Monday, November 27, 2006


This morning started out well. The weather was nice and my bike was working again after taking advantage of the long weekend to do some maintenance. I was able to get my rear derailleur to shift properly by merely tightening the cable.

I wasn't bothered too much by the typical morning headwind. It seems I expect it now. At around Irving Park I crawled past a commuter on a mountain bike. I croaked a greeting but got nothing in response. Oh well.

Near Diversey a commuter on a road bike blew by me and I glided into his slip stream. This guy was really moving. At around North Avenue he slowed to de-snot and noticed me leaching his air. So I took the lead hoping to redeem myself. The pace and the wind pretty much kicked my ass. Soon thereafter he took the lead again and I stuck with him until he needed to re-de-snot. I took the lead again and continued the charade until he probably figured enough was enough. He glided past and I stayed on him until the incline at Ohio Street Beach. I prayed for a red light at Grand Avenue so I could take a break. No such luck. Fortunately he turned off and left me to limp up the hill on my own. It wasn't until Roosevelt Road that I regained my pace.

I faced a red light with no cross traffic at Roosevelt and Clark. I inched slowly through while making sure there were no cars coming up a blind spot. Much to the smug amusement of a waiting bus driver and his passengers, I managed to catch my toe on my front fender and catch it on the wheel. I taco'ed it quite nicely and had to drag it out of traffic. About four minutes later I managed to bend it back into shape and get on with my ride.

While passing St. Ignatius High School, I managed to piss off a parent dropping off her kid. She clearly signaled to park but I thought I could whizz by her and avoid having to veer into traffic. I was nearly sandwiched into the curb but managed to startle her to a stop with a sharp rap on the fender. I pedaled off quickly feeling like a jerk.

All in all, not a good way to start the week.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1365.1 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Took Off The Training Wheels

It was in the high 50s so my family biked to Village Green Park in Winnetka. I had a few surprises in store for my 4 year old son Joseph. The first was an Incredibell handle bar bell that I bought that morning at a sale at Performance. Joey loves to flick the bell on my bike and I figured he'd love one of his own. The second surprise was taking the training wheels off his $15 Huffy once we got to the park.

I let Joey discover the bell as he hauled his bike out of the garage. He is such a good kid; he never whines about wanting a zillion toys and he loves doing his school work. One would have thought I bought him a BMW with how much appreciation he showed for the $8 accessory.

Once we got to the park Joseph was a relatively quick study on two wheel riding. He initially had trouble getting started but he eventually figured out the pedal positioning to get him going. We biked on the grass so he avoided hurting himself after the scores of spills. Ultimately he handled himself well while underway but his stopping still needs work. After about an hour of this the training wheels were bolted back on and we bicycled back home.

Distance Traveled: 2.8 miles
Distance to date: 1340.8 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Eve

The bosses let everyone leave work early this afternoon so I hit the road at about 3:30 pm. It was partly sunny, temperatures in the 50s and about 10 mph winds from the south; perfect bicycling conditions for a northerly ride home.

I was really cruising this afternoon. The Lakefront Trail had a handful of people out enjoying the mild weather. I had to shout at three groups of people hogging the sidewalk between Jackson and Monroe. They obviously thought I was a nut. Oh well.

I really enjoyed my bike ride today. The tail wind enabled me to move at a nice clip and the daylight enabled me to enjoy what there is of the view. It didn't get really dark until about the last mile of my ride. I keep my headlamp lit when I'm in traffic no matter how bright it is though. Nothing like a retina full of searing photons to get a driver's attention.

Hopefully I'll find the time for a bit of bike maintenance before I return to work on Monday. I have to patch or replace my rear tire and adjust my derailleurs.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1338.0 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Makin' Still More Friends

I must be one happening guy...I wish. At a red light at Sheriden and Ardmore I struck up a conversation with Ray, a semi-frequent commuter like myself. He bikes downtown about as much as I do. As we bicycled south down the Lakefront Path we faced a steady headwind. Ray unselfishly offered to pull me along for a while. We both took the front position on and off all the way to the Lake Shore Drive underpass at Chicago Avenue where Ray turned off. The combined effort definitely got me to work a touch faster. I found I wasn't as thirsty during the trip either.

An oncoming Heating and AC truck cut across my path while turning onto Jefferson from Roosevelt. I screamed at him to no avail and swerved to avoid running into him. He pulled over right at the corner and was wide eyed after I flipped him off. For some reason he was looking into his side view mirror as he turned and probably didn't notice me. In retrospect it was probably an innocent albeit negligent mistake and he was probably mystified by my obscene gesture.

I find the vast majority of drivers are courteous and want to avoid the hassle of scraping me out of their spokes and front grilles. I also make a point of giving a friendly wave to drivers that wait for me at a crossing intersection rather than gunning it through. Sort of my way of saying, "Thanks for not killing me."

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1313.7 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Computer Crash

My Dell computer wouldn't boot last night. I must have gotten a virus. After an hour and a half with a Dell technician we both realized I had to format my hard drive and reload everything. Fortunately I had an old 16 Gb hard drive laying around from a Gateway that was fried in a thunderstorm. With the assistance of another Dell tech I installed it and transferred photos and all sorts of other data that I should have backed up a long time ago. I'll format the original hard after I'm satisfied I got everything I need off of it. Overall a huge pain but glad Dell has technicians willing to spend hours on the phone with me (they probably earn about $20 a day). And really glad that years of photos didn't evaporate.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Evening Ride Home

It was a little warmer than I expected once I got outside today. I was dressed for temps in the 40s but I think it was in the low 50s. So I was a bit toasty once I was on the road tonight. My ride had the usual mix of cars, cabs, and buses. I have gotten pretty use to the tendencies of drivers and the patterns of the traffic signals along my route. Some of the traffic aides have come to recognize me and wave me against the light when there aren't any cars around.

I was really moving tonight at an average of about 19 mph. Either I had a stiff tailwind or someone doped my blood in my sleep. Most times I feel like I'm plodding along and fighting the wind but tonight I was blazing down the empty path.

I solved my gearing problem. I don't change gears. But I know I should get them fixed so I don't blow out my knees. I usually only downshift at lights and a few uphills on Roosevelt Road on my way to work (I don't need to downshift on the hills on my way home because I'm probably not tired yet). I probably need new cables. I hope it isn't my rear derailleur. I'd hate to pay for a new one.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1289.4 miles
Price of gas: $2.41 (Holding steady)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Foggy Morning

It really wasn't that foggy but I'm running out of caption ideas. Anyway it was a good morning for bicycling. I started a little late, 6:15 am, and was greeted with mostly daylight. It was still a little wet so I was careful not to go speedy right out of the gate. Once I headed south I was greeted with a stiff head wind. I knew my ride would seem a tad longer this morning.

It was about 35° but the wind made it seem a bit chillier. When waking and facing early morning rides these days I've often wished I had my car at home instead. I'm not a real cold weather person and sitting in a nice warm car and listening to the radio as I plod through traffic has some appeal when compared to biking into 15 mph winds at near freezing temperatures. But once I get on the road and get warmed up the cold isn't an issue anymore. My system of lightweight long underwear, windbreaker, headband, gloves and booties does a good job regulating my body temperature and comfort. I found that when I have to stop or slow down for traffic I start to heat up and become less comfortable.

North of Belmont Harbor I came upon a commuter on a road bike. He was dressed in blue jeans and biked at a slower pace and I passed him by without really thinking about it. Then just north of Diversey as I'm grinding into the wind here comes blue jeans pedaling past me. I was naturally peeved at his impudence but at the same time glad to find someone to do a little wind breaking for me. The pull from my denim clad clipper didn't last though. After no more than an eighth of a mile he seemed to have burned out. Being polite, I didn't pass him too quickly. But after a while I zipped by him again. Maybe he was drafting all that time without my noticing and when he decided to leave me in the dust he found the wind too daunting. If that was the case, I know how he must have felt all too well. I remeber passing a couple of guys training on their racing bikes and about a qaurter mile later they casually glided by me chattering as if they were out for a stroll.

My derailleurs blow. I really have to get them adjusted. I seem to only have three reliable gears now.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1265.1 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Friday, November 10, 2006

Makin' More Friends

It was in the high fifties and no wind. So I packed my winter biking gear in my pannier and donned only shirt, shorts and my Goretex top. The ride was a little chilly on my knees once I got up to cruising speed. I was just about to regret not wearing my long pants when I got into heavy traffic on Roosevelt Road and completely forgot about being cold. Except for a cold blast upon approaching the lakefront, it was a comfortable ride.

Between Monroe and Randolph I noticed a steady light coming up along my side as a commuter on a road bike passed me. He kept a good pace so I stuck with him up to Grand Avenue. Between Ohio and Oak Street Beaches I drafted about a bike length behind him. Passing Oak Street I glided by him and offered to let him draft for a while.

North of Diversey we picked up another commuter on a fixed gear bike. So the three of us zoomed through bikers and runners enjoying the relatively warmer weather. After Foster, fixie took over the lead for the first time and he nearly killed me. I thought I kept a fast pace but this guy was really moving. If it weren't for the rest I knew I'd get at the end of the Lakefront Trail, I'd have never tried to keep up. By the time we reached Hollywood my thighs were screaming. Forced to slow at the end of the path I kept my distance so he wouldn't hear me gasping for air. Thanking God for the red light at Sheridan, I dismounted and popped some bills in a nearby mailbox. The guy on the road bike was nowhere to be found. Maybe he turned off when the getting was good.

The light turned and fixie was off down Ardmore at a noticeably slower pace. Maybe he was hurting more than me. I passed him shortly after turning north on Kenmore and said good night and he thanked me "for the pull." "No, thank you!" I replied. Thanks for nearly giving me a stroke.

Despite blazing through the Lakefront Trail, I find it takes me longer to get home in the darkness. I guess I don't cruise with the same confidence as I did during daylight. I also find I don't enjoy the ride as much. Biking the Greenbay Trail use to be my favorite part of my ride. Now it is like being on a subway. The only thing to look at are the occasional rabbits in my high beam and distant street lights. Ironically the heavy traffic at Roosevelt Road and Clark Street provide the most interesting parts of my ride now.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1240.8 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Monday, November 06, 2006

Rain? No Problem!

I brought my bike out of the garage this morning and was surprised by the rain. It was in the high 40s but the local news said nothing about precipitation. So I rolled my bike back inside and got busy waterproofing. I packed all my stuff in plastic bags. Then I removed my Neoprene booties and wrapped my bike shoes in plastic bags too. In the past the booties let in the wet after 30-40 minutes. So I wasn't about to pedal half of my trip in wet feet. Since it had gotten warmer I only wore a long underwear top and no bike jersey.

As soon as I mounted up, I slipped on the wet pavement of my driveway. Not a good or comforting start. But once I got going my ride was fine. My longsleeves kept me from getting all wet and clammy from the Goretex top and my feet stayed comfortable for the whole trip. I was also glad I installed the fenders. It was nice to see the water dripping onto the pavement behind my front wheel instead of splashing up on my feet. I was going to have a crazy week at work so I probably wouldn't be biking back home until Thursday.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1216.5 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Saturday, November 04, 2006

How To Dress For Cold Weather

Nick, from the website, provides an informative article on how to dress for cold weather bicycling without having to buy fancy overpriced gear. I could do without the yellow sneaks and camouflage trousers though.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Makin' Friends!

I didn't leave work until 5:30 pm today so it was my first bicycle ride through Chicago in darkness. Roosevelt Road is well lit so I was confident my fellow commuters wouldn't have a problem seeing me. My ride started ignominiously; I attempting a track stand as I was waiting for traffic to pass on Damen and my bootied foot caught my front fender. I ended up bending the fender into the front wheel and had to haul my bike out of traffic to bend it back in shape.

I felt pretty strong this evening. Sometimes my quadraceps ache a bit but I was having no problems today. Even on my slight climbs I didn't need to downshift. I guess my steadily biking since late July has gotten me in pretty good shape.

On the Lakefront Trail between Jackson and Monroe I was passed by a commuter on a mountain bike with front suspension so I picked up the pace a bit and eased into his slip stream. We were stopped at the red light at Grand Avenue and exchanged pleasantries. He commutes everyday and through the winter. I learned the Chicago Park District keeps the Lakefront Trail cleared of snow so it is a good route year round. The only problem is the Oak Street curve gets icey since it is so close to Lake Michigan. Once we got going again we bike abreast for a while. Talking and biking is more trouble than its worth at 18 mph. So we bike single file until he breaks off at Lawrence.

At Kenmore and Glenlake I ran into the father of my son's classmates again. So we shared the ride until he turned off at Chicago and Greenleaf.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1192.2 miles
Price of gas: $2.41

Thursday, November 02, 2006


It was in the 20s this morning as I shoved off at 8:15 am. I worked a later shift because I had some night work to do. The colder rides haven't been that bad though. At least I was bicycling during daylight.

I biked past my sons' Evanston preschool this morning on the chance I'd get to say goodbye to them once more. I pedaled by and surprised my four year old son Joseph just as he was being walked inside by one of his teachers. I later learned she asked him who I was. I guess she didn't recognize me in my helmet, head band, and glasses. She was probably worried I was some sort of perv.

I was nearly smooshed by a BMW SUV turning into a congested Dunkin Donuts at Clark and Thome. It had its turn signal on but I thought the driver would at least have the courtesy to give me a little room as it queued up for drive through coffee. I gave the vehicle a nice knuckle double tap as I veered up on the side walk and back into traffic. So we're even.

A very stiff easterly wind made the last leg of my commute on Roosevelt Road very slow. Plus my rear derailleur is acting up and I couldn't keep it in gear as I climbed west from State Street. I have to get it looked at. On top of that the sidewall of my rear tire has a hole in it and the tube is threatening to burst through. Maybe some duct tape will keep it in check.

Distance Traveled: 24.4 miles
Distance to date: 1167.9 miles
Price of gas: $2.39

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Cold Afternoon Bicycle Ride Home

A crazy work schedule has prevented me from biking for almost a week. My muscles felt a little rusty as I pedaled home this afternoon. Started work really early so I was able to head home at 2:00 pm and avoid a night ride.

Sunny and cold. It was probably in the mid 40s. My outfit seems to be doing a good job of regulating my body heat. And I didn't have to buy any fancy gear. My feet got a bit toasty in my booties but not uncomfortable. The Lakefront Trail was pretty lonely. I think I encountered less than twenty bikers, runners and walkers.

Commute By Bike posted a short video about Alastair Humphreys, a British guy that biked around the world. The movie was ok (I'd have posted it if I found it really compelling) but his web page is even more fascinating. He provides a few chapters from his self published book (another impressive feat), Moods of Future Joys, which is about the first part of his trip from the UK through Africa. After reading a free sample, I bought a copy on for $17. I've always had a pipe dream of trekking around the world on a sailboat or biking across the country or through Europe. Real life and real responsibilities pretty much prevent that now.

Distance Traveled: 24.4 miles
Distance to date: 1123.5 miles
Price of gas: $2.43