Sunday, December 29, 2013

Coffeeneuring (Blog Clearance #3)

Ok this post is way past its shelf life, but here goes:

I first heard of Coffeeneuring over at The Society of Three Speeds and the Urban Adventure League.  I thought that's cool, and I'm always a sucker for some clever (and not so clever) word play.  There was a challenge going on and the idea was to do a coffee run once a week for 7 weeks from Oct 4 to Nov 17.  It was started by Chasing Mailboxes d.c.  (not to be confused with the other DC - Drunk Cyclist) Sounded fun.  But there were rules, based on Randonneuring.  19 rules listed here.  Nineteen, my eyes glazed over and I don't think I read them all.  That killed that idea. So I rethunk it and the whole idea of Coffeeneuring went downhill, sounded suspect.  If I feel like riding to get a coffee, I'll just do it.

Last winter's Tariq Saleh Bike Club 100 Challenge is more my style.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Back to Backpacking (year end blog clearance #2)

Since I started bike commuting, I've gone back and forth between using a backpack or rack/panniers to haul my stuff.  I first rode with an old backpack I had lying around.  After I got my first decent bike, the Marin Muirwoods, someone suggested getting a rack and panniers, but those just looked...nerdy/dorky.  Which usually isn't a problem but seemed to project a bicycling image that ol' self-conscious me wasn't comfortable with, that of a serious cyclist.

Then I finally broke down and got a Topeak rack and trunk bag with zip-down panniers bags.  It was nice to get the weight off my back, and I could haul more stuff with the panniers.  The bike handled a little differently with the loaded panniers, but I got used to it.

But it can be a pain to ride somewhere and then deal with taking the panniers off the bike and carrying them around.  Much easier with a backpack to just get off the bike.  So after awhile I went back to the backpack.

I used the backpack all summer long in 2012, including some long after work rides with a U-lock in the backpack, and it never bothered me.  But this past summer I got tired of carrying the heavy, sweaty backpack and bought some nice Ortleib panniers.  Ahhh, felt good.  Except sometimes I'd get halfway to work and suddenly panic thinking I forgot my backpack.

The only problem I have with the Ortleibs is there isn't an easily accessible pocket on the outside.  Yep, I'm one of those guys.  Sure, you can stuff a lot in the roll-top panniers, but is it asking too much to not have to pay $30 bucks more for an outside pocket accessory to stuff your wallet, phone and keys in?  No, you have to unbuckle the bag, unroll it and dig around in the bottom of the bag to get to your loose items.  There is a zippered pocket at the inside bottom of the bag, but it's still a pain to get to.

But now with winter I've gone back to the backpack again. I'm alternating between riding the Vaya and a studded tire mountain bike without a rack, so it's easier to stick with just one hauling stuff mode.  Makes it easier in the morning to always use the backpack instead of switching between the backpack and Ortleibs depending on what bike I'm riding.

There's been a couple times this winter when I wished I had my panniers, as they're easier to fit heavy or bulky items in if I've stopped at the store on the way home.  Nothing like stuffing a nice flower arrangement for the Xmas dinner table in the backpack and hoping it looks nice by the time I get home. Luckily, Boehm's wraps up the flowers expertly for me.

Monday, December 23, 2013

honk! honk! (Year End Blog Clearance Sale #1)

It's that time of year again - time to reduce the inventory backlog of old, unfinished posts. These are all New Old Stock, maybe they have slight blemishes or missing parts but otherwise they are brand new!

Here's the first one, I think it was left unfinished due to a lack of interest and a good ending.  One of the work related personality tests I took once said, (besides confirming I was a space cadet), that my personality type (there were maybe 24 types comprised of 4 letters like JSNF) likes to leave things unfinished.  We don't like the finality of it, I guess, or it's just a good excuse to procrastinate.  Of course, maybe most tests of that sort you should take with a grain of salt.

If you would like, you could add an ending yourself.

Honk Honk!

I haven't been honked at yet this year.  Just writing that is probably a guarantee someone will honk at me tomorrow. (Edit: just a few more days to go!)

I was honked at probably 4 or 5 times last year.  I'm not riding any differently than I was last year, so I don't know what's up.  Maybe drivers are too distracted to honk.

Last year's honks I think were all for no reason at all, or so it seemed so to me.  The first time was kinda funny.  I was stopped at a red light on Broadway, heading west, at the intersection with Monroe.  I was over to the left a bit in case a vehicle came up behind me wanting to turn right.  Sometimes they do, sometimes they wait behind me.  There was a guy walking across the crosswalk in front of me carrying an old stereo component (I see this surprisingly often in town, they're usually heading to the pawn shop). There was a truck behind me. When the guy was about 3 feet from the curb, he turned around and said to me "the truck behind you wants to turn right".  In the 1/2 second it took me to process what he said and automatically half turn my head to look behind me, the light turned green.  The truck's horn honked.  Seriously, there's a guy still in the crosswalk, the light barely turned green, and you're honking?

I often ride home on Broadway in front of the Courthouse.  I try to ride to the left of the parked cars to stay out of the door zone.  I can keep up with the speed of traffic if I want, since everybody isn't going too fast here, and really shouldn't be.  There are a lot of pedestrians-soon-to-be-drivers-or-bus-riders crossing the street in the area.  If cars want to pass bikes here, they just move to the left into the center turn lane a little bit.  Oh but not one guy - he couldn't quite grasp the concept and laid on the horn.

Then there are times when I'm just biking along and a honk comes out of nowhere.  I rode from Aubrey White Pkwy to Gun Club Road to hook up with 7mile Rd and ride back to the Veterans hospital /old River Ridge shopping center area. 7-mile is a 4-lane road, and I'm in the right lane going east, sparse traffic.  A car in the left lane, one full lane over, honks. I thought maybe they knew me or were giving an encouraging honk - otherwise I don't know why they honked. It's not like I was in the way of anybody as traffic volume was low.  Heck, I'm not sure why it's a 4 lane road anyway, it seems to have the traffic volume of a two lane.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pugsley N/R Meets Snow

I got the Pugsley Neck Romancer in April and I finally got a chance to ride it in the snow today.  It was kinda like when your puppies first experience snow. They go whoa what's this? but soon are romping and running around in it having a blast.

It's great to ride the Pugs on the dirt trails, but you know a lot of the appeal of these bikes is their snow capabilities. I was bummed because it snowed yesterday and I had the day off, but no time to ride.  The plan today was to test ride it in the street so I could see how it would work for bike commuting, and get some snow trail riding.

The verdict - good to go for biking to work.  Rolled good on the compacted snow in the middle of the street, worked great on the bumpy stuff, even with the high pressure of 12 psi for a fat bike that I started out with.  It was a little slower in the 3" fluffy snow than a mountain bike or studded tire.  The real test will be the icy ruts and bumps that we get in the streets later on in the winter.  I hope.  The only problem I can see biking to work is fitting the Pugs in the elevators at work.  Hoping it's not the bike that finally gets bikes banned in our building.

After riding in the streets for a while I headed to Joe Albi and to the Merkel Trail.

between the stadium back parking lot and

The Merkel trail was a bit iffy in spots and I had to walk a couple times.  I had let some air out of the tires but could've let a lot more out.  Did some semi-controlled sliding on the downhill sections.  It needs riding down a few more times to pack the snow down.

The usual photo ops from the bridge at the Bowl & Pitcher:

At the Bowl & Pitcher campground I saw another set of fat bike tires heading over the bridge, so I knew there was at least one comrade out there.  I met the maker of those tracks while on the trail up to the Centennial Trail, a chap named Dave on a 7 year old Pugsley.  We chatted a bit, and he noted my front tire pressure seemed high.  I was surprised to see it was, and when I did let more air out later down the trail the bike rode better.

I couldn't stay out much longer, but found a little single track on the way back that was fun to ride.  I forget what trail number this is, but it leads to a rocky, steep unrideable section:

Walked the bike back to one of the other trails to the campground.  I was tempted to stay out longer and  ride more single track, but Xmas shopping was calling.  Here's hoping there's more snow this winter.  But man I hate having to shovel the darn stuff.

Friday, December 20, 2013

NiteRider Lumina 650 - the bad and the good

Well let's get right to the bad:

Yes, that little micro-USB connection should be inside the unit under the open door.  I bought the Lumina 650 sometime last year and within a few months the little connection broke loose when I tried to plug it in to charge it.  I chalked this up to bad luck, and maybe riding over some bumpy roads had loosened the connection.  I exchanged it, thinking this was just a freak circumstance and wouldn't happen again.  But no, just this week it broke loose again, so I'm guessing bad design.  The connection is tight, difficult to connect just right, and not strong enough.  The handlebar mounting connection isn't solid, and the light rattles in it a little bit.  The battery seemed to last only 2 1/2 to 3 hours on low before it switched automatically to walk mode.

The good:

A huge improvement over the Planet Bike Blaze lights that I had been using. I started out with the 1/2-watt Blaze, and then got the 2-watt.  I usually had the Lumina set on low (200 Lumens) or medium, and I could actually see the road in front of me! Now I can't believe I commuted after dark with the Blaze. When I bought the Lumina I felt like I was splurging, but after using it the first time I realized it was one of the best bike-related buying decisions.

This week I've used a Blaze or a Princeton-Tec Eos (70 Lumens) I had lying around.  The Eos is brighter than the Blaze, but still doesn't light up the road.  Didn't like riding with either one, and felt a bit unsafe.

The good doesn't outweigh the bad in this case.  Maybe the 2014 Luminas are built better, but I'm leaning towards the Cygolite ExpiliOn 800 or 680 now. Worried they might have the same connection problem...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Post Street Bridge - Stop signs replaced

Rode into work Monday morning and was pleasantly surprised to see the stop signs for bikes crossing Post in the bike lane were replaced by yield signs. And the sidewalk on the west side of the bridge was finally opened up again, so less people walking in the bike lane.

From the other side, heading north on Post on the 2-way bike lane:

Not sure why they replaced the stop signs - maybe they realized that bikes don't need to stop here, as there's not a whole lot of traffic on the street.  The Stop signs may have been confusing drivers also as they were angled more towards the vehicle lane than the new yield signs.  (I was driving home with Debbie and some friends this way Saturday night, and had to reassure everybody that I wasn't running the stop sign since it was for the bikes.)  The bike lane doesn't cross Post at a good angle here - you have to turn your head to look back while approaching the crossing.  I think I prefer to take the lane when riding north and skip the bike lane.

Riding south on Post Street, I had been confused by how to get over to the bike lane on the east side of the bridge.  The single lane splits into a bike lane on the left and a lane for a right turn only:

I had turned left after the divider a couple times, but realized I was cutting across and heading straight into the north-bound lane on my way to the 2-way bike lane.

It suddenly dawned on me you're supposed to continue straight and go to the right of the Do Not Enter sign, ride between the islands, then cross in the bike crossing.

When this connection to the Centennial Trail first opened up, I thought I'd take it every once in awhile for variety on my way home, but would usually ride north on Post to Broadway.  But most of the time I've been crossing Post here, heading under the Monroe Street bridge to the Trail. It's a quick and easy way to get to Elm Street or Summit Blvd to head north.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Motorcycle Glasses & Mechanics gloves (Trip to WallyWorld)

A buddy at work is winter bike commuting for the first time this year and was having trouble with his sunglasses fogging up.  Asked me how I handled that. Well, I've been riding without eye protection, mostly because I don't like the cold plastic on my face, but my contacts have been drying out and acting up in our sub-freezing weather.  I told him I was thinking of getting some ski goggles.  I searched online, and found bicycling goggles are available, too, so was going to look into those.

Then yesterday I wandered into the motorcycle aisle at Walmart, and stumbled across some motorcycling sunglasses for $14. 

They have some foam padding which I thought might help with keeping the cold out, and have an anti-fog coating. I got the clear ones, but they also have ones with colored lenses. I also picked up a pair of Grease Monkey Gorilla Grip gloves. I was just thinking about getting a pair of mechanics gloves for repairing flats in the winter, and coincidentally these were in the same aisle as the glasses.  I can fit my hands with glove liners on inside so maybe can keep my hands dry and a little warm if needing to make emergency repairs.

The glasses look a little dorky, so they're right up my alley. (Debbie said they make me look like Barry on Storage Wars.)  They seem to have a wide field of vision.  Will give them a try tomorrow, I think I might like the size and fit of these better than goggles.  Next thing you know, I'll be shopping for accessories at the Harley dealership.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

ok, I guess it's a little cold

My solution:

Scout not included. Just noticed the reds in the shirt and the
jacket hurt my eyes. 

Long sleeved T-shirt. Usually cotton…I know I know - cotton kills but it's only a 5 mile bike ride
SmartWool base layer (found on sale 1/2 off!)
Light Jacket - either the red bike jacket or normal one works.
Long john's - either inexpensive Costco ones or SmartWool
Work pants - dockers or jeans
Wool footies over regular socks, same ol' 5 Ten mtb shoes.
Wool glove liners inside 3 fingered gloves.
Neck gaiter, hat, helmet.
Pedal fast!

This works for me, and I arrive at work a little overheated somedays - I might have an internal heat machine. As long as my arms are warm, I'm ok.  Which is funny, because off the bike I can get chilled real easily.

One day this week I tried no long johns and rain pants over work pants.  Bad idea!  I thought the rain pants would add a layer of insulation and protection from the wind, but they just made my legs feel colder.

Here ends the bike blogger's required annual winter gear post.