Wednesday, January 31, 2007

No Frost Bite

It was in the high teens when I headed out today. The pad of my left ring finger was still a bit numb from my last ride so I bought a pair of Thinsulate mittens at a Menards on my drive to work. They should do a decent job protecting my hands. After the intense cold I faced on Monday, I expected it to be nearly as cold. So I doubled up on the long underwear again and ended up being over dressed for most of the ride. My new mittens took a little getting use to. At first I put them over my gloves but that was really unworkable. I ended up wearing just the mitten on the left hand and my usual glove combination on the right.

The ride was pretty routine. A nice tailwind gave me a boost and except for being a little warm, it was a comfortable ride. The Lakefront Trail was mostly deserted. I chanced the Oak Street curve again and found it was still icy but easy to walk on. The slippery slope south of Fullerton was heavily salted and clear. Once off the trail, I managed to get a lot of green lights and maintained my momentum. I found this ride was very pleasurable compared to the arduous trek I had a few days ago.

I was actually glad I was dressed so warm once I headed into the wind on Isabella in Evanston. I think the temperature dropped a bit from when I started and I really felt the windchill. The Wilmette portion of the Green Bay was never plowed and it made for some exciting turns. But generally life was good.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1824.0 miles
Price of gas: $2.28

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Amsterdam: The Bicycling Capitol of Europe

I saw this four minute video posted on CICLE.ORG.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Frost Bite

Around 6:00 am the morning news reported 11° and 10 mph winds from the southwest at O’Hare. A thermometer outside my back door read about 5°. I wasn’t too concerned about the cold with the exception of how my fingers and toes were going to handle it. For my hands I wore two pairs of glove liners and another pair of light fleece gloves I kept in my pocket. For my feet I wore socks, bike shoes, old wool socks over the shoes, plastic bags and all of the above protected by neoprene booties. I was relatively confident my feet would be ok. Not so sure about the fingers.

The roads were empty and really dry. I biked down Green Bay Road as opposed to the Green Bay Trail. In Wilmette a well lit bicyclist was headed in the opposite direction and I rang my bell in greeting. Nothing. He didn’t even look in my direction. Oh well. I think I’ve passed him on the Green Bay Trail on other occasions and gotten nothing then as well. Maybe next time I’ll throw a water bottle at him.

My left hand was getting really cold and the steady headwind seemed to aggravate the problem. It must have poor circulation. On Poplar in Wilmette I donned the other pair of gloves but I think it was too little too late. For the next forty minutes I was kind of preoccupied with my hands to the extent that I wasn’t enjoying the ride very much. At times I’d pick up the pace to increase my blood flow but the stiff winds started to wear me out.

At around Montrose my left hand wasn’t bothering me anymore and my right hand felt pretty normal. At first I thought my hand had warmed up until I realized I just couldn’t feel it anymore. My hand was like a stiff claw. Terrific. So I started flexing it until it started to sting a bit. That was a good sign. The winds continued to be stiff, my Accelerade was near frozen, and I was just ready to be done. Unfortunately I still had about 10 miles to go.

The downhill section just south of Fullerton was plainly covered in ice. The Chicago Park District had the foresight to make a nice detour uphill from the lakeside path well beyond where the lake can cover it in ice.

There were few people on the Lakefront Trail and not one bicyclist until I was just south of North Avenue I saw a blinking tail light far ahead. I was hoping to see it continue past the Oak Street curve but it disappeared from view before that. I really didn’t want to extend this ride more than I had to with a detour if the curve was impassable. Once I got to the curve I saw it was covered in smooth and brick sized chunks of ice. It definitely wasn’t passable by bike but I walked it without much trouble. This added a slight bit of adventure to my morning routine. The path south to Ohio Street Beach was slick from the weekend’s snow which made it fun to bike on. By then my left hand finally thawed and I began to enjoy the ride.

On Roosevelt at Damen I was stopped at the red light. I smiled to a well bundled commuter on a road bike heading north who actually nodded in response. Oh joy.

The frigid temps made a plastic bottle of chain lube so fragile that it busted in my bag. Luckily it was near empty and I've gotten in the habit of putting everything else in plastic bags; so the mess was minimal.

My hand still feels the effects of exposure. I'll have to do a better job protecting them.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1799.7 miles
Price of gas: $2.28

Friday, January 26, 2007

Bike Safety Tips

This March 23, 2001 Onion article was posted a few days ago on Bicycle Diaries, another Chicago based biking blog:

Warm weather is just around the corner, and soon it will be time to dust off those bicycles. Here are some tips for safe riding:

* Always use hand signals when turning at intersections. There's nothing motorists pay more attention to than hand signals from bicyclists.

* Leaving your bike out in the ice and cold all winter may cause serious damage. But it makes a nice subject for the cover illustration of a short-fiction quarterly.

* Always wear a helmet. If this makes you uncomfortable, think of the helmet as a crown and yourself as King Dorko.

* Placing your feet firmly on the pedals of the bike will help reduce the "Wheee" sound emitted from your mouth while going downhill.

* Insist on a bicycle made of solid matter. Liquid and vapor bikes are a passing fancy; argon frames are particularly shoddy.

* Taking your bike in for a professional tune-up is a great way to waste $25.

* Be sure to wear your seatbelt, even if just biking down to the corner store.

* Fat-bottomed girls may be riding today, so look out for those beauties, oh, yeah.

* Visibility is crucial when biking. Ride with a lit highway flare in each hand.

* Every three to four weeks, lightly oil the chain. Then dip it in flour and fry it for a real taste treat.

* As soon as you buy a bike, talk to your friends about how great Shimano crank sets and STX hubs are.

* Does your city have adequate bike paths? If not, consider bitching about it to your local government for the next 40 years.

* If rich, spoiled Francis Buxton steals your bike, go on a hilarious and heartwarming journey through the American Southwest to get it back.

* Bike safety can never be stressed enough. If you doubt this, try stressing it as much as you possibly can. It won't be enough–guaranteed.

Like Riding a New Bike

The guys at Performance Northbrook did a great job tuning my bike (or perhaps it was in worse shape than I thought). Either way it was a pleasure to ride. The shifting was very quick and crisp and my braking is the best it has ever been. I guess I should have gotten it tuned up as soon as I got it (I bought it used). But it was in decent riding condition for the most part so I figured the heck with it.

This afternoon it was in the high 30s and I was dressed for the 20s. But this morning it was really cold so I assumed it wouldn't have warmed up dramatically. Oh well. So I cooked a little bit.

I'm enjoying the lengthening days. Even though it still gets dark early in my ride I see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, where I wont have to bike in the dark.

At the Oak Street curve I passed a bunch of guys on their Freakbikes riding in the opposite direction. This was the second time I've seen these guys on the Lakefront Trail. I figured they must have been at Chicago's Critical Mass. My brother and sister ride at Critical Mass every once in a while and I've been tempted to join them. But by Friday afternoon I just want to go home. I'm also not really into bunching up in traffic and pissing off drivers. I should also not knock it until I've tried it. In the summer it is probably pretty fun.

At Addison a guy on a Giant road bike zipped by me like I was going in reverse. He had a super bright rear blinker. It was quite impressive but I didn't like its weird cadence; it blinked on and off a bit slow for my liking. He seemed to have slowed once he was through humiliating me so I picked up my pace to at least maintain the same distance. He had about a block on me and I could still see his blinding blinker. At Sheridan Road he was caught at the light and I just hung back behind him. I'd had enough of the consequences of pushing myself on other bikers so I figured I'd just give him his space. Once the light turned green he headed up Ardmore while I headed to Broadway. At the intersection of Broadway and Granville he was waiting to cross at the interminably long light while I zoomed a quick left turn. I poured it on all the way home hoping I wouldn't get passed again.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1775.4 miles
Price of gas: $2.31

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Getting the Bike Tuned Up

Due to a change in my work schedule, I'm not biking until my ride home this Friday. In the meantime I took advantage of the time off the road for a long over due tune-up (the Performance Chicago tune up discount coupon I received at the Chicago Bike to Work Day was all the incentive I needed). My wheels were wobbly, the gearing was acting up again, my brake pads were so worn that I was near metal on metal, and also I figured it was high time a pro gave my bike a good once over. Fortunately Performance Northbrook agreed to honor the coupon.

While checking in the bike, I spoke to an employee about SRAM chains. I really like SRAM chains because they are easy on and easy off with the SRAM Power Link. I installed a SRAM chain on my 2003 Cannondale Scalpel 3000 and really liked the convenience. This made the chain and the rear derailleur much easier to clean. Contrary to what manufacturers advise, the employee told me my current Shimano chain could also be fitted with the SRAM Power Link. So I could enjoy the benefits of a SRAM chain without waiting for my current chain to wear out. Fortunately I already have a SRAM Power Link at home. So all I have to do is pop out two pins and put in the new link.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Snow Riding

About 20 minutes before I headed out this morning I noticed my front tire was flat again. I'd recently repaired the tube and never noticed a problem during my last ride. So I figured it was just another slow leak and reinflated the tire. Just as I was about to hit the road I saw it was flat again. I considered myself lucky that I hadn't ridden on it only to face fixing a flat on a soggy roadside.

Since my "snow tires" are fatter than my summer tires, I take a bit of a risk using the same tubes. Most of my tubes are sized for 18-25mm tires whereas the tire I'm riding on is 32cc. My rear tube is a thick puncture resistant tube so I think I'm pretty safe on that one. The front is another story.

After a delay of 10 minutes I began my morning journey. Temps were in the mid 20s, winds were light from the northwest, and the roads were slightly slushy. With little traffic on Green Bay, I had no problem riding in the lanes that had been better plowed. Biking through Wilmette I noticed it was getting lighter due to the combination of the late start and the lengthening days. The late start made more of an impact the further I biked because there were more cars on the roads than I was normally accustomed to on my morning commute. I was delayed turning from Broadway to Ardmore because I couldn't ease over to make a left turn and had to wait for a light. This caused me to just miss the long light on the crossing at Sheriden Road.

There was no effort to clear the Lakefront Trail of snow over the weekend unlike the Monday morning a few weeks ago. The Chicago Park District must have taken the night off after the Bears' championship victory to celebrate. No worries (a hackneyed yet apt expression in this case). The surface was slick and slushy but provided a relatively safe way for me to practice biking in the snow. I maintained a speed between 16 and 17 mph but had to slow for the sharper turns.

From Fullerton to North Avenue there was noticeably more snow on the path. This made biking a bit trickier but the trail was still passable at a brisk speed. Two other bicyclers were taking a more cautious approach. Once I passed the North Avenue Beach pedestrian bridge, the path returned to light slush.

Approaching the Oak Street curve I feared I'd have to detour at Michigan Avenue. But I saw a number of other bike tracks continuing south and decided to risk it. At the curve I passed a bicyclist heading northbound. The stretch from Oak to Ohio was snow covered with 1"-3" drifts about every fifty feet. At first I traversed the drifts with caution because my rear wheel would slide down the bank toward the lake. But once I got the hang of it I increased my speed and started plowing right through the drifts as fast as I could. I was still sliding to the side but it was almost like maneuvering on skis. I was sorry to get back on the slushy pavement.

At the beginning of the ride I was feeling sluggish thinking I was getting the flu from my disease carrying kids. But by this time I was invigorated. While stopped at Grand Avenue I saw that my bike was encrusted in snow as if I'd biked from the Yukon in a blizzard. I wished I'd had a camera. I rode the rest of the way to work feeling like some sort of all weather biking bad ass.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1751.1 miles
Price of gas: $2.38

Saturday, January 20, 2007

My Winter Bike Wear

I did a bit of experimenting with my winter biking gear this year. With the exception of a February adventure race a few years ago, I've never biked in temperatures below freezing. Since I bike at a fast pace, for me anyway, I knew I'd overheat if I over dressed.

In addition to my usual bike shorts and bike jersey I wear a pair of old REI polyester lightweight long underwear. It does a good job soaking up the sweat and regulating my body heat. When it gets below 15˚, I wear Underarmor cold weather long underwear. It feels kind of plastic-ee and is really tight but in the long run it keeps me warm without overheating. When it gets below 10˚, I wear both.

As an outer layer I wear a Goretex LL Bean top and some light fleece form fitting bottoms I bought a few years ago. On my head I sport a Pearl Izumi headband in most weather. If it gets below 20˚, I wear a balaclava instead.

On my hands I wear a few pairs of old glove liners in addition to my reflective bike gloves. If it gets below 20˚, I wear Thinsulate mittens I got at a local hardware chain.

On my feet I wear Performance Neoprene booties. If it is below 20˚, I'll wear some old wool socks over my bike shoes and throw a plastic bag over each foot before I put on the booties. This combination has kept my feet pretty comfortable even near zero.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Clear Cold Dry Ride

The flags outside my office were whipping all around their poles this evening. So I didn't know what to expect as far as the winds were concerned. But within the last month I've found that stiff winds haven't bothered me as much as they use to. As long as the breezes don't antagonize my frosty fingers, muscling into the wind has become less of a chore. Granted I always enjoy a nice tailwind but headwinds don't seem to be the big hassle they use to be.

The roads were much drier than they were the previous evening. All the puddles froze over so some areas of the road were a tad slipperier than last night. The charge indicator on my Jet Lite head lamp was pretty low so I kept my light off while driving through the bright city streets.

The turn south of Oak Street Beach was a bit trickier too. What was wet and salty last night was now smooth and slick or crunchy and slick. I took this part especially slow. Again not many bicyclists out tonight. In fact I don't think I encountered any until north of Lawrence. As I biked by one young lady I startled her when I said hello. I just can't seem to do anything right these days.

I was glad I didn't run into the guy I pissed off in Evanston. That would have been really awkward.

I managed to wipe out on the Green Bay Trail in Kenilworth. Just as the trail turns toward Richmond the surface got really rough from frozen ruts. I slowed down for the turn but obviously not enough to prevent me from sliding out and scraping my right knee. Fortunately I only tore my worn out long underwear and some of my skin. My bike and my fleece pants were relatively unscathed.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1726.8 miles
Price of gas: $2.38

Chicago's Winter Bike to Work Day

I joined fellow Evanston Bike Club members Barry, Dave, Dave and Paul for a ride to Daley Plaza for Chicago Bike Federation's Winter Bike to Work Day. It was in the low 20s at 6:00 am when we met at a Dunkin Donuts at Howard and Western. We biked south on Western and worked our way over to Damen. We continued south and linked up with a group of about five bicyclists known as the Kibitzers at a Starbucks at Damen and Lincoln. Then as a pack we biked downtown.

The traffic was light and I really enjoyed the ride down Lincoln. At that speed one can get a good look at the area. From time to time Barry and Dave remarked how busy this area can be when bicycling home though. I know I could shave about seven miles off my ride if I took a more direct route instead of the Lakefront Trail. But I doubt I'd save a proportional amount of time. All the traffic lights would probably slow me down.

One drawback of this particular ride was the occasional traffic light that cut off riders in the back of the pack. Waiting for them to catch up and the slower pace prevented me from warming up. I was dressed a little too light and found myself getting a bit cold. But the company made up for that bit of discomfort.

At a cross street we saw a cab driver getting into heated argument with the driver of an SUV stopped in traffic. As I biked by, the cabbie was pounding on the hood of the SUV. Those in our group caught at the light said the cabbie then pounded on the driver's window but he eventually got back in his cab. It was a sour reminder of my little dust up the night before.

We arrived at Daley Plaza a little after 7:00 am. Waiting for us was a tent with muffins, Eli's cheesecake, coffee and other refreshments. Performance handed out swag bags containing catalogs, a Cliff Bar, Power Gel and a coupon for a half price tune up (which I fully intend to use). There were about 15 other bicylists when we arrived. I couldn't stay long because I still had about five miles of biking ahead of me and an 8:30 am appointment. When I left there must have been about 30 bicyclists. A pretty good turn out.

Biking west on Madison was a major trial. Stiff westerly winds were really making my hands and feet cold. On top of that the slower than usual pace and the muffin break never gave my body a chance to stoke up my internal furnace. I was happier than normal to arrive at work.

Distance Traveled: 23.1 miles
Distance to date: 1702.5 miles
Price of gas: $2.38

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Making More Enemies

The ride home started well enough. A strong southerly wind and temperatures in the high 20s. The roads were still a little moist but not enough to make my bike ride dicey. The southerly wind probably gave my average speed an additional 2 mph.

Not many people biking tonight on the Lakefront Trail; maybe two or three tops and none heading north. Passing Navy Pier I was hoping the turn at Oak Street Beach would be clear. I could see up ahead that there were a few runners on the path so I decided to chance it rather than cross under at Ohio Street. If I found it was too treacherous to ride I could always walk my bike or absent that, turn around. Fortunately it was pretty clear although I had to ride up closer to the wall. I also took it slow because it was kind of a blind corner.

The downhill section just south of Fullerton where I wiped out was now heavily salted and clear. I felt very fortunate the Chicago Park District pays as much attention to clearing snow from the Lakefront Trail as they do to the city streets. One thing they could improve is the surface of the trail between Addison and Belmont. I counted about 25 really annoying and bone jarring bumps in the asphalt. I suppose if the rest of the trail wasn't so smooth I probalby wouldn't notice it.

The bike ride was generally pleasant considering it was below freezing and the roads were a bit wet. But while I was stopped at the intersection of Chicago and Church in Evanston, a guy on a hybrid or a slick tired mountain bike pulls up beside me. I looked over to say hi thinking he might do the same. But he just ignores me and eases through the intersection. I didn't really take offense; some people just aren't social. But being passed by another biker just brings out the adrenaline in me. Pass me on a bike and, as I've mentioned before, I'm like a dog chasing cars. It wasn't like I wanted to get into a race with the guy. I just wanted to keep up.

Without getting into the minute details, we apparently share the same route from Chicago through Sherman and he slowed in some areas while I chose to maintain my speed. On a straightaway he seemed to have much more gas. But in traffic he was slowing in places that I chose to just blow through. In retrospect I was probably too aggressive. But he also didn't have a problem zooming by me either. Each time we passed I'd give off some type friendly gesture. In response he eventually shouted I was an accident waiting to happen. Whoa. Then when he was in front of me again he said I should do my own work, implying I was drafting off him. At that point I'm thinking that if he didn't want me following right behind him, he shouldn't have pulled in front of me in the logical lane of bike traffic. He turned off at Colfax and I bid him good night. But I'd really done it this time. How did my attempt at bike commuter camaraderie gone so terribly bad? I didn't think I was biking like a maniac. And it wasn't like he was a shining example of bike safety either. Oh well. I should pay more attention to those not so subtle clues that I'm invading someone elses space.

I was glad to get home and hose the salt and grime off my bike.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1681.4 miles
Price of gas: $2.46

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Wipe Out

I had been psyching myself up all weekend for a frigid morning bike ride. A low of 4° was predicted for the night before so I was preparing for the worst. I found a balaclava to augment my head wear and I figured an old pair of rolled up wool socks could cover the toes of my bike shoes underneath my neoprene booties. When the temperature is in the 20s, my toes tend to tingle a bit. With a potential drop of 20° I figured I had to do something. I also decided to wear Underarmor thermal undershirt and pants that I got through work instead of my old REI polyester long underwear.

At 6:00 am it was 10° with a light dusting of snow and frozen rain from the night before. So I expected the roads to be a little slick. For some reason I forgot to leave my usual suit, shirt, shoes, tie, and coat, etc at work. I had to stuff all of that in my pannier which probably at least doubled my usual load.

I decided to take Green Bay Road into Wilmette instead of the Green Bay Trail in order to avoid the steep on ramp north of Tower. The roads were kind of slippery in places and I wanted to avoid crashing right out of the gate. Green Bay Road was very quiet which made me consider taking this route all the time.

My Underarmor felt a little weird. It is twice as thick as the stuff I usually wear but it's fabric is so smooth against the skin that I actually felt colder. I'm sure it was keeping me warmer but it wasn't keeping me very comfortable. Maybe if it was a little nubbier it wouldn't feel like plastic wrap. Aside from the weird long underwear, I was pretty comfortable considering it was so cold. My jerry rigged wool toe caps got in the way of my clipping into my pedals but after a few adjustments I was OK. There were strong winds from the northwest, so I enjoyed a nice push. A stiff headwind would have been much more bothersome with the cold.

The Lakefront Trail had been cleared of most of the weekend's snow and was heavily salted. I had a slight fear that I'd puncture one of my tires on a sharp chunk. Between Foster and Lawrence my left middle finger was getting really cold. It was feeling kind of numb and unlike the rest of my extremities, I just couldn't get it warmed up. I still had nearly an hour of biking ahead of me and having little experience with frostbite I didn't know how long it would take before it was more than just irritating. With no options that didn't involve stopping somewhere I decided to pick up the pace in hopes of increasing the blood flow to my freezing digit.

At Addison the path wasn't salted anymore. Frankly I didn't really mind. The snow was pretty dry and didn't hinder my traction. It was also kind of cool watching the powder spitting out from under my front fender and puffing off to the side.

I was enjoying biking at a good clip with the wind at my back when I came to the downhill section just south of Fullerton where the path goes right by the lake. The thin layer of snow hid a very thick sheet of ice that was glass smooth in some areas but rough and rock-like in others. Of course I didn't learn this until I was well on my way through it. If I could keep my cool I might manage to ride it out or at the very least come to a controlled stop. Instead I slightly freaked. I ended up sliding sideways and laid the bike down in front of me. The bike and I then slid side by side for a good distance. Since I was still heading in the right direction I decided to at least enjoy the ride. I lifted my feet and hands and let momentum carry me southbound until I slowed to a stop. My bike and I were both undamaged. I gingerly hauled myself and my ride up to a parrallel running path well beyond the sea wall and continued on.

Naturally the path south of the Oak Street Beach was blocked off due to ice. I biked under Lake Shore Drive at the Michigan Avenue underpass for the first time and eventually found the underpass back to the path at Ohio Street. By this time my frozen finger was beginning to sting a bit so I knew it was coming back to life. I should buy some mittens.

The rest of my ride was uneventful except for my growing thirst. Back home I filled my bottle with hot Accelrade but it had mostly frozen by the time I thought about taking a drink. All I was able to manage were a few slushy sips.

Distance Traveled: 24.5 miles
Distance to date: 1657.1 miles
Price of gas: $2.46

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Balmy Bike Ride

It was in the 40s today so I nearly died from heat stroke. Strong southerly winds almost made pedaling unnecessary.

At Chicago Avenue I said hello as I passed a guy on a mountain bike (or maybe a hybrid) wearing a pretty big backpack. I later sensed someone behind me; sometimes I'd see another shadow from the streetlights and then later I wouldn't. After a number of miles I finally looked back and there he was. So I grunted and waved and we jawed a while. It's difficult to have much of a conversation in such conditions though. The wind, the panting, the varying distance; its like trying to talk to someone on a crowded nightclub dance floor.

He was biking from Northwestern Hospital to Evanston, made the trip a couple of times a week, and was grateful for the tailwind considering he biked into it this morning. Eventually I was getting winded and fell in behind him. He was pretty tall in the saddle and maintained a killer pace. I think his seat was a little high because he rocked his body back and forth as if he was reaching for the pedals. My knees ached just watching him. I pulled up along side of him to yak some more in hopes he'd slow down a bit. Worked like a charm. Despite heading in the same general direction, he preferred to bike up Sheriden Road. I told him I preferred Clark Street because it was smoother and the vehicular traffic was slower. At Winthrop and Thorndale I peeled off and biked alone the rest of the way.

Biking through downtown Wilmette I noticed traffic backed up and a helicopter hovering above. I looked around for an indication of flashing emergency lights thinking there must have been a major accident. I crossed Lake Avenue but still didn't see any cause for the snarls. I decided to turn toward Green Bay Road to see what was going on. About twenty people were spread out among the four corners of the intersection each holding small signs protesting the troop increase in Iraq. The print was kind of small so people would definitely have to slow down to read them. Pretty clever.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1632.6 miles
Price of gas: $2.46

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Damn Was It Cold!

High teens but only slight winds this morning. The sun hadn't risen yet, so it was dark. I wore an extra pair of glove liners so my hands did pretty good today. I could have also worn a baklava if I had one. But after a while my face became numb so it didn't bother me anymore.

I still haven't fixed a slow leak in my tire. Fortunately I can ride an hour and a half on it without a problem. The tube has a couple of patches in it but I think one didn't completely take. Some bike store owner once claimed he threw out a tube if it was punctured and patches should only be considered temporary. What an ass.

At Chicago and Main I was nearly hit by a car exiting a parking lot crossing the street into my lane. I shouted as he came at me but there was no reaction. I managed to squeeze between his car and the curb and avoided getting hit. I gave his rear quarter panel a loud but harmless backhand smash just to let him know I was not pleased. He was making a right turn and as I passed him I still don't know if he knew what was going on. Oh well.

I'm happy with my minor route change by taking Broadway south from Granville instead of Winthrop. An added bonus is a mailbox at the corner of Broadway and Ardmore with a 7:00 am pickup for my nearly late bills.

There were quite a few bicyclists on the Lakefront Trail this morning considering it was probably in the low to mid 20s. At Irving Park I decided to ring my bell as a greeting to every biker I encountered. Eventually my little expression of biking solidarity/camaraderie was greeted with apathy and occasional irritation. Worse ye, the tinny ping was even annoying me. So by the time I arrived at Monroe I decided to suspend the campaign.

The winds continued to be lighter than usual so I pedaled at a constant of 16-18 mph.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1608.3 miles
Price of gas: $2.46

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


The flags flying outside my office were slapping all over the place when I headed out this evening. So I knew it was going to be a windy and interesting ride. It was also dry and cold. My hands weren't bothered too much by the cold though. Maybe it was a little warmer out.

The Lakeshore Path was pretty desolate. The wind was whipping all over the place. Sometimes I'd have a tailwind and other times I was headed into a gale. Just north of Diversey I sensed someone on my tail. Behind me was a roadie in a 2CC jersey was in my slipstream. I waved to let him know I didn't have a problem with him being there. Then with the knowldege that I was being followed, I pedaled with a renewed vigor. I was chugging along at a nice pace wishing he'd pass me so I could leach off him for a while. It seemed forever until he took over at Cornelia. Despite his cutting the wind, I just couldn't keep up with his pace. As we came up to the bend at Grace, I shouted good bye. I think he didn't understand me because instead of waving me off or something he slowed. So we chatted a bit. He said (most likely in an effort to soothe my ego) he had been really working to catch up to me since Michigan Avenue. I managed to shoehorn the fact that my ride is over 24 miles so maybe he wouldn't think I was a complete wuss. We jawed as much as people can at 15 mph until he turned off at Lawrence.

Upon leaving the Lakefront Trail, I decided to take Broadway north instead of Kenmore. After seeing the guy I pissed off a few nights ago breezing by me while I waited at the light at Granville, I figured he might be on to something. Despite Kenmore and Winthrop having dedicated bike lanes, they aren't the best streets to bike if you want to get someplace in a hurry. They both have speed bumps, lots of double parked cars, and dicey intersections. Broadway ended up being a terrific alternative because it is smooth, wide and not very busy. Making the left turn to Granville is the only tricky part though.

By the time I got to the Green Bay Trail, I was ready to be done. The wind, the cold, and my creeping hunger were turning the ride into drudgery. I was only making about 12 mph due to the stiff northerly winds. By 7:00 pm I was home.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1584.0 miles
Price of gas: $2.46

Monday, January 08, 2007

Not Making Enemies

It was rainy the night before and I figured I'd take the train in rather than bike in the cold and the wet. But when I got up this morning there was no precipitation and none predicted. So I geared up for a frosty ride. Except for a slow leak in my front tire, my morning exit was pretty fast and I was out the door by 5:55 am. It was clear and in the mid to high 20s. Except for my fingers, the cold didn't bother me. For about four miles I biked with my hands in fists except in areas I might need to brake. Gradually my hands warmed up but it wasn't until the Lakefront Trail that my hands didn't bother me at all. I should find an old pair of gloves or mittens and make something just for my fingertips.

It was clear but I had gotten up too early to see the sunrise.

At Oak Street Beach a laddie on a mountain bike eased along side and informed me that my blinking taillight was looking a little dim. We greeted each other and chatted for a bit. He bikes every day and parks at Madison and Wells. Hopefully he has a place to shower and change. I have a veritable bike commuter's nirvana at work; secure covered parking, big locker room and showers. If it wasn't for that I'd probably bike once a month at best. Coming up the ramp from Ohio Street Beach I saw I had a chance to make the light crossing Grand Avenue and I gunned it. But I nearly wiped out on some ice on the sidewalk, did a little cross country on the grass and got back on track to make the light in plenty of time. Kind of stupid on my part but the ride was pretty unexciting otherwise. My companion made the light at a less dangerous pace and we rode together until he turned off at Monroe.

The ride west was quite helacious. Stiff westerly winds slowed me considerably until they seemed to abate at Halsted. Got to work earlier than usual. Since I didn't piss anyone off it was a good way to start the week.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1559.7 miles
Price of gas: $2.46

Friday, January 05, 2007

Making Enemies

Got out around 5:15 pm and biked in pretty mild conditions for January. It was in the 40s with low winds. Roosevelt Road is pretty wide from Damen all the way to Michigan Avenue and is a designated bike route. But for some reason the bike lane markings between Ashland and Michigan Avenue have been ground off dating back to July when I first started along this route. I figured it was a temporary situation but nothing has changed in all that time. I called the City of Chicago's 311 line to report this and see if they had any information on the situation. An operator was friendly, took down the information but that was about it. Having the markings hasn't really made much of a difference but it would be a definite help between Des Plaines and Canal where it can get really busy.

The Lakefront Trail was a bit busier than usual due to the milder conditions. As I biked north from Ohio Street Beach I noticed another bicyclist enter the trail from the Chicago Avenue underpass. His pace seemed a little slower than mine so I figured I'd gain on him eventually. But after about five minutes this turned out to be more of a challenge than I thought. Unable to be content with an enjoyable evening ride, I dialed it up so I could catch up with him. It wasn't until after slowed for cross traffic at the North Avenue Beach parking lot that I finally came upon him. He was dressed in street clothes and a winter coat with a messenger bag. I guess in the bike community he would be derisively described as a "Fred." But he was far from Fred-like. This guy had a killer pace (for me anyway). He noticed I was on his tail but didn't say anything. Normally I'd at least grunt something. I didn't bother to try and pass him since I didn't know if I could even keep up. I stayed with him for quite a while. I made sure to stay off his rear wheel and to the side since I thought I might be annoying him. That being the case, why I didn't just back off I don't know. I guess I'm just stubborn and didn't want this total stranger to think I couldn't hack it. Total goof that I am, I even avoided coughing out the pound or two of phlegm collecting in my throat so he wouldn't think I was about to collapse. Just north of Belmont Harbor, the gentleman slowed a bit. I figured he was turning off and I'd compliment him on his nearly killing me. Instead he said something to the effect of "This isn't the Tour de France!" as I passed. So now I felt like a total jack ass. I was still zooming along and if he hadn't turned I would have apologized for crowding him.

The rest of the ride on the Lakefront Trail was uneventful. A guy training on a road bike past me around Wilson Avenue and then screamed past in the other direction near Bryn Mawr.

Luckily for me I hit a long light at the end of the trail at Ardmore and Sheriden and got a breather. As I waited out another long red light at Granville and Broadway, who do I see but the anti-Fred pedaling up Broadway at a less than slow pace. I guess he hadn't turned after all. I smiled but he didn't even look in my direction. I chuckled to myself knowing he got the last laugh. I figure he probably sees me as just one of the zillion spandexed posers out there.

On the Green Bay Trail at the border of Winnetka and Kenilworth, chipped up Christmas trees lain along the bike path's border provided a festive pine scent. It was nice distraction from a good ride soured by my own actions.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1535.4 miles
Price of gas: $2.46

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

First Ride of the Year

And what a great bicycle ride it was. Well sort of, considering it's January.

After almost two weeks of sloth I was very ready to go back to work. Not that I didn't enjoy watching scads of TV after the boys went off to bed and sleeping in until 8:00 am. But I could feel my jeans getting tighter in the waist to the point they were giving me back pains where the denim was compressing my spare tire. Jeez! I did spend a day regrading the foundation of my flagstone patio. So I got a decent amount of exercise hauling lots of slate around my back yard. But not enough to ward off the growing mounds of body lard from laying about.

Dark, clear and a brisk 34° with southwesterly winds when I left a little after 6:00 am. I really felt the wind when I biked the Green Bay Trail. I initially thought it was because of the time away from the bike but then I noticed how speedy I got when I biked by a stand of poplars providing a wind break. My fingers also got really cold. Normally my thin gloves provide plenty of protection but I guess they don't do so well in the wind.

Normally I'd encounter a handful of joggers and dog walkers on the Green Bay Trail at this hour. But for some reason I guess they all decided to sleep in. I figured I see an increase in activity due to New Years resolutions (no resolutions for me; why tamper with success?).

It started getting light as I biked through Evanston. I figured I'd be able to see the sun rise while I biked through Chicago. My GPS provides such celestial data and I'd be able to see when exactly the sun would crack the horizon. But I forgot to attach it to my bike today. Not a huge deal. I'd either see it or I wouldn't.

By the time I biked into Chicago my core temperature rose and sent more warm blood through my hands. So my fingers weren't bothering me anymore.

I reached the Lakefront Trail before the sunrise despite it being already bright. It wasn't until just north of Diversey that I saw the first glint of sun over the horizon. In all the months of bicycling this was only the second time I'd seen the dawn though. I slowed to take in the view and was passed by another commuter and we exchanged pleasantries. He was about as heavily laden as I was. But judging from his lack of a lighting I figured he hadn't been on the road as long as I had this morning. I was pretty well beat from the winds that I didn't even consider matching his pace until around the pedestrian bridge to North Avenue Beach I thought I might actually be closing in on him. Ever the adolescent, I couldn't resist trying to reel him in. Maybe he was beginning to suffer the effects of the stiff headwinds as well. I feel they can be somewhat demoralizing after a while.

It wasn't until around Chicago Avenue that I slowly crept by him and I said something lame about the headwinds. I'm at a loss as to the etiquette in such a situation.

Just as I was climbing the ramp from the Ohio Street Beach I saw that I had a chance to make the light crossing Grand Avenue. So I pedaled really hard while keeping an eye on the cross walk signal. The signal was flashing and counting down from 4 while I was still on the S turn and about 100 yards away. Despite getting a solid red signal, cross traffic didn't have a green when I reached the intersection. I slowed slightly but remembered other bicyclists screaming through the intersection after I had stopped on other occasions. So I gunned it, made it through and maintained my momentum.

I was kind of spent on the uphill after that and basically faced a struggle all the way to Roosevelt. But the winds didn't seem to be a problem as I biked inland despite them being almost in my face. I seemed to have all the lights on my side and made very good progress westward.

At Roosevelt and Ashland I spied what looked like a low cart in the bike lane a few blocks ahead. I quickened my pace and as I closed in I realized it was a very low riding recumbent bike. It looked like the guy could pedal under a car with room to spare. I was very surprised anyone would ride such a thing in traffic as he was very, very easy to miss. It wasn't until I was nearly on top of him that I saw he had two bleached out raggedy flags at eye level. If I was him I'd have put up a couple pinwheels and some Mylar balloons. He was practically begging to get smooshed. But I did say hello as I passed. He was an old guy so maybe he's senile.

When I got to work I was pleasantly surprised that the building management put in some bike racks. I guess they didn't like the three or four of us locking our rides to handicap parking signs.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 1511.1 miles
Price of gas: $2.51