Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I Predict More Cycling Injuries

With the price of gas convincing more people to ride their bikes and perhaps walk instead of always driving their cars, I expect we'll see more cars crashing into cyclists and pedestians and the other way around, of course.

This isn't the sort of prediction that will get me any respect, but I won't be surprised if it comes true.

First of all, I want to know if anyone has real information about whether people are riding bikes more and walking more. If you see something written about this, please let me know.

So far, it's all anecdotal. I see lots more cyclists than I'm used to and I bet most motorists would say the same, but they'd sound growly as they said it. "Yes. I see more of those bikers in their tight, shiny pants riding in the middle of the road." (That's a parody of what I hear people say about cyclists.)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cycling Deaths are Up

I regularly receive an email newsletter from the American Bicyclists League (ABL). In the lastest issue, they say cycling deaths increased in 2005 according to a NHTSA report (this links to a PDF).

The most interesting thing to me about the NHTSA numbers are that deaths and injuries of non-occupants (this is their term) increased while deaths and injuries of vehicle occupants decreased.

ABL says the change is due to distracted vehicle drivers. The NHTSA report offers no opinions, just the facts. My initial thought is that cell phones have something to do with this. But the more I think about it, the less sure I am. If cell phones are distracting drivers, then wouldn't all categories see an increase in deaths and injuries? I'm sure it's not so simple.

Anyway, as I paged through the report, I found something interesting on every page. I imagine we've already seen some of the statistics in news stories, but it's much more informative to see the numbers for yourself instead of a filtered version in the news.

Why do you think non-occupant deaths are up?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mountain Biking is Harder on a Rigid Bike

I rode the trails at Theodore Wirth park today on my backup bike. That's it in the overexposed garage-backdrop photo.

I've ridden the trails at Wirth many times, but only on my dual-suspension bike. It's quite different on a bike with no suspension (don't mistake the springy stem and seatpost for suspension). It's a total body workout. My legs feel like they have growing pains. Remember those? My legs ache like that right now.

Dual suspension is a pain in the butt for maintenance, but it keeps the rider fresher. I'm in the market for a new mountain bike and I'm not sure what to think of all this. I've been through it before with two other dual suspension bikes. One time, I conducted a sort-of experiment. I brought a dual suspension bike and a hardtail to the same trail and rode laps with both. There was no question that my laps on the dual-sus. bike were more comfortable and easier. I didn't time the laps. I don't really care much about that.

Maybe I should get used to my flip flopping opinions and just buy all the bikes in the world. That will allow my to ride whatever I want.

I almost forgot to mention that I really like the trails at Wirth. They are lots of fun to ride.

Friday, August 18, 2006

French Roast and Bagel

I bought a garlic bagel on the way to work this morning. I was dripping sweat all over the store. I leave my helmet on in these situations where I am in and out of the store really quickly. That way they know why I'm sweating and they're reminded that some people chose to get around on a bicycle instead of a 4-door F-350 with smoked windows and a duck head cover on the trailer hitch. I bet they just wanted me out of there.

I toasted the bagel at work and made a pot of French roast. The garlic alters the taste of the French roast into a very strong flavor that I love. In the past, I've always thought the two foods went together well, but this morning I realized a new flavor is created by combining them both. I'm sure this flavor isn't for everyone. My sister, for example, might suggest that I just eat dog turds instead, because they are probably a strong flavor too. I'm not sure that's what she'd say, but it sounds like her. She has a great sense of humor and can stab a nice one in ya and still make you laugh about it.

Anyway, this flavor combination is one of life's little pleasures.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Another broken wheel

I broke another wheel. About a month ago, I put a dent in the rear rim of my number one off-road bike. I had a replacement rim ready and laced it up.

Then I broke a suspension bolt on the same bike due to my ham-fisted inattention while tightening the bolt.

Then on Sunday, I was riding my backup bike, which took lots of work to get together for Sunday's ride, and I potato chipped the rear wheel. It was a pretty funny stunt and might have been worthy of viewing by other people had any been there.

I wore baggy cycling shorts that day. I was descending a trail with sharp rocks and picking my line carefully, when I got a little fast and and the trail became steeper. I slid my butt off the back of the saddle to prevent myself from going over the bars. It worked well, I saved my skin. At the bottom of the trail, I needed to turn left, but I couldn't get back on the saddle. My baggy shorts were caught on the back of the seat. I unclipped my right foot and fell over on the left side. This was a very slow crash. Crash is too strong of a word. It was more of a slow motion tipping maneuver. It didn't hurt. I got up feeling a bit awkward, jumped on the bike and it didn't go anywhere. The wheel was very potato-chippy shaped.

I pulled the wheel out of the frame and wrestled it into a decent enough shape to fit in the frame and rode home with the tire buzzing on the chain stay. The lack of tire clearance on the chain stay of this bike has always been a complaint of mine.

The rim was really too light of duty for an offroad bike. I bought it from Rivendell and they warned of exactly that. But I'm a cheapo and these rims were a real bargain. (That's sarcasm, you know.)

This time, I'm buying a Sun Rhyno Lite replacement rim. They're known for strength. I'm not using anymore lightweight stuff unless it has a reputation for being bullet proof. I'll pick it up today, maybe have it built tonight and ride it tomorrow. That bike deserves to have its photo posted here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Powderhorn Park Art Fair

My son took this photo at the Powderhorn Park Art Fair

My family attended the art fair this past weekend. We had a really nice time. I've been there at least twice before in past years with my kids. This is the first year my kids didn't ride in a stroller. They're just too big for strollers. The last time they rode together in a stroller, they looked like two big goons stuffed in an old Volkswagen Beetle. They were elbowing each other and had lots of problems getting along.

This year was different. My wife and I expected them to get tired and want to go home or take breaks because they had to walk. Instead, it was my wife and I doing the complaining. My kids looked in far more tents than we did. Everywhere they looked they saw art that interested them. My son liked the photography and my daughter liked anything with color. They both liked anything that was on the lighter side like cartoon-style paintings.

My daughter loves tie-dye clothing. She stopped in one tie-dye vendor's tent and bought a t-shirt. She already has at least five tie-dye pieces of clothing, but this one was really nice, so we allowed her to buy it. While paying, she asked the people running the booth if they were hippies. I wonder if they saw my face turn red. They told us they considered themselves hippies and so I asked what it means to be a hippy. One of the them told us hippies are people who don't judge others. They just get along. The other added that they don't take plastic either.

I really like the part about being non-judgmental. We could use more of that. I thought about this for a while and wanted to add that hippies are more cooperative and less greedy than most of us. At least, that's my impression.

My friend, who is a police officer, would add that hippies tend to pass out on lawns more often than the rest of us.

Monday, August 07, 2006

No Race for Me

I planned to ride a 12-hour mountain bike race a couple of weekends ago at Mt. Kato in Mankato, MN. On the preceding Thursday while checking the tightness of the suspension pivot bolts on the bike, I snapped the head off of one of them. Yes, I have a torque wrench, but that didn't help.

I took the bolt to the local shop that sells this brand of bike and they didn't have the bolt in stock. I didn't expect them to anyway. There are far too many suspension components for a dealer to stock. They said they'd order it, but I know that will take weeks.

I could have ridden my wife's bike, but it needed many changes to make it 12-hour worthy. I gave up and rode a long ride on my road bike Saturday instead of the race.

I was only a little disappointed. I didn't feel like I wanted to participate in a whole-hearted kind of way. However, if the bolt hadn't broken, I would definitely have raced.

This situation has brought up a line of thinking I've been developing for a couple of years now. I don't like the idea of putting my bike on a car and driving to an event or special ride. I've been doing much less of it recently. I've taken to riding my ATB to the trail heads instead of driving a car there. I ride to the Minnesota River Bottoms trail head and Theodore Wirth Park. I need to try riding to Lebanon Hills and Salem Hills parks. All my road bike rides start at my garage. My daily rides go from the garage to work and back. So my off-road rides all start at my garage now also.

The great thing about bicycling is that I can enjoy it right out of my garage door without going to any exotic places (not that Mankato is exotic). I also have lots of really great places to ride in the Twin Cities and this area enjoys lots of cycling events. For example, this coming weekend there's an Alley Cat race and bike scavenger hunt right here in Minneapolis. The St. Paul Classic is coming up soon. This fall, we have a couple of cyclo cross races right here in the city. I have countless group rides to attend in this area. I could even do one or two off-road races each year without traveling by car.

I'm not trying to throw a guilt trip on those of you who carry your bikes to events, but I've decided to drive less and this is an outcome of that decision.

I Forgot the Creepy Cam

On my ride this morning, I noticed they repainted the lines on the Lake Street/Marshall Street bridge. (Or is it Marshall Ave? Ray will know.) I forgot the creepy cam. So the photo above is from Google.

They must have cleaned the street before painting, because there was very little of the usual debris. I noticed only three types of items were on the shoulder: little tiny rocks, cigarette butts, and lottery tickets. I think that says it all.

Well almost. I'd like you all to congratulate me on not using the work detritus. I've seen it used quite a bit in the last two years or so. Maybe it's been used all along and I haven't been paying attention, but my impression is that detritus has become a trendy word for the hip people to use in writing. I haven't heard anyone use it in speech though. I just listened to the pronunciation of it from Merriam Webster's website. It's funny to hear words come out of my computer. Try it for yourself.

There is no way I could say that seriously without breaking into a laugh.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Beer Brewing

One of the guys I work with decided to brew a batch of beer for our upcoming company picnic. I went to the Vine Park Brewing Company with him yesterday to start the batch. That's the step where you end up with a fermenting barrel of stuff.

We'll return in two weeks to bottle it (and sample some, I'm told).

I brewed beer with a friend several years ago in his apartment. At the time, he had his masters in Chemistry and was working a his PhD in something related. I was sure he'd be a great partner. I figured because he works in labs, we'd have clean and sterile stuff and we'd follow the directions exactly.

It didn't work out that way. We boiled the wert over the pot on his stove. It went behind his stove and inside every crevice in the stove/oven. We couldn't get it all out. His apartment smelled badly for ever after. When I helped him move out many months later it still smelled a bit.

Our beer turned out to be some of the worst crap ever produced. My friend suspected that we had some bacteria get in the ruined it. We didn't keep a clean enough environment. I knew after a couple of sips that our beer sucked. I felt as if it were my duty to drink the first few bottles though. But I couldn't make it through the entire case. I threw out the last bottles without telling my friend. He kept asking for the bottles back. They save those, you know.

He continued to brew and got some good batches, but I had no interest.

I had bad memories of brewing the beer and the disappointing taste of our work.

None of that's going to happen to this batch. The Vine Park Brewing Company is perfectly clean and everything is organized. The guy who helped us, well he did most of the work for us, made sure we didn't make any mistakes. It was fun and the people who run the store were fun to talk to. I enjoyed the brewing.

It'll be tasty beer, I'm sure of that and I'll report on it when I have some.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Riding in the Rain

I haven't ridden in the rain in several weeks. However, that changed on yesterday's journey home. I stepped into the parking lot headed for home when the skies opened. I got soaked within a couple of blocks. It was a warm rain and I enjoyed it.

This morning, on the way to work, it was about the same situation. As I pushed the bike out of the garage, the rain started to pour. For a few moments, I felt chilly.

"I remember that feeling."

It's a huge change from a couple of days ago, when I swear I felt my cerebral fluid boiling. If I had a little teapot spout installed on my head, it would have whistled all day long last Sunday.

It's difficult for me to imagine the weather will be cold ever again. But that's the way I always feel when we have a stretch of extreme weather. When it's 0 degrees (F) for an extended amount of time, I can't imagine what it feels like to be hot and sweaty.

The seasonal changes in this climate really make life interesting. I've lived in places with less seasonal personality and that really gets old.

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