Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why must you be an ass? A commuters tale.

So they say that to make or break a habit takes 2 weeks. I'm not sure if that is true but today concluded two weeks of commuting by bike (Monday-Thursday) and I can say that I feel great. It's amazing how much one can clear their head when on a bicycle, I have generally gotten home in a better mood than I ever do in a car.

My commute is about 13 miles each way, just long enough in my mind. My route is pretty simple, I basically take one road the whole way, a road which almost shadows Interstate 205 (keep this in mind).

For the most part my commute has been without incident, the way home tonight was the exception to that as I got harassed by a trifecta of motorists.

The first was a chick in a maroon SUV, who decided that she needed to lay into her horn for about a quarter of a mile instead of 1) being patient or 2) going around me.

My second was Donny Douchebag on his crotch rocket who decided it would be funny to gun it past me and swerve into my lane. Why a guy on a motorcycle would 1) not just pass me since the two of us could share a lane with probably 6 feet to spare and 2) not recognize that being exposed and on two wheels doesn't make me a bad person.

My third was a guy in a red pickup that was probably held together by dirt who felt the need to inform me that I was "in a fucking red zone!!"...okay 1) that is not something that exists except in regards to parking and 2) if I was in a mythical "red zone" so was he and since I have the same rights to the road as him...well you get the idea.

What makes all of these even more frustrating is that this road is the only east to west artery that makes sense for me to travel on and for the majority of it I can see the I205, in places I could probably spit down onto it if I tried hard enough. So if you are so bothered by a cyclist and in such a hurry why not take your car down the interstate instead of a 2 lane back road?

If anybody I know treats cyclists this way or knows anyone who does then fucking stop it. It doesn't make you cool and it's not going to get me off the road anyways. What it is going to do is make me run through my head all of the ways I would like for you to have a fiery auto accident on your way home.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

3rd Times the Charm

So in what has apparently become a tradition of me being the worlds most indecisive person ever I changed my mind again about what I wanted.

This latest change came from a few different places though. When I had decided on getting the Kona Ute it was because I was trying to get an all around bike. As I talked about in my last post there turned out to be a few inherent problems with that. So after returning that bike I set about converting my existing bike into a do it all bike. In the back of my mind I knew this wasn't a perfect solution but it seemed like the best one available at the time.

One thing that I have been ignoring for awhile is that I am not a bike racer. Okay I realize that is obvious to everyone who has seen me (unless the race is all downhill, then I will win!), but it didn't stop me from riding a race bike. Race bikes are great for racing, they are fast and light...problem is I am neither of those things. And of course I had the problem that started this whole journey in the first place which was the lack of being able to really carry much of anything on said bike.

In addition to everything I have mentioned in this blog before one thing that I have been thinking of for a long while is wanting to at some point do some bike touring. I have spent a lot of time lately reading journals at which has reinforced this desire.

Another site that I keep an obsessive eye on is craigslist, usually just looking at things that I can't afford. I have no clue why I do this, but I do. Well a bit over a week ago this neuroses paid off. Enter my new do everything bike, and this time I really mean do everything as this will basically replace my other bike, a 2009 Surly Long Haul Trucker.

My Orbea is meant for racing with tight geometry, high saddle, low bars, short wheelbase, aluminum and carbon construction, low spoke count wheels, etc etc, the LHT is pretty much the polar opposite of that. The frame and fork are both steel, it has 36 spoke wheels, braze-ons for racks and fenders, a low BB and long chain stays for stability. It is the Cadillac to Orbea's Porsche.

This year a stock LHT will run you $1250ish from your local bike shop assuming they are on the fair side of the pricing game, which is a price I was considering paying as it was really not far off of the price of the Kona that got this whole thing started, but the craigslist luck gods shined on me and I happened upon a post for a 2009 for $400 that was posted minutes before I saw it. I jumped on it and met with the seller the next morning.

After outfitting the bike with the racks and bags it deserves I was still hundreds less than just the stock bike would have been had I bought it new.

So far I have taken a small grocery run, commuted from work, and gone on a park ride with my daughter and I can honestly say I LOVE this bike. I wish that I would have gotten something like this long ago. I will never win any races on the Surly, but lets face it I wasn't winning any anyways so i might as well be as comfortable as possible while I ride. The LHT puts me in a more upright position while still giving me the "road bike" feel that I am used to and like. It has a much lower gear range which is great for me being able to ride with confidence up grades that would have destroyed me on the Orbea (such as the road I took home by mistake that gained 475ft in 1.3 miles). Sure it is heavy and slow, but so am I (and in reality its not that slow, if my legs and lungs were up to the task the gear range would allow me 23mph+, but that's not really the goal).

Anyway enough rambling from me, here are a few photos:

Commuter Mode, with a single Ortlieb Back Roller Classic pannier.

Touring Mode, with a complete set of Ortlieb Back and Front Roller Classics. (Hopefully I will get to put these to good use soon-ish)

Bike Train Mode, with Kai on her Trail-a-Bike. She had a blast, and so did I.

While we were at the bike store picking up the racks and bags for the Surly we wound up buying a seat and helmet for Levi as well. It will be a couple of months before he can use them but we wanted to get Terra use to the feeling of having the seat on her bike before riding with him in it.

So there you have the latest in the ongoing bike saga, and this time I promise, no more changes. This set up is the one for me, it just took some experimentation to find it.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Failure, or a Reboot, you decide.

So my initial plan has come to an end. On Friday we returned the Ute to the Bike Gallery. While Kai enjoyed being my co-pilot she would rather pedal, and while in theory the Ute would have been an excellent commuter bike, in actuality it was too long to fit anywhere in my office, and being in Portland where weather is always a factor I didn't really want to leave it sitting outside.

That being said I have not given up completely on trying to not rely as heavily on our car. After returning the Ute we ordered a few things to make parts of my plan still be possible. The first being a Trail-a-Bike for Kai, which is basically a kids bike without a front wheel which attaches to an adult bike. Hopefully this will show up this week and then I can let everyone know how it went (I have 2 maybe 3 of you that read this blog, I mean c'mon I can't be expected to update that many people directly).

The other thing was to buy a rack and some panniers for my bike in order to make my commute to work easier. I hate riding with a backpack and planning ahead and leaving a duffel bag at work is just a pain in the ass. My bike does not have the correct mounts for a rack but I found a decently nice Avenir seat post mounted rack and a set of bags that is made to go with it. I haven't tested them out yet but got them mounted to the bike today and it seems like they will work well. With any luck I will give them a go this week. I'm dreading finding out how out of shape I truly am once I get back on my bike.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A sunny afternoon off work = Family bike time.

The weather today was beautiful out, and to capitalize on that I took a half day from work and came home to get Terra and Kai and head outside. We figured this would be another good time to put the Ute through it's paces a bit more and also to get Terra out on her bike for the first time in quite a while.

Our first order of business was to take Kai to the park, so we loaded up and off we went. Before stopping at the park that we normally would go to we decided to go explore the bike paths a bit and wound up finding a slightly smaller park that was perfect for Kai as it had equipment that was more sized to her. It was a bit more off the beaten path and as a result wasn't quite as crowded but there were still a handful of kids for her to play with.

After some park time it was off to the Library for some new books for Kai. We wound up with probably a dozen books, obviously there was more than enough room to haul those on the bike.

Our next stop was at Fred Meyer for some shopping, this would be the first time I have really loaded the bike with any sort of capacity so I was interested to see how it would go.

Here are some pictures of us loading up for the trip home:

So that is a load consisting of both a shopping trip and a library trip, I was also carrying Kai of course and really the bike performed amazingly. I may wind up figuring out a way to stabilize the kick stand even further to make loading a bit easier as things tend to want to tip a bit but once I was loaded up and on the bike it was no problem.

Having all of the weight in the rear does make the front end a bit light which changes the feel of things, but the ride itself didn't seem to be affected much it just felt different.

As we arrived home we stopped by the office and picked up our package of Keurig coffee as well, which Kai sort of hugged on the way home, it sat on the deck in front of her with her reaching around it's sides and grabbing her handlebars. Granted that was just for an 1/8th of a mile or so but it still counts right?

So after getting everything in the house I decided to snap a photo of our complete haul:

1lb Can of Similac (x8)
18oz Honey Bunches of Oats (x4)
64oz Juicy Juice Berry (x2)
Skippy Peanut Butter (x2)
Frozen OJ (x2)
Dozen Large Eggs (x2)
Whole Wheat Bread
Oranges (x4lbs)
Coconut (x1)
Peanut M&Ms
Nail Polish (x2)
Library Books (x13 I think)
Keurig Shipping Box

I like to think that is enough to make your standard person think I am nuts, but really it was no trouble at all. Most importantly it was one more time that we could have used the car and didn't. It was a great couple of hours with the family.

Until next time...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I love my brain.

Ordered a new helmet, because much like how spandex bike shorts look increasingly goofy the further you wander from a road bike, so too do race styled helmets.

It arrived today and I love it. Matches the bike perfectly, is comfy, and looks in place with regular clothes.

1st Trip with a Co-Pilot

So Kai and I just returned from our first outing together. She had a blast which is awesome cause I really didn't know how she would react once we actually got out onto the street for the first time.

Our trip today took us from the house to the Home Depot which is 3 miles up the road for Kai to build her monthly project. Today was a sailboat, which she promptly named the Jolly Roger.

On the way home Kai asked for a donut so we detoured about a mile out of the way and grabbed donuts and then made our trek home.

All in all we did about 8 miles and 2 errands in about an hour and 45 minutes. We could have done it in about half the time via our car but it wouldn't have been anywhere near as fun.

Friday, March 2, 2012


So by Wednesday I had decided I was officially having buyers remorse for not getting the Ute. The MinUte, while cool, was too close to a "regular" bike for me to justify. Sure I could haul one kid, or 2ish grocery bags, but not the 2 kids or a full shopping trip as I had envisioned.

Thanks to the fact that the Bike Gallery are awesome people and have a great return policy swapping the MinUte in for the Ute was no hassle at all.

In picking up the bike for the first time it is definitely a beast, but riding it around the apartment complex a few times it really doesn't ride any different than a normal bike. It is a bit more sluggish to get going but that is to be expected from something of it's size. The biggest oddity for me is just in how relaxed the cockpit is.

I am used to being hunched over drop bars not perched upright like the Wicked Witch of the West. This new position also uses much different muscle groups than I am used to. It will be interesting to see how quickly I adapt.

Tonight I stopped and got the parts needed to give Kai a place to hold on.

In the two laps she did around the complex tonight she did really well. Tomorrow we will take our first real trip for Home Depot's kids building day.

Hopefully I will have good things to report afterwards!

Until Then...