Drive My Bike


Who Says It Is A “Road” Bike?
June 16, 2010, 3:23 pm
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Check out this crazy cool video of an amazingly talented fellow taking a carbon road bike where it isn’t supposed to go…

Mad Skills!

That’s about all I can think of to say about that. (Actually, I do wonder if they were able to pull off that video with the same frame, same set of rims, and no flats. Either way, an amazing bit of riding!)

Thanks to 100KM for this bit of coolness.



Just For Fun
June 11, 2009, 8:55 pm
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The other day my friend Jake said, “Don’t you ever ride just for fun?”

I thought… “Well yeah, sure… I guess. Okay, so I usually ride to get somewhere.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yes, I was actually talking to Jake while he is in Africa, live, via Skype. Honestly, it is amazing to be able to do that. Jake says that the internet access there is really good. To quote him, “You can’t drink the water, but I can download the latest Eminem mp3 in a flash.” Sounds like we get our technology priorities messed up sometimes.

Anyway, last week I did decide to take a ride “just for fun”. I had a fairly stressful day and was ready for a break, so I decided to take a ride in the evening to clear my head. I started out planning my route, and then stopped myself. Instead I decided to just “go”, no real plan, no destination.

I took Jake’s bike, which is a really nice modern road bike. I’ve been riding that bike a lot more recently ever since I swapped out the Look pedals with a set of SPD pedals so that I can use my SPD shoes and sandals. The frame is aluminum and carbon fiber, and the whole bike is incredibly light, with all the new high tech features. It is a real joy to ride, and I’m getting spoiled. I told Jake that I’m not sure what I’m going to do when he comes home and wants it back.

It was a great ride. I ended up covering a little over twenty miles, and going places I’d never ridden before. I had a tough ride up a steep section, and that was a little exciting because the front derailleur stuck for some reason, so I couldn’t shift down from the large chainring. This meant that I had to work extra hard to get up that stretch, but I was able to make it, and the speedy ride down the other side was exhilarating.

I was good and tired when I got home, but my mind was clear and fresh. It was a great feeling.

Riding just for fun… yeah, I need to do that more often.



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.



Yesterday’s Great Ride, and Today’s Small Victory

Yesterday I had the best bike ride I’ve had since I started riding again, maybe even the best bike ride of my life. I decided to just “go for a ride”… no real destination or purpose, other than to explore some places I had seen from my car.  It was awesome! I ended up riding about 12.5 miles, but I didn’t know that until I got home and mapped the ride. It was kind of like being a kid again, just riding around exploring. I found a couple of wonderful trails maintained by the city, and I took them almost as far as they would go. It was in the early evening, so the sun was setting and the temperature was great. It was the longest single direction ride I’ve done, yet I came home feeling completely energized and refreshed. That is what biking is about! I wish I had some pictures to share, but I need to get a small pocket digital camera so that I can record journeys like that. Hopefully in the future I can share them with you…

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On this morning’s commute, it looked like bike commuter rush hour! I counted eight cyclists, including myself, and three of them were going in the same direction as me. At one point, there were four of us on bikes, all waiting for the same red light. I would have loved to have known what the motorists were thinking as we all pulled up alongside. Actually I didn’t have to wait for the light, so I ended up with a couple minutes of glory that are hard to come by…

There are a few “regulars” on my route that ride some nice road bikes, and it is not uncommon for them to pass me. This has frustrated me, but I have learned that they are geared better and their bikes probably weigh a third of what my comfort bike and pannier weigh, so they have a huge advantage. Well, this morning I was able to turn the tables a bit, because they were stopped at the light, and I saw that it was about to change, so I maintained my speed, and blew past them as the light turned green. I shifted to my fastest gear and pedaled as hard as I could, savoring my victory. Alas, it was short lived, and they soon caught up to me and passed me, one seeming quite irritated, and the other managing a friendly “hello” as he went by. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted, and I had a great workout and a good ride this morning.



My Bike: Schwinn Midtown from Costco

When I started thinking about this bike commuting thing, of course the first thing that popped into my mind was “What am I going to ride?”.  I hadn’t owned a bike in at least ten years, and I didn’t really have any idea what I needed to start bike commuting.  A few days later I happened to be at Costco, and noticed that they had a couple of bikes available, one of which was the Schwinn Midtown, which they called a “comfort bike”.

Schwinn Midtown from Costco

I certainly wasn’t familiar with what a “comfort bike” was, so my first impression was that it sounded like the kind of thing I might buy for my mom. I knew what a “cruiser” was, and this bike had some of the curved lines of a cruiser, but then it also had things that made it look more like a mountain bike. After doing some research about what kinds of bikes were common today, I came across the term “hybrid”.  A “hybrid” bike is basically a cross between a road bike (similar to the “ten speed” I had in high school) and a mountain bike (the grown up version of the BMX bike I had in sixth grade). A hybrid is often considered to be a great commuter bike, because it is a bit more rugged than a road bike, with wide tires and upright handle bars, but it is still designed to ride on pavement more than dirt. I learned that sometimes hybrids are also called “comfort bikes”. Mystery solved.

So, now that I knew what a comfort bike was, I decided to shop around a little bit to see what other options were out there for commuting.  I read plenty of things that warned me about buying a “department store bike”, but when I looked at this model that Costco was selling, it looked like it had been upgraded quite a bit.  I checked with some local bike shops, and found some very nice commuter bikes in the $400-$600 range, but I wasn’t ready to make that kind of investment since I wasn’t sure I’d stay committed to this commuting idea. The Schwinn Midtown at Costco was $220, which seemed like a pretty good value, and I knew that with Costco’s generous satisfaction guarantee I could return it if I had any problems.  So I took the plunge and bought one…

That was about two months ago, and since then I have put almost 100 miles on my Schwinn Midtown.  I have added numerous things to make it more commuter friendly, and it now looks a good bit different than it did originally.  A couple of weeks ago I pulled up behind another bike commuter at a stop light and noticed he was also riding a Schwinn Midtown.  I said hello and commented on our bikes, and he did a double take before he recognized they were the same.  “You’ve got fenders!”, he exclaimed.  “Yeah, and a few other things also”, I added.

Rear Rack

To the basic Midtown I’ve added a rear rack, a front fender, a rear view mirror, a headlight, a water bottle, a seat bag, and a lock. Improvised Rack Brace Mounts I had to get creative with the rack mount, since the bike has full rear suspension, and doesn’t have standard mounts on the frame to attach the rack braces.  I found a couple of rubber lined plumbing mounts at Home Depot, and after bending the rack braces a bit I was able to get a solid configuration by using the plumbing mounts to fasten the braces to the rear frame right below the shock.  Solving this problem was very satisfying, as the rack was the first thing I added to the bike, and it was a great way to “make it mine”.

UPDATE: Go here to see how I mounted the rack on my Midtown.

UPDATE: Go here to see how I mounted the front fender on my Midtown.

UPDATE: Go here to see how I solved some flat tire issues on my Midtown.

I have searched to find more information about the Schwinn Midtown, but it is not listed on Schwinn’s website, and I have only found a couple of articles mentioning this model.  It is common for Costco to get manufacturers to create exclusive items only sold by Costco, so I am assuming that is what Schwinn did with the Midtown.  I certainly don’t know much about quality bike hardware yet, but it seems to me like the hardware on my Midtown has been upgraded and is of good quality.

So far, it has been a good bike for me to get started.  The only problems I have had are the few flats on the rear wheel that I have blogged about, but I haven’t had any more flats after my last repair.  My only other negative has been the weight of the bike, because it is not light.  I’m used to riding it now, but I’ve looked at some more expensive commuter bikes and have been amazed at how much lighter they are.

If I had it to do over again, would I buy another Schwinn Midtown for my commuting?  Probably not, but only because I now know that I’m committed to bike commuting, and I know more of what I want, so I would be willing to spend a bit more than before.  I would probably look for something more along the lines of a road bike built for touring, and maybe next year I can do that, but for now I’m happy with this bike, and I’m sure I’ll put a lot more miles on it before I get rid of it. If you are looking for a very reasonably priced bike to get started with your commuting, then you might want to head down to Costco and take a look at the Schwinn Midtown.

What about you? Do you have a Schwinn Midtown, and if so, do you like it? If not, what did you use to start bike commuting?