Friday, January 31, 2014

Infinite Horizons

The article is, as with most of Mr. Medred's articles, sloppily written and an oversimplification of most of the "facts," but does provide an interesting overview of just how skewed Alaska is, overall, towards anything that is gas powered.

And, as usual, the comments are the best part of the article. It continually amazes me, though it shouldn't, that people seem to believe that only gas taxes pay for roads and that cyclists don't pay taxes. Strange that being a cyclist excludes owning or operating a car or paying taxes (property tax, which is where the bulk of road and infrastructure improvement funds come from... not gas taxes). Someone needs to tell the taxman that I'm a cyclist, so I don't pay taxes.


Too often it feels like it is not if, but when. When I get hit will I be lucky enough to walk away? I sure hope so.

I do want to refute a few points made by one Mr. Art Chance. Here's the text of his comment: 

Let's sort this out a bit and perhaps remove a little bias and emotion. First, the fact that the witness observing from A Street had a red light doesn't mean the light was red on C Street, though I'm not sure just how the left arrows are timed there. In the morning, the light would be heavily biased towards green on A and C Streets, so you'd be sitting at a red light for a long time on 40th. In fact, you'd be sitting at a red light for long time on 40th any time of day. If one were in a hurry, it might be awfully tempting to pop over into that crosswalk and become a "pedestrian" to cross C Street rather than waiting for the light or if one were hurrying east on 40th and saw the light go yellow, to do that pedestrian thing to get across C Street.

The article doesn't clearly state the victim's direction of travel, nor the direction of travel of the motorist, but given that the victim entered the intersection at 40th and C and the witness was looking to the west towards C street from the light at A street, that means that she (the witness) was heading north. If the motorist was heading east on 40th, there is no evidence to suggest that the cyclist "pop[ped] over into that crosswalk" as there is a separated multi-use bike path along C street at that corridor. Thus the cyclist would have had the light and, while he should have indeed dismounted for the crosswalk, would not have moved from the lane and into the crosswalk to become a pedestrian. 

I wish that piece of the muni code were enforced more because I very rarely see a bicyclist stop at a red light. They almost universally hop over on the sidewalk or that megabucks bike path that they don't pay for and pretend they're a pedestrian and go through the crosswalk to avoid the light. Under traffic laws as I thought I understood them, if you're going to cross the street as a pedestrian, you dismount the bicycle and walk it across. If you're riding, operating, the bicycle, you're a vehicle that is inappropriately in a crosswalk and if you get hit, it may well be that you were a vehicle that failed to yield, so your estate can pay to fix the damage you did to the car that hit you.

I rarely see drivers yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk, but that doesn't mean that they don't. The argument put forth here is built on a singular and limited set of data - one cannot extrapolate the behavior of an entire segment of the population from one person's observation of a behavior. 

"They almost universally hop over on the sidewalk or that megabucks bike path that they don't pay for..." Wait. What? There are so many fallacies implied here. First is the implication that someone who rides a bike does not own or operate a motor-vehicle, thus paying gas taxes just like everyone else. Secondly is the implication that gas taxes pay for all roads and sidewalks - this is patently untrue. Gas or 'road' taxes in actually pay for only a miniscule portion of construction and maintenance of public roadways, even figuring federal grant moneys and funds matching. The bulk of funding for public infrastructure comes from general funds - funds raised municpaly and in the state through property, sales, and excise taxes - taxes that, in one way or another, all citizens pay. 

I can hear Art right now, though - renters don't pay property taxes. Yes, this is true, but you don't think the landlord pays them out of his or her own pocket, do you? But, I digress. 

Art's final line in this paragraph is telling of his own bias, which he declares in the opening lines to be attempting to remove. From a simple logic standpoint, if someone hits me with their car and kills me, my estate should have to pay to fix the car's damage? I don't get it, but I'll just leave that alone for now.  

I don't know the facts here and the article certainly gives no comprehensive reporting of the facts since it was obviously written to try to make a particular point. No driver wants to hit a bicyclist, though I'll admit to a few instances where I wouldn't have minded shooting one. Mr. Mason commenting below about his .45 toting bicycling acquaintance would do well to remember that a goodly number of vehicle drivers are armed too. If the bicyclist here were in the roadway and a driver blew the light on C Street and hit him in that roadway, I think it is almost inconceivable that the driver wouldn't be ticketed for at minimum failure to yield. I think it far more likely that the investigating officer and the prosecutor couldn't determine with enough precision where the collision actually occurred to be confident in making a charge or did in fact know that the bicyclist had acted to "... propel a bicycle so as to suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and move into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard" by diverting into the the C Street crosswalk.

Yes, Art, the article was written to make a particular point. All articles are. All writing is. That is the nature of discourse. And I completely agree that the article does a horrid job of laying bare the facts. That said, the remainder of the paragraph is in direct opposition to Art's opening statement that he wants to remove emotion. No one does want to hit a cyclist, though Art's assertion that he's wanted to shoot one from time to time speaks volumes about his emotional attachment to and bias towards the subject. 

That said, I won't try to argue against the remaining points in this paragraph because the article does not provide enough information with which to argue and it is clear that the laws referenced in the article and the paragraph above are written in such a way as to not permit cogent argument against without having all of the evidence. 

And for those of you advocating special protections for bicyclists, let's start by having you pay some license and registration fees on those things so that you can make at least a symbolic payment towards the building and maintaining of those roads and bike trails that we drivers pay for with our gasoline taxes. Mr. Medred tries to whip up this emotional appeal about how it is open season and no limit on bicyclists. The reality is that many bicyclists are rude, militantly riding in the middle of 35-45 mph traffic lanes at 20 mph and operating their "vehicle" as if they were either oblivious to or totally ignorant of traffic laws. In Southeast we boaters referred to kayakers who militantly held the center of a channel as "speedbumps." A huge percentage of bicyclists operate with no lights, wearing dark clothing, as often as not with headphones on, and I can't remember the last time I saw a bicycle with at least a left side rear view mirror. Turning your head to look behind you will almost certainly cause you to swerve towards the traffic lane.

Again, gas taxes pay for quite little of the roadways and pathways that drivers like to claim as their sole domain for paying gas taxes. Also, how is it that license and registration fees here are equated with gas taxes? These are not synonymous. And, most cyclists pay license and registration fees for their cars and ATVs and boats and motorcycles and other motorized vehicles just like other drivers do. Basing an argument on the assertion that being a cyclist and a motorist are mutually exclusive is just weak. There are some cyclists who do not own a car just as there are motorists who do not ride a bike. 

Many bicyclists are rude. Yeah, I get that. These are generally the same cyclists who, when operating a motor vehicle are also rude. These are generally the same cyclists who don't hold open the door for little old ladies. Many drivers are rude, as well. Again, a personal observation does not provide a statistical basis on which to built the argument. 

Here's the thing, Art, cyclists who take the lane do so not to be rude or hold up traffic. They do so in order to create the safest possible situation for themselves when cycling in traffic. I am curious as to which traffic laws you feel that they are being willfully ignorant of when taking the lane? Is it not going the speed limit? Because a speed limit, if we all remember, is the top end speed a vehicle may travel on a given roadway, not the minimum. Do cyclists run red lights? Absolutely. But so, too, are there drivers who drive without seeming to know the rules of the road. 

Kayakers as speed bumps. That is a beautiful red herring argument there. 

And again, Art, using your personal observation as the basis of the argument about all cyclists is just the sign of a weak argument. Yes, there are many cyclists who don't use lights and who wear headphones and don't have a mirror. A mirror is not a legal requirement. Lights are, depending on conditions. This is a matter of enforcement, or lack thereof. 

I'm well aware that there is a cohort of for lack of a better word "serious" bicyclists. For the sake of this discussion I'll grant that the serious cyclist on his $2-3K fat tire bike is likely to operate it knowledgeably and responsibly, though I've seen exceptions. But that "serious" bicyclist isn't the one that drivers have the most contact with. The best bicycle salesmen in Alaska are the cops and Troopers and most of the bicyclists you encounter at rush hour are people who've lost their driver's license either temporarily or permanently for driving while intoxicated. Many of these people are poor so they don't have the fat tire with the flashing LEDs and studded tires and they don't have the expensive reflective clothing. All of them demonstrably have shown bad judgement in operating a vehicle. Some of them are drinking while operating the bicycle. I've had my heart almost stop more than once because a bicyclist appeared out of nowhere swerving to avoid a puddle or swerving into a cross walk to avoid a light or stop sign. There are at least two sides to this story.

I feel that this final paragraph is the most telling of Art's entire comment and is, unfortunately, likely the stereotype that is held by most non-cyclists and even many cyclists in this town. I have to admit that I have seen cyclists out riding and wondered if they are riding because they have to or if they want to, if they have a suspended license or if they are homeless. It is human nature to do this. Though the cost of one's bike does not correlate to how he or she operates it. I have seen a lot of cyclists on 10K plus bikes riding like complete jag-offs and I have seen people on 100 dollar Wallyworld bikes riding absolutely in accordance with the laws.

This is the heart of the issue, really. We look at those who bike, for whatever reason, as second-class citizens. The same with pedestrians. Until we take a really rational look at the situation and really try to get past our own biases, we won't be able to really address the issues here, which are not cycle vs. car, but rather the fact that we have laws on the books that are so unclear in their wording and intent as to make it so that someone operating a multi thousand pound motor vehicle can break a traffic law and kill person and yet have the blame deferred to the victim. If the driver in this article had not run a red light, the cyclist would not have died at that particular moment. The fact that the driver broke a traffic law and that resulted in a death seems like it should clearly be an issue of reckless endangerment. 

Maybe if we all just were just a bit more forgiving and aware of each other's essential humanness, maybe this city would be a better place for everyone. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014


Bodies suspended in the cottony infancy
of someone else's dreams, rocking rhythmically
in 65 miles per hour time - thump, thump, thump,
the wheels go round and round
ticking minutes away from our collective
days. Once it's gone it won't come back, we
know time is a commodity, but is our time
worth more than our money, is the time spent
worth the cost? The early mornings, the early nights
tossing and turning trying to sleep, the big house
on the big lot miles and miles away from
where we need to be every day.

I get these strange moments when I wonder how long I'll be able to do it. The commute, that is. Or the commute the way I do it now, anyway. And maybe all this is triggered by the fatigue I'm currently feeling as a result of my recent illness, but I just wonder if I'll be able to keep doing this in another five years.

First off, I try to work four ten hour shifts, rather than five eights. So that has a big affect on my commuting choices. The company I contract to now has a 9/80 schedule - one week of five days, nine hours and one week of four days, nine hours. This has led to me working a 40 hours one week and 50 hours the following. I've found it quite hard to back off from the ten hour days. It does give me some padding so that I can bug out early from time to time. Though I never come in late. Odd.

Anyway, my typical work day is as follows:
4:00 AM wake up, hit the head, check weather reports, check email for anything new that came in overnight.
Between 4:35 and 4:45 - head out the door
Between 4:57 and 5:05 - get to bus stop
5:07 board bus
5:10 leave for Anchorage
Check email as they come in, work issues that need working, ~1/2 hour of work completed during commute
5:55 arrive in Anchorage
Between 6:07 and 6:20 arrive at work
6:25 boot computer and check email, launch apps needed for first tasks
6:27 change into work clothes
6:33 make breakfast, check local news, light surfing while eating oatmeal, check calendar, pour coffee and sigh
6:33 until 3:50 work - whatever tasks are at hand
3:50 get changed into bike clothes and head out
Between 4:10 and 4:15 arrive at bus stop
4:30 get on bus and head out of town
Keep tabs on email and work issues, as needed during ride, ~1/2 hour work
5:20 arrive in valley
Between 5:32 and 5:45 arrive home
Between 8:30 and 9:00 get in bed

So, I'm only physically in the office for a bit over nine hours, but the total time worked each day is ten or more hours, depending on how many tasks I have to deal with during the commute.

I also see now that I could wait to head out to the bus in the afternoon a bit longer. There is generally a fairly long line to get on the bus in the afternoon, though, and I really like to get the seat right next to where I put my bike.

The days are really long and it takes a toll. Particularly when I also have my second job as an adjunct. That means that sometime between when I get home and when I go to bed, those two precious hours, I have to shower, eat, try to spend some time with the family, and grade papers, answer student emails, and all the other stuff that comes along with that work. It makes it so that in essence every waking moment during the week is spent working.

And you know what sucks about that? When I have time off or vacation, I find that I can't really relax because I always feel like I should have something that I should be doing. Or something I should be procrastinating.

I could step back to eight hour days. That would allow me to sleep in until 5:55 each morning and still be home at the same time each night. I could also shift my commute back so that I leave later in the morning and ride a later bus home.

I like the bus I ride in the morning because it is generally not terribly full. I also like getting to work early when there are not a lot of people around. I also like having a bit more time at home with the kids in the evening. Though if I didn't have to get in bed at 8:30 each night I might end up with the same or even more time with them each day.

The ideal situation is, of course, finding clients in the Valley so I don't have to commute. Or finding clients in Anchorage who will allow me to work remotely most or all of the time.

Okay. Enough of my whining. The riding is glorious right now, for the most part. A bit slick in areas, but fast everywhere else. I need to just enjoy it. Right?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Ahhh, commuting. It's been a few days, what with my work from home day, flex Friday day off, and two days down with a nasty bug.

I'm often amazed at how a stretch of six days can result in such a change in overall riding conditions. In the Valley it is still dry pavement and fast rolling. I like it. I have a bit more leeway in my schedule because it takes me 12 minutes to make the ride from the house to the bus stop rather than 20 to 25 on snow.

Anchorage, on the other hand, isn't so amenable to fast riding. Many portions of my route are covered with layer upon layer of slick ice after the repeated freeze and thaw cycles over the last week. Chester Creek Trail is, however, not terrible. Apart from the potholes, that is. It is firm, fast, and not too slippery. And, if you pay attention, you can easily see the path that has been built into the base, where things will remain firm well into April or May. Stick to that ribbon of compacted snow and all is good. Stray from the beam and it feels like you are riding a jackhammer for all the footprint holes that have now frozen solid over night.

Hell, though, I can't complain when on Saturday I was able to get out for a ride in shorts. Shorts I say. I've even gone back to my clipless pedals because it seems serious overkill to wear winter boots rated to -40 when the temps are in the 30's at the lowest.

And on Friday I put in 32 miles on the steed. 32 miles of all bare pavement. Not the best terrain for riding a 35+ pound fatbike with Nate tires on it, but WTF? It was sunny, the single track probably a mess, so the road called. Can't think of a better way to spend a few hours. It reminded me of when I first start riding serious miles back in Vermillion, South Dakota. The riding choices there were gravel roads or highways. I got to know the farm roads quite well. It made me feel connected to the area. My ride on Friday was similar. It connected me to the area in a way I hadn't been before.

It helped that the sun was out and glorious - the type of glorious that makes you laugh out loud at just how lucky you are to be alive and moving through the world on a bike.

I love that feeling - when nothing can bother you, when everything in the world is absolutely perfect. It's somewhat like runner's high. It doesn't happen that often while on bike. At least not for me. Probably because I tend to ride trail whenever possible, so it is a rare thing to get into a zone where I'm turning a good and consistent cadence for long stretches of time leading to the zen-like mental state coupled with the physical balancing of everything in order to really get the endorphins running the bloodstream.

I will say, though, that if you try to talk to me after I've ridden for an hour or two, even if I'm not "feeling the high" I probably sound like I'm drunk or something. I get a bit discombobulated in the head.

I would almost think about getting a road bike if I thought that I would be able to get that high on every ride. But I know that a road bike beneath me would end up a crumpled pile of worthlessness in short order. Besides, I like having the option of jumping off road and into the dirt and grime as the mood takes me. And road bikes, I hate to say it, seem to come with a whole bunch of Fred baggage. I don't need me none of that.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Adorno Pattern

This is not the scene I'm seeing right now:

And I somewhat wish my bike looked like this at the end of the ride:

It was dangerous out there this AM. The daily heat up and nightly cool down means that we've gotten to the point now where even the trails are coated in a layer of ice. Even though it is textured, it is slick as can be. I ended up almost going down twice this morning.

I've no budget for studs, so I'll stick to just riding slower and choosing my lines carefully.

That said, the riding in the valley is actually pretty prime - for road riding, anyway. The wind has ensured that there is not much in the way of water standing on the route I take. I've read some reports that my local single track isn't faring so well, though. That bums me out, but it might be some prime time to ride the Matanuska river bottom again? I'll need to figure out some place to ride this weekend. Hopefully not on the road.

Two men.
Obviously drunk
on cheap malt shuffle-slide
across the ice glazed
downtown street. They pass

the bottle, brown and
rotten fruit scented, making their way
to the fluorescent and neon
flooded brightness of the
transit center with it's
by the slice pizza joint and the smell
of piss, alcohol, and vomit in the corners
looking for a place to warm up or
a corner to piss in.

On the street the buses come and go,
puking waves of humanity from
morning to night and the hangers around
huddle in the halls for warmth,
exiting to the parking ramp to sneak a smoke or two
or hide in the alley for a toke
of something a bit more powerful
and illicit and away from the eyes of the
rent a cops with their attitudes, uniforms, and
haircuts borrowed from the troopers they
idolize and who they want
to be, but never will.
The shoulder-mount radios
not as impressive
as a side arm, but for minimum wage
they have to be pleased with what they've got.

Two men,
obviously drunk on cheap
malt slide-scuff
across the rutted Anchorage
street and spy a plastic bag of clothes
hidden against the
wall, someone's stash of every
personal possession.
Their clothes
and jackets. The things
they need to keep warm
while living on the street.

Like characters from an
apocalyptic sci-fi film
they tear into the thin
sheen of polyethylene,
strewing the assorted debris of someone else's life
on the snow packed asphalt
of the alley, holding
jeans, shirts, jackets, and underwear
up to their bodies to judge
possible fit, discarding some
while keeping others.

I stood there, across the street
watching, not sure what to do or say.

Anything left on the street
is fair game.

What if this bag
was the only thing left in the world
to its owner?

Does it make me horrible that
I never said a word?
Does it make me terrible for not
shouting to drop it, for not
running over and gathering up the scraps
stuffing them back in the bag
and standing guard until
the owner's return?

Instead I just stood by and watched
two men.

Obviously drunk on cheap
malt selecting scraps of clothes from
an abandoned trash bag
as if shopping in Macy's,
tossing aside the unwanted, taking
a deep drink from the brown bottle
before disappearing down the throat of the alley

with their new wardrobe in tow.  

At least the view from the window is decent. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Various Methods of Escape

Magenta bleeds over speckled snowed peaks
as I drink another cup trying to wake up,
resign myself to the fact that the glass
through which I look is not a television screen,
is not the computer screen,
is a barrier between the world I've created
versus the world I thought I wanted.

It's so close, I can feel it, the
quick sting of arctic wind on uncovered cheek,
the slap of snow against my eyes. Yet it is so far
away, the world on the other side of that portal.

This is just wishful thinking as I watch the day unfold,
the world start to melt, and the time slip away again
as I am glued to this seat, plugged into the machine
that I'm supposed to control, but which
controls me - telepathic electrons turning
me to mindless information zombie like that fungus
that infects ants and makes them do its bidding.

The weather around here is still being a bit of a bitch. 40 degrees at 4 in the morning is simply not right in the middle of January. The melting snow is not right in the middle of January. The fact that I got rained on this morning is not right in the middle of January. It's just not right, but it is what it is and I guess I'll just have to deal.

Yesterday, being a holiday and all, there was reduced bus service. So I got the chance to ride the bus with some folks I don't normally ride with. While standing in line and waiting, one lady, whom I've ridden with once before, started asking me about the bike and about biking.

Now, to be completely honest, this woman rubbed me the wrong way in my past interaction with her. She is one of those people who both have to have the last word on everything and is never wrong about anything. At least this is what I gathered from her interactions with myself and with others.

Yes, I'm a judgemental bastard. I know.

Anyway. She asked me how I stay clean while riding and followed that with the revelation that she stopped riding in the 80s because she couldn't stand getting dirty and wet.

I explained that I just let myself get wet and dirty and that I bring a set of clothes with me to change into when I get to the office. We then got into a discussion first about how to deal with bad weather and how no matter what riding in the rain is one of the less pleasant aspects of riding - except when it isn't. We got to talking about the cost of the bike and the maintenance that goes into it, and then we got to talking about why I ride my bike.

And it ended up being a really nice conversation. We talked about how I started bike commuting when I moved to Anchorage and how it was in the fall rather than the spring so I essentially went from neophyte into hardcore in the matter of a couple of weeks whether I wanted to or not. I ventured that had this not been the case that I would not still ride every day, but because of that experience right out of the gate, I know that I can handle any condition that comes my way.

She asked if I rode just to save money - which is where the cost of ownership came up. Of course the cost differential between daily driving a car and riding a bike is huge, and it did factor into my initial decision to bike commute, I don't think that is the main factor. The more that I ride, the more that it ends up costing me in both real maintenance as well as the "maintenance" items I always seem to desire (new saddle anyone?). It's still not anywhere near the cost of car ownership, but given that I am not terribly motivated by money (Yet I love buying is a challenging dichotomy), the savings can't be what drives me to not drive.

I postulate that my desire to ride my bike stems more from my need to get outside every day. My first real job after high school, the job I put in 40 hours a week at, was building houses. So I was outside. A lot. In all kinds of weather. Then I started moving into "career" jobs - indoor work. Desk work. And I started feeling disconnected from the things that used to bring me so much joy - like watching the turkey vultures come back in the spring and thunderstorms build on the horizon.

Riding my bike gives me a taste of that twice a day. And I think that is, more than any other factor, what keeps me riding.

I was listening to the Sprocket Podcast last night, getting caught back up with past episodes and the discussion focused on the fact that most of us who get to ride our bikes daily are privileged - we have the choice to make, the working conditions that allow, and the habitations that make it possible to commute by bike. Yet so many people don't have the privilege of choosing their transportation options. Their socio-economic situation dictates their commuting options. Heavy stuff. But spot on.

I have so many factors that allow me to ride every day. I have a wife who is supportive of it and all it takes, logistically. My employer is flexible with my hours, allowing me to come to work earlier and leave a bit earlier in order to accommodate my bus situation. Generally the city is accommodating to cyclists with a great bike path network and well maintained roads. I've also made a conscious decision to work for a company that values alternative transport and who continually takes small steps to make it easier for its employees to do this. I've taken steps to ensure that I can continue to ride my bike - when looking for a house, this was a huge consideration - is it bike-able?

I guess my point here is just to remind myself how lucky I am to have the situation I have, to have the resources and the support needed in order to even have the choice of how I commute be a choice. That's pretty damned cool.

Yes it is.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Shortwave Radio

I should "train." I mean, what's the point of exercising if it is not to get ready for...something? Riding my bike just isn't enough, is it?

I'm not the type of guy who cares about 'getting better' or 'getting fitter.' Except when I am, but whatever.

I ride to ride. Intervals? What'r those? Hill repeats? Power meter?

Naw. I'll just ride, thank you much.

Even with the impending first time ever race that I may be doing with my daughter in March, I don't think I will find myself doing any training other than just getting out there and riding.

I guess I just don't have that killer instinct or competitive drive. Or maybe I just want to ensure that I don't start hating something that I love to do, much like I did with running.

I had a brief love affair with running. I went six or seven days a week. I pushed to PR my favorite routes each time I went out. I made myself feel like hell, not taking the proper time to recoup. I got to where the point of the run was to suffer. Then I started to really hate running. I love the idea of being out there and moving under my own power, but don't find joy in running anymore.

I still find joy in biking. And, addmittedly, my love affair with the bike has been around a lot longer than my fling with running ever was, but I don't want to lose the feeling of looking forward to my next ride rather than dreading it.

So, no training for me. Instead I'll just ride. I'll be faster than some and slower than others.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

And With Her Came the Birds

You know, I always have these great ideas about things I want to write about. I usually come up with them while on the bike. By the time I get to where I'm going and settle in, I've forgotten just what it was that seemed like such a good topic. Meh. It is what it is.

I could write about the nearly two hours it took me to get home last evening. On a standing room only bus. See I got to the bus stop a bit early. I left early as it was snowing and I figured it could take me a bit longer than usual. It didn't. It took the 4:05 bus a bit longer to arrive, though. Normally I shun this bus with every ounce of my being. It is always packed and most of the riders seem less than happy to have me try to shove my fat bike into the limited space. Given that the bus was nearly 15 minutes late in arriving, I decided that the roads must be a bit iffy and thus it would make the most sense to hop this bus and deal with the crowding than to wait for the next bus, which might be even later than the first.

I think it was the right choice. From what I heard this AM, the 6:00 PM bus didn't get back to the valley until after 8. Not sure on the 4:30 bus, but I'm sure it, too, was a slow slog.

Heck, by the time I got to the bus stop in the Valley I was so spent that I didn't even fight when the wife asked if she could pick me up since she was out picking up the daughter anyway.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Swarm Reins Down

I'm a one bike type of guy. I think I've mentioned this before. I don't like specialization as it seems wasteful to me. That is why I use gloves instead of pogies, winter boots instead of bike-specific shoes with clipless pedals for the winter, and generally clothes to ride in that I also use for hiking, snowboarding, and skiing.

This is partially because I am cheap, but more over, I really don't want to have a new set of gear for every activity I want to try.

Generally this works out well. But I've found that with the bike itself, sometimes it's not as cheap to run a single bike. My general sense is that having a single bike as my do everything bike means that I tend to really chew up components quickly. Moving parts + salt + road grime + water + snow = really efficient grinding compound.

Chains tend to go quickly, my rings and cassettes turn to shark fins quickly, and bearings turn to dust in a season. Open bearings generally more so than cartridge bearings.

This brings me to the continuing saga of the rear hub. I've lamented the state of my rear hub time and again. Generally every time I have to rebuild the dang thing. So, the last time I was in the bike shop, I asked about how much it would cost to rebuild the wheel. 50 bucks, plus the cost of the hub and the cost of spokes - around a hundred bucks. So, essentially I could get the wheel rebuilt for about 200 bucks. Maybe 200 and a sixer of PBR. Well, that's 200 if I look at rebuilding with a similar level of hub - entry level. This is fine by me. As primarily a commuter, I really don't see the point of dropping anything over a hundred on a hub that I'll end up still needing to rebuild probably yearly. Yeah, the bling of a King hub would be sweet, but from a practical perspective... not so much.

What I don't want to deal with, though, is the open bearings of the Shimano hubs. Fortunately I've read some good things about the SRAM X7 hubs - cheaper hubs that use cartridge bearings. Zang! So, that's the direction I think I'll go. The front hub on the Pugs is a Surly hub with cartridge bearings and I've never had an issue with it at all.

The weather is getting ready to make a big and unwanted change again. Forecast is for warming temps and rain. Up to a half inch of rain on Friday. This is the definition of suckage. Trails will be decimated. Skier's will commit hari kari as their workouts become swimming lessons, and crawl spaces around the city will turn into swamps and pools. Not fun.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Line

At least once a year there is an article such as this one in the local news. And it always makes me sad. I didn't know this rider, but I'd seen him around. Hard to miss a guy on bike with bunny boots.

I think that as bike commuters, most of us are aware everyday that we take a real risk by riding our bikes for transport. Yet we still do it. I've talked about this before so I won't go into it again.

Read the article. Then read the comments that people leave. Anytime there is an article about bikes the wolves come out and the comments start flowing. It's almost as hot of a topic as abortion, it seems.

I try to discount the commenters as trolls just doing their thing - trying to generate clicks and hits and responses. Yet, what concerns me is the fact that some readers, if they take the time to read the comments, may not understand the fact that these 'opinions' might not actually be opinions, but rather someone who is paid to make posts in order to drive traffic. Or the comments and responses devolve into a left vs. right political argument that uses so many rhetorical fallacies that they make no real sense whatsoever.

Why is riding a bike such a polarizing topic? Why is there so much fear that generates so much venomous commentary? Why does one side think that if you ride a bike you must be an agent of the other side and want to take all cars away? Why does one side try to paint the other side as freeloaders who don't pay their share and shouldn't be allowed on the roads as such? Why is everything so one side or the other?

It's like all sense and reason has exited in favor of the most simplistic arguments possible that are based only on emotional responses to an issue rather than on any type of intellectual exploration. And it comes from both sides - if you're not with us, you're against us.

Bullshit. That's what it is. And I've a real fear that this bullshit isn't going to work as any kind of fertilizer for something good. We've all seen what happens when you put too much fertilizer on a lawn...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Finger Lickin' Good

Boots and gloves. Two things that really make it possible to bike commute year round. If your feet and hands are warm, then you're all good.

Last year I picked up a pair of Keen boots and they worked quite well for the most part. Then I wore them as wading boots this past summer - dumb idea, I know - and now they are all but worthless. They were never especially warm for stationary pursuits, but they worked well for the types of activities I used them for. However after immersion in the salt water, well... let's just say breathability became pretty much non-existent, making for some cold toes a lot of the time.

I'd toyed with the idea of just gutting it out for this year and then finding a bike-specific boot so that I can ride clipless year round starting next year. But I am loath to spend 200+ for a pair of boots that are purpose built. Seems silly to me.

So I started looking around at boots. Trying things on. Even purchasing a pair and then returning them. In the back of my head I kept thinking that I have boots and that they work in the general sense, so why not take that money and use it for something a bit more fun?

Then the wife found a boot for me. As with everything the wife does, she hit the nail on the head. Even after purchasing, I wasn't sure I would keep them, but after one two hour ride and a nice little snowy hike with the dogs and two day's commuting, I think I'm sold on the Merrell Norshund Alphas.

First, let me be clear that I've not worn these in deep cold conditions. It's been nearly 40 for the past few days. Not the best temps for testing boots. However, these shine in one area where the Keens failed me this winter - sweat management.

For two hours I rode yesterday in temps between 36 and 40 and my feet didn't get cold. This is significant as with the Keens lately I would have gotten cold feet after an hour or so as my feet sweated and then that sweat stayed against the skin. With the Merrells I had no damp against the skin. I never felt overly warm, either.

These boots are built like a combination Pac boot and hiking boot with enough support and stiffness that I might consider them for light snowboarding but with a removable liner that doubles as a camp booty.

They have amazing grip in loose snow conditions and I think they would work well with snowshoes.

I only have two minor complaints at this time. First, the tread pattern does make it a bit hard to get as good of connection with the pedals as what I was used to with the Keens. To get a good connection I have to move my feet out on the pedals a bit. Not uncomfortable, but will take some getting used to. The other complaint has to do with the liners. I love the idea of a removable liner. It just makes sense. I just wish that I could take off the boots a bit easier without having the liner come out. Sometimes I don't need to remove it so that it can dry, but there seems no way to simply slip the boot and liner on and off without the liner coming out.

Since we haven't had much in the way of beardcicle weather the last few days, I'll share a shot from a nice ride I did at Government Peak Rec Area over the break while my daughter was practicing with her school's ski team. I believe it was around -10 that morning.

What a beautiful place to ski, bike, walk the dogs, and generally recreate. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Long Time no Tim

Vacations are good for the soul. They give us a chance to relax a bit, forget about email and other forms of electronic BS, and generally get right with the world.

Vacation also means no commuting. No buses. No getting up at the butt crack of dawn. But plenty of bike rides.

But all that is over now. Back to the groove. Back to the work-a-day world and the daily commute adventure.

And it started out being a bit of an adventure. I almost had to start the new year driving rather than biking and busing due to a bad hub. Hubs have been the bane of my existence since purchasing my Surly Pugsley in May of 2012. The bike has a Shimano M529 hub and I just don't know if it is my fat arse or a generally crappiness of the hub itself.

In a nutshell: I've had the wheel/hub replaced within the first 500 miles on the bike, rebuilt the hub at least 10 times in the nearly two years I've had the bike, and had the distinct feeling of rear end wobble on more descents than I care to remember.

That brings me to yesterday. I got up early on a Sunday morning to go for a nice ride. About two hours of road work in the snow and blow. A good way to start the day. I got home from the ride and prepped to get the bike put back into commuter mode with racks and such when I noticed that the rear wheel was flopping all to hell and back. I sucked it up, pulled the wheel, and set to getting things tightened up again.

It sucks achieving perfection only to have it all come undone. I'd get the cones adjusted just right, everything snug and ready to go, would put the wheel on the bike, give it a spin, check the cone adjustment and find that it was loose again.


Come to find out, the threaded axle itself was stripped out, so the lock nut would back itself off as soon as the wheel would spin.

I had an old axle, in bad shape, but serviceable, so I rebuilt the hub with that and it works. For now. But for how long?

Anyone out there who wants to donate a pair of wheels (Holy Darrel would be nice) with some hubs that aren't crap can contact me here. I'll give you the address of where to send them... hell, I'll even pay shipping!