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.