I've missed the woods.
It's not that I haven't been there. I have ventured into the woods and trails many a time over the past couple of years, most often on the cargo bike in the course of a necessary or whim-based route change, but I hadn't set out to specifically go riding a bike in the woods for ages until this February.
The recent E2L1 was my first time in a long time that I used a mountain bike for something resembling mountain biking. The bike, in this case, is a 1998 Nishiki Manitoba I had bought off of Salem before he went traveling. It was never a particularly high-end machine, but I like the frame for a few reasons.
1) Weird pedigree: It's a Japanese-branded chromoly frame, named after a Canadian Province and made in the USA.
2) Weird geometry: The frame is labeled 18", though it measures 17.5" max to the top of the seat tube and 15.5" C-C. It has a longish top tube compared to that-- 21" or 22+", depending on how you measure it. It's well suited to my own short-legged, torso-rich geometry. Anyway, it's sturdy, it's handy, and I like it but for one minor quibble:
I kind of hated riding it.
Here's the thing. I had picked it up a couple of years ago and did nothing to it beyond a quick pedal around the driveway to determine that it was due for a major overhaul. I set it aside and it sat, untouched, until the morning of the aforementioned Eel ride. I fished it out of a pile and went through it just long enough for a perfunctory tire inflation (they held air), brake check (they showed significant potential to reduce speed) seat swap (the supplied post was too short to raise to my height) and chain check (thoroughly worn out).
I figured I would just run what I brung for the Eel and deal with sprucing up the bike some other day. That was a reasonable plan but for the constantly skipping chain, clunky shifts, barely adequate brakes and painful saddle that increasingly detracted from what was an otherwise enjoyable ride. That said, I did like the way it handled in the woods and see potential for a nice low-budget trail machine. I'm not going to ride it again in its current state, but I will ride it again. It's worthy of a makeover. More on that soon.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
It's like the world is conspiring to turn me into one of those singlespeed evangelists. Just when I think I've fixed everything on one of my geared bikes, some other part of the drive train starts acting up. In a race a few years ago, I knocked the rear derailleur of my Kona against a rock. The derailleur was bent beyond repair, but the hanger seemed ok. It probably wasn't though, because the shifting was always just a little off since. Finally, due to breaking the hanging last week on my other bike, I decided to go hanger buying crazy and get one for the Kona, too. It seemed to help, but a new problem of a worn out middle chain ring obviated any trouble free pedaling. Why would a new hanger make the problem of a worn out chain ring suddenly appear? That doesn't make any sense! I guess I also degreased the chain. Perhaps that's the problem.
Should I switch to a 1x9? Then I can replace the whole mess up front with a nice stainless right. Read more!
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Also, it's another blow to WASPy, puritanical hegemony of our lives. Maybe if we had alternated between Saturday and Sunday closures every other week to switch between shabbat and sabbath, it'd be a little more fair. Maybe someone should have made a 1st amendment claim about Sunday liquor sales.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Friday, February 24, 2012
Two inches of wet gross snow fell last night. I didn't want to let that deter me from having fun. So, I put a freewheel on my Colnago because I keep hitting my toes on the fender when turning with it fixed. I figured if I didn't have to pedal through tight corners, it wouldn't be a problem any more. I had a new 17t Dicta freewheel lying around, so I Romney'd (it's a flip flop hub, get it!!?) the wheel and rode off with the power of coasting. Things were going ok, but the steady drizzle and mid 30's made me abandon my original plan of riding out to that Arm and Hammer place in Collinsville for a beer. I was riding through Fisher Meadows in Avon, when suddenly the freewheel started slipping. At first I thought I broke the chain, but the chain looked just fine. I thought maybe it was a fluke, but every time go out of the saddle, it'd slip all the way through the down stroke. I flipped the wheel back over and went home fixed. Actually, I stopped to buy vinegar. I thought one usually started fixed, got tired and switch to free. I guess it's opposite day.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
As if singlespeeders needed another reason to feel superior, this happened to me today:
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
For those fortunate enough to miss past inceptions of the Detour de CT, 2012 offers you another chance to end your lucky streak. But, now it's time to do your part to vote early and often for this year's date (late April/early May) at the super official ride website. Read more!
Thursday, February 16, 2012
If you've ever met Chill Will or me, you know that we're not haircut people. So, you can imagine my surprise when I went to get a haircut today at Degra's (home of the business man special) and the guy who cut my hair knows Chill Will. He even had a beat bike blog sticker at his spot. They do have a bike rack out front, perhaps that explains it. To boot, Mike, even mountain bikes. Read more!
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
February 16th State House event to support Intersection Safety Cameras legislation
What: Press conference to build support for red light safety camera enabling legislation.
Please attend to show your support for this important public safety legislation.
- Legislative champions Mayor Scott Jackson, Hamden Garry Lapidus, Physician's Assistant, Director of the Injury Prevention Center at Connecticut Children's Medical Center
- Christine Buhler, Brain Injury Association of Connecticut
- Ryan Lynch, Policy Director, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
When: Thursday, February 16th at 11:00am
Where: Legislative Office Building, Room 2D, 300 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT Contact: Please RSVP to Chris Hunter, 401-487-7771, firstname.lastname@example.org
Yesterday was Valentine's Day, so I had to buy romantic dinner ingredients at Whole Foods in West Hartford. Stop Shop just isn't romantic enough. I rode over from school, locked up my bike, shopped, loaded up my panniers and attempted to unlock my bike. It didn't want to do it. I tried very gingerly for a few minutes, but ended up snapping the key. I wrestled with it for a few minutes and took the lock partially apart, but I still couldn't get it to turn. Eventually, another person rolled up to the bike rack and offered to ask at the service desk for pliers. Apparently, Whole Foods doesn't have pliers. However, this nice guy had a swiss army knife. He lent to me when he went inside to shop and I was able to take the lock apart with the can opener. While I'm a little surprised that I was able to defeat my lock with a can opener, in a slight germane way I'm grateful to the fellow bike shopper for use of his swiss army knife. I dropped in his pannier and left. Hopefully, he found it and didn't think I stole his knife.
Sadly, Johanna's French snake lock that I destroyed is no longer manufactured. :( Read more!
Monday, February 13, 2012
Many are opposed and many are for disc brakes on 'cross bikes. I've ridden a 29er with discs, so I'm assuming it's the same thing: overkill. I guess I actually own that 29er, I don't just ride randomly one. I've never really had much a problem dragging the brakes after riding through gunk, except on like two occasions. Once, in a race a few years ago, I had frozen stuff on my rims and I tried to brake going into a corner and nothing happened. I careened into some trees and lost a position. Yesterday, I was riding on this sort of boardwalky thing: little sections of planks with gaps in between the sections. It was kinda technical and there was mud in between two of them. Since it was technical, there wasn't a lot for room for the brake dragging, so I had to use the brakes instead of dragging them before I used them. Needless to say, they didn't work so hot, I went off the boardwalk and landed on my head.
So, frozen mud and technical 'cross bike riding seems to be the application of disc 'cross bikes.
Also, the title of this post is sort of misleading because I didn't actually hurt my head. My neck was a little sore, though, but now it's better. Read more!
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Additionally, if you've ever wondered why we call it "the eel," here's why. Read more!
Friday, February 10, 2012
"If I run into you, and you're on a bike, you're dead. My truck, we'll just bounce"
"They're so stupid. Why do they think they get to be up against cars."
That brilliant, mature, and sensitive exchange came direct from the mouths of Generation Y. The best and the brightest. The ones who are allegedly going to take the reins and lead the country.
I heard this conversation on Wednesday. Cringed. Made a conscious decision to not leave my office to interrupt and preach law at them. I bit my tongue, hoping they were not as assholish as they seemed.
After all, this generation is marked by the myriad and mirrored hall of self-representation. Their identities never static, never 100% honest.
Is there an app for curing stupid?
I stewed and went about my day.
Then yesterday, as I woke up, before I even got out of bed, I read about a time when those in a car did not just bounce. I saw photographs of a horrific one-car crash a few blocks from my house. The car's roof had to be removed in an attempt to remove the victims. The passenger died.
If someone so much as hears about a person getting mugged on Allen Place, he will avoid that area. But the Almighty Automobile? We have come to view accidents as an acceptable risk if it means a trip to the grocery store takes five minutes instead of twenty.
Later yesterday, sitting in the same office, I read that a cyclist was struck in Hartford.
Hit hard enough that he required CPR.
The photograph on news sites shows his belongings strewn all over the street.
The news, they don't even know how to deal with this kind of incident. The victim is at once described as a cyclist and a pedestrian. There is no rush to describe him. Most articles do not even try, giving no indication of sex, age, or race. The one that bothers to: male, somewhere between childhood and AARP.
One report states the driver stayed at the accident scene. Others don't say this. One comment suggests the driver's license may have been suspended.
The way our culture regards people using transportation outside of privately-owned vehicles indicates that we are all in critical condition.
Recklessness behind the wheel receives such a light slap on the wrist that one could believe no consequences could ever come for one's crimes. Motorists could slow down. They could stop. They could look where they are going. Really look. They could scan the roadway for objects beside other motorized vehicles.
They could think before they act.
Last night, for reasons unrelated to the car vs. cyclist accident, there was a large DUI enforcement checkpoint set up on Asylum Street. Even with ample media coverage of this, several individuals were arrested there.
They were especially warned to think about their actions, and several were still unable to put the safety of others ahead of themselves.
Of the three arrested for driving under the influence -- including one who had been driving with a suspended license -- what are the odds that all will be back behind the wheel within months, if not immediately?
Our culture fosters this mentality that if we can afford a vehicle, then we are entitled to drive. And to take that "right" away, we have to repeatedly and brazenly fuck up.
That's the message sent to those on foot or on bike: You have no rights. No recourse. Me in this car? I'll just bounce. No permanent damage. Read more!
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Oops, I did it again, brought another bike home. The real irony here is that I did it to pare down the number of bikes I have. Hear me out, the idea is to figure which of my various bike functions, presently served by multiple bikes, can instead be performed by a single steed. That means finding more generalist bikes that blur the lines of my current specialists. See, more is less.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
For the second Tuesday in a row, we had another unseason- ably warm weather forecast, so I went ahead and followed the basic formula that had worked so well the previous week. Once again, I rode the Yuba something a bit shy of 30 miles, passed farms, got very hungry, consumed a lot of eggplant grinder, headed home, and finally got around to publishing a post about it one week later.
This go-around was more refined in nearly every way:
-This was a more thoroughly planned trip/route*- I was tabling for Bike Walk Connecticut's bike education programs at an all-day event in Cromwell. Their tabletop display fits nicely on the cargo bike, which made packing easy.
-More farm animals and equipment- There were goats, ducks, geese, chickens, and vintage tractors to be seen along the way.
-Superior eggplant grinder- my return through the South End made for a well-timed stop at my favorite grinder shop. So very good.
This was my first ride through Wethersfield on the packed gravel surface of the Heritage Way Bike Trail since last September. It was definitely more muddy and rutted this time around, but still passable on semi-slick tires. A good freeze would fix the mud issue in a jiffy, but who knows when that will happen? As nice as these rides have been, I'm finding these warm temps disturbing.
*which is not to say that thorough planning is necessarily better, just that it is more refined. Read more!
Sunday, February 5, 2012
I am tired of getting chased by people's unleashed dogs. For some reason this warmer weather has led some dog owners to think that they don't need leashes any more. On the road it's not that big of a deal, but in the woods or when there are multiple dogs, I'm tired of getting nipped at. Any recommendations for dog repellent? Pepper spray? Are there little pepper sprays that fit in a jersey pocket? Does pepper spray work? If I controlled my bike and me like people control their dogs, I'd either be dead, in jail or living in a box with no bikes from getting sued so much.
Another plus about riding in Hartford vs. the suburbs: no unleashed dogs. Read more!