Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Flower delivery

Flowers survive the bike ride home in excellent condition.  This was just a small spray, but Boehm's downtown has wrapped up a vase and bouquet for me which made it safely home in a backpack, too.  Panniers might work better for larger bouquets, and if I need a really big bouquet, for whatever reason or occasion, there's always the BoB trailer.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

a little too color coordinated (rain gear)

Red helmet, red backpack cover, red jacket. I didn't plan this. Honest.  Bits of gear I bought at different times.  I don't even like red that much.  Sure.

Luckily I stowed my stow-able rain jacket in the pack Monday morning, because by the time I left work for home it was pouring.  But when I pulled out the bright red jacket, and then pulled out the bright red backpack cover, and looked at my red helmet, I said sheesh! this is too much.  

Not sure when was the last time rode in the rain it's been so long, but the ride from downtown to the Shadle area wasn't too bad.  Got caught without fenders on (just a rear rack), but what's a little tire spray when the clouds are emptying? Canvas shoes got soaked through and pants, too.  I didn't pack rain pants as I didn't want to bother with them - they're just a pain. But maybe I should carry them from now on.  

I happened to notice some snow pants at the Escape Outdoors store on Monday and wondered how they'd work for biking.  They had a red pair.  Hmm...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Book larnin' - Be Unpredictable!

Nothing teaches like real world experience, but I've picked up a bit of biking instruction, good and bad, from reading.  This is an interesting bit from Grant Petersen's book "Just Ride":

"Be unpredictable."

Everybody says to be predictable when you're out riding on the streets.  Problem is, you can be as predictable as all get out, but that's still not going to stop a vehicle driver from pretending they don't see you and cutting you off or pulling out in front of you or giving you the ol' right hook.  Grant says, swerve a little bit, keep 'em guessing what you're doing, keep 'em on their toes.  Make them look out for you.  Of course, he says to keep this within reason - like when you're moving to the left lane to make at turn, you should probably stay predictable.

This bit of advice to be unpredictable makes me feel less bad when I accidentally swerve and look like I don't know how to ride a bike.  I'm just making drivers look out for me.  Maybe they'll give me a wider berth.

***disclaimer: I'm not advocating this is good advice.  I'll leave that up to you to decide. Remember, he says swerve a "little", not swerve into the other lane...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Discover Counter-Steering!

Sometime last year I read in a book a description of counter-steering and it made no sense to me.  Something about leaning or steering one direction to go another.  I couldn't figure out what they meant.  So I filed it away.  I read the description again and suddenly it made sense, you just push/lean on the handlebars in the direction you want to go.   The bike leans over automatically and you turn.  But I wasn't sure why they called it counter steering - maybe because your body wanted to lean the other way and acted as a counter weight?  Anyways, I was having fun on my Marin and my newfound technique, gliding through the corners on my way to work.

It turns out all I did was discover that thing called "steering".

In Issue 17 of Bicycle Times there was another description of counter-steering in the Between the Lines column about moving hazards.  They described how to make a quick turn - "to go right, you first need to flick your handlebars to the left. This is known as counter-steering, and it causes your body weight to shift to the right.  As soon as that happens, steer sharply to the right".  Whoa, what?   Kinda shook my bikey world view.

So I gave it a try, practicing on my commute.  There are some 90 degree turns to and from work where I'm going slightly downhill and picking up speed.  I often end up taking these corners a bit wide, which isn't good if I drift on into the oncoming traffic lane while making a right turn or into the curb while turning left.  I don't need to steer too sharply on these corners, but after trying the real counter-steering a few times I started getting the idea. And whaddayou know, it works.

In issue 19, a Bicycle Times reader (also a motorcycle rider), wrote in to try to clarify counter steering, pointing out that it's more of a push on the handlebars.  But his description was also a bit confusing so I turned to Sheldon Brown and found his take on Counter-steering in his glossary here which I wish I'd read in the first place.  I'll just copy and paste for your reading convenience, since I know how busy you are:

"When a bicycle turns, it must lean into the direction of the turn so that the tilt of the bicycle and rider counterbalances the "centrifugal force" created by the act of turning.  In order to turn left, you start by turning the handlebars to the right for a moment. This moves the front wheel out to the right of the center of gravity, so the bike will start to fall to the left. This is immediately followed by turning the handlebars to the left to cause the bike to remain in balance, which also creates the desired left turn. "Countersteering" refers to the momentary motion of the handlebars in the opposite direction of the desired turn. usually, this is accomplished through the normal slight weave of the bicycle to maintain balance.

Some people, particularly motorcyclists, make a big deal out of this as if countersteering is some special advanced riding technique that you must learn to become an expert bike handler. It isn't. It's just a fancy sounding name for the normal process by which any two-wheeler (or even a unicycle) is controlled.

However, to be ready to swerve quickly out of danger, it is useful to practice quick, forced countersteering so as to initiate a turn as quickly as possible. The amount of countersteering needed decreases as speed increases, and practice will teach you how to approach the limit of traction without exceeding it and skidding out.  See also my article on braking and turning."

So it's nothing real fancy, just a normal way to turn a bike. I'm having fun with this newfound technique and don't use counter-steering for every turn, but find it comes in handy. Seem to do it unconsciously sometimes -  probably learned it as a kid, along with most every other biker.

Monday, October 15, 2012

2nd INNW CX race at Riverside - Random thoughts

1. I'm not sure if this is a good thing, but I was feeling some pride in and congratulating myself that my "getting lapped ability" is improving.  When an approaching rider says on your left, or on the inside, I didn't swerve over in the wrong direction.

2.  When the frontrunners start coming up from behind (or ahead of me, I guess), I start looking out and making room for them to pass.  I wish there was a better way to tell if the guy about to lap me is one of the leaders, or someone who is actually behind me in the standings and I should try to stay ahead of.

3. Maybe I was meant to be a downhill racer.  That downhill section returning from the wooded area is fun, and I could almost keep up with the lappers.

4. Some of those guys have some serious calf muscles.  Couldn't help but notice.

5.  I am actually better than last year.  Although it may be difficult to discern to the untrained eye.

6. The first lap is a killer.  I just can't seem to hang with the pack during the beginning sprint.

7.  Cross can be lonely sometimes.  During the first couple laps I was trying to stay ahead of a guy on my wheel.  He finally passed me, then I started catching back up with him.  Then he flatted, and I was all by myself without anybody nearby to race with.  That's when it's easy to slack off without realizing it because you don't have anybody to keep pace with.  I caught myself just tooling along, as if I was just going for a relaxing ride by myself.  But then the fear creeped in that there might be somebody back there gaining ground, and so it's back to pushing it.

8.  It's actually good when the leaders come up from behind - it picks me up a bit and makes me go faster.  Usually.

8. The last lap is a killer.

9. One of the worst things in cross is to be dead tired, starting on your last lap, only to realize the leaders are just 50 yards behind you on their last lap, and if they had caught up and passed you before the finish line, your race would've been over, too.  But no, you've got to do a whole nother lap.  Another crawl up the run-up.  I've been lucky so far this year and this hasn't happened to me.

10.  One of the best things is to go by the finish line and you see there's 3 laps to go.  Then next time you go by, there's only 1 lap to go.  What happened to that missing lap?

11.  I've been a little conflicted about cyclocross this year.  Sometimes I think what I really enjoy is to wander around on the trails in the woods, so why race? But I'm glad I do it.  I'm a bit of an introvert, so it gets me out.  And then there's the challenge of it. There's the satisfaction that comes from the improvements in my riding abilities, the little signs each week that I'm taking those corners better than I was last year.

12. I liked the course - Emde Sports and crew did a great job putting this race together.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Random Downtown Spokane Bikes - Thursday

I finally got a new mePhone last week (been without a cellphone since end of August) so I tried out the camera downtown yesterday.  BikePortland has a series of action shots of cyclists biking around Portland, and sometimes they get indignant cyclists writing in saying "how dare you post pictures of me without my permission!"  Now, I'm sure cyclists would love to be featured here, but yesterday I focused just on locked up stationary bikes.

This first one is at Soulful Soups and Spirits. 15% off if you ride your bike - might have to ride the one block there on my lunch. 

out front Riverpark Square

at the Library

out back Riverpark Square

Wall Street & Spokane Falls Blvd

Chase Bank

lunch was almost over before I realized I didn't get any Jimmy John's bikes.
This was parked between Jimmy John's and Thomas Hammers, so I'm not sure
if it is one of the delivery bikes

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

whoops, wrong trail!

I was riding back from Riverside State Park last weekend, and decided to take the trail home up to Merkel Sports Center. It's a little steep, but not too bad.  I was tired and thought it'd be quicker than going by Downriver Golf Course.

But halfway up, something didn't feel right.  The trail was supposed to be a gradual climb to the left up the side of the hill, but I was going straight up.  What? Somehow, I took the wrong trail and was heading up towards Fairmount Cemetery.
it's steeper than it looks, honest
Stopped and looked around, taking some time to appreciate the view. And to catch my breath. I got off my bike and walked up the rest of the way.

Today on my way home I stopped by to investigate where I went wrong.  This is the trail I took on Sunday.  One of the trails from Aubrey White Pkwy leads straight to this one.

This is the trail just a bit to the north that I should have taken:

I think I have it straight now.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

More Bike Stylin' (?)

These shoes were on clearance last year at Recycled Cycles.  Not sure why.
Work great, and the youngsters at work think they're cool.