Category "Winter-Biking"

March 01, 2007

The snow is really deep

The snow is really deep. There is something about all of this that feels really good. I think it’s like a thick blanket, wrapping us in quiet and peace and whiteness. White is a color of clean. I like clean and quiet. That feels good. Really deep snow also is so beautiful. Like a picture you see in a magazine, except it’s right here, in the city, which looks nothing like the picture otherwise.
I am going to shovel it in the morning, down to the gritty, concrete and ashphalt. I might even chip the beautiful ice away from it and throw down some sand and salt so the mail carrier doesn't crack his head open! Something about all of this that feels kind of weird. I can't even really ride my bike in this beautiful scene. It's a picture but not very convenient. Maybe I'll move somewhere that I can appreciate the snow from afar, like by looking at those pictures you see in magazines, with the snow all fluffy and piled high. There is something about that idea that feels really good. I think it's the thought of shovelling in the morning. The snow is really deep.

Posted by carl1236 at 08:36 PM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

December 18, 2006

Perspiration

I still have not found the perfect solution to riding in below-freezing weather. I was plenty warm riding in this morning, too warm. I was sweating after the first two miles. Of course going up the Ramsey Hill generates a lot of heat! That's just about two miles into my 13-mile commute. So for the rest of the ride, I'm wet, hot and at the same time have to protect my skin. I have a lighter windbreaker suit that I wear, which is the best thing I've found so far. It breathes a little because it's vented and also blocks the chilling wind. It's also finely woven so if it does rain, I stay dry.
Also, at about mile 10 my toes started getting cold. I'll have to get some kind of booty or something. Dave said he saw people make their own from big wool socks, pulled over a boot, then wrapped in duct tape. But since I started to learn how to use the sewing machine this past weekend, I think I can make something even better, more durable, with reflector strips on it. This weekend I'll do that since I have a three-day weekend.

Posted by carl1236 at 08:09 PM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

December 11, 2006

Branding as Punishment

Wiping out is bad enough, but when we crash on a bike, we wear the crash like a brand. My co-worker took a curb cut at an angle this morning and wiped out because it was slippery. He was shaken, but thankfully had no broken bones. He did have some nice road rash on his arm though. That's going to leave a mark.
So here's my wisdom for slippery conditions. Haha, but I reserve the right to be branded if the road arises to the occasion.

1. Take slippery slopes head on.
2. While turning corners slow down, keep your bike upright while shifting body weight instead of leaning into the curve.
3. Stay alert. ;-)

Posted by carl1236 at 10:38 PM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

November 16, 2006

New lights

The other day I fumbled through setting up some headlights on my commuter bike. It was an interesting and kind of expensive process. But in the long run it will work out ok.
First I bought an old dual-headlight Cyco light system with a 5-battery D-Cell battery pack. The package said it was "upgradeable" to a rechargeable system. So I went to the battery store and talked to them about getting rechargeable batteries. The simplest solution was of course to just buy rechargeable D-Cell batteries and a charger. So I did and I tried it. With both headlights on the batteries only lasted for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Not good. They died on me on my way home in the dark. So Tuesday night I went back to the battery store and bought a 3-hour rechargeable battery that fit in the little carrying bag that mounts to the bike, and of course I had to buy a charger for that.
Bringing the battery home, I had to try it right away, so I went to hook up the battery and discovered that the manufacturer had soldered the connectors to the battery pack. I dug out my soldering iron and tried to melt out the solder, but it was very difficult and time consuming. That stuff just doesn't want to 'flow' away from the metal it was attached to. I ended up getting it to 'flow' onto a needle, thus removing it from the connector. By the time I finished I was ready for bed. But the lights worked great. Well, these lights aren't the brightest but they are brighter than anything I've had before and I can see potholes and curbs in the dark.
So here is my winter-biking light strategy: I bought a second battery that I carry in my backpack along with my charger. I can make it all the way to work and home again with one battery fully charged. So I am happy with this solution, and I won't have to run out of light, especially since it's dark when I leave for work and dark when I go home.
Now for a little illumination of another kind. One of the volunteers that has helped us tremendously in our bicycle salvage operations at the bike shop has been writing about his experiences in dealing with colon cancer and the treatments that almost seem worse than the disease. Stephen is a little older than me, and has had his share of troubles in life, but when it comes to life itself, or the threat of losing it, it does change our perspective a little. Stephen also rides his bike all over for basic transportation, because as he puts it, it's good for him. Last night at the shop he was there in spite of having gone through chemo treatments that same day. You can read about his experiences here. I found it interesting and insightful. And I think Stephen has found writing about it kind of therapeutic. I like writing for some of the same reasons.

Posted by carl1236 at 06:21 AM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Love your Neighbor"

Category "Winter-Biking"

November 08, 2006

Bicycling Mayhem

Well, it's not winter yet, according to the current weather conditions, but it was cold for the last few weeks. I've seen a lot of people still out riding their bikes to and from school or work, in the dark, like me. It's been interesting doing about a 26-mile round trip three or four days per week. I'm starting to get used to it now and it's not a struggle. But yesterday and today were really bad bicycling days. Drivers have forgotten how to drive. Yesterday I got hit by a car that was zooming around the right side of some left-turning cars. It spun me around and bent my rear fender in so it was rubbing on my back wheel. With a hefty amount of force, I yanked it back out and my wheel was no worse for the wear. But it did shake me up quite a bit. I continued my ride to work and got a flat tire. The culprit was some kind of a weird hooked spike thing that penetrated deep into my tire. I patched it up in about ten minutes and was on my way again. Luckily it was fairly warm outside to do that in comfort.
Then today I was yelled at, spit at, had a young person fly through a stop sign nearly hitting me, without even seeing me and had something thrown at me which struck the back of my neck. It's odd to me that all of these cases were in Roseville and all three of them were driving big gas-hog vehicles: An SUV, a full-sized conversion van, a king-cab type pickup truck and a huge old boat-style car. Oh the power that gives to harrass bicyclists! They must feel so big in those things. Then tonight I heard about a friend who was sitting waiting for a stoplight to change and the car driver behind her was laying into the horn, yelling, "Get on the sidewalk!" and cussing. Evidently they were in a hurry and wanted to make a right turn. That made my friend more adamant about waiting for the light. She had a good point. It wasn't a right turn only lane and if there was a car there going straight, the driver behind would have just waited their turn. Nothing can be done about it when it's a car in the way, but if it's a bicycle then it's fair to harrass the driver waiting to go straight, right? Is this any way to treat fellow human beings? Come on people, is the extra few minutes gained from driving around recklessly worth a human life?
I put more reflectors on my bike tonight hoping to be a little more visible, but given the drivers out there, I think that's a false sense of security. Reflectors won't help their driving skills or their love for other people.
If you are in a car here are some lessons:

DON'T SPEED AROUND THE RIGHT SIDE OF CARS TURNING LEFT. JUST WAIT UNTIL YOU CAN BE SURE THERE ARE NO BIKES OR CARS ALSO TURNING LEFT COMING ACROSS IN FRONT OF YOU.

DO STOP FULLY AT STOP SIGNS AND ACTUALLY LOOK BOTH WAYS SO YOU DON'T RUN OVER A PEDESTRIAN OR BICYCLIST.

DON'T YELL AT BICYCLISTS OR SPIT AT THEM OR THROW THINGS AT THEM.

REMEMBER THAT IF A CAR HITS A BICYCLIST IT COULD KILL THEM. IF A BIKE HITS A CAR, THE CAR MIGHT SUSTAIN A DENT. THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE IN THE AMOUNT OF DAMAGE A CAR CAN DO TO PEOPLE VS. THE AMOUNT OF DAMAGE A PERSON CAN DO TO A CAR, OR IT'S DRIVER. HUMAN LIFE SHOIULD HAVE MORE VALUE TO YOU. WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO PROVE? THAT YOU CAN KILL? GOOD FOR YOU. WAS IT WORTH IT? SLOW DOWN, PAY ATTENTION, TREAT HUMAN LIVES WITH MORE RESPECT. OH, AND SLOW DOWN. LIFE IS SHORT ENOUGH WITHOUT HURRYING THROUGH IT AS FAST AS WE CAN.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:16 PM | Comments (3) | Love your Neighbor | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

September 27, 2006

A new Job on the way

I am looking forward to a new sense of purpose and a refocusing of my job skills after a long, strange drought in job happiness. I do like what I'm doing but my new position will help me enjoy it more and do more with my skills. That translates to more challenge and increased skills. I'm looking forward to all the new possibilities. Big changes on the way.
One thing for sure: Increase of bike commute by about 10 miles each way. hahahaha. Better for my training. My winter bike is almost ready. I had some issues with it this morning, but fixed those up tonight. My back wheel torqued to the side and I had to put in better lock washers and crank it tighter. Single speed. that will also take care of my chain falling off I hope.

Posted by carl1236 at 09:33 PM | Comments (1) | Winter-Biking

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 | Comments (0) | Bicycles | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

March 17, 2006

And down he goes…

Well, I thought I’d have nothing more to say about WINTER BIKING. But as it turns out, I’ve had a few new experiences in the last couple of days that I’d like to record and add to this category. I think in the middle of the summer I’ll read all of these posts just to remind myself of the strange environment we live in, being in the Upper Midwest, Northern Hemisphere with Snow and Ice for a few months out of the year and blistering heat in the summer. It’s a land of two extremes and we can scarcely remember the other season while we are in the middle of trying to survive the current one.
Wednesday night it began to snow when I was leaving the bike shop and Thursday morning was really snowy again and I decided to ride my bike into work. But I used my mountain bike with the studded tires and it was fine. In my immediate neighborhood they did not plow, so that was the roughest part of the ride for sure. The snow was thick and it felt like I was riding on a layer of soft mud; physically challenging to slog through and at the same time sliding all over, barely keeping the bike upright. I look at it like training to improve my off-road-bike-handling skills. One guy even leaned out the window of his car and gave me a thumbs up. Haha. Even with studded mountain bike tires I was sliding all over mainly because I was floating over the surface and not reaching anything compact. Then once I got past my neighborhood, the roads were fine and the studs hit pavement, or at least compact Ice and I did not feel any slippage. After work yesterday the roads were totally clear and it actually wore down my studs a little, which are just wood screws and not intended for road use. I made these tires for the ice-bike races last year and this year and had never used them on the road before. I haven’t needed them on the road this year because it’s been so mild. But in the conditions we had I’m actually glad I had the studded tires. They did help with traction and who knows how bad the ride would have been without them.
When I got to the bike shop last night, my rear tire went flat. I made it all the way into work, and then to the bike shop and as I was pulling my bike inside someone noticed that my rear tire was flat. It went just like that. This tube I had in there was old though and patched in several places and worn out in spots where the nipples had protruded before. I had not replace the tube then, I just lined the tire with more duct tape and patched the tube in several places and used it that way for the bike races. After our meeting I had to fix my tire before riding home. This is what I did…
I cut the bead off both sides of a worn 26? road slick, lined my studded tire with that, put a new tube inside of the inner-tire, pumped it up and away I went. I made my own thick-skinned lining. I had read this trick online but thought duct-tape was enough, but this should prove to be really tough protection for my tube against the studs and other protrusions. We’ll see. Innovation is a series of experiments and corrections. And an added benefit to this is that I’m putting an old, worn-out tire back into use in another form. I rode all the way home last night with no problems and the tire is still holding air.
This morning I saw the weather report was looking good for the next few days so I decided to ride my Schwinn Suburban commuter bike with the skinny, 27x1-1/4? tires. By this time my unplowed-neighborhood streets were all packed down by cars so the riding was fairly easy. That’s when it happened. I came to the last unplowed segment of road in my neighborhood and pulled up to the stop sign. It was solid ice from the cars packing it down and the melting/refreezing, but it wasn’t a smooth sheet of ice. It was all layered and sloped and at different levels. As I was about to stop my wheels started to slide out to the right and I went down. I couldn’t counter-balance because I was on a slight incline and there was nothing stopping my momentum. Down I went. This was my first wipeout this winter. This was a new experience. I guess these are the exact conditions where studded tires would have come in handy.
My left hip was really sore but after riding the rest of the way into work it all worked itself out. Now I feel fine. I suppose the more I do this, the more likely it is that I wipe out, given the varied conditions and my use of different equipment on various days. It’s still worth it, I just need to be more cautious when stopping on ice.
So now can I put winter biking to rest for the year?

Posted by carl1236 at 10:25 AM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

March 15, 2006

Starting to Snow again

Tonight as I was riding home the snow was flying into my eyes. I wear glasses but it was blowing in around them. I'm glad I made it home before it got too nasty out there. But it was a good ride home and I was actually starting to overheat a little (overdressed as usual) Someday I'll figure out how to stay warm and cool at the same time. haha.
But I heard that all the snow will be gone by monday with the warm weather coming our way. I believe it. Snow can never stay long in Spring. ;-)
So this may be the last of the snow and this weekend may be the end of my winter biking for the year. I've really enjoyed it this year. Goodbye old friend. See you next year.

Posted by carl1236 at 09:58 PM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

February 23, 2006

Beautiful night for a bike ride!

Tonight I rode from St. Paul to Minneapolis for a meeting then back. It was absolutely beautiful and fun! I'm beginning to get Spring Fever!

Posted by carl1236 at 11:59 PM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

February 17, 2006

Brrrrrrrrrrrrr

Yeah, I know, everyone who rides their bike at this time of year is saying, "what's the big deal!" haha. Well, maybe not, but I do know there are some people still getting around on bikes. I hope you don't get frostbite or hypothermia! It's cold out there! It's -9 F. / -32 Windchill. How nice. Here's the Windchill Advisory:

bitter wind chills expected into saturday morning...
A bitter arctic airmass in association with arctic high pressure over south dakota will continue to push southward across central and south central minnesota and western wisconsin on northwest wind of 10 to 15 mph overnight. although wind speeds will likely drop off to near 10 mph late tonight...wind speeds of 10 to 15 mph from the west and southwest are expected after daybreak on saturday. the combination of expected wind speed with the extreme cold and will will continue to produce wind chill readings of minus 25 to minus 35 into midmorning on saturday.
therefore...wind chill advisories for south central and central minnesota as well as part of western wisconsin have been extended until 10 am cst saturday morning.
ensure you have a winter storm survival kit in your vehicle if you are planning on travel across greater minnesota today.

What if my vehicle is a bicycle? What would I put in a winter storm survival kit for a bicycle? I'm already out in the elements and if I'm not dressed properly for it then I'm already in trouble. Seriously, If you go out, at least put a hat and scarf on and skip the mini-skirts and high heels. Weather like this demands practicality.

My ride home was uneventful and I was overdressed on my core, as usual. But man is it cold out there! So I wasn't going to take any chances. By the time I got home, my two big toes were starting to get cold and a couple of my fingers were cold, but notthing too bad. I get to do it again in the morning on my way to the bike shop!

Posted by carl1236 at 11:49 PM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

Wind Chill Advisory

WIND CHILL ADVISORY
Warning Issue Date: 857 AM CST FRI FEB 17 2006
Warning Expiration: 500 PM CSTFRI FEB 17 2006
...Wind chill advisory remains in effect until 5 pm cst this afternoon...
A wind chill advisory remains in effect until 5 pm cst this afternoon.
Northwest winds of 15 to 25 mph will combine with arctic air to create wind chill readings of minus 30 to minus 45 today.
A wind chill advisory means that cold air and strong winds will combine to generate very low wind chills. Weather conditions today will result in frost bite and could lead to hypothermia if precautions are not taken.
“IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN? is the key phrase. With winter biking this sums up the whole experience. This morning riding into work I did not suffer. I did not get frostbite or hypothermia. The head-wind was very strong and slowed me WAY down, and I felt a slight air leakage around my wrists and two fingers started getting cold, but I curled them in to warm them up. The temp this morning was -9F (-36F windchill.) So, I think this qualifies as the coldest day I’ve ridden this year.

Clothing: Long underwear, normal pants, wool socks, insulated work boots, normal work buttoned work shirt, polar fleece jacket, winter jacket, US Military issued “Mask, Extreme Cold Weather? stocking cap, helmet gloves. (I lost one of my choppers, which are clearly superior to gloves in my experience). And last item which I’ve only used a couple times to test out…which was incredibly useful this morning…
Downhill ski goggles over my glasses and ski mask. Thank you Hugh! You saved me this morning! I had no exposed skin except for my lips and the very underside of my nose. If I was really worried about that, I could have used petroleum jelly or something on the exposed skin, which does work. I did that when it was minus 18 degrees last year.

So for me experience talks louder than any words on the subject. My experience tells me I can do this whenever I want! It doesn’t mean I have to or that I will choose to, but I am no longer under the illusion that it’s crazy or impossible. I have no reason to say it’s not possible, because I’ve already done for almost two winters now. I can because I did, if that makes sense.

On a related note, this is a good example of ‘faith.’ I have faith because I have experienced a relationship with God. I no longer have to ‘prove’ God exists because I’ve experienced the Love of God. Faith is a knowing. If we are low on faith we need to experience God. This is the way winter biking works, or any other activity. If I want to know what it’s like to be a musician, I have to practice music. On my trumpet I have faith that when I press a certain key, use my lips in a specific way, I get a specific note, so when I’m reading the sheet music I don’t even think about the mechanics of pressing the key or the position of my lips. It is an experienced-based faith. There is the line that says, ‘blessed are those who have faith without seeing.’ But I think about it this way: God is Alive, God is Life, God is Love, and I am experiencing that whether I believe it or not. My faith is based in this experience, because I already am experiencing and have a relationship with God. There is no gap in faith or lack of life in me.
As I ride my bike in the winter, at temperatures I previously would have thought un-doable, I think, wow, life is really strange and great! No words can even explain or do the experience of it justice. I just had to get out there and do it. And when people start talking to me about how it’s too cold to bike now, or that I shouldn’t ride because it’s too cold, I just nod and smile inside and know it’s ok for me.

For your viewing pleasure, here are some ice-biking pictures taken last weekend by Karl. I'm the one with the Orange Mongoose mountain bike with the number 17 on it:

http://www.basementfreaks.com/gallery/gallery.php?gal=2cb2a60813005fe1345dd8283818d074

Posted by carl1236 at 10:05 AM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

February 11, 2006

MnHPVA Ice-bike Races

Today was a great day! I went to the MnHPVA Ice-Bike Races on Rogers Lake. It was a lot of fun playing on the ice. My studded tires worked great! I gave it my best shot and came in second overall. That was a blast. As a prize, I got some smoked fish. I can't wait to eat it.
There were some very interesting vehicles there and about 22 participants. And what a beautiful day to be outside! On the way home, Karl and I were talking about how it's important to get outside and learn to enjoy our northern climate. The alternative is near hybernation.

It was a lot of fun and I look forward to future events put on by MnHPVA. Ice-bike races are definately a cool thing!

Posted by carl1236 at 11:59 PM | Comments (2) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

February 07, 2006

Cooooooolddddd riiiiiiddddde

Yep, tonight at the bikeshop after our Board of Directors meeting, three of us rode off to our homes on bike. We were able to ride a good chunk of my route home together, so that was fun. Then I just had about a mile to go to get home. But it's cold out there baby! It's the kind of weather a person tolerates on a bike just because they are already committed to riding, regardless of the temeratures. But by the time I arrived at my house, I was all warmed up and the conditions were actually pleasant. Winter biking will scare off many people, and sure it's cold out, but dressed properly for it it's really like a winter sport. I wouldn't give up skiing just because it's cold out for instance.
And I keep being reminded that it's already February 6th and Winter is on it's way out.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:43 PM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

January 16, 2006

Ride Lightly

Tonight I had the pleasure of riding home in about an inch or two of snow. And I had my Schwinn Suburban bike with slick road tires! But it was ok. In most cases the tires cut right through the snow and I had good enough traction. But in the places, especially on side streets like where I live, where the tires have packed down the snow, my wheels started slipping. Here is why I think: The car tires packed down the snow and made a semi-firm surface of packed snow. Then when I rode over those tracks, my bike started riding on top of the packed snow, then sank into the snow, not quite reaching pavement. I learned to avoid that and go for the fresh snow where my tires effortlessly cut through.
I still think knobby tires are the way to go in conditions like these, but I have not put them on my wheels yet. So that's where it's at. Winter may be over before I decide to just do it. Haha. It's all good. I like riding in the snow.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:28 PM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

December 19, 2005

Winter Transportation

I'm very close to being ready to write an article about bicycles as winter transportation. I planned on doing it before, but it just wasn't winter yet and frankly, I had only ridden through one winter before. So I didn't really think that was enough real experience. I had to feel my toes getting cold and the windchill factor on my exposed skin to remember what it was like last winter. Now I remember. Ah yes, tonight was cold riding home. I was fine, but my toes got a little too cold and I experienced a little pain. My face was cold and I kept trying to cover my nose and keep my glasses from fogging up. I was sweating because I was working so hard riding up the hill to my house, but still freezing in other areas. The sides of the roads are covered in one-to-two inches of half-frozen slush so it makes riding adventurous. With my mountain bike it's fine, and I realized I'm gaining a lot of off-road bike handling skills riding there! I really wish they'd plow all the way to the curb!
Well, that's my rant about winter biking for the day. It was fine. It's times like tonight though that really define the rules of winter commuting by bicycle. It shows what is needed and how to handle it. My hands were toasty warm by the way in my leather choppers. I wish I could find my good ski mask though. But all-in-all, the verdict is in...The bicycle is a viable mode of transportation in the winter. I'm doing it. I'll most likely keep doing it.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:12 PM | Comments (2) | Winter-Biking

Category "Attitude"

Category "Winter-Biking"

December 06, 2005

Chasing down a winter-bicycle-commuter

I don't know. Normally people would think this is crazy. Even crazier than riding in the winter when it's so cold. I saw another bicyclist tonight in downtown, a block ahead of me as I was leaving work to go home. I tried to catch up to him in downtown, but he kept running red lights and I sat there and waited for each one. But then he headed over the Robert Street bridge and I caught up to him on the hill past Plato. I don't know why I followed him, it's not my normal route. For some reason I felt like it was important. When I caught up to him I started to talk to him and he told me he works about two blocks from my office and that last winter he missed only 7 days of commuting by bicycle. I commend this person for his winter commuting tenacity. In Saint Paul, it's a rare sight I think. But there are a few. The other advantage of it was I got to try a different route home. Robert Street is a BAD bicycle route. This man rode on the sidewalk, while tried (risked my life) on the street where we are supposed to ride. Robert street was designed as a highway made for cars. There is no shoulder or bike lane, just two automobile lanes. But get this...with two lanes and not a lot of traffic, when I pulled up alongside this other bicyclist and was chatting while riding, in the right lane, someone had the audacity to honk at us while passing rapidly in the left lane. It's tough to have to switch lanes while driving, I know, I used to be arrogant too, until I tried riding a bike and get the finger, honked at and almost run down. Changing lanes is a burden I think. A car driver is much too important to slow down and yield part of the road to a bicyclist. There were two lanes and hardly no traffic!!! Why do people have to be such jerks? Can we even blame the cars? No, we have to blame their attitudes toward other people. In any case, I'm glad he didn't decide to run us down to make a point instead of just honking at us!
St. Paul needs more bicyclists if nothing else than to change automobile driver's concepts of road sharing and treating others with respect and kindness. What is our true theology? It is what we live while passing bicyclists, and pedestrians walking across the street for that matter. How we treat others is important.
But on a lighter note, I am happy that I followed this man home. I got to experience riding up the Robert Street hill, the one that leads up to George Street. That was nice! I ran up this hill once last year with Dan and thought I was going to die. But tonight on my bike I wasn't suffering. It felt GOOD! Then, there was the freedom and sense of exploration I felt at having ridden a new route. I loved doing this in the summer, but lately my commutes have become less than adventurous the colder it's become, mainly to minimize the chance of becoming too cold. But it was fun and envigorating! I also met someone new and checked out his bike. He thought I was riding an expensive bike. It's a 50 dollar solid steel huffy that was repainted a nice brown color. It has cheap brakes, steel wheels and a really heavy steel frame. But it has extreme knobby tires, very good traction without studs. And it's a 10-speed, not a modern bike. So, it's a great winter commuter that can handle anything! This is one tough bike! I will ride this all winter now and it willl be the perfect commuter bike. It's funny how we think we need 'expensive' in order to have fun or even to be practical. By the way, a 10-speed mountain bike is plenty good enough to handle that Robert Street bridge. No Granny gear necessary. ;-) Keep on riding! It's good for the soul. Kind of like Dog-Sledding I imagine.

Posted by carl1236 at 09:49 PM | Comments (0) | Attitude | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

December 05, 2005

Riding a bike in the cold and snow

I must write about this again. With temperatures down in the single digits (Farenheit), people are beginning to ask me a lot of questions about riding my bike in this kind of weather. They either look at me like I'm crazy or like I came from another planet altogether. Then almost without fail, I hear something like, "I could never do that." and sometimes I hear, "You are very brave to bike in these conditions." I don't think it's bravery or any special power that I have that allows me to do things that other people cannot do. Do you think I do? I don't. I am really enjoying riding my bike in the winter. It is a different experience for sure. Meditative is a good word.
But, my views are a little more practical than some lofty ideal I'm trying to uphold. I'm also not trying to 'prove' anything. I'm just transporting myself from one location to another. Just like today I walked four blocks in this same cold to get to a destination. Did I ever once consider that extraordinary? No. And if I rode my bike that same distance would it be any different than walking outside? Technically I still have to bundle up even if I'm walking. Nobody wants frostbite so preparation is a good thing no matter what form of transportation we use.
Yes, I'm still biking in the winter. Today I switched to my large leather choppers to keep my hands warm and used my ski mask. It was a great day to ride my bike!

Posted by carl1236 at 11:37 PM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

November 17, 2005

Winter Cycling Revisted

Ok, it's been a couple of days now since it got cold, icy and snowy. And windy. I've been riding my bike but didn't feel like it was anything to talk about because it's not that bad. My fingers got really cold though coming home last night, but it wasn't too bad. I curled up my fingers inside my gloves to warm them up, one hand at a time so I could still brake with the other. Other than that I'm back to my original problem of skin and extremeties getting cold while my body core heats up too much and I sweat. I will probably figure out the optimum clothing to wear just as the snow is melting haha.
I am still seeing a few bicyclists out riding around and on my way to and from work the past two days I've seen someone else's tire tracks in the slush and snow ahead of me.
Also, now my chain is squealing so I'd better lube it tomorrow. I saw someone else in the shop with their mountain bike and it was covered with salt already. sad. I bet my fenders are white underneath. I haven't looked yet but my bike is not too dirty so they must be doing their job.
Winter biking is cool. very cool, but it is cool. Sometimes cold, but mostly cool. Very cool. It can be done. I'm doing it and it's ok and I'm enjoying it. So far so good, and it's hardly worth another line until something extroardinary happens.

Posted by carl1236 at 08:24 PM | Comments (2) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

March 18, 2005

The great snow adventure ride

tonight I rode my bike home from work and it was really an adventure! I got one of my greatest workouts ever! I'd say on a difficulty scale this was about equal to a 3-4 mile run. And I learned a few tricks about balancing and staying upright when the bike is sliding all over. Like purposefully turning the wheel to maintain balance. After getting out of downtown I couldn't ride on the side of the road because it was too thick and my fat mountain bike tires were just floating over the snow and sliding all over the place. So I rode in the ruts where the cars were driving and for the most part It was slushy and I hit pavement. I made pretty good time going home but I was drenched with sweat by the time I reached my house. I couldn't ride up my block because it gets very little car traffic, so I had to walk a hallf a block to my house pushing my bike.
So if my coworker called me crazy for riding my bike in this weather but I made it home safely, got a great workout and had fun doing it, is it crazy?

Posted by carl1236 at 09:12 PM | Comments (1) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

February 09, 2005

Something really cool happening

Riding my bike yesterday morning in the 20-degree weather I didnt expect anything but the usual cars and buses and people walking all bundled up. But as I entered downtown, I saw a bike messenger zipping by going to my left. We made eye contact as their head whipped around to look at me. I dont think that that person expected to see another cyclist out there on the streets either. Lets face it, its February, and its only 20 degrees outside. There are probably not going to be many people out riding their bicycles. But there are a few. Last night going home, I saw three people on bicycles. Well, almost saw. I couldnt see their faces because they all had on some kind of mask to protect their faces from the cold. Though none of us pulled over and struck up a conversation, we all made eye contact, as if checking each other out and acknowledging something very cool. There is a kind of recognition of what we discovered.

Everyone at work knows that I bike to work now. (EVEN now, as they are thinking!) Its encouraging to me that just doing my own thing, Ive already inspired some of my coworkers. Yesterday someone I have never talked to before told me on the elevator that they were going to start riding their bike to work once a week when Spring comes.

I am even thinking about Spring differently now. I dont know what it is. Im not dreading winter and thinking Id rather be somewhere else. Im not anticipating getting out of the cold and into the warmer weather. Im just enjoying it in a way I have never done before. Its strange and almost unreal. Like meeting another cyclist when its 20 degrees outside. I can just acknowledge it as something really cool happening.

Posted by carl1236 at 03:59 AM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

January 25, 2005

MBPA 2005 Annual Meeting

Today was an interesting day. I got to work and all the places to lock up my bike were covered in snow and maintenance at our building wasnt considering bike commuters when they cleared the snow away. They shoved it up against the railings and covered the entrance to my bike locker. Then I rode my bike into the ramp by our building and asked the attendant if I could use their bike rack in the ramp and that was fine with them so I parked it there for the day. Then to my surprise, another bike commuter emailed me and told me that he was tired of waiting for maintenance so he brought his own shovel and salt and cleared away the snow and ice in front of our bike lockers. So tomorrow morning I get to wheel my bike inside of the locker and close the door. If you havent heard about these bike lockers, they are provided for a small fee at various locations throughout the twin cities by Metro Transit Commuter Services. I think you can find a contact for them on the http://www.metrotransit.org site.
Then after work I rode my bike home. Well, I tried to ride it home. Remember I was having mechanical problems with my bike? I didnt ride yesterday because of the problems. I tried to fix it and it made it to work ok this morning, but still not shifting properly. But on the way home, I was stuck in the lowest gear and it was skipping. Evidently this happens when the gears are worn out and the chain is new. The only recourse is to buy new gears. But that wasnt my only problem. I had salt in the derailers and the brakes so those werent working quite right. I need to clean and lubricate them better. Then the rear derailer cable came loose and thats how I got stuck in the lowest gear going home, which is the gear that was skipping the worst. So when I put pressure on the pedals, the chain skipped and my feet would jerk downward without propelling the bike forward. It was a pain to get home, but I limped it home slowly, trying not to exert too much pressure on the pedals, which means I walked up the steepest hill.
But overall, it was still a pleasant walk/ride home because it was still light out. Did you notice how much ligher it is now at 5pm?!! Because Im riding a bike, I really noticed and its great! Also, it was warm today, so it was pleasant. I dont let things like this bother me. Even though I bought this bike used and it had a lot of problems, its still a good frame, and Im replacing all the mechanical parts that matter so its a great bike that will be like a brand new bike when Im done. It will still cost me less than the same bike new. I think it was a bike that normally sold for about 500 dollars new. So Im not complaining. Also, I bought this bike from the Sibley bike depot and the money they get for these bikes helps support their bike education and advocacy activities. So to me I cant complain about where the money went for the bike either. I enjoy giving to people and organizations that need it.
Given the mechanical problems of this bike today, I wasnt about to ride it downtown again tonight for the meeting I intended on going to. Instead I loaded it into my car and drove there. This got me thinking. If I give up my car totally, how would I get my bike to a repair shop if it broke down? I think the answer is in having two bikes, one with a bike trailer that can haul things. My friend Dans brother is a house painter who uses only a bicycle. He has a trailer that he pulls behind his bike with ladder, paint and other equipment he needs. When hes working on a project he leaves the trailer at the site and commutes home on his bike without it. Then when the job is done, he loads everything back on the trailer and rides home with it. In my opinion, that is someone who takes bike commuting seriously. I think that if I intend to give up my car totally, I will need to get a bike trailer to haul stuff. Maybe I will try to design one myself and make it from spare bike parts and wheels. That would be an interesting project.
Anyway, I got to the meeting and left my bike in the car until I found out if someone there was willing to help me. The meeting was the 2005 Annual Meeting of the Minnesota Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance (MNBPA) http://www.bikeped.org At the meeting they elected officers for 2005, then ate food and talked about bikes. It was really interesting listening to them all and talking with them. I didnt volunteer to serve on the board, although they were looking for more members. I mainly went because I wanted to find out more about their organization and maybe find ways to help them. I think this is a good organization to have in the Twin Cities to make them more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. Ive been all over the cities this past year and have a lot of complaints about the conditions for bike riders and walkers. In many places there is a lack of adequate places to lock up bikes. In other places there is no shoulder or sidewalk to ride the bike on and the traffic is too busy and fast to ride out in the traffic. Its sometimes downright scary riding a bike. If we want to get more people out on their bikes even in the warmer weather, we need advocates pushing for a more bike and pedestrian friendly city. So I support their activities. And it seems like they are doing a lot.
At the meeting I met a bicycle messenger. There is a company in St. Paul that has some cars and three bicycllists delivering mostly legal documents. I was fascinated by this idea and asked a lot of questions. It was fun for both of us. I was told that coming up soon is a local bike delivery competition, which I wont be able to see, because Ill be running that day. there is also a World Championship competition for bike messengers over the fourth of July weekend in Chicago. This driver is hoping to go compete there this year if finances permit.
Then also during the meeting there was talk about the new pedi-cab service in St. Paul, coming soon. This was really interesting. I think I would like to try that out. I put my name in to drive one. Im sure Ill post more on this later as I find out more details.
After the meeting I surveyed the Sibley Bike Depot shop. Most of the talk was about the damage done to the building from the construction next door, but when they ran the course of that discussion one of the guys was kind enough to help me with my bike problems. Most of them are now resolved. However, he is going to order me two new sprockets for the back wheel so my chain will stop skipping. And he showed me where I need to lubricate my shifting levers and what I needed to do to fix my brake problem. That was very nice of him.
I have a very positive feeling about this organization and what they are doing so I am going to find some more ways I can help them throughout the next few years. As part of their program, they have classes on bike repair. I think thats a great thing to know if you are into any kind of biking or commuting. Just like cars it helps to know the vehicle you are driving and how to do at least the basics. They have a repair shop you can use with all the tools and expert (volunteer) staff to help.
Please, check them out. This is my first endorsement of a group that I think is making a difference. To me there are huge benefits to human powered movement, environmentally, economically, emotionally and physically.
And since its almost midnight, I have to finish my laundry and get to bed. :-) It was a good day.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:56 PM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

January 23, 2005

Photographs and Memories

I made it to Bush Lake today for the first part of the 3rd Annual Ice Crit Championship Race Series. It was really amazing. I did take pictures but didnt race. I was about 10 minutes too late to race because I had to assemble my bike and had trouble with the brakes and the spindle on the rear wheel being too short. But I fixed those problems and threw my camera bag over my shoulder and rode down to the lake to see the action. I think I got some great photos and I hope they turn out, since Im still trying to figure out this 35mm camera.
After one race ended and before the A-Class race began I had time to try out the course myself. It was very cool. They had cleared a path about 5 feet wide zigzagging over part of the lake, then up a steep hill through the woods, then leveling off on top of the hill and then back down a steep, winding trail back to the lake. My bike and new studded tires did great on the ice, but Im still having mechanical problems with the gears and shifting. Ill have to work those out before next weekend.
Yes, next weekend! I am going to actually race next weekend, since I missed this one. I found out that anyone can race in any of the classes and its not necessary to be at all three. In the A-Class race, however, each racer is awarded points during each race and the winner of the overall cash prizes are those with the most points, so to be in the running for one of those prizes or to win the race, the racer would need all the points they can get.
So Im planning on going to Crystal Lake in Burnsville next weekend on January 30th to actually race. Today gave me a preview of what to expect. It also showed me my bike wasnt ready. And it gave me to confidence I needed to do this. There were a lot of people there just to have fun. All these people seemed to be really enjoying the winter and were all very enthused. I am still kind of amazed at this event. Because of my willingness to go to this event even if I didnt have my wheels done actually turned out to be a blessing. I got the gift of another week to prepare myself.
The race itself is 40 minutes long for the B-Class. The A-Class was 60 minutes. One of the guys there said he lost track of how many loops he did because he had oxygen deprivation from breathing so hard. That was a tough hill to climb in the snow. I found out many of the riders were running up that steep hill carrying their bikes. Haha. I didnt know that was allowed. Because of my gear problems, I could only make it about halfway up before I had to jump off and run up the hill. I dont know what the course will be like next week, but I bet theyll make it similar to this one. The next two races in the series will be at Crystal Lake so the racers going for the big bucks will be familiar with the course for the last race. I bet the speeds will go up for that one.
This morning I was going back and forth between optimism and acceptance of whatever happened. I was ok with not racing, but excited that I might still make it. But I was still finishing my tires this morning after I woke up and then threw them in my car with the bike and headed for the race. I didnt even have a chance to test them. Thats why I had mechanical problems. In the military we used to always say the four Ps whenever getting ready for a mission: Proper Prior Planning and Preparation. If I had prepared better, I would have known what the problems were and would have taken care of them. Thats why having a good attitude and going there anyway was such a great gift. Now I know I have another week and Ill be ready.
Here are some highlights of the day:
1. I met a guy from the St. Paul Bike racing club, who normally does only road races, but borrowed a set of studded tires from a friend to try this race. He was going for the money race and looked like a serious cyclist. He was pretty impressed with my spiked tires. And he said hell be one of the instructors in the Beginning Road Racing class Im signed up for. That was cool. All of that happened right after I finished putting my bike together.
2. I met another guy who was late, but his bike was in one piece and functioning properly and he made the race. He wont be in next weeks race because once was enough for him.
3. I took some photos. Its 35mm film so now I have to use up this roll quickly so I can see how they turned out.
4. I got to ride the course 3 times and know what kind of course it is and what to expect.
5. I got stuck on the way out of the park, since they didnt plow the parking lot or entrance to this park from the snow we just had. About halfway up the hill from the parking lot down by the lake, I got stuck. A couple of guys behind me helped push me out. Once I reached the main road I pulled over to the side, and ran back to help them. The one guy said, Im so happy you came back to return the favor! He didnt think I was coming back, but then I told him I had to drive out onto the main road and park out there where I wouldnt get stuck again. He was happy I came back though, and with two of us pushing he made it out too.
6. Several people looked at my homemade studded tires and told me Im going to get a flat tire. When I asked them why they thought that, they didnt have an explanation, just that it looked like it wouldnt work too well. I think they will work great, and I had really good traction on the ice. And besides, I used Duct Tape! Thatll fix anything right?
7. We got some amazed looks from cross-country skiers and people walking their dogs.

I noticed that both of my hands are stiff and sore tonight as Im typing It must be from screwing all of those 300 screws in to make my studded-tires. Thats a good workout!

It was a good experience today! And a blessing that I didn't expect.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:59 PM | Comments (2) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

January 22, 2005

The schedule doesn't change

The schedule doesn't change just because I don't have time. Tomorrow is the ice crit championship series bike race and I'm still making tires. Putting all of those studs in a tire is very time consuming. I just put a hundred in and I have about 50 to go. Then I have to line the tires with duct tape, put the tubes in, mount them on the rims and inflate. Then I have to lookat the problem with my cable in the rear, since my bike stopped shifting gears coming home on Friday. The cable was loose and I think that's the real reason my chain was skipping. We'll see. Regardless, The race is still tomorrow and they won't change the date of it just because I haven't had time to finish my tires.
The question is, do I go tired or skip it? I'm on a mission right now, so I'll let you know tomorrow. It's too bad that studded-tire making class wasn't a week ago. But I'll still be able to play in the snow with these tires tomorrow before it all melts. Here comes the sun.
More news tomorrow night.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:59 PM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Attitude"

Category "Winter-Biking"

January 21, 2005

Events as they unfold

All things do not go as planned. It might seem predictable what I will be talking about. Its the talk of the town already. The wonderful winter wonderland we live in just became more wonderful and interesting. Jim already hit a lot of the key points that I also experienced about bicycling home in this snow, so I wont repeat that part. See Jim's awesome description of this adventure. Ill just say that I got one of the greatest workouts of my life. And I didnt even have my studded tires on yet. That was interesting. Like a controlled slide when going downhill and pushing my bike while trudging through the snow while going uphill. Since my route home is mostly uphill I walked a lot. One person yelled out to me, you gotta put skis on that thing! I laughed loudly and gave them the thumbs up and kept sweating my way along the sidewalk, pushing my bike. Interesting idea though. I saw a bike like this in a book about Minnesota winters. They had big spiked tires in the rear and a ski on the front and they used to race them on the ice and snow. I don't really know how well it would actually work though. That sounds like a test for sometime in the future if I would even go there. It's interesting to imagine though.
I am totally happy this snowfall happened. It may sound crazy, but I got a good workout, and I learned what a bike without studded tires could really handle. It is experience! I rode to work just fine this morning and it was a beautiful ride. Coming home I got an experience I will not forget soon.
Then tonight I went straight to my daughters workplace to drive her car home for her. She drove over an hour to get to work, for what should have been a twenty-minute drive. But she made it, and Im proud of her for handling the rough conditions without getting stuck or in an accident. Getting her car home was a different story though. I barely made it, and then got stuck in our own driveway. I got another good workout! If I keep this up Ill be Mr. Universe for a day. I dont think I have to go running tonight. Our driveway is about 50 feet long with a hill. I shoveled the whole thing and put kitty litter down, moved the cars from the street to the driveway, with help from my wife, who drove while I pushed, then made it into the house by 10:00pm. whew! This was a long, interesting, exciting day. Its a beautiful thing to appreciate and enjoy weather like this.
I had other intentions tonight than doing all of this, but circumstances changed my plans. I was going to go to the hardware store to get more screws and finish my studded tires, but I didnt want to drive any more than I had to. And it became too late by the time I was done with my workout. ;-) So I adapt. I accept and love what I am doing. I am exhilarated by the exercise and the ability to enjoy the weather. Sometimes events as they unfold can be stressful and upsetting, but much of our suffering or joy is dependant on how we perceive things. Happiness at any given moment is dependant on our attitude toward the moment. If we are crying about the loss of our expected plans, we are not able to fully be in this moment and experience it. Sometimes events unfold and we have a choice about how to perceive them and react to them. Enjoy the snow and be safe. It'll start melting next week after it warms up.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:10 PM | Comments (6) | Attitude | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

January 20, 2005

Studded Tires and a New Blogging Friend

Tonight I met Dan at the studded tire making class. Dan is a daily bike commuter and he writes a blog. It was interesting to chat with him and talk about both hobbies. I checked out his blog tonight and found some interesting things. If you are a UofM student, you'll like the references to places on or near the campus. Dan's a grad student at the U.
His blog is called BASIC STUPIDITY

Well, I didn't finish making my studded tires tonight because I put the studs too close together. After putting in 100 screws I ran out of screws and was only 3/4 of the way around the tire. That took about an hour to do. I plan on doing two tires before Sunday's bike race on ice. So that is what I'll be doing tomorrow night. Making studded tires. But it's not difficult to do and once you see it done and try it, it's easy. I'm sure experience will tell what works best for spacing and length of the studs, so if these don't work, I have the technology to make more. Seriously, almost anyone could make these for their bike.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:15 PM | Comments (0) | Winter-Biking

Category "Attitude"

Category "Winter-Biking"

January 14, 2005

Bike Ninja II

I think today was the coldest day of the year so far. But the days are getting longer and there are only about 60 days left of Winter. I was excited because as I was riding my bike home today, at 5:30pm there was still a little light left.
Today when I got into work, one of the co-authors of our company newsletter took my picture and wrote an article about my winter bike commuting. I thought the picture turned out well and wanted to share it with you. Due to the extreme cold weather, I am dressed like this. Which looks very similar to Jims picture.

bike.jpg

Today riding my bike to work I actually got too hot because I over-dressed for the conditions. The key to riding a bike in subzero weather is having 'no exposed skin.' To stay warm I put on layers:
* Long underwear, pants, windbreaker overpants. Synthetic socks, thick wool socks over that, then waterproof workboots.
* Thin Nylon gloves inside of thick winter gloves with thinsulate lining.
* Light nylon ski mask with a military Extreme Cold Weather Mask over
that. To protect the exposed skin around the eyes and lips I used a thin coat of Vaseline.
* On my upper body I had on a normal work shirt, a sweater and winter Jacket. The sweater was overkill because with the work of riding a bike, the core tends to warm up quickly. Going home I have to work much harder because it's almost all uphill. I had to take off the sweater for the ride home. With the right preparation and attitude the bike riding part is no different than riding on a summer day. Well, almost no different. I feel a little constricted in all those layers. But even sub-zero weather is manageable.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:41 PM | Comments (3) | Attitude | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

January 07, 2005

You almost saw me

Today I rode my bike to work and a lot of people were staring at me. I was having a great time though! And it felt really good to be pumping my legs and surging through the crisp air. I could feel my heart beating and hear my breathing. The traffic around me was cautious and curious. People slowed down and looked at me as I was riding along. I was the only bike on the street and Im sure I must have seemed a little out of place.
As I was riding in I was glad to have the knobby tires and easy handling of my Mongoose mountain bike. I just got it back from the bike shop last night. (The pedal fell off the last time I rode it and the threads were stipped inside of the crank arm) So I was excited about riding my bike. The bonus was that it was actually really nice today. Tomorrow should be warmer so I might go for another ride. It feels really good to be exercising outside. So far so good. Ita already January 7 and last year I started riding my bike on March 16th. Thats only about 60-some days of winter left! Thats a positive note.
Since I was in a good mood and excited about cycling in the winter, I wanted to share my enthusiasm with you by posting a photo of me and my bike. So I had a coworker take several photos with the digital camera. Unfortunately they were all blury. She must have had shakey hands or something. In any case, They looked distorted and not suitable to post. Ill have to take some more some time. You almost saw me.

Winter biking is cool. Its fun and it saves a ton of pollution and reduces dependancy on the automobile. Just because its winter doesnt mean its not possible. I was explaining to my wife tonight that even though people look at winter cyclists like they are crazy, its not so crazy. My turning point came when I decided to look at this as not just cycling but as a winter sport. I know how do do winter sports. Ive gone snow-shoeing, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, dog sledding, ice skating, and sliding. When I started to look at this as a winter sport, like any of these, my attitude changed. Cold was no longer a limiting factor because in Winter Sport, its expected that it will be cold. In a winter sport using the proper gear nullifies the effects of the cold. Im not biking, Im winter-biking. Thats the difference. Now I cant wait until it really snows, so I can experience some real winter-biking sport.
Although Id better get my studded tires ready for that day. But sadly there is only about two months left of winter. Time flies when we are having fun. If you saw me riding my bike today, you would have felt my enthusiasm. Instead of looking at a winter-biker like they are crazy, think about the pleasure that person is really experiencing. Just like down-hill skiing or snow-boarding. This is fun stuff! If you've ever felt this feeling, then you did see me!

Posted by carl1236 at 11:58 PM | Comments (2) | Winter-Biking

Category "Attitude"

Category "Winter-Biking"

December 29, 2004

WINTER BIKE RIDING

ATTITUDE

With this weather I can hardly call this Winter bike riding. Today I rode my bike and it was fun. But tonight I met with my Korean Language partner and picked him up from the UofM. There were still a lot of bikes in the bike racks and I saw dozens of people riding around on their bikes. I feel like Ive made a big deal out of something that many of you are already doing, namely riding your bikes for transportation. I am assuming that its because its easier than walking and cheaper than a car to own. I have learned that as long as the streets are clear there is no reason not to continue riding our bikes. The cold? Wear warmer clothes. The wet? Wear waterproof footwear and have fenders that block most of the spray. The snow? Well, well face that soon enough. In the mean time, we can keep riding. We are only limited by our own attitude.
In the book, The bicycle commuting book, Using the bicycle for utility and transportation, by Rob Van der Plas, the author shares with us his ideas on Cycling in Bad Weather. Most of what he talks about is attitude. He said, I shall never forget my first group ride in the US. After having lived and cycled most of my life in such rainy regions as Britain and Holland, I had made arrangements with some colleagues in California for a Sunday cycle tour. At seven in the morning the phone rang: Theres a 20% chance of rain, so well have to call off the ride, I was informed. That seemed a curious attitude and I went on the attitude anyway, together with two other hardy cyclists. We had a wonderful day. It didnt rain after all there was an 80% chance of that. But even if it had rained, we would have had a pretty good ride: Though rain may detract from the pleasure of cycling, it is not usually so serious that cycling becomes punishment. And the same can be said for all kinds of other weather problems, ranging from snow to wind and from excessive heat to frost. Consider that in many parts of the world, cyclists accept what seems normal there. In Scotland or the Lake District it rains. Everybody knows it and so you dont stop cycling if it does. You dress for it or you ignore it, but you wouldnt lose a nights sleep worrying about it. The same can be said for the cold in other parts of the world: If it often freezes or snows, you just learn to ride when it does. At the other extreme, I dont go for heat too much, but folk in much of Australia seem to think nothing of riding their bikes when its 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The message is simple: Keep in mind what can be done and enjoyed in other parts of the world, and start doing it yourself... He goes on to describe how to do that for the various conditions. He talks about using the right equipment, wearing the right clothing and proper fuel.

EQUIPMENT

Today I rode my Schwinn road bike because I didnt need the big fat knobby tires. I had some mechanical problems today, like a flat tire, broken toe straps and a scraping fender. None of these equipment failures were serious enough to stop. I had to fix them though, which was a pain. For winter biking I feel its even more important to have a well-maintained bike. Breaking down in the cold is not as much fun as riding in the cold. Ive pushed my bike in the cold three times now. Im learning that I need to avoid this by fixing and maintaining my bikes better.

LINKS TO SITES

Here are three good sites with information on winter biking: I especially liked the Fairbanks, Alaska cycle club site. They are winter cyclists! I am a fair-weather rider compared to these people. If they can ride in the snow and love it, so can I.

Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Association
http://edmontonbicyclecommuters.ca/cgi-bin/content/content.cgi?action=winter

Totalbike.com information on winter cycling
http://www.totalbike.com/February2000/winter.html

Naturally, we have a lot of winter here in central Alaska. This is a Good Thing, as it treats us to almost six months of excellent winter bicycling. For the uninitiated, it sounds mad and ridiculous, but for folks that have tried it and gotten "the buzz" from winter trail rides, it is sublime, and some of the best riding of the year.
http://www.fairbankscycleclub.org/Winter/


SUMMARY

Attitude makes a huge difference in everything we do. Today, December 29, 2004, I went for a bike ride, can you believe it? Should it be this warm at this time of year? At 30 degrees Fahrenheit it was a comfortable ride. I can see how out of shape Ive become already though. I feel it in my legs now as I sit here.
Just one and a half blocks from home I had a flat tire. There is only one thing more discouraging to me than a mechanical failure and thats to not get right back out there after fixing whatever problem it is. I walked the bike back to my house, fixed the flat in my basement where its warm, then went right back out. At first I wanted to just say forget it, because it was a lot of work fixing that flat. Then it was a half hour later and I was running out of daylight. But I went out anyway and rode. I had some other irritating mechanical problems but nothing that kept me from enjoying the ride. I rode hard for about a half an hour and Im happy that I did it. Im sure my body will be better off for exercising again. It felt really good! So did a positive attitude. Looking back on the day, I feel much better because I just did it and did not let anything stop me from enjoying it.
I have this feeling that like the people in Fairbanks said, this will be some of the best riding of the year.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:26 PM | Comments (1) | Attitude | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

December 23, 2004

Mongoose on the loose!

Today I rode about five and a half miles on my new Mongoose Surge Mountain Bike in the cold. As I mentioned in my previous post it was -8F / -27F with wind-chill, the coldest day so far this winter I believe.
I wore my blue long underwear, Dockers style work pants, black windbreaker pants over that, my blue dress shirt, blue sweater, heavy winter jacket, black winter gloves, military ski mask, polar fleece hat and helmet. My upper body was too hot. I was sweating. The wind was really cold when cruising down the
Ohio Street hill, but I had hardly any exposed skin, so I was protected. I'll need a lighter windbreaker
jacket for my upper body at this temperature or take my sweater off. I wore leather work boots with thin wool socks first, then thick nylon winter socks. My feet were plenty warm but my hands started
getting cold but were still comfortable. Also my forehead became too hot in that hat. I think it will take me a while to figure out what to wear at which temperature, but I know its totally possible. I thought it would be ok, because Ive done cross-country skiing in colder weather.
Even so, I was not the only one out there today on bicycle, so I dont think this is that incredible of an accomplishment. But it is liberating to know I can ride my bike any time. If you are still riding your bike and are planning on riding it through the winter, I would like to hear from you. I am now planning on riding all the way through. I hear the days are getting longer now too.
Oh yes, one note: The only uncomfortable part of the ride was when I hit a stretch of road that had half-frozen slush piled up on the side of the road in the bike lane. I started sliding a little in that part, which made me panick a little. I am still planning on looking into studded tires and snow chains. to make it through the worst weather. In the mean time I can enjoy the semi-clear roads. The mountain bike tires are sufficient for that.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:23 PM | Comments (1) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

December 22, 2004

Sibley Bike Depot Closed, NOT

Tonight I went to the Sibley Bike Depot in Downtown St. Paul to look at the Mountain Bikes on sale. I found it tucked away behind some new apartment buildings on Sibley, between 9th and 10th Streets. Thats between 7th Street and Highway 94.
When I arrived at about 6:30pm there was a dim light on inside. At first I thought they were closed, but then I saw someone walking around in there. I went up to the door and there was a big sign that said CLOSED, with a note that said, Closed for the season. I thought, Thats weird," because I just checked their website and it said they were open. The guy inside saw me and motioned me to go to the other door. So I walked around and he let me in. That was Bill, one of the board members of the Minnesota Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance, which runs the Sibley Bike Depot. He told me the whole story. Evidently the construction next door damaged their foundation and they developed a huge crack in their floor, then their wall started falling, so they have to wait until January for it to be repaired. They decided that they would just close up shop until those repairs were done.
Bill happened to be at the shop tonight because he thought some volunteers might show up to work tonight, and while he was there he was just straightening up. He was getting ready to leave until I showed up. I was curious about the bike shop, so he invited me in. When I told him what I was doing, he enthusiastically showed me all of their mountain bikes and helped to fit me with one that would work for winter biking. He then told me about another place in town that MAKES their own studded tires. Im going there next week to check them out. I left with a nice mountain bike in possession that I bought at a reasonable price. Its a Mongoose Surge. Can you feel the power? I've never heard of that brand before but I don't really know brand names too well, except for a few that I see a lot, like Trek and Specialized.
This shop seems like a really good place to find used bikes that are totally repaired and in working order. And if you need to fix your bike, this is a good place to do that also. Anyway, now I have a bike to ride, so Im going to ride to work tomorrow morning. The roads should be clear enough by then, so Im going for it with just the standard mountain bike tires. It should be ok. I will look for studded tires next week and start building my snow chains.
Now for clothing, lights, reflectors, fenders...

I have to thank Bill for being in the right place at the right time tonight. Even though they are closed until the repairs are done, Bill let me in and sold me a bike. And I have to say thanks again to Jim for the inspiration and motivation to get out there and ride my bike again. This is truly an adventure and much more fun than my stationary bike, which I have not been very motivated to ride! It just doesn't move me. ;-)

Posted by carl1236 at 10:24 PM | Comments (1) | Winter-Biking

Category "Winter-Biking"

December 19, 2004

Let the Adventure begin

Well, I cant wait until next year. Ive been inspired by Jim and my friend Dan who are still biking to work. I wasnt prepared for the darkness or the cold, but that can be fixed. So can my attitude of adventure.

If Im really serious about reducing toxins and pollutants in our environment, reduce my dependence on the consumption of gasoline and make myself more physically fit, I need to be more than a fair-weather advocate of alternative modes of transportation. I need to put my ideals into action. Granted, our Minnesota climate provides obstacles other warmer states dont have (ice, snow and sub-zero weather), but I believe cycling in the winter could be as safe and fun as any other winter sport, providing we are prepared for it properly. When I was a Boy Scout Leader, I built snow shelters and slept out in sub-zero weather, snowshoed and did cross-country skiing through some deep snow and treacherous terrain. Ive done ski-joring with my dog and built a dog sled to haul camping gear into remote cabins that our vehicles could not access. It seems to me that cycling in the Twin-Cities all through the winter is no different than those winter sports, except maybe a little more tame.
I admit there are a lot of differences, but that just means I have to learn this sport and the inside tricks to making it work.
I plan on sharing my process of year-round cycling in Minnesota, like Jim who has been more than inspiring with his photos and commentary about cycling.. And in the Spring, Im starting Bike Racing but thats a different sport than winter bicycle commuting. Also, I think this will complete my liberation from the car. I started commuting last year by bus, and then in March started cycling to and from work. If I can bike, ride public transportation and walk everywhere I need to go, then I will have no need for my car. Im not there yet, but I can tell it will be a great ride!

My first step is getting the right gear for this sport. Like every sport, the proper gear is necessary. It doesnt have to be name brand gear, just functional and appropriate for the given task. I wouldnt go rappelling without the properly rated carabiners and ropes, and I cant ride my racing bike through 3 feet of snow. I cant wear shorts in a blizzard. I shouldnt expect the same gear to work for all situations. Since I dont have a lot of available funds (College classes are expensive!), Ill be trying to put together this new gear creatively and for as little as possible.

Here is my research and thoughts so far. If you have any suggestions or corrections to my reasoning, please let me know. I see three main areas I need to work on to be able to commute to work all winter here:

Bike: It has to be able to handle all weather conditions, such as sleet, snow, ice, rain, etc. For several important reasons, Ive decided to start with a basic mountain bike, which I dont have yet. The mountain bike is better designed for rough terrain and the forks can accommodate bigger, wider knobbier tires. The mountain bike handlebars are straight across, which will provide better handling in icy conditions. Specific things Im considering for modifications are the pedals, fenders, brakes and tires.

Visibility: Since riding a bicycle during a Minnesota winter is essentially riding in the dark, better lights and reflectors will be necessary to be visible. This is really a safety issue. I fought with this problem commuting to and from work as soon as daylight savings time hit this Fall. I dont get done with work until 5pm and it was dark then. I will be looking at several things to make myself really visible: Ill be using a bright paint, lots of reflector tape, lots of blinky lights and a really bright headlight to show the obstacles in my path.

Clothing: Since freezing my hands, feet and face is a very real prospect, Ill be looking at ways to stay dry and warm and properly dressed for the sport.

Given more time I could most likely find a free mountain bike somewhere. Just a few weeks ago I saw one sitting out by someones curb being thrown away. If anyone wants to donate one for this project, please let me know. But I have to start somewhere so my first stop will be to check out the bikes on sale right now at The Sibly Bike Depot in St. Paul. They are not open on Monday and Tuesday so Ill be going there on Wednesday.
There is a reason Im going there, besides that they have bicycles for a reasonable cost. Even though they dont have mountain bikes for free they say they have mountain bikes starting at 50 dollars. Other standard bikes start at 17 dollars. They fix and repair bikes and even have a shop with tools and tons of recycled parts for individuals to build and maintain their own bikes. The bikes they sell have already been serviced and in working condition. Besides the good deal on a bike, I would be helping to support something I feel is a good cause.
The Sibly Bike Depot http://www.bikeped.org/ is part of the Minnesota Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance (MNBPA). It is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working to promote non-motorized transportation in our state. They work with a small budget made up entirely of donations from supporters and over 90% of their labor is from volunteers. Their work includes activities in Community Education, School Education, Advocacy, Recycling and Community Building. From teaching basic bicycle repair skills to inner-city youth to stripping and recycling thousands of junk bicycles and keeping them out of the landfills, MNBPA has been steadily working since 2001 toward its mission of facilitating an increase of bicycle and pedestrian transportation. In addition to advocacy they operate the Sibley Bike Depot- http://www.bikeped.org/Depot.html - a community education, repair and retail facility.

Wednesday night Ill post an update on my experience. Life becomes an adventure when our attitudes are adventurous.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:12 PM | Comments (2) | Winter-Biking

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