Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And so it begins.

For 2008 my total mileage was 2,133.05 miles. My plan for 2009 is to either equal it or double it to 4266.10. This is based on commuting three times a week to my work at Texas Southern and my 4 mile commute to my Saturday fun job. I think it may be achievable if I can tough out the cold of January February and March.

In other news, I accomplished my first human powered grocery run since I received my 07 Schwinn Town & Country trike back from the local Performance Bicycle back on the 27th of December. I originally took it in for repair just before hurricane Ike hit as I had succeeded in stripping out the axle for the second time; however, a lack of repair parts at Pacific bicycle's facilities in California prevented them from repairing it right away. With some irony they actually got the replacement axle fairly quickly, but prior to bringing the trike into them I had attempted to repair it myself losing the key (it's really a 1 inch by half inch rectangular cube of steel) to the rear sprocket keyway. So they had to get a new key to replace the one I lost. This part had to come from China (and my best guess is they either sent them by Windjammer or literally on a slow boat from China). The one major difference when I saw between the new and the old axle is the new one looks like it's all one piece and probably will not be subject to the same kind of breakage.

Anyhow, I had stopped at Kroger's while on my way back from my fun job on 12/31. I had brought into the store with me my commuter bag which was filled with my Niterider Digital Evolution and sweat jacket as I did not want to leave them attached to the trike. I also had left it unlatched and wide open so that it could clearly be seen that the bag was full. No sooner that I had walked through the door and started to shop I was harassed by a cashier. She was one of those typical blue haired busybody types and she came up to me with a, "Excuse me sir, but we don't allow bags to be brought in. You have to turn that in to our courtesy area before you can shop." I just looked at her and said, "Sure, just soon as all the women in the store put their purses over there as well." This of course caused her to bring the manager over for reinforcement; however, when I mentioned to her that for me to do so without all the women leaving their purses at the front desk would be very discriminatory. My argument completely took the wind out of her sails because without me even saying so it became clear. The only reason this cashier came over to me is I was still pretty much in full cycling regalia as I still had my helmet and gloves on, I was male, and I had a bag about the size of a large purse. For me to have put my bag over with customer service would've been discrimination based on sex, as the only reason I would be forced to put my bag over there is because I was male. All the females would still be running around with purses about the same size as my bag and just as capable of shoplifting.
Secondly, the idiocy became clear if I had been a shoplifter I would not have gone running around in fingerless gloves and a piece of beer cooler foam festooned with reflective stickers strapped to my head. I also would be in a much faster getaway vehicle than a human powered tri-wheeler only capable of 12 mph max. The fact of the matter is if I was there to shoplift I would have none of those things on me as I would try to blend in and look like the rest of the sheep and not a helmeted "goat." I also would not shoplift at a store that was literally at my back door that I frequent and would be recognized at readily. The manager de-escalated sheepishly saying, " Well, I know that you've been here before and were only trying to prevent shoplifting." After that they pretty much left me alone; however, I did notice the security guard loitering when I was packing the trike to leave.

Theoretically I could have complied with the nosy cashiers request; however, it just rubbed me wrong that because I was male and dressed as a cyclist I had to put my bag up with customer service when there were hundreds of women walking around the store with purses approximately the same size as my bag with more available space to hide something in them than what I happened to have. Plus, extending their rationale if they were out to prevent shoplifting then they should strip everyone who walks in of their clothes so that no one can hide anything in their pockets or in the clothes themselves. I guess the older I get the less I tolerate stupidity and this whole incident was both needless and stupid on the part of the store.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The 12/19/08 Report (A pure gravy Commute)

I know this report is a day or two late; however,
I spend the greater part of every day behind keyboard so when I got home on Friday I did not feel like doing any writing.

Friday's commute was wonderful with extremely mild weather I think the morning temperature was 68° which was perfect. Thursday night I was having one of those restless nights where I really couldn't sleep. So I wound up leaving an hour early (4:15 a.m.) which meant I'd basically owned the road from my house all the way to Texas Southern University. For the morning leg I posted a scorching one hour and 15 minute transit time this is nearly equal to my car commute in traffic it was really an amazing morning.

The ride home was also pretty good because I left closer to five o'clock I chose my southerly route which basically has become my standard way home. As I was passing Main Street I felt a distinct "thunk" and my feet spun until the chain caught again and it became apparent that I was suffering a chain slip.

For the past couple rides I have experienced one to two chain slips. Knowing that I was rapidly coming up to the 850 mile point on my odometer and I had no knowledge of how many miles the previous owner had put on the Sirrus (for all I know it could've been an additional 150 miles putting me right at a 1,000) I decided at about the halfway point to make a dogleg by Sun and Ski Sports to have the chain gauged for wear. The remainder of the ride was uneventful and I made it to Sun and Ski around 6:15 p.m. They checked my chain and sure enough I had worn it out. I also had done a fair amount of damage to gears three and four on my rear cassette; however, my front chain wheels were fine.

Unfortunately, they did not have any 12-25T cassettes in stock which would have kept the bike in stock configuration; however, they did have a 12-21T which would work acceptably well in Houston's nearly flat terrain. So the '07 Sirrus is now tighter geared then even its '88 granddaddy and for a heavily laden 700c hybrid it moves like a scalded cat.

Saturday I did my usual Raleigh Twenty commute to my weekend job which gave me another 4 miles and then Sunday I stopped by Performance Bicycle and much to my surprise my Schwinn Town & Country was finally ready for pickup! My best guess is they sent that replacement axel key by Windjammer because I had brought the trike in shortly before hurricane Ike struck in late August. So now I have my grocery/TFW commuter back in the fold. I might lighten it's duty a little bit as I've enjoyed the in store maneuverability of the Raleigh Twenty. (The Schwinn Town & Country tends to take over whatever space it resides in. It's the equivalent of a 55 Cadillac trunk in square footage.)

My work at Texas Southern for Christmas shuts down after two o'clock on Monday 12/22 so whatever riding occurs prior to the new year will be utility/TFW commuting, or pleasure/fitness riding. As it stands I've ridden 2, 119 miles for the year which is 82 miles over my yearly goal so far.

We've failed to get bike racks on trains; this is the end-game

For over a year, BikeHouston and Citizens Transportation have worked to get bike racks installed on the coming METRO light rail trains, which would've made bikes + light rail an unbeatable intermodal combo.

Despite letters from Judge Ed Emmett, all four Republican and Democratic Harris County Commissioners, and other public officials, METRO is going to place orders for the new trains on Christmas Eve 2008... without any in-cabin racks for bicycle. Our contact at the FTA, the funding agency for the trains, is extremely concerned, but FTA cannot compel METRO to order trains with bike racks.

It looks like we've failed at this point.

If the cycling community cares enough about this, then you can make one final effort on Monday or Tuesday next week. Call METRO CEO Frank J. Wilson's office at (713) 739-4832. Don't send an email. Make someone pick up the phone and spend the energy to talk to you. Also call the VP of Procurement, Paul Como, at (713) 739-4887. Tell him to not order the trains without bike racks.

The agency which has just put racks on its trains, Phoenix, goes live with its trains on December 27, 2008. We put a picture of their equipment on this blog. I'm happy for them, and I'm disappointed that we have such entrenched and unresponsive people in charge of our public transit agency. But, I'm not the only person to make that observation; just go to any METRO board meeting, and listen to the public complaints.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The 12/15 "Frozen Chosin" commute

Sunday night it looked like Monday morning would be nice mild 65° weather so I decided to go ahead and commute in. First problem, although I checked the weather on weather.com I was not aware that a cold front was moving in. So even though I checked it throughout the morning up until I left I did not see any dramatic change being shown. In fact, the afternoon temperature was supposed to be 75° and the overall forecast was assuring enough that I did not feel the need to bring warmer cycling clothing. I wore what I normally wear which would be hot weather gear in any other climate.

The actual morning ride was quite pleasant and very much routine. There was a little humidity in the air which made the ride a little cold but it was still tolerable. I have definitely ridden in worse even my last ride was colder than what I was facing this morning. I arrived at work and do the fact that my office is near the middle of the building without any windows I had no idea that the thermometer around 10 o'clock had dumped and was hovering around 43° Fahrenheit. when I finally did make the connection I was sweating it out for a lease 30 to 40 minutes until I figured out what I could wear to stay warm on the way home.

One of the biggest breaks I had was I had left an old sweat jacket there in my office (Hannah Hall is an old building and central heat and cooling is pretty much an afterthought and inconsistently applied and I often get cold). I figured if I kept on my work clothes with my cycling jersey on top of it underneath the sweat jacket I should be able to keep my core warm. And I pretty much did the same with the bottom half of my body. I put my cycling shorts on underneath my dockers and then put my cuff/ankle straps on to keep the pants out of my chain.

The return trip home started a little chilly, but as I warmed up my clothing arrangement turned out to work quite well in keeping me warm all things considered . The one thing I was reminded of is not to expect a great amount of speed wearing long pants. I also found that starts and stops were rather annoying as the ankle straps pulled down on the pants and tugged at my belt whenever getting off and on the saddle. It also had the tendency of stalling me out.

I also delayed as long as possible and turning on my lights with the exception of my rear blinky. I figured it would be a smart move under the gray skies that I was traveling to have the blinky be running. Doing so was a time saver because I did not have to stop to either take off my Camelback or reach back and fumble for the button. Not having the headlight run saved its runtime for when I needed it the most.

Other than the extremely cold temperatures and the early darkness the ride home was more or less routine with the exception of when it came time for me to take my right turn off of San Filipe onto East Briar Hollow Lane. Right at that moment some obnoxious driver came by honking his horn. I loudly told him where he could go; however, in fearless cager fashion he drove off at a high rate of speed. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of courage the terminally stupid have. The only other thing of note was prior to this incident I had come across some stupid woman driver who was sitting halfway in in the bicycle lane. I purposely got her attention and pointed out where her car was sitting. She made like she was dreadfully embarrassed and made a conscious effort to move her car. Of course, if she'd been paying attention to the road and not picking her nails she may have been more aware where her car was.

From East Briar Hollow Lane onwards the ride was dead routine. When I got home my yearly mileage was now up to 2081 about 40 miles better than I had planned for the year. I am hoping that I might be able to get at least one more long-distance commute before the end of the year. (Or maybe more?)

Other lessons learned: It might be wise to invest in a set of larger Panniers for winter cycling in order to carry cold weather cycling gear to cover for similar situations were the weather starts as passible and then goes freezing.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Who is commuting on Thursday, 12/11/08?

Polar Bear Club time! Temperature will be at freezing, windchill in the 20s. Who's with me?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Great deal on a commuter tire

I bought a Performance Bike house brand "Gotham" city tire today, in 26 x 1.85, for my son's bike, looks like it will be a tough city tire, and I think I paid $14 for it. That's in stark contrast to what they want for premium city bike tires these days, like the Armadillos, which are more than double that price.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The December 2008 wrap up.

Well it's finally the end of the year. The mileage goal for the year was 2,037 and I surpassed that handily on Thanksgiving. Knowing that I was going to indulge in massive calorie on load and overload I opted to ride to my family's Thanksgiving get-together which gave me the 15 miles I needed to break the record for the year. When I arrived home on Thanksgiving I had 2040 miles and I estimate that I might have 2,080 by December 31.

What were the things that I learned cycling and cycle commuting this year? Well for starters, I discovered that I prefer to have my cycling have a purpose. As much as I enjoyed the camaraderie of cycling the picnic loop in Memorial Park early in the year I found spinning aimless mile-long circles boring. The second thing I found out this year is the MS 150 is grossly overrated. It might have been something back in the late 80s early 90s when there were fewer riders, but I found it to be too full of "Sunday riders" People that only pull out their bikes for this event and have no clue how to ride long distances or in mass start events.

If I ever decide to ride the MS 150 again it will have to be in the team that I happen to know people who are riding. I did not enjoy being a walk-on for the Sun & Ski team. True I did know quite a few of the employees of Sun & Ski sports so I was not without anybody to talk to, but on the road I had nobody to ride strategically with to cope with all the two and three abreast riders and other idiots.

The third thing I discovered for the year was the advantages to a flat bar 700 C hybrid. Although I love my Alpine Monitor hybridized MTB I'm not so fond of its low gearing for a daily rider particularly when passing through Memorial Park. When I won a 2007 Specialized Sirrus off of eBay it became the surprise bicycle of the year. I logged more Lifetime mileage to the tune of 832.6 miles on this bike than on any other bike. The bike that is second to it is my racing bike the 1988 Sirrus it has 635.8 miles for the year.

Why did I take such a shine to this new bike? It's simple. It felt fast like the racing bike, was stable like the hybridized MTB and carried almost as much. I also suppose it fit a little better too. The Alpine was always a little big and the ' 88 Sirrus had classic road bike geometry that although made it feel agile it was also a touch whippy on the road. What I liked about the 07 Sirrus most is when I was passing through Memorial Park it didn't feel like I was taking as long compared to the Alpine. so naturally I wound up taking it more and more.

What are the goals for next year? I want to continue to use more human power and less car. Although I did not clock my car miles I've made the intelligent guess that my bicycle miles are roughly about 20% of the total mileage I traveled to and from work for the year. I know I can get more mileage if I focus on it. I know I missed several weeks where I would oversleep or find other reasons to cop out. I also need to work on my cold weather capability because I missed at least two weeks last month when the temperature got down to near freezing and I did not feel like competing with the thermometer.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Would cars treat you better if you had a visible gun?

Do you suppose if we could openly carry sidearms in Texas, as in Arizona, that the incidence of harassment by cars & trucks would go down? My guess is yes, and therefore I signed the petition today.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bicycles on METRO light rail; your emails & attendance needed again

Please attend this meeting (see below) and express your opinion that we need 24/7 bicycle access to the light rail system in Houston, bike hangers inside the trains, and adequate bike parking at the stations. If unable to attend, please send your comments by email to Tim Lidiak at timothy.lidiak@dot.gov and make sure you mention that you are making comments concerning Houston's METRO.


------------------------------

Federal Certification Review Public Meeting

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are hosting a public meeting for you to express your views on transportation planning in the Houston-Galveston Region.



Time: 6:00 p.m.
Date: Monday, December 1, 2008
Place: Houston-Galveston Area Council
3555 Timmons Lane
Houston, TX 77027
Room: Conference Room C
2nd Floor

This public meeting is a part of a periodic review process that will assess compliance with Federal regulations pertaining to the transportation planning. If you need more information or if you are unable to attend the meeting, you may submit your comments to either the FTA or FHWA by mail or email at the following addresses:

Contacts: Mr. Jose Campos
Intermodal Team Leader
FHWA Texas Division Office
300 E. 8th Street, Room 826
Austin, TX 78701
E-MAIL: jose.campos@fhwa.dot.gov
PH: (512) 536-5932
FAX: (512) 536-5990


Mr. Tim Lidiak
Regional Planner
Federal Transit Administration
819 Taylor Street, Room 8A36
Fort Worth, TX 76102
E-MAIL: timothy.lidiak@dot.gov
PH: (817) 978-0559
FAX: (817) 978-0575

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Monday 11/3 Ride Report

Every once in awhile you get a morning that makes up for every single pre-commute flat tire and a late start and reminds you of the better aspects of cycling. This morning was one of these as I got my tires aired up without ripping any stems and I actually managed to get out of the house a full 30 minutes early. The temperature was around 55° which was rather cold; however, I have been in worse. Although I am a warm weather person I recognize there's an inherent advantage to exercising in a cool environment. Once you warm up and get used to it the temperature is a little bit like having an entire body ice bag so you actually wind up slightly enhancing performance. This was quite true this morning as for most of the way I was averaging around 12.9 mph until I made my turn off onto hazard street. Because the hazard street is such a rabbit warren of intersecting streets I usually have to slow down while passing down it.

I only saw two other cyclists this morning. I saw a recreational rider as I transited through Memorial Park and once I got on the west Alabama I had to do a hard blink as at that point I crossed paths with somebody who was kitted out similarly to myself, a bona fide cycle commuter. The rest of the morning ride was fairly routine.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Thursday 10/30 ride or How to Piss off a redneck without even trying

Today's morning ride was rather cold. When I woke up this morning weather underground told me that within a mile of my house it was 56°; however, because I am so close to my goal for the year I toughed it out and I rode. Even though I again blew out an inner tube on my front wheel which put me 15 minutes behind. Luckily it was not too much colder and within 3 miles is actually just right comfort wise; however, once I got to the office I determine that the cold weather didn't enhance my performance much as I averaged 11.8 mph for the morning leg.

The morning leg was pretty routine . I only saw about one other commuter this morning and oddly enough he was westbound going in the direction that I had just come from. As I passed through Memorial Park I recognized an old acquaintance of mine crossing the street and I said hello as I passed by.

The ride home was chock full of commuters I think I saw a total of 10. I also had a verbal altercation with a redneck As I was going down the Alabama St. right around Main. The light had turned red and I carefully worked my way around a white van that had stopped just a little ahead of me. right as I passed the passenger side window the driver yelled "hey;" however, I ignored him as I had begun to pass I sensed that I was going to get some lip from him. At the next light not only did he squeeze past me uncomfortably close, but he also yelled, "get out of traffic" then gunned his engine passing me and getting down the road. It's a real annoyance on how some people become so puffed up with courage from being inside a 3000 pound cage that they feel entitled to share their stupidity with the world.

As I cleared Midtown continuing down on Alabama is where I saw all the other commuters including somebody actually using panniers! The rest of the ride was pretty much routine. I did manage to improve my average speed from 11.8 back up to 12.08 mph by the end of the ride. The afternoon weather was positively delightful and definitely made me glad that I had stuck it out in the morning to ride.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Monday 10/27 ride report.

I almost didn't ride this morning as I had only gone to sleep around 2 a.m. and only two hours of sleep makes for a rough ride and an even rougher day; however, I found myself curious as to what the weather was doing so I got up at four and took a look around. Much to my surprise I found the weather this morning not as cold as I had anticipated from the weather reports. The Weather Channel had said that that the temperature was around 55°; however, when I stuck a leg out the front door it felt more like 60 to 65° not warm but not overly cold either. So I decided to ride.

The morning ride is almost a non-report except that starting out I managed to rip the stem off of the rear tube. So replacing the rear innertube succeeded in making me about 15 minutes late. I also decided to run my tire pressure experiment this morning so I lowered my tire pressure to 115 pounds and headed out the door. The actual ride was a nonevent didn't bump into anybody and passing through Memorial Park I only saw two recreational riders running the picnic loop. It was a dead dead dead morning.

The ride home was also pretty routine up until I got to South Briar Hollow Lane, I use this street as a dog leg over to Post Oak which I use to cross under the 610 loop. as I was pedaling along I felt my cranks and rearwheel lock and then I heard a large "crack" and felt something fall from the bike. I could've sworn I was about to do an endo; however, the rear wheel started turning again and I was rolling along. I stopped to look back to figure out what had fallen from the bike and there in the road was one of my tire fly reflects. I jumped off the bike and leaned against a tree then walked back and picked it up.


Apparently the plastic mounting ears that held the reflects to the spokes had undergone structural fatigue and had let go. As I was standing there studying the broken one I also observed the same problem with the front one and to prevent it from also causing me problems I went ahead and broke it off. I'm feeling pretty fortunate
that the damn things didn't break any of my spokes or caused me to take a header.













The rest of the ride home was routine; however, once I got onto Westview I actually observed other riders. In fact, as soon as I got onto Westview I caught a glance of a roadie on a 47 inch frame; however, I was unable to pursue and get a closer look at his bike as I had not made my turn from off of Chimney rock/Wirt and by the time I did he was long gone. The next rider I came across was on a Wal-Mart wonder and he asked me if I had seen a friend of his on an orange mountain bike; however, I had not. the rest of the ride home was routine.

As for my tire pressure experiment. my average speed was nothing to write home about, and my overall time sucked. The ride on the other hand was a lot more compliant and less harsh than at 130 pounds tire pressure. I'm not so sure if I'm going to keep my tire pressure where it's at as the ride did not feel as fast. In fact, it kind of felt like I was riding through molasses.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ignorance can be irrtating 10/21 commute

I again left out 8 to 15 minutes early this morning. The weather was absolutely delightful it was again around 57 degrees. I took it easy on the way in. In fact the ride in this morning was as routine as routine could be. I didn't see any other cycling traffic on the road; however, the rec riders were hard at work on the picnic loop in Memorial Park as I passed by. In fact the only morning excitement happened AFTER I had been at work for an hour. I heard a sudden rush of air and because it was an abrupt out of the ordinary sound . I jumped out of my skin! It scared the bejeebers out of me.

As it it turns out, prior to departure from home I had had a bit of a problem getting the pump chuck off of the valve stem of my front tire . Apparently I had been a little rough and unbeknown to me the stem had been damaged. Luckily fate had it fail there in the office as opposed to somewhere on the road in the early morning dark.

The only downside to having a flat in the office is having to use my frame pump to get anything close to reasonable pressure. Again I got lucky as I later found out. I manged to get 100 lbs and I actually felt the ride quality was better. I might consider a pressure reduction as I usually run my tire pressures between 125 and 130lbs which according to my Planet bike dial gauge is in track tire pressure territory. One thing I had going for me is the Alex R500 rims that come stock on the Sirrus are an absolute joy to dismount. If it were any easier there would be a zipper along the edges. I had the side of the tire open and the new tube in it within one minute. I then spent the next 45 minutes painfully pumping up that tire.

I actually left work a little early this afternoon as I had to stop at Daniel Boone's cycles so I wound up leaving right at 4 p.m. Earlier in the week I had managed to crack the chain ring guard on my '07 Sirrus. I still have no idea how I pulled it off I'm guessing I may have brushed it against my desk as I was extracting the bike from my office. I know the chain ring guard is usually something "purists" scorn and remove from their bikes as soon as they're able (along with the "dork disk"/pie tin from behind the cassette). I've chosen to keep it on the bike. The reason being is I had a friend back in college who experienced the classic "sawmill" laceration and pulling out of his clipless pedal and planting his foot on the ground solidly in front of the chain wheel which proceeded to tear a 3 inch flap of skin off his ankle. With all the up and down action while riding in traffic I go through on this particular bike I rather keep all the original guards. It also makes the bike look more finished as without it looks like it's missing something. Boones was able to accommodate me as they are Specialized dealers and although they didn't have any loose they pulled one off of a Sirrus from the showroom floor.

Once my business at Boones was completed I turned myself towards Alabama Street and the way home. The first leg of the trip was uneventful pretty much like the morning. The ride began to get interesting once I got to the Westview/Pech intersection there I bumped into some bumpkin on a motorized mountain bike. He looked at me and I looked at him and it was on like Donkey Kong! I was determined not to have him pass me (I'm not overly warm on electric assist especially when the rider can't make up his mind either stay on the street and be a vehicle or ride on the sidewalk like some kind of four-year-old. to my thinking if you have a motor on it then you belong in the street and have no claim on the sidewalk) So for about a quarter mile I was slogging it out in the street while he was on the sidewalk and I was able to stay ahead of him for a while until traffic bottlenecked and I was forced to jump on the sidewalk to stay up with him. Unfortunately, this was just after he had passed me so by the time I got to the Bingle intersection the light had already cycled. (I also distinctly could hear him engage that electric motor) So unfortunately I lost the "race"

Just after crossing Bingle I noticed a brand-new white colored Mustang coming up behind me. I knew it couldn't have been more than a few months old there is just something about the clear coat that screamed "brand-new car" it was being driven by the typical young blond cheerleader type that Spring branch/Memorial is famous for. The sort of person lives a chronically sheltered life and while growing up may have rode a bike and never took it out of their neighborhood and pretty much gave it up the minute they got their learners permit. They also got the typical Spring branch/Memorial drivers Ed training where they completely gloss over the fact that bicycles are vehicles. The reason being is in this small part of suburbia the kids are raised with the expectation that they will drive forever. What most of this generation has failed to realize is that they will be one of the last generations where the privilege of driving is certain.

As the car passed me, yes you guessed it! I got hit with, "Why don't you ride on the sidewalk!" in that shrill young girl voice. I found it rather irritating in light of the fact that this stretch of road may be a single lane in either direction, but they are very wide lanes to the point where you could probably drive two cars abreast and certainly pass a bicycle with a wide margin. Also, what I found so irritating was the brazen exhibition of stupidity. Not only did this chick yell this, but she did so just before she turned into her neighborhood!

It's one thing to yell at a bicyclist when you're rolling in 3000 pounds of steel and nowhere near where you're residing, but do so outside your own neighborhood takes it down to a whole other level of stupidity. I gave real consideration and I was sorely tempted to go after her as it would've been fairly easy to catch her in an area where she was forced to slow down to 15 miles an hour to navigate Road construction; however, I figured it was a lost cause. Most people who yell things out the window are pretty ignorant and mostly unreachable. One that is so stupid to yell something at someone right in front of their neighborhood where they can be found is a whole new level. I also happen to know from growing up in this area that most of the young women are very self-righteous and not strategic thinkers. So I pressed onwards and rode home.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Breezed in.

It's amazing how 15 minutes can change the nature of a early morning commute. I managed to get out of the house about eight minutes before 5 a.m.; consequently, there was no traffic at all. I basically owned the roads between Conrad Sauer and Texas Southern and it was reflected in the total time of the ride as I made it to work in an hour and 16 minutes and averaged 12.31 miles an hour. Weatherwise it was a beautiful morning it was 58° which was a touch chilly, but not unbearably so. After about 3 miles the temperature was ideal because it kept perspiration to a minimum. I did keep my leg warmers handy to either use as they are intended or as makeshift arm warmers, but they were unneeded.

Quite surprisingly there was a lot of cycling activity this morning. As I made my turn onto Memorial Drive I observed a westbound recreational rider who was using excellent lighting. As I proceeded down Memorial Drive I was buzzed by yet another recreational rider who rapidly took the lead down Shepherd. oddly enough the only thing I remember of him is his tail lights I don't remember seeing if he had a headlight or not. The last cyclist I saw crossed my path as a going down West Alabama. Cyclist was a female and she was riding a mountain bike and she is wearing a backpack. my guess is she was headed towards the medical center.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Friday 10/17 Report

Unfortunately, I did no long distance cyclecommuting this week. Houston has been getting the very beginnings of winter weather where it rains in some fashion in the morning and to top it off I have yet to accumulate good wet weather gear. The few times I have commuted in the rain it was a happy occasion during, but I didn't enjoy the extra maintainence afterward and the wear on my Brooks either.

This morning I had the intention of commuting, but I only fell asleep somewhere around 3am so I only got around an hour of sleep. I woke with the 4am alarm but I laid there thinking "15 minutes more" and that 15 grew to an hour and a half which made it far too late. If I'm not on the road by 5am and through Memorial Park by 6am life gets just a little too exciting. So I copped out and drove. I did see a lot of cycling activity including someone on a Rivendell as I drove down Elgin and passed the Yokum intersection. I was inclined to believe it was Dennis/D2Create from bike forums as there aren't very many Rivendells around; however, if it was him he was along way from his work but it could be as he was pointed in the right general diriection to head back towards W. Dallas. When I got to work I had to sponge up the drool as I do catorgorize Rivnedells as the ultimate in bike candy. I just have never seen any in my size and if I did I would have to declare bankrupcy to afford one.

I saw at least 4 small Vespa type scooters on my way as well. Although my focus here is on cycle commuting I believe small displacment motorized two wheeled cycle devices like Vespas and mopeds are an indicator of the evolution of Houston into a more bi/motor-cycle aware and friendly city. The more you see means there are that many less cars on the road at that momment.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Friday 10/3 Report.

Things are much improved since Monday and Wednesday. The lights in Memorial Park (both street and traffic) are now working. There are still dark sections within Spring Branch. On Westview three blocks west of Bunker Hill are still dark as is the section between Campbell and Bingle. Also, Antione from Westview to I-10 is patchy with sections of two or three street lights are still out. The net effect is a DARK street.

I also discovered on the run in much to my chagirn tham my saddle had come loose so it was very subtly shimmying fore and aft. I'm guessing it was a combination of the rough morning ride Wednesday up San Felipe saddled (no pun intended) with multiple mounts and dismounts for traffic which vibrated the front bolt loose.

On the run in I bumped into two female Cyclecommuters. I got a chance to talk to one and found out she's been commuting by bike for ten years. I felt like a lightweight. The second one crossed my path headed south so no communication was possible. I was just able to make out that the bike was Celeste Green had lights, Celeste colored fenders and had panniers A Bianchi Milano Perhaps? From a distance it sure looked like one.

I made it to work without further incident; however, before I come home I'm going to have to find an Allen wrench to tighten up my saddle. I manged to leave my "Y" Wrench at home so I'm going to have to go make friends with Campus Maintenance or stop by The Third Ward Bike Shop on my way out.

Waiting for early morning carpool pick-up


NW Corner of State Highway 6 and FM529,
near Bike Barn Copperfield. Waiting for my
carpool. I ride 3 miles to the pick-up point,
then we drive 17 more miles into work. I don't
get a full workout, but it's fast. Some days I
ride back home all the way on the bike, which
is a Dahon Speed 7 folder.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Monday 9/29 ride report

In effort and from a psychological standpoint it was a normal round-trip commute from my house near Conrad Sauer to Texas Southern University; however, there is still much evidence of storm damage from IKE. There are several items to to note on the Westview Dr. portion of the commute. There is a lot of small twigs and other wood fiber debris liberally scattered along the route (not to mention glass) the former of which makes for a bumpy ride. the latter; well, you already know you have to avoid it.

Also, there are portions of the power grid on Westview that suffered damage in the storm and are still not back yet. The section of Westview just before Bunker Hill and the sectionbetween Campbell and Bingle is almost completely without streetlights. The other section of the route that raises concern is Memorial Drive from the 610 loop to Crestwood. There are absolutely no streetlights or park lights activated at this time. It's probably a good idea to avoid Memorial Park in the early morning hours until Houston Looting and Plunder gets around to repairing the power grid through the park. If you decide to chance it and ride at this stretch be sure that you have effective lighting both front and rear so that approaching cars can see you. From Crestwood onwards to Shepherd and eventually to TSU is completely routine.

The afternoon ride I did not come back on the reciprocal route, but I went straight down Alabama/West Alabama to Wesleyan and from there I went north to San Filipe and then westward on San Filipe to Briar Oaks Lane where I eventually worked my way on to Post Oak where I cut over through the neighborhoods to make it to the Tanglewood bike lane that took me to Chimney Rock. From there I continued on northward until the route met up with Westview and westward to home. The distance is equal to doing the reciprocal, but does not require a sprint with traffic through Memorial Park. The one thing I I might add is that the lights in Memorial Park are not functioning and HPD is manning the intersections. I mention this because if one were to chance running through the park in the afternoon you may get waved through the intersections. I have not tried it myself, but I recognized when driving through that the possibility exists.

I'm going to ride on the wrong side of the road today

I'll be riding in the far outside position of a very wide (10 ft wide) shoulder (Clay Rd., east of Eldridge). I think it's safer doing that than crossing 12 lanes of 50 MPH traffic to keep going with traffic. At Eldridge, I will cross as a ped with the signals, then I will be on a path.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Safe Cycling in the Houston Area (Road I)

Date: Wed, Sept 24 (6PM-9PM) & Sat, Sept 27 (9AM-3:30PM)Date: Wed, Oct 22 (6PM-9PM) & Sat, Oct 25 (9AM-3:30PM)

Instructor: Regina Garcia
Location: 851 Dairy Ashford, Suite A, Houston, TX 77079
Fee: $60

Do you want to learn to cycle confidently and safely in the Houston area? Then this class is a must! Learn to communicate effectively with motorists and enjoy the ride. We'll discuss proper lane positioning, basic rules of the road, how to avoid obstacles, scanning, changing a tire, emergency turns, emergency stops, basic maintenance, and much, much more! Wednesday evening will be all lecture (no bicycle needed) and Saturday will include parking lot drills and a group ride.

To register for this course, contact: Bicycle World and Fitness, (281) 556-0923
Email: chris@bicycleworldandfitness.com
Website: http://bicycleworldandfitness.com/index.cfm
Signup required in advance? Yes
Special signup instructions: Call Bicycle World and Fitness at 281-556-0923. They will take your payment over the phone.
Equipment required: Bicycle, Helmet, water bottle

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Folding bicycle adventures

The folding bicycle has turned out to be quite useful in this post-Ike time when I don't want to take journeys on the open road with traffic signals broken. I have been riding 3 miles to a meet-up point, then carpooling the 40 mile round-trip with a woman who works two blocks away from my workplace. We're both getting NuRide.com points. I just redeemed some points today for free food coupons; coffee, kolaches, chocolate, smoothies.


I love the small footprint of folding bikes, even when fully deployed.

I also used the folder on METRO on the Thursday before the storm hit. I took it on the #216 Park & Ride bus, which uses buses without bike racks or storage bins, so folding bikes are the only ones that work on those currently. I also took it on the light rail during the hours when regular bikes are forbidden, but folders are allowed. It's a nice way to get around these restrictions.


On the #216 bus, bike folded and crammed in front of my knee


Bike on light rail, folded and crammed behind a seat near the door

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bike commuting problems

Broken glass and tree debris on the road, traffic signals not working, dark streets... all reasons to be very careful out there!

I've been ferrying back-and-forth with my open-top grocery bag panniers to Randall's and Wal-Mart to get supplies during the emergency; did not have to light up my car once. Still sitting in the driveway with a full tank of gas. Haven't driven it in a week.

I'm still, as always, just about the only bicyclist on the roads. You'd think people would figure it out. Bike = huge advantage during a fuel crisis. Do ya think?

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Review of the Cyglolite Pace 135

First, a little background. About two weeks ago I began having problems with my NiteRider Digital Evolution headlight. The positive and the negative terminals would make contact but not the data line for the "fuel gauge;" consequently, the fuel gauge would do the whole "KITT from NiteRider" routine. An annoying problem, but not a complete ride killer. As a consequence I had to consider a new light for when I send the NiteRider back to the shop.

My long-term lighting plan is to eventually go to Dynohubs and LED lighting (either DIY or B&M Lumotec); however, until my funds caught up to me my plan was to use the NiteRider Digital Evolution until I can get the Dyno wheels built for both my main commuter bikes. As part of my plan I intend to keep my original front wheels for the times that I don't want the additional drag of the generator so I am having to scrounge parts to do what I want to do. The Alpine Monitor Pass requires a silver ARAYA RM20 which has not been produced in over 10 years and I have not come across anything that comes close to matching. or at the worst I will have to rebuild its wheelset with different rims. The Specialized Sirrus 700c hybrid has a similar problem. It came from the factory with Alex R500 rims which is exclusive to the OEM market and I missed out on the only one I've ever seen on eBay (because at the time I thought that I could get one anywhere). So being the hardheaded Cuss that I am I found a wheelset based on Mavic CPX33 rims and Shimano Ultegra Hubs that I plan to use once I can get a cassette mounted and then get another CPX 33 rim to build up Shimano dynohub so at least one of my commuter bikes would be on its way to being fully converted.

Well, with so much work left to go Dynohub and a Niterider Digital Evolution starting to flake out I needed a light so that I could continue commuting by bike and a later be moved to one of my other bikes. I had two main criteria for this replacement light. It had to be cheap; however, good enough quality to last a while and it had to be equally bright as my Digital Evolution. being that I was let down by Niterider as my Digital evolution is just a little over a year and a half old I wanted to go with another company. I received a catalog from Performance Bicycle and saw that they had the Cyglolite Pace 135 for $69 which is extremely cheap. So I figured I would give it a try. Here's a picture of the complete set sans charger.


OVERVIEW
The Cyglolite Pace 135 utilizes third-generation LED technology and a 4.8 Volt nickel metal hydride battery with no charger regulation. Unfortunately, it is not clear which third generation LED emitter is using, In comparison the Digital Evolution is a halogen-based light and utilizes a 6 V digitally controlled charger. Both lights are rated for 3 1/2 hours of use and that is where the similarity ends.

The Pace 135 weighs 14.2 oz which is significantly lighter than the Digital Evolution. The Digital evolution weighs A heavy 54 ounces not including the 1 m extension cable. Both lights are rated for 3 1/2 hours of use

Charging

The Cyglolite Pace 135 charges completely in six hours using an unregulated "wall wart" type of charger which is not bad compared to some of the other budget units out there that require twice that. The one negative to charging the system as I mentioned is the charger is completely unregulated. There is no overcharge protection built into either the battery or the charger and the instructions stress that damage will occur to the battery with overcharging and complete discharging. So it is rather important to keep track of how long the battery unit has been charged and to not forget about it when it is plugged in. On its inaugural charge I turned on a kitchen timer set to six hours so that I knew exactly when to unplug it. It also requires that the power switch which is located on the battery to be in the on position for charging which is easily overlooked. I would like to say that this unit is "idiot proof" but it is not. In comparison the Digital Evolution recharges in 2.5 hours and has a built-in charging protection circuit which is a good thing for I have forgotten to unplug it quite a few times. The Digital Evolution is truly an "idiot proof" design.

The Hardware

The physical construction of the light head of the Pace unit is entirely acceptable and roughly equivalent to the same part of the Digital Evolution. There are two obvious physical differences. The Digital evolution utilizes a integrated pigtail with the proprietary connector on the end to plug into its battery. The Pace uses a barrel plug from the battery that plugs into a female receptacle on the light head. I point this out because it raises the possibility that the Pace could be "hacked" for use on a scratch built power pack or grafted onto a gen hub. The only thing i disliked about the lighthead itself is the mouting bracket is on the flimsy side.

Performance

I found the Pace to be roughly equivalent in performance to my Digital evolution. The only real difference that I could discern was that the Digital evolution was the equivalent of daylight florescent or a soft white incandescent bulb in the color spectrum and the Pace was a Cool White like a cool white florescent and to some degree splashed on the roadway looked like a florescent beam. By way of comparison this first picture is the beam pattern for the Digital evolution.








































The shot over to the left is the beam shot of the Pace. Note the bluish cast of the light over on the door.











Over to the left is combined shot at both the Digital evolution and the pace 135. The actual light quality is equivalent; however, the color warmth of the two lights is different.













Here is a picture of both light heads running. The Pace is on the left and the Digital Evolution on the right. The bluish color warmth of the pace is evident.














Conclusion

For the money the Cyglolite Pace 135 is an acceptable light for commuting. It has three pluses to its favor. It is lighter in a weight and equally bright to older technology and it's extremely low-cost. It's only weakness is its charger and the fact that there is no protection circuits to protect the battery from overcharging so if you happen to be absent-minded this may not be the light for you.





Monday, September 1, 2008

Why I Ride.

There are many reasons to take up commuting by bicycle. With all the furor over global warming is spurred a lot of those on the left side of the political spectrum to call for the "Greening" of America. I am not one of these. On the continuum of political ideologies I tend to be conservative; however, I am literally an old-school conservative which means I tend to want to conserve things.

I have many reasons for taking up bicycle commuting from a belief standpoint, economic, and health reasons. From a belief standpoint I believe that mankind has a moral duty to be a conservator of the earth and for over 200 hundred years mankind has been consuming fossil fuels like a drunk sailor drinking cheap beer at a waterfront bar. Humankind has been dipping deeply into a limited energy supply without considering the impact on future generations. Before we get too deeply into this I don't buy the whole theory of global warming mainly because I understand what sort of "camel" the loony left is really trying to bring in under the tent.

When politicians like Al Gore sit there and preach at the American public to use less energy while he himself is living in a mansion that uses more electricity in one month than one average person does a year and he sets himself up a for-profit company selling "carbon credits" it's pretty evident to me that reversing global warming is not his real agenda. His real agenda is to have everyone else cut back their use while he and the other "privileged few" continue business as usual. What is really at issue is the development and emergence of an oligarchical one world government. A socialist regime where matters like the environment and wealth distribution is dictated by the privileged few.

The evidence for global warming is rather inconclusive in my opinion; however, I do believe to some extent that what we are doing with the consumption of fossil fuels and the forests of the world is not helping the situation. Nature tends to try to stay in balance and all that released carbon has to go someplace even if it is sinking to the bottom of the oceans and such an overload has to have some sort impact.

From a health standpoint I cycle because when I primarily use my own muscles for propulsion I burn on the average of 1700 calories which I do not do when driving. The human body is an organic machine that is designed to do work. In the time before civilization that work was hunting and gathering then later agriculture. These are activities that consume massive amounts of energy that now because of industrialization our bodies no longer are used to their full potential; however, we continue to feed ourselves with foods of higher caloric content. What is the impact of this? Well, we're seeing obesity at record levels as well as greater incidence of type II diabetes. Since I started commuting I found myself sleeping deeper and better on days when I left the car behind. My metabolism is also much improved. I have considerably less worry of weight gain when on a given day I am riding over 31 miles and I've scrubbed off over 1000 calories or more. I also have a considerably improved outlook on life in general from being out in the sunlight for over two hours every day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Eldridge Parkway and bicycles: the end-game is here

EYES WIDE SHUT, RUNNING INTO AN ENERGY WALL

Concerned? Write to Pamela Rocchi <PRocchi@hcp4.net> at Precinct Four.


Eldridge Parkway is an important bicycle commuter link between the TxDOT FM-529 bike lanes, the Clay Road bikeway, and the Energy Corridor District. This connection will cease to exist, however, should Harris County Precinct Four carry out plans to eliminate road shoulders used by bicyclists and convert the roadway to curb-and-gutter drainage without installing bike lanes or a wide outside lane. Precinct Four has been aware of the importance of these shoulders to bicycle commuters for years, but appeals to save them have fallen on deaf ears. They claim that cycling on the road is too dangerous, and they are too busy trying to accomodate cars. The former is simply not true. The latter indicates a worldview where users are divided and pitted against each other based on their needs. Other agencies throughout the Nation and even some in Texas somehow manage to plan and build "Complete Streets" for all users. Why not Harris County?

The main point, however, is not what happens to this particular stretch of roadway. The main point is that Eldridge Parkway is symptomatic of a failure of Harris County and most other H-GAC member governments to plan for all residents. Our local counties and cities fail to plan for bike commuters, pedestrians, transit users, children, the disabled, and the elderly. The notion of a Complete Street seems utterly foreign to our elected officials and their engineers. Fewer people can afford to drive these days, school districts are cutting bus service, and unincorporated areas are beyond the reach of METRO. What do County Commissioners and Mayors expect people to do? Stay home and not go to work or school?

The Houston-Galveston area is running, not walking, into an energy brick wall. Oil reservoirs worldwide are maturing, major producing basins are in decline. Contrary to popular belief, Texas does not even produce enough energy any longer to meet its own internal needs; we and California and Oklahoma used to power the entire world, but in 1991 Texas became a net energy importing state. What will the price of gasoline be in five years? It's impossible to predict, but I can say one thing with certainty... we will be wistfully thinking back to the "good ol' days" when gasoline was "only $4 per gallon".

H-GAC and all member governments, Harris County included, must implement plans for building a diverse, energy-efficient, carbon-limiting transportation system featuring Complete Streets for all residents. Energy will be more expensive in the future, and both Presidential candidates, McCain and Obama, intend to limit our carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. Unfortunately, we needed to make these investments starting twenty-five years ago. At least we should stop digging the hole we are stuck in and making it deeper.

PW

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Your help needed on Grand Parkway: we want bicycle accommodations

Cyclists,

BikeHouston and Sustainable Living, a new environmental organization based in Cypress, are in the process of engaging the Harris County Toll Road Authority concerning possible bicycle facilities along the Grand Parkway Segment E and other corridors. Segment E is planned to run from I-10 to US290 approximately along the Katy-Hockley Road alignment, which is prime NW Harris County cycling territory.

Currently, nothing in the way of bicycle facilities is planned for Grand Parkway. It would go in very much like the existing Beltway 8 Tollway if nothing changes, with nothing in the design to help cyclists or pedestrians.


I am asking you to do four things soon:

1. Ssign this online petition right now
www.thepetitionsite.com/1/bike-accomodations-in-harris-county

2. Before September 15, send a postal letter to the Harris County Toll Road Authority. Boilerplate text provided below, but please do customize the letter with your own language, anecdotes, or statement about how you would use the proposed facility (or how the lack of such a facility would detract from your life)

3. Contact me privately if you want to help by attending a meeting in the near future

4. Forward this to every cyclist you know who rides out in the area of the Grand Parkway Segment E, which is West and Northwest Harris County

Thank you.


Sincerely,
Peter Wang, LCI


------------- copy text below here ---------------------


Mr. Peter Key
Deputy Director
Harris County Toll Road Authority
330 Meadowfern Drive
Houston, TX 77067


Dear Mr. Key:

I am a bicyclist and a pedestrian, and I am in favor of improving bicycle & pedestrian access along the future Grand Parkway segments, specifically:

1. Pedestrian crosswalks and signals at every signalized intersection along the access roads

2. Removal of barriers - Full ADA compliance for all paths. Every bridge that goes in as part of the access roads also has an ADA-compliant path alongside traffic lanes, so that bridges do not become barriers

3. Wide, bi-directional, paved multi-use paths (8 ft wide) for pedestrians, future transit users, runners, children, the elderly, beginner bicyclists, roller-bladers, and wheelchair users, on both sides of the Grand Parkway access road

4. Designated bike lanes, shoulders, or wide outside lanes greater than 14 feet wide on the Grand Parkway access road, which will improve safety and efficiency for future bus operations along the corridor, and for experienced bicyclists and large group bicycle rides (after all, the Grand Parkway will cut through prime pre-MS150 training territory)

Please help make the Grand Parkway a "Complete Street" for all users. Thank you.





Sincerely,

Your name and signature
Your Texas County of Residence
(I am / I am not) a Harris County Tollroad system user

------------- copy text above here ---------------------

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Third Annual Bike Barn Copperfield Bicycle Education Weekend

Date: Sept. 13, 10 am. Sept. 14, 8 am - 2008
Instructor: Peter Wang. LCI
Location: 7083 Hwy. 6 North, Houston, TX 77095
Fee: $60.00

Description: The Third Annual Bike Barn Copperfield Bicycle Education Weekend is a fast-paced, 9-hour immersion course giving adult and teen (14+) cyclists the confidence they need to ride safely and legally on the road or on area trails. The course covers bike fit, the various kinds of bikes, bicycle safety checks, fixing a flat, traffic law and tactics, on-bike skills and crash avoidance techniques and includes a student manual. The course culminates in a group ride on area roads. Recommended for anyone who desires a comprehensive introduction to on-road cycling. Peter Wang is a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor.

To register for this course, contact:

Peter Wang, LCI
Phone: (281) 630-8255
Contact Email: pwang01@gmail.com

Signup required in advance? Yes
Special signup instructions: Advance registration required, $15
non-refundable deposit required in advance. Contact the instructor
Peter Wang in order to register for the course. Do not contact the
bike store.

Equipment required: Pencil or pen. Lunch or lunch money. Bike, helmet,
water on Sunday only

No time for a safety class? Study this video

No bike rack? No problem!



Get a long cable and a padlock, and you will be able to lock-up in the worst suburban car-oriented, sprawling mall landscape. A family of five or five friends can go out to dinner and lock-up, by threading the bikes like beads on a string. Note: this is a medium-security scheme, and only as good as the weakest link. For an all-day lock-up, you still need to u-lock your bike to an anchored heavy steel object.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It finally happened; unable to board bus due to full bike rack

#82 westbound at Briarpark, 5:15 am 8/12/08

The bike rack on the bus was completely full. I was unable to board. I had to keep pedaling, fortunately, it was cooler yesterday.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Commuter-Utiltiy Cyclists Manifesto: Or Why I think Grant Peterson of Rivendell Cycles might be right.

When I was younger cycling was a way of getting from point A to point B. I didn't worry about my shorts being made of some "miracle" fabric or my bike being the lightest and made of thre most state-of-the-art materials available. I basically, "run what I brung" and was happy with what I had. I only started to buy into the whole "unobtainanum" craze when I saw a Peugeot triathlon and saw how light it was compared to my bike at the time. This was also the era of Greg LeMond and all the tremendous excitement of the first American to win the pre-eminent road race, an event that basically changed the direction of the American bicycle industry. Instead of round-the-block bikes marketed for family cycling the majority of sales were directed towards road racing and mountain bike racing.

In this change a third segment was forgotten. The market of the people who were just trying to get from point A to point B. If these people were personified to specific vehicles in the context of the automobile industry they would be the station wagon, pickup truck, SUV and sedan drivers. or rather the core group of all the automobile drivers out there. The bicycling industry in contrast over the years has been marketing to two basic specialty groups. Road racers and mountain bike racers or more specifically people who bought into the fantasy that they too could be Greg LeMond. The American bicycle industry has pretty much been building bikes if put into an automobile context are Indy cars, Baja racers, Porches, Corvettes. Bikes useful for high-performance applications, but only marginally useful for day-to-day applications.

Although I don't blame Greg Peterson for setting up an exclusive boutique type of company (if I could be so fortunate to do so I would) but I do believe that he along with the folks at Surly are on the right track for the right type of designs for everyday riding. These designs are what the industry really needs to start pushing to create a larger more practical "middle-class" of cycling. People who are using bicycles to go from point A to point B on a regular basis and not "weekend warriors" which are the sort of rider that have been marketed to for the past 20 years.

The bike industry needs to refocus on making good practical bikes and de-emphasize the "racing fantasy" Not get rid of it completely for there will always be those who like to race, are good at it, and need to be marketed to, but the general public needs to know that bikes can be transportation and the "spandex diaper" is not mandatory.

What do I see as being a good practical bike? By far the best of the best I have seen for what would work in the Houston environment is the Surly Big Dummy (configured with wide range MTB gearing or an internally geared hub) as it would work favorably as a commuter bike and also have enough cargo capacity for a large load of groceries and carry it fast enough in traffic so that you're not
as much of a liability compared to trying to do the same thing on a an adult trike like a Schwinn Town & Country. The next best would be a touring bike may be one specifically designed as one or adapted from a rigid MTB or a 700C hybrid like a Specialized Sirrus with very large rear Panniers . I would also go to say that something like Harris Cyclery's San Joes8 is also among the contenders. one of the things I like about the San Jose8 is the ability to change gears in a hurry at a stop light without having to turn the crank's. I feel that such a design would work very well in stop and go traffic like the upper parts of Elgin or going down West Alabama.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bicycling as a "second job" pays $20 per hour

Riding a bicycle in the Houston area gets you point-to-point at about a 12 MPH average speed. Driving a car point-to-point in the Houston area, very roughly, doubles the bicycle average speed to about 25 MPH. Case in point: from my northwest suburban home to the Houston Galleria business district, about 25 miles, it could take an hour on average to drive. Worse at peak times, better at slack times, but an hour is a typical average that I use for time budgeting.

The cost of driving is 60 cents per mile (according to the IRS). The cost of bicycling is about 1/10 of that, or $0.06 per mile (could be less, but these are my costs).

If I bike ride 25 miles, it will take me two hours. If I drive, it will take me one hour. But I'll save $13.50 in the process, so riding a bike "pays" me $13.50 tax-free for that extra hour spent. I would have to earn about $20 per hour before Federal income taxes and SocSec/Medicare deductions to get back $13.50 after-tax. Everything depends on my particular tax bracket, of course.

I like the thought that I get paid $20 per hour to improve my health, and see the outdoors and wildlife.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The 6/10 Morning report

Rode the Westview to Antione to Memorial to Shepherd to W. Alabama route this morning and hit an all time record on the number of Cyclecommuters. Including myself there were 12 and none going in the same direction as me.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Peter Wang joins BCH as a Contributor

Those of you who've not guessed by now Peter Wang has joined us as a contributor to BCH. Peter brings a lot of experience in both cycling and cycle commuting to these pages.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The biggest, most dangerous newbie mistakes

There are lots of newbie bike commuters out there; maybe you're one of them. If so, please read this list and please amend your ways if you are violating any of these laws or guidelines.


Flagrancies

Riding against traffic

Running stoplights and signs in the presence of other vehicles (you're relying on them stopping for you to continue living)

Riding at dawn / dusk / dark with no front light and no rear reflector

Sudden left turn from right side of road

Continuing straight through the intersection from the right side of a right-turn-only lane

Riding in the median of a roadway, between the two opposing directions of traffic

Curb-hugging. No, ride in the right tire track, or in the center if there is no shoulder or bike lane

Sidewalk riding where the sidewalk is frequently cross-cut by driveways, side-streets, or it has many pedestrians

No hand-signals

No looking back before you make a move

No helmet

No eyeglasses / sunglasses, sunscreen, water

No personal ID on you


Suggestions

Use a rear-view mirror

Wear a reflective vest and areflective ankle bands in low-light conditions. Wear bright clothing at all times.

Use a red rear light and a red rear reflective in low-light conditions

Carry a cell phone


We need bike commuter access to METRO light rail

Please visit the Houston BikeTrain blog, and take appropriate action!

About bicycle education classes

ROAD ONE is the essential nine-hour classroom + road course which will teach you the essentials of riding on the road. It is offered several times a year at various locations throughout Houston.

BICYCLE COMMUTING is a follow-up course for Road One graduates. It will be offered on 6/28/08 and is not likely to be offered again for a long time. The truth of the matter is that not many people in the area have graduated from Road One, so the target audience is tiny.

Bicycle riding on the road is just about as complex as motorcycle riding on the road. Training is absolutely needed for a safe, enjoyable experience for both types of two-wheelers. You would not consider getting on a motorcycle without training and the right license, would you?

How to find Houston area bicycle education courses: CLICK HERE

Public Service Announcement: Peter Wang Offering Course on Commuting by Bike


Date: Saturday, June 28, 2008, 10 am - 2 pm
Instructor: Peter Wang
Location: 851 Dairy Ashford, Houston, TX 77079
Fee: $10

Description: For adult cyclists who wish to explore the possibility of commuting to work or school by bike. This three hour follow-up to Road I covers topics including route selection, bicycle choice, dealing with cargo and clothing, bike parking, lighting, reflection, and foul weather riding. Successful completion of Road I is a pre-requisite for this course. If you have not done Road I you will not be turned away, but you may not get the full benefit out of the course. Bring a lunch, or money to buy your own lunch at area restaurants.

To register for this course, contact:

Phone: (281) 556-0923

The Sirrus Hybrid Steps Up.


Well, I finally wore out my monitor Monitor pass. I took it into the shop on Monday to have its chain and chain wheels replaced as they were so worn the chain was resting on the wear indicator pins. In the meantime transferred all my commuting gear to the Sirrus hybrid.

Up until now I had not had an opportunity to really ride this bike for any length of time as it took a lot of "dialing in" on the equipment side of it; however, after a full commute I can make a few conclusions.

Compared to the Monitor Pass it's considerably lighter and I rather like the frame fit a bit better. However, I still haven't quite dialed in the ergonomics of the bike yet. This model of Sirrus has a suspension seat post, but I don't think they had 179 pounder in mind when they put it on this bike. Although I have the seatpost set at the right height compared to my road bike when it is actually loaded up with my weight it collapses about a half-inch. So before I can ride the bike again I'm going to need to adjust the seat post.

Speaking of seats, it has one of specialized's synthetic ergonomic seats. it wasn't quite as comfy as my Brooks Conquest, but surprisingly it worked quite well and it does have the advantage of tolerating the occasional thunder shower much better than natural leather. so for the time being it will remain; however, somewhere down the road I may ditch both seatpost and seat for a rigid seatpost and a Brooks Flyer.

I also had opportunity to test my planet bike Cascadia fenders. As I was getting close to home this afternoon I got caught in a small thunder shower and also hit a number of deep puddles; however, both myself and the bike stayed quite dry from splashes and splatters. Compared to the fenders I have on the monitor pass the longer mudflaps of the Cascadia's are well worth the money. I definitely have plans to get a set of Cascadia mudflaps and put one on the front fender of the monitor pass and the other on the front fender of the trike.

I'm still not too comfortable running 700c wheels on Houston's streets. Many of the expansion joints abutting the storm drains on Memorial Drive are exactly the same width as a 700C rim. I did not have the same apprehension while riding on 26 inch rims. The Monitor Pass feels a lot more tolerant of Houston's road imperfections; however, I will say this much the Sirrus hybrid did account for itself well on the rougher sections of Alabama.

It was also quite refreshing to be on a bike that was geared for the road as the Monitor Pass was always geared a little lower than I liked.

One thing I am going to change is the E3 Cycling Cyclocomputer. The speed display on it is beautiful; however, I discovered that the distance measuring capability is only accurate up to a 10th of a mile compared to a 100th of mile common on a Cateye. I also have to flail around on the buttons to get the information I'm looking for. I found it to be not very intuitive compared to a Cateye. Also, some of the finer markings washout under LED light (like distance, MPH, and ATM) which I never had that problem with Cateyes.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Scouting a new route: The 5/30 commute

I woke up this morning exactly at 4 a.m.; however, I dawdled for about 10 minutes before getting up and committing myself to riding to work today. I also did something I normally do not do on a bicycle commute day. I showered before leaving. Although I have good shower facilities at work there's just something about cleaning up in one's own bathroom. Plus, a good shower is one fine way of waking up. Also, instead of launching from the garage as I normally do I brought my bike in and launched from the front room and went out the front door. I did so for two reasons For starters, I could keep better control of my dog and opening the front door does not cause my electric meter to go crazy from the garage door opener sucking a couple kilowatts.
















At first, it looked like it was going to be one of those days as I was already 10 minutes late to start with; however, it really looked like it was going to be a bad day as I got outside and started turning on all my lights. A couple days ago I had discovered that I had an over sized Niterider headlight mount on the Monitor Pass which would've been a better fit on the Sirrus hybrid. so I decided to go ahead and pull off this oversized mount and replace it with an older one designed for standard diameter bars. What I didn't realize was that I had over tightened it which had caused a pin to dislodge. So when I began adjusting where the beam fell the mount came apart on me. On top of that, I discovered that both my lighting extension cables had become disconnected so the light was getting no power. So when all was said and done and I had everything repaired I wound up 15 minutes behind schedule; however, the first leg of the ride from my house to the other end of Westview went quite well. I was averaging somewhere around 13 to 14 miles an hour and I was actually starting to make up some of the lost time. I also had a bit of a surprise when I made it to Antoine. I had just made my right hand turn than just over my shoulder comes another commuter! It wasn't Brian horterculturalist, but somebody completely new and like me was riding a high quality mountain bike. His was newer and had suspension forks and he was riding with a messenger bag as opposed to panniers. As he passed by he asked me if I work downtown and I was able to reply no that I work at Texas Southern University. That was about the extent of the conversation as this guy could really move he was averaging somewhere between 15 and 17 miles an hour. He left me behind before I could really interview him. the remainder of the morning commute was fairly routine.

The real excitement came for the afternoon run as I did not get out of work on time. in fact, here's a shot of my cubicle as I was getting ready to leave.

This picture was taken right as I was starting to fold and roll my clothes. And yes, that is an army cot that I'm using for a clothes folding table. (Sometimes it's good to be me!)







so running through the park was rather exciting as the traffic was heavier than what I prefer or what I'm accustomed to, but luckily it was a Friday so it wasn't as bad as it would've been on say a Monday. I also changed my homeward route a little bit. Instead of taking Elgin/Westheimer down to Shepherd I went down Alabama/West Alabama at the suggestion of Peter Wang (Hat tip). Road conditions were little rougher and made me very glad that I was not riding a road bike or a hybrid, but the lack of traffic more than made up for it. It also was about is about two tenths of a mile shorter than my traditional route. It also gave me a realization of how hard-core a rider I really am that for nearly 2 years I've been running up and down Elgin/Westheimer without having the traffic bother me.

Anyhow, once I had gotten through Memorial Park the rest of the ride was downright delightful especially once I got onto Westview near the very end I just about had the entire road to myself.
About 3 miles away from home I even saw yet another commuter who was eastbound. She was on a road bike and what looked like a new rack and panniers Right about the time I saw her she was almost out of my field of view so I was unable to say anything to her, but when I did notice was she did a double take when she saw me. All I could manage to do though is nod at her as I passed by. When all was said and done I had shaved off five minutes off my best time for a work commute.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Simple Thinking Individuals with a little power are a dangerous thing

Now that I have my trike back from having its rear axle replaced. I've gone back to getting my groceries with it instead of driving. Yesterday (Saturday) I decided to give the trike post repair shakedown ride to Kroger's which is a local grocery store chain here in Houston. By great fortune one happens to be less than 2 miles away just on the outskirts of my neighborhood. Because I planned to get a couple steaks I went ahead and brought a cooler full of ice with me.

Typically, when I go to Kroger's I remove everything of value or temptation from the trike this would include the cyclocomputer, rear blinkie, and cooler (if I'm carrying it). Everything small gets thrown in the pocket of my cycling jersey and the cooler gets thrown in a cart and I walk around with it. Today I walked in as I always do, but this time the security guard accosted me as if I were going to shoplift and told me I could not bring my cooler with me inside the store. I complied and left it at her feet; however, the more I thought about it the more I got angry because I was singled out for being different. Following the security guard's line of thinking if I couldn't bring a cooler in with me for being a shoplifting risk then every woman in the place should not be able to bring a purse in either. Adding to the absurdity of the situation (if you can picture the scene) is it was quite obvious that I was on a bicycle as I still had my helmet, cycling gloves, and a gold colored performance cycling jersey on. I stood out like a sore thumb .

The stupidity of the whole thing is if I had really intended to go shoplifting I would not have gone on a human powered conveyance (either bicycle or trike) and I would've dressed to blend in not gone running around with a bright yellow shirt and a helmet on and I would not have brought a 24 can cooler in with me.

Ordinarily I wouldn't think of this as a big deal; however, this time it upset me for two reasons. The rent-a-cop was an African-American female and as such I would've expected for her to be a little more sympathetic to those who look and are different. Additionally, I would've expected for someone working security to understand simple policing and know that someone who is a stand out in their appearance and under the watchful eye of everyone is more than likely not a security threat. However, give someone a little power when they're not deserving of it and we get situations like this. This guard could not think outside the box or get past what I looked like and what I was carrying and chose to single me out even though if I were a shoplifter I would've been anybody but who I was.

Consequently, on my return pass to pick up my cooler I fairly snapped at her and to add to all the irony I still set off the shoplift alarm. Quite absentmindedly I forgot to pass my steaks over the alarm the deactivator on the automated checkout line. She came over and gave me attitude; however, I pointed out to her that when one is offended and not thinking you're not inclined to remember many steps like swiping the damn de-activator. This shut her up and she walked away. I then proceeded to go load my trike and go home. I really rather regret not calling the manager of the store over and lodging a formal complaint for being singled out for being different.

This by the way is a typical grocery load for the trike. On this load I was using the smaller igloo/ playmate "lunchbox" cooler whereas yesterday I was using my Coleman 24 cooler which pretty much fills the trike basket.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Perpetual Threat of Rain stops: The 5/16 Commute

When I woke up this morning it was clear and cool and I knew I'd feel guilty if I weaseled out. So I manged to get prepped and out the door right at 5am. I must say the commute in was lovely and I shaved off four minutes from my personal best for the commute in. The only thing I found noteworthy was I had the roads to myself as I didn't see another Cyclist anywhere. No Hispanics on Wallymart bikes, Zilch, Nada! I spent the ride reflecting on memories and lessons learned. That's the one good thing about commuting by bike in the early morning. You have time to get right with yourself and one's higher power.

The Monitor Pass performed to it's usual high standard; however, I still need to take it in for overhaul as I have a slight wobble in the front rim and hubs, sprocket, and bottom bracket could stand for fresh grease as it hasn't had any in five years. Here is a pic of it in this morning's configuration:











In truth, I'd like to stream in the Sirrus Hybrid; however, I discovered that it's bars are too fat to fit the bracket for my Niterider Digital Evolution headlight. In theory I could wear the light on my helmet; however, I've never been a big fan of adding extra weight to an already heave piece of head gear. So I'm holding off until I have a better solution.

I left work promptly at 4 p.m. and made good time despite having an extra 10 pounds hanging off my front fork (I had brought my tool bag to work on Monday and needed to bring it home again.) Like the morning commute the evening ride was very relaxing. As I made my way down Shepherd I had a had a friendly exchange with a driver. He had pulled in from the left hand lane into the right lane while traffic had stopped. I pulled in even with his passenger door and because we were stuck there in traffic I just gave him a big grin. He rolled down his window and apologized for he had thought that he had cut me off. I just smiled and laughed and told him "no worries" He in turn told me to be careful and we parted company. I had yet another exchange while passing through Memorial Park. This one wasn't so friendly, someone yelled get off the road while passing by; however, the one that took the cake was about six blocks from home where some redneck in a jeep drawled, "Geet Owwn De Sidewalk" as he zipped by. Unfortunately, I was unable to rebut him properly other than with some salty language. (Something to the effect of: kiss my donkey) followed by "Does this look like I'm walking? It's a sidewalk! but by the time I got that second part out he was long gone and did not hear it. The remainder of the commute went by without incident and it sure felt good to be home.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I've been confronted by the Mentally Challenged: The 5/8 commute.

The morning commute was quite brisk and I averaged around 12 mph. Other than that it was rather routine. The ride home was another story. I had a decent start but started to slow as I got into Memorial Park. About midway through the park in an area where there is no sidewalks and the pace has to be "Hammerfest" I was confronted by some thirtysomething yuppie in a Honda Civic who pulled up to me and yelled, "Why don't you ride that bicycle on the sidewalk." The funny thing is at that point on Memorial Drive there IS no sidewalk! There is the pea gravel jogging path, but bicycles are expressly forbidden to be on it and with all the joggers riding on it would be a hazard. The thing that made it most ironic is not more than 400 feet ahead of where we were was a bright yellow "beware of cyclists/cyclist in the roadway" sign giving clear indication that there would be cyclists in the road! Of course, this genius did not stick around long enough after dispensing with his idiotic wisdom to hear what I had to say in response. The rest of the ride home was routine.

I find it ironic that when people drive it seems to give them the impression that they are smarter than everybody else and know the driving laws better; however, the truth is that they loose about 20 points of IQ and probably have not seen the Texas drivers handbook since they were 16.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Signs of life 3/27 to 5/08

I made the first commute of spring on 3/27. I didn't realize how much I missed it. I haven't commuted as much as I would like due to the crazy weather we have had and the fact I just haven't been sleeping well (It's hard to get up at 4 am to ride in at when you only fell asleep the hour before.) and I've been sleeping up to 7am just so I can function at work at 8am.

I've done yet another improvement on the Monitor Pass. I swapped out the twenty year old ODI grips to a set of "Ercon GC2" grips to help stave off hand numbness. I would like to say that they worked perfectly; however, this just isn't so. They did help somewhat and due to how they are shaped they act like mini bar ends as well. So I'll be keeping them. I might switch to North Road bars sometime on the near future.







I've also picked up yet another bike. I stumbled across an Entry Level '07 Specialized Sirrus in my size on E-bay. I've always been bothered over longer distances with the low gearing of the Monitor Pass although I'm not in any danger of spinning out my largest gear combo. The bike feels like what it is.. An off road truck. Plus, a minor burr was that I'm Sirrus Rider, but I spend most of my time on a Monitor pass. Although my philosophy echos Joe Breeze's on wheel size. I'm willing to give 700C a try for the sake of higher gearing