Drive My Bike


Merry Christmas!
December 15, 2008, 12:02 pm
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This will probably be my last post for a bit, as we are headed out to spend time with our extended family for the holidays.

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I don’t think I’ll be riding any bikes for a couple of weeks, unless maybe I find an exercise bike in a gym somewhere. After riding a bike on a regular basis since May of this year I’m sure it will be a bit odd not to ride. We’ll be doing a lot of walking on this vacation, so I’m sure all that riding will pay off, and hopefully the walking will help maintain some level of exercise.

Discovering biking again has been a great part of this year for me. It’s given me a new hobby which I have come to really enjoy. It has given me “accidental fitness”, as I have lost a little weight, and feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for a long time. I’ve learned I can do all kinds of things I didn’t think I could, and it’s been fun to do things that a lot of people think are a little crazy. I’ve discovered a community of very cool people that share a common interest. Probably best of all it has helped me to slow down and enjoy the simpler things in life. Who would’ve thought that a simple two-wheeled machine could do so much? Think I’m overstating it a bit? Just ask someone who rides their bike a lot… they’ll understand.

Thanks to those of you out there who are blogging about your biking experiences. I have learned so much from you all, and have had a lot of fun “getting to know you”, even if it is just in the virtual sense.

I realize that there are a lot of different opinions on Christmas in our world today, but Christmas to me still represents the birth of Jesus Christ, whom I believe to be the Son of God. In the bigger picture, this birth tells me that there is a Creator of all that we know, and that Creator deeply loves those He created, you and me, and desires to have a loving relationship with us. I believe that Baby Jesus born around 2000 years ago is The Way, the Creator Himself somehow mysteriously entering His creation to enable that relationship with us. I base these beliefs on The Bible, which I believe to be a message from the Creator to His creation.

I don’t say this to offend, and I realize that many think this a “fairy tale”, and would consider me a fool for my beliefs. Nonetheless, my beliefs are deeply rooted, well thought out, and I would love to discuss them with anyone… but that is for another time and place.

Whatever Christmas represents to you, I hope and pray that this year will be different. Our nation and our world are in a great deal of chaos. By most reports things are going to get much worse before they get better. I pray that this year your focus will not be on Santa, Gifts, Decorations, Shopping… but instead will be on People… Family, Friends, Strangers, Human Beings. Be a blessing to others this season. Our world desperately needs people who will reach outside of themselves and begin to make a positive difference. I have seen that spirit in the bicycling community… may it continue and grow.

Merry Christmas!

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Cold Wet Bike Commuter Feet? Not Any More!
December 13, 2008, 12:15 am
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I wrote last month about how miserable I was when I had to ride in a heavy rainstorm and my feet ended up soaking wet. That put me on a mission to find a workable solution to keep my feet dry in the rain, and warm in the winter wind and snow. I found that solution… Neos Overshoes!

Here’s a quick video that shows what they look like and how easy they are to put on…

I ordered these based on the picture and information on the website, and I was afraid that when I got them they would be too big and bulky to use while riding. I’m happy to say that is not a problem at all! I took some more pictures to give you an idea of what these look like and their size relative to the running shoes I usually wear while commuting.

Here’s a front view, one overshoe unbuckled and open, the other one buckled up…

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You can see the internal waterproof coating, and the inner liner behind the velcro seam. This makes them completely waterproof. You could probably submerge your foot in a 4-6 inch deep puddle and still remain completely dry. The quick release buckle makes for a snug fit, and they do not move around at all once you have them on. They really feel just like part of your shoes.

Here’s a back view…

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The logo on the back is reflective, which is a nice touch.

Here is a size comparison with my shoe…

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This picture makes the size difference seem more than it is. Again, when I have them on I really don’t feel a difference from my shoes, and they don’t feel any bulkier. I could easily forget I have them on, except that they are a lot noisier when moving around due to the rustling of the waterproof fabric. When I wear them, I also wear my Novara rain pants, and I put the pant legs over the Neos, and then zip the pants down and velcro the cuff around my ankle. This means that my foot is completely sealed so that any water runs down my pant leg and onto the Neos, and then off.

Here is a picture showing how much they will compact down for storage…

NeosCompact

That is both of them folded down with a rubber band so that I can put them in my pannier. You can also see the tread on the sole. The tread pattern is not very aggressive, but it will give you a bit of traction on normal surfaces.

In addition to wet protection, I have been wearing them for very cold rides to keep the wind off my feet. They are completely wind and waterproof, and the company claims that even though these don’t have any internal insulation they will still add ten degrees of warmth to your shoes.

The only negative thing I can come up with is that they are so waterproof that they don’t breathe at all. This means that when I get to my destination there is a lot of condensation on the inside of the overshoe, enough that there are visible droplets. This hasn’t been a real problem, but if it gets too bad I’ll probably just carry a spare pair of socks. If it is not raining and I’m just wearing them for cold wind protection, then I still velcro the cuff of my rain pants around the Neos, but I unzip the legs of my rain pants up to the top of the Neos to try to vent some of the perspiration. I’m not sure how much this really helps, but I figure it can’t hurt, and I’m still plenty warm.

You can find out more about these from the Neos company website. I purchased the Villager ultra light model from CampMor. For those that are in extreme cold and want really warm feet, they make models that have internal insulation, but I imagine those are a bit bulkier. I wear a size 11 shoe, and I got the XL size Neos, which is just perfect.

I love these things, and I am now completely confident that I’ll stay dry in rain and snow. If you are trying to figure out a solution for cold, wet feet, then I would encourage you to try a pair of Neos.



Snow Yesterday, 18 Degrees And Ice This Morning
December 9, 2008, 4:53 pm
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I didn’t check the weather report before I road in yesterday, so I didn’t know there was a nice snow storm in the forecast until a local reader commented that he chose not to ride that morning because of the storm. Maybe that was a good thing since I didn’t know what was coming…

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Actually, as snow storms go around here, this storm was fairly mild, mainly because the ground was warm enough that there wasn’t much accumulation on the roads. Even though it snowed for several hours, the roads were fairly clear when I got ready to head home. Here’s a picture in front of the office before I left…

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By now I’ve done enough tweaking in my riding gear that it seems I’ve got an outfit for every occasion, so the ride home in the snow and wet was actually fun. The roads were very wet and the snow was melting quickly, so the spray off the roads was a lot like a good rain storm. I was actually excited about this, because it gave me a chance to try my Neos Overshoes that I bought last month when I had my miserable ride in the rain with soaking wet feet. I have one word to describe these overshoes… AWESOME! I’m planning to do a special post on these overshoes because they work so well, and I think they are pretty much the ultimate solution for keeping your feet dry on a rainy or snowy ride. My feet stayed completely dry, and since they also block the wind, my feet stayed nice and warm. The only downside to these overshoes is that they don’t breathe at all, so when I get to my destination there is a lot of condensation on the inside of the shoe. I’ll take some warm condensation over soaking wet and cold anytime.

Things stayed cold through the night so I was expecting that the ride in this morning might be extra chilly, and I was right. It was 18 degrees when I left the house, and the remnants of the snow had frozen, so there was plenty of ice all over the place. Not only was that the coldest temperature I’ve commuted in, but I’ve also never had to really worry about icy roads before. I have thought about getting some studded snow tires, but I haven’t yet, so it was just my normal nobby tires and the icy road. I couldn’t see my knuckles because of my gloves, but I’m sure they were white, and I was probably more focused on the road than I have ever been. I took things slowly, especially trying to slow down early at stop lights and corners. I’m happy to say that everything was fine, and it added a new bit of adventure to my commute today. The most dangerous part of the ride was probably the parking lot at the office, which was basically just a sheet of ice. Thankfully they had salted the ramp at the door, so I had a place to stop and get off my bike without crashing.

When you get your outfit figured out so that you are ready for the elements this winter commuting thing actually ends up being a lot of fun. The looks you get are priceless. I would encourage you to give it a shot.



24 Miles and 22 Degrees
December 6, 2008, 10:34 pm
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This morning I was scheduled to have breakfast with some guys from church, and I got this crazy idea that I should ride my bike there. What made this seem a bit crazy was that the pancake place was about 12 miles from home, and it was supposed to be in the upper 20’s this morning.

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The farthest I had ever ridden before today was to meet a friend for dinner about 10 miles from home, so a 20 mile round trip. The coldest weather I had ever ridden in before today was a morning commute to work in 28 degrees.

I beat both of those today. It was 22 degrees this morning at 6:30 when I hit the road in the dark. I did the 12 miles to the restaurant in a little less than an hour, which I was happy with since I was trying to take it at a reasonable pace, and there are a few hills on the way.

I found it to be a real psychological challenge, as much as anything. Just past the six mile mark I hit “new territory”, where I had driven many times, but had never been there on a bike. The last mile or so I was counting down the blocks remaining. I was pretty tired when I got to the restaurant.

Breakfast and the time with friends was great, and I had several offers of a ride home, but I thanked them and told them I preferred to ride.

The ride home seemed a lot faster and a lot shorter. I guess that just goes to show how much of a mental game this all is. I was tired when I got home, but not nearly as tired as I was on the way there.

What made me decide to do this? Aside from just wanting to ride my bike somewhere, I think the biggest reason was just to test myself to see if I could really do it. I know that 24 miles is not that far for a lot of the bike commuters I read about, but it was a milestone for me. Combine that with the cold weather, and it was a real mental battle. Last night, and this morning, I kept coming up with all kinds of reasons why it was a bad idea and I shouldn’t try it. I’m glad I did.

So that was my morning… 24 miles and 22 degrees.



How To Ride A Bike Forever
December 2, 2008, 2:44 pm
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I haven’t posted for a while because… I’ve been quite busy… and frankly I haven’t been motivated enough to sit down and write a post. What’s funny though is that I still have all kinds of ideas going through my head that I’d like to post, just not enough desire to sit down and type them out. Oh well… this one will start things off again.

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I read a great piece the other day from a 1994 Bridgestone Bicycle Catalogue. (I had no idea they made bikes. I thought they were just the tire guys.) This piece is from a scan of the catalog, which was posted by Sheldon Brown on his website. I copied the text from the scan…

THE BRIDGESTONE BICYCLE CATALOGUE 1994

How To Ride A Bike Forever

1. Ride When You Like.

Don’t ride out of guilt over last night’s meal. Don’t be a slave to your bike, or else you’ll resent it, and feel guilty whenever you think about it or look at it. Soon you’ll be avoiding it altogether. If all your rides are like a swimmer’s workout, you’ll burn out on bikes as fast as swimmers burnout on laps. Ride when you want to ride.

2. Go Slowly.

Don’t push yourself too hard, physically or mentally. Don’t ride with racers or obsessive aerobicizers. (If you’re a racer, don’t race with riders; let them be.) Learn to relax on your bike. Of course your bike can be a tremendous tool to build cardiovascular fitness, but why let that get in the way? Unless you race, you can rely on something else, like running, to get fit and lose weight. Running is more efficient for this anyway.

3. Go Short.

A ten-minute ride is always worth it, even though it won’t elevate your heart rate to your “target training level” and keep it there for twelve minutes. (Or is it supposed to be eleven? Or fourteen?)

4. Don’t Keep Track.

If you never use an on-board computer or a heart rate monitor, you can ride with us any time. Avoid “logs.” Forget the graphs and the home computer programs. Keep your bicycle free of extraneous wires and LEDs. You don’t need them.

5. Own More Than One Bike.

This is not a commercial message! Runners have learned that nothing improves a run as much as a new pair of shoes, or shorts, or socks, or something. Bikes, unfortunately, cost a lot more, but the effect is the same. Make your bicycles so different that your experience on one is unlike the other — a mountain bike and a road bike, a multispeed and a single speed, or a clunker, or a recumbent. For some people, even different handlebars are enough of a change. It’s worth a try.

6. Learn How To Fix Your Bike.

Learn to fix a flat. Learn how to install a wheel. Learn how to adjust derailleurs. It’s all easy, and you’ll never feel at ease on a bike if you’re at its mercy. Being able to fix your bike will give you enormous confidence and satisfaction, not to mention self-sufficiency.

7. Don’t Chase Technology.

You will never catch it, and if you pursue it year after year it will break your wallet in half. Some wonderful things have happened to bicycles in the last fifteen years, but so have a lot of dumb things. You don’t need a fancy machine with the latest equipment to enjoy something that is so joyous and simple. A simple, reliable bike will do.

So there you go… “How to Ride A Bike Forever”. As I read through this piece, I kept seeing myself in these words. I have had to force myself to slow down and just enjoy the ride. Instead of getting a new bike, my current ride is a rebuilt Trek that still has plenty of life in it. I’m not the most stylish rider on the road… right now warmth and function are more important to me. I don’t have a cycle computer on my rebuilt Trek that I’ve been riding lately, and I haven’t been logging any of my riding for a month or so. All that doesn’t seem to matter that much anymore. Biking is just something I do. I still need to remind myself to enjoy the ride, but the newness has worn off now. Hopping on the saddle and pedaling somewhere is familiar and comfortable.

I like that.

Thanks to the late Sheldon Brown for scanning this piece, and to Urban Velo for pointing it out.