Saturday, December 27, 2008


Since it snowed A LOT since mid-December, I've reluctantly put the commuter bike in mothballs (figuratively) until the overnight temps are above freezing. I've heard to many bad stories of slips and falls on black ice during the winter. We had over a foot of snow accumulate and stick around for over a week - unusual for the Seattle area.

With the holidays, I would not have typically commuted as much anyways, however, the commuting got to be such a routine for me, I miss it immensely, especially since I was seeing results with strength, weight, stamina, etc.

Luckily, from my in-laws, I got a gift certifcate from Nashbar, an online bicycling parts and supplies warehouse. I ordered an inexpensive fluid trainer, so I can mount a cross bike to it that I've had sitting around. I heard fluid trainers offered more of a road like feel than a mag trainer or other styles.

After the gift card was applied and tax and shipping were added, I only paid about $30 out-of-pocket. I'll see whether I really get into riding a trainer or not. The "good" ones are easily over $200 and the "really good" ones that output your performance to your PC can exceed $1,000.

I'll be sure to report how this goes when the trainer gets here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

me and my bike

Me and my Novara Transfer "Green Bike" 1 of 200 made.

The only modification I made in the past few months was adding a couple more lights and a set of Shimano SPD pedals. This has made a significant improvement on my uphill return commutes.

Green Bike status report

Since September, I've been commuting by bicycle about 64% of the time. This includes commutes since mid-November, when the program paused until mid-February.

Since it is in the 20s today and snow fell yesterday, I dropped the bike off at REI for their "warranty tune-up" to check things over, make adjustments, etc. About the only thing going on, and is completely normal, was the brakes need adjustment. The cables tend to stretch when new and I've backed out the barrel adjusters to almost their full extension.

Also, I'm having the REI techs look at how my bike computer is set-up. Since last weekend, when I took a 5.5 mile ride around the neighborhood and vicinity, the computer isn't functioning normally. It might have a bad pick-up lead or the magnet on the spokes isn't properly aligned so the computer fails to register movement. The GPS type cycling computers, though expensive, are probably a worthwhile investment. I believe most also record/chart out your path for later download to your computer; a nice feature if one does a lot of backwoods trail riding.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

waiting game

I ordered a hiviz yellow jacket from E-Bay at the end of October. Still has not arrived. Grrr.

I could use it too since the Daylight Savings Time has changed - plus it is typically very rainy.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

wish list item: DiNotte lights

If I found a wad of money in a trunk, I would spend some of it on better lights for bicycle commuting now that Daylight Savings Time is upon us.

DiNotte makes lights that seem (based on my viewing of a few product demos on YouTube) much brigter than you'd expect to get from such a s small package, and they take AA rechargable off-the-shelf batteries, not a specialized, expensive, cumbersome battery pack.

Of course, with his convenience and performance, the cost of the product is well north of the $100 range, which plants it in between most battery-powered head and tail lights and the higher end, higher powered, rechargeable units.

Photos are all from the DiNotte web site (

Here are videos posted to YouTube demonstrating the lights and their effectiveness.

Of course, if I had a set of these, the cost of the lights would be more than the cost of the bicycle!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

R.I.P. - Bradford S. Perkins

I worked with Brad almost a decade ago. He was a regular bicycle commuter in Seattle and active in sports, especially hockey.

Brad was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer two years ago and I was just informed he died yesterday after several surgeries and treatments over the years that took his health and vitality but never his spirit and sense of humor.

He will be missed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

first ride of the week

It's a lot colder today in the morning (might rain tomorrow) and I read where I should have my knees better covered for warmth (better blood flow to the joints).

I tried out a few different gear combos - shifted to easier gears than I'd been using and increased the RPMs per a book I'd read last week on cycling and specifically related to hill climbing. The book said it would be better on your knees to do this rather than do fewer RPMs (possibly faster travel speed) with a tougher gear. I'm still not sure which would work better, but I'm more accustomed to the latter.

Also, I might continue doing this for a couple more weeks into mid-November and then take a break or throttle back on the frequency due to pending daylight savings time (it'll really be dark in the morning and afternoon).

Today, I got home in 21 minutes flat.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

today's time riding home

I keep dropping the time it takes me to get home.

Today it was 20 minutes and 45 seconds. Nice feeling.

Monday, October 20, 2008

ride time

My ride time home today (~2.1 miles) was 21 minutes and 22 seconds.

My max speed on a flat stretch (at the end of my ride, I might add!) was ~19 mph.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


In the past month since getting the "Green Bike" I've commuted by bicycle roughly 70% of the time to work. I rode the bus one time and carpooled home once and drove alone the remainder. A big change from as recent as early September when I used to drive to work practically 100% of the time except for the month of May where I rode a handful of times (but never really committed to do it beyond the contest period during the Bike to Work Challenge held each May).

Yesterday I bought a cycling computer at REI. It is a Sigma 906 and it was $25 plus tax. I wanted to know how far I've been riding and how long it takes me. Miles per hour and other stats are a bonus. This seemed to be the least expensive model which did what I wanted it to do, though in retrospect, it would be nice to have a cadence feature.

According to the computer, which was fairly easy to install and set-up, it recorded these stats from my round-trip commute to work:
total distance: 4.38 miles
total time: 32.59 minutes
average speed: 7.96 mph
maximum speed: 26.43 mph

Using my car's odometer, I get around 4 miles round-trip, however, I have a tenths digit but that's it. Also, since I ride through an area where cars cannot go through, I guesstimated the length of this stretch. So I think 4.38 miles is probably pretty accurate.

Since I ride all downhill to work and all uphill home, that's why I have a high maximum speed but the average speed is fairly low. Glancing at the speedometer as I was riding home I think a lot of the ride I plugged along at 5-7 miles per hour. Probably decent progress given the bike isn't a featherweight nor am I. I keep telling myself as I gain muscle and perhaps eventually get more of a road bike like the Trek Portland or a Jamis Coda Elite. The Jamis has flat bars with road bike type equipment but more of a mountain bike frame geometry for more relaxed (less hunched over) riding. I like the looks of the Trek better and I think the option of having disc brakes is appealing since the ride downhill to work I'm clenching the brake levers a lot and sure stopping power would be an improvement.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

bike commuting in the rain

I've biked to work for about 15 and a half of the past 20 work days, so that's about a month's worth of cycling. I rode the bus to work one day and carpooled home another... and drove alone for only three days since starting the Green Bike Project. I guess that's about 75% bicycle commuting - the program expects participants to ride 60% of their commutes.

The bike has held up well. The rear rack is very handy and sturdy. The lights perform well though with fall and winter close at hand, darkness swallows up the lights pretty easily. I suspect some spendy hi-po head lights are in order shortly, as are better rain gear (that breathes!) and long tights. Only mechanical issue so far has been a flat front tire due to a pin hole sized puncture... possibly from one of the many dried-out blackberry vines strewn across the shoulder I typically ride on.

I have found two reasons riding in the rain is not so bad: 1) you can certainly hear the cars approaching from behind a lot easier and 2) I seem to overheat on the ride home pretty quickly (all uphill ride home) and the cooler weather and rain seems to feel better than it being 70+ and sunny. I still dislike gusts of wind, especially in your face!

Gear I've purchased (sorry if this is a repeat) includes a LED lit reflective lightweight vest (I'm irritated that the $40 vest already had an attachment clip get broken - I may repair it with some sort of buttons or snaps), a pair of Columbia brand rain-proof pants (they make me sweat awfully since they don't breathe at all), and a special "beanie" by Underarmor that fits snuggly under the helmet and helps keep ears warmer and also blocks some of the wind rushing through the helmet.

At this point, I'm going to try to keep going through the year as long as feasible.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Green Bike Project: 2009 Novara Transfer (REI)

Program overview
In cooperation with REI and the Cascade Bicycle Club, and funded by a grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation, King County (specifically, KC Metro) has rolled out a new program this fall called the "Green Bike Project".

A new REI Novara commuter bicycle is provided to new bicycle commuters (they must have identified themselves as being a "drive alone" commuter prior to the program as the grant conditions stipulate it is being used to buy drivers out of the single-occupant vehicles). The model is the Transfer, an award-winning commuter bike. I've heard the MSRP is about $650, though the GBP got a deal from REI but we don't know what the reduced price was. The special green color is a limited edition with only 200 made.

I got into this program because despite my love for fooling around with bikes and experience as a team leader during bike to work month (May each year) in 2007 and 2008, 99% of the time, I was commuting as a solo driver. It's been 25 years or so since I last rode a new bicycle and had one that was fitted to me.

The sponsors' logos on the chainstay (the other side would have made more sense where it is less likely to get slapped around and marred by the chain).

The project has a web site that the participants must log-in their trips during the duration of the program.

Bike features
The bike has a number of cool features that make it great out-of-the-box for commuters. This includes puncture-resistent tires with reflective sidewalls and full fenders, for example. Some other of the features are shown in the photos below.

A bell is integrated into the brake lever housing.

The rear flashing light is triggered on automatically by movement and also low light conditions. It goes off automatically after 3 minutes if you've stopped and parked the bike.

The matching rear rack is robust and takes pannier bags or in this case, makes for a place to strap things down with bungee cords.

The front light is driven by a dynamo (generator) encased in the hub of the front wheel. It comes on whenever you're moving forward or backing up. Since it stops when you're stopped, I added an additional battery-powered headlight that's mounted to the handlebar (not pictured).

Shifting and adjustments are easy (I hope) compared to a regular multi-speed bike with derailleurs. This is strictly a 7-speed with a single front chain ring. Shifting is handled by a Shimano Nexus hub with 7-speeds. I am told the high and lows are the same as a mountain bike but there are fewer ranges between gears than you'd find in a 18, 21, 24, etc. speed bicycles. I've found it does seem like the gear you'd want for flat out on flat paved surfaces requires more effort and you don't get a lot of speed. For now, I think it is my own physical abilities that are the limiting factor, so we'll see how that changes in the months ahead. Most of my riding is either all downhill or all uphill, so for me, the quality of the brakes (rim brakes), tires (26 x 1.75), and uphill gearing ratio are of more importance to me.

With the rear hub being a internal geared style, the rear axle is nutted, which means it needs the rider to carry a 15mm wrench to take the wheel off in the event of a flat. This produced a bit of a problem when the project first started out and some riders, somebeing not-so-mechanically minded, had difficulties when they had a flat tire for the first time.

I'll update how my rides have been going and what I've discovered about the bike over the next couple months.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

mechanical issues

The last time I went riding on a local hard surface trail with an older Specialized Hard Rock I've been putting together, I had a rear derailleur bust off.

The derailleur snapped where it mounts to the frame. I was able to disassemble it to get it off the chain, however, as shown in the photo below, the chain was twisted (unrepairable) during the mechanical failure.

I figured I could slip the chain onto a middle chain ring and middle rear cog and limp it back to the trail head, however, with the kink in the chain, this was impossible. The chain kept shifting itself from one cog to the next until it got hung up in the spokes. If I had a chain tool with me, I could have broken the chain to remove the twisted portion... a chain tool was about the only tool I didn't have in my kit that day.

Yesterday, we went riding on the same trail, but I was on the hybrid Schwinn I was working on. The problems I experienced were generally minor: brake cable and pad adjustment. I did almost lose it when the handle bars twisted (the stem wasn't tightened enough!) but I was riding at a low speed and recovered but it could have been bad.

Lauren riding her bike.

The repair that took the longest was Rachel's 1-speed coaster brake bike - the chain was thrown off the rear cog. To make matters worse, I didn't have a wrench large enough to get her rear wheel loose so I could get just enough room to slip the chain back over the rear cog. I did have a chain tool with me, so I was able to get the chain put back on, but I had to split the chain and fix it that way. Of course, I did not have any gloves with me or hand cleaner and working on a chain was messy... so that experience kinda was not much fun. Luckily, my wife was there to assist in getting the chain back together.

Rachel back in-action.

Lessons learned:
1) bring a pair of rubber gloves in the tool kit
2) find an adequate adjustable wrench that's still small enough to fit the tool kit
3) check to make sure bolts are torqued down - espcially on "project bikes"

Status report: Magna and Schwinn

The Magna was fixed up and sold (for about $10 more than I put into it, not counting my labor... I think I was asking $30) and it is going to Burning Man this year. A snapped a photo of it propped up on the bench with newer tires, seat, brake and shift cables, etc.

The Schwinn Hybrid is mostly done and just needs some fine-tuning on the shifters. I've replaced the cables, brake levers, hand grips, front derailleur, tires, newer seat, chain ring, chain, and handle bars and stem. I am sure a few other items I've forgot. I probably have about $50 into it now (mostly used parts) plus 1-2 hours labor. I don't know if this is a sell-it or keep-it, especially so late in the riding season (some people ride in the rain around here, but many are fair-weather riders).

I got to test out the Schwinn today on a local trail. We had a few mechanical issues to resolve but I'll explain that later.

King County Green Bike Program

I've signed up for the King County Green Bike Program. A program which offers bicycles and other incentives for changing your commutes to work from drive alone commutes to bicycling. I may be on a waiting list for a bicycle, so I might just make do with one of my project bikes even though, as you'll read, I've had my share of mechanical issues lately.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

still fixing up bikes... just not as many

I have not posted in a while. I've been busy doing misc. stuff this summer. Going on trips and camping. Fun though, but hadn't been doing as much bike refurbishing this year as last summer. Also, I have not been as actively seeking out projects - last year I routinely combed sources for bikes being given away and had as many as 8 or 9 bikes in the garage at a time. Now I have just three, but they're keepers as far as I'm concerned.

From a friend I did get an old Schwinn hybrid that needs a total rebuild/clean-up and an old school Magna mountain bike that is rusty but should be easier to rebuild on the cheap, as I have a lot of the needed parts on-hand... new cables and better tires, mainly. Photos of the bikes in the condition received are below.

I think the Schwinn might be a good alternative to my commuter bike, as it has 700c wheels (generally better for a road bike) and the Magna might be rebuilt to sell for someone's Burning Man bicycle. I sold two bikes I "saved" last year to people going to the '07 Burn. Cheap bikes are desired as the dust of the desert playa is very destructive to bicycles' mechanical works.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

bike buckets on the bike

Here are a few photos of the bike buckets mounted to my commuter bike...

a new superhero

From the Monty Python British comedy TV show...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

first bike commute for 2008

My first bike commute for this year was uneventful.

I left home for work between 6:00 and 6:10 this morning and I was at work before 6:30... probably by 6:20 or 6:25. Being downhill on the way to work, it goes fast, but I keep it pretty sane. No wild speed or risky moves. My normal schedule doesn't have me start until at least 7:00 in the morning. (I have to be in Seattle tomorrow very early for an awards presentation so I will be driving to work and into Seattle).

In the early morning today, I was photographed with my bicycle at our transit center with my boss in a vanpool van for a local business newspaper article about employees' commute options in our county.

I got off work around 4:30 and headed home (uphill ride and some walking... OK, about a third of the trip was walking). I got home just after 5:00 to the cheers of the kids and my wife, Christie, who were waiting for me in our driveway.

Today I did also try out my homespun version of a "bike bucket" I made last weekend. It's shown in the photo below mounted to the bike rack.

Here's a look at what the hooks and mounting look like. Pretty simple and easy to find parts if you know your way around a hardware store and can use simple tools. I think I did this in 30 minutes or less.

The item in the lower portion of the bucket side is a bungee cord used to keep the bucket on the bike when empty/nearly empty. If I were to modify this trial version, I would likely add another bungee or elastic straps to connect the sides of the bucket to the rack and prevent forward-back sliding. Perhaps if the hanging hooks were dipped/painted in plasticote type rubberized material this too could prevent the sliding that can occur on a hill due to the lack of friction between metal-to-metal.

Monday, May 5, 2008

year 2

Tomorrow, I plan on doing my first bike commute for 2008. It's Bike to Work month again and I'm a team captain again. Our team is the Cedar River Riders (CR2).

We have two teams of ten riders already established and hopefully, we might develop at least one more team of at least 4 riders to participate.

Winter hung on into spring for us, so it has been cold (snow a few weeks ago with hail storms the following week!) I'm eager to get out of hibernation.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sheldon Brown 1944-2008

Sheldon Brown, of Harris Cyclery in West Newton, MA, passed away last weekend at home of a heart attack.

Many bicyclists have benefitted from Mr. Brown's website which is a treasure of technical and historical cycling data and humor he'd been keeping up since 1997.

I read he dutifully would personally answer each of the 500-1000 daily e-mails he received from fans across the 'net.

I'll leave you with a tip of Mr. Brown's that's appropriate for the time of year and climate: "One of my ways of dealing with cold weather is to cover my helmet's ventilation holes with tape. This really helps a lot, and I highly recommend the tape trick for winter cycling."

Mr. Brown leaves behind his wife, Harriet, daughter, Tova, and son, George.