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 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.