Thursday, October 14, 2010

2011 Madsen Cycles

You can pretty much ignore this post. I am participating in the MADSEN Cycles link contest, whereby I can win one of these cool cargo bikes you see below. I probably would look more pimp than this guy even. Because you know he looks cool in that hipster dad sorta way. I know, I know, you're saying to yourself, Juan, you are already as cool or cooler than this poseur. Yes, but I don't have a cargo bike. After I win this, then I'll be all set. Though I might need that hat, too.

Madsen Cycles Cargo Bikes

Random observations from the bike commute

I had originally planned to just post some random observations from today's bike commute. Here they are.
  • I had to maneuver around two vehicles parked/stopped in the bike lane. One going downhill. Not cool.
  • I saw a dead possum roadkill. Oh, I smelled it, too. Yuck.
  • I saw a lady with a scarf on a scooter. She did not look this cute.

  • I saw an old Toyota Corolla GT-S. Hachi Roku!

  • I tried to ring my bell at another cyclist across the median on the opposite side of the road. He didn't hear me.
  • I saw a VHS cassette tape case on the ground.

  • I noticed the City painted more bike lane icon symbols in place of the "bike lane" wording, though it wasn't the white symbol on green box, just white on the asphalt.

  • I saw two cyclists who had pulled over to change a flat. The first guy was riding with a buddy, so I didn't stop. The second guy I asked if he needed help but he had already started pulling his tube out and said he was OK.
  • I'm thinking about posting about people I regularly see on the commute and giving them funny nicknames. I'll save that for later...must figure out a way to get photos...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Back in it, sorta

Email exchange with my wife today went something like this:

Her: Lunch?

Me: I biked in, so you'd have to pick me up

Her: Nevermind...time constraints. PS - Let me know if I need to pick you up [meaning after work]

Of course I declined...

So as you might have guessed, I resumed my bike commute today. Last time I rode to work was August 27, and I explained what happened in my last post. I briefly thought about reverting to my old drive half/bike half commute for today. I decided against that partly because I thought I could deal with the 30 mile round trip, and partly just because I'm lazy and loading the bike into the car was something I didn't want to deal with. So that was that.

It felt great to be out there riding again. The morning was cool & foggy. The fog was probably not ideal as far as visibility goes (cars seeing me, that is), but I was thankful it wasn't hot. I made a conscious effort not to push myself and I'd even managed to leave with enough extra time so I could take a slower pace and not worry about being late to work.

I only packed a few apple slices to snack on once I got to work and a turkey sandwich for lunch. My legs started to feel tired as the day wore on and by the afternoon I was getting really hungry for a snack. I kept hydrated hoping that would quell some of the hunger. I was looking forward to the ride home, though.

Anyway, 5:00 pm hit and I was on my way. I was expecting it to be clear, sunny & warm for the ride home but the clouds were making their way in. As usual Kearny Villa Rd had a headwind ready for me as I headed north, but otherwise the conditions were like the morning so I couldn't really complain.

I hit the first climb and I could tell I'd lost some strength after not riding for awhile. I wouldn't say it was a painful climb but I was going painfully slow, geared down (unfortunately) as low as I could go. I thought about stopping at the shopping center atop the hill (there's a Starbucks there after all) but kept at it. The next part of the hill wasn't bad, but again I just kept it slow & steady. A right turn to crest up to the peak of the road traversing the north side of Black Mountain and I was nearly home free. I only had about 2 miles to go. From there it is a longish downhill, but unfortunately one more climb to reach home. As I crawled up the crest my quads were starting to burn, then cramp a little. I thought again about the email, the chance for a ride home. I thought about the last hill and possibly hurting myself again. I thought of not being able to ride for another month.

I pulled over and called home. I'll be back again soon enough.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Missing. Inaction.

These two words certainly describe both this blog and my bike commuting as of late.

If you're curious I'll offer up a brief explanation. In August we spent both a week in Chicago and a week in Lake Tahoe. My bike came with to Tahoe and I rode it only a little (I'll get around to finishing that post eventually).

Upon returning to non-vacation mode I rode to work the very next Friday. I ended up sustaining a strained calf injury that morning, though I didn't fully realize this until the next day. This wouldn't have been so bad had I not been training for my first half-marathon, which was conveniently a week away. I know. I was potentially screwed.

I sought treatment at a sports chiropractor for the week leading up to the race and was able to complete the race within my previously estimated time, despite the injury.

So that was all well and good, but I've been taking it easy on my road back to recovery. I've taken a couple short rides and was considering riding to work this week, but then rain happened.

Anyway, hopefully I will ride in at least once next week.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bike 21 in Chicago

Bikes. Bikes. Bikes. Old bikes. New bikes. Steel bikes. Teal bikes. Bikes with racks. Bikes with sacks. Bikes pulling kids with snacks. Bikes with fenders. Bikes as lenders. Bikes. Bikes. Bikes. 

Bench mural at the Chicago Children's Museum

For the second summer in a row, we took the family out to Chicago. During our trip last year we only spent half the time in the downtown area and I was certainly looking forward to the return trip to experience more of the city. I was astounded by the amount of cyclists out on the Lakeshore bike path. Even back in the city proper I saw cyclists on the street and bikes just locked up everywhere you could lock up a bike, block after block. This year was more of the same.

Maybe I just don't spend enough time in the more cycling-friendly areas of San Diego, but it certainly seems like the Windy City is more of a bike town than America's Finest City. Well, there really is no speculating because, in fact, it IS. Chicago was once named the #1 Bicycle-Friendly City in America by Bicycle Magazine, though it ranked 10th in the most recent list for 2010. San Diego? Nowhere in the Top 50. Anyway, my real point is to not belittle San Diego. Our city does have a lot of things going for it. We've got the weather and the beaches, and, you know, other stuff. I love Chicago in the summer, but I don't really have any immediate plans to go there in the winter.

Anyway, my point is...what IS my point? Oh yeah.

In Chicago I saw a lot of bikes. And it is not just seeing a lot of roadies cruising in packs, like you do see in San Diego, but just regular people riding bikes. Folks just out for a cruise. Folks commuting to/from work. Folks riding their bikes just going...somewhere.

And it was all over Chicago: The downtown Loop? Bikes. Lakeshore? Bikes. Lakeview? Bikes. Lincoln Park? Bikes. On the train, passing by Evanston? Bikes. Ravinia Park? Bikes. So you see, practically every place we went I saw people on bikes.

Cyclist in Oz Park.

I would also like to mention that I saw a plethora of old, lugged steel Schwinn bikes around the city. I know these bikes were actually built in Chicago for a long time, which certainly explains their abundance. It was just cool to see all of them still in regular use.

So, here's a few of my favorite snapshots of the bikes I saw this year. You can see more in my Flickr feed.

Cool vintage Motebecane fixed gear. One of my favorites.

Brooks saddle outfitted with a bunch of bells.
Would love to hear this bike go down the road.

Classy commuter rig.

A Breezer Uptown 8.
I'd never seen a Breezer Bike in person before.

Schwinn World Tourist. This things almost looks new.
Love the matching fenders.

Friday, August 27, 2010

More bike lanes!

So I was driving around today and noticed these dashed white lines on the side of Ruffin Road in Kearny Mesa (Sorry, no pics!). It didn't take me long to figure that Ruffin Road (between Kearny Villa Rd & Aero Drive) is being prepared for new bike lanes.

View Larger Map

Preliminary bike lane striping is down and I noticed in some areas around Balboa Ave that the motor vehicle lanes are being re-aligned slightly. From how it looks, my guess is that some street parking on Ruffin Rd is being removed. I'm sure those people will be pissed off, but it's great to see that the City is implementing more bike facilities.

You can see more about this project in the City of San Diego Bike Master Plan. This improvement is listed as Project 23 (page 123) in the document.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mr. Bus Driver, move that bus!

Darn buses kept getting in my way on the bike commute home. At one point I managed to catch the confluence of, I think, 3 buses on part of my route. They insisted on taking turns getting in front of me and letting passengers off.

Of course when a bus pulls over it completely blocks the bike lane. The evening rush hour traffic was heavy enough that it precluded me from even thinking about taking the lane to pass the bus on the left. It didn't seem worth the risk.

So I slowed down and waited. I guess there are worse things that could happen.

Car-free for a Day Challenge

Kathleen, who blogs as TechnoEarthMama, put out a call last week for people to sign up for her Car-Free for a Day Challenge. For anyone who committed to one car-free day this week she would match by going car-free herself. She's well underway. Check her site for her progress.

Since I just started doing my once weekly bike commute car-free, she said to go ahead and sign up. So sign up I did.

Well, today is my bike commute day, the day I was committing to be car-free. Did all go as planned? Not exactly.

Update in the next an upcoming post.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Just when I thought

Just when I thought I was getting stronger on hills, a guy passes me on the last climb on my way home like I was standing still. I know it's all relative. He was on a nice titanium Moots bike and here's me on my 25 lb steel cross-muter with a backpack to boot. Oh well. I was happy to ride past a long backup of cars that had spilled over to the side streets because of heavy traffic on the freeway this morning. That's what I get for gloating.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Record time

OK, yesterday (Wednesday July 14) was only the third day doing my round-trip bike commute from home. As I mentioned before I was excited to find I could do the one-way ride in just over an hour. Since this is barely more time than the drive & bike routine was taking, it was more than enough justification to just ride all the way.

The weather was warm and I was feeling good. I made it in just under an hour. According to my CatEye bike computer, at least.

The CatEye pauses the time when the bike is not moving (like at traffic lights) so it's still a valid time in most respects. Total elapsed time from my iPhone RunMeter app is below. Cutting 3 minutes seems tough, but we'll see if I can break 60 minutes elapsed door to door. That will be my next milestone.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New (green) bike lane symbol

Looks like the City just painted these on the new bike lane pavement.

They had previously marked the lanes "bike symbol green" so I was wondering exactly what it would be. Curiously in places that were previously marked "bike legend" they put down the same markings in white paint on the bare pavement. I was expecting to see the words "BIKE LANE."

I wonder if the green is going to be a new standard?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Car-Free Commute

I had a great opportunity for an extra bike commute since my wife had days off on both ends of the July 4 weekend. Since I didn't have to deal with getting kids ready, I decided to get out early and take another shot at riding to work the full distance from home. Totally car-free.

Up to this point, I had cycled from home on two previous occasions. The first was one of my first bike commutes ever about a year ago. I took a roundabout route to try to avoid some hills and it took me two hours to get to work. I proceeded to get a ride home from one of my coworkers. The second time was this year's Bike to Work Day. I rode all the way from home, but, again, didn't do the round trip because I got a ride home in order to get to my daughter's dance recital that evening.

Well, this time I had no excuses not to complete the round trip. During BTWD I did the trip in about an hour and a half or so, including three pit stops. I figured I should make decent time. How good I wasn't quite sure. It currently takes me about 25 minutes to bike my normal ~6 mile route, but including the drive portion, it typically takes me probably about 50 minutes to an hour door to door, depending on traffic, etc. My route this day ended up being 15.4 miles and I got to work in about 65 minutes. I was a little bit surprised the time differential was that small. Vehicular traffic congestion is no longer a worry. Certainly a plus.

I repeated the home to work round trip again this past Wednesday (during a drizzly, wet July San Diego morning, no less).  I think my multi-modal drive & bike commute days are over. When I started thinking about bike commuting, I thought a completely car-free bike commute was probably out of my reach. I guess I proved myself wrong. Looking forward to doing it again this week!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

World Cup Fever

I played soccer beginning in the 2nd grade and played 4 years of varsity high school "futbol." I never did, however, become much of a fan of pro or World Cup futbol. Nevertheless I was sporting my yellow #9 Ronaldo Brasil jersey for my Wednesday weekly bike commute. My parents got it for me when they vacationed in Brasil a few years ago.

It actually is pretty good as a cycling jersey since it is close, if not identical, in hue to the hi-viz yellow many cyclists wear, anyway. This was not the first time I've ever worn the Brasil jersey for my bike commute. Even though I certainly chose to wear it consciously knowing the World Cup was underway, I didn't think much about it once I had it on.

So there I was not even a couple minutes into my commute and I encountered a Latino guy riding toward me on the sidewalk. I looked in his direction 1) because I had just seen another cyclist pulled over on the sidewalk changing his tire, and 2) because he was a "sidewalk salmon," a common variety of the bike salmon. The guy shot me a blank look and then yelled something unintelligible at me with, oddly, still no change in his expression. I was perplexed until my brain reprocessed what it had heard. I still don't know exactly what he said, but it definitely had "Brasil" in the middle. I then took a look down at my chest. Duh.

Brasil was still in the tournament when this happened. As you may know, in the time it took me to write this post, Brasil has since lost to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

More on Kearny Villa bike lane

For anyone interested, I've got some tidbits to share about the Kearny Villa Rd bike lane repaving...

I was back on schedule with the bike commute this past Wednesday. It was my first day riding on the newly paved bike lane. What a difference!

The repaving begins south of Miramar Rd, right where Kearny Villa Rd starts to straighten out. The southbound side from here to Miramar Way was by far the stretch in the worst condition. At the time it looked like they had just begun to mark the lane for re-striping (or maybe painting the full lane?). On Friday I drove up & down and noticed they had marked all the southbound side and I saw a crew out in the process of marking the northbound side.

Ahh, fresh asphalt!

The bike lane was repaved all the way down to Harris Plant Rd on both the southbound and northbound sides of Kearny Villa Road. It was nice to see that the City did a complete job and didn't just half-ass only repave the really bad portions of the bike lane, as was the consensus opinion after the City did the initial patching to the cracks north of Miramar Way earlier this year.

One more interesting note is that they actually repaved the southbound side all the way through to the SR-163 entrance/Harris Plant Rd merge. For those not familiar, this is not currently the official bike lane, though I believe it was in the past. The current bike lane takes you up the Harris Plant Rd exit and back down to re-merge back to Kearny Villa Rd. I actually find this to be more dangerous, so I just take the straight ahead route, which is why I was pleased to find that section repaved, too. However when I drove by, that section was not marked for striping/painting. Oh, well.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bike Lane Repaved!

I was out of town this week on vacation and thus missed my bike commute. I did ride last week and there was no indication at the time of the work that would come to pass, though the City had stated previously that the bike lane on Kearny Villa Road was to be repaved in June. I was pleased to see this post in Bike San Diego about the freshly repaved bike lane. From the looks of things, it appears that they still need to go back and re-stripe the lane. There was some mention in the past on the SDBikeCommuter forum of the possibility that the new bike lane would get painted, too. I guess time will tell if that indeed will become a reality, but I am eager to get back on Kearny Villa to check out the bike lane for myself.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Stop and Smell the Flowers

This is what I should have done today. Or at the very least, stopped to take a picture.

I was riding on my way home this Wednesday afternoon and glanced to the side of the road expecting to see the dry brush that is typical of this area I ride through or just some weeds. Instead I was greeted with some bright mats of color: yellow, purple, red. I noticed what appeared to be some smaller variety of sunflower that seemed oddly out of place (small in flower diameter, that is, though the stalks were tall). I thought about stopping and turning back to get a picture with my iPhone, but kept going. The further I got the more I lamented not stopping. I sought out more of the sunflower-y plants I saw, but there were no more to be seen.

Hopefully the flowers will still be there the next time I ride by that spot, and then I will stop and take a couple snaps.

Friday, May 28, 2010

On cycling shoes

I think part of the reason cycling is so prevalent in places like Copenhagen and Amsterdam is that people don't think twice about riding a bike to get somewhere. They just get on their bikes and go without worrying about wearing proper "cycling attire." They just wear their regular clothes. And regular shoes. And some look damn stylish doing it, too. (Also, see this article.)

The other day my 6-year old daughter wanted to wear her heels while we ran errands (Side note: I did not buy her these shoes). When we returned home, she wanted to ride her bike. First reaction: yes, of course! But then I balked and almost made her change shoes until I thought of the ladies in heels I've seen on the different "cycle chic" blogs and let her ride her bike as is. To compare:

                                                       Credit: Flickr / Amsterdamize

Now, mind you, she was just riding up and down the sidewalk and also went across the street so we could pick up her brother from grandma & grandpa's house. I can't comment on riding long distances in such shoes (for one, because I have never worn high heels), but it is apparent that, in general, cycling can be done quite successfully in various types of footwear. For further proof, witness the following gentleman in the minimalist, barefoot-like Vibram FiveFingers "foot gloves." I also have FiveFingers (and, yes, they are ridiculous looking), though, I have yet to bicycle in them. I will attest to having ridden my bikes in flip-flop sandals (aka slippers).

Credit: family//bike//words / Derrick Purvis

So, it goes without saying that you don't need special shoes to ride a bike. Many people will tell you that cleated shoe/pedal combinations don't even provide much (or any) benefit in terms of pedaling efficiency versus a normal shoe and bare pedal (or pedal with toe straps). I will not get into that debate here, but will concede that I do commute with dedicated cycling shoes with Crank Brothers pedals. My particular pedals have a large platform so that I can also ride with any type of normal shoe, should I choose to do so.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Getting my bell rung

Some of the bumps on my bike commute cause such a rattling that my bike bell will just ring itself. I guess it is a minor consolation when getting jostled about to hear the lovely ding of a fine brass bell.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bike Commutes #16 to 21, in review

The last Bike Commute I really blogged about was #15, I think. Bike Commute #16 was pretty routine, at least I can't remember a thing about it now. I managed to jam Bike Commutes # 17 - 20 all in one week.

During spring break, the elementary school was closed. My mom came down to watch the kids for the week, so we didn't have to take any days off of work. I drove in to work on Monday that week, like usual. Tuesday we decided I would leave a car for my mom & the kids to use and I would carpool with my wife part way and then she would drop me off and I would bike to work. This would be a longer bike commute than normal, but I was up for the challenge.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Bike 21: Official!

This is sort of anti-climatic, but on April 14, 2010 I finally reached Bike Commute #21! Hooray!

At the outset of my venture into bike commuting, my goal was to ride to work 21 times. The reasoning being that it generally takes doing something for 21 days to really make it a habit. I'm stretching a bit since I knew I wouldn't be able to bike commute every work day for 21 days in a row. Still, 21 bike commutes seemed like a worthy goal. I started off in July 2009, and it was a rough start. I averaged one bike commute per month through the end of the year. Though my wife initially suggested that I could get a new bike upon reaching my goal, she let me get a new bike early on my birthday in December. You can see pics of my Masi Speciale CX here.

The new bike proved to be a jump starter, though, and as of today, I am averaging one bike commute per week for 2010. Another small motivator has been the friendly competition I've dubbed the Bike Commute Mileage Challenge that a co-worker started between us (or rather between fictional representations of ourselves, lest it get too personal, perhaps?). Initially I was hesitant to get into any kind of contest, friendly or not, since I was struggling to get started and my co-worker had been frequently riding his bike to work for awhile. Funny what a new bike and a new baby will do. Now the tables have turned. For me the new bike has been an effective stimulus for riding more, and getting the Wednesday commute routine down was also key. On the flip side, the joys and realities of fatherhood (and arranging day care) have slowed down my compadre substantially.

I've got close to 290 miles on my Masi now. That's great, but in terms of offsetting my automobile use, that 's not quite equivalent to a full tank of gas in my 2003 Saab 9-5 wagon, which averages about 22 mpg. That's a little disappointing to look at it that way, but it's better than if I was not bike commuting at all, right? You have to start somewhere.

So, what's next? If I stick to the once per week bike commute, I should be able to rack up at least 500 miles total for the year. Maybe my next goal will be to ride twice a week. I want to test the waters on some longer distance riding, but I also want to do a lot more utility cycling. I want to ride with my kids and get them excited about riding bikes. I need to get them off training wheels!

Part of my Twitter bio says: "(aspiring) part-time bike commuter." I think I'll take off the "aspiring" part now! I'm a full-fledged part-time bike commuter. Look out!

(Oh, by the way, today was Bike Commute #22. A post summarizing Bike Commutes #16-21 should be coming soon.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Thoughts on urban riding

I was thinking a little more on the ride I took last week around downtown San Diego. The pace I took was definitely more relaxed, and I quite enjoyed taking it slow. Part of this was because I really didn't have anywhere to be and I was trying to take in the surroundings of the city. I paused now and then to take some photos, and made a stop to sit and watch some men playing bocce in Little Italy. In some respects I don't think I was going slow enough and didn't stop to see enough sites. I should join the Down Townies ride one of these days.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cesar Chavez Day bike ride

I had the day off on Cesar Chavez Day (March 31). I had to bring my car to the Saab shop (Swedish Auto AB), and while I waited for my car I thought I'd just hop on my bike and roam around downtown San Diego. I saw some old guys playing bocce in Little Italy. I accidentally did an impromptu tour of some of architect Jonathan Segal's buildings, though there are a lot of his buildings that I missed. Cool stuff. I had to stop by Velo Cult bike shop in South Park. I talked to the owner, Sky, for a few minutes and checked out some stuff I'd like to buy for my bike. I finally bought a bell for my bike, too. It was a fun day on the bike.

Check out the Flickr slide show below.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bike 21 Commuting Habit tips, 1st edition

Now that I've got bike commute #21 in sight (you know, to make my bike commute habit "official"), I thought I would just share a few thoughts on my bike commuting experience so far. None of these are earth-shattering revelations, but I think are worth repeating here for anyone just getting into bike commuting.

1) Be prepared to ride. It seems like this goes without saying, but if you don't ride everyday, this is pretty critical. Every other tip is basically a corollary from this basic axiom. Early on I would try to pick my bike commute days at the spur of the moment while getting ready in the morning. Instant recipe for failure. There was always something I was missing or needed to do that slowed me down and caused me to abandon the ride.

2) Coordinate with your family. Well, that is if you have a family or someone else that depends on you to be home at a certain time. There were several days I wanted to ride but for one reason or another I needed to be home at a certain time or to pick up the kids from school. Plan ahead of time to avoid these conflicts. Set a recurring appointment in your Outlook/Google/iCal calendar and share/invite your wife, significant other, mom, parole officer, etc. so they remember you will be riding that day.

3) Pick the day(s) you know you have the lowest chance of a conflict and stick to it. There are always exceptions, of course. I figured out Wednesday was the best day for me to ride, so I plan on riding every Wednesday. Monday mornings being what they are, Mondays were out immediately. Tuesdays & Thursdays my kids have activities after school so those days were out. Fridays I usually like to get home as soon as possible, but this is my backup day if I miss my Wednesday ride.

4) Leave a change of clothes, toiletries, etc. at work. I had read this tip before on another cycling web site, but it took me awhile to come around. When I started seriously trying to bike commute I bought a rack for my bike and a set of panniers. I would load up the panniers with my change of clothes, a change of shoes, a towel, and the sundries I needed to shower at work. The stupid thing about that is I have sets of work polo shirts and pants provided to me for my job and a pair of work boots already at work. I don't normally wear them, though. Now I've been leaving a pair of jeans, some underwear and socks, and some basic white tees in my cubicle to change into when I ride to work. Then I will also wear one of the polo shirts and my boots. The work pants are really horrible; they are pleated and too baggy. I just can't bring myself to wear them. Anyway, if you don't have room to keep things at your job or don't have showers, then I guess you can stick with panniers or a backpack to hold your gear and then try to clean up with wipes or just the bathroom sink and a towel.

5) Check your bike the night before. Again, this is more critical if you only ride once or twice a week like I do. Air up your tires. Make sure you didn't remove anything from your bike that you might need, like say lights or tools from your saddle bag. Make sure your saddle is still attached to your bike. I saw a guy biking to work with no saddle one day. That couldn't have been fun.

Some optional tips:
  • Have a helmet to wear. I think there is a saying: "Opinions about helmet use are like a**holes...everybody knows one and he doesn't wear a helmet." No..."A**holes are like helmets, everybody has stuck their head in one." No..."Helmets are like opinions, you either have one or you don't, a**hole." No, that's not it, either. Oh, nevermind. My recommendation: wear a helmet.
  • Carry a spare tube. Also, make sure it is the right size for your tire. I think I have three spare tubes for my 26" mountain bike. I don't have any spare 700c tubes for my other bike. that. I. use. to. bike. commute. Hmmm...
Well, that's it for now. Look out for more bike commuting tips in the future. Maybe.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Keep on keepin' on

It's been awhile since I've posted. Not that I haven't been riding. I have faithfully kept up with my once weekly bike commute. That's right. Not a typo. One whole time a week. Wow. I know.

Some semi-non-sequitur thoughts from today's bike commute: 

We "officially" started the 2010 season of the Bike Commute Mileage Challenge. We being my alter ego "Obi-Juan Kenobi" and my challenger, known only as "Cyclo-Cross." In the pre-season that ran in the closing months of 2009 the results were pretty much a wash. Since getting my new bike I have rejuvenated my commitment to my commuting pursuit. My opponent, on the other hand, has been confronted with some obstacles that have hindered his ability (or is it willingness?) to make the ride in to work. Thus the tally currently stands at 18-4 in my favor. 18 "points" equals 9 rides for me. For my personal goal all told, I'm at bike commute #15.

I was fortunate to catch most of the traffic lights on my ride in to work. I set a new commute time PR.

Today I got a few waves from passing riders. I've noticed much more friendliness from other cyclists in the past few weeks. Very encouraging. I also caught up to another rider at a traffic light on the way home. We actually even chatted it up for a minute. The guy was really nice and he was also a part-time bike commuter.

If you read my last post, you know I took a bit of a spill several weeks ago. My helmet saved me from a good knock on my noggin and I walked away with only minor scrapes on my hand and knee. I thought my helmet came away relatively unscathed as well, but I just discovered that the shell does have a crack.  Even though I've been riding with it for a few weeks now and have no plans on hitting my head again, it's better to be safe than sorry, so I've ordered a new helmet.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ouch, my pride hurts!

Oh, why is it that stupid stuff keeps happening to me? Or is it that I keep happening into stupid stuff?

I've had my share of spills since I started cycling. There's the inevitable trail crashes while mountain biking, and the falling at intersections while learning to ride clipless pedals...c'mon, I'm not the only one, right?

Well, Friday morning I had a fall during my bike commute. Yes, a fall. I didn't crash into anything. I just...fell down. I was not seriously injured, thank goodness. But I feel really stupid about the whole thing. So embarrassed that I am writing about it for the whole internets to read. Luckily, only a few people read this blog.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ride to Nowhere in Particular

We went to Disneyland on President's Day. I rode Mr. Toad's Wild Ride twice with my son. You know, it's the journey to "nowhere in particular." Tuesday I took an additional day off to spend with the family since the kids are off all week and my wife's staying at home with them. But in the morning I made sure to get a bike ride nowhere in particular.

Actually, I knew where I was going. There's a loop to do near my house of about 11.5 miles. I start in 4S Ranch, go through Del Sur and Santaluz and back around to 4S Ranch.  I am working my way up to longer bike rides. This is less than the mileage I do on a round trip bike commute, but it is the longest single, non-bike commute I have done so far, I think.

The route alternates downhill and uphill sections with few flats to be had. I thought it would also be good training for the Black Mountain 15k trail run I signed up for in March. I want to preview the course before the actual race. The question is whether I should run it or do it by bike. Maybe both.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

That's more like it

Thankfully the rain from last night had moved on by early morning, so the sky was dry and the roads were, too. I shuttled the kids off to school and scrambled to get my gear together.

I started off slow, befitting of the colder weather, and tried to ease into the ride. First bike I spotted was going the opposite way. I glanced over not sure if the guy saw me. Sure enough, he looked up and gave me a wave. I waved back. See now? That was nice. I immediately felt like this was going to be a good ride.

Half-way point and I could see someone in the distance ahead of me. I could tell I was going to catch time. I could see this rider was in plain clothes, jeans and a coat, and he was wrestling with keeping his messenger bag in place on his back. As I approached, a few feet away now, I cupped one hand toward my mouth and yelled out, "On your left!" I then extended a "Good morning!" as I passed next to the other rider. He provided an appropriate response - I can't remember exactly what he said. After what happened last week, I told myself I should take no satisfaction in passing up that guy.

And it was good that I didn't because just a bit later, someone alerted me to their presence behind me. They also greeted me as they passed, so I couldn't be mad at that. And wouldn't you know, I think it was the same guy that I had first spotted earlier in my ride. He had turned around and passed me on the way back! He was riding a nice CervĂ©lo bike that probably costs three or four times my bike, so I really shouldn't feel too bad.

On the way home, I passed the same gentleman that I saw last week. I greeted him again and went on with my ride. Overall, I'm happy with the commute today because of the brief interactions I shared.

I'll probably stop ranting about whether people say hi to me or not.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Pass-Fail (Bike Commute #9, Part 2)

About 2 miles into my ride home last Wednesday I spotted another bicycle up ahead. I locked in with the mission of passing said bike. It was a guy just cruising along; he was making no effort to be in any hurry. From what I could tell this man was riding his bike out of necessity, not any particular passion for bikes or desire to reduce his carbon footprint. He probably didn't have a car. Of course, I'm purely speculating based on appearances. At any rate, I made sure not to pass too close, and there was plenty of room to do so. As I rode by I shouted a pleasantry and the man quickly responded in kind.

Now, I fully realized this man was in no rush, but I was so filled with elation that I finally was able to pass somebody. So many times have I been passed on my cycling travels and not once until this moment had I overtaken another bicycle. Settling into a comfortable cadence, I began to compose a blog post in my head, already recounting the achievement. Not a moment later, the cycling gods woke me from my daydream in the visage of another cyclist mashing away and leaving me in the dust, my small victory now but a fleeting memory.

I tried to make an attempt to chase but reached the red light at the intersection with my assailant nowhere to be seen. I soon began to see the irony of the situation (Isn't it ironic? Maybe not in the literary sense, but at least in the Alanis Morissette-sense) and find the humor in it. Clearly, it wasn't funny enough, yet.

I waited for the green light patiently. It was at least a minute or three that I stood there. As the signal changed I slowly remounted to cross the intersection. As I did so, another cyclist, who apparently was standing right behind me, sprinted to overtake me. So not cool!

Next was a short downhill section. I could see it was an older gentleman who had just dropped me. He coasted down the hill. I closed a bit, but didn't want to ride him, after all, this was not really a race (right!). Another red light appeared ahead. I braked a bit hoping to time the light change. The man was already standing at the light as I cruised to a stop and propped myself up against the curb. "Where the hell are your manners?!" I blurted out. No not really. That's what I should have said. I stood there for a moment, slightly at his flank, looking at the man. He failed to turn and acknowledge my presence. I said hello. He turned, responded (somewhat reluctantly I felt), and returned to his forward gaze.

I don't know what it is. I am not normally one to greet and strike up conversation with random strangers. I guess I am just looking for a little camaraderie from my fellow cyclists. It's not like there are that many of us out there in San Diego. Maybe I'm being delusional about this??

1 Less Car

Cole from was giving away some t-shirts on Twitter a little while back and I was lucky enough to be picked as one of the winners. I got my shirt in the mail today, and I gotta say it is one of my favorites of their designs. Go check out his web site for more shirts and the blog with a lot of useful reviews of bike related products. You also have to see the wood "porter crates" that he makes. The crate is featured in the 2010 Trek Lifestyle/Urban bikes printed catalog on the new Belleville. If I had the money right now, I would seriously get another bike just so I could put this crate on it.

photo: Trek Bikes

Speaking of bike t-shirts, my collection has quickly grown in the past few months. My ratio of bicycle-related t-shirts to actual number of miles cycled is a bit disproportionate. I'm working on that. On the actual cycling I mean. I'm not getting rid of any of my shirts.

Disclaimer: I really did win the shirt for free. There was no expressed or implied agreement to mention the website on this blog.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Almost Doored, Almost Ignored (Commute #9, Part 1)

I came across a lot of bike commuters this Wednesday.

I left home in my car on the first half of my multi-modal bike commute. In a 2 to 3 mile stretch toward the freeway, I saw 3 people cycling uphill on Rancho Bernardo Road headed toward 4S Ranch, presumably destined for the offices nearby. I was quite encouraged to witness this as I was soon to be on my own bike.

I was perturbed to find that the park & ride lot was completely full. Fortunately I knew that there is an overflow park & ride lot roughly a quarter mile away, so I drove over posthaste and grabbed the closest open spot. The first parking lot is right on the corner of Black Mountain Road.  I usually wait for the pedestrian crosswalk signal (red arrow below) and then once I'm across the street I get into the bike lane and head down the road. Since I started off further back I had room to ride up to the front of the left turn lane queue of cars and waited for the traffic signal (blue arrow below).

Then I had a semi-almost close call with a car door just as I was getting going. Since this is near Miramar College, there's a lot of people parking along the street. I've been anticipating a car door flinging open toward me since I began riding here, so I ride the left side of the bike lane, but it still startled me.

Approaching the next intersection I could already see another cyclist waiting at the red light. I pulled up against the curb and offered a "How's it going?" He had earbuds in and didn't hear me or see me, yet. Crap. Should've waited until he noticed me. I fidgeted a bit and then he finally noticed me and shot a greeting. I reciprocated, waved, but felt a little dumb. He probably thinks he said hello first and now I look like the unfriendly jerk. The light turned green and the guy does a full-on sprint to get away. Geez, I guess he's in a hurry. I scrambled to give chase in an attempt to fine tune my slowness gauge (you know, how slow I am compared to all the cyclists I encounter), but he's created quite a gap, crosses another signaled intersection and I catch the red light. Oh, well.

I don't recall much else from the rest of the ride in to work. I made it in pretty good time: 25:22 "door to door", about 22:30 cycle time. The return ride after work I will recount in my next post: Bike Commute #9, Part 2.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bumps, Backpacks, and Headlamps

With the stormy weather out of the way I rode my bike to work on my regularly scheduled Wednesday this week. This was officially Bike Commute #8, but is there any point to continue counting? Maybe, maybe not, but I guess I will anyway.

It was sunny but being winter, it was still cold by San Diego standards. I layered a long sleeve merino wool tee under another long sleeve shirt. I wore a beanie under my helmet to keep the wind off my ears, but still wore shorts. Gloves, of course. It was a lovely day for a ride and I had excellent luck with regards to catching green lights at the intersections. I only had 2 minutes of stop time versus cycling time: 22 minutes by bike computer and 24 minutes total run time by wrist watch. That might be a personal best time, I think.

I aired up my tires to 70 psi and it felt like the bumps on Kearny Villa Road were more noticeable. That or the condition of the bike lane was worsened by the recent rains. I'm not sure what pressure I had been running on my previous commutes, but I'll have to experiment with tire pressure a bit more.

Instead of the Timbuk2 messenger bag I've been riding with the past couple rides, I opted to try out my old Boblbee hard shell backpack. I've never ridden with the bag before, but the aerodynamic design certainly lends itself toward cycling. I used this backpack extensively during grad school and it was always comfortable because of the integrated lumbar support, especially with heavier loads. The stability of the backpack was welcomed after experiencing shifting with the Timbuk2 bag the past couple rides. In defense of the Timbuk2 I had not been using the stabilizing waist strap (I seem to have misplaced it), so I suppose I shouldn't blame the bag for moving around. One issue with the backpack was that there was no ideal way to clip an extra blinky light. The Timbuk2 has an integrated clip specifically for this purpose, plus built-in reflector tabs. I managed to clip my extra blinky to the backpack's top grab handle, but it flopped around occasionally.

I have a Princeton Tec Yukon light that I haven't really used much because I didn't want to fuss with mounting its external battery pack. It came with a helmet mount, so I decided to try it out for the evening ride after work to supplement my handlebar-mounted Planet Bike Blaze. My backpack has a little pocket on the top flap. I was able to stow the battery pack there, though I didn't take much care to pack in the extra length of wire. When I initially set off the wire flopped around. I somehow got it to behave for most of the ride. Next time I'll have to stow the wire more carefully or use zip ties to manage the extra length. It didn't get too dark that I noticed much benefit from having the helmet-mounted light. Towards the end, I was able to look down and check my progress on my cycle computer, which is not back lit. It was nice to have light that moved with my eyes versus being fixed on the handle bars.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rain vs. Storm

While it is not raining yet, this afternoon promises to be pretty serious if I am to believe the forecasts. I was down to ride in rain, but rain + high winds + road debris = maybe not a good day to start riding in the rain. I did see a fair amount of fallen branches on the roads yesterday and that could be treacherous for a bicycle. Yes, I have a CX bike but I'm not ready to dismount and jump over stuff in the road. I'll wait to ride a "regular" rain day when it's not so stormy. I now hear there's a possibility of hail?!?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What's a few raindrops?

As anyone is San Diego and Southern California knows by now, we are in the midst of a series of storms set to bring some much needed rain to the region for the rest of the week. The implication of this for me is another excuse to forego my weekly bike commute. Since I just posted the other day about trying to nix the excuses, I am somewhat compelled to ride rain or shine.

Folks from the bike and rain-friendly cities of Portland and Seattle seem to find little obstacle in a little precipitation. There are people in even colder climates bike commuting in the snow. Bike Crave has some pretty decent insight as to why it is some people aren't afraid to ride when the going gets wet. It's because they're used to it.

You know the song: "It never rains in Southern California..." People here can't even drive cars when it rains. You don't even get wet doing that. You surely can't expect anyone to bicycle in the rain. Yet, there are people who do it. Many even enjoy it.

Not too long ago, San Diego's first Tweed Ride occurred under somewhat rainy conditions. Supposedly this was the first of the seemingly ubiquitous Tweed Rides to actually occur in the rain. Not London. Not Portland.

Come tomorrow morning, I'll see if I'm up for it. I don't even have a rain jacket to wear. No fenders on the bike. No excuses, right?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Masi sighting

We went to the San Diego Zoo and I spotted this nice orange Masi fixed gear on the bike rack outside. That is all.

Get on the Bike

It's been over a week since I last rode my bike. I have been trying to designate Wednesdays to be my official "bike commute" day. I needed to stay home this past Wednessday so I missed my opportunity. Riding once a week sounds like a realistic goal, but there always seems to be something that comes up, legitimate or not.  I had ridden two weeks in a row (I think a first for me), until this week, that is.

I'd been thinking that maybe I should change the tag line of my blog from "Developing a bike commute habit" to "The diary of an aspiring bike commuter" or "21 and more excuses not to ride" or "The sometimes bike commuter" or "How to blog about bike commuting without really riding." Please suggest others in comments if you've got any good ones I can use.

It can be tough finding time to ride when you're trying to balance family and work and whatever else. I've been thinking I should bring my bike in on days I don't ride to work and take some lunch rides. We'll see if that ever happens... Even if I can't ride to work, I think I just need to find a way to get out on the bike a little more and log some miles.

So, having said that I snuck out for a quick ride as the sun was setting this Saturday afternoon. I've been wanting to tackle this hill nearby my house. It is probably not much of a climb for most cyclists, but I figured it would be a bit of a litmus test to gauge my current riding fitness. The main climb is about 1.7 miles and about 330 feet in elevation. That's a 3.6% overall grade - like I said, probably nothing to a lot of people. I don't really know.

I've seen plenty of people climb this road. Several of those people, by appearances, were in much worse physical shape than I. I figured that I could probably make it up OK on my mountain bike with the luxury of spinning the granny gear on the front triple crank (of course I never tried), but since I got my new bike I've been a bit worried about my gear range on the low end. I've got a 50-11 combo on the high end and a 34-28 combo on the low end, which my co-worker kindly pointed out is a wider range on both ends than what his more traditional cyclocross 48/36 double crankset gives him.

As Miley Cyrus says, "It's all about the climb." (Hey, I've got a young daughter who incessantly watches the Disney Channel.) It turns out the climb was not so bad after all. It is broken into two sections with a nice flat in the middle that afforded me the chance to catch my breath. I was still straining a bit at the crest, but I was doing everything to stay out of that bottom combo, for nothing more than the illusion that I've got some minor semblance of strength in my legs.

Here's the route plotted with elevation. The ride took me about 38 minutes and covered over 8.6 miles. I hit about 34 mph on the way down the hill. I also made a few poor choices in the way I handled the bike on the road in relation to cars on the way home. (Incidentally, I'm currently listening to the audio version of Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic.) I'll be more careful in the future.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

First Bike Commute of 2010

January 6 I made my first bike commute of the New Year. I learned a couple things on this ride. Foremost is that I am not as fast as I thought on the new bike. Apparently this new cycling computer my brother & sister-in-law gave me for Christmas is smarter than me. Or I'm just a dumbass. The cycling computer will stop running the elapsed time when the bike is stopped for more than a few seconds. Makes sense. I didn't realize this when I used the computer's elapsed time to compare to my previous bike commutes timed with my wristwatch. Obviously the watch's stopwatch feature won't stop counting until I tell it to, so it is counting all the time I'm stopped waiting at stoplights.

I hadn't worn my watch on the first bike commute with the Masi. Since I remembered to wear my watch this time around, I figured I would run both clocks as a check. My elapsed time on the cycling computer was 23:15. My watch had me at 27:30. (I'm slightly rounding off the cycle computer time since it does still run as I'm walking the bike into the office since the front wheel continues to roll.) I still think this is a minute or so faster than I usually was on the mountain bike, so I'm still happy, just not as stoked as I was before. Aw, wait, a quick check back into my archives reveals I clocked in at 24 minutes for Bike Commute #4. I think I made all the lights that day, so little stopping. Hrrmm. At least the good news is that from now on I will know how much actual cycling time I am taking, and not counting the extended stops.

Another reminder of how slow I (still) am occurred on the ride home from work. As I'm struggling on the upside of a small valley section, an older guy on a skinny-tired bike blows right past me (I'm running the stock 700x35c 'cross tires - wide by most road bike standards). I do have one excuse: I was wearing a messenger bag, somewhat full of clothes, and it kept shifting on me during the ride home (on the way to work, it was fine). Still, I'm sure it was a pathetic sight, me sucking wind in nearly my lowest gear, and it's not even that steep a grade. Maybe I should have gotten a bike with a triple crank! I tried to blurt out "hey!" to the guy as he passed me, but he didn't give me so much as a sideways glance or nod. Why can't some people just say "hi" instead of being rude assholes?