Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tail Wind

Today's ride was a sheer joy. A bit chilly but nothing I wasn't already use to. The morning news reported northerly winds of 13 mph. Not as strong as yesterday but I welcomed the added push.

Sunrise was now before or nearly at the start of my ride. So I put my Jetlite headlamp and heavy battery in storage. I noticed my middle chain ring is now missing a tooth and another is worn wafer thin. This condition caused my chain to misalign and was the source of my clunky shifting. Manually putting the chain back on track is a short term solution to the problem. This and additional lube has remedied my drive train issues for now.

Heading east on Ardmore I saw a bicyclist way up ahead of me in motion as opposed to waiting for the long light at Sheridan. I hammered the pedals in an unsuccessful attempt to make the light. When I finally crossed I saw some road bikers making the turn around and heading south. I passed two older gentlemen and asked them how their ride up had been. One guy croaked that it was brutal. Up ahead I caught up to two younger and well outfitted bicyclists. I was reluctant to pass them because I didn't want to show them up in any way. But they were practically crawling and I had work to do. I said hello as I passed and anticipated them blowing by me down the road. But they never showed. Either they were too worn out from the ride north or they turned off somewhere nearby.

I was really moving this morning. In some stretches I got up to 25 mph. Around Belmont I caught sight of the bicyclist that I believed preceded me through Sheridan. Feeling pretty fresh I picked up the pace to reel him in. It took me until after the Oak Street curve to finally catch up. I said hello as I eased abreast and received an enthusiastic greeting in return. We then discussed how much we enjoyed the following winds compared to the day before. I found that Hugh is the president of his company and he tries to bike to work about as much as me. We shared the ride all the way to Roosevelt and Indiana where he headed south.

Continuing west with the sunshine at my back I almost felt like Curly on his horse in the opening scenes of Oklahoma!

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2505.5 miles
Price of gas: $3.16

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Head Wind

I hadn't read the weather report before I set out this afternoon so I was taken by surprise when I walked outside and felt the 20 mph winds from the north. So I knew it was going to be a tough ride home today. But unlike a few weeks ago when I tried to hammer through it, I resolved to pace myself and get home without giving myself a stroke.

While biking east I was continually whipped from side to side but at least I kept a respectable speed. Once I headed north on the Lakeshore Trail I could only bike about 11 mph at a sustained rate. I passed casual bicyclists that were really struggling.

Just south of the river a commuter on a road bike got on the path in front of me and we both maneuvered through the tricky area between Wacker Drive and Navy Pier. Once we got north of Ohio Street Beach I eased by him and grunted a greeting. I trudged through the wind and picked up a bit more speed but the going was tough. At North Avenue Beach the same commuter passed me and I suggested we team up to get us through this gale. He agreed and I got a bit of a breather in his slipstream. Just south of Fullerton he pulled over so I could take my turn. I really labored through the wind to do my part. I found I was able to get up to 16 mph. My objective was to make it to Belmont and let him take the lead again. By this time the winds seemed to be tempered by the buildings and the biking wasn't so bad anymore. I eased up at Belmont but my partner wasn't there. Odd.

Up ahead I saw a mountain biker with a pretty good pace and figured I could leach off of him. The ride is pretty bumpy along this way and trying to catch up with him started to wear me out. I never did catch him and he eventually turned off just north of Montrose. So I had to finish this trip on my own.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2481.2 miles
Price of gas: $3.11

Angela Jaynes Gage

Angela is a City of Chicago Traffic Aide and mother of two who was killed on Monday morning when a 17 year old unlicensed and uninsured driver ran a red light and struck her at the intersection of Archer and Ashland Avenue. Reading about her death really saddened me because in the last six months I've really come to appreciate how valuable Chicago's Traffic Aides are and how they are probably under appreciated. In a previous post I noted how chaotic traffic is during the hours when they aren't on duty. I think most people (including myself) frequently take them for granted and even get irritated on the occasions they hold us up at an intersection or a turn. But what really burns me up is the punk who carelessly took her life was only cited for disobeying a red light, failure to reduce speed and not having insurance or a driver's license. WHAT THE FUCK!?

Monday, April 16, 2007


Over the weekend I was able to fix my damaged GPS with a glob of epoxy and cotton flox (powdered cotton fibers to give the goo some structure). It isn't showroom new but at least it'll mount on my bike again and wont let the rain in. I also had to put on new brake pads. I found it odd that they had worn down so much since late January. Maybe the salt and cold did something to the rubber to make the pads quickly degrade. But I did put about 700 hard miles on the bike since they were last replaced.

This morning was partly sunny but around 30°. So I donned all my winter riding gear once again. The ride was the usual routine. Just a few bicyclists, runners and walkers on the Lakefront Trail.

Riding along the bike path I contemplated Chicago hosting the Olympics in 2016. The path would probably be a crowded mess but it would be quite exciting. A Chicago Olympics reminded me of The Devil In The White City, a book I read a few years ago about a murderer during the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1893. The book also describes how Daniel Burnham designed the fair grounds despite massive challenges. It's a good read.

My wrist isn't bothering me as much anymore. Just last week it was really sore though. Hmmm.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2456.9 miles
Price of gas: $3.11

Friday, April 13, 2007

More Train Racing

Another light biking week. It was a cool afternoon with negligible winds. A light crowd was on the Lakefront Trail.

My drive train is really beginning to act up. Whenever I down shift my chain starts to skip in my rear derailleur and my front derailleur is all but useless. The cold and wet city driving has really taken a toll on my bike. It is getting to the point that I might as well just convert my bike to a fixed gear. I don't think my knees would tolerate the small drive sprockets I see fixed gear bikes sporting though. I usually bike on the third gear and have a quick cadence.

Clark Street had more than the usual turning cars and other related hazards. It seemed I had to bob and weave all over the place to avoid getting smooshed.

Just as I turned from Isabella to Poplar in Wilmette I was passed by my nemesis, the Metra #355 from Chicago. I was just going to let it go but when I got to the Wilmette station it had just pulled away. So I thought I might be able to at least catch it in Kenilworth. With all the signals still blocking cross traffic I was able to scream northbound. But just as I came in view of the Kenilworth station I saw it pull away. Since the train was still within my grasp I decided to continue chasing to the next stop at Indian Hill. But the route takes me about a block away from the tracks so I had more mileage to cover this time. As I hammered slightly uphill to the next station I just barely missed catching it. The distance between stops now increases so I knew my last chance was to catch the train at the Winnetka station. But I was getting really tired now and my form was getting ragged. When I saw the train's taillights through the trees at the station I figured I still had a chance. A southbound local blocked my view until I passed under Oak Street. I saw I was too late. The train was moving now and I know that once it gets rolling it accelerates much quicker than a fatigued middle aged guy on a bike. So I eased up and decided the enjoy the rest of my ride.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2432.6 miles
Price of gas: $3.11

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Another Crack Up

This morning it was in the mid 20s but clear. The winds were in my face this time so I didn't move at quite as brisk a pace as yesterday.

On the Green Bay Trail in Wilmette I spied a guy on a mountain bike a few blocks ahead. I figured him to be the same person I passed along this way a week or two ago. But he surprised me then by being right on my tail about a mile afterward on Isabella. But then I saw he was gone as I passed Ryan Field. He wore a Northwestern warm up suit so I figured him to be a coach or something. On this morning's ride he had a very quick pace and I came nowhere near catching him. Sure enough he turned off Isabella at Ashland and slowed as if he was heading into the arena.

As I approached Sheridan from Ardmore I saw a commuter on a road bike starting along the Lakefront Trail. His pace didn't seem to fast so I thought I'd try to catch up in case he was someone I knew. But just as I headed south the moderate winds slowed me some. The guy seemed to handle the wind much better than me and I realized there was no way I was going to catch up. So I just did my best to keep him in sight. The effort really wore me out. He increased the distance between us and it wasn't until he headed south from Ohio Street Beach that I eventually lost him.

I took it easy from then on in. But I had a major mishap just as I got into work. They have security barriers at our parking that require drivers to enter a code number to make it drop. The guards at the gate usually just wave me through because they recognize me and then I bike around the barrier. But today I waited as a car went through and for some reason I followed it over the barrier. Just as my wheel got to the barrier it started up and I ended up tumbling over it bike and all. I must have looked like a jockey and horse muffing a jump at a steeple chase. Other than coming down on my gimp wrist I didn't think I or my bike suffered any damage. The security guard came up and asked if I was ok. I said I was fine but my ego was a bit bruised. When I got to the bike rack I saw that my GPS now had a hole in it where part of it was broken off. The thing certainly has suffered a lot of abuse. Hopefully I can fix it somehow.

When I get to my work area my colleagues sometimes ask how my ride went. I didn't tell them about another crack up because they will think I'm a total klutz. But I especially didn't want them knowing the details of this one because some of them are the type that would get the security video and put it on YouTube.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2408.3 miles
Price of gas: $3.07

Monday, April 09, 2007

Another Freaking Cold Ride

I couldn't bike home last week but I did haul my ride home for the weekend. I had hoped to adjust the rear dérailleur and generally clean up the bike but all I did was swap my Panaracer Urban Max "snow" tires for some 700 x 28 summer tires I bought at Performance last week.

While at Performance I was considering buying another bottle of White Lightning wax chain lube but the guy at the counter talked me out of it. He said I should just go back to a regular lube such as Prolink. But after looking at my drive chain over the weekend I saw that there were only a few waxy lumps on one of my smaller cogs. Overall there is not a lot of gunk, my chain runs smooth, and the whole drive chain is considerably less grimey. However there is a bit of rust in places that the wax just doesn't protect. I still have about a months worth of lube left so I'll just see how it goes before I decide to stick with it or go back to traditional lube.

With a tail wind this afternoon and the narrower tires I really zipped home. I had a bit bumpier ride and my GPS was jarred from its housing three times. I learned my lesson from the last time my GPS went flying and now use the unit's lanyard to attach it to my handlebars.

It was pretty cold out so not many bicyclists out but more than there were about a month ago. When I arrived home I was greeted with the news that my three year old son finally pooped in the toilet instead of his toddler diaper. Great success!

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2384.0 miles
Price of gas: $3.07 (Holy crap!)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

More Winter Riding

After yesterday's beating I planned on taking it easy on today's ride. However with the sun coming up I was pretty energized. I started a little later this morning and as a result it was almost daylight when I headed out. Being able to look around was a nice change. My legs were still a little fatigued from biking into the wind yesterday. But the breeze was primarily at my back so I enjoyed a bit of a push. The temperature was in the high 20s but it wasn't anything I hadn't experienced before.

The Lakefront Trail was pretty much devoid of bike traffic this morning. The water was pretty choppy and sent waves crashing on the Lakefront Trail just south of Fullerton. At the Oak Street curve the water was washing all the way up to the Lakeshore Drive wall.

Biking along the future DuSable Park reminded me of the recent proposal by developers hoping to build the nearby spire/sky scraper. The developers hope to add a ramp off of lower Lakeshore Drive that would cut into the existing bike path which would kind of suck. But they also have plans for pedestrian bridges to the east that I guess would reroute bike traffic. A writer at the Chicago Tribune doubts the project will ever get off the ground so it might be a moot point.

At the intersection of Roosevelt and Paulina I had two near misses. A car turning left from oncoming traffic headed right toward me. I swerved away only to be nearly crunched by a car turning from the right. I felt like a character in a video game. I had the right of way in both cases so I think the drivers just didn't see me in the glare of the morning sun. The driver of the second vehicle was a lady that works on my floor in my building. When I got to work she got off the parking garage elevator just as I walked into the lobby. She didn't see me though; that would have been really awkward.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2359.7 miles
Price of gas: $2.81

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

30°, Gusting Winds; Typical Chicago Biking Weather

Luckily I still carry my winter biking clothes; although I forgot to pack my long johns. My wrist still bothers me from my crack up over a month ago. I recently bought a Futuro neoprene wrist support that works pretty well though.

Holy crap did this ride kick my ass! 22 mph westerly winds bitch slapped me almost the entire trip. By the time I finally got off the Lakefront Trail I was ready for a nap. This was the most grueling bike commute yet. But I didn't realize this until I got home. After I showered and changed I was just so dog tired. All I wanted to do was eat and go to sleep. My thighs felt like lead. Boo hoo. Beats driving though.

I detoured through downtown Winnetka to drop off my electric and water payment.

Distance Traveled: 25.3 miles
Distance to date: 2335.4 miles
Price of gas: $2.81

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Beating A Software Pirate

Ride this morning was great. Avoided the rain and didn't get killed.

I recently purchased an older version of Garmin street map software on eBay (since I use my GPS for biking this is tangentially relevant). But when I received it in the mail I saw that it was clearly a copy and not a used version of the original. It was a very, very good copy and worked as advertised but I didn't appreciate the seller getting one over on me. So I sent him a pointed email clearly stating he was a software pirate and demanding my money back. He promptly responded and offered a refund in addition to return shipping. I was still peeved and didn't want him to sell the bogus software to anyone else. I said I'd throw it in the garbage instead but still insisted I get my money. The guy wasn't game and at this point I realized he still didn't admit to anything illegal.

Then I really analyzed his racket. I saw he was no longer offering Garmin software but was still selling other types of inexpensive software and had been doing so for months. One can look at the items a person has purchased in the recent past by looking at the feedback left for the transaction. I noticed that for some transactions the buyer's identity was kept private which ultimately hid what was actually sold. This was obviously some way of covering his tracks.

I reported this guy's operation to eBay but I didn't have much hope they would do anything. EBay is very forgiving with their sellers since that is where they get their money. So I contacted the publishers of all the other software he currently had for sale. I told them the titles he was offering and of my strong suspicion's that they were pirated. I also provided them with the crook's name and address.

I checked the guy's auctions for a few days but was disappointed he was still in operation. When I checked again this morning I saw that all his auctions were pulled and ALL his feedback was now private. I would prefer that his account be cancelled but at least I've cut off his immediate source of funding. I'll keep an eye on him.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2310.1 miles
Price of gas: $2.81

Monday, April 02, 2007

Train Racing

It has been more than a week since I've been able to bike to or from work. Today was a terrific day to bike home; mid 60s, dry and minimal wind.

Just north of Ohio Street a commuter on a road bike glided past me. I did my best to keep up with him but he was soon passed by another roadie out for a training ride. So he began to hammer the pedals to keep up with the roadie. There was no way I was going to try and catch these guys because they now were both on a mission. But I kept them in sight. Eventually the training roadie must have turned off; he wasn't so fast that he was going to completely disappear. Along Belmont Harbor a guy on a mountain bike appeared and I tried to keep up with him. He had a killer pace and passed the road commuter and again the chase was on between the two. They blazed very far ahead. I began to feel really old and in sorry shape. I consoled myself with the fact that I was definitely hauling the biggest load since my pannier still had my winter gear in addition to all the other junk I usually pack to and from work. At Montrose the mountain biker turned around. I guess he was only into short sprints. Eventually I caught up to the commuter who was stopped at the turn around at Hollywood. So I declared myself the winner. Big stuff!

In Wilmette I was able to glide through cross traffic waiting out a northbound Metra train stopping at the station. The train's horn let out a haunting wail. Growing up here people were killed every few years along these tracks and that horn still gives me the shivers. While biking along the Green Bay Trail the train caught up to me but had to stop again in Kenilworth. I passed it at the station and started to hammer the pedals so I could beat it to Indian Hill. My legs were still pretty fatigued from trying to keep up with the commuter on the Lakefront Trail so I figured I could slow down once the train passed me again. Much to my surprise I beat the train to Indian Hill. So now I had to race it to Winnetka. I pressed on but was also aided by a slight downhill. Amazingly I beat the train to Winnetka and raced it to my finish line at Hubbard Woods. I was only going about 19 to 20 mph but the wind in my ears made me think the train was right behind me. I looked back and saw the train's headlight through the trees along the tracks. I couldn't tell how far back it was so I kept up my pace. I finally made it to the trail's off ramp at Tower road and raced up to the bridge so I could watch the train pass under me. It took a while for the train to pass so I assumed it must have been delayed at a station in order for me to have beaten it.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2285.8 miles
Price of gas: $2.81