Monday, January 29, 2007

Quiz Time #1

Question: Are you done with the laundry?

Answer: This is a trick question. The laundry is NEVER done!

Ahhhh! We need a new washing machine to be invented. It would be the size of a small room and wash the entire family's dirty clothes in one load and dry it without moving it all to another damned machine. Then gnomes would fold the laundry just the way I want it. Next, a team of trained, non-shedding dogs would put all the clothes in the correct dressers and closets. The dogs would receive my undying love and devotion. I'd pay the gnomes handsomely with mushrooms and toadstools.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Kids take photos of the darndest things

My daughter wandered through the house with the camera and took lots of photos.

Caution: If you click on the photo, you'll see a larger image and some disturbing details.

The lesson?

1. Don't allow kids to roam around unsupervised with cameras.
2. Pay more attention to personal grooming.

HC Saturday Ride, Jan. 27, 2007

This is a shot I've always wanted to take with a camera other than the CreepyCam.

That dog is scary. You'd need a snow shovel to clean up after him.

Jim 2 got a flat on his hip single speed.

Jim 1 helped repair it while Ray provided immoral support.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Riding in Snow and Ice and Whatever that other Stuff is

I've ridden more outdoors this winter than any of my other Minnesota years. During my rides through the snow, ice, and slop, I've thought about the different techniques it takes to get through each type.

I don't know if I can relay any helpful tips. I think experience is the best guide in this case. But I have noticed slush is much like sand. I'm never sure how it will deflect my front wheel, but I know that I overcorrect and get into a wiggle. After a few wiggles, I settle down and make the correct steering inputs to control the bike.

I think when riding on sheer ice, it's best to poop your pants, because you are going to fall and the poop will cushion the impact.

However, due to the recent mild weather, I don't need any technique. I just ride and listen to the crackle of the studs on the pavement. Tomorrow, I'm breaking out the yard-sign bike. You may remember that I put together an old frame in the fall and built its fenders from political yard signs. The bike rode like a wheelbarrow. Yesterday, I installed a much longer stem and I hope that cures the problems. I very hopeful, because I really like the looks of the bike and I'd love to show it off in person at Saturday's HC ride.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

CreepyCam goes on the HC Saturday Ride

Welcome to the CreepyCam Gallery. Today, I'm displaying a few bad photos from today's Hiawatha Cyclery Saturday ride. Seven well dressed gents made the ride today. No one complained about the heat.
We headed west and north through the southern part of Minneapolis along the bike trails and streets.

We started off not knowing where we were going. Except, Nigel (Jim of Oil is for Sissies) knew we were headed for the CRC Coffee shop.
The main roads were plowed, but the side streets were not and a bit dicey for those without studded tires and those of us who are not Yoopers.

We crossed over I-35W using a pedestrian bridge.

We arrived at the CRC Coffee shop and locked our bikes to their outstanding racks. I wish the CreepyCam could show the racks. They're chrome curly Qs, like a giant spring. The shape of the racks makes it easy to fit bikes in and lock them. Not all racks work so easily.

With the bikes safely locked in front of CRC Coffee, we went inside for coffee, pastries, and Coke(wtf?).

After drinking coffee and talking about bikes, we suited up for the ride back to HC.

We returned HC. Where they also have nice bike racks. I forgot to get a photo of the giant Poodle next door to HC. Next time.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Winter is Beautiful

This is a bike trail in Minneapolis. I ride it about once each week and don't really notice it much anymore. Today, though, the brilliant sun and the thin layer of snow on the trail made me look again. During winter, a sunny day is amazing because the shadows are so long and the sky is so blue.

This photo doesn't stir me like the actual scene did when I took the picture. I should have hopped it up with some saturation. I'll try that.
Here's the same one on blue steroids.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Snowy Fender

I had no idea why I took this picture when I took it. I now realize it will be fun to look at in several months when I'm sick of sweating every time I go outside.

It's Cold Today

My toes were cold on this morning's ride. The National Weather Service says it was -5°F (-21°C). I think it was at least -6° or -7°. They need to calibrate their equipment.

My electric socks didn't do squat to keep my toes warm. They may not be operating correctly. This is the first time I've worn them this year. I bought them last year and they never gave off much heat, but I could feel it. This morning, I couldn't feel a thing. I'll try some other batteries. Maybe I need a little gas-powered motor that generates more electricity for my tootsies. (Thats's supposed to be irony, although if I'm trying to be ironic, am I really being ironic?)

My ski goggles fogged over also. I had to take them off. My eyes have just thawed and feel a bit dried out.

Must purchase anti-fog solution for goggles. Must amputate toes.

The good news is that my studded tires worked nicely and my hands are toasty in my glittens (mittens with gloves built in).

Monday, January 15, 2007

Riding Indoors Sucks

I read an article in the local newspaper about an Illinois man who rode 89 hours on an indoor bike. Here's a link to another story about him.

I used to ride indoors, but it's so darned boring, I can't see how I endured even a minute. Much less how this guy managed to stick with it for 89 hours.

I had a friend who rode his rollers for 100 miles on New Year's Eve. I don't remember his reasoning. Was he short of his annual goal by 100 miles or did he need another century? Either way, it wasn't like him to be obsessive about things.

With these crazy examples in mind, I've decided to not track my bicycle mileage any differently than in past years. Thanks for your suggestions, by the way. Some of you told me to ignore the mileage and others admitted to being fixated on the numbers. I'm going to go with what feels best for me, that is, I'll just ride.

I'm picking bicycling events to put on the calendar. I want to do the Minnesota Ironman. For those of you who aren't familiar with this ride, it's just a spring-time century, not a triathlon. I also will ride the Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour. I'll apply for the Chequemegon Fat Tire, but that's never a sure bet. I missed it last year because they didn't draw my entry in the lottery, or that's what they claim. I need one or two others on my calendar. I know Jim and Kevin plan the Bad Aftershave Tour, but they haven't set a date for it.

Any suggestions?

New Blogger is OK

The other day, I accepted the opportunity to convert my blogger template to a new thing they've offered, for those of you who use beta blogger (new Blogger).

I had fun with it. I changed my template, as you have probably noticed. I easily added lots of links to your blogs and chose to have blogger organize the list of links alphabetically. I get so confused by the alphabet. I only know the first few letters and the ones near the first letter of my last name (I had to stand in lines organized that way for years). I don't care about the rest of the alphabet, so when it comes time to alphabetize lists, I avoid it. Now the machine can do it for me. That's what these stinkin' machines are for anyway.

I also found customizing my template is easier.

Three cheers for the new version of blogger!

The purpose of this post is to compensate for the crappy things I said about the new version in a previous post.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Coffee Shop Bike Fashion

The Minneapolis Star Tribune posted an article on their website describing a new trend in bicycling: coffee shop bikes and the associated fashion.

I know some bike shop owners, who if they are as smart as I think they are, will begin stocking handlebar tassels and Hawaiian print shirts for spring. I can't think of a winter-time version of these fashions. Too bad, because I look good in prints. Maybe it's time to invent the bicycling muu-muu.

Seriously, this isn't a new trend. It's a sign that the bigger manufacturers see a buck to be made in the area of fun bicycling. Fun bicycling is the opposite of the "extreme" techno-racer market that's caused them to build hybrids with carbon stays and forks. Fun bicycling has been going on since the invention of the bicycle.

Don't get me wrong, racing is fun too, but the technology spill over from racing into regular bicycles is laughable. I'm not going to trust that carbon-fiber fork after my 7-year old gouges it with her Lil' Miss as she rides it into the garage. Insert your own story of a careless accident that gouges your carbon-fiber bike bits.

Monday, January 08, 2007

My Lighting Photos are Terrible

I took a few lousy photos that tried to show the light patterns of my lights. They didn't work. I need to go to a dark road and try again.

If you have any photographic suggestions for how to set this up, let me know. I want to show the perspective of an oncoming motorist and that of the rider. By suggestions, I mean camera tips. I'm guessing that twilight would be the best time.

For laughs, I inserted one of the bad photos I took.

The Inoled is on the left and the Cateye is on the right.

Cateye EL530 Headlight

Warning! Bicycle Hardware Minutia

I bought a new headlight. I wanted a light that I can easily move from bike to bike. Sometimes I want to ride a different bike to work, but the Inoled is too difficult to quickly setup on another bike.

So I bought the Cateye HL-EL-530. It's 50% brighter than it's predecessor, the HL-EL-500. I have no idea how to prove that. We can't really measure a light's brightness other than using the eyeball test. The manufacturers can tell us anything they want. Someone with access to brightness testing equipment should test a bunch of lights and publish the results. That's the role of a bicycling magazine. But they're too busy selling us the latest bag o' crap from their advertisers to actually spend resources reviewing products in a useful manner.

What can I tell you about this light? I've got a collection of Cateye lights and the new one is far, far brighter than any of the others. However, I don't own the HL-EL500 for comparison. I know a guy who does. I think I'll challenge him to a duel (with lights).

Tonight, I'm going to compare it and the Inoled, side by side.

It mounts very easily. They've put it on a mount that tightens with a thumbwheel/dial thingy. It's similar to a hose clamp that you can operate with your fingers instead of using a screw driver. The light also snaps off of the mount with a quick release. One of the coolest things about the mount is that you can adjust where it points horizontally a few degrees. My 3-speed handlebars have a slight bend in them and this causes the light to point to the left a bit. The horizontal adjustment feature allows me to point the light straight ahead.

The pattern has a very distinctly focused center -- just like a spotlight. The outer areas are also illuminated, but much less than the center area. It's a very different pattern from the Inoled. I like the Inoled pattern better, because the strongest part of its pattern is larger. Many light reviews I've read talk at length about the details of the light patterns. I've never really followed their descriptions. I get lost in the text, because the descriptions are too abstract. I need to see a picture of the pattern to understand it. So that's what I'll do for my next post. I'll try to photograph the light pattern.

A Silent Ride

My ride to work was silent this morning. I left the bike with studded tires in the garage and rode a 3-speed. It has 27" tires and rolls so smoothly compared to the studs that I thought something was wrong. But there was nothing wrong.

Over the past few days, I've become accustomed to the sound of the studs on the road. It sounds like rice crispies popping in milk. None of that today.

Although the forecast is calling for snow this afternoon. I hope I don't pay for my bike choice today. If I do encounter problems, trust me. I'll blog (complain) about it right here.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I Crashed on the Ice

I rode my studded-tire equipped bike home yesterday with a great deal of self satisfaction. It was a difficult ride due to the snow and ice patches. It felt a bit like riding off road. But I was managing, and quite well.

As my smuggness set in deeply, about two blocks from reaching home base, my front tire slid out without warning. It felt just like riding on ice without studded tires. My wrist hurt a bit. I picked up my bike and rode home.

The wrist pain has increased enough that I'll stay off the bike a few days until it improves.

The biggest injury is to my belief that bicycling is a superior way to travel. I can barely admit that I hurt myself riding on the ice that I so proudly told anyone who asked, "Ice is no problem. I have studded tires."

I imagine some people thinking, "What do you expect? You can't ride a bicycle on ice, dumbass!"

I'd like to blame my the tires for not being good enough. Maybe I should buy some Nokians. A friend pointed out to me that the studs on my tires are not all above the surface of the rubber. The studs are set at uneven depths.

Until the crash, I was taking icy corners with impunity. I was in charge. I ruled the roads. Now, I'm not so sure of myself.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Financial Times

This past weekend, I traveled to Chicago with my family on Amtrak. The train ride takes about 8 hours. This allows lots of time for reading and catching up on reading. I finished "Secrets and Lies" by Bruce Schneier, almost finished The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, and discovered the Financial Times by a bunch of rich British writers.

I didn't expect to find much of interest in the Financial Times (FT). I assumed it would tell me how to invest, buy futures, and how well the latest Jaguar drives. I guessed it was a British version of the Wall Street Journal. I like the journal. One of my coworkers lets us read his at work, but I don't get the time to read it often.

The FT was a pleasant surprise. Instead of being stuffy, it was filled with articles that interested me. Newspapers have personalities and I've never found one with this personality before. It's printed on very distinctive pink paper. I've seen it before, but figured it was for toffee noses (not me). Among the many interesting articles I read, it contained a short fiction story that I really enjoyed and an article about the creator and star of "Lazy Town."

The FT website is not as compelling, but I'll check it out a few more times before dismissing it. I probably won't have the leisure time to peruse the FT again soon, but I'll keep it in mind.

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