Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Winter Riding Gear

It was 30° and dark this morning. I switched to a pair of cheap ten year old long underwear that I'd "grown out of". They were too tight for regular wear but I thought they might do a better job on my morning commutes. It seems I made the right choice. My earlier attempts at layering caused the areas around my trunk to get too wet and sweaty. This lead to being too hot at some points and then too cold later. The tighter long underwear top did a better job wicking away perspiration and keeping me somewhat comfortable. So I think I might not hate biking in the cold as much as I thought. The only other issue is warming up my toes. My booties do a decent job but after an hour on the road my toes begin to feel a little frosty.

Not a problem avoiding pedestrians, dog walkers and slow bikers on the Lakefront Trail these days. At the Oak Street curve I got a nice view of the sunrise. At the Monroe Street Harbor I smelled the smoke from the building fire the night before and there was still a dark mist hanging over the area of South State Street.

The Lightweights are peeling off the Lycra parts of my gloves. I might try gluing them down because I light their reflectivity and they also look kind of cool.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1099.1 miles
Price of gas: $2.43

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Reflecty Gloves

Along with my fenders I bought some Lightweights reflective decals at Turin for $13. It was a package of 60 decals in a variety of sizes. I plastered my helmet with about a dozen and put a bunch all over my bike. They say you can iron them on to cloth so I put four on each of my gloves. Hopefully they will be very bright when I signal treacherous left turns. I'm not totally convinced they'll stick though. But they sure are bright. The above link doesn't provide much info about them but it does have a video of a bike that looks like it is on fire. They have a pack specifically for wheels (I figure that is what the video shows). I'd try them but I like the look of my black spokes. If I had unpainted spokes I'd be more likely to put them on as you can't really seem them during daylight.

As I drove down Roosevelt, I saw a huge plume of smoke up State Street. State was totally blocked off by fire trucks. I couldn't tell what was on fire from that distance but I've never seen so much smoke since the first Gulf War. I got a good whiff of the smoke once I passed Monroe along the Lakefront Trail.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1074.8 miles
Price of gas: $2.43

Monday, October 23, 2006

Cold Night Biking

I think I'm going to hate winter. When I started my bike ride this morning it was in the thirties and dark. I didn't mind the chill at first but as I got further into my ride my arms were cold but my trunk was hot and sweaty. I was layering with my Goretex jacket, a short sleeve jersey and a long underwear top so I thought I'd be ok. It got to the point that I just wasn't enjoying myself.

On top of that, biking in the dark has been wrecking havoc on my bike. I don't see potholes as much as I use to and I almost totally wrecked. While crossing Elmwood on the Green Bay trail in Wilmette, I misjudged where the trail met the road and ran right up on a curb. I was certain I taco'ed my front wheel. But it seemed ok. It made me really appreciate the Mavic touring rims and 13 gauge spokes. They seem to be bomb proof. But the rest of my bike is a series of rattles, squeaks and grinds.

My XTR rear derailleur continually jumps gear and my middle chain ring is starting to skip. I think I need to take my bike in for a tune up. But I've had trouble with the XTR derailleur. When I had one on my Scalpel I always had to double click the index shifting to move it between my most often used gears. I've read on discussion boards that this is a common problem. Even getting it professionally adjusted provided only a temporary fix. Maybe the main spring needs replacing. I've certainly put a lot of miles on it.

In anticipation of wetter weather I installed Planet Bike Hardcore Fenders. They are glossy black so they are a perfect match for my bike. They were a bit tricky too install and I had to use longer screws than the ones provided. Once I got them on though, I was very pleased. I never liked the look of fenders on road bikes but figure I have to put them on if I'm going to keep my feet dryer and my bike cleaner. I actually like the look of them now. I'll probably take them off come summer though.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1050.5 miles
Price of gas: $2.43

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Night Biking

It seems I'm doing more biking in the night rather than during daylight. I swapped a small LED light for a rear mounting helmet light at Turin and fitted it prior to my ride home. It is neat because it swings on its mount and is theoretically self leveling. I couldn't tell if it works or not because its on the back of my head.

I left work at around 5:30 and faced a lot of traffic on Roosevelt Road. It was still light out so I didn't have my helmet light on. But after having to shout at a driver coming out of a parking lot I decided to fire it up.

I must have had a tailwind because I sensed I was faster than normal. However my GPS crapped out again so I couldn't monitor my speed and determine if this was the case. But no one passed me today. I guess all the fast bicyclists had already made it home.

The ride up Clark Street was pretty hairy. Twice I was squeezed by drivers turning right. In one case I saw the turn signal indicating the guy was going to park and assumed he'd wait for me to pass. Dumb on my part. Luckily there was a driveway there and I scooted onto the sidewalk and got back on the road shortly thereafter. The next guy was just a jerk. I gave his fender a nice knock to warn him I was there but I don't think he heard me over his subwoofer.

Cars were backed up all downtown Evanston because of Northwestern's homecoming parade. Had I still lived in town I probably would have been delayed a half an hour.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1026.2 miles
Price of gas: $2.43

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

One Thousand Miles

In the vicinity of Halsted, I logged my 1000th mile since I started keeping track on August 8, 2006. Not bad if I say so myself. The ride was a bit hot this morning. It looked cooler outside than it actually was and I overdressed again.

I need to illuminate myself more than I have right now. I currently have a red flasher on my seat post and a small white flasher on my handle bars (I think they are both made by Planet Bike). I was making a left turn on to Granville from Clark this morning and I wasn't exactly confident the vehicles behind me could see my hand signals. So on my drive home today I stopped at Turin and bought a small red LED to put on my helmet and some reflective patches I'll affix to my bike gloves and anywhere else on my bike that I think will do any good. I'm tempted to buy a Safe Turn Indicator to put on my glove but they are $26 and are shipped from Australia.

While bicycling by Belmont Harbor on the Lakefront Trail, I sensed someone behind me. A quarter mile later I took a swig from my water bottle and he passed me. He was a commuter on a road bike and he thanked me for the lift. It must have been his way of offering to let me draft for a while. I must be getting faster now because it isn't often people draft off my dragging ass. So I glommed off his slipstream and except for sporadic puddle spray, I enjoyed the ride.

When we reached the windy straight away from Oak Street to Ohio, I offered to take over again. Once in front I poured it on. In the past, whenever I traded off drafting, I'd quickly tire as soon as I had to cut throught the wind and the other guy would take over again; kind of humbling. So I wanted to make sure I pulled my weight. In this case I guess I left him behind. As soon as I slowed going up the ramp at Ohio Street Beach I noticed he wasn't around anymore. Or maybe he passed so fast I never even noticed. Oh well.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1001.9 miles
Price of gas: $2.49

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fall Ride

I've been fortunate to have had a tailwind for my last couple of rides. Not that it really matters much but it is nice to feel like I'm going really fast for a change rather than fighting the wind; which I'd been doing a lot of this past month. The winds were from the southwest and gave me an added boost on my bike ride home this afternoon. The weather cooperated and was in the high 50's. It looked kind of cool from my ninth floor cubicle, so I overdressed. I was a bit hot initially but as it got darker I became more comfortable.

I was stopped at a red light on Chicago Avenue at South Boulevard in Evanston when a guy on one of those folding bikes joined me. I grunted a greeting but got nothing in return. No big deal. He crossed ahead of me and biked north at a pretty good clip considering he was riding on 10" wheels. I hung back for a while and eventually overtook him after a few blocks. Since he was pedaling a clown bike, I assumed he'd quickly fade. But as I crossed Main Street I realized he was still on my tail. I crossed Dempster and he was still there! What was it going to take to shake this guy on his little toy? There were two lanes of traffic backed up at a red light at Grove Street. Cars were crowding the curb so I juked between the two lines of cars. The light turned green just as I hit the intersection. That did the trick; he was nowhere to be seen. I was zooming along nicely except for a delay while waiting to turn left from Chicago onto Clark. As I approached Sherman, I saw him again. But now he was a half block ahead of me and pedaling at about 150 rpm on the sidewalk. He must have biked against one way traffic through downtown Evanston. Quite the ninja! I turned north toward home. God only knows what type of humiliation I would have suffered if he rode a real bike.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 977.6 miles
Price of gas: $2.49

Monday, October 16, 2006

Dark Morning Bike Ride

Even with a late start (6:15 am) it was still dark for much of my ride. But I cruised through town with my Phantom JetLite perched on my head. I had to ride a little slower because I can't see the pot holes and other obstructions as well as in daylight. One remedy for this would be to mount the light on my handlebars instead of my head. But I also like to use the light as a warning device. A nice flash at flanking cars really gets a driver's attention. I set the light at the lowest of three settings to conserve the battery but it is still blindingly bright.

It was about 50° this morning so I sported some not so tight tights that I got pretty cheap at Galyans. I bought two pairs and should have bought three or four since I ruined a pair over a season of adventure racing. I can never find anything like them without having to pay $80.

The Lakefront Trail was dead. A few runners and bicyclists sprinkled here and there. Once I got to Belmont there was little bit more life around. But my commute is getting a bit routine.

My hamstrings were in a bit of pain from over two weeks of inactivity. Even though I logged a lot of miles on my bike trip, I didn't exert myself to the level that I reach on my commutes. Or maybe I'm just getting older.

Roosevelt Road was pretty quick this morning. If I really grind in certain areas I can make critical lights and really cruise the last leg of my trip. I just have to avoid getting flattened by oncoming cars making left turns. The downhill stretch from the Chicago River to Canal Street is always satisfying as I scream past cars backed up at the light. Most times I get hung up at Canal but for some reason I got the green and sped all the way to the Dan Ryan Expressway. Then I seemed to have the wind at my back and green lights until Damen. All in all a very satisfying ride. And my GPS didn't crap out either.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 953.3 miles
Price of gas: $2.49

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Video of the Week: Cycliste

An amusing foreign Fiat advertisement.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Why I Love the Internet: Fixed My GPS!

My Garmin GPSMAP 60C cost nearly $400 and developed an annoying habit of conking out with the slightest jarring. Sending it back to the factory for repair or replacement costs $135! I'm pretty handy and fix a lot of stuff around my house so with some trepidation I thought I might be able to save myself some significant cash and fix this gadget too. A search of a GPS forum zeroed right in on the problem and the solution to what ailed my model. Twenty minutes later my GPS was fixed (as far as I can tell; we'll see on the next ride).

The internet also has provided me a number of resources for fixing my bike. Bicycle Technologies International is a terrific reference for spare parts for Shimano components. When I owned my 2003 Cannondale Scalpel 3000, I was having problems with the XTR rear derailleur. A repairman at a local bike shop (that I no longer go to) took a look at it and said it would need to be replaced. Hardly! With the help of an exploded view of the XTR rear derailleur I realized the plate axel was worn down and needed replacing. Not many bike stores offer spare parts but Kozy's was willing to order it for me. $26 and 10 days later my XTR rear derailleur was working again.

An internet appliance repair forum was also instrumental in replacing a belt and heat sensor in our gas dryer. I figure I saved $150 to $200 on that one. So all in all the internet has a lot more going for it than just porn.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Back to the Grind

First day commuting in a few weeks. I didn't hit the road from work until about 5:30 pm. I was really cooking down Roosevelt Road and feeling good about myself until I realized I had a stiff tailwind. It was about time I had the winds with me for a change. During the majority of my bike trip, I seemed to always be pedaling into the wind. It was cool so I wore my Goretex Jacket and light fleece pants. I was getting pretty hot though. The Goretex doesn't really breathe enough for fast biking.

Again my Garmin GPSMAP 60C was giving me trouble. At every bump it would turn off. Really annoying since it takes a minute to reacquire its position every time it does this rendering it useless for accurately tracking mileage, ETA and such. I was finally considering just getting a bike computer. But it seemed to have worked so well for so long that I thought I might be able to fix it without having to send in for repair.

The Lakefront Trail is pretty empty now. Mostly die-hard runners. Somewhere south of Addison I was passed by a commuter on a road bike with a messenger bag on his back. Initially he had such a quick pace that I thought of just letting him go. Then his pace slacked off and I realized I might be able leach off his slipstream. Shortly thereafter we passed a biker stopped on the trail and the guy in front of me asked if he needed help. Then I realized I knew this guy! Our kids go to the same preschool and swim classes and my oldest son practically gushes about his daughter. So for some reason I was determined to stay on his tail even if it killed me. We'd seen each other dozens of times and been introduced but I couldn't remember his name (I'm great at remembering faces but I have some pathological problem with names). I kept up with him pretty well but by the time we hit Bryn Mawr the ride was taking a toll on me. Fortunately the trail was ending and we'd be taking it slower on the city streets. So at a red light at Sheridan Road I said hello and we reintroduced ourselves (I'll remember his name now).

He commutes about as much as I do but for some reason we never came across each other until now. We take the same route all the way into Evanston. We stopped at around Clark and Touhy so I could put on my Phantom JetLite (I didn't think it would so dark though). He turned off at Chicago and Greenleaf and I continued northbound home.

By the time I reached the Green Bay Trail it was even cooler so I was actually pretty comfortable. It was also pretty dark and so the trail was like a tunnel. If my GPS was working I'd know how long it would be until I got home. Oh well, life really stinks some times. Beats driving though.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 929.0 miles
Price of gas: $2.51

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Took Some Time Off

I took over a week off from riding in order to let my saddle sores heal. Plus having to catch up on work and a weird schedule was not conducive to biking in. Then I scratched my cornea somehow and that kept me from biking as well. I'm bringing my bike to work tomorrow and maybe I'll ride home in the cold.