Drive My Bike


Friendly Competition?

On the ride home tonight I was surprised how my competitive spirit got the best of me…

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The temperature for my ride in this morning was around 38 degrees (F), and my outfit was just about right. I was a bit cold for the first mile or so and then I got warmed up and it was a fairly comfortable ride the rest of the way.

This is the time of year in Utah when the temperature can swing 30 degrees or more in a single day, so when it came time to ride home today the temp was around 68. I had to pack all my cold weather gear in my pannier, which made things feel a little bulkier than normal. In spite of this, it was a very pleasant temperature to ride in, and I was feeling great as I took it easy for the first mile. I hit a stop light at the first busy intersection, and enjoyed the rest while I caught my breath a bit, warming up and anticipating a relaxing ride. The light turned green, and I popped back in the saddle and started rolling…. and all of a sudden a guy on a road bike blew by me on the right!

He had a messenger bag on his back, a nice looking light blue road bike, and a bright green jacket. It’s funny the things you notice in a moment like that. I’m not sure what it was that pushed my button, but I got totally irritated with this guy, and was determined to catch him.

I have been riding the rebuilt Trek lately, so keep in mind that I was on a big chromoly steel mountain bike, with a big fat pannier on one side, normal pedals, and running shoes. Not the most competitive package to race with, but all of a sudden I had a whole lot of determination!

About 3 blocks past the stop light there is a small hill, and I usually hate that part of my ride home, because I’m still not quite warmed up by that point, and I often have to drop a couple of gears and pedal fiercely while I slowly roll up the hill. Well not today! I really surprised myself, because I picked up the pace, and set my sights on that guy. I figured that he would be gone in no time, but amazingly I started gaining on him! As we started up the hill I was probably 75 yards behind him, and was gaining steadily. By the time we crested the hill I was  about 10 feet behind him, and I tucked in the pocket, trying to make the most of his draft. I thought about passing him, but all of a sudden I realized that I was REALLY tired! I figured that it would be better to savor the moment, than to pass him and then have him pass me back as I ran out of gas at the bottom.

Sure enough, as we hit the bottom of the other side of the hill he was able to maintain his pace, but I had to back off a bit and catch my breath. I kept my cadence up, but dropped a gear, and he slowly pulled away.

I thought that was the last I would see of him, but a couple of miles later I saw him stopped at a light up ahead, and I almost caught up with him again. The light turned green as I was about 100 yards away, and I gave it all I had, but he still was able to pull away from me.

I was thoroughly exhausted when I got home, but it was a good kind of tired. I have been taking it easier on my rides lately, trying to focus on the things around me and just enjoy the journey. It was fun to push the limits again and fire up the competitive juices. I also surprised myself how strong I was on that hill! I’ve definitely come a long way since I started my bicycle riding back in May. A little friendly competition can be a good thing.



Another Poll: Do You Use A Bicycle Mirror?

One of the first accessories I bought when I started bike commuting was a mirror, and I immediately became dependent on it…

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When I bought my first bike, a simple Schwinn Midtown comfort bike from Costco, it was not setup for commuting, and I went to a local bike shop for some advice. One of the first things he recommended was a Blackburn Handlebar Mirror. I bought it, and within a couple of rides I was immediately used to it being there. If you drive a car, and regularly check your side mirrors, then using a handlebar mounted bike mirror is very natural.

When I finished rebuilding my latest bike, it dawned on me that I didn’t have a mirror. The Trek came with end bars on the handlebars, and metal plugs on the ends of the handlebar tubes, so it would take some work to install the same Blackburn mirror I have on my Midtown. I was at the store looking at options, and I decided to try an inexpensive helmet mounted mirror. Installation was a snap, as it just fastens to your helmet with some double stick tape. I had heard that helmet mirrors are nice because you can get a wide field of view by turning your head to aim the mirror at what you need to see, so I was anxious to try this new mirror out. My first ride with the helmet mirror was on my Midtown, and I really had to fight the urge to just look at the handlebar mirror. It was kind of tricky to get the helmet mirror adjusted and aimed right, and it felt really strange to look up and to the left to see what was behind me. I’m happy to say that as I’ve ridden the Trek more I have gotten used to the helmet mirror, and it works reasonably well. I wouldn’t say I have a favorite at this point, because the experience with the two kinds of mirrors is very different, and I think they both have their positives and negatives.

So, that brings me to another opportunity to ask you what your preferences are when it comes to bicycle mirrors. As before, I’d love your comments as well as your votes.

Thanks for your feedback!



Wasatch Mountain Sunrise
October 21, 2008, 8:47 am
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Saw the sunrise this morning, and I just had to stop and take a picture…

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Those are our beautiful Wasatch Mountains (pronounced Waaaaah – Satch). Since we are in a desert climate we end up with incredible powdery snow in the winter. Yes, there is already some snow up there! The ski resorts are expecting to open just after Thanksgiving… I can hardly wait!

Temperature was in the mid 40’s this morning, and my outfit formula was just about perfect.

  • Top: Long Sleeve Base Layer (Duofold Varitherm), Short Sleeve T-Shirt
  • Jacket: Pullover Windbreaker (Cabelas)
  • Bottom: Ankle Length Base Layer (Duofold Varitherm)
  • Pants: Regular Cargo Shorts (not biker shorts, just plain shorts)
  • Gloves: Long Finger Biking Gloves (Pearl Izumi Cyclone)
  • Head: Lightweight thermal beanie (Novara) , Helmet
  • Eyewear: None
  • Footwear: Cotton athletic socks, Running shoes

I rode the “new” Trek again today, and was very happy with its performance.

A good ride this morning!



Trek Antelope 830: A New Steed In The Corral
October 20, 2008, 9:39 pm
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I finally got that old Trek Antelope 830 rebuilt and have ridden it on a couple of commutes!

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If you read my previous post about the used Trek 830 I picked up from the classifieds, then you know that I got a lot more (or less) than I bargained for. I was looking for a used mountain bike that was still solid enough that I could clean it up a bit and use it for my winter bike commuting. I thought I had found a great deal when I located the Trek for $65, and my buyer’s excitement got the best of me. When I got home that excitement quickly went away as I realized that most of the major drivetrain components were beat up and worn beyond repair. Well, some more $$ later, with a good bit of learning and elbow grease thrown in, and I actually do have a usable commuting bike.

I’ve put almost 30 miles on it, and so far I am happy with the results. One of the first things that I like, but that has taken a lot of getting used to, is the more horizontal riding position due to the lower handlebars. Riding this bike is much more like riding a road bike, which is something I was used to in college, but I’m definitely not used to anymore. Although it felt awkward at first, I have come to enjoy the more aggressive feeling that comes from leaning forward while riding. The bike also feels much faster than I expected. I ended up changing out the entire crankset, instead of just the front chainrings, and the replacement set is not quite as big as the ones that were on there. I figured this would slow things down quite a bit, but it actually ends up being a very workable mix of gears, good for both speed and hills.

All in all, this has been a good experience, especially now that I am able to enjoy the fruits of my labor. At this point the only thing I’m still considering adding is a set of studded tires to deal with the snow and ice that is part of a Utah winter. I’m not sure about that, but it definitely sounds like it would lead to a more solid ride. I’ll keep you posted.

BTW, Thanks to all of you that voted in the poll from my last post that asked the question about wearing headphones while riding. The results were very interesting and surprising! I’ve got some ideas for some more polls, so stay tuned.

UPDATE: The Trek 830 has become my main ride, and I’ve put a lot of miles on it. Look here to read about the Trek 830’s snow adventure. I even updated it with clipless pedals, and you can read about that here.



To iPod or Not To iPod? That is The Question!
October 16, 2008, 9:57 pm
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I really enjoy music, and have my headphones on a lot while I am working, but I don’t think I would wear them while I ride… what is your opinion?

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As the temps have gotten colder, the number of bike commuters has decreased substantially, but when it was warmer there were plenty of other bike commuters on my route, and I would say that more than half of them had headphones on. Now, I didn’t see anyone with big traditional headphones, like in the picture above, but there were plenty with lightweight earbuds. I would smile and start to say “Hello” to them, and then they would look at me funny, remove their headphones from one ear, and give me the universal “Huh?” that meant they didn’t hear me. I would greet them again, and they would usually look irritated, say “Hello” back, and speed off on their way.

I have to admit the thought of listening to music while I ride sounds appealing. I almost always wear my headphones if I’m working out at the gym. Music motivates me, and helps me pass the time. But riding my bike is different. One of the goals of my bike commuting is to slow things down a bit, and get me more in touch with the world around me that I usually just let pass right by. Headphones would do exactly the opposite. I think I’m also scared to death to put something in my ears that will decrease my senses while I ride. I try to remain on high alert as much as I can during my rides. It seems every week I see another blogger telling the story of how they just had an accident and are glad to be alive. I don’t want anything stealing my attention or my ability to hear what’s going on around me.

WordPress just added a cool new feature that lets me add polls to my blog posts, so I’m going to try one out here. The question goes out to you, my readers… “Do you wear headphones and listen to music while you ride?” The poll is just a yes or no answer, so if you have more to say on this topic then please answer the poll, and then leave me a comment. If you just want to take the poll, then that is fine too.

Thanks for stopping by!



The Right Formula For Winter Bike Commuting
October 14, 2008, 5:12 pm
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Based on yesterday’s ride I think I am getting close to the right mix of clothing for cold weather bike commuting.

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Yesterday the thermometer in my backyard showed 32 degrees (F) as I was getting ready to leave. Once again, I was excited for another cold weather ride so that I could test the latest changes to my bike commuting uniform. I was actually expecting the temperature to be around 27 (F) based on the weather forecast, so things were a bit warmer than I was preparing for.

Based on my previous experiences and research I’ve settled on a basic cold weather outfit that I can modify as needed for temperature variations:

  • Top: Long Sleeve Base Layer (Duofold Varitherm)
  • Bottom: Ankle Length Base Layer (Duofold Varitherm)
  • Jacket: Pullover Windbreaker (Cabelas)
  • Pants: Regular Cargo Shorts (not biker shorts, just plain shorts)
  • Gloves: Long Finger Biking Gloves (Pearl Izumi Cyclone)
  • Head: Lightweight thermal beanie (Novara) , Helmet
  • Eyewear: Sunglasses, unless cold causes fogging
  • Footwear: Cotton athletic socks, Running shoes

With the above outfit I’m comfortable into the upper 40’s. As it gets colder I can add:

  • Top: Long Sleeve T-Shirt
  • Face: Fleece Neck Gaiter pulled up to cover face and ears, but movable as needed for ventilation
  • Gloves: Thin glove liners worn under the above biking gloves

That is what I wore yesterday on a 32 degree day, and I was almost too warm, so I was adjusting my ventilation to avoid overheating. If it gets really cold so that the above is not enough, then I’m planning to add:

  • Top: Fleece pullover, worn under the windbreaker
  • Gloves: Full snow gloves instead of biking gloves
  • Pants: Snowboarding pants as wind/moisture block as well as adding additional thermal layer
  • Footwear: Heavy synthetic socks and possibly snow boots if roads are snowy

I’m feeling pretty confident at this point that the cold weather will not be a problem. I was very comfortable yesterday, and easily could have handled even cooler temperatures. The one thing that I’m intimidated by now is ice on the road. We get so much snow here in Utah that we have great plow crews that keep our roads very clear, so hopefully ice on the roads won’t be much of an issue. If it looks like it will be then I will probably choose not to ride on those days.

I would also mention that it was great to actually see another rider out yesterday in that cold weather! I’ve noticed that the herd has definitely thinned as the temperatures have dropped. I’ve gotten some great “you must be crazy” looks from drivers as well, and that is always fun.

Ride Safe and Stay Warm.



Only 7 Degrees, But What A Difference!
October 10, 2008, 6:19 pm
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Today’s ride was the coldest yet. My previous record for coldest commute was 41 degrees (F) a couple of weeks ago, and today the temperature was only 7 degrees colder, at 34 (F), but wow… this morning’s ride was COLD!

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Our first real winter weather of the season is rolling in, and it is supposed to be cold and snowy all weekend. I was excited about this last night because I was anxious to try out some of the changes I made to my cold weather gear based on that ride a couple of weeks ago. I decided that I would add some long thermals as a base layer on my legs, since I just had shorts and bare skin last time. In addition, I know that I said I didn’t like beanies, but I found a lightweight Novara beanie at REI that had some Thinsulate type of material around the ears, but was thin enough to comfortably wear under my helmet, so I decided to try that. My wife and kids cracked up when I put it on because it sort of gives that gangster look. I figure that just allows me to keep up my rebellious bike commuter image.

What were the results of this new outfit? I was cold for the first mile or so, but I figured that was to be expected. My core was generally warm, so that wasn’t a problem. My arms were a bit cold, and it took a while for my hands to warm up, but they did eventually. The biggest problem was my face. My head was hot, and my ears were okay, but my face got so cold that it was almost painful. I think my face finally started to acclimate just about the time I got to the office. When I got in the building and started to cool down the rush of blood to my head was so strong that it almost gave me a headache.

Boy, I think this winter riding is great! 🙂

Seriously, it is a fun adventure, and I’ll continue tweaking things until I get the right formula. Based on what I’ve read from other winter bike commuters it seems like everyone is different, and it takes a little while to get things figured out. I’ve read that others have kept a log of their winter riding, noting their outfit for the day and how well it performed. I’m going to do that as well, and will share that info with you as it develops.

Ride safe and stay warm out there.