Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The perils of a snowy climate

Before I start ragging on the men and women who plow the streets of Minneapolis, let me insert a caveat. The fine folks from Minneapolis Parks & Rec who plow the bike/walking paths and the Greenway are officially excluded. They're doing a bang-up job, and should all be given raises. Now that's out of the way.

The city of Minneapolis has done a fairly decent job of clearing the streets of the big snow dump we got last weekend. Automotive traffic is moving along at it's usual brisk pace. However, it's still a little dicey for those who are travelling by a different method. I took Portland Ave home last night and tonight, and tonight I finally whipped out the camera.
minneapolis bike lane
No, this car wasn't idling or just pulled in waiting for someone. It was parked. And as you can see, it took up three quarters of the bike lane. Somebody didn't want to get their tootsies wet in the puddle. Now I normally turn a blind eye when it's just one knothead. But there was at least one car like this on every block. Usually multiple. The norm was that their wheel was on the white line and they only took up a slice of the bike lane. The worst offender was a dualie pickup that's been parked in the same spot for two days straight. That thing is nearly jutting into the car lane! I'll snap a photo if it's there next time I ride.

And it's not just bike folk who are overlooked when it comes to snow removal. Here's a shot of the intersection where the Greenway crosses over Hiawatha.

The snow has been trampled down over the last three days, but the first folks who mounted that pile so they could push the walk button were risking life and limb. I took this photo from out in the street, which is where I had to be in order to cross without climbing over the mound. And if you make it past this, there are additional snow dams out in the crosswalk. That's not a long light either. Good luck!

Date: February 28
Mileage: 18
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Raleigh
February mileage: 282
Year to date mileage: 601

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Close Encounters

To the tune of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer:

VelociPete got run over by a snowplow,
biking his way to work on Tuesday morn.
Fortunately there's a happy ending,
I escaped without my pants getting torn.

Yes, I was really reaching for that last rhyme. I never claimed to be a poet. Or a lyricist. Or talented in any way. And to even get there you're forced to pronounce fortunately in that single-syllable "for-tu-nate-ly" way, otherwise the rhyme scheme falls apart completely. But I digress.

As mentioned yesterday, some kind soul was plowing the Highway 55 bridge. The spotter call came in around 3:00. This morning as I rode onto the bridge I saw that the plow job had sprawled through the rest of the afternoon and into the next morning. There was a huge Kubota tractor blocking almost the entire bridge path. What I couldn't see at the time was that a single path had been plowed yesterday, but the north side of the path was still covered in a foot or more of snow.

I stopped my bike about 10-15 feet behind the tractor and started considering my options. I could lift my bike over the concrete barrier and ride out on the shoulder of the highway. I've done it before when the path hasn't been plowed. I also thought there would be room to squeeze by the tractor on the left, but just barely. And really only if I walked the bike. It was just too tight. In order to do that I'd have to figure out a way to get the driver's attention. And since I was facing the rear of the tractor I guessed that that would be more difficult than it would seem. I would later be proved correct.

As I watched, the driver backed up a couple feet and started to move the plow attachment up and down. It looked like he was trying to knock some ice loose. Or perhaps the chute was plugged and he was trying to unclog it. Either way, I certainly wasn't ready for him to decide to start backing up further. The earlier backup placed me about 10 feet from the rear of this thing, and the distance was closing. Closing extremely slowly, true. Snowplowing machinery doesn't move at warp speed. But I was running out of time.

I could see the operator's head moving side to side, checking his mirrors. I waved. He kept coming. I waved more. He kept coming. I started sliding myself toward the concrete barrier. He kept coming. I hollered at him. His rear wheel pushed past my bike and started pushing it and me toward the barrier. By this point I was close enough that I could reach out and smack the glass on his cab. That, thankfully, got his attention. He stopped the tractor. I looked over my shoulder and my left-side pannier was pressed against the barrier. My right-side pedal was touching his wheel. Absolutely nowhere to go.

At this point he opened the door about 6 inches. He couldn't open it any further, because I was in the way. At first he thought I was trying to ride around him, but I cleared up that misconception. He was very apologetic for not seeing me. I thanked him for being out there and plowing the bridge, and then I inched my way around him and continued on to work. Next time, I'm gonna throw a snowball at the cab.

Date: February 27
Mileage: 20
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Raleigh
February mileage: 264
Year to date mileage: 583

Monday, February 26, 2007

Every Cake You Bake

My extensive spotter network has informed me that there was snowblower activity on the Highway 55 bridge bike/pedestrian path this afternoon. This is good news for the Mpls to Eagan bike community. I sure as hell wasn't going to try and ride through that foot or so of snow that fell over the weekend.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Paul Douglas was so excited on the 10:00 news last night, I'm guessing he may have needed a fresh pair of shorts after the weather segment. The computer models are agreeing, he gushed, we're gonna get a crapload of snow! I'm paraphrasing, but barely. I hope your commute home tonight is better than this:

My commute was fine. I left work at 1:45.

Date: February 21
Mileage: 26
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Schwinn
February mileage: 218
Year to date mileage: 537

Date: February 22
Mileage: 26
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Schwinn
February mileage: 244
Year to date mileage: 563

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Thinly Veiled Excuse To Post Photos of Hotties

I've been watching the Tour of California for the last few days (update, Levi Leipheimer is still winning). One of the bright points of last year's pro cycling season was the debut of the Specialized Angel. Not to remove any of her mystique, but the Angel is really Jana Ireton. Ms. Ireton was hired by Specialized to portray the Angel, who made numerous appearances at the Tour de France last year. This photo is from 2006, her inaugural year.
Jana Ireton Specialized Angel
She's dressed in what I can only describe as an angelic cyclist. Huge wings and a taffeta skirt, but also wearing cycling-style knickers and shoes.
Jana Ireton Specialized Angel
The outfit didn't change throughout the 2006 season. Not quite wholesome and innocent. After all, she is wearing a bustier. But fun. Someone you might want Mom to meet.
Jana Ireton Specialized Angel

Fast forward one year, and the Angel is making her 2007 debut.
Jana Ireton Specialized Angel
From a distance, it appears to be a minor costume change. The skirt is gone, the Specialized logo is slightly larger and she's not wearing cycling shoes.
Jana Ireton Specialized Angel
But wait. When the sun hits her here, the reflection says something more. She's wearing vinyl or some other similar, kink-worthy material. But the coup de grace? Those boots.
Jana Ireton Specialized Angel
We've gone from kink to outright fetish-wear. I can hardly wait until next year.

Monday, February 19, 2007

An opportunity to shoot your mouth off

Bicyclists & pedestrians

The City of Minneapolis needs your input!
Open house
Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007
4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Minneapolis City Hall
350 S. Fifth St.
Room 220
Use the 4th St. Entrance after 6 p.m.

• Where in Minneapolis do you see a need for more biking and walking?
• Take a look at our proposed projects – help us set priorities. Which ones have possibilities for increasing biking and walking in a short amount of time?

For more information, visit:

Date: February 19
Mileage: 26
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Schwinn
February mileage: 192
Year to date mileage: 511

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Blog maintanence

matt's bar
After a ride yesterday and dinner at Matt's bar, I needed a day to unwind. I got some minor maintanence done on the bikes. It was colder than I expected, so no washing. But the biggest accomplishment of the day was some long overdue blog maintanence. Nearest and dearest to my heart is the fact that I now have all of my bikes featured under the "My Bikes" section in the sidebar. I had a couple bikes I hadn't photographed, mainly because they were not fully assembled and I didn't want to show them to the world in various states of disrepair and or assembly. But I'm now up to date. Here's the list as it stands today:

Jamis Satellite
Miyata Shredder
Montgomery Wards Hawthorne
Raleigh Eclipse
Raleigh Robin Hood
Schwinn Premis
Sun EZ Tadpole trike

I also did some long overdue work on the blogroll. I started by removing several defunct blogs. There's several I left on there that haven't been updated in ages. But I'm an optimist. I also added a ton of new folks that I've been reading. Take a look, there's some interesting folks in our neighborhood:
Local Bloggers

Lunatic Biker
First, Last and Always
Lady Velo, high priestess of the 27-tooth cog
ugly bike
Mellow Velo
Nathan's Blog
Two Cities Two Wheels
Oil is for Sissies
The Impossible Thrill
Yon Saucy Wench
The Old Bag
Curious Observer
Bicycling; Life in Minnesota
Red Lantern's Cycling Blog
Heather and David
look ma no hands
Hiawatha Cyclery blog
Out of Work On a Bike
Minneapolis Man
Three Speed Blog
Bike Satan
Bob Brown
The Fog of Work
Got The Bonk
Jim's Phredly Blog
Just A City Girl
The Rookie Rider

I also have a group of not so local, but equally interesting folks:

Balancing the Universe on a Wheel
Bicycles and Icicles
The Minus Car Project
Tex's Luavull Cycling
Up In Alaska
Wrench in the Gears
Adding Fuel To The Fire
Kent's Bike Blog
Large Fella On A Bike

I also started a new section of bike-related podcasts that I've been listening to since I got my iPod last August:

The Bike Show
Crooked Cog
The Fredcast
The Spokesmen

I feel like I've accomplished something this weekend, when in reality I haven't done a thing. It's Miller Time.

Miyata Shredder

miyata shredder bicycle
I purchased this bike in the summer of 2005 from craigslist. When I bought it the guy told me that the front shifter wasn't working properly, but everything else was good. That turns out to be the case. I fooled around with the shifter for a time. I completely disassembled it and then reassembled it, something that's supposedly not doable for integrated brake/shifters. It shifted fine on the bench, but I still couldn't get it to work properly on the bike. So I broke down and bought a new Alivio shifter from eBay and installed it. You can see here the mismatched cockpit:
miyata shredder bicycle
This was done back toward the end of 2005. But when I attached the brake cable I found that the internal routing of the new shifter was just a hair longer than the old one, and the cable didn't reach far enough to connect to the front brake. So ever since the bike has been languishing in the garage, all for the want of a $5 brake cable. After the Hiawatha ride yesterday I picked up a new brake cable from Jim at the shop. Here's a nice shot from the back:
miyata shredder bicycle
Apparently the previous owner didn't care for the term "shredder" on the bike, because it's scratched out on both sides of the top tube:
miyata shredder bicycle
After fixing the front brake I aired the tires up to about 20psi and spent some time riding around in the snow in the yard. Anybody who comes to visit will immediately know we have kids, a dog and a dope who rides his bike in the snow.
miyata shredder bicycle


Last month I rode my trike to work for the first time this winter. This prompted a public outcry for photos of the machine. I am always happy to oblige my legion of fans, so here are a few stock photos from last summer, not long after I purchased it. First, a side view:

The trike itself is a Sun EZ Tadpole SX model. The SX is the base model, made of TIG welded steel and no consideration given for weight. The stock weight for the machine is 49 pounds. Here is a front facing photo:

This shot is nearly identical to the first, but taken from the other side. I'm posting it mainly to remind myself that the trees will again be green, sooner rather than later according to Phil.

Because I'm a commuter, I needed a way to carry stuff on this bike. Obviously a messenger bag won't work. And even so, I'm not a fan of messenger bags. I'm a pannier kind of guy. I bought a rear rack and had to fabricate a support for the lower pannier hook, since a pannier-specific rack doesn't seem to exist for this bike. Here's a shot of my simple, but fairly attractive solution:

It's a fun bike to ride, though just not practical for my day to day commute. This is a slow down and smell the roses machine. I'm not a fast rider, but I'm always driven to go at a pace that's fast for me. This machine forces me to slow down a bit and enjoy the journey, since I know I'm not going to get there quickly. And the world could probably use a bit more of that.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Salty Dogs

When I got home from the Hiawatha ride today I stashed my Schwinn next to my Raleigh in their appointed corner of the garage. I puttered around the garage a bit and as I was walking past the bikes I noticed just how salty they've become. It's a sign that we haven't had a huge amount of snow here and I've put a lot of miles on the dry salt covered streets. It might be warm enough tomorrow to actually give these two a bath.

The ride today was gorgeous, with the exception of a brisk north wind. The wind kept the ride pretty short, and as I left the shop I found myself wanting to get a few more miles in. I headed north into Minnehaha Park, but only made it about a mile before the wind convinced me to head home.

Date: February 16
Mileage: 20
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Schwinn
February mileage: 141
Year to date mileage: 460

Date: February 17
Mileage: 25
Ride type/Bike: Hiawatha/Schwinn
February mileage: 166
Year to date mileage: 485

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It's like a frightened turtle

Everybody's all excited by the long range forecast. Mid 30s by the beginning of next week! Phooey. To be honest, I'd rather stay in the low 20s. Why? Winter's not over just yet. This mini-heat wave is just going to make me soft, so when it gets cold again I'll be shivering. It's much like riding my Schwinn in the winter. I've ridden the Schwinn to work the last two Mondays in a row. Monday the 5th it was negative 16 and I didn't even notice what bike I was riding, I was so busy trying to keep feeling in my extremities. Then we got snow that night and I was back to pushing the studs on the Raleigh.

Fast forward one week. I rode the Schwinn Monday and was amazed at how fast 14 miles per hour can seem. It just drives home how slow I really am on the Raleigh. It's a 50+ pound ride, and coupled with 60psi studded tires I could get passed by a kid on a 20" Magna. Fortunately there's not many of them out in January. But I don't really notice it because I'm used to it. Much like the weather. We were supposed to get snow on Tuesday, but it never happened. I'm hoping that we've reached the part of winter where I can ride the Schwinn more often than the Raleigh. But March is always a bastard to the bike commuter.

The plague has hit my house, so not much riding this week. Tuesday I stayed home with daughter M who had a horrible fever/stomach bug. Today I chauffered daughter E to school with the 6 dozen valentines cookies we made and decorated last night. And I brought my computer home tonight, anticipating another day spent home with daughter M. The Mrs. even got in on the action and stayed home sick today. I feel so left out...

Date: February 12
Mileage: 20
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Schwinn
February mileage: 121
Year to date mileage: 440

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Chuck E.'s in love

That's right, a swinging Saturday night spent at the Chuck E. Cheese. Jealous? You should be...

Never trust a man with a butt broom on his face

Even though it was sub-zero in the morning yesterday, it didn't seem that bad. I must be acclimating. We're having overnight housepests tonight, so we spent yesterday evening and this morning cleaning all those nooks and crannies that you only clean when you have overnight housepests coming. I'm hoping to make it over to the Bike Swap for a bit tomorrow. Why yes, I am interested in that complete Suntour drivetrain. Who wouldn't be?

Date: February 9
Mileage: 21
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Raleigh
February mileage: 101
Year to date mileage: 420

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Weather Update: It's still cold

Yesterday turned out to be a giant-pain-in-the-butt kind of day. After my chilling commute on Monday I still had two red patches on my cheeks. I think I might have gotten a slight touch of frostbite in those two spots between the goggles and my neck gaiter. So I went to REI and picked up a new balaclava. The balaclava seems to be the bright point of yesterday. I wore it as I rode to the train station and it was keeping me pretty darn toasty.

When I got to the train station at Ft Snelling there was a pretty good crowd. I figured that people were scared after the scores of traffic accidents on Tuesday. As I waited a southbound train came and went. Then another. When the third southbound train came I'd been waiting at the platform for nearly 25 minutes without seeing a northbound train. I finally got fed up and headed to work on my bike. I did finally see a train, but this was close to the Lake St/Midtown station, and it seemed pointless to catch it there. So in all I was almost 40 minutes late getting in.

Work was unusually annoying, and then I got roped into a last minute urgent project that kept me at work until after 7:30. So it was after 9 by the time I finally got home. I had a late dinner, read for a bit and went to bed. What a day. Today I'm working from home, for my own sanity. But the new balaclava is nice.

Date: February 7
Mileage: 26
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Raleigh
February mileage: 80
Year to date mileage: 399

Monday, February 05, 2007

Not getting any smarter...

A post from last year, on February 16:

This morning's checklist:
Bike shorts
polypropelyne shirt
second warmer shirt
lobster gloves

Check the weather on the internet:




Screw this. Drive.

Similar conditions this morning. Actual air temp of -16. I rode. Froze my ass.

Date: February 5
Mileage: 18
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Schwinn
February mileage: 54
Year to date mileage: 373

Friday, February 02, 2007

Too early for flapjacks?

The forecast here in the Twin Cities is that it's gonna be cold, it's gonna be gray, and it's gonna last you the rest of your life. Of course, I'm not here to bitch about the cold. Not when I saw a woman on Tuesday riding her bike wearing a skirt. And this morning I saw a guy collapse face down on the side of the road. He went down like a bag of hammers. He was running with a military unit by Ft. Snelling. His drill sargent (a small woman) came back and shouted at him until he got up and started running again.

What I am gonna bitch about is flat tires. After building up some karma, I spent Wednesday evening patching tubes and fixed the flat tire on my Schwinn. I put the newly repaired tire back on the bike that night, but haven't ridden it since. When I got home from tonight's commute and went to put the Raleigh away, I noticed that the tire on the Schwinn was flat. Again. Without a single ride. I think I'm going to have to sacrifice a chicken or a virgin to get rid of this juju.

Date: February 1
Mileage: 18
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Raleigh
February mileage: 18
Year to date mileage: 327

Date: February 2
Mileage: 18
Ride type/Bike: Commute/Raleigh
February mileage: 36
Year to date mileage: 355