Friday, November 22, 2013

Bike-related snippets!

Happy Friday morning!

Just a few little bits and pieces for today's entry.

First, this past Wednesday, the Great Rivers Greenway hosted a presentation about infrastructure in three bicycle-friendly cities. This was a busy week for me, though I thought I'd be able to go if I could get things squared at work last minute. Work cooperated, but the event was so popular that it sold out (and then some)! While I'm utterly bummed I could not attend, I am thrilled so many people are paying attention. If I can find a good report of the presentation among the blogs, I will post it here for you.

Second, have you seen this enchanting gif that shows just how much more road we need when we all drive cars? This is through the lens of promoting public transportation, but there are similar photos all over the web that show how many people or bicycles fit into a single parking spot for a car. What if just half of our roads - or even half of each road - was just for transportation other than cars? What if the bike lanes were the 9-15' of standard car lanes? Even half of that would be an improvement.

Photo Credit and additional info: The Atlantic

Third, last Saturday, I was able to pick up the Radish! It looks amazing. It needs a little tweaking at home (now that I can raise the seat, I want to raise the handlebars, and it needs a little love and oil in a couple of squeaky spots). Here's the updated Motobecane:

I love improvements that simultaneously change everything and look like they could have always been there. I've decided to hold off on updating the Trek for now. I'm struggling with some fit issues, and may want to keep a bike that's just light and easy to break down for quick trips or more rugged trails. I'll keep you posted. 

Fourth, and finally, I intend to take next Friday off, as it is our families' big Thanksgiving weekend. My hubby and I are very lucky to have jobs that close for the long weekend, and we live within a few hours' drive of both families, so it's our one big holiday with our parents and siblings. Here's hoping you have at least the day off work, and a nudge in the direction of letting any consumerist tendencies wait until Small Business Saturday.

Of course, for any friends celebrating dual holidays this coming Thursday, Happy Thanksgivvikuh, enjoy lighting your Menurkeys, and thank you for bringing the world two amazing, amazing new words.  

Cheers, happy riding, and enjoy your holidays!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sartorial Cycling: Dressing for Transitional Temps

Happy Friday night, Fiets-Friends!

Today, let's talk about layering for riding. On Sunday, I decided to ride Fleur to church, which is about two miles each way from my home. It was in the low-40s when I left, but was supposed to be near 60 for my ride home. HEY, those temps require different outerwear, y'all.

So what to wear to ride?

As always, start with what you want to wear. It's a bicycle ride, not an ice-climbing expedition. {The dog is optional; mine isn't a fan of baskets, for the record.}

Consider that you will be INCREASING wind exposure (by moving through the air, sometimes quickly), while WARMING your core through physical activity. So really, you'll warm yourself up once you're going for a few minutes, but the air will feel colder -- especially on your arms (which aren't moving as much as your legs), hands, and face/ears. 

Personally? I don't mind a brisk breeze on my face, but cold ears give me a wicked headache. 

Early in the blog, I suggested wearing a handkerchief in your forehead to prevent helmet-forehead. For cool, but not yet cold, weather, try binding the bandanna over your ears. It will block the wind but let most of the sound through. 

I also recommend a scarf; err on the warm side (they are easy to loosen or ditch). The other form of cold that gets to me is a cold neck and chest. I like winters so much more since scarves really caught on a few years ago!

Finally, if you have a jacket that is primarily wind-proof, or at least wind-resistant, grab that one. I was far chillier on my "coffeeneuring" ride when it was in the 50s in a wool tee and polyester fleece jacket than in my sleeveless shell, light cardi, and ancient raincoat (this jacket's at least ten years old; serves me well in a number of circumstances).

A lot of smaller layers allow you to tailor your outerwear during the ride and to adjust as necessary for the ride home, when temps have shifted. I ditched everything but the jacket and helmet for my ride home two hours later. 

Finally, a note on hair: with long tresses, I often like a braid or braids, because of the ease, but a low bun also plays nicely with a helmet. It also, if anything, creates a soft "o" or  "s"-type wave instead of crimpy-type "z" waves. I just twist my hair onto itself and secure ends with an elastic or small hair clip.

As the daylight wanes, and the temperatures continue to drop, I will likely be focusing my transport rides on these shorter jaunts within my more immediate neighborhoods. I do plan to continue Sunday church rides into and through the winter as long as the streets are clear.  I look forward to the experience and sharing what I'm learning with you here! I'd also like to lobby for the workday to shorten to from no earlier than an hour after sunrise to no later than an hour before sunset -- just to have a fighting shot at some daylight for part of my commute -- however I'm commuting. 9-3 from November to March, anyone?

Cheers, and happy riding!

Friday, November 8, 2013

The World Looks Different When You Ride

This past week has been a mixed bag, as far as bicycling goes. 

The Good:

I mentioned my "stable" post in and by Bikes for the Rest of Us, and got some great feedback from the post's authors about how to adjust my hub gearing on Fleur (Linus Dutchi) in order to fit my riding needs better.

I've been in touch with my LBS about making this change, and about the work needed to Julek (90's Trek 8000) and The Radish (70's Motobecane 10-speed).

Here's the starting plan for the bikes:

  • Adjust the ring from 22 to 18-tooth to adjust second gear on Fleur.
  • Give The Radish the attention it needs - new brake hoods, a once-over.
  • Julek needs to have a crack in the shock looked at; not sure yet if I'll keep the shock or return to the original fork (I still have it).
  • Julek needs some smooth tires.
  • The Radish and Julek need fenders and small rear racks.
  • The Radish needs serious wheel love. The spokes are loose and wheels are out of true.
  • The Radish needs some reflectors, too, to be compliant with current law.
  • Kickstand upgrades for everyone.
I will start with The Radish, then Julek, then Fleur, since that's the order in which they are rideable. Which brings us to...

The Bad:

Can we talk about daylight savings time? I have never been profoundly affected by daylight per se. I love rainy days, and as long as things are green and lush and moist, I'm happy. I get far more bummed out by days when it's miserable to be outside - freezing and grey, or hot and brown. Truly, I blame Portland for ruining things with evergreens and mild temps year round.

This year, the end of Daylight Savings Time hit me like a ton of bricks, because it effectively meant that, even with mild weather, to commute to and from the office, I'd have to commit to riding 6(+) miles in rush hour traffic in the dark. And, at least at my current comfort level, I can't.  I struggle with the ride home during rush hour in the best of circumstances, and I need more than a blinking red light and an awesome headlight to get me over this. Like a body-suit made of reflective-coated titanium or something, I don't know. That said, sometimes on Fridays I can scoot a little early, and that may buy enough daylight to make the occasional winter ride possible. So don't totally give up on me. Plus, riding to and from church and local businesses is still very much a possibility, because those are often daylight-hour activities, even as the Winter Solstice approaches. 

The Ugly:

If I am often busy, November presents a special challenge, due to NaNoWriMo, in which I have participated most years (and I am determined to win this year; I won in 2009). Nano collided with an already-busy schedule last weekend and I basically spent Saturday and Sunday running around like a crazy person. The chief (or at least, most relevant to this blog) implication of this is that I have officially "failed" coffeeneuring, in that I could not find time for a challenge-worthy bike ride at any time during Saturday or Sunday. However, I've been assured that continuing without winning is still grounds for submission and cheers, so I will try to coffeeneur this weekend and on future weekends. I do so like the this is not about speed or distance or getting somewhere; it's about biking leisurely to a leisure activity vibe of the thing. I want to celebrate that, especially since it is so much more accessible to me right now than  distance rides, night rides, and commuting to work.

The Game-Plan:

I will use these long, dark nights to provide the incentive to get the remaining bicycles up to speed, to seize the opportunity to ride on weekend days, and to find space an time in my schedule to breathe... and ride.

The Silver Lining:

Out of frustration comes (if you're looking for it) insight

On a practical level, I've determined that I need a paper calendar. I love my phone's calendar for its ability to remind me of things with alarms, but I have the terrible habit of checking only to see if I am free for the specific window requested of me, and not considering the larger picture (what the rest of the day, weekend, or week holds for me). I'm a visual person, so this isn't really a surprise, but I hadn't thought about it until my overbooked calendar caused me to miss out on something I really enjoyed and wanted to do (ride my bike to a coffee shop without feeling awful and rushed).

On a philosophical level, my feelings about my car are changing. I don't know if it was the recent hybrid eclipse, but people have been driving so recklessly that I've come to resent my car commute something fierce.  I'm paying much closer attention to how I feel when I'm driving, versus how I feel on the bicycle. And it's marked. My stress levels, so long as I permit myself to have adequate time to reach my destination without rushing, are low-to-nonexistent on the bike. But in the car, I can't control that nearly as easily, because I am a driver, and can't just choose side streets to interact with pedestrians or the sounds of nature instead of stop-and-go arterial or inner-belt nonsense. I'm paying attention to these things.

If I can't ride consistently, at least I can share.

Here are some great bike links I stumbled across this week:

If I ever think something "bikey", Commute by Bike posts about it shortly thereafter.
Tips from the cycling sloth... 

And, thanks to Melissa @ Her Green Life, I've been thinking a little extra about what I want in bike infrastructure lately, which has resulted in some very interesting ready about old freeways and bike lanes.

Are you in St. Louis? Are you interested in bike infrastructure in the community? If so, please make note of an upcoming event by Great Rivers Greenway in which the Bike Plans from three bike-friendly communities will be presented. It's an all-morning event next Wednesday, 11-20-2013 from 830pm-130pm. Admission is $15. I hope to go, but it will truly depend on my work schedule that day. 

Finally, who doesn't love a little Bikeyface? Let's look at her new posters. I am such a fan of the top poster with the three different bicycles.

That's all from me this week. 
Here's to riding - whenever and however it suits us, so long as we ride!

Friday, November 1, 2013

What the heck is #Coffeeneuring??

I freaking love Twitter.

I love all social media, to be honest. I'm a talky person (I am sure you're shocked to learn this) and I love projects and sharing information with people who think about the same kinds of things. My Facebook group of friends is diverse and wonderful, but it's through Twitter that I can really explore my feelings and experiences with money management, simple living, decluttering, and bicycles.

And so, through Twitter, I found Mary G. of @coffeeneur. I mentioned her in last week's post. She started this fantastic DC-based project called "coffeeneuring" after reading about it online (another person started the term; but it is my understanding that Mary is the one who really ran with it). There are something like 19 rules, but they boil down to these essentials:

  1. Within a fairly short period of time (around 8 weeks?), visit 7 coffee shops.
  2. They must be different coffee shops.
  3. You must ride your bicycle.
  4. The total (round-trip) ride must exceed 2 miles.
  5. You must take a photo of your drink, which must be coffee, tea, hot cocoa, or cider.
  6. The rides must take place on a Saturday or Sunday, some holidays, or your days off, but shall not exceed two per week.

She sets it up as a challenge, and if you send photographic evidence and a brief description of your experience and the length of your route, you get something as a prize. I don't know what the something is, but I seized upon this as an opportunity to keep riding as the days shorten and as I evaluate my bike commute's place in shorter, colder days (remember, I'm pretty new to this, and still figuring all of this out).

I joined halfway through the challenge, and so must ride every single available weekend day between now and Sunday, November 17, in order to complete the challenge and win. So as soon as we returned from a family trip to the Lake of the Ozarks, I hopped on Fleur, and we moseyed to St. Louis Bread Co (mostly because I was sure it would be open on a Sunday evening), arriving home just as the light had started to fade. 

 It was a great experience! I timed myself through MapMyRide, which is one of my favorite apps. The time shown includes my time at the coffee shop. 

  • Shop 1 of 7.
  • Total (round-trip) route: 5.3 miles. 
  • My drink was a venti chai tea latte.
  • The best part about my ride was: powering up a hill I had to walk up last time. Also, this tiny older gentleman spent about 45 seconds ogling my bike when he left the shop, and Fleur was totally flattered.
  • The worst part about my ride was: powering up a hill I had to walk up last time. I also forgot to get one of those stick-in-the-coffee-hole plastic doohickeys, and my yellow purse is now pretty dirty. My suede wedges also need to be clean, and so does Fleur's front basket. Will have to address these things before Saturday's ride...

  • I sure hope to complete the challenge. I am a total project-addict (did I mention that already?) and next month will be a busy one. I've just come off a minimalist game, where I decluttered one thing for each day # of the month (1 thing day 1, 31 things day 31) for a total of 496 items purged. I need to get the donate-able/sellable/specially-recyclable stuff to the right places and reclaim my dining room because tomorrow is also the start of NaNoWriMo! This writing project will be eating my life alive for the next 30 days so my posting and riding will probably reflect it, though I picked up coffeeneuring specifically with the idea that I could ride to a coffee shop with the computer and write for a nice block of time while maintaining interests outside of crazy-frantic-novel-writing.

    If this intrigues you , by all means try it out, just for fun, and if you're on Twitter, follow Mary and "compete" the next time there's a challenge! 

    Cheers and happy riding!