Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fruitful Canada Geese

We've got Canada Geese in these parts.  In fact, maybe they should start calling 'em Boise Geese... how many more could Canada have than us?

From the Wikipedia article: "During the second year of their lives, Canada geese find a mate. They are monogamous, and most couples stay together all of their lives. If one dies, the other may find a new mate. The female lays from 2–9 eggs with an average of five..."

On Friday I was headed home from the office and saw a BIG goose family... snapped a photo.

Count 'em.  I believe there are 33 babies in this bunch!  I s'pose it might be some sort of Goose Daycare or Goose Preschool... or perhaps Goose Fertility Experiments!

Boise - Bike Capital of America for a day!

There is no reason that Boise, Idaho, shouldn't be at the top of the list of bike-friendly cities.

Compared with the cities that come to mind, we are superior. We have better terrain and weather than the cities always at the top of the list. The main things we're lacking in are education and enforcement. (But those things seem to be an ongoing struggle in pretty much every city.) Perhaps we're also lacking in "bicycle culture" - an attitude among both cyclists and non-cyclists that bicycles belong. But that seems to quickly be evolving for the better.

Anyhow - there's a movement afoot, originating with our beloved Boise Bicycle Project, to make Boise the Bike Capital of America for one day... Thursday, May 7. Read more about it HERE. In essence, every person is challenged to ride on that day, and challenge three other people to do the same and "pass it on."

I'm not a social-media sort of guy (unless a casual blog is "social media," and I s'pose it is). But I'll do my best to publicize that particular day. Boise Bicycle Project is ALWAYS a very worthy neighbor. They might be able to help you out with a part or some bicycle advice. And their awesome work on behalf of our community is very worthy of YOUR help, all year 'round. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day!

Isn't it great?!!  We've somehow kept our planet together for another 365 days, and arrived at another Earth Day.

This year, in recognition of the auspicious occasion, President Obama will take Air Force One down to the Florida Everglades, where he's likely to read off the teleprompter about how the oceans are rising due to our carbon-burnin' ways, and urging legislation, treaties, etc. as a solution.  (I sincerely hope that many, many people observe the irony.  Perhaps Algore, the Al Sharpton of Global Warming, is jetting someplace else to deliver impassioned rhetoric.)

I've commented on Earth Day before.  I believe we have a responsibility to be good stewards of our resources, but I somewhat resent being lectured to by flaming hypocrites (pun intended).

Despite all our problems and the supposedly-deteriorating environment, this is still the planet I choose as home!

Allow me to share some of the lyrics from a Harry Nilsson tune, "The Most Beautiful World in the World":

You're a scary old place out there, world
But I couldn't be happy without you
And I swear all my thoughts are about you
The most beautiful world in the world...

You're mountains when you're mad
You're rivers when you're sad and those deep blue seas
I love you for your snow, your deserts down below
I love the way you wear your trees...

The most beautiful world in the world
And though there are times when I doubt you
I just couldn't stay here without you.

Take some time today, to enjoy the beauty of this amazing, wonderful orb.  And renew your determination to minimize your impact.  Leave the place as nice as you found it!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Trouble in [Greenbelt] Paradise, Part I

As the weather gets nicer, Greenbelt traffic increases exponentially.  (Until it gets "too hot" - then it drops off again, except near the watery places.  Lots of people can't walk or run or ride a bike when it's too hot or too cold - that's below 65 or above 75 - haha!)  And with that increase in traffic, comes the inevitable increase in distracted and/or irresponsible users of the facility.

I probably only do 20% of my riding on the Greenbelt, but just this week I've seen two yahoos on motorcycles!  Well... pretend motorcycles.  One was a punk on a tiny miniature replica of a lay-on-the-gas-tank sport bike.  (Is that what they refer to as a "pit bike"?  I ride motorcycles - but not on the Greenbelt, and I don't keep up with the lingo and trends very well.)  And another was a young gal - early 20s (punkette?) on a little minibike-looking thing.  NOT a "moped" - this thing didn't have any pedals; it didn't pretend to be a bicycle in any way.  In both cases, I hollered, "You can't ride that on the Greenbelt!"  And in both cases they seemed happy to ignore me.  Hopefully they met with higher authority on up the line.

And yesterday, I happened across two babies in a double-up stroller.  Probably 9-10 months old.  (I'm pretty current on my babies, since I have grandbabies!)  Both were crying bitterly.  A fella - I assume their dad - was standing there leaning over, but I couldn't tell if he was trying to comfort them, or taunting them, or admonishing them to "suck it up."  When babies are sad it makes me sad... especially on a beautiful day in a beautiful outdoor place, which usually makes babies happy and wide-eyed with wonder.

And of course, the usual assortment of people who just stop on the Greenbelt, blocking the way of everybody else.  I always want to ask them, "Do you have a driver's license?  And, do you just stop your car in the traffic lane, when you want to chit-chat or drink some Gatorade?"  My suggestion for a Greenbelt Courtesy Tip from a previous post:

"Keep in mind that the Greenbelt is a transportation corridor, and is often crowded with users.  Please respect other users by not blocking the pathway to chit-chat, repair your bicycle, adjust your load, yap on the phone, send a text, conduct pet or baby admiration sessions, snap a photo, etc. Step to the side, so other people can go by."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

New bike is no more

On Sunday, I went for a ride on the old, faithful Cannondale.  And frankly, it was a delight to get on it again, after a week or riding on the Gotham.  It was on that ride that I made up my mind to avail myself of REI's "100% Satisfaction Guarantee."

It was disappointing; after all, I've been pondering getting the Gotham for the better part of three years.  But there were some insurmountable issues... for me!  For another cyclist, they would probably be non-issues.

1) It didn't "fit" me well.  And REI seemed unwilling to provide much assistance in that.  I purchased a longer 400mm seat post on my own.  That made the saddle high enough, but then the handlebars felt too low and too close.  An aftermarket stem probably would've got me taken care of, but at that point I was somewhat frustrated with the process.  (In the accompanying photos, you'll see the post-adjustment saddle height.  The frame is the "L-XL" size, which is supposedly sized for riders 5'11" to 6'3" - since I'm 6'2" with 32" inseam, it should've fit me just right.)

2) My BOB trailer was/is unusable with a Gotham.  The proper-size "Nutz" are available (10mm), but the rear dropouts on the Gotham are wider than a more standard bike by probably 20mm, to accommodate the NuVinci hub and belt drive.  (I probably could've bent the trailer to fit, but then it would've been unusable on any bike but the Gotham.)

3) Disc brake issues filled my heart with trepidation.  Much of the charm of the Gotham was the notion that it would be essentially maintenance-free, what with the belt drive.  When the brakes were already "dragging" with less than 100 miles on the clock, it worried me.  (Maybe the good people at REI could've adjusted them and sent me on my way for 10,000 trouble-free miles... I don't know.  By comparison, my low-tech cable-operated cantilever brakes seemed pretty charming to my luddite eyes.)

The bike went back this evening.  Delightfully, there was absolutely NO "static" - the guy just entered stuff into his cash register and I swiped my bankcard for the refund.

I do NOT want to suggest that the belt or NuVinci were unsatisfactory.  The belt was uncannily quiet (until the swish of rubbing brakes caught my attention), and the NuVinci is an awesome piece of technology.  I tried out its full range... I "down-twisted" on several occasions to ride up hills, and on one occasion I "up-twisted" to the top end... I was putting pressure on the pedals, but barely, riding downhill at 30mph.  So the range is indeed comparable to pretty much any multi-gear bicycle.  Unfortunately, I won't be giving it the long-term road test I'd imagined.

And thus ends a brief but interesting chapter in my riding history.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Getting old

One of those age-old questions, without a clear answer: "Do you quit riding a bicycle because you get old, or do you get old because you quit riding a bicycle?"

I like to think it's the latter... and I hope to keep riding until my kids insist I give it up because I can no longer keep it upright!  (And hoping I never arrive at that point...)

The mother-in-law lives with us... well, actually, adjacent to us.  She's in her 90s, and her kids prevailed on her to sell her house and move in with one of them [my wife] where she could get attention and assistance when needed.  We built a little 600-square-foot cottage for her out back, connected to the main house, and it's been mostly a comfortable transition.

However, I've observed her.  When she first arrived in Boise a couple years ago, she would routinely cross the street and walk around the perimeter of the city park - about 1/2 mile.  She wasn't setting any records for speed, but she was doing it.  In the ensuing couple of years, she's declined noticeably.  She mostly sits in her easy chair now.  When she walks any distance, its with the assistance of her walker.  (She still goes and "exercises" in a swimming pool a couple times a week, but that's about the extent of it.)  She complains about her constantly-sore knees.

So - did she quit walking because she has sore knees, or does she have sore knees because she quit walking?  She had more incentive to get up and active in the morning, before she took up housekeeping with us.  Nowadays, if she chooses, she can mostly putter around in her place and her needs will be seen to by her house mates.  There might be a lesson here.  Or maybe not.

I'm 61.  Which means I'll be middle-aged within ten years or so.  (Hahahaha!)  These days, when I drag my sorry carcass out of bed, it's a rare day when I don't feel somewhat sore and stiff.  I notice it while doing the most trivial of things... making the bed, brushing my teeth.  But after 10 or 15 minutes of working the kinks out, and an aspirin tablet or two now and then, I generally feel all right with the world.  But I can see how one could take a different route: "I'm pretty stiff and sore today.  I better take it easy and watch TV, and I'll probably feel better in the morning."  But will you ever feel better in the morning, if your preferred remedy is to relax?  I'm thinking not.  "Use it or lose it."  I see evidence of that every day... and I hope I can keep using it, because I don't want to lose it.

Friday, April 3, 2015

New bike!!

Yup - with two exclamation points, because it doesn't happen very often.

(In the past 14 years, I've bought several "beater" bikes on the Craigslist ranging from $5 to $60 or so.  And in 2009 my insurance replaced a stolen bike with a spankin' new one after I paid my $500 deductible.  If I had a do-over, I woulda bit the bullet and covered the loss myself; they raised my rates, so I paid for it anyway.  And three years or so later, that spankin' new one developed a crack in the frame, and it was covered by the manufacturer warranty.  But this is the first new bicycle I've bought for myself since 2001 or so.)

If you visit my blog regularly (thank you!), you already know - it's an (REI) Novara Gotham.  And, the compelling attraction is the drivetrain... I've been wanting to give the belt drive and NuVinci CV rear hub a good workout.  And - I bought it during the spring "members 20% off one full-priced item" sale.

First impressions?

QUIET!  When coasting, there's a very subdued clickety-click of the freewheel.  But the belt makes no noise, and the gears / hub are totally quiet in their operation.

Overall, the finish quality of the bike is pretty good - about what I expected.  Better than a department store bike by a long shot, but not as flawless as a high-end LBS bicycle.  (The main color is "stealth" matte black... maybe to go along with the quiet ride...)

The disc brakes are pretty nice, but I probably would've chosen cable-operated rather than hydraulic, as a matter of simplicity.  Hopefully the hydraulics will prove to be completely trouble free, but for the occasional pad replacement.

Riding Position:  It's designed to be an "upright/hybrid" type position, but the seat post is too short for me!  I rode it home from the store; as I took it out the door I moved the seat up 3 inches or so, then along the route I moved it up 2 or 3 more times.  At this point, I'm about an inch higher than the recommended highest point, and a fella at REI is trying to round up a replacement seat post.  Moving the seat up turns it back into a riding position that's pitched forward a bit... I could replace the handlebar stem, but I think it'll be good - I like being able to distribute some weight onto my arms, and that's what I'm used to.  So no steering changes are planned at this time.

REI's setup wasn't particularly stellar.  It has aluminum fenders, and neither front or back was precisely oriented with the tire... the front fender was off enough that it occasionally rubbed against the tire on one side.  (Am I being nit-picky?  Could be.  If I were a professional bike mechanic assigned to set up bikes, I'd take an extra 10 minutes and try to make everything just right... seems like it would pay off in a very happy, satisfied, impressed customer.)

I got some "BOB Nutz," intending to set it up for pulling the BOB trailer.  But alas, that's still a work in progress.  The NuVinci hub and belt, it turns out, is probably 15mm or so wider than typical mountain or touring-bike spacing.  If I want to pull the trailer, I may have to modify the trailer... we'll see.  Not urgent at this point.

I switched to the Brooks saddle, and installed a Cateye bike computer (not the one with calories and carbon offset, however).  I expect I'll install a bottle cage, pump, and emergency bag on it, but those are the only custom features I intend to add.  (It comes with lights front and rear.  The front is rechargeable with a micro-USB cable.)

REI recommends bringing it in for a "warranty tune-up" after 20 hours or 6 months, whichever comes first.  Hahahahahaha!  20 hours in 6 months?  I'll probably click 20 hours by mid-April.

I intend to add more subjective impressions as I accumulate those miles and months.