Feb 27, 2011

New Mural Tag!

Mural tag is a slow-moving but kind of fun Stupid Bike Game.

At least that's my opinion after bagging another mural today! I have missed a few now, so after I figured out where the old mural was, I made some time this afternoon to collect the previous mural and capture a new one (pictured).

This mural is hiding in plain sight - I have been by here hundreds of times and never noticed it, probably because I am usually heading west rather than east. The content of the mural is a clue as well.

With warmer weather coming one of these weeks, maybe the pace of this game will pick up...

Feb 26, 2011

Minnesota Bike Summit on Capitol Hill

On Monday, the cyclists and advocacy groups of Minnesota will be migrating to the State Capitol building for a day devoted to educating the administration and legislative leaders on bicycle issues. The event will start at 9:30 at Christ Lutheran Church, 105 University Ave., St. Paul. We will be heading to the Capital at 1:00 for a 1:30 rally in the Rotunda, speakers, industry displays and meetings with legislators. More detailed information is available here.

The Bike Summit was organized by the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota You can register for this event at the BikeMN website.

I will be taking the day off to participate in this, because I think it's important and I want to learn more about the work of BikeMN. There is a group ride from the U of M to the Capitol that's organizing here, but I probably won't make that since it's a bit of a journey from my haunts in So. MPLS to the U and then on to the Capital, but I will most likely bus it, keeping with the spirit of "one less car".

I'll keep an eye out for people I know, and likewise, if you happen to see little old me there, stop and say hello. It should be a good and productive day.

Feb 24, 2011

How to Vacuum a Cat

Molly and Coltrane demonstrate the proper way to vacuum a Cat.

Feb 23, 2011

The Itch

29er Cockpit
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
It's been a long winter. I rode my bike to Book Club last night to test the road conditions and found the side streets to be almost impassable. The run down the hill on 48th Street required me to put my foot down about 5 times in 8 (short) blocks. The plow spooge was the main culprit, but cookie dough in the streets was also a problem. The ride home on Chicago, 46th and Bloomington (the Snow Emergency Routes) was much better.

Today saw temps above freezing and the third day of our snow emergency, so the side streets should be much better. I am planning a bike commute tomorrow. Conditions should be much better, between the plows and melting, and the freedom to leave on my schedule will be welcome. Very welcome.

Last year I started my commute season in about mid-March. I am thinking February 24 is the start date this year....

Feb 20, 2011

When the Rebels Become the Establishment

Thomas Kuhn argued in the Structure of Scientific Revolutions that science does not advance by an orderly process of knowledge-building, but instead undergoes periodic "paradigm shifts" The current paradigm is the Truth as accepted by the establishment in any given scientific discipline; they research and teach that Truth to their students and function as keepers of the paradigm.

All is well until rebels pick at the established paradigm and find a chink in the rhetorical armor, a series of figures that don't add up, or an alternative explanation of Truth - and then the fight is on. Eventually, the paradigm shifts and a new version of the Truth emerges. What's fascinating to me is that at this point, the rebels become the very establishment they just over-turned.

I see the same phenomena with bike advocacy groups as well. Many of these groups are borne from dis-satisfaction with status quo, be it poor facilities, unequal treatment, lack of consultation, or whatever. Eventually somebody gets mad enough to actually do something and puts their time and energy into trying to change the world a little bit.

Once advocacy groups take root, have some victories and establish an organizational structure, those same insurgent groups can become creators (and then defenders) of their own status quo because these groups now have the bully pulpit and can set priorities, deem certain issues to be important and direct the time, recruiting and fund raising to those areas. Volunteers can feel good because they are pitching in on something that they have been told is important, whether it is or is not important to the greater community.

The obvious solution here is meaningful, on-going and responsive stakeholder engagement with their constituent communities. Remember, though, that stakeholder engagement is a dialogue - there needs to be discussion on both sides of the table. The various bike advocacy groups do a pretty good job of reporting on their activities. The ball is in our court, comrades, to let those groups know how well their actions address our real issues and concerns.

Therefore, if you care about riding your bike, keep in touch with the groups like Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, Transit for Livable Communities and the Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee and do your fair share to offer feedback on the needs of Twin Cities and Minnesota cyclists.

They represent us, but they need to hear from us to do that effectively.

Feb 19, 2011

What Saturdays are For

I Shot Myself!
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
My re-entry to Minnenoplace was eased considerably by a kick-ass day. My writer's group met as usual at 9:00 this morning and it was good morning's work today. Some days the words flow easily, other days it's more of a struggle. Today the words came easily, which is always satisfying.

The third Saturday of the month is "stay for lunch" day to support the restaurant that hosts this group. I stuck around for that and enjoyed the fellowship, then bopped over to Midtown Freewheel to pick up a magnificent White Industries freewheel that came in for me while I was out of town. That things makes my Shimano freewheel look like child's toy. Of course, for the price of one White Industries Eno you can get about 3 Shimano units, I suspect, but true to my Taurus nature, I am opting for the unmistakable sound of all those pawls clicking - yea verily - purring as I roll around. We'll pop that on a bike this week at some point and see how it feels.

After that, I meandered over to the Triple Rock for discussions of bike advocacy and other topics of interest. Unless I get called out of town or something, I am planning on making a day of it at the Bike Alliance of Minnesota's Bike Summit on Capitol Hill of Feb. 28. It will be interesting to give that a go and learn more about BAM as well.

The weather today was wonderful for riding, so I took the long way home from Triple Rock, running into a friend on the River Road in the process. Between the fellowship, the sunshine and the miles, it did wonders for my mood.

Every now and then I have a million dollar idea that I inevitably fail to act on. Therefore, I periodically give these ideas away free of charge in the hopes that in some small way, I will help to make the world a better place. No need to thank me - it's just a little thing that I do.

I had one of those ideas today on the ride home. Someone needs to make balaclavas that are printed to look like the chainmail hoods knights wore in the middle ages. The first person to do that will inevitably suck a lot of money off winter bike riders and the role-playing Rennie crowd. All I ask in return is that whoever actually implements this idea send me one of the first prototypes, which I think is a fair trade for this concept.

The weather is supposed to turn for the worse tonight, so if you have not made it outside yet, by all means do so. Ride safe, have fun and be well.

Feb 18, 2011

VIsion Quest - Anza Borrego

We are back today from a short week in the deserts of Anza-Borrego State Park. Anza is a well-kept secret - most Californians don't even know this exists, which is just fine. You all can stay out and leave this for the rest of us...

We stayed in Borrego Springs, CA. This village is located entirely within the border of Anza-Borrego state park. Borrego Springs is honestly not much to write home about - it's the Palm Springs that never was. Originally created to lure Hollywood stars to the desert, it boasts a few run-down "resorts", a couple of golf courses and generally seedy infrastructure to support that. Alas, Borrego Springs proved to be too remote and hard to get to (it's about 2 hours from San Diego and 3 hours from L.A.)  to ever lure the Rat Pack out of Palm Springs. It's just as well, because now the world has a base-camp in one of the most spectacular state parks in the L-48.

This was our second time in Anza-Borrego. We were there last March following a conference and liked it well enough to return for another trip this winter. Last time, I was still recovering from a bad bout of food poisoning I picked up in San Diego. This time I was feeling much better, thank the Gods.

We splurged for a private Jeep tour this trip, which was a little expensive, but worth it. We accessed a number of remote places in the park and learned quite a bit from our driver. One of my favorite places on the tour was a habitation site on a small creek high up in the mountains. This location had been used by natives for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years, and evidence of their occupation, including mortenos (depressions in the rock from grinding grain and seeds) were readily apparent. This site had a very interesting vibe - not so much "haunted", but rather a sense that many people had lived and worked here. You could feel the energy of that place if you paid attention. I called it "an impression" while we were there, which still seems about right. Very cool.

How can returning from a vacation like this be anything less than some sort of referendum on one's degree of satisfaction with their life? As I made sense of the trip on the flight from Denver to Minneapolis, I could not escape the feeling that I was riding on a slow leak, metaphorically speaking. Which each turn of the pedals, as it were, I was feeling a little slower and a little mushier, until somewhere over Iowa it was clearly time to get off and explore the nature of the issue.

I quipped on Facebook before we left on this trip that I was heading into the desert on a Vision Quest, but as we all know, in every jest there is a grain of truth. More work is required here.

Returning to Minneapolis, we found a lot of snow and ice had melted while we were away, but a cold wind welcomed us back to winter in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Still, I think we have rounded the bend on winter and can now look forward to more clement days ahead.

There are tons of photos from this trip on the Flickr site here

Be well.

Feb 13, 2011

Blaine Swap Meet

Swap Meet Ticket
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I was a little disappointed with the offerings at the Blaine Swap Meet. There were deals to be had, but I was not looking for anything in particular and was not so blown away by the low, low prices that I picked up things I don't need. I was also hoping Rawland would be exhibiting there - I had heard a rumor that they were going to have a table, but I didn't see them today.

I was sorely tempted by a Salsa Casserole frame for only $150 at the Angry Catfish booth. That would build up into a very sweet single speed for my bride, but I was hoping for a complete bike. Going from a frame to bike would be a slower and more expensive proposition than I was ready to embark on today.

It was fun to run into a bunch of people I know at the swap meet, and some of them found some great deals, but sadly, the only thing I brought home was my ticket stub.

Feb 12, 2011

Better Rubber and Bike Swap

I took the Nokian Mount and Ground studs off the rear wheel of the winter bike last night and re-mounted the fat Big Apple that I ride in more clement weather. The front is still sporting studs. This proved to be a great combination this morning. Less rolling resistance, decent traction and mostly clear streets. The Big Apple is only at 35 - 40 psi in deference to the surface conditions, but it still was still more pleasant to ride at lower pressure.

Tomorrow is one of the big bike events of the year - the Blaine Bike Swap. I've never managed to get myself to this in years past, but will be there this year. I am car-pooling with a few friends and expect to make the scene around 9:30. It's supposed to be quite the event. I'll bring a camera and report back so you all can enjoy this vicariously if you don't make it there.

Hot Air Affair, Hudson, WI

Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
If you have never made it to this event, it's worth girding you loins for the car trip to Hudson. Hot air balloons are good clean fun, and the balloon people are all very friendly and glad to chat.

The weather was poor this year - I don't think there was a mass ascension at all due to fog, but even just hauling them out, filling them and sparking up the flame throwers on the ground is worth seeing.

More photos and some video clips are on the Flickr site. Enjoy!

Feb 10, 2011

A Shout to to Our Foreign Friends

If you are reading this blog from some other country than the United States, I have a Minneapolis Bike Love spoke card waiting for you!

Send me an email with your name and address and I will place a brand new, unused MPLS Bike Love spoke card in the mail to you in appreciation for stopping by. See my profile for my email address.

If I get absolutely no takers, which is a distinct possibility, I'll think up other ways to get rid of these to support MBL.


My "Single Speed, Crotchhatchet, Studded Tire Winter Bike"

Saturday Morning Ride
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
I was so proud of my lovely wife today. She posted a status update on Facebook that read:

"rode a bike today. outside. just need an nice thick gel seat cover on the husbands single speed crotchhatchet studded tire winter bike and voila!"

She did so well with the 30 Days of Biking challenge that she pretty much continued to ride her bike every day beyond that initial challenge until winter sunk its teeth into us. Now, as February advances, she's sampling the sublime pleasures (and by "sublime pleasures" I mean "discomfort") of winter cycling. I am glad the gel seat made a difference for her. She's got the clothes for this, and she's plenty tough. Maybe it's the saddle...

I think it helped that this frame is smaller than she normally rides. Small frames are good for a winter bike, IMHO. This unit also has a relatively long top tube and a long stem, which stretches her out more than her fair-weather bike(s).  Like many women, she's long torso/short leg, so I am not surprised this bike fit her, but we need to take some notes here on bike fit since she liked this, and she can be notoriously hard to please when it comes to bike comfort.

I have been contemplating a single speed build for her, and this post makes that more likely.

While I take some slight offense at her characterization of my trusty Raleigh M-200, I do have to admit that this bike is kind of a single-speed crotchhatchet studded tire winter bike.

Here's to you, Beloved! Happy Valentine's Day!

Feb 7, 2011

Fine, Thanks - And You?

Winter Ride
Originally uploaded by Snak Shak
After a decent ride on Saturday to shake down the 29er conversion and another on Sunday to go to Church and run a few pre-Superbowl errands, I resolved last night to ride to work today.

It was a chilly day, with temps in the single digits and a fresh breeze that brought the wind chill to about -10 on the way home this evening. My wife was concerned enough about my well-being that she called and left a message on my phone while I was riding home to ask how I was doing...

It was actually a piece of cake. Proper clothing makes all the difference. From head to toe, here is my ensemble for today's commute:

- Bell helmet
- Grovecraft wool cycling cap (thanks, Holly, it's awesome!).
- Smartwool base layer top
- Mountain Hardware fleece jacket
- Endura wind/rain jacket
- REI house-brand medium weight long johns
- one wool cycling sock (the gentlemen will know what this is for)
- Cargo pants
- Smartwool socks
- Columbia Bugaboo boots

The trick is not staying warm, but keeping all your parts equally warm. It's not good to be too warm on top and have cold feet or some other bad combination. I was plenty warm all over and actually broke into a light sweat on my back by the time I got home.

The bike helps. This bike is really dialed in for this role; it's a single speed aluminum mountain bike with Mavic alloy rims, Nokian studded tires, good lights and full fenders. All I could ask for in an adverse weather bike. I think I might take the rear studded tire off and mount up a Big Apple for a little less rolling resistance, but other than that tweak, this is a winner.

There is a sense of accomplishment in riding in winter - it takes the self-sufficiency feeling of riding a bike one step further. I am going to try and keep it up, which would mean I am starting my commute season a month earlier than last year, but we need to do that before we claim it, so we'll have to wait and see...

Feb 5, 2011

Rawland Sogn 650b to 29er Conversion

I have been riding a Rawland Sogn as my main bike since spring of 2008. One of the things that attracted me to the Sogn was the versatility of the frame. Like the Surly bikes, there is a lot of clearance for wider tires with the Rawland Sogn. In fact, with a disk brake set-up, the Sogn can run anything from 26 inch wheels to 29ers.

I built the Sogn around 650b wheels - that's what the frame is designed for and as a smaller rider, I felt that the 650b wheels were a better configuration on a small frame than conventional 700c wheels. I also favor wider tires and lower air pressure, which also points to a 650b bike. Finally, my road bikes and fixed gear are all 700c bikes, so I wanted something different.

I have been very happy with the 650b choice, but in December, I got the urge to build some wheels. Not having any real need for another set of mountain bike or 700c wheels, I opted to build up some 700c disk wheels and convert the Rawland to a 29er.

The new 29er wheels are essentially identical to the 650b wheels - Velocity Synergy rims laced to Deore hubs with straight gauge spokes. The finish on the 29er wheels is silver, whereas my 650b wheels are black, otherwise the components are identical between the two wheel sets. In fact, I simply moved the existing Sram 9-speed cassette from the 650b wheels to the 29ers to preserve the gearing, which is a good match for me.

The Panaracer Fire Cross 700 x 45 tires fit easily in the front fork and rear triangle. This frame has always been a little tight when it comes to wheel base. With the 650b wheels, I could cause a toe-strike, but it was never an issue. With the 29er wheels, toe-strike at lower speeds is more of an issue, but it's not so bad that it annoys me yet. The stand over height has also come up a little more than I was expecting with the massive wheels. The frame is small enough, though, that I can still clear the top tube easily.

The bike rides well in its 29er configuration. It handles more like a road bike than a mountain bike with the bigger wheels, and also seems to conserve momentum a little better as well. The Panaracers were as good, or maybe better, at handling the cookie dough snow than the 26 inch Schwalbe Mount and Ground studded tires I run on my bad weather mountain bike, too. I ran the Panaracers at about 40 psi for the maiden voyage and will experiment with other pressures to get that dialed in over the coming days and weeks.

While I have only had one ride on the bike as a 29er, I am very pleased so far with the conversion. When it finally warms up, I will be eager to get this configuration on some gravel or gentle singletrack to see how it performs on those surfaces.

I think it looks kind of bad-ass, too.

Feb 3, 2011

Economically Rationale Decision Making as it Concerns Bike Advocacy

I have been hopelessly bogged down this evening trying to articulate precisely what I do not like about bike advocacy groups.

It's wasted too much time and I am not really getting anywhere, so I am just going to lay out my thesis statements and conclusion and spare you the logic, which even I am having trouble organizing. Read into this what you will and flame away in the comments section if you are so motivated.

No one can disagree that time and energy are a scarce resource, economically speaking. Rationale behavior would therefore dictate that economic decisions be made when it comes to spending this scarce resource. Advocacy consumes that resource, therefore it is rationale to evaluate the cost and benefit of spending time on advocacy.

Resolved: I will not expend my time and energy on bike advocacy activities when I am serving as a pawn in someone else's quest for personal political advancement, Regardless of how I feel about the specific project, the only true motivation for bike advocacy should be love of cycling and desire to make that better for all. Personal benefit taints the whole thing and I will not help, regardless of the project, if I smell the faintest whiff of that. Actions and projects aimed at resume building, publicity, or recognition are nothing more than an abuse of the grass roots advocates, themselves. Furthermore, this behavior is evil because it creates the illusion that progress is happening, when in fact, it is not. This stifles true activism and can prolong an unacceptable status quo for all of us for the benefit of one or two people.

Resolved: I will not expend time and energy on a committee that is not action oriented and able to execute with speed and precision. Time is of the essence and life is too short to spend time in committee. I will favor direct action and communication/education over meetings and evaluation.

The end result of working through this all is that I am going to focus whatever energy I have on issues that I believe would benefit the majority of Twin City cyclists (as opposed to the leadership) and are truly achievable. I pledge allegiance to none but will cooperate with all as long as the motivation is pure.

That may mean I will be going it alone, shaking my fist at the sky, shouting into the wind and jousting at windmills, but I will also be sleeping better, too. That's worth a lot.