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?