Monday, January 30, 2017

shut in

The flu that is temporarily reducing the workforce at my job finally sent me home. Not being one of your hardier Northwest/East Coast/Midwestern types who scoff at illness, I haven't been on the bike.

Just prior to getting sick, I did a little maintenance task: moving my saddle slightly forward to see if it helped with my slight back pain. I took a short ride (~4 miles) to see if it helped, and by golly, it did.

So I've been trying to educate myself on other facets of bike maintenance/repair.  I found what looks to be an informative site: RJ The Bike Guy.  The site is full of videos with enticing titles like "Long Cage vs Short Cage Derailleurs - Which Do You Need?" Ok, maybe that's not that enticing, but I find it more interesting than articles like "6 reasons you should get into cyclocross." Yes, that's a real article from a real site, sans link...please don't comment to tell me things like "Yeah, but that site probably has lots of useful articles and you're a wanker because cyclocross is awesome!"

But I digress. I digress constantly. I think it's the flu. I also used the word "wanker" even though I'm an American -- is that word making its way into the American vocabulary? Was I quoting a hypothetical English person? I don't know.

I also don't know how often RJ The Bike Guy updates his site, but I assume it keeps current with his YouTube channel, which was updated three days ago.

Saturday, January 21, 2017


On the virtues of being well-adjusted:

I raised my bike's saddle a bit a week ago on the advice of a more experienced cyclist. Their idea was that I would get more power if my legs were just a little straighter. With the new saddle adjustment, I rode forty miles over two days.

My back still hurts. I didn't know that raising the seat just a few millimeters could make such a difference, and that it could be so negative. I've lowered my saddle back to where it was. And I'm icing my back every morning.

Lessons learned? Everybody is different, and if you're comfortable with how your bike is adjusted, leave it alone. Just because someone has years of experience riding a bike doesn't make them an expert on how you ride or how you should ride.


I'm re-reading It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels by Robert Penn. It's the story of how Penn built his dream bike interspersed with chapters on the history of bicycles and bicycling. In my last post (the one about penny farthing bikes), I said I was interested in the history of bikes; I still am, and the historical chapters in this book are fascinating to me.


I'm training for a charity ride to benefit local schools. It's forty-five miles and will take place around the end of April. So far my longest ride has been thirty-five miles, but I think I can do forty-five. The route is very flat, so that's good.

My ride today will be very short. I will head downtown and then back uptown to the bike store, where I will bend my credit card getting some decent rain gear. It's been raining a lot, and I'm starting to resent that I'm unable to ride in the rain without getting soaked. Note to those of you who do ride in the rain on a regular basis: I would welcome your advice on how best to deal with wet roads, etc. I do have wide tires on my bike, so I think that's covered. But I will probably have to learn some new techniques to ride well when it's raining.

Side note: one thing I've noticed as a pedestrian is that drivers in my area actually drive faster when it's raining. I don't know why that is. Perhaps they're afraid that their large SUVs will shrink if they get too wet.

I've also noticed that California drivers either don't believe in or don't understand the phenomenon of hydroplaning; that scares me a little.


I don't actually have anything to say about arithmetic. It just seemed to follow naturally after reading and riding.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

getting high (wheeled)

I like bikes. So do you.

I like most kinds of bikes. I like road bikes. I like mountain bikes. I like cargo bikes. I even like some bikes with electric pedal assist. And I assume that you like all kinds of bikes; your list is probably not the same as mine, but so what. You like bikes.

I'm even interested in the history of bicycling.  From the draisine to the safety bike. So I was very interested when I found that there was a company within driving distance of my house that manufactured penny farthing bicycles. It's called Rideable Bicycle Replicas; the web site is fascinating, as it shows many variants on the penny farthing, including some high wheel trikes.

Since I had a day off during the week, I dropped in on Greg Barron at Rideable Bicycle Replicas (RBR). I was lucky on two counts: he was there (he isn't always), and he had a few moments to spare (he's incredibly busy, from what I can tell.)
Greg Barron and his cool bikes.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Gearing down...

Just got back from a twenty-five mile training ride. Yes, I actually train; I admit it. My name is Doug and I'm a cycle-holic. I did stop at twenty miles to grab something to eat at a taco stand. So though Strava tells me I burned 640 calories, I probably consumed that by eating two tacos. Oh, yeah, Strava. Because I'm a cycle-holic.

Funny thing, Strava. It let me know that I set a personal record on a nearby bridge. In my case, though, that means that I walked faster on the bridge than I normally do. I have this thing about hitting pedestrians, so I do dismount and walk on crowded MUPs.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Not fat, just big-boned

Recently I was advised to try out a fat bike. On the surface, it sounds like a good idea. I'd like to try to ride in sand, mud, and snow. We don't actually have snow where I live, but if I wanted to ride in it, there's some just a few hundred miles away.

So I went to a local bike shop that carried the Salsa Fargo with 27.5" by 3" tires. I was able to ride it in the street, and I have to say it was pretty nice. It took me a bit more effort to get it up to speed than it takes with my bike with its measly 2" wide tires. Once it got going, though, it rolled pretty easily. And the SRAM drivetrain is as nice as you might expect. The handling was outstanding; it took me a minute to get used to it, but somehow it felt far more stable than a lot of the bikes I've taken for test rides. The bike was incredibly comfy, too.

When the crew at the bike shop asked me how I liked it, I said that it was pretty good for my first experience with a fat bike. That's when I found out that the Fargo is not really considered a fat bike.
C'mon. what's not fat about this?
So what is a fat bike? According to Wikipedia "A fatbike (also called fat bike or fat-tire bike) is an off-road bicycle with oversized tires, typically 3.8 in (97 mm) or larger and rims 2.6 in (66 mm) or wider, designed for low ground pressure to allow riding on soft unstable terrain, such as snow, sand, bogs and mud." Of course, Wikipedia is quoting someone, and people are opinionated. But it is also true that almost every bike I've seen advertised as a fat bike comes with at least 3.8" wide tires.

So...according to the criteria laid out by the source of all Internet knowledge, the Fargo is not a fat bike. The bike shop folks told me it was a "mountain bike that can be ridden on pavement." Well, if they say so...

I can find a fat bike at my local REI. But the REI is in the middle of the city -- and it almost feels wrong to ride a device intended for mud and snow in an urban environment; particularly near my local REI, where the traffic is so dense (and the drivers so entitled) that a small misstep can turn a bicyclist into roadkill.

Probably the best place to test a fat bike right now is in Minnesota, especially if I want to ride it in a snowier environment. Or maybe I should just rent one, load it in my car, and take it to the mud. We've had so much rain recently, mud shouldn't be hard to find.

I can't say that I'll ever own a fat bike. My resources are limited, and a good road bike would be a far wiser purchase. (And decent fat bikes are expensive as <expletive deleted>.) But I sure have a craving to try a couple now.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bike by Nerd

One of the first things neophyte bikers hear from real cyclists is "remove that pie plate!"

You know, of course, what the pie plate is: that plastic piece between the cassette and the spokes. It's more properly called a spoke protector.  Does it serve a purpose? Sure it does; it protects your spokes. I'm not sure what it protects them from. Aliens? Climate change? The chain breaking and getting tangled in the spokes? My guess is the last.

What else needs to be removed? about those stupid spoke-mounted reflectors? Everyone knows they serve no purpose. Except maybe making you more visible to approaching cars when you cross the street perpendicular to them. And really, what's that worth?

But of course you should remove the pie plate and the reflectors. Because only losers leave them on their bikes, while all the cool kids remove them. And besides, they weigh something! And that's never good, right?  In an ideal world, your bike weighs as close to zero pounds as possible.

And that concludes this segment of obvious sarcasm and cheap shots.

I don't think my bike came with a pie plate. It did come with reflectors mounted on the wheels, but after about six months of riding, they'd disappeared. I kind of miss them, and intend to get more the next time I'm in the bike shop. I know I'm not cool; I'm past cool. Or post-cool.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Day ride etc.

In her post "2016 Rewind", blogger anniebikes talks about some of the firsts that she's achieved in the last year. And, as I'm sure most people who read the piece did, I started wondering about how many firsts I've had the first year.

I can think of a few instances of firsts without putting much thought into it. My first time on a bike in thirty-five years. My first crash after my first time of getting on a bike in thirty-five years. My first group ride ever. My first bike-related injury since high school. My first ride of more than twenty miles. My first ride of (slightly) more than thirty miles. The first week I commuted by bike every day.

And now, my first first of the new year: two blog posts in two days! Ok, it's not a big accomplishment...

In my twit feed this morning, I found a short sentence from @bikesnobnyc where he ruminates in his typical thoughtful style about the futility of having cycling goals.

I disagree: I think it's good to have those goals. I have a number of them; but they're all encompassed in one statement: I want to ride progressively farther each month. To me, that statement implies a number of things I'll have to do:
  • Finding motivation to ride farther; possibly by finding companions to ride far with me, possibly by simply thinking of a far place that I want to see.
  • Doing my first bike overnight, because I've ridden too far to get home at a reasonable time.
  • Learning some bike repair, because I won't always be near a bike shop.
  • Learning to ride in bad weather.  In my geographical area, that means rain.
  • Breaking out those rusty camping skills that I haven't used since I was a Boy Scout. 
  • Ceasing to talk about my goals and actually acting on them.
Another goal only tangentially related to cycling is to finally read Juliana Buhring's This Road I Ride. It's the story of her world tour by bicycle. I've been following Buhring on Twitter and Faceblah ever since I saw Inspired To Ride, the story of the 2014 Trans Am Bike Race. Buhring took up the bicycle at age thirty and accomplished something monumental; I find that inspiring.

How will all this work out? Watch this space.

New Year's Eve rehab ride

Yesterday I rode thirty-one miles in semi-inclement weather. For those of you not in California, that means the temperature dipped below forty at some points. The low temperature was partly because of the wind -- for about two-thirds of the ride, I was struggling against a headwind.
Yesterday's weather. Overcast and cold one second, sunny and slightly less cold the next.
About twelve miles into the ride, I decided that I would do something unique (for me) and set a ride goal -- in this case, a small deli that I remembered from a pre-injury group ride. I knew I was within three or four miles of it, I just didn't know exactly where it was. In the spirit of the Cycliste Moderne,  I used my phone's GPS to find the downtown of the city I knew it was in.

I locked my bike up and went in to purchase my food. The deli was as I remembered: good sandwich, nice selection of sugary snacks for the depleted cyclist. Since the deli had no inside seating, I went outside to eat in the cold of the early afternoon sunshine. 

And sitting there at an outdoor table was another cyclist. Upon seeing me he asked if the sky was falling. With my typical je ne sais quoi, I replied, "Huh?" He noted that I was wearing a bicycle helmet but had no bike, and so must be using it for general protection. I assured him I had a bicycle and went to retrieve it.

The other cyclist was Stanley, a retired astronomy professor from the university where I work. As happens when two cyclists meet, we checked out each others bicycles (his was a 1981 Motobecane road bike, which I was a bit envious of), and talked about bicycling history.  If I could reproduce verbatim what he said, I would: he talked about cycling through the forests of Germany on his way from Frankfurt to Hamburg, and of difficult climbs he had done (or failed to do). He reassured me that if I ever got a drop bar bike, I would adapt to it; at seventy-one, he rides only drop bar bikes. We also discovered that we were both interested in the J.S. Bach's organ works; he from the viewpoint of an amateur organist, me from the viewpoint of an interested listener.  

When it came time for me to leave, Stanley showed me a simple way to get back to where I needed to be. I was glad to have met him; he turned what would have been a simple stop for lunch into an engaging few hours of conversation.