Drive My Bike


Strong Headwinds, Angry Clouds, Raindrops
May 19, 2009, 3:05 pm
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The ride in to work this morning was beautiful, however, the ride home was a bit more of an adventure…

WindyFlags

Those flags in the picture above are huge, and you can see how the wind was blowing them. Well, I was pedaling home against that wind. It is surprising to me how much a strong headwind can sap my energy. In the past I’ve even found it very discouraging psychologically. I’m not sure why exactly, but maybe it is just that feeling of having to work so hard to get forward momentum going. It feels like all of nature has conspired against you to keep you from reaching your destination.

Today though, I was determined to make the best of it, so I just dropped my gears a bit, and tried to enjoy the cooling effect of the breeze. As I looked around though, I noticed the reason for the strong winds. Angry clouds heading my way indicated that a storm front was moving into the valley.

AngryClouds

I was about a mile from home when I started feeling raindrops. I was worried for a moment, because it was so warm this morning that I didn’t even pack my windbreaker, which meant that if it really rained I was going to get soaked. Then I thought about things a bit more, and decided to just relax, since it was warm enough that it would probably be refreshing. I have a rain cover for my pannier, so all of my gear would stay dry even if I got wet.

Well, I felt a few more sprinkles before I got home, but the rain never really came. Now that I’m home the winds have picked up as the storm has moved in, and we’ve had some huge gusts, but it looks like we won’t be getting much rain out of this storm.

Oh well, some wind, some dark clouds, and some raindrops make for a bit of variety in my normal bike ride home.

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Warmer Weather Means Less Stuff!
May 14, 2009, 8:58 am
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With the warmer weather I recently hit two milestones in my Spring commuting. First, last week I started wearing shorts for the ride to work in the morning. Second, warmer weather means less outerwear needed, so this week I made the transition back to a single pannier. Both of those things sure are nice!

RollingShadow

It sure is nice to be able to leave the cold weather gear at home. I found myself struggling with that a bit, thinking paranoid “what if” thoughts…

“What if it gets really cold and you don’t have a fleece layer?” "What if it rains?” “What if… What if…What if… Oh stop it!”

One of the reasons I started riding my bike was to simplify my life, and now here I was stressing over what I was going to bring with me. I took a look at the weather report, reminded myself how warm it really was, and remembered how cold it was NOT… and decided to relax and leave stuff at home. The only cold weather thing I’ve taken for the last week or so has been my pullover windbreaker that I always bring. I find that it will keep me warm enough down into the low 50’s, especially once I get huffing and puffing a bit. I’ve been plenty warm, and it has been wonderful to enjoy the breeze.

So, in celebration of the warmer weather (and fingerless gloves that I can hold a camera with) I bring you some more riding pictures that I shot on the way home the other day…

Shadow in the crosswalk, stopped at a light

CrosswalkShadow 

Same light, almost green…

FrontWheelCrosswalk

Green… and go… (I was leaning way down, holding the camera to the side of the forks. I think the motorists were probably trying to figure out what I was doing)

ThruFrontSpokes

Just think, I could be waiting in that line of cars.

LineOfCars

There was a bicyclist coming up behind me. If you look in the distance you can see him over my shoulder. I noticed him in my mirror, and decided to put the camera away and get to riding. He didn’t catch me. 🙂

PursuitOverShoulder

I think this is my favorite picture of the set. These are so “accidental” because I can’t see a thing I’m shooting. It’s just “hold the camera in the air and push the button”. I really liked how the shadow fit in the wheel, and the spokes were blurred with motion.

SpinningSpokesShadow 

I hope that you’re able to enjoy this warmer weather and have some great rides!

Note: In case any of you care, I’m working on that next post about shoes for clipless pedals, and I’ll probably be putting it up in the next couple of days.



Spring Springeth!

Our Utah weather is always a bit crazy this time of year. We had a few days of warmth, and then we got almost record amounts of snow this April, and Spring seemed like it was never going to show up. Based on my ride home today I am thinking it might finally be here!

TrekSpring3 

It was 38 degrees (F) when I left this morning. But it was sunny, and I really wanted it to be warm. I had my shorts on, and I really didn’t want to add any extra layers. Alas, sanity finally took hold as I stepped out the door, and I decided that I really needed a bit more of the uniform. So I put my Novara rain pants on, and added a microfleece pullover under my windbreaker.

The ride in was nice, and before long things had warmed up to the mid 60’s. I made it outside several times during the day, and each time I was thinking that the ride home sure was going to be nice.

I was right.

It was about 67 degrees (F) when I left the office. For the first time in a long time there was no headwind going home, and I was loving it. I felt really strong and it was the best ride home I’ve had in a long time. The hardest part of the trip was packing all my morning cold weather gear into my pannier… squish! 🙂

A couple of months ago I picked up a small rectangular pouch that fits under the front of my seat, just the perfect size for my camera. It has a wide mouth and Velcro flap that I can easily get into and out of while I’m riding. It has been too cold to use the camera since I’ve had full finger gloves on, but today I figured I’d try to take some riding pictures. A few turned out alright, so I’ll share them with you…

TrekSpring2

In this picture you can see my clipless setup that I mentioned in my last post

TrekSpring1

Hmm… probably need to clean that fender off under there…

TrekSpring4

Doing the picture taking thing, whilst pedaling mightily in rush hour traffic, whilst not crashing, seems to be an art form. I’ve seen some great bike photo blogs out there, and I’ve got a ways to go, but I’ll get it figured out.

I hope your rides are getting warmer too. Stay safe. (Even if you are a bit crazy and decide to try to take pictures while you’re riding) 🙂



Great Weather, Not So Great Shape

The last couple of days brought some nice weather to ride in, at least compared to the very cold weather last week. When I rode to work last Monday it was 9 degrees. Monday and Tuesday of this week the temps were in the mid to upper 30s, which is still a bit cold, but that is almost 30 degrees warmer. For the ride home yesterday I had temps around 47 degrees, and it was beautiful.

The challenging part of the last couple of rides is that I notice that after not riding for almost a month I’m definitely not in the shape I was in before.

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It’s amazing how fast one’s fitness level can decrease. I was only away from riding for a few weeks, but I can definitely notice a difference. I can feel myself getting some strength back over the last couple of rides, but I have been very tired and my joints and muscles have been complaining a bit.

I did see another bike commuter yesterday morning, which is the first one I’ve seen since things started to get really cold. He was friendly, and had a very nice bike. He came up behind me near the start of my route, and then left me in the dust at the first stoplight, but then I was able to catch up with him while he was waiting for the last stoplight on my route. I was proud of this accomplishment, since he had a super light Specialized road bike, and I had my chromoly Trek mountain bike with probably twenty or thirty pounds of stuff in my panniers. We had some friendly conversation when I caught up with him, and then I wished him a good ride as I turned off for my office.

That little bit of friendly competition got my blood pumping, and showed me that I still had a good bit of strength and energy left, it just needed some strong coaxing to show itself.

What’s the best part about realizing that I’m not as fit as I was before vacation?

Knowing that to get back to where I was I really don’t have to do anything different. I got to that fitness level by riding my bike to work, so if I keep riding my bike to work again I should get back there soon.

I think that is one of the best perks of bike commuting on a regular basis… accidental fitness.



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.

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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.



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!

Thermometer34

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.



Bike Commuting In Cooler Weather

The backyard thermometer indicated it was 52 degrees (F) this morning when I was checking my tires and getting ready to leave, which makes this the coldest morning I’ve experienced so far in my bike commuting adventure.

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I have a lightweight, breathable windbreaker that I’ve been carrying around in my pannier, and today was the first day that I actually chose to wear it. Even though I chose to unzip it after I got warmed up, I was glad that I had it on for the first couple of miles. I wear fingerless biking gloves, and with this morning’s cold I also noticed that my fingers were starting to go a bit numb. All of this got me thinking… what am I going to wear when it starts to get REALLY cold? We get lots of snow here in Utah, and it’s great for snowboarding and skiing, but the idea of riding my bike in that kind of weather is something that is completely new to me. I’ve read some other blogs out there, and folks like Warren T make it sound like they actually enjoy winter riding. I’m looking forward to the adventure, but I want to make sure that I’m warm and safe. Just like when I snowboard, I know that the right outerwear makes the difference between a great experience and a miserable experience.

So… I ask you, my readers… do you ride in the winter weather? If so, what do you wear?

UPDATE: I just found a great article with some very practical winter riding tips… The Gear Junkie: Winter Bike Commuting, 10 Tips to Ride Safe… thanks Gear Junkie!

UPDATE: Read about my 40 degree commuting here and my 30 degree commuting here