Dec 30, 2011

Come As You Are, For God's Sake


Group Shot
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
Rant alert:

After a chance encounter with a $30.00 Rapha cotton bandana at a local purveyor of fine cycling apparel earlier today, I am still all worked up about the issue of fashion and cycling.

I love good stuff. My wife assures me that I am a Taurus through-and-through. I like good quality, I appreciate craftsmanship and style. Yes, I can be vain...

But for God's sake just ride you bike in what you have and what works. It's really not worth it to spend a ton of money on stuff if your motivation is to prop up your ego or ease pangs of dissatisfaction. Spend that money on therapy instead - it will yield all kinds of other benefits that a multi-hundred dollar "cycle specific" sport coat or a name-brand snot rag will never, ever give you. You might even find happiness, you never know...

The photo with this post is from a cold, damp ride early last spring. We went up and down the hills along the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers to try and ride the flooded areas. I was joined on this ride by some of the most experienced cyclists I know; this includes cycling instructors, epic distance riders, and fast-as-hell young guys (and then, of course, there's me bringing up the rear).

You will note our lack of matched kits, neoprene booties, sport coats or $30 neckerchiefs. You really, really don't need to spend a ton of money on clothes to ride your bike.

And for that matter, none of us really care if your socks match your helmet and cable housing, either.

That is all.

Dec 29, 2011

A Mukluk Adventure

Today was for adventure.

Lately, we've been busy buying a house, getting ready to sell our current house, going to a funeral, having Christmas and whatnot. Today's calendar was blank, so I set out on a fat-tire ramble.

The trails were in really good shape, other than a little sand and patches of glare ice where the spring seeps come out onto the trail. This ice patch in the photo was so slick it was difficult to even stand on it. I made it about half-way across before executing a slow motion fall. If a cyclist falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, it does in fact make a noise, by the way.

The route was mostly trails, with just a little urban traffic riding to get around the airport. Mendota Bridge to Sibley House and the trail on that side of the river, west to Cedar Ave. and over the river, back east to the Refuge Headquarters and then north to Post Road and then on through Fort Snelling State Park. All told, it was 26.8 miles or so.

I was a little bonky at the end (should have eaten sooner) but otherwise it was a lot of fun. I have ridden all of this at one time or another, but never strung it together in this fashion. All in all, it worked very well other than getting lost in Fort Snelling cemetery.

I was impressed with the ambitiousness of the local beavers - they will be at this one a long time, but in the end, I think they'll prevail.

I was also impressed with the visible waterline on a lot of the trees in the river bottoms. The lighter gray shows where the water was during the epic floods last spring. That water line comes up to my neck - that's a lot of water. Thanks to the floods, this route is sandy, sandy, sandy. It looks like the trail was plowed to remove most of it, but it would be a slog on regular bike and do-able on a mountain bike. The fat-tires rolled over it with no problem though.

The warm weather and lack of snow made this a particularly nice day to be out - the river bottoms really do belong to the fat bikes this winter.

Dec 28, 2011

Mukluking Through the Refuge


Rolling
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I took advantage of the sunny warm weather to ride the Mukluk in a light jacket today. The ride took in the length of the Long Meadow Lake Trail (from the refuge headquarters to Cedar Ave. Bridge). At that point I wasn't done, so I crossed the river on the Cedar Ave. bridge and then rolled back east on the south side of the river for another four more miles or so.

The bike did great - I really think the big difference between how much I like this bike and how frustrated I was with my old Pugsley is due to the front tire. The Pug used an Endomorph and the Muk has a newer Larry tire. The tread pattern seems to track a lot better. Even in the plentiful loose sand, the bike tracked easily.

The Mukluk was great for accessing the more remote parts of the refuge - I think this will be a wonderful way to get into the less-traveled parts of the refuge, and some of the places I rode today were particularly birdy. Today's sightings included about a dozen eagles, about 50 Common Mergansers, and what might have been an Osprey. Good times, good times...

I think a front rack would be a good addition to this bike to give it a little more cargo capability. I might also drop the bars just a little bit; otherwise it seems to be just about right.

Dec 26, 2011

Red-Headed Woodpecker


DSCN0271
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I have notoriously bad luck chasing found birds. It seems that everybody and their brother is seeing snowy owls this winter and I have yet to find one. I went down to Point Douglas late last week to find the long-tailed duck and was skunked on that outing. So it goes...

Yesterday there was a post on MOUnet about red-headed woodpeckers in East Bethel, MN. Ever the optimist, I headed up there today to see what was to be seen. After all, even if the birds are not there, it was a chance to learn a new area and the chances are good that something else interesting will happen along, so it's never entirely a wasted day even if the bird being sought remains elusive.

After a few u-turns, we finally found the place we were looking for and headed out into very high winds. High wind like this is bad news - the birds hunker down and wait until things settle down before moving around, so often it's both very quiet and unpleasant to be outside.

With the deck stacked against us, we headed afield. I got a quick glimpse of one RHWO while I wondered around, but about 20 minutes later I hit the jackpot when I found one hiding out from the wind in his/her hole. The light was good, the bird was cooperative and we watched each other for about 10 minutes.

Sweet! We found one more RHWO moving around on the walk out of there. Birding is like fishing - you have just enough success to keep you coming back despite getting skunked a lot of the time.

More photos on Flickr (link to the right of this page).

Dec 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, Once Again


frosted pine
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
Christmas Eve is upon us. Mine promises to be quiet and enjoyable. We'll be having a few close friends over this evening for wine, snacks and fellowship. There will be a fire in the fireplace, too.

I like the quiet Christmas Eves. Christmas Day will be full of family and bustle, rest assured, but the Eve should be more of a vigil, I think.

The quiet Eve is a welcome change of pace - it's been a hectic slide into The Holiday this year. The short version involves finding a new house, beginning the process of selling the current house, and a funeral. Lots of birding thrown in there, too. Details to follow at some point soon.

Until then, it's time to put all that aside, gather with some friends and enjoy the season.

On that note, I wish each and everyone of you best wishes for the season and the New Year.

Thanks for reading, and regardless of your denomination, creed or lack thereof, have a Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Kick Ass Kwanza/Meaningful Solstice/Best-Possible-Holiday-That-You-Don't-Observe-But-Have-to-Get-Through-Anyway.

Take care, be well and enjoy the ride, because otherwise, what's the point?

Dec 16, 2011

Doin' Deals


PC160033
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I flipped some cantilever brakes that were laying around in my parts drawer this evening. Somebody posted on Bike Love looking for a set of canti's to go on a winter bike he was building.

I had a pair that originally came off the Cross Check. These had been in the spare parts pile for about... oh 3 years now, so I felt ready to pass them on. The only bike have right now that can even take cantilever brakes is the LHT, and that's got brakes on it the last time I checked.

As luck would have it, I had to be downtown this evening anyway for an office party, so I was able to do the meet up and swap brakes for cash, and hit the party all in one trip.

It's nice when these deals work out. The buyer, who I had never met before, got a square deal on some decent brakes, I was able to clear out some clutter and see these get back on the road, and I met a new person tonight in the process.

That's a win-win-win.

Dec 11, 2011

MSCED

We were positively deluged with a bunch of pre-programmed recordings of MN Original on the DVR this week. If you don't know, MN Original is a series on TPT that highlights a wide range of local artists (music, visual arts, everything you can think of).

The Spouse was slugging through the recordings when I wondered into the room with the T.V. and saw a show about Brock Davis. Davis was exhibiting works he did as part of Make Something Cool Everyday (MSCED).

As I understand it, MSCED was a challenge, similar to 30 Days of Biking, in which participants are challenged to create an original, creative piece of work every day for an entire year and take a picture of it for the group. Davis's stuff is very good - the guy positively oozes creative vision and he's able to execute his ideas via all kinds of media. There's a Flickr group devoted to Make Something Cool Everyday - you can examples of what people have done with this via the link.

I've been trying to find some sort of creative spark for months now, and this might just be the ticket. I did well with 30-DoB and because MSCED is an "everyday" thing, the pressure to do something "big" is eliminated. More importantly, this project should make creativity a habitat rather than something you delve into now and then when you feel like it.

I know right now that I will be challenged by my lack of technical artistic skills - I am not a good draughtsman and can't paint. But I certainly won't be at a loss for ideas. The trick here will be pulling them off in some sort of passable fashion and staying with it to see where exactly this takes me.

I plan to start in earnest on January 1, but did a little warm up exercise this afternoon to see how it went. It felt good, and I am looking forward to exercising these muscles.

Dec 4, 2011

Attaching a Flasher to a Revelate Designs Bag

Despite my solemn vow to never again buy a saddle bag without an attachment point for a flasher, I picked up a new Revelate Designs "Viscacha" bag to go on the Mukluk. I was seduced by the quality of the bag and how good it looks on a fat bike that I kind of forgot about this point, I guess.

As happy as I am with the bag, that satisfaction does not solve my problem of mounting a light, however. On last night's ride, I clipped my Superflash to a tab on the back of my jacket. That worked okay, but I still wanted to mount the light on the bike.

Here's a quick "how to" post since I am sure others may have encountered this problem...

There are four small loops on the top of the bag. I threaded parachute cord through the loops in a "box with an X in it" pattern as shown above. I then closed the parachute cord loop with a spring toggle and tied it off in a surgeon's loop to keep it secure.

The parachute cord and toggle give me the ability to strap small stuff to the outside of the bag if I ever want to do that, and the cord also gives me a handy place to attach the light. This solution works with the bag collapsed - in the extended position I still don't have an attachment point, but I'll settle for this right now.

This worked very well on tonight's ride - the light stayed in place and felt very secure on this rig, and the position is high on the bike and level, so the visibility is as good or better than on my seat post mount on the winter bike.

That said, If anyone has other ways of mounting lights, let me know. Thanks!

Dec 3, 2011

Deep Custom


DEEP CUSTOM, the teaser from RoyalAntler on Vimeo.


Hey! A local film maker is airing a recently completed documentary on Peacock Groove and Erik Noren. Peacock Groove does very nice, very custom bicycles. I've seen a few out in the wild, including a beautiful metallic green one Noren was riding as well as the famous "Kill Bill" bike as well as several others at Minnecycle.

Noren is extremely talented as a frame builder and his frame repairs have gotten high praise from everyone that's brought a beloved-but-broken steel frame to him. But unlike most of the other frame builders I have met, Peacock Groove has a no-holds-barred, rock-and-rock-punch-you-in-the-face design ethic that's really fun and really refreshing in a world of generic carbon fiber red/black/white road bikes. Go search "Peacock Groove" images or check out the Voltron track frame and you will see what I mean.

The film "Deep Custom" is showing at the Jungle Theater on Dec. 12th, The showing starts 7:00 pm and will run untill 9:30pm. This event is FREE, but food shelf donation items are requested. Like any decent Minneapolis bike event, beer will be served, but that's not free, so bring some money if you want in on that action.

This should be a lot of fun and a great chance to reconnect with a bunch of people I have not seen lately. Be there or be square, daddy-o.

Nov 30, 2011

That's More Like It

Here's the Muk with pedals. I am glad I held out for the pedals I wanted on this bike. They look really good on there and seem like a very nice set up. They are grippy as hell, that's for sure.

The maiden voyage was short, but tomorrow I'll take this unit along the Mighty Minnesota for a more suitable test ride.

Woot!!

Nov 29, 2011

The Mukluk Has Arrived, But...

The Mukluk is here. I picked it up this morning and it's lovely. Unfortunately, I forgot to talk pedals with the shop and they didn't have anything suitable in stock when I was there. Not a problem - I have a 20% off coupon from the Big Local Bike Shop so I figure I can find a set of decent MTB pedals there without much hassle, right?

Nope! Big Local Bike Shop had basically nothing suitable on the shelves. WTF? How hard can it be to find some decent MTB pedals? I was so agitated and out of sorts at this discovery that I actually spoke to a salesperson.

I learned that it's apparently pretty difficult to find anything you might actually want this week. Why would this be? It turns out that I got Black-Friday'd from behind; inventory has been decimated by after-Thanksgiving sales and there's nothing on the shelves until the re-supply comes in at some time point in the future.

Thanks to my meditation work, I am grateful for this opportunity to learn about patience. But it's still pretty irritating nonetheless.

It was a lovely day today - cold, but sunny and clear. I had hoped to ride the low road today and give this thing it's maiden voyage, but that will have to wait. I left the bike in the dining room (sans pedals) to annoy myself further this evening so I can wallow in the irritation some more.

When I get this beast running I will post some better photos. Until then, be annoyed with the lousy flash photos of the bike in the dining room, just like me.

Nov 28, 2011

Doing What I am Told


Spooky
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I grabbed my binoculars and went looking for owls this morning. I ended up at a place that's been productive in the past for me somewhere near Shakopee.

Unfortunately, this morning there seemed to absolutely nothing happening on the owl front (or with any wings of the air for that matter). It was chilly and very quiet, with only a few Chickadees chattering away as I walked the trails.

As I wandered down an access road across some floodplain forest, a crow flew into a tree near the trail. I generally talk to the birds I see, so naturally, I said hello to the crow and told him that I was looking for owls today, and asked if he would help me find one. He looked at me for a second or two and then flew off towards the Minnesota River.

I chuckled at myself and followed the crow because that direction was as good as any other. When I got to the river, I had to turn either right or left. I opted for the right, since the tree in the photo accompanying this post is located there. This tree creeps me out and it's always worth stopping by if you are in the neighborhood.

As I stood by this tree thinking about where to try next, three more crows flew over and landed in the spooky tree. They cawed and then flew east, back the way I had come. They were calling as they flew away.

"Okay, things are getting weird now" I thought to myself as I followed the crows back to the intersection and they again flew east another couple of hundred of yards. I wandered east kind of following the crows.

As I approached the roosting crows again, they flew across the river. "Very funny, guys" I thought to myself. It's always kind of a gamble asking crows for any kind of help or advice - they are tricksters and love pranks. I figured I had just gotten "punked" by some birds as I watched them cross the Minnesota River through my binoculars.

However, they joined another group of crows in the trees over there and then the whole group got very agitated and started raucously cawing over and over. They had obviously found a roosting owl (or hawk) and were mobbing the thing.

The show was over in a few minutes when the hapless raptor got tired of the noise and left. I never saw the bird they found, but I still count this as help from the crows. It's not their fault that I can't fly across the river with them, after all.

Next time, though, I think I will ask the crow to find me an owl on this side of the river.

Nov 27, 2011

Belated Thanksgiving Wishes...

It's been a hectic couple of weeks. Sunday night finds me exhausted, and potentially fighting off a cold or something. Nevertheless, I am glad to be home and eager to re-focus.

The Emergency Medical Response course work is now successfully completed. There are two new cards in the wallet (EMR and Professional Rescuer CPR) and new knowledge tucked into my little brain. Hopefully I'll be able to bring those skills to bear at some events in the not-too-distant future. That was a little bit of an undertaking, but well worth the time and effort.

Last week brought us back to the Ancestral Homeland for the Thanksgiving holiday. It was an extended stay, so we packed a bag for the cat and brought him along as well. He's a road warrior and a fine traveling companion. In addition, the roaster oven and other Thanksgiving necessities found there way into the car as well, and we pulled together a wonderful spread for the holiday.

During our stay, we had a chance to tourist for a short time and made it to the Historic Third Ward, which I absolutely fell in love with. The 3rd Ward has great old buildings and a vibrant restaurant and retail scene - it's as if someone took the best buildings in St. Paul, added some of the vitality of Minneapolis, and then mixed them together with good ethnic food a lots of craft brewed beer to create this place. Lovely, walkable and charming. Too bad we knocked everything like this in MPLS down to make room for crap like the TCF Tower.

Finally, the weather was even suitable for travel (a rare luxury - we've driven through messes on Thanksgiving and Christmas for years, now). I'll add that to my "thankful" list.

With Turkey Day behind us and EMR over, I am looking forward to a more normal routine for the weeks leading into Christmas. Hopefully that will include a little riding, a little gym time, and some quality time on "Phase 2" projects I've got in the works.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and found something to be grateful for. Although 2011 has been a tough year for a lot of people, if you look closely, and maybe squint a little, there are always flecks of gold in that mountain of slag that makes up our day-to-day reality.

Nov 18, 2011

Mukluk In-Bound


Mukluk 2
Originally uploaded by 3-16
Some men buy sports cars to nurse them through mid-life crises; others take up with younger women. I apparently buy strange specialized bikes...

I'll be adding a Salsa Mukluk to the stable here shortly. The bike was more happenstance than a calculated search-and-acquire effort, and a small measure of luck helped to make this happen.

Thanks to my genetics and early propensity for coffee, I require no more than an extra small Mukluk frame. I suspect that Salsa only makes a few token XS frames per year to say that they offer them, because as the entire bike industry knows, everybody in the f'ing world rides a 56 cm frame, right? Right?*

There is an awful lot more that I have to say on this topic, but in the interest of brevity I will save it for a late-night rant at some future point.

With Mukluks being "hot" right now, finding a built bike in XS is a little like finding the needle in the haystack. The shops that have them tend to have small, medium and large frames (if anything). Building up a frame is an option, but even finding an XS frame is still a problem, and then there is the added expense of a build. Going with a build kit can keep the price more manageable. Nevertheless, I was reluctant to go this route.

Fortunately, an XS Mukluk 2 turned up kind of out of the blue and I got a phone call about it. After 24 hours of debate with myself, I committed to the bike. It was delivered on Thursday and is being assembled now; it should be ready for pick up in the near future - maybe as soon as tomorrow.

An added benefit to this bike is that the frame can be set up as a 29er with a simple wheel swap. Therefore I can mount my 29er wheels that are currently on the Rawland and use this as an (overbuilt) 29er mountain bike (or perhaps leave the big wheel in front and run a 29er in back).

On that note, I am half tempted to mount some 650b wheels and see how the Mukluk does with those, now that I think about it...

That's totally counting chickens before they are hatched, however. I still need to pick up this beast and get it dialed in for a maiden voyage.

The forecast tonight calls for 3 inches of slush, so this might be a just-in-time deliver.

Nov 14, 2011

Fat-Tire Rawland Experiment

Well, the trial separation between the Rawland and I ended late this afternoon.

I put the bike in the basement after some frustrations with it back at the end of June and bombed around on the LHT most of the season. Lately, I've been experiencing some fat-tire lust, though. The quickest, cheapest option was to haul out the Rawland and reconfigure it for fat-tire fun.

There was some pre-conversion screwing around first. I had to swap out the front derailleur for one that wasn't f-cked up (don't ask) and went ahead re-cabled both the front and rear derailleurs (not to self: cable ends are functional as well as cosmetic).

Once the drivetrain and I were back on speaking terms, the rest of the conversion job was easy - pulling the 650b wheels, installing my cassette on the 29er rear wheel, mounting the fat Panaracer tires (45's) and installing the wheels on the bike. I built the 29er wheels last winter (or maybe the winter before - it's all such a blur) and they have seen some miles, but they are still true and round and the bike is disk-specific, so the swap was really very simple.

After the wrenching was completed I rode around Fort Snelling this afternoon, seeking out some sandy trails and such to test the set up. The tires did quite well on the loose surfaces and it was fun to bomb around on the bike like this. I'll spend some more time on it tomorrow (perhaps the Minnesota River Trail) and see how it is for single track.

A couple of observations right off the bat, however...

I still have the original Rando bar installed on the bike. I picked up a Woodchipper and will install that in the near future. The Rando bars, as much as I like them, don't feel right on trails to me. I find I want my arms a little further apart than the hoods of the Rando bars allow. Also, if I get serious about riding this off-road, I think I am going to pop for some slightly smaller chainwheels. I have a compact double on there now. I don't foresee needing a triple, but going down a notch or two on the chainwheels would give me more useful gears and help to push the big squashies down the trail.

That said, the Rawland handled it's short test ride quite well (keep in mind that I am no off-road expert, so a more skilled rider might say it was great). It was encouraging enough that this bike is back in the rotation, and we'll likely be going to Mendota tomorrow.

I'll try to remember my camera so I don't have to re-use old photos for the update...

Nov 10, 2011

And Now for Something Completely Different, Again

Since I already have a beard and a stubborn potbelly, I decided it's high time for a tricycle recumbent! This will be perfect for riding down the middle of the Greenway at 9 MPH in every bit of Hi-Viz clothing I have. Suh-weet!

Okay - that's not all entirely true...

I do have a Sun Trike, but it's here only temporarily. This little gem is going to a sister-in-law with some physical issues that preclude her riding a conventional bike. The trike was a good deal on CL and I have ridden this to dial it in and make sure it was in good working order, but this will be moving on next week.

The bike is actually kind of fun - it's got a triple crank in front and a six speed cassette in back with low end SRAM components and disk brakes. The shifting is just fine and gear range is wide, and the saddle bag was included in the purchase, so this should be perfect for my sister-in-law.
This is NOT the care-free ride I anticipated; during my test rides, I did come close to rolling it during some impromptu high speed cornering tests (I blame the testosterone). It turns out that although the center of gravity is pretty low, the lack of lean in the corners requires a, shall we say... more conservative style of cornering than I am perhaps used to. That should not be a problem for the intended recipient, however.

The good news is that the bike works well, I still have all my skin and the near roll-over made what would have otherwise been a mundane ride into a rather exhilarating experience for at least two seconds.

Projects are Getting Backlogged

With the weather turning colder, winter bike projects seem to be lining up like Prius' outside a yoga studio.

I acquired a Woodchipper bar from the gentlemen at HCHQ and will begin make the Rawland into a true Monster Cross bike next week. The trail separation from the Rawland and the sale of the Marin mountain bike earlier this year leads me to kind of miss an off-road bike, so the bar-swap/fat tire conversion will fill that void, at least temporarily. It will also give me a chance to explore that facet of the Rawland frame, which I have never really given very serious consideration before.

I also have a new wheel in the offing for the winter bike. The rear wheel on the Singlespeed, Crotchhatchet, Studded Tire Winter Bike has not one but two rounded spoke nipples from someone other than me using the wrong sized spoke wrench to true the wheel at some point. Of course, but of these spokes are right where I would add a little tension to pull a slight wobble out of the wheel. I considered simply replacing the spokes, but the rim is pretty worn as well and the hub is only so-so, so I am evaluating lacing a new rim to an All-City single/fixed hub I have laying around in the workshop rather than replacing the offending spokes. That project is actually moving up in urgency as the weather continues to edge towards winter, so I need to resolve my plan of action one way or another relatively soon.

Another project that needs some attention but has less urgency is giving The Spouse's Dahon folder a complete overhaul. That bike got some quick attention when she began to ride it regularly (brake adjustment, derailleur adjustments, chain cleaning and lube, etc.) but it really needs to have the hubs repacked. I suspect the headset is in need of a repacking as well. That one can wait awhile though since her folding bike rambles have been called on account of weather.

I am sure other project will reveal themselves as the days shorten, as well.

All this must wait at least a few days longer because I am now in the throws of the final exam for the Emergency Medical Responder course I have been taking and I am in my first week of full EMT training, so I am kind of slammed with studying for EMR and reading for EMT. Hopefully that will settle out next week and I'll be on a more measured pace after that.

Nov 6, 2011

Fat Bike?


Fat Bike Crew
Originally uploaded by 3-16
I find I am tempted once again to get a Fat Bike. About 3 years ago I bought a second-hand Pugsley, so I have experienced these things before and kind of know what I am doing.

That said, I ended up selling the Pug after a year or two because I wasn't really riding it that much. I found the bike to be a little too specialized and was frustrated with the performance of the tires that were available then. I thought the bike should have better traction and should track a little better in diverse conditions. In perfect conditions, the ride was magical, but in less-than optimal conditions, I found I was bogging down, or the front wheel was snow-plowing.

In retrospect, I will admit that I probably did not experiment with tire pressures enough on this bike - that probably would have yielded better performance. I also think there is a much wider (no pun intended) selection of tires for these beasts nowadays, and like the idea of a different tire on the front of the bike than the Endomorph.

What's brought this change on? Perhaps it's winter coming, but I know quite a few people now with these things and going on Fat Bike rides together. Back when I had my Pug, it was a cold, solitary ride that wasn't all that much fun, honestly.

If I do this, I'll need to move a few bikes on. I have two nice road bikes that don't see the sun much these days, so those may be going on the auction block. We'll see.

Alternatively, I could put the real fat 29er tires on the Rawland and see what I think of that bike as an off-roader. I would probably change out the Rando bars for Woodchippers, but other than that, the bike is pretty much ready to go with a wheel swap.

That's the most sensible option, which makes it the least likely of my choices, I suspect.

Nov 2, 2011

Old Clanky Gets an Upgrade

Old Clanky got it's final upgrade this afternoon. I finally got around to installing some new Tektro long-reach brakes on this bike. I've had the brakes kicking around for a few months now, but never got around to the project of changing the old brakes out until today.

The stopping power with the Tektro's is a big improvement. The original brakes were not really what I would consider "brakes". They were more accurately "speed attenuators".  Even with alloy rims, the brakes made me nervous. Fortunately the bike is not fast, because if it was, there would be no stopping it.

This bike now has the most common modern upgrades that a 3-speed gets. The original steel rims were replaced with Sun CR-18 alloy rims (one of the few modern rims in the 26 x 1 3/8 wheel size). The Tektro brakes compliment the alloy rims nicely and add a lot of "stop" to the improved "go" of the rims.

A previous upgrade included some much better tires ("tyres" if you prefer). I pried open my wallet for some Panaracer Col de Vie's. Most people run really cheap tires on their 3-speeds, but the improved ride of the Col de Vie's is worth it to me. I've had very good luck with flat resistance as well with these tires (knock wood) although they are not marketed as puncture resistant.

The other changes I have made to this bike include a slightly larger cog to give it more spin and make the high gear less ponderous, and installing some QBP cork grips in place of the original crusty plastic grips that came on the bike.

Accessories have been added as well. The bike currently sports a Carradice "Barley" bag and a bar-mounted bottle cage. I also clip my Garmin unit the bars if I want route data, although I have been a lot more casual about tracking miles and routes lately.

I am by no means a purist when it comes to 3-speeds, obviously. I am perfectly fine with a few modern upgrades, particularly on bikes like mine (a run-of-the-mill low-end bike of no significant value to collectors or enthusiasts). Rather, I enjoy the ride on this bike and the upgrades make me enjoy the ride more, so as I see it, what's not to like?

Oct 27, 2011

Oct 23, 2011

V. 2.0 and Marathon Support

Since leaving the working world this summer, I've been decompressing and trying to find some sort of 2.0 release of myself. The concept is to hit the existential "reset" button and then keep what I like, dump what I don't like or isn't helpful, and make the second half of my life better than the first.

This is not exactly a quick process. It takes some discernment and trial and error, but slowly I will get there.

One component of the 2.0 Project is a better commitment to health and wellness. On that note, we joined a local gym and have been doing yoga. Last week I broadened that out to include working with a trainer/coach type to get up to speed on weight lifting. That package includes a BMI scan at the start of the sessions.

According to my BMI data, I am apparently constructed mostly of lard, with just enough muscle mass to hold myself upright and get me to and from the dining table and back to bed. Kind of disappointing, but it's a good starting data point, I guess. The end point for these sessions will be a routine that includes weights, intervals/cardio and stretching/yoga to carry on through the winter.

On related note, I had the chance to assist the medical support team at the Mankato Marathon this weekend. This entailed schlepping my bike down to Mankato on Friday evening to make a pre-dawn organizational meeting of the rolling medical support team at 6:15AM on Saturday. We got our assignments and headed out to our part of the course by 7:00, which gave us plenty of time to see the route before the start of the race.

My stretch included the first and second aid stations and was mostly flat farmland. Thankfully, it was not windy or we would have been cold; in fact, it was a lovely day and once the sun came up we were just fine.

In our stretch of the course, we only a few runners in distress, and nothing really significant happened as far as I know. I thought there was, um... room for improvement on the traffic control aspect of the race, but otherwise the medical support seemed to be really tight and well organized.

The end marathon was capped by a lovely brunch that my in-laws hosted for some runner-friends and leisurely drive back to the Twin Towns. All in all, a favorable experience. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how many "thank you's" I got from the runners during the race.

Oct 18, 2011

Dear Mr. Fantasy


Dear Mr. Fantasy, play us a tune
Something to make us all happy.
Do anything to take us out of this gloom
Sing a song, play guitar. Make it snappy...

Oct 11, 2011

GM Steps in it

This corporate miscue is using up a lot of one's and zero's on the interweb tonight, but it's so egregious that I will re-post it. Thanks to League of American Bicyclists for the source information.

GM Blunders onto Campus
If you are a student looking to add tens of thousands of dollars of long term debt, care little about the environment, and want to lump two tons of steel around campus while paying through the nose for insurance, gas, and parking…General Motors has got a perfect deal for you. Bonus: it’ll make you fat and unhealthy! All you have to do is give up that dorky bicycle that’s easy to use, practically free, gets you some exercise and is actually fun to ride.

In one of the more remarkably ill-conceived car ad campaigns of all time, good corporate citizen GM is heading to campus to actively stop you from riding a bike by trying to make it look like it sucks. Obviously it’s been a while since GM execs and their creative teams set foot on campus. Anyway, I’m sure the campus facilities people will love having to add thousands of extra car parking spaces on campus at $30,000 a pop (who needs more buildings to learn in anyway, lets fill campus with parking structures); and University Presidents will have a little bit of explaining to do when it comes to those end of year climate and greenhouse gas targets… Maybe it’ll generate more business in the gym where students can drive in to go and ride on stationary bikes. Hope there’s enough parking. 
In case you were wondering, GM has a fine-sounding corporate responsibility statement – carefully crafted by the best in the business, I’m sure. One sample quote: “As a responsible corporate citizen, General Motors is dedicated to protecting human health, natural resources and the global environment.”  
And if you wanted to send a quick note to Chevrolet or GMC, there are instructions on how to do that.
I am happy to see The League take a little more confrontational approach on this one. I am all for education and working with elected officials for the betterment of the world through bicycles, but occasionally something so off-base comes out that calling the offender out and issuing a call to action is the best response.

Well done, Bike League of America. And the good news: GM is getting totally roasted on their FB page right now for this.

More Doing and Less Talking

I see that my last post on this blog was a hissy-fit rant back on October 5 about the lack of response to bike parking.

The co-author let me know that it's time to cleanse the palate of that unpleasant after-taste with a newsy current events post, after all, we've been busy on a number of fronts, so pardon the long post...

In late September I got a great opportunity to assist with the Fall League Cycling Instructor course in St. Paul. The timing was perfect because this came on the heels of the Traffic Skills 101 course that I assisted/instructed in early September, so a lot of the material was fresh and I had some really useful road test experience under my belt.

Instructing the LCI candidates was both challenging and very rewarding. This was the largest group of LCI candidates we have had, so that made time management a real challenge. Add to that the fact that we had excellent representation from the bike shops, so we had very knowledgeable participants as well. Finally, we had excellent out-state representation, and even had people coming in from as far as Kansas for this course.

The course feedback was generally very favorable, and most of the class intends to go on to instruct (either through bike shops or scout troops, churches and other local venues). Nice to add such a big group of strong LCI's in training to the population.

The Bike Alliance of Minnesota held its first Behind the Big Wheels event last weekend. This was a first run at educating cyclists on blind spots and how to drive their bikes around large vehicles. Kudos to the Bike Alliance for doing this - the last three fatal bike/vehicle crashes we have had in the Twin Cities have been exactly this type of accident.

The set-up was relatively simple (although the logistics of getting the road closed took a lot of work, I would bet). One block of 2nd Street No. was narrowed and a school bus, an MTC city bus and a semi-trailer were parked as if they were driving in the southbound lane, next to the bike lane on 2nd. We were invited to ride around the trucks, get inside to see the driver's perspective and better understand what the drivers can, and can't see.

I mostly pedaled around and around the trucks giving people that showed up a chance to watch a cyclist pop in and out of the mirrors, but I got inside each of the vehicles with my Flip and captured some imagery as well. Here is a link to the semi-trailer view and here is a second link to the Metro Transit bus view. Click through - it's worth seeing and the videos are super short.

Although we didn't get what I would call huge participation, this was a very successful run because we were able to actually see how this would work and we were able to get still photos and video that will be useful for education and promoting these events going forward. MTC, Supervalu and the School district were great to help out with vehicles (and drivers) for the morning.

Finally, this week brings the start of my Emergency Medical Responder class. For those that may not know, Emergency Responder is a defined term that translates as "EMT Lite". EMR is a 60-hour course that is a lot more advanced than First Aid/CPR but less advanced than Emergency Medical Technician or Advanced EMT and big step below Paramedic. I had the chance to take a accelerated EMR course but demurred, because I was concerned about being able to really absorb the material. Although it's early, I am glad I stuck with the longer class - it chews up more time but makes it easier to digest each session before getting more information crammed down the brainhole.  This course will wrap up by Thanksgiving or so, at which point I should be a certified EMR, with all the rights and responsibilities that go with that title.

At that point, the trick will become putting this credential to work.

Oct 5, 2011

What is it Going to Take?

Faithful Readers will know that I have been badgering the merchants at the 48th St. and Chicago Ave. node for improved bike parking for almost a year now. As of this writing, exactly zero new bike racks have been installed.

EVERY TIME that I go to Townhall Tap I leave a "I arrived here by bicycle" card with my check and harangue the staff about bike parking (or lack thereof). Every time I get the same response - concern, empathy and no action. In fact, tonight they deleted my post on their Facebook page asking about bike parking with no response.

Nice.

Nobody at Townhall Tap has authority to address the issue. It's the only place I have ever seen without a manager (I should apply for a job there, not that I think of it). The "decision-maker" is never around. Sometimes I get the story that they talked about it and are going to do something, but the details are sketchy. Tonight I got a lot less than that.

I even led a group ride down to 48th and Chicago this summer to petition for improved parking. That got some "results" - Bike and Pieces took up a collection for more bike racks at the intersection during the Southside Sprints race. They got about $100 (which buys slightly less than one Dero hitching post, BTW). So far nothing has happened with that, either.

Townhall is not the only bad actor - Turtle Bread is not much better. There are two hitching posts at Turtle, but they are used by staff most of the time. The other racks are in front of the Sword Club. I have talked to Harvey (the owner) about this and pretty much got the stiff-arm treatment from him as well.

Help me out here - go to the MPLS Bike Coalition blog and print out a handful of "I Arrived By Bike" cards and leave them if you go to Turtle Bread, Townhall Tap, Pepito's or any of the other merchants on 48th and Chicago. If you are feeling bold, talk to the staff, and better still, the manager, and let them know that you are cyclist and demand adequate parking facilities. It's good business - every cyclists is a customer and you can fit 10 paying customers in the space it takes to park ONE car (duh).

Do me another favor and post on Townhal''s FB page, too. Tell them that bike parking is important and that they need to make some simple accommodations to those customers as well.

If that's not your cup of tea, ride over to Baker's Wife/Buster's/Angry Catfish. Lock up easliy, enjoy the coffee, bakery and beer. It's just about as close as 48th and Chicago and they have ample parking, so it makes sense to spend your money over there and let 48th and Chicago figure it out.

I need to go walk around the block now...

Oct 4, 2011

Portland Water Bureau Bike-Truck Safety


This video from the Portland Water Bureau illustrates some of the blind-spot issues that truck/bus drivers face with not just cyclists but all vehicles. Yes - the sound is less than Dolby Surround Sound and it's a little stilted, but the content is good, people. I especially like this video (which is from the link I embedded in today's earlier post) because it features in-the-cab video of what a driver is seeing.

It would be worth reviewing this video prior to coming to "Behind the Big Wheels" and especially worth watching closely if you can't make this event.

I never want to sell fear, but the last three cycling fatalities we have had here in the Twin Cities are due to this kind of accident, so in my mind we can't do too much right now to educate rider on blind spots.

This Weekend: Learn the No Zone at Behind the Big Wheels

The trucks and buses we encounter on the streets have significant blind spots that make it impossible for drivers to see vehicles (including bicycles) around large areas of the vehicle. This can create dangerous situations for cyclists who may be unaware of the large "No-Zone" on these vehicles.

This Saturday, Twin Cities cyclists can can learn about these blind-sports and how to ride safely around trucks in a hand-on demonstration with real trucks in a safe, controlled environment.

The Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee, Minnesota Trucking Association, Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, and Bike Walk Ambassador Program and Minneapolis Public Schools have worked together to provide an interactive demonstration of large vehicle blind spots.  In this special demo event, bicyclists will be able to get behind the wheel of a big rig and sit in the driver's seat while bikes & peds walk in the bike lane below to check out blind spots. A new Share the Road educational piece directed towards both bicyclists and commercial drivers will be onsite for public comment before final release. Share your thoughts on the best ways for bikes and big vehicles to share the road.

When Sat, October 8, 10:00 – 12:00

Where 1700 block of North 2nd Street, Minneapolis

This is an exciting event and one that we hope a lot of cyclists will participate in. Bicyclists share the road with arge vehicles like semi-trailer trucks and buses every day but rarely get an opportunity to interact so closely.

I am planning to bring my Flip video camera and digital camera, so hopefully I'll get some imagery to post for those that can't make this, because it is definitely worth experiencing for anyone that rides around large vehicles.

Oct 3, 2011

Lovely

Today was absolutely perfect for a Fall color ride. We circumnavigated Baker Park Reserve with our folders and only saw a handful of other people out there.

It was lovely.

Oct 2, 2011

Joy Riding with MBC

This afternoon, the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition (MBC) held it's first (as far as I know) organized ride. The Joy Ride was created to bring diverse cycling sub-groups together to simply celebrate riding our bikes around the City. After all, even though we might have different styles or reasons for driving our bicycles, we all enjoy it, so why not do a group ride on a lovely Fall day.

I had the opportunity to help plan this ride; I was tasked with pulling together a route that show cased some recent bike infrastructure victories, showed some areas where improvements could be made, took us through North and Northeast Minneapolis and was safe enough for a group ride. That sounds like a simple enough request, but the reality of coming up with a route took a little more creative thinking than I originally anticipated, thanks to some gaps and poor connections.

Foolishly, I never anticipated that I would be leading the group during the actual ride. I figured there would be ride marshals or other dignitaries pointing the way, and I would be some sort of consultant in case anything went awry, but when the time came to head out, it was clear that I was In Charge. That was a little intimidating at first, but in retrospect, I was most familiar with where we were trying to go, and if anything came up, I could apply my Smart Cycling jujitsu ways and get us through the whatever.

No need for the jujitsu today. The ride worked out, people had fun, the weather was great and we showcased some new infrastructure and highlighted some potential areas for improvement. The route took us through some truly lovely areas, and some areas that could be lovely with a few curb cuts, better markings or other treatments, so it was very effective that way. We also got a fair number of comments from ride participants that appreciated learning areas of the City that they rarely (if ever) visit on a bicycle, so that was also a big success, I think.

It was also fun to be able to convert a few virtual friends into real-life friends and see some people that I haven't seen since the Flood Ride in early Spring.

Many thanks to Janne for being the creative force behind this ride, Alex for tackling all the logistics, and the Minneapolis Bike Coalition for bringing more than 60 people together today to celebrate riding our bikes.

Sep 27, 2011

What I Have Learned About Cam Stacks

Q: How is sewing like playing piano?

A: It's something I want to be able to do it, but don't I want to learn how to do it.

A couple of years ago, I lucked into a sewing machine. I met a couple that were cleaning out her Mother's house after she had passed away, and one of the things they were selling was her sewing stuff. Through that connection, I scored an older Viking-Husqvarna 6430 sewing machine, a nice cabinet/table and all the miscellaneous stuff that she had amassed from a life-time of sewing. All for about $100 as I recall. Bobbins, seam rippers, measuring tapes, buttons, extra machine needles, chalk... it's all there. El Dorado!

This Fall I finally got around to signing myself up for a sewing class to actually learn what to do with my magnificent acquisition. I have an endless stream of pants that need hemming (thanks to my genetics and early taste for coffee, I guess), and I want to be able to make simple alterations like taking in seats and such.

Always eager to stress myself out and over-prepare, I dusted off my machine last week in anticipation of the start of my community ed class and spent some quality time with the manual, teaching (or re-teaching) myself threading, bobbin winding, stitch selection, stitch length, etc.

Great success! I Know My Machine! Hurray! I get it!

Unfortunately, every battle has its collateral damage; during my self-directed crash course, I managed to crack my "cam stack". Here's how you, to0, crack your very own cam stack:

  • let your machine sits idle for years, 
  • then one day, decide to turn it on and use it for awhile. 
  • By then the grease will have set up or evaporated, the plastic parts (which are already brittle from being old) will get stressed and...
Presto! In no time at all, you have just cracked your can stack. Easy as pie!

I am apparently a text-book schmuck for making this mistake. If you have an old machine, get it service and lubed BEFORE you start putzing around with it.

The dreaded cracked cam stack is apparently a common problem with old sewing machines (at least the Vikings) and it can be fatal. Once this happens, the zig-zag doesn't work, which puts a hitch in things like hemming pants. Of course, this model is no longer supported, there are some after-market parts but they get bad reviews and it's difficult to replace this piece if you can find a part. Other than that, I am on Easy Street right now.

Frustrating. The old machine seems so much better made than any of the new machines I have looked at, but the repair (if it can done) will probably double the cost of the machine. Still, at the initial cost, it's probably worth putting some money into the machine to try and salvage it. Plus, I like the machine; I feel I've put enough into understanding it that I want to see this through and stick with it.

In the meantime, it sews really, really well in a straight stitch; just no zig-zag. I'll get myself through my class with this machine for sure and I am confident that I can sleuth out a solution to the cracked cam stack in the coming weeks, or at worst, the coming months.

Still, it's annoying as hell to have this break just when I am fixing to use it, but I suppose nothing ever breaks just sitting there, either.

Grrr...

Sep 25, 2011

Early Fall Field Trip


Lake 23
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
We set off in search of Autumn today. West on Highway 12 to Sibley State Park and the Glacial Lakes Trail.

We packed the folding bikes and headed to Spicer, MN where had a small picnic lunch before our ride. We explored Green Lake and Spicer as well as New London and the rail corridor that now hosts this trail.

The day was cool but the sun was warn - many, many wooly bear caterpillars picked today for a walk, so we were dodging them on the trail as we watched migrating Blue jays having raucous parties in the treetops.

We finished the ride portion of our day and headed over to Sibley State Park (which is HUGE) and found time for a nap in the warm sun on a small dock/canoe landing at Lake 23 (the primitive camping area of the park) before taking the view from "Mt. Tom" and checking out the swimming beach.

The drive home rewarded us with an epic sunset and a rainbow over the Twin Cities. The Fall color is at only about 25% or so, I would guess, but the farm fields are lovely and the sumac is in full color right now.

We'll need to do a few more of these day trips to catch the peak, but then, the hunt can be more rewarding than the catch.

Sep 21, 2011

Traffic Skills 101 = Success

Through a fortuitous series of circumstances, I had the chance to assist on a Traffic Skills 101 course this past weekend. I had volunteered to assist on another TS-101 course in Rochester that ended up getting canceled, so this was my first real TS-101.

Luckily, I was able to assist an experienced LCI with this course, so I had some technical back-stopping, but that said, I was given a lot of responsibility in delivering the information and running the class, which was both challenging and rewarding.

The Smart Cycling program, which forms the basis of TS-101 and the other courses, makes inherent sense to me. Any fool can understand that:
  • Bikes are vehicles - they are on the road and should behave like other vehicles. Equal rights, equal responsibilities.
  • Accordingly, we obey the laws and ride on the right side of the street, signal turns, DO NOT RUN RED LIGHTS OR STOP SIGNS and generally fit in with traffic, because we are traffic. Doing anything less is equivalent to tempting the Fates, and if you are not injured or worse you could get a ticket. Karma's a bitch, but we earn your consequences in these sorts of situations (at least most of the time).
  • We are responsible for our actions - not just how we ride, but how we react to others, and how we model our behavior. With credentials this pressure just increases - God forbid that I ever run a stop sign in my League Cycling Instructor jersey.  
  • We all need to get along - a cyclist that rides predictably, signals turns and obeys the law is not noticed by motorists (unfortunately) because they didn't cause a problem. It's the one's that run the lights, swerve and don't signal, or otherwise ignore the rules that lead to the anti-bike comments in any newspaper article dealing with a bicycle accident or advocacy issue
  • One bad apple spoils the lot - it only takes a few riders with bad habits to alienate a boat-load of drivers and make things difficult for all of us.
As an urban commuter, I applied most (or maybe all) of these principles before I ever took the TS-101 course or achieved LCI credentials, but Smart Cycling "put it all together" for me in a way that is based in research and applicable to real-world situations.

The most rewarding (and stressful) part of the course was supervising the class during the on-road test. The student group group got split up at a stop sign - the first three students were able to cross, but the fourth student decided that an approaching car on the crossing street was close enough to warrant yielding to them. This was a coin-toss situation; she could have made it safely across the road with ease, but that might have caused the driver to tap the brakes, to. As it was, the student opted to yield and wait. We were rewarded with a smile and wave from the driver.

I am absolutely thrilled that we made a motorist smile and wave at a group of cyclists that day, and we were able to pass all of the students, many of whom will be going on to get LCI credentials.

High Five!

Minneapolis Joy Ride - Oct. 2

Surly uncorked a snarky sticker at Interbike this year that reads "JUST BECAUSE WE BOTH RIDE BIKES DOESN'T MEAN WE ARE FRIENDS". I like that sticker because it kind of reinforces the snarky branding Surly has mastered but also, there's more than a grain of truth to it.

In cities (such as ours) with a large slice of the population riding bikes at least somewhat regularly, it's inevitable that subsets of the bike community will find each other. In Minneapolis, we are blessed to have utility cyclists, commuters, roadies, fixed gear/messenger cultural, WTF riders, tall bike people, 3-speed enthusiasts, advocacy nerds, and MUP cruisers with Burleys and bells all rubbing elbows on the roads and paths of our fair City. Others may not identify with any sort of community at all - they just simply ride their bikes because they enjoy it, or it makes sense, or they hate cars, or whatever.

True, just because we all ride bikes doesn't necessarily mean that we are friends, but BECAUSE we all ride bikes, we do have a lot of common interests. Improved bike infrastructure on the roads and bike parking where we need it, for instance, benefits everyone that rides, from the faintest of fair weather riders to the baddest bad-ass year-round commuters.

These are exactly the types of issues that the Minneapolis Bike Coalition (MBC) is working on for the benefit of all Minneapolis cyclists.  Now, MBC is organizing a ride with the potential to bring these diverse communities together to celebrate some victories and contemplate the future (thank you, thank you and thank you).

On October 2, the Minneapolis "Joy Ride" will set out from Gold Medal Park. The route will take us through parts of North Minneapolis (which is under-served on bike infrastructure and needs some focused attention from the City in order to catch up) and Northeast, which has made some recent improvements but had an important east-west bike lane taken away recently, too. There will be a relatively short family friendly ride as well as a longer adult ride. Snacks will be provided, too, so what's not to like.

The Bike Coalition web page has more information. There is also a FB event page with information as well and you can RSVP and check who else is coming on this ride.

If you can make it to this ride, please do so. I think it's important that we show the City that the cyclists are paying attention, and that we appreciate the improvements and won't tolerate neglect of bike infrastructure. I also think it's important that MBC continue to grow and become a strong and sustaining voice in Minneapolis bike advocacy, and this ride will move them one more step down the path to that destination.

That's worth spending an afternoon on your bike for, I'd say.

Photo credit: Surly Bikes via YouTube.

Sep 14, 2011

Traffic Skills 101 This Weekend!

Big News!

I am co-teaching a Traffic Skills 101 course this weekend over at Mississippi Market. The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota link has all the details, but we'll be covering need-to-know material for novice to advanced riders that want to be more comfortable and confident riding in traffic.

You can register at the link if you are interested in participating, or scan the BAM site for upcoming classes if you can't make this but want to do it at some point in the future.

The Traffic Skills 101 courses are really worth doing - I learned a lot about avoiding accidents and have used the knowledge from that class to bail myself out of a jam a few times now.

In Search of the Mythical Island of Existential Certainty

It turns out that discernment is a difficult skill to master, yet it's sometimes just what we need. 

I think a very human and understandable response to the hard work of identifying and pursuing The Future That We Want is to fill our time with a shit-load of little day-to-day activities. After all, action can't be procrastination, right? 

At this point, I am not so sure. I think it's actually a lot like having the radio or T.V. on so we don't have to actually deal with our thoughts.

There are ample opportunities to schedule ourselves into things and book appointments - an endless stream of causes to help out, events to coordinate and happenings to bring to life. Add to that a host of projects that have been back-burnered forever (on that note, the rose garden is planted and looks great, I now have a second degree black-belt in growing grass from seed and the deck is marvelous, by the way).

The past week or so, I have become increasingly aware of the problem of getting enthused about something that seemed like a good idea at the time (and committing to it), only to have trouble recalling what it was that drew me to that particular activity in the first place as the date approaches. 

Perhaps I am more acutely aware of this now that I am staring down that whole "what to do with the rest of your life" thing. Yes, sometimes we just need to go through the motions and keep our commitments until we drift our way over to the next island of existential certainty, I understand that. However, I think it would be a mistake to ignore this potential warning sign. 

My sense is that as Autumn approaches, it is now time to focus more closely on underlying motivation to winnow and sift the wheat from chaff.

Sep 12, 2011

Minnecycle 2011


Minnecycle Flyer 2011
Originally uploaded by AthenaBikes
Minnecycle is back!

I made it to the very first Minnecycle and missed the second, but rest assured that I will be there for this one.

If you are not hip to the scene, Minnecycle is a wonderful show put on by our local Minneapolis bike frame builders. They use the event, at the Vine Arts building just off the Greenway, to showcase some of the flashy or innovative work that they have done over the past year.

We have a lot of really good frame builders here in the Twin Towns. This year, we can anticipate works from no less than a dozen local builders! These include:

- A-Train Cycles
- Anderson Custom Bicycles
- Appleman Bicycles
- Chris Kvale Cycles
- Clockwork Bicycles
- Curt Goodrich Bicycles
- Pallas Athena Custom Bicycles
- Peacock Groove
- Speedhound
- Three Stars Cycles
- Vincent Dominguez Cycles, and;
- Wyganoski Frames

That's a lot of skill and beauty packed into one space. Put it on the calendar and get yourself down to Minnecycle this year - I suspect this will be the best one yet.

Sep 5, 2011

First Day of School, Sort of


Sulphurs
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
School starts tomorrow for a lot of kids, but some in my neighborhood have been back already for a week.

I, too had a "school starts tomorrow" day. Not really school in the traditional sense for me, though. I have a one-day First Aid/CPR/AED class at Red Cross HQ tomorrow, so I've got to get up, pack my lunch and ride down there. That's as close to a commute as I've come in two months.

I've had FA/CPR/AED at least twice, and FA/CPR at least five times, but I am currently expired. This one-day class will serve as a refresher to get me ready for the real learning experience - beginning in late September, I'll be tackling Emergency Responder training through American Red Cross. That will be a more challenging gig, no doubt. Six weeks, 3 days per week.

It should be worth it, though; I am hoping to use my First Responder certification to provide medic support organized rides, bike races, triathlons and marathons. I have a friend or two that do that currently and ride support seems to have an interesting combination of challenge, diversity, adventure and Doing Good, so I am optimistic that I'll like it.

Wringing the last day out of summer, we took a day trip down the Wisconsin side of Lake Pepin, looking for some rumored hawk-watching locations, a prairie Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) and some Fall color routes.

We found most of what we were looking for and a few things we were not specifically looking for. The most delightful surprise was about 1,000 Sulphurs that must have just morphed. They were swarming all over the place south of Pepin, WI this afternoon. I was able to capture a few with my camera (take only pictures, leave only memories, etc.) but the photo really misses the fun of seeing them all zooming around like self-propeller confetti.

Sep 3, 2011

TC3-SAS Ride Report and What September Brings...

This morning the most stalwart and dedicated TC3-SAS riders set out on a mission to circumnavigate the Capitol City*.

The route took us more or less on the St. Paul Grand Rounds but we did it one better by going the long-way around Lake Phalen. For an added challenge, we tossed in in a few wrong turns, rode through the Wabasha Bridge construction zone twice and ascended a stairway from hell to get to the Swede Hollow Cafe (all before 11:00 AM, no less).

Despite almost getting run-over by some asshat in a silver SUV at Maryland Ave. and Phalen Parkway, this was a Good Ride. With the lunch stop, it took about 5 hours to do this (things cannot be rushed on old English 3-speeds because it's physically impossible). The weather was very humid at the start of the ride. I had sweated through my gloves and my helmet pads were soaked by the lunch stop. In early afternoon, we faced a bit of rain and a gusty west winds, but that felt a lot better than the steamy tepid air we set forth in.

The route was acceptable (indeed, my compliments to my co-conspirator for devising this Plan of Operation), but sadly, due to the environment we were traveling though, it was not an exceptional route. We were most disappointed in Wheelock Parkway (traffic volume was higher than we anticipated, pavement was worse than expected, and the scenery was only so-so to kind of sketchy).

Another disappointment was the connection from the Gateway Trail to Wheelock Parkway. What connection, you ask? My point, exactly. That was the second time on this ride where we took to shouldering the bikes and hurdling obstacles. True, this one was much easier than schlepping 35 pounds of old English bike up 300 feet of stairs, but it's pretty clear that St. Paul could use a Bike/Ped Coordinator as much, or more, than Minneapolis.

Unbelievably, the only photo I took on this whole ride was at a memorial to the U.S.S. Scorpian near Como Park. I should fire myself for this half-assed work, but we are thin on staff at Snak Shak HQ and the cat is an absolutely terrible photographer and has the proof-reading skills of gnat, so I can only write myself up and threaten future disciplinary action if this unacceptable performance continues.

The next scheduled 3-speed event on the books is the ABCE Ride in mid-September. I'll probably organize a shorter, easier TC3-SAS ride that same weekend as a counterpoint to ABCE. I did ABCE last year but found the British stuff to be a little much and the stops to be a little long. After all, TC3-SAS is "3-Speeds Without the Tweed". If you have never done the ABCE ride, by all means go for it. It's a hoot, and this subset of bike culture is well worth sampling. Who knows, this might even be your destiny.

The weather is finally turning cooler, so I am looking forward to hauling out my Recycled Cycles wool jersey on Sunday morning for a 49-degree ride around Nokomis or something to keep up my 30-days-of-biking streak.


* The MPLS Bike Love kids refer to St. Paul as "Shelbyville" but we elected to refer to it as the "Capitol City" simply out of obstinacy.

Sep 2, 2011

The Case of Disappearing Bike Rack


Brompton
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I've been enjoying riding my folding bike to restaurants and bringing it in with me. I feel more smug than a Prius driver as I collapse the bike down into a little package and walk in with it like this is normal thing to do.

Tonight we rode over to Famous Dave's in Linden Hills for a end-of-the-week treat. To my surprise, the bike rack that they normally have on the sidewalk was missing. I didn't plan to use it - I was going to bring my bike in, but Molly needed something to lock up to.

I went in and heckled the staff over their lack of bike parking. They told me that the rack was out on the sidewalk. I replied that it WAS out on the sidewalk, but it's gone now. At first they didn't believe me, but somebody went out side and came back with a look of shock on their face and confirmed my thesis.

We ended up bringing Molly's bike in the restaurant (the screen porch part, actually) partly to make a point and mostly because all the other sign posts were already being used for bike parking.

While we were eating, one of the kids working there dragged the rack back to where it belongs - he told us that somehow it got moved around behind the building, but he found it and brought it back.

I appreciated that, but it makes me question the wisdom of locking to a rack that can wander around the neighborhood on it's own.

Bike Touring Workshop - Sept. 11

mentioned previously that Shawn and April of Portland's Urban Adventure League are pedaling to Minneapolis for a short visit on their cross-continent tour. Since then, they have kept pedaling and the staff behind this blog have all been busy planning stuff...

I can now happy to report that Midtown Freewheel will be hosting a bike touring workshop that Shawn will be putting on while they are in Minneapolis! The event goes down on Sunday, September 11. Midtown Freewheel will be putting out the spread for this - there will be food and beverages plus the usual Freewheel hospitality. The Facebook event page is here - please RSVP so our gracious hosts can get a handle on how many people are coming and get the food right.

Freewheel will be putting on a BBQ beginning at 11:30 AM. The workshop will begin about an hour later. Shawn has done these types of workshops for years, and their current trip (detailed on Shawn's blog) has been an adventure, so it should be a good time.

It's nice to see an event organized around touring. I've noticed an uptick in touring, and general interest in touring, this summer (that even includes me - I got that LHT tricked out and am contemplating S240's). Yet this is an sub-set of the cycling world that doesn't get much play in the Twin Cities. It will be good to drag this more into the limelight and maybe encourage a few people to give it a go.

Sep 1, 2011

Dude, Where's My Bike Lane?


Dude, where's my bike lane?
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I conducted a stealthy, black-ops reconnaissance mission this morning (and by "stealthy, black-ops" I mean that I didn't tell anyone about it and I was not paid) in order to ground-truth a group ride route I am planning for a few friends (more to come on that front).

During my self-propelled mission, I chanced upon the mother of all bike lane parking violations. This is located at 26th Ave. No., just immediately west of 2nd Ave. No. in North Minneapolis. I saw at least 6, and probably 7 cars parked in the bike lane.

What the hell?

The problem here is the signage - the illegible sign in this photo prohibits overnight parking. My sense is that drivers are hard-wired to look for the red signs and that they don't pay attention to the black and white ones. You see that "No Overnight Parking" sign think it's okay to park here. I get that, but it's wrong, wrong, wrong.

My assumption is that the signs pre-dated the bike lane, and when the lane got striped, nobody told the actual do-ers on this project to take down the old parking signs and install "No Parking" signs.

We'll see if Minneapolis 311 can rectify this problem before October 8.