Friday, December 22, 2006

Last Ride of the Year

I'm taking next week off so I won't be biking back to work until January.

Luckily for me this ride was pretty dry. I woke up this morning to near torrential rains to the extent that my front yard was developing a nice little pond. I planned to work a half day and on my bike ride home stop at South Wabash to pick up my wife's watch from a repairman. At 10:00 am it was still raining and the weather system to the southeast still looked pretty bad. So I checked the Doppler Radar for the Chicago area and saw the rains would be passing us by within the next few hours.

When I left work at around noon it was a balmy 50° with stiff winds from the south. Very nice. I didn't wear my long underwear bottoms and hoped to avoid a freak rain shower. Otherwise my attire was pretty much what I've been wearing for the past month or so.

At Roosevelt Road I managed a left turn on State Street to head into the loop. Vehicular traffic was pretty backed up north of Congress. All the stopped traffic formed a nice bike lane between the cars. Normally I stay to the right but too many cars were hugging the curb and blocking my way. There are definitely better streets for biking than State but I wasn't planning on staying there too long. I turned east on Monroe and worked my way to Jewelers row. The watch repairman was nice enough to meet me on the street so I wouldn't have to risk my bike getting ripped off. After getting the watch I worked my way to the Lakefront Trail.

The stiff tailwind wasn't as good as I'd anticipated. I guess all the buildings along Lakeshore Drive create currents of their own in heavy winds. Along Belmont Harbor I faced a pretty steady headwind. Oh well. I was pretty fortunate to have such a good day for riding nonetheless.

Distance Traveled: 24.5 miles
Distance to date: 1486.8 miles
Price of gas: $2.54

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Soggy Morning

I was pleased to see that it was just misting this morning as I set out on my bicycle ride into work. It was raining pretty steady the night before and I was thinking I'd have to take the train in. If I didn't have to bike over 24 miles I'd just gut out a rainy ride. But spending at least an hour and a half soaking wet in 40° weather is something I'd prefer to avoid.

My good fortune was short lived. In Wilmette I encountered light rain. In drizzling conditions my outfit does a good job keeping me relatively dry and comfortable. But my Goretex jacket doesn't quite cut it in steady precipitation. By the time I reached the Lakefront Trail the rain began to diminish and I started to dry off. For the most part I was still comfortable but the threat of getting soaked adds just a bit of stress to my ride.

My feet were in very good shape though. I wear neoprene booties over my bike shoes in cold weather. When wet weather threatens I don a plastic shopping bag over each shoe. In the past this didn't do much good because moisture on my pants and long underwear seeped down to my socks eventually soaking me to the skin. But this time I wore my pants and long underwear outside my booties. Great success.

The Lakefront Trail was nearly deserted. From Hollywood to Roosevelt Road I counted only 36 people; three dog walkers, four city employees, one guy on cross country training skis, one bicyclist and one homeless guy. The rest were runners and walkers. I seemed to have a nice tailwind though. Not a bad ride for the first day of winter.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1462.3 miles
Price of gas: $2.49

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

December Afternoon

I got to leave work around lunch time today which obviously enabled me to bicycle in daylight for a change. It was clear and in the low 30s with light winds. As I passed State Street on Roosevelt I noticed a slight commotion of traffic, firetrucks and news helicopters. I didn't see any billowing clouds of smoke so I figured it must have been a false alarm or a gas leak. As an afterthought I figured something might have happened on the El. Sure enough, when I watched the evening news there was a derailment on the Orange Line.

Initially I felt overdressed in my long underwear, running pants, Goretex top, headband and gloves. But by the time I was halfway into my ride my body must have regulated itself and I was pretty comfortable. The only noticeable headwind I encountered was on the northernmost leg of the Lakefront Path. Other than that it was a very enjoyable ride.

I detoured to my brother's house on Chicago's north side. He and his roommates have a bee hive on their garage. It is wrapped up for the winter but they harvested 100 pounds of honey in the fall. At first I thought they were crazy and their neighbors would hound them into getting rid of it. Surprisingly a condo owner with a balcony overlooking the hive likes it very much. She told my brother her father kept bees when she was a little girl. I don't eat honey but maybe I'll sample some of next year's supply.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1438.0 miles
Price of gas: $2.49

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I started a little after 6:00 am on my way to work. Soon after I got onto the Green Bay Trail I noticed a light from behind which was a guy on a road bike who whizzed right past me. He was moving pretty good and I thought he must be out for a training ride. I kept an eye on his flashing tail light until it disappeared in the distant bend just past Indian Hill. As I biked by Sears School in Kenilworth I noticed I gained some ground on him. I figured he got up some steam to pass me but eventually petered out some (that is my MO anyway). He continued south on the Green Bay Trail through Wilmette and I closed to within a block of him. Once he got onto the smooth straightaway on Poplar he sped up again. We both turned east on Isabella but he turned south before reaching Ryan Field and I figured he was headed to his home nearby. But as soon as I reached Sherman in Evanston I saw his blinking light again. He must be headed to work in the city as well. He didn't have a bag or any other load so maybe he is able to stash everything he needs at his destination. I lost him for good amid the Evanston traffic.

I find commuting in the fall darkness to be slower and a bit more stressful than in the summer. As I crossed Howard into Chicago I thought to myself that I still had fair distance to ride rather than enjoying being on my bike. Lately working my bike rides into my schedule has added to an already pressure fill work environment. But at least the exercise gives me a chance to clear my head.

While turning from Clark to Granville I noticed a bicyclist's headlamp about a half block behind me. I got green lights all the way to the Lakefront Trail so never saw him until he streaked by me. He was also on a road bike with a small messenger bag; definitely much better suited to speed than I was. Then about ten seconds later comes the same guy that past me on the Green Bay Trail! He either has a rotten route or stopped for a long breakfast. Either way I had the displeasure of eating a second helping of his dust. Eventually he zipped by the other roadie as well.

South of Fullerton another lightly burdened roadie streaked by me. It certainly was not a good day for my ego. But then again I have a pretty heavy bag and I just added some snow tires. So I can rationalize my glacial pace at least a little bit. But once I got to the long straightaway heading to Oak Street Beach I no longer saw him and figured he must have turned off at the North Avenue underpass...sissy!

The stiff morning headwinds were taking their toll on me and I was really glad to be heading west on Roosevelt Road. By then I was a bit happier because I'd soon be off the bike and headed to a warm shower.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1413.7 miles
Price of gas: $2.45

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

First December Ride

It was in the 50s and kind of misty as I headed out from work a little after 5:00pm. I was happy to be back on my bike again. It has been over two weeks since I've ridden. The heavy snows and a crazy work schedule pretty much eliminated any chances of riding to or from work.

I never got around to having my wheels trued but they aren't that bad anyway. I gave my rear wheel and cassette a good cleaning though. I also put on 32cc Panaracer Urban Max tires I bought on sale at Performance. I would have preferred 28cc tires but I heard Panaracers run a little small. It took me a while to tweak my front fender in order to prevent the new tire from rubbing. I have to remember not to try anymore track stands. If I catch my shoe in the front fender again it'll be all but impossible to bend it back.

The Lake Front Trail was sprinkled with a few bicyclists and runners; no one to ride with though. At the end of the trail at Ardmore and Sheridan I caught up with a commuter on a road bike. He was outfitted pretty well with panniers, lights, and bicycling attire. I kept on his tail until we got the red light at Broadway and Granville. I said hello and we both griped about the increasingly wet weather. He was headed to Wilmette but turned north on either Glenwood or Greenview while I continued to Clark Street.

At around Clark and Touhy the skies opened up and the heavy rain continued until I reached Isabella and Sheridan. I was soaked pretty good but I wasn't too uncomfortable. My layering didn't keep me dry but kept the wind and the cold out. I don't know how I'd feel if it was ten degrees colder though.

By the time I reached the Green Bay Trail the rain had stopped and I had a relatively pleasant ride the rest of the way. I was very glad to get home though.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1389.4 miles
Price of gas: $2.45

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Not Biking Much These Days

A crazy work schedule and recent ice and heavy snow have prevented me from biking since last Monday. My bike was locked up at work until Friday when I hauled it home. Friday night I biked around the neighborhood and my bike did a fairly good job handling the icy streets. A good portion of my route is on bike paths that aren't routinely plowed though. So I might take a break from bike commuting for a week and bring my bike in for a good tune up.