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.