Monday, December 28, 2009

PC issues

Our home PC is dead (maybe). So it will be hard for me to make some posts in the next couple days(?) until it is resolved.

The message the computer spews when first turned on: "BIOS ROM checksum error" sounds pretty dire indeed.

Luckily, I have a neighbor who's a self-professed tech-geek. I also have a techie brother-in-law visiting this week, and a friend who hosts a tech radio show. I think I have an adequate ad hoc "geek squad" to address my problem... or at least to be able to provide sufficient evidence to my wife why it is better to go out and buy a new PC than attempt to fix a computer with (potentially) motherboard issues.

Until then...

Thursday, December 24, 2009


I went down to Center Cycle, another one of our local bike shops , to buy some grips for a kids' bike and happened upon these noise-makers...

A parrot horn and an Incredibel. I picked them up for stocking-stuffers for the kids. They know they're not getting new bikes for Christmas, but I can still get them cool, fun stuff to inspire them to ride out on cool, dry days with daddy.

Update re: Merry Christmas to Me!

I received my DiNotte light from Nashbar this week!

As you might have read previously, I ordered a helmet-mounted commuter light which includes a bright LED headlight and a mini flashing red LED in the rear (of the same "light engine" housing). The whole thing is about the size of a C cell battery, not including the 4 AA size rechargeable battery pack which is able to be tucked into a jersey pocket. An included velcro strap possibly is to allow for mounting the battery pack to the bike frame.

In the photo below, here's what came in the package (except the helmet): helmet mount, light and attached cord, straps, one set of 4 AA rechargeable batteries, a plug-in charger (I think it is of the "smart" variety), and the battery pack holder pouch, and two battery holders.

Here's a close-up photo of the light mounted to the helmet.

Here I am modeling the helmet and light.

I'll post my review of the product once I get a chance to ride with it a while.

Note: I am not sponsored by or any other way compensated by Nashbar or DiNotte or any other company for writing any of these blog posts.

cross training

For the first time in my life, I went skiing yesterday, Nordic (cross country) skiing to be exact. We drove up I-90 to Hyak.

My friend, and co-producer for the film contest, Rob, captured our trip pretty well in this video. We ended up at a pub in Issaquah that's run by the Rogue brewing folks from Oregon. I recommend trying their seasonal "Yellow Snow" IPA!

Nordic from AndersonCentral on Vimeo.

How does this relate to cycling? It doesn't directly, but I was pleased that cycling got me in good enough shape to try the cross country skiing. A year or more ago, I wouldn't have had the capacity to keep up cardio-wise.

Another cycling connection is Rob has been a long-time team cyclist with the Union Bay Cycling team.

I did wake-up pretty sore this morning, in muscles likely not used in cycling that much. My legs were fine, but my hip, especially my right side, is a little sore. I blame this on the one fall I did have (on my right side). I came down hard enough to dent my aluminum water bottle that was in my backpack!

Anyways... happy holidays to you!

~ Nate

Monday, December 21, 2009

4Culture + aLIVe: a Low-Impact Vehicle exploration - call for ideas

This might be of interest to some of you from the Pacific Northwest...

(Image: City of Seattle's Car Free Days website)

4Culture is seeking ideas from artists and artist teams, architects, landscape architects, designers of all types, engineers, tinkerers and community members residing in WA, OR, CA and BC that will inspire and engage the broader community in a conversation about transportation.

Currently, our transportation system is designed around 40 ton trucks, but what if we were to design around the human body instead? A bicycle is a low-impact vehicle.

What else can be imagined?

Selected project ideas will be funded and exhibited in a variety of ways, depending upon medium and context.

This is a great opportunity for people working across disciplines to explore how the arts can enhance existing systems and stimulate public conversations about energy, livability and design.

Citizens from all backgrounds are encouraged to submit ideas for everything from poetry to prototypes.

This project is produced in collaboration with artist Cheryl dos Remédios and Great City.

Deadline: January 25, 2010
Budget: varies by idea or project
Cath Brunner

Get the application form and more info here at 4Culture's web site.

20 miles and 50 degrees

Went out for a 20 mile somewhat casual (averaged 12-13 MPH against the wind) ride with my friend, Bill, yesterday. The weather was clear - no rain while we were out - temps in the low 50s and not much wind. A great ride for sure, especially after so many days (or weeks?) with temps in the 20s around here.

Bill and I even had time to drop by GHY Bikes to look around at the new Felt bicycles they have in-stock including a pretty nice looking carbon-framed model. They also have a special Traitor Cycles' PBR-logo'd fixed-gear (track) frame still for sale.

Looks like this:

Bill and I are trying to get ready for the STP in '10. It'd be out first time doing it. We figure we'll start building up miles over the next few months so doing 200-something miles over 1 (or realistically 2) days is feasible.

Here's where we rode yesterday, the Cedar River Trail. Nice, generally flat, and paved. The only bothersome parts are the stop signs or signals at driveways or streets which cross the trail. You also have to be aware of other trail users, which include dog walkers, human walkers (with MP3 players and earbuds on), kids on trikes, and the insanely fast riders screaming along in an aero tuck position.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

1st bike-related Christmas e-card

I received my first bicycling-related e-card (or any card) for Christmas this year. The bikes (I assume parked on racks) form a nice snowflake design.

It was from Dero Bike Racks company. I'd ordered products (commercial grade bicycle storage racks) from them before. They have a great variety of products at reasonable prices (I shopped possibly eight other companies before deciding they had the products spec'd the way I wanted for the best price), quick production and shipping, and the products have held up well in the wet outdoors of the Seattle area.

I have a feeling since I am still new to the whole bicycling thing, this might be the only one I receive this year, e-card or otherwise.

Season's Greetings to you all!

OSO - a single-speed bike with a rear drum brake

After I stumbled across this bike company on a list of companies making or importing single speed an fixed-gear bikes, I had to find out a little more. I had never heard of them. I eventually read some online reviews I found and the web page for the TX-based importer of the messenger bike inspired OSO.

The importer describes the roughly $400 bike as "a mix between a cruiser and a road bike... simple and easy to maintain like a cruiser, but fast like a road bike". I can see how this might be true and at first I thought it was nothing more than a single-speed messenger style bike until I got to this: "there are no cables because the brake is in the pedals (coaster brake)". What!? Now that's unique, isn't it?

I think NYC Bikes offers this as an option, but I'm not certain.

I wonder, from anyone who's ridden one of these, what's it like?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Seattle's 2009 Downtown Bicycle Count Results

According to the SDOT, there are more bicycle commuters headed to Downtown Seattle than in previous years, a 15% increase since 2007 when the counts were last done.

In addition to pretty charts, the web page has a lot of interesting stats listed, such as:
Percentage increase since since 2000: 28%

Number of bicyclists wearing a helmet in 1992: 71%

Number of bicyclists wearing a helmet in 2000: 82%

Number of bicyclists wearing a helmet in 2007: 89%

Number of miles cycled yearly by average bike commuter: 1,992

I learned about this data being available from a posting on the PI web site.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Merry Christmas to me!

I bit the bullet - I ordered a DiNotte light (finally) after over a year of talking about doing it. I wasn't initially convinced that spending a lot of money (to me "a lot of money" = more than $50) on lights was worth it for the short bicycle commute I have and the few months out of the year it is dark during my commute to or from work or both. I noticed my speed has dropped a lot and I can only attribute it to my internal hesitance to ride faster than my lights can shine.

I found a really good deal at an online retailer that was offering a one-day sale of 25% off any orders over $100. I saved $15 even after adding shipping and taxes. (Now, I do generally stick with local bicycle shops for 99% of my cycling-related purchases, so I have some remorse about going this route).

I opted for the helmet-mounted 200L-AA-L. It features a front 200 Lumen light (equivalent to 15-20 watts Halogen) and a rear red flashing light within the same housing. A battery pack of four AA rechargeable batteries is stuffed into your jersey pocket or backpack. The batteries are not a proprietary style, so out on a trip, they can be replaced by virtually any rechargeable AA. I was hoping to find one that had a USB charger, but I admit I was pulled in by the sleek, small look of the DiNotte product.

As for the reason I selected the helmet style, I figured since I might be hopping from one bike to another (commuter bike to road bike) this is an easy way to switch rides without having to go through the hassle of transferring the lights over. Also, I like the ability to have the light sine where I am looking - at a pothole, at a pedestrian, motorist, etc.

Here is the light mounted... (stock DiNotte photo)

Here is a bicycle equipped with the DiNotte lights... (DiNotte stock photo)

Once the light gets here and I have a chance to test it out, I'll post my observations and recommendations.

Friday, December 11, 2009

when men were men

From the online bicycle culture magazine, Tubulocity, comes this story of a man who in 1900 rode his bicycle 1,200 miles in 10 weeks through the Klondike!


deep freeze

(Not my bike - we don't have snow... yet!)

The Seattle area has had quite a bit of cold weather lately, cold air that has drifted its way down from British Columbia and the Yukon.

With overnight temps in the teens, something we don't get around here much in the 30+ years I've lived in the Puget Sound area of Washington State, I have chickened out of the bike commuting this week, mainly due to concerns about black ice. My commute has me riding through a construction area which often has water running across the shoulder or the street - this condition has existed prior to the construction - and I'm concerned hitting this area could lead to a broken collar bone, wrist, arms, rib, or worse. (I'd read stories online of other bike commuters doing these things while crossing icy bridges or overpasses).

So, yeah, I'm a chicken this week, but at least I won't be on crutches for Christmas. I intend to drag out the trainer this weekend so I can still get some "miles" in and in the meanwhile, I'm hoping for rainy weather in the 40s returns soon... that's pretty twisted and sick, huh?

Note: I'd love to test ride a set of Schwalbe Marathon Winter HS396 studded bicycle tires and write a review if anyone has some to loan me :) One of our LBS here in Renton, GHY Bikes, has them in-stock and they're around $80 each if I remember correctly.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Safe Routes to School

Today I attended a workshop put on by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Program, taught by staff from the national (USDOT-funded) SRTS program.

The emphasis of the SRTS program is on improving physical barriers to having kids walk or bicycle to school and enhancing safety through education. The reasons for the program (i.e. why it is good for kids to walk or bicycle to school) are many: reduce traffic congestion, improve physical health of kids (combats childhood obesity), improves the environment (improved air quality), and more.

I'll have more to post on this, but it was nice to see a lot of staff from various Washington school districts, King County DOT, Seattle DOT, WSDOT, and advocacy organizations like Feet First and Bicycle Alliance of Washington.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

500+ commute miles

I almost forgot to mention, according to my Sigma brand odometer, I passed the 500 bike commute miles mark this past week*.

It seemed like it took forever to get there but on the actual day it happened I was clueless. The following day I happened to look at total miles and see it was 504.

I accomplished this in about 15 months since starting to actively bicycle commute 2-3 times a week throughout the year and my commute is around 2.2 miles one-way. So that's roughly 113 bicycle commute days if I did my math correctly.

* Note: I've actually put more miles in that are not counted, as I biked for about a month before getting the Sigma, also, I have used other bicycles to commute but not too often. Also, this does not account for any recreational cycling I've done on other bicycles while on weekend rides with the kids or camping.

Bikes near the Pike

Last weekend, the four of us headed down to the Pike Place Market in Downtown Seattle. My wife wanted to pick up some Market Spice Tea. Despite my urging we travel via bus or light rail into Downtown Seattle, we ended up taking the family truckster (our 2003 Dodge minivan). Predictably, traffic around the Pike Place Market (vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians) was heavy and parking, when we found it, was expensive ($17 for about a two-hour stay).

I snapped lots and lots of photos, but below are ones that have some bike-related content. Most are not in the Pike Place Market proper, but on the next street or block over in one direction or the other.

I snapped this one of my daughter Lauren posed near a Walmart type of MT bike. It was locked up.

A Schwinn road bike set up for commuting perhaps. Locked up on First Avenue. The owner must be close by, since it looks like the front wheel is left unlocked.

Isn't the whole point of a folding bike that you tote it with you? Maybe they don't let bikes into the strip club across the street. It was nice of the owner to fold it up before locking though, less for the pedestrians to step around.

The guy riding down Post Alley just prior to me snapping this photo nailed the girl in jeans on the right hand side of the photo and kept on riding, not even pausing to see if she's OK. This is not far from where this bike-ped collision happened recently.

In the far left of the photo above, you'll see the world-famous "Gum Wall". A gross tourist thing to be sure... one that most locals don't even know about. Here's a detailed view...

My daughter was less thrilled to be in photos as the afternoon wore on. Here she's posed next to a cluster of bike racks near the Pike Place Market. I was wondering why so few were being used and/or how they determined how many to install in that area.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"It keeps me alive"

This morning, the temperature may have dipped into the upper 20s or lower 30s. I was pretty well covered in a basic commuter jacket, wintery (but still too thin for very cold weather) neoprene-like full-finger gloves, a full face (bank robber style) acrylic stocking cap, a Polartec acrylic fleece jersey, and wool (German Army surplus) knickers over Hincappie bib shorts. Note: I didn't wear (or even own?) a tall wool or wool blend sock, so about 6 inches of my lower legs were chilly...

While checking my bike in the midday today (I thought maybe I left my auxilary headlight turned on) a non-cycling coworker saw me and said something like "it's too cold to ride that today!"

My quick (but not necessarily well-thought-out) response: "It keeps me alive!"

I was expecting a reply back from her challenging or questioning how the bicycle keeps me alive, but there was none. It was an interesting but silent elevator ride back up to my floor. The whole time, of course, in my head, I'm trying to come up with a list of how bicycling keeps me alive.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

craigslist (or other bulletin board) ads for bicycles

I have advice for sellers of bicycles who post on craigslist or similar websites, including bicycle club message boards or elsewhere. This is advice that will help you attract buyers and also keep buyers from wasting your time. This is only a sampling of consistent issues I see in ads posted on craigslists, for all sorts of items, especially bicycles.

1) Write a title that is descriptive.
"bicycle - $20" is not effective.
"1990s Trek road bike" is a little better.
"1992 mens' Trek road bicycle 56cm, like new" is even better still.

2) Include a photo... a good photo!
Avoid using clip art. We don't know if you are too lazy to take a pic or if you just plan on mugging us when we arrive with cash to buy your $2000 Prince or Cervelo. And please, try to avoid blurry and dark obscure shots of your bicycle taken with your cell phone!

3) Include a SIZE in the description... and a description of the size and components is very welcomed!
Eliminate the waste of time created by potential buyers contacting you to get the size of your bike for sale - do both of you a favor and list the size. Measured from crank to the top of the seat post or whatever. Even a ballpark estimate is better than none.

Secondly, please describe how your bicycle is equipped. Is it all stock from the factory or did you upgrade and/or repair or replace parts during the time you've owned it? This might be proof enough to justify why you might be asking $200 more than what might sound reasonable for a bicycle of this model or age, for example. If you just list the make and model and year of the bicycle, the potential buyer won't know you spent $600 upgrading the wheels and drivetrain. I'm just sayin'...

4) No one wants your story... this isn't Oprah.
OK. We understand. Sh*t happens. You need to sell this bike for a reason. Maybe you bought it with an ex and she dumped you for a X-games star or her yoga instructor... we don't really care. What we do care about are the items listed above and if you have receipts for any work on the bike, including the receipt for where and when you bought the bike, if available.

5) Provide contact info and the times to call or when you're available to show the bicycle to buyers.
Assume someone might e-mail you 5 minutes after you post the ad. How will they contact you? If you put e-mail contact only in the ad, how often do you check it? If you put a phone number, is that cell or home or work? What hours do you answer? Do you accept text messages?

Related to this is your location. Please specify where you are able to and willing to meet-up. If you put "south end" that's pretty vague. South end of what?

Anyone else have suggestions to sellers? I may add more as time goes on.

Friday, November 20, 2009

trainer time already?

The weather here is getting yucky quickly, not to mention quite dark, especially during the post-5PM uphill sprint home.

Not wanting to completely hang up my spurs until spring, I'm finding I am itching to ride more than I have been able to the past couple weeks. Think of a hamster with pent-up energy sans a wheel and you're pretty close to what I feel like lately. This morning I awoke to cascading rain over our gutters, so I didn't feel like getting soaked going TO work. Getting soaked coming FROM work is fine by me - I do anyways because I work so hard riding all the way home uphill that I get quite sweaty. The rain's a bonus.

Naturally, it seems we have the best weather throughout the remainder of the day on the days I do not ride to work. Right now I'm looking out on a wet and cool (but not freezing cold) city without rain actually coming down. Showers predicted for later today though. I don't like to think of myself as a "weather weenie" and have been able to keep riding throughout the year roughly 60% of the time, however, as the temps get closer to freezing, it gets harder and harder to maintain my routine.

So I guess soon, maybe this weekend, I'll haul out the bicycle trainer and set it up in the garage. It's pretty easy to work in a 30-40 minute spin a couple times a week. More challenging is to find something to keep me interested and focused. Uploading different mixes to my iPod (I have the cheapy clip-on one) seems to help.

For gear, I'm using a Ascent brand fluid trainer I picked up from Nashbar with a gift certificate from my VA inlaws last Christmas. Note the link is to a magnetic trainer available from Nashbar as the fluid trainer appears to be out of stock. Since I went the cheap route, it was priced at about $140 but it dropped to $100 when discounts were applied, I now know one feature I would look for in a trainer if I were to buy another one. I'd seek a quick-release for the rear wheel versus a screw in/out knob like my trainer has. It makes taking the bike off the trainer much less of a hassle. This Cycleops brand wind trainer pictured below - and other products by this manufacturer - features this.

So I gotta ask. What do you do in the winters (if you do indeed change your riding habits) and if you do any indoor training, what's on your iPod, DVD player, etc. If there's an interest, I might post a sampling of the songs I find most effective at pushing me to ride harder. The first that comes to mind is Chemical Brothers' "Block Rockin' Beats".

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Welcome to Leandro from Peru!

Hi! Just wanted to say thanks to Leandro and the other subscriber, Wreck in VA, for following my blog.

And for others dropping in, I love to hear about what bicycling-related stuff you're doing, whether it be commuting, running a bike shop, racing, etc.

Feel free to leave a comment or become a follower to this blog. I generally take time to read comments and/or visit links regularly.

~ Nate

so what happens when you have no commute???

While I thought I was safe in layoffs at work this past month - a subject I have not blogged about anywhere, I just got an indication today that the union and/or an individual's legal action might mean I am not in the clear.

What stinks about this is the layoffs are being done purely on seniority (I think) rather than job performance. I have a flawless job record and was employee of the year in 2008.

I'm not griping. I just see it as an opportunity - if something does happen - and I try to be hopeful.

Hey - maybe I'd have the chance to write more and do more bicycle-related stuff. Go on a tour. Visit and write about local bicycle shops and events. Travel abroad.

Who knows?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

electric bikes at a car show

I went to a car show in Seattle this weekend - we took the bus there to avoid traffic and paying a lot to park.

I was amazed to see an electric bicycle company with a few on display including the A2B from Ultra Motor.

There was also another electric bicycle on display, a mountain bike (looked like a Montague, aka "Swiss Bike") that was just shy of $5K. (!!!!) Note: upon a quick internet search, I guess someone does make a Montague electric bike now.

Looks like both bikes have some sort of hub motor to drive the bicycles. I have not yet looked into it further. Also, I didn't study up on how weather-repellent the bikes are.

The staff at the booth were pretty busy and they didn't appear to be set-up for demos. It would have been interesting to see. I just wonder who their demographic is. I would think cyclists might not take them seriously - nor would the people who came to the show to look at cars, trucks, and SUVs. I think quite a few (non-cyclists) would laugh at the notion of paying close to $5K for a bicycle and others (the cyclists) would know exactly which other $5,000 bicycle (or just frame and fork) they'd spend their money on - which would likely weigh 1/5th of the A2B's 72 pounds.

Something tacky about the electric bicycle booth was the inclusion of two (of the same model) of a Segway knock-off, similar to this. These three-wheeled electric-powered "podiums with bike saddles" were quite a bit cheaper than a Segway or one of the electric bikes on display, however, I think they had more in common with an electric mobility chair (like the Rascal) than they did with the Segway or an electric bicycle. Maybe this was in the spirit of showing "green mobility options" - the e-bikes were at the end of a line of other pure electric vehicles.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

thanks for the votes

We won the "Viewers' Choice" award with 45% of the total votes cast! (Total votes cast 1541).

Thanks for voting - if you missed it, you can still see the film by clicking on the video box on the right of this page.

Our film - featuring cyclists - please vote for us!!!

My co-producer, Rob, and I (he's also a cyclist) entered a film contest in our city (Renton) and we got the "Best Use of Renton" award, which is pretty cool. Not like a cash prize cool, but cool nevertheless.

Now, we're up for the "Viewers' Choice" award and the videos are posted online and visitors from the web can vote for their choice (up to 1 time per day - voting closes November 11th).

Why might you want to vote for us? We have a scene with a local cycling team and also visit a LBS where the guy offered to do a track stand for us.

See the box on the right hand of this page to navigate to where you'd need to go view and vote!

Note: the film contes is called "Film Frenzy" and it's the second time the city has sponsored a contest like this where filmmakers have 48 hours to write, shoot, and edit a film that can be up to 4 minutes long. To complicate matters, they throw in a few "curve balls" the films must include. This year, it was: include the clock tower in the film, a piece of public art, and the phrase "I used my Curve Card", a local marketing slogan.

More about the film contest.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

WOW! I'm on Bike Hacks!

In the past, I've mentioned my almost daily ritual of visiting the Bike Hacks blog. I enjoy reading posts about inexpensive (CHEAP) or free ways to make little tweaks to your bike to make it ride better, carry more stuff, or just look plain ugly so no one is tempted to steal your bike!

This week, I was contacted by Matt, one of the bloggers of the BH site in response to some comments I made about adding reflective material to your bicycle. He posted my pics along with links to my blog! That's pretty cool in my book.

Additionally, when I posted this to my Facebook page, a friend of mine named Dave I used to do stand-up comedy with back in the day (circa 1992-1994) also was featured on the Bike Hacks blog when he was working on an all-weather "rain bike". Dave also has a blog too.

Another funny thing to note is Dave and I back in the 1990s also hung out with a guy named Wally Glenn who is better known now as a performance artist known as "Pyro Boy". Dave went on to do a few TV shows with Wally and I sort of lost touch with them at some point. FB closed the loop.

Friday, November 6, 2009

1st commute wipe-out

I'm still a bit PO'd about this. Basically, in a nutshell, I wiped out this morning on the Transfer while en route to work. I'm OK physically (we'll see tomorrow AM if I have any muscle soreness - I expect there will be), and the bike is OK (just minor scrapes on the pedal end and end of handlebar). So I guess that's the good news.

There is a major construction zone along my preferred route to work - the others being either more-heavily traveled or considerably steeper and a lengthier route door-to-door. Going to work is mostly flat or downhill, coming home of course, is flattish and uphill.

The construction zone is for a project to build an interstate highway interchange - so this isn't a small project by any means. To protect pedestrians and bicyclists, or at least keep them away from construction crews, the construction crews have made a separated, shared path* along one side of the road, segregated from traffic by jersey barricades and a chain link fence.

As I was traveling in this protected area this morning at about 15 mph or less, I saw ahead what appeared to be plywood laid down in the path. It wasn't. It was 1" tall steel plate that was wet and covered with a bit of sand and dirt. Between choices of hopping the plate (likely 6 to 8 feet wide, not a great option) or trying to stop (also not a good option - not enough distance to stop) I chose the latter. The front wheel struck the plate and dumped the bike over to the left. I hopped off the bike (PO'd that the bike was dumped - I was more concerned about getting it scraped up) and landed on my feet, running a few steps but staying on my feet.

A construction worker asked if I was OK. I said I was PO'd and explained I could not see the plate. He said he had cones (three of them - pushed to one side) but he didn't want them to obstruct the path (????). I got back on my bike and rode away, as I was a block or two from my employer's.

Ironic that my focus lately has been on making me more visible to others and my attention has been directed towards watching out for other moving objects (like cars) and that my wipe-out has nothing to do with that. I think my next investment will be for an ultra bright light - I cannot rely upon others to provide adequate illumination or to keep paths clear - even those designated for pedestrians and bicyclists.

*Since using this shared facility, I am becoming less and less thrilled with them. Since it is only on one side of the road, I hate riding against traffic on the opposite side of the road than I am accustomed to. Barrier there or not, it just feels weird. The reason I have not continued to stay in traffic is on the opposite side of the road they have barricades there and no shoulder, so if you get a flat or what-have-you, you're pretty much stuck in an "automotive gauntlet" for nearly three-quarters of a mile. I'll try to post pictures of this - or maybe try to make a video.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I was reading a repost in the Seattle PI online edition (only edition) that discussed tactics for bicylists to improve their visibility. The article has a lot of good tips and photos accompanying it. You can also employ these on your kids' bikes, trikes, wagons, strollers, etc. to wheelchairs or walkers and also to your pets, or to your own attire or accessories as you're out walking in the seemingly prematurely arriving dark evening hours.

On my own, recently, I too beefed up my visibility on my commuter bike, a REI brand Novara Transfer (which you can read about here). The cool things about this bike is that it comes set-up for commuters - not only is there a color-matched rack and full fenders, it also includes a rear blinky light (integrated into the rear fender) and a front hub powered headlight. As I have found, however, this is just a rudimentary amount of lighting most commuters need. Essentially, it keeps you legal, but it doesn't give you a whole lot of visibility.

Initially, I augmented the rear blinky tail light with a red flasher I got for free courtesy of a community event hosted by WA State's Safe Routes to School Program. Soon after I added a cheapie ($6 at Fred Meyer) but very bright multi-LED flasher to it as well. So I had a built-in light, and two supplementals zip-tied to the rear rack.

Not content with just that alone, I added a flasher (by Planet Bike? Cateye?) to the back of my helmet, again with a zip-tie.

To augment the front headlight - especially important since the hub generator driven headlight does not stay on when you stop for a light or stop sign - I again went to a zip-tie solution and zip-tied a cheap 9 LED flashlight ($6 from Fred Meyer) to the stem.

About the same time as I was making these initial illumination enhancements, I found a wide-mouthed water bottle (a cool Austin music festival one) alongside a road heavily traveled by cyclists. I wasn't going to use it for drinking, but it made a perfect take-along emergency toolkit. It is just the right size for stuffing a patch kit, emergency ID, wrenches and other tools, etc. To fit with the illumination theme here, I added strips of red reflective tape to the sides for additional visibility.

The cool (recent) part - from a local sign shop (that makes highway signs) I received gratis pieces of the hyper-reflective material they use for road signs. This was stuff that would have ended up in the trash otherwise. I got yellow, hi-viz yellow, white/silver, and a clear red that itself isn't reflective, but it is when added over the white/silver. Below are shots of the materials under normal light and in the dark with the flash.

I trimmed strips to fit the front, back, and sides of the Transfer on the frame, fenders, fork, and rack.

And seat stays...

For the motion effect, I also added them to the crank and pedals (to the outside end of Shimano MTB SPDs) for the motion - I did the same with the wheels but have not yet decided if I like that look or not.

I also added the smaller scraps to my helmet.

As you can see from the photo, the combined effect really lights up the bike. No lights are turned on in any of these photos.

In the front view, the only added element is on the forks - the others are reflectors in the headlight or a traditional handlebar-mounted CPSC reflector.

In the rear, the stock red reflector is in the middle of the rack - everything else is from the reflective tape.

the premium placed on vintage

I noticed this phenomenon a while back too.

There's a coolness factor associated with vintage rides, perhaps it's the closest thing to a time machine for many of us who had similar bicycles in our youth - in my case, a red Schwinn Stingray. The feel-good cherry on top that comes with saving something from a landfill, plus avoiding buying something new - which took energy and natural resources to produce - may also explain the trend which has pushed up prices of older bicycles.

That's my take on it.

illuminating contest

It's getting way dark in my evening commutes (especially since DLST). Got a grand idea for lighting up your bike?

If you do, you could win some cool gear by submitting the idea to the web site Instructables.

Cordarounds is sponsoring a contest called "Light Up the Night" on Instructables. (Cordarounds is a clothier which has a lot of cycling-inspired clothing that's also suited for the everyday grind.)

The "Light Up the Night" contest entry cut-off is November 29th. Winners receive cool reflective jackets or pants from Cordarounds.

The grand prize... the Urban Awareness Jacket. See it in action below.

Night Ride: The Urban Awareness Jacket from Cordarounds on Vimeo.

First prizes... any pair of Cordarounds pants... including the Bike to Work pants featured in this video... with pockets with reflective liners and cuffs that are reflective.

Bike to Work Pants from Cordarounds on Vimeo.

Disclaimer: I am not in any way affiliated with Instructables or Cordarounds. But I'd love to try out a pair of the BTW pants or the UA jacket if any Cordarounds folks are reading this! I'd love to start doing product reviews. After about two years of bicycle commuting, I've got a good idea of what products have worked best in my commutes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

what to do with it?

I think a few weeks back I mentioned a '70's vintage very tall Japanese-made steel touring ten-speed bike I rescued from a dumpster, more or less. I've started to replace some parts and got it functional again (new tires, tubes, brake pads, cables, pedals) and have a few additional things to still do, such as bar tape. The crappy crunched up fenders are long-gone.

Before I do continue on, though, since it is way too tall for me, I'm pondering what to do with it. I have thought of scrapping the project to sell/trade the frame for something better fitted for me. I had thought of selling the whole thing, but for what I was asking (like $20 over the cost of parts) it hasn't attracted interest other than c-list spammer/scammers.

I had considered too stripping it over this winter, respraying the frame with some extra Rustoleum cans I had laying around from assorted projects (white + gray + gunmetal), and then try to offload the frame, and retain the vintage 10-speed Shimano Titlist GS drivetrain (including cool bar end shifters), 27-inch wheel set, handlebars, etc. but then try to sell the refurbished frame, maybe in the spring.

Oh well. For now, it isn't in my way... or more importantly, my wife's way!

In other news... I finally got a speedo, fenders, and some basic lights for the '94 Allez, so I hope to ride it a bit more, even though the weather is getting sucky. I am wranging with the possibility of swapping the stock alloy fork for a carbon one and at the same time, put in a new stem and handlebars and adjust the positioning of the brifters. I gotta ride it more to justify that time and expense though.

I'd love to get full fenders, with long mudflaps, like the ones sold by Velo Orange.

I suppose you're wondering why I even bother with a "junky" bike when I have a decent one or two or three to mess with instead. I couldn't tell you an answer, except to say it is a hobby that distracts me from the stress of the work week, etc.

a conference report

Part of what I do for work relates to supporting and encouraging drivers switching from drive alone commutes to other alternatives, such as transit (buses and trains), vanpools, carpools, and even walking and bicycling.

This week, on Monday and Tuesday, I attended a conference put on by Washington State Ridesharing Organization (WSRO... "wizz-row"). The focus of the conference was communications and social media and marketing.

Interesting stuff I'll have to share once I have time to decompress.

More on WSRO can be found here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

as the kidz say... "PWNED"

I was chugging along from work today trying to chase an older, slimmer, shorter, Asian dude on a MTB-turned-commuter bike today.

I never caught up to him and used up my go juice trying to do that. I had to settle for gearing down and just matching his cadence... he was cookin' along like an eggbeater.

I think the worst part is I pulled out of our workplace and immediately tried cranking along and that worked OK for a while but my legs soon got really tight and fatigued... always seems like a better ride for me if I run a short, easy warm-up before I hammer it.

As it turned out, I still made it home in about 30 seconds less than my recent best time.

Friday, October 16, 2009

a winter project

Here's a Japanese touring bike from the early 1970s I picked up cheap recently. A true 10-speed with bar end shifters and a full Shimano Titlist GS drivetrain. It needs virtually everything... and the frame is nothing to write home about as it has ample rust but not any dents or other damage. Perfect for a "rat bike" perhaps... it seems way too tall for me.

I bought used 27-incher tires and new gear and brake cables, I'm waiting to find the proper road bike brake pads, and then I'll see how rideable it is. I did do some work on getting the chain lubed and the freewheel spinning more freely.

Here I am buying bar tape at a Tacoma bicycle shop.

My favorite bike blog... one of them... OK, a few of them, actually.

I am really finding the BIKE HACKS blog as a daily pleasure. It has humor, helpful low budget tips, and other views of the bicycle culture in the world.

I've also visited Bike Hugger for some of the same reasons.

Lastly, I enjoy the web site for DIYers called Instructables . It allows users to share their home-built projects, anything, really, but I tend to search for bicycle-related topics. It seems there are a lot of cyclists obsessed with building cheap trailers to tow gear behind their bikes. There are also homemade lights, ways to make your bike even more visible, and other things like that.

Worth a look at these sites as the weather grows darker, colder, and wetter.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

a cautionary note

I like my socks to match what I'm wearing, typically, when I'm dressed in my business casual work clothes. I change at work from cycling attire (I bring my work clothes once a week to have on-hand so I needn't ride to work with them wadded up in panniers or risk getting them wet/dirty/etc.).

I usually change in the restroom on our floor rather than the workout fitness room locker room, a habit I adopted during the year the locker room was closed for remodeling. In the morning, since my ride is under 3 miles and generally down hill, I don't need to re-shower in the AM... at least no coworker's have complained about it.

As I change in a bathroom stall, I usually hang my clothes over the top of the door and set items like socks to the side, propping them up on the top of the TP holder, for example. Well, this morning things did not go so well. Like a tired or distracted first baseman missing what should have been an easy out, I bobbled the rolled-up socks and they landed with a *sploosh* into the toilet.

My first thought was to somehow save them and dry them out, however, the thought of having wet socks perched on my desk, staring at me soggily, only further irritated me. So I opted to trash them and instead wear socks that don't match what I'm wearing.

Funny considering on the ride in I was thinking "it's such a really great day for riding" buzzing down the road with happy, positive thoughts in my head, unaware of the sock drama about to unfold minutes later.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

it took a cold to get me to pause to post

I think I've been going full-tilt all summer long with so many activities, as posted before, I did some camping trips this summer, toting a bicycle along whenever I could. I was a bit disappointed it looks like I won't do a charity ride this summer or a longer-distance event, however, sometimes I did get out for a 11-12 mile ride solo or with my wife... it has been that difficult to get away to cycle this summer.

Finally, a cold that hit me this week - less than a week after the kids started back to school - got me to slow down enough to write an update on what I've been doing lately bicycle-wise.

I might be considered by my friends and neighbors to be the "Harold LeMay" of bicycles. I think I have eight currently, though not all of them are keepers. The most recent purchase was a pair of Japanese Tange double-butted cro-mo steel-framed 18-speed Shogun touring bicycles, both converted to mustache style bars when new. Both were taken care of really well and ride like new.

I am planning to sell one and keep the other at this point. The springy Schwinn seats and upright position make for a very enjoyable ride on an asphalt paved trail.

Another bicycle I've been toying with is a Schwinn BMX bike pulled together from parts handed down from a friend of mine. Originally, I thought this'd be the bike to tote along to the camp grounds, but that idea was tossed in favor of my mountain bicycle, since we'd be riding greater distances.

I've fooled around on this bike with the kids on their bikes but I have a feeling I'll eventually sell this too. For me it's just a curiousity. Watching MTV's show SCARRED has pretty much took away my interest in doing wild bicycle tricks and plywood jumps.

This'd be me on a jump... from the film Napoleon Dynamite... at about 30-something seconds into the clip.

For my birthday this year, the kids painted me a painting of these bicycles. They were inspired by another artist's work, however, I think they did a pretty good interpretation of bicycles - not bad for 5 and 6 years-old.

The week of my birthday in August, we went camping at Lake Easton in WA State. Here are a couple pics during a ride along the John Wayne Trail with me and my friend, Bill.

I'm still bicycle commuting 2-3 times a week in general and will continue to do so as long as there isn't ice in the morning. My commute might be slightly affected by a highway construction job, but I have a few work-arounds for that I've explored. Last year, I rode until December and stopped until February - using an indoor bicycle trainer during that period.

Until I post again - keep the rubber side down! :)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

I've still been bicycling!

I realize it has been forever since I last updated this blog. I cannot recall if I even posted any updates about this past bike to work month. I think it's because bicycling has wrapped itself into a daily or weekly routine for me so I don't really change much of my behavior like I used to when May rolled around.

I just wanted to let everyone who might be interested know that I've still been biking - mostly for commuting (2-3x a week) and sometimes 3-5 mile rides for fitness and recreation, usually with my kids (youngest just started riding without training wheels this week!)

Me with a bunch of kids (ours and friends children) riding around the cabins at Cama Beach on Camano Island, WA. This was in July 2009.

Also from July (might be early August) me with a 1990s Specialized Allez I "rescued" from a free pile in our neighborhood. It's all low-end Campy equipped (Veloce) and I just needed to replace the left crank arm (I replaced both crank L and R plus chain rings with a NOS Veloce crankset I found on e-Bay for $40) added Shimano SPD road pedals and swapped out the weathered but hardly-used stock Specialized brand tires for Serfas Seca II tires.

I'm still using a REI Novara brand commuter bike (Transfer) for my daily commutes though for fun (and practicality) I will sometimes ride in a older Schwinn cross bike or Giant hardtail MT bike as both are equipped with platform pedals. This is especially for when there are farmers' market Tuesdays where I'll ride from work to the market and not want to roam around in crowds while wearing shoes with cleats.

My health has improved - I dropped 22 pounds from a doctor visit in fall of 2008 to a check-up in the spring. I continue to drop weight and improve my commute times home.

Happy and safe riding everyone!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Riding into 2009

I'm starting back up commuting by bike next week. I've been sticking with riding a trainer indoors a couple times a week and some light weight training - a term I still like to call "dry land" work outs a leftover from my days in highschool as a swimmer. Since we shared a pool with another highschool, they got into the pool first, and we had to wait (weight) it out in the weight room. We called this part of our training the "dry land" training.

Also, our REI dividend (like a rebate check) arrived today with a 20% off coupon that can be used towards bicycle gear including REI (Novara) brand bicycles. Tempting to move up to a road bike, but I think I could more immediately use a light weight rain poncho type jacket and/or a reflective outer layer.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I have had a chance to get out and ride 4-9 miles a couple times each week for the past couple weeks. Due to a minor outpatient surgery, I'll be off the bike or trainer for a week or two. Better to do it in the winter than the spring or summer, I guess.

I did get a few nice things for Christmas in addition to the indoor bicycle trainer, such as the red Novara brand (REI) jacket I'm wearing in this photo. I also got the socks and the under helmet head cover (beanie?) as gifts too. The shoes are new-to-me slightly used SIDI brand shoes. Regular price new is $135 and I found a guy who was selling them for only $35! I suspect he was getting out of road biking entirely.

A pic of me and the bike at the end of the Cedar River where it joins Lake Washington. Roughly the half way point in a 9 mile round-trip ride from my house, roughly the last 2 miles is uphill the whole way.

Pausing near the Cedar River (up river from the mouth) at a bench dedicated to my deceased great uncle, who was a former police chief in our town in the 1950s and 1960s. Impossible to read the small plaque, but it has his name and dedicates the bench to his memory.

Can't wait for more improved weather and health so I can get back to riding again.