Monday, April 18, 2011

Big Wheels Keep On Turnin'

I've been thinking about riding my Capo down the Oregon Coast. North to south. My goal is three days. There are 360ish miles on the Oregon Coast. That means that I have to ride 120ish miles a day...on a fixie. So I went for a quick spin today on the Johnson Road Loop. That loop is 20 miles. I rode that in an hour and twenty minutes. I figure that at that pace, I should only have to be on the bike about 7 hours a day--give or take. It seems more manageable when I think of 120 miles in those terms. Just 20 miles at a time. So, much of what you hear from me from here on out will be looking forward to that. Lots of gear reviews especially. I hope you enjoy.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Whiskey For My Men and Beer For My Bikes

Remember those whiskey barrels that I carried home with my bicycle? Well, I cut 'em in half and I filled 'em with dirt...arrrgh. (For some reason I was thinking this is something a pirate might say, but then it occurred to me that maybe an Irish accent would be more appropriate.) Oh, I also put them on caster wheels so that I can roll them around real easy-like. There are some radishes growing in one of them already. Monday I was pulling my Burley down ninth and I saw a shop that was called Green Leaf. I thought it might be some sort of indoor-gardening store and I thought they might have the potting soil that I was interested in. Sure enough, those folks had exactly what I was looking for and more. They had all sorts of fancy equipment that I could use to grow stuff inside. They even had these television systems with video cameras, so I could monitor what kind of folks was showing up on my doorstep. You never know who might be coming to get your vegetables! They didn't actually have the security systems. That was a joke. You maybe get the point, though. This so called "Green Leaf" store is catering to a very particular demographic. The fellow, Hopi was his name, gave me a ten percent discount. I thought that was awful nice of him. If you're a "dude-bro", go support Green Leaf on Ninth and Wilson.

So I got 120 pounds of dirt put in my trailer and I left for Parr Lumber to get some hardware. Fortunately when my rear wheel fell off it was pretty obvious and I was able to stop quickly. Fortunately it's only the second time my rear wheel has chosen to go it's own way...this year. It is really not that bad. The wheel hasn't actually come completely off. It's just popped out of the dropouts and stopped my bike. I just tightened up my quick-release skewers and continued on, but the thought is always in the back of mind, "so what happens when this same problem occurs at 25mph down Reed Market?" No biggie.

I got my casters and went home with no greater event. Now my radishes are happily growing and we have a big tray of various vegetable starts that we started from seed sitting in our windowsill. It's cold enough that I'm shopping around for leg warmers still, though, so it's too cold to plant most of those vegetables in my barrels. When that day comes, I promise to post some pictures.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Brave or Stupid?

Despite baring my knees for the rest of the season, the cold and snow and icy morning commutes have come back. The weather can't fool me, though. The longer days and the warmth of the sun, despite a crispness to the air, are all tell-tale signs of spring and warmer weather to come. That said, I have been thinking about purchasing a set of leg warmers for the early morning rides. I just haven't run across any that fit well.

My friend Chris (he rides his bike a lot, too) told me that he saw another bike commuter on his way to work the other morning. He said that it was good to see the other guy out there riding his blue Scott bike. He said it was good to see the other guy out there because you don't often have company for questionable weather and early morning rides. The same experience happened for me on Thursday morning at about 6:30. Some guy was entering the Reed Market roundabout a quarter-turn behind me. I waved at him and smiled. "We're not alone out here," I said to my faithful steed. We trotted the rest of the way to work and I got distracted by many, many things.

This morning's reflections jogged my memory, though.Year round commuting is lonely. I mean, I wouldn't trade it for the world. I'm addicted to it...but there are days when it is very lonely. On those days cars are no longer vehicles driven by people, but hideous machines that are out to destroy anything that gets in their path. Often you play games with yourself for motivation to keep going. To keep riding. Mostly the games that I play have to do with not falling and not getting run over by cars while my feet are dragging in eight inches of snow with each pedal stroke and the shoulder is only two inches wide and half-ton machines are zipping by at 30-plus mph. It's funny to read, but really more of a serious game when you're actually playing it. It is not a game that I would recommend for everyone. Oh, and did I mention that you usually have to play alone. No chatting on the cell-y tell-y for your commute to work anymore...

Despite these mind-games, when I get to work, the adrenaline rush overtakes the fear and pain from the commute and makes me want to do it again. People have often said to me, "I don't know whether to think you're brave or stupid." To which I have many-times replied , "Oh, it isn't that bad. You just have to get out there and do it." Which is mostly true, but thinking back, I have ridden on days that I ask myself the same "brave or stupid" question. From my point of view it is neither. I am very grateful for the warmer weather and less snow. I mentioned that the roads were icy the last couple of mornings. I'll be honest: I wasn't looking forward to riding on slippery roads. You can't just enjoy the scenery when you are riding on ice. You have to be completely focused. It takes as much out of me mentally as it does physically.

As a reprise, I love the challenge of riding through the winter. I hope that me riding daily inspires other people to ride daily, because it is often lonely in the darker, colder months. That said, I am glad spring has sprung and bike commuters are rejoining Chris and I more and more.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Inner-Monologue on Rich People

My friend Paul gave me a statistic today. Most bike commuters are lower and middle class. I think that makes sense. If I could afford expensive cars and high-end electronics, I probably wouldn't have time to ride my bike. I'd be too busy talking to clients on my cellphone and doing important stuff to stimulate the economy.

I was thinking very cynically about this on my ride home tonight. "Look at all these rich people in their large Sport Utility Vehicles," I thought. Then my conscience spoke, "You're not better than them, you know." This is often a struggle I run into as a bike commuter. The idea tries to creep in that I'm somehow better than the non-cyclist commuter. It's really just insecurity coming through. I feel like the little weird-o out there, riding in the cold who doesn't have enough money to drive a car. It's not that these things are true (well, I don't think they are anyway), but it's how I imagine the guy in the lifted one-ton Chevy Silverado perceives me. I think that he thinks that I'm some poor freak who can't make enough to drive, so I ride my bike. Of course, these assumptions are mostly ridiculous, but it's the train that I catch my sub-conscious on every now and then.

The revelation came today that we are all a lot of people running around on grids that we've made and we all have our transportation tastes. Some people are in it for the efficiency (most people, really) and some, like myself, are in it for the scenery. I'll sacrifice some comfort and efficiency to see the scenery, to breathe the air, to live. It's my thing. It isn't for everyone. And that's o.k. Besides I have a thing for big trucks.