Thursday, September 18, 2008

Starting to get dark

I think I still have a few weeks of riding left, but I definitely feel the end of the season upon me. Mornings are downright dark -- and while the evenings are generally nice, dusk is usually around the corner by the time I get home. I think the time change (October 19) will be the certain end. I am hoping that I can keep this up until then.

My last ride (Tuesday) was the first ride on the new bike -- today's ride was the first ride without the backpack (I couldn't ride yesterday -- had dinner with the littles). I will admit that the beginning of the ride was really, really weird. It seriously felt like I was missing something. While I have an empty back for many rides -- it's never to work. After today, I really don't know why I waited so long to get a rack -- it's really much easier to ride without a significant weight between your shoulders.

I'll start taking my work clothes home today -- two or three shirts and a pair of pants at a time -- in a week, I should be free from stuff at the office (although I may leave an emergency change of clothes behind). This will be really, really nice when I realize that I need to dress up - but all of my stuff is at the office.

I'll probably finish Slaughterhouse Five on my way home tomorrow night (leaving the office a little early to have dinner with some friends) -- I think Dreams of My Father will be my next one.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

First Day on the New Bike

So, I haven't said much about it, but last Monday I ordered a new bike. I had an hour to kill after meeting Duffy for dinner and symphony rehearsal, so I stopped by the bike shop. I mentioned that I was looking for a "dedicated commuter" that would possibly be able to take me on some medium-sized tours, should I want to go "really, really green" for vacation. They had a Bianchi Volpe from a few seasons ago in a frame my size -- as it was an older model, they had a great deal on it. I bought it.

While my Giant OCR 1 was getting the job done, for the most part, for my daily commute - it was lacking.

  1. First, I'm really, really tired of taking a backpack into the office. After an hour-long ride, my back is disgustingly sweaty.
  2. I have to keep a store of dress clothes at the office - which works most of the time . . . only, should I need a certain shirt or something at home -- well, I'm out of luck. Taking business professional clothes to work in a backpack isn't really going to work.
  3. If I get caught in a sudden rainfall, I end up getting covered in road muck, and the OCR1 does not have enough clearance for fenders.
  4. If I want to go to the grocery store for more than a few items, I have to take a car, because I can only fit what I could fit in the backpack -- and while the OCR1 works for me plus a backpack - I don't know how well that frame would hold up with me, a rack, the backpack, plus a couple of dozen pounds of groceries.

Additionally, even if I did put a rack on the bike - that would make it that much heavier, getting in the way of my long, fun rides. What I was looking for was to make the Giant the "fun" bike, while getting a "utility bike", and that's what the Volpe gives me. The bike is probably between 8 and 12 pounds heavier than the Giant, and it feels like you're riding a two-wheeled tank. But, it is quite responsive, and is actually pretty fast. I miss the carbon-fiber forks absorbing road vibrations -- but, I was looking for utility, and I got it. This bike feels like you can use it for just about anything: from going around the block, to my 20 mile commute to work, to taking it all of the way across the US. Of course, I've only had it for one ride - but it was a fun ride in.

The plan now is to start bringing clothes home from the office. I will always have an "emergency suit" at the office, just in case I should need something at the last minute, but the bulk of my clothes will be home. I'll transport the day's clothing to and from the office in the Two-Wheel Gear Suit Pannier. I found a used one on eBay, and it should arrive tomorrow. I'm looking forward to that. I'll take a couple of shirts a day home -- and I need to see if I pass any dry-cleaners en route.

I am also bidding on a couple of Arkel panniers to allow me greater grocery coverage -- those close in a day, and I think I'm in a pretty good position to win those. In time, I'm going to need a child trailer - which would make grocery shopping really, really easy (heck, you can probably fit more into one of those trailers than you can some car trunks) -- but they're expensive. Of course, the main goal of said trailer would actually be to bring a kid along, but we're not quite there yet.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A "Highly Visible" John

I was going to write about how beautiful it was this morning, but I fear that I'd just sound like a broken record. That said, while it was really, really cold, it was a very, very nice morning.

Duffy wanted to sleep in for a few extra minutes, which meant that I showered first, which also meant that I got an early start to the day. I typically leave the house right around 6:00 in the morning (I get into the office, then, between 7:00 and 7:15 -- depending on how hard I'm pushing myself and how much luck I have with lights), but I started pedaling closer to 5:30 this morning. This is just slightly before sunrise - meaning that I actually had to use my headlamp to aid my visibility (I typically put it on "flash" so that I know people can see me).

A few unexpected things about coming in earlier:

  • the Purina plant hasn't opened yet, meaning that I don't have to smell dog food as I pass
  • all of the breakfast places seem to make super-large quantities of bacon first thing in the morning, so the stomach growls early
  • the big dog who I am convinced can pull free from his chain hasn't been put out in the yard yet

Mmmmmm, bacon.

Anyway -- I am still wearing those silly little tattoo arm warmers (yeah, mom, I'll work on a picture for you), but I also wear a very, very loud orange reflective (and wicking!) shirt. This is on top of the flashing headlamp and blinking rear light. Apparently, drivers can see me as much as half a mile away, if I am to believe the stoplight conversations . . . I actually went so far as to get a lined vest and a bomber jacket made of the same super-reflective material for times when things are even colder than they are these days . . . being seen is important - especially at sunrise.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Stupid Weather

So I had symphony practice last night - which meant that I didn't bike in. However, I did manage to have dinner with my wife - which was a bit of a surprise, so that was nice. Now that my knee is feeling almost completely better, I really thought that I was really going to enjoy a four-day commute.


This morning started out pretty good -- I woke up just after 5:00 with the dogs (well, Snickelfritz decided that 4:30 in the morning was a better time to wake up, but I managed to get myself back to sleep). I knew rain showers were predicted, but I figured if I could get on the road soon enough, I'd avoid them. Well, as I turned the last corner on the walk, the sky lit up with lightning . . . and it's no fun riding in a thunderstorm.

As a plus, when I don't ride in, I do get to get another hour's worth of sleep!

So, I'm hoping to bike in Wednesday through Friday -- let's keep our fingers crossed - the weather looks like it'll cooperate this time round.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Knee Injuries are No Fun

So I hyperextended my knee a little bit on my Monday ride -- it was nothing major, and something I've done before. During one of the climbs, I didn't have good form, was pedaling slowly, and whoops. I didn't think much about it at the time, and I shouldn't be paying much attention to it now.

The injury didn't stop me from biking into work on Tuesday, even though I was very slow coming in. I took pains to ensure that I was always in a low gear, and that my cadence was somewhere between 80 and 90 revolutions per minute the entire time. The ride home was even slower. Yuck. Choir practice meant that I HAD to take the day off, which I think was wise, but then I had to drop my truck off at the shop. Sure, I can carpool with Duffy, but that means breaking up two schedules -- so I biked in yesterday and today.

Now, the knee isn't hurt too badly -- it's a little swollen and a little sore -- I notice it when I stand up, sit down, or walk down stairs. While on the bike, I really only notice it when I have to pedal hard (either when I did not shift into a low enough gear when starting from a dead stop or during a steep climb where I don't have a low enough gear to "not pedal hard").

I pick the truck up today, and then it's going to rain all weekend, so by Tuesday, I should be good as new (Symphony Rehearsal has me driving in on Monday).

I finished Lamb on the way in today . . . now I need my next book -- not sure if I want to head straight back to Christopher Moore . . . I have the Peter and the Starcatchers saga on the iPhone (Duffy just completed it), or I may go off in some other direction. I think tonight's ride will be a music one.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Today's 50 Mile Ride

I have been doing so much of the commute to work stuff that I haven't actually been out for a "fun" ride in quite some time. I figured this morning, with it being Labor Day & everything, it was time to remedy that.

One of my favorite "guaranteed to make me exhausted" rides is what I have dubbed the "Triple Gap Ride", which starts at my house, goes up and down Waggoner's Gap, up and down Doubling Gap, and finishes by completing King's Gap.

I started at about 7:45 -- well over an hour later than I wanted to (which is a big part of why I did not complete the King's Gap portion of the ride), but damnit, it was Labor Day, and sleeping in is allowed. The weather was beautiful - but cold again, with the starting temperature well south of 60°. I actually broke out my Primal Wear Tattoo Arm Warmers, which are quite silly - but they did their job.

Since I have an iPhone, I figured I'd use on the trip, and first took a picture before the first big climb. The ascent up Waggoner's Gap is a 2.5 mile ride from 600 feet above sea level to just over 1400 feet above sea level. I have done this ride before - but, as I said, it's been awhile since I have actually been out "for fun", and I had to catch my breath about midway up, which greatly disappointed me -- previous attempts have been done with only a break at the top. With the break, though, I convinced myself that I'm becoming a better rider, as I was able to start on an uphill without having to retrace my steps.

Next, we have a couple of pictures from the top:

The tower (that you might only barely be able to make out from the first shot)

A marker of the altitude.

A view of the road I just climbed.

The trip from Waggoner's Gap to Doubling Gap / Colonel Denning State Park is a relatively straight-forward trip . . . a few minor climbs, but pretty straight, and pretty level, again about 600 feet above sea level. Then the Doubling Gap ascent began -- and it sucked. See, when you're climbing Waggoner's Gap, you see exactly where you're going and you know what you're getting yourself into. Doubling Gap isn't quite the same -- even though I've done the ride a few times, you don't see the peak anywhere, and the ride starts out like a little itty-bitty hill that you can just power over, only it never stops -- until you're somewhere between 1300 and 1400 feet above sea level and you start climbing down. As you're making the ascent, there are minor crests in the hills -- you're going along at a 8%, or 10% or 12% climb, and you see the break in the road . . . only it gets down to climb in the neighborhood of 1 to 5% -- not nearly enough to allow you to catch your breath or gain some inertia (even though the looks of it allowed you to convince yourself that such was just ahead). It's evil -- I actually had to stop twice on the way up to catch my breath (and allow my heart rate to slow down from about 190 to 130), but I made it.

One view heading down

Another view heading down

A very poor shot of the view from where I was

Anyway, by the time I completed the descent and made it into Newville, it was nearly 10:30, and Duffy & I had volunteered at the Big Brothers / Big Sisters drink tent at the Kipona Festival at 1:00, so I killed the King's Gap part -- there will be other days and other rides. All told, I did a very hilly 53 miles, and I'm a little bit proud of myself for not being exhausted and looking forward to biking in tomorrow. Yeah, I would have liked to make the climbs without breaks, but I'll get there.