Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Morning Observations

Well, I didn't ride this morning; however, I have noticed that since I started over a year ago. I'm seeing more commuters. On my drive this morning I took the time to study the world passing by as I made my way to work. One of the trends I'm seeing is that some seem to have divested themselves of backpacks and the like and are actually using panniers. On my way home last night I even saw someone using a good set of lights; however, my excitement was offset by the fact that he was eastbound on the sidewalk of the westbound feeder of I-10. I'm still seeing a high percentage of Hispanics on "yard sculptures" Cheap Huffys and the like from Wallymart. However, I'm overall optimistic about cycle commutng in Houston.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Additional Engineering

Well, after contending with a tail heavy, bag flapping Mountain bike for the past couple months I decided to take the plunge and do something to the bike to re-balance the load. Last Saturday afternoon I took a trip to the new Performance Bike Store and I found a front rack solidly stuck on my hot little hands as well as one of their Metro Panniers.

The metro pannier is roughly the same size as my Computer tool bag, but with the advantage of being bike mountable. As for the front rack the Performance Transit front rack is pretty vanilla it works well, but I have a quibble. It was not designed for use with fenders and the spacers that came with it had to be hacksawed down so that there would be enough space for the longest screws to get purchase on the fork eyelets through the loops of the fender stays.

I'm looking forward to making a run soon to see how well the new arrangement works, but commuting is on hold as I'm spending more time on my road bike training for the MS150.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Friday 10/12 Run

Yeah.. I know I'm blogging about this a little late; however, I figured I needed some time to reflect on it. I finally wound up taking a commute run this past Friday as I found myself awake at 4am and everything close to ready (Or so I thought). I kept forgetting small items so I kept bouncing back into the house to make sure I had everything.

Finally, at 5am sharp I rolled out of the driveway and wound up only going 50 yards as I was greeted with an annoying grating sound as the wheels spun.. No Joy.. I had to stop and figure out what was rubbing. Much to my dismay my U-lock which is usually tucked in through the top of my rear rack and on the outside of the racks' back stay was on the inside. Translation: all bags on the left and top of the rack had to be removed and the lock reseated; however, even under the street light it was too dark to see where I had to tuck it so I wound up pulling it and shoving it into my left hand pannier. I then strapped everyting back down as best I could and continued on. The bike still creaked a little as my tool bag put pressure on the rear fender.. (Something that even when I have everything perfect is never a completely happy situation.)

Things were working well enough that I felt that it would not be a deterrent, so I pressed onward. It was a clear and warm predawn morning and I was making good time even heavily laden with panniers full of clothes and computer tools. I was seeing an average speed of 13 to 14 MPH and a cumulative average of 12 mph. In short order I bumped into Brian the-Memorial-Park-Horticulturist and we rode single file down Antione to Memorial Drive. As we reached the light I saw a road biker cross the intersection so that when we turned we were an 800 yard petalon of 3 cyclists. Which is by far the greatest number of cyclists passing through that section of Memorial Drive at that time of the morning I've seen to date. It gave me a minor thrill. I continued on through the park and on down to Westhiemer in record time. As it turns out I made it to work in an hour and eighteen minutes, a new record for this leg.

Usually, when I commute I start counting my work hours at 7am which is usually the time I'm dressed and ready to take cases; consequently my end time is 4pm. However, I usually begin winding things down by 3pm as I begin packing and getting ready by to get on the road and step off the campus at 4pm. The reason is that the section of my homeward route from Shepherd to Memorial drive and also running through Memorial Park to the 610 Loop becomes extremely hazardous from the rush hour traffic coming out of downtown. I found that the best and safest time to ge through this area is to be past the 610 loop before 4:30pm and to definitely be past it by 5pm. Otherwise I can gaurantee to be passed every three seconds by ignorant sheeple who don't have a clue to yield the far right lane to cyclists.. Something that can be most disconcerting.

Now, there is a second window of egress, but it doesn't occur untill after 6pm. On this day I planned to stay later and use this second window as I had a backlog of cases that I wanted to try to clear. However, I got caught on a case and rather perversly I didn't get on the road untill 10:30pm and home by 12am. The ride home wasn't too bad; however, it was a little disconcerting as it was one, Friday night and two I had to pass a number of bars in Houston's gay quarter. I was afraid that some gay lush was going to pull out and T-bone me; however, once cleared the gay zone and I made it past the Irish Bar on Shepherd I began to relax a little. Once, I made it past the 610 loop onto a familiar section of Memorial the ride became relaxing.

The only fly in the ointment on the ride was that my tool bag had flopped to one side and my griding noise was back.. My though at the time was "I have to rethink this" as I can't rely on picture perfect rigging to have a good ride. All in all despite being caught at work for too damn long it was a good day and one of the better rides I averaged an hour and 21 minutese there and back which is a new record..

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Another Short Rant.

Another thing that you should never do is use cycling underware in place of cycling shorts. If it's got a flap fly on it you should take the hint that it should be under some other item of clothing.

There is a park rider who is always in blue Cycling underware that is so tight his flabby body is extruded from all it's openings. To make it worse it's often the only thing he's got on and this land whale has a tatt0o of his waterborne cousin tattooed above his ass. He's got a dolphin (which in some circles is a synonymous symbol to the gay rainbow) tattooed on the small of his back. He either doesn't have a clue as to what the apparel he's wearing is for or he just doesn't give a damn that he's effctively riding around nearly naked. Simply sickening.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Short Rant.

I'll say it again. Solid white spandex cycling shorts don't belong on a man. A woman might be able to pull it off; however, even that may be an "Iffy" proposition. White tends to become see through as it gets wet with perspiration. If you're a guy and you reading this.. PLEASE PLEASE for the love of God/Allah/Vishnu/Kali don't wear all white cycling shorts. No one wants to see either your ass crack or your cigar track. Shorts with white color blocks on the leg or on the sides are okay, but you can't go wrong with basic black.

Along with this leave the foofoo water off too! No guy wants to have to swim in your cheap cologne/aftershave aroma as you pass by.. It's disgusting!

Bicycle lingo... a growing primer.

Peach: A female biker with a great figure. More specifically her posterior. "She's got a great peach" Or "She's a real peach."

Major Taylor or Nelson Vails: An extremely talented Male African American cyclist. "He's a real Major Taylor/Nelson Vails"

Puppy Dog: A male rider who perpetually drafts off an attractive female rider. "Oh it looks like she's picked up a puppy dog."

Bajoran: A Cyclist who is constantly on his cell phone and is a danger to himself, traffic and other cyclists. "What a Bajoran"

Bajoran Jewelery: A Cell phone hands free device such as a corded head set, ear plug, or a blue tooth headset. "He though he was shot hot with he Bajoran Jewelry on"

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Grocery Run.. By Trike!

Yes, you read right! I rode to my local Krogers on a Trike! Where did this queer steed originate from? I picked up a new Schwinn Town & Country from Performance bike. The reason for taking this plunge is I need a non-motorized vehicle at work for lugging my tools between buildings and across the campus . Our Company/Department has two golf carts to share among 6 Techs; however, one is perpetually broken and our supervisor refuses to authorize the expense to get it repaired. The second, newer, and visually more appealing cart is usually attached to said supervisor's rotund bottom or his toady/pet Chihuahua who drives him around as if he were the pope himself. So, I took matters in my own hands and got something so odd that no one but me would be willing to ride. I wanted a good quality trike; however, the realities of the situation hit me. One, the trike is going to spend a lot of time out in the elements. Secondly, the university I work for is situated in a high crime area and the monetary value of any vehicle needs to be low. Consequently I didn't want to spend much money ergo I went with the Schwinn. Now there are adult trikes out there that are cheaper on E-bay in the $200 to $300 range (The Schwinn was $400); however, The Schwinn was aluminum and will probably weather the corrosive effects of the weather a little better. I would have loved a classic '60's to '80's Town and Country, but I couldn't bring myself to subjecting a rare and classic bike to possible theft and weather. The sad fact though is it's although the new production Schwinn has these good features it is still a product of Pacific Bicycle and the Red Chinese. Overall workmanship and construction leaves much to be desired. It has only one really good part and that is the Sturmey Archer 3-speed transmission. (I can't call it a hub as it isn't at the center of a wheel.) It's night and day compared to the one on the Raleigh twenty as the latter tends to be a little "fiddly" to keep working. To be honest I'm not even sure if the frame is built all that true as I find riding it rather "Twitchy" If I don't consciously make subtle corrections to the left to offset thrust from peddling it will pull right and jump the the curb (and these are the round, abrupt curbs, not the gentle "ramped" ones!) I'm thinking that my riding technique could also be at fault as I may be attempting to course correct with my balance. I have noticed I get a feel of "vertigo" just before the trike makes it's departure. If I had to make a comparison as to the ease of use between a bike and a Trike I would say the bike is easier to ride, not that the trike is not without it's own unique benefits. No need to rest a foot at stop signs or traffic lights you see; however, I found it doesn't take lightly to changes in grade. It's also BIG! It is running on 26X2.0 tires and it dwarfs all the other bikes.

Other than these issues, the trike worked wonderfully as a grocery getter. I didn't need much from the store I was mainly after a steak so I wouldn't have to wait for one that I had on hand to defrost and some sodas. I just threw a cooler in the back basket with some ice packs in it to carry the steak and off I went! One thing I did notice is that it is painfully slow. I averaged around 8 mph on the way out and for giggles on the way home I put it in high and attempted to spin briskly. The end result is I saw 12 Mph indicated and I hardly noticed the weight of the Sodas or the cooler. On my commuter I would be running around 14 mph and road bike 14.5 plus (higher depending on if I'm having a good or a bad day).

Now the problem I have is I'm now tempted to keep the Trike at home instead of taking it to the office. If I stay the course and take it to work I still have to figure out how to get it there. The thing is huge and won't fit in either the cabin or the trunk of my Honda Accord. As I metioned riding it for great distances is out of the question. I'd say it max range at one sitting is 3 miles and seeing that at certain places in my commute I need to be north of 10MPH and contend with a fair amount of traffic it would be hazrdouse to ride it there.

Incidentally the following pic is the whole stable. The bike in the background past the trike is the brown Raleigh Twenty which is the only one that is inoperable at the momment and is undergoing resto-improvement.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Dog Days of Summer

I've been under the radar for a while now mainly as a consequence of being completely knocked off routine. Typically I proceed any commuting with a training ride the day before or if it happens to be a Monday that I would be commuting, a good 25 mile ride on the road bike the Sunday before. Unfortunately, this summer has turned out to be the wettest on record for Houston so most of August I was waiting out thunderstorms. The second half of August I was contending with an artificial emergency at work. Although it was not necessary, my employer insisted that all hands stay late for the last two weeks of August to assist with registration ( as I probably mentioned I work at a university); however, the truth of the matter was it was more about breaking my personal routine rather than registration. The only real emergencies for registration occurred the first day and although it was technically true that registration went on till September, computer support was only needed for the first day for set up and nothing more than that. What other "work" that was worked on during that time period was more a product of people returning than from registration itself. The whole rationale for staying late was a crock. It really had more to do with a particular supervisor knowing that I typically lit out 15 minutes early to go ride. By forcing the whole staff and myself to stay to 6 p.m. it meant that by leaving at six o'clock I had no time to go ride my nightly training ride in Memorial Park.
No training ride equals no commute . The latter is something that was a sore point with this particular supervisor as the permission had not come through him but through his superior and he would be hopping madbecause he couldn't do anything about it when I would leave early after being there for eight hours from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. to beat the traffic through Memorial Park.

I'm hoping that with cooler weather I'll be able to return to commuting.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Packin' the Panniers

One of the most important skills for cyclocommuting is knowing what to take along and how to take it. During the summer months which is the most active part of the cyclocommuting year it's a given that for long commutes (over 5 miles) will likely require a shower or some sort of clean up at the destination. The temperature during the summer in Houston averages in the upper 90's to lower 100's with equally high humidity so sweaty is the norm even when standing still.; consequently, half my load is wash up materials the other half clothes for work.

Over time I figured that the right hand pannier was best for clothes and the left for clean up gear. Why?? I don't know.. It worked out that way, but I think in part it's because I park my bike on the left side of my desk which put the clothes and shoes close to hand, but your results may vary and you may want to experiment to see what works best for you

Like anything else, the best way to pack for cyclecommuting is to plan ahead. I typically leave the bike pre-packed with as much gear as I'm able which saves at least a half hour of prep time on the morning of departure.

I pack my panniers so that everthing is modular and can be removed and re-inserted easily. My clothes are folded so that they are as narrow as possible and then rolled up.

The first step is to fold my slacks in half at the knee as if I were hanging them on a hanger:

The next step is to flip it over so the now folded legs face upward:

Next fold them longitudally so that it resembels a length of 2 by 4:

Next move on to folding the shirt. I usually start out folding it similar to how it came out of it's original package like so:

Then fold this package longitudinally:

Then present the shirt on top of the folded pants. It's best to match the widest part of the shirt (Usually the collar end) with the widest part of the pants (the folded waistband).

The next step is to roll up the shirt and pants like a sleeping bag starting from the widest end and ending with the narrowest:

Then using the belt (I have more than one of the same type so I don't need to break things apart when I need this particular style of belt for other functions.) cinch up the bundle.

Typically I would then put the bundle in a plastic grocery bag. Why? For starters, the bundle bulges out of the pannier a bit and once prior to taking this step I was caught in a thunderstorm that thoroughly saturated this pack of outerwear. Secondly, it helps keep the extra loose end of the belt from flopping out of the pannier and getting caught in the spokes or dragging.

Here is a pictoral overview of everything that is pre-packed the night before in my right hand panniers:

Left shoe, T-shirt, Underwear, sock bundle, cargo web bungee, Outerwear bundle, right shoe.

The T-shirt is folded like the outerwear shirt and rolled up. It's then stuffed in the left shoe. The sock and the underwear are stuffed in the right shoe.

(Not Shown) I pack the pannier-hood pocket just prior to departure and in it I keep my glasses in a rigd case as well as alternate sunglass lenses in my sunglass case and the spare cargo web bungee .

The packing

The first step is to insert the shoes into the pannier. I usually insert them so the soles are facing towards the wheels. It's mainly to keep any loose clothes clean that I might shove into it in the future.

The outerwear roll is then pushed down over the shoes.

Here is the now loaded pannier mounted on the bike:

The rolled up T-shirt in the pannier bungee is used as a rag for cleaning rain smudged eye glasses

The left pannier carries toiletries and a towel for showering. The towel is folded in thirds so that it is narrow enough to fit in the pannier. The shaving kit is placed in the pannier-hood pocket along with my electric razor. I found a typical shaving kit to be a little large for the pannier-hood pocket; however, a case for a blood pressure cuff turns out to be just the right size. I imagine that there are shaving kit bags of similar size available and that's what I'd recommend.
One of the last things that gets packed and is usually laid right on top of the towel is the charger for my niterider Digital Evolution headlight. During spring and summer I only need the headlight in the morning; however, to cover contingencies I tend to charge the battery that I used to get to work immediately upon arrival. The reason being that if on the way home I make a stop either scheduled or unscheduled (like for a beer at Kennally's Irish pub) the light is ready for use if I don't leave until after the sun goes down.

The shaving kit contains a bar of soap in a traveling soap dish, toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, a small hotel size bottle of shampoo, and a can of deodorant. I suppose if you're into it you could include a small bottle of foo foo/Colóne/ aftershave, but I've never been into that sort of thing.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Helmets & Gloves

It just occurred to me that in my description of clothing in earlier posts I never got around to talking about helmets or gloves. I consider both necessary safety equipment. I'm especially a helmet advocate as back in college I had a good friend who was a Cat III road rider, a truly gifted athlete who on his way to visit a friend hit a patch of sand and went down hard, hitting his head on the pavement. He wound up in the hospital for weeks with right side paralysis and had to go through years of therapy. He never rode a bike again. So naturally, I'm never without my "brain bucket." when out in traffic or when the risk of falling is high. My one exception is whenI'm very very close to home (I.E. test riding immediately in front of the house) or I know the roads I'll be on very very well and there is absolutely no traffic at all (think residential street).

The main criteria is to make sure the helmet is SNELL certified other than that let you budget and conscenice be your guide. As of late I've been partial to Specialized helmets. The current one I've had since '98 (Yeah, I know it's over the 4 year rule) is an "Air Cut" in black. Which raises the next subject.. Color. Black is good in foggy conditions, but lousy in the dark. It's also lousy in bright sunlight as it absorbs heat directly from the sun. White is pretty good at night and in bright sunlight, but is terrible in foggy or snowy conditions. Red depending on the shade is okay in fog, but not terrific. Heatwise it's a little better than black. If you do most of you commuting at night or before the sun comes up my vote is for either white, Neon Yellow, or Red. (I'd include blaze/hunter's orange, but my experiences with this color have not been happy ones)

Road helmets are good, if you primarily a racer, but I've found mountian bike, sport or "enthusiast" helmets to be more practical. The usually have a clip on visor
. I've found that the visor is very helpful for holding on a head lamp or battery powered miners lamp.

Gloves.. I'm old school. By far I've found Performances' crochet gloves are the best, but in times past when I could get them I'd also wear Rhode gear gloves; however, I believe Rhode Gear is out of the glove buisness . These are also a matter of taste, but you definately want a pair of you go down. Lacerated palms are pretty painful while they are healing.

Got in another run and Discovered I'm not alone!

The monsoons again have paused which allowed me another commuter run. So far this is the wettest summer I've ever seen here in Houston. As a consequence I'm slowly seeing a roll back on my belt line as my love of good food remains unabated and I have no good way of burning off the calories.

This morning as I was making my turn from Antione east onto Memorial Drive I was surprised and greeted by a fellow bicycle commuter. His name was Brian and he's a hortaculturalist who works in Memorial Park. We rode along together until he had to go his way and I had to go mine. He told me he's been doing this now for about a year and a half and 40 pounds ago. He even told me that.. Dare I say it?? There are women Bicycle commuters! He said he's met one. Unfortunately, there were no pictures of this or our encounter. I'm unbelievably jazzed to have met another of my kind. I even made a respectable time to the office, an hour and 21 minutes which is only a minute off of record time. I probably could have bettered this; however, before starting out it was apparent that the slow-leak-gremlin had made his rounds of my garage as my rear tire of my MTB was super soft. As I rode along I'd periodically hop off and finger check my tire pressure. Plus I feel I didn't do half bad as I had ridden a 14 mile road bike training ride the day before, and that the last flurry of training prior to this was almost a week and a half ago. My legs ache a little, but definitely not like a year and a half ago, before I had gotten some semblance of shape back .

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Rain Rain Go Away

Well the monsoons have begun. It's rained almost every day for the past 3 weeks. All training and commuting has stopped untill the weather improves. In the mean time I've been working on my ongoing Raliegh 20 projects. I have two of them that I have been restoring. A green one which is nicely rust free and a brown "rust bucket." Actually the plan make both into product improved Raliegh 20's replacing the stock cottered cranks with 3 piece cotterless cranks, shimano 424 SPD pedals, Brooks Conquest Saddles, Alloy rims, Cool Stop brake blocks, and one day replacing the Sturmey-Archer 3 speed drive train with the new 8 speed rear hub, and possibly setting the front wheel up with a Dynohub for lighting. Plus a rear rack setup with grocery panniers..

The aim of all this? To have a pair of bikes that can serve as short distance round the neighborhood bikes for guests and as a jump and run grocery getters. Lets face it conventional bikes are set and forget to one person and when you adjust it to anothers settings, it never fully feels right to the original rider when it's reset. Plus, I have three grocery stores within 5 miles, but to use my MTB would require completely unloading my panniers which are too small for a proper grocery run. I want a bike that I can just jump on and go with open bag panniers

It's also rather useful to have a set of bikes of matched capabilities when in a relationship or dating. This is something I learned when I was married as my MTB and road bike were too big and unfamiliar to my then wife. The green Twenty fit her better, but needed overhaul which caused it to have greater than usual resistance. Plus the differential between 20" and 26" wheels would cause me pull far ahead. So at that time it dawned on me that a matched pair of easily adjustable bikes would be a good thing to have.

So far the green one is closer to being ready. The biggest problem being faced by both projects is the hunt for a suitable bottom bracket. All sites documenting similar upgrades are vague about what they used and what their parts source was. I've outsourced this part of the project to Daniel Boone Cycles. When they get the green one done I'll then do the brown one on my own. On the brown I was hoping to use the orginal cranks for the time being; however, somewhere in this bike's past some one really laid into the cotters with a hammer so there is a bad chainwheel wobble (possble bent spindle.) Right now I'm looking for a Sugino 3-piece BMX crank with a 44 tooth Chainwheel to set aside for this bike untill I have funds avaialble to take it the rest of the way.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

At last!

Finally commuted to work this past Friday. In the process I also found a slightly easier route. Historically I would ride down Gessner to Barryknoll and then work through the southern most of the Memorial Villages to Memorial Drive. This time I just rolled right down Westview which is pretty much residential for half it's length and then missing my southerly turn Chimney Rock (It's named different at Westview and I always forget the street name.) I turned south on Antoine which once crossing I-10 then drops me on Memorial Drive about 3 to 4 miles from the outskirts of Memorial Park.

This time I had to carry my PC repair bag with me and My already heavy mountian bike had to be pushing 100lbs. I also decided at the last minute to ride with my Ipod; however, I didn't use stereo headphones, but a monophonic earpiece so I could still listen to traffic. I also opted to listen to an hour long podcast as opposed to perpetually pulling out the Ipod and risking it clattering to the street. I didn't do half bad all things considered. I averaged 11.48 MPH round trip which isn't bad on a heavily laden mountin bike. Also the new route was four miles shorter than the old route.

Here is a Pic of my bike parked at the office propped up by desk. My PC repair bag is the Reliant Energy bag acting like a "boot" bag with the long carry strap threaded through the rear rack. The blue trunk bag is actually a cooler with an "ice substute" a couple cans of soda and lunch loaded. Right pannier has work clothes, the left abolution materials (towel, soap, toothpaste, etc.)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Biding Time

Discovered yesterday while driving that part of my homecoming route is currently impassible due to deconstruction for storm sewer installation. The section is on Memorial Drive just west of Chimney rock and east of Khulman. At this point Memorial Drive is reduced to one lane east and one lane west which at rush hour under normal circumstances is already risky; however, add loose soil, construction equipment, and illiterate Mexican construction workers milling around could be a recipe for falling in front of a car. Unfortunately this is the only and best route for going home any other direction would add several more miles to the commute.

In the mean time, I'm continuing to road bike train which I must confess I enjoy tremendously for it means instead of only getting 1 to 2 hours of sleep and waking up at 4am I can sleep in to almost 7am and get between 4 and 6 hours. Plus, I enjoy being able to ride with other people which I don't get to do when commuting. Also, dare-I-say-it? I enjoy the women cyclists also there in the park. At least two are part of the University of Houston team and one is a 5'9" leggy blonde . I know I don't have a chinaman chance of garnering more than a "hello" from this lady, but "Oh MY GOD!" does she fill out those red and black Cycling shorts and my heart pounds, the blood rushes in my ears when she laps me.. Not a few of those women got it going on and make cyling shorts downright sexy..

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The re-training begins.

I did a recovery ride on Monday and didn't do half bad for being off the bike for almost half a month. The goal was to go over 14 miles in under an hour and twenty minutes as on my work commute I usually make it to work in an hour twenty and 14 miles is the one way distance. On this ride I rode 17.63 in 1:10:51 and averaged 14.9 MPH. Unfortunately in the process I may have re-infected myself with whatever little beasties that gave me pneumonia before as I had a sore throat afterwards. I had forgotten to wash out and disinfect the camelback the night before.

Yesterday I wanted to go ride so bad; however, I had to go to court instead. About a month ago I had a little altercationwith a Metro bus so last night I had to go enter a pleading.. I copped to no contest and defensive driving.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Our Commuting Program has been delayed

I've been ailing for the past week and I finally got around to going to the doctor. The verdict? A mild case of Pneumonia appearently I really overstressed my body the week before with my roadbike training. So I'm down for the count untill at least Wednesday and probably off the bike for another week. I'm hoping to ramp up on commuting next week although I'm going to miss roadbike training as I have been doing.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Other Random Thoughts: Clothing

During the spring and summer here in Houston hot weather gear is the norm. What I wear specifically often boils down to where I'm going. If I'm going to my day job at one of the local universities where I have shower and changing facilities available due to the distance involved I prefer to wear loose mountain bike shorts and a conventional coolmax cycling shirt so I don't look so conspicuous . Very early in the season when it's still cold and if I can get to work without sweating I'll wear my Lycra road bike shorts and a white coolmax cycling shirt which saves some time as I skip the post ride ablutions and just pull my work clothes on over my cycling clothes. I also use this method through the Spring and summer with my weekend job were I'm there less than 8 hours and there isn't much time for changing at quitting time.

I would have to say that 95% of the time I prefer the baggy shorts approach as it seems motorists cut me a bigger break when I don't look like professional bike racer. Along with this approach I tend to stay away from the neon, wild graphics, "I am a Bicyclist" cycling shirts. Most of my shirts are basic colors such as red and white. The white shirts like I mentioned before can double as a t-shirt while at your work site. They are also most useful for visibility reasons for early morning before-the-sun-rises commutes. I have tried "road hazard" colored shirts I have a neon yellow and a blaze orange colored shirt; however, the only time I wore the blaze orange I had a Village Cop(ulator) pull up and harass me at 5:30 am about not using the Village bike lane/sidewalk (Sun wasn't even up and he and I were the only traffic) then passing through Memorial park I had another meathead drive next to me at tell me to use the sidewalk (at this point of Memorial Drive passing through Memorial Park there are no sidewalks of any kind until well past the park, a distance of two miles. ) As for the neon yellow I haven't tried it yet as I fear a worse reaction... Blaze Orange seems to make motorists and policemen combative I'm afraid neon yellow will push someone over the edge and make me a hood ornament.

Also, as far as lycra shorts go.. basic black is the most appropriate color on a man. Definitely no gold or white. The former might give some people Rocky Horror flashbacks and the latter is just disgusting.. No one want to see your pink hairy A$$ crack sucking a bicycle seat from under sheer white material. Note these rules don't apply to women as most I've seen could pull off the different multicolor/light colored shorts without looking in some way disturbing.

As for construction you can go wrong with the classic leather chamois; however, you have to concide that there are better materials now available like the coolmax chamois. I'm partial to this new chamois; however, only if it's sewn in right and if it's the right size for the shorts. I have a pair of Performance shorts where it has the coolmax chamois, but it's short (and the shorts are actualy a size larger thant I normally wear) and the foam rubber is exposed which has a tendency to grab hair and skin and cause irratation. By far the best implemetation has been my Pearl Izumi shorts that I picked up at Sun and Ski Sports

As for Mountain Bike shorts for commuting I prefer lighter colors for visibility. Most of my light colored shorts are Tan/Khaki . By far my favorite mountian bike shorts are Zoics.

Here is a pic of me from an average commuting day.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Background

When I first started experimenting with cyclocommuting I had already had some experinces dating back to when I was a boy of 13 to 15 as I had grown up here in Houston. I already knew the conditions of the roads (Rating from pretty good to poor), and the gladitorial, adversarial and sometimes downright ignorant nature of Houston drivers.

The roads have had alot to do with shaping my views on cyclecommuting. Houston as much as I hate to admit it is a automotive town that as the price for gas starts going in line with what the rest (Non-US) cities are paying is starting to learn the tricks that the rest of the world has been using for decades. In the past two years I've seen more Vespas and motorcycles in this city than I have at any other time and of course, bicycle commuters; however, nonmotorized transportation is an area that this city (and American's in general!) are still playing catch up on.

Consequently, things like bikelanes are spotty at best and by nature vary by which traffic engineer designed them and what politican was bought off by what group. For example, the Memorial Villages which I live just outside of which depending on you point of view are citylocked towns or giant suburban neighborhoods has a an "integrated bikeway" that they (the town governments) insist is good enough for daily transport use and demand money if you disprove it to them (Bicycle in Roadways prohibited signs everywhere.) Nevermind the fact that the system is incomplete at there might be a bike path westbound but none going east unless you cross the street and go counter to traffic. Plus, these "Lanes/Paths" were designed with a 1950's view of bicycles.. Set as a 4 foot wide sidewalk it can only handle a speed no faster than a 5 year old can ride a tricycle. You also spend more time in the vertical as you travel over it as Houston's infamous gumbo soil has caused the concrete slabs to shift and buckle . Some of the Villages have done an "Oops! we goofed when we built overgrown sidewalks so well slab in all the way to the shoulder of the road." which amounts to a useless gesture as the the whole mess is on a 45 degree declination from the roadway. Lanes done by the City of Houston proper are far better as they are part of the roadway. The only problem with them is all the trash from collisions and lazy motorists winds up in the lane and nothing comes by to sweep it up and collect it.

As a consquence I've found a mountian bike to work best. Compared to a "Racing/Touring" bike the seating position is more upright and allows a better view of traffic. Also, a 26" wheel has a slightly greater contact patch with the road than a 700c. The main trade off is speed as most mountain bikes are geared lower.

For the gearheads this is an early picture of my commuter. It's a 1989 Alpine Monitor pass with a Deore XT drive train. Tires have been dropped from 26 X 2.0 to Michelin 26 X1.5 "Gatorback" Metro tires. Seat is a Brooks Conquest. Neck was orignally a Tioga T-bone, but I found that my seating position was too spread out for long rides and replaced it with a road "riser" neck. I also have no use for biopace so the front cranks and chaninwheels are later round rings models. Pedals are SRs with clips (Since replaced by Shimano PD-M424s SPDs)

Light system is triply redundant Night Rider. The primary light is a Nightrider Digital Evolution with two batteries and a commuter alkaline system for the last line backup.
Tailight is a cateye blinkie on a handmade clip that
is clipped to the bottom of the rear fender. Fenders are by Planet bike.
Rack is a Blackburn Mountian 3 and panniers are Jannd Mountianeering Mountian Panniers. The brain is a Cateye Enduro 2.

I suppose if I started from scratch I might be inclined to try a flat bar road bike like the new Specialized Sirrus, or a purpose built commuter like a Breezer or a Specilized Globe.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bicycle Commuting Houston Texas Style

Hello and welcome to my Bike blog. Here I wil tell you the tips, tricks, tools and the tales for bicycle commuting safely in houston. Also I would like to provide a hat tip to for the inspiration.