Monday, October 31, 2005

You picked a fine time to leave me, loose wheel

Happy freakin' Halloween! Two interesting things happened on the way home tonight. First, I definitely noticed that daylight saving's time has ended. I left work early to get home and take the kiddos trick or treating and noticed that it's dark now. That means I've gotta get a light situation figured out for Betty, or stop riding her. Because it's going to be real dark, real soon at my normal commute time.

If you made it through that only marginally interesting observation, here's the payoff. Such that it is. The other interesting thing that happened tonight had nothing to do with the time change. As I neared the intersection of Sibley Memorial Highway and Highway 13 I was about to take a right onto Hwy 13. A little red Chevy S-10 came up behind me, gunned it really hard to get past me (even though I was well on the shoulder) and then immediately hit the brakes so he could take the right hand turn first. So I had to brake so I didn't run into him. I love that. But, as he was going around the corner, his spare tire fell off! It was one of those little ones that mounts underneath the bed of the truck, and it just fell flat as a pancake right in the middle of the street and laid there. Right in my path.

A quick bit of reflexes and a speedy manuver just barely kept me from going straight into the tire and most likely head over heels to the pavement. I yelled and tried to wave the guy down, thinking he'll probably want that tire at some point, but he didn't notice me or the fact that the tire had come loose. Oh well. Nothing like a hastening twilight and some random car droppings to liven up the daily commute.

Busted flat

I got a flat tire on the Raleigh about two weeks ago, right before our San Fran trip. I can't remember the last time I've had a flat on any of my bikes, so I wasn't too upset about it. Plus, it was nice enough to go flat overnight so I realized it in the morning and could quick switch to another bike (you can't have too many bikes!) rather than being stuck out patching a tube on the side of the road.

So yesterday I pulled the wheel off and took out the old tube. I felt around on the inside of the tire and finally found a teeny tiny sharp something. If my wife is reading this, I will disavow all knowledge of the next sentence. I couldn't get it out with my pliers so I went inside and got a tweezer from the bathroom and pulled out a tiny sliver of metal. It was small and cylindrical, like maybe a piece from a cable? I'm not sure what it was. I was going to take a picture of it, but my daughter wanted to see it and I accidentally dropped it when I was going to show it to her. But wondering what it was is kind of secondary to wondering how it got there.

It was pretty flexible, so I just don't know how it managed to go all the way through the thickest part of my tire. I'm running Ritchey Cross 700x30 tires on this bike, so they're not huge meats or anything, but they've got little knobbies toward the side and this bugger went right through one.

Oh well, it's out, new tube is in and the tire is back on the bike. I even spent some time degunking the rear triangle and drivetrain. This is my foul weather bike, so it tends to collect more than it's fair share of crap on it. You would think the rain would wash some of that away, but no.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

New Shirt

It's here. It's ugly, but it's here. New MS150 jersey. Only 5 months afer the event, but what the heck, it's free.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Tour de France!

Thanks to Mr. Cleary for pointing out that the new TdF schedule is up. And thanks for the laugh from my friend Sparky who, when I e-mailed him this info replied, "Good lord man - that's over 6 months away - we might be at war with France by that time."

Saturday, July 1: Prologue in Strasbourg - 7 km
Sunday, July 2: 1st stage - Strasbourg - Strasbourg - 183 km
Monday, July 3: 2nd stage - Obernai - Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg) - 223 km
Tuesday, July 4: 3rd stage - Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg) - Valkenburg (Netherlands) - 216 km
Wednesday, July 5: 4th stage - Huy (Belgium) - Saint-Quentin - 215 km
Thursday, July 6: 5th stage - Beauvais - Caen - 219 km
Friday, July 7: 6th stage - Lisieux - Vitre - 184 km
Saturday, July 8: 7th stage - Saint-Gregoire - Rennes (individual time trial) - 52 km
Sunday, July 9: 8th stage - Saint-Meen-le-Grand - Lorient - 177 km
Monday, July 10: Rest day in Bordeaux
Tuesday, July 11: 9th stage - Bordeaux - Dax - 170 km
Wednesday, July 12: 10th stage - Cambo-les-Bains - Pau - 193 km
Thursday, July 13: 11th stage - Tarbes - Val d'Aran, Pla-de-Beret (Spain) 208 km
Friday, July 14: 12th stage - Luchon - Carcassonne - 211 km
Saturday, July 15: 13th stage - Beziers - Montelimar - 231 km
Sunday, July 16: 14th stage - Montelimar - Gap - 181 km
Monday, July 17: Rest day in Gap
Tuesday, July 18: 15th stage - Gap - L'Alpe d'Huez - 187 km
Wednesday, July 19: 16th stage - Le Bourg d'Oisans - La Toussuire - 182 km
Thursday, July 20: 17th stage - Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne - Morzine - 199 km
Friday, July 21: 18th stage - Morzine - Macon - 193 km
Saturday, July 22: 19th stage - Le Creusot - Montceau-les-Mines (individual time trial) - 56 km
Sunday, July 23: 20th stage - Antony - Paris (Champs-Elysées) - 152 km

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sausalito Summer Night

We did it. We biked the Golden Gate Bridge on Friday. We had a great time, all in all, visiting San Francisco. But in my mind this was the best day there.

Friday morning we started with a lovely breakfast at The Blue Mermaid and then bid our travelling companions goodbye. They had decided to rent a GoCar for the day. We headed to Blazing Saddles and told them that we wanted to try a tandem. Because if you've never been on a tandem before a strange city is the perfect place to try it out, right?

The guy got us all set up on the tandem, took our picture and told us to have fun. Since we needed to get Alcatraz tickets first and the ticket window was three blocks from Blazing Saddles, the wrong way down the one way, I asked him if there was another way to go. He just told us to ride against traffic and not worry about it. Because hey, it's California. We wobbled off against traffic and got onto the sidewalk. We were able to get to the ticket window without incident, but during the three block ride we decided that the tandem was not the way to go. After finding out that Alcatraz was sold out (don't fret, we got tickets the next day) we wobbled back to Blazing Saddles and traded the tandem for two Marin cross bikes. He had them all ready to go because, as he said, he "knew we would be back."

So we set off toward the bridge, following the Embarcadero along the waterfront. Soon Fisherman's Wharf gave way to The Presidio, a military fort since 1776. Once we travelled through The Presidio we reached the base of the bridge. We stopped at the little shop located there to buy a scarf as it was a chilly morning and N wanted something to keep her neck warm. We also bought waters and a couple of Clif Bars and headed onto the bridge.

About half way across we stopped for pictures. We met another couple that had rented bikes and took one another's pictures. We continued to meet them from time to time as we rode into Sausalito. And, oddly enough we ran into them the next morning on Haight and Ashbury. Small world.

The first half of our bridge ride was shrouded in fog, but as we got toward the other side the fog started to burn off nicely. Once we got off the bridge we stopped at the scenic overlook and took a few more pics, then headed into Sausalito. I'm not sure if we took a wrong turn or if the bike path doesn't exist there, but we rode from the bridge on two lane road with minimal to no shoulder. Once in Sausalito we had great bike lanes.

We stopped for lunch at the Cafe Trieste and decided not to push on toward Tiburon. We'd only ridden about 6 miles, but it had taken about 3 hours. We stopped and looked at everything even remotely interesting, plus we decided to just take it easy and even pushed our bikes up many of the hills. With that decision made, we were free to continue exploring. We wandered the marina in Sausalito, looking at the amazing boats there. Then we rode to the other end of town. On the way back we stopped in at the LBS and checked it out. We talked bikes with the german guy working there, and I bought a new pair of bike gloves which were long overdue.

We boarded the ferry back to San Fran and enjoyed the fact that the fog was mostly gone and got a great view of the bay. Once back on land we had quite an odyssey trying to find Coit Tower but we eventually located it. After going up for more great views we talked to our friends and agreed to meet up for dinner.

On the way back to the hotel Nancy nearly died due to my foolishness. We were descending down a moderate hill riding side by side in the Full Width Bike Lane (San Fran's bike lanes rock) when the streetcar line joined our lane. We both slowed up approaching the tracks and got into single file. I moved out in between the two rails to give Nancy more room to pull along side me. But she instead followed me onto the streetcar line. We rode single file to the next intersection. As I entered the intersection two things happened at the same time. The first was the light turned yellow. The second was the streetcar tracks took a sharp turn to the left. I noticed the tracks turning and angled my tire to avoid hitting the track on too much of a parallel. But Nancy was trying to make the light and didn't get quite the angle I did. When I looked back, she was in a mid-wipe out pose, and there was a small white car bearing down on her as she threatened to spill over into the next lane. The quick reaction of the driver plus her mad bike skilz worked together and she kept the bike upright and escaped with only a sore ankle. We returned the bikes, cleaned up, hit the hotel wine reception and then went to dinner.

I want to publicly thank Nancy for coming along with me on this little adventure. She enjoys cycling, but not nearly as much as I do. I could tell she was hesitant when I first mentioned the idea. But I wouldn't have had nearly as much fun on my own. I wouldn't have taken nearly as many pictures, I wouldn't have stopped nearly as often and I wouldn't have explored as much as we did. The fact that she was with me made it the best day in San Fran, and it made this 7 hour, 10 mile trip one of the best rides I've taken. I love you, honey. Thanks for a great day.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I want to get back

Things learned in San Francisco:

  1. Do bike the Golden Gate bridge, it's awesome

  2. Don't bike on the streetcar tracks

  3. It's almost impossible to get a bad meal

  4. Don't order the Chef's Special Chow Mein in Chinatown

  5. BART is very convenient

  6. BART is extremely noisy

  7. Delta will hold your flight to allow other passengers who are delayed to catch the plane

  8. Don't assume Delta will extend the same courtesy to you and call ahead so you don't miss your connecting flight. They didn't.

  9. Salt Lake City isn't the worst place to be stuck after missing a connecting flight due to airline incompetence

  10. San Fran is a great town

Thursday, October 13, 2005


As I was leaving work yesterday afternoon I had the following conversation with a co-worker:

Co-Worker: You're biking today, right?
Me: Yep.
CW: How long do you do this?
Me: (misinterpreting her question) Oh, about 13 miles.
CW: No, I mean how long into winter? How long before you get some sense?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Wild, wild life

I'm really getting into the swing of this whole commute-by-bike-to-school thing. Of course I'm not really doing the whole thing by bike, so perhaps that makes me something of a poseur. Whatever.

Things are definitely different out there once the lights go out. Three weeks ago I wrote about my close encounter with three frightened racoons (Homeless attack!). Last week on my way through Harriet I had a close encounter with a skunk. He or she was minding his or her own business by the side of the trail when I came whizzing by. Alarmed, he or she lifted his or her tail and showed me the business end of her or his scent glands. Fortunately, by the time the tail went up I had gone by, so there was no tomato juice bath in my future.

This Monday I tried a slightly different route home. Instead of taking the bridge into Harriet and riding the trail near Water Street I went down to Shepard Road and took the bike path that runs parallel to it. This path is nice and wide, straight and well lit. The Water Street/Lilydale Road path is dark and narrow. It also twists and turns through the woods, blocking any potential moonlight.

As I rode along I saw something ahead in the path. It was a deer. The deer was standing perpendicular to the path so I couldn't have gone around it (switching to the gender neutral pronoun to avoid that silly his or her stuff) if I wanted to. The deer stared at me, and I slowed down and stared back. After a few seconds it turned and ran into the brush along with two other deer that had been lying down, hidden, next to the trail.

When I reached 35E the trail forked and I wasn't sure which direction to head. I'd never ridden this trail before, so I was going on faith. I was pretty sure that if I headed south I would meet up with the Lilydale trail. I started to head south, but saw a tunnel under 35E and decided to try that instead. Once through the tunnel I saw another deer, this time just slightly off the path. I rode along until I reached Crosby Farm park. I knew there wasn't anywhere to safely cross the river by bike in that direction so I turned around.

On my return trip to the tunnel I saw another group of three deer. They were in the same spot as the single I'd seen before, so it may have been the same deer and friends. I headed south and followed the trail up to the 35E bridge that crosses the river. On my way to the bridge I saw one more deer just for luck, bringing my total for the night to either 7 or 8 depending on how you score the potential duplicate.

The 35E bridge brought me right to my old trail, dark, twisty and wooded. And you know, a part of me prefers that. At least now that my new headlight has shown up.

Friday, October 07, 2005


This was a weird week for biking. Monday the temps were in the 80s with the dewpoints in the 70s, even well into the evening. I took the bus over to St Paul for night class and rode my bike from downtown to Metro State, just about a mile. That ride had me sweatier than just about any short distance I've done this summer. It was unbelieveably humid. I missed Tuesday because I needed to be in to work at 6:00 am and just couldn't drag myself out of bed early enough to ride. Probably a good thing because it started raining like mad that morning and didn't stop until we had 5-6 inches.

I rode Wednesday, Thursday and today as the temps kept falling. Wednesday morning it was about 40 degrees and there was a little rain but not bad. Yesterday it was closer to 35 and this morning it was about 33 degrees. But comfortable riding weather. I was colder last Wednesday when it was raining than I have been this week.

I've been wearing my bike vest, which is very thin but a great windshell. I wish I would have bought the identical jacket when I bought this one, because the vest will only carry me so far. I'm bidding on a Pearl Izumi bike jacket/vest on eBay right now that looks like it would do the trick. It's currently at $5.00. I also noticed that I'm going to need to get a new headband to replace the one I lost last spring. My ears felt just a bit chilly. Not bad, but another 10 degrees colder and I'll be feeling it.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Long Time Woman

From an article about the Harmon Hundred bike ride in eastern Wisconsin comes the story of one amazing lady:

Phyllis Harmon is not new to cycling. She wasn't new to cycling when she founded the Wheeling Wheelmen in 1970, either. And chances are, she wasn't new to cycling when most of us were born. Phyllis has been bicycling since 1928.

When Phyllis was 12 years old, she saved up $28 to buy her first bicycle, a red single-speed Ernie McKay Special bike with 28-inch wheels.

"I'd bike to my grandfather's house seven miles away," she said. "Then we moved to nine miles from his house and I'd bike there."

In 1933, Phyllis biked to a picnic lunch in Des Plaines, which was 18 miles from her house, making for a 36-mile trip. At that point, she realized that she could ride long distances. When she was 15, she rode alone and without any bicycle gear 80 miles from her house to Tichigan, a lake in Wisconsin.

Since then, her love of cycling has yet to cease. Savio said that Phyllis has been a member of the League of American Bicyclists (formerly the League of American Wheelmen) since 1937. She is also the past director, vice president of the league and editor of the national magazine. Currently, she's the Honorary Director of the league.

Phyllis started many area cycling clubs besides the Wheeling Wheelmen. "We kid her as being the mother of all bicycling clubs," Savio said.

At age 73, Phyllis cycled across America. She also has led seven tours of New Zealand. And today, at 85, she still tries to bike despite some minor setbacks.

"I've shrunk three and a half inches," she said. "As a result, it's harder to get on and off. Those are the frustrating things about getting older."

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Annie's song

Annie has expressed her desire for a Carbon Fiber water bottle cage because hey, who doesn't want to spend $100 on a water bottle cage?

And you know what the perfect accessory is to compliment this extravagence? The new Carbon Fiber jersey from Cannondale.

Cannondale Men's and Women's Carbon Jersey

Carbon is the hot material in anything bike-related. Why not clothing? This jersey has carbon infused in the poly/nylon fabric to provide SPF 50 sun protection, an anti-microbial effect to reduce odor and higher moisture wicking ability. Plus, it's carbon.

Cost: $150

After shelling out $100 for a water bottle cage, $150 for a jersey seems like a damn bargain!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Chicken Dance

For some reason, this little incident from Friday afternoon's commute completely escaped me until now. I was riding home through Fort Snelling state park as I always do. I rode through the parking lot for the historic Fort and got to the point where I join with the path that crosses the Highway 55 bridge.

There is a short length of sidewalk that connects the car portion to the bike trail. It's nice and wide and is bordered by about 4 feet of crushed rock on either side. There's a great big sign as you go onto the sidewalk that says "NO MOTORIZED VEHICLES BEYOND THIS POINT" From time to time I do see a truck or car parked on the side of the sidewalk, kind of half on the sidewalk itself and half on the crushed rock. But in every instance it's easy to see that the person who parked their car made every effort to pull off the sidewalk as far as possible to avoid blocking foot and bike traffic. I figure most of these cars belong to nice folks who work at the Fort. No big deal.

On Friday as I turned on to this sidewalk there was a white Ford F-150 driving down the sidewalk headed toward me. I'm not sure of the exact traffic law here, but since it's a sidewalk and there's the big "no motor vehicles" sign posted I felt fairly sure I had the right of way. I was riding Betty, and she's not exactly suited for offroad shenanigans with her 700x28 tires so I slowed down in order to give him time to pull onto the gravel so I could get by. No such luck. The driver of the truck slowed down also, but showed no indication that he was going to pull over at all. A couple feet was all I really needed, he had more than enough space. I slowed down some more, and he responded by coming to a dead stop -- completely blocking the sidewalk.

At this point it was either come to a complete stop myself or hit the gravel. I opted for the gravel. As I rode by I said, "Thanks for pulling over" somewhat sarcastically into his open passenger window. He just stared at me like I had grown a second, evil head and didn't speak a word. Once I had gone past him, he started moving forward again like nothing had happened. It was bizarre.

Sold American

Potential good news with the increase in gas prices. Bike sales are at a near record high. The US Chamber of Commerce says more bicycles have been sold than cars over the past 12 months.

However, the cynic in me says that once our refineries in the Gulf Coast are back on line most of the bikes bought because of high gas prices will be gathering dust hanging in garages across the nation. "Bicycle sales are near an all-time high with 19 million sold last year -- close to the 20 million sold during the oil embargo in the early 1970s," said Tim Blumenthal, whose association Bikes Belong is based in Boulder in the western state of Colorado.

There's a pattern here. 1973 oil embargo, people bought scads of bikes. However, once the oil embargo was over there was no huge sustained increase of people riding for utility rather than strictly for pleasure on weekends. I would guess that there is an inverse relationship between gas prices and bike sales. And since we seem to have an increase in gas prices every 5-10 years you would think that there would be a corresponding increase in people riding bikes for utility. But, seeing how Minneapolis has one of the highest percentages of bike commuters at 2.62% it doesn't seem that fuel prices have any long term effect on our habits.

That's a big reason I'm not concerned about fuel economy. There's only a finite amount of oil available. And, in my opinion the only thing that will truly make any long term difference is if we use it all. So build the H3 and the H4 and the H12. Burn it up.


It's time to introduce another bike, Bolt-on Betty.

I call her Bolt-on Betty, because if there's a bolt on attachment she's got it. Two water bottle cages? Check. Rear rack? Check. Computer? Check. And most recently aero bars. Check. It's a cluttered look, but it's more function vs. form.

Word to the wise: Wet rims require increased stopping distance.

You'll also notice that I'm still using down tube shifters. Old school, low maintanence. And Suntour of all things.

She's a Schwinn Premis I've owned for about 3 years now. I found her completely by accident one afternoon when I went to Twin City Outboard looking for parts for my 1949 Johnson 5 horse motor. One of the employees had this bike and another outside for sale. He was asking $75 for the Schwinn and I talked him down to $50. Since then I've added new tires, the rack, computer and aero bars. I also bought a new Specialized Body Geometry saddle and clipless pedals.

But everything else was pretty much as it was when I bought it. This is my main steed, the bike I ride to work most every day. She's been on MS150 rides and training rides, unplanned rambles across all parts of the twin cities. Betty is the bike that makes me want to ride fast.