Jun 30, 2010

Road Scenes

At lunch I walked over to the Warehouse district, pausing to take this picture of a car parked in the bike lane on 1st Ave. What makes this even richer is that this vehicle (MN# SKA-189) had a laminated sheet on the dashboard saying something like "City of Minneapolis - Official Police Business". I badgered the Downtown Improvement District guy in the bright yellow shirt to call traffic control and have this vehicle towed just to see what he would do.  He acted real concerned, but the car was still there on my way back from lunch.

The next photo is from my ride home tonight (or rather, my ride to class). This photo is taken from the middle of 6th street approaching 3rd Ave from the northwest. This is a heavy traffic area in general, and it was made worse tonight due to a Twins home game ending during rush hour. The right-most lane, where most people would naturally ride there bikes, is in fact a right-turn-only lane. The second lane is a right-turn or straight lane. To correctly and safely ride through this intersection, bikes have to move into the second lane so they don't get a left-cross. Although I do this maneuver a lot, it stills takes some confidence to wade out there and dance with the cars. That said, I really kind of enjoy the high traffic riding downtown.

The last photo from today is my old nemesis, the Catriker. I see this woman fairly regularly, especially if I leave for work a little late or head home a little early (she must work a slightly shorter day than I do). She is... shall we say... hard to miss. She rides a Catrike recumbant with at least one flag flying - sometimes it's the diversity rainbow, sometimes a Norwegian flag, sometimes more than that.

She used to drive me absolutely ape-shit because her bike takes up the whole lane, she goes about 10 mph and usually she's talking on her cell phone as she rides. I have this tendency to be a hammer-head on the way home, so I am trying to cure that and slow down and enjoy the ride this summer. It must be working because I actually smiled when I saw her today. I am not entirely recovered, however, because I caught up to her at an intersection and when the light changed, I dropped her like a bad habit.

Jun 24, 2010


Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
It seemed like a sketchy set-up, but we successfully schlepped a pizza back from Jakeeno's last night via bicycle using only a woman's scarf, an inner tube and a carabiner from my key chain. That's me nursing the cargo through the neighborhood...

Here's to necessity, the mother of invention. Next time we'll bring a few bungy cords nonetheless.

Jun 22, 2010

Loaner Cat

Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
It's been over a year since our Little Cat passed away. We are not in a hurry to get another kitty. At some point I may well end up with a dog, but I am convinced that this would have to be after I am done working full time. In the meantime, I have unrestricted use of a loaner cat from next door. Not the brightest bulb on the tree, true, and certainly not the most well behaved kitty, but the price is right and the arrangement seems to suit both of us.

Jun 15, 2010

Going Backwards

I find my evolutionary trajectory as a cyclist is going backwards.

I would suspect the logical cycling progression is something like this:

  1. Get a cheap bike and fool around with it a bit for a season.
  2. Improve in fitness and riding ability and grow dissatisfied with the entry level bike and find something a bit nicer and faster.
  3. Ride that until you are tired of it, get more into the gear along the way, and spring for a carbon-fiber frame and a few lycra items.
  4. Become a full-fledged roadie and dress for each 120 psi ride.
I find I am going in the opposite direction this year. I still wear lycra bike shorts under my shants, but my road bike(s) literally have not come down from the rafters this year. I spend most of my time on the 650b Rawland for commuting and recreation, and the new additions to the stable this year are an ancient three-speed and a single speed, low-end mountain bike for bad weather. I also find I look forward to rain now with the single speed MTB, whereas before I was a pretty fair weather rider.

This change is sort of nice, actually. I have always been drawn to fine bicycles like a moth to the flame, but I am also too cheap to shell out for the Rivendells and Cervelos of the world (excluding the Waterford, which is a sweet frame but has workman-like components on it) and topped out with a Rawland Sogn. Maybe at some point when I have more time I'll treat myself to fine bicycle, but for now, being drawn to more utilitarian mounts has been quite liberating and helps to focus on the experience of the ride rather than the experience of the gear and gadgets.

And the relief of not lusting after the next sweet ride is similar in some respects to having a nasty rash subside.

Jun 14, 2010


I am trying a new experiment in the bike arena. A neighborhood garage sale brought me what I think is an early 1990's Raleigh USA M-200 (in pretty good shape) for a mere $60. I originally bought this thinking I would probably pass it on to a co-worker or a Bike Lover looking a decent small framed bike.

As I mulled over the possibilities, I realized that my "bad weather" bike, the Old-But-Nice-Marin was a little too nice to ride in foul weather and the beautiful steel frame was already showing a little effect from the salt last winter. This frame is aluminum and the cassette had been converted to a single-speed already (with a Shimano derailleur serving as a chain tensioner).

Adding some fenders, moving over some lights from the Marin, and swapping out the marshmallow saddle for a spare ass-hatchet that I had laying around essentially completed this build. It needed some general tightening, tensioning, truing and lube, but that really only took an hour or so last weekend.

This bike will not turn any heads, that's for sure. But, I rode it around the neighborhood tonight and found the gearing to be suitable for my topography and the ride... the ride is fine. Single speed will be a new experience for me; I generally like to face the world with gears, but I know my commute and myself and think I won't have any trouble going single speed.

Now I am hoping it's raining pitchforks and hammer handles tomorrow morning so I can take this thing through the paces.

Jun 13, 2010

Fool Me Once...

I Came on my Bike Today
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
My do-gooder project to connect a needy kid with a bike has been delayed repeatedly, and I feared it was a bust until this afternoon. Now, it's only possibly a bust.

Over a week ago, I answered a CL ad from a "Big Sister" looking for a repairable bike for her "Little Sister". I connected her to MMRB, and MMRB was happy to donate a bike if I would do the repairs. I jumped at the opportunity, hustled over and got the bike (thanks again for that, MMRB!) and gave it a once-over. After two conversations and a series of emails, we had arranged for the pick-up to be made on Wednesday. Wednesday was then rescheduled to Thursday. On Thursday she was a no-show (no phone call, no email with an explanation). I left her a voicemail message on Thursday night but didn't get a response to that, either.

Friday and Saturday passed with no word from my "Big Sister" either. Disgusted, I tried her one last time today and was ready to give up on this. To my surprise, she answered ("so sorry - lost my phone; computer broke... no way to reach you...").

"Uh-huh. Are you interested in picking up the bike or not?" I asked. She was. I told her to meet me on Monday and that I wanted to get this one taken care of. She agreed. We'll see.

Unlike most people I know who have ventured through the Looking Glass that is Craig's List, I have had remarkably good luck with people following through on sales. This experience has cooled me a lot on CL, however. I feel like I got jerked around for trying to do a good deed. Maybe I'm too naive or thin-skinned, but the hassle here as now exceeded whatever positive energy I hoped to get out of this transaction.

I just hope she picks up the bike and the kid likes it at this point.

People. Grrrrrrrr.

Jun 11, 2010

Unite Bike vs. Colle McVoy

Unite Bike is suing Minneapolis ad agency Colle McVoy for unauthorized use of Unite Bike imagery. The press release indicates that Colle McVoy represented that the image would be used for a pro bono project, but in fact the image was used for a for-profit project instead.

I recall seeing the MPLS Unite Bike photo (above) used in Metro Magazine's article on Minneapolis' big bad bike culture, which came out around the same timeframe as the Bicycling Magazine's "MPLS is No. 1" edition was published. The MPLS Unite Bike image is still up on the Metro website, so it may not be that use which is at issue.

This is a tough issue for Unite Bike and I am sure they did not take this action lightly; they probably don't have limitless resources to take on a legal case, and it puts them in the position of suing a client, too. However, fair use and intellectual property is an important issue for any small business with creative talent. A lot of people I know even have Creative Commons licenses on their Flickr accounts, as a matter of fact.

If Colle McVoy did violate the use agreement, then I hope that this case get settled very quickly in Unite Bike's favor. I think it's really, really important that the Creatives that actually produce Content (i.e. the stuff people are willing to pay to see) don't get fleeced by publishers and advertisers that would do anything they can to improve margins.

If you are not familiar with Unite Bike or what Clark Patrick is trying to do with this project, here's a link that will shed a light on the back story here.

Jun 9, 2010

Bike Walk Week 2010

Midtown Greenway at 17th
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
So far, I am off to an inauspicious start to Bike/Walk week. Monday I was not well enough to go to work and laid around the house like an iguana all day. Tuesday I had an off-site meeting that necessitated driving.

I am rallying, though. Today was a bike commute day and I swung by Midtown Freewheel around 6:00 for WOW, but then it dawned on me that I don't have the right equipment for that ride, so I kept on rolling. Tomorrow I am meeting some friends for our second annual Bike/Walk week breakfast tour. We will hit as many free breakfast places as we can on the way to work. This was fun last year and should be better this year because it not supposed to be so cold and windy.

At noon tomorrow, people in the know will be at the Peavey Plaza "ribbon cutting" for Nice Ride. Finally, I plan to toast the week on Friday with some other Bloggers/friends at a secure undisclosed location. Should be a good time.

Enjoy your ride and be safe out there!

Jun 8, 2010

Paying It Forward

Over the past weekend, I responded to an ad on Craig's List from a young woman looking for a bike for an 8-year old girl. The young woman is in Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and the 8-year old is her "Little Sister". Little Sister's family can't afford a bike, so Big Sister was looking for a cheap repairable because this girl really, really wants a bike.

I sent Big Sister a plug for Mr. Michael Recycles Bicycles and put in a word for her with Mike and Benita at MMRB. They responded with the offer of a free bike if I supplied the labor to make it rideable. Unbelievable, unless you know Mike and Benita, and then it's still pretty darn nice.

I swung by the shop on Sunday and Mike "just happened" to have the right bike on the top of the top of the pile and within easy reach (I don't believe that's a coincidence, he must have done some digging to pull this one out). One new tire and some general TLC made this steed rideable. I gave it a once-over at MMRB and another more thorough going over tonight in the basement. Now it's ship-shape now and ready to roll.

I'll be handing the bike over to the Big Sister tomorrow. I hope the little girl likes it. I actually test-rode this around the neighborhood tonight and it works surprisingly well.

Chalk one up for the good guys. Thanks Mike and Benita for the kind generosity.

Jun 7, 2010

Why We Can't Have Nice Things

The Nice Ride kiosks are going in all over downtown and uptown for the roll-out this week. Although the program is not even launched yet, one of the kiosks in Lyn-Lake has already been vandalized.

No, I am not kidding.

This sucks. This is why programs like this often don't work. Nice Ride is a good idea, and it might actually accomplish some traffic calming and make biking more accessible to people that don't regularly ride a bike. I was a Nice Ride skeptic but became a supporter over the past few months - in fact, I plan to wear my snazzy Nice Ride bike socks on Thursday to the big Bike/Walk week event.

I hope they catch the scoundrels that did this and make them clean up the mess (alternatively, I would settle for blinding with bleach). Hopefully this kind of crap won't continue, but I worry that vandalism, rather than theft or low usage, compromises the Nice Ride program. Let's hope it doesn't come down to adopt-a-kiosk at some point.

I plan to buy a Nice Ride subscription (or whatever they call it) and take these things out on a spin now and then. There is going to be a kiosk right outside my office, so while it won't be more convenient that just going to my bike and un-locking, it will be a novel experience and will help to support the program. I'll probably have some interesting adventures on these yellow beasts as well.

Jun 6, 2010

Good Deeds

Three Speed
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
This weekend was pretty sedate despite the opportunities for diversion (Grand Old Days, the Art Fair(s) and of course the 48th and Chicago festival). I found myself less inspired than usual, leaving several projects unfinished, or in some cases, entirely un-started. At least I got the grass cut...

One small project that got completed was swapping out the hand-hatchet grips on my Raleigh 3-speed for some nice QBP cork grips that I picked up at HCHQ on Friday. The grips are excellent. I glued them on on Saturday and rode them on Sunday. Tons better than the stock grips (both aesthetically and ergonomically).

The only other thing of substance that I accomplished this weekend was karmic favor-trading.

One of the projects I didn't finish this weekend involved moving parts from one bike to another. needed to borrow another work stand to swap a few parts from one bike to another. If you have ever worked on a bike without a work stand, you will know that it is back-breaking work to crouch down or sit on the floor to remove parts from an unstable bike and then get up and install them on another bike. I am too old for that noise...

Work stands are not cheap, so I was not about to buy a second one, Instead, I put a call out to the Bike Lovers and was rewarded in less than 30 minutes with the offer of loaner stand for the weekend. Sweet. I picked it up on Saturday afternoon and got to work.

Later that evening, I spied a request on CL for a bike a disadvantaged kid, and connected the poster to MMRB. In fact, MMRB did me one better by donating a bike if I would repair it for the girl. I hustled myself over there today and fixed up a decent blue 20-inch girls bike for her, and will connect the bike to the needy child later this week.

I like the interconnectedness of these little stories. I am admittedly a little down and low on energy, but I needed a favor and asked, and lo and behold, I got what I was looking for. That, in turn, inspired me to do a favor for someone else that will probably make little girl's week.

And so it goes.

Thanks emma55jean and MMRB for pulling this together.

Jun 3, 2010

A Little Too Close but Still Pretty Good

I came a little too close to getting hit by a car this morning. The sobering thing was that it was pretty much my fault this time (although there were contributing factors as I shall explain).

Chicago Ave. can be busy, but typically when I have to cross it in the morning, it's pretty sedate. Today was no exception - only one car heading south as I approached the intersection from the east today. Assuming the car was going straight because there was no turn signal, I looked left and rolled the stop sign because it was all-clear to the south and I would preserve some momentum while allowing the south-bound car to pass through the intersection before I got to the middle of the street. Unfortunately, the car didn't go straight as I assumed - it made an unsignaled turn left off of Chicago on to 45th, cutting the corner as I rolled into the intersection and coming within a few feet of my handlebars.

Yikes! Stupid, I know. What get's me is that every other time this sort of thing has happened to me it was entirely the drivers fault - they pulled into the bike lane without looking, or ran a stop sign or something like that. Yes, I got suckered by the lack of a turn signal, but I wasn't being defensive enough and it almost taught me a tough lesson.

What lowered my guard and lulled me into a false sense of serenity? I guess it was the unbelievably nice morning. Cool, clear and sunny with no wind and litlle traffic. I was grooving on the ride and not being paranoid about everyone else on the road. Fortunately, the rest of the ride in was awesome. The cherry on top was getting a "Bike Love" shout from gMach just before I rolled into the IDS ramp.

On a semi-related note, I up-graded my beat up old "Livestrong" helmet today to a Bell Volt. Spendy, but very nice. My last Do Cycle coupon took some of the sting out of the cost, too. The Volt is much better ventilated than my old helmet, and it's got a visor because I am done trying to look cool on my bike. The photo at the top is from the Sabo bridge on the way home tonight with the new helmet. It's a nice bridge, but I never ride on it because it's off my typical routes. I hit it tonight just to get my money's worth.

That's it. Remember folks: left-right-LEFT.