Trisha and I touring the continent.  Have to see if the book inspires horror or inspiration.

Monday, December 13, 2010

These are the people in your neighborhood - December 14, 2010

And if you have the song from Sesame Street in your head....waahaa!

I woke up late this morning, really late.  I normally wake up before my alarm and not only did it go off, but I apparently turned it off and went back to sleep; for an hour.

Moving as quickly and quietly as I could to get out of the house and reorganize myself from a planned ride, I choose to drive on the simple fact that it was still really early in the morning by commute standards and while I might be a few minutes late by driving, I would have been close to half an hour late by bike.  On my normal shifts, in the summer, on my fast bike it is as fast to bike as drive, but not without all that.

So as I cursed as the other drivers and traffic in general, watched a couple of near accidents and came to a complete stop in the middle of a four lane freeway for no apparent reason in light traffic, I realized that I would miss the "walking guy".

He is a guy that no matter the season is walking with his bright orange vest as 6:15 every morning somewhere along the lake.  He waves at every pedestrian, runner and cyclist that goes by.  Initially I thought he was either creepy or crazy, but now I look for him and make sure I wave back.  He is a part of my Monday ride, as is the reticulating bus followed by the short city bus that pass me going up Market.

I am a creature of habit and unless I have had a mechanical or something, tend to be in the same place within a five minute time period.  It seems that a lot of other people are like this as well (besides scheduled buses).  For instance: Tuesday through Friday I have a Jeep with a fleur-de-lis that passes me (or I pass depending on traffic) both in the morning and in the afternoon somewhere in the Kirkland area.  The Jeep has had a lot of work done to it, with extra light bars, lifts and tires and yet always passes very safely.  The Porche Boxster that I catch at the last light before work almost every morning.  The little old lady with a small white dog that I pass going down the hill into Bothell on my way home.

There have been others that have come and gone, perhaps moving on to different jobs or houses.  Maybe a victim of the down economy, or a different schedule or route.  Some of the cyclists and pedestrians will be back when the weather is nicer.  The older gentleman with two big panniers that I always catch on the flats past the lake, the kid on the single speed with flat pedals and a huge gear ratio (46-12?) that doesn't look like they will make the next pedal stroke on their way up Market street and the British guy that is fast going down and slow going up; I'm never quite sure where I will run into him (generally going up), but he always shows up somewhere.

These are the people in my neighborhood, the people that I meet each day.

Musings - December 13, 2010

I've heard other riders having close calls with vehicles in the last little bit.  Like them I concur that "bad drivers" are the exception not the rule.  I recently had a motorist instruct me where I needed to ride my F-ing bike, and that was on the F-ing sidewalk.  This was after they made a careful pass to go around me, before roaring up the road and cutting off another car.

I agree not all cyclists ride in a safe manner and not all motorists understand where bicycles fit on the road, but we make it work most of the time.  In this case, the driver got a hearty "thank-you" and a wave; I never moved from the line I choose.  Again not necessarily the prescribed method but one that I have had diffuse the situation every time except once and I'm not sure anything would have worked in that case.

Maybe it's the holiday season.  Even driving I have noticed more and more aggressive drivers since the holiday season has hit.  I will be happy once it's all over, although it is kind of fun riding past the lines of cars that are dealing with the additional shopping traffic.  I have considered adding spoke lights to give me a little better visibility from the side, but haven't made the leap yet.

I have also noticed that there seems to fewer bikes out.  That might have to do with the weather as well, which has been rainy and blustery, but I haven't even seen as many on the front of buses and backs of cars.  I did have an interesting ride as the rabbit again the other day (I managed to "escape" or not get caught), but haven't seen that rider since.  And very few others, which is sort of frustrating because there truly is safety in numbers.  The more bicycles on the road the more aware drivers are of them.

Oh and other thoughts, I will have cover just about 8000 miles by the end of the year (maybe closer to 9,000 hard to get it accurate with the computer problems I've had this year and the lack of computer on my other bikes).  I am going to try for 12,000 next year, an average of 1000 per month.  Considering I cover a minimum of 500 miles a month just commuting (closer to 800 in the summer) this shouldn't be a challenge.  I will add a counter to my blog at the beginning of next year.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

All the wind - December 12, 2010

I know - bitching and moaning about the wind again.  Headwinds suck, tailwinds blow.  Given the choice (not that I ever have been) of riding into the wind both ways, riding into a wind one way and having a tailwind back or not having a wind, I would choose not having a wind...ever.

If you consider the four elements of cycling; air, earth, fire and water (hey those sound familiar, I must have borrowed them from somewhere), then I can consistently pit myself against any of them successfully with the exception of air/wind.  I can ride in the heat and up or down hills, in the rain or snow and even up and down hills in the heat, rain or snow and often fair better than most.  Wind just drags me down.

It actually takes the fun out of riding if it's strong enough.  I find that I lose my will to do battle with it.  There is a sense of accomplishment at the top of hill or having braved the elements, but there is just a never ending pointless struggle when riding into the wind.  I often find myself sitting up and powering back with a "why fight it" attitude.

A couple mornings ago, I checked the weather and noticed a lovely 15 mph wind expected for my rides.  15 mph was the constant speed of the wind but it often gusted up to 25 or so making my ride miserable.  Uphill was agonizing as it seemed to add a two or three percent grade to my efforts, flats all felt like uphill and I was barely maintaining any kind of speed at all except down the steepest of hills.  Partly due to my lack of will to push hard and my severely depleted speed, it added nearly fifteen minutes to my ride.  Another reason to hate it!

The only positive side was the same wind at my back on the way home.  The downside on my single geared bike is the lack of ability to take full advantage of it.  Once I hit a little of twenty, I can't catch my pedals.  Take away the wind and give me rain!!! (together they are worse, so not that).  I keep eyeballing the aero-bars, thinking they are unnecessary.  After nearly a week riding into stiff winds, I may change my mind.  Maybe they actually are the answer, much like a compact crank is for hills.  It's something to think about.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I draw the line at socks - December 1, 2010

I am ready for nearly any weather, which is a good thing around here as it can go from clear and cold at 28 degrees in the morning to raining and 48 degrees by the afternoon.  Depending on the forecast (and my guess at its reliability that day) I will layer my shirts to accommodate the dry cold to the warm rain, add packable pants over my shorts, bring my light and heavy gloves, pack some combination of the three available hats and even add arm warmers to my pack.  This way I can adjust my clothing based on the funky weather.

One of the items I wear often does double duty.  My shoe covers.  They are water proof and warm, so I can add them if it’s cold or wet (or cold and wet) and pack them up if it dries out or warms up.  Because of this versatility I generally only have to decide if I’m wearing light or heavy socks.

The other morning, with the arrival of a cold front, the morning temperature was expected to be in the mid to upper twenties.  That is the shoe cover and the heavy wool socks, especially considering it was supposed to stay dry and warm up.  I figured I could dump the extra warmth of the shoe covers at the anticipated high of 38 degrees and be layered just right.

It would have worked, except the temperature climbed to nearly 46 degrees that day.  I still hadn’t worried about it too much, planned on just socks going home.  Wool is warm. 

Less than a mile into my ride, my feet were uncomfortably hot.  It was at this point that I had considered packing an additional pair of socks for the weather, and about a second later that I dismissed the idea.  There isn’t any logic to it; I just don’t want.  I draw the line at adding an additional pair of socks to my additional gloves, hats, shirts and pants.

Lesson learned for the future: light socks unless it will be sub 30 BOTH directions.

I hate being the rabbit - November 30, 2010

I have on occasion traded leads with another rider on my morning commute.  As far as I can tell he comes out of Bothell somewhere and rides to the far south end of Kirkland.  In the past I have chased him down as the rabbit and he has caught me.  From experience this only happens if a small difference in distance exists in the first place as we seem to be fairly evenly matched.

In other words, he is fast.  He pulls hard on flats and climbs well.  I have had to work to catch him and when he has caught me I can't shake him, but I hadn't seen him for a number of months and figured that maybe he hung up his bike for the season.  I was wrong.

Leaving Bothell I spied a rider about a mile away at the top of the hill separating Bothell from Kirkland.  Ah-ha!  A rabbit; and if they didn't turn, one that would take me awhile to catch, so I increased my effort and pushed hard across the short flat before charging up the hill.  As I crested the hill, I looked down the road for the telltale flashing tail light of the rider ahead.  Nothing.

I figured they must have turned or something, so I kept on moving.  A couple of blocks later, I found my rabbit fixing a flat tire.  I checked quickly to see if they were good on my way by (still not recognizing the person at this point) and after a thumbs up continued to battle the wind and rain.

With my rabbit supposedly far behind, I dropped my effort, stopped for a few lights, climbed over Market Street and dropped into Kirkland.  I glanced back and saw a headlamp heading my direction, so once I pulled on to the flat by the lake, jumped up my effort.  The problem with my single speed is a lack of gears.  Even into a slight wind, I managed to max out my spin, which I know puts me at about 20 mph.  At this time of year with almost any other rider, I would have managed to not only stay ahead, but pull away. 

Just over halfway there I got a glimpse of the chasing bike on my wheel and moved over to let them by.  It was then that I recognized my friendly foe by his peculiar pedal stroke, on his multi-geared winter bike.  Damn!  I steadily lost ground to him before his turn as our top speeds differed so greatly.  So this morning I was the rabbit, confirmed when the fuzzy sort jumped out in front of me as I headed down the path right before work.