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.