My name is Jason and this blog is about bikes and biking, plain and simple. I don't claim to be a gear head, a former pro, a hipster or an afficionado. I just like to ride my bicycle.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

You know what...?

You know what sucks?  Getting something stuck in your eye, an eyelash or something, and then trying to produce the tears to flush it out while riding your bike...in 13 degree temps.

You know what is pretty funny?  Watching a Dodge Neon be a prick to a Honda CRV and some mini van by passing them in the turn lane, cutting them off in the intersection only to stop two blocks down to turn right.

You know what is lame?  Having to go to work when your wife is still sitting warmly in bed saying, "Have fun at work!"

You know what is lamer?  Spending your day at work in a very boring, PowerPoint focused, training on something that doesn't pertain to your job.

You know what is going to take over the world and cause the domination of all mankind signifying the end of everything that we know it in the year 2010....?--The Ice Man!
Ice Beard!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Its What One May Call: An Error In Judgment

Living and working where I do affords me ample options for riding to and from work. I have routes which amble through quiet neighborhoods providing a traffic free, comfortable easy commute. I can access wide main roads with bike lanes for quick, purposeful commuting. I can meander about (particularly when the construction on the nearby light rail is finished) and hit bike paths and parks barely getting on the road at all. Suffice it to say I have options, and one of the key aspects of being a seasoned and skilled bike commuter is knowing which option to pick at the right time.

I got out of work a bit later tonight than previous nights and missed the opportunity to ride in the pale light of dusk. Together with the warmish temperature and nearly full moon I thought it might be worth taking one of my routes out 23rd past Sloan’s Lake through Edgewater. I rode close to this route yesterday but had more daylight so I stuck to the main road, 26th, and went the more direct route. I generally don’t mind riding on 26th, even in the dark, but thought the trek out 25th by the lake would be scenic and more enjoyable; not to mention involve less traffic. The warm weather helped to soften the layer of ice and snow on some of the side streets making the ride up from 17th to 23rd a bit trickier. I knew this bit would be snowy from yesterday’s ride but did not anticipate it being quite so slushy and rutted. But this part of the ride is short, so undeterred I continued on my merry way. Twenty-third was clear and offered an open bike lane all the way to Sloan’s Lake. Heading around Sloan’s Lake I found the condition of 25th to be a little less to my liking. Spots of somewhat melted ice and snow mixed with patches of firmer ice and tire tracks; much like what I saw earlier in my ride but frustratingly with an open southern exposure. This road should have been clear. I nearly lost it a handful of times and eventually settled for riding in the opposite lane of traffic (no one uses that road so it is safe, trust me). Getting to Sheridan I had options to bail on my present course, but stubbornness prevailed (one of my better traits) and I continued westward on 25th.

The heavier traffic on 25th through Edgewater helped to make this route less treacherous than the road around the park. Still, the homes and trees along 25th helped to block much of the day’s sunlight leaving a faint, icy mess behind. I pieced together as many solid stretches of pavement as possible while navigating through the continents of ice and slush strewn across the street. At this point the pace of my progress and level of frustration started to eat away at my stubbornness ever so slightly; certainly not enough to change my path…but enough to cause me to realize the error of my ways. All I needed to do was make it past the church at the end of 25th and cut up to 26th where I knew the road would be clear and safe for easy bike travel. I gave a guy in an old Toyota 4 Runner a show as I demonstrated my superior bike handling skills on this last little stretch: “Get that knee out, balance! Brake, pedal, shit, go, stop, knee…” Some weaving, a bit of wobbling and I coasted up to the stop at 26th ready to head left. Safe and sound yet again, I have to say that in hindsight I probably could have selected an easier route. However having successfully navigated a mess that should have easily dropped me on my ass more than a couple times I have to admit there’s part of me that feels a bit proud to have pedaled my way through without dropping a foot or my head onto the ground. One of these days maybe I’ll demonstrate better judgment up front and save myself the trouble…or I’ll just get bigger tires and subsequently an even bigger head.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tom Zirbel Tests Positive

As reported by VeloNews today on their website, Tom Zirbel’s A sample from the USA Time Trial Championships tested positive for DHEA. Earlier in the year Tyler Hamilton’s reemergence into cycling suddenly ended after he tested positive for the same substance. Tom Zirbel is one of the US’s up and coming pro cyclists. Should his B sample prove positive for DHEA, the resulting 2 year suspension from cycling would likely end his young career. The ramifications to US cycling, already marred by Floyd’s Tour dethroning and Tyler’s two time positive results, could be significant. Certainly, one hopes that Zirbel’s claims of cleanliness prove true. He is an exciting racer to watch and one who definitely stands to do well on the European Pro-Tour in the future.

Looking back at the 2009 racing season there were surprisingly few doping headlines, especially after following a 2008 season marred by them. Many teams, like Columbia HTC, boasted higher internal testing standards and affirmed their commitment to clean racing in cycling. The Tour de France completed under an apparent air of cleanliness. The other grand tours were similarly clean. And now months after these races have finished, as samples finally make their way through the labs and proper testing authorities, hopefully this chapter in history will remain as written. Otherwise cycling will again slide back into an atmosphere of skepticism and doubt about the integrity of the athletes competing. People will again question whether the rider leading the break, charging through the sprint pack or pulling away on the climb is doing so because of talent or substance. We don’t want to question our heroes we want to stand in awe and amazement at their accomplishments. We don’t want our race results amended with asterisks, we want champions who stand the test of time. Cycling needs riders who can rise above the specter of doping and questionable sportsmanship. In a year that saw its biggest fall from grace as Tom Boonen’s repeat drug conviction (less for performance enhancing drugs as performance debilitating ones) hopefully Tom Zirbel doesn’t join the list…dueling Tom’s at the top of the 2009 Who's Who of Cycling Flub-Up's. At least Boonen is still able to race. He just looks foolish. A two year suspension on the other hand would be significant for Zirbel's career. Cycling would miss Zirbel as both a rider and a future hero.

An emerging champion in the pack at the Tour of Missouri 2009 among legends: Cavendish, Leipheimer, Hincapie

The 'perils' of riding to work

As seemingly dangerous as commuting to work by bicycle might appear (due to the inherent risk involved in riding around openly on the streets with motorists), the actual danger rests just below the fa├žade of the act of biking itself. There is always a danger you will have one of these days. You wake up late after a long holiday weekend. Your brain is foggy. Your motivation to move is lacking. You shave, shower, eat, then spend 20 minutes fiddling with your home network which won’t recognize your new laptop. Then you decide you MUST eventually go to work so you bumble about in a daze trying to get your stuff together. You misplace your hat, which on a 10 degree morning is a big deal. You get on your bike and realize that you forgot to lube your chain after the snowy commute home before the holiday so it’s a seized hunk of orange rust. You pedal in squealing, sluggish misery to work and upon arrival discover that you don’t have your badge to get into the bike room. You lock your bike up out front, stumble still bleary eyed and now freezing into work and then finally confront the worst of it…mis-matched socks. So with the Scarlet M of moron peaking out from your pant legs, you walk around all day with two types of socks, self-consciously pushing your pants down in meetings, sitting uncomfortably so no one will call you on it, repeatedly reminded of the day you are having until about 5:00pm when it finally will come to an end.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Legend of the Siberian Solstice


Legends tell about how on the 21st of December, the day that marks the onset of winter as well as the shortest day of the year, the Siberians appear from their hiding places to howl at the sun encouraging it to return yet again. Some clad in spandex, khaki pants, collared shirts, motley colored fleece, Gore Tex jackets and loud colored gloves, the Siberians emerge on their bikes from their lairs, head and tail lights flashing in the light of dusk and circle the ceremonial head of Apollo urging the sun god to resume his lengthy transit across the heavens. What does the plumb bob signify?—only the Siberians know. What cosmic powers does their circling invoke?—it remains one of the unsolved mysteries of the universe. How does one get their pants tucked into to their socks so high?--If only we knew the answer. Thankfully this year, the Siberians returned to their sacred site. They gathered as one at 4:38pm, faced the setting sun of winter's first day and howled it away. Then they circled the great head (and bizarre plumb bob of perpetual plumbness) ensuring once again that the sun would return and the days would indeed grow longer.

The sacred head of Apollo, Plumb Bob of Wonder and One Siberian Bike at Sunset.

Daylight quickly fades as the shortest day of the year expires, out come the Siberians to begin the ritual.

Look at all the neon! Its astounding, truly breathtaking.

Festooned in traditional garb, and some on quite traditional cycles, they circumambulate the great head 3 times.


The world once again safe from eternal darkness, the Siberians retire to whence they came. The sun will again rise and soon light will fill the skies and summer will return once more.
(Those Siberians take some blurry pictures.)

The brave Siberian. They ride bicycles in all conditions, they work in complex bureaucracies, they howl in public and wear hunting gloves and spandex simultaneously. Their lights flash as a beacon for us all, unsung heroes of the night.

It’s a Christmas Miracle!

Santa got my letter and delivered my wish: no cars on the roads! It was like that movie the Happening where all the people start killing themselves and there’s no one around…but perhaps without all of the death and creepiness. In truth, if you have to work during the holidays then you should at least ride a bike to work (supposing you can of course.) The empty roads make the riding quite relaxing and enjoyable. Everyone must be on vacation or out of school or just sleeping in, which is completely fine with me because as much as I appreciate their vehicular presence on my ride I much prefer it without them. I had to hit the cross walk button at 3 lights today due to the sheer absence of cars setting off the lights. It was awesome. Tomorrow with the threat of snow there might be even less people on the road. I can hardly wait.

Friday, December 18, 2009

See the World: Ride a Bike

Much can be said for cycling as a “slow” means of transportation. Cruising around town by bicycle affords the bicycle rider a more intimate connection with his or her surroundings and community. One can tour a new neighborhood, take in natural splendor or interact with people more intimately by bicycle then by car. Sealed in your bubble, latte steaming in the cup holder, radio blasting white noise in the background, stress level rising due to traffic, cruising at what you think is a safe 8 mph above the speed limit, you in fact miss quite a bit. On the other hand, when riding a bike you form connections, if only briefly, with everything around you; you practically see life as it happens. You catch people remodeling their homes, working on their lawns or cursing their mower. You see businesses come and go. You come across the occasional domestic violence dispute. You catch birds, deer, squirrels doing their wildlife thing as opposed to catching them in the grill of your vehicle. You exchange hellos and nods with fellow riders and pedestrians, or have that fellow rider or pedestrian snub you thus learning that they are either preoccupied--or a self-absorbed prick. You’re afforded time to shout or appropriately gesture at passing motorists, contemplate whether those kids are going to throw something at you, or spy that unfettered dog lurking in the bushes waiting to jump on your leg. These visceral, direct connections make cycling the thoroughly engaging experience that it is, and today my ride to work was a ride of such interactions.

Heading out of the neighborhood I came upon a mom and son walking to school or the bus stop. Heading up the sidewalk the kid, as if suddenly possessed, took off running only to jump from the sidewalk into the gutter on a huge chunk of ice. The ice gave way and emitted a huge cracking sound in defeat. The boy roared with laughter in triumph. At that moment the mom glanced at me and smiled. I smiled back in return: I would have done the same thing. Heading along 20th passing bus stops I saw a man waiting for the 20 who honestly looked like a Unibomber in training. I instantly felt glad to not be on that bus. At the light at Pierce and 14th I waited to turn left. I heard a voice to my left and looking over saw an elderly woman with purplish hair, bright yellow jacket and walker (complete with cut tennis balls on the feet, no joke.) She cackled in  her stereotypical old lady way, “Where is the Wal-Mart? I’m trying to find the Wal-Mart.” The lady was easily more than a mile from the Wal-Mart at Wadsworth and Colfax moving at a speed of .0067 mph. With no traffic behind me waiting to turn left, I sat through an entire cycle of the light trying to explain how she could best get to Wal-Mart. As I pulled away I thought, its 20 degrees and that old bird is hoofing it to Wal-Mart to get god knows what, walker and all: that’s some sass.

Yesterday heading home I came across a guy also riding, dressed in a reflective yellow jacket and bike shorts. The temp had to be in the mid 30’s and after exchanging hello’s I had to ask if he wasn’t a bit ambitious in his choice of attire. He smiled and replied that he was at his limit and rode up a different street. That’s a hell of a limit in my book, I was wearing my typical khakis and thought it cool. But now I know that guy either has no nerve endings in his legs or a pretty high threshold for pain. It is this type of intimate understanding of one’s community and the people in it, which can only be gleaned from riding. And speaking of intimacy and understanding, a two-tone 90’s era minivan passed me today complete with beefy, overweight, middle age guy at the helm rocking out to the Scorpions' “Rock Me Like a Hurricane.” From that experience I came to an understanding that, this dude wants to be rocked like a hurricane …and I wanted to be far, far away from him as a result. See, cycling made that connection happen and I in the long run might be better for it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

And the 4th Wise Man Brought the Gift of Beverages

All appearances of industry and eagerness aside, you can always tell the lazy asses in the office based on their level of participation in various office events and potlucks. There will be the over-achieving up and comers who volunteer to plan the event, cook filet mignon, bake desserts from scratch or other such nauseating displays of Type-A-ness. And then there will be those who volunteer to bring cups: that person is your lazy ass. Perhaps lazy ass is a bit harsh, but as a fellow “cup bringer” I can say there is an element of pride in getting out of the office hoo-hah with the least amount of exertion or inconvenience. I practice it like an art form. So when the dreaded office pot luck email finally arrived from my boss, I quickly scanned the list for the easiest possible way out.

• “Help plan an activity or festive game” Umm no thank you.
• “Set up and decoration” Yeah not likely. Had clean up been on there I might have taken the bait but decorating is not my gig.
• “Bring something tasty to eat” Now here’s where there’s some definite gray area assuming its kosher to stop off at the local bakery/grocery retailer of your choice to grab something pre-made. However, this can blow up in your face if you find your dish of plastic tub brownies placed next to homemade chocolate hazelnut truffles or other such fanciness. Then you look like the loser who stopped at the store and the other person looks like Martha F-ing Stewart.
• “Drinks” BINGO! Everyone gets thirsty and appreciates a cooling beverage, even in winter. The drink bringer is truly a hero to all.

Now one might not think that someone who commutes to work via bike would BINGO at the idea of bringing drinks: liquid is heavy. And now you realize how much of a lazy ass Grinch I truly am. So last night at the latest of possible hours, I set out to find drinks. At the suggestion of my wife I did bring ingredients that could be mixed in a cup to give the appearance of some type of flavorful (though alcohol free), yummy punch. Not to be perceived as too much of a slack-ass I also grabbed some festive, holiday chocolates…they were not homemade.

This morning I broke out both panniers, dueling expedition Ortliebs, and jammed them full of my tools of secular holiday merriment: four large bags of candy and a couple two liter bottles of white fizzy drink and juice. The extra weight on the bike really was extra weight off my shoulders knowing I had fulfilled my duty at yet such a ‘cheap’ price of effort. Not to mention, the extra weight gave me a nice push down the hill towards Pierce. (I had to do a bit of climbing to get up Pierce and up the street to our office so it wasn’t all roses and coasting.) Completely worth it though, to not be the person planning a “fun activity” for 3 dozen grown adults who really just want a snack and to get back to work. I left that task to one of the other burgeoning over-achievers on the management team. She succeeded admirably and I contributed fizzy juice drinks which no one really drank as fizzy juice drinks but what the heck do I care? I got a bit of an extra work out schlepping drinks around, the party ended 10 minutes early, and for a work “party,” in my book, that is a rousing success. Ho-ho…ho-hum.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Winter Bike to Work Day! (Fort Collins)

Fellow riders in Fort Collins, Colorado are celebrating Winter Bike To Work Day today. I believe Winter Bike to Work day is typically January 21st, but with a week until Christmas and in need of a holiday today I will jump on the bandwagon of our comrades in shivering to the north. Actually, the organizers of this event could not have picked a nicer day to ride. 42 degrees in the morning, maybe 60 by later this afternoon!?!  You could get worse weather on the actual Bike To Work Day...such is Colorado.

So enjoy riding in light jackets and normal pants!

Coloradoan article on Winter BTWD
Fort Collins Winter BTWD Page
You can also find more information by checking out Team Wonderbike at http://www.newbelgium.com/.

Enjoy and we'll celebrate again in a month!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Mountains Turn Blue When the Bike is Cold

This weekend thankfully brought two days of non-Arctic temperatures and as a result I found ample opportunity to thoroughly clean off my bike and address some of the wear and tear from the prior week of hellish commuting. I generally consider myself an avid bike maintainer. Sure I'll have a moment where my chain gets a little cruddy, or I forget to check my tire pressure before heading out on a ride. But normally I respect and appreciate the value of routine bike maintenance. However, after a sub-zero ride home in the dark over ice and snow, nose dripping with snot, eyelids frozen open, cheeks burning the last thing I want to do is grab a wet towel and brush and spend a half hour scrubbing my bike. Over the past week I attempted to "make due" with some spray on bike cleaner and a quick brushing; admittedly this was quite half assed. I also rode with a noticeable wobble in my rear tire thinking that at some point it might warm enough to spend the time in the garage truing the wheel. Surveying the damage on Saturday (in daylight, with my teeth not chattering and rattling my eyes around in my skull) I certainly had not done enough and the state of my bike verged closely on neglect. The crud factor reached an impressive height and the wobbly wheel wasn't just out of true, I'd broken a spoke. 

As I set about making my repairs and scrubbing mag-chloride off my bike, I pondered the effects of cold weather on bikes. "What the hell is all this crap on my bike really doing to it?" "Why did my spoke break? Was it the cold causing excess tension in the wheel?" "How else might Mother Nature be trashing my old Cannondale?" One can find plenty of blogs and articles to offer suggestions on how the intrepid winter rider should protect his or herself while riding in the cold, but there are few articles which discuss the physical effects of the cold on bicycles. Aside from the reminder about proper maintenance and cleaning, I could not recall having ever seen anything explicit about protecting the bike from winter elements.

With my curiosity peaked I sat down to a bit o’ web browsing and tried to find information about what physically or technically happens to bikes in the cold: the resulting pickins were kind of slim. Nonetheless here are some of the insights I gleaned.

From the folks at http://www.icebike.org/

• Cold Bearings and grease are stiffer and harder to turn.
• Your tires are colder and therefore have greater rolling resistance.

• Cable Housings: Seal up all cracks before you head out, for water will seep in, freeze up, and cause you headaches.

From the wisdom of the late Sheldon Brown
• “Shimmy or Speed Wobble” by Jobst Brandt: Shimmy that concerns riders the most occurs with hands firmly on the bars and it is rider generated by muscular effect whose natural response is the same as the shimmy frequency, about that of Human shivering. Descending in cold weather can be difficult for this reason. The rider's "death grip" only enhances the incidence of shimmy in this situation. Loosely holding the bars between thumb and forefinger is a way of avoiding shimmy when cold.
• One of my ways of dealing with cold weather is to cover my helmet's ventilation holes with tape. (Not a bike specific item, but worth considering. All that summer ventilation for cooling really does the job at 10 degrees.)

From an article titled, “Winter Cycling Tips”
• Steel gets more brittle at winter temperatures but I haven't seen any steel frames or components break from the cold.
• Aluminum and titanium don't get significantly more brittle at winter temperatures.
• Aluminum shrinks more than steel as it cools and on a bike with a steel fork and aluminum frame the headset will get loose when it's very cold.
• Plastics do get brittle and we see waterbottle cages, toeclips, pedals and the sheathing on cable housing break all winter. If the plastic cracks on indexed shifter housing, the housing will buckle and the shifting won't work.
• You can reinforce the shifter housing with heat-shrink tubing (available at electrical supply stores) to prevent this problem. The size that fits best is 3/16".
• Elastomer suspensions generally stop moving between 20 F and 0 F but they don't seem to be damaged by the cold.
• Oil-damped suspension systems are often damaged by operating at low temperatures You can change the oil in them to avoid this or install a rigid fork
• Only bring a cold bike indoors if you can keep it there until it's dried off completely.  (I would love to know more about this little tid-bit of information...do they explode? Anyone have a bike they'd dedicate to the cause of science?)
• If you bring a room temperature bike out into cold snow and ride it immediately, the snow thrown up by the tires may freeze onto brakes and derailleurs.

And while I did find loads of suggestions and tips for cleaning one's bike and ridding it of de-icer, salt and other winter road contaminants, none were more graphically described than what I saw on the Boston Biker website. The article is titled, "Winter Riding In Boston – Winter Bicycle Maintenance" but really it should be called, "Bike Abuse and Neglect: Taking Bikes Away from Bad Parents."  Take a look at this...it makes my neglect seem downright positive in comparison (not for the faint of heart).

I'd love to know if this actually turns.

Though that color might go great with a set of green Deep V's (AYHSMB's Style).
The site also discusses the risk of grit penetrating hubs, bottom brackets, headsets and other sensitive areas. So you really need to keep your bike clean and potentially follow some of the other suggestions for prepping your bike if you live in an area prone to crappy winters like they must have in Boston.
So my research did not yield anything too earth shattering. Sure the physical properties of metal and plastic can change a bit in cold weather, but there are in fact fewer moving parts and opportunities for failure on a bike than say our friend the automobile. So while it might seem mind boggling, if not outright insane, to want to ride when its 5 degrees out, don't think you're bike is helping to talk you out of it. It wants to go for a ride...it always wants to go for a ride. And if you don't believe me then maybe you should get a bike like this:


Now this bike doesn't give a shit how cold it is, and might straight up slap you and call you Nancy for suggesting otherwise.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Mysterious 3 ft to Pass

In light of events which occurred on my way to work this morning, I thought it might be worthwhile to review some of the finer points of the relatively new 3ft to Pass law here in Colorado. Effective July this year SB 09-148 changed traffic laws to allow drivers more flexibility (and clear guidelines) for passing bicycles riding in traffic. The law also clarified some of the nebulous areas around how cyclists could/should travel within the natural flow of traffic. Explicitly, the main import of the law can be summarized by the following:

“THE DRIVER OF A MOTOR VEHICLE OVERTAKING A BICYCLIST
PROCEEDING IN THE SAME DIRECTION SHALL ALLOW THE BICYCLIST AT LEAST A THREE-FOOT SEPARATION BETWEEN THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE DRIVER'S VEHICLE, INCLUDING ALL MIRRORS OR OTHER PROJECTIONS, AND THE LEFT SIDE OF THE BICYCLIST AT ALL TIMES.”
Colorado SB 09-148 42-4-1003 1(b)

The law sent law enforcement and bike detractors into a tizzy, decrying the enforceability of the legislation. And truly, how does one in fact measure a 3ft distance between two simultaneously moving objects? I think Einstein proved this couldn’t be done unless one had a really fast plane, or a rocket ship with some lasers, two synchronized clocks, a wormhole and some e’s equaling mc something or other. Clearly this 3ft mumbo jumbo is some confusing stuff, requiring advanced degrees in quantum mechanics to sort out and effectively understand. The average Joe/Jane coffee drinking, mail reading, DVD loading, text sending, mp3 dowloading, Twitter updating, hair brushing, kid scolding motorist could never even remotely be trusted to do all of this other crap AND accurately discern whether they're too close to a cyclist in the road: its poppycock I tell you! The law hits a level of mystery on par with TABOR, TARP, NAFTA, IRS Form 1040, the Brady Bill, Patriot Act and many other cunning instruments of legislative bureaucracy.

Yet perhaps, oh perhaps, there is hope to unraveling these mysteries. Maybe, just maybe, by using keenly honed powers of…COMMON SENSE...it might be possible to sort out the specific complexities of this bastard child of a law. While I am not sure the likelihood of success, I've put together some pictures to illustrate the finer points of how we all might sort out this 3 feet to pass rule.  With all due respect Mr. Einstein, step aside and allow me to lay out my wisdom.

To demonstrate the complexities of my theory I'll use the case of a typical, oblivious, dumb-expression cylist riding alongside the street in traffic..."OMG its ambassador for cyclists everywhere, current World Road Race Champion Cadel Evans. But he's on the street, WTF WILL WE DO?"

Thanks to the wonders of common sense coupled with a little deductive reasoning, it can probably be assumed that when these legislative crackpots said, "3 foot separation" they probably did not mean, "ride up the ass of the person on the bike and scare the living shit out of them." As tricky as your average legislator may be, I think 3 feet might actually mean something different. As pictured below, even Sir Isaac Newton, rotting in his grave, can tell that up the butt is not 3 foot separation. That's indeed something VERY different... "squeal me your ABC's."

Similarly, one could assume the same would apply if the cyclist is actually not riding in traffic but is using one of those said "Designated Bike Lanes" in order to keep themselves out of the grill of passing motorists.  Yes, even if there is oncoming traffic there really should be no need to join the cyclist in the shoulder or bike lane.  Fear not, safety can be assured by either passing normally in the lane (keeping in mind the whole: in the ass thing) -OR- by simply waiting for the opposing lane to clear in order to pass around the cyclist allowing the appropriate 3 feet.

Certainly one's busy, busy day might be interrupted by having to wait 10-15 whole seconds to pass in the other lane, but believe me that text and the cheeseburger can wait...really they can.

Now hold on to your seats, here's where it gets really interesting, Mr. Hawking you just wait til I'm finished.
When passing a cyclist a car need but move over slightly...just enough to be out of the ass and clear of the cyclist.

Ok, breathe I promised no string theory. Just move over and pass. Move and pass. Move and pass. Does it have to be exactly 3 ft? Well by now we all understand up the ass, so what about nearly up the ass or just in the ear? Might be best to just move over so that there's room and then drive past, move on with one's day and finish that latte.

Sure one could say that this still is some complicated stuff, but I think that by abiding by my simple 'move over and pass' theory we can really unravel both 3ft to pass as well as the other mysteries of the universe. In the end we may finally prove or disprove the existence of a higher power, understand what happened to the Mayans, solve the riddles of PI, discover life on other planets, finally figure out what exactly is in Tang and maybe even make the roads a bit safer for both cyclits and motorists...and their respective asses.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Cyclist's Thermometer

The Cyclist’s Thermometer
100+ Not even going downhill feels cool. Where is that 62 mile loop through densely shaded forest?…Oh that’s right, it doesn’t exist, all I have is burning asphalt and diesel fumes. Anticipate vomiting at some point.
100 If inflated to max PSI your tires may likely explode. If you have to race you pray you have an early start time. If you don’t have an early start time, then consider feigning injury. If you don’t feign injury and actually race you might actually get injured--its called Heat Stroke.
90 Makes for a really lousy commute, especially if it is this temp for your ride in to work and you forgot to bring an extra t-shirt…and deodorant. You sweat even before you’ve started riding. Jerseys don’t seem to unzip enough. You will invariably run out of water at some point on your ride and will start hating life. You will eventually find water again at some point and instantly become a Pro Tour star again, have no fear.
80 Great riding weather, it is easy to get warmed up and you never get cold even on long descents. It is still warm but you don’t necessarily always finish your ride in a pool of your own sweat and stink which makes your significant other like you just a touch more.
73* Note, Kate says this is the ideal temperature
70 Is it early fall? Spring? Can I start wearing shorts again? Do my legs look too white? If it rains I won’t be hating life.
60 Perfect weather to get on your cruiser and go get a beer. Pretty good weather to ride other bikes too I suppose.
50 Leg and arm warmer weather. I think this is the perfect temperature.
40 Need a jacket, likely a hat and full finger gloves for sure…leg warmers still a go. Going downhill starts to really suck and you notice how bad your sunglasses are at blocking wind.
30 Bye, bye leg warmers, hello fountain of snot…and that post-ride cough. What is that anyway, pneumonia or something? Oh it IS pneumonia, bummer.
20 Considering your trainer?
10 Considering a therapist?
0 You really need to be put somewhere, where you can’t do yourself harm. This is the point at which your eyeballs freeze.
Sub Best of luck to you!

Today came in slighly above 0, and yes my eyeballs actually froze.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dashing Through The Snow

So this weekend we decided to get our Christmas tree. We could not have picked a worse weekend to do so (weather-wise) but at least the snow and sub-freezing temps made it easy to want to stay home and decorate it. When we lived up in Indian Hills we would go and chop our own trees down, this made for a memorable and enjoyable outdoor experience. Each tree typically came after some hard fought experience or struggle with the chainsaw etc. No longer living in the hills and desiring a more urban Christmas tree experience, we chose to go the traditional route of getting a tree from a lot. This year though, in order to spice it up a bit we opted to go down to the local ACE Hardware and pick a tree up from their lot: by bicycle.

My wife had her doubts about the logistics of getting a tree home by bike while also riding in snow. And in fairness to her skepticism, my optimism almost got the best of me starting out, but after getting used to the way the trailer pulled through the snow it actually made for relatively easy riding. We rode the couple blocks down to ACE and picked out a nice 7 foot tall fir of some kind; hardly offsetting the tree's travel from Wisconsin by our biking (next year we'll bike to a local lot.) The lady at the register kindly offered to call someone to help us load our tree which drew some knowing smirks from Kate and I, at which we then let her into our little secret. "Call us if you can't get home," she offered, while laughing at the prospect of some guy riding his bike home with a tree on the back of it. Sans help, we easily loaded our tree up onto my modified Burley trailer. All we had to do was lay it down on the frame, bungeed it and voila we were in route home. It took a bit of balancing to get started as the rear tire of the bike wanted to lift up under the weight of the tree, but once I got going it was smooth pedaling. The added weight actually helped with traction in the snow so the ride back went a little easier than the ride there.

We got home and Kate snapped some pictures to commemorate the occasion and that was pretty much all of it but the trimming. I have to say that I've probably pulled heavier loads, but the awkwardness of the tree and its length certainly made this one a bit different. And hands down the stares we got from passing cars were much funnier than any other trip I've made by bike. If only we had bigger ceilings we could have got one of those monster trees; that would have been pretty sweet.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why Ride in the Snow?

This morning the mercury rose to an astounding 6 degrees Fahrenheit. It put some frost on the pumpkin, as my dad would say. I added an extra long underwear layer up top, donned my Velo Swap face mask, slipped the shoe covers on and hit the road. Something about the temperature, or snow covering the black ice, made the ground feel almost sticky despite its obvious slipperiness. The ride itself did not feel too unlike a normal commute: yes it was colder and at times I thought my eyes were going to freeze but other than that it really was quite enjoyable. I noticed a familiar track leading out of my neighborhood for a bike that I see frequently. Along 14th I picked up another track, mountain bike tread, weaving a bit in the fresh snow. Coming down 14th to hit Federal I passed another rider coming west. We exchanged friendly “Hello’s.” Same thing occurred on Harlan when I passed two more riders: there apparently is camaraderie of sorts among people who dare to ride bikes on the ice even when under 'normal' conditions you might scarcely get a nod.

When I arrived at work there was already an email from one of the “Siberians,” a group of fellow Denver City employees who ride their bikes more or less year round. Of all the Siberians who checked in there were three of us who actually rode today. This evening when I left downtown after a meeting, I hit the Cherry Creek path heading west. I passed a number of riders, each clothed in various winter riding garb, some with lights, others with large stocking hats and no helmets. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves despite the fact that it was snowing a bit and only 11 degrees. I find it interesting that at times people make it seem extraordinarily novel that I ride my bike in the winter, and yet there were bikes out all over today. Perhaps not in the abundance one would experience on a nice June afternoon, but I wasn’t the only “crackpot” out on two wheels today.

I’ve grown quite accustomed to the stares and questions about how I can stand to ride my bike when it is so cold outside. Even today, I got a fair amount of grief from the folks in the office as we prepared to head out for the day. “Don’t tell me you actually rode your bike today?” “Did you really ride your bike?” “Have you heard of this thing called the internal combustion engine?” Earlier in the afternoon when I headed out from our office to go downtown someone getting into their car in the garage remarked, “You must be brave.” Yesterday when I rode up to work one of the Supervisors commented that it "takes some serious guts to ride a bike in weather like this." Brave? Guts? If there were one particular psychological or mental trait that I would use to describe my riding, bravery would not be the first one to come to mind. I suppose there is an element of bravery to riding in the snow or on the ice alongside speeding cars also traveling in the same snow or across the same ice. Yet, I don’t know if my riding really has anything to do with bravado.  Its not a question of being tough or proving a point. So on a day like this it makes sense to beg the question: why do I do this?

Some of my initial reasons for riding when I started several years ago stemmed from a desire to save gas (subsequently saving money) and make a contribution to helping the environment. I started riding and commuting because it was cheap easy and most importantly, fun. For the 9-5 part of my work week existence commuting by bike has just become part of my routine. For some it is natural to climb into their car, grab a coffee, turn on the stereo and sit in traffic. To each their own, but for me riding my bike in to work is just something I do. Even on days like today the thought of not riding hardly enters my mind, and even despite the cold, the inconvenience of being bundled up and the risk of falling on my ass I don’t really think twice about it. Sure like yesterday I might opt to ride to the bus stop, hop on the bus and then ride the rest of the way to work. But in any case, 9 times out of 10 I'm heading out the door with my bike.

Does that then amount to bravado? Craziness? Zealotry? I suppose it might appear that way to some. Much is made of the conflict between cars and bikes about who really owns the road and who's rights supercede who's.  Yet, as political as riding a bike sometimes can be, or as impactful a statement as bike commuting despite all odds might seem, when it comes down to it, it really still is a matter of transportation: getting from one place to another. It seems very odd to me that so much is made of the simple act of getting from one place to another and the manner in which this occurs. So tomorrow when the thermometer starts the day at -1 degrees, I suppose it will again seem exceptional that I’ll get on my bike and pedal the 7 miles to work. But hopefully like today I won’t be alone, and when the day is done and everyone is back home safe and sound (and warmed) it won’t be that exceptional at all that any of us rode our bikes and didn't drive cars or ride buses. Because in the end, another week will be in the books and behind us, and in that sense we all will have traveled the same distance anyway.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Snow+Dumb-Bus=Freezing

My skepticism got the best of me this morning when I woke up to find that it had in fact snowed overnight as promised. During the drive home from the airport yesterday I heard the DJ on the radio indicate that the forecast for Tuesday night included a high chance for snow. I distinctly recall looking at the weather online sometime on Sunday—or maybe Monday—prior to our coming back home; snow was assuredly not in the forecast. That hazy memory coupled with the blue skies and warm day time temperature on Tuesday clearly implied to me that the weather folks assuredly got this one wrong.



Well Mother Nature certainly did not disappoint in both snow as well as making me look a fool! Now we did not get a blizzard or anything like that so there is no point in being overly dramatic. However it did snow and the temperature was in the mid-teens this morning: yhe good ship Indian Summer ran aground somewhere last night and left frosty decay and black ice in its wake. Thankfully after our ‘multi-modal’ day adventures I found myself in possession of 6 one way bus tickets all conveniently with an expiration date of 12/31/09 (I wasn’t aware of that fact at the time I bought them). So with ride coupons to burn I thought, what the heck get on the bus. This proved slightly more difficult than I initially thought; interestingly none of my issues were even remotely bike related. Getting out of the neighborhood was easy enough despite the packed-snow- transformed-into-sheet-of-ice covering the road. In hindsight, given the ease at which I navigated our neighborhood streets, I should have just continued on the rest of the way.

Instead, I opted to hold to true to what I told my wife were my plans and got off the road to wait for the bus. Before I left I checked the bus schedule and swear it said there was a bus due around 7:12 (I arrived promptly at 7:10). After about 20 minutes of standing around in the snow and freezing temperature I began to think I somehow erred in my calculations. Perhaps I read the time for the stop at Wadsworth, which certainly wouldn’t have done me any favors. Perhaps the bus was early and my 7:10 was cutting it too close. Or, the schedule we have is admittedly a year old, and probably needs to go out with the recycling; but really do the routes change that much from year to year? In any case, I was left hanging and freezing. I thought after 20 minutes a bus certainly would be due: guess again genius. Ok, 30 minutes?—getting warmer, figuratively that is, physically I was beyond numb and nearly ready to hop on my bike and race off into traffic to end it all before a couple other fellow bus riders at last started to appear. Shortly thereafter the bus arrived. I didn’t catch the time which might have made a nice little nugget of wisdom to tuck away for another such day where I’m apt to repeat this all over again. The lesson learned from all of this? Get a current schedule? Measure twice freeze briefly? Nope, the lesson is wait 10 minutes and then start peddling otherwise your toes won’t thaw until 9:30am.

Tomorrow it could snow again…and is supposed to be 6 degrees at go-time. I think I’ll be a bit more prepared in case they go 2 for 2.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy T-Day

Thanksgiving is a time for being grateful for all that we have. So, to celebrate this holiday I thought I’d stop and take some time to reflect on all of the many things there are to be thankful for, such as:

• Carbon fiber
• Gore Tex Windstopper fabric
• The DI2 electronic shift option for Dura Ace
• Wonderfully Dura Ace components like derailleurs and pedals
• Hell all those other gruppo’s too for the Campy and SRAM crowds let’s not be bigoted in our hardware selections
• The Zipp Sub 9 aero wheel
• Brooks saddles
• Balloon tires
• Lance and Alberto likely dueling to the death in the 2010 TDF
• Bike lanes
• Phil Ligget
• Embrocation
• Tom Boonen getting off the rock
• 3 months to get back into shape
• Universal Sports covering cycling
• Cadel finally getting a big win so he’ll shut up for a while about not getting a big win
• The new ACA website
• Team rides
• Solo Rides
• Cruiser rides
• Those rides to the store when you forgot to get bread and Cheerios
• Commuting to work…on even the not so nice days
• Johnson and Johnson’s Multi-Day Ultra Wound Care Pads
• The afternoon mail delivery when you get the new VeloNews
• Fat Tire (its bike related)
• Finally getting your mis-matched Velo Swap parts to work
• Selling the mis-matched Velo Swap parts you couldn’t get to work
• Hipsters…they give people something else to make fun of instead of roadies
• Catching at the light that bastard in the SUV who buzzed you and giving he/she the “kiss my ass” gesture of your choice
• 3 feet to pass
• Lube
• Following the Tour of Missouri in a Vanagon
• Having Levi and Lance show up at the Rock the River Time Trial outside of Glenwood Springs
• First Places…Last Places and all places in between
• Pro Race 3’s
• The end of Goat Head season
• Chrome Bags
• Leg shaving
• Roadie tan
• Railing the descent down Lookout…or any of your favorite descents
• California courtroom justice
• Jens Voigt

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Better safe than sorry

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sub 20 Degree Day

Despite the conflicting weather reports between the radio and tv, there could be no denying that this morning was a cold one. I generally tend to run a bit on the warm side, so these cold days don't bother me too much. Still with temps hovering just under 20 degrees, its good to recheck the layers to make sure nothing gets too chlled. On days like today preparation for riding in the elements goes a long way and can make the difference between an enjoyable ride and a near hypothermic experience.  Here's the list of gear I used for today's ride:
  • Long underwear top and bottoms
  • Pair of canvas pants (I don't commute in bike shorts...it just doesn't seem necessary to me and this way I get by without the expense of having wearing out multiple pairs of bike shorts)
  • Gore Windstopper bike jacket
  • Manzanella Ranch Hand gloves w/ liners
  • Mountain Hardware skull cap.
I typically can get away with this level of clothing for most 20-40 degree days. If its closer to 40 I generally don't use long underwear bottoms and just get by with pants. With temps just on the cusp of that range today, I figured they'd be necessary but didn't feel like going to extremes. My threshold is generally positive temperatures. If the temp drops below 0 degrees Fahrenheit then I'm typically on the bus with my bike hoping for a warmer afternoon (which thankfully in Denver usually happens.) On these really cold days I'll beef up my wardrobe in order to stay comfortable.
  • Long underwear top and bottoms
  • Canvas pants if I feel brave, but generally a ski pant or rain shell
  • Mountain Hardware technical jacket
  • Black Diamond alpine gloves
  • Skull cap
  • Nose and mouth mask
  • Shoe covers
With this level of protection I've been reasonably comfortable at -5, but the level of mobility and cumbersomeness of the layers makes the riding more difficult. Still, if the goal is to ride in all conditions this type of layering certainly will help towards accomplishing that. In the end, my general rule of thumb is: if I would pay to go ski in weather this cold, I ought to be able to ride my bike.  That being said, here's hoping it warms up a bit!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Trainer Tires

After two winter's of riding my Cycleops Fluid trainer for most of my evening workouts, I decided to get a dedicated trainer wheel and tire for use with my road bike (I'd like to say that I upgraded to a Computrainer, but for now the tire will have to do.) Typical road bike tires wear at a faster rate than normal when used on a trainer due to the constant contact with the resistance roller and heat build up from friction. You can usually spot a trainer rider by their characteristic squared off rear tire. Last year when I was riding the trainer during the evenings and then riding on the road on weekends, I went through a couple tires due to the harsh transition from trainer to sandy streets. This year I plan to reduce the wear on my wheel and outdoor tire by using a trainer specific one.

There are handful of trainer specific tires on the market. Many of them employ a harder, less supple rubber than a typical road tire and usually have some type of ribbing or tread to help dissipate heat. While riding a trainer tire on pavement is generally not advised, the guys at my local bike shop told me that it technically could be done and probably wouldn't hurt the tire too much (Continental expressly suggests warns against doing this with their tires.)

The Continental Ultra Sport Home Trainer tire is a popular and well rated Home Trainer tire. It comes in a standard 700c size, has 3 ribs that run along the circumference of the wheel and has a suggested max psi of 120. The tire typically runs $34-$44 from what I could find and seems to be long lasting and reliable; typical of what I've come to expect from Continental (I think their Gatorskin tires are bomber).


The Continental Ultra Sport
The Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Home Trainer Tire is structured identically to the Continental aside from a red rubber instead of orange. The Zaffiro is technically lighter than the Continental, not that it matters when mounted on a stationary set up, has the same profile and tread for heat dissipation and supposedly can be pumped up to 145psi--though with the force and heat generated from trainer riding I'm not sure if this would be advisable. The Zaffiro Pro tire typically ranges $24-$34 and therefore is more of a bargain than the Continental.
The Zaffiro Pro Home Trainer Tire
I've also historically had good experiences with Vittoria tires, and although I generally don't think they are cheaper than Continentals because they were in this case I went with the Zaffiro Pro.
Everything needed for the job, picked up for under $100.
I picked up a standard, cheap Shimano rear wheel with 8-9-10 hub. Mounting the tire was no different than a regular road tire. I used a cheap tube and made sure to use a rubber liner strip to protect the tube. Since I have more than one cassette lying around I put my Dura Ace 11-23T on this trainer wheel to allow for a pretty good range of gears for training.
The whole job was really straightforward, and now I have a dedicated setup that I can leave in the basement and will not have to worry about trashing my outside tires.
Hopefully I can get through the off season with my Gatorskins and then not have to worry about them wearing out before April, when it will be time to switch to summer race tires.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Multi-Modal Kind of Day

Today I woke feeling somewhat poorly. My head ached and my stomach felt a bit queasy. I missed the 8:30 start for the HART team ride and moped around the house for a couple hours until my wife, Kate, started to chide me for what she affectionately termed “wallowing.” After some breakfast and coffee, consumed in the slowest manner possible, I did start to feel a bit better. With my mood and overall physical state improved, we set about planning what to do with the uncharacteristically warm November Saturday. We decided to take our cruisers out and explore parts of Denver and Littleton via bus and light rail connections. Now you might be thinking, can you fit balloon tires on a bus bike rack…? Of course you can. Won’t your back hurt after lifting a heavy steel frame cruiser in and out of trains and up onto bus racks...? Of course it will. Will you look good doing it…? It’s a vintage Schwinn…of course you will.

Kate works for a very forward thinking and eco minded employer, and as a result can ride the bus or light rail anywhere she wants with her eco-pass. I on the other hand needed to head to King Soopers to get a day pass. RTD recently updated its website and now offers a number of nice features for route planning and navigating bus and light rail schedules. You can use an interactive map to look for routes and they have a much improved search and timetable tool for checking schedules. We planned to get me a day pass at the King Soopers at Quail and Colfax and then catch the 16 down to Denver. Contrary to the info on the RTD website, King Soopers, at least that one, doesn’t sell day passes so I grabbed a booklet of 10 ride coupons for $18. Not the deal I hoped for, but the extra ride coupons might come in handy if I get stranded on a snowy day.

We stood across the street and waited for the 16, and after getting the wave from the 16L which didn’t stop at the cross street were camped by, decided to head out and cruise along on our bikes. We went down Quail and caught the D-10 detour by the Lakewood Technology Park and rode through Lakewood Park. This small network of trails is actually kind of neat and offers pretty good views of downtown and the foothills. The trail takes you through some weird science themed sculptures and art before dumping you off in a neighborhood. The RTD West Line light rail project in this neighborhood rerouted the bike route all over the place, and the detour signage in this area was pretty poor. Since we knew the way to go from previous trips, we made our way up to 13th and across Kipling. We awkwardly circled two Lakewood cops and a couple in the midst of a domestic dispute before we had a clear shot at the trail entrance through the neighborhood and back out onto 12th. From this point it was a smooth straight stretch down 12th and 14th to Pierce where we hit Colfax and the 16 bus.

We got on the D line heading south at the Auraria light rail stop alongside Colfax Ave. Now that RTD no longer requires a special pass for taking your bike on the light rail, getting your bike on the train is a piece of cake. They even have signs on the ground to let you know which doors you can use with your bike. Lifting your bike up onto the train would definitely be easier with a lighter bike, but we like a challenge. The only other complaint would be the general lack of room to stand on the top platform with your bike while on the train. At each stop we inevitably were in someone’s way. The train took us south to Littleton where we got off at the main station downtown and cruised up to the Main Street area. We stopped off at Merle’s for lunch. I had a buffalo burger with cheese and bacon, which was cooked superbly and tasted great, along with a chocolate milk shake—which was a bit warm but really chocolaty. After our pit stop we walked along the streets in Littleton and stepped inside a number of the shops and stores in the general downtown area. After a couple hours of walking around we went back to the station and took the D further south to the Mineral stop. Here we crossed Santa Fe using the pedestrian walkway and went to the Aspen Grove shopping area. Kate wanted to go by the Apple store to check on a battery for her IPod and I wanted to check out the Sprint store for a possible upgrade to my phone. All in all the trip to the mall was relatively uneventful and not terribly exciting. There is limited bike parking near most of the vehicle entrances, all of which are somewhat out of the way in and unassuming spots. Additionally there are no public bathrooms since it is an outdoor mall, which combined with an entire day of riding and commuting around made for a bit of annoyance.

Bladders at the point of explosion we headed back up north on the C line and stopped off at Union Station. From here we needed to just get to 15th and we could catch the 28 or 32 back out to Lakewood. With the unseasonably warm temperatures we opted for the 32 which would drop us off on the north side of Crown Hill park where we could enjoy a pleasant night ride around the lake. We had 20 or so minutes until the 32 was due so we opted to head over to the House of Commons and get some tea. The nice folks there graciously poured us tea even though it was an hour after they supposedly closed (the lights were still on and they were just putting away their outside placard so how were we to know?) Armed with tea and bus coupons we headed up to Central St and caught our bus back home.

The blanket of clouds reflected the urban light pollution and lit up the park much like a full moon night. We enjoyed a leisurely ride through Crown Hill around the lake and back to 26th. We’ve ridden down to this area a couple times using the Platte River trail and other bike routes; it’s a nice ride, though a long one from our part of town. The combination of bike and public transportation allowed us to explore a part of the city that we typically don’t get to. To do it again it might make more sense not to drag cruisers along, instead using lighter road bikes. However the pleasure of rolling along on a big heavy steel frame cruiser cannot be denied and doing so around scenic Littleton under the autumn sun and back home in the cool night air made for a great way to spend a Saturday.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Universe Knows

After the ride in this morning I am fully convinced that the universe knows what kind of week this one has been. After the early week commuting on black ice and snow, cold mornings (it was technically still kind of cold this morning), atypically draining days at the office, long cold rides home in the dark, fighting with html etc…karma, or something, kicked in and doled out a really nice ride in to work today. Aptly timed for the inaugural post to the Spoked in the Eye blog, I hit most of my lights, had blue sky and sun over head—no black ice underfoot, traffic was light and despite it being like 29 degrees it just felt warmer. I managed to leave the house late, dilly-dally stopping to take pictures in the park off 14th and still managed to get to work on time. This ride came like a sorely needed shot in the arm to ward off the work-week flu. The only other bike rider I saw this morning seemed to be having a similarly good start to his day. Despite being fully wrapped up in his coat and hood, a clearly discernable smile shown through the opening. Yes, its good to be out on a bike today. And with that I can look at 8 more hours here at work where I have no tedious meetings. Tomorrow there’s a team ride at 8:30 and the morning promises to be similar to today. And I’m finally getting this blog concept out into the world. Things are looking up.