Drive My Bike


Snow Ride…
March 9, 2009, 4:16 pm
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“Snow ride… Take it easy…”, with props to Foghat.

(For the uninformed, a Foghat is not a helmet with a yellow light mounted on top… go here if you’re confused.)

SnowHelmet

Yes, it snowed today. Yes, I rode home in it. Yes, it was probably the most fun I’ve had on my commute… ever.

Why?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s that little kid playing in the rain kind of thing where you are just out there in the elements and it’s crazy fun. Maybe it’s the awesome looks you get from people as you ride by… with the snow caking on your bike, legs, and helmet. Maybe it’s the feeling of the cold wind and snow on your face… similar to the rush you get when you’re flying down a mountain on a snowboard.

Either way… it was fun!

Here’s what the Trek 830 looked like when I got home…

SnowyTrek830

It was caked with all kinds of snowy stuff, and so was I. My cold weather wet gear did the trick though, because I was warm and dry underneath.

It was great. I highly recommend it!



Some Days Are Fast, Some Days Are Slow
February 23, 2009, 3:13 pm
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This morning I believe I had the fastest ride to the office that I’ve ever done, and it wasn’t like I set out to break any speed records…

j0438890

I had a very active weekend. I did a full day of snowboarding on Saturday, and played an hour of racquetball yesterday. I was really tired yesterday, and I was still feeling a bit tired and stiff this morning.

But someone forgot to tell my legs they were tired when I started my ride this morning.

Lately, after a half mile or so of warming up at a medium pace, I settle into a “slightly above medium” pace, and that is where I stay. There are only a few spots where I can get to my highest gear without overly straining, and even then I can only keep that up for a block or so before I have to downshift a couple of gears to find the normal pace.

But today the bike just wanted to go fast.

Same rider, same payload, same bike. The only difference was that it was about ten degrees warmer this morning… in the upper forties (F) when I left. I got to the place where I usually have to downshift, and decided that I didn’t need to yet, so I kept going. I kept telling myself “hold this pace until you get to the next corner”. I kept doing that, until the next corner, and the next corner, and the next. Then came the biggest hill that I face, where I always have to drop a gear or two to maintain my cadence. Today I got a little crazy and decided to try to do the whole hill in my top gear, and it worked. I maintained my highest gear, and dropped my cadence a good bit by the time I reached to top, but picked up the pace again right away on the downhill side. I don’t have a cycle computer on my “winter” bike (the Trek Antelope 830 that I rebuilt in the fall), so I have no idea how fast this ride really was. I had to stop for a couple of red lights, so I’m not even sure about my overall time. However, I’m sure that I’ve never been able to maintain that pace for the majority of the distance.

The funny thing is that I have no idea why it was like this today. It was great to feel strong for a change, because ever since my Christmas break I have felt like I was crawling back to the fitness level I had in early December. My strength and stamina seem to ebb and flow very unpredictably, and I’m not interested in charting things out… so I’ll just enjoy days like this and celebrate the small victories.

As to what I’ve been up to while I’ve been so quiet the last few weeks…

  • I’ve continued to ride to work on a regular basis. We’ve had quite a few “snow days” lately where my team has decided to work from home, so riding to the office hasn’t been as consistent, but I’ve ridden my bike every time I’ve gone into the office.
  • To make up for the lack of rides to the office I’ve supplemented with riding for other errands when possible. Some of the nicest rides I’ve had recently have been when I’ve taken a break mid-day and met friends for lunch.
  • I’ve had some cold rides, around 9 degrees a couple of times. I’ve got a pretty good cold weather outfit now. From the top down: Helmet, Novara beanie, 360s ear warmers, Fleece facemask, Cheap gloves of a wool/thinsulate blend, Glove liners, Pullover windbreaker, Fleece pullover, Novara water/wind proof pants, Fleece sweats, Wicking base layer top and bottom, Neos Overshoes, Running shoes, Wool blend socks. This mix works pretty well. On the coldest days I start chilled but by mile three I am unzipping a bit to get some ventilation due to overheating.
  • I’ve had some beautiful rides on several days when the temps have climbed into the upper 40’s and lower 50’s. Nice to put away the colder weather gear and relax the dress code a bit.
  • I’ve had up days and down days. On one of the bad days my wife asked me “So are you still enjoying this?” I answered “No, but I’m going to keep going because I kind of made a commitment to myself to do this.” On the good days I remember why I made that commitment.

Keep riding, enjoy the fast days when you can ride like the wind, and stay safe.



Back Again And Long Overdue
January 11, 2009, 7:54 pm
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Well, I’m clearly past due on another post. I have been home from Christmas vacation for over a week now, but it has taken me a while to get back in the groove of day to day life.

j0400007

I was in Florida while on vacation, and it was interesting to see the differences in the biking environment compared to my home in Utah. Here are some things I noticed:

  • The roads are a lot less bike friendly. Lots of high traffic roads with no bike lanes and small shoulders.
  • The drivers seemed less bike friendly as well. I didn’t ride at all while I was there, so this is kind of an assumption based on my observations, and some conversation with a Florida bicyclist.
  • In spite of the above, I saw a lot of bicyclists. Large, small, old, young, rich, poor… bicyclists of all types were everywhere.
  • A lot of the bicyclists I saw were riding on the sidewalk, often going against traffic. Maybe this was a response to the less than optimal riding space on the roads.

So I have to give props to all you Florida bicyclists, but I’m glad I get to ride in Utah.

It was good to get home after being gone for over two weeks, but it has been a struggle to get back in the saddle on a regular basis.

It was 9 degrees last Monday when I ventured out for my first ride of the new year. Wow, that was my coldest ride yet, and yes… that was COLD! I got creative with my clothing and added a couple of extra layers. Some parts of me were too warm, some parts were just right, and some parts were numb. Add that to the fact that I felt pretty tired after not riding for a couple of weeks, and Monday’s ride was not very enjoyable.

I ended up working from home the rest of the week due to weather, so I haven’t ridden since then, but I’m planning on riding tomorrow morning. Temps are supposed to be in the high 20s. Hmmm… maybe bicycling in Florida wouldn’t be so bad after all. 🙂

Happy New Year, and thanks for reading.



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…

NeosFront

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…

NeosBackjpg

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

Here is a size comparison with my shoe…

NeosSizeCompare

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…

SnowOnBushes

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…

SnowAtOffice

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.



And Then There Was Snow
November 5, 2008, 2:41 pm
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It has been snowing almost non-stop for the last eight hours.

Trek 830 In Snow

I’m working from home today, so I didn’t ride my bike in this, but I wanted to give you a perspective on how deep the snow is getting. I probably have 8-10” of snow outside my house right now, and I have heard rumors that there are 3 feet or more up in the mountains… and it is still going strong.

It would seem that the first snow storm of the year has come to Utah in a big way. This is great for my snowboarding, but not so great for my bike riding. Maybe later this afternoon I’ll put my gear on and try riding around the neighborhood a bit to get a feel for riding in the snow. It will give the neighbors something to talk about while they are out shoveling their driveways. 🙂

UPDATE: Snowbird just announced that they have enough snow that they will be open this Friday! That is the second earliest opening in the resort’s 38 year history. Yes! (And no, I will not be riding my bike up Little Cottonwood Canyon to get there)



A Day Of Firsts
November 4, 2008, 10:04 pm
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The weather forecast was predicting snow sometime today, and I have to admit that I was a bit intimidated at the thought of possibly having to ride in snow for the first time. Little did I know that I was going to have two different kinds of “firsts” today.

RainyWindow 

I voted before work this morning, so I got started on my commute about an hour later than usual, and by then the sky was darkening and the winds were shifting. When I finally hit the road the temperature was about 45 (F) and dropping quickly. I had a strong headwind for the first mile or so. I passed another biker on the other side of the road heading in the opposite direction. We waved at each other, two obvious members of the brotherhood of the slightly crazy bike commuters. The headwind got stronger, and then the rain started. That was the first of the “firsts”.

I know that some of you have to ride in the rain a lot, but until today I had only ridden in a couple of light showers that really didn’t even count. However, this morning certainly made up for things! About two miles into my five mile commute things started to get pretty exciting. The rain got heavy, and the headwinds started mixing with crosswind gusts so strong that they actually blew me around the road, and I had to be careful to not get blown over. I had my cold weather gear on, so I was warm, and my windbreaker is fairly waterproof, so my top half was dry… but I only had shorts and thermals on my lower half, so by the time I got to work my legs were pretty soaked.

In spite of all of this craziness I have to admit that there was a bit of fun and adventure to be had. Somewhere inside I sensed that little bit of rebellion that you get when you are a kid and you just keep playing as the rain pours down, and you think to yourself “Ha, I really shouldn’t be out here… but I am!” The other thing that kept my mind busy was watching the looks of the faces of the drivers I encountered, and wondering what they were thinking as the crazy guy in the bright yellow windbreaker came pedaling by on this blustery day.

The other “first” happened on the way home. Thankfully the weather had cleared a good bit, and although it did actually snow for about an hour mid-day, the roads were clear and the sun even showed up. It was in the low 40s, so I bundled up and set out for home a bit early to take advantage of the break in the weather. I had to wait for a stop light at the two mile mark, and when the light turned green and I started to pedal something popped while I was right in the middle of the intersection. I looked down and thought my chain had just derailed, but to my surprise the chain was actually broken and dragging on the street! I had never broken a chain before.

I quickly hopped off, ran the bike through the intersection, and found a grassy spot in front of the corner 7-11 to assess the damages. I was riding the Trek that I rebuilt, and I did replace the chain as part of the rebuild, but I don’t think the link that broke was the one the I fastened. Anyway, I was glad that I had my Crank Brothers multi-tool with the chain breaker tool, and I was glad for the rebuild experience since that was when I learned how to fasten a link. After a few minutes I had the chain fixed and was able to resume my commute.

A big wet storm… a broken chain…wow… what a crazy day!