Friday, June 29, 2007


Beautiful weather and good company today. (I meant to bike home on Wednesday but the threat of storms scared me off. There was a little bit of rain on my drive home but it dissipated after a while. I saw bicyclists while driving up Lakeshore Drive and thought I should have toughed it out . Oh well.) Grant Park was getting pretty crowded with The Taste Of Chicago. It made biking from Roosevelt to Monroe a bit trickier but I always welcome a diversion.

A beefy guy on a Cannondale passed me during this stretch. He struck me as Lakefront Trail novice because he didn't seem to negotiate the crowds as well as most bicyclists I see along here. I ended up passing him at the light at Wacker Drive. I've gotten to know that most cross traffic there turns left as opposed to continuing west to Navy Pier. It wasn't until after Oak Street Beach that he passed me again. I tried to keep up but could only keep him in sight as he widened his lead. At some points he'd slow down and fool me into thinking I could catch him again. But then he'd pick up the pace and I'd get a bit demoralized. He finally turned off at Belmont leaving me to bike in peace.

Around Wilson or Lawrence a taller guy on a squeaky road bike huffed past me and I fell into his slipstream. His large stature provided a really good draft. At some point he slowed a bit and came abreast, said hello and offered to let him take a break. He accepted quite eagerly and I took the lead. The difference was dramatic. I was really chugging to maintain the same pace. Not too long after he took over again. Prematurely, in my opinion. We continued for a short while at a really good pace but then he waved off. I took the lead again but he didn't keep up. I even slowed a bit but he too far back. While waiting at the long light at Sheridan and Ardmore, he caught up and I asked where he'd gone. I can't remember exactly what he said but he appeared a bit dejected. I said I really appreciated being able to draft off him for so long and was disappointed I couldn't return the favor. I said it was like a having a 20 mph tail wind. This appeared to buck him up a little; good thing too. He rode like a machine. He didn't know I was behind him I guess. He said he bikes from downtown to Farwell. I broke off and headed to Broadway and he headed north on Kenmore.

Biking north at an easy pace on Chicago in Evanston, I was passed by a guy wearing a RAGBRAI XXXIV jersey. I stuck with him and at a red light I said hello and asked about the shirt. It was from the annual ride across Iowa (I knew I had seen that acronym somewhere). I know a good number of people who have done the ride. The gentleman said his name was Matt or Mark or something like that (I have an awful memory for names) and was biking to the Northbrook Velodrome. We biked together a bit longer until I turned west at Clark. Then I raced to see if I could keep pace with him where our paths would cross at Sheridan and Isabella. I think my route might be a little less direct than his route on Sheridan. I was delayed by a red light at Sherman and Noyes but otherwise made good time in my opinion. But I didn't see him either way up ahead or down back on Sheridan when I got to Isabella. So either he was waaay up ahead or waaay far behind. I didn't ponder the issue and headed home.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3058.6 miles
Price of gas: $3.51

Monday, June 25, 2007

Biking With Gary

Met another commuter named Gary this morning. He is a frequent commuter who was headed in from Northwest Evanston. Our paths crossed at Granville and Clark. He told me he tries to bike in almost everyday to a school in Lincoln Park. He bikes down McCormick; a route I've often contemplated.

It is always nice to share the ride. Even though we slowed to talk, I still manage to get a good workout. We discussed the usual bike commuting topics, bikes, bike security, route selection, etc. He was riding one of those interesting road bikes where the seat is mounted on a carbon cantelever of sorts. Gary said it absorbs road impacts for a smoother ride. Speaking of road impact, I hit a few bumps that were so jarring I thought I'd bent my front rim. I definitely need to put more air in my tires. I was lucky I didn't get two pinch flats this morning.

My left wrist is still not 100% recovered from the injury last March. It doesn't hurt but it is still weaker than normal and does not have the same range of motion as my right wrist. But considering I never had a professional check it out, it is doing pretty good.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3034.3 miles
Price of gas: $3.59

Thursday, June 21, 2007

3000 Miles

Despite ideal weather, I was unable to bike again until my commute home Friday afternoon. Rain was predicted in the area but I was determined to risk it. Luckily I only encountered a few sprinkles during my ride.

There were slight winds in my face but nothing to hinder my progress. My bike has developed a few annoying rattles but I think they are from my front fender. I'm sure if I ever get around to investigating them they'll be easy to fix.

Not many speedy cyclists on the Lakefront Trail but around Oak Street Beach I spotted a young lady with a pretty good pace. It took until Fullerton to catch up to her but not until after the Theater On The Lake was it safe to overtake her. I said hi as I passed and she greeted me back. I figured that would be the last I'd see of her and I'd extend my lead. Apparently she wasn't going to take my breezing by her lightly and stayed right on my tail. No matter how fast I went she was still right there behind me. At this point I wasn't concerned about her in my slipstream but of the awful notion of her passing me since I erroneously assumed she wouldn't even be able to keep up in the first place.

I resigned myself to not shaking her and got into the spirit of our mutual effort. The bike path was crowded in spots and I was mindful to ring my bell and signal for turns and slowing in traffic (I especially didn't want to repeat the near crack up I had the previous Monday). So we whizzed up the Lakefront Trail until she came abreast south of Montrose where she said she was turning off. She also said something like I was one of the most conscientious bikers she'd ever seen. If I wasn't so flushed with exertion I would have blushed. I thanked her for the compliment and introduced myself. She said her name was Beth.

The rest of the ride was the usual.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 3010.0 miles
Price of gas: $3.59

Monday, June 18, 2007

More Taking It Easy

I took my time again this morning because I knew I was going to have a busy and tiring day. Ideal biking conditions. Sunny and cool with minimal winds.

I'm begining to enjoy taking a more relaxed ride to work. My usual practice is to beat myself to death riding as fast as possible and ending up just getting stressed out in the process. On the other hand, it is a really, really good exercise and keeps my belly in check. But I'll have to remind myself to slow it down and enjoy the ride every once in a while.

I encountered another commuter at Sheridan and Ardmore. We said hello and after getting the kinks out along the Lakefront Trail ended up leading him for most of the ride. I nearly caused a collision weaving in and out of slower bicyclists and roller bladers through the more congested areas of Lincoln Park. In that case I heard the screech of brakes behind me when I balked at passing a skater due to oncoming traffic. Oh well, another lesson learned.

South of Belmont Harbor, a pretty well outfitted roadie glided by us and my collegue decided to give chase. Despite my intention of a taking it easy, I joined the pursuit but enjoyed drafting for a change. We kept pace with him but never ran him down. Not that we couldn't probably. But I wasn't going to push it. The roadie turned off at North Avenue and I followed my unknown commuting colleague until he turned off at Michigan.

South of Oak Street it seemed a bit of a head wind kicked in and I had to exert myself yet some more. The remainder of the ride was delightfully uneventful.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2985.7 miles
Price of gas: $3.72

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Relaxing Friday

This morning, while eating my Cheerios, Paul Conrad from Channel 9 News was making fun of guys in bike shorts at the Chicago Bike to Work Rally at Daley Plaza downtown. My bike was parked at work so I would not have the pleasure of being ridiculed on TV. But I left work early and made it to the rally around lunch time. No free fruit and drinks left from the morning but still lots of tents promoting biking to work. I didn't stay long.

I biked home at a more leisurely pace. No one was home waiting for me so I wasn't in a hurry. Lots of people enjoying the beaches and the terrific weather. North of Diversey I came upon a guy wearing a coolie had on a three wheeled recumbent toting a two drawer filing cabinet. The driver of this outfit was named Peter. He said the bike was his primary mode of transportation and the day before he biked from around Sox park to a destination way up on the north side that escapes me right now. Unlike a lot of other recumbents I've seen, this one would be tough to miss in traffic.

I continued to enjoy the easy pace all the way to my brother's house in Rogers Park. My brother wasn't home but he said I should stop by anyway to check out his silkworm project. My brother's place has a few mulberry trees and he hatched the idea to take advantage of the tree's bounty to feed silkworms (a few years ago he made a bunch of inedible mulberry pies and jams). His roommate let me in and led me to the attic where the silkworms were kept. Picture about 20 shallow boxes of various sizes crammed with pinky sized white caterpillars slowly wriggling around. The sound of their collective munching was like a soft rain. Some had already climbed out of the boxes and spun cocoons. My brother wanted his roommate to feed them while he was at work but he would have none of it (he wasn't keen on the whole goofy plan and had no intention of contributing to it). But I didn't have a problem pitching in. Fresh mulberry leaves were in a box and just waiting to be spread among the boxes. So I got busy and served the silkworms lunch. They must have been hungry because they dug in immediately. The attic was getting kind of hot, so I got back on the bike and headed home.

Distance Traveled: 24.9 miles
Distance to date: 2961.4 miles
Price of gas: $3.72

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bike Commuting; Like MySpace on Two Wheels

Another picture perfect day. My bike hums along and my muscles aren't too bad either. On Poplar in Wilmette, I glided by another rider and we exchanged pleasantries only to meet up again at the start of the Lakeshore Trail. Randy, my new friend, said he followed me for a little while but I turned out of sight along the way. He takes the Sheriden route into Chicago. I explained my preference for Clark Street due to the smoother surface and slower vehicular traffic even though it makes for a slightly longer ride. We rode together for a good portion of the trip kibbitzing when possible. Randy had a very quick pace and at times I found it a challenge to keep up. At Michigan he broke off to head into work where he is a futures trader.

At Roosevelt Road and Jefferson, I was nearly hit again by a lady motorist turning left from oncoming traffic. Again I screamed and she eventually stopped. And again I was cheered by two young men nearby apparently impressed by my lungs. This time I was probably obscured due to glare from the morning sun. I've always been wary of this when I bike Roosevelt in the morning but I guess I let my guard down a bit this morning.

I arrived at work feeling pretty fresh. These rides have done wonders in flushing the lactic acids from my muscles.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2936.5 miles
Price of gas: $3.72 (Gas prices dropping. Time to get back in the car!)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ideal Day To Ride

Another fantastic day to bike home. After the months of grimey snow and ice, I still haven't gotten use to riding in such ideal weather. Which is why I still pack my jacket, pants, and booties. My body is still a little creaky from my weekend's lacrosse misadventure so I contemplated staying off the bike. But once I got going I was back to my old self.

My experiment with White Lightning wax lubricant is over. I ran out and decided to go back to regular chain lube. The wet conditions and extra effort to lubricate my chain just wasn't worth any dirt shedding advantages. Plus other areas I normally would have coated in oil were getting neglected. I bought a bottle of ProLink at Performance and liberally oiled my chain, crank, and pedals. Voila! The creaking from my crank is now gone. All this time I thought it was a faulty chain ring.

The Lakefront Trail was quite populated today with fellow bicyclists, runners, and walkers. It makes riding a bit of a challenge but I'm sure I'm not an entirely welcome presence either. I do my best to be vigilant and courteous. South of Oak Street I sensed a rider drafting. It is always kind of an ego boost when someone else is relying on me for a pull.

I was trying to catch up to a shirtless roadie I saw way up ahead. I didn't catch up until around North Avenue Beach. He was a rather big guy and I thought it would be no problem keeping up with him. Naturally I was wrong. I volunteered to take the lead around Belmont but that didn't last as long as I was following him. As the ride continued I found myself straining more and more to keep up. As the bike path got less congested, the gentleman on my tail volunteered to take the lead. He rode a fixed gear bike and wasn't comfortable leading while among crowds. At the interesection of either Wilson or Lawrence we slowed for pedestrian and motor traffic and I just couldn't recover the pace. So I let up and just tried to keep from fainting. At the turn around the roadie was relaxing so I got a chance to thank him for leading. At the red light at Ardmore I caught up to the other rider.

His name is Sean and we happened to ride together last fall. He accompanied me along my route and I asked him about fixed gear riding and he generously offered to let me try his bike on a quiet side street. I found the fixed gear bike really light but quite a challenge after decades of conventional riding. The geometry of his bike was a little tighter compared to my touring bike. But I was only on it for a few minutes. Not really enough time to appreciate the advantages of fixed gearing. We continued on until Sean broke off at Howared and Clark.

At Greenleaf and Chicago, I had a close call with a lady motorist turning left into me from oncoming trafffic. I hollered at her and she stopped in time. I managed to smile and wave in order to show I harbored no ill will. Two guys outside the Nissan dealership cheered my assertiveness and I responded with beer commercial-esque thumbs up.

Some of my rear wheel's spokes have started whining again. Unfortunately they affect the side of the wheel that if tightened will take it even more out of true. Nonetheless, at Foster and Sherman, I took out my multitool and tightened three spokes. Fortunately the wheel wasn't noticeably altered and now it is much quieter.

After getting home I realized my body was nicely warmed up with absolutely no evidence of muscle aches. I should go for a nice ride before I hit the lacrosse field this weekend.

Distance Traveled: 25.1 miles
Distance to date: 2912.2 miles
Price of gas: $3.72

Monday, June 11, 2007

Summer Bike To Work Day

Yesterday I wore myself out playing in a men's lacrosse league. My division consists of guys who just want to hack around without all the checking and competition. It was more like a pickup game than anything really organized. Nonetheless it was quite grueling. 80 minutes of running around with little idea of what I was doing. I hyperextended my elbow a bit and worried the majority of all my non injured parts would also be extremely achey the following day. In my attempts to delay old age, I seem to actually be hastening the process. But luckily I felt ok this morning and avoided a shameful train ride to work.

I meant to take it easy this morning but as usual I sensed bicyclists on my tail (most likely imaginary) and hammered the pedals to avoid getting passed. Luckily for me the Chicago Bike Federation put up a tent along the Lakefront Trail at North Avenue in honor of Bike To Work Day. This enabled me to get a breather and still maintain my ego. I figured the CBF was going to do something like that this week but I completely forgot about it. I saw a few other fellow bike commuters I know from my rides and got some free stuff from REI (some beefy tire levers and a water bottle). I'd hoped Performance was going to be on hand for discount tune up coupons but I guess they took a pass on this event.

After continuing on my ride, a fixie glided by me north of Oak Street. Incensed I picked up my pace and kept with him until Ohio Street. As we headed to Grand Avenue he slowed considerably. I guess he had to slow down for the hill or a turn or something. I've never ridden a fixed gear bike so I don't know how they handle potential hazards.

Approaching Monroe I noticed from my shadow that I had someone on my tail. Oh great. I hoped he'd turn off at Monroe but he continued to follow. I looked back and signaled my turns in a way to let him know I didn't mind him being back there. At around Adams he came abreast and efusively offered to pull me for a while. Not sure what model of road bike he rode but it might have been a Bianchi judging from the creamy green paint job. I told him I was getting off at Roosevelt but I was more than happy to take him up on his offer. Obviously soon there after we parted.

The ride was actually quite good for me. It seemed to clear out all the kinks in my muscles and bones I developed the day before.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2887.1miles
Price of gas: $3.79

Friday, June 08, 2007

Hate and Discontent

East bound Roosevelt was jammed. For motorists anyway. I get a bit of a thrill zooming by cars continuously backed up for blocks. I'm not smug about it though. I know all too well that right up the road is payback as the congestion clears.

There seemed to be a bit of bad blood on the road this afternoon. At State and Roosevelt, a City of Chicago Traffic Aide prevented a woman from turning left despite a left turn signal. As an unbiased observer I was puzzled as to the Traffic Aide's motives and sympathized with the motorist. The young woman at the wheel went bat shit with rage.

Later as I approached North Avenue on the Lakefront Trail, I saw a bicyclist getting into it with a man holding a clip board. I slowed a bit in order to eavesdrop on the confilict. The guy with the clipboard responded to an unheard remark that the bicyclist was not a cop. The bicyclist retorted with something to the effect of his blocking the way. Since fisticuffs did not seem imminent I biked on.

Great day but more slight headwinds. Again my pannier was like a parachute and seeimingly slowing me down. Around Wilson, a roadie passed me and I said hi and got nothing in response. The guy was tricked out in road racing gear but didn't strike me as an expert as his cadence was knee achingly slow. I'm no biking genius either but I've learned from others that I'll last longer, both in the short and long term, if I gear down (up?) and quicken my pedaling. I leached off his slipstream all the way to the end of the Lakefront Trail. He picked up his pace toward the end but he wasn't going to shake me that easily. At the light I didn't bother to engage him again. Once we got the green, he headed north and I continued west to Broadway and on home.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2862.8 miles
Price of gas: $3.79

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Making Yet Another Friend

This morning I expected a nice tailwind as payback for the winds I faced yesterday. Instead the winds shifted and I biked into the wind yet again. It didn't make for a miserable ride but it diminishes my sense of speed and makes me feel feeble. I was enjoying the humming of my gears. Despite my earlier complaints, the bike performs quite well.

At the Lakefront Trail I slowly caught up to a gentleman I later learned is named Drew and rides in from Evanston. He kept a very good pace and I was able to draft off him for a good while. We talked about our various commutes. He has to park his bike on the street and doesn't have a place to shower at work. Poor guy. He also said his bike had been stolen. After Oak Street the wind was really strong and I just couldn't keep up. He and a few others passed me by on that stretch. At Grand Avenue Drew peeled off.

Because of traffic I was able to catch up to two faster bicyclists. I drafted all the way to Roosevelt Road until I turned off the Lakefront Trail. At Roosevelt and Clark I waited out the light while a young lady glided through. There was very little cross traffic but I was just tired. I figured I'd catch up to her. That wasn't the case though. She was pretty quick but also had traffic lights on her side.

I wasn't bothered by being humbled by at least four other bicyclists this morning. I was really glad to be back on my bike after too many days behind the wheel.

Distance Traveled: 24.3 miles
Distance to date: 2838.5 miles
Price of gas: $3.79

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bicycle Back Up

Last week I got the bike fixed and rode it home from Turin. On the ride my shifting was much smoother with the new cables and chain but it still jumped the cogs on occaision. I also heard some twanging coming from the spokes from my rear wheel symptomatic of a wheel badly in need of adjusting. So instead of having a smooth riding machine I now had a bike with different problems.

Work tasks in areas beyod biking distance kept me from riding until this afternoon. The weather was a bit chillier than I expected , approximately 50, and strong winds from the north, i.e. headwinds. The ride home was very pleasant though. My bike didn't seem to act up once I loaded it down. I guess the rear wheel is happier with a full pannier.

Since I'm still waiting for the middle chain ring to arrive at the bike shop, I've been riding on my largest chain ring. I'm not too keen on this because I can't find a gearing combination I like. One is too easy and the next gear up is a touch too difficult for the cadence I prefer. Oh well.

On the Green Bay Trail I had a nice surprise with my wife and sons meeting me about a mile from home. They were on foot so I dismounted and had a pleasant walk home with the family.

Distance Traveled: 23.7 miles
Distance to date: 2814.2 miles
Price of gas: $3.79