Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Big weekend a comin'.

My bike nerd friends and I are headed on a road trip to Austin this weekend to see how the other half lives.
If you read the other blog that I write for, you know that while we are all about bikes, we are also all about the used bike for the most part (with the occasional exception). It'll be neat to be able to get a close look at a ton of amazing bikes in that I won't be able to afford until my company goes public. I'm sure that some of you that are reading are saying to yourself, "Self, why would someone go to a giant show with nothing but bicycles? Can't that person just go to a bike shop and get the same effect?". Well, yes and no. For the most part, whenever I go to a bike shop I am on a mission to purchase something - and even if I'm just browsing, I'll often end up purchasing something, just because I have this bicycle sickness. At this show, I won't be able to afford to purchase anything anyway, and I'll be traveling with two people  who I can talk bicycles with who won't be trying to make a sale at the end of the conversation. It should be lots of fun, and I am looking forward to it very much. I'm  hoping that the trip will provide some content for both websites, and at the very least there should be some good photos posted here and at the other blog over the next few days. We will be sharing a room like college kids, looking at cool bikes, and riding around Austin on what looks to be a great weekend. However, I'm really pleased because I will finally be around people that understand all of my silly bicycle T shirts.

I got out for my first real road ride this weekend, and ended up doing a little over 24 miles. It was an expensive ride, because my expensive bike computer bounced off of my handlebars about 3 miles in. Normally I would have just stopped to get it, but it bounced right into a sewer. If I'd been standing there trying to throw it in, I never would have made it. Riding by at 17MPH it made a hole in one.

Since I am spending my disposable income in Austin this weekend, it won't be replaced for a while. I'm on the lookout for a new bike computer now, so if any of my readers has a suggestion, please feel free to pipe up with your favorites.

Until we meet again,

Monday, February 21, 2011

New product review is up.

I cunningly review the hell out of a coffee cup holder.



Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The big gap

As I told myself I would do, I've been riding a lot more - my car hasn't started since last Friday, and if I'm not pedaling, I'm still on two wheels. After the crazy blizzard (which ruined the Super Bowl and locked up the state for a few days) we finally have that North Texas weather that we all love - it's been in the high fifties in the morning and in the seventies in the afternoon, which is perfect riding weather.

I finally got my High Sierra set up correctly to do some serious riding, and it has finally found its place in my bike rotation. I don't care to ride my regular roadie commuter this time of year because of the puddles that seem to be everywhere, and the wider tires on the High Sierra make it easier to take the occasional detour on the sidewalk or through a field to avoid traffic. As the days get lighter and I have to spend less time riding at dusk or in the dark, I will be riding the road bike more and more. Until then, when the sun goes down I like having more options available to me than my skinny tires provide. Drivers don't expect me out there as the sun is going down, so I alter my route to avoid driver interaction. It sometimes makes the ride home a little more fun too, as I end up bouncing through fields, or hopping on sidewalks to make my own shortcuts. I know I say this a lot, but it does make me feel like I'm a little kid again, getting that first taste of freedom that a bicycle brings.

Chris on his first day commuting.
My commuting buddy Chris, on the other hand, has a fancypants carbon roadbike that he commutes on, and while it's a great bike, it doesn't allow him the freedom to whip it through a field or hop on the sidewalk. He and I hooked up for the ride home on Monday evening, and at the intersection of Plano road and Renner we very nearly experienced a tragedy. That intersection is part of what we call the "big gap" - we have to get into the left turn lane on a pretty busy Renner road, and we have to make the turn onto even busier Plano parkway. As far as we can tell, there really isn't a better way to get into (or out of) downtown Plano on our route, and once we cross the gap in the morning, we are home free with most of our route on the paths or the protected lane on Waterview. Headed home on Monday night, we saw just how dangerous it is.

The turn lane has two turn lanes - we take the rightmost turn lane, so that when we turn we end up in the far right lane to finish shooting the gap and get away from traffic. As the light turned green, we made our turn and a guy driving a red truck in the other turn lane took his turn very wide and very nearly took Chris out - I heard some yelling and then the same truck passed me moving very quickly, straddling the lane and getting a little closer to me that I care for. Using the adernalin from the close call, Chris quickly caught up to me and told me how wide the guy turned, and how lucky he was - Chris shot over to the curb and was able to ride up on it enough to avoid being squashed. We both shook fists at the driver and tried to catch up, but he floored it to get away. I don't know if it was an intentional thing, but I suspect that it was dusk and the driver underestimated our speed when the light turned green. Chris was pissed, rightly so, as was I.

On our ride the next morning, we were talking about all of the trail construction going on in Richardson, and specualted that part of the construction might be the solution to our gap problem - we were hoping that someone was smart enough to see that there was no good way to get across this section of town. Chris did a little research and sent me a map.

The red line represents the new trail under construction - there will be a new protected crossover under 75, which is great, but the other part of the new trail crosses Renner road and then shoots back up to George Bush and Alma, and spits you out at another bad intersection that leads to the mall, where traffic is a nightmare. 

I don't know who planned this route, but it is a pretty useless piece of trail if you ask me. We will still have to shoot the gap every day. I will do it and do my best not to be killed, but I do wish that someone had considered having the trail head North and give a safe bicycle crossing into Plano from Richardson (or vice versa, depending on which way you are headed). I see more and more commuting riders on the trail every day, and that pleases me to no end, but I sincerely hope that somehow problems like this can be solved, so that people who are uncomfortable with being squished by an innattentive driver can ride without having to worry about it.

Even though I am not an engineer, I was able to put my mind to the problem and come up wtih an easy solution, denoted by the blue line - build a trail to the George Bush train station - from there the riding isn't too bad as there is a pretty nice crossing under the tollway there, and then into Plano.

Simple, right? Why is this not happening?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Snow, snow, snow.

As most of you know, it really snowed on Friday here in North Texas. We got about 6 inches at my house, and of course I had to ride in it. It has taken me a few days to get around to posting my report, and I'm sorry. I know that all of you were waiting to see what I had to say about the storm, and to keep you all hanging is unconscionable.

I took my phone screenshot a little later in the day but aside from the time not much changed, display wise. 
We took a vote in the house and decided that pancakes were again the order of the day, so I got bundled up, took off for the store, and fell about six times in the fresh powder. Not just because there was ice hidden under the six inches of snow, but because the snow itself was pretty unstable under two wheels. My first fall was in my driveway, the second in the street at the foot of my driveway, and then about every hundred yards or so. The falls didn't hurt (and I was wearing a helmet, yes) and I learned between falls. By the time I made it to the store I was an old pro at the extreme countersteer and had figured out how to stay up. Mostly. 

I got my groceries (including wine for the wife - crucial supplies) and made my way home without falling once. All of this was happening at about seven thirty in the morning, so there were really no cars around, and it was really cool riding on all of the fresh powder and making the first tracks on my street.

I took this photo after I got home without falling - I put my foot down a few times, but didn't fall. If you look closely at my tires, you will see that they are fairly smooth, and they really didn't treat me very well when I took a little afternoon ride. If I hit deep snow, I ended up falling because my rear tire couldn't get any grip due to the snow in the little bit of tread that was there. I rode around in the afternoon snow for about half an hour until my dog came outside and pulled me over. As I said before she doesn't like bikes (or anything with two wheels) and was very pleased to have caught me. She pulled me over so hard that my saddle got knocked loose from my seatpost, so I took that as a sign that my snow riding day was over. 

It's supposed to snow again on Wednesday of this week, and I have a set of knobby tires mounted to the wheels that originally came on my High Sierra up in the attic. I'm going to get those out and get them put on tomorrow night. If I could count on DART to run when the weather gets bad I'd tell you that I was going to commute on the snow day, but I'm not going to get your hopes up. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ridin' Icy.

I said I'd ride today, and for a change, I rode. Then I stood in the cold for 40 minutes and rode back home.

I'm pretty sure that anyone reading this was affected by the giant blizzard storm of aught-eleven, so you already know that here in North Texas we got nothing but ice, and then another night of freezing temperatures. This morning, there were a few dry spots but plenty of ice sheets on the roads, both black and otherwise. I woke up, had coffee, watched the news, and checked the DART website to make sure that the trains were running. While I was disturbed to hear that Oncor was scheduling rolling blackouts, I figured that things like public transportation wouldn't be affected, because those things are important in order to keep us citizens off of the icy and dangerous roads. I loaded up the bike, lowered the tire pressure a bit, and was off.

It really isn't that hard to ride on the ice, I guess. I was able to pick my lines pretty well and only slipped a couple of times, but didn't fall at all - I could feel the rear wheel slide out, but I am apparently incredibly graceful on two wheels and was able to recover my balance immediately. The discovery that I have that kind of skill really pleases me, and I really can't express how much.

I did have my coffee cup holder mounted on the bike today, and had a cup full of coffee in it. I ordered a new fancy schmancy cup to use in it, but for now I am still using the same cup that thows out little spills if it gets to be too rough a ride. On one of my slips today a little bit of java got tossed onto my bars, and when I got to the train station I realized that it was so cold that it had frozen on my bars.

The coffee on my bars.

As I rode up to the platform I actually took my only spill of the day. I hit a patch of ice right as I got to the ticket machine and the bike shot out from under me. Luckily I was able to put my foot down on the one dry patch on the platform and save myself. The bike spun away from me, but didn't sustain any damage.

I stood on the platform waiting for the train about 40 minutes.

I waited until the digital sign above me changed and said "Sorry Suckers, Blackouts Mean No Train for You."

Sadly, it didn't photgraph well.

I rode the bike home, had a few more slippery moments, and even had to dismount a few times because I hit such big patches of ice. I made it home safely and ended up spending the day at home with my family. I did ride to the grocery store in the afternoon for wine restocking,and the route to the store was about 90% clear - there was one bad patch, but I hopped a curb and just rode through the grass. Today was an adventure for sure, and really a lot of fun. The schools are closed again tomorrow, and the roads are still pretty icy, so I'm probably going to make another run at riding the train. If I do, I will try to make a post of it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I have been saying it for 2 years -finally riding in the snow.

We were awakened at five thirty this morning by the power in the house going out. Thankfully, by the time I found the flashlight the power popped back on. I was a little worried because we have been through a long power outage before and I certainly didn't want to go through it during this cold snap.

Those little white dots on top of the photo represent sleet, and it was coming down hard this morning. I heard a little squeal from the bedroom and I immediately knew that school was canceled and that my daughter and wife would spend the entire day in their pajamas. I, on the other hand, decided that today was the day I would do some snow riding and stop being a wuss.

After everyone woke up we took a vote and decided that pancakes and bacon were the order of the day. We had pancake mix, but our maple syrup supplies were low, and our bacon stash was exhausted. With everyone else in the house calling me crazy I put on my long underwear and my Han Solo jacket, hopped on the High Sierra and spun my way to the store. The sleet on top of the road gave me enough grip to ride and not slide, so the trip to the store was fun but not dangerous at all. I'm guessing that once it warms up a little today that the roads will melt enough to really give us a problem for the morning commute tomorrow.

I got to the empty store without seeing a single car, grabbed the foodstuffs and checked out. Everyone at Tom Thumb knows me as the "bicycle guy", and the checker this morning was shocked that I would ride in this weather. She actually walked me to the door so she could watch me ride away. She asked me, "How do you ride that thing in the snow?". The only answer I could come up with was "very carefully."

I rode home without any real excitement, made breakfast for the ladies, and then got ready for the day. I drove to the office, and as I said, I am worried about tomorrow morning's commute. I'm hoping that my wife's school is closed tomorrow as well so she doesn't have to leave the house again. I'll be riding the bike and the train tomorrow to get in, but I sure don't want her driving, after seeing what the roads are like today.

As the say in the webs, "pics or it didn't happen", and while I don't have any photos of myself riding, I do have a photo of my bike in the snow after I came home.

Saddlebag full of bacon and maple syrup.