Monday, June 30, 2014

Winter Bike

As you know, and may have even noticed, the days are getting shorter.  So of course I've been thinking about getting the winter bike situation situated.

Last winter I had the 2" wide studded Marathons on my mountain bike, but that didn't work out too well.  The tires just skittered over the ice and packed snow - I think because the bike has a long reach for my 5'8" tallness and I sit back a ways, so there's just no weight up front, even with a front shock. Still thinking of selling it - Debbie said maybe next year at the bike swap.

Options - I think the tires will fit on my 17" Marin Muirwoods, but that bike is loaned out.  I could get it back for winter, but it's just a smidgeon too small even with the seat post extended past it's limit, and it bugs me.  I sold the 19" Muirwoods that I got for a screaming deal at an REI garage sale to a buddy,  so that bike is out of the equation. Maybe put the studs on the Fargo, but I like to ride it too much and don't want to limit it. Could put some 32mm Marathons I have on the Vaya, but I hate to ride around on studs all winter when the streets are usually dry and clear for much of the winter.

So thinking of a cheap used hybrid/mountain bike that'll take 2" wide tires. Scanning craigslist. Keeping an eye on the price at REI for the Muirwoods. Don't really need another bike cuz I'm trying to thin the herd.

Such a tough problem to have.  At least I've got a while to figure it out.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Staying Safe on City Streets

Robert Hurst (Industrialized Cyclist) has a new edition of his book The Art of Cycling subtitled Staying Safe on City Streets. The first edition was The Art of Urban Cycling, then it was The Art of Cycling: A Guide to Bicycling in 21st Century America.  Maybe they could've come up with a better title this time than the generic "The Art of".  I like his approach because he emphasizes it's not enough to just ride predictably as we're so often told.  You have to be a defensive biker:

Defensive driving advice has been shoveled out in great heaps to drivers and motorcyclists for decades, and it's a good thing. For some reason, bicyclists have been served a very different message. "Ride predictably," They tell us. "Follow the law and wear a helmet." Okay advice, sure, but not adequate safety advice by a long shot. A quick glance at accident statistics proves it: Most adult cyclists who get hit by cars are in fact riding lawfully and predictably when they are hit.

I like his approach but then I'm easily influenced - maybe if I'd read some John Forester first I'd be a vehement vehicular cyclist. I have the 2nd edition of The Art of Cycling and found it full of practical advice and information, not bound by dogma or doctrine.

The new edition is available for pre-order at Aunties here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Trail 25 Where Else

I've been taking it fairly easy on the weekends lately, not doing any major dirt/gravel or road rides.  Thinking I need to finish the Commute of the Century rides but haven't mustered up enough wherewithal for that yet - have until July 31st to finish all the routes so I can put it off a little longer. Instead been doing little rides here and there, getting things done around the house.

Finally started feeling like a nice long ride somewhere.  The Martin Road trailhead has been calling me, I want to do some more exploring out there down Belsby Rd and Hole-in-the Ground area.  But didn't want to bike or drive the 40 miles out there. Maybe some bike camping out to the JWPT or CPT this summer.

Hopped on the Fargo and headed out to Riverside on Sunday, and of course ended up on Trail 25. Almost got my Trail 25 merit badge - just missing one tiny teeny section of the trail. Another boring Trail 25 post, that's right.

Rode counter-clockwise from the Bowl and Pitcher campground.
almost didn't find the trail on the other side of deep Creek
almost missed this sign by Carlson Rd again
and almost missed this sign, too, don't know how.
from Pine Bluff - a new view for me
Pine Bluff Rd 
i didn't realize weed wackers are an essential trail maintenance tool.
 i'm glad they were out - i might've lost the trail here
shortly after the weed wackier section 
I got turned around near here and rode towards the Pine Bluff Rd/7-Mile Rd intersection instead of taking a dogleg west.  Shoulda waited for the Park Ranger/Employee to show me the way.  Found the faux-25 trail that heads to Inland Rd, so got off that and headed down towards/into the ORV area to search out the 25. Some fun trails there.
Felt like I was in an old western movie, leading my trusty steed throughout the desert, vultures over head. Took me awhile to find the trail again, took another detour and had to backtrack.  Eventually made it down the bluff and headed back towards the river on various trails.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Vaya Front Rack load experiment

I've been thinking about getting a different front rack for my Vaya - something that sits lower than the Racktime Topit and is also wider.  Some bulky items, like pizza, take-out dinners and beer would be easier to carry on a wide front rack than on the rear rack or in panniers. I've been having trouble with my Ortleib panniers rubbing against the Salsa rear rack and wearing away the metal, so I thought I could carry my work gear on the front rack, too.

I'm looking at the different pizza/porter/porteur racks available. The choices I've found start with the Specialized Globe Porteur and Wald racks at around $50 then jump up to the $140+ range for racks from Soma, Velo-Orange, Cetma, Pass and Stow, and Hawthorne. Range in width from 6" to 14", just less than the inside width of the drops. These racks also have the added benefit of being easier to strap a tent and stuff sack to than the Topit for bike camping.

The Vaya's trail measurement is around 65 according to an online trail calculator, and theoretically won't handle a front load as well as a lower trail bike.  I don't foresee me hauling a very heavy load so it may not matter.  My Vaya's a keeper and I won't be getting a low-trail bike anytime soon.

To test a load on the front, I strapped a gallon of water and my big U-Lock to the rack - about 12 lbs. total - and rode around the hood for a bit. Always willing to entertain the neighbors - what's that bike nut doing now, Marge?
er, this weekend i will change the bartape
The bike handled well with this weight. I wondered how it would handle turns, if the bike would want to lean over too far, but I didn't have any big problem with it. Not a real heavy load, but I could definitely tell I had some extra weight up front. After this test, I wondered how the set-up would work at faster speeds, so I rode to work with the lock and jug this morning.

look ma, one hand!
Again, didn't have any problem and this time I didn't notice the weight up front as much.  Was able to take corners without tipping over.  I'd heard people say their bikes felt squirrely with a front rack, and they couldn't ride with no hands on the bars, but I wasn't going to try anything crazy like that. I felt pretty risky taking the above photo with one hand off the the bar, but managed to survive.

Then riding home on the Centennial Trail, I thought well maybe I should try no hands.  For science. I tried it for a second and the bike didn't swerve all over the place. Then I was able to ride for a little bit sitting up.  After that, my curiosity was satisfied and I didn't want to push my luck or get overconfident like I do sometimes.

Until I got near Northwest Blvd and wondered how the bike would ride on the short single-track trail between the end of Nettleton Street and NW Blvd.  Again, for science. Woo hoo, made it without toppling off the side of the hill.

I'm satisfied that this bike will work of me, at least with a moderate weight on the front. Now to do some shopping, or learn how to weld.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


It's that warm weather time of year again (disregarding the last couple days of fun, never-ending rain) and I am tempted to ride with just a cap to protect my head from the sun's rays. Leave the helmet at home.  It's hot and cumbersome.  Sweaty, messes up my carefully combed coiffure.

The Shallow Cogitations blogger did some investigative work and found the Spokane Police are issuing fewer no-helmet citations this year than in the past.  When I weigh the pros and cons of riding without a helmet, this helps allay the fear of getting a ticket.

thanks Hank!

A few things keep me riding with the plastic and styrofoam lid in the heat:

1. I can ride some quiet, low traffic streets to work, but I know I'm still likely to make a rider error and crash all by myself.  Slipped on some ice last winter on the Centennial Trail and hit my noggin on the pavement. Was glad I had my helmet on.

2. Although the police are handing out less citations, I regularly see the Bike Patrol downtown.  Chances are good for a ticket.  Hardly saw them at all last year, but saw them frequently 2 years ago.  I think they changed their route to cover a wider area last year, now it looks like they're back to more frequent rides through the downtown core.  (Couple years ago I was stopped at a light and they were talking to a young guy without a helmet nearby.  They pointed over at me as an example of how to ride. I felt totally uncool.)

3. Whenever I mention riding without a helmet, my wife gives me the look.

Monday, June 16, 2014

My Biggest Biking Fear

It's not accidentally flying off a cliff out at Riverside State Park. It's not being run down by a bus downtown or a garbage truck on Geiger Blvd.  Or a red-light runner.

Sometimes I stop at REI on the way home from work and then head north on Madison Street, making my way to NW Blvd.  I like to cross at this crosswalk near Adams Street that has a safety divider halfway across.

My biggest fear is crashing at this crosswalk.  I'll be on the news, and the scantily clad Espresso Shop will be in the background. If I survive, I'll have to explain to people no no I wasn't heading to the Devil's Brew! and it'll be a case of he doth protest too much.

It was pretty scary just stopping to take this pic - was sure someone we know would see me taking a pic. Honest, I was just gathering material for my blog!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sport, Not Transport

Wait wait wait, oh sorry, got that backwards - it's supposed to be Transport, Not Sport. Sometimes it's difficult to keep all those bicycle dictums straight.  This one popped into my head as I was riding my Fargo home from the shop, taking the river trail between Riverside Memorial Park and T.J. Meenach Bridge for sport.  I guess it was transport also, as I was transporting my self home.  Maybe it's possible to like both. Who woulda thunk?

In related news, I patched a flat on my Vaya and when finished I aligned the brand name on the tire across from the valve stem.

Another broken rule! But sheesh, now it's going to be so hard to find the valve stem next time I need to pump some air in the tires or fix a flat.

Addendum and somewhat related: that River Trail is leading me to think maybe a full-suspension fat bike is just the ticket. That is one rocky, slippery ride.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bike Rack or Sculpture or ?

When they were building the new yet-to-be-named City Hall Plaza I saw these red and black sculpture/rack type objects and thought nice bike racks. Also, thought hmmm, not many good spots to clamp a U-lock onto one. Then I saw they're placed in the walkway between the plaza and Riverfront Park.  It seems like bikes locked to the objects would get in the way, so I decided they're not racks but sculptures instead. I've also seen bikes locked up to them, so maybe they are also meant to be bike racks or other people are confused by them also.

Nearby at the Post Street entrance to City Hall is one of these bike racks that are also in a couple other spots around town:

These are nice sturdy racks that also double as sculpture. Of course, my second thought after seeing one of these was, hmmm, not any good spot to use the shorter U-lock that I usually carry with me - hard to see in this picture, but the tubing and flat parts are about 4" wide. I'm not sure if many bike rack designers are aware of U-locks or take them into consideration when designing racks.  They definitely haven't heard of the Sheldon Brown locking method.

Then I was riding home along Summit Blvd where they're working on the new Centennial Trail extension section, and spied this:

I thought they were putting some new bike racks in at first, until I got closer and saw it was a piece of heavy equipment.  I think I am due for an eye check-up. It would make a cool re-purposed bike rack, though, but it'd also be difficult to use with a U-Lock.