Monday, December 31, 2018

Jingle in my pocket!

I probably pay more attention to the morning weather report than lots of people do... during the winter months, my safety can be impacted by the weather in a significant way.

Take this morning, for example.  They were saying there was an overnight dusting of snow.  The temperature was in the mid-20s.  And... I remember arriving home last night on a damp roadway.  All of that could add up to treacherously slippery conditions.

As a result - I put bus fare in my pocket as I was making my preparations.  On a dangerous day, I'll often bite the bullet and limp to the bus stop, rather than riding all the way to the office.  But... as I pulled out of the driveway the roads didn't seem dangerously slippery, so I decided to take my chances.  I rode slowly and deliberately... all the way to the office, without mishap.  And the bus fare is still pocketed.  I can use that money for something else... or possibly the next early-morning bus fare.

This is a lesson I learned at an early age.  When I was in fifth grade, Mom would give me lunch money... I believe it was 35 cents back then.  BUT - I signed up to be a lunchroom helper.  Instead of heading for the playground for 15 minutes, I would stay after lunch and make sure the trash was properly deposited and wipe down the tables with warm, soapy water.  For services rendered, I got a free lunch.  The 35 cents stayed in my pocket - at least until after school where it often got surrendered at the Roosevelt Market candy counter.

What if every commuter put his/her commute money in pocket or purse in the morning, and could keep that money pocketed by choosing an alternative form of transportation?  Would such an immediate and obvious reward result in changed behavior?

For most people, their transportation expense - in the form of owning, operating and maintaining that single-occupant motorized vehicle - isn't so obvious.  Instead of making a $15 car payment every day, you pay the entire amount once a month.  Instead of that $1 or $2 insurance expense, you pay every six months.  Gas?  Fill 'er up - every week or two.  Registration?  Just once a year... it's easy to lose track of that transportation expense.  It's all very incremental, and makes it easy to overlook the fact that maybe 20 or 25 percent of your income is going to getting you to your job.

On the other hand... the thousands and thousands of dollars I've saved by riding a bike for 33 years have been absorbed by the family budget mostly, over those years.  But if I'd saved them out in a special account, it would've have accumulated quite a healthy sum.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Off-season cycling

There are some very nice things about bicycling during the "off season."
1) Volume of users on the Greenbelt, bike lanes, parks, etc., is way down.  Another guy at the office says cold weather "weeds out the weak and infirm."  Exactly!!  (But these days it's rare for me to be making the first tracks, when it snows.  There are obviously other intrepid cycling souls out there.)
2) "Powder cycling."  Do you like "powder skiing"?  Cycling shares much in common... when you're cutting a new track through fluffy snow, it's a little more work, but it's so very serene and predictable!  (Once it melts and then re-freezes, the magic is gone, obviously.)
3) It's easy to prepare for cold weather.  I recommend layers.  (Above freezing, I usually wear a fleece-type jacket and some lightweight gloves.  When it drops below freezing, I add a wind-proof/water-resistant layer over the fleece, a balaclava that's thin enough to fit under the brain bucket, and trade in the gloves for some heavier ones.  My duration is usually 45 minutes or less this time of year... if I was going to be out longer, I'd need to layer up a little more.  But - it's surprising how much heat you generate, when the propulsion furnace is working.)

There are also some negative factors to consider.
1) Studded tires (on cars)!  I don't think motorists realize how noisy those blasted things are!  Why would they?  They are ensconced in their climate-controlled, pressurized cabins.  The windows are up, the heater fan is usually blasting away, and often there's some programming emanating from the 8-speaker sound system.  I'm even more likely to venture away from roadways during the winter, partly because of studded-tire racket.
2) Slippery surfaces.  Much harder to prepare for.  Especially because motor traffic is slippin' and slidin', too.  I try to avoid putting myself in situations where I could get injured or worse.  (I'm known to take the bus from time to time, when the roads are downright treacherous.  Usually I'll soldier on, taking the side streets, and sometimes on my fatter-tire beater bike.)
3) "Black" ice!  Even when the roads are dry - which they frequently are in our lovely community - it's not unusual to encounter a bit of slippery here and there.  It's only black when it's frozen over a black surface.  It's clear - hard to see, except for the glare, and glare is dependent on reflection.  (The best way to survive an icy patch... just coast easy!  Don't try to speed up or slow down or change direction, or you're lost!)

Some early-winter photos, taken on the "scenic route" home from work.  The last photo was taken a couple weeks ago - I was astounded to cross paths with a big ol' FROG!  (Or is it a toad?)  He was sitting in the middle of the Greenbelt, near the Fairview underpass.  The weather was barely above freezing; I'm sure his plight was grim.  He was hardly moving; I set him off to the side of the path, so at least he wouldn't get smashed by traffic.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

I love my commute!!

How's your commute?

Mine is about 3.5 miles each way. It involves a bit of downhill in the morning, and a bit of "payback" uphill in the afternoon. It takes about 15 minutes - by bicycle (of course). In any given year, there are a few wet days, a few cold days, and a few hot days... but the compromise in comfort is more than offset by the $ savings, emotional well-being, and FUN! (It's a rare day indeed, when my commute time isn't some of the best time of the day.)

I especially appreciate my commute, when forced to consider the alternatives.

A couple mornings ago I was listening to Public Radio while thinking about getting out of bed. They had a story about "Super Commuters" (transcript HERE).  "Super commuters are people who spend more than 90 minutes traveling to work every day. It's a rough way to live, but more and more people are doing it."

A woman named Jodie Collins works in San Francisco (as a makeup/hair stylist and Lyft driver). She lives in Sacramento... 90 miles away. If everything lines up perfectly, the commute takes her 1.5 hours. Often it takes 3 hours... because how often is urban interstate travel "perfect"? She rises at 4:45am ... and arrives back home at 2am the next day.

Oh my goodness! How much money would I have to earn, to put myself through such a regimen?!!

Closer to home... Jayson Hicks and his wife used to live in Seattle, but traffic was so bad, and housing so expensive, that they moved to Idaho. Twice a week, they drive 100 miles to Boise (so... maybe from McCall?), and fly to Seattle for work.

Sean Wright has what would see "on paper" to be a more sensible commute. He lives in Riverside and works in Los Angeles. (That's like Meridian and Boise, no? Not quite...) Sean says, "The worst part is knowing how many hours I'm spending commuting - four hours a workday, 20 hours a week, 80 hours a month all spent commuting."

I'm so fortunate! The farthest distance I've ever dealt with, from home to workplace, is probably five miles. I listen to the morning traffic reports and am convinced I wouldn't even be able to handle a drive in from Meridian or Eagle. Way too much that can go wrong, and I don't have enough faith in my fellow commuters. I'll stick with my 15-minute bike commute, where the worst-case scenario is less-than-ideal climatic conditions (and if treacherously slippery, surrendering and taking the bus instead).

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Bicycles as Landscape Art

Check out these custom-built gates, that incorporate vintage bicycles as decorative features.

They are at the home of my friends Abe and Laina and their family.  And, they were custom-built by their neighbor and my friend Joe.  Awesome!  I want some!

(The twisted-around handlebars are hard to look at... but they're for lookin' at, not for ridin'!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

5K miles for 2018

Today my bicycle odometer clicked over 5000 miles for the year.  (Or more accurately, the mileage accumulated on three different bicycles totals 5000+ for calendar 2018.)

Are there people who ride more miles per year?  Oh yes!!

Are there people who have been accumulating bike miles for more years?  No doubt!

(I started accumulating bike miles in 1959 or so; but I never kept accurate track until 1986, when I invested in my first electronic bike computer.  Back in the '70s, I had a Schwinn mechanical odometer - each time the front wheel did a revolution, it clicked a little cog-wheel.  But it was never consistent; the mechanical nature resulted in much fiddling and frustration.  And, for 10 years or so, I pretty much turned my back on bicycle transportation.  "I once was lost, but now I'm found!")

Many cyclists ride farther and faster.  But - I would assert that my consistency over 33 years puts me in a fairly rarefied group.

Since 1987, I've ridden 4000+ miles every year.  Of those (32) years, I've ridden 5000+ miles in 14, and 6000+ miles in another 11 years.

I have not yet ridden 7000 miles in a year.  But next year... ?  (I'll be retiring from my 8-5 job next year, which will afford more discretionary time.  But on the other hand, that discretionary time may result in other pursuits which have so far been elusive... travel and such.  Time will tell.  I expect my bicycle to be a significant part of my life until my kids pry the handlebars out of my bent and bitter fingers!)

In the meantime, thanks for indulging me, while I contort myself and pat myself on the back!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Invasion of the Scooter Zombies!!

Halloween's a-comin'!!

If you like BIKES ON THE SIDEWALK, "E-bikes" on the Greenbelt, etc., then you're probably ecstatic about the recently-released news from our City Fathers:

Stationless devices - bicycles, E-bikes and E-scooters - will soon make their way to Boise. Two companies - Lime and Bird - will be the first to bring stationless E-scooters to our city in mid-October.
To plan for the devices hitting the streets this month, the City of Boise updated our bicycle code to allow for the arrival of this new model of transportation ... The updated city code allows for:
    Stationless bicycles
    E-bikes with a motor that has a power output of no more than 750 watts and a top speed of 20 miles per hour
    E-scooters with a motor that has a power output of no more than 300 watts and a top speed of 15 miles per hour …
They can be used within City of Boise limits:
    On streets
    On sidewalks and crosswalks
    In bike lanes
    On the 25 miles of Greenbelt paths managed by City of Boise

The timing of the trial period is interesting... October 15th to January 15th.

If there is any time of year when potential problems will be minimal, they picked it.  But if they're all toasting the incredible success of the program in mid-January and give it the full go-ahead... how will it work between June 15th and September 15th, when the facilities are crammed with other disparate users?  On a lovely summer evening or Saturday afternoon, the "no motor vehicles" Greenbelt is already challenging to navigate!

Another looming question... exactly who is the "target demographic" of the E-bike and E-scooter rollout?  And what is the envisioned benefit of having this futuristic mode of transportation?

Based on my first week of observation, the scooters are being ridden almost exclusively by hipster millennial-types.  And it would seem that most of the trips are replacing WALKING trips.  I certainly can't imagine anybody depending on an E-scooters as his/her commute vehicle, because it might be there one day, but not the next.  (They are "dockless" - apparently you get on one and punch in your account on your "smart phone," and ride it to your random destination and walk away.)

Also - do they have a holder for your Starbucks cup?  Because a lot of the riders will be holding their "smart phone" in one hand and their vape device in the other hand.

Just in case I'm being too subtle... I'm quite concerned about the direction we're going with our bike/pedestrian paths.  The Greenbelt (and traditional bike lanes and sidewalks) were conceived and constructed to carry non-motorized users.  The Greenbelt had NO MOTOR VEHICLES signs posted for 40+ years.  MUCH easier to understand and enforce compliance, than the "no more than 750 watts for bikes and 300 watts for scooters" mumbo-jumbo.  When it was clearly posted NO MOTOR VEHICLES, I routinely observed people on various powered devices, including those awful bicycles with the noisy, stinky bolt-on gas motor!  Assuming there were law enforcement people around - which is rare - will they be carrying ammeters to measure the wattage?  I'm skeptical, and I'm very disappointed that the cow has been let out of the barn.  (The City Council claims to be impartial, but these ordinance changes have been enacted with breathtaking efficiency and precious little, if any, citizen input.)

In another generation or two, the young kids' jaws will drop, when you tell them about the dark days of yore, when you walked or rode a PEDAL bicycle to get from place to place!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Electric-powered bikes - are they really bikes?

I continue to have reservations about the gradual but steady increase in the number of people coasting around on electric-powered bikes.  Particularly, based on observation, I'm not convinced that they will ever mesh nicely with human-powered transportation.

It's always dangerous to stereotype, but (here goes...) riders of electric bikes seem to be generally inexperienced - it may be the first "bike" they've ridden in 20 or 30 or 40 years!  Their bicycling skills are rusty... they have grown unfamiliar with the bicycle rules of the road and common courtesy.  They tend to move at a considerably faster pace than their counterparts who are supplying their own forward propulsion.  (That's understandable, since e-bikes seem to zoom right along with the slightest rotation of the pedals or push of a handlebar-mounted lever.  And - I've never ridden one and don't intend to - but that's how it seems.)  Fast speeds and rusty skills tend to be a dangerous combination.

Many - perhaps most - seem uncomfortable riding anywhere but on corridors that have traditionally been reserved for "no motor vehicles" - and many are still posted as such.

Earlier this week, I was riding on the Greenbelt.  Traveling at what I consider to be a fairly brisk pace for the Greenbelt - 13 to 15mph.  Traffic was almost non-existent.  (Most people put away their white pants and bicycles after Labor Day - haha!)  A seasoned couple came crusing up behind me on their e-bikes.  I observed in my rearview helmet mirror that they were barely pedaling, but overtook me with ease.  A lady followed by a man.  They didn't try passing, but were riding close enough behind me to catch a little slipstream - ha!  We reached a point where the pathway was closed, and a sign directed traffic across the (Veterans Parkway) bridge, to the other side of the river.  A block up the pathway on that side - it was closed (!!) and a sign directed traffic onto city streets (which were covered with gravel for a chip-seal - is there ANY road or path that's not being repaired right now??).  I was somewhat amused when I left the path for the streets... and left the e-bike couple in the distance.  They were obviously unwilling to venture out on city streets.

At least they had the common sense to not attempt a pass, unlike some e-bicyclists who keep the pedal to the metal regardless of limited sight distance, heavy multi-mode traffic, etc.  (They are the pickup truck drivers of the bike path!  haha)

Finally... I can't imagine there would be much emotional reward to riding an e-bike.  A large part of my incentive in bicycling comes from ability to do so, and the sense of independence.  It's very satisfying to arrive at destinations powered completely by myself; it's something that most people are not able or willing to do, and frankly I feel like I rise above the masses, at least in my transportation choice.  Would you feel any such satisfaction if it's just a different form of motorized transportation?  (As a regular motorcyclist, I speak from experience.  I don't derive that same emotional reward from going someplace on the motorcycle.)

HOWEVER... for those few e-bike riders who would otherwise be driving someplace in a single-occupant motor coach, I s'pose I can get behind that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Hamburger on the Highway!

This blog isn't intended to be "all about ME," but...

This morning I navigated myself into a crash. (D'oh!! I'm too old for such nonsense!)

At 6:45 or so I was headed for work, along a totally familiar route. Visibility was good. Traffic was super-light (a benefit of traveling at 6:45am). I was riding along, in total control, when I happened upon a lady walking a big ol' Rottweiler, maybe a half-block up the street. She used her other hand to wave at me... so I was trying to figure out who it was, and if I knew her. And - I spent too long figuring. (Distracted driving! I victimized myself!)

When I looked up-front again, I was headed directly toward a car on the side of the road... and WAY too close.

Two thoughts raced through my mind...

"Don't break off that side mirror!" followed immediately by, "Oh, &@#* - this is going to hurt!"

I redirected enough to miss the side mirror. It happened fast, but I think my front wheel went into the front wheel well of the car. And, I flew through the air with the greatest of ease and body-slammed the pavement on my left side.

Yeah - it hurt! But, after laying there for maybe 15 seconds, groaning about my pitiful plight, I was able to get up. (VICTORY!)

The nice lady who waved at me - who I don't think I've ever seen in my life - ran over. "Are you okay?" I told her I'm way too old, but I thought I'd probably be okay someday.

She said, "I live nearby - could I get my pickup and give you a ride someplace?" I took her up on the offer. (The front rim has rolled its last, and my fancy saddle is bent. I can replace a rim, and hopefully I can bend the saddle back into place.)

She took me and the bike home. I thanked her sincerely. Then got on the Long Haul Trucker and rode, somewhat gingerly, into work.

I've got a bit of road rash - treated with soap, water, and antiseptic. I 'spect my sore hip and sore shoulder will be reminding me of my mishap for a few weeks. (That hip has taken a beating over the years. I'm surprised it works at all.) I'm fortunate, only in that it could've been WAY worse. No visible damage to the victimized car on the side of the road. Nothing broken, or so it seems. And... I've already gotten about 4 miles of bicycling in, since the crash. (Gotta get back on that pony and ride... right?)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

High schoolers pull a bike-share prank

Over in Rockford, IL, some high school seniors pulled an epic prank.  They collected a bunch of LimeBikes - it's a bike-share where bikes don't have to be locked into a station - and parked them in the high school parking lot - one bike to each parking space.

Not only is it a quality harmless prank... it also does a good job of illustrating how much space is required for automobile parking.  According to the story (HERE), "Everybody had a good laugh, and the students moved the bikes to a single spot on the lot later in the day."

(I've heard of these "LimeBikes" before.  Evidently it's a relatively new venture - and they have lots of startup capital.  Based on the way it operates, with bikes NOT being secured, I can't imagine it's financially feasible - if there's not some way to secure the bikes, seems to me they will need to be replaced too regularly.)

Friday, May 4, 2018

Boise Bike Week - May 13-19

I hope my fellow Boise-area riders will be able to participate in some of the events of Boise Bike Week, which begins on Sunday, May 13.  List of events can be seen HERE.  (I'm not a big fan of gatherings, group events, festivals, etc. ... but I'm supportive of "the cause," in this particular case.)

(Also, local riders / party fans should be aware... apparently the plug has been pulled on the traditional August Tour de Fat.  You may recall that there was considerable heartburn last year, when it was relocated from Ann Morrison Park to the old State Penitentiary grounds, and admission charged for some of the events.  It's a shame - over the years, it raised a lot of money for local bicycle-related nonprofits as well as being a gathering for THOUSANDS of local bike riders of every stripe.)

No overt mention of a Pedal Power Parade (traditionally a favorite event for myself and grandkids), but the "Finale Party" appears to include a scenic-route to the party.

Bonnie went with me last year... maybe this year I can take little brother Clyde.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Happy Earth Day!

Well - it snuck up on me again!  Earth Day!

I probably forget, because it's always such a pleasant surprise when yet another Earth Day actually arrives and we still live on a rock that will sustain life.  I give myself and my fellow transportation cyclists most of the credit.  If we were driving big diesel trucks instead of bikes, maybe it would've been enough to tip the balance against us.

See you again in 2019.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Distracted driver, Uber driver, self-driving car ... pick your poison!

Mary Ward and Elaine Herzberg share something in common.

In 1869, Mary was a passenger in an experimental steam car, in Parsonstown, Ireland.  As the car rounded a corner, poor Mary became the first motor vehicle fatality when she fell out and the vehicle's wheels rolled over her.

On March 18, 2018, Elaine was pushing her bicycle across a 4-lane highway in Tempe, AZ, in the dark, when she became the first self-driving motor vehicle fatality. Story HERE.

There's disturbing video footage.  As the futuristic vehicle zips along the road, suddenly poor Elaine is lit up by the headlights of the guilty vehicle.  (Is the vehicle guilty, since it was driving itself?)  It's obviously an almost-direct hit, at highway speed... Elaine never had a chance.

There's also video of the "Safety Driver" in the vehicle.  Looks like she was probably fiddlin' with her "smart phone," and looked up just in time to see Elaine go flying.  So - her behavior was essentially identical to regular drivers who are distracted by their "smart phones," until the moment of impact.

In all fairness, it's doubtful that a fully-attentive driver would've seen this particular victim in time to prevent the collision.  She's dressed in dark clothes, and no apparent lights, reflectors, etc.  She also seems to be oblivious to the vehicle that's quickly converging on her in a traffic lane.  (What the?!!)  She's at least partially responsible for her own demise.  But it hardly fills one with confidence in all the futuristic technology (laser, lidar, radar) that's spoze to make self-driving vehicles much safer.  FAIL!

The car was an Uber vehicle.  (Imagine being the passenger on the ill-fated trip!!)

Details about Uber's minimum driver standards hardly fill one with confidence.  From the story:
- no violent crime convictions
- no felony convictions in the past 7 years
- no more than three non-fatal crashes (they say "accidents," but they are rarely accidents) or moving violations in 3 years

Would you feel better if you were run over by a self-driving vehicle, rather than an old-fashioned distracted-driver (or incompetent or impaired) vehicle?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

"Spin" classes - not diverse enough!

Washington Post style reporter Lavanya Ramanathan has noticed that "spinning" class participants are predominantly young, thin, and white.  Yet one more cause for the Social Justice Warriors!  (Her opinion piece can be read HERE.)

I've never been in a spinning class in my life, nor do I understand the appeal.  But I will add a couple of my own personal observations to Lavanya's ...

The girl in those "Peloton" commercials on TV is young and thin! ... Now that I think about it, the majority of (on-the-street) bicycle riders I see in Boise are relatively young... and relatively thin... and most are white.  I always assumed it kinda reflected the demographics of the people who live in the area, and are interested in bicycling.  But maybe more should be done to make it more diverse!

Hey!  And ya know... now that I think about it... when you watch a big-time bicycle race, like, say, the Tour de France... the racers are predominantly young, thin, and white!  What the?!!?

But... before I get too bent out of shape... I think back on last weekend, when I probably watched 10 or more hours of top-level NCAA college basketball.  And in that field of endeavor, the tables were turned!  There are fewer white guys playing college basketball, than there are black guys (and gals) in spinning classes, I'm guessing.  (Granted, us fatties were NOT very well represented, in any skin tone.)

Hockey ... football ... track and field ... marathon running ... volleyball ... polo ... synchronized swimming ... the list goes on and on.  Some seem to attract a more homogenous mix of participants, and some are quite diverse.  Should quotas be imposed or enforced, just for the sake of diversity?

(For the record... there's not a whole lot I can do about being white.  It's the skin I was born with.  BUT - I'm doing my best to skew the participation percentages to OLDER and FATTER!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Science of Gore

No - I'm not talking about Al Gore, politician, the inventor of the internet, and preeminent self-described "climate scientist."*

I'm talking about Wilbert Gore and his son, Bob (seen in photo, from the Science History Institute).  In 1969, the duo accidentally discovered what is now called Gore-Tex.  It is a micro-porous plastic membrane that can be attached to textiles; it repels water (precipitation) but allows water vapor to pass on thru.  These properties make it a godsend for people who spend time in the wet.  It's probably safe to say that Portland and Seattle would not be recognized as bike-friendly cities, if it weren't for Gore-Tex.  (It blessed me this morning... I don't often need to bicycle in wet weather, but I sure did on this particular morning!  Fortunately I had my trusty Gore-Tex handy.)

The Gore-Tex material has an even more amazing use... I didn't know before today.  According to the Wikipedia, "Gore-Tex is also used internally in medical applications, because it is nearly inert inside the body. In addition, the porosity of Gore-Tex permits the body’s own tissue to grow through the material, integrating grafted material into the circulation system. Gore-Tex is used in a wide variety of medical applications, including sutures, vascular grafts, heart patches, and synthetic knee ligaments, which have saved thousands of lives. In the form of expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (E-PTFE), Gore-Tex has recently been used as membrane implants for glaucoma surgery."  Amazing!

In the 21st century, we can literally be protected from precipitation from head to toe.  I keep Gore-Tex jacket and pants in my box o' motorcycle gear, thus I knew just where to look for it this morning.  I've also got a sweet pair of boots with a Gore-Tex layer.  (A multi-day motorcycle trip is less predictable, weather-wise, than a 1-hour bicycle ride.)

The original patents for Gore-Tex have expired, which means there are alternative comparable products available now.  Some probably work just as well.  I've tried some that look like Gore-Tex, but are very noticeably inferior... they let precipitation thru and/or trap perspiration.

* Al Gore is one of the celebrities who has made a name for himself in the "science of global warming."  Is the globe warming?  Probably. (Based on my non-scientific observations, we sure seem to be getting "weather extremes" like never before.  But that's just personal observation.)  Previous commentary HERE.  I'd be much more likely to take Algore seriously, if his scolding were accompanied by practicing what he preaches!  If human production of carbon dioxide is indeed causing global warming, and it can be reversed, perhaps we should start by forcing Algore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert Redford to give up their private jet transportation and huge utility bills, and adopt cave-dweller lifestyles.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Surly Long Haul Trucker, Chapter 2

... in which my personal customization is completed.

HANDLEBARS: The bike came with two sets of handlebars - the factory-original drop bars, and some upright bars.  Me being the fickle one, I wasn't wild about either option.  I rarely use the drops... but the uprights were too upright!  And, on a long ride, it's a blessing to have multiple available hand positions.  After considerable research, I went with the Jones bars... and I'm optimistic about that decision.  They seem very comfortable on my aging wrists.

The only other real change since Chapter 1... I installed a Surly "8-pack" rack on the front.  It'll be handy for grocery-store runs, but I envision being able to strap a little bag on there for day trips, with provisions, perhaps the DSLR camera, etc.

The beautiful day beckoned, so I took it out on a test ride.  20 miles, roughly, upstream on the Greenbelt to Eckert Road, and back home via Bergeson and Federal Way.  I also did a test run on the Surly-Bob Train... ran to the grocery store to shop the sales.

(My intention is to keep this bicycle pristine until my impending retirement... which is still a little over a year off.  But between now and then, I'm sure I'll go on the occasional "Sunday Drive" when conditions are really sweet.  And... I'm toying with the idea of another North Idaho adventure in late summer; we'll have to see if that materializes.  If it does, this would be my likely bicycle of choice.)

More photos of today's ride can be seen HERE.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Surly Long Haul Trucker, Chapter 1

I brought the new-to-me Surly Long Haul Trucker (2014 model, in "smog silver") home a couple weekends ago.  Today I let it see the light of day for awhile, as I installed some preferred accessories.  I put some new pedals on (with flat platform on one side, SPD clip on the other)... I installed a Cateye cycle computer... and most visibly, I installed some Planet Bike Cascadia fenders - in bright orange.

I'm quite pleased with the contrast between the silver frame and the orange fenders.

You will notice the upright-style handlebars, which were installed by the previous owner (along with the sweet Brooks B17 saddle).  I'll likely try some other model handlebar.  I don't think I'll go back to the drops - I hardly ever ride in the "drop" position any more - but I'm not delighted with the full-upright position, either.  I'm looking at the Jones "H Bar"; It has an almost flat profile, but offers multiple hand positions, when taped up for such.

This is my post-retirement bicycle, so I've got time to tweak.  Until then, it will probably serve as a "Sunday Rider" - I'll take it out for a spin on picture-perfect days.  (The Missus should be thrilled that this geezer is buying another bicycle for post retirement, rather than a sweet La-Z-Boy.  I'm a firm believer in "use it or lose it."  I'm slowing down, but hope it'll be at least another 15 or more years before I come to a complete stop... or my kids force me to give up bicycling because it's just gotten too crazy.)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

New steed in the stable

In the next few days, I'll take possession of a "like new" Surly Long Haul Trucker bicycle.  I'm pretty excited to make a return to traditional steel.  (I've been mostly riding aluminum bicycles for 25 years or so.)

I intend for the Trucker to be my "retirement bike."  Although the target date for retirement is still more than a year off, I can start fine-tuning my Old Man Wheels.  There's really not a lot to do... it has a Brooks saddle (which will come off and be my "spare" - I'm devoted to the Anatomica).  I've got some pedals to swap out; I'll put a computer on it to tally the miles.

The main thing I hope to get just right is the handlebars.  I've had "drops" for pretty much forever... but the reality is, I use the drop position maybe 3% of the time, so if it went away I wouldn't be devastated.  I'm eyeing some "moustache" type bars... or maybe some "off-road drops" (with a much smaller drop, and kinda flared out).  There are a couple outfits - Soma and Velo Orange - that make dozens of different-shaped bars.  I'm also considering the "Jones" handlebar, which is very popular among bicycle tourists and such.  (The Trucker comes with 2 sets of bars - the factory drops, and some traditional upright bars, with brake levers and shifters - that the current owner added.)

I'll post photos and reports on the Trucker.  I don't intend for it to become my "go-to bike" until I part ways with my employer.  But, I'll no doubt take it out for some "Sunday drives" on really nice days, to get everything dialed in nicely.

I gave some consideration to another bicycle - a Priority Continuum.  It's a commuter-style bicycle, that would probably mesh nicely with my riding habits.  The main feature that caught my eye is the NuVinci constantly-variable rear hub, combined with a carbon-fiber belt in place of a chain.  And the price is an astoundingly-low $999.

I actually bought an (REI) Novara Gotham bike a couple years back, with the NuVinci/Gates combo.  I only had it for a month and returned it for a refund... not on account of anything mechanical, but because it was woefully small for me.  (To this day, I wonder if maybe they mis-labeled a medium size with a large tag or something; it always just felt way too small, even with an extra-long seat post that I sprung for.)

I really liked the NuVinci hub and belt... the shifting and operation was ghostly silent! However, I'm not totally sold on the long-term reliability of the NuVinci hub. It's filled with some sort of special oil that provides just enough but not too much friction... and my experience has been that: 1) oil tends to break down and lose viscosity over time, and 2) oil-filled mechanical devices that have moving parts and seals tend to start leaking. A bicycle hub would accumulate a lot of revolutions under less-than ideal conditions. I hope that ten years from now, NuVinci owner/operators continue to sing their praises... meaningful innovation is a good thing.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What a difference a year makes!

Last winter we had what us long-time locals would describe as a "20-year weather event."  It snowed... and it snowed and snowed!  Enough to collapse roofs of houses and businesses in nearby communities.  Enough to cause meaningful flooding as the snows began to melt.

Some photos from last winter and early spring:

This winter has given us a significant turnaround.  Below-average precipitation, and at least for the past week or so, unseasonably warm temperatures.  In fact, we're not even halfway through the month and I've already bicycled more miles than all of last January.

Here's what I'm talkin' about:

(The last photo in each group above was taken in almost the exact same place.)

Winter isn't over yet.  Some folks - the ones who haven't been around long enough to know better - will be disappointed when we get more nasty weather.  And, since we live in the desert, we appreciate how meaningful that snowpack in the mountains is - it's our staff of life!  But just the same, it's always a blessing to bicycle on non-slippery pavement!

Several stretches of the Greenbelt are still closed, as damage from last year's flooding is repaired.  Below are photos of the Greenbelt near Veteran's Parkway, in April '17 and today.  It looks like they want it to stay put this time... that concrete must be 2 feet thick!  (As compared with a thin asphalt slab, previously.)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

When is a bike not a bike?

Happy new year!

I've posted a couple times recently, about the arrival and acceptance of "E-bikes" on the "no motor vehicles" Greenbelt and other bicycle infrastructure, and sidewalks, in our community.  I continue to have serious reservations about how it's all going to mesh, or not, during the busy summer months.  Time will tell.

We've had some interesting developments at the office "bike room" as well, over the past year or so.  (By "we," I really mean the people who manage the facility.  But most of them are friends of mine... and the majority are bike commuters as well.)

First it was the guy who rode his low-slung "tadpole trike."  You know... one of those contraptions with two wheels in the front, one in the back, and not quite as high as the hood of a passenger car.  (I worry about the safety of those things, in places where they share pavement with cars... but that's a different subject.)  The tadpole trike takes up three or more bicycle spaces, in the bike parking facility.  (NOT a problem in January... but six months from now?  That room gets pretty crowded on a nice day!)

Then a guy started riding this big "fat bike" with the pedal-assist motor.  The tires are too wide to fit in the bike racks... and I guess it's too heavy for him to lift up onto wall hooks.  (The bike room has some very nice custom features - a horizontal bike rack along one wall, that accepts tires of various widths - but it was built "BFB" - before fat bikes.  On the other walls, there are sturdy rails that bikes can be locked to, and hooks that accept a front wheel for vertical parking.  But you need adequate upper-body strength to hoist your bike onto the hook.)

And then... starting in the past week or so, some guy has been riding one of the biggest bikes I've ever seen, and parking it in the room.  At least I think it's a bike, in the same sense that a Hummer or Ford Excursion is a "car" - it sorta looks like a bike.  But - it occupies more space than either of my motorcycles.  Check it out!

Actually, it is a bike - a Surly Big Fat Dummy - and it has been customized with some interesting features - the big bike-mounted mitten thingies for the rider's hands.  Bags on the back.  Some sort of passenger accommodations... a seat maybe?  I can't tell because it's covered by some sort of thing that's apparently attached to the bike... it looks like a silver rain poncho with a hole for a neck.  But is it a child's neck that goes through there, or a dog's neck, or what?  Maybe at some point I'll get to see it, rolling down the pavement and loaded in all its glory... and I'll understand.

I'm sorta hoping this is just a "winter thing."  IMO, you don't need 4 1/2 inch wide tires to traverse what little snow we've had so far; I've been doing it mostly on 1 1/4 inch tires.  This thing would probably be better suited to Fairbanks, or maybe Minneapolis or Steamboat.  And there won't be room for it in our bike room that already gets very crowded in the summer.

On snowy days, my poor friend Dave rides a "fat bike" that looks pretty tiny by comparison.  You can see it - and the "tadpole"- in the second photo.  But it's pretty awkward for him to lift his fat bike down off the rack, when trying to maneuver around the "morbidly obese bike" (by comparison).