Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Thoughts

The weather has been pretty terrible.  There have been a few issues on the home front.  I haven't been on the bike much.  Today's episode brings us to some random thoughts.

One of the big things going around the bike world is a petition asking google maps to put a "bike there" button on their maps.  While it is a nice idea, I am not sure I like it too much.  A few years ago I was on a local bike path. A roller blader decided to turn directly in front of me.  After the road rash and the separated shoulder healed, I decided to never go on a MUP (multi-use path) again.  (I also disagree with the idea of segregation for bicycles, but we can save that for a later time.)  If google maps includes MUPs, then it will be worthless for me.  If MUPs are not included, beginning cyclists will not use it because of the belief that roads are dangerous.

Speaking of bike paths, here is another article I came across.  I love how the studio is worried about scripts being thrown over the fence.  By that logic, they probably should get rid of the postal service too.

I found an article about interesting bike racks today.  I really like these. 

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Driving to Town Late to Mail a Letter

Driving to Town Late to Mail a Letter

Robert Bly

It is a cold and snowy night. The main street is deserted.
The only things moving are swirls of snow.
As I lift the mailbox door, I feel its cold iron.
There is a privacy I love in this snowy night.
Driving around, I will waste more time.

Each year, I hold a poetry contest in my classroom. I throw about 200 poems at the kids and have them narrow it down to 32. Then, we have a little march madness type of tournament. Every year, this poem has made it to the final four. It's never won, but it is always one of the favorites. There is often a strong debate about whether this poem is about the beauty of a snow storm or the quietness of privacy.

I thought about this poem last night. It started snowing last night and I wanted to be out in it. I hopped on the bike and just rode around the neighborhood for an hour. I took one of the paths that led to a field and stood there. I rode the path around the pond and watched the ducks. I sat down on the park's bench and saw the snow pile up.

Sometimes one has to sit in the middle of nature in order to enjoy it.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cheap Blinky Light

One of my favorite stores in the world is Tractor Supply Company. This store is simply amazing. Where else can you find 50 pounds of dog food for 20 bucks? My 80 gallon rain barrels cost me a total of $40 at TSC. So when I went to get some bird seed, it is only normal to look around for some fun things.

I found one of my favorite non-biking biking accessories about two weeks ago. Here is the Blazer Emergency LED Light. It is an 18 LED blinky. Honestly, it is one hell of a blinky. The package said it is visible for more than one mile. In my tests, I believe it to be true. (My tests are nothing more than asking people, "Can you see me?" If the answer is yes, then I am happy.)

As with adapting any non-cycling item to cycling use, there is always the challenge of making it work. This thing came with two pretty powerful magnets screwed into the back. That's not really much help with an aluminum (oh, the horrors!) frame.

I fixed the problem by finding two old light brackets and a space grip. It's not the prettiest of mounts, but it works.

While this works, I really do not like it. It takes part of the top of my rack away. Personally, I would prefer something that hangs down on my rear rack. That is where the next step comes to mind.

Necessary Options came out with the Real Lite several years ago. They have been a big supporter of bicycle touring. I almost feel a little guilty about pointing this out, but I think the Real Lite and the emergency LED from Tractor Supply are the same thing. The difference is the cost and the mounting hardware. The Real Lite is 39.95. The Blazer light is $21.98. That is almost a $20 savings. I want a bracket that will hang down from my rear rack, so I am thinking this might be the prefect solution. Stay tuned to see if this works.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

We're famous!

One of my favorite websites asked people to send in photos of their "grocery gitters." I sent in a picture of my Univega loaded up with both kids and groceries. Check it out here!

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Review of Hot Shot Aqua Gloves

I was looking for fishing gear at Dick's a while back when I came across these gloves. It was a few days after deer gun season ended in Ohio, so these were in the clearance bin. I thought these would make perfect cool weather cycling gloves.

The tag said they were waterproof and windproof. They were the obnoxious blaze orange that help prevent hunters from shooting each other. The finger tips have a trigger grip that would be useful for picking up small things while wearing the gloves. They sounded perfect.

I have been wearing these for a while now. They have been great for being seen. In fact, if I have to deal with one more, "Them bright enough for you?" comment, someone might get hurt.
These gloves are also very warm. I have worn these with no other gloves on 25-30 degree rides with no complaints.

The palms are covered with some sort of fake leather. While it was not exactly bike glove padding, it did help with the "grippiness" on the handlebars.

I like these gloves, but they really need some work before I would recommend them to anyone.

First, they are neither waterproof nor windproof. I think they would easily fall into the the water resistant category. I do not want water resistant when I am riding in below freezing temperatures. The windproof claim is also false. In between each of the fingers is a nylon/spandex type material. The orange part and the fake leather parts are completely windproof. Imagine yourself on the drops of a bike. Those areas between your fingers are taking the brunt of the wind. Now imagine it is 30 degrees and your fingers are damp. That could lead to an uncomfortable situation real fast.

This picture shows my big issue with these gloves. After a few weeks of normal use, the cuffs began to separate from the rest of the glove. I will sew the back together before too long, but this is not an acceptable defect in the gloves. I might have overlooked the waterproof/windproof claim, but I should not be sewing them back together after less than a single season of use.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Commute to Work

I did my first commute to work of 2008. Here is the route according to bikely:

It's a decent route, but not for the timid. There is about 3 miles where I have to share the road with heavy traffic that includes riding past the UPS distribution point (complete with UPS trucks, UPS trucks with trailers and full-sized semi-trailers). Other than that, this route is great. The best part is when I ride over two highways. Usually, I see the traffic backed up on 270. I think about when I am stuck in traffic and how much it sucks. I smile and ride away.

The other great part of this ride is that it is mostly downhill on my way to school. It's about six miles of slight downhill followed by a mile of a steep uphill, then three flat miles. Of course, there is always the trip home which is the exact opposite. That probably explains the 40 minute trip to school and the 55 minute trip home. Or maybe it is that I am tired at the end of the day. Either way, it is a decent route.

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College to give free bikes to freshmen

There is an interesting article here about Ripon College give free bicycles to incoming freshmen. Last year, for the first time, the number of parking applications exceeded the number (400) of parking spots.

"We're a residential college with a beautiful, historic campus in the middle of a small town," said President David Joyce, an avid cyclist. "Paving it over was not an option I was willing to consider."
There is a phrase about the "toothpaste being out of the tube." Some will automatically argue that the car culture is the way we have to go. There is no turning back. But things like this will help. Cycling is not as hard as people think it is. Using a bike to ride a mile to pick up a gallon of milk is pretty easy.

Below is a picture of The University of Toledo's Centennial Mall. This is the center of the main campus area. In 1999, the American Society of Architects listed it as one of the 100 most beautifully landscaped areas. If you would have looked at this exact same space 30 years ago, it would have been military barracks and a parking lot. UT did not do anything spectacular as far as the car culture goes. Parking was not eliminated; it was just moved to garages on the edges of campus. But, a parking lot was removed and replaced with green space.

Things can be done. It's not as hard as you might think.

My favorite fact about the mall is the placement of the sidewalks was determined by the paths made in the snow by the students during the blizzard of 1978.

Here's another picture of the mall. In the background is University Hall. My favorite fact about that building is that there are no restrooms on the third floor.

Gas savings to date: $20.00
CO2 not added to atmosphere: 125.73 pounds

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Snow Days

Today's trip was more of a "I have to get out of the house" trip. School was canceled on Tuesday because it was cold and snowy. It was probably to treacherous to be out. It may have been a good thing to call off school. Today, it was... well... it was just a tad bit worse than it was when they called off school because the roads were too wet.

Still, I went out. It was not as bad as I would have thought. In fact, I would have ridden a little further if I would have been able to shift gears. I took the Univega out and the derailleur and the rear cog ended up frozen solid. This was the only time I wished I owned a fixed gear bicycle.

Rides like this are what grounds me in cycling. It was cold, but not unpleasant. In fact, I really enjoyed it. It was nice to be out in the weather. Really. I was on the bike in 20 degree weather and snow covered roads. But it was fun. The lady who yelled "You're crazy!" was right on target.

A while back, another blog asked "why do you commute?" When an overwhelming majority answered, "Because it is fun." Someone had the nerve to complain. Waaahhh.... you should ride because it is good for the environment. You should ride because the evil oil companies will suffer. Nope. I do it simply because I enjoy it.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

It's too cold to ride

I woke up this morning and read the thermometer. Eighteen freaking degrees. It got colder and windier all day long. This ten degrees is a load of crap. The weather station is saying the wind is 27 mph. That's pretty steady. The gusts are about 40 mph.

10 degrees plus 27 mph winds equals -11 degrees wind chill.

A wind chill of negative 11 means I am staying inside.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Coffee to go

One of the more important things about commuting is finding a way to drink coffee on the way. Coffee warms the soul and gives me a little extra boost. No, not really. At this point, it merely prevents the headaches and the shakes.

There are a couple of places that specialize in carrying coffee on a bike, such as Bicycle Coffee Systems, or Soma's bike specific mug and mount. But, I tried to find many of the mugs on the Bicycle Coffee Systems website, but they always seemed to be out of stock. My handlebars are already cluttered with a GPS, light, and a bell, so I have no room for Soma's mug.

After a while of searching, I found this mug from Thermos. It has worked pretty well, so I am ready to write up a review of it.

One of the best things about this mug is that it has a cover for the spout. Commuting can be dirty business. I do not want to be drinking road grime with my coffee. The spout is completely covered. Although it has a little latch to prevent it from unexpectedly popping open, I have found the lid to be quite secure while being easy to open. It can even be opened with full gloves on my hand.

The other amazing thing about this mug is its insulation. This keeps my coffee hot -- not warm -- throughout any commute so far. This mug has even kept my coffee hot when I left it on the bike during church. It was outside in 20-25 degree weather for about an hour and a half. I walked out to hot coffee.

That does not mean this is perfect. The bottle is just a little smaller than my bottle cage so it rattles around like crazy. I have not exactly gotten used to it, but it is better than the alternative -- no coffee. I have been able to reduce the noise by taking the rubber grip and sliding it up just a bit. I have debated with wrapping the bottle with cork wrap to make the fit tighter, but I haven't gotten around to doing it yet.

I also worry about it popping out of the cage because it is not a tight fit. I would have to hit a heck of a bump to make it jump out. It does not mean it is impossible.

This is also designed for cold beverages. That means it has a wide mouth. You will have to be very careful with hot beverages. Crazy hot coffee will burn you. Since I brew my own, I can fix it by dropping in two ice cubes.

You will also have to be careful when washing it. Inside the lid is a blue o-ring. This can fall out. If that happens and you do not notice, you will end up with coffee all over the front of you.

Overall, this mug has worked out great. The downfalls are there, but not enough to make me want to stop using it.

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

How much time do I really cost you?

Today's trip had me all over the place. I went to Speedway (hot coffee), Home Depot (returned Christmas lights), Sears (vacuum cleaner bags), Gander Mountain (gloves) and Giant Eagle (cheese and pepperoni).

The bad thing about today is that I encountered the rudest drivers I have seen in a long time. I wonder how long people really spend behind me while they are waiting to pass. I do not have any hard facts, but I am willing to be that it is less than a minute. I'm sure it is like sitting at a stop light. It feels like forever, but in reality, it is only a minute or two.

I am sure that if I talked to these people they would never choose risking hurting someone over saving a minute or two on their trip. Is it really that bad to be behind a cyclist? I thought about this.

The Federal Highway Administration says that the average trip is nine miles long. The average speed is 32 MPH. Crunching some numbers from my eighth grade math class, I figure that the average trip is about 17 minutes. Now, let's say someone is stuck behind me for two full minutes. My average speed on a bike is about 12MPH. That would lower the average speed down to 29.65 MPH. That would increase the trip to 18 minutes. What if, by some strange miracle, I lowered the average speed down to 27MPH? That would add a whopping three minutes to the trip.

So, someone who wants to save less that five minutes is willing to risk my life. When you put it that way, it hardly seems worth forcing me off the road, does it?

Money saved to date: $11.77
CO2 saved to date: 73.99 pounds

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