Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Fracture

Broke my ankle. I was glazing some windows on my house when a ladder I was standing on lost traction on the concrete. It suddenly skidded backward and I came crashing down impacting on my right foot. Ouch.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Back from the dead (sort of)

I've lessened my bike commuting to Mondays to and Fridays from because I decided to broaden my fitness regimen to running and stationary rowing. On top of that my family, my body, and my work schedule just can't tolerate the mid week rides. The 25 mile trip home and the return trip back early the next morning was just too much.

Sadly I put the bike away last fall when it started getting darker. My first winter I biked to work was a personal challenge. I was proud of my ability to bike in almost any weather but it just wore me down. Especially the days when I biked home and had bike back early the next day (as mentioned above). I was just too tired and all I wanted to do when I got home was go to bed. I wasn't much good to my family then.

The logistics of winter riding was a major pain as well; long underwear, booties, Goretex jacket, head band, gloves or mittens, sheesh! Last fall I just wasn't looking forward to another winter grind. If my ride was a bit shorter I'd have had a different attitude. But with such a long distance it was more of a commitment than I was willing to make. Plus my bike was getting beat up and corroded. I could have gotten a junkier bike but then the ride would have been all the more of a hassle.

But the last straw was the darkness. Biking in the dark just got boring. I spent more time looking out for potholes than enjoying the ride. A few days last winter when it was sunny and really cold I was itching to ride again. But I wimped out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Biking But Not Blogging

Work and various family obligations prevented me from biking as much as I'd have liked in the last month. A half dozen projects around the house (repairing freezer, car window motor, busted dryer belt, cracked paint, wet basement) and a busy work schedule prevented me from blogging. Plus I just haven't been that inspired.

It was still dark at around 5:30 am when I had breakfast before my morning ride. Kind of depressing to think the winter and night biking approaches.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Goofus on EPO

Another Lucas Brunelle alley cat race video. This time they terrorize the good people of London.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Righteous Indignation

This morning I had another encounter with Alberto's Guy. He sped past me on the Green Bay Trail in a different Alberto's get up. He slowed after a while and I caught up to him in Wilmette. He came to a dead stop at a stop sign on Poplar and I zipped by him. I didn't bother greeting him this time because I doubted I'd get a friendly one in return. I continued south on Poplar to Lincoln in Evanston where Alberto's Guy probably turned at Isabella. Part of my pannier detached from my rack and I had to stop to reattach it.

Upon continuing along Lincoln I saw Alberto's Guy up ahead turning from Ashland. Further on the light was red at Ridge and he stopped again. Figuring "what the hell" I said "good morning" as I slowed and crossed Ridge. Nothing yet again. However about a quarter block later I thought I heard him yell something. After turning onto Sherman, Alberto's Guy passed me again but this time berated me for ignoring the red light and such behavior leading to hatred from motorists. So that's his beef; my casual disregard for the rules of the road. A red light at Foster provided a chance for us to discuss the matter further. I sputtered something in the neighborhood of admiring his stance but not willing to change mine all the while snaking through the red again. He shouted some other stuff at me while we biked on but the only things I could make out were "no justification!" and "stupid!" Thankfully another red light at Church Street blocked his path. Having no problem ignoring this one too, I was finally free of his proselytizing.

At first Alberto's Guy got me feeling guilty, thinking my lawlessness was contributing to mass bicyclist hatred. But then I thought, "does everyone hate jay walking pedestrian's too?" The only one I'm putting in danger is myself. And I don't make a habit of putting myself in danger in the first place since I'm not the type to thread myself through busy intersections. I actually do wait out reds if there is cross traffic. But once it clears, I'm gone. Illegal? Yup. Am I rationalizing? Possibly. But frankly who cares? Further, in my experience, Alberto's Guy is also in the minority. Not that it justifies running reds and stop signs. But it seemed he was militant on the issue strictly for my benefit. And If I remember correctly, he blew right through the four way stop intersection at Lincoln and Ashland after our paths diverged.

Biking on Clark in Chicago, Biking Mike once again caught up to me. It is very strange for me to encounter the same bicyclists so frequently. But I welcomed a friendly face. But Mike is much more casual with traffic laws than I am. So I can only imagine the dust up between him and Alberto's Guy. We came up to another bicyclist on a mountain bike wearing a jersey from a local bike racing team. The three of us biked together to Sheridan Road and I asked the guy if he'd raced in Evanston the past weekend. He said he hadn't but wished he had. Once on the Lakefront Trail I learned he was a Category 2 racer. I was feeling pretty good about myself being able to keep up with him. But around Diversey a roadie passed us and he shot off in pursuit. Biking Mike wryly remarked that it was nice of him to have taken it slow for our benefit.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3423.4 miles
Price of gas: $3.46

Monday, July 23, 2007

Pace Line

Ideal biking conditions for my commute home. The City of Chicago keeps tearing up parts of Roosevelt Road leaving sharp indentations in the pavement. They will likely be filled within the week but they are a bit of a surprise sometimes.

While crossing Grand Avenue I saw a bicyclist in racing attire from one of the local teams at the ENH Grand Prix over the past weekend. Once in normal bike traffic I came abreast and asked if he was participated. He said he was new to the team so he hadn't. I wasn't going to bother him further so I just slipped back and followed him for a while expecting he'd cruise off. Well he must have been taking a light day because I was in danger of running up his back wheel. After Oak Street Beach I cruised past him and some other roadies and went on my way.

The other roadies fell in behind me and I lead them in a pretty rapid pace line until around Addison. My GPS bike mount must have cracked because after a major bump the thing popped loose and dangled from my handlebars. I slowed to put it back in and one of the roadies offered to let me draft for a while. I gladly fell in behind two gentleman and one trailing me all the way up to Foster. After the crossing, the lead guy fell back and the number two man took the lead and sped off like a shot. He wasn't burdened with a pack or bags like the rest of us but I don't think I could have hanged with him anyway. Speed demon was waiting at the turnaround and I limply waved as I continued on my way to the city streets.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3399.1 miles
Price of gas: $3.46

Bike Races

Pleasant Monday morning ride. I biked down Sherman Avenue in Evanston which was along the same route as scores of ENH Grand Prix bike racers from the day before. I learned of the day's races from the Evanston Bike Club web group. I've never seen bike races in person so I couldn't resist taking my wife and kids and hoping on the Metra to watch them for a few hours. We got into town around 1:00 pm and as we walked east on Church Street blocks ahead we saw a pack of bicyclists whizzing by in a blur. It was quite exciting once we got track side to see the lead car and the pack approaching at nearly 30 mph. About every minute or so they sped past with a loud humming of gears and rush of wind. I don't think the spectacle excited my wife or young sons nearly as much as it did for me. A guy told us the racers were Category 3 (whatever that means) forty years and older. So my wife immediately responded that I should be out there. I don't know how far they raced but there was no way I could even sustain a lap with them.

The race ended about ten minutes later but shortly thereafter another started with younger riders biking forty five .9 mile laps. At first the group was a big mob but soon a few lagged behind and eventually dropped out. A couple racers were quite chunky and I wondered to myself what they were doing out there in the first place; on the other hand I was at the sidelines merely watching - more power to them. Our train back home was going to leave before the end of the second race so we had to miss a likely exciting finish. But I learned there will be more races in Glencoe next month; so we'll all likely make a day of it then.

My ride was pleasant but humbling when I compared my performance to the racers. I could barely break 20 mph. Granted I had a pretty heavy bag and wasn't atop a racing bike but I wasn't going for 30 to 45 miles either. Oh well. Maybe if I wore an $80 jersey, $60 shorts and had a peloton to draft in I'd go faster.

Biking through Lincoln Park, I decided to take a detour to check out the clock tower and structure near the Chicago Park District's lakefront public golf course. The Chicago Tribune just started a contest where you have to identify a Chicago landmark based on a photograph and some cryptic clues. This one showed a curved masonry wall and a shingled roof and said it was from a late 1930's field house in a location inspired by Daniel Burnham's 1909 plan for Chicago. I see this building everytime I bike by but I've never been to it up close. When I got there I determined this was not the right place. I figured the location had to be along the lakefront but I was out of ideas for now.

South of North Street Beach I caught up to a nicely tricked out roadie. I was reluctant to pass him because I didn't want him to zoom by me later and make me feel like a goof. But as we approached the Oak Street curve I got a bit tired of hugging his back wheel. Just before the surface gets all potted and chunky I glided by and deftly manuevered all the bumps and holes. Since I committed to going out in front I pedalled very hard determined not to be passed. Apparently my tactic worked because at Ohio Street Beach my roadie friend wasn't on my tail. I managed to make the light at Grand Avenue and kept to a liesurely pace for the rest of my trip.

Distance Traveled: 24.6 miles
Distance to date: 3374.8 miles
Price of gas: $3.51

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bushwacker USA - Top Notch!

The good people at Bushwacker USA bike bags sent me a free replacement set of cords and hardware that attaches my pannier to the bike rack. They finally wore out after a number of years of hard service and I was using some small bungee cord instead. Terrific service in my opinion. Call them at 800-344-1256 and order a bike bag today!

Sunny and light winds. The usual routine except while biking in traffic up Clark Street I was passed by a big dude all tricked out in red Alberto's biking gear and Trek to match. Except for the beefy build, he was straight out of a bike catalog. I followed him for a few blocks until he was stopped at a red and I pulled up beside him. I said hello and was about to compliment him on his set up. But I got absolutely nothing in response. I looked over at him and he just looked straight ahead and totally ignored me. Oh kaaay. Unless he thought I was going to hit on him, I found his attitude very peculiar. Traffic let up so I pedaled ahead never to see him again.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3350.2 miles
Price of gas: $3.51

Thursday, July 19, 2007

More Biking With Mike

I puttered around this morning and started about 10 minutes later than I like. It wasn't until I got to the Green Bay Trail that I realized I left my two water bottles in the refrigerator back home. That didn't totally throw me off since I could get a drink along the Lakefront Trail. But I obviously prefer the convenience of having hydration at my finger tips. So in an effort to avoid getting too thirsty, I eased my pace a bit.

I was trucking along just fine through the North Shore and into Chicago when who sidles up beside me but Mike from the day before. Oh great! I thought. I'm gonna have to go fast now. But I handled it ok. We stopped at a fountain at the start of the Lakefront Trail so I could get a drink. After that we made pretty good time all the way downtown. Mike lead most of the way enabling me to draft behind him. I learned he parks at the Millennium Park bike station and walks up to the vicinity of the Hancock Building where he is an architect. Mike turned off south of Wacker and I was left to fend for myself.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3325.9 miles
Price of gas: $3.51

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Biking With Mike

Standard sunny day although a bit hotter than usual. Lakefront Trail was a bit crowded due to terrific weather. Between Ohio and Oak Streets I started a bit of a biking partnership with another commuter I later learned was named Mike. He was on a a road bike or hybrid with straight handlebars and packed his gear in a messenger bag. At first I passed him and said hello thinking that was the last I'd see of him. But as I continued on in my ride I noticed him behind me. So I guess he was going to keep up and enjoy biking in my slipstream.

I can see why my biking on people's tails is annoying. In my case when I pass people I like them to stay passed. When they catch up or stay with me and eventually pass me it means I'm not as big a bad ass as I thought I was. But it can also be a chance to spread the load. In this case, Mike eventually passed me after I began to get really tired. I said hello again and we talked a bit. He said he was headed up to Evanston and this provided further opportunity to engage him in conversation. Conversation also forces people to slow down to a pace I can manage when I'm close to exhaustion. It turns out we take almost the same route and we rode together for the rest of the ride.

Mike said he's been riding to and from work for three weeks. Even though I've been at it longer, he seemed to be in better shape. He was also a bit more aggressive when it came to biking through traffic; he was much more inclined to take chances on red lights than I was. I find a lot of people are more aggressive than I am when it comes to red lights. Biking in traffic is risky enough without pushing my luck too much. Plus if I got in an accident while running a red light I'd feel like a total ass.

Mike waved off on Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Shortly thereafter I stopped at a Shell gas station to buy a bottle of Pepsi as I was out of water. As I drank my soda it started to sprinkle a bit. I knew rain was in the forecast but I thought I could beat it home. About five minutes later it started to pour.

For the rest of my ride I hopscotched from shelter to shelter to avoid getting soaked. Normally I'd resign myself to getting drenched but I had time on my hands and it didn't look like it would rain constantly. My first stop was under an overhang at an apartment building at Chicago and Clark. I waited about five minutes and sped off after the rain let up. I made it to Sherman where another three apartment buildings provided shelter along my way. I got pretty wet when I headed out again until taking refuge at Ryan Field. I made two more stops at the Wilmette and Kenilworth train stations (where it really came down) until I finally made it home.

Distance Traveled: 24.5 miles
Distance to date: 3301.6 miles
Price of gas: $3.51

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Usual

My ride into work this morning was uneventful. Ideal weather but my body was a bit abused over the weekend with a head cold, yellow jacket sting on my right wrist and some soreness from a lacrosse match. A slow leak in my rear tire also caused me some worry throughout the ride.

For some reason the streets and the trails seemed less populated this morning. Maybe a lot of people decided to take the day off. But it was nice to be back on my usual route and its familiarity (knowing all the potholes and other road hazards, traffic patterns, short cuts, etc). I don't think I'll be taking the North Branch Trail route anytime soon despite the scenery. It took a bit longer and Elston Avenue is too boring.

The only bad part about my ride was no hot water showers in the locker room. But to put it in perspective, a cold shower is better than no shower.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3277.1 miles
Price of gas: $3.54

Friday, July 13, 2007

North Branch Trail

Based on my ride with Howard earlier this week, I decided to try his route up Elston and the North Branch Trail. I left work a little early assuming the route might take a little longer than my usual ride.

The trip had an inauspicious beginning. As I headed north on Damen through the Medical District I negotiated around a bus stopped at Ogden. As I crossed the wide street I heard some tooting behind me as I made for the bike lane. More tooting followed and when I stopped at the red at Congress, a guy in his green Jaguar honked some more at me as he pulled along side in a right turn lane. This little encounter made me the most pissed off I've ever been on my rides; I had done absolutely nothing wrong but this jack ass in his pricey car was apparently upset because he had to wait a second or two as I headed for my lane. So I pulled infront of his car and flipped him the bird accompanied by a loud verbal equivalent. He was with someone I assumed to be his spouse but now he wouldn't even look me in the eye. He gave some sort of impotent wave no doubt hoping I wasn't some sort of psycho. Still pissed, I stormed off in a crunch of chain popping and gear grinding. Despite getting the last word and the satisfaction of putting an a-hole in his place, the encounter really put me in a sour mood.

The rest of my ride north on Damen was pleasant. Damen has a dedicated bike lane and took me through Ukranian Village, Wicker Park, and Bucktown; neighborhoods with generally bike friendly populations. After the dicey intersection at Fullerton, I turned northwest on Elston.

Elston Avenue is like a bike highway; bike lane, smooth surface, and not too many intersections. But since it primarily goes through industrial areas, it isn't very scenic. I don't imagine motorists enjoy it too much either. Vehicular traffic was backed up almost the entire seven mile stretch. At one point I noticed I kept passing the same black mega pickup truck hauling a trailer. He'd pass me once traffic got moving but soon he'd get bogged down and I'd glide past him again. Eventually I saw the guy get really aggressive far ahead. He cut into the bike and parking lane and passed a bunch of cars on the right. I hammered the pedals to catch up and annoy but I guess his recklessness paid off. I couldn't catch him anymore.

I finally made it to the North Branch Bike Trail but I was a bit disapointed. It goes through some very beautiful areas of the Cook County Forest Preserve but I found the surface a bit rough for my liking and the path winds all over the place. However I realize the path isn't meant for speed and efficiency. It is for people who want a relaxing ride or hike through some terrific country. If I wasn't trying to compare the speed of this commuting route, I would have slowed down and really taken in the scenery. The path goes through arches of trees and skirts the North Branch of the Chicago River. Sometimes the river gives off a stale washing detergent smell though.

After a while the placid forest began to grow tiresome. The rough asphalt was jarring and I was looking forward to getting off it. The constant bumping caused my bike to start rattling again and I suspected I had a loose spoke. When I reached Willow Road I opted off the trail and took a more direct route home. It was nice to get on some smooth streets again. When I arrived home I saw the ride took about fifteen minutes longer but covered the exact same mileage as my usual ride. I doubt I'll take that route again though. Elston was too boring.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3252.8 miles
Price of gas: $3.54

Update: The Cook County Forest Preserve is planning to resurface the North Branch Trail per this announcement. I might take another crack at it this fall.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Blah, Blah, Blah

Low 60s, mostly sunny, moderate cross winds. Biked from home blah, blah, blah.

Biked through traffic, blah, blah, blah.

Biked the Lakefront Trail, blah, blah, blah.

Got into work, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Boss saw me walking from the parking lot and learned for the first time that I bike into work, blah, blah, blah.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3228.5 miles
Price of gas: $3.45

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Blue Wednesday

Terrific weather again this afternoon but I was feeling a little low. Personal and financial issues got me down today and I wasn't in as great a mood as I normally am when I hit the road. So I just toddled along Roosevelt slower than my normal pace. Luckily it was a nice day.

After a few miles I managed to emerge from my funk. Maybe the increased blood flow pushed mood enhancers through my body. I wasn't exactly euphoric but I wasn't quite as gloomy anymore. The wind at my back also may have helped.

No biking buddies today. Everyone was either too slow or too fast. A guy was tailing me pretty close through pedestrian and slow bike traffic in Lincoln Park but he seemed to fade away after we passed Irving Park Road. Around Bryn Mawr I passed a guy on one of those tiny fold up bikes. I said hello but he seemed to ignore me. I once read some folding bike sales info stating that because of different gearing, folding bikes go just as fast as regular wheeled bikes. This guy I passed was moving pretty good but I think it would take a greater effort to match a regular bike's speed.

In Evanston I decided to try an alternate route that took me on Lincoln and Ashland. Lincoln is bike heaven; wide, scenic and smooth. Ashland is the pits; uneven and cracked concrete making for a bone and bike shaking ride. I might try an alternate route from Lincoln though as the route also avoids a moderate hill.

As I approached Isabella, a guy on a road bike zoomed across my path on what appeared to be a training ride. He was sporting a Northwestern bike jersey. I couldn't tell if he was young enough for their team or was an alumni. Either way he was very fast and pedaled way, way up ahead. After we both turned north on Poplar, I saw he slowed a bit. I eventually caught up to him in Wilmette. He didn't seem to manuever through traffic as well as me so maybe it was a new route for him. He was probably doing interval training. I was on his tail well into Kenilworth. He wasn't very friendly and I suspect my presence might have annoyed him. He detoured around Sears School whereas I cut through on a direct route to the Green Bay Trail. I was alone about a mile into Winnetka until, as I expected, he zoomed by me at a high rate of speed. He made quite a bit of distance between us until I saw he slowed again. By this time I made my exit at Tower and headed home to sulk.


Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3204.2 miles
Price of gas: $3.45

Monday, July 09, 2007

Biking With Howard

This morning as I sped down a ramp onto the Green Bay Trail from Tower Road I thought I saw another bicyclist in my peripheral vision. I didn't think much of it until about a half mile later the trail was blocked by a tree limb. As I negotiated the obstacle the bicyclist caught up to me and we remarked about the tree. I continued on at a slower pace expecting him to catch up but he hung back. So I continued on my way thinking he had other plans. I was waiting to cross Lake Avenue in Wilmette when there he was again. I continued on and realized he was following me at a polite distance. Finally after a few blocks I slowed, greeted him, and asked where he was headed. He replied he was headed to Chicago and figured he'd just follow me. I guess with my bag he assumed I was headed into the city.

He introduced himself as Howard and he was from Buffalo Grove. His usual route into work was via the North Branch Trail and Elston Avenue eventally biking to Belmont. A friend of his suggested a route but I guess he found it easier to tail someone actgually going there. So we biked together for a good portion of my ride in.

His friend's route had some benefits and some drawbacks compared to mine. His Evanston leg suggested taking Isabella to Ashland to Lincoln to Sherman whereas I take Isabella to Ridge to Central to Sherman. My route takes me through my old neighborhood but also on some busy streets and up a moderate hill. His route is flatter and goes by some quieter and smoother streets. I think I'll try his friends route.

The next deviation from my route was turning from Clark in Chicago on to Jarvis and working south on Greenveiw and Glenwood to Granville. There is less motor traffic but there were too many streets where we faced cross traffic. Clark Street is busier but it is easier to cruise without stopping. His route probably took him south on Winthrop but I've pledged to never bike that street unless absolutely neccessary.

Once on the Lakefront Trail Howard and I yakked some more. Howard's usual bike ride is about 35 miles. He doesn't do it every day though. He also has to shower and change at a health club about two blocks from work. He is planning to move into the city so I guess he won't have any long relaxing bike rides into work anymore.

I expected him to exit at Belmont but he said he made such good time this morning he was going to extend his ride. So he continued south with me. Around Diversey a regular guy (regular clothes, shoes, helmet-less, squeaky bike) breezed by us. I was fine at our relaxed pace but Howard jokingly said, "Are we going to stand for that?" So we set off in pursuit and I quickly caught up to the young man. I was content to settle into his slipstream because I was a bit winded from the short chase. Howard came abreast and said something to the effect of being careful what he wished for. I guess he was a bit winded too. South of Fullerton a serious bicyclist eased by our group of three. I guess my adrenaline level was still pretty high so I chased after him hoping to catch a draft. It was a foolish attempt. I gained on him but was in no condition to hang. We were approaching North Avenue and he chose to bike by the beach house where I bike closer to Lake Shore Drive. Good thing too as I was about to black out.

I maintained a decent pace but after a while I slowed and looked to see if Howard was still back there. Only the younger bicyclist was there and he glided past. Oh well. I caught up to the young man again and we stuck together until around the Ohio Street Beach. While stopped at the light at Grand Avenue neither Howard or the young man were to be seen and it was back to the usual grind.

Distance Traveled: 24.4 miles
Distance to date: 3179.9 miles
Price of gas: $3.45

Friday, July 06, 2007

Minor Mechanical Problems

Great weather for biking except it was a bit hot for my liking. The breeze was generally at my back so I made pretty good time.

Just north of Fullerton I noticed my bike was making more than the usual amount of noise. It turns out an elastic cord on my Bushwacker garment bag pannier snapped again. The cord secures the bag to the side of my rack and snapped a while back. The first time it broke I jerry rigged it back into place but when it busted again I lost a critical piece of hardware. So now I have to figure out how I'm going to secure the bag to my rack. Perhaps some mini-bungee will do the trick. In the meantime, my bag occasionally flopped against my bike.

Around Belmont I came upon a guy wearing a Campagnolo cap riding a fixed gear Bianchi. He had a very good pace but was slowed considerably by the crowds on the path. I was right behind him for a while and we came upon a lady biking in the middle of the lane listening to her iPod. I rang my bell in an unsuccessful attempt to get her attention. Apparently the guy on the Bianchi thought I was ringing at him because he shouted at me, "We'll get there!" I shouted back that I was ringing at the girl and not him. Not sure if he heard me though. Either way our encounter seemed to energize him because he really picked up the pace. Like a mindless dog chasing a car, I sped up in pursuit. For the most part I stuck to him pretty well. However he had an advantage at intersections since he was much better at accelerating. At one point I came up beside him and complemented him on this fact.

There were quite a few cars at the intersections forcing us to slow down. The guy braked his fixed gear bike quite well. But the slowing and speeding up wore me out and I could barely keep up with him. Mercifully he turned off at the underpass leading to Berwyn and interrupted the Pavlovian cycle.

I noticed my bike was really making a lot of noise now. I figured it was my flopping pannier. It wasn't until I was in Evanston that it drove me crazy enough to stop and try to minimize the clatter. I found my front bottle cage was cracked and was the source of the rattling that had been bothering me for weeks. Thinking it would be a quick fix, I dug out my Topeak Alien multi-tool to remove the cage and swap it with the one on the seat tube and end the racket once and for all. Unfortunately one of the braze on bolts holding the seat tube cage wouldn't come out. It seemed the female end was spinning with the bolt. But for almost half an hour I stubbornly attempted to get it out.

During this time I noticed plenty of bicyclists riding by and paying me no mind. I was in no need of assistance but I found it a breach of bike etiquette. But I also thought of all the times I didn't offer help either. If I see a guy at the side of the road and he looks like he knows what he's doing I leave him alone. So maybe I looked like I knew what I was doing.

I guess I was there long enough that either it was a statistical certainty someone would offer an assist or I began to look like I needed it. A young man named Zephyr (phonetic) stopped and asked if I could use some help. I said I was fine but explained the problem. I managed to get the bolt out a little bit by wedging the cage against the lip of the nut side of the braze on. But I still had a ways to go. Zephyr, a member of the Northwestern Bicycling Team, suggested the bolt may be stripped or I could dremel the cage away in order to get a better grip on it. But his best suggestion was to just leave it alone. I was kind of getting tired so I took his advice and got back on the road. Who knows how long I'd have kept at it if he hadn't stopped by? On the plus side, my bike was now considerably quieter.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3155.5 miles
Price of gas: $3.45

Crack Up

Another terrific morning to bike to work. Sunny, clear and the wind was mostly at my back. Not too many people on the streets or the Lakefront Trail. Probably becasue of the 4th of July breaking up the week. I did come across another commuter on Clark Street though; a rare occurrence. We biked together until Devon where I continued south to Granville and he headed east, presumably to Winthrop. Never saw him again. I was lucky that I didn't have to stop at the red light at Ardmore and Sheridan; another rare occurrence.

The rest of the ride was the usual until I was back in traffic. I had a ringside seat for a head on collision while waiting out the light at Canal and Roosevelt. A black Charger(?) in cross traffic tried to squeeze out a left turn and smashed into an oncoming greenish Mustang(?) that just got the green. The Mustang honked but I guess Charger figured he'd stop and let him through. Big mistake that resulted in an ugly scene. Both drivers leaned from their cars and started pointing and yelling at each other. Feeling a bit giddy at being neither, I pointed at both of them. The traffic aide manning the intersection told the Charger driver he didn't have the signal. This didn't stop him from arguing but I could tell it greatly tempered his zeal. The other driver, now firmly atop the moral high ground, obnoxiously suggested they get their cars out of the chaotic intersection. Traffic was stopped in all directions and I initially couldn't do anything except enjoy the show.

Having recently gone through the hassles of a driver backing into my wife's car, I empathized with both of them. However I had less sympathy for the Charger driver. I'm very familiar with his type; the a-hole that pushes the limit in order to avoid waiting in traffic. They assume the rest of us will display normal caution so they can zoom about with abandon... Hmmm. That sounds like me sometimes. Off my soap box. Eventually I slunk through the intersection and continued on, albeit at a slightly slower and more cautious pace.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3131.2 miles
Price of gas: $3.45

Monday, July 02, 2007

Monday Evening Ride Home

Since I'm taking the next three days off from work, I decided to bike back home tonight. I don't usually bike a round trip in one day but since I can sleep in tomorrow I thought I'd take advantage of the weather.

During the day I took my car out to charge the battery. I find if I let it sit more than four days the battery dies. So I drove to a nearby White Castle for a pair of double cheeseburgers, fries and a coke. I don't normally eat such food for lunch but it really seemed to power my ride home. The last time I had a burger for lunch and biked home, it had a similar effect. I was supercharged.

But I had to idle the engines between Roosevelt and Monroe again. The Taste of Chicago crowds spilled over on the Lakeshore Path. Just as I crested a hill north of the Field Museum, there was an ambulance, a fire truck, a bunch of bikes, and bicyclists standing around on the path. I guess there must have been a major crack up. I slowed but couldn't determine exactly what happened. I biked with more than more my normal vigilance. Good thing too. Lots of people on the path oblivious to bicyclists. I'm not knocking them though. I'd probably be oblivious too if I didn't make it down here that much. After Monroe the pedestrians eased up a bit.

The winds were at my back this time. That and my slider enhanced diet enabled me to speed up to almost 25 mph. In less crowded parts of the path, I was zooming by people like they were stuck in cement. I even coasted by a really tricked out roadie on a training ride.

My wife and sons met me on the Green Bay Trail at Tower. We walked the rest of the way home. It was a nice way to cool down.

Distance Traveled: 24.0 miles
Distance to date: 3106.9 miles
Price of gas: $3.45

Summer Monday

Initially ideal biking conditions this morning. Then the stiff headwinds from the south kicked in. Nothing I wasn't use to but annoying nonetheless.

It was the usual biking routine until around Belmont where I caught up to Troy, a gentleman I've frequently encountered on my morning commutes. He was taking it easy this morning as he had done some pretty strenuous biking over the weekend. So it was a good opportunity to slow down and enjoy the ride instead of making it into a death race. Our kids know each other from preschool and swim classes so we talked about lessons, camps, and 4th of July plans until he broke off at North Avenue.

The winds really kicked in right after that. Since I sped up a little bit, my wind resistance also increased a little I suppose. It was kind of an ass kicker until Grand Avenue where the buildings broke up the breeze. As soon as I headed west on Roosevelt, it was a completely different story. Biking was almost effortless. The lights were in my favor and now the wind was at my back. Except for a motorist behind me who was quick on her horn, the rest of the ride was commuting bliss.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3082.9 miles
Price of gas: $3.51

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday

Beautiful weather and good company today. (I meant to bike home on Wednesday but the threat of storms scared me off. There was a little bit of rain on my drive home but it dissipated after a while. I saw bicyclists while driving up Lakeshore Drive and thought I should have toughed it out . Oh well.) Grant Park was getting pretty crowded with The Taste Of Chicago. It made biking from Roosevelt to Monroe a bit trickier but I always welcome a diversion.

A beefy guy on a Cannondale passed me during this stretch. He struck me as Lakefront Trail novice because he didn't seem to negotiate the crowds as well as most bicyclists I see along here. I ended up passing him at the light at Wacker Drive. I've gotten to know that most cross traffic there turns left as opposed to continuing west to Navy Pier. It wasn't until after Oak Street Beach that he passed me again. I tried to keep up but could only keep him in sight as he widened his lead. At some points he'd slow down and fool me into thinking I could catch him again. But then he'd pick up the pace and I'd get a bit demoralized. He finally turned off at Belmont leaving me to bike in peace.

Around Wilson or Lawrence a taller guy on a squeaky road bike huffed past me and I fell into his slipstream. His large stature provided a really good draft. At some point he slowed a bit and came abreast, said hello and offered to let him take a break. He accepted quite eagerly and I took the lead. The difference was dramatic. I was really chugging to maintain the same pace. Not too long after he took over again. Prematurely, in my opinion. We continued for a short while at a really good pace but then he waved off. I took the lead again but he didn't keep up. I even slowed a bit but he too far back. While waiting at the long light at Sheridan and Ardmore, he caught up and I asked where he'd gone. I can't remember exactly what he said but he appeared a bit dejected. I said I really appreciated being able to draft off him for so long and was disappointed I couldn't return the favor. I said it was like a having a 20 mph tail wind. This appeared to buck him up a little; good thing too. He rode like a machine. He didn't know I was behind him I guess. He said he bikes from downtown to Farwell. I broke off and headed to Broadway and he headed north on Kenmore.

Biking north at an easy pace on Chicago in Evanston, I was passed by a guy wearing a RAGBRAI XXXIV jersey. I stuck with him and at a red light I said hello and asked about the shirt. It was from the annual ride across Iowa (I knew I had seen that acronym somewhere). I know a good number of people who have done the ride. The gentleman said his name was Matt or Mark or something like that (I have an awful memory for names) and was biking to the Northbrook Velodrome. We biked together a bit longer until I turned west at Clark. Then I raced to see if I could keep pace with him where our paths would cross at Sheridan and Isabella. I think my route might be a little less direct than his route on Sheridan. I was delayed by a red light at Sherman and Noyes but otherwise made good time in my opinion. But I didn't see him either way up ahead or down back on Sheridan when I got to Isabella. So either he was waaay up ahead or waaay far behind. I didn't ponder the issue and headed home.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3058.6 miles
Price of gas: $3.51

Monday, June 25, 2007

Biking With Gary

Met another commuter named Gary this morning. He is a frequent commuter who was headed in from Northwest Evanston. Our paths crossed at Granville and Clark. He told me he tries to bike in almost everyday to a school in Lincoln Park. He bikes down McCormick; a route I've often contemplated.

It is always nice to share the ride. Even though we slowed to talk, I still manage to get a good workout. We discussed the usual bike commuting topics, bikes, bike security, route selection, etc. He was riding one of those interesting road bikes where the seat is mounted on a carbon cantelever of sorts. Gary said it absorbs road impacts for a smoother ride. Speaking of road impact, I hit a few bumps that were so jarring I thought I'd bent my front rim. I definitely need to put more air in my tires. I was lucky I didn't get two pinch flats this morning.

My left wrist is still not 100% recovered from the injury last March. It doesn't hurt but it is still weaker than normal and does not have the same range of motion as my right wrist. But considering I never had a professional check it out, it is doing pretty good.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3034.3 miles
Price of gas: $3.59

Thursday, June 21, 2007

3000 Miles

Despite ideal weather, I was unable to bike again until my commute home Friday afternoon. Rain was predicted in the area but I was determined to risk it. Luckily I only encountered a few sprinkles during my ride.

There were slight winds in my face but nothing to hinder my progress. My bike has developed a few annoying rattles but I think they are from my front fender. I'm sure if I ever get around to investigating them they'll be easy to fix.

Not many speedy cyclists on the Lakefront Trail but around Oak Street Beach I spotted a young lady with a pretty good pace. It took until Fullerton to catch up to her but not until after the Theater On The Lake was it safe to overtake her. I said hi as I passed and she greeted me back. I figured that would be the last I'd see of her and I'd extend my lead. Apparently she wasn't going to take my breezing by her lightly and stayed right on my tail. No matter how fast I went she was still right there behind me. At this point I wasn't concerned about her in my slipstream but of the awful notion of her passing me since I erroneously assumed she wouldn't even be able to keep up in the first place.

I resigned myself to not shaking her and got into the spirit of our mutual effort. The bike path was crowded in spots and I was mindful to ring my bell and signal for turns and slowing in traffic (I especially didn't want to repeat the near crack up I had the previous Monday). So we whizzed up the Lakefront Trail until she came abreast south of Montrose where she said she was turning off. She also said something like I was one of the most conscientious bikers she'd ever seen. If I wasn't so flushed with exertion I would have blushed. I thanked her for the compliment and introduced myself. She said her name was Beth.

The rest of the ride was the usual.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3010.0 miles
Price of gas: $3.59

Monday, June 18, 2007

More Taking It Easy

I took my time again this morning because I knew I was going to have a busy and tiring day. Ideal biking conditions. Sunny and cool with minimal winds.

I'm begining to enjoy taking a more relaxed ride to work. My usual practice is to beat myself to death riding as fast as possible and ending up just getting stressed out in the process. On the other hand, it is a really, really good exercise and keeps my belly in check. But I'll have to remind myself to slow it down and enjoy the ride every once in a while.

I encountered another commuter at Sheridan and Ardmore. We said hello and after getting the kinks out along the Lakefront Trail ended up leading him for most of the ride. I nearly caused a collision weaving in and out of slower bicyclists and roller bladers through the more congested areas of Lincoln Park. In that case I heard the screech of brakes behind me when I balked at passing a skater due to oncoming traffic. Oh well, another lesson learned.

South of Belmont Harbor, a pretty well outfitted roadie glided by us and my collegue decided to give chase. Despite my intention of a taking it easy, I joined the pursuit but enjoyed drafting for a change. We kept pace with him but never ran him down. Not that we couldn't probably. But I wasn't going to push it. The roadie turned off at North Avenue and I followed my unknown commuting colleague until he turned off at Michigan.

South of Oak Street it seemed a bit of a head wind kicked in and I had to exert myself yet some more. The remainder of the ride was delightfully uneventful.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2985.7 miles
Price of gas: $3.72

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Relaxing Friday

This morning, while eating my Cheerios, Paul Conrad from Channel 9 News was making fun of guys in bike shorts at the Chicago Bike to Work Rally at Daley Plaza downtown. My bike was parked at work so I would not have the pleasure of being ridiculed on TV. But I left work early and made it to the rally around lunch time. No free fruit and drinks left from the morning but still lots of tents promoting biking to work. I didn't stay long.

I biked home at a more leisurely pace. No one was home waiting for me so I wasn't in a hurry. Lots of people enjoying the beaches and the terrific weather. North of Diversey I came upon a guy wearing a coolie had on a three wheeled recumbent toting a two drawer filing cabinet. The driver of this outfit was named Peter. He said the bike was his primary mode of transportation and the day before he biked from around Sox park to a destination way up on the north side that escapes me right now. Unlike a lot of other recumbents I've seen, this one would be tough to miss in traffic.

I continued to enjoy the easy pace all the way to my brother's house in Rogers Park. My brother wasn't home but he said I should stop by anyway to check out his silkworm project. My brother's place has a few mulberry trees and he hatched the idea to take advantage of the tree's bounty to feed silkworms (a few years ago he made a bunch of inedible mulberry pies and jams). His roommate let me in and led me to the attic where the silkworms were kept. Picture about 20 shallow boxes of various sizes crammed with pinky sized white caterpillars slowly wriggling around. The sound of their collective munching was like a soft rain. Some had already climbed out of the boxes and spun cocoons. My brother wanted his roommate to feed them while he was at work but he would have none of it (he wasn't keen on the whole goofy plan and had no intention of contributing to it). But I didn't have a problem pitching in. Fresh mulberry leaves were in a box and just waiting to be spread among the boxes. So I got busy and served the silkworms lunch. They must have been hungry because they dug in immediately. The attic was getting kind of hot, so I got back on the bike and headed home.

Distance Traveled: 24.9 miles
Distance to date: 2961.4 miles
Price of gas: $3.72

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bike Commuting; Like MySpace on Two Wheels

Another picture perfect day. My bike hums along and my muscles aren't too bad either. On Poplar in Wilmette, I glided by another rider and we exchanged pleasantries only to meet up again at the start of the Lakeshore Trail. Randy, my new friend, said he followed me for a little while but I turned out of sight along the way. He takes the Sheriden route into Chicago. I explained my preference for Clark Street due to the smoother surface and slower vehicular traffic even though it makes for a slightly longer ride. We rode together for a good portion of the trip kibbitzing when possible. Randy had a very quick pace and at times I found it a challenge to keep up. At Michigan he broke off to head into work where he is a futures trader.

At Roosevelt Road and Jefferson, I was nearly hit again by a lady motorist turning left from oncoming traffic. Again I screamed and she eventually stopped. And again I was cheered by two young men nearby apparently impressed by my lungs. This time I was probably obscured due to glare from the morning sun. I've always been wary of this when I bike Roosevelt in the morning but I guess I let my guard down a bit this morning.

I arrived at work feeling pretty fresh. These rides have done wonders in flushing the lactic acids from my muscles.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2936.5 miles
Price of gas: $3.72 (Gas prices dropping. Time to get back in the car!)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ideal Day To Ride

Another fantastic day to bike home. After the months of grimey snow and ice, I still haven't gotten use to riding in such ideal weather. Which is why I still pack my jacket, pants, and booties. My body is still a little creaky from my weekend's lacrosse misadventure so I contemplated staying off the bike. But once I got going I was back to my old self.

My experiment with White Lightning wax lubricant is over. I ran out and decided to go back to regular chain lube. The wet conditions and extra effort to lubricate my chain just wasn't worth any dirt shedding advantages. Plus other areas I normally would have coated in oil were getting neglected. I bought a bottle of ProLink at Performance and liberally oiled my chain, crank, and pedals. Voila! The creaking from my crank is now gone. All this time I thought it was a faulty chain ring.

The Lakefront Trail was quite populated today with fellow bicyclists, runners, and walkers. It makes riding a bit of a challenge but I'm sure I'm not an entirely welcome presence either. I do my best to be vigilant and courteous. South of Oak Street I sensed a rider drafting. It is always kind of an ego boost when someone else is relying on me for a pull.

I was trying to catch up to a shirtless roadie I saw way up ahead. I didn't catch up until around North Avenue Beach. He was a rather big guy and I thought it would be no problem keeping up with him. Naturally I was wrong. I volunteered to take the lead around Belmont but that didn't last as long as I was following him. As the ride continued I found myself straining more and more to keep up. As the bike path got less congested, the gentleman on my tail volunteered to take the lead. He rode a fixed gear bike and wasn't comfortable leading while among crowds. At the interesection of either Wilson or Lawrence we slowed for pedestrian and motor traffic and I just couldn't recover the pace. So I let up and just tried to keep from fainting. At the turn around the roadie was relaxing so I got a chance to thank him for leading. At the red light at Ardmore I caught up to the other rider.

His name is Sean and we happened to ride together last fall. He accompanied me along my route and I asked him about fixed gear riding and he generously offered to let me try his bike on a quiet side street. I found the fixed gear bike really light but quite a challenge after decades of conventional riding. The geometry of his bike was a little tighter compared to my touring bike. But I was only on it for a few minutes. Not really enough time to appreciate the advantages of fixed gearing. We continued on until Sean broke off at Howared and Clark.

At Greenleaf and Chicago, I had a close call with a lady motorist turning left into me from oncoming trafffic. I hollered at her and she stopped in time. I managed to smile and wave in order to show I harbored no ill will. Two guys outside the Nissan dealership cheered my assertiveness and I responded with beer commercial-esque thumbs up.

Some of my rear wheel's spokes have started whining again. Unfortunately they affect the side of the wheel that if tightened will take it even more out of true. Nonetheless, at Foster and Sherman, I took out my multitool and tightened three spokes. Fortunately the wheel wasn't noticeably altered and now it is much quieter.

After getting home I realized my body was nicely warmed up with absolutely no evidence of muscle aches. I should go for a nice ride before I hit the lacrosse field this weekend.

Distance Traveled: 25.1 miles
Distance to date: 2912.2 miles
Price of gas: $3.72

Monday, June 11, 2007

Summer Bike To Work Day

Yesterday I wore myself out playing in a men's lacrosse league. My division consists of guys who just want to hack around without all the checking and competition. It was more like a pickup game than anything really organized. Nonetheless it was quite grueling. 80 minutes of running around with little idea of what I was doing. I hyperextended my elbow a bit and worried the majority of all my non injured parts would also be extremely achey the following day. In my attempts to delay old age, I seem to actually be hastening the process. But luckily I felt ok this morning and avoided a shameful train ride to work.

I meant to take it easy this morning but as usual I sensed bicyclists on my tail (most likely imaginary) and hammered the pedals to avoid getting passed. Luckily for me the Chicago Bike Federation put up a tent along the Lakefront Trail at North Avenue in honor of Bike To Work Day. This enabled me to get a breather and still maintain my ego. I figured the CBF was going to do something like that this week but I completely forgot about it. I saw a few other fellow bike commuters I know from my rides and got some free stuff from REI (some beefy tire levers and a water bottle). I'd hoped Performance was going to be on hand for discount tune up coupons but I guess they took a pass on this event.

After continuing on my ride, a fixie glided by me north of Oak Street. Incensed I picked up my pace and kept with him until Ohio Street. As we headed to Grand Avenue he slowed considerably. I guess he had to slow down for the hill or a turn or something. I've never ridden a fixed gear bike so I don't know how they handle potential hazards.

Approaching Monroe I noticed from my shadow that I had someone on my tail. Oh great. I hoped he'd turn off at Monroe but he continued to follow. I looked back and signaled my turns in a way to let him know I didn't mind him being back there. At around Adams he came abreast and efusively offered to pull me for a while. Not sure what model of road bike he rode but it might have been a Bianchi judging from the creamy green paint job. I told him I was getting off at Roosevelt but I was more than happy to take him up on his offer. Obviously soon there after we parted.

The ride was actually quite good for me. It seemed to clear out all the kinks in my muscles and bones I developed the day before.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2887.1miles
Price of gas: $3.79

Friday, June 08, 2007

Hate and Discontent

East bound Roosevelt was jammed. For motorists anyway. I get a bit of a thrill zooming by cars continuously backed up for blocks. I'm not smug about it though. I know all too well that right up the road is payback as the congestion clears.

There seemed to be a bit of bad blood on the road this afternoon. At State and Roosevelt, a City of Chicago Traffic Aide prevented a woman from turning left despite a left turn signal. As an unbiased observer I was puzzled as to the Traffic Aide's motives and sympathized with the motorist. The young woman at the wheel went bat shit with rage.

Later as I approached North Avenue on the Lakefront Trail, I saw a bicyclist getting into it with a man holding a clip board. I slowed a bit in order to eavesdrop on the confilict. The guy with the clipboard responded to an unheard remark that the bicyclist was not a cop. The bicyclist retorted with something to the effect of his blocking the way. Since fisticuffs did not seem imminent I biked on.

Great day but more slight headwinds. Again my pannier was like a parachute and seeimingly slowing me down. Around Wilson, a roadie passed me and I said hi and got nothing in response. The guy was tricked out in road racing gear but didn't strike me as an expert as his cadence was knee achingly slow. I'm no biking genius either but I've learned from others that I'll last longer, both in the short and long term, if I gear down (up?) and quicken my pedaling. I leached off his slipstream all the way to the end of the Lakefront Trail. He picked up his pace toward the end but he wasn't going to shake me that easily. At the light I didn't bother to engage him again. Once we got the green, he headed north and I continued west to Broadway and on home.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2862.8 miles
Price of gas: $3.79

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Making Yet Another Friend

This morning I expected a nice tailwind as payback for the winds I faced yesterday. Instead the winds shifted and I biked into the wind yet again. It didn't make for a miserable ride but it diminishes my sense of speed and makes me feel feeble. I was enjoying the humming of my gears. Despite my earlier complaints, the bike performs quite well.

At the Lakefront Trail I slowly caught up to a gentleman I later learned is named Drew and rides in from Evanston. He kept a very good pace and I was able to draft off him for a good while. We talked about our various commutes. He has to park his bike on the street and doesn't have a place to shower at work. Poor guy. He also said his bike had been stolen. After Oak Street the wind was really strong and I just couldn't keep up. He and a few others passed me by on that stretch. At Grand Avenue Drew peeled off.

Because of traffic I was able to catch up to two faster bicyclists. I drafted all the way to Roosevelt Road until I turned off the Lakefront Trail. At Roosevelt and Clark I waited out the light while a young lady glided through. There was very little cross traffic but I was just tired. I figured I'd catch up to her. That wasn't the case though. She was pretty quick but also had traffic lights on her side.

I wasn't bothered by being humbled by at least four other bicyclists this morning. I was really glad to be back on my bike after too many days behind the wheel.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2838.5 miles
Price of gas: $3.79

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bicycle Back Up

Last week I got the bike fixed and rode it home from Turin. On the ride my shifting was much smoother with the new cables and chain but it still jumped the cogs on occaision. I also heard some twanging coming from the spokes from my rear wheel symptomatic of a wheel badly in need of adjusting. So instead of having a smooth riding machine I now had a bike with different problems.

Work tasks in areas beyod biking distance kept me from riding until this afternoon. The weather was a bit chillier than I expected , approximately 50, and strong winds from the north, i.e. headwinds. The ride home was very pleasant though. My bike didn't seem to act up once I loaded it down. I guess the rear wheel is happier with a full pannier.

Since I'm still waiting for the middle chain ring to arrive at the bike shop, I've been riding on my largest chain ring. I'm not too keen on this because I can't find a gearing combination I like. One is too easy and the next gear up is a touch too difficult for the cadence I prefer. Oh well.

On the Green Bay Trail I had a nice surprise with my wife and sons meeting me about a mile from home. They were on foot so I dismounted and had a pleasant walk home with the family.

Distance Traveled: 23.7 miles
Distance to date: 2814.2 miles
Price of gas: $3.79

Friday, May 25, 2007

Bike Getting Repaired

I took my ride to Turin in Evanston yesterday after work. The mechanic (I believe his name is Jason) just put a little oil in my rear hub and that seemed to fix the problem. I initially asked him to repack the hubs but he said the wheels were so old that I should just consider getting new ones. The rims are really, really worn (I think not replacing my brake pads in a timely manner are primarily to blame). Jason did suggest I replace my cables and chain. I also asked for a new middle chain ring (he'd have to order that). Normally I'm the type to shop online for my parts and install them myself. But being able to leave the bike in the capable hands of a pro was more than worth the time and effort I'd expend looking for a bargain and doing it myself. My bike should have a new chain and cables later today and I'll bring it back next week to have the chain ring replaced.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bicycle Down

This morning, as I lubed my chain, I noticed a sickening grinding sound coming from my rear hub. I knew I should have at least repacked my hubs over the winter however I'm not sure that would have prevented the current problem. Either way, I wasn't about to bike a block until I got it looked at. I had to take the train to work and will try to get the bike to a shop by tomorrow. Crud. I guess I can get all the other matters ailing my ride taken care of then.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Geocaching

On my bike ride home I decided to find a Geocache I heard about on NBC news. Geocaching is a moderately nerdy pastime in which you find a container with a GPS using coordinates posted on Geocaching.com. I use to seek Geocaches a lot before I had kids. Back in 2001 there weren't many of them around and most were in forest preserves and in generally interesting and out of the way places. Now most areas are lousy with them. So much so that it is hard to determine if most are even worth looking for. But this one was located off the Lakefront Path south of Montrose and since it was on TV I thought I'd bag it. It wasn't too difficult to find.

Off the Lakefront Trail I joined some bicyclists for a short while up Broadway. They were headed to Wilmette. I broke off at Devon and they continued north on Sheridan. I suppose Sheridan can be quicker than my route but the vehicular traffic gets a little fast and there are a lot of pot holes. Other than that my ride was uneventful.

I have to go to Miami next week so I wont be able to bike until at least Wednesday.

Distance Traveled: 24.5 miles
Distance to date: 2790.5 miles
Price of gas: $3.67

Monday, May 14, 2007

More Biking Into Headwinds

The morning news reported strong southerly winds for my trip into work today. With the stiff winds in my face on Friday, I felt I was owed a nice tailwind today. I just can't buy a break. But high winds are a hell of a lot better than sub freezing temperatures. I'm finding the strong winds don't bother me as much as they use to. I spent the weekend de-wallpapering, scraping, sanding, patching, priming and painting my boys' bedroom. So I was looking forward to going back to work and getting some rest.

This moring my bike developed an annoying click on almost every pedal rotation. Even a fresh dose of lube failed to remedy it. I think it is my ailing chain ring. My shifting is also for crap but otherwise my drive train hums quite nicely.

Biking through south Evanston were a lot of bike commuters headed in the opposite direction into town. I guess the warming weather has prompted more people to bike to work.

On Granville, a few blocks west of Broadway, I spied a yellow jerseyed bicyclist with a side pannier likely headed to the Lakefront Trail. I turned down Broadway hoping to head him off. Heavy traffic on Broadway prevented me from crossing over at Ardmore. I had to wait until the light turned red to ease across. As I biked west I saw a pack of bicyclists, including yellow jersey, crossing Sheridan. I hammered the pedals hoping to make the light. The light flips back to red pretty quickly and I ended up having to wait it out.

The headwinds weren't as bad as they were on Friday but were still a bit of a pain. Most bicyclists on the path seemed to be bothered by them more than I was though. I think my biking through winter really made a difference in my conditioning. Either the really fast bicyclists weren't out yet or I'm cruising much quicker than I was last fall.

As I biked by Belmont Harbor I think I spotted the yellow jerseyed guy again. Either his pannier was on the other side of his bike (and he obviously wasn't the same guy) or I remembered him differently. Both were equally likely. As I gained on him, a guy on a mountain bike entered the path from around Belmont and passed him. Yellow jersey wasn't about to allow that and he pedaled quicker to catch up. He seemed to share my aversion to being one-upped. Eventually he retook the lead but was moving much quicker now, much to my chagrin.

In the meantime, I encountered another pack of bicyclists south of Fullerton that had to be dealt with. From there until Oak Street, I glided by them, in and out of the line, and greeted all who would seem receptive. Most greeted me back.

South of Oak Street the wind seemed to let up and I poured it on. I was really moving now and cruised by yellow jersey like he was a street lamp. From his distinctive pannier he might have been the same guy who rejected my drafting last year (much to his credit; no one likes a parasite). I said hi as I passed though. I was able to make the light at Grand Avenue and zoomed by a bunch of other people on seemingly lighter bike/pack set ups. What an ego stroking morning. It's too bad all of my life can't be so nice.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2766.0 miles
Price of gas: $3.55