Sunday, January 29, 2012

You don't need a weatherman...

I was reminded of the old Dylan song "Subterranean Homesick Blues" last week when the forecast was for a windy day.

Usually, the weather comes on the news and I might start  to pay attention. What's it going to be like tomorrow? But then I zone out...they're going on an on about there's rain coming, it's gonna snow, whoa it's gonna be in the 80's. They gotta hype the weather, it's their job. My wife will ask what the weather is gonna be like, and I'll go hmmm, I forget I wasn't paying attention! That's because I'm going to ride my bike anyway, no matter what Bill Kelly says.

I wasn't always ready to ride in most any weather, though. On my way to an appointment at the Eye Clinic off of Fourth Ave a few summers ago, I got caught in a torrential downpour. It was nice and sunny when I left for work, and there was a hint of rain in the forecast but I didn't pay attention. As I was leaving from work for the appt, someone asked me if I was riding my bike in that. Huh? I looked outside and it was pouring. Holy crap! It was too late to take the STA Medical Shuttle, and I didn't have any rain gear with me. All I had was my light commuter jacket, and by the time I got to Second Ave, I was soaked.

Now I always carry a stowable rain jacket and some rain pants tightly rolled up in the bottom of my bag.  I think I rode with them in my bag all last summer even, when it rained maybe once. Someday that big rainstorm is going to come out of nowhere, and I'll be ready for it this time.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bike Commuting Tip #28a: Shoes

That's a view of underneath my desk at work in cubicle-land. A rare day with some sun shining through the window shedding a little light on my workplace hoarding tendencies. Our dress code is business casual which means no sneakers, even on jeans days.

Work shoes on platform pedals are a little slippery, so depending on the bike and my mood, I might ride into work in sneakers or clipped-in shoes. When I started using a rear pannier,  I'd stash my work shoes in that.  Then I started riding a cross bike to work that I couldn't stand the thought of putting a back rack on (I'm over that now), and started using a backpack again. I have the Novara bright yellow commuter bag, which holds a lot, but shoes take up a lot of room.  I found it easier to just keep 2 pairs of shoes at work, instead of hauling them back and forth. Saves room and a little time. Being a little neurotic, I have to have a brown and a black pair to match my pants.  I'm not one of those guys who can wear brown shoes with blue or black pants. But I have done it once or twice. Just doesn't feel right.

Friday, January 20, 2012

It's not too late to turn around and take the bus

The above picture is yesterday Thursday around 4:30pm downtown Spokane. I had made it to work fairly easily as most of he main streets I rode on in the morning - Driscoll to Alberta to Belt to Broadway to Monroe - had miraculously been plowed. The side streets were another story. As I found out riding home Wednesday, the Schwalbe Marathon Winter 700 X 35 tires I have on the Scratch and Dent bike are great on hard packed snow and ice and also deep powder, but not so great in the loose packed snow and tire ruts. A lot of slipping and sliding and being pulled this way and that.

I didn't count on it snowing all day Thursday, so it was with a little apprehension as I set out for home. Sure, I could take the bus, but that stubborn streak from my Scottish-German heritage took over. I was going to ride my bike no matter what, and save the buck-fifty bus fare!

Usually a 25 minute ride at the most, it took over an hour of riding through Riverfront park, on the streets, on the sidewalks, walking and pushing/pulling the bike through the snow to get home.  But I made it.

Today my wife had an appointment downtown, so I gladly accepted a lift from her. It was a little disappointing when I filled out my commute calendar, though, to have one day filled out as carpool and the rest in January as biked to work. I did see a few bikes downtown today.

I'm thinking maybe I should've gone with the Schwalbe 40 or 42 wide Winter tires, but I'm not sure they would've worked any better.  Probably need the fat tire solution for these conditions. I've also been eyeing the tires on my mountain bike - I think I'll take it out for a test spin. I might also replace the front studded tire with a 29er tire and give that a try this weekend.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

First Dog Bite of the Year Award!

"I'm gonna get that dog that bit my dad!"
Well I don't really know if I was the first this year, but I'm sure I have the dubious honor of being the first biker to get bit this year. Happened last Tuesday the 10th about 5pm on my way home from work, with only about a block to go. I think I'm pretty lucky as it could've been much worse. I was going up a little hill, and as I approached the last house on the left before the turn onto my street, I saw there was a guy in the yard playing with his dog.  

Usually, when I see loose dogs I have time to turn around and go an alternate way; or if not, the dogs lose interest in chasing me and aren't aggressive. This one, though, put his head down and headed straight for me. He was going for my left leg. The owner yelled. I managed to brake, and the dog overshot me and bumped into my front wheel. He then spun around and came for my left leg again, and clamped down on my calf. I remember thinking, pit bull, damn! They don't let go once they bite. But a car went by in the intersection ahead of us and distracted him so he took off after it. A dog with ADD, my lucky day.

There weren't any holes in my pant leg, so I was surprised to see the bite had broken the skin and I was bleeding. Spent some time at urgent care getting it cleaned up and getting another tetanus shot just to be safe. The doctor was happy to see there wasn't any contact with the dog's saliva so little risk of infection. They filled out the required report to send to the Health District; when I called to check on it a couple days later, I didn't even have to give the Environmental Public Health Specialist my name. They knew who I was.

It's healing up pretty good. The incident has added a couple blocks to my bike ride, as I detour around now. I'm the sure dog won't be outside, but you just never know.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Last week was a different week cycling...

Last week was a bit of a strange week riding back and forth to work. A few minor and everyday things that you just shake your head at and wonder. Like cars stopping in the middle of the street:

That's at Wall Street, a brick paved "pedestrian" street open to transit and local access. A lot of people seem to consider themselves local access traffic as there's quite a few cars that ignore the no turn sign and drive on Wall,  drop off people or just pass through. So I'm used to that.  This vehicle, though, decided to just stop right there at the entrance.  They didn't even move as the Arena shuttle bus squeezed on by to the left of it. Finally, as I was crossing the street, a woman got out of the passenger side. As the light changed for me to cross Spokane Falls Blvd, I muttered "not a parking spot" as I rode by. I gotta stop talking to traffic.

Then on the way home, I was stopped behind a vehicle on Broadway at Monroe. The light turned green, but the car didn't move. No right turn signal on, and it was in the center of the lane as if it was going straight. There was a vehicle to the left of it in the left turn lane. I tried to look in the left rear view mirror but it was broken and dangling from its mount. If I was in a car I would've given a polite tap on the horn to alert the driver hey the light's changed. I don't have a horn, or even a bell, so I tapped on the back of the car. I wondered immediately why'd I do that? Not smart. But still no forward movement from the car. I finally went around it and looked in the window as I rode by. The driver just looked blankly at me.  They never passed me on the next block, so I think they did eventually turn left.

But then there were a couple more serious incidents. Further on Broadway a block past Maple,  I saw some people standing on the street corner across the street and a couple cars stopped. Then I noticed a guy on the ground and a bike near him. I stopped to check and see if help had been called, but there wasn't much we could do, except wait for the ambulance. Still not sure what happened.

And I got bit by a dog less than a block from home. Just a weird week in January.

This week is looking different, too. We are almost guaranteed to get snow! I'll get to try out the studded tires on actual snow instead of just frost covered pavement. Too bad I'm pretty much over winter now.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Utility Cycling

There's something about the term "Utility Cycling" that bothers me. I'm not sure why, but maybe because it sounds boring, or has a connotation of superiority to other types of biking. It's used to distinguish using the bike for serious things like biking to the store, or commuting, from the more fun "recreational" rides. But I don't know, biking to work is fun. Biking to breakfast on the weekend is fun, too. Or down to the hardware store. It's all biking.

John Speare over at Cycling Spokane has some similar thoughts towards the end of his post Cat 6 and other cranky observations on the fun of biking.  Must be something about the time of year.

"Utility Cycling" doesn't bother me as much as it used to, but I still wince a little when I check out The Bike Shop Hub and their section. I'm trying to get over it. There's some good info over there.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Bike commuting tip #25

Don't forget to bring your bike inside after you come home!
sorry about the glare!
There's been more than a few times after I've been home from work for an hour or more and suddenly I go oh #%# I forgot my bike! After getting home, I usually park my bike around back or out front and then head inside. I'll  let the dogs out, get the mail, get a snack, play with the dogs etc. I get distracted easily. Luckily, it's always still been there where I left it when I remember. Which sometimes isn't until the next morning.

You might notice we're without snow here in Spokane, and you can thank all of us bikers who bought studded tires and/or snow bikes this year in anticipation of a snowy winter.  I'm bummed out right now even though I'm not a real big snow fan, but there's still time for some decent snow storms.   As it stands now, I don't think I can say I've ridden my bike to work through a winter.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A few more pics from the CPT

Forgot to mention...there seems to be an unofficial rifle range below the trail after gate 2408(?). I think it was the next gate after Martin Road trailhead gate. On the way out I heard a few rifle or shotgun blasts, and was glad I had on my yellow commuter jacket. On the way back, though, as I got nearer the Trailhead, there was a steady stream of rifle reports. Then I heard a few ricochets which was a little unnerving to say the least. I tried to get down to the side of the trail, but there wasn't much room. I yelled a little a few heys and hos to alert whomever it was to my presence but didn't do any good. I finally was able to see some vehicles parked off a road and a group of people standing around. I waved at them but they didn't notice or care. Heard some semi-automatic fire. Wish now I'd taken a picture, but I didn't feel like stopping, just wanted to get past. anyways, just a warning.

We continue with our travelogue...

Another photo of the first gate across the road from the trailhead
Just after the first gate, showing the trail built up on a on a dike. a whole lotta dirt moving went on.

wonder what the story is here
On the way back, approaching Lamont. I kept on looking at my Garmin at this point trying to figure out how many more miles to go. Maybe 4-5 miles, would I make it?  Maybe there's someone in town who'd like to give me a ride back!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Columbia Plateau Trail - Martin Rd trailhead and beyond

I'm not an extreme biker, but I've been mulling over the idea of riding the Columbia Plateau Trail all the way to Pasco. So on New Year's Day I hauled my bike out to the Martin Road Trailhead (about 8 miles from Sprague) to give it a looksy. What the hey - it's January! Thought I'd have to wait til spring, but decided I better take advantage of the time off from work, mild temps in the mid 30's and lack of snow on the ground.

Last summer I rode from Cheney to Amber Lake, and when I started out on Sunday I wasn't sure if I was going to continue on at Amber Lake or go to Martin Rd trailhead.  But since I was mostly interested in what the unimproved trail was like past Martin Rd, I found my way there. It was surprisingly easy to find - there's about a thousand signs pointing the way from the freeway, through Sprague, and to Williams Lake Rd which the Martin Rd trailhead is off of.

 Crazy Guy on a Bike  rode the trail on a Surly Pugsley, and that seems to be the recommended bike type, but I wanted to see how a 29er would do.

It was tough!

This is the gate across from the parking area. No services for the next 100 miles. Luckily, my wife packed me some trail mix, beef jerky and lots of water.

Just past the first gate. The trail surface was all over the map - sometimes the rock was more compacted along where the rails used to lie, sometimes it was along the edge. Occasionally there was a dirt path along the side as above to provide relief.
I'd barely gone a mile when I came across this feller. This is not a good sign! But I kept riding.
 The first few miles were tough, but after awhile I got a rhythm going. The difficult part was the searching back and forth for the best part of the trail to ride on, looking for the most compacted sections. Often I tooled along at 7-9 miles, and there was an easy section where I was able to go 12 mph with ease. I might have had an easier time of it if I had let some more air out of my tires, but once I got out there I discovered I didn't pack a patch kit or extra tube. I was worried I'd get a pinch flat if I did let some air out. I did bring a pump, but what good is that going to do by itself? Obviously, I didn't plan this trip very well.

A little scenery - occasionally I'd remember to look up from the trail.

Yikes! A little overgrown section, freely fertilized by cows. But easy to ride on.
Further on up the trail. I went a ways past this gate - I had to see what was beyond the next cut out. 
It took me 1 1/2 hours to go 10 miles, and finally forced myself to turn around after about 11 miles. I was starting to think I could keep on going to Washtucna, but knew I didn't have time to go much further. The ride back was brutal - the wind was against me and it felt uphill. One minute I was thinking I could maybe actually do this whole trail, or at least to Washtucna, the next I was crawling along at 5 mph hoping I'd make it back before nightfall!

That's all for now; I'll post some random photos tomorrow. Coincidentally, Pat of the 26IinchSlicks blog was out there last weekend also. Check out his report.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Back to the Merkel Trail to Riverside

Pretty pleased with myself - discovered there's a bikers paradise that I can ride to from home. Well ok, everybody in Spokane knows about Riverside State Park already but somehow I've only recently ridden there. On last Wednesday I rode down the hill again from Merkel sports center to Riverside State Park, but this time on my new mountain bike. The trail down is slippery to start with, especially on my cross bike with cantilever brakes, and made more so by the recent snow and rain we've had. Had a much easier time with the disc brakes, didn't feel like I was holding on for dear life.

After getting safely down the hill, I took some trails to Aubrey White Parkway and the Bowl and Pitcher area; found my way up trail #25 and surprised myself when I arrived at the Centennial Trail. I'm going to like having somewhat of a short cut to get across the river instead of riding to the TJ Meenach bridge.

Still no decent pictures; maybe this year!

Coming up next: a New Years day ride on the Columbia Plateau Trail. 11 miles of the rough section going east beyond the Martin Road Trailhead.