Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Daily Commute Musings for Dec 28

My ride today:

Block 0: Step outside of my apartment building and think that it feels warmer than 19 degrees out. Hopefully I didn't overdress.
Block 1: My nose feels frozen. Adjust neck guard to cover nose better, and then flick my head in a Fabio-ish fashion to get the ball of my Santa hat out of face.
Block 2: I note that while I don't have one now, I will have a tailwind for most of the ride in, and again hope that I didn't overdress.
Block 3: The cold penetrates my top layer, which usually doesn't happen this early on. I actually shiver, but press on, knowing that I am going to turn in a few blocks.
Block 4: A construction worker stares at me as I pass by, either noting my post-Christmas Santa hat and lights, or thinking to himself "Why is he riding in this weather??".
Block 8: I am breathing super hard due to the hills in my neighborhood, and the fact that my neck guard only lets in about 50-60% of what I am trying to breathe. I remind myself that I still need to get a baklava.
Block 9: I take off after at a stop sign after a Honda CRV, which blows a big cloud of exhaust right in my path. I try to hold my breath through it, but still catch a good portion, and it stinks. So much for cycling being healthy.
Block 11: I catch the green light on pacific street, thankful because its a notorious one to stop on due to the hill and heavy traffic.
Block 13: A car passes me on 60th in a one lane section, crossing the double yellows and almost head-on collides with someone in the other lane. There are almost no other cars on the road, and I wonder why he is in such a hurry.
Block 22: I get to the light at Happy Hollow and Leavenworth and realize that I am no longer cold. Awesome.
Block 27: Someone backs out of their driveway fast and hits the gas in order to beat the cars coming. Even though they are in the other lane, the sound of screeching tires startles me and triggers a pang of adrenaline. I try to mentally calm myself down with breathing exercises as I fly down the next hill.
Block 40: I catch the light at the Saddle Creek intersection, and am able to keep my speed from the hill. Woot!
Block 42: A garbage truck passes me a little too close. Scary.
Block 44: My breathing to speed ratio increases dramatically as I pump up the hill on Leavenworth. It seems to take me an especially long time to get up it this morning, especially because my goggles fog up about halfway, and I cant see much. I think about taking them off for a few blocks, but decide to leave them on, because the speed on the next downhill should clear them. Also, I know this road like the back of my hand, and probably no-one will hit me with all of the blinkers that I have going. I hope.
Block 46: My goggles-clearing-plan is faltered by the red light on 35th. Drat.
Block 53: I am rewarded with a beautiful sight of the Omaha skyline beneath a bright pink sunrise. Nice. Touche, Karma, Touche.
Block 70: A pedestrian stops for me on 16th and Harney as I buzz by, and I think, 'that was nice of them'.
Block 72: I arrive at UP, and take stock: Toes are cold, but everything else is a bit sweaty. One of my rear lights is low on battery, and is barely lit. But the Christmas lights on the bike are still blazing, and the sunrise still looks awesome. All in all, a good ride in.

I decided to do a more thorough examination of my ride in today because it highlights a lot of things that one will usually encounter on a winter ride, with the exception of snow and ice. I have also learned that enjoying cycling, as well as many other things in life, is about taking the good with the bad. Even if 3/4 of your ride in is shitty, you have to learn to still see the positives, and let them overpower the bad things. I think thats the trick to enjoying your daily ride, and ultimately, your daily life.

Just my chilled 2 cents worth.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: 30

Well, I have officially been under a rock for the last 2 weeks. Due to a pinnacle of increased workload and a lack of snow tires, I didnt ride at all last week. I also felt super sluggish and lazy last week (coincidence?), and so I have braved the slippery streets with my summer tires this week and thus far have had little trouble.

The winter bike has been 'done' since 2 weekends ago, and I was kinda waiting for my tires and a rack for it to come in. The tires have been continually backordered, but the rack for it came last night, so I thought 'To hell with it', and put my rack on the bike with the plan to ride it in today, snowtires or not.  On a whim, I took it for one last test ride in my garage and, sonofabitch, my chain was skipping. Thinking that I had this fixed already, I cursed somewhat loudly in my echoey garage, took the bike back upstairs, and got the tools back out.

It seems like my sketchy Singulator installation (combined with a lack of proper understanding of the installation instructions) was not keeping tension on the chain. Since I hate reading and like tinkering, I took the Singulator apart to figure out what was up. I learned a lot from doing this, namely two things:
First, I did indeed install the Singulator wrong. The spring was not properly tensioned and was slipping inside the unit, which of course was not causing tension on the chain. And secondly, I need a cone wrench to install it right. Ugh. Yet another specialty tool.
This frustrated me a lot, not because I needed another specialty tool (I should have expected that by now), but because I didnt have the tool at the time, and thus could not finish working on the bike.  Sigh... That means that I will be trying to get to a bike shop in the next few days and get this thing on right.

Well, if I ever get to ride this bike, you will be the first to know, and I will post pictures. I did put a few strings of xmas lights on it, so it looks pretty sweet, Im super stoked to ride it.

In the meantime, have a Very Merry Christmas, and as always, ride safe out there!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day 22

So close, and yet so far away.

I put on the remainder of the components last night, and thought that I had a working bike. Using some Polish engineering and innovation (see below), I was able to cut the rear brake line much easier.
 Yes, that is a vice grips around the handle of some dikes. Works great.

For those of you that read and commented on yesterdays post, I ended up drilling out the brake stops so that I could run the brake cable housing all the way back. This ended up working well, except for my first attempt with it, when I had selected too small of a bit (not counting for the give of the paint) and scratched my frame, resulting in a surplus amount of cursing over the blemish in my newly powder-coated frame.

After getting everything on, I went for a quick jaunt through my sizeable apartment garage complex, and my chain kept skipping.  At first I thought that it was skipping because I didn’t have it lined up closely enough with the chainring, but when I watched it closer I found that it was actually jumping forward on the chain, a feat which I did not know was possible.  

Figuring that the chain was too loose, I spent the next 2 hours trying to adjust my chain, and quickly learned what a ‘golden ratio’ was – and that I did not have one.  I am running a 42/17 now, so Ill stop by the shop on my way home and pick up a 16 and an 18 to see if I can make one of em work. I have a Singulator at home, but in my stubborn determination want to try to make it work without one.

Hopefully I will be riding it tomorrow (of course, that’s what I said yesterday..).

Stepping back and looking at my apartment yesterday made me laugh. Some people prefer to have couches in their living rooms...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day 21

Almost Done

Put on the pedals and started on the brake cables. I had a lot of trouble cutting the cable housings with a pair of regular cable dikes.  The special and shiny Jagwire cable housings that I got are composed of a plastic sheath, then a layer of nylon strings, then a layer of super strong cable strands, then another plastic sheath inside of that. When I finally did get through it with my dikes the cut was so ugly and the inner cables so mangled that I couldn’t get the cable housing caps on.  So I started playing cat-and-mouse with trimming the plastic sheath, then trimming the inner cables, then trimming the sheath again, then trimming the inner cables again.. Finally I had a cleaner end to work with and crammed the cable housing cap on, then put the actual brake cable in and trimmed it to length. When I finally got done it did end up looking pretty good, but took me almost an hour for just the front cable. At that point it was getting late and I didn’t have the energy to go on.

Also, in looking at the rear brake cable setup, I came across a question, and thought that I would table it here.  The cable stops on my top tube look like they have actual stops on them to halt the housing and only allow the cable to keep going. There is two separate places were it looks like the housing is stopped and started. The cable housing goes from the brake handle to a spot on the top tube near the front. Then it goes into a cable stop and only the cable can run along the top tube. Then there is another cable stop, which opens up to allow the cable housing to run again until after the seat post but then there is another cable stop that halts the housing again about 3 inches short of where it needs to go from the brakes.  I have included some pics below of what I am talking about.
So, if I followed the cable stops and housings, then I would have to run a bare cable (or at least put a cut in the cable housing) along my top tube, as well as for about 3 inches above my rear brake. My question for you is, is that right? Is there a reason that you would want to run a bare cable along the top tube, or cut the cable housing like that? Are most mountain bikes like that? I was thinking I could just drill out the side of the cable stops that don’t allow the whole cable housing to go through so that I could run the whole cable housing through the stops, effectively turning them into runners or guides for the cable housing. This would allow the housing to go all the way down the bike, which would be way easier and I think would look nicer. 
What do you guys think about that?

Let me know. Im hoping to finish it tonight, so I need to figure this out by the end of the day. 

Top of the cable stop. 

Other side of the cable stop. You can see here where it blocks the cable housing.

Bike so far, with the rear brake cable housing dangling. Needs that finished, and then tubes and tires and its DONE! 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day 20ish


Finally I feel that I have gotten somewhere on this bike. Got the crankset on, rear tire put together and cogged, fork on with headset and stem, brakes mounted, and seat mounted.  I need to switch out my chain to a 3/32" spacing as it has a lot of lateral play on both the cog and the crank, but that should be the last part that I need for the bike. I also needed to purchase a new tool this weekend, which was a little thing that looked a lot like my bottom bracket tool but was used to tighten my cassette (or in this case, my cog an spacers) on my rear hub.

Still need to put on the brake cabling, install the chain and pedals, and get the tubes and tires on the wheels. But then I should be good to go! Im excited, especially considering that only a week ago I was so behind and frustrated that I thought seriously about just getting a bike that was built already.

My only concern now is that the new bottom bracket doesnt have the right spacing for the frame, which puts the chainring dangerously close to scraping the frame at the rear. Like, no more than 2mm space there. I will have to make sure that the frame doesnt flex too much and cause it to actually scrape, otherwise I will need a new bottom bracket. Keeping my fingers crossed!

Also, keep your fingers crossed on this weather. I dont have my snow tires in yet, so Im hoping the lack of snow holds out for another week or so at least.

Here is what it looks like so far:

PS - munsoned, you were right about the brake studs. I had to strip them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day 17

Started building the bike on Saturday morning with optimism in my heart. Little did I know, the day would be wrought with failure.
I figured that the bottom bracket was the logical place to start, so I got out my shiny new bottom bracket and bottom bracket tool. Watched a quick youTube video on 'How to Install a Bottom Bracket' and got to it. I had a Shimano ball and cup style one, so I started with the ball, as the video instructed, on the right side. It felt a little tight, but with some elbow grease I was able to set it all the way in. Then I started putting on the cup part, and it went it with a few stuck spots until about the 3/4 mark. Then it felt really stuck. Thinking that I could give it a little persuasion, I really cranked on it, and heard a distinct *CRACK*.
The teeth part of the cup that were still sticking out of the frame had separated from the rest of the cup and went flying in multiple directions. The cup now only had about half its teeth, and was impossible to remove as it was. After a moment of panic, in which I had visions of the broken plastic piece of the bottom bracket being stuck in the frame forever and fears that I would have to scrap the whole thing, I was able to remove the other side of the bottom bracket first, and then get the plastic piece out VERY CAREFULLY.

This left me a little frazzled (not to mention minus one bottom bracket), but I decided to press on. The fork assembly was the second idea that I had for where to start, so I tackled that. I soon found that the powder coating had put too much width on the stem, so I couldn't fit it into the fork. Not to be thwarted twice in one day, I gathered my frame, fork, stem, and seatpost (which had the same problem as the stem), and my resolve, and headed over to my grandfathers house (where I was going anyways for a family Thanksgiving get together) to use his power buffer. The power buffer was working well, and just when I thought that I was getting back on track it started shooting flames. Well, OK, no flames, but lots of sparks and lots of smoke, from the inside.  So no more power buffer.
At this point a crowd of my redneck uncles had gathered to drink and watch me work (the use of power tools  and/or beer seems to draw them like flies to dung), and one of them helpfully suggested I use an angle grinder. Dont get me wrong, my redneck uncles are an inspiration in my life, but I knew that the angle grinder was the equivalent of using a sledgehammer on finishing nails.  However, at this point, I was frustrated enough to try anything. (which, by the way, is the point at which you should QUIT. Im just not the brightest bulb in the knife drawer)
So out came the angle grinder, and after a brilliant array of white paint chips and enough vibrating to make me completely numb from the elbows down, I had everything stripped that I wanted to. At this point it was about noon, and I decided that it was 5 O'clock somewhere and started drinking heavily.
The rest of the day was a blurry mess of good beer, good food, and good times. I didnt get home until well past the closing time for Greenstreet, despite my good intentions of getting there.

Im going to try to get a new bottom bracket today and tackle the project again. Wish me luck, I apparently need it...

Monday, November 15, 2010

New Pothole Alert!

OK, so since I know a lot of people that read this blog are commuters in Omaha, I thought that I would put this message out. Was riding in this morning and saw a new really bad pothole on Leavenworth. It was just after the interstate bridge, in the right-most lane, right in the middle of the lane.
I just wanted to bring this one to light because it would be a for sure rim-bender. It was about a foot in diameter, at least 6 in deep, and looked like a perfectly symmetrical cylinder, almost like it had been drilled out for construction or something. It is especially deadly because in the early morning light you cant tell how deep it is, and it is only a bit smaller than a pothole, so at a glance it could be mistaken for one. And I know that a lot of people take Leavenworth in, so the route has a lot of exposure.
Spread the word, and, as always, ride safe!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day 14

Parts, Parts, Parts. And some tools?

Picked up a big box o' bike parts from Greenstreet yesterday. I had to reorder my crankset, because apparently there are about a million different types of crankset to bottom bracket interfaces, and mine were incompatible. Go figure.
I also just got a call from a lady at my apartment complex informing me that my Nashbar order (another big box o' parts) had come in today, so after the new crankset comes in, I should have everything I need to build this thing.

A few important things I learned yesterday:

This isnt compatible with That
If you are thinking of getting something new other than a strap on accessory, and wondering to yourself "I wonder if this compatible with that?" the answer is probably not. Sorry. Not to be pesimistic, but there are a million variations of every part ever made for a bicycle. Im not sure why each bike company feels the need to make everything different from every other company, and different from themselves year to year. Pretty much nothing is standardized, at least that I have found. Between all the different variations of width, spacing, tube diameter, threading, bolt size, and even bolt shape, it is extremely hard to interface components with other non-matching components. So the lesson is, do a lot of research (and talk to someone who knows bikes) before buying something to make sure that it will fit.

I need tools? I have a hammer, is that good enough?
One of the things that a particularly enlightened bike shop worked once told me is that the main difference between people that can build their own bikes and the people that cant is tools. You may think, like I did, that determination, elbow grease, basic mechanical know-how and a set of alan wrenches was all you needed to build a bike from the ground up. Nope, you also need some very specialized and specific tools. This was disheartening to hear at first, until I realized I could just buy the tools I needed, and instantly become one of those people that builds bikes (some experience and educated googling helps, though).

I have a full list of tools needed on the above tabbed page, "Building a Bike".

Daily Commute Musings for Nov 11

Rode in this morning with the thermometer showing 33 degrees, the coldest ride that I have done to date. With the colder weather, I added a second layer of gloves (thin skiing gloves with my padded cycling gloves under) and a second layer of pants (sweatpants underneath my khaki pants, over my tights). The extra gloves were perfect,  my hands weren't cold or hot. The pants were entirely too much, and my lower body was sweaty after only about a mile.

So I rode in on the coldest day yet, and sweat the whole way in. O well, this is how you learn!

And for the record, being too hot and sweaty was way worse than being a little cold.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day 12

Gear Ratios

So after reading extensive stuff online about fixies and single speeds, I have been trying to decide for myself what gear ratio to use. I have a 175 mm crank and 26" wheels. I was thinking about a 42/18 or 42/16 gearing for winter. Anyone have any thoughts?

Update on my component order: Sarah said that the gear should be here by Wednesday! Assuming that my supplementing Nashbar order (for pedals, tubes, etc) comes in by Friday (and also assuming that I am super ambitious... riiiiiight.), then I can have this thing together in time for Cranksgiving!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day 11

Well it has been few weeks since I posted anything on here about my winter project. I am calling this day 11 since I really havent worked on my bike at all since the last post.

Went to the bike shop yesterday to talk to them about ordering parts. I was super bummed to learn that I couldnt use the Sturmey-Archer kickback hub with my bike due to the fact that it has the wrong axle spacing. I need a 135 hub for my bike, and the kickback is only available in 116 and 120 (for a 700c wheel instead of my 26").  When I learned that, I seriously considered scrapping the frame and starting over from scratch, or to buy a  prebuilt like that has what I wanted. But I decided to press on, continue on my path, and finish what I started. I figure that it would be a good experience to build it myself anyways, and will learn a lot for future reference. Plus, its for the good of the blog.

That being said, I picked out some wheels, brakes and levers, crank, and bottom bracket. Andy gave me an old set of mountain bike handlebars that he had laying around the shop, so that was a bonus. They have cogs, chain, and chain tensioner in stock. Everything else I am getting from Nashbar because Im not worried about compatibility issues with things like the seat, grips, fenders, etc. Hopefully the parts will all get here before next weekend so I can actually start building this thing.

As a side note, I did talk to Andy about getting a wheel built around that kickback hub, and thought that I would share that with my 3 readers, since I know Scott will at least be curious. He said that the rims would be about 60 each, labor was 60 per wheel, spokes (need 32 for that hub) are $1 a piece, and then the hub itself is about 90. So total is just under $240 for the rear wheel, including labor. If you are interested, ask your local bike shop of choice to see if they can put in a pre order for you, the hub is not technically available yet but has shipped out to the distributor (United Bicycle Supply) so it should be ready to order here in the states in about a month. For those of you that dont know what Im talking about, here is a link.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Daily Commute Musings for Oct 25

Today I want to document an important lesson that I have learned in the last few months of bike commuting.

Fighting traffic in the morning seems to be fairly dependent on two factors: the time, and the daily craziness factor. Some days are just worse than others for no explainable reason other than some people didnt take their crazy pills that morning. As this is something that I havent been able to control or predict, I cant offer any advise on the matter. Time, however, is a factor that you can control.
While some folks that have to drive in from West O, Papio, or some of the other 'burbs of Omaha will tell you that rush hour goes from 6:30am to 8am, thats on the interstate. Here on the humble streets of midtown, rush hour is really only from about 7:25am to 7:45am. There is also a second one from about 8:30am to 9am that I have hit a few times and for the life of me cant explain. During these times, it is highly dangerous to be on a bicycle in the major streets of Midtown (such as 60th, Leavenworth, and Center).  People that normally wold wait behind you will now rush next to you to get in front, either by crowding you in your lane or by veering into oncoming traffic lanes.  They will tailgate you or hurry to pass even if there is a red light a  mere 100 yards in front of you. And they will insist on passing you, even if you are going the speed limit or faster, because you are on a bike and they assume that you are going too slow. These folks are simply not willing to wait the extra ten seconds that it would take to wait behind a bike and instead prefer one of the above dangerous maneuvers.
So this is why I made the rule for myself that I will not leave between 7:20 and 7:50 am. The people are too crazy and the ride is too stressful. If I cant make the 7:20 marker then I just wait it out until closer to 8 to leave.  This morning I failed to follow my own rule and left my place at 7:30. Consequently, I got to witness all of the above maneauvers firsthand, as well as having to stop at several lights that I usually can zip right through due to traffic.
In summary, if you are commuting by major roads, be sure to play with leaving at different times to find what times the traffic is the worse. Then, dont leave at that time. Also, I have found that if you leave at the same time every day, people get to know you. And not as a person, but as a bike on thier route into work. Everyone is a slave to a routine, and most people leave within a 5 minute span or so every day. As such, if you ride every day, then people driving in at that time will come to expect you on thier route, and be more mindful of cyclists on the road in general.  So, find a good time to leave, and leave at that time routinely.

Of course, as the Karma gods would have it, I was blessed with a beautiful sunrise, despite the stressful commute.

Snapped this on the way in. It looked even better in person. 

Happy Monday everyone!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day 10

Yesterday I picked my bike up from the powder coating place, and whoo baby! does it look nice. White and shiny! I had the guy who runs R&R make a few touch-ups (mostly taking off the coat where I thought that it might cause trouble, like the fork tube and headset seat ring), but otherwise he did a really good job. The powder coating seems tough and has hidden pretty much all of the gashes and scratches that were in the frame previously. Now I just need to rust-proof the inside of the frame, then I can start strapping on parts.

All the parts, 'after' picture to compare to the one below.

Lugs, painted and pretty
(With some apples and carrots in the background)

I am going to start researching parts more thoroughly this week, and I'm sure I will have questions/ideas posted on here soon. I am sad to see that Sturmey-Archer has not posted any updates on the freewheel version of the kickback hub, which was supposed to be released late October. You can follow their blog yourself here.

Daily Commute Musings for Oct 18

This morning was my coldest commute yet, a whopping 38 degrees when I left my apartment at 6:30. I had thought long and hard about what to wear exactly, and guaged it pretty good with most of my clothing choices: Pants with tights under them, light hat and gloves, clear shades, and a wind stopper jacket with a thermal baselayer under it. The only thing that I messed up on was my choice in grabbing a scarf. While the scarf kept my neck/lower face plenty warm and stayed on quite well (my two main initial concerns), it also redirected my hot, moist breath onto my safety goggles, fogging  them up completely at speeds under about 5 mph. This was not only unexpected, but also fairly detremental and scary.
Riding your bike blind in traffic at 6:30 in the morning is kinda like doing a 'trust fall' in the pitch dark, and when the people that you are falling into dont know that you are going to fall, and when you in fact arent even sure if there are people there to catch you. My only consolation was that I had a ridiculous amount of blinkers on my bike, so I was fairly sure that no one would hit me, and that I knew the route like the back of my hand, and could avoid potholes based on landmarks. I could see traffic lights and the outline of cars, but that was about it.
Probably not the most ideal way to start the day, but it sure woke me up. Coffee is for pussies.

I did make it to work safe (and warm), and have since vowed that I need one of those 'hood things' for this cold of days. I think its supposed to be a bit warmer the rest of this week, so hopefully I will be able to procure one before it gets this cold again.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day 5

Picked up the sand-blasted bike yesterday from the blasting  place. It looks good all nice and clean. Loaded it up onto the pack and drove the mile or so across downtown to 19th and Leavenworth, to the powder coating place.

I'm not sure what color to go with. I want to pick a color that he has already, since it will be cheaper.  He has a few nice shades of blue, and a shiny, stark white.  He also has a few shades of silver-ish colors, but they are all pretty flat. So I'm trying to decide between the white and a sky-blue color( its quite a bit darker than Scott's Earl), but am leaning more on the white (I think it will look better with my leather seat and handlebar wraps). Any input on the color? I was hoping to find something that would stand out at night, as well as in the snow, although I'm not sure exactly what color that would be..
The powder coating guy didn't think that he would get to my bike until next week, which is fine because I need to start compiling parts.

Some pics from yesterday:

The frame and parts all blasted and looking clean.

When I got there I pointed out that he had missed a spot on the fork. So I was able to watch him finish that up, which was pretty cool. 

Stay tuned!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day 3

Took the bike down to get sandblasted (in prep for powder coating) at Keystone Stripping today. The place looked pretty sketch, but the guys that worked there looked like they had been doing it all their lives, so that made me feel better. Dropped the bike off before work, and am looking forward to seeing it clean and ready.

Here is before I started taking it apart last night.

Trek: Old School Style
Mmm... Love me some nice looking lugs...
Lugs on the bottom bracket
Finally disassembled! Took me about an hour and some serious grunting to just remove the fork, headset, and some braze-ons. They were rusted on from who knows how many years of never moving. 
And strapped to my bike, ready to go get sand blasted.

Side note: Serial number is 449133. Anyone have any idea how old this might be? My guess is 1979 or 78 based on some preliminary research.

Cant wait until the blasting and powder coating to get done. More pics to come!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day One

The Frame
After looking around online and talking to some people at Trek (midtown) and Sarah from Greenstreet, Sarah agreed to let me come look at a old Trek frame that she had sitting in her garage. When I finally met up with her I saw that the frame was an old Trek 970, lugged steel, and black (with bright pink accents - woohoo!). It was in pretty good shape, a few rust spots, but it seemed like it fit my winter commuter criteria pretty well, and I really liked the lugs on it, so I agreed to buy it from her along with the fork and bottom bracket for a cool $100.

Now, how to get it home?

In being carless the last few weeks, I have realized that, ironically, I need a car to be able to move bikes or parts of bikes around. For example, When I got hit a few weeks ago (I'll put the story up some other time, I promise) and needed a new front fork and wheel, I had to strap them onto my back and ride to the Trek store by my place to get the parts that I needed. Similarly, I now needed a way to transport a bike frame (and fork).

Sarah suggested that I could strap it to a big framed backpack, and since I had a 70L (large) backpacking backpack sitting around, I figured that I could give it a try. It would be better than carrying the bike the mile or so home at least.
As it turns out, this is a very good way to transport a frame. Put the sleeping bag straps around the fork, the compression straps around the top tube, the lid of the pack around the bottom tube, and wrapped a towel around the back bracket to keep it from hitting my head, it traveled home with me like a charm.

Granted, it looked completely ridiculous, but I really didn't care too much about that. I'll post some pics of it and the experience tomorrow.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Winter Commuter Project Bike: Day Zero

Knowing that winter is around the corner and that neither my road bike or my undersized hybrid would cut it in snow or ice, I have recently begun compiling specifications for a winter commuter. Expect to see many more posts about this, as I am hoping it will highlight my experiences as a fairly inexperienced person building a bike from the frame up.

Here is roughly what I want:
- Steel frame, lugged, something bulletproof.
- Carbine studded tires that can grip in snow and ice
- Fixed gear ratio (probably a freewheel for the hills around here) so I don't have gears that can freeze up.
- I would prefer to go with disc brakes, as I hear that they perform better in wet weather, but I dont have any experience with them and may change my mind after working with them.
- Eggbeater pedals. You can clip into them even when they are covered with crap.
- Leather seat and handlebar grips.
- And a custom paint job would be cool.

I'm planning on working with Sarah from Greenstreet and some of my friends to help me compile everything, and am looking forward to putting it all together.

Carless in the Big O

I had been thinking of selling my car for some time. I was rarely driving it, insurance is expensive, and she (my car) deserved to be driven. So about 2 weeks ago I met up with a friendly man from Des Monies, took the plunge, and  sold my cherry red '99 Mustang GT.

Initially, something deep down within my Nebraska upbringing cringed at the thought of not owning at least one reliable vehicle (not counting my motorcycle). But the feeling passed and I made some adjustments to my bikes (like putting a nicer rack and bigger panniers on my hybrid). And before I knew it, I was getting used to the fact that if I wanted to go somewhere, I had to pedal my happy ass there myself.

Moving to be carless, I knew that it would be good for my health, but that everywhere would take longer to get to. I would have to plan more, and be more careful about the things I bought at the store. I wouldn't have to pay for gas or car insurance anymore. The list goes on of things that I had been preparing for, but here are some unexpected things that I came to realize about the car-less life:
-You don't really realize how stressful driving is until you give it up. When you are driving, you are in a hurry, and no one else is going fast enough. When you are on a bike, you are the slowest (usually), so everyone has to wait for you, which is much less stressful. Similarly, traffic lights are an opportunity to catch a quick rest rather than an inconvenient stop. And that old lady that drives way too slow is a suddenly a great lane blocker.

-When you go to the grocery store and get all of the groceries that you need in your cart and you are on your way to the checkout and you see that sixers of a delicious micro brew are on sale but you can'y buy one because you don't have enough room on your bike. This may seem like an obscure case, but it has happened 3 times in the last 2 weeks now and it is seriously getting depressing. And unfortunately  I am not enough of a drunk to go back just for beer.

Thats all for now on car-lessness. More updates to come.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

First Post: About Blog

After I started to get into cycling regularly, people started asking me things like: "Did you really ride today? What about the rain??" or "You really get groceries on your bike? How does that work?". Friends and coworkers typically thought that I was insane when I told them that I got around mostly by bike and loved it.
People didn't understand how great it feels to exercise a bit on everyday on your way to and from work.
They didn't understand how great a quiet, crisp morning feels when you are sliding along a calm trail.
They didn't understand how you see things on a bike that you wouldn't see in a car, like a curious squirrel watching you ride by, or the sun coming just right through the trees, or the smell of that one big bank of flowers on the south side of Leavenworth just before the Happy Hallow intersection.
They didn't understand how enjoyable life can be when you just slow down and take the time to be more a part of it.

This blog is not for those people.

This is written for the inspired, ambitious, or perhaps just adventurous beginner who is looking to get more into everyday riding. I am hoping to detail all of the 'little advice' that I have learned in my commuting endeavors. For example, anyone can tell you that you should dress for the weather. But when you wake up late for work and see that the temp is listed as 54 and breezy, what do you wear? How do you get all of your clothes to work without panniers? Hopefully by reading this blog you can learn (and appreciate) all of the little things that go into daily commuting.

And this is also for my friends and family, who seem to enjoy hearing my 'crazy biking stories'.

Advice of the day:
You don't have to make cycling a lifestyle. Just get out and ride. Don't beat yourself up if you don't ride as much as you want to. Just do it when you can, and try to enjoy every ride as much as possible. Do that, and you'll be addicted in no time!