Category "Bicycles"

Category "Learning"

Category "Life"

Category "Purpose"

March 2, 2012

On becoming a Viking - 4

The heart of an Explorer

I've been studying viking-age history in preparation for participating in a viking-age reenactment camp at the end of June. I have patterns for and plan to make my own period-authentic clothes, shoes, tent, bedding, weapons, armor, shield, woodworking, furniture, and hand-crafted items to sell and trade.
So in the last few weeks I've been mostly researching, studying and reading. I am becoming fascinated by Archeology! I am amazed that they can even determine what some of the 1000+ year-old items are, let alone determine it's age and origin. For instance, in an excavation of an ancient sod long-house in Iceland, they lifted out and sifted the entire floor of the house one little section at a time, and found gold and glass beads that the ancient residents had dropped and couldn't find in their own dirt floor! And, it is reported that some of those glass beads were created in China! We know that the northern people were primarily farmers, fishermen, and traders, using their versatile ships to fish and transport goods. We know that they had established trade routes and towns via the sea and their boats well before what we call the beginning of the Viking age (when the pillaging started) It's also been dawning on me that exploration was well under way for the Northern Germanic people prior to and during what we call the viking age.
I've been researching the development of the Norsk people's ship-building, fishing, trading expeditions, and exploration. They wanted to know and see. It started by sailing around their own coastlines and seeing what they could see. It started by younger men and their boats moving up the coastline to find better fishing and fertile farmland, and then plopping down their roots.
I ask the question, how did they start expanding their trade? I can only imagine the scenarios. A lot of it has to do with migration of Germanic people. But a lot has to do with the heart of an explorer. We know the Vikings assimilated great knowledge from other people into their culture and made it their own. The only way they could do that is to boldly go out, with a great self-confidence and learn from observation and from other people. What is evident, according to the Authors of 'Viking Art,' David M. Wilson and Ole Klindt-Jensen, is that traders in the Viking age knew what they liked and what their customers liked and many foreign objects became study pieces to assimilate into their own style. And they were hungry to understand the outside world, and to gain more of their goods.
At a time when the known world was small, and the Romans had advanced as far north as they were going to go, the Vikings were busy charting the unknown and communicating that through their network of ships and trade. Their only boundaries were their own safety as they traveled, traded and fought off people who would plunder their wares. In some places like Novgorod and Kiev, they established strongholds, fortresses, to protect their storehouses and trade goods, and keep the trade route itself open for their own use.
There are also stories, or sagas passed down verbally of vikings who sailed out just to explore and see what was beyond. They had a confidence in their sailing abilities and were not afraid of going beyond their knowledge. It's evident in their stories they were cautious of attack from hostile tribes, but that's more an indication of what life was like for everyone in the early Viking age.
Jumping forward to now, thousands of years later, I acknowledge that my own life is more fulfilling when I'm learning and exploring. I got to know the Geography of the entire Twin Cities on my bicycle. And I brought back memories, such as the Fox on the edge of the Fort Snelling State Park, watching me bike by one foggy morning. And frequently when my wife and I are driving somewhere obscure, I'll say something like, "Oh, turn here, I know where we are!" because it turns out, I've biked there. Everywhere from Blaine to Hastings, from Stillwater to Hopkins and Eden Prairie. Bicycling changed my attitude and my life. I met a lot of people on bicycles who have the heart of an explorer. People who want to see and experience life around them and beyond their own house, family, and jobs. Last year I took a long bike ride from the Farm up North of Hinckley, about 90 miles and I learned some very interesting things.
So, In my quest to become a Viking, I'm re-instituting my bicycle exploration and I'm taking notes. A bicycle is a great way to explore, and like the ancient vikings, be out in the elements and really see the natural world around me. Just like seeing that Fox on the edge of the park, watching me.
I'm planning on making my own rope from the inner bark of a tree, like people in the Viking age did. The heart of an explorer is learning and experiencing new and foreign things. Even if they are ancient technology, lost in Modern times. Thor Heyerdahl taught me something about experiential archeology. He built a straw boat of the ancient world to prove that it could have happened and to experience it happening. By experiencing he also shed light on what it must have been like and what those ancient people went through to accomplish what they did. "Thor Heyerdahl (October 6, 1914, Larvik, Norway - April 18, 2002, Colla Micheri, Italy) was a Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer with a background in zoology and geography. He became notable for his Kon-Tiki expedition, in which he sailed 8,000 km (5,000 mi) across the Pacific Ocean in a self-built raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands in 1947." - Wikipedia.
My first expedition by bicycle this year was to the library to check out a book called the Bicycle Diaries, by David Byrne. "Byrne's choice was initially made out of convenience rather than political motivation, but the more cities he saw from his bicycle, the more he became hooked on this mode of transport and the sense of liberation, exhilaration, and connection it provided. This point of view, from his bike seat, became his panoramic window on urban life, a magical way of opening one's eyes to the inner workings and rhythms of a city's geography and population." - from his book.
I hope to learn from Byrne's heart of exploration, and develop and record my own version of experiential archeology, and feel part of what life was like in the Viking age and experience life which I do not yet see, right now.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:59 AM | Bicycles | Learning | Life | Purpose

Category "Bicycles"

Category "Winter-Biking"

March 6, 2010

Come on Spring!

This picture is for my Father who doesn't see my Facebook posts. This is me commuting to work on Friday. I think the picture is funny mainly because of the huge snowbank right behind me. I also put studded tires on my bike Thursday night, so I did not slip at all Friday, even when riding on big ice patches. You know those melted-and-refrozen patches of ice?
John-3-5-2010.jpg
By Today when I rode to the bike shop and back, I think I hardly would have needed those studded tires. And with the warmer weather, biking felt amazing! And evidently I am not the only one who thinks so. Yesterday a whole flock of bike racers flew across my path on their training ride. (St. Paul Bike Racing Club) And today I saw at least a dozen individuals out riding their bikes! Is it Spring or is it Spring Fever? Come on Spring! Ready or not, here we come!

Posted by carl1236 at 11:03 PM | Bicycles | Winter-Biking

Category "Bicycles"

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Motorcycles"

February 19, 2010

Our Family Cars

Not every family owns a car. In the United States it has become a rite of passage for youth into adulthood. To own a car is to be independent and adult. Owning a car has been known as a sign of status and the nicer the car, the higher the recognition of having arrived at the big time.
But as I said, not everyone owns a car and some families own only one car for multiple drivers and they take turns. Now there are even car-share programs where you rent a car hourly. That's a cool idea if you primarily walk, ride bike, motorcycle or take public transportation. Sometimes you need to carry bigger stuff from point A to point B.
Before I go into talking about the cars my family had as I was growing up, and the meaning that had for me, I want to talk about the period in my life when I gave away my motorcycle and my car to ride a bike. In 2004 I started riding my bike everywhere and when winter came around I bought a 'winter bike' to ride all year. That showed me I could and did live without a car. Of course my wife still had her car, but my primary mode of transportation was bicycle. I realized I wasn't using my motorcycle and car so I gave them away. I felt wonderfully energized and much more fit.
I did that for a couple of years before switching jobs and facing the nightmares of a commute over an hour long and bus rides that were one and a half to two hours long with multiple transfers. And then the job was really demanding with a lot of late hours, so I decided I needed more sleep and I bought a motorcycle, then a car. Now I am right back where I was before 2004. And my health is much worse for it. It was a great experience that taught me to think about owning a car in much different ways.
But this kind of thinking is not at all what I experienced as I was growing up. There was great nostalgia around our cars. There was romance and drama and great adventure. We took long trips in cars, some of them I was too young to remember. And one of the greatest adventures in a car was the drive-in theater! There we watched such wonderful classics such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! and the Love Bug. Cars had their own personalities. My dad was even part of the dirt-track race scene with a 1955 Chevy named 'Wiki-Wiki' number 99. "Wiki-wiki" means "hurry quick" in Hawaiian. It also refers to a type of fish native to the islands. Not to be confused with the short, very rapid back and forth movements of a record called affectionately 'wicky wicky'.
But back to the nostalgia of our cars. I remember getting into our jammies and heading out the drive-in theater and watching our cars dramatized in all their glory. They were the heroes of our stories. And later general Lee was born on the back roads as the dukes of hazards made it glorious to drive fast away from the law. I don't drive like that, thankfully. But we sure loved our cars and loved the thought of speed. One of my brother's first cars was even a Charger, which I drove only one time at 110 mph. The whole front end of that thing was a shakin' and that was the end of my desire to drive fast.
And we learned to drive in our parents cars. Then we drove our parents cars on dates and to our first jobs. My dad taught me how to drive in a pickup truck with a manual transmission. I remember the long rod in those trucks reaching down into the floor and the large plastic bulb on top. My first car was not a stick, but my second one was. The first car I had was a tank. My dad traded a freezer for it. It ran only so so and my dad had to fix it for me, which he was good at. I wasn't so much. In fact my dad has fixed a lot of cars in his life time. So there was more than nostalgia going on in our house. There were also project cars, like the 1963 corvair monza spider with rear engine. That was a cool car. I think that was even turbo charged.
When I graduated from high school, I went into the army, went through training and then was stationed at Ft. Hood in Texas. Then I needed a car. So what did I buy? A turbo charged ford mustang! Yes, I got a ticket driving that thing. And I wore out the turbo charge unit and my dad helped me take it out because I couldn't afford to fix it. Then the little engine just couldn't jump past other cars when passing.
Like every new parent that has to haul kids around, we quickly discovered that it was a real pain in the but to get a car seat in and out of the back seat of a two-door car. We had to buy a family car then. So we got a four door plymouth reliant k-car. And that brings me right back to the cars we had as a family when I was growing up. We had station wagons, four-door sedans and trucks. And we always had multiple vehicles around. Basically we were a family-car family. And most of those were Fords, because my dad found that working on those was easier and they were fairly reliable. There was a little bit of brand loyalty going on there too I think. I probably should not even joke about the meaning of the word F.O.R.D: "Found on the Road Dead." I tried that line on the last Ford dealer we went to and the salesman wasn't amused. He said something like, "Oh yeah, I've heard that before. People sure like that old joke."
Now I'm thinking about spring already and it's not my car I'm dreaming about. When it went above freezing the other day, all I could think about was, "If it wasn't for the ice on this road, I could be riding my motorcycle. When winter subsides, my car once again will sit in the driveway all summer, and I will be either on the motorcycle or on the bicycle. Last year I rode my bicycle to work only three times, but I'm thinking that I might enjoy the fresh air a little more this year and bicycle more and use it to help me get back into shape. See how I managed to turn this story about cars into one about bicycles? And fitness related to getting out my cars? I think I'll name my bicycle "Wiki-Wiki" after how fast my heart beats when riding it.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:43 PM | Bicycles | Journal in a Jar | Motorcycles

Category "Bicycles"

July 10, 2009

Bike Adventure 2

Hey we are taking this one step at a time. Today I rode my fixie to work. After work I decided to revisit the little book shop I found last weekend. And since I was going to be in the area decided I need to visit my friends Jim and Kevin at Hiawatha Cyclery. Last week when I rode by their shop it was the fourth of July and they were out riding bikes too! They have a great shop in South Minneapolis and if you are looking for a commuting/touring bike, they know their stuff. Another cool thing? They are having a ride from there to the St. Paul Farmers market in the morning at 8am. Bring your paniers and baskets, cause the farmers market is awesome. I never leave that place without some really fresh veggies and cheese. For a change of pace, and to get back into exercise, I'll be going on that ride! Fun huh? I am totally into rides with destinations - much more fun than rides for training, unless, of course you enjoy training. Which I might sometimes.
Here is the link to Hiawatha's information:
http://hiawathacyclery.blogspot.com/2009/07/sidewalk-sale.html

They also have a sidewalk sale going on this weekend - nice bikes!

ride on. or ride again. or ride some more. It does feel good.

Posted by carl1236 at 8:52 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

July 5, 2009

Lovin your fixie!

I built a new fixed gear bike on a 1984 Motobecane Super Mirage frame. I built the wheels from Weinman DP18's and Dimension hubs, DT Swiss double butted spokes.
I replaced the bottom bracket, regreased the headset bearings, put on new cane creek road and cross levers - this is a cool setup by the way, I love being able to brake from the top!. And I put on Tektro long reach brakes. Crankset is Origin-8. The seat is by Fizik. Here are the pics.
Motofixie1.jpg
motofixie2.jpg

Now for the ride. Yesterday I went on nice ride on my new bike. I headed south out of St. Paul along highway 13, to the mendota bridge, past fort snelling, past the VA hospital to Lake Nikomis, up the west side to Lake Harriet and Calhoun, then on to the Midtown Greenway, Lake Street, Marshall avenue, with final stop at Sibley Bike Depot. And finishing my ride at 3pm was perfect timing, because the skies opened up in a torrential downpour, which I completely escaped. What a beautiful fourth of July adventure!
A couple highlights:
I discovered this unique, interesting, packed full bookstore and owner; "The Book Trader" I love books anyway, so how can I not love the self-proclaimed mistress of books, the great Fluffy! She's an interesting person I'd like to get to know better. A sign on her door stating her "New hours," basically every day of the week, has a statement at the bottom which says something like, "Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated."
Very true given I found her quite alive and kind of feisty. Especially when talking about Wally world. Fluffy claims that through informal polling she discovered that the same people that shop at Wally world do not read books. I didn't admit to having shopped at Wally world, but I have and she knew it. And I do read books. And books she has. Fluffy also knows where everything is in her store. Amazing since there are five or seven rooms full of books floor to ceiling, and stacked up in the isles. This is a cool place. But hm. I was supposed to be out for a ride. I didn't want to carry books on my ride so I left the store promising to come back a different time to explore.
TheBookTrader.jpg

Posted by carl1236 at 7:29 AM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

June 20, 2008

Miscounted Hub Holes

Well, I'm finally building my fixed gear bike I bought all of the parts for, two years ago! The start of the project is to build my own wheels. The back wheel actually is going fine so far, but when I started on the front wheel I discovered the hub I bought has only 32 holes, vs. the 36 holes in the rear and in the rims I bought. So now I have to hunt for a good front hub to replace this one. I should have learned more about what I was getting before I bought. But I had this stuff picked out for me by someone who should know. I call it distraction. Too caught up in other life activities to make sure the right objects were assembled for the job.
But I think this project will finally get built.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:36 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

May 31, 2008

Bicycle Update

Tonight I re-wrapped my handlebar tape because this moring, with the way I strapped my bike down on the bike rack, it rubbed against the rack and ripped up the tape in one spot. Then I creatively engineered adjustable slides for the front fender. I dyed the leather toestraps whiter, and took her for a six mile maiden voyage with my co-workers today at lunch. Back fender and headset is tomorrow.

Posted by carl1236 at 12:09 AM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

May 19, 2008

Bike Jerks All City Championship in July


Bike Jerks All-City Championship from BikeJerks on Vimeo.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:37 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

April 23, 2008

Velo-Trike-Car experiment

The other day I picked up an electric motor and battery from an old, non-working Razor skateboard/scooter. It probably won't work for my trike experiment, but we'll see. I can probably salvage the throttle if nothing else. The motor says it can work for up to 100 pounds max.
So as soon as I learn how to weld, I get started on making my own recumbent trike, electric assist for commuting longer distances and hauling loads. Wheel see how it goes.

Posted by carl1236 at 7:10 AM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

March 21, 2008

Transportation Alternatives

Walking is an alternative form of transportation that's been around for centuries. Many people have the ability to walk without additional equipment or training. That we learn at a very young age.
It's a viable form of transportation that works. It carry me from my living room to the kitchen to refuel. It can carry me from the kitchen to my car, about 30-40 paces. It can magically carry me from my car to my office cubicle, another hundred or so paces because I have to park farther away. Walking doesn't have to carry me to the bank anymore because it's all done electronically now.
Lets look at my alternatives.
A. I can drive my car to work
B. I can ride in a car with other people to work
B. I can ride in several busses to work
C. I can ride a bike to work
D. I can walk to work
E. I can combine any of the above
To drive a car to and from work takes me about 50 minutes each day
To ride bussess to and from work takes me about 3 hours each day
To bike to and from work takes about 2 hours and twenty minutes each day
To walk to and from work takes, um, well, I only walked home once, late at night when the busses stopped running. Around midnight my wife got angry with me for walking alone in the dark through a 'troubled' part of town so came and picked me up in a car. Another fourty five minutes and I would have been home on my own two legs.
But walking is probably the cheapest form of transportation overall. The most affordable, requiring very little extra equipment. I'd need the same stuff to walk from my house to the car in the dead of winter. And I don't need to pay for mandatory liability insurance in case I hit someone, or something, with my body while walking. There are many other hidden costs, the larger and more complex the moving machine is. As with many things in life, simpler is less expensive and healthier.
Of course, I can't carry much with me while walking. It gets tiring after a while! I might need a cart or one of those super-light modern baby strollers to haul my stuff around. And there is the cold and the ice. It gets harsh being out in the elements in our winter. But I can do it. If I put enough on and cover all exposed skin.
It's no wonder we love our cars in this country. They have afforded me all kinds of possibilities and opportunities I would not have had without fast, comfortable, powerful transportation.
But sadly, A look at the recent auto shows where car manufacturers unveiled all of their modern fuel-alternatives cars and SUV's, shows that there is really nothing new there. All they have done is upped the fuel efficiency by a micron. Many of the vehicles are smaller, but the prices of these modern wonders aren't getting more affordable with less vehicle. It is simple math though to figure that the less weight you carry around the more fuel efficient you are. Thus the invention of carbon fiber bikes. For racing it makes sense. For exercise it means you have to ride farther to get the same workout. But lighter bikes are more fun when going up steep hills. Gravity works.
So, the thoughts are brewing around in my head to create my own affordable alternative form of transportation that protects me from the elements and allows me to get around faster than I can on foot. My goal would be to get me to and from work and other places faster than I could on a bicycle, but maybe slower than a point to point drive in a car. I could trade off a little time if I had to.
My ideas are not new either though. But maybe the time is right to bring back some old ideas, like velo cars. This one was created in 1938.
velo-brown-1938.jpg
In Minnesota an enclosed tricycle sounds like just the thing to keep me from getting frostbite in the sub-zero weather and keep me from falling over on the ice. Mine would be electric assist so I don't get as tired and so I could haul bigger loads.
Something like this modern velocar looks more comfortable than the 1938 version. Still the same concept.
What do you think? Do any of you have a velo car and want to chat about the pros and cons? I would especially love to hear about ideas that would improve on this idea as I contemplate designing and building something for myself. Anyone have a used one for sale?

Posted by carl1236 at 6:14 AM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

March 2, 2008

Sibley Bike Depot Open House

We recently moved the non-profit, community-based bicycling center to it's new home at 712 University Avenue and are planning on starting some new programs, including bike recycling, maintenance classes, after school programs, and Earn-a-bike schemes. WE WANT YOUR INPUT! Come see what it's all about, learn how you can contribute, and tell us what you think!

Thursday, March 6th, 7:00pm

NEW LOCATION:

712 University Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104

All New/Used Wheels Half Price! (we need to make space)

email sandyrobson@gmail.com with questions or just to say, HEY, cool!
You will really dig our new space: Hint, it's heated! and has great lighting inside!

Hope to see you there! If you do come to this and are one of the people who read this blog, be sure to mention it to me. I'd love to meet you.

John

Posted by carl1236 at 11:30 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

Category "Music"

August 13, 2007

Ten Days with Jeff Ray

I didn't listen to Jeff Ray at all today. But a spark that started a flame has prompted a search for a new creative endeavor for me. Actually several sparks, several fires, an interest in beginning and and creating new beautiful things. It's like the flame of magic on my fingertips as I touch the flower bud and see it open and bloom. The cool, silver liquid flowing through me, spreading outward and through me, bringing out the beauty that is hiding, waiting to be released. Calling to be released.
I don't have any money to buy the instrument I found, but I'm solving that problem by selling two extra bikes I have. Anyone want to buy a bike? I have a brown Schwinn Suburban five speed that I just love commuting on. I'll sell it for 60 dollars. It's in great working order and has a rack on back for hauling stuff. New, semi-knobby 27" tires for all condition riding. I rode with those tires last winter and it handled most conditions and kept my upright. It's a classy old-style upright bike with comfortable spring seat.
And I have an antique rod-brake british 3-speed that is a little too tall for me. This is a great bike that needs the right owner. It works and has new brake pads. I'm 5'10" so you would need to be taller than me to really fit this bike. I would sell this for 100 dollars.
Selling these two bikes would buy me a used mandolin I found. Anyone interested in helping me get this instrument? Need a bike?
The other creative spark is the collective yoga/spiritual/healing/arts center I'm becoming involved in creating. We met for the second time tonight. There is a very cool energy that comes from beginning something new, creating something that comes from everyone involved.
Jeff Ray, you rock. I think it's energy in your soul that always smiles and radiates out with your music.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:06 PM | Bicycles | Music

Category "Bicycles"

June 23, 2007

The Sibley Bike Depot is moving!

It's official. The Sibley Bike Depot in St. Paul has to find new space. If anyone knows of cheap, or free space let me know. A benefactor/Partner/Sponsor would be great. Someone who sees a value in keeping bicycle recycling and social programs with bikes going. The Sibley Bike Depot is a Non-Profit 501c3 organization. Any leads would be appreciated. The sooner we find a new space the better.
John

Posted by carl1236 at 11:45 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

December 16, 2006

Eleven bikes back on the road

Today I went down to the shop with Terry, Bonnie, Ken, Frank and Dave and worked on kids bike to donate to a local non-profit organization that works with families with AIDS. Every year they put together a care package for each family with all kinds of things in them. This year Thanks to Bonnie's organization, and everyone's help fixing up bikes today, they will get to include ten bikes for those families with kids. It was a fun way to spend a day. We got pizza and joked around and got them all fixed and running. In addition to those ten bikes, we also fixed a bike up for a guy's wife to ride. He didn't have much money but we found a bike her size and I fixed it up for him. It was fun, and I'm happy they'll have bikes to ride together.
That was awesome. Now I'm tired and ready to snuggle up in the warmth (the shop is not heated so winter work is a little chilly).

Posted by carl1236 at 4:42 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

October 4, 2006

The progression of a bike repair

Tonight I decided to work on my own bike at the shop. It's been skipping in the gears as I put pressure on the pedals. So it's been a little irritating and I had to take some time to figure out what the problem was and fix it. Especially before winter hits. Here's how it progressed...
Step 1: Check chain with a chain checker to see if it's worn. It's really worn out.
Step 2: Find used chain that is not worn out. Too short. Find another chain. Too short. Splice two chains together. Discover one sprocket has two missing teeth.
Step 3: Hunt around and find an old five-speed freewheel to replace it with.
Step 4: Take off wheel and see that axel is bent also.
Step 5: Find an old 27" steel wheel, which has an appropriate freewheel on it already.
Step 6: Clean it, lube it, put a new rim strip on, and transfer tire from old wheel.
Step 7: Put new wheel on and discover it is a little narrower than my frame, so put a spacer on the inside. Discover derailer now doesn't work properly.
Step 8: Discover cable housing is rusted, replace it.
Step 9: Derailer bolt breaks while tightening the cable.
Step 10: Recycle the derailer and find an appropriate old replacement.
Step 11: Take the chain apart again to thread it through the derailer and reconnect chain.
Step 12: Inflate tire.
Step 13: Adjust derailer to hit all of the gears.
Step 14: Transfer magnets for magnetic lights from old wheel to new wheel.
Step 15: Lubricate chain and derailer.
Step 16: Look at the time and realize just how long all of this took.
Step 17: Ride home on nearly empty streets.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:22 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

Category "Winter-Biking"

September 24, 2006

The Dumpster Bike gets a makover - One Year Later

Tonight in my living room I gave my dumpster bike a makover for my winter commuting experience. I did it in my living room so I could socialize with my family while working on it. My daughter thought it was kind of wierd and geeky, but it's done and I wasn't out in the garage. Hey, I kept it clean and cleaned up after myself! It's all good. haha. Here is a link to the first re-cycling of my dumpster bike. I can't believe I've been riding this bike off and on for over a year hardly putting any money into it. I purposefully got creative and used things that were thrown out to fix it. For instance, I put patches on my tubes and boots in the tires where there were holes and I wired old fenders on and so on.
But thinking about winter, I thought I'd prepare a strategy for dealing with my commute. It's better to do it now than when I have to roll out at 5am at 20 below zero. So I finally replaced the dumpster tires with brand new knobby 27" tires. Yes, new tires with traction! woo hoo!
I was also lacking handlebar tape, so here I got creative. In the garage I was looking around for some tape when I spotted some old tape laying on the workbench that I was too lazy to throw out. No, not enough of it and it was torn up. That's why I took that off my racing bike in the first place. It was in an accident and had road rash. I had a flash of inspiration when I was feeling the texture of it. It felt a lot like an old innertube. YES! If an old innertube was cut just right, it would act just like handlebar tape. Perfect for the added grip needed during the winter I thought. So I sliced the tube exactly in half. One 27" innertube covered both sides just like true handlebar tape would have. Oh yes, I did need a couple of snips from another tube to go over the brake levers. So I did it and it seems to work very well. Let's see how well it holds up compared to handlebar tape. I bet it will work very well this winter and it did not cost me anything.
I'm going to ride it into work in the morning just to make sure it's ready. My strategy this winter is to have two bikes ready to go as commuters all the time and alternate so I can maintain them and have a backup. Both bikes are going to have skinny knobby tires. My current commuter bike already has one on the rear so I just need a second one. Why did I come up with this strategy? Several reasons: My mountain bike got really beat up with the salt and sand this last winter. So I wanted an older, heavier bike to ride in the winter. I rode my dumpster bike last winter and I really liked the way it handled with skinny tires verses my fat mountain bike tires. Every time it snowed I was floating over the snow on my mountain bike. With the dumpster bike I was cutting through it, even with slick tires! So I put my mountain bike away for the winter. Now I have just upgraded my mountain bike to a lighter, faster bike for racing so I don't want to muck it all up. It's expensive to replace components! Also last year, my derailer froze up many times and got stuck in an inconvenient gear. The dumpster bike is essential a single speed freewheel, since I removed the derailer from it originally. There is only one gear and no shifting to get mucked up. My second commuter bike will probably get ridden on the nicer days this winter. We'll see how my strategy works. I think it will be good to have a backup in case I can't fix one right away. Especially if I'm running late for work, haha. I can just grab one and go. I'm hoping for more flexibility. I'll let you know how it goes.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:07 PM | Bicycles | Winter-Biking

Category "Attitude"

Category "Bicycles"

September 23, 2006

Driving in the Rain

I'm not sure when it happened, but now I know I do not like driving in cars. I drove a couple hours to my parents house in the dark and rain on Thursday night. Then I went to Duluth and back with them on Friday. I spent Saturday morning helping my brother with a bike project, then since we didn't want to go for a leisure ride in the rain, I packed it up and came home after lunch. It rained the whole way home. It's still raining. I did not enjoy driving in the rain at all. Everytime someone passed me I could hardly see where I was driving. And then there was the semi trucks that create a wall of water when they pass. I'm glad to be back and look forward to riding my bike to the shop tomorrow morning. Even running in the rain is going to be more fun I think than driving in it. That's my plan for tonight. Rain running.

Posted by carl1236 at 5:29 PM | Attitude | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

August 8, 2006

Drilling a derailer adjuster out

My cable adjuster in the rear derailer snapped off in the derailer hole and I had to drill it out. I nearly wrecked the derailer but it was shot anyway. I did a pretty good job of it but it was time consuming and now it's back together and the bike is working. I should have just replaced the whole cable and housing at the same time, since the sticky housing is what got me started on this repair in the first place. The cable is all twisted and rusted, so I'm going to replace that tomorrow. Maybe put a new derailer on that I can adjust again. My mountain bike race is on August 26, about 3 weeks from now so I'd better get it working good enough so I don't have troubles with it during the race. I remember last winter this thing got stuck in one gear while racing on the ice and it was a pain. I could have won one race too if I had another gear to shift into. But it's a good thing I'm working on it now rather than the night before the race haha.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:23 PM | Bicycles

Category "Attitude"

Category "Bicycles"

June 22, 2006

Everything slows down

Everything slows down when you are carrying a bin full of books on the back of your bicycle. As I was riding home I realized that this is probably the maximum weight this old dumpster bike could handle on the backend. Any kind of side-to-side motion in pedalling sent the bike wobbling. Then my back tire was really low.
Going up the Smith Avenue bridge was fine, just really, really slow. I just kept a nice steady pace and the workhorse made it.
I can get the books home, but now I have to find a place to put them, haha. It was nice to take a really slow ride home tonight. It gave me time to think. The added weight basically enabled me to have this use of my time.

Posted by carl1236 at 7:58 PM | Attitude | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

Category "Cycle Racing"

Category "Life"

June 18, 2006

The Bike Race in Stillwater

Today I went to see the pro bicycle race in Stillwater. It was really interesting and fun to watch. It was difficult to know who the riders were, with only a general idea based on their team colors. But the announcers down below the hill did a good job of announcing the race and filling us in on who the fast riders were, who was favored to win and who was keeping their overall lead even if they didn't win today's stage.
This race FELT brutal just watching it. I had trouble walking up that hill. I did get a chance to get all the way around the course during the woman's and men's races to watch it from different angles. The speeds on the downhills and cornering were incredible and the raw power going up the hills was impressive. I had greater respect for the bike racers after seeing this race. Even the ones that got dropped from the race have my respect. An hour-long ride at those speeds on this course would have killed me, haha. Well, actually, no, it wouldn't have killed me, I would have been dropped before that happened. Not saying I'm not a good bike rider, but I just know from trying bicycle racing myself how hard it really is and how well-prepared the the athletes have to be for races like this.
Then after the fun of seeing pro bicyle races, I got to ride my bicycle back and join my family for a Father's Day dinner. What an excellent day!
Oh by the way, bicycling the Gateway trail is a cool way to get to Stillwater. There were hundreds of bicycllists out there. It's almost exactly 6 miles from the end of the Gateway trail to downtown Stillwater at highway 36. Pretty soon though they are going to have to widen that bicycle highway to accomodate all the traffic, haha. I think the roller-bladers had the roughest time avoiding the bicylists that weren't sharing the trail very well. I don't know any statistics, but I've been on that trail several times in the past month and saw the same levels of use. Of course those were all during the weekends, but it's a hopeful sign to me that people really really like and use this trail.

Posted by carl1236 at 8:44 PM | Bicycles | Cycle Racing | Life

Category "Bicycles"

Category "Love your Neighbor"

June 4, 2006

The Scrapper

My life gets kind of interesting sometimes. I go down paths I never would have imagined traveling when I was younger or even just a few years ago. In the last few years I've had many opportunities to go WAY beyond my known boundaries and limits, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I have learned to love people and respect people that I would have judged and condemned in the past.
Recently I've met Lester the Scrapper. He makes his living by scrapping metals such as steel and aluminum. Our meeting came about because we at the bike shop are being forced to change our mode of operation. We used to scrap our own metal. We recycled bicycles that were in too rough of shape or too junky to repair and salvaged parts that could be used on other bikes for repair. We had a huge pile of steel outside of the shop and when we got over 500 pounds of it we could go turn it in for cash at the recycling company. 500 pounds is the minimum they wanted to deal with and would only pay you for loads over that amount. General we made about 30-50 dollars per load, depending on the price of steel. Aluminum is more valuable and break that down into smaller pieces and save it in bins until we turn it in for the cash. We have to save the parts for reuse anyway, so scrapping the old steel is another source of revenue to help pay the shop rent.
But since the new condo owners all around the bike shop started complaining about a salvage operation in their backyards, we were forced out of the scrapping business. It was too unsightly. So for us it was a great deal to just give the steel to a small-time scrapper who made his living by scrapping metals. These people are feeding off the bottom and providing a vital resource recovery function in our society of waste. I know a couple of these guys now and both of them are receiving the same kind of scorn and pressure from neighbors who don't like scrapping operations going on in their neighborhoods. It's a messy business by nature. It's junk collecting. It's the collecting of other peoples refuse, saving the good stuff and recycling the rest. It's amazing what people throw away! Someone made a comment the other day that scrapping is like being a catcher at the pooper end of the consumer lifestyle. People around the neighborhood like the idea of cheap repairs and cheap recycled bicycles, but don't realize that those are made possible because we RE-USE parts that come off old-discarded bikes. So at the bike shop we still do the scrapping, but we no longer make any money from it. We have Lester pick up the scrap weekly. We tear the stuff down, save the good parts, make a smaller pile in the shop, which we don't really have the room for, then Lester comes and gets free steel which he then adds to his other steel to make money. It's a great relationship given our circumstances and our need to "clean up our act," so to speak.
But now Lester is facing the same problem in his neighborhood. He has a junk-pile yard and the city is forcing him to clean it up, which basically will mean he cannot do his sorting and recycling operations on that property anymore. This is where I came into the picture of this story. This is where it's heading. Today I became a substitute scrapper. Lester came to us at the bike shop and asked if we could take the load of bikes he had in the back of his pickup truck because he had to clean it out of his yard or get fined by the city who was inspecting the following day. We were already overwhelmed with piles of bikes at the shop and had no room. We are under strict rules to not have any junk outside anymore. So we had to turn Lester away from the shop. But I felt sorry for Lester and his situation. I like helping the underdog who is being forced to "clean up their act so they are socially acceptable." Lester is one of the nicest men I know and trying to make an honest living off of everyone elses crap. Except society tells him, you can't do that in my neighborhood, it's too messy! haha. So I told Lester to drop it in my driveway and I would strip it down and take the rubber off the wheels and call him when he can pick it up again. So that's what I did today after I got home from the shop. I started with a pile of crap in my driveway and ended up with two good lightweight-steel frames which I will turn into custom-painted fixed-gears. I also extracted some other valuable parts from wrecked frames. I sorted and restacked the steel. So now I call lester to come back and get his steel. Today I was the scrapping operation. It took a lot of time to do this. Is it worth it? According to my day job pay scale, no, it hardly scratches the surface of what I could be making doing something like computer programming or web design or software training. Scrapping for money is not a high-profit business for small operations. It is something to do. And it's kind of fun tearing things apart and fun making new things that work out of junk. It feels good to know that some of this refuse will be put back into use and the steel will eventually get reused instead of coming out of the ground.
My day was very interesting and I learned a lot about bikes and how they go together by taking them apart. I also did a little research on the couple of parts I pulled out for salvage. My scrapping day is over, but now I have to get the steel out of my driveway before the neighbors complain! I don't think Lester will complain that I took all the rubber of the wheels and made his pile more compact. I don't think Lester will complain that he was spared a citation because he was able to haul his pile to some other location while the inspectors were there. The pile in my driveway is probably worth 30 bucks to Lester which will probably pay for a few days worth of gas for him, or buy groceries for a week or something. So It's worth it to me to help him out when he's in a bind.
In our society I think we try to hide the ugly, unsightly aspects of our consumerism and we don't like to talk about the pooper end of our consumption. One of my neighbors was observing me today and said that when he was a kid and his bike broke, he didn't get a new bike, he had to find a way to fix it. When a frame bent or broke, someone in town welded it back together. There were other interesting fixes he told me about, but the point was that his bicycles did not get replaced when they became unsightly or damaged. They got fixed not disposed of. Now days, we dispose of things just because we want the newer model, even if the old is still useable and in good condition.
And we push people like Lester out of the scrapping business because of the unsightliness of it all. Don't poop in MY neighborhood! MY Property Value will be Lower! Lester is a beautiful person. He is kind and gentle and friendly. What is the value of his life and livelihood? Does it mean less than appearances? This is our society, we make these kinds of choices all the time.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:31 PM | Bicycles | Love your Neighbor

Category "Bicycles"

June 3, 2006

The Custom Single-Speed-Fixed-Gear Bike

I don't have a name for it yet, but it's coming. A bike of this proportion aught to have a name. Maybe it could be something like "Melvin" because Melvin is a cool dude. I don't know, but tonight I paid for and brought home all the components to make my own single-speed-fixed-gear bike. It will of course have a custom paint job. I am hand-painting this frame and already have the primer, paint and clearcoat to do it.
The pieces I'm starting with:
Frame - old japanese steel frame with nice-looking lugs.
Wheels and hubs - new rims, spokes and rear flip-flop hub - I have to build them
Tires - new 700c x 23c racing tires.
Handlebars - very cool old randenuering bars.

Dave and I are on a mission now to each build our own bikes. He said he would start his when I start mine. Well, today I started by purchasing and bringing it all home to work on. First step? Strip and paint the frame.

Now I have to tell you another story that will be related. I got a bunch of junk bikes dropped in my driveway today and I found another nice frame a little taller than the one I have, so I am going to make that identical to the one I was planning on building so I can try them both. Then I will sell the other one.

So, it's interesting and I'm excited to make these two bikes pieces of art!

Posted by carl1236 at 11:53 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

May 31, 2006

Crash, bang, fall over, play dead

On Sunday morning I crashed my bike. It was at the tail end of a hard 30-mile training ride. In that crash I bent my handlebars, cut my hand and left thigh and caused some damage to a car. Everything still functioned on my bike although my left arm now extends a couple of inches further out, so I decided to just ride it that way this morning for a 15-mile ride before work. I was down by Fort Snelling, just coming up to Shepard Road from the park and I got a flat tire on the rear wheel. hmmm. I thought I had my toolkit with me, but no. I was stranded there and started walking, carrying my bike. Thankfully a nice guy stopped to help and gave me a tube and helped me get back on the road. It would have been a long walk back to downtown St. Paul! So I'm thankful for the help.
Then tonight I came to a stop and I got stuck in my clips and lost my balance and fell over, damaging the rear derailer. As I was riding the derailer got stuck in the spokes and bent one. Now my wheel is crooked. After that, it got more interesting because my chain broke. There I sat at 11:35pm in a residential neighborhood on a deserted street under a streetlight putting my chain back together. Yes, I got smart after the flat tire and made sure I had my kit with me tonight. After I put my chain back together and started riding, I get chattering in the front derailer no matter which gear I am in. So it's now a little off. Maybe because of the bent handlebars. Now I have to get some parts and really, seriously repair and tune up this bike!

Posted by carl1236 at 11:25 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

May 13, 2006

Scrapping a Bike

Today I scrapped an old Huffy 3-speed and salvaged the Shimano hub. The rest went into the steel scrap bin to be recycled. It's an interesting experience to know each piece taken off will be smelted down and reused in sheet metal or something.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:59 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

March 29, 2006

The Bicycle Sale is on

On Friday Macalaster College's "Mac Bikes" student organization is selling 25 used, recycled bicycles to benefit our non-profit community bike shop. It took a lot of hands to get it all ready, but tonight we delivered. This sale is a good thing in a lot of ways: It's getting old bikes out of the waste stream, putting them back into use, providing low-cost bikes to those that need low-cost bikes and providing funding to keep our programs going. So if you are looking for a good deal on a bicycle, check out Macalaster College on Friday.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:36 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

February 25, 2006

Burger King Drive-Through Refused to Serve me on a bicycle

So tonight I rode my bike to Minneapolis and then later rode back to St. Paul. It was a long ride and I was hungry. I stopped at the Burger King on Grand Avenue close to Smith Avenue, 35 E near downtown St. Paul. Their inner store was closed but the drive-through was open. So I rode through the drive through. I went to their ordering mechanism and no-one came on the loudspeaker to take my order (must be weight sensitive). There were no cars around at that time, so I rode up to the serving window and the kid at the window said he can't serve me. I asked to speak to the Manager and the manager sounded angry and told me to leave, that he could not serve walk-ups. I told him I didn't walk up, I drove up on my bicycle. Then he stammered and said, "well we can only serve motorized vehicles." I said that was discrimination and that my bicycle IS my vehicle. It's a legal street vehicle and my only means of transportation. Then he told me it's too dangerous, that a car will hit me, so he cannot serve me. Then I asked him if he serves motorcycles and he said yes. I asked him if a car would hit a motorcycle. He then told me he'd serve me but made me get off my bike and put it on the other side of the drive, past the bushes and stand over there out of the way of the cars. There were no cars at that time. Then as he was yelling across the drive at me, he asked me what I wanted and I told him. Then a car came and he told me that the car was his priority and he served the person in the car. Then when no-one was there he took my order and then told me this was the last time and that he would not serve me again in the drive through. I told him that that's discrimination and he told me, "no, it's safety. And told me again that the drive through is for motorized vehicles only. So there it is. In my view I cannot see how a bicycle is any more dangerous in a drive through than a motorcycle. Also, it was very clear to me he did not see a bicycle as a vehicle, but saw me as a pedestrian. This is the way our society sees bicycles now. There was a time however when the bicycle was a major form of transportation, a technological innovation and used extensively in everyday commerce. Road were built for bycles. Now days, a drive through discriminates against a person on a bicycle because it's not a car or truck. I've eaten at that Burger King before but now I've lost my appetite. Here's a news flash, "Burger King discrimates against the bicycle." and "Burger King thinks a person on a bicycle is a pedestrian." and "Burger King says that because a bicycle does not have a motor (ie. motorbike) it's not a legitimate vehicle for a drivethrough."
Oh well, It's not worth it to me to fight to change this, I just won't go to Burger King anymore. I have too many other options that are more appealing.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:56 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

February 22, 2006

I love frictionless lights!

I just put the rear blinky light on my bike. finally! I had the front one on there already and I love it! Tonight I added the rear one, because i had to change my rear tire since the sidewall busted out. While I had the tire off I put the light on. It was an easy installation and it works great! The best part is that they take no batteries and there is no friction to slow me down. It's all magnetic.

My highlight tonight was getting to help a friend who is out of work fix his rear wheel and brakes so he can keep getting to his job interviews. Someone had slashed his tire with a razor knife. Actually I didn't change the tire myself exactly. I taught an impromptu class with a couple new volunteers and they did it! It's cool!

Posted by carl1236 at 9:58 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

February 13, 2006

Tonight I taught a 16-Year old how to rebuild a bottom bracket

Tonight was really cool. Yeah we got some stuff done at the bike shop, but the coolest part was helping a local youth work on a bike. I taught him how to take apart and service an old single-piece crank bottom bracket. He was doing a great job until he had to leave at 8. He was excited to come back on Wednesday and put it all back together. I told him I'd wait for him to come back before finishing it so he could do the work. So as soon as he left for the night I bagged up all of the parts and attached them to the bike.
In the six months I've known this boy, I have never seen him work on a bike. I decided tonight was a good night to change that. He loves bikes and loves hanging out at the bikeshop. Now he's cookin'! The bike we are working on is an old Hawthorn three speed that a customer and volunteer brought in. It's an exciting project and learning tool, because it's and old bike and we have a lot of old bikes that need work. And it's exciting because I got a new guy involved in fixing up bikes, which is what he wanted to do in the first place.
So it's all good and a bike is getting fixed.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:15 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

January 28, 2006

Bikeboard

Tonight was a great night, I thought. We had our annual meeting for the non-profit, community bicycle education and recycling center. At the annual meeting the officers of the board of directors are elected by members. We had over 20 some members show up and a few very cool visitors. We ended up having pizza from a local place, which was very good. I hope the best for the Spokes Pizza people in their pizza oven problems which forced them to close for the weekend. That stinks. Their pizza is some of the best.
At tonight's meeting there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm. There was a lot of talk about what's going to happen this year. It's all good. Then after the meeting we were all bubbling over with enthusiasm and good spirits and hung out in the shop talking about all of the high hopes for this next year. Karl hooked up a new light for the pedicab and it's bright! other people began grabbing bikes and working on them while other's sat around chatting and socializing. It was cool.
Now I'm home and exhausted by a couple of days of really hard work and focus. In two weeks we have our first board meeting with the new board of directors. I'm excited about the possibilities and what we will do this year, and how that will effect the ongoing mission of this organization. This is really a rebirth and refreshing of the spirit.
I'm not bored with the bikeboard, haha, but I am enthused and encouraged.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:46 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

January 27, 2006

A really good day for all things bicycle

The only thing on my mind right now is this Annual Meeting. I hope everyone can make it. Everything is falling into place and we have pizza and refreshments lined up. Now I'm off to get a good night's rest. :-)

Posted by carl1236 at 9:00 PM | Bicycles

Category "Art"

Category "Bicycles"

January 15, 2006

Hiawatha Cyclery

Today I visited Jim at his new bike shop. So far so good Jim! I like what I'm seeing so far. And I'm looking forward to trying the new iFlash light system for my commuter bike. Batteries are a pain. Generators on the wheel are a pain. Bulbs burning out are a pain. I have high hopes for this system of LED lights with magnetic pickups on the wheels. To me this type of system makes better sense than what I currently have and is exactly what I've been looking for. Jim is selling these lights and I plan on installing mine tomorrow. Then tomorrow night on my ride home, I'll see how well they'll work for me. I'll make sure to write something up about them soon.
I am a bicycle commuter and use the bike as my primary mode of transportation. There are a lot of things I'd like to have but you know, I can ride a bike pulled from a dumpster with no lights and all bent out of shape. Riding a bike for transportation is mostly attitude. Equipment comes out of necessity then, based on what will make our ride smoother and easier. But the main thing is getting out there and doing it.
I like Jim a lot and I support locally owned small businesses. There is plenty of room for more businesses like Jim's and it will only improve our cycling community and atmosphere in the Twin Cities. In a couple months I'll blog more about Hiawatha Cyclery and other shops in the Twin Cities. Yes, they are out to make money, and it's good to support the local community bike shops who are really interested in the bicycling scene and helping their neighbors to succeed at bicycling.
So, the reason I went there today? To give you something to anticipate....haha. I have the pleasure of painting his window! So next week on Saturday I'll be riding over there on bike, loaded down with my paints and creating a nice sign in the window. Next week I hope to be able to post a picture of my handiwork along with an update of how my new lighting system is working. I've done other window paintings before, and I look forward to doing this one to freshen up my experience.

Keep on Cycling!

Posted by carl1236 at 11:59 PM | Art | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

January 11, 2006

The Birth of a Bike Blog

Announcement for all of you bicycle enthusiasts and anyone interested in the community building aspects using bikes as a tool for working with people: The Sibley Bike Depot has a new blog! I didn't create it, but I'm one of the authors. It's another way to communicate not only our mission but our daily interactions with people at the bike depot and the many interesting things that go on in the community and the bike shop. The Sibley Bike Depot Blog.

The Sibley Bike Depot (Minnesota Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance) is having it's annual meeting on Saturday, January 28th, at 6pm. This is the meeting where the members vote for the board of directors and I'm volunteering to be President. One of my major missions is to revitalize the mission of this non-profit organization and to get new, fresh blood involved. Everyone is welcome to attend. We are having free pizza at 6pm so RSVP would be helpful to know how much to order: stephen@bikeped.org

Something very cool is riding the streets of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It's a new year and a new group of fresh people to do good things. http://www.bikeped.org See you on the 28th!

Keep on riding! If you do come to the bike depot for our annual meeting on the 28th, please introduce yourself to me and let me know that you read about it here on my blog. I'm happy to meet anyone that reads this blog!

- John

Posted by carl1236 at 11:13 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

December 16, 2005

Painting Bikes

Tonight three of us painted bikes. I got to try powder-coating and I thought it was a really interesting process! No fumes, hardly no mess. AND, it was fast! It was a great experience and now I understand this process. Here it is for all those who are interested in learning about this technology:
1. prep the bikes:
Remove all decals and grease and sand any rough spots
Tape with high-temp tape, put corks in holes
Hang the bikes on a rack so they don't touch each other
Powerwash with water and steam
Dry the bikes
Preheat the bikes so the paint goes on thicker

2. Powder Coat the bikes:
Put the paint rods in the colored paint powder and tie the bag around them.
Hook up an electric jumper to the rack that the bikes are hanging on
Start the sprayer and 'spray' the bikes. The paint powder magically flows around the frames using static electricity.
Bake the bikes for 20 minutes at 415 degrees or so
let them cool

3. take them home

cool huh? Very interesting painting process. Now I have to find out how this process was discovered and came into use. It produces a beautiful and very tough finish.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:31 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

Category "Love your Neighbor"

November 20, 2005

Can you fix my bike, for free?

This morning I spent some time at the coffee shop reading the paper and talking to some people I've met there before. There is this one man who comes in regularly but I haven't been around there much in the past few months so we haven't talked in a while. The last time we talked I was seriously training on my bike and would stop by the coffee shop after my rides. He was looking for a bike then, but I wasn't really involved in the shop much at that time. Today he told me he got one for free because he was helping someone move and they were going to throw it out. He asked them if he could have it and they said, "Sure!" Then he told me that the back wheel was off and the back part of the frame was bent. hmmm. Maybe free is not so good. But it's a dumpster bike and he rescued it from the heap. Then he asked me if I could fix it. I said yes. Then he asked if I could fix it for free. I know this man is on a limited budget and has limited means, so I took a deep breath and then said, "yes." But then I added that it would have to be after Thanksgiving. So I have a free repair to do at the end of the week. He said he was inspired by me riding my bike so he wanted to use his to run short errands and not use his pickup truck so much. His truck is an old rust-bucket that probably doesn't get too great of mpg. So, anyway, I'm happy to try to fix his bike, but if the frame is bent, I'll have to help him pick out a different bike. Maybe he could help me reorganize the shop (or continue what I started a few months ago) to earn a bike.

On other bike news. my dumpster bike is sitting idle right now. I bought an old brown Schwinn Suburban to replace the one that was stolen from me a while ago. I love that bike! It's a such a smooth riding, comfort commuter bike, the cadilac of street machines. It's long and tall and has full fenders, 10 speeds, rack AND a generator light and taillight set! This one is a 1973 instead of a 1971 like my old one. So I'll use that bike for commuting when there is no bad snow on the ground, otherwise my dumpster bike is getting 27" knobby tires. That's a Schwinn Continental. I went out and bought new bulbs for it today since last night they both burned out. I rode over to Minneapolis to Spokes Pizza to deliver a couple of parts to someone there and about a mile-into my ride, the taillight burnt out. Then a block later the headlight went out. Good thing I had my backup systems with me. I found the bulbs at my local Ace Hardware, so I was happy to be able to give them some business.
Now I'm set. But I'm accumulating too many bikes. It's so easy to do though! Especially since they are such a convenient and useful mode of transportation.
Anyway, I'm happy to help my acquaintance from the coffee shop get going on a bike. There is no reason he can't be out riding that two blocks to the store instead of firing up that gas burner.

Posted by carl1236 at 4:36 PM | Bicycles | Love your Neighbor

Category "Bicycles"

November 1, 2005

Attacked by a dog

Tonight while riding home from the bike shop a dog came charging out from between a couple of houses, into the street and was snapping at my right leg, barking at me. Obviously it startled me and I didn't know what to do. Should I have stopped pedaling or sped up? I yelled at the dog in a stern voice, "Go home!" and it backed off. Then it regained steam and came charging after me again, at which point my amazing and extensive dog language came out again, "Go home!" and the dog backed away again and stopped chasing me. I probably could have said anything with the tone of voice I used on the dog and it would have backed down. But even though it worked, I was more than a little shaken by it. I had enough adrenaline to get me home for sure!

Posted by carl1236 at 11:56 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

September 22, 2005

Thursday night in the Grease Pit

Cool. That's a good description for the Grease Pit bike shop on the West bank. The other night I met Jon from the Bedlam, which is right above the Grease Pit and he was telling me about it. So I started doing a little checking on the web, and found their website, which is a really out of date. Anyway, I found their address and went to there tonight with Dan. It was a great training ride from downtown St. Paul, out to Ft. Snelling then up the river on the west side. We came up and rode by Freewheel, another block to the Grease Pit. There were already some people waiting outside for it to open at 6pm.
I was truly amazed that such a loose organization, free and open to the public, all-volunteer run, could be so clean and organized and full of parts, bikes and people. As I was looking around and talking to people I observed a little boy fixing his flat tire. He was doing a good job. He tried several times to get it himself, then got a little help patching the tube, then he put it back on himself and pumped it up. He told me comes in there a lot and he lives close by. It was cool because he just made himself at home fixing his own bike, and he picked up his tools and put them away and cleaned up after himself. Then he wheeled his bike out and was on his way. No cash was exchanged and he did it himself.
I helped one person take off his pedals and search for a matching set to replace them and gave a little technical advice. I helped another person with a cable problem. Then a little later Chris helped the same person and she got it done right. I were several women in there fixing their own bikes and hanging out. And they put an old cassette of Prince in the tape player.
I make the proclamation that the Grease Pit people are doing good. This is a really good asset to the community. I'm going to help them more in the future. For those of you in Minneapolis, this is a great place to donate parts, bikes and other things. It's a great place to volunteer. I'm going back in two weeks to help out all night. That'll be fun. Anyone want to join me from 6-9pm at the Grease Pit, Thursday, October 6th? And then Spokes Pizza afterwords?

Viva la Grease Pit!

Oh, and thankfully Freewheel was right there, because I forgot my headlight at home and my tail light was dead. I bought a new headlight and batteries for the red blinky and was on my way home. Daylight is going fast! Riding time will all be in the dark soon I think.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:55 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

August 31, 2005

Bike Rental Summary

29 bikes rented at 15 dollars per bike. yay! It was a major hassle getting there with 30 bikes and another hassle getting back after it was over. I'm dead tired right now. The day was long but everything went well.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:43 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

August 6, 2005

ABCE

Calling all British-made 3-speed bicycle owners: The All British Cycling Event (ABCE) is announced for September. This is a fun group of people who tour in a relaxed, spandex-free mode. their motto is to 'make as many stops as possible. If you ride off the front you'll be flogged. This event is a companion to the Lake Pepin 3-Speed tour which I did this Spring. Fifty people signed up for that event and I expect a good crowd for this one too. If you don't have a British 3-Speed, I'm sure we can find a good one for you. We have a few gems at the bike depot and One-on-one has some I know of. I will also rent them out for $15 per day if you want to participate but don't want to invest in your own piece of bicycling history. This event will have a swap meet also, so if you have any British cycling stuff, this is the place to bring it.

Check it out at:
http://www.abcetour.com/

Posted by carl1236 at 7:02 AM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

July 13, 2005

Single-speed

I have been feeling like I've been stuck in one gear going uphill and my cranks are turning really slowly, like I'm slogging through quicksand. I feel like I've started many things that have no conclusion in sight and too many obstacles to fight.
Today when I was ready to leave work, I couldn't find my bicycle helmet so I had to leave without it. Somehow I misplaced it and couldn't find it when I retraced my steps. Tonight at the bike shop I was rebuilding a bottom bracket and had nothing to remove the grease with. I tried a few things but it wasn't working too well. It'll have to wait until tomorrow to finish it. I'm organizing two simultaneous bike rentals for a total of 50 bikes for a convention and feel like I'm getting sucked in over my head. It'll go ok, it's just outside of my normal working parameters.
I went to order a single-speed flip-flop hub and Dave told me he already ordered one. My yellow finders came in and the yellow-walled 700c's are already here. As soon as I get a couple of good wheels I have to lace them up, strip down this bike, prime and paint it and put it all together. Should be interesting. It'll be a bright orange bike with yellow fenders, yellow-walled 700c tires, yellow bar tape. Visible.
Almost time for the replay of today's Tour de France stage. Lance is still number one. Incredible ending today and yesterday. I feel that the competition is much greater this year and it's not so predetermined. There seem to be quite a few people who could win the overall tour this year. It makes for more exciting viewing.
Now I know why I feel like I've been in quicksand. More TV watching than I do all year and not enough sleep haha. And this is a 21-day race with half of it yet to come!
Tonight riding home though, I took a different route, avoiding the Ohio hill. The ride went a lot better and I didn't have to get off my bike to walk. So already I'm thinking it will be a better day tomorrow. Things always work out and the race goes on no matter what gear I am in.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:30 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

July 9, 2005

Gateway Trail Ride Sunday

Sunday at 10:30am about 16 people are meeting at the Sibley Bike Depot in St. Paul for a group ride on the Gateway Trail. Anyone is welcome. We also have a tandom or another bike someone could use if they don't have a bike.
The pace will be slow and the terrain very mild. We are planning on stopping at the DQ in White Bear along the route. We'll probably hang out for a while at the park at the end of the trail and head back mid afternoon. Bring Sunscreen and a comfy saddle for a nice ride.
We'll also have a sag-wagon if anyone breaks down with a problem we can't fix (but we are bringing tools) ;-) I'm looking forward to a great leisurely Sunday.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:31 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

Carrying bikes with a bike

Today I went to the bike shop and fixed up the four bikes we're donating to four Hmong refugees from Thailand who just arrived a week and a half ago. It took me a while because there were some major problems with a couple of them. They had come over to the shop to pick them out on Thursday evening but they couldn't take them home. first of all, my friend who brought them had no way of carrying the bikes home in his car. And the bikes needed some serious work so I told them I'd fix them and deliver them Saturday night. Ok, no problem. So after watching the Tour de France this morning I hooked up my bright-yellow cargo trailer and went to the shop to work. After fixing them I put all four bikes on my trailer standing up, side by side! I strapped them down to the hooks I put on each side and end and it was great! The trailer is 2-1/2 feet by 6 feet and has a flat bed.
So off I went through St. Paul with a load of bikes behind me. I got some seriously wierd looks of surprise and pointing. When I arrived at their house, my friend was out there painting with a bunch of his friends and relatives. Not being one to slouch, I grabbed a brush and painted. One of his cousins couldn't believe that I carried bikes behind my bike. He loved the idea of saving gas by riding my bike too. A seed planted in his brain?
On my way home in the evening I was hauling an empty trailer. Pulling this trailer with no load is really easy I've found. But with four bikes standing up on it I could definately tell what needed to be improved. Time to redesign a couple of things I think.
I was thrilled of course to use my 25 dollar flat-bed trailer for it's intended purpose.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:15 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

June 21, 2005

Meeting Mary Behind Bars

Tonight after work I rode with Dan from St. Paul along Shepard Road to 35E, across the bridge, down 13 to 494, across the bridge, past the airport, through Ft. Snelling, up West River Road to Broadway, where I turned and crossed the river again. I was on my way indirectly to Behind Bars Bicycle Shop. By the time I got home tonight I had ridden 42 miles, the last few feeling like I had a pocket full of kryptonite.
It was perfect timing to check out this excellent bike shop. The owner, Chuck Cowan was there working on bikes and helping customers. He's a great guy and very knowledgeable about bikes. The bike shop was clean and organized and had some really cool bikes that were under 1000 dollars. He even sells new single-speed, fixed-gear bikes and builds them up from old frames. Instead of building my own, I might just buy one of his.
While I was there a lady came in to get her bike serviced and asked Chuck if he knew of any bike scrap yards that she could get bikes for free for a float she was making for a parade. She didn't need whole bikes, just parts to use here and there on the float. I happened to be standing right there and he directed her to me. It was an opportune moment that comes along only when all the stars align and we get a crazy idea to go visit a bike shop that we heard about on a message board, all the way across town. I was able to help this woman with her bike scraps. She's even going to bring it all back for recycling when the parade is over.
Before leaving the bike shop I bought a really nice Planet Bike brt-7, 7-LED wide-view tall blinky light for the back of my bike. The face of my old one fell off and broke when I hit a pothole last week. This one is cool! It has two LED's pointed to each side and three up the middle. I like night-time visibility.
Overall I give this bike shop 3 thumbs up. Two thumbs up for Chuck's personable nature and excellent bike shop and one for the magic moment of meeting Mary, the bicycle-float builder.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:55 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

June 5, 2005

Grand Old Days Parade

I was there. In the parade! Haha. It's so wierd. I and a few other people from Sibley Bike Depot were there riding our bikes. We had three small kids trailers with us that were using to carry a few little kids bikes. We gave the kids bikes away. On the other 'truss' trailer we had an old light-blue 3 Speed bike standing up. I was riding my red Armstrong 3 speed. We zig-zagged and rode around each other throughout the parade. It was fun. We handed out a lot of brochures and talked to people along the way.
One guy stopped me and told me about his wife's Armstrong bike. That was fun.
There were several great moments during this parade. The first one came when I took a photo of Maria with the vulcan "V" smudge on her face. She was a good sport and laughing. All of the volunteers did a great job there today and we had a good time. The second highlight came when I invited a man on a very distinctive Trike with canopy to ride with us. I just saw him sitting there by the side watching the parade, and knew I had to go over to him. I asked him if he wanted to ride in the parade with our group. He grinned from ear to ear and said yes. To my surprise, no less than 10 or so people yelled out at him from the crowd as we passed. All up and down Grand Avenue, these people knew this man. After the parade I thanked him again for riding with us. then he went on his way. Also it was unbelievable that I ran into Mike Hazzard, who produces some really awesome documentary videos. He was there taking photos of my new friend for a video about "Mr. Positive."
The last highlight was hanging out at the coffee shop next to the bike shop with 4 homeless people chatting and sipping on an iced mocha.

So now I'm exhausted and going to bed. Time flies when you are having fun, huh?

Posted by carl1236 at 9:20 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

Busy Weekend

Yesterday I participated in the Art in the Park Parade at Rice Park. I helped fix problems with kid's bikes and rode along with them in their art-bike parade.
Today I'm going to be in the Grand Ol Days parade riding my 3-speed bike! That should be fun. It's a bicycle PR weekend.

Posted by carl1236 at 7:55 AM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

May 26, 2005

More about Cycling

Today I went to the bike shop for lunch to pay for some things and to work on a wheel I started building the night before. That was fun.
After work I rode with Dan over to Freewheel bike. I missed seeing Jim by a long shot. He cut out of work early today I found out. Oh well, I still managed to occupy myself in the bike shop while waiting for the rain to stop again. I bought some new break pads for my road bike and a couple books and some chain cleaner. Then I had to carry that stuff home! But thankfully one of the workers there had the brilliant idea to use an old innertube and plastic bags to make my own courier bag that slung over my back and around my waste. Brilliant! It worked great. Now I'm going to make my own courier bag with heavy plastic, duct tape and innertube bands.
After Freewheel I rode back to St. Paul to pick up my backpack from work and had this gut feeling that someone was still at the bikeshop and there was! There were three people there working on bikes! So I threw my bike on the stand and put on my new breakpads. Then we chatted for a while waiting for the rain to stop again.
The odd thing about my bike riding tonight. It rained a lot, but I completely missed it all and stayed fairly dry. I'm really happy about that.
Oh, and I found out that the pictures from the British 3-speed ride have been posted: http://www.imageevent.com/abce

Posted by carl1236 at 10:50 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

May 22, 2005

I'm back!

I'm back from the British 3-Speed bicycle tour and it was a lot of fun! My project bike was completed by the time I left my house on Saturday morning so I was able to ride it this weekend. Pictures and a description of the event will be posted this week some time.
See http://www.3speedtour.com

Posted by carl1236 at 11:35 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

May 17, 2005

Wheel building 101

Tonight ten students sat around a circle building bicycle wheels. Charles did an excellent job of teaching the class and I feel confident I can repeat the process. I learned a lot, so the class was a success.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:59 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

April 30, 2005

Twin City Bicycle Club Swap Meet Review

Today was an interesting experience. I was there with two other volunteers representing the Minnesota Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance and the Sibley Bike Depot. We received about 5 bikes, a couple of boxes of miscellaneous parts and one cash donation. Also another nice man gave me his number and said he had about 15 bikes for us to pick up.
There was a lot of information available there and I got some nice bike route maps and signed up for information on a volunteer opportunity called Bolder Options, a bicycling or running mentoring program. I also joined the Twin Cities Bicycle Club and got a copy of their newsletter and ride schedule. But probably one of the greatest things that came out of this for me, was meeting a lady who is starting their own Bicycle salvage and donation program specifically for woman, promoting bicycles as a means of transportation. Last year as a test they fixed and gave away hundreds of bikes. Now they are converting their garage into a full-blown bike shop and incorporating as a non-profit organization. I thought what they were doing was a good thing, so I offered my services to help fix up and restore bikes to give away. I got her number so I'll call her in a few weeks to see how it's going.
Overall the swap meet seemed kind of small. The Saint Paul Bike Racing Club's swap meet was at least 2-3 times larger. But there were a lot of buyers there. Many people looked at my tandem bike which I was trying to sell there with a sign that said, "Best Offer" But no-one wanted to make an offer. So I ended up bringing it home.
It was a good event overall and It was interesting watching people look over the stuff, trying to decide whether to buy or not. Even the people that came with me bought some stuff, but I didn't see anything that I wanted, so I didn't buy anything. Well, that's not true, I bought a bike for 10 dollars to donate to the Bike Depot. Other than that, it could have been worse. But I really don't want or need anything for biking. So I didn't spend too much money.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:55 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

April 26, 2005

Plans

Tonight I will be at this class: http://www.bikeped.org/Calendar/view_entry.php?id=105
There is still room in the class so if this is a skill you need, the price is right. Be there at 6:30pm.

Tomorrow night I'll be working at the Sibley Bike Depot fixing bikes. Wednesday night is volunteer nights.

Saturday, April 30th is the TCBC 2nd Annual Swap meet from 1-4pm. I'll be there at a table for the MNBPA non-profit group accepting donations of bike parts, bikes, biking related things and talking about the programs of the MNBPA and the Sibley Bike Depot

Sunday, May 1st is my last day of work at the group home. :-( I don't feel so good about that yet.

Monday night, May 2nd, I start the TCBRC BRP!

Next Friday, May 6th I'm taking the day off and going on a 120 mile bike ride in prep for the following week's 200k Brevet. I'll be leaving St. Paul in the early morning, possibly 6am, riding toward Afton, then Prescott, then heading into Wisconsin. When I hit 60 miles I'm turning around and coming back the same route.

On Sunday May 8th I'm doing the Lillydale Time Trial Part 1. Haha, we'll see how fast I ride with one day of rest between the long ride and the 5-mile sprint!

Posted by carl1236 at 3:11 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

April 20, 2005

Have Bicycle, Will Travel

Today at lunch I rode my SUV of bicycles home, fixed a flat tire on the Limousine of Bicycles and rode it back to work by myself. This Limo is built for two and it felt kind of weird riding it. Iíve only ridden a tandem bike once, and it was kind of squirrelly feeling but I thought that was the guy on back shifting his weight around too much. But no, it felt that way by myself.
My sister gave me this old Huffy Tandem bike to try to sell at the TCBC swap meet on April 30th. It needs a little work though, so Iím fixing it up tonight. I donít really know what Iíd do with a tandem bike, so am not sure if I need it or not. Dan joked with me about accumulating bikes. Well, I am getting rid of bikes too, not just collecting them. I think Iíll hold at 4 bikes with different purposes. But thatís a different story! This tandem bike is a mess.
I donít know where she got this thing from, but I would definitely not recommend them for fixing up bikes. Here is a list of the problems so far:

Dry-rotted tires that are old and cracking.
Whoever changed the front tire last did a poor job of it. The tube was punctured because they didnít put a liner in the wheel to protect it from the spokes. The inner-tube was also folded over on itself, twisted around and creased.
Itís a ten speed without a front derailleur! What? They just forgot to put that back on?
The brake pads on the back were riding on the tires.
The front handlebars creak every time you pull on them. May just need tightening.
The front wheel has a wobble in it. I know how to replace and repack bearings now!

None of this is major. I plan on fixing them all tonight. Then Iím not sure what will be the fate of this fine Limo. Until I sell it, maybe Iíll rent myself and the bike out for rides and bike tours and sightseeing. Anyone want to go on a long bike ride, check out the nice trail system we have, but arenít sure if you can make it by yourself? Hire an experienced cyclist, in halfway decent shape, that knows how to fix a flat on the trail! A tandem bike ride could be just the thing for you! Itís cheaper than hiring a motorized limo too!

Another thought I had was ĎBike-Pooling.í You know, like ĎCar-Poolingí to work but on a tandem bike. Anyone want to commute to and from work but donít know the best route or are afraid to try it? Hire the limo with a driver! I could come to your door, hand you a bike helmet, stow your work stuff on the rack, and off we go. Then after work weíd cruise on back in the sunshine. What a beautiful way to get back and forth to work. Actually this is kind of a fun idea. I told one of my coworkers this idea and he actually thought it sounded like fun to do sometime. Several of us are still trying to get him to ride his bike to work.

Do you need a little more exercise in your day? We can ride fast on that bike and go up hills too! I know where most of the good hills are now!

My wife told me these were weird ideas and no-one would take me up on them. I donít know. It sounds fun to me, but Iím the driver for hire and I donít mind meeting new people and working hard. I think she thinks itís weird because she still thinks of bikes as purely recreational. She didnít think it was weird to hire a stranger taxi driver a few weeks ago. And just like a taxi, why not hire one that some experience and can help get you to your destination safely?

What do you say? 5-10 bucks per ride? I think this could buy a lot of bike parts for the community bike shop.

Posted by carl1236 at 4:52 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

April 11, 2005

Boehmís 2 Ė A Bike Shop Review

Going home on 110 by the Mendota Bridge I saw that Mendota Bike and Hobby is now Boehmís! Iíve been to Boehmís in St. Paul and liked it. This store is like that one but larger. The sales staff were busy helping people and it seemed like a good store.

Posted by carl1236 at 12:06 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

April 5, 2005

One on One Bike Studio Review

I know several of you have been to One on One Bike Studio in downtown Minneapolis and have said some good things about it. Iíll have to admit that they are interesting people, but to me not really attentive to customer needs. I got there and the most sociable of them all was the guy working in the coffee shop. I went into the bike shop to tell them what I was looking for, a British-made 3 Speed, and as I walked in not a single person looked at me. No eye contact at all. Some guy in long hair was working on a bike and did not look up at me. He looked at another guy who worked there and said a few things then went back to work. Several people came in and out and I was looking them right in the face, but none of them made eye contact. It was like I was invisible.
Then I said excuse me, and one guy turned around like he was surprised to see me there. He didnít ask what I wanted, I just said, ďIím looking for a British-made 3 speed.Ē He nodded his head and said, ďjust leave your backpack with the guy at the coffee shop and go downstairs.Ē I said ok and proceeded downstairs. There were thousands of bikes and frames down there, and I hunted through them. I found several specimens to choose from, but I must have looked for an hour and not a single person came through there. So I went back upstairs and had trouble getting someoneís attention again. The long-haired guy working on the bike looked irritated that I interrupted him, and asked another guy to help me. The other guy came over and asked what I was looking for and I told him that I found several bikes to choose from, but none of them had prices on them. So he came downstairs with me and we looked at them. First of all, I did not know that some bikes behind the ribbon were off limits. They were part of a Ďprivate collection.í So that limited my choices to one bike. It didnít have a seat. I was told it used to have a brooks saddle on it, but someone took it for another bike. Then he looked at a few other bikes there and compared them, spun the wheels and said, ďthatíll be $55.00.Ē
I said ok, sounds fair, because compared to the bike I was bidding on in eBay, this one was in very nice condition and would require very little work. I didnít have any way to get it home, because I rode my bike there. So I might still go back there and buy that one.
After that I went back upstairs and decided to eat there and a have a small coffee. The food was good, and I had a good conversation with the guy making my sandwhich. He had an Xtra-Cycle there and he suggested I go out in back and try it out. Heís been riding it for about a year now and loves it. He said if I had had one of these, I could have carried that extra bicycle back home on it. Thatís probably true. It was a nice bike that was stable and had lots of room to haul things in the side bags and on the flat board on top.
After I left there I took the Light Rail to Fort Snelling, then rode my bike home.
This trip gave me a lot to think about. Iíd like to report a great experience at the bike shop, but really the best part was talking to this one guy about the Xtra-Cycle and test riding it. Oh I saw the person referred to as the Satanic Mechanic but he was sitting out on the back porch tearing something apart. He must have been tired of the basement. It was really nice outside last night.
I think think that bike shop is very disorganized with parts in buckets all over the place, junk on the floor toward the back of the basement, tools laying in piles on the floor, half buried by other bike junk, and poor customer service. I could have died in the basement and they might have found me hours later. Haha. Most other bike shops Iíve been in have seemed much friendlier. I probably wonít go back there too much, except I can say that I liked the coffee shop. At least there is one person who talks to strangers. I might just have to build an Xtra-Cycle too. Seeing it in person and trying it out is a really good sales pitch. My only concern in using it as a general transportation choice is that it wonít fit in the bike rack on the front of a bus or on the light-rail, so in those cases it would not be as convenient or flexible.
Itís funny how different people can have so different of experiences in the same place. I didnít like it I think because they made me feel invisible. But at the coffee shop I had a totally different experience. In any case, it might be a good resource for an oddball part, but in the future, Iíll try other places first.

Posted by carl1236 at 5:20 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

March 31, 2005

My first year of bicycle commuting

Last year in March I had decided that I was going to commute to work by bicycle. I had been sitting in front of a computer every day and most evenings and began to see my health deteriorate. I knew I had to do something as my eyes got worse, my middle section was ballooning out and walking a flight of stairs left me winded.
In my view commuting by bicycle was the perfect answer because if I was going to be exercising anyway, I might as well make it practical and combine my exercise with getting to a destination. Riding a bicycle is a good form of exercise because it is not hard on the knees and it can really work the cardio-vascular system. Over the past year Iíve experienced many benefits, like increased mobility, fitness and happiness. Yes, riding a bike is fun! I wonder how many times in the past I could have said I was having fun commuting to work in my car.
I rode my bike almost the entire year, even in the winter. I started out riding in the Spring, and by June I was extending my rides before and after work. Part of the reason I extended the distance was because I started getting in better shape and it felt good. I discovered the joy of exploring alternate routes on my bike and it wasnít killing me.
Now looking back on the year, I ask myself, ďWhat was it like riding a bike all year?Ē Here are some answers, or relevant facts about bicycle commuting as I experienced it:
1. I saved a lot of money on gas. I have logged in over 4000 miles on my bike in the past year. My car gets about 15mpg or less, so I would have used 4000 / 15 = 266.666 gallons of gas. At $2.00 per gallon that would be a whopping $533.33 dollars I have saved. Of course these numbers are conservative and could fluctuate, but itís a real savings that would have been burned up by my car had I been driving. What could you do with 533 dollars? And that does not even include wear and tear on the vehicle and maintenance savings. Iíve found there is very little that can go wrong with a bike that needs major work, so repairs are simple and minor and a lot less expensive than most automobile repairs.
2. I feel better. After my first year of bicycle commuting, I am in better shape than when I started. When we have a practice fire drill at work, I handle the stairs without dying. When I ride now, I can go much longer distances without feeling like Iíve been through the ringer. Iím now contemplating several one hundred to one hundred fifty mile bike tours, which I wouldnít have even dreamed about a year ago.
3. I am seeing the city like Iíve never seen it before. Once last fall on my way into work I was riding along the beautiful bike trail on Shepard Road, close to Fort Snelling. There along the path, about 20 feet away from me was a fox. He was just standing there watching the wheels go by. What a beautiful sight that I wouldnít have even had a chance to see if I had been in my car. It made my day. I am also getting to know the terrain of the city much better because navigating on a bicycle, I am much more connected with the process of travelling from point A to point B. I know where every hill is and every downhill and blind curve is. The colors are more vivid and I see things I had not seen before. In a car I felt much more isolated and the hills were effortless so I didnít notice the changes as much.
4. I stopped complaining about Minnesota winters. As impossible as it seems, I rode my bike almost all winter and it was not impossible. It was only really bad about 4 days out of this year. Dressed properly, like for any winter sport, itís pleasant. When Spring arrived this year, I wasnít dreading winter so the transition was different. It meant I could wear less layers, but I had been having the fun of riding my bicycle all year. Spring didnít mean the Ďbeginningí of the bicycle commuting season but a continuation in my enjoyment.
5. It doesnít take a lot of gear to bicycle commute so itís not a huge investment like a car is. There is of course the bike. Bikes run anywhere from Free to expensive. $1500 dollars is a very nice bike. That seems like a lot, but considering a bike is not just a fun toy, itís a vehicle, a mode of transportation, thatís cheap! Bikes also require a lot less maintenance so annual costs are lower than cars. But I didnít spend that much on my bike. I bought my bike for about 250 dollars used and itís been really great. Then I had to buy a helmet because I didnít want to fall and crack my head open. That was about 20 some dollars. We often see people wearing special cycling clothing, which is nice but not really necessary for bicycle commuting. I often just wear street clothes or when I want to work hard and get some serious exercise in, Iíll dress for exercise and change when I get to my destination. I didnít need to buy a special license to ride a bike, just hop on and go. For added carrying capacity a person could buy special racks and bags for a bike, called panniers, but for almost everything I just used a backpack. It was easy and portable and handled the things I needed to haul back and forth to work.
6. The air we breathe is a little cleaner because my car has been contributing less and less pollution to the environment we live in. If everyone commuted by bicycle even just a few times per year, itís a significant break for mother nature.
7. I have met a lot of new friends this year. It seems that people with bikes have a special connection. Itís also easier to socialize with other cyclists as we meet on the streets because we arenít as isolated by car windows that provide a barrier.

What was it like riding my bike all year? It was a great year for me and I had a lot of fun doing it! I hope that I have many more. As I begin my second year of bicycle commuting, I may make some minor adjustments and improve my carrying capacity, but other than that I think it will be another banner year. Like the saying about riding a bike: once you learn how, you never forget. I hope that others would just try it a few times and catch a glimpse of what I have experienced this year. I feel like itís actually changing my life. It is good for the mind, body and soul!

Posted by carl1236 at 5:07 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

March 30, 2005

Working on bikes

Tonight I helped build a bike. I strung new cables and put a brake together. I took off a rear sprocket assembly and replaced the chain guard. I also learned how handlebar shifters work as we put on new cables.
Tonight riding home in the rain, I wore rain gear for the first time and I got hot and sweaty as I suspected. The other problem I had was my brakes did not work so well when wet. I'm not sure what to do about that. New pads maybe.
Tomorrow night I'm going to explain my experience with buying a bike on eBay. Or not buying a bike, whichever the case may be. We'll see. Aren't bicycles fun?

Posted by carl1236 at 11:25 PM | Bicycles

Category "Bicycles"

March 23, 2005

Homeless Bikes

Today while running my eyes were drawn to something yellow, way down a steep hill in the woods. It looked kind of like a bike so I decided to take a little detour and run down there to check it out.
When I got there I found two old bike frames with a few wheels and tires laying around, off the bikes. The chains were rusted from being out all winter and one of the seats was laying upside down on the leaves with water collecting inside. Just over a little bit in a small clearing was a little camp, complete with an old back seat from a car for a couch. I'm not sure how that got here, but maybe someone carried it on the top of the shopping cart parked next to the couch. There was an old metal gas can with a funnel on top of it and various other oddball items. It reminded me of some of the hideaways we built as kids to hang out. But we never had 40 or 50 empty alcohol bottles and cigarette butts laying around our camp.
One day last week when I looked over the hillside, I saw a man sitting on the couch eating something. I was tempted to go down there then but I was timing my run and decided to do that another time. He wasn't there today, so I had a good look around.
But since these bikes are obviously abandoned deeper into the woods and rusting out, with no wheels on them, I'm going back next week to salvage them. I'm going to strip off the crank arms, brakes, handlebars, shift levers and derailers and then send the frames to the scrap heap for recycling the metal. That will be the end of these homeless bikes.
But in an interesting twist of fate, next week I'm helping two homeless guys build up two bikes so they have transportation to their new temp jobs.
In the mean time, I'm on day two of riding my Schwinn Suburban 5-speed bike. I find the totally upright postion and fat, spring-loaded seat very comfortable. "That''s a sweet ride," one guy told me today.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:54 PM | Bicycles